Into the Fire
By Susan Zahn
see You Could Use Another Good Kiss home page
This story is rated NC-17. Please stop now if you're under 17 or sensitive to adult-themed material.
Chapter 20 — The accident
Leia hadn’t meant to do it. It just sort of happened.
Since their voyage began, she tried to dedicate a couple of hours
each day to
Dressed in his white shirt and a pair of cut-offs, she sat propped
up amongst the bank of pillows in their bunk, datapad and stylus in hand, with
her bare knees arched over and resting on Han’s convenient legs. He was
reclined at an angle from her, ankles crossed and dressed just enough to
preserve his modesty, what little he possessed—in this case a pair of his black
Leia had determined to work through the afternoon, even after
She tried to block him out as she scrolled through the latest
business news out of Coruscant. Most of the media channels offered nothing for
her purposes, but finding cash and supplies for a burgeoning rebellion required
intuition, patience and curiosity. Although no slouch with the intuition, and
she freely admitted to needing practice with the patience, curiosity was
something she had to excess.
The quiet of the cabin was interrupted yet again by an amused
sniff from beside her, making Leia glance up. Han was reading the schematics of
the latest luxury star-yachts, or at least that was what he’d claimed when he
climbed into the bunk some time ago, but now she suspected his reading material
had changed—although, if anyone could find something funny about the innards of
a starship, it would probably be Han. For a moment she considered
Mind over matter, Organa.
Mind over matter.
She was onto a lead. Stock prices of a certain manufactured
weapons system computer chip were flat-lined due to a sudden surplus. The part
was a vital component of many of the older ships the Rebellion used, and
surplus was the magic word. The trouble on the market was due to a recent
announcement from Chempat Engineered Defenses of an upgrade, something that
threatened to make obsolete all the current Imperial contracts, as well as
bringing to a halt any other ongoing negotiations for new contracts both public
and private. Thus third-party suppliers found themselves looking to dump their
stockpiles just to make room for the new.
It was a coincidence that Chempat was jointly owned by Corellian
Engineering Corporation and Kuat Drive Yards.
chips. Chempat. Corell. Kuat.
It was a pure coincidence, really.
Sucking on the tip of her stylus for a moment, unable to think of
It was a little extra work, but she narrowed down the search
until she was left with a string of flattened images, culled from public
archives, press releases, and official announcements. Due to the prominence of
his family, there was a lot to peruse, but she began cycling through it.
There was an image of a teen-aged
There was a formal portrait of
There was an informal shot of an adolescent
Leia closed her eyes for a moment, torn by her stray thought and
the sense of longing and loss that seemed to grow with each day as those sorts
of ideas kept slipping past her control.
You can’t afford to think like
that. You don’t even know if he wants children, let alone with you. And in any case you can’t fight a war with a baby
on your hip. Table that whole topic and move on.
She moved on and pulled up the next image.
There was another teen-aged
There was a post-scar
Feeling as if she’d just climbed to the highest peak of a
mountain range, where the rarified air lacked enough oxygen to sustain life for
long, Leia stared at the image and discovered too late that she wasn’t prepared
for the string of emotions the image generated. But why should she be
surprised? Hadn’t this been her goal from the start, to
And Leia was fascinated, both by the young woman and by that inscrutable expression of
The blonde was stunning, displaying the sort of elegance the
Central Core touted as the epitome of beauty, possessing all those physical
attributes that Leia often felt she lacked—long legs and svelte height and
ultra-feminine grace. Any man would have envied his place beside her. Here was
a woman who had never clambered around inside the greasy service pit of a star
freighter; never plumbed the disgusting depths of a garbage chute on the Death Star; never tramped through the
mud and slush and underbrush of countless backwater planets wearing stained
coveralls and ill-fitting uniforms while in search of safe havens and strategic
vantage points. Leia almost felt as though they were members of different
species, they were so disparate. How could she even remotely compete with that?
What could have been bad enough to make
Stop it! Stop doing this!
She hadn’t realized how tight her grip was on the stylus until it
nearly bent in half.
What were you thinking?
What sort of crazy, childish, self-flagellating impulse made you—?
A large hand alighted on her knee. “Hey, get a load of—”
Letting out a little cry that sounded very much like, “Eeep!,”
the stylus flipped out of Leia’s fingers to land near Han’s feet as she bobbled
the datapad with the other hand.
Struggling to recover, she rolled onto a hip and scrunched over
to retrieve the stylus. “I’m fine.” Daring to sneak a peek as she straightened
back up, she saw his disbelief.
“You just jumped like a womprat on a hot engine cowling.”
She had no idea what that meant. “You startled me.”
“I startled you?”
“I was concentrating.” Leia frowned. What the hell had she been
thinking, looking at those pictures? She knew better—that some things were better left in the past, left long buried where
they belonged. As if she’d needed one more thing to torment her.
“Now you’re blushing. Are you reading one of those trashy novels
“What? I don’t read trashy novels!”
“Oh, yes you do. I found one archived on that datapad after that
mission to Crytor.”
Opening and then closing her mouth, she settled for an incensed
glare. “That wasn’t trashy. It was…informative.”
Han rolled his eyes. “Well, that explains a few things. And it was trashy, because I read it, too.”
Now she just blinked at him, not sure whether to cackle, ask
after his favorite part, or demand an explanation of his “few things” comment.
“What do you need romance for, now that you’ve got me?”
Giving it up as a lost cause, Leia burst out laughing. Here she
was, sealed up for a month in a stuffy, old, malfunctioning merchant star
freighter with a sometimes tetchy smuggler and his meddlesome Wookiee sidekick,
reduced to survival rations and his cast-off clothing. She couldn’t think of
anything less romantic…and yet here
she was, thoroughly enjoying his company. Reaching down, she patted his hand
still resting on her knee. “You’re all I need, Flyboy.”
As that hand began to glide down the slope of her thigh, he
waggled an eyebrow at her. “Good to hear. So read something to me. Maybe we’ll
Leia’s expression fell as her mind scrambled. It was just her
luck that she didn’t happen have anything erotic loaded at the moment, and of
course he wouldn’t let the topic drop. Maybe she could make up something on the
“Come on, let me see…”
He made a grab for the reader, but she jerked it out of his
reach, her flush resurging. “No, really, it’s just research. What were you
going to tell me?”
His gaze turned shrewd once more. Why did she keep thinking she
could fool this man?
“You’re hiding something. If that wasn’t it, then…” As if a circuit breaker had been tripped,
Sparing a moment to debate whether moving into his embrace meant
owning up to fact she’d been caught, she decided there was little percentage in
avoiding the facts and abandoned the datapad—well out of his reach—before
pivoting around to recline alongside him. Grateful as he pulled her in closer,
she drew up her knees and curled against him.
His hand smoothed over her hair as he pressed a kiss to her
temple. “I told you, it was a long time ago. You’ve got nothing to worry
Head resting on his shoulder, she stayed quiet for a long moment,
contemplating the texture of his chest beneath her fingertips. “I don’t know
why I let it get to me. I’m not jealous…”
“Leia…I can’t change the past, but I won’t apologize for it,
either. All I can say is that I didn’t know you yet.”
He couldn’t have said it any better and Leia closed her eyes,
tipping her face deeper into his neck, breathing in that
Sometimes he really does
have his moments.
“You had a life before we met, and I don’t expect you to
apologize or make excuses for that. I know better.” She fumbled for words, a problem that rarely plagued her. “It was
irrational and stupid.”
“Nah, it was natural. Hell, I would’ve wondered what was wrong if
you weren’t a little curious. I mean,
I know you probably had a favorite
suitor or two back in the day—some mealy mouthed inbred prince with mommy
Leia delivered a stiff finger under his ribs until she was
satisfied with his yelp. Attempting to protect his flank,
“There was really only one while I was at the university, but we
couldn’t agree on a major issue, and besides, father didn’t like him very
“Would he have liked me?”
Drawing away just far enough so she could meet his eyes, she
wondered at his sincerity. There had been times when she’d speculated the same
thing: what would have been Bail Organa’s reaction to his adopted daughter
consorting with a smuggler? She supposed he would have disapproved for the
obvious reasons, and maybe he would have come around after seeing some of the
same qualities that had won her over, but it was all moot now in any case and
dwelling on what might have been brought about an ache she preferred to avoid.
Instead, acting on a playful impulse, she gave
Han grunted, sounding just a little unconvinced. “Well, that’s
“Although he might have thrown you in the stockade for a week for
deflowering his only daughter…”
That comment got the desired effect—
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I was the model of obedience and virtue.”
“Riiiiight,” he chuckled.
“All right, I might have snuck out a couple of times, but
honestly, I never got into any real trouble. I was already too busy with bigger
Not arguing with that, all too familiar with her dedication, his
arm shifted around her shoulders so his fingers could dip and clear away her
hair to expose a swath of skin underneath where he placed a lingering kiss.
“That was one hopeful beau, and then there’s
Maybe he’d meant to sound more casual, as though mentioning his
best friend and potential rival were an afterthought, but it was obvious he was
testing the waters and probably wondering how much things would change once she
returned to the Fleet alone. Giving him another assessing look, she realized
too late that
“Yes. He is…”
Annoyed all of a sudden by the hint of standoffishness in his
response, she stiffened and let out a deep breath. Her fear and worry for the
Looking a bit surprised and frustrated by her leap in logic,
Although tempted to ask just how much longer that might be, Leia
had enough sense to stop before their conversation disintegrated into a real
argument. Learning to spot and avoid the pitfalls and snags in a relationship,
one at a time, she knew he was right. “I know…and I do love you, even if you
are a big nerfherder sometimes.”
Absolutely deserving the sudden attack of tickling fingers that
followed, Leia gave a little shriek and tried to escape, but
Funny how these tussles
always end up this way.
Han groaned as he took advantage of her incapacitation to grind
his hips into hers, then reserving one hand to keep her arms immobile, his
other began working her shirt up and out of the way while his mouth seemed
everywhere at once, wet and hot and relentless. “I’m going to ravish you like
they do in those stories of yours, Princess. I’m going to do things to you that
would earn me another week in the stockade. I’m going to make you—”
Knowing those were no idle threats, she gasped at the spike of
excitement that coursed through her, and with the last of her wits she threw an
urgent glance at the unlocked hatchway to the bunkroom. “
“This’ll be fast, Your Highnessness.”
Too late, her body arched up as his mouth worked a nipple to peak
hardness, and without thinking she threw a leg around his lean hips. “Not if I
have anything to say about it.”
“Admit it, you like the idea we might get caught…” His words were
muffled as his lips moved down the valley between her breasts, and then
continued lower as she loosened her hold with a whimper. Guessing she was past
the point of stopping him, he released her and moved lower, easing off her
shorts with a deliberate slowness that made her squirm. He couldn’t have been
more right as she gripped the edge of the bunk with one hand while the other
combed through his soft hair, guiding his travels—the last thing she wanted to
do was intervene.
“You like the danger.”
Goddess help me, but I do. I really do.