Chapter 7: On Board the Falcon, Part I
Images of Jabba’s sail barge blowing up still in mind, Leia literally ran into Chewbacca on her way back to the Falcon’s cockpit. Once they had bounced off each other in the narrow corridor, Leia moved aside to give the large Wookie some room to maneuver. He growled a greeting to her (at least, she thought it was a greeting) then indicated the back of the ship where Han was using one of the bunks for a quick nap, and Threepio was waiting to have his eye repaired. She figured out from gestures and growls that the hairy Wookie was going to sit with Han while attempting the delicate task of resetting the droid’s eye. “If you can fix him, you’ll be a hero in both of Threepio’s eyes, the good and the bad,” she predicted.
Chewie woofed a laugh, particularly at the eye joke she had worked into her comment. He patted her on the back with one hairy paw (‘slugged’ is the more appropriate word) and sauntered away.
Leia pushed the button to manually open the cockpit door and entered. The door snapped shut behind her, closing her in with her intended quarry of the moment, Lando Calrissian.
Still dressed in his guard uniform, minus the hat, Lando cut a dashing figure while working the controls of the ship. His hands were as relaxed on those controls as Han’s had ever been, as if feeling the Falcon’s worn levers and switches was a welcome sensation.
Leia slipped effortlessly into the co-pilot’s chair. “Mind if I join you?”
Surprised at the sound of her voice, Lando jumped. “I thought you were back with Han.”
“I was. Chewie is going to look in on him, but we don’t expect much trouble from Han for a while.”
Lando gave half his attention to her and half to the Nav computer’s readouts. “How is our resident carbon expert?”
Leia couldn’t suppress her grin. “After spending the last year asleep, he’s asleep again.”
That caught Lando’s full attention. “Asleep? I thought he was over his need to sleep.”
“It was the oddest thing,“ Leia said. “One minute he was commenting on my outfit, or lack of it, and the next minute, he was snoring.”
“He does now. I changed clothes, and since he’s still sleeping, I came up here looking for you.”
The Princess’ statement surprised Lando again. “Why?” His expression grew worried. “Whatever it was, tell Han that I didn’t do it.”
“It’s not what you did,” Leia patiently explained. “But what you didn’t do.”
“You’re one of the two people at Jabba’s Palace who didn’t ogle me in my outfit, and I appreciate it.”
“Luke didn’t ogle, either,” Lando pointed out.
“Luke’s a Jedi, and doesn’t count.”
Lando snorted his amusement. “Luke may be a Jedi, but he’s a man first and foremost. Out of curiosity, who was the other man who didn’t ogle you?”
“You mean that even Han ogled?”
Leia smiled a little smile. “I don’t mind that Han ogled. But the leering of the guards was only a little less creepy than Jabba’s leering.”
“Why didn’t you say something if they were making you uncomfortable?”
Leia sighed in resignation. “We were there for one reason; to rescue Han. If I had to endure a few nasty looks in order to do that, it was a small price to pay.”
“Killing off Jabba should make Han very happy,” Lando predicted. When Leia glanced at him in question, he added, “No more debt to pay off.”
“No more price on his head.” she said in satisfaction.
Lando eyed her. “Han will be able to stay with the Fleet now, no problem. Think he will?”
Leia took on a grim expression. “As soon as I talk to him about that, I’ll let you know.”
An awkwardness that hadn’t been palpable before invaded the tiny cockpit. Lando’s feelings of guilt skyrocketed. “Listen, Princess, I hope you don’t hold it against me that I was the main reason behind Han’s Carbon Freezing. I certainly didn’t intend for it to go as far as it did. In fact, Lord Vader--”
“I don’t blame you,” Leia quickly said. “You know that. Or you should.” They had never spoken of his role in the Cloud City fiasco of the year before. “Nobody who deals with Vader ever comes out on top.”
“Luke came out alive,” Leia amended.
“That’s ‘on top’ in my book.”
“I’m not sure if Luke would agree with you.”
But Lando was adamant. “Going up against a Dark Lord is no small thing, and surviving that encounter is even more impressive. I’m not sure if anybody else can say the same.”
Leia couldn’t help her grin. “Luke often mentioned that Jabba seemed like a second rate gangster after dealing with Vader.”
Lando agreed. “As today proved, Jabba was nothing that he couldn’t handle. Wait until he gets the reputation as the man who took out Jabba the Hutt and Boba Fett on the same day.“ He looked full on at Leia, daring her to argue with him.
Leia’s reply was a far cry from an argument. “It can’t do the Rebellion any harm, either.”
Lando’s laugh rang in the cockpit. “Princess, if it weren’t for Chewie’s promise to rip my arms out of their sockets if I so much as look at you, Han would have some stiff competition for your favors!” He shook his head in appreciation. “A Princess with a brain, not to mention excellent wit!” His appreciation increased. “What I wouldn’t do for things to be different.”
Leia’s icy calm remained. “You forget, Administrator, your charm doesn’t work on me. You may want things to be different, but I don’t.”
“More’s the pity.” Lando pouted. “If I knew you were going to be so cavalier, I would have looked at you in that dancing costume while I had the chance.”
“Stop flirting,” Leia said in exasperation.
“I can’t help but flirt.”
“And Chewie can’t help but rip your arms out of their sockets.”
“Even if Han doesn’t want me now, I want him. End of story.”
“That’s one ending.”
Leia’s exasperation was at the breaking point. “Maybe Chewie and I should have left you in Cloud City.”
“And miss my charming conversation?” Lando gave a devilish grin. “No matter how you put it, Han owes me for keeping my hands off you all these months.”
“Careful, or I’ll take your hands off myself… attached to your wrists.”
Lando appreciatively grinned. “I certainly hope you’ll try.”