Chapter 8: On Board the Falcon, Part II

Leia ran into Chewie again just as the cockpit door slid aside for her to leave.  “Uff!”

Chewie woofed a laugh, then barked something that the Princess interpreted as, ‘Han awake asking you.’

Sidling around the hairy mound that was Chewbacca, Leia gestured towards the cockpit.  “Lando is all yours, Chewie.”

Lando gave an incredulous laugh from the pilot’s chair.  “You don’t know what you’re missing, Princess.”

“Yes, I do,” Leia said with a smile.  “I’ll be with Han if you need me.”

Chewie barked again, but Leia was too keen to start a conversation with Han for the first time in months to waste any more time thinking about either the Wookie or Lando Calrissian.  She traded places with Chewbacca, then hurried away down the narrow corridor.

She found Han wearing what looked like the same shirt and trousers he’d been frozen in, but could tell by the smell that he had changed clothes just as she had.  “I bet you feel much better.”

Han swivelled the console chair he sat in, openly drinking in the sight of Leia.  “I do now.”

Leia would have been incensed at such blatant appreciation only months ago.  Now, however, there were more important things to get emotional about.  He immediately opened his arms to her, and with a shy grin, Leia gladly let him wrap her in a hug that she had been anticipating for a great deal of time.

“I’d stand up to do this properly,” Han began with an affectionate smile, “but I’d lose my balance and we’d both end up on the floor.”

Personally, Leia didn’t think that would be so bad, but a detour to the deck plates didn’t fit in well with her conversational plans.  “I can’t believe you’re back.  I waited for this day for so long that I stopped waiting a long time ago.”  She hugged him with all her might.

“Guess we both owe a lot to the kid, huh?”

“You have no idea,” Leia said.  “Luke never gave up on rescuing you even when I lost hope that it would ever happen.”

Han heaved a heavy breath.  “Chewie told me a little about him, but when I asked Luke, he wouldn’t say anything.  What’s going on with him?”

Leia knew that what she could tell Han about Luke would fill a datacrystal.  What she wasn’t able to tell him would fill several more.  “Luke’s a Jedi Knight.”

Han frowned.  “That’s what Chewie said.  But you don’t look happy that he’s some super Force guy now.  What’s really going on?”

Leia shook her head, and her braid swished across her shoulders with it.  “I am happy, but I’m not sure he is.”

“What - did he get some bad training or something?”

“No,” Leia said, puzzled.  “I think he learned something that’s made him unhappy.”

“You don’t know what it is?”

“He won’t tell me.”  Leia shook her head again, as if shaking off something unfortunate.  “But Luke isn’t what I want to talk about right now.”

The effect on Han was immediate.  “Uh-oh.  I know that tone.”  He slowly disengaged from their shared embrace.

“What’s wrong with my tone?”

“You’re getting serious,” Han replied as if it was obvious what that meant.  “Here it is, what I’ve been waiting for ever since you woke me up.”

He thinks I’m going to break things off.  “It’s not like that.”

“It’s exactly like that,” Han gruffly retorted.  “Don’t keep me in suspense, Princess.”

Leia sank into the nearest chair and faced him, determined to air her worries no matter how uncomfortable it made her.  “Listen before you go all space smuggler on me.  I’m not here to break things off with you.  And I don’t want to take back what I said in Cloud City.  I also don’t expect anything to happen because of it.”

The frown was back.  “Maybe you should.”

But Leia shook her head.  “I don’t want to suddenly tie you down with expectations.  I knew what I was getting into back then… yesterday for you.”  Han didn’t comment, and she went on after taking his hands in a gentle caress.  “I know what people expect of you because you’re a pirate and a smuggler.  At the same time, I know what everyone expects of me because I’m a princess.  But I know what I want to do instead, and I know that somebody will be unhappy with me no matter what I choose.”

Han gave a sound that was amazingly similar to a Bantha grinding its teeth.  “Stop talking in riddles, Princess. Tell it to me straight.”

Leia had expected to hear his more typical pet name of ‘Your Worshipfulness;’ this second use of her more formal title gave her a bad case of the chills.  “I know my feelings, and they aren’t going to change.  The Rebel Council won’t  be happy with this decision, but I’m not in love with the Rebel Council.  My fellow Alderaanians won’t be happy, either, but I can’t say that I care right now.  I’m more concerned with what you think.”

She might be waiting with more patience than she showed on most occasions, but that didn’t chase away Han’s confusion.  “All right,” he drawled.  “You’re still talking in riddles.  What do I think about what?”

Leia thought she’d been quite clear, but was willing to humor him; he’d been in hibernation for months, after all.  “Us.”  When he didn’t say anything right away, she added, “I don’t expect anything from you that you can’t give right now, like I told you, but I do want to know what you think.”

A silent moment went by, then Han gusted a huge burst of air in response.  “I’m trying not to just give you the answer that I think you want, but at the same time, I don’t want to say what I think all those others want, either.”

Leia gave a wry half smile in spite of the situation.  “What do you want?”

Han matched her half grin with a wry one of his own.  “What I want might not be possible.  What you want might not be possible, either.”

“We’ve been doing the impossible since we met.”

And just like that, Han burst out laughing, and the tension vanished.  “I don’t know, Your Worship, does a plain old pirate have a chance with royalty?”

“You’re no more plain than I am,” Leia sarcastically noted.  “My point is that I don’t expect you to give up the Falcon or your independence, and I won’t leave the Rebel Alliance.  So now what?”

With the tension gone, Han was much more relaxed.  “Sweetheart, everyone’s gonna have one expectation or another of us, but I don’t care about it if you don’t.  I’ve stuck around this long, and it wasn’t because of how much I wanted to impress the Rebel Council, or your planetless population, and it wasn’t because of Luke, though he played a part in it, and might think it was all about him.”

“No, he doesn’t.”

Han leaned in till their foreheads almost touched.  “Leia, I don’t care what everyone thinks, or expects.  I care about you.  Let’s try this.”

“What if it doesn’t work out?”

“Then I leave in my ship, and you still have your Rebellion.”

“I don’t want you to feel you have to leave if you truly care about the Rebellion.”
        Han’s sigh was one of pure exasperation.  “Let’s worry about that if the time comes.  Agreed?”

        Leia’s expression became more settled.  “That’s fair.  But don’t take on missions just because of me.”

        “It was never because of you.”  At her arched brow, Han amended, “Not just because of you.”  She arched her brow higher.  “Okay, mostly because of you, but don’t let that go to your head.”  Han sent her a devilish grin.  “You’re still ‘Your Worship’ to me, and don’t you forget it.”

        “Shut up and kiss me, you scoundrel.”

 “My pleasure.”

The End