Author: Iverna Timeframe: 4 ABY, during ROTJ Characters: H/L, Chewie, Lando, Luke Genre: Drama, romance Summary: After Han is rescued from Jabba, he has to sort out where he stands with regard to Leia and the rebellion. Note: This is a missing scene of sorts, filling in some of what happens after H/L leave Tatooine while Luke heads to Dagobah. It was published last year in Shipped First Class. Sand. The world was a whizzing beige blur, lit by the whitish blobs that passed for Tatooine’s suns and full of sand that got everywhere. It whirled through the air and whipped across the ground and filled the sky. And it stung. Leia Organa readjusted the goggles that half-covered her face with one hand, trying to pull the too-long strap a bit tighter. With the other, she kept a tight hold on the hand of the man who walked beside her. “I still can’t see a damn thing.” Han Solo, smuggler, pilot, and all-purpose hotshot, looked like none of the above as he let Leia lead him through the sandstorm. “Neither can anyone else,” Leia reassured him, although that wasn’t entirely true. She could see the sand-blurred outlines of Chewbacca and Lando just ahead of them, and sometimes even managed to catch glimpses of Luke. Han, typically, saw right through that one. “Oh yeah? Then how do we know where we’re going?” “Luke’s leading the way,” Leia said, smiling at his suspicion. Force, but she had missed him. Him and all his impossible, adorable, frustrating ways. A darker shape loomed up ahead, looking vaguely familiar, and Leia’s smile grew. “I think I can see theFalcon now.” They said their goodbyes to Luke in a blur of relief and gratitude and sand, along with the undeniable urge to get out of the latter. Leia pulled Han up the Falcon’s ramp and hit the button to shut out the storm. Once the ramp closed behind them, silence fell, broken only by the gentle hum of the life support system. After the dust and sweat and grime of Tatooine and Jabba’s palace, the Falcon felt almost pristine. It really was a matter of perspective. Maybe, she thought, that was why Han didn’t clean it better. Maybe to him, a smuggler from the Outer Rim, it was clean. Han placed his palm flat against a bulkhead and blew out a breath. He didn’t say anything, but Leia saw the corners of his mouth tugging upwards. He nodded to himself. Fatigue was tearing at every fibre in Leia’s body after the past few days, but it wasn’t over yet. She squeezed Han’s hand. “Let’s get you looked after.” He shook his head. “Just point me at the cockpit.” Leia felt her eyes widen. “Han! You’re still half-blind!” “Relax, I’m not going to try to fly her,” Han said. “I just want to be there for take-off, that’s all.” Pilots. Leia rolled her eyes, but tugged at his hand. “Okay. Come on.” It occurred to her that Han could probably have found his own way to the cockpit, but if that was the case, he showed no signs of it as he kept hold of her hand and let her take the lead. Chewie looked up when they entered, and growled something that was half exasperated and half accusing. “I’m all right, Chewie,” Han said. “Just don’t crash my ship.” He let go of her hand when he sat down. “I’ve got sand everywhere,” Lando complained as he fired up the repulsors and began to lift the ship off the ground. “Let’s never come back to this planet.” “I’m all for that,” came Luke’s voice over the cockpit’s loudspeaker. “I’ve said that before,” Han said, and Chewie growled mournfully. “Place is like a magnet for disaster.” “That explains why you keep going back,” Luke quipped, and Leia laughed. Han shot a dark look at the loudspeaker, but then his face, too, broke into a grin. It was the first real grin that Leia had seen from him since—since Cloud City, she realised, and that was far too long ago. The last smile she’d seen on his face had been the small, almost invisible, quirk of his mouth as they’d lowered him down into the carbon pit. I know. She’d spent the past year wondering what that meant, exactly, but aside from that initial kiss in Jabba’s palace, he’d given her no indication. She squared her shoulders. He was back, and alive. Everything else could wait. The Falcon broke atmosphere, and stars filled the viewport up ahead. “Co-ordinates laid in,” Lando announced. “Next stop, rendezvous with the Alliance.” “I’ll meet you back at the fleet,” Luke said. “Hurry,” Leia said. “The Alliance should be assembled by now.” “Hey, Luke,” Han said. He looked slightly uncomfortable, but forged ahead. “Thanks. Thanks for coming after me.” Lando broke the connection with Luke and nodded. “Ready in two, one…” Star lines flared. Han frowned. “What’s wrong with the hyperdrive? The dampers—” “We got it fixed,” Lando said. “Had to replace a few parts.” Han kept frowning until Chewie added a longer, more technical explanation. Leia smiled. That man and his ship… “Fine,” Han said. “Good. But first thing when I can see again, we’re switching that array back to the way it was.” Chewie told him that it wasn’t necessary, but Han wasn’t having it. “I don’t care,” he said, “I like it that way.” Chewie responded with a soft growl that sounded almost worried, but it wasn’t until Han said her name and reached over to touch her hand that Leia realised that the Wookiee had been talking to her. “Hmm?” Han was frowning again. “You okay?” Perversely, the concern in his voice almost made her smile. “Yeah.” She sat up and rubbed a hand over her eyes. “No problem. Just tired. I haven’t slept in a while.” “Sleep sounds good right about now,” Lando agreed. “I vote we let Sleeping Beauty over here keep an eye on his ship, while the rest of us catch some shut-eye.” “Hey—” Han began, but Leia cut him off. “Actually,” she said, raising her voice, “now that we’ve taken off and our expert pilots didn’t crash the ship against all expectations, you’re coming with me so I can do something about your eyes.” “Sounds good.” To her surprise, he got up without protest. “Lead on.” She made him sit on a bunk in the crew quarters while she riffled through the med packs that she’s commandeered from Alliance Supply. “How do you feel?” “Like I just spent a night in Jabba’s dungeon and survived a firefight,” he said. “Any pain?” He seemed to think about it. “Not really. Just a few bruises, maybe.” She made him run through some basic co-ordination tests, despite his very verbal reluctance. He didn’t protest at the injections against nausea and for metabolism stimulation, either because he recognised the need for them or, more likely, because a man couldn’t protest against needles while keeping up that tough image. “So,” he said, “is this part of princess training or did you have time to go to med school?” She gave him a look before remembering that the effect would be lost on him right now. “Neither. I just asked the med staff about hibernation sickness and other side effects of carbon freezing.” “You went to a lot of effort.” “Yeah.” She’d given him the short version of their efforts at catching up to him on the way, but there hadn’t been time for more. Later. As always, it came down to later. His mouth quirked into a crooked grin. “See, I knew you wanted to keep me around. Nice to know.” Leia opened her mouth to deny it, but she had gone to a lot of effort. She’d spent months chasing Fett and his cargo around the galaxy. You didn’t do that for someone you didn’t give a toss about, so between that and her last words to him on Bespin, how much could she deny, really? Besides… “You’re the one who always talked about leaving,” she said. “Remember? I always said you should stay.” He didn’t seem to have anything to say to that. She watched him trying to come up with a glib remark, amused. It wasn’t often that she got to watch Han Solo without the trap of catching his eye – but right now, his eyes couldn’t focus and he couldn’t even tell if she was looking at him or not. She sighed. Time to fix that. “How’s your eyesight?” He squinted. “Getting better.” “How much better?” “I could see well enough to shoot the tentacle off Lando.” He sounded almost defensive. Leia felt a sudden stirring of pity for any doctor who’d ever treated him. “Han,” she said, feeling tired again, “that doesn’t help. I need to set the dosage on these drops. How many fingers am I holding up?” He scrunched up his face and peered over at her. “I can’t even make out your hand. But you’re a moving blur against the blur behind you, that’s an improvement.” She considered it a miracle that he hadn’t shot Lando. “Right. Lie back.” He whacked his head against the headboard and cursed. She bit back a smile and knelt on the floor beside the bunk. As she brushed the hair back from his face, she was suddenly, painfully, reminded of the last time they had been like this: in the cell on Cloud City, just before Lando had come in. She’d been helpless then, unable to ease the pain that Vader had caused him. She wasn’t helpless now. “Hold still,” she ordered, and kept a hand on his temple while she squeezed the drops into his eyes. “Keep your eyes closed until I say.” He lay there, silent for a moment, while she packed the medical supplies back into the bag. She glanced over at him. Eyes shut and prone on his back, he looked almost peaceful for once. It didn’t last, of course. “Hey, Leia? You still there?” “I’m here.” “Listen, I—thanks.” The word made her realise that he hadn’t actually said it before. He’d thanked Luke, but not her. And she hadn’t even noticed. Had just assumed that the gratitude was there, words or no. I know. “You’re welcome.” She sealed up the med supply bag and got up to stow it back in the storage compartment above the bunk that she’d come to think of as hers. When she ducked back down to Han, his face was slack and he was breathing deeply. Asleep. She smiled and shook her head. Well, it wasn’t entirely surprising. He’d been in hibernation for a year, and then stumbled straight into a firefight. Which was typical, really, Leia thought with another smile. But he’d made it, they all had, and now they were all back where they belonged, more or less… A soft growl woke her out of a daze that wasn’t quite sleep, and she was startled to see Chewbacca crouched down beside her. The Wookiee regarded her with gentle blue eyes and rumbled a question. “He’s all right,” Leia said. “The medics said he’d need sleep. He should be back to normal when he wakes up.” Chewie grunted. Leia shook her head. “I’m okay.” The Wookiee whuffed a soft sound of disagreement and picked her up as if she weighed nothing at all. He manoeuvred her into the bunk beside Han’s and told her to sleep. He would watch out for them both. Leia didn’t quite catch the last of what he said; she was asleep before she could insist again that she was okay. * * * Waking up was one of those things that Han Solo had always taken for granted. He’d woken up a few times in those blurred, too-long carbonite dreams only to realise, at some point down the line, that he was still caught in dreams and unable to break out. He’d woken up for real when Leia had freed him from the carbonite, and it had been shaky and blurred and undeniably frightening. And now he woke up again, from his first regular night’s sleep in a year, and when he opened his eyes he could see the bulkhead above his bunk. His bulkhead, over his bunk, in his ship. He stared at it, making out details in the dull and scuffed metal, and concentrated on that feeling of being alive and awake that was finally real, not another phantom thought that his dazed subconscious threw at him in an effort to make sense of hibernation. Eventually, though, the novelty of the bulkhead wore off. Han sat up, swung his legs over the edge of the bunk, and surveyed the crew quarters. Chewie’s bunk was empty, but the one across from it still held a slight form. He got up and looked down at Leia, hair tousled and face still sandy from yesterday, fast asleep. He tried to avoid making noise in the ‘fresher, and went to find some breakfast. Chewie refused to let him have anything more than some kind of grain mush – Leia’s orders. Han grumbled, but Chewie reminded him that she’d made so sure to do research on his condition, and did he really want to discard all her efforts and make himself sick anyway? Han had to admit that grain mush didn’t taste half bad after a year of eating nothing. Afterwards, he headed straight for the main hold, where Lando sat with a deactivated Threepio. The gambler was fiddling with the wires that were poking out of the droid’s eye, and looked up when Han walked in. “Hey! How’re you feeling, buddy?” “Fine.” Han dropped into the chair at the tech station and started running through some diagnostics. “A lot better.” Lando hesitated. “Hey, listen – about Cloud City. I never meant for you to—” “Yeah.” Han thought about it, staring at the readout and not really seeing it at all. He’d sworn that if he made it through, he’d get even with them all, but then Lando had been there to help him escape. And by the sounds of it, he’d done a lot more than that. He’d only got the rough basics of the past year from Leia and Chewie on the way to the Falcon, but the fact was that Chewie was working with Lando. Trusted him, even. “Don’t—look, let’s just call it even, huh?” Lando gave him a measuring look, then nodded, smiled, and picked the multitool back up. “Sure.” Han gestured at the lifeless droid. “What’s up with him?” “The receptor’s been pulled out. No idea what happened, though; he was on the barge. Maybe Leia knows.” Han shrugged and turned back to the tech station. “Can’t say I care all that much.” “No?” Lando’s tone became provocative. “It would be a reason to talk to her Highness.” “I don’t want to talk to her,” Han said, although that probably wasn’t entirely true. Still, the subject of Leia was one he wanted to avoid for as long as possible. Until he knew what exactly had happened over the past year. If she’d spent the whole time running around the galaxy with Luke and Lando… “Oh, sure, I get that,” Lando continued, his tone far too knowing now. “But you know as well as I do that you have to start by talking, can’t just skip straight to the—” Han rounded on him before he even realised what he was doing, glaring and ready to lunge. “Watch it!” “Sorry.” Lando leaned back, looking only slightly smug. “Forget I said anything.” Then his expression turned serious. “You should talk to her, you know. She even abandoned the rebellion to come looking for you. She’d kill me if she heard me say it, but it’s been tough for her.” He didn’t know what to say to that. Lando wasn’t the sort to say things like that, usually. Or maybe he’d just never said them to Han because they’d never applied. Han shook his head and focussed on the tech station. She’d kissed him after the carbonite, right there in Jabba’s palace, but everything since had been – well, rushed, and very blurry, and he had trouble telling what she felt even when he was able to see her face. And then there was the last thing she’d said to him in Cloud City, unless that had been something his subconscious had fed him afterwards. It was nice to think that that had been real. It was nice that she’d been there at all. He didn’t want to think about what the past year might’ve been like if the last thing he’d seen had been Vader; that black mask had featured in his dreams enough as it was. He wasn’t even finished with the first diagnostic when he heard the soft clink of a chain, which seemed like an odd sound under the circumstances, and her Highness’ voice saying, “I, ah, could use some help.” Han typed in a final command and was in the process of tearing his eyes away from the screen as he said, “What’s the matter, did the—” He froze when he saw her, the words dying on his lips as his breath left him. She stood in the entrance to the main hold, dressed in a bikini outfit that looked like gold-plated metal, and two strips of silk which fluttered around her legs. “Whoah.” There didn’t seem to be anything else to say. She tugged at the collar around her neck and he noticed that she was blushing, and trying to pretend that she wasn’t. “I can’t get this thing off.” He was pretty sure that they’d all caught him staring by now, so shrugging it off wasn’t going to work. Instead, he kept looking at her, purposely unabashed, and let out a low whistle. “I missed out on all the fun, huh?” “Yeah, we only woke you up for the fighting,” Lando said. “Boys,” Leia said. “Right.” Han snapped to attention and stepped over to Leia to examine the collar, noting distantly that Lando hadn’t made a move to do the same. Maybe he really was convinced… but then Han’s brain caught up with him fully and he recognised the collar and its fastenings. “Kriff, Leia, that’s a slave collar!” “I thought so,” she said calmly. “That explains why I can’t get it off myself.” She raised her eyebrows when she noticed his expression. “What, you thought Jabba had me stay as a guest?” “No,” he ground out. “Right. Lando?” Lando tossed the multitool to Han, who caught it and set to work. His fingers brushed her bare skin as he loosened the fastenings, but he didn’t think about that now. Moments later, the collar dropped to the floor. “Thank you.” She stared at the thing, took a step back. Then she looked around and gave Han and Lando an apologetic smile. “I’m going to go and find some proper clothes.” She was almost to the door when Han stopped her. “Hey, Leia?” The silk swished around her bare legs when she turned. “Yes?” “You going to space that outfit?” She smiled, looking slightly triumphant. “Oh, I don’t think so.” She paused to let him consider that, then her smile grew wider. “It’s Lashaa silk. Worth quite a bit of money.” With that, she was gone. “I know,” he said to the space she’d left behind. * * * He spent the next few hours in the circuitry bay off the main hold, shouting instructions to Chewie around the corner and feeling the familiar mix of frustrated and happy that always accompanied tinkering with theFalcon. There wasn’t much they could do while in hyperspace, but a minor subsystem was clamouring for attention and no amount of Wookiee chiding could dissuade Han from throwing himself into work. He told himself that he wasn’t avoiding Leia, but eventually Chewbacca crouched in front of the corner that Han had wedged himself into, and berated him for it. “I’m not running away from anything,” Han said defensively. “I’m fixing this—” Chewie’s bark was short: yes, he was. “Look, I’ll talk to her,” Han said reluctantly. “When we get a chance to. It’s kind of crowded right now.” Chewie groaned. Leia deserved better than evasive manoeuvres, in his opinion, and he made sure to get that across to Han now. “Hey, pal, it’s been a while.” Han yanked at a cable. “How do you even know she—” The Wookiee’s growl was, again, to the point: because she’d said so. Han tried to smother a grin. So he hadn’t dreamt that part. But Chewie wasn’t finished. He launched into a tirade listing all of the issues that Han had been trying not to think about, and some more that he hadn’t even thought of at all, and then he informed Han that he was done helping him fix this – whether he meant the subsystem, or the situation at large, he didn’t say – and left him there. In the darkness. With only a tangle of cables to talk to. Han sighed. The big lug did have a point, or two. He hadn’t given Leia anything. In fact, he’d effectively done what he’d been planning to do, on and off, for a while: he’d left. Not voluntarily, of course, but all that meant— Han started making his way back out of the cable mess. All that meant was that, maybe, he wouldn’t need an apology for coming back. Between the mad rush of the escape and the overwhelming relief of being alive, he hadn’t really considered the question of what now? Jabba was dead. That was the simple truth, the randomiser that had just changed all the cards. That chapter was closed. But of course, that in itself meant nothing. He could still leave. He could turn his back on the debt he owed them, and the help the Alliance had given him, and the fact that he wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Leia and Luke. And then you’re as good as gone, aren’t you? The middle of a civil war was one of the worst times for commitment and promises – he knew that, Leia knew that, everyone knew that. And Han Solo wasn’t the type for either at the best of times, anyway. But really, he knew that he couldn’t turn his ship around anymore. He climbed out of the circuitry bay, impatient with himself. The decision was made. Time to stop pretending like it didn’t exist. He found her in the cockpit, typing something into a datapad, presumably a report of some kind. She was wearing a pair of grey cargo pants and a standard-issue Alliance jacket over a white vest top. She’d rescued her hair out of its braid and wore it clipped up in a messy bun instead. Han reflected that it wasn’t really the bikini outfit that had made her look good. “Hey.” She turned to look at him. “Hey.” “You got a minute?” “Sure.” She put down the pad. “What’s wrong?” “Nothing.” He dropped into the pilot’s seat, running a hand over the worn side and feeling his spirits lift. “But tell me something. If you’re not an official member of the rebellion, and you leave… do they let you back in if you want to join up?” He got to see her looking surprised for the briefest of moments, then she covered it by raising her eyebrows, playing along. “Well, I suppose that depends,” she said, and he caught that secret gleam in her eyes. “Are we talking about a general hypothetical member here, or someone specific?” Out with it, Solo. “I’m talking about yours truly,” he said. “I know Rieekan was very disappointed in me, but…” “Oh, but you never left,” she said, all earnestness, only the spark in her eyes giving her away. “You only said you would. Official protocol doesn’t recognise being frozen in carbonite by our enemies as leaving.” He did his best to look surprised. “No?” “No.” She played with the datapad in her lap. “Why?” “Well, the thing is, I had some time to think, and I changed my mind.” He tried a crooked smile. “Ran out of excuses, you know, since you killed Jabba.” “I’d say I’m sorry, but I’m not.” “Me neither.” She dropped the pretence and gave him a serious look, a guarded smile lurking somewhere on her lips. “You really want to stay?” “If you’ll have me.” Nice choice of words there. He gestured randomly, cleared his throat. “I mean, if the High Council decides that a guy like me—” She gave him a brilliant smile. “The High Council says yes.” He grinned back. He’d never have thought that joining an idealistic resistance movement could feel this good. “You sure you can speak for them all?” “I can speak to them all,” she said. The smile was still there, spilling all over her face. “You know we always wanted you to stay, Han.” He believed that, even though he didn’t think that the Alliance was in the habit of turning anyone away. “I knew it wouldn’t hurt to have connections.” She arched her eyebrows. “Connections? Is that why you hang around with me, so you can wheedle your way in to the rebellion?” She didn’t look like she was about to take offence, so he nodded. “Of course.” She laughed, shaking her head. “I hate to say it, but you could have had that a lot easier.” Han leaned forward, purposely casual, and lowered his voice. “I didn’t say it was just for connections.” “No?” Her eyes met his and he could feel his heart skip a beat. It wasn’t supposed to do that. But he had the distinct impression that it was probably too late to worry about that now. He shook his head. “No.” She opened her mouth to say something else, but it was a different voice that suddenly sounded through the cockpit. “Mistress Leia, I am pleased to report that I am fully functional again!” Han closed his eyes, took a deep breath and remembered that Threepio had helped to rescue him, Leia liked the droid, it would be altogether bad for Han to shoot him now, Lando would complain about wasting all that time repairing the receptor… “Master Calrissian sent me to find you in case you needed my help with the—” Han’s eyes flew open again. So much for Lando. One less reason not to shoot… Leia had swung her legs around so she was facing Han across the narrow space between the two pilot chairs. She was looking up at Threepio, her expression somewhere between amused and resigned. Then she blew out a breath and looked back down at the datapad, smiling and shaking her head in a way that betrayed her own frustration. And just like that, Han had had enough of ifs and maybes and interruptions of both. He reached out to place a hand on the side of her neck, and tilted her chin up. Leia looked at him, the amusement and resignation giving way to surprise – and something that looked enough like hope for Han to close the distance between them. “It’s this or shoot him,” he said, his voice low. “That’s blackmail,” Leia breathed, and then she wrapped her hand around the back of his neck and pulled him down for a kiss. Somewhere in the back of Han’s mind, he was aware of Threepio’s startled apologies, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. All he could think about was Leia, Leia’s hand in his hair, Leia’s knee brushing against his leg, Leia’s lips on his. His body was protesting at the awkward position he was in, but he ignored it. He wasn’t letting this moment go until he had to. He couldn’t have said how long it lasted. She didn’t pull away and he couldn’t, but eventually it ended, and he opened his eyes to meet hers. She was breathing a lot faster than before, but she was peering intently into his face. “Just tell me one thing.” “Hmm?” “Is this why you’re joining?” He didn’t have to ask what she meant. “Honestly?” “Yes.” He looked down at his hands and tried to get his thoughts in order. “There’s a few reasons,” he said. “I owe you, and Luke, too. I don’t have to run from Jabba anymore. And I’m guessing that the Falcon’s pretty high on the Empire’s hit list by now, so…” He sighed, met her eyes. “I’m in too deep. I can’t go back to how things were, because…” He couldn’t find the words. “Sometimes you can’t go back to the status quo, because the status quo’s changed,” Leia said quietly. “No matter how much you want to go back, you can’t, because it’s just not there anymore.” He looked at her, surprised, but he guessed that he shouldn’t be; she knew all about points of no return. “Yeah.” Then he thought about it some more, shook his head, and gave her a wry grin. “‘sides, I’m just plain bad at keeping out of this conflict. I keep getting dragged back in. I figure maybe it’s time I stopped fighting it.” She smiled. “It’s because you’re someone who recognises the right thing to do,” she said, “even if you don’t always do it.” Her belief in that side of him always made him uncomfortable, so he changed the subject to something he actually wanted to know. “How about you?” he asked. “Is this because I’m joining?” She shook her head. “Because you’re staying. I just—I’m just so sick of losing people, and you…” “I’m not making any promises,” he said, and he wasn’t talking about the rebellion anymore. “I don’t want promises.” She followed his transition without difficulty. “I can’t make any, either. It’s enough if I know that you’re not just going to disappear tomorrow.” “I won’t,” he said, and meant it. “I don’t want to.” She gave him another brilliant smile for that, and then she grabbed her datapad and made to get up. “I’ll be right back, I just have to ask—” “Hold on.” Han grinned as he caught her arm and manoeuvred her into his lap. “You forgot something.” “Han, I really need to talk to Threepio about—” He silenced her protest – a token protest, he could tell by the way she wasn’t glaring at him – with a kiss. He’d expected it to end there, but then he heard the datapad clatter to the ground as Leia shifted on his lap, twisting to wrap her arms around his neck. “Never mind,” she whispered against his chin, before her mouth recaptured his. He slid his hand up her back and pulled her closer, his other hand already tangling in her hair. She felt good against him, like she belonged there, and that was almost too much to take. “I missed you,” he murmured, needing to say something, his mouth less than an inch from hers. “Mhmm.” She reached up to cup his face in her hands, eyes shimmering slightly. He could see her throat working, but no words made it out. Even so, he was pretty sure what she was trying to say. He couldn’t seem to find a way to phrase it, either. Some things were too big to put into words, too obvious to even bother with words. Like when you thought that you’d never see someone again, and then you did, and the entire world shifted around that fact and became too overwhelming and amazing to even fit into words. “It’s okay,” he told her, even though she wasn’t upset. “It’s okay now.” The comm beeped. He looked past Leia at the blinking light that indicated an incoming message, and heaved a sigh. “If I had to guess, I’d say… Mon Mothma?” Leia craned her neck. “Looks like.” She regarded the comm for a minute, then turned back to him. “It’s your ship, Captain.” He cocked an eyebrow. “You don’t want to answer it?” She planted a kiss on his lips. “I have better things to do.” He couldn’t have prevented the grin if he’d tried. “That’s not very responsible of you, your Worship.” “Well, you’re getting more responsible,” Leia said. “I have to balance it out.” “That’s how it works?” He shook his head. “Should’ve thought of that years ago.” “It’s okay.” She patted his head. “You just take a bit longer to figure these things out.” He didn’t protest; he just winked. “But once I do, it’s totally worth it.” “Mhmm, not convinced. You’ll have to show me.” He gave her his best crooked smile. “Absolutely, Your Highness.” It occurred to him that it was the first time he’d said that and meant it. She leaned closer again and he wrapped his arms around her. The comm kept beeping. Eventually it stopped. And some time after that, Han’s world shifted again, and he knew that promises or no, he wasn’t going anywhere in the foreseeable future.