Into the Fire

Chapter 14

After over three days of almost nonstop repairs and long shifts at watch since blasting off from Hoth, Han had declared the remainder of the day as a celebration of sorts. The mood was infectious and Leia found herself caught up in the liberation of a relaxing evening. She had learned early on in their acquaintance that both spacers were tolerable cooks, and Chewbacca did not disappoint tonight. With the remnants of their meal still spread out on top of the holochess table, the dishes abandoned long ago, their conversation had continued to weave from topic to topic, jumping from snippets of news off the datapad to frivolous rumors floating around the Alliance. The princess luxuriated in their company.

At the moment Leia was watching in amusement as Han regaled them with a story he swore was true after the topic had segued into the alleged deviances of former prominent Imperial senators, and now she couldn’t help grimacing. Up until tonight, she’d managed to block those sorts of rumors from her mind; she’d had the misfortune of butting heads with some of those same senators during her short tenure. She also knew that Han was cleaning up the anecdote for her benefit and the subtle chivalry made her glow, even though the tale was still bawdy enough to leave them all bent over with laughter.

“I’ve heard worse about him,” she confessed, caught up in the moment as she gave an exaggerated shudder.

Seated beside her on the banquette, Han gave her a double take before prodding her with an elbow. “I think the Princess is holding out on us, Chewie.”

«I think you’re right.»

“Oh no,” she protested, snapping back to her senses and holding up a hand. “There is no way I’m repeating it. I’m still trying to wipe it from my memory….”

Chewbacca let out a hoot of encouragement, scenting a juicy story, and Han nudged her again. “Come on, give.”

Puckering her lips and gauging her audience, Leia slid out of the curved bench to begin collecting up the dirty plates. “All I’m going to say is that it involved three Gamorrean littermates, Eukamint oil, a lot of alcohol, and he’s still paying to keep it quiet.”

There was a collective gasp, followed by howls of laughter.

Knowing when to leave on a high note, Leia grinned as she headed for the galley. It had been a very enjoyable evening but she was wearing down, and while she wasn’t much of a cook, there were other ways to contribute before turning in. She paused, however, upon seeing the destruction wrought in the tiny kitchen. With a sigh, she loaded the dirty dishes and cooking tools into the cleanser and set it working, then wiped down the cooking unit itself before tackling the small countertop. If only she could scrub those unsavory images out of her head….

“Need some help?”

Yes, please! Leia glanced around to find Han standing in the entrance to the tiny galley, his hands gripping the arched frame overhead as he leaned in toward her. She spent a mindless moment just ogling him.

Now Han and some Eukamint oil….

The sudden fantasy of a massage gone horribly right—of warm oil and slick skin, of flowing muscle and heavy breathing—made her flush and she shook her head, trying with little success to dislodge the vivid image. “It’s okay, I’ve got it.”

“Then mind if I watch?”

Guessing at his intent, she stopped to meet his gaze directly this time before giving a shy smile and a shrug, turning back to the cleanup job. “So long as you talk to me.”

“I think I can manage that,” he said as he stepped in and leaned back against the edge of the countertop. “So, when are you going to grace us with your cooking?”

With a self-deprecating smile, Leia warned him off. “That’s probably not such a great idea. I may be good at some things but cooking isn’t one of them.”

“Nah, I think you’re good at lots of things. Pretty much anything you set your mind to.”

That comment made her look up again. She wasn’t surprised at the compliment—he’d been paying more of those over the last few months. Rather it was the simple power his words had to make her chest grow warm from inside, like the rush she’d experienced from that glitterstim she’d tried once while back at the university; they were equally heady. “Thank you…but be careful what you wish for. Maybe another time when ingredients aren’t in such short supply. I’d hate to waste any food in some experiment gone awry.”

Solo chuckled. “You’re in safe hands. I won’t let anything bad happen.”

While returning items to their proper storage spots among the walls of storage cabinets and chillers, she moved closer and he took advantage of her nearness to reach out a hand and tuck back the strands of hair that had come loose from her single braid. Leia slowed to a stop when his fingertips grazed along her skin, lingering longer than necessary behind her ear before drifting down the back of her exposed neck and under the loose collar of her borrowed shirt. Despite her efforts, her eyes closed of their own accord as her entire awareness shrank to the sensations he caused. It wasn’t until her head fell back that she caught herself with a little gasp and her eyes opened to meet his.

“I could teach you….”

Dazed, Leia could only stare at him, not even sure what they were talking about anymore. The last time he’d touched her this way, she’d ended up sprawled out on top of him on a hotel sofa. Tonight, there seemed the distinct possibility she would end up doing much more than that. Not knowing what to say, she felt like she was underwater, everything moving in slow motion.

How does he do it? They should have entire deportment classes devoted to resisting seductive scoundrels.

“Just let me know.” His hand slid down the length of her arm until his fingers caught hers, and her arm seemed to rise all by itself as he brought her hand up to his lips.

Leia almost blurted out that she was ready for anything he wanted to teach her, anything at all, so long as he started right now. But before she could work up the nerve or a more sane thought, he started backing out of the narrow galley, tugging her along behind him. Not knowing where he was leading, she nevertheless followed without protest.

“Come on, that’s enough cleaning for tonight,” he coaxed with a smile. “Party’s not over. Chewie wants to tell you about the time we had to leave Iphigin in a hurry because he sat on their ambassador.”

Feeling like she was emerging from a trance, Leia blinked back to reality. “What? He sat on…?”

Her hand still in his, he led her across the main hold. “Hey, would I make that up?”

Squeezing his hand back, she relented. “Okay, one more story.”

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