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Centrifugal

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*

Flyboys, she says, you're all the same, but they're not. This one's thicker -- his body, his hair, his jacket, none of it gives the same way when she digs her fingers in. The jacket is grittier, maybe, doesn't have that butter-smooth feel of--

Yeah? He rips the thing off his shoulders, white t-shirt pulling tight. He leans in, drags his teeth down the line of her jaw, brings her back. So what, you think you've had one, you've had us all?

She grins, sinks her teeth into his lower lip. Also thicker. What makes you think I've just had one?

*

The New Republic sent some pilot from the Defense Fleet to fly the transport, an ancient two-person clunker that looked like it had been rotting in the black since the Civil War. He was young, and one look at the way he cocked his hip when he had the helmet under his arm was enough to tell her that he'd be more comfortable on the stick of one of the X-wings escorting them, but apparently he'd volunteered. She'd thought about saying no, send someone else, but he'd pushed a stray lock of hair off his forehead and said c'mon, General, it'll be fun, ever run a blockade in a bucket of bolts this rusty?

Yes, as a matter of fact. All right.

They'd lost both the X-wings getting out of First Order territory, and the only reason they hadn't lost the transport was because he'd done a high-g barrel roll straight into a field of space junk and then stalled the engines. It was, in a word, insane, and the only TIE fighter that had tried to follow had slammed into the husk of a satellite and become so much space junk itself.

When they'd landed on Chandrila, one wing gone and both engines smoking, they'd sprinted from the plane like it might blow at any second, and he'd picked her up and spun her around, both of them shouting and smiling like idiots, their hearts slamming in unison. It had taken a few too many heartbeats for him to remember himself and put her down, and by that time, Leia had remembered everything.

*

Ma'am, he says, snapping a salute as she passes, all that squeaky-clean respect undercut by the too-familiar gleam in his eyes. She stops walking.

Before she can tell him not to call her ma'am he says, I heard you used to be a princess.

Don't call me that, either, she snaps, and the question flickers in his eyes -- either? -- before he pushes off the wall and moves closer. It's a stalk, almost, a subtle shift of shoulders, the way he lowers his head like a pit-fighter.

Majesty?

No. She lowers her own head.

Highness? He takes another step. General, he tries, and she can tell by his smirk that unless she does something about it, he's going to keep talking.

This one, at least, she knows how to shut up.

*

The first day of negotiations hadn't gone well, the New Republic happy to support the Resistance so long as they could do it silently and from far away and without getting their hands dirty or supplying any more money, weapons, or ships. This despite increased incursions, mounting casualties, and a groundswell of First Order support on the border planets; and despite Leia's own certainty, borne of loss and feeling.

Oh, they'd said, dismissive, the Knights of Ren. You mean that lunatic-fringe religious sect obsessed with Vader? They'll burn themselves out long before they attract enough recruits to pose any serious threat, they're a cult of of personality without any personality, no need to worry.

But Leia had worried. Her father, her son, herself, somewhere in the black between.

That night, on edge and frustrated, she'd gone to the hotel bar. She'd have preferred some grotty cantina, low lights and low ceilings and low-hanging smoke, an opportunity to lose herself in a few drinks and the relative anonymity of a crowd, but frankly, she was old. She was tired. She'd get halfway through her first drink and want her bed, and she didn't want to be staggering through the streets to find it.

Except that in the hotel bar had been that pilot, lidded eyes and leather, and she'd ignored him for two hours, nursing her drink, letting its slow heat curl into her. When she was finished, she'd met his eyes and set down her glass and walked away, and it hadn't been anything like a surprise when she'd heard his voice behind her, ma'am! Hold up, please, hold the elevator.

She did, considering him through the six-inch gap. She looked at his mouth and he bit his bottom lip, even white teeth scraping and pulling at his skin, his tongue flicking out to soothe. She looked at the dark stubble on his cheeks and could almost feel the burn of it on her thighs. How old are you?

He'd ducked his chin and looked up at her through his eyelashes, one side of his mouth curling slowly, slowly into a smile. He'd licked his lips again. Old enough to know better.

It was a lie so staggering she'd laughed. Apparently not, she'd said, and let the elevator door slide shut. Wait a little longer.

*

Fuck, he says, and it's as articulate as either one of them's been in a while. She angles her hips up and he sinks in deeper, the stretch and slide of her body around him familiar in the abstract but strange in the particulars. Every time it's different, and every time it's the same, an ache for something she has and doesn't, wants and doesn't, and she runs her hands down the smooth curve of his back to urge him deeper still.

He does it, eventually, but he pulls out first before he gives her what she wants, hips pumping in a relentless counterpoint to the beating of her heart and the gathering throb between her legs. She gasps and feels him smile against the skin at the crook of her neck where his mouth is moving mindlessly -- talking, probably, he's always talking, but she can't hear him over the roar of blood in her ears.

When she does hear him, it's because he says right into her ear, now?, his voice a low grind that settles somewhere at the base of her spine. He presses his cheek to hers and rubs, says please and does it again, a rasping drag she'll feel in an hour but doesn't give a damn about now.

She's too far gone to laugh, or even to smile, but she shakes her head. A little longer, I'm not done.

Fuck, he says again, and braces a forearm next to her head. His sweat drips into her eyes. He writhes against her once, a full-body slide that scrapes his chest hair across her nipples and seems to tighten her entire body, and when he pushes a hand between them and gets two fingers on her clit, the rhythm of his hips never faltering, she's glad she made him wait.

*

I'd like to stay, he'd told her, when he'd safely delivered her back to the Resistance base with only slightly fewer heroics than he'd needed to get her out in the first place. He was as frustrated with the New Republic as she was, and he stood at attention and gave her the same slow smile he'd given her when he was half-drunk on Chandrila. If you'll have me.

*

She knows.

It's hope, a gentle warmth emanating from her heart, or Han's heart, and if even Han is hopeful, then--

Then it's love, overwhelming. Love, brighter and stronger than the collapse of every star, pure, awestruck, unrelenting.

Then it's nothing. It's just gone, extinguished. Leia can't breathe. Her face is wet. She closes her eyes.

She knows.

She knows it again when he doesn't bound off the Falcon wearing the jacket and the shit-eating grin, and again when she sees the look on Chewie's face, and again when she wakes up in the morning, and again the morning after that.

She also knows, when Poe comes back, that they're done. She watches his graceful swing from the cockpit with her heart in her throat, and it's two days after the mission debrief before she runs into him alone. He straightens automatically and then slouches again, hands shoved into his back pockets, and she half expects him to say something outrageous, to wink and flash her a dirty grin. She tries to prepare, to come up with some response.

In the end, she doesn't have to. His smile isn't cocky, only small and sad. He nods once, ma'am, and she realizes he knows, too.

- FIN -