The information the Alliance desperately needs is stored on a data chip that Leia has tucked into her bra.
She hopes the Alliance has been paying close attention to Imperial troop movements because this is the first off-ship leave she's had in almost two years. It's only for twelve hours, and she worries that if no one is on this world to collect her information, she may not get chance like this again until it's too late.
She joins three of her fellow Imperial cartographers at the local cantina for a drink. She knows she's made the right choice about who to spend her time with when Shella Risome -- a boisterous human woman who Leia's worked with for the past year -- starts looking around the dingy bar, pointing at members of species with compatible genitalia to humans and saying things like, "What about that Zeltron? He looks like he'd be up for a good time!"
Leia glances over at each being Risome suggests, even if the suggestions are meant to be ridiculous, using these moments as an excuse to study the bar's patrons. As she waits, she tries not to drink too much of the ale in her glass and forces herself to laugh at the terrible and sometimes downright offensive jokes the other officers make.
Thankfully, she doesn't have to wait long. Soon a familiar face enters the cantina and Leia keeps the intense relief she feels from showing on her face. It's been far too long since she saw someone she cared about in person and it's been even longer since she saw Han Solo.
She pulls her eyes away from him and pretends to enjoy the story an officer she's with is telling about a Rebel cell the Empire recently took down in the Adari sector. She keeps her attention focused on the officers she came with until the bartender places a bright blue drink in front of her, points down the bar, and says, "It's from that human male."
Leia looks over Han. For a moment, their eyes meet and she can see the relief and longing in his expression. Then he puts on a goofy grin and raises both his eyebrows at her.
Risome nudges her arm and says, "He definitely looks like he's up for a good time."
Leia laughs and makes a show of looking Han over. "Well, he is attractive," she says.
Risome nudges her again. "You should go for it."
Leia pretends to think about it, and then she knocks back the blue drink and says, "You only live once."
The officers she's with cheer her on as she walks towards Han, and while Leia doesn't particularly like any of them, she's thankful that they've presented her with the perfect excuse to spend time with Han alone.
She leans against the bar next to him and says, "Thanks for the drink. Want to get out of here?"
"You bet I do." He flashes her a cocky grin, and then his arm is around her shoulders as he steers her towards the door.
They don't say anything to each other as they head towards the ship she figures he has parked in the local hanger. She's still in her uniform, and they both know she's being monitored the same way all Imperial officers are.
She isn't surprised when Han leads her to a small, nondescript freighter and not the Falcon -- she knows his signature vessel is too conspicuous for Imperial space. The second the boarding ramp is closed behind them, Han gestures to a large metal box resting on the ground of the cargo hold, makes a disgusted face and says, "Come on now, sweetie. Let's do this."
For the first time in ages, Leia wants to laugh. She runs her fingers against the side of his face almost reverently and looks up into his eyes. She's missed him -- she's missed him more than she knows how to convey -- but before she says anything, she turns away from him and begins to shed her clothing and place it inside the metal box.
The box won't prevent the listening and tracking devices woven into her uniform from broadcasting --- that would be too suspicious -- but it will provide them with a loop of dead air that is appropriate for clothing hastily discarded on a cargo bay floor. She also takes down her hair, carefully placing each and every hairpin into the box as well, suspecting that they, too, may be used to monitor her. Finally, she pulls the data chip from her bra before dropping her undergarments into the box and activating the seal on the top.
She wraps the robe Han hands her around herself before she steps into his space and embraces him. He buries his face in her neck and clings to her just as tightly as she clings to him.
"I missed you," she says, and she realizes she's blinking back tears.
"Leia," he says, sighing in what sounds like relief. It's the first time she's heard her name spoken since she went undercover and it warms her in a way little has in a long time. She holds him even tighter.
He pulls away but only far enough to gaze down at her. As he runs one of his hands through her hair, she reaches up so that her hands are around the back of his neck and pulls him down into a kiss.
Her mission is still her priority, so when their lips part, she holds up the data chip between them.
Unlike the two times he grinned at her in the cantina, the grin that lights up his face now isn't for show. "You did it! I knew you could do it!" he cheers, and even though she's taken off guard when he picks her up and spins her in the air in celebration, she finds herself grinning back at him.
Once they've made three copies of her data chip, they destroy her original so that there will be no trace of her involvement. She wishes that with the Death Star plans safely in Alliance hands her mission would be over, but she knows there's still too much for someone with her skills to uncover and that her disappearance now would raise suspicions she's worked too hard to avoid.
So she sits with Han in the ship's small galley and tells him everything she's learned about the Empire's plans. She doesn't tell him about how lonely she's been, about how much she's missed everyone, or about how much she hates what she's doing despite how important her job is.
Han seems to figure this out though, because he slides closer to her until he's warm against her side and he tells her about the Alliance. They both know that he can't tell her much in case she's discovered, but he still manages to tell her how her friends and loved ones are doing.
"Luke misses you," he says after he finishes filling in her on what everyone else has been up to. "And he watches out for you. Often, he closes his eyes, does that thing you two do, and tells us that you're free from harm."
Leia's heart aches. As close to Darth Vader and the Emperor as she is, she can't reach out to Luke or anyone else without bringing attention to herself. "I miss him too," she says.
Han takes her hand in his and brushes his lips against her knuckles. "Next time, I'll bring you home," he promises. Even though they both know it's a promise he may not be able to keep, it makes what feels like a dam inside of her break.
She turns so she can press her face against his chest. He's warm and familiar and here, and the next thing she knows, she's crying. He holds her as her sobs shake her body, and he murmurs "I promise" over and over again against her ear.
Her tears have long since dried when she pulls Han towards the freighter's small living quarters.
He smiles when she shoves him down onto the bed. "You're still so pushy," he says, laughing. She laughs too, thankful for and delighted by his humor as she sheds her robe and climbs on top of him.
They're both smiling when they kiss again, and the joy she feels with him in this moment goes a long way to soothing the sorrow she's been carrying around in her heart.
Afterwards, as they lie together, pretending they're both not counting down the few moments they have left, she tucks her head under his chin and tells him what she wishes she told him before her mission began. "I love you."
The hand he was running down her back stills for a moment. He huffs out a breath that sounds both surprised and amused, and says, "I might've gathered as much." His tone is affectionate and he wraps both his arms around her when he adds, "I hope you know the feeling's mutual."
She dresses slowly and mechanically, wanting anything but to be back in her uniform. She also takes her time re-braiding and pinning up her hair. She looks at herself in the 'fresher mirror when she's done and hates the Imperial officer staring back at her.
Han is waiting for her by the boarding ramp, and when she walks over to him, he tilts her chin up with his fingers and plants chaste kiss on her forehead.
They don't speak a word to each other, but she looks into his eyes and takes a moment to memorize the warmth and the hope she sees reflected in them. She offers him a small smile and he offers her one back. Then, she disembarks the freighter by herself.
As she walks back to her rendezvous point, she holds her head high, focusing on the fact that the intelligence she spent over a year collecting is now safely in the hands of the Alliance. She hopes that it helps the Alliance strike a decisive blow against the Empire, and she hopes that one day soon Han will get a chance to keep his promise.