"So," Han said, "what's this I've been hearing about the slave outfit?"
Leia blinked. Slowly, she turned from the window. The Rebel fleet was still amassing in deep space, and she'd been watching the newest arrivals come into view from her quarters on the medical frigate. Behind her, a Mon Cal cruiser slowly crossed the window; it was far too ornate for a warship, and Han would bet his eyeteeth it had been built to be some rich Imperial's luxury yacht.
"The what?" she said.
"Oh, come on, princess," said Han. "Did you really expect that I'd never hear about that?"
"We don't have anything to talk about," Leia said.
"Oh," said Han, leering happily, "if even half of what I heard is true, I think we have *plenty* to talk about."
Leia scowled at him. Han loved that scowl. He was convinced she saved it just for him. She'd have to. Leia was an aristocrat and a diplomat. She couldn't have gotten far scowling like that professionally. Lord High Muckety-Mucks of Whoknowswhere wouldn't be inclined to make concessions to an Alderaanian Royal whose meanest snarl made her look like an eight-year-old who'd just had her braids dipped in the inkwell.
Then again, they might. When Leia scowled at him like that, Han wanted to give her a small moon.
Of course, he'd have to steal it first.
The comlink on Han's belt blinked. Leia pointed to the flashing yellow light at the top. "Aren't you going to answer that?" she said.
Han flicked a switch and the light stopped. "Just Chewie," he said. "Nothing important. And don't change the subject. You think just because I hadn't recovered from hibernation blindness when we fought our way off Jabba's barge, I was never going to hear about that slimy worm's little... alternation to your wardrobe?"
Leia crossed her arms and glared at him. "Who told you?" she said.
Han laughed. "Who didn't?" he said. When she turned her back on him, he stepped forward until he was just behind her. He bent forward to murmur into her ear. "Lando was especially appreciative. I think that's because I missed it and he wanted to rub it in. But he said you were more beautiful than the best dancing girl he'd ever had." Though Lando hadn't been clear whether "had" meant "employed," or "owned," or something else. From what Han knew of Lando's history, those meant three very different standards.
"And you trusted Lando? He lies."
"He lies cheerfully, and repeatedly," Han said. "Chewie, though..."
Leia raised an eyebrow. Han could see it in her reflection in the glass. "Chewbacca said I was beautiful?"
"Yes," said Han. He paused. "No. You're right, I'm lying. Chewie said you look less like a gondark with your clothes off than any human female he's ever seen. Now, Luke..."
Leia turned around. "Luke?" she said.
Han held up his hands. "Relax, Your Worship," he said. "He didn't say a thing. He just stood there while Lando went through every exotic, nearly nude detail. Didn't wink, didn't laugh. Didn't even nod." Han waited just long enough for Leia to relax, and then added, "Sure blushed, though." He leaned in. "So I knew everything Lando said was true." His voice dropped to a husky whisper. "Even the part about the collar..."
Leia pushed him back, and stormed away. Not far, just to the table. There were some datapads there, and she began sorting through them. Han smirked. If what she was looking for was work-related, it'd be on her desk, near his end of the room. All he had to do was get between her and it, and when she looked up --
She looked up. At her desk. At him. Jackpot.
The com on his belt blinked; he flicked it off again.
"So, Princess..." Han sat on her desk and leaned back, stretching out his legs and crossing his ankles. "Let's talk about the slave outfit."
"The slave outfit," said Leia.
"The outfit into which I was forced by, fortunately, anatomically incompatible Gamorreans following the orders of a, fortunately, anatomically incompatible Hutt, as part and parcel of the life of slavery to which I was condemned as punishment for trying to save your worthless backside?"
"Er," Han said.
"Yes," said Leia. She looked at him as if he were the reincarnation of Grand Moff Tarkin and he'd forgotten to brush his teeth. "Let's, by all means, discuss that slave outfit."
Han grabbed desperately for his comlink and flicked it on. "What's that, Chewie?" he said. "Negative power coupling shorted out on the Falcon? Sounds bad. I'll be there right away."
"He hasn't said anything," Leia pointed out.
"It's the Falcon," said Han as he beat his hasty retreat to the corridor. "He doesn't have to."
Looking back on everything, Han was pleasantly surprised she'd married him anyway.
At least, he thought he was pleasantly surprised. That seemed odd; ordinarily his ego would have taken it as his due. But he was a little drunk, after all, and newly married, which was still a bit of a shock. And then, of course, they'd won. Though how much they'd really won, they'd have to see.
So far, Han had won the right to have a bunch of stormtroopers crash his wedding reception, get roaringly drunk, and sing an array of filthy songs. He couldn't have them shot because they'd surrendered, and he couldn't have them arrested because his own men were joining in. Maybe he could revoke their parole.
Or he could sneak away with his new wife. That seemed like the best plan.
Han weaved through the crowd, looking for Leia, and saw her talking with the local Imperial commanding officer, who was a decent sort. As soon as news of the Emperor's death had reached the garrison on Kashyyyk, he'd rounded up his men and surrendered to the first Wookiee he could find. The officer -- Nijarra was his name -- had been only mildly stymied when the Wookiee, who'd been making an excellent living selling captives from rival clans to Imperial slavers, had tried to talk him out of it.
Han wasn't sure what had happened to that Wookiee, afterwards, but life on the Rim had taught him there were times you shouldn't ask questions. It wasn't bad training for being married to a diplomat.
He cut through the crowd, nodded to Nijarra, and came up behind Leia, who was trying to smile as a Wookiee handed her something dead. Behind Han, Chewbacca leaned forward and grunted softly into his ear.
"Chewie says that's part of a traditional old Kashyyk wedding."
"Do I eat it?"
"No, you punch it a few times and hand it back. You're part of the community now, so you help make sure the food's dead."
Leia stared at him. "Are you serious?"
"I am. I dunno if he was."
Leia punched the dead creature three times, hard, then handed it back. The Wookie grunted its thanks and disappeared into the crowd.
"Apparently so," Han said. He leaned forward and flashed his best grin. "So, do you want to get out of here?"
"I don't know," said Leia. "This is more your kind of party. Do you think our guests are drunk enough yet?"
Behind Captain Nijarra, the stormtroopers burst into a lusty chorus of "The Twi'lek Girl Has Tassels, and Oh, She Twirls Them So."
"Good odds," Han said. He frowned. "Actually, wait -- I don't think I know this verse."
Leia looped her arm through his and tugged. "Come on," she said.
The honeymoon cottage was nicer than Han had expected, considering that Chewbacca and his son had built it. Chewie hadn't done anything vaguely resembling carpentry since some Imperial slaver had handed him his first hydrospanner. But Chewie'd grunted that family had to build it; that was tradition; and no, Han wasn't allowed to help, but should go off and kill something as a gift for the bride.
Han wasn't sure that a Wookiee wedding was what Leia's family had ever envisioned for her. Of course, they were dead now, which hadn't left a lot of options.
Han's homeworld hadn't ever been home, really, and Leia's had been destroyed. The only family Leia had was Luke, and none of them had been eager to go back to Tattooine. The Republic had made noise about some huge public ceremony. There had even been talk in some circles of installing Leia as a constitutional monarch, on the grounds that it would provice continuity of government for the Imperial loyalists. And, after all, she was royalty.
Han gave her credit: she hadn't laughed in their faces. At least, not until the little paper-pusher who'd thought it up had added something about "the brave General Solo" being "a fitting prince consort."
And then they'd more or less eloped to Kashyyyk. Han could still hear the stormtroopers singing, faintly, in the distance.
"So," said Han, "I guess we're married now."
"Yes," said Leia.
Han stuck his hands in his pockets and stared at the floor. He'd rather hoped to be staring at Leia by now, but three seconds after getting into the honeymoon cottage she'd shoved him into the center of the room and ducked behind a screen to change. "Need any help?"
She had to come out eventually. For one thing, he was between her and the door. He could demonstrate patience.
Han demonstrated patience for another twenty seconds. "Are you ready yet?" he said.
"Yes," said Leia.
She stepped out from behind the screen.
A collar was around her neck. A length of chain, a meter or so, hung from it. The chain had been cut at the dangling end, and the ends of the half-link at the end were fused; Han recognized, with the fraction of his brain that still worked, the leavings of Artoo's plasma cutter.
Han felt his mouth open. For some reason, he couldn't remember how to close it.
"This," said Leia quietly, "is what you've been hearing about the slave outfit."
Han blinked. And again. He couldn't quite make what he saw fit into his personal view of the universe, but every time he opened his eyes, there it was. He'd spent a lot of time imagining the slave outfit, and Leia in it, but none of those imaginings, even the more graphic ones, had quite had the effect that seeing Leia now had.
Of course, he hadn't been married to her before. Or thought about what it might cost her to willingly put it on.
"You kept it?" Han said.
Leia shook her head slowly. Her bare feet pressed into the soft carpet that, Chewbacca had proudly assured Han, had been woven from the cast-off hairs of his four grandparents for the occasion of Chewie's own long-ago wedding. Han hadn't decided how to relay that particular information to Leia yet. Or Chewie's attempt to console Han over the fact that Han's and Leia's parents were not only dead, but comparatively bald. "I tossed it out," Leia said. "Lando kept it."
Han swallowed. "Remind me to thank Lando. After I kill him."
"Get in line."
Han's gaze flickered over the slave outfit. For such a small garment, it was remarkably detailed. The golden scrollwork around the cups of the bodice were carefully fashioned, and highly polished. He couldn't see much of the lower part; there wasn't much of it at Leia's hips, and a long, trailing cloth down the middle obscured the form-fitting part of the bottom from view. It did set off Leia's long, graceful legs to advantage, and when she took a step the cloth swayed just a little to the side, offering Han a glimpse of her inner thigh.
"I strangled Jabba with this chain," she whispered. She stood behind Han and, reaching up, looped the chain around his neck. She tugged lightly on the chain, pulling him close to her, and stretched up on her toes. Her breath warmed his ear.
Leia's breasts brushed against his back. Han felt his head swimming. "Tell me you weren't this close to him," he managed to choke out.
"He was fatter," said Leia. "I needed more leverage." She adjusted her grip on the chain as she leaned in, and though Han couldn't see her he heard the cold, cruel smile in her voice. "Artoo cut the chain short and left the rest of it in his neck."
Han couldn't muster a sound. Leia's body was warm against him, and the links of the chain were cool on his neck. He heard the links rattle as she wrapped them around her hand, and then drew them tighter.
"Do you know why I did it, Han?" she said. Her voice was gentle, but amused, with a dark mirth that reminded Han of his navy days, and an Imperial Officer he'd known and shot. "I didn't do it because he'd humiliated me. I didn't even do it to save our lives." She pressed her mouth against his ear, and whispered, "I did it... *because you owed him money.*"
Han knew she was lying. It didn't matter. The thought of Leia as his willing slave girl, killing callously to save Han not death, not torture, but inconvenience, was horrifyingly arousing. He remembered, fleetingly, blasting poor old Greedo with a hold-out under the table in the middle of a conversation, and for just a flash saw Leia coming up behind Greedo to strangle him with a chain.
Of course, Han remembered from stories he'd heard in spaceport bars, keeping a slave who killed so cheerfully could prove... dangerous. He wondered, with a chill, if Leia had heard those stories too.
"Aren't you proud of me... master?"
Faintly, Han said, "Oh, boy, yes."
"Good," said Leia. "Come here."
She tugged him along by the chain, which Han now realized had gone completely around his neck once. It was loose, but it was there, and he had to bend over so it didn't tug at him when they walked. She led him toward the back of the hut, where Han saw something disturbingly familiar.
"Leia... is that...?"
"The frame from the carbonite you were encased in? Yes."
"You kept that?"
"The Jawas kept that," said Leia. "They looted it from Jabba's palace. A couple of them owed Luke some favors, and interstellar shipping is remarkably inexpensive."
She turned Han around so that his back was to the frame. One hand came to rest in the center of Han's chest. She pushed him backwards into the hollow center of the frame. Han was so focused on the chain sliding around his neck like a snake as the distance between them increased that he didn't notice what Leia was doing until she'd seized his arm and brought it up. "Of course," she whispered as the manacle closed about Han's wrist, "I had Chewie make a couple of modifications."
"You really are your father's daughter, aren't you?" Han said weakly.
He winced after he'd said it. Leia hadn't taken well to finding out that Darth Vader, who'd tortured her for information about the rebel's plans, who'd watched calmly the destruction of the world where she'd grown up, had been her father. Then Han sneaked a look at her as she finished manacling his other wrist. Oddly, her smile had only gotten bigger.
"Funny you should say that," Leia said. She reached to her waistline and pressed something. Han couldn't see what. Then he heard the sound of an electronic powerup, and something hovered out from behind the screen.
The remote made a pulsing hum as it wobbled through the air toward Han. It was round, mostly, but there were arms and probes and sensors and -- was that a needle?
Leia grinned wolfishly at him. "And now, General Solo," she said, "we will discuss the location of your hidden rebel base."
Chewbacca had kept a careful distance from the honeymoon cottage after the ceremony and in the early morning, but he went around after the sun was well up, just in case Han needed anything. Food, perhaps, or someone to set the cottage on fire to distract Leia so Han could sneak out the window. Chewbacca had had to do that twice before, but as far as he knew Han hadn't actually been married on either of those occasions.
The bough above the cottage offered a good enough view, and what he saw led Chewbacca to climb across to the adjacent platform. Han was outside, fully dressed, leaning against the railing Chewbacca's family had installed for the benefit of the humans who'd come for the wedding festival. He was gazing down into the abyss between the great trees, and looked mildly shellshocked.
Chewbacca wished him good morning.
"Nuhg," Han said.
Chewbacca asked after Leia.
Han laughed weakly and leaned against the railing.
Chewbacca reminisced about the pain his own first night of matrimony had brought, and offered to fetch some bacta or healing plants if Han had suffered any particularly painful bites.
Han gently touched his shoulder, and his ribcage, and winced. Then he shook his head.
Chewbacca asked Han if there was anything he needed, and Han said that as a matter of fact there was.
Chewbacca was resourceful, and what Han needed wasn't particularly hard to find.
Although, he thought, as Han disappeared into the cottage again, it wasn't as if Han looked particularly becoming as a stormtrooper. If anything, the gleaming white armor made him look even more hairless than before. And he certainly couldn't expect to fool Leia; the helmet vocoder wasn't that effective.
He was proved right almost immediately. As Han entered the cotttage, Chewbacca heard Leia's gales of laughter, interrupted only by a few faint words. He couldn't quite catch the question, but he did hear Han's vocoded reply: "Yes, we've had reports of a ruthless slave assassin killing Hutts and torturing Rebels. Can't have any of that."
The laughter ended in a muffled squeak.
Chewbacca, shaking his head, left them to their foolishness and climbed back up the tall branches of the Great Tree. The honeymoon seemed to be going well enough so far, and it had been some time since he'd had a chance to spend so much time with his family. And it was a pleasant morning, after all. Perhaps his son would want to kill something.