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Slow down my beating heart

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— Giggly kiss

One of the downsides of becoming involved with Han Solo while being stranded on his ship for an extended period of time, Leia reflected, was that there was virtually no escape from her thoughts about him, and no reason to run from them, either.

Not that she didn’t think about him before—but those had been forbidden thoughts, inappropriate thoughts, thoughts she had no business thinking, and as such, Leia could usually succeed in pushing them away as she devoted herself to the Alliance. That’s how she handled personal matters these days, anyway, and it worked for the most part. Besides, the dynamics of her relationship with Han, up until recent events, made it so much easier: before they got too cosy, one of them would go off, and then she could pretend that Han Solo was the last person in the galaxy on whom she would spare a single thought .

For the remainder of this little adventure, though, she had nowhere to go, nothing to do that wouldn’t conjure up musings about him, no mission to send him on that would put him (marginally) out of her mind. Rather than ignoring her musings, Leia found herself dwelling on them more and more, enjoying this liberty of thinking, of acting, of speaking… this liberty of being she was indulging in. She didn’t have to pretend she didn’t find him as attractive as he was infuriating, from his lazily crossed ankles to his cocky hips to that knowing, wry grin. And she had no reason to work herself into an outrage that he seemed to find her equally magnetic. She certainly couldn’t deny (to either of them) the nearly electric tension that built up whenever they focused on one another. These were facts she could accept now: it was all out there, and she had no intention of backing down.

Han had given her no reason to regret her decision, either. He could be downright insufferable, sure, particularly when the tension was running high between them. But if she’d ever truly believed, if he’d ever showed her, in the three and a half years of their acquaintance, that he was nothing more than the arrogant mercenary who cared about nobody but himself that she’d met in the Death Star…

Then he wouldn’t have been on Hoth. She wouldn’t be in his ship. He most definitely would not be a man she’d want to kiss. Leia might like scoundrels, but she liked herself more.

There were some thoughts about Han she didn’t wish to consider for the time being, though, and they had everything to do with whatever would happen after they reached Bespin. Those thoughts she’d gladly escape.

It was the second day of their journey, in what could be considered the evening. After Han had left her sitting on the floor of the cargo hold, Leia had decided it was time to call for Threepio. Under the guise of needing his help to catalogue the foodstuffs more efficiently, Leia let the droid’s incessant chatter drown all her thoughts, which kept returning to her earlier faux pas with Han over whether he would ever consider adding an adequate galley for her benefit, knowing full well he wouldn’t have to, not if he didn’t intend to come back after paying Jabba. He’d never said he did.

She’d also wanted a break from thinking how it felt like to be kissed by him. Before that ill-conceived kiss she had given Luke on Hoth (she was sure he knew, by now, that she felt nothing like that for him, but it had still been a vile thing to do to Luke), she hadn’t kissed anyone in years. Not since she’d gone to Coruscant. And while sexually she had been able to take care of matters with her own hands, Leia had really missed being kissed. Especially, being kissed like she had recently been.

The problem was that she could see how addictive it could easily become, and Leia thought it was still too soon to give away how acutely touch-starved she felt—and how attracted she really was to him. That was sure to make him cocky, and if it did she would end up—

Probably giving him more reasons to be cocky.

She hadn’t had many chances to exercise her self-restraint since that morning, though, as she and Han had still to find themselves alone and unoccupied. Once the inventory was done, they had all shared a meal in the cockpit; afterwards, she had taken a nap until it was her watch again. Unlike her first watch, which she had shared with Han, Leia’s second and third watches had been lonely and uneventful, giving her more time to be alone with her thoughts than she would have liked. Han had showed up with caf once, but he hadn’t stayed long: Leia could hear him and Chewie still working on the shields and other necessary repairs, their voices carrying through the access tunnel. And then her shift was up again and Chewie came to relieve her.

‘All yours,’ Leia said, stretching as she stood up from Han’s chair. She placed a hand on the Wookiee’s arm. ‘How are things looking?’

Chewie spoke slowly, careful to articulate his speech as best as he could for Leia. She had been able to learn the meaning of some words and simple phrases in Shyriiwook, but the vocalization of the language still made it hard for her to communicate easily with Han’s co-pilot. From what she got now and the thumbs-up Chewie gave her, Leia understood that the shields were at least partially working.

‘All right,’ she said, smiling up to him. ‘Where’s Han? Does he need help?’

As Chewie started to answer, the telltale noise of Threepio’s servomotors made Leia turn to the hatch.

‘Your Highness, if I may, Captain Solo requires your assistance. He is in the rear cargo hold, adjusting some valves.’

Leia followed C-3PO out of the cockpit, but once in the main corridor, the droid turned right, towards the main hold, instead of left.

‘Didn’t you say Han was that way?’ Leia called out, pointing a thumb over her shoulder.

Threepio stopped and turned around. ‘That is correct, Your Highness. Rear cargo hold.’

‘You’re not coming?’

The droid lifted one shiny hand to his face in what Leia was almost sure was agitation.

‘Oh. I’m afraid not, Princess Leia. Captain Solo said my services were no longer required for the day and that I should stay out of the way. It was not very kind of him, I was only doing my job. Of course, if you required my assistance, I could—’

Leia raised a hand. ‘That’s okay, Threepio, I’ll summon you if we need you. Thank you.’

‘You are perfectly welcome, Your Highness,’ Threepio said cheerfully, but Leia was already walking away.

She crossed the engineering bay and stepped through the hatch, leaning forward on her elbows against a large crate as she looked down into the maintenance pit.

That’s a sight to behold , Leia thought, smirking. Han was stretched on his stomach over a horizontal pipe, his hands maneuvering a hydrospanner deep into an open panel. His white shirt, now smudged with grease and dirt, was rolled at the sleeves and had ridden up his back, exposing a stretch of sun-kissed skin. He wasn’t wearing his boots, and his long, socked feet stuck out of his navy blue trousers. His feet weren’t the only thing that stuck out, with the way his legs were straddling the pipe...

Most male backsides left much to be desired, but Han’s never disappointed.

Unfortunately, he had heard the whoosh of the hatch and, after a last tug of the hydrospanner, Han twisted his torso to look at her, comically trying to prop up his head on one arm as the other clung to the pipe, lest he slid off.

‘Enjoyin’ the view, sweetheart?’ he drawled, neck stretching up to better make eye contact with her.

Unflinching, Leia raised an eyebrow. ‘Of course. You, working? That’s not something you see every day.’

‘Har har. Pass me a fusing pen, will you?’

Leia pulled herself off her crate and reached out for the toolbox that had been set just out of Han’s reach. Finding the correct tool, she crouched next to the pit and held it out for him.

‘You could be nicer to Threepio,’ she remarked, watching him pull his goggles down over his eyes.

He gave her a confused, bug-eyed look. ‘Says who?’

‘I’m telling you. He’s only trying to do his job, he can’t help… being the way he is.’

‘Yeah, ‘cos he’s a droid. What’s it matter how I treat him?’

Leia’s mouth opened, but no answer came out as she struggled to put her thoughts into words, so after a few seconds, Han flopped onto his belly again and began slicing together some wires.

Sitting on the floor, she rested her weight on her elbow and leaned forward to watch him working.

‘Because he’s not just a machine. His experiences have shaped his personality, allowed him to form bonds, and to have emotions—’

The fusing pen stopped and Han lifted his head. ‘Go to the bay and tell me if the exhaust vent stopped makin’ that noise.’

Leia did so. ‘Yes,’ she yelled, standing under the vent.

‘Good!’ Han yelled back, so she reentered the cargo hold. He was sitting up on the pipe now, taking off his goggles and throwing them over the edge of the pit.

‘What I was trying to say is, he understands when you are being rude to him, but he doesn’t get why, so he’s… I think he can feel hurt over it sometimes,’ Leia resumed, crouching by the opening again. ‘He’s never done anything wrong to you, anyway.’

‘He interrupted me while I was kissin’ a pretty girl,’ he said with a straight-faced expression.

Leia’s lips twitched as she bit back a smile. ‘Not on purpose .’

A rough hmph! vibrated in his throat, a sound that could be interpreted as reluctant agreement or as “intent does not affect the result”. He looked up at her, suddenly perking up.

‘You grew up with him, didn’t you?’


‘Threepio. You sent him and Artoo down to Tatooine with your plans, so they were on your ship, right? They were yours?’

‘Not exactly. My father acquired the droids by the end of the Clone Wars… they belonged to one of his fellow Senators who wouldn’t need them anymore, he said. But Father didn’t keep them around a lot. They were in the service of Captain Antilles when I was headed for Tatooine.’ Leia hugged her knees, her gaze focused blindly on a random spot as she thought. ‘I’d only ever met Threepio briefly before then. I’d worked with Artoo on a mission with a rebel cell, a few years ago. Smart droid… both of them, really.’

He seemed slightly disappointed. ‘I’d kinda imagined him totterin’ everywhere after you, chewin’ you out for… did you ever do somethin’ wrong as a little girl, Your Worship?’

Leia could have laughed. Oh, wouldn’t you like to know . She might tell him, once, if he proposed a fair trade of personal information. For now, she’d only give him a taste, to steer the conversation away from Threepio and into potentially more pleasurable topics.

‘Well, I would associate with scoundrels sometimes,’ she said in a nonchalant tone, turning her nose up and giving him a cheeky look through her lashes.

Extending arms and legs, Han grabbed hold of the ladder, pushing himself off the pipe and up. Leia stood up and took a step back as he got out of the pit.

‘Hey, I thought I was the only one!’ he said, his brow creasing as he pretended to look hurt, but was betrayed by a slow-spreading grin.

‘You’re the only one who dared court me. Although I don’t know if what you’ve done so far counts as courting,’ Leia pointed out, bracing her hands on her hips and giving him a crooked smile of her own in return.

‘I didn’t know you wanted to be courted , Princess,’ Han replied in his trademark drawl, mirroring her position by hooking his thumbs into his belt. ‘Thought you just wanted to make out with me.’

‘Mm, that’s right, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work a little for it, does it?’ As if they were preparing for combat, their feet had started moving, drawing a circle in the reduced space, neither of them breaking their gaze as they seemed to assess each other. ‘Or were you intending to just jump on me?’

‘No jumping. I was just gonna say I’m glad we’re getting along. We’re two people, alone in the immensity of space…’ Han was so expressive, his verbal pauses were reflected on his face: his full lips hung open by a hair’s breadth, his eyes unconsciously wandered upwards and then travelled back down to meet hers, the space between his eyebrows creased for a second. ‘No, no, hold it. That’s too much, even for me.’

Leia chuckled. Han showing a poetic streak was as out of character as… as if she’d been the one to utter that phrase. ‘It’s a great line, Han, and well-polished with use.’ She saw the flicker of dismay at her barb, as if he was insulted that she thought he would be brainless enough to use a line that cheesy twice, but she was only continuing their flirty banter. ‘If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were trying to seduce me.’

His mouth curled in a roguish smile and he leaned against the crate over which Leia had watched him work earlier. In his haste, he miscalculated the maneuver required to rest his elbow on top of said crate. Stumbling, he lost his balance and fell to the floor—and the sudden fall made his head smack right into a barrel behind him.

Suddenly, his cool and flirtatious façade disappeared as he groaned and clutched at his head, squeezing his eyes shut to stop what she imagined was the ringing in his ears.

‘Stars, Han!’ Leaping forward, Leia kneeled down by his side, eyes wide in concern. Now this was more typical of him, trying to flirt with her and failing beyond hope—not that he’d ever let that stop him. She touched the back of his head gingerly, as if to soothe the pain. ‘This was not the intended result, was it?’

‘No, it’s just what I imagined happenin’ when I sent Threepio away,’ he said gruffly, though he gave her a part-grimace smile.

Leia could imagine him, then, trying to get rid of Threepio and ensuring he’d get her alone, wondering if she wanted to kiss him again as much as he did. Planning how this would go, how they would get from working to kissing without coming off as too eager or pushy, maybe… She wouldn’t have imagined he cared about that, but he obviously did. Otherwise their first kiss would have happened much, much earlier, and it probably wouldn’t have gone as well. She could picture him thinking of a way to sound smooth as he worked, waiting for her to walk in.

It was dorky. And sweet. And hilarious.

Her first laugh was like an exhalation, like something that had been trapped inside of her and was now set free. But then her laughter turned into a bubbling stream, happily gushing out of her, unrestrained, shaking her with its gentle force, making her cheeks ache and her eyes crinkle up. Through all that, she saw him: his expression going from taken aback to accepting her outburst of hilarity until he was laughing too, a deep, vibrating sound that seemed to resonate in her bones, making her laugh harder.

She wasn’t sure what happened, but she felt him kissing her before she saw it coming. His hand cupped her jaw as his lips pressed against her giggling mouth in a short kiss. And yet Leia couldn’t stop laughing, even though there was nothing particularly funny about this situation. She guessed it was just relieving, all the tension, the nerves, the expectations that had built up inside of her during the past days—the past years —, all of that floating away with the sound of her laughter.

Han gave her more sloppy kisses that were fractured by the shaking of their bodies. It was new, being smooched by him like that, almost juvenile. She could feel him quivering now through his lips, his warm laughter coursing through her skin. Neither of them had been prone to this type of outbursts in the past—for a moment, Leia felt out of her body, watching herself giggling uncontrollably and making out with Han Solo as if it was somebody else in her skin, someone she remembered from an old life.

Amidst her thoughts, she felt his lips moving away from her mouth, dragging a path across her jaw where his hand had been—his hand fell to her waist now, holding her steady as his mouth kept exploring the contours of her face. It buried itself in a little hollow between her ear and the ending point of her jawline, sucking slightly… He was no longer laughing, she noticed. Her own chuckles seemed to be subsiding at last, coming out a little breathless as he moved down her neck, across her throat to nuzzle the other side of her face. Her hand flew as if of its own volition to hold the back of his head, fingers threading through his hair—he gasped in pain when she accidentally pressed the spot where he had bumped his head.

‘Sorry,’ Leia muttered, lowering her hand to his nape. Regretful, she bit her lip as he lifted his head to look at her, wondering if that was it—realization hitting them again, putting an end to this session; see you in another four to eight hours. But she really wanted to keep kissing him now , feel her skin flushing under his touch, her heart tirelessly pumping blood, reminding her you’re alive, you’re alive

‘’S okay,’ Han said, his voice hoarse. There was a strange look on his face, one she might associate with someone who had just done spice. He held her gaze for a few seconds, then, slowly, lowered it to her lips.

As if some mutual, silent agreement had passed between them, they closed the gap at the same time: his arms effortlessly pulled her to him and they were kissing again, their lips nibbling each other gently a few times before opening and moving against each other in a more urgent pace. His tongue swept her bottom lip teasingly before sliding against her own, warm and caressing, and she moaned as a molten sensation surged straight down to her lower belly.

One hand still holding the back of his neck and the other clutching his bicep, Leia pulled him closer, leaning back until he was balancing on his knees above her. His hand was stroking her back over the shirt she’d borrowed from him the night before, curling around her torso, her shoulder blades, caressing her ribs, a large thumb brushing the underside of her breast. Her entire body felt lit up and electrical.

Through the haze of her brain, Leia had only one thought: dragging him further down and letting him make a fire out of her sparks.

‘Excuse me, Captain Solo, if I may say so, I noticed the proximity sensor in one of the forward hold hatches has stopped working…’

At the sound of Threepio’s voice, Han let out an almost obscene groan and broke up the kiss, his head slumping forward. Leia shivered as his frustrated sigh tickled the skin of her collarbone.

‘... if you would like to look into that. Oh, Princess Leia! Are you hurt?’

Biting the inside of her cheek to stop herself from bursting into laughter again—at Threepio’s assumption and the distressed way he seemed to be looking down at them, but also at their bad luck—Leia tried to look reassuringly at the droid over Han’s head.

‘I’m not, Threepio. We’re both fine. Could you… we’ll be taking a look at that sensor right away. Thank you. We’ll be right there, in a minute,’ she added firmly, hoping that he would take the hint.

‘Of course, Your Highness. You don’t need my assistance here, then?’

Han positively growled now. Leia squeezed his arm slightly.

‘We really, really don’t. You can go away now.’

With a stiff bow in acknowledgement, the golden droid finally turned around and left. Leia exhaled, relieved but bothered by the interruption.

Han let go of her and sat back on his heels. His mouth was twisted in annoyance, but there was a glint in his eyes when he looked at her.

‘If you really want me to be nicer to him,’ he said, standing up and holding a hand out for her, ‘you better put a restraining bolt on him, sweetheart.’