Han is an easy mark.
Qi’ra would feel guilty, but feelings are a luxury no one in this life can afford.
They fuck for the first time when they’re on the run from an Imperial patrol. The shack they shelter in is hardly worth the name -- holes in the ceiling, plaster falling from the walls, dirty mattress on an even dirtier floor. They’re already going to catch hell from Proxima for missing curfew, so Qi’ra figures they might as well have fun.
She’s seen the hungry way Han looks at her -- she’d have to be blind not to -- but she’s not prepared for the way he cushions her head with a calloused palm before he shoves her back against the wall. He puts a hand on her frantically pistoning hips and murmurs, “Easy, honey, we’ve got all night.” She’s done it lots of ways, but never like this. Not slow, not with a man looking in her eyes while she comes.
In a way, she admires him for being brave enough to choose his luxury: not silks or furs, but the hand still cradling her head while he fucks her into the mattress for the third time that night. His other hand’s going to leave bruises on her hip tomorrow morning, not that she minds. He’s like no one she’s ever met, she decides, soft and hard at the same time.
“Take me with you when you go to the stars?” she murmurs into his ear when his thrusts are getting jerky and his breathing ragged.
He doesn’t answer, just kisses her hard as he thrusts one last time.
“Does that mean yes?” she whispers, eyes wide and innocent.
He swallows, gives her a long look and a dopey grin. “Yes.”
Everybody at Proxima’s thinks they’re getting out. Han is the only one with the will and the skill to have a shot, and she can’t help but grin back. Of course, in her experience, a man will say just about anything in bed, but in the morning, he gives her half the breakfast he stole from a street cart.
If she lets herself fall for him a little, it’s alright. She’s a big girl. She’ll keep her head.
He gives it to her without thinking twice, and the trust in his eyes makes her go weak in the knees. He really means to take her with him. The realization makes her stupid just long enough to get her in trouble right along with him. He gets out. She doesn’t.
He’s naive enough to think he means it when he says he’ll come back for her. She is not naive enough to believe him. She doesn’t need a rescuer anyway.
She lets the troopers drag her back to the jail, because she doesn’t really have a choice. Letting sobs rack her body is easier than it should be, but she keeps her wits about her long enough to stumble against the guard and swipe his code cylinder. They come looking for it later, of course, two guards and six troopers. She’d hidden it by then, and some other prisoner takes the beating in her name.
The night guard is her first kill. Bile rises in her throat when she locks her hands around his neck. She closes her eyes even though that’s the kind of idiot move that can get her killed, and she pictures herself striding across that barricade with Han, living the life he’d promised her in the stars. The fantasy keeps her going till the guard stops twitching under her hands.
She’s not desperate so much as bored. Exhausted, really, of Corellia’s endless gray skies and the endless small hustles that keep her afloat. Dryden’s yacht is the shiniest thing she’s ever seen, and she wants a piece of it for herself, no matter what it costs.
That’s probably the definition of desperation, come to think of it.
It ends with her back against the wall and a glowing knife at her throat. She wonders dimly if this is the end, if that’s what she’d wanted deep down when she’d reached for the coin purse knocking against his thigh.
“Give me one good reason to let you live.”
His voice grates like metal scraping over gravel. A warm drop of blood trickles down her neck beneath the blade of the knife, and some animal instinct tells she has to fight, because she was made for something better than a casual execution in an anonymous alley. It’s not hopeless, she tells herself. Something had gotten him once. Look at those scars.
Unless he’d given them to himself.
She shivers in spite of herself but doesn’t break his gaze. She lifts her chin like the queen she wants to be and says, “Spare my life and I’ll be the best lieutenant you ever had.”
The fantasies are vague. Just his grin and his hope, still intact after everything they suffered. No gold or jewels, no children or wedding bands, just a fast ship and a star to steer her by. A life of limitless possibility and no invisible chains. She keeps the image in her mind till the water in the sink runs clear.
Months later, Dryden tells her he chose her because she was hungry and kept her because she smiles while she rinses their enemies’ blood from her pretty polished fingernails.
Kissing him makes her remember his fullness inside her, lips soft and thrusts hard enough to make her ache in the morning. Dryden is not that good, and frankly it’s a relief when Beckett rescues her from temptation. She can afford to dip her toes into the pool of her fantasy, not submerge her head beneath the waves.
Sometimes she wishes she could cradle Han against her, tell him that his hope and love are a treasure that she’ll keep safe in her heart forever. Sometimes she wants to shake him by the shoulders and remind him that he is far too old to be adopted, and if he were, Beckett would make a terrible father. She does neither, because Dryden’s the one who actually gave her the stars. Intentions are nothing and outcome is everything, and she won’t forget where her loyalties lie.
She returns Han’s most precious possession while she sinks her fist into his stomach, and if that’s not a metaphor for the sweetness and cruelty of their lives, she doesn’t know what is.
He does not get the message. She’d feel guilty if she knew how.
She knows that, but she doesn’t reach for her comm. Letting a rebellion destabilize the Empire is good for business, but she won’t kid herself: this is nothing to do with money, and everything to do with his hand cradling the back of her head in that dirty shack all those years ago. Absently she runs a finger over the velvet cushions of the couch while her eyes rove across the ancient artifacts and priceless treasures that now belong to her and her alone.
For once in her life, sentiment is a luxury she can afford.