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THE FIRE BANKED
by Gina Leeds

Galaxies of stars, an entire uncharted sea of whirling
constellations, exploded behind his tightly closed eyelids.
With that ironic sense of absolute lucidness that is the
exclusive providence of people who have sustained a blow
to the cerebrum, Han Solo thought: Hyperspace--at last!
Then he experienced a sharp staccato burst of pain as
well as the celestial display of light. As Han struggled
to get to his feet, he felt the support of strong hands
and smelled the faint but familiar musk of Chewbacca the
Wookiee. Then he heard Leia's voice.

"You certainly have a way with people!"

Wincing, Han staggered against Chewie. Even with his
eyes half-open, the fireworks still burst behind his
lids. With a concerned woof, Chewie wrapped his huge
arms around Han's waist and, lifting him like a child,
carried him to the free-standing bench jutting out from
the cell wall. Chewie emitted a series of yammering
howls as Han sunk down on the bench. He loomed over
his friend, his blue eyes blinking, and grunted an
interrogative.

Han put one hand to his throbbing head, but with the
other hand he waved dismissal at his copilot. "No, it's
okay, Chewie." He shook his head briefly, experimentally,
as if to clear it. "I'm just doing some space travel w
ithout a ship!"

With a final woof, Chewie turned and crossed the cell
to where the scattered pieces of C-3PO still lay in a
jumble. Leia bent over Han, reaching out to touch his
forehead.

"Ow! That hurts!" Han pushed her hand away, but
the Princess Leia Organa did not dismiss as readily as
the Wookiee. She seated herself on the edge of the
bench beside Han.

With a little grunt, Han stretched out gingerly on
the polished surface. "Well, I guess now we know why
Vader didn't bother to ask us any questions," he muttered.

"Yes, Vader wasn't interested in information," Leia
replied grimly. "All he wanted was to create a
disturbance, an emotional upheaval powerful enough to
make Luke believe that we were in danger."

"Well, he convinced me!" Han retorted. "This is no
figment of Luke's imagination, Your Prominence. We
_are_ in danger! And that little machine of Vader's
is hardly an illusion either!"

Leia's expression softened perceptibly she leaned
closer to Han. "I'm sorry, Captain. I know what you've
been through. But Luke's life will be in peril, too,
now that Vader has succeeded in luring him here."

"Shifting slightly, Han grunted again. "The kid's
got a lot of guts. Too bad he's getting himself into
this."

"You know how much he thinks of you, how much he
admires you," Leia continued. "Luke's loyalty to
you is a powerful pull. He couldn't abandon you if
he felt you were in danger, or in pain."

"Yeah?" Han's voice was forcedly gruff. "Well, you
aren't exactly insignificant to him yourself,
Sweetheart!"

In the sudden little silence that followed, the
clicks and clanking of Chewie's tinkering with 3PO
rose from just background noise to dominate the cell.
The Wookiee grumbled absently to himself as he hunched
over the decimated droid.

Leia gazed thoughtfully at Han. He brushed one
hand across his tousled forelock of hair, revealing
a mottled bruise on his forehead but he found it
impossible to evade the calm scrutiny of Leia's eyes.

"Did they hurt you badly?" she asked, with total
aplomb. "I could hear you screaming."

"You and half the damned city!" Han snapped,
startled and angry at her question.

"That machine," Leia continued evenly, as if Han
were being perfectly civil, "where did they attach
the terminal?"

"Where do you think?!" Han barked, his face
contorted, furious that Leia had heard him cry out
in his pain and helplessness. He glared up at
her, but even his anger could not deflect her quiet
and genuine concern.

"Let me see," she said mildly, reaching for him.

"Forget it, sister!" Han retorted, grasping her
wrist and roughly pushing her away.

Leia stepped back from the bench, slowly rubbing
her forearms. "I have had considerable medical
training, Captain," she said, quietly but forcefully.

"You might reconsider."

"Yeah? Well, we've already had show-and-tell
time, Your Lechness!"

Visible anger finally flared in Leia's dark eyes.
"I happen to have a _name_, Captain!"

"Yeah--so do I."

In this moment of tense confrontation, it was
Leia who first broke rank. A hint of a smile
tugged at the stern corners of her mouth; then she
was suddenly reduced to very definite laughter.
With a little snort, Han released the rigid set of
his mouth into a bemused grin.

"I'm sorry, Han," Leia smiled softly. "I've
been needlessly arbitrary with you."

"I haven't exactly been so charming myself," Han
responded gruffly. Cautiously, he pulled himself up
onto his elbows. Someone was doing a bad job of
laser-welding inside his skull, but at least now
he could see straight. He sat up, wincing, and
gestured at Leia. "Come here," he growled.

Leia approached him. When she stood at Han's
side, he lifted his hands, reaching for hers. She
gave them to him and he held them gently, his eyes
intent on her face. There was something in his
expression that surprised Leia; something she had
never found there before; something so poorly
guarded that she could not miss it now. It was
an emotion that Han Solo had always distributed
with all the generosity of a miser hoarding precious
metals: tenderness.

Han pulled Leia toward him, and when she bent
close enough he kissed her lightly on the forehead.
Leia stared wordlessly at him, perplexed but
unexpectedly pleased. Han kissed her eyelids,
first one and then the other; he kissed her nose,
her cheeks, and finally her mouth. His lips were
warm and gentle; the kisses were soft, almost
playful.

Leia could not pull herself away from the look
in Han's eyes. His pupils had dilated until they
were fathomless pools of black, slowly sucking her
in. His irises glistened, thin crescents around
each abyss. She saw something in those eyes that
she had never seen there before, and she suddenly
felt for Han such a powerful surge of warmth and
affection that tears nearly sprang into her eyes.

*Han--Oh Han! There is no one like you! If
only you could see that, and not fight what you
are...*

Han touched his lips to Leia's again, less
briefly this time. Then he whispered, his voice
a low rasp, "Maybe you ought to take that look
after all, Your Excellency."

If Leia could have seen herself at that moment,
she would have seen her own pupils rapidly
expanding, the irises fluttered back from the
dark swimming chasms. Her lips curled, drawing
up like a quivering bow. Dropping his hands, she
slid one buttock up on the bench at Han's side and
leaned across him, searching for the fasteners of
his trouser fly. A sudden blast of electronic
chatter from the other side of the cell brought
her head abruptly up, causing her to hesitate. Her
glance darted over to where Chewbacca was laboring
over 3PO's severed limbs.

Han followed her glance. "Don't worry about
Chewie," he grinned, touching her arm. "He ain't
interested!"

An abbreviated smile flashed across Leia's face,
but still she hesitated, almost demurely.

"Besides," Han continued, "he knows you've been
with me."

Sudden anger flared in Leia's eyes. She abruptly
straightened up, indignantly demanding, "I thought
we had an understanding, Captain!"

Han quickly put up his hand, laughing. "Hey, I
didn't say anything to him! I didn't have to. He
could smell your scent on me."

Leia glared at Han, only slightly mollified and
still visibly skeptical.

"What do you think--that big schnozz of his is
just for decoration??"

Leia had to smile at that. Her body relaxed.
She glanced again in Chewbacca's direction; the
Wookiee was indeed ignoring them.

Han laid his hand on Leia's thigh, his voice so
low it was almost gravelly. "I could smell you on
me, too, afterward." He paused, assured of her
attention. "I liked that."

Color bloomed in Leia's cheeks; she could not
conceal her sense of pleasure and excitement. She
and Han exchanged a look that needed no
interpretation. Then, bent over him, she tugged
his trousers open. Like many dark-haired men,
Han's pubic hair was shades lighter, a dense
thatch of pale auburn. Leia buried her face in
the curling mass, hugging his long thighs. The
mingled scents of perspiration, component
lubricants, and the unique musk of crotch all
swam in her nostrils. She drank it in like a
desert bantha seeking moisture.

"Does it look okay?" Han whispered, grinning
raffishly.

Leia did not respond, did not lift her face.
Starting deep at the base of his pelvis, she
laved a wet and leisurely trail across his crotch.
Although his erection bumped his belly, Han
betrayed no urgency. He was content with Leia's
pace. He sunk back onto the bench, holding her
waist loosely with one arm.

"Is this what they teach you Princesses on
Alderaan?" he teased wickedly.

Again, Leia failed to be diverted; her only
reply was to slip him easily into her mouth, her
tongue flicking rhythmically. Han softly
kneaded her hip. Then, casually, he began to
unfasten her flight suit.

Turning her head so that she could glance up
at him, Leia tried to push his hand away. But,
easily persistent, Han continued to undress her.
Leia lifted her head, dropping his penis so that
it smacked wetly against his belly.

"No--this is just for you," she protested
softly.

"Then let me have what I want," Han countered.
Oh, those eyes: glowing, depthless. Leia felt no
desire to resist them. "Come on up here." Han
lifted her rump, pulling her up beside him on
the bench. Within seconds he had skinned open
her suit. Suddenly his hand was between her
thighs and then his tongue was burrowing through
her dark curls.

Leia returned to her endeavors with total
enthusiasm. First teasing, then intent, then
teasing again, she explored the full range of
possibilities. Han's ministrations danced at
the edge of her senses, cajoling her, goading
her, until she brought him with a suddenly
furious passion beyond the point of his control.

Han uttered a word--Leia was not sure what
word--and then stiffened, arching. She dug her
fingers into his thighs and held him hungrily in
her mouth, sucking, swallowing. As Han collapsed
she clung to him, her tongue a gentle wisp, her
cheek resting on his hip. Han pulled his face
back from between Leia's thighs, breathing
raggedly. Eyes closed, he whispered, "I meant
to tell you; I wasn't sure if you wanted to..."

A little laugh exploded from Leia's mouth,
forcing her to dislodge his depleted penis.
Gazing into her sparkling eyes, alive with wry
humor, Han had to chuckle, too. "I should have
known!" was all he said.

Then his mouth closed over her again, but the
random motions were gone, focused instead into
a tender but relentless assault on her. And
Leia accepted Han's attentions, again filled
with a towering sense of affection toward him,
burying her face in his belly and bending her
body toward him. The warmth she felt for him
burned through her until, with a numbing sense
of dissociation, she could no longer distinguish
her flesh from his. Tongue, clitoris, lips,
labia--all sang together, a strong, sweet song
that pounded in her pulse, rang through her nerve
ends.

As she felt the sensations gathering, the
inevitable throb before the headlong rush, Leia
leaned eagerly into the anticipated pleasure.
Her pelvis thrust against Hn's face, her legs
rising. But the sound she made was like a
groan of surprised pain, muffled against Han's
belly, as she clung to him, shaken by wave
after wave of contractions.

When Leia slumped against him, Han hugged
her closely. After a moment he realized, to
his surprise, that she was still shaking, but
that this time she was shaking with sobs.

"Hey." Han took Leia's arms, pulling her up
and across his chest, holding her in a tight,
protective embrace. "Hey, come on what's this?
It wasn't that bad, was it? Leia?"

Leia shuddered, sniffled, buried her face
in his shirt.

"Did I hurt you?" Han rubbed her back,
keeping his tone bantering. "Come on--I've
been told I'm not half bad!"

Leia lifted her face, blinking, squeezing
back the tears. She smiled weakly and her
features struggled into composure.

Han, perplexed but willing to remain
emotionally accessible, gently brushed back
the loose hair at her temples. "Okay?" he
asked softly.

His eyes were milder now, affectionate,
content. He was puzzled by Leia's tears,
searching her composed face for the answer;
searching for the words he could hear in his
mind's ear, even though he knew they would
no be said this time. He did not feel the
jolt that had stabbed through Leia's body
at the moment her flesh had merged with his
in orgasm. He did not see what she had seen
at that moment: his body, stiff, cold, in a
death that yet was not death. He did not
know what she now knew.

Innocent of the future, Han held Leia
tenderly, exchanging crooked smiles with
her as the tears dried on her cheeks.
"Now we both smell good!" he quipped.

And in the laughter in Leia's eyes, Han
knew that the words were also there,
waiting. For a fire banked is still a fire.

END

Continued in THE LANGUAGE OF SOLACE

    

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