Life On the Edge
Part Seven

Rating: PG-13
ThrawnMcEwok

Han Solo pauses mid-stride in the Falcon's ring-corridor, and does his best to keep the lazy grin from sliding across his face. The old ship's hyperdrive is running fast and sweet, and even though he knows another Alliance interdictor trap could yank them back to realspace between here and Corellia, he feels nothing in that moment but love and respect for the old girl.

He shakes his head, and walks on into the forward hold. Leia is sitting on one end of the couch that curves round the back of the dejarik table, looking irritable as Tahiri straps a large bacta-plaster across her broken nose.

The dressing is bright white, broad across her face, splayed wide like a splat of putty. It makes it look as if her nose doesn't stick out as much as it should.

Han grimaces, and wonders just how much damage Tahiri's elbow did.

Tahiri. Her spine is a supple curve under her tee-shirt, her blonde curls sashay slightly as she tilts her head, and there's a ballet in the way she moves her bare, tanned arms — fingers peeling back the plaster and adjusting it, movement sliding through wrists, forearms, elbows, biceps, shoulders.

Han blinks, and has a sudden awful sense that he's falling in love.

"Hold still, Leia," Tahiri clicks. "Unless you want to look like a Yuuzhan Vong." Just briefly, there's a glimmer in her eyes that suggests she might enjoy that, but then her expression softens, just a little. "I'm sorry, by the way."

"So you say," Leia grimaces, and then her eyes flicker, as she catches sight of him. "Han."

She pushes up to her feet, and Tahiri steps instinctively back, allowing her to step out into the middle of the deck. Injured pride is etched in her expression, stiff defiance in the way she stands — but even in those war-torn Jedi clothes, with that absurd plaster slapped across her face like an insult, there's still something about her.

"You know," Han grins. "You don't look too bad, considering."

"Thanks," she scowls. "You can't keep me prisoner indefinitely, you know?"

"You could get to like it," he teases. "But yeah, I know."

She blinks at that, and for a moment, they trade regretful looks — then she sticks her neck forward, elbows back, and she's the old Leia again.

"So, you have a plan?"

"I could kill her and eat her?" Tahiri suggests, with a shrug. Han laughs nervously. He's not quite sure that it's a joke.

"Shht. I'm going to drop Leia off in one of the lifepods, at one of the outlier systems of the Corellian Sector — Aurea, I reckon. Nice, peaceful, Alliance-aligned, but hopefully not a Star Destroyer welcoming committee."

"And this one will go with her," Tesar's voice says, and Han glances round to see him stepping into the hold, with Lowie by his side. "This one feelz that perhapz ... perhapz we need to return to the Jedi."

"Finally!" Leia says. "You blow up an entire Star Destroyer, but well ... if it's what it takes for someone around here to grow a brain, I'll take it."

Tesar answers with a smile and a nod, a glitter in his black eyes and a slow twitch of his long tail. "Princessz."

"What about you, big guy?" Han asks, feeling a twinge of sadness as he looks at the Wookiee. "What gives?"

In answer, Lowie bares his fangs, and gives a long phrase, somewhere between a yawn and the surf rolling on an alien beach.

In reply, Han and Tahiri trade urgent glances — and nervous grins.

"Uhh, yeah, well. We'll try and keep the noise down."

"Lowie," Tahiri says, gesturing him out of the room. "Let me talk to him, Han."

"On you go." Tahiri looks small as she falls in step alongside the Wookiee, but still very tough, her body honed by years hunting with him through the Dagobah mangroves. Her hand goes to the small of his back — a gentle, familiar gesture. Han looks at her bare heels on the deck.

"What's that about?" Leia asks.

Han just shrugs.

"This one iz returning with or without hiz friend," Tesar says, but his body-language seems odd — scaly brow wrinkled, eyes fixed unblinking on Leia, as though he's weighing her up as prey. "If the Princessz returnz with any of usz, it might serve to placate the Alliance ... and the rest of the Knightz. Thiz one ..."

"Your mother," Han realises, preempting Leia. "That was her in the StealthX." One way or another, that was why the Sexy didn't get a clean shot at us.

"Partially," the Barabel concedes. "The Princezz and thiz one'z parent ..."

"Whatever it is," Leia interjects. "You're making the right decision."

"Princezz," Tesar nods, but he can't hide the guilty flicker of his tongue.

"There's something I'm not getting here," Han shrugs. He looks at Leia, remembering the rumours about her and Saba Sebatyne. Something inside him still feels very, very cold.

"Saba and me are just good friends," Leia counters. It's not really a denial. Might even be an admission. "But if Tesar wants to come into Alliance custody ..."

"And if I want to clear the air about you and Saba?" Han asks.

"Saba and me," Leia repeats. "It's not what you think, Han."

His eyebrow skews upwards. "Oh?" He leers. "A Jedi bond, huh?"

"Han!" She looks outraged, and the silent pause that follows is almost long enough to draw him into answering back. Almost. "Han," she repeats — softer now. "Saba is a friend. She was there for me even before I realised that my marriage was falling apart."

"And what's that supposed to mean? Did you and her?"

"So what if we did! Han Solo — unlike you, my sexual horizons aren't limited to the opposite sex of the same species. Barabels are a very physical species. Very sensual ..."

A Barabel hiss cuts her off like a whip. Tesar has a look on his face that seems like a big bright smile.

"Yeah?" To be blunt, Han is grateful for the interruption. Leia doesn't look so sure.

Tesar looks from her to him.

"Longfang, this one must also confessz to ulterior motivez...."

"This one would love to hear 'em, Scales."

Tesar nods again at Leia, and his gaze flickers over her, predatory and amused — and finally, Han understands.

He grins, and turns back to Leia.

"Hang on. Let me get this straight, sweetheart. An appreciation of Barabel beauty, unfettered by narrow ideas like sexual orientation ... an appreciation which might theoretically extend to no-strings sex, if the circumstances arose ... is a part of what it means to truly be a Jedi."

She still looks wary, but she nods decisively. "Something like that, yeah."

He flashes her his best Corellian grin.

"Well then, Princess, I think Tesar's the guy you should be talking to, not me."

"WHAT!?"

"Ain't that right?" He grins at the Barabel. "You want her, yeah? Share and share alike within the pack, right?"

Tesar shrugs, and bares his fangs in a cold-blooded, carnivorous grin — and the flash of sharp enamel seems to echo like distant starlight in the dark depths of Leia's eyes.

Han thinks it's the first time he's ever seen her looks genuinely afraid.

"This one thinkz that would be fun for both of uz," Tesar sisses.

"Fine," Han frowns, glancing across to the hatchway as Tahiri and Lowie walk back in. Even before she meets his eye and shrugs, he knows what they've decided. "But Lowie is going with you."

Tesar looks disappointed, then amused. Leia nearly faints in relief.

"She's had a rough day," Han shrugs, catching Tahiri's scornful expression. She just rolls her eyes.

"Well, I hope you know what you're doing, Captain Solo," she smiles, pacing across to him, and sliding herself around him. Grinning teasingly up at him. "Leaving yourself all alone with me."

This time, it's Leia's turn to roll her eyes. In spite of herself, she almost laughs, as she looks at the two of them, shaking her head.

"You sure about what you're getting into, Flyboy?"

"I know what I'm doing," Han lies. "Yeah."

* * * * *

There is a soft, distant thud as the escape pod detaches. Han banks the Falcon round, and watches as the drum-shaped capsule spins away, tumbling towards Aurea's surface, and safety.

"There they go," Tahiri says, staring after the pod. Through the Force, and through their Joiner bond, she can sense Tesar and Lowie with an immediacy that Han doubts he'll ever understand. In a way, she can even see Leia better more clearly than he ever could.

"They're going to be fine, Han," she reassures him, turning round in answer to his unasked question. "You want me to lay in a detour, find some more crew?"

"I've managed with just one before," he shrugs. "Co-pilot, first mate. All I need."

"Chewie?" she asks, with a lift of her eyebrows, a brightness in her eyes — a frank expression that says she thinks they should discuss this, clear the air.

Han grins. "And Leia. Thanks, beautiful." He swings the Falcon's bows round away from the planet, and smiles as the brilliant heavens fill the canopy. "We should get going. Lando's going to be wanting his cigars."

She murmurs a response, then looks at him — half an eye still on the view. "It's beautiful, Han. It reminds me of the night sky, when I was little. Cold and clear."

"You know why?" he asks, cocking an eyebrow at her, and grinning; one hand balanced on the jump-levers.

"Why?"

"It should be dark — but it's full of light."

Her smile flashes in surprise, bright like the stars themselves — and the Falcon jumps again, for home.



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