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Chapter 25: Onward
"Hey, Boss, have you… ow, ow, ow! What the hell?"
"I warned you," Harry grumbled at his first officer who, once again, had obviously felt it necessary to barge into the captain's quarters. "Now I'll show Arden everything she might ever need to annoy you."
Wide-eyed, Mercer beat a hasty retreat, though not without wagging his eyebrows upon noticing the tangled hairs of Leia Organa lying upon the sole cushion, for larger the bed might have been, it was still primarily appointed for a single occupant. Luckily, both the people who had been sleeping in it were, at the most, average in size. Seemingly having gotten over her much-noticed tendency to blush oh-so prettily when found in a suggestive position with Harry, she simply rolled around until she could, once again, place her head on his shoulder.
"Maybe we should… talk?" the young woman with the somewhat tousled hair ventured; it would be enough to make the entire ship, if not the entire small flotilla gossip, were she to be seen like this. Having something concrete to tell everyone would definitely help matters. Still, being honest with himself, having something concrete to tell himself seemed more important in that moment to Harry.
"That might be a good idea," he agreed contemplatively. For him, at least, it was obvious what he wanted to have, between the two of them; emotionally inept he might have been, but a moron would have been going too far, either.
"Just so we're on the same page, we… we like each other, right?" Leia clarified, her delighted smile at being pulled in closer to her human pillow speaking to her wish for that to be a true assessment of the situation.
"Sure seems like it," Harry agreed wholeheartedly, letting his right thumb, hand lying lightly on her upper arm, stroke up and down. "So… will you be my girlfriend?"
"Absolutely, you dork," Leia replied enthusiastically, all while shimmying up along his chest until she could press a small, gentle kiss to his cheek. "We seem to be doing things in a weird sequence, though. I already spent two nights in your bed, how scandalous, and we've never even kissed properly."
Conjuring on his face what he hoped would could be considered a mischievous smile, Harry softly laid a hand onto the back of her head and softly pressed his lips onto hers; it was a good kiss, though the idea of angels singing and fireworks going off were probably a bit… lofty a target to shoot for. Nevertheless, this brief contact of lips ramped up the young man's heart rate and made everything, every little touch seem so much more intense.
"Boss!" the voice of Mercer Fenwick sounded through the door, accompanied by a couple of knocks. "The brass wants to see… well the two of you."
"We'll be out soon," the wizard called back in response, squeezing Leia to his chest one last time. "Conference room, ten minutes."
A loud acknowledgement on his lips, the first officer left, his heavy steps receding away from the door and down the corridor, probably toward the mess, if Harry's experience with the man was any indication.
"Let's see, what they want," Leia muttered, already moving out of her position cuddled up to her boyfriend, immediately leaving the bed feel emptier, colder. "We can talk more later."
Groaning, as much in jest as in real annoyance, Harry got up as well, waving his hand (conveniently including the ring with the crystal he had found on Dathomir) over the young woman, returning her clothes to the state they had been in the night before. Then, he waved it over himself to apply a generously powered personal hygiene charm before offering to do the same for her.
"What do magical people even have to do, really?" she mused as she visibly shuddered under the wave of magic flowing over her skin. "There seems to be a piece of magic for almost everything."
"There probably is," Harry conceded, even as he demurely relocated to the bathroom with his clothes for the day. "You just have to learn it; even then, it's often not as satisfying as the real thing. A good shower beats a cleaning charm every time, as far as I'm concerned."
"And a cleaning charm beats a standard fresher unit every time as far as I am concerned," Leia countered, loud enough to be just audible through the door, left slightly ajar to facilitate communication. "I'm just not a fan of those sonic showers."
Having experienced these contraptions as well, just before he had done some extensive practice on his hygiene charms, Harry could only agree. Though, if the rumours one of the guards on the Death Star, whose mind he had invaded, had heard, were to be believed, they did not have to be. The Empire just did not spring for expensive, strategically unnecessary equipment for the common grunts. Or for corvette captains, for that matter.
"Then I'll do my best to show it to you as soon as possible," he offered as he stepped out of the refresher and into the main room once again. "Using magic all the time lets you get really used to it. At least that is the feeling I've been getting, since I got here; back home, as long as you were underage, you weren't allowed to do magic outside of school, even though we actually got homewo… What are you doing?"
Without much warning, the young wizard had been enveloped in a warm hug, with Leia standing on the tips of her toes.
"This is…" she began, before faltering halfway through, taking a deep breath and beginning anew. "This can be your home, too, you know that? You have friends here, you are doing something meaningful, you're appreciated, free. That is as much and more than what you had back there."
Frowning, not sure how to sort out the feelings her observation evoked in him, Harry pulled back a little to look at the princess' face. "Remember them, of course, but I think they would have wanted what was best for you. You'd be doing yourself and everyone around you a disservice by living in the past."
Strangely touched by her concern (really, who else had been this concerned for him in the past, beyond maybe Hermione?), the young man intensified the hug again, tightening his hold on Leia's small frame and pulling her against his chest; surprisingly, there seemed to be a few wet streaks on his cheeks.
"Your parents would be proud, I think," she mumbled into his uniform jacket.
"Yours would be proud, too," Harry said, still holding her close, only speaking to the crown of hair she had somehow managed to weave in the short span of time it had taken him to get dressed. "Let's get to the conference room before they send Arden to get us."
Reluctantly they parted, and Leia gave a sharp, encouraging nod, whose addressee he was not all that sure about before leading the way out of the captain's quarters and toward the turbolifts, which quickly deposited them onto the command level. What awaited them in the conference room was a solid wall of Alliance brass (even though some of the gathered leaders were less than there, only appearing as holograms). The only important person that came to mind that stood out by their absence was actually Bal-Iblis.
"Captain Potter, Princess," General Dodonna greeted formally, though his stiff delivery was somewhat belied at the genuine, if small smile gracing his lips. "We were hoping to learn a bit more about the events that led to all this."
The general made a wide gesture, quite obviously alluding to how most of the Rebellion's leadership had actually made it past the Empire's blockade, against all odds. So, in appropriate fullness and appreciative of everyone's contribution, Harry recounted their run-in with the rebel cell during their mission to rescue Palestro, their attack on the Imperial factory, their fight against the one who had called himself an inquisitor.
"You killed an Imperial Inquisitor?" Cracken inquired, the proverbial saliva almost dripping from his mouth. "Did you get anything from him? Data disks, commlinks, anything? A name?"
"Multiple lightsabres and a code cylinder," Harry replied easily, more easily than he had thought he would; talking about someone he had killed should bother him more, he decided. "Never got a name though, sorry. Only that he was an Imperial Inquisitor; looked human, though."
After some thinking he added, "I'll let you have the code cylinder, but everything you learn using it has to be shared with us."
"Deal," Cracken jumped on it. Obviously, these Inquisitors were important enough to warrant not haggling over the price of one of their code cylinders. Or maybe, the sly dog hoped sharing intel with the crew of the Lightbringer might point them into the direction of other, worthwhile targets that were a thorn in the Alliance's side. Sly old dog, indeed.
"And you're sure we can't convince you to make a more substantial commitment to the Rebellion?" Mon Mothma interrupted, managing just the same tone of well-meaning interest and elder statesperson that had been such a staple of Dumbledore that it honestly rankled Harry a little. "Your unique skills have proven quite useful already, and your actions have shown that you are far from a friend of the Empire."
"And joining the Alliance would mean fitting into a chain of command, with people having authority over me whose motives I don't fully know," he blurted out in defiance before he really knew, what exactly was going on; really, it had been more of a visceral reaction than anything else, spoken from the depths of his subconscious mind. It was probably even the main reason he had been holding out on joining up until this point, because really… not daring to care for too many people had seemed reasonable a few months ago, when it had just been Mercer, Arden, Javoc and Corsek. And Leia, obviously. Now though? There was an entire crew he cared for, felt responsible for.
"I don't have the best track record with authority figures," Harry offered as explanation for his outburst. "Fitting me into a military hierarchy would become quite messy, quite quickly."
No one commented, though Leia did squeeze his hand a little (he had not even noticed they were still holding hands) and Cracken, though superficially unperturbed, had a calculating look on his face. If he knew people at all, the young wizard was sure the man would find a way around having him constrained into such a hierarchy if it meant gaining access to the unique asset he now seemed to represent.
"What of Beeth Va'lim?" the former senator from Chandrila finally spoke up, having given the uncomfortable silence some time to linger. "We have watched the recordings you have made of him and we agree with your actions. Still, he has to be held accountable by the actual authorities."
Having expected this to come up, Harry was ready with an answer. "As long as he faces an impartial judge and stays away from me and my ship in the future, you can take him with you as soon as you leave the ship. He's in something of a bad mood, though, has been cussing up quite the storm I'm told."
That too went uncommented upon, save by Cracken, under whose mandate the special operations team probably fell, who simply nodded sharply. His face was wearing an expression as if he had just bitten into a particularly sour lemon. Still, Harry had a feeling the man would somehow be able to make some lemonade out of it.
"Well, in that case," he said, now seemingly ready to serve the lemonade, "I would like to offer for the team to permanently join you. They won't expect pay, as they're being paid by us, just room and board, as well as any equipment you might wish to provide beyond that. Other than that, our previous arrangement continues as before: you do your thing, scour the galaxy for scum that needs bringing in, and send anything that's interesting our way."
A smile on his face, Harry shared a fond look with Leia before returning attention to the general. "I think that would be something we can agree on."
AN: So, we have reached the end.
I hope you had even a fraction of the fun reading this one as I had writing it. For everyone who did and now wants to know how the story of Harry, Leia, Arden, Mercer and the others continues to unfold, fear not, for I am already working on the second book and will start publishing as soon as it is almost done, like I did with this one.
Only thing left for me to say is thank you to everyone who reviewed or sent me a PM (the helpful and/or uplifting ones, anyway) and wish you all a nice weekend.