That Bounty Hunter on Ord Mantell....

Princess Leia Organa was in a bad mood. Her *former* good friend, General Carlist Rieeken had just informed her that they were exeedingly short of supplies for the new Rebel base they were transfering to under the surface of Hoth, and she would have to enlist the help of a certain smuggler to get her to the contacts they needed. She sighed gustily. She couldn't tell, but she had thought there was an almost impercepterble smile tugging at the corners of the General's lips, and she was almost certain she had heard snickers from officers around them as her ex-patron had told her the unfortunate facts. "Go and ask him, I'm sure he'd be glad to help... you," Rieekan had grinned at the time, an almost evil glint in his eyes.

"Traitor," Leia had muttered dangerously, realising he had sold her out for entertainment and moral of the troops and himself, and he'd chuckled. But apparently he was quite serious about needing that particular person's help, so here she was, making her way towards the Millenium Falcon, ready to spit fire at whoever stood in her way.

An orange movement across the hangar caught her eye and she saw Luke back from his tech flight, walking across the galley in his bright X-wing flight pants and top, removing his bulky helmet. He sensed her and turned, nodded, then, despite the heavy glove he was still wearing, gave her the thumbs up and a stupid, gleeful grin, widening his big blue eyes idiotically so that he made her laugh in spite of himself. She pouted and gestured in a manner that was quite against all princess decorum and continued to storm up the ramp into the waiting hunk of metal.

"Chewie?" Leia called out experimentally. A growl drifted up towards her from somewhere below and she glanced down, startled to see the Wookiee's huge shaggy head looking up at her from between the pipes and electrical things that made up one of the Falcon's many engines. Something had obviously gone bust in the old piece of junk Chewbacca and his best friend called a ship... again. "Have you seen Captain Big-Head?"

Chewie bared his sharp teeth in a grin, though he sounded angry, '''No, your Highness. The bas'ekin'ill was supposed to be helping me, but he left some time ago in search of a suitible and worthy enough hydrospanner for his 'works of genius' and I haven't seen him since. Try out the back - he'll have gotten sidetracked again. When you find him, though, either send him straight to me, or warn him that I'll be coming to fetch him whether he likes it or not.'''

Leia chuckled at the general tone of the statement. Chewbacca and the captain had been friends for a great length of time, but they went through spells where they drove each other up the wall. And the past few days had been one of those rocky patches. Though it was plainly obvious to all, whether they knew the pair well or were meeting them for the first time, that the Wookiee and the Corellian had a special kind of bond between them, both extremely protective and loving of the other - either when they were pretending they didn't like one another all that much or not. The most worrying thing for Leia was that they seemed to have developed each other's unique characteristics, absorbing one another's personalities into their souls. Thus, they were regularly as bad as each other, causing trouble left, right and centre. Though the princess actually liked one of them, and there were no prizes for guessing which.

"Will do," she said, saluting and turning, and headed for the deeper, darker parts of the ship, smiling again as she heard a loud thump and a curse grumbled from the irritated Wookiee beneath the deckplates.

"Nobody knows it, but you've got a secret smile,
and you use it only for me..." Secret Smile - Semisonic

When she got to the smuggler's quarters, she took a deep breath and steeled herself before she went in; this was going to be hard; she had never asked the smuggler for help before, hell - the had never asked any smuggler for help before, and she just knew this one was going to be as smug as he could about it. ~He's gonna bring it up all the time and go on and on and on...~ So, because she was thinking this, she was therefore completely unprepared for the sight that greeted her when she entered the cabin.

Han Solo was curled up on his bed, on his side, fast asleep.

Leia smiled to herself; she didn't usually catch the overly-confident and smart-arsed pirate unawares like this - he was usually so guarded all the time, so wary and suspicious of everyone and everything. Leia had come to the conclusion long ago that many nasty things must have happened to him earlier in his rather colourful life to make him that way, Chewie certainly hinted so - and surely no one could be born in any world so suspicious? She had also vowed to herself that one day, if she didn't kill him first, she would have to ask him about them. And she would hope not to bring up any bad memories.

Leia gazed down at Han's face, marvelling at how young he looked in sleep, how innocent. ~This is stupid~ she thought to herself, ~the man has had more experiences in the couple of years he's got on you than you've had in your whole life!~ Despite this, though, she thought he looked, for all the galaxy, like a young boy, exhausted from a day at school, napping on a couch. She'd never seen him look so vulnerable, so open.

He lay on his right side, tilted towards her with his face upturned. His long, lean, muscular legs were drawn up to his chest, though he still had his scuffed, black-leather spacer boots on. His right arm was wrapped around his neck and the other hand was at rest on the pillow, beside his head.

The Alderaanii felt rather silly, now, seeing him like this; she'd always imagined that when Han Solo slept, he slept as the infuriatingly smug, confident, swaggering smuggler he always appeared to be when he was awake. Like he'd sprawl all stretched out, legs crossed at his ankles with his hands behind his head, satisfied with himself, somehow. Yet seeing him like this, tidy and scrunched up, hugging himself for reassurance or comfort, pehaps - it raised some very interesting questions about who he really was and just how much he gave away to the galaxy about his real self, the one underneath all that arrogance. ~I know absolutely nothing about him~ Leia realised suddenly ~After three years!~

The princess tilted her head to one side as she regarded the handsome captain. Even though Leia hated to admit it (and would never even dream about doing so in front of Solo himself), the Corellian was extremely attractive. Though Kest knew he did nothing to enhance the few pleasant qualities he had. In fact, Leia reckoned he must actually try his best to be as unattractive as possible, both in personality and appearance - just to be awkward and thow people off his scent! Now, though, when he was at rest, there was no denying his natural, rugged good-looks.

The Corellian's normaly expressionate face was now completely relaxed. In the dim light of the corridor of the Falcon behind Leia, the lines of tension, laughter, worry and anger that regularly decorated his exotic, star-tanned face were completely erased, leaving behind a completely open expression. His full lips were parted slightly, and with every deep breath he took, his muscular chest rose, and a stray bang of touseled, unruly dark brown hair that had fallen across his face bobbed up and down.

Leia reached forward, cautious of him, and tenderly brushed the strand of surprisingly soft hair back out of his closed eyes. She found herself longing to see Han's eyes open and bright; they were extremely intriguing and completely gorgeous, even *she* had to admit to that, and she knew she was not alone in her opinion, having overheard on quite a few occaisions discussions between the female pilots of not only Han's eyes. ~He must've 'conquered' nearly half the females of the Rebellion...'~ she thought bitterly. Though her anger was shortlived as she thought of his eyes once more.

The orbs were not one colour alone, nor were they two, they changed. As wierd as it sounded, Solo's eyes reflected his moods. Liquid-brown one moment, sea-green the next, a rich gold, then steel-grey. They were not quite Oceannii eyes - as they held brown and gold tints that Oceannii eyes were completely without - but, by stars, they were close.Usually they were dark with anger, dull with pain and gaurded or bright with laughter, pensive or with an intelligent sparkle, then glintingly mischevious and mocking. But occaisionally, Leia had caught glimpses of other emotions. Emotions she, had she not witnessed them appearing in the man's passionate glance, would not have thought Han Solo, the infamously cold-hearted mercenary smuggler, was capable of. Though she knew not how best to describe them, nor where to begin.

A soft grunt escaped from the back of the said smuggler's throat as he stirred slightly, and Leia glanced down. She couldn't help but focus on his mouth; she knew as well as everyone else in the Rebellion that there was a dazzling set of ivories behind those, now slack, lips. The ones he liked to show off at inoppertune moments, but that stopped her in her tracks. That bloody lopsided grin that infuriated her, but made her secretly smile at the same time. It was as if...

'''HAN!!!!''' Leia jumped about a foot in the air as she heard the Wookie's tremendous roar resonate throughout the ship. Han yelped and, startled, sat bolt upright in his bunk, instantly awake, but not so instantly aware. He searched frantically around the cabin with well-practised eyes, trying to find the sign of danger. The Corellian's gold-flecked gaze swept over Leia hastily then suddenly did a double-take as they returned sharply back to her. He blinked as if he were seeing things. ~Oh fodder~ she thought.

"Leia?" he croaked as he rubbed his itchy eyes blearily with the heels of both hands. Boy, if that was her, the little lady sure had a heck of a pair of lungs on her. But the princess wouldn't be in his cabin, really, would she? He shook his head, then looked up at her again. ~No, it's definately her, in the flesh~

Leia stood stock still. What in the name of all things holy was she gonna do now? She was deeply humiliated that she'd been caught spying on him as he slept and was willing to do anything to convince him that that she had been doing otherwise. But he'd know, whatever she said. Nevertheless, the petite Alderaanii bravely opened her mouth, but was thankfully prevented from saying anything by another bone-shuddering roar from Chewbacca.

'''Damned cub! Where in Kessel are you!?! I need that kel'hall'nn hydrospanner, now! You had better not be asleep again, Little One, or I may rip your arms off!''' Though the huge creature had a Life Debt to Han, at that moment, Chewie was perfectly willing to take such drastic measures to ensure his friend didn't yell at him for his supposed incompetence, then go for a catnap in the middle of crucial repairs!

Han sprang hastily to his feet and glared at Leia, "Play along," he ordered.

"Captain Solo," the princess stated tartly, pulling herself up to her full height, yet still not managing to reach quite up past his shoulders, "I will not take orders from *you*. And I certaintly will not be a part of your desperate, and I must say, rather pathetic, plot to avoid some well- deserved punishm..."

"Please, Leia," he implored quietly, raising his eyebrows. His suddenly civil tone and earnest eyes made her stop her rant. Or maybe it was the use of her real name that did it; Han never called her by her actual name seriously. Prefering to call her mockingly by some of her full titles, sometimes slightly distorted, or refer to her simply as 'she' as though Leia weren't standing there right beside him. Either way, she considered quickly and believed the situation might also work to her benefit. If she could only...

'''Small One, I have decided that you *are* asleep, therefore you shall be forced to suffer a long and extremely painful...''' Chewie stopped abruptly in the middle of hurtling through the small cabin door and hurling abuse at his absent friend, but upon seeing that Leia seemed to be in conversation with the rather dazed and rumpled Han, his bright blue eyes narrowed in suspicion.

Corellian turned to face him cheerfully and a tad too quickly for his liking, flashing his best friend a dazzling smile as he did so, "Hey, fuzzface," he said, a little too brightly, "Whoa! What's got your fur in a knot?"

The Wookiee growled at him dangerously, '''Don't 'fuzzface' me, cub. We both know you were asleep, so don't even try it; I am not in the mood. The only reason I don't beat the smug smile off your face right this minute is that I have no way to prove my suspicions as you have cleverly managed employ the lovely princess to help you out... this time.'''

Leia blushed prettily, she understood very little of Wookeese, but got the general jist, both of the compliment and the reproach.

Han looked stunned, but he quickly regained his usual over-confidence and held up his hands in a 'blast me' sort of way. "Okay, okay. I'm sorry, there - feel better?" he asked, attempting a joke to lighten the mood.

'''I would be *very* careful, cub. Do watch where you're going, won't you? After all, you never know...''' the large Wookiee grinned and trailed off menacingly. He spotted the elusive hydrospanner lying on Han's bedside table and grabbed it. He held the tool just underneath Han's chin, pressed uncomfortably hard against his jugular, so that the Corellian gulped, his prominent adam's apple bobbing, then the Wookiee whirled and left the small cabin, muttering darkly. Leia turned to Han and raised a sweeping dark brow.

"I'm just... gonna... *leave* him for a while. Um, *cool off*, you know..." Solo didn't want the pretty princess to think he was scared of that big furball. He knew Chewie would never knowingly hurt him *that* much, but a Wookiee is a very intimidating creature at the best of times, let alone when it's threatening something... or someone.

"Mmmm-hmmm," Leia nodded sympathetically, looking concerned - ~Sarcasm~ he realised bleakly. "I totally understand, fly-boy." Han opened his mouth to throw some smart comment right back at her, but she continued regardless, completely ignoring his attempts, "anyway, when I was saving your ass, I meant what I said." Han looked confused. She sighed and rolled her dark eyes, "The request about Ord Mantell?"


What do you think? Let me know... If you continue with this story you might be very much interested in its route and outcome. I remind you all once again that this is not an average Ord Mantell story.