by Elaine Risley

Han's relief was almost overwhelming when the door to the garbage compactor finally opened.

Without hesitation, his copilot sprung out first. Seeming terrified by the whole experience, he didn't even reach back to help his friend. Han was barely tall enough to reach the bottom edge of the rusted door, and it took a boost from the blonde kid to gain enough purchase to pull himself through.

Panting from his efforts, he rested a moment, scowling at his friend. "Dammit, Chewie! Get over here and help me!"

The Wookiee shook his head and cowered against the far wall.

Han was halfway through a favorite curse before he restrained himself; if Chewbacca was truly frightened, he'd just be wasting breath.

"At least come over here and hold my feet!" he finally said, exasperated.

Chewie appeared to think about it, then crept cautiously to catch Han's boots in his huge hands. Han flattened himself against the cold metal floor and slid his torso over the edge.

Bedraggled, the girl was standing on a pile of refuge.

Han gave her his best scoundrel smirk. "Need a lift, Your Highness?" he asked.

The princess quirked an eyebrow, but accepted his hand. Han lifted her as far as he could, then reached down to grab her around the waist. With a deep breath, he hauled her over the edge.

He paused to catch his breath, the princess still in his arms. "My, what is that wonderful cologne you're wearing?" he grinned.

Not moving from his loose embrace, Princess Leia looked directly into his eyes.

"I hate you," she said simply.

Delighted, Han laughed and released her, then leaned back over the edge for Luke.

Once safely out of the garbage compactor, Han and Luke began to strip off the stormtrooper outfits. Living up to Han's initial assessment of "bossy," Princess Leia strongly suggested they hadn't the time for a wardrobe change, but Han stated firmly that he didn't intend to be weighted down, and if the princess didn't like it, she was free to leave. Luke had stuffed his clothes into the tiny compartment in the back of the armor; Han wore his own pants and boots beneath the armor, but had crammed the rest of his things into the armor compartment. He sighed. Of course, he would be the one stuck with wet pants. He admonished himself for underbidding the trip.

Han noticed that the princess demurely turned her back while Luke began to peel off his black body suit. As she turned to face him, he quickly removed the black neoprene turtleneck he'd been wearing. She didn't look impressed, so he flexed.

The princess rolled her eyes.

Han winked at her and reached for his shirt and vest.

Settling the lightsaber at his side, Luke said, "Well, that was a fun little side trip."

With perverse pleasure Han added, "If we can just avoid any more female advice, we ought to be able to get out of here."

As expected, the princess launched into a retort. Listening to her rant, Han inwardly grinned.

Maybe this trip wouldn't turn out so bad after all.