He shouldn't have even bothered. Truthfully, he deserved this and more, for even attempting to do something so stupid. It wasn't as if it would have worked, even if it hadn't all turned to shit. In fact, it was better this way. Maybe not for his lungs, but for his pride, and his sense of self. It would beat out any of those insane notions of gallantry and nobility that had snuck inside him somehow, and he could go back to being normal. Because his name was Han Solo, and Han Solo wasn't a gentleman. He didn't have to pretend that he was to get on the good side of the most know-it-all, bossy, infuriating woman in the entire galaxy.
He had simply needed to set the kitchen of his ship on fire to remember that, and remember who he really was. Admittedly, it probably wasn't the best way of remembering, but it had done the trick.
He ran through the narrow corridors, searching for the fire extinguisher he knew he kept…somewhere, reminding himself that perhaps he should get more than one, sometime in the future. And keep one of them in the kitchen, just in case he ever decided to lose his mind and attempt to cook again. Thick smoke followed him, causing him to cough, shoulders heaving as the smoke detector blared loudly. Her door flew open.
"Han, what's going on?"
"No need to trouble yourself, your worship," he shouted angrily as he passed, refusing to look at her. "You've done such a good job of being a hermit these days, it would be a shame to ruin the streak! Just stay in your room like a good princess!"
He finally found the damned extinguisher, buried beneath a pile of tools in the engine room, and made his way back to the kitchen. In an explosion of white, the flames in the oven were drowned. Panting, he sat up on the counter, waving his hands wildly to get the smoke away from his mouth.
It was without a doubt one of the most idiotic things he'd ever done, and that was saying something. Sure, he'd done things more life threatening. Did them all the time. The fire wasn't even big, nor did it even leave the confines of the oven. But it was just the principle of the thing. Why the hell had he even bothered to try to cook something? He'd survived for years on instant meals, and had actually grown to like them. And Miss High and Mighty hadn't complained about them either, at least when she was talking to him. But that hadn't happened since she decided not to come out of her room for four days.
He didn't understand it. Okay, so he did. What was there to even understand? She was probably doing the right thing here, stopping the madness before they got in too deep. But she'd been perfectly okay with it for the first few days! She'd looked genuinely happy! Probably because it was new and exciting. And she hadn't gotten the chance to realize how crazy it was. But what was a bit of crazy in exchange for a few more kisses like that.
He'd kissed a lot of girls in his life, but he'd never kissed any of them the way he'd kissed her before Golden Rod went and ruined it. It was a kiss filled with all the passion and lov…(no, no, he refused to call it that) that he'd held in for so many years. Love was a strong word. Far too strong. But it had been filled with something a lot more powerful than he'd ever felt with a one night stand. At least he thought so.
She'd avoided him at first, but after his clever outwitting of the empire, she was the one who let him think it was okay. She'd been all affectionate, and playfully teasing. A tease, that's all she was. Because while her highnessness had been perfectly happy with sharing a great number of better and longer kisses than their first interrupted one for a few days, it was as if she woke up one morning suddenly decided that being in the same room as him would cause her head to explode or something, because he couldn't find her anywhere. At first he'd only looked around casually, not wanting to appear overly eager or needy like the stupid kid always did when she was around. Han wasn't a man to go all lovesick puppy over a woman, even one as annoyingly intoxicating as Leia.
But when a whole day passed without bumping into her in the kitchen, or her coming around offering to help with repairs, or to complain about something in her usual manner, or ask suspicious questions about 'this Lando person,' as she called him, or doing any one of her usual things, he began to get worried.
So he knocked on the door of the spare cabin, asking if she was okay. He tried to make it sound cool. A 'being deathly ill better be your excuse for not helping me fix the damn hyper drive' kind of inquiry. Unfortunately, he was pretty sure it sounded more like a 'you're not hurt are you? Is there anything I can get you, sweetheart?' concerned, losery nursemaid kind of inquiry. Not suave. But he didn't want the Alliance's figurehead getting food poisoning when they were still weeks from their safe haven.
However he sounded, her answer had been a short, irritated reassurance that she was fine. He tried turned the doorknob, just so he could stick his head in and make sure she wasn't green, but it was bolted shut. He shrugged and decided to leave it be. But when he didn't see her at breakfast, or roaming the halls all throughout the next day, he started to get worried. But any interrogation he tried to conduct through the door got shot down by her insistence that she was fine, just unwilling to come out.
It was on the third day that he realized it had nothing to do with food poisoning. It was him. She'd realized how ridiculous it was for a woman like her to get all vixen-like
and throw a smuggler, a criminal, against the wall of his engine room and act so…unprincess-like. But it had seemed anything but ridiculous at the time. Strange, maybe, but in the best way possible. And hadn't she left for her room with that shy but proud little grin on her face, and the gleam in her eyes that made him go all funny inside?
There wasn't much to do out here. They'd had a laugh when he taught her how to play cards. They ate together. They worked on the ship together. And when they were sure Threepio was on the other side of the ship, they did…other stuff. But there was still plenty of time for her to be on her own and…think. It wasn't shocking that her thoughts would go down the road of logic. Clearly, this…thing, whatever it was, couldn't work between them. Besides the fact that they got on each other's nerves and argued at least once an hour, even after their feelings, or at least some of them, got out in the open, it just made no sense socially.
She was royalty. Sure, she didn't act like it much. She worked just as hard as, if not harder than, any backwater planet recruit, she ate the same rations as the troops and used expressions like laser brain, but nevertheless, she was titled, royal…special. She was better than him, and everyone knew it. How could a girl like Leia and a rough, tough, wrong-side-of-the-tracks nobody like him ever make it? They couldn't.
He could learn to deal with that. In fact, it already made him uncomfortable, the way he felt about her. It was far different than he'd ever felt about any other woman. She made him act all different. She made him want to be a better man. Which was all wrong, because before she and that stupid kid showed up, he'd thoroughly enjoyed being a…a scoundrel, as she put it.
He could understand why she wanted to put a stop to whatever it was that was growing between them. It was the smart thing to do. She had more willpower than he did, anyway. What bothered him was that she didn't even have the guts to tell it to him straight. He didn't want to get all mushy and start sharing feelings, because that was weird. And dangerous. But some closure would be nice. It didn't make sense for Leia not to act all diplomatic and present him with a logical argument as to why they couldn't be anything more than friends. Colleagues, even. He was supposed to be the one who cut girls loose and never looked back. Leia was not a girl to shy away from confrontation.
Leia, who'd shared her strong, angry opinions towards him the first day, the first minute she'd met him, who continued to nag at him every day after that, to press her morals upon him so often that one or two of them might have actually sunk in…Leia was holed up in a room, too afraid to tell him to back off, that she didn't like him because he was a scoundrel, and that they would have to 'simply continue on their journey to Bespin behaving in a perfectly cordial, yet businesslike manner.' At least that's how he figured she'd phrase it, if she were to say it. She was so damn…ugh. He was disgusted with himself, and furious with her for messing with his head enough to make him do…that.
Trying to trace what snapped in his mind to make him believe cooking, of all things, would fix the painful silence between them, was not an easy task. He'd been a little hurt…no, no, hurt was not an emotion he was capable of feeling…irritated was a better word, over her not talking to him last night. Four days of only Chewie and Threepio for company was a lot to take. So he cracked open a bottle of booze. That must have been when he came up with it. He'd often wished there was a way he could turn off his thoughts when he drank, but for some reason that was when his mind always decided to brainstorm.
What he couldn't explain, was why it still seemed like a good idea to him when he sobered up. He was getting a little desperate, sure. He figured if he could just see her for a minute, he'd be able to get over it. He just wanted to make sure she was okay. He'd been leaving meals outside her door for her, and they were always taken in by the time he walked by, so one option would have been hiding outside it until she opened it to get her grub. But that was creepy. And not suave and independent at all.
So, genius (idiot) that he was, he decided to cook something from scratch. A nice gesture, romantic and humiliating, just might be enough to draw her out, for a minute or two. She was one curious broad. At this point, all he wanted was to hear her tell him to fuck off. He'd never been dumped before. Not that it would be dumping, since it was never official, and they hadn't even…still, anything was better than this silence. He kind of missed getting yelled at.
So, he'd dug all the way to the back of the pantry, taking out containers of unopened spices. He decided to go with pasta in a nice sauce, at first. But then he figured some protein might be good too, and pasta was really too easy. Besides, he needed a few enticing smells to seep down the hallways if he wanted her to come out.
He'd always been very good at multi-tasking. He'd once got into a heated debate with Chewie about transport ships while taking on three of the Empire's ships and got out of it without a scratch on his baby. He'd often enjoyed sweet talking a barmaid while eavesdropping on conversations he had no business hearing, that related to business. Each one was far more exiting and interesting than creating a sauce, boiling some noodles and cooking some meat at the same time. But then he started getting carried away with the sauce. It wasn't as easy as it looked, figuring out the right proportions of spice. He hadn't attempted to cook anything, ever, but he wanted this to be good.
As he stood by the oven stirring his sauce and felt some heat around his waistline, he grinned and wondered if one of the spices was some kind of aphrodisiac. But then he'd started choking, and actually bothered to look down. Thick, black smoke was squeezing it's way out of the oven. He jumped up in shock and opened the door quickly, yelling as his hand burned from the contact with the hot metal door.
Flames and smoke shot out into his face, and his choking increased tenfold. That was the point where, panicked, he ran for the fire extinguisher, which had led him back here, a pathetic mess sitting on a countertop, still choking on smoke. Looking at what had once been a juicy hunk of meat that he had been really look forward to eating which was now a shrunken, charred mass of nothing, he halfheartedly took up a container of spice and tossed it onto the floor, hoping it would explode. It didn't. He threw another one. Failure, again.
He jumped slightly, when he saw a small hand reach down to pick it up. He hadn't even noticed her coming in. She placed it on the countertop tentatively, looking at him with her eyebrows raised.
"Han…what happened here?"
"Nothing," he replied, gruffly, not looking at her. She looked at him with an expression that clearly said, 'Don't even think about playing dumb.'
"Seriously, Han. What…what is…?" she trailed off, looking around in total puzzlement. She looked his pathetic form over and patted his knee. "You know, you probably shouldn't be sitting that close to the oven. All that smoke can hardly be good for-"
"I'm fine! Look, your worship, just go back to your room. I've got it under control," he glared. She ignored him, surveying the room some more.
"Were…were you cooking?"
"No? Well then, why are there all these-"
There was an incredulous kind of amusement in her voice that made him want to slam his fist through a wall. He got even more frustrated when she picked up an oven mitt and brought the burnt tray to the sink and began to wash it. He jumped off the counter.
"Are you deaf, your majesty? I said I've got it."
"Well, it will be done a lot faster if there are two of us at it," she said, speaking to him as though he was a two year old. A very slow two year old. He thought of about a dozen comebacks he could respond with, but none of them seemed worth the effort.
He glared at her and began tossing the jars back into the pantry, his fury increasing with each one. This was not the plan. Leia respected his desire for silence for as long as she could, which was unfortunately not very long at all. He could feel her eyes upon him, though his back was turned defiantly toward her. He knew she was going to break before he even heard a sound, and his shoulders tensed. Then it came.
"Why? What made you decide to cook?" she said it with more confusion than she would have had if the question was "what made you decide to run through the Alliance base stark naked singing 'Mary had a little Bantha'?"
He turned, offended. "Geez, sweetheart, is it really that shocking?"
"Well…yes," she replied honestly. "I mean…it's you."
He lifted a finger furiously and pointed at her, prepared to say something in his defense, but was too angry to for words. He turned his back to her again.
"I'm sorry. It's just…well, you've never done it before. I just…didn't think you knew…how."
"Well, your worship, as you can clearly see," he said, opening his arms wide and pointing at the mess of a room around them. "I don't."
"So…why did you try?" she insisted, holding eye contact. Ha. No way. She wasn't getting a confession out of him. She was not going to use those puppy dog brown eyes against him. Like she didn't know.
It was obvious. They both knew fine well why he did it. Did she really think he was going to humiliate himself further by admitting it? Not likely. Most of his cherished pride had already burnt up with everything else, but there were a few shreds left, and he was going to hold onto them for all they were worth. He remained silent and surly.
"You know, before we went into the asteroid field, I said you didn't have to do that to impress me," she said, still sounding infuriatingly amused. "But honestly, I think this was probably a much more difficult way of doing it, Han. I mean, the asteroid thing was out there, but you, cooking, to impress me…that's borderline insanity," she cried. She was laughing. He was not. She began to look uncomfortable. Good.
"Well…if it's any consolation, it worked. I am impressed. And…and something did smell quite delicious…before it started smelling like the engine exploded," she said, smiling nervously. He tried to keep his expression hardened and impassive. But she hardly ever smiled, and there it was, faltering because he refused to smile back…he caved. He couldn't quite bring himself to smile, but he sighed and shook his head.
"You really are just as spoiled as princesses are supposed to be, your worship. Making me jump through hoops like this just to get you to come out of your damn bunk. I mean, my ship, my Falcon, has been wounded because of you! Look at this place!" He gestured wildly.
Leia looked. Then, shyly, she took a step towards him. She lifted a delicate hand to his face, and cupped his chin. Then with a gentle thumb, she rubbed his nose, causing that strange feeling in his stomach he didn't like to think about to come back. "You have…stuff on your nose," she said, giggling. He felt something that resembled embarrassment, and pulled away.
She looked at him so tenderly, in a way he wasn't remotely accustomed to being looked at, and whatever irritation he'd been feeling towards her melted away. She wasn't the one who made him do something insane. He'd done that all by himself, and if she was done giving him the cold shoulder, he wasn't going to argue. Maybe his crazy plan of winning her over by being a considerate, pathetic nancy boy had actually worked, albeit inadvertently.
"Here," she smiled, patting his arm. "Why don't you go wash your face and get away from this smoke, and let me do the cooking? You've done enough as far as meals go the past few days."
He stared at her dubiously. "Whatever about me not being a cook, don't princesses usually have servants to cook for them," he teased, waggling an eyebrow. She looked at the ground.
"Look…I may be a little…'spoiled,' did you say, when it comes to certain things…but…you know I'm not…I'm not really…Just because I have a stupid title doesn't mean I can't c…I'm not stuck up, am I? I know how to coo-"
"Hey, hey, slow down, Leia," he smiled, taking her hands in his, surprised at the sudden lack of confidence she was exhibiting. "I know you're not. You're bossy as hell, and you do have this high and mighty side that makes me want to…throttle you. You definitely think you know more than anyone in the galaxy. But how could anyone say you're stuck up, sweetheart, when you eat that gruel the Alliance gives out as rations on principle alone. Everyone knows you could easily use the extra cash to get something better, but you don't, because you really care about each and every one of them. You think you're superior as far as intelligence goes, sure, but you have this down to earth side…and that's what I like about you," he grinned, stepping closer and giving her a quick peck on the lips.
She smiled back gratefully. But there was something mischievous growing in it. It made him nervous. God, that wasn't a smile. That was a grin. An evil, dangerous grin.
"And you, Captain Solo, are arrogant as hell, and you have this self love that makes me want to throttle you. You also happen to think you know more than anyone in the galaxy. But how could anyone say you're an insensitive tough guy, when you're clearly just a big softie underneath it all. You think you're hot stuff and tough as nails but you have this side that is so…very…housewife" she beamed, pecking him back.
"And that's what I like about you," She finished looking excessively proud of herself as he sputtered incoherently, totally indignant. When he finally found his voice, he said, a pained expression on his face,
"Bu..bu…Look, your highnessness, I must not have heard you right. It sounded to me like you just said…but you couldn't have…you just called me a housewi-"
"That's right. You heard me perfectly," she smirked, her hands roaming up to his collar, her voice taking on a husky quality. "I called you a housewife." Then, with unnatural strength for someone so small, she tugged his collar hard, bringing his mouth to hers.
Their lips connected with force, and there was overall a completely different feeling to this meeting of mouths than the previous two close-lipped pecks. The next few minutes were devoted to the exploration of mouths that had been kept apart for the past four days. When they finally parted, eyes wild, their breathing heavy, Leia looked at him confidently and asked,
"You don't have a problem with that, do you, Captain?"
She looked at him coyly and took his large, calloused hand in her soft, small one, dragging him away from the kitchen, which was still stunk strongly with the smell of smoke.
"N-No," he responded, eyebrows raised at her sudden change of heart. Perhaps she had decided they could work this out after all. "Of course not. I am…I am definitely…secure enough in my masculinity to be called…a housewife," he grimaced. "and not take offense. If the compensation is good enough."
To prove his point, he lifted a hideous, pink, flowery apron off the nail where it hung, untouched since the ship came into his possession so long ago, and threw it over his neck. He stood tall and proud as she led him down the hall, in what could only be the direction of her bunk. Something told him the apron would be but a small price to pay.