Magician's Assistant – AU - pre ESB
Han Solo was sitting at a small table, impatiently tapping his fingers on the table top until Leia had to restrain herself from grabbing her luncheon plate and slamming it down on his hand to make him stop. The Princess and her escort, a very bored Captain Solo, were currently waiting in a trendy café on a pleasant resort system near the outer rim.
Two weeks earlier, General Rieekan had asked Princess Leia to meet a Rebel sympathizer with important information, and Leia had immediately agreed. "Only one small detail, Princess," Rieekan added after the fact. "Our contact wants you to come with Captain Solo."
"What?" Leia sputtered. "Why? Of all people, why Solo?"
The General hid a smile. "She didn't say. Is it a problem? Solo has the fastest ship, and he already said he's willing to take you."
"How much did you have to bribe him?" Leia questioned through narrowed eyes.
Rieekan laughed. "Just his usual fee."
"Of course," she grumbled. "Never does anything for free, does he?"
But despite her complaints regarding her pilot, Princess Leia had gone on the mission, just like the General knew she would.
"Would you please stop that infernal tapping?" Leia asked through clenched teeth.
"I thought you said your 'connection' was going to be here an hour ago!" Han sneered at the Princess. "How long are we gonna have to wait? People will start getting suspicious! There is only so much caf a person can drink, ya know."
"She said she'd be here," Leia snapped at Han. "People sometimes do get held up, Solo. You, of all people, should know that!"
Han glared at his diminutive companion. "Does this have anything to do with the fact that I don't go back to Tatooine and pay Jabba, sweetheart? It seems to me you are always the one begging me to stay with the Rebellion."
"I have never begged you for anything, Captain," Leia shot back at the Corellian.
Han gave her his most annoying grin. "Give it time, your worshipfulness, give it time."
Leia felt herself flushing with embarrassment. That blasted pirate! How does he always manage to make me blush? she thought, her anger growing by the second. "I have to use the ladies' room." Leia tilted her chin, and stood up quickly. "Wait here."
"Your wish is my command," he said as he leered at her. Han always found that the more flustered and embarrassed he could get the Princess, the more amused he became. Leia tried to ignore Solo's last comment and went storming off to the refresher.
Minutes later Leia stood in front of a mirror, fixing her hair. Not that it really needed fixing, but she found herself doing anything she could think of to delay returning to the table and that, that... man! "Princess?" a soft voice asked from behind her.
Leia spun around, and found herself facing a tall, exotic-looking woman with silver dyed hair. The woman smiled at her and extended her hand. "Hello, my name is Xaverri," she introduced herself to Leia. "Your contact."
Leia looked around the public refresher uncertainly. "Don't worry, Princess. The room is empty and I have carefully scanned it. I have done this type of thing before," Xaverri reassured her.
"Alright," Leia said tentatively. "I was told you had information to sell."
"Not sell," the lady answered. "I have information to give you, regarding Imperial troop movements on dissenting worlds. Information that will save Rebel lives." Xaverri took out a small disk and handed it to the Princess. Xaverri smiled at Leia's shocked expression. "Don't be so surprised, Princess. A lot of people want the Empire brought down, and we are willing to do whatever we can to make it happen. I hope you can use the information."
"I'm certain we can use it," Leia answered. "I don't know how to thank you."
"Just win the war, Princess," the elegant woman replied. "That will be thanks enough." She turned to leave.
"Wait.." Leia said, as a thought occurred to her. Xaverri turned back to Leia and waited. "Why did you request that Captain Solo come with me?"
"I knew Solo several years ago. I just wanted to see him again. I'm glad he is working for the Rebellion. Tell him I said hello," she said with a smile.
Leia frowned at the woman, not understanding the sudden twinge of jealousy that sprang up in her chest. "Han refuses to join us officially. He only stays for the pay," Leia informed the spy.
Xaverri laughed. "Don't take everything he says at face value, Princess. Sometimes actions speak louder than words. In the case of Solo, that is the truth." She reached into her small belt container and withdrew another disk. "When you're alone, watch this. Someday this information may come in handy. But be careful how you use it. I would hate to see it backfire on you," she said cryptically. Then she turned and left, quickly exiting the door.
A few moments later, Leia followed her out. There was no sign of the tall woman anywhere in the cafe. Leia returned to the table, only to find Han even more annoyed than before she left.
"Where have you been?" he demanded. "I thought I was gonna have to go marching into the ladies' room looking for you!"
Leia sat down. "I met our contact in there. She gave me what we came for, so we can leave."
"Well, good. This was taking so long I thought the owner was going to call the authorities," Han responded as he stood up. "Are you going to pay for lunch?"
Leia felt her irritation returning. "I certainly wouldn't expect you to pay, Captain!" She stood and took credits from her pocket and placed them on the table. "Let's go." Without waiting for Han to answer, Leia turned and walked quickly out the door.
The information Xaverri had given the Rebels had proven to be extremely valuable. General Rieekan had been very pleased. Han, however, had been not at all pleased to hear that the Princess had met with someone from his past. All the way back to base he had grilled Leia on what Xaverri had told her during their brief encounter in the refresher. For her part, Leia was quite pleased at Han's change of attitude. It was almost like he was.... nervous for some reason.
Now, alone and back at her small room, Leia slid the other disk into a player. Immediately, a very professional-looking production came on screen. A magic show. Leia frowned at the screen. Why would Xaverri have wanted her to watch a magic show? The Magician, Xaverri herself, appeared on stage, dressed in a beautiful shimmering gown. Leia smiled and leaned forward slightly to watch. Xaverri gestured toward the side of the stage. Her assistant came out, accompanied by the screams of the women in the audience. A tall male, dressed in a tight black jumpsuit, with a dashing, sequined cape draped over one shoulder. Han Solo! Leia couldn't believe her eyes - or take her eyes off Han, for that matter. A young woman ran onto the stage and threw her arms around Han and kissed him directly on the mouth. When he managed to disengage himself from the female, he was blushing! Han Solo blushing!
Leia leaned back into her chair, her smile growing by the second. "Oh yes, Han Solo. You had better be careful," she thought with glee. "The next time you embarrass me, you are going to be one very, very sorry magician's assistant!"
Rebel Base Cafeteria – Three months later
Holding a tray laden with unappealing food, Leia carefully made her way over to a table, intending to join two female Rebels already sitting there. Dixi, a tall, pretty blonde, was a rising star in the ranks of the fighter pilots, and Verly, a short, slightly pudgy brunette with a bubbly personality, was a long-range communication specialist. The Princess had decided it was time to put some effort into becoming friends with these women,since females in the Rebellion were few and far between. And there was another, more important reason she was headed in their direction. If she sat with them, it wouldn't look like she was shunning the only other occupant in the cafeteria - Han Solo, who was sitting alone on the opposite side of the room, drinking caf and looking at some flimsies.
"Do you mind if I join you?" Leia asked tentatively as she interrupted their whispered conversation.
Verly looked up, surprised to see the usually aloof Princess standing next to her. "Certainly, Your Highness." She indicated the empty chair next to her.
Leia gave a small smile as she sat down. "Just Leia, please."
"Alright... Leia." The two women looked at each other, a bit wary and guarded.
"So..." Leia started out. "Did I interrupt something important?" It had been so long since Leia had any "girl talk" conversation, she felt a bit rusty. The nights of gossiping with Winter seemed like a distant memory to the Princess.
Verly flushed slightly. "We were just.. um, you know.... talking about..." She gave her head a quick jerk toward the opposite side of the cafeteria, where Solo was sitting.
Leia's eyes flicked over across the room, and to her dismay she caught Han's eye. He grinned at her and winked. The Princess quickly looked away. "Why are you talking about... him?" She didn't want to say 'Solo' or 'Han', since she wasn't too certain how well the Corellian could read lips.
Dixi laughed. "You're kidding, right? Solo's one of the best looking men in the Rebellion."
"Luke's good looking," Leia shot back quickly. "And Luke comes without the attitude."
"Solo thinks he's the galaxy's gift to women," Leia replied disdainfully. "I like nice men."
"Well, I wish he'd give me the time of day," Verly said with a sigh. She looked over at Dixi. "You've had dinner a few times with him, haven't you?"
"A few," Dixi acknowledged. "Han is nice, Princess. At least he's nice around me. And he's not a bad cook, either."
"Good looking, a good cook," Verly groaned. "Maybe if I lost five pounds...."
Leia was starting to regret sitting with these women. She had sat here to avoid Solo, not sit around listening to them moon over the nerf! The image of Solo and the female pilot locked in a passionate embrace entered Leia's mind, and she felt her face flush. For some reason, the desire to eat had vanished.
"We have to stop talking about him," Verly whispered. "He's coming this way."
"Oh great!" Leia muttered under her breath, and watched as Solo sauntered over to their table.
"Hello, ladies," the Corellian spoke as he approached the table. He looked directly at Leia. "A little girl talk? I didn't know you were into that, your Royalness. Unless you're discussing the next big Rebel operation." Han looked over at Dixi. "Her Highnessness only likes to talk business, you know. Everything else is a waste of time... right Princess?"
Eyes narrowing, Leia tightened the grasp on her fork, resisting the urge to jab it into the man's thigh. "Actually, I was about to invite these ladies over to my room for a little wine and gossip. We'll have more privacy that way," Leia said as she looked at Verly. "No gate crashers, if you know what I mean."
Han laughed. "Fine. I know when I'm not wanted." He looked directly at Dixi. "If the Princess's party gets dull, you know where to find me. I'll liven things right up, I promise." With that comment, he turned and walked away.
"He looks good from this direction, too," Verly said as she watched Solo leave the cafeteria.
Suddenly Leia remembered the disk. Or "The Disk", as she'd come to think of it. It had been in her possession now for three standard months, and she had watched the holo-show starring Xaverri the Magician at least five times - although she wasn't sure why she'd felt the need to view it again and again. Eventually, Leia decided it was just good entertainment. After all, people had paid good money to see Xaverri perform. She dismissed all the time she spent watching Solo during the performance, watching his actions and reactions to the beautiful magician. Did she see private glances between them? Little smiles as their hands touched? And just why did this bother her, anyway? It didn't bother her.... not even a tiny little bit, she told herself, repeatedly.
"I'd like to show you two something I think you'll find interesting... and entertaining," Leia said impulsively, trying to ignore the warning bells going off in her head, and Xaverri's words to her... Be careful how you use this... I'd hate to see it backfire on you....
The next morning....
Leia woke up to the beeping chrono and a throbbing headache. She quickly reached over to turn the annoying object off - then she remembered the previous night. Her guests had been thrilled when the Princess had pulled out the disk and gave them a private viewing of the magic show starring Xaverri and Han Solo. Verly had practically swooned over the sight of Han Solo in a tight black jump suit. Dixi had been a bit more restrained, indicating she'd already seen a great deal more of Solo than the jump suit revealed. The off-handed comment annoyed Leia, so when Verly asked if she could have a copy Leia had quickly made two copies - one for each woman. She had felt a twinge of guilt handing the disks over to them, and she tried to make them promise to keep the disk confidential. Dixi had quickly agreed, but Verly had been too excited to respond to her request as she snatched the copy from the Princess's fingers, thanking her as she hurried away.
Now, hours later, Leia felt worried and guilty. In hindsight, she'd wished she had never given copies to the women. If only Dixi hadn't made the comment about having seen more.... What was my problem? A lapse of judgment because of the wine, Leia reasoned with herself. I'm certainly not jealous. What made Leia feel even worse was that recently Han had been acting fairly decent to her. During a recent mission he'd risked his life, once again, protecting her during a close encounter with stormtroopers. Risking his life to ensure her safety was not an unusual occurrence for the smuggler.
But the Princess knew she couldn't very well go and ask for the copies back. How would that look? She wanted these women to like her. All Leia could hope for at this point was that they wouldn't show the disk to anyone else.
Later that same day
Luke was sitting at the small table cleaning his helmet when Wes Janson came up behind him.
The young pilot turned his head, grinning at his prankster friend. "Hey, Janson. Gotten into any trouble lately?"
"No..." Wes paused for a moment, looking thoughtful. "But I think I'm about to."
"What do you mean?"
"This," Wes answered, as he shoved a rolled flimsy into Luke's hand.
"Just look at it."
Carefully, Luke unrolled the flimsy, surprised by its size - about two feet wide and three feet long. He stared at the blank, white sheet. "Huh?"
Janson sighed. "Other side, genius."
Flipping it over, Luke's eyes grew wide with shock. A large holograph of Solo with a pretty woman graced the other side. That wasn't the surprising part, however - that part was Han Solo wearing a tight black jumpsuit decorated with sparkles, a sequined cape draped over his shoulder, his arm around the woman's waist. The woman was dressed in a beautiful shimmering, somewhat revealing, low-cut gown, her shapely leg showing through a slit up the side of the dress. "Where did you get this?" Luke finally stuttered.
Wes laughed. "I made it, and I've given away a couple dozen copies. Do you like it?"
"Han's going to kill you," Luke managed to choke out. "Why would you impose his face on this poster? Are you mad at him for some reason? Or are you just insane and have a death-wish?"
The dark-haired pilot shoved a disk at Luke. "It's not a forgery, Luke. I printed a copy off from this disk. And enlarged it, of course - can't have people straining their eyes when they gawk."
"What's on this?" Luke asked, holding the disk.
"A holo-show. A magic holo-show, with none other than the great Han Solo as the assistant to Xaverri, the Magician. You really need to watch it, Luke. The Rogue Squadron couldn't stop laughing. Hobbie was rolling on the floor!"
"Where did you get this?"
"Ah... let's just say I have my sources. You can keep the poster and the disk," he added, grinning. "There's lots more where those came from."
As he started to move away, Luke called after him, "Han's still going to kill you."
"Why is everyone looking at me so funny, Chewie?" Han whispered out of the side of his mouth as they entered the hanger. "Do I have refresher flimsy hangin' off my boot?" He gave a quick look down, just to make certain he'd fastened the front of his trousers.
Chewie glanced behind his friend, checking him over. *Not that I see. Did you get in some big fight with the Princess last night, and everyone is talking about it?*
"Nah..." Han shook his head negatively. "I haven't fought with her Highnessness for a month. I think it's some sort of record."
*Maybe that's why everyone is staring at you then. They think the Princess has won, and they are all feeling sorry for you.*
"Ha.. very funny. I'm gonna go ask Luke," Han replied, noting that his friend was also staring oddly at him. Wes Janson hurried past the pair, looking down so he wouldn't meet Han's gaze. "What's up, kid?" Han called over.
Luke hurriedly rolled up a large flimsy, shoving it hastily down between his chair and the wall. "Hi, Han. How's tricks?" Instantly, Luke looked stricken by his words.
"Uh.... just fine, I guess," Han replied slowly. "What's goin' on?"
"What do you mean, going on? I'm just sitting here.... cleaning my helmet. I haven't done anything at all.... it's not my fault."
Han raised an eyebrow. "I didn't say you've done anything wrong, kid. Why are you actin' so guilty?"
Dropping his cleaning cloth, Luke stood up. "I'm not guilty! I had absolutely nothing to do with this! Nothing at all! Don't blame me!" Snatching his helmet, Luke quickly ran off.
"What was that all about?"
*Don't ask me, cub. If I had to guess, I'd say he's guilty of something.*
When Mon Mothma dismissed everyone, Leia stood and gathered up her disks. It had been hard to concentrate during the meeting since she'd spent the entire morning worrying about that blasted holo-recording. She started slightly as Rieekan cleared his throat behind her.
"General.. I... I wasn't aware you were standing there."
"Princess," Rieekan said carefully as he pulled a disk out of his pocket. "I think we might have a little problem."
This could be about anything, Organa! Pull yourself together! "What's this about?" Leia asked, eyeing the disk as if it might suddenly jump at her and bite.
Rieekan waited until the room cleared, then slid the disk into a viewer. To Leia's horror, she instantly recognized the opening strands of the music, as well as the dark red curtain filling the holo-screen. Her face paled, and she reached over and slapped the 'off' button without thinking. Rieekan frowned. "So you've already seen this, I take it?"
"Yes." The word came out like a strangled croak. "Where did you get it?"
The General shook his head in dismay. "Wedge gave me a copy. Apparently, almost everyone on base either has a copy, or has seen it. I say 'almost' because I don't think Solo's seen it - yet. And some jokester made up a giant-sized poster from the recording. Solo's.... face is plastered on half the walls on base."
"He's going to be furious," Leia whispered, sitting down heavily in a chair. Which woman had given the disk out? Leia surmised it was Verly - after all, she hadn't made any promises. But maybe it was Dixi, and she'd passed out copies because she was jealous. Had Dixi acted jealous over Xaverri last night? Leia couldn't remember.... I have to stop after one glass, that's all there is to it. The Princess realized Rieekan was still speaking to her. "What did you say?"
"I said, when did you see this recording? Maybe we can trace it back to where it originated."
Leia groaned and put her head in her hands. "Me. It originated from me."
"I didn't mean for everyone to see it..." Leia trailed off, her face burning with embarrassment. "It's all my fault."
General Rieekan sat down next to the Princess. "Leia," he started out gently. "Maybe you didn't do this on purpose, but when Han sees the result, he's going to think that you did. If anything is going to make him permanently leave the base, this will be it."
"Is that what you wanted to happen?"
"No.... I don't want him to leave." Ever. The silent admission startled her, but she knew it was true. If Han Solo left, there would be another large void in her life. It was almost too painful to contemplate.
"Then, somehow, you're the one that has to put this right. I have no idea how, either."
"Maybe you can have him arrested, so he can't leave," she mumbled, looking down at the tabletop.
Rieekan laughed. "That will have to be the last resort, Leia. Make this right. The Alliance needs people like Solo. Even if the man's too stubborn to officially join us, he's too good of a pilot to let go without a fight." The General patted her arm, then stood up to leave. Rieekan suspected that Leia needed the smuggler even more than the Alliance. Solo just had to stay. Perhaps arresting him on some trumped-up charge until he cooled off would work, if all else failed.
"I'm gonna go ask her Holiness what's goin' on," Han muttered as he stalked down a corridor, followed closely by the Wookiee. "And she'd better tell me, too."
*There goes your record for not fighting,* Chewie woofed.
"This won't lead to a fight," Han protested.
*Sure it won't.*
Leia took a deep breath, and straightened her shoulders. I've faced down Vader.... I can handle this. After all, if Solo wouldn't have taken that stupid job to begin with, this entire thing wouldn't be happening. Yes.... I'll tell him this is just as much his fault as mine. She started walking resolutely down the corridor, and turned a corner. Staring her in the face was the poster Rieekan had warned her about, and she felt her courage drain away. He's going to hate me....
"Princess!" a deep voice called from the opposite end of the hallway.
Han! Leia ripped down the large flimsy, crumpling it up into a wad, and throwing it on the floor before quickly standing on it, covering the evidence with the hem of her dress. The more reasonable side of her knew she was just delaying the inevitable. And Han might have already seen one or two - or a dozen.
Approaching the Princess, Han could see the look of guilt plastered on her face. "Your Worship.... what's goin' on?"
"Whatever do you mean?" Her eyes widened at the sound of her squeaky voice.
Han looked up at Chewie. "Why is everyone answering my question with a question?" Turning back to the Princess, Han narrowed his eyes. "I mean," he said slowly, wagging his finger in her face, "why is everyone acting like they've got caught with their hand in a cookie tin.... my cookie tin to be more exact."
"Cookie tin? I have no idea what you're talking about." You're being a coward, Organa.
"Hey, Solo," Zev, one of the X-Wing pilots, called down the hallway. "Do you still have the outfit? How about putting on a show? We could use some live entertainment around here."
"Outfit?" Han asked, frowning at the approaching pilot. "What the hell are you talking about?"
Leia turned to face Zev, her face an expression of utter fear. She shook her head violently, mouthing 'no' at the young pilot.
The pilot didn't get the message. "Maybe Dixi could be your assistant, since I doubt she's that good with her hands."
"You don't know Dixi too well then, do you?" Han shot back. "But I still haven't got a clue what you're talkin' about."
Zev grinned. "Check out the cafeteria, Solo. That'll give you a clue." He continued down the hallway without looking back.
Han looked back at the flushed Princess. "That's what I mean. Everyone is staring at me and making bizarre comments, and I've got no idea what this is about."
*Maybe we should check out the cafeteria,* Chewie suggested.
"Good idea, pal. Come on." Han waved his friend forward and walked away in disgust from the tongue-tied Princess.
For a few heartbeats, Leia stood immobilized with fear. Then she took off after the lanky Corellian, with no idea on how to stop this catastrophe.
"You can't go in there!" Leia shouted as she ran to catch up with the Corellian and the Wookiee just as they were about to head into the cafeteria.
Han spun around, facing the Princess. "Why not?"
"Yeah... that's what I asked you, Princess. Why not?"
"Because lunch is terrible today," Luke said as he came up behind Han, a worried expression on his face. "Really, really bad. It smells like boiled womp rat - I almost threw up when I got a whiff. I think we should all just go back to the Falcon and help you make lunch."
"I think everyone on base has finally snapped under the pressure," Han muttered to his partner. "I told you these Rebels were all crazy."
"Maybe it's food poisoning," Leia suggested quickly, then slapped her hand over her mouth. I can't believe I just said that!
Pushing past Luke, Han stormed into the busy room and heads snapped around, looking at him. Conversation trailed off, leaving the packed room in silence. The Corellian stood still, watching as everybody's eyes remained focused on him. "What the HELL is going on?" Han finally shouted, looking at Wedge Antilles.
Slowly, Wedge raised his hand, pointing at the wall. Han's eyes followed, and his jaw dropped open as he saw exactly what the pilot was pointing at. Dozens of identical, very large, holographs of the smuggler graced every wall, tacked up one right after the other. It took a second for Han's stunned brain to register where the holograph originated - the short time he'd spent, several years back, as Xaverri's assistant in her magic show. A magic show which was actually nothing but a front for her real purpose of scamming every credit she could from rich Imperials; Xaverri's way of sticking it to the Empire for the deaths of her husband and child.
Solo swallowed hard, and tore his eyes away from the posters. The Rebels were no longer quite so silent, and snickers and snorts of laughter were starting to echo in the large room. Solo felt his face flush, and he turned his back on the room, looking at Luke and the Princess. "You knew? You were a part of this?" he whispered accusingly at both of them, barely able to comprehend what he'd just seen. "I thought you were my friends."
"We are your frien-" Luke started to say, but Han interrupted.
"Where did you get that holograph?"
Luke paused, aware of how upset Han was. "Someone copied off of a holo-recording from one of Xaverri's magic shows. I don't have any idea where the recording came from."
"Holo-recording? Of the magic show?" Han turned to Chewie in disbelief. "Did you give someone a holo-recording of that show?"
*I never had a recording, Han. And I certainly would not have kept it a secret from you... or given it to anyone if I did have a holo-recording,* Chewie barked indignantly.
"It was me," Leia spoke up, visibly cringing. "I didn't mean for this to happen."
"YOU?" Han roared out. "Of course.... I should've known it was you! How the hell did you get a copy of Xaverri's show, anyway?"
"She gave it to me," Leia said quietly, unable to look Han in the eyes. "Remember when she was the contact for Imperial troop movements, three months ago?"
"She gave it to you? You've had that recording for three months?"
Han was livid and took a menacing half a step toward the Princess, only to have Chewie restrain him by putting his paw on his shoulder. "Just waiting for the right time to embarrass me with it, your Holiness? I'm surprised you were able to keep it quiet that long, considering."
The Princess looked up sharply. "Considering what? This was an accident."
"This was no 'accident', your Worshipfulness," Han said with a sneer. "You did this deliberately."
Leia forgot all about her resolve to be apologetic as righteous anger came over her in a rush. "I did nothing of the kind! I gave a copy to some people I thought I could trust... but obviously I made a mistake. But it wasn't as big a mistake as you made when you put that ridiculous costume on in the first place! If you were so embarrassed by it, why did you do it?"
"I did it as a favor for a friend...." Han started out, then stopped, shrugging Chewie's paw off his shoulder. "Wait a second! Don't you dare turn this around on me! You're the one that handed out copies! This is your fault, sweetheart, not mine!"
"I said I made a mistake! All right? What else do you want from me? A pint of my blood?" Leia shouted at Solo.
"That's your version of an apology? Saying you made a mistake? Pardon me if I'm less than impressed, your Worship," Han yelled back.
"Han... Leia..." Luke tried to insert into the argument, thinking back fondly over the previous month's peace and calm between his friends. Of course, it had been too good to last. "Everyone is listening."
The Princess looked past Luke and Solo into the cafeteria, realizing he was right. Once again, silence ruled and everyone's eyes were glued to the scene at the doorway. Leia felt her cheeks flush even more than they already were. "Can we discuss this somewhere private?"
"No, your Holiness, we can't."
"I'm done arguing with you! You win." Han spun around, facing the cafeteria full of people, waving his arms angrily in the air. "Do you hear that, everyone?" he shouted at the top of his lungs. "Her Royal Pain-in-my Backside has officially WON!" Han turned back, his eyes flashing. "I hope you're happy, since you're getting your wish. I'm leaving." He stalked away in long strides.
*Fix this,* Chewie woofed at Luke, hoping the young man could understand his meaning. Then the Wookiee followed his friend, hoping to prevent the hot-headed smuggler from leaving the Rebellion for good.
Leia looked over at Luke, her eyes wide. "It was a mistake," she repeated.
"I believe you," Luke replied softly. "But that really was a poor excuse of an apology."
Not knowing what else to do, Leia turned and fled to her quarters.
Luke sighed and looked over at the large group of quiet Rebels. "I want everyone to take down these posters, and I'm not kidding."
"You're not the boss, Skywalker," an unidentified voice called out.
"No, he's not, but I am," Rieekan said from behind Luke. "Take them down. Now. I can't very well forbid what you put up in the privacy of your own quarters, but there will be no more of these posters placed in common areas."
The General looked at Luke. "I take it Solo got angry?"
"He said he's leaving, sir. I think Leia's really upset, too."
"He refused to accept her apology?"
"Well.... she didn't exactly apologize, sir."
"What exactly did she say?"
"She said she made a mistake, but Han made a bigger one by putting on the costume in the first place."
Rieekan groaned and looked up at the ceiling. "Maybe I should use plan "B".
"What's plan "B"?"
"If you can't talk Solo out of leaving, call Security and have him arrested." Rieekan noted Luke's shocked expression. "It's just temporary... until he cools off. The Princess suggested the idea herself."
"How's arresting him going to cool him off? Won't that just make him even madder? Aren't you a little bit worried about the well-being of the guards that have to arrest him?"
"That's why you'll be with them - Solo won't do anything to harm you. And let Chewie know what we're doing, first. As far as making him angrier..." He shrugged. "How much angrier can he get?"
"You're kidding, right sir?" Luke managed to say.
Rieekan grinned and took a disk out of his pocket, then handed it to Luke. "The 'arrest warrant'. Hopefully, you won't even need to use it. Talk to Solo first and see if you can soothe things over between him and the Princess."
Luke tentatively took the disk, wondering why he was always the one chosen to play peace-maker with the two most stubborn people he'd ever met. "What are you charging him with?"
"Stealing hyperdrive coils."
"The same hyperdrive coils he picked up on Abrodia and brought back last month? And almost got his ship blasted apart by pirates before he jumped into hyperspace?"
"Details, Commander, just mere details."
"Han? Can I talk to you?" Luke called out as he buzzed the closed-up ramp of the Falcon. "You can't think of leaving without even saying goodbye to me! I didn't do anything wrong!"
"Perhaps we should just let them leave in peace, Master Luke," Threepio suggested, looking up at the laser turrets on the old ship. "Captain Solo might not wish to see us right now. Or ever."
"I'm sure he doesn't," Luke acknowledged. "But he won't start shooting at us, so stop worrying."
Those words didn't seem to comfort the droid as the ramp lowered and Chewie exited. *Han is really mad this time, young Skywalker. I have been trying to calm him down, but it doesn't appear to be working.*
"General Rieekan suggested we let him cool off for a while in the detention block, just to keep him from leaving," Luke whispered softly after Threepio translated. "Would that make things worse?"
Chewie sighed. *Worse? Don't ask me. I don't know what to suggest. Han is very hurt by what Leia did, young one.*
"Chewie!" Han yelled from inside the ship. "Get your furry butt inside. We're leaving... unless you plan on staying with these traitors!"
"I'm not a traitor!" Luke shouted up the ramp. "Why are you blaming me? And Leia didn't mean for this to happen, anyway."
Han appeared at the top of the ramp, scowling down at Luke. "Who made the Sith-spawned holographs?"
The last thing Luke wanted to do was make Han head off and pound Wes into the ground, even if the fighter pilot might deserve a thrashing. Then again, Wes was pretty strong - he could probably hold his own against HHan, unless Chewie decided to lend assistance.
"Janson did it," Han finally surmised when Luke remained silent. "I should kill that idiot."
"He thought it was a funny joke," Luke defended his friend lamely.
"Yeah. I'm laughin' my fool head off, kid."
"Don't leave, Han," Luke said quietly as he walked up the ramp until he was standing next to the Corellian. "You've pulled some pretty impressive pranks on people in the past. If you can dish it out, why can't you take it?"
Inwardly, Han flinched. Luke was correct, he had pulled some stunts, mostly on members of the Rogue Squadron. "This is different," he insisted, realizing his argument sounded pretty weak.
Han looked down, scuffing his boot on the worn matting. "I'm not sure what upsets me more... Xaverri giving Leia that recording, or Leia letting everyone see it. How can I look anyone in the face now? I'm a complete laughing stock." He looked back up at Luke. "I'm leaving. Her Worship tells me she wants me to leave all the time anyway. So I guess she finally found a way to do it."
"She didn't do this on purpose. And she only tells you to leave after you threaten her that you're leaving."
"Well I think she did do this on purpose. It wouldn't surprise me a bit if she planned this all out for months."
"You know better than that," Luke insisted.
"Notice she didn't apologize?"
"Some people have a hard time saying the words, 'I'm sorry'," Luke said, looking pointedly at Solo. "If you just give it a few days, people will forget all about it. Rieekan already ordered all the posters taken down."
"I don't care," Han replied stubbornly. "I'm still leaving - I should have left months ago. Maybe this was just the push I needed."
"On to plan 'B'," Luke muttered under his breath.
Grabbing Han by his arm, Luke reached down and snatched the blaster from his friend's holster. "Acting as Commander Luke Skywalker, under authorization from General Carlist Rieekan, I'm hereby placing you under arrest." Luke signaled on his comlink, and six guards came running, blasters drawn.
Luke hustled a stunned Han down the ramp, and the waiting guards snapped binders around Han's wrists. "Arresting me? For what?" he finally managed to choke out.
"Stealing hyperdrive coils?"
"Why are you askin' me?" Han asked incredulously. He turned to the Wookiee. "Don't just stand there..do something!"
"Help me! That would be a good start!" Han looked back at Luke. "Why aren't you arresting Chewie?"
"He's not on the warrant?"
"Quit answering every one of my krethin' questions with a krethin' question!"
*I will visit you regularly, cub,* Chewie woofed out. *Perhaps I can sneak in a chisel, so you can try to escape.*
"Why are you going along with this!" Han demanded as the guards pulled him away.
*You should not have accused me of handing out those disks. You hurt my feelings.*
"YOUR FEELINGS?" Han roared as he was dragged further away from Luke and Chewie. "I'll get even with both of you... I...I swear it! Everyone on this base is gonna be sorry! Janson.... her Worship.... Rieekan...EVERYONE!" The Corellian, surrounded by security guards, disappeared around the corner.
"Do you think we've just made things worse?"
When Leia answered her door chime she saw Luke standing there looking uncomfortable and... guilty? "Han's left, hasn't he?"
"He tried to."
"Tried? What does that mean?" All sorts of horrible thoughts ran through her brain. Had the Falcon somehow crashed? Was Han hurt?
"General Rieekan told me if I couldn't talk him out of leaving, I was supposed to arrest him. So I arrested him."
"He said it was your ide - "
"But...but I was kidding!" Leia yelled as she grabbed Luke's shirt, shaking him. "Why would you do that? Doesn't anyone understand sarcasm when they hear it?"
"Apparently not," Luke muttered sarcastically, trying to step away from her grasp.
Leia ignored the comment. "This has made things go from bad to worse!" The Princess let go of Luke's shirt and stared up at him, wide-eyed. "I have to go talk to Rieekan. He's got to release Han - immediately."
"If we let him out now, he'll leave for sure," Luke pointed out. "Han was pretty upset when the guards were hauling him off."
"I can't believe this is happening.... it's like a bad dream." She turned and walked over to her dresser, looking in the mirror. "Maybe it is a bad dream. How could all this have happened in one day?"
"I think you should go talk to Han first, before Rieekan does. Maybe if you manage to actually apologize he'll forgive you. Then you can explain the lock-up was just a joke. We'll all be laughing about this before sundown." He refrained from describing just how angry Han had been as the guards were escorting him away.
Leia glared at Luke. "What joy-filled and happy-go-lucky galaxy are you from, Skywalker?"
"All right! I'm actually starting to get annoyed, and it takes a lot to annoy me," Luke returned sharply, thinking about how he was caught in the middle, and now on Han's 'hit list'. "Han's right, you know. This is all your fault. And you NEED to say the words, 'I'm sorry'. It won't kill you."
"If I choke on the words, it might kill me," Leia replied. When Luke refused to respond, she sighed in defeat. "You're right. I'll go apologize." With that dreaded thought, Leia headed off to the detention area.
Han was lying on his side, facing the wall when Leia entered the cell. "Han?" No response. "I've come to apologize." No response. "Are you awake?" No response. The Princess glanced over the room and saw a small cup sitting on the edge of the tiny sink. Leia turned on the water, filling the cup to the brim and stepped close to the cot. "Han? You'd better answer me."
"I'm not speaking to you."
"You just did."
"If you throw that water on me, you'll regret it," he snapped in a tight voice, without turning around.
Leia coughed slightly, losing her nerve. "I needed a little drink, if you don't mind!" She took a sip and tossed the rest in the basin. "Han? You have to talk to me sometime. I said I was sorry."
"No, you didn't. You just said you've come to apologize."
Gritting her teeth in frustration, Leia spoke very slowly and clearly, "I'm sorry. I should never have shown those women the holo-recording. I should never, ever, have given them a copy. I'm sorry. Sorry, sorry, sorry. Is that better?" Silence. "Will you say something?"
"No. I already said I'm not talking to you. Or Luke. Or Chewie. I ain't talkin' to anyone on this base."
"That plan can't possibly last more than a few minutes, since you're incapable of keeping your mouth shut," Leia replied, irritated.
"So are you."
"Listen up, you know-it-all flyboy with a lousy attitude! I'll have you know that -"
"Princess," Rieekan interrupted from behind her. "You really need to work on your apologies. Insulting someone while you're trying to get forgiveness usually has the opposite effect."
"I've tried! He's not even looking at me!" Leia protested, waving her hand at the Corellian, who still had not budged from his position on the cot.
"Solo, get up. Now."
"I'm not talking to you, either. And I certainly ain't takin' orders from you."
"Chewie is waiting in the next room," Rieekan said patiently. "Would you like me to get him?"
The threat drew an immediate response - Han turned over and stood up. Folding his arms across his chest, he scowled at the ground. "This is prisoner abuse," he muttered under his breath.
"That's better," Rieekan remarked, pleased by Han's quick capitulation. "Now we just have to work on fixing this little problem between you and the Princess. Leia has said she's sorry, and now you will forgive her. Tell her you accept her apology and you've forgiven her."
Han looked up sharply. "You, or Chewie, might be able to force me to say the words, but if I don't mean them, what's the point?"
"Once you say the words, the forgiveness will follow. Trust me."
"Fine. I forgive you," he ground out through clenched teeth, still refusing to look at her.
"Now Leia," Rieekan continued, ignoring Han's sullen attitude, "You have to make amends."
"How do I do that?" she asked suspiciously.
"Solo, do you still have that costume?"
The question took Han by surprise. "What? Why?"
"Just answer me, son. Have a little trust in people."
"Trust? You arrested me for no reason!"
Rieekan sighed at Solo's display of stubbornness. "Just answer me - do you still have the costume?"
"Yeah... it's stuffed under some rags in a closet," Solo reluctantly admitted.
"Good!" Rieekan declared with a grin. "And do you remember those magic tricks?"
"What's this all about?" Leia injected into the questioning.
"I remember most of 'em."
"Wonderful! Now we're finally getting somewhere. Get ready to hear plans for the best revenge prank you'll ever be a party to, Solo."
"General Rieekan!" Leia said, aghast. "I didn't know you did such things!"
"Ah, Princess, just because there are General stripes on my collar doesn't mean I've lost my sense of humor."
"Why do I have a bad feeling about this?" Leia said worriedly.
Eight days later, on the Falcon
"I'm not coming out."
"You have to, Han. How bad could it be?" Luke yelled at the closed door to Han's cabin. "Besides, Leia's going to come out, too - sooner or later."
"I'm not coming out, either," Leia shouted from inside the small crew cabin on the opposite side of the hallway.
Luke sighed and looked at General Rieekan. "The two most stubborn people in the galaxy, and we ended up with both of them."
*CUB! Come out of your cabin! Now!*
"Only if her Highnessness does first."
"Princess, Threepio spent the past three days sewing that dress," Rieekan called through the door. "It looked very pretty on the hanger."
"I look like a hooker. With bad taste."
"Solo, if you don't do this, you'll never be able to get even with the Rogue Squadron. Besides, you've spent days practicing and perfecting this act. You don't want all that to go to waste, do you?" the General prodded.
*Perhaps you've 'outgrown' the costume, Han? Put on a few unwanted pounds? Is that the problem?* Chewie howled in amusement.
"I did not!" Solo shouted back. The door slid open, revealing Han Solo dressed in the glittering black jumpsuit, a sparkling cape draped over one shoulder. Luke quickly put his hand over his mouth to keep from laughing. Still, a snort escaped before he covered his mouth. "That's it!" Han sputtered indignantly, his hand going for the 'close' button on his door. Chewie was faster - he reached in and pulled his friend out of the room and into the hallway.
The Wookiee stepped back and threw his paws up in mock-surprise. *Amazing! It does still fit.*
"Of course it still fits! You're the one that's gotten fat and flabby in recent years, pal, not me," Han snapped back at his partner.
"Princess... Han came out. Now you have to, as well," Rieekan cajoled.
The crew quarters' door opened. Princess Leia Organa stood there, wearing a sparkling red gown, and looking somewhat embarrassed. It was cut low in the front and had a very long slit up the side. It was an exact replica of the dress Xaverri wore in the holo-show.
"Wow..." Luke said, gaping at the Princess.
"How is this going to get back at everyone?" Leia asked with a weary sigh. "I think we're just going to make ourselves look....." She trailed off, forgetting her words as she looked at Han for the first time, her face breaking into a huge grin.
Han raised his hand, pointing his finger at her. "Not one word, your Worship. Not one word!"
"Leia looks great, doesn't she?" Luke said quickly, before Leia could say something and make Han change his mind about wearing the costume.
"Uh... yeah... she really does," Han agreed, sizing the petite Princess up and down. "You should try wearing something besides white all the time, sweetheart."
"You should talk," Leia snapped back. "This is the first time I've seen you wearing something besides a white shirt and black slacks."
"I'll wear whatever clothes you want me to wear, your Holiness, as long as you agree to let me dress you up, too," Han said with a leer.
"All right, Solo," Rieekan said soothingly, trying to prevent another fight. "Both outfits look great. Once everyone sees that you're not embarrassed, all the fun will go out of teasing you."
Han looked over at the General. "That's not the reason I'm doing this, sir."
"I know. I know."
Two time-parts later.
"I can't get over this," Wes said to Wedge Antilles as they sat in the packed cafeteria, which had been converted into a stage area and rows of seating. "Solo is actually putting on a magic show." He looked around at all the Rebels as they waited for the show to begin. "I still don't know why we had to get here first, though. We've been waiting for over a time-part already."
"I told you why," Wedge replied. "I wanted the best seats in the house. Front row, middle."
"Han's going to be wearing his costume," Dixi said happily from one row behind Wedge. "Janson, giving you that disk was the best idea I've ever had."
"Dixi!" Verly said in surprise. "You gave Wes a copy?"
"So?" Zev put in from his seat next to Dixi. "You gave me a copy, Verly."
"What difference does it make?" Verly replied, barely able to keep from jumping up and down with anticipation. "Now we can see Solo wearing that outfit - in person!"
"And I hear the Princess's dress is exactly like Xaverri's, too," Janson added eagerly. "I can't believe she went along with doing this act."
"Miss High and Mighty... wearing a sexy gown. Solo should have asked me to be his assistant, since I'd look so much better wearing a low-cut dress," Dixi said with a smirk. "Next thing you know, all that applause will go to the Princess's head, and she'll get delusions that she's a Jedi Beauty Queen."
"The place sure is packed," Wedge noted, looking over his shoulder at the filled seats. "Everyone is here except for the people on mandatory duty, and the bigwigs."
"Too bad for them," Verly giggled as the lights began to dim. "Shhhh... I think it's starting."
Music filtered in, and the audience went silent. The red curtains parted.
Han Solo, in the role of Magician, and his lovely assistant, Leia Organa, handled each act with amazing precision and skill. After a few moments in the spotlight, they had even managed to forget about the racy costumes they were wearing. After all, as Han had pointed out to Leia earlier, the reason for the costumes was to distract the audience, and Leia was certain they'd managed that task quite nicely.
"And now, for the grand finale, we need a participant from the audience," Han announced as Leia swept down the steps in front of the stage, and headed directly to Wes Janson. The spotlight, handled by Rieekan, turned on the pilot as Leia pulled his hand. Reluctantly, Wes stood and climbed the stairs with the Princess. "Just get inside this upright box, Janson," Han instructed. "I hope you're not claustrophobic or anything."
"Sure, Solo," Wes said nervously as Leia gave him a push and slammed the door shut.
Quickly, Han spun the box around three times and then opened the door. The box was empty. More applause from the audience. Han slammed the door back shut and spun the box three more times. He opened it to... an empty box. "Darn it all to Kessel!" Han muttered very loudly. "That trick never works right."
He tried, again and again. Finally he threw his hands up in the air. "Too bad....I guess Janson is gone for good...." He looked up at the ceiling. "Wait... there he is!" The spotlight focused up.
Wes Janson was hanging by his ankles, his mouth taped shut and his hands tied behind his back, wearing only his shorts as a long chain slowly lowered him to the ground. The audience went into wild laughter as Janson struggled to his feet, his face burning with embarrassment. Han leaned over as he untied Janson's wrists, whispering to him while Leia knelt down and unlocked the padded binders around the pilot's ankles. "Never start a game you know you can't win, Janson."
For a moment Han thought the red-faced Rogue pilot was going to haul off and slug him - until Chewie gave a warning roar from the sidelines. Then Wes pulled the tape from his mouth and ran off, muttering curses under his breath.
Suddenly, klaxons began sounding. The Rebels leapt out of their seats - or tried to, anyway. With the exception of Wedge, every single Rebel had a chair stuck to their backside. The overhead lights came on, and the alarm stopped ringing. General Rieekan strolled down the aisle in the middle of the seats, grinning at the ensuing chaos. Han and Leia jumped off the makeshift stage and headed over to Rieekan and Wedge.
"Thanks for helping us, Antilles," Han spluttered out between bursts of laughter. "I appreciate you finding all those props, and getting Wes to sit in the right chair."
"My pleasure, truly. As long as I don't have a chair pasted to my butt, I was willing to make Janson sit anywhere."
Chewie and Luke walked up to the group, and Luke handed Wedge the shirt, pants and boots that belonged to Janson. "You can give Wes his clothes back," Luke said, wiping a tear of mirth away from his eye. "I think I'll stay out of his way for a while."
*Don't worry, young Skywalker,* Chewie barked happily, patting Luke on his head. *I will protect you.*
Wedge watched as the Rebels peeled themselves off the chairs, groaning in disgust at the paste clinging to their rears. "Remind me to always stay on your good side, Solo."
Han pointed to Rieekan. "This was all his idea, not mine."
"General?" Antilles asked, shocked. "This was your idea?"
Rieekan puffed out his chest proudly. "Sure was. I'm not a General for nothing, you know. This kind of prank takes great cunning - it's just like planning a military offensive."
Leia laughed and hugged Rieekan. "Thank you," she whispered. "For everything."
"You're welcome, Princess. And see, Solo? I was right - that costume won't embarrass you ever again," the General noted smugly.
Han looked down at his sparkling outfit. "Maybe when the war is over I should do this for a full time job, instead of smuggling. What'd ya think, sweetheart? Wanna put in your application to be my permanent assistant?"
Permanent? Leia liked the sound of that word. She grinned at the cocky smuggler. "When the war is over? Does that mean you're staying on with the Rebellion then?"
"We'll see," Han said, refusing to make a commitment. He looked over at Chewie. "Notice they still keep answering my questions with questions."
*True, cub. Humans just never change.*