Money Over Medals
"You only care about yourself!"
"You might think that, sweetheart, but you'd be wrong," Han growled. His hand grabbed at the collar of his jacket and shirt, dragging them both down so he could grab at the medallion that hung from his neck. As soon as he pulled it into view it was obvious what it was, but the point of it was lost on Leia, who stared in confusion.
"So?" she spat, the anger that had been temporarily dampened flaring up again. "It's just that stupid medal I gave you at Yavin!" A circle of gold attached to a thick brown strap she had placed over his head. The only stray thought to pass through Leia's mind was 'That thing must be cold against his skin on a planet like this.'
Han slipped the medal off and dangled it in front of her face. "It's the Alliance Medal of Bravery. Ya know, the Alliance to Restore the Republic? The only thing you care about?" Leia opened her mouth to protest, but the Corellian held up his other hand. "Not the point and you know it."
"Fine," she huffed, brushing it aside. "But regardless of what I care about, the fact that you have that damn thing around your neck means either you fancy yourself a Jedi or you're obsessed with your own achievements! And I'm guessing the latter."
Spinning on her heel, Leia stomped away up the icy corridor. Han inevitably followed. "What the hell does the medal have to do with Jedi, aside from Luke having one?" As they stalked past all sorts of rebels – guards, mechanics, members of High Command – a small part of Han's mind registered that most of them didn't even bother sparing more than a glance at the pair. The smuggler and the princess fought much too often for many to care anymore, and it had become just another piece of life at Echo Base, like the constant biting cold and the smell of the tauntauns. No longer were lunchtime conversations filled with the speculating gossip about what had gotten them going this time, and the long-running pool on when they'd finally kiss was almost forgotten.
The feisty little Princess stopped so suddenly Han almost knocked her over. Turning and shoving him back, she explained, "You knew we were going to have this damn conversation. I don't know how, but you knew it! It's just like you."
Han stared blankly. "I'm still missin' somethin'," he replied, cocking his head. The anger that had been coursing through his veins had been, if temporarily, replaced with curiosity.
"You're wearing that blasted medal because you knew we were going to have this conversation and you wanted to distract me!"
She started off again in the direction of the hangar, and Han couldn't help but wonder what was there for her. But as the conversation sunk in, two things become obvious. One: she was headed to the hangar to find Luke. Two: a Jedi could see the future, like predicting this conversation would happen. Her logic still didn't exactly make sense, but he'd found that on rare occasions he could get her so riled up that precisely that happened. And this time, he couldn't remember for the life of him how the fight had even started.
As they turned a corner and the hangar became visible at the end of the corridor, a plan had begun to form in Han's mind. He thought maybe he knew how to convince her, but he needed more time to think it through. And there were absolutely no guarantees it would work.
Reaching out, he grabbed her left arm and spun her around, pulling her against him and backing against the icy wall so a line of supply-hauling rebels could pass by. When they had disappeared and Han was sure the two were alone, he lowered his voice and ducked his head, allowing Leia to back away but not letting go. His voice a low snarl, he told her, "I'm wearin' the medal because I hadn't taken it off from Yavin IV until just now, Your Worshipfulness!"
The comment seemed to stun Leia into silence, as it was intended to. But as always, she managed a fairly quick retort anyways. "You shower with that on?" she snorted skeptically, breaking his grip and continuing on her way.
"You know as well as I do that sonic showers are the only kind I've had access to since joinin' up with you and your freedom fighters, and those are only gonna make it cleaner." His right hand went up to his head and slid the medal around his neck again, unconsciously adjusting it comfortably under his shirt.
"But you haven't joined up!" Leia exclaimed, trying to move faster and lose him. With his longer stride, Han easily caught up and passed her, walking backwards as they entered the bustling hangar. "Why you're still here is beyond me, all you do is steal our credits, and there are precious few of them to begin with!"
"All I do?" he replied hotly, glancing briefly over his shoulder to see where he was going. "I get you your damn supplies. You wouldn't survive another dayh on this ice cube without the things I've brought back for you. I even got half the base addicted to that hot chocolate I brought in last time. Besides, I haven't been paid for the last three runs I went on. You know I haven't. And I didn't ask for the last couple before that, either, Rieekan offered! Because unlike you, he doesn't mind having me around!"
Leia scowled and cast her gaze around, apparently trying to find Luke, but she continued to follow Han, not noticing where he was leading her. "So you're staying around long enough that he won't feel betrayed when you leave, is that it? So that when the Empire is defeated and Carlist is a high-ranking Republic General instead of a fugitive rebel leader, you can gain favor or more money? Because that's all the great Han Solo cares about, besides himself! Money! At Yavin you didn't stay to fight because you wanted to take your money and then you decided to stick around longer anyway so that you could get more money out of us. Now you don't get paid but you're going to stay again – but only as long as you need to so that you can ensure you get more money once the Empire is gone!"
As predicted, Han's heel hit metal about halfway through her spiel, and if he wasn't expecting it he might have fallen flat on his back. Instead, merely stumbling briefly, he walked backwards up the ramp. And so Leia followed him, distracted in her rage and not realizing that she was on the boarding ramp of the Millennium Falcon, and, soon after, in the hold of the Corellian freighter.
"You even told me," she hissed, her voice dangerously low as she slipped into a crude imitation of Han's voice, "'I ain't in this for your revolution, and I'm not in it for you, Princess. I expect to be well paid. I'm in it for the money.' You're a mercenary, Captain Solo!"
In another situation, he might be impressed that she seemed to remember the exact words he'd said to her that day, which he certainly didn't remember word-for-word, or he might turn it back on her. But as he'd mentioned earlier, this wasn't about what she cared about. No, they'd had that fight before and they'd have it again, he was sure, but not right now. "Money then ain't gonna help me, Your Worship. I need those credits now or I'm gonna be a little too dead for them to do me any good."
"Still thinking of yourself, flyboy," she shot back.
"I'm not here for me, Leia!" The rare use of her name succeeded in catching her attention. It also caused Han to come very close to spilling one of his deepest secrets, one he had confided in no one – not even Chewie, although he suspected the big guy had figured it out on his own. "Why do you think I have this medal on, aside from your ridiculous accusation that I have a Jedi complex?"
Leia glared at him a moment before speaking very slowly and carefully, as she might to a young child – although with a child her voice probably wouldn't hold so much anger. "You are obsessed with your own achievements, Captain Solo."
Wordlessly, Han shrugged out of his jacket and tossed it aside. As his hands dropped to his belt, Leia's eyes grew wide, and it seemed she was only just realizing where she was. But despite backing up several steps, she seemed to be too shocked to actually turn and leave the ship. Han shook off the other implications of her continued presence (Yeah right, Solo, only in your dreams) and grabbed handfuls of his shirt, untucking it roughly and pulling it over his head.
Hair ruffled, bare-chested, Han stood before Princess Leia of Alderaan and had to suppress the desire to make a lewd comment. "There's one medal around my neck, Princess," he told her, gesturing to it with the hand still holding his shirt. "One medal. I wear the Corellian bloodstripes, true, but I got other awards and decorations while I was with the Imps, and I ain't wearing those. So how about you shut the hell up about how obsessed I am with myself? Aside from the bloodstripes – and if you had 'em you'd wear 'em too, anyone would – the only award I've got on is your Alliance's medal, the one I've had on for almost three years now. Even as an Imp I didn't wear the awards I got from them! Pretty sure Chewie's got 'em around somewhere still, but I wear this one 'cause I care. Got that, Your Highnessness? I care about your damn Alliance. I don' like the Empire but I like your mission, and I like the people here. So I'm here. Get off my back."
Sliding his shirt back over his head, Han turned and walked down the curved corridor to his quarters. In the hold, Leia stared at his retreating form, unable to formulate a proper response. The calm manner in which Han had responded gave validity to his claim that he was around because of the people and the mission, not the money, but she still didn't entirely believe him.
Leia padded quietly after Han and poked her head around the corner of his cabin door. The pilot was kneeling on the cold durasteel floor, back to the door and shirt still untucked, as he rummaged through a footlocker. Seeming to find what he sought, Han sat back on his heels and stared at something he was holding in front of him, something Leia couldn't see.
The two remained that way for several moments until the Corellian broke the silence, muttering to himself something that Leia could only just make out. "Damn things gonna get me killed someday."
Slipping back to the hold, Leia was still there when Han emerged from his room. "What do you want, Your Majesty?" he asked brusquely.
"Nothing," she muttered, brushing past him as he headed to the cockpit. Checking over her shoulder to ensure he was gone, she slid into his cabin. As she'd hoped, there was something lying on his bunk that hadn't been there before – evidently the thing that was going to get him killed.
The 'something' was a small slip of flimsy with a short note.
Easily accessed, even for someone as wanted as you. Drop by after you free yourself of Jabba.
Following that was the information for a bank account, including a very large number.
The flimsy slipped through Leia's shaking fingers when she realized the number, the amount of credits in the account, was at least triple what Han would need to pay off Jabba.
So he wasn't lying. He's not here for the money, at least not anymore. He certainly doesn't need it, if he could really get his hands on that many credits so easily. But… this is Han Solo we're talking about. This is a joke, a trick to get me to believe him. Rolling her eyes, Leia inspected the flimsy again, knowing exactly what she expected to find. She'd seen Han's handwriting on several occasions, and could easily compare it to a sample from memory.
But, contrary to her expectations, his messy scrawl was not very well developed, which fit with what little of his past she knew. This writing, by contrast, wsa cultured and formal, even in a note to an apparent friend. There was an added flair Han's scribbles certainly didn't have. And if it wasn't his writing, it was most likely a trap… or a legitimate offer from a friend to get Han out of trouble.
A soft voice from the doorway startled her out of her thoughts. "Surprised, are you?"
"You could've left any time you wanted to," she whispered, still staring down at the small piece of flimsy on his dark blue bedspread. "You don't need to hide here, or get money from us."
"I told you that before," he reminded her. "I'm not here for the money, and I'm not here for me. If I was doing this for me, I wouldn't be here at all." Well, maybe I would be, he conceded mentally, eyeing Leia's hair, only half pinned up. He couldn't help but wonder how long it truly was, or how those silky strands would feel as he ran his fingers through them.
Nodding slowly in acceptance, the Princess turned around and finally looked at him. Han leaned easily on the doorway, arms crossed casually over his chest. Only his eyes betrayed the tension he was feeling, showed that he was prepped for the outburst, the fight that he was sure to follow this revelation.
But there was nothing. Just a simple, "Thank you… Han," before the slight Princess left, leaving a vaguely flowery scent in her wake… but nothing more. No anger. No hatred. Not even frustration.
It was, perhaps, the first real peace the two had had at Echo Base.
Thanks again, Major Trouble and GREAT JOB!