Hey! What a great day to end a fic, wouldn't you say? Thank you for sticking around and your patience during my grief of Carrie. In honor of our Princess and her gang in the GFFA, I say to you: May the Fourth Be With You!

xxxmtfbwyxxxx

Chapter 24: Gotcha!

Artoo began beeping and his dome spun back and forth.

Han looked at them both with a frown and took off down the hallway. He would find her himself then he would go find Rieekan. He turned another corner and caught sight of a short fast moving human with thick dark braids walking down the crossing hallway. Gotcha now, Sweetheart.

He thought about calling out to her, but since he didn't have any idea what he could say when he caught up to her, he decided to follow her and hoped something would come to him or an opportunity would present itself. Oddly enough, instead of heading to the Command Center, she looped around to the massive hangar carved out of snow. Once inside the cavern, she headed directly for the set of snowspeeders tucked along the one side.

Han watched as head mechanic briefed her, pointing to various areas of the closest speeder as he waved his other hand in frustration. Leia nodded spoke quietly. The mechanic gave her a grim smile and a quick salute before heading off.

As Leia climbed up the closest speeder, resting her forearm on her bent knee, she stared down at it in consternation. Solo decided to make his move. He sauntered over to her as casually as possible.

"I heard about the problems with the speeders. Sounds like you could use my expert advice."

Leia froze for only a fraction of a second. She had felt him following her since before she entered the hangar. She was hoping he would've left her alone at that point, but no such luck. Relief had washed through her that he was already out of the Med Center, but at the same time it presented the problem of holding him at arm's length in every way. Her internal war with her emotions was raging as much as any harsh battle the Rebellion had faced against Imperial troops. She braced her gut. It had to be like this.

"Oh?" She turned slowly to face him. "And what qualifies you as an expert on snowspeeders?"

"It's a ship with an engine, isn't it? I'm an expert ship engine mechanic."

Was he really leaving her an opening that wide and easy to insult him? He must really want her talking to him if that's the case. After the way she left things with him in the Med Center, it shouldn't have come as a surprise he was willing to not let go of their relationship so easily. Truly, she loved him all the more for it. Still, the greater good for his sake and for the Rebellion's sake had to be held above all.

She shook her head and afforded him a sardonic tone, "With a ship that breaks down as much as yours, I don't think that qualifies you as an expert."

"The fact that she needs special know how to keep her running above specs that makes me the expert, Sweetheart." He engaged his best flirtatious confident smile. "Admit it, you could use that right about now."

Instantly, it occurred to Leia that he could apply the same concept when it came to her personally. She wondered if Solo had any of that idea behind his argument. Considering his ever-present arrogant bravado, she was sure he would take credit, but wondered if he knew how much it was true. At any rate, he was certainly pouring on his persuasive charm or what he thought was currently passing for it anyhow. It wasn't going to work.

"I'm sure the speeder mechanics will get them ready just fine."

Han made a show of counting off the reasons on his fingers. "If that was the case, then one, they would already have them up and running. And two, you wouldn't be here glaring at the engine like you can make it work on your command. I'll admit, you're a pretty decent mechanic, Sweetheart, but that it isn't going to make it come to life."

It was only to be met with a caustic look, "Okay, Hotshot, then what's your 'expert' advice?"

Han leaned over to get a better look at the engine and maybe to take advantage of the necessary proximity to the Princess that it entailed. He clucked his tongue at this and that, grimacing as he prodded his fingers here and there over the innards of the engine. "My first guess is that the coolant ratio is off. These are meant to hug the terrain, not for the deep cold of space or, in this case, Hoth."

"They already allowed for that with weak results." She sighed outwardly in exasperation, but couldn't help flashing back to his very personal inspections of her. Just watching his fingers dance around the engine was making her a weak in the knees and a few other unmentionable areas. She fought that down like the determined woman she had known herself to be before she knew him. "Any other expert ideas?"

"You didn't let me finish, Sweetheart." Han smiled knowingly. "Once you tweak the coolant ratio, the air intake has to be adjusted to be warmed as it comes into the engine compartment or the whole thing will just overheat on the inside and freeze on the outside causing a complete shutdown in mid-air. It'll take some trial and error, but it should work."

Without taking her eyes off of Solo, Leia nodded to a Rebel now standing just behind Solo. "Lieutenant, did you get all of that?"

"Yes, Princess."

"Has that been accounted for before now?" Leia was taking a small delight in watching Han's smug smile drop just for a moment at the realization that they had a nearby audience the whole time.

The Lieutenant looked a bit sheepish. "No, but I agree with Captain Solo. It should work once we find the correct balance."

"Then get to work on it immediately. We wouldn't want to need to deploy them and be caught with them still grounded."

"Yes, Princess. Thank you, Captain Solo. I should've thought of that."

Han shrugged off the compliment. "No sweat. It's not something you run into that often on a speeder. Let me know if there's any troubleshooting you want to bounce off of me."

The Lieutenant walked off to enlist his mechanics and give them new instructions leaving Han and Leia staring at each other. Now they were indeed alone as they could be in a huge base hangar. All Leia could focus on was how many times Han had 'saved the day' in a clutch time. He deserved acknowledgement for his latest rescue.

Without a hint of sarcasm, she spoke with quiet sincerity, "Thank you, Han. We are indebted to you once again."

"I missed seeing you in the Med Center."

Leia shook her head and waved her hands to indicate the base as she kicked into military leader mode rather than face what he was truly implying. Han had always been braver than her when it came to facing emotions, but after her personal imprisonment of her feelings, she was not giving them air of any kind.

"There's a lot to do around here just to get things set up. Even working on locking down our security is slow going. We're still largely vulnerable if the Empire finds out we're here."

"What needs to be done?"

Han seemed to have switched into his problem-solving mode or maybe he was still trying to appeal to her on a more personal level, but the base couldn't afford for her to worry about her personal issues when it came to fighting the Imperials. Everyone contributing as much as they could was important to the Rebel Cause right now.

"Well, we have the ion cannon operational, but the shield itself won't be operational until we set up the perimeter markers."

Han smirked in that way she adored. "Can't get anybody willing to ride out in the freezing cold on those smelly Tauntauns, huh?"

He may have meant it as a simple joke, but she was already on edge and that pushed her over it. How could he even suggest people were shirking work around here because of that?

"All the ground troops are outside already cutting in trenches and checkpoints, administrational staff is trying to set up a fully functional Command Center. We were just lucky the Med Center was-" Leia cut herself off. She didn't want to bring up that right now. She took a deep breath, reminding herself once again not to let him get to her in any way, shape, or form.

As she was looking down at the snow between their two sets of boots, she heard him or perhaps it was more felt him drop his shoulders in a small sigh of compassion as he felt her stress.

"Easy, Sweetheart," he soothed with a gentleness in his voice. "I get it. Everybody is busy. How about I see if I can round up a couple of people and get those perimeter markers set?"

Suddenly very quiet, Leia was slow to answer him.

"Are you sure you're up to going out there so soon after…" Hold it together, Organa!

"Listen, I'm fine, Princess. You don't have to worry about me. Besides, I'm damn near indestructible."

She didn't like it. Not one bit, as a matter of fact. Leia knew that wouldn't stop him though.

"That would help. Thank you."

"No problem."

"I suppose you could borrow of a couple of pilots from Rogue Squadron… but only a couple," she warned with a raised eyebrow.

"Don't worry. It shouldn't take long."

Leia walked away with her stomach in a knot. She didn't like the idea of him going outside right now. She hated that she was standing so close to him and had no hope of ever being with him or even just kissing him again. Looking into his eyes was a self-inflicted torture even when they were sparring. It was obvious that Han still wanted to be with her as much as she wanted to be with him, but it was not to be, could not be. She felt the snow crunch under her boots as she walked away feeling more chilled to the bone than any other time she could remember in her life.

How did it come to this?

The End…. Now go watch The Empire Strikes Back and May the Force Be With You!

xxxmtfbwyxxx

Love to my Star Wars peeps! You always have a way of Jedi Mind Tricking me into posting. Did I do okay?

I hear all of you clamoring for Long, Long Way to Go. It's in rewrites, but it's coming this summer. Also, another one in the chute taking place a few years after ROTJ - non-TFA related because I wrote it before TFA and I'm not into writing TFA-related fic.