Ilinc hadn't expected the Alliance to be glamorous. War was always painful, messy, the kind of thing people accepted so that their children wouldn't have to. She had prepared herself for the possibility of being shot in zero-G, being alone among an alien species, or answering to an unfamiliar alias in the underground.
She hadn't expected on spending so much time literally underground, in a bunker not because of radiation or Imperial troops but because it was too cold to stay on the planet's surface. It was one thing to trust sentients from halfway across the galaxy with your life, based on little more than commitment to a shared cause; it was another to trust them with your sanity when you spent days trapped together, fixing ships, managing supplies, and wondering idly what the point of it all was. Ilinc considered boosting morale the least she could do. Was she enough of a personage to mingle with royalty? No. But there were times when keeping a respectful distance from Leia Organa had its advantages.
Klarna's hair was always staticy in the heated tunnels. It made her fill space above and beyond that of her already-impressive height. "Two credits," she said confidently, "that they'll be kissing by the end of the month."
"You don't have two credits," said Ilinc. "You lost them to Toryn betting on Skywalker and Antilles."
"Fine," said Klarna. "I'll bet half a day's worth of KP."
"Mothma doesn't allow us to trade KP, she thinks we all need to be on equal terms. To build solidarity, or make sure we're not actually spies, or something."
"The Wookiee takes Solo's shifts all the time."
"Mothma's not stupid enough to argue with a Wookiee."
"Solo," said Klarna, "doesn't even want to be here. He can't be here for the pay, and he can't be here for the idealism. Therefore, he has to be trying to get into Organa's pants." She grinned as if proving some complicated theorem about hyperspace transit.
"I don't disagree," said Ilinc. "But her taste is better than that, and you still don't have two credits."
"Come on, it's not like there's a whole lot of money flowing onto or off of this planet. Your little side hustle here is as active a market as any. We're just all passing the same credits back and forth. So tell me someone who is winning your bets, and I'll go borrow a couple credits from them."
"Dak Ralter won some off the other pilots in a nite race, but—"
"Cool!" said Klarna, taking off. Before Ilinc could add a warning about how the nite races weren't technically authorized and she definitely shouldn't have been gossiping about them, Klarna and her hair had turned down another heavily-insulated tunnel.
Ilinc was only a little surprised when Klarna turned up that evening with a couple credits in tow. Dak and the gunner crew probably thought nothing of lending Klarna something to wager with. She might not have been as reckless as them in battle, but she was foolhardy when it came to gambling.
Solo and Organa were not kissing by the end of the month, unless the definition of "kissing" was expanded to include "breathing in each other's space while Ilinc raced by trying to get to work." Klarna, however, found a different definition to quibble over.
"We're on Hoth," she pointed out. "'Month' means lunar month, here, and this moon takes much longer to complete a revolution than a standard Coruscanti month."
Ilinc wondered whether this kinds of pointless standardizing among all the different star systems was why the Republic had fallen in the first place. "You'd have better luck just bribing Organa to hook up with him and splitting the winnings. Not that I'm recommending that, that would break about a dozen different policies—"
"Relax," said Klarna. "I would never sink to such levels. I just have faith that love can conquer all."
"Can love get us a warmer base?" Ilinc said. "Maybe it can team up with the mystical Force powers."
"Aww," said Klarna. "Burned before, eh? Last time I saw a face like that was on Mustafar."
"You've never been to Mustafar."
"That's true," Klarna admitted. "But how did you know that?"
"That time you got drunk with Shara Bey playing 'Planets I've Never Been To.'"
"And you remembered? I'm almost flattered."
"You're not worried that I'm an Imperial plant gathering data on you?"
"Okay," said Klarna. "With that attitude, I can see how your love life might not be the most impressive."
The news from the rest of the galaxy was patchy, and what seemed the most relevant might not be. A big procession of ships and dignitaries turned out to be the opening ceremony for a podracing tournament; conversely, it had been a lone pilot defecting from an informationally-secure facility that had precipitated the events of Scarif. If there was mention of Organa on public broadcasts, it was most likely in reference to the Alderaan diaspora trying to regroup while staying out of the fray. The fact that the bounty on Solo had increased didn't really matter either. Another thousand credits wasn't going to help any hunters find Hoth more quickly.
But it seemed to matter to Klarna, who optimistically placed another bet on his prospects. "So you recognize you lost the last one?" Ilinc clarified.
"Yeah, yeah," said Klarna breezily. "She recognizes he's a big deal now."
"Is that how that works?"
"Sure. Bounty on Skywalker increased recently too, and has that scared him? No, everyone wants to follow in his footsteps."
"They want to follow in his footsteps because that's the only thing you can see on the surface," said Ilinc. "Other than snow."
Solo chose that moment to speedwalk by, muttering under his breath about engine repairs. For a wild moment Ilinc was afraid he'd heard everything, and she froze—more frozen than usual, for Hoth—but Organa followed close behind. "What better mechanics are you even going to find than ours?" she said, charging past Klarna as if Klarna wasn't a foot taller than her. "We're used to running on fumes, we can't just show up at a normal starage. We have to make do."
"Listen, Your Highness, I don't want to 'make do.' I want the services of an expert, even if I need to pay them."
"Just like you've paid Jabba off?"
"Jabba isn't an expert in anything except petty tyranny," said Solo, "and I'm not even sure about that."
"Sounds like your kind of guy," said Organa.
Solo no doubt had some quippy rejoinder, but they were on their way to the mess hall and out of earshot. "That's nobility for you," Ilinc said. "She didn't even notice us."
"Neither did Solo," Klarna pointed out. "Their orbits revolve around each other."
"Their orbits revolve around quarrelling. There's a difference."
"Lighten up," said Klarna. "Worst case, you get to keep even more of my credits. Isn't that what you want?"
Isn't it? Ilinc wondered, long after Klarna had followed the others to dinner. What she wanted was someone who thought of her as tirelessly, as steadfastly, as Organa and Solo thought of each other—if perhaps a bit more pleasant than those two. But civil war was no place for silly hopes. What she wanted was a galaxy where the most dangerous thing someone like Klarna could do was to squander her credits.
When the probe droid finally found Echo Base and the Alliance began evacuation, there was a tinge of relief mixed in with the panic. At least they were going somewhere, and could meet the Empire on turf they knew. Even the prospect of drifting with the fleet, absent a permanent base, felt novel and exciting after the frigid torpor of Hoth.
Klarna specialized in logistics and supplies. Like the other non-combat specialists, she was on one of the first transports to get away. Ilinc was with the team charging the ion cannon, and it wasn't until the cheers echoed at the departure of the first transport that she realized Klarna might get to keep her credits if she died at the base. Then she lashed out at herself. Her comrades were counting on her to keep them alive, and she was worried about how Klarna might find it amusing? Of course, getting angry at herself didn't help her focus either, and when the order came to retreat there was less relief and rather a dull feeling of guilt. Only when the small shuttle containing ion mechs Jaro, Fitch, Yale, and herself launched into hyperspace did Ilinc welcome numbness. Some of them had gotten away. They would regroup. If they were somehow the only craft who had survived, Jaro would become Commander and the rebellion of four would live on.
Of course, they were not the only craft who had survived. Regrouping at the Mon Cala flagship, Ilinc felt a surge of relief that the council was intact, and even a bit of nostalgia for the ion cannon. Sure, it had been bulky and needed maintenance, but it was a powerful weapon. Now it was scrap, if not repurposed for the Empire.
Klarna was alive and well, too, and that news was like a planetsworth of gravity, stabilizing Ilinc in the vacuum. They would carry on teasing each other and finding silly ways to spend their credits, base or no base. Except that she was downcast, a tall shadow hovering over Ilinc rather than inspiring her to new heights. "Do you have a minute?"
"Of course," said Ilinc, trying to sound casual. "Until Ackbar tells me my new patrol schedule."
"We're updating the tallies, but almost all the fighters who weren't shot down by AT-ATs managed to make it off the surface."
"You're telling me," Ilinc pointed out.
"Well—yeah. But. Organa got lost in the shuffle somewhere. Best we can tell, she was with Solo in that Corellian cruiser."
"Organa's not even a primary combatant!" Ilinc said. "Why would she have stayed behind?"
"I don't know. But we've been searching for their hyperspace signal and...it doesn't look like they made the jump."
Ilinc stared, turning the words over in her mind as if another meaning might suggest itself. "Maybe they just had engine problems," she stammered. Engine problems, taking off from a planet surrounded by Imperial troops.
"I just...thought I should tell you," said Klarna.
"No, I understand," said Ilinc. "Thanks."
The fits of frustration that had seized her in the battle swelled up again. Organa had been more than a symbol or a running joke; she had been a living person, and now she was probably a dead person, and Solo's absurd devotion to her had probably gotten him killed too. Except, Organa had always been on some level a symbol. She had been a princess, and then a princess without a planet, and then…
Klarna pierced Ilinc's ruminations with a "What's on your mind?"
"Nothing," said Ilinc, and hastily added, "Yours?"
"That life is short," said Klarna, "and I need to stop making excuses to hang out with you," and she leaned in for a kiss.
"No," said Ilinc. "We shouldn't."
"Oh?" Klarna asked. "Is that a 'I don't feel that way about you' we shouldn't? Or a 'this isn't an appropriate time and place' we shouldn't?"
Ilinc blushed. "The latter."
"That's what I thought. Now, do you want to find a map and pick out some part of the galaxy that isn't being oppressed by the Empire? Or use some hyperdrive trick to skip ahead in time to a peaceful future where there isn't any suffering and death in the vicinity?"
"Or shall we make a galactic-wide broadcast that everyone else needs to cease and desist from romantic activities forthwith, because we're in a state of morning for a day, or a year, or something like that?"
"I'm not sure that would be the most useful thing to do with a galactic-wide broadcast," Ilinc admitted.
"Oh? Well, in that case..."
"I just...what would Organa say? If she were here?"
"You know perfectly well what she'd say."
Ilinc blinked. "I do?"
"She wouldn't say anything because she wouldn't be paying attention to us, she'd be storming off to argue with Solo about something petty like usual."
"You make a good point," said Ilinc, and this time when Klarna stepped forward she didn't pull away. If Organa had been any indication, it had never been hard to be so distracted by someone you tuned out the rest of the galaxy. But it was a lot easier when that someone kissed like Klarna did.
Days or weeks or standard Coruscanti months later—it was complicated, and Skywalker thought there was some mystical time dilation powers involved—the Millennium Falcon showed up at the rendezvous point, with Organa, the Baron Administrator of Cloud City, the Wookiee, some droids, and almost all of Skywalker in tow, his organic arm having been left behind in Bespin.
Organa was as steely as ever; if the loss of her planet didn't shake her, Solo's wouldn't either. But it turned out that Wookiees could get drunk, albeit off the kind of engine fuel that would knock out a human after a couple sips. And Chewbacca was kind of sappy when he'd been drinking.
"Arwooulul gronfaaabi," he moaned, downing another shot.
"She told him that she loved him?" Toryn gaped. "As he was getting cryo-frozen? Talk about bad timing."
Ilinc and Klarna exchanged glances. "Hroon?" Chewbacca challenged.
"We have," said Klarna. "Talked about timing. Frequently."
"Makes a nice change of pace from public displays of affection," Antilles pointed out.
"Yeah," said Toryn. "Weren't you collecting all our credits on Hoth? Whatever happened to that?"
"We left a lot of things behind on Hoth," Ilinc pointed out, as Klarna took her hand in hers.
"Including Ilinc's inhibitions," said Antilles.
"Kvorraay!" Chewbacca yelled, and there was no need to translate the universal tone of Get a room, already!
Six months later, with the Emperor dead and Solo alive and well, Klarna brought up the issue of settling accords once and for all, but Ilinc just laughed. "What's yours is mine."