"Although every man believes that his decisions and resolutions involve the most multifarious factors,
in reality they are a mere oscillation between flight and longing."
Han Solo glanced worriedly at the occupant of the co-pilot's seat and realized he'd done it once too often when he heard the soft, exasperated-sounding sigh coming from his friend.
"I'm not going to break into little pieces, you know."
Han winced. It wasn't that he minded getting caught. Han never let anyone's opinion get in the way of what he felt was right. It was merely the painful necessity of those covert glances that upset him - the absolute compulsion to make sure his friend was still there, was still . . . okay.
The kid didn't like to be coddled though, so he probably shouldn't let on how worried he really was. "Well, now, that's a good thing," he said brightly. "This hunk of junk may not be the Falcon, but I'm still not gonna be the one pickin' up all those messy pieces."
"Ah, I see. You're the captain, so minor housekeeping duties are utterly beneath you."
"Got it in one, kid."
Luke Skywalker smiled wanly at him, and that made Han's efforts to keep up the idle banter worthwhile, even though his insides were tied into more knots than a Corellian holodrama.
His smuggler friends would have scoffed at the idea that Han Solo, with his reputation for ruthlessness and never letting personal feelings get in the way of making a profit, would actually participate in an expedition like this. There was no financial gain, no material benefit, no reward - no monetary reward, that was.
Han would be the first to tell anyone that forming personal attachments was crazy, because nothing in the galaxy was fair, and contrary to the popular belief of the unwashed masses, Bad Things did happen to Good People.
And none of that made the current situation any easier to bear.
Frustrated beyond all measure, Han punched a control on the panel with a little more force than absolutely necessary, and the blasted thing had the temerity to "bleek" a protest at him. Snarling, Han punched it again.
Luke's hand reached out and gripped his arm lightly. "Han, it'll be all right."
"That's easy for you to say!" Han snapped, but he stopped abruptly when he saw Luke's head tilt sideways, the smile on his face an obvious gentle reproof. Embarrassed, Han lowered both his eyes and his volume. "Okay, so I guess it's not easy for you to say."
"We'll find it," Luke said.
All those weeks of frantic search, sleepless nights and haunted dreams must have finally caught up with Han, because his reply felt like it was physically wrenched from him. "How do you know that? Damn it, Luke, we're chasing some obscure legend from an extinct species who didn't even have a written language!"
"Then there shouldn't be any translation discrepancies."
"Luke!" The urge to throttle the kid was almost unstoppable sometimes.
Luke sighed, nervously fingering one of the clasps on his Alliance fatigues. "Han, I can't explain it. I just know we'll find the answer."
Han searched the boy's face carefully and wondered why he couldn't stop thinking of him as a "boy." Luke had changed since the destruction of the Death Star, had gained more confidence in himself, although Han guessed that since this latest crisis it was at least partially a front for his friends' benefit. Luke still turned to Han for reassurance during his darker moments, and there had been far too many of those recently. Other than an increasingly preoccupied Leia, the boy simply had no one else.
Still, this strange certainty of Luke's confused Han. Their quest was almost definitely hopeless, yet Luke seemed so sure . . .
He watched Luke's restless hands for awhile. "For someone who's so certain we'll find the answer, you don't look exactly happy about it."
Luke grimaced, and Han reached out almost unconsciously to him, worried he was having another attack.
"I'm all right, Han." Luke waved him off. "Don't hover."
"We're coming up on the planet," Luke said, pointing at the scanner.
"What aren't you telling me?"
"Han, if we don't come out of hyperspace soon, we'll go right past it!"
Grabbing Luke's chair, Han swung the boy around to face him and pointed a chiding finger at his chest. "We have plenty of time, so don't try that misdirection trick on me. I was using that tactic when you were still in short pants."
Luke pinched his lips into a thin line, his too-slender body shaking in obvious anger, his eyes glaring into Han's.
Now, that was the Luke he remembered! Like a mixture of oxygen and reactor fuel - ready to explode in sixty directions at once. "Spill it, Junior. We're not going anywhere until I find out what's botherin' you."
Luke lowered his eyes, the brief anger seemingly dying like the last throes of a collapsing star. "It's nothing, really. . . ."
Or maybe it's just sheer exhaustion, Han thought, as he watched the boy's shoulders droop. But Han wasn't about to back down, since he definitely had a bad feeling about this. "Luke?"
Luke shrugged. "I told you, I can't explain it. I know that somehow we'll find it, but the process of finding it isn't likely to be pleasant." Luke shuddered. "Not pleasant at all."
Hearing the absolute conviction in Luke's voice, Han sighed and rolled his eyes upward.
Damn. Would it cause some major galactic upheaval if just one of my bad feelings turned out to be wrong for a change?