Disclaimer: All of these characters and the universe that is Star Wars belong to George. I'm just having fun.
Wow. This place has changed...
Deep within the shadows of the Endor forest, two beings stood and watched the sunset. One was a human male of average height and build for a Core-born human, smooth skinned although silvery strands highlighted his dark hair. His hands were balled into fists, crushed against his thighs, and the forest's insects buzzed ravenously close to his skin as though they could smell his fear. "Will it work?" he asked his companion.
The second being, born of a species that preferred the darkness, hung back in the shadows of a thick perennial evergreen. "It should."
"Should is a word we cannot afford." The human took a sharp breath. "If I am exposed, the New Republic will seek vengeance, swiftly. There can be no mistakes. The Nagai will fall here, once and for all. Saijo will be ours."
Han Solo leaned against the transparisteel window outside the primary entrance of the senior audience chamber on the massive Calamarian star cruiser Home One. Outside, rising fast amidst the stars, were a number of foreign ships, sleek, shiny Liberator-class cruisers, long cylindrical Providence-class carriers and light destroyers. After an hour, Han was poignantly aware of two things. First, despite the many months of planning, it was hard to believe that as of tomorrow, the Alliance of Free Planets would be reborn as the New Republic.
Secondly, when an earnest-faced guard stationed outside a Provisional Council meeting said it was 'almost over,' he was randomly yanking a time limit out of thin air.
It was his lucky day when the doors finally swished open. Leia exited first, a vision in a white, sleeveless senatorial gown and her face lit up so beautifully upon seeing him that he moved in and kissed her squarely on the lips.
"Welcome back, General Solo." Leia blushed and lightly cleared her throat.
"Captain Solo." Borsk Fey'lya's tone dripped with sarcasm behind her. "Are you here to present a briefing?"
"No." If he hadn't been all that conscious of the fact that he was unshaven and wearing rumpled clothing, he was now.
"No Borsk," Leia answered smoothly. "We weren't even expecting the General until tomorrow." Graciously, she linked her arm through his and guided him partway down the corridor, away from the exiting council members. "Tomorrow at the earliest," she whispered. "Han, you must be exhausted."
"I'm made good time," he lied. Good time, if flying on a dead man's schedule and making seven hyperspace jumps in the space of twenty hours could be classified as such. The three Mon Calamari cruisers that comprised the rest of his fleet were two days behind him, following a much safer and saner route. He could feel dozens of eyes boring holes through them and wondered how many rules of protocol he'd just broken by kissing her. He leaned over and remembered to keep his voice down. "I don't have a code-key for your quarters."
"Oh." Leia gestured to a plain-faced assistant quietly with one hand and squeezed his fingers with the other. Momentarily, she pressed the code-key to her quarters into his hand. "I'm not sure how much longer I'm going to be. The Togorians and Thanosians are disputing rights to their inter-sector trade route and they've asked for the issue to be settled before the summit." She shoved a stray piece of hair behind her ear. "It's a last minute request, but they've agreed that they'll abide by the Provisional Council ruling until each side can formally present its claim to the Senate after the summit takes place."
"That sounds like it could go on all night."
"It very well could." Leia's index finger playfully traced a line across the centre of his palm. "You should go make yourself at home, relax."
Senator Gebnerret Vibrion of Gorman came by to clap Han warmly on the shoulders. "Welcome back General."
"Are they prepared to offer summations?" she asked the elder Senator.
"Yes. They each have a member waiting in the lobby."
"I'll be right there." She could only shrug wistfully at Han and tug her fingers free from his grasp. "I'll be at least an hour."
"I'll be waiting."
After navigating his way through the maze of corridors and lifts toward the upper decks, Han let himself into her quarters. If they were any indication of her evolving status, she was doing very well. They were finer than any she'd had before, even back on the Alliance's flagship. Like most Mon Cal ships, the ceilings were slightly domed and pristine white. The walls were inlayed with veins of an aqueous fluid that resembled seawater. The room had separate sleeping and lounging areas, divided by a partition that was actually a type of freestanding aquatic sculpture. Built into the curve of the viewport, the low bed was designed so that one could lie down and gaze at the stars while drifting off to sleep.
Han draped his jacket over the couch in the lounging area, took off his belt and blaster and set them by the bed. The view was magnificent. Below him was the forest moon of Endor, a greenish-blue orb covered with swirling clouds and oceans. Off in the distance was the Linear Miasma nebula, a long interstellar cloud of crimson ionized gases, a galactic composition, more breathtaking than any work of art created by sentient beings on any habited planet. In every other direction stars and starships twinkled against deep space. With a nostalgic smile, Han remembered that there was nothing as beautiful as a woman's body against the stars.
Then he lay down and thought to himself, nice bed, nice and soft…
"Han?" Her voice was soft, smoky, her hands already working on his belt.
She was sweeter and warmer in the flesh than in his imagination, and that imagination had been in serious overdrive these past few weeks. Han rolled her over and slid into her. She didn't say a word, just opened beneath him, eager and out of breath, her thigh muscles taut and shaking. He felt like a teenager, hurling himself over the edge. Leia clung to his body with surprising strength and dug her nails into his hips so hard the pain snapped at him. She begged him to go faster, and he couldn't stop himself. It was satisfying and dissatisfying, too short, too intense. They lay together panting, not speaking, not letting go, until Leia finally made a muffled sound indicating she couldn't quite breathe.
He dug his elbows into the mattress so as not to crush her. The senatorial dress was shoved obscenely high above her waist. She reached up and stroked his cheek, thoughts and emotions flickering nakedly across her face. Their ability to communicate these past two months had been limited. It had been three weeks since he'd last heard from her, a classified comm sparse on details of the upcoming summit, sparser still on how she was holding up, though the last few words had been poignant enough; I love you. Don't take too many risks. Now, aside from a sense of deep contentment, of joy at being with her, he felt freshly awkward. "So how've you been?" Hell, he sounded awkward.
Her left knee was drawn back so far he could turn his head and kiss the nape. "These are fantastic quarters."
"I knew you'd like the bed."
"I have plans for this bed." Suddenly he had a need to see all of her, touch all of her, hoped the sense of awkwardness could be stripped away with their clothing, just like that. And the Calamarians kept the Home One's temperature and humidity levels to their liking so despite the fact that Leia's quarters had private climate control settings, his back was soaked with sweat. Han rolled her over, and after a few minutes of squirming and garment-tossing, their clothes were hanging off the bed and Leia was investigating his partially healed battle-wounds while he ran his hands over every inch of her bare flesh.
She grazed a fading bruise just below his collarbone with her lips. "What happened here?"
"I wrestled with a native on Ralltir."
"Did you win?"
"I always win." He gathered one breast in his hand and ran his index finger over her nipple.
"That's what I like about you," she said sweetly. "You've always been so modest."
She smiled secretively. "There will be enough ego-stroking in the coming days if you're up to it."
"Congratulations on the summit. You must be thrilled."
"It's overwhelming," she confessed. "Putting this summit together has taken long hours of political networking and every ounce of patience I ever possessed and then some. Turnout will likely exceed our expectations and deplete the Alliance credit reserves."
"I didn't realise we were so close to broke." The Battle of Endor had wiped out nearly a fifth of the Alliance's fleet. It was still in the process of recovering and the recent skirmish with the Nagai hadn't helped matters any. "The fleet is looking better than when I left."
"Borrowed credits, donations and the miracle of Mon Calamari shipyards." Leia eyed him conspiratorially. Her chin was raw from scruff-burn, they'd been kissing so hard. "This didn't come from me, but I wouldn't rush to see if your Generals' stipend has been put into your account."
"Since when are you in charge of budgets?"
"You name it. Budgets. State-dinners. Backroom deals." She un-kinked her legs and climbed off the bed, flicking her thick braid over her shoulder. "Even schmoozing when the occasion calls for it."
"You're a woman of many talents." He lolled back, admiring her while she rustled through the kitchen alcove just off the lounge. He'd remembered the overall image but not the details, like the freckles on the back of her neck, or the crease of her abdomen, the bottom curves of her breasts, soft and relaxed against her ribcage, the sheen on the inside of her thighs that was his seed. He realised the warm glow across her shoulders was a fading tan. "The schmoozing must have been hard for you," he teased. "Where was it?"
"The Lytton Sector."
"You went to Spira without me."
"It was scheduled to coincide with your furlough."
She looked apologetic and beautiful, clad in nothing but the plaited mane of hair, decanting a modest amount of amber wine into a glass. Han's heart ached a little.
"You were supposed to be there with me but you were redeployed to Ralltir. It was beautiful but-"
"Don't tell me." Han covered his ears like a child. "Who was the bigwig?"
Leia returned with a Gizer for him and glass of wine for herself. "Finis Taria." She extended her goblet and clinked it against his ale. "And I was going to say it wasn't the same without you."
"I've never heard of him."
"That's because he goes by his mother's name. His father was Chancellor Valorum."
"The last Chancellor before Palpatine." Han took a long draught of the pale blue ale. "There's a family with some money behind it."
"The summit needs to be official. Official takes money."
"And brings it in. Ah." That exclaimed the recent rush to organize a formal government. "How many of the worlds coming have cold, hard cash on hand."
"You'd be amazed." Leia tipped her chin toward the growing number of starcruisers outside her window. "You haven't noticed?"
"Nothing amazes me any more."
"Really?" Leia arched an eyebrow, sipping from the clear glass.
"All right, except you." He dragged her naked and grinning into his lap. "How long until you turn back into a diplomat?"
"Fifteen hundred hours, fleet time."
"I'm going to keep you in this bed recalibrating for every minute until then."
"Recalibrating?" Leia burrowed deeper into his lap, and her chilled glass burned cold against his shoulder. "Is that a promise?"
They didn't get much sleep after that. When he tried to close his eyes, Leia was suddenly shaking him awake. She was pale and insisted that he bring her down to the Endor immediately.
(We have to go now. Please.)
It's morning, he told a groggy Chewbacca when they crept onboard the Falcon. It was none of his co-pilot's business that he would ferry his lover to the surface on a moment's notice. They arrived before dawn and watched the sun rising through the treetops from the Millennium Falcon's onramp. As if on cue, Luke arrived to meet them just as the sky changed from a dingy washed-out grey to a buttery gold.
Leia stretched her gaze over to Luke anxiously. She was holding her steaming mug of caf concentrate between her cupped hands as though it were a precious gemstone. "It happened again."
Han had the distinct impression that he'd tumbled completely out of the loop while he was away. "What happened?" he asked.
For a moment, the twins both regarded him as though they'd been interrupted. Finally, Luke said, "A movement in the Force."
"Related to the summit?"
"No." Luke shook his head. "This is leftover from the battle."
"Six months ago?"
Luke nodded. "The fleet is in orbit above Endor. Periodically it's passing through the area where the Death Star was destroyed."
"I thought debris from the explosion was in orbit too?" He hadn't seen any on the flight down.
"Not in the past."
"Could you be less cryptic?"
"The coordinates of the explosion, where the Death Star was adjacent to Endor, that's a fixed location," Luke explained. "In the past, anyways."
"I need more caf for this."
Leia set her concentrate down, stood and lightly touched his shoulder. "Black?"
"Do you know how to work the distiller?"
"I've seen you do it. You two catch up."
Han rubbed his eyes and yawned. "Don't mind me. It's bedtime according to my schedule."
"I hear you're two for two as a strike team leader."
Han managed a weary grin. The last part of his mission, on Ralltir, had been a piece of ryshcate compared to the Endor mission. A New Republic strike team had disabled the planet's defensive ion cannon and power generators, allowing a task force of three Mon Calamari Star Cruisers to enter the system unhindered and secure it. The generator station had only been manned by two dozen Imperials, most of whom had surrendered like naughty frightened children when they realised they were under siege. "Disabling the Empire's old defensive systems and shield generators is my new career. Now, if you want to tell my why she was so spooked-"
A breeze rustled through the tree canopy. "The entire area is tainted with the Dark side. I can feel it, but …" Luke cleared his throat. "She's seems to be more sensitive to it than I am."
"Oh." Han scratched the back of his head. "Why is that?"
"I don't know."
"But you sense it too?"
"That doesn't add up. You're the Jedi."
Luke scuffed his boot-heel through a pile of dingy grey-coloured scrubworts. "I know."
Damn it, Han thought. Trying to get either of them to talk was like prying wryli nuts from their casings. "Should I be worried about this? I mean, I'm the one trying to have a relationship with her."
Luke rolled his eyes. "Just trying?"
More than trying, Han amended silently. Usually at this point, he and Leia were still on the nearest horizontal surface. Instead, he was admiring a sunrise and dealing with Force-related business. Not that he had anything against sunrises, but once you'd seen one on the lush resort world of Maramere, you'd seen them all. "Anyway, you're the Force expert, not me."
"You know how some people are afraid of spiders or traveling at lightspeed?"
"She's developed a phobia of the Force?"
"Something like it." Luke scratched at his chin. "She's panicking every time she feels a tremor in the Force, and the fact that this particular tremor was in all likelihood created by the Emperor's death…" Luke dropped his hand unconsciously to the lightsaber at his hip, as if reassuring himself that he was armed. "It could just be an overreaction after what happened on Bonadan. She's more attuned to the Force now than before the trip with you."
Two months previous, Leia had accompanied Han to the Corporate Sector world of Bonadan. While visiting the old Alderaanian Embassy there, she'd had a terrifyingly vivid vision of the Falcon being incinerated by a sweeper storm in the desert plains. Subsequently, the Tionese Ambassador, who'd been after Leia all along to avenge his brother's death, had captured them both. They'd been separated, but with the help of two Shistavanen warriors Han had managed to find her and rescue her.
The Millennium Falcon had been offworld at the time, and Han had had to retrieve it. Only when he neared the planet had Leia contacted him and told him of her vision. He'd heeded her warning and not brought his ship down near the surface. With the help of the Alderaanian Embassy, she'd gotten herself and an entire refugee family of Shistavanen wolfmen off Bonadan to a safer rendezvous point. Only later had he discovered that the sweeper storms were planetary weapons, capable of tearing any ship out of the skies, and that his ship had been marked for destruction by the planetary government.
Her warning had saved his life.
"Well, I can see how that would shake her up," Han said soberly. And if Leia had been actively seeking contact to the Force to save his life, it made sense that she had returned to Endor with her senses wide open.
Luke peeked toward the Falcon's entrance. "It may also be that my father's presence is strong here."
"That would drive her away from Endor," Han pointed out bluntly, "not lure her to it."
Hypothetically, my ass. Han wondered if Luke had any idea that his sister woke up screaming silently in her sleep. At the time on Bonadan, he'd thought Leia was overreacting too. Now he knew better but Luke didn't seem to be taking it very seriously. "What has she been flying," he wondered.
"They gave her a personal shuttle," Luke answered. "She has her own pilot-slash-bodyguard on call at all times."
"Huh." That news came with an unexpected jolt of irrational jealousy. Of course, she needed her own shuttle and pilot, especially now that they were working on different lines. And with the summit taking place, it only made sense that they would assign her some sort of security.
"But you know Leia," the Jedi was saying. "She never comms him and always insists on flying it herself and he's put in a written complaint requesting an assignment transfer."
That part was funny. Han was laughing when the onramp vibrated beneath footsteps. "Nobody can make caf that fast," Han groaned. "What did you do?"
"It's not my fault," she began. "The distiller is blinking and it won't stop."
Together, they walked nearly a kilometre from the Bright Tree Village base, away from the clearing that housed the Millennium Falcon and nearly three dozen other Alliance vessels and the bunkers that had been assembled over the past few months. All around them were blumbush and rokna trees, fuzzynettle and free-palms, and many more species with wide deciduous leaves that arched toward the skies like the Great Tree revered in Ewok legends. Every so often, they would pass a section of tall grasses that spread apart and lay down as though a mysterious entity had made its bed.
"This must be the Yarlubb," Leia guessed when they came to a river. They'd been on a neatly trodden path of trampled grasses and fronds, less than a metre wide that looked as though it could have been made by humanoids but had probably been made by something with more than two legs. "That means we're south of the village."
They took their boots off, rolled up their pant-legs and waded in amidst the watermoss where it was shallow. They wandered down around a bend in the river until they came across a pocket of kata-wata ferns. The shrub-like fern served as a hiding place for many of the moon's smaller forms of life, and today, a hiding place for not so small forms of life, for lovers in search of privacy. Han located an open area along the bank and lumbered out of the water. Leia leaned over and dragged her fingers slowly over the water's surface. The water was so close to the air temperature that it felt more like a caress than liquid. She took long deep breaths until the spicy scent of the perosa trees pricked her sinuses. She liked the squish of sediments and mosses beneath her bare feet, of completely being in contact with living things. She liked the idea of being completely alone, just the two of them. Their relationship was like a fragile clump of cells, a new life, dividing and growing in the womb that was their time alone. It had been six months since the Battle of Endor, and since then they'd spent less than ten shifts together, including the trip to the Corporate Sector. When Han was away, his absence wore at her like chronic physical pain. This past stretch had been the longest.
She watched Han withdraw a blanket and the bottle of berry wine from his knapsack. "You think of everything."
"I'm working on it." Han leaned back on one elbow, grinning crookedly. He patted the ground beside him impatiently, looking distinctly Corellian with his closely shorn hair. It had grown back since the close shave in the Corporate sector, but the look still made him appear more dangerous than scruffy.
She sloshed her way out of the water and saw that he had laid the blanket down inside the hanging ferns so that they could draw them closed. She'd missed the feel of his hands beneath her clothes, of his hands on her bare skin, missed making love. They had so much lost time to make up and so little opportunity. She stepped back into her boots and went to him, legs weak. "You have no idea how much-" she began.
"I do," he finished, extending his hand. "You don't need to say it."
She lowered herself into his lap and kissed his not-so-recently-shaven face warmly. He began rubbing her calf where her pant-leg was bunched up above her boot, her feet shoved in haphazardly after wading in the river. "About this morning…"
"I get it." Han began un-knotting her hair so that he could run his fingers through it. "Luke brought me up-to-date. Don't worry. It takes more than that to rattle me."
"I didn't mean to interrupt our time together."
Han shrugged cheerfully. "We're alone now, right?"
They switched positions. She lay down on the blanket, Han lay lengthwise against her, and they fit so well together she didn't care about anything else. For the first time in a long time, she felt relaxed, unhurried, and well… drowsy. Han rubbed at her neck and she felt herself dissolving into the ground. She was on the verge of drifting off to sleep when she heard a rustling behind her. Han's hand stiffened on the back of her neck, and then she heard a distinct click by her leg. Leia twisted around, started, and saw a man with his knife drawn. Han had his blaster half-drawn from his holster and it wasn't set for stun. With a jerk, she launched herself from Han's arms.
"Don't! He's with the delegation. Please put the knife away."
The stranger slipped the knife back into its pouch. The Nagai, as a people, were frightening to most mainstream humans. Coal-black hair grew straight up from the roots. They were pale and angular, with long pointed ears. This one proudly wore Tehk'la Blades, small serrated knives, like jewellery. A spider web of silvery scars formed a disfiguring web around his right eye. "I was out for a walk. I heard sounds. I thought someone was in danger."
"There's no danger." Leia prayed the Nagai wouldn't recognize a human blush. "Your… um… delegation must have arrived early."
"We arrived this morning."
"I hope the facilities provided for you are satisfactory."
"Primitive, but acceptable, yes."
"If you're here with the delegation you're a ways from the village," Han said coldly.
"I'm making a perimeter check."
"Our own security is on full alert," Leia interjected.
"I prefer to make such evaluations for my own." The Nagai stepped toward the wall of kata-wata ferns. He took one more step and vanished.
"If he can find his way through that," Leia mumbled, "he must have an impeccable sense of direction."
Han looked completely dumbfounded. "We're just letting him go? The delegation? The Knives have a delegation?"
"Nagai," Leia corrected firmly. "A lot has happened since you were last here."
"They tried to restart the Wookiee slave trade on Kashyyyk," he said bluntly. "They kidnapped Wookiees from a village near to where Chewbacca was raised. Distant relatives of his are still missing."
"Don't forget about what they did on Iskalon and Zeltros and their plans for Endor. That attack was only three months ago!"
"They've been invited here to officially be part of the New Republic?"
"Han, it's not the same as when you left."
"Chewbacca understands." Leia looked imploringly at him and brushed strands of grass from the seat of her pants. She checked to make sure her clothing wasn't in a complete state of disarray and thanked the stars that they hadn't been doing anything more. For the time being, any private interludes into the Endor forest would have to be postponed until after the summit. "The delegation from Kashyyyk sat in on all discussions and granted its approval. We wouldn't have invited them otherwise."
"They can't be trusted."
"They're being watched very closely."
"Some security." Han pointed towards the kata-wata ferns and shook his head.
"Luke's in charge of security," Leia said.
"This is how the new government is going to do it, huh? We'll invite our enemies in through the front door so they can kill as many of us as possible while we're handing out hors-oeuvres." Han tightened his jaw. "No thanks. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'd rather have dinner with a Sarlaac."
Leia set her hand on his arm and felt tense, bunched up muscles twitching beneath her palm. "Han, this time they came for our help."
"Maybe I'm not buying it."
"They've suffered – we've all suffered. They were driven off their homeworld three hundred years ago and have been fighting to survive ever since. That they're willing to change now, to join us and set aside their love of battle in the hopes of a real future, with peace…" Leia shook her head resolutely. "If we're going to be a successful government, we need to remember how it was before the war, that everything doesn't need be a battle; that war often only leads to more war."
"Spoken like a true diplomat."
"I am a diplomat."
"I think you should be a little less diplomatic considering what they've done this past year."
Leia sighed and averted her face. He didn't understand. And he wouldn't. She said quietly, "If you fire at them you will only make them stronger."
"Wait?" Han rolled his eyes. "Oh, come on," he bellowed elaborately. "You've permitted the Nagai to come based on your vision on Bonadan?"
Leia crouched and adjusted the cuffs of her pant-legs so that they fell straight over her boots. "You don't know how long I've been searching myself, trying to understand what it means."
"Lucky for them."
"Han, you weren't with me in the Trenwyth system," she replied sharply. "They're human. They have good within them. They deserve a chance."
"Right." Han stared above his head and gritted his teeth. "Well so much for our afternoon alone."
"I'm sorry too," Leia sighed. She picked up the berry wine, worked the cap off and had an idea. It wasn't a new idea. She'd thought of it earlier but managed to bite her tongue until now. She tried to keep her voice sounding casual. "Knowing that you'd save me from attackers in the Endor woods is romantic. Admiral Ackbar is insisting I keep a member of security around me at all times…" She shrugged. "Since my current security member wants to resign, the position is open."
The corner of his mouth lifted. "Are you asking me to be your bodyguard?"
"There are many more exciting things you could be doing but I thought you'd want an assignment that meant you could stay close to me."
"Don't pretend to be so pragmatic." The lines around Han's mouth were softening. "This is a very clever way of getting me dress up and go to all of these events with you."
"Maybe I'm pretending to be pragmatic." Leia smiled to herself - she did love the way he looked when he was all dressed up. "Just a little. But if it's not you, it's going to be whoever Ackbar appoints."
"Hey, that's not fair."
"I know." Leia sniffed the bottle and smelled vinegar. It didn't surprise her and it did. It seemed as if the Battle of Endor had been only days ago and Han had just been trying to get her to relax on a pile of cushions in the storage compartment on the Falcon. "Han?"
"I don't think this has aged very well."
"That figures." He closed his hand around the bottle and pried it from her hands.
"We can go back to the Falcon," she suggested.
"I'm not in the mood any more. Besides," he went on, restless, repacking the slender bottle of wine they would never drink. "I think we'd better find your brother and discuss his definition of security."
The Alliance outpost on Endor was bustling with activity. Dozens of ground crews were unloading amenities from supply ships and reloading them on repulsor sleds so that they could be delivered to the adjoining Bright Tree Village. The village, most recently the home of the Ewoks (who had temporarily relocated to their southern hunting grounds), had been expanded and more than tripled in size. Now, it consisted of three levels of hubs, enclaves with thatched-roof cottages built around common areas. They were ideal for offering the delegations privacy. Functional, multi-species friendly refresher stations had been built, and cooking stations fully installed. Each hub was connected to one or more other hubs by suspended bridges and knotted rope ladders that joined the three levels. At the center of the lowest level was the newest addition to the village, a spacious platform made from freshly lumbered native hardwood, reinforced with stilts driven deep into the forest floor. It was there that the first Senate session of the New Republic was being held.
All three of them sat around Luke's desk inside his decidedly makeshift office. Threepio stood off to the side, sorting a pile of data-discs and clearance tags.
"I met with Shin-Kai this morning and granted him permission to survey the vicinity," Luke said matter-of-factly. "He's the head of their security team."
Leia folded her hands together so tightly her knuckles went white. Some key Alliance members had wanted to hold the summit on the Home One itself, but Leia and Mon Mothma both thought it was important that Endor serve as the staging ground. Now she wasn't sure that that had been a good idea. The rustic and primitive locale meant security would be difficult to enforce. "It may unnerve the other summit members to know the Nagai are wandering about the Endor forest unsupervised. It will undoubtedly unnerve High Command if they become aware of it. The Nagai may be here by invitation but this is a military base. There have to be boundaries."
"Boundaries will only lead to an air of distrust, and many of them already don't trust us. I'm doing my best to assuage their concerns before the proceedings begin." Luke spread his hands. "Besides, they weren't anywhere near the command center, just scoping out the area around the village."
She leaned forward, wondering if she was just as paranoid as Han. Deep in her heart, she believed the Nagai wanted change. But if she ignored her innermost feelings and went by precedent, they might be facing another war on Endor. One that could destroy the New Republic during its first days, while it was as unsteady on its feet as a newborn bantha cub. "What else have you sensed?"
"They're nervous. For all they know they were lured here by invitation so the Alliance of Free Planets could take revenge upon them."
"I'm nervous," Han grunted. "I think we should round them up and escort them off-planet before they slit our throats while we're sleeping."
"Han, honestly," Leia seethed under her breath. "Sometimes you have about as much depth as a Gamorrean."
"Others call it common sense." He went to stand and banged his knee on the lip of the low desk. "Ow!"
"Perhaps the lucksprites are displeased with you," Threepio said matter-of-factly.
"Lucksprites?" Han grimaced. "Is he out of his circuits?"
"No, I am not out of my circuits," Threepio replied indignantly. "According to the Ewoks, lucksprites mete out bad and good luck to the moon's inhabitants. Perhaps you have done something to displease them."
"I wonder what that could be," Luke quipped lightly.
"Funny," Leia said. "Very funny. Both of you." She hated to care about time and schedules but she did, all the same. She needed to be back on board the Home One by midday. They were providing all the delegates with a full cycle of rest and relaxation so that they could acclimate to Endorian time. There were tours of the massive ship, and tours of the fleet planned, and if she could convince Han, a number had expressed an interest in seeing the Millennium Falcon up close. "Look, why don't we just go up to the Home One? I do have a lot of work to do before the opening dinner tonight."
"I can't." He managed a tight-lipped grin that had little to do with smacking his kneecap. "I need to work on the power adaptors."
"I guess I'll see you tonight." Leia managed to contain her disappointment, at least in her expression as he headed for the door.
"The Nagai being here – it's really bothering him," Luke said, eyeing her sympathetically.
Feeling emotionally winded, she set her chin in her hand and stared across the command center at his shrinking form. So far, their reunion hasn't gone exactly as planned. "Yes."
"Shouldn't you go after him?"
"That won't help." Han was upset, but he needed to come around on his own terms.
Luke opened his mouth as if to say something, then reconsidered and closed it.
"He hates surprises," he blurted out.
She set her palms flat on the desk and pushed slowly upward. "He's Corellian," she said, as if that explained it all.
"No." Luke cleared his throat. "I mean, he hates them from you."
To be continued…