AN: SORRY for taking so long to update this story! Thanks to those who reviewed while I was gone.
Luke found it hard to keep up with the archaeologist and the Wookiee as they ran down into the canyon. As the ground steepened, he found his feet beginning to slide over the sand, which was in turn poking its way into his shoes. He was beginning to think that maybe he should ask Leia if she'd lend him some of her sturdy-looking boots.
When they finally reached the bottom, Chewie gestured eagerly towards a group of other xenoarchaeologists kneeling in a circle, apparently studying something.
"All right Chewie, what is it?" asked Leia.
The Wookiee roared excitedly, pointing at the center of the circle, where there lay what looked like a dirty piece of black cloth on an equally-dirty filter of some sort.
"Oh wow," Leia said in awe, sounding as if they had found a precious gem instead of a piece of fabric.
Luke raised an eyebrow at the discovery. "What is it?"
"We don't know," said one of the archaeologists. She had shoulder-length dark hair and her hat pulled down so far that it was almost covering her eyes. "But the color and texture seem to match the cape that Darth Vader wore."
"What??" Luke exclaimed, immediately leaning further forward, examining the bit of cloth, as if through the dirt there could be seen a great secret. He suddenly longed to touch it, to see what Darth Vader felt like, but it seemed that it would be out of place if he asked to touch it.
"Well this certainly looks promising," said Leia. "Let's keep digging here, everyone."
"Can I help?" Luke found himself asking without thinking it through first.
Leia smiled again at him. "Sure, why not?"
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
By the time the suns began setting, Luke regretted asking to help dig. Even though he was used to the heat of two suns, digging in it for hours at a time made him feel dizzy. It seemed like he had to stop working every few seconds to wipe sweat off his forehead.
The hours in the heat might have been more bearable if they had actually found anything, but nothing had turned up since that piece of cloth. All Luke discovered was sand, sand, sand, and the occasional rock. He was beginning to think that he would go insane if he had to dig through the sand for a minute longer. Why did xenoarchaeology turn out to be so boring? He was beginning to think that he'd prefer to be back in Biggs's restaurant slicing vegetables.
"Luke, would you like to go home now?" Leia's voice offered.
Those words sounded like the sweetest music to him, but somehow he was embarrassed to reveal that. "Only if you're finished here."
"We're never finished," said Leia, "but we can take breaks." She smiled at him. "Would you maybe like to take a break? I know someplace we can go for some refreshment before we go back to your house."
Luke found himself smiling back despite the discomfort from the heat. "I think I'd like that."
- - - - - - - - - - -
"A cantina??" Luke exclaimed when Leia led him into the building.
Leia shrugged. "You don't have to drink if you don't want to. Personally, I just want to visit the bartender."
Leia gave a mischievous grin. "He's amusing. You'll see what I mean."
Luke said nothing, his nostrils feeling clogged up from the smell of smoke and alcohol. The band in the corner was playing an upbeat brass tune that was blaring into his ears. Several different species glared at him from their tables, all looking like they were itching to hurt him. He gulped, wondering what Owen and Beru would say if they found out their nephew was going to a place like this.
It was a bit exciting, the idea that he was doing something forbidden, even if it was something as minor as walking into a cantina with someone else. He wasn't doing it alone, he probably wasn't even going to drink, but just being there filled him with a strange kind of thrill. Something outside the limits his aunt and uncle set, something that said he did not only live under them, that he was more than just their nephew.
"Hey you, we're closin' in five minutes!"
Luke's head jerked upward, his eyes darting towards the counter, where a bartender with shaggy brown hair was waving an angry finger at them.
Leia grinned. "See? Amusing." She raised her voice so the bartender could hear her. "Hey, you won't turn down a visiting xenoarchaeologist, will you?"
The bartender sighed upon seeing Leia. "You again? Are ya actually gonna order something this time?"
"Maybe," said Leia, shuffling up to the bar counter and motioning for Luke to follow her. "So how's your job going?"
"Is it any of your damn business?" the bartender snarled before noticing Luke. "Who's the kid?"
"Kid??" Luke exclaimed. "For your information, I'm the same age as her!"
"This is Luke," Leia said quickly, putting her hand on his shoulder. "He's the nephew of the people I'm staying with." She extended her other arm to the bartender. "Luke, this is Han Solo."
Luke hesitantly stuck his hand out and Han shook it. "Nice to meet you . . . Han."
"You too," Han said, his tone of voice indicating that he felt the opposite. He turned back to face Leia. "So what are you guys doin' here anyway?"
"You haven't heard of me, have you?" Leia said quizzically.
Han picked up a glass and absentmindedly began toweling it off. "Is there any reason why I should've?"
"She's Leia Organa!" Luke exclaimed. "The youngest xenoarchaeologist in the known galaxy! The one who's recovered several lost records of the Jedi and the way the old Republic was run!"
Han abruptly stopped toweling. "Leia Organa?" He raised a brow at Leia. "Hold on a sec, you're Leia Organa?"
"Yes," said Leia.
A grin slowly crept across Han's face. "Well then . . . how about I buy you guys a drink?"