by Valerie Vancollie

Note: This story was written as a challenge response to the May Challenge on the FanfiX mailing list. The challenge was to write a piece of fanfic with: "Smoke on the water; fire in the sky" somewhere in it. This story is also a zine story from "Another Sky."

Hero. That was what they thought him to be; a hero.

Shaking his head, Luke looked over the large still water lake before him. It was only three weeks ago that he had first joined the Alliance and all that they stood and fought for. Three weeks since he had first gone up in a real X-wing and fired the shot that had destroyed the Imperial Death Star. Three weeks since he had been awarded a medal and instantly become both an Alliance hero and been had added to the Imperial "MOST WANTED" list. In three weeks he had gone from being nothing but a simple farmboy to one of the most hunted men in the galaxy.

Sighing, Luke reached into the pocket of his Alliance issue clothing and pulled out the medal that the Princess had given him at the ceremony on Yavin IV just before they had moved to this new base on Klesma.

Running his finger over the medal, he smiled to himself. Everything had happened so fast that it was still all a little unreal to him. The way people treated him in the halls when they passed him, the way everyone wanted to shake hands with him and congratulate him, and the way the Alliance High Command wanted to make him a commander of a squad all made him uncomfortable. He wasn't used to being treated this way. He needed time to think and to relax on his own without everyone fussing over him the whole time.

Which was why he had come out here. From his perch on top of the hill the Alliance base had been made in, he could see for kilometers in every direction. What he liked to look at most, though, was the lake before him which started at the bottom of the hill and stretched outward for a while before ending at the edge of a forest that the Rebels had nicknamed 'The Musical Forest' as the trees made a soothing, almost musical, sound at twilight and dawn. Shading his eyes with one hand, Luke looked towards the west where the sun was starting to set behind a mountain range. Shivering slightly, he shook his head. He was still wasn't used to the long hours and the heat provided by having, not one, but two suns close by.

Looking back down at his medal, Luke bit his lower lip. A hero. The carved piece of precious metal in his hand was the materialistic representation of the title given him by his fellow Rebels. He had always heard stories of heroes and had dreamed that his father was one, but he had never thought that the title would one day be applied to him. Especially not so shortly after he left Tatooine. A hero. Oh how he had wished that his father could have been there at the ceremony and seen how a princess had hung the medal around his neck. Or that at least Ben or Biggs could have been there.

"Shooting stars, Biggs," Luke whispered softly as he thought of his now dead best friend. "Shooting stars."

Back on Tatooine they had always talked about joining the Alliance one day to fly together. At least they had been able to do that once, even if Biggs had never made it back. Feeling tears well up in his eyes, Luke closed them as he thought of all that he had lost in the past few weeks. First Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, then Ben, and lastly Biggs. It was funny how you didn't appreciate what you had until it was gone. All that he had ever wanted to do while on Tatooine was to go away, to go and live among the stars and have adventures. He'd never fully realized how much his aunt and uncle had meant to him until now that it was too late to tell them so.

Biting his lower lip again, Luke looked down at the lake once more. When he had first seen the lake he had resolved to go up to its shore and simply wade into its waters as soon as he had the time to do so. As it had turned out he'd done that that same night with Wedge. His new friend had laughed at the way he had been obsessed with the feel of the cool liquid on his skin and had told him that Biggs had had the same reaction when he had first been in the sea on Dlas.

Smiling at the thought, Luke wiped the tears from his face as he watched the millions of big gray and black bugs hovering over the still water of the lake. He had been warned by Wedge not to go down to the lake shore without spraying himself first with a certain type of bug spray as he'd be instantly covered by the little animals. Watching their irregular movement, he couldn't help but think of smoke. Shaking his head he looked up at the sky and waited for the sun to set. As he waited he was forced to remind himself, when his stomach growled, that it was long past dinner time on this planet.

That was another thing he had a hard time adjusting to. Time difference. Having spent all of his life on Tatooine he had a hard time adjusting to the time differences between planets and so he ended up eating at the weirdest times. Han and Chewie liked to tease him about it because it meant that he always ended up eating on the Falcon as the cafeteria only provided full meals at the local meal times.

Watching the sunset, Luke felt his breath catch in his throat. The sunlight painted the blue sky in brilliant colors of blood red, orange, and yellow all of which blended together as it neared the horizon and started to sink beneath it. Watching the spectacle, he found himself thinking of fire and how much it resembled what he was now seeing.

"Smoke on the water; fire in the sky," Luke said aloud as the sun sank deeper.

"What?" a voice behind him demanded causing Luke to jump and twist around. "Sorry," Leia said as she smiled at Luke and seated herself on the rock next to him. "I didn't mean to startle you."

"That's okay," Luke replied as he returned her smile before turning his attention back to the sunset. "I should have been paying more attention to my surroundings."

"What was it that you were saying?" Leia inquired as she watched the sunset as well.

"Smoke on the water; fire in the sky," Luke repeated, slightly embarrassed. "That's what it looks like with the bugs and the sunset."

"It does," Leia admitted with a smile, knowing that she would never have made those comparisons even though they perfectly described what she was seeing. "It's good to come outside to think and simply enjoy ourselves a little with our surroundings. All this fighting and rushing from one place to another, trying to stay one step ahead of the Empire can make us loose track of what we're actually fighting for."

"I guess," Luke replied, as he looked at Leia, enjoying her company. "But then, I wouldn't know."

"True," Leia agreed as she looked at him and saw the last of the light reflecting off of the medal in Luke's hand. "Just don't forget it as time goes on. There in always enough time to spend a moment or two reminding ourselves why we fight. Although, I must admit, that lately I've been finding that hard to do myself. There were all kinds of things going on in the Senate before it was disbanded, then there was the whole issue with the Death Star plans, and. . . and. . ."

"Alderaan," Luke finished for her as he reached out and placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

Feeling her lean against him and hearing her soft sobs, Luke wasn't sure what to do. He knew he should say something, but he couldn't come up with a single thing to say. He knew how little the normal 'I'm sorry' meant no matter how much the speaker meant it. Not knowing what else he could say that wouldn't sound stupid considering the fact that she had lost everything and everybody she had held dear, he simply embraced her even as a soft and soothing sound began to filter up to them from The Musical Forest.

"I'm sorry," Leia said a little while later as she sat up and wiped her tears away, wondering at why she had suddenly broken down like that, especially in front of a man she had only known for a short while. Despite that latter fact she felt strangely connected to the young man who sat next to her. She instinctively knew that she could trust him.

"That's okay," Luke stated. "I'd be lying if I said that I didn't just cry a little while ago myself."

"Kenobi?" Leia questioned softly.

"Yes," Luke replied. "For him, Biggs, and my aunt and uncle."

Even as he said the words, Luke couldn't help but wonder what Leia was going through. He had lost those four people who were dear to him, one of whom he had only known for a short amount of time, and already he felt an awful feeling of lose. He couldn't even begin to imagine what Leia was going through having lost her parents, friends, and her entire homeworld. All he was sure of was that she was one strong women to take that and still keep going. Destroying Alderaan had been a big mistake for the Imperials as he knew that now Leia would never rest until the Empire lay in ashes.

"So what were you doing up here?" Leia inquired. "Other than thinking of the past."

"Nothing much really," Luke replied as he looked down at the medal he still held.

"It's a lot for you isn't it," Leia stated softly, already knowing the answer, but realizing that Luke needed to talk about it even if he didn't bring up the subject himself.

"What?" Luke questioned as he looked up at her.

"The whole hero thing," Leia explained with a smile.

"Yeah," Luke admitted, glad that someone understood him. "Just over three weeks ago I was trying to farm moisture from the air on a desert planet, struggling to get by, and now I'm a hero. It hasn't fully sunken in yet, I guess. And now you want me to be a squad commander but I don't have any experience."

"You may not have experience," Leia began as she took his hand. "But you're a natural leader. I can see it and so did the rest of the Alliance High Command when you took charge of the situation during the Battle of Yavin after most of the other pilots had been killed. We wouldn't offer you this position if we didn't think you could handle it, Luke. Now I know this is a lot for you to take at once, but I have faith in you."

"Really?" Luke asked as he looked at her, comforted and slightly stunned at her words.

"Yes," Leia replied honestly, suddenly realizing how close to each other they were sitting, but not minding it, a fact which surprised her. It wasn't love or any other such emotion, it just felt right, natural, to be this close to Luke. Mystified, she put the feeling aside to examine when she had the time to do so.

"Thanks," Luke whispered as he looked at the medal once more. "That means a lot to me."

"No problem," Leia said as she saw him shiver. "Come on, let's head back inside before you catch a cold. You're still used to the heat of Tatooine."

"Okay," Luke agreed as he got to his feet and put the medal back into his pocket before following Leia back to the base.

May 14, 2000