Author's Notes: During a recent viewing of the Star Wars original trilogy, I found myself intrigued by the friendship between Luke and Han. I personally feel that it is one of the most fascinating and underappreciated relationships in the series. And then this scene popped into my head, and it refused to be ignored. So I wrote it.
I did some research on the Star Wars "canon" as far as dates go, but most of what I know about Star Wars comes from a love of Episodes IV-VI. So this story is compliant with the movies, but if there's something different than the expanded universe stuff, just consider it AU.
Oh, and of course, I don't own Star Wars, and I promise I'm not making any money off of this.
Hope you enjoy!
The sounds of the party drifted lazily into the room, snippets of music and laughter and clinking glasses floating through the open door with a volume that ebbed and flowed but never passed the threshold where it became anything other than background noise. A lone figure sat in the middle of the dark room, hearing the noise but trying not to concentrate on it too much, as it only reminded him that he should be among all the revelers right now. Indeed, a party celebrating the tenth anniversary of the founding of the New Republic was just the place where Luke Skywalker, hero of the Battle of Yavin and Jedi Master, should be.
But he rather preferred sitting in this room in the upstairs of the main Republic headquarters right now.
It wasn't that he didn't think the New Republic was a good thing; he had nearly given his life for the cause so many times that he'd lost count. But it was ten years since the day when he had thought they'd won the war at last, and the Imperial Remnant was still holding out and they were still fighting to hold on to their fledgling republic. Ten years since he had thought the Empire was taking its last gasp; ten years of realizing how utterly naïve he'd been, a little more innocence falling away each year.
He'd thought that war and loss and his Jedi training had made him wise, mature. And he certainly had changed immeasurably since his days on the moisture farm. But he had still been so very idealistic, and yes, naïve. He should have realized that the Empire, the Dark Side, would not be vanquished so easily.
Easily. He smiles when he thinks that, a smile devoid of amusement, because the Luke who faced Vader in Cloud City would've never imagined that he would one day consider that time of war to be "easy". But there it was. He'd never expected building a republic to take this long or be this difficult.
Sometimes, he missed those days of war, the days when they were all so idealistic—even Han, relatively—and so young, so eager. Their course was simpler, then: destroy the Galactic Empire and bring freedom to the galaxy. A tall order, but they never allowed themselves to doubt that they would succeed. And as for the details? Those would be worked out later.
He had never realized that in many ways, diplomacy was supremely more complicated than war. In a way, this long, drawn-out process of prying the Empire's dying fingers from each system was more mentally taxing than the old war had been. The sense of urgency was gone, or at least drastically lessened; it's a lot harder to gear up for a life-threatening mission after you've had months of peace, and even harder when each mission reminds you that you're actually still fighting a war you thought you'd won years ago.
He had been so sure of his place back then, more accepted than he'd ever felt before. He'd belonged to the cause, to the other rebels, to Leia and Han and even Chewbacca and Artoo and Threepio. The Empire had just stolen his family and his mentor, and Leia had just lost her entire home planet; Han hadn't had anyone but Chewie in a long time. They were thrown together, lives entangling due to a series of events none of them could have foreseen, and somewhere along the line (he never could pinpoint exactly where), they ended up forming a strange little family. They cared for each other fiercely, not wanting to lose yet another family, clinging to each other amidst the chaos. When they were fighting together, even as others fell around them, he sometimes felt almost invincible, as if there were nothing they couldn't do.
They were still a sort of family, of course—in fact, now they were family in the conventional sense, brother and sister and brother-in-law. But it was no longer them and their comrades against the world, fighting with their backs against the wall and their heads held high. He never felt invincible anymore; they had seen too many failures by now.
So sometimes, like today, he missed those days of his youth. But another part of his mind chastised him for such thoughts, reminded him that he shouldn't feel this way, that it was wrong. No one should ever miss war. It was terrible and horrible and far too many innocent people died. What kind of Jedi was he if a part of him wished for outright war instead of this constant, never-ending limbo between war and peace?
And so he felt guilty for his thoughts, as if they made him somehow unworthy of his status as a hero of the New Republic. The guilt grew a little bit stronger each year, inversely proportional to his diminishing innocence.
And that's why he was sitting by himself in a dark room instead of at the party downstairs.
Footsteps at the door broke his reverie. He knew it was Han, most likely looking for him, but he waited for his friend to speak first. The footsteps hesitated, then slowly entered the room.
"Luke? Is that you?" Han's voice sounded too loud after so much quiet. How long had he been sitting here?
"Yeah, Han." Han had turned to face him by now, but Luke continued staring at nothing.
"What are you doin' up here? I've been lookin' all over for you!"
"Just…didn't feel like going to the party yet."
Han stepped closer, until he was close enough that his face was visible in Luke's peripheral vision, illuminated by the light streaming in from the hallway. The years had been kind to Han Solo, considering all the abuse he had given his body over his lifetime. But his hair was tinged with gray, and he didn't move quite as fast as he used to: constant reminders that it had already been fourteen years since Luke and Han had met. And ten years—ten long years—since the founding of the New Republic.
"They're all waitin' for you, y'know. Everyone wants a speech by the great Luke Skywalker."
Luke didn't reply.
"Hey, kid, what's wrong?" Han asked, his voice softer, concerned.
"I'm not a kid anymore." It was simply a statement; there was no trace of irritation in Luke's voice.
"I know you're not."
A short silence fell between them, but it wasn't uncomfortable. Luke knew that Han was waiting for him to share what had prompted him to dodge the party. "Tell me, Han…do you ever miss those days?"
"Which days, Luke? What are you talking about?"
"The old days. The early days of the war. The days of the battles of Yavin, and Hoth, and Endor." Luke's voice was even, carefully controlled, but Han could tell that there was a certain answer he was hoping to hear.
Luke shrugged. "Sometimes. Life seemed a lot simpler then, as strange as that sounds. We knew who we were fighting." He paused. "I know I shouldn't, though."
"Miss it. Who would miss war? Terrible things happened, Han."
Han took a deep breath and considered his reply. "It wasn't all bad, though. There ain't anything strange about missin' your glory days. I know I miss the days when I could wake up in the morning without feeling a new ache somewhere." He flashed his trademark grin.
Luke smiled at his friend's attempt at humor, but refused to be deterred. "But do you ever miss them? The—the 'glory days'?"
"Yeah, sometimes. Sure seemed like we were on top of the world for awhile there, didn't it?"
"Yes, it did." Luke looked Han in the eyes for the first time, relieved that he seemed to understand. "I didn't know—I never imagined that building a republic would be so hard. I never really thought about that part before it came."
"Well, I sure as hell didn't think about it, either. I wasn't even gonna sign on to your crazy little rebellion at first, remember?"
Luke chuckled at the memory. "I was so mad at you for leaving." He paused. "Seems like a different life, almost."
"Yeah, it does."
"It's been ten years, Han. Ten years, and we're still fighting the Empire, just in a slightly different form."
"They're certainly stubborn." Han contemplated his friend's tired face. "We'll get there, Luke. We will."
Luke sighed. "I know. Most days, I know. But when I realize how long it's already been since the New Republic began, since what was supposed to be the beginning of the end for the Empire…"
"It seems like there's no end in sight," Han finished.
"Well, there'll be an end, either way. Either it'll end, or we'll die," Han said, sarcastic and yet somehow cheerful at the same time. "But anyway," he continued, "there's nothing wrong with thinkin' fondly on our days of gallivanting across the galaxy and freeing everyone and all that idealistic mumbo-jumbo you and Leia went on about."
Luke grinned now, the life coming back into his eyes for the first time.
"You bought into that mumbo-jumbo too, at least by Endor…you just wouldn't admit it."
"You think that if it makes you feel better." Deciding to try his luck at returning to his original objective, Han added, "But anyway, right now, there's a party with a lot of people waitin' for you, and I think you should make an appearance."
"I know. I'll come down," Luke sighed, standing up. "Thanks, Han."
"No problem. Someone's gotta be the voice of reason around here," he smirked, heading for the door. Luke shook his head and smiled as he followed.
They still had a long way to go, but they would get there. He had to believe that they would eventually get there, even if it took the rest of his life. And if Han, cynical pirate-turned-rebel could keep believing, then so could he.
"Hey, look who I found!" Han called above the music as they entered the brightly-lit room at the center of the party. There was a smattering of applause as the partygoers recognized Luke. From around the room, cheerful, happy, and slightly intoxicated faces beamed at him, and a few of the more enthused attendees yelled some little catchphrase about their wishes for the longevity and prosperity of the Republic.
And as Luke Skywalker, hero of the New Republic and Jedi Master, was prodded onto the stage to share a few words, he smiled at them in return. And he meant it.