"A Hoth Skating Lesson"
AN: Yeah yeah, I don't own any of the characters portrayed in this story. Well, ages ago I got challenged to write a winter fic about skating that took place on Hoth, so here's my answer to the challenge. Two years late, but hey, at least I did it.
Leia crept down the corridors of the newly-established Rebel Base on the isolated planet of Hoth, a surprise for a friend dangling from her arms. It was early morning, but she was pretty sure Luke was awake - if only because the cold prevented him from getting a good night's sleep. None of the Rebellion's members could adjust to Hoth's freezing temperatures and harsh climate easily, but the Tatooine-raised Luke, who had never even seen snow before they got here, seemed to be having the most difficult time. Unlike Han, who seized every opportunity to express his disdain for this place, Luke didn't talk about it, but Leia could tell that he hated it here and wanted nothing more than to get off of this frozen hell of a planet, as Han had dubbed it.
Leia couldn't say that she liked this planet either, but having grown up on Alderaan, where mountains were numerous and snow occurred every winter, she at least knew of the recreation that snow offered. As a child, winter had been one of her favorite times of year, a time to test her limits by braving the cold and engaging in potentially dangerous activities such as skiing and skating. Her childhood memories made her think that there was a way for Luke to get used to this planet that he would actually enjoy, which was why she had a surprise for him today.
Upon reaching Luke's chambers, Leia found him exactly where she was expecting - in his bed, completely concealed by the layers of heavy blankets, but the shaking of the covers indicated that they were doing little in accomplishing their purpose of keeping him warm. After observing the setting for a moment and determining that Luke was probably awake under there, Leia tiptoed over to the bed and gently placed her hand on the lump under the covers.
"Luke?" she said softly. "Are you awake?"
"Yeah," Luke mumbled, not emerging from his makeshift sanctuary.
"Are you okay?" asked Leia.
"I'm freezing, but I'm okay," Luke said in a simple, muffled voice.
"Think you can brave the cold enough to get out of there?" Leia teased, wondering how effective that would be for a second, but the rustling of the blankets told her to quickly hide Luke's gift behind her back before he showed his face.
When Luke stuck his head out from his fort made of blankets, his eyes showed hints of darkness beneath them, indicating that the cold had kept him awake most of the night. Even though the Rebel Base was heated, the outside temperature greatly influenced the inside temperature.
"Luke," said Leia, trying to sound cheerful, "I have a surprise for you!"
"What?" asked Luke in a groggy voice.
Leia pulled her surprise out from behind her back - a brand new pair of black ice skates. "Surprise!"
Luke's expression rather abruptly changed from tired to curious as he eyed the skates. His eyes seemed to be studying their every detail, slowly tracing their outline with his sight.
"What are these?" he finally asked, reaching out to touch them.
"What?" exclaimed Leia, struggling to hide her disbelief. "I knew you had been raised on a place with no snow, but I thought you'd at least know what ice skates are."
"I think I've heard of them," Luke said, running his finger across their blades. "So that's what these are?"
Luke pinched the blade, as if testing its sharpness. "These are used for dancing on ice, right?"
"Sort of," said Leia. "It depends on your skill." She patted Luke's mattress. "And speaking of skill, that's what you're going to learn today."
"It's all been cleared - your only duty today is to learn how to skate," Leia announced proudly, tossing the skates on the bed. "Han and I are going to teach you."
Luke's eyes grew even wider than usual. "Why?"
"Because I want to share something with you," explained Leia, backing away from the bed. "I know this planet isn't exactly pleasant, but snow can be fun too." She gave a cutesy wave as she reached the door. "Better get dressed and meet us outside." She exited the room before Luke could give any sort of protest.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Three taun-tauns carried three riders through the snow to their destination. Two riders were bundled in white, while one was bundled in blue. From a distance, they resembled three lonely insects wandering a bedsheet.
The destination was as isolated from the rest of the planet as Hoth itself was from the rest of the galaxy. It was a large patch of ice surrounded on all sides by large hills. Millions of years ago, it might have been a lake, but now the temperature was never anywhere close to being warm enough for water. If there were any fish still living underneath the ice, there was a permanent barrier between them and the surface.
Luke, Leia, and Han dismounted their taun-tauns a few feet away from the ice's edge, Han's feet sliding from the lack of friction as a swear word escaped his mouth, after which Luke and Leia began laughing.
"See how much ya like it when you start slippin' on the ice, kid," Han grumbled. "Ice skatin' ain't exactly as simple as farmin'."
"Well farming isn't exactly as simple as flying a ship, either," said Luke.
"Says you," said Han.
"All right guys," said Leia, her skates bouncing over her shoulder. "Are we here to skate or to argue?"
"When you're around, Your Highness, it's usually to argue," said Han.
Leia swung her skates in Han's direction, as if threatening him. "Can you go one day without being impossible?"
"Not with you around," smirked Han, sticking out his tongue for a second.
Leia growled, wondering what possessed her to invite Han to come along. It wasn't like she wasn't perfectly capable of teaching Luke to skate by herself. Come to think of it, did that nerfherder even know how to skate? Maybe this was all a ploy to get her to teach both of them to skate because the pilot didn't have the guts to ask for his own lesson.
"You know how to put skates on, kid?" Han asked to Luke, who was sitting down at the edge of the ice, skates next to his feet.
"I'm sure I can figure it out, Han," said Luke.
Leia decided to put her theory to the test. "Han, why don't you show Luke how to put on skates?"
Han flashed a large grin at her. "Sure, Your Highness." He sat down next to the younger man. "All right, kid, just do as I do." He rapidly wiggled his skates on and artfully began tying the laces. "See? Simple."
Luke copied Han's motions with surprising accuracy. "How's this, Han?"
Han examined Luke's skates for a good long moment, even though it was obvious that they were perfectly tied. "Hmm, not bad for your first time, but you gotta work on your technique."
"Technique?" Leia snorted, sitting down next to the men to get her own skates on. "Since when do you care about technique with anything?"
"Now c'mon Princess," Han scoffed. "You really think I could be such a great pilot without any technique?"
"So maybe that's why you're not a great pilot," Leia muttered, concentrating on tying her laces. Before Han could give his retort, she leapt to her feet and skated in front of Luke, bending over and offering her hand. "Come on Luke, let's give it a try."
Luke hesitantly reached up and took her hand, his skates beginning to slide out of control the instant he put weight on them, pulling his body down with them.
"Careful, careful," said Leia, grabbing Luke across the chest and pulling him back up. "Don't worry, everyone slips their first time."
"Cept me," scoffed Han, skating somewhat unevenly to Luke's other side. "My first time, I took to the ice like a pro . . ." He never got to finish his boast because as if fate was frowning at him for lying, he slipped, grunting loudly as he landed hard on his rear.
Leia burst out laughing, barely remembering to hold onto Luke. "So is that what 'taking to the ice like a pro' looks like?" She had to struggle to get her words out between giggles.
Luke laughed with her, which seemed to momentarily distract him from his sliding body. "So everyone slips, that's good to know."
Han struggled to stand back up, losing control of his skates more than once. "Well kid, I dare you to do a better job on the ice."
"Han," Leia struggled to say between snickers, "just out of curiosity, exactly how many times have you skated?"
"Probably more than you have, sweetheart."
The princess sneered. "I happen to have grown up on a planet where the water froze every winter. I learned to skate when I barely knew how to walk."
That was enough to shut Han up for at least a little while. The threesome skated around the lake's perimeter several times, Luke growing more and more confident with each rotation. After a while, he even let go of Leia and Han for a few seconds before gripping back onto them. He was like a toddler learning how to walk, eager to set out on his own but at the same time wanting someone to support him.
"I think I'm getting the hang of this," he said after a while.
"See kid, I told you it was simple," said Han, though Leia noticed that the pilot hadn't taken his hands off of Luke for a while.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
After countless laps around the lake, Luke eventually decided that he was getting cold and headed back to the base, leaving Han and Leia alone on the ice. For a little while they just continued skating in a slow and unsure manner, undecided on whether they should stay or follow Luke.
"So . . ." Han said awkwardly after an undetermined amount of time, ". . . has the Princess of the Ice had enough?"
Leia raised her brows. "Do you spend all of your spare time thinking of new things to call me?"
"No," said Han. "I spend some of it drinking, some of it fixing the Falcon, some of it eating, some of it sleeping – it's just the rest of the spare time I use thinkin' of names for you, sweetheart."
Leia rolled her eyes. "Whatever."
"Hey c'mon," Han urged, "isn't a morning like this worth a little name calling between friends?"
"Oh, so we're friends now?" said Leia, skating ahead of him.
"What, you wanna be more than that?" said Han, gliding up to her, nearly losing his balance in the process.
Leia growled, skating further ahead.
"No sense in hidin' it, sweetheart," chided Han, once more catching up with her.
"Please stop doing that," said Leia, trying to keep her voice as disinterested as possible. "You know, I think maybe I have had enough after all."
"Ah, I see," said Han, his voice growing more smug with every word. "You ain't used to havin' fun, so you can only take it in small doses."
"And what is that supposed to mean??" Leia exclaimed, forgetting that she was trying to be disinterested.
Han smirked. "Like you don't know?" He skated past her yet again, trying to hold his balance on one foot but only managing it for a few seconds before he had to put his other foot down. "When was the last time you actually settled down to have fun, Your Highness? For that matter, when was the last time you thought of anything besides the war?"
"The war is important," Leia protested.
Han skated back to the princess. "Not so important that you gotta forget about fun, sweetheart."
"Well I'm here, aren't I?"
"Only cause I urged you to teach the kid to skate. Otherwise you'd be plannin' out defense strategies right now."
"You say that like it's a bad thing."
Han began skating in circles around her. "There's more to life than war, sister. There's for example . . ." Before Leia could react, he grabbed both her wrists. ". . . dancing."
"What are you doing??" Leia exclaimed, trying with all her power to sound exasperated.
"It's what we're doin', sweetheart," Han answered, pulling her into his circle. "We're dancing."
Leia wanted to protest, to at least say something, but nothing came out as she and Han spun around and around, his hands still gripping hers. The cold air seemed to whip past them, stinging the skin, but not in Hoth's usual irritating way – in a pleasant way reminiscent of the winter mornings on Alderaan.
"We're dancing," she repeated.
"Yeah," said Han, "we're dancing."
She felt his feet slip once again, but she was able to pull him back up before he hit the ice. "You really haven't skated much, have you?" she chided, unable to stifle a small laugh.
"Well . . . . two or three times," Han admitted.
"I knew it."
"Hey sweetheart, when you're cruisin' the galaxy you don't have time to stop and practice skating."
"You mean when you're fleeing for your life, right?" Leia said with another light laugh.
They continued skating, continued dancing. Before Leia knew it, she was smiling. Smiling in Han's arms. There would be plenty of work waiting for her when she got back to the base – there always was – but right now it all seemed far away. Right now it was the ice that mattered, and the cold air, and the dancing, and even the company. Perhaps this was really her lesson, and not Luke's at all. A lesson in savoring the moment.