At the request of some readers, I am breaking some of my longer stories up into several posts.
Drama. Totally AU. Set about six months prior to the events in A New Hope.
Even in the smoke-filled cantina, the human female radiated elegance and confidence. She looked out-of-place, although it was apparent she was trying to blend in by wearing a dark gray cloak that covered most of her face, and scuffed boots on her feet. She reached across the table, placing her hand on top of the other's hand. Her nails were trimmed short, but were still quite well manicured. "I can't begin to tell you how much this means to me," she said quietly to her companion. "You've been a loyal friend for such a long time, I'll never be able to repay you."
She listened carefully to the other's reply, nodding in understanding. "You're certain this particular smuggler will meet our requirements? I've seen his ship, and it seems a bit, um, shall we say rustic?" She smiled as her companion gave a lengthy response. "I just hope he doesn't shoot first and ask questions later."
The other creatures in the bar turned briefly to look at them as the woman's friend gave a loud laugh. "I've waited so long," she said, her tone turning sad. "I've never given up hope." A short question followed. "No, the Jedi would not be happy with my decision. Actually, I was never happy with the decisions they made on my behalf, either, so I suppose that makes us even." She turned a radiant, if somewhat nervous smile at her friend. "It's time to begin. I'll meet you on Myrkr, then. Captain Karrde's shuttle will be waiting for you at docking bay sixteen." She pushed a credit chip across the table, watching as the being placed it in his pouch, and got up to leave.
She had no doubts her money was in good hands, and that her friend would purchase what she needed to succeed in her mission. After giving her companion some time to leave, she stood and walked out of the bar, and into a far more dangerous situation.
Han Solo was both angry and hurt. Sitting in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, Han stared at the message console, barely able to comprehend what he was hearing. His co-pilot had taken off, without so much as a farewell in person, claiming a better job offer had come along.
"Sorry, Han old friend," the stocky, olive-hued humanoid with scales instead of skin was saying, while not looking in the least bit sorry. "I never had the stomach for living life in the fast lane. Taking this maintenance job on a public transport makes for a longer life-span. I'm sure you'll find yourself another co-pilot – probably a pretty female if I know you. Clear skies!" He waved his webbed hand toward the viewer and the hologram blinked out.
"Some friend you turned out to be, Nyett," Han snarled in disgust at the now-silent console. "I've contacted Jabba, and he wants us to take a spice run. Without a co-pilot, what the kriff am I suppose to do now?" The console remained silent in response to Han's annoyed question. After sitting for a few moments, he stalked outside to bang a hydrospanner against the hull and take his frustration out on the abused ship.
He sensed the presence of someone standing behind him before they spoke aloud, and his instinct for survival immediately caused his right hand to drop the hydrospanner and move his hand toward his holstered blaster, but it was too late. Han felt a hard poke in his spine, and slowly pulled his fingers away from his own gun, while his captor carefully removed his weapon and backed a safer distance away from the Corellian.
"I need a ship," the intruder stated.
Han could tell by the voice that the person was female, but he knew that didn't make her less dangerous. "So go buy one. This one ain't for sale."
"Let me clarify," the woman continued, unfazed by Han's smart remark. "I want you to take me to Alderaan. From there we will continue to Tatooine and then, finally, we will go to Myrkr."
"That's a pretty long list of destinations," Han spat out. "I hope you plan on paying me."
"You'll get paid – eventually."
Heedless of the blaster, Han spun around to face the woman. The woman had tucked Han's own blaster under her cloak, preventing him from easily trying to retrieve it. He was surprised to see she was quite petite and slender. She was wearing a hood, and her face was obscured by the shadow it cast over her features. Han wished she would pull it back so he could see how old she was, but since she didn't seem inclined to do so he focused on the money issue. "Eventually? That ain't good enough."
"It would be a good idea, Captain Solo, to accept my terms. I'm not a person you want to get on your bad side."
Han pointed at his chest. "Listen, sister, for a trip that long, I want twenty thousand up front. Not a credit less."
The woman's expression became firm. "This blaster is only set on stun, but I'm certain you won't want me to pull the trigger." She slightly lowered the sightline on her blaster, downward from Han's chest. "Do you?"
The Corellian swallowed nervously. "Uh, no."
"Then you'll do as I ask, and take me to Alderaan. Please?"
Han cleared his throat, trying to regain a bit of his composure. "As long as you ask nicely, I guess I can take you to Alderaan." Han felt the urge to take some control of this situation, even if was only a bluff. "But then I want my money."
"If money is what you love, then that's what you'll receive. You will be duly compensated. Trust me."
"You're pointing a blaster at me, so what choice do I have?"
"I'm glad you can be sensible, Captain. Now be a nice boy and pick up your spanner and demonstrate to me that your reputation for amazing piloting skills is accurate."
Han felt his chest puff with pride, even though he sensed her comment was meant to be a bit sarcastic. "I'm the best pilot you'll ever meet, sweetheart."
"I don't know about that," she replied, somewhat wistfully. "I've known some remarkable pilots in my time."
Once inside the cockpit, the woman carefully sat down in the co-pilot's seat, then pulled the hood away revealing a pretty face with dark brown eyes and long brown hair pulled back in a long braid. Han tried to judge her age, and determined that she was probably in her early forties, but he was wise enough not to come right out and ask. "Can you fly a ship?" Han questioned sharply. "My co-pilot just quit on me."
The woman laughed. "I know that. Nyett Vecor was offered a cushy, high-paying job on a safe passenger liner."
Han felt his jaw drop. "How do you know that?"
"I was the one that arranged for him to receive that job offer," she replied nonchalantly. "It would have been difficult for me to control both of you."
"Even alone, I ain't gonna be easy to control, sweetheart," Han grumbled. "You can't stay awake this entire trip, you know."
"Lucky for you I know a bit about piloting," the woman said, ignoring Han's threat. "Let's get this charming ship of yours going. The Millennium Falcon, isn't that its name?"
"You seem to know a great deal about me. My name, the name of my former co-pilot, the name of my ship…" He moved his fingers deftly across the controls and the engines roared to life.
"I know much more about you than just your name, Captain Solo."
Han's face grew wary. "How do you know so much about me?"
"I have my sources, and they are quite accurate with their facts. Don't worry, though. Most of what I've been told about you is rather positive. If it hadn't been, I wouldn't have decided you were the one to hire."
"Hire, huh? Is that what they're calling hijacking nowadays?" Han angled the ship up, and expertly flew through the tangle of incoming and outgoing ships. The indicator light on the panel flashed, and Han quickly turned it off, then commented, "That was just the Nal Hutta flight controller. Controllers love to control when you can take-off and land. Bunch of busy-bodies if you ask me."
The woman's lips twitched in amusement but she kept her eyes fixed on the viewport, while her fingers tightly gripped the handle of her small blaster.
Little was said for a while and after they entered the swirl of hyperspace, Han rotated in his seat to face the woman, and asked, "How about telling me your name? Seems only right, considering how we're gonna be shipmates for a while with your big itinerary."
Her eyes left the view of the streaking stars and looked at Han. "Fair enough. My name is Padmé."
"No last name?"
"None that is your concern, Captain."
"Why do you want to go to all these places?"
"I have my reasons," Padmé replied. "You'll find out soon enough."
Han sighed. "Why didn't you just hire me like a normal person, instead of kidnapping me?"
"Your fee to take me would've been too high. I can't risk hiring someone else; someone less costly but not as trustworthy."
This comment made Han bristle. "I thought you told me you were gonna pay me."
"I will pay you," she assured him. "But I simply don't have the kind of credits you want upfront, and I was warned that you would ask a high price for your services."
"Who told you I was trustworthy, anyway? Us unsavory sorts don't like to be described as trustworthy you know."
Padmé laughed at that comment. "A mutual acquaintance told me you were trustworthy."
"Are you going to tell me who this mysterious mutual acquaintance is?"
"You'll find out soon enough."
"I sorta had a feeling you were going to say that," Han muttered in disgust as he stood up and stretched his tense back. Having a blaster pointed at you was always stressful, Han thought dourly. "Can you cook?"
"No, but I am rather hungry," Padmé admitted, cautiously standing and putting a bit more distance between herself and the lanky smuggler who towered over her short frame. "I was told you know your way around a galley."
Han felt another spike of annoyance that she knew so much about his personal life. He glanced at the blaster she was still pointing in his direction. "Is that an order?"
"Not at all. It was merely a suggestion. I'm hoping that you'll be a gracious host, and offer to make us a meal."
"First I'm trustworthy, and now I'm a gracious host?" Han shook his head in disbelief at her various descriptions regarding his character. "You sure do live in a bizarre version of reality, Padmé."
"You don't know the half of it," she replied lightly.
She followed him into the ship's main hold, being careful to maintain a safe distance, then took a seat at the game table. Han pulled out various pans and ingredients from shelves, turning his head briefly toward his captor. "Anything in particular you want?"
"No. Whatever you make will be just fine." Padmé saw the Corellian's eyes flick toward the blaster in her hand. "What would you do if you got this blaster away from me, Captain? Shoot me? Force me out of an airlock into space?"
"That's a bit extreme," Han drawled. "I'd take you to Alderaan and dump you fifty klicks from the nearest town and make you hike to civilization. I wouldn't feel bad about it, either."
"I'd think not," she replied. "But if you did that, you wouldn't get paid."
"Like that'll ever happen," Han muttered under his breath as he dumped some powdery substance into a bowl and added a blue-tinted liquid before beating the mixture into a thin paste. "Aren't you worried if I do get that blaster, I'll take advantage of a pretty female prisoner?"
"You're not the type," Padmé said firmly. "My friends assured me I would be safe with you, even if something unplanned occurred."
Han immediately picked up on Padmé's remark as he poured a ladle of the goop into a hot pan. "Friends? More than one?"
"Yes, more than one friend. You do make a lasting impression on people, Han Solo."
The Corellian mulled this over as he carefully flipped the thin cake over, and after a few minutes he plated the steaming soft disk onto a dish before placing it in front of the woman. He watched, amused, as Padmé put her blaster on the table and eagerly consumed the hotcake. "Have you eaten lately?"
"I've been too busy," Padmé said between mouthfuls. "This is excellent. What's it called?"
"A Corellian blue-griddlecake," Han replied, pouring some more of the mixture into the pan. After cooking his cake, he sat down across from Padmé and put a forkful into his mouth. He watched her eat the remaining portion of her own food before asking, "You want another one? I've got plenty of batter left."
"I suppose I could stuff down a small one," she replied.
Han stood and reached over toward the plate, then his hand moved quickly, instead grabbing the blaster sitting next to the dish. He turned the business end toward Padmé, and grinned at her shocked expression. "Now it's about time you find out just how wrong your sources were about me."
Padmé's face paled as she stared at the blaster which was now pointed in her direction. "So shoot me already," she finally said in a low voice.
"What I want for you to do – very slowly, mind you – is to open up that cloak and give me my own blaster back," Han ordered angrily. "Then I'll decide if I'm gonna shoot you."
Padmé nodded, and obeyed the smuggler's order. Once Han had his own weapon, he removed the powerpack from the woman's blaster, and locked it inside a small cabinet. Now pointing his much larger and far more powerful gun at Padmé, he indicated she should stand.
"If you try to force yourself on me, I'll fight you with every ounce of strength I have," Padmé said in a quivering voice, tilting her chin up in defiance.
Han gave a derisive snort. "Or I could stun you, tie you up, and you wouldn't be able to fight me at all."
"Why? Are you afraid you'd lose in a fair fight?" Padmé goaded back.
"Relax, sweetheart. I ain't that kind of guy, so it seems your so-called sources were right about that, at least." He waved his blaster at the plates on the board table. "I cooked, so you clean up. You do know how to put dishes into a recycler, right?"
"I can do that." Keeping one eye trained on Han, she picked up the dishes and put them into the rusty old cleaning unit. "Does this even work anymore?"
"Works as well as the rest of my ship."
Padmé fought back the urge to laugh at that statement. "So what you're saying is we'll be lucky if they get clean?"
"You sure have a smart mouth for a lady with a blaster pointing at her back."
She refrained from making another wisecrack. "All the dishes are in the unit. Now what?"
Han stroked his chin thoughtfully. "I could turn the ship around, head back to Nal Hutta, and sell you to a Hutt. They're always looking for pretty female slaves. That'd make me a tidy bit of money, too."
"You wouldn't dare," she shot back angrily.
"Wouldn't I?" Han returned. "Why don't you sit down, and tell me who these informants are that know so much about me?"
"Is that all you're worried about?"
"Not all, but clearing that up would make me feel a lot better," Han replied. "Talk, or I really won't take you to Alderaan."
"If I tell you, will you take me to Alderaan?" Padmé asked. "And then to Tatooine and Myrkr?"
Han rolled his eyes at her persistence. "If the price is right."
"I was told about your character from a few friends of mine. A freedom fighter named Garm Bel Iblis, and a smuggler named Talon Karrde." She seemed about to add something – or someone - else, but pressed her lips together suddenly as if she changed her mind.
Still, the two names she revealed took Han aback. "Senator Bel Iblis? Captain Karrde? How in the Seven Hells do you know those people?"
"I've been employed by Captain Karrde as one of his crew for several years now. Garm has also been a friend for some time."
"Garm Bel Iblis is still alive and kicking?" Han asked suspiciously. "So those rumors about him giving the Imps a pain in the backside are true, then."
"That's what the Imperials claim," Padmé said evasively.
"Karrde sure wouldn't get involved with something as useless as a war against the Empire," Han mused aloud. "He's like all of us smugglers – watching out for his own hide."
"People change, Captain. Opinions change, too."
Suddenly, Han felt a flash of insight. "You're one of those Rebels," he declared tightly. "And Karrde's playing the hero, too?"
Seeming a little reluctant to admit this, she stated, "Yes."
"Why involve me?"
"I needed a small, fast ship and a pilot that was able, brave and willing to take on the Empire. Both Talon and Garm mentioned your name."
Han gave a short laugh. "They said I was willing to take on the Empire? Did they happen to mention I ain't interested in suicide?"
"Senator Bel Iblis believes you have much more potential than simply living a life of a petty smuggler, and barely staying one step ahead of starvation. Captain Karrde thinks you're one of the best pilots alive. It was enough to recommend you." She gave a pleading smile. "I'm not expecting you to do this for free, Captain."
"What's on Alderaan?"
"Who is on Alderaan is more to the point. There is a person on that system I need to help me with my mission," Padmé replied.
Han shook his head in dismay. "More Rebels, I suppose."
Padmé gave a wan smile. "I'd describe them more as Rebel recruits. I have faith they'll join the cause."
"Who's on Myrkr?"
"It's Captain Karrde's base of operations," Padme explained patiently. "So, what's your decision? It's a simple job, really."
"Who's gonna pay me?" Han demanded to know. "I know a something about Karrde and Bel Iblis myself. Neither one has a lot of credits to throw around."
"Prince Bail Organa has a large sum of money at his disposal," Padme said, closely watching Han's reaction.
"Huh? You're tellin' me Prince Organa is your Rebel recruit? I don't believe it."
"No, he's not the person I'm going to recruit on Alderaan, but I do know him and I know he will pay you." When she saw Han's look of doubt, she added, "Do you understand now why I simply couldn't tell you all this upfront, and ask to hire your services? You would not have believed me, and it appears you still don't."
"I'm having a hard time understanding how you work for a smuggler, yet claim to know rich royalty personally. It doesn't add up."
"Many beings of different stations in life are working together to overthrow the Empire's repression. Maybe, years ago, a smuggler becoming acquainted with a former senator and a prince would have been unheard of, but not under today's dire circumstances. Everyone, from all races and classes, must work together to defeat the evil that has descended upon the galaxy."
Han frowned at her grand speech. "Are you sure you're not a politician instead of a smuggler?"
The question flustered her. "No…no. I'm sorry, Captain. I just get carried away sometimes."
Although Han still felt more than a little bit suspicious about her story, the mere possibility that she truly knew a rich prince made him envision mounds of credits piled at his feet. It was enough to make his heart race in anticipation. "Okay. You've got yourself a pilot for all three destinations. But I still ain't throwing myself in front of an Imperial Destroyer for you or your rebel friends, so don't expect anything other than a straightforward business deal." He holstered his blaster and waved a finger in her face. "And no more pointing weapons at me."
"I won't do that again." Padmé stood up and threw her arms around Han, giving him a warm hug. "Thank you, Captain. I'll never be able to repay you."
The Corellian drew away from the embrace, obviously uncomfortable with the display of affection. "Your prince friend better come up with a way, sister," he groused.
"He will," Padmé promised, feeling a stab of guilt over the many important details she was omitting from her story. But the Corellian would undoubtedly decide the job ferrying her around wouldn't be worth taking if he knew the complete truth, and Padmé needed his help too much to scare him away at this point.
Padmé leaned forward, peering eagerly out of the cockpit window at the clean, bustling spaceport. "We'll need to leave our blasters on the ship," she stated. "Alderaan has strict rules – civilians cannot carry either open or concealed weapons."
The Corellian shook his head in disagreement. "I don't go anywhere without my blaster. 'Sides, rules are made to be broken."
The woman turned to give a firm look at Han. "I can't take that kind of a risk, Han. This mission is far too important." Seeing his stubborn expression, she added, "I can go alone if you're so dead-set against being unarmed."
"We've already discussed that," Han returned. "I don't trust you'll come back with my money."
"You are a very suspicious person, Captain."
"I'm still alive because I'm cautious," Han shot back as he stood up from his pilot's seat.
"You'll be arrested in a heartbeat if you walk out of this ship with that blaster tied to your leg," Padmé warned.
Han shrugged. "So I'll leave my DL-44 onboard. But I'm still wearing my holdout under my vest, and my vibroblade in my boot."
"Suspicious and paranoid."
"Cautious and prepared," Han corrected her with a cocky grin.
Sighing, Padmé gave up her argument. "We'll rent a landspeeder and head over to the palace. Once we get there, let me do all the talking." She rose from her seat and jabbed her finger in Han's chest for emphasis. "ALL the talking. Do you understand?"
"Sure," Han said amicably. "I sure hope you don't think I'm paying for the speeder rental."
It took a great deal of Padmé's willpower not to slug the exasperating Corellian. "I'll pay for the rental cost, you, you… impertinent plebian!" Giving a puff of breath to blow a strand of hair from her forehead, she pushed past and stalked off down the corridor.
"Impertinent plebian?" Han yelled in outrage at her retreating back. "I don't think I like the sound of that, but I ain't buying a dictionary, either!"
"That's the Organa palace," Padmé pointed out somewhat unnecessarily, since the imposing building with flag-covered spiraled peaks covered several city blocks, and was surrounded by an imposing stone wall with guarded, wrought-iron gates.
"What do we do now? Shoot the guards? Storm the gates?"
Padmé scowled at Han. "I shall not permit violence."
"I'd like to know what kind of rebel you are anyway, if you don't believe in violence. You can't win wars by throwing a kaff and cake party for the enemy."
"Just find a spot to park, and I'll think of something," Padmé ordered.
Han looked dubious, but did as she asked. They walked up to the gate, and Padmé gave a glowing smile at the Royal Guard, who smiled back, seemingly pleased by the attention of the beautiful woman. "Hello, sir," Padmé said boldly. "My name is Clare D'Loon, and this is my, err, partner, Gizzie Feeblebane. We're here to see Tia Organa regarding the upcoming, very prestigious Professional Aldra Pitten Show, presented by Yuckynewbia Pet Foods, which is the only pet food recommended by certified veterinarians employed by Yuckynewbia." When the guard only gazed down at Padmé in confusion, she added, "Will you give her a call, please? I'm certain she'll want to see me. I'm a judge in the show."
"And what's this guy do?" the guard asked, giving his head a jerk in Han's direction. "Another judge?"
"Oh, no! Gizzie's a professional pitten groomer. The best in the business."
The guard scratched his head, uncertain what to do. He knew how much Princess Tia adored her pittens, and if he turned away someone she was expecting… "I don't see any pitten grooming equipment."
"The equipment is in my pants," Han deadpanned, his expression daring the guard to check him further.
"Uh, okay," the guard finally decided, and pressed in a series of numbers on the computer panel. A woman's shrill voice answered, and the guard warily spoke to her about the visitors. Han could easily hear the woman's excited response over the small speaker, ordering the guard to allow them to enter. Padmé gave a smug look of triumph toward Han.
"Well, you can enter," the guard finally said, picking up a small, handheld device. "But I'll have to scan you for weapons before you go inside."
Padmé's jaw tightened, frustration flickering across her face. "Scan us? Like we're common criminals? Do you know who I am? CLARE D'LOON! The galaxy renowned pure-bred pitten judge! I think I may just have to leave, and find some other, more deserving rich person to sit on our fine panel of pitten judges."
She turned to march away, and Han watched as the worried guard hurried to catch up and prevent her from leaving. With the guard's back to him, Han removed his holdout blaster and vibroblade, quickly tossing them over the gate and into a well-manicured bush on the other side. He waited for the guard to convince Padmé to return to the gate, then said, "Darling, just let the guard scan us. You know he won't find a thing, honeypot."
If Padmé looked annoyed before, she appeared ready to explode now. "Fine," she ground out slowly, glaring first at Han then turning her wrath on the trembling guard. "But if you so much as lay one finger on my body, I'll…"
"I won't touch you, ma'am," the guard interrupted, his shaking hand first running the scanner up and down in front of Padmé's torso, then Han's. "You're all clear." He opened the gate, stepping aside to allow the strangers to enter. "Follow the main drive, then ring the buzzer. A protocol droid will allow you inside the palace, and take you directly to Princess Tia Organa's suite."
"I should hope so," Padmé said huffily. "Although I should have been escorted by her personal aide, and not some droid. This is the last time Clare D'Loon will be bothered with the Organas' pittens!"
"I'm sorry," the guard yelled after the pair as they hustled down the driveway. "Please don't have me fired!"
Han grinned at Padmé. "How long did you have this planned?"
"A minute prior to speaking to the guard," she admitted reluctantly as she climbed the steps to the main doorway.
"Great job," Han said in approval. "I gotta admit I'm starting to have fun. But a pitten groomer? Why did you have to come up with that job?"
"Tia Organa loves her pittens. What else could you be?"
"Something more impressive," Han said. "You could have made me president of Yuckynewbia Pet Foods.'
Padmé eyed Han up and down, then pressed the buzzer next to the door. "I don't think so. And Han?"
"Don't ever call me 'darling' or 'honeypot' again, or I'll have to hurt you."
A golden protocol droid answered the buzzer promptly, and escorted the pair into the blue-marble foyer, stating, "Welcome to the Organa Royal Palace. My designation is C-3PO, and it will be my pleasure to make your visit to the Organa residence most enjoyable." Han noted that Padmé almost seemed to act as if she knew the droid, but she stopped short of saying anything when the droid gave no indication of returning any recognition.
Han paused, craning his neck to peer up at the high ceiling. The sparkling light fixture hanging over their heads was almost a third the size of theFalcon's exterior, and Han hoped it was securely bolted to the ceiling. He then gazed around the room, noting the gleaming pedestals set with flower-filled vases, and the many old pictures hanging from the walls. A grand staircase twenty feet wide swept upwards, with hallways at the top angling off in opposite directions. "I'll bet the stuff in this room's worth half a million credits," he said, truly awed. He walked up to a picture, touching the gilded frame lightly.
"Technically, this is not a room, Sir Feeblebane," the droid stated primly. "It is merely the entryway. But please refrain from touching the museum quality items. The oily secretions caused by sentients' glands cause damage."
"Did that droid just call me an oily sentient?" Han asked, miffed. "If this prince doesn't pay me, maybe I'll borrow some of his artwork on the way out."
Padmé put her finger up to her lips to silence the ever talkative Corellian.
The droid gave his arm an awkward wave. "This way, please. Princess Tia Organa appears to be quite excited that you are here. We will take the main corridor to the lift in the rear portion of the palace. Princess Tia's suite is located on the second level, east wing."
Han followed the droid, glancing back at Padmé who seemed to be surreptitiously looking into the many huge rooms they passed by. "Who're you lookin' for?" Han whispered.
Padmé jerked back in surprise. "No one."
"I'm not buying that," Han returned. "Your rebel recruit lives here?"
"Thought so," Han said smugly. "I just hope it isn't the pitten lady. That could get downright weird…. pittens running around Coruscant with bombs strapped to their tiny backs."
"Would you shut up?" Padmé demanded under her breath, then spoke much louder to the droid. "C-3PO? Is Prince Organa currently in the palace? Or his daughter, Princess Leia?"
The glowing receptors turned to regard the woman. "Both are presently located in their offices, although you are not authorized to meet with them at this time. Perhaps Princess Tia will make arrangements, if you so desire."
"Years ago I saw a holo of Organa and his daughter," Han mused. "She was a cute little kid. Probably a spoiled rotten teenager by now."
"I doubt that," Padmé snapped. Addressing the droid, Padmé put her hand on his shoulder. "Please forgive me, Threepio."
"Forgive you?" the droid repeated, puzzled. "For what?"
"This," she replied, reaching up and switching off the protocol droid's power. His eyes darkened, and his body froze in a half-turned position. Padmé glanced over at a surprised Han. "Hurry, help me stash him someplace."
"You sure do keep things interesting," Han commented, awkwardly hoisting the droid up and shuffling over to the nearest door.
Padmé cautiously opened it and peered inside. "A small conference room. This should do nicely."
"Okay," Han agreed, shoving the droid in the doorway and, following Padmé's instructions, lowering him down to the floor and pushing him under the table. Han stood up, brushing off his pants. "Wouldn't it have been easier and safer to delete his memory bank?"
"No, I wouldn't do that to him," Padmé replied. "Threepio deserves better than that. Besides, you know it's not that easy to delete a droid's memory banks."
"You act like you know the droid."
"I do," she said sadly. "He just doesn't remember me anymore."
"The list keeps growing," Han mumbled.
"The list of people, and droids now, that you claim to know." He eased his head out of the doorway, checking both directions. "Coast is clear. Now what?"
Padmé had already located a computer terminal in the conference room, and was busy pushing buttons. "We find out where Leia's office is, and head over there." She smiled as directions came up on the screen. "Third floor, southwest corridor. Room 329."
"Why does a teenager need an office, anyway?" Han asked.
"Princess Leia is also a Senator, representing Alderaan in the Galactic Senate."
Han gave an low, impressed whistle. "A senator? How old is she?"
"Eighteen, almost nineteen," Padmé answered softly as she led Han down the hallway and toward the hover-lift. "She takes after .." She stopped, hesitating before finishing. "Her mother."
Han gave Padmé a sideways glance as they entered the hover-lift. "Politics runs in her blood, huh?"
"You could say that."
The hover-lift doors shut, and they felt the floor move slightly beneath their feet. "What if someone tries to stop us?" Han asked, feeling somewhat nervous. "It's not likely we'll get all the way to this girl's office without someone seeing us, and getting questioned."
"I'll think of something," Padmé said, trying to be reassuring.
Suddenly, the hover-lift stopped at the second floor and the door slid silently open. An older, buxom woman wearing a bright pink beaded flowery dress and matching pearls, and an elaborate upswept coiffure, stepped forward, stumbling to a halt when her eyes came upon Padmé. "Oh my stars!" the woman gasped, clutching her chest. "It can't be!"
"Hello, Princess Celly," Padmé said calmly. "It's nice seeing you again."
"I… I do believe my poor old heart is about to give way," Celly cried out, right before she collapsed onto the floor of the lift.
Han stared down in shock at the older woman. "Well, that's just great," Han complained. "There's probably a damn big penalty around here for killing a Princess."
Padmé quickly knelt down to check Celly's pulse. "Close the door," she told Han, tugging the buxom Princess into the hover-lift.
Pressing the 'close' button, Han leaned over for closer inspection. "What are we gonna do with the body? Stuff her under a table, too?"
"She's not dead," Padmé replied tightly. "Celly has always had, err… health problems."
On cue, the princess let out a groan, and opened her eyes, blinking in confusion. "Is this the Alderaanian Golden Fields of Hereafter?"
"Yup," Han said as he patted the wall of the hover-lift. "And you're riding up to those fields in this here Golden Hover-Lift."
Celly struggled to a seated position, frowning up at Han. "Who are you?"
"Saint Captain Solo, the official operator of Golden Hereafter Hover-Lifts at your service. You'd better be nice to me, or I'll put it in reverse, and you know where you'll end up instead."
"Celly, just ignore Captain Solo," Padmé told the flustered woman as she helped her to her feet.
"Senator Padmé Amidala!" Celly cried out, backing into a corner. "You're… you're dead! I watched your funeral on the holo-net."
"You're dead, too?" Han asked Padmé, eyes wide in feigned shock. "Why didn't you say so?"
"Captain, this is no time for levity," Padmé chided.
"It never is," Han said in mock sorrow before asking, "You're a senator, huh? Why am I not surprised."
Padmé ignored Han, turning her focus on Celly. "I'm not dead, Celly. It was a ploy by Obi-Wan, Yoda and your brother to shield me from Palpatine. I've been in hiding for the past eighteen years, but I can no longer remain on the sidelines in silence. I should never have allowed them to convince me otherwise."
"Why have you come here?"
"I need to see Leia," Padmé replied cautiously.
"Bail will never allow it," Celly snapped. "We had heard rumors concerning you and that poor, misguided young Jedi you seduced, right before he was murdered by the Sith." She glanced over at Han, and said contemptuously, "Is this ruffian your latest conquest? He certainly looks young enough for your tastes."
Padmé flushed in anger. "Captain Solo is my pilot. I'd appreciate it if you'd refrain from making judgments about my personal life."
"It's your judgment that's in question, Senator," Celly replied haughtily. "You would not be a good influence on our precious little Leia, that's for certain, so you stay away from her."
Padmé didn't have time to reply before the hover-lift door opened again, this time on the third floor. Celly promptly screamed, "Guards! HELP ME! We have intruders in the palace!" She stumbled out of the hover-lift, pointing at Padmé and Han as they exited. "Arrest these trespassers!"
The third floor, however, lacked security since it was assumed no intruders would be able to make it this far without having been discovered far sooner. The only beings in the outer office area were two secretary droids, and they stopped what they were doing and tilted their heads in puzzlement as Celly waved her arms up and down.
"Princess Celly?" one of the silver droids asked in concern. "Are you having another one of your spells? Would you like me to retrieve you some water?"
"NO!" she yelled at the droid. "Shoot those people!"
"But I have no weapons, and it is against my programming to harm sentients anyway."
"Droids are so entirely worthless," Celly complained unhappily.
"I could turn them off and shove them under a desk for you," Han suggested helpfully.
"Celly? What are you shouting about now?" a man's firm voice asked from down the hallway.
Han gave a quick turn on his boot-heel to see that the speaker was a dark-haired older man, and Padmé quickly hurried toward the man, her face breaking into a pleased smile. "Hello, Prince Organa," she said, nodding in greeting. "It's been a very long time. Do you remember me?"
The man seemed stunned at seeing the woman. "Padmé? How could I ever forget you?" He glanced over his shoulder to a shut, office door, then turned his attention back to Padmé. "Leia mustn't see you."
"I couldn't agree more," Celly interrupted loudly. "That woman's a tramp. Rouge told me so, and Rouge knows everything."
"I'd like to speak with you and Leia," Padmé said urgently, trying to ignore Celly. "It's important, Bail."
"You shouldn't be here," Bail stated. "You'll be discovered by the very people we've kept you safe from for all these years."
"I have to see Leia," Padmé persisted, feeling a rising sense of desperation. "She needs to be told the truth, Bail. I should never have agreed to do what you, Obi-Wan and Yoda pressured me into doing."
"All I know is that by telling her the truth, all you'll really end up doing is causing her great harm," Bail returned evenly. "If you care anything about her, you'll leave peacefully and quietly. I'll have you escorted safely and secretly back to your ship, and no harm will come to anyone."
Han leaned over and whispered to Celly. "Can you catch me up with what's happening? I feel like I've walked in during the middle of a holo-drama."
"Stay away from me, you, you… scallywag!"
"First I'm a ruffian and now I'm a scallywag," Han said ruefully. "You royalty could use a good lesson in throwing insults, 'cuz you're not very good at them."
"Even if you have me escorted from the premises, I won't give up," Padmé told Bail. "She's an adult now, Bail. The time for keeping secrets is over."
"You don't know what you're asking," Bail said hoarsely. "If you don't care about the danger you're putting yourself in, you should at least care about Leia."
"I care about her," she insisted. "And after I leave here, I'm going to Tatooine."
"You're making a mistake of galactic proportions, Padmé. You should have remained in hiding."
"I'm tired of hiding," Padmé yelled in frustration. "I'm tired of doing nothing while the Empire destroys and enslaves. I'm tired of pretending to be something I'm not. I'm tired of the sadness and loneliness that comes with loving people that don't even know I still exist!"
"Father?" a feminine voice said from behind Padmé's back. "What's going on here?"
Padmé spun around to face the speaker, both her hands going up to her face. "Leia," she gasped, her voice cracking.
"Yes, my name is Leia," the young woman responded, her brow creased in confusion. "You seem familiar. Have I met you before?"
"Only once," Padmé replied, tears welling up in her eyes.
"When was that?"
"Don't, Padmé," Bail beseeched Padmé. "Force sake, I'm begging you to reconsider this reckless venture. It's still not too late."
Heedless of Bail's pleas, Padmé answered Leia, "The day you were born."
"What?" Leia asked, confused at the stranger's remark.
"Padmé!" Bail said loudly. "Please, if you insist on doing this, let's take this into Leia's office." He gave a quick nod toward Celly, although his sister didn't notice the slight movement. "This is a private matter."
"You're right, Bail," Celly said with a sniff, eyeing Han with disdain. "Whatever this is about, we should never air our laundry in front of commoners." She turned her contemptuous gaze at Padmé. "Did you take up being a mid-wife's assistant when you disappeared?"
She started to move toward Leia's office, when Bail cleared his throat. "Celly, I would prefer that you remain out here."
"Well!" Celly huffed out. "Wait until Tia and Rouge hear about this! And don't think I'm not going to inform them, either." She turned and marched toward the holo-lift, giving a glance back to see if Bail was going to stop her. When he made no effort to do so, she tossed her head and slammed the 'close' button inside the holo-lift.
Padmé turned toward Han. "Please wait in the lobby, Han. I'll be right back."
"You and the Prince don't seem to be on the best terms," Han grumbled, flinging his body down onto a cushy sofa. He put his long legs up, and rested his boot heels on the kaffe table before commenting loudly, "I hope he comes through with my fee."
"Do you mind?" Leia said, glaring at Han as she noticed him for the first time. Her eyes flickered briefly to his feet.
"I'd mind it a whole lot if I don't get paid," Han drawled back, looking up at the young woman and openly assessing her appearance. Short, like Padmé, with dark, long hair, like Padmé's, amazing brown eyes, like Padmé's … Han shook his head, dismissing the similarities as merely coincidence.
"I'm talking about putting your boots up on the furniture," she clarified, pointing at the table. "People put their kaffe cups there, and you're making it dirty."
"You royals are a real pain in the backside," Han said dourly, making no move to take his feet off the table. "Leave me alone, and go have your meeting, Your Royal Fussiness."
Leia was astounded at the man's audacity. "What did you just call me?" Without waiting for his reply, she reached down, and pulled up one end of the table, forcing his feet to slide to the floor. "You need to learn some manners, you scruffy-looking space tramp."
Han jumped to his feet, frowning down at the petite Princess. "You gonna be the one to teach me, sweetheart?"
"There are lots of things I could teach you," Leia snapped back angrily.
"I'll bet I could teach you a few things, too," Han said suggestively, thinking about how incredibly spunky she was… just like Padmé. But her stark white, high-collared dress and those large buns on either side of her face were simply too easy of a target for Han to resist. "The first thing I'd teach you is how to loosen things up, Your Royalness. Those hair-buns of yours are obviously wound way too tight."
Leia's cheeks flushed a bright red, and she stepped back to put some space between them. "Why, why you – "
"Impertinent plebian?" Han suggested to the flustered young woman.
"That sounds exactly right," Leia shot back. "I'm surprised you know what those words even mean."
"I'm full of surprises," Han returned quickly, deciding he rather enjoyed sparring with the feisty Princess.
"Captain Solo!" Padmé interrupted the pair. "That is quite enough."
Bail moved over and put his arm protectively around his daughter's waist, his dark eyes assessing the Corellian. "Come, Leia. You don't have to put up with this."
Both Bail and Leia headed into the Princess's office, and Padmé scowled at Han. "When I come out of that office, you will apologize to Leia," she said in a low voice.
"I never apologize," Han stated. "It's one of the few rules I live by."
"If you wish to be paid, you'd better start reconsidering that rule, Han," Padmé warned before she entered the office and shut the door in his face.
Alone in the lobby, Han plopped back down on the sofa, and defiantly put his feet back on the kaffe table.
Inside the soft blue-toned office, the air crackled with tension. Leia's eyes moved from her father over to the dark-haired woman. "Now, what's this all about?"
"Should I tell her, or do you wish to?" Padmé asked Bail quietly.
Bail coughed nervously. He'd been a politician all his life, and had always felt calm and in control in the face of even the toughest opponent. This situation, however, was making him feel flustered and uncertain. "I will tell her."
"Tell me what?" Leia demanded.
"You know that you're adopted - "
"I've known that since I turned five."
"Yes, well…" He waved at a chair. "Maybe you should sit down, Leia."
"I prefer standing."
Bail took a deep breath. "Leia, this lady is Padmé Amidala, formerly a senator from the Naboo system."
Leia looked at Padmé with renewed interest. "I've heard about you. I was under the impression you had died years ago." She gave a small, wary smile. "That information must be incorrect."
The older woman blinked back her tears. "Yes, it is quite incorrect."
"Leia," Bail tried again, his voice sounding choked and desperate. "Padmé is your birth-mother."
The Princess's face visibly paled. "My… mother?"
"Yes, Padmé is your mother."
Leia blinked, trying to clear her thoughts. The only thing she could think to say was the question that had haunted her all her life. "Why did you give me up? If you were a senator, surely you had enough credits to keep me." Leia paused briefly, mentally considering the other possibilities. "Unless you had your reputation to maintain."
"It's nothing like that, Leia," Padmé whispered, longing to take her daughter into her arms, but not knowing how the gesture would be received. "I was forced to give you up, in order to protect you."
"Protect me? From whom?"
Padmé hesitated. "I made some powerful and evil enemies during my time as a senator. I'm afraid that Bail isn't thrilled I've come here."
"So why are you here?" Leia asked, trying to remain calm and civil. This was a moment she had both yearned for and dreaded, and now that it had arrived she felt as though she were floundering, wondering if this was a dream from which she would awaken. As a child, Leia had always imagined if her birth-mother ever would show up alive and well that she would throw herself unquestioningly into her mother's waiting arms. Now, faced with reality, she felt it would be disloyal to both Bail and Breha to do so.
"I need your help," Padmé answered. She looked over to Bail for support, but the man folded his arms and turned his gaze out of the tall window to look at the garden below. Padmé plunged ahead, "I'm working for the rebellion, and I'm asking you to come with me. It's going to be very dangerous, but without your assistance, I'll never be able to destroy Palpatine and… and Vader. But, along with you and your brother's aid, I have a plan I think can succeed."
"You think can succeed," Bail muttered under his breath.
It took a few seconds for Padmé's comment to sink in. "Brother? I have a brother?"
"Yes, a twin brother. On Tatooine."
Stunned, Leia asked, "Does he know about you? Or me?"
"No, but he will," Padmé replied.
"You don't have to do this, Leia," Bail said. "Like Padmé says, it will be very dangerous."
"We're already helping the rebellion, Father," Leia pointed out, her mind whirling in a thousand directions with the overload of information being passed to her.
"Only financially," Bail stated.
"Still, if the Empire found out, we'd be arrested and probably executed."
Bail walked over to Leia, putting his hand gently on her face. "You're so young."
"I'm eighteen. That's not so young." Leia turned to face Padmé. "I want to meet my brother, but I have a feeling there's a lot to this story you haven't told me yet."
"I'd like to tell the entire story to both of you at the same time," Padmé said. "Then you both can make up your minds to help me, or not. But it has to be a mutual decision, because I don't think my plan can work without the two of you working as a team."
Leia looked over to her father. "I can't say no to this, Father."
"I had a feeling you'd say that," Bail said sadly. "I love you, Leia."
Smiling, Leia gave her father a tight hug, not noticing the look of longing on Padmé's face. "I love you, too. I'll be all right."
Han sat in the lobby for a long time, finally shutting his eyes to take a nap. When the door opened, he was instantly awake, and leapt off the sofa. He noted the grim expression on Bail Organa's face, and Padmé's restrained smile. Princess Leia seemed to be distant and resolute.
"About time," Han grumbled. "I thought I was going to have to call in for room service and spend the night." When the trio did not reply, he addressed Padmé, "Did you get my money?"
It was Bail that answered. "Ten thousand credits will be brought to your ship tonight, Captain Solo. I will set up an account under your name, and once you arrive on Tatooine, Leia will contact me and I will deposit another ten thousand in your account. When you arrive on Myrkr, the same amount will again be deposited."
"Thirty thousand?" Han said, his eyes lighting up at the amount.
Bail stepped closer to Han. "If you keep Leia and Padmé safe during the entire course of this mission, which includes what happens on Myrkr, I will double your fee."
"Sixty thousand?" Han gasped, then looked suspiciously at Bail. "What's gonna happen on Myrkr?"
"I'm not at liberty to tell you that," Bail said. During the course of their long meeting, Padmé had told them Han was unaware of her connection to either Luke or Leia, and she wanted it kept from him for the time being. Since it didn't seem to matter either way, Leia and Bail had readily agreed to Padmé's request.
"The flyboy can add numbers," Leia commented dryly. "I can only wonder what other surprises he has in store for us."
Han gave Leia a wink. "I've already told you I'm full of surprises, Your Royal Shortness."
Several hours later, Han was back at the spaceport with his two passengers in tow. Grateful at having 'escaped' the Organa Palace without having to actually groom any pittens, Han led the ladies into the hanger, barely listening to the Princess's continual verbal jabs at his character. He had ten thousand credits waiting for him at the foot of his ship's ramp, and that was all that mattered at the moment.
"Is this your ship?" Leia asked incredulously. "Does it fly?"
The insults to his own character he could ignore – any insult to his ship he took personally. "Not only can the Millennium Falcon fly, she's the fastest ship you'll ever have the privilege of riding in," Han stated. "She's made the Kessel Run in twelve parsecs."
"That's not poss-" Leia started to say, when Padmé cut her off.
"If Han says he did it, then he did," Padmé stated. "It's never a good idea to question the pilot."
"You can say that again," Han crowed.
Leia frowned at Padmé. "But…"
"Some things simply aren't worth arguing about," Padmé said, patting Leia's arm.
"Yeah," Han agreed with a firm nod. "Me an' Padmé have reached an understanding, haven't we?" He grinned broadly at the older lady. "The Corellian is always right."
"Oh, for star's sake," Leia muttered under her breath.
Han looked around the hanger bay. "By the way, where's my money? The Prince said it would be waiting for me when we got here."
"Is money the only thing you love?" Leia asked, annoyed. "Besides yourself, I mean?"
"Nope," Han replied, putting his arm around Padmé's shoulders. "I love this pretty lady, too." He gave Padmé a quick peck on the cheek. "Paddie loves her Corellian, too. I call her Paddie, 'cuz it's my pet nickname for Padmé. Princess Celly sure had the two of us figured out fast, didn't she? That's because we're so much in love, it's hard to hide our true feelings for each other."
Padmé was utterly astounded. "What!?"
Suddenly, Han realized he had no idea what was possessing him to spout these bizarre comments, other than the young Princess was getting under his skin and he wanted to, to …. Well, he wasn't sure what he wanted to accomplish, really, other than getting back at the uppity Princess. Now that he had started down a very slippery slope, he couldn't very well go back without looking like a complete fool. "Two wild and crazy spacers, flying through the galaxy with stardust in our eyes," Han finished lamely.
"Is that right?" Leia questioned, looking suspiciously at a dumbstruck Padmé.
"Uh…" Padmé stuttered, trying to decide whether she should play along with the obviously demented pilot.
"Look," Leia said, pointing toward the ship's ramp. "There's C-3PO, coming from behind the ship. He must have your credits with him, Solo." Leia smiled and waved. "And he's got R2-D2 with him, too." She hurried over to the two droids. "Threepio! Do you have Captain Solo's payment?"
"Yes, Princess Leia. I most certainly do have it," Threepio replied, hoisting up a box he was carrying. He then noticed Leia's companions, and backed up a step upon seeing Padmé. "You are not going to turn me off again, are you?"
"I'm sorry, Threepio," Padmé apologized once again to the droid, grateful for the sidetracked conversation. "I really needed to see Leia. I hope you'll forgive me for being so rude to you earlier."
"He's a droid," Han grumbled. "You don't have to apologize to a droid."
"That is quite correct," Threepio said, sounding wistful. "A droid's lot in life is a difficult one." The protocol droid tilted his head as Artoo gave a sharp whistle. "Oh, yes, Artoo. I was getting to that. Prince Organa requested we accompany Mistress Leia to wherever it is that she is going, and offer our assistance in her mission. I do hope it isn't dangerous." He craned his neck to gaze up at the ship. "This isn't the ship we are going to be traveling on, is it? It looks somewhat unreliable."
"The ship undoubtedly takes after its captain," Leia told the droid.
"Droids?" Han protested. "No pain-in-the-rear droids on my ship, and that's final."
"If the droids don't go, then neither do I," Leia stated through clenched teeth.
"Good," Han said. "You're a pain, too."
"And if Leia doesn't go, that means no credits for you," Padmé pointed out. "Not the first ten thousand, or the second… or third…."
Han held up his hands. "I get it. But taking droids wasn't part of the deal."
"Tough," Leia said tightly. "From now on, you'll be taking your orders from me, and don't you forget it." She turned to the droids and pointed toward the ramp. "Threepio, Artoo… get onboard this rust bucket." Leia then turned her icy gaze at Han, and indicated with a wave of her hand to several large cases sitting against the outer wall. "Bring my luggage onboard."
"Would you like me to get your luggage, Mistress Leia?" Threepio asked nervously, uncertain what was making the Princess so upset.
"No," Leia snapped. "Solo will bring it if he knows what's good for him." With that, she stomped up and disappeared into the interior of the ship with the droids obediently following her inside.
Han stood still, his mouth open. "I don't take orders from anyone but me," he finally mumbled in disbelief, looking up at the empty ramp.
"Why did you tell her we were lovers?" Padmé hissed out, giving Han a hard slug with her fist on his bicep. "Are you insane?"
"I… I don't know," Han admitted sheepishly, rubbing the spot where she'd hit him. "I have no idea what came over me. It's like the words came tumbling out all by themselves, and I couldn't stop myself until it was too late. Are you going to tell her the truth?"
Padmé was about to say 'yes', when she stopped herself. "Maybe. I don't know yet. It depends."
"What does that mean?"
"It means you'd better start behaving yourself around Princess Leia, or I'll turn into a very jealous paramour. Maybe, just maybe, by pretending we're involved, Leia won't kill you, since that will be my prerogative." And maybe, Padmé mused to herself, by pretending to be involved with Han, he won't turn his bad-boy charms toward my daughter. Then she spun on her toe and marched up into the ship, leaving Han standing alone and wondering how his life had taken such a strange turn in the past few days.
The trip to the desert planet was quiet and strained. Princess Leia remained sequestered in the small cabin she was sharing with Padmé, and other than using the refresher, refused to come out. This situation upset Padmé quite a lot, and the older woman was of the opinion that Han was to blame for Leia being so unsocial. Padmé spent most of her time in the berth with Leia, leaving Han alone to deal with the protocol droid and his little companion, Artoo. By the time the Falcon made landfall in Mos Eisley, Han was in a sour mood.
Han spared a glance over at the Princess as she exited her cabin. She was carrying a small satchel, and had dressed in a light blue shirt and white pants. Han noted that Leia was no longer wearing her hair in that absurd style, but rather had it braided and hanging down her back. Then Padmé exited the cabin, and Han blinked in surprise. The older woman was dressed very similar to Leia, except her shirt was pale pink. Her hair, too, was worn down in a long braid.
"You two look like sisters," Han blurted out.
Padmé gave a genuine smile. "Thank you. Darling."
Darling? Han thought with a start, before remembering his idiocy during their departure from Alderaan. He noted that Leia's expression darkened upon hearing Padmé's term of endearment. And once again, he felt the overwhelming urge to capture the Princess's attention. "I like your hair much better without it being trussed up in those dumb buns."
"I couldn't care less what you like or don't like," Leia said frostily.
"Will you go rent us a landspeeder?" Padmé asked Han, keeping her voice sugary. "A large one, dear, since we'll be taking the droids with us." She put her arm through Leia's, tugging the young woman to come along. "We'll be getting directions to the Lars' homestead. I was once there, but it was a very long time ago, and not by landspeeder."
"You've been there? Have you met Luke?" Leia questioned.
"No," Padmé said. "It was before Luke was born."
"Why do I have to go along?" Han complained, frowning. "This isn't my mission."
Padmé gave a stern look toward Han. "You wouldn't want me to get captured by Tusken Raiders, would you?"
"Uh, I guess not."
"Don't sound so concerned about your girlfriend's welfare, Solo," Leia bit out sarcastically. "And don't forget, my father is paying you well for thismission."
"Let's not dawdle," Padmé declared as she hustled Leia away before another argument could ensue.
An hour later, with both droids loaded onto the back trunk area of the four-seat speeder, the group set off into the hot desert sand. Padmé kept track of their direction, and occasionally pointed for Han to make a small course correction. Eventually they passed a small town, which Padmé identified as Anchorhead. "Just a few klicks further, and we should be coming up to their homestead."
"Why anyone lives on this planet is beyond me," Han stated grimly. "Much less way out here beyond civilization."
"They are moisture farmers," Padmé explained. "The towns rely on moisture farmers for their water supply, otherwise no one could live here at all."
"No great loss," Han replied, thinking about Jabba the Hutt. "The only thing this system is good for is criminal activity, anyway."
"You're quite the expert on that, I'd imagine," Leia commented snidely from the seat behind Han.
Han grinned smugly, looking into the rearview mirror at the Princess. "Glad you can admit I'm an expert."
"On being a criminal," Leia returned. "That's not a compliment, laserbrain."
"I'd like to think being called an expert on anything is a compliment," Han goaded.
"You would," Leia mumbled.
"Look!" Padmé cried excitedly, pointing off toward the horizon. "There it is…. Luke's homestead."
Han squinted. He could see a few small mounds, the same color as the sand. It looked as desolate as everything else on the planet. "One rebel recruit lives in a palace, the other rebel recruit lives in a mud hut." He looked over at Padmé. "What do these two people possibly have in common?"
"I find it amazing that you two claim to be lovers, yet you've kept this huge secret from Solo," Leia said to Padmé. "Maybe when he finds out, he'll dump you."
"Maybe," Padmé agreed quietly.
"What huge secret?" Han demanded.
"You'll find out shortly, Han," Padmé said. "I promise."
Leia immediately regretted the harshly spoken words to Padmé, thinking that perhaps that was the reason Padmé was delaying telling the pilot the facts – she didn't want to lose her lover. Leia gave a furtive glance into the rearview mirror, appraising the Corellian's windblown appearance. Although he was quite a bit younger than her mother, Padmé was still a very attractive woman. It certainly wouldn't be odd that Solo found her appealing. And it wasn't strange that her mother found the pilot attractive as well. Han Solo might be incredibly annoying, but Leia wasn't blind to the fact he was ruggedly handsome. Certainly nothing like all those lame schoolboys and vapid politicians Leia had to deal with everyday. Leia could very well understand that Padmé could find comfort in those strong arms. She found herself wondering what kissing the Corellian would feel like, then gave herself a firm mental shake. He was her mother's lover, for star's sake! What in the galaxy was causing her to think about him in such a way?
Instead of thinking about Solo, Leia forced her thoughts toward the rapidly approaching moisture farm. Her twin brother was living there, toiling away in the heat. And his life was about to be altered in unimaginable ways.
Han brought the speeder to a halt, close to the sand-worn dome. As the group exited their transport, an older man appeared from the underground dwelling to greet the newcomers.
"Can I help you?" he called out.
"Owen," Padmé said breathlessly, hurrying toward the man. "Is that you?"
"Yeah, that's my name." The grizzled man eyed Padmé and looked over her shoulder toward Leia and Han. "And who would you be?"
"It's me, Padmé Amidala. I know it's been a long time – "
Owen blinked, and staggered back a step. "It can't be…"
"Yes," Padmé said, smiling. "It's me."
Owen's craggy expression hardened. "You need to leave before Beru sees you and gets all upset."
"I need to see Luke," Padmé stated, her smile fading. If Bail was difficult to convince, Padmé suspected Owen might be even more so.
"Kenobi told me you were dead. Seems that sneaky old wizard lied to us." He shook his finger in Padmé's face. "If you didn't need Luke before, he certainly doesn't need you now."
"No, Luke doesn't need me," Padmé agreed. "But there are things he needs to know now that he's an adult. There are decisions he has to make, once he hears the truth."
"I'm not allowing it," Owen replied stubbornly. "The truth is the last thing Luke needs to know. He's way better off without knowing it."
Leia finally stepped closer. "My name is Leia Organa, and from what I've been told, Luke is my twin brother. Even if you have issues with Padmé, I believe I have the right to meet my brother, just like he has the right to meet me."
"This recruit is your brother?" Han interrupted in surprise. "Is that the big secret?"
"One of them," Padmé said dryly.
"I say no one has any rights," Owen spat out. "Look around you, missy. Fairytales are for stories, not real life. If life was fair, I wouldn't be eking out a living in the middle of a desert, would I?"
"Listen up," Han put in without being asked, "all Padmé wants to do is to talk to the kid. We ain't leaving until that happens."
"I say it's not gonna happen," Owen said stubbornly.
Before anyone could react, Han drew out his blaster, pointing it at Owen. "And I say it is."
"Han!" Padmé said, appalled. "Put your weapon away."
"Do you know what negotiating and diplomacy even mean?" Leia added, disgusted at the Corellian.
"Sure I know," Han replied. "It means wasting a lot of time getting nowhere fast. I prefer aggressive negotiations, myself."
Padmé gave Han a strange look as the memory of Anakin saying that same phrase a long time ago came flooding back. She pushed Han's weapon away, and firmly forced the memory of Anakin back into the recesses of her mind, where it belonged.
A head liberally streaked with gray appeared at the top of the home's steps, and a second later a woman exited onto the ground level. "Owen? What's going on?"
"These people are lost, and I'm just giving them directions," Owen quickly called back over his shoulder.
"Beru?" Padmé called out. "It's me… Padmé Amidala!"
Sitting around the table in the small kitchen, Padmé sipped the cool drink that Beru had graciously provided the travelers. Her eyes gazed around the stark, utilitarian room, which was surprisingly clean considering the constant battle with dust that Beru had to contend with. The homestead had changed very little since she had visited it all those years ago. She could tell that Leia was fascinated with these simple living conditions, so completely different than her own, luxurious palace. When they were still outside, Han had quickly holstered his blaster, and mumbled some type of short remark that might have resembled an apology to Beru for pointing a gun at her husband, and was now fidgeting as he sat next to Padmé. Owen had vehemently disagreed when Beru had invited them inside and stalked away, complaining bitterly that Beru was making a huge mistake allowing them to stay.
"Luke will be here soon," Beru told them pleasantly as she bustled about preparing dinner. "I'm sure it will be a shock to meet you." Indeed, it had been more than a little stunning for Beru to find out Luke's mother was still alive. However, unlike Owen, she was determined to be a good host to these unexpected arrivals.
"Is Obi-Wan still around?" Padmé asked cautiously.
"Oh, yes, he certainly is. He goes by the name 'Ben Kenobi' now," Beru replied. "Ben's presence has always been a burr under Owen, too. I've told him a million times that Ben has a right to live here, but Owen doesn't understand."
Or, perhaps, thought Padmé, Owen understands the implications of my appearance far more than Beru does at this point.
Leia's expression perked up at the mention of a familiar name. "General Obi-Wan Kenobi? My father's told me about him. He's living here? On Tatooine?"
"Yes," Padmé said. "Since right after the Clone Wars."
"He had to go into hiding, like so many others," Beru said sadly.
Padmé coughed softly. "Why does Luke use the last name 'Skywalker' instead of 'Lars'?"
"Owen wanted to honor his stepmother, Shmi Skywalker," Beru explained. "Shmi was very loved, so it seemed like a good way to remember her."
"I see," Padmé said. "That's nice." Although, she mused, it seemed that Obi-Wan would have objected to keeping that dangerous connection. Before Padmé could voice this concern, a loud noise came from up at the top of the stairs.
"Aunt Beru?" a young man's voice called out. "I'm back. Who owns that landspeeder? Do we have guests? Are they interested in selling those two droids sitting inside? We sure could use a couple of working droids to help fix those condensers." The kid clunked noisily down the stairs and into the kitchen, and the group found themselves staring into the curious face of a sun-tanned blond, young man. "Hi. My name's Luke Skywalker."
"Luke, I'd like you to meet Padmé Amidala, Leia Organa and Han Solo," Beru said by way of introduction. She quickly took Luke's arm and guided him to a chair. "Have a seat. These people have something very important to tell you." She looked at Padmé. "Should I leave?"
"You are certainly welcome to stay," Padmé said politely, before turning briefly to Han. "Han, would you please check on the droids?"
"Why?" Han asked in disbelief. "What could've happened to them in that short time? And if something did, who cares?"
"Can you really be that dense?" Leia asked snidely. "We want privacy, you thick-head."
"Why didn't you come out and say that, then?" He started to leave, then turned to speak to Padmé. "If you insist on keeping all these secrets from me, then I'm gonna have to start rethinking our relationship, sweetheart." He was pleased to see that this remark made Padmé blush, and Leia become even more annoyed than before. He gave a quick nod to the boy on his way out. "Good luck dealing with these two, kid. You're gonna need it."
After Han left, Padmé turned her dark eyes toward her son, and took a deep breath before plunging in. "There is no easy way to say this. Leia is your twin sister, and I'm your mother."
Luke kept looking from Padmé to Leia, and back again. "No way. This is a joke, right? Did Fixer put the two of you up to this? I'll bet he did, that moron. He thinks he's the galaxy's biggest joker." Luke grinned at Beru. "Why are you going along with this?"
"Luke, please," Beru pleaded. "This is important, and you need to listen."
"This isn't a joke," Padmé said. "I truly am your mother."
"But… I'm a Skywalker," Luke said, suddenly feeling his world tilting on its axis.
"I was married to Anakin Skywalker."
Luke's gaze went back to Leia. "You don't look a thing like me."
"Leia's appearance takes after me, as you can see," Padmé said. "Your looks very much take after Anakin."
"He was a Jedi, wasn't he?" Luke asked, suddenly very interested. He looked over at Beru. "You and Uncle Owen told me that both my parents had died during the Clone Wars. Did you know my mother was alive?" His head swung back to Padmé. "Where have you been? Why have you come here now?"
Beru tried to answer some of Luke's many questions. "No, Luke, we didn't know your mother was alive. We had been led to believe she was dead."
Padmé gave a shaky laugh. "Yes, Anakin was a Jedi, and that's the main reason I've come here. You see," she said, pausing to look at both her children before rushing forward with her explanation. "Anakin turned to the Dark Side. He became a Sith Lord. It's the reason I've been pretending to be dead all these years, and the reason you were separated from me and hidden away."
Beru was stunned at Padmé's words. "Anakin is still alive, too?"
"I don't understand," Luke said, frowning.
"Neither do I," Leia agreed, although she was starting to get a cold feeling of dread in the pit of her stomach where Padmé's story was heading. On Alderaan, all Padmé would tell Leia during their meeting was that she needed Leia's help to destroy Darth Vader and the Emperor. There had been no mention of Anakin Skywalker, or his turning into a Sith Lord.
"What's a Sith?" Luke questioned.
"A Sith is someone that is evil and wicked. Your father is no longer the man I loved and married, and I need you to come with me to Myrkr, and lure your father to that planet."
"Then what?" Luke questioned.
"Then she intends for you to join together and kill him," a refined, yet unfamiliar voice spoke from the shadows of the doorway.
Beru instantly recognized the voice of Ben Kenobi, and stood up to greet the latest newcomer. "Ben? Why are you here?" She waved at the older man wearing a brown robe to enter her home.
"Hey, you're the old wizard the guys are always talking about," Luke stated. "I've always wanted to meet you."
"I've watched you grow up from afar, Luke," Ben said as he pushed back his cowl, revealing a kindly face. He turned to face Padmé. "You haven't aged a day, Padmé."
Padmé stood, and moved to embrace the older man. "You always were a flatterer. It's wonderful to see you again, Obi-Wan." Inside, she was more than a little shocked at Obi-Wan's appearance. Time had not been kind to the Jedi, and he had aged far more than she could have imagined.
"I'm surprised Owen didn't try to stop you," Beru said.
"I'm sure he would have," Ben replied. "Fortunately for me, he was rather busy negotiating with a spacer for a fair price for those two droids, and neither one noticed me as I walked past."
Leia leapt to her feet. "What? Solo's trying to sell my droids? How dare he!" She cleared her throat, embarrassed at her lack of decorum. It was all that Corellian's fault for making her forget her upbringing. "Uh, it's nice meeting you, General Kenobi. My father has told me many wonderful stories about your exploits."
"How did you know I was here?" Padmé asked the Jedi.
"The Force told me there was a change coming sometime ago," Obi-Wan said. "When I sensed your presence, it all made sense."
"What did Ben mean about killing our father?" Luke asked intently, staring at Padmé. "Is that why you're here?"
Obi-Wan shook his head in dismay. "Your children are untrained in the ways of the Force. If Yoda couldn't defeat Palpatine and I could not defeat their father, what makes you think they can?"
"The Force?" Luke questioned. "What's the Force?"
"The Force is a power that surrounds all living things," Obi-Wan explained. "Some of us can access this power and use it to enhance our abilities, such as reflexes and speed."
"The Emperor killed all the Jedi," Leia informed Luke. "There isn't anyone left that can use this power, except for General Kenobi."
"That's not exactly true," Obi-Wan said gently. "Vader and Palpatine both are able to access the power of the Force, although they use it for evil."
The group remained silent for a long moment, taking in this information. Then when Leia finally spoke, her voice was slightly shaky. "Who is our father?"
It was Obi-Wan that replied, after noting that Padmé dropped her head. "Anakin Skywalker was my apprentice. He was the most powerful Force-user the galaxy had ever known. Senator Palpatine knew this, and unfortunately, the Jedi Order was too blind to see that Palpatine was a Sith until it was too late."
"Palpatine used Anakin's love for me to twist him and use him," Padmé whispered. "We never should have defied the Jedi Order and fallen in love, much less married in secret."
"Anakin Skywalker is Darth Vader," Leia stated, knowing the answer before anyone could bring it to reality by vocal confirmation.
"Anakin Skywalker no longer exists," Obi-Wan tried to explain. "After he turned to the Dark Side, he tried killing your mother, and I fought him on Mustafar. I won, and I thought he died on that awful planet. But Palpatine came to retrieve what remained of his still breathing body, and put him into that suit to keep him alive."
"It was the Sith that your father became that killed many of the Jedi, during the purges," Padmé said. "It's why he needs to die, along with Palpatine. Only together can we destroy this evil, and bring peace and justice back to the galaxy."
Beru had remained silent, listening in shock to this story. "How can these children defeat the Emperor and Darth Vader? It's not possible!"
"I would have to agree with Beru," Obi-Wan said. "This will only lead to their deaths, Padmé."
"Do you really think I'm doing this without considering the consequences?" Padmé cried out. "You've remained hidden, doing nothing, while the galaxy falls ever deeper into despair! I know the risks! I don't want to put my children in such a terrible danger, but something has to be done. If you won't do it, then I will." She turned her brown eyes toward Luke and Leia. "This is the decision you must make. I will not take one of you into danger without the other as backup. It's either both of you, or neither of you."
"Don't do it, Luke," Beru said, sniffing. "Stay here, where it's safe."
Luke turned to gaze at his newfound sister. "You're willing to do this, aren't you?"
"Somehow, I've known all my life that there was a task I had to undertake to save the beings of the galaxy," Leia replied, still reeling from the revelation that the monster known as Darth Vader was her biological father. "I'll admit I never thought it would be something as dramatic as taking on Palpatine and Vader personally, but someone will eventually have to do it."
"Maybe it's the reason we were born," Luke added thoughtfully. "To right what our father wronged."
"No," Beru said, breaking into a sob. "Please don't go, Luke."
Luke put his arm around the woman who raised him, and loved him like he was her own child. "You know I have to, Aunt Beru."
"But I don't want you to!"
He kissed the top of her head. "I'll be back someday, I promise."
"I'll pack a bag for you, then," Beru said, wiping a tear from her eye. "You should never take a trip without a change of clothing."
Padmé swallowed the lump in her throat, bursting with pride, and shaking with fear at the same time. "We'd better hurry, before it gets too dark to head back to town."
"And before Solo sells our transportation to Uncle Owen," Luke said with a laugh.
"I'm coming with you," Obi-Wan spoke up firmly. "At least I can give them some training before meeting up with the two most powerful Force-users in the galaxy."
Padmé smiled, and gave Obi-Wan a warm hug. "Thank you. Hopefully, if my plan works, the Force won't be able to affect the outcome."
"That's not possible."
"Do you think?" Padmé asked coyly. "We'll see."
Outside in the dry heat, Han took a step back from the Princess's wrath. "So what if I was trying to make some extra cash?" he said defensively. "I've yet to get into a situation where a droid comes in handy."
"I tried to inform you that we weren't for sale," Threepio moaned to a sullen Uncle Owen. "Why do humans always ignore me?"
Waving a fist under the Corellian's nose, Leia could barely contain herself. "They're my droids, not yours! And if you ever try to sell them again, I won't care if you ARE Padmé's boy toy, I'll break your big nose myself!"
"My nose isn't big!"
"So is that why Solo called her 'sweetheart?'" Luke questioned as he shifted the weight of the satchel Aunt Beru had quickly packed for him to take along on his trip. "He's our mother's boyfriend?"
"Padmé is your mother?" Han spluttered out in shock.
"Yes, as revolting as that scenario is, apparently it's true," Leia replied to Luke. "Now watch as the Nerf of Corellia runs screaming toward the nearest bar."
The Naboo woman gave a groan. "Why did you have to say that?"
Both younger men spoke up at the same time, thinking Padmé was speaking to them. "He doesn't know about us?" Luke said in surprise. "I don't know," Han mumbled, assuming that Padmé was referring to the really dumb lie about them being involved.
Everyone stood around in a semi-circle, looking confused. It was Owen that finally stated, "It doesn't surprise me a single atom that the high and mighty Queen of Naboo has a new, young consort."
"Queen?" Han repeated, his confusion growing by the moment. "I thought you were a senator."
"That was after I'd been Queen of Naboo," Padmé said, feeling her resentment toward Owen spike another notch.
"Queens can quit?" Luke questioned. "I never knew that."
"Me, either," Han admitted. "And I don't think I like being called a 'consort', either."
"What you don't know could fill up an asteroid field, flyboy," Leia stated firmly.
"Well," Obi-Wan said loudly as he gave a cough. "Now that everything seems to be out in the open, more or less, we should get moving."
"Mark my words, Luke. This is going to come to a disastrous end," Owen warned. "If you have an ounce of sense, you'll stay here, where it's safe."
"How long have you known Vader had been Anakin Skywalker?" Luke questioned his uncle. "When were you going to get around to telling me the truth about my father?"
"Never." Owen crossed his arms in defiance. "I never even burdened your poor aunt with that information."
"I thought as much," Luke said sadly.
Han waved his hand, calling attention to himself. "Wait a space-vaped parsec. Am I hearing this right? Darth Vader… THE Darth Vader… is Luke and Leia's father?"
"Yes," Padmé said.
"Maybe that's what will cause Solo to run screaming," Leia commented, biting her lip.
"I ain't leaving, Princess," Han said stubbornly. "Me and your mom have got a long history together, and Darth Vader doesn't scare me."
"Proof, once again, that you're a moron," Leia responded.
"Okay, then," Obi-Wan said, clapping his hands together. "NOW is everything out in the open?"
"More or less," Padmé said dryly.
Back in the Mos Eisley spaceport, Han punched in the code to enter his ship. "All aboard that's coming aboard," he called out cheerfully as Padmé and Obi-Wan started to head up the ramp, with the droids following closely behind them.
"Come along, Artoo," Obi-Wan said, looking down at the little droid fondly. "It's been a long time since we've had an adventure together."
Threepio tilted his head in puzzlement, as the little droid gave the older man a positive-sounding response. "I do not recall we were ever owned by a Jedi."
"You would not," Obi-Wan answered. "I'm afraid after the twins were born, you had a complete memory wipe for the safety of Padmé, and the children, Threepio."
"I see," Threepio said, sounding miffed. "You could trust Artoo, but not me."
At the top of the ramp, Padmé gave a brief smile. "Sorry, Threepio." She disappeared inside, and Obi-Wan followed.
Artoo gave a raspberry noise at the tall droid, which sounded suspiciously like gloating.
"No one likes a know-it-all, Artoo," Threepio said loftily, hurrying to enter the ship before the little droid.
Luke stood at the bottom of the ramp, craning his neck to gaze at the dilapidated freighter. "What a piece of junk," he commented, not caring if the captain of the piece of junk heard him.
"I'm getting really annoyed at all these nasty comments about my ship," Han snarled. "The Millennium Falcon is the best ship in the galaxy, and I'm the best pilot."
"If you say so," Luke said, sounding dubious.
"I say so." Han turned his body toward Leia, blocking her way. "Part two of this trip is complete. Have you transferred your father's payment into my account?"
Leia's eyes narrowed at the Corellian. "If you let me get onboard, I'll use your long range transponder and send the proper code. If your transponder works, that is."
"Then move aside, Vapor-breath," Leia said, giving the Corellian a hard shove before stomping loudly up the ramp. She paused for a second at the top, calling down, "You should be ashamed of your obsession with money."
"Money happens to be the most important thing in the galaxy!" Han yelled back. She disappeared into the ship, and Han turned to Luke. "She's gotta lot of spunk, even if she does have a hot temper and a deadly tongue." When Luke just shrugged his shoulders, Han asked, "What do you think?"
Han leaned against a landing strut, and pointed at his chest. "Could a guy like me and a real life Princess get together?"
Luke's expression turned to total disbelief. "You're asking me if you should have an affair… with my SISTER?"
"'Affair' is such a crass term," Han said. "I prefer 'smoking hot romance,' myself."
"You're already involved with our MOTHER!"
"Oh. Yeah." Han stroked his chin thoughtfully. "I forgot about that."
"Well, you can't blame me," Han said defensively. "Padmé's been sorta neglectful of my physical needs lately, if you get my drift."
Luke felt his face flush with rage and embarrassment. "I can't believe what I'm hearing. You've got to be the slimiest slug in the entire galaxy!" Luke headed up the ramp before he did something rash – like pound the scoundrel into a pulp.
"You shouldn't talk to your future stepfather like that," Han shouted after the young man. "Or maybe your future brother-in-law." Han grinned as the kid stomped away in an indignant huff. Darth Vader notwithstanding, this trip might turn out to be a lot of fun after all.
As Han angled his ship up toward space, he felt a warm hand on his shoulder. He glanced sideways at the older man's fingers, and resisted the urge to push him away. "Next stop - Myrkr."
"I would like you to take a small side trip, son," Obi-Wan told the pilot.
Padmé, sitting in the co-pilot's seat, appeared surprised at this request. "Where do you want to go, Obi-Wan?"
"Never heard of it," Han said. "And side trips aren't in my contract."
"It won't take long," Obi-Wan said calmly. "There is a friend living on that system that I believe can assist us in this mission."
"Who would that be?" Padmé questioned.
Padmé's jaw dropped. "Yoda? He's still alive, too?"
"Who's this Yoda character?" Han asked with a weary sigh.
"A Jedi Master," Padmé replied. "But he must be so old by now."
"So is Palpatine," Obi-Wan pointed out. "Do not underestimate Master Yoda's abilities with the Force, even at his advanced age."
"Jedi. The Force. Hocus-pocus religions and mystical wizards." Han shook his head. "What did I get myself mixed up in? Oh, wait. It wasn't my fault. Someone pointed a blaster in my back and left me with no choice in the matter."
"It would be best to have one Master and one Padawan," Obi-Wan told Padmé. "I could apprentice Luke, while Master Yoda trains Leia."
"But I told you I hope to eliminate the influence of the Force during this confrontation," Padmé argued. "That's why we're going to Myrkr. There are… things on that system that will help us a great deal when Vader and Palpatine arrive."
"Things often don't go as planned," Obi-Wan pointed out. "Do you honestly believe that it will be only Vader and Palpatine that show up? Don't forget, the Emperor hardly ever leaves Coruscant. Luring him to Myrkr might be a great deal more difficult that you think it will be. It is far more likely he will send someone he trusts instead."
"That's a possibility," Padmé mused. "Still, if all of his strongest and most valuable agents simply disappear, Palpatine's hand will be forced. He will come, eventually."
"We still need Master Yoda."
Although Padmé wasn't happy about the delay, she nevertheless nodded her agreement. "Han, set a course for Dagobah."
"Kriff," Han muttered. "I'm charging Organa extra for this."
"What was it like growing up as a Princess?" Luke questioned his newfound sister as he sat across from her at the Falcon's game table.
Leia smiled. "I'm not sure how to answer that. I have nothing else to compare my life to. I can imagine it was a great deal easier than growing up as a moisture farmer, if that's what you're asking."
Luke flushed. "No… I didn't mean it to sound like I was bitter or anything. Sorry."
"It's understandable that you would be envious at our different stations in life," Leia insisted. "You don't have to apologize. If it were the other way around…"
"My life hasn't been bad," Luke stated firmly. "Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen have always been kind and fair to me. I'm not envious."
"Okay, then" Leia acquiesced, dropping into an uncomfortable silence with her twin.
After long moments, Luke asked, "What do you think of Padmé?"
"She seems to be nice," Leia replied. "I'm not certain what the details of her grand plan to eliminate the Emperor are, though. Hopefully, she has a grip on reality."
"Speaking of her grip on reality, what do you think of Solo?"
It was Leia's turn to flush. "He's crass and rude, and obviously loves material things above all else. I don't understand what Padmé sees in him."Liar, Leia's mind screamed as she recalled watching him drive the landspeeder, and how his tousled hair looked so sexy…
"He asked me what I thought his chances with you would be," Luke told Leia, feeling only a tiny bit guilty for betraying the Corellian's confidence.
"He did what?"
"Yeah. He said Padmé was neglecting his needs lately."
"I thought so, too," Luke said smugly, gleeful at having derailed Han's future with Leia.
Solo's interested in me? Leia thought in shock. As if he stands a chance! Still, deep down, the idea pleased her far more than she would ever care to admit.