AN: As I'm sure you knew even before you clicked on this story, I don't own Star Wars. Well, I got this idea when I was thinking about all the people Luke loses in ANH. We all know that he lost his aunt and uncle and he lost Obi-Wan, but he also lost his childhood friend, and that's usually overlooked, so I decided to write a fic about it.
Han's fingers danced vaguely on the stone table at which he sat in the Rebel Base's cafeteria, still trying to process the fact that he had helped destroy the Death Star – and that he would be awarded with a medal of honor later on today. He had been eating his breakfast as if in a daze, not really noticing the taste. It was as if the food along with everything around it was unreal.
He would have thought Chewie would want to talk about it, but the Wookiee was as quiet as he was. In his seat next to Han, Chewie was staring into space between bites of food. Han could probably guess what his copilot was thinking, though. After all, they were smugglers. Smugglers didn't get honored for anything.
"Hey Han, mind if I sit here?"
The young voice disturbed both his stupor and Chewie's – they both looked up to find Luke standing above the empty seat on Han's other side, balancing a tray of food on his hands. The kid was wearing a bright yellow jacket over a black shirt.
"Go ahead, kid," Han said, thankful that he might have some company that would talk to him.
Luke sat, rather noisily thrashing his tray down on the table, making Han wonder how he managed not to spill anything. "So . . ." the boy said in an unsure manner, ". . . you excited?"
"The medals," said Luke.
"Oh . . . yeah," said Han, shrugging. "Well . . . can't say this sorta thing's ever happened to me before . . ."
"Me neither," Luke said vaguely.
Chewie roared a complaint that he himself wasn't getting a medal. Han thought it best not to translate unless Luke specifically asked what he said.
The kid was staring at his food without eating it, as if there was something more on his mind than just the medals. There seemed to be something melancholy in his face, even though he was now being revered as a great hero.
"Somethin' wrong, kid?" Han asked awkwardly, unsure why he was asking it at all.
Han shrugged again. "You're actin' weird, that's all."
Chewie roared an agreement.
Luke kept staring at his food, blinking a few times in rapid succession. "It's not . . . anything important . . . at least not to you."
The younger man began halfheartedly stirring his cereal, looking like he was struggling to ignore Han's presence, and still he didn't eat.
"Hey kid, you're gonna be starving durin' the medal ceremony if you don't eat," Han said casually.
"I know . . ." Luke muttered, still blinking, now looking like he was trying to block back tears.
Han breathed in, attempting to calm the sudden twist in his stomach. He hated seeing other people cry. Other people's tears always had a way of making him feel guilty, as if he was supposed to be crying himself even if nothing was going wrong in his own life.
"It's Ben, isn't it?" Han pushed out of himself.
"No . . ." Luke whispered.
"Your aunt and uncle?"
Luke gulped. "Maybe . . . but not really . . ."
"Why do I have to tell you?!"
Han found himself taken aback by Luke's sudden volume. "Yeesh, Luke, what's with you?"
Luke stared at him for a lingering moment, redness at the edges of his eyes. "Someone else died yesterday, someone I'd looked up to my entire life."
Han gulped. "Who?"
There was silence again. Luke's gaze dropped downward once more. "Biggs . . . his name was Biggs . . . we were kids together."
Something inside Han was telling him to run away, telling him that if he listened on he'd be stuck in something he didn't want, yet some other part of him was ignoring the warning. "Yeah?" he said as gently as he could.
Luke took a deep breath. "And . . . he was killed in the attack yesterday . . . that's all."
Chewie immediately sprang up from his seat and headed over to Luke's side so he could pat his head in sympathy, but Han remained still. Something was stuck in his throat, and it wasn't his food. He knew what most people would say in this situation – they would say, "I'm sorry," as if apologizing for the loved one's death, as if that apology would magically make everything better.
Han thought that was disgusting.
But if he wasn't going to say that, what could he say?
Luke was looking at him with what appeared to be a hint of accusation, as if he expected him to say something instead of staring silently at him. Damn, he thought. What the hell does he want from me? They had only met two days ago – it wasn't like they were long time friends. It wasn't like they could even be called friends at all.
So why was that pathetic look on the kid's face getting to him?
Han tried to return to his food, pretend Luke wasn't there, but even as he looked down at his food it felt like Luke was breathing down his neck, clinging to him, as if they hadn't met just two days ago, as if they had grown up together, as if Han was the kid's friend whatshisname. With that thought, the smuggler forced himself to stare into his cereal, which was growing soggy and unappetising as it floated in the blue milk.
"Right before the battle, I told him I had stories I was going to tell him," Luke said in a soft, disbelieving voice. "I never got to tell them . . . I never got to tell them . . . he never knew . . ."
Luke sounded like he was in a stupor, which finally forced Han to look back up at him. The kid's eyes were reddening – oh shit, he was going to cry. Han's stomach scrunched up, making him feel like he was about to vomit out his breakfast – he thought he would vomit if he saw the kid cry. He had to try to stop it.
"Well whaddaya expect me to do about it??" he blurted out.
As soon as the words escaped his mouth, shame washed over him, shame of the most irritating kind, shame of realization that he couldn't take those words back. Only a few seconds ago – just a few damn seconds ago – the words were inside him, unable to do any harm, but now they were out in the open and had reeked their havoc.
Luke stared at Han for a brief moment, blinking rapidly, then all of a sudden he stood up and stormed away, his steps audible even with the noise of the crowded cafeteria.
Chewie roared something to Han, something about him being an insensitive bastard, but he didn't have any time to listen, yet alone respond. His whole body was stumbling unevenly as he flew out of his seat, awkwardly dancing around the other cafeteria patrons, dashing out of the cafeteria, after the kid, even though he didn't have the slightest idea what he would say once he caught up with him.
"Kid! Kid!" Han called out once he caught sight of Luke down the hall.
Luke stopped walking, but he didn't look back at Han. His back stiffened, his fingers curled up at his sides.
"Look kid, don't do this," Han said.
Luke didn't move, didn't speak, didn't do anything to indicate that he might have heard Han.
Han sighed loudly. "All right . . . I'm sorry, happy now?"
The kid slowly turned around, revealing that there were now tears in his eyes. "Why is it that every time I think you might not be so bad you turn around and do something cowardly?"
"Cowardly??" Han exclaimed.
"Yes, cowardly," said Luke, sniffing and wiping his eyes. "That's why you can't stand hearing about death, isn't it?" He stared up into Han's eyes. "You're afraid."
He said it so plainly, so matter-of-factly, that Han couldn't find the ability to argue with it, couldn't say anything at all.
"That's why you pretend that you don't care about anyone else," Luke continued, his voice growing stronger and more confident. "You don't suffer as much pain when you don't care, am I right?"
Han felt his face reddening. "Look . . ." he sputtered, ". . . Look . . ." Nothing came after that one word. It was like his entire vocabulary had been eliminated except for that one little word, that beginning of some excuse that his muddled brain couldn't finish.
And the kid was staring at him again, giving him that pathetic, irritating stare, that stare that seemed to be expecting something from Han. Damn, what does he want? He didn't want to think of the answer, though he could easily guess it if he allowed himself to do so. The kid had lost his aunt and uncle, his old mentor, his best friend, all within a few days. He had no one else to look up to.
No one except . . .
Shit. What the hell was the kid thinking? Didn't he know that Han was a lousy guy to rely on? Didn't he know that making someone with a price on his head into a best friend was asking for more trouble and more heartbreak?
"Look kid . . ." he managed to sputter, ". . . I'm not good at this."
"I know," said Luke, nodding sadly, giving Han a childlike gaze that looked only moments away from breaking down in tears. "You're not good at it, so that's why you run away."
"Run away?? I'm here, ain't I?"
"You weren't yesterday," Luke said. "Not until the very end."
Was the kid really implying what Han thought he was implying? Did he really blame Han for his friend's death? That was ridiculous – there were thirty other fighters there, none of whom did anything to prevent whatshisname's death. Why did the kid think Han being there would have made any difference?
And why was Han suddenly feeling guilty?
"Look kid . . ." he said yet again, still fumbling for the right words, ". . . you don't know what it's like to have a price on your head . . ."
"Please stop it with the excuses," Luke interrupted.
"Yeah," said Luke. "Excuses. Try actually facing something for once."
Han wasn't entirely sure what they were talking about anymore. "All right," he finally said. "You're right, I'm afraid, I make excuses, I run away." He let out a long sigh. "If you want me to take that guy's place, you've got really lousy taste in friends."
"You don't have to be like that," Luke said. "You're better than that, I know it."
"You haven't known me long, kid."
"That doesn't matter," continued Luke. "I know you well enough."
Han growled in frustration. "Enough with the mumbo-jumbo, kid. If you want me to take that other guy's place, just tell me, okay?"
Luke once again gave him that desperate look. "Do you want to take his place?"
"Course not," said Han. "I'm too afraid, aren't I?"
Luke sighed, leaning against the wall and rubbing his eyes. "Look . . . nevermind. Just forget this conversation ever happened." Before Han could say anything, he strode back towards the cafeteria.
Han followed him, though he was unsure exactly why he was doing so. He tried to convince himself that it was just because he left his breakfast back there, but without much success. What had the kid done to his mind?
He found Luke back at their table, talking to Chewie. The Wookiee was growling out words of comfort, and even though Luke didn't understand the words themselves, he certainly understood their meaning. The food had been forgotten.
After a few moments of hesitation, Han cleared his throat, alerting them both to his presence. Luke and Chewie both looked at him with a hint of disdain, and Han couldn't really say he blamed them.
"Hey," Han said sheepishly.
[Go away Han,] Chewie roared. [Can't you see he's upset enough already?]
Han put up his hands in an attempt to convey humility. "Hey, I just wanted to tell him something."
Luke timidly looked up at him. "What?"
Han knew he might very well end up regretting his next words, but they were bubbling within him, unable to stand their containment. "I just wanted to let you know that I'm stayin' with the Rebellion for the time being."
Luke's eyes widened for a moment, as if he suspected that he hadn't heard Han right. "Really? You mean it?"
The smuggler took a deep breath, knowing fully-well that this meant commitment, something he tended to avoid because it usually blew up in his face, but for some reason he felt ready to take on this particular responsibility. "Yeah, kid." He reached over and patted Luke's shoulder. "I mean it."
And Luke smiled at him.