Disclaimer: The usual. I don't own any of these characters. George Lucas does.

A Change of Plans: Chapter 1


Seated on the edge of one of the two small beds that occupied the dank, stale cubicle the hotel called a room, Han was growing impatient. He stared blankly at the dirty walls, wondering what could be taking Luke so long. The kid had said he was supposed to meet some rebel friend of his to pick up a datacard that was to be delivered back to Alliance headquarters. Han hoped the kid was capable enough to do this without any problems, but he definitely would have felt better if he'd been allowed to go along. After all, Luke was only two months off the farm, and, although a pretty fair fighter, not the most experienced rebel agent. The kid had been edgy, however, insisting that her Worship wanted him to accomplish this mission alone to avoid any unwanted attention to their presence here. He even went so far as to say that Han was merely here as hired transport, a comment which had angered Solo more than he'd let on, and, worse, had been a totally unexpected barb from Luke. Come to think of it, the kid hadn't been acting like himself at all. Not that Han could claim that he knew him all that well. However, he was convinced that something was bothering the kid. He was just completely baffled as to what.

Right now, however, none of that mattered. All that did matter was that the kid got back soon so they could leave this sorry excuse for a night's lodging and get back to the Falcon. Even as he lamented the cramped, dingy quarters they'd chosen because of it's "cash-only, no questions asked" reputation, he couldn't help but laugh inwardly at his own changed perspective. How many months ago had it been since he'd stayed in a dive like this out of necessity without batting an eye? How could his estimation of such places have changed so drastically in just a few months with the Alliance and their new quarters on the small moon of Krall?

Shaking his head, he hardened his resolve to quit his association with these rebels as soon as possible before he really became the changed man her Highness was constantly joking about. It wasn't like he'd really developed any feelings for these people. He'd only stuck around because they had continued to pay him for his services, and he was hoping to save up enough to pay back his debts. Besides, it would be a shame to see them all vaped so soon after the victory at Yavin. A victory for which he was still getting praise and recognition. Hero-worship did not sit well on Han Solo, which was another reason for his desire to leave the Rebellion. Luke especially seemed idolize him, even though Han couldn't imagine why. The kid had skills that were absolutely amazing in one so young an inexperienced. He was as green as a dewback's hide, however, and that probably explained his frequent attempts at emulating Han's poise and attitude. Usually, the kid failed, with hilarious results. Sometimes, though, he made even a skilled Sabaac player like Han proud with his coolness and lack of readability.

He hoped the kid was employing his Sabaac face now.

Rising from the bed to shake off his unexpected and unexplained worry, Han paced the small floor. That settled it: as soon as he dropped the kid back off at the base, he and Chewie were saying "Goodbye." He wasn't going to get sucked into this any deeper than he'd already managed to get. He walked over to the small 'fresher unit, and filled a mostly clean glass with water. Wishing it was rum instead, he swallowed it quickly just as he heard the door of the room slide open behind him.

He turned around to see Luke walk in and sit tiredly on the edge of the opposite bed.

"Mission accomplished?" Han asked after a few moments during which the kid said nothing.

Luke nodded, removing a datacard from the inside pocket of his jacket and tossing it onto Han's bed without a word.

Feeling his concern rise at Luke's lack of verbal communication, Han pressed, "Did everything go smoothly?"

Again, Luke nodded without speaking.

"No problems?"

This time, Luke looked up sharply. "Why, do you have a problem?" The edge in his tone was severe and unwarranted. It was also tempered with a slight tremor, one that did not escape Han's notice.

Sharpening his own tone, Solo replied, "Just making sure things went okay."
"You wanna ' wipe my nose, too?" Luke retorted, rising from the bed and heading toward the 'fresher.

At a loss for words at Luke's uncharacteristic behavior, Han only watched silently as Luke filled a second glass with water and sipped at it with his back turned. Finding his voice, Han snapped, "No, not really. But I do want to know what the hell is bothering you enough to make you act like a jerk!"

"Nothing!" came the hot reply from the young man whose back was still turned.

Han was beginning to get annoyed at the kid's irritating behavior. "Sure, and I'm the Emperor," he remarked sarcastically. "Now tell me what's wrong kid before I really start to get angry."

Luke spun, cheeks flushed and eyes blazing. "I already told you! There's nothing wrong! Just get off my back!"

Well, at least the kid was looking at him now. That was an improvement to the silent treatment and the earlier view of his back. Only now that Han was facing him, it was very clear that there was something definitely wrong. Luke's eyes were too bright, and his cheeks too red. If anything, the kid looked feverish.

"You feelin' all right, kid?"

This time it was Luke's turn to look surprised. "Yeah," he answered. Han watched as his expression softened and he looked down at the floor. "Just a headache is all," he added.

Han relaxed a bit. He was always a bit grouchy himself when he had a headache. Nearly got into a fistfight with a dug on one of those days. He could begin to understand the kid's behavior. "Bad one?"

Luke nodded and crossed to his bed again, sipping the water he held in his hand. "I've had it all day. And it's just been getting worse and worse."

Nodding in mild sympathy, Han walked into the 'fresher and grabbed a washcloth. He ran it under the cold water for a moment before wringing it out and tossing it to Luke. Luke stared at him blankly.

"Lay on your back, and put that over your eyes," Han explained. "That's what usually works for me."

Laughing weakly, Luke smiled at him and joked, "Thanks, Doctor Solo."

"Don't mock me, Junior," replied Han with feigned seriousness. "Just see if that doesn't help in fifteen minutes or so." Glancing down at his chrono, Han noted that it was nearly dinnertime. Having gone without food while waiting for Luke for much of the day, he was actually rather hungry. Figuring he'd give Luke some time to try to ease out of his headache before heading back to the Falcon, Han decided to scout around to find something decent to eat. The last thing he wanted to do was play nursemaid to a rebel. "I'll be back shortly with food, and then we'll get outta here. Okay, kid?"

Luke was already lying back on the bed with the washcloth over his eyes. "Sure," he mumbled.

Checking his pockets to make sure he had enough cash credits, Han slipped out the door in search of a restaurant or cafŽ. He was in the mood for Corellian, but he wasn't sure what kind of offerings they'd have in a Corellian restaurant here on Ryall. The planet was so remote he doubted they'd have much in the way of good cuisine. Most of the people he passed on the street didn't seem to be the type to care either way. Eventually, he settled on a not-too-terrible looking establishment called The Outer Rim. Their specialty seemed to be Tatooine cuisine, something Han had never realized existed until this moment. He quickly ordered two combination meals which included various meats, a strange noodle dish, and a side of a pudding with a strange bluish hue. Luke would probably be able to tell him what everything was, and he'd probably also be relatively pleased with the meal since it was supposedly from his homeworld. Realizing he had unexpectedly taken pity on the kid, he pushed the unfamiliar sentiments aside and headed back to their room with the food.

Opening the door to the room, Han noticed that Luke was still lying on the bed, apparently asleep. Setting the food down on the small table that occupied the space against the wall between the two beds, Han figured that he should wake him, even though he felt badly about it. After all, the kid had to eat. And Han certainly didn't want to spend any more time on this forsaken planet than they absolutely had to.

"Luke," he called toward the sleeping form. "Food's here."

The response he got was something akin to a low moan as Luke rolled away from Han and onto his side, curling up into a fetal position as he did so.

Han rose and crossed over to the kid, annoyed. "Yeah, well you can sleep on the Falcon. But she ain't stocked with food, so up and at 'em." He swatted the kid's legs to get him to stir.

This time, Luke's reaction was a violent shiver, and he drew his knees closer to his chest.

Something was very wrong, and Han's annoyance vanished. Now, he was worried. He knelt by the kid's side and did a quick assessment. Luke's face was flushed and covered with a sheen of sweat. His hair was damp and matted, and his breathing seemed irregular and labored. Reaching out a tentative hand, Han touched his forehead and was not surprised to find it alarmingly hot. He shook his head. "Luke, kid, don't do this to me." Not now. Not when they needed to get back to the Alliance and get off this stupid planet. Not when the kid was wanted for the destruction of the Empire's precious space station.

Not when the only thing standing between himself and his farewell to this stupid war was the final leg of this mission.

"Talk about your bad timing." He gently patted Luke's face, hoping that the young rebel wasn't delirious. "Come on, Luke. Wake up and look at me."

"Hmmmfph?" Luke grunted and blinked his eyes. Glassy and unfocused with fever, they stared at nothing.

"Luke, kid, I know you're feeling really crummy right about now, but do you think you can make it to the Falcon?" The last thing Han wanted was to be stuck planetside with a sick rebel who had an even higher price on his head then he did. Medical treatment wouldn't even be an option in that case, and if Luke was really sick, that might be a serious problem. "Luke, answer me. Can you get to the Falcon on your own?"

"Falcon?" The whispered response was barely audible, but it was enough to encourage Han.

"Yeah, kid, the Falcon. Do you think you can get up and walk with me?" He waited expectantly for an answer.

Luke shut his eyes once more, and groaned. "Hurts . . ."

Han rubbed his eyes in frustration. "I know it hurts, Luke. But we've got to get out of here." He was beginning to get the sinking feeling that they were, in fact, stuck in this very cubicle he'd been so anxious to leave only twenty minutes earlier. He was still going to try, though. "Come on, kid. Help me out, here."

To Han's relief, Luke's eyes blinked open once again, and this time they focused on him. "Help."

Han wasn't sure if Luke was merely repeating Han's request or making one of his own, but he hoped it was the latter. Slipping an arm under the young man's neck, he eased him into a sitting position. Although he leaned heavily against Han's arm, Luke did not resist. Han only hoped the kid could stand. Chewie was waiting at the Falcon, but Han dared not contact his co-pilot out of concern that a Wookie would definitely draw attention to them. And Han certainly wouldn't be able to carry Luke the entire way back to the ship. "Do you think you can walk?"

Weakly, Luke nodded. Han was surprised when the kid pushed away from him and struggled to stand up on his own. He swayed dizzily on his feet, and Han threw an arm around him for support.

"Come on, kid. Let's get you out of here." Han glanced around the small room to see if there was anything personal of theirs laying about. The only thing he noted was the small bag Luke had brought with him, and Han's own slight pack. He reached down to snatch up both and took one last look around. Nothing caught his attention, so he headed toward the door with Luke.

Once outside the room, Han double-checked his pockets and his pack. Then a thought jumped out at him.

"Luke, where's the datacard?"
"Hmmm?"

"The datacard, Luke. Where is it?" Han pressed. "You know, the one we came all the way out here for? Do you have it?"

Luke shook his head. "In the room," he whispered. "Somewhere."

In true Corellian fashion, Han ran through this list of choice curses before propping Luke up against the outside wall and palming the door open once again. "Stay here."

He dashed into the room and scrambled around, looking for the card. A part of his brain wondered why finding the damn thing was so important, but it didn't slow him down in his search. The card wasn't on the floor, it wasn't on the table with the food that Han had purchased, and it wasn't by the 'fresher. Grabbing the two uneaten meals, he took one last look around the room, but he still did not see it. Maybe Luke had put it in his bag or in his pocket, but didn't remember. He'd have to check. Grimacing, he realized that wasn't going to be fun with Luke in his current state. Heading back to the door, he paused suddenly.

He spun around and stared at his bed. There it was, sitting right in the center, blending in perfectly with the mottled blanket that covered the cheap mattress. Breathing a sigh of relief, he snatched the card and shoved it into his vest pocket before heading out the door.

There he found Luke sitting on the ground against the wall looking miserable. Han reached down to pull him up, noting the totally confused look in the kid's eyes.

"What's wrong with me?" the young rebel asked. At least he seemed more awake.

"You're sick, that's what's wrong," the Corellian replied with a disbelieving groan as he hauled him back onto his feet. Hadn't the kid ever been sick before?

His answer came quickly. "Never get sick," the kid moaned.

Han shook his head. This was going to be a real pain--that was for sure. "Well, you're sick now. So let's get you back to that base of yours so you can get treated." Noting the heat that seemed to radiate off the kid's body, he realized he was going to have the make that trip a fast one. Whatever Luke had managed to catch, it didn't look good. The young man's head lolled to the side as Han supported him under the arms and steered him toward the ship.

It could be worse, he noted. At least he was walking.

Of course, the journey to the ship was an excruciatingly slow one, and Han's arm ached with fatigue from trying to support Luke's increasingly heavy form. The kid was growing weaker by the moment, and Han found himself nearly dragging him along by the time they reached the port. Focused on getting them to the Falcon as quickly as possible, Han barely noticed when Luke suddenly stiffened.

"We're being followed," the kid whispered hoarsely, gripping Han's arm.

Taken by surprise, Han glanced curiously at his companion before quickening his pace while continuing to look casual. The kid still looked feverish, but there was an eerie sense of clarity in his eyes. "You sure?" he ventured to whisper back with a sidelong glance.

Luke brought his hand to his mouth and coughed, masking his affirmative nod. "Two of them. Tall guy in a black jacket, and a lizardy thing in a neutral flight-suit."

Acting quickly, Han forced Luke to stumble. "You okay, kid?" Han asked loudly, shifting to thump Luke's back and taking a quick survey. He quickly spotted the two that the kid had described. The human was a total stranger, and looked like a mere hired thug. The reptilian Trandoshan, on the other hand, looked vaguely familiar. Even though he couldn't place him at the moment, his mind screamed, "Bounty hunter."

"Thought so," Luke replied to Han's muttered appraisal. "Any ideas?"

Momentarily caught off guard, the smuggler frantically searched his mind for a plan. "Not unless you think you're up to whipping out that laser sword of yours. But from the looks of you, kid, I don't think that's such a wise idea. Better try to lose ourselves in the crowd."

Luke grinned weakly. "And I thought you said you preferred straight fighting to sneaking around."

Han favored him with a wry smirk. "Don't make me leave you here, kid."

"And miss having me around?"

Han shook his head, resisting the urge to laugh good-naturedly at Luke's remark. The kid must be delirious if he thought that Han actually enjoyed his company. Obligated to save his hide was more like it. Although Han had to admit that he appreciated a guy who could maintain a sense of humor even in the toughest of situations. Sick as he was, Luke was definitely keeping his chin up.

Han was suddenly startled by Luke's sideways shove. "Huh?"

Luke continued to push Han toward an alleyway, "Trust me," he whispered. "I've got an idea."

"Luke, I'm not so sure," Han began, but Luke cut him off.

"We're not going to lose them," the kid explained hastily. "So we're gonna have to face them."

Han glanced about warily as they headed into the alley. "Somehow I didn't think that direct confrontation was your style, kid," he muttered as they moved.

The kid shrugged his shoulders weakly. "Picking it up from you, I guess."

"Or the fever's making you stupid," Han countered.

"Freeze," hissed a voice from behind, silencing any further conversation between the two.

Han grimaced and turned around slowly, continuing to support Luke the whole time. Two blasters were trained on them, held by the two bounty hunters he and Luke had identified before. "Something the matter, gentlemen?" Han drawled.

The Trandoshan hissed once more, "Yesss, it would ssseem that you have your handsss on my bounty."

Han gave his best innocent look. "Bounty?" He pointed at Luke, who was leaning more heavily against his shoulder than he was before. Biting back the panic that crept into his mind at the thought that the kid might have deliriously led them to their deaths without a real plan, Han continued, "You mean, this guy?"

"Don't play ssstupid with me," the bounty hunter sneered. "I don't like--"

Han never found out what he didn't like. At that very moment, Luke righted himself and his blue lightsaber flashed to life. The two bounty hunters, momentarily stunned by the unexpected maneuver, stood in shocked silence. Knowing they would recover quickly, Luke used the opportunity to push Han out of the way before the bounty hunters began to open fire. With a swiftness that Han would never have believed had he not been there, Luke used the energy blade to deflect the bolts back toward the two attackers. Before they had realized their mistake, the two assailants crumpled to the ground under a barrage of their own gunfire.

Han blinked his eyes in disbelief at the smoking remains of the two bounty hunters before turning his gaze to Luke. "That was impressive," he stammered. "Didn't see you do anything like that on the Falcon that one time."

"Like you said, good against remotes is one thing," Luke replied weakly, his voice drifting off. The young man stood pale and sweating, blade humming ominously in his hand even as he swayed on his feet.

As Han slowly stood, he watched with still-numbed senses as Luke deactivated the saber a split second before he, too, collapsed to the floor in a heap. Han's first panicked reaction was that Luke had not managed to deflect all of the bolts. He rushed to his companion's side and lifted him from the damp alley floor, quickly assessing for blaster wounds. To his relief, there were none, but the kid was even more feverish than he'd been before the attack. His skin was burning hot to the touch, and his body shivered in the humid air. Han swore, gently shaking him to try to bring him back to some form of consciousness. Apparently, he'd drawn too heavily on his limited strength to defend them.

"Okay kid, we're not out of this yet," he murmured to the unconscious youth, "so don't quit on me now."

A low groan escaped Luke's lips and brought a smile to Han's face.

"That's it, kid," he coaxed. "Come on back. Whine and complain all you want to, but wake up. That's all I'm askin'."

Glassy blue eyes slowly opened and fixed themselves on Han's face. A nasty cough wracked the young man's feverish body and it was a moment before he was able to speak. "Wasn't the best plan, was it?" Luke managed, barely audible.

Han shook his head with a wry smile. "Not one of my favorites, no." He struggled to pull Luke into a sitting position. "But it got the job done."

Luke laughed weakly at that, but said nothing. He looked as though he were about to faint once again.

"You ready to get out of here?" Han pressed, keeping the young rebel alert.

The kid nodded his head slightly, and Han pulled him up to his feet. Luke all but collapsed against his shoulder as Han fought to support him, but he somehow managed to keep his feet under him, for which Han was more than grateful. At a painstakingly slow pace, they made it out of the alley and onto the main thoroughfare before Han paused to make sure there were no more obstacles to face between themselves and the Falcon.

"You're not picking up any others following us, are ya', kid?" he asked, partly out of a need to keep the young man talking and partly out of genuine curiosity. When Luke didn't immediately respond, Han repeated, "Are you?"

Luke silently shook his head, swallowing deeply and, as it looked to Han, painfully. "No," he croaked. A one-word, one-syllable response, and the kid sounded terrible.

Han forced a cheerfulness into his voice that he didn't feel. "Good. Then we'll just head on over to the Falcon and blast off this rock. The sooner we can get out of here, the sooner we can get you to a medcenter."

To Han's amusement, Luke argued, "I don't need a medcenter." His voice was beginning to sound like he was gargling gravel, yet the fact that he was contesting the issue bolstered Han's feelings toward the situation.

"Oh no?" Han countered, steering them toward the docking bays. "Could've fooled me, Junior."

"I told you," the kid continued, coughing as he struggled with an uncooperative voice, "I don't get sick."

"Then what are you?"

Han glanced at his companion who seemed to be trying to come up with an answer and not having much success. After a few moments, Luke returned Han's stare sheepishly. "Well, maybe I am a little sick."

Han shook his head, smiling. "Then I'd hate to see you a lot sick, kid."

He was rewarded with a slight grin from his companion as they made it toward the Falcon's bay.