Several weeks later:
They stayed Han's last night on the docking frigate.
While he slumbered, Leia meditated and prayed. Old Alderaanian invocations tumbled easily; she'd learned them by heart before she could read and they were as much a part of her as her native language. She tried not to wonder if her childhood gods had perished with her world, for she felt comforted by the effort, even if Han or Luke would have deemed it foolish. As it was, she faced the next few months with a dread tantamount to preternatural grief. They were at risk. They were foolish, weren't they? They'd put themselves in a position of having so much to lose.
The temptation to beg him to stay was unwavering, but she couldn't – wouldn't – except for the last time they'd made love when she'd mouthed the furtive transgression against his flesh over and over through each and every quivering spasm. It was the only way, for she knew he might listen to her, that he was anxious about leaving her too. But this mission was as important to him as it was to her. Han wasn't fighting the Empire by accident any more. He was a New Republic General in more than name; he was as important to the war effort as she was. Privately, she was proud of him.
Just then Han cracked one sleep-creased eye open, almost level with her. The low bed was stacked against the transparisteel portal and they could watch Coruscant beneath them and the stars beyond before they fell asleep. "What are you doing over there?"
It was not morning on the planet below, not morning on the freighter drifting above her atmosphere either.
"Get back here." Han thumped the empty space. "You're not allowed to get up yet."
It was, oddly enough, his utter and complete cockiness that accomplished what her prayers and meditations had not – she knew it then, that it was more than hope. It wasn't even a Force enhanced impression or a divine intervention
Many hours of conversation over the past few weeks had condensed their relationship down to one innocent and newborn truth. Han needed to be needed. She had only to trust herself to need him.
And now, trust him to come back.
"Says you?" she teased, scurrying on her hands and knees and climbing back into bed. She let him push the robe she'd draped about her shoulders back onto the floor and haul her up against his body.
"Yeah." He grinned sleepily. "You're supposed to ready and willing whenever I say so, remember."
"Is this some prehistoric spin regarding the rights of a man about to go to into battle?"
"I have rights," he said, sliding his hand along the inside of her thigh. "Lots and lots of rights."
"And you've been taking full advantage of them," was her reply.
"You like it."
Abruptly, Han paused and lowered his voice. "Promise you'll check on her."
"Absolutely." Despite the fact that there was plenty of room for her on the Mon Remonda, he was leaving the Millennium Falcon with her.
"Really promise me."
Leia propped herself up on one elbow and fixed him with her most solemn expression. "Now tell me again, how often does she need to be watered and fed?"
Later that day, back on Coruscant, Luke pulled brotherly rank and insisted on having dinner with her, despite her assurances that she wasn't going to mope. She had six piles of backlogged files to scroll through and fifty meetings to reschedule. Threepio was also staying full time with Luke, working on the Yashuvhi scroll translations. Her brother claimed it was as much to save his sanity as it was to keep her company.
This occasion was also a bit of a celebration for him.
After three days of debriefings, she and Han had been cleared of all charges. Luke, on the other hand, had been taken into NewRepubliccustody the moment he arrived on planet and had remained there for the better part of the last month. In closed proceedings earlier this week, the Provisional Council had voted twenty-nine to eleven to suspend any and all active criminal proceedings against General Luke Skywalker. They found the extenuating circumstances exceptional, the numerous psychological evaluations compelling, and Luke's military record immaculate. These facts were compounded by the arrest of the real saboteurs of the Razion's Edge, both of whom had been linked with Imperial sympathizers.
As Mon Mothma had implored during her summation, "We cannot punish or even address the nature of the crimes when the accused is subject to a force most of us cannot comprehend. Do we judge the man or the powers that sought to control him? Are we qualified to even make the distinction? If not, can we condemn him for our inability to serve as his jury? I say we can not." Most had agreed with her.
The automated door monitor announced the arrival of a guest. Leia drew the door open, expecting her brother, and found a courier standing there. The man extended a round package. "Delivery for you, Your Highness."
At that moment, Luke swept around the corner armed with several thermal-sealed parcels.
Smiling, Leia signed for the package and carried it to her sofa while Luke brought the food into her kitchen. The door clicked softly behind them. The delivery had to be a last minute gift from Han. "What did you decide on?" she called.
"I picked up Alderaanian."
"You didn't have to do that."
"I wanted to. Naturally, if they had a place with Tatooinian specialties, I'd have gone there."
She pried at the heavy wrapping. "Does Tatooine actually have specialties?"
"Popdoppers, tangaroot, bristlemelon pie, dustcrepes, bantha stew, manak casserole. They've just never caught on off-world."
"Why doesn't that surprise…oh!" Her response lost, Leia stared at a familiar tawny cloak, lost in the swamps of Baskarn all those weeks ago. A few lumpy objects were wrapped inside it; she unfolded it quickly and several purple pockmarked fruits spilled onto the floor, as well as a small leather pouch.
"That's mine?" Luke gathered his cloak in his hands. "What are those?"
"Brrka fruit," she told him, reaching for the pouch. In Basic, scrawled in tiny glyphs on the outside, was one sentence; destiny calls and we answer. She withdrew the item inside and held it up; the amber colored jewel glittered. How this had been delivered to them all the way from Baskarn was a mystery but the meaning was clear. Her heart pounded fiercely, eager, relieved, and afraid for her brother all at once.
"I thought he was dead," her brother gasped.
"You can't go to see him, Luke. You can't go back. Promise me you-"
There had been one codicil placed on the Provisional Council's resolution. Luke was not allowed to fly within fifty light years of Baskarn for the remainder of his natural life. It would be viewed by the government as an act of aggression. There was no legitimate reason besides; Advanced Base Baskarn was being closed down. The new Republic was designating it a protected planet, as per Leia's recommendations. The Yrashu would live in peace. The Hmumfmumf forests would continue to sprawl unchecked.
"I swear to you I never will."
It was a quiet dinner. It was only afterward, when they were reclining on the couch that Luke confirmed that he had withdrawn from the military again. "I'm going to be here on Coruscant for the next month or so, and then I'll be off. Threepio has already turned up a few leads – a few planets mentioned in the scrolls that had ties to the Yashuvhi healers and the Jedi Order here on Coruscant. I'm feeling optimistic. Oh, and before I forget to tell you…" Luke made a wide gesture with his hands. "Admiral Cracken has agreed to conveniently misplace the files regarding Anakin Skywalker's true identity for the time being. I saw him today." He brought his hand back to his chest. "It will come out, of course. There are enough in Imperial Intelligence who have access to the information now, but it will be a slow, slow trickle for the next year or so. You'll have time to prepare for it."
Relieved, Leia uncoiled her fingers, which had unconsciously clenched at the first mention of Airen Cracken. She took a deep breath, checking to see if Luke had noticed. He hadn't. "Speaking of preparing for it, did you want to start tonight?"
Luke grinned broadly and inspected a Brrka fruit. Then he began peeling long strips of rind back. "No."
"No? Are you sure you're feeling all right?"
"We have plenty of time for study and practice," he replied. "Tonight I'm here only as your brother."
"You don't have to be," she reassured him, smiling back. "I'm ready whenever you are."
There was a flicker in his eyes – for a second she thought it was reluctance or apprehension but then his eyes were warm again. He said, just before he bit into the fruit, "Sister, I know." Then he swallowed and reached for the amulet. "May I have this?"
"If you want it."
Tenderly, he placed it back in the pouch and tucked it away in his pocket. "There's someone else I think should have it," he explained. "And I think she'll understand what it is."
"Destiny calls and we answer," Leia murmured.
All Luke could do was nod.
Thank you for reading.