"If you fire at them you will only make them stronger."
"That's exactly what you heard?"
Leia nodded. "It makes no more sense to me now than it did then."
"But it's troubling you."
Luke Skywalker leaned against the trunk of a tree and dug the heel of his right boot into the mud. It was near nightfall and although the Alliance base was several kilometres from the Ewok village where he had first revealed himself to be her brother, Leia found that their discussion here again felt familiar. Lately, she found that every moment with him felt that way, as though everything that could happen already had and she was merely reliving it.
"What does Han think?"
"I haven't asked him yet."
"It could be that you're overlooking a simple explanation. Honestly, I wouldn't worry about it."
Leia released her breath and nodded. Having Luke tell her not to worry was almost as good as discovering the source of the odd message that had been plaguing her for days now.
"Then again, I haven't read the entire report yet."
She flinched inside. "You should read the report." Tyyla's fate, her suicide, among other things, was at the very end. It was still too raw to discuss out loud.
His piercing blue eyes went from boyish to ancient in the span of a heartbeat. "I was awfully worried about you."
"You had good cause to worry." She turned and leaned into the tree, cheek against the scratchy furrows and moss. On the way back, Han had suggested repeatedly that when they arrived back at Endor, she might tell her brother how suspect her past was. And she wanted to explain to him her sense that somehow both her survival and Han's survival were all part of a greater plan, but she hadn't figured out how to begin. Now it tumbled from her lips like water through her fingers, the truth about Ambassador Tion and how Han had been the lure all along. About Tyyla. About how it had been Han's past heroism that had inadvertently saved them both. (Well, even if that past heroism hadn't exactly been on purpose, but Leia decided it wasn't lying if she left that part out.)
Luke listened intently. "It could very well be," he said when she finished. "Yoda used to say that the Force worked in mysterious ways. I don't know if the Force is reaching for you so much as perhaps you've subconsciously become more receptive to it."
"It's because of you," she replied. "This all began on Bespin when I knew we had to go back for you. It's as though… something was opened, a door, a gate."
At that, Luke pursed his lips and eyed the canopy overhead. "I almost went after you this time."
She wondered if he had any idea how close she'd come to reaching for him, how close she'd come to begging him for his help. She wondered if she knew the answer to that herself.
"Remember that pain inevitably becomes anger." He dropped his gaze, reached up and pressed a cool palm against her cheek. "Without fail."
Leia began feeling squirrelly, as though Luke had probed inside her head. Maybe he had read the entire report after all.
"I knew that if you truly needed me, you'd call to me, that I would feel it."
She nodded just as her brother's eyes shed the haunted look of an old man. He said, "Have you seen Chewbacca?"
It broke the spell. Leia almost bit her tongue, trying not to laugh, and crumpled at the waist against the tree trunk.
"I think they were a gift from the Ewoks." Luke swiped his hand across his mouth. "I didn't know what to say when first saw them - has Han seen him yet?"
The Wookiee was well on the road to recovery, but as it turned out, Chewbacca, whose fur was frequently unbrushed and flying wild, had a vain streak after all. It would be another few weeks until his leg-hair grew back and rather than go about bald-legged, in the interim he'd taking to wearing simply woven grass coverings. They shimmered and shook with every step and bits of grass trailed behind him everywhere he went. "He's seen them. He was in the med-centre for most of yesterday having tests run on his eye."
Luke shook his head. "Just so long as he doesn't start a new fashion wave."
A short time later, Leia was making her way through the general headquarters, through temporary grey-violet prefab halls that were packed full of droids, technicians and Alliance personnel, all painfully exposed under the long panels of lights. Han was just finishing up in the central briefing room when she found him. With his hair shorn close to his skull and wearing the crisply tailored uniform of a New Republic General, he looked more like a military man than a former Corellian mercenary. She waited outside the hatchway as the room emptied and swallowed a twinge of sadness. He'd come through his eye exams with flying colours, and in just a few hours, he was being shipped out for the next six rotations. She wouldn't see him for at least a month.
As he made his way through the door, she said, "General?"
Han looked her over with an air of gentlemanly politeness. "Your Highness."
"A word in private?"
Across the briefing room she could see Madine and two other Alliance heads break their conversation and watch them go. Luke had mentioned something about that, saying that he was pretty sure until last week no one in High Command had actually believed they were lovers. Leia wasn't sure what other evidence they'd needed after she'd taken leave to go to Tatooine. It was possible they simply hadn't wanted to see it. After the briefing regarding Ambassador Tion and the events on Bonadan, there was no longer any doubt in any one's minds.
Two hallways over, they slipped into a tiny darkened and thus far unused communications cubicle. Leia hit the pad and locked the door.
Han stooped down and kissed her. "There's news," he began.
"Madine just let me know; the Corporate Sector Authority arrested Tion at his Embassy just before dawn yesterday. The Hegemony has requested permission to try him on Jaminere." His face grew steely. "The Alderaanian Embassy is fighting the extradition – they want to try him on Bonadan."
"Justice is slow," she said. "But it will come." Leia reached up and ran her fingers across his the fuzz of his hair. "I have a question for you."
"If I'd received the message from the Corporate Sector in the first place, would you have let me go?"
"Alone?" Han wrinkled his forehead and scratched at his high collar. "Not on your life."
Satisfied with his answer, she said, "So this works both ways."
"It's not important." She studied his face and imagined their bodies sprawled on a bed of sand, close enough to the surf that it lapped it their feet, drunk from the heat of a red sun. Maybe she didn't need the fantasy advertised in the travelogue, but it had a certain universal appeal that wasn't lost on her. And they needed the break together, or at least, the illusion of a break. If there were no major disasters in the interim, no suicidal Imperial star destroyers preparing a new attack against the fleet, she could probably manage two or three days.
"When you get back." Leia ignored his questioning gaze.
"Tell me before I go." Han smiled roguishly in that way that only he could. "Or else."
Smiling, she set her hand on the keypad. "I love you." The door swished open and she took a step forward into the din of the hallway and into the lights. Over her shoulder, she said, "And as it so happens I've never been to Spira before."