So, I tried to write a calmer, more serious fic here, where both Han and Leia had some of their guards down. It takes place before the awards ceremony in ANH but after the Death Star. I think I successfully stayed away from a super mopey Leia. She still feels sad over Alderaan, but she just isn't in that stage of grief yet. I'm kinda picturing her in denial still... She just kinda doesn't know it.
Han leaned idly against one of the pillars that lined the outer edges of the makeshift mess-hall at the Rebel base on Yavin IV. As much as he hated to admit it, he liked it here. Not necessarily on Yavin IV it self, but amongst the people who hated the Empire the most. Finally, he could talk about his strong dislike for the system he used to be a part of and not have to worry about being double crossed or shot with a blaster. At least, he hoped that was the case. The Princess didn't exactly like him, which suited him fine since he didn't particularly like her.
Speaking of the Princess, he scanned the hall and saw no sight of her white dress. Although, she could probably blend into the old ruin walls since the incident in the trash compactor. On the bright side, it was her idea. Han smirked at the thought and pushed away from the wall. He circled the hall, getting nods and slaps on the back for his last second return that saved the doomed group, but the entire time his eyes searched for the Princess. The part of him that longed to separate himself and take the next Hyper-jump to Tatooine was questioning why he was even bothering, whereas the part that had decided this bunch of idiots may be okay was screaming to find the girl that lost her home only twelve hours prior.
Alderaan was gone, and for all he knew, the Princess was holed up somewhere crying her eyes out. He knew she should probably have someone near by just in case sanity flew out the window and she acted on impulse. Han winced as that thought crossed his mind. He knew just how bad things could get sometimes that you wanted to put a blaster to your head. Bria flitted through his mind briefly before he shook his head. Some thoughts were more painful than others, and some thoughts were more painful than that.
Han found himself only a hundred feet from where he started his loop of the room and still no sign of the Princess. He sighed and headed out the open doors and into the humid afternoon. The clearing in front of this side of the temple wasn't as large as that of the hangar entrance, but he quickly saw the small path leading off into the forest.
Han took a deep breath and instinctively felt for the comfortable weight of his blaster. Once he ensured its presence, he took off down the path. After only a few seconds, he had left the sight of the temple and was in the relative quiet of the jungle. Maybe only a minute later, the light ahead grew brighter and he left the path into another clearing by a slowly moving lake.
The beauty of the lake with the glinting reflection of the late afternoon sun struck him for a second, reminding him of the only two worlds he'd ever felt comfortable on: Corellia and Kashyyyk. When he took the moment to tear his eyes away from the glinting water, he saw the Princess looking at him curiously from a rock ledge, her knees pulled to her chest and her arms holding them there. Her back pressed against the rock behind her, and her shoes removed so her toes stuck out over the edge as the water flowed maybe a foot below her. The sight struck Han as so out of character for her, but he'd really only known her for a few hours. In that time, he'd really one been on her bad side.
"What are you doing here?" she asked him when he didn't move after awhile. Han cracked a smile and started to walk towards her.
"I could ask you the same thing. There's a big party in there, y'know?" Han asked rhetorically. He took a seat next to her, knees propped up so he didn't have to dangle his legs in the water below him.
She looked out the lake solemnly before answering. "Too much celebration. I was beginning to feel too claustrophobic between people wanting to congratulate me on a victory and expressing their condolences for Alderaan."
"I'd hate that," Han said, looking out at the lake too. "I wouldn't be able to stand a moment of people's pity. That's why I hate apologizing when people lose someone."
"You're the first person that hasn't avoided the issue," Leia said, looking back at him. "Everyone walks on tiptoes around me, and clams up when I walk in the room. I can't stand it."
"They don't know how to respond," he said, looking her in the eye. "It's never happened before. They're in shock. Although, probably not as much as you."
"What's that supposed to mean?" she asked sharply, a little irritated by his comment.
"Just that, even if you think you've processed it, you haven't," Han said, looking back at the lake. "You won't process it fully for maybe six months to a year. It'll hit you hard when you do something and you go to comm someone you lost and then realize that you can't anymore. Then you'll begin to really process things." Han looked back at the princess, who was staring at him with a look almost like fear in her eyes. "Right now, you're just compartmentalizing."
"How do you know?" she asked quietly, almost knowing the answer.
"I've been around awhile to lose a few really close people," he said.
"You say that like you've lost so much because of your age, not that you're your age because you've lost so much."
"Now what in the nine hells does that mean?" he asked, raising an eyebrow at her.
"Just that I'm nineteen and I've lost a whole planet, and you sit here and proclaim that you are so much wiser because you're older than me," Leia said, a hard edge in her eyes. Han's brows furrowed for a moment before he responded.
"You're only nineteen? I could've sworn you were at least a few years older than the Kid," he told her, shaking his head at the new found knowledge.
"Who? Luke?" she asked. Han nodded and she shrugged. "I had to grow up fast in the senate. Luke probably has had it lucky out on Tatooine all these years."
"Have you ever been to Tatooine?" Han asked, grinning crookedly. Leia shook her head. "No one living on that planet is lucky. It's all Hutt Space and sandstorms over there."
"Then why were you there to begin with?" she asked, genuinely curious.
"Had to tell Jabba I had to dump his cargo. Turns out a few people that don't like me told him first. Now I owe the Space Slug a lot of money."
"That's why you were so adamant about your reward," Leia smiled, nodding and looking out at the lake.
"Why are you smiling like that?" Han said, unable to keep the smile off his own face.
"I had a feeling there was more to you than money."
"Oh, no, sister! You are not dragging me into your cause here!" he said, holding up his hands in defense.
"Why? What's so wrong with it? I thought you hated the Empire as much as the next Corellian?"
"First of all, don't stereotype Corellians. And secondly, this is a fool's game here. I have Jabba breathing down my neck, and now I have the Empire's for rescuing your pretty little ass. Not to mention I helped Luke in blowing up that damned space station! I don't need to be involved in this and give people another reason to come looking for me!"
"But don't you see? We can protect you from the Empire here!" she told him, shifting her weight to look at him better.
"Protect me here? I can guarantee you that nowhere where you rebels are is safe. And I won't even mention that I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself!"
"Which is why you have a Hutt bounty on your head," she stated.
"Yes! No! You're twisting my words, You Highness!"
Leia smiled and shook her head. "What is so wrong with just fighting against something you hate right now? Huh?"
"Because I don't want to be another name on the death list of the Empire's!"
Leia stared at him for a second, processing his admission. "You knew someone that died in the Rebellion, didn't you? That's why you said what you did earlier."
Han swallowed hard and and a painful expression crossed his face. He hung his head, and breathed deeply. "I did. But when I lost them, they were still alive."
"Who? Maybe I..." Leia trailed off. Part of her desperately wanted to know who Han referred to, but she knew that the man was so tightly closed off it wouldn't be easy.
"It doesn't matter. I really don't feel like explaining it now anyways. Not when, and you'll hate me for saying this, you just lost a planet and I only lost one person."
"You know, maybe I'm the perfect person to talk to?" Leia murmured quietly. Han looked up at her, his eyes glassy with held back tears. She'd never seen the space look so vulnerable, even if she'd only known him for a few hours.
"Maybe," he shrugged. "I got word from a bounty hunter. Ironic, huh? He wasn't even the one to kill her either. And a bounty hunter told me!"
Leia tensed slightly at the admission that the person was a woman. It bugged her and she really didn't know why. Brushing the feeling aside, she asked him the next question burning in her mind. "When did she die?"
"Two days ago. Something about being swamped by Imperial forces and what not." Han breathed deeply and stared out at the water. The sun was a lot lower in the sky now, and the water was glowing an almost orange in the sky's reflection. "I don't know. She left years ago, some bantha crap about it being for me."
"It was Bria, wasn't it?" Leia asked, putting two and two together. "Bria Tharen?"
Han looked at her in surprise. "How do you...?"
Leia got a tortured look on her face and looked out at the water. "She was one of the Rebels that sent me the plans in Artoo." She looked back at Han with tears in her eyes. "Han, I'm so sorry. I didn't know, when I met you that..."
Han closed his eyes tightly. Bria died for the plans that almost killed the Princess in front of him. He shook his head to clear some of the frustration in his head. "It's okay. Really. Bria worked so hard for this damn cause, she probably would only accept its success as an alternative way to go."
"I didn't know her personally. I just met her, maybe once in passing. Were you two involved...?"
"A long time ago, yeah," he nodded. "I really don't want to talk about this anymore."
"Alright," she nodded slowly. She sat quiet for a moment before continuing. "You know, it really is nice to talk with someone who doesn't care I'm a princess."
"Well, who says I don't care?" he asked, grinning lightly at her. "Maybe I talk to you like this because I harbor a grudge against royalty?"
Leia laughed. "No, you just don't care."
"True," he shrugged. "But honestly, it's how I'd like to be treated if I was royal."
"Like you were just as low as the next person?"
"Like I was just another person," he said. Looking at her deeply. Then he smiled and laughed. "Although, I don't think I'd want to be treated like another person on that blasted Death Star."
"Agreed," she nodded. She looked back out at the lake. The sun was setting by now, their conversation spanning over an hour. She was so comfortable there though, and the sight was so pretty that she didn't want to have to ever leave.
They sat like that in silence as the sunset, before they heard a rustling in the bushes nearby. Both turned their heads in time to see Luke walk through the foliage.
"There you guys are," he said, an almost relieved tone in his voice. "Chewie and High Command are looking for you guys."
Leia nodded sadly before Luke continued.
"We're evacuating tomorrow after the awards ceremony," he stated. Luke's eyes looked at Han, wondering if Han would follow them to the next base.
"It's usually a planned procedure to have a meeting about evacuation plans for the next day," Leia said. "That's probably why they want me." She started to get up, and Han quickly followed suit.
"Where are you guys headed?" Han asked. Leia looked at him, slightly wide-eyed.
"Um, I don't know yet," she said, her tone surprised. "I guess I'll find out soon."
"Okay," he nodded.
"Are you sticking around?" Luke asked hopefully.
Han glanced out at the lake and it's orange-red shimmer before nodding and turning back to smile at Luke and Leia. "Yeah, I think I will for awhile. Jabba can wait."
Leia's answering smile was all Han really needed to know he'd made the right choice. She turned and started heading back down the path Han had taken earlier, and he followed her with Luke trailing shortly behind him. Han smiled and shook his head, wondering just how much things would change for him.
So, moment of truth. Win? Fail? Hate the stuff about Bria? Now, I've never read the EU, okay, so if I completely ruined something for you guys, tell me! I got all my timing off Wookieepedia too, so any confusion about Luke and Leia's age should be sent back to George. I'm just going with the timeframes established over at Wookieepedia. As for the Bria thing, I got all her info off her page over there too. I don't know whether or not she and Leia would have ever met, or if Leia would have known Bria's fate, but for this story's sake it does.
OH! And FYI, the bounty hunter Han references is Boba Fett. Another thing I got off Bria's page. Apparently Fett told Han about Bria a day before Han met Luke in the Cantina. So, that's why Han's grieving all over again.
Review, and tell me your thoughts!