Three orphans sat around a table. They drank some sort of amber liquid poured from a dusty bottle.
"...so I'm tied up to this chair and I didn't know where the hell I am, right," the oldest one was saying, sloshing some more whiskey into his glass, "with bits of wire wrappin' 'round my wrists and ankles... lemme tell ya—" His tone of voice suggested that the other two should find this story humorous, but the glance they shared with one another suggested they found him somewhat crazy instead. "—lemme tell ya, ya think that rope is uncomfortable, I would choose rope over wire any day." He barked a laugh. "Shoulda known then what I was dealing with, this damn guy didn't even have rope on hand when he was taking a pris'ner! So he starts threatening me—and I thought he was just after my cargo, so these threats of death and torture and that seemed a little overboard if ya ask me. I told him so, and he said if I wasn't worried about my life, he knew where my family lived... this is when I realized something was wrong."
"It took you thatlong to realize something was wrong?" Finally smiling, and guessing that the story wasn't going to end as badly as it began, she took another gulp of the whiskey. Her head swam as soon as she swallowed it; the feeling passed, earning a relieved and surprised giggle.
"Let me finish." He smirked at her, lingering. The alcohol made him more light-hearted; open; willing to amuse. "I tell him, well, you must be smarter than you look, because you're one step ahead of me! He says to me, why, and I say, I've been operating under the illusion I don't got no family, much less know where any of them happen to be, you know, currently residin'. It didn't even cross the poor fella's mind I may have been lyin'—which I actually wasn't—so he goes into this corner and speaks into his comm. I wait for him, pretty patient all things considerin', and after a few minutes he comes back, looking like—well, you did," he gestured at the kid, "when you knocked over that entire shelf in the supply room that one time."
The kid glanced down, his face sheepish for a moment before he laughed.
"See? Right there; that expression right there. So he tells me, sorry, but apparently he was supposed to be kidnapping a Rodian, and there was a little of a mix-up... I tell him he's dumber than a Gamorrean dropped on the head as a piglet. We shared a bit of a laugh."
The table finally laughed together.
"You laughed over your accidental kidnapping?" the girl exclaimed, her hand on her stomach and her face red with alcohol and mirth.
"Think of it, it's kinda funny. So he tells me, sorry, but he can't have me knowin' where this room is... and I say, go ahead and knock yourself out—well, more specifically, knock me out, just make sure you put me in an alleyway next to the bar you found me in, and my copilot would just think I got into a bar fight, no harm done. Oh, and I also said, get some rope next time, will ya? Next I knew I woke up in that alleyway to Chewie pouring some shit-cold water on me." He paused, letting out a reminiscent sigh. "I wouldn't mind runnin' into him again, actually."
"That's what they say." He winked.
There was a communal silence, in which the three of them stared into their glasses.
"So you don't remember your parents at all?" Luke finally asked.
"Nah," Han shrugged. "Don't really matter, I turned out fine, right?"
"That's a matter of debate," Leia said. Han turned to frown at her, but she was giving a rare smile.
One side of his mouth pulled up. "Guess I walked into that one."
"I don't remember my real parents," said Luke. "I used to hear little about my dad, but my uncle didn't know him that well—they were only stepbrothers, and met once, I think. Ben knew him a lot better, but we never really had a chance to..." Luke swirled his glass around, the whiskey funneling. "I guess Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru were my parents. For what it's worth. A little overprotective, but with the way they..."
The tumbler he was holding knocked the table with a small clunk, interrupting the silence. He apparently took that as a sign to take another small sip.
Luke edged a glance at Leia, feeling furtively guilty about speaking of his loss, when hers was so much grander and more horrifying. Her face was held straight, but her eyes were on the holochess board, one of the squares of which she watched herself trace with the tip of her pinky.
Still tracing the square in perfect and even lines, she raised her eyes to his. Shyness gripped Luke like a fist, but he held Leia's gaze. He wondered what her keen politician's eye read from his face, or if what she said next was pure intuition.
"Grief is not something about which to feel shame. Nor does anyone else's grief diminish that which is felt by you." She softened her words with a smile.
Han drained his glass, pulling a bitter face as he refilled it. He waited for the moment to pass. Normally he would have poked at her use of such an eloquent, almost lofty choice of words, but there was one thing about the princess that was off-limits, and that was—
Her eyes found Han's. He attempted to drown the slight discomfort in his stomach with another gulp of alcohol, and hide it with a quirk of his mouth he hoped to the stars Leia didn't misinterpret.
Han had heard—from more sentimental people, people to whom this sort of saying actually applied—that the death of a person was to someone the death of a world. He never truly understood it, having not lost anyone he particularly loved that much, but now he wondered how many worlds—how many of this woman's worlds—were actually destroyed along with Alderaan.
"I was adopted," Leia announced.
Her voice was calm, but Han detected an unsteadiness to her words. He realized that this was the closest he would probably ever get to seeing the Princess plunge ahead into the unknown, into that which actually scared her. Putting his drink down, he listened.
"It wasn't a secret—it was a matter of public record—but it wasn't something widely discussed. It didn't matter anyway, not really. Bail and Breha are my true parents."
"But you wondered," Luke cut in.
"Yes." She paused. "At first I thought it would insult them, for me to ask, but they seemed to understand. They said my father was a soldier, and died before I was born. They knew my birth mother better. She was a politician."
What Leia didn't say was that her father, Bail Organa, had given to her something of utmost secrecy, something that she was made to promise to never divulge—not to anyone. He had given to her her mother's name.
"She died shortly after I was born. Complications with the delivery. I shouldn't—I don't have any memory of her."
Luke and Han, although intoxicated, noticed her correction. Although intoxicated, they allowed it to pass.
There were a few drops left in Leia's glass, and she drained them. They didn't taste. Han offered more, but she declined.
She shouldn't have had any memory of her mother, but sometimes she thought that—she usually would pass them off as dreams. She knew her mother's image and voice from the holos, and it was likely that her brain just substituted those into her nightmares.
The one nightmare. Always the one. A wretched face of pain and misery, a single gasp: Leia. She would always wake up afterward, but only went to her mother and father's room the first two times. As she got older, she lay awake and alone, staring out the westward-facing window at the peppering stars in the endless dark of the sky. Even now, solar systems away and within the hull of an old freighter, she could hear how the wind would sound outside her window. It whistled like a siren, alarming her, beckoning her.
Luke grinned and, eager to hear more about the past she never shared, said, "Tell us more about your parents."
Smiling despite herself, the alcohol taking her guard down, Leia reminisced.
"My mother is—my mother was the Queen and Minister of Education. She also helped a lot behind the scenes, with our domestic affairs. She taught me how to act, how to hold myself." Subconsciously, she straightened in her chair, moving her hands to her lap. "She was very—protective. But instead of sheltering me, she gave me the skills with which to protect myself—convinced my father to allow me to train with a blaster, hired tutors who actually knew the galaxy, didn't just study it. A lot of what I know and, and use comes from her directly. I've judged and dispelled many dangerous situations through body language alone. But when it comes to violence, to—to genocide, you have to beat them at their game." Leia's smile was self-deprecating, and she looked down, to where the pinky had long since stilled within the edge of the black tile.
There was a considerable silence as everyone thought about this. Han considered the Princess trying to talk down stormtroopers instead of fighting them. That would be her, he decided, if she were naïve—but she weren't stupid and she knew better any way, and she knew to adjust her diplomacy to fighter style in a second in the damn middle of, in his opinion, what was a rather successful rescue mission. In fact, she probably killed four, maybe five stormtroopers that night with less of a thought than Luke (who'd aimed high a few times).
For Luke—ever since Luke saw her image he had felt a connection with her. A need to be near her, to protect her. To love her. He had begun to wonder if maybe the love he assumed wasn't the one he would share with her. And now once again he felt that connection. They had so many similarities—raised by foster parents, who brought out naturally their discipline and good spirit. Perhaps Leia was a bit more groomed than Luke, more knowledgeable and with more experience. But he felt that what she was in the beginning he has always been also. The desire to do good will, and the willingness to fight for what Luke always knew, intrinsically, was right.
That was what drew him to the Rebellion, drew him to Leia. How could he not give his life to fighting for her and on her side? How could he not fight for the Rebellion, the side that his sixth sense told him was right? The same sense he'd had since he could remember? The sense that the Force naturally drew upon, that empowered him and calmed him?
How could ones such as Vader stray from this feeling?
It was something, he thought with a smugness he attempted to repress, he shared with her as opposed to Han. It wasn't that Luke felt badly of Han's background—in a way... well, in many ways he admired the way Han had to grow up, to learn to fend for himself and for select others, yet he knew that Han possessed a rarely-shown and more-rarely-expressed sense of dedication and goodness. Luke, in order to squash the slight feelings of jealousy, often tried to look up to Han instead.
But still. It was something he shared with Leia.
"What about your father? He was... Viceroy, wasn't he?"
Han grinned. Kid did his homework.
"Yeah. My mom taught me how to act; he taught me how to think. Like a politician. Like a soldier. I would receive etiquette lessons and, later that afternoon, go to my War Administration and Supply tutor."
Han and Luke stared at her.
"Hey," she barked. "Next time, try to fight a war without weapons, medicine, supplies, and food, then stare at me, okay? Or do you guys want to go outside and hunt snakes for dinner every night? Oh, sorry that one bityou, we can rinse it with lukewarm water then stick a leech on it and hope it all turns out all right." She crossed her arms and legs, leaning back in her chair, abandoning her previous good posture.
Han sniggered. "Weren't laughing at you, sweetheart. Well, now I am," he admitted. "But don't be so defensive. Hey, trust me, I've been in places worse-fed than here; hell, you even got a variety of rations. Well, maybe only green and purple—" He faltered at the glare she shot, then raised his hands placatingly. "—but I've got orange over here so it balances it out."
"I was just wondering on how much you well, know," Luke said. "I mean, you're my age, right? You must have been learning this stuff since you were sixteen."
"Fourteen." Leia smiled.
"How in the hell did Her Exaltedness get what was I'm sure a famous and sought-after tutor in subjects such as War Supply... whatever?" Han wondered aloud, not even quite looking at Leia. "I don't know many Empires who'd let that happen, especially on a planet with Rebel sympathies such as Alderaan was."
"And didn't they ban the use of weapons long ago?"
"Yeah, they did," Han muttered, disgruntled.
Leia smiled a cool smile. "Discretion was... rewarded."
Han pointedly rubbed his thumb against the tips of his fingers, then switched the subject. "So who gave you the pocket-size fighting spirit we all know and love?" he ribbed.
"I like to think of that, Captain, as all my own." Any other time, her voice would have been frosty and bristling. She surprised him with the teasing lilt of her mouth.
"I'll drink to that," Han said, tipping his half-full glass toward her.
Luke finished what was left of his glass, shuddered, then rose to his feet. He clutched the edge of the table so he didn't fall and give Han a reason to laugh at him, and said, "Well, I should go to bed. Rogue Squadron's got flight drills at oh-seven-hundred, and I'm going to show up hungover as it is."
"Use the spare bunk," Han offered. "And keep your stomach in, will ya? I'd hate to make Chewie clean up a puddle of sick."
Luke laughed, waved his thanks, then disappeared into the hall.
Han stood as well, gathering his and Luke's glass to drop them off at the scullery.
"Last one for the road, princess?" He jerked his head toward the bottle, which was still a quarter way full.
"No. I don't think so. I should actually go as well. Thanks for the drinks and the company."
"Oh, any time—long as you reimburse me for the liquor."
"Of course; I like to make sure the Rebellion's funds are put to good use, after all."
"That's what I like to hear."
She rose to her feet, and her head rushed from the movement; by the time she unclenched her eyes, the world had righted itself again.
Han made as if to put a steadying hand on her elbow, but held back; he was yet unsure as to whether she'd bite him or something if he tried.
"Want to crash here? I can make Luke haul his ass onto the top bunk."
"I think that I should go to my own quarters..."
"Need me to walk you?" he grunted, attempting to appear nonchalant.
"No, no, I'm perfectly all right; I'm sure I can find the way on my own."
"Well, holler if you get lost. Actually, don't, I don't want ya to wake up anythin' in that forest." He opened his mouth, then shook his head and closed it, reaching to pick up Leia's glass as well. "Night, Leia."
Leia felt herself smile, then she left.
Han dropped off the glasses in the sink then set the bottle next to it, nearly knocking it over.
Then he made his way to his quarters, thinking about how he might lie awake for a bit, and how, maybe, if weather permitted it, he could see the stars.