A/N: I've been thinking of this story idea for awhile now, but I've always been hesitant to write an AU. It is the start of a longer piece and I hope you all enjoy!
Han Solo planned to land on Alderaan and get off as soon as possible. He was making the stop as a favor to his copilot and best friend, Chewie, who wanted to stop by the planet to visit an old friend of his. Han agreed more out of procrastination than anything else as he still hadn't paid Jabba the Hutt back since his last run went bad and he had to space the smuggled goods. The slime bag wasn't the most accepting sentient in the galaxy and Han wasn't looking forward to meeting with him.
Alderaan was at least a beautiful planet and Han thought he could take the opportunity to stretch his legs and walk around the main part of town. They made a smooth landing, planned to meet back up in a few hours, and started into town. After departing from Chewie, Han looked around him. The sky was a clear, bright blue; a gentle wind blew through the air, sweet-smelling of spring, trees looming high above. Storefronts mixed in with various restaurants and cafes, people walked up and down the street, laughing and chattering.
The war had yet to reach Alderaan it seemed. The king and his young daughter were the pride of the planet. They believed in peace, goodness, and justice for all, but were forced to remain in relative silence so as not to attract unwanted attention from the Empire. The planet had the good fortune of stability and wealth that had thus far acted as their protection.
As a smuggler and man-of-the-galaxy, Han liked to keep informed of the various governments and ideals of all of the planets, just in case he ever needed to make a stop somewhere, he'd know what was in store for him. That was the extent of his knowledge, or more so, interest behind politics, whatever could help him and nothing more. He had no desire to engage in heated discussions over who the next president might be, or which monarch was settling down with another. He was born in Corellia, but thought of himself tied down more to his ship and maybe Chewie when he was feeling generous.
Alderaan was not a fan of smuggling, but Han didn't feel threatened because he was here on a visit, not a run. As he walked down the street, he tried to remember what the king and princess looked like. It had been a few years since he had seen the planet on the news anyways. He and Chewie had just finished off one of their more successful runs and were celebrating in a bar somewhere in the Outer Rim.
The holonews had been covering the funeral of a queen who had died too young, her husband and daughter standing side-by-side somber and dressed all in black. Taking a swig of his ale, he had thought it funny that while both looked sad and serious, neither were in tears, odd for a young girl who had just lost her mother. With a shrug of his shoulders and a distracting growl from his wookiee counterpart, Han had turned away and never gave it a second thought.
He strolled down the street, nodding his head at the constant flow of people who walked by him smiling. Nowhere to go and nothing to do, Han wondered if there would be a place to get a drink around here. He was feeling a little out of place, but doubted there was a spacer's bar around. An hour into his walk, he had stopped only in two stores, one to pick up a few fresh white shirts, and another where he bought spare parts for the Falcon. Growing hungrier by the second, Han settled on one of the smaller cafes that offered outdoor seating.
He was finishing up the spiciest Alderaani dish he could find on the menu, swigging the last sip of his gizer, when he saw something out of the corner of his eye that did not fit in with the rest of the scene. Instincts tingling, he jumped up from his seat, threw a bunch of credits onto the table, grabbed his bags, and ran to the edge of the street.
People were shouting now, crowding the street, and straining their necks to see something off in the distance. His curiosity sparked, Han looked around him, and rather than seeing fear lining the faces of the Alderaani people, they were smiling. Relaxing, he realized people were yelling in excitement. Han rolled his eyes and went to turn around, but found himself locked in with the crowd. No amount of elbowing or pushing through was working, despite his height, so he decided to stand tight and see what was happening.
He turned to the man closest to him who looked less excitable than the rest.
Han nudged him. "What's going on?"
The man was short and had to strain his neck to glance up at Han. "It's the king's fleet." He squinted his eyes. "You're not from here, are you?"
Han shook his head.
The man squeezed his hands together, excitement etched on his face. "Oh, it's your lucky day! The king only comes through town once a month. What are the odds?"
"Joy." He turned from the man with a dismissive nod and rolled his eyes towards the fleet. It was growing closer, almost in front of his direct eye-sight, when a man broke out from the rest of the crowd. Han saw a quick view of the man's face, young and blonde, innocent except for the look of determination that now lined his face.
Han's body reacted before his mind recognized what was happening. He dropped his purchases, pushed through the crowd with immense force, and lunged at the man who was reaching into his pocket. He tackled him to the ground before the guards of the king's fleet even realized there had been a threat. The man's blaster fell to the ground in front of them and Han kicked it away. He kicked him in the stomach to keep him down. The guards at this point caught up and surrounded them.
Han threw his hands in the air when one of the guards hit him in the ribs with the butt of his gun.
"It wasn't me, krethin' idiot. I was the one who saved him."
The crowd began to cheer and Han wished he had never landed on the planet. The guards cuffed the man and tossed him into one of the vehicles. Thinking it was best to get out of the spotlight as soon as possible, he stooped down to collect his things and went to turn away, but a guard grabbed him again.
"Sir, I'm sorry, but the king would like to speak with you."
Han blanched. "The king? No thanks. Listen, everything's settled here and I'm glad to have helped really, but I gotta go. Things to do."
The guard nudged him, harder this time. "But I insist."
Han found himself sitting in the middle of a cushy ship used for everyday travel, across from the king. They stared at each other. Han did not like the look the king gave him. It was more considering than he preferred.
"So uh, no disrespect your highness uh-"
Han nodded. "Bail, right. But uh, I have to meet up with a friend of mine in a few minutes and he doesn't like it when I'm late. Thinks I'm getting myself into trouble, see."
"Chewbacca the wookiee, no?"
Han's eyes glazed over in momentary shock, but recovered soon after. "How do you know that?"
"Are you not Han Solo?"
"I am the old friend of Chewbacca's who he visited earlier today. I was just on my way back and wished to check in on my town where you just so happened to be. Lucky for me."
"Yeah, sure. How'd you know who I am?"
Bail laughed in good nature. "Chewbacca showed me a few holos from over the years. Of his wife and child. You were in a few."
With a roll of his eyes, Han spoke. "The big lug's a sensitive type. But really I should be going. We gotta get out of here."
"To see Jabba the Hutt?"
"Chewie told you? It's not a big deal. Just a-ah-just a deal gone bad. Nothing I can't sort out."
"You have to pay him a great sum of money?"
Han didn't answer.
"I want to repay you for saving my life."
Han shook his head. "It wasn't a big deal, I told you. Anyone woulda done it."
Bail chuckled again. "No one reacted quite as fast as you. Even my own trained and paid guards realized what was happening. If it hadn't been for you, I would have died. And for it to have been you of all people. Don't you find that odd?"
"Do you believe in faith, Captain Solo?"
Han didn't want to insult the king, so he chose not to answer.
"Because I do. Having needed to be saved for the first time on my own planet, ever, on the day my old friend visits me for the first time in eighteen years, by the close companion of that very friend? I find it more than coincidental."
Han brushed it off. "Look, I can't take your money. Not for that. Consider it a favor for a friend-of-a-friend."
"What if, besides just the money, I offer you work?"
"And in payment for your help, for just five months at the most, I pay off the hutt for you. Make sure everything is settled. You would never even have to face him. And, for added measure, I will of course pay you an additional stipend."
Han leaned back against the seat. It wasn't something he would normally consider, not liking to be tied down, but this he found intriguing.
"I'd have to talk to Chewie. Before I can decide anything."
Bail relaxed against his seat. "Of course. Take all the time you need. But know this, Captain Solo. This isn't an offer I'm extending just for your benefit. I'm afraid your instincts are much too valuable for me to let slip by me."
"Why?" Han couldn't contain his bluntness.
"After my conversations with Chewbacca, I feel as though I can be open with you. Is that correct?"
"I understand that you are not actively involved in Imperial or Rebellion matters."
"I got no business in that. Easier to stick with just me."
Bail nodded. "Yes, but there does come a time when one has to act."
Han tried not to sit forward in his seat, but he was intrigued.
Bail continued, "And as much as I would like to keep those actions underground, if we want results, those actions will not always be able to be hidden. One must protect those most important to them."
"My daughter, Captain Solo. The princess. She has already involved herself far too deep than I ever intended or wanted. But she is an adult now, and I'm afraid I cannot do much to detain her any further. She will want to continue helping the rebellion and there has already been too close a call for me to sleep comfortably at night."
"Where do I come into this?" Han was pretty sure he already knew.
"You will act as a bodyguard for her. She will not like it, but if she wishes to continue aiding the rebellion, it is the only way I will allow it."
"Won't it look suspicious if she has a guard following her around all of a sudden?"
Bail laughed. "See, I was correct. You are intuitive." He paused, looking at Han."It will look suspicious, which is why you will be here, living in the castle, under the guise of a potential consort for the princess. Being of age, it is the time where she would start thinking of marriage. While it is the farthest thing from her mind at the moment, it will do as a good cover and a nice distraction for the planet."
"People will be so excited thinking they got a royal marriage on their hands and the Imps won't bother inspecting anything further."
Han looked out the window. He had a lot to consider. Judging by how he and Bail were old friends, Han guessed how Chewie would feel about all of this.
"What about Chewie? Wookiee's don't exactly fit in."
"He can stay here. Simply as a guest. No one will give him a second look next to you."
Han nodded. "Alright, but I still need to meet up with him. Let him know what's been going on."
"Chewbacca has already been informed. He will be meeting us at the castle."
They sat in silence for the rest of the trip. Han watched as all of the green and trees passed by the window. After a few minutes, he could see the castle looming in the distance.
Han looked back towards Bail who had been sitting with his eyes closed.
"Uh, sir? Your highness?" The ship was pulling into the driveway of the castle.
Bail opened his eyes and smiled. "Yes, Captain Solo?"
The ship came to a stop and the driver scurried to open the doors.
"I don't remember her name."
Bail chuckled. "It's Leia. And look, she has come to greet us."
Han rolled the name on his tongue, trying it out. He looked out as the door opened and saw his first glimpse of the princess in years and in person. She was no longer a child. He turned back to Bail. "Why does she look so angry?"