Title: TANGLED WEB
Author: Kathryn Olsen
E-Mail: AlaraV@coruscant.net
Category: The Rebellion
Summary: Some plot-hole fillers that explain a few things left out of
the original trilogy but are mentioned.
Website: None
Rating: G


Princess Leia Organa sat in the main hold of the *Millenium Falcon*,
her knees drawn to her chest. She rested her chin on top of them, staring
blankly at the bulkhead in front of her.

"Bad day?"

She started and stared at the towheaded farmboy standing before
her. She smiled. "I've had worse."

Luke Skywalker returned the smile warily. "Not likely."

She nodded. "Actually, the last few days have been pretty bad.
I mean, first Imperial interrogation. That wasn't so bad, but it messed
up my hair. Then, of course, as soon as they destroyed my homeworld, they
decided to execute me. Then a madman busts into my detention cell, kidnaps
me and hauls me aboard this crate that'll probably implode the first time
we try to revert to realspace." She sighed and let her legs drop into
a normal position. "So, how about you? You've had a rough couple of days,
from the looks and smell of you."

Luke frowned and pulled up a chair next to her. He sat on it backwards
and inhaled deeply, immediately regretting it. "That was your idea. All
right, since my nineteenth birthday six days ago, my family's been murdered,
I've been beaten by wanted criminals, invaded the detention block and garbage
chute of the most powerful weapon in the Galaxy, and my Master was killed."

"You're nineteen?" He nodded and she smiled. "Me too. Though it
feels like it's been nineteen centuries."

"I know what you mean. My story isn't quite as bad as yours, but I think
it merits some sympathy."

"And a reward," Leia said softly. "Not to mention, you saved my
life."

"I don't want money."

She looked up. "All right, name anything you want, short of the
Katana Fleet and if we can get it, it's yours."

His smile teased her. "Is that an offer, Princess?"

She made a disgusted noise. "You've been hanging around Captain
Solo too much."

Luke grinned slowly. "You know what I want? A fighter and a spot
in whichever squadron goes up against that station when we roll around to
killing them off."

Leia smiled. "I'll see what I can do." She stifled a yawn, but
not before Luke could see it. "I'm sorry."

"It's all right." He rested a hand on her shoulder. "It's been
a long day for all of us. Get some rest, recover. Have you checked yourself
out for injuries yet?"

She nodded. "Captain Solo was concerned earlier, when you were
looking after the droids. I have a few broken ribs, some cuts, and a lot
of nerve damage, but I'm not surprised."

Luke ran a hand along her spine. "I'm sorry all this happened to
you."

She leaned her head almost hesitantly on his shoulder. "It's not
your fault. I know they'll pay for what they've done. I just hope I live
long enough to see it."

He frowned into the distance. He wanted to offer some empty assurances,
relieve her fears, be her hero. He looked down to say something and forgot.

She was fast asleep, her breathing regular, her face peaceful for
the first time since he'd seen her holo three days before. He didn't
dare disturb such perfect rest.

He rested an arm around her shoulders and sat back to wait out the
long flight to Yavin.
* * *
"Nice jewelry, farmboy."

Luke turned and grinned at Leia. He hefted the medal, blushing
sheepishly. "Yeah, I'll have to kill whoever gave it to me. It's not
as ugly as a dewback and it probably smells better, but I mean, come on."

Leia smiled gently. She'd changed from her formal court robes into
black slacks and a red wrap shirt. He could see officers sending her bemused
looks, unsure how to respond.

"Yeah, well, they didn't want to give either of you blasters after
I told them about the escape from the Death Star, so you'll have to put
that thing in a trophy case somewhere and forget about it."

He removed it, put it in its case, then opened the storage space
he'd been assigned. "Actually, I'm putting it in my flight locker until
they clear me out."

She slid an arm around his waist and grinned up at him. "I have
some news for you. General Dodonna wants to put you on permanent flight
duty with Rogue Squadron, the one you flew with up there. Wedge Antilles
is in it and the commander's a wonderful pilot. He thinks highly of your
skills."

Luke hugged her. "Thank you, for everything."

Leia broke away, smiling through the inexplicable tears in her eyes.
"Hey, that's my line." She swiped at her eyes. "I think I got something
in my eye."

"Sure," Luke said teasingly. "Where are you off to now?"

She sighed. "The main party is in the Grand Audience Chamber.
Every ranking officer will be there."

His smile vanished. "And where do *you* want to go, Princess Leia
Organa?"

She smiled. "There *is* a party on the roof. Dancing, live music
from some band that defected from the Imperial Entertainment Services,
bad synthehol and smuggled food all around..." Her eyes sparkled. "And
not a single dignitary."

Luke laughed heartily. "Sounds like the perfect spot. Let's go."

They ran to the turbolift and rode to the top floor, then ran up
the stairs to the roof. Leia leaned in close. "Let's try and be as wholly
inconspicuous as possible so we can enjoy..."

"Hey, it's the hero and the Princess!"

"Oh gods in the hells of the Sith," Leia muttered, her smile vanishing.

Luke grinned. "Come on, we're just here for fun and celebrating,
the same as you. We just didn't want to do it in dress uniforms." He grabbed
a glass from a nearby Lieutenant from Assets Tracking and handed it to Leia.
"Try this. It's Corellian brandy."

Leia sipped it and grimaced. "It's about as sweet as Captain Solo's
personality. Anything a little more civilized?"

"Hey, Solo, this one has it in for you."

Luke could see Leia's eyes widen and her cheeks flush with embarrasment.
Solo, seated on a ledge, grinned. "Nothing new. She's been after me ever
since we got trapped in a garbage chute trying to save her life." He smiled.
"She has a bit of a crush on me, poor kid."

Leia glared at him. "I knew we should have stayed away from you."

"I knew we should have left you in the termination block of the
Death Star, Your Worship. YOu're not much good to us anywhere else."

The crowd fell silent. Luke stared, jaw agape, at Solo. He felt
a brush of fabric on his arm and turned to see Leia fleeing the scene.

He stormed over to the ledge and tackled Solo, pinning him dangerously
close to the 100-meter abyss. "What in the hells of the Sith is wrong with
you?"

Solo struggled and rocked back before pushing off and throwing
Luke off. "Look, kid, I'm sorry. It got out of hand, but she knows it's in
jest."

Luke glared at him. "Maybe for you it's amusing, but think of
what she's been through in the last five days." He turned on his heel.
"I'm going to see if she's all right. I expect you to do something decent
so you don't end up dead tomorrow."

He pushed through the gathered crowd and ran down the stairs.
Three flights down, he found Leia, curled into a ball against the wall.
Luke knelt beside her and gathered her into his arms. She buried her face
against his shoulder, sagging against him.

"I'm so sorry. He had no right to say that."

It sounded condescending and pathetic and she didn't respond for
a moment. Then she looked up. "Everyone thinks Alderaan is my fault.
Those who were here when it was destroyed have practically exiled me.
They think I should have died with the other Imperial monsters." She
lay her head against his shoulder. "Who knows, maybe they're all right."

Luke held her at arm's length, staring firmly at her. "Don't say
that. You did what was right for the whole of the Rebellion. No matter
how hard it is for others to understand it, we're all alive because of
what you did."

She sighed. "Small comfort." She turned her face away, wiping
at her eyes. "I'll be fine. Let's go back to the party."

"Are you sure?"

Leia nodded, smiling faintly. "If nothing else, maybe I can challenge
Captain Solo to a duel and win."

Luke kissed her forehead. "That's the spirit." He stood and helped
her up. "Now, let's go wreak some havoc."
* * *
Leia made a face and waved at the dauber wasps flying around her
head. "Why did we choose this world for a meeting place?"

Luke laughed. "It doesn't fall under Imperial jurisdiction and
the smugglers use it as a truce ground. I think Captain Solo picked it
out of spite for you, personally."

Leia grimaced. "I wouldn't be surprised. He seems hell-bent on
annoying me. What's the name of this place?"

"Ord Mantell."

Leia sighed. "Not to be confused with Ord Pardron, Ord Trasi...
Is it some kind of formulated naming system?"

"More likely a remnant of some long-dead empire."

Leia shuddered. "Wonder if it'll be the same way in a hundred years,
when we're all dead and the Empire's been defeated?" She looked around.
"Where are we supposed to meet him, anyway?"

"A tapcafe about half a mile from here. You should probably change.
People don't take kindly to court robes around here and our contact won't
respect you if you look like that."

Leia threw up her hands and stormed back into the ship. She emerged
in khaki slacks and a grey tunic that fell to her waist. She pulled out
the hairpins and uncoiled the braids. She knotted them together at the
nape of her neck, then looked up.

"Good enough?"

Luke shrugged, fighting down a grin. She looked wonderful. "I
suppose it'll have to do." He offered an arm. "Shall we?"

Seven minutes later, Luke slid into a booth next to Han and surveyed
the scene. Leia took the outside seat. "Not here yet?"

"No, and I have a bad feeling about this."

Leia rolled her eyes. "How many thousand times in the last year
and a half have we heard that, now?"

"Every time I'm right," Solo countered wryly.

"That narrows it down," Luke said with a grin.

Leia stood. "I'm going to find a refresher so at least one of us
looks half-presentable."

Han watched her go. "For all her bluster, she's a nice piece of
meat."

Luke's jaw dropped. "First time I've heard anyone call the heir-
apparent to the Alderaanian throne a 'nice piece of meat.'"

"Come on, I've seen the way you look at her. You've got it bad."

"And you think that's wrong?"

"Not at all. She's your age, almost exactly; she's beautiful, and
she's domineering? What more can a farmboy need?"

"What would you need?"

Han made a face. "She's too bossy and smart for me. I want someone
who's in awe of me, not the other way around. Plus, I hate politicians."

He raised his eyes from his glass of brandy and froze. "Oh, Sith,"
he muttered.

"What is it?"

"Boba Fett, the worst bounty hunter this side of the Outer Rim.
Works on commission for Jabba the Hutt mainly, but a bit of side work for
Vader himself. Chances are if he's here, our contact's dead already."
He dug out his comlink and switched it on. "I'm warning
Her Worship."

"Too late."

Leia emerged from a doorway and passed right by Fett. He bludgeoned
her over head with the blast rifle and she fell to her knees, shaking her
head. He grabbed her by her hair and hauled her to her feet. He pressed
a blaster rifle to her temple and started choking her.

Han swore and rocketed to his feet. "Fett, leave her out of this.
It's me you want."

"I don't know. Jabba's foremost target and the Rebellion's leader.
The opportunities are endless. The bounty for the Princess alone would
ruin Jabba's business."

Han glanced back at Luke to find he'd disappeared. *Great, just
perfect. Where's my backup when I need him?*

Leia struggled against the arm pressed against her throat."Shoot
me," she croaked. "It's the only way to save yourself."

A blaster whined to the side and Leia dropped, clutching a spot
just above her hip. Fett fired as Han triggered a double burst at him.
It went wide, but a burst hit Fett from the side. He rolled, but escaped,
his body armor taking most of the impact. He pushed his way to the exit
and was gone.

Han slowly became aware of a burning in his chest. He was flat
on his back, breathing laboriously. He looked down and immediately regretted
the action.

"Han, you all right?"

"Sithspit, Luke, couldn't you have stuck around?"

Luke grimaced. "I had to take Fett out. I didn't know this would
happen. Hold on, our backup's on the way. I think our mission here is
effectively over."
* * *
Leia gritted her teeth. "Did you have to shoot me there?"

Luke frowned and finished bandaging the wound. "It was my only
clear spot. Anywhere else and I would have blown apart some civilian's
head. Speaking of which, how's your head?"

Leia glowered. "I've got a nasty concussion thanks to that hunk
of metal. I'll have a pretty ugly scar where it split the skin, but my
hair will cover that."

He handed her some painkillers. "Take these. You'll feel better."

She swallowed them and grimaced. "How's Han?"

Luke looked away. "Not good. Fett had an assassin's rifle, of
course. It's lucky we got him into bacta when we did. He was about two
microns this side of death."

Leia buried her face. "I should have known. THis is all my fault."

Luke laughed. "You have this uncanny knack for blaming the universe
on yourself."

"He wasn't going to confront Fett in the first place, I could tell.
It was only when I had a blaster against my head that he put himself in
danger."

Luke tilted her chin. "You know what that means?"

"What?"

"He's your friend; he's concerned about you. You would have done
the same for any one of us. Besides, it's the third time he's saved your
life. You think he takes that lightly?"

Leia looked up and smiled slightly. "Touche," she said softly.
"So, what would have happened if you hadn't rescued me from the Death Star?"

Luke frowned. "All right, let's start from the beginning. If you
hadn't been involved in the mission, I wouldn't have gotten two droids,
I would have hung out with my friends for the night, then worked another
season before going to the Imperial Academy. If I had decided to erase
Artoo's memory, I would have been incinerated with the rest of my family.
If we hadn't gone to the Death Star..." He smiled. "Well, you'd be dead and
I wouldn't have a very good friend."

She lay back on the bunk, trying to adjust herself into a comfortable
position. "So, everything works out for the good."

"Exactly."

Luke pulled a blanket over her and brushed his fingers along her
throat. "No ill effects here?"

She shook her head. "I was dizzy for a while afterwards, mostly
from being shot by some crazed maniac with a lightsaber and an overactive
sense of heroism."

Luke laughed and brushed her forehead lightly with his lips.
"Touche, Leia. He'll pay for that one. I'll see to it personally."

She smiled groggily as the painkillers started taking effect. "Don't
do that. There are certain advantages to being a merciful and benevolent
leader."

"Really. You'll have to invite Senator Palpatine to that particular
lecture."

She laughed, her face reflecting the pain the motion caused her.
Luke smiled. "I think I'd better leave before I officially kill you."

She grimaced. "Yeah, it would be pretty tragic to die of laughter
after all I've been through."

"Yeah, escaping Imperial executioners is nothing compared to that."
He brushed his hand over her eyes, closing them. "Sleep well, you deserve
it."

Luke stood and crossed to the bacta room and stood, watching Han.
He looked completely lifeless, more vulnerable than Luke had ever seen him.

"What a mess," the medic on the backup team said from behind him.
"At least neither of them died."

"Is he out of danger?"

"For now. He'll have to take it easy for a few days, but he'll
be fine." He smiled. "How's your patient?"

"Sleeping, thankfully. The wound wasn't life-threatening, just
extremely painful. Your partner sutured the head injury earlier."

The medic nodded. "Good." He leaned against the wall. "She seems
to have an uncanny talent for running into trouble. Did you hear about her
after Yavin?"

"No. I know she was in bad shape because of interrogation, but
that's about it."

The medic shuddered. "About two days after the medal ceremony,
I was on late shift and Captain Solo bursts into the medical center with
her in his arms, completely limp. She'd collapsed in the corridor. We
did some testing. She had massive nerve damage, a hairline skull fracture,
a broken arm. She never felt it, though, because of the damage they did to
her nervous system. It was one of the most horrible things I've ever seen."

Luke swore. "I assume that top-secret summit she went to was a ruse
as well?"

The medic nodded. "She spent ten straight days floating in a bacta
tank. For the next six months, she came into the medcenter every night for
nerve therapy. It's probably one of the greatest ordeals of her life so far
and she punished herself in it, like she was paying penance. We put her on
anti-depressants, but nothing seemed to work." He sighed. "She's a bit better
now; I think we have you and Solo to thank for that."

"She never said a word."

He shook his head. "Naturally. She's a strong, proud woman.
I don't think she would have come in if she hadn't collapsed that one day."

Luke grimaced and looked back at her. "Somehow I'm not surprised."
* * *
Leia heard the airlock open and held her breath, praying for something
of a miracle. She could hear Lando speaking quietly to someone and sagged
in relief.

Lando guided a battered and disheveled Luke into the corridor outside
the cockpit. Leia leapt to her feet, pushing past Chewie's massive bulk
to embrace him tightly.

He was shivering violently despite the warm climate and the blanket
wrapped around his shoulders. "Leia," he began whispering, burying his
face in her shoulder.

She began weeping herself. "It's all right, I'm here. I'm finally
here." She pulled back slightly and lowered her voice. "I assume you met
the traitor of the day, Lando Calrissian. He's the one who betrayed us to
the Empire and had Han carbon-frozen."

Luke looked at her hard, his eyes strangely haunted. "Don't do
that. You're giving into the darkness inside you."

Leia shuddered. *Like Vader.* "I won't, don't worry. Come on.
You look like you could use a bunk."

She slipped under his arm to support him just before he cried out.
The blanket fell away, revealing his hand...or lack thereof, rather. Leia
gasped and clapped a hand over her mouth. All restraint fell away and she
wept uncontrollably as she got him settled into the bunk and hooked up an
intravenous bacta purge.

"Oh, Sith, what did he do to you?"

Luke cradled his arm against his chest, his shuddering increasing.
"I can't explain it to you just yet. It's not the right time. But, what
you can know is that Vader lured me to the carbon-freezing chamber. He
goaded me into fighting him, then pushed me over the edge into the pit.
I barely managed to escape that particular horror. When that didn't work,
he started hurling heavy metal objects, sections of bulkhead at me. One
broke the window and I nearly fell to my death.

"Luckily, I managed to latch on to a ledge. I recovered and confronted
him on the gantry. I cut him once or twice, but then in a moment of distraction,
he knocked my lightsaber away, then cut off my hand. I retreated to the
far end of the platform where he couldn't get to me. Then, he started
taunting me about my father, the one he'd killed."

He closed his eyes. "The rest, I'll tell you later, when it's
necessary."

Leia kissed his cheek. "It's all right. We've both been through
enough pain for one day as it is. When you're ready, I'll be waiting."

The ship shuddered and Luke cried out softly. Unable to take any
more, Leia retreated to the refresher and dampened a cloth. She returned
and started wiping the blood, sweat, and tears from his face. He winced
as she brushed against the cuts.

Suddenly he smiled. "What's that for," Leia demanded.

"I'm just thinking how we're finally evening the injury score."

Leia laughed. "Not even close. I've got a dozen hours of Imperial
interrogation, three wounds, and a broken finger to my advantage over you."

"Touche. It's just our roles are usually reversed. I can't remember
the last time you had to nursemaid me."

"I think it was that first night after we arrived on Hoth. When
you managed to slip on the ice and fall headfirst down a flight of stairs.
It was before our medteams arrived."

He grimaced. "I remember. Han told everyone I'd gotten fresh
with you and that was the end result."

Leia's smile vanished. "Yeah, Han."

Luke instinctively reached out to her, then stopped. "You love
him, don't you?"

Leia nodded, the tears threatening yet again. "More than anything
else." She bit her lip. "Look, I'm sorry for what I've done in the past..."

Luke reached out with his other hand and gripped her wrist. "I'm
happy for you. Gods know you both need someone like the other. It's meant
to be, right?"

She nodded silently. He nodded towards the viewport. "Somewhere
in the middle of all that is Han. I don't care how long it takes, we're
going to find him."
* * *
*This is the strangest sensation I've had in years,* Luke thought,
flexing the fingers on his bionic hand. He looked up and nodded his approval
to 2-1B and stood shakily.

He could see Leia standing at the viewport, almost touching it.
She was still, almost statuesque.

Luke stepped alongside Leia. He could see her anguished expression
as she gazed out at the stars. His own words echoed in his ears as he
watched the *Falcon* pull out of its docking slot. *"Somewhere in the middle
of all that is Han. I don't care how long it takes, we're going to find
him.*

Leia had begun weeping again at his promise. She had grudgingly
accepted Lando's offer, more to rid herself of his presence than out of
any genuine trust.

The *Falcon* banked, then with a flicker of pseudomotion went into
hyperspace. Leia flinched visibly and Luke rested his real hand on her
shoulder.

After a moment, she turned and embraced him. For the first time
since that day on Tatooine almost four years ago, the gesture didn't
invoke any passionate feelings in him, just a brotherly sense of protection.
He wanted nothing more than to keep her safe from the evils of the Galaxy
they lived in; to be her loyal protector.

"Luke, are you all right?"

He jumped, startled. "Isn't that my line?"

She broke away and looked up at him solemnly. "You have a lot of
tension in your presence. Something's bothering you."

He forced a smile. "Are you sure it's me who has the latent Jedi
powers?"

She rolled her eyes and embraced him again. "You're not fooling
me, Jedi."

He ran his hand over her back lightly, using a calming technique
to ease her troubled soul. *Now, if that could only work on me.*

He checked his chrono. "In about seventeen minutes, we will have
known each other for four years."

She laughed in spite of herself. "You've been keeping track?"

"I figured I should for when I compile my memoirs. No one will
ever believe them."

"True," Leia said wryly. "Four years since I was supposed to die
the first time. Four years since Alderaan. I'm twenty-three and six days.
We're going to our fifth base in four years."

"I get the point."

He guided her away and to her quarters. She poured two drinks and
handed one to him. "Here's to another four hopefully less stressful years."

Luke sighed. "Not a chance." He downed his drink. "Four years
and six days ago, I thought I'd be an Imperial officer for the rest of
my natural life."

"And I thought I'd be the vicerene of Alderaan by now." She swirled
her drink, then sipped it. "I'd be married to some ruling-class heir-
apparent from one of our allies and have at least one kid and a staff of
fifty."

"I'd be in Fel's 181st, racking up kills and enjoying the life of
an Imp officer. I might marry some girl I met on shore leave, but I don't
think I'd pay much attention to her."

Leia slowly shook her head. "No, you're too much like me. You'd
be madly in love with whoever you married, because you couldn't live any
other way."

"Touche," Luke said softly. "Do you want to marry Han?"

She cocked her head to the side and closed her eyes, smiling.
"Someday, when all this starts to wind down, yes."

He smiled. "You're the first person I know who doesn't use if as
the operating word there." He took her hand and squeezed it briefly.
"I can't wait to meet you in peacetime."

"Me either."

She stood and crossed to her storage cubicle. She pulled out a
piece of flimsi and unfolded it. "This is a relic. I wrote this down
my first day in the Imperial Senate. Emperor Palpatine was answering
questions on the increased rebellion against the New Order."

Luke made a face, but kept an earnest expression on his face.
She pulled a straight face and lowered her voice after adjusting her posture
to a pompous, ridiculous pose. "You'll like this, I promise, just don't
laugh. 'I give you my greatest assurances of the triviality of this matter.
This order is invincible, a force that cannot be corrupted. No force
of Rebellion will assail our Fleets, no internal revolution shall dissolve
our Senate. There is no amount of subversion or treachery that will be
our downfall. No madman will overthrow our mighty Empire.'"

Luke whistled. "Pretty presumptuous of him."

She nodded. "A year later, to the day, we destroyed the Death
Star." She smiled. "Our subconscious has a strange sense of humor."

Luke laughed. "That it does. The day they surrender to us, I'll
chip in for a plaque with that quote on it to shove down their throats."
He looked down. "Wonder when that will finally happen?"

Leia sat on her bed, her back to the viewport. "Probably not for
a very long time. Sometimes I wonder if our children will be raised on
the run." She sighed. "I'm so very tired of living in constant fear.
This is definitely not what my father envisioned for me."

"Is anything ever that?"

She smiled. "I guess not." She set down her glass on a nightstand
and looked over. "So, you never told me exactly where you were for the
three months you completely disappeared from the face of the Galaxy. Mid-
life crisis?"

Luke laughed. "You remember how when Han found me that night on
Hoth, I was completely delirious and talking in my sleep?"

Leia frowned, her forehead creasing endearingly. "Yeah, something
about Ben Kenobi and Yovde?"

"No, Yoda. He's eight hundred and ninety-nine and he was my Jedi
Master. For those three months I was training to be a Jedi Knight before,
you know, Vader..."

Leia nodded slowly. "So the Order isn't dead."

"Not yet."

"Good to know there's still something enduring in the Galaxy."

"There's something else." He took her hand and resumed his sabacc
face. "No matter what, promise me we'll always be friends."

Leia pulled the same face. "You have nothing to worry about."
* * *
Leia leaned her head on Han's shoulder, listening to the history
they all had memorized. Threepio was putting on a good show and it was
all she could do to keep from laughing. That might offend him.

An Ewok, the same one who'd saved her earlier in the forest, wrapped
his arms around Han's leg, stroking it sympathetically. Han rolled his
eyes towards the wattle and daub roof of the hut. Leia smiled and rested
a hand on his thigh. He looked over and gave her the familiar crooked
smile she'd missed so much.

As Threepio finished up the story, he leaned over and kissed her
gently. She smiled wryly as once again, Threepio interrupted them. "We
are now a part of the tribe."

Suddenly, they were swarmed by the furry little creatures. Leia
managed to escape, just barely. She saw Luke slip out the back door. She
felt prompted to follow him. She squeezed Han's shoulders, then followed
him.

She finally reached him after what seemed like an eternity. He
had his back to her, his shoulders slumped. She'd never seen him this
defeated.

"Luke, what's wrong?"

He turned to look at her, his face more perplexed than ever before.
Leia sat down, sensing she might need to. "Do you remember your mother,
your real mother?"

Leia nearly fell over the railing to her death a kilometer below.
When she regained her senses, she looked down, took his hand. "Just a
little bit. She died when I was very young."

"Tell me," he said, almost urgently.

A thousand thoughts flashed through her mind. Her adoptive mother,
her adoptive father, both of them together; then slowly, she began focusing
on a scene. A woman, barely older than herself, with the same magnificent
chesnut hair and sad eyes. She was looking at Leia with infinite love
and compassion in her eyes. Two more faces joined her. She recognized
one as a much younger Obi-wan Kenobi. The other fitted a respirator over
her small mouth and nose and she was lowered into a trunk. Her mother was
trying valiantly not to cry and completely failing. Then the trunk lid
shut. Then she saw her mother in the Royal Palace, presumably when Leia
was over. She had seen her in a corner, watching her play with her father.
The same love was still in her eyes, as was the pain. Then she was gone.

"She was..." Leia caught her breath. "Very beautiful; kind, but
sad."

She tried to block out the mental image, then looked up. "Luke,
why are you asking me this?"

He looked away. "I have no memory of my mother. I never knew her."

Leia studied him for a long moment, then took a deep, shuddering
breath. "Luke, what's wrong?"

"Vader's here. Now, on this moon."

Leia sagged a bit. *Why? Are you sure? Who told you?* Instead,
she simply asked, "How do you know?"

"I felt his presence," he said in a barely audible whisper. "He
can feel when I'm near. That's why I have to go. As long as I stay, I'm
endangering the group and our mission. I have to face him."

Leia felt herself on the verge of tears. *Gods, Luke, don't do
this to me now.* "But why?"

He closed his eyes and bowed his head until his chin rested against
his chest. "Because he's my father."

Leia expected some kind of thunderbolt, earthquake, or some natural
disaster. She expected herself to fly into some kind of depressive rage,
tear him apart. But she didn't.

She just stared at him in complete shock. Luke, her most trusted
friend for well over four years was the progeny of that monster.

Her face drew into a horrified grimace. "Your father?"

"There's more," he said more firmly.

*What more can there be?*

"It won't be easy for you to understand, but you must." He tilted
her chin so she looked into his eyes. "If I don't make it back, you're
the only hope for the Alliance."

Leia recoiled. "Luke, don't talk that way. You have a power I...
I don't understand and could never have."

"You're wrong, Leia." He drew her closer. "You have that power,
too. In time, you'll learn to use it as I have. The Force runs strong
in my family. My father has it, I have it, my sister has it."

She shuddered. Luke had the same potential for evil as his father,
maybe even a greater risk. And his...

She looked up sharply. "Yes, it's you, Leia."

She relaxed. "I know," she said softly. It all made sense now.
"Somehow, I've always known."

"Then you know why I have to face him."

She shot to her feet. "No! Luke, run away, far away. If he can
feel your presence, then leave this place." She looked away. "I wish I
could go with you."

"No, you don't." He was in his logical, persuasive voice now.
"You've always been strong."

*Then why do I feel so lost and vulnerable now?* She became aware
of the tears streaming down her face. "But why must you confront him?"

He gripped her hands and brought his face in closer. "Because
there is still good in him. The Emperor hasn't driven it from him fully."
He took a deep, shuddering breath and she could see him trying to restrain
the tears. "I have to try."

He drew her in for an embrace, then kissed her forehead gently and
pulled away. Leia turned so she didn't watch him go and stared over the
railing into the darkness. It would be so easy to slip over the edge into
that darkness. No one would ever know if she'd fallen or jumped.

*"If I don't make it back, you're the only hope for the Alliance."
What was *that* supposed to mean? My brother has got to be the craziest
person I've ever...

*My brother.

Brother.*

She gagged. *I'm Vader's daughter.* She fought the urge to vomit
and leaned further over the railing. A few more inches and...

"Hey, what's wrong?"

Leia jumped, startled, but kept her back to Han. "Nothing. I
just need to be alone for a little while."

Naturally, Han didn't buy it for a micro-second. "Nothing?! Come
on, tell me. What's going on?"

She turned to look at him. He was wearing the same lopsided grin,
but there was genuine concern in his eyes. *He won't take this well, after
all Vader's done to him.* "I can't tell you."

He stood and jabbed a finger into the distance. "Could you tell
Luke? Is *that* who you could tell?"

"I..."

Leia turned away, unable to take any more. The void beckoned and
she wondered vaguely if Han would catch her if she tried. From the disgusted
sound she heard before his footsteps faded, probably not. She heard them pause,
then turn and come closer. She expected a tirade, a lecture, anything except the
next words he spoke.

"I'm sorry."

It was the first time he'd ever said it to her. He'd never bothered to, before.
She turned and stared at him, unsure what to think.

"Hold me."

She rushed into his arms and buried her head against his chest. She could hear his
Pounding heartbeat slow and calm. He probably thought it was some 'female thing.'
Typical. She didn't care, only that his arms were around her and the rest of a Galaxy, even the
Empire couldn't prevent the moment.

They had taken everything she knew and loved, but she still had an informal family here.
*Well, maybe not so informal, * she thought wryly. She shuddered again at the thought of Vader.

"Luke's not coming on the mission tomorrow," she murmured.

Han stiffened noticeably and his breath ceased for a moment. "What?"

"That's what this is all about. He's going to confront Vader right
now. I don't know if he'll even make it out of this alive."

Han swore softly, holding her tighter. "Don't worry. He can take
care of himself." He kissed her gently and pulled away. "Come on, we've
got a big day tomorrow."
* * *
Leia rubbed her arm absently, looking into the darkness beyond the
celebration. Han had begged her repeatedly to come back, join in the much-
needed reprieve.

The War was over and all she could think about was Luke. "I agree
I need some fun," she'd told Han, "but I want to be the first to welcome
my brother back."

She shivered. That phrase didn't spook her as much now. She wondered
if she'd ever be able to move past the issue of her father, or rather,
if Han would. She hadn't even told him yet.

From the edge of her vision, she caught a movement from the shadows. A
second later, Luke emerged, bedraggled, eyes haunted, but with the same
farmboy grin she'd grown accustomed to plastered across his face.

She immediately slipped out from under Han's arm and nearly knocked
Luke over as she embraced him tightly. "Is he dead?"

Luke nodded. "Our father and the Emperor, both. Remind me to
tell you the story tomorrow."

She broke away, smiling at him. "I can't wait."

Luke nodded towards the others, specifically a certain smuggler.
"Have you told him about, uh, Vader yet?"

She shook her head. "What, are you crazy? I'm not ready to accept
it yet, much less him." She squeezed his left hand. "Besides, I want you
there to help."

"Count on it."

Luke crossed to Han and clasped his hand firmly. "You took good
care of my sister," he inquired. Quietly, so no one, not even Chewie,
could hear.

"I tried my best, but you know her. Stubborn to the bone. She
insisted on getting herself shot more than once before the War ended.
You'll have to do some of that legendary mind manipulation her sometime."

Leia moved into his grip. "Come on. That's what you love about
me."

Han grinned at her. "I know. I like strong women." He winked
at Luke. "So, do I have to court-martial you or are you ever going to
tell me why you abandoned the mission?"

Luke glanced at Leia, got a nod. "Tonight, after things wind down.
We'll both explain it."

Han smiled. "In the meanwhile, Your Highness, care for this dance?"

Leia smiled back. "Definitely. Enjoy yourself, Luke. You look
like you could use it more than any of us."

He didn't answer, but stared enrapt at a spot about five meters
away. After a few minutes, Wedge snapped him out of it and he started
loosening up.

"Finally," Han murmured in her ear. "Poor kid looks like he's
been dragged backwards through a observer hole, then gone through Imperial
interrogation."

Leia grimaced. "He's had a lot to carry these past seven months.
Ever since Bespin, he's been...I don't know. Detached. It frightened me,
but now that I know what was bothering him, it makes a lot more sense."

He spun her. "Don't you dare do that to me."

She smiled. "Don't worry. I have nothing like that to worry me
anymore. So, do you have any deep dark secrets? Are you related to Lando
or anything or something?"

"Thank the Force, no." He laughed lightly and Leia stopped for
a moment. "What?"

"That's the first time since Bespin that you laughed. It *has*
been a good day."

He kissed her long and hard. "You bet."
* * *
"All right, what's this all about?"

Leia gestured Luke to a seat opposite Han and took one next to him.
"That information'll cost you."

Han laughed. "You've been hanging around me too much. So, give
me one good reason why you shouldn't be court-martialed."

Luke's smile shrank. "If I hadn't gone to Vader, he and reinforcements
would have come to us. Much more than that legion you happened upon in
the bunker. He's been hunting me for two years now; that's why you were
tortured at Bespin.

"As I've explained before, you may not have Force potential, but
you're a Sender. Any close friend who happens to be a Jedi is greatly
affected when you're in pain. Unable to take it, I left my Master and
rushed to Bespin, perfectly aware of what Vader was intending. He wanted
to bring me over to the Dark Side and join him. When I refused, we engaged
in a duel that cost me my hand, as you know.

"I retreated to the far end of the gantry where he couldn't get
to me. I told you he started taunting me about my father. Ben always
told me Vader had betrayed and murdered him. I brought this up, coincidentally,
and to my surprise, Vader claimed to be my father.

"I half-believed it, but it wasn't until after Jabba's Palace,
when I went back to my Master that I knew for certain. My...our father
was once Anakin Skywalker, now known as Darth Vader."

Han stared, then shot to his feet. Once there, he simply stood,
looking uncertain as to what to do next. Leia stood slowly, facing him.
She stood completely still, daring him to do something. He stared at her,
then gathered her into his arms. She stiffened, then sank into his embrace,
resting her head against his chest.

"You're not mad?" She said softly.

"Why should I be. You have nothing to do with his life and he can't
hurt any of us anymore."

Leia hugged him tightly, then broke away. "That's all we needed
to know."