Title: The Light From Alderaan Author(s): MandyQ (JC Username MandrinaQ) Timeframe: A few months pre-ESB Characters: Han Solo, Leia Organa Genre: General/Drama/Light Romance, Fluff, Vignette Summary: Leia searches the skies for the light of her home world Notes: Missing moment from the epilogue "Razor's Edge by Martha Wells". You do not need to have read the novel to enjoy this story, but those who have read it have found the story that much more endearing. Three people have reported buying the novel *after* reading this. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- It was darker where the Falcon was berthed than in most of the pads in this port. Their landing platform was one of the highest the authority had on offer: a measure that the freighter's owner had insisted on for its defensibility and ease of escape should that become necessary. A rather pleasant side effect of their position was that they were above the lamps that burned overnight, all shaded by the shells of giant local nuts to cast their beams decidedly downward. On this night, at this time, and from this spot, it seemed like all of the galaxy was visible above them. The sky was teeming with tiny points of light coming from stars and planets too many to name, although Han Solo figured that he probably knew most of them, and lit only by the smallest sliver of the planet's waning moon. It was atop the ship's hull that Han had finally found Leia. She was facing away from him, standing near the rectenna, clad in a brown wide-knit sweater that would have exposed her midriff had it not been for the light colored camisole that she wore tucked into loose fitting pants that tapered at the ankle. She had changed out of the more official-looking outfit she'd worn all day while waiting to greet the Aegis. It didn't surprise him that she'd changed clothes. She'd made it pretty clear that she was on the verge of giving up on the rendezvous they had come here for, and what need did she have to look official when she had nothing official to do? Although Han was a bit surprised at her having climbed onto the Falcon's hull in her stocking feet. It wasn't at all unusual for her to be up and about at odd hours, but Han couldn't remember the last time he'd found her outside in the middle of the night. He was sure that the failure of the other ship to show was weighing on her heavily. She tended to take mission objectives pretty personally, and this one was more personal than most. Lost in thought, and staring up into the vast star field of the night sky, Leia didn't seem to even notice Han when he'd poked his head out of the hatch. He had known the princess for more than two years now, and honestly he knew her better than just about anyone did. But he was still at a loss as to what to do when she got this melancholy. The least he could do, he figured, was keep her company. He dashed inside to the cooler and snagged a pair of fruit ales; a flavor that he'd picked up on his last run to Chandrila for cyberfuses and optical cable because he knew the princess liked them. He popped open both of the bottles before it occurred to him that maybe it would have been a better idea to wait to open the bottes until after he had climbed the ladder to the hatch. He fumbled a bit to keep the ale from spilling, but managed to make it to the top without incident. As he came through the hatch, he couldn't help but to look over at Leia again. This was the hardest part about his relationship with her; not the quarreling or the watching her run headlong into danger, and not even the occasional bouts of outrageous romantic tension that he'd been struggling with of late. The hard part was that she was occasionally prone to bouts of despair, and there was nothing that he, or Luke, or anyone else could do about it. She usually preferred to bide her sadness in private, but as long as she was standing on the hull of his ship, Han Solo figured that he had every right to try and be there for her. As he moved toward her, he made sure that his boots on the deck made enough noise to alert her to his presence. Startling a person on a sloped deck in the dark was never a good idea. "Brought you something," he said, as he stepped across the deck to stand behind Leia, reaching his arm around to offer her a bottle. He could see that she was shivering as she took it from him, so he slid his jacket off and draped it over her shoulders. "Thank you," she said to him, both for the ale and for the jacket. Leia tilted her head slightly toward him, and clinked the neck of her bottle against his before taking a sip. At first he thought she was still looking for the Aegis. The two days that they'd been waiting for the rendezvous had been taxing on her for sure, and by the time she'd claimed to be hitting the bunk for the night, Han could tell that she was becoming overwhelmed by disappointment that they hadn't shown up yet. They had encountered the old Alderaanian Defense Force vessel and her crew-turned-ersatz-pirates a month previously on what should have been a routine run to a trading station. They had been supposed to meet with a merchant of Han's acquaintance to negotiate for supplies critical to the construction of the new Alliance base on Hoth, but had instead been shanghaied by a pirate organization that the Aegis had gotten in over their heads with. After narrowly escaping with their lives, and the loss of the gunship's captain, Leia had issued them a sincere offer of amnesty and acceptance within the Rebel Alliance. If they were going to take her up on her offer, they should have arrived here yesterday. But they hadn't. Leia had at first been optimistic; lots of things can go wrong in space and make a ship overdue. But as the first day passed into the second and the second had day passed into night, Han could tell that Leia had begun to convince herself that her overtures to them had failed. He guessed that it was the tiny bit of hope she had left, the tiny bit of belief she still had in herself, that had her staring into the sky in the middle of the night. But it only took him a moment to realize what was actually going on. She wasn't scanning the skies for signs of an oncoming ship. She was looking for something- something specific. And he was pretty sure that he knew what it was. Han dared to put his hand on her shoulder and asked: "You okay?" Leia shook her head gently. "I can't find it," she answered softly, the edges of her voice trembling with unshed tears. Han squeezed her shoulder and stepped in closer to her. Alderaan. She was looking for Alderaan. It was an odd reality, Han had always thought, how light travelled slower than beings and their wars. Even two years later, and probably decades into the future, on a clear night the light from Alderaan still appeared in skies throughout the galaxy as though nothing sinister had befallen the doomed planet. And now the princess of that extinct world was looking to the skies, homeward. And when the light hadn't appeared to her, Han could feel her heart breaking all over again. He wanted so badly to heal this hurt for her, but if the two plus years of their association had taught him anything, it was that some hurts couldn't be healed, only carried. He had done everything he could to help her carry that burden, but it wasn't one that she was willing to share lightly. He wanted to say something profound and comforting, but he had never been a man of many words. So he did what he had always done when he hadn't known what to say to the princess. He squeezed her shoulder and looked up at the sky, hoping that she would at least know that she wasn't alone. Still shaking her head as she took another sip of her drink, she added, "maybe it's been too long?" Han frowned and tried to think of what to say. Truly, there were a thousand reasons that she might not be able to see the tiny speck of light that she was looking for. They could be in the shadow of another planet, or it could be a point in this planet's rotation when it wouldn't be visible from the continent they had landed on. But as he studied the sky, his spacer's instincts took over and told him exactly why she hadn't found what she had been looking for. "Come here," he said using his hand on her shoulder to guide her toward the bow of the ship. "Han," she tried to discourage him, but he would not be discouraged. Having little to no fight left in her, Leia conceded and moved beside him to the forward hull where he led her. Sipping on her ale, and trying to watch where she was going so as not to stub a toe on the uneven plating, Leia hadn't noticed that Han was still looking into the sky. "There," he said to her after a moment, pointing at something above them in the night. Leia looked up- first at Han and then further out in the direction that he was pointing. And there it was: a blue-green twinkle in the midst of a thousand white stars. There was the light from home. Leia could feel her eyes filling and her knees felt like they were about to give way. Slowly, and without diverting her gaze from the dazzling object in the sky, she lowered herself to sit on the Falcon's hull. Solo followed her down, seating himself behind and beside her so that she could lean on him if she chose to. "Han, how did you…?" she knew her voice was shaky, and even being the trained orator that she was she couldn't quite steady her words- she could barely even find any to express her relief and gratitude to him for this. He took a sip from his bottle and looked back at her. She was beautiful, he thought, not for the first time. And as difficult as it was for him to see her in such a sad and vulnerable place, he felt a bit honored that he was being allowed to see it at all. She wasn't usually this open, with him or with anyone. He smiled down at her as he gave her his answer. "Rimma side," he explained their position in the Inner Rim. "You're used to looking at the sky from the Perlemian side," he added. "So you think it would be over there," he tilted his head back in the direction she had been looking earlier, "but we're out the other way. See," he gestured to an orangeish body to the right of the blue one they'd found, "there's Corellia. And there's Talus and Tralus," he continued, pointing to an oval of light to the left of Corellia that one might mistake for a misshapen star had they not known that it was the melded light of twin planets. "I hadn't…" again, Leia was having a hard time articulating herself. But she truly hadn't thought about their unusual position on the star chart and what that meant for her search of the night sky. The Inner Rim was the Inner Rim to her, and her mind had set which way she ought to be looking. She took another sip of ale and looked at Solo for a moment. "See," he said, looking straight into that pair of brown eyes that he'd been spending more and more time lately trying not to get lost in, "it's still there." She closed her eyes and leaned her head against him for a moment as she let out a heavy sigh. "That light," he continued, glancing back up at Alderaan's place in the sky, "will continue to travel on for centuries," he assured her, "and even when it's no longer visible from here," he continued, "people in far reaches and in galaxies we've never even heard of will be seeing it for the first time." He took a sip from his bottle and then looked back down at the princess. "It's a lot like you," he said candidly. He wasn't usually very good at articulating his feelings, but whatever this mushy and sentimental thing was that he wanted to say seemed to be coming easily, so he went with it. "You're that light that won't be snuffed out," he told her. "The Empire did everything they could to destroy you but you just kept on burning- kept on lighting the way." When Leia looked back at him, she had the oddest expression on her face. "You can light the path," she allowed, "but you can't force people down it." She took another, long drink from her bottle. Han shook his head. She was talking about the Aegis again. Of course she was taking it personally that a ship full of Alderaani citizens hadn't been convinced to come with her into the Alliance. "They're not coming, are they?" she asked quietly. It might have been a rhetorical question, but Han answered it anyway. Knowing better than to try and blow sunshine at the princess, he answered her as honestly as he could. "I don't know," he said. "But I think it's too early to give up. I know I've been more than two days late someplace for a lot of different reasons." "Okay," she said back, not sounding convinced. She took another sip from her bottle and looked back into the sky. "Look, Leia," Han said after a moment, "maybe they're coming and maybe they're not. But you've got to know that you did everything you could…." "I just wasn't enough this time," she interrupted him. Her gaze still skyward, she had another drink of ale. "No," he countered. "It's not you," he assured her. "If they don't show up here it's not because of anything you did or didn't do." "No, that's not true, Han," she argued. "If I couldn't convince a crew of desperate Alderaani pirates to join the Alliance…" "Then no one could," Han finished her sentence for her. Leia shook her head and looked down at her mostly empty bottle of ale. "Does it help," Han asked quietly after another sip of his own, "to know that you've convinced at least one guy?" Leia looked up in surprise. Was he saying…? "Han," she said his name with a wonder in her voice that he wasn't sure he had ever heard before. "Do you mean…?" He nodded his head, smiling crookedly at her as he shrugged his shoulders. "Now, don't get too excited, your highness," he said, trying to lighten what was becoming a very serious mood. "I'm not saying I'm gonna sign anything or that you can have me fitted for one of those fancy uniforms," he told her, "but I'm in. I'm not going anywhere." "Really?" she asked, sitting up a little straighter to look him in the eye. "You're staying? You're making it official?" Still smiling, Han nodded his head. "Not too official," he countered, "but yeah," he declared, "you talked me into it." Leia chuckled under her breath. "And it only took me two years," she snarked, tilting her bottle in his direction. He clinked his ale against hers again before answering, "What can I say, you can be very persuasive," he countered. "Anybody else would have taken six or eight." Leia laughed out loud at that, only just managing to keep a sip of ale from coming out of her nose. She looked up at the Corellian and shook her head. What did this even mean? He was committing, sort of. But to what? To the cause? To her? She had been getting more and more distracted by her growing attraction to him, and it had never been more powerful than it was right now. Leia couldn't help herself. His arm was already around her, it had been the whole time they'd been out here. It occurred to her that she probably should have noticed that before now, but that it had been a comfortable and familiar enough state that up until now, she hadn't paid it any mind. She leaned toward him and wrapped her arms around his waist, nuzzling her head into his shoulder. Han set down his mostly empty bottle, and took hers from her hand, setting it aside as well. He embraced her then, fully, totally, in a way that he'd very rarely been welcome to do. After a moment, she shifted in his arms, moving until she was even closer, her head to his chest and her arms clutching the sides of his jacket that was still draped across her shoulders. He leaned back farther until he was laying on the hull, one arm behind his head and the other still around Leia. She remained in his embrace willingly, lying down beside him and curling her body around his. She slung her ankle over his shin as she took hold of his hand, cradling his forearm to her body as her eyes closed. After a moment like that, Leia dared to tilt her face up and kiss his cheek near his jawline. Han felt himself start. It was odd, he thought, his reaction in that moment. It wasn't completely different than half a dozen other kisses she'd placed on his cheek over the last two years, and yet it wasn't altogether the same, either. This kiss was softer, more tender, and lingered just a little bit longer than what he was used to. And she had done it while lying beside him, a fact that he could not dismiss the significance of. It stirred a reaction in him that he was finding quite difficult to ignore. Leia took a deep breath and tried not to fidget against him. She couldn't believe that she had just done that. Kissing him that way had been a bolder move than she had ever made toward anyone with whom she wasn't already involved. And she wasn't sure how he was going to take it. But she was sure that, if he were going to try to kiss her for real, she was going to let him. She lay there, comfortably relaxing in his embrace and wondering silently what was going to happen next. Han sighed, held her tighter, and dithered over what he should do now. He thought seriously about kissing her. He'd thought a thousand times about kissing her, but the intention and opportunity had never been quite as present as they were in this moment. He tilted his face toward hers, but stopped short. If this wasn't the time, he wasn't sure if there would ever be one; but he knew in his heart that this wasn't the time. She had been too sad and too vulnerable, and she'd had a little alcohol- not that he really thought it was effecting her, but still it didn't seem right. And what if she hadn't meant anything by that kiss just now? What if her soft lips lingering on his chin had been an affect of fatigue and fruit ale rather than of any implied intention. Trying to kiss her now could do serious damage to their friendship. And as much as he had thought about, and had begun to truly desire, a change in the tenor of their relationship he couldn't bring himself to make a move now. He settled for a gentle pressing of his lips against her forehead. He did as she had, kissing her more sweetly, more tenderly than normal, but in a place that she could still find altogether innocuous. If she wanted more, it would have to be her move. But, he thought, as noble as he was being right now, if she tried to start something, he was damned sure not going to be the one to stop it. Leia let out a soft sigh and nuzzled her head against his chest. Maybe she had misread the situation. Maybe he hadn't been having the feelings she had been having. Or maybe that kiss on her forehead had just been a signal that she would need to take the lead if things were going to progress between them. If the latter was the case, though, then tonight she would have to be content with the moment they were already having. The failure of the Aegis to arrive had left her bereft of the self confidence that she'd need if she were to dare to be the one to kiss him- to really hiss him- first. Leia could feel herself beginning to get drowsy, and couldn't be bothered to stifle a yawn when it came. With her eyes still closed, she brought his hand closer to her face, holding it beneath her chin the way she would a bunched up blanket on her cot. "You getting sleepy, sweetheart?" Han asked with none of the usual bite in the sound of the pet name. Leia nodded slowly, but otherwise didn't move. "You want me to take you inside and get you settled?" he offered. She shook head and sighed. "You wanna just stay here for a little while, then?" he posited. Again, she nodded, but otherwise lay still against him. He strained his neck to place a quick kiss on the top of her head. "Okay," he whispered. He could get used to this, he realized. He couldn't help but notice that he was growing quite fond of the feeling of her curled up beside him. He'd stay out here all night if that's what she wanted. After all, he was where he was- in both a very present and a much grander sense- because of her. He had known for a while that he'd be staying with the Alliance. It was an arrangement that was working out well for him and for Chewie, who had been more committed to the cause from the beginning than he had. Over the months and years, he'd come to care about the cause, and the people involved in it, a great deal. His intention to be gone from them in any meaningful way had evaporated a long time ago. And as much as he was sure that Leia had figured that out, saying it to her had felt good. And her reaction to it had felt even better. It was clear that she cared that he had made the commitment, and it was clear that she was happy that he'd given voice to it. Han looked back up into the sky. The stars looked different to him suddenly- not like the map of places and peoples and dangers that he usually saw when he set his gaze skyward, but more like a vast canvas of possibility. And he wondered what exactly had changed that, but only for a moment. He realized in a flash that he already knew. His eyes darted back to the blue green glow in the far distance that had started it all, and then back down at the now sleeping princess in his arms. The light from Alderaan.