Chapter 14: Holding Leia

        The noise caused by the Ewoks welcoming the Rebels to the tribe was as big and loud as they were small and furry.  But on the darkened walkway where Luke and Leia had just spoken in quiet tones, the Ewok’s noise had already faded into the endless dark of the Endor night.  Luke had just left, swallowed up by that darkness.  Han had then joined Leia, but for an exchange of anguished words rather than the soft tones from earlier.  Han had attempted to leave, too, but had paused, as if realizing how his jealousy was leading him into an argument with Leia that he didn’t want.  His apologetic mumble sounded low and gentle among the leaves, like the evening breeze, but was no less sincere for all it’s gentleness.   “I’m sorry.”

        Leia was fairly certain that she had never heard an apology issue from Han Solo before in her life.  The genuine gesture moved her to adopt a much more forgiving attitude.  Any anger she’d felt at his words disappeared, leaving only the ache of Luke’s recent news.  A powerful yearning for someone in the Rebellion to take care of her for once instead of her always being the strong one welled up within her.  However, what she needed right now was a much simpler thing.  “Hold me.”

        Han couldn’t deny her tiny form any more than he could deny himself a breath of air.  The next thing he knew, Leia herself filled his arms, her smell filling his senses just as effortlessly.  Without thinking, he wrapped his own arms around her and held on tight.  It wasn’t in his nature to offer empty platitudes, and instead, just tightened his hold on her and patted her back.

        Leia shivered, but said nothing of what was bothering her.  Han knew better than to ask.  Someone as private as the Princess would tell him what was on her mind when she was ready, and not a moment before. The independent man that Han was understood and respected a need such as that.  So he simply remained standing on the rough catwalk and held her, glad that he was able to do this much.

        Her shivering continued until Han finally realized that she was crying.  Astonished, he drew back a little so he could see her face.  “You never cry, Your Worship!  What is this?”

        Burying her face in his shoulder again, Leia grimaced under her tears.  “You just don’t want me… messing up… your strike team,” she brokenly hiccupped.

        A bark of laughter burst out of Han despite the dark description she’d given to his character.  “I just don’t want you crying all over my clothes; this is the only shirt I’ve got with me.”

        Leia softly laughed and cried at the same time.

        A far more gentle admonition wove through the night.  “Tell me, Leia.  Please.”

        She couldn’t tell him precisely what was wrong, but she also refused to turn away when Han was so purposely opening himself to her in a move that was as rare as it was affectionate.  “I’m afraid.”

        Again came his gentle chuckle of disbelief.  “Afraid?  You aren’t afraid of anything.”

        Leia wanted to laugh sarcastically at what she considered a ludicrous statement, but couldn’t find the energy.  “Luke… left.”

        “Yeah, I saw him go.  But he’s gone off on his own before.  Why does it worry you this time?”

        “He’s…”  Leia drew in a deep breath, trying to calm her heaving emotions.  “He’s going to face… Vader.”

        Han frowned, perplexed.  “Vader?  But he isn’t even here!”

        Leia’s nod ruffled his black vest.  “He is; Luke said he can feel him.”

        Han’s eyes widened slightly at this alarming statement.  “If he can feel Vader, does that mean Vader can feel--?”

        Another nod cut him off.

        This entire mission depended on the continued secrecy of the team’s presence on Endor.  To find out that Luke was giving them away to their greatest enemy by simply existing did not bode well at all for their eventual success.

But Han finally understood the awful truth.  “He surrendered, didn’t he?  For us.”

Miserable, Leia gave a third nod.  “So he can face Vader again.”

Han’s stomach fell to his toes even while he was filled with admiration.  “The kid’s got guts, I’ll give him that.”

Leia shivered once more.  “I’m worried we’ll never see him again.”

Han suspected this wasn’t the entire truth, but it was what she was willing to tell him.  For Leia to divulge even this much illustrated the high level of her trust in him.  “Sure we will.  He handled Jabba after all, and he’s a Jedi.  He’ll be fine.”

Leia choked.  “Against Vader?”

Han tried not to sound full of empty bravado.  “I’ve heard about Luke’s skills, and you’ve even seen them. You know what he can do.”

“I know what Vader can do, too.”

Han didn’t have an argument for that, so simply repeated, “He’ll be fine.”

Leia really did smile this time.  “Say that often enough, and maybe you’ll start to believe it yourself.”

“Maybe.”  Grimly, Han added, “I’ll believe it if you will.”

Leia wanted to believe in Luke’s longevity as much as Han did.  She was even willing to help delude them both in order to to do it.  “It’s a deal.”

“Then let’s go back before Chewie sends out Threepio to look for us,” Han suggested as Leia sniffed one last time.  He flung one arm around Leia’s shoulders and led them back in the direction of the Ewok’s hut.  “Being hounded by a golden god is more than I can stand.”

Leia’s throaty laugh dissolved in one last hiccup.  “I promise not to tell Threepio that you called him a god.”

“Hey, I’m just going with what the little guys are calling him.”

“Speaking of the Ewoks, what do you think of them, Han?”

“Little help is better than no help at all.”

Leia gave him a one armed hug.  “We can use all the help we can get.”

Han’s mischievous smile pulled her in with its affection, and he kissed the top of her head as they walked.  “They kind of look like little Wookies, but don’t tell Chewie I said that.”

They were so close to the collection of huts now that the noise of the Ewoks welcoming the Rebels into their tribe spilled out to them on the dark walkway.  Grinning, Leia ducked to precede him into the Ewok hut to rejoin the celebration.  “Your secret is safe with me, Solo.”

“Your Worship, I’m forever in your debt.”

The End