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in tongues and quiet sighs

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I

“Alderaan has no weapons,” Princess Leia said, and it was true.

In that moment, they had no weapons. In the decades before, they had no weapons. Tarkin had no justification whatsoever for obliterating Alderaan: only the Death Star burning a hole in his pocket, and petty revenge on the princess.

That didn’t mean that Alderaan never had any weapons, of course. They’d voluntarily disarmed a good century before the Clone Wars. But there was a reason that Alderaanian spanned the galaxy, from the Core to the Outer Rim.

II

On the bright side, Leia’s first handler turned out to be a young, quiet, attractive man who shared her native language, if an unfamiliar dialect of it. On the every-other-side, Leia had a handler who didn’t tell her anything. Except to lecture, of course: do this, never do that, avoid that other one if you can.

“Su alteza,” said Cassian Andor, in the tone of strained patience that he always used with her, “no puede—”

“Teniente,” Leia returned, exactly mimicking his tone, “no puedes decirme—”

He was only twenty-two, but to judge by his sighs, twenty-two going on sixty.

And that was when he didn’t make her fight his murder droid.

III

Leia would not have said she cared one way or another about the atmosphere of the Rebellion’s bases. But insofar as she did, she liked the one on Yavin IV, at once their most secure and most expansive. Every day that she spent there, she saw more equipment and protocols and standardization. While she passed on whispers in the Senate, stolen codes, lent her diplomatic immunity to Rebel operations, the refuge at Yavin IV had become a real military base, against the backdrop of the temples and jungle.

She’d thought those magnificent from the first, which didn’t matter nearly as much, but a little: they lent a dignity to the hiding and secrecy, like Aldera. And though it looked nothing like Aldera, actual Alderaanian was everywhere—mostly alderés yavineso, clipped and rapid even to her ears, but also the familiar tones of Alderaan, the drawling alderés del exterior like Andor’s (alderés fiesteno, he always corrected, looking more murderous than usual), countless others, strange but readily comprehensible.

Afterwards, she didn’t know if she regretted that or not.

IV

General Draven had all the spirituality of a rock, but he took one glance at Leia and ordered her to medbay.

“Don’t worry,” he said, with one of his more incomprehensible looks, “you won’t be alone.”

When she saw Cassian Andor unconscious in the next room over, an unfamiliar woman sleeping in the chair beside his bed, enlightenment dawned. So did shock; they all thought him dead on that rogue mission—an infiltration so completely unauthorized and so necessary that after years in intelligence, she’d never respected him more.

Andor stirred and squinted at the doorway, then mumbled, “Infanta?”

The Basic was easier to bear, but Leia refused to flinch; she was still her mother’s daughter, and if la Infanta de Alderán now meant something very different, the image could help the Rebellion.

That was all that mattered.

V

Not long after they settled on Hoth, Han started extending “kid” to Leia as well as Luke. It was more baffling than infuriating; when he said it, he always looked an odd mixture of defensive, stubborn, and uncomfortable.

Since Luke snickered every time, Leia fixed her sternest stare on him and ordered, “Spill.”

“It’s because of what Commander Andor calls you,” he said, to her still greater bewilderment; she and Andor liked each other, but were far too much alike to bother with studied familiarity—comfortably, they stuck with titles.

“Infanta?” said Leia, and of course, she understood as soon as it left her mouth. Han didn’t speak even the clumps of Alderaanian that Luke had picked up—he must think—Force, he thought Andor, rigid at the best of times and attached at the hip to Jyn Erso for the last year, was—he was jealous of Andor?

Nothing, Leia had thought, could ever make the title anything except a splinter in her chest: but for one moment, she smiled.

VI

Leia, for reasons she didn’t care to interrogate, quite cheerfully let Han stew in jealousy of a colleague devoted to another woman. It was Luke who took pity on him and explained that a) infanta was her title, so kind of the opposite of a pet name, and b) Andor had probably never used a pet name for anyone in his entire life.

“Anyway, he’s Erso’s,” Luke said.

“They’re friends, like you and me,” replied Han, though he seemed mollified (as far as Leia, definitely not eavesdropping, could make out).

“Uh,” said Luke, “unless you’re planning on dragging me into a supply closet sometime soon, not really.”

Leia slipped away, satisfied—and the next time she saw Cassian Andor, smiled so broadly that he frowned and said, “¿Está bien?”

“Sí,” she said, and meant it.

VII

Luke liked languages, and somehow or another, he had acquired a smattering of nearly all the widespread ones. Though he tended to forget Alderaanian words around others, with Leia he spoke it near-fluently—which turned it into something of a private language around Han.

Leia didn’t really care, except that it seemed appropriate in some ill-defined way that she and Han reached (and shouted) over a chasm, while she and Luke sat on her bed speaking earnestly of words—he talked circles around the holes in his Alderaanian, and she’d repeat simple Tatooine phrases over and over, mitt namn är Leia, mitt namn är Leia, mitt namn är Leia.

Neither of them, however, expected Jyn Erso to appear in the silent way she had, interrupting Luke’s uhh wait, it should be subjunctive with an air of even greater stoicism than usual.

“Do you need something?” said Leia, curious but no more; she neither liked nor disliked Erso, who was so reserved, and so indifferent to virtually everyone, that people joked (safely out of earshot) that Andor had replaced one murder droid with another.

“Uh,” Erso said, and now she seemed outright uncomfortable, “if … theoretically, I wanted to pick up some Alderaanian, I was wondering if—not you, but if you knew someone who wouldn’t mind…?”

“Nah,” said Luke, and when Leia glared at him, he added, “you’ll have to stick with us.”