His exhaustion bore through to the bone, but he couldn't sleep.
Han Solo turned over, feeling the compact warmth of Leia Organa next to him. The hour was late—or early, depending on your perspective. The thick thatched walls of the hut blocked some of it, but he could still hear the faint thumps of drums and the muffled shouts of the celebrating rebels. Well, some of them, anyway: many, like Leia, had finally given in to sleep, though most remained outside, dancing into the night.
She hadn't asked in so many words, but it was clear she wanted someone next to her on the soft fur mat, and Han had been only too happy to cradle the former princess as, for the first time in several weeks, she'd allowed herself to rest. He'd thought she might have nightmares, but her sleep was as heavy as a rock, her body still. He wondered what she was dreaming, if anything.
They hadn't made love, though perhaps they would later. Freedom came with joy but with shock as well, and maybe later, when the idea of liberation had settled in, life's regularities would resume. For the first time in his life, Han had been happy to lie chastely beside a woman: there would be time, later, for the things that remained.
But none of this changed the fact that he couldn't sleep, damn it. It wasn't the noise, which was muted, and certainly he'd slept through worse. It wasn't the strangeness of the other body in the bed: that had never been a problem, either. Maybe it was the newness of the freedom, the unbelievableness that in such a short time his life had changed so drastically: no longer mercenary but hero, no longer rebel but founding father. He tried to imagine the future but couldn't. Leia would become the statesman—stateswoman?—she always had been, a first among equals, the leader of the new republic. But Han himself? What use was there, in an idealistic republic, for an old smuggler? A scruffy-looking Nerf-herder: how would he fit into the government of a state? Before, at least, there had been another cargo to sneak past Imperial troops, another battle to fight for himself and his friends. But what now?
Gently extricating himself from Leia's outthrown arm, Han rose and stretched. The joints in his neck and back cracked; he needed to sleep for a few days, he knew. But it wasn't going to happen any time soon, and no use sulking while he waited. A skin of—what did the Ewoks call their ubiquitous purple beverage, anyway?—sat by the door, and Han picked it up as he left. Maybe the stuff, which tasted somewhat like wine, would put him to sleep.
Gingerly, Han made his way along the intricate platforms and bridges that made up the Ewok village. The creatures looked like play-toys, but they were smart little things, and their village was sturdily engineered: built for residents a third his size, the contraptions of vine and branch nevertheless held Han's weight without complaint.
Glances inside the other huts showed him friends, acquaintances, co-conspirators. He passed Wedge Antilles, who was sharing a late meal with a beautiful female gunner. She'd never been allowed in space combat, despite her protests, but she'd proven irreplaceable in ground-to-air assaults. Han wondered what she would do, now that her skills were no longer needed—perhaps settle down with a nice ex-rebel like Wedge. Han gave Wedge an informal salute, and kept going. Goldenrod, powered down for the night, sat silently in another hut while R2 kept watch. Han wondered if hypervigilance was as habit-forming in droids as in humans.
Some distance away from the main village was Luke's hut. He'd been at the celebration for a while, but had gone up after a hour or so. Hard to party when you just burned your old man's body. Been a hell of a day for all of us, Han thought, but no doubt about it, Luke: you got the worst. Torchlight glimmered from the inside of the small dwelling; Luke was writing something.
"I thought you'd be up," Luke said without turning around
"Can't sleep. Looks like you can't, either."
"It's just hard to imagine a day like this ending like any other. I mean, what happens tomorrow?"
"Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. Thought a few drinks of this might help. Want some?"
Luke turned around to see the wineskin. "Might as well. I don't think there's a law about Jedis drinking."
"Kid, whoever wrote those rules wasn't thinking about today."
Han handed the skin to Luke, who drank a long drink, then winced. "I didn't realize it was that strong."
"Those little guys can really put it away. Come outside. You've been holed up for too long."
Luke rose with his usual grace; tired or not, the Jedi training stayed with him. Out on the walk, he sat on the edge, his feet over the side, his youth showing underneath the knight's clothes. Han had never known the kid's exact age, but Luke couldn't have been more than seventeen or eighteen when he'd come into Mos Eisley with crazy old Ben Kenobi and asked for a ride across the galaxy. Barely three years later, the blustering young farm boy was a Jedi knight, his manners smooth and his eyes level.
"What comes next, Han?" Luke asked. His eyes were pointed in the direction of the drums and the celebratory fires, but he didn't seem to be looking at anything in particular.
"I don't know. You think they've got any use for smugglers in the republic?"
Luke smiled, and though the exhaustion showed, the expression was genuine, Luke's very blue eyes shining in the night. "As much use as they've got for Jedi knights."
"Ah, come on, Luke. They need guys like you. You're the backbone of their republic."
Luke's laugh was hollow. "I'm the only Jedi, as far as I know, in the entire universe. The order's obsolete—and maybe even dangerous. Look what it did to my father."
"Excuse me for stating the obvious, kid, but you're not your father. You could have become like him, but you didn't, which is why you're here now."
"I had the power to resist that evil. A lot of people don't."
"Maybe you can eradicate the evil," Han thought, and then realized that the words had come out of his mouth, spoken aloud. "Maybe that's your job in the republic."
"I hope so," Luke said quietly, breathing the words out like a prayer. Another pause, and he handed the wineskin back to Han. "I just… I don't know if there's a place for people like me in the new republic, or whatever it's going to be."
"Luke, are you crazy? You're a battle-trained Jedi knight, brilliant, willing to learn what you don't already know. The republic will be drooling to get its hands on you. Just relax. You're set for life, kid. Your sister's a princess. You're going to be a powerful man in this joint."
Han was rewarded with another smile. "That may be true. Maybe not the 'brilliant' part, but the rest of it. I just can't help but think that the Empire… the Empire killed off people like me. And I'm not so naïve as to think that'll disappear overnight."
"People like who? Jedis?"
"No. There's not even a word for it in our language, Han. People who like people like themselves. People who like other men."
"Oh," Han said. "Sorry, kid. I didn't know."
"Of course you didn't. Don't be sorry."
"Have you– Are you sure?"
"I've been sure for a long time."
Han turned it over for a few minutes in his mind, looking out onto the lights of the Ewok village. Laughing a little, he looked at Luke. "All these years and you never said anything? I've shot down battle stations with you, and you can't even tell me this?"
"I didn't know how to say it. All I knew was that the Empire killed my kind, and a lot of people agreed with them. At least I could hide; I mean, if you're Admiral Ackbar, it's pretty difficult to conceal that you're a Mon Calamari." Luke paused. "And to be honest, Leia threw me off. I'd like men all my life, and then comes this amazing, intelligent, beautiful woman with whom I have this instant connection. It wasn't sexual, but I didn't know what else it could be. And then Ben told me the truth, and everything clicked into place."
"We all know that the Empire didn't like anyone who wasn't like them," Han said. "Mon Calamari, Wookie, people like you—I mean, hell, the only reason they bargained with Jabba was because he had something they wanted. But I think the whole point of this revolution was to get rid of that. Otherwise, if you and Ackbar can't live in safety, what was the point?"
"I hope that was the point," Luke said. "I– I'm just sick of hiding." And for a moment the Jedi knight disappeared, and the farm boy surfaced, tentative and hopeful.
"We're all sick of hiding, kid. We've been scuttling around the ass-ends of God-forsaken planets for too long." Han looked over at Luke and smiled. "It'll be alright, Luke. It's going to be a new world."
"You sound so sure."
"I am sure." Han tossed the skin back at Luke. "Have another drink, kid. I can't think of a better way to celebrate freedom than getting plastered."
"You smell like purple stuff," Leia mumbled when Han climbed back into bed several hours later.
"I was out talking to Luke."
A sleepy laugh. "And drinking with Luke."
"Hey, he needed something to lighten him up." A pause. "He's worried," Han ventured. "Worried there won't be a place for him."
Leia moved a little to curl herself along Han's side. He reached down to stroke her long, loose hair; she so often wore it up that it was a wonderful luxury to be able to touch it when it was free.
"There'll be a place for him," Leia said. "And for you, too. Don't worry, Han. Everybody has a place."
"You read my mind, Princess." She always did, and it was one of the things he loved about her.
"I'm too tired to read minds," she said. Her hand on his chest, her head in the crook of his arm; he felt her breathing begin to slow. "It'll all work itself out. I promise. Get some rest, love. Everything will look a lot better if you sleep."
Han reflected on the endearment, and on the depth of exhaustion that would allow something like it to escape the lips of the reserved Princess Leia Organa. Obediently he closed his eyes. He listened to Leia breathe, and let his mind wander: to the candlelight and the happy, tired faces of Wedge and his companion, to the worn but very real smile Luke had given him before he'd finished off the last of the purple stuff and gone to bed. A genuine smile from Luke was rare and precious, as rare and precious as a vow of love from Leia.
Twins, Han thought. Strange and rare and beautiful. It was his last thought before, finally, he slept.