They leave a small communit with Master Yoda and say goodbye in the morning with lengthy notes on how to meditate, when to meditate, the way to calculate Dagobah's rotational period relative to various other planets and stars so they don't disturb his rest, and most importantly, how to shield their thoughts from other Force users. "Thank you for everything," Luke says.
Master Yoda smacks him on the knee with his stick, then hits Leia, so they both get a souvenir bruise. "Going you are, then gone you should be. Go, go, go."
Arala dances out of the way so he won't be able to reach her.
"You don't want us to stick around here until we're good enough to be knighted and old enough our knees creak," Leia says, and dodges Yoda's stick on the backswing. "You know he'd find us by then." She doesn't send Vader's scentname, since Yoda wouldn't sense it. She doesn't need to.
He sniffs. "Excuses, you make for yourself, not for me. Go, puppies. Go, Wookiee. Go, smuggler."
Han huffs. "I haven't smuggled anything in weeks--months, even. I'm losing my touch. I'm a Rebel, Master Yoda."
"Fine. Go, Rebel. Rebels! Off my planet, go." Yoda shakes his stick at all of them and turns back toward his tree.
"We'll call you tomorrow," Luke says.
Yoda slams his door with the Force. The tree goes dark the way it did the night before, looking like it's not a home.
Krayt sniffs the air. Empty, she says. We need that trick.
Leia shakes her head. It's a good trick. Her braid is tight and neat, wound around her head. Luke's hands are still tingling a little from helping brush her hair out and the sex that happened because of it, and he wonders if Han's are, too. "Let's go," she says.
"May the Force be with you, Master Yoda," Luke says.
There's no answer.
Hoth is exactly as awful as Han says it's going to be, as cold as Tatooine is hot. Everyone hates it there, even Chewbacca. The only good thing about it is that no one blinks at the three of them bunking together, except for Amilyn Hondo.
She comes over, tall and elegant in ways Luke can never hope to be, her bright purple hair perfect, at their first breakfast back and her eyes bright. She's the only pilot in the mess who looks like she hasn't slept in her orange flightsuit for the last year straight. On her it looks like a real uniform, like it was designed for her. She leans over and asks Leia not-quite-quietly enough, while they're all huddled over caf and waiting for food, "Are you sticking with both of them? Luke I understand, with the wolf, but--"
Leia sends them, See you in while, okay? and it's not great, first thing in the morning, but she underscores it with a kiss and it's not like they're going to get into a fight over caf. "Let's eat together," she says, and takes Amilyn's arm. Arala follows after them, tail waving.
Han doesn't breathe deeply until Leia sends a real question. Is one night a week okay? I know we're still finding our feet, and I can tell her no, not this cycle.
"What do you think?" Han asks out loud, like he expects Luke to be the one with a real opinion or any kind of experience to judge on.
All he knows is that wherever Leia goes, whoever she's with, she's coming back to them. "It's fine with me if it's fine with you."
"Yeah? She's your--" Han waves his hand. There are so many words Luke's not going to finish that phrase with, especially not out loud.
"She's her own--" Luke makes the same gesture "--too. You fine with it?"
Han shrugs, relaxing. "Sure, if you are. You know her better than me, kid."
"I'm not going to start telling her what to do." Luke shakes his head. Leia, can you show Han why you want to?
Now? There's embarrassment under her words.
Maybe not right now, Han sends.
Before you commit to anything. Tell her we're thinking, and that's absolutely true, okay?
Thanks. Leia sends them both a kiss on the cheek, a soft, cool press of lips.
Han sips his caf. "So if I got it into my head to chase somebody else, that'd be fine too?" Krayt whimpers and puts her head in Han's lap. He sets down his caf and pets her ears. "I know a 'no' when I hear one, your Majesty. It's okay. I'm not looking for anybody. I was just asking."
Luke sends Krayt, I wasn't going to say it.
I know. Somebody had to. Chewie says he wanders and I don't want him finding a new pack. He's ours. We have to make sure he smells like ours.
He can't help smiling. Doesn't he?
She nuzzles Han's trousers. Whatever manners Leia's been trying to teach her, she hasn't learned yet, and Han's not worried. Yes.
"What're you two whispering about?" Han asks.
"Jedi stuff," Luke says.
Han and Krayt both snort at him. "Whoa, I didn't know her Maj had my back on that one. Thanks, beautiful." Han scratches behind her ears and her mouth drops open in bliss. Maybe he doesn't know she's also shedding all over his black pants, or maybe he doesn't care. Luke's not going to tip him off. "You want to try a Tauntaun today, hotshot? You've got the thighs for it."
Of course it's when he's in the middle of blushing at that comment that General Rieekan comes over with Wedge, the other pilot he remembers from the Death Star, who's half-out of his normal piloting gear. "Commander Solo, Skywalker, good to see you back."
"Morning, General," Han says, nodding without saluting or standing. He hadn't mentioned his promotions. Leia's going to be angry, and then she's going to kiss the hell out of him.
Luke straightens up and nods. "Good morning, sir."
"We'd like to get a report on the strategic use of your training from you and the princess today, Skywalker, after you finish your breakfast."
"Of course, sir." Luke pulls out the studying he'd done for the Imperial entrance exam he'll never sit and brushes off the military vocabulary. Master Yoda had never used any. "But most of what we worked on was tactical level stuff, not strategic."
General Rieekan nods. "Jedi always made good tactical teams. Some of them were damn fine strategists, too, but if you haven't studied that yet, you haven't."
The general smiles. "Yes. If the Empire had our princess, they wouldn't have needed to build a Death Star, would they?"
Is that a compliment or should I bite him? Krayt asks.
He's a general. Don't bite him either way, but I'm pretty sure it's a compliment. Luke laughs with the general. So do Han and Wedge. It's probably a compliment, anyway.
"See you in twenty in the office off the briefing room, Skywalker," the general says, and throws them all a sketchy salute. They nod back, Luke a beat late.
"Welcome back," Wedge says. "Missed you at dinner last night. Wow, Krayt's huge."
"Thanks." Luke shakes his hand over the table and does not project his thoughts about where he was during dinner, specifically Han's quarters on Hoth, trying to get warm via the application of skin and friction on both sides. It had worked. "She's mostly grown."
"No more snubfighters for you, huh?" Wedge looks unaccountably relieved.
Luke hasn't thought about X-wings in months. "Probably not, no."
An alarm cuts through the air. Luke's hand goes to his lightsaber and Krayt leaps off of Han's lap. The chatter in the mess goes silent and the comm system kicks on. "Red alert. All personnel to battle stations. All pilots to snowspeeders. Armed transports approaching the base."
Wedge says, "See you," and takes off, zipping up his orange cover-all as he goes.
The message repeats. People are moving all over the mess, chairs and tables scraping.
I haven't been assigned anywhere. Where are you headed? Luke asks Han.
The Falcon is my standing assignment. If they've got transports, they've got cruisers, and our fleet will need support.
Luke can't help remembering what the general said about Jedi being tactical ops. He hasn't flown anything since he went to Dagobah, but the Force would be a great help against armed transports of any size. Leia, where are you headed?
They'll need someone to stay behind and make sure they get out. Someone with tactical skills. He'd rather throw himself into the front lines, but the command center forces are valuable. Right behind you.
They get out by the skin of their teeth, the Falcon the last ship to lift with Han and Chewbacca complaining all the way. Threepio would be, too, but Leia turns him off after a few minutes because she can't listen to him anymore. "I thought I was the Commander here," Han says when they're in an asteroid and there are no Imperials actively firing on them.
"If you listen when I tell you to do things, it's not my fault." Leia folds her arms.
"You haven't been around for any briefings!" Han yells. "You spent two hours in the command center and we were under heavy fire!"
"I said 'Take off' and you said 'How high?' How is that my fault?"
Chewbacca yells at them.
"You go get fucked," Han yells at him.
"It's not a terrible idea," Luke says. It would defuse some of the tension and give them something to do that wasn't yelling at each other.
"I'm not taking my pants off till I know where we're trying to go next." Leia stares blaster bolts at all of them.
Han collapses into the pilot's chair like this is some unreasonable request.
Something bounces off the viewscreen, shrieking.
"Kriffing mynocks!" Han yells.
It's three hours before they're out of the space worm and the asteroid belt and the Imperial flotilla and on their way to Bespin's mining colony, which is when Leia relents enough to let Chewbacca take the helm and Han and Luke take her to bed.
Maybe they get off the Falcon with a little more swagger than they normally would. Whatever they've got going on, Han's old acquaintance Lando threatens his life, and then says, "Welcome, Leia," like it means, "Come to bed and stay." Then he uses exactly the same tone on Luke, with exactly the same kiss to his knuckles, right where Luke's fingers had been stuffed inside Han half an hour before.
They'd used the refresher and he knows it's not possible for anybody to tell or Chewbacca would yell at them to get better soap.
He still wonders.
Smell it, no. Read it on your face, yeah. You've got tells a kilometer across, Han tells him.
Then Krayt comes down the ramp with Arala. Lando can't figure out whether he wants them more or less when they come with large, carnivorous companions. Krayt can smell his confusion and it makes her laugh a wolfy laugh. He bows to them, sweeping his cape. He's dressed beautifully, Luke can tell that much, and he's very handsome. If Luke were looking at all, he'd look. As it is, he just glances appreciatively.
The wolves yawn back in acknowledgement, which is closer than if they'd bowed.
Threepio comes down the ramp next, and at least Lando acknowledges him, which is better than some people bother with, with droids, especially annoying droids. If he wasn't the closest thing Luke has to a family heirloom, he'd be up for reprogramming. Some day he'll find out what the man who made him was thinking.
"Let me find you quarters bigger than my ship," Lando says.
"Your ship!" It has the feel of an old argument. "I won her off you, fair and square."
"Well, you might've, but you didn't triple her size when you took on new crew." Lando winks at Luke, at Leia. "You've got these lovely people sharing a 'fresher with you and Chewbacca. I'll put them in the presidential suite like they deserve, find you a normal room, let you all get cleaned up, and then we'll have a meal, all right?"