He should be happy. He was the hero he always dreamed he would be. The one who brought victory. He never imagined that the adulation of his comrades could mean so little compared to the losses.
Ben Kenobi was dead. Obi-Wan, he corrected himself. Luke ambled around the base, not knowing where to go or what to do with himself. In the distance he saw Leia in a group of people. They looked like high ranking officials. He even recognized a couple of generals. He touched the spot on his face where she had kissed him before the battle. A fleeting, good luck kiss. He remembered a different good luck kiss. Stormtroopers were shooting at them. He didn’t even have time to register the sensation of her lips on his. He wished he could remember it better.
She looked in his direction at the exact moment when he was trying to recover the memory of the kiss. Instinctively he lowered his eyes. Maybe he was blushing. When he looked up again, she was talking to one of the generals. She seemed focused on the conversation, but Luke sensed waves of sadness radiating from her. After Vader killed Ben, she sat next to him. She tried to be kind and supportive. She had lost her whole planet. He wished there was something he could do for her.
When Han had asked if anything could happen between a Princess and someone like him, Luke had been quick to tell him no. Now he was wondering if anything could ever happen between a Princess and someone like him. He didn’t even know what he was. A pilot? A farmer? Son of a farmer?
Luke was drawn to the information terminals. He had to know more about the world Obi-Wan mentioned. About Jedi Knights. The Force. The Clone Wars. He sat at one of the terminals. He typed and deleted his father’s name. Then he looked up Obi-Wan.
He must have been reading about his mentor for hours without realizing. He startled when he felt the small hand on his shoulder.
“Sorry,” she said. “Didn’t mean to bother you.”
He looked up at her, but no words came out.
“May I?” she asked, pointing at the screen.
“Sure,” he answered.
Leia sat next to him and looked at what he was reading. She seemed to understand why he was reading that. She took his hand in hers and squeezed it affectionately.
“You probably know about this,” he said, feeling stupid. An uneducated peasant.
“Yes, my parents told me about it,” she said.
He sensed it again. Her sadness, deep and so well concealed that there was no trace of it in her voice or in her posture. He put his arm around her shoulders hesitantly. He expected her to reject his clumsy attempt of comfort. Indeed, her first reaction was to bristle under his touch. She looked at him like she so often looked at Han. Whatever was in Han that made her huff and puff and find innovatively funny insults, she did not see in him because her features softened. She folded into his embrace.
Luke was not prepared for her tears. She hid her face in his shoulder but when he felt her shake with silent sobs, he put both arms around her. He started rocking her. He remembered his aunt comfort him like that when he woke from nightmares when he was a child. He pushed aside the memory. That was not the time to grieve the loss of his relatives. This strong woman was falling apart in his arms. He held her for as long as she needed him.
She pulled away when she calmed down, and left without saying a word or looking into his eyes. Luke guessed that not many people ever saw her so vulnerable. He was glad she trusted him enough that she didn’t even need to tell him to keep secret her momentary weakness.
Luke went back to reading about the Republic, about the Jedi. There was so much information it was difficult to sift through it. He found his way into the public archives of the Jedi Council. He read about his mentor. Reading about Obi-Wan meant reading about Anakin Skywalker. His father’s death was not documented. By the time he was killed, the Jedi order was crumbling. No one had time to detail of all those deaths.
Luke returned to his assigned room, his mind buzzing with questions. He didn’t know any of the older people on the base, the ones that might know more about the Jedi. Maybe some of them had even met his father. He hoped that Leia would be able and willing to talk to him about that. He kicked off his boots and climbed into bed. He was more tired than he thought because he fell asleep fully dressed. A noise at the door woke him up. Someone was requesting permission to enter. Groggily he went to the door and keyed the security code.
To his utter surprise, it was Leia. She walked in as soon as he opened the door.
“I realized I didn’t even thank you,” she said.
He rubbed at his eyes, partially wanting to chase the sleep away, partly trying to convince himself he wasn’t dreaming.