As soon as Iíd completed the course correction input I heard Artooís curious whistle.
"Thereís nothing wrong, Artoo," I said, trying to head off a lengthy discussion. Iím tempted to remind him whoís in charge, but sometimes Iím not so sure of that myself. "Just setting a new course."
Hoth has dwindled in my rear scopes, and the blockade is far behind us now. It was way too easy to slip something as small as an X-wing through. Why the Imps didnít deploy their fighters is beyond me. Not that I want them to be any more efficient than they already are, of course.
Artoo bleeped again, expressing concern. He'd double checked my calculations and pointed out possible human error. He reminded me Iíve just been through a major battle and am still recovering from the Wampaís attack. Yeah, my body knows all that, believe me, Artoo.
"Weíre not gonna regroup with the others," I told him instead, and he gave me one of those thoughtful little wheedles in response. "Weíre going to the Dagobah system."
His next question was brief and soft, like heís not sure how I might respond. "Yes, Artoo?"
Irritated as I am with his constant interruptions and questions, I canít help but smile when I read the translation of his chatter on my interface display. This droid has more personality than most people I know.
"Thatís all right. Iíd like to keep it on manual for a while."
* * * *
Iím going to Dagobahónot to the rendezvous. Wish I understood how I knew what course to set, because Dagobah wasnít on any of the charts I checked. The Force is guiding me, I guess, or maybe itís Ben or this Yoda fellow. Thereís a lot I still donít know, but I do know that going to Dagobah is what I have to do, not what I want to do. What I want to do is have Artoo calculate the fastest course to Tatooine, because thatís where Han is going, to finally settle things with Jabba. Canít help but think Iím the reason he took so long to do it, and donít want to think about how dangerous it is.
I saw the Millennium Falcon burst out of the hangar only a few minutes before Artoo and I lifted off. Typical Han Solo bravado, flying out right under the Imperialsí noses. I bet he and Chewie were still tweaking the Falcon when the snowtroopers marched into the hangar. I know theyíre safely past the blockade by now and on their way. And I wonder when next Iíll see Han, or even if the currents of time will let us meet again. Something tells me we will. For a change, I have a good feeling about this. I have to remember to tell Han thatóitíll make him laugh.
Alone in my cockpit, out here in the silence of the stars, I can finally think about what happened today. Not the battle, not the loss of good friends and companions, not the abandoned base or what this defeat means for the rebellion. I can think about what happened between Han and me.
Heís my friend, the truest friend Iíve ever had, and that isnít enough.
A look. Two words. A kiss. And suddenly everything was different. It wasnít just me anymore, with my hormones and fantasies working overtime. I wasnít imagining things and I wasnít alone in what I felt.
When I climbed into my snowspeeder right after that kiss, Dack asked me if I was feeling all right. I told him I felt just like new. He thought I meant I was recovered from my injuries, but that wasnít how it felt to me. More like Iíd been reborn, with all those feelings I hadnít wanted to examine too closely surging to the surface and things Iíd never dared hope suddenly gaining substance.
I had to see Han one last time, but words proved completely impossible. It never occurred to me he wouldnít be able to find the right words either. Han always has the right words, always knows how to ease a situation. I was more than a little stunned to realize he couldnít overcome the moment with his usual irony. Too surprised even to understand what his silence meant. So we just looked at each other and only Force knows what I said with that look. ĎBe carefulí is what he finally said. I didnít expect him to climb down from his work and come after me. Never expected him to grab hold of me and kiss me with such desperate ferocity. Never expected to see the same hunger in him that Iíve hidden for too long. Hidden for no reason whatsoever, because he felt it too, and I was too dumb and naïve to see it. A few glorious seconds were all we had, with Chewie standing right there and alarms blaring and the abyss of uncertain future under our feet. We said everything we could with that one kiss, and it wasnít nearly enough. Iím not sure thereís enough kisses, or words, or even time, in the universe.
It was the sweetest and most wrenching moment of my life and there was nothing I could do except say ĎYou tooí and walk away. And curse our timing and general stupidity. Now it occurs to me that I should be angry with Han, because heís the one with experience in this kind of thing.
I took that moment into battle with me, the hot taste of his tongue and a sense of completion, of belonging, something Iíd begun to doubt I would ever feel. Even more than the Force, my determination to return to Han, to have the chance to explore what we started in that hangar, was what kept me alive during that battle.
All my life Iíve wanted to belong somewhere. I never belonged on Tatooine. Now that I think about it, I guess I never belonged anywhere, or to anyone. Certainly not to the parents I never knew, or to Owen and Beru, though I know they loved me. I donít even belong to this Rebellion, not the way Leia does, or Wedge. Iíve always been an outsider.
Hanís an outsider, too. Is that why weíre drawn to each other? My earliest memories are of loneliness, of feeling empty inside. Iíve been searching my whole life for something to fill that void inside me, and being with Han comes closest to doing that. Han and the Force, but unlike the Force, Han is real, tangible.
I can touch Han, and oh how I want to touch him. Not as a friend but as a lover, with the tenderness and wonder I was taught I should feel toward women only. Iím not supposed to think another man is beautiful or desirable. At least thatís how it worked on Tatooine, but Iíve learned since then that not everyone limits themselves in this fashion. I want Han to touch me as a lover. I want his mouth against mine again, his hands on my skin, holding me close. I want to see his eyes when we make love and know that what we share means more than simple comfort or momentary pleasure. Friends and loversóthatís not impossible, is it?
Leia told me several times Iím the most romantic person sheís ever met. Not a very flattering description perhaps, but I suppose itís true compared to her. She doesnít have many illusions, or maybe delusions is a better word. Itís funny that she and Han would be so much alike, practical and focused. Maybe thatís why Iíve been attracted so strongly to both of them.
Through all the losses of those last two days on Tatooine, two memories still shine, untarnished by the distance. My first glimpse of Leia, remote, unreal and utterly beyond my grasp. My first glimpse of Han, close, real and touchable. That difference has everything to do with why Iím sitting here thinking about Han rather than Leia.
I grew up with an aunt and uncle who loved each other passionately, even though it didnít always show on the surface, and I know they hoped Iíd find the same happiness they had together. I think I have, just that my ideal of love took a slightly different form than they might've expected.
Once in a while Iíd see Beru watching others with their grandchildren, and knew she looked forward to the day I married and started producing babies for her to spoil. That wasnít exactly an appealing future to my way of thinkingómarrying some farmerís or merchantís daughter and living a life harnessed to othersí expectations. Truth to tell, not a single one of my dreams and plans included a good woman at my side, although it took me a long time to realize the significance of that.
What did I dream of in those days? Going faster and faster, until I burned up in a blaze of glory between the stars. Yeah, I know. Romantic. Reaching for anything and everything I thought might be denied me, just to prove I could. Adventure. Excitement. Proving myself to a nameless, faceless someone always hovering at the edge of my vision. I still donít know who that someone is, but it isnít Han, because I have nothing to prove to him. He accepts me as I am.
Iíve lived those dreams now, adventure and excitement enough for a couple of lifetimes. And speedóthat too. These last few years have been a blur of fear and grief, of fury and glory, of loss and growth. Iíve been to the stars and Iím still reaching... for whatever lies beyond. Are there limits to the heart, mind and soul?
Han and the Force. I find myself wanting to surrender to both.
I want to go to Han, to say the words I couldnít before and hear them in return. I want to believe that the forever Han swears doesnít exist, really doesóand that Iíll find forever with him.
But instead Iím going to Dagobah to learn about the Force from a Jedi Master named Yoda.
In the meantime, Han, be careful.
Iím not sure when or how Ė or even why Ė it happened. I just know that it did, somewhere between one moment and the next, and by the time I realized I was in love, it was too late. This wasnít anything I ever expected, or even thought about. Funny how it happened when I wasnít looking.