The Gang’s All Here
By Izzy

“Look, Chewie, you keep saying you know these people, but I think they’ve changed a bit since you’ve met them last. Gone a little crazier, maybe.”

They had been rescued by two smugglers, a human and Wookie, and apparently the Wookie had once been rescued from some Trandoshans by Ashoka during the Clone Wars, worked with Yoda and rescued him when the clone troops had turned against the Jedi, and then met Ben when he had been traveling with only the twins. Padmé didn’t care. She was too relieved to be off that planet, and able to escape Mara Jade’s company. Not that she held anything against the girl, but she still couldn’t deal with Anakin.

But when she and Leia walked into the cockpit and heard Han Solo say this to Chewbacca, Leia angrily demanded, “How would you know? You didn’t meet us then.”

Both smugglers whirled around with their hands on their weapons, and Solo kept his hand on his as he said, “Watch it, kid, or you’re going to find yourself floating home.”

“You can’t take much, can you?” sneered Leia.

“Look, it’s my ship...”

“Leia, let’s go; I’ll talk to them later,” Padmé cut the arguing off. She knew she should have come into the cockpit alone. Or with Luke, who seemed to be able to be in the same room with Han Solo for a minute or so without one of them provoking the other.

“You said you’d ask them now,” Leia protested, but her mother had taken her by the arm and was dragging her off. "Now we'll never find out when they'll drop us off," she sighed when they were out of earshot.

But they weren't for long, because Chewbacca followed them out of the cockpit. His growls actually sounded apologetic, though Padmé’s knowledge of Shyriiwook was limited.

“How do you stand that stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking son of a Hutt?” Leia asked him.

“Leia!” Padmé chided. “You know Chewbacca owes Captain Solo a life debt. Look,” she said, seeing the anger obvious even on Chewbacca’s Wookie face, “I’m really, really sorry about my daughter’s attitude...”

“Oh, he owed Ashoka a life debt too, arguably,” said Leia dismissively. But when Chewbacca emitted a soft, mournal sigh, she said more compassionately. "I'm sorry, you know. I kind of wish she was here with us, you know. From what I've heard of her, I bet she would have loved to see you again."

Chewbacca made another sigh, and Leia continued, "I hope at some point you'll tell us more. Ben's told us a lot about her, of course, but I'd like to hear more."

But meanwhile, they'd reached the cargo hold, where Ben sat talking with Mara. Luke was asleep in the corner. Both glanced up at the newcomers, but then quickly turned their attention away. Mara also closed her eyes, which Padmé found relieving by itself.

“What do you feel right now?” Ben was asking her.

“Tired,” Mara answered, and Padmé thought she detected a bit of Anakin’s insolence.

“What else?” asked Ben patiently. “Impatient, perhaps?”

Chewbacca growled again, this time questioningly. “He’s teaching her some emotional control,” Leia explained to him. “It’s the big thing she has to catch up with us on. We’re all training to be Jedi Knights, like Ashoka was.”

The Wookie grunted, then turned around and began his trip back to the cockpit. By the sounds he was making, Padmé thought that were he human, he'd be muttering and shrugging his shoulders. “Bye,” Leia called after him.

She then went over to her brother, Padmé following. Leia waved her hand over Luke’s head and tapped him lightly, but he was dead to the universe. She plopped down next to him and watched Mara, but Padmé turned her attention away, not wanting to intrude on the girl’s privacy, or see it should Anakin come to her surface.

She could hear Ben’s soft voice continuing to talk, though she deliberately kept herself from hearing what he was saying. The two of them had been cautious in their interaction with each other since Anakin’s return, not wanting to deal with how he might react. She hadn’t expected to feel the longing for him that she did. Though she still could not say whether she really did love him now, or if she just wanted to keep a hold of the most stable presence left in her life. It had still not been a year since Qui-Gon’s final departure, either; Padmé dared not yet hope for his love.

It was to be expected. A man like him was too easy to love, while not easily loving in return.

“Mother?” Leia’s voice broke into her reverie. “You look depressed.”

“I am,” said Padmé simply.

“They should be our allies, though,” Leia continued, perhaps not even aware of change in subject. “Chewbacca should be, at least; he can’t like the Empire at all. Even Captain Solo’s not a bad man, ultimately.” She let out a long, low sigh. “Just not a very good one, either.”