IDK if you saw the post about how, before the Death Star plans were captured, the asset Bail was sending was *Leia herself* to Obi-Wan. But I'd like an AU based on that. No Death Star Plans, only a 19-year-old-girl strong in the Force, trying to beat the Empire.
Luke cocked his head, watching the girl in white move through the marketplace. He couldn’t figure out what it was about her, why one minute he had been engrossed in Waing’s new shipment of power converters and the next he was staring at her, totally unable to tear his eyes away. He wasn’t entirely sure how he’d gone from one to the other, except he had, and now he was watching her. It was important he watch her, he knew it was important, though he couldn’t figure out how he knew that, or why.
It wasn’t that she stood out—sure, no one wore robes of that clean white, not unless they had a lot of slaves or droids to do the laundry for them, and yeah, she was the sort of pale you generally only saw in traders, who spent more time in artificial grav than sunslight. But she could be a water merchant’s daughter slumming it in Toshe, or an off-worlder, taking in the sights. (Not that they had many sights to see in Toshe, Luke thought with a snort.) And nobody else seemed to notice her; she stopped at Kinqua’s stall and dipped her fingers into the bowl Kinqua left out for tasting, and lifted it to her lips, licked the droplets away.
Luke had seen Kinqua casually lop off a child’s hand for that.
“Skywalker,” Waing said, startling Luke out of his thoughts. “You made a decision? Or are you just going to keep feeling up my tech until it agrees to go home with you?”
“Cool your drives, Waing,” Luke said mildly, but he was still staring at the girl in white. She had two droids trundling after her, he realized belatedly—an astromech and a protocol droid, though he couldn’t make out what they were saying at this distance. Their lights were flashing, though, and he wished he could read visual binary.
“Oh, I see,” Waing said after a minute, and Luke could hear them smirking. “My tech isn’t all you’re hoping to take back to the Whitesun-Lars homestead.”
Luke felt his face go hot, and he forced himself to look back at Waing. They were smirking. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said coolly, but he couldn’t focus on the power converters anymore. The girl in white, had she—
This close it was abundantly obvious that she wasn’t from Tatooine—no one from this planet carried that air of interestingness with them, like they had a secret that might change the whole course of your life. She must be an off-worlder. “I’m looking for Obi-Wan Kenobi. Do you know where I might find him? I was told he lives near here—”
“Old Ben?” Luke cut in, before Waing could answer. “Do you mean Old Ben?”
The girl in white looked at him for a long moment, and Luke felt the back of his neck heating up. “I don’t know,” she finally said. “Is he near here?”
“Oh, sure,” Luke laughed, more out of relief than anything else. “Old Ben’s just a few klicks from here, he lives near the western gorge—I could take you, if you want,” Luke said quickly, because she looked increasingly put-out, and he felt something in his chest twinge in answer to it.
But she shook her head. “Thank you for the offer, but this is a personal matter.”
“It’ll cost you serious credits if you charter a speeder,” Luke said. “I’m headed that way anyway, let me take you. And your droids. Really,” he said, because she still looked uncertain. “It’s no trouble.”
She looked at him for a long moment, and her dark eyes were very serious. (He liked her eyes, for no particular reason he could figure out.) “My name is Leia,” she finally said, sticking her hand out.
“Luke,” Luke laughed, taking it and shaking it. It was cool and smooth, and if he’d needed any confirmation she was from off-world, that was it. “Skywalker. My uncle owns a moisture farm in the eastern hemisphere.”
“I’m—not from around here,” she said, and Luke almost laughed because—well, obviously.
“Consider yourself lucky,” Luke said, and something of her tiredness and tightness (why did he know she was tired, down to her bones?) eased. She smiled back, a small smile. Luke counted it as a victory.
“I am C-3PO,” the protocol droid cut in, sticking his head between them as though it would stop them from looking at one another. He was burnished gold, and in the high sunslight it hurt to look at him. “And this is my companion, R2-D2.”
The astromech whistled a greeting, and Luke laughed. “Pleasure to meet—all of you. My speeder’s docked by the Ithorian, if you want…?”
“Hey, Skywalker, aren’t you going to buy anything?” Waing interrupted, and Luke winced, barely managing to tear his eyes away from Leia, who was still smiling, very slightly.
“Sorry, uh—maybe next week?” Luke offered lamely, but he was already ushering Leia and her droids away, and he could hear her laugh, very softly. (His chest fell too full, hearing it.)
It felt strange, formal and right, to help her into the speeder. Her hand in his was a kind of symmetry, inexplicable, the way he knew how a speeder was supposed to fit together, how a full tank of moisture sounded when you rapped it with a knuckle. Organic and totally without reason, their hands fitting together. She still hadn’t told him her surname, if she had a surname. Where she was from. What she was doing here. What her droids were doing here.
Luke couldn’t help but trust her utterly. Otherwise, why did her hand feel like that, resting in his?
“What do you need to see Old Ben for?” Luke shouted over the rush of air around the speeder.
“I told you,” Leia shouted back. The white hood she wore had fallen back, and her hair was dark. Even carefully styled, those loops over her ears, strands came loose, whipping around her face. “It’s personal!”
They stopped at the farm first, just to refuel and drop off the handful of things Luke did buy—rations, holonews downloads, some sucrose-candies for Aunt Beru. But when they touched down, Owen went white beneath his sunsburn, staring at Leia like she was a creature from another galaxy. “Your Highness,” he breathed, and Luke had to correct him, just an off-worlder looking for Old Ben; don’t pay her any mind. Look, Uncle Owen, I brought you your Almanac—
Leia was silent; picking at a loose thread in her white, white robes.
(Afterwards, she was silent, her arms crossed over her waist. They sped across the desert, which was gathering dark by the armful. “Sorry,” Luke said, trying to keep himself from shivering, “I know it gets cold at night.”
“It’s all right,” Leia said. “On—my planet, it snowed. We had mountains, and we would build whole castles out if it, out of snow. It was beautiful.”
“I’d like to see snow,” Luke said, but he thought it was lost in the sound of the speeder, because she didn’t reply.)
By the time they reached Old Ben’s place, it was dark enough for a lamp to be burning, the light spilling beneath the door and out the window. Luke watched as Leia knocked on the daub doorframe, shivering.
Still, it was worth staying just to watch the flicker of Old Ben’s expression from surprise to shock when he greeted her. He called her by a name that was definitely not ‘leia’ and Luke watched her shoulders hitch. “No,” Leia said finally. “I am Leia Organa, Princess of Alderaan. I am the daughter of Queen Breha Organa and Viceroy Bail Organa, and I am—I am here to beg your aid for the rebellion.”
Luke wasn’t so surprised that he didn’t notice Ben’s eyes cut to him, and then away.
“Princess,” Ben said finally, with an awful heaviness. Luke had brought him ration packs and listened to his stories he had never sounded like that before, like it was something awful and deep beyond saying. “If they sent you to find me, they must be very desperate.”
“No,” she said quickly, and Luke knew she was lying. “No, but—we need Jedi. We cannot go forward, we cannot fight, if the Force is not with us.”
This time, Old Ben’s stare lingered on Leia, then on Luke. He seemed to be making up his mind about something, though Luke couldn’t say what. Old Ben had always struck him as a sort of harmless religious sort; in another world he might have been a Jedi like in the stories, but instead he was a desert madman, talking to the air and clutching at a bit of carbon tubing like it was a lightsaber.
There was nothing harmless about the way he was looking at them now.
“I’ve been happy here,” Old Ben muttered, quietly, like an apology.
“Fine,” Leia said, almost a snarl. Luke could only see her in silhouette, against the light from Old Ben’s hut. He thought suddenly of a predator, something that could leap on the unsuspecting. “But no one ever promised us happiness.”
Luke could see Old Ben’s throat work. “Come in,” he said at last. His gaze darted to Luke, and Luke caught his breath. “What I have to say is—for both of you, now.”
Luke shut off the speeder.
(He had followed Leia into Old Ben’s hut, and didn’t come out the same man. No, not the same man at all.)