A/N: Thank you to Zyra for beta reading this for me. You ROCK!
When in Mon Cala...
Somewhere on Mon Cala, prior to the events of The Empire Strikes Back
"I have a bad feeling about this."
Leia Organa shook her head. "You know, if you always have bad feelings then it tends to negate the importance of them."
"Not necessarily," Han Solo replied.
She stole a glance his way. They were on Mon Cala trying to make some inroads with a local Quarren community. After meeting with their contact, they were told through a dubious translation (damn Han for not wanting to bring Threepio along!) that they would have to attend an audience with the elder tribesman.
Han leaned over so that his lips were close to Leia's ear. "If my bad feelings always end up being correct," he whispered, "then they aren't negated."
"They aren't always correct," she replied, ignoring the wave of goose flesh running up her arms that his nearness had produced.
"Name one time-"
"I don't want to talk about it!" She cut him off, visions of every single one of their missions together and every single thing that had ever gone wrong flashing through her mind.
The mission briefs beforehand were always frustratingly simple: You will make contact. You will hear the demands. You will present our requests. You will negotiate an agreement. Too bad, Leia thought derisively, that the trouble often started (as this mission was proving) even before the first directive was completed: simply making contact!
She continued to follow their guide, Han's words weighing heavily on her - more so than she would ever let him believe. So it was that they continued, totally unsure and uncomfortable as to where and to what they were being led into. And it certainly didn't help her mood that she had a bad feeling about this mission, too.
They had been walking for a long time following small trails through dense forests. It was warm and humid and Leia was tired and sweaty, wiping the back of her hand against her forehead. Han had finally ceased his incessant questioning and speculating as to what lay ahead for them. Some of his ideas and concerns seemed preposterous and irrational yet with everything they had seen and done across all the lands and planets in this solar system, she could at least understand where he was coming from.
Finally, the forest canopy began to give way to the deep azure of the Mon Cala sky. An oceanic planet, the sound of running water had been a constant companion throughout their entire trek. They had crossed several small streams and hugged the banks of a few stillwater ponds but it wasn't until the small group exited the forest wall that they beheld their first breathtaking views of one of Mon Cala's most secluded and untouched oceans, the Formyle.
They were standing on a high cliff with the Formyle spreading out in front of them for as far as they could see down and off into the distance. Leia could see where the trail continued on along a natural ravine and eventually led to a squat stone building built into its cavernous walls. Their guide barked a few words in their natural language and pointed toward the building.
Leia nodded her head and they all began walking again.
"I guess that's where we're headed?" Han asked, tilting his chin to indicate the building.
"It would seem so."
He cleared his throat and coughed. "I never thought I could be so thirsty on a water planet. You'd think they'd stop and drink every now and then."
"They have gills," she replied, having pondered on the same behaviour. "They're probably staying hydrated through the humidity in the air."
Han swallowed and replied drily, "Lucky them."
She and Han had been on so many missions together now that she had lost count. Although she might not ever admit to him, she preferred when they were sent off as a pair. They worked well together. He had just enough of a tolerance for risk-taking to balance out her ingrained desire to strictly follow procedures. And, contrary to popular opinion, he took their mission objectives seriously and had often gone above and beyond to enable her to return to the Alliance with a successful report.
He wasn't the most diplomatic of human beings and she often had to counsel him on appropriate interaction and cultural proclivities of the different species that they ended up working with. She had had to drill into him on more than one occasion that they would have to put aside what they might consider normal including everything and anything from what they ate, how they dressed, spoke, looked, interacted, the list went on, in order to avoid offending their hosts. As they ambled along the final leg of this hike, she hoped that she wouldn't have to have a repeat of that same conversation with Han regarding whatever might be waiting for them at the end of it.
They stopped once again when they had reached the stone building. Their guide was talking animatedly with a few sentries that had been standing outside. Leia felt sore and achy everywhere. There wasn't a muscle in her body that didn't seem to be protesting from the treatment it had received thus far on this planet.
Leia looked over the building. Its stone was the same color as the high, rocky sides of the ravine that it had been built in. The clear river of water that was flowing down the ravine disappeared beneath the floor of the building and high above and to the left, she could see a large waterfall, undulating down the craggy side of the cliff, its deluge, mist and spray also disappearing into the walls of the facility.
Their guide turned to her and began wiping at his arms and pointing at her sweaty forehead. She thought she could make out the word for clean or cleanliness every third of fourth sentence.
"I think they're trying to tell us that we stink," Han provided his opinion with his normal snarkiness.
"It's probably not the worst of ideas to freshen up before we meet the elder tribesman," she said.
"I hope that 'fresher includes an unlimited buffet," Han replied, patting his stomach and stretching with a grimace. Apparently he was as sore as Leia was after that hike. "I'm starved."
"Whatever they offer us," she started.
"I know, I know," he said, cutting her off. "When in Mon Cala…"
"Do as the Mon Calans do," she replied rotely as they began to follow their guide into the mysterious building, happy that it didn't seem as if it would be necessary to bother Han with her usual spiel.