It’s quiet. It’s so, so quiet, and Leia wants to tear her hair out and scream.
New Alderaan is beautiful. Leia’s house overlooks a mountain, and a forest; five minutes from the city by speeder, but far enough that she can enjoy the view without anyone around. She stands on a balcony off of her bedroom, watching the sunset over the trees. The only noise is the sound of the wind.
She remembers sitting on this very balcony with Han’s head in her lap, reading him a piece of classic Alderaanian literature as he fiddled with a piece of machinery. Every so often, he’d look away from his work and look up at her, that half-grin on his face that made her feel like a teenager again.
Now Han is gone. The view makes her stomach turn. She goes inside, locks the balcony door and doesn’t let herself break down until she’s far enough from the transparisteel door that no one could see her. It’s stupid, irrational, but she has every right to be both of those things. Her husband is dead.
It’s not the worst thing Leia’s been through. She watched her own planet turned to dust in front of her, her parents and friends and everyone she knew and loved dead in a one moment. Her entire world changed at that moment, tilted in another direction, and it had taken years before she could adapt to the new way of seeing the galaxy. It never stopped hurting, a pain in her ribs, dulled to a faint ache after all these years.
But Han died, and she was ripped open, heart pulled from her chest and still beating. Maybe it has something to do with her newly trained Force sensitivity, or maybe it’s just that Leia’s not in a rebellion anymore, not used to hearing about a different death every day. Her heart was left unguarded. Now it is an open wound.
She cries every day for so long. On the first day she doesn’t, the next day is worse. She can’t imagine letting go of the pain, the heart-stopping agony, because that would mean admitting that Han is never coming back.
His spaceship was targeted by pirates when he was flying home from a racing competition. No one really knows what happened, but the theory is that they stole everything of value from the Millennium Falcon and then blasted it to rubble from their own ship. A few buttons pressed, and Han was dead. Like all of Alderaan, like every TIE pilot the Rebel Alliance blew up only a few years ago.
The biggest pieces recovered — of the ship, and of Han — were not much bigger than Leia’s hand.
Ben’s cries keep her awake at night. He knows his father is gone, knows his mother’s pain; a Force-sensitive child is a piece of work, especially for someone who is Force-sensitive themselves. Leia ends up bringing him into her bed and sometimes they cry together, missing the same person.
Ben falls asleep against her chest. He’s only two, far too young to remember his father when he grows up. Han will be nothing more than a half-remembered memory, a face that he barely recognizes in a holograph.
Luke is on the other end of the galaxy, but Leia knows he feels it, the moment that Han’s life is snuffed out. When it happened, she felt his pain too, distant though it was. He comes as fast as he can, and when she sees him, Leia breaks down for the third time that day. It’s been a week so far.
She sobs into Luke’s chest, and he holds her up as tears streak down his face. He’s bearing the pain in silence. She remembers that he’s done that as long as she can remember. It’s not a Jedi thing. Or maybe it is; maybe that’s why she can’t train as a Jedi. Her tears.
The thought is insane, and a hysterical laugh bubbles up before she can stop it.
“What is it?” asks Luke softly.
She doesn’t know how to respond. She pulls away, wipes her brother’s tears with her left hand. The ring glints in the fading sunlight.
“Han is dead,” she says softly, and allows herself to fall, knowing her brother will catch her.
The funeral is held on New Alderaan. There is little left to bury — only bits and pieces of what had one been Leia’s husband — so it’s more symbolic than anything else.
Leia had debated, long and hard, whether to bury him here or home on Corellia. Eventually she’d decided on New Alderaan, because Han didn’t have any family alive on Corellia, and Leia wanted to be able to come see his grave. She wanted Ben to grow up near his father, even if his father was no longer alive.
The funeral is three months after Han’s death. Leia stands with her head high, her eyes dry, as they lower the nearly empty casket into the fresh dirt. Ben is in her arms, and Luke is by her side. Leia has never felt so completely alone as the moment when the digger droids began to cover the casket with soil.
That night, Luke sleeps in her bed. Ben is back in his own room, no longer crying every night and Leia isn’t selfish enough to bring him into her bed for her own comfort and keep him awake with her tears. But Luke offers; he holds her as she cries, and then as she lies there, too drained to cry anymore.
“I buried him,” she whispers in the early hours of the morning. She’s curled up against Luke’s chest, and Force, she’s forgotten how nice it is to hold another person like that. Ben is too young for this, and it feels so wonderful that the sadness is a little less overwhelming. “I buried my husband. This wasn’t supposed to happen. We were… we were going to grow old together.”
She doesn’t expect a response, even though Luke’s somewhat awake, but he leans down and presses his lips into her braided hair. “I know, Leia. I’m so sorry.”
I’m sorry I couldn’t protect him comes through clear as day in the Force, and Leia closes her eyes, curls closer to him.
“Not your fault.”
He’s silent for a long, long moment, and Leia would have thought he’d fallen asleep if not for the Force telling her otherwise.
“I loved him,” Luke says, his voice barely above a whisper. She can hear it as he starts to cry. “Force, Leia. I loved him too. And I know it’s wrong. I know I shouldn’t have—”
She sits up, her heart in her throat. Suddenly a lot of things become clear. Luke had stopped speaking when she moved, and now just watches her, sadness in his eyes.
“It’s okay,” she says after a long moment. “I — is it terrible if that makes me feel better?”
His face shows naked surprise though the tears. “Why?”
She lies back down, curls closer into him. “Because I’m not alone.”
Leia has been alone before, so alone that she wondered if she’d ever truly feel okay again. But now, listening to her brother’s heartbeat in the dark and the pain, sharing his heartbreak — she feels safe. Like nothing can touch her. Not even death.
There’s a holograph on Leia’s mantle, next to the balcony door. It was taken three months after Ben was born, and he still barely looks like a person yet, but Han’s looking at him like he’s the only thing in the world. Leia holds Ben in her lap, and she watches her boys with a small smile on her face. The movement is small, just the movement of their breathing. It’s a slice of stillness, of incredible happiness. Of what she was sure was only the beginning of a liftetime of it.
For months after Han’s death, she kept the holograph turned off, even if it was still there. It hurt to look at, like a knife in her ribs, and she couldn’t breathe from the pain. But one morning, as she’s getting dressed, she stops and goes over to it. Her finger hovers over the on button, trembling a little, before she presses it down and the holograph flickers to life. She sees her own smile, Han’s wonder at the child they created together.
There’s pain, of course; Leia no longer expects anything else. But a small bubble of warmth is growing in her chest as well; it’s a fond memory, and for the first time, that’s enough.
She leaves the holograph on.