Chapter 1: Till Death Do Us Part
Saying that Han was not happy with how things turned out would have been as ridiculous an understatement as walking to somebody who just got trampled by a herd of pregnant Banthas to ask if they were feeling alright.
It hurt, some part of his brain noticed. Yet somehow, the scathing blade lodged in his bowels and charring him from the inside wasn't the most painful thing at the moment.
Han was staring at the face of his son, but the man looking back wasn't Ben.
It looked like him, just a little, he thought as the sounds around him became oddly muffled. Ben had been chubbier when he had last seen him - younger, much younger, even though he kept protesting he was not a child anymore. His pouty cheeks were still full of baby fat and acne spots then.
This man was older and leaner - with striking features that reminded him of Leia - but it wasn't what felt wrong.
It was the eyes, Han realized as he felt his legs giving up underneath him.
Ben had been a difficult child, loud and passionate. It wasn't much of a surprise with the parents life had granted him, Han admitted. As soon as he had been able to communicate, their son had always been so... living. Throwing tantrums or breaking into laughter at the same frequency, with the focus capacity of a night butterfly. Ben was never quiet, never neutral. There was always a fight to have with Leia over his bedtime, a newly invented game to play with Chewie, a millions of questions to ask him about the stars and their adventures.
And so his round little face was always expressive, his eyes glistening with joy or fury or curiosity.
This man, this stranger, watched him fall with eyes dark as the Force, cold as the void, his face nothing but a pale mask.
Under the red, red light, his tears shone like streams of blood.
Where did it go wrong...?
The fall was surprisingly slow, as if the air turned into glue; Ben's face took an eternity to disappear.
It had to be Luke's fault, Han mused as the redness engulfed him - but it wasn't true, it wasn't right, and guilt waved away the intrusive thought.
He couldn't blame Luke.
Luke was alright - a good kid, a smart kid, and entirely too loving for someone who had been through so much pain.
Luke had lost his family and his mentor but had never given up on hope. Luke had turned Darth Fucking Vader against the Emperor through sheer stubborn kindness.
Luke had had dozens of apprentices, kids and adults from all across the galaxy who had come to learn about the Force from the New Jedi.
Only one had turned into an indoctrinated murderer.
No, blaming Luke was unfair and wrong. Ben had been doomed far before Han had dropped him on Tython, his uncle waving at the Falcon from the landing platform.
Ben hadn't said a word during the ride, Han remembered. He had tried to talk to him, monologuing about how cool the ancient Jedi temples would be to explore, and how he was sure he would make new friends among Luke's apprentices, but his son had stayed silent.
He should have seen the signs. Ben's constant loudness was exhausting, and he had often secretly wished that the kid would just shut up for a minute... But this had felt wrong, so wrong.
Still, it had been the right choice. Ben had screamed and kicked the wall so hard it had left a dent, but Han had stood with Leia when she had decided to take him out of school and ship him to her twin.
The Endor incident had been... yet another sign, another one that he hadn't seen - hadn't wanted to see, he corrected. He should have seen.
Would it have made a difference if they had kept him at home? If he had taken it upon himself to bring Ben back into the right path?
Maybe it had been foolish to leave a troubled teen with trusting, compassionate Luke. Maybe he should have slapped some sense into Ben, strapped him to the backseat of the Falcon, and flown into space until the kid was out of voice.
Maybe they could have made things right.
But it wasn't about him, was it...? It had been about the Force. It was always about the fucking Force.
Luke had told him so, long ago - Ben had been an infant still, babbling at the shiny stars that dangled above his bed, making them spin without touching them.
The Force was strong in his son. He should have known it would only bring trouble, but the stars dancing around his baby had seemed so bright, so beautiful then...
He had never understood what the Force was supposed to be, nor what a 'strong Force' felt like - Luke had described it as a very pungent smell, which seemed relevant given Ben's tendency to shower himself in deodorant. Apparently, the Dark Side smelled like sandalwood.
Whatever it was, it had been there, bubbling under the surface of his child's soul like an unsupervised pot of boiling water - and just as dangerous when nobody dealt with it.
It should have been Leia's job, he thought with a tinge of anger. But she had always refused to dabble in the Force, with that soft, implacable voice she only took when things really mattered.
Luke had tried countless times to get her to learn about it (it will be fun come on we can do it together), and she had turned him down every time.
The kid had never mentioned it, but it had broken his heart. Maybe it was a Jedi thing – bitching about the weather or food rations was fine, and stars knew Luke didn’t refrain from it, but the true wounds remained silent.
He had found a sister (and nobody ever mentioned the Hoth Incident). A whole new world was unraveling in front of him, mysterious and exciting and oh so full of promises, and he had wanted to share it with her, with the only family he had left…
Yet Han understood. He had always known, even though they had never spoken about it.
Of all the unsaid things between them, of all the talks they had never had, this was the one they had never needed. She had told him about Luke being her brother, and Luke had come back from the sky with a monster he called 'father'.
Leia had never called him so. And when she had turned down Luke's offer to train her, her eyes had found Han's, and he had known.
Leia didn’t want to have a single thing to do with Vader (Anakin, Luke called him, but to Han and Leia he would always be Vader).
(Now that he thought of it, maybe unspoken pain was just a Skywalker thing. The twins certainly shared their tendency to run away from uncomfortable feelings.)
(Maybe that was why the three of us had gotten along so well, a part of his mind bitterly hissed.)
Vader had died on the Death star, but he had left a wake of agony that had long outlived him. And his children had not been spared.
The twins had hurt each other countless times along the years - always inadvertently, always out of miscommunication and an ironic refusal to fight - but the most painful scene Han remembered had been about Vader.
They had been on Coruscant, Leia directing a session with the newly elected senators, Han... sitting there, not quite sure why, not understanding half of the political jargon people were spewing around, wondering if this was truly his place - knowing, deep down, that it wasn't.
(It was easy to be a hero when there was a princess to hold your hand into battle, but in times of peace a scoundrel was just a scoundrel...)
And Luke had come in, beaming in his new Jedi robes, and he had asked for the rehabilitation of Anakin Skywalker's memory.
Han was sitting at Leia's right, and he wasn't looking at her face, but he had heard the sharp intake of breath that came out of her, and he had felt her turn to ice.
It was one of those moments when he suddenly remembered that Leia was powerful and different and terrible, that the untamed Force inside her bones was just waiting to snap out, like a chained beast biding its time.
She had raised her hand, very slowly, and Luke's voice had stopped.
"No", she had said, and the echo of the word had been entirely unnatural.
Luke had argued. Vader had been a victim of the Emperor. He had turned around in the end. Without his sacrifice, Palpatine would have survived and even the Death Star explosion would not have signed the end of his Empire. It was an important message to send to the old sympathizers, the former imperial officers, everyone who needed to know that redemption was possible. That the new Republic wasn't their enemy, that there was always a second chance...
Some of his arguments had been good, Han had to admit. But it didn't matter to Leia, and quite frankly, it didn't matter to him either.
Vader had killed and tortured thousands of people, Leia had said, and Han had heard again the quiet breathing, the implacable calmness of the black-clad thing while he writhed in agony against the electric rods, begging and wailing and puking all over himself.
He had remembered her nightmares too, the way she flinched in front of needles, the darkness in her eyes when she dealt with the remnants of the Empire.
He had never asked her about that either, but there had been seven days between her capture on the Death Star and their improvised rescue - seven days during which she had lost everything, and then probably some more...
Somehow, he knew.
(But maybe knowing hadn't quite been enough ; maybe he should have told her he knew, told her he felt the same, told her she wasn't alone...)
Luke and his kindness didn't stand a chance. Leia didn't forgive.
It had hurt the kid, he could see it in his eyes. Luke had spent his entire life dreaming of Anakin Skywalker, and at the very end, he had found him. He had brought him to the light, taken his mask off and risked his life to bring his destroyed body back.
And then he had said the unthinkable.
"He's our father, Leia."
The coldness radiating from her had physically made him shiver.
"Your father. Not mine."
Her father, she had quietly reminded him, had died along his entire civilization at the hands of the Empire. Her father had stood against Vader's horrors until his last breath. Her father had burnt alive while his sky turned to fire and the snowy mountains crumbled, and every trace of Alderaan turned to ash and dust.
Her father had been a hero.
Vader had been the torturer who held her still and made her watch as he took everything she loved.
The twins hadn't talked for a while after that. None of them understood that the other wouldn't listen, and Han... well, Han had picked his side long ago.
Still, maybe it had been another mistake. Maybe denying her legacy had only stoked the fire. As soon as Ben had been old enough to ask questions, and refuse to take 'because that's the way it is' as an answer, he had been curious about it.
Leia refused to even mention him, so it had fallen to Han to explain who Vader was and why Uncle Luke and Mom didn't agree about him... (What example of a father had this story given Ben? he wondered)
Maybe obtusely refusing to bring up a subject wasn't the best way to keep away a morbidly curious child.
But Vader was a forbidden topic with Leia (and yes, forbidden knowledge always was the most attractive, and of course nosy little Ben was going to dig into it eventually, how did he not see that coming...)
Han had mentioned it exactly three times, and he regretted each of them.
The first one had been after the Endor accident, when they had gotten Ben back and the kid had locked himself in his room. He had not meant it as an attack, it was just logical to him that perhaps this could be Vader's influence, perhaps there was something tainted in the Force that flowed in his blood...?
Leia had looked at him as if he was a stranger. Three days later, once Ben had been taken care of by Luke, she had asked him to leave.
The second time... he didn't like thinking about it.
And the third had been just a few days ago, an eternity away, as she pressed herself against him and he had wanted to apologize and the only thing that had come out was that there was 'too much Vader in him', as if the Sith was a fucking receding gene, a hereditary illness that sometimes struck and destroyed everything.
It was easier to say than 'I'm sorry'.
It's not your fault, that's what he had meant.
And it has to be Vader's, because I don't want it to be mine either, please let it not be mine...
But it was, wasn't it? Luke and Leia were the two most amazing people he had ever met. Maybe the problem wasn't that there was too much Vader in Ben - maybe there was too much Han...
It wasn't Luke's fault if he was a compassionate man willing to give everyone a chance.
It wasn't Leia's fault if she couldn't deal with the weight of her heritage.
And, Han thought, even with another parentage, one that wouldn't be the masked thing that still haunted his nightmares... the Force still wasn’t her.
Leia Organa was a politician, a rebel, a fighter. She was blasters and flower oil, combat boots and regal braids, and sleepless nights filled with quick sex, strategic meetings and terrible coffee.
The content spirituality of the Force, the grand ideas about life and death that ruled the life of the Jedi, the self-satisfaction that came from being in harmony with the world – an expression that Han had only ever heard coming from deathstick addicts and flower-loving indigenous species…
It wasn’t her. She didn’t care that somewhere inside was a potential very few possessed. It didn’t matter that her blood held a formidable weapon, because Leia Organa didn’t need that.
Leia Organa was a weapon.
(She used to say, with that predatory smile of hers that showed way too much teeth, that she had a blaster for those her glare didn’t kill…)
A pain unlike anything Han had ever felt (which, given that he had just been stabbed with a scathing laser blade by his own son, was saying something) came crushing over him.
He had abandoned her.
Again, a nasty part of himself whispered inside his head. Because this was all Han Solo was capable of, wasn’t it…? Leave the cartel. Leave the rebellion. Leave Luke, leave Leia, leave Ben, leaveleaveleaveleave, like an imperious call from the great black void where he belonged.
Did it matter that he came back? That his hunger for love always ended up winning against the shameful knowledge that he didn't deserve it? Not good enough, not brave enough - never enough, not for someone like her - leaving was the right thing to do, even if she didn't see it and he broke her heart.
Her love was wasted on him.
But fuck, did he need it.
He had always thought nobody deserved the kind of happiness Leia had given him, and especially not a fraud of a man like he was...
Maybe that's your problem, a voice said inside his head. Have you considered that she deserves to pick who she loves?
Not me, he thought miserably. Scoundrels don't get the princess. She would have realized it at some point, she would have opened her eyes one morning and seen she deserved better, and then...
Do you think she's blind? Or stupid? You trust her to hell and back, you respect her decisions in literally every subject, but suddenly she's incapable of picking the man she wants? the voice sighed.
It sounded... annoyed.
Of course I'm bloody annoyed. I thought you Skywalkers were done ruining things by running from your feelings, but noooo. It would have been too much to ask, wouldn't it?
I'm not a Skywalker, Han confusely thought. The air (but was it air? it felt more like water now, or some sort of vaporous jelly) was thick and sloppy around him. The weird cloud of cotton inside his brain was expanding around, every thought from his mind pouring out into the open.
Ben and Leia's faces were swirling around him, words and dreams meddling as every memory that popped in his head played out as a spectral apparition.
Oh, please. Hopelessly romantic, stupidly brave, can talk his way out of every situation except those that involve feelings? You're a Skywalker, Han.
What is happening? Han thought. That thought wasn't mine.
No, it's mine.
To Han's utter confusion, the weird magma of sounds and colors coagulated into a familiar silhouette.
Sitting on top of what appeared to be a recreation of Han's first encounter with Lando (oh stars can we skip the Twi'lek thing), Ben Kenobi was staring at him.
What the fuck.
Pleased to see you too, Old Ben snorted. He adjusted his robes, seemingly oblivious to the horrifyingly embarrassing scene behind his sleeve.
What is happening? Han thought as panic started to take over him, tinging the flowing memory soup with a metallic feeling. It clung around him, entrapping his every move - he felt like one of those birds that sometimes got stuck in engine oil, and that you had to mercy kill because once they were glued there was no way of saving them...
It's the Force, Old Ben said. Don't worry.
The Force. What the fucking hell do you mean, the Force? he internally yelled as he tried to free himself from the heavy magma.
That thing, the Jedi said as he waved a hand around. I imagine it must be a little distressing to discover for a Force-blind, but...
What does it want with me?
The flow of memories was swirling faster now, surrounding him with a hurricane of feelings. Chewie's first ride in the Falcon, a kiss under the moon of Endor, a race through the Malachore asteroid field with Lando laughing in the backseat...
And the fall.
Ben's eyes were looking through him, the light red as a blood moon on his features, while in the distance a scream ripped through the darkness. Rey, he remembered with a flash of lucidity, little Rey and her face that looked oh, so familiar... And Finn and Chewie and the First Order and their big ass Death Star Remake and the plan, the mission, he had a job to do he had to get out of there...
He brought the spectral remnants of a hand to his chest, an odious realization dawning over him.
Are you okay? Kenobi asked with a frown as Han tried to draw in a breath - Kenobi was dead, he had died long ago, whatever this was it could only mean one thing...
I can't die. I can't. I can't die right now!
The mental scream rippled through the Force (the Weird Soup, as Han kept calling it in petto). Kenobi scratched his ghostly beard.
Ah. I thought you were taking it pretty well. You just realized...?
I can't die! Han wailed, pain and panic overwhelming his every nerves (except he didn't have nerves anymore, he didn't have anything anymore, he was...)
I'm not dead! I'm not!
You are, Old Ben gently said. I'm sorry, Han.
And suddenly it was unsufferable to see the man they had named their son after, because Ben Kenobi hadn't had a grave or a galaxy-wide ceremony like Alderaan once the Empire had fallen, or even a pyre like Vader. Ben Kenobi had been forgotten by the world, and he deserved to be remembered...
That was very kind of you, the ghost commented with a sad smile. Although I'm afraid...
Don't say it! Fuck you! Shut up!
The Force was a storm now, pounding around him like thunder as thoughts and feelings kept pouring out of him and into the flow.
Let me go! I have to go! I can't...
I can't leave her.
In an unbeating heartbeat that felt like an eternity, the realization unraveled around him.
It wasn't about the First Order and the horrors of their ways. It wasn't about Chewie, dear old Chewie who had walked in his footsteps since he had been a kid, or Luke or Lando or Rey and who she could or could not be.
It wasn't even about Ben, about his failure of a son who had rebuilt the monster which haunted his mother's nightmares.
(How Ben Organa, son of the last princess of Alderaan, could come to blowing up a planet... that was beyond him. Betraying the Jedi was one thing, getting indoctrinated by a rotten-faced Sith was another - but doing this to Leia...)
(It was a terrible thing to hate his own son.)
(It didn't make it any better to know it was reciprocated.)
No, it wasn't about them. It wasn't even about him, or his guilt and failures and mistakes.
It was about Leia.
The tempest around him slowed down, the incessant mix of memories vanishing as only one vision remained.
A bright light, and a smile and a kiss.
'Someone who loves you.'
I can't leave her. Not again.
I'm sorry, Han, Kenobi started, but Han cut him.
You don't understand. I come back. I always do.
Not this time.
I'll find a way. I can't leave Leia. I physically can't, old man.
Old? Old Ben protested. I was younger than you when I died, I'll have you know.
Still old, Han ruthlessly commented as he looked around.
The Force had stopped twirling now, and he felt a strange draw around him, like a deep current pulling him forwards.
Oh, shit. What's that now?
That would be death, the Jedi replied in a slightly vexed tone. It's what usually happens when you... you know... die.
Wait. This, Han flailed about like a drunken fish, isn't death?
No. That's just the Force claiming you. Death is... the next step. The final one. The one nobody knows about, I'm afraid.
What? How about you? You died eons ago! Han protested as he tried to swim against the gelatinous tide.
I'm a Jedi, Kenobi sighed. I've used the Force all my life. It gives me some... privileges.
So, what? You're dead but you can't die?
I can, Obi-Wan quietly said. And I will, someday. I just... stuck around. I had to keep an eye on Luke.
Yeah? Great fucking job, man, Han furiously thought. Really hope those last years were entertaining to you.
Oh, shut up, Kenobi snapped. Do you think I enjoyed any of this? Do you think I haven't had enough of watching the Skywalkers destroy themselves? And, oh, the whole galaxy while they're at it?
I don't know! Han yelled into the current. I don't recall seeing you around to help!
It's not like I could do anything, Han! the ghost yelled back with a pain that burnt like black tendrils around him. All I can do is watch! And occasionnally, talk to those who are willing to listen, which let me tell you, is not exactly a kriffing family trait among you people!
Han stopped struggling for a moment, as Old Ben's despair hit him with full force, echoing with his own in a painful symphony.
I'm sorry, he said after a while.
Yeah, well. Whatever.
So are you gonna give me a hand or what?
You can't stop death from happening, the old man said with a sadness that would have gone right through Han's heart if he hadn't been the one dying.
I don't care about death, he answered. I'm not leaving Leia. She lost Ben already, and Luke, and the Republic - she lost so much, I can't do that to her. I can't break her heart like that.
Five minutes ago, you were bitching about how you didn't deserve her, Kenobi pointed out in a huffed tone. Not that I think you're right, but if it can help you letting go...
It's not about me! Han screamed. I can't put her through that. Losing me - to Ben of all people... It will break her. I can't do that to her.
Technically, Ben did. If it's any consolation.
Han stared at the cloaked Jedi for a second.
You know, you are the fucking worst at making people feel better, Kenobi.
I'm just saying, it's not your fault.
Don't care. I'm fixing this. I have to go back. I have to...
Something in the Force suddenly grabbed him, and Han cried out as he tried kicking what was probably the spectral equivalent of a Weird Soup Crouton.
Get it off me! he wanted to say, but he had no voice to talk with anymore - his sight broke into shiny pieces, as if he was suddenly looking at the stars through millions of different eyes. His very self was floating away, not evaporating but dissolving into the primitive light that flowed around the worlds, everywhere and nowhere, all points of time collapsing into a single, united brightness...
And then something dark cut into the light, like a scream in an orchestral symphony.
He caught a deep breath as the Weird Soup returned, and grabbed tightly the first bit of memory he could get his hands on (a chunky bit that played the one time he had tried to cheat at pazaac with a Hutt, which had been both hilarious and painful). He had never thought he would be happy to see the Force again.
Standing atop a wavy portion of memories that looked like burnt pizza and regrets, Obi-Wan was looking at him with incredulous eyes.
You're gaping, Han obligedly pointed out.
Kenobi didn't close his spectral mouth.
I take it it's not you I should thank.
Told you I wouldn't die, Han bragged, but his heart wasn't at it. Feeling everything that composed him merge with that engulfing network of light had not been a pleasant experience.
He looked up, and started gaping as well.
There was a wound in the Force, a gash of darkness that cut through everything like one of those eldritch black holes in the Outer Rim.
What is this...? Ben asked, sending ripples of terror through the Force.
Han reached out tentatively, a dreadful knowledge crunching his heart.
His fingers touched the darkness, and it was like putting his hand in an energy field. A wave of feelings came over him, painful and intense and colored with something he instantly knew, like a familiar smell in an unknown place.
He could feel the darkness desperately trying to grab him, the black tendrils swirling around with a panic that matched his own.
It didn't work.
It was like watching a bond unravel that he had never known was there, like a rope teared down to the last thread.
Kriffing hell, Kenobi whispered. And she wasn't ever taught...
The dark thing was widening now, overflowing the Force with a mix of pain and anger, a single word drowning all other sounds like a broken holo on repeat.
No no no no no...
Strangely, Han felt his unexisting heart burst with joy and love, a powerful certitude erasing everything else.
She loves me.
I thought you knew, Kenobi sarcastically remarked.
I thought I did, but...
But he had never truly known, he realized. Deep down, he had always thought he was a default choice - a man who filled whatever criteria she had set, a phase she could grow tired of at every moment, but this...
Oh, for Force's sake, Ben cut him. You needed to die to realize that?
Like you did a better job at handling your problems during your life, Han snapped back.
Low blow, Solo.
The blackness was howling now, shaking the Force with a power he had never measured, surrounding him with an agony that broke his heart.
It's okay, love, he tried to say. I'm coming back. I'll find a way.
Han... the Force can't bring back the dead, Obi-Wan gently said. Trust me. I've tried.
And that's all I'm ever going to say on the matter.
For a second, Han felt sad for the Jedi - for his pain and loneliness and above all, for the quiet resignation in his eyes. Whatever had happened, life hadn't been any kinder on Obi-Wan Kenobi than it had been on himself...
But there was no time for that now, he decided very selfishly.
I have to get out of that soup.
Soup? Kenobi enquired. What soup?
Han flopped his arms like a toddler in a bathtub.
You know, that Force thing.
It looks like soup to you? the Jedi asked with genuine interest.
I guess? What does it look like to you?
Obi-Wan looked around, and shrugged.
Like the desert on Tatooine. Sand and dunes and sky, and the occasional oasis...
Really? All I see is weird soup.
That's fascinating. You know, there's been a lot of theories about the Force to try and explain why it doesn't impact everyone in the same way. I guess it materializes in different types of visualisations as well.
So what kind of soup are we talking about? Edible, or metaphorical, or both...?
Han looked around, trying to make sense of what his overwhelmed senses told him. The shimmering lights and dusty waves looked familiar, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it...
(And it didn't help that he technically didn't even have a finger to put anywhere anymore.)
Then it hit him.
Kenobi stayed silent for a while.
I don't think I've ever eaten that. Is it a Corellian specialty?
No, I mean... Like the cosmos. It feels like space looks.
And it was exactly that - how many times had he lied under the Falcon roof pane, gazing at the unending void - which wasn't a void at all, not when it was so full of lights and shapes and dreams - and drunk the starlight until morning came?
But if it was space, it was missing something...
Concentration rippling around him as he tried to channel the dark energy that Leia was pouring into the Force, he remembered as hard as he could, every detail whizzling to life...
Uh, Ob-Wan said.
Han breathed deeply as he felt the Falcon materialize around him, the familiar bumps of his pilot chair encompassing his back.
Did that do something in your desert? he asked curiously.
Well, your trashcan of a vehicle just landed in my carrots.
Han burst out laughing, his hands dancing over the controls, feeling the black sizzles of electricity running beneath the surface.
That baby has a soul, you know.
A garbage personality is more like it, the Jedi snorted.
Well, I never liked my girls easy, Han replied.
(His boys neither, now that he thought of it. Lando and Fett had been two sides of a same Asshole Coin, and it had never stopped him...)
Hop in, he told the Jedi.
Seriously? You want me to 'hop in' your imaginary spaceship?
It's either that or stay here tending to your imaginary carrots.
Fair enough, Old Ben grumbled as he approached the Millenium Falcon.
He sat in the copilot seat with visible unease.
This isn't right, he muttered.
It's space. I need a spaceship.
That... thing, the Jedi said while pointing at the control panel where the black lights shimmered. I don't know what it is. I don't know how it works. But it's the Dark Side.
No, it's the acceleration lever.
I guarantee you it's the Dark Side.
As long as it accelerates properly, Han firmly replied, I don't give a crap what color it is. Besides... it's Leia. You felt it, same as me.
That's not reassuring in any way.There's a tremendous power in her, you know.
No, you don't. You think you do, but you have no idea what she would be capable of if she decided to use the Force.
You don't need to go all condescending on me because I'm...what was it ? Force-blind? Han muttered. I've lived with her for 20 years. I've seen things, Kenobi. I've seen her angry.
Then maybe you do understand, Ben granted. What exactly are you planning to do with that thing?
Han rubbed his forehead, staring at the strange horizon.
I have to go back, he said. And with the intuition that only forty years of piloting could give, he touched a few buttons, grabbed the sticks, and took off.
Oh, hell, Obi-Wan gasped. What are you doing?
I'm flying home.
You might wanna find something to hold onto, Han added.
Sorry, the seatbelt is broken. I always planned to fix it, but you know how it goes, you plan it for the next day, and then the next, and then -
You can't go back from here. Nobody can.
Han glanced at his neighbor for a second, and a malicious grin took over his face, erasing the wrinkles of time.
Kenobi yelped when the Falcon plunged down, flows of ghostly dust brushing against the window panes. The gouge in the Force was pulsating, creating unstable currents around the ship. Han swirled around them for a moment, enjoying the strange turbulences that vibrated through the hull.
Do you have a plan? the Jedi weakly asked. Or did you just summon a ship out of dark-sided energy for a laugh?
I have the great lines, Han said. It's a work in progress.
By all means, Ben drawled with so much sarcasm it radiated around him in the Force, do share.
I'm gonna trust Leia.
Good for you, the Jedi said. Glad to learn your marital problems have found a resolution. How is that a plan?
She wants me back. I'm just gonna... fly into that general direction.
Han. That's not a plan.
You're the Jedi! Han yelled. Isn't 'go along with the Force' basically your motto?
That's not how the Force works! For goodness' sake, you don't even know what the Dark Side is! You can't just hallucinate a ship and use it like that!
I don't need to know how it works to pilot it, Han calmly replied.
Pil- oh, fuck me.
The ship had reached the breach by now, curls of darkness waving all around them. His hands scurrying over the controls, Han felt the power surround him, pushing him forwardsforwardsforwards...
And then they hit a wall.
Old Ben hooted as the sudden deceleration made him crash into the windshield.
Told you so, he muttered as he peeled himself off the pane with an audible 'pop'. You can't return. It's over, Han. There is no going forwards from here.
Han stayed silent in his seat, completely unmoving.
Unbidden tears were making their way to his eyes.
But I have to.
His voice was wavering now, matching the trembling tendrils that clasped the ship.
I have to make things right. Please. Let me make things right...
The energy that composed the Falcon was dissolving now, bits and pieces floating away as the darkness faltered.
Leia, please. Don't let go. Let me... let me find a way.
Han was keeping his eyes fixated on the sticks, mostly to avoid looking at Kenobi, staring hard at the flickering lights as if it could stop them from fading away.
And then, as the most insane idea brushed against his mind, they flickered again.
I can't go forwards, he whispered. It's over for this life.
Why do I get the feeling you're not having an acceptance epiphany? Obi-Wan suspiciously asked.
I don't have to accept it. I don't have to go forwards from here. I just have to...
Make it right, a new voice said. It was deep and sad and it came from everywhere at once, but Han recognized it instantly.
I... I promise. Just give me a course.
The lights shimmered back, a new power flowing through every part of the Falcon, the engines humming with life.
In the distance, a star was catching light.
Um, Ben said. I'm having second thoughts about this. Could you maybe drop me back to my carrots?
Too late, Han singsonged with a new euphoria.
The Falcon was accelerating now, surfing through the flows of energy, dancing in the Force with a grace he hadn't found in years. It wasn't a ship anymore, but the spirit of a ship - a pure extract of speed and movement, a hunger for journey personified.
The black hole was spreading his mass in front of them, drowning every light in an eerie silence. In the distance, far into the darkness, the star kept shining.
As the Falcon reached the gash, darkness swallowed them whole, the Force howling with power like a crowd of millions.
I'm coming back, Han promised. I always do.
The voice inside his head was just a soft whisper, yet as audible as the screams of the void.
With the most tremendous effort he had ever made, Han reached for the lever. As he pulled it, a flash of unlighted light shone through the ship, and with a last ripple, the Force took them away.
Oh, no, said Obi-Wan.
And they were gone.
Chapter 2: Till The End Of Me
And here is the sequel of the Two Cranky Old Men Time-Travelling Road Trip! copyright rainglazed, ilu :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Leia was staring at the mirror, calmly upholding the gaze of the stranger trapped in there.
She took a long, hard look at the bags under her eyes, the wrinkles running from her mouth to her fat-filled chin, the tired strands of greasy hair flopping on her forehead.
On the wall behind her, the screen was blinking with Luke’s messages, piling up with growing hysteria. She didn’t need to read them – she could feel her twin’s anguish, his grief, and most of all, overflowing everything like a nauseating tide, the guilt.
Luke’s feelings were the one thing of the Force she had never recoiled from.
Slowly, deliberately, staring at the tired reflection that only seemed to stand from the sheer power that shone through her eyes, she closed herself.
Her ears still rang of Han’s words – words she suspected she would never unhear, never forget.
Her reflection chuckled darkly as a thought popped through her mind.
She had lost everything before. She had woken to live a day that took everything from her, leaving her stripped to the bone, her heart flayed and left to rot out in the open.
She had thought people only got one of those days.
The screen kept beeping annoyingly. Without blinking, without averting her eyes from themselves, she turned her focus to it. The Force blast made it explode loudly, the hateful power rippling through her veins, crawling under her skin like a thousand bugs.
She pushed it back, wrestling with the wave of energy as if she was whipping down a snarling beast. It howled and fought and resisted, but she could feel it slide back under control.
The Force would not take her as it had taken Vader. As it had taken Ben.
‘You know why it happened’
“Shut it, Han”, she muttered to herself. “Shut it.”
Her husband had slammed the door so hard the mechanism was sadly blinking. She had heard his stride turn to desperate running in the corridor (Run away, why don’t you? As always.)
His blaster was still on the table where he had left it.
Very calmly, she took it.
Her reflection blinked as the cannon came resting next to her temple. The coldness from the metal was refreshing on her aching skin.
“And why the fuck not?” she asked herself, still fighting a staring match nobody was winning with the mirror.
Why not indeed, she wondered.
She had lost Ben. She had lost Han. She had lost hope. Fighting tyrants was pointless, it seemed; there always rose another, breaking everything that had been built before them, bringing everyone in their wake back to the darkness with no hope for progress ever.
Why keep the fight? Why destroy herself over a war to save a Republic that was doomed from the start? Why get up, again and again and again, when it didn’t make a change?
She felt something in the Force hurl past her, like a leaf whirling around her for half a second before being blown away, leaving only the strange memory of a panicked voice howling above what sounded like a ship engine.
‘Let it go!’
Her reflection looked back at her curiously.
The blaster made a loud clang as it was dropped on the floor.
“And why the fuck not”, she softly repeated, feeling a familiar emptiness nest inside her chest like a long-forgotten pet. She had lost everything. It didn’t matter that she tried to grasp it back and hold it to herself.
She had lost Ben. She had lost Han. She had lost hope.
She let them all go.
‘Let it go-let-it-go!’
Leia blinked, turning around to find the source of the voice. Han looked back at her curiously.
“What?” he asked.
“Nothing”, she shrugged. “I thought…never mind.”
It wasn’t the first time she felt something no possible reason could explain; Luke had tried to get her to open herself to her intuitions, arguing that these could always be helpful in the unsteady state of the galaxy. She had thought of the masked horror who had once whispered in her head as the paralytic venom made its way through her muscles, of the words of arrogance that had tried to instill terror in her.
‘There is nothing you can do against this, your Highness’, like a satisfied purr as pain froze her limbs. ‘Nothing you can do against the power of the Force.’
She had never found the strength to tell Luke. She had found a lame excuse, and averted her eyes when her brother’s unsaid disappointment had flowed around her.
Ben’s muddy coat was lying on the floor in an undignified lump. She picked it, and held it to her chest for a second. Her son’s scream had ripped her heart in two, even if she hadn’t shown it.
I hate you.
Three words that had broken her world. Three words that she couldn’t bring herself to hold against him. Teenagers said that kind of stuff, she reminded herself - except she never had. She had loved her father fondly, and their occasional fights were only domestic bickering…
I hate you.
Han let out a deep sigh, shuffling his feet awkwardly in the silence.
“I’ll go talk to him”, he offered.
Leia quietly shook her head.
“Why did he do that, Han?” she whispered, looking at the silhouette of Endor through the window pane of the Falcon.
“Vader’s influence, could be?” her husband hesitantly said. “He’s always been curious, he was bound to find out at some point…”
She slowly nodded, guilt crushing her chest. She had never told Ben about the monstrous Sith, leaving it to Han and Luke to explain to her child the blood legacy that was his…
“But why did it have to matter?” she angrily muttered. “He was not my father. I don’t give a shit about blood. Why does Ben?”
Han wrapped an arm around her shoulders, holding her close.
“I don’t know”, he replied. “I… I kinda get it. I never knew my parents, and not knowing where you come from…”
“You didn’t have a family”, Leia huffingly pointed out. “He does. He knows everything he has to know. Why does this monster matter more to him than my father does?”
“Maybe it runs in his blood”, Han casually said. “Maybe it’s something in the Force…”
Leia felt her body freeze, just like that day on the Death Star where the walls of her cell had seemed to collapse over her.
“What?” she whispered.
“You know”, Han awkwardly said. “The Force is strong in your family, like Luke says. And since it comes from him, well…”
“It comes from me, you mean.”
Han sighed deeply, rubbing his forehead.
“Leia, it’s not your fault, it’s just…”
“Vader’s blood. My blood.”
Her husband had stayed silent, and she had felt the wound in her heart rip even further.
She icily freed herself from his embrace.
“I’ll call Luke”, she said as she turned away from him. “If this is about the Force, then maybe he should become a Jedi.”
“He’s not going to like that”, Han warned. “Leaving school, leaving his friends…”
“I don’t give a crap about the little shit that Captain Hux has for a whelp. He will leave tomorrow.”
“Leia, we need to think about this. Ben…”
“Ben lost his rights to this decision when he set foot on this planet. He. Will. Leave.”
Han maintained her gaze for a minute, before slowly nodding.
Leia turned back to the starry sky.
It was a terrible thing to feel her child grow apart from her.
But somehow, the disappointed look in Han’s eyes hurt more than that prospect.
“And this is where we’ll set up the camp for the Poleepkwa refugees”, Leia stated, pointing at the holographic map. “They come from a long way, they will need…”
‘Will you just let go of that fucking thing already!’
“Lady Organa?” Captain Hux asked with a puzzled face.
Leia shook the trouble off her head, forcing herself to smile to the weasel-faced ex-imperial.
She had no idea whose thought she had just heard – it was getting common when she wasn’t paying attention to close herself around others – but she couldn’t let it distract her. She had a job to do, and a former imperial officer to keep an eye on, so letting her guard down was unconceivable.
The man had been in the first ones to ask for Republic pardon, he was competent and hard-working, and stars knew she needed his skills – a galaxy didn’t build itself back up from the ashes of an Empire without some serious logistics involved.
But, oh, how she hated him.
Some dark part of herself looked at his pasty face, and wondered how the skin would feel under her fingers if she ripped it from the bone.
“Just a random thought”, she said pleasantly. “They will need medical support and quick relocation, so make sure the ground welcoming team has got everything they need.”
“I will”, he saluted, and promptly opened a comm channel.
Sleazy little shit, she thought. One of these days, you’re going to step off the line and I won’t need you anymore.
Oh, please, step off.
Completely oblivious to her internal monologue, Hux kept talking to her people.
She couldn’t quite explain why he repulsed her so much – a lot of former Imperials had joined the ranks of the New Republic, pleading their fear of the old system, promising they would serve the new one with fervor.
Leia had met quite a bunch of them; some of them she had read into like open books, feeling the cowardice and opportunism and making sure they never reached positions of importance. Some she had despised, some she had pitied (Vader certainly had a way to ensure people’s loyalty). But none of them disgusted her as much as Captain Flavis Hux.
She couldn’t explain it. The man was barely a fighter; he had taken a desk job and proven so good at it he had quickly climbed the administrative ladder. He was a pencil-pusher; an organizer.
So why Leia felt her stomach roll as if the man was responsible for her worst nightmares was beyond her.
He had taken part, indirectly, to the construction of the Death Star, but he hadn’t known at the time what it was for, as he had assured her – and his words were true, she had known. Vader and Tarkin and the Emperor had kept it hidden as long as they could, knowing that even the Empire couldn’t withstand a massive, united protestation of all its systems. Which would have happened, had the Death Star not been completed before anyone heard of it…
And after that, rebellion had been taken out of the picture. Nobody wanted to be the next Alderaan.
The tinge on her skin as she looked at Hux felt a bit like her occasional bursts of power – when she couldn’t keep the Force contained and it tickled the inside of her veins, like a gas leak waiting for the slightest spark.
Don’t be ridiculous, she told herself. Who cares what the Force has to say?
Fuck the Force.
Inside her womb, she felt her baby kick for the first time.
Resting a protective hand on her belly, she quickly forgot about the weird voice, and got back to work.
‘For fuck’s sake, Han, that’s far enough!’ Obi-Wan yelled. ‘Let go of that lever!’
‘I can’t!’ Han wailed. ‘I’m not controlling it anymore! She’s taking us somewhere, just… just wait!’
‘Wait?’ the Jedi squeaked. ‘Wait?! Oh, sure, just let me grab my crosswords.’
‘Isn’t sarcasm unbecoming of a Jedi?’, Han replied, trying to yank himself free from the dark-energy web that surrounded his non-existing hands.
‘Han, please. You’ve met Luke’, Kenobi snorted.
‘Right, right’, he absently said, trying to get the ship back under control. ‘Two out of the two Jedi I’ve met are whiny, sarcastic ass heads. That’s hardly statistically conclusive.’
‘Since when do you care about rationality?’ Obi-Wan snapped as they swirled past another point in Leia’s life, Mon Mothma laying a gentle hand on her shoulder during the grieving ceremony for Alderaan.
Leia frowned for a second before they disappeared.
‘Would you stop talking already’, Han begged. ‘She can hear you.’
‘Oh, my apologies’, the Jedi drawled. ‘You’re right, messing with the time continuum would be a horrible mistake. It’s not as if we were, I don’t know, GOING BACK IN TIME OR ANYTHING.’
‘Would you rather go back to your carrots?’ Han snapped back. The star shining in the darkness was getting brighter by the second, and he could feel they were approaching their destination.
‘Now that you mention it, yes, I kriffing would like to!’ Obi-Wan shouted. ‘Carrots are nice!’
A long time ago, just outside the Falcon’s window, Leia suddenly found herself awake at night besides Han, with a strange craving for vegetables.
‘Han, for Force’s sake…’
‘Almost there’, Han said behind gritted teeth. The dark energy was vibrating through the entire ship, the hull screaming under pressure. Bits and pieces were spontaneously combusting in black sparks that whizzed around his hands.
‘Han!’ Kenobi yelled as the window pane cracked and a terrible wind came engulfing the cockpit.
Leia was staring at the ceiling.
Four hours until her alarm clock rang and a new day began.
If she fell asleep now, she could get four hours of sleep before what would be the most stressful day in a while, with three separate missions requiring her entire, undivided attention.
She sighed, and kicked the sheet off. Maybe the cold would help. Maybe after a while she would feel the need to snuggle back under her blanket and find some rest.
Maybe her brain would stop replaying the same scene over and over again, in the dark theater of her head.
It had looked like fireworks. A blast of light, a soundless explosion, and bursts of light everywhere. It had almost been beautiful, and it was wrong.
This was not how a planet died.
The tears had dried on her cheeks, but she could feel another wave coming, clenching her chest in abominable pain.
Tonight, she had cried for the scent of snow and pines in her mother’s garden. It had been over a month, and every day brought the realization of a new thing that she would never feel again.
The sunrise above the mountains. The taste of the berries that grew wild behind the East Tower. The little chunk of stone missing from the third column on the pathway to House Rist.
The smell of wind and snow and pine sap in the little piece of land where her mother used to come to read, on top of the Crenate Peak. Where her body was buried, watching over her kingdom as a queen should.
She would never be queen. She wasn’t even a princess anymore. Her kingdom was gone.
Everything, from the smile of her old nanny who had kept recognizing her by her steps long after illness took her eyes, to the sound of the wind through the timeless chimes above the Regal Road, and her father’s voice…
She forced her brain to stop there, her belly contracting with an agony so terrible she thought her heart had stopped for a minute.
She panted on her bed, not caring to fight back the tears.
Not stopped. Just broken.
How did someone grieve for an entire world?
It felt as if every memory of her home had turned to a branding inside her skin, embedded deep into her soul, and yet she was terrified of forgetting anything. What could she do when the only thing left of Alderaan was the memories of their broken princess?
Four hours until the new day came, and she could throw herself back into work to keep her mind from it. Four hours until she could give in to cowardice and flee from herself.
Functioning wasn’t hard, she had found out. She only had to go through the motions. Her brain welcomed dearly anything that could keep it from thinking about thelaserblast-theboom-thefireworks and so she bit into every new problem with unbridled focus.
Still, it would be easier if she could finally pass out and catch some damn sleep instead of relying on an unhealthy amount of caf that drew her heartbeat through the roof.
She had never dared to ask the medical droids for sleeping pills.
She knew at night, when her mind wandered back to the snowy mountains, the temptation would be too strong.
She sighed deeply, and resolved to get up and stretch. At this point, she would have stood on a leg and sung the Tooka Anthem backwards if someone advised her to.
Then she felt something strange wave past her, surrounding her entire body as if she had dived into lukewarm water, and seeping in through her skin…
‘-swear I’m gonna kill you if you don’t letogoofthatlevernow!’
There was a screeching sound that somehow went right into her spine without bothering to go through her ears, reminding her of some sort of supernatural brakes shrieking.
A light was floating in the middle of her room, bright and blue and slightly spherical, not unlike the sprites above the mountains of her lost homeworld. Leia had long stopped believing in spirits, but for a second she was ten again, looking at the eerie glow in the sky and praying for her dad to let her go to the Snow Fest…
‘Oh, fuck me’, the light said.
And the spell was broken.
Leia blinked, and calmly grabbed the blaster under her bed.
“What are you?” she asked, not caring if the question was rude – whatever this thing was, whoever it was, it had burst unannounced in the middle of her room at three in the damn morning. She felt entitled to a bit of rudeness.
‘Um’, the light said. ‘Nothing. You’re dreaming. Go back to sleep.’
Leia raised an eyebrow, and aimed at the light. Its voice (was it a voice though? She kept hearing it despite her ears swearing that there was nothing but the muffled silence of the base) echoed strangely, impossible to identify despite a strongly familiar feeling.
“Are you a spy of the Empire?”
‘No!’ the light said with outrage. ‘I’m just… a dream. Look, can you just forget about all this?’
“No chance”, she calmly answered, and she armed the weapon. “What happens if I shoot you?”
‘Normally, I would say nothing, but given everything that happened today, quite frankly I’m not sure.’
“Then you’d better-“ she started, but the light sighed and snapped in an annoyed tone.
‘I know. I can see that. No, I’m not telling her that. Why? How about because you went too kriffing far and I am not destroying…. Sorry. You were saying something?’
“I was saying”, Leia repeated in annoyance, “that you’d better tell me what the hell is happening before I shoot you and… wait. Who were you talking to?”
‘Nobody?’ the light hesitantly said.
She frowned, realizing there was a faint sound beneath the strange voice. She tilted her head, trying to make out the noise under the eerie echo…
‘Tell her we’re here to help!’ a squeaking voice said, feeble but strained, like a scream coming from very far away.
“To help?” she repeated slowly.
The familiar feeling was growing, an unexplainable intuition telling her that it was alright, that she was safe, that there was nothing to fear from the presence glowing in her room like a ghostly beacon…
‘Oh, for Force’s sake’, the light muttered. ‘You heard that?’
“Yes?” Leia said. “Are there… are there two of you?”
As if she had only needed to ask, a second light appeared next to the first, flickering and weak at first, but growing stronger by every second.
‘Oh’, it said, and its voice was clearer now – familiar too, though it brought a strange feeling to her chest.
‘Oh?’ the first sprite said with, Leia realized in shock, a fair amount of sarcasm. ‘Oh? That’s all you have to say?’
‘Well, that pretty much sums it up’, the second light grumbled. It sounded old, and Leia was now half certain that it was male, too.
‘I can’t kriffing believe this’, the brighter one said. ‘Why, in the name of the Force, did I think following you was in any way a good idea? You’d think after all this time picking up the pieces of your family’s mess, I should know better by now!’
‘Oh, quit whining, Ke-‘
The first light suddenly moved towards the other one, which yelped under the shock. It looked like two fireflies headbutting, Leia thought.
‘Shut it! She can’t know.’
“What can’t I know?” Leia asked, lowering the blaster just a little.
‘If I say you can’t know’, Sprite 1 huffed, ‘you realize I’m not going to tell you.’
It was logical, Leia admitted. It was also unacceptable. She turned to Sprite 2, who was weakly twisting in the other’s immaterial embrace, trying to wrench itself free.
“What is this about? What are you? Who are you? Answer me, now!”
Sprite 2 turned its blob of light towards the other one, with a strangely universal body language despite its lack of a body.
Sprite 1 sighed deeply, a tendril of blueness coming to rub where its head would be if it had one.
‘Look, Leia’, it said with a sadness that reminded her of someone, ‘we mean you no harm. But we shouldn’t be here. And anything you hear can… put you in danger.’
Leia was going to explain to the apparition that danger didn’t exactly make a difference in her life right now, but the other thing was faster.
‘What the hell are you rambling about?’ Sprite 2 angrily said, whizzing away from its companion. ‘We are here for her. We came back for…’
‘It’s too far! Can’t you see?’ the bright one hissed. ‘Look at her! Look around! Do you know where we are?’
‘Good puzzle’, the other snorted. ‘Given the ice packing out of the wall and the heater snoring like a sick Bantha, I’d guess… Tatooine?’
‘Oh, I’ve had it with your attitude.’
Leia would have laughed if she wasn’t so wary. The pair reminded her of an old bickering couple; it was getting more and more certain that they weren’t here to harm her, despite the suddenness of their arrival and the strangeness of the entire thing.
Still, she didn’t like being ignored.
She coughed loudly, trying to remind the two flickering things of her presence.
‘It’s where she led us!’
‘No, it’s where the bloody dark side led us! We don’t know if it was her, or if something just took the opportunity to alter things even further! We cannot stay here!’
‘No but! Look at her! She’s still fighting the Empire here!’
“I am”, Leia said with increasing irritation. “But I can spare a shot for the two weird holiday lights bickering above my bed.”
‘Do you want her to go through all that again?’ Sprite 1 continued, completely oblivious of her threats.
Sprite 2 sighed loudly, turning to her.
‘We could help’, it said painfully.
“You should”, Leia agreed. “Then maybe I would just shoot one of you two. The other gets to float away if you just tell me who the fu-”
‘No’, the bright one stated. ‘I am not going along with this. Get that garbage can of yours back here, and let’s find another point.’
“You are not leaving this place until I have my answers”, Leia growled. She could feel something was happening, threatening to slip between her fingers if she wasn’t careful; whether the sprites were a vivid hallucination or some sort of ancient Alderaanian spirit offering guidance to a lost child of their destroyed world, she wouldn’t let them go.
‘Fine’, Sprite 2 said after a while like the word was ripped from him.
There was another silence, and then:
‘Um. Where is it?’
‘What do you mean, where is it?’ Sprite 1 said with badly hidden panic.
‘Well, do you see it?’
‘No! Of course not! It’s your ship, isn’t it?’
‘You were in it too!’
‘For the love of the Force, if you tell me you forgot where you parked…’
‘I didn’t get a chance to park!’ the small one yelled. ‘You were up my ass about dropping the damn lever, so I did!’
Leia had sit back on her bed, the blaster still on her knees.
She politely waved when the two lights turned to her.
“Oh, now you mind me?”
‘Did you take our ship away?’ Sprite 1 accusingly asked.
After a second of bewilderment, she burst out laughing with the absurdness of the situation. It looked like she was going crazy after all. Soon, tears were streaming from her eyes, her belly aching with the hilarity shaking her entire body.
‘Don’t be ridiculous’, Sprite 2 muttered. ‘As far as she’s concerned, we’re two weird-ass lights who just popped up inside her bedroom screaming about a lever. How on earth do you want her to take the ship?’
‘I don’t know!’ the bright sprite yelled. ‘She heard you! Focusing on you made you appear out of thin air! For all I know, her not wanting to let us go just made the ship vanish!’
‘Amazing loquacity you’ve got there. Wouldn’t have put it better myself.’
Sprite 2 groaned.
‘Maybe if we tell her something she will let us go?’
“I don’t promise anything”, Leia haughtily said, although she was fairly certain she hadn’t hidden a blue-glowing ship under her blanket.
‘We can’t’, Sprite 1 sighed. ‘You don’t understand. Us being here, her hearing us… It alters things. If we don’t leave very soon, before our presence starts changing things too much and it ripples forward, there will be nowhere to go back too.’
‘I mean you can’t change the past without destroying the future.’
“The future?” Leia frowned.
‘Never you mind that, child. Give us our ship back, please? It’s ugly and it smells like feet, but it’s all we have.’
‘You’re the one smelling like feet, old man.’
‘I know it’s all very confusing’, the first light continued, ‘but please. You have to let us go.’
“I’m not the one who brought you here”, Leia snapped. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, I don’t have your ship, and my patience is going thin, firefly-boy.”
‘Oh, that’s familiar’, Sprite 2 snorted.
“Spit it out”, Leia ordered in a low voice. “Now. Who are you?”
‘Friends’, the bright one gently said, and the laced sadness in his voice reminded her of a day long ago, back home, a day that smelled like fresh blueberries and icy water streaming down from the glacier…
She had been a child then, wearing a brand-new dress which she had gotten stained when climbing between the bushes to grab the tiny fruits. Her dad had pretended to be horrified before bursting out laughing, making her promise she would rescue him when Fia Rist, who took care of her laundry, would beat him for allowing her to run around in those clothes…
They had shared the handful of berries under the shade of the big white tree next to the waterfall, her and her dad and his guest of the day, who had run a hand in her hair and thanked her for the fruits, and for a minute it was just the three of them and the song of water, Bail and Leia and…
“Obi-Wan?” she whispered.
She felt a burst of surprise exhaling from the light, and in an ethereal glow, it started to change.
By the time she blinked, General Kenobi was standing in front of her, bright and blue and there.
Forgetting her doubts and her questions, she stood on shaky feet, and ran to hug him.
She felt herself go through something, untouchable but present, like a chunk of space carrying the smell of blueberries, and fell down to her knees.
“You’re dead”, she said lamely, feeling the tears come back. “You… you died.”
‘I did’, the Jedi said in the kindest tone she had heard in a while. ‘It’s alright. It’s alright, child.’
“But it’s you”, she repeated. “You’re here. How can you be here?”
‘I shouldn’t be’, he said while gently stroking her shoulder, which felt like a friendly gash of wind. ‘Leia, I promise, we’ll come back, but you have to let us go now.’
Han felt something painful grab his chest, where his heart used to be. Seeing Leia cry was as rare as it was unsettling; he could count on a hand (if he had a hand to count on) the times where she had broken down.
Or maybe, a nasty thought whispered inside his mind, she just never broke down with him. Maybe she had never felt safe enough with him to do so, maybe the act she kept around others didn’t entirely drop with him.
The young woman sobbing in Old Ben’s ghostly embrace certainly didn’t bother keeping an act on.
He wasn’t sure that his presence was welcome in that reunion, almost feeling like a voyeuristic stranger for a second, but he shook it off and approached the duo, awkwardly patting her shoulder with the disincarnated tendril he had for a hand.
It was Leia. It was his wife. He had come back for her, and he’d be damned if he just stood aside and let an old Jedi comfort the woman he loved.
‘I know it’s all very hard for now’, he hesitantly said. ‘Trust me, I know. But if you let us go, we’ll return when the time is right…’
His own voice sounded horribly fake, and he couldn’t get rid of the guilt in his chest. His Leia had defeated the Empire long ago, but this one was still fighting an impossible fight, risking her life at every turn and grieving for the loss of her entire planet.
It sounded wrong to leave her, and knowing that she had (would?) come victorious didn’t make her tears any less heart-wrenching.
“I’m not doing anything!”
She is not, a soft voice said from far away, like a whisper echoing through a labyrinth. I am.
‘Uh’, Han said. ‘Obi-Wan.’
I need you. Right here, right now.
‘Yeah. I heard that’, Kenobi muttered, still hugging the young woman.
Leia, Han thought, hoping that the only one to hear him would be his. What happens now?
He felt her smile blossom through the Force, anchoring itself in his chest.
Now it’s up to you, she said in a faint whisper, like dust flying away in the wind. And Han?
Her voice was a mere echo now, dissolving into the Force in a last breath.
Don’t forget me.
Something brushed past him, while Han felt the last thread that had pulled him from death with a painfully intense acuteness, like a final energy backlash.
And then it broke, and the Force was silent.
“Yes?” the one on the floor said, and Han felt a weight crush on his shoulders.
‘I… I need to talk to Obi-Wan’, he managed to say, feeling his voice breaking.
The ghostly Jedi patted her on the back, and followed him outside the room.
He remembered that corridor, he vaguely thought. He had pushed her against one these walls an eternity ago, protecting her from a blaster shot as the stormtroopers invaded and the sirens howled…
An eternity that hadn’t happened yet. That might never happen now.
‘She’s gone’, he rasped. ‘Kenobi, she’s… she’s gone.’
‘I know’, Obi-Wan sighed. ‘I heard. Han, I told you… There is a price for changing things now, and it’s everything you ever knew in the… other future.’
‘I don’t understand.’
‘Look, I can’t pretend I know how time travel works – for stars’ sake, until this morning I was just tending to my carrots and complaining about the Skywalkers – but there is one thing I know. The Force doesn’t do split threads. You can’t have two timelines just… crossing over like a time braid. One of them has to go.’
‘When you said, when you said if we changed things here there would be nowhere to go back to’, Han said in shock, ‘it means…’
‘It means nothing is certain anymore. It means we scratched everything that has been done past this point in time – including, might I say, the very kriffing victory against the Emperor.’
‘And Leia… my Leia’, Han whispered.
‘She never existed. She never will, because your Leia didn’t live this evening.’
Han stayed silent for a while, all the memories of his wife swirling through his mind. The way she had hugged him before he left for the Starkiller base, the smell of the perfume he had given her for their twentieth anniversary. The fierceness in her eyes despite the wrinkles surrounding them, the taste they had acquired together for Rodian brandy, the unspoken dialogues they always had over meetings, eyes and looks telling everything that needed to be told.
The way he had held her hand when Ben was born, and the high-pitched squeak of joy he had made when she had put him in his arms (she had never let him forget that sound).
The thousands of inside jokes and references that only came from two people living together for so long.
The fights, the laughter, the sex – the things he had let her do to him, and the ones she had asked him to do to her. The feel of her silken skin under his fingers, the taste of her in that morning when they had utterly misused the kitchen table.
Their lives. Their life.
‘It’s all gone’, Han repeated blankly.
‘I’m sorry’, Obi-Wan gently said. ‘If it’s any consolation…’
‘You are terrible at consolation.’
‘… I was going to say, it doesn’t mean it never existed. You lived it. You are here to remember it. She trusted you to make it better this time, because let’s be honest, it wasn’t exactly all joy, otherwise we wouldn’t be here at all, but it doesn’t mean it never happened. Nor that this Leia and the Han here won’t get those moments.’
‘She sacrificed it. All of it. All of… her.’
‘She did. She looked at everything she was, and she decided it was not worth losing you. Can you please accept that, so that I can finally lose my mind over how insane it is? I don’t feel good bitching about it until you’re okay.’
‘How do you want me to be okay?’ Han wailed. ‘She chose to give up on… on her existence, on the past thirty years of her existence, to give me a chance to feel better!’
‘Oh, for… Han. Do you really think it’s about you?’ the Jedi asked in irritation.
‘Of course it’s about me! It’s Leia. She would have endured it. She would have gotten back up, and kept fighting, but she felt me in the Force and…’
Obi-Wan’s sigh echoed for over a minute in the hallway, which was impressive given his technical lack of a breath.
‘I swear, you are going to kill me. Or I’m going to kill you.’
‘We’re both dead’, Han huffed.
‘Shut up. Listen very carefully, Han. This is not about you. She decided that erasing everything and starting anew was the best possible thing for her. She renounced what she was because she didn’t want of the future that came from her present. You just happen to be the man she trusts with this. Look at her, Han. Look at this woman crying herself to sleep and tell me she decided to rewrite the entire cosmos just for you.’
Han swallowed back his tears, the guilt eroding away a little.
‘She needs us here’, he repeated, and somehow he felt slightly better. ‘She needs us… now.’
‘She said so.’
A silence stretched between them as Han gathered his thoughts. The idea that his past life with Leia was entirely gone, that thirty years of love (and pain, and fights, sure, but love nonetheless) had disappeared from the cosmos felt wrong.
Yet it wasn’t slightly as wrong as letting her live with the knowledge that her son had taken the life of her husband.
‘Alright’, he slowly said. ‘Alright. I can roll with it.’
‘Good. You okay now?’
‘Yes, I think so.’
‘Perfect. Now, WHAT THE FUCK WERE YOU THINKING?’
The power of the Jedi shouting made him tumble backwards, and he fell on a nonexistent butt.
‘What do you mean?’ he shouted back, because Han Solo would be damned if he just let people yell at him without matching in volume, even when he had no idea what he was accused of.
‘Thirty years, Han! You made us return thirty years in the past! Why couldn’t you just let go of that fucking lever after a week or so? We could have warned Leia, maybe even destroyed the First Order…’
‘It wasn’t enough!’ Han snapped. ‘Ben was still indoctrinated…’
‘Then ten years!’ Kenobi yelled. ‘Ten fucking years would have been a reasonable advance! It would have been enough to nip Snoke’s plans in the buds, ensure the Senate didn’t allow the First Order to be even born, maybe even win a few lotteries!’
‘I agree!’ Han shouted. ‘Ten years would have been good!’
‘And… Wait, you weren’t supposed to agree. I feel stupid now.’
‘Just vent ahead, man.’
‘Thirty years is far too much! The bloody Empire is still out there! Vader and Palpatine are still terrorizing the galaxy! Luke doesn’t even know he’s his dad, and he’s far from being a Jedi yet!’
‘I still agree!’ Han yelled.
‘Then why didn’t you let go of that fucking lever?’
‘I couldn’t! You heard Leia, she picked the destination!’
‘Yeah, well I can’t yell at a woman who doesn’t exist anymore! Uh, no offense.’
‘It’s good, don’t worry.’
‘Well it’s your fault for dying in the first place! And for having that ludicrous idea! Oh, you know what, I don’t like how things turned out, how about we ERASE THE LAST FUCKING THIRTY YEARS!’
The Jedi panted for a bit, catching his breath. Han patiently waited. It seemed to him he owed the man as much.
‘What are we going to do?’ Obi-Wan whined painfully.
‘Kick the Empire’s butt again?’ Han suggested. ‘We did it once already. We can do it again.’
‘On the list of the things I never planned to do again ever, this one is… number two.’
‘Don’t ask. Look, Han… It’s a painful time.’
‘I know’, Han said. ‘I understand, okay? About Vader. I know it’s hard for you. But listen, man, it’s a hell of an opportunity.’
‘An opportunity for what?’ Obi-Wan drily laughed. ‘Seeing my former apprentice as scourge of the galaxy again? Oh, yes, I had missed that.’
‘Isn’t there anything you would want to change?’ Han gently asked. ‘Anything you wished you could have done, here and now?’
The Jedi fell silent for a moment, scratching his beard.
‘I’m not sure I can change anything, Han. And if I do, how am I to know if I won’t jeopardize the victory over the Empire?’
‘Well’, Han calmly said, ‘I’m changing things. We’ll see how it turns out, but you might as well slip your requests in, because I am not letting things happen the way they did.’
‘If you tell me you have a plan…’
‘I have a plan.’
Obi-Wan loudly groaned, and rested his forehead against the icy wall.
‘I have a bad feeling about this. No, scratch that. Bad doesn’t even begin to cover how I feel about this.’
‘You need to teach Leia the Force’, Han cheerfully announced. ‘Then she can kick that Sith’s ass when he comes along.’
‘And also kick anyone’s ass that steps out of line’, Han added. ‘That Hux guy could have used a little Force-bitch-slapping.’
‘That’s… that’s actually a good plan.’
‘You don’t have to sound so surprised’, he muttered.
“So…” a voice said from the door frame.
Han and Obi-Wan slowly turned around.
“Did you guys find your ship?” Leia timidly asked, wrapping her arms around herself.
‘Actually’, Obi-Wan slowly said, ‘it looks like we’ll be sticking around for a while.’
“Oh, that’s good”, said Leia with relief. “Now are you going to tell me what is going on? And who is this guy, by the way?”
Han looked at Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan looked back at him, and they both looked at Leia.
‘You might want to sit down for this.’
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