There are bruises across his back, a blaster burn across his bicep, and what feels like the lingering effects of a concussion, but none of that seems to matter. Not when Leia is laying there next to him, curled like a comma against his back, as they find a way to make the cramped beds of the medbay suitable for two people.
It’s not the worse shape he’s been come home in, but it’s bad, bad enough that he can feel her worry. A subtle pressure at the back of his mind. The concern invading his senses just as she has invaded his space. He’s not force sensitive, not even close, but she’s so strongly connected to it that he can sense her.
“Don’t worry about me, princess,” Han tells her.
“I always worry about you,” she insists, “It’s the trouble with loving an idiot that rushes into to danger every chance he can.”
“Well, I can feel you worrying from here. I mean, it’s flattering and a little distracting,” he wants to kiss her, but that involves rolling over and at the moment he’s too sore to manage it.
The trouble is that he can’t see her face like this, can’t see her reaction, but it must be something because her body tenses up behind him.
“Leia? Is something else wrong?”
Now it’s his turn to worry. She had looked fine when he’d seen her, maybe a little stressed from her work as one of the leading generals of the rebellion but that was her usual look. One that he had found quite attractive over the years.
Though silent tension, this was new, and not a good sort of new.
“I – it’s silly, and now’s not the time to bother you with it.”
“Did something happen to Luke? You two aren’t fighting again, are you?”
“That happened once,” Leia insists, her voice carries a hint of indignation and the teasing seems to relax her a fraction. “But no, this is about us, and it can wait until you’re feeling better.”
“No way, princess, you’ve got my attention now. Either you spill it now or I keep guessing and assume the worst and in my fragile state you don’t want me over exerting myself now do you. I mean-“
Of all the things he had expected to hear from her, that was not it. The panic settled within him in an instant, because this was Leia the greatest woman in the galaxy and she was going to be bringing a child into the world, their child, a little boy or girl that was fifty percent Han Solo and if that wasn’t the scariest thing in the world.
He didn’t know the first thing about kids. When all their fellow rebels had been shacking off, and reproducing, cluttering up the bases with younglings, he had Leia had agreed that they wouldn’t join the trend, that they would settle down when the galaxy was free and not a second before them, and now-
“Just breathe,” it is Leia’s voice that brings him back to the present. Leia’s hands coming up to encircle him, draw small shapes on his arms. Soothing patterns that he focuses on instead of focusing on their new reality. “Deep breaths, we can do this.”
There’s a loud shriek of surprise the second he steps out of the ship before a blur of dark hair and dark robes launches itself at Han. He barely has a split second to react, to catch the boy around his waist, and pull him up before he knocks them both down. Ben’s getting too big, soon Han won’t be able to do this anymore and the thought upsets him just a little bit. A frown falling to his face for a split second, replaced the second he meets the beaming gaze of his young son.
“Someone’s happy to see me.”
“You were gone forever,” Ben insists.
“Two weeks is not forever,” Han points out.
Though it’s a useless argument because Ben is repeating forever with the type of insistence that only sounds endearing coming from the mouth of a four year old.
“He gets this from you,” Han says, when Leia finally manages to find where her son has run off to.
The smile on her face, a softer echo of the one he sees on Ben’s all too often, and it makes his heart clench just a little bit. His two favorite people in the world.
It really is good to be home.
He’s not like Leia, he can’t sense when things go wrong. He has to wait for the a holo to come through, has to wait until days later when they’re in the right part of space for their communications to work, and by then it’s too late.
It probably wouldn’t have made a difference if he was there.
He couldn’t have done anything to stop it, not really. They were already too late, things had been put into motion, things Han didn’t even pretend to understand. The Force – he didn’t want to believe in it anymore – wanted to go back to years ago when he could be blissfully naïve, when he was a smuggler and nothing more.
Now seemed as good of a time as any.
“Come home,” she asks him, all but begs, and he wants to give in. He wants to turn the Falcon around, to go back to the rebel base to take her in his arms and promise that everything will be okay. She needs comfort right now, he knows that, he can feel the pain through their bond.
Briefly he wonders if she can feel his in return. If she could have felt Ben’s. They always had a link Han could never compare to, the force allowing them to speak without words as he had often saw Luke and Leia do. He had never resented that before, but now-
He can’t help it.
“I’ve got to finish this, I can’t come home with the job unfinished just because,” our son murdered hundreds of innocent children. He can’t bring himself to say the words. His tongue feels leaden just to think about it.
Though of course she can hear his unspoken sentiment.
“Han this isn’t your fault. This isn’t our fault. It’s the dark side, you know that. It tempts people and sometimes even the greatest fall.”
This is a conversation they should be having in person, not lightyears apart. Han should be pulling her into his arms, not staring at a holo screen with anger building inside of him that he can’t even begin to explain, but the distance makes this easier.
“Like your father?”
“Where’s the Falcon?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he says brushing past her, because while the loss of his ship stings it’s nothing to compare to how much of a mess the job had been. The mess that everything has been lately. He’s distracted, has been for far too long and it’s just all catching up at once now.
The last time they’d spoke they’d fought, same with the last four times before that, ever since Ben turned it had been nothing but stilted holo conversations and taking enough jobs that he never had to stay at the rebel base for too long.
It didn’t matter that they’d changed locations more than enough times, he could still see the shadows lingering in the place that they’ve been, in the faces he’s known for far too long.
“Han,” her hand tightens around his arm holding him in place. When those eyes that he knows so well finally meet his he can feel in pain, pain that burns inside of his chest. Such that he wants to give up the fight, that he wants to do whatever he can to take the pain away from those eyes.
But he can’t.
They both know the only way to ease that pain would be to have their family back together, and Han’s never been an optimist, not like Leia. He knows a losing fight when he sees one. And he’s lost, they both have.
It took him a year of pushing himself to the point of breaking, working so hard that he’s too exhausted to stay up late at night thinking about everything he’s done wrong that led to this point.
“I’m leaving in the morning,” he tells her, when he finally finds her voice.
“I wasn’t aware you were given orders,” she says it casually. As if she wasn’t the one who all but commanded the fellow leaders of the rebellion not to give him anymore work, to ground him so that they could finally have their talk.
“I’m leaving the rebellion. I’ve got contacts, people in need of a good smuggler and-“
“No.” She’s sharp and angry at him. The touch of tenderness that had been there moments before vanishes at once. “No.”
“You changed your hair.”
She feels it.
Lightyears away, but of course she feels it. He may not be force sensitive, but there’s a link between them; one she carefully worked to forge, her awareness bleeding into his. A way she had been able to check on the man she loved even when he didn’t want her there.
The bond which had been so full of life before – full of love and regret and a hint of hope – snaps so suddenly that it leaves her head spinning. As if the very air was sucked out of her lungs, a burning feeling spreading through her chest, through her heart.
Though she had never experienced it before, Leia knows at once what this is.
Irrationally she tries to fight it, as if there is something left to fight, she reaches out to the broken bond in the back of her mind. Willing the force to not take this one away from her too. She’s already lost so much, surely even the force cannot be this cruel.
And yet it is.
For there are three broken bonds now; one broken through pain and regret, one broken in a fit of childish anger, and one –
She sucks in a shaky breath, because there is no denying this.
This is what death feels like.