this is as the footsteps of doom
The moment Han finds Ben, Leia Knows.
She can feel it, in the ragged, torn space in her head and in her heart where once had burned her bond with her son. A flicker of embers swirling amid the ashes, a whisper of feeble wind and nebulous voice.
Betrayer, her son cries.
Traitor, her son curses.
And she can feel it elsewhere, too; she feels it deep in her gut, lodged between her ribs, speared deep within her heart. She had never shared a full mental bond with Han—he was no Jedi, no Force Sensitive—but over the years they had spent together, the years they had been one, the years she had spent in his bed and in his heart, she had learned to know his mind and his soul as intimately as she had known her twin's. She could find him even now, all these years later, his life a blazing thread of light in a galaxy of a thousand billion. She could feel him even here, light years away, his fear and his hope threading through her mind as echoes mirrored in ice.
A long moment of silence follows. She cannot breathe, cannot move, cannot turn away from the sudden rush of the Force crashing through her, singing a siren's song of warning and fear. The world turns about her, men and women hustling back and forth calling out words and names and numbers in voices she can hear but cannot understand—but she is nowhere but within herself, within the tide of anger and fear and desperation that rises from her son and from her husband.
She feels the shadows.
She hears the silence.
She tastes the hope.
And then everything shatters.
There is a second, a heartbeat, a breath where it feels as if her entire body is alight, burning very suddenly with a thousand flames and bleeding from a thousand blades. The Force screams in agony, and her soul—oh gods, her soul is being rent, sheared from her bones and ground from her blood.
She feels it in her chest—a spear of light stabbing her through the heart, through the lungs. She cannot breathe, cannot weep, can only feel as her body screams in agony.
Her son cries out, and his voice echoes through the tattered threads he had long since severed. Victory, he cries. I am victorious.
She feels his life.
She feels his death.
And then, as suddenly as it came, the fire, the blood, the howling of the Force is gone. She is left empty, a hollow flask burned and broken one too many times.
And she knows. She knows.
She can feel the emptiness in her, the sudden ache of sudden silence in her bones and in her heart. Yet even so, in those first frantic, horrifying seconds, she still searches. Desperate, despairing, hoping.
Han, she calls, stretching a trembling hand out into the swirling galaxy. The Force curls around her fingers, around her wrist, kissing her phantom flesh—but it is cold within her, frayed and threadbare.
Han, she cries again, looking out into the blazing trails of the universe. She sees a thousand, a hundred thousand, a hundred billion threads of life, blue and yellow and silver and red, each glimmering and sparking like a gem amid a drifting sea of light and dark. She sees them all, until it feels as if she must burst from all the life the world contains.
But she cannot find the one she searches for, and her body screams with the empty vastness of the universe.
Han! she screams, and she clutches at the sight and sense of the thousand billion threads with bleeding fingers. She claws at them, tearing through them clump by clump, searching each, string by string, for what must be an eternity.
But there is nothing. The last of the threads break through her fingers, and where there should have been a thread of blazing gold twined with blue and green, she finds only emptiness. Only emptiness, and the ragged, gaping hole she knew, with every disbelieving inch of her body, she would find.
Han, she screams again, one final time—but this time, her cry is not one of supplication.
And then she feels him—feels her son brush his thoughts against hers as he has not done since the day he had taken a blunt knife to their bond, to carve himself from her mind. Mother, he whispers, his voice an echo in the barren tomb of their minds. Mother...
What have you done, Leia says, begs, demands. What have you done?
I did what I must, her son replies.
And then she sees him—sees them both, for a flash of an instant. Sees the red light, the shadows, the gleam of their eyes in the darkness. Sees the crimson blade, and a dark figure falling from the bridge.
I did what I must, her son says again.
And then he is gone, what fragile threads had bound them once more snapping with the sharp pain of a hundred needles.
Leia blinks, and gasps, and her body shudders from the pain of what she just felt.
"General?" someone asks, and Leia feels a worried hand on her shoulder. She looks up, to find Commander Asotan standing beside her, and half a dozen others turned toward her with worried eyes. "Are you well?"
The lie falls as easily from her lips as it always has. "I'm fine," she says. But this time, she cannot quite force her lips into their treacherous smile.
"Ma'am?" Asotan says, frowning. "Are you sure-"
"I'm fine!" Leia snaps, standing to pull away from the younger woman's touch. "Get back to your station," she commands, more harshly than she means. "We're in a battle."
"Yes ma'am," Asotan says stiffly. "My apologies, ma'am." She steps quickly away, and all the rest turn hurriedly back to their stations.
And once more, Leia is left standing alone, empty and cold.
And, oh gods, she is alone. She can feel it—can feel the void stretching before her, like an old friend welcoming her home. She is empty, torn, and bleeding.
You are alone, the darkness whispers to her, again. Just like before. Just like always. And this time no one will come back to save you.
Luke, Leia calls desperately, as the empty darkness yawns within her. Luke, please...
But there is only silence.