Heaven is the Falcon.
Of course it is; that’s not the surprise. What is the surprise is the woman standing at the window, her dark hair silhouetted in starlight.
For an instant he thinks it’s Leia, and his heart contracts.
But no, her face is younger, eyes softer than his wife’s steel. Han Solo didn’t make it either as a smuggler or a general by being an idiot, though—ignore anything you hear Chewbacca mutter to the contrary—so he recovers in time to make an awkward nod to his mother-in-law.
”Hello,” he says, coupled with his best shit-eating grin, and falters, because Nice seeing you here doesn’t quite cut it. As always, when his wits desert him, the temptation of a well-timed wisecrack takes over instead, and so: “When I was just a kid, they told me the in-laws would rather see me dead than wed, but I didn’t think they meant literally.”
The woman laughs. It’s nothing like Leia’s, which, oddly, is a relief. “It would be hard, I think, not to make a better first impression than Annie—“ (And. Darth Vader, Force-wielding murderer and certified nut-job, and she calls him Annie. The mind boggles.) “—but I did want to welcome you to the afterlife, General Solo.” She pauses, although her smile stays resolutely in place. “Such as it is.”
That’s all right; Han never figured himself the sort who deserved the best of all possible future worlds, though surely the sainted woman who’d loved Vader must have. Instead the question bursting from his lips is:
”Look. I heard, from Luke—that is, I’ve heard of people coming back to the ones they love, just for a moment as a ghost, or a vision….” He struggles to find words to describe what he wants to say: reminding Leia that she was the best thing that ever happened to a guy like him, telling Luke to get his damn stubborn self back to his sister’s side where he belonged, making sure that the girl—Rey—was all right…. “I don’t have anything like what Luke does, or Leia, but maybe—”
Her face is sympathetic, and he knows the answer without having to hear it. Desperately Han wishes she had still been around when he’d married into the clan. They could have formed a club, maybe: how to survive being married to a Force user when you’re as untalented as they come. At the very least he figures she’d have advice on how to outsmart that Jedi mind trick when it came to finding yourself up for the third time a night with the baby.
”I’m afraid not, General, but,” her face brightens, and oh, there’s Leia in her features, “I can offer you this.” She gestures with one elaborate sleeve. “If you’ll follow me to the balcony?”
Balcony, huh? Clearly this woman sees nothing of what he does—and why should she, the only woman of her station this ship has ever taken to was Leia. But he follows her back to the window anyway, because even the glimmer of hope that she offers is more than he can pass up.
He stands with his nose pressed to the window, feeling stupid and hating, wishing he saw anything but the stars and wondering if there was some other gimmick no one ever mentioned. Try as he might, he can’t make out Leia’s eyes, or Luke’s smile, or even the girl’s ridiculous hair.
When his eyes burn, and that with tiredness, not tears, he admits: “I don’t see them. I can’t see Leia. I’m sorry.” And he is—sorry that despite how much it took out of him, how much it burned through him and made him a better man, he clearly doesn’t love her daughter as much as he should. He remembers his son’s shout of, It’s not like you’ll ever understand! You’re not a Jedi! and swallows.
”It’s not them we stay to watch,” the woman corrects, and that’s right: her husband is dead. Luke burned Vader's corpse himself. So she means—
He turns again to the window, and now the image blurs momentarily before coming into focus into that pale face, that cloud of dark hair, that long nose that was always his son’s despair. Ben lies on a bed somewhere on an unfamiliar ship, curled up into a ball just as he would when he was a kid. Han’s chest twinges where Ben’s slipshod lightsaber slashed between his ribs, and hey, that’s another advantage of being dead. Turns out things like betrayal and murder really are just water under the bridge, and even if they weren’t—he’ll forgive Ben anything, once he’s ready to be forgiven. It's part of being his father.
The woman at his side smiles as though she can guess what he’s been thinking. Han guesses that’s something else they have in common, that if anyone else can understand what he’s been feeling these last few terrible years and help him move past it, it’s her.
But that comes later. For now, Han presses his hand to the window and whispers: I love you, son.
Ben shifts in his sleep, and almost imperceptibly, his shoulders relax.
That'll do for now, Han decides. That'll do.