It takes a little less than three days for Anakin to pop back up on Luke’s deserted island, formerly the site of a long-abandoned Jedi Temple--he can still see the markings on the ruined stone surrounding him, long since worn away with age and exposure to the elements. He can also see Rey, doing a handstand, glaring at a pile of rocks.
“Ah,” says Anakin, “the old stack the rocks trick?”
Rey falls flat on her face, the rock she’d been starting to levitate dropping back onto the ground. Luke, observing with a half-eaten ration bar, huffs out a laugh.
“Grandfather!” Rey exclaims, eyes bright.
“Hello, Father,” says Luke, pleasantly. How’s Ben? he doesn’t say, but Anakin can tell he wants to ask it. “Not that I don’t appreciate your visits, but couldn’t you have saved it after training?”
“Think about it this way,” says Anakin, “she’ll learn not to let unexpected distractions break her concentration.” He looks around, spies Artoo and smiles, softly. “Sorry I haven’t stopped by sooner--I was kind of a bit busy catching up with a friend of yours.”
“You say catching up, I say stalking,” says Han Solo, popping into existence beside Anakin.
Rey says, “Han?” in a shocked tone. “I--How are you here?”
Luke shrugs, seemingly casual, but he’s radiating grief and shock and joy as well. Good. Anakin wants him to be happy. Force knows Luke and Leia haven’t gotten a break in a long, long time. “You look a lot better than the last time I saw you,” he says to Han.
“Guess that’s one advantage to being dead,” Han dryly says. “Don’t you die any time soon, kid, your father’s terrible company.”
“Grandfather’s company isn’t that bad,” says Rey, and Anakin turns a smug grin on Han. “Though,” she continues, smiling now in a manner that Anakin has learned to dread, “he told me about this one time on Asion--”
“Oh, will you look at that!” yells Anakin, before Rey can really get started. “Luke, I need to talk with you right now.”
“I don’t know, Asion sounds very interesting,” says Luke.
“It’s about--you know,” says Anakin. “And it can’t wait.”
This is what Anakin tells Luke about:
The First Order, after the explosion of Starkiller Base (and good fucking riddance, Anakin’s always said yet another Death Star was a terrible idea, no matter which name it goes by), retreats to an icy planet near the Outer Rim, looking to lick its wounds and rebuild. Said icy planet has an overabundance of rocks.
For some reason, Ben--Kylo Ren, whatever, Anakin once saw him trip over his feet and cry for his mother when he was four, got him to his feet and promised him ice cream--keeps going outside to, essentially, wreck shit. And on the second day, Anakin drags Han over to where Ben is savagely hacking something to pieces and cursing in five different languages, none of them Basic.
Anakin’s kind of impressed. Han looks almost proud at his son’s wide vocabulary, before he squints. “He rode his tauntaun too hard, didn’t he,” he says, resigned.
“Yyyeah,” says Anakin. “But--look around you. What do you see?”
Han looks around, and says, “You can stop being cryptic any time now, old man, all I see are--rocks.” He stops, then turns to look at Anakin. “You are not,” he says.
“Heartfelt declarations didn’t work,” says Anakin, with a huff. “I think it’s time we go back to cognitive recalibration.” And really, it’s kind of precious that Han keeps calling him old when they both look like they used to in their twenties.
“Cognitive what now?”
“Hit him really hard on the head,” Anakin clarifies. “See, he once got a concussion during Jedi training--”
“I got a whole shitload of concussions,” Han interrupts, “and look at me, I’m not throwing a tantrum on an ice planet.”
“No, but you’re dead,” Anakin shoots back, already trying to move some rocks, and Han winces. “Are you going to help me with hitting him really hard on the head or not?”
“That my only option here?” Han asks. “We could just talk to him. Hell, you could talk to him, you’re the one he looks up to the most.” And there’s a bitter twist to his smile, as he adds, “After all, that’s how this whole mess started.”
“What do you think I’ve been trying to do for the past few years?” Anakin says, leaning against the rock he’s trying to push up. It’s a little hard to push things when you don’t have mass, but he’s trying his hardest. “Talking to him isn’t working, and unless you have any other great ideas--”
“I’m starting to wonder,” says Han, “if you didn’t get a concussion too at any point.”
“I got electrocuted a lot,” says Anakin, casually.
Han stares at him. “Well,” he says, “that explains it.”
“So how many times did you get electrocuted?” asks Leia, once Anakin pops into her chambers and tells her as well of his efforts.
“I, uh.” Anakin coughs. “I actually lost count.”
“That explains a few things,” says Leia, acidly. “You realize brain damage does not work that way, right? Han was right to be concerned.” She pauses a moment, eyes breaking away from him as though considering something, before she looks back at him again. “Is Han there with you, right now?” she asks, quiet.
Anakin shakes his head. “No,” he says. “I asked him to come along, but--he’s not sure if you want to see him. Said something about not being able to bring your son back home like he’d promised.”
“Tell him,” says Leia, her voice a soft plea, “tell him that I understand. That I want to see him, and he’s clearly as laser-brained as ever if he thinks I don’t want to.”
Anakin nods, and says, “I will.”
Obi-wan says, without any preamble as Anakin drags himself back into the afterlife after a fruitless day, “I’m guessing the fruit basket I just received came from you.”
“How would you know if I sent you a fruit basket?” asks Anakin. “And, mind, Master, that’s a pretty big if.”
“Because it had a note,” says Obi-wan, “and it read sorry for all my bantha shit, and you’re the only one whose ‘bantha shit’ I’ve had to put up with for years.” A corner of his mouth twitches upward, and he adds, “Took you long enough. I suppose you’re still having trouble with Ben?”
Anakin sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. “He’s grounded,” he says. “The second we can drag his ass back home, he is grounded. For--oh, Han, hell--where did you find those?”
Han shrugs, his arms laden with bottles of Corellian brandy. “Little green troll was stashing them in his own personal paradise,” he says. “You do not know what I had to do to get them.”
“Little green--You got them from Yoda?” Anakin asks. He rounds on Obi-wan and snaps, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because we’d have run out of alcohol very quickly,” says Obi-wan, unfazed.
“I take back the fruit basket,” says Anakin, poking his former master with a finger before whipping back around to Han. “Han, you want a fruit basket? All ill-gotten fruits, I had to bribe five different people to put it together.”
“Any of them blood oranges?” Han asks.
“I think so,” Anakin ventures, after a moment’s reflection.
“Half of them are blood oranges,” Obi-wan says. “Anakin doesn’t know how to put a fruit basket together.”
“Oh, come on--”
“You know,” says Anakin, as he and his son-in-law sit on a snow-covered cliff that has long since gone to dust and ashes (a million voices screaming, then nothing but deafening silence--), “she doesn’t blame you.”
Han stiffens up, a bottle of Corellian brandy halfway to his lips. They’ve smuggled their ill-gotten gains up here, into someone else’s paradise, to watch an Alderaanian sunset. It’s one of the best views Anakin has ever seen, and one of his worst regrets.
“She doesn’t blame you,” he repeats, softer this time. “She wants to talk to you. She misses you.” He looks at Han, and says, “You should go home, Han.”
“I don’t know, should I?” Han says, but there’s a forced quality to his casual quip, and he looks away from Anakin as though trying to hide his own grief. “You sound like Maz.”
“Little orange pirate, right?” Anakin asks. “I liked her. She and Yoda had some kind of rivalry going with each other, during the Clone Wars.”
“She runs a cantina now,” says Han. “Or--ran. First Order blew it up.”
“I haven’t seen her around here,” says Anakin, and that’s a desperate hope, he knows that. He’s only one man. He won’t see everyone in this afterlife.
“Nah, she made it out,” says Han, and Anakin breathes a sigh of relief. “She told me the same thing.”
“Wise ex-pirate,” Anakin says, with a chuckle. “You should take her advice. Go home, Han. Leia wants to see you.”
“She might not like what she sees,” Han points out. “And who’s gonna help you with Ben?”
“If she didn’t like what she saw, we wouldn’t be here,” Anakin counters. “And I’ll drag Obi-wan out, see how well he takes it.”
(Night on D’Qar. The Resistance base is always moving, always busy, but it’s a little less busy at this hour. Poe is sleeping in the medbay by his friend’s side again, waiting for his back to heal.
Leia’s still up, reading over blueprints stolen from the First Order and the things Finn was able to tell them. She rubs her eyes--she’s getting older, she should get glasses if she’s going to keep this up.
Behind her, someone casts a blue light on her readout. She sighs.
“Father, if that’s you, go bother Luke, I’m sure he has a new terrible idea for you to try out,” she says.
“You let your hair down,” Han says, and Leia turns. He looks the same as he did, the last time she saw him. Her vision blurs--tears, she thinks. She’s crying.
“And you,” she manages, “haven’t changed a bit, flyboy.”
Han smiles, soft and sad, then steps forward, arms out.
She meets him halfway, wraps her arms around his surprisingly almost-solid form, and says, “I miss you.”
“I know,” says Han.)