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tricks on me

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There were ghosts of him everywhere.

Leia thought she had gotten past all of that. Seeing him in other faces, out of the corner of her eye, hearing his laugh when there was no one there. She'd been through her stages of grief. But losing him again, knowing that this time he was never coming back, it was different.

It was infinitely worse.

Han's death had awakened all the old ghosts she had thought she put to rest, and Leia was finding it troublesome to deal with. Sometimes she caught herself turning, opening her mouth to say something to him, only to realize that it was merely a tech or a pilot, or no one at all.

“You know, only crazy people talk to ghosts.”

And sometimes she really did see phantoms. Which, actually, wasn't nearly as disturbing as it probably should have been.

“Luke used to talk to Ben Kenobi,” she pointed out to the Han-shaped hallucination walking by her side. He was still old, at least. That was comforting. Sometimes he had the nerve to appear as he had when they'd met, and that just wasn't fair.

The hallucination chuckled. “Yeah, and that kid has been crazy since the day I met him.”

“That's my brother you're talking about,” she chided fondly. No reason not to be civil with the ghost, after all. “I'll have you know that it's not a family trait.”

“I'll take that one up with the committee.”

Leia rolled her eyes. “I am not a committee,” she muttered.

“General Organa?” Rey was suddenly running up to her, and the Han-ghost was gone. Just as well. It wouldn't do to look crazy in front of the kid, talking to thin air. “Excuse me, General, I was wondering if I might ask you a question?”

Leia felt her lips twist into a smirk. “I believe you just did.”

“Oh, but I didn't mean --”

Gracious, the girl was nervous. She hadn't been before; Leia wondered what had changed. “Ask your question, Rey.”

“Well...” Rey bit her lip, eyes downcast. “IwaswonderingifyoumadeamistakegivingmetheFalcon?” The words tumbled out in a rush, all strung together.

It took Leia a second to decipher it. My father would have given it to me if he ever heard me stumble through a sentence like that. But Bail Organa had been a trained diplomat, as was she. Rey was just a girl whose former training had consisted mainly of climbing through wrecked starships for spare parts. Diplomacy had probably not been a high priority on Jakku.

Leia sighed. “Don't run your words together when you speak,” she instructed gently. “Voice clear, back straight, eyes up. Don't end every sentence with a question.” She watched as Rey processed and applied her instructions, correcting her posture and making eye contact. “Good. Now, try again.”

“I think that someone might have made a mistake,” Rey said. She took a deep breath, and Leia could see her mentally editing out question marks. “Somehow, the Millennium Falcon appears to have been transferred to me; but I was just along for the ride. Chewbacca should have it. Or you, ma'am.”

Ah, so that was it. In retrospect, simply transferring the ship without any explanation was probably not the most tactful way to have handled the situation. But grief did funny things to people; and it was a hell of a scapegoat. “There was no mistake, Rey. The ship is yours.”

“Why?”

This time, Leia did not correct the question. “Because I believe it was what my husband would have wanted.” She smiled, softening her tone. “I'm old, Rey. Too old to be gallivanting around the galaxy the way I once did. I have a job to do, and right now you have a different one, I think. Take the Falcon, find my brother. Bring him home.”

“What if I can't?”

Leia put a hand on the girl's shoulder, and did not shiver at the awareness of all that raw, untapped power just beneath her skin. Oh, Rey was going to do great things.

“The Force will be with you, Rey. It's always with you.

“Now, go pay a visit to your friend before you leave. He's finally out of the Bacta tanks. Probably he won't wake up for another few days, but he's alive. Go see him.”

She watched quietly as Rey hurried away.

“Oh, just admit it. You like the kid.”

“She's a good girl,” Leia agreed thoughtfully with a glance at the ghosts once again inhabiting the corridor space beside her. It was almost natural. “Willing to learn, and so much potential. I think that she is going to do great things.”

“Yeah, well, be careful with that. Darth Vader had potential, too; look where that got him.”

Ben Solo had potential. Leia shut down that train of thought before it got any farther. That was the last thing she needed to be adding to her plate of guilt right now. “Maybe Rey just needs the right influence.” Perhaps when the girl got back, she would take her aside for a little talk.

Ghost-Han was shaking his head, laughing. “You, a mentor? Are you gonna turn the Resistance into some kind of role-model program for displaced, Force-sensitive brats?”

The words were harsh, but the tone was unmistakably proud. At least when she hallucinated, Leia did it therapeutically. She chose to take the words in the spirit in which she would have intended them, and leave it at that. “I love you,” she admitted softly to the Han-ghost.

It grinned, and for a moment there was an echo of the rakish young smuggler from seasons past. “I know.”

As Leia had discovered, the exchange usually sent persistent hallucinations back to wherever they came from. This was no exception. The Han-ghost faded away with a smile still on his face, leaving her standing alone in the corridor.