Han reached out to touch his son, and met his eyes one last time. With all the strength and considerable stubbornness he had left in his body, he willed forgiveness into those connections. Then, having done all he was able to do, Han Solo breathed his last and toppled into the abyss below.
The world seemed to freeze around him. Or his mind, at least; Han was vaguely aware of a tearing sensation and the awkward knowledge that his physical body was continuing without him. A small part of him – the tired, grumpy old man part – was annoyed at the delay. He was meant to be making the ultimate sacrifice, here! How dare someone have the nerve to interrupt his selfless moment?
The majority of his thoughts, however, were limited to what in the actual hell?
“What's going on?” he demanded of the void. “Who are you? If this is some kind of sick, cosmic joke...”
“Not a joke.” A woman appeared to him. On a trade world she would have been indistinguishable from any other human woman in the crowd, but in this place at this moment? Han looked twice. She had a small smile on her lips, and kind eyes, and was looking at him as if she knew him very well.
Han had no idea who she was. “Who the hell are you?” he demanded roughly. If this was someone else he owed money to, he was going to be pissed. He was dying for his family right now! There seemed to be no decency left in the galaxy, if this was how his final moments were going to play out.
The woman favored him with a motherly smile which meant he probably didn't owe her money; but it told him nothing else of use. And neither did she. “My name is Shmi. I was sent to show you the way.”
If he had still been attached to his physical body, Han would have rolled his eyes. “I'm pretty sure that's now how this works, lady.”
“Not all the time,” she agreed mildly, not put off in the least by his tone. And, okay, that was a little bit impressive. Nobody except Leia, Chewie, and Lando had been unaffected by his bluster in years. “As it happens, you are a very special case. My grandchildren are very invested in your well-being, Han Solo; because of their devotion to you, and also because of your selflessness, an exception has been granted.”
Was it a side effect of the whole death thing that nothing made any sense anymore?
“Grandkids?” Han scoffed. She was younger than Leia. “How old were you when you started popping out regular kids? And what do you mean, an exception? An exception to what?”
“Ordinarily, when someone dies, their consciousness does not remain so present in the Force. They simply cross to the other side, and their life energy is absorbed. You, on the other hand, are truly becoming one with the Force. Don't panic,” she instructed firmly when Han freaked out. “It isn't as strange a process as you think. In fact, the essence of it was completed long ago; I have simply been sent to guide you back.”
“Sent by who?” Han demanded irritably. It felt like the least of his worries; but he'd learned from Luke that asking questions about the Force never ended in anything less than a lecture, and he wanted to avoid that if at all possible. Then again, if he was dead he had nothing to lose, right? “Who the hell are you?”
The woman drew herself up, and her bearing was at least as regal as Leia's got when she flipped her royalty switch, though not quite as natural. “I was sent by those who came before. Most of the names would mean nothing to you, but one in particular you may recognize. You knew him as Ben Kenobi.”
On a regular day, Han would have laughed in her face. But considering what he'd been through in the last forty-eight hours and the fact that he was still somehow, impossibly conscious, he was willing to give the woman the benefit of the doubt. “That old geyser is finally giving a damn again?” he grumbled. “He quit talking to Luke years ago.”
“The distance became to great. But he has never stopped watching over you all.:
“Well he has a funny way of showing it.” Like letting his namesake turn to the dark side. Han frowned. But that wasn't this woman's fault. Whoever she was. “And you still haven't properly answered my real question. Who. Are. You?”
“My name is Shmi Skywalker. My son's name was Anakin. You would know him as –”
“Darth Vader. Yeah, we met.” So that was what where the “grandchildren” comment had come from. She was Luke and Leia's family. It probably should have surprised him more than it did. Maybe he'd freak out about it later (if there was a later). “Great kid you raised, there.”
She sighed. “My son spent many unfortunate years on a dark path; but he was redeemed at the end, in no small thanks to my grandson. Ani, too, was a part of the decision to help you on this path. There is more for you to do yet; your physical body may be gone, but you may still yet save your son.” Shmi held out a hand, and somehow without his physical body Han was still able to reach out and take it. That would be something to get used to.
Oh, hell. It wasn't as if he had any better options.
“So how does this work, then? If it really is like you say it is.”
She smiled gently, and against his better judgment Han decided that he wasn't afraid. “Just trust me, take my hand. I will show you the way.”