“A map to Skywalker himself? You’re right back in the mess.”
“Maz, I need you to get this droid to Leia,” Han said, willing her to listen to him for once.
Maz peered at him in that head-tilted, considering way she had, and that look? Rarely meant anything good.
“Hmm, no,” she said, and Han’s heart sank. “You’ve been running away from this fight for too long. Han, nyakee nago wadda. Go home!”
Sweet suns, if only it were that easy. “Leia doesn’t want to see me.”
“Please,” said Finn, “we came here for your help – ”
“What fight?” Rey broke in.
Maz turned to her. “The only fight: against the dark side. Through the ages, I've seen evil take many forms. The Sith. The Empire. Today, it is the First Order. Their shadow is spreading across the galaxy. We must face them. Fight them. All of us.”
“There is no fight against the First Order!” Finn half-whispered, half-shouted. “Not one we can win!”
“That,” said a low, tart voice from behind Han, “is what they said about the Empire.”
Han stopped breathing.
“And you know what? They were wrong,” the speaker went on, walking around the table until she appeared on Han’s left, a compact human woman with graying hair and the face that had haunted his dreams. “Hello, Han.”
“That was a long time ago,” Finn snapped, apparently not deterred. “You don’t know what the First Order is like – ”
“I know exactly what they’re like.”
“ – and who are you, anyway?”
She smiled, and laid one hand on Han’s shoulder and squeezed. “Still picking up smart-mouthed strays, are you?” But she sounded more amused than anything else and Han dared to wonder if maybe, just maybe, things might not be as bad as he’d thought. “My name is Leia,” she said to Finn, soft and dangerous. “But you can call me ‘General.’”
Maz held out the lightsaber hilt to the former stormtrooper, but before Finn could take it, Han stepped in and snatched it, glaring at her. He looked at Finn's lost expression and the pain he'd held at bay since seeing that damn map broke through. The pain of thirty-four years gone, of watching Luke turn from the happy brash kid to the haunted Jedi Master, Leia's life shattered as Luke left and Ben was dragged into hell…. His own life destroyed as surely as theirs. “No. I don’t know how the hell you found it, but I am not going to see another life ruined by it.”
“Han – “
“What did the Force get Luke?” he snapped. “A life of misery – hell, we don't even know where he is. What did this saber get him but his hand cut off? What did the Force do for Leia and me? We're torn apart and our son is terrorizing the galaxy. Now you're going to drag Finn under? He just escaped the damn First Order.”
"It's not yours to decide – ”
No, by the Maker, it was his to decide. “It ain't yours either,” Han said flatly. “If it belongs to anyone, it belongs to Leia. So I'll take it to her.”
Not Precisely Suicide
Dear gods, that hurt .
Never mind that Han had known all along that there'd be a last-second miraculous rescue if he got shoved off that bridge, getting run through the chest with a lightsaber kriffin' well hurt.
“Easy! Easy, Han, I've got you. Breathe, that's it – ”
Breathe, he says –! A gasp, another one, and abruptly things unlocked and there was, in fact, air. But it still hurt. “Gods.”
“That's it, that's it.” Firm grip on his arm, gentle hand on his chest. “Easy, now.”
Warmth spread from both those points of contact and in its wake the pain was, very slowly, receding. Han cracked open one eye and tried for a glare. “Cut it – fine enough, didja?”
Luke's mouth pulled up at the corner. “I told you, didn't I, way back then, that if this happened? If you chose to go through with it? It would be very, very close.”
“I didn't – think you meant it.” And Han might have laughed, if he could have, at what he could see of Luke's “why me, lords?” expression. “Oh, gods. I am officially – too damn old – for this kinda shit.”
Luke snorted, and Han got both eyes mostly open this time and looked up into the so-familiar face. “Hey, kid,” he murmured, soaking in the sight: gray beard, wild hair, and all. “It’s – been a while.”
“It has.” Luke's eyes were bright. “Miss me?”
“Not a bit. C'mere,” Han said, and managed to tilt his head.
“Easy,” Luke repeated, but he bent close enough to give Han a long but very gentle hug. “Just rest, for now. We've got a little grace-time here, but it’s all in motion, thanks to you,” he said, pulling back. “Now is when the real work is going to start.”
And why couldn't you have stopped this?! something in Han wanted to yell, but after thirty-four years with this man, he knew better. If there'd been any way Luke could have stopped it … Han swallowed. “I wish like – all hells, that it hadn't come to this.”
Luke's smile turned infinitely sad. “So do I, Han; I can't even begin to tell you how much. But we have a chance to put things right, once and for all.”
Finn looked sideways at Rey, and picked up the narrative when it didn’t look like she could go on. “They spoke, and we could hear them – sound carried good in there – but it didn’t make a lot of sense. Ren said something about knowing what he had to do but not knowing if he could do it, and asking Solo if he’d help him.”
General Organa didn’t move. “And what did Han say?”
“’Yes. Anything,’” Finn quoted. “And then Ren ignited his lightsaber and – ran him through. And pushed Solo over the edge.”
The general’s eyes closed. From the corner of his own eye, Finn saw Poe’s face crease up in pain.
Finn swallowed. “Rey and I – well, before we could react, Chewbacca roared out something – he was a different balcony from us – and fired. One round, dead-on, direct to the chest. Ren went over the edge too,” he finished, and didn’t bother to hide his satisfaction. His only regret was that it hadn’t been himself who’d exacted justice.
A two-tone snarl from behind them, and Rey’s head came up. “That was it, I think,” she said roughly, looking back at Chewbacca, who leaned against the wall by the door, looking only at the general. “But I don’t know that word.”
General Organa’s face looked white as the snow on Starkiller had been, only her deep brown eyes alive as she stared back at the Wookie. “That? ‘Kinslayer’,” she said, in a voice like death and tempest, and came suddenly to her feet. “It means ‘kinslayer’. This briefing is over.”
Thirty seconds later it was only the three humans still in the room. Finn stared at Rey, just as wide-eyed as he himself was, before he turned around. “Poe?”
His pilot friend hadn’t moved, other than to rest his forehead on one hand. “That thing that called itself Kylo Ren?” Poe said eventually, his voice muffled. “Used to be her and Han Solo’s son.”
Up the Down Steps
"This is why I never became a Jedi." Leia stopped to wait for Han at the last landing.
One more flight to the top. A few more steps to the end of a search they'd both nearly given up on.
"Luke didn't come back because he didn't want to have to climb down," Han growled. He'd thought he was in pretty decent shape, but the stairs were unending. "I'm sure there's some great meaning to climbing all this but damned if I can see it."
He looked past Leia to the fog-laden mist rising behind her. "This place makes Tatooine look like Coruscant. We haven't even seen a bird. What the hell's he been eating?"
Leia shook her head, her eyes more sorrowful than Han had seen them in years. "I hope he's all right. That we haven't come all this way for nothing."
He stared at her. "I thought you could feel him up there."
"I'm not a Wookiee. It's not like smelling him."
"You know what I mean."
"Yeah. I know he's here but not how close."
"Then I guess we keep climbing."
The last flight was shorter than the rest but steeper. But the reward was a gray-clad, hooded figure standing at the top, who turned as they cleared the summit. One mechanical hand and one real one moved to push back the hood and Leia remembered Luke had been in the middle of getting a new prosthetic when everything had exploded.
He looks almost as old as Han. Han might be ten years older but all Leia saw were the hard wilderness years in Luke's eyes. He wore his Jedi Master robes, his blond hair now ash, long and wild; his beard streaked gray. He looked at them both for a long moment, then he moved, striding to them as he had all those years ago on Endor.
Leia moved first, as she had then, feeling Han's hand trail from hers, then Luke's arms came around her, his voice, rough from disuse, whispering her name in her ear. She let him rock her nearly off her feet as she whispered his name against his wet cheek.
"Damnit, we looked so long for you," she said, pounding her fist against his shoulder.
"I know," Luke whispered, pulling back to look at her. "I've missed you."
"You damn well better have." She shot a look back at Han, seeing his smile. "Go see the old pirate." She shoved him forward as she had on Yavin, on Endor.
Han gathered him into an embrace, the leather jacket creaking as he pulled Luke close, ran one hand over the wild hair. "Missed you, kid." He felt Luke sob and nearly joined him. "You don't know – "
"I do know," Luke said, his voice rough. He tried to pull back but Han wouldn't let go, instead holding out a hand to Leia to pull her in, so they were one circle.
"Not going away again – agreed? All of us?"
The True Master Swordsman
Luke drew an uneasy breath, bringing the saber back to guard again. Whenever Kylo tried to press an advantage of age or height or the dark, Luke beat him back. Han and Leia were with him in spirit, as they had been when he stood before the Emperor, they were in the strength of his arms and his will. Except now...
"You're old and weak," Kylo spit at him, circling.
Luke laughed; there was no other response he could make. "I'm many things but if I were old and weak, you'd've killed me by now. But you can only kill unarmed men, isn't that right? Because the Dark is never as strong as the Light. Your parents knew that. We taught you that. And you spit in our faces."
"My legacy is Darth Vader's, not my parents."
"Anakin Skywalker turned to the Light at the end."
"So you always said. But the Supreme Leader is wise –"
"The Supreme Leader will drain your power and crush you, just as Han said. And what will it gain you? Nothing. No power, no glory – your rotten remnant of the Empire will go down eventually."
"You won't be alive to see it."
Ren pressed his attack and Luke beat him back. He was weakening but he would finish this even if it took him down.
"No. I'll join your parents in the Force." The thin thread that had held him to Leia, mortally wounded in the last First Order attack, had snapped before he stepped into this fight. But he knew in his heart that she had found Han on the other side and they were waiting for him.
"My father had none of the Force and my mother threw it away."
With that, Luke had had enough. He pressed his attack, beating Kylo back and back, out to the edge of the platform. "Nowhere to run, nephew."
"You aren't going to offer me forgiveness? Redemption? Isn't that what you do? My mother wanted me back.”
“Before you killed Han? Yes.”
“My father forgave me."
Luke smiled faintly at the waver in Ren's voice, the dawning panic. "Forgave you? When he touched your cheek? You never listened to us at all, did you?"
He stepped into his strike and Ren's saber went sailing into the abyss below. "Lucky I didn't take your hand with it,” Luke remarked as Ren winced from the sting of the disarming blow. “Forgave you? No. Corellians touch the cheek of their enemies if they can before they die – he didn't forgive you, he marked you. That was for me and for Leia, so that we'd know that you were beyond our help."
The dark stare was wild at the edges. "I don't want your redemption!"
"Good. I wasn't offering."