The first time Ben ever heard of his grandfather was before he was even born. Han liked to speak to Leia's belly, late at night as she read drafts for laws and sent scathing comm messages to her political enemies. He would plop himself on his stomach and rest a hand over the thin layer of skin and disgusting biological components when his son was growing, and tell him about the amazing adventures of Indiana Solo.
Leia pretended she wasn't listening too, but it was no use. Han knew no one could resist a good Solo family story.
"-- Indiana took the holo in one hand, stole the blaster from the downed General, and shot his way out of the forest towards the edge of the cliff. The droids kept chasing him and he kept running, until there was nothing in front of him but the abyss.
After a moment, he held out his arm. If he let go, the priceless artifact would be lost, but he knew it was a price the people of Rhomans were ready to pay, as long as their enemies did not get it."
"That's not his call to make," Leia said. "I mean, I agree with it, but it really wasn't Did he ask the Rhomans if they were alright with his destroying their cultural heritage? Was that part of his contract, in case of danger of acquisition by enemy forces destruction is allowed?" She squinted at him from above her huge bump. "Did your father even sign contracts, or is that too legal an expectation for treasure hunters?"
"I have no idea," Han said, which was a lie. He totally had an idea. There had once been a pile Indiana's contracts with the craziest clauses, before he had gotten drunk one time and burned the flimsy before Chewie could stop him. "Probably not. He was an archeology professor, you know, it was Mom that knew more about legal stuff."
"Your mother was amazing," Leia agreed, because Leia probably had her own pile of Miriam Solo's badass field reports from the Republic Army intel ops.
Han nodded. It was true; his mother had been made of 95 % awesome and 5% Corellian vodka.
Leia pretended to turn back to her boring paperwork, but after a moment she poked him in the head. "Well, go on."
"As Her Worshipfullness commands," he said, and kissed her bump to forestall any more poking and/or elbowing.
"--Indiana said, 'Don't think I won't do it, you ugly bastards.'"
"'It's no use, Solo,' sneered the evil droideka General. 'Give us the holocron, and perhaps your death will serve the Nhazi forces of the Separatist army.'
'How about no," Indiana said, and adjusted his hat.'"
"I see where you get the snappy one-liner genes from," Leia muttered. Han ignored her.
"And then Indiana cracked his whip in the air, wrapping it around the neck of the droideka General. It tried to shoot him --the shot missed him by an inch, but by the Indiana was already moving. He jumped from the cliff, fell down towards the river, a kriffing freefall, only to land on the open door of the ship.
"'How did you know I was coming?'" Miriam asked --" Han wiggled a finger at the bumb," pay attention kid, that's Grams Miriam -- ",as she shot down the droidekas. She had one hell of an aim, and by the time Indiana had settled in the copilot seat the cliff where the droidekas had been was rubble.
'I knew you couldn't resist not being the one to kill me,' he said, and kissed her as they left atmosphere and the stars blurred behind them.'
"How romantic," Leia whispered, but she was smiling a little.
"And that was how the treasured holocron of the ancient civilization of Rhoma was returned to its peoples place of learning, Grandpa Indiana saved the day, and Grama Miriahm saved his ugly mug. The End."
"That's not the end," Leia said, outraged. "You didn't even say what happened to the holocron, and what the repercussions of a dead droideka General were, and how Indiana really knew Miriam was coming."
"It's a Solo thing," he said, and this time he dodged the poke.
In a planet like Corellia, where bounty hunters, treasure hunters, and all manner of hunters abounded, it took a lot of luck, gumption, and brains to make it to infamy. Indiana Sola had all three. His son was one lucky bastard, and he'd proved his mettle in the Resistant, but anyone who willingly married the thunderstorm named Leia Organa had to be a few bolts short of a lightsaber.
To be fair, he'd been in love. Still was, despite everything, which was what made things so difficult.
"You know this ain't your fault, right kid?" He asked Ben. Ben didn't look at him. Ben hadn't looked at either him or Leia since last night's argument. Though, it was technically last week's argument, which started last month and continued 'til the early hours of the last night. That's when the silence settled in.
Han could sympathize. He didn't like the silence either.
But by now he knew how to weather this out. Fatherhood, more than anything in his years as a spice dealer and reluctant war here, had taught him the value of going quiet and still and looking like he wasn't waiting.
He picked up one of the pads --Ben was like a pad orbital zone, except when it was a holo orbital zone. This one was about the people from the Amazhon forest planets, and their supposedly magical artifacts. Not stuff most kids liked, but Ben was all for anything to do with history and the sort. Smart kid, he was. Luke said he probably knew more bout Jedi history than he did.
Sometimes Han asked himself what he had done to deserve having a tiny version of his father as a son, but then he remembered Ben was also Leia's fault, and that evened things out.
He was starting to fidget --the Amazhon hidden kingdom was pretty interesting, but he'd been there and no mysterious glowing rocks were worth the mosquito bites --when Ben said, "I know it's not my fault."
Han cleared his throat. "Good. 'Cause it's not. Whatever happens between me and your Mum, I don't want you blaming yourself for it."
"I don't," Ben said sullenly. Then, he seemed to gather his nerves to say something, and added: "I'm not sorry either. I like the Force."
Han had to fight not sigh. Fatherhood had also helped solidify Leia's lesson that blowing out a frustrated breath was only going to veer things off track. He wanted things to go down the right track for once, as right as a conversation between a kid left behind and a father with spacelust could go.
He knew this dance, Han did. It was probably written in the stars, or the Force --or maybe his genes, maybe there was something about them Solo men that made them wild and restless, unsatisfied with stagnancy-- but he'd promised himself when Ben was born that he'd never leave without talking to his kid before heading out into the dark starry black. He'd been in those shoes and like Sith hell he was gonna pass them on to his kid.
"I'm glad you like the Force. It's part of you, you don't have to use it if you don't want it, beyond some basic training and stuff, but you shouldn't ignore it either."
Ben looked at him sideways. He hadn't turned a page in the pad in ages. "Uncle Luke said Gramp Indiana might nave been Force Sensitive. And if he was, you might be too."
Han huffed and slumped more aggressively. Aggressive slumping was a skill, no matter what Chewie said about defense mechanisms. "Your grandfather was as Force Sensitive as a rock. No, wait, he studied rocks and some of them were Force Sensitive, but he was not. We Solos are regular, no space-mojo people."
"And I'm not?" Ben dared, lifting his chin in an expression that was all Leia. Kriff, he even asked trick questions like Leia.
"You're a Organa-Solo," Han said gruffly. "You're Ben. My kid. You're special alright."
Han wasn't sure, but he was pretty sure the way Ben went all soft eyed was all him, kriff it all. "You're pretty special too, Dad," he said, not looking at him. He still hadn't turned the pad page.
"Yeah, yeah," Han said, and tried not to think how he was supposed to take flight in an hour or Leia was kicking him out of the house. The Falcon was waiting, but it could keep waiting, and Chewie wouldn't mind. "Now, tell me bout these Amazhon people. Is it true they have these kickass lady warriors? I've heard things bout them, but don't tell your mother I told you bout it or she'll have my hide."
Ben smiled up at him, and started talking. Han straightened his back. By the look of things it was gonna be a long rant, and it didn't kill his pride after all to admit that his back wasn't what it used to be.
The first thing Luke ever said to Han was to insult the Falcon, which would have been enough to put him in his bad graces, if the next thing he said hadn't sealed the deal.
"Solo? Not related to Indiana Solo? The legendary treasure hunter?" Luke asked, eyes wide with idolization and, the closer he looked at Han, bafflement. He resented that, he really did.
"Might be. That gonna be a problem?"
Thing is, when your Dad is in the Empire's most wanted list (dead or alive, though gagged-and-tortured was preferred), a kid had to learn to watch his back. Especially in a business like his. Lots of people thought they could sell him out to the Imps, or the Hutts, or whoever else still held a grudge against his old man. Han had had to learn how to run very fast, one of the reasons he had gone to so much trouble to make the Falcon the lightening fast speed demon it was.
That, and someone had to keep up Ma's old ship. It took a lot of work, and she wouldn't pass it on 'till he agreed not to change his name, but kriff if it wasn't worth it.
Didn't mean it didn't leave a bad taste in his mouth when little desert planet hicks like this looked at him like they were trying to find their childhood hero in his face and failed to find him. Han knew the feeling.
"It's not going to be a problem," the old man said. Just as well, since the kid looked ready to start pelting Han with questions bout his Dad's adventures, and that was a big no no.
Han changed his mind when he recognized the thoughtful look the old man was giving him.
"You know, I met your father during the war against the Separatists. Never met anyone who knew was much about ancient languages."
"That's my old man," Han said. "One hell of a scholar."
"His taste in haberdashery left something to be desired, however," he continued, as if anyone had the right to insult The Hat. Well, Han insulted The Hat all the time, but it was his prerogative.
Then the kid really did break into questions, and Han rolled his eyes. He'd have rolled them harder if he'd know he was going to get a kid as prone to enthusiastic prattling on as this one.
"Uncle Luke, did you know there's an old man speaking in my head?"
Luke, who had until then been flowing in the peaceful currents of the Force, went very cold all over. Ben had Han's talent for breaking his meditation mindset with annoying ease.
Then what his nephew had said registered, and he knew there was no fighting the coming headache. It was a Force headache, for one thing, so it was better not to ignore it; but it was an Organa-Solo headache, and really, there was literally no way to ignore that. He'd know, he'd tried enough times.
Ben sat down in front of him, falling into meditation position and breaking it immediately by fidgeting. His presence was a distraught point in the Force, alarmingly angry but mostly deeply anxious, and Luke softened.
"What do you mean, speaking in your mind? Like your conscience?" He asked cautiously. Ben was a little old for imaginary friends, but it was better not to shot down those things without consideration. Luke had vague memories of playing in the desert behind the Lars' homestead with an imaginary friend that was, in hindsight, probably Leia.
"Like someone is whispering in my ear, only it's in my head," which, alright, was a decent answer. Luke remembered Old Ben's voice as he took the shot that destroyed the First Starkiller, and that was a good way to describe having someone else shove thoughts in your head without you asking. Whether the speaker was dead or not, it wasn't a pleasant experience.
"It doesn't speak all the time, but it feels like it's there, like a bad echo. Especially when I'm sad, or angry, it amplifies those feelings."
Going by his expression, it would take more than one talk to go through those feelings. Luke wondered if the Old Jedi Order involved so much focus on emotional therapy. Probably not. It would explain quite a lot. "How do you know it's an old man, Ben?"
"He has old man voice. Like Dad, before morning caff," he answered very simply.
Luke did not choke; Luke was a renowned Jedi Master, and renowned Jedi Masters did not choke in their laughter. They released it into the Force to meditate on it later, preferably when alone with no one to hear then guffaw, and when it became clear whether of not his nephew was being mind-probed by a Dark Sider.
He'd like to say it was probably not a Sith, but knowing their family, it was probably a Sith. Luke sighed mournfully. Ben really was very young to be dealing with the Skywalker legacy already.
"For a while I thought it might be Gramp Indiana," Ben said, looking a little disappointed. "A Force Ghost, you know? You said be might have had the Force. But it doesn't sound all that much like Dad. And I've head holos of his classes, and it wasn't him. It's --an oily voice. I've tried to look with the Force, but I've not seen any ghosts. Well," he added thoughtfully, "except Master Kenobi, but that's normal. He just likes to have someone to play sabacc with."
It really wasn't normal. Luke had had no idea old Ben had been appearing to young Ben, much less corrupt him with his sabacc cheating ways, but he'd deal with that later.
"Do you have any idea who it might be?" he asked gently.
Ben nodded earnestly, and opened his satchel. Luke watched with some apprehension as he took out an impressive pile of holos and flimsy.
"Oh yes. You know how Gramps once stole the Sith holocron from the lost planet Athlantys? Well, turns out the Jedi Order wanted it, but by then Shadowmaster Dooku had Fallen, and Gramps didn't trust them with it. Good thing to, or the Empire would have gotten it eventually. Well, he hid it in the treasury of Corellia's University. You know how they called Dad some time ago about the artifacts there in his name? He told them to call later and then ignored them, but I -- might have called back. Maybe?"
"Ben," Luke started very slowly, "have you been studying Sith artifacts to find out how to deal with the Dark Side in your mind?"
Ben tried for repentant, but he did not have the good sense to hold it for long. "Not directly! I only saw the holograms the University sent me. But what I really needed was Gramp's report. He wrote down what the old guardian of the Sith Temple said, before they died when the temple was destroyed in a battle with the Seps, and it really was interesting." Ben's face, which usually lit up when he talked about anything deemed interesting, was very small and careful. "Did you know there are ways for the Sith to manipulate from a distance the minds of possible apprentices, to groom them from childhood?"
Luke's headache wasn't going anywhere, he could already tell.
"I don't want to be a Jedi," Ben declared one day over breakfast. Leia, who had one hour and a half until she was supposed to address the New Republic Senate about the rising need for military action against the Fist Order in the Outer Rim, hummed.
"That's nice, honey."
"I want to be an archeologist like Gramps Indiana."
"What a surprise," Han drawled. Leia did look up at that to give him a sharp glare, but Han didn't need the reprimand. He was already messing Ben's head, cheerfully ignoring his scowl while chugging down his caff. "You've been studying old ruins since you were a youngling. I think you've met more mummies than most taxidermists.'
"Mummies are better company than most taxidermists," muttered Ben, who had a fraught relationship with stuffed, cursed animals, a result of their unfortunate family trip to Danthomir. She'd told him not to wander away from their camping site, but of course he'd gone and walked right into an old training center of the Night Sisters.
There had been booby traps. Ben had been delighted, except for the thing with the stuffed snakes. Ben hated snakes with a passion that in people of her family tended to prelude great and mortal confrontations of galatic proportions.
"Point is, I don't want to be a Jedi."
Leia and Han shared a look. They had plenty of looks, but this was a new addition that translated as our son was being mind-groomed by a Sith Lord what the kriff do we do with that. "Your father and I respect that. As long as you continue training with Uncle Luke," and Force, did their kid need training, "we have no problem with you being an archeologist."
"Good," Ben grinned. It was her own tenacious grin in her oval face, Han's eyes shining at her. "No offense, but I don't want to do that same thing as Uncle Luke. Or a Senator like you, Mom."
"Ouch," Leia muttered, and Han snorted.
"I don't even want to be like Gramps. I don't think I'd make a good teacher, but I'm not comfortable with treasure hunting. I was different during the war, when precious objects had to be found and moved in a hurry or they'd be stolen, but what he did was theft too. He didn't even have proper contracts!"
"I know," Leia said."I'm glad you're taking into consideration the legal side of archeology."
"Yes. " Han statled when all the focus of that intense focus turned to him. Ben wasn't looking at him, exactly, more at a point above his shoulder, but he was staring at it quite fiercely. He was also, Leia noticed, a little flushed. "That's why I want to be like Dad."
"Kid,” Han said, voice rough and honest, "you can do better than that."
Leia closed her eyes for a moment. She did not have the time for this conversation, bur right now it wasn't about her. It was about Ben and Han and the closest thing they all had to positive emotional communication they had since Ben started training to keep Snooke out of his head. They realized that it was a difficult mental process to anyone, especially someone so young, but it was difficult to have Ben spend most of his time meditating or studying, and deflecting every approach.
"I mean, probably," Ben agreed. "I don't agree with that sentiment, but I don't want to be a pilot. Not only a pilot, anyway. But a freelance archeologist needs a ships."
Han was blinking a lot and trying not to look like he was doing it, so she took pity on him and lifted her eyebrows. "That's one career I've never head of. I like it, but don't think that having a clear goal is going to excuse not paying attention to your other studies."
"I know," Ben waved it away. "I've got a list of places I want to go to --not now, maybe, but when I'm older. And I thought that I could go there with you, Dad. And Chewie. If Mom is alright with it."
"Did you take it up with Luke?" she asked.
"Yes. He said we could set up meditation schedules through the comms, and that we'd speak about it at lenghts. But it shouldn't be a problem." Ben shrugged, more wry than most boys his age. He really was spending too much time with Kenobi's Force Ghost. "Not more than usual, anyway."
"Then I'm alright with it," Leia conceded. "With some conditions, but we can talk about it later." She trusted Han with Ben, but she wasn't sure how much she trusted Ben's reckless curiosity with Han.
Also, she wasn't one hundred percent okay with sending her kid into space while dealing with Sith-related mental issues, but at the same time keeping him around the same setting was probably not a good idea. Ben had patently refused to leave the Falcon for weeks, but they'd had to drag him kicking and screaming (and eventually sedated) for the worst of the Force cleansing process, or whatever it was.
It had worked, whatever intensive meditation regime or ritual Luke had helped him through in the verdant planet he'd been taken to. Dangobah was as good a place for Force healing, as far as she knew; isolation was apparently required for part of the process. Afterwards Luke had suggested having him full time on his academy, but Ben had made a persuasive holographic presentation based on historical precedent defending that distance from sources of attachment did nothing to stop the influence of the Dark Side.
The cornerstone of his thesis had been Anakin Skywalker's sad, sad career as a Jedi. Leia was very proud that her son was taking after her in ruthless insensitivity.
Han, however, was more soft hearted. Presently he shrugged and settled into that deliberate slump of his. "Sure. I mean -- yeah. We could do that. In the holidays."
"Wizard," Ben said, and grinned.
Han grinned back the exact same smile. "Yeah, kid, it sure is."
Leia wasn't even surprised when Ben and Han came back from Corellia wearing matching brown hats out of fashion by sixty years.
She made Ben promise not to train with the whip unsupervised, though.