Chapter 1: Ben's Birth Gift: Leia Organa & Amilyn Holdo
Leia has a surprise visitor after Ben's birth.
C-3PO had just shut down for a recharge and Leia was nodding off, datapad forgotten on her lap and the bliss of sleep tugging at her eyelids, when the buzzer at the door sounded. She hadn’t been expecting visitors today and had thus allowed her protocol droid some downtime, but whomever it was did not seem deterred by Leia’s slowness in answering their summons. By the time she reached the door her visitor had pushed the buzzer at least five times.
“Who in the stars--” Leia muttered as the door slid open and she was confronted with a blaze of violet hair.
“Where is he? Where is the tiny Iegoan angel?”
Leia had barely uttered her friend’s name before the beanpole of a woman breezed inside, gauzy layers of her twilight-colored caftan rippling behind her. Before Leia could ask how she was faring or how long she’d been on Chandrila, Amilyn Holdo spun on her heel and thrust into Leia’s hands a cylindrical object wrapped in shimmering silver tissue.
“For the boy. His star chart.” Amilyn beamed. “I worked it up the moment I got the news that you’d given birth.”
Leia smiled. “That is so thoughtful, Amilyn.” As she freed the scroll from its tissue and unrolled it, Leia once again lamented her old friend’s enduring interest in astrology. She had come to love Amilyn dearly since they’d first met as teenagers, but she’d never been able to share any of the woman’s rather esoteric enthusiasms.
Tucked inside the innermost roll of the scroll was a long instrument made of polished wood, crowned with a hard ball that seemed to be filled with sand or small seeds. The chart itself was hand-painted on a kind of expensive fabric woven of Gatalentan reeds, and - true to something Amilyn would craft - it was decorated in vibrant colors. At the top was Ben’s name, as well as his birth date and planet, all done in intricate script. The rest of it - at least to Leia’s eyes - was akin to ancient Ithorian: a mass of interlaced lines linking diagrams of constellations Leia had never even heard of.
Amilyn’s eyes were sparkling with excitement. “Isn’t it brilliant?” she whispered, clutching one of Leia’s arms and giving it a squeeze.
“I -- oh yes, it’s -- I just --” Leia was at a loss for words, having utterly no idea what she was looking at.
“Oh Leia!” Suddenly Amilyn’s expression grew very sober. “I hesitated to give it to you, because I knew you’d spot the shadow area right away and jump to the wrong conclusions--”
“Here.” The tip of one of Amilyn’s long fingers brushed over the spot on the scroll. It looked no different to Leia than the rest of the chart. “A shadow area denotes conflict, confusion, sometimes pain. One appears almost always on everyone’s chart, at some point or another, and yes – I concede that this one, at first glance, may seem more pronounced than others… But oh! Look at what comes after! Leia – how does it feel to know that you’ve given birth to one of the most powerful, fascinating creatures to ever grace this galaxy?”
Amilyn’s usual monotone was practically vibrating with excitement, but Leia’s heart suddenly felt immensely heavy. Powerful? Fascinating? She would rather have heard adjectives like “kind” or “healthy” or “happy” applied to her son. For a moment she thought she could almost picture his future self, or the future self she hoped for him: a tall, broad-shouldered, black-haired man, handsome though not traditionally so, grinning as he hefted a hydrospanner and opened the engine panel of some old, beat-up freighter, his pilot’s coveralls splattered with grease. There was nothing of power or fascination - or fame or brilliance - about the young man she envisioned. Just simple contentment and goodness.
A part of Leia mourned sharply as the vision faded away.
“And what does this do?” she asked, diverting her thoughts and drawing Amilyn’s attention to the polished wooden instrument that had been wrapped up in the scroll. “Is this something you use to plot the lines on the chart?”
“Actually, that--” The corner of Amilyn’s lips twitched as she pointed to it. “That is a rattle.”
“Oh!” Leia gave it a shake, then began to laugh.
“But it is a Gatalentan rattle,” Amilyn added, joining her friend’s mirth, “and so, of course, there is a tradition that if you shake it six times over the head of a sleeping child, you can banish their nightmares. Or any demons trying to whisper in their ears.”
“Thank you, Amilyn,” Leia said, paying very little attention to her friend’s strange Gatalentan tradition. “I’m sure Ben will love it.”
Just then the front door slid open and Han stepped inside. Seeing Leia’s guest, he immediately blanched and half-turned, helplessly seeking some way to escape.
“Oh look at him! He’s trying to get away! It’s so adorable!” Amilyn laughed loudly and clapped her hands together. “He’s still embarrassed about those skyfaring sex techniques I talked about the last time we all met, isn’t he? I’m not going to presume to take credit for your son’s conception, but… Oh come here, scoundrel, I won’t bite!”
Han looked like he wanted to melt into the carpet, but Leia gave him an encouraging smile and gestured him to come closer. Quickly she rolled up Ben’s star chart and set it aside.
The future could wait.
Chapter 2: For Luck: Sabine Wren/Wedge Antilles
Wedge discovers something strange about his X-Wing.
Sabine paused and turned. She’d expected the hangar to be empty at this hour, all the pilots and flight crews crowded into the base’s cantina for late suppers, but she wasn’t terribly surprised to hear that familiar voice. His dedication was remarkable, even amid this group of hot-shot moon jockeys. If there was any justice in the galaxy - or the fledgling Rebellion - his star would rise high and quickly.
“You know, Antilles, you are allowed to leave your X-Wing from time to time,” Sabine said, smirking as the dark-haired pilot sauntered towards her. The top half of his orange flight suit was undone, the sleeves tied around his waist, and his white tank and bare arms were liberally splattered with engine grease. “They won’t take it away from you for just, say, going to get a meal or something.”
“Is that your way of inviting me to dinner?” Wedge asked, his dark eyes glittering. Sabine laughed.
“Not so fast, flyboy. I’ve already eaten.”
“My bad luck, then. Actually I don’t feel too good about leaving my X-Wing unattended. Somebody’s been messing with it.”
“What?” Sabine scowled. “Sabotage?”
“Nothing quite so serious. At least I don’t think so. Just someone wanting to send me a message, I guess. They defaced the paint job.”
Sabine leaned back against the U-Wing behind her and folded her arms across her chest. “Yeah? How?”
The edge of Wedge’s mouth twitched upward. “Don’t you know?”
Swallowing hard and arching one eyebrow, Sabine feigned total ignorance. “Enlighten me.”
Wedge drew closer to her, bracing one arm against the X-Wing at her left side. “Oh it’s not very big. Hardly noticeable, in fact, unless you’re underneath her doing maintenance. A little symbol, about as big as my hand, done in blue and white paint, just under the left fuselage. Quick work but neat. Somebody who knows their stuff.”
Sabine nodded thoughtfully, avoiding Wedge’s gaze. “I think I might know the kind of symbol you’re describing. Two wings, one on either side of a four-pointed star - something like that?”
Wedge nodded. “Funnily enough, that’s it exactly.”
“Hmm. Well, I wouldn’t worry about it. Someone obviously wants the best for you, that’s all.”
“Oh really?” Wedge tilted his head to one side, considering her seriously, his turn to play ignorant. “Do you know what it means?”
“Yeah, it’s an old Mandalorean sigil of protection and good luck. Something people would carve into any kind of transport to insure the safe journeys of people they…” She hesitated. “Knew,” she ended lamely.
“I see.” Wedge seemed to think about this. “Well, it’s good to know someone’s got my back. But, you know, I have to admit - I’m a little disappointed.”
Carefully he raised his other arm and braced it against the U-Wing on Sabine’s right side, so that she was caught between his arms and the ship as he leaned in closer and whispered: “I was kind of hoping it was a Mandalorean love symbol instead.”
Sabine ducked under his right arm and took off at a jog, laughing. “Keep dreaming, Antilles!” she cried, but she was grinning from ear to ear as she left the hangar and Yavin IV’s evening air struck cool against her rather overheated face.
Chapter 3: Resonance: Grand Admiral Thrawn
Thrawn reflects on his art collection. And other things.
A commander from another ship had once referred to it as his spoils of war. Out of professional courtesy Thrawn had made no response, except for the icy stare that his scarlet eyes were uniquely suited to deliver. The crew of the Chimaera knew better than to risk such a comment — at least within his earshot. To compare his collection to trinkets ravaged from the field of battle was an insult he would not forget or forgive.
Alone in his quarters, all lights dimmed save for those that illuminated the plinths that displayed his treasures, Thrawn felt the paradoxical energy and calm that his collection always inspired. The artwork that surrounded him, both physical and holographic, could not be equated to the vulgar trophies that lined the walls of Trandoshan hunting lodges, or even the cabins of some Imperial officers: carbon-scored Rebel helmets or twisted durasteel panels taken off downed X-wings. Thrawn had no interest in wallowing in an enemy’s defeat, their shattered remains: those could teach him nothing he did not already know.
He sat, instead, in the midst of a repository of culture, a carefully curated library of research materials, unparalleled perhaps since the days of the Old Republic. From it he drew inspiration. From it he discerned the shape of his opponent’s strategies. From it he knew the steady surety of having a plan, which kept at bay the panic, the despair, the confusion that crippled lesser commanders and sent weaker officers to their knees, clawing futilely at their throats at the feet of a black-helmed enforcer.
Even in the darkness, even without studying or touching the objects, Thrawn drew from them, absorbed their essence as if through osmosis. Each artwork seemed to him to reverberate with secret memories which, in turn, woke memories of his own: the bloodless capitulation of a village on Vir Aphshire, the capture of a Quarren informant hiding amid the shipwrights of Kuat.
A lithe and supple body kneeling before him on Ryloth, hands clasped in supplication, wide green eyes hiding cunning and deceit…
His calm disturbed by a tremor, Thrawn tilted his head back against the headrest of his chair, closed his eyes, and concentrated. He breathed deeply, the fabric of his white coat stretching with familiar, comforting constriction across his broad chest. He would not be undone. He would not allow the memory roused by a single artwork to shake the foundation of his cold resolve.
Facts, connections, interpretations. There was no room for sentiment among his calculations, and certainly no space for the pulsing thrill that shot through his extremities and pooled like lava in his groin.
Chapter 4: Euphoria: Sabine Wren
Sabine has a special source of happiness.
She was a Mandalorian down to the marrow of her bones, so there was no sound that charmed her like that one did. The sudden thunder of a detonation, so strong you could hear it by feel, by the tremor in your flesh: the rip and scream of metal sundered from metal, the secondary explosions of fuel reserves being transmuted into gas and flame. So long as the metal being torn and twisted was Imperial, there was nothing that thrilled Sabine more, nothing that better woke a hereditary joy inside her soul.
But the splatter of brightly colored paint on a pristine Imperial wall came awfully close.
This was her own special brand of happiness. It was not as permanent as fiery destruction, not as showy as something solid being obliterated in a shower of sparks. It was a quieter, subtler act of desecration, but Sabine guessed that it rankled all the more for that. Explosions were the standard fare of battle, but defiance in the form of propaganda, scrawled on the sides of troop transports or across the transparisteel hatches of TIE fighters, discovered suddenly after a shift change by some dour-faced lieutenant, was more unexpected and even less welcome than those louder, open declarations of war. The starbird ascendant, despoiling their sterile walls, was an unwelcome reminder of the cracks in the Emperor’s gleaming facade of total control.
They would erase it shortly, of course: paint over it or employ maintenance droids to scour the surfaces with abrasive chemicals to dissolve all trace of the Rebel incursion. But by that time dozens, maybe hundreds, of eyes would have been caught by the bright burst of color amid the dreary Imperial uniformity. Cadets and pilots fresh out of the academies, prisoners or slaves, civilians conducting business or simply passing through Imperial-held areas, admirals and moffs convinced of their unassailability. The work of Sabine’s creativity would inspire a reaction in them all: doubt, hope, curiosity, fury. And maybe, just maybe, each calling card Sabine left behind would gain the Rebellion a new recruit.
A quick hit with a canister of paint kept Sabine warm for hours afterwards, Days, sometimes. Back aboard the Ghost she would sit and remember, radiating joy.
“What are you grinning about?” Zeb growled, giving her a side-eye of suspicion. She bit her lip, suppressing a laugh that would have woken Ezra, napping in the next chair over.
“You know that shipyard we hit yesterday? I left behind some of my best work, Zeb. A flaming starbird surrounded by text: Kriffing Palpatine. I put it on the side of some moff’s sleek silver cruiser. Some gaudy ship called The Carrion Spike.” Sabine’s smile was electric. “I hope it was appreciated.”
Chapter 5: Midnight: Grand Admiral Thrawn/Hera Syndulla
Thrawn possesses the kalikori, but it isn't what he wants.
Time aboard the Chimaera was an artificial construct, a schedule set to correspond to Coruscant’s daily cycle. He felt no particular need to adhere to it, to arrange his actions according to the movements of a sun burning light-years away. But the crew’s shifts aligned with it and so he followed it despite his own inclinations, retiring to his quarters at the hour when other commanders were wont to do such things.
Yet Thrawn felt no need for sleep.
He took the kalikori to his bed in lieu of the woman he desired. Boots removed and tunic undone, he reclined on his crisp Imperial sheets and studied the artifact, resting its base on the taut azure plane of his stomach. He passed the fingers of his left hand up and down the central shaft, tracing the symbols burned into the smooth, hard surface, and his mind operated on two separate levels: one analyzing the meanings of those symbols, the other repeating those same tracing movements over the patterns that spiraled across supple green skin. In imagination she was his already, waiting for him every night in his quarters, putting haste in his steps when he abandoned the bridge. In the darkness lit with holographic art, her body blazed the brightest and Thrawn felt no need to rush back to his command.
In reality he was alone and near to despair. In the privacy of his quarters, breath hitching in his throat, Thrawn shed the demeanor of the cool analyst with the rest of his uniform and made admission to himself:
I can never win her.
But maybe the strength of his longing accomplished what he could not. At midnight by the accounting of the ship’s chrono, she came to him.
You’re wrong, she murmured as she straddled him, leaning down to brush her lips against his mouth as she spoke. I’m here because right now, in another system, I’m also dreaming of you.
In the morning you’ll repent of it he told her, even as he raised his hands to touch her, to set his palms against the bare curves of her waist. You’ll recoil with shame and hatred from the memory.
I know she answered. But I have no more control over my dreams than you do.
So make the most of this.
Was it her thought or his? Did she really dream of him or did desire deceive him into thinking so? Thrawn didn’t know. And for the moment, he didn’t care.
It was long past midnight when he woke, alone in wet tangled sheets. His skin was cold with clinging sweat and his arms ached, wrapped tight as they had been around the kalikori.
Prompt taken from this list by knightsoftempest on Tumblr. Thanks to kelsibetsy for requesting it!
Chapter 6: Sunder: Han Solo & Qi'ra
The bitter end of an old friendship.
Some speculative fic in anticipation of Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Force, he was beautiful. And reckless and stubborn and irritating, true. But she had never been able to deny what looking at him did to her, how it made her resolve and her knees weaken at the same time. Seeing him as he was now, leaning against the freighter’s ramp, the morning breeze ruffling that thick hair, gun belt hugging his hips, was almost enough to change her mind.
But there was more to life than a jawline that could cut you open, more than a grin that rivaled any star for brilliance. And there had to be more than running. From Imperials. From bad debts. From pain.
Maybe there was nothing else for him. But she’d make damn sure there was for her.
He walked up behind her as she hefted the last of her bags into the speeder. “So that’s it then.”
It both was and wasn’t a question. He stood there with his hands on his hips, draped in attitude; attitude that she knew was partially a defense, an armor made of words and postures. She sighed and shook her head, dark hair snapping across her face. “Please. Don’t do this.”
He half-shrugged but there was a knife-edge light in his eyes, and his voice when he spoke was a petulant growl. “I’m not doing anything. You’re the one who’s running away.”
Exasperation. It was the emotion she would always associate most strongly with Han Solo.
“Oh, that’s rich. Laying that on me. You’ve done nothing but run away your whole life. It seems to work for you so why shouldn’t I give it a try?”
“Sorry, Qi’ra, but you’re confusing running with surviving.”
“Maybe, but that’s the problem. Han.” She started to reach for him, to grab the front of his jacket or lay her hands on his chest. But that was too dangerous: she knew her weaknesses too well. “Don’t you want something more than just surviving?”
“Of course I do.” He gestured back at the Falcon. “What do you think this is all about?”
“Honestly? I think it’s about glory. I think it’s about proving something. I think it’s about showing up as many people as you can in as many lowlife dives as you can reach. And surviving? That’s exactly what you won’t do, living like this. I don’t want to be along for a ride that ends like that.”
“Don’t pretend you’re skipping out because of fear, Qi’ra,” Han said, grinning. But it was a hard grin, not the one that could charm the pants off any sentient being. Not the one that had gotten her into all sorts of tight places she should have been smart enough to avoid. “You don’t scare that easily. And you’ve got a lot of nerve accusing me of chasing after glory. That’s exactly what you’ve been after for as long as I’ve known you. You’ve always thought you were too good for just surviving like the rest of us. You were too good for Corellia, and now you’ve come back with a fancy Coruscanti accent and you’re too good for the Falcon, for Chewie. For me.”
It wasn’t true. Not really. There was very little in the galaxy that Qi’ra had ever felt she was good enough for. But like Han, she wore armor. Hers was made of glamor and ice. So she wouldn’t deny it. He could think whatever he wanted.
“Then I was right.” Qi’ra gave him a bitter little twist of her lips in imitation of a smile. “You are going to go out and get yourself killed trying to prove something. Trying to make a name for yourself. Trying to impress me.”
Han shook his head. “Nah. I’m gonna do something better than that.”
She arched a perfectly sculpted eyebrow. “Like what?”
The sun glinted hard in his eyes as he turned away from her and started back toward the Falcon. “I’m going to forget you.”
Chapter 7: Attitude: (Young) Han Solo
It's all in the way you handle yourself: the thoughts you think, the way you move.
Written for guyllenhaal on Tumblr.
It didn’t matter who you were, or who you had once been. It didn’t matter how few credits you had to your name or what ship you flew (or even if you had one). The only thing that mattered was attitude. If you carried yourself right, you could command attention and win respect. Even if you were nothing but a street rat from Corellia.
Walking into that cantina, Han made a few customary adjustments to his attitude, just like he always did when heading into a new situation. He did it instinctively, without conscious thought or planning: it was as natural as scratching an itch. He ran the fingers of one hand through his thick hair, tousling it just so, while with the other hand he reached to straighten his holster, pushing it to hang just a little lower on his thigh. His fingertips brushed the bloodstripe embroidered on the leg of his trousers, and those trousers were like a second skin, riding his flesh tight in all the right places. Han smirked, a lopsided twist of plush lips.
He looked good and he knew it.
But looking good was only half the battle. The rest of it lay in how he carried himself, what he said. He walked into the main room where the crowd was gathered around a sabacc game in progress, his walk a lazy, careless swagger, and he hooked his thumbs in his gunbelt and waited at the top of the steps until all the eyes and eyestalks in the joint were turned on him. Until an expectant hush had fallen in anticipation of his unspoken word.
Then he said it: cool, calm, matter-of-fact. The slightest lift of his eyebrows. The tiniest hint of a shrug. As if he didn’t care at all if the answer was no, as if everything wasn’t riding on this moment:
“This seat open?”
Chapter 8: Cloud City: (Young) Lando Calrissian
Lando's first visit to Cloud City before becoming Baron Administrator. It's love at first sight.
Written for captain-calrissian on Tumblr.
He’d no sooner set the ship down on his designated landing pad then his fingertips began to tingle. His mouth started watering and he swore he could taste aged Alderaanian wine on his tongue. He was heady and flustered, his breath a little shallow, his pulse a little fast. It was the dizziness of spice and the coiled anticipation of lovemaking, all rolled up into one flush of feeling.
Lando Calrissian suddenly knew he was home.
A city in the clouds. Clouds tinted with the soft pastel hues of luxury. Clouds that rained money in the form of tibanna gas. The corridors were lined with credit chips, the furniture upholstered in decadence. He could smell lust and perfume and he hadn’t even stepped inside. The finest things in the galaxy all gathered in one upper atmospheric paradise. He could have it all and still keep his feet off the ground.
As Lando walked toward the nearest entrance, the high breeze caught a corner of his cape and the silken garment rippled around him like a coronation robe. The setting sun sparkled like corusca jewels in his eyes. He was made for this place. Or this place was made for him. They suited each other, like orbiting satellites, perfectly in sync.
The first casino he entered was spilling over with glamor: with the music of laughter, the slap of crisp cards, the tinkle of glasses being filled and refilled. Handsome men and breathtaking women, members of species so exotic he didn’t even know their names. Glittering scales and red lips and flashing eyes and bright feathers…
Yet Lando Calrissian outshone them all.
Chapter 9: Anonymity: Grand Admiral Thrawn
Being brilliant has a price. One that Thrawn sometimes needs to escape.
Written for politicalmamaduck on Tumblr.
He was something monstrous to most of them, a being that had stepped silently from some long-repressed dream. Not the kind with teeth that shred and claws that rent, but something far worse: the creeping menace that waited and watched, that crouched in the deepest shadows and knew all your weaknesses before you realized you needed to hide them.
It didn’t bother him. He was what he needed to be, and his monstrousness here was really just his exceptionalism. Human Imperial lackeys couldn’t comprehend the thoughts of a Chiss any more than mortals could comprehend the thoughts of a god. So when the body in a drab olive uniform flinched as he passed it, or a face on the bridge blanched when he fixed it with his red glance, well - that was all to be expected. Their fear of him helped them serve their purposes, as he in turn served his.
But there were times when he needed… not companionship or fellow-feeling, no. He needed invisibility. To meld into his surroundings, something he could never do on any Imperial ship or in any Imperial facility. So he sought out the places where the most exotic of beings drew no notice, attracted no comment. Dark, dingy warrens where strange smells and oddly-shaped bodies and a cacophony of vocalizations melded into a miasma of otherness in which a single lone Chiss was hardly worth noticing. In a disguise - goggles shielding his eyes, hooded cloak obscuring his features - he was even more anonymous, and he glided through the crowds like the rumor of a ghost, observing, listening, learning. Completely at liberty in a place where he was, for a time, blissfully unexceptional.