Five year old Ben Solo is on a mission to prevent his father from sleeping. Again. Han and Leia have done everything in their power since their son’s birth to establish a bedtime routine, but Ben would never have any of it. Han has never understood how a tiny human can survive on such little, often fitful sleep. Ben is rarely peaceful in slumber, making noises and moving around, sometimes lashing out as though he was being attacked in his dreams. He is calmer when he sleeps with his parents and they almost always let him into their bed at night since it helps everyone be slightly less miserable.
Tonight has been especially challenging, what with Leia being away for the week on business and Han acting as Ben’s sole caretaker for the time being. Though it is sometimes necessary to leave Ben in the care of the household droids when his parents are both occupied with various business, Han has never been comfortable with the idea and dismisses them from Ben Duty whenever he is at home, even on sleepless nights. Tonight, however, Han is sorely tempted to break his rule about droids. After a day filled with enough physical activity to make every muscle in Han’s body ache from exhaustion, Ben is bound and determined to break his record of 593 consecutive bounces on the bed. Han’s bed. With Han in it.
After Ben falls off somewhere around jump number 342 and announces his intention to start over, Han finally loses it. Before Ben can protest, Han grabs him from where he has fallen on the carpet and flees the bedroom in the direction of the enclosed porch. Perhaps a change in location, some fresh air, and a little star-gazing can put a damper on Ben’s relentless drive to stay awake at all costs. This technique has helped in the past and Han petitions the Force, and every deity that ever existed, to make it work again RIGHT NOW because he is at the point of accepting immediate death if it means he will finally be able to get some rest.
Holding a squirming, whining Ben tightly against him, Han sits them both down on the giant pillowy chair that has always been Ben’s favorite. Ben yells and struggles for a bit until he glimpses his dad’s face and sees The Look that lets him know that the time to accept his sleepy fate has officially arrived. Snuggling into Han’s chest and looking out at the starry sky, Ben asks for a story. Han feels a surge of outrage at this request and is a second away from replying with a sharp NO - he is tired, damn it, and has no desire to give Ben even an inkling of a reward for his deplorable bedtime hygiene - but he begrudgingly agrees after looking down at his son’s pleading brown eyes, feeling all resolve to be a Strong Parent go out the proverbial window.
When he is fully awake, telling stories to Ben is actually one of Han’s favorite activities to engage in with his son. Han often makes up original and fantastical stories that cater to Ben’s specific interests completely on the fly, but his exhausted brain can’t come up with anything tonight, so he resorts to one of Ben’s old favorites: The Outlaw and the Great Train Robbery. What Ben doesn’t yet know about this story is that there is far more to it than just the robbery, and that his father and Uncle Chewie actually lived it. Han will tell him the whole truth of it someday, though he fears his son’s reaction to hearing that his father once loved a woman who was not Ben’s mother. Ben’s feelings are so strong and sensitive that Han doesn’t want to risk frightening or confusing the boy until he has the maturity to understand.
Ben seems pleased with Han’s choice and settles in to hear his father weave the tale of the wily young man who escaped the life of a junk rat to join the army and went on to become an outlaw who was the best pilot in the galaxy. No matter how many times Ben has heard this story, he never gets tired of it and constantly interrupts Han to ask for more details. Tonight, Ben stops Han during the telling of the Imperial battle to ask what the Imperial troopers’ uniforms looked like. Puzzled by this request, Han describes them in as much detail as he can; the body armor, the long coat, the oddly large helmet, the shiny chrome goggles. Han can’t resist asking Ben why he wants to know and Ben explains that he’s trying to draw a picture in his head because he wants to draw a real picture of the Outlaw with his art set and he wants it to be perfect. Han can’t help but smile, because now Ben’s need for detail makes sense.
Ben, despite being only five, does not do anything simply or half-heartedly, but throws himself into something until he has gained mastery over it. He taught himself to walk before he deigned to crawl. He refused to talk at all until he could speak in full, fluent sentences. He spent hours and hours practicing the alphabet after pestering a droid to teach him what each letter was and how it sounded. Having recently taken up drawing and painting, of course Ben would want to know exactly what the chromed pattern on the goggles looked like; he would never be satisfied with his work if he thought he got something wrong.
Han settles back and resumes telling Ben’s favorite story. The Force and the deities he had petitioned earlier have been merciful, because Ben falls asleep before the robbery actually takes place. Not wanting to get up until he is absolutely sure that Ben won’t immediately wake up again, Han sits quietly, gently rubbing Ben’s back and inhaling the sweet, slightly sweaty scent of the boy’s dark curly hair. He gaze moves to the sky as he reflects on the events of the train robbery story and how it led him here. He thinks of how it began the journey that led him to Tatooine and Luke and Obi-Wan Kenobi; to the Death Star where he first encountered his Leia; to Jabba’s palace, where she saved his life and he knew he could never stand to be parted from her again; to Chandrila where their son was born; to Naboo, where he lives now with his family in a house that belonged to Leia’s mother; to this giant pillowy chair where he holds his beautiful, finally sleeping son. Han realizes that it is his favorite story, too.