Han Solo, a former General of the Rebellion, a has-been smuggler, a Grade-A son of a Hutt, counts to ten as he slowly turns around, takes a deep breath, and shouts to his murderous, ruthless, Sith spawn of an only son that disappeared eight years ago, “Ben!”
Chewbacca bellows in distress. This has the potential to explode, a high-intensity flame for a high-stakes confrontation between father and son. Ben Solo is wearing a mask, a twisted, black, ridiculous mask that is a throwback to an era when settling down and having a son was not even a remote possibility. Han has never known what to say to the kid, the melancholy, emotional, sensitive kid that he can’t stop loving even now, when Ben looks at him with simultaneous contempt and undisguised longing.
Ben looks impossibly young even though his pain is an old pain, and Han’s heart hurts when he sees his adult son, looking at him with Leia’s liquid brown eyes and his own too-long nose, muttering how Ben is dead and how he is “Kylo Ren” now (how stupid).
Han knows that his life is flashing before his eyes and he lets it, lost in memories, hopefully just the good ones. His brain starts playing tricks on him, unspooling like a highlight reel of days gone by from an ancient holofilm. He is 65 years old and he feels every beat of every dance he’s done with death over his life, too many to count, blood pounding through his veins.
Han is unarmed.
*** 1 ***
Han sees her in his mind’s eye, clear as day, Princess Leia Organa. He’s known her for about a week and he tells himself he doesn't like her, not even a little bit. She's cold, unflinching, and acid-tongued. He watches the Princess from across the room as she commands attention from her soldiers. She is a tiny thing, barely 5’0”, her eyes blazing with a quiet fire, spitting orders, and everybody listens. He listens.
He doesn't want to notice that her skin is perfect, or that her hair is lovely, even when it’s done up in those laughable side buns the size of dinner plates.
He is 29 years old, and in all of his hard-knock years of stealing, gambling, boozing, running, and womanizing, he’s never seen anything or anyone so beautiful; never been so intimidated; never wanted to impress anybody more. She is mature beyond her 19 years; she’s a diplomat, a torture victim, a hero, a rebel. He is none of these things, nor does he think he ever wants to be.
He knows almost immediately that she will crush him and he’ll let her, and he could smack himself for feeling this way for a woman who can barely tolerate looking at him.
Totally thrown, Han sticks his nose in where it doesn’t belong, communicates loudly in sarcasm, frustration and bravado. He tells her that he’s gone after the next mission and, inexplicably, there are years of missions that follow. Somehow, they become a sort of friends. He becomes a rebel, a leader. They fight more often than not, he knows sexual tension when he feels it, but because she is young, he lets her set the pace. Despite his teasing to get a rise out of her, he’d rather she figure it out on her own.
Han handles her occasional, awkward flirting with younger rebellion pilots because he tells himself that he doesn’t want to be the one that hurts her first. It's mostly because he's sure that half of the flirting is to bother him, anyway, and he isn't about to tell her that it works and he's bothered. Luke takes all of her flirting with the other boys terribly.
Eventually, Luke gets over her. Han never does.
*** 2 ***
Their hasty kiss before leaving Hoth and the trip to Bespin change everything.
*** 3 ***
It’s right after the Battle of Endor, and everybody is celebrating with whatever alcohol they can get their hands on (and he assumes other substances too, but he doesn’t have the time nor the will to investigate). Nobody is paying attention to him, which suits him just fine, but more surprising is that people aren’t paying attention to Leia.
He and Leia finally have a second alone that isn’t plagued with people needing them to lead, to strategize, or supervise. Instead of seizing the moment, he is so exhausted that he’s practically speechless, almost a first for him. It hasn't been that long since he was in forced hibernation, so he’s still raw on the inside, still confused about time and space. Leia is nursing her blaster wound and emotional upheaval, so they make a pretty pathetic pair as they slowly walk down towards her tent.
He arranges some extra blankets for her arm, scooting onto the cot behind her. She likes this more than the idea of him sitting by her bed in the medical tent. He would have gladly done that, sit by her side, had she wanted to stay. But she had sweet talked a doctor into letting her leave with Han as long as he promised that he would make her get some rest.
She maneuvers herself into the crook of his arm and carefully arranges her hair so she doesn't get it stuck under either of them.
“Pretty good,” she teases, looking up at him. He rewards her with a half smile and an eye roll.
“Would it kill you to admit when something is just plain good?”
“Probably,” she answers, rubbing her nose into his shirt. “I'm tired. I'm so tired that I've bypassed tired and now I can't even think to sleep.”
He tightens his arm around her and kisses the top of her head. “Want to talk about it?”
“No.” She kisses him on the mouth, using tongue, but he isn't distracted.
“Come on, tell me, you'll feel better.”
After a minute of looking like she wants to kick his ass, she sighs.
“My birth family is not quite how I pictured,” she grumbles, all gallows humor, and curls into him again, talking mostly to his chest. “I don’t want him to be my father at all.”
“He isn’t,” Han assures her, immediately. “Maybe biologically, sure, but not in any way that counts. He's not your father, unless that Bantha shit who knocked up my mom gets to be my father. In my book, you gotta earn it, being a father.”
Leia’s eyes soften as she looks up and searches his face. Searching for what, he’ll never know, but she likes what she sees and pulls his face closer to hers.
“I think we have our own celebrating to do,” she says, voice low, hands fluttering to action on his shirt buttons. He smiles, a real smile.
“If you’re sure you want to, I’m not complaining,” he tells her, “I’ll break the medical droid’s rules about how to care for you.”
She nods. “I like it when you break the rules.”
“No you don’t, you ---”
She interrupts him by kissing him to shut him up, the way he likes it. He closes his eyes because it's all pretty damn good.
It’s been worth hanging around for all these years.
*** 4 ***
“I’m gonna do it,” he announces to his office mate, General Hera Syndulla, five years after the Battle at Endor.
“Great! You should,” the Twi’lek says, enthusiastically, peeping up at him from under her pilot’s cap, her green lekku bobbing. “You’re old, and it’s been long enough.”
“Look who’s talking,” he argues, crossing his arms. “You and Kanan aren’t married and you’ve been together longer than me and Leia.”
“Leia and I aren’t exactly waiting for a rescue,” Hera chides, absently, “we do fairly well solo, Solo.” She immediately regrets her word choice.
“That’s a thing I’d like to see,” he leers predictably, totally joking, and puts both hands up when she glares at him. “Hey, hey! Just a joke! But really, I’m gonna do it this time. I’m just gonna ask her.”
He can tell Hera doesn’t believe him because he always says he’s going to propose to Leia only to chicken out entirely, so he waggles his eyebrows and offers a bet. “100 credits I ask and she says yes.”
Han rushes upstairs to the second-to-top floor and plops himself down in the chair in front of Leia’s desk, where she is dutifully doing paperwork from her last assignment. Han’s own desk has stacks of unfinished paperwork that he thinks he’ll use as kindling one day.
Leia eyeballs him, pretends she doesn’t like what she sees, so he preens a bit for her because he knows she likes this game.
“Can I help you?”
All of the things he’s practiced saying using Hera as a sounding board fly out of his head. “I wanna get married,” he blurts. “Do you wanna get married?”
Her eyebrows climb into her hairline as she looks up from her paperwork at him, her new reading glasses slipping down her nose.
“Well,” she says, “I suppose your timing is particularly good. Uncannily good, even.”
“That really wasn’t the answer I was expecting,” Han replies, slowly, not sure how to feel.
“Well,” she says again, “I'm pregnant, and I was thinking to myself ‘I wonder how Han feels about marriage’ and thought I would --”
He cuts her off because he’s suddenly laying across the desk, on top of her meticulously completed paperwork, his nose against her nose.
He growls at her, “say again?”
Han’s head spins, trying to think how it was even possible that they’d forgotten to use birth control, because they’be been doing this for years, having sex, and this has never happened. He suddenly remembers that she went to the med droid a month or so ago after she came home from a mission leaking snot like a Hutt. She had to take some kind of antibiotic meds.
He swallows, convulsively, mentally calculating how much money it will cost to baby-proof the Millennium Falcon. He has no Sithing clue how to be somebody’s dad but he is really, really sure he wants to try.
She interrupts his reverie, thankfully. “Stop thinking so hard, I don’t want you to hurt yourself.”
“I really wanna get married,” he answers, pulling back from her nose so he can see the rest of her face, meeting her eyes, “and I really wanna have that kid. You know, with you.”
She smiles, looking almost but not quite moved to tears. “Then do a better job asking, dear.”
He knocks over the paperwork on her desk when he catapults over it, gets down on one knee, and holds out his hand.
“Will you marry me, Princess?”
She puts her hand in his, he marvels for the millionth time how small it is, and she answers as close to gleefully as she ever gets. “Yes. Yes, flyboy, I will marry you.”
They don’t ever get rings, but they do swear on a stack of Alderaanian bibles and sign a holocard contract two weeks later. They haven’t told anybody about the kid because she's not showing yet, but they’re definitely, finally, married. Han uses Hera’s credits to buy a baby sling big enough to fit a Wookiee.
*** 5 ***
They're in the common area between the Rebel base camps, a few world-weary adults and a couple of kids. Ben Solo, his kid, is chasing ten year old Poe Dameron, the only son of a couple of fighter pilots that Leia and Han know from after Endor. Chewie is grumbling audibly at the tiny grill units for unevenly grilling meat, and Luke sits serenely on the grass, looking for all intents and purposes like he's asleep.
“I hear Luke is thinking about starting a Jedi Academy,” Kanan Jarrus says, glancing at Han.
“Yeah, that's the word,” Han affirms, giving his friend, Hera’s 40-something year old Force sensitive human, the side-eye. “Why, you thinking of going? Gonna be the oldest Padawan? Maybe learn to levitate some dishware with your mind?”
Kanan snorts and gives Han the rudest gesture Han has seen in years. “No. I think my Jedi learning days are way, way behind me. Not sure about the others, though. Bet they'd like to help out or something.”
Kanan’s eyes drift over to Ben, who is covered in dirt. “His Force signature is really strong, buddy. Maybe one day he’ll train with his Uncle Luke.”
“Yeah, or maybe he'll just be a waste of space pirate like you and me,” Han says, grinning. “That wouldn't be so bad, would it?”
Poe is laughing, calling to Ben in a high pitched voice, as Ben runs as fast as his chubby three year old legs can carry him.
“Can’t catch me, Benny,” Poe taunts. “You'll never get me!”
“Bantha shit,” Benny shrieks, giving chase.
All eyes are on Han, who gives a full body shrug and mouths “who, me?”
“Han Solo,” Leia growls, glaring at him. He smiles, a full on grin, and she eventually rewards him with one of her own even though he knows she doesn't want to reward him for bad behavior.
He grabs her hand, plays with her fingers. “S’good,” he says, looking around the base at their friends and their son.
“Pretty good,” she agrees, walking into his arms.
Han never thought he'd die for a cause, but he always thought it was possible he'd die for a person. He had always assumed it would have been Leia, and he's not entirely wrong.
At least they had had one last night together, and at least he told her one more time that he loves her, told her that he had loved her the whole time, even when he had to leave to stop feeling so guilty.
Because she's his Princess, she knew.
Han steps towards Ben, watches him put his lightsaber at his side. Ben asks him to die, but Han stubbornly hopes he can save him, maybe save both of them. He's wrong.
When Ben’s lightsaber burns through his chest, he thinks about how he loves her and loves the kid. Touching Ben’s face one more time, he hopes that one day Ben will realize how much.
And then it's over.