1. families come in many different forms
Luke has lost a father, an aunt and uncle, two mentors, and a mother he doesn’t remember. Still, he thinks, Leia has lost more.
He feels her grief, pulsing inside her like an unwanted organ. He feels her fear, her confusion, her tightly held rage. He feels her careful control over her emotions, worries at just how tightly she clings to it and how she would react to what he’s able to sense in her.
They have lost families but have somehow built a new one, not just the two of them but Han, Chewbacca, C-3P0 and R2-D2; Lando and the Ewok tribe and the resilient, dedicated members of the Rebellion.
She has hidden her pain so well that he thinks that he, and maybe Han, are the only ones to recognize when it starts to lessen. She embraces this new family that she has built, holds it together with sheer force of will, and begins to allow them to hold her together as well.
But for all that they share they are made of their own losses, their own failures; their shared but separate histories.
She and Han marry, and Luke assumes that they discuss the idea of children, but he never asks. He knows that in her mind, the last thing the galaxy needs is another Skywalker.
2. training the new generation
Rey is twelve years old when someone finally comes for her. She is lovely and elegant with a kind face, but she is unfamiliar, and Rey’s heart speeds up and splinters all at once.
“You’re not my mother,” Rey says, voice trembling just slightly. “Did she send you?”
The woman’s eyes are tender. “I’m sorry,” she says, and sounds it. “I don’t know your mother. But I do know quite a lot about you, Rey, and I’d like to get to know you better.”
No one has ever wanted to get to know Rey. Even in her vague memories of before, her parents seemed skittish around her, like they didn’t know what to make of her. And no matter how kind this woman looks, no matter that she’s saying all the right things, Rey can’t help but flinch away and demand, “Why?”
The woman smiles sadly. “You’re a very special girl, Rey,” she says. “You may not know it yet, or understand it, but it’s my job to find people like you. And if you want, I can help you, even teach you.”
“Teach me what?” Rey asks, sounding very small. Despite herself, something loosens in her chest, unfurling like hope and filling her with warmth. It’s a strange feeling, one that grows stronger when the woman takes one of her hands in both of her own.
“Tell me, Rey,” the woman - Leia, something whispers in her head, making her jump - “are you familiar with the Force?”
3. a different role model
Ben likes playing pilots with Poe, loves actually getting to fly with his Dad, and Chewie is probably the best babysitter in the entire galaxy. But mostly, he loves going to work with his Mom.
There are pictures of him as a baby, strapped to her chest as she testified at Senate hearings and gave long, passionate speeches about the world they were trying to build. Her work voice was different (and louder) than her at-home voice, but they both filled him with comfort, and as he grew older he’d sit next to her in conference rooms and scribble importantly with the crayons that she kept well supplied.
It’s strange, the way she can turn Mom off and the General on, but it impresses him. When she walks into a room, everyone looks to her, and because he’s her son, they treat him like a grown-up, too. She’s powerful, he realizes, and respected, and it’s hard to wrap his head around because she still does silly voices when she reads him stories. Even her mad voice is different with him - more frustrated than angry, firm and disappointed but never unforgiving.
Uncle Luke wants him to be a Jedi, and part of him thinks that would be pretty cool, just like he thinks it would be pretty cool to be a pilot, or a smuggler, or a Wookiee (he wishes). But when his parents sit him down to ask him what he thinks about going to train with Uncle Luke, it’s an easy decision.
“I want to stay here.”
And it’s not just that the First Order is becoming more powerful, or that Dad has had more close calls than usual lately; it’s not just the lines he sees growing deeper around Mom’s eyes and mouth, or that his friends are all talking about the Resistance and how they’re going to be the best pilots the galaxy has ever seen. Shamefully, he wishes that it were that selfless.
The truth, though, is that he wants to be what Mom is: powerful, respected, admired. A leader. A hero.
Mom and Dad look at each other and do that thing where they talk without talking (no, that’s not the Force, Dad had explained years ago, that’s just marriage. Well, our marriage. We fight less without words). “Why?” Mom finally asks. “You could learn a great deal from your Uncle, Ben. You could be a great Jedi if you wanted to.”
“But I don’t,” Ben says. “I want to learn how to be like you.”
They don’t send him away, in the end.
4. a peaceful galaxy (for the most part)
“Hold on, R2!”
“[Chii-EEER-rrupPUHhhhh -]” Thud.
“Chewie, I told you, don’t - ow! What was that for?”
“Cut and dry! you said! Old friend, owes me a favor, would never hurt us! HAN, IF YOU WEREN’T ALREADY BLEEDING ---”
“Really, Princess, is NOW the time to yell at me?”
“Don’t you ‘Princess’ me, just fly the damn ship! Fastest ship in the galaxy, my Princess ass.”
Rurrrugh araargh wrragh!
"Thank you, Chewie!”
“Oh, sure, take his side -”
“General, Princess, I am not sure that this is the most productive time for this conversation. There are still several Trandoshans in close proximity.”
A heavy thunk, followed by an ominous hissing sound from the cockpit. “Ya think?””
Several hours later - Han’s arm in a sling, the singed bits of Leia’s hair cut away, and R2-D2 mended but still sulking - Chewbacca thumps several heavy bottles of dangerous looking drinks down on the holotable.
“Could’ve been worse,” Han finally says, a few drinks later. Leia glowers, but doesn’t disagree.
“I suggest,” C-3P0 carefully interjects, “that we do not share the details of this trip with Master Luke when he returns from his vacation.”
It’s the first thing the group agrees on all day.
5. a different showdown
Leia is waiting for him on the Falcon. Han expected nothing less. The pieces of her have been torn apart over the years - general, wife, princess - and she has lost everything but the tiniest bit of hope, which she clings to like her last lifeline. Perhaps it his - he certainly stopped being one long ago.
That hope is what brings her here, he knows. The hope that the one piece of her that matters most - her son - is still somewhere out there. Still salvageable.
She is every bit the fighter he fell in love with years ago - a little slower, perhaps, a little softer, but so is he, and their years apart have nothing on their years together. They find Rey, and when Finn hugs her Han catches his wife’s eye. She blinks rapidly, and he nudges her shoulder with his own.
But as relieved as he is to see the girl he has so unexpectedly come to care for, the cruel truth is, he isn’t here for her, nor is Leia. The rescue they have planned is a different sort, with higher stakes all around.
Han follows Leia’s lead, fear and grief and her terrible, contagious hope warring in his chest and making him lightheaded as they navigate the ship, duck around corners, and finally - finally - catch a glimpse of their son. Leia staggers, just slightly, at the sight and he takes her hand. It fits like it always has, and he is seized by the sudden, fierce knowledge that he will never let her go again.
The tall, once-familiar figure is halfway across the ledge when Leia steadies herself and steps forward. “Ben,” Leia whispers, so quietly. “Ben.”
And somehow - impossibly -
he hears her.