It took Leia three days to set foot on the Falcon.
She told herself it was because she simply didn't have the time. The base was buzzing with the aftereffects of the Starkiller battle, and as head of the Resistance, Leia was busy saying all the right things to all the right people. There were survivors to congratulate, the injured to tend to...the dead to be grieved, families informed. Leia was not selfish enough to believe that she was the only person to have lost someone. She told herself that she was far too busy to satisfy a sentimental whim by visiting an empty ship.
She told herself it was not because she was afraid.
After the memorial ceremony for the base (so many good people lost, and she was selfish to mourn one man), she finally got up the nerve to climb up the ramp. Her hands shook like they hadn't since she was a child, and there was an unreasonable amount of difficulty in putting one foot in front of the other. It was one of the hardest things she had ever done.
The years in the ship showed in chipped paint and scuffed walls and blaster scars on the ceiling. She remembered most of them (she'd put a few of them there). The air was still dusty from years of disuse on a desert planet, but even that couldn't wholly overpower the familiar smells of home.
It had been a long time since Leia had used the word aloud.
An ache in her chest was a sharp reminder to breathe. Leia realized she'd been standing there for some time. She shook off the spell of the ship with a grimace. “It's just a ship,” she muttered darkly to herself. She ignored the protesting Han-voice in her head; it was highly offended by this remark. “Piece of junk.”
“Hey, now why you gotta hurt her feelings like that?”
Leia swore violently, grasping for a blaster that was not there. She reached out with what little control she had over the Force, searching. There was no one on the ship but her.
“Blast.” She relaxed her posture. Forced a deep breath. She was a foolish old woman, jumping at shadows and memories. Or maybe she was going mad...one was just about as likely as the other, at this point.
Shivering off the last lingering tendrils of memory, she made her way deeper into the ship.
Everything was fine until she got to their quarters.
The room hadn't belonged to them in years, of course; but it was their quarters all the same. It was almost exactly as she remembered it. Shirts and socks hug on anything convenient, and the bed was unmade. Of course. (It always was.) But he must have slept here, because it still smelled like him.
It brought her to her knees.
In the five days since She felt Han's death from halfway across the galaxy, Leia had not cried. She'd been appropriately sad in the right moments, head bowed, hands clasped. But she wasn't allowed to just be a person like the rest of them. She was General Leia Organa Solo (yes, Solo, he deserved that much from her), former Princess of Alderaan, and she was the leader of the Resistance. She couldn't afford to be seen as a person.
But there was no one to see her now.
Leia clutched the blankets on the bed like a lifeline and tried to remember to breathe. Tears that she didn't remember allowing rolled rebelliously down her cheeks, and her chest ached. Han. Her shoulders shook. No. Hands fisted in coarse fabric that smelled unmistakably of him. “Why?”
She wasn't sure how long she screamed. Eventually, too raw and hoarse to continue and her tears spent, she managed to crawl into the bed, and fell asleep.
She jerked awake, reflexively searching for her still absent blaster. Automatically reaching out with the force for a presence she knew wasn't there.
“Hey, relax, Sweetheart! I'm right here.”
Her head whipped to the left where indeed, Han Solo was lounging on the bed beside her, a roguish smile on his lips.
And he was young, damn him.
“You're not real!” she accused the apparition, an unexpected swell of anger rising in her belly. How dare this impostor taunt her like that! “You died. I felt you! You're nothing but a...” she gestured emphatically, searching for the word.
“Now Princess, is that any way to talk to your husband?”
“You are not my husband!” she retorted sharply. The hallucination feigned insult. “You're not.”
Leia's training kicked in then, her years of diplomatic and military experience forcing her to stop and examine what she knew to be true. The facts.
Fact: Han was dead. She knew that unequivocally. There was no way that what she had felt was a mistake, and Chewie and Rey had confirmed it upon their return.
Fact: This Han was young. Even if by some miracle her husband had survived their son's treachery, he was older than she. He wouldn't look like he did that first day on the Death Star, peeling out of borrowed Stormtrooper armor.
Fact: She was asleep. At least, she was fairly certain she was still asleep. This young, impossible man had appeared to her while she was asleep in their bed on the Millennium Falcon. Surrounded by what was left of him.
“You're a ghost,” she decided, adrenaline-fueled anger slipping away and leaving an old, tired ache in its place. “A dream.”
Dream, ghost, or mad woman's vision, Han shrugged a shoulder. “But I'm a good dream,” he pointed out. A familiar, innocent grin twitched in his mouth.
“Hey, what's eating you, Sweetheart? I'm only here because you want me to be.”
Leia didn't want him here. She was tired, and so old, and her husband was dead no matter what she was dreaming. This wasn't a Force-ghost like Kenobi had been for Luke – she would be able to feel that – he was just a dream. She wouldn't settle for that. “I don't want you here,” she muttered. A part of her still felt guilty for saying the words, no matter what logic said. Old habits. “Go away.”
“Can't do that, your Worshipfulness.” He shifted so that he was leaning on an elbow, looking at her like she remembered from her youth. “I want to hear you say it, first.”
“You know that's not it.”
Leia sighed. Now was not the time for her own mind to be playing at tricks and riddles. She was so tired... “I don't, Han.” Oh, it hurt to say his name.
“I'll give you a hint.” Suddenly he was so close and whispering in her ear, and she could swear she felt him breathing. “I love you,” With a crooked smile, he backed away and faded to nothing,
When Leia woke up, she was still in bed, clutching an old shirt that smelled like her dead husband.
And she was alone.
“Never alone, Sweetheart,”, Han's voice echoed in her head. “Not when you've got me.”
It was at once an irritating and a comforting thought. Resignedly, Leia wondered if these hallucinations were going to become a regular thing.
She wasn't sure what to hope for.