Blow Up the Pokies

Author: LVB

Summary: Han Solo is in a bad way and finds some comfort deep in the seedy casinos of Coruscant.

Timeline: Takes place in the EU, during Han & Leia's 'separation'.

Disclaimer: LucasFilm Ltd owns everything SW. I'm just borrowing them. The fantastic band The Whitlams owns the song Blow Up the Pokies on which this song is based. Just borrowing them too.

A/N: A small change from Meet the Skywalkers, but this is my comfort zone. Short, one-shot, angst. Hope you all like!

/Edit/ In accordance with wishes I have removed the lyrics from this story. You can find the version with the lyrics included at the beginning on my personal site. Sorry for the inconvenience.

He felt numb. The buzzing and the red lights and the constant chatter that surrounded him did nothing to ease his pain. There were people everywhere. Most he didn't know…though most would recognise him from the HoloNews. They wouldn't in his current state. Through his pain he hadn't managed to learn to take care of himself. His appearance was dishevelled. He hadn't brushed his hair or shaved in days. His clothes were rumpled and his eyes were drawn and red. His face was streaked with old but not forgotten tears.

Through the flashing lights he felt nothing. He was numb. He raised his hand again and pressed the red button on the side of the machine. Before his eyes he lost again- for the eighth time that evening. However, it had no effect on him. He simply raised his hand and, much like a droid, pressed the button again.

The repetition was somewhat soothing. It was comfortable and familiar; something he longed for. He could now smell the stale Corellian whiskey that covered his clothes. It was just another day of pain and loss- what more was the smell of stale alcohol?

Not getting any more credits from the machine, he moved over to the other side of the casino. The HoloViewers were plastered all over the place. The sound was loud and the holo was perfect. The screens offered him many games to watch or to gamble on. They ranged from the recordings of the Black Jack table to the more adventurous nexu races held on Las Tella.

His vision wondered to the middle viewer which featured the HoloNews. Intrigued, he walked over and took a seat in the section. The smell of cigarette smoke filled his lungs as he sat down next to the rest of the scum of the universe. He had deliberately chosen this casino for its reputation of 'don't ask, don't tell'. His bleary eyes tried to focus on the HoloNews in front of him.

As her picture came up on the screen, he felt his head begin to spin. His wife stood there, at the latest New Republic Ball, putting on a brave face for the cameras. She looked beautiful. Her dress was white, accentuating her darker features. After all these years, she still took his breath away. He took a big drink of his topped-up glass of Corellia's finest whiskey. It stung his throat as the tears stung his eyes. He couldn't take it anymore. He angrily shoved his chair away and gulped down the rest of his drink.

He wouldn't stand by and watch her get on with life without him. He could tell she was hurting; he could see it in her eyes. He tried to remind himself that it wasn't her fault. She just didn't understand. Chewie had been more than his friend- he had been his moral centre. It was Chewie who had made him leave the Imperial Academy, Chewie who convinced him to go help Luke destroy the Death Star. They had been a pair for so long. His death had left him feeling empty and alone. What made it worse was that none of his family truly understood.

That was what landed him here. He hadn't been home for quite a while. He did miss his kids but something wasn't right with him being at home. He needed to drown his sorrows far from his old life.

He wandered over to the Sabacc table. He took a seat next to a drunk humanoid. He turned to Han and asked him with a slurred voice, "You want some spice?"

Han simply stared at the intoxicated man. Spice. He used to smuggle spice, back before he had joined the Rebellion. This humanoid was obviously high as well as drunk. He didn't recognise him. What harm could some spice do, after all this time? It wasn't like it could make him feel any worse.

"How many credits?" his voice came out broken and rough. The humanoid smiled.


Han reached into his pocket and pulled out two 200-credit bills.

"Keep the change," he slurred as he grabbed the small packet of spice. He glanced around him, trying to make sure no one had seen the exchange. He quickly stuffed the spice into his pocket. He hadn't really wanted it- he just wanted to forget who he was for just one moment.

He heard a familiar tune from the other gaming area. A machine had just paid out. Grimacing, he followed the sound of the win to the machine he had just been on. He watched the Twi'lek take the hundreds of credits that spiralled out of the machine. He should have stayed there instead of wandering off and staring at empty holoimages of his now estranged wife. He angrily punched the machine and swore under his breath. It was something he hadn't done in a long time.

He was in dire need of another drink, something even stronger than what he had been drinking. He stumbled across to the bar and ordered the strongest drink they had. The bartender was a droid and simply gave him three straight shots. Han sat on one of the uncomfortable bar stools and stared down into the brown liquid that would supposedly drown his sorrows.

So this is my life now… he thought to himself. I thought I had a purpose. I have a wife and three kids. What am I doing here?

A familiar voice interrupted his thoughts. "I'll have whatever he's having."

He didn't need to turn around. He knew it was her. She had found him somehow- probably through the Force. He hadn't spoken to her in a while. He wasn't sure if he was ready to now.

"Is this seat taken?" she asked him.

Han smirked and let out a sarcastic chuckle. "Not gonna stop you, sweetheart," he managed to coherently mumble. The droid gave Leia Organa-Solo the same drink as he had served her husband. With one drink, she downed the entire glass.

"Charming new life you're leading here, Han," she whispered. He could tell by the drawn look on her face that she was struggling to keep it together. He wasn't surprised that nobody had recognised her. She looked thin- too thin. Her hair was still intricately styled and she still wore her makeup. But she looked tired. The sparkle in her eyes was gone. She was hurting.

"I don't think that's any of your business, Leia," he snapped at her, running a hand through his shaggy hair. She shook her head sadly.

"You're wrong, Han. You are my husband. Whatever you're doing is my business. Especially if you're wasting away here in this…this place," she said, indicating the shady casino.

"That is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!" He screamed at her, slamming his drink down simultaneously. He glared at her and watched as she shook her head again. She put her hand into his jacket pocket and pulled out the packet of spice he had bought earlier. He could feel her sorrow radiating off her. He hung his head in shame.

"What will it take, Han? His death hit us all. Come back home, please," she begged, her usually sturdy voice shaking. He had finally had enough. He angrily stood up and kicked the stool over. She leapt back in surprise. She hadn't ever seen him this angry before. But she wouldn't be afraid of him.

"I want you to get out. Now. Just leave before the HoloNews catches the happy Solo couple arguing in a shady casino in the bad part of Coruscant," he said through gritted teeth.

She got it. She sighed and put her hat and shawl back on. He was right- she didn't want to be caught here. Her tears flew freely now, marring her beautiful, controlled face. "Alright Han, I'll go."

She pocketed the spice and boldly drank the rest of his drink. She would leave him with his pain and his agony. She would leave him here to waste away. She sniffled as she moved away from him.

"I wish I knew the right words, Han. I wish I knew how to make you feel better. But I can't. When you're ready to leave this place, I'll be waiting for you. Jacen, Jaina, Anakin and I will be waiting for you," she whispered and kissed him on his unshaven cheek.

With that, she was gone. Her words had touched him; but he was afraid it wasn't enough. The gaping hole and numbness were still there. He was still alone; the smell of the gambling and the drinking and the cigarette smoke was still present in his mind. He couldn't stop, not now. The pain was still fresh. He could not escape it.

The sound of the machines in the next room called to him. It was mesmerising. He wasn't coherent or sober or rich right now, but that didn't matter. His escape was here, hidden away from the New Republic. He ordered another drink and went to find the humanoid spice dealer again.

His future wasn't here; he knew that. But for now, he would remain here, trying to wash away the pain he was feeling. Maybe soon enough, he would be strong enough to walk out of here. Maybe soon enough, he would be able to become General Han Solo again. But not today. And as he gambled away his last 100-credits, a solitary tear fell down his face.