Disclaimer: Unfortunately, I do not own the characters or the galaxy that I am so gleefully torturing.

The Mills of the Dark

"The mills of the gods grind late, yet they grind exceeding fine."
-Greek Poet

Once upon a time, a story ended. The villain died a hero. The hero was born a villain. The princess was killed, the cause was lost, and the kingdom plunged into darkness. Only one thread of the tale remained to be snipped…­

It was cold in the room. Han licked his lips nervously.
"He didn't kill me before, he won't do it now," he muttered to himself, repeating the words over and over again until they lost their meaning and were nothing but a comforting murmur which drowned out the question pounding in his skull.

"It's such a good question, though." A thrill of fear ran down Han's spine at the echoing voice. He whirled around, trying to make out the speaker in the shadows of the seemingly empty room.

"Kid?" he called out, attempting to work some Solo bravado into the word. Or at least not whisper it. The tomblike silence filled the room once more, but Han was not fooled. "Kid, don't play games with me."

"Sure," the voice breathed into his ear. Han could not hold back the strangled cry that sprang from his lips. Darth Skywalker circled him slowly, voluminous robes billowing around his feet in a black cloud.

"What did I tell you last time, Han?" His tone was reprimanding, as if lecturing a wayward child. Pacing, pacing, gaze never leaving Han's face for a second. Even from behind he could feel it boring through flesh, bone, blood scrutinizing his expression with eyes that were just hidden beneath the cowl of his robe. "What did I tell you?"

If you ever come to me again, Han, I'll kill you. He knew now with damning certainty that he should have believed him then, should have trusted the quiet conviction in the youthful voice should have forgotten the horrible hurt in it.

"You should have," agreed that voice, the assurance still there, the pain gone. All at once Han found himself lying on his back without any knowledge of how he got there and throbbing with pain.

"Ask me a question, Han. Anything at all." Skywalker's voice was compassionate, interested. Han experimented and found that his lips could move.

"Why, kid?" he croaked. Skywalker snorted.

"Predictable. Wedge, Mon Mothma, Vader, Mara Jade all you can think to ask is why. Leia- now, she was creative. She wanted to know why I kept my name."

"Names mean nothing, your highness. Jedi this, Master that anyone can fall," Jade said casually one day. "Even the most sanctimonious do-gooders have darkness in their hearts. Even your brother." Leia turned incredulous brown eyes on her.

"My brother could never fall," she said, shocked. Jade looked amused.

"Your father¡­"

"¡­Is not my brother," Leia interrupted firmly.

That was before Tandium. And Naboo. And Toru Skaiir. And the rest of the bloody stream of atrocities that the self-proclaimed Darth Skywalker left in his wake as he claimed the galaxy for his own. That was before they were driven they were driven from base to base like cattle. That was before the bases ran out and the Alliance breathed its last. That was before she watched everyone she ever cared for slaughtered along with it. But even then she hung on to the belief that there was good yet in the man who caused it all, and her dark eyes were passionate when speaking of her redeeming him, though all other cause for passion faded away. Sometimes so passionate that Han forgot the reason and pulled her to him, doing his level best to kiss her senseless. But now he remembered her words with startling clarity.

"How did she put the particular sentiment you're thinking of?" Skywalker tilted his head to the side as if in thought. Oh, right." His lips twisted; it was a moment before Han recognized the contortion as a smile.

"She used to say, 'I believe there is a point when the soul suddenly plunges into darkness. Given the right leverage, that same soul can return.'" And then Darth Skywalker laughed. It was not like any laugh Han ever heard before, not a warm bubbling of mirth, not a cynical chuckle, not a cackle of malevolent glee. The sound was barren of emotion, stark, harsh the echo of a lone crow on a bleak winter day. He laughed until tears came to his eyes. The tears kept falling long after the laughter died away.

He leaned down; close enough for Han to make out his features under the shadows of the hood. Han looked away. "I'll tell you a secret, old buddy, so you can die despairing," Skywalker said gently. "Anakin Skywalker was the reason everyone believed all of that. He came back, they say, and so can you. But Anakin Skywalker never chose the darkness. It chose him; it created him. He was truly destined to be its slave, and like any master, it never owned his heart, so one day, his heart escaped. I gave my heart to the darkness long ago. It taught me the truth, and let me tell you, Han, truth is precious in a galaxy where even the heroes die lying."

"Poor Lord of the Sith, never got a break," Han snarled mockingly.

"The truth, just tell me the truth. No more secrets. Not between us. They destroy, and I can't¡­" Leia's voice cracked, and her eyes filled for the second time that day. "I can't bear to see any more of my life destroyed."

It was a small thing, really. He sold the Falcon that day, to a sneering little rat of a man who dealt in scrap metal. When he got back to the hovel they jestingly called home, he found her slumped over the table, clutching a holocube in her hands.

"The twins," she whispered, looking up at him. Her dull, sunken eyes were raw and bloodshot. Han could see the crusty trails of tears on her cheeks. "They would have been four years old today." As he gathered her in his arms, she stiffened. "What's wrong?" she whispered.

"Nothing," he lied. After she begged him to not have any more secrets and cried herself to sleep on his chest, he vowed never to tell a falsehood again.

"I never lied to you," he said, looking straight into the face of his brother-in-law for the first time.

A jolt coursed through Han

Leia always insisted they could still rescue Darth Skywalker, save him; as if a monster in his body imprisoned his soul, as if they could kill the monster and her brother would emerge unscarred. Now Han Solo stared into those blue, blue eyes, and what stared back was far more terrifying than the eyes of a monster. It was the answer to his love's last question. It was the eyes of Luke Skywalker.

"Ah yes, you see," the man whispered. "You see why I kept the name that was always mine. She did too, right before I ran her through." Luke made a slight gesture, freezing Han's muscles into stillness before he could smash his fists into that smooth, contemptuous face.

"That's the secret, the only truth I've ever known. Pure evil doesn't chain the soul; it crumbles it, as lazily as rot eats a corpse." A sigh escaped Luke's lips. "You don't even notice until the day you wake up to find yourself blowing away on the wind, nothing but a fine gray dust." He shook his head. "That's the flaw in Leia's reasoning. There is no redemption for something that's lost forever."

"Poetic, kid, I'm proud of ya." The flippant words that came automatically could not hide the cold dread clutching his heart. He was afraid before, a man would be crazy not to, but it was fear of a villain, of Darth Skywalker. That kind of fear he could deal with, could mask, if not chase away, with an irreverent remark and a cocky grin. This was a terror of the like he never knew. He was deathly afraid...

Of Luke. The Kid. His best friend.

Suddenly a searing wrath filled his chest, obliterating the fear. This was wrong, all wrong! It wasn't supposed to happen this way! Somewhere, sometime, something in this picture went terribly askew. All they fought for was so right, fate itself should have rallied to their cause. But damn the Alliance, his babies should be exploring the Falcon right now, not lying in an unmarked grave. And their mother, his wife, his princess, his love, his Leia… Leia should be in his arms, with the top of her soft head resting in the hollow beneath his chin and her slender fingers laced around his waist, not lying in a body bag with her rich brown eyes wide in death and a small, neat hole in the heart that he adored. Leia…

He lunged up, scrabbling for Luke's throat. The young man twitched a finger and Han hurtled across the air, slamming into a wall thirty feet away with a sickening crunch of breaking bones. Luke jumped. In one fluid, graceful flip he crossed the distance and landed in front of Han's crumpled body, igniting his lightsaber. With a supreme effort Han twisted his head around to look up at the face of his enemy his friend.

"You've made a one hell of a mess, Luke," he said wearily.

Luke laughed that horrible laugh again, the blade casting a sickly green glow on his open, innocent features.

"What were you expecting, Han? A happy ending?"

Yes, actually, was Han's last thought as the verdant blade flashed down.

So the story finished at last, and everyone died horribly…­ever after.

The End