The Blood Of A Jedi
I. A Night at the Museum
Jedi Master Luke Skywalker entered Coruscant New Museum of Galactic History, followed by six young padawans.
The curator of the Museum greeted him and escorted the Jedi to the new gallery. It was huge, the combed ceiling almost thirty meters high, in a perfect recreation of the style of the Massassi Temple on Yavin IV. There was even a real X-wing on display there, the cockpit open and a stair attached to the side.
Great, the kids will be thrilled, the Jedi Master thought.
But the centerpiece of the giant show was not the shining starfighter but another ship, a round shaped freighter, somewhat dark and shabby. A legendary ship, heroine of the Rebellion by her own right: the Millennium Falcon.
Jaina and Jacen Solo plus their families were already there. "Uncle, you came," Jacen greeted him. Jaina hugged the old Jedi Master warmly. Luke saw his own son, Ben, examining a Threepio-lookalike that was standing by the lowered ramp of the ship. Lowbacca's head could be seen above the crowd. The whole Skywalker-Solo family was here.
There were also many guests surrounding the Falcon. Authorities, ambassadors, many friends of the family and even the kids from Princess Leia Organa-Solo Elementary with their teachers were there. Many Jedi robes could be noticed in the crowd. Half of the Council was there.
A white velvety cloth with silver stars on it covered the cockpit of the freighter. Around it, a tubular durasteel structure was mounted. A flight of stairs went up to a semicircular platform with a railing at window height and another went down again at the other end.
The curator went up the stairs, stood on the platform, called the attention of the crowd and started his speech. "Master Skywalker," he began. "Masters Jaina and Jacen Solo," he addressed the twins, "Master Lowbacca."
The Wookiee let out a short growl.
"Honorable guests: it's a great pleasure to have you here tonight." The speaker made a short pause. "Seventy years ago," he lectured the guests; "the Battle of Yavin against the evil Empire was fought. And it was won because of the courage of a Princess, a young pilot, a Wookiee warrior and a lucky free trader. We are here tonight to honor them."
Ha! Luke Skywalker thought, Han would have loved this! Free trader indeed! He had to hide a chuckle.
The curator went on talking about Princess Leia's commitment, about Han's courage and Chewbacca's loyalty. It was not a very good speech, but he was young and full of good will. There had been so much sorrow following the unauthorized release of Leia's Memoir, that everybody felt a bit guilty.
The curator finally stopped talking and invited the old Jedi Master to join him on the platform. Luke Skywalker gave his cane to one of his students and went up the staircase. Jacen hurried after him, to help his old Master. "Jaina, Lowie, please join us," Luke requested.
After a moment, each one of them took and edge of the white cloth and, at the curator's signal, they unveiled the Millennium Falcon' s cockpit.
"Oh, Force," Jedi Master Luke Skywalker swore under his breath.
II. The Exhibit
Luke Skywalker looked through the duraplast panel. Four figures could be seen inside the Millenium Falcon's cockpit.
A replica of Chewbacca occupied the copilot's seat, his powerful paws on the controls. His head was tilted to one side, as he used to do when he was thinking of something. It was exactly as Master Luke remembered him, to the tiniest hair of his fur.
Han Solo's lookalike was sitting in his usual chair. It was wearing a white shirt and one of Han´s old vests. His familiar lopsided grin was frozen on the face and the eyes and body were turned to the lovely princess behind him. Leia's replica was standing behind that seat, left hand on its back, right on Han´s shoulder. It had an old white senatorial dress on. Leia's lookalike body was leaning forward as if to whisper something in Han´s ear, but it smiling eyes were turned to the front window. It was looking straight into the old Jedi Master's eyes.
/You were so young, Uncle/ Jaina whispered through the Force. /And Mom and Dad too!/
Luke looked at her niece. She was visibly moved, her eyes full of tears. She could or would not hide her emotions. He was slipping an arm around her waist when he noticed a fourth figure inside the cockpit. It stood behind the others, leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed over the chest. It took him a few seconds to recognize his own eyes.
/Yes, we were young/ Luke replied, sighing.
The family had been asked for old holos and records, but still he was not prepared for something like this. He expected some kind of statues, cold and rigid. It was exactly the opposite. These figures seemed so alive, he almost waited for Han to jump out of his seat and greet him any minute. The artist was truly inspired, Luke thought, capturing not only their images, but also their spirit.
"Oh, Force," the Jedi Master realized, "I miss them so much." Jaina tightened her embrace in response.
The group was then invited to go inside the Millennium Falcon. The Threepio-lookalike droid greeted them. Ben Skywalker joined the group, following his father. Inside, it was cleaner and shinier than it ever was under Han´s ownership. The door to the cockpit was sealed, so nobody could mess with the figures. Otherwise, the cargo bay entrance was open and some fake cargo boxes could be seen through it. The holographic game table was lit and Chewie's old hammock swung across the smaller cabin.
The main cabin's hatch was open, too. Luke entered the little room with its oversized bunk. Slowly, the old Jedi sat on the bed where his beloved sister had died.
III. The Old Couple
It was a lovely day on the main continent of Ossus. In fact, it was the prettiest spring day ever since they had moved to this planet.
Princess Leia Organa-Solo picked up the slipped blanket from the floor and covered her husband with it again. Han Solo was taking a nap on his favorite sofa.
The old woman sat at the other end of the sofa, trying not to disturb the sleeping man. He was so tired lately, so emaciated. His short-cropped hair was full white now. Well, her own hair was mostly gray too, with only a darker bunch here and there.
She slowly moved nearer the dozing man and took his left hand in hers. It was cold; it had been cold since the stroke nearly paralyzed his left side two years ago. Luke and Jacen had made their best efforts to heal him, and succeeded partially. Han had recovered his speech and the use of his left arm, but he still needed some help to walk. They had moved to Ossus the day after he left the medic facility.
Han Solo was turning eighty the day after tomorrow. He wasn't very happy about it. He had been shouting at everybody that suggested a party that he didn't want any celebration, that he had nothing to celebrate. That would change, his wife thought, the moment he had his younger grandchild in his arms and the rest of the kids around him begging for a story. Jaina and everybody else were coming to Ossus for Han's life day surprise party.
Leia felt somewhat responsible for the stroke. She positively knew she was not, but it was only true that Han had collapsed during a heated argument with one of the holo-reporters that harassed her. If she only had not written that damned memoir...
But everybody had insisted on it, she had been leading woman or witness to many of the most important events in the Galaxy in the past sixty years; she should write a memoir. Leia had intended that it would be published after she and Han had passed away, and with Jaina and Jacen's approval only. But some greedy thief had sneaked into their home during an off-world trip and stolen her back-up copy.
The fact that Luke and she were the offspring of Darth Vader had been public information for ages, but that she had witnessed Alderaan's destruction in the company of the Dark Lord was not. Some twisted minds had speculated whether she could have prevented that event, overlooking that Grand Moff Tarkin was the one to order it, and that Leia was not aware at that time of her connection to Darth Vader.
More to her embarrassment, the yellow holo-press had published very private details about her honeymoon. The former Chief-of-State had written those only to tease her husband and thought she had erased all of it. She forgot about the peculiarities of her new datapad's back up feature.
Former General Han Solo opened his eyes, and the first thing he saw was his beautiful wife. Yes, she was old now, they both were. But he still thought she was the most beautiful woman in the galaxy. Well, maybe second to Jaina... maybe.
"Hi, sweetheart," he said. "How long you've been here?"
"Not long, dear" she answered. "Let's have a cup of tea and go for a walk. It's a wonderful afternoon outside!"
"Tea?" Han grimaced. "Make it caf and I'll go with you".
"Han, you know it's not good for you," Leia shook her head. "Be glad you can swallow anything at all." He was becoming more like a child every day.
"Alright, alright, help me stand." He presented his right arm to her. She stood up and took his hand. But before she could steady herself, he pulled her arm and she landed on top of him. "This is ridiculous!" Han snorted. "I can't even stand for myself."
"Hey, flyboy," the Princess said playful.y, kissing his now wrinkled chin scar. "Fifty years ago you did all sort of ridiculous things just for the chance of having me like this, don't you remember?" She forced him to look her in the eye.
The ghost of a lopsided smile twisted the former smuggler's lips.
"Yeah, I remember," he said softly.
Han Solo remembered many things. Some of them happy, as the time when he relentlessly chased her, or the little voice of Jaina calling him Daddy. Many of them sad: friends long gone, the street rat he had once been, the time when his dearest wife became a stranger. But the worst memories always seemed to float near the surface, clouding the rest.
How many nights in the near past had he woken up to an empty bed? And as he looked for Leia, he found her wandering through the house, lost herself, looking for Anakin? He's calling me, don't you hear? She would cry as he wrapped her in his arms. The same number of nights probably that he had awoken with his face wet, not recalling really what he dreamt, knowing only that his Jace was in pain, somewhere.
No one is supposed to outlive their children. It's not right, the former smuggler thought many times. But Jacen did come back, and that was a good memory to hold on to.
IV. The Ambush
The Princess finally convinced her husband to take a walk through the garden.
The little house was built in a corner of the land that surrounded Luke's new Jedi Academy. Jacen, Ben and their families lived there too, in the Academy main building. This part of the forest was not fully tamed yet, but had a few lovely paths to stroll along.
Han Solo walked slowly, leaning on the cane he carried in his right hand and his wife on his left side. The day was really beautiful, as Leia had promised. Not that he cared really much for the open air, but the exercise made sleeping at night a little easier.
They were not very far from the house when a cloaked figure appeared between the trees. The old couple halted, not recognizing the newcomer.
"Who are you?" Princess Leia asked.
"I need to speak with you, Princess," the cloaked man answered, taking a step forward. The stranger talked in Basic, but he had a strong accent that Leia instantly recognized as Alderaanian.
"Listen, fellow," Han Solo adressed the stranger. "What d'ya want?"
"I'm not talking to you," the dark figure snapped back, but added almost like an afterthought,"Captain Solo."
"So, what do you want?" Leia Organa asked. She let go Han's arm and put her hand casually on her hip, near where her lightsaber was clipped.
/Are you ok, Leia?/ It was Luke.
/I don't know, Luke. There's a stranger here./
"You won't need that, Leia." The man answered in old Alderaanian. He drew back the hood of his cloak. He had a noble face, if not precisely young.
"I remember you," the Princess exclaimed, still using Basic; "You were at the last Alderaan Memorial, weren't you? In the first row... And your name is...?"
/You want me to go there, sis?/
/If you don't mind, Luke, maybe.../
"Bail Aloma," the visitor claimed.
"So, Mr. Aloma, you said you needed to talk to me. I'm listening." She tried to sense something coming from the man, but only confusing feelings came from him.
"The Children of Alderaan are not happy with their Princess," Bail said still in old Alderaanian as he moved closer to the couple. "First of all, you married way below your rank, Leia. We thought you'd marry one of us, one of your own people. But we understood your choice when we learned that you are not really a princess, but the daughter of a mass murderer."
"What's he sayin'?" Han whispered in Leia's ear. Even if he had learned the modern version of the language over the years, the old form of it still escaped him. But he could tell that his wife was altered by the man's words. The Princess shook slightly her head but answered nothing.
"You probably don't know, but I was there too. My family and I were coming back from an off-planet vacation, and as we dropped out of hyperspace we only found a field of debris. It was the only time I saw my father crying."
Bail's face twisted, as assaulted by a sudden pain. Leia Organa fought her own memories back. She focused in here and now. Where was this guy going?
"You are a traitor, Leia. You don't even deserve to carry the noble name of Organa," Bail Aloma continued.
That was too much. She had endured this over and over through the years. The Princess lost her usual calm and shouted back almost like a teenage girl. "My father wanted me to use his name!" she yelled in alderaanian. Her face was flushing, her lips trembling, her fists clenched.
"Princess, what's going on?" a very concerned Han insisted. In that moment, he realized that he hadn't his blaster with him. "Damn," he thought, "damn."
"Your father blew Alderaan. You let him do it. You are going to pay for that." Bail Aloma's voice was still calm, but something in his eyes warned the sabacc player.
Everything happened very fast.
The barrel of a strange gun appeared through the folds of the dark cloak.
Han Solo pushed his wife aside in the same moment Aloma pulled the trigger. He tumbled, carried by his own impulse, and landed over Leia's body almost completely covering her with his own. She tried desperately to retrieve her lightsaber, but it was pinned under Han's hip.
/Help!/ Leia's mental cry irradiated toward the Jedi facilities.
The Alderaanian man moved closer, pointing the gun openly to the Princess's head.
Luke Skywalker waved his hand and the man that was pointing with weapon to his sister flew several meters away and knocked down to the ground unconscious.
"Are you alright?" he asked to Han and Leia. He helped them to sit on the ground.
"Don't know, Luke" Han answered. "What's this?" he said, looking down to the little green dart that pinned his shirt to his flesh.
"Mom, Dad, what happened?" Jacen run shouting into the clearance.
/Ben!/ Luke alerted his son. /Bring the medics here, quickly!/
"Leia, I feel... numb," Han Solo said before he collapsed seizing.
V. The Blood of a Jedi
"Doctor, have you identified the poison?" Luke Skywalker asked the chief physician of the Jedi medical facility. Anxiety was plain in the old Jedi face.
"Yes, Master Skywalker, we have." The physician sighed. "The venom is in our databank but..." Dr. Smithe gave the Jedi Master a sad look.
"There is no antidote."
"Leia, we must talk," Luke whispered, calling her attention. The Princess slowly turned her head to her brother. She was sitting at her husband's bedside, taking his hand. Their son Jacen was standing at the other side, applying to his father every Jedi healing technique he ever heard of.
Luke guided his sister to a nearby room, where they could talk in private.
At last, Leia Organa looked into his brother's blue eyes. "This is it, Luke, isn't it?" She asked, already knowing the answer.
Luke's eyes filled with tears. He nodded. /There is no antidote. / He said through the Force, unable to speak aloud the condemning words. The Jedi Master was sensing his sister's growing pain, as if it were his own.
/How long?/ She asked.
/A couple of hours, at most. /
/Will he wake up again?/
For a moment, neither of them spoke. But suddenly, the Princess started to weep with great sobs. Her brother hugged her tight, tears starting to fall down his own cheeks.
"It's not fair!" She cried, her face buried into her brother's chest. "I... I have...to say...goodbye!" Leia said between sobs, "I have to!"
Images and feelings penetrated Luke's mind like projectiles. Alderaan's blowing. An echo of her son's death. Chewie's Memorial in Kashyyyk. He absorbed everything, trying to soothe his twin.
"I never got the chance to say goodbye to Anakin, or to my father, or to Chewie! It's not fair!" she repeatd.
Luke held her tighter. If there were only a way...
Mara Jade Skywalker was waiting for her husband outside the room where he was talking with his sister. She could sense his grief through the bond with him. There was nothing she could do at the time to comfort him and that was not an easy thing for her to accept.
An hour had passed since Leia's cry alerted any Jedi around. While the others rushed to the medical wing with Solo, she took care of the assailant. With the aid of a few padawans, she had moved him to a secure room. He had been unarmed with the exception of the dart-throwing weapon. He awoke a few minutes later, but his speech was a mixture of Basic and Alderaanian, not fully coherent, and the medic droid had sedated him.
The door opened. Luke and Leia came out, their eyes rimmed with red. Mara sprang to her feet, but the Princess barely acknowledged her presence and continued to the room where Han lay. The red-haired Jedi took her husband's hand and forced him to sit beside her.
/How bad is it?/ She asked.
Luke sighed quietly. /He's not going to make it, love./
"Sithspit!" Jade cursed and squeezed his knee empathetically.
They sat silently for a while.
Mara's commlink crackled. "Master, there is an intersystem call for you," her current padawan announced. "Put it through," she ordered.
"Aunt Mara, any news?" It was Jaina.
"You better come here right now, girl," the elder woman said without preamble. But Jaina was already in an X-wing and ready to jump into hyperspace.
Mara had contacted Jaina as soon as she had been able and broke the news to her, but of course she already had known something awful had happened. She was supposed to arrive the next day with her family, for the life-day party, but that would be too late.
After Mara Jade closed the transmission, her attention went back to her husband. He was leaning to the wall, eyes closed, repeating a focusing exercise. She did not want to sneak into his thoughts but she could feel that something else was troubling him, beside the natural grief of the situation. They had lost many friends during the war, even their nephew, but she had never seen her husband so affected by someone's death.
/What's up, Luke?/ She asked. /He's old, he's ill, he'll go saving Leia again... What else could be best for him? We'll miss him but.../ The last statement was unexpected, but, strangely enough, Mara Jade realized it was true. /You know this is not the end, don't you?/
Luke Skywalker opened his eyes and looked at her. /No, I don't know, Mara./
/But...you talked to your father and Ben Kenobi after they died, right?/
/Yes, love. But they were Jedi, Force- sensitives/ he reasoned./Not... normal people like Han./
Mara Jade's green eyes dilated at the implications of her husband's suggestion.
/I have an idea/ Luke kept explaining/but I don't know if it's going to work, or if it's right to do it./ He opened his thoughts to Mara.
/Search your feelings, my love/ she answered after a while/you always chose the right thing to do. /
"Doctor, I need you to tell me exactly what's happening in Han's body."
Luke Skywalker was speaking to Dr. Smithe again. It was a strange request, the physician thought. But in the years he'd been practicing his profession amongst the Jedi, he had become used to strange requests.
"It's a slow action poison. A synthetic form of the venom of a very common insect in the Outer Rim. This insect paralyzes its victims with the poison, but it actually doesn't kill them. Then, it injects the paralyzed bug with its eggs. When the larvae hatch, they fed from their still alive host. Of course, no insects are involved here." The physician dismissed the idea waving his hand. "But Captain Solo was given a massive dosage of the venom. His senses were affected first. He's permanently blind and deaf. He can't feel anything. I could perform a major surgery upon him without any anesthetics. Of course he is also completely paralyzed. There is no way to reverse these effects, I'm afraid. We're assisting his breath mechanically and giving him fluids and nutrients. But because of his age and his previous health status, there is a high probability that his organs will start to fail soon."
"What about his mind?" Luke asked.
"Oh, he'd probably be pretty conscious if it weren't for the drugs I'm giving him."
The Jedi Master seemed to ponder something for a while. Eventually, he made up his mind.
"He needs a blood transfusion." Luke Skywalker stated.
"What?" Dr. Smithe was confused. "I'm sorry, Master Skywalker, but that won't help him"
"Not any blood," the blue-eyed Jedi stated softly. "My blood."
VI. The Ice Princess and the Smuggler
Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul. -- Oscar Wilde
Leia Organa-Solo sat at Han Solo's bedside. But it was not just another bed in her husband's long and busy life: it was his deathbed.
Tubes, lines, sensors, monitors, air compressors. The room was filled with the sound of the machinery fighting against the inevitable.
I'm going to lose him, was almost the only thing the Princess could think about. We'll never sleep in each other arms again. Her mind drifted from one thing to the other, panning over the landmarks of their lives.
Although the galaxy was finally convinced that they belonged with each other, few people did really have a clue to what kept them together for more than forty years. There were things that they had never told anybody, not even Luke or Chewie. Things that Leia had shared only with Han.
Like the secret of the Ice Princess. Rogue Squadron pilots were not that mistaken when they gave her that nichname.
The Ice Princess was not innate to her. She was born during Leia's captivity in the first Death Star. Darth Vader had tortured her for a standard week, without pause. Not that she had kept track of the time then. Subjectively, it could have been a month. Or a year. Or a lifetime. The pain was a living thing digging into her flesh, running through her veins, nested inside her chest, waiting for her to make a mistake to break her. In order to resist the compulsion of telling everything she knew about the Rebellion at once, she had... detached.
Detached from the body that brought only pain to her. Her body was weak, screaming to her to give in to the Dark Lord's inquires. So, the Ice Princess took control. Her body's requests were no longer heard.
The imperials had later put her in a bacta tank and restored her health, but that couldn't heal her mental wounds. Those, would bleed for years.
She had watched Alderaan's destruction without shedding a tear thanks to the Ice Princess.
Leia did not really like the Ice Princess, but she was useful at the time.
The problem was that the Ice Princess did not step down when she was rescued and returned to the Rebellion. Leia Organa kept fulfilling her duties with an iron will and everything else out of her mind. She cheered victorious pilots, she delivered medals, and she met with donors to the Cause. She planned, she commanded, she obeyed. She thoroughly erased from her consciousness every one of Han's approaches and whatever they stirred in her.
Life was an endless succession of duties to fulfill to Princess Leia, to the Ice Princess she had become.
Sometimes the Ice Princess had loosened her grip to let Leia cry at night. Sometimes Leia had tried to rebel against her jailer. One of her blind attempts had ended in that grotesque kiss with Luke. One more notch for the Skywalker's curse count.
Bless the Force for those months she was forced to spend on the Millennium Falcon with Han. Without it, she would have gone on being a flesh droid forever. He had smuggled that first kiss into Leia's cell and found the key to overrule the Ice Princess control. Scoundrel as he was, he wouldn't give it back.
Han had used the key to patiently restore the connections between her soul and her body. Patience was not a virtue usually associated with Han Solo, but he had been. Oh, yes. Patient, and caring, and loving, and unavoidable like the rise of the tide in Alderaanian seas.
She had cried for her father for the last time in Han's arms.
Leia had finally signed a truce with the Ice Princess. And, only a day before arriving at Bespin, she, the proud Princess that didn't give in to Vader's torture, gave in to Han Solo's passion.
He was not a man that easily verbalized his true feelings. But a whole book of them lay in the way he shielded her from Lando's unwanted attentions, in the way he took her hand to face Vader together. In the look in his eyes right before he got frozen in the carbonite.
Many times later had he proven his love for her once and again. But his greatest gift of love had been undoubtedly the children he had given to her. The children he had dared to entrust her with. The children that had finally and completely reconciled her with her physical being, a body that was no longer a vehicle for pain, but for life.
Dealing with his family had not been an easy task for her husband at times. She recalled specially one night. Han had stormed out of their apartment without saying a word. Jaina, aged four, had come to her and asked. /Why can't Daddy hear me, like you, or Jace, or Ani do?/. He had returned very late that night, completely drunk.
The loss Chewie first and of their golden boy later had been great blows to his spirit too. His famous lopsided grin was seen very seldom since then.
And now, after all this time, after all the things they have endured together, they would be separated. Forever. Without the chance of saying goodbye.
The gentle touch of her brother's mind brought her back to the present.
/I have something to tell you/ he said.
/I don't understand, Luke/ Leia said to his brother through the Force.
/You know about the midiclorians, Leia. Han and I have the same type of blood, the doctor says it won't harm him. /
/Are you sure? Would it be... right/
/I'm not sure if it will work, but I'll do it, if you agree. For him. And for us. I think he deserves it. But it would be unwise to spread word of it. Dr. Smithe has been working for me for years, he won't talk. /
/Alright, do it, Luke./ Princess Leia finally said. /And, Luke?/
Nobody in the room talked.
The physician inserted the catheter in the artery and started the transfusion. The IV line reddened, and the vital fluid started to flow into the dying man. Smithe applied a hypo-spray to Solo's neck and checked a monitor for the response.
"He's ready," he said to Luke Skywalker.
Han Solo found himself sitting on the pilot's chair of his own ship, the Millenium Falcon. Nothing could be seen outside the cockpit, like if it were flying inside a carbon cloud. He didn't remember boarding it. In fact, the last thing he remembered was taking a walk in the woods with Leia.
"Emperor black bones!" He exclaimed, as he recalled what happened next.
He jumped out of his seat and froze, feeling that something was awful wrong... His jaw dropped as he looked at his hands. "Kriff!" he whispered. "Kriff, kriff, kriff!" he kept mumbling as he run for the refresher's mirror.
Midway, as he passed through the lounge area, he stopped. Damn, he was running! How much time was it since...? Something suddenly caught his eye. A bottle, glittering like a Corusca gem over the holo-chess table. Corellian whisky. His favorite. What the...?
From this point he could see the exit hatch. The ramp was lowered but outside only a thick, white, shining fog could be seen.
Something else was wrong. The panels around the lounge, usually the dull gray of durasteel alloys. They were not smooth anymore. Han Solo came closer to one of them and, to his surprise, he saw that there were tiny images printed on it. One next to the other, little squares of sides less than a centimeter long. And every one, a perfect picture. Anakin, at age seven. Chewie. Leia, in that old white jumpsuit. Lando, looking miserable over a sabacc game. Jaina, probably age three. Jabba. Jacen, in his Jedi ceremonial robe. Bria. Luke, after Endor. Dewlanna, cooking. Vader. Leia, again, but WHO THE HELL COULD HAVE TAKEN THAT IMAGE?
Han Solo felt his blood pressure rise and his eyes bulge at the sight of his very naked wife decorating the panel. The stupid bantha responsible for that was so dead.
Everything was so strange, to say the less. He remembered then why was he running to the fresher, and resumed his way.
The light in the cubicle went on when he opened the door. He approached the mirror and examined his face. Corellian stars...! He was YOUNG! Somewhere in his midthirties, he guessed. "Hey, Solo, you were gorgeous!" Han addressed his image, rising a brow.
Suddenly, felt a tingle at the back of his skull. A presence. Like if someone was staring at him from behind his back. He turned around slowly to face the newcomer.
"Luke?" he said, "I didn't hear you board..."
"I didn't," the figure dressed in a Jedi robe answered.
"Hey, you look younger too! Much younger..." Han pointed at his brother-in-law with a long finger.
"That's how you see me, Han."
"I do what?"
"Come." Luke nodded towards the lounge.
As they walked through the curved passage Han almost felthis friend adding: Calm down. Relax. Listen to me. There's not much time. Mightily odd.
Luke Skywalker entered the lounge area. He glanced around as if he had never been there before. "Hmm, interesting," he muttered. Han suddenly recalled the embarrassing image of Leia he had seen before and rushed to hide it standing between Luke and that particular section of the hull. The younger man seemed to catch his intention at once.
"There's no need, Han. In fact, there's no way you can hide anything at this point. Besides, there's nothing here I didn't already know." He sat heavily by the holo-chess table. He seemed tired.
"What kind of game is this, Luke? How do you know what's on that wall? I don't like this." Han was getting angry and fast. He felt the silent whisper again. Relax. Calm down. Let me explain. There was grief emanating from the younger man. "I have a bad feeling about this," Solo said sitting across the djaric table.
"This is not easy to explain, Han, and we don't have much time." The Jedi's compassion was like background music to his words.
Han's face suddenly grew very serious. He clenched his jaw.
"This is it, kid, ain't it? He drawled almost casually.
"Yeah." Luke looked directly into Han's eyes.
The Corellian sighted. "And this place would be...?"
"I guess the bantha is dead," Captain Han Solo stated, rolling his eyes.
Han Solo tried to assimilate all the information that had rushed to his consciousness. The poison's effects. Luke's dilemma. Luke's blood. The red liquid flowing from the bag into him. The... things running through his body.
"Sithspit!" he said in a low tone.
"Jacen wanted to give you his blood, but I still have a higher count."
The Corellian noticed that Luke was proud and ashamed from this fact at the same time.
Luke continued. "I have accessed your mind because those midiclorians are attuned to me. And you can't hide anything, because nobody can without training," he shook his head. "Leia couldn't either when I started her training. Of course I never told her what she unintentionally revealed. That's why Jedi prefer to start training people at a young age. It's less... embarrassing."
The Millenium Falcon's captain muttered a very rude corellian curse and Luke Skywalker blushed.
"Sorry, Han, I did it because Leia wanted to say goodbye. I'll let her in now."
VIII. The show must go on
I guess I'm learning, I must be warmer now/ I'll soon be turning round the corner now/ Outside the dawn is breaking/ But inside in the dark I'm aching to be free./ The show must go on/ The show must go on/ Inside my heart is breaking/ My make-up may be flaking/ But my smile still stays on. (Queen, The Show must go on)
Leia Organa rushed to his husband side and threw her arms around his neck.
"Force, Han, this is all my fault!" She cried.
Han Solo wrapped her wife in his arms. She was young again, just like him. And she was also... horrified. Grieving. Overwhelmed. Utterly sad. He could feel it. Along with her love, her pride, her unextiguished desire for him. He suddenly realized what a Force-bond meant.
"Sweet Corellian stars!" He breathed. "This is what it's been for you all this years!" Han sought his brother-in-law's eyes over Leia's head, his own widened in awe. "I never..." He started. "I was blind, I didn't know! I'm so sorry!"
All the times he had teased them, all the times he had been annoyed by their Force-sensitivity suddenly came to his mind. Not for the first time, but maybe for the last, Han Solo felt ashamed. And he wept.
"Hey, stop it, nerf!" Leia removed her face from his chest. "It's not your fault!" She reached up with her hand and gently caressed his temple.
She really meant it. He could tell, now. A roguish grin slowly lit Han Solo's face. "It's not your fault either, sweetheart." Improbable as it seemed, they exploded in laughing through the tears. Luke Skywalker beamed.
"Han, Jacen wants to join us." Luke announced after a while.
"Please," Leia asked, but Han hesitated.
"Luke, can you... hide the panels?"
"What's with the panels?" The Princess asked. Her husband gave her a knowing look. "Oh," she blushed.
"Yes, I can, Han," the Jedi Master smiled.
The robed figure of Jacen walked in, apparently coming from the cockpit.
"Dad," he said.
His father did not answer but walked right to him and hugged him tightly. He was so proud. This was his son, a strong man now, tempered as durasteel, not a trace left in him of the sheepish boy he used to be. But he nevertheless missed that boy.
"Jace, I..." Han started.
"I know, Dad"
"You do?" he blinked "Shavit, you do. Take care of your Mom for me, will ya?
Two lopsided grins mirrored each other.
The sound of steps going up the ramp startled Han Solo. A familiar strode he had not heard in more years than he liked to remember. He let go his son and rushed to the main hatch. A tall figure was standing halfway down, slightly veiled by the fog.
The alarms went on. The medic pushed a drug into his patient and waited for him to stabilize.
"ANAKIN!" Han Solo shouted, jumping down the hatch to embrace his golden boy.
"Damn!" Han kept shouting, shaking his son hard, as if to see if he was real. "LEIA! HE'S HERE!" He called up to the ship.
"She can't hear you, Dad," Anakin Solo said with a sad smile. "And she wouldn't see me either. It's not her time, yet."
"I'll explain later, Dad," the Jedi firmly interrupted his father. "We'll have all the time in the galaxy. Uncle Luke was clever to inject you with his blood. It'll make everything a lot easier."
"But..." Han tried.
"Not yet, Dad. Now, you go inside again and say goodbye to everyone. I wish..."
A shadow passed through Anakin's blue eyes and Han noticed just then that he did not look like a teenager anymore, like when... He looked like a man, the man he should have become. He was even taller than he was, he thought with pride.
"Don't worry," The boy-man continued. "You'll see them again. I'll wait for you here." Anakin dragged his father up the ramp. "And, Dad?
"Yes, Ani?" Han said, happy to be allowed two consecutive words.
"Give Mom and Tahiri my love, will you?" The son pushed up the father into the Millenium Falcon again.
"Han, you... flickered" Leia said anxiously.
Han Solo looked into his wife's deep brown eyes. He's knees still shook from sheer emotion. He took her again in his arms and leaned to her ear, whispering.
Princess Leia busted into tears at the same time she repeated the same words ovr and over again. "I knew it! I knew it! Oh, Force, I knew it!" She transfered the news to the rest of her family. Luke and Jacen slowly let their jaws drop simultaneously.
The younger Jedi closed his mouth to announce. "Dad, Jaina is dropping out of hyperspace, she want's to talk to you now. I'll channel her."
A brown-eyed, brown-haired young lady not older than fifteen standard years ran through the Falcon's curved corridor shouting. "Daddy! Daddy!"
Han took his daughter in his arms and spun her around. "Princess!" He pressed the girl hard to his heart while she whispered to him.
"I love you, Daddy..."
Her beautiful Princess, a seasoned warrior and a full woman all at the same time. Just like her Mom.
"I..." Han Solo started.
"I know, Dad," Jaina stated, trying to be brave.
"Damn." He aimed at her his most charming smile. "Take care of the Falcon for me, girl, will ya?"
"Tell Ani we miss him," she whispered back.
"You should be going," Han Solo said to his family at last. He looked at Luke, who was starting to show dark circles below his blue eyes. He was tired, Han felt, from the loss of blood and from the effort of controlling this experiment.
"Just a minute," Master Skywalker asked. He nodded to his niece and nephew.
The room was suddenly filled with voices.
"Take care, Solo..."
"I love you, Grandpa!"
"See ya later, Uncle Han."
The Corellian captain felt suddenly like if a dozen hands at once caressed his cheek, ruffled his hair, pulled his sleeve, patted his back. He felt deep in his bones how much his family and friends cared for him, all at once. He sensed even the tiny mind of his youngest granddaughter through her link to Jacen. He perceived the serious, ordered ones of the Jedi in the Temple. They were keeping a vigil, just to accompany him and his family through this. And they were thankful for the good news he had brought in the last minutes of his life.
It was a web of love, linking Luke to Leia, to the twins, to their beloved ones, to their children, to their friends. And all of them to him.
"Goodbye," he whispered.
As the voices went away, Han Solo found himself weeping again. But this time the tears were of pure joy.
The twins hugged their father again. Jaina looked now older, grown up. Their images slowly faded, as they painfully retired.
Husband and wife engaged then in a close embrace that seemed to last forever. Luke Skywalker tried to look the other way. At last they parted and the former smuggler cupped her face with his hands. "Don't cry, Princess," Han Solo begged, "please."
"Han, I can't possibly..."
"Don't say that, sweetheart. You have to tell the little one about her gorgeous grandfather. Will you do that for me?"
Tears run freely down the Princess's cheeks.
"I love you, Han."
"I..." He lingered for a while, pondering the answer. And he finally chose something that had been true for almost fifty years, and yet was now more true than ever.
"I know." And he kissed her.
"Break it, Luke," Han Solo asked.
"Goodbye, flyboy," Leia said as she vanished.
The Corellian turned to his brother-in-law. Luke's appearance was terrible, tired and stressed. He had aged, too.
"The midiclorians are starting to decay, Han. I must go."
"Kid," he started while hugging him. "You've been..."
"I know, Han..."
"Will anybody let me finish a sentence today?" The smuggler grunted.
"No," the Jedi master smiled. "May the Force be with you, brother."
And he disappeared.
Han Solo was finally alone. "Now what?" he asked to nobody in particular.
He suddenly knew.
He walked up and down the Millenium Falcon one last time, remembering things and friend long gone. At last he stood by the hatch and glanced back. "Helluva life, Solo," he whispered, patting the faithful durasteel.
He took a deep breath. Anakin waited for him at the bottom of the ramp, arching his brows, expectantly.
With a confident step and a smile on his face, Han Solo went down the ramp.
The alarms went on again. Nobody in the room moved.
After a while, the medic droid shut off the machines and carefully detached the now useless stuff from the body.
Princess Leia Organa-Solo opened her eyes. She let go the hand she clutched and leaning over the bed, kissing her husband's still warm lips.
Two forms walked through the fog.
"Damn, I'm old again, Ani," Han Solo complained.
"I guess that's the way the Force thinks you are at your best," his son answered, laughing.
A question burned in the old man's throat.
"He's here, Dad, don't worry. He wanted to come to pick you up, but I was faster."
"But how... He wasn't..."
"Neither were you, Dad. But Chewie has some influence with a certain green Jedi Master and besides, my Grandpa is changing things here too."
"The one you named me after? He says he owes you, you know."
"Me? What for? Your mother's torture, the carbonite...?"
"All of that," Anakin answered somberly. "But mainly for stopping him from killing Uncle Luke at Yavin." A smile broke through his face again. "And for the gorgeous grandchildren that you gave him," he winked. "See, we're coming through..."
"Whatever you say, son," Han Solo sighed.
My soul is painted like the wings of butterflies/ Fairy tales of yesterday will grow but never die/ I can fly, my friends.../The show must go on – yeah/ The show must go on/I'll face it with a grin/ I'm never giving in/ On with the show... (Queen, The Show must go on)
IX. The heart of the Princess
From Street Boy to General and Beyond: A Portrait Of My Husband by P. L. Organa-Solo was an instant best seller. Moreover after the holo-frenzi that surrounded Han Solo's death.
The funeral had been delayed to the second day after that lovely spring evening on which he had passed away. To the day he would have been eighty years old. Someone had suggested avoiding the coincidence of dates, but Leia was adamant about it. There was no need. The guests were expected and everything was ready.
The Princess ignited the pyre with a steady pulse. The crowd of family and friends assembled around it remained silent. Two couples of twins watched arm in arm till the embers spent themselves.
The gathering after the cremation was an unusual one. The details of Han's last moments were passed from one guest to another but the voices of the children soon injected life to the house and tears where promptly replaced by laughing.
An illegal holo-record of Princess Leia actually laughing with Tahiri was what fueled the scandal, a soon as the identity of the murderer was known. Thayt image, added to old gossips of drunkenness and marital troubles, made the day of the yellow press. The fact that Bail Aloma was declared insane and the testimony from Jedi Master Luke Skywalker shortened the trial. All of which was dubbed by the press as very convenient.
For once, the Alderaanian community defended their Princess, trying to escape the collective guilt for not having detected before Bail's obsession. She listened politely to them but nevertheless retired from public life. She circumscribed her contacts to family and close friends.
From her seclusion sprouted the holo-book that was song of love to the legendary smuggler. Prologued by Lando Calrissian, who collaborated with her in the tale of his early days, the dedication was for her grandchildren.
The Millenium Falcon rested in his hangar. Following her father's wish, Jaina made and exhaustive diagnosis of the freighter's state. The engines and other systems were in acceptable shape, having been tenderly cared for. Unfortunately, the main hull and other structural parts were not. Every piece was plagued with mechanic fatigue microcracks. After almost a hundred years of service, it would not stand more stress from hyperspace jumps. The only solution was total disassembling and reassembling with new metal, but she did not have the heart to do that.
Three years after the Corellian's death, another blow struck the family. Mara Jade Skywalker died heroically during a mission.
Her husband was devastated. After the service, Luke refused to leave their bed. His sister ushered everybody out, including her nephew, Ben. For days, she accompanied her brother. She forced him to eat, she shoved him into the shower every other day, she waited for him with fresh clothes afterwards. Until he finally reacted and cried.
In the years of their widowhood, the Skywalker twins somehow recovered the stolen years of their childhood.
They trained together at early time in the morning, each one at their own level, and later they took thei breakfast in Luke's apartment. Afterwards, she would go to her writing and he to his students. They ate together again at night, in Leia's house.
Luke Skywalker knighted his last padawan shortly after Mara's death and declined to take another. Since then, he only taught the younglings, who followed him everywhere like a flock.
Almost ten years after Han's death, Luke suddenly woke up in the middle of the night. Goodbye, a familiar voice whispered. Reaching through the Force, he realized that there was no need to hurry.
The door to the hangar where the Millenium Falcon had rested since her captain's death was open. The freighter's lights were on and the ramp lowered. He went up and stepped into the quiet ship. He walked to the main cabin and stopped on the doorway.
Leia rested on the bunk, on her back. A datapad had slid from one hand, while the other one lingered still over her heart. Her face was serene and almost smiley.
Her brother sat on the bed and gently caressed the old woman's white hair. He recognized the datapad. It was her Memoir. It was finished.
Two souls, two suns, orbited each other in the void.
They slowly spiraled inwards, getting closer to each other with every revolution.
The outer layers brushed, propelling giant columns of ignited gas into each other.
With a final turn, they collapsed together.
The united stars imploded.
Gravity rose to impossible levels.
There was an explosion.
A supernova blasted through the emptiness.
"That was... just incredible. I love you, Princess."
"I know, Han."