"Father and Son"
AN: I own nothing Star Wars related and make no money off of this story (but why would I be posting it on the internet if I could sell it as a book?). Well, this AU idea has been nagging me for quite some time now, but I was waiting until I finished my big epic "My Mother" to start working on it. However, now that "My Mother" is on its way to being finished, I thought it was safe to start work on another epic.
And before I get any reviews commenting on this, yes, I KNOW Han is older in the canon than he is in this fic. This is an AU fic, where some of the canon elements are changed, one of which being Han's age. Kay?
Corellia, soon after the start of the Clone Wars.
Anakin didn't know why he was here. He should be fighting the Separatists, not watching one of them be sentenced. Why should a Jedi be witness to an execution? But for some reason, the chancellor had thought it important and appointed Anakin to represent the Jedi at this event. Palpatine had mentioned that it would be a growing experience for Anakin.
He shifted in his seat, trying to eliminate the twist in his stomach. Why was he feeling this way - after all, he had seen people die before. Quite a few, actually, including his mother...
He swallowed, squirming with greater intensity, wishing that they would just finish these pre-execution speeches and get this over with. Looking at the prisoner standing in the center of this arena was giving him a strange feeling in his nerves.
Her hands and feet were bound, but she continued to scowl, shifting her piercing glare from the judge reading her sentence to Palpatine's hologram sitting in front of her to the clone troopers who were to carry out her sentence. Anakin knew very little about her, only that she had been found guilty of smuggling illegal goods for the Separatists. Apparently no one else knew much about her either, not even her first name.
She was only ever called "Solo."
Although she was about to die, neither her face nor what little movement her arms could make betrayed any fear. Her thick brown eyebrows were down in a sharp angle pointed at her nose, and her similarly-colored hair formed a thick mane around her head. She reminded Anakin of a raging beast posed to attack - he almost expected her to snap her binders and escape.
"Prisoner Solo," the judge finally said, his voice booming around the arena, "you have been found guilty of smuggling illegal goods and working for the Separatists, and you been sentenced to death by blaster fire. Do you understand this?"
"I've been asked that a thousand times," the prisoner growled. "I've already said that I understand."
"Do you have any final statements, Solo?"
Final statements. Somehow it sounded more elegant than last words. Anakin swallowed, trying not to feel sorry for the prisoner. It would be counterproductive to justice if he did...but his inner self didn't listen. He kept imagining her breaking free, wishing against his better judgement that that would happen. The memories of being condemned to death only a few months before unwillingly entered his head.
"Yes," the woman said boldly, "I have plenty of final statements about your so-called Republic and your so-called chancellor. Or maybe I should say your dictator."
Palpatine's hologram abruptly stood up. "Your treason speaks for itself as to why you are to be executed, young Solo."
"What's the point of final statements?" the prisoner snapped. "You're only going to kill me no matter what I say." She turned her head to the witnesses, seeming to plant her hateful stare right at Anakin.
"Prisoner, do you have any final statements or not?" the judge said impatiently.
"Yes," the prisoner said, her eyes still fixed on Anakin. "I want someone to take care of my child."
The judge sneered. "Again with the claim about your non-existent child?"
"Child?" Anakin asked.
"Young Skywalker, do not fall for this prisoner's lies," said Palpatine's hologram. "She has been insisting that she has a son in order to win sympathy from the court. There is no validity to her story."
"And yet you've never actually investigated my validity," the prisoner shouted. She turned back to face Anakin. "I have a baby son, Jedi. A friend of mine hid him away when I was arrested."
"Then why doesn't she take care of him?" Anakin asked, feeling strange to be talking to someone about to be executed.
"Because she was caught too," the woman said bluntly.
"Because neither the friend nor the child exists!" the judge shouted.
"If the prisoner has no further statements, then proceed with the execution," Palpatine said with his cold firmness.
"Wait!" the prisoner shouted, a hint of unexpected desperation in her voice. "You Jedi can read minds, can't you? Read my mind and tell them that I'm telling the truth."
Anakin gulped, fingering his padawann braid in a useless attempt to calm himself, both wanting to probe her mind and hesitant to. His stomach twisted at the thought that she might be lying - but it twisted more at the thought that she might be telling the truth. "All right," he said softly, closing his eyes and reaching into her mind with the Force.
"Rubbish!" the judge exclaimed. "Your honor, I ask that the prisoner's ridiculous request be denied. Are we to trust this nineteen-year-old padawann to determine whether or not her claim is correct when we have already investigated it?"
"That's a lie!" the prisoner shouted.
"This Jedi is a friend of mine," Palpatine said calmly. "His skills are quite advanced for his age."
Anakin found himself smiling.
"However," he heard Palpatine say, "he is still not fully trained, and his master tells me that he has difficulty controlling his emotions."
Anakin barely comprehended the chancellor's statement - so intense was his searching. The woman's mind carried very little resistance to probing, even of her memories. He saw that she was indeed guilty of the crimes of which she was accused, as well as a few more that weren't covered in her sentence. But then he saw something else - another memory, much clearer, much more cherished than all the others. She was looking down at a bundle, smiling at a baby's face...
"Solo, in the name of justice and the Republic, we hereby sentence you to death," Palpatine was saying.
"Wait!" Anakin cried. "She's telling the truth! I saw her memory!"
The prisoner's brows went up, her eyes growing wide, staring at him with silent hope.
The judge sent him a glare. "And how do we know you're not lying? How do we know you don't just feel sorry for this wretch??"
Palpatine's hologram smiled at Anakin, the sort of fatherly smile he seemed to have reserved for the young Jedi. "You have done a noble deed, young Skywalker. It is quite honorable to lie to save a life. However..." He turned back to face the prisoner. "...whether or not she has a son is not relevant. It does nothing to change the fact that she is guilty of said heinous crimes. The law must be honored if it is to work." He shifted his focus to the clone troopers circled around her. "Proceed."
The clones raised their blasters.
Anakin opened his mouth to say something, to scream out to spare her, but nothing could come out. Palpatine's words and the sense they had made seemed to have a hold on him. He could only watch with horrified eyes as the prisoner called Solo once more turned her head to face him.
"Find my son, Jedi," she growled. "Find Han."
The clones all fired at once, the light from their blasts causing Anakin to squint, barely able to watch the woman collapsing. His head was spinning, a strange buzzing was in his ears, something was forming in his eyes, but it couldn't be tears...could it? He clasped his hands together in his lap, letting each protect the other from shaking.
When the clones finally stepped aside, it was all over. A red puddle soaked the arena's floor, growing bigger by the moment, spotlighting the crumpled body in the middle of it. With her hands and feet still bound, her body was twisted in unnatural angles, her open eyes looking at nothing, her jaw seeming to hang from the rest of her head.
Anakin didn't know what happened after that, only that he went numb, like some intoxicating drug had overtaken him. The memories of his mother dying in his arms poured in his head, her body blurred with the sight of the prisoner's body.
Another mother was dead.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Anakin walked through the streets as if in a trance, paying no heed to anyone or anything, his head in partial meditation, letting the Force guide him to where he would need to be. He wasn't sure how the Force was guiding him through this unfamiliar city to an uncertain destination, but he kept his mind focused on that woman. The Force urged him on through the crowds, remnants of her Force signature growing closer.
Finally he stopped in front of a large library with high bushes growing in front of it. The prisoner Solo's memories were pulsing in his head, becoming as vivid as if she were standing in front of him. He breathed deeply, thinking for certain that if a baby was hidden here someone would have found it. Nevertheless, he reached out with the Force...and found a small soul hidden in the bushes.
Anakin dove down to his hands and knees and began crawling into the bushes with no thought of getting dirty or tearing his Jedi robes. He shuffled through the dirt and poking branches, following that soul's Force-signature. Finally his hand bumped into something hard, which revealed itself to be a large basket lined with blankets.
Anakin gulped, giving fleeting glances to the basket, lest he notice that the baby inside was dead and he had only been imagining that he felt life. He took a few breaths, gradually gaining the courage to look inside the basket.
There was indeed a baby. His eyes were scrunched closed in sleep, his head bearing a downy layer of brown hair. Slow removal of the blankets revealed that he was wearing nothing but a diaper that smelled like it hadn't been changed in a while - Anakin quickly put the blankets back over him, letting only his little head show.
He quickly reasoned that the prisoner's friend must have been pursued by authorities and hidden the baby here intending to come back to him, but then she was caught. He sat there for several moments simply staring at the child, watching his little chest rise and fall under the blankets. It felt like he had to harness all his energy in order to touch the infant's soft cheek.
The baby woke up, staring up at Anakin for only the tiniest second before he began wailing. Large, hot tears poured out of his eyes, drenching Anakin's fingers. His legs began kicking at the blankets as if they were attacking him.
"Shhh, shhh," Anakin whispered, stroking the baby's cheek in a useless attempt to comfort him. He reached into the child's mind, trying to soothe him with the Force but instead finding a memory that made his heart sink. He saw the face of the prisoner Solo, her head large as seen from a tiny pair of eyes, smiling down at him with motherly affection.
Anakin scooped the crying baby in his arms, pressing him close to his chest. "It's all right...there there...it's all right..." he kept whispering, although things were far from being all right for this infant. Still, his words seemed to have a calming affect on the baby - within a minute, his cries had softened.
"Well now that I've found you, what am I going to do with you?" Anakin sighed. Put him up for adoption? That seemed to be the most logical answer...but Anakin felt that the child's mother wouldn't want to see her son grow up in an orphanage. The image of her writhing in death played itself over and over in his head, swelling his eyes with tears. Maybe he could have saved her if he had spoken up more...but would they have listened? She probably did deserve to die, but did her baby deserve to grow up without his mother because of things she did?
He looked down into the child's hazel eyes, their innocence capturing him, making him hesitant to leave him with anyone. Perhaps he could...no, it was a foolish idea, right? Or maybe...maybe it wasn't. As he continued to stroke the baby's cheek, a plan began to form in his head.
"You'll be all right, little Han Solo," he whispered.