The "Five Things That Never Happened" idea is quite popular in other fandoms. Basically, it's five short AU vignettes centring around a character or theme. No prizes for guessing mine. Dedicated to LASOS, who is superb and awesome and who I really, really, can't seem to refuse anything writing-wise :D
Five Things That Never Happened
"Save your strength. There'll be another time."
When he's with her, his world is limited to the hisshumdrone of machinery and light, feminine laughter and a pair of beautiful brown eyes with thick dark lashes and smudged mascara at the sides. And then (how many times he will repeat those words, and then) there is that calm before the storm moment, that unbroken stare, their lips edging closerclosercloser until he can feel his breath on hers, see every golden fleck in those deep, endless eyes, touch her velvetsoft hair as she inhales. And then --
And then it's gunshots and pandemonium and hell and screams and she's slumping forward into his embrace and it's oh gods, (The Princess!), not my Leia (Is there a medic in the area?) and all he can see are her blankblank eyes gazing at the sky (No pulse.) and there's too much blood (No breathing.) and it's corroding his hands (Dead at the scene.) and she's still bloodredwarm in his grasp (Nothing we can do.) and then it's his endless, anguished cry of grief (Time of death.) and all that rings in his ears are her screams -- her screams --
(Except she's not screaming any more, gods no, she's silently still, limp as a feather, spattered with her blood --)
And then they're whispering soothing promises of false comfort in his ear, telling him that it was sudden and she died instantly and she wouldn't have felt a thing. But his hands were on hers and his breath moistening her lips and she would have wanted to feel that. And then it is the cold, impersonal funeral, held by people who never knew her, and attended by those who thought that they did. They the media the usual clichéd phrases to regurgitate, about her "fearless leadership" and her "passion for democracy" and her "unique charisma". But they won't remember her favourite novel (Warfare and Peacetime, by Talstai), or that her cheeks dimpled when she smiled, or that her favourite word was 'posterity'. Only he will remember that, and he is long gone.
And then (oh, and then) he realises that he even can't remember what her last words were, even though he should have been there when she said them, and even though it's one less thing to torture himself by.
"Attacking that battle station ain't my idea of courage -- it's more like suicide."
He has no qualms about gunning the engines, lifting the craft into the sky, and blasting away into the blissful anonymity of space. He is -- and always will be -- a smuggler, first and foremost, a free man, not a naïve idealist going to join up with some damn fool crusade, no matter how beautiful-fiery-passionate the crusaders may be.
(Your friend here's a real mercenary.)
His callused palm rests on the hyperspace lever and the Death Star looms large and forbidding in his eyes and he pauses in thought, suddenly, as his long-dead conscience raises its ugly head, phoenix-like, from the ashes of the man he once was. And he wonders if, quitepossiblymaybe, he is doing the wrong thing, by leaving, although he swears he can hear that dead Kenobi guy talking in his head, ordering him to turn back, and it's really, really, giving him the creeps.
(I wonder if he cares about anything.)
And then -- oh, yes, and then -- his hand moves of its own accord and the harsh, sculpted lines of his destiny fade away into the gentle, impersonal mists of hyperspace and he is gone, seventeen thousand credits richer, just like he swore he would be.
And days later, when he reads about the destruction of Yavin IV and the annihilation of the Rebel fleet, he tells himself that it was for the best and no good gettin' involved with Princesses and let the damn fools die as they so choose. And then he wonders if he cares about anything or anybody, even though they will haunt him in his sleep for years to come, outdated farmboy idealism and that pair of endless, unforgettable eyes.
"Do you think a princess and a guy like me …"
"Do you ..." The question falls out of his mouth so almostsuddenlyquickly that it startles even himself. "Do you think that a Princess – and a guy like me – "
And he's suddenly scared of the answer, even though he shouldn't be, because he's always thought of himself as rational, but nothing about this conversation is.
And that is definitely the answer that his gloating subconscious wants to hear, and it does his conscience a world of idealistic, Rebel Alliance-style good.
He joins up five minutes later.
"Bring them on! I prefer a straight fight."
The one benefit of marrying an orphan, he muses, is supposed to be that you never have to meet the in-laws. But this is Leia, and she is impossible, so he really should have expected this to happen. And t's not like he's nervous or anything, but the glare that that man is shooting him is heated enough to ignite the fuel canisters on the far side of the deck, and he feels like he's fifteen again and applying for that job on a freighter, all errs and ahhs and awkward, stilted sentences.
"You want to marry my daughter." Vader states, folding his shimmering arms across his robed chest and shooting him a stare that he swears if more lethal than a blaster.
(And he wonders why Vader even bothered wearing the mask when that Look could have subdued every star system from Naboo to Hoth.)
"Erm, yeah …"
(And he wonders whether shoving a hydrospanner through the dead man's innards would make a shred of difference to the outcome of this conversation at all.)
"I don't get you."
The ghost sighs, running a hand through thick curls that might have been blond, once upon a time. "What makes you think you're good enough for my daughter?"
(Because I passed all my exams at your stupid elitist Academy with full bloody marks.)
(Because I have the fastest ship in the damned galaxy and have notched up more kills with my blaster than you have hairs on your head.)
(Because I can't for the life of me tell you why exactly I have fallen in love with this passionate-caring-kind Princess, who just so happens to be your child.)
"Because I love her."
(It's wroth explaining that he didn't get the job in the end, anyway.)
And then Anakin Skywalker's face lights up into a brilliant smile that could illuminate the entire planet of Coruscant for a year. "That's exactly the answer I was looking for, my friend." He then tilts his head to the side and smirks, looking as young as Luke does at times. "By the way, if you want to increase your hyperdrive capability, you clip the blue wire, not the red."
And then Han Solo smirks back, and thinks that he may have made an ally in this Skywalker after all.
"I've seen a lot of strange stuff, but I've never seen anything to make me believe there's one all-powerful Force controlling my destiny."
The first thing he thinks is oh, right, Imps on the south side, gottagottagotta warn Leia --
The second thing he thinks is wait a second, didn't that Stormtrooper just nail me in the chest?
And the third thing he thinks is damn, there goes my reputation.
(Although he supposes he's dead now, anyway, so there's really no reputation to ruin.)
And now here he is, in this limbo between consciousness and eternity, limbless, lifeless, lonely. And although he is everything and nothing and omniscient and wise, he is unfeeling, and alone, and without a certain sharp-tongued Princess by his side.
If this is being At One With The Force, he thinks, then screw it.
And it's only after the battle is over that he enters the kitchen to seek solace in his favourite manner: with more shots of whiskey than are normally deemed fit for human consumption -- because, dead or not, he'll be damned if he can't have a shot of that new Reserve -- only to see a sobbing, pale figure hunched over a shotglass, crying and raging and calling his name. And he attempts to touch her, only to have his hand go right through her sleeve and only to earn a glass thrown in his general direction for his troubles.
(She would later apologise, screaming HanHanHan and I can't believe you're dead, but that won't matter after a while.)
And he doesn't think about his ability to appear on the mortal plane, or about comforting the woman that he died defending, or about the outcome of the battle and what impact it has on their suicidal cause that they misguidedly tout as a 'rebellion'.
No, instead he can't help but think, damn, I'd just replaced the tiles on that wall.