Summary: Late night advice to a new father
Disclaimer: All these wonderful characters belong to George Lucas. No Imperial or Republic credits are being made off this story.
Author's Notes: I always like those "missing moments" stories that attempt to fill in the blanks of the novels, and figured Han would never pass up a chance to share his parenting expertise. Keep in mind that this was written before 'Star by Star' and subsequent novels.
If only things could've stayed this way...
YOU'RE TOO OLD FOR THIS
Errant Venture -- just after midnight -- A week or so after "Rebirth"...
Han Solo was strolling back to his and Leia's quarters when he passed the open door to the crew galley. He paused as he noticed a lone figure standing in the semi-darkness near the bulkhead, apparently gazing out the viewport at the twinkling stars. Han had just left a profitable sabacc game with several of the Venture's crew. Who else would be up this time of night?
The silhouette of the figure was swaying slightly, back and forth, and curiosity got the better of Han. As he approached, the slight figure in dark clothes became recognizable, even from the back – it was Luke.
"Shhhh." Luke shook his head, and it was then that Han was near enough to notice his friend held a small bundle in his arms. "I just got him to sleep."
Han smiled at the sight of his long-time friend gently rocking his first-born child. If ever there was someone in the galaxy who deserved this bright spot of joy, it was Luke. But that didn't mean the Jedi would escape being ribbed by his brother-in-law.
"You might as well admit it," Han whispered, taking in Luke's weary countenance. "I know you're thinking it."
"You're too old for this."
Luke gave a quiet chuckle as he shifted his son to his other arm. "Older than I was hoping for. But too old? Never."
"He been keeping you up every night?"
"Pretty much. Mara takes her turns, for his night feedings, but it's wearing her out, no matter how much she denies it. She's not completely recovered from how ill she was before he was born."
"I'm really sorry Leia and I weren't here for you then, Luke. You shouldn't have had to go through that alone."
"There was nothing either of you could have done. And we had friends here."
"Yeah, but family should stick together." Han paused, watching as Ben curled a tiny fist around one of Luke's fingers. "By the way, thanks."
"For what?" Luke gave him a confused glance.
"For sending Jacen with us." The retired smuggler turned and gazed out into the inky blackness of space. "On Duro, he and I were too busy managing the refugees to really get to talk. But being with him and Leia, on the Falcon ... It kinda reminded me of some of the crazy adventures you and me and Leia used to have. The kid even has your 'I don't know if a Jedi should be doing this' speech down pat." Han grinned at Luke, then looked back out the viewport. "It's been too long since she and I got to spend that much time together with any of our children. Ever since they went off to your academy, I guess. Sometimes I feel like a stranger to my own kids."
Luke was quiet a moment. "They've all three become excellent Knights. You should be proud of them."
"I am," Han assured him. "It's just ..., it seems like they've grown up too fast. And now they're pushed into this blasted war. I cringe every time they go off on their own. Ever since ... Chewie ... I feel like no one's safe."
"I know how you feel, Han," Luke murmured, gripping Ben a little tighter.
"No, you don't," Han countered, gesturing toward the child. "You won't know till he ventures out on his first Jedi crusade; without you tagging along, that is."
"If he becomes a Jedi," Luke reflected quietly, almost to himself.
"If?" Han snorted in derision. "What do you mean, if? He's got the Force in him, doesn't he?"
"Yes, he's very strong. But I'm not going to coerce him into becoming a Jedi. If he wants to, fine. If not ..." Luke stopped as he caught sight of the doubtful expression on Han's face. "I didn't force your kids into knighthood."
Han shook his head in amusement. "Yeah, yeah, whatever you say, Luke. You didn't take kindly to anyone trying to discourage them, either. I believe the phrase 'wasting their potential' may have come up a time or two. I just hope I'm still around to see the look on your and Mara's faces when Ben announces he wants to run a junk shop on Tatooine, instead of following in your footsteps."
"You were disappointed when your children didn't follow yours?"
"And all become smugglers?" Han laughed, eliciting a squeak of noise out of his nephew. "Nah. I'm proud of all of 'em. And Jaina's a Rogue. That title alone is as close as I want them to emulate my old lifestyle. I think Leia's even glad none of them have shown any interest in politics. No, you're the best role model for 'em."
"Humph. You better hope that doesn't include taking so long to find the right person to marry, like I did." Luke juggled his fussy son onto his shoulder. "Maybe I am a little old for this," he joked.
"Ahh, I wasn't much younger when Anakin and the twins were born," Han conceded. "Here, let me have him awhile."
Luke handed over the whimpering baby, but couldn't resist returning some of Han's teasing. "From what I hear, your youngest is closer to finding the right mate than the twins are."
"What?!" Han exclaimed, a little too loudly. "Quiet, kiddo," he said to the now-squalling infant, before turning back to Luke. "What are you talking about?"
Luke's lined face crinkled in amusement. "Who's his best friend?"
"Tahiri? She's just a kid. Heck, Anakin's just a kid. And there's a big difference between being a best friend and being a girlfriend."
"I think they're beginning to realize that." Luke held out his arms to retrieve his crying son before the whole ship woke up. Ben instantly quieted down in his father's embrace.
Han's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Just out of curiosity, does he let anyone but you or Mara hold him without crying?"
Luke winced guiltily. "Not so far. He cries if at least one of us isn't in the same room with him."
"You're spoiling him, ya know," Han counseled. "You gotta establish who's in charge, right from the get go. And you don't hafta pick him up every time he whimpers. Let him cry awhile. Surely you two can tell if he's actually hungry or dirty, instead of just craving attention."
"Yeah, we can tell," Luke admitted. "Mara says the same thing, but I can hear her sigh of relief when I carry him out of the room while she's trying to sleep."
"You know what started this, don't ya?" Han crossed his arms in feigned exasperation. "It's all that hocus-pocus of yours."
"How's that?" Luke was back to swaying Ben to and fro.
"Simple. You and Mara couldn't resist reaching out to him with the Force every day since you discovered he existed. Am I right?"
Luke fidgeted slightly. "I guess."
"So he's bonded so closely with the two of you, he can't stand when you're not around." Han speared his younger friend with a look of authority. "Take my advice, kid. Start weaning him away from totally depending on you and Mara. What are you going to do if you have to go into battle? Set him between your legs in your X-wing? Strap him into the co-pilot's seat on the Jade Shadow?"
"Of course not. We'll ... we'll leave him somewhere safe, if there is such a place anymore. And we'll work on getting him used to staying with other people."
Han got a contemplative look on his face. "Yeah, uh ... Listen, Luke, I'm sorry we didn't make more progress on your 'great river' thing."
"You did better than I dared hope, Han. I can't thank you enough. And it looks like Kam and Tionne have found us a planet to set up headquarters on."
"To hide out on, you mean." Han nodded thoughtfully. "Well, if it keeps my family safe, it'll be worth all the trouble. I couldn't bear to lose another ..." His breaking voice trailed off quietly.
Luke kept silent, knowing Han would never truly be able to put Chewie's death behind him.
"Guess I better get to bed," Han finally muttered, "before Leia comes looking for me."
"Sure, go ahead." Luke glanced at the peaceful expression on Ben's face, now slumbering softly. "I think us Skywalker men are ready to try going back to bed, too." He gave Han a heartfelt smile. "Thanks, Han, for all the advice. I really do appreciate it."
"Anytime, kid." Han grinned lopsidedly, and reached out to stroke Ben's rosy cheek. "That's what uncles are for."