Category: Short Story
Leia wasn’t sure when exactly the Falcon became home. In the beginning, it had been her unlikely salvation as they fled the Death Star, a much-welcomed returning blip on the screen during the Battle of Yavin. The ship and its supposed mercenary owner had stuck around long enough to become her safe haven on the first anniversary of the Disaster, as the blast that had obliterated Alderaan was now known. And somehow, at some point, this speedy piece of junk had clunked its way into Leia’s heart.
As homes went, it was a far cry from the palace at Aldera, or her old senate apartment on Coruscant, or even the spare living quarters she was afforded on base. It was the ship equivalent of a cozy yet ramshackle cabin in the woods, where pictures constantly fell off the wall and one wondered whether the roof would hold in a rainstorm. But it always did.
Among the more entertaining features of the ship were the random noises that made it sound as if things were constantly breaking, noises regularly shrugged off by Han and Chewie as being of no concern.
“Eh, the autovalet’s just bein’ wonky again,” Han said in response to the loud whine that had nearly drowned out their septday dinner conversation. “Must’ve slipped a belt.”
“Probably shouldn’t have stacked those transducers back there,” he said during another dinner, when an abrupt crash in the back made all their heads turn.
“Han,” Luke laughed, getting the better end of the teasing for once, “I think your ship is haunted.”
A week into their journey to Bespin, Leia was comfortable enough with living on the ship to find herself similarly shrugging off the Falcon’s many noises, as well as its other quirks. One morning, Han rushed up from the maintenance bay to reassure her about the cacophony of warning tones going off—warnings that had sent Threepio into a spiral of doom-filled declarations—only to find Leia calmly reading something on his datapad. Threepio was turned off and slumped in the seat behind her.
“Sorry ‘bout that. Forgot that workin’ on the power to the auxiliary shields—“
“—can cause a power surge in the main electrical system,” she finished. “I know. A known issue with the YT-1300f. Especially a souped-up one.” She smiled at him. He grinned back, taking a seat beside her. “Yeah. Since when do you know so much about YT-1300s?”
“I know everything,” she teased. “Sure you do,” he said, giving her a quick kiss.
She held up the datapad and showed him what she’d been reading: the ship spec summary and repair manual.
“I’m impressed,” he said. “What, didn’t like those novels?” There was limited reading material on Han’s datapad, with the exception of several novels in a pulp mystery series.
“I do, but I’m trying to pace myself,” she said, “and I figured this might be more useful than The Ghost of Kuat.” She grinned. “Unless your ship really is haunted.”
After the adrenaline of their escape from Bespin had worn off, haunted was an apt description of both the Falcon and her passengers and crew.
Luke was stabilized and no longer in immediate physical danger, but his mind was still obviously preoccupied. He kept muttering to whom Leia assumed was an unseen Ben Kenobi, asking, “Why didn’t you tell me? How could you keep this from me?”
And when he wasn’t talking with ghosts, Luke was asking Leia where Han was. She wasn’t capable of answering that question verbally yet, fearing it would break the string by which she was holding herself together. She pretended not to hear, leaving him in Lando’s care while she went to grab a few pieces of bedding to put on the floor. Luke’s condition was still precarious; Leia felt it best to sleep close to him, in case anything happened in the night.
The way Han slept next to you on the way back from Ord Mantell, came the unbidden thought.
She palmed open the door to Han’s cabin. Our cabin, they’d taken to saying those last few weeks of the trip, with Chewie both triumphant at the fact that he’d apparently known it all along and impatient with their public displays of affection.
It still smelled like Han. It still felt like Han, from the extra gun belt on the floor to the towel hanging up outside the ‘fresher. She knew the shaving kit would still be on the sink, the spare clothes still in the closet. But Han was gone. I always feared you’d leave, but never like this.
She took a pillow and a blanket off the bunk, then grabbed his worn t-shirt, the one he’d offered to let her keep. We can fight over it when I get back, he’d said. Looks a hell of a lot better on you, anyway.
“I have to go,” she said to no one in particular, fleeing the cabin before she had to face any other ghosts.
With Han’s help, Leia had put most of her guilt about Alderaan’s destruction to rest; she’d focused on the future, on moving forward, on the Empire’s final defeat, on the galaxy they would rebuild in its place. She’d thought she was done with ghosts.
Now, the Empire defeated, her brother, her beloved, and her friends safe, here she was again, still sparring with a specter from the past.
Maybe the Falcon really was haunted.
“General Kenobi,” she said, addressing the faint blue apparition in the clipped tones characteristic of her diplomatic persona, “I appreciate that you are trying to be helpful to an old friend. But I fail to see why I need to accept any kind of communication from him.”
Could a Force Ghost look tired? General Kenobi looked exhausted.
“Anakin understands that he has done you a great many wrongs. Wrongs that are perhaps unforgivable. But as your father, he—“
“My father? Perhaps unforgivable?” Diplomacy fell away, and the back of Leia’s mind registered that to a non-Force-sensitive person, she now looked like she was having an argument with nothing. But she no longer cared. “My father was killed on Alderaan, along with my mother and all of my people. Oh, yeah, one of my mothers— he killed our birth mother, too, didn’t he?” she reminded him bitterly. “He is not my kriffing father.”
General Kenobi waited patiently for Leia to finish speaking, and then began again. “I apologize, I misspoke. I—I believe that Anakin wishes to express his regret, and to help where he can—to understand the Dark Side, understand his fall.”
Leia folded her arms and laughed ruefully. “Understand the Dark Side, really. Really. You think I don’t understand the Dark Side.” She took a deep breath, then lowered her voice, though it was no less intense. “Do you have any idea what I’ve been doing for the last three weeks? Because I’ll tell you. I’ve been reviewing highlights from war crimes tribunals.” The volume of her voice increased. “I am DONE listening to men tell me WHY. I do not care about WHY, because the WHAT is almost too horrible to comprehend. I have seen the Dark Side, General; I have had it used against me, and the people whom I love.” She looked around the room, suddenly aware of her surroundings, suddenly filled with anger for Han and Chewie and Luke and Lando, for Alderaan, for herself. She remembered her father’s old words, In anger, seek justice, and it fueled her.
When she spoke to the apparition again, she was calm. Righteous. “I’m willing to learn some things about the Force. About my abilities. But you will respect my time and you will respect my boundaries.” She breathed in deeply, then continued. “You will not come here again. This is Han’s home, and mine; this is sacred ground. If you wish to speak to me again, you will find another place to do it. He will not take another home away from me.”
General Kenobi nodded gravely. “I understand.” He smiled faintly. “You should know—you were very like your mother, just then. Both of your mothers.” Then he was gone.
She hadn’t heard Han enter the room, but there he was. He motioned, silently asking her permission to put an arm around her, and she nodded.
“How much of that did you hear?” she asked.
Han smiled. “Heard you send the ghosts away,” he said. “Been meanin’ to take care of that for a while.”