Luke didn't always move right.
It takes Han a while to notice, though in his defense the first few days he knew the kid were predominantly spent in a near perpetual state of sassing, fight, or flight. Outrunning Star Destroyers and breaking irritating Princesses out of highly guarded Imperial battle stations tended to do that to a guy. After that they're busy fighting the Death Star, and after that they're packing up the Yavin IV base and evacuating, and after that they're on the run, playing a deadly game of dejarik with the Empire all across the galaxy.
It isn't until one day, far more months later than he can quite believe, that Han realises that he's apparently joined the Alliance without even really meaning too. That he has a rank and attends briefings and has Responsibilities that he actually gives a shit about.
Han isn't sure how he feels about that.
Han also isn't sure how he feels about the fact his best friend isn't human. Both because he has no idea how he got so close to the kid so quickly, and because he's not really the kind of non-human he's used to. He's been all over and known all kinds of sentients, hells Chewie isn't remotely human and he's his goddamn brother as far as Han is concerned. Maybe that's the problem though. Because Luke still looks human, mostly.
They both got their medical checks at the same time when they first got to the Alliance, a standard formality to get their bio-readings in advance in case of injury and to check for any spy or tracking implants. He remembered clear as day Luke's bashful, farmboy chuckle when the med droid asked his name, standard age, and species.
Luke Skywalker. 19. Full human.
Han often thought back on that moment. He thought about it while watching the kid walk down the crowded halls of whatever hastily erected base or starship was their home that month, never looking up from his datapad but somehow never bumping into anyone. He thought about it when they inevitably ended up in a firefight with some Stormtroopers or bounty hunters or whoever else, when Luke was never quite in the way of any of the blaster shots but still managed to get right up in front of the enemy, removing limbs or heads with what seemed like easy, unhurried slashes of his bright blue lightsaber. Like they had just happened to walk into his blade.
He watched his friend's already quick, agile movements become smooth and borderline predatory the more he trained and the longer they were at war. That probably went at least in part with the Jedi territory. Han was old enough to still remember the Clone Wars, remembered watching holos as a kid of the Jedi Generals in action. They were incredible fighters, faster and more lethal than pretty much anything, and even now he was an adult he could still feel the awe his child-self had felt for the Heroes of the Republic echoed when he watched Luke in action.
Luke though, as comfortable in battle as he was, was far more unsettling outside of it. He answered questions before people asked them, knew things there was no way he should know, even passed things to people before they'd thought to ask. Whenever it happened and people were unsettled he just got so confused, like it was the most natural thing in the world for him to be like this and it was everyone else who didn't make sense.
And those eyes. Those soft, infinite blue eyes that flashed like twin suns, so warm and compassionate that you felt uncomfortably naked around him, like an exposed nerve that he could see all the way through and down into the core of you.
A lot of it was subtle, things that happened when neither of them were paying attention. As well as the uncanny way he moved was the weird, prickling sensation when Luke was behind you during a particularly brutal fight, like it wasn't safe to have your back to him. Which was ridiculous, because Han trusted Luke with his life Sith hells maybe even his ship, though he'd never admit it out loud. It just made no sense.
Leia could be unsettling too come to think of it, but in almost the completely opposite way. Where Luke seemed to somehow occupy far more space than his slight frame could possibly occupy, Leia seemed to hold herself so tight and closed off she felt like a gravity well. That all the passion and frantic energy he knew she felt was buried so deep down she was folding in on herself like a collapsing star.
Luke always felt too warm, like he was carrying the heat of Tatooine's binary suns around with him even though he complained endlessly about the cold of space. By contrast, Leia was always cold, like she was the last vestige of the snowy Alderaanian mountains left in the universe, but it was a cold that burned deep in her eyes and in everything she did.
Han shook his head sometimes, thinking about it all.
Han was a born and bred spacer, had longed for the freedom of open space his whole life and once he got there he'd never looked back.
So Han had no idea how he ended up locked in orbit around two such strange, radiant people. He especially had no idea why it didn't seem to bother him in the slightest.
Luke Skywalker. 19. Full human.
Full humans weren't filled with so much frantic energy that sometimes it looked like they were in danger of exploding out of their own skin. They didn't lean so far out of their cockpit fixing a stabilizer that by all rights they should have fallen flat on their face, but never did. They also couldn't fire a blaster at multiple targets while blocking shots one-handed with a lightsaber. Without looking. Before said targets came around the corner.
Full humans didn't continue conversations you only vaguely remembered having with them in a dream.
Full humans didn't occasionally forget to keep walking on the ground if they got too distracted.
Full humans didn't shine out the corner of your eye when they were happy.
Full humans didn't smile during a fight with quite so many teeth.
Not even the Force explained it all, not now that Han was paying attention. Or trying to at least. Sometimes it felt like the harder he tried to look at Luke, really look at him, the more his eyes slid right off him. Like he couldn't see all of him properly with the limited amount of visual wavelengths available to humans. He should really ask Chewie about that one of these days, Wookies could see more spectrums than humans could, but he was kind of afraid of the answer.
Once while especially drunk he'd sat there for ages, staring without blinking at Luke while he played sabacc with the other pilots, trying to see what in his drunken state he was convinced was there. Maybe it was extra limbs, maybe tentacles, or scales or wings. Luke had turned to ask him something, and the next thing he knew he was waking up in a white room with a splitting migraine and no memory of how he got there. Apparently he'd passed out and gotten a bloody nose in the lounge, and when Luke had gotten upset the sabacc-playing pilots had formed an honour guard to bring him to the medbay for a checkup. Once they knew he was fine they'd all laughed about how Han never knew when to hold back when Corellian brandy was involved. He'd laughed along with them even though he wasn't sure that was it, and Luke didn't meet his eyes for nearly a week.
He didn't try again.
He came out and asked Luke about it once, on the way to Endor to take out the second Death Star. It was late in the night cycle and everyone else was asleep, so it was just the two of them sitting in the stolen ship's lounge, tinkering with their respective projects and keeping an ear out for any problems with the hyperdrive.
He'd asked casually, deliberately trying to seem nonchalant while asking his friend about his parentage. What he hadn't been prepared for was the way Luke shrank in on himself, suddenly looking very small and haunted.
"I don't know." He said quietly, not looking at Han. "I used to think I was just human, but now…"
He paused, seeming to shudder slightly. Han was about to say something to change the subject when he continued. "I never knew my mother, where she came from or even her name. As for my father…" He stopped again, the parts he'd been fiddling with forgotten on the table as he clenched and unclenched his gloved right hand. The mechanical one, Han remembered suddenly. The one he'd lost in the duel with Vader at Bespin.
The shadows felt like they were deepening, and the chill of deep space felt like it was seeping into his bones. Luke was just staring at his hand, looking lost, and Han cursed himself for bringing it up. Everyone close to Luke knew he'd lost his Jedi hero father to Darth Vader, and even though he'd spent a good year in carbonite he'd heard how much Luke had retreated into himself after that confrontation. Going head to head with your father's murderer and losing a hand couldn't be easy. Luke hadn't been too forthcoming with details but clearly the monster had done a number on him.
Luke flinched, as though he'd said it aloud even though he knew he hadn't. "You see it, don't you?" He said quietly. "You have for a while now. How I'm not-not like other people."
Han sighed, putting his hand on the kid's shoulder.
Luke Skywalker. 19. Full human.
He wasn't 19 anymore, and maybe he was never human, not completely. But he was still Luke, still one of the best people he'd ever known regardless of what he was or where he came from, and he told him so. Luke's hesitant smile had been bittersweet, but it made him shine.
Later on it made sense, all of it, even the awful parts. Maybe especially the awful parts.
It was about a month after Endor, and in retrospect it put Leia's increasingly strained behaviour since their victory into perspective. Finding out Luke and Leia were twins after the battle made a whole lot of sense. It wasn't even a surprise really, he felt on some level it was kind of obvious now that he actually thought about it. The chance of two random people, who were both adopted and the exact same age even, ending up as two complementary halves of a whole like they were purely by chance just didn't happen.
Finding out about their father was harder.
Luke had to be the one to tell him in the end. He's seen the two of them getting into a lot of hushed, increasingly frustrated arguments of late, always just out of his earshot and stopping whenever he turned the corner. He knew the twins were working a lot of things out between themselves, negotiating the new parameters of their relationship now they knew the reason behind the weird attraction they'd always had to each other. He knew it logically, but couldn't help but feel unsettled, like there was something about their disagreements that had something to do with him.
In the end Luke must have worn her down, because she gave reluctant permission to tell him. Later on he realised she was still clearly struggling with facing it all, and considering what she'd personally endured at Vader's hands he didn't hold it against her that she'd just blurted out that Luke had to tell him something, and then fled. As she walked out, the cracks in her armour that appeared after Endor seemed to break off and trail behind her like the fragments of her dead planet.
Han had been apprehensive, tired from the tension of the last few weeks and not sure what could possibly unsettle the usually indomitable Leia to the point she needed her brother to tell him for her. They'd never been the best at communicating, both far too stubborn for their own good, but surely now they were together properly she knew she could tell him anything, right?
Then Luke had taken a deep breath, and started to talk.
The story that came out was just as fantastical as it was tragic. Because tragedy was really only the only word to describe the life of Anakin Skywalker, a tragedy of deepest love and horrendous loss, the rise and Fall of the man who had helped take down the Republic. It was clear that Luke was just as frustrated about what he still didn't know as he was conflicted about what he did.
At first Han wanted to scoff, his brain not able to accept any reproductive scenario where you put a Darth Vader in one end and got a Luke and Leia out of the other.
But then he stopped.
He stopped and he really thought about it.
He thought about the hulking black behemoth that had tortured him at Bespin. How despite the table and the chemicals and the burning the part he still remembered the most clearly - the part that still haunted his dreams sometimes - was when Vader had been looming over him. Not even speaking, the creeping, frozen burn of his presence and his anger had been like a physical weight pressing down on Han until he couldn't breathe, couldn't feel anything except the panicked realisation in his hindbrain that there was an apex predator in the room and he couldn't even move.
Then he thought of how Leia's icy temper was so sharp it could almost flay a man's skin from his bones. About how Luke's righteous fury could be felt like a fiery blaze on your skin if you got too close, and if you got between him and the focus of his anger you could see the trace of a snarl on his face as he bared his teeth minutely in warning.
He thought of the whispers and rumours he'd heard way back when in his Academy days about Vader, all the baby Imperials trading stories about him for test answers or contraband deathsticks. Han's favourite had always been the one about the time Vader had walked across an entire battlefield, never dodging and never being hit, until he'd reached the front of the enemies lines. They said he'd killed them all singlehandedly, as calm and inevitable as a storm and twice as merciless.
Then he thought about Luke, forever jumping into the thick of firefights and dogfights and bar fights with equal gusto. Always managing to walk away, and always with a body count higher than anyone else and a big sunny grin on his bloodstained face.
He thought about when he found out some Stormtroopers quietly prayed when Vader walked past, mumbling litanies under their breath so that Death would pass them by, but also calling upon him to bless them in battle. Because Vader always fought on the front with his troopers, and the Stormtroopers knew more than most how important it was to have Death on your side.
And he thought of Leia, and how over the years the respect the rank and file members of the Alliance had for her had grown into reverence. How they called her The Princess, or Their Princess instead of her rank or her name. She led from the front too, fighting with them and never failing to be there on the ground with them all, making sure they knew she valued their service and their sacrifice. They'd started carrying white tokens, and Han had heard toasts and battlecries in her name and calling for justice and retribution for all she'd lost.
Han thought all of these things very quickly, and from the sad, resigned smile on Luke's face he'd seen it all too. Hells, maybe they were all things he'd already thought before. Apparently he'd known about Vader since Bespin - and damn if all roads didn't lead back to that place - even though Leia hadn't found out until Endor, and Han couldn't imagine having to deal with something like that on your own.
"It wasn't easy." Luke sighed, sounding tired.
Well, apparently today was an all-mind-reading, all-the-time kind of day. That was ok, he could deal with that, they happened sometimes. Always by accident, and only when Luke was feeling especially anxious and worried about what people were thinking. He always felt mortified after when he realised that he'd accidentally been violating people's mental privacy like that, but by now Han just rolled with the punches aimed solidly at his worldview and peace of mind with a shrug.
"He's talked to me a couple of times, since Endor I mean." Luke continued, fiddling with his sleeve and still not meeting Han's eyes.
Han blinked. "Who has?"
"Father." Luke's voice was a whisper.
And the punches just kept on coming.
"Well then, that's…that's definitely something." He managed after a few tense moments. Another brief, almost awkward silence passed. "Is the old man behaving himself?"
Luke huffed a laugh, a small smile there and gone again like lightning. "Yeah, he's been fine."
His mass-murdering, psychopathic space wizard father's ghost was fine.
"Huh." Well that was just fine. "Good to know."
"It's been good actually, to talk to him a little without lightsaber duels and near-death experiences getting in the way. Kinda awkward, but still good."
"I guess actual death experiences not getting in the way is also pretty handy." Han noted mildly, the only surprise he could register being the resigned acceptance that he really wasn't surprised at all.
Luke just nodded in agreement, maintaining the illusion that this was a perfectly normal conversation to be having. "I had some…questions for him, which I hoped he could clear up for me. He can't manifest for very long, and I get the impression there's a lot he doesn't want to talk about, but some of what he said made things a lot easier, though some of it's made it more confusing."
Somehow Han had expected this to be the case.
"Anything you want to share then?"
Luke looked up at him with the beginnings of a smirk, clearly feeling a lot more comfortable since for some reason Han was still not running in terror. "Well we know who our mother is now, a human called Padme Amidala Naberrie from Naboo. Not only were she and Father secretly married, but apparently she was also a Queen. A senator too, before she died during the fall of the Republic. Leia lost it when she heard, Naboo and Alderaan had close diplomatic ties so she'd grown up hearing all about her and had idolised her a lot."
Someone secretly marrying Darth Vader was crazy enough, said person being a Queen was even stranger. Especially since that would make Luke-
"Technically a prince, yeah. Kinda. Who'd've thought it?"
Han admittedly hadn't known a lot of royalty in his time, but he was pretty sure they didn't make it a habit to wander around in secondhand flightsuits a couple of sizes too big, covered in engine grease and making friends with droids. But hey, what did he know?
"I can see how that'd throw you for a bit of a loop." He winked at the kid. "Your Highnessness."
Luke laughed and waved a hand dismissively. "Yeah, that's not even the weird part. You know how Father was from Tatooine like me?"
Deeply curious about where this was going that was weirder than finding out you were royalty, Han leaned in closer.
"Apparently he was born a slave, my grandmother too. But he won his freedom by winning the Boonta Eve podrace when he was nine, even though humans really don't have the reflexes or the extra hands you need to podrace. That's when he met Mother too, she was the Queen of Naboo then even though she was just 14, and he helped liberate her planet from a Trade Federation attack. Then he went to Coruscant to become a Jedi. "
Han had enough trouble picturing Darth Vader as a child, let alone a child slave on one of the roughest planets in the Outer Rim. He vaguely remembered grinning clips of the Hero With No Fear on the Holonet, and remembered in much greater detail the imposing black figure of the Emperor's Enforcer. He tried to reconcile that with the image of a scrawny little desert kid who probably looked far too much like Luke, owned by someone like Jabba the Hutt, and felt the beginnings of horrified nausea.
"He really does look like me." Luke said softly, warmth in his voice. "Or, I guess I look like him. When we talk he doesn't look like Vader. There's no armour anymore, just him." His nose wrinkled up in annoyance. "Still tall though."
Han was about to laugh and say something dashing and supportive, but another look at Luke made him narrow his eyes and sigh. "There's still more, isn't there?"
Luke ducked his head, that same shy little farmboy grin from years ago in the Yavin IV medbay on his face. Han was oddly comforted by it. At least some things didn't change.
"Apparently Leia and I don't have a grandfather on Father's side. And not in the deadbeat dad or grandmother-was-someone's-legal-property kind of way either."
Han blinked, confused. "Well what other damn way is there?"
Luke winced, just a little, before cautiously meeting Han's eyes. Somehow he suddenly knew that this answer was going to be just as strange as the fact that Darth Vader was the twin's father, if not stranger.
"Anakin Skywalker didn't have a father at all, his mother just got pregnant one day and had no idea how or why. The best the Jedi were able to work out, between scraps of prophecy and the fact that he was tested as having the highest Force potential in recorded history by an order of magnitude, is that the Force made it happen." Another small huff of laughter. "Made him happen."
Han stared, suddenly more than a little scared. "The Force made it happen. Are you kriffing kidding me? How does that even work?"
Luke shrugged. "I have absolutely no idea. Neither does he."
Han was just staring, trying to work out if he was more unsettled by the idea of his best friend being descended from mystical energy, or that the Force apparently made Darth Vader.
The kid was looking down, playing with his sleeve again before continuing, his voice speeding up as he spoke as if he'd been waiting and waiting to get it all out. "It makes a weird kind of sense though doesn't it? About how I'm not quite …right? It isn't as obvious with Leia, we think it's probably because she grew up in such a busy, high profile environment. So she learned to shield and blend in a lot better than I did being stuck out in the back end of nowhere. It's because even though we're genetically human, somehow, that isn't all there is to us. Not really."
Han snorted. He didn't need the Force to know what Leia was equal parts girl and fortress. She had walls so high and so strong that he wasn't at all surprised that even the Emperor hadn't seen over them.
He rubbed his hands over his face, not entirely sure what he was thinking or feeling right now. No wonder Leia was struggling with this so badly. She was the kind of person whose sense of self was stronger than durasteel, stronger than bedrock, stronger than suns. To find out she was not only the daughter of one of the people she hated most in the universe, but that from him she'd inherited something that made her so not what she thought she was? Of course she wasn't okay, even if Luke seemed to be taking it in stride.
"I think it's because I'm a bit more used to being so…other." Luke said with a resigned sigh. "I've never really fit in anywhere, I've always made people feel uneasy and done things they couldn't quite explain. In retrospect my Uncle not letting me leave the farm or even go anywhere further than Anchorhead makes a lot more sense. Having a explanation has actually made it easier to deal with everything."
He stared at his friend incredulously. "Even when the explanation is that you're Prince Luke, heir to the Empire and grandson of the kriffing Force?"
That just made Luke laugh. It was a bitter, disbelieving kind of laugh but it was still a laugh.
"Yeah." He choked out between manic giggles, face buried in his hands. "Well, you're not wrong."
Han got up and hunted down the closest bottle containing ethanol and sat down against a wall, taking a deep drink that was about three revelations overdue. They were in one of the Falcon's cargo bays so the only thing on hand was something Han was pretty sure Chewie used to strip bolts with, but he didn't particularly care at this point. Neither did Luke apparently, who joined him and took a swig. They passed it back and forth for a while, neither of them saying anything.
Eventually Luke chuckled, a sudden burst of sound, before slumping down and resting his head on Han's shoulder. Han was definitely not drunk, absolutely not, but the added weight of Luke leaning on him made him cautiously doubt his centre of gravity. Shuffling limbs around they eventually found a position that was stable enough by kind of awkwardly propping each other up, Han's arm flung across Luke's narrow shoulders and Luke leaning half on Han's chest, half on one knee. It was strangely comfy, and the warmth of the alcohol and Luke's desert-bred body chased away the chill of deep space leaking through the bulkheads.
"Ben said it was good, that we're twins." Luke slurred near the end of the bottle, his Tatooine accent thicker than it had been since they met a lifetime ago in that shitty cantina in Mos Eisley.
"Ohyeah?" Han snorted into Luke's scruffy blonde hair. It smelled like spice tea and coolant and ozone. "And why would the ol' man say that huh? Destiny or some bathashit I bet."
Luke shook his head back and forth far more than Han felt was really neccessary, nearly spilling the last of the alcohol before Han rescued it, because he was good like that.
"Nah. Well, probably that too. But he-he said that Anakin was-that he was too bright. He was so big inside, and he felt so much and so deep it broke him. Couldn't even kriffin' meditate properly, not without the kriffin' Force kriffin' burning him up from the inside."
Han didn't really know what meditating had to do with anything, but from the way Luke was talking it must be serious business for a Jedi. Especially if a guy who Han was pretty sure was dead was taking the time to discuss it with him. So he just hummed in agreement and finished off the bottle. Chewie was going to be shitty with him but eh, what else was new.
"So that's why we're lucky we're twins." Luke was continuing matter-of-factly. "Coz Ben thinks that anyone who got aaalllll of that would end up just like him, burning up from the inside 'til they took the whole galaxy down with them." He hiccuped. "Again. But it got shared between us, and that's why we can handle it."
Luke suddenly sat up, swaying wildly and elbowing Han in the ribs before grabbing him by both shoulders and leaning close. He stank of questionable alcohol and his face was twisted in sadness, soul-deep sadness, but he was so earnest and so sincere that Han could really, properly see for the first time exactly how he'd been able to drag his father back to the Light by sheer force of will alone.
"He didn't mean to become what he did, he didn't want to hurt people." Sith hells there were tears in the kid's eyes, those big blue eyes that had saved a whole damn galaxy. For a second Han thought he saw stars in them. "He did it and it was awful, but I can't hate him Han. I felt him properly at the end, after he came back to the Light just before he died, and he was so bright. He was so bright and he felt so much and he was just like me. He tried so hard to save everyone and he failed and it destroyed him." Luke was sobbing now, tears running down his face. "When stars get too big they collapse. I don't want to be like him Han, he loved so much and lost them all and then he was - he was an abyss. He lived for over twenty years like that and I just-I can't imagine, I can't-"
Han clutched at Luke's arm, trying not to drown in the flood of emotion pouring out of him, trying not to drown in the increasingly impossible blue of his eyes. The air around him was shimmering, like a mirage in the desert, and he felt something warm and wet trickle down from his nose as Luke choked out another harsh sob and buried his face in Han's shirt.
Luke's skin was thrumming like a hyperdrive and Han suspected some potentially important blood vessels had burst, but this was Luke. Luke was his friend, and he'd been chasing his ion trail across space since the day they'd met, and he had long since stopped pretending he could be anywhere but with him and Chewie and Leia, no matter what came their way. So he hugged him, held him tight as he shook and when the space around him moved too much for Han to look at he just closed his eyes. Not long after he felt Leia join them, sitting down silently with them to join the pile of limbs and wordless comfort.
Han might not be sure how he ended up orbiting such strange, radiant people. He wasn't special, he was just a smuggler from Corellia with a fast ship, who was in the right place at the right time and got in way over his head. But he knew that as bright as the twins cuddled into his chest were, their strength was only matched by the quiet, deep veins of vulnerability running deep through them. You couldn't be that in tune with the universe without it reaching back into you, and he knew firsthand the ugliness of the world.
Han wasn't special, that was their territory, but he could be there for them. They'd burn and race through space and he'd be there to ground them, to have their backs, to make sure they never felt alone. They wouldn't burn out like their father, not on his watch. They were his just like he was their's. He'd protect them, even from themselves.
That realisation made him feel a flash of inexplicable sympathy and solidarity with Old Ben Kenobi. He'd chased his Skywalker through space for years, decades even, and it hadn't been enough. It had destroyed him, destroyed them both, but in the end though his actions had laid the path for Anakin's redemption so maybe it had been enough after all. Han decided then that if his death helped one of his Skywalkers find peace or find their way home, that it wouldn't be such a bad way to go.
Leaning back against the bulkhead of his ship, the shining children of the Force cradled asleep in his arms and blood in his teeth, Han grinned.