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Waking Nightmares

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“It’s over. Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren are dead. The galaxy is at peace.”

The words played over and over on every screen and holo-player on Hosnia Prime, Leia’s face uttering those words projected on the side of every building. All through the streets people were cheering, drinking, throwing confetti and launching fireworks. People made up songs on the spot about the galaxy winning back its freedom. At one corner a man was even putting on a puppet show for kids in which the brave Resistance members killed Kylo Ren.

Kylo Ren, he was always called. Still no one talked about his true identity. Maybe no one cared about it. In fact, Han couldn’t remember a single news story revealing who Kylo Ren really was. Maybe Leia still wanted to hide it even after he was dead.

As he walked, Han’s legs felt like they would slide out from under him at any moment. “It’s over. Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren are dead. The galaxy is at peace.” Leia uttered those words with such calmness and steadiness that no one would ever guess that Kylo Ren was anyone to her other than a threat to be eliminated.

More fireworks exploded over the city, illuminating the sky and making Han clasp his hands together to keep them from shaking.

“It’s over. Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren are dead. The galaxy is at peace.”

How the hell could she say those words without crying and act like this was a happy event? She had always been good at burying her emotions, but this? What sane person could pretend that nothing was wrong when her only child had died?

Not just died, but . . .

He should go home. Being around all the celebration and hearing his wife’s announcement pound in his ears wasn’t good for his mental health, but then again, what would he do once he was home? Cry? Drink himself into a coma? Stare into space while his son’s face overtook his mind?

“It’s over. Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren are dead. The galaxy is at peace.”

The crowd burst into an ear-piercing cheer, chanting “SNOKE IS DEAD! REN IS DEAD! SNOKE IS DEAD! REN IS DEAD! ALL HAIL GENERAL ORGANA!”

All hail General Organa.

Of course Han knew who led that final attack on the First Order. Who ordered the fatal shots fired on their base.

Who ultimately killed Kylo Ren.

“SNOKE IS DEAD! REN IS DEAD! ALL HAIL GENERAL ORGANA!”

“Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren are dead.”

“ALL HAIL GENERAL ORGANA!”

“Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren are dead.”

“ALL HAIL GENERAL ORGANA!”

. . .

Han awoke with his body drenched in sweat and his face drenched in tears, still hearing the chant in his mind. It took what might have been a full minute to return to reality and remember that the war wasn’t over, that there was no celebration.

Ben was still alive somewhere.

He automatically rolled to his side, his arms longing to hold his wife, but her side of the bed was empty. Right, she was away on a recruiting mission, off trying to get people to join her “Resistance” against the First Order.

The Resistance Han refused to join.

It was his choice, she said, but he could still feel her disappointment. He still caught her sometimes glancing at him with accusation when they heard of the latest atrocity the First Order committed, as if he alone could save the galaxy. Of course, Luke wasn’t here to glare at, so maybe Han was a scapegoat.

He slowly sat up, drawing his knees up to his chest and wrapping his arms around his legs, his chest tightening around his lungs. It seemed that the only times when he and Leia talked about Ben anymore were when she tried again and again to convince him to join her Resistance and he kept refusing to have any part in fighting their son. They never looked at holos of him, they never talked about their cherished memories – they had even gotten out of the habit of saying his name. Lately they’d only referred to him as “our son” during those arguments, as if even saying his name would destroy the barriers they’d built around themselves in an attempt to get their lives back.

He got out of bed without consciously deciding to do so – well, going back to sleep might make the dream return, so he might as well get out of bed, not that he had any idea what to do once he was out of bed. Wandering aimlessly around the apartment was preferable to sleeping right now, so he left the bedroom and wandered down the hall.

Then he stopped at that door.

When was the last time that door had been opened? Probably before everything changed. Probably even before Ben left to train with Luke. Han remembered his son packing up and lamenting that he could only bring one bag of stuff with him and making his parents promise to keep his room just the way he’d left it for when he came back.

When he came back . . .

Before he could stop himself, Han had pushed the button and the door slid open, bringing the intense smell of dust to his nostrils. The city lights outside brought an eerie glow to the old room, shrouding it in shadows, as if the room had been asleep ever since its inhabitant disappeared. Han almost felt like he was disturbing the long slumber as he entered. His lungs tightened as he took in the bed where Ben had many a nightmare, the dresser that still had some shirts dangling out of the drawers, the desk where Ben once drew pictures, the posters of Ben’s favorite singers and pod racers that had never been removed from the walls, the old toybox.

As stiffly as if he were sleepwalking, Han made his way into the room and knelt down by the toybox, not caring about how it made his knees crack or the pain that came afterwards. Had Leia been in here since they lost their son? Most likely not, seeing as how she was currently fighting a war to kill him. If he cared about the galaxy, he should be hoping that it was only a matter of time before his nightmare came true.

He opened the toybox, feeling a lump form in his throat at the sight of Mr. Tookie, Ben’s old toy tooka, on top of the pile. Leia had made the toy out of one of Han’s shirts back when Ben was a baby, saying that Ben could cuddle something that smelled like his daddy. Almost without thinking, he picked up the toy, remembering how Ben would drag it around the house, cuddle it while he slept, bring it to his parents’ bed when he had nightmares.

So many nightmares . . .

Han ran his finger over the toy’s stitched-on smile. Maybe Ben had started having the nightmares again when he left for Luke’s Jedi school. Maybe without his parents there to comfort him, he’d succumbed to the terror.

Why did they send him away?

Han pressed the toy against his chest. Ben had trouble controlling his powers, but maybe they could have helped him with that if they had only stayed together. He’d needed his parents more than he needed his uncle to whisk him away to some far corner of the galaxy to teach him ancient Jedi arts. Hell, look at what had happened to the first Jedi Order – maybe Luke should have taken the hint that the Jedi weren’t all they were cracked up to be. And now it had happened again – at Ben’s hands. Maybe the Jedi were just cursed.

Maybe their family was cursed.

It was a member of their family who had brought on the first Jedi Order’s downfall, after all.

Still holding the toy, he slowly got up, flinching at the pain in his knees. Why hadn’t he protested more when Leia wanted Ben sent away? Oh sure, he’d protested plenty, but he’d eventually relented. Why did he relent? If he’d stood his ground, then maybe . . . maybe . . .

Almost without realizing what he was doing, he climbed into his son’s bed, sighing as he lay down with Mr. Tookie on his chest, the lump in his throat growing. They could have worked everything out if they hadn’t sent him away. Whatever difficulties they might have had, it couldn’t have possibly been worse than what did happen.

Why the hell didn’t Han do more to stop it??

“Ben, I’m sorry,” he whispered, feeling tears trickling down towards his ears, squeezing Mr. Tookie as if now he was the frightened child devastated by nightmares.

Eventually he fell asleep, but it was only to return to that possible future where his wife delivered his son’s fate.

“It’s over. Supereme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren are dead. The galaxy is at peace.”

THE END