The large hand is wonderfully cool against Nik’s forehead.
He’s miserable and too-hot and achy all over, and his throat feels like it’s shriveled up and died. It’s all incredibly not fair, thinks Nik, ‘cause only that morning he was just fine, sitting in class with the other kids, telling them Jasa’s favorite joke about the podracer and the wonky droid.
“That fever of yours is really high, kiddo.”
Nik cracks his eye open to look at Grandfather. He’s sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of Nik, looking just like he remembers him – the way he looked the other night, two months before, when Mom and Dad had to go do Important New Republic Stuff that was probably dangerous and Jasa couldn’t sleep, ‘cause no one’d told them a proper bedtime story and everything felt really off.
(Auntie Winter is lovlier than lovely, Nik knows, but she just can’t tell a decent bedtime story.)
Grandfather showed up in their bedroom, messy blond hair and blue glow and all, and told them funny jokes ‘til they fell asleep.
It was the first time Nik had seen him properly.
Grandfather’s hand leaves his forehead and comes to rest on his knee, over the hem of his black tunic. It’s funny, ‘cause he feels completely solid and not like a ghost at all, even though he is one, and Nik thinks it’s odd calling him Grandfather because he’s got to be almost younger than Uncle Luke, probably.
“Sithin’ fever,” croaks Nik. “Jumped me when I wasn’t lookin’.”
“Ah,” says Grandfather sagely, reaching up to tap his chin, which looks just like Uncle Luke’s. “They do that, you know. Fevers.”
“I wish they wouldn’t,” whispers Nik, because it hurts to talk in anything louder than a whisper. “They make you feel all lousy.”
Grandfather twists around to take a look around the room.
“Is this the medioffice?”
Nik tries to nod, but has to stop halfway ‘cause his head starts spinning. “They sent me here to wait for Dad.”
“He’s coming,” affirms Grandfather, scooting over so that he’s sitting directly beside Nik, not across from him, and leans against the wall. He’s got a scar over his right eye, going right through his eyebrow. It makes him look like a pirate, of sorts. “Corucsant’s a big place.”
Nik makes the mistake of nodding again, and grimaces when an ach throbs through his head and makes him feel like he’s gonna fall over. Or at least, go from sitting to lying down.
“Woah there, Nik. Don’t keel over on me, now.”
Grandfather’s Force-presence feels solid and cool and comfortable, just right where Nik needs it, and he feels himself slowly leaning his head against Grandfather’s side.
“Okay,” says Nik, even though his throat feels like it’s being clawed at by angry rancors. “I’ll keel ov’r on Dad, ‘stead.”
“Good man,” says Grandfather, and Nik can’t see his face anymore but he can tell that he’s smiling. His arm is awful comfortable.
“Y’know what you told us?” says Nik, after a moment. He sounds like a dying gundark, and his throat’s burning like anything, but he’s got to tell Grandfather this. “Th’other night.”
“I told you a lot of things,” says Grandfather, eyes twinkling, stretching out his legs on the cot. “You really wanna use that voice of yours to tell my goofy jokes back to me?”
“No, silly,” croaks Nik, rolling his eyes and then squeezing them shut immediately after because his head throbs. “’Bout helpin’ people.”
“Ah,” says Grandfather. “That.”
Nik would nod, but he figures Grandfather can sense his nod even if he doesn’t go through all the motions. “Jasa’s d’cided he’s gonna help th’ whole universe.”
“Really?” asks Grandfather, and Nik lifts his head up a little to look at him. His eyebrow’s raised – not the one with the scar on it, but the other one – and he’s smiling softly, shaggy mop of hair hanging in his eyes. If Nik were a little more alert, he’d catch the change in Grandfather’s sense, how it brightens and softens allatonce, just a little. “All by himself, or are you and Jaya going to help him?”
“Not d’cided yet,” mumbles Nik, letting his eyes shut and leaning his head again. “Maybe. Th’universe’s a big place, y’know.”
“Hmm,” says Grandfather. “You know, when I was your brother’s age, I wanted to see the whole universe. Ever single planet out there.”
“Wow,” says Nik, feeling his concentration slip. Grandfather’s arm really is comfortable – brilliantly soft for a ghost, anyway. “Tha’s a … a lotta plants.”
He can feel Grandfather’s laugh, rippling through his sense. “Well, you would see lots of plants, too, if you went to every planet out there.”
Nik takes a deep breath. It’s shaky, but his chest maybe doesn’t ache quite as much as it did ten minutes ago. Jasa had seemed awful sure of it, when he’d said it – the whole universe, not a single being left out. Jaya’d said it was a wizard plan, mostly cause she most always says Jasa’s plans are wizard even if they’re maybe not, but Nik wasn’t so sure. But then, maybe Jasa was right – ‘cause wouldn’t only helping some beings and not all beings be kinda unfair? Just like his stupid fever was. Awfully unfair.
Which means he’s got to tell Grandfather, because he can’t very well let the matter rest just like that with no –
Nik opens his eyes.
Only Grandfather’s not there, and he’s definitely not in the medioffice anymore, and for some reason he’s sideways, instead of upright.
He can smell the Falcon though, familiar and normal and nice. And he’s pretty sure his cheek is pressed against Dad’s shirt.
“Hey there, buddy,” says Dad’s voice from somewhere above his head. “Almost there. We’ll be home in half a timepart, and then you can sleep in the big bed.”
“I fell ‘sleep,” Nik realizes, and makes a face against Dad’s shirt when a pain shoots through his throat.
“Shh,” says Dad. They’re walking, Nik can feel now, probably towards Aunt Millie, but he can’t figure when he got picked up or how long he’d been asleep for or even where Grandfather went. “Hang in there. You gave your teacher quite a scare, you know that?”
“M’okay,” says Nik, burying his face in the shirt. “But I gotta – we’ve gotta help all the plants, or it wouldn’t be fair, to them.”
“All the plants, huh?” Dad’s arms are lovely and warm around his back. “You planning to do this with Jasa and Jaya?”
“Mmhmm,” says Nik, feeling his eyes slide shut again. “An’ he said there’re lotsa plants out there, so we’ll have to start now.”
“Bed first,” says Dad. “And Threepio’ll make you soup. You can start your plant crusade when you’re not burnin’ up with fever.”
“Sounds fair.” He can barely register the words coming out of his mouth, but he’s not half as hot and miserable as he was before. And he feels the soft brush against his forehead, like someone’s dropped a kiss there, and sighs into Dad’s shirt.
Helping people can start tomorrow.
And they’ll help the whole universe, too; Nik’ll make sure of that.