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Infinitely wiseass

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Leia had known Han was dead the instant he fell, but a part of her stubbornly refused to believe it. That part died its own quiet death when she saw Chewbacca's face. He was carrying the boy off the Millennium Falcon. Medics rushed in to help him. He saw Finn safely transferred to their care and then, empty-handed, silent, he looked at her.

They had felt this way before, the two of them, in Cloud City, before they knew that Han had survived the carbonite. She remembered Chewbacca's berserker rage and how she had envied it, how they had clung to one another in terror. The staggering relief washing over her like an ocean.

She had thought she had no heart left to break. She was wrong.

She touched his arm. There was no time for more, and she wouldn't risk his fragile dignity here in front of the squadrons. Besides, his sorrow and her own were less important than the welfare of the children, the injured boy and the girl Han had died for. He glanced after Finn and Leia nodded. She gestured towards Rey and he bowed his head. She released his arm and he followed the medical team.

Leia knew how to compose herself. She had learned as a child on Alderaan to conceal her emotions, to wear a diplomatic face at endless tedious public events. When Alderaan was destroyed she learned to pretend how not to be a survivor of genocide. It makes people uncomfortable to be reminded that you come from a world that no longer exists, and so she took care not to remind them. She was not a person who could ever seem impassive. Instead, she let her acceptable emotions play across her expressive face. It was the wrenching grief and dislocation she learned to conceal.

So she took a breath and stood up straight and tall as a Wookiee, and her eyes found the forlorn figure on the tarmac in front of the freighter. She walked to her and said nothing. What use were words? But she folded Rey in her arms and with the warmth of her body tried to convey what words never could: I am sorry for your loss. You are welcome here. You are worth what it cost us to bring you.

*

Rey could not feign interest in her quarters even to be polite, and Leia only prevailed on her to shower by pointing out Finn's blood on her clothes (or was it Ben's?) She dressed haphazardly in what Leia had laid out for her (it looked wonderful on her) and then they went together to the medical unit. Chewbacca yielded the chair beside Finn's bed to Rey, and after watching them together for a moment, he and Leia left the children alone.

They went to the workshop. Leia didn't care, but Chewbacca felt comfortable there, among equipment and old droids. Luke's R2 unit stood where it had been standing uselessly all these years. Chewbacca sat heavily on a bench and hung his head, his forearms pressed to his head as if to keep his skull from coming apart.

Leia straddled the bench and held as much of him as she could, which wasn't much. She had never felt the disparity in their height so keenly. She wanted to pull him onto her lap and let him cry, but physics precluded the first and xenobiology the second.

She buried her face in his hair and felt something inside her crack. Always before they had been able to believe than Han would survive, talk his way out of it, escape into hyperdrive. Always before they'd been right. Even in the dark days of their separation there had always been that comfort, that Han at least was alive, that Chewbacca was with him, that Chewbacca loved him as much as Leia did. Always Leia had been able to reach out through the Force and find Han's trace in it, infinitely wiseass and annoying.

Now, although she stretched out with all the power she had, there was no answering spark. Where had it gone? How could someone exist one minute, perturbing the Force with their unmistakeable them-ness, and the next be nothing, a space where a world should be? Generals do not cry and Leia didn't. She hugged Chewbacca and breathed his familiar scent, and in a little while he recovered enough to hug her back.

They would never be all right. Nothing would ever be all right again. But she was glad of the hug.

She'd already been gone too long; generals belonged at debriefings, not in medical or engineering. She stood and, standing, was tall enough to kiss his forehead. He touched her cheek. She left him alone there among the broken things.