The door to the cockpit hissed open and Han and Katherii stepped inside. Han immediately swung himself into the captain's chair, totally relaxed as if their entire life-or-death experience had never happened. Or maybe he was just pretending for her sake.
"Now, let's see," he muttered to himself. "We're going to have to do some fancy flying to get us out of here. Have you ever been in a ship like this before?"
Katherii stared at him, still standing.
He frowned. "Never mind." He turned back to the controls and continued his ramblings. "This is only a Rylom 4-66, as opposed to a Rylom 4-86, so the locking mechanism is in the back instead of up here in the front, which means you will have to go back there and push it before we can move at—"
"It's unlocked!" she called up from the back.
Han stared at her as she made her way back and strapped herself into the seat beside his.
"You're fast!" he exclaimed, his tone almost accusing.
Halfway into staring him down again, Katherii couldn't help but explode into a huge grin. WHY did he have to be such a goofball and always make her laugh when she didn't want to?!
He grinned back. After pushing a few buttons, the ship jerked, then soared off away from the moon's orbit. The other two ships followed them, blaster fire going everywhere. Han slowed dramatically, tricking the two ships into racing on ahead of him. He shot one down, but the other banked too quickly.
Han fought to get the guns rotated fast enough.
"Four-o-clock!" Katherii screamed, pointing.
Han blasted it out of the air and the whole ship exploded into a shower of sparks.
The two of them grasped for each other in excitement, Han letting out a victory whoop. Katherii suddenly burst into tears.
Her uncle was confused. "Wait, why are you crying?"
"I'be had a long night," she blubbered, sniffling and wiping at her swollen eyelids with blood still covering her hands.
"Yeah," Han drew out slowly, remembering all that had actually taken place. The party, the police station, weird disappearing acts, and getting sucked out into space before all this. "C'mere." He took her in his arms, avoiding putting pressure on his own damaged hands.
"You don't know half of it," she sobbed, clutching at his arm and draping her chin over his shoulder. "I'm so—so sorry! You'll never bel—believe me when I tell you wh—what happened."
"Yeah, well," he sighed, "I wouldn't go making assumptions if I were you. 'Course, I'm not you."
She sniffed loudly. "W—whaddaya mean?"
"Well," he shrugged, his tone awkward for a moment. "After all," he continued, "my parents are gone too, you know."
Katherii pulled back and stared at him. "You mean—!" she gasped.
Han nodded slowly. "My mom came to see me, right after your— uh, screaming break." A slight smirk started to grow on his face.
Katherii laughed right through her tears. "Your—mother?!" she belted out.
He shrugged again. "Luke thought of everything. Even me."
Katherii's sobs died down and she hugged him again.
"Oh, Kathy." Han pulled her onto his lap and held her there, for a long time.
Katherii stood in a fighting pose in front of her cousin Anakin Solo, Grand Master of the New Jedi Order. Several other Jedi stood in the room, holding pieces of grey-colored wood. A drone hovered in the corner, waiting to strike at her any second.
Anakin levelled his gaze at her, giving her a nod to adjust her focus as he held her timer in his hand, ready to go.
A buzzer sounded and Katherii burst to life, throwing a spinning kick to the board closest to her and leaping around the room to break the other boards with additional, smoothly connected strikes. She fluidly pulled out her lightsaber, deflecting several shots from the drone while coming down on the last board. Finally, her feet landed on the floor at the other end of the room. Breathing hard, but with a huge grin on her face, she extinguished her lightsaber.
Anakin was watching the timer like he couldn't believe his eyes.
"Kathy!" he exclaimed.
She started laughing.
"Kathy, Kathy, Kathy!"
"How much did I beat my time by?" Wiping her forehead, she scampered over to peer over his shoulder.
"You broke our current record by a full half-second. That's amazing!" Anakin stared at her. "Not to be weird, but—where'd that come from? You had to have worked for that. Really hard."
Katherii shrugged it off, turning away. "Least I'll have some real news for Aunt Leia when she comes home tonight."
Anakin shook his head, smiling. "You sure will, dear." He slung his arm around her shoulders and they started walking out together, the other Jedi following. "You know," he said after a minute, "You don't have to stay at the Academy forever if you don't like working with the Jedi. I know you could have a great experience at University."
Katherii smiled at him, incredulous. "Could you have suggested that a month ago, when I wanted to go to the university?"
"You weren't ready to make that decision then," he replied wisely.
Katherii reached up and ruffled his long, black hair. He may be some fancy-shmancy Jedi Master but to her, he was still just her cousin. "You're right. But now—Hm. It's a good idea. If I do leave, I'll definitely be coming back. No question there. What would I do without having my cousin around to annoy all the time?"
Anakin smiled, still surprised at the change in her.
"Anyway," she continued, "thanks, Ani. I'll see you in Naturalism this afternoon."
She started to leave and Anakin stared after her, again. "You're taking Naturalism? You?"
"I thought you hated that class! You completely bummed out of it last year!"
"Well, I have to take it," she shrugged, turning back around. "Might as well get it over with. And anyway, I've been talking with some different folks lately, and they say it isn't bad. Like Cheedon, and Mai. I'm giving it a chance," she grinned.
Anakin cleared his throat rather loudly. "Is Lanie still…"
"Oh, I dumped Lanie. He's not super upset about it, so I think it was an excellent move," she sniffed, a little primly.
"Okay—" Anakin lifted a finger for a second, thinking he must've forgotten to do something important that morning, like screw his ears on properly. "Um, see you in Naturalism, then…"
"See ya there, Cuz." She turned around, striding confidently down the hall. It wasn't an act this time, though. She'd taken to heart what Grandfather Anakin and Aayla had said. And what Luke had—she'd strive to make that part of her very soul.
It felt so much better to be part of something bigger than herself, and to know that no matter how well she succeeded or failed at her work, somebody would always love her no matter what.
How could she not have seen that before? When life was all about her.
She grinned a little to herself, a small, sideways grin.
She couldn't wait to see what would happen when Mara Jade decided to pay her a visit.