This is our first contribution from Amara Z to the Valentine's Challenge. If you aren't sure what that is, we asked for some mushy stories to be posted in honor of Valentine's Day. How mushy is mushy enough is up to you. Enjoy!
By the time evening had rolled around, Leia had already had a long day. Most days, she could deal with it. She would somehow push through any exhaustion she felt and do what she had to do. She would do it without complaint. But a long day with probably more work waiting for you and on your birthday was quite another matter. Quite another matter, indeed.
She made her way across the hangar floor at her typical hurried pace, striding towards the makeshift office she kept just to the side of the hangar. It wasn't much of a space. Barely the size of a closet, it was much too small and the location too noisy. But it was much better than what she had on the last base. And probably a lot better than what she would get on Hoth. At least it was better than nothing and its location did keep her in the middle of things, helped her to keep an eye on the very things she organized.
Finally arriving at her office, she placed a set of data cards on the shelf against the back wall and with a quick turn, looked at her desk to assess the damage. On the corner of her desk waiting for her to examine was a new and rather large stack of flimsies and data cards. Rubbing her forehead with one hand, she let out a long sigh and sunk into her chair. She already knew the forms had to do with the creation of the base on Hoth and the transfer of the Alliance there in a few months. She may have survived the Death Star, but it sure seemed like this transfer to Hoth was going to bury her in paperwork. She sat at her desk for a long moment staring at the stack, wishing she could be the kind of person that could leave it for tomorrow. But since she wasn’t, she started to work through the mess.
A wave of raucous laughter came rolling down the hangar towards her as she sorted through the plasts and cards, reminding her of what would probably be her last stop for the night. Luke and the pilots had commandeered one of the small alcoves just off the hangar to celebrate his birthday. It was a good place to choose; just secluded enough that no one would notice or even mind they were there. Not this late in the evening. Luke had asked her to drop by the party when they had run into each other earlier that day. If she could get through this last bit of work, she might just do that and take the opportunity to relax.
She was down to her last few flimsies before she noticed it. At the bottom, stuck between two sheets was a small, light colored box. Its presence caught her by surprise. No one would leave something like this in her office…ever.
Rolling her lips nervously, she slid it closer to her. Her fingers moved over its surface and she found it to be smooth and soft and rather pleasant. Fairly certain it wasn’t dangerous, she slid the package even closer and picked it up, carefully turning it over in her hands. No, whatever it was, it wasn’t dangerous. It was too small. It was just large enough for a piece of jewelry, but that was about it. Too curious not to, she opened the box and her breath gushed out of her. Inside, on a delicate gold chain, was a t’iil flower from Alderaan. It had been captured as it started to bloom, pressed, and sealed between two pieces of transparisteel. Cut into a diamond shaped pendant, it was simply breathtaking, every last color of the bloom and seed pod beautifully preserved. As she reached out to touch it, she knew it would last forever.
Her mind wandered through the possibilities of who could have done this. It could be a memento from someone, something left over from her father. Carlist, possibly, but he wouldn’t be this demonstrative. He seemed to understand her need for a certain level of detachment from others. That left only one person that would have been so thoughtful – Luke.
Eager to ask him about it, she closed the box with a snap, rose from her chair, and made her way towards the door and the party just beyond it. She stopped immediately as soon as she stepped out of her office. Just down the hangar, no more than 10 meters away, someone stood watching her and seemed to be waiting for her. With a hip cocked to one side, the figure’s confident, cocksure stance was easily recognizable. She’d have known it anywhere. Han.
They both stood there for a long moment, neither of them moving, and she certainly wasn’t sure what to say. He made a small move, gesturing towards the box. Puzzled by the action, she reopened it. Looking in the lid this time, she saw it, something she had missed the first time. A handwritten note that was tucked inside – Happy Birthday, Your Worship. Leia almost groaned at the moniker. There was only one person in the universe that called her that. Figures he would do it even when giving a gift.
She looked up and realized he had approached her and was much closer than before, less than a quarter of a meter away. And he was probably way too close for her comfort.
“You did this?” she asked quietly.
He shrugged. “I saw it on our last run and thought of you.”
Leia looked down at the necklace, letting herself taking it in one last time, her heart aching just a little bit as she closed the box. “It’s beautiful, Han. Really, it is. But I can’t accept this,” she said, looking back up at him.
He smiled at her, that half grin that drove her crazy and to distraction at the same time. “Not much of a receiver, huh, Princess?”
“I have no trouble accepting gifts. None at all,” she retorted, trying to keep the sound of indignation from her voice. “I’m just thinking of you and Chewie. This must have cost you a fortune. I'm sure you could use the money for something else.”
“I'm sure I could.” He rocked back on his heels and pursed his lips, his gaze strong, steady, and never leaving hers. “But I won't.”
“Han, honestly, I couldn't. It's too much.” Her hands trembled as she held the box out to him and motioned for him to take it. She kept her eyes down as she did it, choosing to stare straight ahead instead, right at his chest. She didn’t dare let him look in her eyes right now. Didn’t dare let him see the confusion and sadness that she knew would be all too evident in them. As she stood there waiting for him to take the gift back, she could feel a part of her breaking from giving up such a beautiful reminder of home.
He surprised her by covering her hands with his own, hands that were warm and so much larger than hers, and it was a little disconcerting that the shaking in her hands stopped with that one small gesture. Looking up, she saw he was staring intently at her, but his expression was soft, any of the usual leering combativeness oddly absent. Very gently, he pushed the gift back towards her and she ended up staring up at him, clutching the box to her chest.
“Don't worry about it. Ok?” he told her, his voice a low, soft rumble.
Leia finally nodded her assent, her hand clutching the box that much tighter. “Thank you.”
They fell silent and feeling that the moment was over, Han gave a quick nod and turned to head back to the party. He was halfway there when she called out to him.
“Can I ask you a question?”
He stopped mid-stride and turned back towards her. “Sure.”
“Why are you being so nice?”
Han could feel his pulse quicken and his muscles tense at the insinuation behind what she had asked and he had to suppress a laugh. Any other time, her question alone would be enough to start a full blown fight between them. But today, for her, he decided to let it slide. One shoulder twitched in a shrug. “Well, I figured it was your day too and you deserved something nice.”
He was about to leave it at that and started to turn away, but stopped. When he looked back at her, she noticed his gloating smirk was back and in full force. “And besides, that’s the kind of guy I am, Your Worship,” he told her with a wink before sauntering off. Leia shook her head and stared after him, incredibly touched by his gesture, but still wondering which Han Solo to believe.
Thanks so much for the contribution, Amara!