Han had never liked the sound of the Falcon’s alarms indicating someone was approaching, especially in the middle of the night. This particular alarm was far more quiet and did not cause him to leap out of bed prepared to defend himself to the death, it was only designed to make him aware that someone was outside. Things had been calm thus far on planet, so he wasn’t particularly worried that there was an imminent attack.
That said, when he threw on his pants and a t-shirt to greet their visitor, he almost wished it was a bounty hunter or an Imperial agent. At least those guys you could just shoot and be done with it.
Leia emerged from her quarters having thrown a robe on over her night clothes. He tried to ignore the fact that even in the middle of the night, just rolling out of bed, she still looked gorgeous.
“Who is it?” she asked, stifling a yawn.
“It looks like Ava,” Han replied as he moved to activate the ramp.
“Ava? The counselor? What’s the doing here?”
“You think I know?”
Leia looked more annoyed than anything as he activated the ramp and made his way to greet their unwelcome visitor. Though he supposed things could’ve been worse. The woman looked all business, as usual, as Han led her toward the lounge where Leia waited.
“Good evening,” she began with an apologetic look on her face. Han and Leia were both too annoyed to reply. “I’m very sorry to disturb you.”
“Well, then why did you?” Han asked.
A sheepish smile crossed her face. “It’s part of the program, I’m afraid,” she said.
“What, house calls?” Han was growing tired of jumping through all of these hoops just to divorce a woman he didn’t even remember marrying. Leia had her arms crossed against her chest, clearly as annoyed as he was.
Ava nodded. “In a manner of speaking.”
“Seems like an awful lot of trouble to go through. You ever get any sleep?” Han asked.
“Well, to be honest, I don’t visit everyone. Only the couples I really think can turn things around.”
Han had no reply for that. So, now they were at the top of the class? All this time he thought it would be so easy to make it apparent that they didn’t belong together. He had entertained the idea of staying married to Leia, but it was all pretty much just a fantasy. She’d made it very clear that she didn’t want him. He was going to have to have a chat with her in the morning about stepping up their arguing for the remainder of the program.
“And what makes you think we can turn things around?” Leia asked, still standing in the corner, leaning casually against the wall.
Ava smiled. “Look, I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve gotten pretty good at being able to tell which couples belong together and which ones don’t. For example, I will not bother going to see Lohree and Kabe.”
Leia rolled her eyes. “I’m not sure that knowing they have no business staying together requires one being particularly insightful.”
Ava laughed at that. “No, I suppose not. But, please, can we just sit down? The quicker we start talking, the quicker you two can get back to sleep. Or I suppose doing whatever it is you were doing,” she added a bit hopefully.
“Sleeping,” Leia said insistently as she moved over toward the holochess table to sit down.
The three sat down at the table, Han next to Leia and Ava across from them, though Han noted that Leia went out of her way to keep from touching him.
“I do apologize for showing up in the middle of the night, but you have to understand that here on Azterri we take the vows of marriage very seriously. We don’t like to see couples just give up on a good thing. I don’t like to waste any chance to get a couple to see that they could be very happy together.”
Han reached up and rubbed his temples. Being married to Leia thus far had been nothing but one giant headache. “All right,” he said. “Then let’s get on with it.”
“Thank you,” Ava replied, pulling out her data pad and looking back and forth between Han and Leia. “Now, let’s get the uncomfortable stuff out of the way first. I gave you two an assignment. Have you completed it?”
It took Han a moment to realize what she was talking about. For a second he felt like a small boy who had forgotten to do his homework. Then he remembered that the entire point of this whole thing was, in fact, to fail. So perhaps not completing assignments was actually in their best interest. Then he remembered the assignment in question as he looked to Leia and saw her eyes widen.
“Uh, no,” he said, not really having to pretend to be disappointed.
“May I ask why not?”
Han shrugged. “Look, we’ve just been really distant. And she’s definitely not interested. I couldn't even tell you the last time we did it.” Actually, I could tell you it's been exactly never.
Ava appeared disappointed. “Well, have you at least been sleeping in the same bed?”
Leia shook her head and Han answered. “Nah, there’s no point.”
“I do wish you’d reconsider,” Ava said.
Han gave her a mock smile. “We’ll take it under consideration.”
Leaning forward, Ava looked imploringly at the couple. “Look, you two clearly care for one another.”
Leia’s irritated voice interrupted. “What makes you say that?”
The woman smiled. “I’ve been doing this for a very long time, and I can tell.”
“Well, your intuition is faulty this time,” Leia said with her eyebrow raised.
“I doubt that,” Ava answered. “And to help things along, Leia, I’d like you to look at your husband and tell him some things that drew you to him.”
Now things were getting interesting. Leia’s brown eyes turned to him, and he found himself profoundly curious as to what she might have to say, though she remained silent, her mouth slightly agape.
“Come on, now,” Ava prompted. “You wouldn’t be in this position at all if you never saw anything in him.
She took a deep breath then, and Han thought he detected her shaking a little. He never thought it would be so difficult to get her to admit anything that she liked about him.
“Well,” Leia began, “he is an incredibly talented pilot.
Han frowned, annoyed that she appeared to be taking the easy way out. Even Luke could appreciate Han’s piloting skills. Surely she had to like something else about him.
“All right,” Ava said, “that’s a start. But that’s not really a reason to marry someone, is it? I think you can do better than that.”
Her eyes were on his again, and he found himself captivated by them. In an instant he was brought back to that night that had brought them here, and the look in her eyes when she gazed at him adoringly. What would it be like if she always looked at him that way?
“Okay,” Leia began. “I suppose he’s very brave.”
Well, that was a little better, Han thought. “Good,” Ava said. “What else?”
Ava smirked. "Well, that's something, I guess, but I think you can still do better.
"He’s very loyal. He’d do anything to help his friends. He's much more caring than you'd think.”
“These are all important qualities,” Ava said. “Anything else?”
Leia shrugged. “Well, I suppose he also makes me feel safe. Protected.”
“Excellent,” Ava said. Han felt a surge of relief that Leia did, in fact, notice some of his better qualities. He wondered if she knew just how far he’d go to protect her.
“Now, Han, I want you to tell your wife some of the qualities that drew you to her.”
This he was not expecting. But at this point he had nothing to lose. He turned to look at her, finding her arms still tightly wrapped across her chest as though trying to shield herself from any possible emotion. He didn’t even know where to begin. “Well,” he started, pausing to clear his throat. “She’s an incredibly strong woman. And she’s got a hell of a personality.”
“All right,” Ava interjected. “That’s a good start. What else?”
“She’s got a great sense of humor. At least when she lets herself smile,” he added, watching Leia give him a bemused look. “She’s one of the smartest women I’ve ever met,” he added sincerely.
“These are all important qualities,” Ava interjected. “Anything else?”
He looked down at his hands for a moment, clasped in front of him as he absently played with his fingers. Bringing his eyes back up to her face, he was reminded of all of those times he’d looked at her and thought of the things he could’ve said but never did. The words finally spilled out of him. “I thought she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever met. I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I just wanted to be around her all the time.”
He saw her face shift from annoyance into what could only be described as shock and he suddenly realized what he’d just said. He hoped that once Ava left he could just describe it as part of the act. But he wasn’t sure that he wanted her to believe that.
His eye contact with Leia was broken by the startling voice of the counselor he had forgotten was even there. “Excellent! See? I knew you two had something special. It’s the couples who never felt anything for each other that we have to worry about. I want you to think about those feelings. Think about the good times and what has changed between then and now. Often times we are simply blinded by outside forces and we can’t see things anymore. What you felt once can be felt again. You just need to allow yourselves to feel. I get the sense that you two are trying very hard not to give into these feelings. Only you can figure out why. But I do want you to consider that.”
Han felt like he’d been punched in the gut. Gods, why didn’t he leave the Rebellion months ago? It was causing him nothing but heartache.
“I’ll leave you two alone now,” Ava said as she stood to leave. “But keep in mind what you’ve just said. You two are quite well matched. I do hope you’ll come around. I’ll see myself out,” she said, disappearing around the corner and down the ramp.
Han silently moved to close things down again, turning to see Leia still seated at the table, staring at the ground.
The silence was deafening, and he couldn’t stand not saying anything. “So, what do we do now?”
He really had no idea. Part of him wanted to just pack up their things and flee. They could deal with all of this some other time. Another part of him wanted to take her face in his hands and kiss her, showing her just how much he meant everything he’d just said.
She looked up at him, and his heart sank when he saw what looked like fear in her eyes. Damn it, what was she so afraid of?
“I’ll see you in the morning,” she said as she stalked off to her quarters without another word.
Han had to actively fight to keep from punching something critical on his ship. What just happened, here?