Because there are no deadlines for challenges....
“Come on, Han, I’m starving,” Leia grabbed him by the cuff of his sleeve, tugging playfully.
“A guy back there was selling Gapanga fruit for-”
“After,” Leia commanded. A hungry Leia was not to be ignored. Han intertwined his hand in hers, removing her grip from his sleeve.
It was a typical Sepday. Han and Leia had spent the morning in bed before venturing out to Coruscant’s take on an outdoor market. It wasn’t like the ones on Corellia— nor, Han guessed, Alderaan— but it was an open-aired break from the urban, mechanized bustle of the planet and you could set your feet on something resembling ground for several kilometers. After they visited the food carts, Han would buy groceries for the week. Leia would tag along, vetoing the foods she didn’t like, being cajoled into trying the way Han cooked them before permanently banishing them from their table, and generally looking around. He enjoyed the time walking with her, his arm round her shoulder and hers slung dangerously low around his waist, just being private citizens rather than founders of the New Republic. In the afternoon, Leia would slip away to her office and Han would tinker on the Falcon. He would start dinner. Chewie and Luke would come over, sometimes Lando. They’d start the week over recharged.
Leia led them to their favorite vendor where they got their usual fare. Leaning back on a shared bench, they ate in comfortable silence and watched passersby coming and going, passing a shared kaffe between them.
Han chewed over whether to say anything about the impending holiday, announcing itself from half the stalls. The decorations had been up for two weeks and somehow neither of them had mentioned it. Red and pink hearts of paper and castplast covered stall walls and hung from the awnings, while merchants hawked edible hearts made of chocolate and- it looked like- actual chalk. Stuffed loth cats and varactyls, some a meter high or more, professed I LOVE YOU in Basic and several other Core languages. Just this morning Han had accidentally backed into the end of an arrow held aloft by a winged, humanoid baby god; Han wasn’t much for religion all around, but kriff, the Reynonians were weird.
Han had forgotten that Sweetest Day even existed; nobody got it off, even if their job was real cushy, so it didn’t really count as a holiday in his book. Han had never had any reason to celebrated Sweetest Day either. Not since he’d been a dumb kid at least, and that hadn’t worked out for him. Then two weeks ago he stood in front of a heap of cheap chocolate and thought, Huh. It was- well, Sweetest Day was mushy. But he guessed he was in a mushy relationship now. After what he and Leia had been through, he figured they were entitled to a little mushiness. Like these Sepdays.
Leia called him away from this train of thought to look at a table she said would work in their foyer, which had turned into a discussion of what a foyer was and why they needed a table in there if they weren’t gonna eat off it. Distracted, Han failed to mention the holiday and since then, hadn’t been sure how to go about it, especially as Leia hadn’t said anything either.
With the day only a week away, they still hadn’t talked about it. Did they not need to talk about it? Was it supposed to be a understood? A surprise? Han was reasonably good at romantic, it turned out. He had options. He could go quiet, and reminiscent of that night he had shared with her in the days after the battle on Endor— deck out the Falcon, make her dinner, spend a lot of the night in bed. Lando kept reminding Han could get him and the Princess reservations at the Skysitter, if they wanted to go glitzy (he didn’t). His favorite idea was to break into her office and leave about a million flowers. Han had ensured he got in with Ambassador Organa’s Chief Assistant early on, just in case he ever had such a need, and was fully prepared to call in the favor. But the truth was Han didn’t know what Leia liked for this particular day, and it seemed like the kind of thing women might have very definite ideas about. Was there something she would expect as an Alderaanian woman? Anything he should avoid? He really didn’t want to go in blind here.
“So.” Han cleared his throat a little, as Leia finished wiping her hands with a napkin and stuffed it into the bag with the remains of their meal. “What are we gonna do about that?” he asked, nodding at a stall with necklaces laid out on heart-shaped pillows, the banner above it proclaiming Diamonds: For A Love That Is Unbreakable. Han knew knock-offs when he saw them.
“Y’know. That.” Han raised his left index finger to point without lifting his elbow from his knee.
“Counterfeit necklaces?” Leia asked innocently, taking the kaffe from his other hand and giving him a mild arch of her brow.
He gave her his best you-know-what look.
Leia took a sip of the kaffe. She too had noticed the garish sea of red and pink when it popped up two weeks ago. Like so much these days, it felt blessedly yet bizarrely normal. Leia had forgotten the way the Galaxy’s merchants ticked off the days of the calendar in commercial output, Sweetest Day hearts turning into Harvest fruits which then turned into Winter Fête’s evergreen trees,. While Leia had been unable to suppress an inward groan at the emergence of the tacky lovers’ paraphernalia, part of her savored the opportunity to experience time in tandem with the rest of the galaxy again. It had not occurred to her to broach the topic of Sweetest Day with Han, however. This piece was new.
“Sweetest Day? Isn’t that kind of-” Leia paused, her kaffe hand held out in mid-gesture, wrinkling her fine nose slightly. “-saccharine?”
“Sappy as hell,” Han assented.
“I like the Corellian version better,” Leia leaned in, dropping her voice low.
“Mmm,” Han said, straightening to slide his arm around her waist, speaking into the top of her ear, his voice low and deep. “Corellian version’s not for another four months. Can’t just skip ahead, Princess. Gotta have some respect for the way things are supposed to go.”
“I suppose we’ll have to wait four months then,” Leia said, pulling her head back in a feint at withdrawing from him.
“I don’t want to,” Han said, lifting his arm off her waist to catch the back of her head, running his fingers lightly over her hair in that way he knew would keep her close.
Leia looked up at him, smiling wryly, and put her free hand on his chest, holding the flirtation there rather than allowing it to escalate further. They were in public and sated from the morning. Han moved his hand down to the nape of Leia’s neck, placing his thumb where her skin met her hair, and gently running his thumb in circles. Comfortable in silence again, Leia took another sip of kaffe. A Twi’lek was pouting by the stall with the necklaces, the Devaronian beside her apparently attempting to reassure her of his love while asking her to settle on something a little more reasonably-priced.
“You don’t really want to do Sweetest Day, do you?” Leia asked. It hadn’t really occurred to her that he would.
Han shrugged. “Why not?”
Leia paused before settling on, “I never really liked it.”
“Neither did I.”
“So we agree,” Leia said. Han furrowed his brows slightly and the movement of his thumb slowed.
“What didn’t you like about it?” Han asked after a moment.
“Sweetest Day? Well,” Leia handed the cup back to him. Han dropped his hand from her neck to take it. “Well,” she continued, “there’s the standardization of the whole thing. It takes all these diverse cultural practices and waters them down to the least common denominator. Corellia’s Fesheni de Uhl Erohica and Alderaan’s Amos Es each have their merits, but when you smush them together you just get this ugly hodgepodge.” She gestured to the stalls in front of them.
This was not what Han had expected. Leave it to Leia to make this about the actual holiday itself.
“And it's not just that the colors clash, it’s that Sweetest Day doesn’t know what it is. At least the Corellians specify: this is the kind of love we’re celebrating. Alderaan is very clear, choosing to celebrate art that has been inspired by love. The Reynonians have their focus on parental and filial love. This is supposed to be all of that, but it really just becomes none.
“And somehow this results in this conflation of love with romantic love. Sweetest Day is supposed to be a generalized ‘Love’ Day, but it ends up being primarily dedicated to romantic love, as if by default. Why? Why not friendship? Or justice for that matter? On Alderaan, we said that justice was the social embodiment of love…” Leia shook her head and trailed off, more in thought than in sadness. For now, she was focusing on abstractions rather than feelings, even when it came to Alderaan.
“The social embodiment of -?”
Leia rolled her eyes. “Try not to get hung up on the phrasing.”
Han held up his hands, kaffe and all. He was trying not to let the swipe at romantic love sting. Academic Leia was a powerful thing, and he knew she didn’t mean anything by it, wasn’t thinking anything personally about him when she said those things. Still…
“So you’re objections are all intellectual.”
“I suppose so.” They sat with that before Leia asked, “What don’t you like about it? Sweetest Day?”
“Just girly.” Han said, shrugging. “Sappy, like I said.” He had figured no one ever really felt that way, the kind of love Sweetest Day pretended to celebrate. Or if they did, it was an illusion— a drug, like spice, the effects not to be trusted and quickly worn-off. He knew how he felt about Leia, though, and it wasn't fake. That didn’t mean he bought into every overwrought sentimental piece of advertising.
“You’re objections are intellectual too,” Leia pointed out, nudging him playfully with her shoulder.
“Yeah.” Han ran his free hand through his hair. “Still…” He shuffled his feet a little, and looked embarrassed. “Seein’ as we’re a couple an’ all…”
Leia gave him what he swore was a side-eye.
“Han, are you saying you want to celebrate Sweetest Day?” She wasn't opposed to it if it was something he really wanted to do. But she didn’t need a holiday to tell her to spend time with him. Nor did she particularly want to squeeze into something fancy and parade themselves in public.
“It’s what people do, isn’t it?” A part of Han he didn't want to acknowledge couldn’t help but think that someone else— had she chosen someone else, or left herself free for one of the Elder House blue bloods who were crawling out of the metalwork post-Endor— would go big for her. Han knew he didn’t have to impress or prove anything to Leia, but he didn’t want her to think he took her for granted either.
“I don’t want to do what people do, I just want to be us,” Leia said, placing her hand on his forearm.
He nodded. “Me too.”
“You don’t need a meter-high nerf with a ribbon around it’s neck to know I love you,” Leia gently teased, squeezing his arm.
“‘M not sayin’ that.” Han withdrew from her grasp. “I just thought we could do something,” he mumbled into the dregs of the cold kaffe.
“Well, what did you want to do?”
“I don’t care what we do, Leia. I just wanted to do, you know, something. Preferably something you’d like.”
Leia regarded him thoughtfully. “Han, can you tell me why this is so important to you?”
“ ’S not.” It wasn't important to him, it's just— it was just— Leia was— well, he wasn't supposed to have this. Her. Them. Us. He didn’t want to screw it up and he wanted... to enjoy it a little. Make a fuss over it even.
“I thought you said you didn’t like Sweetest Day?” Leia asked, frustrated by a sense that she couldn’t get a handle on where the disagreement lay.
“I didn’t like it,” Han insisted, gritting his teeth.
Leia honestly didn’t know what to do with this. “So- ?”
“So now, with you,” Han paused, ran a hand over his jaw, keeping his eyes on the ground, “maybe it’s not so bad. Might as well do it right.”
The earnest roughness in his voice stopped Leia. She cocked her head slightly, as if listening for what he wasn’t quite saying.
“That’s true,” she said.
“Come again, Princess?”
“You’re right. Celebrating with you wouldn’t be bad.”
Han eyed her with suspicion, and Leia leaned into him suddenly, wrapping her arms around his torso. The empty cup slightly crushed between them as he wasn’t prepared for her to come in for the hug. She smiled up at Han, and took the cup and placed it with the rest of the garbage, and settled back in. This time he put his arm around her too though he still looked at her a little warily. She had not quite made it all better yet.
“I wouldn’t do it with anyone else though.” She was talking into his shoulder, going for cute and contrite and was almost getting away with it.
“No,” she emphasized, leaning properly up now to face him.
“I bet you’re gonna get Luke something,” Han said with bitterness that was wearing away at the edges, and Leia let out a laugh that was almost a bark.
“He’s my brother,” Leia rolled her eyes.
“Yeah, I know. And you’re gonna feel bad that he’s single and your only family and I swear you’re gonna give him one o’ those little cards for kids with the cartoon characters and some chocolate.”
Leia laughed again, then grew serious.
“You’re my family too, Han. You know that, right?”
He made a gruff noise, but he squeezed her tighter, and she knew that he knew.
“All right. Who is your favorite character? I want to get the card right, and I don’t suppose you’d like the ones with legendary Jedi on it. Would you prefer that Corellian superhero, then, the one with the cape?”
“I dunno, I like them princesses.” Leia knew the ones he meant; that series caused lots of misunderstandings with her peers growing up, as her life did not consist of being turned into mystical animals or— at least up to that point— falling in love with roguish peasants. She shook her head.
“Don’t be greedy,” she said, pulling far enough from the embrace to poke her index finger into his chest. “You can only have the one.”
He ran his hands through her braids, tugging gently. “We don’t have to do anything if you really don’t want to.”
Leia shook her head. “I never mind spending time with you.” She closed her eyes, running her hand up and down his chest. “I wasn’t supposed to have this, you know. A real lover. One that I chose. It’s a good thing to celebrate.”
“Yeah. Me neither,” Han was so quiet she could barely make out his words. Leia knew he wasn’t talking about having a princess, but a regular lover who actually cared for him and who he could rely on to be there. “So, how you wanna do this, Princess?”
“At home. Can we get some of those chocolate covered fruits?”
“I’ll make ‘em for you. Champagne?”
“Girly bubble bath?”
Leia groaned in anticipated pleasure, and Han smiled.
“You’re my present,” she said, rubbing the collar of his shirt between her forefinger and thumb.
“You got it, Sweetheart.” He kissed her temple. “It’s not very flashy, though.”
“I’m tired of flashy.”
“Me too,” he admitted.
“You are the love of my life, don’t ever think that you’re not just because Sweetest Day hearts make me a little nauseous.”
Han took Leia’s face in his hands, and kissed her long and slow.