A tradition Han had never, ever anticipated: watching his wife be formally introduced into a grand ballroom. On the holonet. While he sat at home with their three children.
The galaxy was a strange place, he admitted. It’d been years since he’d last scorned the idea of fate or the Force. It was a hard thing to fight when he had seen with his own eyes the work of invisible power in his family. Fate was still a tricky idea for him sometimes; he didn’t like the idea of not having complete control over his own destiny. But if fate led him here, to this bizarre ritual, he couldn’t complain.
Jaina was shoved up under his arm, her legs swinging over the edge of the conform couch in their entertainment suite. Every few minutes, she’d look up at him and ask if it was time yet. Han would roll his eyes playfully at her, tug on her braid and remind her that she had never been the fancy balls type of girl.
And she would say something like you don’t know what type of girl I am, Daddy. And if that wasn’t an eight-year-old version of her mother, he didn’t know what was.
His heart squeezed, he cracked a grin, and they settled down again to wait.
The boys were far more interested in their mother’s security detail than the dinner itself—something that didn’t surprise Han in the least. Bodyguards had blasters and the legal right to use them, and nothing said Han Solo’s sons more than their big eyes whenever a blaster crossed the holoscreen.
Jacen had begun to feed off his sister’s newly-hatched nonchalance in all things mom, but Anakin…. Oh, Anakin was Leia’s baby and hadn’t yet realized that it was considered a bad thing by his siblings.
And so Jacen was off in the corner of the room, pretending to read a holonovel. Anakin was perched on Han’s lap, leaning toward the holoscreen in front of them as Han fiddled with the controls to find the live feed.
A momentary blackness and then a scene winked into existence on the holoscreen in front of the four Solos. A large banquet hall took up nearly the entire frame, the likes of which Han was very familiar after fifteen years of close personal contact with an honest-to-god princess. Swaths of fabric hung from the ceiling in ridiculous purple frippery. A series of long tables topped with gold-hued flatware ran along one side. Han spotted an open bar near the corner and had to laugh: if he’d accompanied Leia to this dinner, he would have found himself hanging out over there.
But foremost on the holoscreen was the timelessly beautiful face of his wife. The scene behind her seemed woefully inadequate by comparison.
“Mommy!” Anakin cried the minute her face appeared. “Mommy!”
“Hi, sweetheart,” Leia smiled.
Han wrapped an arm around their youngest. The kid seemed near ready to topple off Han’s lap if he wasn’t careful. I know the feeling, kid, Han thought, looking at Leia’s intricately-styled hair, her dark eyes, the top-most edge of a blue dress Han hadn’t seen her wear before.
“Can you see me okay?”
“We can see you,” Han said. “You have the whole gang tonight.”
She smiled, a wide, happy smile Han had really only seen her wear since the birth of the twins. “Quite the audience, then. Are you guys ready for bed?”
Han glanced down at Anakin’s full-hilt Rogue Squadron flight suit, Jaina’s red dress and miniature combat boots and Jacen’s too-large Jedi cowl. “Yup,” he said. “Pajamas, pillows, the whole shebang.”
“Liar,” she said with confidence. “Jaina, do you at least have your hair back?”
He spread his hands wide, though she couldn’t see them, while his daughter shifted onto her knees beside him. “Yeah. Uncle Chewie helped me with it because you know how bad Dad is with hair.”
“I really do,” Leia laughed. “How about you, Jacen?”
“I’m in the middle of a chapter, Mom,” he said, though he stood up, set the novel down and came to a soft landing near Han’s feet. “The Gortises are about to fight the Trumizes.”
Han had no idea what that meant and he suspected Leia didn’t either. It was hard keeping up with Jacen’s novel-of-the-week. Leia pursed her lips. “What’s this one called?”
“The Red Scourge of the Applines,” his oldest son supplied. “It’s the third in the series and it just came out last week.”
“I can’t wait to hear all about it,” Leia said, and Han shook his head. Leia and he had spent a lot of time trying to figure out the appeal of these novels. Han despaired of ever figuring it out; Leia still tried, but, honestly, the kid went through them faster than Anakin went through shoes. And Anakin went through a hell of a lot of shoes.
“You look pretty, Mommy,” Anakin said.
“Sure do,” Han added. “I like the dress.”
“Thank you,” she said, shaking her head. The movement made her earrings swing side to side and Han realized they were the ones he’d bought her last year for their anniversary. “I’m a little tired of playing dress up, though. I’d much rather be hanging out at home with you guys.”
Leia was on a diplomatic tour of the Mid-Rim systems. Minister-of-State Organa Solo had done a lot of solid politicking in the past on tours like these and Mon Mothma, tied down to the senate as she was, used Leia as her de facto presence to these systems. Leia didn’t like the tours and Han frankly hated them. But they went quick: Leia could hit several key systems in succession. It was a bang for their buck and it usually meant both she and he could be together, with their kids, here on Coruscant for months without either one of them needing to fly out.
Thus the tradition. Leia smuggled a small visual transmitter into the reception halls and spent a quick minute chatting with them in her full princess finery every night as she was introduced. He liked that there was distance between this part of her life and her family—he hated attending formal events, they drove him crazy—but the kids still got to see their mother in all her glory.
He thought it was important for them to see her doing her work. Leia’s kids should know how amazing their mother was.
Leia leaned in as a soft chime sounded from behind her. “Okay, guys. That’s my cue.”
“Knock ‘em dead, Princess,” he said as the kids gave their own well-wishes, and then the personal line went black.
Han reached back for the holo controls, gave a series of quick commands, and thanks to Leia’s security detail, entered a code that let him tap into the local security cams in the ballroom where Leia was about to be announced.
Setting the control back down on the couch arm beside him, he looked at the kids, all wide-eyed and engaged. Even Jacen looked a little excited, though when he caught Han watching him he rearranged his features to look bored. Jaina’s head leaned against Han’s side, Jacen lounged against his legs, and Anakin was still perched on his knees.
“What do you think, guys?” Han asked as the line of diplomats began to be introduced into the wider ballroom. One by one, names were called and the ambassadors walked past the Devonarian announcer. The line trudged on. Han had done enough of these events to feel sympathy for the ambassadors’ poor escorts. “Pretty impressive, right?”
Jacen shrugged. “She’s just doing her job. It’s no big deal.”
Han could spot her in the sea of people, edging closer to the doors, electric blue dress striking against the marble pillars of the hall. He hadn’t seen the skirt of the dress in her earlier transmission, and she looked like she was floating a foot above the floor. “Yeah,” he said. “Still. Look at her. Making people act like grown-ups everywhere she goes.”
Jaina yawned into his shirt. “She looks nice,” she said.
He chuckled. “Won’t argue with you there.”
Anakin leaned forward again, as if he wanted to be closer to her through the holoscreen. The Solos watched quietly as Leia moved toward the announcer. Then, with a loud bark and the scattered applause of the partygoers, the Devonarian swept his hand to the room and announced Minister of State of the New Republic, Her Highness Leia Organa Solo of Alderaan!
His youngest son threw his arms up and cheered, as if this wasn’t the third time this week they’d performed the exact same ritual. Jacen shrugged, and Jaina perked up enough to smile at the image of their princess on the screen as she walked through the throng of people assembled around her.
Han had long ago become accustomed to the way Leia took command of a room. But he enjoyed watching her through the lens of their children, through eyes that were unsurprised by the grace of their mother. As far as Jacen, Jaina and Anakin were concerned, saving the galaxy was Leia’s secondary job, what she did when she wasn’t here with them, warning them about their hair and asking about their holonovels.
As if every kid in the galaxy had a mother who could negotiate a cease-fire to a decade-long civil war on a far-away planet. As if that was a totally normal way of seeing the incredible woman in blue on the screen.
That killed him.
Someday they’d understand. For now, he would continue this tradition, continue to make their children confront the reality of how lucky they were to have her for their mother. That determined, brilliant woman in blue, fighting for galactic peace like it was going out of style, who then came home to them and acted like family dinner was the most important part of her day.
And maybe to Leia it was.
He switched off the holoscreen, told his kids (over loud protests) that it was time for bed: pajamas, pillows, the whole shebang, as he’d told Leia. The twins retreated first, and Han helped Anakin with the zipper of the flight suit before getting him settled down and in bed.
After nearly half an hour of entreaties and bargains, Han was able to close their doors and wander back to the couch. He thought about going to bed himself, though it was still early and he hated sleeping alone. Then he thought about calling up Chewie to come over and beat back some of this damn quiet, but dismissed the idea almost immediately. The Wookiee would wake the kids faster than the opening notes of their favorite holofilms: loud growling and heavy footsteps did not make him a good visitor at this hour.
And, really, the person Han wanted here was Leia.
He sprawled out on the couch, long legs propped up on the table in front of him, and reached into the comm clip on his belt. Knowing she wouldn’t have her personal comm on her—that dress had absolutely no room for any extra items—he flipped the comm to message mode.
You damn well better call me the minute you get back to your suite, he sent her. That dress belongs on our bedroom floor.
Then he turned on the holoscreen, watched a smashball game, and waited for Leia to call him back.