It's been a long snow day here, tired of the Hoth-like weather. So, I'm going to post this last chapter a few hours early. It's the last one for this fic. I really hope you got some sort of fun or enjoyment out of it.


Chapter 27: Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart

Finding her eyes, he searched a long moment for some softness beneath the antagonism masking her hidden sadness. Seeing just a hint of it, he took another breath and plunged headlong, "I've decided to stay on here as long as you need me."


The surprise registered on her face even before her brain fully processed it.


Slowly that word sank through her consciousness taking on true meaning.

"You're staying?" Moments later, her entire being seemed to light up as she instinctively jumped into his arms, "Han, that's wonderful!"

Pulling her close, Solo couldn't ignore the uncanny déjà vu. The last time she hugged him with such gleeful abandon was just after the Battle of Yavin almost three years ago. She had been a young Princess of an obliterated system. He had been a smuggler trying to scrape up enough credits to pay back a Tatooine crimelord. While both of those descriptions still applied, the years had rounded out their relationship. Yes, it still worked very much the same way: argumentative. Yet, the arguing had been punctuated by subtle bits of hidden exhilaration with a definitive undercurrent of protective friendship.

Solo relished the feel of Leia in his arms, excited and happy. He knew it wouldn't last long, but for the moment he enjoyed the unmistakable fact he was responsible for her delight. All too soon, the extent of her enthusiasm created a wave of shyness that crashed over her. Regaining herself, she disengaged and stepped back to a more appropriate distance, although she continued to smile brightly.

"Are you willing to officially accept a commission with the Alliance?"

"Don't push it," Han warned.

"I'm so glad you've decided to stay," she beamed happily. Then as an obvious afterthought, she sputtered, "…on behalf of the Alliance, of course. You've been a great help to us, Captain."

He was amused and encouraged at her slip. After all, he came to her quarters tonight for a reason. Han Solo was courting the Princess. Although he would be caught dead before calling it that. Han's tone grew serious and steady as he stared pointedly at her.

He reached out and lightly caressed her cheek with back of his fingers, "Who said I was staying for the Alliance?"

Leia unconsciously held her breath while the tiny hairs on her skin reflexed into a series little chill bumps that immediately cropped up all over her skin.

Solo waited for her to say anything… anything at all. Any hint of an invitation. Soon enough, he realized her reaction would be limited to her sustained panicked stare. She couldn't – or was it wouldn't - get past the wall blocking her emotions and let him in. Solo wanted to knock that wall down so badly it physically hurt. All he had to do was lean in, wrap his arms around her and kiss her. Simple. Still, he knew it wouldn't work. Not really. The only true way was for Leia at least to begin breaking down the wall from her side. If necessary, he would meet her more than halfway and give her every opportunity. He would happily tease her, provoke her, cajole her, and flirt his ass off. Anything to persuade her. Chagrined, he pursed his lips resignedly.

"I figure I can hide out here just as easily as anywhere while Jabba cools off."

Han knew this wasn't the way it worked. If anything, the Hutt's anger was mounting by the day. The feeling of her in his arms still lingered in his mind. How could he leave her? He couldn't. At least, not until he could get her to be open with him about her feelings.

"Right now, he'd have me killed on sight before I could offer him anything."

Finally, the Princess's expression changed to visible consternation. It was clear she couldn't stand the thought of Han walking into something like that on purpose and was relieved for his change of heart.

"I never understood why you had to physically go back to pay him. There are other ways for Jabba to get his credits not nearly as dangerous."

He noticed worry now furrowing her beautiful features and didn't like it. On one hand, it was nice to know she felt concern for his well-being which is not something he had in his life. He could count on one thumb, how many beings cared, in fact. That thumb being the furry Wookiee that had an unshakable attachment to him and his modified freighter. Han figured it was about time he started adding a couple of more fingers to that calculation. He supposed Luke would be a safe bet. After all, he was the closest thing to a kid brother Han had ever had. And now… well, there was Leia. And, he knew, she was feeling more and more attached to him, too.

On the other hand, he didn't like the attachment making her upset in that way. Sure, it was fun to toss banter around. It was like a game for them. This… this was something different.

"Can I help it if everyone wants their chance to see my good looks in person as much as possible? At least be happy I would rather give a stubborn Princess my time versus some slimy Hutt." It was a lame attempt to erase that look from her face, but the fastest thing he could come up with and fast was good in this instance.

The attempt worked well enough. Instead of worried, her features became unreadable again, but some of her sarcasm had returned. "It's nice to see you using some common sense for a change. Of course, you're welcome to stay as long as like. You're no doubt more valuable to us than Jabba."

"Hey, how 'bout we open up that bottle and have a toast?" Han suggested.

"Well, I suppose just a quick one wouldn't hurt," she relented.

Solo opened the bottle as she rummaged up a couple of standard mess hall type cups.

"Just a sip for me, I still have work to do," she reminded him.

He obliged and handed her a cup with approximately a finger's width of liquor, "Fine, we'll save the rest of it for when you can't plead work as an excuse." On the way back from Ord Mantell would be a good time, he thought. They would be alone and they would have a successful mission to celebrate… he hoped. He still didn't like the idea of it, but she was hell-bent on going and that meant it would happen, no matter what he thought. The best he could do would be to keep a close eye on her the whole time and, that, he was hell-bent on doing.

She was standing there holding her glass up in salute waiting for him to do the same. Once he did, she smiled warmly, "To good friends who are here to stay."

The way she was looking at him made lightning run through his veins causing an unconscious and wholly unnecessary step toward her to clink cups in salute. Solo tipped his head slightly back and swallowed the entire contents of his half-full glass in one gulp, while Leia only took a small sip of what little there was in her glass.

After which, they both stood there silent and unmoving. Their eyes locked in a heated gaze that threatened to suspend them in time and force them to succumb to its power until Leia realized she wasn't breathing. Her sudden intake of breath broke the intense spell that held them and she looked down to regain her composure once again.

Solo badly wanted to reach out to cup her chin to guide her eyes back to his, but realized the moment was over and she was already obviously uncomfortable.

"Well, I gotta get back before Chewie starts trying to track me down to help him finish up for the night," Han offered by way of excuse.

Leia handed him the bottle he had brought with him, "Thanks for the drink."

"No sweat. I don't like to drink alone," he said as he took his time replacing the cap. He just wasn't in a hurry to leave.

"Oh, and the necklace, of course. It's quite a change to see you bearing gifts and good news."

As he turned and started to walk towards the door, he found it strange that he couldn't come up with a suitable wisecrack. Instead, he turned around to face her again. She was still easily within reach as he leaned down and placed a quick kiss on her forehead. Looking down into her surprised eyes, he rumbled cheerfully, "Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart. It's been one helluva month."

With a wink, he was gone.

Leia stood there stock still wrapping her brain around what just happened. Indeed, he remembered their anniversary. Then it all started to fall in place: the special jewelry, the special liquor from Uluruan and the unlikely good news. That was why he did all of it! The perplexing part was that he shouldn't have had any reason to remember or mark the day, anyway. They had barely been bonded a day before the divorce was final. Could it be that there was a romantically inclined sentimental side lurking in the rogue? In her secret heart of hearts, Leia wondered if this was his idea of a one month anniversary, what he would do for a year anniversary?

Just knowing Han was staying was making her stomach do little flips. Leia gave up entirely on the reports and the idea of jaava. As she headed for bed, she was sure Han's little visit would end up ruining her night's sleep, too. Did everything with him have to be so strongly up and down?


Ok, so that's the end of this one. Next up is Corellian Detour. I'm posting the first chapter today as well. It follows this fic – mostly – and then there will more of an action-oriented fic following that for Ord Mantell. Hope you stay will me.

Thank you to everyone for reading this and making me smile with all of your reviews. It was really cool to see what you had to say! It was pretty fun seeing people 'favorite' and 'follow' this fic. YAY!