Hello, readers! I wrote this story in response to a challenge prompt: Hope. I hadn't planned on writing at all, but I was inspired by a song, "These Foolish Things," as performed by Ella Fitzgerald and Louie Armstrong. It's the fastest story I've ever written; the words flowed right out of my brain and demanded to be written! Many thanks to Lils, my terrific beta reader. The whole process was just so much fun! I hope that you all enjoy this ESB missing moment!

These Foolish Things

Damn. Why won't she just say it? Why won't she just admit she cares?

Maybe she doesn't.

Han Solo stalked into the Falcon's darkened cockpit, his loud footfalls reverberating throughout the ship. Those words, those searing seeds of doubt, took root in his mind, and he slammed his fist on the bulkhead.

"Chewie!" Han bellowed. There was no answer. Time to get off this fuckin' iceball. Away from her. He flipped some switches and the control panel came to life, illuminating the small room. Then he grabbed his flight gloves from where he'd hung them by the cockpit window.


With the gloves in one hand, Han looked down. Something had fallen. There on the deck by his feet lay a small white piece of flimsy with a small metal clip attached to it. Huh. Must have been stuck to my gloves.

Without hesitation, he picked up what he had dropped and took one quick stride toward a small trash chute near the hatch. As he crumpled the flimsy into a ball, he felt the grooves on the other side of the clip, noticed its slight curvature, and realized that this was no office clip. He tossed his gloves onto his seat and pulled it off the flimsy. Leia's hair clip. Holding it between thumb and forefinger, he noticed how perfectly it matched her hair.

Many nights, he had dreamed of removing those clips, running his hands through her long, dark tresses, caressing her supple curves, pressing his body to hers, and loving her with abandon. No chance of that now. A princess and a guy like me… I should have known…

Han hadn't intended to get attached. Lust was all he needed, or so he'd thought. With her beauty, courage, and spirit, Leia had assumed that role ever since she yelled at him on the Death Star. But as time passed, he grew intrigued by her intelligence, wit, compassion, and dogged determination despite the odds. He got a kick out of their verbal sparring and increasingly flirtatious banter, and although she complained about his beloved ship, she'd often come to the hangar after her shift to help with repairs. In fewer than three years, the feisty, petite princess had penetrated the armor he'd forged so long ago.

How had Han responded to this gradual occupation of his heart? Despite his threats to leave, he'd stayed. Gotta save 'em from themselves, he'd once mumbled to himself about Leia and Luke, inadvertently letting his mercenary persona slip within Chewie's earshot. His copilot then had ruffled his hair and remarked Cub cares! Han had protested this truth, of course, claiming he was still just in it for the money. Caring was dangerous territory.

Eventually, everything had gone to hell. In his mind, Ord Mantell had been a disaster. But Leia had argued the opposite, that it had been a success because they'd gotten the intel. Worth it to her, but not to me. The burning smell of blaster fire and the weight of her limp body as he carried her to safety, running up the Falcon's ramp, were forever ingrained in his brain.

Now he was leaving her. He remembered the flash of pain across her face when he told her he was going. In a millisecond, her sadness had morphed into anger and biting words. His temper had flared, they'd argued, and then she'd kissed Luke in the med bay. His stomach churned at the memory.

Doesn't she care? Do we have to leave it like this? Han gritted his teeth. Maybe it was better this way, to go with a clean break.

No. He balled his hands into tight fists. Pain shot through his palm and he opened his hand to see blood where the clip had punctured his skin. This ain't clean.

Fuck. With more force than necessary, he threw it in the trash chute. Plink. How could something so small hurt so much?

He wiped his hand on his pants and flexed his fingers. Turning toward the hatch, he yelled "Chewie! We gotta go!"

Still no answer. "Probably grabbing more food," he grumbled, knowing that traveling with a Wookiee meant carrying extra supplies.

Han reached for his comm when he remembered the crumpled flimsy.

What the hells is this anyway?

He straightened it to form a white square, and then flipped it over. His heart lurched. It wasn't a holo, but instead an old-fashioned black and white picture that Luke had taken at a party shortly before Han had flown Leia to Ord Mantell. The two of them had attended many Rebel functions over the past three years, but this one… Han took a deep breath and exhaled. This one had been special, not due to any battle victory, but to a private one.

In the image, Han and Leia were dancing, his hands encircling her waist while hers caressed his shoulders. They were smiling and gazing into each other's eyes as if they were the only people in the crowded room. Leia's brilliant smile reached her sparkling eyes and radiated joy. In that moment, he'd known it wasn't a facade for public display, but instead a genuine expression of happiness and hope, reserved only for him.

She cared.

Han closed his eyes as tension left him. The anger he felt moments ago dissipated, leaving an ache in his heart and an emptiness that would never be filled without her by his side. It was easier to be mad, he thought to himself, and then he realized that the same truth applied to her. She's mad 'cause she hurts. Which means she still cares.

Looking at the picture again, he ran his thumb over her face. For her safety, he had to leave, and he hoped he could return after repaying his debt. Gods, Leia. I never wanted to hurt you.

He opened a small drawer under the console and pulled out a battered old leather book. Taking care to avoid further damage to the picture, he tucked it carefully between the flimsy pages, wondering who had left it and the hair clip for him to discover.

Suddenly, alarm klaxons blared. Echo Base was under attack.

The mystery would have to wait; the answer didn't matter. Han rushed out of the cockpit, down the ramp, and sprinted toward the Command Center, toward what mattered most to him: Leia.

The End