|A Festival to Remember
Author: GreatOne PM
Leia gets a glimpse of Han's softer side while holiday shoppingRated: Fiction K+ - English - Han S. & Leia O. - Words: 2,956 - Reviews: 7 - Favs: 7 - Published: 06-10-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5126751
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A Festival to Remember
Corellia, years before ANH
The candle in the window could be seen in the distance, a beacon of warmth and welcome to the weary travelers. Trudging through the knee deep snow, the family made their way to grandmother's small but tidy home. The two children were excited and happy, eagerly tugging on their parent's gloved fingers. Soon, they would be ripping open all the gifts the adults had so carefully wrapped for the Corellian holiday formally known as the Festival of Independence. There was no hesitation when the children reached the front steps. Throwing open the door, they flung themselves into the grandmother's arms.
"Gramma!" the young girl yelled joyfully. "I could hardly wait for today to get here!"
The elderly lady laughed and hugged her youngest grandchild. "Glora, I swear child, you've grown an inch every time I see you."
"Look at all the presents we brought with us!" the older boy exclaimed as he pushed the large satchel of brightly wrapped gifts toward his grandmother. "Can we open them now?"
"I see." Grandmother nodded. "You'll have to ask your mom and dad."
"Roc," the boy's mother admonished gently. "Let's get settled down and eat some dinner first. The presents can wait for a little while."
The children erupted in a protest of groans. "Listen to your mother, and go get out of those wet boots," the children's father said as he laughed. He turned and embraced the tiny older woman. "Happy Festive Day, mom."
"And you, too, Dell." She turned to her daughter-in-law. "I'm so glad you could make it for the holiday, Tassy."
"We wouldn't miss coming here for anything, Mother Balesin. The kids look forward to this day for months."
When the children ran out of the bedroom, the family sat down at the old table which was set for a huge Corellian meal, with a wide variety of breads, sauces and heaping plates of spicy meats. Blue and white tapered candles, the colors of the Festival, decorated the center of the round table.
After the dinner, everyone felt as if their stomachs would burst open. "Now is it time for presents?" Roc prodded his sleepy parents.
"Don't you want to take a little nap first?" the father teased.
"No! Presents!" Glora protested her little eyes wide with indignation.
The three adults laughed. "All right," Tassy conceded with a wink. "It's time to open presents."
With a loud cheer, the two children ran to the center of the room and quickly tore into the sparkling presents.
The little boy watched from outside the window, shivering in his thin ragged coat and hanging back from the edge of the brightly lit window so he wouldn't be seen. He wasn't supposed to be here, watching this happy family. He knew he was breaking all sorts of rules, but he simply couldn't help himself. I wish I could have a family, just like that one, he thought fiercely. Someday, I will. Someday, I'm going to have a mom and a dad, and they'll love me, and they'll give me presents.
He watched the as two well dressed, happy children opened present after present. Toys and clothes and holovids piled up as Glora and Roc ripped off the bright wrapping and threw the ribbons and paper over their shoulders. He did not feel jealousy - only a deep yearning to belong. His stomach rumbled, and the child felt his mouth water as the lingering aroma of dinner filled the air. He hoped they would put the leftovers outside in the garbage - that way he could have some, too. The thin little boy was frequently denied meals as punishment, and the food he was given could never compete with the feast he had just witnessed.
It was way past time to head back to the ship. But since he was already in trouble, the boy figured it didn't matter anyway. After all, he had been beaten plenty of times in the past, so what did once more matter?
It only took the children a few minutes to open several dozen gifts and then sort them in order of importance, with the clothing being judged as having the least value. While the adults cleaned up the mess the kids left in their wake, the two siblings argued over the new toys. Finally, the mother could stand it no longer. "All right you two, get your snowsuits on. You're going outside and play in the snow."
"Aw, mom, do we have to?" Roc argued.
"Yes," the father said sternly. "You obviously have too much energy to just sit around in the house. Now go get dressed. I'll come with and we can go sledding."
The notion of sledding eliminated any further dissensions. The two children raced off to obey their father.
"Why don't you go with them, Tassy?" the grandmother suggested. "I can clean up the house."
Dell smiled at his wife. "The kids would like that."
It had been a while since all four had done something together outside. "All right. That sounds like fun. Let's get dressed, then," Tassy agreed easily.
A half hour later, the four bundled up sledders headed off into the freshly fallen snow. The group did not notice the small boy, hiding behind the snowcapped bushes next to the house.
After the family had left for the gentle slopes behind the house, the orphan boy went back to his spying. Now only the grandmother remained inside the warm home. He watched as she tidied up the room, and cleaned the kitchen area. The little boy was gravely disappointed when the garbage was not put outside the back door, like he had hoped.
The older lady was finally done with her chores. She yawned and checked her wristchrono. The family would be gone at least another hour, she decided. Now would be a good time to take a little nap. Grandmother Balesin headed for her bedroom.
The hungry, cold child huddled outside the dining room window as snowflakes drifted down softly. The hunger pains in his abdomen increased in intensity, and the warmth of the house beckoned him invitingly. No one was around, and there was so much food left over, who would miss just a little bit? The boy eased out of his hiding spot, went to the front door and carefully pulled the handle. The family had not bothered locking the entrance - it opened easily.
The heat was a relief to his chilled body as the youngster tiptoed into the warm house. His fingers and toes began tingling as the warm air took effect, returning feelings to his extremities. As sneaky as possible, he went into the kitchen and opened the cooler, then hesitated. Everything inside was packaged so neatly, the grandmother was certain to notice if he pulled open the lids. The boy shut the cooler and went to the pail under the sink. Inside were vast amounts of leftovers, simply thrown away in a jumble. Now, no one would notice if things were rearranged inside a garbage can. With dirty fingers, the child reached inside the pail and picked out some meat and bit off a small piece. He shut his eyes in happiness, not remembering when he had eaten something so wonderful tasting. Greedily, the boy started to shovel the messy food into mouth, ignoring the tiny pieces that fell on his torn clothes.
"You don't have to eat out of the garbage," a woman's voice said gently from behind him.
The boy spun around in panic, guilt plastered on his face. Without taking his eyes off the older lady, he carefully put the pail back under the sink. "Pease, ma'am, don't call the a'torrities," the child spoke with a slight lisp. "I haven't taken anythin'."
Mrs. Balesin felt her heart break. The child was obviously an orphan, and undoubtedly traveling with the space gypsies she had been hearing about on the holo-news. Calling the authorities would probably be the kindest thing she could possibly do - but the young boy's hazel eyes were pleading with her. "I won't call the authorities," she said quietly. "But I will warm you some real food, not the stuff in the garbage. Would you like that?"
"Yea, ma'am," the boy said with a tentative smile.
The lady returned his smile, and asked, "What's your name?"
"Tad," the boy replied, lying easily. He had meant to say Thad, the name of an older orphan boy he knew, but the "th" sound was hard to make.
"All right, Tad. Why don't you go wash your hands, and I'll get some food out? The refresher is through that door." She pointed across the room.
The boy quickly complied and when he returned, the woman had placed a heaping dish of warm food on the table. She smiled with compassion as the child wolfed down the meal, barely pausing to breathe. He was barely finished when a loud rap sounded on the door.
Mrs. Balesin got up, frowning. Who could that be on a holiday? She opened the door to a sharp faced, well dressed man with slick black hair. "Can I help you?" she asked politely.
"I believe so." He sneered, looking past her shoulder. "That's my son sitting at your table. He has a tendency to run away from home. I'm terribly sorry if he's been a bother."
"Your son?" The woman knew this man was lying, but she turned to the child. "Tad? Is this your father?"
The child paled and looked down at his empty plate. "Yea, ma'am," he whispered.
"Come along, Tad, " the man snapped. "You've had me worried out of my mind!"
The ragged child obeyed and quickly went to stand next to the arrogant man. "Apologize to the lady, Tad."
"That's not necessary."
"I'm sarry to have bother'd you, ma'am," the boy whispered a second before the man with the hard eyes grabbed his arm in a vise-like grip and pulled him away.
The grandmother watched as the child stumbled to keep up with the long strides of his "father". When they were out of sight, she shut the door. Mrs. Balesin turned to look at the stack of new clothes and toys left carelessly where they had been opened only an hour before, and her eyes filled with tears.
Coruscant, 40 years later. Early evening.
Although the Festival of Independence had started out as a Corellian holiday, since the fall of the Empire it had been adopted by many systems. Coruscant was one of those many systems that now celebrated the "Festive Day", and the streets were lined with shoppers, colorful lights and decorations.
It had been raining steady all day, and Han Solo was getting tired of standing in stores, holding packages while his wife shopped for the kids. He didn't understand why they needed so many new toys anyway - the children hardly ever played with the hundreds they already had. But Leia loved the holiday, so Han held his tongue. He didn't want to spoil it for her, and if he complained, it was likely she would punish him by making him attend a holiday opera for good measure.
Right now, Leia was inside a clothing store while Han had stayed outside, under a canopy. All those racks of clothes made Solo feel claustrophobic. The only clothes anyone needed were a few good shirts and a pair of pants with no holes in the seat. At least that was what Han always tried to point out to his wife. Unfortunately, she refused to see the truth of his statement. His side of the closet was stuffed with almost as many clothes as Leia's side. This major difference of opinion remained, however, since most of Han's clothes, purchased by Leia with good intentions, were seldom worn in deference to his usual white shirt, black slacks combination.
A movement in an alley across the walkway caught Han's eye. Shifting the many packages he was holding, Solo left the shelter of the canopy and went to investigate. At first, the Corellian could not make out what he was seeing in the dark alley, then his eyes adjusted to the darkness. A child was rummaging through a dumpster. Han felt his heart skip a beat as memories of his own terrible childhood suddenly flashed back. He didn't want to frighten the child, so he called out as gently as he could, "Son? Have you lost something?" Han hoped he guessed the child's gender correctly, but he figured he had a fifty-fifty chance.
The boy turned around, and stared belligerently at Solo. "I ain't lost nuthin'. Unless this here's yors trash, mind yer own business."
Han stared back at the defiant child. The boy was no older than seven - Jacen's age. "Are you hungry?" Han asked quietly. "I know I sure am. My wife has had me shopping all day, and I could use some food. There's a restaurant around the corner, if you want to join me."
"Why?" The child's eyes flashed suspicion, and Han could not blame him. Living on the streets was hard, and undoubtedly the boy had all type of humans and aliens make him various "offers".
"I could just use the company, you know," Han said casually, trying to put the child at ease. "Someone to talk to."
"Well..." the child trailed off, thinking. "You stay ahead a' me, and I ain't goin' nowhere's alone wit' ya."
Han nodded. "You can follow as far back as you want." He turned and headed for the restaurant, hoping the child was behind him. When he entered the diner he sat in the nearest booth and waited. After a few minutes, the boy peeked his head in the door and finally entered. He slid cautiously into the seat opposite Han.
Solo opened a menu and pretended to study the items. Instead, he studied the child. Dirty, skinny, clothes torn and far too small. The memories of that day so long ago, when a kindly woman offered him a meal, threatened to overwhelm him. "So, what's your name? Mine's Han."
"What would you like to eat, Zack?"
"I ain't got much credits," the boy mumbled, looking at his dirty nails.
"I'll pay. And no strings attached, okay? You can get whatever you want."
The boy looked up, astounded. "Anything? Anything at all?"
"As long as it's on the menu." Han smiled kindly at the boy.
"I can't read."
"Then I'll read it to you, okay?"
"There you are!" Leia exclaimed as she hustled into the restaurant, hauling even more packages. "Why didn't you...." She stopped as she noticed the ragged child sitting across from her husband. Empty plates lined the table, and the boy's mouth and face was covered with teeberry pie stains, as he awkwardly held a fork paused halfway to his lips.
"Zack, this is my wife, Leia," Han said with a grin. "And Leia, this is Zack, my new buddy. We were a little hungry, so I hope you don't mind if we came in here and had a little snack."
A little snack? Leia thought bemusedly. "No, not at all."
The child shifted uncomfortably in his seat and suddenly put the fork down and stood up. "Thank you for the snack. I'd best get goin', okay?"
Han nodded. "You're welcome, Zack. How about we have dinner tomorrow?" he suggested carefully. Solo knew he would have to work hard to gain this child's trust if he wanted to help get him off the streets. Although there were literally thousands of orphans living on Coruscant, Han decided if he could help place Zack with a foster family, it would be one life saved. The boy would be able to have the family Solo always longed for as a child, and never had.
"Okay," the boy replied slowly, as if it were necessary to give a hot meal deep consideration. "But no strings!"
"No, no strings," Han agreed solemnly.
The child started to leave when Han called out, "Wait!" He got up and sorted through some of the boxes until he found what he was looking for - clothing for Jacen. Solo handed the package to the boy. "Happy Festive Day, Zack. You take care of yourself, and I'll see you tomorrow, all right?"
The child's eyes lit up as he took the warm, new clothes. "Thanks!" The boy turned and fled quickly out into the brightly lit night of Coruscant.
Leia looked at Han, her face unreadable. Solo shifted on his feet, stared at the floor for a second and cleared his throat. "I guess we'll have to do some more shopping for Jacen. Sorry."
Without warning, Leia dropped her packages and flung her arms tightly around Han. "That's okay," she sniffed, trying to keep from crying. She stepped back and looked up at an embarrassed Han Solo. "I knew there was a reason I married you."
Han bent down and gathered up all the bags and packages. "Yeah... I know. So someone can carry all this poodoo."
The Princess grinned and blinked back tears, knowing that Han was attempting to deflect any accusations that he was kindhearted. "Yes, flyboy, that's the reason I married you. And don't you forget it."