AN: I don't own SW (Why do I have to keep saying that?). Anyway, this was written in response to a complex challenge at a messageboard that went like this.
"Write a story that revolves around weather of some kind - normal, extreme, natural, magical, non-terrestrial - anything from a rain-shower to solar wind - as long as the weather is central to the story, not merely its backdrop."
It also had these five rules.
1) A dialogue exchange that includes the following question and answer:
"Is everything a joke to you?"
"Only the important things."
2) Someone goes to sleep and they aren't happy about it.
3) At some point, a delivery of some kind must be made.
4) It takes place over the course of one morning.
5) There must be a cape.
So, I tried my hand at it, and this is the result, loosely inspired by a disastrous ski trip I once took where I learned the hard way that I can't ski. There may be a lot of these challenge fics coming up since I recently joined two creativity-centered SW messageboards. (But NO, I will not be abandoning "My Mother" at all.)
"SNOW!! SNOW!! SNOW!!!"
That was basically the only word Jaina, Jacen, and Anakin Solo had been shouting for the entire morning. Ever since they had woken up to the sight of thousands of snowflakes pouring over Coruscant and the announcement that school had been cancelled due to poor speeder visibility, the eight-year-old twins and their six-year-old brother had been jumping with excitement.
Neither Han nor Leia knew precisely who had first had the idea that they should go to the Coruscant Snow Haven, but given the choice between going there and dealing with the kids running around the apartment all day shouting to go there, it seemed pretty obvious which option was the most desirable.
"So the visibility's too low for school, but not too low to drive to some overpriced ski place?" Han muttered as he sat in the family speeder next to his wife, who was driving too slowly for his taste.
"It's called a family outing, Han," said Leia.
"Yeah Dad," said Jaina from the back seat. "Just cause you can't ski to save your life doesn't mean we can't have fun."
Han growled something in an inaudible voice, something that probably wasn't appropriate to say in front of the children.
The Coruscant Snow Haven was located on the planet's only spot that contained mountains. Whether or not the mountains were natural, the Solos didn't know, but right now that didn't matter. What mattered now was that the kids would have a place to let out their snow-fueled energy, which would hopefully be worth the rather steep entry price.
"Two adults, three children," Leia said to the Twil'ik at the front desk.
"Hey Dad," said Jacen, pulling at Han's coat with one hand and pointing eagerly up at the stuffed Wampa head on the wall over the desk with the other. "Isn't that the kind of monster that almost killed Uncle Luke when you were on Hoth?"
Han raised his brows at the head, wondering what kind of jerk planned the decor here. "Yeah, that's a Wampa, all right."
"How do you think they killed it?" said Jaina. "Even Uncle Luke couldn't do that."
Han faced his daughter. "Well that's easy," he said in a smug voice. "It's probably a fake. Ya know, in order to get more customers they pretend that they killed themselves a Wampa."
"A-HEM." The Twil'ik cleared her throat loudly as she glared at the ex-smuggler. "For your information, it is real."
Anakin looked up at the head with complete awe. "Whooooaaaa."
Han stuck his lips out at the Twil-ik before turning back to the children. "Of course, you don't expect 'em to actually admit it's a fake."
The Twil'ik growled loudly at Han. "Sir, if you wish to insult our decor, you may keep it to yourself. If you are incapable of doing so, you may wait in your speeder while your wife and children enjoy our resort."
"Watch out, Dad," said Jaina, elbowing her father. "You don't want Mom to give you another lecture when we get home."
The Twil'ik turned to Leia. "Will you be renting skis?"
"Yes," said Leia. "Five pairs."
"What?" Han reacted. "Now wait a sec, who said I wanted to ski??"
"Think about that the next time you decide to make a fool out of yourself in public," Leia said simply.
Han growled something else that was probably inappropriate to say in front of the children.
Whoever invented ski boots should be banished to Mustafar, Han thought as he waddled through the ski lounge in uncomfortable ski boots that clambered loudly on the floor. It felt like he was wearing a couple of metal foot braces that pinched his toes and heels no matter how he positioned his feet. He held a pair of heavy skis in one hand and a pair of poles in the other, which added annoying scraping to the already-annoying clambering. And worst of all, he had to pass through the bar in order to get outside, which reminded him that he had to wait until after skiing to warm himself up with drinks. He thought that the only thing that could make his situation worse would be if...
...Lando showed up.
Lando shuffled up to the former smuggler, a smug grin on his face, a bottle in his hand, and his cape draped over his shoulders. Han wondered if it would kill the man to go just one day without wearing one of those ridiculous capes.
"Hey buddy," said Lando, slapping his friend's shoulder. "What brings you here?"
"Cancelled school and a demanding wife, ya know how that is," said Han. "The kids wanted to have some fun on their day off." He slyly poked Lando's cape with one of his poles. "So you're tellin' me you actually wear that to go skiing?"
Lando smirked. "C'mon, who wants to ski when there are drinks to be had?" he said, waving his bottle in front of Han's face.
"Well you could've just gone to a local bar," said Han. "Why'd you go and pay that entrance fee just for this?"
"Hey, this is where the atmosphere is," said Lando. "Not to mention the women. And the sabbacc games. Sides, it'll be fun to watch you break all your bones like you did last time you tried to ski."
Han groaned. "A leg and a wrist don't count as all your bones, Lando."
"Well it was enough to keep you bedridden for a while," said Lando.
Han waved his poles. "Watch it, or I'll fix it so you'll be bedridden for a while."
Lando put up his hands in a mock surrender. "Hey, don't get pushy. Who knows, maybe you'll get lucky this time and only sprain a few parts of you."
Han sighed through his teeth. "Is everything a joke to you?"
"Only the important things," Lando said, a cheeky grin scrunching his mustache. "Now you'd better get going. If you're still alive when you're done skiing, you can have yourself a drink then. Just remember the bar closes early today."
"Thanks for the tip," Han said insincerely as he waddled toward the door.
Han had his poles planted firmly in the snow as he stood at the top of the slope, but he could still feel his skis wanting to slide aimlessly out from under him and leave his stomach behind. He thought anyone who believed a hyperspace jump was rough had never been skiing. A hyperspace jump was nothing compared to this.
"Hey Dad, what're you doing?" Jaina asked from next to him. She was also preparing to go down the hill, but unlike her father, she and her brothers looked like they couldn't wait.
"Just scannin' the hill, hon," Han said. "You don't wanna run into any other skiers or anythin'."
"Yeah right," Jaina said with a snort. "You know, Uncle Luke's teaching us how to read minds. We can tell if you're standing here because you're scared."
"Yeah," Jacen and Anakin said together.
Han growled yet another thing that was inappropriate for the children to hear while Leia quickly signaled to them that it was all right for them to go. After hearing a brief explosion of snow coming from under their skis and screams of joy coming out of their mouths, Han saw his three children sliding down the hill as if they had been doing it all their lives, even though they had only done it once before. They had taken to skiing like a Gungan to water. Maybe their Force sensitivity had something to do with it.
"Han," said Leia, driving Han to look at her and note how sexy she looked in her white snowsuit and purple headband. "Keep your knees bent and keep leaning forward. You'll get the knack for it."
"Easy for someone who's Force-sensitive to say," grumbled Han. "If you recall, breakin' my leg and wrist wasn't exactly a picnic."
Leia leaned over and kissed her husband's cold cheek, her lips feeling like a piece of ice in this nippy weather. "You won't this time - I'll make sure of that. Come on, just watch me and do what I do."
Han sighed, his breath coming out in a small cloud. "All right, honey."
Leia smiled at her husband, then she leaned forward and pushed herself off. Han watched as she seemed to fly down the hill, her hair whipping around her neck and mists of snow trailing behind her skis. When she reached the bottom, she turned around and waved up at her husband, encouraging him to follow her lead.
This slope was neither very long nor very steep - it was the beginner's slope, after all. Maybe it was worth a shot. After all, Leia had just made it look very easy, and besides, if Han's six-year-old son could do it, surely he could do it. Why would Han Solo let himself be upstaged by his children, anyway?
With new determination, Han pushed himself off, letting complete lack of friction carry him down the hill. Bend knees...lean forward...Han gritted his teeth as he kept Leia's instructions in his head. Gravity wanted to pull him backward...no, lean forward...lean forward...hey, he was doing it! Take that, Lando! He was skiing...he was skiing...
...for about thirty seconds.
The gravity that wanted to pull him backward won, without even warning him that it was winning. In what seemed like less than a millisecond, Han slammed down flat on his back, shooting pain through at least six different parts of his body, his legs hanging in the air above him.
After shouting at least five different things Leia wouldn't want the children to hear, Han struggled to sit up and then made a feeble attempt to get himself back on his feet that only resulted in sticking the bottom of his skis in the snow. Oh, great. This was the worst part of skiing, the sheer helplessness after a fall. It was pretty much impossible to stand up when each foot was a meter long.
Of course, he could pop off his skis by sticking his poles in the little springy thingy next to his boots...theoretically. In order for that to work, there had to be enough weight on the bottom of his skis, and no matter how he shifted his body, he couldn't get his legs in a position where his skis could touch the ground. So there was nothing he could do but sit on the snow while his rear end froze and all the little kids and beginning adults whizzed past him like skiing was the easiest thing in the galaxy.
"Hey Dad, you need any help?"
Han looked up to find Anakin standing next to him, his skis turned at an angle so he wouldn't go rushing down the hill. He was grinning widely, probably thrilled to see his father unable to do something that he found so simple.
"You already came down here for a second run, huh?" Han sighed.
"Yeah, it's fun," Anakin said in a perky voice. "So do you want me to help you get up?"
After inhaling through his teeth in order to swallow his pride, Han answered, "Sure son, why not?"
He expected Anakin to offer something Han could press his skis against so he could pop them off, but instead, the child simply waved his hand, after which both of Han's skis neatly came off and landed beside him.
Of course. He had to go and use that Force, didn't he?
"So Dad," said Anakin, "you think you can walk down the hill?"
Though Han's entire body felt sore and his legs and certain intimate areas felt completely frozen, he was pretty sure nothing was broken. "Yeah kiddo, I can manage." After putting his weight back on those painful ski boots and groaning as he slowly pushed himself to a standing position, he patted his son's shoulder. "You go have fun, I'll be fine."
"Okay," said Anakin. "You know Dad, Uncle Luke says that sometimes you gotta try stuff a lot of times before you can do it."
"Thanks, I'll keep that in mind," Han said as his son once more pushed off, leaving his father to half-walk, half-limp down the hill in those awful ski boots.
Very very slowly.
Maybe Han was genuinely taking his son's advice, or maybe he was just letting his ego control him again. Whatever the reason, once he reached the bottom of the hill, he headed right back for the ski lift, ready to send his sore body down the slope again.
Each time, the result was the same: thirty seconds after pushing off he would fall flat on his back, sit there until one of his kids skied by and helped him get his skis off, then walk down the rest of the way, his feet feeling like the ski boots wanted to reshape them.
Finally, after the ninth or tenth attempt (or more? He had lost count), an exhausted, beaten, half-frozen Han trudged back to the lodge, now wanting only to return his skis, thaw out in front of a fire, and more than anything, get those damn ski boots off.
Han removed both his shoes and his wet socks when he finally found himself a soft chair in front of one of the lodge's fireplaces. Was going around in bare feet against the rules here? He didn't really care if it was - after his feet had endured the torture of ski boots, they deserved a little pampering in front of a fire. The employees here would understand that, right?
As for the rest of him, it still felt incredible pain in the spots where it didn't feel incredible cold, and incredible cold in the spots where it didn't feel incredible pain. His pants were soaking wet from melted snow, which the fire wasn't big enough to dry off. He folded his arms and stuck his hands up his sleeves in hope to warm them up, but that did little good.
It occurred to Han that he could get himself a drink or fifteen now...assuming the bar was still open. Lando had said it was closing early today, but how early? He could check out the bar...but that would require moving. Although he had miraculously managed to not break or sprain anything while on the slope, fatigue and soreness was still in control of his body. If the bar was still open now, it would likely still be open after he rested for a few minutes.
He stared at the bright, crackling flames, hoping they would take his mind off his aching body. Watching the fire dance was mildly interesting for a minute or two, but then it started to make his eyes hurt. It soon felt like he was staring at both of Tatooine's suns at once, yet he still couldn't motivate himself to leave his chair.
He leaned his head back and closed his eyes to get rid of the burn, intending to open them once he felt better, but the act of closing his eyes gave the fatigue complete control over him. In less than a minute, he was asleep.
Han awoke to the feeling of something pulling at his arm...and the sensation that something heavy was in his lap. He opened his eyes to see that Jacen was seated in his father's lap, leaning forward so that his grinning face was only a few inches in front of Han's.
"Hi Dad," he said. "Did you have a good nap?"
"Jacen!" Leia's voiced called before Han could answer. "I told you not to disturb your father!"
"Sorry Mom," said Jacen, feigning innocence. "I just wanted to sit with him and watch him sleep."
Leia stepped in front of the chair, blocking the warmth of the fire. "Jacen, why don't you go join your sister and brother in the holoarcade?"
"Okay, Mom," Jacen said in a slightly-annoyed voice that sounded like his mother had hugged him in public. He slid off his father's lap and headed for the holoarcade in the next room.
Once he was gone, Leia turned her attention to her husband, a grin on her face. "See, I told you that you wouldn't break your leg this time."
"Whoopee," Han said unenthusiastically as he stretched his arms. "How long was I asleep?"
"I dunno, an hour, maybe," said Leia. "You were sleeping when the kids and I got here forty-five minutes ago. The slopes wore you out, didn't they?"
"You might say that," said Han. "But Leia..." He was cut off by his wife leaning over and giving his lips a long, warm kiss.
Suddenly he couldn't help smiling. "Sheesh Leia, you really know how to appease anger at you for humiliating me, ya know that?"
"Yes," said Leia, still grinning at her husband for a moment, but then her expression changed to that of regret. "Han, I'm sorry about making you ski. I don't really know why I did that."
"Well, I still hate skiing, but considerin' that I did learn how to fall on my butt without breakin' anything, I guess I can forgive you," Han said. He grasped the arms of the chair and pushed himself to his feet. "Now excuse me, I'm goin' to the bar to get a drink."
"Uh, sorry, the bar closed fifteen minutes ago."
"WHAT??" Han exclaimed.
"The bar closed fifteen minutes ago," Leia repeated. "You slept through it."
"Well why didn't you wake me up??" Han shouted.
"I figured you could use a nap after the toils you endured on the slopes," said Leia. "And if you ask me, I think you needed a nap much more than alcohol. Besides..." The grin returned to her face. "...you looked really cute there."
Han growled, wanting to yell at Leia for not waking him, but realizing that he really had himself to blame. He knew the bar was closing early and he knew he was tired, but he just went and fell asleep anyway. Why hadn't he gone to the bar before resting in front of the fire?? Sure, he might have ended up with a hangover, but at least that would have taken his mind off of how just about every part of his body ached.
"When can we leave?" he grumbled.
"As soon as the kids are finished playing games," answered Leia. She suggestively touched Han's shoulder. "Any ideas on how we could spend the afternoon after we get home?" she said in a sly voice.
Han was in the middle of returning her seductive grin when a familiar voice shouting, "Delivery for Han and Leia Solo!!" interrupted their moment and caused them both to look in the direction of the voice.
"Luke?" asked Leia. "What are you doing here?"
Luke wore a big grin on his face as he waved three datapads in front of the couple. "I just came to deliver the kids' make-up schoolwork. You guys weren't home, so their teachers contacted their closest relative."
"Wait a sec," said Han, "you're tellin' us that you paid that entrance fee just so you could deliver schoolwork?"
"Haven't you ever heard of Jedi mind tricks?" Luke said, his cheeky grin growing wider.
Leia gasped with disgust. "Luke...you didn't."
"You're right, I didn't," said Luke. "I just told them I was making a delivery and they let me in." He patted his sister's back. "So, how was your ski trip?"
"Painful," said Han.
"But, his bones are still intact," Leia added.
Luke playfully grabbed his brother-in-law's shoulder. "Well that sounds like an event to celebrate. Since I was on my way here anyway, I thought I'd treat you guys to lunch. Would you like that?"
"Do you have to ask?" said Leia.
"All right," said Luke. "When will you be ready to leave?"
"Right now, just let me go get the kids."
After Leia left, Luke turned his attention to Han, his face now wearing an expression of seriousness. "So Han, was it really that bad?"
"No, not really," Han said sarcastically. "It was worse."
Luke smiled. "Well Han, sometimes when you have trouble doing something..."
"I know," Han cut in, " 'You gotta try stuff a lot of times before you can do it.' Been there, done that, kid. And guess what? All it got me was an ache in just about every part of my body and missin' the bar closing."
Luke breathed deeply before speaking. "Well actually, I was going to say that sometimes you don't need to feel that you have to do something you don't want to do."
Han looked at Luke with disbelief. "All right, who are you, and what'd you do with Luke?"
Luke laughed. "Well Han, you know, the day's only half-over. What do you think, will a nice lunch in a warm restaurant that you don't have to pay for make things better?"
"All right, I'll meet you guys outside." With that, Luke turned around and headed for the door.
Hmmm, Han thought to himself. Free lunch, then some good times with Leia at home? He found himself starting to smile. Maybe this snow day won't be so bad after all.