"Happy Father's Day"
AN: Hey, I know it's been a long time - I've been working a lot and my other fics distracted me from this little one. Anyway, thanks to all the reviewers. I think this chapter will show why this story's dedicated to my late dad.
Leia watched her husband pour a rather large amount of syrup on his pancakes. The flowered tie Anakin had given him hung loosely around his neck, probably receiving a few drops of syrup itself. The children had been constantly asking him if he liked his presents, to which Han would always laugh and playfully rub their heads. The wrench set from Jaina and the flavored caf mixes from Jacen sat in the center of the table, given a place of reverence.
"Did you celebrate Father's Day when you were little, Dad?" Jaina suddenly asked.
Leia felt her fork slide across her plate as her eyes widened. The children knew that Han had grown up an orphan - why would she ask a question like that?
Han flinched only slightly, his hand stilled when it was halfway to his mouth. "No...I didn't."
Jaina swallowed, her seven-year-old intuition seemingly speaking to her. "Oh...sorry. I just wondered if...well maybe you had someone special who was like your dad..."
"Isn't Chewie like your dad?" Jacen said suddenly.
Han chewed his food for a rather long time before answering. "Well...I suppose you could say that."
"He takes care of you, right?" asked Anakin, syrup dribbling down his chin.
"And he helps you out with stuff?" said Jaina.
"Uh-huh, he does."
"So I think Chewie's like your dad," Jacen said simply, as if there were no other option.
Han slowly gave his lopsided grin. "Yup...I think you're right." He seemingly tried to conceal the surprise in his voice, but didn't do a very good job. "Maybe I shoulda gotten him somethin'..." A long sigh interrupted his words, his grin fading away. "Guess I really should've..."
Leia concentrated on making her smile as consoling as possible. "Han, I'm sure he won't mind a gift that's a day late." She reached across the table and gripped his sticky fingers. "I'll bet right now he's having a celebration with his own family, anyway."
Han managed to say, "Probably," before stuffing another large forkfull of pancake in his mouth. Leia knew better than to press the matter after that - she just hoped the kids did as well.
Though Han was pretending to be engrossed in his food, Leia could sense him thinking. She could probably sense that even if she wasn't Force-sensitive. For him, this was a day for celebration, but also a day of mourning his lost childhood.
Similarly, this was also a day of both celebration and mourning for her.
Unlike Han, she had celebrated this day during her childhood. She remembered the parties, the outings, the presents, the smiles on Bail Organa's face when his daughter tried to make every Father's Day better than the previous one.
Her food suddenly tasted dry. It had been many years since Bail's death, and although her wounds had for the most part healed, there was still that empty spot in her soul. There were times when she scolded herself for not thinking of her adopted father more often, but she would usually conclude that he wouldn't want her to grieve him every minute of every day.
She often wondered if her life would be different now if Bail hadn't died, if she still had her homeworld. What would he think of Han? What would he think of her children? What would he think of the person she had become? Somehow an answer like, "he would have loved them" wasn't satisfactory. She wanted to know precisely what he would have loved. Though she could guess, she could never have a certain answer to that question. Saying phrases that began with, "He would have loved..." always gave her a twinge of guilt - it felt like she was trying to take over his memory, forgetting that he was his own person, not just a collection of her memories.
"Dad, can we work on the Falcon later?"
Her daughter's voice jolted her back into the real world. She looked up and saw her husband flashing his so-familiar grin at the girl, answering, "Love to, sweetheart, but this is your old man's day off."
"I would think you'd like working on the Falcon on your day off," Leia said lightheartedly.
"But would you like that, honey?" said Han.
"Probably not," Leia said, flashing her own grin at her husband, disguising the slight lurch of guilt she felt for lingering in her own life when this was Han's day.
She shifted her focus to her youngest son, his cheeks bulged full of food, his hand patting his father as he had been doing on and off for the entire meal, and no matter how much food Han was helping himself to, he was always able to rub his son's hair.
Anakin was already showing that he would look like his father when he grew up - right down to his messy brown hair and his lopsided smile. Her youngest son brought someone else long dead to Leia's mind.
Her other father...
The father she never knew...not who he really was. She knew his shell, his exterior, his mask - the one who preyed on fear and pain, the person she long thought had been his only identity. The hands that had gripped her on the Death Star...they weren't his real hands. The face that had watched emotionless as Han was lowered into the carbon freezer...it wasn't his real face.
Sometimes she envied Luke for being able to see his real face, for being there when he died, for getting a glimpse of what he was really like. All she had of her father was what her brother told her.
And was that enough?
At first it wasn't anywhere close to being enough. She remembered her recurring nightmares, how she was often forced to relive Alderaan's death at the hands of her father. She remembered how every time Han removed his shirt, he revealed scars from the switchboard torture that would never heal. She used to kiss those scars while silently cursing the one who had inflicted them, thinking that she would never in her life accept that she was related to that monster.
Yet somehow, she had done just that.
There had never been a moment when she had consciously let go of her hatred. Perhaps time had played its part in healing her wounds...but no, her planet's destruction was too great a devastation to be mended by something so simple as the passing of time. In fact, it still wasn't completely mended.
No, mending wasn't the right word.
"Dad, you like my tie?"
"Sure do, Anakin, sure do."
Anakin. Leia once thought she would never hear Han - or herself, for that matter - say that name with such love. When Leia named her third child, she had chosen a name that her heart and soul felt was a name of honor. Someday, when her child was old enough to understand the significance of his name, she hoped he would cherish it. It was indeed a name of honor - a name that represented heroism, redemption, and forgiveness.
"Mom, Dad, can we toast?"
Her reverie was broken by her daughter, who was raising her half-full glass of juice in a gesture of honor to her father.
Leia smiled at the child, raising her own glass that was nearly empty. "Of course we can, sweetheart." She cleared her throat, signaling to the males that they should follow suit. "To Han Solo, wonderful husband, wonderful father. May we enjoy many glorious Father's Days to come. Happy Father's Day."
"Happy Father's Day," the children repeated, clinking their glasses against Han's. The father gave his large grin as he drank - Leia felt ultimate joy coming from him.
Leia gulped down the last of her iced caf, adding a final thought to the toast, sending it through the Force in hopes that perhaps those who were passed on might hear it.
To all fathers.