It had been a long day of chasing three children around a normally empty house. Everyone was safe at home for once, and Leia had been enjoying the small troubles that came with a household bursting at the seams. No interstellar wars, no refugee crises - not so much as a senatorial dispute. Just a trio of young troublemakers with too much time on their hands. So after a harried dinner, Leia had sent them to help their father and Chewbacca with the never-ending repairs on the Millennium Falcon.
Leia took a deep breath and sank into a comfortable chair, enjoying the unaccustomed solitude. Even See-Threepio was noticeably quiet.
Anakin came back first, yawning hugely. Leia gave his sandy hair an affectionate ruffle, then asked him how everything was going.
?Fine.? He gave a noncommittal shrug. ?Dad said something about domestic bliss right before he shouted at us.?
Raising an eyebrow, Leia asked, ?What made him shout at you??
?Oh, he found Jacen?s crystal snake.? Anakin?s expression gave him an air of innocence, and Leia decided not to press. Anakin yawned again. ?You?re about to tell me to go to bed, aren?t you??
?That?s right,? Leia replied, and she followed him into his room to make sure he actually did go to bed rather than become distracted by yet another of his countless projects.
?Dad let me do a shield integrity test!? Anakin boasted, his coyness evaporating. ?And Chewbacca didn?t even have to help me!? He flopped down on the covers, wearing an uncharacteristically broad grin. ?How?d Dad get to be so great??
Stepping carefully around a toy probe droid, a tangled web of colorful wires, and what looked suspiciously like Threepio?s vocabulator, Leia came to sit at the end of the bed. ?Well,? she began, ?it all started when your father had to dump a load of spice he was smuggling for Jabba the Hutt. Jabba put out a bounty on him, and Boba Fett managed to capture your dad.?
Anakin sat up. ?Mom,? he whined, ?Uncle Luke?s already told me that story. You know, the one where you?re chained up in that slave dancer outfit, and Dad?s all blind and can?t see what he?s doing, and Uncle Luke?s got his lightsaber and...!? He ended with a swashbuckling wave of an invisible sword.
?Yes, but this is a different story, trust me.? Leia turned at the sudden, odd sound from behind her. Han stood there, leaning against the doorjamb, trying to turn his chuckle into a cough. Farther off, she could hear Jacen and Jaina arguing over the security of Jacen?s aquarium, with Chewbacca?s comments a rumbling undertone. The twins had come back in with the big Wookiee, their voices punctuated by the slamming door.
?Well?? Han said when he?d gotten control of himself. ?You gonna tell him the story or not, sweetheart??
?All, right, settle down, both of you.? Leia smiled. ?Now, way back then, Jabba was just about the most handsome being anyone had ever laid eyes on.? Han started coughing again, but Leia ignored him. ?That horrible little pet of his, the one he called Salacious Crumb, was one of the bravest beings in the entire galaxy. The Twi?lek Bib Fortuna, who was Jabba?s aide, had just about the quickest wit around. And to top it all off, Jabba?s favorite bounty hunter, Boba Fett, had a heart of gold - though you wouldn?t know it by looking at him.?
There was not a single cough from Han at that. Leia shot a glance over her shoulder and found him staring at her in bemusement.
Then a second set of eyes peered around the door, and Leia had to restrain herself from laughing at the curious look on Chewie?s face.
?As I said,? Leia continued, turning back to Anakin, ?Fett captured your dad.? That brought a growl from Chewie, but Leia plowed forward. ?He brought him in chains to Jabba, who promptly threw your father into the smallest, foulest cell in his palace, then had the Falcon impounded.? Anakin?s gasp of disbelief was echoed by an indignant Han. ?But... well, this is Han Solo we?re talking about here.? A quiet hurr-hurr of Wookiee amusement agreed with that.
?Your dad managed to escape in the middle of the night,? Leia said in a conspiratorial whisper, ?when everyone was asleep. And he stole something from them all, one by one. He took Jabba?s good looks, Salacious Crumb?s courage, Bib Fortuna?s quick wit, and even Boba Fett?s well-hidden good heart. But he couldn?t get to his ship, so he waited.
?In the morning, everyone woke up to find their most prized possession missing. Your father told them he?d give everything back, if Jabba would return Han?s most prized possession: the Millennium Falcon. No longer having his aide?s wiliness to rely on, Jabba agreed, and had the Falcon brought back.?
?So what did Dad do?? Anakin asked.
?He boarded his ship, of course. And he took off without returning a single thing.?
?So that?s how I got to be so good-looking, brave, and smart, huh?? Han quipped with a lopsided grin.
?And good-hearted, too,? Leia said, standing up and crossing the room to embrace him.
?Yeah, yeah,? he muttered. Then to Chewie: ?So where were you, pal, when all this was going on??
Chewbacca leaned back on his side of the door, hands clasped behind his furry head, and rumbled something smug about ?quality time? on Kashyyyk.
Anakin looked from Leia to Han and back again. ?That stuff with Jabba didn?t really happen,? he said with a child?s skepticism. ?Did it??
?Sure,? Han said. ?Every word of it. Well, except for that part about Jabba?s good looks.? He grinned again rakishly. ?Jabba was always an ugly slug. I was born handsome, ya know??
?But I thought Mom called you a scruffy-looking nerf herder.?
When Leia and Chewie finally stopped laughing, Han shot a half-hearted glare at his son.
?Kid, you?ve been listening to way too many of your Uncle Luke?s stories.?
Original cover by FernWithy. HTML formatting copyright 2003 TheForce.Net LLC.