Han looked up from his bottle of Clendorian ale to find Luke stumbling towards him. “Having fun, kid?”
Luke burped, filling the air with the scent of Corellian whiskey. He clapped Han’s shoulder. “Yeah! I never knew Life Day could be so fun !”
Han chuckled, steadying his friend. “Life Day on Tatooine wasn’t fun?”
“Nooooooo,” Luke slurred. “Too dry and hot to do anything fun. Biggs and I tried to make sandmen, but the sand never stuck together.” He pouted, then spotted a tray of candies on the snack table behind him and Han.
“These were the best part!” He grabbed a handful of the sticky, amber-coloured candy. “Aunt Beru and I would make these the night before Life Day. We’d get honey from some traveling merchant and mix it with blue milk and put it in the cooler overnight. They’re the best!” He shoved some in his mouth, then burped again. “Did you know—“
“Okay, I think you’ve had enough,” Wedge said, coming up to Luke’s side and taking the whiskey glass from Luke’s hand. “Why don’t we get you a nice big cup of water and get you back to your quarters, huh?”
Luke pouted again, but leaned against Wedge. “Fiiiiiine,” he whined. “Can I take more candy?”
Han choked on his ale.
“Sure,” Wedge sighed, grabbing a plate for the candy. “Alright, off we go. Night, Han.”
“Night, Han!” Luke echoed as he was dragged off.
Han waved his ale bottle after them, taking a long swig. He took a look around the hangar bay, watching the small band of rebels laughing and drinking their troubles away. Soon, his eyes settled on one tiny princess staring at a makeshift candlestick, her head resting in her right hand.
Clearing his throat, Han sauntered over to Leia, trying to swallow the nagging concern creeping up from his stomach. “Credit for your thoughts?”
Leia jumped, glancing up at Han. “Oh,” she murmured. “Just taking in the scene, captain.”
Han pulled up a chair and swung it around, sitting down backwards. “Really? Because you’ve been starin’ at that candlestick for the past standard hour.” He pointed at the object in question with his ale bottle, pretending not to recognize some of the Falcon ’s spare parts in its design.
“Huh?” He glanced at her.
“It’s called a candelabrum.”
“What’s it for?”
Leia stared at him for what felt like five standard years. Han swallowed, feeling like she was sizing him up, gauging his intentions.
He must have passed her test, because she turned back to the candelabrum and replied, “It’s the Life Day candelabrum, an Alderaani tradition.”
Han studied the candelabrum. “Does it . . . mean anything?” He cringed internally almost immediately after the words left his mouth.
Leia didn’t seem to take offence. “Each of these candles,” she started, pointing at the eight candles on either side of the middle candle, “represents a pillar of human knowledge: education, philosophy, physics, music, mathematics, medicine, astronomy, and spiritualism. On the eight days leading up to Life Day, we take the middle candle and use it to light one of the other candles—one each night.”
“And what does the middle one represent?”
She nodded. “The Force connects us all, it fuels everything we do. Because the Force fuels what we do, a part of it is left behind in what we create and how we use our knowledge.” Leia smiled a little. “Luke says there’s a light and dark side to the Force. That’s what we believe on Alderaan, too. We use Life Day and the candelabrum as a reminder of our impact on the galaxy and how we can use our knowledge for love or fear. I’m not sure I believe in the Force the same way Luke does, but I do believe it fuels all life in the galaxy and touches everything we do.”
“What do you choose?”
Leia looked at him, confused.
“What path do you choose?” Han clarified.
“Love,” she replied, not breaking his gaze.
Han felt his heart race and palms sweat, yet he couldn’t bring himself to look away. He gripped his ale bottle tighter, trying to disguise his trembling hands. He opened his dry mouth and closed it again, not knowing what to say.
After what felt like ages, Leia yawned, breaking the spell. “I should head to my quarters,” she said, standing.
“Yeah, me too,” he gruffed, clearing his throat. He stood up and placed the chair back where he got it.
He looked up. “Yeah?”
He frowned. “For what?”
“For listening. For letting me talk about Alderaan.”
Han swallowed and smiled. “Happy Life Day, Leia.”
She returned his smile. “Happy Life Day, Han.”