“What does it matter? Take it all. I’m fifty years old. There’s only one place in the world I call home and it’s because you’re there. So take it. What difference does it make if I say you can stay or you say I can stay? It’s ours.” –The Birdcage (1996)
the thing that makes me really appreciate the whole “i love you” / “i know” exchange in the empire strikes back is that, this whole time, han has been urging leia for some sign of affection, of validation, in terms of his feelings for her. han has made it clear that he likes her, but leia has been hiding or denying her affection towards him almost entirely. i think the reason han is so forward about it is that he hopes this will get her to admit it, not because he’s vain but because he needs his own feelings to be validated. after they kiss, he’s very outwardly affectionate, taking and holding her hand often, kissing her on the forehead, as if he’s purposely being somewhat obvious to make sure she notices, to test the waters, to see if she wants him to be as affectionate as he does. but even through all of his demonstrative behavior, leia is still pretty distant.
so in this crucial moment, she realizes that she’s never fully admitted how she feels, and that he needs to know. it’s not so much a “this could be my last chance to say it” moment, but a “this could be your last chance to hear it” moment. it’s true and she knows it, but she says it for him. she says it because she sees that he has to finally hear it. so his “i know” response isn’t cocky, it’s reassuring. it’s telling her not to be worried, because even though she’s never told him, han has always known.