search Title: What Says the Wind?

Author: Angel

E-mail: valarltd@hotmail.com

Website: http://www.geocities.com/lady_aethelynde

Rating:NC-17, explicit sex, language

Disclaimer: The boys (indeed the whole SW universe) belong to
George, but if he kept them busy, they wouldn't be making out
in the stacks where any librarian doing her shelving could stumble
on them. Amazia is property of Marvel comics group, SW 8-12.
Talla is the creation of Paula Leah Schricker, Zora and
the Snowstar are my own.

Acknowledgements: That shot of Luke from the holiday special
with too much eye makeup looking all of fifteen.

Pairings: Luke/Han, implied Luke/Jabba, Luke/Boba Fett, Talla/Boba Fett,
Zora/Bib Fortuna

Feedback: I crave it. It's my favorite high.

Warning: underage (16), chan slash. Interspecies implied sex.

Bodily fluids. Brutality. Slavery. Slash. Het content.

 

All feedback welcome, on or off list
*****

"Solo, how do you get yourself into these messes?" Han grumbled under
his breath as the armored doors ground shut behind him and his two
companions, stopping the breeze that swirled the sand into the
palace.

He knew exactly how he got into messes like this: his lady. He'd
won the Millennium Falcon two years before in a game against the
notorious Lando Calrissian. The gambler had taught him and his
Wookiee partner the basics of the ship, before parting ways.
Unfortunately, the basics were not everything and Calrissian had
neglected to mention how many ports he had skipped without paying
docking fees or the way the Falcon tended to break down when it
would do the most damage.

They had arrived here, fresh off a stint with the Black Hole Gang: a
group of freighter bums, outlaws and hired guns. It had been good
company, and the leader, Amazia, was sad to see them leave.

"You always have a place here, if you want it, Solo. That goes
for you, too, Furball." She had shaken his hand, and hugged
Chewbacca. "If you ever need help in the clean world, find these
two. They went legit a while back."

Found them, he had, on a backwater rim world called Tatooine. A
desolate place, with two suns and a Hutt-controlled economy, the main
products were sand and pilots. Moisture farms were so large, with
vaporators a half-klom apart, that most children learned to fly
before they could read.

Zora and Talla were an unlikely pair. Unmated human females were
a rare enough occurance on the Rim. Zora was tall, square-shouldered
and curvelessly slim enough to pass for a man, especially with her
cropped red hair, wearing the jumpsuit and large-brimmed flat-crowned
hat she favored. Talla was shorter, sandy-haired and stocky. Her
taste in clothing mirrored her partner's, sans hat. They were Jabba
the Hutt's main pilots for legitimate goods like food and luxuries,
and had offered to sponsor him to the Hutt.

Between jobs and perpetually in need of credits, Han had agreed.
The old girl needed a new motivator, replacement alluvial dampers,
and about six hundred credits to bail her out of impound. Again.
Han had already decided that the next time he ran into con artiste
extraordinaire Calrissian, he would take every credit out of the
gambler's hide.

The palace was an old monastary, cool and dark inside. A stench
like nothing he'd ever encountered assailed him. The stones
underfoot were slippery with substances Han didn't want to think
about.

"Solo, take your hand off your nose. You'll offend our employer.
Here, have a whiff of this gunk." Talla passed over a small clay
pot. The acrid smell stunned his nose so the stench didn't
penetrate anymore. Even the smell of the green smokestick Zora had
fired up wasn't detectable.

Han had seen Hutts on other worlds, but nothing prepared him for the
sight of Jabba. The repulsive slug-like being reclined on a dais,
his oily yellow skin shining under the the intermittant torch light.
The huge orange eyes watched as his dancers entertained him,
half-shut with pleasure. One tiny arm held the mouthpiece of a
hookah from which he took occasional puffs. The wide slash of a
mouth drooled almost constantly and the pointed tip of a slimy tongue
protruded to lick the nonexistant lips.

The dregs of space hovered around the edges of the room as the dancers
went into the final forms. The fat, multi-breasted Askjian spun into
the range of the slim boy who moved in the center of the women. He
took the chain attached to his collar in both hands and swirled it
over her, catching her in a loop and pulling her close. He wound
the chain about them both, and they danced together. His hands moved
over her body, never touching her, yet seeming to arouse her anyway.
His movements were subtle and graceful, especially for a boy still
in the middle of his adolescence. He bent her backward, almost
kissed her and then spun her out of his chain and embrace. She
resumed her place in the circle that swirled around him. He spurned
them all, burst from the circle and danced toward the dais.

The spacers stared unabashedly at him as he moved and swirled his
slender form, clad only in low-slung black harem pants, toward the
dais. His long blond hair, caught in a silver clasp, floated like
a ribbon behind him. He dropped to his knees before Jabba, and
danced on his knees, lowering his head back to the filthy floor
behind him, shimmying his shoulders and seeming to beg for Jabba's
attention. He ended, still on his knees, draped forward, one slim
hand at the edge of the dais, stretched imploringly toward the
grotesque Hutt.

Han released the breath he wasn't aware he'd been holding and tried
to calm himself. The dancer had created quite a reaction, one he
hadn't had for another man in years, not since before the Academy.
Zora and Talla were tugging at his elbows, urging him forward, as
the young man climbed the dais. Han couldn't watch as the Hutt
smeared a slimy kiss over the boy's face.

By the time the trio reached the middle of the floor, the dancer
had settled himself to sit on the dais as Jabba twined his ponytail
through absurdly small fingers. They bowed politely, and Zora
stepped a little closer and began speaking Huttese.

*Mighty Jabba, the least of your servants bring you a new pilot for
consideration. He has a fast ship and none of our useless scruples
about the law. We would sponsor him in your service for the standard
fee of 10% of his profits.*

The Hutt seemed to consider her offer. *You and your lady serve me
well, Zora. If your friend can pass a simple test, I will take his
service for the standard fees. He will go to Gornak and pick up a
load of food-stuffs that even your foolish scruples should allow him
to carry. If he is back here within 4 days, I shall accept him.*

Zora bowed. *Thank you, mighty Jabba."

The great slug boomed at Han. Zora stepped back. "He asked your
name," she whispered.

"Han Solo, captain of the Millennium Falcon."

Jabba said something else, of which Han only caught his name.

"Thank him, and bow," Zora instructed.

"My thanks, Jabba." Han bowed from the waist.

*Teach him Huttese,* Jabba ordered Zora. *Go now. Here is an
advance. Your coordinates are on the chip. Four days.*

*Thank you, mighty Jabba,* Zora bowed, repeated herself in standard,
and Talla dragged Han into another bow.

The Twi'Lek majordomo escorted them back to the door, and
handed Zora a chip. "Your advance and coordinates. Good luck."

Astonishingly, for Han had never seen her so much as look at a man,
Zora caressed his lekku. "On our return, Fortuna." She smiled as
the bony, taloned hands gripped her shoulders and pulled her closer.

Talla pulled Han out the door to their speeder. "They're old
friends. Sorta. She sleeps with him and we get good jobs and better
pay than most pilots, even the illegal ones. I hate seeing Jabba.
He's gruesome and I have to be quiet. He understands Basic. I wish
I could speak Huttese. Did you see the dancing boy? Isn't he
pretty? Jabba's had him for about four years now, and he just keeps
getting better. I don't know why they make him dance with the Ugly
One." Zora joined them, wiping away a trickle of blood at her mouth
from the Twi'Lek's pointed teeth, and Talla piloted them out, her
monologue never ceasing. Anything that crossed her mind came out
her mouth.

"Where we goin', Zora?"

"Gornak. Food run." She dabbed at the blood again, this time with a
pocketcloth, and Han could see a rather substantial bitemark on her lips.

"We taking the Snowstar or the Falcon?"

"Falcon. Jabba wants to see how Solo flies."

"How long do we have?"

"Four dee."

"Four days! That's ridiculous. Solo, how fast is your crate?"

"Point five past light speed. Zora, you OK?"

She smiled contentedly. "Fine. Promised us an extra K."
She pressed the cloth firmly to the cut and tipped her head back.

"We just might make it." Talla pressed the accelerator a little
harder. "Zora, he always does this and you always let him. And
we always spend that bonus on synthflesh to patch you back up when
you two get done."

"Jealous," Zora taunted.

Three hours later, three very long hours of listening to the women
bicker, Han was ready to lift. Without them. How they managed
to argue when Zora responded in single words to Talla's constant
speech he still hadn't figured out. The woman could make one word
and a raised eyebrow more eloquent than some senatorial speeches he'd
heard. Since Zora still had the chip, he decided to take them along.

Once back in Mos Eisley, Zora paid the portmaster and laid in supplies
for the trip. Han and Chewbacca ran the preflight, setting up the
coordinates and calculating the jump. Talla contacted their shipper
and alerted him to their arrival.

It was a long trip, for a four day time limit. Zora had set Han up
with a series of Huttese language cubes, and spent the free time
coaching him through the basic pleasantries. Talla put her mechanical
skills to work, helping Chewbacca replace alluvial dampers and all
the other on-going repairs. Wookiees are incurable gossips, but even
Chewie was starting to tire of her running monologue by the time they
reached Gornak.

A day and a half later, they made the pick-up and started the return
trip. The big wookiee coaxed every erg of speed he could from the
engines, and they were back on Tatooine in less than three days.

*You and the females will offload the so-called food post-haste,
Han. I will purge the ship of its reek,* Chewbacca announced as
they landed.

"Right, pal." He went to the hold to find Zora, smokestick going,
unloading the crates with a handtruck. "How we getting this to
Jabba's? It won't fit in your speeder."

"Repulsor truck," she said around the smokestick.

The typically curt answer annoyed Han to no end, not in the least
because he had endured Talla's nonstop chatter for three days, in
the intervals when he wasn't studying his new employer's language.
"Do you ever just talk?"

"Nope, Talla does."

"Why?"

Zora sighed and looked him square in the face. Slowly she began,
"Back home, no one uses longspeech, like this, except in school,
church or government. It wears me out, and people don't
understand shorttalk." She rubbed one temple. "Headache. Talla
talks. I think."

"What's in that thing you smoke? How high are you?"

"Not high. Odor killer. Here." She passed it to him, obviously
intending for him to take a drag. He obliged. A blend of
several pungent herbs sent his head swimming, but had no other
effect. The stench from the food-crates was less noticable. He
took a second puff, and handed it back to her before lending a hand
with the crates.

When the last one was off the ship, Chewbacca shooed the humans off
as well while he began the decontamination. Zora leaned against
one of the struts, her wide hat pulled down over her eyes to
block the glare, smoking while they waited for Talla. Han paced,
kicking up the sand in the docking bay, hating the delay. The dust
took the shine from his boots and his blaster felt heavier than
normal. Talla arrived, they loaded the crates into the back of the
truck, sweating in the twin-sun heat, and set out for Jabba's.

This time, mercifully, Talla napped while Zora drove. Han drank in
the silence like the best brandy. Two hours out, Zora had him run
through greetings, thanks and farewells until they arrived.

The court was dozing in the high heat of the long afternoon. Zora
parked the repulsor truck, and Fortuna inspected the cargo, running
grasping hands over it as the brain-tails of his head twitched with
delight. He turned beady red eyes on the two women, and spoke. Han
followed some of the conversation, but was rapidly lost in the range
of metaphor and the Twi'Lek's accent. He tried not to flinch as
Fortuna patted him on the back of the head, a motion that would have
been a stroke of his lekku had he been the proper species, before
leading them to the throne room.

Jabba was well-pleased by their success, and by Han's ability to
greet him in Huttese. He announced a bonus for the extra half-day
they were early before calling Han forward. The translator droid
stood by just to be sure there were no misunderstandings.

"His Excellency wishes to know if you would fly for him."

"Yes, Jabba."

"Will you carry spice?" translated the droid.

"Yes."

"Will you carry water?"

"Yes."

"Will you carry slaves?"

"No. No pay is worth a summary execution."

Jabba gave a booming laugh and tugged the leash of the boy on his
dais. He said a few things as the boy clambered up his bulk to
endure a repulsive kiss. The open sides of his loose trousers
allowed easy access for the Hutt's tiny hands. The spacers watched,
half-fascinated, half-sick as the dancer undulated against the huge
slug, seemingly aroused by his master's touch.

"The mighty Jabba wishes to express his disappointment in your
scruples, but believes you will make a fine pilot. Master Fortuna
will explain the standard rates to you."

Without warning, Jabba shoved the boy from him, sending him sprawling
on the slimy stones at Solo's feet. "Bonus. Cheelooda." Jabba
tossed the chain to land beside him.

Han looked puzzled. The youngster pulled himself to his knees and
twined one arm around Han's leg, giving a very clear message.

"Thank him." Zora's instruction was pitched for his ears only.

"Uh, I thank you for the bonus, Jabba."

Jabba turned his attention to Zora. *You will stay here. Then,
Solo will make a Kessel Run for me. You and Talla will bring
in a new shipment of Kleeworms. The shade of my palace is yours
for two days.*

Zora swept her hat off in the most elaborate bow she could.
Jabba had given them a great honor. She expressed her thanks in
the most flowery expressions Huttese could manage, and nudged her
partner and protoge.

Talla bowed and thanked Jabba in standard. Han gave his new Huttese
vocabulary a try and thanked Jabba in his own language. Jabba
laughed and boomed something else. At a prod from Zora, he thanked
Jabba again.

They were dismissed, and, at a word from Zora, Han picked up the end
of the chain leash. The Twi'Lek took them to guest rooms, one for
the two partners and one for Han. He thanked the majordomo and
slipped across the hall to the women's room, the boy still on the
chain behind him.

"Okay, what was that all about? I followed most of it. Let's be
sure I got it right."

"Kessel." Zora spoke even more curtly, her tongue sore and her mouth
aching from the alien language. "2 dee here, then lift. Congrats on
language."

"You're to make a Kessel Run for Jabba. We'll spend 2 days here and
then go our ways. And Jabba expressed his pleasure that you're
learning Huttese." Talla's long experience let her fill in the blanks.

"I can do a Kessel. Did one for Amazia a few months ago. So what
do I do with Cheelooda here? Do you speak Basic?" he asked the boy.

The boy glared at him with eyes as blue as Travig skystones. His
low-slung, side-slit pants matched them. He looked at Zora and
said something in Huttese. She laughed silently. Han looked at her,
not sure he'd heard what he thought the boy had said.

"He said 'Yes I do, but not to you.'" She listened as the boy let
out a few more sentences. "He says you don't have to hurt him, and
he'll behave. Quit calling him cheelooda."

"Isn't that his name?"

"No. A vulgarity." He said some more to her. "He says if he
doesn't please you, Jabba will feed him to the Rancor."

"Now wait a minute..."

Zora slipped back into her customary mode of speech. "Easy.
Fuck him or he dies."

Han turned and stalked from the room, leaving the boy with the
two women. "He'll come around," Talla assured him. "You hungry,
pretty boy?"

"Don't call me that, either." The boy's voice was sweet, with none
of the crackling of adolescence. A faint accent, a trace of Huttese,
colored his Basic. "I'm always hungry. Porcellus tries to keep
me fed, but Jabba so seldom lets me be away from him. Who can
eat leaning against a Hutt?"

Zora smiled and pointed to the foodsynth. The boy helped himself.
"Kid, cloudfruit?" He punched up a bowl full for her. Talla was
already programming herself a meal. Not that the banquet tonight
wouldn't be wonderful but the kid had a valid point: few humans
could eat in the presence of a Hutt.

They ate for a while, Zora silent, and Talla making a running
travelogue evaluation of their last trip.

"Talla. Solo." Tired, and wanting a nap, Zora knew she had to get
her partner out so she could sleep.

"Yeah, yeah. I'll check on him after I'm done. Kid, you were really
rotten to him, and he's a nice guy."

"My name is Luke," the boy snarled before getting up for another
plate of food. He returned and began picking at the Bantha stew.
"He called me cheelooda like it was my name."

"No Huttese," Zora yawned.

"Solo doesn't speak Huttese," Talla amplified. "He didn't know it
was nasty. You want to die?"

"Not really, but I'm not thrilled about living either. What do I
have to look forward to except dancing? And one day I'll make a
misstep or Jabba won't like what he sees, and I'm Rancor-bait."

"Sleep," Zora announced, stretching out on one of the benches in
the room. There were no beds. "Wake for revel," she instructed
the room's auto-alarm.

"I'm gonna check on our buddy." Talla rose and started out.

"Wait. I'll go. I'm supposed to be there anyway." The boy caught
her at the door, calm resolve on his face.

"Good going, kiddo." Talla brushed his lips lightly. "He'll treat
you right. If he doesn't, we'll knock some sense into him. I think
I'll see if Zora wants company for her nap."

Han Solo was not given to brooding, or even deep thinking. It
interfered with action. But siting in the uncomfortable chair,
staring at the grimy stone wall, he was brooding now. The walls
should have been damp, but this was Tatooine.

He thought of the dancing boy, and wrested his mind from that track.
He thought of Zora and Talla, but that brought him back to Jabba and
the dancer. He thought about Chewie, but even that line of thought
brought him back to the boy. It was the dancer he saw defying the
Imperial slave drivers and being condemned to execution. He'd risked
everything for a Wookiee whose language he didn't even speak at the
time. Had the last five years changed him so much he wouldn't sleep
with a boy he found attractive to save the kid's life?

He knew what it was. If he used the boy, he was giving tacit
approval to Jabba's slave-holding. By giving this approval, he
could expect to be asked to do a slave run, even though he had
explicitly said he wouldn't. But that was far in the future, and
the boy needed his help now.

"Captain, sir?" The perfectly pitched voice from the doorway
interrupted his thoughts. He saw the dancer standing there,
frightened, yet hopeful.

"C'mere, kid. I don't bite."

The motion was halfway between a saunter and a slink and it brought
the boy across the floor in a manner that made him seem infinitely
desirable. He dropped to the floor to kneel at Han's feet,
awaiting his fate.

The moments stretched into agonizing silence. He finally blurted
"I'm sorry I was rude to you, sir."

"'Sokay, kid. I'd probably be rude too if someone was using a filthy
word like it was my name. So, what is your name?"

"Luke, sir."

"Anything else?"

"No, sir. I haven't had anything else since I've been here." Han
wondered exactly how long that had been, and asked. "Eight years.
I used to work on the speeders, and was the second best pilot. But
then Melina saw me five years ago and insisted I was too pretty to
be in the garage. She pulled me out and trained me to dance. She
didn't let me go to Jabba for a year."

"How old are you, kid? Seventeen? Eighteen?"

"Sixteen, sir."

Han stood up and paced a circuit of the room. This one was just a
kid. In the core-worlds he'd still be in school. Out here on the
Rim, he was probably old enough to be working and starting a family
of his own. He pounded the wall and made another circuit before
stopping in front of the boy, who was visibly trembling.

"What does it mean, 'cheelooda?'"

"The cheelooda is the receptive male partner, sir. In Huttese sexual
hierarchy, that puts me somewhere between a human female and a
trained caniad." He bowed his head, almost as if the very words
oppressed him, defiling him and making him even more of a slave.
Han noticed that Luke had made sure that long hair was draped across
his freshly polished boots. Every gesture was incredibly sexual,
and completely rehersed.

Han caught his chin and lifted his face up to look at him. Luke was
a piece of the bright outside trapped in Jabba's hellhole palace:
sand-colored hair and eyes the same shade as Tatooine's sky. A
beautiful boy, very talented, and the Hutt had him thinking he was
the lowest form of sentient.

He stroked the boy's ponytail reassuringly, trying to put him at
ease. "On Corellia, nobody's always on the bottom. When two
males choose each other, real popular in adolescence, they alternate
or find other types of pleasure. I don't think I've forgotten
everything." He sat down and pulled the boy onto his lap. "You like
to kiss?" he asked before he caught a good whiff. "On second
thought, let's wash Jabba off your skin. You reek of him."

Luke brightened noticably at this suggestion. "I'll show you where
the bath is, sir. Jabba has real water baths, can you believe it?
Of course, slaves use a sonic shower belowstairs."

"Where's the bed?" Han asked as he followed to the offset room and
began to run a decadently warm tub.

"Oh, nobody sleeps in these rooms, sir. Jabba insists all members
of his court sleep in the throne room. We'll go down there in a few
hours, for the revels. There'll be food, and entertainment, and an
orgy. You'll be expected use me in front of the whole court, sir."

"In, kid. Wash all the Hutt-stink off, and then we'll figure out
what to do. And stop calling me sir."

"Do you prefer master?"

"No. Captain, if you have to show respect. Han, if you possibly
can."

Han watched, impressed, as Luke shimmied out of the gold pants.
The boy's body was perfect: slim and toned from dancing, almost hairless,
and smooth. Shame long beaten out of him, he moved as confidently naked
as most men did clothed. Han was startled when Luke handed him the chain
still
attatched to the metal collar he wore.

"Put the last link over that hook in the wall, please, Captain.
That'll keep it out of the water. Unless, you'd rather hold it?
Or join me?" The sidelong seductive glance hit Han like a stunbolt,
making him dizzy and too hot all at once. He took the safe route and
linked the chain over the hook, before retreating to the
uncomfortable chair to think some more.

Taking up where he'd left off, he ran through his chain of
reasoning, almost admiring the low cunning and quick way Jabba had
sized him up. Almost. If he took the kid, Luke he reminded
himself, in front of the whole court, it was a tacit approval of
slavery in general, and Jabba holding slaves in particular. If he
didn't, the kid would be killed. The code he had been raised with
taught that one could do almost anything to save another's life, but
trading in slaves, which he was sure Jabba would ask of him, carried
a capital sentence. The Empire was jealous of its perogatives.

The sight of Luke, standing naked in the doorway to the bath,
decided him. Water still beaded on his body, tracing his smooth
limbs in the uncertain light. Whipcord thin, all muscle over bone,
the long hair trailing loose down his back, and the chain falling
over one shoulder along the line of his body, emphasizing the soft
fairness of his flesh against its dark metal, if Desire had a body
it would be this one.

*Space the future,* Han decided.

Not trusting his voice, he motioned Luke over with a jerk of his
head. Again, the seductive walk, apparently habitual, left him
aroused and wanting. He pulled the boy onto his lap and smelled him.
The slime and stench of Hutt were gone, and he smelled of soap and
something sharper, the smell of Luke himself.

"Where were we?"

"You asked if I liked to kiss, Captain. I do, but men don't kiss."

"And who told you that, kid?"

"No one, they just never have. The women, they like to kiss. They
kiss and touch and cuddle. I like that a lot, and they say I'm good
at it. Men treat me like I'm just an opening for them to use. And
some of them like to hurt."

"Don't worry about that, I don't. But I do like kissing. Now show
me what your ladies like."

The boy's lips were warm and soft. They just barely brushed his and
were gone, only to return a moment later, in a more lingering
fashion. His warm tongue teased the spacer's lips, before coming
back for a full exploration of the waiting mouth. Luke pulled a
little away, tugging Han's bottom lip with his teeth, as he broke
the kiss.

"Wow. More."

Luke was splendidly eager for more. He straddled his temporary
owner's lap, rubbing his slightly damp body against the bare skin
revealed by the open-neck shirt. His mouth was everywhere on Han's
face, but especially on his mouth, licking, nibbling, teasing his
tongue and teeth.

Luke looked up, trembling slightly and breathing hard. "That was nice,
Captain. I don't get nearly enough from humans. Actually, I like all
of it. I have to. If I hated being touched, I wouldn't last." The
resigned tone was almost painful, but his eyes were clear and honest.
"And I think I like you. I know I want you. If we do this now,
will you be able to do more at the revel?" Apprehension and a fear
of being insulting played over his face.

"I'm Corellian, kid. That answer enough?"

His answer was a very warm mouth over his own. Talented kid, indeed.
The kiss alone would have been expensive in a Core brothel. He
seemed to relish learning the new lessons, and the long-fingered
hands were light on Han's neck and chest.

"Do you want me now, or shall we wait, Captain?"

"Now. Right now. Do your worst."

Luke gave a low, throaty chuckle that went straight to Han's groin
and raised goosebumps on his upper arms. "My worst? Why not my
best?"

"Save that for tonight. The Hutt wants a show? By the Sea and
Stars, we'll give him one. But this is for us."

part 2.


The band moaned in the background as the revel got into full swing.
Couples and groups of various beings gyrated to the music, some of it
hardly dignified enough to be called dancing. Trays and carriers of
food for all species had been brought up from the kitchens, and more
beings indulged in them.

Han managed to snag a couple of fried buns lightly dusted with
powdered sugar, and pass one to Luke before the Hutt arrived. They'd
eaten from the foodsynth in the guestroom as a precaution. Talla had
shared her nose-stunning inhalent, and Zora had offered them both
puffs on her ever-present smokestick. The partners moved through the
crowd, greeting old acquaintences. Han tugged Luke into a quiet
corner and held him perched on one leg, running obtrusively
possessive hands over the boy's bare chest. Luke had explained that
such a display would be expected and also help keep him safe from the
other denizens of the palace. Not to say that it wasn't very pleasant
into the bargain.

Every now and then, the boy would lean in and give him one of those
incredible kisses. Idly, Han wondered if he could make enough to buy
the kid and free him. Random images passed through his mind: long
hyperspace jumps made short by intense lovemaking, evenings of
three-way chess against Chewie and Luke, extra hands to unload cargo,
sensual kisses anytime he wanted them. Another brush of the talented
mouth drove the pleasant ideas away with even more pleasant reality.

Jabba floated into the room on a repulsor platform. He slithered
onto the dais, and waved a munificent hand at his court before
taking up the waterpipe to watch. The dancers were becoming more
frenzied, and at least one group had begun indulging in what their
species considered foreplay. It seemed to consist of rubbing the
spines on their bodies against each other until they bled. Han quit
watching and gave his attention back to the boy on his lap.

"When do we need to move to something more intense?" he asked between
kisses on the throat above the collar.

"Sometime after Yarna chooses her partner for the evening."

"Who's Yarna?" Han didn't care. The soft neck and firm jaw under
his mouth were all that interested him at the moment.

"Her." Luke pointed at the Askjian flirting her way through the
crowd. He arched his neck a little to enjoy the kisses that had
become light nips. He slid one hand along the front of Han's
trousers and stroked the rapidly expanding bulge he found there.
"Nice. And what shall we do with this when the time comes?"

The teasing could be cute, but Han was trying to stay in control, at
least for the moment. "You talk too much." He removed the
exploratory hand, and placed it on his shoulder before turning Luke
in to face him a little more. "If you want me to wait, keep that
hand there, and kiss me."

Well-trained, eager, obliging kid.

Talla wandered by, still unattached, but the men were too busy to
pay her much attention. "Solo! Solo! Quit thinking with your
blaster!"

"Go 'way."

"Jabba's not amused enough. He's glaring at the two of you. Get
on with it!"

"Go away," Han insisted much more clearly. "We're on it."

Talla wandered off, her eye caught by a human on the outskirts of the
throne-room. Han broke from Luke's mouth to stare. Surely that wasn't
Mandalorian combat armor! He'd personally led the squadron four years ago
that had wiped out the commando band. It was his last assignment before the
debacle with Chewbacca that had gained him his partner and lost him his
career. He decided he was seeing things.

"You ready, kid? I'm long past. Your mouth first."

"You just let go of it."

"Mouthy brat. You this difficult for all the pilots?"

"Just you."

"If you don't want Jabba to take you away, you'd better start
licking so it doesn't hurt when I bend you over the bench."

Taking his meaning, Luke slid bonelessly off his lap, and with
fingers so deft Han almost didn't feel them, had him exposed to
the full view of the court, and especially Jabba. Only a moment
of bareness, then wet silk enclosed him, the warm plush tongue moving
in a soft spiral pattern.

"Get me really wet, kid. I don't want to hurt either of us." Oh,
that mouth. The hair was perfect, a silken leash to guide the boy's
motions.

The room had been a mere sample. His thighs were bare and smooth as
satin where he'd taken Han between them, flexing the flat, strong
dancer's muscles to form a tight passage, guiding the other's shaft
to lie next to the base of his own. His fingers had danced lightly
over his cock, teasing the protruding tip of the older man's as he
pressed and released his legs in hard pulses. Vaunted Corellian
staying power or no, Han had lasted less than three standard minutes
under this delightful torture. The sight of Luke sitting on his lap,
doing all of that, had sent him over the edge before either of them
was really ready.

Now, the first ragged edge taken from his lust, Han meant to enjoy
himself. He was as wet as he would be getting. "On your knees in
front of the bench, and drape over it," he said, standing up. The
air was chilly on his damp cock, and he was looking forward to
warming it up. Luke positioned himself quickly. He barely gasped
at the first blunt nudge against his opening, and then Han was deep
inside his warm body.

The music, the others, even Jabba himself faded into inconsequence.
All that mattered was the boy beneath him. He was careful, making
sure not to hurt, at the same time moving steadily and apparently
roughly. Determined to be as entertaining as he had to be to keep
the kid alive, he climaxed with a yell. Slightly embarassed, but
knowing it was in a good cause, he ran his thumbs across Luke's lower
back, still gripping his hips.

Jabba's attention wandered to watch a green Twi'lek girl as she
danced. Han waited until he had relaxed a little, and then pulled
out and closed his pants. Gently, he reclosed Luke's as well, and
drew him up for another of those kisses.

"Told you I hadn't forgotten everything."

"I only hope you've got another in there before the night is over."

Han chuckled and drew him back in. "Just try me, kid."


****

Han's life fell into a pattern over the next year. He'd make a run
in record time for Jabba, relax at the palace for two days with his
reward, return to Mos Espa and work on the Falcon for three days,
then Bib Fortuna would contact him with another job. It was the
steadiest work he'd ever had, and the Hutt paid well. With so little
down-time, he had no chance to spend money, except on his lady. The
constant maintenance made the Falcon run like she never had before.
Chewbacca was sleek and contented. He had no desire to subject his
sensitive nose to the foetor of Jabba. He was happy to space, drink
beer at the cantina, and work on the ship. He also took care of the
money, carefully investing the small fortune they were accumulating.

This time, the partners had brought in illegal water. Han had
turned it over to Jabba's agent, and received the receipt voucher.
He was about to present it to Jabba, a day early, and claim his
bonus again. Jabba preferred to pay his incentives in slave time.
He had persuaded Han to try a few of the others, but the Corellian
preferred Luke. Being a smart businessman, Jabba made sure the pilot
was happy. He was happy, and his groin twitched with anticipated
pleasure.

Unfortunately, the big slug was also a controlling sadist at heart,
and lately Han had been walking into scenes that were obviously set
up to humiliate the young slave in front of him. Jabba was making
it perfectly clear that Luke was still his, no matter how often Han
enjoyed him. This time, he was bound on his knees, arms spread wide
above him on a metal frame, servicing a line of humans and
near-humans who presented themselves.

Steeling himself, Han ignored the scene as he dickered with his
employer. The Hutt was insistant that he try a new acquisition, a
human female. She was very lovely, but Han stood fast.

*A man who knows what he likes. Very well. Join the pool. We're
seeing how much the cheelooda can swallow before he gets sick. You
want a try?*

Han shrugged as if it made little difference. "Sure. He looks like
he's at the end of his endurance. A little green, which is fine for
a Rodian but looks terrible on humans." The courtiers who were
paying attention laughed when Jabba did. Han bit down hard on his
anger, and silently promised Luke he'd get him out of there.

*You go next.*

There were complaints from the men who'd waited for their turns, but
a glare from the pilot silenced them. As the devaronian male stepped
away, he stepped up and cupped Luke's chin with his right hand,
laying his left on the boy's shoulder.

"I can get you out of this, kid, but it won't be pleasent. I may
have to hurt you a little. You want me to?" The whole thing was
a toss-up, and he wasn't sure he'd even be hard when the time came.
He thought of Luke again, in the most erotic scenarios he could
devise, instead of in misery here in the Hutt's throneroom. The
touch-and-go moment passed.

"Get me out of it, Han. Please...anything." Luke rasped through
bruised lips. His hands hung limp and bloodless.

"C'mon, boy. Don't act like you've never seen it before," he snarled
loudly enough for those around to hear as he opened his pants. They
laughed as he grabbed Luke's ponytail and shoved him down on the
rampant erection. The boy gagged as he was forced.

Sparing a gentle caress of his thumb on the side of Luke's neck, Han
was rough, varying the pace and pressing deeper with each thrust. If
he kept trying to force Luke to swallow him, eventually, he'd trigger
a gag reflex, and the kid would throw up. That would be the end of
Jabba's little game.

Luke took a small comfort in the steady stroke of Han's thumb against
his neck, the weight of his hand on his shoulder. He knew what his
lover was trying to do, and fought, trying to help spring the gag
reflex.

He gagged on the hard flesh bumping against the back of his throat.
Encouraged, Han rammed deeper, promising himself he'd be extra nice
to the kid tonight. This was going to be really repulsive. He felt
Luke heave around him, and barely got out of the way in time.

"I'll make him polish my boots later, Jabba. Can I have him now?"

*Eager? Too many days in space, my boy? Take him and your usual
rooms.*

"Thank you, Jabba. The Scourge of Corellia was just too much for
him."

He untied Luke and helped him out of the throne room to the Hutt's
booming laughter. Once settled in his usual room, he got Luke a
glass of water, and had him rinse his mouth. Then he kissed the boy
slowly and gently.

"Are you all right? I'm so sorry, kid."

"Thank you." Luke was still raspy. "I'm fine now that you're here.
You didn't hurt me."

"Of course I didn't!" Han snapped. "I only shoved my cock so far
down your throat you tossed! I know pain is relative, and compared
to some of these dregs that's almost nice, but it isn't me."

"Love you. What wind blew you my way?"

Han wasn't sure he'd heard right. "What?"

"I love you. You didn't hurt me. You know I can swallow you with
no trouble. I closed up on purpose." Luke let him absorb this
information. Then, he looked up, loose hair trailing in his face.
"What if I wanted you to hurt me?"

"First, don't say things like that. It's bad luck. Second, I don't
do pain. I don't take it, I don't give it."

"One of the reasons I love you. So many of the others like to hurt.
Him."

Han knew who that meant. Just because he didn't associate with
bounty hunters didn't mean Jabba had the same scruples. The one in
highest favor was a Mandalorian renegade who had made himself Luke's own
personal nightmare.

"No talk of Fett tonight. You're going to recover for a while." Han
kissed him. "Then we're going to have a bite to eat, before I make
love to you all night long."

"All night? Is that a promise?"

"It is, and I always keep my promises."


****

Jabba's palace still stank, but Han had the formula for the odor
killer from Talla. He wasn't ready to take up smoking Zora's herbs.
He followed the unctuous Twi'Lek and stopped dead at the entrance of
the throne room.

The attention of the entire court was focused on one exceedingly well
lit pillar. A slim, bare figure hung in manacles, exposed to the
merciless double sun. The sunburned back, barely screened by the long
hair, was very familiar.

An order from Jabba's dais sent a tall humanoid female into the lit
area. She blinked against the glare, let the light gleam on her
blue-black skin and pure white hair, and held up a multi-tailed whip.
The tenor of the crowd turned ugly, blood-lusting. She paraded a bit
more, dragging out the preliminaries, well aware of the picture she
and the boy made. Han held down the urge to tackle her, throw the
whip into the rancor pit and snatch the kid. That would be Luke's
death sentence faster than the double suns he was broiling under,
what with the implant.

His self-control strained its leash as she brought the whip down
across the reddest part of Luke's back, drawing a yell from the slave
boy. The crowd cheered. A second blow and a third fell. From the
crowd, a voice yelled "Refuse our amusement, will you, slut? Beat
him to death, Shamidi!"

At the sixth blow, the leash broke and Han strode to the center of
the throne room. "Jabba!"

*Hoom, hoom! Solo. You are just in time to watch the show. Shamidi
is beating my disrespectful cheelooda into unconsciousness, to remind
him of his place. Continue!*

"I come to bargain for him, Jabba. I want his place to be with me."

Jabba laughed. *The hard mercenary has a plifir cream core! He is
sweet on a cheelooda!*

"Space flight can get pretty dull," Han said half to himself, as if
he hadn't heard. "A body-servant trained cheelooda like him could
make it much more interesting. And a lot more pleasant." He tasted
the falseness of his indifference, and only hoped it wasn't audible.
Showing real interest would make Jabba suspicious.

Luke heard only the words, and slumped in the chains that held him
upright. His last hope, the one he had clung so desperately to
through the hours in the sun, under the first blows of the whip,
crumbled. Han had promised him his freedom. Now it sounded like
the smuggler just wanted his servitude.

*When he is unconscious, we negotiate. Shamidi!*

The female swung the whip again. Luke didn't even cry out, but hung
gasping in the chains, his face pressed to the sandstone pillar. She
continued. He refused them the satisfaction of his torment, but took
it, and let it wash in him and through him and out into the pillar.

But even the silent complacency of the stone wore thin, and his body,
still half a child's, collapsed under the onslaught. Shamidi put her
whip at the base of Jabba's dais, and prostrated herself. It was
then that Han saw the slave collar on her throat as well, the exact
shade as her skin, and the dampness of her eyelashes did not escape
him either.

*Now, Solo, what do you offer me for the cheelooda?*

"I can pay you--"

*I expected better than that, Solo. So prosaic. Make an interesting
offer for an interesting slave.*

"I do the next run, a Kessel, for no more than my docking fees."

*Better, better. Now, we make it interesting. The speed record on a
Kessel is thirteen standard days. You leave here tomorrow. I set
the implant for an explosion exactly twelve days to the minute you
leave. If you return, spice and all, before the cheelooda explodes,
he is yours. If you refuse, I detonate him now!*

"Then I accept, Jabba. And I am grateful for this opportunity to
prove myself." The words stuck in his clenched teeth. Luke's life
hung in his hands and on his piloting skill.

*Unlock him, and take him with you. You stay tonight. Tomorrow the
race is on!*

Han stalked to the pillar and unlocked the chains with a key Bib
Fortuna handed him. Very, very carefully, he eased the limp body
over one shoulder. Yarna followed him from the throne room.

"Sir? This will help him." She handed Han a clay pot filled with
greenish cream. "I know you'll take good care of him."

"Thank you." Worry made him short with her, and he strode off to his
usual rooms.

Luke's front, pressed to the pillar, had been spared the worst of the
sunburn, so Han laid him carefully on his stomach. He smoothed the
cream over the welts and burn, and watched them lose the angry look
that had worried him.

Luke began to stir, swimming out of cool darkness and coming back to
harsh light. He listened as a smooth, deep voice talked, and slowly
it dawned on him who he was listening to.

"You lied to me," he managed. He would have spat in Han's face if
he'd had the strength.

"No, Luke, never."

"You told Jabba you wanted me as your slave."

"When have I ever told Jabba the straight story? I want you, at my
side as long as you want to stay there."

"You called me cheelooda."

"Only to Jabba. Only because he called you that. If I can beat
the best time on a Kessel Run, you're mine. Look." Han patted down
his vest. Finding the device, he showed it to Luke. "This is an
extractor. Jabba gives me your code, I deactivate the bomb and
remove it. You may be with me, but I won't own you." He tucked the
remover away and leaned forward for a light kiss, mindful of the
boy's burned face.

"Love you, Han."

That phrase always made Han uneasy. He pulled back. "Don't say that
too quick. I haven't told you everything. If I don't make it back,
Jabba explodes the implant."

"Either way, I'm free. Love me. Please?"

"You're burned really bad, kid. I don't want to hurt you."

"Your hurt is better than any of the others' gentleness. Take me?"

"Let me check your back." Han stood up to look him over. The welts
were gone, and the burn fading. "Maybe later. Yarna's stuff is a
miracle."

"Oh, they can't mark me. Not for long. Frustrates the sandstorm
out of Jabba, he likes marks to linger. I don't know why, but I heal
really fast."

"So I see." He sat back down on the floor beside the bench, letting
Luke kiss him, enjoying the kisses that were still as technically
perfect as the first ones had been, but meant more with feeling
behind them.

"Han?" Luke's voice was soft near his ear. "If you sat up on the
bench, I could suck you. I've been thinking about it since you left.
Every time Jabba gave me to someone else, I closed my eyes and
pretended he was you. Come up?"

Not one to refuse an invitation like that, Han hoisted himself onto
the bench. Luke dropped his head into the older man's lap, and
rolled onto his side, facing the smuggler. He tried lifting a hand,
but his abused arms cramped under the effort. Using only his mouth,
he worried Han's pants open, and let the semihard flesh fill his mouth.

It quickly came awake under his ministrations, and he sighed softly
with pleasure. He loved doing this on his own terms. He flexed
one hand, and winced. Strictly his mouth, then, and no helping
hands.

A large hand came to rest on his head, and smoothed his hair. Had
his back not been so burnt, he knew it would be on his shoulder,
tracing the line of his scapula, making circles on the small of his
back.

"That's enough for now, kid."

Luke shot a curious look up at his lover.

"I said enough. We have plans to make for when I come back for you."
He tugged the ponytail to free himself. Seeing the glare he was
getting, Han conceded. "All right. Finish me. I'll think better
afterwards."

 

*Why do you trouble me again, Old Man? Did we not establish years
ago that the cheelooda was not for sale?*

"Have you ever seen one of these, Mighty Jabba?" asked the old man
as if he hadn't heard. He pulled out a globe as large as his cupped
hands from his robes. Its opalescent surface began to glow and it
levitated out of the oldster's hands.

*Jedi tricks* Jabba sneered. *A polyplas sphere treated to glow.*

"A sand pearl." The old man activated a small reader. The document
it projected was sealed by a noted lapidary in Mos Eisley. "It is
worth over 50000 Imperial credits."

*Mad old hermit! A tenth of that would buy any slave in this palace,
and some of the free men as well.*

"I only want him."

*Very well. For 50,000 credits I can buy a dozen such boys.*
Jabba laughed at some private joke.

"Master Jabba," the boy began.

*Silence. You belong to him now.* The tiny hands unfastened the
collar and the powerful tail shoved Luke off the dais. *Be off. Do
not let me see you again. Either of you.*

"Come along, son."

His heart sinking with each step, Luke followed the old man out of
Jabba's palace and to the speeder. His thoughts were far away with
his smuggler, wondering what would happen when Han found he was gone.


****

Solo skidded the hovertruck into the bay, and vaulted from the cab.
Fortuna nodded sagely, and sent a message droid skimming ahead of
him. Sparing less than a glance for the Twi'lek, he dashed into
Jabba's throne room, skidding to a stop in front of the crime lord.
His heart thudded into his boots. The spot on the front of the dais
was empty.

Jabba was dozing, clutching a chain that led to an empty collar. The
stench of blood and excrement hung in the air. Red smears marked the
slimy slug's skin.

"Where is he, Jabba? I made your damned run in less than twelve
days! I've got a ship that nearly shook herself apart, a copilot
half-bald from shedding, six burned-out power couplings, and a
positive ID from an imperial cruiser. Now pay up!"

The Hutt laughed. *Too late, Solo. Your chrono must be faulty. The
cheelooda exploded an hour ago. His belly blew open, guts spilled
everywhere. His pretty boy-toys flew in three directions. Someone
has souveniers. The rancor ate the rest. You will be paid in
credits.*

"Pay me. And no more jobs. I don't work for people who don't keep
their promises. You just lost the ship and pilot who made the Kessel
Run in eleven standard days for your little joke."

Han took the credit chip, and stalked out of Jabba's palace for the
last time. He had enough saved, and with this payment he could start
his own company, or get by until he decided what to do with himself.
How had a teenage sex slave come to mean so much in just the few
months he'd known him?

*Goin' soft, Solo. Soft heart, soft head as Da used to say. No
more. No more cheeloodas, no more smuggling, no more trouble.*

****

The old man's house was small and neat. Luke didn't remember ever
smelling anything as clean as this place. The air was recycled and
cool, and the floor was clean. He sat nervously on a bench as his
new owner dug through a trunk. Various oddments were carefully set
aside.

"Ah! I knew I had one here somewhere." The old man stood up and
checked the power gauges. "Still good. I haven't used this since
my last mission with your father."

"My father?" Luke was stunned by the news. "You knew my father,
sir?"

"Lie back, son, and open the left side of your pants."

Resignedly, Luke laid back and willed himself hard, knowing the day
had been too good to last. To his surprise, the old man pressed the
device to his hip. "Let's see if I still remember how to do this,"
he mumbled as he punched codes, and then the whirr of a small medical
laser filled the house. Luke gripped the sides of the bench, and
breathed slowly. He'd tolerated worse.

"I haven't lost my touch. Close them up." A small cylindar shone
dully in his palm. "Luke Skywalker, you're a free man." He glared
at the implant, and it melted into nothingness.

"Free? Skywalker? Where'd it go?"

"I think I said both of those, yes. The implant, or rather its
component elements, are being filtered out of the air right now by
the recycler."

"Tell me everything, please? I don't remember anything before I woke
up in the mechanic's quarters at Jabba's. I didn't even know I had a
last name. Do you have a name, or do I just call you sir?"

"Very well. I am Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi in exile. Your father, Anakin
Skywalker, asked me to care for and train you before he died. I
placed you with my brother and his wife. Eight years ago, their
homestead was burned out by sand-people. I was off-planet. When I
returned four years ago, I followed the cold trail to Jabba, and
found you. Thirteen, and looking so like your father. I suspect you
have either trauma-induced amnesia or you were mind-wiped. There are
those who do not want the last of the Skywalkers to become a Jedi."

"Jedi?"

"For a thousand generations, the Jedi were the guardians of peace and
justice in the galaxy. Before the dark times. Before the Empire."
The old man looked pensive, and Luke wonderd if he should say
something. He had a million questions, but he wasn't sure if Obi-Wan
would want to answer them.

"Now, young Luke, shall we begin your training?" The lassitude
dissolved, and the blue eyes twinkled. "First proper clothing and a
haircut. Here. These were your father's. They may be a little
long." From one of the stacks, Obi-Wan handed him a pile of
clothing. "The second bedroom is yours to use."

Luke carried the clothes into the small bedroom. A narrow bed,
a small closet, and a chest of drawers furnished it. A single 2D
sat on the chest. He picked it up. A very tall young man, in his
early twenties, stood with a shorter, older man. They both wore
the same cream and tan robes Obi-Wan had just given him. He stripped
out of the gold harem pants, the last vestige of his time with Jabba,
and stepped into the soft underwear. It chafed obscenely, he hadn't
worn any for five years. Ignoring the sensation, he pulled on the
cream colored trousers. Obi-Wan appeared at the door in response to
his burst of laughter.

"A little long?" Luke laughed again. The pants ended a good ten
cents below his feet.

"Finish dressing and come out. I'll hem them up to fit you. It's
entirely possible you haven't gotten your full growth yet."

"Yes, sir."

"Luke, if you are to be my apprentice, the proper form of address is
'master.' I hate to require it, but there are formalities."

"Yes, Master."

"Very good, Apprentice. Haste, our meal awaits us."

At the mention of food, Luke pulled on the shirt and overtunic. He
belted them. Since Obi-Wan, his master, he corrected himself, had
left the cloak at the door, he decided to hang his own there, too.

Luke walked back into the main room. Obi-Wan carefully hid a smile.
The boy was built like his mother, and was practically swimming in
his father's clothing. He cuffed the sleeves that draped over Luke's
hands.

"Come eat. We'll alter them after lunch."

Having missed breakfast, Luke attacked the meal. Obi-Wan sat back,
eating the bread and fruit, watching as the boy ate neatly but
rapidly. He looked so like Ani, even the gestures were the same.
The table was cleared to the plates within minutes.

"Are you still hungry, Luke?"

The boy looked up a little shyly. "A little, Master. May I have
more?"

"Apprentice, you may eat as much as you need. I remember quite a
lot about seventeen year old boys. My own master had trouble keeping
me fed, as I had trouble keeping your father fed. This, too, shall
pass."

"Thank you." Luke took the empty dishes to the sonic sterilizer,
before punching up another meal for himself.

When he finished and took his plate to the recycler, Obi-Wan had him
stand on a small platform while he marked out where the hems should
go. Luke changed out of the Jedi clothing and into a nightshirt at
least three sizes too big to wait while his clothes were altered.

"You sew? By hand?"

"I picked up many skills during my own apprenticeship. I seldom have
need of an autovalet."

Luke asked question after question, each of which Obi-Wan answered
patiently, his sadness at the boy's ignorance growing deeper with
every word. Luke had a clever mind, and his education had been
limited to mechanical work, flying, dancing and sex. One more thing
to rectify.

Suddenly, the boy looked distressed. "Han!"

"What?"

"He's a pilot of Jabba's. He was making a Kessel Run in exchange for
me. The only reason Jabba sold me to you today was to spite him."

"Would he have been a better master than Jabba?"

"Much. He's fond of me. He's good to me. He even showed me the
implant extractor he'd gotten to use when he got back and Jabba
signed me over."

Seeing his apprentice's clear infatuation, the old Jedi conceded.
"We'll get word to him. You can see him when he's on-planet."

Luke looked about to say something, and then held his tongue.

"And I can see about a double bed." An impish grin crossed the old
man's face. Luke almost blushed. "You love him very much. You
can't hide your feelings, Luke. You shine, and your Force signature
shines brighter."

"Force signature?"

"A lesson for later. Now off with the nightshirt, and let me cut
your hair."

Luke hesitated with the nightshirt.

"Come, son. You don't want all the hair trickling down amid your
clothes."

Obi-Wan spread a cloth under a chair as he spoke and went for the
snips. Luke stripped to his underwear and sat down, stroking his
ponytail sadly. He wouldn't miss being dragged around by it, but he
would miss Han playing with it, caressing it, wrapping it around the
both of them as they made love. He unbound it for the last time.

The first thing Obi-Wan did was pull a handful of hair into a smaller
ponytail, and clip the length until it was a mere handspan long. He
bound off a second lock behind Luke's ear and cut the back to just
above the nape of his neck. The front, he clipped even shorter until
the fine strands stood up on their own. Using a soft brush, he
dusted the fragments away.

"You get dressed, Luke. I'll clear up. We have a small ritual
before I teach you more."

Luke carried the clothes to his room, and dressed apprehensively.
Rituals with Jabba usually meant someone's death. But he wasn't
afraid of the old man. He looked at his reflection in the small
mirror. His hair was cut identically to the man in the photo,
except for the braid.

When he returned to the main room, Obi-Wan had spread a pair of
small mats on the floor. The old man knelt on one and indicated
that Luke should kneel across from him.

"In ages past, when a Jedi Master selected his padawan, his
apprentice, from the ranks of the initiates, a grand festival rang
through the halls of the temple on Coruscant. The Initiate was taken
out of his white clothes and given the tan and cream of a padawan.
The Master cut his hair in the main hall, shearing away the long
ponytail of childhood, and replacing it with the cut you wear. (One
merely had to pray the Master had steady hands, lest one look like it
had been done in the dark.) Then the braid was plaited, beaded and
bound as a training bond was established. I did this for your
father, Anakin. My master, Qui-Gon Jinn, did it for me. His master
did it, and so on, back into the mists of time and legend. Now, Luke
Skywalker, son of my friend and padawan Anakin, I take you as my
padawan learner, honoring the vow I made your father."

Obi-Wan reached forward and took hold of the loose lock of hair
behind Luke's ear. "Three parts go into this: master, apprentice
and Force. The Force binds us, permeates us, guides us and obeys
us." He swiftly plaited a braid in the hair. "These beads mark
you. The first is the gold of the Jedi order. The second is my
own, identical to the one my master gave me. It says, for those
who can read it, that you learn from Obi-Wan Kenobi. The third is
the one I have selected for you." He held up a Travig skystone,
square-cut, its gold veins wide and deep. "When you take a padawan,
you will give him an identical one. The bindings are symbolic of
the training bond we form, and the binding of the Force."

All the time Obi-Wan was speaking, Luke was aware of a growing
feeling of connectedness. He'd had flashes of insight before. The
other slaves had even used him to find lost objects. Now, he could
almost hear the older man's thoughts, like the first whispering gusts
of a sandstorm.

//Yes, that is the Force, my boy.//

//? I can hear you.//

//A training bond. Here, the first meditation.//

Luke took the proffered information from his teacher's mind and set
about studying it as he knelt on the mat. It intrigued him in the
same way speeder engines and dance rhythms did. He studied the
elegant construct from all angles and began trying to insinuate
himself into it. Success came at last, and his entire body glowed
with contentment. Coming up from the meditation, he saw Obi-Wan
smiling at him.

"Very good, padawan. It took me three days to solve that riddle
when I encountered it. You took four hours. Are you ready for
dinner?"

"I'm always ready for food, Master. Shall I program?"

"If you would like. One day, we will leave this place. In our
next dwelling, we shall have a true kitchen and I shall teach you
to cook organic food. There is more to eating than programming the
taste and texture of your nutrimix."

Luke put the two plates on the table, and joined his master for the
meal. Obi-Wan watched in amusement as Luke put away two bowls of
stew, half a loaf of bread, some fruit and a small cake. The
foodsynth would be getting a lot of use with him here.

After the meal, they went outside. Silently, they watched Tatoo I
and Tatoo II set beyond the stony ridges of the Wastes.

"Can you feel it, Luke? All the life? How does it feel? How does
it sound? My master heard it as a song, with each life singing a
single note. Your father heard it as an engine, each life a separate
humming part. What do you hear?"

"I hear the wind, Master. The lives are like breaths of air. All
blend to form the wind. The wind brings the dew, but it also brings
the sandstorm."

"Excellent. Come inside and review the first meditation again before
bed. The nights are cold."

The days fell into an easy pattern: housekeeping, breakfast,
vaporator collections and maintenance, meditation, lunch, general
education, training exercises, dinner, the sunset, more meditation
and bed. Luke fell into it easily, finding the work less onerous
than it had been at Jabba's. The meditations varied and engaged his
mind. Some were mental puzzles, others discussions on the nature of
things.

Weeks, then months slipped by. His hair grew, and Obi-wan cut it.
He grew, and Obi-Wan altered his clothing. He would never be as tall
as his father, it seemed. Plentiful food and strenuous exercise had
hardened the new weight into muscle. No longer the slender dancer,
he found he was far more at home in the new shape of his body. Even
the desires which had driven him nearly crazy in the first months
began to subside. He found the exercise reduced his need to
masturbate to twice a day instead of the half dozen times that had
been the norm for the first month after leaving Jabba.

Obi-Wan told him stories of his father, of the Old Jedi ways. He
thrilled to tales of the Clone Wars and listened with rapt attention
to the romance of his parents. Thoughts of Han came with less
urgency. Obi-Wan assured him that the spacer had not put in on
Tatooine in almost a year.

In the second year with Obi-Wan, they acquired a computer with
Stellnet and he began accessing history files. Slowly, he began
piecing together the history he did not get from the Imperial net
over breakfast. Obi-Wan always insisted they watch it, even though
Luke sensed his distress more clearly with each passing day. One
morning, a black gargoyle filled the screen. Darth Vader, the
Emperor's personal aide, announced a sweep of the Corellian
shipyards, rounding up rebel sympathizers. The masked warrior
demonstrated the fate of one of the sympathizers. Luke perceived his
master's acute agony, and turned off the holo before the man in the
picture died.

"Master? Why does he upset you so?"

"Vader was my last pupil. He turned to evil and betrayed the Jedi
order. He took service under the emperor and eradicated us. He
murdered your father, and many other good knights."

Even two months ago, Luke would have been horrified and furious.
Now, with the first true evidence of Jedi calm, he stood and extended
a hand to his master.

"Come meditate with me."

Obi-Wan relaxed into the meditation, a serenity koan, feeling Luke
through the bond. He listened to the Force, and heard what it told
him.

"No exercise today, padawan. We are doing something very
different." He went to the chest of oddments and pulled out a tube,
and offered it to Luke. "Your father's lightsaber. It may not
handle as well as your own would, but we haven't time to build one."

"You sense it, too, Master. What is it?"

"A nexus in the Force. Momentous things are in the offing, Luke. I
can only trust our few months of training have been enough. We go to
Anchorhead tomorrow. Today, you practice with the saber."

The wooden saber drills had been one of his favorite exercises,
and they served him well. He didn't take a single hit from the
training remote that Obi-Wan set on him. He sparred with his master
with the sabers set at low power.

Over lunch, Obi-Wan said "You won't be winning the Padawan Division
Saber Tournament, but it will suffice. Things converged more quickly
than I expected. I fear my foreseeing fails as my life approaches
its end."

"Master, don't say that! You won't die. You can't leave me
half-trained."

"I said approaches, padawan. The prescience has been failing for
some years now. Blame Jabba for your lack of training. Had he sold
you six years ago, you would be at the height of your powers. We
shall meditate, do the closing maintenence, and pack."

Luke cleared the table and settled into meditation across from his
master. The light breeze of the Force was gathering, as the zephyrs
gathered before a storm. Soon, they would form winds, and gales, and
the howls would be heard for miles, until even the non-Jedi would
feel it. Something very, very large was coming.

 

The next morning, two men in brown robes walked the streets of
Anchorhead, almost indistinguishable from the Jawas who arrived
at midday. Obi-Wan had engaged in a spirited haggle with the chief
of the scavengers and they were now the proud owners of an ancient
and very battered R2 unit.

They loaded it into the speeder and made the six hour trip to Mos
Eisley. Obi-Wan rented a room, signing them in as "Ben and Lou
Quig," a father and son pair from Mos Espa. Luke cleaned the R2
unit as best he could, but was amazed when Obi-Wan spoke to the
droid.

"All right, old friend, show me what you have for me."

The little blue and silver droid beeped and began to project a
hastily made holo of a young woman dressed in senatorial clothing.

"Organa, from Alderaan," Luke supplied, his morning news sessions
bearing fruit. The young woman was a notorious pacifist, opposing
the vast majority of the Emperor's plans. A small gust in the Force
drew his attention, but he concentrated on what she was saying.

"Years ago, General, you served my father in the Clone Wars. Now,
the hour of need is upon us again, and we require your assistance
once more. My mission to bring you to Alderaan has failed. I have
placed information vital to the survival of freedom in the memory of
this R2 unit. My father will know how to retrieve it. You must see
this droid safely to Alderaan. You are our last hope."

"In the morning, padawan, we will find a fast ship. We will need
to be careful. Mos Eisely is the most wretched hive of scum and
villainy in the sector. Now we meditate and rest."

The fast ship was harder to find than they had anticipated. Most
of the local shippers were cargo haulers, living in their flight
suits with no passenger accommodations. The last office, their final
stop before moving to the space port bars for a free-trader, was an
office marked "DirectShip, Inc., Tatooine office."

The red-haired woman behind the counter, working on invoices, looked
familiar to Luke. When she stood to greet them, he realized who it
was but kept his mouth shut.

"We're looking for passage to Alderaan."

Zora checked her schedules and looked back at the two robed and hooded men.
"How many, and how soon?"

"Myself and my son. This droid. We would like to lift today if
possible."

She checked the log. "Ah, luck. Our corporate president is
finishing his inspection today, and headed to Alderaan to check up
on the office there. He might agree to take you. He's at Chalmun's
Cantina. Look for the Wookiee. If not, I lift tomorrow."

"Thank you. Something for your trouble." Obi-Wan set a small stack
of credits on the counter.

"No, sir. I get a percentage referral fee. Clear Skies." She
returned to her invoices.

"An honest woman in Mos Eisley. It is a day for surprises," Obi-Wan
commented once they returned to the street. He patted Artoo fondly.

"Master. I know her. And I know who the corporate president must
be." Luke showed him the mental images of his first encounter with
Zora, Talla and Solo.

"Your insight serves you well. Let us see if your lover holds you in
as high regard as you hold him."

Chalmun's was a very dingy bar. The droid detector pinged Artoo, and
Luke opted to wait outside. rather than risk losing the droid. After
all, if his instincts were right, he'd have several days to
reacquaint himself with the pilot.

Obi-Wan found two Wookiees at the bar, conversing in low tones. He
approached them, and spoke haltingly to the elder as protocol
required. Amused to hear a human even attempt their language, they
listened to his proposition. The younger escorted him to a corner
table.

"Han Solo, owner of DirectShip and captain of the Millennium Falcon.
Chewie here says Zora sent you to me. Passage for three to
Alderaan?"

"Yes. The young lady at the offices. If yours is a fast ship."

"Fast ship? You've never heard of the Millennium Falcon?"

Actually, Obi-Wan had heard a great deal about her, from Luke. He
didn't know how much of the second-hand information to trust since Luke
wasn't sure what was accurate and what was braggadicio. "I heard that you
worked for Jabba and made runs in record time."

"Record time? She made the Kessel Run in 11 standard days. She's
fast enough. Is it a local problem?"

"We must avoid Imperial entanglements."

"Not a problem. We're so clean we squeak. And DirectShip always
gets the cargo through." He ran through some rapid mental
calculations. Chewie barked something, and he added the factors in.
"My partner is an idealist. Five thousand."

"Two would be more than fair." A light came into the old Jedi's eyes
and he made a small gesture with his hand.

"Two would _not_ be more than fair, old man. Jedi mind-tricks only
work on the weak-minded. You're asking me to take two people, one
with a standing Jedi bounty on him, and a droid to an interdicted
world, without proper papers or procedures. I could lose everything.
The only reason it's not ten is that Chewie likes you. Ten might
cover most of our fines if we got caught."

"Will this do, Captain?" Obi-Wan pulled a minisafe from his robes
and keyed the code. It opened to display a matched pair of krayt
dragon pearls.

"Fine." He pocketed the minisafe, and glanced at the door. "Docking
bay 94, whenever you're ready to lift. If you're avoiding Imperials,
I'd say go now."

Han watched the old man slip out the back door of the bar from a
corner of his eye. He and Chewbacca produced their IDs at the
stormtrooper's request. He debated tossing out a business card, but
decided not to be too brave. The troopers moved on.

"Something fishy about him, Chewie. You go warm up the ship."

The Wookiee went and Han took one more drink of his firewhiskey. He
had heard about Jedi and wasn't at all sure he had gotten a good
deal. He opened the minisafe. The dragonpearls gleamed redly at him
before he snapped it shut. A fence would give him maybe twenty
thousand here on Tatooine. That figure would double in a core
system. And quadruple again from a legal jeweler. Either the old man was
foolish, crazy or very wealthy. He stood to go, his danger sense
telling him he'd be earning every credit.

The muzzle of a blast rifle in his chest stopped him. "Leaving so
soon, Solo? You just made planetfall last night. But then, there's
nothing to keep you lingering here anymore, is there?" The rough
voice picked up a metallic timbre from the blank helmet. Han
couldn't tell if the man was just that callous or if he was trying
to pick a fight. "Jabba would like to see you."

"I don't want to see him. Or you, Fett."

"Hard feelings over a slave dead these two years? I thought you
were more of a businessman than that, Solo. Professional enough not
to hold the complaints of a cheelooda against me."

"I'm a legitimate businessman now." Solo carefully did not address
the taunts. The bounty hunter was definitely trying to start a
fight. Luke was still a very sore spot in his memories. Every time
he thought of the kid, he felt his stomach thud into his boots at the
gruesome picture the Hutt had painted. It had haunted his sleep for
weeks and still occurred at odd moments. In his mind's eye, he saw
the dancer sprawled over the Hutt's tail, a bloody hole instead of
a lower abdomen, genitals gone, and intestines looping out over the
bloodstained gold harem pants. Worst was the agonized look of betrayal
combined with freedom he saw on Luke's face. He had even, in more
irrational moments, considered finding the beings who had taken the
body parts for souveniers, and buying them. Then, through contacts,
he would find an illegal cloning lab and bring the kid back.

"Yes, I know." Even the helmet's speakers couldn't keep the disdain
from Fett's voice. "DirectShip, offices on fifteen worlds, a fleet
of thirty ships, and you're still living hand to mouth. Jabba has
an offer to make you rich."

"Jabba is a loathsome slug, a slaver and a spice dealer. I don't
need his money or his trouble."

"Suit yourself, Solo. But know that you aren't welcome on
Tatooine. If you work here, you work for Jabba."

"I work for myself. And Jabba can take up obstruction of a
licensed trade corporation with the Imperials. Now get out of my
way. I have an inspection tour to complete."

The bounty hunter watched the former smuggler leave the cantina
before informing Jabba that Solo had declined. He listened to the
orders coming over his helmet's com unit and nodded slowly.

The price on Han Solo's head had just been set. No one refused
Jabba and lived to tell of it. The hunt was afoot.

***

"Master, will this get us to Alderaan?"

Obi-Wan chuckled. "You, padawan, are the one who has extolled
the virtues of the ship all afternoon. Are you judging by mere
appearances?"

"I'm sorry, Master Obi-Wan. She just looks like
she's about to fall apart sitting here."

Artoo beeped his agreement.

Either the pilot had supernally acute hearing or he was used to the
first reaction to his ship. "She'll make point five past light
speed. I've made a few special modifications myself. Now, we're a
little rushed so if you'll get aboard..." He grasped the smaller
man's arm to hasten him aboard the ship.

The hood fell back, revealing a face Han had never expected to see
again. He dropped the arm and stepped back, a hundred generations
of superstitious sailors and spacers screaming at him that he was
seeing a ghost. Luke pulled his hood completely down, and smiled.

"Hello, Han."

"Quickly, padawan." The older Jedi was halfway up the ramp,
and Artoo was already aboard. Luke moved away, and up the ramp.
Han watched, stunned at seeing the kid alive, and amazed at the
change two years had wrought in him. He was a man now, confident and
gorgeous. Regretfully, he noted the lovely walk had given way to a
purposeful stride. A low growl from behind Han startled him out of
his shock.

*I smell Imperials. We must go, young one. You will tell me
about this one once we are in hyper.*

Chewbacca went in and began the preflight as Han locked down the
lifter coupling he had been repairing. The squadron of stormtoopers
strode in, standing around the edge of the bay. Han opened the
comlink at his belt so Chewbacca would know what was happening.
Their commander, a young man sweltering in Imperial grey, approached
him.

"Captain Solo?"

"That's me. If you need to hire me, my offices are just down the
street. Zora will be happy to book you on the next DirectShip
vessel that's lifting. I'm taking off as soon as your men clear the
bay. I have a surprise inspection to conduct, and an office to
close."

"Not so quickly, Captain. We have reports of you talking to an old
man at the cantina, this old man." The commander triggered a display
and showed the wanted holo. It was the old man who had hired him.
"He is a Jedi. The standing bounty for a Jedi is 50,000 credits
alive, or 30,000 dead. We will need to search your ship."

"Of course. I told the old man I wasn't taking passengers. They're always
more trouble than they're worth."

The troopers streamed aboard, seaching every compartment. Satisfied,
they left. The commander paused at the foot of the ramp.

"Captain Solo, as one officer to another," he gestured at the
bloodstripes the pilot still wore, "I would suggest you not return to
Tatooine personally. We were tipped off by certain agents of Jabba the
Hutt. I'm glad you had the sense turn down the old man. Clear skies."

The bay was empty, and Han and Chewbacca took off at a gentle speed,
and made a legal, technically perfect jump to hyperspace.

"Cool as Hoth. I still got it, Chewie. I better go check the
passengers."

*Sit!*

"Yes, Mother." Sometimes the big hairball forgot who was the captain
and who was the first mate. Han never held it against him, but he did rib
the Wookiee about it.

*The boy?*

"He was a slave of Jabba's. That last Kessel was supposed to be a
freebie and I would get him in exchange. Jabba told me he had
exploded the kid's implant. I guess he sold him instead."

*_He_ is the one who left you smelling like--*

"Yeah," Han cut him off. "He's the one. His name is Luke."

*I am glad he is alive, young one. You have missed him. Go.*

Han went to the ring corridor and opened a microphone to the
compartments. "It's okay. Come on out. We're in hyperspace and
on the way to Alderaan."

A deckplate lifted slowly. The two Jedi hoisted themselves out of
the compartment. Luke replaced the deckplate.

"Well done, Captain," Obi-wan commented. Han wasn't paying
attention.

Luke straightened up, only to be turned around. One hand held the
braid that fell past his waist, and the other wrapped around him
and pulled him close. Han kissed him hard and long, sinking into
memories and denied desires. Luke's own body, starved for contact,
responded, and his arms went around Han's neck as he kissed back.

Releasing his lover's mouth, Han whispered "Jabba told me you were
dead. He was very graphic."

"He sold me," was all Luke managed before Han was kissing him again.

"Padawan," Obi-Wan warned.

"Yes, Master?"

"I shall be in the cockpit if you need me." He left the two young
men embracing in the ring corridor.

"He's your master?"

"A title of respect for a Jedi teacher. I'm free."

"Nice of him to give me a leash." Han tugged him a little closer
with the braid. "I miss the ponytail though."

"I still have one." Luke turned his head to show it.

"Short. More a handle than anything." A wickedly lusty grin
crossed the pilot's face. "Do I get to give it a try? Stars, I
missed you!" With that, he had to ravish Luke's mouth yet again.

"Missed you, too. You never came back to Tatooine."

"Nothin' here for me with you dead. I had Zora and Talla set up the
office here, just like some other old friends have the other offices
on other planets. I get twenty percent off the top, after bribes and
tarriffs, and the office staff splits the rest 20/80 with the pilots. Aaah,
you don't care about that." Han couldn't think with him this close, and
blurted out his heart's desire. "Come to bed with me."

"It's been a while, but I don't think I've forgotten everything."
Luke smiled, dazzling him as he had the first time he'd seen the
boy's face.

"You're not--" Han waved a vague hand at the cockpit.

"Ben is like my father, or maybe grandfather, since he raised my
father as well. The last human I had was *him*."

Only one person merited that inflection. "Fett. Someday, kid,
you're gonna tell me exactly what that bastard did, and we'll
track him down and return the favor. What do you say?"

"No. No talk of him, ever again. No talk of Jabba, or the past
or the future. Be in this moment with me, Han." Luke silenced him
with a kiss. How he'd missed kissing another person! Denied any
caresses but his own for two years, he refused to let the spacer go
as they made very slow progress to the captain's cabin.

Once there, Han cycled the door shut and began unfastening Luke's
belt as he let the cloak fall. Belt, sash, overtunic, undertunic,
and his golden dancer was standing there again, oddly changed. The
haircut was unfamiliar, the body had grown, and the face no longer
wore its haunted look.

"Nothin' you don't want to do kid," he promised, feeling awkward
with this much-missed stranger. "I always say that, then you explode
and I wake up. You're not going to explode, are you?"

"Not this time. Not ever. The implant is out and destroyed. Talk
later. Make love to me now, like you used to." The kisses were the
same, still as glorious as he remembered.

Han wasn't sure how he came to be sitting on his bunk, propped
against the bulkhead, watching his young lover's well-honed body
extend the same invitation it had three years before, writhing on his
lap. Again, he accepted.

The smooth chest was harder, more muscle than he remembered, but the
skin was as warm and supple. He twined the braid in his fingers,
pulling Luke closer for a kiss, before looping the strand of hair
around his own neck.

"So, are you my cheelooda now?" Luke teased, kissing his way over
to lick at the spot just below Han's ear that drove the bigger man
insane.

"Want me to be? Like that one night when you took me in the bath?"

"Oh yeah," Luke breathed. "That was good."

"Don't give me that big-eyed innocent look, kid. Getting it from a
painted pleasureboy in a bath for two on _Tatooine_ has to rate as
one of the most decadent experiences of my life. Especially when
a certain very limber pleasureboy managed to suck me while he was
up inside me."

"So now I'm corrupting you..." Luke's hands were already in his pants,
teasing him erect and stroking in odd corners that he'd almost forgotten
about.

"Can't corrupt me. Corellians are born corrupt."

"Prove it," Luke demanded with a final nip at the hot spot. "On your
knees and bend over the bunk."

"Pushy kid." But Han obligingly stepped out of the pants and
dug through the drawer beneath the bunk. He tossed a small bottle
to Luke. "It's been a while, and I don't think spit's going to
be enough." He took the position the younger man had requested.

"That an offer for later?" Sensitive hands ran over his back, and strong
fingers penetrated deep into his back muscles, massaging away the residual
tension from the encounters in the cantina and the docking bay. "Are you
ready?"

"Always."

Fighting the urge to bury himself in the man before him, Luke took it
slowly, savoring each millimeter of penetration: the tension as the tight
ring fought his entrance, the satisfying pop as it opened, only to clutch
him beneath the head, the maddening heat as he worked his way in. He spread
himself atop Han's body, skin to skin, stretching his arms to massage and
loosen the deathgrip the pilot had on the blankets.

"All right?"

"Stay still. It's been a while." The words came out in short bursts
between the clenched teeth.

"Tell me when you're ready." Luke busied himself kissing the neck and face
beneath him. "Would this help?" An inquisitive hand wormed itself between
Han and the bunk, stroking him, savoring the hardness.

"Oh yeah." Han raised his head for another kiss. "Always does." He
pressed back. "Go ahead. I'm ready."

Luke set a nice even pace, matching it with his hand. Then, he slowed. "Is
there a second in there?"

"Always."

"Oh good. Because I'm next. Hold on, lover, I'll teach you to fly without
a ship." The dancer was back with a vengeance, even down to the faint
Huttese accent. This time, the pace was very solid.

"You taught me that a long time ago." Words failed as sensation overwhelmed
his senses. For long minutes, it seemed the source of the whole universe
was concentrated below his waist, pulsating and culminating into a an
explosion so intense he wasn't sure the stars weren't real.

Luke waited until Han had come down a little before reaching his
own climax, wanting to feel it all, without distraction. His head swam from
the juxtaposition of heat at his front, engulfing him, warming his chest and
the biting cold of space that seeped through the thin metal shell of the
hull and froze his back. He buried his face in the shaggy dark hair, taking
in the scent and feel of his long-gone lover.

In the last instant, he tipped Han's face back to him, and kissed him
deeply, even as he pressed as far inside as he could. He released
the warm lips, remaining spread atop the limp body of the pilot, as
he came down.

"Love you. The wind blew you back to me," he whispered as he pulled away,
knees complaining from the metal deckplates.

Han stood up, painfully. Next time, they were definitely putting some
padding down. "Bed, now." He dropped onto the bunk and pulled Luke down to
him by the trailing braid.

*Your cub was sorely missed, Old One.* Chewbacca flipped a couple of
switches and stared at the nothingness of hyperspace through the
transparasteel canopy.

"You can't know how pleased I am about that. I was so very afraid your
partner had forgotten him. That would have devastated him."

*My Hahnko never forgets a good thing. And the cub was very good for him.
When they were together, he was happier than I had ever seen him. He drank
very little, worked hard and fought not at all. When he returned from the
Hutt the last time, it was as if someone had cut down his own Life-tree. He
threw himself into his work, but there was no joy. He still drinks too
much. After the crisis on Alderaan, and if he wishes it, would you let the
young one come with us?*

"I promise nothing, my friend, save that I will consider it and listen to
the Force."

Chewbacca listened intently and then sniffed before barking laughter.
*The cubs have finished rutting, Old One. It is safe to use the fresher and
the food synth. This is going to be a long trip.*

"A sentiment worth repeating." Obi-wan stood and patted a furry shoulder.
"Shall I bring you something?"

*Kaf please, in my own cup. You'll know which it is.*


The Jedi paused in the forward compartment, waiting for the kaf to brew.

//Luke.//

Luke startled awake, his head still pillowed on his lover's chest.
//Master?//

//When Captain Solo goes on duty, I need you for saber drill in
the forward compartment.//

//Yes, Master.//

//Go back to sleep, padawan. I trust your reunion went well.//

Luke sent a drowsy chuckle along the bond and snuggled closer. The ship was
chilly, but Han put out a lot of warmth. In more ways than one, he thought
contentedly, drifting back to sleep.

Han woke on his side, curled around someone. He opened one eye and
smiled to himself. For the first time in two years, he felt intact.
The hole that had gaped in his gut, ignored until he had convinced
himself it was gone, had been wrenched open, cleaned and truly healed.
Luke was alive, free and in his bed. What else could he want?
He tightened his grip on the sleeping man, and toyed with the braid.
He missed the ponytail, but this was a fair substitute.

Experimentally, he twitched the end over Luke's cheek, then
stroked it down his neck to tease one nipple with it. The boy snorted
and came awake. He smiled up at his awakener and kissed him.

The cabin alarm sounded.

"My watch. Chewie'll hand me my left arm if I'm late. You probably
need to talk to your teacher."

"You're right. I have saber drill."

Han rolled out of the bunk and began to dress quickly. "And how do
you know?"

"Obi-Wan told me." A glance at the door told Han it was still locked.
Luke caught the motion. "We're Jedi. He didn't need to come in."

Luke sat up and stretched. The dancer was still there, but the Jedi was
coming more to the fore with each moment. As he dressed, he seemed to age
and become more mature. At last, grave-faced and calm, he waited while Han
tugged on his boots. The effect was totally spoiled when he broke into a
wide grin and kissed his lover.

Han was late into the cockpit anyway.

Chewbacca ambled sleepily through the forward compartment, barked something
that made Obi-Wan smile and went to his own oversized bed. Luke was busily
deflecting bolts from a training remote set at high speed.

"That will save your life, padawan. It saved mine many times. But
seldom do you have just one opponent." Obi-Wan lofted two more
remotes into the air.

By the time Han checked on his passengers, Luke was wearing a helmet
with the blastshield down, fending off heavy-stun bolts from six remotes set
at response time nil. He waited until Obi-wan deactivated the remotes and
Luke lifted the blast shield before announcing, "You can quit worrying about
Imperial entanglements. The route is clear from here to Alderaan. We'll be
there in about an hour."

"Good, we've time to meditate. Padawan." Suddenly, the old man crumpled
like a string-cut puppet into one of the acceleration couches, and Luke
collapsed to his knees, hands pressed over his ears, cradling his exploding
head.

Han drew him back to his feet, and helped him to one of the seats.
"Luke, are you all right?"

Luke pressed close, steadying himself with the definite
Force-presence of his lover, and looked at his master. "Master Obi-Wan?"

"I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices cried
out in terror and were suddenly silenced."

"Exactly. Pain. Incredible, sudden and then gone. I still hear the
screaming, Master. But it is a lone voice, now." He slowly began to
untangle himself.

"Let us meditate and see what the Force tells us."

Luke rose to spread the meditation mats that he'd brought with them, and
they sank into the standard kneeling position. Han busied himself with a
power converter he was retooling to fit the hyperdrive, and tried not to
think about the boy, no, man, behind him. On his knees. The braid
dangling invitingly. His mouth exactly level--he cut the thought off
quickly.

Quickly Han shot a glance over his shoulder to see if Luke was having the
same sort of thoughts, meditation or no. The young man was facing his
teacher and they breathed in synchronous rhythm. But while the older man's
face was blankly serene, a line of anguish still crossed Luke's face.

Unable to stand the gap between erotic fantasy and pained reality, he
gave up and went to the cockpit to wait for the transition to normal
space. Chewbacca joined him, still groggy, but competent.

*Young one, are you sure closing the Alderaan office is the best?*

"The system's been interdicted for two months. Not like we're making
any profit."

*There are more important things than profit, Hahnko, and you know it.
The Alderaan office has never turned a profit. All you get from it is
rebel information. Just as it is all you sell there.*

Han didn't answer. The Jedi had come forward to watch the arrival. Luke
was containing his excitement, but his eyes still glowed at the idea of
seeing a new world.

"Coming up on Alderaan. Transit to normalspace commencing on five, four,
three, and mark."

The starfield returned. Alderaan should have hung against it, turning
lazily in the light of its primary, shining blue and white and green.
Something thudded against the rear deflector.

"What the--We've come out in some sort of meteor shower. It's not on any of
the charts."

"What's going on?" Luke asked.

"Our position's correct but no Alderaan." Han made a hasty scan of the
equipment and banked to avoid another asteroid.

"What? Where is it?" A horrible suspicion was filling Luke's mind
and the screams that only he could hear had diminished to broken sobs, but
the cries were becoming louder.

"That's what I'm trying to tell you, kid: it ain't there.
It's been totally blown away."

"Destroyed, by the Empire," Obi-Wan added, completely self assured.

"The entire starfleet couldn't destroy the planet. It'd take a
thousand ships and more fire power--"

"There's another ship coming in," Luke interrupted. "Maybe they know what
happened."

Han checked the scope. "It's an Imperial fighter."

"It followed us!" Luke said. "I thought you said they gave you an
all-clear."

"If they hadn't, we wouldn't have lifted," Han snapped backed.

"It's a short range fighter," Obi-wan announced, looking at the scope.

"There aren't any bases around here, where'd it come from?" Han wanted
to know.

"It sure is leaving in a big hurry. If they identify us, we're in big
trouble." Luke flinched as his master chided him along the bond for
stating the obvious.

"Let it go, it's too far out of range," Obi-wan suggested.

"Not for long." Han's face was grim as he accelerated.

"A fighter that size couldn't have gotten this deep into space on
it's own." Obi-Wan was still pondering the craft. Something, just
out of his grasp, troubled him about it.

"Maybe it got lost, part of a convoy or something."

"It's not going to be around long enough to tell anyone about us," Han
reassured his passengers.

"It's headed to that small moon," Luke pointed out.

"Alderaan doesn't have any moons," Han said, double checking both the
astrogation logs and his memories.

The satellite came closer, its canyons and mountains forming too perfect
a surface to be natural. "That's no moon, that's a space station."

"I think you're right, old man. Chewie, full reverse. Get us out of here."

The instruments complained, and the old freighter shuddered.

"Why are we still moving towards it?" Luke wanted to know.

"Tractor beam." Panicked scenarios ran through Han's mind, and he tried to
decipher the best of a dozen bad options.

"No one knows we are aboard, and you have clearance to be in this sector, am
I right?" Obi-Wan asked. "There are alternatives to fighting or running."

The Falcon landed gently, and Han and Chewbacca came to the bottom of the
ramp with their hands high, and weapons tied down. An officious Imperial
captain met them.

"Your ship has entered an interdicted area, in violation of general order
19. You will be detained until we can ascertain the facts of the matter.
Take them to my office."

A detatchment of stormtroopers escorted the partners away from their ship.
No one noticed a pair of figures slipping out of a hidden hatch in the hull.
Quickly and quietly, the Jedi made their way to an empty comm room.

Obi-wan sat at the console and typed faster than Luke's eye could follow.
Information ran over the screen so fast, only a droid could make sense of
it. Obi-Wan seemed to follow it all. "Padawan. We must split up. You have
a mission. The princess is here. She's being held here." He slowed the
information to a pace Luke could follow. The younger man memorized the maps
quickly. "I must go and see to the tractor beam. Your lover should be able
to talk his way out of the situation by the time we return."

"I will not fail you, Master."

"Then go. And may the Force be with you."

"And with you, Master." Luke ducked out the door, hugging the wall,
and clouding the minds of those he passed. If they saw him at all,
he registered as another technician. He made his uneventful way to the
Detention Block.

Once there, he paused, halting the lift between floors, to puzzle out the
next phase of his plan. He had mastered being dim, but he couldn't fool
security cameras. It dawned on him how to do it properly. He stepped out
of the lift and melted back into the shadows.

"Did you hear something?" The duty officer looked up from a screen of
numbers that had stopped making sense ten minutes before.

"No sir." Even in the detention area the troopers were alert.

"I'm going to check it out. Stay here."

"Sir, regulations forbid--"

"Trooper, if I don't stand up, I'll become part of this chair. Now
I'm going. You come and cover me."

"Yessir."

The two men made their way to the shadowy corner by the lift. They never
knew what hit them. Luke put them down into deep unconsciousness, and
waited. He sent a Force suggestion into the mind of the other trooper on
duty, and tripped the monitoring switches. As the stormtrooper absorbed
himself in fixing the wiring under a panel, Luke made his way past the
darkened eyes of the cameras to cell 1138.

The door cycled open and the princess sat up, staring in disbelief
at the Jedi in her doorway. He drew back the hood, showing her his face,
and beckoned her. She came to him without a word. He laid one finger
across her lips, cautioning her to silence.

"I'm Luke Skywalker, I'm here to rescue you. Master Obi-Wan is with me.
Come quickly and silently," he whispered drawing the hood back up.

Unfortunately, the trooper had looked up from his work and saw them.
"Where are you going?"

Luke made his voice as menacing as he could. "I am taking the princess
to Lord Vader, at his order. Do you wish to delay the Dark Lord?"
It was a calculated gamble that Vader would be on the station, a reaction to
the faint aftertaste in the Force that he kept feeling.

"Who are you, what's your ID?"

Luke opened himself to the Force. "I am the shadow of the Dark Lord.
You don't need to see my identification."

The trooper busied himself with the controls for the lift. "I don't
need to see your identification. Move along. Don't keep
Lord Vader waiting."

Luke hustled Leia into the lift and dropped to the hanger level.
Once inside, she looked at him, pulling the hood back and brushing
his lips with her own.

"Thank you. I don't know who you are, but thank you."

"I am Luke Skywalker, padawan learner to Obi-Wan Kenobi. We have your
droid. We chartered a ship to Alderaan, but when we got there, it
was gone." He recognized her voice. "You've stopped screaming, Princess."

"What?"

"When Alderaan was destroyed, you screamed as if you would never stop.
I heard you all the way here. I am pleased you are recovering from the
ordeal." The lift stopped. "Do not be surprised at the ship,
your Highness."

She took one look into the hanger bay and looked back at Luke.
"You use the Force to hold that thing together, don't you?"

Remembering his own reaction, he smiled at her. "And a lot of
twine. She's fast though." Obi-Wan glided up behind them.

"Padawan, what would your lover say to that remark?"

The youths jumped, and Leia dropped her deepest curtsey of respect.
"General Kenobi. I am deeply honored to meet you."

"The tractor beam is out, but will not remain so. We must hurry.
Get the princess aboard, and I will get our pilots released."

Dim again, this time shielding the princess as well, Luke made
his careful way across the hanger bay and got Leia to the foot
of the ship's ramp.

A strong presence in the Force made him spin around.
"Get aboard, Princess. Strap in. The liftoff will be
quick and rough. I must go."

He saw Han and Chewbacca sprinting toward the ship as the
troopers hastened the other direction. "Take care of
the princess and the R2 unit!" he said, dashing in the same
direction the troopers were headed. "I have to help my master."

With a pilot's lightening reflexes, Han caught the braid as Luke
flew past. "You can't help him, kid. He's fighting Darth Vader."

"Let go of me, Han. I have to help him." He saw where the old
Jedi was dueling the black-armored giant. His hand was on his own
saber, and he wrested it from his belt, oblivious to the squadrons of
stormtroopers between him and his master.

"You can't help him," Han repeated. "He said to tell you to get aboard."

"Noooooooooooooo!" Luke screamed, and Han turned to see the old man's
cloak falling empty to the floor. He spun Luke by the shoulders and
half shoved him up the ramp, taking advantage of the younger man's
momentary distraction.

"Lift! Chewie, lift!" he yelled, slamming his hand over the hatch
controls and dashing for the cockpit.

Luke stood where he was, feeling the Falcon begin to shudder, trying
to calm himself. His master was one with the Force. He could feel
Obi-Wan's presence, no longer fettered by matter, and he was calmed.

But a second presence announced itself, skittering over him like
a cold hand. //Who are you?// Luke stiffened and shielded his
thoughts but not quickly enough. //Padawan Skywalker// The
dark sending sounded almost pleased with itself, and quickly broke off.

Luke, shaken, went to the forward compartment to check
on the Princess and R2. They had disassembled the droid
as part of the ruse, and would put it back together on the way
to... It occurred to him he didn't know where they would be going.

The Princess was well, a bit shaken by the hasty departure, but
undamaged. She had unbuckled and he was leading her to the cockpit
when the pilot barreled down on them.

"We're coming up on their sentry ships. Take the belly gun, we're not
out of this yet." He scaled the ladder to the top gun, and Luke
climbed down to his turret. Leia continued steadfastly to the cockpit and
sat beside the giant wookiee, too concerned with escape to worry about the
anthropod.

Only four TIEs greeted their escape, and those were quickly dispatched.
The harrowing excitement of the whole day bubbled over when the
two men reached the corridor together. Leia, hearing them on the ladder,
went back to greet them, only to find them locked in a passionate embrace.
She staggered back to the cockpit, remembering Obi-Wan's comment about
Luke's lover.

*The cubs are at it again, small one.*

She looked up at Chewbacca, not speaking his language, and he
tapped the translator readout on the console. She looked
askance at him, and he explained some of the history of
her rescuer.

Finally, Chewbacca went to the back to repair a few things
that had been rattled loose in the fancy flying of their escape,
and Han came forward. He sat in the copilot seat, mildly annoyed
at Leia being in his chair, and made the transit back to normal
space.

They were well away from the battle station, in the midst of
an empty quadrant. "Where can we take you, Your Highness?
DirectShip Incorporated's flagship is at your disposal."

"Thank you, Captain Solo," she answered matching his formality,
and disclosing nothing of what his copilot had told her. "Yavin
is our destination now."

"Plotted and set." He made a speedy transition back to hyperspace.

"I hope your small detour will throw the Death Star off long enough
for the techs to get the information from the R2 unit."

"What's that droid carrying that's so important?"

"Technical readouts of that battlestation. I only hope a weakness
can be found. It's not over yet. They're tracking us, you know."
She saw him reach for the override. "No, no, I want them to. It
may be our only chance of destroying that monstrosity."

"I don't want a chance at it, Princess. All I want is to
get you, and the blasted droid, off my ship and check
on my company. Be damned lucky if my whole operation doesn't get
seized over this stunt." Chewbacca returned with a mug of kaf
and Han stood up. "I'm gonna check on Luke. Losing the
old man like that is going to take it out of him."

Chewbacca woofed agreement. The princess followed him silently.
In the main compartment, Luke knelt on the meditation mat,
his saber out and ignited.

As he brought it to his head, Han took a step forward, "Luke, don't."
But he stopped as the saber went out, and the braid drifted slowly
to the mat.

"In the days of the Old Republic," Luke's voice was eerily calm,
"when a padawan passed his trials, his master would cut his braid
and remove the ponytail. He would then be a full-fledged knight.
My master is one with the Force, so I cut my own braid."

His hands went around back to untie the ponytail, and he smoothed
the hair down to lie with the rest of it. He put a knot in the
end of the braid, and tucked it into a belt pouch, before standing up
and rolling up the mat.

The princess came wordlessly to his side, and he acknowledged her.
"We shall begin repairs of your droid at once, Princess. Perhaps,
you should rest after such a day." She nodded agreement, and Han
waved an absent hand toward the crew cabins.

He sat down at the tech station, and watched Luke begin reassembling the
droid. The wordless calm unnerved him, and he had to break the silence.
"Luke? Are you OK, kid?"

The clear blue eyes, grey now with pain, looked up at him, full of sorrow
and anger, overlaid with false serenity. Overwhelmed, Han went to him and
pressed his hands to the table, forcing him to drop the tools. Once Luke's
hands were empty, Han kissed him.

Luke drew back. "No."

"No?"

"For now, I mourn. My master is gone, and although I feel his presence,
it is not enough. He can't teach me anymore. He's just part of the Force
now, another part of it, but not himself anymore." The formal speech of the
Jedi was giving way to the raw pain of the boy. "Vader took him, just as he
has taken everything else from me. Vader killed my father, and now he's
killed my master as well." Luke's fists were clenched on the table and he
deliberately stopped himself. "Hate leads to anger and anger leads to the
Dark Side." He breathed carefully, calming himself, relaxing his fists,
drawing on the feel of the pilot's hands which had not left his arms.

"I will return to your bed in time, my love. For now, let me work my grief
out through my hands." He leaned over and kissed Han, before picking up the
hydrospanner.

"All the time you need, Luke. But you're gonna tell me how you spent your
afternoon sometime." The lightheartedness didn't quite come off, and Han
went to his own cabin. He tugged off his boots and threw himself on the
bunk, almost too keyed to sleep. A gruelling day. He hadn't had one like
that in a few years. He lay and thought about the endless questions of the
Imperial commander, and his own perfectly true, totally uninformative
answers to them. The excitement of their escape, the adrenaline of which
was only just starting to leach out of him, and then the sheer naked fear
he'd felt seeing Luke hold that lightsaber to his head. For a moment, he
thought he'd lose the boy. He wasn't sure he could stand it again. He
wished Luke would come to bed. He found himself wanting to hold and comfort
the young man, help him grieve for the oldster who had been his teacher,
liberator and protector. Going soft, Solo, he snorted at himself. He
listened to the faint hum of the hydrospanner and clink of metal as Luke
reassembled the droid.

Somewhere in the listening and the thinking, he fell asleep.

 

Han awoke to Luke's warmth beside him. He shifted, and watched as the other
man rolled over to curl closer. Pleased Luke had decided to join him, he
ran an idle hand along Luke's side, feeling the muscles, the bone, the scar
on the outside of his hip. Han sat up to take a closer look, and swore
colorfully at what he saw. The symbol was obviously a word, and it had been
burned into Luke's thigh by a practiced, very precise hand. He reached for
the readout beside the bed, and scanned the mark before requesting a
definition.

This time his swearing was loud and vigorous enough to awaken Luke. He
looked up and smiled at Han until he realized what was happening.

"Who did it? Who dared mark you?" Han demanded. "Jabba didn't do that, I
know."

"Fett," Luke said, very softly.

"Do you know what it means?"

Luke nodded, his eyes shadowed and wary. He'd never seen Han this angry,
not even after the x-frame.

"Tell me. Tell me about it." The flat coldness informed Luke that his
words would be sealing the bounty hunter's death warrant.

"No. Come watch. It started after you'd been working for Jabba for a year.
Boba Fett decided that anything you could do, he could do better. It
amused Jabba to hand me off to him immediately after
you'd had me."

"It would. Go on."

"You had a run to R'alla, for illegal water. The last thing you told me
before you left was 'Stay alive. Be here when I come back.' You were very
cruel, you know. You gave me hope of escaping.
Because of that hope, I was doing my best to stay alive. Watch."

Han felt as if he was plummeting into the endless blue of Luke's eyes, as
the past came alive around them.

***
Luke sat on the dais, listening to catch the last echoes of Han's steps as
he left. The trip to R'alla and back would take about nine days; water runs
like this were one of Jabba's shorter errands. He could
endure. He always did. He missed his lover already.

The band gave out a slow tune, and Jabba shoved him off the dais with his
tail. *Dance. *

Obediently, wanting to be alive for Han's return, Luke turned the shove into
a graceful slide. He glided out into the middle of the floor, and danced.
From the corner of his eye, he noticed some of the
denizens of the palace drawing in closer, closing a ring around him.

Gauntleted hands clasped his upper arms, squeezing painfully tight. He
altered the dance and undulated against his captor, not looking to see who
held him. A metallic voice chuckled in his ear, and his insides
turned to ice. He kept moving anyway, knowing he had not been told to stop.

Boba Fett let him go, then, without warning, fired the capture-cable from
his vambrace. Luke didn't dodge it, but kept his arms out, letting it wrap
around his waist. Still obeying Jabba's order to dance, he
spun himself into the cable, coming within arm's length of Fett, then
twirled out, almost to the limit.

He pretended to fight the cable, tugging it and dancing to the others who
watched as if asking for their help. Slowly, the bounty hunter reeled him
in. It was a game Luke knew all too well. He slowed his
breathing, trying to calm down. Fear washed through him, a harbinger of the
things to follow.

*Enjoy, * came Jabba's order.

Fett finished the game by wrapping him entirely in the cable and towing him
out of the throne room.

Alone in Fett's room, the hunter retracted what was left of the cable,
leaving an ugly welt on Luke's waist as it whipped off of him. He knew
better than to utter a sound of pain, but sank to his knees as
his owner required.

Heavy boots circled him. He tracked their progress by sound. He heard Fett
remove the helmet, and felt the fear take an even firmer hold. On nights
when the hunter left his helmet on, it was usually a
quick use or two, a backhand slap across the face and banishment to a slave
cell for the rest of the night. But when the helmet came off, Luke learned
a little more about what the live bounties underwent
at this man's hands.

"Stand up and strip."

Luke obeyed the order quickly, gracefully, doing his best to be perfect and
give Fett no excuse to harm him. He stood, arms spread slightly, feet
apart, balanced but vulnerable. Silently, he swore that if the odds were
ever in his favor, Fett would never know what hit him.

The gloved hand ran down his back, tracing the faint remnants of the welts
from his last beating. Luke was unsurprised when two fingers shoved into
him, dry and rough enough to hurt. He didn't gasp or
cry out.

"Good. You aren't too stretched from him. I know all about Corelli, my
pretty slut. All about them." Fett pulled his fingers out and looked
disgusted at the residue on his gloves. "And here you are,
befouling me with his slime." He wiped his fingers on Luke's back in a
fancy pattern. An evil idea came to him, and he ordered, "Get me something
to write on you with."

Luke quickly brought a small eye-stick from the tiny slaves' prep room just
off the main bedchamber. The hunter shoved him to his knees and tested it
on his arm for color. Pleased with the dark brown, he
drew an intricate symbol on the back of Luke's left hand. "I want to find
that mark somewhere on your body next time you are given me. If I don't
find it, I'll mark it on you." He pulled an apparatus from
his belt. "Know what this is?" Luke shook his head. "It's a slave-marker.
The scar it leaves does not heal and cannot be removed without removing
the muscle beneath it. If I can't find this word on you
somewhere, I will carve it into you, right here." He put his hand on the
outer side of Luke's left thigh. "Where I can always feel it when I want."

"Yes, Master," Luke managed. That meant he'd have to apply the mark every
day, since he never knew to whom he would be given. If another did not like
the mark, he would be punished for wearing it; if Fett marked him, he'd be
punished for provoking the hunter into it.

"Good, now, suck me off." The hunter undid the codpiece of his armor, and
presented himself. Luke obeyed, shutting his eyes as he did so, until a
hard yank of his ponytail pulled him back to reality. "I
don't think so, slut. Keep your eyes open. See me, not _him_."

Luke did his very best, eager to have this over. Fett was good for about
two times around. He licked and sucked, taking the shaft all the way into
his mouth and then pulling out until the barest tip of the
head remained. He knew what the hunter liked and provided it beautifully.
Well-trained over the years, he never even flinched at the bitter salt that
filled his mouth as Fett climaxed.

The hunter left Luke on his knees, and went to sit in the chair and stare at
him. After a few moments, he wandered back over and circled the kneeling
boy. Luke felt the delicate probe of a bootknife at his
ear.

"You're thinking of Solo, again. If I thought it'd take him out of your
mind, I'd drive this knife straight into your brain and fuck you as you died
convulsing. As it stands, I can't afford to pay for you, so I'll settle for
this."

He shoved Luke forward, making him crack his head against the floor. He
jerked Luke's wrists behind him, slapped a pair of binders on them, and
pressed the boy's chest to the floor.

Using only the remnants of Luke's saliva, he took the boy brutally, shoving
hard and deep, then pounding as roughly as he knew how.

Fett couldn't see his face, so Luke shut his eyes again. He clenched his
teeth against the burning and breathed against the pain until it subsided.
Then, he tried to imagine Han was taking him, rough with
need and desire. That helped even more. At length, the hunter finished,
collapsing atop him.

***

"That doesn't explain the mark, kid."

"You left on that last Kessel. I didn't have time to draw the symbol.
Fett lost his temper. Jabba found it amusing, the idea that you would be
getting merchandise with a Mandalorian trademark."

"Some trademark. He labeled you a sex toy, forever."

"That's the polite translation."

"I know."

"You know, I wouldn't mind wearing it for you." The tenative, tremulous
smile barely touched Luke's lips.

"Like this?" Han trailed his fingers over the mark, tracing each line and
curve of it. "Mine," he said. He moved down to trace it with his tongue,
then envelope the whole of the scar with his mouth.
"Mine," he whispered against Luke's skin. He moved up, and kissed Luke,
pressing deep, learning the mouth he knew so well all over again. "Mine.
Not anyone else's. Mine, for as long as you want to
stay."

"I'll stay as long as you'll have me, my love."

**

By the time the Falcon landed on a jungle moon orbiting the gas giant Yavin,
Luke had come to a place in his grief where he could accept all that had
happened. The reassembled droid had been carried away
to have its memory banks worked over, the princess had disappeared and Han
and Chewbacca were busily repairing the damage from their escape.

When he had walked down the ramp, serene in his robes, a gasp had gone up
throughout the hanger. Leia had introduced him to the Alliance brass and he
had sensed their discomfort upon hearing the words "Jedi Knight and student
of Obi-Wan Kenobi." They had given him a room and he meditated now, kneeling
on the mat and listening to the wind in this new place. Activity surged
around him, and he knew what was in the offing. He rose, and went in search
of a flight leader.

"You need pilots," he said to man in the captain's uniform. "I would like to
volunteer."

"What have you flown?" came the question, boredom carefully covering the
desperation in his voice.

"T-16 skyhopper. Sailbarges, skiff, pod-racers."

"What? Humans don't race pods. The reaction time is pared down below human
reflexes. Wait a minute." The captain took a better look. "You're the Jedi!"

"I am. Check me out however you need to."

"All right. The simulator is this way."

Luke emerged twenty minutes later, calm and cool, not even sweating. The
captain gaped. "All opponents killed, and all you took was a hit to the
stabilizer. You're in. Skywalker, was it?"

Han wandered in to watch the briefing. He was shocked to find Luke sitting
on the front row, listening as intently as any other pilot. He listened to
the briefing and found himself agreeing with the young man
who opined that a two meter target was impossible. The pilots dashed for
their ships on General Dodonna's order, but he caught Luke's attention
before his lover could leave.

"So you're going up?"

The blue eyes shone with the joy of flight, but something darker lurked
beneath the surface. "I couldn't miss it. Why aren't you in a flight suit?"

"Snubs are a young man's game, Luke." Han's voice was very quiet. "I used up
my time and more, long ago. I'll be up there with you. The Falcon's as fast
as anything they've got, and better armed. She loves
me and won't turn on me like this fickle bitch would." He patted the side
of Luke's X-wing, then pulled the young man close for a lengthy kiss. "Be
careful, Luke. I can't lose you again."

They hit space. The X-wings divided into their squadrons and the Y-wings
into theirs.

"Would you look at the size of that thing?" demanded a stunned young man
with the unlikely name of Wedge Antilles. Luke remembered sitting next to
him in the briefing, and having him and another young
man assigned as his wingmen.

They listened as Gold Leader started his run in the trench, paying less than
half their attention. The rest was occupied in keeping the enemy fighters
off their comrades, and off their own tails. The Falcon
made all the difference. The heavy quad guns provided covering fire for the
ships in the trench, and she picked off any TIE fighters foolish enough to
come her way.

"I'm hit!" from Gold Leader was followed by "Torpedoes launched!" Then
there was only radio silence.

"Red Five, start your run. Good luck, Luke," said Red Leader, nursing his
own half-crippled fighter out of the trench to play bait for the TIEs.

"Close it up, Wedge, Zak. We're going in full throttle. Han, keep those
TIES off our tails for just a little longer."

"Will do, kid. Can you pull out at that speed?"

But Luke was gone. He switched off his computer, and rode the winds of the
Force. The hurricane gale picked him, and carried him, and he rode it,
mastering it, exulting in it, as the fragile fighter shot down the trench.

A darker pattern emerged from the wind he rode, trying to tear him from his
precarious flight. But he held firm in the timeless storm that raged about
him.

"Zak, Wedge, Luke's not responding!" Han tried not to shout over the
comchannel, and then he saw the prototype TIE appear. "We have some serious
company. Distract them. Keep them off him!"

The X-wings scissored and dodged as much as the narrow trench allowed. The
prototype and his wingmen hung close. Zak went in a fireball. Then Wedge
was hit. Han got one of the wingmen, but the leader was too good.

"I can't hold her. Solo, I've got to bail."

"Antilles, keep your ass in that trench, you damn coward! Luke needs you
for five seconds. Are the rebels turning out such crap you can't--" In the
midst of the harangue, the wingman came into Han's sights. He fired a
fraction of a second slow, damaging the TIE and sending it spiraling into
the leader. The prototype whirled out of the trench as his wingman exploded
on the floor.

Luke approached the place where the winds began to set him down. He fired,
guiding the missile into the shaft with gentle breezes of Force, and then
pulled up, and out of the trench. As he came back, deposited in the easy
chair by the last zephyrs, he heard Han whoop over the com, and Antilles
cheer.

"Come on, kid, let's get out of range!"

The ships raced back toward the moon, and set down in the hanger of the
rebel base.

Han dashed across the hanger, catching Luke as he came down the ladder from
the cockpit of the X-wing. He spun the young man around and kissed him
squarely. A ragged cheer then a more forceful one went up from the rebel
techs. The princess dashed over, and they opened their arms to her and
hugged her, too.

**

The entire Rebel Alliance assembled in the great hall of the Massassi
temple, waiting to honor their heros. In the anteroom, Han and Luke waited.
Han had polished his boots and dug out a good shirt with a collar that
closed. Luke had cleaned his cream and tan robes, and comported himself
with dignity befitting the last Jedi. Han just wanted to kiss him until he
lost his composure and let fly the grin
that seemed to light his whole face.

Together, they made the long walk down the main aisle of the room, and
climbed the stairs to the Princess. She hung the medal on Chewbacca first,
stretching to do so, even though he stood a step below her and bowed deeply
to receive it. Then Han's medal, and she smiled as he gave her a wink and a
smirk. Lastly, she presented Luke's, and gave him her very best smile. For
a moment the Jedi melted, and the very young man underneath smiled back.


Epilogue:

Talla wandered into the office of DirectShip, and thumped the cooler down on
her partner's desk. She opened it, took out two brandy gourds and handed one
to Zora.

"Drink," she ordered, uncharacteristically curt. "You need it." She switched
on the holoview.

Zora raised her eyebrows and took the drink. She watched the screen.

"This is an important message from Imperial Center. Earlier this week,
terrorists from the revolutionary group calling themselves The Alliance
destroyed the prototype research station Discovery. We have positive ID on
four of the terrorists." The first picture flashed on the screen.

"Princess-Senator Organa from Alderaan. There is a thousand credit reward
for information on her whereabouts. Ten thousand credits for her delivery
alive and well to Lord Vader. She should be considered armed and
dangerous."

A second picture appeared.

"Shit."

"You got it in one, partner. Looks like it's time to close the office, swipe
the petty cash box and take a long vacation. They'll be coming for
DirectShip soon. Maybe Amazia can use a couple ladies with a fast ship."

"The human is Captain Han Solo, president of DirectShip. The Wookiee is his
companion, Chewbacca. A thousand credit reward will be paid for information
as to their whereabouts. The Wookiee carries a five thousand credit bounty,
dead. The human carries a twenty-thousand credit for delivery alive and
unharmed to Lord Vader. Both should be considered armed and extremely
dangerous."

Zora swore softly and at length. Talla just stared as her partner exhausted
her vocabulary in eight languages. It was the single longest speech she'd
ever heard out of the woman. As Zora opened her desk drawer for the cash
box, a third picture appeared.

"This human styles himself Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight." Zora dropped the
cashbox with a clatter and gaped. "Delivery of this man, alive and well, to
Lord Vader, will pay some lucky citizen of the Empire half a million
credits. Skywalker should be considered armed, and extremely dangerous. As
a Jedi, he is capable of mentally enslaving sentients.
Warning, even if unarmed, approach with caution."

"Expensive cheelooda," Zora commented.

"Let's lift before the troopers show up to close us down. Come on!" Talla
jerked on her sleeve. "We're going back to work for the Black Hole Gang."

Zora grabbed the ledger and the filing boxes, and the two women left the
office at a sedate pace. No one paid them any attention. It was, after all,
Mos Eisley.

In the office, the holoview babbled to itself. "In other news today, the
outlaw group known as the Black Hole Gang failed to surrender after a
standoff with Imperial troops. There were six Imperial casualties, and no
survivors of the gang."


*end*