"Don't you let that sister of yours talk you into staying, Luke." Han Solo pointed an admonishing finger toward him. "I don't wanna waste any more of our vacation than we have to."
Luke Skywalker grinned at the glower on his lover's face, affection curling in his belly at Han's protective grumpiness. The Corellian's wary expression warned of the determined focus just beneath the surface.
"Don't worry. I'm just going to make sure she doesn't need me for anything before we leave." Rolling behind them down this busy bureaucratic boulevard, Artoo bleeped his own reminder.
"Oh, and find Threepio, of course," Luke soothed, patting Artoo on his dome. "I hadn't forgotten about you, Artoo."
His droid's cheerfully disrespectful hoot suggested Artoo didn't quite believe the disclaimer. Han laughed and threw his arm around Luke's neck. Luke felt the delicious tingle of touch travel clear down to his toes and stopped in his tracks, careless of the people forced to detour around the obstacle they presented.
"See, even Artoo knows what to expect. And in case you've forgotten, Leia's got herself an entire army of assistants and a perfectly capable husband. Don't you dare use her as an excuse."
He liked the note of playful challenge in Han's voice, as if they'd already left on their frequently postponed holiday. "You think I can't deliver what I promise?"
"Oh, sure." Han leaned closer, until his breath warmed Luke's ear. "But that's why I came with you instead of goin' straight to the Falcon. Don't want you getting distracted."
Luke laughed softly and turned his head very slowly until their mouths were aligned. "Too late. I already am."
Six years ago, when vague dreams and unformed possibilities had transformed into reality, Luke had promised himself that neither social convention nor public opinion would deter him from openly displaying love for his life partner. This particular victory had come at a high price, and he'd determined never to waste a single opportunity, discretion be damned.
Han had long been the most important person in his life, even before they became lovers, and he treasured their friendship still. Twelve years since he'd confidently declared himself 'ready for anything'only to be undone moments later by a knowing grin and eyes that demolished his brittle youthful bravado at first glance.
He'd certainly not been ready for Han Solo. On the other hand, Han hadn't been ready for him, either. Drawn to each other almost instantly, their friendship had shaped their lives in a direction neither could have dreamed at that moment of introduction.
Not that it mattered, but he'd never been able to pinpoint precisely when he'd fallen in love with Han. Before Bespin, probably, because he'd felt Han's pain from half a galaxy away, felt the searing river of molten fire flow along nerve and muscle and bone, felt the equally tortured riot of emotions: anger, fear, confusion, betrayal... Stopping Dagobah from orbiting its sun would've been easier than resisting Han's call.
Those months while Han languished in carbon freeze had been sheer torture. In his dreams he'd visited Han nearly every night, unsure in the morning of the vanishing distance between dream and reality. Once, years later, he'd asked Han if he had any memories of the carbon freeze. Only you, kid, he'd replied, looking a little bewildered. I remember you. You kept me sane.
He'd certainly known whom he loved by the time they arrived on Endor, and the brilliance of that fact outshone every other memory, reduced everything else to proper perspective.
Han released him and grinned smugly. "Good. Means we won't waste much time with Leia then."
Luke was spared having to summon a response by the startled expression in Han's eyes as they looked beyond his shoulder.
Disquiet clutched in his chest. "What?"
Han shook his head and indicated direction with a jerk of his chin. "Look for yourself."
Forewarned by Han's unconscious signal, Luke put the seconds to good use. By the time he swung around, he'd mustered a guarded expression and gathered as much self-control as possible. And saw... Lando Calrissian. Luke noted that political success had armored Lando in the trappings of elegance more than ever. Dignified, prosperous and confident even without his ceremonial robes of office. And what was so surprising about running into the newly elected Senate Chancellor near to the senate chamber?
For a moment Luke thought his puzzlement must have shown on his face, as he could see nothing worthy of surprising Hanuntil a small delegation of Gareekians passed and he saw Cleres Nysos at Lando's side. They entered a lift car and disappeared from view.
The shock of seeing the Pontradan elder who'd figured so largely in their lives hit Luke with the impact of a torpedo travelling at lightspeed.
"Sure brings up some memories, doesn't it?" Han muttered, gripping Luke's shoulder tightly. "Wonder what old Cleres is doin' here."
The past on Pont Gollo suddenly seemed to rise up from the granite floor beneath Luke's feet, a vaporous mist swallowing him whole. The hammer blow of Lando's initial disclosure stuck full force again, despite all the time and distance and changed circumstances.
"You're not gonna believe this, Luke, but I saw Han tonight."
He stopped breathing, convinced he'd misheard Lando's offhand comment.
"Oh?" he returned carefully, schooling his expression to neutrality, only his trembling hands betraying the shock he felt. He shoved them into his pockets to hide the fact from Lando and cast about for words to fill the expectant silence. His mind blanked, and all he could come up with was a stuttering, absurd, "Are you sure?"
"Oh, yeah. He sat on that couch and pointed his blaster at me. Definitely Han Solo."
The small, hibernating place that was his heart suddenly slammed into painful life. A year's silence shattered and Luke felt dizzy from the overwhelming relief swamping him.
A thousand questions rose to his lips; he voiced none of them.
Too many memories surfaced from their secret place of banishment, circled and chased their own tails.
He forced himself to nonchalant interest while Lando related the details of the brief encounter; a dry tale bereft of the kind of information he wanted. Irresistible now, the stained white sofa drew his gaze, lingering over the sole physical evidence of Han's existence.
"...suspects there are a few sore losers and warned us to be extra-careful. Gotta say I don't have a lot of faith in the security measures to begin with if somebody as distinctive as Han can stroll in like he's invisible."
Humor was a pitiful defense against the re-opened wound of abandonment, but it was all the balm he could offer himself. "Maybe we should be thankful for mysterious informants with a talent for stating the obvious. Keeps us on our toes." He dredged a small smile that would certainly not fool a child, much less Lando. "We'd better stay alert. I have a sense of increased danger, too."
Lando looked at him, curiosity leaking from his eyes. "I suppose so. Good to know he's all right, though, and Chewie too."
Good to know he's all right? Force, what an inadequate description for the rush of sentiment possessing him! He couldn't spare any energy to indulge Lando's curiosity.
"They're headed outsystem now. General opinion is the free ride is over."
Already gone, then, leaving no trail to be unraveled. Just like before.
The loss hit him with renewed full impact, all the more hurtful this time around because of the clearly deliberate nature. Han's initial departure from Corellia had been pure self-preservation, a relief, even, for those who loved him and couldn't bear to see the silent, daily erosion of spirit. His own brand of unlikely optimism had kept faith alive until now
unreasoning hope that Han would exempt him from a personal history of clean breaks. And now his last hopes were dashed.
Mercifully, Lando wasn't inclined to discuss the issue further, at least not at that moment. And Luke spent what remained of the night attempting to meditate, hoping to purge thoughts of Han from his mind, and instead ended up tirelessly tracing the paths of abandonment.
Han nudged him in the ribs. "Hey, here's Leia. Maybe she can fill us in."
Secretary of State Leia Organa advanced toward them at a steady, regal speed, trailed by only two aides and Threepio, not the full retinue. Artoo whistled a distinctly happy greeting at sight of the protocol droid and rolled toward his counterpart.
Leia's gracious expression transformed into more natural lines when her gaze settled on them. He smiled back and moved forward to hug her soundly.
"Don't I get a turn?" Han grumbled in mock jealousy, moving in closer, demanding his share of attention. Luke felt the bubble of laughter rise in his chest and stepped back. He'd never had a moment's misgivings about claiming Han for his own, not even after the ruined romance with Leia, nor any concerns that an unstable triangle might reform. Much as he'd hoped Han and Leia would be happy together if that was what they wanted, his own common sense told him their romance was doomed to self-destruct in short order. He'd been right, although that gave him no satisfaction, particularly when Han fled in the wake of their separation. Han and Leia were much better suited as friends than lovers.
Leia refused Han's embrace and folded her arms. "I thought I told you to take him on a well-deserved holiday."
Han dropped his head and looked at her through lowered lashes. Luke thought it was a spectacularly unsuccessful attempt at a penitent look. "Yeah, well, we'd be on Treylune by now if he hadn't insisted on checking in with you first," grumbled Han. "So that means it's all your fault."
She relented and stretched up to kiss the Corellian on the cheek. "Oh, stop trying to blame it all on me." With a quick wave she dismissed her aides and droids. "I'll escort you to the landing pad, just to make sure you get there."
Luke grinned at Leia's scolding tone, and Han shrugged. He winked at Luke over her head, a tiny gesture of confirmed solidarity that started a slow simmer in Luke's veins.
"We just saw Lando and Cleres Nysos in the corridor," he said softly, still trying to assimilate the flood of memories undammed by that single glimpse.
Leia threw him a thoughtful sidelong glance. "Lando didn't tell you the Unified Pont System applied for full membership in the Republic?"
Lando excelled at not telling him things, Luke reflected resentfully.
Just as he'd not been prepared for anyone like Han back on Tatooine, he hadn't been prepared for his first glimpse of Han in nearly a year. Lando hadn't warned him. Worn thin and tired, on edge, wearing a visibly fatalistic attitude, the Corellian in that Pontradan jail cell had been barely recognizable as Han Solo. Luke had been shocked to the marrow to chart the discrepancies between memory and reality. His first thought had been 'he's dying', wasting away from some kind of pernicious disease that stole flesh from his bones and vitality from his soul; his initial instinct to gather Han into his arms, into his heart and hold him there. A defensive barricade against whatever ravaged body and spirit.
But of course he couldn't breach the barrier of separate lives, of conscious isolation. The exclusion. There'd been a moment when he'd touched Han and felt a shock travel through both of them. A connection, something shared... but Han turned his eyes away and the moment was lost.
And so he'd promised only what he couldto solve the mystery, to gather needed evidence to free Han once again; free him to whatever path he chose to follow.
For an instant he'd wondered if Han's life had become so burdensome that he welcomed death, had known that he'd sacrifice himself before surrendering Han to such a fate.
He didn't bear a grudge against Lando, for without his meddling it would've taken that much longer for him and Han to unravel the tangle of emotions keeping them apart, but the memory of two betrayals still lived in his heart.
Luke knew there were some things he could forgive but never forget and Lando's clumsy interference that day was one of those things. Because of the despair in Han's eyes.
He'd been so exhilarated when he set off those stun gas canisters and escaped to the tunnel. Still flying ahead of the adrenaline bowfront, knowing that together he and Han could accomplish anything. Just a matter of timeand then he'd bumped up hard against a wall of deceit. Painfully hard. A child of the wide-open desert and accustomed to the endless space between the stars, that tunnel had suffocated him to begin with. Han's rejection had only magnified the claustrophobic effect, sent bewilderment and frustration on a collision course to the center of his chest.
That Lando would use himcould use Hanin this fashion, as a tool to further his own personal, selfish ends, had rocked him to his very core. The discovery had reinforced his awareness of the fragile nature of trust and his own vulnerability. And made what he shared with Han that much more precious.
He'd aged several lifetimes in that five minute stretch in the tunnel, surviving the twin disclosures of passion returned at full measure and a friend's duplicity. Lando's defensive protestations had been drowned out by the blood roaring in his ears as shocked comprehension hurtled full speed through his system. Attuned entirely to Han's reaction; tracking the ripples of tension tightening up muscles; the abrupt hunger revealed in hazel eyes; and the wondering, joyous smile spreading across his face.
He didn't remember if he'd reached for Han, or if Han had come to him, but he recalled every detail of that first kiss. His first taste of Han's mouth, sharing breath with him, the strength of their embrace, Han's heartbeat synchronized with his own, the overwhelming sense of unity... Han had sighed, a small sound that shorted out the last rational thought in his head until he couldn't help answering the silent plea with a growl that said you're mine and I'm never gonna let you go again. And he hadn't. Wouldn't. Because what he had with Han went beyond any expectation of love and happiness he'd ever fantasized.
Time was an imprecise measure at best, but the years together had passed in the blink of an eye, it seemed, no shadows and no secrets. And only one regret: that because he'd lacked the foresight to speak his heart earlier, their union had been delayed.
"No. Lando didn't mention Pont Gollo last time we talked." Then again, they hadn't spoken in a couple of months, at least, so perhaps this was a new development. He needed to give Lando the benefit of the doubt and not fall into judging present behavior by past standards.
Han shot him a sober, questioning look but said nothing.
He shrugged, as if to dismiss the subject, although he knew quite well neither his sister nor his lover would be deceived. "Anyway, just wanted to make sure you didn't need anything before we leave."
Leia stopped at the entrance to the executive level landing pad and took his face between her hands. A blast of wind whipped through the entrance, blowing her hair into his face. "I love you, little brother, but if you don't get on board that ship and head off on your vacation I am going to kill you." Before he could draw breath to respond to the insulting 'little brother', she'd turned to Han. "Honestly, I don't know how you put up with him sometimes."
"It can be a real hardship, all right, but I figure I'm man enough for the job."
Damn straight about that, Han.
"We'll take good care of Artoo, Luke."
He chuckled. If Leia thought he was impossible...
"Chewie's at the apartment if you need him. And you have our com frequency if you need to get in touch with us"
Han pulled him toward the doorway. "Yeah, she's got the frequency, but she's not gonna use it. Right?"
Almost laughing, Leia simply nodded and shooed them away with a quick gesture.
As they crossed the platform, Luke smiled at the way he and Han instinctively adjusted their individual strides to match paces. Perfect symbol of how well they fit together, in every way; of how willing they both were to accommodate and meet the other's needs on an equal basis.
"You still with me, Luke? Or are you in the past somewhere?"
He was intensely aware of Han's eyes on him. With you, Han, always with you.
Han stopped at the top of the boarding ramp, just inside the Falcon's hull and simply looked at him. "I wanna make a deal with you, kid."
"A deal?" He couldn't tell from Han's expression if the Corellian were serious or joking.
"Yeah, a deal. I know what's going on in your head right now. How you like to get inside old memories and tear 'em apart. Hunting for something you might've missed the first time around, somethin' you could've done different, but I'm warnin' you nowthe only memory you're allowed to relive on this trip is the one where we made love for the first time. That way, if you find something we missed back then, we can work on correcting the errors as many times as you want. Sound good to you?"
If Han's intent was to distract him from dwelling too much on might-have-beens, well, it was working. Luke liked the idea very much. He grinned and leaned back against the now-closed hatch to consider the proposition. Han watched him with absolutely no apprehension in those dark eyes, entirely confident in his assessment of Luke's response.
There'd been a time when he would've resented the fact that someone knew him well enough to calculate the perfect diversion, but he'd outgrown that juvenile reaction long ago. Han was a gift direct from the Force as far as Luke could tell. His instincts were always straight on, and he had an amazing capacity to let go of the past, never focusing on slights or imagined wrongs. Or regrets. Always knew exactly how to lift him out of his self-inflicted preoccupations. Not for the first time, Luke felt thankful for his partner's generous heart.
Han slid a hand through Luke's windblown hair. "This is a good deal, Luke. Smart man knows a good deal when he sees it."
That hand tightened in his hair, drawing him forward until their mouths were just barely touching, and then Han dove in for a long, hard kiss.
The simmer of desire that'd been in Luke's veins for a while heated up a notch. "Han, I..."
"Yeah?" A gentle hand gave one last ruffle to his hair, slid across his cheek and took hold of his jaw. "Sorry, you're outta time. Silence means you're a smart man."
He turned into Han's caress and licked at the palm of his hand, teasing, and grinned wickedly at the shiver that instantly claimed Han. "Sounds like a plan," he agreed.
Han lowered his head until their foreheads were pressed together, and looked straight into Luke's eyes. "No worryin' over things we can't change, right?"
"Jedi word of honor." He held up his right hand in imitation of the universal childhood oath of unquestionable integrity, but before he completed the gesture Han shook his head and chuckled.
"Swear it on your saber."
Luke snorted and changed the trajectory of his arm movement to swat Han instead. "Which saber is that?"
Han just grinned at him, hooked his fingers behind Luke's belt buckle and yanked him even closer. "D'you suppose we could start workin' on the things we can change?"
A supple twist of Han's hips proved a firm resolve behind the request. Han's hard cock pressed into Luke's belly. Their mouths met again, and when Han probed with his tongue, Luke opened to him. The simmer in his veins turned into a slow boil, and Luke's universe condensed down to Han's mouth moving against his, to the heat of Han's body pressed the length of his own body. They clung to each other, the familiar tight ache of desire beginning to ricochet between them.
One kiss turned into another, longer and deeper, sharing a single breath, their tongues weaving an intricate pattern of advance and withdrawal.
Dizzy from lack of air, Luke finally had to pull away from Han. "I'm not so sure any of that needs to be improved, Han," he panted. "I'm beginning to smell an ulterior motive in that proposal of yours."
Han smiled smugly. "I knew you were a smart man, Luke."
"Not smart enough, apparently," he muttered, but with a smile. Gods but Han's gorgeous like this.
Just like he'd been that first night, on Lando's yacht.
When they finally retired to the cabin, Han simply stood in the middle of the room, swallowing hard and looking at the bed.
Awkward himself, he recognized the same condition in Han. They looked at each other wordlessly, until Han smiled apologetically.
'This'll sound crazy, kid, but I'm nervous.'
Han shrugged then and reached for him, held him tight.
''Cause I've had plenty of sex in my life, but this is the first time I'm ever gonna make love.'
There was no way they would ever improve on that first time.
And now words were nearly impossible in the tides of overwhelming feelings. Luke took a step forward again, into Han's embrace and drew a single finger down the shirt seam from open collar to belt. Actions spoke louder than words anyway.
Instinct took over, fueled by shared memories and mutual passion.
"Need a bed to do this right," Han muttered between frantic, hungry kisses. "We had a bed first time."
"Uh huh, captain's cabin even." He felt the slide of fabric and cool air at his waist and knew Han had pulled his shirt out of his pants.
"'s good. We're on the right path here." Flesh shivered and crawled at Han's touch on his bare skin.
Somehow they managed to stumble to Han's cabin, stopping every couple of meters to kiss, or touch, or remove an article of clothing.
"I don't remember it taking so long to get to the cabin the first time," Han mumbled after their third pause. He unbuttoned Luke's shirt and slid both hands across his chest.
"Me neither," Luke admitted as he captured one exploring hand, fascinated with the pulse beating hard and fast at the wrist. "Something to fix next time around." He rubbed his fingers across the tempting, tender flesh for the sheer joy of watching Han jump. And felt blood rush into his cock when Han's free hand flicked at stiff nipples.
Han's cabin wasn't as luxurious as the captain's suite aboard Lady Luck, nor was the bunk quite as large, but that didn't matter to either of them.
"Fine, we're here. What comes next?" Han was rumpled, hot-eyed, half-naked, and utterly gorgeous. If you only knew what you do to me, Han.
They tumbled onto the bunk in a clumsy tangle of arms and legs. "Don't you remember?" he gasped out, hoping for a clue because rational thought had long ago fled.
"Uh huh. I touched you... like this," Han slid a hand between them and cupped the firm bulge in his pants.
"Yesss... no, that was later... after we undressed." But Luke couldn't help thrusting up against the hand anyway because it felt so
"Guess I'd better fix that then."
It still took them some little time to strip nakedso many distractionsand finally Luke lay stretched out on the bed, entirely unashamed at offering himself up to his lover this way. He vaguely remembered he'd been a bit less bold the first time but he supposed a little thing like that didn't make much difference.
"You're so goddamned beautiful, Luke."
Yes, that's very right, don't ever change that part.
"You were doing something..."
Han's lips touched his throat and slid downward, following the line of breastbone. He ran his fingers through Han's hair and decided he didn't like the shorter, bristly style anywhere near as much as that silky mop of earlier years because he couldn't get a grip in it. But he definitely liked what Han was doing now, the accidental rasp of soft chest hair against his hard cock as Han's tongue traveled lower and lower.
"C'mere, Han." He needed to see his love's eyes, needed to return at least a little of the joy and pleasure Han was giving him. His legs sprawled apart and he pulled Han between them.
"I'm here, Luke."
"Always... love me." He wasn't sure if he'd meant that as plea, command or question, but it didn't matter any more. They all applied.
"Yes..." In the moment Han pulled away, grabbing the tube of lubricant they kept nearby, Luke yielded to impulse and used his strength to roll them over.
"Hey!" But Han didn't look at all distressed at the sudden reversal. "Something that needs to be changed?" he asked softly, running his thumbs along the span of collarbone, a tender, gentle touch that loosened every last bit of indecision.
Locking eyes with his lover, Luke stroked the gel on Han's cock and slowly lowered himself down, biting his lip at the possession, the triumph.
Han shifted against the bulkhead, raised himself to a semi-sitting position and leaned forward to pull Luke close. "Whatever you want, Luke. Just say the word."
What he wanted was this, rocking his hips to the rhythm beating inside him, the rhythm of forgiveness, of joy and the liberty of surrender.
"Look at me," he demanded. "Touch me," and Han obeyed, matching pace and breath and pulse, in a race they won together.
Han caught back a ragged breath. "Love you, kid," he groaned in the aftermath of climax. "Always."
Something burned in Luke's chest, his throat, his eyes as he collapsed into Han's arms.
At that moment he knew he wouldn't change anything even if he could, not so much as an instant or a misjudgment, because they were part of the path that had led them to here. To now.
Nope, no regrets at all.