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The Prince and the Farmboy

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Padmé knew the truth before the first few tentative knocks outside her chamber doors even reached her ears. She felt it, like shockwaves roaring through her body, like a vice grip in her throat. She didn’t need the Force, or any well meaning condolence bearers to tell her what she already knew - had feared would happen since he had first stepped into his y-wing for his final mission. Anakin - her husband - the light of her life and the father of her child, was dead.

Hands trembling, she slowly made her way to the front door of her chambers, as if by doing so she could prolong the inevitable. Every footstep she took felt like she had been placed in a carbon freeze chamber. She paused as she reached the door, hand hovering over the electronic locking system. If she didn’t open it, if she just stayed here in this spot for the rest of her life, maybe she could keep Anakin alive through sheer ignorance. As long as she never heard anything, he could still have a chance, she could still hope.

But that would be the worst thing, she decided. Hope was sometimes the cruelest feeling in existence.

She opened the door with a trembling hand to find Obi-Wan, or at least someone who looked remarkably like him, on the other side. The Obi-Wan she remembered, that she knew, was polished. Charming. A shining example of the Jedi order. She barely recognized the miserable, broken man that stood before her. His usually tidy ginger hair hung in loose, tousled stands over his face. His crisp white uniform was wrinkled as if he had slept in it for days. But his eyes were the worst - those gorgeous, bright blue eyes that always crinkled when he laughed, that always sparkled even when he was trying his best to be serious, were now hollow - lifeless. He didn’t even try to disguise the redness in them.

“Anakin,” Padmé said quietly, before he could speak. It was not a question. She knew if she said another word her voice would fail her. Obi-Wan swallowed and looked at her for a long time, his expression unreadable. Padmé held her breath as her world momentarily stopped orbiting beneath her. Finally he gave an imperceptible nod and hoarsely whispered,

“…yes.”

The word hit her like a physical blow in her gut. She felt as if the floor had dropped suddenly out from beneath her, and she dug her fingernails into the doorframe for support. Breathing sharply in through her teeth, she stood there frozen for several moments, the only sound in the room coming from her jagged breaths. Without giving Obi-Wan any other invitation, Padmé suddenly spun on her heel and walked stiffly back into the room, her hands tightly clenched into fists at her sides.

She walked numbly as if in a trance, trailing the lavender colored silk of her nightdress behind her until she reached the small crib rocking gently beside the large open window overlooking Coruscant’s skyline. She clutched the side of the railing and peered down at the tiny sleeping figure inside. Luke. Her beautiful, darling boy. His light blond hair was brushed casually in front of his eyes, his expression one of blissful peace. His little fingers curled gently as he slept. She wished he could go on sleeping like this forever. She wanted him to go on dreaming his beautiful, ignorant dreams and never have to wake to realize the horrible truth that had just befallen them.

He looks just like him, she thought, as her vision started to blur with unshed tears. She could hear Obi-Wan slowly coming in behind her, but she didn’t turn to acknowledge him.

Never let them see you cry, she thought bitterly, recalling the advice Bail Organa had given her when she had first taken the role of senator. She felt Obi-Wan put a large warm hand on her shoulder and squeeze it gently. It was one of the only things she could still recognize in him. She’d know that comforting, protective touch anywhere in the galaxy. She felt herself lean into his hand ever so softly with a shaking sigh.

“I’m so sorry for you both,” he breathed gently.

Padmé broke. It was as if someone had thrown a switch in her brain releasing every ounce of pain, and anger, and grief that she had struggled to bury for so long. She turned and buried her face into Obi-Wan’s chest, grasping at the folds of his robe. She felt each new wave of grief pummeling her like waves breaking on rock - sob after chest racking sob. They both stood there like that for what felt like an eternity, Obi-Wan rubbing his hands gently over her back as Padmé stifled her cries into his wrinkled tunic. All the while the infant slept soundly in his crib, blissful unaware of anything in the outside world.

“How old is he?” Obi-Wan whispered to her finally as Padmé’s sobs turned into quiet hiccups.

“Just eighteen weeks,” she whispered. Just saying it out loud made her heart clench and she felt a new lump rise in her throat, threatening to turn into another sob. Luke would never know his father, she realized. He would never sit on Anakin’s knee as he explained how to properly tune an astromech droid. He would never ride in the back of Anakin’s cruiser as the two of them tore through the sky lanes of Coruscant. He would never again see the look in his father’s eyes as he held Luke against him - as if he was the most precious and beautiful thing in the entire galaxy. Padmé’s jaw ached from clenching.

“Am I correct in assuming that he shares his father’s aptitude for the Force?” Obi-Wan asked gently.

Padmé nodded. She recalled with a dull ache, the image of Anakin’s beaming face, as their son’s favorite toy spun lazily through the air around them of its own accord. How long ago had it been? Two weeks? Three? It felt like part some sort of bizarre parallel universe, or perhaps a strange dream.

“I don’t want to burden you any farther,” Obi-Wan said “but have you thought at all about training for the boy?”

Padmé stiffened in his embrace. Training? Her husband lay dead at the hands of a Sith lord, and now Obi-Wan wanted to take her son from her as well? To what end? To be a Jedi Knight? To be a pawn in these stupid, insufferable Clone Wars? So she could drape herself in black satin and lay roses on the graves of the two people she could never admit to having loved?

“I don’t want that life for him,” she growled, tightening her hands around Obi-Wan’s tunic, her face still buried in his chest.

“Padmé-“

“I don’t want that life for him!” she snarled, pushing herself away from him forcefully. Beside them Luke stirred fitfully for a moment in his crib. Padmé felt the anger drain out of her as she knelt down to gently rock him back to sleep again. Obi-Wan knelt down softly next to her.

“I loved him too, Padmé,” he whispered faintly. “You know I did.” Padmé felt the tears beginning to prick her eyes again. “I only want to do what best for you and your child. You can’t hide him forever.”

It was true. The secret marriage that she and Anakin had struggled to maintain over the past few years took a heavy toll on both of them, both mentally and physically. Adding a baby into the mix had been both the most wonderful thing to ever happen to them, and the most dangerous. Anakin had begun taking far too many risks to be a part of his son’s life. Obi-Wan, ever their ally and confidant, had had to make countless excuses to the Jedi council on Anakin’s behalf.

Padmé’s career had not fared much easier. True, unlike Anakin, she was under no rule forbidding her from raising a child, but the stigma and the accusations that would be cast at the both of them should word get out made it necessary for them to keep their son a secret. Already there were whispers among the more gossipy members of the senate. Nasty rumors and accusatory glares seemed to linger around every corner whenever Padmé held conference.

“I need to leave Coruscant,” she said finally without meeting his gaze.

“Padmé,” Obi-Wan breathed, his eyes widening.

“You know I have to, Obi-Wan,” she replied firmly. “You’re right. I won’t be able to hide Luke forever, but taking him away for Jedi training is not the answer. I want him to know love, Obi. I want him to know what it is to have a family that openly cares for him. I want him to grow up knowing his father loved him more than words can possibly say. If you take my son away from me, I’ll lose the one piece of Anakin I still have left,” she finished with a horse whisper. “He has his eyes, you know,” she trailed off so faintly Obi-Wan barely caught it.

“What about the Senate?” Obi-Wan sighed, all the fight drained out of him. “With Chancellor Palpatine dead, the galaxy will be in chaos. The Senate is going to need every available representative to help ease things back to the way they were.”

“I won’t leave immediately,” Padmé said stroking her son’s hair away from his face. “The work I have here is too important to abandon. Thousands of people are counting on me to help the war relief effort.” She sighed and gazed out the window longingly. “But after that’s over, after things have calmed down, I want to take Luke away from all of this. I want both of us to be happy.”

“Where will you go?” Obi-Wan asked, his voiced tinged with a sense of resignation.

“Naboo,” Padmé replied, turning to face the man beside her. “I may no longer be its queen, but I still want to do right by my people. Luke can grow up safe there, away from any connections to the Jedi.” She smiled softly as she turned again towards the window and the glittering night sky. “And I miss my home.”

Obi-Wan hesitated only a moment before placing a warm hand over hers, he let his thumb trace soft circles into her pale skin. “Whatever you need, Padmé. I promise I will do everything I can to see you and your child arrive safely home. I’ll destroy any records the Jedi may find on him at the temple. Nobody is going to take that boy away from you.”

Padmé bit her lip as she wrapped her arms around him in a warm embrace. “How can I ever thank you?” She said in a broken whisper.

He smiled faintly as he rubbed soothing circles over her back. “I’m the boy’s godfather,” he replied softly. “It’s part of the job description.”

Chapter Text

“Luke stop bouncing around, I need to put your jacket on!” Padmé chided as the rambunctious eight year old boy bobbed up and down eagerly on his toes.

“I’m just so excited!” he chirped, trying to quell his shaking limbs and finding it harder than he had anticipated. “I’m getting a dad and two siblings all on the same day!’

“Yes, but if you don’t sit still and let me fasten your buttons, you’re going to make a very poor first impression,” his mother replied kneeling down and adjusting the clasps of Luke’s crisp, white jacket.

She wished she could share in her son’s enthusiasm, but as it was, her stomach was too twisted up in knots for her to relax. Her marriage to her old friend Rush Clovis had not been made rashly in some spur of the moment lonely slump. It had taken her years of adjustment after Sidious’ death had announced the end of the Clone Wars for her to even think about remarrying. Ultimately, her deciding factor had been Luke. Poor, sweet little Luke, who never complained about his loneliness, had never begrudged the loss of his father - he deserved to have someone there for him when Padmé couldn’t be.

That person had turned out to be her old friend, Rush Clovis. After settling back in Naboo, in a beautiful, small palace overlooking her favorite field of sunflowers, Rush had often come to see them. The end of the war had changed him for the better. His retirement from the senate, and transition back to the lower stress environment of the Banking Clan had done wonders for his temperament. He no longer seemed the jealous, bitter man he once was - Padmé would have never agreed to see him otherwise. Most importantly, he was good to her son, often playing Luke’s favorite games with him, or taking Luke for rides in his pod ship.

Rush was safe. Rush was convenient. Rush could possibly distract Padmé from her grief over the loss of Anakin, perhaps even one day make her happy. Not everyone was as agreeable to the match, though. She recalled with a painful grimace the night she had broken the news to Obi-Wan - how they had both ended up in a screaming match, which ultimately resulted in Padmé shattering a very expensive Corellian vase by smashing it at the wall near his head.

He had accused her of settling for less in her vulnerable state, and Padmé had snarled that maybe if he was so concerned about her choice of a partner, he had better damn well man up and propose to her himself. He hadn’t come back to see her after that, and Padmé bitterly regretted parting on such bad terms.

“Do you think my new brother and sister will like me?” Luke asked nervously, shuffling his feet.

“Sweetheart, they are going to love you,” Padmé smiled, gently cupping his cheek. She smoothed out the creases of the now buttoned jacket. “You look so handsome.”

“Mooooooom!” Luke groaned as he rolled his eyes dramatically, reminding Padmé so much of the boy’s father. For someone who had not grown up knowing Anakin, Luke was somehow able to mimic nearly all of the man’s facial expressions. The thought made Padmé smile.

“Well, you do,” she said picking herself off the floor and dusting off her black satin robes. “I’m your mother; if I’m not embarrassing you I’m not doing my job. Now run along downstairs, they should be here any minute. And DON’T get your new clothes dirty, young man! I mean it!” she shouted at his back as Luke tore off down the stairs like a galloping tonton.

Luke took the ornate, marble spiral stairs two at a time, nearly colliding head on with a very flustered C-3PO.

“I say! Master Luke, do be more careful! Some of us are trying to- Master Luke!”

But Luke was too busy in his rush to get out the door to listen to another lecture from the family’s protocol droid. He threw open the large palace doors, enjoying the warm summer sun on his skin as he stepped outside and into the large flower garden surrounding the front of the estate. He took in a deep breath through his nose, inhaling the sweet scent of sunflowers.

“Why are you all dressed up?” a familiar voice cried, catching his attention. His best friend in the entire galaxy, Leia Organa, stood eying him suspiciously with her hands placed on her hips. Luke and Leia had known each other since they were babies, Luke’s mother having been a good friend of Leia’s father, Bail Organa.

Despite being the representative of Alderaan, Bail lived several months out of the year on an estate in Naboo along with his wife and daughter. Every summer Luke would count down the days until he and Leia were reunited. If he weren’t already getting one, he would have wished that she could be his sister.

“I’m meeting my new stepdad and siblings today” Luke responded with a great feeling a pride. “I have to make a good impression.”

Leia twisted one of her looping, ornate braids around a finger, tugging on it slightly. “Well, do you want to play a quick game of tag or something while you wait?”

Luke hesitated. On any other day he would have jumped at the chance, but instead he bit his lip and shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his bright white pants.

“I can’t Leia, I’m sorry. I can’t get these clothes dirty, my mom would kill me.”

“Yeah, you’re right. You probably couldn’t catch me anyway,” Leia said with an impish smirk.

Luke grinned. If there was one thing he couldn’t resist it was a challenge. His mother would just have to understand. “You’re on!” he laughed, as he took off down the stone walkway after her.

Chapter Text

“Why, hello there, my dear Mrs. Clovis!” Rush beamed with open arms as he stepped off of his ship’s landing dock and onto the sun bleached stone walkway of the estate, his two children following closely behind him.

Padmé gave him a faint, strained smile as she moved forward to welcome them.

“Rush, we talked about this remember?” she whispered through clenched teeth. “My son and I are keeping the name Amidala. That was part of the arrangement.”

Rush bristled slightly for a moment, as if he had just been insulted, but quickly slipped back into his charming demeanor. He beamed widely at her. “Of course, my dear - momentary slip of the tongue. Still, you won’t begrudge me one usage on our first day as newlyweds, surely?”

Padmé smiled more easily this time, allowing herself to relax a bit. “Luke should be here at any moment. I sent him ahead to wait for you. He was so excited, he could barely-“

“You can’t catch me!”

A delighted squeal rang through the garden, causing everyone present to turn and face the commotion. Two giggling, rambunctious blurs raced into view, covered from head to foot in a thick, grimy layer of mud.

“Yah-huh!” Luke cried, chasing after his friend Leia. His bright white jacket and pants were now a dingy shade of brown. The two children headed straight for the group, seemingly unaware of the small congregation.

“Luke!” his mother hissed, catching him by the arm as he ran by, causing the young boy to freeze with a panicked, guilty look on his face. Padmé’s expression indicated that he was in for a long, painful discussion later.

“Sorry…” Luke mumbled, shuffling his feet. His friend Leia, taking note of the situation, mumbled a quick goodbye to her friend and beat a hasty retreat home before Padmé had a chance to wrangle her as well.

“Rush… you remember my son, Luke,” Padmé grinned sheepishly, as she ran a hand through her thick, chestnut curls. “He’s usually not covered in dirt,” she added as an afterthought.

“Hey, little man! How’re you doing?” Rush asked, bending down to eye level with the muddied boy. “You sure have grown since the last time I saw you!” he said ruffling Luke’s hair playfully.

“Like a weed,” Padmé added with a small chuckle. “He goes through new clothes like you wouldn’t believe. He’s getting to look just like-“ Padmé stopped herself, biting her lip slightly as she avoided eye contact with Rush.

“Like his father.” Rush finished for her softly with a grim smile on his face. “That he does.” He straightened himself out, dusting the debris from his pants. “Luke, I want you to meet my children. This is my daughter, Aurra, and my son, Savage,” he said, gesturing to the two small figures behind him.

The two children stepped forward to approach Luke, a boy and a girl, both only a few years older than himself. The boy was a green skinned Zabrak, with faint black lines trailing over his face. His expression was composed and serious as he politely bowed to Luke. Luke noted that Savage’s eyes seemed a bit too wide and innocent in contrast with his outwardly stoic demeanor; it was almost cute in a way.

The girl, though decidedly more human looking than her brother, had the palest skin Luke had ever seen on a living person. It reminded him of those wriggling white grubs he and Leia sometimes dug up from the garden to chase each other around with. Aurra looked down her nose at Luke, her expression one of disgust and superiority. She flipped her bright orange hair dismissively, and turned her head away with a small snort, apparently deeming Luke not worth the trouble. Luke decided he didn’t like her at all.

“How come, you two don’t look like your dad?” Luke asked, cocking his head to the side.

“Luke!” Padmé hissed, her face flushing red from embarrassment.

Rush merely chuckled. “Aurra and Savage are adopted,” he explained to Luke, giving Padmé a reassuring wink. Padmé offered him a grateful smile, as she breathed a small sigh of relief. “We may look different, but we still are all one family,” Rush continued, “just like the five of us are now going to be.” He knelt down to eye level with Luke and placed a large gloved hand on his shoulder. “What do you say, Luke? You think you and your mom can handle having three new additions to the Amidala home?”

Luke beamed and reached out to draw Rush into a bone crushing hug, causing the man to let out a sharp chuckle in surprise. Luke buried his face into the warm leather of Rush’s flight jacket, inhaling the smell of smoke, spices, and summer sunshine. He felt Rush put an arm around his shoulder in an awkward half embrace, even as the mud from Luke’s clothes caked off to cover Rush’s jacket. Luke smiled, feeling happier than he had ever been in his short life.

Chapter Text

Luke stood in front of the large full length mirror in his bedroom, trying without success to sweep back the messy blond bangs that fell over his eyes. He gave a small huff and scowled slightly at the gangly young man of eighteen reflected in the glass. The expensive, shiny, yellow jacket and straight black slacks he wore were some of the best he owned, but they felt a bit stiff compared to his usual, more casual attire. Their elegant effect was marred only slightly by the untamable mop of sandy blond hair that refused to lie flat.

Downstairs, his mother was busy preparing for an important senate dinner to discuss their involvement with Tatooine. Or was it Ryloth? Luke shook his head; he could never keep track of his mother’s work. He didn’t have the head for politics. He cast a quick glance at his reflection as he left the room, making sure the rest of him at least was presentable.

As Luke strolled down the hallway he could hear his step sister gabbing to her friends over her com link about which celebrities they thought were the hottest. Aurra shifted favorites regularly, but her current object of obsession seemed to be the famous Han Solo, the tall, dark, and handsome prince of Corellia. She had even printed out as many pictures and articles about him she could find to plaster on her wall in the shape of his face. It was actually kind of creative Luke had to admit, in a creepy, stalker-ish sort of way.

Luke caught the faint sounds of whispers and giggles coming from the other side of her door. He rolled his eyes as he passed by her room. It figured that she couldn’t even be bothered to take time out of her ‘busy schedule’ to help set up for one of the biggest dinners they had ever hosted.

Luke continued his trek down the hallway, pausing as he neared the top of the main staircase. He reached up to knock on the door of the second master bedroom. Luke had always found it odd that his mother and his step-dad slept in separate rooms.

“Rush?” He called out questioningly. “Are you coming downstairs?”

There was a loud thump and a yelp of surprise, followed by a muffled curse. Rush opened the door slightly, blocking Luke’s view into the rest of the room. Rush’s eyes looked faintly bloodshot, and Luke thought he detected a faint whiff alcohol on his breath.

“Luke!” Rush said in surprise, as if he had expected someone else. “What can I do for you, my boy?”

“Umm,” Luke shifted awkwardly, feeling as though he had just intruded on something private. “Mom’s downstairs setting up for dinner. I thought maybe you’d want to come down and… see to things?” He trailed off, wondering if that were such a good idea in Rush’s state.

His stepfather stared at him blankly.

“The Senate dinner?” Luke prompted hopefully. “The super important one that mom has been planning for weeks, and could really use some help with?”

“Ohhhhhhhh!” Rush cried in realization, dragging a hand down his haggard face. “Sure, kid. I’ll be down as soon as I… As soon as… Just, whenever I can, alright?”

“Yeah. Sure thing, Rush.” Luke smiled weakly as the door closed again with a soft click. He felt his stomach clench uncomfortably.

He tried to remember when exactly his stepfather had started drinking. Probably about the time his mother and Rush had started having heated arguments behind closed doors, he decided. Things had never been perfect between the two of them, but lately it seemed that Padmé couldn’t even stand to be in the same room with the man. Maybe it was for the best then if Rush stayed out of the way of the party tonight, Luke thought.

As Luke descended the grand staircase into the foyer, he caught sight of Savage wrestling with some large, unruly potted plants as he struggled to set them up along the entryway. No doubt one of his mother’s ideas, Luke thought. He gave Savage a friendly wave as he passed, and the Zabrak responded with a small grunt and a curt nod which, Luke had come to learn over the years was his interpretation of a friendly greeting. Even though Savage was only two years older than Luke, he was a least a half a head taller a twice as broad as the gangly blond could ever hope to be. It secretly made Luke feel incredibly self conscious whenever he was around him.

“Your mom’s freaking out in the dining room,” Savage said jutting a thumb out in the direction of the main hallway with a click of his tongue. Even after all these years, Luke realized, Savage still could not bring himself to refer to Padmé as anything other than Luke’s mother. Luke wondered if there were possibly a more dysfunctional family in the entire galaxy, but he doubted it.

“Thanks, Savage. I’ll take care of it,” Luke said taking the large hallway to his right which fed directly into the spacious dining room. All around him, servants bustled about the room, putting up decorations and laying out the many place settings along the enormous wooden table. In the midst of it all, Luke could see his mother working herself into a frenzy as she was followed nervously by a jittery 3PO and RD-D2.

“Canceled?! He can’t have canceled! It throws off the entire seating arrangement!”

Beeb-boop-beeb.

“I don’t care if his wife is in labor! He still should have said something! Never mind. Threepio, please tell me we have those Jogan fruits for Senator Aang’s favorite dessert?”

“I regret, Mistress Padmé, that Jogan fruits appear to be out of season. However, I was able to obtain some thorn pears for a very reasonable price at the market.”

“Need a hand in here?” Luke asked rounding the corner with a small smile. Padmé turned around in surprise.

“Luke! Oh, thank goodness you’re here! I’m about up to my neck in prep work and I still haven’t even worked out the table setting. This dinner-“

“Will be absolutely fine.” Luke finished for her gently, rubbing his hands along both her forearms. “You’re a terrific senator, and a wonderful hostess. You’ve got this thing in the bag, Mom.”

Padmé cupped his face in her hand with a warm smile. “You’re sweet. But this dinner is a lot more than just impressing some stuffed shirts on Coruscant. This meeting will determine whether or not we will proceed with a trade embargo on the Galactic Trade Federation. They’ve cut off ties with Mandalore when its people are in the midst of natural crisis. We have to show them that the Senate will not stand for this kind of abhorrent behavior.”

Oh, yeah, Mandalore. That was the one, Luke thought to himself.

“How could they say no to the smartest and prettiest member of the whole senate?” Luke beamed at her with a charming grin. Padmé raised an eyebrow at him with a wry smirk.

“Nice try, mister, but you’re not about to flatter your way out of setting the table.”

Chapter Text

Rush opened his eyes to the sound of laughter wafting up from the floor below him. He stretched himself in the worn leather armchair he sat in, groaning at the pain in his aching joints. He hadn’t even remembered falling asleep.

How long had he been out? Twenty minutes? Half an hour? Rush groggily checked the holowatch on his left wrist, taking a moment for his sleep crusted eyes to adjust to the glaring blue screen. He had been asleep for almost two and a half hours.

Rush groaned and pressed the palms of his hands against his eye sockets, causing white spots of light to dance before his eyes. As his vision began to clear, he took note of his surroundings, surprised to see that the sky outside his large, floor to ceiling windows now sparkled with stars. The dinner party had been going on since sundown. Padmé was going to murder him.

With no small amount of effort he lifted himself off the chair, causing a symphony of pops and creaks to emanate from his aching bones. He stumbled over to his dresser bureau, nearly tripping over an empty glass bottle by his bare feet. He kicked it away with a curse, letting it roll under the bed and out of sight. He steadied himself against the dark wood of the bureau with both hands as he made note of his appearance in the small inset mirror.

His eyes were red and bloodshot, and still showed evidence of sleep at the corners. His salt and pepper hair was a complete wreck, flattened to one side from his awkward sleeping position. His clothes hadn’t been changed since the night before and they were wrinkled to an embarrassing degree. His jaw was dark and covered in a light layer of prickly stubble. A small trail of drool spilled down his lip on one side.

He looked like hell.

Rush lumbered over into the enormous marble master bath and turned on both sink faucets at full blast, allowing the steam to billow around the room, clearing his senses. He splashed handful upon handful of wonderfully hot water on his face until he began to feel like one of the living again. Next, he picked up a small shaving razor and carefully began to remove the stubble encompassing his jaw line, going slowly as to avoid nicking himself by accident. When he had finished Rush inspected himself carefully in the bathroom mirror. He looked more or less presentable now, well, except for the eyes. There was nothing Rush could do about those.

He left the room and began the descent down the large grand staircase, clutching the railing slightly to steady himself. He could hear the party going on in full swing as he rounded the corner to the dining room hallway. He paused momentarily behind a large marble column surveying the scene in front of him. There was a large gathering of senators of every species and nation surrounding the enormous wooden table, all of them laughing and carrying on agreeably as they tucked into the various savory dishes littering the table. Apparently, whatever consensus they had come to about the trade embargo, it was going well.

And there, in the middle of it all, was Padmé, looking happier than Rush had seen her in the last ten years. Her eyes sparkled with mirth as she laughed heartily at a joke one of the senators had just told. She seemed so carefree, so full of life. Rush hardly recognized her as the woman he been married to all these years.

Padmé put a hand on her son’s shoulder beside her, giving it a firm squeeze as she said something to Luke that Rush couldn’t hear from his hiding place. Luke threw back his head and laughed, his eyes crinkling at the corners as he did so - his teeth flashing white in a lopsided grin.

Rush froze, catching his breath. At this angle… In this light… The boy looked just like…

He caught sight of Luke’s blush as his mother had apparently begun to gush about him to Senator Organa on her left. Rush’s hands balled into trembling fists at his sides; he felt his stomach bile begin to rise in his throat.

Of course. Of course she would fawn all over her precious boy in front of all the rich and influential guests at her little party. It wasn’t as if she had two other children after all, oh no. As far as Padmé was concerned, Luke was all the mattered; Rush’s children would always come last. No doubt she had them tucked away somewhere in the kitchen or in their rooms where they couldn’t interfere with her blasted senate dinner.

And what of Rush himself? Had she even bothered to come look for him when he didn’t show? Did she even notice he was missing in the first place? Or more likely did that darling boy of hers skip merrily downstairs, gleefully recalling his encounter with his drunken wretch of a stepfather and she had decided not to bother?

Rush felt something clench in his gut, roiling and twisting around like a serpent. His entire body was shaking with rage. Somewhere deep inside of him, something dark, and jealous, and malignant was beginning to chip away at his heart.

Rush risked one last look the joyful pair before he slowly turned and made his way step by staggering step back to his upstairs bedroom.

Chapter Text

“Do you have to go?” Luke asked his mother dejectedly, already knowing the answer.

“Sweetheart, it’ll only be for a couple of weeks,” Padmé smiled, gently stroking his cheek.

Behind her the engines of Bail Organa’s impressive star cruiser hummed to life on the enormous stone walkway to the estate. The chilly, early autumn air and the massive turbine propellers whipped their hair around their faces erratically.

“I’ve already swayed the impartial senators in our favor of a trade embargo; we just have to bring it to Coruscant for a vote,” she added. Luke looked down at his feet.

“I know. It’s just… Things are… a bit crazy here when you’re not around,” he trailed off with a slight grimace.

Padmé chuckled. “Luke, I know they’re a bit of a handful, but try to make an effort to get along with your stepfamily while I’m gone.” She sighed and looked away forlornly, the satin train of her gown billowing gracefully out behind her in the breeze.

“I realize that I haven’t exactly been doing my part to keep everyone together,” she sighed.

Luke looked at her in confusion. “Mom, what are you talking about? Without you, this whole place would fall apart,” he offered with a weak smile.

Padmé laughed sardonically. “Well, I’m glad one of us thinks so.” She turned away from him, and was quiet for a long time. Luke shuffled his feet awkwardly, waiting for her to speak.

“I’ve ruined our family, haven’t I?” she said finally in a thin, broken whisper. Tears began to swim in the corners of her eyes. She blinked them away stubbornly.

“What? No, Mom! You haven’t! Please don’t say that,” Luke cried, clasping her forearms and giving them a reassuring squeeze. He scanned his eyes over her face in concern and uncertainty, baffled by the sudden change in his mother’s demeanor.

“We’re… we’re fine, Mom, really… All of us… Please, don’t think that way…”

Padmé bit her lip as she shook her head softly, her gaze dropping to the leave-strewn ground.

“I know your stepfather and I have had our problems in the past, but I also think I haven’t tried hard enough to make this work. I know these last few years have been a strain on you and your siblings and… I’m sorry.” Padmé’s voice wavered slightly as a few stray tears escaped her eyes and began to trickle down her cheek.

“Mom…” Luke breathed in a low whisper, unsure of how to respond.

“I promise I’ll make this right,” she said, more firmly this time, as she placed a hand up to cup her son’s face. “No more fights. No more isolation. Things are going to be a lot better around here when I get home – for all of us.” She brushed her thumb softly across his cheek. “I want us all to be a family again, Luke.”

Luke reached down and wrapped his mother in a tight embrace, letting his head rest on top of hers. Padmé drew her arms around his back, returning the sentiment.

“You’re a good son, Luke,” she sniffed, her voice muffled against the fabric of his shirt. “I love you… so, so much…”

Luke squeezed his eyes shut as he murmured softly into her hair. “I love you too, Mom.”

Behind them, Bail’s ship hummed even louder as he prepared for takeoff, stirring up the fallen golden and orange leaves around them into a colorful whirlwind. They both broke apart after a long moment. Padmé wiped the tears away from her cheeks with the back of her hand. She smiled up at Luke, her sweet, handsome, wonderful boy of whom she was so proud.

“Just promise me the house will still be standing when I get back?”

“Not going to make any promises,” Luke chuckled. “But I’ll try.”

Chapter Text

Luke sat at the table in his family’s informal eating area, in a mixture of boredom and despondency. He dangled precariously backwards in his chair, bracing himself with one foot on the leg of the table. In his hands, he absentmindedly tossed a glowing, multicolored ball up at the ceiling, watching it change colors with every impact and catching it again with ease. Behind him, C-3PO winced with every hard thunk the toy made as it hit, but Luke was in no mood to care just now.

“Master Luke, perhaps it would help to take your mind off of things if you ate something? I’d be more than happy to whip something up for you in the kitchen if you like?”

“I’m not hungry, Threepio,” Luke said flatly, making a particularly spectacular catch as the ball sailed over his head.

He frowned, peering down at the contraption in his hands. It had been days since he had last heard from his mother. It was so unlike her not to check in with him every day. He hadn’t even been able to pull up news of the embargo meetings on the netfeeds after a huge thunderstorm had knocked out the estate’s power grid. It put Luke in a particularly unpleasant mood.

C-3PO made a show of putting his stiff robotic arms on his hips. “Master Luke,” he chided. “I realize that you are worried about Mistress Padmé’s extended absence, but you must not allow your worry to interfere with your health. You haven’t eaten a thing since yesterday morning! If your mother finds out I haven’t been feeding her child, oh dear, she’ll have me sent down to the smelting yard for sure!”

That got a chuckle out of Luke. The worrisome protocol droid had a habit of always blowing things out of proportion.

“Maybe you’re right,” the boy said, leaning forward to bring his chair back on four legs and seeing C-3PO jolt slightly. “I mean about the eating, obviously, not about the smelting yard, or whatever...” Luke carded his fingers through his messy hair with a sigh. “I’m sorry, Threepio, I know I’ve been a little neglectful of my health these past few days. Please, could you go and see if they’re any leftover soup from last night?” he asked.

“Right away, Master Luke!” The C-3PO chirped enthusiastically. “I’m glad you’re finally-“

They were interrupted by a loud chime, signally the arrival of someone at the front door. Luke and C-3PO both froze momentarily facing the doorway, before Luke sprang up and bolted towards the front door as fast as his legs would carry him. Behind him he could hear the click of the droid’s mechanical feet as he trotted stiffly after him.

“Oh, thank goodness! Mistress Padmé must be home from her long trip to Coruscant! Oh, I was so worried! I just knew she’d have a perfectly good reason for the delay!”

Luke raced to the front hall to answer the door, nearly knocking over an extremely agitated RD-D2 in the process. The astromech droid let out a series of infuriated beeps as Luke shouted out a hasty apology over his shoulder. The boy skidded to a halt on the opalescent tile, yanking open the heavy wooden door with one hand. He was still trying to catch his breath when he was greeted by Senator Organa.

“Hello, Senator!” Luke panted exuberantly, doubled over slightly from the exertion. “How was your trip? Is my mother with you?” he asked, trying to crane his neck over Bail Organa’s broad form to catch a glimpse of her.

Bail said nothing. It was then that Luke took notice of the man’s somber expression. His open placating hands. The haunted look in his eyes. Luke’s smile slowly fell.

“Luke… I’m sorry to be the one to have to tell you this. I’m afraid something terrible has happened…”

Luke barely registered the rest of the man’s speech, as above them, the grey chilly autumn skies darkened ominously with the promise of rain.

Chapter Text

A political assassination.

That’s what they had called it. Padmé’s idealistic proposals in the senate had generated some nasty resentment amongst the Galactic Trade Federation. It hadn’t been more than a couple of weeks before their blood money had crossed the palm of an unscrupulous bounty hunter for hire.

Jango Fett. The story had been broadcasted all over the galaxy’s net feeds - his unprecedented infiltration of the Senate building, and his subsequent escape from the authorities. They had found Padmé’s body in her room that morning. She never even had the chance to scream.

The ceremony had been beautiful; everyone on Naboo had come to show their respects to their senator and former queen as she was laid to rest on her native planet. She had looked beautiful in her casket, her long dark curls splayed around her, decorated with tiny star shaped flowers. Her hands were clasped demurely over her dark blue robe that shimmered like water. If not for the death like pallor of her skin, Luke would have thought she was merely sleeping.

Luke had caught sight of his step family during the eulogy standing near the front of the crowd of mourners. Savage had stood there stone faced, arms folded behind his back, seeming indifferent to the whole affair. Only his eyes gave him away. For all he tried to hide it, those expressive green eyes couldn’t disguise the pain he was struggling to bury deep down inside. He had to occasionally squeeze them shut to keep them from watering.

Aurra stood at her father’s side whispering something inaudibly to him, her demeanor uncharacteristically soft as she rubbed small circles into his back. Rush looked a broken man. He stared at Padmé’s form, lying peacefully in her coffin, his expression one of heartbreaking agony. He seemed almost unaware of his daughter’s presence. The tears flowed down his face freely; his eyes more bloodshot than Luke had ever seen them.

Rush had approached the casket as Padmé was led away to the burial site. He reached out for a moment and ever so briefly brushed his hand against hers as the procession passed, following her with his eyes even as she was carried out of sight. Luke turned away uncomfortably, his own eyes brimming with new tears as he heard the broken, choking sobs emanate from his step father’s throat.

---------------

Luke stood despondently against one of the grand marble pillars of his home during the wake. The atmosphere was bittersweet but less somber than the funeral procession had been. Everyone gathered comforted the family, and swapped tales of Padmé’s impressive achievements. Senator Farr, with a rueful smile, had even recounted the story of a particularly embarrassing misunderstanding on Rodia that had everyone nearly in tears of laughter.

Luke had done his best to thank everyone who had offered their condolences, but the oppressive number of people surrounding him was beginning to feel suffocating. He just wanted everyone to leave so he could finally go upstairs and try to process all of his churning emotions in private.

He sighed and silently slipped out of the room, using the arrival of the dessert cart as a distraction. Luke walked out into the front garden and inhaled to sweet scent of his mother’s beloved sunflowers. He closed his eyes as he felt the cool breeze ruffle through his hair.

“Luke?” a familiar voice called out to him.

Luke turned to see the form of his oldest friend, Leia, her thick black velvet gown pooled over the stone walkway gracefully. Her expression was full of sympathy and concern as she looked over him thoughtfully. She held her palms out openly by her sides, futilely searching for the right words that would bring her friend some small measure of comfort.

“I’m so sorry about your mom.” She said softly.

“Thanks…” Luke said turning away from her.

He really didn’t feel like talking anymore. He just felt tired. All the tears had been rung from his body, like water from a wash cloth, leaving him empty and exhausted. He just wanted to go up to his room and go to sleep until he didn’t feel the pain anymore.

He felt Leia put a hand on his shoulder and he turned back to face her. Her eyes were warm, understanding, searching. Luke felt as though she could read every thought running through his grief addled brain. She reached her arms around his chest, pulling him closer to her. He let himself sink into the comforting mold of her embrace, allowing her to support the weight of his sagging frame. They both stood there like that for what felt like ages, neither of them saying a word, until the first few evening stars began to peak over the distant mountains in the dusky twilight.

Chapter Text

The moonlight filtered eerily through the now empty hallways and sitting rooms of the Amidala estate, casting long, impenetrable shadows that snaked out across the floor. The guests had long since departed, leaving only the remnants of their buffet dishes and empty glasses that littered the many surfaces and end tables of the palatial Amidala home.

Luke glided from room to room in a trance-like state, picking of plates and trash as he went almost as mechanically as the two droids that were busy clearing the dining room. He liked the distraction working with his hands provided him. It helped him focus completely on the task at hand and not… well…

As Luke entered into one of the more isolated rooms in the north wing of the palace, hoping that the guests had left this room at least reasonably tidy, he caught sight of a shadowy figure huddled in a chair facing the wall. Luke’s breath caught in his throat in momentary panic, briefly recalling the stories of monsters and bogeymen from his youth. He let his eyes adjust to the darkness of the room as he looked at the figure. The shadow had its face buried in its hands, obscuring any recognizable features, but the outline of the form was unmistakable.

“Rush?” Luke breathed in a faint whisper.

The man didn’t respond. Luke edged his way quietly over to him, kneeling down so that he was at eye level with his stepfather’s sagging frame.

“Rush?” Luke asked again, the concern evident in his voice.

Rush finally let his hands fall away from his face ever so slowly. His dark eyes met Luke’s with a kind of quiet intensity that had the boy momentarily taken aback. Rush stared at him for a long time without saying a word as Luke struggled to place the emotions he read in the man’s expression.

There was pain there, certainly. An intense, body crippling agony that radiated from every crease in his step father’s grief stricken face. But there was some else there behind it. Something dark, and malignant, and accusatory that lurked just beneath the surface. Something Luke had never seen there before. Luke’s breath caught in his throat.

“Go away, Luke,” Rush finally said as he dropped his gaze to the floor again. His voice was raw. Jagged. Emotionless.

“But I-“ Luke started.

“Just go.” Rush growled, and for the first time in his life, Luke felt like he was looking at a completely different man than the Rush Clovis he knew. This bitter, angry man that looked at him with such cold aversion seemed a complete stranger to him.

Luke felt a tightness begin to take hold around his throat. He stood silently, and walked out of the room without saying another word.

Grief made people do terrible things, he reminded himself. Rush had lashed out at him out of his own misery. In the morning he would apologize, and Luke would forgive him, and everything would go back to the way it was. In the morning things would be better, Luke told himself.

At least he hoped so.

Chapter Text

Luke groaned painful as Naboo’s harsh morning rays penetrated the large, circular attic window and set a direct collision course straight for his sensitive eyeballs. Every morning he would make a mental note to push his cot to the opposite wall where the light was a little less blinding, and every evening, like clockwork, he would completely forget about it until the vicious cycle began again the next day.

Just one more addition to the list of grievances that had made his life over the past year a living hell.

The estate had completely fallen in disrepair since the loss of Padmé. Rush had squandered practically every credit on liquor and games of chance. The only time he would ever actually leave the house to do something practical was when he would leave for Coruscant to check in with the other members of the Banking Clan, but otherwise he worked strictly out of his tiny, cluttered home office, located on the ground floor of the estate.

When Rush wasn’t busy gambling away Padmé’s fortune, he would skulk around the palace in a cloud of toxic alcohol fumes to criticize Luke for nearly every single thing he did, or busy himself in the mountain of paperwork on his desk that never seemed to get any smaller. In the last few months, Rush’s drinking had evolved from a problem to a downright catastrophe, warping him into an aggressive and often downright violent shadow of his former self. On his good days, he would lock himself in his room for hours at a time, content to simply let the alcohol drown his sorrows. On his bad days, well, Luke was always careful to give the man a wide berth whenever he saw him coming.

Luke’s step siblings sadly weren’t much better. With Padmé gone, Aurra saw no reason to keep up her thin veneer of cold civility toward Luke and she wasted no time in making up for lost insults. Every encounter with her involved either a snide comment or a joke at his expense, usually accompanied by an ear grating giggle. The worst thing was when Aurra decided she was in a humorous mood. Luke had awoken many a morning to find bantha milk poured in his shoes.

Savage, while not cruel or malicious towards him, was still as difficult to talk to as ever. Sometimes Luke would get the feeling that Savage wanted to say something to him about Padmé, or try and apologize for his father and sister’s behavior, but he would always cough and walk away, leaving Luke to his duties. Savage, at the very least, did manage to pitch in with a few menial tasks around the house, unlike his spoiled sister or complete lush of a father. Unfortunately though, he wasn’t the sort of person to pick up on something that needed doing unless he was specifically asked.

That left the majority of the upkeep to Luke. With the money gone, they no longer had the means to keep on any servants, the only exceptions being the household droids, C-3PO and RD-D2. They had both suffered from the same wear and tear as the rest of the estate. RD-D2 had being having sporadic memory crashes, causing him to shut down at the most inopportune of times.

C-3PO fared no better, having lost one of his arms in a recent accident cleaning the fan belt aboard Rush’s ship. Even though he insisted that he was still perfectly capable of completing his tasks just as efficiently with one hand, Luke wouldn’t hear of it. Luke practically had to work his fingers to the bone from morning until sundown just to keep up with everything that needed doing, sometimes working long into the night if the situation called for it. He was beginning to feel like a servant in his own home. He felt a few stray droplets of water slip down from the cracks in the rafters to land with a small splash on the bridge of his nose. He glared up at the ceiling, slipping on his usual worn out old tunic he wore while doing his chores.

The attic was only supposed to be a temporary situation. His old room had sprung a leak in the ceiling one night after a heavy rainstorm and Rush had had him relocate to the attic while he looked for someone to repair the roof. That was months ago, and Luke had not seen hide nor hair of any construction workers since then. Well, at least he was a little more out of the way up here, even if he still had to deal with leaks. As he made his way downstairs to begin his usual routine, he thought he heard muffled commotion coming from outside.

Strange, he thought. Usually everyone else in the household was still in bed at this hour. Letting his curiosity get the better of him he made a bee line from the kitchen to the front of the house.

It took Luke a moment to fully comprehend the scene that was playing out before him. A massive sand crawler had parked itself right in front of the large stone entryway to the estate, blocking out any view of the surrounding countryside. Surrounding the vehicle were several short hooded creatures that milled about rapidly talking back and forth to one another in their strange, garbled language.

Jawas. Luke recognized them from some of his books on Tatooine.

One of the Jawas that appeared to be the leader was currently trying to carry a very distressed sounding R2-D2 toward the sand crawler, as the later emitted a series of panicked beeps and whistles. Hovering nearby was a frantic C-3PO who flailed his remaining arm stiffly as he pleaded with the surrounding Jawas, a mess of tangled wires spilling from his useless joint socket.

“No, please! There’s been some sort of mistake! Please, you can’t take him!”

At the edge of the surrounding chaos stood his stepfather, casually shifting his weight from one foot to the other. Rush lazily tossed a heavy looking purse up and down in his right hand. His green eyes scanned over the unfolding scene with a mixture of distaste and quiet amusement. Luke felt his blood begin to boil.

“What’s going on?!” Luke shouted, shoving his way into the fray, causing several Jawas to squawk strange obscenities at him. He tried to pry away the fingers of the Jawa currently trying to load R2-D2 onto the sand crawler.

“Let go of him! He doesn’t belong to you!” Luke shouted.

“Actually, he does,” came the calm, measured voice of his stepfather as he sauntered towards him, his expression one of infuriating smugness. “I just sold this R2 unit to these… gentlemen here for fifty credits. If you ask me, I’m think I’m getting the better end of the deal.”

Luke gritted his teeth, tightening his hands into trembling fists. “Artoo is not an ‘it,” Luke spat. “He’s my friend, and he’s been with my family for years. I won’t let you sell him!”

Rush snorted and rolled his eyes contemptuously. “Kid, that thing is seriously like a billion years old now in tech years, and that one armed hunk of junk isn’t much better.” Luke heard C-3PO make a noise akin to a nervous swallow from somewhere behind him. “The only reason he isn’t on that sand crawler too,” Rush continued, “Is because his abilities as an interpreter can still come in handy occasionally. Besides, R2 units are a dime a dozen; they’re practically obsolete. You can just work harder to make up for the loss until I find a more suitable replacement droid.”

Luke was shaking with fury. He felt hot angry tears beginning to form in the corners of his eyes. “Is that what she would have wanted?” He hissed. “My mother? You think for a second that she would stand for this if she were still here?! Maybe if you didn’t spend all her damn money on booze, you wouldn’t need to-“

Luke felt the force of the blow knock him to the ground before he even registered what had happened. He clutched at his stinging cheek as tried to push himself up from the dirt. His vision swam, barely making out Rush’s trembling form as he leaned over him, fists clenched.

“Don’t you dare,” Rush hissed through clenched teeth, his every syllable radiating with contempt. “Don’t you ever use her against me like that again. You have no idea how- You don’t know-“ Rush spat. He was shaking so violently from rage that he wasn’t able to formulate complete sentences.

The Jawas had begun to congregate around them in interest, momentarily forgetting the droid in question. Rush locked eyes with Luke for a long time still seething with anger, before finally spitting in the boy’s face with disgust and turning on his heel.

“Clean yourself up! I expect breakfast to be on the table in fifteen!” he shouted over his shoulder as he slammed the front door shut behind him.

C-3PO rushed to Luke’s side as fast as his stiff golden legs would carry him. He offered Luke a hand as Luke struggled to regain his balance, his equilibrium thoroughly thrown out of whack. They watched as the Jawas loaded a shrieking R2-D2 onto the sand crawler. The droid beeped piteous at them as the ominous metal doors slid shut with a sickening clang. Luke clutched at the golden protocol droid despondently as he let the hot, salty tears pour over his stinging cheek. They both watched the massive, angular vehicle drive away into the horizon until it finally disappeared over the surrounding hills.

Chapter Text

Jonash Solo, head chairman of the Intergalactic Banking Clan, stormed down the lofty, opulent corridors of the Coruscant headquarters building’s executive floor. Secretaries, accounting droids, and visitors alike all scurried to get out of his way, a few dropping their large stacks of official looking documents in their haste, causing a flurry of white pages to flutter around the corridor as he passed. One droid in particular was unfortunate enough to not notice the impending storm cloud of furry until it was too late. Chairman Solo rounded his full attention on her quivering form.

“Which room is he in?” he growled softly in leaden tones, not needing to specify the person in question. There was only one person in the entire galaxy capable of getting his blood pressure as high as it was just then.

The droid pointed a quivering appendage towards a large set of double doors at the end of the hall. The chairman passed her by without further comment as he continued his martial procession down the long, expansive hallway, causing her to expel air through her vents in the mechanical equivalent of a relieved sigh.

Jonash threw open the doors to the office forcefully and was instantly met with inky blackness that was at complete odds with the glaring sunshine illuminating the rest of the building. He crossed the large palatial office in a few long strides and quickly flung back the large floor to ceiling velvet curtains, causing bright, warm light to pour into the room. Behind him, someone groaned at the intrusion of natural daylight as they shifted themselves on the large leather couch that lined the opposite wall. Chairman Solo strode over purposeful toward the tall, lanky figure of a young man who now had one arm thrown over his eyes to combat the sudden glare.

He was wearing only a plain, half buttoned, white, long sleeved shirt that looked like it had been slept in all night; his pants were mysteriously absent. Messy strands of chestnut hair stuck up everywhere on his head at odd angles, and a several sheets of paperwork covered his lazily splayed figure like a blanket. He peaked slowly through his fingers in annoyance at the man who stood fuming over him.

“Get. Up.” Jonash hissed at his son.

The younger of the two men stretched himself on the couch, running a hand over his tired face, causing a flurry of papers to slide off of him and onto the floor. “Do you have any idea what time it is?” the boy yawned.

“Apparently better than you do, since you’ve proceeded to sleep half the morning away, Han!” his father snapped back.

“I know. That’s why I was asking.”

His father scowled down at the small sea of papers littering the floor around them. “I see you’ve made excellent progress on the Ryloth accounts.”

“I was getting to them,” Han insisted indignantly. “I just haven’t found the right motivation yet.”

“Do you realize the kind of example you’re setting?” Jonash chastised, “Not only as the heir to the Intergalactic Banking Clan but to the Corellian royal family?!”

“You mean that figurehead position?” Han pointed toward his father with a sly grin. “Parliament takes care of all the real work back home anyway. Face it Dad, I’m either a good-for-nothing lay about who’s terrible at his real job, or I’m a fantastic prince, which requires no real effort on my part. You can’t have it both ways, I’m afraid.”

His fathered leaned in, boring his eyes into Han’s. “Is everything a joke to you? Do you think one day you’ll wake up and realize that life has just magically handed you all the answers?” he hissed.

Han said nothing, scratching at a bit of stubble on his jaw.

Jonash dragged a hand down his exasperated face as he attempted to count backwards slowly from ten.

“Alright. I have another job for you, which hopefully you’ll manage to focus on for more than five seconds,” he said as he handed Han a large datapad screen. Han took it without further comment.

“I need you to make a trip to Naboo,” his father went on. “A good friend and associate of mine wants to transfer some funds into an off planet account. The details have already been taken care of; all he needs to do is sign. Do you think you can possibly manage that for me?” Jonash asked with a strained, patronizing smile.

Han looked at the datapad, ignoring his father’s tone. Everything seemed fairly straightforward. The client’s name, address, and account number were prominently displayed. The whole thing should only take about fifteen minutes tops, minus the travel time.

“I’ll let you work out the necessary travel arrangements,” his father said, turning on his heel as he walked back towards the enormous double doors. “Oh, and one more thing,” he said as he halted to throw a last look at his son from over his shoulder. “Han, for the love of Malachor, put on some kriffing pants!”

---------------

Han rode the large cylindrical glass elevator down to the ground floor of the colossal Banking Clan headquarters. The curved, transparent doors slid open, allowing him to step out into the gargantuan communal hanger that lay adjacent to the building. Star cruisers, ships, y-wings, and speeder bikes of every make and model imaginable lined the walls of hanger. Some of the more influential members of the board even had their own private garages located just behind the hanger building.

In the center of the industrial title floor was his own pride and joy, The Millennium Falcon, her engines thrumming happily in anticipation. Standing beside her by the landing ramp was his trusted best friend and co-pilot, Chewbacca, who was doing a last minute systems check before departure.

“How’s she look, old friend?” Han asked, giving the large disc shaped hull an affectionate pat.

“Huuuuuaaaaarrrgggggggg.” The Wookie rumbled eagerly.

“Alright! Let’s take her out for a spin, then!” Han walked up the small loading ramp and secured himself in the pilot’s seat on board. The leather of the worn seat was molded to the exact shape of his back from the many years spent in her cockpit. “You plug in the coordinates, and keep an eye on our trajectory.” Han said to his co-pilot, flicking on several of the numerous, glowing switches above his head as he did so.

“Huuuuuuuuuaaaaaaaarrrrrrggghhhhhh?” Chewbacca asked incredulously.

“Of course I know how to get there!” Han replied with slight indignation. “Well, not there- there. I mean, I’ve never been to the address before, but I know how to get to Naboo.” Chewie shot him a doubtful look. “Look, you just worry about keeping us on course, okay?” Han huffed. “I’ll get us there, don’t worry. I have a good feeling about this.”

Chapter Text

Three hours, and a few disastrously placed, low hanging clouds later, saw both Han and Chewbacca watching despondently as the Corellian freighter sank hub first into the viscous muck of a dense swamp on Naboo’s surface.

“Waaaaaaarrrrrrhhhhhggggg!”

“I don’t want to hear it, Chewie!” Han snapped, dragging a hand down his face in frustration.

Best case scenario, he could com for a tow ship to help drag the Millennium Falcon out of the mud, but that could take several hours depending on their proximity to a service station. He and Chewie would probably have to find someplace to crash for the night and deliver the contract in the morning. His father would never let him hear the end of this.

“In my defense, it was a stupid place to put a tree, anyway!”

The sudden sound of a scuffle breaking out nearby made them snap their heads around in the direction of the noise. Han dropped into a fighting stance, his fingers twitching expectantly over the blaster on his belt. Chewbacca readied his crossbow silently with a steely determination. Han made a motion for them to be quiet as they cautiously crept their way over the spongy ground to a large outcropping of rocks, their footsteps squelching slightly as they did so. Han kept a firm grip on his blaster as he carefully peeked out from behind a large rock to survey the well worn foot path ahead of them. He blinked in amazement.

It looked like your average, everyday mugging at first glance. Two unsavory looking characters-smugglers Han thought from the look of them-were locked in a melee with an older, but surprisingly fit, man in a long brown cloak. One of the smugglers, an Ithorian male, dangled from the man’s neck by his arms in an attempt to choke the life out of him. His shorter frame swung violently with every motion of the older man’s body. The other smuggler moved in wary circles around the two, occasionally side stepping a violent kick from the hooded man, as the latter struggled for air. This smuggler was definitely human, with dark brown skin with a mane of curly black hair that Han instantly recognized with a sense of impending doom.

Aw, hell. Lando.

With no small amount of effort, the older man twisted the hand that was not trying to pry off the Ithorian’s grip into his pocket, a flash of silver catching Han’s eye for a moment.

It all happened in less than a second; there was a blinding flash of blue and the Ithorian dropped down to his knees with a scream, his severed right arm leaving a blood stained trail as it rolled away down the path. Seeing this, he quickly scrambled up backwards over the muck and ran stumbling down the path. The old man, or Jedi as Han now guessed, grasped the hilt of the glowing blue blade in one hand as he dropped into a natural fighting stance that belied his age. His bright blue eyes flashed with intensity.

The dark haired smuggler, seeing the state of his companion, drew his blaster and fired at the robed figure in a panic. The blast went wide, grazing the man’s wrist and causing him to drop the weapon in his hand with a cry of pain. The blade of the lightsaber instantly retracted, leaving the metallic hilt to roll toward the feet of the human smuggler. The younger of the two men snatched it up and sprinted away towards a concealed speeder bike behind an enormous fallen tree. He leapt onto the seat, punching the throttle as hard as it would go, leaving the hooded man to cough violently at the cloud of dust it picked up. Han and Chewbacca made their way over to the mysterious old man as the dust cleared.

“Please,” the man said with a touch of panic in his voice, “You must help me! He’s getting away!”

“Good thing, too,” Han said with a grim smile. “I know that guy. Trust me, he’s not someone you’d want hanging around.”

“You don’t understand, I have to get that lightsaber back! It’s absolutely vital!” the man snapped.

Han finally took in the man’s appearance. He had to be in his late fifties or early sixties by now, but he had a certain youthful spirit that lingered behind his astonishingly blue eyes. His neatly combed hair was a muted ginger color, graying slightly at the temples that matched the full beard he had growing along his strong jaw line. His face was classically handsome and had a charmingly exasperated quality to it that was evidenced by the arch of his thick, elegant eyebrows.

All around not a bad looking guy for an old timer, Han decided with a smirk. If this guy were about thirty years younger…

“So… you’re one of those Jedi Knights, then?” Han asked casually as he gave a slight kick to the severed arm lying in dense undergrowth, sending it tumbling into the swamp. “You sure did a number on that guy.”

“Oh, how ever did you guess?” the old man said dryly, rolling his eyes.

“I’m very observant that way,” Han grinned. “It’s also how I know that you have a spare one of those pop up laser swords hanging off your belt.”

The Jedi’s robe’s robe had slipped out of its fastenings, revealing the bright white tunic underneath. Dangling from a large belt was a nearly identical metallic silver handle.

“That one wasn’t mine,” the older man said, his frustration dampening somewhat. “It belonged to… someone I cared about… a long time ago…” He ran a hand over his face, struggling slightly over the words as if he were not used to talking openly about such things. “I’m delivering it to his next of kin.”

Han felt a weight beginning to settle in his stomach. The change in the man’s tone had been almost immediate. The old man pinched the bridge of his nose and let out a tired sigh, as if the whole affair had left him completely drained. Han looked around awkwardly, wondering whether or not he should say something. He was never good at the whole sympatric ear thing. Beside him, his soft hearted co-pilot shot Han an imploring look.

Oh, no! Not the wobbly Wookie eyes routine again!

“Look, I’d love to get your glowing blue sword back from the guy that already wants to kill me,” Han said placing both hands in the air in a gesture of surrender, “But I’ve got my own problems to worry about right now. In case you haven’t noticed, my ship is a little out of commission at the moment.” As if on cue there came a wet, squelching sound from the Millennium Falcon as it sank deeper into the ooze.

“I can get your ship out for you,” the old man said, suddenly snapping out of his reverie and whipping his head around to face them. His bright blue eyes flashed with desperation. “If you get me that lightsaber back, I’ll see to it that your ship is ready for takeoff when you return.”

Han opened his mouth as if to argue, but then stopped. He really didn’t have anything to lose, well apart from his time, and possibly several of his extremities if he ran into his former sabacc buddy. He seriously doubted that the old man could follow up on his offer, but then again, weren’t there all sorts of stories about the Jedi and their magical mumbo jumbo powers and all that? His deciding factor came in the form of a soft growl emanating from Chewbacca, which the latter often did whenever Han needed a gentle nudge in the right direction.

“Alright, fine!” Han groaned, letting out the biggest put-upon sigh he could muster. “Chewie, stay here and guard the old man. Make sure he doesn’t try to run off with our ship.”

The Jedi let out an indignant snort as Chewie roared in confirmation. Checking his pockets to make sure everything was secure Han took off at a steady sprint away from the swamp, following the path that Lando had taken. The humidity soaked into his skin as sweat began to pool down his body with the exertion. If he was going to have any hope of catching up with Lando, he was going to need to find a speeder, and fast.

Chapter Text

Luke powered through his chores that afternoon with a fervor that he had never known before. His blood still boiled at the memory of Rush’s callous smirk as he had let R2-D2 be led away by those money-grubbing droid dealers. The hard labor allowed him to channel all of his feelings of anger and frustration. Which was probably a good thing, Luke realized, because otherwise he probably would have beaten Rush to a pulp before lunch.

He felt the heat rush to his face, placing a hand gingerly on his still burning cheek. After the initial wave of grief as the sand crawler had passed out of view, Luke decided that sitting there feeling sorry for himself was not going to bring his friend back.

Luke needed a plan; that much was obvious. Artoo had been sold to the Jawas for labor and not to be melted down for parts. If Luke had to guess, he would assume that they had taken Artoo back to Tatooine to be sold at the famous droid market in Mos Eisley. That meant that there was still time to rescue him. Luke picked up a rusty bucket of tools as he made his way down the hill to the large two-level garage at the base of the estate. He racked his brain for ideas as he walked, tuning out the rest of the outside world.

He had no money to buy Artoo back. Rush had seen to it that the only money that ever crossed Luke’s palms was for running errands in town; he never had any pocket money of his own. It was one of the main reasons why the idea of just running away from all this simply wasn’t an option. He could try to steal Artoo back, Luke thought. Perhaps he could disguise himself with one of the Jawa’s cloaks and- No, that wouldn’t work. Who would believe a 5’9 Jawa?

Luke groaned and massaged his forehead with his free hand, and then froze. He thought he caught the sound of someone rummaging around in the garage just down the slope. He honestly didn’t think he could face his stepfather again today. At least, he figured it was Rush; Aurra and Savage hardly ever came down that way. Luke cautiously rounded the final bend of the long winding path that connected the palace to the base of the hill.

The garage was really more of a glorified hole that cut into the hill side, creating a lofty but shallow man made cave. It was set up so that ships could safely land and take off from either the ground level or the large platform just above, connected by a zig-zaging flight of stairs. Rush’s ship was kept on the second level, protected from the elements by a large canvas tarp. Luke wondered what his stepfather could be doing down here on a day when he didn’t have to go in to work, as Rush hardly ever left the house for anything else these days.

Luke gaped at the sight in front of him as he reached the base of the garage. A strange man that Luke had never seen before was in the process of trying to hot wire one of Rush’s Joben T-85 speeder bikes that were kept on the ground floor along with the more easily accessible vehicles.

His skin was tanned and glistening with a thin layer of sweat, and his dark, messy hair kept falling into his eyes as he worked. All the while, a thin, steady stream of mumbled profanities escaped from his gritted teeth. He hadn’t registered the sudden appearance of the dusty, blond boy at the entrance to the cave, nor the sound of the heavy, metal bolt wrench as it sailed through the air toward his head until it was too late.

“GAHHHHHH!!!” the stranger cried, staggering and clutching the sides of his head with both hands. In his haste to stand up he accidentally caught his foot in some loose wires that were lying discarded on the floor, causing him to fall backwards in an awkward heap. He suddenly caught sight of Luke, groaning as he continued to massage his sore head. The stranger frowned.

“Did you just throw a wrench at me?”

“You were trying to steal my stepfather’s speeder bike!” Luke shouted; his hand hovered at the ready over the overstuffed tool bucket.

“I wasn’t stealing it!” the other man cried, wincing as the sudden exertion made his head throb. “I was just going to borrow it for a while, I swear! It’s an emergency! I even tried the front door to ask but nobody was home!”

Luke hesitated. The man’s story sounded plausible. If Luke had been outside doing his chores and Rush and his step siblings had holed themselves up in their rooms, as per usual, it made sense that no one had been around to answer the door. Even still, Luke wasn't about to just take whatever the man said at face value, especially when he was still tangled up in the wires of the would-be stolen speeder. Luke cocked his head at the other man on the ground; he couldn’t put his finger on it, but Luke was sure that he had seen him somewhere before.

“Look,” the dark haired man said, lifting himself of the ground and dusting the debris from his black pants, “I don’t usually go around hot wiring other people’s speeder bikes if it makes you feel any better. My name’s Han. …Solo. I’m with the Intergalactic Banking Clan branch in Coruscant.”

Luke jolted with realization. Han Solo. Of course! He should have recognized his face from the millions of posters that Aurra had hanging of him in her room. For the past couple of years, the only son of the Intergalactic Banking Clan chairman had been his stepsister’s sole obsession, forsaking her usual habit of regularly switching favorites. Not only was Han worth millions as a businessman, but apparently he was also Corellian royalty who spent half the year working in Coruscant, according to the gossip rags Aurra was so fond of.

Luke squinted at the dusty, sweaty, disheveled man before him in confusion. Somehow when he had pictured the billionaire prince - not that he ever did mind you - he never imagined that he’d be so, well… awkward.

“Please, I really need your help,” Han said with a twinge of exasperation. Luke could tell the man was not used to having to explain himself to people, much less having to beg. “I need this speeder to track down the guy who wants to kill me to get the glowy, blue laser sword back to the old man so he can lift my ship out of the mud.”

“...What?”

“Look, farmboy,” the dark haired man groaned with frustration; Luke scowled at him darkly. “It’s a long complicated story and I would love nothing more than to sit here and explain it to you in great detail, but I really, really need to borrow this bike, like right now! So if you wouldn’t mind just handing me the keys that would be absolutely fantastic,” Han explained with a strained grin, his patience wearing thinner by the second.

“I can pay you,” he added as an afterthought.

That part immediately caught Luke’s attention as the image of Artoo being auctioned off at the Mos Eisley droid market flashed across his mind. Without thinking, he raced over to a battered lockbox on one of the shelves lining the rock wall. Han raised an eyebrow at him as he furiously dug through an assortment of spare parts and various junk. With a triumphant cry, Luke produced a small, square shaped key, holding in the air in front of him for a moment before tossing it to the lanky, dark haired man. Han reached up and caught it easily with one hand.

Quickly stuffing the exposed wires back in, Han thrust the rectangular piece of metal into the open consol, producing a loud thrumming sound as the systems began booting up. He turned and grinned at Luke.

“Thanks, farmboy. I owe you one,” he said as he reached into his pocket and tossed a heavy, brown purse to Luke.

Luke caught it somewhat awkwardly with both hands, surprised by the weight of it. Han hopped on the speeder bike and punched the throttle, racing out of the open garage with a whoosh of hot, fuel saturated air.

Luke remained where he stood without looking anywhere in particular, completely lost in his thoughts. He tossed the small purse in his hands a few times, feeling the heaviness of it and listening to the sound of metal on metal as units clinked together in the contained space. The gears of his mind were already whirling away, the beginnings of a rescue plan beginning to take shape.

For the first time that day Luke felt a small smile begin to creep across his face.

Chapter Text

Han raced across the Naboo country side, acres of lush farmland and woods streaking past his vision on either side in a formless blur. He wasn’t sure which way Lando had gone or if he was even still in the area. His search for a mode of transportation had taken him much longer than he would have liked. In the end he had to resort to following the main road for miles on foot to the first available residence in order to find one, but that too had turned out fairly poor for him. He grumbled darkly as he rubbed the large egg shaped bump that was forming along his temple.

Veering off sharply in the direction he had come, Han began to make his way back to the swamp, hoping that by some miracle he would be able retrace Lando’s steps. As he raced along the path that skirted the edge of the trees, he noticed a tell tale trail of leaves that had been blown away on both sides, leaving a large cleft in the middle.

He smiled grimly as he followed the snaking trail of the other’s speeder into the swamp. Mud splattered nearly every inch of him as he flew by, but he didn’t take any notice. He put the thrusters on full power, taking every turn and avoiding every oncoming obstacle with the precision and grace of an expert pilot. If Lando thought taking the risky detour into the trees would shake Han, he was about to be very sadly mistaken. Han’s grin widened as he saw the unmistakable flash of blue from a thruster just ahead through the afternoon gloom.

Up ahead, Lando was taking the deadly obstacle course at a much slower pace than Han, but still at a good enough clip that the average rider would never have managed to catch up safely. Luckily, Han was anything but average.

“Hey, Lando! Good to see you again!” he shouted as he pulled up beside the other cruiser.

There came a cry of surprise from the other rider, followed by a series of expletives that would have made a pirate blush. Han barely had time to register his amusement before Lando’s speeder bike collided with the side of his, sending a violent jolt through Han’s body. Han gritted his teeth as the other’s bike came crashing into him a second time, knocking Han off balance and nearly sending him crashing into a nearby tree. Han felt the rough bark rake against his back at high speed, and he let out a cry of pain as he struggled to right himself in the seat again.

Han felt a sticky wetness beginning to bleed through his shirt as he gritted his teeth. His eyes followed Lando as the smuggler came in for another high speed impact. With his years of flying expertise, Han pulled down at the last moment, narrowly avoiding Lando’s blow and zipping under a gap of a huge, fallen tree branch. He felt the rough wood brush the top of his head as he violently yanked up on the throttle to turn himself around, effectively cutting Lando off.

Lando stared in absolute disbelief and horror at the oncoming speeder bike, lurching to one side and leaping from the seat at the last second before his vehicle smashed into a million pieces against a nearby tree.

Lando lay face down on the soggy, peat covered ground, groaning as bits of broken metal and fiberglass came rolling near him. The silver handle of the stolen lightsaber tumbled from his pocket and landed softly a few feet away from him. Han set his bike to hover as he leapt from the seat with the grace of a loth cat and sauntered over to his fallen advisory.

“I’ll take this, thank you,” Han said in a sing-songy manner as he reached down to casually scoop up the discarded lightsaber.

From his position on the ground, Lando let out a muffled, unintelligible curse. Han chuckled as he swung a long, gangly leg over the seat of the hovering speeder bike. He tucked the hilt of the lightsaber securely into his belt as he carefully maneuvered his way out of the labyrinth of trees. Han chuckled to himself, feeling the rush of air against his skin.

“Not a bad bit of flying,” he grinned. “Sometimes I amaze even myself.”

Chapter Text

Luke raced all the way up the path to the estate without pausing for breath. He made a mad dash for the servant’s entrance around the back, nearly taking off the door handle in his eagerness. He had not stopped smiling since his chance encounter with Han Solo, the would-be speeder bike thief. He patted the solid heavy purse in his tunic pocket for the hundredth time as if to reassure himself that this was all real.

Inside the family dining room Luke could hear Rush and his two children settling themselves in for dinner. He could hear the frustration rising in Aurra’s voice as she shouted at C-3PO in the kitchen to hurry up with the main course. Luke quietly tiptoed around the side hallway to the kitchen, not wanting to alert his stepfamily to his presence. He was in no mood to open up any channel of discussion about what had transpired in the garage.

The inside of the kitchen was in a state of complete disarray. Pots and pans covered every inch of the large, industrial grade stove as well as most of the available countertops. Various ingredients were strewn about or tucked away in creative hiding places. A thick layer of flour coated most of the title floor and there was a distinct burning smell coming from one of the many boiling pots. In the middle of it all was a flustered C-3PO, doing his best to gain control of the situation with only one arm. He stretched the stiff mechanical limb as far as it would reach in an attempt to grab a box of dried noodles from a high shelf.

“Threepio!” Luke called excitedly, causing the protocol droid to let out a squawk of surprise and slip on a patch of flour, sending him crashing to the floor.

“Sorry! Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” cried Luke as he rushed over to lend a hand to the fallen droid.

“Master Luke, good heavens! You nearly frightened me out of my wits! What is it? Has something happened? Is anything the matter?”

“Far from it, Threepio,” said Luke, reaching up to grab the elusive box from the top shelf and setting it down on the counter. He grinned at the protocol droid and dug the large purse out of his pocket, letting him see its contents.

“Why, Master Luke! Wherever did you get this? There must be about fifty credits in there!” cried C-3PO.

“It’s an interesting story,” said Luke slipping the purse back into the safety of his pockets, “but the main thing is that I now have a way to get Artoo back.”

C-3PO jolted in surprise. “You… You’re bringing him back?” he asked hopefully, “B-But how?”

“I’m going to Tatooine to find the Mos Eisley droid market. I’ll be able to use the money to buy Artoo back.” Luke could hardly stop himself from trembling with excitement. “ I’m bringing him home, Threepio!” Luke said, eagerly shaking the droid by his shoulders, his smile growing wider with every word.

“But-But how are you getting to Tatooine?” C-3PO cried as Luke continued to shake him, “You don’t even have a ship. The only person I know of that has a ship large enough to make the jump to hyper speed is Master Clovis, and he’s certainly not going to let-“ C-3PO abruptly cut himself off at seeing the impish grin spreading across the blond haired boy’s face.

“Master Luke… please… no…” C-3O whined slightly.

Luke’s grin widened, reaching all the way up to his dazzlingly blue eyes.

“Master Luke, yes.”

Chapter Text

Han lazily maneuvered the speeder bike down the wide, bending foot path that cut through the swamp. His adrenaline rush from the chase had begun to wear off and he was feeling the full effects of his near fatal collision with that blasted tree. His back was practically screaming and he wasn’t sure if the dampness he felt pooling through his shirt was from sweat or blood.

He recognized the rock outcropping just ahead and rounded the bend to the widest part of the path. He nearly fell from the seat in shock. There, on a large solid looking patch of ground beside that accursed mud pit, was his beloved ship. A little worse for wear perhaps, and practically covered in mud and dripping with swamp slime, but nonetheless upright again.

Sitting together on a nearby log were Chewbacca and the old man, who seemed to have no trouble interpreting the Wookie’s strangle rumblings. Chewbacca appeared to be in the middle of one of Han’s favorite stories about their adventures, his record setting time with the Kessel Run. The old man listened intently, occasionally nodding or interjecting a question about time versus distance measurements.

Han parked the speeder bike next to them and slid from the seat, groaning slightly at the effort of having to support his own weight. The old man paused to look Han up and down incredulously.

“What on Malachor happened to you?” he asked, taking in the younger man’s torn, battered, and muddied appearance. “You look terrible.”

“The thanks I get for helping folks these days,” said Han with a sarcastic click of his tongue. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the smooth metal hilt of the lightsaber and tossed it to the old man, who caught it expertly with one hand. “Here, I got your dumb laser sword back for you.”

The old man’s eyes softened as he gently traced a finger over the smooth metal. “Thank you,” he breathed with a small smile. “If you had known my friend, you’d know he would have haunted me all over the galaxy until I got this back.”

Han felt a flush of warmth pool in his lower gut at the bittersweet, nostalgic tone in the man’s voice. He quickly swallowed whatever complaints he had been ready to retort with. “I- Um, You’re welcome,” he said kicking up some wet leaves by his feet and stuffing his hands into his pockets. “And, um, you know, thanks... for getting my ship out.”

The old man fixed Han with an indiscernible smile for a moment, his eyes glittering with an unreadable emotion.

“Obi-Wan.” He said finally, lifting himself from the log and extending a hand towards him.

“Uh… what?” mumbled Han articulately.

“My name is Obi-Wan Kenobi,” the man repeated patiently with an amused quirk of his eyebrow. “Jedi Order. It just occurred to me that we hadn’t been properly introduced yet.”

“Oh! Right… Okay then,” said Han, hesitating a moment before reaching out to shake the man’s hand. “Han Solo. Of the… Banking… Order…”

“Huuuuuuuuuurrrrnnnngggggggg?” Chewbacca rumbled questioningly as he pointed a massive furry paw towards the speeder bike.

“Oh that?” Han asked, cocking his head in the direction of the vehicle. He ran a hand through his tangled hair wearily, wincing as he grazed the sensitive lump at his temple.

“It’s a long story, I’ll tell you all about it when we get to the-“ Han froze. A look of horror flashed across his face as realization hit him.

“The drop off!” he cried, slapping a hand to his forehead in frustration. “I completely forgot about that stupid delivery! Now I’ll have to deliver the speeder bike and try to find the right address before sundown. My dad is going to kill me!”

He slumped down on the nearby log, burying his face in his hands with a groan.

“Let me see that address,” said Obi-Wan extending a hand towards him. “Perhaps I can help point you in the right direction.”

Han reached into his vest to retrieve the data pad, which by some miracle had survived the events of the afternoon without injury. He passed it to Obi-Wan with a defeatist sigh. The older man studied it carefully.

“Well, The Force works in mysterious ways,” he said with a small chuckle. “As it happens, this is exactly the address I’m headed towards myself. In fact, it’s just down the main road over on the next hill.”

“That’s where I got the speeder bike!” Han cried, leaping up from the log. “Come on, Chewie! Let’s get this thing returned before someone reports it missing,” he said, making his way towards the freighter.

“I don’t suppose you’d be willing to take on another passenger?” The old man coughed expectantly. “Just up to the estate of course, I’m sure they’d be more than willing to put me up for the night.”

“Well, you did get my Falcon out of the swamp,” said Han with a smirk. “But a few ground rules: no backseat flying, and pilot always picks the tunes.” He called over his shoulder as he punched the button for the ship’s landing ramp. “Hope you like Corellian electro punk!”

Han chuckled as he heard Obi-Wan groan audibly behind him.

Chapter Text

Rush Clovis stood expectantly outside the large front doors to the Amidala estate. He watched as the Corellian freighter touched down smoothly on the drive in front of him, creating a gust of wind that rustled through his graying hair. It was several hours past the expected arrival time, but he made an effort to disguise his annoyance with carefully cultivated civility. Behind him, Aurra shifted her weight from foot to foot and let out an exasperated sigh while Savage stood stoically off to the side.

The landing ramp extended from the ship with a slight hissing noise, followed by the sound of heavy footfalls as two figures came into view against the backlight of the florescent interior. Rush’s eyes widened in surprise as an enormous, seven foot tall Wookie descended the ramp, peering around his surroundings inquisitively. Behind him, strolling with an air of casual poise was a bearded man with auburn hair graying at the temples and hauntingly familiar blue eyes. Rush felt a deep, seething twinge of loathing roil in his gut as the recognition dawned on him. He clenched his fists together at his sides until the knuckles whitened.

Before Rush had a chance to speak he heard the distinct sound of a speeder bike roaring up around the bend to the drive. He turned his head curiously in the direction of the noise. Rush’s mouth gaped open in astonishment as he saw his own custom finish Joben T-85 grind to a halt in front of him, ridden by a tall, scruffy looking young man who looked like he had been drug halfway across the planet face first.

The boy ran a hand through hair dark, messy, brown hair, scattering various leaves and twigs; his entire body glistened with a thin veneer of sweat. He flashed Rush a dazzlingly charming grin as he lazily swung one leg off the seat. Despite his rather bedraggled appearance, Rush would have recognized this boy anywhere. Behind him, Rush heard Aurra let out an audible gasp as she attempted to straighten herself up.

“Han Solo,” Rush grinned at him widely as he extended a hand. “Good to see you again, my boy.”

“Likewise, er…” replied Han shaking Rush’s hand as he attempted to disguise the lack of recognition on his face and failing miserably.

“Rush? Rush Clovis?” Rush prompted with a slightly strained smile. “I’m an associate of your father’s? I believe we’ve been introduced before at meetings… several times…”

“Ohhhhhh yeah… Clovis…” Han mused to himself. He appeared to have some faint recollection of the name, though Rush very much doubted he had actually gotten through to him.

Rush heard Aurra give a very forceful cough behind him; he rolled his eyes. “Han, these are my two children, Savage and Aurra.” He happened to glance over toward the Jedi as he spoke and caught the blatantly accusatory look thrown his way.

Savage bowed his head slightly, giving Han a small, half wave motion of his hand. Aurra practically shoved her brother out of the way, nearly stumbling over in her zeal to introduce herself to her beloved idol.

“Your Highness,” she said coyly, fluttering her eyelashes dipping into an awkward curtsey. “I’m Aurra Clovis. You are most welcome in our humble home.”

Han seemed startled by the sudden display, but quickly regained his usual charming composure. “Oh, uh… thank you,” he replied. “But it’s just Han, if you don’t mind. I don’t really do the whole ‘Highness’ thing outside of court.”

“Alright. Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaan,” Aurra purred seductively, stretching out the syllable to an embarrassing degree, making Han visibly uncomfortable. Rush struggled to repress a groan.

“Not that it isn’t wonderful to see you, my boy,” said Rush, quickly changing the subject, “but did you by any chance happen to, ah, run into some trouble on the way here?” He let his gaze wander over the other’s torn, mud stained clothes.

“Nothing I couldn’t handle,” Han replied with a cocky grin. “But I did have some problems with my ship earlier; I had to borrow one of your speeder bikes.” He gave the consol an appreciative pat. “Sorry for not asking first, but I didn’t think anyone was home. I think I did give your servant boy a bit of a shock, though.”

Both Obi-Wan and Rush visibly stiffened. “…Servant?” Rush asked him hesitantly, aware of the bright blue eyes boring into him.

“Yeah. Little guy. Blond. Very good arm.” Han chuckled, rubbing the sore spot on his head.

“Ah, yes, well… him…” Rush trailed off weakly. He could practically feel the anger radiating from the Jedi towards him.

“Anyway, I’m sure you’ve waited long enough for this thing, so if you could just sign your name on the dotted line, I’ll get out of your hair,” Han said, drawing out his data pad and presenting it to Rush. Aurra emitted a small pouting noise from beside him.

Rush took the stylus and signed his name in his usual large, angular script. He then handed the datapad back to Han with a satisfied smile.

“That’s quite a sum you’re taking out.” Han said, clicking his tongue as he slipped the screen back into his vest. “Sounds like you’ve got some big plans worked out.”

“Oh, yes,” said Rush, trying to suppress the involuntary twitch of his lip. “Very big.”

Han glanced over his shoulder at the bearded man who had not taken his eyes off of Rush during the entire conversation. “Um, Rush, this is-“

“Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Rush finished flatly, a vein in his forehead had begun to pulse noticeably. “We’ve met.”

Han looked between Rush and Obi-Wan uncomfortably, neither man taking his eyes off the other. The tension between them was almost physically oppressive. Han turned to the Jedi conspiratorially.

“You gonna be okay, here, Obi-Kenobi?” he whispered.

“Run along now, Han,” said Obi-Wan in a voice that left no room for argument, yet was still as smooth and collected as ever. “The former senator and I have a lot of catching up to do. Thank you very much for your help today,” he said, still locking eyes with Rush.

Han looked at the Jedi uncertainly for a moment before turning to walk back towards the ship. He motioned for his Wookie friend to follow, who gave a small whine as he looked back at Obi-Wan worriedly from over a massive, furry shoulder.

As the engines of the freighter hummed to life and the ship began to rise, the remaining four figures were hit with a blast of hot air from the turbines. Aurra watched until the Millennium Falcon made the jump to hyper speed before sighing wistfully, and turning to go back inside. Savage followed her, glancing back anxiously at his father as he did so.

Rush Clovis and Obi-Wan Kenobi remained rooted to the spot, both silently glaring the other down. Their thin veneer of civility had strained to the breaking point. There was an awkward silence for a moment; the only sound that passed between them was the soft rustling of the nearby orchard trees.

“What are you doing here, Kenobi?” Rush finally asked, struggling to keep the pent up emotion out of his voice.

“I came here to see my godson,” Obi-Wan sneered at him without any of his trademark charm. “Your servant boy.” He hissed. “Or do you always refuse to count him among your other children?”

“A little late to be playing the concerned godparent, don’t you think?” Rush cocked an eyebrow at him mockingly. “What’s it been, Kenobi? Ten? Eleven years now? You don’t think in all that time you could have dropped by to say hello?” Rush grinned at him menacingly, enjoying the rage that was boiling up inside the other man.

Obi-Wan dug his fingernails into his palms. “I assumed the boy had been well taken care of,” he snarled, his voice rising dangerously. “I assumed that Padmé had left him in good hands with you! I had hoped that as his stepfather, you would treat Luke as one of your own and not like an outsider in his own mother’s house!”

“That’s enough, Kenobi!” Rush roared, taking a step towards him. “You don’t get to pass judgment on me! You’re the one that left them, Obi-Wan! You made that choice! You abandoned both of them! Do you know how much you hurt Padmé that night?! Do you have any idea how long she tried to contact you afterwards?! How many tears she wasted on you?! Kriffing hell, you didn’t even come to her own damn funeral!”

He purposefully ignored Obi-Wan’s flinch at those last accusatory words.

“I may not be the parent Padmé wanted me to be, but dammit, I was here, Kenobi! At least I can I say that!”

Obi-Wan was at a loss for words, his eyes wide and guilt ridden. He staggered slightly where he stood as if he were dizzy. He opened his mouth as if to speak, but the words shriveled and died on his tongue.

“I-“

“No.” Rush cut him off sharply. “You’re done! Now let me make this perfectly clear, you are never to come near me, this house, or my family ever again, Kenobi, you got that?!”

He didn’t wait for the man’s answer. He simply turned on his heel in disgust and retreated back into the estate, slamming the front doors behind him with a cacophonous bang.

Chapter Text

Luke clenched the bag of credits tightly in his fist as he tried to control the raging palpitations of his heartbeat. He walked quickly and quietly down the path to the garage, the setting evening sun making his shadow stretch far across the hillside. Luke began to break out in a nervous sweat. If he was going to go through with his rescue mission it had to be now before the loss of light made it impossible to navigate.

He reached the entrance to the garage, allowing himself a small sigh of relief as he slumped against the rocky wall. His eyes scanned the upper level. Rush’s cruiser was exactly where Luke had last seen it, the tarp still covered in a grimy layer of dust. Luke desperately hoped that his stepfather wasn’t in the mood for an evening joyride tonight. He silently climbed the zig-zagging stair case, and began to enter the five digit auto-unlock code on the ship’s door panel.

“Excuse me?” came a smooth, accented voice from behind him.

Luke let out an awkward cry, halfway between a yell and a shriek, nearly toppling over the staircase railing in his alarm.

“I’m sorry!” the voice called out, audibly distressed. “I’m so sorry, Luke! I didn’t mean to frighten you!”

Luke grabbed hold of the stair railing and used it to pull himself up. He peered at the figure below him with suspicion, squinting to make out the form in the evening gloom.

An older man with salt and pepper ginger hair and a muddy, brown robe stared up at him from the entrance. Luke gripped the railing until his knuckles turned white, trying to put some distance between him and the stranger. Star’s end! Was every weirdo in the galaxy trying to break into his garage today?

“Are you alright, Luke?” the man called out again in that strangely soothing voice. He squinted slightly, trying to make out Luke’s features in the dim twilight. “It is Luke, isn’t it? Only, it has been quite awhile since I last saw you. You couldn’t have been more than eight years old at the time.”

Luke’s brow furrowed in confusion. He cocked his head and peered more closely at the bearded man, who offered him a soft, placating smile. His bright blue eyes glimmered in the fading evening light. Luke knew those eyes, he realized with a gasp. He knew the square, bearded jaw line, the silky voice, the charming quirk of the finely lined brow. He knew this man. He was older than Luke remembered him perhaps, greyer and a little bit smaller, but there was no mistaking those eyes.

“Ben?” Luke breathed in a voice barely above a whisper.

The man’s eyes crinkled as a tender smile began to stretch across his worn face. “That’s right,” he said softly. “You used to call me that back when you couldn’t pronounce my name. It always made your mother laugh to hear it.”

Luke began to descend the narrow, metal stair case down to the ground level, never taking his eyes off the man below. Luke approached him with slow, measured steps, his face an unreadable mask. The older man gulped slightly, a hard lump forming in his throat as Luke stopped about a speeder’s length in front of him.

“You were gone a long time, Obi-Wan,” Luke said softly, turning away from him and shifting his weight to one foot. He didn’t miss the flicker of hurt behind the man’s eyes at the use of his real name.

“I know,” Obi-Wan whispered faintly. Luke could hear the break in the man’s voice, but didn’t turn to look at him.

“I could offer you a million excuses, Luke,” Obi-Wan said holding out his palms in front of him pleadingly. “I could tell you that I had Jedi business at the temple, or that your mother wouldn’t have wanted me to come back, or that I wanted to protect her secret. But the truth is Luke… I was afraid.” Obi-Wan dropped his eyes to the grease stained floor.

Luke slowly glanced at him over his shoulder curiously.

“Afraid of what?”

“Of apologizing,” Obi-Wan sighed with a painful grimace, “Of appearing weak, maybe? Of admitting I was wrong... Of admitting to myself that I’m far more attached to people than any Jedi should be.” He let his eyes meet Luke’s faltering gaze.

“I loved your parents, Luke,” Obi-Wan choked with a hoarse whisper. “Truly, I did. Maybe I ought to have told them so before the end, I don’t know…” He turned his head away, gazing off at nothing in particular. “I thought… I thought running away would be the end of it, but it wasn’t. Stupid of me to think so, I suppose.” He let out a mirthless chuckle.

Luke said nothing; he just continued to stare at the man, unflinching, with hesitant, searching eyes.

“I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with all of this by yourself.” Obi-Wan sighed and looked back up at him tentatively, letting his eyes convey all the emotions his words alone could not. Luke felt all the guilt, all the pain, all the sincerity pour off the man in waves, and swallowed the lump forming in his throat.

“I never should have left you,” the older man faltered in a broken whisper. “I am so… so sorry…”

Luke furrowed his brow as he gazed at the other man intently. Obi-Wan’s breath hitched in his throat. There was a full, heavy silence that resonated between them for a long moment, hanging over the two of them like a dense fog. The fading light began to slip over the shadow of the hills, casting the garage in shades of navy and violet.

Finally, Luke began to make his way over the other man with slow, hesitant footsteps. He stopped mere inches in front of him. Both pairs of blue eyes studied each other in the near darkness.

Luke’s expression softened. Without a word, he hesitantly pulled the older man into a warm embrace, feeling as Obi-Wan’s body tensed instinctively. They stood that way for a few moments, Luke’s head resting on the man’s shoulder, Obi-Wan’s arms hovering at his sides, not daring to move.

“You’re here now, Ben…” Luke whispered softly.

Obi-Wan slowly brought his shaking arms around Luke’s shoulders. He stared blankly ahead in front of him, ignoring the stinging sensation of his watery eyes. He nodded against the boy’s head, swallowing the lump in his throat in an effort to gain control of his trembling voice.

“I am here now…”

Chapter Text

It was near midnight when Han Solo finally pulled into the open hangar of the Banking Clan’s headquarters, but the bustling avenues of Coruscant still thrummed with life. Nearly every inch of the spectacular city skyline swarmed with hovercraft and vehicles of every shape and size imaginable. Han opened the Millennium Falcon’s landing dock and practically poured himself out of the pilot’s seat. Every inch of his body was screaming at him. All he wanted now was to soak in some hot water, burry himself in his bed, and never come out again.

Chewbacca, seeing the exhausted state of his friend took over the task of re-docking the ship and doing a routine check of the internal systems. He practically pushed Han into the long glass elevator platform in an effort to see his friend get the sleep he so desperately needed.

Good old Chewie, Han smiled to himself as the image of the hangar below him passed by in a blur.

He nearly stumbled out of the shaft as he reached the top floor of the enormous headquarters building. He forced himself to take slow, agonizing steps as he dragged his aching limbs down the hallway to his private chambers, the thought of his warm, inviting bed serving as his sole motivation.

He groaned as his every muscle fiber rebelled against the exertion. This whole day had been a complete disaster. First he had crash landed into a swamp, then that towheaded farm brat had thrown a wrench at his head, and then he had nearly gotten himself killed in that speeder chase with Lando. Yet even with all off that he had still managed to deliver the contract. He definitely was going to reward himself with some much deserved vacation days.

He grudgingly approached the palatial CEO’s office at the bend of the long L-shaped hallway, where his father sat glaring darkly at a dimly lit netscreen. Jonash stopped and gaped at Han as he stomped towards his desk, trailing bits of dried mud and leaves behind him.

“What in the blazes happened to you?!” Jonash exclaimed in disbelief. “You look like you walked all the way here from Naboo!”

Han said nothing as he shoved the datapad screen into his father’s hands with a sour expression.

“Whatever it is you have to say to me, it can wait until morning. Right now I am going to bed.”

And without another word to the astonished man, Han trudged back towards the main corridor, and shut the heavy wooden office doors behind him with a satisfied slam.

---------------

Luke smoothed out the nest of blankets he had arranged on the highest platform of the garage. Beside him, Obi-Wan sat reclining back on one of the many wooden crates littering the loft, massaging a recent shoulder injury. The old fashioned gas lamps that Luke had brought back with him from the house cast a faint, but comforting glow over the pair.

The loft was the most remote part of the man-made cave, accessible only by a rickety wooden ladder. The only items stored up here were crates of useless junk that Rush had been too lazy, or too sentimental, to throw out, meaning the platform was practically never used. It made the perfect hiding spot to conceal a certain stowaway house guest.

Just a tiny bit of vengeful rebellion against his stepfather to make up for earlier that day. The thought made Luke smile.

He finished arranging the makeshift bed, turning around to face the older man on the crate. “I’m sorry it’s not much,” Luke scratched the back of his neck in embarrassment. “Believe me, if it was up to me, you’d be staying in the best guestroom in the house, but well… my stepfather…” he trailed off with an apologetic grimace.

Obi-Wan waved him off, “Don’t you worry about me, dear boy. I’ve slept in far worse places than this.” He walked over to the thick pile of blankets and slowly nestled himself in the warm woolen layers, letting himself get comfortable. He closed his eyes let out a satisfied sigh.

“Very nice,” he said. “You should have seen some of the abysmal places your father and I stayed when we were on a mission.”

Luke settled himself down on the dusty wooden floorboards, resting his chin in one hand. “Tell me about my father?”

Obi-Wan sat up on the blankets and fixed Luke with a wry quirk of his eyebrows. “Do you want the more flattering version? Or do you want the truth?” he asked.

Luke grinned. “Let’s try the truth mixed with a bit of optimism.”

Obi-Wan threw his head back and let out a deep, rich laugh. “Alright,” he said smiling. “Your father was the biggest pain in the neck I’ve ever had to deal with in my entire life. He was stubborn, proud, impulsive, rash, never listened to a thing I’d try to tell him-“

“If this is your idea of optimism, I’d hate to hear what you really think,” said Luke with a small smirk.

Obi-Wan let his face soften as he glanced back at the boy with a warm smile. “He was also the bravest man I’ve ever met,” he said fondly. “He was a great leader, and a fantastic fighter, not to mention a rather impressive pilot. Well, except for the spinning thing,” he said with a small chuckle. Luke scooted himself closer from his spot on the floor, listening eagerly.

“But most importantly he never left a man behind,” Obi-Wan continued. “Your father had a knack for getting too attached to people, despite what the code entails. If you were part of his group, he’d wade through hell and high water for you; didn’t matter if you were a clone, a padawan, or a Republic Senator.” Obi-Wan fell silent for a moment, letting his gaze focus on nothing in particular.

“He loved you and your mother, you know,” he said finally turning his attention back to Luke with a weak smile. His bright blue eyes had begun to water slightly. “I know it may seem like an obvious thing to say, but I can’t tell you the look on his face when he held you in his arms for the first time - the way he smiled when you curled your tiny hand around his finger... I think it was the happiest moment of his entire life.”

Luke felt his throat begin to tighten.

Obi-Wan smiled warmly at him. “He would have been so proud of the man you’ve become.” Luke felt himself flush under the unexpected praise. Obi-Wan began to rummage in his cloak for a moment before producing a small silver cylindrical object and presenting it to Luke. “Here. Your father would have wanted you to have this.”

Luke let out a breath and hesitantly reached out to take the object with trembling fingers, as if he were afraid it might shatter at the slightest touch.

“You know what that is?” the man asked.

“Is it- Is it his-?”

“His lightsaber,” Obi-Wan smiled. “Yes.”

Luke traced his fingers over the black ridges of the pommel, trailing them up the metallic hilt until he flicked the raised golden button near the top. He flinched slightly as the glowing blue blade shot out like rocket, creating a pleasant vibrating sensation in his palm. He gazed at the weapon in awe.

This was his father’s lightsaber. This is the weapon that had saved his life on countless occasions - that had saved the lives of countless others. The weapon he had used to bring down the traitor Palpatine, even at the cost of his own life. This was the single most important object that had belonged to the great Anakin Skywalker, and Luke was holding it in his very hands. The thought filled him with an overwhelming sense of pride.

“Well, I had better get some rest,” Obi-Wan yawned as he stretched his arms over his head. “I’ve got to head back to Coruscant in the morning.”

“You’re leaving?” Luke cried, shutting off the beam of thrumming blue energy. “But you just got here!”

“Just for a little while,” Obi-Wan reassured him. “I have a previous engagement that I can’t push back. But you can rest assured that I will be back to see in the very near future.” His brow furrowed slightly. “I don’t trust that stepfather of yours.”

“That makes two of us,” Luke chuckled lightly. He walked over to the makeshift bed and spread one last blanket over the older man’s form. “Good night, Ben.” He smiled softly. Taking up one of the handheld lamps he began his slow, careful climb down the creaking, wooden ladder.

Chapter Text

Luke crept silently around the servant’s entrance to the estate and wearily pushed the door open. He felt absolutely exhausted. It had been one of the most turbulent days of his life. First Artoo getting sold, then his encounter with Han ‘the would-be speeder thief’ Solo, and then a chance reunion with his estranged godfather after all these years. He definitely was looking forward to some much needed rest.

He subconsciously patted the heavy pockets of his dingy white tunic. He still carried the large purse Han had given him in one, and in the other… Luke smiled to himself as he curled his fist around the cool metallic handle of his father’s lightsaber. It had been one of the only bright points of this otherwise miserable day.

The gears of his mind began whirling into overtime as a new plan of action to save his friend began to take shape. Not only would he have the necessary funds to bargain with the Jawas, but now he had the added effect of appearing like a real Jedi Knight. They wouldn’t dare to try and swindle him with the threat of several severed limbs looming over their heads.

Luke dragged his tired body down the side corridor that led past the main sitting room, surprised to see Aurra sprawled out on a chaise lounge and skimming over her holopad. He did a double take. What was she still doing up at this hour? Aurra didn’t even glance at him as he passed by.

“Somebody’s in trouble,” she cooed in a singsongy voice, flicking a neatly manicured finger over the screen to scroll down. Luke furrowed his brow in confusion.

“Wha-?”

He didn’t even have a chance to verbalize his question before he felt a tremendously strong grip yank his arm and force him down into a high-backed chair. Luke let out a small yelp of surprise as the momentum sent him crashing backwards towards the wall. He sank into the chair instinctively as the looming form of his stepfather gripped both of the armrests in a vice hold, effectively trapping Luke with his body.

“You,” Rush hissed at him through clenched teeth; his dark eyes glittered dangerously. There wasn’t any trace of alcohol on his breath. “How dare you hide something like this from me? Did you honestly think I wouldn’t find out about it? It’s deceitfulness, Luke! And I will not have it in this house!”

Luke felt the color drain from his face. He felt his mouth dry up as his ability to speak left him. Mother of Malachor, how had Rush known? Had Han told him about the money he had given Luke that morning? Had he somehow worked out Luke’s plan to rescue Artoo? Oh stars, did he know about Ben?!

Luke swallowed hard as his mind raced to think of something to say that wouldn’t land him a beating, or worse. He recalled something his mother had told him once about dealing with some of the more unscrupulous politicians in the senate.

“Whatever you do, don’t admit to anything if they can’t prove it. People will try to bait you into giving away more than you need to. Let them flounder for a bit and call their bluff first.”

Luke squirmed in his chair slightly, avoiding eye contact with the man looming over him. “…I don’t know what you mean, Rush,” he mumbled.

“Think, Luke. Think reeeeeeally hard,” Aurra purred menacingly from her position on the chaise. She had abandoned the holopad in favor of watching the scene play out in front of her, reveling with sick fascination at Luke’s misery.

Luke’s eyes caught a slight movement from just over Rush’s shoulder. Savage had wandered into the sitting room, hovering awkwardly by the entrance as if he was unsure of how to react. His wide eyes met Luke’s frightened blue ones as Luke desperately tried to send his stepbrother a mental signal.

Help me, Luke thought pleadingly.

Savage’s eyes darted to his father and sister who were both seemingly too preoccupied with torturing Luke to notice him. He looked back over at Luke and mouthed something through tight lips that looked suspiciously like “speeder bike”.

Luke felt his shoulders sag with relief. “Um, Han Solo came and borrowed one of your speeder bikes this morning?” He lifted his gaze to meet his stepfather’s stony expression.

“Yes, and that would explain why he returned it this evening,” Rush said with a condescending drawl as Luke glanced around the room uncertainly. “I don’t recall giving you permission to lend out my belongings.”

Luke swallowed.

“Now, I want to know exactly what happened between you and Han,” Rush growled in a low rumble as he continued to stare Luke down menacingly. “He made it sound as if you tried to attack him.”

Luke’s fingers tightened against the base of the chair. “I, um… I caught him trying to hotwire one of your bikes and I… threw a wrench at him…” He winced as he trailed off faintly, bracing himself for another verbal tirade. “I didn’t recognize him at first… I thought he might be… some sort of criminal…”

Rush blinked at him a few times in surprise before throwing his head back with a booming laugh. Luke’s eyes widened in shock as he pressed his body further into the back of the armchair. If Rush was scary when he was trying to be intimidating, he was downright terrifying when he wasn’t.

“Oh, Luke,” Rush chuckled as he began to regain control of himself. He reached one hand up to playfully ruffle the boy’s hair. Luke didn’t move a single muscle, his nails digging into the rich fabric of the chair. “You poor, simple little farmboy,” Rush smirked.

He let go of the armrests and straightened himself up, still chuckling to himself. Luke felt like his entire body had turned into jelly as he manually released his taught muscles.

“Well now,” Rush said more calmly as he gazed at Luke with what would have been tenderness on anyone else. “No real harm done, I suppose. My speeder bike was returned, my account transfer has been finalized, and Prince Han is alive and well, apart from a slight bump to the head.”

Luke felt a hot flush of embarrassment creep past his neck.

“So there’s really no need to get so worked up about this, now is there?” Rush continued, giving Luke a patronizing smile as if he had been the one to lose his temper in the first place.

Luke shook his head dumbly.

“Alright, off you go, then. I’m sure you have another full day of chores ahead of you, so go get some sleep.” Rush waved him off with a dismissive hand.

Luke practically leapt out of the chair as he scrambled awkwardly back towards the corridor.

“What?! That’s it?! You’re not even going to punish him?!” Aurra cried, tossing the holopad to the side as she leapt up from her position on the chaise. Her darkly rimmed eyes flashed with indignation.

“Oh, be quiet, Aurra,” Rush sighed as he pinched the bridge of his nose.

Outside the entryway, Luke spotted Savage leaning against an ornamental column. His bright green eyes shone in the dim half light from the room. Luke caught his gaze as he passed by.

“Thank you,” Luke whispered.

Savage gave a small grunt followed by a half shrug of his shoulders, before turning and striding lazily towards the entrance of the kitchen.

Chapter Text

The early morning rays of Naboo’s sun filtered in gently through the gaps of the warped attic rafters, catching the swirling dust particles in its soft glow and bathing the entire room in a warm, golden light. Luke had already been up for hours, not able to contain his excitement over his plan. He shuffled behind a broken privacy screen as he pulled a set of expensive, but ill fitting robes over his head.

On the other side of the barrier sat his co-conspirators as they awaited his debut. Leia had come running the minute Luke had told her about the loss of poor Artoo. It was she who had had the foresight to include a disguise in the mix and ‘borrowed’ one of her father’s ceremonial robes that she was certain wouldn’t be missed. She lay stretched out on Luke’s cot, resting her cheek in one hand languidly. Her dazzlingly white gown reflected the bright beams of sunlight almost blindingly, so that Luke had to turn his head away from her as he dressed.

Beside her, C-3PO paced back and forth stiffly over the worn, wooden floorboards muttering nervously to himself. A few sparks occasionally shot out of the frayed wires in his exposed arm socket. Luke had put him on lookout duty, occasionally sending him downstairs to check in on his stepfamily to keep tabs on their whereabouts.

“How do things look down there, Threepio?” Luke called from behind the screen.

“It appears Master Clovis is still in session downstairs with his… associates,” the protocol droid replied with a slight wince in his voice.

Luke snorted and rolled his eyes. Associates. Thugs more likely. Rush’s constant need for money had led him to do dealings with some truly unscrupulous characters. Rush would commander the main sitting room, and would meet with these bounty hunters and thieves for hours behind locked doors. Luke didn’t know what was said during these meetings. Rush even kept Aurra and Savage in the dark about his dealings, which didn’t sit right with Luke at all. It made his stomach clench to think of all those sleemos cavorting in his mother’s house.

“Master Luke, are you really sure this is a good idea?” The gold-plated droid fidgeted nervously. “Surely there must be some law against impersonating a Jedi Knight? How do you even plan on doing so? You’ve never even been to Coruscant!”

“Then he won’t be recognized,” Leia said sitting up and resting her hands on her knees. “And I’m pretty sure there’s no law like that, anyway. Relax, Threepio, all Luke has to do is look the part, and maybe flash the lightsaber if things get rough,” she said nonchalantly.

“Oh, my!” whimpered the droid. “I sincerely hope it won’t come to that.”

“Alright, I’m coming out. Nobody laugh,” Luke said as he finished dressing and stepped out from behind the screen. Leia’s eyes widened as she sat up straighter on the cot. Threepio turned his head toward him with a small jolt of surprise.

Luke shuffled his feet awkwardly and flapped his hands at his sides. The robe was far too big on him. Senator Bail Organa was built like mountain, and practically as tall as one. The fabric hung loosely off Luke’s lankly frame, secured at the waist by an ornate woven belt that Leia thankfully had the foresight to bring with her. Yet despite the ill fit of the robes, Luke couldn’t help but feeling more than a bit regal in them.

They were made of a rich, yet delicately soft, material that created elegant folds within the excess of fabric, flattering his figure where it should have otherwise engulfed him. The long, dark grey tunic hung to just above his knees and was woven with intricate patterns along the front. The outer robe was of deep royal blue embroidered with silver thread at the hem that cascaded around him in an elegant curtain. The finishing touch was a broad, golden shawl that wrapped around Luke’s chest and shoulders and fell gracefully off to one side. His friends continued to gape at him silently.

“I know. It’s too big on me,” Luke muttered shyly. He could feel his face heating up under their scrutinizing stares.

“Luke, you look amazing,” Leia breathed in awe as she stood up from her place on the cot to glide towards him. She began making minor adjustments to his robes, smoothing out the creases and dusting off the shoulders.

“I- really?” Luke glanced away from her in embarrassment. “Well, your father does have good taste. Though I’m sure they don’t look nearly as good on me as they do on h-“

“Luke, hush. Do you seriously even know how handsome you look right now?” Leia rolled her eyes at him and swiveled him by the shoulders to face C-3PO. “Threepio, tell Luke how good he looks before I have to smack some self esteem in him,” she said playfully. Luke groaned and hung his head in embarrassment.

“You look… very much like you father,” the droid said quietly.

Luke lifted his head slightly and looked up at him from under his brows in surprise. C-3PO turned away with a harsh burst of static, akin to clearing his throat. Leia’s hands softened their grip on Luke’s shoulders.

“Well… there you have it,” she said with soft smile, rubbing her hands gently over his upper arms.

“You look every inch a Jedi Knight. There’s just one last thing.” She picked up the shining, silver hilt of his father’s lightsaber from the dusty bedside table and clipped it securely to his belt. Luke smiled at her warmly, his bright, blue eyes creasing at the corners.

“Now let’s go rescue that little astromech droid of yours,” she grinned.

Luke wrapped her up in a bone crushing hug, lifting her small frame off the floor as he did so. Leia chuckled warmly.

“Alright, everybody stick close and follow my lead; Rush may be preoccupied but my stepsiblings could still be anywhere,” Luke said, his tone suddenly becoming serious. “We have to move quickly,” he motioned for them to follow him with a crook of his finger.

The trio of friends crept as silently as they could down the dangerously creaking attic steps, until they descended to the main living quarters on the second floor. Luke nearly tripped over the immense folds of his robes several times, cursing softly under his breath as he did so. He just hoped that he and Leia would be able to sneak away without a hitch. He couldn’t stand the thought of being caught at the last minute because of a poorly timed face plant.

Luke pressed himself against the smooth alabaster wall and peered cautiously around the corner. The long daunting hallway contained the rooms of every other member of the household, but it was also the only way to the main staircase. When he didn’t hear anything for after long pause, Luke motioned Leia and C-3PO to follow silently after him. He held his breath as he tiptoed past Savage’s room, knowing his stepbrother would probably be the least of his worries at this point.

Luke couldn’t hear a sound coming from Aurra’s room either as he crept by; he wasn’t sure whether to count that as a blessing or not. Emboldened by their success thus far, they picked up the pace as they reached the middle of the long corridor, making quick shuffling steps towards the top of the stairs. Checking quickly to make sure the front entryway was deserted Luke motioned for his friends to follow him.

“Come on, Threepio, hurry!” Luke hissed under his breath as the gold-plated droid struggled down the steps on his stiff legs.

“I’m sorry, Master Luke,” the droid said, dropping his vocal output to a manually lower volume. “But I’m not exactly built for downward motion.”

Luke and Leia ended up having to support the protocol droid between them as they awkwardly shuffled down the stairs in single file. By some miracle of the Force, all of them made it down without incident, though not without several complaints from the flustered droid. At the base of the steps Luke could hear the sounds of uproarious laughter coming from the parlor to his left.

Good. Rush should be kept busy for awhile yet, Luke thought.

“Let’s go out the servant’s entrance. We’ll draw less attention to ourselves that way,” Luke whispered conspiratorially. Both Leia and C-3PO nodded.

They walked much quicker down the abandoned corridor that led past the kitchens. Just a few more steps and they would be home free. Luke’s pulse quickened with excitement as he rounded the corner to the adjacent hall that exited out to the back courtyard.

Suddenly, from behind them came the slow, dreaded creak of the kitchen door. Luke felt his heart plunge into his stomach as all three of them froze. He flattened himself against the wall like a cornered convict, and craned his neck as far as he dared to peer around the corner. To his horror, he saw his stepsister walking out of the kitchens with a fully loaded tray of food. She hadn’t appeared to have spotted them when they darted behind the corner. Luke could only hope she planned on taking the tray up to her room and wouldn’t walk past their poorly concealed hiding space.

“Please turn left, please turn left, please turn left,” Luke whispered to himself.

His brain ran through every curse in the book as to his absolute dread he watched Aurra turn to the right, towards the sitting rooms. Their corridor would be directly in her line of sight as she passed by; there was no way all three of them could make it to the exit before then.

Luke shot the golden protocol droid a desperate look. “Threepio, we need a distraction, now!” he said in a strained whisper. C-3PO gave him an affirmative nod as he toddled into the adjacent hallway. Aurra paid him no head as he approached.

“Good morning, Miss Aurra! I say, that tray looks awfully heavy. Here, let me carry it for y- Whoops!”

Before Aurra had even opened her mouth to dismiss him, C-3PO inconspicuously bumped his one remaining arm against the bottom of the tray. Time seemed to stand still as soup, salad greens, and various desserts sailed through the air as if in slow motion, before coming down to rain their contents over an outraged Aurra. Luke and Leia nearly forgot their hiding space as they gaped, open-mouthed at the wreckage caused by the fastidious, mild mannered protocol droid.

“Oh dear! Oh my goodness! I’m so terribly sorry!” C-3PO fussed convincingly as he attempted to remove a large glop of pudding from Arrua’s left shoulder.

“You clumsy half-wit!” Aurra screamed in rage, her normally chalk white face now a lived shade of crimson. “Forget the droid market! I’m going to tear you into scrap metal with my bare hands!”

Leia tapped Luke on the shoulder, snapping him out of his gleeful reverie. She motioned towards the exit with a jerk of her head. Luke nodded silently, throwing one last look at the distracted pair. They both raced down the small hallway and out the servant’s door as Aurra’s shrieks of fury and C-3PO’s bumbling apologies grew fainter and fainter.

Luke and Leia slowed to a halt as they reached the low stone wall surrounding the back garden, panting furiously to catch their breath as they rested their hands on their knees. Still gasping, they met each other’s gaze simultaneously before erupting into a steady stream of giggles that grew in volume and intensity until they were both clutching the wall for support.

“That was the single greatest thing I’ve ever seen,” Leia wheezed, wiping a tear of mirth away with the back of a white sleeve.

“I know! Did you see the look on Aurra’s face?! Star’s end! I’ll never forget that for as long as I live!” Luke’s facial muscles ached from the grin stretching along both sides.

“Come on,” said Leia as her laughter slowly died into infrequent hiccups. She offered a hand to Luke who allowed her to pull him up from the wall. “Let’s go find your ship before somebody catches us.” Luke nodded, jaw muscles still aching.

They quickly strolled down the winding path towards the garage. The weather was as pleasant as either of them could have wished. The trees lining the walkway to the bottom of the hill were bursting with beautiful sweet-smelling blossoms that rustled softly in the wind as they passed. Luke closed his eyes, reveling in the warm feeling of sunshine on his skin. The breeze playfully tussled their hair, bringing with it the fragrant aroma of new sunflowers. The sky stretched out clear and blue above them with nary a cloud in sight. Absolutely perfect flying conditions.

Luke entered the garage first, passing by the small one man pod ship that Leia had arrived in earlier that morning. He knew that Leia would have gladly brought an entire fleet with her if he had asked her to, but it was enough for Luke that she was simply there. He didn’t want to risk Leia landing herself in trouble by taking her father’s star cruiser as well. He and Leia climbed the ladder to the second platform containing Rush’s ship, and together they awkwardly tugged the tarp off the sleek, aerodynamic model. There was no sign of Ben, but Luke hadn’t expected there to be. As sad as he was to see the man go, Luke knew it was safer for Ben to be out of Rush’s line of fire.

Luke punched in the universal code that Rush used for all of his cyber locks, and the landing hatch slid open with a small whoosh of stale air. Luke took a step forward to climb into the ship, but Leia stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.

“Better let me drive, Luke,” she said. “I’m the one who’s actually been off planet before.”

Luke opened his mouth to protest but then shut it with a resigned sigh. Leia was right, as per usual. He had never flown anything larger than a small pod ship, much less made the jump to hyperspeed before. He stepped aside with an overly dramatic bow, allowing her access. Leia rolled her eyes at him, but climbed aboard the ship, settling herself in the pilot’s seat. She began flicking a series of complicated looking switches above her head as the systems began to hum.

“I’m charting a course for Tatooine,” she said punching in the coordinates on the large consol pad. “Keep an eye on the satellite navigation and make sure we don’t get lost. It’s that little screen there to your right,” she said pointing a finger towards it.

“I know what a sat-nav looks like. I’m not an idiot,” Luke grumbled indignantly. “You just concentrate on not crashing us into an asteroid field, alright?”

Leia gave him an impish grin. “Hang onto your shirt, flyboy. Things are about to get interesting.”

Before Luke could open his mouth to respond, they were up and out of the cave, soaring above the rapidly shrinking landscape. His entire field of vision was engulfed by the image of Naboo’s clear, blue sky before Leia flicked the switch to hyperspeed sending them careening into an endless, dark ocean of stars.

Chapter Text

The harsh, glaring twin suns of Tatooine’s atmosphere beat down upon the small star cruiser, creating an unbearable pocket of hot, stifling air in the cockpit. Luke was already sweating despite the climate controlled interior. He couldn’t imagine anybody living in this much heat. Beside him, his seasoned traveler and pilot seemed to have not even noticed the apparent change in temperature, much to Luke’s envy.

They dipped lower down towards the surface, skimming over an enormous expanse of sandy dunes and jagged rocky outcroppings. Occasionally Luke would spot the tell-tale collection of vaporators indicating the position of one of the planet’s lucrative moisture farms. Leia maneuvered the ship over a cluster of mountainous dunes, skimming down towards the bustling city of Mos Eisley below them. Luke gasped. He hadn’t imagined the droid market of Tatooine would be so crowded.

Vendors of every species pitched their colorful canvas tents all along the busy city streets, hawking their wares at passersby, and occasionally shouting amongst themselves. This place was a mechanic’s paradise. Droids, spare parts, ships, speeders, power cells; everything and anything having to do with machines you could possibly imagine could be bought, sold, or traded here. There was a popular saying amongst the folks on Tatooine: 'If you couldn’t find it at the droid market, it didn’t exist.' Luke didn’t doubt they were right.

He was still staring out the transparasteel window of the cockpit in awe, when Leia slowed the ship down, passing directly over the stone paved city streets and begining the landing procedures on sandier outer limits. Luke turned to her in horror, realizing too late what she was about to do.

“Wait! No Leia! Not in the-!”

Luke felt the jolt of the cruiser as it made contact with the planet’s surface. “Sand…” he finished irritably.

“What’s that, Luke? I couldn’t hear you over the landing,” Leia said pressing the button to open the hatch. Luke ignored her, leaping out of the door to inspect the damage. Rush’s ship was still structurally sound, but the exterior was now coated in a fine layer of sand particles that covered nearly every inch of the exposed metal. Luke sliced his fingers through his hair with a groan.

“What’s your deal? The ship’s fine,” Leia said, crossing her arms and raising an eyebrow at him.

“Leia, it’s covered in sand! Why didn’t you land in the city?” Luke cried in exasperation.

“Well, of course there’s sand, it’s a dessert planet!” Leia snapped indignantly. “And in case you didn’t notice, there isn’t any place to land inside the city. It’s completely packed with stalls! This is the best I could do!”

“Rush is going to kill me,” Luke sighed, dragging a hand down his face. He could feel himself beginning to sweat under the expansive robes. He wished that Leia had chosen a lighter color for him.

Leia’s face softened as she patted him reassuringly on the back. “I’ll help you clean it off before he sees it. Most of it will fly off when we hit hyperspeed anyway.”

Luke sighed. Leia was right. They could worry about the ship later; right now the most important thing was finding R2-D2 and getting him out of there before he was sold for parts.

“Okay, I’m going in to find Artoo. You stay here and guard the ship.”

Leia’s eyes flashed in anger and she put her hands on her hips in a defensive stance. “Luke Amidala! If you think for one minute that you’re leaving me behind out of some outdated, chauvinistic sense of concern for my safety, you are very sadly mistaken!”

“What?! I- No! That’s not it at all!” Luke fumbled hastily. “Honestly, Leia, you’re the toughest person I know! I just need someone here to make sure none of these sleemos come snooping around the ship for spare parts.” He offered her a lopsided grin. “Besides, I know if anybody gets the bright idea to try and swipe the hyperdrive or something, you’ll give ‘em a solid beating.”

Leia gave him an incredulous look, but she lowered her arms to her sides. “You sure you’re going to be okay in there? I don’t like the idea of you going in by yourself.”

“I’ll be fine,” Luke reassured her. “I promise, if I run into any trouble I’ll come find you.” He gave her nervous wave as he approached the city gates.

The guard on duty took one look at his opulent robes and gave him a polite nod, holding out his arm in a welcoming gesture. Luke smiled at Leia from over his shoulder.

“Wish me luck!”

Chapter Text

Luke was already beginning to regret his decision to navigate the unfamiliar city alone. He was absolutely daunted by the multitude of venders, booths, tents, storefronts, and kiosks that were crammed into every available inch of the city’s earthen streets. He had no idea how he was going to search for Artoo in this mechanical menagerie. He might as well have been trying to find a needle in a haystack. His robes were beginning to stick to his glistening skin, and his exposed face and hair were covered in an irritable layer of coarse sand particles. If Luke never had to see the damned stuff again it would be too soon.

He was also very uncomfortable with the amount of attention he was receiving. His richly embroidered robes and gleaming lightsaber hilt drew the attention of both vendors and fellow shoppers alike. It was like some sort of bizarre daydream. Back home, he was simply ordinary Luke Amidala, the disgruntled, though reasonably personable farmboy, whom nobody spared a second glance.

Now, people were actually making way for him as he passed. A few of the better dressed patrons even gave him a companionable nod as they strolled by, as if Luke were part of some elite club he had never known about until now. Several pretty, young women giggled coquettishly as he passed by, whispering to one another in excitable tones, making Luke flush red up to his ears. Vendors shouted at him excitably about their unbeatable deals, each one claiming to have the best prices in the city. A few of the bolder merchants even physically tried to pull him off the street to look at their wares. He ignored all those that didn’t stock R2 units.

The sun was already at the mid-day point when Luke trudged hopeless and exhausted into the middle of the city square. The booths here were larger and more spaced out, surrounding a large open dirt area where browsers could freely mill about between them. Luke walked over to what little shade he could find beside a seedy looking cantina, and slumped against the wall in despair. He could feel a lump beginning to form in his throat. He squeezed his eyes shut as his vision began to swim with tears, turning the bustling square into a hazy, sand colored blur.

How could he have been so stupid? Did he really think that he could just waltz into the city and find his friend waiting for him at the gates? Did he honestly think that Artoo would even still be here? Stupid. He had been so stupid. Luke felt the welled up tears break free and run down his dusty face, leaving dark streaks on his tanned skin. He sniffled and wiped his eyes with the back of his wrist; he couldn’t be bothered to care that he was getting upset in public.

He pressed the palms of his hands against his eyes, when suddenly he froze. From somewhere in the square he caught the faint but instantly recognizable series of beeps, distinctive to only one class of droid. He opened his eyes as he glanced feverishly in every available direction. There! It sounded again. Louder this time. Luke whipped his head around.

There, behind him, under a large, grimy canvas tarp pitched haphazardly into the ground, were a collection of various service droids. And there, cast to the side, dusty and battered but absolutely unmistakable, was his little R2 unit, beeping and whistling at Luke for all his circuits were worth.

“Artoo!” Luke cried joyously, running blinding across the square and throwing his arms around the excitable droid who whirred ecstatically at him as if he were the last human on earth. Luke felt happy tears spill on the dusty metal of his friend's platting as he laughed with delight.

“Hey! Hands of the merchandise!” barked a sharp, nasally voice from beside him, snapping Luke out of his elated reverie. A green Rodian male in a bright orange vest and a mismatching aqua jumpsuit glared down at Luke with harsh, beady, black eyes. “I don’t let people go about manhandling my droids,” he said snappishly. “You gonna buy that R2 unit or what?”

“I’ll buy him!” Luke cried eagerly, shoving his hands into his pockets to bring out the coin purse Han had given him. “I’ll give you fifty credits for him!”

“Fifty?” The Rodian clicked his tongue in disgust. “You’re kidding me. One hundred credits or it’s no deal.”

“But fifty’s all I’ve got,” Luke swallowed desperately. “Please, this was my father’s astromech droid. I really want to buy him back.”

“Then get yourself another fifty credits!” the Rodian snapped. “I’m not running a charity here. Pay up, or push off!”

Luke felt a hot, violent flush begin to creep along his face. His blood was pounding in his ears. Without even realizing it, his fingers had started to curl along the exposed hilt of his lightsaber.

“Hey, is there a problem here?” A familiar voice broke through his rage induced haze. All the color drained from Luke’s face.

Han Solo sauntered up between the two of them defensively, shooting the shopkeeper a distrustful glare. “Greedo, are you giving this nice looking young man a hard time?” Han flashed Luke a dazzlingly charming grin. Luke felt his stomach clench into knots. He quickly turned away, praying that Han hadn’t recognized him.

The dark haired man’s brow furrowed. “Say, you look awfully familiar. Don’t I know you from somewhere?”

Kriffing hell.

“Um, me? No. No, I- I don’t think so,” Luke muttered awkwardly.

“Save it for the Mos Eisley cantina girls,” the Rodian sneered. “Get lost, Han. I’m trying to run a business here.”

“So run it. Come on, Greedo, let the kid have the R2 unit for fifty. You know as well as I do, that thing ain’t worth more than that,” Han said crossing his arms casually. Luke blinked up at him in surprise. Han caught the look and gave him a friendly wink.

“Look, I’ll tell you what,” sighed Greedo, grudgingly rubbing his temples. “You can have that little red one in the corner there for fifty. That’s the best I can do.” He jerked a thumb over at an outdated, broken down astromech model with a flat, cylindrical shaped head. As if on cue the unit began to spark profusely emitting a large cloud of white smoke.

“Forty five,” Greedo mumbled.

Han turned toward Luke with an apologetic shrug. “Maybe you’d better take the deal, kid,” Han said. “That other blue one’s an outdated model anyway, and I think we’re starting to draw some attention,” he finished with a sheepish grin.

It was true; a small crowd had begun to congregate near the tent, drawn in first by Luke’s outburst, and then Han’s interference. They began whispering amongst themselves conspiratorially, a few even placing bets on the outcome of the sale. Luke seethed and jerked away from Han who gave him a startled look.

“I don’t want another model,” Luke hissed. “And I don’t care if I cause a scene! That R2 unit is like family to me and I am not leaving until I get him back!” Han gaped at him in shock, as did Greedo and several onlookers.

“You really care about that old droid that much?” Greedo asked in surprise. Luke nodded. “Well, I guess if he really means that much to you… two hundred credits!” He grinned maliciously.

There were several angry outbursts from the crowd, as well as some outraged sharp beeps and whistles from R2-D2. Luke balled his hands into fists, ready to launch himself at the Rodian when he felt a firm hand grip his shoulder. He turned in surprise to see Han, glaring stone faced at the miserly vendor.

“You know Greedo,” Han smiled dangerously. “I’m sure Jabba would be very pleased to hear how hard you’ve been working to pay off your debt to him. I might even have to swing by his palace to tell him so. I might even drop in a word about that mysteriously misplaced cargo of spices you were carrying while I’m there. I’m sure he’s just worried sick over it.”

Greedo’s bulbous black eyes flashed with fury. “Are you threatening me, Solo?” he hissed.

“Yeah. A little bit,” Han said with a menacing grin. “Now, Greedo, pretty please with a kriffing cherry on top, give the nice boy his R2 unit back,” he finished with a low growl. Luke could only gape up at him dumbly.

Greedo seethed for a moment longer, his eyes darting between the piercing glare of the Corellian and the slack jawed blond.

“Fine!” he snarled, yanking the coin purse from Luke’s hand and practically shoving R2-D2 towards him. The droid let out a synthesized scream of distress as he careened towards his startled master’s outstretched arms.

“Now get out!” Greedo jabbed a long, sucker-like finger forcefully towards them. “Both of you!”

Luke barely even heard him as he knelt down to clutch the battered blue droid to his chest. A few stray tears leaked from the corners of his eyes as R2-D2 chirped and whistled in excitement.

“Oh, Artoo, I was worried I’d never see you again,” Luke whispered, using his sleeve to polish off the sand and grime from his friend’s plating.

“You’re a good man, Greedo,” Han smiled, edging closer to the Rodian and giving him a satisfied thump on the back. “I always knew you had it in you… very, very deep down.”

Greedo snarled and yanked Han’s arm away from him. “Both of you get out or I’m calling the guards!” Han stepped away from him, holding up his hands in a mocking gesture of surrender.

Luke stood up from the hard packed dirt and brushed the dust from his robes. He turned to leave, the little astromech droid hot on his heels with a contented beeping. He paused to give Han a sincere, polite bow.

“Thank you, Your Highness. You have no idea how much this means to us,” he said, quickly moving on before the other could open his mouth to reply.

Just keep moving and don’t draw any more attention, Luke told himself. You’re lucky he didn’t recognize you; any word of this got back to Rush and you’d be as good as dead. Though I’m sure mister ‘Hottest in the Galaxy’ can’t be bothered to remember every no account farmboy he meets anyway.

“Wait,” Han cried from behind him, his dusty boots hitting the hard earth as he ran towards the two retreating figures. Luke’s pulse quickened. He turned around to see the Corellian lightly jogging after them. Luke slowed until Han caught up with his pace. He shuffled in front of Luke awkwardly for a moment, seemingly at a loss for words.

“Yes?” Luke prompted him.

“I, um,” Han faltered slightly, glancing back and forth between Luke and Artoo. “I just wanted to make sure your droid was alright,” he said with a lopsided grin. Luke raised an eyebrow at him curiously. Beside him, R2-D2 rocked back and forth on his peds and chirped wildly.

Beep-boop-beep! Boop-beep-boop-beep!

“He says he’s fine, but that that Greedo guy is a real piece of work,” Luke said translating the electronic outbursts. “Actually, he said something much worse, but I’d rather not repeat it.”

The droid emitted a low whistle.

Han blinked at Luke in surprise. “You speak binary?”

Luke shrugged. “Doesn’t everyone?”

“Actually no, must people don’t really talk to their droids unless they speak common, and even they mostly just order them around” Han said giving him a strange smile that made the Luke’s stomach flip-flop. “So tell me, how does a multi-lingual Jedi Knight such as yourself, wind up scouring Mos Eisley for his missing droid? Sounds like there’s quite a story there,” he grinned; his eyes glanced knowingly over the silver hilt at the boy’s side.

“The same could be said about the charming, billionaire, playboy prince of Corellia,” Luke smirked.

Han let out a breathy chuckle and looked away with something akin to embarrassment. Luke flushed. That really hadn’t come out at all how he intended. Oh stars, were they flirting? Was he actually flirting with Han Solo? The Han Solo?! The gossip rags’ most eligible bachelor of the year?! Malachor’s moons, had he really just called the man charming?!

Artoo let out a teasing whistle earning him a swift kick from the flustered blond.

“Fair enough,” laughed Han, relieving Luke somewhat of his awkwardness. “We all have our secrets,” he winked. Luke gave him a warm, grateful smile.

“Honestly though, you do look very familiar,” Han remarked furrowing his brow. Luke blanched. “Have we ever run into each other on Coruscant?”

“I don’t think so. I, um, don’t get out much,” said Luke quickly as he turned to walk back towards the main gates. Han matched his stride easily with his long legs. “I’m actually staying with some relatives in Naboo,” Luke said, mentally kicking himself.

Why are you telling him this? Stop Talking!

“Oh, really? Who are they? I get out to Naboo a lot on business,” Han grinned.

“Um, my relatives…” Luke said awkwardly, avoiding Han’s gaze.

“Yes, you said as much,” Han raised an eyebrow at him. “But which ones?”

“The only ones I have in Naboo,” Luke responded.

Han cocked his head to the side with a playful smirk. “Are you purposely trying to play hard to get or are you just being difficult?”

Luke nearly choked on his own spit as he skidded to a halt. He looked up at the taller man with an absolutely mortified expression. Han thought he was playing hard to get? Did Han really think he was actually flirting with him? And more importantly, was Han trying to flirt back?

Luke swallowed. “I- No. I’m not- that is… It’s complicated…” he said kicking a stray clod of dirt by his boots.

Han chuckled. “Alright, how about a name then?” he said with another disarmingly roguish grin.

“Why?” Luke bristled defensively.

“So the next time I drop by Naboo I’ll be able to look up my new favorite Jedi droid rescuer,” Han winked, the mischievousness in his tone clearly evident.

Luke’s breath hitched. Han was flirting with him. This was really happening. Han Solo, the Han Solo, heir to the Intergalactic Banking Clan and the Corellian throne, was flirting with him. Han Solo wanted to know his name.

Time seemed to stand still for a moment as Luke’s mind struggled to think of an appropriate response. He couldn’t tell Han his real name; that would link him back to Rush, and Luke really didn’t relish the idea of his step father finding out Luke had lied to him and stolen his ship. But he had to say something. Han was standing there expectantly waiting for his answer, his smile beginning to falter with each passing second of awkward silence.

In years to come, Luke would look back on his next few words as possibly the dumbest decision of his life. But at that moment, only one name echoed through his brain, blocking out all possible warnings or notions of common sense. He took a deep breath to steady himself.

“Skywalker,” he said finally. “Anakin Skywalker.”

“Skywalker,” Han repeated softly, rolling the name around on his tongue. He extended a friendly hand out to Luke who shook it hesitantly. “Good to meet you, Anakin. The name’s Han. Han Solo.”

Oh, believe me, I know who you are. My stepsister has a collage with your face on it hanging in her bedroom, Luke thought to himself. But all he said was,

“Good to meet you too, Han.”

R2-D2 looked back and forth between the pair knowingly, with a whirring of his optic sensor.

Han brushed a hand through his dark hair. “Well, listen Skyguy, I’d love to stay and chat but I think it would be wise if you and I were to split up as soon as possible before the guards show up,” He reached into a hidden vest pocket and shoved a familiar looking coin purse into Luke’s hands. The blond looked up at Han in astonishment as the Corellian gave him a conspiratorial wink.

“I suggest you get a head start,” Han grinned.

Chapter Text

C-3PO puttered around the estate that morning in a state of restless agitation. He went about his chores much more slowly than he normally did. His mind was far too focused on his friends to worry about what kind of sandwiches Rush wanted served for luncheon. He desperately hoped that Luke had made it safely to Tatooine. He hoped even more greatly that by some miracle he had found R2-D2. There were so many factors that could go wrong. He tried not to think too hard about the possibility of the ship crashing into an asteroid field, or Luke running into trouble in the unfamiliar city, or that Artoo had been sold for parts.

He slowly lowered his one good arm down to his side as he finished washing the outside of one of the towering front windows, gazing despondently at his own reflection in the glass. He felt more alone than he had ever been in his whole existence. He thought back on all the adventures he had shared with the little, audacious, blue droid. Sure, Artoo was rude, and callous, and sarcastic, and could get himself into all sorts of trouble with that hair-trigger temper of his, but at the end of the day, he was the best friend C-3PO had ever known. More than anything he wished he had told the little astromech the way he felt about him before he was taken.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of gravel crunching up the path behind him, and a series of faint, yet familiar, mechanical beeps and whistles. C-3PO would have known that sound if he had traveled the entire galaxy and back. He slowly turned, hardly daring to believe what he was seeing.

Coming up the drive, looking worn and covered in sand, but still bearing an exhausted smile, was his dear Master Luke. He caught sight of the golden protocol droid and gave him an enthusiastic wave. And there, just beside him, rolling along without a care in the world was- was his…

“R2-D2!” C-3PO cried, running down the path as fast as his stiff legs could carry him. He slowed his pace as he reached the two figures, placing his one hand affectionately on the little blue droid’s dome. “Oh, R2-D2! Thank the Maker! I thought I’d never see you again! I was so worried Master Luke had-“

The astromech unit emitted an indignant series of beeps.

“What? ‘What took so-?’ Why you ungrateful bucket of bolts! Here I’ve been worrying myself into a system failure, and all you can do is complain that you weren’t rescued quickly enough?! Do you have any idea the amount of work I’ve had to do these last few days without your help you lazy piece of junk?!” He thumped the little droid on the dome, as Luke threw his head back in raucous laughter.

R2-D2 let out an amused chorus of chirps and static.

“Well, I’m glad you can laugh about this,” huffed the golden protocol droid. “But I for one do not find the situation funny in the least.”

R2-D2 let out low, soft whistle.

“I- well, yes. I suppose I’m very glad to see you again, as well,” he said softly, turning his head away in embarrassment.

Luke put a friendly arm around C-3PO’s shoulder. “It’s good to see you again, Threepio. Here, I brought you a little something.”

Luke reached behind his back and un-shouldered a long narrow package that C-3PO hadn’t noticed before. The paper was course and grainy, and covered in a few dark oily stains that the protocol droid figured to be grease. Luke presented the package to him with a beaming smile. C-3PO looked down at the filthy wrapping with a slight feeling of unease.

“Oh. Master Luke, you shouldn’t have. You don’t need to go spending your money on-“

“Don’t be silly. Just open it,” Luke grinned at him.

C-3PO hesitantly reached out to undo the loosely tied twine holding the paper together. The packaging fell away and the droid let out a small gasp. Nestled in the rough folds of paper was a new, standard sized protocol droid’s left arm, its metal plating gleaming brightly in the sunlight. C-3PO brushed his mechanical fingers over it in awe, as if to assure himself that it was real. It looked to be lightly used; there were several scuff marks and nicks in the paint, but the overall condition was perfect. It was identical in every way to his old arm, except for the matte ruby red color. It would clash horribly with the rest of his plating, but he didn’t care. He lifted his head to meet Luke’s expectant gaze.

“Thank you,” he breathed. “It’s beautiful. I- I don’t know what to say.” He toyed with the flexible fingers. “But how- I mean- I thought… The money?”

“It’s turns out I had more left over than I originally thought,” Luke said with a sideways wink to the astromech droid. R2-D2 let out an amused series of beeps like a chuckle. “Come on, let’s go inside and I can help wire it for you.” He put a hand on the protocol droid’s back, gently guiding him back to the house as R2-D2 rolled along after them, beeping merrily.

Chapter Text

“There, all finished,” Luke said setting down his wrench on the kitchen table and wiping his brow with the sleeve of his usual white tunic. His borrowed robes had been safely returned to Bail’s summer palace, along with Leia, with nobody being the wiser.

“How’s that feel, Threepio?” Luke asked.

C-3PO flexed his newly attached appendage, touching each of the jointed digits to his thumb to test the dexterity.

“Oh, Master Luke, it’s wonderful,” the protocol droid cried ecstatically. “I can’t tell you how good it feels to be in possession of both arms again!”

“I’ll bet,” said Luke resting his feet up on the table. “Sorry I couldn’t find one that matched though.”

“Oh, not at all!” C-3PO gave him a reassuring wave with his new limb. “I’m sure I’ll get used to it! Besides, I’ve always known I’d look good in red.”

R2-D2 emitted a low beeping noise from beside him.

“Well, no one asked you, you insufferable pile of scrap!” snapped the protocol droid, delivering him a swift kick from under the table. Luke chuckled.

“I was so worried for you and Miss Leia while you were away, Master Luke,” C-3PO continued, wringing his new hand worriedly. “I hope you able to find your way alright on that desolate space rock. What’s it like over there, anyway?”

Luke ran a hand through his hair, frowning in annoyance as a few hidden grains of sand spilled over the table. He was going to be finding the foul stuff on him for days, he thought grimly.

“Hot,” he grumbled, “and positively covered with sand. This stuff grates like you wouldn’t believe; I don’t know how those people stand it. It’s coarse, rough, irritating, and it get’s absolutely everywhere. Let’s just say, I’ll never complain about the rain here ever again.”

“And what about Prince Solo?” C-3PO prompted eagerly. “Did you get a chance to talk to him after he rescued you? Did you remind him who you were, or did he recognize you from your meeting the other day?”

“Okay, two things,” Luke said, holding up a corresponding number of fingers. “One, he did not ‘rescue’ me, he merely stepped in to help. And two, I’m pretty sure the whole point of me sweltering in those robes was specifically so no one could recognize me. Not that I think he’d run off to tell Rush anyway, even if he had. But they do work together, so better safe than sorry,” Luke finished with a shrug.

“Still, you’ve gotten to meet the prince of Corellia in person, twice now! I’m so jealous,” the protocol droid replied with excitement. “So, what did you two talk about? I want to know every detail!” C-3PO rested his head in his hands and leaned against the table to peer at Luke intently.

Luke felt his cheeks heat up. “Oh… you know, this and that,” he coughed nervously.

“Is he as handsome in person as he is on the netfeeds?” the protocol droid asked with a dreamy sounding sigh. R2-D2 rolled his optic sensor in annoyance with low burst of static. C-3PO ignored him.

Luke was sure his ears had turned a vibrant shade of red at that point. “I, um… he’s alright, I suppose,” he mumbled, scratching at the back of his neck. “If you’re into the whole… um, prince thing…”

C-3PO let out another soft, dreamy sigh.

Luke awkwardly got up from his seat to stretch out his back. “Well, I suppose I’d better start making up for lost time,” he said, a bit too hastily. “I’m not sure Rush would be too pleased to find out that only a third of the chores have been done today.” He turned towards the entrance to the main hallway.

“We’ll come with you, Master Luke! I’m anxious to try out my new arm!” C-3PO chirped happily as he followed after him. R2-D2 whirled his sensor towards him.

Beep-beep-boop.

“Yes, of course you’re along coming to help. Did you think we brought you all the way back here to sit on your lazy motivator?”

Boop-blip-beep.

“And watch your language, you vulgar hunk of junk!”

Luke rolled his eyes at the pair and shook his head with a small smile. He had certainly missed the odd interactions of the unlikely duo while Artoo was away. He was glad things were starting to return to normal once again.

Luke followed the large hallway until it emptied out into the well lit foyer. The sound of heavy boots on the polished tile and rough voices caught his attention, and he turned to see Rush’s associates spilling out from the parlor. Luke side stepped out of their path, more so to avoid an awkward confrontation than out of any sort of fear. He followed the unscrupulous gathering with his eyes, just in case any of them got any funny ideas about taking home some souvenirs on their way out. The boisterous bounty hunters were over at the house so often these days that Luke had learned to identify them all by name.

Dengar was the only human in the rag tag assembly. Pasty and chubby, and not particularly threatening, Luke had always found him to be the most agreeable of the bunch. He caught sight of Luke as he passed by the entry way and gave him a friendly wave, which Luke hesitantly returned out of politeness.

The rest of the group’s members were far less amicable, however. There was IG-88, a towering sentinel droid built specifically for one purpose - ruthless assassination. Apparently he had joined up with the rowdy gang of bounty hunters simply for the fun of it. Luke held his breath as the droid stalked by. He didn’t like the way you could never tell which direction those menacing red optics were facing.

Bringing up the rear were Bossk and Zuckuss, whom out of all the members of the group seemed to be the closest with each other. The Trandoshan had his arm around the smaller insect-like alien in friendly camaraderie, his reptilian tongue darting between his razor sharp teeth to taste the air. Bossk, though only slightly shorter than the sentinel droid, still towered over Luke’s diminutive frame. His eye slits caught sight of Luke as the pair passed and he whispered something to his companion. Zuckuss let out a chitinous, clicking sound from his pincers that Luke garnered to be laughter.

Once all of the bounty hunters were out of the house, with the door securely closed, Luke let out a pent-up sigh of relief. He shared an exasperated eye roll with the two droids next to him, whom due to their limited facial expressions could only mutter their verbal disapproval.

“Come on, I’m sure those sleemos left quite a mess for us to clean up,” Luke said as he began to make his way towards the parlor.

“You cut me to the quick, son,” came a rough, gravelly voice from the shadows.

Luke whirled around in alarm to see a tall, lanky figure casually leaning against one of the massive marble columns. Luke’s heart dropped to the bottom of his stomach. Cad Bane, the final and most ruthless member of Rush’s circle of criminals, leered at him from under the shadow of his wide brimmed hat.

Out of all the members of Rush’s inner circle, Cad Bane was the only bounty hunter that truly terrified Luke. He wasn’t as aggressive as Bossk, or as unnervingly quiet as IG-88, but he had a deceptively charming and laid back manner that hid the sociopathic tendencies of a coldblooded killer. He was terrifying not because of his cruelty, but because you never knew when to expect it. Luke had learned long ago that the unpredictable were the most frightening kind of people of all.

The Duros tipped his hat at him with a toothy grin. Luke swallowed. He could feel Threepio put a protective arm around his back as the droid bristled defensively. R2-D2 let out a series of angry clicks and beeps as he skidded to a halt in front of him, placing himself defensively between Luke and the bounty hunter.

“Nobody’s talking to you, trash can,” Cad Bane growled in his strangely unidentifiable accent. Luke shuddered. The man’s voice sounded far more mechanical than any living creature’s ought to.

Cad Bane lazily pushed himself away from the column and into the lighted area of the foyer, swaggering over towards Luke like a rancor circling its prey.

“My boys and I were looking around for you earlier, farmboy,” he smirked. His red eyes flashed brightly in the filtered sunlight. “We missed you.”

“I’ll bet,” Luke said stiffly, not taking his eyes off the blue skinned bounty hunter.

“I bet your daddy’s been worried sick over your disappearance,” the man said with a nauseating grin. Luke felt the bile begin to rise in his throat. “So where were you, kiddo?”

“Out,” said Luke flatly in a tone that clearly didn’t invite any more investigation. “I don’t have to tell you where.”

Cad Ban reached out a hand, cupping Luke’s chin in light but firm grip. Luke stifled a cry, not wanting to give the man the satisfaction of seeing his alarm. He forced himself to stay perfectly still as he glared the leather clad man down. C-3PO and R2-D2 both made vocalizations of protest, but Cad Bane ignored them, fixating on Luke with a terrifying grin.

“Aren’t you a little mouthy for a green ear? Pup?” he purred. Luke felt an involuntary shiver of fear race down his spine. “Just like your pretty little mother used to be,” Cad Bane continued, his grin stretching even wider across his gaunt face. Luke felt the ire rise in him as he seethed through clenched teeth. The man only chuckled at his reaction.

“I could use a young man with your… spirit on my crew,” Cad Bane said, trailing a long, spindly finger along Luke’s jaw line. Luke shuddered when he saw the man’s large red eyes dilate. A long tongue poked out to lick the dry, chapped, blue lips as a soft growl emanated from the taller man’s throat. “Such a handsome boy,” Bane purred, ghosting a gnarled finger over Luke’s lower lip.

Luke’s eyes widened as his entire body went rigid with fear. A few beads of sweat began to trickle their way down his forehead. Bane chuckled softly, and leaned in within a hairsbreadth of Luke’s stricken face. Luke could almost taste the sourness of the man’s breath as he whispered.

“I’d take real good care of you… pup.”

“Bane!” A harsh voice echoed over the entryway, startling the four figures present.

Cad Bane dropped his arm away from Luke and whirled around with a faint hiss in the direction from which the voice had come. Luke staggered backwards, supported by the steady arms of C-3PO. He glanced upwards towards the parlor, ignoring the loose, messy strands of hair that had fallen into his eyes.

Rush Clovis stood in the edge of the doorway looking angrier and more imposing than Luke had ever seen him. His jaw clenched, and a large vein on his forehead pulsed violently. His fists were clenched at his side, the skin around his knuckles noticeably white. His eyes were hard. Cold. Malevolent. He glared down at Cad Bane with a fury that would have staggered a Sith lord. Luke gaped up at the man in awe.

“Get away from my son,” Rush growled in a voice so low and menacing that Luke barely caught it.

Luke’s breath hitched in his throat. Had Rush really just called him-?

Cad Bane stepped away from Luke with a smirk, lifting his hands into the air exaggeratedly.

“The boys and I were just leaving,” he said in that deep, gravelly voice of his. “Pleasure doing business with you, as always,” he growled, giving Rush a strange look that Luke couldn’t quite place. Luke thought he caught a flash of something dangerous behind the gleaming red eyes, but it was gone before he could register it.

Rush remained where he was, silently glaring the other man down. He seemed to grow even larger as he loomed menacingly from the doorway.

Cad Bane turned to go, sauntering over towards Luke and giving the boy a tip of his hat.

“Be seeing you, junior,” he winked, brushing off a few stray grains of sand from Luke’s shoulder with a knowing smirk.

Luke stared at his retreating back, utterly speechless. Cad Bane stalked passed C-3PO and R2-D2 who warily watched him leave with various degrees of distain. He walked out into the courtyard, shutting the front doors to the estate behind him with a bang.

As soon as the doors closed Rush’s figure seemed to deflate, as if he had been holding in a deep breath. He cast a glare towards the entryway as he walked over to where Luke stood looking incredibly shaken. Rush placed a large hand on Luke’s shoulder looking him up and down.

“Are you alright?” he sighed wearily, as though Luke had just suffered from a particularly embarrassing fall instead of an uncomfortable and threatening encounter with a known criminal. Luke nodded, still unable to speak.

Rush looked down over the boy’s shoulder in bewilderment at R2-D2.

“What in the name of Malachor is that thing doing back here?!” he asked.

Luke panicked. He hadn’t planned on what he would tell Rush when he returned from his mission. Somehow the thought had never occurred to him until now.

“I, uh, got a new replacement droid,” Luke said quickly. Rush raised a dubious eyebrow at him.

“Yeah, I, um… Leia heard about Arto- about the droid we sold, and she offered to give us one of her family’s older models,” Luke muttered, scratching the back of his neck. “So, um, yeah, that’s what I’ve been doing all day; I went to Leia’s house to look at new droids.” He smiled nervously. “This is, um… R3... S6…” Luke said gesturing towards the little blue droid, who shook his dome hopelessly at him with a low whistle.

Rush glanced between Luke and the astromech unit with furrowed brows before noticing C-3PO standing awkwardly behind them. “Is that a new arm?!” he asked, utterly dumbfounded.

“Oh... Yeah. Leia also… had a spare protocol droid arm lying about?” Luke cringed inwardly through his strained smile. Star’s end, he was so bad at this.

Rush looked back and forth between the fidgeting trio incredulously. He let out a heavy sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose, as if this was all too much for him to handle.

“Fine. Whatever. I don’t care. Just… go clean up the mess in the parlor or something.” He turned away from the group and began climbing the ornate twisting staircase to the upstairs chambers.

As soon as he was out of sight, all three of the remaining figures let out a collective sigh of relief.

“That was a little too close,” Luke chuckled, wiping his brow.

Beep-beep-blip.

“Alright, smart guy,” Luke smirked at the astromech unit. ”Next time you come up with the excuse.”

Chapter Text

The trip to Tatooine had taken up a good chunk of the day. Luke was finding himself working into the late evening hours to catch up on all of his neglected chores. Despite the hard work, Luke couldn’t help but feeling happier than he had in days. Just knowing Artoo was safely back home made a world of difference. He hummed softly to himself as he made his way towards the back of the house, and the many dusty reading rooms.

He abruptly stopped upon entering Rush’s study, not expecting to find the man slumped over his desk. Rush sat with his back to the doorway, running a hand through his graying dark hair and muttering to himself as he waded through a mountain of paperwork. He turned his head in Luke’s direction at the sound of the door creaking open.

“I… I can come back later if you want,” Luke mumbled, moving to close the door.

Rush waved a hand at him wearily. “No, no. Go ahead; I’m just about done here.”

Luke let go of the doorknob and began to straighten up the cluttered office, trying to stay out of Rush’s way in the cramped little room. Somehow, no matter how often Luke would arrange the stacks of papers and writing supplies, his stepfather always managed to leave it in complete disarray again nearly every evening. Luke was just grateful that Rush somehow managed to contain his disorganized work habits to his study and bedroom.

Rush clicked his tongue in annoyance at the stacks of paper littering his desk. “You know something? I really hate those guys.”

Luke looked up at him questioningly, surprised by Rush’s apparent want of conversation.

“The bounty hunters, I mean,” Rush clarified, setting down his pen and swiveling his chair around to face Luke. “Sure, they have their uses, but they’re all a bunch of lowlife scum. Especially that Cad Bane,” Rush growled, as if the man’s name left a bad taste in his mouth.

Luke threw a quizzical glance at the sea of papers on Rush’s desk. “What’s that you’re working on?” he asked, emboldened by Rush’s sudden openness.

Rush casually slipped a blank sheet over the top most page, concealing its contents from view. “Just business stuff, kid. Bookkeeping, bank orders… That sort of thing. It wouldn’t interest you,” he gave the boy a small, half hearted shrug.

Luke nodded and began to busy himself with his work again. A moment of companionable silence passed between them.

“I bet old goldenrod’s happy his little droid boyfriend is back,” Rush said nonchalantly, flipping through some finished paperwork.

Luke nearly dropped the stack of papers he was holding. He turned to face Rush with wild, panicked eyes. His tongue struggled to form even the simplest of syllables.

“Wha-? How-? How di-?”

“Kid, I’m not stupid,” Rush rolled his eyes and abandoned feigning interest in his work. “I knew it was your old R2 unit as soon as I saw it, and also, you’re a kriffing awful liar.” He gave Luke a small smirk from over his raised eyebrows. Luke slowly released the breath he was holding.

“Now, I don’t know how you got him back, and frankly I don’t want to know. I’m guessing that princess friend of yours had something to do with it,” Rush said simply, turning back to his workload.

Luke stared at the man. He couldn’t believe Rush was letting this go so easily. He hesitantly went back to his cleaning when the verbal tirade he was expecting didn’t come. An awkward silence fell over the two of them.

“I thought about what you said the other day,” Rush said quietly, not looking up from his desk. Luke turned back towards him, curiously. Rush sighed and pushed his chair away from his desk. He rested his cheek on one hand, peering out at Luke through his splayed fingers.

“About her. Your mom. You were right. She wouldn’t have wanted me to sell that R2 unit. But then… she never would have wanted a lot of things,” Rush let out a shaking sigh and squeezed his eyes shut with a grimace. Luke stared at the man in silence.

Rush was quiet for a long time. When he finally opened his eyes and looked up at the boy again, they were red and tired looking. “I’m not a good man, Luke,” Rush whispered hoarsely. “Maybe I was once, but I’m not now. Maybe I was never one to start with… I know that I drink too much, and gamble away all my money… Hell, I can’t even do right by my own damn kids!” Rush let out a horse, mirthless laugh and gestured weakly at Luke. Luke didn’t respond. He merely stared at the man with a mixture of pity and trepidation.

Rush looked over at Luke with an uncharacteristically soft expression. “You really do remind me of her, you know,” he said with a small smile.

Luke felt his own eyes beginning to water. Quietly, he walked over to kneel beside the man’s chair, his eyes warm and thoughtful. This was the closest in several years his stepfather had come to resemble the Rush Luke had grown to love as a child.

“You look more like your dad, though,” Rush said reaching out to gently stroke his hair. “But, yeah, you definitely got Padmé’s personality. Thank the Force,” he said with a small grin. Luke felt himself lean into the man’s touch with a gentle sigh. It had been so long since anyone had touched him with such tenderness. He had almost forgotten what it had felt like.

“Sometimes I think I can feel her looking out at me through your eyes,” Rush said quietly. Luke blinked up at him warmly.

“And I can feel all her disappointment at what I’ve become.” Rush averted his gaze from Luke, his expression beginning to cloud with bitterness. Luke tensed, sure that an explosive outburst was imminent.

But after a moment, Rush simply sighed, as though everything had simply drained out of him. He slumped forward in his chair and clasped his face in both hands, letting out a few shaking breaths. He dragged his hands down his haggard face to gaze up at Luke.

“Do you think..? Do you think she ever really loved me?” he asked in a broken voice.

Luke sadly glanced away from the man for a brief moment. He ran over his response in his mind carefully, wanting to make sure his answer wouldn’t bring Rush any further pain. After several seconds he drew in a shuddering breath.

“I think... I think she wanted to…” he said softly. “You know when she… When she went away to Coruscant? She told me just before she left that she was sorry for not trying harder, and that when she got back… things… would be different…” Luke could feel a lump rising in his throat, and he struggled to swallow it back down. He blinked away a few tears that had formed in the corners of his eyes. “I think more than anything she wanted us to all be a family again,” he said in a shaking voice.

Rush gazed at Luke through dark, watery eyes for a long moment, his expression difficult to place. He appeared to be wrestling with something inside himself, but Luke couldn’t be sure what. Finally he pinched the bridge of his nose and let out a long shuddering sigh, his shoulders trembling as he exhaled. Luke didn’t move a muscle; he just continued to stare down at the man in pity. He wondered if he had made the right choice in telling his stepfather the truth.

“Go away, Luke,” Rush said finally in a quiet voice, “I’m tired.”

Luke opened his mouth as if to argue, back silently closed it again. He let out a soft sigh and picked himself off from the floor. He turned to leave, pausing when he reached the door to cast a final look at the man in the chair. Rush had his head buried in his hands. He sat there perfectly still; no sound emitted from his crumpled form. Luke gently closed the door behind him with a soft click. He quietly retreated into the main hallway, the soft blue moonlight casting eerie shadows behind him as he went.

Chapter Text

“I can’t believe what they’re charging us to use parking garages these days. It’s skyway robbery!” griped a disgruntled Han Solo, shoving his hands into his pants pockets as he strolled along the busy marketplace square in Coruscant’s business sector. Chewbacca casually walked along beside him as they passed the glowing electric storefronts and tented stalls on either side of the wide paved street. He growled softly in agreement.

“Huuuuurrrrgghhhhh.”

“Yeah, you said it, bud,” said Han. “Too many people in this town.” He grunted as someone roughly bumped his shoulder in passing. Han glared at the figure’s retreating back and muttered darkly under his breath. “Makes me want to head back to Naboo, even with all the damn mud.”

Chewbacca raised an eyebrow at him. “Waaaaarrrggggggg?” he roared questioningly with a small smirk.

Han spluttered indignantly. “What? No! This has nothing to do with Anakin! I don’t-! Well, frankly how dare you, first of all?” he grumbled.

Chewbacca gave him a deep rumbling chuckle.

“Yeah, laugh it up, fuzzball,” Han said rolling his eyes. He ran a hand through his hair as he gazed up at the bustling city sky lanes. “But, man, you should have seen this guy, Chewie. I’m telling you, they don’t make guys like him on Coruscant,” Han drifted off into space as he walked, a small smile tugging at his lips. “I wouldn’t mind seeing him again.”

They turned a corner emptying into a smaller, quieter avenue, adjacent to the main square. The streets were much less crowded here than in the cramped market district. Han allowed himself a deep breath, grateful for the open space, even if the air did still smell like engine fuel.

Chewie pointed a massive furry paw towards a quaint, outdoor diner and roared questioningly. At first Han though his friend was simply hungry, but upon closer inspection he noticed a familiar head of neatly combed ginger hair towards the far end of the covered patio.

“Hey, isn’t that our friend Obi-Wan from the other day?” Han asked as he squinted at the man for a better look. Chewie rumbled in agreement.

The man was sitting alone at one of the small circular tables. His back was to them, but Han could recognize the familiar brown cloak that was considered a standard of the Jedi Order. Obi-Wan casually sipped at a steaming hot mug as he lazily scrolled through the day’s newsfeed on the table’s built in holopad.

“Should we go say hello, you think?” Han smirked at Chewie, who shrugged thoughtfully.

Han snaked his way through the mess of mostly empty tables, making his way to where Obi-Wan sat reading. He reached the man’s table, ignoring Obi-Wan’s startled look as Han pulled out an extra chair and settled himself backwards on it. Han grinned at the Jedi as he folded his arms over the back of the chair rest. Beside him, Chewbacca carefully sidestepped a couple of customers, trying his best to maneuver his large frame through the sea of tables. He carefully pulled out another chair, squeezing himself in as best he could, between the two of them.

“I see you both made it back to Coruscant in one piece,” Obi-Wan said dryly after collecting himself for a moment. He turned his attention back to scanning the newsfeeds.

“I’m surprised that you did, considering that awkward stand-off you and Rush had going on when I left,” Han said with a smirk. Chewbacca put a paw to his face and groaned.

Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow at him. “Well, not that it’s any of your business, but as it turns out, Mr. Clovis and I are not quite as on the same page about certain things as I would have hoped.” He took another swig from his mug, his expression darkening slightly.

“Sorry to hear that,” Han mumbled, drumming his fingers on the table. “If it makes you feel any better, I’m not such a big fan of the guy, myself. He kind of gives me the creeps honestly. I don’t know… something about his face, I guess,” Han offered the man an apologetic, lopsided grin. Obi-Wan ignored him.

“I wanted to thank you again,” Han continued, more sincerely this time. “For rescuing my ship, I mean. You really saved my hide out there.”

Obi-Wan turned off the projected screen with a tap of his finger. He settled his chin lazily on his hands with a small, resigned sigh and fixed Han with his now full attention. His face softened into something akin to a wry smile.

“You’re welcome,” he said. “And for what it’s worth, I never would have tracked that lightsaber down without your help, so thank you as well.”

“So were you able to deliver it then? To your friend’s next of kin?” Han asked curiously.

“I did. I think with time and a good deal of training, he may one day wield it as well as his father.” Obi-Wan trailed off with a fond smile as he stared off across the street into space.

Han nodded, unsure of what else to say. He glanced around the sparsely crowded seating awning, content to simply people watch for a moment. Chewbacca, growing uncomfortable with the ensuing silence, motioned for a passing server to bring them some waters.

It was Han who finally picked up the conversation again. “So, Obi-Wan…” he trailed casually. “You wouldn’t happen to know an Anakin Skywalker by any chance would you?”

Obi-Wan turned back to look at him curiously. His blue eyes crinkled in suspicion as he furrowed his brow. “…Why do you want to know?” he asked carefully, taking another sip from his mug.

Han shrugged. “No reason. Just that I ran into him on Tatooine yesterday, and he mentioned he was staying in Naboo. I figure you’d-“

Han barely had time to dodge the steaming spray of liquid as it spewed out towards his face. Chewie growled in surprise and shielded himself with a disproportionately tiny menu. Obi-Wan spluttered and coughed, apparently having swallowed the remaining mouthful down the wrong pipe. Han slowly lifted his head back over the table and eyed the man warily, the way one might eye a field of hidden land mines.

“Um, are you alright there, Kenobi-Wan?” Han asked him incredulously.

“I’m fine. I’m fine,” Obi-Wan waved him off dismissively as he thumped himself a few times on the chest. “What was that about Anakin and Tatooine?” Obi-Wan fixed Han with a piercing stare.

Han shared an anxious look with Chewbacca. “Well… yeah, I was in the Mos Eisley droid market the other day to get parts for my Falcon, when I came across this guy, Anakin, getting into it with one of the vendors. Apparently the stall owner had this guy’s little R2 unit and he was trying to charge him an arm and a leg just to get him back. So, I might have stepped in and helped… smooth things over... I was just wandering if you might know him? You know, you being a Jedi and all? He seemed like a nice guy,” Han finished with a small lopsided grin.

“What did he look like?” Obi-Wan demanded; his blue eyes blazed with intensity.

Han was taken aback by the man’s accusatory tone. “I dunno… Blond? Tan? Blue eyes? About ‘yay’ tall?” he said, holding his hand in the air for measurement. “Real good looking guy,” Han smiled.

Obi-Wan stared at him in bewilderment for a moment. It looked to Han as though he were trying to piece something together in his mind that didn’t quite add up. Suddenly, the blue eyes widened as apparent realization dawned on the man. Obi-Wan groaned and placed his head in his hands in exasperation, ignoring the questioning glances of the two other men at the table.

“Ohhhhhh, Force…” he mumbled.

“Something the matter?” Han asked nervously.

“I’m sorry, I have to go,” said Obi-Wan, pushing out his chair and dumping a fistful of credit ingots onto the table. “You boys have yourselves a nice lunch on me.” He pushed past the empty tables as he stalked towards the exit, leaving a stunned Han and Chewbacca, utterly speechless in his wake.

“You wanna tell me what that was all about?” Han asked his friend in bewilderment.

“Huuuuurrrrrggggnnnnn,” Chewbacca shrugged, picking up one of the available menus and studying the day’s lunch specials.

Chapter Text

Luke busied himself about the makeshift wooden stall that he had set up with C-3PO and R2-D2, as Naboo’s denizens milled about the open marketplace. He set out a basket of homegrown bilaberries from their back garden, and wiped beads of sweat away from his forehead with the back of a dusty sleeve. He smiled proudly down at his handiwork. The stall had been artfully arranged with the literal fruits of his labors, catching the eye of several shoppers as they paused to admire the delicious looking produce.

Luke smiled and let out a contented sigh. Of all of his many chores, he preferred setting up shop in the marketplace best of all. It was such a peaceful change from his ordinary home life - the fresh, country air, the warm, summer sunshine, the bright and colorful stall tents, the gentle sounds of lowing shaak as they grazed in the nearby pastures, and the constant, but relaxed thrum of voices as shoppers would stop and chat with the various stall owners.

More than anything though, he loved having a place where he was sure he wouldn’t be bothered by Rush or Aurra. His stepsister was far too snobbish to ever consider associating with ‘the common people’ as she called them. If she did go into town, it was because she wanted to be seen, not because there was actual work that needed doing. As for Rush, he preferred to do his work indoors. Luke had a hard time picturing him hawking vegetables in the heat from a rickety wooden stall in the town square. Luke never minded, though. It was the perfect way to bring in a little much needed income, and a little sweat never did anyone any harm. Besides that, he was also very good at dealing with customers. Luke’s little stall had garnered a reputation in the marketplace for not only having some of the freshest, and juiciest fruits and vegetables in town, but also some of the best service.

People would often stop by to ask him about his latest crop. Luke didn’t like to brag, but he considered himself to be quite the people person. He always greeted each and every potential customer that stopped by with a kind word and a friendly smile, even if they didn’t end up buying anything. He liked to think that his positive and amicable attitude had as much to do with the crowd their little stall drew as the produce they sold there.

And what a beautiful day it was to set up shop, Luke thought contentedly, as he breathed in a deep lungful of the fresh, summer air. He turned his attention to the two droids behind him, who were in the middle of one of their many bickering sessions.

“How many times do I have to tell you?” cried the golden droid in exasperation, “the heavy produce goes on the bottom! You’re going to ruin all of our merchandise before we even have a chance to sell it!”

Beep-boop-whiiiiirrrrrrrr

“And I’ll thank you not to take that tone with me either, you rusty scrap bucket!”

Luke shook his head and rolled his eyes at the two playfully. He craned his neck over the edge of the stall to do a quick check of the inventory, noticing the bushel of tomatoes that he had set out earlier that morning was looking a bit low. He crouched down and began riffling through the assortment of produce that had been stored below the counter area for just such a purpose, pushing aside a few crates of thorn pears and feeling blindly around with one hand. He smiled to himself when his fingers brushed up against the familiar smooth skin of one of his homegrown tomatoes.

He leaned farther in to reach them, getting on his hands and knees as he did so. A dark shape suddenly stepped in front of Luke’s line of sight as he saw the outline of a figure pause momentary in front of his stall, through the gaps of the wooden planks.

“Be with you in one moment,” Luke cried, grabbing the basket of tomatoes and shuffling backwards with them. He sprang to his feet, basket in hand, putting on his most charming smile.

“Hello! How can I-?”

He froze, the smile instantly dropping from his face. Standing before him, with a casual, almost lazy stance, was the towering, lanky figure of Cad Bane. He moved a worn looking toothpick in his mouth from one side to the other, lifting his hat slightly in greeting. Luke felt all the color drain out of him as he stiffened, his fingers visibly tightening on the basket in his hands. He heard R2-D2 and C-3PO instantly cease their arguing as they turned their attention to the looming menace.

Cad Bane’s face split sideways in a toothy grin that sent a shiver of fear up Luke’s spine. “Hello, pup,” he rumbled, his voice low and resonant. “What’s a pretty little thing like you doing out and about in a place like this?”

“Working,” Luke replied curtly. He held up the basket of tomatoes in his hands for emphasis. “Shockingly, when you get drunk and end up smashing into an antique coffee table, it actually costs money to replace it.”

Luke glared at the bounty hunter and turned away, pretending to organize a box of apples displayed on the stall shelf. He lifted the various fruits in and out aimlessly, hoping that his unwelcome guest would take the hint and leave. To Luke’s dismay however, the bounty hunter continued to stand right where he was, watching Luke with a curious sort of grin. Luke was getting more and more anxious by the minute under Bane’s nearly suffocating gaze.

Luke dropped below the counter once again, hoping that if Bane couldn’t watch him, he would eventually get tired and leave. He began shifting boxes around with no rhyme or reason, glancing occasionally between the wooden slates to see if the familiar, worn, leather boots were still there. Cad Bane settled himself easily alongside the counter, resting his elbows on the grainy wood and peering down at Luke with a smirk as the boy continued to shuffle around the ground on his hands and knees, avoiding eye contact.

“Sure would be nice not to have to worry about all that ruckus any more, wouldn’t it, kid?”

“You got that right,” Luke muttered darkly to himself. Bane’s lanky form looming over him was starting to make him incredibly agitated, especially given his particularly vulnerable position. Luke crawled out from under the curtained storage area and instead began tidying up on the other side of the stall, putting as much distance between him and the bounty hunter as he could in the tiny, wooden enclosure. He could still feel the Duros’s crimson eyes boring heavily into his back as he worked.

“He wouldn’t have to work so hard if you and your band of ruffians didn’t leave the place in shambles every time!” C-3PO’s fearful, but accusatory voice sounded defensively from somewhere over Luke’s shoulder. Cad Bane didn’t even seem to acknowledge the droid’s presence. He kept his gaze focused intently on Luke’s back.

“Bet you wouldn’t mind having the money for you own place now, would ‘ya?” Bane said to him with an obvious smirk in his voice.

Luke turned to face him, despite his better judgment, and shot him a particularly indifferent look. “You’d have to buy an awful lot of vegetables for that to happen,” he said dryly.

Cad Bane laughed, throwing back his head and emitting a raspy chortle that took Luke slightly by surprise. “You know,” Bane mused after calming down somewhat and flashing his pointed canines, “Bounty hunting pays extremely well, if you’ve got the talent for it. You’ve got young eyes and a strong set of legs; I’d wager you could make double what that idiot stepfather of yours makes in a year if you played your cards right.”

For a brief moment, Luke actually considered it. It would be a great way to get out from under Rush’s roof, not to mention put some extra coin in his pocket. His mind went straight to the stories of daring rogues and swashbucklers that he had loved to read as a child. He shook his head at the idea with a wry smile.

“I’m afraid I don’t have much experience hunting down dangerous criminals,” he said sarcastically, reaching over to grab another basket. "Just being harassed by them," he muttered under his breath.

“Of course not; you’re just a green ear. Why, I’d be willing to bet you’ve never even held a blaster before in your life, have you?” Bane replied, still leaning on his elbows. Luke merely shrugged. The bounty hunter’s eyes glinted dangerously as his face formed into a lascivious grin. “But if you had the right teacher…”

“And your volunteering for the job, I take it?” Luke scoffed, raising a sardonic eyebrow and casting a reproachful glare over his shoulder at the leather clad Duros.

Bane’s grin stretched even wider. “You’d need someone to show you the ins and outs of the trade,” he continued, leaning farther over the crowded counter towards Luke. “Someone older and wiser to provide you with a firm, guiding hand.” Bane leaned in even further, so that his upper body was now entirely inside the cramped stall area. Reaching out a leathery hand, he a traced a single, bony finger slowly over the tanned skin of Luke’s forearm. Luke choked down the cry that was threatening to bubble up in his throat, as his entire body went rigid. Bane leaned in close to his ear and purred seductively. “Someone with the right… experience.

Luke suddenly spun around to face the Duros, yanking his arm out of Bane’s reach as he did so. “Prunes?” he offered cheerfully with the most poisonous smile he could muster, shoving the basket of wrinkled purple fruits towards the bounty hunter.

Cad Bane sneered at the fruits in disgust, curling his thin, blue lips over his pointed teeth. “No,” he growled, casting Luke a withering glare. “I’ll buy nothing this week. And you’d do well to remember where most of your family’s money comes from, boy,” Bane snarled. He turned, and kicked over the barrel of apples that Luke had left outside the stall, scattering them across the cobblestones of the square and causing R2-D2 let out a series of rapid fire, angry beeps. With a smirk, Cad Bane stalked away from the stall with long, lanky strides.

Luke breathed an enormous sigh of relief when Bane finally rounded a corner and passed out of sight.

“Why of all the-!” C-3PO spluttered angrily. “That scoundrel has some nerve showing his face here and talking to you like that! Why if he wasn’t lending so much money to Master Clovis, I’d- I’d,”

R2-D2 let out a sharp burst of static.

“Well, I wouldn’t have put it quite like that, but yes, thank you,” C-3PO nodded.

Luke rubbed his hands along his forearms as if he were chilled, despite the heat of the afternoon. He let out an exasperated sigh. “Well, enough about that sleemo. Come on, let’s get this place cleaned up.”

The two droids began straightening up the crates that had been pushed aside earlier, while Luke stepped around the counter to begin collecting the scattered apples. He checked each and every one, making sure that they hadn’t taken damage in the fall. Luckily, Bane’s outburst hadn’t cost him too many bruised fruits. The difficult part was scrambling over the marketplace to retrieve those that had rolled away when the barrel toppled.

Grumbling to himself, Luke gathered up the shiny, rose colored fruits in his arms, and began making his way over to his stall again, when he suddenly stopped. He blinked several times in confusion, as if unsure of what he was seeing.

The sight that greeted him so surprising, so unexpected, that he almost didn’t believe it. There, just ahead of him, admiring a handcrafted leather holster at a nearby stall, was somebody Luke though he’d never in a million years cross paths with again. His dark hair was brushed casually over his forehead, partially obscuring the deep, brown eyes. The white button up shirt that he wore under his vest was tucked haphazardly into his slim fitting, black pants.

Stars end, he’s even wearing the same outfit, thought Luke, as he continued to gape disbelievingly at the figure of Han Solo, who was busy fiddling with some kind of leather wrist guard.

Something in Luke’s dumbfounded demeanor must have drawn Han’s eye, because without warning he turned to face him. For a split second their eyes met and Han’s mouth fell open in surprise.

“Anaki-?”

Luke panicked. He let out a strangled yelp and without thinking, hurled the armful of apples towards Han, before diving behind his own stall. The whole thing happened in less than a second. Han yelled out in surprise and shielded himself from the barrage of fresh fruit as they came flying towards him. The apples fell to the ground, causing them to bruise even further. They bounced once or twice on the cobbles before innocently rolling away out of sight.

Han spun around wildly, glancing in every direction with a look of utter bewilderment and confusion. His gaze landed on the two droids who stood at the stall’s counter, completely taken aback. Han panted slightly as he looked at them quizzically, his eyes zeroing in on the little blue astromech with a faint look of recognition. R2-D2 beeped in alarm and quickly zipped behind C-3PO to avoid drawing further notice.

“…Was it… just the two of you before?” Han asked, somewhat incredulously. His eyes seemed to be scanning around the stall for something.

C-3PO spoke up meekly. “And the… vegetables… You’re Highness…”

R2-D2 let out a warbling groan.

Han cast one last look over the pair of droids, before nodding uncertainly and slowly making his way across the market square.

Only when he was sure Han was out of earshot, did Luke pull himself up from his hiding place behind the counter. He brushed himself off with an awkward cough, avoiding eye contact with the two droids.

“Well, then… where were we?” he asked with a bashful grin.

“Master Luke, really, don’t you think you over reacted there just a bit?” C-3PO tutted disapprovingly and stiffly put his hands on his hips. “I mean, Prince Han-“

R2-D2 emitted a teasing warble.

“Star struck?! I was not star struck!” the protocol droid snapped defensively. “I was merely doing my best to cover for Master Luke’s momentary lapse in judgment!”

R2-D2 chirped at him sarcastically.

“Well, fine then! Next time Master Luke bombards a visiting dignitary with produce, you can come up with the explanations!”

Chapter Text

It had been one of the quieter mornings around the Amidala estate. Luke, for once, had seemingly caught up with all of his chores, and found himself with several hours of free time on his hands. With nothing better to do, he slumped into a chair at the breakfast table alongside Savage and Aurra, the three of them enjoying a rare moment of quiet camaraderie.

The two boys made a game of trying to flip their thin wooden coasters into the air with their fingers and catching them before they hit the table, something they often enjoyed on lazy days such as this. Every shot that landed wide sent them into a fit of muffled snickering. Aurra, for her part ignored them, preferring to browse through her favorite blogs on her hollopad in peace. A particularly bad toss sent a coaster flying towards her, smacking her in the face. She growled at the two of them as Luke and Savage tried to stifle their snorts of laughter.

Just then, Rush came sauntering into the breakfast room, whistling a cheerful tune as he passed by. Savage raised a bony eyebrow ridge at his father’s unusually pleasant mood, before turning his attention back to his and Luke’s coaster competition with a shrug. Luke made no comment. If Rush was in high spirits this morning, he wasn’t about to question it.

Never look a gift tonton in the mouth, as they say, Luke thought.

“You’re up early,” Aurra stated without looking up from her holopad. In Rush’s world, ‘early’ constituted anything before midday.

Rush stretched his arms above his head, his bones letting out a few small popping noises in the process. “Oh, I’ve been up for hours,” he said striding over toward the large window that faced the front garden. He pushed the glass outwards, deeply inhaling the fragrant, warm breeze. “It sure is lovely out today.”

All three people at the table gave out a few noncommittal grunts.

“Tell you what,” said Rush, smiling as he turned back towards them, “Why don’t we all go out for a picnic?”

Luke, Savage, and Aurra all stared at the man in bewilderment. “A… picnic?” Luke finally managed to ask. “Now?”

“Absolutely,” Rush beamed, “All four of us. Hell, bring the droids along if you like!” Rush gazed expectantly at their incredulous faces. “Come on,” he coaxed, “when is the last time all four of us had some good, quality family bonding time?”

“We do bonding time here?” Savage muttered to Luke out of the corner of his mouth. “Since when?”

“Exactly,” Rush said, catching wind of their conversation. He walked over to put a hand on each of the boys’ shoulders. “Besides, it will be good to get out of the house for a little while.”

“Outside bad... Inside good,” Aurra deadpanned lazily, not taking her eyes off of her screen. Rush shot her an unimpressed look from under his eyebrows.

“Well, I suppose I could ask Threepio to make up a basket for us?” Luke offered with a weak smile.

“Attaboy!” Rush said, ruffling his hair playfully. He waltzed out of the room with a significant spring in his step. “I’ll be waiting for you all outside!” Rush called out over his shoulder, leaving the rest of them to shoot each other bewildered glances as he passed.

---------------

Less than an hour later, they were all sitting on a worn, fraying blanket by the banks of a glittering, blue lake. C-3PO busied himself with setting up everyone’s plates with the packed lunches he had prepared for everyone, while R2-D2 took on the difficult task of ‘supervising’, as he put it. Despite the unusual change of pace, Luke found himself enjoying the outing far more than he thought he would.

Rush couldn’t have picked a more perfect spot to set up a picnic. They were nestled in a shady cove of flowering trees that dotted the edge of Luke’s favorite lake. The dapped sunlight filtered easily through the blossoms, casting them all in a soft, pink glow. The cool breeze picked up as it skimmed softly over the surface of the water, gently ruffling their clothes and hair, and bringing with it the faint smell of sunflowers. Luke settled himself on his back looking upwards at the cloudless, blue sky, feeling the soft grass between his toes.

He leaned up onto his elbows and pushed his empty plate away from him with a contented sigh. Luke gave C-3PO a solid thumbs-up of approval, to which the protocol droid hummed in satisfaction. Beside him, Luke’s stepfather and siblings were still in the process of polishing off their cake and sandwiches.

Luke noticed Rush occasionally stole fitful glances at his holowatch whenever there was a lull in the conversation. Luke furrowed his brow slightly. Why was his stepfather keeping such a close eye on the time? Luke wasn’t aware of any Banking Clan business Rush had that day, or anything else that might require the man’s attention, for that matter. Rush looked back up from his watch and noticed Luke’s scrutinizing gaze. He gave the boy an enthusiastic grin from across the blanket, and Luke averted his eyes quickly.

Probably just being paranoid, Luke thought to himself.

After another hour or so, the sun began to dip slightly down towards the horizon, signaling that it was already past midday. Empty plates and containers lay spread out upon the blanket. Rush stole one last glance at his watch before standing up and stretching his arms above his head with a loud grunt.

“Well, kids, I think we’ve done just about as much damage here as we can do,” he said, picking up an empty thermos and chucking it into the open basket. “Goldenrod. R-something. Let’s get these plates packed up and head on out.”

Luke chuckled softly as Artoo let out an indignant warble. He was thankful Rush had never bothered to learn binary.

The trip back to the house seemed to take longer than Luke remembered. He thought it was odd since the walk to the lake had only taken about a quarter of an hour. Now Rush was wandering around the immense clearings and lush fields of Naboo’s countryside almost aimlessly. Luke frowned. Surely the man couldn’t be lost, could he? Luke hardly ever left the house, and even he knew the quickest path from the lake. He shook his head as they passed an open field of sunflowers, their golden petals glimmering in the soft sunshine. Maybe his stepfather just wanted them to take the scenic route home, he thought with a small smile. It certainly was a nice enough day for it.

After several more minutes of walking, they reached the bottom of the hill leading up to the large estate. Aurra groaned audibly as she trudged up the gravel walkway, dragging her feet behind her. She stalked into the house and slammed the front doors behind her with a deafening bang.

Luke turned to his stepbrother with a small smirk. “You think she’s glad to be back?”

Savage snorted.

“Well this has been fun,” Rush said stretching out his back with a pop. “But unfortunately, I have work to do now. Call me when dinner’s ready, alright?” And without waiting for a reply, he quickly followed his daughter into the house.

Savage took the large granite steps two at a time with his enormous, loping gait. He turned back towards Luke when he reached the doors.

“You coming in?” he asked.

“Not just yet,” Luke replied, his attention focused on the two droids that everyone else had forgotten, making their way slowly but surely up the path. “I think I’m going to enjoy the fresh air a little while longer.”

Savage shrugged and turned back to saunter through the open doors.

“Oh dear! I wish Master Clovis had not kept us out so late,” C-3PO fretted. “I had better get a head start on preparing dinner, or we’ll all be eating at midnight. Come along, Artoo. Artoo?” C-3PO craned his neck back towards the little blue astromech droid, who was staring at the gravel drive and emitting a low buzzing noise.

“R2-D2, what is the matter with you?” the protocol droid called in exasperation.

Artoo gave off a few clicking sounds, followed by a high pitched warbling.

“Oil residue?” said Luke cocking his head to one side. “What are you talking about?”

R2-D2 whistled eagerly as Luke came down to kneel beside him. Luke brushed his fingers over the gravel, surprised when he felt a slightly slippery substance coating the rocks. Artoo chirped at him.

“A ship? That’s impossible. Master Clovis hasn’t taken his ship out today. You’re probably imagining things again, as usual,” C-3PO tutted.

“Unless it’s not from Rush’s ship,” Luke muttered quietly, furrowing his brow.

“I don’t understand, Master Luke. Who else could it-?”

Luke didn’t respond as he bounded up the front steps, and skidded into the front hall. He cast a scrutinizing glare in every direction, searching for something, anything, out of the ordinary. Behind him, he heard the metallic clicks of C-3PO’s peds as he trotted stiffly after him, followed by the sound of Artoo’s rocket boosters. Luke stalked the large open foyer, poking his head into doorways and peering around corridors, like a man on a mission. C-3PO nervously approached him after a few minutes.

“Um, Master Luke? Not to question your methods, but what are you doing?” he asked, wringing his hands together.

Luke stopped his procession and pinched the bridge of his nose with a sigh. What was he doing, exactly? Did he really think some dangerous burglar was lurking in the shadows just because of a stupid oil stain? An oil stain that, for all he knew, had been there since long before that morning? Star’s end, was he really becoming so paranoid that this was all it took to send him into a militant, one-man search party? He groaned loudly, feeling both embarrassed and incredibly stupid.

“Nothing, Threepio. I- It’s nothing,” he sighed as he shuffled out of the hallway he was currently occupying, and towards the main stairway. He figured he could at least get in a quick nap before dinner. Behind him, R2-D2 warbled something excitably.

“Whatever are you babbling on about now,” sighed C-3PO with exasperation. R2-D2 chirped at him. “Tapestry? What tapestry?”

Luke’s ears pricked up. He whirled around to face the little blue droid, who was chirping eagerly at a blank space of wall between two ornate sconces. Luke skidded over towards him.

“He’s right,” he cried. “There used to be a tapestry here! It was one of my mother’s favorite pieces - something about the early days of Naboo. I remember because Rush had me get a ladder and clean it, not too long ago.” He knitted his brows together tightly. “That thing was enormous. It would have taken at least four people to get it down.”

“But I don’t understand, Master Luke. Where could it have gone?” asked C-3PO worriedly.

Luke glared at the blank wall. He felt as though the empty space was mocking him, playing with his doubts. He suddenly recalled the way Rush had acted during their outing. How the man had kept checking his watch, and how he made them all take the long way back to the estate. Luke’s scowl darkened.

“I don’t know,” he said grimly. “But I intend to find out.”

Chapter Text

Luke muttered darkly under his breath as he sorted through the assorted mess of cables and rusty tools on the garage’s workbench. What had started out as a fun, pleasant afternoon had quickly turned into a dismal evening. He divided the chaotic station into usable parts and everything else, chucking the unsalvageable materials over his head. He really wasn’t in any mood to worry about the mess.

His mind was still heavily focused on the missing tapestry from earlier. Luke was almost certain his stepfather had a hand in it. He knew the idyllic family picnic thing had been too good to be true; he should have known better. Rush was only ever that nice when he wanted something.

When Luke had asked him about the missing tapestry, Rush had denied any knowledge whatsoever of the hanging. Rush claimed that that patch of wall had always been empty and he had been meaning to find something to place there for a long time.

“Are you sure you’re remembering correctly, Luke?” he had asked with a sickeningly concerned look on his face. “Are you sure you’re not just letting that overactive imagination of yours run away with you again? You know how you can jump to conclusions when you’re not thinking clearly.”

Luke gritted his teeth. Rush was goading him on, trying to make him think that he was losing his mind. But why? What possible reason could the man have for lying to him?

And is he really? Asked a small, anxious part of Luke’s brain.

He rubbed his temples. That was the worst part; he hated second guessing himself. Rush had planted a tiny seed of doubt in Luke’s mind. Maybe the man was right. Maybe that patch of wall had always been blank. Maybe the tapestry Luke was thinking of was actually hanging in another hallway? The house was pretty enormous. And after all, what could Rush possibly hope to gain from lying to him? Luke sighed and continued with his work at a much more careful pace.

“You know, when I gave you your father’s light saber, I didn’t think you’d be taking his name for yourself as well,” came a familiar, accented voice directly from behind him.

Luke yelped and dropped the wrench he was holding, sending it clattering to the ground. He spun around to face Obi-Wan, who was watching his with raised eyebrows.

“Ben, I’m really happy you’re back in my life and all,” Luke sighed running a hand through his sandy blond hair. “But I’m going to need some warning before you decide to pop in like this.”

“Apologies,” the man said dryly.

Luke scratched the back of his neck. “Um, how did you know about the name thing exactly?” he asked tentatively.

“Our new mutual friend, Han Solo.” Obi-Wan gave him a reproachful look from under his bushy eyebrows that made Luke wilt. “I just thought it was an awfully funny coincidence that he happened to run into an Anakin Skywalker in Mos Eisley the other day, you know, considering the man’s been dead for nearly twenty years.” He crossed his arms and shifted his weight to one foot, casually.

Luke groaned. “I don’t know what I was thinking. I panicked. He asked for my name and I guess I just gave him the first one that came to mind.” He dragged a hand down his face in exasperation. “Look, I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t have given him my dad’s name, but please, please don’t tell Han! I can’t have it get back to Rush that I ran off-planet with his ship to rescue Artoo!”

Obi-Wan’s face softened. “Luke, I’m not-“

“Master Luke!” the worried voice of C-3PO called out from just outside the entrance. “Are you alright? I heard a shout and- Oh!” he said in surprise as he rounded the corner, taking in the two men standing in the garage. Beside him, R2-D2 whirled to a halt with a series of chirps.

“General Kenobi! Oh how good it is to see you again after all these years,” C-3PO cried, shuffling over to shake an amused Obi-Wan’s hand. “Master Luke mentioned you had stopped by the day before yesterday. I was dreadfully upset to have missed you.”

Obi-Wan’s face crinkled into a smile. “It’s good to see you again too, Threepio. But the Clone Wars are over now. You don’t have to call me general.”

“Oh! Yes, of course, Gen- Mister… Sir?” the droid fumbled awkwardly.

“Tell you what, why don’t you just call me Obi-Wan?” the man said with a small smirk.

R2-D2 chirped as he gently butted against the man’s leg like an affectionate housecat, drawing his attention downwards.

“Hello again, old friend,” Obi-Wan said with a smile as he bend down to the droid’s level. He gave the rounded dome a soft pat, causing the droid to emit several happy beeping sounds. “I’m glad to see you’re home safely.”

“Yes, Artoo has been on quite the adventure,” chirped C-3PO enthusiastically. “You um, you didn’t happen to get the full story on that already, did you?” The protocol droid’s optics glinted hopefully.

“No, he just got in actually,” said Luke with a small smile as Obi-Wan shook his head at him pleadingly. “Threepio, why don’t you tell him; you have such a wonderful way with details, after all.”

“Is this punishment for leaving you alone for eleven years?” Ben hissed to him out of the corner of his mouth as C-3PO began his long winded recounting of the tale, starting with what he had made everyone for breakfast that morning. “Because if it is, I already told you I was sorry.”

“Shhh, don’t interrupt,” smirked Luke.

“…And just when everything seemed lost, a handsome prince swooped in to Luke’s rescue and-“

“Hold on, I never said he was handsome,” Luke blustered as Obi-Wan choked back a laugh.

“You have your version of the story, and I have mine,” the droid sniffed.

“You’re making me sound like some helpless damsel in distress or something,” Luke huffed as a faint, red blush crept across his face.

Obi-Wan clapped a hand on his shoulder with a smirk. “Don’t feel too bad, Luke. There are worse fates in life for a Jedi Knight than being rescued by good-looking princes.”

Luke gave the man an unimpressed look from over his eyebrows. “I’m not a Jedi Knight, Ben,” he said dryly.

Obi-Wan smiled curiously. “No, no, perhaps not. But you could be.”

Luke looked up at him curiously, searching the man’s eyes for any trace of sarcasm, and finding none. “What are you talking about?” he asked incredulously.

“Did you ever think about it?” asked Obi-Wan as he quirked his eyebrow at him. “You have your father’s gift, you know. You have the potential to be great.”

“That’s exactly what my mother was afraid of,” said Luke as he absentmindedly began to pace the hard dirt floor. “She spent the last eighteen years of her life hiding me from the council, and now-“

He stopped suddenly and turned back to face Obi-Wan. The idea of being taken away from his mother had been one of his greatest fears as a child; even up into his teenage years, Luke was always secretly terrified one day the council would find him, and he would never see his home or his family again. He hadn’t even used the Force since he was a small boy for fear of drawing attention to them.

But now? Now, he was alone. No mother to leave behind, and no other family that would miss him if he were to go. He thought back on all he had suffered through over the past year. If he went to Coruscant, he would never again have to shrink in fear when his stepfather entered a room, or put up with the poisonous insults of his stepsister. He could leave them all behind and never look back. He would be free.

“I’m too old for training,” Luke mumbled, even as his heart began to race wildly against his ribcage. “I’m almost twenty years old. Nobody would take me as their padawan.”

“I would,” Obi-Wan replied simply; his expression was still one of earnest. His blue eyes sparkled with excitement. “True, you would be a special case, but you’re the son of Anakin Skywalker, and more importantly, my godson.” He walked over to place a warm, comforting arm around the boy’s shoulders.

“You could get out of here, Luke,” he said softly. “I know how your stepfather has been treating you. Your mother, as much as she wanted to protect you from the council, would not want you to live like this.”

Luke bit his lip as he gazed into the man’s warm eyes with cautious optimism.

“Come with me back to Coruscant,” Obi-Wan pleaded. He gently squeezed his hand around Luke’s shoulder. “I’ll talk to the council about making you my padawan. You would be free of this place, Luke.”

Behind them, the two droids looked at each other despondently.

“It… does seem like a sensible offer, Master Luke,” C-3PO said quietly as he diverted his gaze to his polished feet. His vocal output quivered ever so softly as he spoke. “You should take Master Kenobi up on it.”

“What about you two?” Luke asked with a slight gulp.

“Oh, we’ll be fine…” the protocol droid drifted off into a whisper, unable to meet the boy’s gaze. R2-D2 let out a heart breaking warble. “Don’t worry about us, Master Luke. We’re Mistress Padmé’s droids; we belong with the house. I’m sure we’ll be just fine,” C-3PO repeated weakly.

Luke looked over at the pair of droids. These odd, excitable, loyal machines had been as much a part of his life as his mother had. They had been his first, and just about only friends. Even Leia could not be there for him every hour of the day, like they could. They were his companions, his protectors, his family. If he were to leave to become a Jedi, what would become of them? Would his stepfather punish them with extra workload for Luke’s absence? Would Rush even bother to keep them around at all? Luke shuddered as the memory of the filthy, crowded streets of the Mos Eisley droid market flooded his brain.

Luke smiled softly at the older man. “I’m flattered,” he said. “And I am truly grateful for the offer. But this is my home; I belong here, with them.” He nodded over at the two droids with a smile. R2-D2 chirped happily, as C-3PO placed a hand gently on his dome.

Obi-Wan gazed down at him for a moment, his expression crestfallen. His blue eyes bore into Luke’s, begging, pleading with him to leave. Luke flicked his gaze away and swallowed guiltily. Finally Obi-Wan sighed and patted Luke on the back with a wry smile. “Well, if you won’t come to the temple, perhaps I can bring the temple to you.”

“I don’t understand,” said Luke with a puzzled expression.

“If you’re going to pretend to be a Jedi Knight, you should at least know how to fight like one.”

Luke cocked his head at him, as Obi-Wan produced the hilt of a lightsaber from the folds of his robes. For a moment, Luke thought that the man had taken the one he had given him, which was stored up in the attic, but upon closer inspection, Luke noticed the difference in width throughout the hilt, the slender bit of gold just above the grip. Obi-Wan flicked it on with his thumb, causing the humming blue blade to spring to life. He smiled at Luke, his face illuminated strangely in the pulsating light.

“Now then,” he smirked. “Ready for the first lesson?”

Chapter Text

The orchard down by the secluded, crystalline lake was perhaps the perfect place for restful meditation, yet Luke was finding it abnormally difficult to concentrate. He had hoped that Jedi training would involve a lot more sword fighting and spectacular Force demonstrations, but Ben had insisted that in order to use the Force, he must first clear his mind, and become one with it. Luke wasn’t entirely sure what that meant, but he knew he had to be doing something wrong, because the only thing he was feeling right now was the wet grass seeping through his pants.

He got up with an annoyed grunt and brushed off the dew from the borrowed, brown robes Ben had lent him. This had to be some kind of cosmic joke that all Jedi Masters pushed on new recruits; it certainly felt like it. He really wished Ben hadn’t had to head back to Coruscant so quickly. At the very least he could have told Luke what he was supposed to be doing right now, without all the vague, cryptic, Jedi mumbo jumbo. Luke sighed and dragged his feet over to the small stone wall the lined the pathway down to the orchard. The wall was bathed in the warm, golden sunlight that had long since evaporated the tiny dew droplets covering the stones. Luke sat down on the sun bleached rock and tried to focus himself again.

Feel the living Force, he thought. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply through his nose and out through his mouth, using his diaphragm the way Ben had showed him.

In for four. Hold for seven. Out for eight. Repeat.

He concentrated on what he felt around him, without the use of his eyes. Sunlight; that was the first thing he noticed. His skin tingled all over as the gentle rays enveloped him, warming him to the core and drying his damp clothes. He could smell the delicate scent of the orchard blossoms that permeated the air - Pears, he thought, or maybe apples. And there was something else; something earthy and wet, but not entirely unpleasant. Clay, perhaps? He hadn’t noticed that before. Luke felt a small smile tug at his lips as his concentration deepened on his surroundings, losing himself in the moment.

The gentle breeze picked up and ruffled his hair playfully, bringing with it the familiar scent of sunflowers from a nearby field. He breathed in deeply through his nose, and sighed contentedly. Maybe he had just been trying too hard to connect with the Force? Maybe he simply had to let go and feel the connection, rather than trying to make it come to him? His mind began to clear, chasing out all negative feelings of stress and worry, and leaving behind a blissful sense of calm.

Luke breathed in deeply a few more times, switching up the rhythmic pattern - inhaling in for a count of eight and exhaling for the same amount. He felt like he was really starting to get the hang of this whole meditation thing. Maybe now Obi-Wan would actually let him practice with the lightsaber next time, rather than just ‘teaching him the theory’. He blinked his eyes open slowly, expecting to see the familiar, glittering lake, and instead was met with two astonishingly brown eyes mere inches away from his own.

“Hi,” grinned a very smug looking Han Solo.

Luke let out a strangled scream and fell backwards off the short wall, landing with an ungraceful plop in the soggy grass.

“I’m sorry!” Han burst out in a fit of laughter, reaching out a hand to Luke, even as he tried to hold back his tears of mirth. “Anakin, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“You didn’t mean to scare me by sneaking up on me like some sort of assassin droid?!” Luke snapped. He smacked Han’s hand away as it was offered to him. Luke pushed himself up in annoyance, using the wall for support. He spun around on Han, furrowing his brows as he regarded the taller man skeptically through narrowed eyes.

“What are you even doing here anyway, Your Highness?" Luke asked peevishly, but with a hint of genuine curiosity. “Don’t you have a company to run? Not to mention a planet?"

Han’s laughter had stopped, replaced by a look of indignation. “Well if you absolutely must know,” he said defensively with an exasperated click of his tongue, “I’m here on official business. And I only snuck up on you because I thought you were having trouble breathing.” He paused and scratched his neck in embarrassment. “Well, to be fair I was trying to scare you at first, but you were holding your breath for a really long time, so I got a little worried…” He shuffled his feet and stuffed his hands in his pockets as he trailed off, as if he realized how weak his own excuse sounded out loud.

“I was meditating not asphyxiating,” Luke groaned wearily, as he rolled his eyes skyward – the anger slowly draining out of him. He rubbed the sore spot on his lower back where he had landed, and winced. “Jedi do that, you know,” he added with a grumble.

Han cocked his head to the side. “I’m sorry, are you upset with me or something?” He asked in confusion, his brown eyes full of concern. “I didn’t mean to offend you. I just wanted to say hello…”

Luke sighed heavily. No, he wasn’t upset with Han. He was upset with just about everything else in his life, but not him. He hated that his roof leaked, and that he had to be up at the crack of dawn to get his chores done every day. He hated that Rush had his trained thugs over every week at his mother’s house to trash up the many parlor rooms – rooms that he would later have to clean. He hated the fact that his stepfather drank like a fish, and his stepsister treated him like dirt. And he hated that Ben, his own godfather, had abandoned him for over ten years. But most of all, he hated that his mother was gone, the one person that meant more to him than all the stars in the sky, the only one who had known him better than he knew himself. All of these things upset him to no end, but Han was not one of them.

He gazed back up at the dark haired Corellian, who was watching him with hesitant expectancy. Stars, this was not how he had wanted their next encounter to go. Not that he had expected to meet the prince in person ever again. Luke instantly regretted taking his frustrations out on him.

The poor man had been nothing but courteous and helpful to him back on Tatooine, and Luke in turn had snapped at him over a harmless joke. Han probably thought he was some sort of ungrateful snob with no social skills. Luke groaned and ran his fingers absentmindedly through his windswept blond hair, silently cursing when he found a few stray damp leaves entangled in it. Just once, he’d like to run into Han without being covered in some kind of dirt. He sighed.

“No, it’s not you. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude, really. You’re wonderful- I mean, you’ve been so wonderful - to me! -about my droid!” He spluttered, his voice rising slightly in both volume and pitch. Luke felt the familiar, red flush creep over his cheeks. “It’s just… I’ve been having a rough day, and well… never mind. It’s nothing. I have to get home. I have a lot of chor- um, training to do today. Excuse me.”

He dipped into a small bow and offered Han a weak, nervous smile, before quickly shuffling off along the path. He grimaced inwardly at himself. It wasn’t as if he was intentionally trying to avoid Han, but the man had a way of working that charming, lopsided grin that did strange things to Luke’s stomach. The less he thought about that, the better.

Unfortunately, Han’s added height also gave him the advantage of catching up to Luke rather quickly, with those long, loping strides of his.

“Can I walk you home?” he asked earnestly.

Luke stopped and turned to look at him with a curious expression. “Why?”

Han scratched the back of his neck and looked away with that damnable grin of his. “Well, I guess I’m trying to be dashing, which I can see is clearly not working,” he said with a light chuckle.

Luke’s heart fluttered. Perhaps Han didn’t think he was so terrible after all. Luke’s mouth twitched upwards in a wry smirk. “Is that what you call it then?” he teased playfully.

“Ouch,” Han grinned with a flirtatious arch of his brows. “I just figured it would be easier to call on you if I knew where you lived, rather than shouting your name in the streets at the top of my lungs,” he continued casually, folding his arms behind his back as he bent down to Luke’s level.

Luke’s entire face burned with embarrassment as he felt the tell tale scarlet flush creep all the way up to his ears. His stomach somersaulted. Han wanted to walk him home like Luke had read about in his mother’s old romantic novels. Han wanted to spend time with him. Han was actually interested in him.

Scratch that, he was interested in Anakin Skywalker the daring Jedi Knight, not Luke Amidala the lowly farmboy, Luke reminded himself. But despite the logical side of his brain screaming at him to leave well enough alone, Luke couldn’t stop the smile he was holding in from gently tugging at the corners of his mouth.

“You- You wouldn’t,” he said, blushing.

Han leaned in with a sultry, half lidded smirk. “Oh, I would,” he purred. “I’d cause quite a scene, too, believe me.”

“You don’t even know me.”

“I sure would like too.”

A heart-pounding, electric silence passed between them. Luke stared up at the roguish prince, who was grinning so widely down at him that he looked fit to burst. Star’s end, but the man had beautiful eyes, Luke thought with a soft, dreamy sigh. He eventually broke the eye contact with Han with a nervous chuckle, fearing his blush would betray him.

“I-“

“Luke!” Aurra’s familiar, nasally shriek resounded from somewhere down the road.

Luke’s face instantly blanched of all its previous color. Kriff! Of all days for someone to come looking for him! He turned back to Han with a panicked expression.

“I have to go.”

“Hmm? Wha-? Why?” asked Han, who had been momentarily distracted by the intruding yell.

“Sorry, no time to explain.” Luke looked around blindly for a place to hide, noting the huge field of sunflowers directly opposite of them. He quickly turned to leave, and then jolted as if conflicted about something. His head whipped back and forth between Han and the nearby hiding place; all the while, Aurra’s footsteps were coming closer. Luke turned back to face Han, who was watching him with a bewildered expression, and bit his lip in agitation. He let out a small noise in the back of his throat, halfway between a groan and a whine, before reaching up on his tiptoes and placing a small, quick peck on Han’s stubbled cheek. “Goodbye!” Luke called out apologetically over his shoulder, as he vaulted over the short wall and sprinted into the adjoining field of sunflowers. His entire face burned as scarlet as a tomato.

Han was left standing in the middle of the path looking dumbfounded. Slowly, he reached a hand up to his cheek as his face began to bloom in an amused, self-satisfied grin. Luke managed to disappear in the tall stalks just as Aurra’s bright orange ponytail bobbed into view. It was clear from her forceful strides that she was on the warpath. Luke risked a peek through an opening of a particularly dense clump of stems.

“Luke! Where are you, you lazy clod?!” Aurra cried, snapping Han out of his dreamy reverie with a start. “It’s already midday and nobody has prepared lunch yet! If I find you’ve been out here goofing off, while I’ve been wasting away inside, I’m going to-“

Aurra suddenly did a double take as she blinked up at the figure in the road in surprise. What little color she had, drained from her pallid face and her mouth opened and closed inaudibly as she struggled for words.

“Pr- Pr- Prince Han,” she cried, her eyes widening in alarm.

“Aurra… you’re looking well,” Han replied somewhat uneasily.

“You’re very welcome to look, Your Highness,” she purred in a way that made Luke’s stomach churn, quickly recovering from her initial shock. She dipped into a comically flamboyant curtsey and fluttered her thick, black eyelashes at him.

Han coughed nervously.

“What brings you all the way out to our humble little planet?” Aurra sauntered her way over to him, swaying her hips in a way that would have made a Twi’lek cantina dancer jealous.

“Just business as usual,” Han said with a forced grin, his eyes darting every which way, looking for a possible escape route.

“Well, I would be honored if you would consider stopping by my place for lunch.” She said coyly, emphasizing each syllable by tapping a sharply manicured nail over his broad chest.

No! Luke thought desperately. He clutched the stalks of the sunflowers until his knuckles became white. The thought of Han seeing him in his dingy, white, farmboy duds, as he served them all blue milk and sandwhiches, sent Luke’s heart splashing down into his stomach. If Han were to tell Rush about Luke’s little Jedi charade, it would be all over for him. Luke would have some serious explaining to do, and that was not a conversation he relished having with either Han or his stepfather.

Han took a step back. “I’m flattered but, ah, I really should be getting back to my ship,” said Han with a small gulp, as he gently removed Aurra’s hand from his chest. He grimaced, as if he were picking off a wriggling cockroach. Aurra pouted slightly. Han began to back up towards the opposite wall boarding the orchard. “Can’t stay, I’m afraid. Lots of… business… and… things… to do, so… Tah!” And with that, he practically launched himself over the wall with one hand, and took off at break neck speed towards the other side of the lake, leaving a dumbstruck Aurra in his wake.

Luke suppressed a chuckle as he watched Aurra’s expression change to one of shock, then confusion, then finally fury, her fists clenching and unclenching at her sides. Aurra kicked the ground with an audible “Hrmph!” then began stomping her way back towards the estate.

“I’m going to strangle that good for nothing farmboy when I find him,” she growled under her breath.

Chapter Text

Rush Clovis sat fidgeting in a stiff, high-backed chair, an impressive desk’s length away from the head of the Intergalactic Banking Clan. Jonash Solo had unfortunately chosen to position his own seat away from the large floor to ceiling windows in his office, leaving the rays of the early morning Coruscant sun to bore directly into Rush’s sensitive retinas. He tried his best to shade his eyes without making himself too conspicuous, as the man across from him scanned over a large data pad in stony silence.

“Something wrong with the books?” Rush ventured nervously. He drummed his fingers on his thighs and attempted to sit up as straight as the rigid chair allowed. “Only, before everything had checked out perfectly. I didn’t know if I-“

“Oh no! It’s nothing like that I assure you,” Jonash waved him off with a reassuring flip of his wrist. “What I actually called you in for today was to talk about bringing someone in to help you with the bookkeeping.” Rush felt the color drain from his face. There was a long moment of agonizing silence.

“Oh,” was all he could say at first. He squeezed his thighs until he felt the nails digging in through his pant legs. His feet bobbed up and down beneath the table at a furious pace, a nervous tick he had developed since childhood.

“But I’ve been doing the books here for years,” Rush replied with a strained grin. He could feel a tiny bead of sweat beginning to make its way down his spine. “You know I can manage the Banking Clan’s finances just fine on my own.”

“I know. And you’re the best CFO the branch could ask for, old friend,” Jonash smiled. “No one is criticizing the work you do here. Quite the contrary. I’m actually thinking of letting Han work under you as deputy financial manager. I think it will be good for him.”

Rush stared at his old friend in dumfounded silence, the furious rhythm of his legs temporarily halted. He blinked several times as the new information slowly settled in.

“Han?”

“I know he’s young, but he’s extremely bright. It’s just that he never applies himself. I think something like this would help teach him some responsibility,” Jonash said matter-of-factly. He folded his hands together and peered over his desk at his dumbstruck friend.

“Han?”

“He certainly knows the ins and outs of the business.”

“Han?”

“He has great potential I assure you. But I would quite understand if you’re concerned about his inexperience,” Jonash trailed off with a slightly worried expression.

“Oh no,” Rush said suddenly, finally regaining his wits. “Han’s perfect!” He waved his hands frantically as if to dispel Jonash’s doubts. Jonash blinked in surprise at his friend’s sudden outburst.

“What I mean is, this will be a great opportunity for him to learn,” Rush coughed, regaining his composure. “I think Han will do a fine job. I have complete confidence in the boy. Truly.”

Jonash smiled at him and pushed himself out of his chair. He walked around the length of the desk, extending a hand towards Rush.

“I’m very pleased to hear it,” the man said.

“Oh believe me,” said Rush with a wide smile as he stood up to shake the man’s hand vigorously. “The pleasure is all mine.”

“Wonderful,” exclaimed Jonash, walking out with Rush into the lofty hallway. He folded his arms casually behind his back as he spoke. “I’ll talk to Han and have him set up a meeting with you to discuss the particulars.”

“Actually, if it’s not too terribly inconvenient, I’d rather speak to him now,” Rush said. “I don’t like to keep these things waiting.”

Jonash’s face pulled into a painful grimace and he pinched the bridge of his nose with an exasperated sigh. Rush looked at the man quizzically as Jonash attempted to collect himself.

“Han’s not here, actually. Took off this morning in that flying junk heap of his. I didn’t want to worry you with it earlier.”

Rush looked at him in surprise. “You mean he’s been gone all morning?”

“Yes. And I’m going to throttle him when he gets back,” Jonash muttered darkly. “This is now the second time in a row. He said he was heading back to Naboo to take care of some important business. First I’d heard of it…”

Rush paused in his trek down the corridor and peered out of one of the large, transparasteel windows, showcasing Coruscant’s beautiful, bustling skyline. He furrowed his brow as he caught his own aging reflection mirrored in the polished surface.

What in the Sith could have kept that pitiful excuse for an executive away from Coruscant for nearly half the day? Rush wondered irritably.

Chapter Text

“Why is it that whenever you and Han meet up, one of you inevitably ends up running away?” asked Leia lazily twirling the grass around her fingers as she watched her friend practice his lightsaber technique in the large hay field by his mother’s palace. It had been a beautiful morning, and Leia was content to lay stretched out on the grass and take in the beautiful scenery Naboo had to offer. But even still, she was gradually becoming bored watching Luke trying to perfect the fighting stances Obi-Wan had taught him. So she had started up with her new favorite pastime of playfully teasing Luke about his new suitor.

“I don’t know Leia,” groaned Luke exasperatedly. “I’m trying to concentrate.” He dropped into the next stance. He wished he had an actual target to practice on; he could have used some constructive stress relief.

“What’s the matter?” grinned Leia impishly. “Can’t focus on anything but Han’s dreamy eyes?”

“His eyes are not dreamy!” Luke snapped, a bit too defensively. Leia giggled.

“I think it’s sweet that neither of you knows how to flirt,” she said picking a dandelion flower beside her and giving it an appreciative whiff.

“We don’t flirt,” Luke scoffed. He was finding it impossible to concentrate on his footwork with all this talk of charming, roguish princes.

“Really?” said Leia raising her eyebrows at him. “Because it sure sounded like you were when you told me the story. And let’s not forget that kiss you stole from him, you sly devil,” she winked.

Luke flushed. “Well… well how do you know I wasn’t just making the whole thing up anyway? Maybe I never even really met the prince,” he grumbled.

Leia got up and brushed the grass from her pale green robes. She sauntered over to her friend, tossing her lose, chestnut hair over her shoulder. “You would never make something up like that,” she teased, tucking the small dandelion blossom behind his left ear. “You are too sweet.”

Luke gave her a reproachful look and made a show of taking up his training practices once again. Leia opened her mouth as if to continue, but suddenly stopped as she caught a cloud of dust being picked up farther down the path. She squinted slightly in the direction it was coming from, trying to strain against the glare of the sun to pick out any distinguishing details. It looked like someone was riding a speeder bike down the path. She knew from experience that speeder bikes were not a very common mode of transportation in the area; the only person she knew that rode one was her friend’s stepfather.

Leia was about to tell Luke to run for cover, when she got a better look at the rider as he came racing around the bend towards them. She grinned widely. Even though she had never met the boy personally, she knew enough about Han Solo from her social circles to be able to identify him at a glance. He was even wearing the same long sleeve shirt and vest combo that he sported in nearly every tabloid hologram. She shot a look over at her shoulder at Luke who was too busy pretending to care about his training to notice the approaching rider.

“So you’re really not interested in him at all, then?” she asked with feigned nonchalance.

“Nope. Not a bit.”

“And I suppose if you saw him again…?”

“I’d say, ‘say, Your Highness, have you by any chance met my stepsister, Aurra? She’s madly in love with you, and I’d ever so much appreciate it if you took her far, far away from here, and never brought her back,” Luke said, taking his frustration out on a defenseless haystack.

Leia casually shrugged, throwing a glance over her shoulder. “Well, good. Here’s your chance, because he’s heading this way now.”

“What?!” Luke whipped his head around so fast he felt something in his neck pop.

He watched in horror as the speeder made its way over towards the hay field. “I’m not here!” he shouted, diving behind the haystack with a level of agility that any Jedi Master would have been proud of. Leia shook her head at him with a small smirk.

Han Solo slowed the bike down and set the controls to hover. He swung his long, lanky legs over the seat and swaggered over to where Leia stood watching him expectantly with raised eyebrows. He took off his helmet and shook the messy brown hair out of his eyes in a way that made Leia appreciate, in a small way, her friend’s attraction to the scruffy playboy. He extended a hand to Leia and made as if to introduce himself but she cut him off.

“Han Solo. Yes, I know who you are. My father does business with yours in the Banking Clan.”

Han blinked at her in surprise and scrunched his face together in an effort to place her. He snapped his fingers in triumph after a moment, as the light of epiphany shone behind the chocolate colored eyes.

“Leia Organa,” he said with a wide grin. “Bail’s kid, right? I recognize you from your pictures.” Leia dipped into curtsy with a small smirk.

“What brings you out to Naboo on such a fine day?” she asked innocently.

Han rubbed the back of his neck with a light chuckle. “Well, actually I’m looking for a friend. Well, not really a friend per say. I mean, I’d like it if he considered us friends… um, that is…”

Leia shot a glance over at the haystack. “Oh, really? What’s his name? Maybe I can point you in the right direction.”

Han beamed at her. “Oh, would you? That’d be fantastic, thanks! His name’s Anakin Skywalker.”

Leia could practically feel the tension radiating off of her friend from his hiding place. “Hmmm, Oh! Why yes, I think I do happen to know an Anakin Skywalker actually,” she said tapping her chin as if trying to recall the name. There came a soft groan from behind the haystack. “He’s staying with his, um, uncle, Rush Clovis. They’re just over the next hill, up on the left.”

Han pulled a pained grimace. “Oh,” was all he said, casting a wary glance towards the direction of the Amidala Estate.

Leia glanced nervously back at the haystack obscuring her friend. He would defiantly hate her for what she was about to do, but she was not about to risk Luke missing out on a good time just because his awful step family was standing in the way. After all, what were best friends for, if not for helping one another? Luke would get over it. Eventually.

“But I do happen to know that Anakin is up there alone right now,” she said quickly, drawing Han’s attention back to her. “By himself. Without anyone else at home,” she continued, raising her voice slightly for emphasis, hoping Luke would take the hint.

Han gave her a curious look. “Well, thanks. I’ll, um, I’ll head up there now. Um, thank you, again, Princess,” he said, raising his voice on the last ‘thank you’ to match Leia’s volume, with a bewildered expression on his face. He hopped on his speeder and raced off down the road towards the estate, kicking up a fantastic cloud of dust in his wake.

Luke spluttered and coughed as he tumbled out from behind his hiding place and marched furiously over towards his smug looking friend.

“Leia!” he shouted indignantly. “How could you! Now he’s on his way to my house, and I’m not even there!”

“Then I suggest you run,” Leia smirked.

Luke glared at her a moment longer before his face slowly softened and bloomed into a wide grin. Leia rolled her eyes playfully and gave him a small push towards the estate. She watched in satisfaction as Luke hopped the fence bordering his family’s land and half stumbled, half ran through the woods towards the Amidala house.

Chapter Text

Luke tore through the neighboring sunflower fields and up the hill to the servant’s entrance of the estate faster than he could ever remember running. He practically burst through the back door as he skidded into the kitchens, where a very startled C-3PO and R2-D2 where enjoying a rare afternoon off. R2-D2 gave off a sharp series of whistles in surprise as Luke stood bracing himself against the doorway panting.

“I need clothes!” was all he could say at first. He felt the two droids eye his grimy work tunic in confusion, even without the use of facial expressions.

“I need nice clothes,” Luke elaborated exasperatedly. “Han is on his way over here on speeder, as we speak, and he’s expecting a Jedi Knight, not farmboy!"

C-3PO clasped his hands together excitedly. “Prince Han? On his way here? To see you? Oh my, how extraordinarily romantic!” R2-D2 clicked at his long time friend in annoyance.

“Oh, hush, you old rust bucket! Just because you don’t have a single romantic circuit in your wiring,” the protocol droid sniffed. He rushed over to where Luke stood, taking him by the arm.

“I just finished cleaning some of Master Clovis’ robes. You can borrow one of those while he’s on Coruscant for the day, but we’ll have to hurry.”

Luke raised his eyebrows at him with a wide grin as the droid pulled him along into the adjoining laundry facility. “I thought you were terrified of my stepfather?”

“Well, yes I am,” the droid admitted, letting the laundry room door swing shut on an indignant R2-D2, who swore violently at C-3PO in binary as he followed both of them in. The protocol droid paid him no mind as he quickly sorted through the clean robes. Luke looked over the rich fabrics and elaborate patterns appreciatively. He had never really paid much attention to his stepfather’s wardrobe before, mostly because he avoided the man like the plague whenever possible. But Luke had to admit that Rush had very fine taste in clothing.

“But there are more important things in life than pleasing Master Clovis all the time, and this is definitely one of them,” C-3PO continued as he meticulously sorted through the various garments. “Oh, this reminds me of when I worked for your mother on Coruscant. Those were the days. I wasn’t built for hard labor, you know. I was meant to plan parties, and establish diplomacy, and help coordinate outfits with matching shoes! Not like this-“

“Threepio! Can you go a little faster, please?” shouted Luke desperately.

“Oh! Right! Of course!” C-3PO quickly pulled out a simple, but elegant, light blue tunic with a thin grey vest and matching leggings from the pile and held them up in front of Luke. “Here. I just finished cleaning these this morning. Although really, Master Luke, if I had more time I’m sure I could find something more suit-“

Luke didn’t wait for C-3PO to finish as he snatched the robes from the protocol droid’s hand. As quickly as he could, he began to strip out of his work clothes, kicking them to the side as they hit the floor. C-3PO turned back toward the pile of Rush’s clothes, somewhat embarrassed by Luke’s apparent disregard for modesty. Luke slipped the tunic over the thin leggings, the oversized fabric reaching to just above his knees. He quickly pulled the vest over him and spread out his arms in an effort to present himself for inspection. R2-D2 let out a teasing whistle.

Luke took that as the all the approval he needed before he dashed down the hallway towards the main entrance.

“Master Luke! Wait for us!” C-3PO cried as he teetered after him.

Luke skidded to a halt in front of the enormous, wooden double doors, just as he caught sight of Han Solo dismounting the speeder bike on the stone drive. Luke took in a deep, shaky breath to steady himself, brushing off the oversized tunic as he did so. His heart skipped a beat as the door chime echoed through the foyer, announcing the prince’s arrival. He nervously tucked his disheveled blond hair behind his ears as best he could, and opened the door with giddy sense of excitement.

Han stood on the other side looking for all the world like an eager puppy. If anything, he was probably more nervous than Luke was. It was hard to imagine that this was the same young man whose cocky smirk made young girls across the galaxy swoon over their net screens.

They both eyed each other in silence for a moment, each of them opening their mouths as if to speak several times, but faltering into nervous, breathy laughter instead. Han swept back his bangs and bit his lip in one unconscious, sensual motion.

Oh, I’m in trouble, Luke thought with a dreamy sigh.

“Um… Hey, Anakin,” Han said finally, flashing Luke that trademark, perfect smile. Luke felt his stomach somersault.

“Hey?” Luke raised a playful eyebrow at him. “You track me down all this way, and all you can come up with is ‘hey’?”

“Ouch! Come on now, I’m terrible at icebreakers,” Han laughed.

Luke cocked his head at Han with a small smile. “You know, when you mentioned shouting my name in the streets, I thought you were joking.”

“Me? Joke? Never,” Han said with mock indignation. “But, um, as it happens, I ran into a friend of yours, Leia Organa. She pointed me in the right direction.”

“Did she now?” asked Luke with a smirk as his eyes drifted towards the nearby hay field.

“Listen, are you free right now? Because I was thinking if you wanted to, we could hop in the Falcon and cruise the downtown district on Coruscant for a bit – maybe grab a bite to eat,” said Han, feigning nonchalance.

Luke’s throat tightened as the playful smile fell from his face. This was not something he had expected. It was easy to believe their previous encounters had just been meaningless flirting, but this was different. Han was actually standing there on his doorstep asking him out on a date. The rational part of Luke’s brain wanted to turn him down out of nervousness, or rather, common sense.

Life would be so much easier for Luke if he turned the man down then and there. For one thing, he wouldn’t have to worry about his stepfather finding out about his secret excursion to Tatooine anymore, or worse, about Ben. For another, Han could go away believing that Luke was still really Anakin Skywalker. Luke hated having to lie to him, but he was already in too deep. If he told Han the truth now, Han might accuse Luke of trying to use him for his money or status, two things about him which Luke couldn’t have cared less about.

Yes, he could tell Han it was all over. Luke could tell him that he had the wrong idea - that he really wasn’t interested in anything more than the playful banter they had been exchanging. The prince might walk away dejected, but at least he wouldn’t hate him. Probably. But a larger part of Luke, the part that was consumed with butterflies, nervous smiles, and wishful thinking, was slowly taking over his thought process.

“You’re… You’re asking me out on a date?” Luke asked slowly.

“Yeah, I am,” Han said with a small, nervous grin. Stars, he looked so earnest, so hopeful. It was enough to make Luke’s knees weaker than they already were. He smiled up at the taller man softly.

“Even though I was so rude to you the other day?” he asked with a trace of guilt in his voice.

Han scoffed lightly. “Please, have you seen all the kriff they say about me in the tabloids? It takes a lot more than a few well deserved reprimands to get under my skin.”

Luke grinned at him. “Don’t make me fight you for the check, Solo.”

Han beamed. “Sorry, your money’s no good here, Skyguy. Plus I asked you out so it’s only fair.” He bowed extravagantly and extended a hand to him, which Luke took with a small flush, allowing himself to be led down the stone steps.

Luke cast a glance over his shoulder as the two eavesdropping droids crowded one another in the doorway in an attempt to see what was happening. He winked at both of them with small, reassuring smirk, and R2-D2 flicked open a lighter from an inner compartment in approval.

“Nice outfit, by the way,” Han said with a lopsided smile, as they walked down the drive. He eyed Luke up and down appreciatively. “I feel a bit under dressed now, to be honest.”

“Oh, this old thing?” Luke chuckled nervously as he fiddled with the sleeves of the oversized tunic. “It’s literally just something I threw on.”

Han swung one long leg over the seat of the speeder, handing Luke the one helmet between them. He patted the back of the seat motioning Luke to join him.

“Um, maybe you’d better hold onto that,” Luke said with a wary smile and pointing to the offered helmet. “I’m not sure it would look too good for the future of your planet if you were to split your head open.”

“Aw, you do care,” said Han placing the helmet over Luke’s head and adjusting the straps. Luke’s blood pounded in his ears. Han was so close Luke could feel the other man’s breath on his face as he slipped the goggles over Luke’s eyes. Luke was grateful that the helmet obscured the majority of his reddening cheeks.

“There, all set. Now hop on. My ship’s not too far from here, but better safe than sorry,” he gave Luke’s helmet a soft thump and hopped onto the speeder bike, scooting forward as far as he could on the single seat. Luke gingerly climbed on behind him. He was suddenly very aware of the lack of handholds from his position. Luke sat up rigidly, unsure of how to position his body on the cramped seat. He awkwardly tried holding onto Han’s vest like he was holding the reins of a bantha.

“You’re never going to stay on if you try to sit like that,” Han laughed from in front of him. “Put your arms around me. Don’t worry, I won’t bite. Not unless you ask,” he grinned.

Luke rolled his eyes and slowly placed his arms around the brunet’s broader frame. He inhaled the warm scent of leather and shampoo, and something else mingling with the other fragrances, something gritty and smoky. Engine fuel, maybe? It suited him. Luke felt himself relax with a soft sigh as he allowed himself to lean into Han’s chest. His fingers worked their way around the white undershirt, gripping it tightly. He thought he heard Han’s breath hitch, just for a moment, but he probably imagined it.

“There you go,” Han said softly. “Now hold tight. I’ve been told my driving can make certain people anxious.”

“Great,” Luke muttered as they took off down the path, kicking up a trail of leaves behind them as they went.

“For what it’s worth, I’m glad you’re with me,” Han shouted behind him over the roar of the speeder’s engine.

“Me too,” Luke yelled. “Maybe we might actually be able to get in a whole conversation for once.”

Han laughed.

Chapter Text

The flight to Coruscant took far less time than Luke would have expected, although he mainly attributed that to the expert flying of the dashing man in the cockpit beside him. Once or twice though, he was afraid that the Falcon would be pulled over as they entered the planet’s atmosphere, for what he was sure was a major speed violation. Han merely gave a loving tap to a beeping black mechanism nestled between the controls.

“Radar detector,” he smiled. “It’s gotten me out of a lot of trouble in the past.” Luke didn’t push the subject.

The atmosphere on this planet was far cloudier than on Naboo. Or was it smog? Luke wondered. He squinted through the windows of the cockpit, trying to make out any discernible surroundings as they descended.

“Try looking down,” Han said over the roar of the engine, as he flicked several switches on above his head.

Luke did as Han told him and gasped. Below the cloud cover was a whole new world, far different from anything he had experienced before. The whole planet was one sprawling mass of glittering skyscrapers and towering monuments. There were swarms of hovercraft everywhere, filling the entire skyline and churning about in all possible directions like a great colony of glowing ants. There was an intense, pulsating energy in the air all around them; Luke could feel it in his bones.

The whole city was so vibrant and full of life. So many stories, and so many people who lived them. No two of them exactly the same. Luke gaped in awe at the sheer amount of color that the city contained, flickering in neon signs and captured in the various denizens who walked the crowded streets. Luke had never seen so many people or so many species in one place before. And the buildings! Luke felt absolutely dwarfed by the towering, colossal monuments, all titanium and glass, like massive glittering kyber crystals. He let out a soft exclamation of awe.

“It’s all so beautiful,” he breathed.

Han gave him a curious smile. “Isn’t your temple here on Coruscant? You must have been gone awhile if you’re that happy to see this old place again.”

Luke cringed inwardly. He was supposed to be a worldly Jedi Knight, and here he was gawking over some buildings like a simple country bumpkin. He couldn’t let Han know that he had never been to Coruscant before, much less off of Naboo, until his trip to rescue Artoo. Luke mentally cursed himself for being such a rube.

“Oh, yes. Of course,” he laughed weakly.

Han gracefully dipped the Falcon down towards the busy surface of the planet. He maneuvered his way into a large, open public docking area, landing the ship as two parking attendants came out to hand him his ticket. Han grumbled something about the ridiculous rates they were charging to park these days as he and Luke walked out into the open and onto the swarming city sidewalks.

Luke immediately felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people surrounding them. Back home on Naboo, he could walk for miles without running into another person. It was always something he found comforting about his home. Here, he had to jostle his way through a crowd at every turn just to keep up with Han. It was absolutely daunting. He felt himself unconsciously wrap one arm around Han’s, pulling the man closer to him. There was a sinking of feeling of dread beginning to trickle its way down his spine.

“Um, Prince Han,” Luke hissed nervously. “Are there going to be cameras here?” The thought made him sick to his stomach. The tabloids would probably have a field day with Han Solo’s new mystery date. What if Aurra should happen to see them on one of her blogs?

“Doubtful,” Han shrugged casually. “They’re usually swarming around uptown where the Senate is. Right now, we’re slumming it. And please, it’s just Han. I get enough of that ‘prince’ stuff from everybody else.” He gave Luke a reassuring wink. “Don’t worry. I would never try to get you in trouble with the order. I know how the council loves their rules.”

Luke flushed. Han wasn’t even concerned about what the newsfeeds would think of him dating a supposed Jedi; he was trying to protect Luke’s privacy. The thought made him somewhat giddy.

“But you’d still ask a Jedi out,” Luke said coyly.

“I said they love their rules, kid, I don’t. And besides, you said yes, didn’t you? That makes you just as guilty,” Han smirked.

Han led them through a narrower, dingy, side street, adjacent to the main square. The street was far less crowded here, and Luke was grateful for the extra breathing room. He eyed the decaying storefronts and crumbling apartments warily as they passed. It was as if they had stepped into an entirely different world from the bustling city square they had just left. People wearily milled about outside, hanging their tattered laundry, or sweeping off their front stoops, hacking at the smoke that seemed to pour from every vent. In an alley way, a group of younglings were having a splashing competition in a filthy puddle of murky water. There was a fine layer of grime and cement dust that seemed to settle over the entire neighborhood. The air smelt faintly of ozone.

Luke looked up at Han questioningly. “I don’t understand. I thought Coruscant was a wealthy planet. Why do these people live in such squalor?”

Han pulled a face like Luke was seeing a particularly embarrassing side of his city that people didn’t like talking about. “Uptown Coruscant is, kid. You’ve got the Senate, theatres, operas, all that junk. But here…” he gestured vaguely in front of them, “The Clone Wars hit this city pretty hard financially. Not all the damage was done on the battle field.”

Luke furrowed his brow in confusion. “But the Clone Wars ended nearly twenty years ago. Why is no one fixing this?”

Han sighed wearily. “I don’t know, Skyguy, that’s just politics for ya’. The Senate’s been talking about reform bills for ages but it never goes anywhere. Guess they’d rather spend the money on their own pay raises.” He shrugged and stuffed his hands in his pants pockets.

Luke scowled down at the ground and kicked an empty can at his feet as he passed. He had never really taken an interest in politics before; his mother’s boring council meetings and the overwhelming amount of work she was always bringing home had always seemed like a thankless job to him. But now, looking out over the decrepit city blocks in need of repair, the people in need of aid, Luke understood her burning passion for helping others. She would never sit back and let the Senate filibuster their way around the issue. The injustice of it all made his blood boil.

Han glanced over at him warily, noting Luke’s sudden change in demeanor. “Hey, you hungry?” he asked, trying to get the conversation back on an easier topic. “There’s a really good diner up just ahead.”

As if on cue, Luke’s stomach began to rumble. He hadn’t eaten anything since that morning when he had quickly scrambled up some eggs for himself, before getting a head start on his lightsaber practice. As Ben had told him, a healthy diet and regular eating schedule were just as important to practice as the more physical aspects of Jedi training.

“I could eat,” Luke admitted with a small smile.

Han grinned and clapped an arm around Luke’s shoulder as he led them down another side street with several shops all squeezed together in a suffocating line. They made their way towards a shabby looking dive that was tucked back behind two mechanic shops. Luke wasn’t sure if the grease he smelled was the edible kind or not. The flickering neon sign that indicated the place was open looked like it was in serious need of repair.

Han must have seen the look of trepidation on Luke’s face, because he thumped him heartily on the shoulder and chuckled. “Don’t worry, it’s much nicer than it looks. Gorba’s is one of Coruscant’s best kept secrets. Plus, it’s private and out of the way,” he waggled his eyebrows at Luke suggestively. “We can share a booth together in the back.”

“You behave,” Luke laughed as he gave the brunet a playful push.

Han pushed open the smudged glass doors of the diner, causing a tinkling, chiming noise to go off just above their heads. Luke gagged as he was smacked in the face with a wall of smoke residue and grease fumes. The air was so thick with it, Luke could have wiped at it with his hand and have grease come off on his fingers. He coughed and brought the sleeve of his shirt up to cover his now burning nose.

“And I thought this place smelled bad on the outside,” he mumbled.

Despite the unassuming exterior, the diner was packed with customers. People sat in booths along the walls or crowded together at the bar on rickety stools, as waitresses and service droids bustled back and forth with trays of food. The place had a vibrant, but strangely welcoming, atmosphere. At least, no one was drawing any weapons. Luke had heard some particularly nasty stories about the local hotspots on Coruscant, but he trusted that Han wouldn’t take him to any place dangerous. Not on their first date, anyway.

A curvy pink Twi’lek waitress in a stained apron came rushing towards the two of them excitedly. “Han!” she cried, her high heels clicking on the checkered tile floor as she ran. “It’s been too long! We all missed ya’ here!”

“Susie, my darling,” Han grinned, spreading his arms wide in greeting. “How has life in the fast lane been treating you?”

“It’s been good. I just got promoted to shift manager a few months ago,” she said, pulling out a worn spiral notebook from her pocket and flicking it open. “So is Chewbacca joining you today?”

“No, not this time. It’s just the two of us,” Han said placing a hand on Luke’s shoulder and giving the Twi’lek girl a knowing wink. Luke averted his gaze in embarrassment.

Susie glanced between the two men as her face bloomed into a coy smile. “I see,” she purred. “Let me see if I can find you two a booth with a little… privacy.”

She gave Luke an exaggerated wink, before motioning the two of them to follow her down the row of tables. They settled into a snug little booth in the corner, away from the crowded bar area. Susie quickly took down their drink orders before flouncing off towards the galley.

“She seems sweet,” Luke chuckled as he began to study the laminated menu. He cringed as his fingers brushed against something sticky.

“Yeah, Susie’s a gem,” Han replied. “I’ve been coming here for years; I’m practically best friends with all the staff. If I don’t come in at least once a week, management calls in a missing person’s case.”

Luke chuckled. He couldn’t believe how easy it was to talk to Han. He had always imagined him to be the kind of guy who never left his penthouse, yet here he was, a regular at the greasiest spoon Luke could ever have imagined. He liked that aspect of Han, the approachableness. He was so down to earth, so easy to connect with.

“Hey before I forget,” said Han, snapping Luke out of his dreamy reverie, “what’s your com number? Not that I don’t enjoy our random encounters, but it would make things easier if I didn’t have to wait for you to cross my path every time I wanted to talk to you.”

Luke’s smile fell. He cast his eyes downward towards the scratched, semi-reflective table top. “I don’t have a communicator,” he mumbled, with no small degree of embarrassment.

Han stared at him in surprise for a moment before quickly regaining his composure to spare Luke any further awkwardness. “Is that a Jedi thing?” he asked gently.

“It’s more of a being flat out broke thing,” Luke shrugged with an apologetic smile.

Han graciously let the subject drop as Susie came back from the kitchen with their drinks and took their orders. Han apparently always ordered the same heaping platter of brisket that would have fed a family of four people with average sized stomachs. Luke decided to go with the safest thing on the menu, or at least the least greasy, which turned out to be a mound of bantha loaf smothered in melted cheese.

“You sure the Jedi council won’t pound on you for eating like this?” asked Han with a smirk as he leaned forward, placing his elbows on the table.

“Ah, Ben will get over it,” Luke said with a wave of his hand.

Han cocked his head to the side in confusion at him. “Ben?”

“Sorry, I meant Obi-Wan. That’s just my nickname for him. He’s been helping me complete my training on Naboo,” Luke said, fiddling with his paper napkin.

Han looked thoughtful for a moment as if struggling to remember something before his face lit up with a broad smile. “You’re the guy,” he grinned.

“Pardon? What guy?”

“The one Kenobi-Wan was delivering his friend’s lightsaber to,” Han said as if pleased with himself for making the connection.

“Oh, ah, yes. That’s me,” Luke said with a slightly nervous smile, thankful that Han hadn’t recognized him yet as the one who threw a wrench at his head on their first meeting. “Obi-Wan’s my godfather,” Luke continued.

“Nice guy, that Obi-Wan,” said Han, playing with his silverware absentmindedly.

“Yeah.”

“Bit of an odd one, though.”

“He has his moments,” Luke replied just as Susie reappeared through the kitchen toting two large trays of very strong smelling food.

Han began to dig into his brisket almost as soon as the plate touched the table. Luke gazed down in dread at the unappetizing pile of brown mush in front of him. He stomach churned violently just by looking at it.

“You know, their bantha loaf is actually one of their most popular dishes,” Han mumbled through a mouthful of meat. “Give it a try! I promise, the food here has never been known to kill anyone. Well, not yet anyway.”

“Great,” Luke chuckled grimly, spearing a lump of the paste-like substance and tentatively bringing it to his mouth.

Chapter Text

“Anakin? Hey, Anakin? Are you alright in there? I am so sorry! I’ve never seen anyone get nauseous that quickly,” Han called worriedly from the other side of the bathroom door at Gorba’s.

Behind him, Susie bobbed back and forth nervously on her pointy heels, wringing her hands together. “Darln’? You need anything? Water? An ambulance?”

“Fine. I’m fine,” came the weak reply from behind the door. There was another sickening retching sound followed by a pitiful groan.

“This is my fault,” Han groaned, pinching his nose despondently. “He’s from Naboo, I should have known better than to feed him what passes for food in this place. He hasn’t built up a tolerance.”

Susie patted him comfortingly on the shoulder and nodded sagely. There came another bout of wet sounding gags from the bathroom. One of the patrons near the front of the entrance began to make his way over towards the bathroom. He took one look at the two figures huddled outside the door, and heard the moans of pain coming from inside, and quietly began backtracking his way to the exit.

“Listen, Anakin?” Han rapped on the painted door with the back of his knuckles. “Wait here, I’m going to run and get you something to help.”

“Don’t worry,” Luke rasped faintly. “I’m not going any-huuugggggnnnnnnn!” he called as he again emptied his stomach.

“Watch over him, Susie. Don’t let him out of your sight. I’ll be right back,” Han said, quickly grabbing his wallet and dashing towards the exit. Behind him Susie gave him a firm salute.

Twenty minutes later, Han burst through the door to the diner with a plastic bag tucked securely under one arm, setting off the high pitched welcome chime. Luke’s stomach had managed to settle enough for him to leave the safety of the tile bathroom. He sat at their booth in the corner as a crowd of servers bustled anxiously around him like a nervous flock of birds. The table was littered with empty glasses of water that Susie kept bringing him in a limitless supply.

Luke gave Han a friendly, if somewhat exhausted, smile as Han slid himself into the other side of the booth. Susie quickly shoed the other well meaning server girls away, insisting that the poor boy needed some breathing room. She winked at Han as she sashayed off into the kitchen.

Han rustled through the plastic bag and placed a small, white bottle of pills on the table, which rattled as it was set down. He slid it towards Luke with one finger. “For your stomach,” he said with an apologetic grin.

Luke unscrewed the cap and popped two of the bright blue pills into his mouth, downing another whole glass of water as he did so. He settled back in his seat with a small sigh. “Thank you,” he smiled weakly.

“There’s… something else too,” Han said somewhat hesitantly. “He reached into the bag again and pulled out a small brightly colored box. He held it up to Luke with a nervous smile and slid it across the table towards him. Han bit his lip anxiously as he tried to gage the other’s reaction.

Luke stared down at the box blankly. His brain hardly able to register what he was seeing. He eyes scanned the brightly colored lettering in disbelief. “You… bought me a communicator,” he said blankly, not lifting his eyes from the packaging.

“Surprise?” Han chuckled feebly.

Luke brushed his fingers along the cardboard box, turning it over gently in his hands. He swallowed heavily, afraid that if he held it too tightly, the box would vanish before his eyes. For as long as he had lived with Rush, Luke had never received anything as a gift, even on his birthday, without being made to feel guilty about the expense. And here Han, who had known him for only a few short days, had given him a present just because Luke had made an offhand comment over lunch. Not just any present either, but a way to connect him to the outside world, to Leia. He could talk to both of them now, whenever he wanted to. Without even realizing it, Han had given him some small, measurable amount of freedom. Luke felt hot, stinging tears beginning to prick the corners of his eyes. He blinked them away in frustration with a shake of his head.

“I can’t accept this,” he said quietly, pushing the box across the table towards the dark haired Corellian with resignation. “I can’t. It’s too much. I don’t have any way to pay you back.”

“Anakin.” Han placed his hands on top of Luke’s, holding the box at bay. Luke’s entire face burned scarlet at the sudden contact. “I’m not asking you for anything.” Han’s expression softened into a gentle smile.

Luke averted his eyes nervously.

“This is a gift. And, quite honestly, if you never wanted to see me again after today, I’d completely understand. But you need to have a way to contact other people. What if you got into a rough spot on a mission and nobody knew how to find you?”

Luke stared up at him with a soft, adoring smile. “I suppose they’d just shout my name in the streets,” he offered warmly.

Han threw back his head and laughed, erupting into a series of very un-prince like snorts, something Luke found strangely endearing.

“Does this mean you’d be interested in a second date?” Han chuckled. He posed the question casually, almost jokingly, but his eyes betrayed the apprehension he was hiding just below the surface.

“Only if I get to pick where we eat next time,” Luke grinned, breaking open the seal of the communicator box.

“Deal,” Han smirked.

Chapter Text

“Ugh, do there have to be so many buttons?” Luke muttered irritably as he walked head down through the crowded streets of Coruscant, glaring at his new device. Beside him, Han let out a chuckle.

“If you can move things with your mind, magic man, you can figure out how to put in a new contact.” He pulled out his own sleek, black communicator and punched in a series of numbers into the glowing, circular screen. “There,” he said. “I’ve just sent you my number, now you can rename it and store it in your contacts. Maybe as something cool, like Captain Awesome, or The Galaxy’s Best Looking Pilot, or, or…” his cheeky grin faded into a look of confusion as he watched Luke type in a name beside his contact with a smirk.

“That Guy’… Seriously? Is this because I tried to poison you?”

Luke cocked an eyebrow at him. “It’s a security measure. Do you really want Aurra to find out that I have Han Solo’s number in my communicator?”

Han shuddered in horror. “Ah… good point. Okay, then,” his thumbs danced across the screen of his own com as he began typing. He held the screen up to Luke when he was finished with a cocky grin.

“Skyguy?” Luke laughed, reading the glowing, blue text. “Man, you are such a dork.”

“Who’s dorkier, the dork or the dork who agrees to date him?” Han elbowed him playfully.

“Hey, cut it out,” Luke chuckled. “Honestly, you’re as bad as-“ His face suddenly turned pale as, out of the corner of his eye, he caught a familiar figure rounding the bend just ahead.

“Rush!” he cried.

Han raised an eyebrow. “I’m as bad as Rush?” he asked, puzzled.

Luke grabbed Han by the arm and dragged him into a nearby alleyway.

“Anakin! What’s going on? What are you doing?” Han asked incredulously as Luke peered out cautiously from behind the grouted bricks.

“My step- I mean, my Uncle Rush just walked by. I-“

“Got it. Say no more,” Han said holding both his hands out with a grimace.

“What’s he doing all the way out here?” Luke hissed to himself.

“Um,” Han rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. “Probably out looking for me? Possibly? Maybe?”

Luke raised his eyebrows at him.

“I kind of was supposed to start working with him today, and I never showed up,” Han grinned apologetically.

Luke rolled his eyes in exasperation. “You might have mentioned that before you asked me on a date,” he sighed. He furrowed his brow as he watch Rush surreptitiously glance over his should before darting into a seedy looking cantina. Luke could smell the smoke and alcohol fumes even from his hiding place, as the door closed shut with a whoosh. Luke scowled down at the dirt floor.

Figures.

“You alright, Anakin?” Han asked warily, noting the sudden change in expression on Luke’s face.

Luke shook his head to clear away the dark thoughts clouding his mind. He turned his attention back toward the taller man at his side. Han was watching him carefully, a look of concern adorning his handsome features. Luke smiled at him warmly.

“I’m fine,” he said. “Come on. Let’s go find your ship and head back to Naboo before you bankrupt all of Corellia with your parking tickets.”

---------------

Rush squinted against the stinging fumes that lingered over the cantina in a dense cloud of noxious smoke. He scanned the dimly lit booths irritably, his frustration growing with each passing minute. The place was packed with seedy characters of every species and description imaginable, except for the few he was actually waiting on. Rush checked his blinking holowatch again. The noise of the raucous conversations, and the Sith awful music blaring through the crackling speakers was slowly driving him up the wall.

Damn bounty hunters. Never on time when you need them.

He strode casually towards the back of the dark, stuffy building with his head held high. His expensive robes garnered him a few suspicious glares but he ignored them all. Rush’s time was far too valuable as it was to waste it on this wretched hive of scum and villainy.

Rush let out a strangled noise in his throat as a firm, bony hand clamped down on his shoulder, whirling him around to face his unknown assailant. A worn, wide brimmed hat sat low on the other man’s head, shrouding his face from what little light was surrounding them. A leathery blue hand flicked the brim up to reveal a familiar pair of piercing red eyes that flashed wickedly in the gloom.

“You had better have a damned good reason for dragging us out here, Clovis,” growled Cad Bane. Behind him, Bane’s group of bounty hunters chuckled menacingly at Rush as they slipped into an empty booth, watching the two men expectantly.

Rush flicked Bane’s hand off his shoulder with a disgusted sneer. “I wouldn’t have contacted you otherwise,” he snapped. Cad Bane smirked coldly at Rush as the two of them settled into the ripped leather booth that lined the back wall.

“So what’s this about, Clovis? Why couldn’t it wait until you got back to Naboo?” hissed Bossk suspiciously.

“Jonash is sending someone in to help with the books,” Rush said flatly. He snapped his fingers at a passing service droid and held up his empty glass.

Cad Bane clicked his tongue irritably. “I warned you not to come crying to me when this happened, Clovis. It’s your own damn fault for not covering your tracks.”

Dengar snickered. “Let me guess? You want us to off the guy before he starts snooping through your red ledger?”

“It’s Han,” Rush deadpanned.

There was a full beat of silence at the table before the entire group of bounty hunters burst out in raucous howls of laughter.

“Oh, yeah. You’ve got a lot to watch out for there, Rush,” Dengar chortled. “That playboy prince is a real sharp one! There’s no room for any ‘clerical errors’ on his watch!” The rest of the table erupted with renewed peals of mirth.

“I’ll admit, the situation does lend itself favorably to my original plan,” Rush smiled coolly as he grabbed a steaming vile of green liquid from a passing tray. He grimaced in disgust as the cheap liquor burned down his throat. “The boy is a complete fool. I don’t think he’d ever in a million years pick up on all of the funds I’ve been slowing draining out from the Banking Clan, even if he was staring the evidence in the face.”

“So what? You called us out here just so you could brag?” sneered Bossk with an irritable rasp.

“I never do anything without cause,” Rush glared at him coldly, reaching into his coat pocket and pulling out a crisply folded, heavy-grained paper. The elegant gold foil scrolling around the edges glittered brightly in the dim lamplight as Rush held it up. “I don’t suppose any of you cretins know what this is, so allow me to explain. This a personalized invitation, addressed to me and my household, for the Coruscant Opera Centennial Gala to be held in a week’s time. All of the top Banking Clan Executives will be there, so it will be the perfect opportunity for me to make my getaway. Before they’re even done sweeping up the aisles, my children and I will be halfway to Alderaan, along with half the funds in the Banking Clan treasury.”

Rush smiled as he slipped the invitation back into his coat pocket. “That idiot boy and his clueless father won’t know what hit them until it’s too late. This gala is going to be exactly the distraction I need to siphon out all those credit in a lump sum. I’m tired of breaking into a sweat over a few thousand here and there.”

“Gotta get that sabacc money somehow, eh Rush?” smirked Dengar.

“I still don’t see what all this has to do with us,” growled Cad Bane, growing more impatient with every word. His pointed teeth flashed dangerously in the murky glow of the cantina.

“Han may be a fool, but that doesn’t mean I want him anywhere near my office while I'm completing my preparations,” Rush explained with a small sigh of exasperation. “If I’m going to keep him distracted, I need to know his every move.” He pulled out a small bag of credits from his tunic, holding them up to the light to make sure he had everyone’s attention. Everyone but Cad Bane leaned in with eager interest.

“I need to know where he eats,” Rush said as he placed a single credit ingot on the table.

“When he leaves his office,” he continued as he placed another ingot on top of the first.

“His agenda,” he said, laying down a third ingot.

“And anything else you might dig up,” said Rush with a small smirk, emptying out the remaining contents of the purse, and scattering credits all over the filthy table. Bosk, Dengar, Zuckus, and IG-88 all made a mad grab for the glittering gold pieces.

Rush tilted his head up at the Duros who sat slumped back in his seat with his hat pulled over his eyes. “What about you, Bane? Are you in?” he asked, raising an eyebrow at the Duros.

“I’m not a damned babysitter,” the man snarled. “And I don’t work for pocket change. You already owe me enough money as it is, Clovis. And frankly, I’m sick of covering for you, when it doesn’t get me a damned thing! Talk to me when you’ve got a real job lined up. Until then, quit wasting my time,” he hissed. With that, Bane pushed himself out of the booth with a low growl, and began stalking off towards the exit.

“Wait!” Rush called after him, leaping up from the table in alarm. He hesitated for a moment, weighing his options. Bane didn’t pay him any mind as he continued towards the door of the cantina.

“Twenty percent!” Rush grimaced, as if just verbalizing the amount pained him. “I’ll give you twenty percent of everything. Plus everything that I already owe you.”

Cad Bane stopped in his tracks. “Make it forty,” he growled with his back to Rush. “And I want the house when you’re gone,” he continued, glancing back at Rush with a wicked smirk. “Think of it as interest.”

Rush seethed for a moment as his face turned a thunderous shade of maroon. His fists shook violently at his sides with fury. Finally he exhaled in exasperation with a sigh of defeat, holding out his hand with a foul expression of resignation.

“Deal.”

Cad Bane smiled wickedly at him as his gaunt, thin, blue lips curled back menacingly over the pointed canines. He swaggered over to where Rush stood glaring him down, and shook the hand grudgingly offered to him with a triumphant smirk.

“A pleasure doing business with you, as always.”

Chapter Text

“I still feel bad that you played hooky the whole afternoon just to spend time with me,” Luke muttered as he stepped off the landing ramp of the Millennium Falcon and into the empty hay field below his mother’s palace. There was a thin layer of clouds obscuring the late afternoon sunlight, making the air that rustled past him balmy and pleasant.

“Don’t be,” smirked Han as he sauntered down the ramp after him. “I had more fun today with you than I’ve had in weeks.”

“I had a lot of fun today with you too,” Luke mumbled shyly, brushing a hand through his hair.

“And I’m really sorry about lunch,” Han said rubbing the back of his neck in embarrassment. “Can I make it up to you?”

“You already made up for it plenty,” smiled Luke waving his brand new communicator out in front of him. “And thank you again, sincerely. I can’t tell you what this means.”

“I- You’re welcome. Feel free to drop me a message anytime,” Han said, stuffing his hands into his pants pockets and dragging his feet lazily through the dirt, trying to come up with something more engaging.

“Can I walk you home?” he asked, finally regaining some of his usually casual charm.

“It’s… probably better if you don’t,” Luke said with an apologetic smile. “Rush and Aurra are probably home by now and I wouldn’t want to inflict that on you.”

Han chuckled softly and stepped forward to take Luke gently by the hand. For one giddy, heart-thumping moment, Luke thought he was going to bend down and kiss it, but instead he just gave it a friendly shake.

“Be seeing you, Anakin,” Han said in a quiet murmur.

“Be seeing you,” Luke repeated, with just the barest hint of disappointment.

He turned, and made as if to leave, but Han held his hand in place gently. Luke turned around in surprise and stared back up at him. Han’s eyes were warm and soulful, drawing Luke in like a ship to a beacon in a storm. Han’s brow crinkled as his eyes darted over Luke’s face, as if trying to commit every minute detail to memory. His lips parted slightly and then closed in succession, the words dying on his tongue each time. Luke saw the tanned skin of his throat bob up and down as he swallowed dryly.

Luke allowed himself to be held there for a while as he continued to stare into the man’s eyes. Neither of them spoke. They didn’t need to. The warm breeze picked up slightly, playfully rustling around them, tussling their clothes and hair.

Han finally let Luke’s hand drop with a soft, breathy chuckle. He once again shoved his hands into his pockets as he slowly began to walk back to his ship. Luke flexed his fingers as if trying to regain the euphoric feeling of warmth that had left them, the ghost of Han’s touch fading away like a mournful sigh.

Han turned back when he reached the top of the landing ramp, giving Luke a crooked smirk and saluting him languidly with two fingers. Luke returned the gesture, waving heartily as the ship roared to life and began its accent. He continued to watch as Han piloted the freighter upwards and disappeared in a blinding flash as he hit the hyperdrive. Luke stood in place for a moment longer, watching the now empty sky with a fond smile. With a soft sigh, he turned and began to make his way up the hill towards the Amidala estate, humming softly to himself as he did so.

Chapter Text

“You know, it’s not just anyone who gets invited to these exclusive formal occasions,” sighed Aurra dreamily as she held up yet another of her many gowns to her chest in front of the large, ornate, free-standing mirror in her bedroom. “You have to be somebody.” She spun around, watching the beautiful aqua blue silk folds sway as they twirled, before giving the dress a further scrutinizing glance. With a scoff, she tossed it on the bed behind her to add to the growing pile of discarded gowns.

“Uh-huh,” mumbled Luke, slumped over on a small, plush footstool in absolute boredom.

It was just his luck that he would be the one roped into helping Aurra pick out her dress for the Centennial Opera Gala, or whatever it was called. Rush happened to be in Coruscant again that afternoon. Probably to give Han an earful about missing their appointment yesterday, Luke thought with wry smirk. And Savage was nowhere to be found on the Estate. The stoic Zabrak seemed to have a certain knack for avoiding these kinds of tedious situations. Luke sometimes wondered if Savage wasn’t just the tiniest bit Force sensitive when it came to these sorts of things.

Beside Aurra, C-3PO hovered silently in the background, fetching gowns from the spacious closet at her command, and running to catch the discarded ones as Aurra carelessly tossed them aside. Luke could tell the protocol droid was having mixed feelings about the affair, caught between his love of couture, and his distaste for the women wearing it. For Luke’s part, he couldn’t care less about the gala; he was sure Rush would make him stay home and watch the house that night anyway.

Fine by me, Luke thought. He was never one for crowds.

“Droid,” barked Aurra, causing C-3PO to jump to attention. “Where’s my pearl tiara that I asked for?” she demanded.

“Um, begging your pardon Mistress Aurra, but the tiara in question appears to have been… misplaced. You didn’t move it by any chance, did you?” C-3PO asked, rocking back on his peds nervously.

“If I thought I had moved it, I wouldn’t have sent you to the closet for it in the first place, now would I?” she spat at the protocol droid in irritation. “Never mind! You and that idiot astromech unit must have lost it while you were cleaning up here. I’ll have to bring this to the attention of my father and see what he has to say about it,” she smirked at him haughtily.

“Yes, my lady,” C-3PO sighed in resignation, too tired to argue with her.

Luke jolted slightly as he felt the communicator in his pocket vibrate with a new message alert, snapping him out of his daydreams. He grinned as he pulled the device out and hunched over the tiny screen.

That Guy: How’s it going? Still stuck on dress detail?

Luke bit his lip with a conspiratorial grin. He and Han had been messaging back and forth all that morning. Luke was so excited to finally have an outside means of communication that he had spent the majority of the previous night telling Leia all about their first date. She was considerably less sympathetic about his embarrassing lunch experience than he would have liked, having doubled over with laughter for a solid five minutes. He was still a bit miffed about that.

He began to peck out a reply slowly, with one index finger.

Luke: Yes, unfortunately. What about you?

His knee bobbed eagerly up and down as he waited anxiously for a reply. Aurra, had meanwhile thrown another brand new dress into the towering mountain of rejects, claiming she had absolutely nothing to wear. Luke’s eyes snapped back to the screen as it lit up again.

That Guy: Ugh! I’ve been stuck with Rush nearly all morning!!! I know he’s your uncle man but the guy is seriously giving me the creeps. Like no matter where I go there he is! It’s like the guy knows my schedule or something. He even followed me to hoverball practice

Luke frowned. He knew that Rush and Han worked together, but for some reason Han’s messages left a bad taste in Luke’s mouth. He didn’t trust Rush these days after the incident with the tapestry. Why was he so interested in Han all of a sudden? There was a tiny, irrational part of Luke’s mind that was just the slightest bit resentful of his stepfather for taking up so much of Han’s time. Luke shook his head in irritation, annoyed that he would even be feeling anything akin to jealousy towards Rush. For Sith’s sake! The man was in his fifties!

“Luke!” screeched Aurra, yanking Luke out of his conspiratorial musings with a yelp.

“You haven’t heard a word I’ve said, have you? I asked you if you think these shoes match the dress better than the grey ones,” she said, holding up a pair of lavender pumps against a billowing peach silk gown.

“I don’t know Aurra,” Luke sighed with exasperation. “Nobody’s going to be looking at your feet anyway.” He checked his communicator as a new message lit up the screen momentarily.

That Guy: Mother of malachor I think he’s trying the RELATE to me now!!!! What the hell is ‘wizzard’?!?!?! Who in there right mind says something is so wizard?!!

Luke felt his face break into a small grin.

“Ugh! You are completely useless,” Aurra snapped. Her eyes suddenly registered the black circular device in Luke’s palm. “When did you get a communicator?” she asked incredulously.

Luke blanched slightly. “Oh, what? This? It’s nothing” he muttered, averting his eyes and fumbling with the device. “It’s junk. Just an old junk model,” he said, trying desperately to shove it back into his tunic pocket, but he wasn’t quick enough. In a flash, Aurra pounced on him, tearing the communicator out of his hands with feverish curiosity.

“Hey,” Luke cried. “Give it back!”

“Old junk model my ass,” Aurra gaped, turing over the sleek black model in her hand. “This is the Starwave 4XL! They just came out this month! Even I don’t have one of these yet!”

“Really?” Luke asked, forgetting his anger for a moment. “Cool.”

“Where did you get this?” Aurra demanded, the jealously clearly written all over her pallid face. “Did you steal it?” she asked in a lowered voice, her features a mixture of awe and conspiratorial glee.

“No, I didn’t steal it,” Luke snapped, swiping the communicator out of Aurra’s hands before she could protest. He racked his brain for a good explanation. “Actually, when I said it was an old junk model, what I meant was that it was a hand-me-down. I got it from Leia,” he said with a small grin, thinking on his feet. “She didn’t want this one because it had a scratch on it. See?” Luke waved the communicator in front of Aurra’s face in a blur, showing off the non-existent blemish, and quickly shoved it back in his pocket.

Aurra scowled at him darkly. For a brief moment, Luke was afraid that Aurra would demand that he hand it over, or worse, try to physically fight him for it. But then her features turned into a cruel smirk, and she looked down her nose at him haughtily. “Why do you even need a communicator anyway? It’s not like you have any friends.” She laughed, turning back to the full length mirror and effectively ignoring her stepbrother.

Luke seethed with bitter indignation and gritted his teeth at her back, before suddenly being struck with an idea. The thought made him chuckle. “Say, Aurra,” Luke trailed off with feigned nonchalance. “Do you think Han Solo will be at the gala?” He smirked inwardly, hoping to rile up some sort of reaction out of his snobbish stepsister.

“Of course he’ll be there, idiot,” she sneered with a dramatic roll of her eyes. “He’s only one of the most important people on Coruscant. He and I are very close you know,” she said with a great air of importance.

“Oh, really?” Luke was trying his best to keep the gleeful smile from his face. Out of the corner of his eye he caught C-3PO shake his head slightly with a small sigh at his antics.

“The man can hardly keep away from me. Why, earlier this week, I caught him wondering the nearby roads by the sunflower fields. No doubt looking for me. Like, desperate much?” she tittered playfully, flicking her long, bright orange ponytail behind her.

Luke raised his eyebrows in mock fascination. “Really? Wow, that’s so romantic! I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to have a guy like Han Solo be so enamored with you.”

Aurra hummed thoughtfully as she admired the peach colored gown in the mirror again. “Yes, well, Han knows a woman of quality when he sees one. I wouldn’t be surprised if a marriage proposal is on the horizon. Oh! Maybe he’ll even propose at the gala! Can you even imagine?” She whirled around gleefully to face Luke, who stared back with a blank smile plastered on his face.

“No,” she sniffed, turning back away from him. “I don’t suppose you can, can you?”

Luke turned his attention back to the small glowing screen of his communicator, staring at the latest message he had received.

That Guy: Got to go. Pretty sure Rush is trying to rope me into having lunch with him. I’ll tell him I highly recommend the bantha loaf at Gorbas. Hahaha!!! Sure wish you were here right now Skyguy! I miss your adorable face!

He smiled warmly.

“No,” Luke said softly. “I don’t suppose I could.”

Chapter Text

“Alright, listen Rush, I really had better get going. My dad’s already upset with me as it is for missing work yesterday,” Han said with barely contained annoyance. He walked backwards across the polished, pristine floors of the opulent Banking Clan Headquarters lobby and into the long glass elevator that ran the whole length of the building, praying that Rush wouldn’t follow him in.

“Oh! Well, there’s no need to go back just yet, is there?” Rush queried, with a strained smile. He continued to inch closer to Han, until he was practically in the elevator with him. “I mean, it’s getting close to my lunch hour anyway. How about we talk about the new position over a couple of sandwiches? My tre-“

To Han’s blessed relief, the doors began to slide close, forcing Rush to take a step back to avoid being squished.

“Sorry. Maybe next time,” Han gave the man a friendly wave as he skyrocketed up the long glass shaft. As soon as Rush was out of sight, Han slumped against the curved walls in relief and exhaustion.

If Han thought the older man was unnerving before, this strange new bought of familiarity that Rush seemed to think they shared, was ten times worse. Despite the fact that it was already nearly lunch time, they had not made a single dent in their workload. Rush, it seemed, was just as bad about procrastinating as Han was. Not only that, the man had seemed almost determined to keep Han away from his CFO’s office, as strange as the thought sounded. Every time Han had offered to help Rush with the finances that morning, the man had whisked him away on some unrelated excursion.

Probably just doesn’t want me mucking up the work he’s already done, thought Han.

Despite the exasperating events of the morning, however, Han was not going to let this day be ruined. Not when she was coming to visit. He glanced at his watch for the billionth time that day, wishing that the glowing blue numbers would cycle through a little faster.

He sighed and leaned against the walls of the glass cylinder as he continued to rise up from Coruscant’s industrial surface. Down below, the Banking Clan’s hangar slowly yawned opened, as the tiny figures below milled about like ants, preparing for the arrival of a very special visitor. Han grinned. She had to be on her way by now. He was just thinking about waiting for her down with the rest of the gathering crowd, when his communicator beeped. He glanced down at the contact and felt his heart sink in trepidation.

King Tyrant: My office. Now.

Han sighed and slipped his communicator back in its secure vest pocket. He had known this conversation was inevitable, but that didn’t make him dread it any less. His father had been furious that he had decided to play hooky all day yesterday without telling anyone. Han’s thoughts unconsciously drifted to the image of Anakin’s goofy, infectious smile. His silky, blond hair. Those lively, sparkling, blue eyes.

Totally worth it, he thought with a self-satisfied smirk.

With a sigh of resignation, he stepped out of the sliding elevator doors and into the cavernous hallway on the executive main floor. To add to his chagrin, his presence had garnered immediate attention and sympathetic stares from the various accountants, execs, and droids that buzzed around the hallway, as if they knew he was a dead man walking. He made a point of ignoring all of them, shoving his hands into his pants pockets and stalking down the overly-long hallways to his father’s office. Han pushed open the massive wooden doors to find Jonash Solo hunched over at his desk with his nose buried in a mountain of paperwork. He didn’t bother to look up as Han entered the room.

“Shut the door,” Jonash said in leaded tones.

Han did so with grim resignation, stalking across the plush carpeted floor and flopping down unceremoniously in a great leather armchair with a huff of defiance. Jonash continued to ignore him for a few more minutes, causing Han to shift somewhat awkwardly in his seat. The heavy silence seemed to suffocate him.

“So who talks first? You talk first? I talk first?” Han asked uncomfortably.

“Were you aware that you had a meeting with Rush Clovis yesterday?” Jonash glared at his son from across the desk, folding his hands together in front of his mouth.

Han picked at the creases on his armrest. “I um, might have seen a memo for it in my inbox,” he said, averting his gaze.

“Then would you mind telling me why you didn’t attend it?” his father glowered at him dangerously.

“Well, I’m sorry if I can’t just rearrange my whole schedule to accommodate one impromptu meeting!” Han cried, throwing up his hands in exasperation.

“Which wouldn’t have been a problem, if you had bothered showing up for work at all,” Jonash roared, slamming his fists on the desk, causing a cacophonous bang. “Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to have to make excuses for you all the time, Han? Everything you do is a reflection of Corellia! Of this company! Of me! You are my son, and the future king of Corellia; you need to start acting like it!”

“Shouting at your employees, Jonash?” came a low, svelte voice from behind them. “Doesn’t seem like very good business practice to me.”

Han and Jonash momentarily forgot their argument and whirled in the direction of the familiar voice. Han’s face lit up. A tall woman with fiery red hair and creamy skin glided in, wearing a shimmering, iridescent gown. Her expression was one of amusement, but her dark eyes bore accusingly at the older man behind the desk. He seemed to shrink under her gaze, or at least reluctantly temper his anger towards his son. Han took long, striding leaps over towards the woman, throwing his arms around her in exuberance.

“Hello, Mother,” Han beamed at her.

Jaina Solo smiled wryly at her son, and pushed a stray piece of untidy brown hair out of his eyes. “Han,” she said, in that meaningful tone that all mothers instinctively know, “Have you been getting into trouble again?” Han felt himself deflate under her scrutiny in a way that his father never had been able to achieve.

Jonash straightened himself up, having regained his composure. He fixed Han with a withering glare. “I was just telling our son here, Jaina, that he needs to get his act together, or-“

“Or what?” Han whirled around indignantly, suddenly emboldened by the arrival of his favorite parent. “You’ll ship me back home to Corellia like some kind of pariah? Tell me, what’s it to be father, boiling oil or the carbon freeze chamber?”

Jonash’s face turned a deep shade of purple. “I will simply deny you the crown… and live forever!” he spluttered in rage. Behind him, Jaina Solo rolled her eyes with a groan of embarrassment.

Han placed both hands on the desk and glared across it at his father. “Good,” he said. “Fine. I don’t want it. And I don’t want this stupid company either,” he stood up and began to stomp his way towards the door. “Oh, and you can tell your buddy, Rush, that whenever he wants to actually buckle down and get some work done, I’ll be waiting,” Han snapped and slammed the heavy doors behind him, with no small amount of effort.

Jonash Solo seethed at the door through clenched teeth, muttering faint expletives under his breath as his son’s footsteps stomped down the hall. He caught a shimmer of white out of the corner of his eye and blinked in surprise, the arrival of his wife having momentarily slipped his mind. He turned towards her to find Jaina crossing her arms and glaring reproachfully at him, in that familiar, withering way of hers. Jonash hung his head and offered her a sheepish shrug. Jaina merely tapped her fingers delicately on her toned, bare arms in irritation.

“Well,” she said flatly. “That went well.”

Chapter Text

Han stomped into the Banking Clan hangar in a dark cloud of rage. The inability to slam the automated elevator door closed with a satisfying bang only added to his ire. He stalked across the polished floor to where his beloved Millennium Falcon proudly stood, hoping to find solace behind the familiar controls. At least in hyperspace nobody could tell him what to do. He found Chewbacca already there waiting for him. The wookie cocked his head to the side and let out a soft grumble of concern as he registered the scowl on his friend’s face.

“Fire ‘er up, Chewie! I’m going for a joyride,” Han called over his shoulder as he punched in the landing release code. Chewbacca rumbled at him questioningly.

“I don’t know yet. Naboo, I guess. I dunno,” Han shrugged irritably, still facing the ship.

His furry companion eyed him sympathetically. Huuuuuuuurrrrrrggggggghhhhhh?

Han felt his anger begin to cool slightly. He let out a tired sigh and slumped his arm against the side of the panel. “Well, I don’t know. I might go and see Anakin again. I don’t really-“

Haaaaauuurrrrrrrggggggaaaaaaahhhhhhhh? Chewbacca growled in excitement.

Han turned around to face the wookie in surprise. “You… You want to meet him?”

Chewbacca nodded eagerly. Han hummed and drummed his fingers on the smooth metal hull of the ship thoughtfully.

“Hmmmm. Yeah, okay. I guess he’s got to meet you sooner or later,” he said after a moment of consideration. He waggled a finger at the wookie with a small smirk. “But you got to promise to behave. He’s a little guy, so don’t go crushing the life out of him or anything, you great colossus. I don’t need you scaring him off after only one date.”

Chewbacca let out a snort as he followed his friend up the ramp and into the Falcon’s cockpit.

---------------

Rush Clovis carefully maneuvered his way around the billowing mass of sickening dense smoke and drunken patrons, as he shuffled towards the dimly lit bar of a seedy dive. He glowered as a particularly drunk Zabrak sloshed the foul contents of his mug on Rush’s robe in a fit of raucous laughter. Rush cursed as he tried to rub out the spots on the expensive silk. He just knew that Cad Bane had purposely chosen an even more deplorable meeting spot than the one Rush had simply out of spite. A jittery, sallow looking man approached him, wanting to sell him death sticks. Rush pushed him away in disgust. The nerve of some people…

He spied the Duros sitting crouched over on a too-small stool at the bar, empty glasses littering the counter space around him. It was obvious that he had been waiting for Rush for awhile. Either that or the man was just a really fast drinker. Rush sniffed and slid onto the seat next to him. He let out a hiss of disgust when his sleeves caught on the sticky film coating the filthy counter top.

“Ain’t you gonna buy me a drink?” Bane winked at Rush with an unusual air of playfulness, the alcohol having already clearly reached his head.

Rush raised a judgmental eyebrow at the other man. “I think you’ve had plenty enough as it is,” he scoffed.

“Go to hell, Rush,” the Duros growled into his glass as he took another swig.

“What’s this about, Bane? Did you find out anything useful?” asked Rush wanting to get to the point and get out of this wretched pit as soon as possible.

“Han left for Naboo about an hour ago,” Cad Bane replied through sips of burning liquid. “I don’t think he’s coming back for awhile. Looked as though the kid were right kriffed about something.”

Rush cocked his head in surprise. “Naboo? Why would he go all the way to Naboo just to let off some steam?”

“Hell if I know. Do I look like the kid’s damned confidant?” Bane growled.

“Fair enough,” Rush replied as he brushed the dirt from his robes. “Now if that’s all the news you have for me, I had better be-“

“I didn’t say I was finished,” Cad Bane snapped and tossed a small filthy bundle of rags at Rush who caught it and held it at arm’s length warily. The leather clad bounty hunter smirked. “Seems pretty damn obvious that your little prince plays favorites when it comes to his parents. You want to know what he’s up to? Get in good with the mother.”

Rush gave him a quizzical look and then slowly began the peel back the layers of stained cloth. Upon reaching the center, he stopped and stared down at the concealed object nestled within the folds. He looked back up at Cad Bane in shock, as the blue Duros merely tipped his hat at Rush with a knowing smirk.

Bane pushed himself off the bar stool, and began to swagger out towards the entrance, leaving a stunned Rush Clovis behind. Rush watched his retreating back for a moment before turning his attention back to the lump of rags in his hands. His eyes danced over the gleaming red object nestled in its center as it caught the light from the dim neon lamps. Slowly, ever so slowly, a triumphant grin began to spread its way across his well-lined face.

Chapter Text

Luke lay back on his cot in the attic and sighed wearily up at the warped ceiling. Aurra had blessedly dismissed him from gala wear duty moments earlier due to his apparent lack of color coordination. He held up his hand in front of him, splaying his fingers out lazily, and watched as the light escaping through the cracks of the warped, wooden roof filtered through his fingers.

A vibration in his pocket made him jump. He quickly scrambled up into a sitting position and pulled out the handheld communicator. He stared at the glowing blue letters on the screen in excitement.

Video call request from: That Guy

Luke bit his lip with a nervous smile, a shower of warmth playing over his spine. He glanced cautiously over at the entrance to the attic. He was certain that no one would bother to disturb him all the way up here, even without the extra precaution of locking his door. Making sure to adjust the screen so that none of his filthy work clothes could be seen, he quickly brushed his hair out of his eyes and hit accept. The image of Han Solo flickered to life in a glowing blue projection hovering above the screen. He shifted his weight to one foot casually and grinned when he saw Luke.

“Finally gave that cousin of yours the slip, huh?” Han smirked.

“Believe me, there’s no way in Malachor I’d be video chatting with you right now if I hadn’t,” Luke replied.

Han appeared to study something just over Luke’s shoulder. “Are you in a barn, or something?” he asked, puzzled.

Luke mentally cursed himself for not having the foresight to move to less conspicuous area. “Um, it’s an attic, actually,” he replied with a nervous smile. “I um, like to come up here to meditate and be alone sometimes.”

“Well, is now one of those times, or do you want to meet up for lunch?” asked Han as he appeared to casually lean up against something large and metallic - his ship, probably.

“Lunch sounds great! How soon can you be here?” Luke leaned in towards the projection eagerly.

Han chuckled. “I’m here now, kid. I’m looking up at your house.”

Luke jolted in alarm, and raced over to the window, temporarily abandoning the communicator. He pulled back the tattered curtains to see the Millennium Falcon nestled neatly beside the neighboring hayfield. It seemed that Han had intentionally avoided parking too close to the house, so as to avoid accidentally running into Aurra or Rush. Luke could hardly blame him. He turned back to the communicator with a slightly exasperated groan.

“You sure don’t leave a guy much time to prepare,” Luke said with a soft chuckle.

“What’s there to prepare for?” Han laughed. “It’s just lunch. I picked up some sandwiches on the way. I figured we could have a picnic or something.”

Luke smiled fondly at the flickering projection. “Give me ten minutes,” he said.

Han flashed him a wide grin and terminated the connection.

Luke pocketed the device and raced excitedly down the attic stairs. He made his way to the laundry area without any sign from his stepfamily.

What do these people do all day? He wondered with a wry smirk.

There was no sign of C-3PO or R2-D2, either. Luke guessed that they must have been outside tending the family garden. With a shrug, Luke began digging through the basket of freshly cleaned laundry, still warm from drying out in the sun. He pulled out a burgundy tunic of Rush’s at random. It was one of his more casual outfits that Luke had rarely seen him wear around the house. Rush probably wouldn’t even notice its disappearance. Luke slipped it on over his brown leggings and quickly straightened out the wrinkles. With a cursory check of his appearance in the reflective washing panel, he made his way eagerly out the servant’s entrance.

Luke ran down the hill towards the hayfield, laughing at the feeling of exhilaration the downward momentum awarded him. The breeze raced over his skin as he whizzed past. He slowed to a halt as he neared the Falcon, a wide grin plastered on his face.

His eyes widened in surprise and alarm as he caught sight of a towering mountain of brown fur rushing over towards him and bellowing like a rancor. Luke froze in panic, his muscles refusing to obey his brain’s signals to run, as the wookie overtook him. He gasped for air as he was lifted into the air by a pair of massive, powerful arms, and squeezed like an over-ripe jogan fruit. The great, furry creature continued to emit loud growling noises as he hugged Luke tightly, popping joints along his back that Luke wasn’t even aware existed.

“Chewie! For Sith’s sake! Put him down! We talked about this!” came the familiar voice of Han Solo from somewhere behind the seven foot mound of fur.

The Wookie moaned apologetically, and gently set Luke down with a soft pat on the head, smoothing down the wayward, blond strands of hair. Luke swayed where he stood slightly, trying to regain a sense of equilibrium. Han walked over and clasped a hand on his shoulder with a warm smile.

“Sorry about that. On the plus side, he says he likes you.”

Luke wheezed. “Gee, I’d hate to think what he’d do if he didn’t.”

Han shook his head lightly and chuckled. “Anakin, this is Chewbacca, the best co-pilot and friend a guy could ask for.” The wookie roared in approval. “And Chewie, this here is Anakin Skywalker, my um..,” he trailed off, suddenly feeling self-conscious. He looked expectantly at Luke as if he held all the answers to their bizarre, newly formed relationship. Luke shot him a look that clearly indicated he was just a confused about what they where exactly, as Han was.

“Can we say boyfriends after one date?” Luke asked, hoping he sounded less nervous than he felt.

“One date, a few random encounters, several hours of texting, and one very disastrous lunch,” Han began ticking off on his fingers in feigned contemplation. “Yeah, I’d say we’ve pretty much earned that right.”

“Glad to hear it,” Luke smirked with a quirk of his eyebrows.

Han gave a soft tap of his foot to a small, portable cooler lying in the grass by his feet, drawing Luke’s attention downward. “Got the sandwiches in here. I didn’t know what kind you liked so I just got, you know… all of them.”

Luke laughed. “You spoil me.”

“I intend to,” Han winked, and cast a glance over at the towering wookie. “We might be here a while, Chewie, so don’t wait up. I’ll call you when I need a ride back.”

Chewbacca cocked his head uncertainly at his friend, and rumbled something like an objection.

“I’ll be fine, don’t worry about it. Just kick back in the next town for awhile while Anakin and I are out. Say, what do you country folk like to do for fun around here, anyway?” Han asked, turning a quizzical eye towards Luke.

“Um, well, I know some of the local boys around the village like to sometimes go shaak tipping,” Luke offered weakly with an embarrassed sort of shrug.

“Terrific,” Han muttered rolling his eyes. “Well, you know all the best spots around here, Skyguy, so I’ll leave the choice of locale up to you. We’ll be back in a few hours, Chewie,” Han called out as he hoisted the cooler over his shoulder and began walking with Luke, hand in hand, away from the blustery hay field.

Chewbacca let out a roar after them that sounded to Luke as if it were almost teasing. Han choked on air and momentarily faltered, before shooting a glare over his shoulder at the wookie. Luke smiled. It reminded him of the way he and Leia would often act towards each other. Han then turned on his heel with a snort, and continued walking.

“What did he say?” Luke asked knowingly, with a cheeky smirk.

“I, um… you know what? It doesn’t really translate,” Han faltered, deliberately ignoring the slight scoff from the smaller man at his side, as Luke casually slipped his hand around Han’s waist.

Chapter Text

Rush tapped his foot impatiently on the smooth, polished, marble floor of the Banking Clan lobby and checked his holowatch again. Around him, people were milling about in all directions, rushing back and forth between meeting rooms, and spilling in and out of the many elevators that lined the cavernous, gilded lobby. Rush kept his eyes trained on the many sliding elevator doors, knowing that his quarry was bound to exit out of one at any moment.

He began drumming his fingers on his thigh subconsciously, sighing through clenched teeth in annoyance. All of the noise and bustle was assaulting his eardrums like waves crashing on rock. If he had to listen to one more mind numbingly boring snippet of conversation about the upcoming gala he was going to have a conniption fit.

A chime, signaling the arrival of another elevator, snapped him back to attention. The doors slid open to reveal a strikingly beautiful woman in a cascading gown of glimmering white silk. Her fiery red hair seemed to sway ever so softly behind her as she glided through into the lobby. Her sudden emergence drew a crowd of onlookers, many of them whispering excitedly amongst themselves, but none daring to get too close.

Jaina Solo had a reputation of being notoriously elusive when it came to press coverage. She considered herself to be a rather private person, despite her position as queen. In fact, she rarely left Corellia unless circumstances demanded it, which made getting hold of her extremely tricky.

Rush stood up from his leather-backed chair, and began striding towards her. Jaina was already making her way towards the private hangar containing her ship. It was now or never.

“Your Majesty!” Rush called out as he approached her. Jaina turned towards him, her lovely dark eyes widening in surprise.

“Mister Clovis,” she greeted him in that honeyed, pleasant-sounding voice of hers.

Rush dipped into a courteous bow, extending his palm out to her. “I believe you dropped this on your way in,” he said, “I wanted to see that it was returned to you.” In his hand lay a large ruby pendant, suspended on a intricate gold chain. The numerous lit sconces in the lobby reflected off the many facets of the stone, making it appear as though it were made of crystallized fire. Jaina Solo gasped slightly as her hand flew to her gracefully unadorned neck.

“My pendant! Stars, I don’t even remember putting it on today.” Her eyes flickered up to meet Rush’s as she smiled warmly. “Thank you so much. Most people wouldn’t be so honest if they were in your shoes.”

“May I?” Rush asked, holding up the chain with a smile. Jaina swept her long red hair away from her neck as she nodded for Rush to step forward. Rush smirked as soon as she wasn’t looking. This was going swimmingly so far. He had expected her to be at least somewhat suspicious of how he came to acquire the trinket. But then again, why would Jonash’s pretty little wife ever suspect her husband’s right hand man of foul play?

And she was pretty, Rush conceded with an arch of his brow. More than pretty, in fact. Star’s end, but the queen was a beautiful woman! Rush hadn’t really given it much thought before now. Up this close, he could smell the delicate amber aroma of Jaina’s perfume, could see the gentle rise and fall of her voluptuous breasts as she breathed, could admire the fiery copper glimmer of her curls as they caught the light. Once or twice his breath hitched as his hands accidentally brushed against the delicate, creamy skin at the back of her neck.

“There. All finished,” he coughed nervously, having taken twice as long with the clasp as he could have. Jaina turned around with a gratified smile, her dark eyes glittering in the glow of the sconces. “Absolutely stunning,” Rush fawned, beaming at her with approval.

Jaina blushed, the delicate pink glow blooming across her cheeks. She let out a breathy chuckle and averted her eyes. Rush grinned inwardly.

That was it. Affection. The poor woman was practically starving for it. Then again, after over twenty years of marriage to that frigid old stooge, Jonash, what woman wouldn’t be? It had only taken one well placed compliment for Rush to make the queen of Corellia flush in embarrassment. His connection was as good as sealed. He suppressed the urge to let out a devious chuckle. Perhaps when all of this was over the two of them could get more… intimately acquainted.

“Mister Clovis-“

“No, please, call me Rush,” he said in his most charming voice.

“Rush,” the queen conceded with a small smile. “Would you… care to join me for lunch today?”

“Majesty,” Rush breathed, appearing to be deeply moved. He bowed and presented his arm to her, in true gentleman’s fashion. With an admiring arch of her brow, Jaina reached out, and graciously accepted the hand offered to her. With that, the two of them began making their way down the lobby arm in arm, chatting amicably, unaware of the several gaping stares of disbelief that followed their retreating backs.

Chapter Text

“No kidding? Thunderstorms?” asked Han interestedly as he leaned back on his hands in the soft grass. Around them stretched a vast network of glittering, crystalline lakes that were fed into by towering waterfalls. The two men were nestled in a soft patch of grass atop a scenic hill overlooking the swirling pools, the bright sun reflecting dazzlingly off the water’s surface. Luke had chosen the perfect spot for showcasing the beauty of his beloved home planet to Han.

Luke plucked at a few blades of grass absentmindedly. “Well, it’s not so much a phobia really, as an intense dislike. When your ceiling leaks as much as mine does, you learn to hate the rain.”

“Hmm, a little rain might be nice,” sighed Han contentedly as he lay on his back; he closed his eyes as he let the warm sunlight pool over his skin. “It seems like the only weather I get on Coruscant is smog.”

Luke rolled over onto his elbows, letting his feet swing aimlessly behind him. “Ok, now it’s your turn. Tell me something you’ve never told anyone.”

Han appeared to consider this, still keeping his eyes closed. He let out a thoughtful hum. “Let’s see… I already told you about my horrible memory, right?”

Luke snorted. “I can’t tell if that was supposed to be a joke or not.”

Han smirked and rolled over on his side, fixing Luke with a heavy lidded gaze. He paused, as if considering something. “I don’t want to be king,” he said simply.

“What?” asked Luke in surprise. Whatever he was expecting Han to answer it hadn’t been that.

“It’s true,” Han said, bobbing his foot lazily in midair, “If I had an older brother, or sister, I would have taken off a long time ago. I don’t care about their stuffy politics.”

“But think of all the good you could accomplish,” said Luke propping up further on his elbows in earnest. “What about all of the damage left unchecked by the Clone Wars? You said so yourself that the Senate hasn’t done anything to fix it. You could be the one to change all that.”

Han scoffed. “Look kid, I don’t know how much you know about Corellian politics, but the royal family doesn’t actually have a lot of power when it comes to legislature. All that junk has to go through Parliament. I’m just a figurehead, essentially. A very good looking figurehead, but still…”

“But you still have influence,” Luke prompted eagerly, his blue eyes lighting up in excitement as he spoke. “You could go to the Senate and propose a vote for a new reform bill.”

Han looked him out of the corner of his eye with something that almost resembled pity. “Skyguy, no senator in their right mind is going to listen to a slacker/playboy/hooligan like me about politics.”

“I would,” Luke offered gently. “My mother would have too. She was a fantastic senator. She didn’t care who you were as long as you wanted to help, and she would have never let those stuffed shirts push out a perfectly good idea just because they didn’t like where it came from.”

Han’s expression faltered. He turned his gaze away softly and pulled one knee up to his chest, gazing out across the lakes. “She sounds like she was really one hell of a woman.”

“Yeah, she was. I think she really would have liked you,” Luke smiled at him gently.

The corner of Han’s lip twitched upwards but he said nothing. They both remained silent for a moment, gazing out below them, towards the vast network of aquamarine pools. A balmy, salty breeze picked up and blew over the waterfalls towards them, gently gliding past them and rustling through their hair playfully. Above them, thick, blanket-like clouds sailed slowly through the sky, partially obscuring the blinding rays of the sun.

“It’s your turn,” Han finally said, still gazing outward towards the pools.

“What?” Luke asked, taken aback by the sudden break in the silence.

“It’s your turn to tell me something,” Han reiterated in amusement, turning to face Luke with an arch of his brow.

Luke smiled and settled back on his hands, grateful that the somber atmosphere between them had evaporated. He clicked his tongue thoughtfully as he racked his brain for any interesting tidbits that he had not previously divulged.

“Hmmm… Did I tell you about the time I ‘accidentally’ dropped a bucket of caulk on Aurra while I was trying to fix the roof?”

Han’s booming laugh could be heard echoing far off into the lake-strewn valley.

Chapter Text

It was already late afternoon by the time Rush came rolling in back to the Amidala Estate. Unlike his usual trips off-planet, he had returned in a significantly better mood than usual, as evidenced by the spring in his step and the cavalier smile spread across his face. He was so close – so close to completing his plans that he could almost taste it. All of those billions of credits his for the taking, and the entire Solo family in the palm of his hand. Just a few more nights until the gala, and he would be sitting pretty in his own private palace in Alderaan. Rush hummed to himself as he strode through the empty foyer and into the parlor.

Rush suppressed a groan of annoyance upon seeing C-3PO and R2-D2 occupying his private sanctuary. The bumbling gold-plated fool was struggling to draw the immensely heavy, floor length drapes that hung over the large garden view window. The little astromech droid rolled around his companion’s feet, occasionally letting out a few electronic warbles.

“Hey, you two, when’s dinner going to be served? I’m starving,” Rush grumbled, hoping that the walking scrap heaps would take the hint and leave the room.

“I will have it out in just a moment, sir,” the protocol droid wheezed through his voice box in exertion. “I just need to finish with these drapes first.”

“Well, do it later,” Rush snapped; his previously good mood was beginning to quickly evaporate. “Or get Luke to help you. Either way, I want to see dinner on the table in ten minutes.”

The two droids exchanged what could only be called a nervous glance, despite their lack of facial expression. C-3PO fidgeted with his mismatched hands.

“What?” Rush sighed in exasperation, already knowing he wasn’t going to like the answer.

“Well, Master Clovis, it’s just that… we haven’t seen Luke since this morning. We had thought that maybe you had sent him on an errand somewhere,” the protocol droid replied with a sideways glance at his companion. R2-D2 made a low whirring sound.

Rush blinked. “You mean he’s gone?”

“We’re not sure, sir. Only, he didn’t mention he was going out and it’s already been several hours. I do hope nothing has happened to him. Oh! I would never be able to forgive myself! That poor boy…” C-3PO brought his hands up to his face in anguish.

Rush’s stomach clenched in alarm. His mouth suddenly felt very dry. Luke would never just disappear without telling anyone. Not unless… He shook his head violently, ridding himself of the macabre images his mind was conjuring.

He pointed a finger at the two droids. “I want to know the second he comes back. Understand? I don’t care what time it is, or what I happen to be doing, you two come and find me immediately.” C-3PO and R2-D2 let out various sounds of agreement. “Good,” Rush said, turning on his heel and stalking out of the room.

C-3PO raised a hand after him, hesitantly. “Um, one moment, Master Clovis?”

“Yes,” Rush replied wearily, turning back to the droid with a sigh.

“Begging your pardon, sir, but those silver candlesticks of Mistress Padmé’s, that were on the bureau – did you move them? I’ve been looking for them all afternoon and I can’t seem to find them.”

Rush stared at the two droids intently for a long moment. The sudden silence that permeated the room seemed to settle around the three figures like a dense fog. C-3PO began to fidget nervously, unnerved by Rush’s unreadable, scrutinizing gaze.

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Rush in a low, even voice. His eyes bored intensely into the protocol droid’s optics with a look that absolutely forbade any further discussion. Before C-3PO could form a shaky response, Rush turned once again, and strode back out of the room, his boot heels clacking on the polished, marble floor.

Chapter Text

“Admit it, Skyguy! You’re lost!” Han called up to Luke’s diminishing form as the blond scaled his way up a large, rocky outcropping that cut them off from the valley below.

Luke blinked the sweat out of his eyes and reached out to grasp another sturdy tree root poking its way through the cliff face. He turned his head over his shoulder towards Han. “I am not lost! I’m just a little… discombobulated!” he shouted as he sought for another foothold.

“Which is just a fancy way of saying lost,” Han grumbled to himself. He sat down against a fallen log and rested his elbows on his knees.

Above him, Luke pulled himself up another few inches, using his upper body strength. He was suddenly grateful for all of those exhausting training exercises Ben had been torturing him with over the past week. He cursed slightly under his breath. He hadn’t meant to get them both lost, but he had brought Han out much farther than he was used to exploring. Luke was suddenly very painfully aware of how large of a planet Naboo actually was. At least from the top of the cliff he could see which direction home lay. If only he had thought to bring his communicator with him, he reflected with a painful grimace.

Han crossed his arms and walked over to lean against the face of the cliff. “I wish I hadn’t let you talk me into sending you up there alone.”

“What? And risk you breaking your royal neck on my account? There’d be a war between Naboo and Corellia faster than you can say pre-meditated regicide,” Luke called down to him with a smirk.

Han scoffed and absentmindedly fiddled with the sleeve of Luke’s abandoned tunic, carefully placed on a low hanging branch. “At least I’m enjoying the view,” he grinned up at Luke’s bare, toned torso.

“Han! You behave!” chided Luke, trying to keep the smile from his voice, as he pulled himself up to the top of the outcropping. “I can see the valley from here! We’re heading in the right direction!” he shouted down in relief.

“Great! Now hurry up and climb down before you-“ Han suddenly cut himself off as he heard a rustle of leaves directly behind him. He turned in astonishment to see Lando’s triumphantly smirking face mere inches away from his own. “Oh, hi,” was all Han could mutter in shock, before Lando’s fist collided with his face with an earth-shattering blow. Han’s field of vision was momentarily obscured in a blindingly white haze.

With whoops and hollers of delight, several other figures leapt out from their hiding places amongst the trees. Han staggered; the figures of the assailants doubled and swam in and out of focus before him in his delirious state. He made a few clumsy swings with his fist, hoping to hit someone – anyone, but to no avail. Lando’s gang laughed as two of them grabbed Han from behind, pinning his arms to his back.

“Maybe next time you’ll think twice before running off with someone else’s ship, Solo” Lando peered down at him smugly.

“Lando, buddy, I told you, I won the Falcon fair and squ- Oof!” Han cried as Lando planted a well placed knee into his solar plexus.

“And that’s for making me crash my speeder,” Lando smirked.

“Han? Han, what’s going on down there?” Luke called down in alarm, hearing the commotion below. His eyes widened at the scene that lay below him. In the few seconds that he spent searching for his bearings, a throng of bandits appeared to have materialized out of thin air. Luke counted around seven of them from his vantage point. Two of them had Han’s arms pinned at his sides as a tall dark skinned man – the leader, Luke guessed – took a well aimed swing at Han’s face.

Luke growled and reached for the cylindrical metal hilt of his lightsaber clipped to his waistband, thankful that he at least had remembered to bring that with him. He flicked the activation button with his thumb, causing the pulsing blue shaft of light to spring to life. Without any further thought, he launched himself from the top of the cliff using a Force-assisted leap. He landed, somewhat ungracefully, at the base of the cliff, rolling a few times and smacking one hand to the ground to diffuse the impact. An experienced Jedi like Ben probably would have stuck the landing and made it look effortless at the same time, but there would be time to practice his technique after he had rescued Han.

“What the-?!” cried the leader as he and the others reeled in shock at the sudden appearance of the shirtless boy brandishing a lightsaber. Han’s eyes widened in surprise, trying his best to focus on the three Lukes that wavered in front of his vision. Luke scrambled to his feet and gripped the lightsaber in two hands, holding it threateningly above his right shoulder.

“Let. Him. Go,” he growled, emphasizing each syllable with steely clarity. His hands trembled slightly with a combination of fear and adrenaline.

“Who is this guy?” the dark haired leader queried in dumbstruck tones, gesturing towards Luke incredulously.

“And why isn’t he wearing his shirt?” a pretty Theelin woman with orange ponytails chuckled as she plucked the burgundy tunic from its branch.

“Jedi,” came the low, raspy voice of another woman beside her. She was clad all in dark leather, with short, platinum blonde hair, and skin pale enough to rival even Aurra’s. In both of her hands she wielded two wickedly curved lightsaber hilts. She flicked her wrists with a growl, igniting the twin red blades – the trademark weapon of the Sith. Luke’s eyes widened in terror. He might be able to defend himself against a few bandits if necessary, but a Sith Lord? He might as well have just signed his own death warrant.

“Easy, there, kid,” the leader said flashing a placating smile at Luke and gesturing at the pale woman to lower her weapons. She deactivated the lightsabers with low grumble. “We don’t want any trouble. I’m just here to teach my ex-buddy Han here a lesson in manners,” the leader continued with a significant glare towards the incapacitated prince.

“I demand you release him at once,” Luke exclaimed, trying his best to imitate Leia’s authoritative tone.

“No can do there, champ. You see, Han here owes me a new ship, don’t you, Han old pal?” the dark skin man grinned smugly at Han, who shrugged weakly. “He stole my Millennium Falcon over a game of sabacc – which he only won by cheating, I might add!”

“Lando. Buddy. Can’t we talk about this?” Han chuckled nervously up at the other man. “I mean, to be fair, I recall a fair bit of skullduggery going on at your end too.”

“Wait. That’s what all this is about?” Luke asked in a combination of confusion and exasperation. Both men turned towards him and blinked in surprise. “A stupid ship?” Luke gaped at them disbelievingly. “You really want to beat Han up over that piece of junk?! It barely even works half the time!” he snapped at the leader who appeared to consider this thoughtfully.

“Hey!” Han yelled indignantly.

“And give me back my shirt,” Luke continued irritably, glaring at the Theelin woman who still held the shirt in question. She merely raised her brow at him with an appreciative smile. Luke’s eyes darted angrily back towards the leader of the group. “Look, I’m sorry you lost your ship, but I’m not about to let you pummel Han over it! So I would very much appreciate you letting him go, so we both can get out of your hair.”

“You tell ‘em, Skyguy,” Han wheezed.

The man called Lando blinked at Luke in astonishment, as the other members of the group gave each other various looks of confusion and incredulity. They turned to peer questioningly at their elected leader. Lando gave a nod to the two bandits holding Han hostage, and they released their grip on him hesitantly, causing Han to hit the ground with a soft thump. Han raised an eyebrow in amusement at his audacious companion.

“Ser Knight,” Lando bowed graciously to Luke in an over exaggerated sweeping gesture. “I apologize for my earlier rudeness. Let it not be said that Lando Calrissian is not a fair man. I will allow you to leave this place, unhindered,” he said, his voice oozing with charisma. “Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for your no-good friend here,” Lando smirked wickedly down at Han. “But just to show what a good sport I am, you may take with you anything you can carry.”

Luke’s eyes flickered between the various members of the company that surrounded him, trying to make out if this was all a trick or not. “Do I have your word on that?” he asked, keeping his eyes carefully trained on Lando for any suspicious tells.

Lando appeared to consider the question for a moment before responding. “On my word as a business man.” Luke heard Han give a dubious snort. “Anything you can carry.”

Luke powered down his lightsaber and straightened his stance. With cautious, but purposeful strides, he walked over towards Lando and Han in the center of the ring of brigands. Lando held out a hand, expecting Luke to come forward and shake it. Instead, Luke made a beeline for the astonished prince, who let out a yelp of surprise as Luke hoisted him up by the waist and over his shoulder. It was no easy feat. Han’s greater height and weight made him exceptionally difficult to carry, and Luke huffed at the exertion as he bent doubled-over to support his frame. Never the less, he managed to take a few staggering steps forward, finding a manageable rhythm.

He turned to face Lando who gaped at him in disbelief as the rest of the group erupted in peals of laughter. Luke gave him a smug smirk, and dipped his head graciously in thanks. He turned and began walking back down along the path. From his awkward position, Han gave Lando a cheeky salute as he bobbed up and down on Luke’s back.

The raucous laughter grew even louder. Lando stared at the retreating figures with a shake of his head. He let out a soft chuckle, letting it bubble up inside him until he too was throwing his head back with howls of mirth.

“Wait! Stop!” he called out to them with tears of laughter stinging his eyes. “Come back! I’ll give you a speeder!”

Chapter Text

Luke sat around the bonfire in the middle of the smugglers’ camp later that night, watching the dancing figures of Han and Lando as they danced around a large bonfire in the center of the clearing. The two men swung around in circles arm in arm, laughing and carrying on like the feud between them had never existed. Luke shook his head with a soft chuckle. He reclined backwards as he listened as two of the smugglers, a Zabrak woman named Sugi, and Embo, a lanky Kyuzo, played exotic, reed-like instruments that Luke had never seen before. He made a mental note to ask them what they were later on.

The music stopped, and Han spun dizzily out from the center of the circle, still laughing uproariously. He grabbed a mug of some hot, spicy-smelling liquid from a flat rock where a pink-skinned Frenk woman, called Rumi, was pouring drinks. He held his mug aloft towards Luke.

“I’d like to propose a toast to my good-looking friend over there,” Han said, winking playfully at him. Luke flushed in the glow of the firelight. “To Anakin Skywalker! May he always stumble into the right place at the right time!” Han finished to cheers of approval from the other members. Seripas, a smuggler in a towering mechanized battle suit, clapped Luke heartily on the back, nearly sending him flying off his log.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw the pale, blonde haired woman with the twin red lightsabers leaning against a tree. She was focused intently on Luke, her dark blue eyes – blue eyes, not yellow, he observed thoughtfully - boring into him with an unreadable expression. Luke swallowed. Something about this woman, as dangerous as she may be, seemed to draw Luke in. Whether it was from genuine curiosity, or a Sith mind trick, he couldn’t be sure.

The woman cocked her head to the side in an invitation for Luke to follow and slipped off into the trees. He cast a glance back at Han, who was busy trying to ruin his newly reformed friendship with Lando over another game of sabacc. Silently, Luke stood up and cautiously followed the other Force user deeper into the woods.

He found her a little ways in, just far enough that he could still see the goings-on of the party through the tree trunks. It made Luke relax a little. At least help would be within easy reach should the need arise.

The woman had her arms crossed as she leaned back against a large tree. Her expression seemed annoyed but unfocused as she gazed out across the forest, not meeting Luke’s eyes. He took the moment of silence to study the woman’s face. She was lovely, Luke thought, in a strong, steely sort of way. But she seemed much older up close than Luke had originally thought. The soft glow of the firelight through the trees illuminated the fine lines etched across her otherwise smooth face. Luke guessed she was about in her mid-forties.

“You’re not Anakin Skywalker,” she said finally, still gazing ahead at nothing in particular. It was not a question.

“No,” Luke admitted, feeling no real need to keep up the charade around a fellow Force user.

“I knew the real Anakin a long time ago,” she said evenly, her voice low and raspy.

Luke snapped to attention, eying the woman in surprise and a hint of suspicion. Cautiously, he tried brushing up against her Force energy with his own field, the way Ben had taught him, just to see if he could detect a hint of malice, or deception, or any indication that she would otherwise try to hurt him. But he felt nothing. She had closed off her aura from him like a sealed vault, betraying no hint of emotion. Whoever this woman was, she was evidently a very powerful, and very experienced, Force wielder.

She finally turned to face him, her painted mouth turned up in a small smirk. “You’re much shorter than he was.”

Luke blinked at her in surprise, taken aback by the statement - his initial suspicion giving way to confusion and a hint of annoyance. Had she really brought him out here just to tease him? It didn’t seem like the sort of thing a Sith Lord would do if given the opportunity to corner a lone Jedi in training. Maybe he had her figured all wrong.

“Why lie to the boy?” she asked, inclining her head towards the camp. "He seems to like you."

Luke shifted his feet uncomfortably, not sure how to explain the situation to an outsider. “I… I needed a name, and I couldn’t give him mine. It’s… a long story,” he said – the words pouring from him, unchecked, under her watchful eye. “…I’m Anakin’s son.”

That seemed to capture the woman’s attention. Her eyes widened, a flicker of recognition passing over them, betraying her thoughts for the first time as her mouth opened slightly in surprise.

“Anakin Skywalker is your father?” she breathed with genuine amazement.

“He was,” Luke said simply.

They were both quiet for a moment; both pairs of blue eyes scanned each other’s in the murky gloom of the forest.

“I’m sorry,” she said finally, and Luke could feel the soft undercurrent of sympathy ebbing through her Force aura.

It was a strange reaction coming from someone Luke thought to be an enemy of the Jedi. If she really had known his father, that would have probably put them on opposing sides during the Clone Wars. Was this one of the Sith Lords that his father had fought against? If so, why should she be sorry for his loss?

Luke scanned this enigmatic woman curiously, her barriers having now been intentionally opened to him, granting him access. Her energy was unlike anything he had ever encountered before. With Ben, his aura had been awash with light – a bit faded perhaps, as if something in his past had caused him a great amount of pain, but still vibrant, none the less.

With this woman, however, it was different. Luke had always thought that wielders of the dark side of the Force were consumed with an intense, soul damaging hatred and anger – possessed by their own emotions. There was darkness in her to be sure, Luke had suspected that from the beginning, but there was no anger, no hatred, merely a strong pulse of something that felt like… like passion, Luke decided. A strong lust for life. It was the only way he could describe it. And something else that genuinely surprised him. Light. This woman had a definite strong connection to the light, but she was no Jedi.

The Jedi code was very clear about keeping one’s emotions guarded, but emotion seemed to be what gave this woman her power. She didn’t curb her feelings like the Jedi did, but rather used them to her advantage – letting them guide her actions. Her aura was like a soft, crackling, grey field of energy – a perfect balance of light and dark. This was the first person Luke had ever encountered that seemed to have one hand in either side of the Force. Up until now, he had always assumed that you were either a Jedi or a Sith, but now he wondered if perhaps there was a whole vast, unexplored spectrum somewhere in the middle? The thought nearly shook him to his foundations.

The pale woman smiled in amusement at Luke, as if she could read every thought racing through his bewildered mind. She probably could, Luke realized. It only made her smirk spread wider.

“Are you a Sith Lord?” Luke blurted out before he could stop himself, his composure shaken by the woman’s knowing grin.

She snorted as if she somehow found the accusation funny. “Was,” she shrugged nonchalantly, seemingly unperturbed by the implications of her confession. “But not anymore. Used to also be a Jedi, so take that how you will.”

Luke gaped up at the woman in awe. His mind was reeling with questions. He wanted to ask her if it was possible to teach someone to become balanced within the Force. Surely having a mix of both light and dark was far more beneficial than emulating exclusively one or the other? Before he could formulate the inquiry however, the red haired Theelin woman poked her head through the trees and planted her hands firmly on her hips.

“Asajj, I’ve been looking for you all over! Come back to the camp! You know I can’t start having fun without my favorite drinking buddy,” the woman said with a playful pout. “You’ve never needed my help getting drunk before, Latts,” the pale woman beside Luke responded to her friend with a smile – the first genuine one Luke had seen on her.

The redhead gave her friend a flirtatious wink, and skipped back off to join the party. The pale woman, or Asajj, Luke now realized, began to saunter off towards the clearing after her companion, leaving behind a still reeling Luke.

“Wait!” he called after her.

Asajj stopped and turned towards him, one eyebrow raised expectantly.

Luke faltered, unsure of what to say now that he had the opportunity. All of his questions bubbled to the top of his tongue, mixing together in one inarticulate mess. He struggled to form the correct syllables.

“Who… who are you exactly?” he finally asked, not sure why that of all things had been the one question to slip out.

Asajj looked at him with disappointment, almost as if she had expected something better out of him. “What kind of fool question is that, boy?” she asked with a derisive click of her tongue. “I’m me, of course,” she said, “what else is there?”

Without another word, she turned and slipped past the ring of trees to rejoin her companions.

Chapter Text

Han gave Luke a hearty wave as he re-entered the clearing, motioning for Luke to join him on a fallen log near the edge of the clearing. Luke smiled warmly and snaked his way around the dancing figures as he moved towards him. He settled next to Han, who threw an arm around him, pulling him closer with a laugh.

“There you are! I was starting to get worried!”

“I was just… mingling a bit,” Luke replied with a conspiratorial glance at the pale woman in the center of the ring. She caught Luke’s gaze and gave him the very faintest hint of a smile.

Han made a soft humming noise in his throat as he let his eyes wander over the revelry surrounding them.

“You really are amazing, you know that?” he said with a soft smile at Luke.

Luke was taken aback by the sudden compliment. “I… Whatever for?” he fumbled awkwardly.

Han spread his hands wide, gesturing over the camp. “This. All of this. I never in a million years would have thought that Lando and I would be able to settle our differences, and yet here I am, drinking his booze and crashing his party,” he laughed as he raised his mug in a kind of salute. His eyes danced in the glow of the firelight as he looked at Luke. “I owe it all to you, kid.”

Luke stammered in protest. “Me? But I didn’t do anything!”

Han chuckled. “Not true. You diffused the whole situation rather well.”

“I jumped off a cliff,” Luke replied, deadpan.

“Same thing,” snickered Han. He took another sip of his drink. “But in all seriousness, I want to thank you. You’ve done something truly amazing here today. And to think, all it took was one crazy, shirtless wizard to get the two biggest, stubborn knuckleheads in the galaxy to put aside their differences…” He trailed off with a soft chuckle. “Well, anyways… thanks,” Han mumbled, and glanced down into his mug with an awkward cough.

Luke leaned back on the log with a soft smile. Han may have not been the best at articulating his feelings, but Luke could feel the genuine warmth and contentment radiating off the man like a hot summer’s day. Reuniting with Lando had lifted a weight from Han that Luke hadn’t even realized was there. He gazed lovingly over at the dark haired man beside him.

“Well, it sure beats helping Aurra pick out what earrings she’s planning to wear to the gala, at any rate,” Luke smirked, alleviating the mood to spare Han from any more ‘mushy talk’, as the other so aptly liked to put it.

Han glanced over at him curiously. “Are you going? To the gala, I mean?”

Luke snorted. “What? And spend the whole night mingling with rich, snooty bores with more money than sense? Not to mention that I don’t care a whit about opera, and…” he suddenly trailed off upon catching Han’s look of embarrassment as he rubbed his neck.

“…Aaaaannndddd you were going to ask me to go with you,” Luke groaned in realization with a mortified smile.

“I was going to ask you to go with me,” Han agreed with a light chuckle.

“Han, I’m so sorry,” winced Luke. “I didn’t mean-“

“No, it’s fine,” Han waved away Luke’s apology. “Believe me, I normally feel the exact same way about these things. The only reason I’m going at all is because my dad practically threatened to disown me if I didn’t. I completely understand if you-“

“Han,” Luke cut him off, placing a finger to his lips. “I would be delighted to attend the Coruscant Opera Centennial Gala with you,” said Luke with a goofy smile, playfully enunciating each word with an air of inflated importance.

“Well, then I’m delighted that you’re delighted,” said Han with a cheeky grin.

His eyes suddenly trailed down to the finger brushing against his lips, his cocky expression softening. Luke’s eyes followed Han’s, suddenly aware of just how close they were. Without even realizing it, he had brushed up against Han, until their torsos were resting easily against one another. He could feel the rise and fall of Han’s chest as he sucked in nervous lungfuls of air.

Luke’s eyes seemed to glaze over, as if in a dream, as he stared into Han’s reddening face. His finger began to move subconsciously over the man’s smooth, soft lips. Han’s breath hitched at Luke’s subtle ministrations. He leaned forward, bringing his face within inches of Luke’s own. Luke trailed his finger over Han’s lips again - over his square jaw line - bringing it to rest just above the man’s collar bone. Luke’s tongue poked out to gently glide along his own full, pink lips, as he traced small circles into the tanned skin of the man’s neck.

Without another thought, Han brought his hand up to cup Luke’s face and closed the distance between their mouths. Luke saw bright flashes of light dance in front of his eyes, and he let out a soft, approving moan without even meaning to. Han’s energy field flared with intensity under the praise, and he moved his hand around to the back of Luke’s neck to burry in his soft, sandy blond hair. Luke smiled against Han’s mouth and cupped the back of the taller man’s neck gently. Their lips worked slowly and lazily against each other – neither one of them feeling the need to rush things.

Han sucked on Luke’s lower lip gently as they both slowly came apart, their heavy breaths intermingling together in the humid air. Luke stroked Han’s cheeks with his thumbs, unable to contain his insatiable grin as he panted for breath. Han’s eyes flickered over Luke’s face in adulation as if he were a priceless relic.

“Anakin,” he breathed, and Luke’s feeling of euphoria suddenly shattered into a million pieces.

He wanted to tell him. Stars, he wanted so desperately to tell Han the truth – wanted to hear his own name on those beautiful lips. He felt sick. He felt… dirty. It wasn’t right, none of this was right. He had dug himself into a pit that he had no chance of climbing out of.

Han would hate him. He would absolutely despise Luke for lying to him. And yet, insanely, selfishly, Luke couldn’t bring himself to tell him the truth. Because telling Han would mean losing him forever. And as much as Luke hated to admit it to himself, he would rather keep Han in the dark, than let him go.

Han seemed to notice the change that had clouded over Luke’s expression.

“Skyguy? You alright?”

Luke blinked away the tears that had begun to form in the corners of his eyes and smiled ruefully. He nodded at Han, knowing that if he opened his mouth to speak, his voice would fail him.

Han’s expression softened, and he pulled Luke gently to his chest, placing a small kiss on top of his head. Luke buried his face into the warm fabric of Han’s shirt inhaling the now familiar scent – leather, shampoo, and jet fuel. He wanted to forever ingrain that aroma into his memory.

He smiled, letting his mind slip blissfully back into the perpetual state of denial that he had lived in since he had started this whole affair. He let Han rub soothing circles into his back as they both sat together in blissful, companionable silence, watching the embers of the bonfire slowly drift away lazily toward the heavens.

Chapter Text

“Right here is good. I don’t want to wake anyone,” said Luke, as Han quietly slowed the borrowed speeder to a halt by the hay field, where heavy droplets of rain of rain had begun to turn the large stacks surrounding them into soggy heaps of straw. The skies had apparently chosen this exact moment to announce the coming of the rainy season, soaking Han and him both to the bone as they arrived.

Chewbacca had already returned and had prepped the Falcon for takeoff once again. He gave Han a few low growls as he approached about having to come back for him in the middle of the night, in the pouring rain, but was otherwise glad to see both of them alive and well.

Luke disembarked from the speeder and pulled off his helmet. He carded his fingers through his soaking hair, trying without success to get the unruly strands back under control. There was no point in trying to hurry back to the house now, he decided. It wasn’t as if he was going to get any less wet that way.

Han maneuvered the speeder behind a haystack, kicked the stand down, and pulled out the key, placing it discreetly in the console department.

“Lando will come back for it in the morning. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure he won’t stop by for breakfast.”

“I think Rush would appreciate that,” Luke chuckled at him. He rubbed his hands over his freezing forearms with a slight shiver. “I really had a lot of fun today with you, Han,” he said, shoving his hands into his pockets and kicking at the soggy, hay-covered ground with a soft smile. “Even if it wasn’t exactly how I had pictured it.”

Han shrugged, as if to say he had no control over the strange whims of the universe that saw fit to push them into these kinds of situations.

“We’re never going to have normal dates, are we?” Luke laughed

“Stars, I hope not,” Han grinned as he came forward, his boots squelching against the mud, to take Luke’s hand. Luke automatically extended his hand, expecting a handshake, but was caught off guard when Han brought it to his lips and placed a soft kiss to his knuckles. He grinned devilishly at Luke, who was glad that the moonlight and the curtain of rain had not betrayed the burning flush creeping over his face and neck.

“You really saved my skin back there, you know – in the woods,” Han said.

Luke worked his teeth along his lower lip playfully, feeling the cold night air and the falling droplets of rain caress his skin. “Well, a Jedi does what he can, Your Highness.” He smiled up at the taller man before him. “Will you come see me again? Tomorrow?” he asked.

“Absolutely. Right after work,” Han nodded intently. “Where?”

“In the woods by waterfalls. There are some ruins there that pre-date Naboo’s alliance with the Galactic Republic that I’d like to show you. I like to go up there to explore sometimes,” Luke responded.

Han shook his head with a small chuckle. “We sure do like to meet in the weirdest places,” he said. “Alright then, until tomorrow, history buff. Now get back inside before you catch your death out here!”

Luke smiled at him fondly. Slowly, he began walking backwards, slipping his hand away gently from Han’s. He turned to head back towards the estate, his waterlogged clothes now clinging to his freezing skin. He was definitely going to have to do a load of laundry before he went to bed.

“Anakin, wait!”

Luke turned to see Han jogging towards him, a carefree smile lighting up his face, seemingly unaware of the steadily falling rain. Luke’s heart fluttered as Han caught up to him, placing a hand on his shoulder as he panted slightly.

“What about the rain?” Luke raised an eyebrow at him fondly, eyeing his drenched skin and dripping strands of hair. “You said so yourself that someone could catch their death out here.”

Han grinned down at him and shrugged. “Yeah, but I figured… what the hell?”

And with that, he leaned forward to bring their lips together in a searing kiss. Luke’s initial surprise quickly gave way to a warm rush of excitement that seemed to spread over his entire body. With a muffled sound of amusement, he threw his arms around Han’s neck to pull the taller boy closer. Neither one of them seemed to notice heavy droplets of rain that continued to soak through their clothes.

When they did finally pull apart, Luke was beaming at him from ear to scarlet tipped ear. Han chuckled nervously, brushing a hand through his soaking wet hair.

“Thanks again, Ani,” he breathed. “For everything.”

“Aw,” Luke smirked playfully, "you do care.”

Han gave his shoulder a warm squeeze before turning back towards the Falcon. With a smile, Luke shoved his freezing fingers into his pockets and once again, began the muddy trek back to the Amidala estate. He cast one last glance over his shoulder at Han, who had made it back to the shelter of his beloved ship where Chewbacca stood waiting for him. Luke gave them a small, final wave before turning and racing over the field towards his house, laughing as the thunder crashed overhead. Luke didn’t think he had ever heard a more beautiful sound in his entire life.

Chapter Text

The dark, blissful stillness of the early Coruscant morning was suddenly shattered as the heavy curtains of Jonash Solo’s towering four poster bed were ripped open. The dazzling rays of the rising sun came cascading in through the glass wall of the penthouse room, nearly blinding him for a moment. Jonash let out a foul, unintelligent garble of curses as he blinked against the invasive sunlight and up at the blurry form of whomever had dared to wrench him from his beloved sleep. Beside him Jaina groaned and lifted her sleep mask up over her eyes in annoyance.

“Good morning,” cried an all too familiar, and far too chipper voice for such an unreasonable hour.

Jonash’s eyes eventually adjusted to the sudden change in lighting to focus on his son’s face. Han stood beside the bedposts with the curtains clutched tightly in his fists, already fully dressed and beaming down at his parents with an appallingly cheerful smile.

“I’m gonna kill ‘im,” Jonash grumbled, half-asleep.

Jaina glared at him. “I believe your son has something to say to us,” she said groggily.

“Before midday, he’s your son,” Jonash growled.

“Mother, Father,” Han nodded to both of them, seemingly unaware, or unconcerned, with their protests at being awoken in such a manner. “I want to build a university,” he said, staring off into space with a look of utter rapture as he spoke, as if he were caught in a fit of sudden inspiration. “I want to build a school on Corellia where everyone can come and study for free, regardless of social status. The construction alone would create hundreds of jobs for unemployed persons affected by the end of the Clone Wars. And the education programs will help those who otherwise couldn’t afford to receive job training,” Han began nodding to himself as he talked as if coming up with more ideas as he went.

Jonash stared at him for a moment, slacked jawed. “Who are you?” he asked warily. “What have you done with my son?”

Han only laughed in response and closed the curtains shut, only to pop his head back in a moment later, as if just having remembered something.

“Oh! And good news! Lando and I are friends again, so I want to invite him to the Centennial Gala.” He beamed widely and ducked his head back through the curtains, leaving his parents to absorb the veritable brick load of information they had just received, in stunned silence.

---------------

Luke was jolted awake by a sharp pain in his side. His entire body felt like it had been hit with a sandcrawler. Part of this was due the dull, aching fuzziness in his head – an unfortunate side effect of last night’s rainy rendezvous – but more immediately, from the sharp feeling of something rough slapping across his skin.

He opened his sleep-crusted eyes blearily to find the entire household of the Amidala Estate crammed into his tiny attic bedroom and watching him intently, their expressions ranging from concern, to downright annoyance. Aurra gleefully held a short, rough, handmade broom in one hand, the instrument of his rude awakening.

Luke let out a small curse in alarm, but in his weakened state it only came out as an unintelligible drawl. He hastily pulled the thin sheets farther up over his naked body – Rush’s clothes from the night before having been tossed haphazardly in the wash unit.

Right away he noticed that the sun wasn’t hitting him in the eyes like it usually did first thing in the morning. He rolled over to check the blinking clock on his night stand; it was already almost mid day. He had slept hours past his usually wake up time. He cursed again, numbly.

“Master Luke!” cried C-3PO rushing over to his side. “Thank the Maker! We were so worried when you didn’t tell us where you had gone! And when we didn’t hear you come back last night – Oh! Don’t ever scare me like that again!” He chided, as he wrung his hands franticly, the words pouring out from his vocalator in a jumbled heap.

Normally Luke would have shaken his head with a smile at the droid’s excitable, but concerned antics, but right now all he wanted to hear was blissful silence. His head was already beginning to pound like someone was banging on it with a mallet.

“Are you ill?” Rush asked with a subtle, accusatory arch of his brow.

“No,” said Luke trying to sit up and feeling a blinding flash of pain behind his eyes force him back down on the cot. “Ugh, yes…” he moaned.

“Where were you yesterday? Why didn’t you check in?” Rush demanded. Luke couldn’t be sure if the terseness in his voice was due more to anger or worry.

Luke fumbled weakly, feeling the harsh prickle in the back of his throat that signified worse symptoms to follow. “I, um, I got lost in the rain…” he rasped, wincing as the exertion burned his already stinging throat.

Rush glared down at him, his expression dubious. “I don’t believe you,” he said with narrowed eyes. “You’re hiding something from me. I can feel it.”

“Well, why don’t you tell me what it is then, so I can get back to sleep,” groaned Luke. Normally he would have never dared to take such a flippant tone with his stepfather, but the all encompassing ache in his body was far more pressing at that moment than any retaliation Rush might give him. Luke probably would have said the same to Darth Sidius himself at that moment, had the man been there.

He heard R2-D2 let out a chirp of amusement.

“What about our breakfast?” Aurra demanded with a slight whine in her voice. Luke noted she had still not let go of her prodding broom.

He rolled over onto his side with a low groan, and fixed her with the most intense look of indifference he could muster, while still trying to get the room around him to stop spinning. “You have two hands,” Luke drawled with an exasperated sigh, and waved his hand at her in a dismissive gesture. “Make it yourself.” He couldn’t be sure, but he thought he heard a sort of choking snort come from Savage’s direction at the comment.

Aurra’s pallid face turned a livid shade of purple. “Why you lazy little leech!” she shrieked, attempting to fly at him with outstretched hands.

Rush put an arm out to stop her. His eyes still bored into Luke with a frightening calm. “C-3PO, go and boil some water,” he said coolly. Aurra glared up at him in confusion, her thirst for Luke’s blood egregiously unsatisfied. Rush turned to face her with the barest flicker of a smile on his lips. “Aurra and I have some things to take care of downstairs.”

Aurra cocked an eyebrow in interest, her seething rage replaced with a giddy sense of anticipation. If Luke had been of sound mind and body at that moment, the look that passed between them would have filled him with an acute sense of impending dread, but as it was, he could only groan and fall back on the pillow.

Rush turned and stalked out of the cramped attic, with Aurra following eagerly at his heels. The two droids shared a knowing look of uncertainty, before following close behind to divide Luke’s unending list of chores between them.

Only Savage lingered behind a moment longer. Luke raised an eyebrow at him expectantly. His stepbrother gazed down at him with a curious expression. It was the kind of pitying look you gave someone who had just suffered a massive stroke of bad luck. He opened his mouth as if to speak, but then closed it, sighed, and crouched under the tiny doorframe to descend the long, winding staircase – leaving Luke alone in the attic.

Chapter Text

By the time the afternoon had rolled around, Luke’s symptoms were beginning to alleviate. C-3PO had kindly come up, after the demands of breakfast had been met downstairs, to bring him some eggs and some fast acting cold medicine. The eggs had been slightly cool from the long wait, but Luke eagerly downed the pills with the glass of water offered, sighing in relief when the pleasant, tingly feeling began to drip down his throat.

In less than an hour, Luke was able to stand without keeling over, which he took to be a good sign. His voice still sounded like he had a cloth shoved in his mouth, and he sniffled occasionally, but other than that he declared himself fighting fit. C-3PO tried desperately to get him to lie back down and let himself fully recover, but Luke waved him away somewhat languidly. Even if he hadn’t been worried about missing his date with Han, he could never allow himself to just stay in bed all day; he had too many months of early rising and physical labor ingrained in him to do that.

Making his way down the narrow, spiral staircase towards the second floor, he thought he caught the sound of muffled voices coming from one of the many bedrooms along the hall. Luke thought that was a bit strange, considering the most interaction his stepfamily seemed to have with one another was to ask someone to pass the salt at dinner. He shrugged it off and kept walking, intent on finishing his remaining chores as quickly as possible to go meet Han.

He stopped in his tracks in surprise as he caught sight of Savage exiting out of the largest and most ornate door at the end of the hall. Luke’s breath hitched. His mother’s room had been left abandoned since her untimely death – boarded up at Rush’s insistence. Nobody was allowed to go near that room on very strict orders. Luke himself had not seen the inside of it in over a year. So why had his stepbrother just been in there?

Savage caught sight of Luke and must have registered the surprise on his face, because he gave Luke a very sympathetic look. Savage hunched up his shoulders in what Luke could only describe as embarrassment. There was a low undercurrent of apology pulsing through his field. Luke’s stomach began to tighten.

“You had better get in there,” Savage grimaced, casting a sideways glance at the imposing double doors. “My father and Aurra, well… Just see for yourself.”

Luke barely waited for him to finish, before he nearly charged into the room. He was momentarily caught off guard by the blinding amount of sunlight that smacked him upside the eyeballs. He blinked, disoriented, as numerous specks of dust danced lazily in the beams, filtering through the air to land on the faded furniture.

He breathed in shallowly as he slowly took in his surroundings. Everything had been exactly as his mother had left it; nothing appeared to have been touched in over a year. Even her vanity mirror was littered with pins and half empty perfume bottles, as if she had just left on a quick errand and was coming back later that evening. If it had not been for the thin layer of dust that coated everything, Luke would have sworn that the past year had been nothing but a bad dream. Well, the dust, and his stepfather and stepsister rummaging on the floor through two large storage containers.

The area around the two was littered with various pieces of clothing and personal items that Luke had never seen before. Rush and Aurra appeared to be sorting the hodgepodge at their feet into the two large tubs, throwing clothes into one and miscellaneous items into the other. So focused on their task were they, that they didn’t even acknowledge Luke’s presence as he slowly crept into the room. Or, more likely, intentionally ignored him.

Casting them both suspicious glances Luke gingerly bent down to grab one of the many mysterious items littering the floor by his feet. He turned the object over in his hands curiously. It was a model ship – a y-wing, if he remembered correctly. The gleaming bronze caught the sunlight in a dazzling glow, so bright, Luke could make out his own reflection in the smooth finish. He tested the weight in his hand. Stars, but the thing weighed a ton! It didn’t seem like the sort of thing his mother would keep around.

His eyes scanned the two battered containers, trying to make sense of the mess of discarded objects. None of this junk seemed like it had belonged to Padmé. There were assorted tools and half-finished, small mechanisms, next to other large models of ships, like the one Luke was still holding. The other bin was full of clothing but it didn’t appear to have belonged to his mother either. In fact, it didn’t even look like woman’s clothing at all. It looked like –

Oh, no.

Luke’s heart clenched as he watched Rush toss a very familiar looking brown robe over his shoulder with a snort, like the thing disgusted him. It landed in the bin in a crumpled heap that made Luke cringe. He gazed down once again at the heavy bronze ship in his hand – his father’s ship - watching his own pallid face stare blankly back at him. Stars, how could he have been so oblivious?

“What do you think you’re doing?” Luke croaked out hoarsely, his hands beginning to tremble at his sides.

Rush glanced over his shoulder at him and raised his eyebrows as if he had not noticed Luke before that moment. “I see we’re feeling better,” he said in a patronizing tone. Aurra snorted.

“These are my father’s things. Why do you have them?” Luke’s voice was shaking with confusion and anger. His knuckles whitened as he clutched the base of the ship. “I’m doing a bit of belated spring cleaning,” Rush said simply. “There’s too much old junk lying around this house. Wouldn’t you agree?” He tossed a pair of dark leather boots into the crate without looking behind him.

Luke’s blood boiled. This was his punishment, he realized. This was Rush’s way of getting back at him for his cheek earlier, in the one way he knew it would sting most. Rush had reopened a room he hadn’t step foot in over a year, simply out of malice. For years Luke had thought that he had nothing left of his father to remember him by, and now that he had a veritable treasure trove of his possessions scattered right in front of him Rush was just going to throw it all away. It was so typical of his stepfather, it almost made Luke want to laugh. Almost.

“You are vile,” Luke hissed, each word dripping with poison.

Aurra glanced warily over at her father, but he simply shrugged off the comment. Rush stood up and cracked the joints in his back as he stretched himself lazily. He leaned one shoulder up against a dusty four poster bed column.

“Kid, did you ever think that maybe your mom didn’t want you to have all this junk for a reason?”

Luke began to advance on him slowly. Something began to crackle in his energy field, something unfamiliar, and strangely volatile. He refused to believe what Rush was saying. He was tired of the man’s mind games. Tired of his lies. A red hot flush began to creep over his body. He stopped in front of Rush, glaring up at his stepfather’s smirking face.

“She would never keep this from me,” he growled darkly.

“Well, maybe she thought she was doing you a favor,” Rush sneered directly in his face. “Maybe she didn’t want to grow up emulating your pathetic, failed excuse for a fa-“

Rush hit the floor before Luke even registered what he had done. He crumpled to the ground with a cry, clutching at his right temple. A small smear of blood stained the heavy brass model ship, still clutched tightly in Luke’s pale, shaking hand. Beside him, Aurra let out a strangled scream as she rushed over to her father, who was clinging to the bedpost in an effort to steady himself.

Luke turned and bolted out of the room, letting the heavy blunt weapon clatter to the floor with a deafening clang. His mind was racing. He struggled to form coherent thoughts as abstract images and emotions flooded through his brain, replaying the last few moments with terrifying clarity. It was as if someone had pushed a replay button inside him.

He tore down the hall faster than he had ever remembered running, his breaths jagged and harsh. He thought he heard Savage call after him, but all sound was coming through in a muffled haze, as if Luke’s head were being smothered by a pillow. His heart felt like it was about to alternatively burst, and stop beating all at the same time. He could feel the raging palpitations as the blood raced up to his head until all he could focus on was the dull, resonating sound of his own heartbeat pounding in his ears.

What had he done? Star’s end, what in the name of Malachor had he done?!

He could feel the pain, the anger, the fear churning through his field, like a writhing nest of vipers, clawing at him to be released. This was what Ben had warned him about. This was exactly why Jedi were trained to keep their emotions in check. It was so easy to slip on that fine line between light and dark, and Luke had just careened headfirst off the edge.

He had to get away. Had to go off and clear his head for awhile. Had to get the hell away from Rush. If he could just make it to Han… Luke took the corner to the end of the servant’s hallway at full speed, skidding along the marble tiles with a screech of leather on stone. He continued to suck in deep lungfuls of air as he bolted ahead, all the while, his energy field continued to crackle like an electrical vortex. This was it. He was almost to the back door to the estate. His fingers stretched outwards as he reached for the door handle with a wave of relief.

Wham!

The back of Luke’s head exploded. For one blinding second, his entire field of vision was invaded by a blinding flash of searing, white hot pain. It was only after several seconds of confused disorientation that he realized that he was on the ground. He felt a sharp pain digging into his back, and he craned his head as far as his awkward position would allow to see Aurra, her face contorted in rage, straddling his body in an inescapable hold. She dug her knees into his back - one hand pinned his right arm to his side while the other held his head down against the tile with such tremendous force that for a moment, Luke was genuinely afraid she was going to split his skull open.

“Get off me, Aurra!” he screamed, his voice muffled against the cold marble. He was sure he felt something in his nose crack as his stepsister continued to press his face harder against the floor.

From out of the corner of his blurry, watery eyes, he caught sight of Rush advancing toward him like a predatory animal. Cold. Malevolent. Cruel. His face was so twisted with fury that it was almost unrecognizable as he towered over Luke, quaking with rage.

“Lift him up,” Rush spat. His voice was a throaty, almost unintelligible, hiss.

Aurra shifted her weight off of Luke, and with a sudden strength, belied by her slender frame, she hoisted him up as if he weighed no more than a sack of potatoes. She pinned both his arms behind his back in a vice-like grip, sharp talons digging into his forearms. Luke struggled desperately against her restraints, but he was effectively trapped.

Rush loomed over him, the wall scones in the hallway lit him from behind, partially concealing his face. Only the piercing glint of his maddened eyes was visible. Without warning he slammed his fist into Luke’s stomach with so much force that had Luke not been held in place it would have sent him crumpling to the floor again. Luke let out a small, choking sob as he felt a sharp crack in his lower ribcage. He tasted bile in the back of his throat.

Rush bent down to grab Luke roughly by the throat, bringing him directly to eye level. Luke’s eyes burned with unshed tears as he stood trembling, held upright only by his stepsister’s grip. Rush’s fingers dug into the sensitive skin, cutting off circulation to his brain. Luke gasped as he tried in vain to struggle against his stepfather’s hold.

“You think your daddy was so special don’t you?!” Rush snarled, his words almost lost in the bellow of feral rage. A small trickle of blood was dripping from his right temple, running into his already swollen eye, but he didn’t appear to notice. Luke was beginning to feel dizzy from the lack of oxygen.

“You think Anakin Skywalker was so perfect?!” Rush continued to roar. “That’s all your mother ever saw him as! You stupid, stupid boy! You don’t know the half of it! You didn’t know him like I did! Did your darling mother ever tell you how he slaughtered an entire village of sand people?!”

Luke’s eyes widened in shock, the restrictive grip on his windpipe momentarily forgotten.

“I- what?”

Rush sneered at him in disgust. “Never told you about that did she? What about how he almost beat me to death right in front of her out of jealousy? Did mummy dearest ever tell you about that kriffing wonderful moment?!” Rush’s voice had rising to almost deafening levels, causing the throbbing in Luke’s head to significantly worsen. His vision had begun to go black around the edges.

Rush dropped his hand away from Luke’s throat, causing Luke to gasp as he sucked in precious lungfuls of air. Rush’s hands balled into fists at his sides as he continued to snarl with rage. “Your father wasn’t a hero. He was a spoiled, selfish child that ruined everyone and everything he ever touched!”

Luke suddenly felt like he was about to become sick all over the neatly polished tiles. His head was spinning not only from the pain, but from the verbal bombshell Rush had just detonated. The image of Anakin Skywalker that Luke had cultivated and idolized since early childhood suddenly flashed before his mind.

In Luke’s idealized version of Anakin, the man was perfect in every aspect. The noble Jedi. The strong commander. The daring pilot. The loyal friend. The model husband. The loving father. Not one of the things that Rush was describing seemed like it could ever be attributed to this shining paragon of virtue.

“You’re… lying,” Luke hissed. He winced slightly as he felt the split in his lip from where he had collided with the floor. “You’re always lying to me! My father would have never done those terrible things!” he choked.

Rush leaned in so closely Luke could see the small droplets of sweat beading the man’s forehead.

“How would you know?” Rush asked, emphasizing each word slowly, deliberately. “You never even knew him.”

Luke opened his mouth as if to answer, but the words shriveled up in his throat. He simply dropped his head onto his chest, feeling himself go limp in Aurra’s hold. He suddenly felt more tired than he had ever been in his life.

Rush stared down at him, unmoving, his expression as rigid and unreadable as stone. There was a heavy, pregnant silence that followed where the only sounds to be heard were the jagged breaths of all three members present. Rush brought a hand up to his eye and inspected the blood tricking from his forehead, as if just now aware of it. He curled his lip in distaste as he inspected the already congealing red liquid. He then turned his attention back on Luke with cold, steely eyes.

“Now I want you to listen to me very, very carefully,” he growled in a low whisper, gripping Luke by the jaw. “I’m going to overlook this sudden bought of madness on your end because you’ve been ill, but if I ever see you pull a stunt like this again, Luke, I swear to Malachor…” His voice trailed off in an unspoken threat, his eyes boring into Luke’s with potent, unbridled fury. Luke trembled.

Rush glanced over at Aurra, who was watching her father with expectant glee.

“Aurra, release him.”

With a scoff, Aurra released her hold on Luke, sending him crashing to the ground. Luke groaned in pain as he hit the hard marble tile with a thud. Rush stepped over him as if he were an unsightly bit of refuse in the otherwise immaculate hallway.

“Oh, and, no supper for you, I think,” Rush called back to him as an afterthought with the ghost of a smile. “After all, I can’t have the rest of my household thinking that this sort of behavior can go unpunished, now can I?”

Aurra tittered slightly, as she followed behind Rush like an obedient dog, and disappeared with him around the corner.

Alone, in the hallway, Luke lay on his stomach, unwilling, or unable, to get up. He let the tears that he had been holding in for so long fall as his small hiccupping breaths gradually gave way to chest racking sobs. He curled up on his side, pressing his stinging cheek against the cold tile of the empty, dimly lit corridor, and sobbed until every tear had been wrung from his aching body.

Chapter Text

“Hold still,” Savage murmured in a low rumble as he gently applied the stinging antiseptic solution over Luke’s bleeding nose.

Luke hissed and sat up stiffly on his cot in the attic, his hands digging into the threadbare sheets. “Stings…” he rasped in a nasally voice through the cotton gauze.

“Good. It’s supposed too. That means it’s working,” said Savage matter-of-factly. “You’re lucky it’s not broken. I’m not sure you can afford to get any uglier,” he said with the barest hint of a smirk.

Luke cracked a small grin despite himself, and rolled his eyes towards the ceiling. Savage shifted his position on the cot beside Luke and began using both of his thumbs to press gently in numerous areas along Luke’s bare chest.

His eyes narrowed darkly every time he brushed against a newly formed bruise. Soon the sickly yellow-green pools would disperse into angry, dark purple blotches underneath the tanned skin. Luke made a concerted effort not to wince in front of his stepbrother. He was already painfully aware of his comparative lack of muscle tone, with the Zabrak towering over him. Savage continued to test each of Luke’s ribs with a precision and delicacy belied by his large, powerful hands.

“You’ve got some bruising around your ribcage, but nothing broken,” Savage said finally. “You are going to be sore as hell for a few days, though.”

Luke made a small snort in the back of his throat, and immediately wished he hadn’t, as the antiseptic burned through the inside of his nose. He coughed violently, throwing the solution soaked gauze to the ground. Savage watched him impassively as Luke’s convulsions began to settle.

“What were you thinking?” Savage asked him, his voice sounding almost pained.

“What?” Luke wheezed through watery eyes.

“The hell, “what?” Savage scoffed at him with no real conviction. “Do you honestly have a death wish, or do you just like finding new and exciting ways to get yourself deeper and deeper in trouble?”

Luke dropped his head onto his chest, letting his loose, blonde hair fall over his eyes. His shoulders slumped as he let out a shaking breath.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know what came over me I… I just… I don’t know,” he trailed off weakly, bitterly cursing the prickling sensation in the corners of his eyes. He blinked it away furiously. Why did he always have to cry when he got upset?

Savage trailed a finger up to the large, angry, red splotch on Luke’s neck where the outline of a thumb and forefinger could just barely be made out against the still tender skin. “He could have killed you,” Savage whispered with sickening realization, more to himself than to Luke.

Luke scoffed slightly. “Maybe he should have. Wouldn’t that just make Rush and Aurra’s day? It’d be right in line with my supposed death wish.” He let out a grim laugh expecting Savage to join in, but when he glanced over at his stepbrother, his expression was surprisingly severe.

“Don’t. Ever. Say that again,” Savage said slowly. His voice was soft, gentle even, but his eyes bored into Luke with such frightening, desperate intensity that Luke felt himself flush with embarrassment for making such a careless joke. He felt like an eight year old boy again, being chastised by his mother for muddying up his new clothes. He quickly averted his gaze. There was an awkward silence between the two of them, broken only by the chorus of singing birds outside as they tried to make the most of the last few remaining hours of daylight.

After a moment Savage sighed softly and reached into his pocket to retrieve a large, warm bundle wrapped in wax paper. The savory smell of meat and gravy wafted up through the packaging and Luke felt his stomach begin to growl lustily. He hadn’t had anything to eat all day except cold scrambled eggs. Savage handed him the package and Luke tore away the paper greedily, devouring with abandon the contents of what appeared to be some sort of meat pie. Luke was far too hungry to question the particulars.

“I had C-3PO whip you up something to eat,” Savage said as Luke tore into the pastry, ripping off larger than bite sized chunks. “Father should have known better than to deny you food when you’re already sick.”

Luke finished off the rest of the pie and sighed contentedly as if stepping into a warm bath. His ravenous hunger now stated for the time being. He bundled up the greasy paper and chucked it over towards his nightstand. He then turned to Savage with a grateful smile.

“Thanks, I’m feeling much better now. I think I knocked out the symptoms this morning.”

Savage nodded absentmindedly without really hearing him. He averted his eyes from Luke as if embarrassed to meet his gaze. Luke inclined his head quizzically. There was a pause before his stepbrother spoke.

“He never should have said all those things about your father,” Savage said with a sad, apologetic smile, his face softening slightly.

Luke’s throat tightened. He fidgeted slightly with a hole in the tattered sheet. “Thank you,” he said, not for the first time that evening. Luke gazed up at his stepbrother. “For everything. You’ve always been so kind to me, even in the beginning.”

Savage said nothing. He continued to stare down at Luke with an expression the boy couldn’t quite place, but his eyes betrayed a flicker of sadness. “You… kind of remind me of my younger brother,” Savage said quietly in a voice barely above a whisper.

Luke started. He had never once heard Savage talk about his life before he had come to live with Rush. It had never occurred to Luke that his stepbrother could have had a family of his own before he had moved in. Luke was desperate for more details, but something about Savage’s tone left him with a sinking feeling of dread in his stomach. He didn’t push the issue.

Savage’s lip twitched in a bitter, half smile as if reading Luke’s thoughts. He slowly stood up from the cot, patting Luke on the shoulder as he did so. “Get some sleep,” he said. “I’ll make sure no one disturbs you in the morning.” And with that, he quietly strode out the room and down the rickety wooden staircase.

Luke was left alone with a numb empty feeling circling the pit of his stomach. He brought his knees to his chest and stared at the wall, his mind blissfully devoid of the poisonous emotions that had clouded it earlier when Savage had found him huddled and crying on the floor.

He let out a sigh and reached into his nightstand to pull out the sleek, black communicator Han had given him. He traced his thumb over the shiny metal, absentmindedly. Biting his lip, he pulled up the familiar contact listing, and watched with trepidation as the flickering blue image of Han Solo came into view. He beamed at Luke when he saw him.

“Heeeeeey, Skyguy! I was just about to head out. I finally got the right coordinates for that old ruin you wanted to see.”

Luke felt a weak smile tug at the corners of his mouth. “Han… I’m sorry, can we- Can we maybe do this another time? I’m not-“

“Hey, is your video connection not working?” Han asked as he attempted to peer intently into the nothingness on his own display, his brow furrowed in confusion.

Luke felt a twinge of guilt as his eyes flicked over to the large red ‘x’ over the button that read ‘video. There was no way that he was going to let Han see him with a bloody nose. He was finding it hard enough just trying to keep up a regular conversation at the moment; the last thing he wanted was to give Han something more to worry about.

Luke sighed. “I’m not really feeling so great, Han... I think I may have come down with something.”

Han cocked his head with an expression of concern. “You’re sick? Aw kriff, I knew standing out in the rain last night was a bad idea.”

Luke felt another sharp stab of guilt in his stomach. Poor Han thought Luke’s sudden drop in health was his fault. “Um, yeah,” Luke mumbled, knowing the taller boy was only half right. “I can’t really get out of bed today but, um, how about we try again tomorrow, alright?”

“Are you sure you’ll be well enough by then?” Han asked with a sympathetic expression. The effect was only slightly ruined by the fact that his gaze was blindly directed somewhere over Luke’s shoulder.

“I’ll be alright,” Luke assured him. “Don’t worry about me, okay?”

“You promise to let me know if you’re alright tomorrow?” Han asked in a tone that made Luke’s heart do an embarrassing little flutter.

“I promise,” Luke smiled. He gently traced his fingers over Han’s glowing outline as he terminated the call. The flickering image of Han Solo disappeared, leaving the dusty attic in a cold, grey light again. Luke lay back on the stiff cot and stared up at the warped ceiling, unable to shake the looming feeling of guilt he felt every time the image of Han’s gentle, concerned eyes crept into his mind.

Chapter Text

Han stared at the empty, dark screen of his communicator for nearly a full minute after the call. He sighed wistfully and stuffed the device back into his pocket. Stretching out his lanky frame, he stood up from his place on the sofa, and shuffled out the doors of his apartment. The empty halls of the Banking Clan’s penthouse living quarters were eerily silent.

Only the faintly muffled sounds of hovercraft vehicles could be heard, as they bustled, bumper to bumper, across Coruscant’s busy skyway. The evening traffic on the industrial planet always made Han grateful for the fact that he had his own living quarters in the same building as his office.

Han skulked down the hallway, lined entirely by transparasteel glass on one side. The dim, purple, evening light was growing steadily darker, stretching the shadows of the furniture and décor and twisting them into fantastic and ghostly shapes. Han caught a faint sliver of warm, electric light pooling from under the door of the last room down the corridor. He hesitated, before rapping his knuckles gently against the entrance.

“Come in,” his mother’s voice called out to him.

Han pushed open the door to his parent’s bedroom. Jaina’s things were still mostly packed from her journey. Her previously worn clothes from the past few days were carelessly thrown on top of the neatly folded gowns in her suitcase.

Jaina was sitting at the large desk against the wall facing the window, flicking through various holoscreens that cast her in a dim, blue glow. The furniture in this room was not nearly as ornate as what Jonash kept in his office. In there, he was meant to inspire respect and confidence, as the extravagant and intimidating décor suggested. But in here, everything looked far more lived in. The furniture, while still of a discerning quality, was made up of simple lines and clean shapes. It gave the room a more welcoming feeling. There were papers and stacks of boxes littering the floor in a messy, yet practical filing system – something that would never occur in Jonash’s immaculate, public office. Han smiled to himself; he certainly came by his own untidy habits honestly.

Jaina smiled at Han as he strode in. The holoscreens disappeared with a flick of her finger, as she settled back into the large, ergonomic desk chair. She carded her fingers through her thick, wavy, auburn hair absentmindedly.

“I thought you and Anakin had plans,” she said. Han had never kept secrets from his mother. She had been the first, and so far the only person that he had told about his newly formed relationship. She had listened with earnest that first night as he prattled on excitedly about the strange and handsome blond Jedi for what felt like hours.

Han shrugged and settled himself backwards on a small chair propped against the wall. “We did. He had to cancel,” he said simply.

Jaina’s dark eyes narrowed. “Did that boy stand you up, Han?” she asked, hackles rising.

“Wha-? No! No, he didn’t stand he up. He’s sick,” Han said, waving his hands in front of him in a placating gesture. Jaina appeared to consider this as she nodded once, thoughtfully, her ire cooled for the time being. Han breathed a small sigh of relief.

His attention was drawn suddenly by a soft tapping sound coming from outside the hallway. The door creaked open just enough for Jonash to poke head through.

“Han, could I speak to you for a moment?” he inquired, craning his neck to the side in a meaningful way.

Han’s heart sank. It was impossible to tell what his father wanted; he always used the same, soft, unreadable tone of voice whether he was summoning Han for a lecture, or merely to ask a favor. Han cast a pained grimace at his mother before standing up with a sigh, and slipping quietly outside the door to join his father. Jonash began walking with slow, purposeful strides down the hallway, his hands clasped loosely behind his back. Han followed him, his trepidation growing with each passing step. Why couldn’t the man just yell at him and be done with it?

Jonash halted in front of one of the enormous glass portals overlooking Coruscant’s skyline, watching silently as millions of tiny flashing lights zipped their way across the dazzling night sky. The creeping moonlight spread across his face, bathing his indecipherable features in a soft, silvery glow. Han held his breath.

“Han, about this university idea of yours,” Jonash began. Han blinked in confusion for a moment, before the nervous, twisting feeling in his gut settled back in again. Jonash turned to him with a soft smile.

“I think it’s brilliant.”

Han gaped at him in surprise. “You- you do?” he asked hopefully.

“I do,” Jonash nodded. “That’s the kind of forward, creative thinking that makes for a great leader.”

Han stuffed his hands in his pockets and looked down at the floor, in order to hide the wide grin spreading across his face. “Thanks, Dad,” he murmured.

“In fact, because I’m your father, and I love you, I’m going to give you the money to get started,” Jonash continued.

Han’s jaw hit the floor. He hadn’t even expected his father to like the idea, and now here the man was offering to pay for it! Han had imagined having to endure long senate meetings, red tape, fundraisers, and mountains of paperwork to even get this project off the ground. Now he was one step closer to his ultimate goal. He smiled softly up at his father in gratitude.

“Thank you,” he breathed. “I… don’t know what to say...”

Jonash put a hand on his son’s shoulder. “It really is a wonderful idea, Han. You’re going to be helping so many people, not just on Corellia, but all over the galaxy. I’m very proud of you.”

Han beamed under the unexpected praise. It was surprisingly comforting to remember that underneath the hard, executive exterior was a man who truly loved, and only wanted the best for his only son. Han suddenly felt guilty for every negative thought he had ever harbored for his father. He worried his lower lip slightly.

“Thanks,” he said again. “But I can’t take all the credit for it. I was mostly inspired by a friend of mine.”

“Does this friend happen to be that boy you’ve been seeing so much of lately?” Jonash asked with a raised eyebrow.

Han looked startled. “How… how did-?”

“Your mother mentioned him to me,” Jonash said simply. Han groaned. It was his own fault, really. He hadn’t exactly told Jaina to keep his relationship with Anakin a secret, but he had assumed he could count on her discretion none the less.

Jonash gazed out the window, his expression pensive. “He’s a Jedi, Han.”

“I know.”

“He has a certain code he must follow.”

“I know.”

“Do you?” Jonash turned to him, his voice soft but accusatory.

Han looked up at him in confusion. Jonash sighed heavily. “Han,” he said, fixing his son with a poignant look. His piercing dark eyes shone like twin beacons through the veiled shadows of his face. “Are you sure this isn’t just one of your many whims?” Jonash prodded uncertainly.

“What?” Han stared at the man with a look of indignation.

“I’m not picking on you, son, but you do have a certain habit of… becoming enamored with things rather quickly and then forgetting about them when you become bored. You’ve been that way ever since you were a kid, and would tire of your new lifeday presents after only a couple of days. And I get it, I do. Anakin’s exciting, he’s adventurous, he’s different from anyone you’ve ever been with... All I’m wondering is if that’s all he is to you. Because if he is, it’s better to end it now before things get too complicated.”

Han recoiled from his father with a mixture of shock and betrayal. He seethed through his teeth as his whole body bristled defensively. “Is that who you think I am?” he spat. “Do you honestly think I’m that shallow? Anakin isn’t some shiny new lifeday toy, he’s a human being! We get one another. We have fun together. We can talk to each other about anything. I’m not riding some Jedi hype train. He’s someone that I actually care about!”

They both stood there quietly for a long moment; the only sound that could be heard was Han’s ragged, heavy breathing, and the soft humming of spacecraft bustling outside the window. The cold light of Coruscant’s moon cast dark shadows over them as the pale, silvery light streamed in through the silent, empty corridor.

“I’ve invited him to the gala tomorrow night,” Han said finally, letting out a long, heavy exhale that seemed to drain all of the anger from him. “If you meet him- If you just talk to him…” Han trailed off, his expression pleading. He sighed and turned away, dropping his hands to his sides. “I really like him,” he breathed. “I do…”

Jonash’s expression softened into something almost akin to sympathy.

“I love you, Han. You know that, don’t you?”

“I know.”

“And I don’t want to see you to get hurt.”

“I know.”

Jonash stared down at Han thoughtfully, before pulling him in for a tight hug. Han’s eyes widened with surprise for just a moment before reaching up to reciprocate the gesture, squeezing the man tightly around the shoulders.

“Promise me you’ll be careful?” Jonash rumbled into his ear.

Han grinned into the soft, plush fabric of his father’s dressing gown.

“I promise,” he replied.

Chapter Text

“Concentrate, Luke! You’re letting your emotions get the better of you,” Obi-Wan called out as Luke swung his lightsaber in violent, clumsy arcs, missing more than half the shots the training orb fired at him. He watched with an ever growing sigh from his perch on the short, stone wall surrounding the hay field as the boy’s movements became even more angry and erratic. With a grunt, Luke swung his lightsaber in a huge arc to deflect an oncoming blast, slicing a nearby haystack in half. Loose bits of straw scattered the ground like autumn leaves, landing all over Luke’s clothes and hair. He spluttered, adjusting the large, itchy, wool scarf draped haphazardly around his neck. He shook out the bits of straw in annoyance, and began his ungainly swings once again.

“Okay, time out!” Obi-Wan cried as he rolled his eyes and slid from his perch. The training orbs blinked a few times, and slowly descended to the ground with a low whirring sound as they powered off. Obi-Wan began to make his way over to his frustrated protégé with a suspicious arch of his eyebrows. Luke deactivated his lightsaber with a huff and slid up against an undamaged haystack.

Part of him felt guilty that Ben had to see him at his worst; the man was his idol, his hero, his friend. Luke wished he could go about his training as if nothing was wrong, but he wasn’t that good of an actor. That morning had been the most awkward he had ever faced in his life. It was as if everyone in the household had shut him out in one way or another, with the exception of C-3PO and R2-D2.

Luke wished Savage was around, if only to have someone to talk to about the situation who wouldn’t fly into a mechanized frenzy like C-3PO. But his stepbrother had gone into town earlier that morning, much to Luke’s dismay. Aurra, for her part, acted as though Luke were simply one of the wall furnishings for as little as she paid attention to him. Occasionally she would offer him a self-satisfied sneer, but that was the extent of their interactions.

As for Rush, he had done his upmost to avoid running into Luke, calling for the droids to bring breakfast up to his room, and holing himself up in his study for the better part of the morning doing Force knows what. Luke, for one, was grateful for the cold shoulder treatment he was getting; it was infinitely better than having to face either of them. Once or twice, however, when Luke and Rush’s paths had inevitably crossed, the man’s eyes would linger for the briefest of instances on the large hand shaped bruise above Luke’s collar bone, and quickly flicker away with a shadow of regret.

Oh no, thought Luke darkly, clenching his jaw. You don’t get to feel sorry for yourself.

“You want to tell me what’s going on?” Obi-Wan asked, snapping Luke out of his reverie.

Luke gazed up at the sharp blue eyes fixed poignantly on him, with an expression of concern hidden behind the arched eyebrows. If the man was trying to appear annoyed, he was failing at it miserably. Luke shifted his gaze towards his feet.

“It’s nothing,” he said, hearing the lie in his own voice even as he said it.

Obi-Wan scoffed. “Right, so it’s ‘nothing’ that’s causing you to lash out like a mad rancor.”

Luke remained silent.

“Luke,” Obi-Wan’s expression softened. “Please. Tell me what’s troubling you. I can sense your anger, but I can’t help you if you won’t let me,” he pleaded.

Luke shifted uncomfortably and turned away from the man. He didn’t want to be here right now. All he wanted was to crawl in a hole somewhere and not come out until all of this was over.

Obi-Wan eyed him worriedly. “At least take off this ridiculous scarf you’re wearing,” he said as his hands made to remove it. “It keeps getting in the way of your movements.”

“No!” cried Luke. “Don’t-“

He stopped himself at seeing the look of utter horror and disbelief on his mentor’s face. The scarf slid from Obi-Wan’s trembling fingers to the ground in a forgotten heap. Neither of the two men spoke a word. The twittering of birds above seemed incongruously cheerful in the engulfing silence that followed. Luke couldn’t bring himself to look the man in the eye. He felt his entire face flush with shame and embarrassment as he sucked in shuddering breaths of air through clenched teeth.

Obi-Wan’s shaking hand hovered a mere hairbreadth above the angry, dark mass pooling under the tanned skin at Luke’s neck. His eyes traced the tell tale finger marks with a feeling of shock and revulsion. When he met Luke’s gaze again, it was with wide, disbelieving eyes.

“…He did this to you?” Obi-Wan breathed in a horse whisper. Luke said nothing, afraid his voice would fail him if he answered.

Obi-Wan slowly, ever so gently, placed his thumb against the massive bruise, tenderly stroking the affected area. He appeared to be miles away. Luke caught the flood of emotions in the man’s field as they poured off of him.

Sorrow. Fear. Pain. Guilt. Pity. Anger. Hatred.

The feelings were so intense that Luke had to stop himself from physically taking a step back.

Obi-Wan snapped his gaze back to Luke. He looked desperate. “Come with me,” he pleaded. Luke worried his lower lip as he swallowed.

“Come with me to Coruscant,” Obi-Wan continued. “You can bring the droids. Please, Luke. Please don’t stay here any longer, it’s not safe!”

Luke glanced out over the surrounding fields. The sweet smelling flowering trees lining the road rustled gently in the breeze. He sighed heavily.

“I’d have to become a Jedi.”

“That wouldn’t be a problem,” Ben assured him quickly. “I’ll talk to the council and-“

“I’m not sure that’s what I want anymore,” Luke shuffled his feet. He glanced up at Obi-Wan, who was staring at him with a mix of pity and incredulity. Luke sighed again and ran a hand through his hair, trying to find the right words to explain.

“Look, I… All my life I’ve been doing the things that other people have wanted me to do. My mother wanted me do grow up without the Jedi influence, Rush wanted me to keep the estate together, and even you want me to follow in my father’s footsteps, but nobody’s ever asked me what I wanted,” he said. He kicked halfheartedly at the haystack as he spoke.

“What is it you want Luke?” Obi-Wan inquired softly.

Luke chuckled wryly, stuffing his hands into his pockets. He turned back towards the older man. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “I don’t know, really.” He slid down to sit with his back against the haystack, staring up at the cloud strewn sky. Obi-Wan eyed him thoughtfully, his expression tender and sympathetic, before sitting down in a cross legged stance of meditation beside him. Luke closed his eyes as he felt the man sending him pulsating, warm waves of light through his field, washing over him like a healing waterfall.

“Ben,” Luke began after a moment, “do you think… I mean, can someone learn to control both sides of the Force without succumbing directly to either one?”

Obi-Wan looked at him curiously. “Why do you ask?”

Luke shrugged. “It’s just this whole struggle of light and dark. I get that the ways of the Sith are destructive, but I don’t necessarily think the Jedi are for me, either. I’d have to give up so much just to learn how to control one half of the Force. I’d have to give up-“ Luke abruptly cut himself off and quickly turned away, a tint of red creeping across his ears.

“Ah, yes…him,” Obi-Wan clicked his tongue derisively. Luke could sense the undercurrent of impatience and worry coursing through the older man. He could tell Ben was trying to find a way to steer the conversation back to the topic of Luke’s safety without causing him any more duress.

“Have you told Han the truth yet?” Obi-Wan added with feigned casualty.

Luke’s flush deepened. “Not yet, but I’m going to. Today, as a matter of fact,” he fidgeted with a few strands of straw at his feet. He bit his bottom lip, as he nervously began shredding the pieces, letting them fall into his lap. Obi-Wan made a soft, noncommittal hum in the back of his throat and let his head rest back against the stack of hay.

“Did my father really slaughter an entire village of sand people?” Luke asked suddenly. The question that had been haunting him since the day before came tumbling out in an anxious, jumbled heap of syllables.

Obi-Wan’s head snapped around to face him, as if caught off guard. “Rush told you that?”

Luke nodded. “He also mentioned that my father… tried to kill him once… over my mother...” he trailed off, as if embarrassed by having to verbalize the accusations.

The older man’s face clouded over with something that Luke couldn’t quite place. His eyes flickered downwards, and he appeared to be wrestling with something within himself as his expression grew darker - his jaw set into an unreadable line. Luke wondered if the man had forgotten he was there for a moment.

Finally Obi-Wan’s eyes focused on Luke’s once again. The lines on his forehead looked far deeper than usual, making him look older and so very tired. “Your father was… a deeply troubled man,” Obi-Wan sighed. “As much as I tried to guide him, there was always that shred of darkness in him that he could never quite erase.”

Luke cast his eyes down. So it was true then. Rush hadn’t been lying for once. His stomach began to churn, making him feel queasy.

“He could never quite let go of his emotional attachments,” Obi-Wan went on. “He was always… very quick to anger when his loved ones were at risk. His mother, Padmé… I don’t think there was a person alive he wouldn’t have gone through to keep them safe. When the sand people killed his mother, Anakin wanted blood. It didn’t matter which of them had actually done it.”

Luke lifted his head to face his mentor. So Anakin had attacked to avenge his mother’s murder? Rush had failed to mention that little detail. Still, the thought of his father ruthlessly slaughtering an entire village of men, women, and children in his fury, left a sinking feeling in the pit of Luke’s stomach. He grimaced. Rush had been right about one thing at least; Luke really didn’t know his father the way he thought he did.

“I think the only time he was ever angrier than that was…” Obi-Wan’s face tightened. Luke could see the muscles in his neck constrict as he swallowed. “Rush was always infatuated with your mother, you know, even in the beginning,” he began. “One night, he cornered her in her room to profess his feelings for her. She tried to push him away, but he wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. And when your father came in and saw what was happening, he just…” Obi-Wan raised both his hands up in a weak gesture of explanation.

Luke felt a lump of bile rise in his throat.

Obi-Wan’s forehead crinkled as he looked at him pleadingly. “Luke, I’m begging you, please, come back with me. You don’t have to come to the temple; you can go anywhere you want to. Only please, don’t stay here under the same roof as that monster,” Obi-Wan said, his voice turning into a low growl on the last syllable.

Luke rubbed his neck subconsciously. His chest tightened at his godfather’s implication. “I’m thinking about it, Ben. I seriously am thinking about it. But there’s a lot more to it than that; I can’t just up and leave. I have no money - none that Rush isn’t holding onto, anyway - no job, and no place to go. Other than that, I’d have no problem.” He let his head thump against the haystack with a wry laugh that faded into a groan.

Obi-Wan stood up gracefully, brushing the straw from his robes, and extended a hand to Luke who curiously accepted it. He then pulled the boy into a tight hug, surprising Luke and causing him to let out a grunt of pain as his sore ribs were constricted. Obi-Wan let out a flustered apology and moved to rub Luke’s upper arms instead.

“You are my godson, and I love you,” he said soothingly. Luke forced himself to swallow the lump that had formed in his throat. How long had it been since anyone had told him that they loved him? Obi-Wan smoothed back Luke’s hair and rubbed one of the sun kissed cheeks with a calloused thumb, wiping away a stray tear that had escaped.

“We’ll figure something out,” he said in a soft murmur.

Luke sniffled slightly with a wet chuckle and nodded, unable to hold back his tears any longer. Obi-Wan brought his forehead down to bump affectionately against Luke’s, clasping his good shoulder warmly.

“Now then,” Obi-Wan said after a moment, placing the momentarily forgotten lightsaber hilt in Luke’s open hand with a smile. “Shall we continue with the lesson?”

Chapter Text

“And how are things working out with Han? I heard he was helping you in the financial office,” Jaina Solo inquired of her companion as she reached for a delicious looking pastry crumble on the elegant silver cake stand.

Rush drummed his fingers on the table irritably, seemingly unaware that his companion had spoken. He had taken Jaina up on her offer for a casual brunch that morning, completely unaware that ‘casual’ for Corellian royalty meant eating at the finest and most exclusive restaurant in the entire district. Around them sat some of the wealthiest and most influential persons Coruscant had to offer, many of whom he recognized from his days in the Senate. Sleek, polish service droids glided gracefully about on their wheeled peds, bringing forth trays of mouth-watering dishes to the occupied tables.

“Mister Clovis?” Jaina prodded uncertainly, giving him a strange look from over the top of her glass.

“Hmm?” Rush muttered absentmindedly, staring out onto Coruscant’s sprawling industrial landscape the restaurant’s secluded balcony provided. “Oh, yes! Fine,” he said suddenly as Jaina’s question finally reached through his churning thoughts. “Everything’s fine. No complaints here.”

That wasn’t exactly true, of course. Rush had numerous complaints, number one being why he could never find the dratted boy when he needed him. As much as Rush wanted Han kept as far away from him and his conspicuous bookkeeping as possible, he was beginning to grow worried over the boy’s frequent disappearances. Could it be that Han had somehow figured out Rush’s plans and was secretly delivering evidence to the proper authorities?

Rush shook his head. That was merely his paranoia acting up again. If Han really had discovered the missing funds, Rush would be in a snug little cell in one of Coruscant’s prison facilities by now. Even still, his curiosity had been peaked. The boy only started sneaking away once his father had assigned him to work the books. So what was it that was keeping the young prince’s interest so rapt these days?

Rush sighed and lazily swirled a finger around the rim of a crystal water glass. He glanced up at his companion who was finishing her pastry with relish, seemingly unbothered by Rush’s apparent ennui. If Rush had thought he could win the charming queen over with mere flattery and attention, he was beginning to realize that he had been very sadly mistaken.

Not only had he found out next to nothing about Han, but he was now forced to assume the role of friend and confidant to the socialite queen, being dragged all over Coruscant to ‘show her the sights’. It wouldn’t have been so bad, Rush mused to himself, if Jaina had wanted a little something more out of their relationship, but so far it had been aggravatingly platonic. Either he was losing his devilish good looks, or the woman really did love that fool of a husband. Neither of which suited him very well.

“I’d wager you’ve been seeing a lot of Han outside of the office as well lately. I hope he’s been behaving himself when he visits,” said Jaina, reaching for another pastry.

Rush raised an eyebrow at her quizzically. “I’m not sure I know what you mean,” he said.

Jaina looked puzzled. “Isn’t he courting your nephew?”

Rush stared at the woman like she had just told him she was Darth Plagueis.

“My… nephew?”

Jaina put a hand to her mouth as if she had just let slip an important secret. “I’m sorry, I assumed you knew. Han talks to me about him nearly nonstop. I thought for sure you were aware of their relationship.”

The cogs in Rush’s mind began to turn in bewilderment as he pondered this bit of information. He took a sip of water from his glass with a soft hum. He didn’t have any nephews; that much he was sure of. Growing up as the only child in a three member, nuclear household, he never had any brothers or sisters to contend with. Was it possible that Jaina had somehow misheard what Han had said? Had Savage somehow taken an interest in the prince without Rush realizing it? Or perhaps Han was seeing a complete stranger whose last name had somehow gotten confused with Rush’s own? Either way, Aurra would be furious.

“I think there must be some mistake,” he said, taking another large gulp of water. “I don’t have any nephews.”

Jaina’s forehead creased in confusion. “Perhaps I misheard the relation? He’s been staying at your estate, though, Han tells me. Honestly, the way that boy goes on about him… It’s always Anakin this and Anakin that. You’d think I’d remember-“

Jaina had just enough time to duck her head out of the way as the stream of water spewed out across the table.

Chapter Text

Luke took the winding path through the forest as slowly as possibly, prolonging the inevitable with each heavy, leaded step. The old ruins were just ahead – their gracefully, sloping architecture spreading out in tendrils, like giant vines, over the peak of the hill. Luke adjusted the high necked collar of his long emerald green robes nervously, sweat already beginning to trickle down his back. His trembling fingers ghosted over the fabric concealing the dark bruise at the base of his neck

He pushed aside a large, twisting mass of vines and ducked through a broken archway. A large atrium-like arena laid spread out before him. Huge trees had sprouted up where there had once been columns. Sunlight poured in through the dilapidated roof, reflecting in the shattered remains of stained glass windows.

In the middle of it all was Han, hunched over on a large piece of stone that looked like it had at one point been part of a support structure. His fingers were steepled together in front of his face, as if trying to physically contain his excitement. He grinned up at Luke as he approached, brown eyes glittering with anticipation.

Luke managed a weak smile in return. Han picked himself off his perch and came over to greet him in great, striding bounds, the smile never leaving his face.

“I was afraid you weren’t coming,” he said, his eyes betraying the worry that his voice would not.

“I had to see you,” Luke replied heavily, dreading what was coming next.

“Me too,” Han cut in before Luke had a chance to elaborate. “I have something I want to tell you.”

With a conspiratorial grin he led Luke farther into the center of the ruins, where the years of forest growth had covered the missing roof in a vast, emerald canopy. Sunlight filtered gently down through the rustling leaves, casting them both in a soft, warm, green light. Han approached a large stone bench that looked mostly intact and patted the space beside him softly in invitation.

Luke let out a soft sigh of resignation as he slid into the seat beside him. This was not going at all like he thought it would. Unfortunately, Han wasn’t quite as sensitive to other people’s moods as Luke was. Otherwise he might have noticed the fidgeting of the boy’s hands, the tenseness in his jaw, the shadow of regret behind the sea-blue eyes.

“I’m building a university,” Han said cutting through the heavy silence.

Luke spun around towards him in surprise, his thoughts of revealing the truth momentarily forgotten. “What?”

“You know, a university – a school – a free school, as a matter of fact. So that people can come and study or prepare for a new career without breaking the bank. I figured everyone’s wasted enough tax money on the Clone Wars, right? Might as well give ‘em something back.”

“Han,” Luke breathed, an elated grin creeping across his face. “That’s fantastic.”

Han hummed to himself in a self-satisfied manner and leaned back on his hands. “You know, it's funny,” he began, “I used to think that if I cared about anything, I would have to care about everything, and I would go absolutely crazy. But now, I’ve found my purpose.”

He turned and leaned in closer to Luke, who began to flush down past his high collar. Han’s words came out in a breathy, sensual whisper.

“You inspire me so much, Anakin,” he said, “I never would have dreamed this was possible before meeting you.”

Luke reluctantly turned away and stared down at his hands, which were clutching the edge of the stone in an effort to keep them from shaking. “It wasn’t me,” he whispered, feeling creeping tendrils of guilt slither around his stomach, making him nauseous.

Han regarded him with a soft smirk before standing up and offering a hand towards him. Luke took it, allowing himself to be pulled into a standing position. He dropped his downcast eyes to the leaf-strewn floor, unable to meet the man’s affectionate gaze. Han reached up to gently run a hand through Luke’s sandy hair.

“You’ve done so much for me,” Han said in a low, gentle rumble. “You really have – without even realizing it. I’ve spent my entire life surrounded by people trying to take advantage of me – people that think I’m stupid. To them, I’m just the idiot, playboy prince who doesn’t warrant being taken seriously, but with you…” He stroked his thumb along Luke’s cheek. “With you, I feel like I can just be myself – that myself is… good enough, and smart enough, and capable enough... It’s a wonderful feeling. “

He placed a soft kiss to the top of Luke’s head. “You are the kindest, most sincere, and all around most wonderful person I have ever met. And tonight, at the gala, if you’ll allow me, I’ll make sure everyone else knows too. I want the whole galaxy to know how I feel about you.” He took out a slightly crinkled gold-leaf envelope from his vest pocket and smoothed it out slightly before he slipped it into Luke’s hand. “There,” Han said as Luke’s eyes scanned over the extravagant foil lettering of the invitation. “Now it’s official.”

Luke pressed his face into Han’s chest as he felt his own hot, stinging tears soak through the soft fabric of his shirt. His hands fumbled at Han’s back, searching blinding for a hold as they gripped at his vest, crinkling the already worn envelope even further. He felt like he was going to be sick. Everything he had planned to say to Han had evaporated at the man’s words, like rain in a desert.

Luke felt the taller man pull him back slightly in alarm. “Anakin? What is it? What’s the matter?” he asked, his eyes darting nervously over Luke’s reddening, tear streaked face.

Luke held his breath as Han continued to stare down at him in concern. He exhaled with a mournful sigh, wiping his nose with the back of his hand. “It’s nothing,” he replied, his voice wet and nasally. He stared back up at Han – every care he had in the world, all his injuries of the last few days seemed to dissolve away in those brilliant, deep, brown eyes.

“You make me so happy,” Luke whispered with a trembling smile.

Han looked as though he were going to say something, but instead merely pulled Luke tighter towards him, resting his head on top of Luke’s. “You make me happy too, kid,” he whispered.

They stood like that for a few moments, neither of them speaking. Luke buried his face in the crook of Han’s neck, inhaling the warm, comforting scent that he now associated, more than anything else, with home.

“It’s on Corellia,” Han said finally, pulling back slightly to face him.

Luke blinked in confusion. “Wh- what is?”

“The academy. I’m building it on Corellia. I’m moving back there next month to get started.”

“Oh,” Luke felt as if he had been struck a physical blow. “Han that’s- that’s wonderful…” he smiled weakly.

“I want you to come with me,” Han said looking at him intently.

Luke’s eyes widened. “…What?”

“I want you to be my partner on the project. You were the one that gave me the idea, after all. Imagine what the two of us could accomplish if we had the resources,” Han was gazing down at him hopefully, pleading at him with his eyes to agree. “Come with me.”

Luke dropped his gaze to his feet again. This was the second offer of escape he had been offered in less than a day. He wanted to say yes. He ought to say yes. This idea was money – money and a job, and in all likelihood, a safe haven away from all the trauma of the past year. But something was holding him back - a dark, malevolent cloud that consumed his mind and whispered terrible things to him.

That he was a liar. That he had betrayed Han’s trust. And worst of all, that he didn’t deserve to escape. That everything that had happened to him was his own fault. Because people like him didn’t get happy endings.

Luke shook his head mournfully. “I can’t,”

“Yes you can,” Han said, it was more a plea than a reassurance. “Forget the Jedi… Stay with me…” His voice trailed off in quiet desperation.

Luke swallowed thickly. He only wished it were that simple. Perhaps he should have taken Ben up on his offer to join the order– if only so he wouldn’t have to lie anymore.

He gazed up at Han, who was watching him with quiet expectancy.

“I’ll think about it,” he said.

Han smiled softly, a small, breathy sound of relief escaping his lips. He drew Luke towards him again. This time, Luke met his eyes as he drew his face closer in until their lips brushed against each other’s with searing heat. Han moaned and wrapped his arms around the smaller boy’s frame, sliding up and down his back. One hand came to rest in the area just above Luke’s collar bone, pressing into the tender area at his throat.

Luke let out a sharp cry of pain as he yanked away from the dark haired Corellian. Han flinched in alarm, his eyebrow’s knitted together in uncertainty.

“I have to go,” Luke said. He offered Han a weak smile in an effort to assuage some of his companion’s worry. “I just remembered something… I- I have to go.”

“I’ll see you tonight, though, right? For the gala?” Han called after him as Luke began taking off toward the edge of the ruins. He stopped and turned back towards Han who was watching him with a mix of tenderness, confusion, and concern.

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Luke said, with a sad sort of smile, as he turned and vanished into the maze of trees.

Chapter Text

Luke stomped through the back garden of the estate towards the servants’ entrance, letting the gate slam behind him with a satisfying bang.

“I am so stupid”, he growled to himself in frustration.

He began pulling off the stuffy, high necked robe even before he reached the laundry facilities. C-3PO and R2-D2, who had been chatting back and forth in binary, jumped slightly at their master’s sudden arrival. Luke tossed the robes in a heap in one corner of the room, not carrying if Rush should discover them, and haphazardly pulled his familiar white tunic over his head.

“Master Luke! How… how did your talk go with Prince Han?” asked C-3PO hesitantly, scanning over the boy’s dark expression.

Luke threw up his hands in a bitter gesture of defeat. “I didn’t tell him, Threepio,” he said with a mirthless smirk. “I stood there like an idiot while he poured his heart out to me, and I didn’t say anything.” Luke had to stop himself before his voice gave out. He really didn’t feel like crying anymore today; it was a lot easier to just be angry.

He turned and stalked out of the room before the protocol droid had a chance to respond.

“Stupid,” Luke muttered again.

Han would be expecting him at the gala in less than six hours. He would be standing there at the doors with that idiotic, charming smile, and that damn infectious laugh of his that sent little beams of warmth right into Luke’s stomach. Han would be introducing him to the whole world as his boyfriend – his liar, non-Jedi, non-Anakin boyfriend.

Luke needed to clear his head. Ironically, all he could think of doing at that moment where his chores. He really wanted to clean something – anything – just something to keep his hands busy and his mind occupied. He paused as he looked around, realizing that his musings had brought him all the way to the foyer.

It was then that he was suddenly struck by the unusual silence that permeated the estate. Not a sound could be heard from upstairs, nor any of the sitting rooms on the first floor. True, the household was never exactly loud per say, but there was an element of eeriness added to the empty, echoing front entryway that Luke couldn’t quite put his finger on. His eyes scanned upwards towards the empty wall sconce holders, where the natural daylight pouring in from the windows failed to permeate the dismal blue shadows that congregated along the walls. Where once had hung beautiful, ornate, silver candelabras, now there were only empty sockets.

Ah, so that was it. No doubt Rush would try to tell him that those lighting fixtures had always been empty.

Luke shook his head in irritation and began making his way toward the back of the house. He could always count on Rush to leave his study in a perpetual state of disarray. If anything was going to provide Luke with a distraction that would be it.
He peered in through the crack in the doorway to make sure the coast was clear, before sliding into the cramped room, nearly toppling over a precariously stacked tower of books as he did so. Luke sighed heavily as he began to set the books back in their assigned places on the wall lining bookshelf. He certainly had his work cut out for him, it seemed.

He stepped over a large pile of assorted papers scattering the floor in an effort to reach Rush’s desk. He made an effort to try and organize the scattered collection of styluses the man had accumulated, when he suddenly stopped. One of the datapads on Rush’s desk had been left on; the blue screen flickered to life as Luke’s hand casually brushed across its smooth surface.

Luke knew he shouldn’t invade his stepfather’s privacy – his mother had raised him better than that. He was about to hit the power button and ignore the thing all together, when his eyes suddenly caught sight of a massive sum of credits displayed on the holographic projection. Curiously, he scanned the rest of the page of what appeared to be a bank notice, and let out a small gasp of surprise.

Rush had deposited nearly twelve million credits into a private account. Luke reeled in shock. There was no way, no possible way his stepfather had that kind of money! The man couldn’t even afford servants to take care of the estate! Where had all this money come from?

The sound of someone clearing their throat behind him sent an icicle of fear straight into his heart. Luke whirled around in panic to see the shadowy outline of his stepfather casually leaning against the darkened doorframe - his broad form nearly taking up every inch of available space, cutting Luke off from the rest of the house. Luke swallowed fearfully. Without realizing it, he began to press himself defensively against the heavy, wooden desk.

“My, my,” Rush purred, his voice dripping with amusement, “We’ve been getting up to all sorts of trouble lately, haven’t we?”

Luke’s knuckles tightened around the edge of the desk. He didn’t dare make a sound.

“Oh, I expected some of it, sure,” Rush continued, as nonchalantly if he were discussing the weather they’d been having. “Teenage rebellion, and all that. Didn’t surprise me in the least when all those boxes of your dad’s junk I had meant to throw out went missing,” he said, waving a hand lazily in the air.

Luke's eyes narrowed briefly in confusion.

“But I had no idea,” Rush began to chuckle, “No kriffing idea what kind of game you were actually playing.”

A feeling of dread had begun to sink down into Luke’s stomach. “What are you talking about?” he asked incredulously.

Rush took a step toward him, allowing the light from the room’s small fixtures to illuminate his imposing frame.

“I think you know exactly what I’m talking about… Anakin,” he smirked deviously.

Luke felt the world drop out from beneath his feet. His head reeled as he suddenly felt like he was going to collapse.

Oh, kriff. This was it. This was the end of days. He might as well dig a hole in the outside garden and bury himself in it.

As his mind raced feverishly, he gazed up at Rush, expecting the man to yell, or scream, or slap him around – anything to show that he was furious with him. But nothing happened. Rush merely stood there, a few paces from him in the constricting room, watching him with a hint of curious amusement.

“You… you know about Han?” Luke prodded nervously.

To his surprise, Rush laughed – not a menacing chuckle, but an actually hearty laugh that was somehow even more alarming given the current circumstances.

“Oh, kid,” Rush wiped a tear of mirth from his eyes as his peals of laughter began to settle. “You really think I care what you and that idiot prince get up to in your spare time? I’m not Aurra, you know.”

Luke furrowed his brow at his stepfather in tentative disbelief. This was a man who had nearly strangled him to death the day before just to prove a point; he wasn’t about to let his guard down just because Rush appeared to be in a good mood.

“You know, I should really be thanking you,” Rush continued. “You’ve actually helped me out a great deal by keeping that oaf distracted for me. Now I can focus more on the move.”

“You’re moving?” Luke gaped at him in shock. He felt like he was being fed more information in the course of ten minutes than he had been in the entire week.

“Well, not just me. I’m taking Aurra and Savage along with, naturally. To Alderaan, if you want specifics. I’ve recently purchased a palace there that puts this dump to shame,” Rush mused.

“When?” Luke cried.

Rush pulled up the sleeve of his robe and peered at the glowing blue display of his holowatch. “Oh… in about… eight hours.” Rush glanced over at Luke’s expression of blatant shock. “I know, I know, doesn’t give one much time to prepare. But time is of the essence, and I’d like to skip the party early before Jonash realizes his mistake.”

Luke’s brows knitted together in confusion, trying to make sense of what Rush was telling him. “Jonash Solo? Han’s father? What’s he got to do with-“

His eyes suddenly flickered to the desk, where the illuminated datapad proudly displayed its incriminating contents in a flickering blue glow.

“You’ve been siphoning credits from the Banking Clan,” Luke whispered with sickening realization - more to himself than to the man in front of him.

“Well… yeah,” Rush conceded with a smirk. There was not a trace of remorse or panic in him that Luke could read. The man seemed like he was almost proud of the fact. “I suppose you had to find out sooner or later. I’ve got my boys over there right now taking care of the final transfer. Just a few boring hours of gala mingling to endure, and I’ll never have to suck up to those snobby, Coruscant banking moguls ever again.”

Luke glared at him venomously.

“But now look, now that I’ve got you here alone, I want to give you this.” Rush held out a small bank chip out to Luke, who looked at it warily, as if he expected it to bite him.

“What is that?” he asked, eying Rush darkly, making no move to take the chip from him.

“It’s your share, kid. One hundred thousand credits,” Rush replied.

Luke’s legs nearly collapsed from under him. “One… one hundred…thousand…”

“I’d offer to take you with us of course,” Rush said, ignoring Luke’s overwhelmed reaction. “But, let’s face it, you and me, we don’t get along even at the best of times, and over the past few days… well…” he trailed off and fixed Luke with a shrug as if what had happened between them in the hallway had been nothing but a petty squabble. Luke gritted his teeth.

“I think it’s best if you don’t go with us. There’s enough money on this chip to set you up somewhere for quite a while - maybe even for life,” Rush said. He smiled, “Hell, maybe your new boyfriend will let you bunk with him, assuming he doesn’t kick you to the curb when he learns the truth about who you really are, of course.”

Luke folded his arms against his chest defensively. His gaze darkened, but he refused to rise to the man’s taunts. “What makes you think I’d be going anywhere? This is my house.”

“Not anymore, I’m sorry to say,” replied Rush, who didn’t look at all sorry. “I sold it earlier this week… to Cad Bane.”

“You what?!” Luke felt the blood begin to rise in his face. His jaw clenched tight enough to strain the muscles at his temples. “He’s a monster, how could you? This house is mine! It belonged to my mother, it should go to me! I can’t believe you’d do something this… low!” He fixed his piercing glare on his stepfather. “Oh, wait. Yes I can, I forgot who I was talking to.”

Rush took a few slow, purposeful strides towards Luke, no longer looking amused as he had been before. Luke swallowed slightly, but otherwise held his ground.
“If I were you,” Rush said coolly, “I wouldn’t go around doling out judgment on other people so freely… Ani.

Luke felt his cheeks burn.

“Here,” Rush tossed the chip beside him on the desk. “Keep it. Get yourself out of the house before Bane arrives. I don’t think I need to tell you what he’s like to be alone with.” He began making his way out of the study in an easy swagger. “Have a nice life, Luke. I’d say it’s been fun, but, well, you know…” he chuckled. “Can’t say we didn’t try the whole ‘big happy family’ thing, at least.” Luke could hear the smirk in his voice, even without facing him.

Luke felt searing, boiling heat flood through his entire body. His whole frame shook with repressed rage. A lifetime of unspoken insults and grievances bubbled to the tip of his tongue, filling his throat with their suffocating intensity.

“I tell Han. I’ll tell him everything,” he blurted - the words tumbling from his trembling lips before he could stop himself.

Rush froze in the doorway. Slowly, oh, so very slowly, he turned to face Luke with an unnervingly stoic expression. Luke swallowed and involuntarily took a step back, bracing himself against the desk.

“Well, that wouldn’t make much sense now, would it?” Rush asked as he began advancing on Luke. His tone was light, almost patronizing, but his eyes were frighteningly hard. They shone in the dim light of the room like two green-black beetles. “After all, it would be my word against yours, and I think we both know how that would turn out – especially if I should let slip to Han about your little…” he eyed Luke’s dingy, worn clothes with a smirk, “masquerade,” he mused.

“I don’t care,” Luke spat. He was beyond fear at this point. All he could focus on was intense feeling of rage quickly boiling up inside of him. His breaths were coming through in shallow, ragged gasps.

“Luke,” Rush’s voice was low, menacing growl. “Think about what you’re saying. I’m offering you the means to go anywhere you want – to do anything you want. You really want to turn your back on all of that – on your own family - over some schoolboy crush?”

“I don’t want your money!” Luke snarled back at him. “And I don’t want whatever sick, twisted semblance of a family this is! As far as I’m concerned, my only real family died a year ago!” Luke was practically screaming now. The years of pent up rage and aggression came pouring from his mouth like a torrent - violent and uncontrollable.

“You said you ‘tried’? You never tried!” he spat. “You’ve never once treated me like one of your own children! But hey, you want a tip?! Family doesn’t do this!” Luke’s voice tore from his throat as he yanked back the neckline of his tunic, revealing the sickening black and blue mass. He was sobbing now. Tears were streaming down his face, leaving hot, angry streaks on his dirt streaked cheeks.

“Ben was right, you are a monster,” Luke hissed. His voice was thick and stuck in the back of his throat. “I don’t care what you tell Han. I don’t care if I never see him again. But you’re not getting rid of me, or this house. And I will tell everyone who you are, and what you’ve done, if it means I can see you finally get what you deserve!”

He stood there panting – exhausted as if had just ran across the entire surface of the planet. All the anger had been wrung from him, leaving him achy and tired. A heavy feeling of realization was beginning to settle over him, pulling him out of whatever high his tantrum had provided. Slowly, he brought his eyes up to face Rush.

The shadows of the dimly lit room covered his face like a shroud. Only the tiny pinpricks of light in his eyes could be seen, like cold, dim stars in a sea of nothingness. There was no anger in his face – no twisted lip or snarling teeth, but the man’s eyes – Luke had never seen that expression on the man’s face before. He gazed down at Luke as though he were a complete stranger, as if all their years together had suddenly crumpled away and vanished into the surrounding air like dust at the boy’s rash words.

And then Rush chuckled. A low, rumbling, mirthless sound that sent shivers down Luke’s back. He tightened his grip once again on the desk.

Luke heard the click of the blaster before he saw it. Rush had closed the gap between them in less than a second, slamming Luke against the edge of the desk. The cold, lifeless metal dug into Luke’s temple as the man towered over him, blocking off Luke’s escape with his massive frame.

And there was the hatred. There was the unbridled, intensive fury and loathing that had been missing from Rush’s face. His features contorted into an inhuman snarl as he twisted the barrel of the weapon against Luke’s sweat soaked skin.

Luke froze. His breathing had been reduced to short, shuddering gasps. His heartbeat pounded in his ears, obscuring all other possible sound. He closed his eyes, as several more stray tears began to fall. He was shaking against the desk, only held up by his on white-knuckled grip, and the suffocating frame of the man who loomed over him.

Luke’s entire mind had gone blank; all verbalized thought had completely left him. His entire being was focused solely on the thin cylinder of metal pressed against his left temple, highlighting the sensation with horrifying clarity. The one abstract thought that seemed to permeate through his terror induced haze was of his mother. Her brilliant smile and warm eyes flashed through his mind, bringing with them the sickening realization that he would most likely be joining her very soon.

“Fine then,” Rush growled in a low, nearly indiscernible rumble. He pressed the blaster harder against Luke’s head, causing Luke’s breath to hitch.

“If that’s what you want, then I’m done pretending.”

Chapter Text

“Come on, Savage!” Aurra snapped impatiently over her shoulder. The silk folds of her gown swirled violently back and forth a she stalked into the front entry way. She paused momentarily, her thin brows knit tightly in confusion. “Was it always this dark in here?” she wondered out loud.

Savage followed behind her, grunting with the effort of carrying the two large suitcases stacked precariously in his straining arms. “Maybe I would go a little faster if you hadn’t made me carry both suitcases, Aurra,” he hissed with exertion. I don’t see what the big deal is anyway if we’re late. It’s only a party.”

“Yes, and you’re only going for the food,” Aurra sniffed. “Besides, I couldn’t possibly allow my dress to become wrinkled from carrying my own suitcase. Some of us have standards, you know.” She shot a withering look at her brother’s rumpled, ill fitting, black robes.

“But why are we going at all?” he cried in frustration. “I don’t know what possessed Father to want to move to Alderaan, but it seems like we should be focusing more on packing, and less on some stupid party.”

“Savage. Darling...” Aurra purred dangerously. “I know you’re my baby brother, but if you refer to the Coruscant Opera Centennial Gala as a party one more time, I’m going to have to kill you.”

Savage rolled his eyes.

“Besides, you know how Daddy is,” she continued in a more serious tone. “He never likes to talk about his work. Frankly, I don’t care what the reason is, I’m just glad to be getting off this stupid, backwater, hick planet. Alderaan. Can you imagine?” she trailed off with a dreamy sigh.

“I’m glad to see you’re so excited,” came a voice from behind them, causing them both to jump.

“Daddy! There you are,” cried Aurra.

“Where’s Luke?” Savage asked, peering over Rush’s shoulder quizzically. “Isn’t he coming with us?”

Rush adjusted the embroidered sleeve of his velvet, amethyst colored robes – the finest he owned. His lip twitched upward almost indiscernibly. “I’m afraid Luke won’t be joining us tonight,” he said simply. “He was feeling a bit… out of sorts. I sent him to bed to get some rest. He offered to stay and take care of the house when we go away.”

“He’s not coming to Alderaan with us?” Savage gaped incredulously. “Why?”

“Ugh! Who cares?!” Aurra shouted, throwing her hands up. “If farmboy wants to stay behind in his dead mom’s creepy old house when we leave, let him!”

There was an electronic whirring sound as R2-D2 speed through the foyer past them, nearly tripping Rush in the process. Rush cursed to himself as the little blue astromech droid rolled off down the hallway with an amused series of warblings.

“Remind me to scrap those useless droids when we leave,” he muttered.

R2-D2 slowed his pace as he reached the kitchen area. He began to chuckle softy to himself in little high pitched, static-y chirps. His optic sensor scanned the area to see if C-3PO had already started with the nightly cleanup, but there wasn’t a soul to be seen. He let out a low, grumbling hum – just like that old bucket head to skip off and leave him with all the work.

He skidded over towards the ovens, hoping that something there required his mechanical expertise long enough for C-3PO to arrive and begin the actual cleaning. To his dismay however, all of the appliances were in perfect working order. Artoo cursed his own brilliant efficiency.

“Artoo?” A soft voice sounded from somewhere behind him.

The droid spun his dome around the room, but could see no one. Was C-3PO playing some kind of joke on him? He beeped in amusement at the thought. He’d have an easier time believing the house was haunted before he’d believe that fuss bucket capable of having any fun.

“Artoo? Artoo, it’s me! It’s Luke!”

R2-D2 jolted at the sound of his friend’s voice. He sounded distressed, panicked even, but his voice seemed faint and far away. R2-D2 began to roll towards the kitchen door in search of the Luke. The kid sounded like he was in real trouble.

“Artoo! I’m in here! In the freezer!” There came a heavy, metallic thud from the other side of the large metal door to the walk-in cold storage room.

R2-D2 beeped in alarm. That freezer was an absolute death trap for squishy organics. If a human were to get caught in it by accident, they could quickly freeze to death if left unchecked. It was why he and C-3PO had always been assigned to deliver the cold foods back and forth. Luke knew better than to mess around in there. So what was he doing pounding on the door like his life depended on it?

Artoo beeped reassuringly at Luke through the door. He would have that hunk of metal opened up in no time. He plugged himself into the electronic keyhole and waited for the little chiming sound that signified the mechanism had unlocked. But nothing happened. He tried again, double checking to make sure his codes were up to date, but still nothing happened. Puzzled, he scanned his optic sensor over the impassible wall of metal, chirping erratically when he saw the smashed keypad panel on the wall beside it. With a sinking feeling of horror he realized the truth. Someone had deliberately tampered with the opening mechanism. There was nothing his programming could do now to open the unresponsive, tomblike-slab of metal trapping Luke in the sub zero temperatures.

He scanned around frantically for a key of some sort - anything that would get the door open, but he found nothing. An unnerving sense of dread flooded his circuitry. Whoever had done this – and Artoo had a pretty good idea as to who – they wanted to make sure Luke stayed exactly where he was.

How long could a human survive in that icy death box? An hour? Two hours?

“Artoo! You have to get me out of here! It’s Rush – he’s gone crazy!” cried Luke. The boy was beginning to grow more panicky by the second – Artoo could hear it in his voice.

He beeped frantically.

“Broken?”

Through his heat scans, Artoo could see the reddish outline of the boy’s frame from the other side of the door. His body seemed to sag slightly as he dragged a hand over the surface of the metal. The kid’s vitals were stable – for now. But Artoo knew he wouldn’t last long in those temperatures.

Luke’s muffled voice sounded once again through the impenetrable door. “Artoo, get h-h-help. Please, you have to f-find someone who can get me out of here. Only, p-please… Hurry!” R2-D2 could hear Luke’s pleas to dissolve into shaky gasps as the chill began to seep into his body.

Artoo’s sensors whirred. ‘Get help’. Where though? Savage had already left the house with his insane father and sister. C-3PO would be no help at all - the kid would be frozen stiff by the time the skittish protocol droid had stopped panicking. That left only one other possible alternative.

R2-D2 whistled and chirped through the door in short, rapid-fire spurts – pleading with the boy on the other side to hold on, and that help was on its way. There was no answer from inside the freezer. Not a good sign. With a loud thrum, R2-D2 ignited his propulsion engines, forgoing his peds altogether, as he flew in a mad dash towards the servant’s entrance.

Chapter Text

Han paced agitatedly back and forth over the glossy marble tiles of the opera house foyer. He kept craning his neck over the sea of party goers, trying to catch a glimpse of messy, blond hair. He pulled out his communicator for what he was sure was the fiftieth time that night. Nothing. Not even a message from Anakin to say he was running late. Han groaned and stuffed the device into the inner pocket of his sleek black tunic.

He began fidgeting with his sleeves absentmindedly. The fabric was so much finer than he was used to wearing; he felt like he was doing it damage simply by breathing on it. He scoffed slightly. He had always hated dressing up for any kind of occasion, though he thought it would make a nice change for Anakin to see him at his best.

If he ever shows up, Han thought glumly.

He settled his elbows on the balcony railing lining the grand stairway, and gazed out over the collected gathering. If he were in a better mood, Han might have actually admitted to enjoying the event. The entire foyer had been converted into a temporary dance hall. The whole gala was a beautiful sight to behold, as Coruscant’s elite swayed back and forth to the sweeping music – their gowns and robes spinning out in blooming pools of color. Along the entrance and the surrounding walls, journalists, photographers, and various netfed reporters buzzed frantically around the outskirts of the dazzlingly array, trying to catch the invited guests as they entered, for brief interviews.

Soft, twinkling lights had been strung up along the massive support columns and along the balconies, giving the room an almost magical feel. Every one of the numerous senators, actors, musicians, royals, and wealthy business owners were laughing, drinking, and above all dancing as if they had not a care in the world. All but one, that was.

“You know the whole point of a party is to enjoy yourself, right?”

Han’s head whipped around to see his mother regarding him with raised eyebrows, a trace of a smirk playing at her lips.

Han huffed and went back to staring out over the railing. “I’m just waiting for Anakin to show up,” he muttered, slightly embarrassed to have been caught moping.

Jaina hummed thoughtfully and leaned over on her elbows to join her son. “Well, you know… There’s no rule that says you have to wait until he gets here to start having fun.”

Han crossed his arms but said nothing.

“I’m sure your date will be here any moment, Han,” Jaina said placing a warm hand on his shoulders. “In the meantime, why don’t you find yourself a charming, temporary dance partner?”

Han gazed out into the horde of flashing camera lights and grimaced. With a coy smirk, he turned to his mother and offered her an exaggerated bow. “May I have this dance?” he asked.

“Rascal,” Jaina scoffed playfully, as she allowed her son to lead her down the steps and onto the enormous dance floor.

As Han fell into the familiar rhythm of the dance the band was playing, he felt himself begin to relax. He still worried about Anakin, but the thought was at least further from his mind than it had been before. He and Jaina laughed as they both swept over the dance floor in a giddy rhythm, the sparkling blue satin of Jaina’s gown billowing behind her gracefully like moonlit waves. A few reporters caught sight of the two of them and began gushing into their live netfeeds, while photographers began snapping pictures of the pair for, what Han was sure to be, part of ‘best moments’ spread.

“Haaaa-aaaaaaahhhhhhnnnnn!”

Han’s good mood evaporated immediately, replaced with a cold feeling of dread at the sound of the familiar nasally trill. He turned in horror to see a peach swathed nightmare running towards him, her pallid, white arms extended.

“Ha-aaaahhn,” Aurra purred, splitting his name into two syllables. “I’ve been looking for you all evening,” she said taking him by the arm in a surprisingly tight grip. She fluttered her long, dark lashes up at him coyly, completely ignoring Jaina who pursed her lips together slightly in a nearly indecipherable twinge of annoyance.

“Come dance with me!” Aurra dragged Han away with a giggle before he even had a chance to respond. Han looked pleadingly at his mother who merely watched as he was lead towards the crowd with a mixture of sympathy and bewilderment.

Han somehow found himself in the middle of the dance floor waltzing reluctantly with the most abhorrent woman he had ever met. Good breeding and societal pressure prevented him from letting out the exasperated groan he was trying so desperately hard to hold in. Aurra began to pull him closer to her, letting her head rest on his shoulder, ignoring the briskness of the music.

“You are such a marvelous dancer,” Aurra cooed as Han did his best to keep up with the tempo despite her body clinging to him like a swamp leech. He looked around for a means of escape, and noticed with alarm that Aurra was surreptitiously pulling them towards the horde of paparazzi along the edge of the dancing crowd. His mind raced, desperately searching for a convenient exit before Aurra gave the press the wrong idea.

He was about to make clean, if somewhat rude, break for it, when he felt a small tap on his shoulder. He turned around to face his rescuer and was brought, to his immense relief, face to face with a very self satisfied looking Leia Organa. Her long chestnut hair was arranged in two neat buns on either side of her head, and her long white gown gathered gracefully in elegant folds at her feet. She was, at that moment, the most welcoming site Han had ever seen.

“Mind if I cut in?” she asked with a knowing smirk. Despite her diminutive size, she confidently took hold of Han’s hand and led him away from a very sour looking Aurra. She stopped when they reached the center of the floor again and were well out of range of prying camera shutters. Han took both of her hands as they both began to effortlessly sway in time to the music.

“Thank you,” he whispered gratefully.

“For what?” Leia replied with feigned innocence. “I only wanted to dance with you.”

Han smirked.

“By the way have you seen L- Anakin?” she asked.

Han smile fell slightly. “No. I haven’t heard from him since this afternoon,” he said, the anxiousness he was feeling earlier returning in full.

Leia bit her lip as if regretting having asked the question. “He’ll be here,” she assured him. “I’m sure he’s just running late. He was so excited when he told me you had invited him the other day.”

Han raised his eyes hopefully. “Yeah?”

“Oh, yeah. You’re practically all he talks about. He goes on and on about you for hours. Ad nauseam. I really didn’t need to know what your shampoo smells like,” she muttered.

Han threw back his head with a hearty laugh. “He told you about that?”

“Oh, Anakin tells me everything,” she grinned coyly at him.

“You know something, Princess,” Han smirked, spinning her out in an elegant twirl of white satin as Leia giggled, “I think you and I are about to become very good friends.”

Chapter Text

Luke knew he was going to die; he could feel it. He had no way of knowing how long he had been locked in that freezer, apart from the growing sensation of numbness that had begun in his extremities and snaked its way into his core. His fingers were bright red and had already begun fading to a dull shade of purple at the tips. He had completely lost all feeling in his toes.

He tried to shiver, but was simply too exhausted to summon the effort. He had already wasted so much energy pounding away at the door in the hopes that someone would hear him and come to his rescue. He had nearly sobbed in relief when R2-D2 had found him, but the little droid had gone off to find help nearly an hour ago – had it been only hour? – And Luke’s initial joy had faded with each icy breath that escaped his bleeding, chapped lips.

He sat sprawled out on the icy floor, letting his legs dangle limply, and slumped back against the freezing metal of the doorframe. He was going to die here. He would be long gone before anyone found him. Already his vision was beginning to fade to black around the edges as his body unwilling succumbed to the deadly torpor that accompanied hypothermia. Surprisingly however, the thought of it didn’t frighten him like Luke thought it should have. Perhaps it was a blessing, a boon bestowed upon those who fell victim to a frozen death, that they should not be in the right mind to fully comprehend their own suffering.

Luke suddenly felt the door behind him heat up slightly, causing him to open his eyes and, with an extraordinary effort, turn around to face the smooth metal surface. He thought he could perceive a searing red-orange glow that seemed to trail up from the base of the metal like a thin line of fire. Luke’s eyes trailed over the brilliant display. He had heard stories of those who had died of frostbite hallucinating a feeling of warmth right before the end.

He followed the glowing line with his eyes, noting how it stopped its upward descent about a third of the way from the top and continued in a horizontal direction for several seconds before dropping down in a line parallel to the first. Luke’s brow’s furrowed as far as the numb muscles of his face would allow. This hallucination certainly differed from those he had heard about; the whole thing made a glowing three sided box that ended at the base of the door. It almost looked like…

Luke’s world exploded in a flood of bright light as the red outline was ripped away, creating a gaping, searing hole in the metal. Luke squinted, the sudden change from the pitch darkness of the enclosed space nearly blinding him. He blinked up in confusion. Ben stood on the other side, lightsaber in hand, with an expression of absolute panic on his stricken face. Behind him, brimming with exclamations of relief and shock were the two droids.

“Ben…” Luke whispered in a shaky breath as he pitched forward into the blessed warmth of the kitchen in a near faint.

His godfather sprang forward to catch him before he hit the ground, deactivating his lightsaber in the process. He knelt on the stone floor of the kitchen, cradling the boy in his arms and rubbing his fingers vigorously between his hands.

“It’s all right now, son. I’m here now. Everything’s going to be alright,” Ben kept repeating in a soft, trembling voice. He turned to face R2-D2 and C-3PO who hovered over him nervously, unsure of what to do. “Get him a thermal blanket!” Obi-Wan snapped, causing the two droids to bolt out of the room towards the supply closet.

Moments later Luke was piled under a veritable mountain of linens as Obi-Wan continued to rub his hands and feet with a hot washcloth. R2-D2 let his systems run on maximum capacity without cooling vents and snuggled against the mound of blankets, acting like a makeshift heating lamp. Obi-Wan continued to check Luke’s pulse, breathing a sigh of relief when the sluggish stream of blood began to quicken, as warmth started to creep back into the boy’s shivering body.

“Oh, Master Luke! Thank the Maker! I was so worried when Artoo told me the news. If he hadn’t contacted Master Kenobi, I don’t know what would have happened,” C-3PO cried as he wrung his hands together. Luke managed a halfhearted smile through cracked lips.

Obi-Wan reached into a pouch at his side and pulled out a small metal flask. “Drink this,” he said, holding it to the boy’s lips.

Luke slowly bent forward to take a sip and promptly gagged at the burning sensation that filled his throat. He sat up and coughed violently, dispersing the pile of blankets in a flurry. “Ugh, that’s awful! What is that?!” he rasped.

“You wouldn’t thank me if I told you,” Ben smiled grimly. He placed both his hands on either side of Luke’s face. “The important thing is that you’re safe,” he said, his tone warmer than any amount of blankets.

“Ben, I-” Luke bit his lip and scrunched his face up in an effort to stop his eyes from watering. “I should have listened to you. I’m so sorry.”

“You have nothing to be sorry for,” Ben said in a soft, but firm voice. “None of this is your fault.”

“You were right about Rush,” Luke said quietly, dropping his gaze to the floor. “He is a monster.”

“What happened here Luke?” Ben breathed in a mixture of pity and dismay.

“He- he locked me in the freezer.” Luke shivered in horror at the memory. “He held a blaster to my head… and he locked me in.” Luke glanced up at his godfather’s ashen face. “He’s been stealing money from the Banking Clan,” Luke continued. “Millions and millions of credits. He’s leaving for Alderaan tonight, before the gala ends. I was so angry at him that I stupidly told him I’d go to the authorities and he…” Luke shuddered. His eyes met Ben’s stricken gaze. “I have to warn Han,” he said determinedly.

“We will,” Ben assured him. “I’ll send a message to the Banking Clan headquarters and-“

Luke shook his head. “No. It has to be me, and I have to tell him in person. Tonight.” He moved to stand up only to have the older man force him gently, but firmly back down.

“Are you insane?” Obi-Wan reprimanded. “You are in no condition to go anywhere right now. You need to rest.”

“Ben, I have to go,” Luke replied, a tinge of desperation in his voice. The police might not believe me, but I know Han will. Rush took my communicator from me before he left, so I have to warn Han in person. If we wait until after the gala, it will be too late.”

Obi-Wan’s brow furrowed in concern. “Luke… you very nearly died just now, you do realize that right?” he asked slowly. “I can’t allow you put yourself in harm’s way again.” Luke gently shrugged the remaining blankets from his shoulders. Slowly, and with trembling limbs, he steadied himself on the dusty, stone floor. With a great amount of effort, he pushed himself up into a standing position, breathing heavily as he did so. He gazed back down at his godfather’s kneeling form.

“I have to do this for Han, Ben,” he said. “I’ve lied to him too many times already. I owe him the truth now.”

Obi-Wan let out a long, heavy sigh and slowly rose to his feet. He placed a warm hand on Luke’s shoulder, his expression one of grim resignation. “I don’t suppose I can convince you not to go?” Luke shook his head. Obi-Wan sighed. “Then at least let me go with you. You’ve just suffered a near death experience, I can’t in good conscious let you do this alone.”

Luke beamed at him, filled with a mixture of love and admiration for the aging Jedi. He wrapped Ben up in a fierce hug, which the man returned in full after a brief moment of surprise. Luke drew back slowly with a chuckle. “I don’t suppose it matters much at this point that I have nothing to wear to a gala?”

C-3PO, who up until that point had been bobbing nervously on his peds in the corner, suddenly froze. His optics seemed to glint with a spark of excitement. “Did I hear someone mention a gala?”

Chapter Text

Stepping out of thrumming y-wing, Luke shivered under his thick, black cloak, despite the unusually warm night air. He stared up at the towering domes that comprised the Galaxies Opera house with a growing feeling off trepidation. The many thousands of lights that gleamed from within seemed to light up the Coruscant night with a warm, inviting glow, yet he took no comfort in them. Inside he could hear the sweeping notes of the orchestra being amplified through the impressive sound system that ran the length of the building. Luke shifted his weight to his other foot nervously. He had come too far now to turn back.

Obi-Wan approached him from behind and placed a warm hand on his shoulder. “Are you sure about this?” he asked.

Luke nodded, despite the anxious feeling in his gut.

Obi-Wan looked him up and down and absently adjusted the lapels of Luke’s cloak. “Okay,” he said bracingly. “You go in there and do what you need to do. I’ll be right out here incase anything should arise.”

He gently peeled the cloak off the boy’s shoulders. Luke slipped his arms out, feeling painfully vulnerable without the security of the heavy, dark fabric around him.

Obi-Wan made a final cursory check of his attire, his eyes brimming with an emotion that Luke couldn’t quite place. “You’re ready,” he said with a soft smile, his hand returning to Luke’s shoulder. “Now, go make me proud.”

---------------

Han slumped against a towering marble column near one of the buffet tables, and gazed sullenly at the large, double arched entryways on the opposite side of the room. He chewed away on a plate of unidentifiable, pretentious looking appetizers with a gloomy expression. He had given up on trying to enjoy himself. He had had one thing to look forward to about this party, and now even that was gone.

Han sighed and stacked the half-eaten plate of goodies on a small table containing a vase of exotic, ornamental flowers. He was just going to tell his parents that he had had enough for one night. Maybe Chewie would still be up at this hour and swing by to pick him up? As he gingerly snaked his way through the throng of party-goers, Han happened to glance up one last time at the entrance on the other side of the ballroom, and froze in his tracks halfway across the floor.

There, under the archway, looking around the room in positive amazement at the splendid array, was his Anakin - his hair still a delightful mess of sandy blond strands that swept casually over his face. The dark burgundy and blue Jedi’s uniform he wore swept around him as he entered, catching on a stray gust of air from outside. The thick, leather, armored bracers he wore on his arms and legs seemed almost humorously incongruous amidst the sea of flimsy silks and satins of the other gala patrons. He looked every inch a Jedi knight. Stars, the kid even had his lightsaber clipped to his hilt.

Han had no way of knowing that the tunic in question had in fact once belonged to the original Anakin Skywalker long ago, or that on Luke’s small frame it hung down on his knees a good few inches more than it should have, or even that it had been rescued, along with a good many other of the man’s possessions, from the rubbish heap by a very loyal and surreptitious protocol droid. All Han knew in that moment was that the small, blond boy standing awkwardly under the enormous archway, shifting his weight nervously from one foot to the other, was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

“Ani!” Han shouted from across the dance floor, ignoring the strange looks his outburst drew.

The boy jolted at the sound of the name and swiveled his head in the direction the voice had come from. His eyes finally settled on Han with a little warm sigh of what appeared to be relief. He smiled at Han, causing his eyes to light up even from halfway across the room.

Han beamed and took great, leaping strides towards him, laughing breathlessly as he ran. He pushed past the crowds of dancers until he had reached the towering entryway, and threw his arms around his companion. He rested his head in the crook of the boy’s neck with a smile. Han felt the other’s hands slip slowly over his back and rub gentle circles into the fabric of his robes.

“I missed you,” Han whispered into his ear.

"Missed you too," Luke murmured.

Han's reaction must have alerted the attention of several members of the press, because the next thing he knew they were both being bombarded with glaring lights and a cacophony of noise as no fewer than six reporters all shoved their live feed receivers into the pair’s faces for questions.

“Han Solo, is your relationship with this person of a romantic nature?”

“Are you dating a Jedi?”

“How did you two meet?”

“What’s your name, kiddo?”

Han drew his arm protectively around his boyfriend, who was looking shell-shocked at the sudden bombardment of questions. “Leave him alone! Go away! He doesn’t want to talk to any of you! Shoo!” He scoffed and led Luke away from the crowd of onlookers.

“I am so sorry about all that,” Han said with a small wince.

“Don’t worry about it,” Luke muttered.

“Look!” Han pointed off in the opposite direction of the room with a sense of giddy excitement. “I’ve invited Lando.” He waved eagerly as they both passed by the sharply dressed figure of the Corellian, who was leaning provocatively against a column and flirting with a pretty, young Togrutan woman. He caught Han’s gaze as they moved by and returned the gesture with a lazy salute.

“Come on,” Han said, turning his attention back to Luke. “I want you to meet my parents. I’ve been telling them so much about you.”

“Han, wait,” Luke gripped at his arm, halting their procession through the palatial ballroom. Han stopped and looked at him with a sort of breathless, puzzled expectancy.

“There’s something I have to tell you, before we do anything else,” Luke said with a hint of urgency in his voice.

“Whatever it is, my answer is yes,” beamed Han as he began practically bounding across the hall, dragging Luke along by the arm.

“Han, no- wait!” Luke called out to him, but his voice was lost amidst the sudden crescendo of music as the band began their next selection.

Chapter Text

In a secluded corner of the ballroom, beneath the privacy of an enormous pillar of marble, Rush stood casting his eyes nervously about the room. Making sure the coast was clear, he reached into the folds of his robes and brought out a small, metallic, circular device. He flicked his fingers over the screen impatiently and the communicator flickered to life in a holographic blue haze as he dialed the familiar contact from memory.

“What is taking so long?” he hissed into the device before the person on the other end had a chance to respond.

An image of a tiny techno-service droid hovered anxiously in front of the screen before him. “Um, hi, this is Todo,” the droid said with a slight wince in his voice. From the background, Rush could hear what sounded like a mountain of papers scattering to the floor, followed by a loud, snarling curse. Todo cringed as his optic sensors darted somewhere beyond Rush’s line of sight. “Bane can’t talk right now. He’s very busy with this transfer thingy.”

A low growl resounded from somewhere off-screen. “You tell that overblown rake that I’m getting his damn credits for him as fast as I can, and to take the stick out of his overlarge backside so he’ll shut up and let me work!”

Rush recognized the gravely tones and crass manners of his associate. He scowled darkly at the droid, who was trying so desperately to block his view into his CFO’s office. “Tell Bane that everything had better be spotless in that office when you two leave,” he snapped. “I mean it. He leaves one scrap of evidence behind in that building, and I’m pulling his cut!”

“What am I, a messenger droid?” Todo sighed with annoyance as he flicked a button on his communicator. The connection terminated, leaving only a blank screen behind. Rush could see his own grim, set features in the polished black surface.

He scowled. Nothing was going right for him tonight. First that damned kid threatening to give him away and now Bane, who was apparently too technologically challenged to complete a simple credit transfer.

Rush sighed as he struggled to compose himself. He wasn’t going to avoid suspicion by skulking around dark corners all night. All he had to do was smile and been seen as many people as possible so that he had an alibi when the situation finally came to light.

If it ever comes to light, Rush smiled to himself. For all of his shortcomings as a husband and a father, Rush rather prided himself on his excellent bookkeeping skills. He had moved that money around in such a convoluted, inconspicuous manner that it could be weeks, or even months before anyone even realized what had happed. By then it would be too late.

“Father?” came a soft, deep voice from behind him.

Rush nearly dropped the communicator in surprise. He turned to see his son striding towards him, his eyebrow ridges creased in worry. “Savage,” Rush panted slightly, “what… what can I do for you, my boy?”

“I just came to see how you were,” Savage shrugged, adding creases to his already hopelessly wrinkled robes. “You seemed a little-“

“Han, wait!” cried a familiar voice from somewhere to their right.

Rush froze where he stood. He snapped his neck around in the direction of the voice and gasped. All the color drained from his face.

It wasn’t possible. It simply wasn’t possible! It was as if all the ghosts of Rush’s past had suddenly risen up to haunt him all at once. He caught a flash of blue and burgundy as the figure was pulled along through the ballroom by his companion - saw the piercing gleam of the too-blue eyes. Rush’s breath hitched.

“Anakin?”

The two men passed by Rush without noticing him, their features becoming more recognizable. Han, with his dark hair and lopsided smile, caught up in some boyish cloud of excitement - the other desperately trying to keep up. A boy of about nineteen. Small, blond, with a tan, sandy complexion and hauntingly familiar blue eyes. Rush nearly snapped the communicator in his hands in half.

“That’s Luke!” Savage gaped as he watched the two figures make their way through the crowd. “What’s he doing here? I thought he was back at the estate!”

Rush snarled. A blinding red haze had begun to consume his entire field of vision. He began stalking towards the dance floor with menacing, purposeful strides.

“Father, wait! What are you doing?” Savage hissed, taking hold of his father’s arm.

Rush shot him a wild, maddened look so poisonous that Savage actually took an involuntary step back.

“What I should have done in the first place,” Rush growled, as he took off towards the two retreating figures with an ominous flurry of his robes.

Chapter Text

Luke allowed himself to be led towards the end of the room where several people were congregating around an overcrowded buffet table. Two of the people in particular, a man and a woman, drew Luke’s eye as he marveled at the richness of their clothes, their confident, graceful postures, their casual yet undeniable aura of authority. Luke swallowed dryly. He knew exactly who they were. He could see the amalgamation of both of their features in the face of the man before him.

Han turned back to glance at him with a smile. Luke noted that he appeared to have inherited his father’s strong jaw line and his mother’s dark, sparkling eyes. Luke returned the smile somewhat distractedly, too preoccupied with the feeling of butterflies fluttering around in his stomach.

He watched as Han’s smile dropped suddenly, peering at something just over Luke’s shoulder with a look of confusion. Han opened his mouth as if to say something, but Luke never caught what it was as he was suddenly, and very violently, yanked around by his arm and pulled in the opposite direction. Luke stared up in horror at the leering, twisted grimace of his stepfather. Rush brought his face down so close to his Luke could feel the man’s hot breath on his face as he hissed.

“You… grasping… devious… little… fraud!" Rush spat, stumbling over the words slightly in an effort to contain his rage. The party-goers surrounding the buffet area stopped mid-conversation with each other, gawking at the scene before them. Han’s parents eyed the older man with concerned, wary expressions.

Han stepped forward to yank Rush’s hand away from Luke’s arm, looking angrier than Luke had ever seen him. His eyes blazed dangerously. “You need to back the hell off, Rush,” he hissed, his voice a barely disguised threat.

Rush turned his gaze on Han with a wicked smile. “That boy’s an imposter, Your Highness.”

“No,” Luke breathed. His throat tightened in panic.

Rush continued with a cold sneer. “He’s no Jedi. His name is Luke Amidala, and he’s been practically living as a servant in my household for over a year now.” He glanced over at Luke who stood there wide-eyed and at a loss for words. Rush smirked triumphantly. “Not a very good one at that.”

“I believe you’ve had a bit too much to drink, Mister Clovis,” Han growled softly in the back of his throat, his fist clenched at his sides in a strained effort to remain civil.

“If you don’t believe me, ask him yourself. Turns out, your little boyfriend here has been lying to both of us this entire time. It’s amazing really, what lengths some people will go to these days to get what they want,” Rush mused with a small smirk. He spread his hands in front of him as if to illustrate the point. Out of the corner of his eye, Luke saw Aurra, leaning against a marble column and looking at him with a menacing little grin.

Han glanced over at Luke, who remained fixated on the spot. “Tell these people who you are,” he scoffed, gesturing in exasperation towards Rush and the onlookers as if the whole thing were some ridiculous farce.

Luke felt his eyes begin to water as his entire body flushed red hot. He could feel every eye in the room trained on him as a suffocating hush swept through the crowd. He wanted to die. He wished that he could open up a hole in the planet’s surface and fling himself into it. Several reporters had noticed the commotion and had their netfeeds trained right on him. He could see an enlarged, holographic projection of his stricken face in nearly every screen.

Han’s countenance began to fall slightly. He stared at Luke with anxious, expectant eyes. “Tell them…” he said, his voice trailing off in a desperate, unspoken plea.

Luke could only stand there in silence as the tears began to fall down his burning cheeks. He tried to choke out a feeble response, but his throat felt like someone was squeezing it shut. He lifted up his hands in a feeble gesture of supplication.

“Anakin?” Han breathed.

Luke glanced at Rush out of the corner of his eye. The man was smirking. Luke drew a hand roughly over his face as he drew in a shuddering breath. “Anakin Skywalker was my father,” he said in a quiet, broken whisper. “Rush is telling the truth…”

Han’s eyes darted over Luke’s face, as if desperately searching for something he knew was not there. A flood of emotions flashed across his face, one after the other. Luke watched the painful effects of his own deceptions play over Han’s features like some twisted netfeed drama. Han opened and closed his mouth as if struggling for words that would not come. Something flickered behind the dark brown eyes for a moment, and he gaped at Luke with sudden, horrified recognition.

“The wrench… That day in the garage- that was you?”

Luke choked back a sob. His vision had started to blur with unshed tears. Han stared at him. His expression hurt Luke more than anything Rush could have said. Han took a hesitant step back.

“You lied to me.” It wasn’t a question.

“No,” Luke pleaded with him desperately. “I-“

“So you are a Jedi?” Han cut him off sharply with clipped, wounded edge in his voice.

“No, I-“

“So you are Anakin Skywalker?”

“Han, please listen-“

“Well then it seems to me,” Han spread his arms wide with a bitter, cynical laugh. “That that’s exactly what you’ve been doing this entire time.” He tried to stuff his hands into his pockets and scowled when he realized his stuffy tunic had none. He opted to cross his arms against his chest instead. “I can’t believe I opened up to you like that,” he breathed with a quiet, sardonic little chuckle.

“Han, listen,” Luke choked past the lump in his throat, fighting to contain his emotions. He had to tell Han what he came here to tell him before the man walked out of his life forever. “I had to warn you about Rush. He’s been stealing millions of credits from your company and he plans to run away to Alderaan right after the gala!”

There was a collective gasp from the crowd and several cameras began to flash in their direction, nearly blinding Luke with the intense glare. Rush feigned shock and clasped a hand to his chest as if aghast by the accusation. Jonash Solo, who had been watching the scene play out with morbid fascination up until that point, suddenly jolted indignantly.

“How dare you! I don’t know who you think you are, young man, but Rush Clovis has been a loyal friend and business associate of mine for years! Do you think I’m going to believe such outrageous accusations against him?”

Luke didn’t even look at him. He ignored all of the malicious and accusatory whispers and glares directed at him from the members of the crowd. He didn’t even notice the many blinding flashes of the cameras as they all scrambled for a shot of him. He was looking at Han. In that moment, the surrounding world seemed to fade away into a dull blur as the two of them stood perfectly still, eyes locked together in quiet, burning intensity. Luke’s jaw clenched as time seemed to grind to a momentary halt.

“Please,” he whispered so quietly he doubt Han even heard him. He wasn’t even sure what he was asking of him. Forgiveness? Trust? Understanding? Or a desperate, impossible combination of all three?

People like you don’t get happy endings, the dark, poisonous part of his mind reminded him with a sickening feeling of worthlessness.

Han lowered his gaze to the floor and shook his head with a mirthless smile. When he met Luke’s gaze again he looked tired - hurt - resigned. As if he had been waiting for this moment to come since the very beginning. It hurt Luke worse than any physical torment he had ever known.

“Stars, you are just like the rest them,” Han said in a quiet, disparaging murmur.

The words hit Luke like a massive blow to the chest. He felt like his whole world had crumbled beneath him, leaving him to stand on empty, thin air. The lump in this throat finally rose to his mouth as he erupted into ragged, hiccupping sobs. Ignoring the gasps and murmurs of the crowd, he pushed his way through the ring of onlookers, racing blindly towards the entrance as the flash of camera lights followed his trail. He thought he heard Leia’s voice cry after him in the confusion, but he didn’t stop to look back.

The small, silver hilt of the lightasaber jostled violently against his leg as he tore down the corridor, working its way loose little by little. With a small click that was drowned out in the sea of cacophonous voices, it fell to the floor with a metallic clink against the marble titles. It bounced twice along the floor and rolled its way softly to rest against an ornate, gilded floor vase, where it lay unbeknownst to anyone.

Han didn’t watch Luke go. He dragged a hand down his face with a shuddering sigh and balled his hands into fists to press agitatedly into his eye sockets. He let out several shaking deep breaths. Jaina broke away from the surrounding crowd and pushed her way towards him.

“Get those cameras out of his face,” she hissed as she brushed passed a swarm of paparazzi that had immediately pounced on him - each one clamoring for his comments on the encounter. She placed a hand on his shoulder, her eyes worriedly scanning his face. He gently moved her hand away and began stalking through the crowd towards the rear exit, much to the general curiosity and interest of the crowd.

Rush watched his retreating back with a glowing feeling of satisfaction. He pushed his feelings of triumph down below the surface as he continued to play the part of the slandered victim, putting on a show of confusion and mortification whenever he accidentally caught someone’s gaze. Several reporters swarmed around him, attempting to hook the next biggest link to the story now that Luke and Han had fled the scene.

“Mister Clovis, what can you say about these accusations against you?”

“Mister Clovis, what is your connection to the Jedi imposter?”

“Can you confirm these claims against you are false?”

Jonash stepped forward to place himself in front of Rush. “Of course he can,” he said somewhat snappishly as the journalists present clamored to record his statement. “Rush is one of my longest standing colleagues. I’d trust him with my own life.”

Rush allowed himself a small smile.

“Why would this fake Jedi make these types of claims against you?” one of the reporters asked, thrusting her recorder into Rush’s face.

“Oh, who can say, really,” Rush mused with a little half shrug. He tapped his chin as if in thought. “He always was a strange boy…”

---------------

Luke ran blindly the whole way to the opera house hangar, vision blurred in a thick, watery haze. It was only through some miracle of the Force that he didn’t go careening off the edge of the walkway towards the planet’s surface below. He had never felt this kind of intense humiliation before ever in his life. His throat felt like it was on fire. His breathing had been reduced to ugly, painful, hiccupping gasps that burned from inside of him as he ran.

This was his fault. All of this was his fault. If he hadn’t been such an idiot in Rush’s study – If he had just told Han the truth in the first place… And now, because of his own stubborn selfishness, Han would never trust him again – maybe not anyone ever again. It made him sick to his stomach.

As he reached the hangar, Luke caught sight of Ben’s blurry outline as he waited idly by his y-wing. He jolted when he saw the state Luke was in.

“Luke! What-“

Luke nearly threw himself onto the man’s chest and collapsed into a broken mess of sobs. He felt Obi-Wan go rigid beneath his touch, panic and confusion written in every muscle fiber. Silently, desperately, he prayed that the man wouldn’t ask him what had happened. If his life had depended on it in that moment, he wouldn’t have been able to speak a word.

Two strong arms encircled his back in a protective, comforting embrace, sheltering him from the outside world. Luke let out a wet sniffling sound as he felt Ben trace soft circles into his back – the way his mother had done when he was a child. Obi-Wan let him cry into his chest until Luke’s throat felt like it had been rubbed raw, the sobs eventually dissipating into slow, shuddering gasps.

Luke raised his head and gazed up at his godfather’s patient, empathetic expression - his blue eyes wide with concern.

“Ben,” Luke croaked out in a weak, scratchy rasp. “Take me home.” His voice faded out into a broken whimper.

He watched the man’s eyes widen in panic as he opened his mouth to protest. Luke let his head fall back onto Ben’s chest. He was tired. He was so, so tired. He didn’t want to stand here and argue. All he wanted was to go back to the estate, crawl into his cot in the attic and never wake up again.

“Take me home,” Luke repeated, cutting off his godfather’s objections. “Please…”

Chapter Text

Han twirled the gleaming silver lightsaber hilt in his hands idly, letting the soft moonlight streaming in through his bedroom window play softly on the smooth metallic surface. He sat crossed-legged on his bed in the dark, completely and utterly unable to even contemplate sleep. He stared at his own hazy and warped semi-reflection in the metal.

He had no idea what had possessed him to go back into the opera house after everyone had left, or even what had made him pocket the discarded weapon when the glint of silver caught his eye. It had seemed like a good idea to him at the time, but now, sitting here alone in the dark, it just seemed moronic.

Han’s knuckles tightened around the shaft. He was so angry – at Rush, at Anakin (or whatever his real name was), but most of all at himself. Stars, he had acted like such an idiot over the past week! All of those spontaneous excursions, and romantic encounters, and long talks. Talks. Kriff, he had told the kid just about his entire life story. He had waxed poetic about his hopes, his dreams, and his fears to a guy who hadn’t even told Han his real name. Han had dared to open up about himself to someone for the first time in forever, only to find out that that boy had never really existed in the first place.

Tomorrow the story would be in every newsfeed and gossip rag in the galaxy. His name would be proudly displayed next to several very unflattering photos of himself, and a column highlighting that he was by far the biggest idiot to have ever existed. It made him want to smash every datapad he owned.

He continued to glare down at the innocuous piece of metal in his hands. Stars, what was he doing with the guy’s lightsaber? He shouldn’t be holding onto keepsakes. He ought to chuck the thing out the window and never have to worry about it – or him – ever again.

He traced the thin lines of plating along the hilt. It seemed like just yesterday that he had been sent on that madcap mission of Obi-Wan’s to retrieve the blasted thing. He remembered how he and Chewie had first encountered the old Jedi as he severed a man’s arm with the very same weapon. He remembered the speeder chase with Lando, and the deep scratches that still etched across his back from his collision with that damn tree. He remembered trying to hotwire Rush’s speeder bike in his garage and his initial run in with-

Oh. Right.

Han let his shoulders sag in exasperation as he carded a hand through his hair with a sigh. This line of thinking was only going to get more painful for him. He had enough problems to deal with than to waste energy mourning the loss of something he never had to begin with.

A knock at the door jarred him out of his thoughts with a jolt. Quickly, he scrambled out of bed and tucked the lightsaber away in one of his desk drawers. He flicked on a small table lamp and opened the door, expecting one of his parents, and was completely taken aback to see Obi-Wan, standing cross-armed and furious on the other side.

“You want to explain to me what happened?” the man glowered at Han, somehow managing to make him wilt slightly despite Han’s advantage in height.

Han’s initial shock turned into indignation, and he glared at the man darkly. “That’s not any of your business,” he scoffed.

“When my godson came running to me in tears, you made it my business!” Obi-Wan pushed passed Han and stalked into the spacious bedchamber. He began pacing the floor angrily like some snarling, ginger loth cat.

“Come in, I guess,” Han sneered with a roll of his eyes. He walked over to his liquor cabinet and uncorked a bottle of Corellian brandy. He poured himself a generous portion and flopped himself down on the sofa without offering a glass to the Jedi. Obi-Wan shot him a look from over his shoulder as he paced, but said nothing. Han took slow, deliberate sips as he watched the man, waiting for him to make the first move. He didn’t have to wait long.

Obi-Wan stopped his furious progression along the room and glared at Han intently. “Stars, but you really are the most intolerable ass sometimes,” he said, dragging a hand over his face in frustration.

Han leapt up from his seat on the sofa defensively, nearly spilling brandy all over the cushions. “I’m being an ass?” he snarled. “I’m sorry, but did you or did you not register the fact that I have been lied to this entire time by a guy who didn’t even tell me his real name? Doesn’t that at least faze you somewhat?” Obi-Wan averted his eyes for one brief, guilty moment. Han’s snarl fell with a groan.

“You knew. Of course you knew about it. You two probably had this whole thing planned from the very beginning.” He slunk back to his sofa and landed with a dull flop, deliberately rolling away from the man standing before him. “You two probably had a great big laugh at my expense,” he continued with a self-pitying grumble. “Congratu-kriffing-lations. You managed to pull one over on the galaxy’s biggest idiot.”

Obi-Wan glared down at Han’s lanky, sprawled out form distastefully. “Did it ever occur to you that maybe none of this was about you? Yes, Luke lied, but it was only to hide his secret from his monster of a stepfather. He never wanted to hurt you. He was just trying to protect himself.”

Han still refused to look at him.

“Luke was trying to warn you about Rush,” Obi-Wan continued. “He was-“

“What makes you think I’ll listen to him now – to either of you?” Han pushed himself up with a growl.

“I know you’re angry,” Obi-Wan began with an exasperated sigh.

“No you don’t. You have no idea how I feel,” Han scoffed bitterly as he slumped back down on the sofa, letting his forearms dangle limply against his knees. A heavy, awkward silence fell between them.

“Do you know he begged me to take him back,” Obi-Wan finally spoke. His voice suddenly sounded a lot thicker than it had before and it wavered ever so slightly as he spoke. “Begged me to take him back to that horrible place, to that- that demon? I pleaded with him to let me take him to the temple with me, but he absolutely refused.”

He paused for a long moment, staring at the ground, his shoulders slumping as if wearied by the conversation. Han caught the man’s change in demeanor and slowly lifted his head to meet Obi-Wan’s gaze.

“I can’t help him,” Obi-Wan said in a broken whisper. “I don’t know how to help my own godson.” He stared down at Han with red, tired eyes. “Do you have any idea what it’s like to be so utterly helpless to save the ones you love?” Han regarded him quietly for a long moment.

“What do you want from me, Kenobi?” he finally asked with a small, weary sigh.

“I want you to go him,” Obi-Wan said, seating himself gently on a plush leather armchair beside Han. “He won’t listen to me, but maybe you can convince him to leave that place,” Obi-Wan’s voice was soft, but desperate.

Han averted his gaze, feeling suddenly, strangely embarrassed, though he couldn’t pinpoint why exactly. “I… I don’t know what good it would do,” he mumbled.

Obi-Wan regarded him silently, his face an unreadable jumble of emotions. “Do you love him?” he asked after a long pause.

Han jolted, his eyes darting back to the man in surprise. Obi-Wan watched him expectantly, gauging his reaction through inscrutable features. Han quickly regained his composure with a small sigh. “I’m not sure there is a ‘him’ anymore.”

“Han,” Obi-Wan replied in a gentle, but stern voice, “the only things Luke lied about were his name, and that he was Jedi. Everything else about him – everything that you fell for – that was all him.”

Han got up of the couch with an exasperated sigh. He walked over to his dresser and steadied himself against the smooth, solid surface, letting his head drop down to his chest. “What does it even matter anymore?” he sighed bitterly.

“Because I know what it’s like to lose someone you never got the chance to say it to,” the man said simply.

Han turned to face him, the answer catching him by surprise. Obi-Wan clasped his arms gently behind his back as he moved to stare off towards the towering windows. His expression seemed miles away.

“Anakin – the real Anakin I mean, Padmé, Satine, Qui-Gon, Cody…” he trailed off quietly, appearing to be lost in some private memory. His voice was calm, steady, as if he had resigned himself to his loss long ago. Han watched him in silence.

“They’re all gone,” Obi-Wan said, turning to face Han with a strangely serene expression on his face, though lines around his eyes and forehead seemed to have deepened somewhat, making him look old and tired. “I loved them all, but I never had the courage to admit it to them… now I’ll never be able to.” He gazed at Han with a small, heartbreaking smile. “Some people were just meant to be unhappy, I suppose.”

Han swallowed slightly.

Obi-Wan stood up and approached him slowly. “Don’t make the same mistakes I did, Han. If you love my godson, then please… go to him. Talk some sense into him. Don’t let anger cloud your judgment.” He placed a warm, comforting hand on Han’s shoulder, and looked up at him with soft, pleading, blue eyes.

Han stared down at the man in silence, the soft, silvery moonlight bathing them both in the darkness of Han’s chambers. He swallowed the lump that had begun forming in his throat with a dry, shallow gulp. For one brief moment, Obi-Wan watched him with cautious optimism, clinging desperately to the hope that Han would be a bigger man than he actually was. Han sighed with a painful grimace and clenched his hands down at his sides.

“I’m sorry,” he said with a slight rasp to his voice. “I’d like to help you… but I just can’t.”

Obi-Wan’s face melted into a mask of disappointment and bitter resignation. Han couldn’t bring himself to meet the man’s wounding gaze. His eyes flickered absently to the desk drawer where the silver lightsaber handle lay concealed. Han thought for a brief moment he had seen Obi-Wan’s eyes follow his gaze with a shadow of recognition behind them, but it was gone as soon as it had come. Obi-Wan dropped his hand away from Han’s shoulder with an icy glare.

“Then you don’t deserve him,” he said coldly.

Before Han could say anything in reply, the man had crossed the expanse of the room and slid out the automatic door, letting it slide closed behind him. Han was left standing all alone in the darkness of his room, with nothing but a sinking feeling of guilt and the quickly fading warmth of a handprint on his shoulder.

Chapter Text

Luke attacked the patch of garden he was tilling with an almost furious tenacity. The hot sun above blazed down on him, causing thin rivulets of sweat to stream down his back and along his forehead. He brought his hoe down on each swing with a jarring impact that knocked up clods of dirt, causing it to stick to his damp skin. He swore lightly under his breath as he paused momentarily to mop the sweat out of his eyes.

He gripped the hoe in his hands tighter to stop them from shaking. He had to keep working. He had to force himself to channel his feelings of intense anger into something worthwhile. Luke knew that if he stopped, even for a moment, he would break utterly.

He recalled the way Ben had pleaded with him the night before to come away with him. By all accounts, the man was probably right, but even still Luke had no desire to leave. Ben couldn’t possibly understand. Luke didn’t need change - he had had plenty of that in the past week. What he needed right now was routine - to let the repetitive, automatic motions of his hands numb his mind into a state semi-capable of handling his current situation.

Every emotion in his body seemed to have been replaced with a hard, steely resolve to throw himself at every available task that needed doing. Even his fear for his step father seemed to have evaporated, despite the horrific events of the night before that had transpired between them.

In some strange, bizarre way, Luke somehow knew that Rush wouldn’t try to come after him again. As far as Rush was concerned now, Luke didn’t even exist. There had been no words between them after the gala, no confrontation of Luke’s scandal, only empty, hollow silence. Any connection they might have had before was severed that night in Rush’s study. They were nothing to each other now – two strangers barely tolerating the other’s existence.

R2-D2 and C-3PO, who were working nearby, regarded him with fearful concern, but said nothing. Luke was grateful for that at least. He wasn’t sure he could bring himself to talk to anyone at that moment anyway. He hadn’t told them what had happened at the gala when he had returned, already too exhausted to do anything but sleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. But they could clearly see that something had gone horribly wrong.

Luke smacked his tool into the hard packed earth again. A stray clod kicked up and hit him in his left eye, causing him to swear violently and clutch at the affected area. He hissed through his teeth, more so in annoyance than in any actual pain. He quickly wiped the dirt away before the droids could come over to see what had happened.

With a grunt he picked up his heavy basket of misshapen root vegetables and began staggering away towards the back of the house. As he made his way towards the servant’s entrance, his foot caught on a protruding root, catching him off balance. With a stifled cry, he pitched forward, smacking into the soft garden dirt and scattering the contents of his basket.

With a darkly muttered curse, he began shoving the vegetables back in with a good deal of unnecessary force. His mumbled rant was interrupted by the sudden appearance of a dark shadow that stretched out towards him, temporarily blocking the blinding glare of the sun. With a sinking feeling, he glanced up at the dark, back-lit figure before him.

“You missed one,” came the soft, oh-so-familiarly patronizing tone.

Luke merely glared up at him, not wanting to give Rush the satisfaction of a response. Tossing the last vegetable in the basket, he pushed himself up and began brushing the dirt off of his now filthy tunic.

“Boys are so fickle aren’t they?” Rush taunted him with a small smirk. Luke bit his lip angrily to keep himself from responding. “One minute they’re spouting sonnets, and the next you’re back to being the hired help,” Rush mused.

Luke ignored him, turning to the side to enter the smaller, walled section of garden used for growing beans. He began picking them off the stalks and tossing them into his basket, more so to avoid talking to Rush than out of any real necessity.

Rush followed him to the outer wall and leaned his elbows against the stone, watching him with a thoughtful expression. “Though I must say, I’ve never seen you quite so dedicated in your chores.”

Luke shoved a handful of mangled bean stalks into his basket with a snarl. “What makes you think I do any of this for you?” he snapped.

“My, my,” Rush’s voice oozed with amusement. “Aren’t we feisty this morning?”

Luke growled and stalked towards the small metal gate that separated the small walled-off garden from the rest of the plot. Before his hands had reached the latch, however, Rush casually sidestepped from his spot against the wall to slide over towards the gate, cutting Luke off from his only means of escape. Luke glared up at the enormous form of his stepfather who crossed his arms against his chest and eyed him with a curiously stoic expression.

“Get out of my way,” Luke growled. He was in no mood whatsoever to put up with whatever game Rush was playing at.

“You brought this on yourself you know,” Rush replied in quiet, ominous murmur. Luke narrowed his eyes.

“I have work to do,” he said flatly.

Rush didn’t move from his spot near the gate, but he raised an eyebrow at him and regarded Luke with an unreadable expression. “Let the droids handle it.”

If Luke hadn’t been focusing all of his efforts on not strangling the man on the spot, he might have caught the nearly imperceptible upward twitch of Rush’s lips as he spoke. With an exasperated scoff, Luke shoved the gate open. To his surprise, Rush merely stepped lightly out of the way to let him pass, watching him with the same, infuriatingly calm expression. Luke turned around to face him, no longer able to contain his emotions.

“Don’t you get it?” he cried, throwing up his hands in a frustrated gesture. “You’ve won! You were right, nobody believes me! Go! Take your money and move into your new palace or whatever! Just leave the rest of us alone!” His voice began to quaver as his throat suddenly became uncomfortably constricted and dry. Rush’s form began to blur as hot, angry tears pooled in the corners of his eyes. Luke turned away feeling furious at himself for letting the man work him up again. He turned to go towards the kitchens.

Rush followed a few paces behind him, eyes glinting with untold malice. “You are no longer my problem,” he said in a low, quiet sneer.

Luke stopped. Slowly, he turned to face the man, eyes still brimming with unwanted tears. Rush was looking at him the way one might look at a weed that had somehow rooted itself amongst the more worthy garden blooms. Luke swallowed the lump in his throat.

“Is that all I am to you? Your problem?” he asked in disbelief. Rush merely scoffed and rolled his eyes. Luke took a few steps towards him. “I have done everything you’ve ever asked me,” he practically sobbed, holding his hands out in front of him in an exasperated plea. “And still… you’ve denied me the only thing I ever wanted.”

Rush cocked an eyebrow at him. “And what would that be?” he sniffed.

“What do you think?” Luke said with a wet, mirthless laugh. “You’re the only father I’ve ever known.” Rush dropped his icy façade for a mere moment, his eyes widening slightly at the boy’s response. “Was there ever a point, any point at all… that you ever really loved me?” Luke asked. His voice was trembling so hard, he could scarcely get the words out.

For one brief, heart stopping moment, Luke thought he was looking at the Rush he had met all those years ago on a bright sunny day when he was eight years old. The man Luke had come running to meet with open arms covered from head to foot in mud. The man who had wrapped his arms around him in a warm embrace in spite of it all. Something flickered for a moment behind the shining green eyes. Not a shadow of malevolence, nor a gleam of malice, but something softer. Something old, and pained, and vaguely familiar. A look of quiet, desperate longing that hid something of the man he once was - so tantalizingly close, Luke felt like he could almost reach out and grab it. Luke held his breath as the seconds ticked by unnoticed.

But then, the shadow behind the green eyes crept back, steeling Rush’s features into a cold sneer and snuffing out the tiny flicker of hope forever.

“I guess neither of us really got what we wanted,” he said in a quiet, bitter murmur.

Luke squeezed his eyes shut as he felt the hot tears seep through, smearing the dirt on his face in long, wet streaks. He sucked on his bottom lip as he bobbed slightly up and down on his heels, lifting his gaze towards the sky to avoid the man’s withering gaze. Slowly, painfully, he began nodding his head in a small gesture of resignation and acceptance. He shot the man a watery, mirthless smile and inclined his head in acknowledgment, before slowly turning and dragging his feet towards the servants’ entrance.

“Master Luke! Master Clovis!”

Both men whirled around to face the excitable protocol droid, who was quickly shuffling towards them with great enthusiasm. If his faceplate had allowed it, he would have been beaming from ear to internal, mechanized ear.

“Come and see,” C-3PO continued, waving them towards the front of the house. “It’s back! All of it!”

Wiping his nose brusquely with the sleeve of his tunic, Luke half ran, half shuffled after the bustling droid as he rounded the corner towards the front entrance. The first thing Luke noticed upon reaching the long stone walkway, was the appearance of a large, battered looking star cruiser sitting squarely in front of the estate like a squat, ugly swamp toad. Luke glared at the jagged, wing-like plating that lined the ship’s bow, the tell-tale mark of a Munificent-class star frigate. Outside of capital officials, Luke knew of only one other person who owned one of the military grade monstrosities.

Cad Bane stood casually against the side of his ship, sucking idly on a toothpick. He caught Luke’s glare from under the brim of the too-wide hat, and tipped it to him with an infuriating smirk.

“Saw you on the newsfeeds, junior,” he said with a patronizing grin. “Sounds like you caused up quite a stir. Gotta say though, you wore your old man’s uniform better than he did.” Luke ignored him, curling his lip at the man in disgust.

All around Cad Bane his gang of bounty hunters were busy unloading various crates from the cargo hold of the ship and carrying them into the house. Glancing into the open boxes, Luke could see various familiar items that had been mysteriously missing from the house for ages, and even a few he never noticed had gone. One crate in particular held a king’s ransom in silver candlesticks wrapped in an elegantly woven, enormous tapestry. Luke gritted his teeth in fury.

Amidst the bustle of workers, Aurra and Savage were weaving in and out among the various crates, making a mental checklist of everything that had been returned. Savage glared suspiciously at the bounty hunters as they continued to take box after box into the house, but said nothing. He caught Luke watching him and offered him an apologetic grimace.

An ear piercing shriek from his left caused Luke to flinch involuntarily. “That’s my tiara! You thieves!” Aurra snarled, clutching at a silver, pearl encrusted circlet and nearly lunging at a confused looking IG-88 as Dengar and Zuckuss struggled desperately to hold her back.

Luke was so enthralled by the scene that he didn’t hear the quiet footsteps approaching him softly from behind.

“It’s about time, Bane,” Rush said with a small, condescending scoff. Luke jumped in alarm at the man’s sudden reappearance, but Rush effectively ignored him.

The blue skinned bounty hunter drew back his thin lips in a menacing smile. “When I make a deal, Clovis, I always come through. It’s all here, right down to the last candlestick.”

Luke narrowed his still watery, red eyes and glared up at Rush’s towering form. “Everything that went missing,” he growled, “everything you lied to me about, the candlesticks, my mother’s tapestry… You sold it all to him!?”

“Yes,” Rush said curtly. “And now it’s all back.” He glanced down at the furious boy seething at him in rage. “Oh, come now,” Rush rolled his eyes. “I wasn’t going to let them cart me off to some debtor’s prison. And now that I have the money, I could easily fill the house with these treasures ten times over. Besides, technically I pawned them, not sold them.”

Luke angrily turned away from the man with a scoff. Cad Bane was watching their interaction with mild amusement, lifting up the brim of his hat to give Luke a toothy smirk. Luke sniffed and roughly dragged his sleeve across his face, pulling himself back together. He’d shove himself back in the freezer before he let these two sleemos see him cry. He turned back to Cad Bane who was watching him with a curious expression.

“Thank you for returning these,” Luke said, making a conscious effort to remain calm and civil. “I can’t tell you what this means.”

Cad Bane flipped the toothpick to the other side of his mouth. “I’m a business man, son,” he said with a curl of the thin, chapped lips. “I don’t work for free.”

Luke glanced up at the man at his side. “Rush, what’s he talking about?” he asked with a quizzical arch of his eyebrows. Rush didn’t even look at him, his expression cold and severe.

Cad Bane followed Luke’s gazed with a conspiratorial smirk at Rush. “Your stepdaddy and I made a new deal after the gala,” he said in a voice that caused Luke’s stomach to churn with dread.

Rush lazily circled a finger in the air, gesturing at the dozens of crates surrounding them. “You,” he said simply, glancing at Luke. “For all this. Though I must say, I do think I’m getting the better end of the bargain.”

Luke gaped at him in horror. He felt like someone had just plunged his body into a pool ice water, leaving him in frozen state of shock. He opened his mouth to speak, but his brain felt like it had been temporarily disconnected from the rest of his body. Luke whirled around to face the bounty hunter, hoping, praying that this was all their idea of a sick joke.

Cad Bane merely grinned at him, all pointy teeth and malice. Luke slowly turned back once again toward Rush. This time the man was looking at him. Rush’s dark green eyes glinted with unbridled, wicked glee. It was then that Luke understood what an idiot he had been for thinking that Rush would have ever let him be after the previous night.

“You should have taken my offer when you had the chance, Luke.” Rush’s voice was soft, but dangerously low, like the growl of a predatory animal. Luke didn’t even get the chance to splutter out a reply before two very large, very powerful arms wrapped around him, seizing him from behind. He let out a cry as a rough sack was forcefully yanked over his head, enveloping him in sudden darkness.

Panic the likes of which he had never known seized him like a vice. The only thoughts racing through his wild mind were of escape – somehow, someway he desperately needed to escape. He kicked and screamed like a mad rancor, blindly feeling for any part of his attackers he could reach, but his assailants merely tightened their hold on him and began dragging him towards the ship. He heard the cries of C-3PO and the enraged whistling of R2-D2, but they too were held at bay by two of Cad Bane’s bounty hunters – helpless to come to his aid.

Luke felt his heart plunge into his stomach with a crippling dread. If they managed to get him on that ship, it would be all over. Eyes darting madly about, searching for a clear image through the filter of burlap, he caught the vague outline of Rush who was standing calmly by, watching the scene with folded arms.

“Rush!” Luke’s voice tore through his throat, raw and desperate. “Rush, please! Don’t let them do this to me! Don’t let them take me! Rush, I’m sorry! Please!”

Rush didn’t move. He simply stood there and watched in stony reverie as the helpless boy was dragged into the ship’s cargo bay, his voice rising into broken, panicked sobs. Out of the corner of his eye Rush caught a glance of Aurra. For one moment she looked almost guilty as her eyes darted towards the crowd dragging Luke into the freighter, but she quickly averted her gaze again and began busying herself with sorting through the miscellaneous returned items.

“Father! Father, what are you doing?” A horrified voice cut through the scuffle and confusion, breaking Rush out of his trance. He turned to see Savage racing toward him, his eyes wide and stricken with alarm. Savage gripped him by the shoulders, his massive frame dwarfing Rush. “Why are they taking Luke? What’s going on?” he shouted. Savage stood there panting, eyes desperately scanning over the confusion near the ship.

Rush could see the fear written all over his face – the desperation behind the brilliant emerald eyes. He loved him, Rush realized with a dark, sickening feeling a jealousy settling in his gut. Savage loved that conniving, backstabbing little bastard like his own brother. His own son, whom Rush had raised and loved since he was a small boy, actually cared what happened to that traitor – the boy who had nearly cost Rush’s family everything he had struggled so desperately for them to achieve. He pushed Savage away with a snarl.

“That’s no concern of yours,” he hissed.

Savage’s initial look of panic slowly melted into one of horrified realization. He took a step away from Rush, shaking his head slowly in disbelief. “It’s true, then - what he said about you at the gala. You’ve been stealing from the Banking Clan this whole time haven’t you? That’s why you wanted to go to Alderaan…”

Rush glanced over almost involuntarily towards Aurra. She had her back to him – stiff, attentive, listening.

“Is that what this is all about?” Savage continued, his voice rising in anger. His eyes were hard and accusatory. “Is this you punishing Luke for trying to sabotage your plans? Or are you so vain, that you care more about him making you look like a fool on live-“

A loud, resounding smack echoed across the entry, causing all those present to momentarily stop and stare at the two figures near the steps. Savage placed a hand to his stinging cheek, but his expression remained unchanged, almost as if he had been expecting it. He glared down at Rush who staggered backwards a step, the realization of what he had done washing over him with a wave of guilt. He stared wide eyed at the angry green mark on his son’s face where he had slapped him – the first time he had ever raised a hand to one of his children.

“Savage,” he breathed in a shaky whisper. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean… Son, I’m so sorry…”

Savage said nothing. He merely stared down at Rush with a look that nearly broke the man. Rush knew exactly what that look meant. It was the same one that he had worn that night in his study when the boy had betrayed him, severing all ties with Rush completely. A look that meant everything they had built - everything they had meant to one another over the years - had been completely and irreversibly shattered. Rush choked back a sob.

Savage turned on his heel, ignoring his father’s desperate pleas, and ran. He rushed past Aurra who looked for a moment as if she might follow him, but he was already through the doors of the estate before she could say a word. His heavy footfalls hit the marble floor of the entry way with deafening thuds as he tore through the estate, and up the large front staircase to the second floor.

He had to get to what he was looking for. He didn’t know where Rush had hidden it, but he had a pretty good idea of where to start. Taking the corner at top speed, he skidded to a halt outside of the enormous double doors to his father’s bedroom. He shoved them open, ignoring the cacophonous echo they made as they hit the outer wall.

Savage began tearing through drawers and shelves, rummaging through empty bottles of liquor and hundreds of crumpled, old ‘past due’ notices. He shoved the useless drawers closed with a growl. Savage whirled around the room, dragging a hand over his face as he searched for something, anything that his father would have used as a hiding place.

His eyes landed on the bedside dresser with a smile. Leaping over various piles of dirty clothes, he bounded over to the side of the opulent four poster bed and pulled out the top drawer of the dresser with a harsh tug. His eyes gleamed with triumph at the sight of the small, black, circular object nestled on top of a spare set of sheets.

Savage grabbed the communicator, praying desperately that Luke hadn’t set up his passcode. To his utter relief, the home screen flickered to life at the touch of a button, showing a multitude of useless apps that the boy probably didn’t know the first thing about. Savage hit the button for the contacts list and was relieved to only see a handful of names listed. With a shaky breath he punched the number for what he desperately hoped was the right person. He couldn’t imagine anyone else Luke would have listed as “That Guy”.

To his utter and immense relief, the flickering blue image of Han Solo sprang to life in brilliant, holographic form.

“Oh, thank Force,” Savage breathed.

Han stared at him incredulously through the projected connection. “Who are you?” he asked with an edge of suspicion in his voice. “How did you get a hold of that communicator?”

Savage swallowed slightly. He had been so sure of his plan up until this point, but for some reason, he was having trouble finding the right words. Echoes of Luke’s panicked screams flooded his mind, pushing aside his doubts.

“I’m Savage Oppress,” he replied firmly. “Luke’s older brother.”

“Has something happened? Is he alright?” Fear was beginning to creep into Han’s voice on the other end. His eyes widened with alarm.

Savage glanced over the hologram’s shoulder and out the enormous floor to ceiling window that lined Rush’s back wall. Down below, he could see that all of the boxes of Padmé’s things had been delivered into the entryway. The bounty hunters were nowhere to be seen, probably already loaded onto the ship. Savage’s suspicions were confirmed when he heard the tell tale roar of the freighter’s engine kick on. He watched with a sinking feeling of dread as the ship began to rise slightly, kicking up a cloud of dust on its assent.

He glanced back at the flickering image of Han, who was watching him with cautious expectancy. Savage let out a wavering sigh. “No, Your Highness,” he breathed in a thick voice. “No, I’m afraid he’s not alright at all.”

Chapter Text

Luke opened his eyes blearily, awakening from an unexpected and dreamless sleep, to near blackness. He struggled to focus his vision, his surroundings swimming in a formless blur before him. A stinging sensation on the back of his neck made him wince. Luke tenderly traced a hand along the nape of his neck and hissed as his fingers brushed against what felt like a puncture wound.

He glanced around the room-or what he at least assumed was a room-where he was being held. The only light came from a small flickering red bulb near the opposite wall, casting the area in a sinister, dim glow.

His mind felt strangely foggy. He tried to recall the events that had led him here, but they slipped away from him like mist through his fingers. He remembered working in the garden earlier, and something about Rush - (what had he said to him?) - And then… nothing. Luke was drawing a complete blank.

He peered around with unfocused, glassy eyes, taking a mental note of his surroundings. He was in a large room with rusty metal wall panels that seemed to tapper towards the back to a large vertically sliding door. He tried taking a few steps towards it, only to find that his limbs would not obey him. He tripped over something in the near darkness and tumbled to the floor in a graceless heap. He blinked up blearily at what had caused him to trip. The room was filled with crates, practically dozens of them – lining the walls and scattered over the floor in seemingly random piles. Luke wondered how he could have possibly missed them even in the dim light.

As he lay on his back staring up at the high paneled ceiling, contemplating his strange situation, he felt a deep, rumbling sensation from under him that he hadn’t previously noticed. Curiously, he placed a hand to the smooth metal floor plating. Vibrations coursed up his arm and caused his teeth to chatter with their intensity. Luke drew his hand away and furrowed his brow in confusion. It felt like the rumble of some kind of engine, like that of a large ship. But how had he-?

Oh.

Oh, Mother of Malachor, no.

Luke scrambled to his feet in a blind panic. Memories from earlier that day came pouring back to him – Rush – Cad Bane – His mother’s belongings. He had been sold to the bounty hunter. Rush had actually traded him off like a common trinket for a few crates of candlesticks.

Bile began to rise in the back of his throat. He felt like he was going to be sick. Clutching a hand to his temple, he staggered over to a nearby stack of crates and made a few raspy, gagging noises as he attempted to dry heave the contents of his empty stomach.

He traced a finger over the sharp pain at his neck. They must have drugged him. Probably shot him with a tranquilizer when he wouldn’t stop trying to claw his captors to pieces. They must have hit him with too strong a dose, however, not accounting for his smaller size. Luke felt terrible. He felt more nauseous than he could ever remember feeling, and the pain in his head felt like it was about to split him open.

He blindly groped for the pocket of his tunic, groaning with dread when his fingers didn’t find the familiar touch of smooth metal. His lightsaber. Of course – he must have dropped it that night at the gala. His communicator too had been confiscated that night by the man who had brought all of this on him. Luke’s heart sank into the pit of his churning stomach. He had no weapon, no outside means of communication, no way to call for help. He was completely and utterly defenseless.

Luke gritted his teeth. He pushed his hands on top of the nearest crate and forced himself into a standing position. Escape. He had to escape – had to get the hell off of this ship. He was a force user. He had the energy of all living things inside of him. Weapon, or no weapon, he was going to get out of this nightmare alive, or he would die trying.

He took a few slow, staggering strides towards the wall opposite of the large hangar door, where he could just make out a smaller port that seemed lead out of the cargo hold. If he could just get to the control room, maybe he could find a way to contact Ben, or maybe some sort of police patrol. Straining every fiber of his being, he willed himself to drag his jellified legs towards the door.

After several agonizing seconds, he finally collapsed onto the smooth metal door, taking a moment to let the sickening feeling of vertigo disperse. He sucked in deep lungfulls of air as he stood there panting heavily. He tried focusing all of his energy into regaining control of his senses.

Slowly, he felt the numbing haze around his brain begin to fade. He could still feel the effects of the drugs working through him, but reality was starting to seep back through the cracks. Luke was beginning to feel more and more like his normal self, but his body still felt like he was dragging a lead weight behind him with every step.

Opening his eyes, and letting the blurry shapes before him slowly start to swim into focus, he examined the door, on which he was leaning as best as he could. There was nothing overly complex about it – just a simple door that connected the cargo hold to the main hallway of the ship.

Craning his neck upwards to peer out of the small, circular window, he looked around for a guard of some sort. Nothing. The fluorescent hallway was completely deserted; the only sound that could be heard was the thrumming of pipes and the occasional rumble of the engine. Luke narrowed his eyes. Cad Bane must have thought he would be too foggy from the tranquilizers the warrant any protection.

Glancing down at the unlock pad he noted that the door seemed to only use a manual keypad system. He frowned down at the tiny metal box in front of him and its neat little three by three grid. He had no way of knowing what Bane’s pass code was.

He didn’t dare try pressing random numbers either, as he knew certain ships would automatically set off their alarms after three failed attempts. His greatest weapon right now was his element of surprise. If Bane or one of his goons came in and found Luke awake, he would likely never have another chance to escape.

Concentrating the best he could in his current state, he closed his eyes and placed both hands against the door. He felt the force flowing through him, searching for some sort of mechanism or weak spot within the panel. He remembered Ben training him to channel his energy – to hone it until he could focus it with pinpoint accuracy on his selected target.

He furrowed his brow as his tendrils of focus spread out and probed around the locking system inside. He forced himself to relax, taking his time to get a feel for the layout. He tried to imagine Ben there with him – his gentle hand on his shoulder, his soft guiding voice behind him, his patience with-

Click.

A smile spread out across Luke’s face. The dark bulb above the door frame suddenly blinked with a green light and the door slid upwards with a soft whoosh. Feeling his heart in his throat, he cautiously peered around the empty hallway again – still nothing. Fighting to control his fearful, labored breathing, he slowly slid his way along the corridor wall, clinging to one of the numerous exposed pipes for support.

Luke could feel the ever-present thrum of the ship’s engines as he hugged the wall along the elongated hallway. It sent a tingling pulse up his arm, matching the pounding of his own blood in his ears. Luke struggled to remember what he could about the interior of a Munificent-class star frigate, tapping into his extensive knowledge of ships, garnered from several late nights spent reading up on the subject.

The cargo hold was located in the back of the frigate - that much was obvious. Right now, he was following the main hallway that led up to the bridge and the control tower. That was where Cad Bane would be, he knew – someone had to be flying the blasted thing after all. But it was also his only hope of sending out a distress signal.

Luke had no idea what his plan would be from there, or even how he hoped to reach the bridge without being seen. He had yet to spot any of Bane’s group of bounty hunters, which made him both vaguely nervous and cautiously optimistic at the same time. Luke decided he would worry about all of that once he reached the bow and go from there.

He kept sliding along the wall at a snail’s pace, making note of when he reached the halfway mark where the hallway suddenly intersected with the corridor connecting ships’ wings. As he got closer and closer towards the bridge, he noted that there were several more branches of passageways that seemed to lead off from the main hallway which he was traversing. Probably the entrances to the kitchen and sleeping quarters, he thought. Luke tried to memorize the winding layout as best he could, should he somehow need to shake someone off his tail.

The wide, main corridor eventually spat him out in a large, circular, open area with various hallways and passages branching off from the center. In the middle was an enormous cylindrical structure that connected to the wall opposite him via an enclosed walkway. Luke peered around the rounded hallway, convinced that there must be some sort of sentry posted near one of the connecting archways. He stood there listening for a long time, his heart in his chest.

When he was certain the room was unguarded, he carefully staggered to the wall of the large tube shaped structure that took up nearly the entire entry way. There was a pair of sliding durasteel doors that led farther into the bow of the ship, opened electronically via another keypad.

The entrance to the bridge, Luke thought with a smile. This time, he unlocked them with ease, having memorized the interior mechanism of the previous door. He slipped silently inside and followed the short corridor to the control room, until he came upon a bewildering sight.

Luke nearly staggered backwards. The enormous bridge, with its many consoles for navigation and weapon systems, was completely deserted. There was not a single soul occupying the various descending levels of operating stations.

Luke turned his attention to the enormous viewing ports. Nothing. Nothing but an empty landscape of towering rock walls and sand as far as the eye could see. A red dwarf sun was beginning to dip down into the horizon, casting a soft glow of pinks and violets to filter through the wall to wall transparasteel windows.

Luke gazed out upon the strange, barren landscape. He had no idea where in the galaxy he was - certainly none of the planets surrounding Naboo had this type of geography. And there wasn’t a system nearby that he could think of that was powered by a red dwarf.

The sound of the door sliding open behind him nearly made him scream. Shoving a fist into his mouth he practically threw himself onto the step below him, containing another row of empty consoles. He scooted as close as he possibly could towards the wall, praying that no one had seen him.

Heavy footfalls echoed through the empty bridge, and Luke could just make out the brim of a wide leather hat from his hiding space. He held his breath as his captor crossed the small walkway, taking no notice of the quivering boy that lay on the floor a step below him, half out of his mind from fear and tranquilizers. With a heavy grumble, Bane slid into the captain’s chair that looked out over the rest of the bridge. He sat with his back to Luke, a good few body lengths between them. Luke desperately tried to quiet the rapid pounding of his heart, lest it should give him away.

Cad Bane fiddled with a few buttons on his consol, but otherwise didn’t seem to bother with it much. Luke realized that he must have set the ship on autopilot. It would certainly explain why there didn’t seem to be any crew on board. A small buzz emanated from the pocket of the leather trench coat, causing Luke to jolt slightly. With a groan of exasperation, Cad Bane took out a slightly battered communicator from his pocket and held the cracked screen up to his ear.

“What? Yeah, I got him; he’s on his way. Had to stop on some backwater planet to refuel. Hmm? In the cargo hold… Yeah. Yeah, doped up like you wouldn’t believe. He’ll be set for a few hours… No, you idiot, you think I’d just throw that kind of money away?! Of course he’s alive! Right. Uh, huh. No, it’s just me and J, here. I wouldn’t trust any of those other idiots with a job like this. Right. Okay, tell your boss that we’ll be there in a couple of hours,” he shoved the communicator back in his pocket with a sound of disgust.

Luke’s stomach churned. This was far worse than he had anticipated. Cad Bane was planning to sell him, but to whom? Slavery had been outlawed in this part of the galaxy for decades.

Unless he wasn’t even in the same galaxy anymore, he wondered with sickening dread. He had no idea where they were or even how long they had been traveling. All he knew was that he had to get out of there – now.

Slowly, he silently pulled himself up to the top level and began inching towards the Duros at the consol with muffled steps. He didn’t have his lightsaber, but perhaps, just maybe, he could overpower Cad Bane before he had a chance to react. He figured he could even turn the ship around back to Naboo once he gained access to the consol. He was within arm’s reach of the Duros now. He could smell the reek of old leather and grime. Eyes glinting madly, Luke silently raised both his hands over his head, clasping them together to form an enormous fist.

Wham!

For a second, Luke was completely unaware of what had just happened. It took him a few, painful, labored moments to realize that he was on the ground - an agonizing throb in the back of his skull. With a groan, he rolled over onto his side and glanced up at his assailant. He blinked up in confusion at the man who stood over him with a stony expression on his lined face.

His dark, curly hair was graying at the temples, and it fell softly over the cinnamon colored skin at his forehead. His black eyes glinted down at Luke with a mixture of curiosity and satisfaction. He was dressed in what appeared to be Mandalorian armor, the blunt end of his blaster clutched tightly in one hand. Luke squinted at him through the pain in his head. He was sure he had seen this man before somewhere – but where?

Cad Bane, upon hearing the commotion behind him swung around in his chair. Rather than looking surprised or angry that Luke had escaped, he smirked up at the dark haired man before him, as if he had been expecting this – completely ignoring the boy at his feet.

“Nice work, Fett. It’s a wonder I don’t have you tag around more often.”

Luke felt like his heart had plunged to the pit off his stomach.

Jango Fett. The man whose face had plagued his nightmares for countless weeks. The man who had taken away from Luke the one thing that he loved most in this life. The man who had caused this whole terrible ordeal. Luke couldn’t speak for the tightness in his throat. He just stared up at Jango in horrified disbelief.

The two men didn’t seem to take any notice of the boy on the floor, who was still reeling in shock. Jango raised an eyebrow at the Duros with a smug look.

“That’s because as number one bounty hunter in the galaxy, I have more important things to do than tail the second best all the time.”

“Kriffing smart-aleck,” Bane growled with a sneer. He glanced down at Luke absentmindedly and smirked as he saw the boy tremble from what looked like a combination or fear, revulsion, and rage.

“I don’t believe I’ve introduced you to my friend, Jango, yet, have I, kid?” he said, drawing both Luke and the Mandalorian’s attention to him. “You two have quite a bit of history, don’t you?” A wide toothy grin crept across the leathery, blue face. Luke’s breathing was coming through in harsh, ragged gasps, on the verge of an outright panic attack. Bane smirked up at Jango who was eyeing him in confusion, apparently not realizing their shared connection.

“He’s the man that killed your pretty little mother, isn’t he, pup?” Bane grinned maliciously, still keeping his eyes locked on the taller man before him. Jango stared back at him blankly with wide eyes. “You remember Senator Amidala, don’t you, Fett?”

A look of guilty recognition flashed across the man’s face and he turned to glance over at the boy at his feet. Luke wasn’t looking at him. He was glaring with red, watery eyes at Bane who sat there smirking at him without a care in the world. Luke seethed, as he drew in sharp breaths through his teeth, tears and mucus dripping from his red, puffy face. His nails dug into the floor panels beneath him as his whole body trembled with rage. His entire being radiated with pure, unadulterated hatred.

Cad Bane glanced back up at his partner who looked unsure of how to proceed. “Take him back to the cargo hold. Give him an extra dose of the stuff from earlier.” Jango lifted a shaking Luke to his feet and held him firmly from behind by his arms. Luke’s eyes continued to bore into Bane’s as the bounty hunter slowly sauntered towards him. Gently, Bane lifted Luke’s chin with a gnarled finger. “I’ve got a business associate on Zygaria who would pay a fortune for a pretty little Jedi plaything like you,” he purred as he stroked his thumb softly across Luke’s cheek. “Behave yourself, and I’ll tell him to treat you gently. It’s a shame, really. I was kind of hoping I could keep you.”

A low, vicious growl emanated from Luke’s throat, causing Cad Bane to draw back his hand with a chuckle. He took a step back as Jango proceeded to half walk, half drag Luke’s limp, aching body with him towards the corridor.

“If he gives you any trouble, you know what to do, Fett,” Bane called after their retreating forms. “Oh, but mind his face. My client likes ‘em pretty.”

Without responding, Jango passed through the double doors of the bridge with Luke in tow, letting them slide close with a final sounding whoosh.

Chapter Text

The harsh clicks of Mandalorian boots on the slick floor titles echoed despairingly through the empty hallway, every step sounding like a death knell as the two figures proceeded slowly towards the end of the ship. Luke continued to limp alongside Jango Fett as the man dragged him along. Every nerve felt like it was on fire. Luke felt he would go mad from the pounding in his head. Emotions tumbled about unrestrained inside him – his fear of Jango, his hatred for Cad Bane, the utter horror he felt at the thought of being sold to a Zygarian slaver - causing his energy field to crackle with variations of desperation and rage.

Escape, his mind screamed at him. You have to escape.

He lifted his aching head and peered down the length of the corridor. The door to the cargo bay was now visible. Luke knew that if he let himself be dragged there, he would never see his home again. His mind reeled feverishly as he searched franticly around for an opportunity.

He glanced up at Jango, wondering if there were any weak spots in his armor. The man was staring ahead blankly – jaw clenched, shoulders set in a militant stance. He didn’t bother to glance down at the trembling boy in his arms.

Luke’s mind was so preoccupied with thoughts of escape, that he didn’t notice the slight change in elevation as they passed over a floor grate until it was too late. His foot caught on the nearly imperceptible crack between the panels and he pitched head first to the floor in a mess of tangled limbs. Luke pushed himself up onto his elbows with heavy, panting breaths. Jango, momentarily taken aback, knelt down to inspect his prisoner – his face mere inches from Luke’s own.

“Hey, kid! What are you-?”

Jango was shoved back onto the floor by a massive wave of energy, catching him off guard. His blaster clattered to the floor a few paces away. He lay on his side, letting out a strangled wheeze as the breath was temporarily knocked out of him. In a flash, Luke pulled the discarded weapon towards him with a flick of his wrist, and scrambled to his feet. Jango looked up to see the barrel of his own blaster pointed directly at his face.

The boy’s eyes were twin blue fires as they bored down into him – red rimmed and feral – like a cornered animal. His untrained hands shook violently as he held the weapon out before him. His jaw was clenched painfully tight to keep his teeth from chattering. Jango regarded the boy cautiously as he slowly pushed himself up off the floor. Luke took a step back, keeping the gun trained on him, his expression hard but stricken.

“Don’t come any closer,” he hissed. Luke’s voice was a low, gravely rasp that seemed to stick in the back of his throat. His finger twitched over the trigger.

“Kid, give me the gun,” Jango said in quiet, even tones, inching imperceptivity towards him.

Luke thrust the blaster out in front of him like a shield. It felt heavy and unwieldy in his hand, like it didn’t belong there. Sweat was now beginning to drip from his forehead. “I mean it,” he choked. His voice was dry, and it cracked in some places, but his tone was like hardened steel. “I’ll shoot you. I swear to Malachor, I will shoot you.”

Jango’s dark eyes darted between Luke and the blaster. Slowly, he lifted up his hands to his head in a gesture of surrender. Glancing at the pale, trembling boy in front of him, Jango allowed himself a tiny, placatory smile. “You don’t want to shoot me, kid,” he said softly.

“Get back,” Luke hissed again, the voice sounding strained and foreign to his own ears.

Jango slowly lowered his hands, not wanting to make any unnecessary, sudden movements. His dark eyes were intent, focused, but there was just a flicker of something hiding behind the tension, something that almost looked like amusement. When he spoke, his voice was calm - measured.

“Give me the gun,” he murmured. He took a small, purposeful step towards the boy.

Luke’s finger twitched against the trigger again, making a soft click.

“You’re not going to shoot me,” Jango continued confidently, but with that same placating voice.

Another step.

“You’re not a killer. We both know that you don’t have it in you.”

Luke swallowed the lump in his throat.

Jango was almost within arm’s reach of him now. His dark eyes trained on the blaster in Luke’s amateur grip.

He took another step closer.

Luke’s heartbeat pounded in his eardrums.

Jango cautiously reached out for the weapon with a steady hand. “So why don’t you give me this back, and we’ll forget the whole thing ever-“

Blam!

It took Jango a full second to realize what had happened. It took him another half a second to register the pain.

With shallow, strangled gasps he gaped down in horror at the fist sized hole that had carved out the spot in his chest where his heart used to be. At nearly point blank range, the blast had gone straight through his armor and out the other side, leaving a perfect circle of burned steel and cauterized flesh. He trailed a finger dumbly along the edge of the wound, utterly unable to comprehend the gravity of what had just occurred. He glanced up at the boy before him, his vision beginning to go black at the edges.

Tears were streaming down Luke’s face. The weapon in his hands shook so violently with the force of his trembling frame that Jango was having trouble following it. Luke’s blue eyes were blown wide with a potent combination of shock, disgust, and horror. His breaths were coming through in tight, strangled sounds in the back of his throat. He gaped down at Jango in disbelief, sharing in a momentary sense of mind numbing denial.

Jango blinked at him wide-eyed. “Wha-? I…” was all he managed to get out before he hit the floor with a sickening thud. Blood pooled around his limp frame and began to flow outwards, creating little red waterfalls as it seeped through the cracks of the grate and disappeared down into the bowels of the ship.

Luke stood there frozen in revulsion, staring down at the lifeless corpse at his feet. Jango’s eyes, still open, began to glaze over in a hauntingly blank stare that seemed to gaze out sightlessly into an eternal void. Luke tasted bile at the back of his throat.

The blaster fell from his trembling, clammy hands and clattered uselessly to the floor with a dull metallic thud. Small, strangled, hiccupping noises rose up from deep in his throat, getting stuck in his cotton-dry mouth like syrup. He felt sick. He felt faint. Time had seemly ground to a halt around him, leaving alone him in a suffocating vacuum that smelled overwhelmingly of copper and faintly of smoke.

The sound of the bridge door opening at the other end of the hallway made Luke’s momentarily stopped heart clench like a vice. He heard heavy boots clicking on the smooth tiles. What little color was left drained from his face.

“Jango? What’s going on? I thought I heard a shot go off,” Bane’s raspy voice echoed from around the corner.

Luke bolted. He didn’t stop to pick up the discarded weapon or even to find a hiding space in one of the many empty rooms lining the corridor. He just ran. He ran as though death itself were upon him – blindly and frantically. He pushed his already aching body to the utter limit as he sped towards the door of the cargo bay. He didn’t care if Cad Bane saw him at this point. The only thing that he cared about, the only thing that mattered now, was getting off this blasted ship.

Blood roared through his ears, drowning out the surrounding, ever-present hum of the engine and filling his head with the sound of his own raging heartbeat. He got to the entrance of the cargo hold just as he heard a bellow of rage echo from farther off down the corridor. Without glancing behind him, Luke raced in with a second thought.

Glancing wildly around the room - eyes adjusting to the sudden darkness once again - he began to push past the stacks and stacks of crates blocking his path, knocking over several in the process. His focus was fixed firmly on the large, remote operated, metal door at the far end of the hold. The blinking red light above it flickered to life once again, briefly illuminating the control panel dangling slightly off the wall by a frayed extension cord. Racing forward, Luke slammed his fist against the largest of the buttons. Immediately there came a groan of long abused mechanisms, as the enormous door opened outward on sliding support stands with a hiss.

Luke was immediately hit with a blast of scorching desert air. The wind whipped around him like a gale, sending a shower of sand into his face and eyes. He coughed and brought the sleeve of his tunic in front of his face like a shield. He peered over the edge, the force of the wind nearly sending him over. He squinted against the onslaught of sand, searching for one of the towering rock formations that he had seen through the command center windows, hoping that with any luck, a force assisted leap would be his deliverance. To his utter and all-encompassing dread, however, all he could see below him was a sea of soft, low hanging, pink clouds that stretched out as far as he could see, obscuring his view of the planet’s surface .

His heart sank. Without any sort of visual guide, he had no idea what the landscape bellow held in store for him. From this height, a wrong landing would mean instant, and most likely agonizing, death. He hesitated, clutching onto the support beams as the ship raced across the planet at a steady upward angle. From the distant corridor, he could hear the sound of heavy, angry footfalls coming closer and closer. He took a deep, shaking breath in and glanced down at the endless void bellow him. If he was going to die, he’d rather it be while escaping to freedom than at the hands of that vicious and merciless bounty hunter.

Luke steeled himself to take the final plunge, taking one last look out across the sea of clouds before him. The setting sun painted the sky ablaze, creating a breathtaking canvas of soft oranges and tranquil pinks. It was beautiful, Luke thought. Like being inside of a great, enormous seashell. Taking a deep breath, he placed one foot over the edge of the ramp, sent up a silent prayer to whatever gods would listen - and froze. He narrowed his eyes as a painful burst of setting sunlight was reflected back at him though the clouds.

He gazed out in awe and confusion as he saw the hub of a freighter break through the cloud line, approaching him at top speed. And suddenly Luke was sobbing – not from fear, or dread, or revulsion, but from utter and immense relief. Because he knew that ship - knew it from the slightly battered, circular, white hull to the precariously mounted gun cannons. He smiled as the tears he wasn’t aware he had been holding in poured out of him all at once.

Han Solo was coming to rescue him.

Chapter Text

Han Solo strained his eyes against the infuriating shroud of cloud cover that lay between him and the other ship. He angled the Falcon upwards at a slight angle, breaking the cloud line.

“I see him!” Han shouted elatedly, catching sight of a figure standing precariously on the extended landing ramp - one arm holding fast to a durasteel support beam, the other waving frantically at his ship.

Han unbuckled his seat belt and squeezed past the other four passengers in the too-cramped cockpit, making his way back into the Falcon’s hold. “Sorry, Savage,” he grunted as a sudden wave of turbulence sent him nearly crashing into the towering Zabrak seated behind him. “Chewie, take over,” Han called out over his shoulder. “Get us as close to that ramp as possible. Leia, I need you to be co-pilot for me.” Chewie rumbled in acknowledgement.

“Where are you going?” Leia asked incredulously, slipping into the seat beside Chewbacca.

Han turned towards them. “Out,” he said with a grim smile. He clapped a hand on the shoulder of the old Jedi awkwardly pressed up against the side of the cockpit wall. “Think that mumbo jumbo of yours can keep me steady up there?”

Obi-Wan regarded him uncertainly for a moment, then nodded.

“Good,” Han said, striding purposely toward the ladder for the emergency hatch. “Wish me luck,” he called down over his shoulder as the two men began ascending the metal rungs. “Hang on, kid,” he muttered to himself worriedly. “I’m coming.”

---------------

Luke thought his knees were going to give way under him from the sheer force of relief he felt at seeing Han’s face emerge from a hatch at the top of the circular hull. The wind raced past him, catching the tears in his eyes and blowing them away before they even had a chance to streak down his dusty face. His relief quickly turned to alarm, however, when he saw Han unsteadily lift himself up into a standing position and take a few staggering steps across the smooth plating, with nothing between him and the rocky surface of the planet below but hundreds of feet of empty, desert air.

Luke jolted, ready to cry out at Han to get back inside to safety, but cut himself off upon seeing a familiar shock of graying ginger hair. Ben’s head and torso were sticking out from the circular port, his hands stretched out before him, as if pushing some immense, invisible object. The weatherworn face was screwed tight with concentration, as he focused his entire being on keeping the wavering Corellian from being blown off the ship.

The Falcon was coming in close now, getting as much proximity as it could without directly crashing into the enormous frigate. Only a few yards of empty, seemingly endless sky separated Luke and Han as their eyes locked, focused resolutely against the nearly overpowering force of the air current that roared past them.

“You have to jump!” Han roared above the din of the twin engines and the rushing wind streams. He shakily reached out a hand towards Luke, thrusting his other hand outward to steady himself.

Luke looked at him, his heart in his throat, as he clutched tightly to the support beam he was using to steady himself. His eyes automatically darted downward the vast ocean of coral colored clouds with a sinking feeling of trepidation. He swallowed hard.

“You have to trust me on this!” Han shouted again, gesturing towards Luke with increasing desperation. “You can do this! I have faith in you! I promise you, I won’t let you fall!”

Luke directed his attention to Han once more, eyes scanning over the familiar, chiseled features. He drew in a deep breath and closed his eyes. His fingers loosened their grip on the beam without him realizing it. He was focused intently on the deep, vibrating force of energy that swelled up within him, feeling how it flowed and connected with the energy around him. That’s all that empty space between him and Han was, after all. Energy. The same stuff he had flowing in his very veins, the very substance that he had the unique power to manipulate. He drew in another deep lungfull of dry, arid air, and leapt.

He landed in a crouched fighting stance, hitting the hull of the Falcon with a heavy thud that nearly sent Han toppling over. Keeping his weight balanced with the Force, Luke ran across the smooth, metal plating and caught Han by one arm as he staggered towards the edge. They both stood like that for a moment, Han dangling precariously over empty sky with Luke there, anchoring him, one arm clasped firmly around his. Han’s face broke out into a nervous smile and he chuckled lightly over the roar that surrounded them.

Luke grinned down at him with an expression of immense relief as he panted from the exertion. With a grunt, he hauled the taller man up, making sure he kept both feet planted firmly on the top of the hull. Han placed both hands on Luke shoulder’s, looking at him like he could disappear at any moment. His eyes darted anxiously over his, his emotions so jumbled he looked like he wasn’t sure what to feel first. Luke drew in a shaky breath and waited, the wind whipping his hair around his face like a gale.

“I…” Han started, the wind catching his words and stealing them away before they even had a chance to leave his mouth. His eyes sudden blew wide with panic and confusion. “Look out!” he screamed, as he pushed Luke to the floor. Luke turned his head just in time to see a red hot bolt of energy slice across Han’s shoulder, sending him to his knees with a cry of pain.

“Han!” Luke cried out and rushed towards him, but froze when he heard an odd humming sound just above his head.

He spun around in horror to see the glowering form of Cad Bane hovering in mid air, blaster in hand. On his feet were a pair of modified rocket boots that spat out twin blazing trails of fire as he rushed towards Luke, red eyes burning with rage. He caught Luke by the throat with one hand, moving much quicker than the awkward design of the boots should have allowed him. Luke heard Han yell something at them, but his voice was quickly lost over the thrum of the rocket boots in his ears. Cad Bane flew upwards and hovered a few feet in the air, keeping his elbow locked around the boy’s neck.

Obi-Wan gritted his teeth in anger as well as exertion, but couldn’t afford to break his concentration with Han, lest the boy go toppling over the side of the ship. Bane pressed his blaster against Luke’s temple with a snarl, digging the metal into the sensitive skin with painful intensity. Luke bit his lip and tried to steady his breathing as best as he could, his heart pounding itself against his ribcage. He didn’t dare struggle, knowing suspended in mid air as he was, breaking free would send him hurtling to his death at hundreds of miles per hour.

“If I wasn’t getting paid a king’s ransom for your delivery, boy, I’d smear this piece of junk ship with your skull matter right now for what you did to Jango,” Bane roared venomously, his voice carrying down to the two figures bellow watching the scene in horror, not daring to move. Luke turned to glare vehemently at the bounty hunter in a small act of defiance. He watched with a sinking feeling of dread as Bane’s expression of fury slowly melted into one of wicked epiphany. Luke followed his gaze downward, and to his utter horror, found he was focusing on Han.

“Then again,” Bane purred menacingly, keeping the blaster pressed against Luke’s temple, “why settle for a mere Force user, when I could have an actual king’s ransom? Your precious, playboy prince might actually be good for something… for once. ” The yellowed, pointed teeth flashed in a threatening grin. Luke felt the anger blaze inside him like a white hot supernova at his words.

Luke heard the faint click of metal on metal as the Duros’ fingers cocked the trigger. He squeezed his eyes shut.

Cad Bane smiled. “Say hi to your mom for me, junior.”

The sound of another blaster caught them both by surprise. Bane roared in agony and fury as a red hot bolt of plasma buried itself in his left shoulder, slicing through the thick leather of his trench coat. Luke’s eyes shot open. He turned to see Han Solo crouched on his knees, one hand still pressed against his wounded shoulder, his blaster held firmly in the other. His features were contorted from both the effort to remain upright, and the swelling rage that coursed through him as he snarled up at the bounty hunter.

Cad Bane pitched forward, dragging Luke down as they both collided with the hull of the ship. The force of the landing sent them both rolling along the curved hull panels. Luke heard a cry to his left as Cad Bane apparently hurtled off the edge. Luke tried to dig his fingers along the metal, searching for a grip, but the platting was too smooth to get a good holding. The wind raced past him, sending him careening along the edge of the hull. He realized with a stabbing, heart-stopping sensation of dread and panic, that there was no way he could stop himself in time. He caught the terrified screams of both Ben and Han, as he plummeted over the edge of the hull.

His fingers gripped the edge of the metal plating for dear life as he fell, halting his fatal plunge with a painful jolt that rattled through his body. He swung his other hand upward, grabbing onto a piece of exposed piping, fighting desperately against the relentless air currents that tugged at his body like invisible hands dragging him to his doom. Even using every last ounce of strength he had, he could just barely lift his head and right shoulder up to reach over the lip of the hull.

“Kid!” Han’s voice rose above the screaming wind. “Hang on, kid, I’m coming!” Half crawling, half limping, Han began to make his way painstakingly towards him. Ben’s face was pouring with sweat from the amount of effort it took to keep up his concentration, knowing full well that one slip up would mean the end for both of them. Han was almost within arm’s reach now. Luke’s heart was hammering in his chest, veins coursing with adrenaline. Slowly, hooking his arm around the pipe for support, Luke strained upward to reach Han’s outstretched hand, their fingers a mere hairsbreadth apart.

Luke let out a cry as he suddenly felt himself being yanked down, only managing to grab hold of the edge again just in time. He glanced down at his feet. Cad Bane was clinging to his left leg with his one good hand, an expression of pure, unadulterated hatred on his enraged face.

“If I’m going down, I’m taking you with me!” he screamed in an animalistic, guttural roar. There was another painful tug at Luke’s leg.

Luke’s fingers began to loosen their hold. He knew he had only mere seconds to act. Pure, primal survival instinct suddenly took over his body with a heart-pounding rush of adrenaline. He had been through too much – far too much – to let it end this way. He refused to let it end this way.

Dark crackles of electricity began to course through his field, filling him with a strength he never knew he possessed. With a growl, Luke brought up his right foot as far as the force of the wind would allow, and slammed it down as hard as he could against the leathery, blue face of the Duros.

There was a sickening crunching sound as bone and cartilage were shattered. Green blood spurted out and was carried away by the wind at hundreds of miles an hour. Cad Bane roared again, sounding like a man possessed, but his grip had relaxed just enough on Luke’s ankle. Luke brought his foot down again, even harder this time, the heel of his boot catching the edge of Bane’s eye socket. With a scream that sent a shiver of terror down Luke’s spine, Cad Bane released his hold on him and plummeted to the planet’s surface below, disappearing in a shroud of incandescent, fiery clouds.

Luke struggled to catch his breath. The surge of power and adrenaline was beginning to wear off. His breathing was becoming more and more labored with the effort of trying to stop himself from being blown clear off the rail which he clung to so desperately.

With sudden horror, he realized that his sweaty hands were starting to lose their grip on the already slippery metal. He flexed his hands, trying to re-position his fingers. In one heart-stopping moment, his right hand slipped from the hull’s edge, sending a jolt of pure, unbridled terror through his body. He hung there limply by the tips of his fingers on his left hand. Luke knew that fighting against the wind currents at this point would be pointless. He could barely keep his dangling limbs from flailing behind him as it was. He drew in a shuddering breath and closed his eyes. His thoughts turned to memories of his mother – of the droids – of-

“I got him!” Luke felt a sudden, heavy warmth around his left hand. Gazing up he saw the face of his godfather, bright blue eyes beaming down at him from the edge of the hull. The setting sun glowed auburn behind him, enveloping his outline in a warm, heavenly glow.

“Ben!” Luke practically sobbed his name in relief.

“Pull me up,” Ben shouted over his shoulder, and suddenly Luke felt himself being lifted to safety over the swirling, relentless wind. When he had been dragged up to his torso, Luke pushed himself up the rest of the way using his other hand, landing belly first on the curved hull plating. He gazed up, panting with exhaustion.

His vision was beginning to blur. He saw the two figures of Ben and Han swim in and out of focus as they both crowded over him. They looked as if they were trying to speak to him, but Luke’s ears were filled with a dull ringing noise that seemed to drown out their increasingly panicked voices. The last thing he saw before the darkness took him was a small sprinkling of periwinkle blue stars that were just beginning to peak over the darkening clouds.

Chapter Text

Luke awoke sometime later in the Falcon’s med bay, feeling like someone had poured molten lead into his veins. He squinted against the bright, intrusive glare of an overhead light as his surroundings slowly swam into focus. He recognized the room from his many joyrides he had taken in the freighter so his panic was momentarily subsided. He had no idea how long he had been there or what time it was, as the room was centrally located without any windows to give him a clue as to his surroundings.

He struggled to recall what had happened. He vaguely remembered being briefly held hostage and nearly falling to his death off the side of the ship, but he had no recollection of being brought to the med bay. Luke stiffly pushed himself into a sitting position on the medical cot. He glanced around at the clean, relatively spacious workspace.

Blinking machines of unknown purpose or function lined the walls surrounding him, making Luke feel like he was in some sort of laboratory rather than a medical center. Beside him stood a drip bag of saline solution that connected to a vein in his right arm through a long tube. There was a glowing green monitor just behind it that displayed a small holographic projection of himself, detailing the condition of each area of his body. There were a lot of terms Luke wasn’t sure about, but the general diagnosis seemed to be fairly positive. At least there were no broken bones. Luke let out a soft sigh and settled back against the pillows. He sat there in silence for a moment, listening to the soft beeping coming from the screen that monitored his heart rate, as if to reassure himself that it was still beating.

A soft, whooshing sound drew Luke’s attention towards the sliding doors to his left. Han Solo walked in awkwardly dragging his feet. He flushed slightly when he saw Luke watching him and averted his eyes.

“You’re awake,” he said softly, as if this was something Luke had been previously unaware of. There was a makeshift sling around his right arm.

“Han, your shoulder,” Luke tensed in alarm, sitting up too quickly in bed and causing a shooting pain to flood through his side.

“Easy there, kid. Easy,” Han soothed as he rushed over toward Luke, gently easing him down. He sat down on the edge of the bed. “It’s not too bad. Chewie and your brother managed to patch me up pretty good. Yeah, he’s here too,” Han interjected noticing Luke’s startled expression. “So is Leia, in fact. They both wanted to come see you, but Kenobi Wan said that we shouldn’t all crowd you while you recover.” He gave Luke a small, reassuring smile. “Speaking of which, how are you doing?. You gave the old man and me quite a scare when you passed out.”

Luke’s eyes trailed between the bandage and Han’s slowly faltering smile. He made a soft humming noise in the back of his throat and turned his head away. There was an uncomfortable, pregnant silence that followed, punctuated only by the soft beeps of the vitals monitor.

“Thank you,” Luke finally said, the silence becoming too much for him to handle. His voice was civil and unemotional. “For rescuing me, I mean. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for all of you,” he said, putting an unnecessary amount of emphasis on the word ‘all’.

“Are you kidding?” Han’s smile sent that familiar trickle of warmth down Luke’s spine. He quickly averted his gaze. Han worried his lower lip slightly between his teeth as his smile slowly fell. There was another awkward silence.

“Kid, I’m sorry,” Han whispered quietly. His dark brown eyes flickered down to the tops of his boots.

Luke was about to bitterly ask him what for, but he paused, deciding not to torture Han any further. “…you were angry,” he sighed. Stars, he was too exhausted to be having this conversation. Couldn’t Han come back later? Maybe sometime in the next millennia?

“That still doesn’t make it right,” Han said, turning his gaze towards him. Luke swallowed slightly as their eyes met. “You needed me to be there for you that night and I humiliated you in front of the entire galaxy.”

Luke’s eyes dropped down to his hands, which were busy twisting themselves around the warm, linen sheets. “I still shouldn’t have lied to you,” he murmured.

“I know why you did,” Han smiled gently. He made as if to reach for Luke’s hand, but then thought better of it. He adjusted his position on the bed, bringing his foot up to rest against his opposite knee. He drummed his fingers against it absentmindedly. “You were right about Rush,” he said with a trace of wry bitterness in his voice. “Disappeared earlier today without a trace, and took half the money in the treasury with him.”

Luke’s face darkened as he resisted the urge to let out a mirthless snort.

Han watched him carefully. “You were right about him,” he repeated softly. Luke didn’t respond. “I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you,” Han continued. “I know you’re probably mad as kriff at me right now for that, but I-“

“You think I’m mad at you because you didn’t believe me?” Luke suddenly snapped. He whirled around to glare at Han who recoiled from him with a start.

“Um, yeah kind of,” Han muttered uncertainly, eyes darting around the room nervously. He put his hands up in front of him in surrender. “That and the humiliating?” he added questioningly as an afterthought.

Luke scoffed and turned his head away with a roll of his eyes. “I’m not mad that you didn’t believe me. Hell, I probably wouldn’t have believed me either, at least not right away,” he muttered grimly.

“Sooooo, what then?” Han ventured cautiously.

“I’m mad because you told me I was just like them!” Luke snarled, the pent up aggression he had been suppressing suddenly erupting to the surface in full force. Han flinched slightly, his eyes blown wide with surprise and confusion.

“You said I was just like them – like every other shallow, coattail riding user you’ve met – Like… Rush,” Luke continued, much quieter this time. “That vile, deceptive, manipulative…” Luke trailed off into an exasperated sigh, the anger fading from his voice. Han stared at him in silence.

“Do you have any idea what it’s like to hold someone in that much contempt, and then have someone you care about turn around and tell you that you share the exact same qualities?” Luke asked in a shaky whisper. He could feel tears beginning to swim before his eyes. It made him want to fling himself off the side of the ship. Again.

Han regarded him in silence, scanning Luke’s expression with a curious air of perception.

“I was an idiot,” he suddenly blurted out, catching Luke by surprise. Luke blinked at him, a few stray tears escaping down his cheeks. “I was a blind, stubborn, angry, empty-headed numbskull that didn’t have the good sense to realize what he had until he lost it.” Han once again reached towards him, this time taking Luke’s hand in his. He brought it up to rest lightly under his chin. Luke didn’t bother to pull away from him.

“You are nothing like Rush,” Han said in a soft, rumbling whisper. Luke made an embarrassing swallowing noise in his throat. “You are good, and kind, and loyal, and have a better friend to me than I have ever deserved. And don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.”

Luke was rendered utterly speechless. Han smiled and reached into his vest to pull out a familiar cylinder of smooth, silvery metal. Luke’s eyes lit up in amazement. “I think this belongs to you,” Han said.

Luke traced a finger gently along the intricate seams. “I never thought I’d see this again,” he breathed. He let his gaze drift towards Han, who he realized still had a hold of his other hand. “Why did you come back,” he asked, his voice barely above a whisper.

“Why do you think?” Han responded with a warm smirk. He leaned in a hesitantly cupped a hand over Luke’s cheek, gazing softly over his face. Luke’s breath hitched slightly, but he didn’t move. He sat there peering into Han’s unfathomably dark eyes, waiting for he knew not what. Han was strangely quiet; his smile had fallen into a look of empathetic acknowledgement. Luke felt the regret weighing down in Han’s energy field like a frigid pool of black, icy water.

“I’m so sorry, Luke,” Han whispered. He let his hand slip away from Luke’s face, leaving the skin underneath it feeling achingly numb. He moved to push himself off the cot.

“Say it again,” Luke murmured.

Han turned back towards him. “I’m sorry.”

“No,” Luke smiled through wet, watery eyes. “The part where you said my name.”

Han regarded him in quiet, stunned silence for a brief moment, before the smile returned to his face, lighting up his features like a summer sunrise. He leaned forward to brush their foreheads together. “Luke,” he muttered softly. Luke made a soft sound between sob and a chuckle. “Luke,” Han repeated as he ghosted his lips against his earlobe. “Luke…”

Luke drew back with an elated, shuttering sigh to gaze into Han’s eyes once again. “You have no idea how long I’ve waited to hear you say my name,” he breathed.

“Well, get used to it… Luke,” Han said, brushing his fingers along the tips of Luke’s hair. “Because now that I know it, I’m going to keep saying your name until you’re absolutely sick of it.”

Luke let out a wet sounding laugh and threw his arms around the boy beside him as if he would never let him go.

Chapter Text

The grimy corridors of Coruscant’s largest prison stunk of depravity and sweat. Rush gritted his teeth and tried breathing through his mouth. His bony fingers clutched at the folded pile of scratchy orange jumpsuit in his hands as he trailed a few paces behind the guard. He heard a few jeers and taunts as he passed by the never-ending row of force field locked cells, but he lifted his chin up, not allowing himself to make eye contact with this wretched hive of scum and villainy.

Twelve whole months. A whole year of his life piddled away in lengthy court trials and exorbitant lawyer fees – and for what? To be carted off to a cramped, dingy little cell like he was some ordinary speeder thief? He was former senator Rush-kriffing-Clovis! He had more money than any sane man ought to know what to do with! Or at least he did, Rush thought darkly, until they had found him guilty of capital fraud and embezzlement.

It was one thing to have the idiot prince and that little blond brat testify against him – Should have just killed him when I had the chance, Rush glowered - but for his own children to condemn him? It hurt Rush far more than he cared to admit. Even Aurra had taken the stand to give her testimony, eyes downcast as if she would rather be anywhere else in the universe. Rush couldn’t really blame them, he supposed. It wasn’t as if lying would have done him any good.

“Rush? Is that really you?”

Rush turned his head in confusion, recognizing the voice. He stopped, peering into the cell directly to his left with furrowed brows. “Dengar?”

“Yeah. So they got you too then, buddy? Tough break. You’re looking at, what – ten years?”

“Eleven,” Rush grumbled.

“Oh, to be rich and famous,” Dengar said with a wry smile. “Of course, they probably offered you less time for naming all of us as your co-conspirators.” The chirpy, friendly tone ominously drained from his voice.

Rush gulped. He had heard stories of what prison inmates could do to a person who double crossed them, especially when they were in the same prison. “Look, Dengar, I’m really sorry about-“

“Oh, this?” Dengar gestured around his tiny little enclosure. “This isn’t because of you. No, the police didn’t really care about my involvement; I mostly just drank your booze and played cards. This is because I got caught smuggling illegal, exotic plants into Rodia. I’ve only got two years, not accounting for good behavior. The others, though,” Dengar let out a chuckle that sent a shiver of fear down Rush’s spine. “Well, let’s just say they’re not too pleased that you sold them up the river. I’d watch my back if I were you, Clovis.”

“Keep it moving, inmate,” the guard barked at Rush, suddenly noticing that he was no longer following behind.

Rush quickly averted his eyes from Dengar’s and continued walking at a much brisker pace. Sweat was now forming along his forehead. He shuffled behind the guard until they were almost at the end of the corridor. The guard took out and electronic swipe card and studied the number on it carefully.

“Number 34-24601, that’s you,” he said, swiping the card along a slot reading connected to the wall. The glowing red force field flickered and dropped. “In you go. Your new roommate’s already inside.” <>“Roommate?” Rush asked him quizzically. “But I thought-?”

“More lawbreaking scum like you means less room in the prison. You do the math, smart guy.” The guard roughly grabbed Rush’s arm and shoved him inside.

“You can’t treat me this way,” Rush glowered, raising himself up to his full height. “Don’t you know who I am? I’m Rush Clovis! I have some very powerful friends that could make life very difficult for you!”

“I think it’s your friends that you have to worry about.” The guard smirked at him and swiped his card again, raising the glowing force field.

He sauntered away, whistling tunelessly, leaving Rush in the empty concrete room. No, not entirely empty, he realized. There was movement coming from the top bunk along the wall.

Two lanky, impossibly long legs slipped over the side, followed by the rest of a scrawny looking figure in a neck brace, as they dropped languidly to the floor. Two red eyes lit up dangerously as they fell upon Rush’s bloodless face. The leathery, thin, blue lips curled back in a smile, revealing exaggeratedly pointed canines. Rush backed away but was obstructed by the flickering energy field. A small strangled sound escaped his lips as the familiar figure advanced.

“Hello, Clovis,” Cad Bane chuckled darkly, flicking a used toothpick across the barren room. “Long time, no see.”

Chapter Text

Obi-Wan sauntered aimlessly around the downtown district of Coruscant with an unusual feeling of ease and contentment. He drew in a deep breath of greasy, smog-filled air and smiled to himself, listening to the hustle and bustle of the planet’s many citizens hurrying from one towering transparesteel building to the next. He turned a corner into a smaller side street, casually glancing in through the windows of shops as he strolled.

His previous mission to Mandalor had been especially straining, and he was now rewarding himself with some much needed time off. He hummed to himself softly as he walked along the empty street.

He felt good. It was such a strange concept for him to accept, but he actually felt… happy. He wasn’t sure how to handle it quite frankly. It was as if over the past year a weight had been lifted from his shoulders, not just with Luke, but with everything. He didn’t feel like the past was something to run from anymore.

It was honestly kind of terrifying.

He halted as he drew near a smoky bar tucked snugly between two gilded storefronts. He furrowed his brow as he tried to peer in through the tinted windows. Obi-Wan would have passed it without notice, had it not been for the nearly overwhelming presence he felt coming from inside.

It was strange, yet very familiar. Grey, and pulsating, and electric. Like lightening in a storm cloud. Obi-Wan’s face slowly bloomed into a smile.

Speaking of not fearing the past anymore, he thought with a chuckle. Well, while he was on this new journey of self forgiveness and discovery, he might as well pop in for a chat.

The bar was loud and overly crowded, and so smoky that Obi-Wan could barely see where he was going. Not that he needed his sight to find the woman crouched over a stool at the far end of the bar, whose aura he could detect even from all the way across the room. She motioned for the bartender to bring her another strong-smelling drink with a crook of a slender, grey finger. She made a concentrated effort of not looking at him as Obi-Wan settled into the seat beside her, keeping her grey-blue eyes trained on the glass in her hand. Obi-Wan’s face brightened into a grin.

“Ventress. And here I thought this day was going to be unpleasant,” he purred, as if they were both twenty years younger and trading blows and flirtatious banter on the battle field once again.

Ventress swallowed her drink in one gulp. “Obi-Wan,” she said in a low rumble, turning to him with a put-upon look that suggested he had interrupted her in the middle something very important. “Tell me, is this part of some secret undercover mission, or did the council somehow force you into a much needed, early retirement?”

“You know, I think it’s your charm that I’ve missed the most,” he said, propping his head in his hands with a mock sigh.

Ventress snorted. “Funny.”

“I like your hair,” Obi-Wan nodded towards the pale blonde bangs brushed over one side of her face. “It makes you look less like a vicious, cheekbony harpy.”

“For your sake, I’m going to choose to take that as a complement,” Ventress replied with a low growl.

“It was meant as such,” Obi-Wan smiled, more genuinely this time. Ventress looked at him strangely, seemingly unable to come up with a witty retort. She opted instead to pick up her refilled drink and start nursing it again awkwardly. Obi-Wan leaned back against the bar on his elbows.

“How are you, Ventress?” he asked, his tone devoid of its previous sarcasm.

“Can’t complain,” she hummed around her glass. “Got a job. A real job I mean. Not like that unsteady bounty hunting kriff. That kid of yours hired me to help train new recruits at his new fancy school on Corellia.” She set the glass down on the counter. “I’m heading over there right after this, actually.”

“They let you teach?” Obi-Wan couldn’t resist cracking a smirk. Ventress raised a glass towards him with a wry arch of her eyebrows and clicked her tongue sardonically.

“Before I forget,” she said reaching into a pocket of her oversized, leather jacket and pulling out a small, strange-looking chip. She showed it to Obi-Wan before sliding it towards him along the counter. He picked it up and inspected it curiously.

“Ummm, what exactly am I looking at here?” he asked.

Ventress’ smirk softened slightly. “I ran into an old friend of yours awhile ago while on a job. I think she’d appreciate getting in touch again. She asked me to give you this,” she pointed towards the chip, which Obi-Wan now recognized as a contact information file. His eyes widened in disbelief as he read the hasty scrawled name on the label.

“Ahsoka,” he breathed.

Ventress slid from her perch on the bar stool. “Twenty years is a long time, Obi-Wan. Maybe you ought to stop thinking about pushing all your friends away, or you’re not going to have any left.” she said, placing a hand on his shoulder. Obi-Wan eyed it with an air of cautious interest, as if unsure of how to react to the gesture. Ventress smirked at him almost fondly and leaned in close to his ear, so that her breath tickled the short, ginger hairs on the back of his neck.

“It’s okay to let yourself be happy,” she whispered with a smile. Obi-Wan gaped at her in shock. It was as if her dark, piercing blue eyes were boring directly into his soul, reading every feeling of guilt that he had buried deep down inside him for so long. Maybe this meeting hadn’t been by chance after all. Ventress gave him a knowing smirk, as if confirming what he already knew.

She began to saunter out of the bar. “And for kriff’s sake, Kenobi,” she called out over her shoulder, “You’ve got to let go of that predetermined sadness dogma you’re so attached to! It’s not a good look for you! And you’re already not much to look at.” She turned towards him with a wink, sending a playful rush of electricity towards him through her field, causing Obi-Wan to flush inadvertently.

She disappeared out the door, leaving him alone in the noisy cantina. Obi-Wan watched her leave in stunned silence. Slowly, ever so slowly, he began to smile, and then to chuckle, and finally to laugh softly to himself, earning a perplexed look from the bartender.

“You all right there, buddy?” he asked warily.

Obi-Wan gazed down at the chip in his hand, turning it over gently between his fingers.

“Yes,” he replied warmly, slipping the chip into his robe pocket. He gave a nod to the bartender and stepped out through the door and into the glaring mid day sun once again. He felt the breeze play over his hair as he lifted his face to the sun with a serene smile playing at his lips. He gave his pocket a gentle pat.

“Yes, I think I will be.”

Chapter Text

Han took the long way around the pristine, glistening hallways of the new Corellian Royal Academy to his office. Partly to revel in the fruition of his beloved brainchild with a sense of hard earned, paternal pride, and partly to by seen by everyone else in the newly completed wing.

“Good morning, Mr. Director,” a service droid chirped amiably toward him. Han shot her a friendly wink in reply.

“Hello, Mr. Director, sir,” piped the voice of a nervous looking assistant carrying a stack of datapads. Han flashed him a grin and waved.

Maybe it was just his vanity talking, but he couldn’t get enough of people using his new title around him. It made him feel important, like he was finally doing something worthwhile with his life. Out there, in the rest of the galaxy, he would still be Prince Han, but in here, surrounded by his many new friends, associates, and future students, he was Han Solo, Director of Academics at the most novel and groundbreaking university the galaxy had ever seen. He felt his smile widen.

He halted in his proceedings when he spied a towering green figure carrying a large, heavy looking carton over his shoulder like it was nothing. Behind him trotted an excitable looking C-3PO, chattering amicably away at the man’s back as the other suppressed an eye roll.

“Hey, Savage. Threepio. Talk to me, what’s going on?” Han grinned as he began to fall in step with the Zabrak, pretending not to struggle to match Savage’s enormous strides.

“Good morning, Director Solo,” C-3PO chirped at him. “I hope things are going well? I’ve run through my list of duties already, so I volunteered to follow Master Savage around the rest of the day and see if he needs anything.”

Savage made a slight grimace. “Lucky me.”

Han gave him a conspiratorial smirk. “Any updates for me?” he asked.

“Well for starters,” Savage replied, “some nerf herder didn’t properly wire the electricity in the east wing, so I have to go re-install that,” he gave a significant look to the droid over his shoulder.

“I’ll have you know, I had nothing to do with the wiring,” C-3PO scoffed indignantly. “That was all Artoo’s doing.”

Savage shrugged and turned back in Han’s direction. “Also the Jedi council was just here to talk to Luke about his training program. I think he’s still recovering in his office.” Han’s smile melted from his face. “Why? What happened? What did they say to him?”

Savage shrugged. “I’m not sure, but he seemed pretty exhausted when they finally left. Oh! Before I forget, Princess Leia called earlier. She wants to discuss the preparations for next week’s opening ceremony with you.”

“Yeah. Great. Thanks, Savage,” Han said with an edge of distraction in his voice. He shifted into a power walk and made a beeline towards the row of lofty offices stretching near the end of the corridor. “I’ll, uh, I’ll catch up with you guys later,” he said, giving the Zabrak and the protocol droid a wave from over his shoulder.

Han reached the end of the hallway and began climbing the elaborate glass, spiral staircase to the second floor of the wing. The second level was more of a glorified indoor balcony that stretched out in a semicircle above the lower hallway. If one was in the right mood, they could stand along the edge of the glass railing, or sit on one of the many plush leather benches spaced evenly along the hall, and watch the people pass by below as they bustled from room to room. But Han’s interest was focused on other matters.

Walking cautiously up the last and largest of all the offices on this floor, he hesitantly knocked on the door, just below the brass nameplate that read: Professor Amidala.

“Come in,” came a weary sounding voice from inside.

Han slowly pushed the door open to find the room’s only occupant slumped down in a plush, leather armchair, facing away from him. Han paused for a moment, trying to find the best way to delicately broach the subject.

“So I heard the council was just here to tear you a new one?”

He inwardly smacked himself.

Luke spun the armchair lazily around to face him. To Han’s surprise, there was a wry smile ghosting along his lips. His blue eyes glinted with a trace of sardonic amusement. “Oh, they tried to, alright,” Luke chuckled bitterly. He dragged a hand through his sandy blond hair, which was always in his face no matter what he tried to do with it. Han smiled warmly at the thought.

Luke leaned forward on his desk and beckoned Han closer, to which Han obliged, placing a small kiss along Luke’s tanned cheek. His initial worry began to subside somewhat.

Luke smiled and cocked an eyebrow at him. “Apparently, there have been some concerns about a non Jedi Force wielder attempting to teach others in the ways of the Force. They especially seemed to love the whole dark side angle I’m bringing in with Ventress.” He smirked at Han, but there was an edge of weariness in his voice, a flicker of exhaustion hiding behind the sky blue eyes.

Han reached out and took hold of Luke’s hand wordlessly. Luke seemed surprised for a moment, but then sighed softly at him with a smile.

“How is it that you know nothing of the ways of the Force, but you can always tell exactly how I’m feeling?” Luke asked, running a hand over Han’s chiseled jaw line.

“I know you,” Han responded with genuine fondness.

Luke laughed, chasing away all traces of worry from his handsome face. “I got them to see the light in the end though, pun intended,” he chuckled. “They’re not happy, but there’s no law that prohibits anyone other than a Jedi from teaching others in the ways of the Force, even if I’m incorporating some of its darker aspects.”

“I like to think of it as more of a grey area, anyway,” said Han with a small smirk.

Luke chewed his lower lip thoughtfully. “Grey Jedi,” he murmured with a smile. “I kind of like the sound of that...”

Han walked around the sleek, expansive desk that took up a good portion of the already generous office area. He placed another kiss on Luke’s cheek. “Well, you do know best, my dear Master Amidala,” he said with a soft chuckle.

Luke gave him a curious smile. “Amidala-Skywalker,” he corrected.

Han’s eyes widened with excitement. “Really? You finally got it changed?”

Luke hummed thoughtfully. “I’ve spent the last twenty years of my life running from my identity. There’s no point in hiding it anymore,” he said, fiddling with a heavy brass sculpture of a y-wing on his desk. “I think my parents would have appreciated it.”

Han placed a warm hand on his shoulder. “I think so too,” he replied softly. Luke hummed again as he leaned into Han’s touch, both of their bodies resting casually against the frame of the desk. Han was quiet for a very long time.

“But you know,” he said finally. Luke gazed up at him curiously. “It’s an awfully long name to say. I’m not sure I can remember it all,” Han said rubbing his chin in mock contemplation.

Luke furrowed his brow. “It’s literally two words,” he said dryly. “This is me honoring my dead parents.”

“Yeah, well, I still think you ought to change it,” Han shrugged, awkwardly rubbing at his neck.

“To what?” Luke rolled his eyes in mock exasperation.

“Solo.”

“That’s your name dummy,” Luke smirked.

“I know.” Han’s throat had gone completely dry. He gripped onto the edge of the desk for support.

Luke looked at him in amusement for a brief moment, then in confusion, and then with a strangled, swallowing noise from the back of his throat, in complete and utter amazement.

“Han…”

“Mmm?”

“Han, are you being serious with me right now?” Luke prodded, his voice low and slightly raspy.

“What?” Han asked, momentarily thrown off by the unexpected response.

“Are you asking me what I think you are asking me?” Luke reiterated, carefully annunciating each syllable, as if trying to wrap his head around the concept. Han watched the bobbing motion of Luke’s throat as he swallowed. “Because, if you’re just kidding around with me right now, Han, I swear to Malachor-“

“I’m not just kidding around,” Han said gently. He reached out to take both of Luke’s hands in his. Han could feel his heart hammering against his ribcage. He took a deep breath to steady himself.

“I’m asking you to marry me, Luke.”

Luke’s breath hitched. His sparkling blue eyes trailed over every inch of Han’s face in wonder.

“Wow,” he breathed.

“Yeah, ‘wow,” Han mumbled with a nervous, lopsided grin. “This isn’t exactly how I had pictured asking you,” he admitted with a half shrug. “I was going to plan out this perfect proposal and wait for the right time and all that, but…” Han rubbed soft circles over Luke’s knuckles with his thumbs as he anxiously gnawed on his lower lip. “I don’t think that stuff really matters. You matter. What we’re doing here, with this school - that matters. And what we’ve got, kid? The two of us? Best damn feeling in the world. And I don’t want to waste another second not being married to my best friend. “

He reached up to brush his thumb shakily across Luke’s cheek. “I’m in this for the long haul, sweetheart.”

Luke had his lips on his before Han could even blink. He could feel Luke laughing against his skin as he moved between Han’s lips and his jaw line, kissing every available bit of him he could reach. Han wrapped his arms around Luke and buried his face in the crook of his neck. He smelled faintly of the cinnamon pancakes they had attempted, (and botched), earlier that morning. Han’s smile widened.

“That was a ‘yes’, by the way,” Luke chuckled as he drew apart. “In case you couldn’t tell.” Han could see the tears forming in the corners of his eyes. He knew Luke hated the way he always teared up whenever he got emotional. It only made Han love him all the more.

“I love you,” he said, placing both hands on either side of Luke’s face. “So much.”

Luke sniffled. “I know… You’re pretty okay too, I guess,” he said with a wet laugh.

Han pulled his face in for a kiss, working their mouths together slowly and languidly, like they had all the time in the world. Luke moved his hands up to play with the wavy chestnut hair at the base of Han’s neck.

When they both came apart for air, Luke settled himself comfortably against Han’s chest, resting his head on his shoulder. Han drew his arm around his lover, both of them gazing out of the enormous glass paneled wall that made up the back wall of Luke’s office. They sat there on the desk like that for a long moment in contented, companionable silence as they watched the clouds roll lazily over the bright morning sun.

“But seriously, I did just change my name,” Luke said finally.

“Maybe you could hyphenate it,” Han suggested, resting his head on top of Luke’s.

“How about Luke Amidala-Skywalker…Solo?”

“That’s a bit of a mouthful.”

“AmiSkySolo?”

“Well, now you’re just being silly.”

The End