Just you and me,
Sand, sky and sun,
We are as one.
(Old Republic Era)
Luke was treated to another display of Leaftide nature as Han drove them toward the coast. Han smiled fondly as Luke absorbed the show in wide-eyed wonder.
A few hours after leaving the Solon farm, the smell of the sea was in the air. Luke sat up, eager to see the ocean. Han turned down a dirt road and passed through a forest of scrub pine.
At the end of the road the ocean came into view along with a house that perched on the land overlooking the beach.
Luke gazed at the ocean. “It’s always so beautiful.”
“Sure is.” Han guided the hovercar to a spot by the house.
“Cottage, actually.” Han shut the engine off. “We’ll have to air it out.”
The cottage was a two-story sandstone structure with burgundy-shuttered windows and a widow’s walk on top. Han unlocked the back door and he and Luke entered the kitchen. An old-fashioned hand pump was at the sink.
“Are we going to have to rough it?” Luke asked, pointing to the pump.
“Nah, we have running water. The family just likes a mix of old and new.”
There was a pantry, a front parlor, and study/library. While the cottage smelled a little musty, the books were in good condition. The floorboards creaked and there was very little dust.
As Han opened the windows, he said, “Anyone in the clan can use the cottage. Looks like someone was here last week.”
Luke helped open the windows, and followed Han up the stairs to the second floor. The furniture downstairs was casual and comfortable, something you would find at the beach. The furniture upstairs was of the same style, and the bedroom colors were blue, sea-green, and pale yellow. The bathroom was small but equipped with both claw-footed tub and shower stall.
“Yeah. I usually pick the one in the northwest corner.”
Luke walked into the sea-green room and noticed a big, comfortable bed with a white wicker headboard. There was a chest of maple drawers with a mirror, a nightstand, and a ladder-backed chair.
“You can take half the dresser and closet,” Han said.
Luke hefted his bag onto the bed and quickly unpacked. Han opened the two windows and a cool sea breeze immediately wafted in.
“You’re right. I really like this place,” Luke said.
Han smiled. “Unpack for me, will ya, kid? I’ve gotta go down and turn on the water.”
Luke put away Han’s clothes and noticed a small box at the bottom of the bag. He opened it and smiled. There were a few gold necklaces and bracelets.
“Yep, very Corellian.”
& & & & & &
“Let’s go. I’m hungry.”
They drove to a small store that was located in a clearing at the side of the dirt road. Surrounded by pine trees, the store was a typical country establishment with advertisements on the walls, a bench, and a cooler.
“Yowza soda?” Luke laughed at the logo on the cooler.
“Best soda in the galaxy.”
“I was so sheltered on Tatooine.”
Han laughed as he entered the store, a tiny bell jingling above the door to announce his arrival. Luke followed him inside.
The store smelled of spices. The shelves were stocked with numerous cans and jars, and a glass jar held a rainbow assortment of hard candies. There were several bins with fresh fruits and vegetables and different kinds of bread and crackers for sale.
An elderly gentleman leaned over the counter, reading an old-fashioned print newspaper. His blue eyes blinked owlishly behind wire-rimmed spectacles. His hair was wispy gray and he wore rumpled clothes over a thin body.
“Hey, Cleve,” said Han.
Cleve looked over his glasses. “Well, if it ain’t Han Solon. Or should I say General?”
Han rested an elbow on the counter. “Han’s just fine, Cleve.”
“Finally come home, didja?”
“Yep. I decided it was time to attend a Gathering.”
“Good for you.” Cleve peered at Luke. “Well, an honest-to-goodness Jedi Knight! Welcome to my humble store, Sir Knight.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“So you’re spendin’ time at the cottage during a Gathering?”
“Yeah, I wanted to show Luke the Sapphire Sea.”
“Good show. Got some lemon drops in. Know they’re your favorite.”
“Good memory, Cleve.” Han opened the jar and took out a lemon drop.
Luke was invited to choose a candy and picked out a peppermint. “Thank you, sir.”
Luke and Han filled shopping baskets with fruit, vegetables and crackers. Han chose bottle water and a jug of peach juice and added bread and cheese.
“’Ring ‘er up, Cleve.”
“Oh, and add some candy.” Han took out a handful of different candies and dropped them in a paper bag.
Cleve rang up their purchases on an ancient cash register. Luke watched in fascination. This was like a trip back in time.
“Thanks, Cleve,” Han said. “Add two bottles."
Outside the store Han picked up the lid of the cooler, taking two bottles out.
“Here, kid, have some Yowza.”
Luke took one bottle and followed Han’s gesture of taking the cap off on the side of the cooler. They drank the sodas as they took off in the loaded hovercar down the dirt road.
& & & & & &
After they cleaned up, Han said, “I’ll show you the beach.”
Han led Luke down a rocky path to the beach. They took their boots off and waded into the water.
“Ooh, chilly,” said Luke, his toes curling up.
“You’ll get used to it.” Han swished the water with one hand.
Luke did get used to the temperature and he walked along beside Han. He watched the play of sunlight on the waves.
“You’re sure about all this?”
Han looked at Luke. “About what?”
Luke waved his hand as if to encompass wide spaces. “About marrying me.”
Han stared. “Are you kiddin’ me?”
“No. You’ll be signing up for a very public life.”
Han shrugged. “Comes with the territory.”
Luke made a little splash. “As long as you’re sure.”
“What brought this on?”
“Well, we’re supposed to air things out, right?”
The gentle eddies swirled around their legs as Han rested a hand on his Betrothed’s shoulder. “Are you sure you want to marry me?”
“I don’t have the best reputation, you know. And now you’ve got a whole boatload of relatives to contend with.”
“As much as you want to marry me, I want to marry you.”
Han smiled his crooked smile. “Then we’re sure. We want to get married.”
Luke smiled. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“Well, then, we’re good.”
& & & & & &
“Ready for an education, kid?”
Luke lit an oil lamp as dusk fell. “Okay, Professor.”
Han smirked as he dealt the cards as his gold necklace glittered in the light of the oil lamp. Lights winked on the horizon as a freighter chugged by, Luke commenting on the view.
“It really is peaceful here.”
“Yeah, it’s a good place to get away.” Han studied his cards. “It’s been in my family for centuries, though not as long as the main castle.”
Han chuckled. He put his cards face down and reached under the table and produced Uncle Mikal's bottle.
“We’ll get this party goin’.”
He fetched two glasses and a bowl of nuts. “Ante up, kid.”
Luke shook his head as he took a sip and promptly coughed as he set the glass down.
Luke rasped, “Oh, yeah.”
Han laughed. “Rum,” he said as he spread his hand on the table.
& & & & & &
“I studied stars ever since I was a kid.”
Luke watched Han’s face. The wonder and awe were still there.
My cynical Corellian.
How he loved this man!
& & & & & &
“Okay, let’s go,” Han said as he kicked his sandals onto the beach towel. “Let’s see how my swimming lessons have taken.”
They waded into the water and started to swim. Han kept his eye on Luke, who was still a novice swimmer. What he lacked in experience, Luke more than made up in enthusiasm. He laughed and swam like a playful young dolphin.
Han was delighted, trying to grab his elusive partner as Luke led him on a merry chase. Han caught him, kissing him with loving passion.
“You’re comin’ along real good as a swimmer.”
“Thanks. I had a good teacher.”
Han pushed wet strands of hair out of Luke’s eyes. “You’re really beautiful. Just like the first time I saw you.”
“In that sleazy Mos Eisley cantina?”
“Yep. Fresh-faced farmboy with a sharp tongue. Just my type.”
Luke’s blue eyes sparkled. “Imagine me falling for a scruffy smuggler.”
“Ha! Damned right.”
Han kissed Luke again as the waves swelled around them, cool and buoyant. A seabird screeched as it dove for fish several yards away. A big wave splashed over the two lovers and they came up sputtering and laughing.
& & & & & &
“Can’t beat the view,” said Han.
“You’re right about that.” Luke watched a seabird dive for food as another wheeled overhead, screeching its displeasure at its companion’s luck. Luke took another bite of his sandwich. “I can’t understand why I’m so ravenous.”
“It’s the beach. Stimulates the appetite.”
“You mean this tunafish sandwich with lettuce and tomato is tasting that much better because of the beach?”
“That’s right, as long as you don’t get sand in it.”
“Sand!” Luke looked at his sandwich with suspicion.
“Don’t worry, if it doesn’t taste gritty, you’re safe.”
“Oh, thanks.” Luke grumbled about having enough sand for a lifetime. Han smiled and drank bottled water. “Hmm, I kinda miss the Yowza,” Luke said.
Han laughed. “I’ve got you hooked, huh?”
“Well, we generally drank water on Tatooine. On a desert planet, it’s better to drink water over anything else. I like water just fine, but sometimes it’s nice to drink something else.”
“That’s no fun.”
Luke finished his sandwich. “That’s what you think.”
Han smirked. He drank from his own water bottle and watched Luke stand up, dropping his bottle into the cooler.
“Just stretching my legs,” Luke said. He sat back down on his beach towel. “Now I feel sleepy.”
“Let me put another coat of lotion on you.”
“I’ll stay under the umbrella.”
“You still need to be careful.” Han took the bottle of suntan lotion and squirted some into his hand. “Lie down.”
Luke obeyed, stretching out on his stomach on his towel. He rested his head on a small, form-fitting travel pillow. He smiled lazily as Han began to rub the lotion on his shoulders and back.
“Mmm, you have quite the touch.”
“Touching you is my favorite hobby.”
Han’s hands glided over Luke’s body. Strong hands, hands familiar with the contours of Luke’s body, hands skillful and firm.
“You’re a great masseuse.” Luke yawned and drifted off to sleep to the sound of the sea
& & & & & &
“On a night like this, no modern conveniences. Four-masted schooners sailing the seas, listening for that horn on nights like this.”
Luke watched the light blink from the lighthouse, arcing through the thick fog. He turned to look at Han.
“I’ve never heard you talk like that before,” he said softly.
Han shrugged. “I guess spacers just naturally fall for the sea first before they sail the stars.”
Han looked up sharply to see if Luke was being sarcastic, but saw only sincerity in his lover’s face.
“Maybe I got depths you haven’t plumbed yet.”
Amusement curved Luke’s lips. “Plumbed, huh?”
“Yeah. Plum pudding.”
Luke smirked. He joined Han to sit at the small, round, parlor table.
“The rehearsal shows that there will be some mysticism practiced at our wedding.”
“Sure.” Han picked up the deck of cards from the table. He idly shuffled them as his gold bracelet winked in the light of the oil lamp. “Women like my mother and sister are able to attune to the energy of Gaia.”
“Gaia? The Earth Goddess?”
Han nodded. “Corellians feel that energy. We draw our strength from the planet.”
“So why are you such good spacers?”
Han kept shuffling the cards. “I guess we can also connect to the energy of the stars.”
Luke shook his head. “And you mocked the Force when we first met!”
Han had the good grace to look embarrassed. “Guess I just didn’t want the reminder of home.”
Luke took a card out of the pack. “You are one complex man, Han Solo.”
“Hope so. I’d hate to be boring.”
Han smiled. “Come outside with me.”
Outside the cottage, the fog was still thick. Han took Luke’s hand.
Luke did. He heard the foghorn and the ripple of the tide down below on the beach. Somewhere a nightbird hooted.
“That’s right. Sounds bounce around in the fog, too.”
Luke listened for several minutes. “It’s eerie, but wonderful.”
Han squeezed his hand.
They remained outside for about half an hour. When they finally went inside, the fog curled around the cottage with questing fingers. Luke and Han headed upstairs.
“It’s like we’re all alone in the world,” Luke said.
“It is a very isolating thing.” Han unbuttoned his shirt once they reached their bedroom.
Luke pulled off his tunic. The foghorn sounded again. “That’s a sad sound.”
“A happy one for the ships at sea."
”I’m no sailor.”
“You’d be surprised.”
Luke pulled off his pants. “Would I?”
“Yeah.” A naked Han drew Luke to him. “Just you and me, kid.” He kissed Luke deeply and they fell to the bed.
“Oh, yeah,” Luke said.
Han smiled as he rolled over on top of Luke as the foghorn sounded.
& & & & & &
The lovers eventually got up and showered, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, and packed their bags.
“We need some munchies for the ride home,” Han said. “And we should restock for the next people to use the cottage.”
“Aren’t you thoughtful,” Luke teased.
“Don’t be a smart-ass, kid.” Han dug out his credit chip. “How about a visit to old Cleve?”
They walked down the dirt road among the scrub pine. It was almost eerily quiet in this patch of woods, and Luke wondered if any other people were around. He could hear rustling in the bushes, probably some small animals.
They reached the country store and went inside. Cleve was there behind the counter, reading the paper. Luke had the feeling they would find him in the same position doing the same thing no matter what time of day or night they came in.
“Oh, hi, Han.” Cleve adjusted his glasses. “What’ll it be?”
“Some travel food.”
“Got some dried apricots.”
“Definitely. Got any water crackers?”
“Pick out some fruit, will ya, Luke?”
Cleve rang up their purchases and asked, “So, closing up the cottage?”
“Yeah, ‘til the next group.”
“Always glad to see it used.”
Han and Luke said goodbye as they left the store. Han grinned. “Want a Yowza?” Luke’s eyes lit up. Han laughed. He picked up the lid of the cooler and handed Luke a bottle. “All paid for. Just like this.”
Han opened a bag and Luke looked inside. “A six-pack!”
“Well, aren’t you the gentleman.”
“Hey, I know how to treat my Betrothed right.”
Luke laughed and took a swig of soda as he walked beside Han down the dirt path.
& & & & & &
Luke opened the passenger door. “You bet, General.”
Han smirked and revved the engine as they sped down the road back to Castle Solon.