"Why don't you come with us?" Han asks. "You're pretty good in a fight. I could use you."
Luke's first impulse is to refuse on principle, strong feelings of adventure, duty, and revenge making it seem like no choice at all. He bites down on that impulse, stops, and really thinks about it. This time last week, he was at home, a home that doesn't exist anymore, full of a family that doesn't either, worrying about mundane, everyday things. He had no idea that this--that all of this--would happen. He thinks about his father, fighting for what's now the Empire during the Clone Wars; about Biggs, off at the Academy, and how close he was to going there himself; about how thin the lines can be that separate innocent people from something they don't know they should regret.
It occurs to him that this is the damned-fool idealistic crusade his uncle was worried he'd end up on, if he'd known the truth about his father. He thinks about all the things this crusade and the Empire have taken from him in the last week: the people who raised him, the mentor he hadn't known he wanted, an entire planet he'll never get to visit now, what feels like his last chance for a normal life. He thinks about the chances he'll get a life at all if he flies off into this battle. He knows what's about to happen, what they're up against.
The Empire has taken so much from him. Is there anything left he's actually willing to give it?
He thinks about the other thing that's being taken from him, the one that's looking him in the face right now, waiting for an answer. It may be wishful thinking, but it seems to Luke that every moment that slips by without an answer changes something vulnerable in Han's face and posture.
("What do you think," Han had asked him, "You think a princess and a guy like me--" Luke had told him no, too fast, sure that Han had seen right through him, the doubts he was having, the jealousy, the feeling he still hasn't quite let himself put into words.)
Luke thinks about Han's offer. He thinks about dying, and about Han's lopsided smile. He makes up his mind.
They start by taking their reward and going to pay off Han's debts. It's not the glamorous start to his new life that Luke had imagined, back on his piece of shit home planet and groveling at the feet of a slimy gangster. But Luke's fresh start had been thrust upon him unwilling; for Han to get one, they all know that this is what's required, bowing and scraping and a lot of credits changing hands.
"We should do something to celebrate," Luke suggests, after. "Drinks, maybe? I know a cantina--"
"We're getting off this hellhole as quickly as possible," Han says, shaking his head. "Before anybody changes their minds." (Luke notices the way Han halfway looks at him as he says this.)
The celebratory drinks come after, in a Corellian bar. The three of them are tucked into a dark booth in the corner. Luke sips a drink Han had bought him, something mild and sweet that he knows probably ought to make him feel self-conscious but really just makes him feel buzzed. Chewbacca offers a toast, and while Luke doesn't understand the words, the relief is obvious in Chewie's tone. Luke raises his own glass and leans into Han a little.
"It's good, that we haven't heard," Han says. "Trust me, if they'd lost, we'd have heard about it. The Empire is excellent at gloating."
Luke wants to believe him, to take the lack of news about the situation they'd all left at Yavin as a sign that his presence there hadn't been needed, but it's tough.
Leia had given him an address to contact, grudgingly, when he'd told her that he was leaving with Han. "In case you ever change your mind," she said, her voice quiet and icy. Luke is pretty sure she'd expected better of him, but equally sure that the Rebellion is in no position to spitefully refuse his help should he ever want to go back.
He sends a single message to the address, from a public HoloNet terminal on Obroa-skai while Han and Chewie finish up some business from their first real smuggling job, post-Tatooine. How'd it go? It sounds ridiculous, and he feels stupid once it's sent.
A reply comes, shortly but not too shortly. We're alive, it reads. No thanks to you.
Awash with relief, Luke finds himself wondering how it had happened, who had made it and who hadn't, who'd taken that magic shot. He wonders fleetingly if he'd have made a difference if he'd stayed--he knows it's unreasonable to think that he'd have been the one to fire the final torpedoes. There's no reason that he would have been, surrounded by so many determined and competent pilots, but that doesn't stop him from daydreaming for a moment about explosions and victory.
"What are you grinning about?" Han asks, newly-returned from his errand and peering down at Luke's terminal.
Luke looks up, and the answer to that question changes completely.
He shows Han the reply he'd received. "See?" Han says, grinning smugly, "I told you." He's right; he had.
They take a series of jobs. Luke isn't sure what he'd expected, when Han had offered him this life--what he'd seen of it up to that point had been exciting, gunfights and getaways and obvious villains. The day to day reality of it is less exciting, more predictable. They haul cargo. They ferry passengers. Everything is as calm and uneventful as possible, because that's what the customers are paying for.
Luke gets better at things both useful (astrogation, negotiating fares and fees with the beings who hire them, emergency ship maintenance) and less so (dejarik, sabacc, emergency ship maintenance while hanging upside-down because the ship's gravity has failed). Han hovers at his elbow and offers tips throughout, chuckling, often sighing dramatically, leaning in close with a hand on Luke's arm to whisper in his ear.
He carries a blaster, one he buys with the credits he earns from the jobs that they do. He keeps his father's lightsaber in a small box with his name on it in a mostly-unused corner of the cargo bay.
There's a lot of waiting. It's there in the description, long-distance space travel--it takes a long time to fly from one side of the galaxy to the other. Luke spends some time socializing with the passengers, some time idly wandering the halls and sleeping in the crew quarters bunk that's newly his, and a lot of time just...hanging out in the cockpit. Han is amused, Luke can tell, but what else should he be doing, really?
It turns into shifts in the pilots' seats, always two of them at a time: Luke and Chewbacca, with long periods of silence punctuated by some frankly ridiculous bouts of charades; Han and Chewie, presumably no different than it ever had been before; and Luke and Han, alone at the controls together. Under Han's watchful guidance, Luke learns--slowly, surely--the quirks of piloting the Falcon, so that when the time comes that he is in the cockpit when action needs to be taken, he can. Han tells Luke stories from the life he'd led before they'd met, stories that can't possibly be true, and Luke laughs along disbelievingly.
Luke doesn't have any stories to tell. A reasonably supportive family, boring friends, year after year of moisture harvests, dreams of a life that in retrospect seem wildly misguided, finding the charred corpses of his aunt and uncle--none of it is appropriate for late-night camaraderie.
"No stories? Nothing?" Han asks.
"Well," Luke says, struggling to keep a straight face, "There was that one time, with the Death Star and the princess--oh, but you were there too, never mind."
Han barks a laugh. "Well then," he says, "That's another reason I'm glad you got off that rock."
Another? Luke wonders as Han affectionately musses his hair.
Their jobs get more exciting after that: actively avoiding authorities, both local and Imperial; several bar fights; one brief but very memorable trip through an asteroid field. They even run weapons for the Rebellion once or twice. Luke's not entirely sure the uptick in excitement is accidental.
(He realizes that this is the kind of life that, growing up, he'd always imagined his father having.)
A client pulls Luke aside in the docking bay as they're going to leave and expresses concern about the Falcon's spaceworthiness, and Luke's first reaction is knee-jerk defensiveness instead of sympathetic understanding. That's my home, he thinks, and is pleased to realize he's done so.
Han comes down the Falcon's ramp, trailing his fingers along the Falcon's underside as he exits the ship, and Luke is a little worried by how strongly that feeling intensifies.
They're in a bar on Mrlsst after finishing their most recent job when Han excuses himself from the table. Luke thinks he must be getting better at understanding Chewie, because he catches a few words he knows in the middle of the Wookiee's rumble: "next job" and "break" and "surprise". They sit for a while in silence, Luke nursing his drink and listening to the bar's mediocre band, trying to string those words together into some excuse that makes sense of how long Han's been gone so far.
"Hey, kid." Luke's head jerks up at Han's voice; he's standing beside the table, a woman on each arm. He grins at Luke. "Surprise!"
All the blood drains from Luke's face.
"This is the friend I was telling you about," Han is saying to the women, but he stops when he turns back to Luke and sees his expression. Han extricates his arms and leans over, wearing a look of concern. "You feeling alright? You're looking a little pale there." When Luke doesn't answer, just gulps and nods, he continues, more quietly, "Is this about the girls? It's all above-board, I swear. Look, you don't have to do anything you don't want to. It's just been so long and you weren't--I mean, I thought, at first--but then--and so, I thought, maybe this is more what you're looking for, maybe you weren't--"
Luke can only hope that he's followed the thread of Han's rambling correctly as he reaches up, grabs the front of Han's vest, and hauls him down to kiss him.
His eyes go wide for the longest half-second of Luke's life, and then he is gripping Luke back, nearly melting against him in a way that feels a little obscene for this public of a place. They're still kissing, but Luke can hear Chewie howling with laughter beside him. Behind Han, one of the women, never even properly introduced, asks, "So, should we go, or...?" and Luke feels more than sees the dismissive arm Han waves back at her.
He smiles against Han's mouth.
"So," Han says, and while the smirk is to be expected, Luke treasures the shaky breathlessness Han can't quite cover up, "What do you think? You think a farm boy and a guy like me--?"
Chewie growls insistently, presumably in response, and Han makes a face at him. "I know the answer is obvious, it's just--that's what I said earlier, except--you know what? Forget it. Forget it!" He throws his hands up in mock-annoyance, and Luke is so filled with happiness that he can't imagine ever having made a different choice than this.