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Life While There's Hope

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Chapter 1

 

Han Solo nursed his drink and looked over the crowd in the cantina, experienced eyes gauging each patron’s potential for danger. Not that he was expecting any but it was a habit - and a very good habit for a smuggler to have. It had kept him alive on more than one occasion in a career that offered no rewards for carelessness.

It was late afternoon and the bar was starting to get crowded. Locals and travelers drifted into the cantina in search of something to get them through another dreary night in another dismal spaceport on another backwater planet. Booze, company, trouble - any and all three could be had here or at any of a dozen similar places in Mos Eisley. Anyone with the price of a drink could find a not-so-quiet corner in a little bar to settle for the evening. A few more credits and one could go across town to one of the Hutt establishments where the booze was better and the company more attractive, but Solo was content to remain where he was for the moment. The place was relatively clean and if the company was a bit rough, well, so was he. Besides, this was a good place to pick up another job and, as far as he was concerned, the sooner he was away from the Hutts, the better he liked it. Content in the feeling of a successfully completed job and credits in his pocket, safe with the wall at his back, he allowed himself to sprawl comfortably in the booth and watch the passing show.

Deceptively sleepy eyes tracked his co-pilot, Chewbacca, as the Wookiee made his way back through the crowded bar with an old man at his side. A hermit, by the look of him, and a local…although there was something in his walk, his bearing, that was different. He had the look of a man who was used to being in control although he was prepared to be pleasant about it. Solo watched the old man approach with interest and nodded for him to take a seat in the booth.

"Han Solo. I'm Captain of the Millennium Falcon. Chewie here tells me that you're looking for passage to Alderaan?"

Sharp blue eyes met his across the table. "Yes, indeed. If it's a fast ship."

"Fast ship?" Solo pretended to be offended. "You've never heard of the Millennium Falcon?"

He saw the hint of a smile on the old man's face and Solo coolly added it to his assessment of the man. "Should I have?"

"It's the ship that made the Kessel run in less than12 parsecs." Solo said, deliberately using the wrong terminology as he watched the other man. "I've outrun Imperial starships - not the local bulk cruisers, mind you. I'm talking about the big Corellian ships."

There was that faint smile again and a raised eyebrow, and he knew he was dealing with a born negotiator. Solo settled in to enjoy the next phase saying, with a shrug as if he didn't care, "She's fast enough for you, old man. What's the cargo?"

The man looked down, his eyes hooded, and said mildly, "Only passengers. Myself, possibly one other, two droids - and no questions asked."

Solo's sense of danger came on-line and he said sharply, "What is it - some kinda local trouble?" The last thing he wanted was to get into a conflict with the Hutts.

"Let's just say that I'd like to avoid Imperial entanglements."

Solo relaxed. "Well, that's the real trick, isn't it? And it's gonna cost you something extra. Ten thousand, all in advance." He felt Chewbacca's surprised movement; they never charged that much for a simple passenger run. He gave the Wookiee a reassuring look and turned a bland face back to the old man.

An appraising look from the old man, and Solo knew that a serious offer was coming. "I can pay you two thousand now - plus fifteen when we reach Alderaan."

"Seventeen, huh?" Solo studied the old man thoughtfully, wondering at the reason for such a large offer. Something inside him urged caution. He didn't really need the credits. His account was nicely flush thanks to the fee he had recently earned from the Hutts and this spoke of trouble that he definitely didn't need. Still, you could never have too many credits…

"Okay, you've got yourself a ship, Mr. - "

"Ben Kenobi."

"Kenobi. When d'you want to leave?"

"Tomorrow morning." A troubled look crossed the old man's face. "I've got some - personal matters to finish first."

"Fine with me. We leave in the morning. My ship's at docking bay 94 – and bring the two thousand with you." Solo's sharp eyes caught movement near the doorway. "And if you wanna avoid Imperial entanglements, you better move fast."

The old man nodded and Solo was impressed to see that he avoided looking toward the doorway where four Stormtroopers had entered. Kenobi was evidently no stranger to trouble, then, but didn't go rushing out to meet it. He rose, pulling his hood up and over his face. "Tomorrow morning, docking bay 94. I'll be there." He slipped into the crowd and disappeared.

Solo turned to his partner with a grin. "Well, looks like another bit of good luck, Chewie. Can't say that I'll be unhappy to leave this place - and now we won't be makin' an empty run. We'll be able to line up something decent - and legal for a change - on Alderaan."

Chewbacca made a grumbling comment about the fee that Solo had demanded and he snorted. "You gettin' soft on me, pal? I'm running a business, not a charity, and something tells me I'm gonna earn every credit on this one."

[You earned no credits saving me. In fact you lost - ]

"Would you keep quiet about that?" Solo looked around to see if anyone else had heard the Wookiee. "Word gets out and everyone'll be trying to scam me. Besides, you were a special case - I hate slavers."

Chewbacca softly growled, [You are a good friend, Han.]

Solo grinned. "You, too, Chewie. Go on back to the ship and get it ready. I'll be along shortly."

Chewbacca nodded and left, and Solo debated the wisdom of ordering another drink or going elsewhere. He had just decided to leave and started to get up when a shadow fell across the booth.

[Going somewhere, Solo?]

The Corellian pilot glanced briefly at the creature that slid into the seat across from him and, resignedly, he settled back into his seat.

"As a matter of fact, Greedo, I was thinkin' about calling it a night and headin' back to my ship." He regarded Greedo warily - they had a history predating the Rodian's association with the Hutt, and none of it was pleasant. "I see that your master let you out of your cage for the evening."

Greedo grinned and Solo repressed a shudder at the sight. [Jabba the Hut is very pleased with you, Solo. Not every pilot would face off an Imperial Customs officer - most would have dumped the spice to save themselves.]

"Yeah, well, I figured that - between the Hutts and Customs - I'd rather take my chances with Customs. So what d'you want? Jabba already paid me; our business is finished."

Huge eyes glinted at him across the table. [Jabba suggests that you relax after your harrowing ordeal at the Golden Spice Club tonight.]

Solo eyed Greedo suspiciously, wondering what he was up to. "The Golden Spice Club, huh? Too high priced for my tastes."

Greedo produced a card, sliding it across the table toward him. [Admission card, dinner and drinks on the house, and an unlimited credit line for - other pleasures, compliments of Jabba.] He stood up and bowed his large head mockingly at the pilot. [Jabba hopes to have the opportunity to utilize your - services in the future, Solo.]

After the Rodian left, Solo picked up the card and studied it for a long moment. Hutts never did anything out of the goodness of their hearts. It was a trap, that much he knew, only he wasn't sure what kind of trap. Jabba obviously wanted to get some kind of hold over him, to control him like he controlled everything else he touched.

What would it be, he mused. Get him drunk and rob him? Not subtle enough - Jabba had to know that Solo wouldn't carry the credits and it wouldn't do Jabba’s reputation any good if word got out that he had stiffed a pilot. Drugs? Not likely - no pilot worth his ship would risk addiction. Get him to run up a debt? More likely, but Jabba had to know that the Corellian was cautious where credits were concerned. Sexual blackmail? Solo smiled at that idea. He had few hang-ups where that area was concerned and didn't particularly care if the universe knew his preferences.

Hell, life was too dull if you never took a chance, he thought with a grin as he stood up with the card in his hand. No matter what, this would be a unique experience, one he would probably never forget.


Chapter 2

 

The Dug bouncer at the door to the Golden Spice Club snarled and would have turned him away but looked almost stunned when Solo presented the card. Within minutes, the manager had hurried out, glaring at the Dug before turning to Solo. The pale-skinned Twi'lekian gave the Corellian an ingratiating smile.

"Captain Solo! I am Din Bardeeda and I am pleased to welcome you to this fine establishment. Please, come this way."

Din Bardeeda gestured for Solo to follow him as he led the way to what the Corellian could see was the best table in the place. He sauntered in the Twi'lekian's wake, eyes flicking over the place as he coolly assessed the décor and the patrons. Jabba had a sweet little business here, he thought appreciatively.

Settling at the table, he glanced at the hovering waiter. "Whisky. A large one."

The Toydarian flitted off and Din Bardeeda presented him with a menu. "As our honored guest, your meal and drinks are on the house. If I may make a recommendation - "

Solo waved away the menu. "Whatever you suggest."

The whisky arrived quickly and he sipped it, cocking an eyebrow. This was the good stuff, the really good stuff - stuff he normally couldn't afford. He idly wondered what this was setting Jabba back, how much he had set as the price for a pilot, and then his meal arrived. It was organic and smelled like heaven, and he settled in to enjoy his first non-synthesized meal in months with real pleasure.

Sated, he sat back into his chair with his second whisky and watched the floor-show with a jaundiced eye. The scantily clad creatures parading around the stage were good looking enough and the show was somewhat entertaining but it wasn't what he was in the mood for tonight. A pair of green-skinned Twi'lekian twins, a male and female, were on stage at the moment and had obviously been told to pay special attention to him. They undulated as they danced, stroking each other while they eyed the Corellian seductively, inviting him to join them.

Solo shifted uncomfortably in his chair, feeling his body respond. It had been a long time since he had had pleasant companionship, someone to wrap his arms around and bury himself deeply within, and his body was making its needs known. And he knew that he could find relief here, that Din Bardeda would be only too happy to provide him with suitable entertainment, but he wanted more than that. He wanted to ease the lonely ache within his bones for more than just a night. He sighed, knowing how futile that thought was, and signaled to Din Bardeda.

The manager was immediately at his side. "Yes, Captain Solo? What may I do for you? Another drink? Something a little stronger or more - exotic - perhaps?"

Solo shook his head. "No, I'll just settle my account and head back to my ship."

The manager looked more than disappointed; he looked nervous and almost frightened, his head-tails twitching. Solo thought in amusement that Jabba would not be pleased with the failure of whatever scheme he had worked up.

"But surely the evening is young! Perhaps - perhaps some companionship. We have the finest collection of Pleasure Partners on the planet, any species and gender that you can imagine."

Solo hesitated. It had been a long time and there was no telling when he'd have the opportunity again. And Jabba had the reputation of running a fine collection of licensed Pleasurers. "Well, I don't suppose it could hurt to take a look."

The manager almost beamed at him. "Certainly! Certainly! What about this pair?" he asked, indicating the dancers undulating on the stage. "Beautiful creatures, are they not? And dancing is not the only skill they possess."

Solo studied them critically. They were indeed beautiful, and with both a male and female all his needs could be met. He cocked an eyebrow at the manager. "On the house as well?" Din Bardeeda coughed delicately and Solo grinned. "I didn't think so. Bet these two fetch your highest price, too."

"And well worth every credit."

Solo shook his head and started to rise. "Too rich for my blood."

"Wait! Captain Solo, please!" Solo could almost sense the tension rolling off the manager. "I'm sure that I can find something to suit your taste and your price."

Solo could almost taste the danger now - Jabba must want him in his pocket badly. He was tempted to walk away, to get in the Falcon and leave that night, and the hell with his passenger. On the other hand, he had never run from a fight without sizing up the odds and he wasn't about to start now.

"All right. Human - male or female, it doesn't matter which."

The manager made a notation in his pad. "Ah, yes, we have quite a nice assortment available this evening. If you will follow me upstairs…"

Solo followed the Twi'lekian up the stairs and into a private parlor where a dozen humans were being hastily assembled, both male and female. At a snapped order from the manager they formed a line of sorts and the manager gestured toward them.

"Take your pick, Captain Solo. I'm sure that you'll find that any of these will be worth your time and credits."

Solo slowly walked down the line of Pleasure Partners, assessing each of them coolly, and had to admit that Jabba’s reputation hadn’t been exaggerated – he had assembled the finest collection of Providers that Solo had seen in a long time. All were physically attractive and dressed to reveal their full charms, and all appeared to be well-trained in the art of seduction as they flirted and postured, trying to attract his attention. One clung to his hand as he passed, another going so far as to reach out to stroke his face. All trying to be selected. All but one.

Solo stopped in front of the last one in the line, a young man of no more than twenty, and studied him curiously. The boy was staring at the floor, a near-sullen look on his young face, pointedly ignoring the Corellian. He was no beauty - his nose was too snub, his hair lifeless and dull, his body thin and undefined under the tight one-piece body suit he wore. He also looked like it had been a week since his last bath. And whoever had chosen that olive-color clothing for him deserved to be spaced. Still, there was something about him, something that made Solo stop and take another look.

"What about this one?"

Din Bardeda looked affronted to see the boy in the line. "He is not worth your time, Captain Solo - he shouldn't even be here. I told Jabba that he would not make a good pleasure partner - he bit the last client to buy his time."

"Bit him, huh?" Solo looked over the boy with renewed interest. He liked a show of spirit. And the little voice inside his head that he had learned to listen to was practically screaming.

The boy raised his eyes briefly, meeting Solo's eyes with a defiant glare, and the Corellian nearly laughed out loud. So that was this little one's trick, he thought in amusement, looking the boy over again. The defiant-whore game was one he'd played before and he knew all the rules. And it was certainly more enticing than the fawning attentions of the painted pretties around him. If the boy played the rest of the game out as well as he started, it could be an interesting evening.

He cut short Din Bardeeda's protests. "Don't worry. I can handle him."

The manager sighed and shrugged as if consigning Solo to his fate. "Very well. Let me show you the back rooms - "

"Actually, I was plannin’ on spending the night."

The Twi'lekian brightened at that. "Yes, Captain. A room for the night and the company of this one for the entire time?"

"Yeah. And make sure the room has a bath - a real one, not one of those sonic showers."

The manager practically drooled. "That'll cost extra."

Solo held out his club chip. "Put it on my account."

After scanning in the card, Din Bardeeda gestured for Solo to follow him down the hallway. Solo took the boy's arm and he glared at the Corellian, trying to pull his arm away. Han jerked the young man tight against his body, looking down into suddenly wide eyes, and was amused by the beautifully faked fear.

"Don't even try it, kid. I'm a helluva lot tougher than you."

The boy stopped struggling but glared again. Han ignored the look and pushed him after the manager.

Din Bardeeda stopped in front of a doorway, unlocking it. "I believe that you'll find these accommodations to be our best, Captain." He flung open the door, bowing the Corellian into the room, and Solo pulled the boy with him. "Have a pleasant evening. If you should require anything, the boy knows where everything is located."

Solo let go of the boy’s arm in the middle of the room and went to work locating the hidden cameras and microphones. He didn't mind the Hutts knowing his personal preferences, but he'd be damned before he provided them with entertainment - or blackmail vids.

He caught a glimpse of the boy moving stealthily toward the door and smiled to himself. He liked the kid's initiative, not waiting for Han before putting the game in motion. Not that he intended to let the boy take control.

"I wouldn't try it, kid. I'm an expert with this blaster, and I get the impression that your owner wouldn't weep if you were damaged."

The boy turned defiant eyes on him while giving the underlying impression of barely controlled panic. "I don't want to sleep with you."

Solo was impressed: a first class performer, far too good to be stuck out here on this rim-world. Later, when they were through, he'd find out more about the boy, see if he could use a little help getting in touch with the right people.

"You ain't got a choice in the matter."

He finished disabling the devices then checked the windows and doors for quick escape routes if needed. Business taken care of, he looked over the amenities with satisfaction. It was a good-size room with an extra-large bed; experimentally, he tested the mattress and found it to be quite comfortable. Second order of business, he thought, and located the bathroom through a doorway in the wall and grinned at the sight of an over-large tub.

"Oh, yeah," he said in satisfaction, and turned on the taps to begin filling it.

Looking around for the boy, the Corellian found that he had followed Han as far as the doorway to the bathroom. Time to throw him off just a bit, show him who was running things. "Strip."

Suspicious eyes stared at him. "Why?"

Han gave him an amused look. "I don't like sharin' my bed with more than one occupant, and you look like a haven for any number've life-forms. You got a thing against being clean?"

"I've been in a punishment cell for three days," the boy snapped. "I didn't have the luxury of being able to get clean before being sent up."

"Well, kid, this is just your lucky day for everything, isn't it?" He gestured toward the tub. "Get in."

The young man approached the tub and stared at the water spilling into it with near-awe. "You mean you want me to get completely into the water?"

Han looked at the boy curiously - that awed tone of voice had been genuine. "You never heard of a water bath?"

"Waste of water."

He saw the boy's fascination with the filling tub and thought that the boy must be a native, which explained a few things. "Yeah, well I prefer water baths and showers to sonics. I've never been keen on havin' a layer of skin removed - even if it's already dead."

Han turned off the water and looked back at the boy. "I said strip and get in."

The boy flushed and raised his chin defiantly. Solo met his eyes straight on, going for complete control of the situation. "I'm gonna call my partner. When I get back, you be in that tub or I'll strip you myself. Clear?"

Not waiting for a reply, he went back into the bedroom and commed the Falcon. "Hey, Chewie. I'm spendin' the night in town." He sighed at his partner's response. "I'm being careful, pal. Don't worry about me - I can take care of myself." He ignored Chewbacca's derisive snort at that and signed off.

Without the boy there to watch him, Han set the door locks for maximum privacy and pulled a mini-sensor out of his pocket, attaching it to the door. If anyone so much as breathed on the door, he'd know about it. Feeling a little more secure, he unfastened his holster and set the blaster on the table beside the bed. He removed his vest, tossing it on a chair as he walked back into the bathroom, and then he had to laugh. The boy was lying back in the tub, a look of blissful pleasure on his face. At the sight of the Corellian, however, he flushed bright red and sat up in the water, his hands moving protectively over his genitals.

Han frowned and leaned against the doorway, crossing his arms over his chest. An unpleasant suspicion was filling his mind. Slowly, he said, "Y'know, for a pleasure boy, you sure get embarrassed easily. Just how experienced are you?" If possible, the boy flushed even more. "Don't tell me - I'm your first customer."

The boy cleared his throat. "Second."

Han wanted to swear. So the kid was no trained Pleasurer playing off a little dominance game, just a wet-behind-the-ears amateur. Waste of perfectly good credits, he told himself in disgust. Harsher than he intended, he said, "Right. You bit the first one."

There was defiance in the look cast his way from under the fringe of bangs. "Yes. I did."

"Mind if I ask why?" The boy muttered something and he frowned. "You mind repeatin' that a little louder, kid?"

The boy turned his face and met his eyes, and Han saw embarrassment, anger, and defiant pride in the blue eyes. "He forced my mouth open and stuck his dick in it. So I bit him."

Surprised, Han laughed and saw the blue eyes widen in surprise at his reaction. He knew that he should pack the kid up and send him home to his mommy with a few well-chosen words that would scare him into choosing a new line of work. He knew it, but he was intrigued by the combination of innocence and brash defiance in the boy. Maybe he would keep the kid for the night after all.

"Well, in that case we can forget about oral sex. Tell me, kid - " He broke off, straightening up as he began unbuttoning his shirt. "I can't keep calling you 'kid'. You gotta name?"

"Luke," the boy said. "Luke Skywalker."

"Luke." He leaned against the counter and pulled off a boot, watching the boy splashing water over his arms in an effort to clean off the dirt. "It works better if you use soap."

Luke looked at him blankly. "For what?"

Han sighed, shaking his head in disbelief, but couldn't help smiling a bit. "I didn't plan on bathin' you as part of tonight's agenda."

"This was your idea," the boy pointed out, and there was a slight twinkle in his eyes that made Han grin. He liked the kid's spunk and was pleased to see he had a sense of humor, too. Maybe the evening wouldn't be a complete waste of time.

"So it was." Han removed his other boot and crossed to kneel beside the tub, reaching for the soap. "Whew!" he said as he caught a whiff of the scented soap. "You're gonna smell like a Rogelian bordello but at least you'll be clean."

He worked up a lather and began soaping the young man's back. The boy tensed immediately when Han touched him, gradually relaxing under the brisk and non-sexual attention. "So, Luke Skywalker. You mind tellin' me how a kid like you ended up choosing Pleasurin' as a career path?"

"I didn't choose it," Luke said quietly. "I'm a slave. Jabba had me sent here."

Stunned, Han sat back and stared at the naked back before him. Images burst into his head - laser fire and a woman's scream, flames and children crying, taunting voices and a wounded roar. His hands clenched involuntarily into fists and a shaft of cold, pure anger arced through him.

Realizing that the boy had gone silent and was looking at him uneasily, he consciously tried to relax and began shampooing the boy's hair. "What'd you do to piss him off?"

"It wasn't me - it was my last owner. He owed Jabba some money and didn't pay it off so Jabba - collected on the debt."

"Jabba's famous for his way of collectin' debts," Han said grimly. He had heard rumors that Jabba dealt in slaves but nothing concrete. Now he knew, and he would be damned if he would take another credit of the Hutt's money, no matter what it cost him in commissions. As for what to do now - he had no idea, but he was determined to learn more about the kid.

He pushed down on Luke's head and the boy obediently slipped under the water to rinse his hair off. Han tugged him back up by his hair and began soaping it again.

"Hey! You already did that!"

"Yeah, and I got about one layer of filth cleaned out - I can almost see what color it's s'posed to be." He scrubbed in silence for a minute. "How old are you, kid?"

"Twenty - ow! Okay, I'll be nineteen on my next birthday." Luke looked at him sideways, his mouth set. "I'm not a kid."

"You are to me - kid. When I was your age, I'd been workin' ships for two years and was headin' to the Academy."

Luke's head jerked up and he stared at Han in surprise. "You've been to the Academy? But you're not - " He bit his lip, flushing.

Han's jaw tightened as he said flatly, "Let's just say we had a difference of opinion. I got my own ship now, the Millennium Falcon, and make a pretty good livin'." He finished rinsing off the boy's hair and drained the tub, then began filling it again. He stood up and unfastened his pants, tossing them on the counter after stripping them off. "Scoot forward."

Luke had been watching him strip off his pants with open-mouthed surprise and now he saw the boy flush, rapidly sliding forward in the tub and sloshing water onto the floor. Han chuckled and climbed into the large tub, settling down at the back and stretching his legs to either side of the boy. "You can slide back this way now."

The boy was hunched into a ball near the front of the tub, as far away from Han as he could get. "I'm clean - I'll get out - "

"Relax, kid. I'm not gonna hurt you." Luke inched backward and, impatiently, Han reached out and hooked an arm around his waist, hauling the boy back to rest against his chest. Slightly exasperated, he said, "And you mind tellin' me how a Pleasure slave gets to be eighteen and is still a virgin?"

Luke flushed and tried to relax against the Corellian's chest. "I've only been here a week - and I spent most of that in the cells."

"That's not an answer, kid." The boy's head was tucked under Han's chin and he found that it was soft and silky against his skin and the color of pale honey. He ran an exploratory hand over the younger man's chest and found it to be sleek and hairless but more muscled than he had first thought.

"My last owner ran a repair shop - engines, droid, mechanicals - you name it and we fixed it." Han saw a hint of a smile on the boy's mouth and thought that it was a sweet looking mouth when he wasn't sulking. "Not much call for – for other things in that business."

"You haven't been in some of the repair shops that I have, kid. I've been screwed more than once."

Luke laughed at that and Han could feel him relax a little more. He tilted his head back against Han's shoulder, closing his eyes. "My uncle had a moisture farm - it wasn't much but we got by. Seven years back, there was a bad storm and some of the equipment got damaged. Uncle Owen borrowed from Deeto for the repairs. The next year we'd almost made it clear when the sand-people attacked and destroyed most of the vaporators - the sand did the rest. Deeto called him on his debt and took me as a slave to settle it."

Han uttered a curse under his breath but Luke turned his head and looked at him, and the Corellian thought he saw reassurance in the boy's eyes. Eyes that were suddenly older than his eighteen years. "It's all right. Deeto was kind to me. And I liked the shop a lot better than the farm. I still lived at home but I got to work with all kinds of engines - I'm good with things like that. And Deeto would let me borrow his landspeeder to go racing at Beggar's canyon with the guys. Uncle Owen hated that, said I took too many risks."

"So you've been a slave since you were - what? Twelve?"

"Yeah, but things were getting better. Uncle Owen was almost out of debt - we even talked about me going to the Academy next year."

"So what happened?" Luke fell silent and Han reached up to stroke his cheek. "Talk to me, Luke."

Luke sighed. "Deeto was addicted to gambling. I'd see him win credits one day only to lose them the next. Only this time he bet with the wrong people. Deeto couldn't pay the debt, so Jabba took everything. Including me."

"Your uncle?"

"Dead." Luke shivered, flinching as Han wrapped his arms around the slender form for comfort.

"Take it easy, Luke. I won't hurt you. I'm not into pain."

He saw Luke flush as the boy tried to relax against the Corellian's chest. "Some are."

"Some are what?"

"Into pain. I've seen some of the others - afterward."

He turned his head and kissed the soft, sweet smelling hair. "Aw, kid, I won't let that happen to you."

Luke turned his head and looked him in the eye. "But you won't be here after tonight."

There was no reply to that one. Blindly, Han bent his head and kissed the younger man, trying to offer the only form of comfort that he could. He could feel the boy's startled response, his lips parting involuntarily in response to the pressure of the older man's mouth. Han tightened his hold on Luke, deepening the kiss, until he was devouring the younger man's mouth. He could feel the trembling response in the body pressed against his when he finally released him.

"What - what was that?"

Han grinned, feeling the rush of something stronger than alcohol through his veins. "You never been kissed before, kid?"

"Not - not like that."

Han ran his hands down Luke's body, turned halfway into his arms. "Did you like it?"

"Y - yes."

"You don't sound sure of that. Maybe I should kiss you again."

Luke closed his eyes and tilted his head up in mute invitation. Han chuckled and obliged, his hands stroking over the younger man's body as he possessed the boy's mouth. When he finally released Luke, breathless and gasping, the boy sagged against him.

"Yes."

"Yes?"

"Yes. I liked it."

Han laughed. "Then you're gonna love the rest." Luke shivered in his arms again. "What?"

"I've never - I don't know how - "

"Yeah, I figured that out for myself." He studied the face close to him, noting the downcast eyes. "Look, kid, raping virgins is not my idea of fun. I never took anyone to bed that didn't want to be with me and I'm not about to start now. So if you don’t want to do this, we'll call it a night."

"And if I - want to?" came a whispered question.

"Then I promise I'll make it good for you."

Luke turned his face into Han's chest and murmured, "Yes. I want to."

Han stood up, tugging the young man up with him, and wrapped them both in towels before leading the younger man back into the bedroom. Moving quickly, he pulled back the covers on the bed and lowered the lights, then turned back toward Luke. And stared in stunned surprise.

Luke had finished drying off and dropped the towel onto the floor, standing with the light from the bathroom outlining his body. Cleaned up, the boy was more attractive than he had first appeared – in fact, he was almost beautiful. His body was still a little too thin but had more definition than even the skintight jumpsuit had displayed and his skin had a golden tint to it that invited touch. And without the layer of dirt, he looked rather endearing as blue eyes peered out shyly from under the fringe of gold hair.

"I'm sorry," the young man said softly. "I don't know your name. Din called you 'Captain'…"

Han had to swallow twice before he could reply. "Solo - Han Solo."

"Captain Solo." Luke took a deep breath, squaring his shoulders. "What do you want me to do?"

"Just - come here."

Luke hesitantly approached the Corellian. "Will you - will you kiss me again?"

"Oh, yeah," Solo said, grinning. He reached out and took the young man into his arms, kissing him gently to start. Luke melted against him, trying to deepen the kiss. Han chuckled and pulled back. "Slow down, kid. We got all night."

Han turned the younger man, pushing him down onto the bed, and then stretched out on his side next to the young man. He ran a gentle hand over the lean body, now tensed again with fright, and leaned over to nuzzle his neck.

"Relax, Luke," he murmured. "I promise I won’t do anything that you won’t like, but you’ll enjoy this a helluva lot more if you relax."

Luke nodded, drawing a deep breath, and whispered, "Is – should I be doing something?"

"Just lay back and enjoy. I’m gonna make you feel real good."

Han leaned over to kiss him again and felt the younger man relax as he responded to something he had already enjoyed. Han deepened the kiss, taking his time to explore the welcoming mouth under his and encouraging Luke to do the same. He responded eagerly and Han was pleased to see that he learned quickly.

Without breaking the kiss, he allowed one hand to slowly move down the body pressed next to his, gentle fingers exploring the warm flesh of the boy’s back. Muscles under the sleek skin spoke of hard work done over many years, confirming that this was no pampered pleasure pet. Han enjoyed the feel, the combination of hard muscle and skin, and slid his hand down to cup the firm ass. He heard the soft moan of the fully-aroused young man and released his mouth, allowing his lips to move over downy soft cheeks and down to nibble at an earlobe. Luke groaned again and clutched him with both hands, arching against his body so that their cocks brushed together. Han had to stop for a moment, catching his breath and calming his heart – it had been too long and this was going to end way too soon if he didn’t regain some control.

He brought up his exploring hand and placed his index finger against the boy’s lips, tracing them with a fingertip. Luke eagerly sucked in the finger and Han nearly groaned at the feeling of the lush mouth wrapped around his finger, imagining it wrapped around his cock. A grin crossed his face as he recalled the fate of the last person to attempt that, although he doubted that the kid would bite him. Not on purpose, anyway.

He removed his finger from the young man’s mouth and replaced it with his mouth while his hand returned to its earlier exploration. Sliding his hand between the firm cheeks, he let his moistened finger gently circle the small opening there, probing it carefully. Tight, very tight, and if the boy was not the virgin that he claimed to be, he was as near as made no difference. Overwhelming desire to breach that hole, to feel the tight heat encircling his cock, nearly drove him out of his mind. Reluctantly, he moved his hand away and returned to stroking the sleek back. Luke was too tight and too nervous to allow Han to take him without a great deal of discomfort and he had promised not to hurt the boy. Perhaps later, when the kid had relaxed from a good orgasm – hell, they were both young enough to be able to come at least once again that night.

Han rolled the younger man over onto his back, his own body following to cover. Luke’s arms came around him, clinging to him. He was gasping for air as Han released his mouth and let his own lips move down to the boy's neck.

"Does this feel good?" he asked, nuzzling the tender flesh.

"Yes," Luke whispered although it was close to a moan.

"Talk to me, kid," he ordered, continuing to move down the lean body. "I like my lovers to tell me if they like what I’m doin'."

"Okay." As Han ran his tongue over the nub of a nipple, Luke arched up with a gasp. "Yes! Maker, yes!"

"You like that?" Han continued to work over the tight bud, reveling in the gasps of pleasure and moans that he was wringing out of Luke. Then he moved over to the other nipple, continuing to tease and torment the young man until he was nearly weeping with frustration.

"Please, oh please," Luke begged, arching his hips up to rub against something, anything.

Han moved back up the slender body, capturing an eager mouth again as he settled down over Luke. Aligning their cocks, he began rocking his body against Luke’s, relishing the slick feeling as their bodies rubbed together. Freeing his mouth, he buried his face against the slender neck, nipping and sucking at the supple flesh. Luke groaned, arching up underneath him, and Han increased his thrusting.

That was all it took; Luke gasped and convulsed under him and the beautiful sounds of his pleasure tipped Han over the edge. He came with a groan, spilling his release over the slim form that lay dazed and gasping under him.

He rolled off Luke's body and lay on his back, catching his breath for a moment before reaching over the side of the bed to pick up the towel that he had dropped there. He wiped himself clean and turned to do the same for Luke.

Luke was lying with his eyes closed, breathing raggedly, but his eyes flew open at Han’s touch. Han smiled reassuringly as he wiped the semen off the young man’s body.

"You okay, kid?" Luke nodded, but he looked uncertain. "What?"

"You didn’t – " Luke blushed, embarrassed.

"Fuck you?" He grinned as the young man blushed even more. "Plenty of time for that later. For now, I need t'sleep."

He pulled the covers over them and ordered the lights off, then settled down on his side, letting his eyes slide closed. It had been a long time since he had felt secure enough to fall asleep with someone else in bed with him. Much safer not to, considering his usual bed-companions. But there was something about this kid…

Beside him, he could feel the younger man shift and settle into a comfortable position. As the boy's breath evened out in sleep, Han drew a deep breath and let himself relax. Smiling contentedly, he drifted into sleep.


Chapter 3

 

Han woke in the middle of the night to the sense of someone leaning over him. Without opening his eyes, he moved quickly, pinning his would-be assailant to the bed with his hands and body, and then ordered the lights up to quarter-bright. Luke's blue eyes looked up at him and Han felt a surge of disappointment. He ruthlessly suppressed it. Stupid to expect that the kid would feel anything for him, even stupider to fall for a pretty face and innocent manners. In all likelihood, it had been an act and the boy was no more innocent than any of the other whores in this place.

"Just what were your master's orders - act the innocent virgin, get me to let my guard down? And then what - rob me? Drug me? Kill me?"

Wide, frightened eyes looked up at him and the blond head shook vigorously. "No! I swear - I had no orders. Please - let me go."

Han tightened his hold. "You weren't leanin' over to kiss me, sweetheart. Now tell me the truth or you'll find your career as a pleasure slave seriously shortened." He grasped the younger man's genitals, squeezing them meaningfully.

Luke winced in pain. "I was trying to make sure that you were asleep. Then - then I was going to - steal some credits. Not a lot! Just enough - just enough to secure a hiding place till I can find my family. I swear it!"

Han frowned, hearing the ring of sincerity. "Family? You said your uncle was dead."

"He is. My aunt was taken and sold, like me." He opened his eyes and stared up at the older man. "I didn't lie to you, and it wasn't an act. I'm really - you're my - my first…"

Han released the young man, sitting up with a sigh. "You know, kid, you could have just asked. Although you're crazy if you think you can hide anywhere on this planet from the Hutts. You run away and Jabba will track you through your implant. He'll catch you and by the time he gets around to killin' you, you'll be grateful to die."

"There are places where I can have the implant removed, for a price."

"Yeah," Han said angrily, unable to believe that Luke would take such a dangerous risk. "Back-street butcher shops. If they can locate the device and if they can remove it without scatterin' your body parts everywhere. And if you're damn lucky and they get it right, there's still a good chance that you'll bleed to death or die from infection."

"Then kill me now. Please."

Han stared down at the boy, startled by the desperation in his voice and the bleak despair in his eyes. "Are you crazy?"

"No." Reaching out with reflexes quicker than Han had expected, the young man snatched the blaster off the bed table. But instead of aiming it at Han, he held it against his chest, the grip pointed toward Han. "Pull the trigger."

"You're nuts, kid. There's no way'n hell that I would kill you."

Blue eyes looked up at him, but now they were hard as stone and more compelling than ever. He could almost feel himself falling into their depths as he heard the soft voice continue.

"You’d condemn me to this life? To being taken and used by anyone who has the credits to buy my body for an hour or a night? I’m not stupid, Captain Solo. I’ve seen the others – not the Guild pleasurers but the slaves like me. I know the kind of treatment I can expect. And when I've gotten too old or too damaged, I'll be sent to the mines. Do you know the life expectancy of a salt mine worker? The lucky ones die before the first month is over. I'd rather die now."

Mesmerized, Han found his hand on the grip of his blaster, his eyes locked on Luke's. His heart was beating so hard that he could hardly hear anything but it. He fought against the compulsion to pull the trigger and sweat trickled into his eyes. He blinked to clear them and, suddenly, found himself free. With an oath, he tossed the blaster aside and took the young man's face between his hands.

"Don't be a fool! While there's life there's hope - d'you hear me?"

"Yes," the boy said faintly, his eyes reflecting such pain and disappointment that Han couldn't help himself. He leaned down, kissing the younger man, taking his mouth ruthlessly. Arms slid up around him, holding him closer, and the boy's mouth opened willingly under his assault, surrendering completely. He welcomed the surrender, delving deeper to possess Luke, and rocked his body against the lean form under him. His cock responded eagerly and he could feel the willingness in the boy's body so he was surprised when Luke tore his mouth away.

"No," Luke gasped. "Not like this. Take me…please. Show me what it’s like to belong to someone."

Han groaned as the words went straight to his cock. This was insane. There was no profit in getting involved with a barely-legal slave who didn't even have the good sense to know he was better off here than dead or in the salt mines. Too late, his body told his mind as the younger man shifted under him, spreading his legs. Much, much too late.

He pulled away from the younger man for a moment, grabbing a tube of sweet oil from the bowl beside the bed. He turned back to Luke and found that the younger man had propped himself up on his elbows, watching Han intently. Han cleared his throat.

"It'll be easier for you on your hands and knees."

Without a word, Luke rolled over on his stomach and lifted himself to the required position. Han felt his mouth go dry. So beautiful, he thought. So trusting. He squeezed some of the oil onto his fingers and moved closer to the younger man, resting one hand on his back for reassurance as he stroked an oiled finger over the tight entrance. Luke shivered and Han didn’t know if it was with pleasure or terror or both; he leaned over to press kisses along the supple spine.

"Easy, Luke. Just relax," he murmured. "I’m stretchin' you to make it easier but you gotta work with me."

He pressed his finger in and felt the resistance for a moment before it gave way. Slowly, he stroked his finger in and out, heard a groan of pleasure from the boy, and added another finger. More resistance but he was slow and thorough and before long Luke was rocking backward, seeking more from him. He leaned over to kiss his way up the spine again as he slowly added a third finger, felt the slight stiffening under him.

"Shh," he murmured. "You’re doing fine. Almost there." He slowly pressed in with three fingers. "Does this hurt?"

Luke shook his head but in a way that made Han doubt his words as he said, "No. Just – tight." He twisted his fingers, seeking the magic spot, and smiled as Luke suddenly gasped. "Maker! What – oh, please! Again!"

Instead, Han pulled his fingers out and slowly pressed inside with his cock. He heard the gasping breath, felt the instinctive urge to pull away, and wrapped his arms around the slender waist to keep the boy still. Luke made a sound between a gasp and a sob, and Han paused to allow him to catch his breath. He brushed a kiss against the back of the younger man’s neck, murmuring reassurance. Feeling the body beneath him relax, he slid back and pressed forward again, this time a little deeper. Slowly, painstakingly, he repeated this until he was fully sheathed inside the young man.

Pausing again to allow Luke’s body to become accustomed to him and stop fighting, he nuzzled against the boy’s neck, now covered with a thin sheen of sweat. "Easy, kid. You’re doin' great. Just relax - I promise it’ll feel good."

He saw Luke try to nod and then Han shifted backwards, hearing a soft sound that could have been pleasure or pain or both. Sliding forward, he heard a groan that was definitely pleasure and smiled. Slowly, as slowly as he dared, he repeated his thrusting and felt the slowly building response of the body he possessed. Luke was moaning now, a beautiful sound of desire and need. Reaching around, he found that the kid's erection had returned and he grasped the swollen cock with his hand. Luke gasped and surged backward, impaling himself on Han's cock and making it rub against his prostate.

Han chuckled at Luke's cry of startled delight and pressed a kiss against Luke's neck. "Like that, kid?"

"Yes, oh yes!"

"Then hang on - it's gonna get even better." Holding onto the young man's hips, he began moving quickly, sliding in and out of the tight heat. Luke groaned and tried to push back but Han held him still. "Don't do that," he growled. "You'll hurt yourself. Let me do all the work."

Luke obeyed, nearly sobbing with his need, his arms collapsing under him. Han groaned as the shift in position tightened the hot channel around his cock and he felt the waves of heat starting to build within him. Another stroke and then it was too much and he was exploding into the sweet warmth surrounding him. Collapsing onto the slender, strong back under him, he had just enough presence of mind to reach around again and grasp the kid's cock, pumping it in rhythm with the shuddering aftershocks that were still rocking his own body. He heard the wordless cry, felt the warmth on his hand, and then the muscles around his cock were clenching so hard that he thought he would come again from the sheer intensity of it.

He felt the collapse of the body under his and followed Luke down to the bed, unable to do anything more at the moment as he tried to catch his breath. When he could move again, he gently eased out of the young man and flopped onto the bed on his back, sighing in satisfaction.

Grinning, he glanced over at the boy, intending to tease him about being a natural in bed. Luke still lay on his stomach, his eyes closed, and as Han watched he saw a tear trickle out of the corner of the young man’s eye. Concerned, he rolled onto his side and caressed Luke’s cheek.

"You okay, kid? I didn’t hurt you, did I?"

"No." A slight smile curved his mouth. "That was the most incredible – thank you."

"So why the water-works?"

Luke’s eyes opened and, if possible, the desolation in them was greater than it had been earlier. "How will I be able to bear anyone else touching me after this?"

Han swore silently to himself even as he reached out to pull the younger man into his arms. He couldn't believe how stupid he had been, allowing his own lust to overwhelm him and destroy Luke. He knew how much the kid hated this life and he had just wrecked whatever last bit of pride the boy had. He had gone ahead and taken the boy, shown him what it was like to have a partner who cared about his comfort and needs, when the kid would be lucky if his future clients didn't hurt him too badly. This boy wasn’t a trained Pleasurer, secure in his sexual identity with a contract and a powerful Guild standing behind him. This was a green kid, a slave, a boy whose life had been shattered in the space of a few days. And Han had joined the ranks of all who had betrayed the boy since he was twelve, no matter how good his intentions. He snorted at that - he hadn't even had good intentions. He had wanted Luke and he had taken advantage of the kid's vulnerability.

So what in the hell did he do now? Feed the kid some pap about him only feeling this way because Han was Luke’s first? Tell him that working as a pleasure slave was better than dying in some stinking mine? Encourage the boy to find a patron so he could become one man’s pampered Pet instead of anyone’s whore? Slavery was slavery, no matter how pretty the cage.

No, there was only one thing he could do.

He stroked the sleek skin, soothing and comforting. "It’s okay, kid. You won’t have to let anyone touch you again. I’m gonna get you outta here."

"You can’t do that." Luke’s voice was muffled and Han could tell that he was ashamed of his tears and trying to choke them back.

"’Course I can - I got connections. You’ll be outta here and flyin’ free before you know it."

Luke looked up at him, hope dawning in his blue eyes. "Really?"

"Would I lie to you, kid?" Han grinned at the boy, trying to cheer him up.

Luke tentatively smiled back, and Han could feel the boy’s slender body relax in his arms. "Thanks."

"Least I could do, kid," Han said roughly, embarrassed by thanks he had yet to earn. "Now go to sleep. Tomorrow’ll be a busy day."

Luke closed his eyes, snuggling into the older man’s shoulder, and sighed contentedly. A few minutes later, his slow breathing told Han that Luke had succumbed to exhaustion from his overwrought nerves. And as Han waited for the morning, he held the warm and trusting body close and tried to figure out how to fulfill his promise.


 

Chapter 4

It was just starting to lighten outside the window when his internal clock woke him and Han realized that he had managed to drop off to sleep. He sat up, suppressing a groan. It had been a long night and he hadn’t gotten nearly enough rest. Although, he thought irrepressibly, what he'd gotten in its place had been worth giving up sleep.

Luke was still asleep, curled up against his side as if trying to share his warmth, and Han looked down at him regretfully. Despite the boy’s lack of experience – or maybe because of it – the previous night ranked as one of the best experiences in the Corellian’s life. He was going to miss the kid, he thought with a sigh. Still, it was all for the best. He'd get the kid out and give him a chance at a new start, and after that the boy would have to sink or swim on his own. And Han would leave Mos Eisley and Tatooine and – if he was lucky – never see the damned planet again.

He slipped out of bed and dressed quietly, not wanting to wake his bed-partner. As he strapped on his blaster, a flash of memory from the previous night made him frown and look over at the bed. What was there about this kid that had made him act like that, had made him actually think about pulling the trigger of that blaster? He shivered, pushing the memory away, and sat down in the chair to pull on his boots.

Han was no closer to a solution to the problem of freeing Luke this morning although he had a few options lined up. The direct approach first – offer to buy the boy and see what happened. He had little doubt that Din Bardeeda would be glad to get rid of the troublesome slave while making a profit. Han knew it would cost him a lot but his credits were in good shape after the last commission. And there was something ironically amusing in the thought of Jabba’s credits going to purchase one of Jabba’s own slaves.

And if Din Bardeeda wouldn’t sell, Han would go directly to Jabba and work a deal. It wouldn't be good – Jabba wouldn’t want anything as ordinary as credits for the boy – he would want a piece of the Corellian’s soul. Han had no doubt that Jabba’s terms would be unpleasant and certainly illegal, but he wasn’t in a position to bargain.

He frowned, wondering if this had been Jabba’s intention all along. It didn’t seem possible. Jabba couldn’t have known that Han would choose the boy for a bed partner – or could he? Han had never made a secret of the fact that, while he was open to male or female partners, he liked the independent sort. Thinking back to the line-up of all the skilled and compliant partners available, he knew it had been the novelty of this scruffy-looking boy with his defiant attitude that had caught his attention. It was a given that he would learn that the boy was a slave, and Han’s attitude towards slavers was well known. Hell, he had once shot a man off his ship for attempting to pass off a shipment of slaves as his wives and concubines. Once hearing Luke’s story, Han was bound to be hooked.

Han turned narrowed eyes toward the bed where the boy slept still, wondering again if the kid could have been involved in the whole plan, if that story had been concocted to get past Han’s defenses. That Luke was just a common little slut doing his master’s bidding. As he watched, Luke shifted in his sleep, sighing softly like a much younger boy, and Han couldn’t help smiling.

No, he’d bet his last credit that the kid was just what he appeared to be – an innocent pawn in a game of chance. And the beauty of the scheme was just that. Jabba had taken a big chance that Han would fall for his trap but the Hutt was nothing if not a cool gambler. Han almost admired the crafty, overgrown slug.

Almost. Except for the fact that an innocent had been used to bait the trap.

Han sat down on the side of the bed and gently smoothed the tousled fair hair. "Sleep sweet, kid," he murmured. "I’ll be back for you shortly."

The halls were empty as Han made his way down to the first floor but he wasn’t surprised given the early morning hour. He was surprised to see Din Bardeda on duty at the front desk and wondered if the Twi’lekian ever slept. It was just as well – now he wouldn’t have to hunt him down to make the deal.

"Captain Solo!" the manager said, smiling that ingratiating smile that suddenly made Solo want to wipe it off his face. "I trust that you enjoyed your stay with us?"

"Very much."

"Good, good. Glad to hear it. And the boy?" he asked delicately. "No problems with him?"

"None." The manager presented him with a datapad of the charges he had incurred and Solo pretended to study it as he said, casually, "As a matter of fact, I was taken with him. I don’t suppose that he would be for sale…?"

Din Bardeda’s face was nearly orgasmic with bliss. "One moment – let me consult his record." He sorted through the padds and stuck one in the reader. As he perused it, his face fell. "Oh. No, I’m sorry, Captain Solo. The boy is not for sale. It seems that Jabba has – special plans for him."

Solo, in the process of putting his thumbprint on the bill, looked up sharply. "Plans? What kind of plans?"

"Terminal ones." Din Bardeeda avoided the Corellian's eyes.

Solo knew what that meant and his blood went cold. His stomach clenched suddenly at the image of blue eyes wide with terror and a soft voice changed to screams. He gripped the desk with one hand while the other clenched on the datapad, closing his eyes to shut out the images.

"Captain, are you all right?"

He nodded briefly, trying to bring himself under control. "Must've had a little too much to drink last night," he managed to say. He opened his eyes and found that he was looking at the desktop and at the padd with Luke's name blinking on it. He drew a deep breath and continued cautiously, trying to feel out the edges of this trap. "Seems to me like a waste of good credits. Kid like that's worth a lot more alive than as Rancor food." His eyes met the Twi'lekian's and he knew that the subtle message had been exchanged.

Din Bardeeda shook his head slightly, regretfully. "When the Hutts make a decision, they rarely change their mind. You could, of course, consult with Jabba yourself."

There – the trap lay open and inviting and Solo knew that he had been right. Jabba had used the kid to set him up and had planned to callously toss the boy aside like a worthless toy if Solo didn’t go for the bait. He was suddenly determined not to play this game their way.

Coolly, he said, "Well, there’re a hundred kids just like him – not worth bothering about." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a couple of credit chips. "What’s the damage?"

Din Bardeeda looked alarmed at his response and almost stammered, "No need to pay the bill today, Captain Solo! Your credit is good here. And – and if the boy did not suit you, perhaps we can locate another more to your taste?"

Another innocent destroyed? Solo wanted to kill the Twi’lekian with his bare hands but managed to shrug carelessly. "Perhaps. I’ll be back in a few days."

The Twi’lekian almost visibly relaxed. "Good, good. Now, if you’ll just give me your club chip, I’ll make a note of your preferences."

Solo pretended to search his pockets. In the process of searching, he dropped the credit chips and they scattered on the floor behind the desk. The Twi’lekian bent down to retrieve them and, in the moment when his attention was distracted, Solo grabbed Luke's datapad and tucked it into his inner vest pocket.

"Sorry," Solo said, trying to look sheepish as the manager finished collecting the scattered credits and handing them back. "I'm having a little trouble holdin' onto things this morning. Too much of everything last night." He looked around the hall, looking appreciative, while his sharp eyes were quickly cataloging the entry points and general activity.

A glint of satisfaction appeared in the manager’s eyes before he veiled them again. "Understandable. Your card, Captain?"

"I must’ve left it upstairs – I’ll just run back up and look for it."

Once back in the room, he pulled out the datapad and glanced at it. The Hutts kept excellent records, he thought sourly, as he quickly scanned the information contained there. According to the padd, Luke’s story was true – his previous owner had lost all his property and his account with Jabba had been "terminated". There was no information on the aunt in Luke’s record, but Jabba was no humanitarian. If she had been able to work, she had no doubt been sent to one of his mines, and if not, she was dead. The final notation sobered Solo – the Hutt had ordered that Luke was to be brought to his palace later that day – "for the amusement of the Court". Although Solo hadn’t had the dubious pleasure of witnessing such amusement, he had heard enough rumors to know that it was infinitely worse than a blaster shot at close range.

Solo closed his eyes, and leaned his head back against the door. He had been hoping that the Twi'lekian was wrong, hoping that Luke's situation wouldn't be so hopeless and that he could just free the kid and walk away. So much for his run of good luck.

"I'm gonna hate myself tomorrow," he muttered.

His mind raced over his options. Another quick glance at the padd relieved one anxiety; the location and deactivation code for the slave device was here. So: get Luke out of the club and off planet, and hope that Jabba didn’t trace the kid’s disappearance to him. And if he did...well, that blockade would just have to be run when he came to it. For now, he was running out of time.

Quickly, he attached the padd to a blank one he carried and downloaded the data. While the transfer was working, he pulled out his commlink.

"Chewie? Come on, big guy, wake up." A muffled grumble on the other end made him smile - Chewbacca was not a morning-Wookiee. "Yeah, yeah, I know what time it is. Look, is the ship ready to go? Repairs finished, departure clearance secured?"

[Of course, Han,] came the slightly affronted reply. [I have done this before.]

"Don't get your fur ruffled, pal. Just wanna make sure that we can take off right away if we need to."

The Wookiee's voice on the other end was suspicious. [Han, what are you up to?]

"Me? Up to something?"

[Solo.]

He sighed. "Just a little...recruitment effort, okay? You're always sayin’ how short-handed we are. I just thought I'd do somethin' about it."

[Solo.]

"Gotta go, Chewie. See you shortly."

Solo pocketed both padds and commlink, then moved to the bed. Luke was still sleeping, and Solo stood for a moment looking down at the boy. The sheet was twisted around his thin body exposing the golden skin of his back and arms. Arousal flared in Han - the boy was even more attractive in the light of day. Suppressing his returning desire ruthlessly, he sat down on the bed and shook the boy’s bare shoulder.

"Luke. Wake up, Luke. Time to get you outta here."

The young man stretched and yawned, blinking his eyes open, then a sunny smile lit his face. "Morning, Captain Solo."

Han couldn’t help responding to that smile. "Morning, kid." He leaned forward to kiss lips that were still slightly swollen from the previous night and was amused to feel the younger man’s arms slide around his neck, pulling him closer. "Sorry, kid, I got places to be. And if you want to get outta here, you’d best get movin'."

Wide eyes stared up at him. "You were serious? You have a plan?"

Han grinned at him. "I always have a plan. Now get dressed if you don’t wanna get left behind."

Luke flung back the bedclothes and slid out of bed, fetching his clothes off the bathroom floor where he had dropped them, swiftly dressing.

"Okay, kid. I can’t take you out the front – what about the back? Any guards?"

Luke nodded. "The doors are monitored to keep clients from slipping out without paying their bills."

"What about you? Can you go out that way?"

Luke nodded again. "They pretty much let us come and go during the day. It’s not like we can go very far with the implant."

"Okay. I want you to go out the back and make your way to the main port, docking bay 94. I’ll meet you there."

"But – "

"No time to argue, kid. And we don't have time to collect any keepsakes."

"That's all right," Luke said, pulling on his shoes. "I'm ready to go. There’s nothing here for me."

Luke slipped out the door and Han followed a few minutes later, heading leisurely down the main stairs. He held up his club card with a grin as he approached the main desk. "Found it. The damn thing had fallen under the bed."

Din Bardeeda took the card with a smug smile and turned to process it through the main system. Han leaned casually on the desk and slipped the original padd onto the desk with the others. And in a few moments he was walking out the front door with the firm intention to never return to that club again.


 

Chapter 5

Han strode quickly into the docking bay, looking around for Luke. For one heart-stopping moment, he thought that the boy wasn’t there, had been caught while trying to escape. But then a slender form melted out of the shadows and he drew a deep sigh of relief.

"You made it. Good."

Luke gestured toward the ship. "That yours?"

"Yeah. This is her – the Falcon," Han said, proudly gesturing to his ship.

Luke looked up at it and, for a moment, Han thought he might comment about its less than pristine appearance, but he just smiled. "She’s nice."

Han visibly expanded at the compliment. "Yeah, well she may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts. I’ve made a lot of special modifications myself. She’ll do point five past light speed." Luke looked suitably impressed and Han tugged him toward the loading ramp. "Come on."

Luke balked. "Where are we going?"

"You’re comin' with me, kid."

Luke’s eyes lit up for a moment as he smiled brightly at the smuggler, then his smile faded. "I can’t. I’ve got to find Aunt Beru."

Han scowled at the young man, exasperated. He didn’t have time to argue with the kid now – especially out in the open. All he needed was for someone to see the two of them together and report it to Jabba. "Not now, kid." He grabbed Luke’s arm.

Luke pulled free, his mouth setting stubbornly. "No. I can’t leave Aunt Beru. I’ve got to find her."

"And do what? You can’t stay here."

"Then I’ll leave Tatooine as soon as I can - with her," Luke said firmly. "I’ll get a job somewhere, maybe here at the port. I’m good with engines. I’ll save my credits and get my own ship – "

"And who’s going to pilot it? You?"

"You bet I could!" Luke flared, stung to anger. "I’m not such a bad pilot myself!"

"Forget it, kid. The slavers would have you within a week and you’d find yourself on your back again."

"You can’t make me – "

"Oh, yes I can." Han pulled out the datapad from his pocket and held it up so that Luke could see his name on it. "This says that I own you, kid. You belong to me now."

Luke’s face went white. "I thought – I thought you were helping me get free."

Han avoided looking in the young man's eyes. He felt bad enough already - there was no way that he could lie to the kid but he'd be damned before he abandoned the boy here on the planet. "Yeah, well, you cost me more than I thought you would, so I plan on keepin' you with me for awhile."

"I see." Luke’s face was still pale and seemed set in stone, but his hands were steady as he began unfastening his bodysuit.

Han froze. "What‘n hell d’you think you’re doing?"

"Starting to pay back my debt. How do you want me? Hands and knees again, or maybe on my back?" Luke pulled one arm free of the suit.

The sight of that golden arm and the awareness of the public place they were in brought Han out of shock. He grabbed Luke by the arm, holding the bodysuit closed as he hustled him up the access ramp and into the ship.

"You put that back on and I don’t ever want to see you doin’ that again!" Han blazed at the young man. "You’re not some cheap slut to be fucked in public!"

Luke was reassembling his clothes but now his hands shook as he tried to work the closure. "No; I gathered that I'm an expensive slut. Would you prefer that we went to your cabin?"

"Luke," Han said in exasperation, and he pushed away the boy’s hands so that he could close up the bodysuit. He felt a shudder run through the thin frame and groaned as he folded the stiff and resisting body into his arms. "Don’t, Luke. It’ll be okay – I promise. Look – I gotta job to do, one that’ll bring in a lotta credits. As soon as it’s done, we’ll come back here and find your aunt and buy her back."

"Promise?" The voice was thick with emotion.

"I swear. It’s just – I can’t stay here right now, you understand?"

Luke pushed back a little, looking up into Han’s face, and the smuggler was relieved to see some color returning to his face. "Are you in trouble, Captain Solo?"

Han grinned. "I’m always in trouble, kid." And more so since I met you, he thought in resignation.

To his amazement, Luke pulled himself together before his eyes, straightening his back. "Then we’d better get out of here quickly."

Han smiled in relief and took the younger man’s face between his hands. "That’s my boy," he said, and kissed Luke gently.

A sound between a laugh and a grunt caught his attention, and he turned his head to glare at his co-pilot. "What’re you laughing at, fuzz-ball?"

The Wookiee bared his teeth in a grin and chuckled again. [It is a very attractive cub, Han.]

"His name’s Luke Skywalker." Han saw that Luke was looking at the Wookiee in trepidation. "This is Chewbacca, my co-pilot and partner. Don’t worry, he doesn’t bite – much."

"Pleased to meet you," Luke murmured, holding out his hand and trying not to flinch as it was folded into the larger one for a vigorous handshake.

Chewbacca looked at Han in amusement. [The cub has good manners. I like him. Will we be keeping him for awhile?]

"Yeah, he’ll be comin' with us."

[Good. Then perhaps you will not growl quite so often since you have a mate.]

Han flushed. "He’s not my mate, he’s my – " He hesitated, uncertain what to say. If he told the Wookiee the truth, Luke would be gone like a shot. "He’s with me," he settled for, lamely.

The Wookiee studied him with sharp eyes but was distracted by a sudden growl from Luke’s stomach. [It would appear that your non-mate is hungry.] With a gentle paw, he patted Luke’s shoulder and indicated that he should follow the Wookiee down the main corridor. [I will feed him since you seem to have a problem caring for your – companion.]

"Great, just great," Han muttered. "Now Chewie’s playing nursemaid."

He watched Luke follow the Wookiee down the corridor and, despite his exasperation with the boy, couldn't help admiring the tight young ass encased in the thin jumpsuit. Suddenly, he was glad that he'd brought the kid on board. He knew he’d have to tell the boy the truth as soon as they went into hyperspace and the kid could no longer jump ship. Luke would be furious but, with luck and the right handling, he would get past it and realize that it was in his best interest to remain with the Falcon – and Han. In the meantime, there were practical matters to handle.

In his cabin he found the device he was looking for buried in the bottom of a storage bin and checked it over carefully to make sure it still worked. Their passenger would be arriving soon and Han intended to take off the moment he did, before anyone noticed the boy was missing and looked in his direction. As he started towards the lounge and cargo hold, another thought occurred to him. In the guest cabin were some extra clothes, things left behind by passengers or lovers over the years. He hunted out some things that looked like they might fit Luke and took them with him.

Entering the lounge, he was amused to see that Luke was cleaning off his third plate of food. "You still eating, kid? Good thing we gotta decent fare - you're gonna eat me out of credits."

Luke mumbled "I'm hungry" around his spoon and Han cuffed him gently on the head.

"And don't talk with your mouth full. Didn't your folks teach you manners?" Luke just smiled at that and tucked into a rich-looking dessert that Chewbacca set on the table. "And you stop feeding him like that!"

[But the cub is hungry, Han,] Chewbacca protested.

"He's not a cub - he's a human who's gonna be the size of a freighter if this keeps up. And if he gets sick when we hit space, you get to clean it up." He looked over at Luke who had finished the dessert and was sitting back with a satisfied sigh. Not for the first time, he noted the thinness in the boy's face and said gruffly, "When was the last time you ate, kid?"

Luke shrugged. "Real food? About two weeks back. When you're in the cells, they only give you nutrient bars once a day." He looked up at Han through his bangs. "I was in the Cells a lot."

"I noticed that from your records," Han said dryly. "I have a feeling that you're gonna be a lot of trouble."

"I'd just gotten out when they sent word that all humans were to go upstairs and I got dragged along. I really wasn't supposed to be up there." He grinned at Han. "Lucky for me that I was, huh?"

"Yeah." And for me, too, thought Han and then ruthlessly squashed the thought. He was aware that Chewbacca was watching him closely and had a feeling that the Wookiee had figured out at least part of the story - and the stars only knew what Luke had been telling the co-pilot while Han was gone.

"Now, before our passenger gets here, we've gotta take care of that device." He consulted the datapad. "Says here that it’s in your back, in the upper right. Take down the top, kid."

Flushing as he briefly glanced over at the Wookiee, Luke obeyed. Han ran the deactivator over his back, locating the implant under his right shoulder-bone. The location of the device was a particularly nasty one if detonated – not close enough to any vital organs to kill instantly, but just in the right place to cause a lot of internal damage. A slow, excrutiatingly painful kind of death.

"Hold still, kid. I’d hate to have our new paint job messed up." Pressing the deactivator firmly against Luke’s skin, he entered the sequence numbers, breathing a sigh of relief when the indicator light changed to red to show that the implant was inactive. "Good. Now to get this thing outta you. It’s gonna sting a little – you ready?" Luke nodded, and Han saw him wince slightly as the mini-laser punched through tissue to extract the small device, cauterizing and sealing the small wound on the way back out. A moment later, the small disk was lying on his palm while Chewbacca applied a healing strip over the small incision.

"Here, Luke. Souvenir."

Luke shook his head. "No, thanks. I'm glad it's out - I hated the idea of something like that in my body."

Han nodded, aware that his co-pilot’s eyes were studying him intently over the head of the seated boy. He picked up the pile of clothing. "You can't go around in public wearing that thing. Here’s some spare clothes and things we had on board – I think I guessed the right sizes. You can change in my cabin - first door on the right."

Luke took the armload with a smile that made Han feel like the sun had gone nova. "Thanks, Captain Solo," he said softly, heading towards the main corridor.

"Luke!" Han called and the boy turned back. "Call me 'Han', okay?"

That smile again, and Han thought he would do anything for it. "Yes, Cap - Han." Then he disappeared.

Han turned his attention back to his partner. "What're you lookin' at?"

[The cub was a slave? You found him in a Pleasure house?]

"Yeah. You got a problem with that?"

[You did not buy him, Solo?] Chewbacca's voice was grim.

"Of course not!" Han said indignantly.

[So you stole a Pleasure slave? From the Hutts?]

Defensively, he said, "Well, I couldn't just leave him there, could I? I mean, look at him! He's as green as they come. And they were gonna kill him - " He found himself unable to speak as he was engulfed in a rough embrace and he gasped for breath. "Chewie! Enough - you're smothering me!"

The Wookiee released him, fondly rubbing his head. [You are a good man, Han Solo.]

"Yeah, well, don't let it get around. It’d ruin my reputation," Han said with a grin. "Oh, and don't tell Luke that I didn't buy him." At Chewbacca's surprised grunt, he said, "He wants to find his aunt – I couldn’t let him go wand'ring all over the planet lookin’ for her. Jabba's goons would've caught him in a heartbeat."

[And when do you intend to tell him the truth?] At Han's flush, Chewbacca growled, [You would not use this situation to take advantage of the cub, would you?]

Han looked at him, pretending to be hurt. "You wound me, Chewie. Did it look like I was takin' advantage of him earlier? He's just as hot for me - " He broke off as Luke came into the room. "Now that's much better," he said approvingly. Luke flushed a little and looked down at the light colored pants and white tunic before his eyes came back up to meet Han’s. The Corellian could feel the intensity between them and wanted nothing more than to take the kid back into his cabin and remove those new clothes. He sighed internally – business before pleasure.

"Our passenger should be arriving soon. Chewie, get the engines on line. We may need to get out of here fast."

He strode down the main corridor towards the access ramp, followed by Luke and Chewbacca. As the Wookiee went on past to the cockpit, Han turned to Luke. "Stay here, kid, and stay sharp. There could be trouble."

Luke squared his shoulders. "I'm ready for anything."

Han refrained from smiling at this and merely nodded before heading down the ramp. To his relief, he saw the old man walking briskly across the bay followed by a small astrodroid and a larger bipedal droid.

"Glad to see you made it," Han said sardonically, bowing the old man towards the access ramp. "We seem to be a bit rushed, so if you'll get on board, we'll be off."

Kenobi nodded and indicated that the droids should go onboard. He paused and looked around, frowning as if looking for something. Han thought that he looked older than he had the previous day, older and sadder. With a slight sigh, Kenobi turned and headed up after the droids.

Han was about to join them when the sight of something moving in the doorway caught his attention. Stormtroopers, he thought, ducking inside and yelling toward the cockpit, "Chewie! Deflector shields - now! Get us outta here!"

Swinging back briefly as he drew his blaster, he fired several shots making the troops dive for cover. He raced up the ramp and slammed his hand down on the quick-release button, and the hatchway snapped shut behind him.

"Hold on!" he yelled to the two men waiting in the corridor as the droids raced toward the cargo hold. He reached out to push Luke towards one of the emergency handholds along the corridor as the ship rocked under them. Despite the boy’s best effort, he tumbled onto the floor and looked like he had decided to stay there for the moment.

When the ship settled underfoot, Han released his own hold and smiled down at Luke. "You did well for your first time, kid."

Luke groaned. "Even though I ended up on my ass?"

"Yeah - and it's a nice ass. And you didn't lose your breakfast."

Kenobi, obviously an experienced spacer, chuckled and held out a hand to the young man. "Here, son - let me help you up."

"That's right, you two don’t know each other. Luke Skywalker, meet Ben Kenobi."


Chapter 6

 

Luke grinned at the old man and Han could see that Kenobi was struck speechless. He wasn't surprised - Luke in full-charm-mode was breathtaking. He moved slightly closer to the boy to emphasize his claim.

"Are you a Jedi Knight?" Luke gestured towards the saber hilt visible on the older man's belt. "I've seen some historical vids of them and they used to carry weapons like that."

"Luke Skywalker," Kenobi said, his voice oddly rough, and Han looked at him, puzzled. "I've been looking for you for the past four days. I thought you were dead, like - like your uncle."

"You were looking for me?" Luke asked. "Why?"

Kenobi sighed. "A long story, my boy. I knew your father - many, many years ago."

Han had a bad feeling about this and he interrupted. "Look, I hate to break up this reunion, but we got work to do."

He led the way to the cockpit, sliding into the pilot seat as his eye expertly ran over the instrument panel. Chewbacca growled at him and he glanced at the tracking screen. "I know, I know. Looks like two, maybe three destroyers. Somebody doesn't like our passenger." His hands flew over the instrument panel, "Try to hold 'em off while I finish programming the light jump. Angle the deflectors for maximum shielding."

Moving in concert, the two partners worked while behind them the image of Tatooine receded from view. Han glanced up briefly at Luke and Kenobi. "We've got two more coming in from different angles," he told them. "They're gonna try to box us in before we can jump. Five ships." He shook his head. "What did you do to attract that kind of attention, Kenobi?"

"Can't you outrun them?" Luke asked. "I thought you said this ship was fast."

"Watch your mouth, kid, or you'll find yourself floating home," Han snapped, hands moving more rapidly than thought. "There's too many of them, but we'll be safe once we make the jump to hyperspace." The ship rocked as Chewbacca swerved to avoid the ships firing at them. "Here's where the situation gets interesting," Han muttered, running through the calculations with practiced speed.

"How long before you can make the jump?" Kenobi asked. He was staring impassively out the forward view-screen, his hands tucked into the sleeves of his robe, as if facing down a fleet of Imperials was a daily occurrence. Han hoped to hell it wasn't.

"It'll be a few minutes before the navigation computer can compensate for the gravitational pull of the planet."

"A few minutes!" Luke exclaimed. "At the rate they're gaining - "

"Traveling through hyperspace ain't like dusting crops, boy. Rush it and you could find yourself passing right through a star or caught in a black hole. That would end our trip real quick."

On the main panel, a red warning light began to flash. "What's that?" Luke asked, reaching a hand out toward the indicator.

Han slapped his hand away. "Don't touch that! We're losing a deflector shield." He glanced up at Luke briefly. "Better strap yourself in, kid. We're almost ready to make the jump."

Luke nodded and disappeared down the corridor with Kenobi while Han concentrated on punching in the final calculations before pushing the controls that would throw them into light-speed. He blew out a relieved breath to see the familiar rush of stars as they made the light-jump, thinking grimly that he would have a word or two to say to Kenobi.

Han checked the instruments one more time before pushing his way out of his seat. Squeezing his co-pilot's shoulder he said, "I'm gonna go back and check on Luke and our passenger. Secure everything here, will you?" Receiving the Wookiee's affirmation, he made his way down the main corridor to the hold where he found the two humans were unfastening their acceleration harnesses.

"You can relax and stop worryin' about your Imperial friends," he told Kenobi. "I told you I'd lose those slugs. They'll never be able to track us now." Without pause, he made his way over to Luke and ruffled the younger man's hair. "How're you holding up, Luke?"

"Fine, Han," the boy said with a smile. "I'm a little hungry, though."

Han laughed and shook his head. "Kid, you're gonna wear out the replicator if you keep going like this! All right - I guess I could do with a bite to eat myself. Unlike some people, I didn't get any breakfast this morning."

Luke grinned and went to the replicator while Han sat down on one of the acceleration couches and stretched out his legs. He saw the boy look over at the old man and, glancing at Kenobi, saw that the old man was watching Luke with hooded eyes. Luke seemed to flush slightly under this scrutiny and Han had a sudden feeling of disquiet. He remembered what Kenobi had said earlier and wondered what his interest was in the boy.

"Would you care for something to eat, Knight Kenobi?" Luke asked.

Kenobi waved his hand dismissively. "Thank you, no. And please - call me Ben." He looked over at Han. "Captain Solo, when do you expect us to arrive at Alderaan. My business there is rather urgent."

"In case the Imperials have mined the main subspace route between here and Alderaan, we're taking a more indirect route. Should put us at Alderaan in 20 standard hours, roughly 0200."

Luke brought a collection of dishes over to the table and settled comfortably beside Han. Absently, Han's hand moved up to stroke the boy's sleek hair and saw Kenobi's eyes narrow as he watched them.

"I was very surprised to find you here, my boy," Kenobi said. "Surprised and pleased. I haven't seen you since you were very small. The last I heard, you were living on your uncle's farm and working at a mechanic's shop in Mos Eisley."

"You mean, he was a slave in a mechanic's shop in Mos Eisley," Han said with a growl. "I'm surprised you didn't know that if you were such a friend of the family."

Kenobi's eyes met Han's across the room and the Corellian didn't try to hide the suspicion that he knew was in his eyes. The old man's expression was carefully neutral as he turned his attention back toward Luke.

Luke didn't appear to have noticed the silent confrontation between the other two men. "It wasn't common knowledge outside the farm. Uncle Owen was ashamed to be thought a failure. But you said that you had been looking for me - why?"

Kenobi sighed. "A week ago, I became aware that something was wrong concerning your family but I wasn't certain what. And then I received a message that I was urgently needed on Alderaan, so I went to the farm to say goodbye to my - your uncle and found it destroyed. What happened, Luke?"

"Jabba. He collected on all the debts owed to Deeto and if they couldn't pay..." Luke looked away, swallowing hard, and Han ruffled his hair gently again. "His men killed Uncle Owen. Then they dragged me and Aunt Beru out of the house before they set fire to the place." Luke cleared his throat roughly. "I don't know what happened to Aunt Beru. Jabba had me taken to one of his clubs and told me that I was a pleasure slave now." He turned his head and smiled at Han. "And then Captain Solo - Han - came along and rescued me, and I belong to him now."

Han shifted uncomfortably at the look that Luke was giving him; there was a a hint of hero-worship in those eyes, something the Corellian was certain he didn't deserve. And it seemed as if Luke had reconciled himself to belonging to Han and was prepared to make the best of it. Han knew he had to talk to Luke, tell him the truth and soon, but not here in front of Kenobi. He could feel Kenobi's eyes shift to him almost as if he had read that thought and carefully avoided looking at the old man.

Instead, he gently cuffed Luke's head and teased him saying, "If you ate this way at Din Bardeeda's, no wonder they were willing to get rid of you. Their profit margin must have taken a drastic plunge with you there." Luke just looked at him sideways and grinned.

Chewbacca came back into the hold to report on the damage that they had sustained during the attacks and Han stood up with a tired sigh. "We got a few things to take care of - Luke, give Chewie a hand, will ya?" He gestured to Kenobi. "I'll show you to your cabin before I get started, Kenobi."

"Thank you," Kenobi said gravely as he rose. "That would be most kind of you."

Han led the way down the main corridor, passing his own cabin and stopping at the door of one of the two passenger cabins. "Here you are. We don't have much in the way of comforts, but the sonic showers work and there's a food replicator in the hold area. Anythin' else you need?"

"Not at the moment," Kenobi said in a quiet voice. "I believe that I shall rest for awhile. I got very little sleep these last few nights looking for the boy."

Han grinned. "Yeah, well, one way or another the kid cost a lotta people sleep time." He went on his way, aware of the eyes watching him the entire length of the corridor.

Han spent the next few hours doing some of the never-ending repair chores around the ship, keeping an eye on Luke as he helped Chewbacca in some of the tighter areas. The kid hadn't been bragging before - he was good with engines, and Han soon felt comfortable letting the boy handle some of the work alone.

Han had just finished checking readouts in the storage area of the hold when he heard Luke and Kenobi's voices in the lounge area and, for a moment, he thought he heard a female voice as well. Glancing at the chronometer, he realized that it was nearing the dinner hour and - no doubt - Luke's stomach had led him in the direction of the replicator. He chuckled to himself and closed up the panel he was working on, intending to join them, but he paused when he heard them talking. He had a feeling that the old man was up to something and wasn't above listening in to find out more.

"My father didn't fight in the wars. He was a navigator on a spice freighter."

"That's what your uncle told you. He didn't hold with your father's ideals, thought he should have stayed home and not gotten involved."

Han found himself agreeing with Luke's deceased uncle about that, even more so when he heard Luke eagerly ask, "You fought in the Clone Wars?"

"Yes. I was once a Jedi knight, the same as your father."

The Corellian could hear the wistful tone in Luke's voice. "I wish I could have known him."

"He was the best star pilot in the galaxy, and a cunning warrior," Kenobi's voice was saying. "I understand you've become quite a good pilot yourself. And he was a good friend." There was a pause and Han frowned, wondering what the old man was up to. "Which reminds me - I have something here for you."

Han heard the old man leave the lounge and he entered from the back hold area. He saw Luke's face light up when the younger man saw him and smiled in return.

"I should've known you'd be in here," he said with a grin, trying to cover up his worry over what the old man was doing. "Eatin' again?"

Luke grinned but didn't seem to take offense and helped Han move food from the replicator to the table for the evening meal. A moment later, Kenobi joined them again and, if he was disconcerted to see Han there, he masked it well. For his part, Han leaned against the wall by the replicator and crossed his arms, watching the old man closely.

Kenobi held out a cylindrical object to Luke. "Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough but your uncle wouldn't allow it. He feared you might follow old Obi-Wan on some damn fool idealistic crusade like your father did. It's your father's lightsaber."

Han watched in concern as Luke studied the controls curiously and activated the saber. He had read a little bit about these weapons and knew the damage they could do. Tentatively, Luke moved his hand in an arc and Han heard the blade hum in response as it sliced through the air.

"This is the weapon of a Jedi knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster." Han thought that Kenobi pointedly avoided looking in his direction. "An elegant weapon for a more - civilized age."

Two could play that game, Han decided. "The Jedi are extinct," he told Luke, "if they ever existed at all."

Kenobi looked at him and their eyes met. Han knew without words that the old man was subtly challenging him for possession of the boy, but for what ends he couldn't figure out yet. One thing was for certain - he'd be spaced before he let the kid get hurt.

"Oh, the Jedi were real," Kenobi said mildly. "For over a thousand generations, the Jedi knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the Dark Times. Before the Empire."

Luke deactivated the weapon and sat down on the couch, staring down at the hilt of the saber in his hands. Slowly, he asked, "How did my father die?"

Kenobi seemed to hesitate. "A young Jedi named Darth Vader - who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil - helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi knights. He betrayed and murdered your father." He sighed. "Now the Jedi are all but extinct."

Han said, abruptly, "You can talk about this later. Let's eat."

He watched Luke closely during the meal, worried by the younger man's lack of interest. Luke hadn't put much food on his plate and he was pushing what little he had around with his fork. Finally, he looked up at Kenobi.

"Tell me about the man who killed my father, this Darth Vader."

Kenobi set down his own fork, turning towards Luke with a solemn look on his face. "Vader was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force."

"The Force?"

Kenobi smiled. "The Force is what gives a Jedi his powers. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together." A brief glance was flicked in Han's direction before Kenobi said, "You must learn the ways of the Force if you are to come with me to Alderaan."

"Now hold on a minute," Han interrupted hotly. "Luke isn't going anywhere with you. He's stayin' with me."

Kenobi ignored Han, turning to look at Luke. "I need your help, Luke." His voice was old and sad. "She needs your help. I'm getting too old for this sort of thing."

"She?" Han asked, wondering what tricks the old man was pulling now. "Who's this 'she'?"

Luke was shaking his head, much to Han's relief. "Han is right. I can't get involved. I belong to Han, and I've got work to do right here. Besides, I'm just a slave."

Kenobi glanced at Han sharply and the Corellian met his look without blinking. "That's your uncle talking. And Captain Solo."

"And I've got to go back to Tatooine to look for my aunt. I can't be getting mixed up in things like this." Despite his words, there was a note of longing in his voice and he looked over at the R2 unit in a way that mystified the Corellian. Han was suddenly worried.

"Luke, time for bed," Han said abruptly and Luke looked at him, startled. "Go ahead - I'll be along in a minute."

Luke nodded and quietly left the room with a troubled backward look at the old man.

Kenobi studied the Corellian in silence for a long moment, his eyes hooded. "You don't think much of me, do you, Captain Solo?"

Han met his eyes evenly. "I'd imagine that the feeling is mutual."

"You don't own the boy, do you?"

Han wasn't surprised - Kenobi man might be old but his eyes were sharp. "No, I don't," Han snapped. "I don't believe in slavery."

"So when are you going to tell Luke the truth?"

"When he's not likely to run off half-cocked and get himself killed."

"The boy should be free to make his own decisions."

"Come off it," Han said derisively. "We're both interested in him for our own purposes. But I'm less likely to get him killed."

"Are you?" Kenobi asked quietly. "If you don't really own him, then you didn't purchase him from Jabba the Hutt. Which means that you stole him. And if there's one thing that Hutts hate more than uncollected debts, it is someone stealing something that belongs to them. You have, in effect, put a price on both of your heads."

Han glared at the old man. "And what would you've done? Left him in that bordello? He was gonna be killed! And even if they weren't gonna kill him, he wouldn't last a month in a place like that. You've seen what he's like! I had to take him with me."

There was a soft laugh from the old man and Han looked at him, startled. Kenobi's eyes met his, cool and amused. "You remind me of someone I knew when I was younger. Someone who also made a habit of attracting pathetic life forms wherever we went."

"Luke's not a pathetic life form! He's - well - he's special."

Kenobi nodded. "Yes. I rather expect that he is. Unique, one might even say."

Han was getting annoyed at the amused barbs from the Jedi and snapped, "Well, what would you've done?"

There was a slight pause. "I would have stolen him as well."

Han was startled into a grin. "Yeah?"

"Of course." Blue eyes suddenly twinkled at him.

The smuggler laughed softly. "All right. How 'bout a truce? I'll tell the kid the truth in my own time and my own way - before we get to Alderaan - and I'll work somethin' out with Jabba. In the meantime, you don't say a word, and you don't get between me and the kid. Do we have a deal?"

Kenobi raised an eyebrow. "Allow me to begin training the boy and we do."

Han looked at him suspiciously. "Train him to do what?"

"To use the Force."

Han snorted. "What good is an ancient mystical religion gonna do him?"

Kenobi looked at him blandly. "It certainly can't do any harm, can it?"

Han stared at the old man, sensing a trap here but unable to see it. "I suppose not. Okay. You've got yourself a deal. And now," he said, standing up. "I'm going to bed. Luke is waitin' for me." He stood up and cocked his head at the other man saying, sardonically, "Unless you gotta problem with that, too?"

Kenobi raised an eyebrow at him in amusement. "I expect that young Luke is more than capable of choosing his bed partners without my assistance."

As Han headed down the corridor towards his cabin, however, he heard Kenobi call out his name and there was no mistaking the hardness in his voice. Slowly he turned and saw that the old man had stood up and that his eyes were just as hard.

"However, Captain Solo, I would also point out that if you hurt the boy in any manner, you will have to answer to me."

Han straightened and all trace of the easy-going smuggler disappeared. Two warriors locked eyes across the hold and Han inclined his head in acknowledgment. "Just as long as you remember that the reverse is also true - Jedi Kenobi."

He turned his head and continued onward toward his cabin, aware the whole time of the eyes that followed him.

Han palmed open the door to his cabin and secured the lock behind him, then looked around. Luke was sitting on the bed and his head jerked up when Han entered the cabin. The Corellian could see that the kid was looking a little uncertain again. He was also totally naked.

Han swallowed hard, suddenly feeling warm. Luke was watching him with hopeful eyes through the fringe of those preposterous bangs. First thing we do, Han thought to himself, is trim that hair. Okay, maybe the second thing...

"Come here, kid," he said softly.

Luke came into his arms willingly, raising his head for a kiss without prompting. And it was sweet and intoxicating, even better than last time with the younger man returning each kiss eagerly. A half-hearted thought that he shouldn't do this, that Luke was just in his arms because he thought Han owned him, was allowed to float away in the heat of building passion. It didn't matter why the kid was here - he would be gone far too soon and regrets could wait till then. He pushed Luke toward his bed and followed him down onto the mattress, kissing him with a hungry passion that flared brighter and hotter than the central core of the galaxy. Not love, Han swore to himself, never love. But it would do for now until the kid went away.