Summary The boys take a vacation

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Summary The boys take a vacation Powered By Docstoc
					                                         Summary: The boys take a vacation
                                                      Rating: R
  Notes: "Gather Ye Pipers" is property of Mikal the Ram (he said I could use it). "Pride of the Angry Sea" belongs to
   Dennis Drew (ditto, he even sent me the words). “Red is the Rose” is public domain and sung to the same tune as
                                                   “Loch Lomond”.


                       POSTCARDS FROM CORELLIA
                                                by Angelia Sparrow


The light footfall behind him was obviously intended to be sneaky, so Luke Skywalker withdrew his extended senses
and let himself be surprised. Large hands clamped over his eyes.
    "Gotcha!"
    "On the contrary, I have you." The tendrils of Force solidified in an iron grip and pulled Han's hands above his head.
"And right where I want you." Luke kissed his bondmate and then, seized by some imp of the perverse, ran light fingers
over the spacer's ribs.
    "Don't, kid." Han twisted in the immutable bonds, as Luke indulged his whim.
    "Serves you right for sneaking up on me while I'm meditating, alone and unarmed."
    "I give already," Han gasped, cursing the day he'd let Luke find out he was ticklish.
    "Spoilsport. I was just getting warmed up." Luke kissed him again, releasing his arms which immediately went
around him.
    "Mmm, keep the warming coming," Han mumbled against his hair. Luke pulled back first.
    "You didn't come all the way over here just to pounce on me."
    "Never know. You're fun to pounce."
    "Spill!"
    "Or what?"
    "Or else?"
    "Don't sound to confident on that else, kid." Han kissed him breathless, hands sliding lower to cup his firm bottom,
one leg sliding in between Luke's, rubbing against the fullness at the top. "You're right, though. I came down to kidnap
you. We're going away."
    "Away? Where away?"
    "Corellia. I'm taking you home to meet the folks."
    Luke raised an eyebrow. "About time. Finally going domestic on me, pirate?"
    "Never. I just got word from my youngest sister. Corellia is having a planet-wide festival to celebrate five years of
freedom. We're going."
    "Mmmm, and what does that entail?" Luke asked, disentangling himself, and starting for the door. "Tall ships, too
much booze, and wild orgies?"
    "I'm not sure whether to laugh or grumble about mind readers."
    "When were you planning to leave?"
    "Now. Everything's packed and the Falcon's ready. It'll be fun to get away by ourselves. I'll take you sailing. You'll
love it. Elka has a lovely little boat, totally wind powered."
    "I don't recall being consulted about all this. Maybe I have plans."
    "It's called a surprise. And after Stenov, Vuiam, and that trip to Tatooine in the middle of sandstorm season, you
said you'd come quietly when I asked."
    "You didn't ask. You ordered. Power going to your head... General?"
    "Kid..." The jutting chin told Luke he was treading on thin ice with that last crack. With herculean effort, Han won
the battle with his temper. "Would you like to go to Corellia with me for a celebration, Master Jedi Skywalker?" He
tried to keep it to the same teasing level Luke had, but wasn't sure he succeeded. "My family wants to meet you."
    "Of course. It might be fun to go somewhere not engulfed in crises, wars or insurrections. Let me change."
    "Need help?"
    "I can manage." The smile told Han his offer was not rejected, just deferred to a more appropriate time and place.
Minutes later, Luke emerged in his familiar blacks. "Told you I could manage."
    "Yeah, yeah, you always manage, don't you? Manage this." The kiss was fierce, possessive and intense, pressing the
smaller man against the wall. Luke opened eagerly, and felt the old, familiar excitement begin to build. Feeling like his
knees and stomach were melting, he kissed back, trying to make his mate feel all the passion he did.
    Even so, Luke broke the kiss first. He ducked down, breathing hard, his fair face flushed. "We'll be the talk of the
Academy if anybody walks in. Master Skywalker and his bondmate acting like a pair of teenagers."
    "You're the boss, do you care?"
    "Not really. But you said the Falcon was waiting. And there's a party in our honor waiting to get started." Luke gave
a wicked grin that only Han ever saw. "Besides, waiting until we hit hyperspace will only make it sweeter." He rubbed
his whole body against his lover, pressing their hips together tightly.
    "Tease."
    "You started it. Let me leave a message for Leia and Master Ral and we'll go." They walked out of the academy and
caught a hover-car to the landing pads.
    "Just us?" Luke asked. "Where's Chewie?"
    "Went home for a while. Malla's getting grumpy with an absentee mate." They ran the preflight quickly, both
wanting to get back to unfinished business. Coordinates, jump, and it all went as smoothly as it had a thousand times
before.

                                                            ***

The celebration rioted through the streets of HyperMatrixCity, as it had for eight days and nights. But a non-Corellian
could only stand so much, and less than two days after their arrival, Luke announced he had had a splendid time, but
enough was enough. Although they had spent a good deal of that time at their hotel contacting family, he still felt as if
he'd been dragged through half the streets of the city.
    Now, he basked under the hot water, washing away dirt, sweat and second-hand lip-paint from a dozen strangers.
He'd been raised very strictly, and the effusive abandon with which the locals greeted everyone, friend or stranger, came
as a surprise. He'd been hugged and kissed by more people in the last couple days than in his previous thirty years.
    His slightly fuddled brain watched as a stream of blue ran off his cheek and over his chest. He smiled. A tipsy young
man, wearing appalling blue lip-paint, had kissed him before taking a good look and saying "Y'know, you look jus' like
Luke Skywalker." He'd laughed and said, "No, no, Skywalker's much blonder." The guy had wandered off and kissed
the pretty green haired girl who crossed his path.
    Sleepy, Luke wandered out of the 'fresher, towel held loosely at his hips. The sight in the living area of the tiny suite
made him clutch the towel, and press himself against the wall of the hallway. surreptitiously, he managed to get his
bondmate's attention. Han joined him in the hall.
    "Han, there are a dozen women in there!" he whispered urgently.
    "Yeah," Smug and just a little too careful from the brandy, Han kissed him. "Finally found them all. You sure you
wanna go out like that?" He licked away a drop of water from his lover's collar-bone. "Not that they'll mind."
    "Han, *why* are there a dozen women in our living area? And why is their lip-paint all over your face?"
    "Han?" called one of them, "Are you coming back?"
    "In a minute. There's not a dozen. There're fourteen. Took a while to get them all here."
    The glaring blue eyes told him to talk fast.
    "Little brother, I swear! You've forgotten every manner I tried to teach you." The stern-looking older woman strode
into the hall and looked Luke over curiously. "He's pretty. Are you going to bring him out to meet us any time soon?
Seska has to leave by 2."
    "Elka, he's not dressed. Luke, my big sister, Elka. We'll be going out to her place tomorrow."
    Luke held out a hand, only to have Elka hug him hard. "Uh, let me dress, I'll be right out," he managed before
scooting to the bedroom and tossing on clean sleep pants and a robe. He calmed himself before walking into the living
area.
    All of the women smiled the same lopsided smile at him. Han introduced five sisters and nine nieces. Luke lost track
of names after the sisters. They were all tall, some dark like Han, and some fair like Elka. The women blended into a
strong-hugging, smiling blur of faces and kisses, welcoming him to the family and cooing over finally meeting him.

                                                            ***

The shafts of morning sun were filtered into tiny needles by the sheer curtains. They prickled through the air and landed
sharp and hard on the eyes of the sleeping man. He stirred, and moaned, opening his eyes and closing them again
quickly. He lay still for a time and got his bearings.
    *The only thing worse than waking up with a hang-over,* Luke Skywalker decided with the few brain cells not
actively in revolt and razing his cortex, *is waking up with a hang-over and having to face a smug Corellian who never
gets them, and whose idea this whole vacation was.* He finally opened his eyes enough to see Elka's guestroom.
    Or worse, facing half a dozen Corellians, all of whom would be teasing him about not holding his brandy. He lay
looking at the white ceiling, and wondering if he could die in peace.
    *Brilliant, Skywalker. Way to impress the family. And we were doing so well up until now.*
    The low roar of breakers from the beach below the cliff where the house perched hammered in his head like a
bantha stampede, and he buried his head under the pillow. The sweet flower and herb scent of the sheets nauseated him.
     He remembered sitting alone on the deck after supper, staring at the ocean. It still amazed him, even after all the
worlds he'd seen, to see so much water in one place. Han had joined him, wrapping him in strong arms, and they had sat
silently, watching the tide come in, as they had for the past four nights. Han never said anything, but Luke suspected the
ocean was one of the things he missed living on Coruscant. The sun went down and they watched two of the moons
rise.
     Astri, Elka and Stom's oldest daughter, had brought out a small platter of sweets, and poured several glasses of
brandy. The rest of the adults joined them when the children were abed. Luke had sipped the brandy, and found out it
was the really good stuff. The conversation had been wonderful; sharp wit obviously ran in the family. Those who
married in had acquired it in self-defense, he noticed as well. He had lost track of how late they'd stayed up, and how
much he'd had to drink.
     The faint noises coming down the hall told him he wouldn't be allowed to die peacefully. The door opened almost
silently, but to Luke it sounded like a sandcrawler with a bad engine. Han's bare feet made little sound on the thick
carpet, but he would have sworn his mate was wearing metal-soled shoes on deck-plates.
     "Kid?" came the soft whisper. "I brought kaf, and juice. Sit up."
     He sat up, carefully trying to keep his head from going nova, and almost succeeded. Yoda's voice complained "Do.
Or do not. There is no try." He flinched as Han sat down beside him, then leaned back into the warm, familiar chest,
still bare above the light sleep pants. Once vertical and supported, he swung his legs off the bed, and looked for his
clothes. They were all folded and clean, on a chair near the bed.
     "After all these years, you should know better," Han scolded lightly, handing him the kaf. It was hot but not
scorching. The queasiness returned with a vengeance. "You know three's as many as you can stand."
     "Don't fuss," Luke rasped in a whisper, the effort making his head pound worse. He sipped the kaf. It helped.
     "Elka says to drink this once you finish the kaf. Old family cure."
     "Was it obvious?" Luke sipped the foul concoction and found it helped more than the kaf.
     "Kid, not an off-worlder alive can drink eight of Stom's house label and come out without a hangover. Even I can't
do it anymore."
     "You let me drink eight?"
     "No, you drank four. If you drank eight, you'd be dead."
     "Degenerate. You're still corrupting me."
     "If you can insult me, you're feeling better. Not gonna toss, are you?" He reached apprehensively under the edge of
the bed.
     "No." The soft, weak answer didn't sound too sure.
     "Oh good." Straightening up, he tipped Luke's face back to him and kissed him very gently. "Better?"
     "Best help I've had. More?"
     "Elka's waiting breakfast, and Stom gets really grouchy if his cakes are cold. Let's eat and you'll be all right."
     They went down into the spacious kitchen. Elka took the cakes and meat from the oven, and Astri passed around the
toasted buns and jam. Stom fed the smallest baby, while the older children watched animation. Hend and his wives
helped around the edges. There was no haste, just a smooth flowing morning routine.
     "Hey, late sleeper. Thought you farmboys got up with the sterkls," teased Stom. "Yosh, put the terminal away. The
distillery will be there after breakfast." The order was so casually given, Stom not missing a stroke in buttering the
cakes, that Han realized this, too, was a morning ritual.
     "Stom..." Han's warning rumble drew Elka in between her husband and brother.
     "He's not a Corellian, Stom. Luke, eat. And next time, let that last glass sit on the table."
     Astri turned off the holo, amid groans, while Lissa and Marni chivvied the kids to the table. The high-pitched chatter
of the children to their mothers and father made Luke's head throb. The toast was the only thing Luke could contemplate
without nausea. Once it was inside him, he felt well enough to eat a couple of cakes and some sausage.
     "Han, do you remember last time you were on-planet?" Elka began. Stom snorted, trying to swallow before he could
laugh. She turned to Luke. "He was on leave from The Academy, and Stom broke out the house-label. The boys don't
get the good stuff there, and after three, Han was standing on his head, one eye shut and outscoring Stom at ring-toss."

    Laughing, Luke discovered, brought the headache back with a vengeance. He drank more juice.
    "Elka, could we borrow the Waveskimmer this afternoon if Luke's up for it?"
    "Of course. I'll even pack a cold supper so you don't have to hurry home. Just be in before dark. She doesn't have
lights."
    Yosh excused himself to go to work. Stom stretched, fed the baby the last bite of his cake and followed. The
younger women set to washing faces and picking up the dishes. The older children followed Hend from the table,
calling the family cadence song as they marched to the schoolroom for their satellite downloads, eliciting a wince from
Luke.
    "Want the last kaf, Uncle?" Astri asked Han. He held up his mug and she emptied the pot into it, before dropping a
toddler in each of their laps. "Keep them busy or they unload the sterilizer faster than I can load it."
    "Elka, how do you manage? Three grown kids, Hend's mates and more little ones than I can count." Han bounced
the knee the little one was on. Luke pulled his head out of range, wincing, as his charge tried to gum his chin. "Is that
one supposed to--"
    "The girls are a big help, and everyone does their part," Elka stated as Lissa scooped up the crawler who had pulled
up on the sterilizer and was reaching for the dishes. Marni left to tend to other chores.
    Han attempted to maneuver his kaf mug between the table and his mouth. The child seemed intent on intercepting it
for a taste. "I'm not ready to run a blockade this early," he grumbled. "Luke, this kid a Jedi? He's got the reflexes of a
TIE pilot."
    Luke relaxed and looked at the child's aura. "No, he's not even sensitive."
    "Here. I'll take *her*. You wouldn't like that, sweetie," she told the baby who made one last-ditch reach for the mug.
Elka put the four babies in the next room and activated the safety gate. "Now get dressed. I made one exception in the
house rules for you two today, I won't bend two. Tomorrow, you're dressed before breakfast. You know that." Elka
could be pure steel when she wanted. It was a necessity in a household her size.
    "We're goin', sis." Han pulled Luke out of the chair. Elka opened her mouth and he cut her off. "I know. I know.
Make the bed and bring the kaf mug back to the kitchen."
    In their room, Luke looked at him. "She always this bossy?"
    "Elka practically raised me. She thinks she owns me. She's just grouchy you're not going to give me a dozen kids.
She likes you, though. Thinks you're good for me." They put the finishing touches on the bed.
    Luke looked at it, with a wicked smile. "Wanna mess it up?"
    Han kissed him thoroughly. "You're definitely well. You want to go sailing? Hey, catch your kaf cup. If it's not there
before Astri turns on the sonic sterilizer, you have to wash it yourself in the sink."

                                                           ***

    "You okay, kid? You look a little green." Some random impulse made Han add, "Goes great with the white
knuckles."
    "Never, ever again," moaned Luke. "This has to be the worst day of my life. Why do I let you talk me into these
things?" His fair hair was limp and dark from the salt spray, and he ducked to avoid the boom as Han tacked the sailboat
around and headed to a quiet inlet.
    "'Cause misery loves company. Let go of the gunwales, and try to enjoy the ride. Sailing's as much a process as
flying." He dropped anchor, and let the boat ride the waves.
    "Yes, but explosions are so much cleaner a way to die than seasickness and drowning."
    "It's not even rough today. Just nice, restful waves."
    "I'm a desert boy. I'm still not used to bodies of water any bigger than the harvest holding tank. These oceans are too
much for me."
    "My ancestors sailed across this ocean to the Northern Continent in boats not much bigger than this one, and a lot
worse equipped."
    "We all know Corellians are crazy," Luke grumbled, finally having decided he wasn't going to lose his lunch over
the side. "And the Solos are the worst of the bunch."
    Han laughed. "You okay to tie up and unload her, or you want to recover some more?" He was suddenly serious,
and a little worried. His afternoon plans seemed to be going sour.
    "I'm ready to get back on dry land."
    Han weighed anchor and sailed in closer to the shore line. When he judged the water was shallow enough, he leapt
over the side and waded ashore with the mooring rope. He tied it to a tree at the edge of the water and waded back to the
boat.
    "Hand me the gear." He'd wrapped it in a waterproof bundle and now balanced it on his head as he waded ashore.
"Are you coming, or are you going to sit out there and roll and pitch until you're seasick again?"
    "I'm coming." Luke swung his legs over the side. "Unless you want to carry me."
    "We're gonna have to do something about that sense of humor. It's only waist deep."
    Luke slid over the side, relieved when his feet touched the bottom. "Chest deep you mean." He floundered ashore,
and sat down on the black sand well above the tide-line. "Land at last. You don't have dry clothes in that bundle, do
you?"
    "Nope, just a picnic supper."
    "Oh stars, don't talk about food." Luke still looked green.
    Han dropped to the sand beside him. "I can't believe you. Never spacesick a day in your life, but I take you out on
my sister's boat and you're vaporing like Threepio."
    Luke smiled wanly. "At least I'm not singing."
    "I wasn't singing!"
    "Yes, you were. You, and your sister, and your niece and both nephews. Last night, when you thought I was asleep,
the whole family was singing on the back deck. That piercing pipe someone was playing woke me up. And today, you
were whistling the same song through your teeth when you thought I was too sick to listen. I only caught part of it.
What's it about?"
    "If you're sick with the waves like this, you may not want to know. It's about a family of brothers. Four of them
become sailors and die. The fifth, who sings the song, is having survivor guilt." He quoted, not quite singing, but not
talking, more of a chant:
    "I sit by my fireside lost and alone
    Four empty places and one who stayed home.
    I drink to my kin who walk the dark road
    I drink to my kin who will drink here no more."
    "Definitely Corellian."
    "What's that supposed to mean?"
    "Only that all your songs either include drinking or sex. Not much different than your lives."
    "Yeah? And what are songs on Tatooine about?"
    "We didn't sing." Luke looked thoughtful. "The guys in Anchorhead liked rhythm, so that was all they played.
Machine noises to go with repairing machinery. Biggs was different. He liked folk music from other systems. He used
to order cubes from off-planet, and we'd listen to them out in the garage. Uncle Owen would yell at us to turn down the
unholy racket."
    "Parents are the same all over. My folks sang, and they tried to teach us kids. My sisters did fine, but I lost my voice
at twelve."
    "Where are your folks? I mean, we met your sisters, but--"
    "Dead. Dad got caught in an Imperial roundup at the shipyards, Mom caught a weird alien virus. I skipped planet
pretty soon after that. This is first time I've been back in years. Even when my oldest sister Marta died, Elka just got
word to me." He lay back, hands behind his head, staring up at the sky through the leaves of the trees. Luke waited, but
Han said no more, and his face held the tight, controlled expression that indicated he was holding strong feelings in
check. After an uncomfortably long silence, Luke reached over and laid a light hand on his mate's elbow. They sat that
way for a time, listening to the ocean and staring at the sky.
    "Feeling better?" Han finally ventured, under control once more.
    "Yeah. Good thing I like being wet."
    "You don't have to stay in the wet clothes. Stom owns this island."
    Taking the invitation for what it was, Luke stripped out of the wet clothes, and watched appreciatively as his mate
did the same. He spread the blanket he'd found in the bundle out on the sand, and lay down on his stomach.
    "Did Elka pack this, or did you? 'Cause it's awful big to be thinking 'picnic.'"
    "Told Astri to pack a big one, we might want to have a nap."
    "And she bought it?"
    "Of course not. She smiled and said 'enjoy' as she hauled down the Imperator sized blanket from Stom and Elka's
closet."
    "I didn't want to know that." He was quiet for a minute as Han lay down beside him. He slid closer, draping one arm
over his mate's stomach and resting his chin on the broad, lightly haired chest. "Where's Astri's mate?"
    "She never took one. All her kids are designer, from the reprolabs. She takes and discards lovers like some women
change hair styles."
    "What about Yosh? Where's his?"
    "Yosh isn't interested in anything but the family business. Boring, but useful. He can tell you anything you want to
know about distilling and marketing."
    Luke digested the information, and returned to safer subjects. "Imperator, huh? Can we get one?"
    "Wouldn't fit in our bedroom. We'd have to move. Thing's as big as the forward compartment."
    "Can we borrow theirs?"
    "If you don't do something with that mouth other than ask dumb questions--"
    "Like this?" Luke kissed him, long and sweet and warm. The wet silk of his mouth was familiar territory, but Han
explored anyway, enjoying the known quantity.
    "More?"
    "Always."
    Luke smiled and began to work the kisses lower. Tantalizingly slow, and his hands were strong, cool, and gentle
over every inch of skin.

                                                            ***
   "Kid, roll over."
   "Again?"
   "No, not again, you insatiable mind-bender. Don't want you getting sunburnt. Won't they laugh if you can't sit for a
burned butt."
   "Better?"
   "Mm-hmm. Next time I'll remember the UV-block."

                                                            ***

    "Clothes are dry," was really unnecessary as the warm pants, slightly stiff from seawater, dropped on Han's head.
"I'm hungry."
    "So see what Marni packed us." Han struggled into his clothes, trying to shake the languor of an afternoon of love
and napping on a beach.
    "I looked. I can't identify anything. And the first rule of the Jedi Academy dining room is 'never eat what you can't
identify.' Amazing what I've learned being a teacher."
    Han looked in the basket. "Cold fried sterkl, pickled kenet, Spirl and cerk salad, cake, and chi."
    "In basic?"
    "In basic, good food. Try the sterkl."
    The rich meat was fried to a golden crisp, and Luke nibbled around the edges. "Hmmm, tastes like Ewok."
    Han dropped his own piece, laughing. "You insulting my nieces' cooking?"
    "No, no." Luke finished the first piece and reached for a second. The kenet was some sort of vegetable. He tried it
carefully. It was crisp and started sweet on the end of his tongue. Then the burn came, building as it slid over his tongue
to explode in the back of his mouth. "Drink!" he gasped.
    "That just intensifies the burn. Eat this." Han handed him some of the flat bread.
    It seemed to peel the fire off his tongue. The kenet smoldered sullenly in his stomach. He took a drink of the chi.
"Should have warned me about that."
    "Sorry. Least I taught you the family trick for stopping it. Astri's infamous for that kenet. Elka says she developed it
under a grant from the Imperial chemical weapons department."
    The salad was a pasta with vegetable, and Han pronounced it safe for off-worlder consumption. Luke ate some, and
decided to stick with the sterkl.
    "Did you say cake?"
    "I warned Elka about your sweet tooth. She's had the girls baking since we left Coruscant." Han pulled out the
carefully wrapped slabs.
    "I could get used to this," Luke decided after the second bite.
    "There are definite benefits to planet life, especially when the head of the house is the owner of the biggest distillery
on Corellia. But before you get too comfortable with the idea, remember, it's a big house, and a bigger family. Family
always comes with expectations." He glanced at the shadows and looked sideways at Luke. "We need to head back.
Don't want to be out in the dark."
    The smile he received in return invited delay. He decided to see if that smile tasted as good as it looked. It did. The
shadows were a little longer when they packed up in companionable silence, and waded back out to the boat.
    Luke was feeling well enough that Han began showing him the basics of sailing. By the time they were within sight
of the huge house atop the cliff, Luke was handling the tiller while Han furled the sail. They tied up on the huge covered
dock and began the long climb to the top. The stairs were narrow, and dusk was falling. They took it slowly.
    Elka and Stom met them at the door. "Onto the back deck with you two." All five adult children were sitting on the
deck waiting for them. Han and Luke sat down on the swing, uncomfortable at being the focus of attention.
    Stom stood up. "We discussed this while you were gone, and we're all in agreement. We've enjoyed this visit, and
find your mate compatible with the family, Han. You are always welcome here, but we would like to extend a
permanent invitation. We would like you to return home, and live here. What are two more mouths at a table as long as
ours? We could use a good man in the distillery, and a Jedi on retainer wouldn't hurt either. And, as the last of your
family names, I feel obligated to point out you show no tendencies toward honoring your fathers by continuing them.
Marni and Lissa have both said they would be willing to carry for either of you two, and Astri volunteered for Luke.
You don't have to decide tonight. But I want a decision before you leave."
    Stom sat down. Luke was stunned by the offer, and Han was taken aback even though he had half-expected
something like this. Elka had been trying to get him home for years.
    "We're overwhelmed by the generosity, Stom. We'll let you know... tomorrow?" Han glanced at Luke, who nodded.
"Decisions like this need to be slept on."
    "Morning is wiser than evening," Luke added, quoting one of his aunt's favorite proverbs.
    "Very well. I will expect an answer at breakfast. Enough seriousness. Astri, start us. Yosh, put your readout aside.
The distillery will be there in the morning."
    Luke watched as Astri reached under the table and pulled out a flat drum and a tapered stick no longer than her
hand. Hend dug out a metal whistle, and Lissa produced four bones that she held between her fingers and clacked
together.
    "Pride of the Angry Sea," Astri announced, beginning a slow seven-count drumbeat. Lissa took it up.
    Hend pocketed the whistle and and started in a low bass voice:
    "There's many a tale of the storm and the gale
    Of sailors who no longer be.
    And many a woman has wept late at night
    for her lover who's lost to the sea."
    Stom brought out the house label, and poured everyone one drink. Luke sipped half of his, being much more careful
this time. Han even took his easy, seeming to prefer listening to his family. Luke moved in a little closer, and Han put
an arm around him as they listened to the old, old songs of a time before star travel, when the sea was the biggest
challenge.
    Without warning, Astri stood up. "Here." She offered Han the drum. He shook his head. She insisted. He
disentangled himself from his mate and took it. He moved a little farther away to give himself room to play.
    "Told you I couldn't sing. All right, Gather the Pipers, 'cause Luke was asking about it today." The whistle was sad
and plaintive, and the voices raised in the old lament of the man for his sea-faring brothers.
    Luke sat and watched as Han stood, and called for the next tune. He began to pace in time with the drum, focusing
on the rhythm. He led the family through another few songs and finally said, "Marni, there's one I really want to hear.
Sing it for Luke. Red is the rose."
    He set the four count. Marni sang in a heart-breakingly clear alto, and Hend's whistle rose as a piercing descant.

   "Red is the Rose, by yonder garden grows,
   and fair is the lina in the valley,
   Clear is the water that flows to the ocean,
   but my love is fairer than any.

   Twas down in the dell and greenwood that we strayed
   And the moons and the stars they were shining.
   The moons shone their rays on his locks of golden hair
   and he swore he'd be my love forever.

   Tis not for the parting that my sister pains
   Tis not for the grief of my mother
   'Sall for the loss of my bonny, bonny lad
   that my heart is breaking forever."

   The last note lingered, echoing off the water, and Han looked up from the drum and saw that Luke was looking
back. The three moons cast shifting shadows on his face, but could not hide his happiness. Luke was frankly staring,
knowing the song was meant just for him, wishing Han had had enough confidence in his voice to deliver the message
personally.
   Han pushed the drum at Hend. "Wrist's giving out. Your turn." He strolled to the swing with feigned nonchalance
and wrapped his mate in his arms.
   The drum made the rounds of the family, and Lissa offered it to Luke.
   "No, no. I can't play it." He stifled a yawn.
   "You'll learn, Uncle," she smiled.
   "But not tonight." He smiled and rose. "I'm going to bed before I fall asleep here. Excuse me, please. Good night."

   Han made his good nights, and followed. The bed was turned down, and Luke sat quietly taking off his clothes.
   Han tipped his face up. "I love you."
   Luke smiled, but it was a sad smile. "All those sad songs. Do any of them have happy endings?"
   "Not many of them. Life doesn't have a happy ending. But we take what happy moments we can." Han kissed him
slowly.
   "I love you too. Do we want to stay?" There it was, out in the open.
   "I think we need to talk about it. Elka has been tempting us, wooing us. Life here is looking very, very good isn't it?"

   "Han, have you ever been offered everything you ever wanted all at once?"
   "No. But you were tonight, weren't you?" Han sat down beside him.
   "For an orphan, the biggest dream is having a family, a real family. My aunt and uncle loved me, but they weren't
my parents. They weren't even really related to me. Then, losing them and Ben, and then..." Luke lay back on the bed
and stared at the ceiling. The unspoken words "my father" hung between them.
    "Hey, if you don't want to talk about it--"
    "It's been almost ten years. Why does it still hurt?"
    "It never stops hurting. Not after five years, not after ten, not after twenty-three. It just doesn't hurt as much, unless
you poke at it."
    Is that why you left?"
    "Part of it. My family can be really bad about poking. After Mom died, I was wild, and had a couple scrapes with
the law. I was in disgrace with Elka, who said I was a bad influence on Astri and Hend. She sent me to live with Seska
and her bondmates. That was a disaster. Seska's lady was interested and both men were jealous. If the tension had been
just a little higher, that whole house could have achieved a high-arc trajectory. Longest year of my life. The Academy
was the best answer to that whole mess, and I went as soon as I was old enough. I hear things calmed down for them
after I left. Their bond was just too new to handle a wild little brother dumped in it."
    "And now they want you back?"
    "I guess they figure you'll keep me out of trouble." The wry half-grin was back. "If they only knew how much
you've gotten me into."
    "There's a lot I don't know about your family, but they've been so nice, accepting. They've tried to make me feel like
I'm not only welcome, but a member of the family. For some reason, hearing Lissa call me 'uncle' tonight brought it all
clear how much more we could have living here."
    "What we're not seeing is how much we'd give up. You couldn't run your Academy from here. And there is no
privacy in this house, Luke. None. Marni cornered me today and asked if we'd watch the little ones while she spent time
with Hend, so she wouldn't hear about it from Elka. I love my sister, but she has to run everything. Always has."
    "Do you want to stay?" Luke sat up and looked intently at his bondmate.
    "Do you?" Han asked. Then he shook his head at the ridiculous circle they were going to get caught in with that line
of questioning. It was the oldest comedy routine in the galaxy. "This has to be a joint decision," he warned. "I won't
drag you off-planet if you really want to stay. Five years ago, I said forever, and I will stay with you, wherever you
want to be." He half-laughed, half-snorted. "After all, you've already dragged me over half the known galaxy. What's
one planet more?" The unspoken fear of the expectations that lurked in every corner, under every piece of furniture and
behind each pair of eyes was broadcast loud and clear.
    Luke almost flinched away from the intensity of the thought. "I said forever, too. Elka and Stom made an attractive
offer, but I think you know more than I do about what's under the surface of it."
    Han nodded. "They're already making plans for our wing of the house, you know. As well as planning how to use
you to corner negotiations and writing the job descriptions on a cushy sinecure for me at the distillery. Stom even told
us we would be expected to add to the flock of kids. I like what we have now: you, me, and only the obligations we
choose to take, rather than ones that are thrust upon us."
    "You're right."
    "Of course I am."
    Luke tried to kiss the smug look off his face, and only succeeded in spreading it to his own. "I already have a
family," he said, blue eyes earnest. "You. And home is where you are." He returned to the kiss.
    Han brought them up for air. "Settled then?" Luke's nod confirmed it. "I guess I need to teach you enough of the old
language to tell Stom we're leaving when he asks at breakfast."
    "Can it wait?" Luke kissed him again, hands moving in and under his shirt and working at the closure of his pants.

   "I think it can."

                                                             ***

The next morning at breakfast, Han and Luke were dressed and on time. Elka smiled warmly at them. Stom sat at the
head of the table.
    "Well?"
    "Stom, my brother, I thank you for your generosity," Han said in the most formal dialect of Old Corellian he could
manage, "but at this time, my bondmate and I must decline."
    "Very well. But what is more important than family?"
    "Stom, my brother," Luke began, the Old Corellian coming slowly. "You have your wife, and your sons and your
daughters. You have your sisters and brothers. You have your grandchildren. If we come here, to all of these people, we
will leave my sister all alone. We are all the family she has." He paused for breath, and to recall the next bit.
    Stom nodded and clasped his hands around his wrists in the old gesture of assent before Luke could finish. "You are
welcome here as often and as long as you want to stay. And next time, bring your sister. I have nephews who need a
mate. She could choose one or more of them. When do you leave?"
    "Tomorrow," Luke answered, his tongue still numb from the liquid vowels of the language. He glanced at Han, as if
to protest not telling the whole truth. Han lifted a pacifying hand, just a little, telling him not to worry about it. The
image of Leia picking out three of Han's nephews made him smile and shake his head. He suspected it might crop up at
odd moments, and decided to tell her when he got back.
    "Then today you must see the distillery."
    The tour was long, taking all morning. They saw where the grain for whiskey was roasted, over open fires as it had
been for millennia, and where the fruits for the brandies were crushed in century-old lika wood presses. By the time
they hit the fractional distillation coils, Luke was bored out of his mind, but kept the same placid calm he always wore
to his sister's duller receptions. Stom had appointed Yosh to give the tour, and his droning nasal voice was stultifying.

   At lunch, Stom caught up with them, and they took the tunnel cars back to the house at the other end of the distillery
compound. A cold lunch awaited them, and the children chattered about their satellite studies.
   Little Betta, the youngest of the school children, climbed boldly into the chair next to Luke and proceeded to tell
him everything she knew about the fish of Corellia's oceans through mouthfuls of her sandwich. He listened patiently,
understanding about half of what she said, and smiled at her when she excused herself.
   The distillery executives excused themselves to return to work. The children had drifted off in ones and twos. Astri
went with Hend and Lissa to supervise. Elka raised one elegant eyebrow almost to her tightly pulled bun and Han and
Luke were on their feet helping Marni clear the table. She organized the sonic sterilizer but they did the legwork for all
twenty-two place settings.
   When Marni left, Elka beckoned the men to sit with her. "Must you really go? You come home so seldom, baby."

    Han rolled his eyes at the endearment, just as he had for the last thirty-five years.
    "We'll be back more often, I promise, Elka," Luke answered for them. "Once a year at least. If only so I can listen to
you tease him before the first cup of kaf. Even I'm not brave enough to do that."
    "Is it really your sister you stay on Coruscant for?" Stom was a simple man and would not question the obvious
reasons, but his mate would.
    "No, Stom didn't let me finish. I have an academy to run, and Han is doing intelligence work for the Republic, as
well as star-ship design. Our life is there, together."
    "I understand. I had hoped..."
    "Hoped what?" Han asked.
    "Hoped that you would come home and lead the family. Han, I was fifty last year. That's middle-aged, and it's time
to start considering my successor. Seska, Ingi, Hele, and Wila all agree with me that it would be more appropriate for
the only son to head the household. We are old-fashioned, I know. As it stands, I'm not sure Astri has the spine to be the
matriarch."
    "She'll be fine. You raised her a lot better than you did me. Better material to work with." He looked at Luke,
"They're ganging up on me, like always. Sometimes I swore I had seven mothers. No wonder I was so wild to space. I
stowed away on a barge when I was ten." The twinkle in his eye said it wasn't really as much a complaint as he made it
sound.
    Elka smiled the same cock-eyed smile and finished the story. "You should have seen him when the crew brought
him home. Oh, he was mad! The crew was furious. He'd tweaked their systems up to 120 percent of the previous output
and made them all look bad." Luke chuckled at the image of a meter tall Han scowling at his sister, flanked by two
spacers with matching scowls aimed at him.
    "Don't tell me you never ran away from home, kid."
    Luke shook his head. "Where would I go? The Dune Sea or Beggars' Canyon? That trip to Mos Eisley was as close
as I got."
    Han sobered a little. "Well, I know where we have to go now."
    "I know, too." Elka's smile was sad and knowing at the same time. Han had always been too restless. She was glad
he finally had a touchpoint in Luke. "We'll see you off after breakfast."
    "Love you, sis." He kissed her cheek lightly. Luke followed suit. They went to pack their few things.

                                                           ***

The Falcon lifted into the clear blue morning. Luke watched as the people rapidly faded into indistinguishable specks on
a promontory which melded into a coast-line. The blue and white world dropped away.
    "Good trip, huh, kid?"
    "Wonderful."
    "So why do you look like we've got eight TIEs on our tail?"
    "It was harder to leave than I thought it would be. I've never had that much family, and it was like a dream come
true to belong in it. But, then again, dreams don't measure up to my reality." He ran a slow finger across Han's jaw.
"When we go back, I want to have Lissa teach me that flat drum all of you play." He stared at Corel Prime which was
blending into the rest of the stars.
    "Ready to jump." Han pulled the levers, and the stars streaked into grey nothingness. "I know. For a while, I wanted
to stay and be the patriarch when Elka steps down. But we aren't cut out for it, either of us. We'll visit often."
    "And I know exactly where I belong," Luke said as they walked back into the forward compartment
    "Yeah, and where's that?"
    He moved into his bondmate's arms. "Right here."


                                                       *****