by Chris J. Ueberall
Pairing: Han Solo/Luke Skywalker
Summary: Just when Han thinks he has lost Luke forever he meets Gavvin.
Notes: This story was first published by Anoat Press in 1996 in Elusive Lover an all Han/Luke zine.
The X-wing was an extension of himself, he was the ship. He felt free, exhilarated despite the danger ahead. The Death Star was monstrous, and for a moment he wondered how anybody could think of attacking it, but the thought disappeared as fast as a snowflake in the desert when the other fighters of his squad took their places beside him.
He smiled. The imperial troops were no danger to him. He was better than any of their pilots, he was part of the universe. The Powers had chosen him to fight the darkness, to be their champion.
Suddenly, he found himself all alone, his squad gone, nothing left but the dark shadow of the Death Star and the cold of space. Enemies surrounded him swarming like Sandpeople, he was their prey and he was alone. Yet he wasn't afraid, sure that his friend would be there to protect him. And there he was, with the shining lights of the Falcon zooming in, deadly turbolaser blasts creating a passage for him. The young hero smiled...
"Wake up, Gavvin! The chef's waiting!"
"All right, all right." Gavvin hurried for the kitchen. He'd always been a dreamer, he felt pretty sure of that, but it had become even harder lately to concentrate on his duties instead of drifting into fantasies. His dreams invariably made him the hero, and although they included a brave-hearted friend, it was he who was part of life's mysteries, not the other. He sighed and entered the kitchen.
Without sparing a glance for him, the cook took the items he'd brought and went back to his task. Gavvin joined a group of girls discussing the Lord's guests -- one of them in particular.
"He's gorgeous. Did you notice those eyes? And that mouth?"
"I thought he'd be taller. And meaner. Wasn't he an assassin or something?"
"A pirate, you twit."
"He looks incredibly sad, I think. Like he's lost everything." Like so many times before, Jest had looked deeper than the other kitchen-maids.
"Of course he's troubled. Don't you remember? His friend died. The young Jedi -- what was his name?"
"Skywalker." Gavvin nodded towards Cay. "But they haven't found him yet, so there's still hope ..."
Jest shook her head. "I don't think so. He was lost over the Eating-desert about a month ago, and nobody survives that long. Not even a Jedi."
No one disagreed. By a bitter twist of fate, Nilreb had spelled doom for a young hero who'd died a senseless death. If there'd ever been such a thing as a glorious death for a hero, this one hadn't found it.
The food was ready, piling on huge platters, and the girls carried the plates out into the dining room. Boldly, Gavvin followed. He was itching for a look at the strange guests. He'd never seen a Wookiee before, or a real hero. Now that the chance offered itself, he simply had to take it. Just one look. To see for himself if the general was as handsome as the girls thought he was.
His mind provided him with a startlingly clear image of that particular rebel, but he wondered, was it anything but fantasy?
Han wasn't listening, he'd tried -- for the duration of two sentences at least -- but failed, and now he wasn't even trying anymore. What was the point anyway? He felt exhausted -- not physically, but on a far deeper level. 'Luke.' The name was there, and the image followed instantly. His eyes, his smile. Han felt the sting of tears. After one month, he should be over the loss and despair. But how could you get over losing your soulmate? The Jedi had been more than just another lover, he'd been fulfillment, and now Han felt lonelier than ever before in his life.
Next to him, Chewbacca was discussing combs with someone who looked like an undersized yellow Wookiee, but the ex-smuggler knew his partner was watching him constantly.
'Afraid I'm gonna kill myself? Am I that obvious, Chewie? What did I do when they called off the search? Can't remember much.' Tears welled in his eyes. 'So damn stupid, to die here, on this godsforsaken world, to plunge into a sand-swamp and die. No fight, no enemy.'
Luke Skywalker, last of the Jedi, hero of the Alliance, destroyer of the Death Star... killed by accident on a small desert-planet -- pretty much like Tatooine. 'You deserved better, kid. It's just not fair. Not fair.' But life in general wasn't fair, he should have learned that by now. It had been too good to be true, or to be true for long.
When they'd accepted the assignment, it had all seemed so easy, and that's what it was at first -- easy. The leisurely ride to Nilreb where they made contact with the local authorities. The local leaders -- five Lords and Ladies -- had welcomed them, eager for their world to join the newly founded Alliance of Planets. The Millennium Falcon headed for Nilreb's single spaceport where sleek shuttles awaited them, and they were escorted to the first audience with the leading aristocrats. They'd crossed the desert on their way to the third Lord's manor when a dangerous stabilizer malfunction forced them to eject from the shuttle. Han saw Luke land amidst the shifting dunes -- or so he thought -- but when he reached the spot, not a trace of the man remained.
The shuttle pilot, Chewbacca and himself had been located by rescue teams soon enough and taken to their original destination safely. Two weeks later, the search was abandoned, and the Jedi was still missing.
'We should be getting the hell out of here!' Han thought. But how could he leave as long as that unquenchable spark of hope continued to burn inside him? How could he return to Leia without a single shred of evidence for her brother's death?
'I miss you, Luke.' He sighed. And sighed again, in exasperation this time, when the doors opened and a group of females entered the room. 'Hope they're here only to serve the meal... If that poor excuse for a Lord asks me to pick a girl just one more time, I'm gonna forget about courtesies 'n shoot him.' Han fervently hated the local custom that considered whoring a form of politeness towards one's host. 'I don't want a girl, I don't want anybody. Luke.' His thoughts were running in circles.
The girls set their food-laden platters down and exited the room. Silently, Han thanked the deities he didn't believe in. His eyes still on the door he noticed it had been left open a crack, and instinct told him somebody was watching. Hand on his sidearm, he threw his host a sharp glance, but Lord Downen was fully occupied consuming his dinner. Before Han could warn anybody, the door burst open and a slender figure tumbled into the room.
'Only a kid.' He relaxed. 'A boy, blond like...' Mesmerized by the sight of the kitchen-boy, Han was unable to speak or move.
Gavvin couldn't believe what had happened: how could he be so dumb to lose his balance? But then, how was he to expect that General Solo looked exactly like his dream-friend? His silent, dark protector had suddenly come alive. A dream come true. And the next thing he knew, he was sprawling on the floor, and everyone stared at him. The general's eyes met his. Never before had anybody looked at Gavvin that way. A chill ran through his body, but then his insides seemed to melt as Solo smiled. A peaceful, happy smile. It took his breath away and stole his heart. Sure beyond doubt that he was in love, Gavvin resolved he'd do anything for this man, even die for him. Stumbling to his feet he smiled back, then turned on his heel and fled.
"Wait!" Han started to rise, but Lord Downen caught his arm.
"There's no need to follow him. I'll send him to your quarters if you so desire."
"Who's he?" The Corellian asked while his inner voice shouted 'Luke!'
The Lord smiled ruefully. "I never realized you were that way inclined -- my apologies. He's one of the kitchen staff. His name is Gavvin, I think. A new addition to my household. His father brought him about two weeks ago."
'Two weeks! Luke's been here for two weeks, working in a kitchen?' There was something going on here, but the former smuggler wasn't sure what. He had to talk to Luke. 'So Downen's concluded I prefer boys to girls. Good.' Han wasn't going to protest. It was true, after all -- as long as the boy in question was a certain blond Jedi.
"If it's all the same to you, I'd like to see him tonight." Han grinned and bowed slightly to the Lord.
"I'll have it arranged." Downen stood and excused himself, the dinner concluded by his departure.
"You've seen him, haven't you? I mean I'm not losing it, am I? It was Luke?!"
Chewbacca's answer was a very definite, loud growl.
"Yeah, I thought so. Just hope it's really him they're sending. I wonder what he's up to." The pilot was pacing. He'd seen his lover beyond doubt -- but would he come, could it be him?
A low whistle ended his confusion. "You have a visitor," announced the computer.
Shy and hesitant, Gavvin entered. "You've requested my presence, General." He bowed.
"Indeed I have." Solo was laughing. Another step, and he held the blond in his arms, embraced him as if his life depended on it. "I've missed you, kid. Damn -- I thought you were dead!" He bent to kiss the soft mouth and muttered, "Why the hell didn't you give me a message, Luke?" His hands trembled. When Han pulled back, he found himself looking straight into puzzled blue eyes.
"My name's Gavvin, sir," the boy said, evidently wondering what this was all about.
Solo grinned shakily. "Gimme some credit, Luke. I've checked the room, no one's listening. Relax."
"But I don't understand," Gavvin said. "Is this some sort of game -- am I supposed to be this Luke for you?" His expression was one of total innocence -- innocence that couldn't be faked.
"You don't know me," Han whispered, shaken.
"But I do," Gavvin said reasonably. "You're General Solo, you are..."
"Stop it!" And suddenly it became all too much to bear, the sequence of doubt, elation, shock plunging the Corellian into a deep, black crater. Chewbacca caught him when he collapsed and carried him over to the bed.
"What's wrong? Should I get a medic?" Shocked beyond measure, Gavvin wondered what he'd done. Kneeling by the general's side he took his hand and touched his cheek gingerly. "Please, sir, if you want me to be that Luke, I'll be glad to -- just... please wake up again."
Han opened his eyes slowly, cautiously. "I'm all right, kid," he said, his voice hollow. "You really think your name's Gavvin, right? You believe you belong here?" It was obvious enough. 'Oh Luke -- what happened to you? How can the universe be that cruel?'
The anxious face hovering over him brought a smile to his lips despite the situation and the welter of conflicting emotions. Han shook his head. Giving up when things looked hopeless had never been his style, and this wasn't the time to develop new habits. Luke was alive, he was here, he'd have to make do with those facts for the moment. All he needed was time and patience, Han told himself. Luke's memory simply had to return sooner or later.
He placed his hand on Gavvin's. "How about you come with me, Lu-- Gavvin? Would you like that?"
"Are you saying you'd take me with you? Away from this planet, to the stars?" Excitement and hope shone through every word.
"Well -- would you like to come?" 'Say yes or you'll get yourself kidnapped!'
Gavvin laughed in pure joy. "Of course! That's always been my greatest dream!"
Han sat up and exchanged glances with the Wookiee. "We'll talk to Lord Downen, find out if he'll let you leave with us." Han knew Chewbacca could read his expression, his determination. Nothing could make them leave Nilreb without Gavvin, so the Lord had better be co-operative.
There was no argument. Quite to the contrary, Lord Downen seemed incredibly pleased that his guest had taken a fancy to his clumsy kitchen boy and readily agreed to let him go. Not trusting those easy manners, Han remained wary and uptight until they'd taken the Falcon back out into open space. But nothing happened, and no one tried to stop them.
'Still the same. No change, not the slightest hint.' Frustration clawed at Han. After two weeks they'd spent together, the blond at his side still called himself Gavvin -- not Luke. Though at times, Luke's memory seemed close to the surface. Gazing at the stars or piloting the Falcon, his body remembered instinctively, even if his mind didn't. It hurt Han more than he could say, or allow.
And the fact that Gavvin was a nice boy, friendly and affectionate, didn't help at all: he was just that -- a boy. All the experience that made Luke a man -- the loss of his aunt and uncle, of Ben Kenobi, and the desperate struggle to save his father, all the maturity gained from severe trials -- had disappeared. Gavvin was a blank slate, someone who'd never faced trouble in his entire life, innocent to an extent that seemed almost unnatural. And he looked younger, too. Younger than Luke had been when they'd first met. Friendly and shy... Sometimes Han came close to hating him, but how could he hate an innocent child?
Time and again, the Corellian surrendered to the illusion, couldn't stop himself from reaching out for Gavvin to hold and kiss him, and gave in to the longing briefly -- until he found the strength to restrain himself. Because this just wasn't Luke. This boy had no will of his own -- oh, he'd even sleep with him, sure, but only because it was expected of him, not because he really wanted Han. The situation became more intolerable with every passing day.
'Why can't you remember, Luke? Why can't you remember me?'
Desperate to rekindle the lost memory, the lost love, Han bombarded him with questions. "Got any sisters or brothers, Gavvin?" He'd asked that before, but this time, his patience almost worn out, he'd force the issue. He wasn't going to relent.
"No, sir... uh, Han. I'm an only."
Blue eyes darkened for a moment, then Gavvin shook his head. "No. Although... in my dreams I have a sister, beautiful and strong, and I called her..." He shrugged. "I forgot."
"Maybe." It was of no consequence to Gavvin how his dreamsister was called.
"Tell me more about those dreams, kid. Like, what did you plan to do with your life?" Han pressed. The boy's dreams were the key, they were Luke's memories. 'Come on, Luke, come on... remember...'
Gavvin grinned, visibly embarrassed. "I wanted to be a rebel, fly an X-wing and save the galaxy."
Han's answer was a cocky grin of his own. "I know what you mean. Had a friend who used to dream of that, too." He flinched inwardly. 'Damn -- why did I say had? Luke isn't dead!'
"Did he? In my dreams there's a good friend who protects me, you know, and he owns a big ship, called the Falcon just like yours." Sparks danced in the blue eyes.
'So you haven't forgotten about me, huh? Friend, protector... That all?' "What about lovers, Gavvin? A beautiful girl in every port?" 'And I bet that's exactly what you dreamed about, on Tatooine.'
The blond blushed and averted his eyes.
'Hey, hey. What's that?' "Tell me, or is that a secret?"
"I... I--" Gavvin stammered. "I didn't dream of... of girls."
'Better and better.' "So then what? Handsome boys like yourself, or big bullies who'd just grab you?" 'Dark fantasies, Luke? Never thought of that before.' "C'mon, don't be shy."
In the meantime, all color had left the boy's face, his hands trembled and the Corellian supposed they were icy cold, too. "Tell me," he coaxed. "I'm not gonna laugh, I promise."
Gavvin swallowed. "Well, I told you about my... my friend. He... he was more. I dreamed he was my lover." He took a deep breath and added: "He looked exactly like you!" Giving Han no chance to reply, he escaped from the room.
The pilot sat motionless for quite some time, torn between hope and renewed frustration. 'What now? Do I take that as an offer? He's not Luke, not really, he's just a boy...' Han laughed without humor. 'Hasn't stopped you before, old son. He wants it, I want it. So -- why not give it a try? Maybe that's what it takes to bring his memory back?'
Han clutched at the thought that brought the decision. He had nothing left to lose anyway. They were headed for the spacestation Medic Teta 7, where Han planned to take Gavvin for a thorough medical examination, six days from their present position. How could he wait that long?
'All right, kid. You want it, you'll get it. Tonight your dreams are gonna come true.'
Gavvin was more than a little nervous when he approached Han's sleeping quarters that night. He hadn't seen the Corellian since he'd made his awkward confession and wondered what the older man thought of him now. 'Maybe he's waiting for me. I did say he looked like my dreamlover, and he wanted me with him...'
Although by now Gavvin was bleakly aware he owed his good fortune to an unlikely resemblance with Luke Skywalker, it was pointless to dwell on that. If Solo and the Jedi had been lovers, surely the smuggler would be attracted to him just the same. 'But do I want him? To dream about something, and to actually do it -- that's totally another matter...' There was something frightful about the prospect. An inner voice whispered a tense warning. But why?
"Hey, kid!" The call stopped his wandering thoughts.
When Gavvin looked up he found himself in front of Solo's open cabin door. The pilot sat on his bed, dressed only in pajama bottoms, and grinned widely. "What about making your dreams come true, hmm?"
The confidence that carried with the words irritated the blond and eclipsed his uneasiness. "Don't know. Could be disappointing," he said sulkily. But he stepped inside the cabin nonetheless.
"Thanks, kid." Han snorted. "Very charming." He patted the place beside him invitingly. "How're you gonna find out if you don't give it a try, huh?"
Gavvin approached slowly until he stood in front of the man. "What d'you want me to do?" he asked, his voice unsteady. A firm hand grabbed his arm and pulled him down to half sit and half lie on the bed.
"Let's start with something easy, say... a kiss."
"A kiss," Gavvin echoed obediently and was rewarded with lips covering his own. The simple touch liberated something inside him, and what had started as a gentle exploration rapidly got out of control. Due to Gavvin's initiative, not Han's.
Gavvin's mouth seemed to make a feast out of him when his lips followed a breathtakingly sensuous path over his face, down his neck and across his chest. Desire, denied too long, burned through Han with bright flames as Gavvin shifted to stretch out atop him. But Gavvin was forgotten in an instant, and all he saw was Luke, his lover, while he tried to give as much as he received. His arms went around the slighter body, hands caressing his back and neck, while his companion's fingers played with his nipples.
Gavvin was amazed at his own temerity -- because his body seemed to know exactly what to do while his mind did not. He might have welcomed the sensations, but his mind failed to comply, and his thoughts refused to follow suit. Although Solo's touch was pleasant enough, Gavvin felt strangely disconnected.
'I might as well be watching a simulated reality game,' he thought. 'It's not supposed to be that way.' The brown eyes beneath him sparkled with lust and love. Gazing into them, Gavvin longed to feel the same, but there was nothing, nothing at all... No -- that wasn't true, something came alive... an emotion stirred -- and terrified him.
The hands stroking his back had drifted down to cup his butt and Han whispered his name... "Luke."
'Luke! Luke, not Gavvin. How dare you? I'm not Luke! I'm Gavvin.' But he wasn't sure anymore. 'Luke -- Gavvin -- NO!' A silent scream tore through his mind.
As if a switch had been thrown, Gavvin felt himself change and grow into someone who had nothing in common with the shy kitchen boy he'd thought he was...
And in a single instant he knew he'd never been that boy at all -- oh no, he'd been born to a purpose, chosen by the Powers, he had a mission to fulfill! And an inner voice told him what to do in seething whispers.
It took only one smooth motion to free himself of the other man's grip, and Gavvin stood, eyed him coldly. Brown eyes, widened with passion, met his gaze without comprehension.
'No. I'm not Luke, not your gentle Jedi, and neither am I shy, sweet Gavvin anymore. I'm your doom. I'm your death.' No doubt was left in him, no question about what he had to do. Life had become terribly simple. He slipped a knife from a sheath inside his tunic, a weapon he didn't even know he owned. And yet it felt natural in his grip.
"What the hell -- stop that, kid!" The pilot's voice was laced with tense disbelief.
'Not a chance.' Without warning, Gavvin threw himself at the other man, the naked blade slashing at his throat.
Dazed by the mind-boggling turn of events, Han couldn't think, could only react. Trained instincts took over as he rolled from the bed and automatically grabbed his blaster. "Let it go!" he grated, leveling his gun at the boy. "Drop that knife! C'mon. I promise I'm not gonna hurt you!"
Brittle laughter was the only answer he received. "You can't hurt me!" Gavvin's handsome features twisted into a wild, almost demonic expression, his eyes dark, nearly black with intensity.
A wave of panic rushed Han's mind. 'No! Got to be a nightmare... this can't be happening!'
The blond grinned, the wild determination to kill plain on his face. Nothing could stop him now, nothing -- and no one! His blade reflected the cabin's illumination as he attacked again.
The Corellian stared frozenly, mesmerized by the sight -- but he'd been a survivor too long to go without a fight. Unthinking reflex tightened his finger on the trigger, pushed it down... and in stunned surprise that matched Gavvin's, Han saw the blinding blast catch the lunging boy in his chest, saw him crumble, flung against the far wall.
"Luke -- no!" Han was by his side within a heartbeat -- too late to save the boy's life, though still in time to watch the madness fade from eyes that glazed over. "Luke..." The name caught in his throat with a sob.
Inside Gavvin's head, the maddening whispers faded, and peace filled his senses. For the last time, a tentative smile lit the blond's features. "I wish I was..." And then there was only silence.
Mind screaming in pain, his chest raked by dry sobs, Han clutched the lifeless body to him. 'No -- impossible -- not Luke -- I didn't kill Luke, I couldn't -- can't be true, a nightmare -- nothing but a nightmare!' But if it was, he couldn't seem to wake from it, and the body in his arms remained, solid evidence of what he'd done.
"Luke, no!" Leia woke with a cry, the image of her brother still terribly vivid in her mind. Luke, killed by Han... She'd seen the terror in Han's eyes, had felt Luke's agony -- followed by the cold of space and total darkness. "No." She shook her head.
Lando was with her instantly. A comforting arm wrapped around her shoulders. "Leia, what's wrong?" His voice was a welcome reminder of reality.
"Luke. He... he died."
"You sure? Sure it wasn't just a nightmare?" He kissed her cheek in a brotherly gesture. "What do you feel?"
Breathing deeply, the princess struggled to control her shivering. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the bond she shared with her brother: A twin's bond strengthened by the Force. It was still there, she could feel Luke, even share his emotions. Hurt, sorrow, and anger brushed her mind. Troubled, Leia wondered where he was, what had happened to cause such an upsurge of wild emotion -- but it didn't matter, as long as he was alive.
With a smile, she met her friend's concerned gaze. "You're right, Lando. It was a nightmare. I can feel him... he's all right."
"What about Han?"
Leia shrugged. "I can't tell. But if something had happened to him -- if he died I'd know. Luke's feelings would tell me."
Calrissian sat back, his hand still on her shoulder. "Sure they're together? What if..."
Leia smiled again and rested a hand on top of his. "Trust me. They're lovers... I know them."
His body was aching all over, his blood burned like fire in his veins, and his vision was blurred, but the image unfolding before his mind caused the deepest agony. The expression of utter despair on Han's face as he clung to the dying boy, the hopelessness -- because Han believed he'd killed the one he loved more than life itself.
"Han, I'm sorry." His words came in a dry whisper, but had been heard nonetheless.
"So it's done, is it? My creature has completed its purpose. Good boy." Laughter filled the cave.
Luke closed his eyes and tried to shut out every sensation. He was far away, in open space, surrounded by darkness and distant stars. Slowly, the coolness of space quenched the fire in his body and with it, the wild ache subsided until at last his vision cleared. He was still weak, but that didn't matter as long as he was in touch with the universe again. The young Jedi sighed inwardly; he'd been without his powers for weeks, had almost resigned himself to the loss, but now the Force was back.
He looked up and met the pale eyes of his captor. The man who'd found him after the shuttle crash, who'd invited him to his home. 'And I followed him like a droid to a scrap-compactor.' Yet the man had seemed friendly enough, and Luke could sense no trace of evil in him. 'But then I wasn't well -- maybe I had a concussion? Or was I drugged already?' He remembered accepting a drink before he'd blacked out and when he woke again, found himself a prisoner, unable to escape.
"Why?" Luke asked simply. He knew that this time, the man would answer.
"Why?" The stranger laughed mirthlessly. "I'll tell you. Because I want your family and everything you love destroyed, like you destroyed me!"
Luke studied his opponent's form. The tall, thin stature, the hawkish features, the greying hair. "I don't even know you. What have I done to you?"
"You destroyed the Emperor," the man snapped. "First your father took my place. My place, for I was the Emperor's chosen heir, then you came and killed him. You destroyed my life, my future. You and your accursed Force! Your family's blessed with its powers -- now I'll make you see the curse of it! What good ever came from the Force anyway? Tell me, Jedi, does it help you now?" Insane laughter ended his speech.
His prisoner didn't answer, but let his gaze wander around the cave. Ignoring the gleaming instruments of torture he discovered in the dimness, his gaze stopped at a device that looked like a metallic casket, similar to the one he was standing in, but empty. Luke remembered how Gavvin had risen from that device, a flawless biological copy of himself, created from his cells, brought to life by the life-energy drained from him, even endowed with some select memories of his own mind. Luke had tried to channel and control the memories and feelings his clone received, although with little success. Manipulated and without knowledge of his origin or his purpose, Gavvin had been sent to Lord Downen by a man who claimed to be his father but was in fact his creator.
Luke had been with Gavvin all the time, their link strong enough to see through the boy's eyes and share all he felt, yet condemned to the role of an impotent observer, incapable of influencing what the other said or did.
'He was part of me, not just a mindless copy. More like a twin. And somehow the cloning blocked the Force from me. Maybe he had the powers and just didn't realize? Only with his death did they flow back into me... I'm whole again. Time to leave this place. Han needs me.'
Luke concentrated on the chains trapping his wrists and ankles, sought their weakest point and shattered them with a blinding stab of the Force channeling through him. Freed, he raised his hand and called for his lightsaber. The Jedi weapon flew towards him from an adjacent chamber, activated the second his fingers closed around the hilt.
"This is what the Force can do," Luke told his enemy in a calm tone. "It's over. You've lost."
"No!" The stranger grabbed his blaster rifle. "You have!" The shot was aimed at Skywalker's chest but was deflected by the lightsaber and, ricocheting back, burned the man's face and life away in an instant.
Luke steadied himself against the nearest wall, deactivated his lightsaber with trembling fingers. "In the end, true evil will destroy itself," he quoted his teacher Ben Kenobi, letting the words soothe his mind, an epitaph for the hatred-filled stranger who'd never even told him his name.
'Han, listen... I'm alive... You didn't kill me... Han -- it wasn't me. Listen! ...I need you...'
"Oh to hell -- stop it!" Annoyed with himself for speaking out loud, Solo sat up and rubbed an unsteady hand over his eyes. He was exhausted, because night after night his sleep was shattered by tortuous memories, haunting images of a blond youth bleeding, dying... crying in his arms. But those anguished nightmares were something he'd expected, even welcomed as a kind of punishment for what he'd done. The reason he'd confined himself to one of the med station's diagnostic rooms, instead of staying aboard the Falcon, were different, equally haunting dreams that threatened his sanity. The sound of a familiar voice calling to him...
'I killed him -- he should be furious, hate me -- why does he sound so desperate? And why does he keep telling me he's alive, that I didn't kill him? I know better. Oh, Luke -- why, why?' Han lay back and squeezed his eyes shut once more. But as soon as his mind drifted towards sleep the voice returned.
'It wasn't me... Not me... Listen, Han, listen to me... I need you... I'm still on...'
'No! Damnit!' "Light." With the brilliant illumination, the voice vanished. Han gathered control to him, thinking he should do something instead of lying here, listening to phantom voices. 'I should get back and tell Leia... Surely nobody's informed her yet, nobody'd want to be the one to give her the news. No. It should be me. I owe her that much.'
As he thought about Leia, a memory sprang to his mind.
"I bet Luke got off that thing before it blew." Leia gazed up at the sky with an absent smile. "He did. I can feel it."
A chill ran through Han's body. She was Luke's twin, could share his feelings. She would know, would have known the moment something happened to her brother, wouldn't she?
Another memory stirred, something Lando had told him. "Seriously, that Force stuff is something to believe in, old boy. Suddenly she'd say, 'I know where Luke is,' and right there he was, hanging upside down, battered, one hand gone. It just makes a difference, you gotta accept that. Think about it."
'It makes a difference... His hand gone... His hand!' Han grabbed his comlink and activated it. With a growl, Chewbacca acknowledged his call. "Sorry, Chewie. I know it's late. Listen, I want you to kick one of those med droids, get them to do a full body analysis of Lu... Gavvin, okay?"
The Wookiee interrupted him with a loud snarl.
"Yeah, right now! No, I haven't gone crazy, my brain's just getting into gear again. Come on, Chewie, just do it, I'll tell you later. I'm on my way already!" Knowing his friend would do as asked, Han got up and left the room he'd imprisoned himself in for days.
Since medical droids were not programmed to indulge unnecessary sentiments, Med-3-1 didn't find it unusual in the least to present his report during night shift when non-droids were supposed to sleep.
"That's it? You're sure?" Han asked as soon as the droid had finished. "No scars, no wounds apart from the one that killed him -- no artificial hand?"
"That is correct. In fact, the deceased was an astonishingly healthy specimen of his race, no trace of any sickness or injury whatsoever. Is that all you wanted to know?" Han nodded. "Then I would suggest you return to your quarters and lie down, sir. You look tired."
The pilot laughed. "I've never felt better." He punched the Wookiee's furred arm. "Chewie, don't you see? It isn't Luke -- I didn't kill Luke!" He sobered. "Means he's still on Nilreb. We've got to go back!" Han turned and hurried towards the docks, the Wookiee close behind him.
Only when they reached the Falcon did Chewbacca voice his doubts.
"I can't tell you how I know, I just know he's alive. Trust me, will you?" Han could tell his friend wasn't convinced. Then it struck him. "He called to me, Chewie. In my dreams!"
The Wookiee eyed him with something very close to pity.
"Yeah, I know how that sounds. But it's different, he's a Jedi. Come on, you believe in that shit, not me! I tell you, Luke called me. He tried to tell me I didn't kill him, but I wasn't listening. But now -- I know he's out there, waiting for us, so let's move!"
Sighing deeply, Chewbacca complied.
'Come on, Han, listen!' Luke almost sobbed in frustration. He could feel his lover clearly, his pain, but wasn't sure if the Corellian heard him at all. 'Come on, Han, I need you. I need you badly!' And that was nothing but the dire truth.
Well, he only had himself to blame. Leaving the caves still weak and shaky, Luke had found a small repulsor truck which obviously belonged to his tormentor. It was small and outdated, but sturdy enough to take him to the nearest city -- or so he'd hoped. His mind set on getting to Han as fast as possible, Luke hadn't taken the time to check the truck carefully, which was why he'd found himself in trouble halfway through his journey. He'd landed the craft safely, but was stranded in the middle of nowhere. And all his technical skills were useless, because there was one thing even a fully trained Jedi couldn't do -- fly a repulsor truck without fuel.
To make an already grim situation even worse, Luke was marooned in Nilreb's wide deserts with only the scantest supplies of water and food. Most of the truck's reservoirs and containers were empty. He'd searched the Force for a source of water, but found nothing anywhere near.
Lowering himself into the shade of his craft, Luke tried to reach his lover once again. Exhausted in body and mind, he knew it was going to be his last attempt; active control of the Force would soon exceed his capacities. 'Han -- lover -- listen! Please! I'm alive, but I need you! I'm here...' For a moment, fear clouded Luke's thoughts. How could the Corellian possibly find him? Drawing on his slim knowledge of forming a guiding bond, an emotional beacon strong enough to lead Han to him, Luke concentrated fiercely, let his thoughts go out with all the strength left in him. 'Listen, Han! Come to me, I'm here!'
'Han!' For a brief moment, their souls touched. Then Luke lost his hold on his lover's presence, and his soul began to drift aimlessly through silent space -- a neverending journey towards peace and ultimate freedom.
He didn't know how long he'd drifted there, for time did not exist in those enchanted spheres, when he became aware of the change. Darkness, cold. The stars seemed to vanish one by one. 'I'm dying.' He recognized the feeling, knew it because he'd died before. A few days ago, part of him had died along with the boy called Gavvin. The chill of death claimed his soul as he remembered.
'I wanted to kill the one I love...' That the memory belonged to his clone, not himself, made no difference: in their essence they were one. And Gavvin had loved Han deeply, in a different way, but truly nonetheless. 'I didn't think I was capable of doing that. But I am. People hurt who they love...'
He should have known, since his own father had done the same, but somehow, somewhere deep inside, Luke had still believed that love would not allow for anger or aggression. And hadn't the love of a father, Anakin Skywalker's love for his son, rescued him? Hadn't it been this love that turned Darth Vader against the Emperor? It had seemed so clear, the answer so easy -- love was good, love was shelter. Now he knew better and it hurt, more than the wound in his chest as he -- Gavvin died.
Death was near again, he burned all over. And he was back in Han's arms. "Luke -- no!"
"I wish I was..." What did he wish?
--To be somebody. Not only a copy, not just a shadow of your soul. To be someone, be myself. To have my own dreams, my own hopes-- the darkness whispered.
He remembered what Gavvin felt when he'd piloted the Millennium Falcon for the first time, his excitement, his joy. 'But you were someone, little brother, and all your dreams were fulfilled, weren't they?'
Coolness touched his mind, not the cold of death, but the kiss of life, draining the fire from his body. Again, he felt strong arms around him. "Luke, come on! What do you wish? Answer me, kid!"
He opened his eyes only to drown in his lover's gaze. "Han?" Was he dreaming?
"Luke! I thought I'd come too late." The brown eyes filled with tears. "Damn, you've frightened me."
"I'm sorry." The words were barely audible.
"Not your fault. More water?"
He shook his head. Being so dehydrated, he knew he wouldn't stop after one sip, and there were too many questions he needed to ask. Somehow he found the strength to smile. "So you heard me."
"Yeah, I did. And about time too. Sorry I took so long..." The Corellian grinned shakily. "I missed you. I'm so damn glad to have you back."
The young Jedi nodded. "Same here." He fought to keep his eyes open. "I love you."
Han's answer was a long, yet almost chaste kiss. "You're wonderful, kid." Before he could say anything else, Chewbacca intervened by shoving the ex-smuggler out of the way with insistent growls.
His partner flushed, embarrassed. "I know, furhead, you're right. He shouldn't talk, and I shouldn't let him. I wasn't thinking, all right, all right." Grinning, he stood back as the Wookiee lifted Luke and carried him over to the Falcon.
A shout of pure joy that took all the tension with it escaped Han. His vision blurred in another onslaught of weariness as he staggered toward his ship, and he collapsed quite happily the moment he was on board.
"It gives me the creeps, Luke." The pilot's gaze roved around the room to avoid looking at the transparent coffin in front of him.
"I've got to be here, Han. Somebody has to be there. Someone should remember him."
Solo gave an unhappy, dry laugh. "I certainly won't forget him."
The Jedi slanted him a strange look. "You know he loved you."
"Yeah." Han shook his head. "I really liked him, you know. But I couldn't love him, not the way I love you -- because he just wasn't you. He was so different... so innocent. Not naive, simply unbelievably innocent. Like..." He searched for the right words.
"Like a child, a newborn child that doesn't know there's a wrong or right." Luke fought back tears. 'My innocence. I didn't even know I still had it, but now it's gone for sure.'
"You all right?" The Corellian touched his cheek lightly.
Luke nodded and waved for the waiting droids to lower the coffin into its prearranged position. Soon it would be shot out into space, on a straight course for the nearest sun.
--and I will be one with the universe, travelling for all eternity with the light of my star--
The voice was there, entwined with the Force, vibrating through his whole being. 'Gavvin!'
--I'm here and I'll always be with you. Innocence cannot die, it's the core of everything. Good-bye, light-brother. May the Force be with you--
'And with you.'
Smiling, Luke took Han's hand in his own and, to the Corellian's great relief, led him from the ceremony room.
"I thought you wanted to stay and give him your farewell or something," the ex-smuggler wondered out loud when they were alone.
"I've said good-bye and I know he's well. There wasn't any reason to stay." Blue eyes sparkled with untroubled happiness for the first time since their reunion. "Let's take the Falcon and leave."
"Best idea you've had in a long time!" Han grinned and pulled the smaller man to him, sealing his words with a long intimate kiss.
His eyes reflected the starlight long before the Millennium Falcon sailed out into deep space.