Hello readers! Author's note at the bottom.
"I stayed up much too late last night with 3PO searching for sources [on Antiochus] that our first research team might have missed. He finally found an account written only 250 years ago by a traveler from Chandrilla...These two worlds have very different conceptions of marriage. So different, in fact, that they consider their cultures diametrically opposed."
THIS ENTERED INTO THE RECORD OF THE GALACTIC REPUBLIC SENATE. A STATEMENT: THE SWORN TESTIMONY OF LANTIPHONE GRIGGS, SUBMITTED TO THE COMMITTEE ON INDUSTRIAL SAFETY IN THE LEISURE INDUSTRY.
My name is Lantiphone Griggs. My company, Galactic Escapes, owns over 2,000 resorts and spas in the core and mid rim. Twelve years ago [221 BBY] my work took me to the Antiochus System. The Antiochan Commanding Body almost never allows offworlders access to the system, including Bounty Station, where they process the mineral components sold to my industry. They tried to dissuade me from visiting, but I made it clear to Chief Controller Linmark that if I was unable to personally view their operation, they would lose the patronage of Galactic Escapes entirely. And so, I was very grudgingly allowed to visit Bounty Station for 72 hours.
During my short visit I wasn't exposed to much Antiochan society, but the few things I did observe were of sufficient interest that I feel they may be of value to the committee:
Several times, I heard individuals mention either a mountain or a circle. Sometimes both would be named together, for instance, "well, it's either the mountain or the circle, and there's no common ground between them." Or, "that's the way it's always been-the mountain and the circle, bickering for eternity."
I began to notice two symbols worked into the decor of the station and the dress of the people: either a caret mark, like a triangle with no bottom, or a simple circle. Once I happened to notice that each symbol was associated with a planet's people, it fell into place: these were the graphical representations of the mountain and the circle, of course. The Mountain belongs to Antiochus Prime, and the Circle to Antiochus Rorus. I was intrigued by this symbology and I sought to learn more from my guides, but they were remarkably stubborn in their refusal to even acknowledge that there was anything to notice. It made me even more curious as to why these symbols identify each people, and what it truly means. Eventually I managed to corner a member of housekeeping staff-they're all Circles-when I came upon her cleaning my bathroom. She told me only that it has to do with "shared marriage" (their polite term in Basic for polygamy), and some essential difference between "the peak and the circle." To speak of it to an outsider seemed to cause her distress, although I can't imagine why, and that vague allusion to the Mountain and the Circle was all I could get out of her.
Despite this apparent fracture in the culture, the workers I saw, be they Mountains or Circles, were healthy, clean, and well-dressed. Almost the entire population is human, and I saw no need for concern over sentient rights. I saw a clean and efficient operation. Despite some tensions between the two peoples, everything I saw was on the level.
As uncomfortable as each people is in the other's presence, and as reluctant to discuss their customs, they deal fairly and openly with clients. This place is surely strange, but I saw no economic, or ethical reason to suspend use of their popular spa additives.
Here's the document I promised you. As inscrutable as it is intriguing, I'd say, or maybe it was 3PO who said that last night: I'm a little foggy. In any case, I'll hold off on any comments until you've had a chance to read it, except to say that I feel a pang across all these years for that unfortunate Circle accosted by Griggs in his bathroom. Please feel free to share this with the rest of your team. Maybe just imply that you found it yourself. Perhaps during another lonely, sleepless night spend pining for me?
Well that's weird. I guess you (but hopefully 3PO) hit the nail on the head with inscrutable. I guess it stands to reason that there're a million different ways to be married to a bunch of people. So it turns out that these people have two. But what are they? And why are they opposed? This thing just brings up more questions. I guess it's a warning to be prepared for anything-even more anything than we'd thought.
I'll share this with everyone for sure. But I'll make up my own cover story, thank you very much. It's already obvious to everyone that I'm sick with missing you, I don't need to add any fuel to that fire.
Speaking of which, you've had me thinking about our first time. Does it matter to me that I took your virginity? I have a feeling there's a right answer and a wrong one, and I don't know if I'll give you the one you want. You probably want me to say, "oh no, it's never even occurred to me that you were a virgin our first time. Oh no, it doesn't matter to me at all that I'm the only man who's ever been inside you." But I couldn't say that without lying.
I can say truthfully that I wasn't proud of being your first. And I didn't think much about it, or not too much. That night I could tell you were a little nervous, but you were amazing-no innocent flower, but not jaded either. What I love most about you in bed is how close to the surface everything gets: everything you're feeling and thinking, is as plain as the nose on your face. After years of trying to figure you out, it was amazing to see everything in you laid out in front of me. I might get off-just a little!-on knowing I'm the only man you've had, but it's so much hotter to know that I'm the only one who sees every bit of you, inside and out.
Here's one thing I remember about that first night: I had my fingers inside you, and you were wringing them like hell, just starting down the far side of coming, and I started to ease off, and I'll never forget what you did. You grabbed my wrist and you said "don't stop." So I didn't, and that ride just kept going, until I stared at you and couldn't believe how you took and took your pleasure. That was only about the 50th time I knew you were something else.
You've left me breathless, but first things first. "Be prepared" is right: but for what? What does this new information really afford you? It's likely the cultural differences between us and the Antiochans will complicate negotiation, but it's not a given. Perhaps the differences between those two worlds will cause even more problems when they're forced to deal with a new influence from outside.
As for the rest of your message, I- well I can't write it in the same message. Hold, please.
Thank you for that wonderful message. You can make me shiver from systems away. I think about you so much, too much, probably. Sometimes I even get tired of you, but not of you-of the thought of you. My mind keeps returning to memories of you as if to comfort itself, until they get worn and soft like a favorite blanket. Then I need to give it a rest, because I want thoughts of you to always be as sharp and vivid as you are.
Today my mind has supplied me with a good one (Aside from thoughts of Those long clever fingers of yours). Today I've been thinking about your right shoulder. Not to distraction, but every time I pause to stretch or rest my eyes, or I'm walking down a long passage, I see your right shoulder, bare, just at eye level. If there's no-one around, I might even imagine that I'm on my back, and there's nothing else in the world but you and your delicious shoulder. Your delicious shoulder-I say that because the next thing I imagine is tasting it. You know how I love to do that just before my climax-or yours. You say you remember me saying "don't stop:" well, I'll always remember the time you first asked-"bite me." The surge I feel in you when I use my teeth is so powerful and so helpless at once: how wonderful to feel that wave break over me. I'm so eager to feel it again.
Tonight, Han, I feel so strange. I miss you so much, but I don't feel sad, I feel joyful. To feel this longing, knowing you're there to fulfill it, makes me profoundly grateful. I've gone for years without believing in the Blessing of the Stars, but I admit to standing at a viewport tonight and staring out and offering my thanks like I haven't in a very long time.
Please forgive the sentiment: I'm going to send this before I think better of it.
Like Leia, I'm going to post before I think better of it. A new chapter is so overdue that I can't bear to keep working on this any longer. This is only half the chapter I'd intended to post, and it's not beta'd, but what the hell?
Thanks to followers for staying tuned in: since my last post I sort of threw my husband out of the house. So yeah, romantic stories weren't quite doing it for me for a while there.
Finally, thanks to the immortal Prince for inspiring Leia's words about the joy in missing someone. From Pink Cashmere: "When I think about/how much I miss you/I want to jump for joy and thank Him/I'm not alone."