When There is No More Laughter by Chris Anderson

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Lucasfilm, Ltd. No money is being made and no infringement is intended.

He remembers her laughter, all those years ago. Caren Devis, Imperial intelligence agent, love of his life, so strong-willed, so independent- She had declined his first marriage proposal, and each one after that, refusing to be tied to any man, no matter how much she might have loved him.

It had frustrated him to no end, but he had understood. It was Caren; that was the way she was. He had understood it, but still year after year he asked her.

Her laughter had been such a beautiful thing. She would laugh and shake her head- a toss of her hair, a smile. "You know I won't," she would say. "I never will."

He missed her so much when she was gone- missed that laugh and that smile and her sheer stubbornness. A widower in all but name, her loss had nearly destroyed him. Might have, in fact, if it hadn't been for Caren's son- their son, who, the stars knew, needed somebody.

They both had, really, and for a time they had clung to each other. He still remembers, even now, the strange mix of pain and joy when Mynar laughed again, something of Caren in his smile.

And then his son had grown, and begun to dream, as children will... And when he was of age (at least he'd waited that long; Gilad Pellaeon, having had less understanding parents and more than his share of wanderlust, had not) Myn had asked his father's leave to join the Imperial navy.

He could have prevented it, of course. A whispered word to a colleague, a shake of his head to an old friend, and it would be done. Nothing would ever be said, and the boy would fail his physical examination in some obscure and harmless way, miss the height requirements by a centimeter...

But his son would have *known* that he had done it. Would have known, and would never have forgiven him.

And because he was selfish- his son was all he had left, and he did not want to lose him- Because he was selfish and proud, so proud, that Mynar wanted to follow in his footsteps, he had given his son his blessing.

He had been so proud of the young man when he received his first command- and got it through no effort of his father's, or even a whisper of the Grand Admiral's name. Myn was Caren's son enough that he used her name rather than his father's, and many people never knew he was the Admiral's son.

Pellaeon had only pulled strings in his son's career once, when he had him sent to command an Interdictor cruiser stationed far off the main hyperspace routes, assisting in anti-smuggling patrols. Far, far away from the battle plains. It was wrong, and a part of him understood that, but he had one son he loved dearly, and no other family, only a scattering of distant friends. He told himself that any father might have done what he had.

In the end, it did no good. Mynar was stubborn and prideful the way his mother had been, and similarly bound to duty. He had also been bored, and when a chance for adventure came along, a chance to help the war effort in some way more significant than anti-smuggling patrols, he had rushed right in.

And died, far from home, in a battle that never should have occurred in the first place.

There was no one in all the stars who laughed like Caren Devis. Nor was there anyone who laughed like Mynar Devis.

As for Gilad Pellaeon, he doesn't laugh much these days.