Twelve

A day later...

Sitting at his desk, Wedge grinned as Wes Janson walked in his office. "Haven't seen you much lately, Wes." He indicated the pilot should sit down. "What've you been up to?"

Wes shifted on his chair, worried about this meeting. Surely Lando had told Wedge and the others he was responsible for writing those embarrassing questions, and now he was going to get a lecture by his superior officer. "Not much, sir. Why?"

"Staying out of trouble?"

"Of course," Janson replied quickly.

"Good." Wedge nodded. "I'd like to ask you for a little favor. Really, Luke asked me to ask you. No...actually, Mara asked Luke, who asked me to ask you."

Frowning in confusion, Wes said, "Huh?"

"Corran's wedding anniversary is coming up in a few days. Did you know that?"

"No," Wes answered, wondering why he needed to remember when Corran's anniversary was.

"And it's a big one. Fifteen years... can you believe they've been married fifteen years already?"

"Time flies," Wes muttered, trying to remember how long ago the Horns had celebrated number ten. Had it been five years already?

"Yes, it sure does. So anyway, fifteen is a big deal, and Corran and Mirax are throwing a little dinner party at the Starlayne."

"Really?" Wes asked, perking up a bit since this seemed to have nothing at all to do with the holothon. It appeared Lando - for some unexplained reason - hadn't told anyone about his involvement with the holothon. Wes decided he'd have to thank Lando later. Maybe take him out to Dex's Diner for lunch. "Corran might have to sell some of that special Jedi blood to pay for this dinner."

Wedge laughed. "It's not that many people, really. Just a few close friends. Me and Iella, Han and Leia, and of course Luke and Mara."

"Sounds nice. What does this have to do with me?"

"Well, this is where the problem comes in," Wedge said, shaking his head in dismay. "Mara's friend from her days on the Wild Karrde is visiting the Skywalkers, and they don't want to leave her sitting alone while everyone else is out having a good time. That's not a good way to treat company."

"Mara has friends?" Wes asked, amazed.

"Of course she does," Wedge snapped. "What kind of question is that?"

"I didn't mean anything by it," Wes explained lamely. "She just seems like the sort that wouldn't be chummy with girlfriends."

"Iella and Mirax are her friends," he pointed out. "And so is Leia."

"Well... sorry. What does this have to do with me?" he asked again.

"Shirlee is coming to the dinner, and Mara wants her to have a date."

Wes jumped up from his chair. Maybe he was wrong about Lando keeping his mouth shut. "A blind date? You're setting me up on a blind date? How... humiliating!"

"Humiliating?" Wedge said through clenched teeth, trying to keep calm. Wes was worried about a date being humiliating, after everything he'd put them through? "Shirlee will feel uncomfortable unless she has a dinner companion."

"What if I say no?"

General Antilles gave a wan smile, leaning back in his seat. "No? Are you sure? Because I guess I can find someone else..."

"Good. You do that."

"And you can always go on this next mission," Wedge continued, shuffling some flimsies around. "I was wondering who I should send to pick up Ambassador Quobett and his entourage from Nal Hutta. I guess the job is yours."

"Quobett?"

"Quobett the Hutt," Wedge clarified. "It says here his entire family wants to see Coruscant, and you can be their escort after they arrive. Eighteen of them, it looks like," Wedge continued, looking at the flimsy.

"Eighteen Hutts? You want me to be a tour guide to eighteen Hutts?"

"They'll only be here six days, not counting the travel time." Wedge smiled. "Be polite to them, Wes."

"What if I agree to the blind date?" he asked desperately. "Do I have to go to Nal Hutta then?"

"Of course not. You won't have time."

"I'll be Shirlee's date," Wes agreed, thinking that a few hours wouldn't kill him, even if it turned out she was ugly as a rancor. "I'd love to be Shirlee's date, in fact."

"I'm sure Shirlee will be thrilled."


Two days later...

The private room held one large, round table with ten place settings. Soft music played over the hidden speakers, and the muted lighting gave the room a soft, warm glow. Wes stuck his head inside, noting the couples had already broken up into two groups... the men standing on one side, discussing the latest Corellian corvettes specifications, and the women near the window, holding glasses of sparkling wine, listening as Leia discussed the political climate.

Luke noticed Wes first. "Come in..." he said, waving his friend over. "We've been waiting for you."

"Sorry I'm late," Wes muttered as he entered the room. "I couldn't decide what to wear." This was a complete lie, since the real reason had been Wes's fear over meeting his blind date. What if she looked like a Gamorrean? Not that there was anything wrong with being a Gamorrean...as long as you were another Gamorrean.

"Nice ya could finally make it," Han called out to Wes. "I thought I was gonna have to start chewin' the candlesticks, I was gettin' so hungry."

The women turned around, then headed over to their husbands, Mara leading the way with a woman Wes had never seen before.

"Wes... I'd like you to meet my friend, Shirlee Faughn," Mara said by way of introduction. "She works for Talon Karrde."

"Uh..." Wes stuttered, holding out his hand. The woman was stunning. Blonde and tall... everything he fantasized about. "Hi."

"Hello," Shirlee replied, politely taking his hand. "It's very nice to meet you."

"Uh..."

"You already said that," Corran informed the dazzled Wes. "Why don't we sit down and order?"

"Oh... um..." Wes turned to look at Corran. "Congratulations."

"For what?"

"Isn't it your anniversary?"

Mirax laughed. "Of course it is. Corran is just teasing." She glared at her husband. "Aren't you?"

"Yes. I'm just the galaxy's biggest tease." He took his wife's arm, then moved to the table.

The meal was every bit as elaborate and lovely as the first time, and Han had barely finished his last bite when Leia's holocomm went off. "Yes?" she answered. Then she leaned her ear close to the soft speaker, listening carefully. "Okay, Threepio, we'll be right there." Leia smiled apologetically at the group. "Han and I have to go home. Threepio says the children ate all the desserts in the house, and won't go to bed. His exact words were... 'they seem to have overcharged on sugar.'"

"I told you we should have left them with Chewie," Han grumbled as he stood up and pulled Leia's chair out. "Can't trust Goldenrod alone with the kids for a few hours. Something always happens."

"Sorry we have to leave so soon, Corran and Mirax. Happy anniversary, though."

"No problem," Mirax told her. "Just go home and tame the wild beasts."

"Now let's cut the dessert," Corran said as the waiter brought over a huge, frosted cake as the Solos left.

Wedge held his stomach. "I think I'm feeling a bit, err... off."

"Are you alright, honey?" Iella questioned worriedly.

"No... I think I'm going to be sick." He leaned over, gagging loudly.

Iella looked at Mirax, her face unhappy. "Wedge has such a sensitive stomach. He always gets woozy when he eats rich food." She helped her husband to his feet and they staggered away.

Corran waved goodbye to the couple. "You go home and get well, Wedge. Thanks for coming."

He served the cake in large portions to the three remaining couples, and they continued the meal. After they were finished, Mirax stood. "I need to use the refresher."

Mara quickly got up. "I'd like to go, too. Shirlee? Would you like to come with us?"

"Sure," she answered. The three women exited the room, leaving Corran, Luke and Wes staring at each other.

"Why do women always go to the refresher in groups?" Wes finally asked.

"It's like their bladders are on matching timers," Corran agreed. They made polite small talk about the weather for nearly a quarter of an hour.

"I wonder what's taking them so long? I'm going to go check," Luke announced. "I'll be right back."

Wes smiled nervously at Corran. "Looks like it's just us."

"Oh, joy," Corran muttered. They remained silent for long minutes.

Then the waiter stuck his head in the room. "Mister Horn? May I speak to you about..." He looked around. "You know."

"Sure," Corran said. Then he looked at Wes. "Don't set the place on fire while I'm gone, Janson." Corran followed the waiter out of the room.

Wes waited. And waited. And waited some more. Finally, he stood up, and paced around the room. Where was everyone for so long? He stuck his head out of the door into the common dining area. It was getting late and the number of guests had dwindled to half a dozen occupied tables. He couldn't see Corran or Luke anywhere. Their waiter approached him, a white towel across his sleeve. "May I help you, sir?"

Wes coughed. "Um... I was wondering where everyone went."

"Everyone, sir?"

"You know... all the people in my party."

"Oh. They left."

"Left?" Wes asked, astounded. "When?"

"Nearly half an hour ago."

"They left me sitting alone in that room?" Wes questioned, annoyed. "What about my date? That was just plain rude!"

"I can't speak for your date, sir."

"Fine, then. I'm leaving too." He started to push past the waiter, but the man stopped him.

"You can't leave yet, sir."

"What'ya mean, I can't leave? Why not?"

"The bill," the waiter explained. "It hasn't been paid yet."

"This wasn't my party!" Wes objected loudly, causing the restaurant's patrons to turn and stare at him. "Why should I pay?"

"It truly doesn't matter to me whether it was your party, or not. You're the last one here, and the bill has not been paid. Therefore, you are responsible."

"No way!"

"What's going on here, Peron?" a familiar voice spoke from behind Wes.

"Lando? What are you doing here?"

"This is my establishment, Janson," Lando said coolly. "I'm the owner."

"Thank the gods," Wes breathed out. "Saved!"

"This man is the only remaining member of a large dinner party," the waiter named Peron explained to his boss. "And he refuses to pay the bill."

"You have to pay, Janson," Lando informed the pilot. "I'm not running a free meal clinic here."

"Are you kidding me?"

"Do I look like I'm kidding?"

"But... what about all that work I did for you! Free...for nothing! Can't you consider us even?" Wes pleaded.

"Even?" Lando repeated tightly. "You nearly cost me my position as director of the Coruscant Philanthropic Aid Society. It took all my considerable talents to convince them I was innocent in that little prank you pulled. Now...pay the bill, Janson."

The waiter thrust a small electronic reader at the pilot, who stared at the amount with his mouth hanging open. "Six thousand credits? SIX THOUSAND CREDITS? I can't pay this amount! I can't even pay a third of that!"

"Too bad," Lando said, stroking his mustache thoughtfully. "That means you'll have to work off the debt to the Starlayne. Since I use only the finest porcelain and crystal, you can start by washing the dishes. You can't stick those delicate items in a recycler, you know...they must be carefully hand washed and dried, or the finish gets ruined."

"You... want me to wash dishes?" Wes gasped, his eyes wide.

"At ten credits an hour... and if you come in every night for eight hours..." Lando paused, mentally calculating. "You should be in the clear in eleven weeks."

"ELEVEN WEEKS!"

"That's without giving Peron a tip," Lando pointed out. "And if you refuse, I'll call security and you'll be digesting your food inside a cell for quite some time. I hear prison grub is really bad, but at least you'll have good memories of this fine, last meal as a free man. I will press charges, believe me."

"YOU PLANNED THIS!" Wes screeched out, as he suddenly realized he'd been set-up. "THIS WAS ALL PLANNED BY YOU AND... AND THOSE..."

"Perfect pairs?" Lando filled in, smiling.


In the Solo apartment...

"Don't you feel a little bit bad about what we did to Wes?" Leia called out from the refresher.

Han laughed, folding down the bedspread. "Are you kidding me? It wasn't nearly enough payback." He frowned as the lights dimmed, turning around to see his wife's slender body framed in the refresher door. "What are you wearing?"

She stepped forward, smiling as Han's mouth dropped open. "My slave-girl costume. I haven't worn this in a long time, have I?"

"But..." Han's protest was halted as Leia grabbed him, and they both went tumbling onto the mattress. After a long, breathtaking kiss, Han leered at his wife as he unbraided her hair. "Why?"

"You got all dressed up to go to the Starlayne again," she whispered in a sultry voice. "I figured it was time for my payback. Your very own love-slave for the night."

"That sounds like a pretty good deal to me, sweetheart."

She nibbled on his earlobe, then whispered, "Maybe I can show you how deadly my tongue can really be..."

"Don't stop now," Han warned her with a moan. "Or I will cry."


In the Skywalker apartment...

Mara gave her friend a hug. "Thanks a million for going along with that, Faughn. I owe you one."

"I saw the holo-show, Jade. Why do you think I agreed so fast to help you? It was the best entertainment I've had in ages. We recorded a copy on the Starry Ice to play at company parties." Faughn laughed at Mara's worried look. "Don't worry, I'm kidding. And the only thing you still owe me for is scoffing when I said you and Skywalker here make a good team." She eyed Luke. "Maybe you can just name your firstborn after me."

When Luke's eyes widened, Faughn shook her head and smiled. "You'd better learn more about your wife, Skywalker. Next time she might not be so forgiving." Giving them both a wink, she turned and left.

Luke sighed. "I'm glad that's finally over. I still feel guilty about sticking Wes with that huge bill. It wasn't even Corran and Mirax's anniversary."

"Luke, Luke," Mara said, shaking her head. "You are such an innocent farmboy."

"Innocent?" Luke protested. "I'll have you know I didn't wear anything under my Jedi robes tonight."

"You are such a liar."

With an exaggerated flourish, Luke peeled off his outer robes, letting them drift to the floor. "Calling your husband a liar isn't nice," he said, relishing Mara's shocked expression. He stretched his arms out to the side, posing. "And you're taking another good, long look, too."

Mara glared at him, then starting stalking toward him. "Just wait until I catch you," she threatened as Luke took off toward the bedroom, with Mara in hot pursuit.

Luke laughed as his wife caught him around the waist. "Then what, Moonie-dew?"

"I'm going to make you my love slave," Mara declared, kissing him.

I already am, Luke thought as they collapsed onto the soft bed.

THE END

Another BIG GIANT THANKS to Jedi-2B for helping write this story!