Title: Across A Crowded Room
Disclaimer: Lucasfilm blah blah blah and Zahn and Stackpole own some of these babies, too.
Rating: PG
Summary: At a party thrown by the Horns, Luke discovers that the chance to live and love again is
sometimes just a walk across a crowded room. And Rogue Squadron gets really drunk. The sequel
to "A Different View."

"Across A Crowded Room"
by Jaded

He caught her eye across the crowded room, but it was not long before he
lost sight of her in the blur of the party. He searched, but she had
disappeared. Reaching out with force, he touched her presence and was
instantly reassured as she reached back, like a comforting squeeze of a
hand. As the connection broke, he found himself suddenly anxious, gulping
down a nervous breath of air. He looked for her again, but found only
familiar faces that didn't belong to her.

"So Hobbie, you married yet?" Wes Janson grinned clowningly, hovering
around his friend.

Hobbie Klivian sniffed, unfazed. "I'm letting the offers pile up. You
can't be too picky, you know."

"Beggars can't be choosers, Four," Wes persisted, still grinning.

"Coming from a seasoned bachelor like yourself, Wes, I'll take your advice
to the refresher. And flush it."

"Hobbie," Wes said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, "I'm
doing the universe a huge favor by sharing myself with as many ladies as

"Yeah, the universe called and wants a refund."

"So Luke," Corran jumped in, wedging himself between Hobbie and Janson, "as
the galaxy's most eligible bachelor, how are you faring on that front?
Better than these guys, I hope." His green eyes sparkled knowingly and Luke
hitched for a moment, wondering what really was on Corran Horn's mind.

Luke considered it for a moment and took another brief scan of the room.
"I'm working on it," he said evenly, and smiled faintly. "Great party, by
the way, Corran. You and Mirax really outdid yourselves."

Corran shrugged modestly. "Hey, how often do you get the celebrate the
victory of the battle of Endor?"

Hobbie glanced at his wrist-chrono. "According to my last calculations,
Corran, I would say once a year."

"I was going to *say,* how often do you get to celebrate it with all your
friends and," Corran continued mildly, gesturing wildly to the room around
him, "so many people who were there?"

"You're a special, special man," Hobbie replied with a straight face.

"It ceases to amaze me why you're still single, Hobbie. Wes--I understand,
but you . . ."

"It's my scathing optimism. It can be a bit overwhelming at times."

Luke laughed, and felt a pang of regret that it had been so long since he
had last seen his old friends from Rogue Squadron. And now that he was
here, he had to leave them again, but he thought, it was for a good reason
that he had to make their reunion so short. One of the most important ones
he would have in his life if it turned out right. "If you'll excuse me,

"Sure," Corran said, then reached out and touched Luke on the shoulder
before he was out of arm's length. "Hey, Luke, you know Mara's here,
right?" His face was questioning, almost anticipatory.

Luke flashed an enigmatic smile. "Yeah," he said, "I know."

Corran turned to Hobbie and Wes. They looked back at Corran, and then, they
all turned their full attention back on to Luke's receding form. Something
like a leer leapt onto Wes's face.

Something like concern crossed Hobbie's normally dour face. "Oh, I'm not
liking that look, Wes. Corran, you got your lightsaber handy?"

"Looks like the boss has got a girlfriend," Wes said, bright-eyed and

"I certainly hope he doesn't," a female voice chimed in. The three men all
turned in unison to see the graceful face of Iella Wessiri who had a happy
Wedge Antilles in tow. She smiled up at their commander and squeezed his
hand. "I wouldn't want to dirty up my clothes by beating him up."

Corran leaned over and hugged his old CorSec partner. "Radiant as always,
Iella." She gave him a kiss on the cheek.

"So what are you girls gossiping about?"

Hobbie sighed sadly. "Just because you wear women's clothing once..."

"Women's clothing?" Corran echoed, looking at Hobbie, then Wes, then at
Wedge. "Oh, this I gotta hear."

Iella jabbed Corran in the ribs. "Spill first."

Corran looked at her apologetically. "I forgot what a bully you were,
Iella." He touched his side gingerly. "Looks like our favorite Jedi master
is on the prowl for a girl."

"Oh, you mean Mara?"

Corran look flabbergasted. A few stray words sputtered out of his mouth,
but nothing discernible.

"Oh c'mon, Horn! You forget, I work in intelligence. You do hear things.
You're not that special."

"Hobbie thinks so," Wes interjected.

"I suppose hiding my shady past is out of the question, dear?" Wedge asked,
the most innocent look plastered on his face.

"You're about shady as a pebble, Wedge," Iella replied laughingly.

"Now about the women's clothing," Corran reminded.

"Women's clothing?" Hobbie said, sounding puzzled. "Whatever are you
talking about?"

"Would some of my special whiskey reserves be more compelling in getting you
to tell me?"

Wes took no time in considering it. He slung one arm around Corran's
shorter frame. "My friend, you would have looked absolutely exquisite in
this little number that I had on . . ."


Luke maneuvered around the crowded room, catching brief glimpses of his
target who seemed to elude him--and doing it well--as though she knew his

His attention momentarily somewhere else, he was crashed back to reality
when he walked full-force into something large and hairy. Strong arms
wrapped around him and suddenly, his feet were no longer on the ground.
It only could be one person, or rather, one wookie . . .

A hand slapped him roughly on the back. "Hey, kid!" Dropped out of
Chewbacca's grip, Luke stumbled backwards a few steps before regaining his
balance. "I was hoping you'd make it."

"Hey, Chewie," he wheezed, "hey, Han." Taking a deep breath, he stood
readjusted his posture. "So you still insist on calling me kid?" he

Han held out his hands self-effacingly. "I can't help it that I'm always
gonna be older than you, Luke."

"Good point. So where's Leia?"

"She's coming. Just calling back home to check on the kids. Threepio's
playing babysitter tonight, and she's kind of worried."

"Threepio's not that bad."

"It's Threepio that she's worried about."

"Oh." The brother-in-laws chuckled to themselves and then began walking
over to find a seat by the wall. As they walked, they passed the Rogues at
the make-shift wet bar the Horns had set up. Wedge was toasting and Corran
was filling up another drink for Wes. Luke glanced at Han. "Is it safe to
have this many Corellian's in the same room?"

A classic, lop-sided grin crossed Han Solo's face. "So you've become a Jedi
AND a joker, Luke?"

Before he could respond, a series of loud hoots and hollars broke out from
the x-wing pilots. Hobbie put his fingers in his mouth and whistled loudly,
his eyebrows going up and down, and then up again.

"What's that about?" Han questioned.

"I have no . . ."

"Hey Luke, where's your girlfriend?" Wes cooed.

A involuntary, bright-red blush flooded his face and disappeared soon after
as Luke focused and banished it away, but not before Han had seen it.

"What's that about?" he asked cautiously.

"Luke, you stud!" Hobbie yelled. A series of whistles and cat calls
followed as he and Han moved a little further away and Luke was taken aback
to see that Wedge and Corran were also involved. Corran pumped his fist in
the air three times and Luke thought he also saw him wink.

"I don't know," Luke mumbled underneath his breath. "Maybe Rogue Squadron
has suffered one too many direct-hits and it's finally taking it's toll."

"Um hm," Han replied thoughtfully. "Um hm."

Although Luke had tried to look away, it was hard for him, or for that
matter, anyone else in the room, to tear their eyes away from the
fun-loving, and apparently whiskey-loving pilots of Rogue Squadron. Han was
about to say something else to his brother-in-law when a welcome distraction
in the form of Mirax.

She embraced Han first, then gave Luke a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Good
to see you both. Are you enjoying yourselves?"

Han shot a glance over his shoulder. "We're having a great time, but," he
paused, "I don't think we're having as good of a time as your husband is."

Mirax's face paled and then turned into a furious flush. Her lips tightened
into a straight line, but the severity of her look eased as her flare of
temper died down. She sighed. "Men!" she said with a small smile. "Luke,
why don't you start an academy to teach men to be more like yourself?"

"Hey!" Han declared, "what about me?"

Luke gave him a punch in the shoulder. "I think one Han Solo is enough for
the galaxy to handle."

"Naw, I think the more the merrier." He grinned the way only Han Solo could
grin as he saw Leia and excused himself from Luke and Mirax. "My wife

There was another ruckus. "Now what are those boys doing?" Mirax frowned as
Corran dipped Wes who feigned a swoon.

"Hey!" Hobbie shouted, "Corran, Luke's got another girlfriend--your wife!"
With that, Rogue Four fell to his knees, laughing uncontrollably.

"Another, girlfriend?" Mirax raised an eyebrow.

"Mirax, are you sure that someone didn't lace the liquor with glitterstem?"
Luke deflected.

"Let's hope not!" she said, a worried look crossing her face again even
though Luke had only been kidding. "Oh, I've met Mara Jade finally," Mirax
said, letting Luke go without answering her question. "Corran seemed a
little nervous about it, but I don't see why. I don't see why we didn't
meet years ago. She's a charming woman."

"Yes she is," he said. A glimpse of red hair caught his eye, and then he
saw her face and a glimmer of a smile that touched her lips when she saw him
back. He felt his chest tighten.

There was a touch on his arm. "It was good to see you again, Luke. Enjoy
the rest of the party. You're one of the main reasons we're having it,
after all."

"Thanks, Mirax."

She disappeared behind a couple of her guests and then, Luke saw, reappeared
at the foot of the table where Corran and company were perched. "Hey!" she
yelled. "Corran. Booster's here, and he wants to talk to you."

Corran's face went slack jawed for a moment as he searched the room, a
distressed look on his face. When he realized Booster was no where to be
seen, he narrowed his eyes at his wife.

"Now that was just flat-out cruel." He reached down and yanked Mirax up
onto the table with him. "You're a cruel, cruel woman."

"I know. But that's why you love me, and that's the only way I can manage
to put up with you."

"Kiss her already!" someone yelled from the floor. It was a red-faced
Wedge. Following suit, the other pilots of Rogue Squadron repeated after
him. More cheering came from the party crowd and guests began to clink
glasses together.

"Yub, yub, Commander!" Corran cried finally, saluting Wedge and then turning
to Mirax who promptly dipped her husband and kissed him hard on the lips.
Applause, laughter, and cheers exploded around Luke who couldn't help
laughing himself at the fun going on inside, but he didn't stay. There was
something else on his mind. Someone else.

She had slipped onto the balcony in the midst of all the chaos inside and he
followed, feeling strangely nervous. He paused at the doorway and let the
night air skim across his skin. The Coruscant night was bright and cool.
Lights danced from apartments far and wide, practically the whole populous
of the city-planet celebrating the anniversary of the win at Endor. Yet on
this balcony, it seemed to Luke like a whole other world. He crossed
diagonally and there she stood, staring out to the rest of the city. His
eyes traced her from the top of her head, down the curve of her bare back,
to her feet hidden beneath folds of a ice-blue dress.

"Luke," she began, her voice low and soft, "we have to stop meeting this
way." She kept her back to him. "People might start to think something's
going on between us."

Luke lowered his head to his chest thoughtfully for a moment, then as he
raised it, walked to stand with her at the edge of the balcony. As he
rested his arm on the ledge, he purposely grazed against her arm, savoring
the familiar thrill that ran through him. Out of the corner of his eye, he
saw her close her eyes for a moment and watched as her lips, like petals of
a rose bud, part in a soft sigh. He leaned over, ever-so-slightly, to
whisper an answer in her ear.

"Truth is stranger than fiction."

Her wordless response was more than he could have wished for. Mara
stretched out her hand and took his, fitting their fingers together like two
pieces in a puzzle. They stood there for a few minutes longer before Mara
mustered up the courage to make the first move. The muscles in her arm
tensed a moment and finally, she pulled on his hand and drew Luke near to
her side. At last she turned to face him, lifting her eyes up as she opened
them to take full view of his face.

"Hey," she murmured.

He reached his free hand out to stroke her cheek. "Hey," he echoed, sending
a shiver through her body. He's getting good at that, she thought faintly
as she nuzzled her face against his hand.

"HEY!" a third voice suddenly yelled, coming out of nowhere. There was a
sound of skidding feet and a gasp of surprise.

Luke and Mara instantly broke apart, spinning away each from each other as
equal blushes of embarrassment flooded their faces. Mara turned an angry
face, about to lash out at whoever the intruder was, for interrupting, but a
quickly her frown shifted into a twisted smile as she half-choked in a

Corran Horn, face now brighter than a supernova, smiled a little too
stupidly at Luke and Mara. His hands flew to cover his mouth. "Hey," he
said again, this time in a whisper. Then he dropped his hands, his green
eyes flickering first to Luke and then to Mara. He raised an eyebrow,
visibly mustering up all his concentration to do so. And in a voice replete
with sobriety, he said slyly, "I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"

"Are you reading my thoughts right now?" Mara asked.

Corran looked at her quizzically. "No, why?"

"Luke?" she prompted.

Luke squinted a moment, as though he were trying to get a read on Mara's
mind. Then he shook his head, "I wouldn't advise it, Corran. You really
don't want to know."

He bit his lip and looked at Mara. "Should I take a hint?"

She smiled at her friend. "I see Mirax has trained you well."

Corran groaned and looked at Luke. "You were right, we should never have
let those two meet. And they only were introduced tonight!" He walked over
to the edge of the balcony and peered down. "Well I'll be a hutt! It's a
long way down from up here!"

"Well I hope you don't drop many things down the side of the building," Mara
said. "Telekinesis really isn't your thing." She placed thumb and
forefinger on her chin for a moment. "Though I suppose if you fell right
now, Luke could probably lift you back up."

"That's assuming I would want to," Luke chimed in.

Corran turned and pressed his fingers to his temple. "Is this--is this
animosity I sense?" he slurred. Then without missing a beat, he switched
topics again. "So what are you two doing out there? You're going to miss
the whole party." He stepped away, back towards his apartment. "We're
about to start a talent show inside. I'm here to recruit you two."

"And do what?" Mara asked.

"You could dance, and Luke, you could . . ."

Luke raised both his hands to halt Corran from going any further. "Corran,
I'm not going to use the force to do tricks. I don't want to trivialize the
power like that."

"Yeah, yeah, darkside tendencies, blah, blah, blah," he said, gesticulating
like crazy. "But actually, I wasn't going to say that. Actually, this was
Wedge's suggestion. He said you did a mean Ewok dance, and since this *is*
a party celebrating the victory at the Battle of Endor . . ." he trailed off
and stumbled before he stopped himself against the transparisteel of the

"I think I'll pass," two voices said together. Luke and Mara looked at each
other. Corran looked at them.

"Hey, Horn!" Wedge shouted from inside the apartment before any of them
could say another word, "get back in here before I sic Janson on you!" A
growl from Wes promptly followed, as Wedge had given him a direct order to
do so. "The talent show's can't start without the host!"

"Yeah!" Hobbie yelled a split-second afterwards, " and we want to see you do
your amazing coming-back-from-the-dead magic trick."

Corran grinned. "What can I do? My public awaits." He almost turned to
go, then looked at Luke and Mara again. "I'll leave you two alone now. Go
on with whatever you were doing before."

"Thanks for your permissison, CorSec," Mara said dryly, and then she stepped
forward and helped him back inside with a shove. She walked back to where
Luke was standing. She took his hand again in hers. "Now where were we?"

He gazed at her as though she were the only object in his whole universe,
and at that moment, she truly was. "On the right track at last."

She raised both eyebrows in amusement. "Just out of the starting blocks?"

"More like rounding the bend," he amended as he pulled her a little closer,
no resistance on her part. "Or on the final lap." He searched her eyes,
and though her demeanor was calm, relaxed, in those twin orbs he saw his
reflection amidst a swirl of color and emotion more wild and furious than a
Tatooine sandstorm.

"And I thought we were in the home stretch," Mara said peckishly. "Who
dropped the baton?"

Luke chuckled. "Nobody did--looks like the handoff is coming nicely."

"Well I don't know about that," she said slowly, peering around her
shoulders where he held her, "but it seems like the hands are enjoying

"I can assure you they are."

"Any other parts of your body want to get in on the action--" Mara started
and then stuttered to a halt. She began to blush. "I didn't meant *that*,"
she stammered, then composing herself, she laughed sharply. "You'd think I
was about as drunk as those flyboys in there."

"I'd be running for my life if you were, Mara."

She poked him in the chest. "You should be running for your life as is,

Luke pursed his lips, a thoughtful expression on his face. "No, I think I
like where I am right now."

"Since when are Jedi suckers for punishment?"

"Since the day I met you, Mara."

"Oh, now you're just flattering me."

Still holding her in his arms, his skin tingling against the cool, blue
fabric and from the his proximity to her, Luke let the impish look of
flirtation drop from his face, and he replaced that with the open, honest
face of a man on the verge.

His nervousness was almost palpable but in it clung to him in the most
endearing way to her. Mara wasn't much better, though she hid her anxiety
better, letting the feeling flow in and through her. He shot her another
look, and if she had been any other woman, she would have melted right there
into him, but she maintained her signature cool, only letting her eyes
soften a bit more and licking her lips, bracing herself for whatever was to
transpire in the next moment.

Then, inches away from each other, fate--or more accurately, Rogue Squadron
intervened and deterred them. A loud crash and screams followed by laughter
flooded from the apartment as a rolled-up ball of black shot out through the
terrace doors. Sighing miserably, they stepped apart yet once again and
turned to look at the new distraction that conspired to lengthen their
already epic and unconventional courtship.

Hobbie Klivian unrolled out of the mess of fabric that had once been his
suit and laid a moment, staring up at the stars. It was only a matter of
time before his eyes naturally wandered towards Luke and Mara who stood with
impatient gaits and arms crossed. He smiled ruefully at them and then
letting out a mournful sigh that seemed to come from his very toes, he
quietly remarked to himself, "Always the bridesmaid, never the bride." Then
one of Rogue Squadron's best and brightest rolled on his side and staggered
up to his feet. "If yer..." he slurred, stopping in mid-sentence to shake
his head clear of the stars in his eyes, "Am I dead? I don't see
ma...snowspeeder..." He searched around, missing the sidelong glance Luke
shot at Mara.

"I think Klivivian needs some more bacta!" Wes shouted, giggles breaking up
the words.

"It's Klivan, you fool!" Hobbie cried, shaking his fist. "I mean...Emperor's
black bones!" he cursed, "it's Klivian!" Then without a second glance to
the people he had interrupted, Hobbie stormed back into the Horn's home,
muttering something about Wes Janson and ion cannons, he disappeared.

"I think the Force is toying with us, Luke," Mara said as she walked back
over to the edge of the balcony.

He followed her there. "Yeah, I'm beginning to get that feeling, too.
That--or some of the Rogues have started a betting pool about us and they're
interfering in order to win."

Mara frowned. "And left us out of it? Well now I'm mad. I demand at least
50% of the pool."

"So does that mean you'll be treating?"

"All depends--are you asking?" Her gaze was steady but her pupils dialted
nervously. And then they could almost see the joke drop between them and
reveal the seriousness of the real question at hand.

"Yes I am," he finally managed to answer. "I'm asking that and--" he
hitched, tugging at his collar like a fidgeting little boy, "and more."

"More." Mara repeated the word softly as though it were fragile as a thin
sheet of ice.

"More," he whispered as he slipped his arm around Mara's waist, pressing his
temple against hers. Although she steadied him, grounded him, touching her
made him tremble with both fear and delight. She could hear him swallow
before he spoke, and she could feel the vibrations in his throat when he
spoke. "...love you, Mara." His lips brushed against her ear and that sent
a shiver firing through her body. "I love you," he said again, closer;
sweeter. "I think I have--for a very long time. I just . . ."

Mara shut her eyes--squeezed them tight. She had sometimes wondered about
that. For that moment her walls were down and she completely surrendered
herself to him--something she had never done for anyone. But it was only a
moment, and when she caught herself she immediately slammed up her barriers.

"I love you," he said again, the earnestness in his voice overwhelming the
growing confidence he felt but didn't show.

Mara took a cleansing breath and tried to slow her rapidly beating heart.
"You and the rest of the smashball team."

Luke jerked away and there was torture in his eyes. Mara started, taken
aback by his strong reaction. He flexed his mechanical hand in a gesture
meant to aid him in a calming technique. Mara gritted her teeth and
mentally swore at herself. "Luke--"

"Why the barriers?" his eyes large and wounded and his voice sad. "Why now,
Mara?" He sighed. "Why?" Shw watched him back away.

"Habit?" she offered lamely, but somehow Mara knew words could not explain.
Nonetheless, she tried, wishing up courage untested in these waters. She
let the busy sound of Coruscant fill up in the empty space between them for
the length of another silence and stood at a distance, watching him. She
could see the outline of his jaw; could see the emotions written in the
fuzzy lines they made against the bright city night. There was pride
there, injured as it were, and Mara let her lips quirk at her own expense.
Not much unlike her, she thought as she indulged into another thought--of
him, naturally. A day without him occupying her thoughts was a day she had
been knocked unconscious, and sometimes not even then. "Habit, Luke," she
continued at last. "I've worked years building up these walls. You know
that. I don't know what it's like to be loved. It seems unnatural--"

He cut her off. "Unnatural for me to--"

"Oh shut up, Skywalker, do you ever shut up?"

"I don't want to argue," he replied dismissively, frustration apparent.

"I was going to say it was unnatural to think someone could care about me
like that. It's abnormal." She laughed harshly, her voice like sandpaper.
"People are supposed to fear me; maybe respect me, but love?"

"What is that?"

Mara's temper suddenly flared. "What is *that*? I asked the question.
You're supposed to tell me!" She threw her arms up in the air. "Why do I

"No, no," he said, looking past her. "I heard something."

"They're just Ewoks in the air ducts. Don't mind it." A look of irritation
crossed her face. He was just sucking all the mood out of this.

"They could be Imperials or loyalists to the Empire out to sabotage the
Endor celebration. All our friends are in there, we can't--"

All it took was two bold steps, the pooling of year of unresolved tension,
and the touch of two hands, one face and the contact of two mouths. "Don't
you ever stop talking?" she asked, her hands on his face.

He stammered. "I..."

"I know. I love you too," she said, stroking his face. "Now shut up."
Before he could protest further Mara silenced him, instantly aware of
nothing more than of herself, him, and the beauty and wonder of a love that
could be sealed with a perfect kiss such as this.


Corran had never realized how well Wedge could sing. For that matter, he
had never known that Wedge *could* sing. If Mirax and Wedge hadn't been
like brother and sister, Corran thought with a shake of his head, he could
have sworn his wife was swooning for his friend and commander. He staggered
over to a wall--a friendly one at that--and leaned up against it, sipping at
his glass of Corellian brandy that felt so cool against his hot skin, and
cheered when Wedge finished his song.

Tycho Celchu, the only member of Rogue Squadron not completely
punchass-stumbling-like-a-dying-bantha drunk, helped Wedge off the table
that had been acting as the make-shift talent show stage. Wedge swiped some
sort of fruity mixed drink off a table that no one had been nursing and
offered it to his friend. Tycho declined, much to Wedge's consternation.

"You forget," Tycho said with a nod towards white-haired Winter, "my wife
doesn't forget anything." He laughed heartily at his friend. "And I don't
think I'm going to be forgetting tonight for a long time, either." Wedge
frowned. Then he reached out and slapped Tycho on the head.

"Ow! What was that for?" Tycho shouted, slapping Wedge back in the same

"I wanted to give you amnesia." And as an afterthought, "So you would
forget." He sipped at the drink again.

Tycho could not help but laugh, and as he did so, he swiped the drink out of
Wedge's hands, setting it down again as he maneuvered one of the liberators
of Coruscant towards a seat on the Horn's couch. But before they had made
it that far, two blurs of motion came careening towards them, one from the
left and one from the right. There was a collision and from the mess, Tycho
could decipher the faces and forms of Wes Janson and Hobbie Klivian. "At
least we don't have to worry about brain damage," he remarked dryly as he
helped his squadron-mates up to their wobbly feet.

"Wedge!" Wes shouted, embracing his commander. "You!" he said, jabbing his
whole fist instead of just a finger into Wedge's chest, doubling Wedge over,
"you were so good up there! Can you act, too?"

Hobbie, rubbing his head painfully, managed to jump in, dizziness,
drunkenness and all. And though completely inebriated beyond all previous
levels, he somehow still managed to look like his dour self. "Yeah, boss.
Screw this whole military business. The entertainment industry is missing
out. You should be doing musical comedy."

"You could borrow my purple cape," Wes offered, "and my purple tights,

Tycho cut him off, placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "Ok,
seriously, Wes, as your friend--that's more than I needed to know."

Hobbie sighed. "Unfortunatly I know that and more. And people wonder
why I act the way I do."

"We stopped wondering years ago, Hobbie," Wedge interjected, a silly
grin plastered on his noble face.

This same face them morphed into something that feigned seriousness.

Hobbie reached over and snatched Wedge's fruity-delight of a drink out
of his and inhaled it, saying "I need a drink," after-the-fact. Hobbie
then made a quick scan of his surroundings, his eyes hungering for
another drop of any available intoxicant. And then there it was--a
nearly-empty bottle of the finest Corellian reserves in the hands of
Gavin Darklighter, who, in Hobbie's estimation, couldn't be that far

Severely miscalculating, Hobbie more or less dove forward without a
second-thought and found himself propelled into the esteemed belly of
one Wedge Antilles. Like an X-wing bouncing off the face of a cliff,
Hobbie went crashing to the ground in spectacular fashion. Unlike a
cliff though, Wedge fared far worse. Still recovering from the blow Wes
had delivered into his chest, Wedge, even with his tough, Corellian
constitution could take no more.

As the group around his friends was growing more numerous, Corran could
not make out exactly what was going on from his position across the
crowded room. Rubbing his eyes with the back of his arm, he was careful
to set his drink down first before he grabbed a hold of the curtain to
his balcony door to raise himself up to get a better view. Steadying
himself, Corran cursed his ineptitude at telekinesis in a multitude of
colorful ways he had learned over the years. Yet from his new position,
he could not see, but visuals were soon unnecessary as the other senses
got their due.

Wedge toppled over once again, this time losing his footing as Hobbie
had somehow managed to take his feet out from under him. Then, without
warning, a sound that rivaled that of swamp-gas from the deepest,
darkest, and nastiest portion of Dagobah, erupted from his mouth. His
head spinning and unsure of what had just transpired, Wedge looked up to
Tycho for explanation. However, it was Wes Janson, in his own special
way, that conveyed to sole survivor of two Death Star runs, what he
occurred with two, simple words:


As soon as the words left Wes Janson's mouth, the party-goers erupted
into something like a frenzy. Corran, shocked out of losing his balance,
went toppling to the ground in a fashion that seemed a popular method
amongst Rogue Squadron members this night. However he came out with nary
a scratch, the liquor doing a good job of keeping him limber. It was the
fall that had the most impact on his sense, though. Clarity of mind hit
him like the stench of the insides of a taun-taun and his mind sprung
into action. "The nerf-hide sofas!" he thought frantically. They had
been belated wedding gifts from his father-in-law. Five years
belated at that, when Booster Terrik had finally accepted the fact that
his only daughter was married, and was going to stay married, to a Horn
of all things. If something happened to those sofas, Corran thought
despairingly--he had to think fast!

Luke would probably object to what he was about to do--though Luke was
nowhere in sight at the moment, Corran reasoned--but it was a necessary
evil. Focusing his mind as best he could, he directed his thought of
choice into the minds of Wedge Antilles, Wes Janson, Hobbie Klivian, and
anyone else who was within arms-reach of them.

Immediately, the room went dead silent. Corran blinked.

And Wedge blinked. And Hobbie blinked. And Wes blinked--twice in fact.
Even Tycho, who was still stone-sober, blinked. Then, looking at each
other, one of them in surprise in the other three in utter horror, they
realized that they now felt completely. . . un-inebriated.

Tycho shook his head. "Now *I* need a drink."

A grin spread across Corran's face when he heard laughter follow a
second later as the party-resumed.

Then he saw a hand thrust out towards his torso and looking up, he found
himself gazing into the face of Leia Organa-Solo.

"Ma'am," he said lamely, taking her hand as she helped him to his feet.

"That was cruel, Corran," she said with a shake of her head. He opened
his mouth to defend himself, but she waved him off. "Cruel, but funny."
She stifled a laugh, a little tipsy herself. Soon, Han came over and slid his
arm around his wife's waist.

"Is this rogue bothering you?" he quipped.

Leia groaned at the pun and slipped right out of his grip. "Scruffy nerf-
herder," she murmured as she kissed him on the cheek and dashed off to
some other location.

Looking at her retreating form for a moment, Han only smiled and then
joined Corran who had found a new distraction. Han picked up Corran's
drink and handed it to him. "See something interesting." Corran's reply
was non-committal. Han raised an eyebrow and scooted over to get a
better view of what exactly the other man was looking at. As soon as he
saw, the other eyebrow shot up. Then he laughed softly, bringing his
drink up to his lips. "'Bout time," he commented as he looked on, the
intoxicating effects taking away any guilt about being a voyeur. "About
damn time."

Corran's turned his head wobbly towards Han, squinting an eye. "You knew?"

Han snorted. "I may not be a Jedi," he said, "but I'm not blind."


"Uh huh."

The two men stood contemplatively another minute before the sky erupted
in starbursts of colorful fireworks. Corran 'oohed' and 'ahhed,' but Han
turned around and gave Leia, who was propped up against a doorway, and
gave her a thumbs up. Corran saw this, gathered a conclusion from the
implications, but made no comment. The Force was a sneaky fellow . . .

The fireworks eventually faded, but only the ones in the sky. The ones
that were going on between Luke and Mara on *his* balcony, though . . .
Corran had a distinct feeling that those would always be going off, and
good for them, too, he thought. "I'm starting to feel like a creep," he
said finally. Han agreed. "Back to the party?"

"Sounds like a plan, Horn," Han said jovially. "By the way, great party."

"Thanks. You know the saying . . ."

". . .Corellians do it best."

"You got that right!"

"Just don't tell my wife I said that. I'd never hear the end of it."
They laughed as only those already two-glasses beyond a guaranteed
hangover could laugh.

As they started their way back into the center of the Endor Anniversary
celebration party, Corran tapped on his glass and leaned in
conspiratorially, his green eyes bright like the sun emerging out of a
drunk's glassy-eyed fog. "I got some more of this stuff hidden away."
Then, very cordially he asked, "Would you like another drink, General

Han winked. "Is a hutt ugly?"


"What was that for?"

Mara pursed her lips. "You mean aside from the obvious?"

"Ah, yeah. That."

"You wouldn't stop talking." She kissed him again, her mouth burning for
the touch. "Desperate times call for desperate measures."

"Then color me hopelessly desperate--"

"Don't worry, I do."

"How 'bout just deperately in love?"

"Oh now you're getting sappy, Luke."

He laughed. "So I am," he replied with a grin that made Mara's heart do
little flip flops. He touched her face again and she placed her hand over
his. "So I am."

A contented sigh came from Mara, one which surprised her. "So is this what
happiness feels like?"

"You're asking me?" he asked, pulling her close again and kissing her
forehead. And as though on cue, fireworks exploded in the sky above them.

"Sorry," she mused, "I forgot who I was talking to." Mara made a happy
sound, making note of this moment to file away in her memory banks. A
beautiful night, music playing in the background--although a little off-key
and raucous, and . . . why did it sound like Wedge Antilles?--and Luke
Skywalker. Not exactly the formula she expected, but combined it was a
potent mix. It was chemistry at work with potential for explosives, but she
thought again, it had always been this way between them, regardless of the
setting. Setting her thoughts aside she let herself lean into his chest a
little more. "This is nice."

"Glad you think so."

"I suppose we have to figure this happiness thing out together?"

"I suppose so. If you don't mind. Although I suspect this might take quite
a while to figure out. Actually, Mara, I was," he stopped, a little catch
in his throat, his voice a little hesitant; a little scared. "I was hoping
you'd consider, um, well working with me on this project--long term."

"Sounds a lot like a proposal," she said without missing a beat.

He cocked his head. "Maybe it is."

"Then, maybe yes."


"I'll consider changing my answer if you change your question."


"Want me to sign in blood?"

"How about we seal it with a kiss instead? It's a lot less messy."

"So you would think," she replied, a sparkle in her eye, but no more words
were wasted before she had grabbed him roughly by the collar to seal the
deal. Gasping for air and taking a moment to recover, blushes receding from
both their faces, Mara managed to speak first. "Now that we got the issue
of the rest of our lives settled, what do you propose we do with the rest of
the evening?"

Luke smiled mysteriously. "I got some ideas." Mara twisted a strand of his
hair in between her fingers, lips curling upwards, a murmur of approval
rumbling out of her throat. She winked at him. Then there was another
searing kiss, lips relunctantly parting like fine threads of spider silk.

"And to think," she said, her green eye one inch from his blue, "the night
is still young."