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 [N,R] Point of No Return (Dark L/M short story) [COMPLETE] 
Trace
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Title: Point of No Return

(PG version titled Accession)

Rating: N, R for some violence and mention of minor rape

Genre: AU, drama, angst, romance

Summary: Luke accepted Vader’s offer to “rule the galaxy as father and son” and now takes an apprentice of his own.

Disclaimer: George owns it and I write for free.

A/N: This is a slightly revised version of an older story. I tweaked a couple of scenes, fixed some boo-boo’s, and re-wrote a large portion of the final chapter. Inspired by the teaser trailer for ROTS and the “Point of No Return” scene in the 2004 movie version of The Phantom of the Opera, this fic was my first venture beyond a PG rating...and it was entirely too fun to write. Blush Devil











-:- Tango -:-


Clattering armor beat a cadence through the otherwise silent corridor as the elite squad of stormtroopers marched with practiced precision into the receiving chamber of the Dark Lord. Halting at the foot of an imposing stairway, the squad parted to reveal a young woman in prison fatigues.

Standing atop the dais with his back to the prisoner, hands clasped behind him, the black clad sovereign addressed her without preamble, “There is a banquet tonight in honor of my son. You will attend and you will behave in a manner befitting your former status.”

The young woman stared up at him defiantly. “And if I refuse?”

Turning slowly to face her, the ominous figure descended the staircase with grace that defied his armored attire, cape billowing behind him like a bird of prey.

Even with her diminished Force ability, she sensed displeasure crackling around him as he approached. “Refusal is not an option, Mara Jade.” His gloved hand drifted toward the saber hilt on his belt and she swallowed hard. It occurred to her that she had never seen Darth Vader use a lightsaber, but if the Emperor’s unexpected demise was any indication of his prowess, it would not be a contest to which she wished to be party.

Vader’s baritone voice lowered in an unveiled threat, “You will learn your place, young one, or you will meet the same fate as the other minions of Palpatine. You are being given the opportunity to prove your loyalty to the new regime. I suggest you use it wisely.”

Straightening her shoulders, Mara answered stiffly, “Yes, my Lord.” And with a wave of his hand, she was dismissed.

* * * * *

That evening, Mara was escorted into Imperial Center’s Grand Banquet Hall by the same squad of stormtroopers who promptly directed her to the table which had been assigned. She smoothed the shimmering fabric of her strapless ball gown as she lowered herself into the ornate chair. Taking in the elegant surroundings at a glance, she was surprised at how few of the Imperial elite she recognized. Much had changed during her years in prison after Palpatine’s death. Lord Vader stood beside the table of honor and pointedly acknowledged Mara’s presence with a brief nod.

Mara had never seen Lord Vader’s son in person and the young man seated at the head of the table looked nothing like she had expected. Shoulder-length dark blonde hair framed his chiseled and surprisingly handsome face. He ate little and spoke less, appearing quite content to casually sip a glass of wine and survey the proceedings with an air of understated authority.

Glancing across the room, his eyes landed on Mara. She froze. The air seemed to shift around her in the private vacuum of his intense gaze. A sudden roaring in her ears drowned out all other sound and her vision tunneled toward him as he approached her table. Holding out his arm, she felt the moment that he released her with his voice. “Dance with me.” It was not a request.

Mara rose from her seat and took his arm with as poise as she could manage. He stood a head taller than her and was dressed entirely in black. The finely woven material of his sleeve accented the toned muscles under her hand which rested lightly on his bicep.

They descended to the dance floor as the orchestra struck up a tango. He gave a customary bow and circled her waist with his arm, pulling her against the cool black leather of his outer tunic. Her crimson skirt swirled around their feet as he guided her expertly across the floor.

“The former Emperor’s Hand,” he spoke with low, measured courtesy. “At last we meet.”

Mara resorted easily to the formalities of court behavior. “It is an honor, Lord Skywalker.”

“If I remember correctly,” he spun her beneath his arm in time with the dance, “your primary duty to Palpatine was as his personal assassin.”

“I served my master in many capacities,” she answered smoothly.

“I have no need for an assassin.” He turned her around and embraced her from behind, their hips moving in unison to the swell of the music. “But I am not one to waste valuable resources. You are Force sensitive?”

She answered the husky voice over her shoulder, “I am.”

“I could complete your training.”

She turned with the crescendo of the vreila and faced him again, taken aback by his forwardness. “And what if I do not wish to be your apprentice?”

He tilted an eyebrow. “Are you that eager to return to prison?”

She glided back to arms length, clasped his hand and twirled gracefully. “That’s not much of a choice, is it?”

He pulled her against his chest and they paused with a rest in the music. A distant hum filled her ears again as he lowered his voice in pointed precision, “There’s always a choice.” For a single heartbeat, her pulse pounded with his.

The tempo resumed and she pushed him away, lifting her chin in accusation, “You killed my master.”

His eyes narrowed in response. “Actually, my father did; but I was there. Do you want to hear how he died? I assure you his last thoughts were not of you.”

Mara stopped abruptly in the middle of the dance floor, glaring spikes of hatred at the young Sith lord.

He nodded approvingly before pulling her back into the dance with a commanding arm. “You want to exact revenge against my father?” he taunted. “You are most welcome to make the attempt. If I ask nicely, you may be left with the use of one or two of your limbs when he is finished with you.”

The dance ended and the guests around them clapped politely. Mara did not move, but stood panting in his arms, her shallow breaths of anger echoed the dark energy pulsing from her partner. She was suddenly and acutely aware of the danger lurking behind his piercing blue eyes.

He ran his hands across her bare shoulders and disengaged, almost smiling. “Yes. I think I shall enjoy training you very much.”




-:- Breathe -:-


Royal guards escorted Mara to a private training facility adjacent to the Imperial palace, directing her to the secured entry. Lord Skywalker had sent instructions to use the fingerprint recognition pad for access and she entered the spacious dome cautiously.

The room was dark with minimal glow strips around the outline of the floor. As she ascended the few steps leading to the exercise platform, light beams around the walls and ceiling illuminated spontaneously.

It was only then that she noticed Lord Skywalker standing on the opposite side of the room. He mounted the steps casually. “Let's get this out of the way now, shall we?”

Mara eyed him suspiciously. “Get what out of the way?”

He stopped in front of her, adopting a casual stance. “You want to kill me.”

She shrugged. “A lot of people want to kill you.”

“True,” he granted. “But you,” he flicked a finger and a panel opened on the wall beside them, “are the only one who will have the opportunity today.”

Mara turned toward the wall and felt her jaw go slack. The panel had become a display table for one of the most impressive collections of weaponry she had ever seen: knives, vibroblades, lightsabers, neuronic whips, stun lassos, and force pikes.

Resting his hands lightly on the table, he seemed almost apologetic. “You’ll pardon me for not including blasters, but I prefer hand to hand combat. It’s much more…satisfying, don’t you think?”

Mara crossed her arms over her chest. “And what? You’re just going to stand there? That’ll be rather boring, don’t you think?”

“Oh, no,” he straightened. “I intend to fight. In fact, I’m looking forward to it.”

Shrugging off his cloak, he flung it away revealing his simple attire of black form-fitting trousers and open-neck tunic.

“I don’t expect that you are proficient with a lightsaber yet,” he continued, “although you are certainly welcome to use one, but I believe that I have provided a sufficient selection befitting your expertise. And, seeing as how I am not entirely without chivalry, I will allow you to choose the weapon, or weapons, of my destruction.”

Mara eyed him warily. Discarding her own jacket, she rolled up the sleeves of her Imperial-issue jumper and plucked a vicious looking force pike from the table. She turned to face him, and paused. She had dreamed of this chance for years and yet, now that the opportunity was at hand, she found herself strangely immobile.

Skywalker grasped a similar pike and rounded the table toward her. “Suddenly shy, are you? Perhaps you need a little incentive.” He smiled harshly. “Did you like your cell mates in prison? I picked them out myself.”

Mara sucked in a breath at the thought of the creatures that had existed with her for no other reason that to make her life a living hell. Gritting her teeth, she tightened her grip on the staff.

“Such noble restraint,” he mocked, stepping close enough to touch her. “Are you always so demure?” His eyes traveled freely down her shapely form, pausing to appreciate the feminine contours that even a generic jumper could not conceal.

It was then that she struck; but he was ready. Blow for blow they clashed, the sharp sounds of battle beating a staccato into the silence of the arena.

Mara’s refined combat skills rose easily to the task but were quickly engulfed in the wake of Skywalker’s dark power.

She stumbled slightly and he slammed her against the table. “I must confess,” he taunted, stoking her fervor. “The year of solitary confinement was my father’s idea. He said it was incredible what one could learn about oneself while enclosed in the dark.”

Mara growled, her boot finding a vantage point and pushing him away with a thrust of anger. In the split second of respite, she grabbed the neuronic whip from the table and lashed out at him. He dodged, but not before the whip’s tail grazed his chest, slicing his tunic open.

Skywalker grinned, ignoring the pain. “I do believe you’ve used one of those before.”

Mara snapped the whip again and he caught it in his bare hands, pain exploding through the Force as he jerked the weapon violently from her grasp and lifted the hilt over his head.

Mara dove under the table but not before the whip caught her across the leg. The split-second it took her to stifle a scream was all he needed to press his advantage.

Tossing the table aside, he landed on top of her, planting his knee firmly against her lower back and pinning her face down on the floor. Leaning forward, he pushed damp locks of red-gold hair away from her face with his left hand, turning her head to the side, while his right hand journeyed below her waist.

Caressing the searing welt along her thigh and buttock, his hand lingered over the muscled firmness beneath his palm. “I can heal that wound, if you’d like,” he offered coolly, a stark contrast to the heat of his hands.

“Don’t do me any favors,” Mara spat. Fuelled by humiliation, she gathered her arms beneath her and heaved Skywalker off her back. His momentary loss of balance gave her an opening and she tackled him head-on.

Skin and sweat mingled in slick opposition as they wrestled across the floor with grunts and cries akin to lovers in the throes of passion. Skywalker’s superior size and Force ability eventually prevailed and he trapped her beneath him.

Flattened on her back, Mara glared up at him, struggling against his control. Shaggy hair framed his face in damp waves as he straddled her hips and restrained her wrists over her head. She couldn’t help but notice that his exposed, muscled chest was surprisingly tanned, no doubt the result of his childhood as a sand flea, she thought.

“Your master writhed, as well,” he goaded. “When my father had relieved him of the use of his arms and legs, he promised all manner of offerings in exchange for his life.”

.Mara bucked beneath his weight, “You’re lying.”

“Hardly,” he hissed. “You were one of them.”

With a cry of rage, Mara pulled the Dark Force into herself and pushed, vaulting Skywalker over her head. He collided against the wall as she simultaneously called a set of vibroblades from across the room and launched one towards him.

The blade halted less than a meter from her Lord’s bare hand, suspended in mid air as he rose to his feet. She flung the second blade…and froze, suddenly unable to breathe. Her shoulders hunched in an effort to draw air, but her lungs would not expand.

She fell to her knees as Skywalker approached.

He knelt in front of her, having immobilized her diaphragm, abdominal muscles and rib cage, and watched as she gasped in futile attempt to draw breath. Grasping her shoulders, he pulled her panting body close.

Sliding the clasp of her jumper open, he placed a hot hand against the smooth skin of her abdomen as unconsciousness threatened. Drawing her ear to his lips, he released his hold and whispered, "Breathe.”

She fell gasping into his arms, her breasts heaving against his bare chest. “Impressive,” he purred, gathering her sweat-soaked hair against his face.

Mara shivered, regaining her breath, and pulled away slowly. He released her hair but kept an unyielding grasp around her waist. She looked down, pointedly acknowledging his arm before flashing her eyes against his, “Are you finished?”

“Are you?” he answered evenly. “I can do this all night.”

“I’ll bet you can,” she muttered through clenched teeth. “Let go of me.”

After a slight hesitation, he withdrew his hand and she refastened the front of her shirt. Sitting back on her heels, she pushed tousled hair from her forehead. “Why should I join you?”

Skywalker crossed his arms casually. “You have potential. You’ve proven your loyalty to the former Empire.” He regarded her through narrowed eyes. “And you could be very powerful.”

“A Sith?” she sounded surprised.

He flashed a brief, wry grin. “Unless you can find Jedi to train you otherwise.”

“The only reason I’d want to find Jedi would be to kill them,” she scoffed. “It wouldn’t be the first time.”

It was his turn to be surprised. “Now I am very impressed.”

She shook her head dismissively. “Wasn’t that hard - trusting fools.” She studied him for the first time without animosity, considering her options.

“Shall I call your transport back to prison?” he asked, though she suspected that he already knew the answer.

“No,” she straightened her shoulders, adding a measure of defiance to her voice. “Not yet, at least.”

“Good.” He rose from the floor, extending his hand to assist her. She waved it away and fell into step beside him as the arena door slid open with a gesture of his hand.

“You will be provided with secured accommodations and transportation, but you are not to leave the system without my authorization. If I am not here, you will report to my father. We are in constant communication and he will contact me.”

He turned to face her, waving the guards forward. “The guards will take you to your new quarters. After that, you will no longer be escorted. But you will be monitored. Understood?”

Mara gave a curt nod, granting the only title she would afford him. “Understood, my Lord.”


(continued...)


Last edited by Trace on Thu Aug 23, 2007 1:26 pm; edited 6 times in total
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-:- Surrender -:-


For all its dark and sterile surroundings, the Imperial Palace was not without elegance, Mara thought as she admired the secluded garden. This atrium, located in the center of Lord Skywalker’s private residence, was truly a work of horticultural art.

Trees of all variety formed a canopy over lush greenery and bursts of vibrant, exotic flora. A clear stream bubbled past the intricately carved stone benches where she waited, feeding a pool peppered with multi-colored fish.

Somehow, it did not surprise her that Skywalker would have a place such as this, for he himself was a creature of mysterious beauty. Beneath his glacially calm composure pulsed a raw sensuality that permeated his every move, and she found herself anticipating their time together with growing eagerness, a reluctant addict to the allure of his presence.

Mara had not seen him for several weeks, as he had been gone on an errand for his father, and she repressed a tingle of anticipation as he entered the clearing. She stood in greeting. “Welcome back, my Lord. I trust your mission was successful.”

“Always,” he answered coolly.

In contrast to their initial sparring match, Skywalker had been reserved, almost formal, during subsequent training sessions, which had been rudimentary, consisting of little more than a review of what she had learned under Palpatine.

Wasting no words on preamble, he lowered himself onto a bench and motioned for her to remain standing. “It is time for you to move beyond the pathetic excuse of Force skills that you learned from the late Emperor. There is a pile of stones behind me at the edge of the stream. Lift them and bring them over here.”

Bristling at his comment about her master, she lifted six stones and called them to her, levitating them in a perfect line between them.

“Now, raise them over your head and rotate them.”

Mara obeyed and the stones circled around her head like a halo.

Skywalker rose and produced a length of silken black cloth and training remote from beneath the bench. Standing behind her, he tied the blindfold around her eyes and removed the lightsaber from his belt. Hoisting the remote in front of them with the Force, he wrapped his arms around her, pressing his chest against her shoulders, and guided her hands onto the hilt of his saber.

“Remember the stones,” he instructed, stepping back while activating the remote.

Mara struggled to keep the stones over her head while deflecting bolts from the remote. She faltered, grimacing with each sting that evaded the blade.

“Your master held you back,” Skywalker commented as one of the stones fell, striking her on the shoulder.

“I was wondering,” he continued smoothly. “How old were you the first time he offered you as payment for services to the Empire?”

Three stones crashed to the ground. “What?”

His voice hardened. “You heard me. Did you think it was a secret? The nights you were sent to ‘entertain’ diplomats.”

Mara pursed her lips into a scowl. “It wasn’t like that.”

“Wasn’t it?” his eyes narrowed. “How old were you?”

“I didn’t-”

“How old?” he demanded in a flash of suffocating anger.

“Thirteen!” Something inside her crumpled.

Skywalker stepped close, his breath warm against her neck. “And why didn’t you kill your assailants? You could have, easily.”

Mercifully, the remote had stopped firing. Mara whispered, “My master wouldn’t allow it.”

“How many times?”

“I don’t remember,” she winced. “They were all the same.”

“All greedy?…Repulsive?”

An image of thick, sweaty flesh flashed into her mind. Dirty teeth leering at her young naked body, the night her childhood was stolen. “Stop,” she gasped. “I don’t want to -”

“Your pain will make you powerful,” Skywalker’s sultry voice continued. “Did they hurt you?”

She could not answer. Tears leaked down her cheeks, bursting through the damn of her hardened resolve.

“And where was your master, when you were suffering?” he asked.

She gritted her teeth. “He didn’t know.”

Skywalker removed the blindfold. “Open your eyes. Of course he knew.”

Mara blinked, trembling at the scene that greeted her. She hadn’t heard them enter the garden, but a squad of stormtroopers stood guard around a group of men dressed as Tierian diplomats – the same men who still appeared in her nightmares.

“That isn’t them,” she rasped, suppressing a sudden wave of nausea.

“No, but they are men like them. Criminals who did not hesitate to ravish a child. You could have your vengeance,” Skywalker provoked.

No! her mind recoiled, fighting to push the horror back to the depth of her soul where it had been banished.

Revenge would speak the events of that night into existence - that her master had betrayed and abandoned her…

Mara fumbled for a foothold of control against impending rage that threatened to consume her soul. “They are unarmed,” she rationalized.

“So were you, the night the Emperor relinquished you to their demands.”

Her face burned in humiliation as the recollection hit her like a blow to the stomach: the calloused fingers that had bruised her wrists, held her down, and invaded her body. The hardened lust that had violated her, ripping her in half. She had begged for reprieve, even called out to her master for help, for permission to fight back…

We all make sacrifices, child.

That voice had inserted itself into her mind for as long as she could remember. Panting now against the unpardonable memory, she wondered how she had ever believed it benign.

The pain of truth began to burn through her veins, pulsing with the blood that now pounded in her head. He betrayed you. The sinewy realization coiled its way around her body with scorching fingers. You trusted him and he betrayed you. She was suffocating, smothering in a burning vice of despair.

Skywalker spoke from somewhere on the fringes of the maelstrom in her mind that obscured all thought or reason. The ground seemed to shift and her mind’s eye turned to a chasm of light opening at her feet. She could not hear or see anything beyond the light…the strange new light…

It beckoned her with certainty and reprieve. You could have your revenge. Only retribution would relieve the pain and cool her burning skin. Hideous faces shifted through the shadows: the men who had violated her…the master who had forsaken her…

The world tilted around her, this time it was Skywalker’s voice inside her head, “Destroy them.

She swayed on the precipice as the void below called, promising release. Unable, unwilling to resist any longer, she surrendered to righteous anger, to the hatred she had sacrificed on the altar of misguided devotion.

Spreading her arms as if to take flight, she leaned over the brink…and jumped.

The fall was exhilarating. Winds of power coursed around and through her, liberating and addicting. Mara closed her eyes, laughing at the sensation. The Emperor had indeed held her back. Anger that he had denied her such bliss fueled her descent, heightening the thrill of satisfaction. For the first time, she felt entirely…alive.

It was over too soon and Mara opened her eyes. Bodies of prisoners and stormtroopers alike lay strewn before her. She gave them barely a glance as she lifted her gaze to this new world. Intoxicating awareness infused every fiber of her body. Melded with the energy of life forces around her, there could be nothing beyond her reach or capability.

The stones that had been so troublesome earlier sprang into the air with a mere flick of her mind. She lofted the entire pile effortlessly and set them spinning around the clearing, a cyclone in which she stood as the eye.

Turning slowly, she faced her master.

* * * * *

Lord Skywalker watched, almost envying that first drink of dark power. He remembered it well: the sudden acuity of the senses, the energy that pulsed with near orgasmic intensity.

Mara turned, a feral grin matching the yellow glow behind her green eyes. Force-generated wind whipped red-gold hair around her face as she approached and knelt before him.

“Stand up,” he commanded quietly. “I do not want or need empty gestures of servitude.”

She stood gracefully, the blaze of his lightsaber casting a red hue across her face. “What do you want?”

The combination of her wild beauty and seductive question left him momentarily breathless. Exacting exquisite control over flesh that ached with desire, he held himself in check and brushed a stray lock of hair from her face, gently.

“I would ask the same of you,” he countered steadily.

Grasping his hand, she placed it over hers on the cool hilt of his blade. “Teach me…Master.”




-:- Detach -:-


Red flashed on red as lightsaber blades met, striking a steady beat of clashing light against the night sky. Mara was learning, quicker than she had expected, to hold her own against Lord Skywalker; but she was still far from matching his grace and agility.

They met frequently on the rooftop of the Imperial Palace, always at night with the city planet’s skyscape providing a gleaming background for their sparring.

Fueled by newfound power, Mara charged at her opponent. Darkness permeated her emotions and actions, even her very thought processes. Addictive as any spice, it beckoned her deeper into its sultry embrace.

She relinquished herself willingly, hair streaming behind her blade in a rapid succession of thrusts and parries. Engrossed in the dizzying sensation, she was brought to a jarring halt when Skywalker stopped abruptly in front of her, blocking her attack with no more than a raised hand. Colliding into the Force-generated barrier, she tumbled backwards onto the ground.

Lord Skywalker waited patiently as she rose to her feet with as much dignity as possible, brushing dirt from her trousers. Pushing a wayward strand of hair behind her ear, she pursed her lips. “Is there a problem, Master?”

He regarded her carefully. “Yes. You attack with fervor, but it is flawed. You are too…emotional. You must learn to control your feelings.”

Mara rested a hand on her hip, annoyed. “But you have encouraged these emotions,” she countered. “In fact, you’ve done nothing but illicit anger and aggression from the very start.”

“You are correct. Fear, anger, hatred, aggression – they are the first and easiest routes to the dark side. You must now move past them to achieve power that is not dependant on feelings, but superior in its own right.”

“I don’t understand,” Mara stated bluntly.

Lord Skywalker gestured for her to be seated on a wide ledge behind them. Lowering himself beside her, he leaned forward slightly, his chiseled profile accented in the moonlight. “You believe Dark and Light are opposites. So then, what is the opposite of love?”

She furrowed her brow. “Hate, I suppose.”

“No, but that is a common misconception,” he shifted to face her directly. “It is ironic, in fact, that hatred requires a level of concern.”

Mara tilted her head slightly. “Go on.”

“In order to hate something, you must first care about it. Hate is, by nature, a reverse image. It must have a mirror of emotion from which to reflect itself. The opposite of love, then, would also be the opposite of hate.”

“Neutrality,” Mara murmured.

“Indifference,” he nodded in agreement. “In order to fully embrace the dark side, you must empty yourself of emotions and shrug off the weights of worry. You must…detach.”

Turning to the side, he lifted one leg over the ledge to straddle it, motioning for her to do the same. When their knees were touching, he reached for her hands, cradling them in his own.

“Close your eyes,” he instructed softly. “Reach for the power inside you. To the still, cool place that is not marred by entanglements of concern.”

Mara obeyed, withdrawing into herself at his command, Clear your mind.

And like fog breaking over an icy lake, she found it: the place in her soul where nothing dwelt but power.

His hands seemed to tighten around hers as he continued, “Good. Now open yourself to the Force that surrounds you.”

She did, and hungry tendrils of fog extended, drawn immediately to the pillar of dark strength that was her master. The wisps evaporated against his heat and she began to tremble, overwhelmed.

His voice seemed to echo in the distance, “Open yourself, as if receiving a lover.”

It was too much. Her inner being, wavering dangerously close to his, would surely be consumed by his raw energy. Breaking the connection, she grasped for a retort, for any foothold of reality with which to protect herself and fell instinctively into old, defensive patterns. “Have you ever?” she challenged abruptly.

“What?” Lord Skywalker startled, releasing her hands. It was the first time she’d seen her master caught off-guard.

“Made love,” she pressed. “Have you ever?”

Composure regained, he responded casually. “I wouldn’t call it that.”

“What would you call it?”

He met her gaze dead-on. “Reckless.”

Mara narrowed her eyes. “That’s a description I’ve never heard before. Is it so different for a Sith?”

“I wouldn’t know,” he answered coolly. “I am referring to an inherent physiologic….variance.”

Mara shifted uncomfortably and felt herself flush. Perhaps she had overstepped her bounds.

He paused, as if considering his next words carefully. "There is a Force bond that is created with such a union. It appears to be genetic, as my parents had a unique awareness of each other after their marriage, though my mother was not known to be Force sensitive.”

Skywalker stared resolutely into the night sky. “Given my current responsibilities, this would create a potential security risk. It would be unwise to allow my thoughts and intentions to be accessible as such through the Force. I am sure you can understand the delicacy of such a predicament.”

Mara watched in silence as a gentle breeze ruffled his hair. She had secretly wondered, in a part of her imagination that she did not dare to acknowledge, what it would be like to lie in his embrace. He could break her with his arms, but they had lifted her gently from the hard floor of the training arena more than once. His hands were strong, yet they had been soft against her shoulders, her belly, her face. Could fate possibly have been cruel enough to deny him the pleasures of manhood?

“Not even courtiers?” she finally asked.

“Occasionally,” he shrugged. “Though they, and all others, could not be permitted to live afterwards.”

The breeze died around them as the implications of his words settled in the silence. A long moment later, he rose swiftly from the ledge. “That is enough for tonight.”

Mara remained seated in silence as he descended from the rooftop and disappeared into the night.

Alone.

Detached.


(continued...)
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-:- Onslaught -:-


The attack on the Executor was unprecedented. Even the failing but persistent remnants of the Rebel Alliance had never attempted to overtake Lord Vader’s command ship. They knew better.

The Karpetia, a brutal pirate race, obviously did not. In cooperation with the latest incarnation of the Black Sun organization, the large, sallow-skinned humanoids had developed a hull-slicing prototype remote ship that could penetrate all known shields. Droids deployed from the main vessel attached a sealed extension corridor to the hull of their victim’s ship then breeched the hull allowing their army of drone slaves to invade even the most advanced ships of the Imperial Navy.

Alarms sounded as Lord Skywalker and his apprentice raced to the bridge where the drones, smaller versions of the warriors who had been bred for greater agility and lesser intelligence, had gained entry through the hull-slicer’s extension corridor. The command deck was littered with bodies of officers and stormtroopers who had been unable to stand against the overwhelming number of intruders pouring onto the bridge through the corridor connecting the violated ship’s hull to the alien vessel.

Skywalker and Jade charged against the onslaught, red blades flashing as they mowed through the alien army. She had grown strong, Skywalker noted with pride. Coupled in the Force, they moved in unison, a joined force of dark power against which the mindless drones had no defense. The combination of power enhanced by the intimacy of their link was invigorating, and like nothing he had ever felt before.

A trio of hulking Karpetian warriors charged against them, primitive swords brandished, and were met with two outstretched hands - and a combined Force shove that launched all three of them into the air and against the wall.

Skywalker felt his father enter the bridge and glanced over his shoulder as Lord Vader positioned himself behind the helm of the command center.

The drones appeared to be falling back when multi-legged slicer droids from the enemy ship scuttled across the deck and latched on to the Executor’s main terminal. The droids were designed to extract technology from hijacked mainframes and the Empire’s newly developed cloaking capabilities were, no doubt, the primary target of this attack.

“I’ve got them!” Mara shouted over the din of battle. She sprinted toward the droids as Skywalker joined his father at the command center.

Mara quickly reduced the droids to unsalvageable spare parts and was making her way across the bridge to join her master when an explosion rocked the command ship, knocking her to the deck.

The swarm of defending TIE-fighters had finally managed to mount an attack strong enough to partially dislodge the corridor extending from the pirate ship.

Lord Skywalker, having been thrown against a communications panel, pushed himself back to his feet, calling to Jade. She lay motionless.

A fresh barrage of drones flung themselves with suicidal abandon against a faltering wall of stormtroopers as the intruders gathered what pillage they could in their retreat.

Skywalker joined the fight to defend the command center while simultaneously attempting to cut a swath to his fallen apprentice. Before he could reach her, a hulking Karpetian male scooped her up and tossed her unconscious body over his back. Her weight did not slow him in the least as he headed for his escape route.

“Mara!” he called, reaching out through the Force in an attempt to wake her. She did not respond. The offensive alien disappeared into the extension corridor. “No!” Skywalker sliced through five drones with a single swipe of red energy.

He swore fiercely, falling back as the ship lurched with the detachment of the alien ship’s corridor leaving a gaping hole in the Executor’s hull. Now his only hope of going after her would be if he and his father could end this before the invading ship entered hyperspace.

Lord Vader barked for a containment shield, which Admiral Piett stumbled across the bridge to activate personally. The final wave of drones prepared to storm the command center with a blood-thirsty battle cry.

Skywalker took his place beside Vader, adopting a ready stance with his blade. Vader’s deep voice rumbled, “Go for your apprentice.”

“No,” Skywalker wiped sweat-damped hair from his forehead, eyeing the final rank of stormtroopers breaking before the vicious intruders. “I can’t leave, Father. You will need me here.”

Vader faced him, placing a gloved hand on the younger man’s shoulder. His response was as firm as his grip. “Never abandon your apprentice, son.” There was an almost imperceptible pause in his breathing. “Now go.”

Skywalker nodded in unspoken gratitude and ran toward the lift that would take him to his waiting ship. He stopped at the door, feeling a tremendous swell in the Force, and glanced over his shoulder in time to see the floor buckle beneath the aliens at his father’s unspoken command. Black cape swirling with Force-generated power, Darth Vader ignited his red blade and descended on the now-trembling drones.

* * * * *

Mara struggled through the fog of unconsciousness, attempting to sit up. She couldn’t move. Opening bleary eyes, she found herself restrained to some type of table. Shackles at her wrists and ankles combined with a pressor field kept her firmly in place. Her left arm throbbed and she vaguely remembered it being broken in transport to her captor’s small escape ship.

Grunting with effort, she lifted her head a few centimeters and looked around. Most of her clothing had been removed and several greasy-haired Karpeti were leering at her with undisguised lust. One of them had lowered his tattered pants and was running his hands between his legs to appease his obvious arousal.

Mara turned away in disgust, her mind racing. They appeared to be in the control room. Once released from the pressor field, she should be able to take out most of the lightly-armed crew, and reroute the ship. Provided her right arm and legs weren’t broken, she thought grimly.

A familiar tremor in the Force tingled in the back of her mind. Master? Had he followed her? Surely he had not left his father’s ship under attack-

With a blinding flash, the heavy door burst outward and was flung down the corridor. Lord Skywalker stalked into the room with grim determination, his presence glowing white-hot in the Force.

Crew members scrambled for blasters but half were cut down in a blaze of red light before they could arm themselves. The remaining Karpetia who managed to fire a shot or two against the dark lord were calmly and methodically divested of their heads, arms and legs.

Shutting down his blade and ignoring the carnage, Skywalker crossed to the table where Mara lay restrained, quickly disarming the pressor field and shackles. “Are you all right?” he asked, running a cursory glance over her to assess for injuries.

Mara flushed and averted her eyes, acutely aware of her exposed condition. “My left arm is broken.” She sat up slowly, grateful that her other limbs seemed intact. “Other than that, I’m fine.”

“Here.” Skywalker removed his hooded cloak and wrapped it around her.

“Thank you,” she murmured. The black material appeared to be made of the same flowing, natural fiber as Vader’s cape and was surprisingly warm, and soft.

Slipping a strong arm under her shoulders, he helped her off the table, “Easy now. That was a neuronic pressor field. You will get dizzy.”

“I can manage,” she grumbled, standing shakily.

In spite of her protests, the room tilted and shifted under her feet. The last thing she remembered before everything went black was her master lifting her in his arms.




-:- Desire -:-

Aboard his private cruiser, Lord Skywalker keyed in coordinates to rendezvous with the Executor and sent advance instructions to be met by a medical team. Mara remained in a healing trance in his cabin. He approached her silently. Although he had strapped her limp form onto his bunk, her broken left arm had been dislodged during their departure and hung now at an awkward angle over the edge of the bed.

The cloak he had wrapped around her bare shoulders had fallen open, revealing the remnants of what had been her undergarments, now barely concealing the fair skin and feminine curves beneath. He had never seen anyone more beautiful, or desirable.

A violent ache of longing pierced his gut as hot as any sword. From somewhere inside him, a primal voice taunted: You could take her. She would never know.

He clenched his teeth. No. Not like that. He would not sink to such a depravity.

With trembling hands, he tucked the cloak around her and secured her arm with a temporary brace from the medical supply cabinet. Blood matted her hair to her forehead and he longed to brush it away.

Instead, he backed away from the cot, drawing on the Force to numb the miserable craving in his loins. The dark power answered him - his companion and his curse. Pain fueled his despair and, for once, he railed against it. There had to be a way…

* * * * *

Mara woke abruptly and attempted to sit up only to collapse back onto the bed. When the room finally stopped spinning, she looked around the sterile, familiar surroundings of her quarters on the Executor and wondering briefly if the attack had been a dream. The immobilizing brace on her left arm proved otherwise. The tattered remnants of her clothing had been replaced with one of her own sleep tunics and her various lacerations and bruises cleansed and covered with bacta patches.

The door slid open and Lord Skywalker entered. “You're awake.” He approached quietly and she shifted to make room when he sat casually beside her on the bed. “I put you in a healing trance for the journey home. Some initial disorientation is normal.”

Mara nodded, blinking her vision clear. “Here,” he handed her a cup of strong-smelling liquid. “Drink this. It has a mild stimulant and analgesic for your arm, which should be healed in a few days according to the medic droid.”

“Thank you,” she sipped the tart liquid, trying to ignore the unappealing brown-green color. She glanced up at him cautiously; half-expecting to find reproof in his expression, but saw only concern.

“How do you feel?” he asked.

“I’ve felt worse,” she fingered the edge of the cup hesitantly. “Thank you. For coming after me, I mean. What happened with the Karpeti?”

"They are no longer a threat," he stated coolly.

A spasm of pain caught her breath and she winced, pulling her left arm protectively to her side.

“Drink,” he tapped the cup. “It will help the pain.”

Mara took a dutiful swig as he rested his hand lightly on the brace, a feeling of warmth spreading up her arm. She looked down at his hand and, without thinking, carefully touched a swollen welt across his wrist. "You should put some bacta on that."

"It will heal," he murmured, staring at her hand as if it were a serpent about to strike.

Her hand lingered on his, though she knew it shouldn't. Seemingly of their own accord, her fingers laced themselves through his - a simple gesture of thanks to her rescuer, she rationalized.

A trickle of warmth tingled its way down her forehead and, before she could disengage, he pressed his fingers lightly against the wound. The healing warmth spread across her face. Her eyes met his, mesmerized by their intensity.

Slowly, hesitantly, his fingers drifted down from her forehead, tracing the outline of her cheek. Her skin came alive under his caress, flushing against her will.

His thumb brushed across her lips and they parted in response, her breaths becoming shallow, rapid. “Master?” she whispered.

“Shhh,” he silenced her with a single finger to her mouth.

His soft touch trailed gently over her jaw then to the delicate softness of her neck. She closed her eyes when he reached the precipice of her collar bone, promising to travel further with her permission.

He leaned close, his lips barely a breath away from hers. “Do you want me to stop?”

She could not speak, though her body betrayed her desire, the soft fabric of her sleep tunic suddenly prominent against her breasts’ hardened want. The air pulsed between them, tangible with mutual yearning. It would only take one word from her…

“But you’d have to kill me,” she answered hoarsely.

“No,” he slipped his hand behind her head, his fingers lightly stroking the delicate hairs on the back of her neck. “I would not kill you. You misunderstood - the bond itself is not fatal. But you could never leave me.”

Never leave?” Cold tentacles of doubt formed on the fringes of her mind.

“We would be joined in the Force with a constant connection, always aware of each other. You must understand that I cannot risk the betrayal that such communion could facilitate. Not even from you.”

Mara studied him carefully, willing herself from under his spell. “I have never been disloyal to a master. I would not betray you.”

“So you say now,” he conceded with a slight nod. “But it is a risk I cannot take. You would be mine forever.”

“What are you saying?” Resentment cooled the current of passion in her veins. She would be no man’s possession. “That I would be your prisoner? Your slave?

He jerked away as if stung. “I do not keep slaves!”

“Is that not what I am now?” she challenged.

“No.”

“Then I am free to leave?”

Her master crossed his arms over his chest. “When your training is complete, yes. You will be accountable to my father and have your duties to the Empire, but it has never been my intention to keep you against your will. You could be free.”

Free.

The word resonated through her soul, a siren call of hope. She had never been her own woman. Even when serving the Emperor she had been always subject to his demands. Her entire life had been nothing more than a series of subservience.

And she did not realize, until this moment, how much she craved independence.

“Would life with me be so terrible?” he asked quietly.

Mara turned away, unable to meet his probing gaze. “You must understand, Master. I have never been free.”

She bowed her head, dreading what she would see in his eyes. But when she looked up, he was gone.


(continued...)
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-:- Stalemate -:-


Upon release by the medic droid, Mara was promptly summoned to Lord Vader’s private shuttle for their return to the Imperial Palace. Waiting for departure, she stared out a small viewport into the Executor’s hangar bay. The uneasiness she’d felt in the Force had grown to the point of becoming disorienting. She would have asked her master about it, had he not departed so abruptly.

Mara stood in greeting as the imposing form of Darth Vader entered the passenger cabin. The floor beneath her seemed to shift and something suddenly felt…wrong.

Vader seemed unaffected. “Your arm is healed?” his deep baritone rumbled.

“Yes, my Lord,” she answered succinctly. There was no need to elaborate, as he appreciated precision and straightforwardness. He did not take a seat and, following suit, Mara remained standing, though not without difficulty.

“Good,” his voice did not convey the unexpected spike of pain that ripped through the Force and was immediately suppressed. “Luke tells me that your training is almost complete.”

Startled, she did not reply. He had never mentioned it to her.

“You work well together,” Vader continued pointedly. “You will make a formidable team.”

Mara averted her eyes, attempting to shield her apprehension. “Thank you.” Why was it so hard to breathe?

“You do not agree?”

“I am,” she swallowed, struggling to focus on the topic at hand, “unaccustomed to such a partnership. I have always worked alone.”

“Is that what you prefer?” He shifted slightly and Mara felt another muted spasm from him.

“I don’t know,” she answered vaguely, distracted by his discomfort. “Pardon me for asking, my Lord. Are you well?”

There was a pause in the Force, or so it felt, before he finally answered, “Yes, for the time being.” He continued, a hint of reproof in his tone, “The Sith work in pairs.”

“So I understand; but there are three of us,” she countered.

“True,” he conceded. “But it will not always be so.”

She stared up at him. "What do you mean-”

He silenced her with an upraised, gloved finger. “I will be secluded in my private chamber. Alert me when we arrive.”

"Yes, my Lord," she nodded, her hair rippling with a brush of his cape as he strode past.

* * * * *

The Lambda-class shuttle settled gracefully on a private landing pad and Mara keyed for announcement outside Lord Vader's secured chamber. There was no answer. Keying again, she reached to him through the Force and felt - nothing.

The sequestered compartment could not be accessed by conventional means, therefore hot-wiring it was not an option. Stretching out with the Force again, she felt for the release mechanism inside the access panel and popped it, stepping back as the chamber door slid open.

Vader was seated in his customary position in the center of the pod. Mara wished, not for the first time, that she could see his eyes behind the mask. “We have arrived, my Lord.”

He did not move. His rhythmic breathing continued uninterrupted and she approached cautiously, placing a tentative hand on his shoulder. “Lord Vader?” He remained motionless and a cold snake of fear began to worm its way up her spine.

Fighting panic, Mara’s first instinct was to check for a pulse, until she realized that she had no idea where to find one beneath his armor.

“Shavit!” She slapped the comm switch for the cockpit. “Pilot! I need a medical team immediately. And," she swallowed, "contact Lord Skywalker.”

* * * * *

That evening, Mara found Skywalker in the training arena, surrounded by broken pieces of decimated sparring droids. Tunic discarded, his fitted undershirt clung to his chest as he systematically demolished the top-of-the line droids.

She stopped a safe distance from the blur of his red blade and crossed her arms over her chest, waiting.

“Not now, Mara,” he grunted, sending yet another droid into the spare parts heap.

“I wouldn’t presume,” she answered flatly. “How is Lord Vader?”

“Resting,” Skywalker wiped sweat from his brow. “Recovering.”

She studied his agile form, expertly executing a complete repertoire of lightsaber forms with deadly precision. True to his own teachings, he betrayed no emotion at the mention of his ailing father. Her own brief investigation had revealed the truth of the situation that Skywalker would not confess.

Mara felt her ire rising. She hated lies and had foolishly thought her master above such ignominy. “That’s not what I hear,” she retorted. “According to my sources, Lord Vader has been battling an ongoing illness for some time and the prognosis at this time is very poor.”

Skywalker stopped, turning slowly to face her. “Your sources?

“I was not always in your service, if you recall,” she continued without hesitation.

“Oh, I recall.” His eyes flashed. “And when I discover your ‘sources’, they’re dead.”

Mara shrugged nonchalantly. “Suit yourself. But I assure you that they are very secure.”

Skywalker lowered his saber, spearing her with a pointed stare. “Are you challenging me?”

“Not at all, Master,” she met his gaze steadily. “But I was wondering when you planned to tell me that Lord Vader was ill?”

“It is not your business,” his tone was almost as hard as his expression.

“That’s odd,” she countered, “seeing as how he made it my business.”

Skywalker lifted his chin in surprise. “He told you?”

“Not in so many words, but I got the point,” she bit out. “So, is that what this,” she motioned between the two of them, “is about?”

“This?” he hissed.

“Us! Me and you!” her voice rose sharply in anger. “Your father is dying and you don’t want to be alone - is that it?" She tasted the bitter bile of unspoken disappointment. “Because your father is dying and you don’t want to be alone? Exactly how long have the two of you been conveniently plotting my future as your consort?”

He shut down his blade, closing the distance between them. “How dare you,” he hissed.

Mara stood firm, undeterred. “Tell me about this ‘Force bond’ again. Is it even real or just a ploy to keep me here?”

Skywalker’s voice lowered precariously. “Are you calling me a liar?”

“Would you be so angry if it weren’t true?”

Before she even saw him move, he grasped her arms and pulled her roughly against his chest. His fingers dug into her flesh and he answered with bone-chilling calm, “You’ve never seen me angry.”

They stared at each other, locked in a stalemate of mutual defiance. Seconds pounded between shallow, rapid breaths as her shirt grew damp with his sweat.

As suddenly as he had grabbed her, Skywalker pushed her away. He turned his back, still panting and growled, “Get out.

Spinning on her heel, Mara stalked from the room blinking back tears that had nothing to do with the pain in her arms.




-:- Grief -:-


Jolted from sleep by the comm signal in her Imperial Palace bedroom, Mara rolled over and slapped the button to receive. Lord Skywalker appeared and asked tersely, “Do you remember how to do a healing trance?”

Suddenly wide awake at the sound of the tension in his voice, she answered quickly, “Yes, Master - though I’ve not had much occasion to practice yet.”

“Don’t worry about that,” she could tell he was making a conscious effort to keep his voice calm as he continued. “I need you to go to the medical center. I’ve alerted security and they will grant you access to my father’s treatment suite.” He swallowed visibly. “I need you to put him in a healing trance. I am on the way, but I have just received an update from the physician that he may not last until…” his voice cracked and he averted his eyes, struggling for composure.

He was too far for Mara to sense through the Force, but the anguish on his face clutched at her heart, even over the holo. In spite of their most recent quarrel, she longed to reach out to him, to offer words of comfort. Instead, she began to dress hurriedly while reassuring him in a tone of confidence that she did not feel. “I will take care of it, Master.”

Rushing through the Palace complex, Mara was ushered through the medical center upon arrival and directed to a large, heavily secured pod. She entered the sterile environment cautiously as medic droids of all types moved around a dais in a graceful dance of silent machinery.

The room was dimly lit, but her eyes were instantly riveted to the massive black form resting on a table in the center of the room. Tubes and wired protruded from awkward places across Lord Vader’s torso the definitive mechanical breathing was eerily silent.

His mask and helmet had been removed and he was now breathing, she assumed, through the tube in his mouth. She approached slowly, not wanting to startle him, and winced at the sight of the hideous scarring across his face and scalp.

Her dealings with Lord Vader as a younger woman and even now had been brief, but he had never been unkind to her. Life had obviously not been so accommodating to him.

Gathering courage and the Force around her, she addressed him quietly, “My Lord?”

His eyes fluttered and opened, slowly tracking the sound of her voice. They were blue – like her master’s. She hadn’t expected that.

Unnerved, she continued haltingly, “I’m here to…I was sent to…”

A voice like Lord Skywalker’s but deeper answered through the Force, You have…my gratitude...

He closed his eyes again and she felt him reach out to her, his once overpowering presence now muted, but with enough strength remaining to assist her. She stepped forward, impulsively reaching for his gloved hand, and guided him as gently as she could into a healing sleep.

Time always seemed obsolete in such trances and so it was that she had no idea how long she’d been standing there when Lord Skywalker arrived. Mara, his voice touched her through the Force before she felt his hand on her arm.

As if emerging from under water, she rubbed her eyes, focusing them on the blurry features of her master.

“Well done,” he whispered, clasping her shoulder gently. “You can go now.”

She backed away, palming for the access panel and feeling very much like an intruder in a private moment of communion. Skywalker knelt beside the table, resting his forehead against Vader’s pale cheek. “Father…

The door slid open and she retreated behind merciful walls of solitude.

* * * * *


Three days later, it was over. According to Mara’s contact in the medical center, Skywalker had not left his father’s side, nor eaten or slept, since his arrival. In the end, Lord Vader had requested that the life support systems be disconnected. He died quietly in his son’s arms.

Mara had not been summoned and she approached her master in his private chambers with uncertainty. She glanced around what had possibly been the study, though it was hard to say now. The room had been demolished. Chairs, tables, shelves, and a large desk had been tossed asunder as if by a whirlwind.

Skywalker sat with his back to her in the only upright piece of furniture in the room. The low arm chair was angled so that his face was in profile and, even in the dimly lit quarters, she could see that the black circles under his eyes almost rivaled the blackness of his clothes. Wayward strands of blonde hair hung limply around beard stubble that was the only other coloring of his pale, haggard appearance.

Grief roiled from him like spikes in the Force. She withdrew inwardly, shielding herself from the pain. If her master noticed, he gave no indication and continued to stare blankly ahead.

“I thought we’d have more time,” his voice rasped, as dry as the Tatooine sand. “The physician…thought there’d be more time.”

Mara took a cautious step forward, “I’m sorry.”

“He was so powerful,” Skywalker continued as if he hadn’t heard her. “But it was an infection, a microscopic bacteria, that finally defeated him. If only his body had been properly prepared before being sealed up in that walking tomb…” The thought trailed off as if he’d lost the energy to speak.

She felt him slide deeper into despair and asked the first question that came to mind, as if that could halt his downward spiral. “What will you do now?”

He blinked, focusing his thoughts. When he spoke, the words were fragmented as if they came only with great difficulty. “I must take him to the place where he wanted to rest.”

“I’ll prepare your shuttle and accompany you,” Mara offered.

“No,” he answered automatically. “It is a private location. You,” he paused, running a quivering hand through his unwashed hair. “You may leave. There is nothing more you can learn from me. You may have your precious freedom.” He bit the last word out as if it were a curse.

Her mouth fell open. “Master, I hardly think-”

“Take any ship you like and go!” he cut her off. “I will find you should I ever require your services.”

Mara stared at him. In addition to his tormented tangle of emotions twisting through the Force, he was physically unstable, at best, and certainly not in a state to be left alone. “My Lord,” she started with exaggerated calm. “Let me escort you before I go. You are in no condition to travel.”

He laughed – a harsh, bitter sound. “And since when does my ‘condition’ concern you? Do not be so quick to judge things you cannot begin to fathom. Just leave.”

Mara pursed her lips, biting back irritation. “I can fathom that you are exhausted and hungry. At least let me bring you something to eat. If you’ll just tell me what you want-”

“What I want?” His aura shifted dangerously as he rose to his feet, grasping the arm of the chair with white-knuckled intent. “You are asking what I WANT?

With a cry of unbridled rage, he flung the heavy chair across the room as if it was weightless. Rounding to face her, he stalked across the room, eyes blazing yellow.

“I want my father back – alive and healthy without that cursed suit. I want this damned war to be over and I want,” he closed the final space between them with ragged breaths, “you. So bad it hurts.”

She backed away, unable to tear her gaze from his dry, glowing eyes or block his anguish pummeling her through the Force.

“I want you to be mine. All of you. Everything about you – the sound of your voice, the way you laugh, the way you fight, the shimmer in your eyes – it drives me to madness.” He deliberately slowed his breathing, grasping for a shred of composure. “There is nothing in this galaxy beyond my command, but I cannot make you be mine.” He looked down at his hands, clenching his fists in desperate restraint. “It hurts… And I cannot bear…” his shoulders slumped forward in defeat. “I cannot bear any more pain. Not now.”

Turning away jerkily, he crossed to a viewport and leaned heavily on the ledge as if to keep himself from collapsing. “Not today.”

Memorial torches for Lord Vader lined the wall of Imperial Palace, their light flickering from the darkness outside. He closed his eyes, resting his forehead against the transparisteel. “Just go. Please.”

Mara stood in stunned silence, watching the lights flicker across his tortured face. Her master’s beautiful, tormented face.

As if waking from a trance, she moved toward him and touched his hand hesitantly, then encircled wrist with firmer resolve, pulling his arm away from the ledge until he was facing her.

“Don’t,” he choked.

“Shhh….” she ran her fingertips lightly over his mouth. Sliding her hands into his hair, she pushed the matted locks away from his face. His golden eyes burned into hers with terrifying intensity, but she was not afraid.

Pulling his face to hers, she brushed her lips against his, whispering, “Luke.

Her touch sparked the ember of his passion…and he was on fire.

Clutching handfuls of red hair, he crushed his mouth against hers, parting her lips with his tongue. She opened her mouth, accepting the ravenous assault, the kiss of a man who has been starved for too long. He pushed deeper and she groaned against the pressure, stumbling backwards until she hit the wall with bone-jarring impact. She couldn’t breathe. Fingers still tangled in his hair, she tried to push him back as her lungs began to burn for oxygen.

He pulled away, allowing her a single gasp of air before grabbing her wrists and slamming them against the wall. Claiming her mouth again, his lips and tongue moved down her neck, devouring it greedily. Reaching the hollow above her collar, her released her arms and grabbed her tunic, ripping it open with a grunt of dark strength. She gasped as he suckled one breast then the other, flicking her nipples with his tongue until they grew hard then nipping them between his teeth.

Discarding his own tunic roughly, he knelt in front of her, his mouth and hands continuing their insistent trek downward. Reaching the top of her trousers, he seized the waistband and shredded it, pushing the remains of the garment to her ankles.

Running his hands back up her body, he stood and wrapped one hand behind her neck, pulling her lips once again to his, as his other hand slipped between her legs, sliding his fingers between her moist folds. She moaned, spreading her legs as he caressed the slick evidence of her desire. Without releasing her mouth, he tugged the front of his pants open and plunged his swollen length into her, impaling her against the wall.

She cried out, tears stinging her eyes with the stretch of her sex. Her fingers dug into his back and he jerked her arms away, restraining them over her head with a growl. Pinned between her master and the unforgiving duracrete, she rode the crashing waves of his passion and grief.

She projected her pain through the Force, but he was beyond control and pounded his body against hers with abandon. She felt the pressure in his deprived loins reach an unbearable intensity, blinding him to everything but the agony of unrequited pleasure.

Thrusting himself into her with indefensible strength, the very core of his being exploded and he climaxed with a roar of release, grinding Mara’s now-bloodied wrists into the wall. He fell against her, a lesser cry escaping his raw throat as the waves of completion slowed.

Trembling and spent, awareness returned and he pulled away slowly. His hands were sticky and he gazed in dismay at the source, at the blood running down her arms. “I’m sorry.

Through a new window in her soul, she felt his horror and shame. “I know,” she whispered. “I know…”

He pressed his lips against her bruised and shredded wrists, kissing along the delicate skin of her forearm, leaving trails of her blood along his lips and her fair skin as she pulled him gently closer. His head reached the pillow of her breasts and she held him there, stroking his hair and kissing his forehead.

Together, they slid down the wall as he collapsed into her embrace, and wept.


(continued...)
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-:- Dreams -:-


Lord Skywalker’s private quarters aboard his personal command ship, Allegiance, were large, but sparsely furnished. His bedchamber housed a communications center and that was all he needed - or so he was determined to make himself believe.

He had lived in this quiet space since his father’s death. Unwilling to take the helm of the Executor or return to Imperial Palace, he saw to the affairs of the galaxy in seclusion, leaving much of the hands-on business to his staff of well-trained Admirals and Moffs. Occasions such as today, when he’d been obliged to make a personal appearance, only made his homecoming to the isolated womb of his chambers even more welcome.

Lord Vader would not have approved. His father had always been a visible sovereign, leading his own forces into battle even before overthrowing the late Emperor. He would have given Skywalker a pointed lecture for sitting behind a desk at all. Command without risk was for the weak, he would say.

But he was gone, and the lecture would not come.

And the only other person in the galaxy who would dare hold him accountable was gone as well.

Seated at his desk, Skywalker rested his elbows on the ebony surface, rubbing his temples. True to her word, Mara had offered to stay with him, to honor her unspoken commitment and the bond they had formed. He had felt her deep concern for him entangled with the carnal desires to which they had succumbed. She had given herself to him without reserve, asking nothing in return and silently suppressing the pain from the wounds he had inflicted on her. But when it was over, he knew he could not force her hand and, in humiliation, he had dismissed her.

A memory twinged, prickling at the back of his skull. The days immediately following his father’s death were hazy, little more than a fog of grief, but he recalled that Mara had been angry. They’d argued and she’d left in a fury. It wasn’t until days later, when he’d stepped on the shards of a broken holoframe, that he even remembered that she had smashed it against the wall.

Every waking moment since had been an exercise in distraction.

Her aura in the Force was consuming, a constant awareness that he fought as hard as he had fought his father’s in the beginning. His head pounded mercilessly, increasing incrementally with his efforts to push her away. At times, the miserable pain almost gave him the dark strength to sever their attachment. Almost.

The only reprieve came at night when she would shine as a beacon through the fog of stars between them. In dreams, she was the blanket that covered his soul when he slept. Some nights, he could almost smell the scent of her hair on his pillow or feel her warm touch on his cool skin. But then he would wake to another day, welcoming the fuel of despair that inevitably took hold.

He knew he could go after her – bring her back and keep her just as she had feared he would. Her anger could not be any more painful than the wretched pounding in his skull. Lowering his head onto the cool surface of the desk, he rubbed his temples even harder. Damned headaches-

“They’re very distracting,” a familiar voice completed the thought.

Unsure if it was real or imagined, he snapped his head up and startled at the very tangible form standing before him.

“Mara-” he faltered. “I didn’t hear you come in.”

“You’re blocking me,” she answered simply. It had been less than a month since their parting, but she was pale and thinner than he remembered. Dark circles had formed under her eyes and her hair hung limply around her shoulders.

She scrutinized him with an indiscernible expression then, with sudden decisiveness, came around the desk to stand behind him. “Here,” she placed her fingertips on his temples and began to massage them slowly.

He closed his eyes, relaxing into the warm waves of healing power that flowed from her hands. Her fingers worked their way down the back of his neck. “I saw your address on the HoloNet,” she commented quietly. “It was good. The new balance of power between the governors and military should work very well.”

Her touch sent shivers down his spine and he pulled away, standing to face her. Her eyes were the same flat, empty orbs that he saw in his own reflection on the rare occasion that he bothered to consider his appearance. “You didn’t come here to talk about the State of the Empire address.”

“Of course not,” she blinked. “You called me.”

He glanced at the comm center in confusion. “I did?” Perhaps the days of solitude were, indeed, weakening his mind.

She shook her head. “Not there. Last night.”

Last night? And then he remembered - his dream. In the dream, he’d called her to his arms and she came willingly, drawing him into her arms and her bed.

His thoughts bled over into hers and she smiled sadly. “We are happy in our dreams, aren’t we?”

“Yes,” he murmured, reaching out and brushing the hollows beneath her eyes hesitantly. “You look exhausted.”

“I don’t sleep much,” she said. “It’s too quiet on my ship.”

“You know you are welcome here anytime,” he offered in a conciliatory tone. “The entire fleet or the Palace even-”

Mara turned away abruptly and crossed to the opposite side of the chamber. Staring intently at the exotic artwork over the bed, a gift from some foreign diplomat no doubt, she crossed her arms over her chest as if to ward off a sudden chill in the room. “I see.”

Her voice was hard with an emotion he could not name and he rose from the desk to stand behind her. “What’s wrong?” he frowned, resting his hand on her shoulder.

Gazing straight ahead, she studied the wall, her eyes darting back and forth, looking far beyond the art work. “Why did you call me here?” she asked tightly.

It was a hideous painting, now that he looked at it properly. “It was a dream,” he answered. He could block her from his conscious thoughts, but could not hide his desire during the vulnerable hours of sleep. Dare he confess how much of him she had taken with her? How much he feared the weakness of dependency?

When she turned to face him, her face was distorted with an expression that could only be described as abject sorrow. “Is that what you think of me?” she asked hoarsely. “That I am nothing more than a weakness to be overcome.”

Shocked into focus, he blurted out, “No! Mara you -” He touched her cheek, caressing it reverently. “You are everything to me,” he confessed without reservation. “Why would you say that? Or even think it?”

“You sent me away,” she answered accusingly, her mouth contorted in anger. “Like a discarded concubine.”

Horrified by the implication of her words, he snapped back, “You wanted to go!”

“You never asked me what I wanted! You assumed. You were too absorbed in yourself and -” Closing her eyes, she looked away, her anger dissolving as the retort died on her tongue. “ – your grief.”

“I’m sorry.” The words fell from his dry lips. “I wasn’t -”

“You weren’t yourself – I know.” Mara shook her head dismissively. “I don’t want to fight with you, Luke,” she said, sounding suddenly very tired.

She moved to walk away and Luke stepped in front of her. “What do you want?” he asked solemnly, realizing and understanding at once that he’d never asked. He’d never known.

Slipping his finger beneath her chin, he lifted it gently to meet her eye-to-eye. “What do you want, Mara?”

Without hesitation, she answered simply, “I want to come home.”

Home. He mouthed the word silently.

Mara took a step closer, staring up at him with fierce honesty burning in her eyes. “I did not give myself to you as an empty gesture of pity or obligation. I would not dedicate my heart, and soul, to any man if I did not love him.”

She leaned into his hand, brushing it with her lips and he threaded trembling fingers into her hair, reeling at the words, if I did not love him.

Lowering the barriers he’d so diligently built between them in the Force, he swayed with the influx of emotion that flowed from Mara. Her soul was as bare as he’d ever felt, exposing desire and devotion that she did not disguise behind the barriers of self-defense that she had perfected over the years.

An unfamiliar burn stung his eyes as he pulled her against his chest, pressing his cheek then mouth against the top of her head, caressing her hair with his lips. How had he been so blind?

“Stay with me, then,” he breathed, embracing her and sliding his hands down her back as he dropped to his knees. Taking her hands into his, he lifted her newly-healed wrists to his lips, tenderly kissing the wounds he had so carelessly inflicted upon her. “I will not hurt you, Mara. Never again – I swear it.” He brushed the pad of his thumbs over the shiny scars, as he looked up into face. “Be my wife.”

She was smiling down at him, shaking her head incredulously. “Get up, you fool,” she almost laughed. Pulling him to his feet, she laced her fingers behind his neck. “You are my home, Luke,” she whispered, affection shining through their bond. “And I have loved you for so long…”

Gathering her swiftly into his arms, he pressed his lips to hers, pouring his adoration into a kiss that she met with equal fervor. Following her lead, he stumbled toward the bed, never breaking contact as she drew him down onto sheets that were still jumbled from his restless lack of sleep the night before.

Rolling to the center of the bed, Luke shifted his position to free his hand and began to glide it lightly over the gentle curves beneath her clothes. He slid his lips along her jaw, lingering at the delicate skin behind her ear and nipping her ear until she rewarded him with a gentle laugh. He pulled back, smiling down at her and she blinked in surprise. “I’ve never seen you smile,” she said, as if in wonder. “You are beautiful.”

He shook his head, unfastening her shirt slowly and running admiring eyes and hands over her fair skin. “You, my love, are exquisite.” Kissing his way down her neck and throat with increasing pressure, he released the clasp of her undergarment, cupping and caressing the supple mounds of her feminine form until she arched her back, moaning softly.

Following her momentum, he slipped his hands around her, resting them on her lower back. Lifting her hips to his mouth, he devoured the soft, salty skin around her navel as his own yearning began to throb relentlessly below his waist. Lowering her again to the bed, he ran his palms back up her abdomen, capturing her breasts again, harder this time. She gasped, clutching the sheets as he suckled each pink tip into a hardened pearl.

Sliding his hands down her sides again, he reached waist and she lifted her hips as he pulled off her pants and boots. She parted her legs and her sweet scent assaulted him, as she rose onto her knees. Tugging his tunic open, she ran her palms over his chest, leaning forward to kiss his neck and collarbone as she pushed the tunic off his shoulders, and his skin sprang to life under her touch. Kneeling closer, she kissed him hungrily as she hooked her fingers into his waistband, pushing his trousers down and releasing his waiting manhood.

“Not yet,” he purred, kicking off his pants before lowering himself beside her. Claiming her mouth with his own, he slid one arm beneath her shoulders and held her there. Dipping his other hand between her legs, he began to stroke the center of her desire.

Mara groaned at the new sensation and he felt the blood roaring through her veins, dousing her in sweat and engorging her fully. She tried to pull away, moaning with the mounting pressure in her core, but Luke deepened the kiss even further, demanding the full attention of her mouth as he slowed his ministrations, easing her to the edge of ecstasy.

She began to shake in his arms, her entire body shuddering for release. Writhing in desperation, she tore her lips from his, “Oh gods…” And with a soul-consuming spasm, she threw her head back on the pillow, crying out with unbridled release.

Gently kissing her flushed neck, he waited for the tremors to subside before covering her body with his, taking care not to crush her with his weight. Green eyes shone up at him from the pillow and she shifted, opening herself to receive him.

Finally granting his aching manhood relief, he buried himself in her hot depth, sighing her name with reverence. Wrapping her legs around his hips, she pressed him deeper, rocking with his rhythm. They moved as one then, gradually increasing the tempo of the dance with the pounding of his pulse.

He pushed deeper and faster, clutching her hair, kissing her hard, breathing her name and words of love as if they were air. When the shock waves of climax crashed over him, he enveloped her fully in the Force, embracing her body and soul, carrying her with him to the heights of mutual euphoria.

* * * * *
.
Hours later, Luke turned over under the sheets, reaching for the warmth beside him. The space was empty, yet he sensed she was not far. Climbing out of bed, he pulled on his discarded trousers and made his way toward her presence.

Mara stood in the adjoining room before a wall-sized viewport. Wearing nothing but his cloak, her slim silhouette glowed in the reflection. He watched her for a moment, shimmering in the star light, before embracing her from behind as she leaned into his arms.

He pulled her hair aside to brush her ear with his lips. “See anything interesting?”

“If I didn’t know better, I’d think you could see the whole galaxy from here.” A cluster of comets twinkled across her eyes. “It’s incredible.”

“It’s yours,” he stated simply. “Anything you want. The entire universe - ” He leaned around her shoulder, pulling her into a kiss. “ - is yours.”

She turned to face him, shaking her head so that her hair brushed against her face. “I don’t want a universe. This,” she placed her hand on his bare chest over his heart, “Lord Skywalker, is all I want.”

“But you have it,” he answered. Lifting her hand, he pressed it to his lips, gently kissing the salty, lightsaber-calloused skin of her palm. “You already have it, Lady Skywalker.”

She smiled and he pulled her securely against his chest, turning to face the stars and the indigo expanse, as vast and open as their future.


-:- THE END -:-
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JayCee
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Joined: 17 Jul 2007
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Location: England, Midlands
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Ah yes, dark!luke at his finest... not to dark, not to light... just right Wink

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MaraJade001


Joined: 02 Aug 2007
Posts: 88
Location: Virginia Beach, VA
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I normally don't like dark L/M stories, but this was great! Trace, girl, you can write your a** off! Worship

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"If I want realism and the deaths of people I care about, I can turn on the news." -Timothy Zahn
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bkbva


Joined: 01 Aug 2007
Posts: 218
Location: Virginia
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You Rock! Worship

That is all.
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Trace
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Joined: 20 Jul 2007
Posts: 430
Location: Tennessee
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JayCee: Thank you! Considering all the excellent dark Luke fics out there, I’m thrilled to hear you say that. Hugs!

MaraJade001: Thank you so much! I really appreciate that, especially if dark Luke isn’t usually something you like. I’m honored. Very Happy

bkbva: Blush Thank you!! (You’re making me blush here, lol.)

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flyswatter


Joined: 05 Aug 2007
Posts: 20
Location: New Orleans , Louisiana
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I have said it before and I will say it again. This has always been one of my very favorite stories. It is a wonderful portrail of Vader, Luke and Mara in the Dark form. Especially because this is the way I always thought the relationship between Luke and Vader would of been if Luke had agreed to go with him at Bespin. Wonderful story my friend and thanks. Anakim Hearts

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EtahnAbaht


Joined: 01 Aug 2007
Posts: 56
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By far and away one of the two or three best Dark-Luke stories I have ever read.

I decided a few hours ago that I wanted to reread this story and remembered that you had posted a revised version. I like the little changes make you throughout, and the revisions of Dreams are terrific. While this is largely Luke/Mara, there are some very well chosen details in his personality that seem to reflect his father's influence, hinting at their relationship. The most explicit of these is, of course, the question of slaves - but it wasn't the only time that an insight into Luke suggested a lesson from Vader.

As to Mara, painful though it is to contemplate, you do a great job of building on Palpatine's betrayel. I have seen good discussions both of why Palpatine would and why he would not use Mara thusly, but having gone this route you do a great job of dealing with the implications for his relationship with Mara. And having done so, you add a certain edge to Lord Skywalker's taunting.

The tortured Luke/Mara relationship is terrific, giving us Darksiders whom we can still like. Of all the lines in this story, the one that sticks with me the most is:
“Would life with me be so terrible?”
As I said, I really like the extra work you did with Dreams . The extra details of their parting and then their discussion before the smut, their departure and his grief, seem more in keeping with them as Darksiders. One change I did find interesting was that the hesitation in the original seems to be absent here. Once she has returned, he does not look back.

All in all a great story, and a revised version that I only wish I had read sooner.

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Trace
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Joined: 20 Jul 2007
Posts: 430
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flyswatter: Thank you! I agree about Luke and Vader's relationship. Although I'm glad Luke didn't turn in the 'real' story, I think he and Vader would have been a powerful duo, given the opportunity.

EtahnAbaht: *blush* Thank you very much! I'm not sure why my perception changed between the time when I first wrote this and then decided to post it here, but in re-reading the final chapter, Mara came off as horribly OOC to me (all emo and weepy - and that's just not her), hence the changes. I'm thrilled to hear that you liked the new version. Blush

For the record, I personally don't think Mara's service to Palpatine involved any sexual components in profic, but I can respect the opinions of those who think it might have. For the purposes of this story, it simply worked, and I agree that it is not a pleasant subject.


The tortured Luke/Mara relationship is terrific, giving us Darksiders whom we can still like.

I like Dark siders who own their beliefs and actions, without excuses or questions. The ones, like Vader, who are the bad guys, they KNOW they're the bad guys, and they make no apologies for who and what they are. I've read many a Dark Luke fic where he is tortured and angsty about his darkness and this story was my anti-angsty Dark Luke alternative, LOL.

Thank you, again, for the reviews everyone! Hugs!

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