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MaraJade001


Joined: 02 Aug 2007
Posts: 88
Location: Virginia Beach, VA
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Fabulous update! I loved the scene with Valin. I'm glad you didn't cut that out.

Mara's thoughts were perfect. I loved how you showed her thought progressions. I also loved the humor you used with the gossip stories (some sound suspiciously like other fanfics I've read Wink ) and the slogan on the t-shirt.

Great stuff! I can't wait for the conclusion!

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Trace
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Joined: 20 Jul 2007
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I enjoyed the "freakishly long" chapter! Very Happy No worries about how long this goes or how long it takes. We'll be here!


“All right, out with it then,” she said. “Let’s hear all the reasons you think I should start up with Skywalker—and you better get your entire list out of the way now, because I don’t want to have this damn conversation more than once.”

LOVED that part! Such perfect Mara dialogue. Cool


“Don’t say it like that,” she bit back. “Him and I are just too different. He’s a troublemaking pacifist who wants it all--commitment, domestics, the whole cargo hold. You can’t just give a person like Luke a…a try. He’s not a tunic. It’s one of those do, or do not deals.

That's brilliant! A perfect summary of Luke. Hearts


And you leave us hanging at the entry ramp? ACK!

*tries to be patient*

Angel

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ginchy
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I love your Mara. You really have gotten into her head! No easy feat, that. Clapping

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EtahnAbaht


Joined: 01 Aug 2007
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Wanted to leave the reviewing of Chapters 5 and then 6 until I was awake, little did I realize what a tall order that was.

Chapter 5
Wonderful analysis again of the curious turns taken in the EU. Amusing to have the characters trying to sort out what "they" were thinking.

Too much good dialogue to really pick out any one part. Suffice to say I found myself grinning more than once. As a romantic I enjoy the manner in which Mara is discovering things about herself and Luke, and my sense of humor is tickled by her irritation with these discoveries. She is still not certain what to make of things, but that is alright; she has had less than a day to adapt - and she spent much of that time hammered or sleeping.

Interesting balance with Leia. She (and I as a reader) expected her to have to set things right, but obviously being a sister doesn't make one a deity, as evidenced by the Luke's personal life getting to this point in the first place. Good, nuanced explanation of Leia's actions, mixing dialogue, narrative over-voice (what is felt/thought), and conventional/passive narration (what is done).


Chapter 6
First off, long posts are good. Long posts that have more to come are even better.

Both here and in the previous chapter I have very much enjoyed seeing Mirax and Corran. In particular, I like and appreciate the emphasis you place on Corran as Mara's friend - this feels very true to Stackpole's writing. Good work continuing to explore Mara's instinctive fears, without dismissing them, or at least their existence, out of hand.

Mirax's comments on Wedge and the appearance of Valin broadened the story without making it unwieldy (in short, it didn't feel like a cheap cameo).

Nice way of handling Lando. The "friend" bit was especially well calculated to settle the issue long term. I just hope Luke won't be available as a traveling companion this time.

I will be interested to see what he has to say.

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cggunnersmate


Joined: 09 Oct 2007
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I posted on this today over on TFN but I had to chime in here too. I do love this fic and I really hope your muse lets you continue this red.
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Marani


Joined: 21 Aug 2007
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Location: Germany
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Update! Yippiiee Very Happy

I love this fic since I first read it on FF.net

Your story is out of control? I thought that happens with most fic's that have more then 4 updates. Smile
I don't mean it in a bad way but somehow the first 2 chapters were diffrent compared to the last. Or there is something wrong with my English-sense^^.

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Rigil Kent


Joined: 25 Feb 2008
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This is really, really well done. I like the way you're approaching the whole thing, especially Mara's confusion. Looking forward to the next installment...

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redtenko


Joined: 01 Aug 2007
Posts: 196
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Authors Notes: Wai yes, you can has update!
So I notice it's been over a year since part 6. Um...my bad. It wasn't for lack of trying though. I put a lot of work into this chapter and while it's hard to say I'm 100% satisfied, I'm at that point where I've been living with the chapter so long and coming up with lists of alternate scenes the only way for me to be 100% satisfied would be to post about seven different versions of this chapter and...no way. Just no way. Another reason for the wait was a hard year of school, where I had to focus on my non-fanfic writing which took up most of my attention. I didn't want my fanfic to start sounding like my senior project novella, so I needed some distance from school before I could really work on my fic.
I want to give a big gigantic chocolate covered thank you to ginchy for being my beta and helping me come down from my ultra obsessive sentence by sentence editing frenzy so I could finally stop second guessing myself. I hope everyone will find this chapter worth the wait.



~
Part 7
~


Leia was the public speaker of the family. Concise and inspiring, her speeches had a matter-o-fact eloquence to them. No matter how the newsfeeds tried to spin her words, the majority of Leia’s audience would always see her for what she was: fair and dedicated, impartial when need be without sacrificing her passion. Luke had always believed Leia’s political success came from her ability to project the kind of woman she was into words, to let her listeners feel they knew her so they could share the faith in her that her friends felt.

Han was the fast talker. Their clan’s persuasive one. He was never short of a response, never failed to get a reaction, and could get practically anyone’s guard down for at least a moment (and a moment was all he needed). He was practical, a realist, and it showed in his manner of speaking—even through the sarcasm and occasional cursing. Han’s checkered past gave him his well deserved reputation as a great liar, and even though the entire galaxy knew this of him, when Han Solo felt like it he could make people listen, and even believe what he said based on the sheer reasonability in his presentation.
Perhaps he didn’t always succeed (he couldn’t talk away from Jabba or Boba Fett) but even when his mouth failed to persuade, it still served him well. His opponents didn’t tend to think such a fast talker could have so much action in him, but Han always proved them wrong.

And then there was Luke.

Luke knew how he talked—he said what he felt, usually at the time he felt it. Sometimes he could hold this impulse in check long enough to choose his words, to sort them as nicely as he could manage, present them with dignity and poise. He did this for the occasional prepared speeches he had to give, but most often in his teaching, where he knew he needed to get his message across as clearly as possible. The Force was a difficult thing to learn about, confusing at times, and Luke didn’t want to confuse his students further by fumbling through a lesson.

Mara had accused him of letting the teacher in him take over his own personality. She wasn’t the only one to say this, come to think of it. Han joked about it all the time.

But when that part of him was pushed aside, accidents sometimes happened. Slipups, like at the dinner party, where Luke let his feelings react with his mouth instead of his brain.

Now Luke Skywalker was standing in the entryway of a hangar, eyes on the Jade’s Fire. He had no doubt Mara would return to her ship soon, and he needed to talk to her and fix this mess he’d made. He knew what he wanted: he wanted Mara Jade to forgive him for shaking her privacy, to promise they were still friends, to promise that loving her hadn’t cost him his small place in her life. He wanted to know he hadn’t lost her.

The only problem was he didn’t know how to say what he wanted. Over and over he’d tried to plan the confrontation, to at least come up with a suitable greeting if not a fullblown speech, but so far he’d come up empty. Where to start? “I’m sorry I embarrassed you in public” ,“I’m sorry I made you choke on your food”, “Don’t shoot me” –all these felt like pretty feeble hellos.

Luke closed his eyes, inhaled deeply. He tried to breathe out the fear and replace it with determination, as Yoda had taught him so long ago. Han’s scolding from the night before came back to him: “This is not the attitude that got your sister out of the Death Star.” The old pirate was right, he’d get nowhere at all if he only focused on potential failure. And he would not fail Mara. Not her.

His all-night meditation had left him groggy but centered. Now Luke reached out with feelings and Force to reclaim that calm, diving into it. He refreshed himself with the sensation of balance—something he hadn’t truly experienced for a long time, not since he’d begun twisting his emotions and trying to wedge them into a person he wasn’t. It had been difficult to find those knots within himself, but now that he knew where they were, he could undo them.

His nervousness wasn’t cured, certainly not, but at least it was diminished to a reasonable size. He expected that peace with Mara Jade would be harder won than peace within himself, but the reward was more than worth the trial. ‘I can do this,’ Luke thought, and finally felt his own belief in the words.

Opening his eyes again, Luke was about to step through the arch toward the Fire when a voice surprised him mid-step.

“Luke!” Wedge called. He turned to see his friend making his way up the hall towards him, Han just behind. Luke barely had time to muse on how he hadn’t sensed them coming before the two were upon him.

“Glad to see you here,” Wedge beamed. Luke read between the lines and mentally added ‘And not still moping in your apartment.’

“Good morning to you too,” he said.

“Hey, don’t mind us, kid,” Han said, putting on his ‘innocent Corellian’ face. “I was just on my way to work on the Falcon when I ran into Wedge here and—”

“You’re doing repairs at this hour?” Luke’s eyebrows arched and Han played offended.

“Just what are you implying? You know I’ve always been a morning person.”

Wedge rolled his eyes. “Oh yes, common knowledge, that,” he said. “I, on the other hand, have legitimate business here. Leia asked me to make sure no reporters could get in this bay, and since Lando’s little press release I figured I’d better come down and make sure the media hasn’t chased poor Jade,” –Han snorted at this—“off the planet before you two could talk.”

Luke pushed back his irritation at their blatant spying attempts. They meant well, after all, but he didn’t want to think about them trying to talk to Mara on his behalf. Instead, his brain hooked onto something Wedge had said. “Lando? What’s Lando telling the press?”

Han’s expression grew a little smug as Wedge jumped to give the news. “You haven’t seen it yet? That’s the most entertainment I’ve gotten from the holonet since smashball season ended; Lando sure knows how work those reporters.”

“But what did he say?”

“He said you’re clear for landing, Rogue Leader,” Wedge slapped him on the arm. Luke started to wonder if he was still a little drunk from last night. “He’s backed off.”

“Lando in front of a cam is a work of art,” Han grinned. “You wouldn’t think he could get the topic off you and Jade with the reporters so set on it, but he did. He opened up saying flat out that he and Mara are good friends but just friends and, well, he seemed pretty eager for the ladies of the universe to know that he’s single and they have nothing to fear from a jealous ex-assassin.”

“And from there the interview was fifteen straight minutes on the virtues of Lando,” Wedge laughed. “I don’t know how he did it, but he turned the story from ‘love triangle of the decade’ to ‘why is this incredibly eligible man still single?’ None of the reporters could shake him off it. Not even Zika Tresh.”

Luke couldn’t help grin. “I’m not sure if that’s art, but it’s definitely a talent.”

Han cleared his throat. “So now that Lando’s stepped down, you are going to go for it with Mara, aren’t you?” he asked.

Luke exhaled through his teeth. “Right now I’m focused on getting her to forgive me for putting her through a media circus,” he said.

“Yeah, but—”

“Trying to rush Mara never gets anywhere,” he said, and ignored the look of frustration on both his friends’ faces. Luke realized now that his constant pushing of Jedi training had only made her angry with him, and no closer to Knighthood. He didn’t want to make the same sort of mistake again. “If anything happens, it’ll happen in its own time.”

“You don’t have to rush. Just don’t, you know, stand still,” Wedge said, exasperation starting to edge in on his good mood. “Back me up here, Han.”

Han didn’t seem to be listening. His eyes were fixed across the hangar. “Whatever you’re going to do, better do it fast,” he said, nodding at the hangar’s other set of doors. “There she blows.”

Luke snapped to attention, his Force sense sparking as Mara strode into the bay. Wedge—and Luke was now certain he was still drunk—went stiff and did a ridiculous leap behind the arch of the entryway. Han and Luke didn’t bother, knowing full well that if Mara was paying attention she’d have sensed all three of them by now. But it seemed that her mind was occupied, and Luke sensed she was focusing the Force on her shields rather than on detecting loitering pilots. She made a beeline for the Jade’s Fire and did not look in the boys’ direction once.

Mara’s stride was long, and Luke’s stomach twisted as he saw how she walked with purpose. It didn’t look like the walk of someone coming home to relax after a long night, but of someone ready to blast off planet and fast. When she entered her ship, the ramp was closing again before it had a chance to open completely. He had to act. Now.

Summoning his courage (and for some reason remembering the campaign against the first Death Star) Luke headed for the Fire. For a moment he just stood there beside the ship, comlink in hand, trying to decide if calling her ship or talking to her through the Force was more polite. And then something happened that he did not expect.

Still tucked inside her ship, Mara’s mental shields were lowering. Hesitantly at first, slowly, just enough… Her mind was reaching out to the Force, brushing lightly against everything around her. Everything, including him, and Luke instinctively returned the gesture.

He sensed her surprise on finding him so close, and Luke took advantage of the opening to ask, “Are you leaving?”

Again, a flicker of surprise. “No, I…just came here to think,” she replied slowly.

Luke let out the breath he’d been holding and the knot in his stomach eased just a little. She wasn’t running, she hadn’t told him to buzz off or 'get out of my head, Skywalker.' These had to be good signs, didn’t they? There was only one way to find out. Luke took another long breath. “Mara, can we talk?”

The hangar and the Force were quiet for a long, agonizing moment. And then the ramp of the Fire smoothly lowered down before him. Luke looked back the way he came. Wedge gave him an enthusiastic thumbs up. Han might have winked, but it was too far to tell. Then he was up the ramp and they were out of sight.

He found Mara seated in the pilot’s chair, which was swiveled to face the doorway. She didn’t get up, or even speak when he came into view. The expression on her face was unreadable, but mild somehow. It surprised and relieved him. He’d expected Mara to yell, perhaps throw her fist at him for sending her to the med center with the press on her heels. Luke hoped this wasn’t some quiet, brooding anger that would burst to the surface when he least expected it. He couldn’t get a read on her emotions. Something was churning behind her impeccable shields, but he couldn’t define it.

Still, his danger sense hadn’t flared yet, so he stepped forward into the room.

“Hi,” Luke said, and immediately wanted to kick himself. ‘Just hi?’

Her eyebrows arched. “Good morning, Skywalker. Sleep well?”

Luke could have laughed, and perhaps he did a little, but he wasn’t sure. “Didn’t sleep at all, actually,” he answered truthfully. “You?”

The corner of Mara’s mouth twitched in a quick smirk. She made a “hm” sort of noise, and it was all the answer he got. Had she been in the med center all night? But she looked good, better than he did Luke was sure. They were both still wearing the same clothes from last night, but her red, semiformal tunic looked fresh from the closet. Luke suddenly worried he might have toast crumbs still clinging to his shirt.

“Listen, Mara, I’m sorry,” he blurted.

She looked surprised, and a trace suspicious. “It’s…okay,” she said slowly, as if she’d had to choose her words very carefully.

“No, it’s not.”Taking a deep breath, Luke reined in his nerves, tried to regain his calm once more. It was harder than it usually was, and he realized that was because this wasn’t quite the same as the pre-battle apprehension he was accustomed to banishing. This was good old fashion silk moths in the stomach nervousness, something no woman had caused in a very long time. “I’m sorry about ambushing you like that, and about what happened with the shrimp. Are you all right?”

“What?” Mara looked confused for a second. And relieved? “Oh! The toothpick, I almost forgot about that. No, I’m fine; the droid dissolved it in five minutes.”

Luke blinked. She’d forgotten? What had she been doing all night to get that out of her mind? The shock must have gone to his face. Her eyes softened a little. “It’s really okay,” she said quickly, then looked away.

Neither of them seemed to know what to say next, and the air was suddenly thicker. Now that the ice was broken, everything previously left unsaid between them was flooding into the tiny cockpit. It wasn’t just the shadow of last night, but of all the years they’d known each other looming overhead.

The silence stretched on, until Mara finally broke it with a loud sigh. She ran her hand through her hair, a few locks catching in her fingers to escape the loose braid, and finally looked up at him, square in the eye. A tired but intense look that held. “What happened last night, Luke?”

Emotions, memories, sensations…all immediately jumbled within him, insistent and eager to be recognized. He shifted, opening his mouth and then quickly closing it, unsure of how to word it all. His cheeks burned in the silence, but Mara’s stare was patient. ‘You’re over thinking again,’ his better sense chastised. ‘She’s never cared about pretty words, just the truth.’ He gave a rueful chuckle as with that realization, another one of those weights he hadn’t known he’d been carrying lifted.

“Uncle Owen was right, I do have my head in the clouds,” Luke said, shaking his head at his own behavior. Her brow knitted.

“I got so caught up in trying to be helpful, whether the Force told me to help or not. I thought if I could, I should, but really that can’t always be the right answer, can it?” The question was rhetorical, but she nodded slightly when he stopped pacing and met her eyes. “I was trying to save the galaxy, and I forgot to live in it.

“I stay inside my head too long, but everyone else goes on about living their lives and…when I finally look around me again I guess I’m always a little surprised things aren’t the way I left them. Leia and Han don’t really seem older to me—neither do you—but I see how much their kids have grown and it hits me every time how much everyone keeps going when I’m not there and I’m missing it…” Luke realized his thoughts were jumbled and out of order, but he was determined to answer her question honestly, and this was how it came out. Mara sat absorbing it without question or sarcasm.

“So what happened last night was…I guess it was that last hit I needed to wake up. I looked at you last night and I realized that we felt…apart,” he confessed. “We weren’t where I used to think we’d be by now and, well, I missed you.”

He met her eyes again. They were clouded with thought, but still brilliant, and slightly wide.

“Oh.” Mara’s voice was quiet. “And when you…”

“I didn’t—I don’t want to miss you anymore.”

Her cheeks went from pink to bright red. She didn’t even manage another “Oh”, just a loud breath. She broke eye contact and turned her face toward the viewport. Luke forced himself to be still. This wasn’t a signal of rejection; she needed a moment to sort through what he’d told her.

Mara’s eyes were on the transparasteel, though she did not seem to be looking through it. The silence was long, and he nearly jumped when she broke it. “Your friends are still out there. Waiting for the results, I suppose.”

Luke winced. Why couldn’t Han and Wedge at least have the manners to wait for him out of sight of the Fire’s windows? “I’m sorry. They’re just trying to be, um, supportive.”

The corner of her lips quirked. “Ah. Cheerleading.”

“What? No! Well,” Luke fumbled for words, a sense of urgency creeping back up. “I promise, I’ll get them to back off. Mara, I don’t want you to feel like there’s any pressure—I realize I was probably coming on too strong with all the Force training talk. If you don’t feel ready then you should wait. I think you’re ready to train, but—that’s beside the point right now.

“Just please don’t think I want to pressure you to do anything that you don’t want. You know how I feel about…you know how I feel. I won’t crowd you about it.”

Mara was quiet for a long moment. She stopped looking out the window and concentrated on the air over his shoulder.

“I was angry at you,” she finally said.

He shrugged and gave her a sheepish grin. “Well I knew before coming in here I wasn’t bound to be your favorite person this morning.”

“No, I meant I’ve been angry at you.” She did look him in the eye then. “For a while. Before last night,” she confessed.

“You have?”

She nodded. “It wasn’t the constant nagging to train that annoyed me, it was the way you treated me more like a recruit than a friend. Especially right after that Byss mess. You got pretty obnoxious. Not rude exactly, but…up on your dais about being a Jedi. As though I was doing something wrong for liking the job I already have.”

Luke bowed his head. He could see now why Mara had been so surprised to learn he loved her. The Emperor had cared nothing for her, just her skills, and he’d gone and put her Force abilities first.

“I never meant to make you feel that way, Mara,” he said. He dropped to the floor in front of her chair, grasped her hands firmly. She stiffened, but didn’t pull away.
Opening himself up in the Force, Luke attempted to show her how much he’d enjoyed training her, and enjoyed the bond that sprung between them when they did. He needed her to know she wasn’t just another notch in his trainee belt—he’d certainly never think of any student that way, but Mara had always been a particularly special case. He wanted her to be a Jedi because he felt that was the right path for her. But he wanted to train her because, well, he liked spending time with her. “Your friendship has always been very important to me. It’ll always come first.”

Mara nodded. “I know,” she said. “I realized pretty quick that you meant well, but your mind was just somewhere else and you weren’t connecting the dots like you used to. I figured you were going through something, so I tried to cool down about it. Except that whenever you’d ask me to train, it stirred the coals back up and I’d be mad again.” She gave him a small smile and squeezed his hand. “You’ve been better about it lately, though.”

“I’ll keep it up then,” he smiled back.

“And don’t worry about Han and Wedge,” Luke continued. “I’ve already told them that if anything ever happens between us it’ll happen in its own time.”

A strange look passed over her face, a thoughtful shadow, and for a moment Luke worried he’d said something that would undo all his progress.

“Interesting choice of words,” she murmured after a beat.



Mara’s mind was spinning. Her brain felt crowded as thoughts and feelings and ideas competed for attention. Something had surged within her at his words, hooking onto them and not letting go. The Force stirred around her, reminding her of…of everything, and she became acutely aware of the ache inside her chest. This ache had been stirring, making its presence known ever since Luke had revealed his feelings the night before. With the air quickly clearing between her and the Jedi Master, the love he had sent her—was still sending her—had grown warmer, brighter, and it was so hard not to reach for it.

That’s what the ache was, she realized. This pounding inside her, calling out ‘I want this, let go, I want this.’

He talked about things happening in their own time, but Mara knew they were both well aware that sometimes nothing good happens if you don’t make a move for the better. She’d tried that with her social life, thought the knowhow for making friends would come to her in its own time, but stopped trying to reach for it. That had nearly ended in a lonely mess.

The Force hummed around her, like words on the tip of her tongue. She could do it, couldn’t she? Make that one last reach? Do or do not….

Mara tried to take a deep breath, but found it difficult to get her lungs working. She swallowed. “Listen, Luke,” she said. “You aren’t the only one who’s been making bad choices. It’s good that you gave me such a hell of a night, because it got me finally taking stock of things. I’ve been acting kind of—well, I’ve been acting pretty stupid,” she admitted. “I didn’t like that you made me angry, so I pushed you away instead of trying to talk to you. Well, I think I did try to talk to you but it probably ended in yelling. At this point I’m not even sure if I meant well or just wanted to vent. And I’m sorry.”

She saw Luke open his mouth, but she barreled over the protest she could feel coming from him, babbling so fast she didn’t even have time to hate herself for doing it.

“It wasn’t just you. I pushed away anyone I could make an excuse for, and I didn’t even realize I was doing it. I just blinded myself to it like an idiot. The Emperor used to keep me isolated, so I’d just have him to count on. I finally get free, and I pull my life together, and what do I do with my success? Hide in my ship all the time,” Mara pinched the bridge of her nose, exasperated. That last bit had been talking to herself as much as to him. “Why would I do that? It doesn’t even make sense!”

Luke gently reclaimed her hands and squeezed them reassuringly. “I wouldn’t say that, Mara. It’s normal to cling to the familiar, and easier than taking a chance on something that may or may not make you happy.” He was suddenly remembering how he’d hated Tattooine for being a nowhere planet, and then he’d gone and settled in on a moon that didn’t even have any towns. How much of that decision had been for the Academy, and how much had it been for him? “I can understand why you did it.”

Mara snorted, mostly at herself, but her lips fought a grin. His eyes were so open, so unguarded staring into hers. Force, when he was like this, he was almost too easy to talk to. It used to frustrate her, how he could draw out her secrets so easily. She didn’t like to bear her soul to anyone, let alone someone who kept disappearing into a stilted persona of a Jedi Master. She’d always kept tight control of herself around him so she wouldn’t slip. But that was then. Right now, her heart clenching as she looked at him, she wanted to tell him everything. His Force presence was strong, bold, and grounded in the moment. Gone was the single-minded focus on a tangled path, the self-erected fog that had surrounded him after Byss and during the early days of Yavin. The Luke of Myrkr, of Wayland, of sunset on Coruscant was back and Force she’d been waiting too long for him.

His hands were still holding hers, so she turned her palms so she could grasp his tightly. “What you have to understand about me is—I hate not knowing what I’m doing. I hate it. I was trained to be an expert at anything I did, but I wasn’t trained for anything like…I mean, you can’t train for…” Mara was speaking in a rush, babbling again as she struggled to get her point across. In the back of her mind, she marveled at the way language was failing her now of all times, after so many years of reliability. She felt her whole body blush, and she tried to continue in a voice she recognized as her own.

“When I failed the Emperor…it hurt. It was almost too much; it really felt like too much at the time, like there couldn’t be anything worse,” Mara said, hoping desperately that her point was coming across as she remembered what it was like when Palpatine died. Her whole life destroyed, and nobody to blame but herself for not killing Luke Skywalker. “I know it was a good thing I failed him. I’m relieved that I did. Now. But that doesn’t change what it felt like back then and—and I don’t know what I’m doing! If it was that bad to fail something that turned out to be so wrong, what’s it going to feel like if I fail at…”

She clenched his fingers tighter under hers. “Force, Luke, I miss you too. But I don’t know what I’m doing…”

Mara dropped his gaze. She felt drained from her full confession and too raw to meet his eyes.

Luke was still reeling. Mara was always so careful when she chose to express herself; her sudden speech had caught him off guard and he had to work through his surprise to catch up with her words. “You’re afraid you’re going to fail us?” he realized. She didn’t answer. Still stunned, he reached out for her in the Force.

Her shields were wavering in her uncertainty, but between them Luke felt the bond they’d formed so long ago returning. He marveled at its endless potential.

“That’s impossible, Mara,” he said. He loosed one of his hands from their joined grip and used it to cup her cheek. It was that impulsive side moving for him, Luke would later admit. If he’d stopped for a second to think, he’d have realized how oddly close they already were, and probably wouldn’t have tried his luck further. But he wasn’t thinking about Mara’s barriers or her temper. He was only thinking of trying to reassure her, and so before she could react, he’d leaned up and kissed her soundly on the lips.

Luke’s mind was a step behind his action, and the full effect didn’t hit him until her lips were moving sweetly against his. He was kissing Mara Jade! How had he managed it? It didn’t matter because he was flying now. She was soft, petite, but so incredibly strong under his hands. The starlines of hyperspace rushed through his bloodstream as he pulled her closer.

Mara had frozen in surprise when he kissed her, but it was the only reaction she managed. For a moment, all she knew was that his lips were warm and softer than she’d thought they would be. Then it was too good not to kiss back.

The kiss was intense, mouths open, hands clutching at clothes and stroking skin. She didn’t want to breathe, just to taste him. Mara could feel his Force sense, flowing through cracks in her quickly failing shields. She felt it all—the lust of course, but before that his love for her, brighter and freer than ever, his faith in her, his faith in them. She could feel Luke’s optimism, warm and addictive, start replace her fears.

Then her brain caught up and Mara pulled back from his lips just enough to catch her breath and ask, “Why?”

“What?” Luke was panting too, and Mara realized they were on the floor now, she in his lap, his cloak tangling their legs.

“Why me?” she asked again. She couldn’t help but notice that he looked a little dazed. And happy. Force, she’d made him that happy?

Luke removed his hand from its place on the back of her neck, running a lock of hair through his fingers as he did. He gave the curl a little tug to urge her closer still. “Why not you?” he countered.

She smirked, although he probably couldn’t see it. “I can think of a few reasons.”

“You know? I can’t think of one,” Luke said, brushing his lips against hers again. And again, until she could barely hold back a laugh. The next time he tried, she dodged his lips and Luke’s mouth landed happily against her collarbone.

“Cranky, antisocial, former assassin…” she listed, and felt him smile against her neck.

“Part of your charm,” he said, and Luke lifted his head up to smile at her. His hair was mussed—had she done that?

How did he manage to look so handsome while giving her such a goofy look from behind those overgrown bangs? Mara couldn’t hold it back anymore. She laughed—giggled, perhaps, though she’d saber herself before admitting it. “Sometimes I just don’t understand you.”

His eyes grew serious for a moment, though she still saw his smile in their color. “And the rest of the time you’re the only one who does.”

“Flatterer,” Mara sighed, shaking her head. “How would you know?”

“I feel it,” Luke said. “In the way you bring out the best in me.”

The complement, so serious, so earnest—such a Luke thing to say—sent a shiver down her spine that was somehow both pleasurable and frightening. So many feelings, so much depth, all ready here at the very start. Mara remembered her talk from Corran, how she’d argued that Luke could never do things by halfs.

Then she remembered her train of thought before Luke had shown up. She’d been trying to figure out what she wanted…

Her decision made, Mara wound her arms around Luke’s shoulders and rested her forehead against his. “Sounds as if you want to date me, Skywalker.”

“I do,” he said. And he pulled her close again for another long kiss.

-----

“Fifty credits, he let her slap him in the face,” Wedge said, eyeing the Jade’s Fire from across the hangar. Its ramp was still down, but there was a suspicious lack of yelling coming from the ship.

“What? You’re crazy,” Han shook his head.

“No, no, no, think about it!” the Rogue Leader insisted. “Jade’s gotta blow off steam somehow, right? I didn’t hear any shouting, so that means it got physical. Didn’t hear any crashing, so Luke let her get a hit in.”

“I mean you’re crazy if you think Mara slaps,” Han said. “Mara Jade punches. She kicks. She shoots. Mara Jade does not slap; slapping doesn’t break bones. She wouldn’t waste time on it. Besides, she’s one of the few who doesn’t need Luke to let her get a hit in.”

“So what do you think’s happening then?”

Han made a show of shrugging nonchalantly. “Either they’re having a nice and civilized conversation like two reasonable adults, or they’re sitting in there staring at their boots and not talking like a couple of children,” he said sagely.

Wedge stroked his moustache. “He’s been in there a really long time. This is either going very well or very bad.”

“Leia saw Luke this morning. She seemed optomistic,” Han put in. “And Karrde said he didn’t think Mara was angry last night.”

“But that’s last night. Mirax wouldn’t tell me what the situation was this morning,” Wedge groused. Stroking his moustache, he thought about how after Luke came out of the ship and things were settled, he could dangle the results over Missus Terrik-Horn’s cheeky little head. “We should get closer to the ramp.”

Han laughed. “Be my guest!” he said. Baiting Mara Jade was a dangerous thing. Certainly there was great potential for fun in it, but a man had to pick his moments.

Wedge started forward, but stopped when he noticed Han really was not going to follow. “He’s your brother-in-law.”

“And it’s your funeral if you get caught.”

“You’re getting old, Solo! You can’t tell me you aren’t curious.”

“Hey, I’ll have you know that patience, which I happen to have in abundance, is a virtue that—Woah!

Without warning, the Fire’s engines flared to life. With a burst of hot wind, the ship was in the air. The ramp was still closing as it rose, and by the time it was shut, Mara's ship--with Luke still on board--had cleared the bay, soaring up through Coruscant traffic and quickly out of sight.

---


Luke, strapped into the copilot’s chair, was still laughing as the Han and Wedge’s shock faded into greater life-noise of the planet. “You realize they’re going to go crazy wondering what’s going on with us.”

“Oh, let ‘em stew in it,” Mara smirked, taking her ship higher, through the atmosphere into space. Soon they’d be out of com range. They were leaving a lot of curious people behind, but she wasn’t sorry. She and Luke would never get things truly sorted between them if they couldn’t find a moment to themselves.

Uninterrupted time was what they needed. Neither one of them wanted to deal with Han and Wedge in their way if they left the ship (not to mention everyone else). There would be too many questions; questions they couldn’t answer as there was still so much to talk about on their own…

Since they were already in a ship, Mara had figured they might as well take advantage of it and find some privacy. So they would have their date on one of the neighboring planets, just the two of them. No press, no well meaning friends or family, just Luke and Mara.

And then they would come back.

Mara knew the press would be revived once they found out she’d left planet and the Jedi Master was mysteriously missing. Whatever their relationship turned out to be, there was no keeping it private. Surprisingly, she was okay with this. Mara was done with running, and she decided that whatever trouble they’d face would be worth it for having this time to themselves now. And besides, she did owe Mirax the story.

The computer beeped as the coordinates set, and Mara pulled down the hyperdrive lever. The stars became starlines, and the starlines became a vortex of light. Luke took her hand off the lever and held it in his.

He was grinning at her, probably thinking about how they were acting like a couple of teenagers sneaking away for a clandestine moment alone. She blushed—it was still so new—but returned the smile.

Earlier, as Luke held her, Mara had asked herself what she wanted. The answer had come in startlingly clear—she wanted more of these moments. This total acceptance, this faith in themselves, this warmth wrapped around her both in body and in the Force. She wanted him to always be a part of her life. She didn’t want to go back to the way things had been. She wanted to go forward.

It was amazing, once the path was clear, how simple it looked.

Yes, this was living.

-

The End! (Epilogue coming soon)

_________________
If a man, sitting all alone, cannot dream strange things, and make them look like truth, he need never try to write romances ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne
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cggunnersmate


Joined: 09 Oct 2007
Posts: 52
Location: Washington
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YES!

Finally! and it was worth the wait (though I still wouldn't recommend that long between posts, lol). I loved it, the whole thing!

Can't wait for the epilogue!

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"I got him! I got him!" Chris Grffin as Luke Skywalker
"Great Kid. Don't get penisy!" Peter Griffin as Han Solo (Blue Harvest)
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MaraJade001


Joined: 02 Aug 2007
Posts: 88
Location: Virginia Beach, VA
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Clapping Yay! Thanks for finishing this! Very nice ending, too! Very Happy

Can't wait for the epilogue!

You Rock!

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