Spirit of the Shifting Sands
Disclaimer. The characters and situations used in this story belong to Lucasfilm. I've only borrowed them for a while and am making no financial gain from this exercise. I want to thank George Lucas for creating the wonderful Star Wars Universe for us to use. I would like especially to thank Mona who read the epic and patiently corrected my mistakes and gave me encouragement to continue. Also a mention to Licia for telling me to go ahead and post. Angela Jade for influencing me in certain directions and for everyone who has gone the distance with this tale.
The Swaquaresh Basin, Western Dune Sea, Tatooine
Luke couldn't remember feeling this bad in a long time. He blinked and immediately winced as a gritty spec of sand firmly entrenched itself in his left eye. Sometime during the night he'd regained consciousness and made himself move. 'The Jundland wastes were not to be travelled lightly.' He remembered Ben saying that once. It would be good to see him... But he couldn't see him because Ben was long dead. So why was Luke in the middle of the desert in the middle of the night? Uncle Owen would thrash him good and proper for disobeying orders... Luke shook his head to clear the fuzziness from his brain. Uncle Owen was dead too and Aunt Beru. So was Biggs. So many people dead and all for what? He hadn't been able to save them.
He kept his cloak wrapped round his shoulders and sank to the soft sand and tried to sort out where and who he was supposed to be. Recollection came storming into his brain at last. Things were not good - everything was definitely hazy. Probably another bang on the head. He wasn't exactly sure where he was and he didn't think he was close to any settlement, but he wouldn't give up hope. There was always hope. Han would say that you kept fighting until you had no breath left. When that happened you fought until they disposed of your body. Han… where was Han?
Luke blinked hazily. He had to keep his focus. He assessed his situation. He had one water bottle which had some fluid left, but not enough to last him any length of time. One of the many wounds he had bled intermittently
. If he didn't get to a settlement soon he would die of thirst or bleed to death. It was as simple as that. He had his lightsaber attached to his belt and a bag over his shoulder which, when he looked, contained a set of crystal data disks. His ankle was broken, his head throbbed and several ribs looked to be in bad condition. He sent out a questing Force tendril and spotted ahead a large bone which must have belonged to a great sea beast when waters had rolled over this area of Tatooine. Nah, he decided hazily. It must be a lot later than that. Perhaps some scavenging animal had dropped it. His mind reeled with the effort of thinking. No matter where it had come from it would make a great crutch. He took a careful swig of his precious water supply and set off towards where he hoped he was sensing some form of life. He had to think of something that would keep him going and that was easy. Her beautiful eyes called out for him and they were red from weeping. Mara Jade did not cry, so something must have made her unhappy. The image disturbed his mind and he stumbled, falling to the desert sand. He tried to call to her and his sister, but he felt nothing and no one answered him. He was too weak. Luke crawled to his feet. It was time to move and, limping, he slowly began to cross the endless expanse of gold. The sand was part of him, he remembered that much.
He was burning inside and out, it was so hot. The furnace heat of Tatooine's twin suns burned his face making it blister. He kept seeing people that he'd known long ago, but it was all an illusion - the souls of the dead. Their spirits rose up from the sand to taunt him. "I'm doing what I can," he yelled defiantly at the sky. "I never left them willingly. I'd give anything to know they're alive and well. Aunt Beru don't look at me like that. I was going to save you. I tried - please…" But the fear that he would die alone and lost amongst the scorching sands began to haunt him. He walked for two days and two nights getting weaker and weaker. He had no water left - he hadn't eaten in three days and knew that even Force-enhanced strength couldn't last forever. He was also getting strange surreal visions. The souls were beckoning him onward. The sand rose to form strange, graceful beckoning shapes. 'Come,' they called. 'another step…' Luke limped onward.
Mara sat with his child in her arms, her face cold and set. He'd left her alone. "Mara! I didn't... I couldn't.... Mara!" His voice was a cracked whisper. Still he struggled on, but he was scarcely covering any distance now and still the suns beat unmercifully down upon his pounding head. "I'm sorry," he whispered through cracked, blistered lips. "Mara, I loved you and I will protect you always..." Luke sank to his knees and crawled for a few more metres and then finally his body gave out and blissful darkness blotted out all conscious thought. The suns reached their zenith and as they began to descend a party of Jawa traders came over the dune rise on their way to their secret base camp at the Swaquaresh Basin. Luke had collapsed within sight of their encampment, but he'd been too delusional to see it.
The Jawas saw the figure lying in the sand and ran towards it chattering and gesticulating like small over-excited children. They carefully turned him over to see his face. But when they noticed the lightsaber attached to his waist the conversation increased in volubility. They'd found a Jedi and he was still alive - just.
Mara sat on the balcony of her apartment in Coruscant and watched the constant stream of traffic as it moved steadily in lanes across her field of vision. She felt wrong - something wasn't right. Why was she here when all that she cared about was on a sand-strewn world whose strange beauty was illuminated by the light of two fierce suns?
Mara had tried to get clearance to leave three days ago, but had been denied because she'd only just been released from the Coruscant medical centre. When she'd attempted to acquire a leaving slot yesterday, the same thing had happened. The excuse was that she was not yet fit to fly. She checked her wrist chrono mutinously. Only half an hour ago the answer had been the same. Ten minutes ago owing to some development work on orbital platforms above the spaceport, leaving slots were restricted to essential transports only. Mara didn't believe that for a second. She was being kept here against her will. Attempts to contact Karrde had also been fruitless. Attempts to speak to Organa-Solo had been the same. "Let's face it Mara, you need to do something and soon or someone will be escorting you to a place where they lock you up for your own safety or Leia Organa-Solo's safety."
Mara felt that Leia was deliberately blocking her attempts to find out what had happened to Luke. She'd never felt such animosity from Luke's sister before. Leia wanted Mara well away from her brother. "I could help her find him." Mara sighed aloud.
She stroked her stomach gently. "Where's your father, eh little one?" Mara closed her eyes as worry threatened to overcome her. "Trust in the Force." She heard his voice as he'd lectured her, laughed at her, made love to her. "We'll have to go and find him little one, he's got himself in trouble as usual."
After the Monastery had blown she'd been unconscious for several hours. By the time she'd come to - she'd been in the medibay of a New Republic capital ship and on her unwilling way back to Coruscant. Chewie, Corran and Leia had returned to Tatooine picked up most of the badly injured and transported them to the Valorous. The 2-1B had been firm and unyielding to all her protestations and she had protested loudly. Leia stood at the end of her bed with crossed arms and a 'nothing you say will make me change my mind' expression on his face.
"I have to go back for Luke!" Mara cried frantically, her fingers clutching at the blanket. "He's still in there!"
"Han will find him...you need to rest." Leia Organa Solo nodded at the medical droid and he administered a sedative. Mara slumped back on her pillows.
"How is she, apart from overwrought?" asked Karrde quietly. He had been a little disturbed at Leia's dealings with Mara.
"She will be fine, but..." The droid hesitated.
"What is it?" Leia enquired.
"This is a matter I can only discuss with the patient. It is best you leave her to sleep, the sedative will eventually wear off. She has been without sleep for many days. Do not worry, Captain Karrde, her injuries will shortly heal. I have applied bacta bandages. There is nothing seriously wrong with Trader Jade. The blaster merely grazed her flesh. It bled a lot but nothing we couldn't handle. The rest - mainly cuts and bruises and she will make a full recovery."
"Good," Karrde sighed visibly in relief and some of the tension left him. "What about you, Leia - are you bearing up? Any word on Luke?"
She shook her head. "None so far. Han is looking but hasn't had much success. The charges went off more or less where we suspect he was being held. There cannot be anyone alive, but yet I cannot feel that he's dead, so he must be alive somewhere. I would know. He could be unconscious or they may have moved him out of the monastery. None of the B'Omarr were found after the explosion. No bodies - nothing. If they found a way to survive the attack perhaps Luke has too."
Karrde pursed his lips carefully. "Ah, the bond between Force strong twins."
"Yes, the strongest there is." Leia didn't meet Karrde's pale blue gaze.
'I wonder?' thought Karrde and looked at the woman lying on the flotation bed. Whatever connection Mara had with Luke, he was willing to bet quite a lot that it could rival the one Luke had with his sister.
After that everything for Mara had been rather hazy. She'd spent the rest of her enforced trip back to Coruscant in the medibay, refusing to see Organa Solo. Luke's sister had blocked her plans to return to Tatooine and disapproved of Mara's relationship with her brother. Not that it was any of her business. Mara considered herself one step up from a prisoner – a well-treated prisoner but a prisoner nonetheless. She used some of the time to practise the art of the Jedi hibernation trance and the rest to sleep. The 2-1B hadn't been keen to let Mara out of his sight until she'd been checked over by someone on planet. Eventually she'd been released from medical care with strict instructions by the droid and had retreated to her Coruscant apartment. If she hadn't been so sick she would have left to find Luke immediately - medical ruling or not. But hyperspace just made her want to vomit. She rubbed her stomach fondly. "I suppose that's all your fault young Skywalker," she whispered. "I have to go back. I know he's not dead...he's waiting for me." At the back of her mind was the worry that Leia would pick up the existence of the child, but Leia was too concerned with other things regarding Luke and Mara was able to pass off her nausea as the after effects of her concussion.
Leia's office - Imperial Palace - Coruscant
Leia clutched at the edge of her desk with relief. "You think you've located him. Where?"
Han grinned at her from Tatooine, his face slightly hazy because the vid-screen on the Falcon was reacting unfavourably with some of her other modifications, his tired face suddenly older. "I got a message from Fixer Windrider at Tosche Station. He'd put out feelers for information and a Jawa who was passing with some droid parts happened to mention how his clan had found a man in the middle of the Dune Sea. Then I checked with all the medical centres in the Temperate Zone. Mos Elras' medical centre received an injured human man about three days ago suffering from broken ribs, a broken ankle and severe dehydration. He had no identification on him apart from a silver cylinder and a box of crystal data disks, which no one has been able to decipher."
"His lightsaber," his sister breathed thankfully, her eyes shining with joy. "And maybe some more Jedi records."
"He matched Luke's physical description, apart from the beard and darker hair colour, which he'd dyed for the purposes of the mission, as we know. The medic in charge of the facility, which is pretty basic by the way, was concerned about his general restlessness. They are monitoring his condition and are hoping to let him come out of his unconsciousness very soon - once they think he has been completely rehydrated. I'm hoping to be allowed in to see him, just to verify that it is Luke."
"It has to be. I knew he was still alive."
"You could let Mara and the others know."
Leia's face took on a strained expression.
"Sweetheart," Han drawled warningly. "You whisked her off planet pretty quickly. I get the feeling that if you could have her arrested on some charge or other, you would have, to stop her getting to your brother. She is his friend and must be worried about him. They were working together. Remember? Hell," Han decided a bit of plain speaking wouldn't go amiss. "They're closer than mere colleagues and you know it. This is totally unfair of you. Don't you think you've meddled enough? I thought you wanted him to be happy?"
Leia's lips tightened, but still she said nothing.
"Do you really think that it will change anything if she's kept from him? She won't be, not forever and if he finds out…." Han let his voice trail away gradually. "I'll get in touch with you as soon as I verify it's Luke."
Leia put her head in her hands. It had to be Luke. It just had to be – relief warred with her guilt. Artoo Detoo, watching from the corner of Leia's office, beeped quietly in distress. The computer had been sharing interesting snippets of information and he was about to do something about it. His master was going to become a father and Artoo reckoned he would want to see Mara Jade more than anyone. He'd been there when they'd finally stopped circling around each other. He'd been with his master as he'd fallen in love. Now he knew thanks to General Solo and the computer where his Master was being kept. Artoo gave a satisfied beep and set his own plans in motion.
Mara pushed her hand through her tumbled red-gold hair. Once she'd been back in New Republic territory, not only had they cleaned up her cuts and bruises, they'd also restored her hair to its natural living glorious shade. The 2-1B had done a thorough check on her other matter and she hugged the information to her with a kind of secret glee. This was unlike her to feel so overawed and overjoyed at the presence of a child.
Luke's baby - the wonder and miracle of it all. She'd never thought that she'd be so happy at the prospect of having a baby.
She wasn't going to tell anyone until she'd officially told the father himself. So what if he knew. That wasn't the point. He was so much in tune with the Force that he must have been aware of the baby's existence early on. She reckoned that it wasn't their first time together that she'd conceived, but the time, when she had for the finally, admitted to herself how much she needed him and that they could probably produce spectacular children. The fact that she knew nothing about children, wasn't married to the father and didn't know if she could keep the child safe had already occurred to her. Somehow it didn't seem important. She could already feel him or her through the Force, so there was also going to be the problem of raising a Force strong child. Mara trembled as a hint of panic crept through her. She wasn't ready to be a mother - was she? Suppose they didn't find Luke, suppose... 'Enough of this, Mara', she told herself sternly. 'Trust in the Force and it's time to get out of here. Deal with the hyperspace sickness.'
She jumped to her feet and ran through to the bedroom where her open carryall lay on the bed. Quickly she threw a pile of undergarments and her favourite tunic jump suits haphazardly into the case. Mara surveyed her self in the mirror, but there was no alteration in her slim shape. She twisted and the dull green filmy dress she wore flew gracefully round her figure. 'I need to get off Coruscant before I start to show. This is for Luke and I to deal with on our own.' Leia would be as mad as a Hutt. The former Chief of State had been decidedly frosty to the former Emperor's hand. 'Does she think that I'll take Luke away from her, convince him to turn to the dark side or something? He's a good man and a wise one - most of the time - when he doesn't let the 'Skywalker idealistic saving the galaxy tendencies' get too out of hand.'
She picked up her lightsaber and lit the pale blue blade. It felt good in her hand. She felt layers of time and space calling her and as if in a dream she walked out to the balcony where the lights of the planet city twinkled in front of her. A breeze caressed her fiery curls and blew across her suddenly heated cheeks. It seemed to have the breath of the desert wind. Mara reached deep within herself for the extra focus she'd discovered when they'd been on Tatooine together...the feeling that every light had been turned on and there was nothing you couldn't see. Everything was bright and shining. All was revealed in the glory of the light side of the Force.
Mara gripped her lightsaber in her hand and extended the blade. "Luke - hear me. I'm coming to you. I know you're still alive." She focused her shining green gaze on the myriad of coloured lights on the horizon. "I don't quite know how, but I'll try. No...." she smiled faintly. "Do or do not, there is no try."
She felt her words launch into hyperspace and go rocketing across the galaxy. She saw everything - all the planets - but so fast that it seemed to be surrounding her in a blaze of stars.
"Mara?" The voice in her head sounded weak and sluggish. "Mara - are you... okay?"
Thank the Force. He was alive and typically his first thought was of her. Joy rushed through her. She'd known it all along. No-one was stopping her from getting to him now.
"I'm fine farmboy. Go home and I'll see you there."
"Yes," the voice replied wearily. "I'll go home, but when I'm with you, wherever I am, I'm home."
"That goes for me too. But I think you know where I mean." She let a memory stray of a night when two bodies had melded closely and the spirits even closer.
"He's coming round," the medical droid announced with something approaching fright. This was not supposed to happen. "How can this be? Something just now triggered some reaction in his brain."
Han stood behind the transparisteel barrier as the medics buzzed round the man he now knew was definitely his brother in law. "What do you mean?"
"The diagnostic instruments just went haywire. No one was anywhere near any of the machines."
The medic ran through to Luke's room and stared incredulously at the flashing lights and jagged patterns on the monitor. "He's having a seizure?"
Han shook his head. "I think he's waking up."
The blue eyes flickered open and a hint of panic flashed over his face. Then he took a deep breath and sat up. "Mara!"
"Sir," the small human medic uttered in panic. "You must lie down. You've been injured and unconscious... Sir! I insist - You're very weak and you need fluids. You'll only make yourself ill again... Sir!"
Han pounded on the barrier. "Let me through, I'll speak to him."
Luke had managed to get to his feet and was pulling off wires and tubes which had been attached to his chest. For a man who had been found abandoned near a Jawa encampment, had been unconscious, injured and dehydrated, he didn't look too bad even with the stubborn expression which appeared on his face. His legs wavered and his eyes rolled a little in his head. The medics leapt to support him and get him back on the bed.
"No!" he rasped. The Force push the Jedi employed was weak but effective enough to make the medics back off a little and they finally let Han through. Luke gave his brother-in-law his most implacable stare and Han saw again the man who had led Rogue Squadron and vanquished a Death Star.
"Get me out of here, Han - now. If they don't release me willingly, I'll fight my way out. I swear it."
Two hours later, a solemn Luke stood waiting to leave the medical centre. Grim-faced, he watched as Han dealt with credit transfers and documentation to get him out of the building.
"Luke…" He handed Luke his lightsaber.
"Thanks, Han. Now go home." He turned and strode towards the speeder Han had been using. "I'll take you to where you can get a lift to Mos Eisley, then go home."
"That all the thanks I get for coming after you, Kid?"
Luke's face softened slightly. "Thanks old buddy. I do appreciate it, but I'm not coming with you. Not just now."
"But Leia's worried sick."
Luke started walking. "So she should be. She tried to kill me. Not directly, but the upshot would have been the same. She tried to kill what I am. She's my sister and I love her, but at the moment I need a little space before I can fully trust her again. I'm not going to turn to the dark side, but neither am I going to become a puppet for the New Republic. I don't want to sit and listen to Senators squabble among themselves. That's Leia's job, not mine. I don't want that occupation and nothing she can say or do will make me accept that position. I do not want to sit and meekly accept what the politician's decide. I want to be their conscience – the thorn in their sides. The Jedi knights worked for peace, not what ever political regime was in power. Go home and be with your family, Han. Chewie's waiting for you in Mos Eisley. Let me be here with mine."
"What about Mara Jade?" The Corellian ran to keep up with the Jedi. "Is she the 'family' you're talking about?"
"What about Mara?"
Han looked a little shamefaced. "She's on Coruscant."
Luke stopped and turned to face him. "What! She's on Coruscant?" 'But I heard her call me, as clear as if she was here.'
"You couldn't have."
"Why is she on Coruscant?"
"She got a couple of scrapes when the Monastery blew and Karrde wanted her taken to a medical facility. Leia arranged for her to go to the one on the New Republic Valorous. To cut a long story short, she got a little hysterical and I believe you were mentioned several times. That's when Leia had the Medical droid knock her out."
Luke's face went white. "She's fine... isn't she?" His hands grabbed his brother-in-law's collar tightly. "She's okay?"
Han looked startled and moved away from the Jedi's durasteel grip with difficulty. "I think so. Karrde went with her. The medical droid released her." Han was confused. "I like her, kid. She's fond of you too." Han went a little red and Luke furrowed his brow in enquiry.
"Chewie thinks... Oh this is awkward. I don't know if I'm up to telling a Jedi Master about his own lovelife." He rubbed his hand across the scar on his chin."
"Do go on," drawled Luke, a hint of sardonic amusement entering his voice. "I'm all ears, as they say."
"Who says?" Han shot back defensively.
Luke just waved his hand indicating that Han continue his thread.
"Are you two... well are you... involved?"
"You could say that."
"Is it serious?"
"I'm not free to say."
"Oho!" Han grinned. "You think so – then it is. Well, good luck, Kid. You're gonna need it." He cocked his head to one side. "Why are you so surprised she's on Coruscant?"
"She contacted me, two hours ago. I told you." Luke's voice was certain. "I heard her call to me."
"Oh - when you regained consciousness." Han's eyebrows shot up in amazement. "It was a message from Mara that made you regain consciousness?"
Han frowned. No message had been sent from Coruscant. Not by normal means and even Leia couldn't sense her brother from that far away. Not to send him a message anyway.
"It was through the Force. I know Mara could hear the Emperor's call from anywhere, but she's shown no sign of that skill since his death and certainly not with me."
Han grinned. "That's some HoloNet system you have between you."
Luke's face was serious. "Han, could you do something for me?"
"Keep Leia away from Mara for a little while and assign a couple of Noghri just to keep an eye on her. Just don't tell her. She'll be madder than a caged rancor, but I'd rather she was safe until she got off Coruscant."
"You think she needs protection, kid?"
"There are some beings back on Coruscant who have influenced Leia into thinking that I am a danger to the New Republic if I'm allowed a free reign. They have been watching Mara and I and will do anything to prevent a liaison between us. If they know that Mara and I are involved they will want to do something about it. I won't have her life put in any more danger."
"You're… still suffering from heat stroke?"
"Han," Luke shook his head and then stopped as the pain hit. "I thought you were the cynical one, not me. The Imperial and the Rebel? This is something that could symbolise peace. We want peace… you and I, but there are those who find continual war the means to amass wealth and power. It's too late to stop Mara and I becoming one person. We already are."
"When did I miss you growing up, kid?" Han asked sadly.
"I've been grown up a long time. Make sure Mara's safe, please, although I suspect asking you to assign protection for her is already too late. I can tell you this much - she's probably on her way."
Han wasn't so sure. He had the idea that Leia might keep Mara Jade on Coruscant forcibly if she had to. "Where you gonna go, Kid?"
"Home, to Ben's house... for a while anyway. When I need to return to the land of the living I will contact you. But you and Leia have work to do on your marriage."
Han blinked in shock. "Now look here, Kid," he spluttered, his voice raised angrily.
Luke stood impervious to his friend's anger. "No, you need to look. I think there is work to do. Leia has taken an awful lot for granted - especially you." The calmness of Luke's words touched something inside of Han and his shoulders slumped wearily. Luke couldn't help but notice that there was a lot more grey in Han's hair and lines around his eyes told of the strain he'd been under.
He looked up at Luke and the twinkle in his hazel eyes was gone as he finally admitted the truth. "I know. She's forgotten what it was like to really care about something. The politics have taken up too much of her time. I don't know how much longer I can go on the way we are going. I love her but she's getting too much of her own way – she's always been strong but we were equals, now I'm not so sure. With the peace treaty..."
"Peace treaty. What treaty?"
Han's jaw dropped. "Oh sithspit. I'm sorry Luke. I miss telling you the most fantastic news. We managed to sign a peace treaty with the Empire over this." He dug in his tunic. "Here."
"What is it?"
"A copy. Leia doesn't know I have it, but I always make sure."
"Thanks. Pellaeon's a good man."
"'Pellaeon's a good…'" Han stopped. "What do you mean and how do you know the Admiral?"
"I've met with him on a number of occasions quite recently," Luke dropped his bombshell and waited for Han to react.
"You've wha-a-at?" Han's face was a picture of total shock. "Does anyone know about this? Does Leia?"
Luke shook his head. "No. The meetings were between me and the Admiral only. No one else and he has his people's interests at heart."
"Yeah, but he's a soldier not a politician."
"He has learned politics as I have I but I do not want to make them into a career. Do me a favour.... If you're out and your blaster goes off in front of Fey'lya…."
"Not a very Jedi Master like sentiment. Isn't that touching a little too near the dark side?"
"I never said I was perfect," Luke growled. "And as for my sister....kidnapping and Dathomir are always options. You need to assert your independence. The Han Solo I first met would never have…"
A wry smile touched Han's face. "What a sneaky little mind you have, Luke. I would never do a thing like that but you are right about Leia and me. I've let her get away with too much."
"Clear skies, Han. I'll be in touch."
"Yeah, I know. Take care of yourself, Kid. You sure you're up to getting out of here?"
Luke relaxed a little and finally smiled. "I'll heal myself at home. Remember, there's a suite of rooms kept for you on Yavin. Use them if you want to."
Coruscant – Mara's apartment
Mara sighed. Finally she knew that he was all right, but the authorities were still not allowing her to leave the planet. "I've had enough, kid," she told her stomach. "We're going to see your father and we're not waiting any longer. I still know one or two tricks."
There was a buzz at the door. Mara stretched out with the Force to see who it was but couldn't sense any identity. Strange. But the door buzzed again. 'Could it be Leia?' Mara asked herself, but decided that Leia's shielding techniques weren't good enough and Luke's sister was avoiding her. Only Luke could hide himself so effectively and she knew it wasn't him. Pulling her blaster from its hidden holster on her wrist she carefully slid the door open and aimed directly at... R2D2.
With a panicked stream of gibberish the little droid rocked on its wheels and frantically rotated its little domed head. Mara returned the blaster to its wrist holster and could only watch as Artoo shot through her open door letting out a stream of data.
The agitated droid went round in circles a couple of times before Mara could make head or tail of what he was going on about.
"Artoo - slow down. I'm sorry I don't understand you, but if you plug yourself in over there I can get a translation."
Artoo uttered a thankful dweep and attached himself to the terminal. Curious Mara wandered over beside him and ran her hand gently over his domed head. "They took you with them too, huh. But how did you get to my apartment?"
Artoo twittered happily.
"You... broke... out of Leia's office. I see - no restraining bolt. Oh boy, I'm going to get it now. They're never going to believe that you came here on your own." She sank down upon the sofa her mind whirling. "Why did you come, Artoo?"
A stream of data began appearing on her monitor. "Master Luke would have wanted it." Mara rubbed her hand across her eyes as the droid tooted to confirm her words. "I've been kept here, on the recommendations of the New Republic Inner Council. If I leave my apartment I'm being followed." She turned away for a second, fury sparking in her eyes. "Okay, Artoo, tell me more. Luke has been found… I knew that," she exclaimed irritably. "I can feel him..." She tapped the side of her head. "In here and in here." Mara tapped the area where her heart was located. "And I'm having a baby!" She glared at the astromech. "I know that…" She paled. "No one else does, right?"
Artoo interrupted her with indignant beeping.
"Oh," Mara said softly. "You wanted to tell me how pleased you are that Master Luke is to have a smaller unit and no one else apart from my doctor knows of the baby."
Artoo gave a happy toot and then tootled a new sentence.
"You can get me off planet. It would be difficult for me to do it on my own. They're having me watched?" Her eyes narrowed. "Sithspit!" They were, were they? She should have expected that.
Artoo whirled his domed head and spewed more electronic gibberish.
Mara chuckled wickedly. "I forgot, Artoo, you have done things on your own. Remind me to tell Luke never to give you a memory wipe. You want to go see Luke? Well, so do I." She bent down and kissed the top of Artoo's head. "Can you get the Jade's Fire cleared for take off?"
The droid blatted a pithy retort.
Red-gold eyebrows rose sharply. "I'm surprised Luke lets you off with language like that. Do you need to tell Threepio? I guess you're right. He would tell someone. Threepio is not gifted in deception." Mara moved through to her bedroom and finished packing her bags. "One more thing, Artoo. Can you contact Karrde? They must be jamming all of my contacts. I'll give you his secure com frequency. Only I have that. No one in New Republic intelligence should know I'm contacting him especially if you do it. You coming? Thought you might want to make sure I do what I'm told. But one thing – just in case I'm still being watched – let's go the back way."
Millennium Falcon - somewhere in space
Han wiped all the expression from his face as he sat in front of the vid-screen. Chewbacca barked behind him.
"I know you're not happy about this, pal, but this is between my wife and me. It should have happened a long time ago. Luke was right. I've let her get away with too much. Punch in the co-ordinates. I do have some good news for her. I'll tell her just what she needs to know."
"I'll leave you." Chewie said and left to do some work in the cargo bay.
Han took a deep breath and waited until the fuzzy picture resolved itself into the still attractive features of his wife. "Leia, sweetheart."
"Oh, Han!" Leia still looked distraught. Not hearing from her brother was tearing at her spirit. They'd been apart before but never like this - without knowledge. Han suspected that part of her distress was caused by her own guilt.
"He's okay, Leia. I found him."
"The man picked up in the Dune Sea?"
"That was Luke. He was in a pretty bad way but the medical centre in Mos Espa did what they could for him. He's pretty stubborn as you know. We're coming home. How about we meet you on Yavin? I would like to see the kids. Treaty all signed and sealed? They're not needing you for anymore meetings?"
Leia shook her head. "Not right now – no."
"Well, how about it? We need to talk and according to Winter, you do have a few days owing to you. After all, you never finished the training course Luke set up for you. I think it would be good if you did."
A few minutes later, Han switched off the link and contemplated how he would spend time on Yavin. Winter was a great one for getting on your side, especially as she wanted time to spend with Tycho.
Luke's Home on the edge of the Dune Sea
Luke entered the house and collapsed wearily into one of his form fitting chairs. He shouldn't have left the medical centre, but he wanted so much to be in his own home. The drive from Mos Espa to Mos Eisley had been purgatory. Barely healed and with Han having his own demons to face it had been an uncomfortable trip for both men. He'd watched as the Falcon blasted out of the Mos Eisley spaceport and then had spent a week in a healing trance in one of the underground motels. Closing his eyes, he let his sense of peace in the Force surround him. Outside the sunlight, hot and bright, blazed down upon the golden sands, rocky mesas and sheer cliffs. Some thought that Tatooine shrivelled all life, but he knew better. He would never stay away for so long again. It would retain a special place in his heart...the heart that had returned to life because of the love of a beautiful green-eyed woman.
Luke knew he had a link with this dry, inhospitable place that few would understand. But to him it was beautiful. He knew that Mara had grown to love its strange beauty too.
Inside, the house was cool and quiet. Chewie had finished the interiors and now several walls divided the kitchen from the solar lounge and the two bedrooms. It was still small, but it was home. The only thing that was missing was Mara. He gave a tired grin. If he knew Mara at all, she'd be fighting her way off Coruscant to be with him. How he missed her.
Luke moved stiffly to the 'fresher', shedding his clothes as he went, then gazed at his face in the reflector. Pulling out his shaver he removed the beard before heading to the shower and washing the dye from his hair and the tension from his bones. Why did he always end up with aching bones and the sickly taste of bacta in his mouth at the end of a mission? He gave a small mirthless smile and moved, limping, to the bedroom. Crawling naked into the bed he let the cool sheets cover his throbbing body and slipped dreamlessly into desperately needed healing sleep.
The suns drifted downwards, streaking the sky with varying vivid shades of reds, pinks and golds. Mara flicked a switch to increase the speed of the vehicle she'd hired to get her to the isolated location that first Ben Kenobi, and now Luke, had adopted as a haven.
"I'm glad you came with me Artoo. I know I had the co-ordinates but it's much easier with company. I'm just glad he's still alive. I don't know what kind of shape he's in - probably not too good, but at least he's alive. How could I ever have guessed I would need him so much?"
Artoo warbled something sympathetic as Mara piloted the speeder through the canyon until she came to the perimeter force field. Artoo directed a stream of electronic data towards it and the field dropped just long enough for them to drive through.
"Clever," Mara admired. "Chewbacca's been playing about with it?"
Artoo beeped an assent.
Once more she grabbed a glow rod from the back of the speeder and climbed the stairs, carefully levitating Artoo with her as she did so. This showed a new confidence in her ability in the Force. Luke had been correct - Mara Jade had always craved true completeness in the Force. Deep down she'd known that the Emperor was denying her, her true birthright. 'Maybe I'll never know where I came from and who my parents were, but at least I will know the path I'll be following and with whom.'
Mara held up her glow rod as she reached the lower level of the house. The water storage tanks hummed and she spotted a new power generator ready to be installed at some point. But her intention was to find Luke, so telling Artoo to be quiet, she climbed the last few stairs and emerged into the dark upper floor.
The main living area was empty, but she knew he was here because she could feel his presence clearly. She'd felt it all across the galaxy calling to her. He'd seemed so down and Mara knew he'd been worried sick about her. 'I've just been sick,' she noted ruefully. Mara put down her case and pulled the hood from her hair. Free and restored to its natural colour of a Tatooine sunset, it rippled over her shoulders, curling down to her waist like a sea of living fire. At her waist her lightsaber hung proudly. She was a Jedi.
Looking down she spotted the trail of clothes and followed, gathering them up until she reached the bedroom. There the Jedi Master lay, vulnerable in sleep, muttering to himself.
"Oh Luke," she whispered as she extinguished the light. Mara pulled off her own clothes and silently slipped in beside him. Immediately he quietened as skin met skin and he drew her towards him. His arms enfolded her into his embrace and unconsciously he kissed her forehead. Feeling as if she'd at last found her place in the universe, curving herself into her lover's side, Mara closed her eyes and joined him in sleep.
Luke awoke to the feeling that he was not alone and the welcome presence of a slim arm around his waist. 'Mara'. For a moment he lay confused, his naked body reacting to the very female body, equally unclothed, next to his own. 'How and when?' In the end it didn't matter, she was here with him where she belonged. He picked up a lock of hair, which lay across his shoulder and buried his nose in its scent. Her skin was so soft and he trailed a careful finger over her midriff.
He felt her waken, instantly moving from sleep to full awareness. He moved onto his side and kissed her soft lips gently. It wasn't enough - not when he'd missed her so. Luke moved over her and covered her body with his own, his instantly reacting to her closeness. "Welcome home, I've missed you." He closed his eyes and laid his head next to hers. "You can't know how much."
"Of course I know. I know everything about you, farmboy. I know it in here," she tapped her head. "And in here." She took Luke's hand and put it over her heart. "Plus..." Mara let her voice fade a little as a wicked twinkle sparked in her eyes. "I can feel it... elsewhere." Her fingers easily found his erection. His fingers found her rosy nipple and brought it to a peak as Mara arched her back at the sensations running through her body. He kissed her again; hot open-mouthed kisses. His tongue stroked hers familiarly and convincingly so she allowed him entrance. He moved to the side of her neck, his breath hot in her ear, his hands caressing her breast and trailing slowly across her sensitive skin.
"Soft... So soft," he moaned. Mara tipped her head back and closed her eyes as he consumed her.
Mara bit her lip to stifle her cry of pleasure.
"The desert's a big place. You can 'express' yourself if you want. There's only me to hear."
Mara opened her eyes in shock and stared at Luke. This was not typical Jedi Master behaviour.
"In your arms I'm not the Master, but you could be the mistress."
"Luke!" She tried to act horrified but he'd bent his blond head and had moved his mouth over her right nipple, teasing and tormenting her until she quivered helplessly with wanting him." A faint flush covered his features. He couldn't believe he'd been so bold with her, but he was everything to her and she to him.
Liquid heat pooled between her legs as his hips thrust into hers, defined and taut. Her hands moved over the sculpted muscles of his chest and round to his smooth back. "Please..." she begged rawly and with a cry he completed their joining.
Setting a powerful familiar rhythm the lovers gasped and panted their way to an incandescent finale. Hands touched, fevered senses swirled, bodies danced. They were tender, aggressive and gentle, desperate and sensual. Their awareness was only of each other and the primeval need to just 'feel' again. Emotionally they'd been cut off for so long. Luke finally climaxed as a blaze of white-hot stars exploded behind his eyelids.
He rolled on to his back bringing Mara with him her head pillowed on his shoulder. "I can't believe that just happened," he murmured huskily. "I'm not even sure you're real, Jade"
"I'm real, farmboy," she returned caustically, but the words came out breathy. Mara twisted to face him and kissed a flat male nipple. Let me show you how real I am." Then she bent forward and bit his ear hard. "That's for nearly getting yourself killed - again."
With a sigh, he took her in his arms and again they joined together with the rapture that they had found with no other.
"I just have to touch you and it happens again," Luke whispered with amazement. "Why after all these years do we have this connection that I've never experienced? Why us and why now?"
"It was time," Mara put in huskily. "Perhaps we've always had something. But I'm very stubborn and you had a mission to rebuild the Jedi. Nothing could stand in the way of that. I wish we could have seen it sooner, but we have to move forward. Luke, can we talk?" Mara asked a little hesitantly.
"Isn't that what we're doing?" he asked whimsically. "The talking thing as opposed to the kissing thing?" He scooted under the blanket and kissed his way up a pouting breast.
"We have time later to make love." Mara grabbed him by the hair.
"Ouch! The blue eyes looked a little hurt and Mara kissed him by way of an apology. But because they had been apart their mouths clung until Mara's practicality reared its head.
"I need to know you are all right. When I couldn't feel you any more, I..." she broke off, her eyes dark and troubled.
"You are with me Mara. How could things not be right in my universe?"
She closed her eyes and a tear trickled its way down a petal smooth cheek. "They wanted rid of us, Luke. For trying to do the right thing."
"Yes, but in the end the right thing happened anyway. There is a peace treaty now between the New Republic and the Empire that can only be good. There's been too much fighting. There will still be trouble out there, but we can surely have a little time to ourselves...?"
"What about Leia, Luke? She's not happy at me and will be even less so when she realises I sneaked out of Coruscant without permission. She may even demand my arrest."
""What for? You haven't done anything."
"She didn't really want you killed. She didn't realise that could happen until late on."
"No, of course she didn't. But she hadn't thought about the people she was dealing with and walked into the trap with her eyes open. She will have to accept us and our relationship. It's partly jealousy I think. She's always been the most important woman in my life but that has changed and she has to learn to take second place to you. She will always be important to me. We're twins with a bond in the Force, but I suspect it's not half as strong as the one you and I now share. I'm not letting you go, especially now."
Mara leant over Luke and kissed him lingeringly. "Why not now?"
"Since I've got you into a certain condition..." his blue eyes twinkled with pride and Mara sighed with exasperation.
"I wondered when that was going to come up. I didn't realise you'd actually manage to get me into that state."
"Hey!" He looked aggrieved as if she'd just insulted his manhood.
"I wasn't casting doubts on your virility, Skywalker. That's obviously not in question. It's just..." She sighed.
"You are pleased?" he questioned worriedly.
"I suppose I am. I just couldn't believe that you knew before I did and didn't tell me. Now that is simply not fair. It's my body, why..."
Luke kissed her to stop the tirade before it even started. "I knew you were different. Your signature in the Force to me, changed. I felt the layers shifting and suddenly I knew. I didn't tell you then because you were worrying about me and I needed you to remain focused on getting out. I did drop some hints, but I don't think you registered that I might be talking about something that had actually happened, not something I wished might happen. I'm proud of you and thrilled about the baby, as long as you are too?" His face took on the anxious expression.
"I wasn't sure at first. I pushed it to the far point of my mind. I think I wanted to see you first. Only then would I really know. But after Tycho and Wedge pulled me out from under a collapsed wall, I was frantic that I could have lost your baby - our baby."
You were under a wall?" Luke's sense in the Force darkened ominously. "You shouldn't have been in there."
"Now Luke, I'm not going to change my life..."
"But!" He protested trying to sit up, but Mara kissed him very sweetly and used some calming techniques to ease his mind.
"You're a devious woman, Jade."
"What can I say? I was taught by the best."
Luke pushed back the cover and jumped out of bed. Naked, he moved across to the refresher and disappeared inside. Mara couldn't believe the bruises and marks still on his skin. "Luke, when did you get out of hospital?" It was Mara's turn to darken her tone. She arose from the bed and stood watching as he cleansed his body. "Or perhaps I should ask if they let you out or did you walk out?"
"Coming to join me?"
"I don't think so. So I don't have to ask. You walked out. I'm mad at you. What kind of example is that to set to your child? Well?"
Luke stood under the running water, and tried to cover the marks of his ordeal.
"You sound like a nagging wi..."
Mara finally moved into the shower stall with him. "Please Luke. Tell me. I'd only worry more, then I might have to kill you for making me worry." He switched off the water and climbed out. Mara wrapped a towel around him and drew him back into the sleeping chamber. "Come on farmboy, tell me now."
So, in halting tones, he told her how near to death he'd been and she held him close, her own face white. They'd been very lucky.
"When you called me from Coruscant it woke me up from a sedated sleep in the Mos Elras medicentre. It gave the medics there quite a shock."
"I bet it did. Now you need to get some more rest, farmboy." Then Mara made him lie down, covered him with the blanket and watched as he slept.
Camie put the finishing touches to the meal she had prepared and watched as her husband sat down in his usual place by the bar. "You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Where's that boy?"
"I think he's in the workshop. Luke was showing him how to modify an R4 droid.
"I meant Luke, not Marn. He should be getting ready. I'll go see."
"Now Fixer, don't be hard on him. He is getting married today."
"I won't. But my son can create enough trouble in my workshop without Skywalker encouraging him."
Camie smoothed her hair into the hairstyle she'd spent longer than usual perfecting. Anni and even Marn had been impressed. "You look like a Princess, Mama," he'd said and Fixer had given her a look that had her blushing. He'd not stared at her in that way for years.
"You ready, Mara?" she called as she tapped at the bedroom door.
"I don't know." It was almost a wail, which made Camie smile slightly to herself. Mara Jade must be getting bridal jitters if she was at the wailing stage. The sight that greeted Camie's eyes was that of a beautiful composed young woman in a dull green filmy dress that floated round her still slim form. Mara had confessed quietly about the baby and Camie had been passing along little pieces of advice, which had reassured the Jedi enormously.
Camie placed a sheer piece of fabric attached to a glittering crystal headband on the red gold curls.
"I was going to put my hair up, but Luke prefers it this way," she blushed and Camie smiled. This softer, more human Mara Jade was not nearly so intimidating.
"Flowers are not an option here. The hydroponics bays are too taken up with food production. Only the very wealthy have real flowers."
"Yes, I know. Luke explained that to me. But then he produced this crystal headband." Mara shook her head at the foolishness of the man she was marrying.
"There's a lot of sand on this planet. It's used to make quality products." Camie gave Mara a level stare. "Do Han and Leia know that you and Luke are marrying today?"
Mara looked a little troubled. "We wanted to have them here, but we felt Luke and Leia need space for the trust to return. There some issues that they need to clear – they still haven't spoken since Luke left Coruscant all those months ago. We will have a Jedi bonding ceremony on Coruscant or Yavin and they can come to that. Han will understand even if Leia will not. This is the civil or legal part of the ceremony which has to be done. We are both so grateful that you have allowed us to have it here. It means a lot to Luke. Luke will send a message once the deed is done. Artoo is primed to record parts of the ceremony, which thankfully, is very short. Luke's got this thing about his child being born legally and all that. He's got this noble streak several parsecs wide that you wouldn't believe."
"Oh, I would believe," said Camie.
She smoothed the delicate fabric of the dress. "He likes this dress, says it's a colour only I can wear." She inspected herself carefully. "I think it is a good thing Luke and I are getting married today. Another week and I won't fit into this dress."
"You're not showing much at all," Camie soothed. "When I was expecting Marn I was as fat as a Hutt."
Mara grimaced. "I'm not looking forward to that part."
"Luke will love you whatever shape or size you are," Camie asserted.
Mara laughed at Luke's strange ideas then turned to the older woman, her expression serious. "I'm sorry about Arnek. He was a good man."
Camie nodded, too upset over the death of their friend to speak, but she understood it had been his choice to go.
"He knew the risks. He'll be watching you from somewhere." Mara touched Camie's hand briefly. She still wasn't comfortable with intimacy, apart from with Luke and she tried not to dwell on the intimacies he'd taken with her body last night. She still felt warm thinking about it.
"Acting Prefect Venner will be taking the ceremony." Camie stopped and waited for Mara's reaction.
"You have got to be serious?"
"No, he's due to leave soon for a job nearer the core worlds, but Luke asked him and he agreed. He has the authority. If Admiral Pellaeon hadn't had to leave to deal with all the peace treaty stuff Luke would have asked him."
"Now you're being ridiculous…"
Camie chuckled. "I got that piece of information from your future husband himself. I'm sure your Jedi ceremony will be much more meaningful for the both of you. But Luke, would you believe it, is still a registered citizen of this world and can easily fill in a bit of paper to fulfil the part of the ceremony that the law requires.
"I think he can write." Mara muttered darkly.
"He wants to be married and quickly."
Mara laughed. "Didn't you tell Leia how young, impetuous and reckless he used to be?"
"He's not changed much."
Han wondered what in space was going on when the priority message arrived at the Solo apartment.
"It's from Luke," whispered Leia, hope in her voice.
All contact between the twins had ground to a halt since Han had returned from Coruscant without the Jedi Master. "But you said 'we were coming home'," she'd cried furiously at him.
"I meant Chewie and I," her husband had replied stiffly. "Luke didn't want to come."
Then Leia had discovered that Mara Jade had disappeared from Coruscant as if by magic. Holocam footage had shown Luke's droid Artoo to be the accomplice in her escape. Leia hadn't been furious, just resigned. Han and Chewie had told her again and again that the two were lovers. She'd known it to be true but didn't want to accept it. Finally she had to. She didn't like it but she had no choice.
"Artoo broke out of my office and arranged for Mara Jade to get off of Coruscant. Even Karrde didn't know until after she'd gone. There was nothing we could do to stop her."
"She wanted to get to Luke, what right did you have to try and keep her here?" Han had been incensed at his wife's behaviour. "She loves him."
"How do you know?" Leia had cried.
"I just do. Artoo wouldn't have helped her otherwise. She's gone to him and taken Artoo with her." Han had walked to the viewport and stared out at Coruscant's teeming traffic. "You can tell your cronies on the inner council to leave them alone or they'll have me to deal with."
At first the inner council had thought the Jedi Master dead and certain factions trod carefully around the Coruscant halls of power. They had thought that they could control Luke Skywalker. Leia had persisted in her belief that her brother was still alive until Han had finally brought proof.
Leia's voice trembled. "What does he say?"
"It's a recorded message." Han flicked the switch and Luke's serious blue eyes faced them.
"He's still not ready to forgive me."
"Luke forgave you long ago, sweetheart. He's not ready to face you yet. He forgives you but he doesn't trust you and I don't blame him. It will be a long time before he's willing to return to Coruscant."
Luke's voice was steady. "I know this will be hard for you to hear this way, but I hope you will understand and forgive me. Mara and I completed the legal part of our marriage ceremony on Tatooine today."
Leia's eyes filled with horrified tears, but Han gave a relieved grin. The picture changed and showed Luke and Mara signing the official register and patiently submitting to retinal scans. Luke in his best Jedi blacks kissed his new bride and Mara clung to him, her filmy sea-green dress floating around her slim figure, while Han made out the familiar figures of Jarl Venner, Fixer, Camie and their children applauding in the background.
Luke's face again appeared. "We want to have a Jedi ceremony when we return - either on Yavin or Coruscant, but Mara and I are expecting our first child and I would like the child to be born legally." A grin threatened to escape and Han could see the proud prospective father expression.
Leia's mouth opened in shock. "A child," she whispered. A lot of Mara's behaviour on the Valorous suddenly becoming clear. Guilt surfaced at the way she'd treated the red-haired trader. Mara had been frightened for Luke and the baby and all Leia had been thinking about was herself. "What have I done?"
"Hey, I'm going to be an uncle," Han grinned.
Luke's voice continued. "She's feeling a bit sick, quite a lot sick actually at the moment. It doesn't help her temperament… shall we say. But we're both thrilled about the baby. We're going to be a real family."
Han looked at his wife as he paused the recording. "Mara Jade and mood swings? Oh boy."
Leia almost smiled as the idea sank in. Her brother - a father?
"Hey, I'll be an Uncle," Han repeated. "You'll be 'Aunt Leia'."
"I'm pleased for them," Leia said quietly as Han restarted the message. "Luke will be a wonderful father."
"Mara will be no slouch as a mother, either. Blaster in one hand, kid in the other."
"I'm sorry it had to be this way, but things will calm down in time." Luke gave the holocams a wise smile. "Mara is at this very moment recording a similar message to Karrde, but he has been more accepting of our relationship than you have, Leia. I love you both and the kids very much and will see you soon. Please forgive us for doing this but I did not want anyone to have the power to separate us again. We belong together and we love each other very much. Luke and Mara Skywalker out."
The picture changed to show the newly married couple being congratulated by the wedding guests. What Leia hadn't expected to see was the wonder in Mara's face as she gazed at her husband. The cynical shell she wore had thinned and there was another woman peering through.
Leia turned to Han and he pulled her into his arms. "It's for the best, Leia. Luke wasn't ready to see you and you still have issues with Mara."
"I thought I was fine with their friendship until there were rumours of a deeper relationship. Certain people suggested it was bad for Luke and the New Republic and it had to be stopped. She was a close associate of the Emperor, she couldn't have changed that much – it reflected badly on Luke. But I was wrong, wasn't I?"
"I think so, but you're not wrong often, sweetheart. I've never seen him so content."
"I was jealous and I forgot how much I have in my life that he did not."
"He still has us, but now he has more."
Han and Leia had spent a long time talking after he'd returned to Coruscant and things had improved greatly between them. The love had never been in question - only the trust.
"Come on Highnessness. I suggest tomorrow we tell the kids and record a message to send to Luke and Mara. They'll be thrilled at the news of a baby cousin."
From somewhere Leia found the strength to smile and curved her arm around her husband. "Good idea, flyboy. They'll be delighted."
"It will start our healing process." Han said with a bittersweet smile.
"I married a wise man," Leia murmured gently. Her brother did look happy and Mara had the appearance of a woman in love. The relationship between her brother and his strong willed wife would be tempestuous but Luke had the power and perseverance to make it work. She smiled at Han. "Yes, tomorrow we can send them our congratulations.
Luke and Mara's home, Tatooine
Luke wrapped his arms around his wife and carried her to bed. "I think pregnancy is finally starting to affect your vital statistics, Mrs. Skywalker."
"Oh you think so, do you?"
Luke inspected her chest, his blue eyes glinting and Mara felt her breasts swell and respond to his heated gaze.
"They certainly feel different, but..."
"There's a certain part of me that is having the same problem," he told her, his blue eyes momentarily serious.
Mara placed her hand round the affected appendage and stroked gently. "I think I know a way to deal with that," she murmured consideringly.
"Go ahead," he gasped. "I'm in your hands, so to speak."
Luke placed his wife on the bed and covered her naked body quickly with his own. "Have I told you recently, Mrs. Skywalker, how much I love you?"
"No, Mr. Skywalker, I can't say that you have. But all will be forgiven if you show me."
"I love you, Mara," he whispered.
"I know." She replied as they joined together once more, secure in their love for one another and through the force. All was secure in the little house and the sands shifted and whispered as the lovers joined. Life was good.