The Wedding of Luke Skywalker

Chapter 1

By Ash Darklighter

Disclaimer: The characters and situations used in this story are the property of George Lucas and Lucasfilm Ltd. I am only using them for some entertainment and will not even make one republican credit from this endeavour. My thanks to the girls as usual, for reading and correcting.

Coruscant

The office should have been a haven of peace done in cream and other such restful tones, but the emotions that were running rampant within the two occupants completely negated the entire effect. The large transparisteel windows framed a stunning view of Coruscant itself – the city planet at the heart of the galaxy. But the man whose troubled blue eyes stared out at the teeming traffic passing in steady ordered lanes saw, and appreciated, none of it. He had to tell her. She was his Force sensitive twin and she knew something had upset his normally balanced equilibrium. She knew him too well.

Leia Organa-Solo waited for her brother to speak. She could tell that he had some difficulty forming the exact words. He wasn't a natural orator but could be quite eloquent when he needed to be. This time, when it mattered, the words were not flowing from his lips with ease. She clasped her hands together stopping them from shaking. What was it? He was greatly disturbed about something. Oh, he had tried to stop her learning about his troubled thoughts, but it was a futile effort. His anxiety leaked around his shields and spilled into the air, contaminating the pleasant room with worry.

"I'm getting married," Luke told his sister steadily, not meeting her eyes.

"You are?" Leia's face portrayed her total shock, her mouth opening and closing a few times without any sound emerging. Finally she managed a surprised squeak. She had not expected this.

Luke hesitated. "Ah… Leia…"

Her first thought was to enthuse. She jumped to her feet and began to move around her desk towards him. "Oh, Luke! That's wonderful… When… how… I mean, it is wonderful, isn't it?"

"Is it?" His voice was harsh. "You tell me."

The tone of his voice stopped her impulsive move towards him and she uncertainly hovered, caught undecided whether to step forward to hug him or back to her seat. Something was wrong. Leia sank back into her nerf hide chair as reality intruded. "Luke? It should be wonderful," she said, trying to gauge what her brother was thinking from the back of his head. "Who is she, this woman who is brave enough to take on the galaxy's most eligible bachelor?"

The attempt at a humorous comment fell flat.

Luke continued to stare out of the viewport. "Well…" he drawled bitterly then lapsed into silence.

Leia's mind continued to process the information. Her brother had just announced he was getting married and she hadn't suspected a thing. If they'd been estranged she might have understood not being involved before but she and Luke were close. There wasn't a week went by that they didn't contact each other, no matter where they were. He kept very little from her and certainly never something of this magnitude. "You've never told me before that you had found someone. Why didn't you tell me you were involved in a relationship?" She stopped, confused at his continued reticence and now his pained silence.

Leia assessed her brother, dressed in his usual black Jedi uniform. He didn't look like someone who was getting married – at least not willingly. The demeanour of the happy bridegroom was missing and the gnawing feeling in her stomach intensified. "You don't think we'll approve of her? There's a problem," she stated with certainty. "Luke…" Leia held out her hands in distress as always reacting to her brother's emotional state. "Don't you trust me?" Her voice conveyed to him her shock and her disappointment that he had kept something so important from her.

"Of course I trust you. More than anyone but…" Luke's face was pale and his voice emerged as if he were hoarse. He knew this felt like a betrayal to his sister. He couldn't totally explain it himself. "I didn't know," he whispered. "I only just found out." Once again the direction his life had to take had been chosen for him. Once again he had to tamely sit and take whatever destiny was dished out in his direction. He had chosen to follow the way of the Force but this time it felt like a betrayal to him too. Choice was for other people. As Han would say, 'Destiny sucked, big time.'

"What?" Leia's voice was incredulous.  She peered at him closely, only noticing the general air of weariness that clung to her brother's body.

"I didn't know that I was to get married." He refused to meet her gaze.

"You didn't know," she echoed and half rose from her seated position. "I think I'm missing something here. I don't understand."

"Neither do I."

Leia sat back in her seat hard and from somewhere tried to summon an encouraging smile. She had the feeling that she failed in that endeavour. "So who is your bride-to-be and how long have you been together?"

Luke gave an uncomfortable cough. "We're not together… yet. We're not even… seeing each other."

"You mean she doesn't know? You haven't asked her yet?" Leia muttered faintly and her attempt at a smile faded before it had begun.

"We're not seeing each other. I've never even asked her for a… date," he finished quietly.

Leia found that again she was opening and closing her mouth without a single sound emerging. Giving her head a shake, Leia took a deep breath. "This is worse than I had expected. You are going to marry some stranger?"

"She won't be a stranger" he said.

"That's something I suppose. When it comes to the wedding night at least you'll know what she looks like because she 'won't be a stranger'."

"Now, Leia…" his voice rose.

"Don't you 'now Leia!' me, Luke Skywalker."

"I'm getting married," he repeated stubbornly. "And there's nothing I can do about it."

"Of course there is," Leia argued. "You have your own free will. No one can force you into this…"

"That's just it – they or rather it, will. You've used the correct word."

"And how…" Her eyes closed in resignation. "Of course. Forget I asked," she muttered. "The Force told you."

Luke nodded solemnly. "The Force told me."

"So who is it?" she demanded. "Can you tell me that much? Do you even know?"

"Yes," Luke mumbled. "I know who it is. But I can't tell you."

"Does she know?"

Luke shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. I don't think so."

"Does she have the Force?"

"That would be telling." Luke dropped his head and examined the pristine carpeting on which he stood.

"So the Force says 'get married' and you jump."

"That's about it, yes," her brother replied awkwardly, shifting from one dusty black booted foot to the other. "I don't know if she will laugh in my face and call me a lunatic or accept the offer of marriage."

"Luke!" Leia wailed. "I feel I'm going round in circles,"

"Do you think I like it any more than you do?" Luke started to pace around his sister's office with quick impatient strides. "I don't."

"Why can't you tell me?" Leia asked. "Why even say that you're getting married? Why tell me this much and then leave me totally in the dark?"

Luke stopped pacing and threw her a look over his shoulder, his blue eyes haunted. "I haven't spoken to the lady about this yet – at all. I thought it would be best if she knew before I shared it with anyone else." He turned to face her, his hands open. "I told you because you already know that something is wrong. You won't leave me to work through this in peace. I can't tell you everything but I need your support."

"I'm your sister and I love you. Of course I'll let you work through this in peace."

He smiled lovingly at her, begging her forgiveness but shook his head. "You won't, you know. I love you too, but I can't see you leaving things well alone. I'm sorry, Leia. I know you are always thinking of my well-being and believe me when I say that I'm glad someone cares for me as much as you do, but this is not something that can be solved with an official function and a few words from a trained diplomat."

"Luke that's not fair!  I have never treated you as one of my government ministers.  You are my brother and I am concerned..."

Luke's smile disappeared. "I'm sorry, I just meant that this is my life and I need to be able to do this without interference. No offence meant."

"I see… I think. Have you told Han about… this?" Leia felt the beginning of a headache at her temples and it was going to be a big one. She was not even aware that she had begun to press her finger against her throbbing temple.

"I came to see you first."

"Thanks," she said dryly, dropping her hand when she caught Luke looking at the telltale sign of agitation. "Let's just go over this again. You are not currently involved in a romantic relationship with anyone?"

Luke shook his head. "No, I'm not."

"And the Force said you are getting married to this person?"

Luke nodded. "Yes."

"You had no knowledge or even suspected anything like this might happen?"

Luke shook his head. "I had no idea."

"And you can't tell me who my future sister-in-law is going to be."

"You have to understand, Leia. It wouldn't be fair. The Force…" Luke stopped for a moment, as if he couldn't believe that the Force was telling him such things. "The Force indicated to me that this was to happen. Suppose it doesn't work out – the future is always in motion after all. Maybe I'm wrong - it could be another test. Hell, she might refuse to have anything to do with me after I tell her that we're getting married - completely out of the blue." Luke's tone turned darkly sardonic.

Leia sighed. "Okay, okay," she soothed. "Whatever you decide to do, Luke, I'll be there for you. I don't like it but I understand your feelings."

Her brother ran his fingers through tousled hair that looked as if his fingers had been raking through it for hours. "I don't know if you do understand them, because I don't understand my feelings. I'd given up on love and marriage long ago, Leia. I decided it wasn't for me or perhaps to be accurate, I wasn't for it."

This admission from her brother confirmed what she had suspected and tore at her heart. "I know," she whispered, her brown eyes full of compassion. "I hoped I was wrong, but the way you've acted recently…"

"I loved Callista and when she left I thought I would never love again. My love would be given to the Force; my passion would be finding and training new Jedi."

Leia had to ask. "Do you still love Callista?"

Luke turned blue eyes full of shadows and pain towards his sister. "No, I don't and I haven't for years. If she walked back into my life tomorrow I would be glad she was alive and then I'd tell her to go away again."

"That's sounds harsh."

"I didn't mean it quite like that." He pushed his hands through his hair again. "If she had returned because she still loved me, I would have to be honest and tell her that I didn't love her anymore. If that is harsh, what would be worse? Pretending that I did, stringing her along?"

"No, Luke," Leia said calmly.

"I grew out of love with Callista a long time ago. I can't even remember the day I woke up and didn't think about her with my first breath of the morning, but I did – it happened. I would have to tell her she had no place in my life any more. Dammit, Leia! She went away and left me. What was I supposed to do?"

So the mystery woman wasn't Callista. That was something, Leia supposed. She wasn't sure why, but that knowledge relieved her. She'd suspected he'd finally gotten over Callista's departure a long time ago and was only guarding his fragile heart from more pain.

"I wanted someone to love so badly until I realised it wasn't to be. I've been so lonely. Finding new Jedi doesn't fill the complete void I feel inside me and it should. I have much to be thankful for."

"Perhaps the Force has recognised this and is telling you to live again, Luke," Leia said calmly.

"Maybe… I don't know. I'm scared to live again."

"This, from the man who risks his life every time he sets off on a mission? Or is that it? Would you rather face death than take the risk of truly living? Oh, Luke!"

Luke was quiet for a moment, considering her words.  He shook his head. "Part of me wants this very badly but I wanted to make my own choice." He hesitated and Leia could see the hurt in his expressive face, his beautiful blue eyes almost grey with fatigue. "I had thought there was someone I could… If I ever decided to love again – it would be her. But… it's going to be very difficult now."

Leia filed away Luke's inadvertent admission to be reflected upon later. He'd actually had someone in mind and then the Force had done this to him? "This woman…"

Luke gave a tired and cynical smile. "I'm not telling you anything more, Leia. You are far too astute and will have the prospective victim lined up before I can get near her. I've already said far too much." He gave Leia a world weary smile. The smile, she realised she saw most often these days. Gone was the carefree grin he'd used to flash at her when he'd been a farmboy turned rebel pilot.

"The Force has directed my steps onto this path. I have to see where it takes me. I just don't know if I can take this task – if I'm strong enough. If I fail… I don't know if I can recover again."

"If the Force has guided you to this point…"

"But Leia, why now and why to this particular person?"

"I can't answer that, Luke. I don't know how to. If I knew who we were talking about…"

He gave a shake of his head. "It was worth a try," he said with a wistful smile.

Leia sighed and rubbed a hand across her aching forehead. There was more to this that met the eye. "What's really wrong, Luke?"

"Force or no Force… I need advice on how to woo the lady in question. You know my record is less than stellar."

"But how can I do that if I don't know who she is?"

"You'll figure it out eventually." He managed to smile at his sister. "I just thought you might have tips… things that Han did right or forgot to do."

"If you want lessons on winning over a lady, you need Lando."

Luke shook his head. "No," he muttered sharply. "Not Lando."

"It was just a suggestion," Leia said, calmly surprised at how adamant Luke was about not asking Lando. Had they quarrelled?

"If I can't make her marry me, what will happen?"

"I don't know, Luke. Probably nothing."

"You're wrong, Leia. The Skywalkers will be lost. I will be lost."

*************************************

Back in his own apartment Luke sighed heavily as he dumped his cloak and headed downstairs without turning on any lights. Leia had tried her best, but she didn't know the identity of the lady he had to court. It was only a matter of time before she did find out and then there would be sparks.

The real problem was that Force wished on him or not, this lady wouldn't agree to marry him without a very good reason. In fact, he would assume he had died and become one with the Force if she did agree. Luke didn't think that saying, 'I had this Force vision and we should get married,' would work. That would not be a compelling argument. Somehow he didn't think that 'the Skywalker name would die', would sway her over either.

"Artoo?" he called softly.

A reassuring beep reached his ears.

"Do you still have it?" Luke asked as he turned on a single luma with a flick of his hand.

Artoo rolled into the light and twisted his little domed head, uttering comforting toots.

"You do? Good." The blond Jedi relaxed a little. He couldn't quite believe all of this was real, especially the articles Artoo was keeping safe for him. He gave a mirthless chuckle. His life hadn't turned out the way he'd once hoped and dreamed it would. It was much more complex.

The compartment cover in Artoo's head slid aside and nestled safely within the aperture was a small, dark red box. Luke patted the droid and retreated to a comfortable, shabby, overstuffed sofa. He held the box in his hands but didn't open it, tracing the name of a long gone maker with his thumb. The box was old but beautifully crafted. It was strange the way it and its contents had fallen into his possession. He'd experienced many strange things in his life but this was one of the most bizarre.

He had been returning to Yavin after a routine trip to one of the nearest inhabited star systems when his x-wing had developed a fault. He'd checked the navicomp for the nearest populated world relevant to his current position and had made a stop at the starport. While the routine repairs were underway, Luke had decided to head for the entertainment district to get something to eat.

"Artoo! While you're keeping an eye on things I'm going to refuel."

The droid had immediately checked the fuel tanks and informed his master that the vessel had more than enough fuel to get them to wherever they wanted to go.

Luke chuckled. "Not that kind of fuel, Artoo. Human fuel. I'm talking about food that isn't shaped like a ration bar."

He left Artoo chuckling merrily and idly followed his nose towards hopefully, a decent restaurant.

The port was bigger than he'd remembered and little shops had sprung up all along the promenade selling things that every spacer might desire and a few that they definitely didn't. Han might like one of those, he thought, as he spotted a tool that claimed to weld an entire ship together in half the time it normally took. Some pretty trinkets, which Jaina might like for her birthday, caught his eye as he stopped to peruse the contents of a display in one of the craft centres. Suddenly he found himself transported away from the mundane world of star port souvenir shops. The vision he experienced was swift and totally unexpected. Luke saw that he was standing holding someone's hands – a woman's hands – slender and smooth, yet something told him these hands were capable of many things. He could not see her identity but he knew who she was. He had always known that she was special.

"A betrothal gift," he heard himself say.

"You didn't have to…"

"Of course I did. It's not every day one agrees to get married…"

"To you?"

"Of course to me. You agreed and I'm not letting you back out of it." He heard himself laugh. He sounded truly happy.

As the pictures unfolded in his stunned mind he froze inside. He was not going to get married – especially to her. He'd never let the idea even surface from the depths of his murky mind, although he knew it was there. She was too far beyond his reach. He was the Jedi Master and destined to spend his life alone. There had to be a mistake somewhere. But the thought of her married to another didn't please him as it should. She shouldn't spend her life alone but there was no one he trusted to treat her properly. No one knew her like he did. He alone knew of the shadows that haunted her dreams like they did his own.                                                                                

He watched his vision self slip a ring from the box he now clutched in his cold hand.

"A corusca gem. Luke, it is beautiful."

"It is… but then it will be shamed by your beauty."

The woman's voice gave a husky, mocking laugh. "Smooth, farmboy. Who would have thought it? Lando Calrissian maybe, but Luke Skywalker…?"

"I'm speaking the truth. I do not lie. You are beautiful."

"Oh, Luke." Her voice changed, grew soft and warm. "I'm not beautiful."

"You are," he insisted. "I'm a lucky man."

"I think I'm the lucky one, Luke."

He slid the ring onto her finger. "I have a matching betrothal necklace made from the same jewels."

"They are truly amazing, but I don't need these."

"Yes you do. I want people to know that we're finally together." His voice diminished to a whisper. "Like we should have been years ago."

"I've never seen a corusca gem with those particular colours at its heart."

"No, me neither."

"It's somehow apt," she murmured.

"Meant to be," he whispered.

The vision had faded from his mind and he'd found himself pressed against the display window. This was ridiculous, he told himself, but his feet began to move taking him inside the shop. Something called to him from inside. Always ready to follow where the Force led him, Luke stepped inside the shop.

"Can I help you, sir?" the merchandising droid moved stiffly to the side of the confused Jedi.

"I don't know," Luke murmured. "I was looking for something?"

"Found something you have," the droid cackled in a way that was eerily familiar. "Getting married you are?"

"Yes… I mean no."

"Nothing here to suit you, there is, but we have something laid aside. We pride ourselves on having something for every customer."

"I'm not getting married," Luke said.

"Time it is, for you."

"No… I… I'm not close enough to anyone to offer them marriage," he confessed painfully.

"You will be," the droid said. "You will be and soon."

Luke peered at the droid in front of him. Someone needed to take a power driver to him because there was something seriously wrong with his speech patterns. There was also something familiar about them too.

The droid shuffled to the back of the shop and returned with a small box. When he opened it, Luke was struck speechless. It was a ring and necklace, both containing a single corusca gem.

"Think you, like this, she would?"

Luke stared at the droid, its silver plating worn and dented by age. It reminded him of Threepio in some ways being bipedal and humanoid in form, but there the comparison stopped. Threepio's speech was grammatically precise to a fault. This droid spoke more like…

"Think you, like this, she would?" the droid repeated.

"Yeah." Luke spoke through a sort of fog in his mind. "She would." He looked up suddenly. "But I'm not…"

"There is one for you and know it you do. It is time."

"I could not afford such jewels…"

"This has been kept for you - the charge is small. You have an ancient name. To pass it on, it is time."

In a daze he felt himself hand over his credit chip and leave the shop, the small box safely tucked into his tunic. He'd found a small cantina and had eaten a meal, still shaken. Him – married! He put his hand across his breast and felt the box still tucked there. It hadn't been a dream. After he left, Luke wandered back the way he had come. He would return the betrothal gifts to the shop. Hopefully they would refund his money. He wasn't even sure how much he had paid for it. Marriage and Luke Skywalker! There was a funny idea. Relationships and Luke Skywalker – even funnier. You had to have a relationship with someone before you married them or so he'd been taught.

His steps slowed as he approached the location of the shop and then his world tilted and spun as he rounded the corner.

It wasn't there. By the appearance of the façade in front of him, it had never been. A workshop for repairing speeders and a used droid lot occupied the position instead. He must have taken a wrong turning. He retraced his steps but could find no trace of the little shop anywhere.

Luke felt for the box and it was still there close to his heart, the square edges solid and real against his fingertips.

*******************************************

He rubbed his forehead and opened the box. The gem winked in the darkness, a subtle combination of green and blue with a hint of passionate red at its heart. The pain of a tension headache could be felt at his temples.

"I've never seen a corusca gem with those particular colours at its heart. It's somehow apt." Her voice kept sounding in his head, yet he knew she had never said these words to him.

'You have an ancient name. Pass it on, it is time.'

'Skywalker!' Luke thought sadly. There would be no one to pass it on to. Yes, he was proud of his family and of his Jedi heritage. His niece and nephews would carry on the family tradition but not the name.

****************************************************************

He had returned to Yavin with the betrothal gifts hidden inside Artoo. Luke hadn't examined them since he'd left the star port. He could feel them weighing down his already heavy soul – see the flash of the passionate red in the depths of the stone. 'It was ridiculous', he told himself. Luke Skywalker couldn't keep a woman long enough to get married to her. His wary heart was too bruised and afraid to trust loving another woman. This time the Force had gotten it wrong. So he'd returned to his solitary existence of meditating and teaching, with little or no contact with the outside world, apart from his weekly calls to his sister and the work he did with the other Jedi. All the time trying to forget the glimpse of a life he desperately wanted and visions of a vibrantly beautiful woman.

Exactly two weeks after his return from his trip, the dreams started. Luke couldn't recall exactly what their content had been but each morning he awoke shivering and unrefreshed. Everything was dark and cold and he'd been struggling to exist in this world. The only thing that could save him was a luminous presence – one he recognised, always just out of his reach. He craved her warmth and her light. He desired the peace he knew he would feel when he was with her and he'd never be lonely again. But he never did reach her. Something always stopped him.

For over a month these dreams haunted him, showing him how bleak his life was and would be in the future. Luke resisted the images as long as he could but he knew he was losing his spark. He was losing part of the zest and enthusiasm for life he'd once had. Tired and drawn, Luke went through his daily routine in a daze.

Kam Solusar flicked a glance towards his wife as they walked in one of the temple courtyards. "Something is wrong with the Master," he said gravely.

Tionne nodded her shining, silvery head thoughtfully. "Yes," she said. "I have tried to get him to talk about what is troubling him but he smiles and dismisses my concern as nothing. That he's just tired."

"He does appear to be tired."

"He's not sleeping that is why. He has been seen wandering the Academy at all hours of the night. I worry that the problem is something so big that it will affect us all and the Master cannot yet bring himself to tell us. The galaxy needs a time of peace."

"Luke has never shirked from disclosing unpleasant facts but if it was something important I sense that we would all feel it."

"Perhaps," Tionne conceded. "But the Master can feel the slightest change in the fabric of the Force."

"He would warn us, my love."

Tionne moved in towards her husband and laid her bright head on his shoulder. "I wish he would tell us. He seems so alone just now."

Luke could feel their concern. He had cloaked his presence when he'd sensed them walking together and he admitted to himself that he was envious of their closeness. He couldn't see himself in a marriage like that of Kam and Tionne. Both calm and stately, theirs was a harmonious existence. Luke could feel his passions rising and falling. He knew how hard he worked at keeping them reigned in.

'When you are calm and at peace you will know.'

Yoda's oft repeated phrase chose that moment to flit through his mind. "Yeah!" he muttered. "I'm trying or doing or whatever."

The dreams were changing. The longer he resisted their lure, the more powerful they became.

*********************************************************************

Artoo Detoo took in the sight of his master sitting alone in the dark staring at some bauble he'd bought on the planet he'd stopped on for repairs to the x-wing. Artoo had remained with the ship rather than accompany his master and so, couldn't shed any light on how his master had come to own the jewels. They must be fascinating because he'd been staring at them for a long time. As usual Artoo had been entrusted with the precious objects to keep safe.

Luke had opened the box and shown him the contents. Artoo had to know what he was carrying.

"I don't know what I'm doing with these, Artoo. Keep them safe for me. I don't want to wake up tomorrow and found that I'd lost them – that they don't exist." He gave a short unhappy bark of laughter. "Or maybe I do. The Force is tempting me with the one thing I've always wanted and to the person…" He leant forward and rested his head abjectly in his hands. "Oh, stars! The person I've really always wanted." He closed his eyes and brought up her image from his memory. "Why?" he murmured. "Why?" But he knew one thing now that he had discovered his feelings for her. Without her, he was indeed going to be lost.

The little droid tooted softly, voicing his concern.

"I'm fine, Artoo." Luke replied wearily. "Really fine – never felt better in fact. Just wonderful."

Artoo wasn't so sure. He was familiar with most of his master's moods by now and this one was different from the others. His master's words had sounded somewhat sarcastic. He rolled a little closer and gave a tiny hoot of support.

"Thanks, Artoo," Luke gave the rounded head an affectionate pat.

Artoo tootled a question.

"It's difficult to explain, Artoo." He gave a frustrated sigh. "This is totally ridiculous. Even if I was considering what the Force wants me to do, which I'm not sure if it really wants me to do anyway. Which I'm not. How can I ask her?"

Artoo rotated his head and twittered his incomprehension. Ask who?

Luke smiled sadly at his little companion. "It's one of those weird Jedi things, Artoo. I'm not sure what's going to happen. I saw things that your photoreceptors and your logic circuits would recognise as being real."  He stood up, feeling as if he was one hundred years old. "I'm going to bed, Artoo. Could you shut down the power please?"

The droid let out a low moan as he moved to obey Luke's request. He could bet his olfactory sensors there was going to be trouble coming.

***********************************************

"Hey, sweetheart!" Han Solo tugged at his wife's sleeve. "I see the Wild Karrde has just landed."

"Oh…" Leia muttered dismissively. "So it has."

The Solos had been on a brief jaunt to one of the neighbouring Core Worlds so that Leia could attend a meeting. Everything had, for once proceeded as planned and they had arrived back on Coruscant ahead of schedule. The Millennium Falcon had been tucked up for the night and Han was ushering his wife towards the shuttle system. Now that he was out of his beloved ship he wanted to get home. He was concerned about her. Leia seemed listless and out of spirits and this had happened when she'd had a conversation with her brother. Han groaned inwardly. Luke was worried about something and the fall-out spilled over to Leia.  For two people who had not discovered each other until their eighteenth year, Han had never met closer siblings. He didn't think his own children were as close.

"We should invite Karrde for dinner," he offered as a diversion.

"Sure," Leia said, her mind elsewhere.

"Yeah, and Borsk. Good old Fey'lya. They'll talk nice together."

"Good idea," Leia said, clearly not listening.

"Why don't we then add a couple of sith lords just to liven the mix of after-dinner conversations?

"If you want." Leia shrugged her shoulders.

Han stopped dead in the middle of the concourse. "Okay, we're having this out and we're doing it now."

"What?"

"You've been in a weird mood for the past two days. You haven't listened to a word I've said since we landed. I've just suggested we have Karrde, Borsk Feylya, two sith lords and a couple of Dathomerian witches to dinner and you agreed."

"I did?" Leia gave a tired grimace. "Just got things on my mind," she answered slowly, her mouth tightening. "Don't think I could handle Borsk just now. The others – no problem."

"You usually tell me about them."

Han's voice didn't show any emotion but Leia knew that he felt hurt that she hadn't consulted him. Her eyes widened and she bit her lip. "It's nothing…"

"Uh-uh, sweetheart," he contradicted her. "Something's wrong and I would guess that it's the kid."

"How did you…?"

"When isn't it that brother of yours?"

"We hardly see him these days so how can it always be Luke?"

"That's just it. We hardly see him and when we do there is some sort of problem. He's always been that way. The very first time I saw him I knew he was gonna be trouble."

"He's…" Leia squirmed under the shrewd gaze of her husband. "He's got a lot on his mind. I can't tell you here." She shrugged. "It's not really a problem, I mean, it could be… but it's not. It could be a good thing, but then it might not be," she finished her voice trailing away to nothing.

"That tells me a whole lot of nothing." Han's voice was sarcastic.

"It's a…"

"Jedi thing?"

"Yes."

"Figures," Han commented wryly. "When did he arrive?"

"Two days before we left for Khomm."

"And for how long did you see him?"

"About an hour and I had to call him to my office," Leia admitted. "He'd contacted me, said he'd arrived, was tired and would speak to me soon. I waited for an entire day and no Luke showing up wanting fed. Eventually I got hold of him at the exercise rooms he uses when on Coruscant and demanded his presence."

Han winced. "Is that normal behaviour for your brother? We're normally throwing him out of our apartment. How many times have I had to propel him out of the door reminding him that he has a perfectly sound apartment of his own not ten minutes away from ours."

"I'm glad to have him here in one piece and not floating in bacta." Leia turned on her heels and began to stalk off towards their waiting shuttle car.

"That isn't what I meant, sweetheart. Leia!" Han called irritably. "Leia! It was a joke."

*****************************************

Talon Karrde emerged from his ship and gazed around the docking bay. It was quiet at this time of night. His blue eyes narrowed. Ahead of him he could see a tall man and a small woman having some sort of argument. He would know that couple anywhere. Leia and Han Solo. Yup, he mused. There were a couple of discreet security men hovering around and he would bet his ship that there would probably be some Noghri around too.

"What do you think?" he murmured in an aside to the green-eyed woman exiting the ship just behind him.

"Han and Leia," Mara muttered with a raised red-gold eyebrow. "I picked up her presence as soon as we landed. There's something bothering her and I would guess, by the look of things - that it has something to do with her husband."

"Even I can tell that she's upset. Although I don't know if Han is at fault."

"She has quite a temper apparently," Mara offered with a smirk.

"Han is no shrinking pitten either and I'm not so sure if it is temper on Leia's part. I don't know the facts. She's a strong minded woman – she's had to be. But then again according to that holo programme Dankin was glued to last week, all the best relationships have their share of good healthy arguments. Look at you and the Jedi Master…"

"A marital spat. They happen." Mara lightly dismissed the arguing couple. "Skywalker and I do not have a relationship. We have a friendship."

"If you say so, but isn't that a relationship?" he asked with a shrewd smile as she turned the full force of her green-eyed glare upon him. "I wonder what the argument is about?"

"Knowledge is power, Karrde?" Mara asked, a derisive glint lighting her eyes.

"Knowledge can be acted upon and bartered for more information." Karrde chuckled lightly. "Sometimes the right piece of information is worth many successful contracts."

Mara raised her eyes heavenwards. "You are such an opportunist, Karrde."

The man laughed and smoothed an elegant hand over his well-trimmed goatee beard. "Of course. It keeps you in work doesn't it?"

"I'm not even going to grace that with an answer," she retorted and stalked gracefully off the ship, her nose in the air.

**************************************

Han began to chase after his wife. "Leia!" He stopped in front of her, lop-sided grin appearing and held out his hands apologetically. "I know you're worried about the kid. The fact that his apartment is ten minutes away and you had to call him to your royal presence doesn't bode well but…"

"We'll discuss this at home, Han." Leia turned and faced him, her toe tapping impatiently on the duracrete floor. What made her look up towards the large bulk of the Wild Karrde, Leia had no idea, but when she did, she caught the enigmatic gaze of a slim woman with red-gold hair.

"Han…" Leia's dark eyes softened and rested thoughtfully on Mara Jade. She'd just had an idea on how to help her brother. If he wouldn't speak to Leia he might to Mara. "Go and ask Karrde and Mara to dinner tomorrow night."

"Eh!" Han shook his head to try and clear the fog he was sure was blocking his natural thought processes.

"You're always saying that you wanted to have Karrde to dinner sometime. In fact, didn't you say that just five minutes ago?"

"Well, yes, but…"

"I can't think of a more perfect opportunity. Go ask him."

"Now?"

"Of course 'now'." Leia rolled her eyes.

"I don't understand you."

Leia smiled darkly. "You're not supposed to. That's what keeps life interesting and our marriage fresh."

"Any more 'interesting' and it will be the death of me." He held up his hands in surrender at her glare. "Okay, okay, I'll go."

****************************************************************************