Title: Of Endings

Summary: There aren't always happy endings. L/M.

A/N: This was the answer to both a normal writing challenge and a virtual dare that a friend made. She said 'yes, oba, you can write something dark' and implied I couldn't write something *that* dark. She should have known better.

Feedback: Adore it. Treasure it. Reread it. ;)

Rating: PG-13, because I'm being cautious. Dark themes ahoy.

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It was a very dark night, something one wouldn't think possible on a city-planet like Coruscant. I suppose it wasn't really dark in the way most people use that word – a dark night; dark clothing . . .

It was dark. The lights were dimmed in the maintenance bay that I working in, and at this time of the night there was a hushed aura. It was early morning – so early the sun had yet to rise – and the mechanics, who often worked late, had long since gone home. With the defeat of Grand Admiral Thrawn, there was no longer the necessity of maintaining such extensive work crews, and the night shift had been disbanded.

Artoo was my only companion. The whistles and beeps he made were loud and echoed slightly in the large bay. I was working on my X-Wing – updating rather than repairing. Usually, I preferred to work on her myself. I had already completed most of the tricky parts – managing things so I could do the easiest for last, when I was sleepiest – so all I had left to do was to reconnect a few wires. Artoo helped me, giving advice and instructions in his own, unique way. Sometimes, I think Artoo should have been a living being.

It was her footsteps I heard first. Not that they were loud; they weren't. They must have been made of the softest, finest material, to make such a soft sound. All I could hear was a faint scuffling, probably undetectable to most people. I can't really say how I knew it was her. The knowledge that it was her was simply immediate and unmistakable.

I turned away from my X-Wing, and as Artoo beeped at me, inquisitively, I turned him off. I had never deactivated Artoo before. He had been more of a constant in my life than anything else. My aunt and uncle, Ben, my father – all had influenced me greatly, and all had left me, whether by their will or not. Artoo was simply . . . there.

I heard the lightsaber flying through the air before I reacted. I reached out and it fell into my hand neatly, my fingers grasping it and my palm molding to its curves. The lightsaber was intimately familiar to me; it had been my father's, and I had used it for years before I lost it along with my right hand on Bespin - lost it along with so many other things, like my innocence. And my trust. With the lightsaber came something else, a small, neat packet made of cloth.

I turned to face her. She stood a few feet away, silent and still. A hood of some kind covered her beautiful red-gold hair, and her body was sheathed in a dark purple suit that molded to her body in strong, straight lines. With no hair to soften her face, she appeared more sharp and angular.

I don't believe one would call Mara Jade beautiful in the normal sense of the word. Her nose was a little too long, her mouth too wide, her brows too strong and her green eyes too cold. But in her every movement, she radiated with an energy, a vitality few people possessed. Her body was lithe and she moved in such a way that she used what strength she had to best advantage. And in a way few could appreciate, she was deadly.

"Hello, Mara," I said simply.

A wry smile touched her lips, but confusion reigned in her eyes. "Can't start a conversation in the normal way, eh, Skywalker?" she asked roughly, although her tone was almost friendly, for her.

"And what would be normal for people like us, Mara?" I asked mildly.

Mara started to walk nonchalantly, circling me. Her eyes drifted away from mine as she spoke, and her fingers twitched. "Oh, I don't know. I think something like, 'You're an Imperial assassin, and you're under arrest' or maybe . . . 'Aren't you supposed to kill me now?'"

"But we know that already," I pointed out.

She stopped walking and looked at me sharply, eyes widening briefly, and then narrowing. "If that's true," she said with unexpected quiet and softness to her tone, "then why aren't you defending yourself?"

"Do I need to?" I asked, fingering the lightsaber in my hand. I didn't have my own with me. I met her eyes, not in an attempt to intimidate, but to show what was impossible to be spoken. What could not be said in words.

"Yes," Mara replied, her eyes hardening, "you do. Your New Republic didn't put out a warrant on me just for fun." She took two short steps closer to me, and suddenly a blaster appeared in her hand – I think it came from her left sleeve, but I wasn't sure even with my eyesight. She raised the blaster.

A blaster against a lightsaber she herself had given me? I did nothing, and waited.

She paused, and suddenly exhaled a short breath. Her finger tightened and then relaxed on the trigger for a long moment, but eventually she let the blaster fall. It hit the floor with a loud clatter, the sound harsh and abrupt in the quiet of the bay.

She came closer, silently, and stood right in front of me, so close I could feel her breath. Being close to her affected me strongly – I wanted to reach out and touch her, not only physically but also mentally. I wanted to feel the beat of her heart and the thrum of her mind.

Instead, I waited, my body ready and tense for something more to happen.

Her hands folded around mine, strangely cold and distant. She took the lightsaber out of my hand, and stepped even closer to me, her eyes finally meeting mine. I saw something vulnerable in those eyes, but I didn't know what. I didn't understand.

Then she took the lightsaber, and shifted it so that if activiated, the blade would enter her chest – and kill her instantly.

I stopped breathing.

"It won't stop," Mara said, the words carried by a single breath. "It's with me, always . . . I can hear it even now. And one day, I won't be able to resist, not even for my own survival, much less yours."

I tried to shake my head, but her eyes held mine. "No, Mara. You saved me, you saved my family. Thrawn was defeated with your help – you didn't have to do that, but you did. And you didn't hurt me."

"But I left! I left when you went to confront C'baoth, and you killed him, you killed your clone. I left because it wouldn't stop – I kept fantasizing about killing you, watching your blood spill –"

"It's not you," I insisted, my voice no less a whisper than hers.

"Even now I can feel it – I am always drawn to you, I didn't even want to come here. And it won't stop. Not until . . ." her fingers grabbed my hand roughly, and they were so cold. She put my fingers around the lightsaber handle, and tightened her hand on mine to keep it there.

"No," I whispered.

She said nothing to my plea. She didn't say she hated me or that she loved me, and she offered no explanation. But I knew by what she was offering – her life for my safety – that love, if such a sacrifice is what love is, was what she felt for me. Something had happened to the two of us while we struggled for survival, first on Myrkr and even later, in the larger struggle that was part of a galactic war. It had begun as a simple recognition of the other's ability, but it had ended as something else entirely. I had felt the simple flickering of her love before, but only now did I know for certain it not only been I who had felt it.

I closed my eyes for a second, desperate to get away from those eyes that held me captive for a moment; those eyes that demanded I act. When I opened them, I slowly let my hand grab the lightsaber handle fully, and tightened my grip on it. As she looked away, letting her head drop and her eyes shut in something close to submission, she let out a faint breath, which was warm against my skin.

But I was not content to leave it at that. With my other hand, still holding the packet she had given me, I grabbed her hood roughly and pulled it back, letting her hair spill out. I forced her head back by pulling at her soft hair, and kissed her.

Our lips met violently, aggressively on both sides. I kissed her roughly, making her lips bleed even as she made mine bleed. I could taste the blood, but it didn't matter. I could taste Mara. Our kissing was not a goodbye, but a violent struggle for control, for whose desire would be met – her life or her death.

Letting out a small whimper, she threw her arms around me, one hand clenching my hair and the other trying to bring me even closer. I dropped the packet she had given me as I wrapped my arms around her, and out of the loosely bound packet a flimsiplast fluttered out. I could hear it even though I could not see it, and I knew what it contained – it contained everything she had already shown me, put into words meant to be read after her death. But it was nothing, because I already knew.

Mara sought her own death because as long as she lived, she would seek mine. She could not stop herself, Palpatine's last command too strong to resist . . . she could, for a time, but even the strongest souls break under such constant pressure. Mara knew this; I knew this. But at least we could have this moment.

As we finally broke off the kiss, neither having conquered the other, we panted for air. She put her head on my shoulder, and we held each other so tight it was as if the both of us desired to melt into the other.

Still breathing roughly, with a faint coolness on my cheeks, I spoke: "If it must end, then it will end with us together."

She drew her head away from my shoulder, with her body still tightly pressed against mine. Had she been anyone else, there would have been a dozen things she could have said. What about the Jedi? What about Leia?

But I already knew the answer to those questions that I could easily ask myself. With Mara's death on my hands, I could do nothing – I could not help Leia, and I could not teach Jedi truths when I could no longer feel or believe them myself. I could not lose the other half of my soul, the being meant to complete me, and go on. Why had fate been so cruel as to make us need one another, and drive us apart? In my mind, there was yet only one way to keep us from being pulled apart and broken – to be one, and complete, as we were meant to be and yet could not be in this life. And somehow Mara knew this, and she merely looked into my eyes to confirm it.

Had our lives ever not been intertwined? It often seemed that way, as if I had always known her – or perhaps as if I always should have known her. Destiny had conspired to keep us apart, on opposite sides of a galactic struggle, and even as we were pulled apart by lives not chosen for us, by what must be fate, I railed against it. At the same time, I knew she wouldn't, in her pragmatic way. But even in that pragmatic way, she knew the uselessness of trying to turn me from this path.

I could see she grieved. But she made no attempt to dissuade me from my course, just as she would not be dissuaded from hers. Ours was a meeting and a decision made from an inability to compromise, to give in on who would die, when, and by whose hand. This was the only choice we could both make.

I still held the lightsaber. I had not dropped it when I had dropped the note. I pressed it against her back, so the blade would enter her, then me.

And she kissed me. That kiss held none of the violence of before; it was little more than a gentle pressure. Her tongue swiped my lip, and mine hers, gently taking away the smears of blood. It was a tenderness, not fierce aggression fueled by a need to conquer, to make the other bend to the other's will; to make the other live. It was a meeting.

And then I switched on the lightsaber.

Fin.