A Thread of Gold – Part 9
Disclaimer - The characters in this story are owned by Lucasfilm. I'm only borrowing them for my amusement and hopefully yours. My thanks to JT, Angela and Mona for suggestions and help. This story is for Sheyla as she once told me she liked it and as thanks for a summer.
Luke's continuing convalescence was a difficult one. He was too active a man to take enforced idleness lightly. He was not a good patient and Mara was not the most understanding of nurses. Still she could control the worst of his behaviour and ease his moods during times that Leia and Han had given up hope.
Luke maintained that he still felt Mara's life essence within him. Mara just shook her head at him, but he was right, there was a deeper bond between them than before. Mara refused to sleep again with Luke in Leia and Han's home and took to sharing Jaina's room. Luke grew increasingly frustrated. Mara was so close but she could have been off planet as far as he was concerned. Another thing Mara objected to was the sneaky training exercises Luke tried to put her through. Most of the time she caught him, but not always. Then doors would slam shut and tempers flared briefly before she accepted the point of the lesson. He was determined that she would become a Jedi.
As Luke recovered Mara gradually resumed her business operations, but with less enthusiasm than previously. Luke was left kicking his heels on Coruscant and wondering if he would ever hold her in his arms again. When she left for a week-long run to the Farion system Luke assumed that was it and grew quiet and depressed, but when Mara returned to Coruscant, to Luke's amazement, she returned to the Solo household as if she'd never been away.
Han and Leia watched, waited and kept their tempers. Just.
"Mara's due back today." Han said, grinning at his wife.
"Thank the Force," muttered Leia.
"I hope she returns here."
"She'd better. I don't know if I could put up with that long face of my brother's any longer."
"At least it's a bit fatter."
"Yes, he's nearly there, but he still won't speak about Varnahk. He says he's told the Council all he knows and doesn't want to burden me with the rest of it."
"I can understand that and so can you."
"No, I can't. It would be cleansing for him to get it all out into the open."
"Did you ever tell him everything that happened to you in the Death Star?" Han quirked an eyebrow.
Leia smiled unwillingly. "No," she murmured. "Point taken. I didn't want to burden him with my pain."
"Luke feels the same. He's not ready to speak about it and I don't know if he ever will be."
Leia sighed. "He wants to go back to his own apartment. Actually, he wants to go back to Yavin."
"Try anywhere but Coruscant," Han said knowingly.
"He doesn't like it here, does he?" Leia muttered. "But the medics don't want him off planet for at least another month. Personally, I can't see him lasting that long."
"No, neither can I. If he decides to go nothing will keep him here apart from Mara."
"That's why I would like it if she stays a little longer."
The security droid announced Mara's arrival as she dumped her bags in the hallway.
"So you're back, Jade." The lazy drawl startled her. Luke stood watching her dressed in his customary black Jedi tunic.
"Cloaking yourself, Skywalker?"
"I wanted to surprise you."
"Well you did," she replied flatly. "Satisfied?"
Luke ran his eyes up and down her figure. She was wearing the black leather jump suit again. Boy, it did something to his blood pressure. It was the way the material clung to her very female form. "No, Jade, I can't say I'm satisfied."
Mara locked deadly green eyes on narrowed blue. So he was feeling a little better, she deduced thoughtfully. The air sizzled between them.
"Nope, not satisfied at all."
"Tough." Mara announced and brushed past him in the suddenly narrow hall. Luke caught her just as she passed him and kissed her. For a moment she clung, then shoved him out of the way.
"Try that again, farmboy, and you're dead."
"I can't wait. This would be the little death. The one that comes after satisfaction has been completed."
"In your dreams."
"Oh, I've had them but the real thing was better - much better." Luke's voice was low and husky and Mara felt a swift spiralling desire sweep through her system. "I think you shared some of my dreams, my love."
"Oh no you don't," Mara gritted as Luke backed her against the wall and trailed a gentle finger over the swell of her breasts. Then he kissed her properly.
The taste of her was so warm and he'd been so cold for so long. Heat, intense and fire bright, swept through them. Mara's mouth opened and Luke's tongue plunged in to meet hers. Winding graceful arms she locked them about his neck and pulled him closer. Their control began to rapidly spin away. Luke couldn't believe that he'd hardly touched her and already he was hard. If they'd been naked and alone he could have taken her right there in the hallway against the wall.
Breathing heavily they looked at each other before Mara pulled away and went into the room she was sharing with Jaina. The little girl was sound asleep so it gave Mara time to come to herself. 'Sith, she wanted him.'
Han heard the raised voices. "They're arguing."
Leia rolled over in bed and with a wave of her hand, activated the light.
"Unnecessary use of the Force, sweetheart?" Han questioned mildly.
"Necessary use. It's cold."
"I said, they were arguing."
"Finally," she muttered with a sigh.
Han frowned. "What do you mean - finally?"
"They've been so polite to each other that it's worse than an inner council meeting. It's not normal."
"The inner council meeting?"
"Yes, that too."
"Luke doesn't argue with people, but he does with Mara. The civility between them was stifling. Mara needs to be shaken up a bit andLuke needs stimulated."
"Well, Mara obviously does that to him. The stimulating."
"I'm glad he's started training again. This time he's doing it with the medics and Cilgahl's approval. Mara doesn't know yet?"
Leia winced. "I think she does now."
"So, she's still worried about him. That's good. I take it they're still in separate beds?"
"Separate rooms." Leia sighed. "I feel like their parents. I'll have to go through this with the children, I didn't expect to have to go through it with Luke and Mara Jade first."
"What - puberty?"
"Seems strange to think they've already done the deed."
"They need to do it again and get some of this tension out of our home."
"Speaking of tension," Han pulled Leia into his arms and nuzzled her cheek. "Do you think the old married couple could give them a run for their credits?"
"Oh, I think that could be arranged."
Han chuckled as his fingers found the buttons on Leia's sleeping shift. "He's got it bad."
"You sure?" His fingers found a sensitive spot and Leia's body arched.
"She's still here." Leia gasped as Han's mouth found a pink nipple.
"True," he murmured as he kissed his way over her breast. "So who's being noble?"
Leia was silent as Han's clever mouth found her other breast. "My gut reaction…." She panted a little.
Han found a spot and tickled. "I thought princesses and senators didn't have those."
If she hadn't had her eyes closed and wasn't incapable of doing any more than quiet groans, Leia would have given him a version of her 'look'. "Han…" It was meant to be strong but came out as a breathy moan. "I was… trying to say…"
"Sorry," he grinned unrepentantly and removed her sleeping shift altogether. Not sorry in the least.
"My gut reaction would have been Luke. He's got noble down to a fine art form; however in this case, it's Mara that's holding out."
"Figures, if Mara wanted him… Is she holding out for a wedding ring?"
"No, that's not her style – more's the pity."
"Yeah, too conventional and the kid can be very conventional in his thinking at times. He'll be the one wanting the wedding."
"She has her moments too. I think she's embarrassed because it means more to her than she's prepared to admit - even to herself. She did come pretty close to admitting it to me once, but I think it's Luke she needs to tell."
"Or the dark side is possible."
"She wants to love him - does love him, but is terrified of the emotion and what she thinks she will have to give up."
"Luke'll wear her down. He's frustrated enough for them both as it is. It's taken them years to get to this stage. He'll die of it if she doesn't hurry up."
"It won't come to that."
"Sleep on it. I'm sure you'll come up with something."
"Are you suggesting that I interfere?"
"I would never do that."
"As I said, I'm sure you'll come up with something."
"Yeah, good idea Princess, but I was involved in something here. Sleeping wasn't what I was hoping to do - not yet." He looked over his wife's naked form and lowered his mouth to hers.
7 Days later
Mara ran through the landing sequence as she brought her ship to land. By the Force, why this constant desire to see that he was okay? When she'd returned after her last trip all they'd done was fight but while she'd been away she'd missed him. 'You didn't fight all the time,' a little voice echoed.
No, not all the time. He'd pushed her against the wall and kissed her whenever he'd had the opportunity. Her breath quickened as she recalled the way his hands had run over her body, firing her nerve ends and making her ache for him. She'd torn herself away from him, hiding in the room she shared with Jaina but he'd cornered her later when all the others in the house were asleep.
Mara had gone through to the kitchen to make herself a hot drink and had found Luke already there. Mara had stopped on the threshold.
"Come on in, Jade - scared?"
"Of what?" She'd bristled and stalked towards the water heater her head held high. Luke immediately trapped her between the kitchen units and his own body and she'd been helpless to move away. Luke moved his hips against hers, slowly, sensuously. His gaze drifted over the low scooped neck of her sleeping shift and instantly her nipples had hardened. Finally he brought his hands to her body and tangled one in her hair, the other stroked the soft skin at her throat. When his lips covered hers, she'd melted mindlessly into a creature with no purpose but to pleasure him and gain pleasure from their mating. She'd parted his shirt, her hands travelling over the firm muscles of his chest, his hands had slid beneath her shift to caress the soft hidden flesh.
"Mara… Stay with me tonight." His voice was husky from passion as he pressed her against him. "I want you…"
Sanity returned and she withdrew reluctantly. The blue eyes held her in thrall, but now was not the time. "I have to go to bed; I've an early departure slot tomorrow."
"You're going away again?"
"I have a business obligation."
Luke had stepped away from her with an oblique look. "I'm not keeping you," he held his hands out, but his eyes promised her such things and Mara felt her mouth go dry. Leaving him was the last thing she wanted to do.
The curious blatt of her R4 droid brought Mara back to the present. Luke Skywalker had proved to be a constant presence in her mind the whole time she'd been away. That she had managed to do any constructive business at all was amazing.
She would have to make a stand for independence soon, but her tired mind shied away from it and focused only on her need to see him. Mara's shoulders slumped. She wanted to check he was still healing properly and not overdoing things - feel his mouth as it covered hers, lightly touching. She wanted to see that special smile which reached his blue eyes when he saw only her. She wanted to be the one he did little romantic things for – like small bunches of flowers or something pretty for her hair. Mara's own eyes drifted shut. She could almost taste him.
She slammed her barriers over the visions. This is what got her into trouble in the first place. She couldn't afford to turn soft. She wasn't a sappy, dewy-eyed idealist like somebody she could mention. She was a trained assassin – armed and dangerous. Damn the man. She tried creating a list with all his negative points on it and she'd worked her way mentally onto a second sheet of flimsi when she felt a familiar presence approaching the ship. Mara activated the door and waited for Talon Karrde to appear in the cockpit.
"I wondered if you were coming out, Jade? You docked ages ago."
"I had things to do," she lied.
"You look tired, Mara, everything okay?"
"Yeah it was a good trip, just a bit rushed. The details are all on these pads here. I'm not going over them tonight Karrde, I'm beat."
Karrde smoothed his goatee beard. "Don't worry. I'll get Aves and Ghent to do it. I need the data now. Faughan is ready to do a run later on." He stopped. "Mara - how are things?"
"You know if you want out I can send you anywhere in the galaxy on business. To be frank, you don't still need to be staying with Han and Leia." His pale blue gaze sharpened. "You're not being pressurised into anything, are you?"
Mara growled a little. "Only by myself. You know me, Karrde, I don't do things I don't want to do." She flashed him a sudden smile. "I'm the only one who can make the Jedi Master behave. It's a power thing I'm enjoying it."
"He's better though?"
"Yes he is. He's been a bit difficult over the last week according to Leia. He's taken so long to get over this because he tried to do too much too soon."
"The story of his career as a Jedi?"
"Partly. I guess he had to do it all and I should have understood…" She stopped and looked wearily at Karrde. "This time his body would not co-operate and he had to take a step back. He was killing himself, Talon and we all watched him do it without trying to help."
"I saw him only yesterday, checking over his X-wing."
Mara froze. "He was what?"
"Checking over his X-wing. Apparently the Yavin shuttle comes in next week."
Mara's eyes took on a dangerous glitter. "You're telling me," her voice turned menacing, "that he's thinking about going back to Yavin? We'll see about that."
Karrde smothered a grin. It wouldn't do to let Mara see he was enjoying this.
"Where is he?"
"I think he's at home in his apartment."
Mara grabbed the edges of his elegant waistcoat. "Karrde!"
"Calm down, Mara," the smuggler boss brushed her off dismissively. "My sources tell me that he's at his own apartment and has been for a couple of days. I think he wants to give Leia and Han a bit of privacy. He's not gone anywhere yet."
Mara's face fell. She hadn't admitted it to anyone, but living in a family unit had been strangely enjoyable.
Karrde saw Mara's expression change and rightly guessed the reason. He had learned to read faces. It had kept him alive. "Don't worry Mara your secret's safe with me - for a small fee, of course."
"What secret?" Her eyes narrowed.
"It must be a good one if even you don't know." He brushed down his clothes where Mara's anxious fingers had crumpled them. "I wonder if he is thinking about going to Yavin? It must be some time since he was there."
"He's not ready yet,' she snapped. "He still needs time to heal."
"Course not," Karrde finally smiled soothingly. 'Gotcha', as Han Solo would say. The Corellian owed him bigtime for this little stunt, but he'd enjoyed it. With Mara Jade a little went a long way. Just enough to get her suspicious, then she would do the rest on her own. Elaborate scenes were a complete waste of time.
"Well?" Han's voice came across loud and clear on the comlink.
"Ssh! Solo. I've not cleared the docking bay yet."
"Has she bought it?"
Karrde resisted the urge to look back at the Jade's Fire. He moved to a point where he could observe without being seen and waited.
Mara rushed from the ship and headed off in the direction of the internal transport service. She looked as if she meant business. A few moments later Karrde got a click on his com from Aves.
"Hey, boss… Mara's just headed off on the transport that takes her to Skywalker's place."
Karrde grinned. "Solo - She's heading towards Luke's apartment."
"Great, I'll go mobilise the wife, and Karrde… Thanks, I owe you one."
"I want to know everything, Solo."
"Sure if it works. If not, there will be a lot of pieces to pick up."
"Just what I wanted to hear," Karrde said dryly. "That's what I'm worried about. If its Mara Jade, it is more likely to be pieces of everyone else."
Leia got her signal. Time to play the worried sister. Luke had been back at his own place for four days now and Leia had been over with the children every day. Luke was pleased to see them but a little fed up with all the fussing. He'd learnt his lesson for the time being but it wouldn't be long before he returned to form and went dashing off on some fool mission. But that was Luke. He needed a family of his own his sister had decided and Mara Jade could give him that family. Leia watched smiling as he'd sat with Anakin on his knee and demonstrated some early Force techniques to his nephew. Yes, he needed a family of his own.
Winter had come past for the children and alone with her brother, Leia had swung her plan into action.
"What are you going to do about, Mara? She's vulnerable right now and worried about you."
He lifted his clear blue eyes from the book he was reading to his sister's face. "Mara? I know she's worried about me. We've got this connection but she's fighting it. I never expected anything else." Luke held out a hand in unconscious appeal. "I love her, Leia but she's never said anything like that to me. She does feel something strong for me - I know she does but is it love? She saved my life and was prepared to come and get me from Varnahk if she had to. Her presence in the Force has been with me all the time, even when she's not there. I can feel her presence with me as close I can you. I didn't know I loved her until she stayed with me while I was dying, then saved me from that death. I would have been dead without her, Leia but now I realise I've always loved her. Does she love me? It won't be enough unless she does."
"Are you going back to Yavin?"
"No, not at the moment. Some of the students are coming next week to see me, but I'm not ready. I wondered if I may have to go back to Varnahk at some point."
Leia blanched. "Luke, no!"
"I'm waiting to hear from Admiral Drayson."
Leia swallowed. This wasn't part of the scheme she'd cooked up with Han. "Luke please, consider this carefully. You shouldn't be the one to go back there."
"If the Force wills it."
"I disagree, Luke. You're not ready for active duty."
The Jedi Master sighed. "Probably not. It's okay, Leia. I'm not going to do anything foolish. I may have to go back to Varnakh but it is unlikely. I have to be prepared for such an eventuality and the next time I would not be going alone. Varnahk was unfortunate."
"Unfortunate!" Leia's voice rose. "If not there you will be sent on something else equally as dangerous?" Leia stated with certainty. "You need some time without all of this."
"There's always another mission but you're right, Leia. I'm not quite fit and yes, I've even admitted it. I'll be careful, whatever the Force wills me to do."
"Thank the Force for that, brother. I have to go, but I'll be in touch. Take care and don't do anything stupid."
"I just said that I wouldn't. What are you up to?"
"Nothing." Leia hoped her brother couldn't sense the quick stab of guilt that she felt. It was for his own good and he would see that. She wasn't meddling in his affairs.
"I'm not sure if I believe you."
"What a thing to say to your favourite sister," Leia said pointedly, deciding to brazen it out.
"Yeah, yeah. Go and join your husband. I can sense him waiting for you."
"We have to go and pick up the children otherwise…"
Luke gave his sister a kiss. "I know. You would have stayed longer."
Leia stood in the hallway outside Luke's apartment. "Han?" she whispered into her comlink.
"Subject intercepted at spaceport and is probably on her way. Warning – is good and mad. May not act rationally."
"I copy… General."
Swiftly Leia loosened some strands of her hair and with a quick glance at her pocket reflector, added realistic dark smudges under her eyes. Assuming a distraught expression, she stumbled out of the corridor in front of Luke's apartment and ran full tilt into Mara.
"What's he up to?" She asked darkly taking in Leia's distressed appearance.
"I…. Try and talk him out of it, Mara."
"Out of what?"
"Varnahk… I'm sorry, I…." Leia practically ran down the hall.
Mara was left at Luke's front door. Raising her hand she punched in Luke's entrance code and the door slid aside. 'Varnahk'? Mara's mood darkened. He wouldn't, would he? Yavin was bad enough but Varnahk. Oh, no! Skywalker wasn't getting anywhere near a ship that could take him off world. She would chain him up if she had to.
Leia stopped and got her breath back. One of these days she would kill that brother of hers if Mara didn't do it first. Hopefully Mara hadn't probed her too deeply. Distress when false was hard to keep up.
"Han?" Leia whispered into her com. "Mission accomplished.
Luke sat reading under an old fashioned lamp. When he lifted his head and saw her, the smile lit up Mara's heart. By the Force he looked wonderful. He appeared well and strong. Her anger calmed a little.
Luke got to his feet and moved deliberately in her direction. "Hello," he said quietly.
Mara gaped at him, speechless. All the adrenalin pumping through her body was left with nowhere to go.
"I'm glad you're here."
"What did you say to upset Leia just now?" She found her voice, her eyes recording every detail of his image.
"Was she upset?" he asked. So that's what my wily sister and that Corellian husband of hers have been up to. Luke decided to try something. "I may have to go back to Varnahk." Just like that he'd said it. No procrastinating or hedging around the issue. Shot straight from the hip. Simple and to the point, just like Luke was himself.
Mara stopped as if she'd been stunned - then reaction kicked in. She'd been right. He would. "Oh no, you're not."
Luke watched as Mara began to fume. "It's not definite that I'm going," he explained reasonably. "But I'm the only one who got in and out. The General may want to send me back in."
"I beg to disagree about the out part," she snapped. "You're not going."
"I'm the Jedi Master Mara. I may have to go. I'm not one to sit and take things safe."
"I'm not losing you this way again. If you go, I'm going with you."
"But it may be too dangerous. I can't allow it."
"You can't allow… Nobody allows me to do anything. I do what I want. If you go, I go." Her eyes darkened. "I'm quite well acquainted with danger. You cannot tell me what to do."
Luke stepped forward. "Why is this so important to you, Mara?" He was almost touching her, his eyes boring into hers. He was strangely calm.
"Because…." Mara stopped, suddenly at a loss for words.
Luke put his hands on her shoulders and pulled her snugly into his body. "Why?" he repeated again. Luke bent his head and kissed the corner of her firm little mouth. This was going to be the hard part. How to keep his savoir-faire when the woman in his embrace tempted him to just lose himself in her arms. Luke wondered if Yoda might disapprove of this exercise on how to retain control in the face of extreme difficulty. If it worked it might be the thing to introduce on Yavin. Then again, no one was getting their hands on this woman unless it was Luke Skywalker. She fit against him so wonderfully. He just had to make her see it his way. He had to make her see that this was the place where she belonged.
The Jedi moved his hips a little against her groin. A streak of fire ran through him. 'Careful Skywalker,' he told himself and forced his body not to react. It was one of the most difficult things he had to do.
"Luke…!" It was a wail.
He kissed his way round her neck all the time keeping her plastered against him. If you were going to get anywhere with Mara Jade, you had to catch her off balance. Luke was doing his best. He couldn't let her have time to think and she was one of the most intelligent women he knew. If Mara Jade had time to think Luke knew he was in deep bantha shit.
Mara moaned, her eyes shut as Luke's hands continued to roam. Her weapons belt dropped to the floor with a muffled clunk. The snap of fasteners gently one by one as Luke undressed her. The sensual buzz of a zip being lowered deliberately tooth by tooth.
Mara was breathlessly pleading by the time he'd stripped her of her leather garb. But Luke, with a stern expression on his face, gripped her by the shoulders and held her away from him. However the vision of creamy shoulders clad in nothing but a clinging undershirt with thin shoulder straps shook his composure. "Why Mara?"
"Because I don't want to pull your Jedi self out of trouble again."
Luke shook her gently. "I can manage. I got myself out the last time. I can't remember how, but I didn't need you then."
"If I'd been with you…"
"If I'd been there you might have come back in one piece instead of being practically shipped back dead in a stasis chamber."
"I'm not immortal, Jade. If the Force decides it's my time to go, then it's my time."
"It wasn't your mission." She cried furiously.
"They asked me, so it was." Luke kept his voice soft. "Why Mara?"
"I told you."
"No, you didn't." His voice was firm, his stare implacable. His hands dug once more into her shoulders. Hands which soothed in comfort, hands that had already smoothed her soft skin with a sensuous intent. Hands which brought her to a fever pitch of wanting his touch alone - a lover's touch. Hands, which had found the luxurious rope of red-gold hair and was separating it strand by strand from its plait, running the golden threads through his fingers, letting it shimmer around them both like a cloud of fire.
Mara's eyes closed in defeat and her head subsided onto Luke's shoulder. Cradling her in his arms Luke tipped up her chin with one finger. "Why Mara?" he whispered again.
Her eyes locked with his, nakedly open, yet somewhere, there still lurked a spark of defiance. "I can't let you go, Luke, because I love you."
Luke's eyes closed in silent prayer and he bowed his head resting it against her bright head. "Thank the Force."
"I love you, Luke."
"As much as I love you?" His voice deepened in remembered pain. "I thought you would never admit it…." His voice shook. He lifted his head and stared at her in wonder and awe. Letting down the barriers he'd been keeping so tightly he let his love surround her with all of its power.
Mara gasped as the warmth of his love wove around her, into her heart and her mind. For the first time she realised what he'd been holding back and how he felt about her. He loved her. Luke Skywalker felt that she was his reason for living.
Any remaining doubts either of them had vanished when Luke's mouth finally covered Mara's in a soul shattering kiss. The response between them was instantaneous. Their mouths opened deepening the kiss as Luke's hands found the slender straps and eased them downwards. The top landed somewhere on the floor but Mara no longer cared. Luke's hands immediately covered her breasts, teasing the rosy nipples to pert, aching fullness. His hands moved down over her hips to clutch her cloth-covered bottom, her legs bare in the intimate light.
Mara was tugging at the collar of his tunic so she could press hot, open-mouthed kisses to Luke's throat. The jacket dropped to the floor and Mara ran her hands over his chest reaching down to his belt buckle. Her hands fumbled and Luke drew in a sharp breath as his body came to life with a surge of powerful feeling to his groin. Through the thin barrier of their remaining clothes Mara could feel Luke's hardness pressing against her belly and she longed to have him even closer. Suddenly with a tortured groan, he lifted her in his arms and headed toward the bedroom. "No patience," he mumbled. "But who could have, when it's you?"
"Make love to me, Luke," she begged. "Don't leave me."
"I won't," he murmured as he slid her agonisingly slowly down his body. "Mara… I'm not going to Varnahk – at least not at the moment and not without you."
Nothing happened for a second. Then she raised her face from his throat, her hair surrounding them, its golden threads weaving into their lives, and smiled. "I know."