A very special thank you to my beta readers Elizabeth and Allison. You ladies are terrific.

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This story is inspired by a catchy little saying that hangs on my mother-in-law's wall. (author unknown) "I'm sure you understood what you think I said, but I'm not sure that you realize, what you heard is not what I meant."

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Disclaimer: All characters belong to Lucas films and Timothy Zahn. I am making no money nor claiming any rights to characters.

The Fictitious Pregnancy of Mara Jade

Setting: Three years after The Last Command on Coruscant.

Spoilers: None, this is strictly an AU story.

Prolog: Talon Karrde and crew had came to Coruscant to attend inservices on current trade rights of the New Republic. Karrde had just left one such meeting and walked to a nearby eatery for a late breakfast. There he ran into his second in command, Mara Jade.

Chapter One: Mara and Talon

The midmorning sun kissed the back of the man's shoulders as he made his way through the city streets to a secluded tavern he often frequented when he was on this planet. The morning assembly on the trade commission, showcasing keynote speaker Borsch Fey'lya, had left him feeling weary and drained. He theorized a late breakfast was just the thing to prepare him for the next round of inservices with the garrulous Bothan.

Talon Karrde walked though the double doors of the tavern and was met with the quiet, subdued lighting that contrasted pleasantly with the busy city. As his eyes adjusted to the to the low illumination, he began to search for his second in command, Mara Jade. He smiled to himself as he remembered how she had tricked him into attending today's meetings with the promise she would attend tomorrow's. He later discovered that Leia Organa Solo would be tomorrow's keynote speaker for the conference who, in Karrde's opinion, was a very engaging speaker at the podium.

He soon found Mara sitting in a rear booth of the pub, which offered a clear view of all the entrances in the room. As he studied her profile, he marveled privately at the subtle changes that had occurred in the young woman since he had first come to know her a few years back. Gone was the aura of anger and hate, leaving behind a gentle beauty that few would dare to mention. Most people were of an understanding it would be a mistake to let their guard down around her, for she still held a menacing presence and was considered to be one of the deadliest women in the galaxy. Talon, however, knew that it now mostly a front she carefully manifested to keep others at bay. He sighed as he realized how much he had grown to love her. She was probably the closest thing to a daughter he would ever have. As he approached the table and sat down, she customarily was the first to speak.

"Karrde, I finally figured out what's wrong with that stupid, temperamental vornskr of yours," the young woman declared as she picked at a sweet roll.

A vornskr was normally a four-legged nocturnal mammal with long legs and an even longer tail used as a whip in the hunt of its prey . Talon had long ago had the tails of his two pet vornskrs removed, which seemed to reduce the beasts aggression, although did not diminish the animals' instinct to attack Force sensitive beings. However he had not, due to her young age, removed the tail on his female vornskr.

"Now Mara, Red is not temperamental. She's just 'particular', like a lot of women I know," he admonished.

Mara shot him an annoyed look. "I am not particular. I just like things done to my satisfaction."

Talon raised an eyebrow, amusement shown in his eyes. "Of course Mara, but I wasn't referring to you."

She snorted in disbelief. "Yeah, and you just happened to name her 'Red', because of her beautiful reddish fur."

"Actually, it was Luke who came up with that name. I had nothing to do with it."

"Skywalker?" She replied in mock disdain. "He's as bad as you when it comes to subtle implications."

Karrde's brows furrowed together ready to deny this, but noticing the look on her face he realized he wasn't going to win the debate. He tried a new avenue instead, "So what do you deem is wrong with the vornskr?"

"She's pregnant," Mara stated matter-of-factly.

His face fell. "No! Already? She's not even a year old yet." Remembering the sudden interest his two male vornskr had taken in the female, he let out a groan.

Mara smiled in satisfaction. 'Serves you right,' she thought to herself. She couldn't help needling his predicament. "You know Karrde, I can't be sure, but I think I could sense more than one life form in Red."

The man placed his face in his hands with his elbows resting on the table as he privately rebuked his purchase of the female vornskr. Why had he listened to Calrissian? He fathomed that man could sell

sand to a moisture farmer.

Mara left the remains of her sweet roll on her plate and rose from the table. 'Humph, that'll teach him to name his beasts after me,' she thought casting her boss a triumphant smile as a farewell. As she walked out of the pub, Talon heard an unaccustomed laugh escape her lips.

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Chapter Two: Talon and Ghent

Ghent spied Karrde across the room and began to walk toward him. As he approached, he noticed Mara Jade leaving the pub. That in itself wasn't strange, but the fact that she was laughing was most uncommon. He continued his journey until he was seated across the table from his boss.

Unnoticed by both men, Han Solo also entered the tavern and took a seat at the table behind them. He was about to offer a 'hello', but fell silent perceiving the seriousness of Karrde's demeanor.

Ghent continued to watch the woman's departure then turned to ask Talon what Jade had found so funny. When he noticed a plate of food sitting untouched and a look of despair on Karrde's face, he instantly asked, "What's wrong?"

With a sigh, Talon replied, "I'm afraid our Red is pregnant."

"Are you sure?" He asked, shock plain on his face.

"Yes I'm sure. Mara just told me. She thinks there's a chance it might be twins," Karrde admitted.

Han had been taking a drink of ale and abruptly spit it out upon hearing the news. He quickly began mopping up the liquid with a cloth, but continued to listen intently.

"What are you going to do?" Ghent asked in shock?

"I'm not sure, but they can't stay on the ship, that's for sure."

Ghent looked horrified. "You can't separate them from their mother."

"Not right away, but perhaps it's time to get rid of her too. She's always been so irritable; it'll be much worse now that she's pregnant."

Ghent nodded his head in agreement. "Which one is the father?" He inquired.

"Well, now, I surmise we've got it narrowed down to two possibilities, don't we? I suppose it doesn't matter though; the harm is done." Karrde replied as he stroked his beard.

"I reckon so," Ghent conceded.

Karrde signed, "I guess I didn't see this coming, but it was bound to happen sooner or later. Have you ever noticed the way the two hover around her all the time?"

Nodding in agreement, Ghent added, "I'm surprised it hadn't happened before now."

After a lull in conversation, Talon stood up, "Let's head back to the ship for a while. I've lost my appetite." He rose and began to head toward the door. Ghent gave a last longing look that the untouched food then followed after him.

Han watched them walk away as his anger began to build. 'How could they be so callous?' He wondered to himself. He shook his head in disgust imagining how Mara must be feeling right now. 'The poor kid must feel so alone.' Then his mouth dropped open in shock as he imagined the possibility of who might be the baby's father. A grin quickly spread across his face. "Luke, you old nerf you." Suddenly no longer thirsty, he rushed home to talk to Leia. She was going to faint.

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