This was originally intended as a happy L/M viggie to make Emmi happy (*pointed look*), but it's evolved into a 7-part series.
The Point of No Return
You couldn't really call it a tradition, for Luke and I weren't carrying on some generations-long custom. Careful planning, or extensive research into Coruscantian seating arrangements didn't achieve it. It was an accident. Plain and simple. And I hate to say it, but Threkim Horm's to blame.
I guess fat, irritating politicians do have their uses.
You see, whenever I happened to be nearby the Imperial Palace I liked to stop by the cafeteria for a bite to eat. The New Republic has accomplished some amazing feats, but I'd say their greatest achievement has been the improved food. During the Emperor's reign, the gruel was…well, grueling to consume. It took a stomach of durasteel to digest that spittle. With superweapons constantly in development, some budget cuts had to be made.
But this rebel chow is excellent. Satisfying, flavorful, and probably even nutritious if I checked into it. I'd head in, grab myself a plate of unpronounceable entrées, then ponder Smuggler's Alliance business over a hot meal.
Somehow, Skywalker found out about my habit and always managed to miraculously "appear" right when I sat down with my lunch. I don't know how he did it; Jedi should not have enough free time to mastermind elaborate schemes and impromptu meetings. But he did, and every time I entered the room there he was, sitting at a table, a stupid grin plastered across his face as he waved me towards an empty seat.
It was sort of cute in a juvenile, bored-out-of-my-mind way. Not a big masculine turn-on, but then again, Luke's not one of those macho men.
I wouldn't speak to him if he were.
Safe, easy, risk-free; I'd take my place across from Luke and we'd discuss anything from Smuggler's Alliance news to whether lightsabers have fuses. He claimed that they didn't, basing his knowledge on the fact that he'd constructed one himself; I didn't agree. Lightsabers are delicate instruments, like molecular stilettos, which have fuses. I think. Luke laughed it off as circular reasoning, but when I didn't show up for several days he rather sheepishly sent me a message that I was correct. Our arguments usually ended that way.
It continued like that for a while- several months, or so. We had our spats, which tended to be quite frequent, but our friendship was never affected. I guess we realized that who knows more about the lifespan of garrals just isn't that important in the big picture.
I was happy with this arrangement. Everything was so smooth…until Threkim Horm screwed up my routine. I was heading towards the table, smiling at how Luke's new haircut drew attention to his eyes, when the Alderaanian swerved in front of me and parked his hoverchair right in my spot. Luke looked a little peevish, but nowhere near as angry as I felt. Didn't that huge lumbering imbecile know anything? That was my seat, for the Force's sake. He wasn't allowed to just plow his way past paying customers and steal reserved places.
Luke shrugged apologetically, and gestured to show me that his table was full. I glared at Horm with my best "personal servant of the Emperor" stare and trudged off in search of an isolated chair. If I couldn't sit by a friend, I would not be willing to plop myself down next to a total stranger who wanted to discuss the weather. Besides, I've usually found that such situations either lead to awkwardly worded pickup lines if my neighbor is male (Calrissian…) or hostile looks if female. I've never been one to act friendly around new acquaintances, anyway. Particularly puffed-up government workers.
So there I was, wandering aimlessly in a crowded cafeteria, when I spotted a vacant seat at Luke's table. There was just one slight problem: it was next to him.
Not across from, not diagonal to, but directly beside him. I'd never done that before, eaten lunch on his right-hand side. Did I really want to get that close? My normal place was cautious, near enough for conversation by far enough that I could leave without a second's delay.
If I sat there, we would almost be touching.
I turned, scanned the hall for safer seating; nothing. My only choices were to remain standing and thus snub the poor man or sit next to him and face the consequences.
It's amazing how little things can frighten me so much. I fought down the urge to kill Luke, and I defeated C'baoth and that creepy clone. And yet I couldn't pick a place to eat without my nerves turning to liquid and my hands shaking.
Courage, Mara. No sweat.
I glanced around one last time, then took a tentative step towards that empty seat. Luke was watching me, and I swear he was hiding amusement behind that deadpan expression. Oh, he was perfectly composed, but his eyes were twinkling. He had to be laughing inside.
I squared my shoulders and took another step. This was not difficult. Keep on walking, I told myself as I strode across the tiled floor. Just a few more meters, and my journey would be complete.
I sank into the chair, and set my tray down with a loud clank. My emotions were tangled in a big confusing knot, but despite all my nervousness I felt relieved. I'd crossed the point of no return- and nothing had changed. Though perhaps, that little wall I'd built up between us had begun to crumble- just a little. I wasn't ready to tear it down yet.
Luke leaned forward, his head almost brushing against mine as he bent to whisper in my ear. I shut my eyes, and couldn't help smiling.
Perhaps Luke and I are meant for something more.