Several months earlier...

On Distant Shores

"Mara, I've never seen you dance before."

I threw Luke a glare. We were stuck in an uncomfortable situation, and he certainly wasn't making it any more relaxing. I would have never chosen to board that turbolift with him if I'd have known that we'd have a bomb drill halfway up to the thirty-fourth floor. It's not that Luke was a dull companion. But after a few minutes of polite chitchat, our conversation had petered off into silence. Even after all we'd been through together, I just didn't feel right with him. In a group, such confrontations were no sweat, so long as I had a way to get away if the talk turned to touchy subjects. Here, I felt trapped. The lift was large, true- about 6 X 6 meters- but there was no escape route. The doors were locked shut, and I was stuck. With him.

I scooted a little more securely into my corner. As soon as we realized that we might be in here a while, we instantly scattered to separate areas. I was reclining serenely near the emergency comlink; Luke had picked the opposite side. His childlike position- knees pulled against his chest, arms wrapped tightly around his legs- seemed to impart a sense of fear, but he gave off an aura of alertness. Nothing was going to catch him by surprise.

"Well, there's a reason why. I haven't practiced in at least two years. I don't want to make a fool of myself."

He leaned forward, and rested his chin against his knees. His eyes were so blue- so light and perfect- that they disgusted me. I know it's not his fault that he was born with gorgeous eyes; but did he have to fix them on me with such an irritatingly pleading expression? If he hadn't been five meters away I would have socked him.

"Please, Mara, could you-"

"Could I what, Skywalker? You never finish your sentences."

I popped my back and groaned. We weren't far from each other, but it might as well have been a galaxy-wide chasm. We were on two remote shores: the naïve young Jedi and the cynical ex-Emperor's Hand. Our common experiences had done nothing to draw us together, only to force us more apart. I still felt like he barely knew me.

Luke scooted a few centimeters towards me and smiled. "Could you dance? You don't have to, but since we've nothing else to do it can't be that hard."

I snorted. It was an involuntary action- I would never have done that purposefully. Could you imagine the talk it would have raised in public? Mara Jade, cold as ice, snorting like a schoolboy. But I did. And if anything, it helped to loosen up a little of the unpleasant tension bearing down on me. "I can't just dance. It takes preparation and thought. Concentration. I can't choreograph something on the spur of the moment."

"Please, Mara?"

"Skywalker, you remember when Solo did the Corellian rumba at that reception? You think that was bad? And he was under the influence of a large quantity of alcohol. I'm not doing anything."

He kept on smiling, and I think it was those big azure orbs that did me in. No matter how awful my performance might be, I had nothing to worry. Luke would never tell others, and I knew that his compliments would not be forced.

"Mara, I promise I won't say a word."

"Fine. But not out a single comment out of your mouth until I'm done, or I'll make you dance."

I did a few stretches and leg warm-ups. Not many, mind you- I valued my respectability more than my muscle suppleness. I knew that I was probably risking a torn ligament, but I was nervous. I can't explain it any other way. I'd danced with no qualms on undercover missions before, in front of audiences a lot more demanding than Luke. He wouldn't blow me away with a slugthrower if I didn't do ten fouettés.

I admit it- I wasn't just a little tense. I was frightened. Now that I'd agreed to dance, my mind was empty of everything I'd ever been taught. What the hell was an arabesque, any way? And there was an odd humming in my ears that persisted in drowning out the "comforting" music playing over the general speakers. Not that those slow, emotionless, muddled melodies would have helped much.

I glanced at Luke again. His face was raised towards me, radiating calmness and tranquility. Why fret over the insignificant? Luke Skywalker, savior of the universe, wanted to see me dance. It was flattering. We were separated by the unbridgeable gap of propriety; I couldn't restrain myself anymore. Courtesy be damned, I was going to show off.

I shut my eyes, and listened. Shrill horns droned in the ancient track, my pulse reverberated in the side of my neck, the pounding of a bottom-heavy cleaning droid sounded somewhere above the ceiling. It throbbed desperately, synchronizing with the adrenaline-enhanced beat of my heart.

Left foot forward, gentle sweep of the hands. A modified second position movement with the arms. Leap to the right, turn swiftly, drop into a bent knee stance. Spin onto the other knee; continue the motion while rising upright. Pirouette. Lift arms to graceful position above the head.

I paused to steady my breath, and fluttered my hands slowly. Too classical for my tastes. I erased Luke and ballet terms and ancient guidelines out of my mind. The rhythm thumped louder in my skin, my blood, my soul. I was making myself happy. That was all that mattered.

I swayed my hips, twisting and circling in time to the rhythm of my spirit. Spinning, jumping, falling, undulating- I was no longer aware of my footing or whether I was curving my arms properly. The dance was a part of me- it was me. There were imperfections and mistakes; I bumped a wall during one turn, and my breathing was not always corresponding to my movements. But strangely, I felt released- uncaged.

It wasn't true freedom. This was entirely different from the peace I'd felt on Mt. Tantiss. But it was still liberating, to open myself to the music inside and express it through my body.

Several seconds passed before I became conscious that I had finished. Pulling wet tendrils from my face, I slipped out of my slightly cross-legged ending position and looked into Luke's eyes, unsure of what I'd find. They brimmed with acceptance, satisfaction, and pride.

I blushed…a little. It wasn't much more than a slight reddening of my cheeks, but that was enough to turn his smile into a grin.

"That was incredible."

I sat down closer to him. We were still divided, but there was something between us, a common bond that we had both shared. I wasn't ready to let him get any more brilliant ideas, though.

"Oh, shut up, Skywalker."