The Awakening - Chapter 16
Disclaimer - The characters and situations used in this story are the property of Lucasfilm ltd. I have only borrowed them for a short while and will not make any credits from my tale. My thanks go to the girls on the Mara & Luke list, for without them this story would not be nearly as coherent and ordered as it is. Special thanks to JT and Mona for their extra work on my behalf.
And now the conclusion….
"So you are alive, my daughter?"
The image flickered unsteadily and Luke suddenly understood that this recording had been made hurriedly. It was as if Mirahn had slit the holo imaging technique itself and slipped between the data. Just waiting for something or someone with the correct presence in the Force to activate it. If Mara had died before all this was discovered, the message would never have been heard.
'Always in motion is the future.' Yoda's oft-quoted saying seemed to linger in Luke's mind. Strange how things turned out.
Mirahn held out her hands. "If I am talking to you now, it is because you have grown and accepted your rightful place as a Jedi Knight in the light side of the Force."
Mara fell forward onto her knees and held out her hand in appeal. She tried to commit every detail, every part of Mirahn to her memory. Luke steadied her and supported her, his hands sure at her waist.
"Mother?" Her voice shook but no censure, accusation or hatred coloured her tone. There was great depth of feeling and a just acceptance of the way things had come to be. Mara had accepted the truth about herself. She stood on the threshold of a new life; she had awakened from a long sleep and stood on the dawn of change.
The woman smiled.
"I'm not really here you know, I died a long time ago. I'd hoped this message would reach you someday. That's why I coded into this holocron. It wasn't mine to make. I am not a master -unlike you." She directed her comment to Luke. He had to be amazed at the awesome power of the Force. How had she known? Perhaps the holocron was tapping off his power and recognising Luke's own white Force presence. He wasn't sure if that was the case, but it was a reasonable explanation. He wanted to believe it was more than mere chance. Luke nodded deferentially towards the Jedi woman - he did believe.
"I was Ranik Solusar's third padawan learner and I studied with the others who helped put their knowledge into this holocron. Masters Dinn and Yharn have much to teach you. I helped with setting up some of the information held within. The Emperor learned of its existence through me. I was not good at shielding my thoughts and my feelings, unlike you, Mara. You have yours locked so tightly - how will your young man ever know your true feelings?"
"I picked a wiser one than you did," Mara paled as the words left her lips.
"He knows my feelings. He's always known."
Luke closed his eyes as the twin emotions of total joy and abject pain threatened to overwhelm him. Joy at her admission of any emotional dependence and pain that it had taken them so long to come to this point in their lives.
Mirahn gazed at the couple with compassion. Her road had finished long ago. They were setting out on their journey with hope in their hearts. If she'd been of the living, she would have envied them.
"Jan Jaden had some Force aptitude, but was not strong enough to train. However, he could communicate with Palpatine through the Force - only at short distances and for limited periods of time - but he couldn't control or hide it, and I think half the time he wasn't aware of doing so. We met in the grounds surrounding the Senate gardens where I was acting as an assistant to one of the Jedi Representatives, and I fell in love with him immediately. Oh I tried to hide it, as such a union would have been forbidden, but it was my destiny to love him and thus to have you. My unthinking belief and trust in Jan was played to the Emperor without our knowledge.
Eventually the Jedi Council found out - it was inevitable that they would. We were warned that this relationship could not happen - it had to end. There was too much at stake. I was young and I didn't understand."
Luke rubbed his hand across his mouth. "You disobeyed the Council," Luke murmured knowingly. Mara had to get her spark, her bloody-minded determination, from somewhere. Now he knew. Luke gave the woman in his arms an affectionate glance. If her mother was anything like his Mara, then Jan Jaden wouldn't have stood a chance.
Mirahn continued her tale. "Palpatine was by then undergoing his systematic extermination of our kind. At first, it was only a rumour and then as we began to fall one by one he grew more confident. Yoda and the Jedi Council tried to do what they could. Kenobi had disappeared a few years earlier, as had Anakin Skywalker. The way of the Jedi was disappearing fast in front of our eyes.
The council looked for ways to safeguard their most precious teachings if the worst happened. Some of the Jedi began to create holocrons and smuggle them off world."
"Many still haven't been found," Luke murmured quietly.
Mirahn nodded slowly. "I was eventually confined to my quarters in the temple because I had disobeyed instructions the council gave me regarding Jan. I watched Master Solusar, Master Dinn and Master Yharn work on their holocron. I had studied with Master Solusar; I knew his ways. But even the final warning wasn't enough to keep me away from Jan. The Emperor learned of this last holocron because of me. I was stubborn to a fault and I couldn't stay away from the man I loved. I was wrong. It should never have happened and I should have adhered to the council's instructions. I unwittingly betrayed the knowledge to Jan and he couldn't keep a secret from his Master any more than he could stop breathing. I suspect if at that time Palpatine had told him to do that, he would have obeyed.
Palpatine decided he would steal the holocron and possibly destroy it, once he had learned its teachings. But this holocron was so attuned to the light side of the Force, Palpatine could not access the vast wealth it hid within it and in revenge he destroyed the Jedi Temple. We couldn't prove it was him but the flames burned with dark side energy. It was my home, my centre and my salvation and it was gone. The Jedi Council knew it had to be because of me. I had disregarded their instructions too many times. I was headstrong and lacked discipline but I felt so much emotion in my soul..."
Mara flinched and turned to stare at Luke. He was watching her, not Mirahn. 'I gave you my soul, that night.' His eyes seemed to bore through her and he nodded unsmilingly. Mara pulled Luke's head towards her and gave him a quick hard kiss.
"I know," she whispered. "The Jedi code got it wrong. Emotion binds us together."
Mirahn watched their exchange with a sympathetic expression. "Don't lose what you have. When I left Coruscant I thought I'd lost everything. I was banished and I accepted my fate, but not before stealing the holocron back. I should have returned it to Yoda, but terrified that the Emperor would find me and kill me for what I'd dared to do or even worse take out his anger on Jan, I ran, taking the holocron with me. Then I ran as far away as I could. I ran away from the Jedi and from Jan, I lost my pride; ashamed of my weakness I gave up carrying my lightsaber. Eventually Jan found me again. He was a good man and could no longer take what was happening in the New Order. Losing me had somehow opened his eyes to what was really happening out there. We fell in love all over again and you blessed our lives, but also made it more difficult for us to run. He was a good Imperial soldier and I suspect the most courageous thing he ever did in his life was to fall in love with me. He left all that he knew for me, to follow a path he never really believed in and suffered for the choices he made. He did love you deeply, Mara. You made it worthwhile for both of us."
Luke placed his hands on Mara's tense shoulders and began a soothing massage. She was straining without moving, her muscles knotted and tight. "Relax," he murmured softly.
"It was inevitable we were caught. You had such a powerful Force signature added to Jan's weak link with Palpatine. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't shield all three of us and we knew it. I met Solusar one more time before he was killed and told him I had the holocron. Ranik had smiled wearily and told me a holocron could be broken up and only a true Jedi strong in the light side of the Force would be able to forge it anew with its secrets intact. I dismantled it and when I was caught, I think it disappeared. I'd carried around some things for such a long time. The holocron, some data cards onto which I'd added information as I discovered it. I had records of my own training so that one day I would be able to pass on what I'd learned to my daughter. Not much to show for a life. Still, I had you, Mara, the most precious thing in the world to Jan and me. This message was keyed to your presence in the Force, Mara. I had to believe there was still goodness and light in the galaxy - I had to believe there still was hope and you would survive. I am at peace now. Cannot you find some too?"
"I'm trying to," she snapped. Mara's eyes darkened to a stormy grey-green but as she glanced at Luke, her fierce expression softened. "Finding my true identity, who I really am is important to me, especially after living a lie for so long."
Her mother smiled. "Even as a baby, you could hold out from sleeping longer than we thought was humanly possible. You would not give in." She smiled and Luke saw an echo of Mara's seldom seen carefree grin.
"We were caught and you were taken from my arms. Jan and I were separated for days until we were brought into the presence of the Emperor himself. You sat on his knee, but they had done something to you and you didn't react to anything that was going on. He gave you to me, but you didn't respond at all. You just stared with a glassy look on your little face."
Mirahn began to weep, tears sliding down her face. Mara sat as if turned to stone and Luke found that his own eyes were wet. He wrapped his arms around her and channelled all his love towards her. She was going to need every bit of it; he knew that much.
"Palpatine had snapped something in Jan's mind too, he was dazed, confused, barely coherent. He didn't recognise you or me, Mara, and I begged him to wake up. I screamed at him and Palpatine sat cackling at us, feeding off our pain."
"He held his blaster and pointed it at you. I didn't know what Palpatine had done to you, but you didn't recognise either of us and I tried to correct it through the Force. He was much stronger than I was and it was to no avail. I did what I could and instead sent a wave of the Force towards Jan. I sent my last despairing effort and I thought I had failed. They all thought I'd failed - Vader and the Emperor thought that. I could sense Palpatine smirking. But Jan… he looked at me, something sparked in his eyes. His hand lowered.
'Then kill the Jedi.'
Jan's arm raised again and he faced me avoiding Mara, avoiding even looking at her and placed the gun against my temple. I could feel his despair and his confusion, his whirling, spinning thoughts. Again I sent the light of the Force to him through our marriage bond and the dark terrors began to clear. I thought I was too late but his hand shook and I knew the Force had given him back his right mind. He now knew what he was doing - what he had to do and turned the blaster on himself.
'Forgive me. I love you both.'
Then he fired.
Palpatine's face darkened in shock, surprise and a swift spiralling anger - the air crackling with twisted energy. He raised his hands and hissed something. I felt a searing pain in my gut. With my failing strength I held on to you and begged and pleaded for my life so that I could look after my daughter, but I could see no room for mercy on the Emperor's part. I would not turn to the dark side - I could not. I only had to look at my daughter. Then Vader whispered something and the Emperor stopped causing me such pain. Lord Vader removed you from my arms and carried you away, but as he did so, he dropped my own saber, the one I hadn't seen for years into my lap. I killed myself with my own saber in the hope that if I became one with the Force I could protect you. I was wrong and I'm sorry. I loved your father, Mara, and he loved us. Please forgive me…."
The flickering image disappeared and was replaced again by the man with the silver eyes. "I am Ranik Solusar…"
Luke pulled his hand from the holocron and Ranik Solusar's wise visage vanished
"Bring her back, Luke!" Mara turned crying wildly. "She can't be gone."
"Mirahn will always be with you," he assured her gently, his voice and manner projecting peace and calm.
"She's in the holocron." She beat her hands on Luke's strong chest. "She's there. I want my mother… I need her. Bring her back!" Her face twisted in a painful grimace. Her fists clenched, eyes blazing through her tears.
"No, she's not there, not any more. It's a manifestation of her spirit. The Force has granted you this gift." He grabbed her by the wrists and looked directly into her eyes. "Come on, Mara. It's okay."
"But I saw her…. I saw her." The glare crumpled and her head dropped, her neck too slender to support the weight of her pain.
"Ssh…" Luke pulled her into his arms and rocked her, trying to stop the storm of weeping. Thirty years of anguish poured from Mara Jade. Thirty years of tainted association, thirty years of living a lie so twisted that even she hadn't known she was living it.
"Ssh…" he comforted. "Let it go, let it heal. Come on, sweetheart." His soothing voice finally eased her into almost stillness, punctuated with small sobs, until her bright head rested on his chest. Luke caressed her and held her close to his heart, letting its rhythm ease her fears and her doubts. Eventually, she released the last of her tension in a shuddering breath.
"Mara!" Luke pulled her head from his chest and rubbed his thumb over her parted lips. "Mara."
"Oh, Luke" Her arms surrounded him and she pressed herself tight into his warm, living, loving presence.
"You know who you are." He kissed her forehead tenderly, his love enveloping her in a way that she almost remembered in a different lifetime. It had been millennia since she'd been loved this much.
A wisp of an image flashed in front of her eyes, just a pair of green eyes smiling down at her and the feeling of a man's arms keeping her safe. She'd been loved, she was sure of it and she was loved now. The man who held her so close to him, treating her as if she was the most precious thing in his world, loved her.
"Yes…" Luke breathed. "Believe, Mara." He tipped her chin up with a gentle finger and dipped his head so that his lips could find her own and with a sigh like a drop of rain in the desert he once more offered her his heart.
Ignored, the crystal holocron shimmered and for the last time, the ghostly figures of Jaden and Mirahn watched the living proof of their love as she was gathered ever closer into the arms of the man who loved her. Finally whole again after so many years of uncertainty and doubt. Then their spectral images vanished, never to be seen again.
Luke's hands began to untangle Mara's hair from its plait and he threaded his fingers through it. His lips parted and his tongue darted out to taste Mara's own. He kissed her as if it were the first time and the last time that he had ever seen her. She tilted her head back, her eyes closed, allowing him access to the delicate smoothness of her neck and the sensitive pulse point just behind her ear. Hands began to knead and clutch, as their duelling tongues grew wilder and more frantic.
"We must stop…" Luke gasped out between heated kisses.
"No! This is life. This is their blessing, their benediction. I want you, Luke."
"And I want you…. Forever."
Her green eyes darkened to slits of grey green chips. "That's the only deal I'm curious about."
Mara tugged at the collar of his tunic until she could rip it from his body.
"Mara! My …."
Her lips travelled wildly down his strongly muscled chest and found one of his nipples. She sucked and tasted until he couldn't take any more. Pushing her down onto the cushions, he tore at her clothes and helped her do the same to him until they had enough access to complete their frenzied mating. Luke's eyes glowed brighter than any star as he found the home he remembered so well and discovered they were both ready. As he sheathed himself within her, there was a moment when they paused, their eyes darkening further and a wordless communication passed between them. Then Mara smiled, for the first time truly free from her past.
"What kind of interest are we speaking about here, farmboy?" She could no longer remain still against his passionate onslaught. His hands trailed over her body, igniting a trail of fire so hot that it threatened to obliterate them both.
Mara forgot about giving him a chance to answer her question. She didn't give him time to formulate a reply, but murmured huskily, "Just love me, Luke."
His wonderful eyes softened with love as he pressed his mouth softly to her cheek in a gentle kiss. "That's the easy part, my heart. I always have. Even when I didn't know you - I loved you…"
With a smile that promised him everything in the galaxy he ever wanted. Mara pulled his head down to hers and they communicated in a way much older than language.
Two weeks later.
Luke pulled his wife into the crook of his arm as they stood on the balcony of their Coruscant apartment, her head resting on his shoulder.
"I can't believe I actually went and married you!" Mara sounded a little shell-shocked.
"Well you did." Luke's voice was definite and just a little pleased with himself
"Yup." He turned his head and nuzzled the smooth skin of her cheek, dropping a light kiss on her temple. "I have the records to prove it."
"Oh yes. I have lodged one with Karrde,"
Mara rolled her eyes. "How much did that cost you?"
He ignored her. "With Lando, one at the Yavin Jedi complex, the New Republic has several and there may be one on Tatooine. Even Artoo has one lodged within his memory banks. I'm just making sure."
"Making sure of what?" she snapped.
Mara lifted her head, her eyes narrowing. "What do you mean by that, farmboy?" she drawled slowly.
"I want to let everyone in the whole galaxy know that you're mine and I'm keeping you and that…" His voice trembled. "You love me enough to marry me. You didn't have to, you know. I would have done anything to keep you with me. I still can't believe…."
Mara placed her slim arms around his neck and moved until she'd pressed her body against his. "Believe it, Luke," she whispered, her lips closing hungrily over his. They kissed deeply. Mara closed her eyes, relishing the taste of him that was so warm, and she had been so long in the cold.
"Leia had already started organising things. Besides, the tales she told me about some of the women who have their eyes on you." She shuddered, mock delicately. "I've always rescued you from the scrapes you've landed yourself in and I thought it would save time in the long run if I just posted you permanently off limits to them."
"You still want to kill me?" Luke sighed theatrically. "That's what the permanent bit means?"
"Oh no. I like having you around," she murmured huskily. "You have certain… uses…" Her voice trailed off suggestively as she dropped a kiss just below his ear.
"My cooking skills?" The words came out with difficulty.
"Number one on my list." Mara murmured as she kissed her way around his jaw. Interesting, the Jedi Master had become somewhat tense.
"Oh," he muttered. The little word accompanied by a pathetic look.
Mara chuckled until she realised the Jedi Master had begun to unbutton some of her wedding apparel. The delicate cream shimmersilk gown was surely one of the most beautiful things she had ever owned. She stayed his hands for a time. She was enjoying their light banter before things would turn…. Serious. A delicious shiver ran through her and Luke's sky blue eyes darkened to a passionate hue
"I'm going to have to go through a big thing too, for the public?" She turned the conversation back to something a little safer.
"I think the reception Leia has planned will do the trick. That way we can keep the fuss to a minimum."
"Luke!" She gave him an exasperated glare. "Where you are concerned the fuss won't be 'minimum'. You can be so naïve sometimes and for someone who should know better."
But Mara, I don't take part in public life any more. I just teach Jedi. I leave all that kinda stuff to Han and Leia." He collapsed into a low chair and pulled her into his arms and for a while they sat and watched the sun descend and the lights brighten.
Leia had pressed for a public wedding, but Luke had been rather reluctant and Mara downright against it. The Jedi ceremony they had undergone with just their close family including Karrde, Cilghal and Kam Solusar had been truly moving. The civil ceremony had been attended by about fifty of their family and closest friends. To keep Leia happy, Luke had promised a formal reception at a time later on in the year and that had seemed to satisfy her. The most important thing for Luke, after Mara had agreed to marry him, was to get it done as quickly as possible before she had a chance to change her mind. There was no way he was letting that happen.
"Hey!" Her voice cut into his thoughts.
"Where were you?" she asked curiously.
"Just thinking about things," he grinned at her.
"Miss Inquisitive," he teased.
"'Scuse me, farmboy, that's Mrs Inquisitive to you. I got married today." Mara stuck her nose in the air and climbed off his lap, only to return with two glasses of a dark red, rich Borleias claret.
Mara handed Luke a glass and watched as he stared into the heart of the liquid. She moved to the chair opposite him. But he lifted his head, his eyes penetrating and she returned to his arms.
"When…" he cleared his throat. "When did you realise how you felt?"
"About you?" Mara took a careful sip of the wine.
"You're still alive aren't you?"
Luke chuckled. "I think so, but that's not what I meant. When did you know?"
Mara curved herself into his body, her head on his shoulder. "I'd begun to suspect things weren't what they should be between us for some time. I was too happy to see you, jealous of any other woman you paid attention to. Then something in the Force twisted round my senses and called me to Coruscant."
"I walked in to my upstairs room and you stood there bathed in light. The sunlight shone through the window and your hair turned to a fiery halo of gold. I knew then - consciously I knew then. Unconsciously I must have been in love with you for a long time before that," Luke whispered reverently. His hand traced the path of a wayward curl. "How could I not have fallen in love with you?"
"I asked Leia when she knew you were special."
Luke's jaw dropped. "You asked my sister that! Mara, it's a wonder the wedding invites weren't put out then. You don't give Leia Organa Solo openings like that." He shook his head.
"She was very good about it," Mara's soft voice was defensive. "But she did ask me some awkward questions."
"She would - she's very good at them. Been married to Han for too long. She knows he will try to out think her or worm his way out of things. So she stays one step ahead. I waited for you that night. I waited here and the Force was strong. It seemed to suggest things that I wanted to hear and yet, couldn't ever consider."
"I had visions of being in your arms. By the time I got to your apartment I'd worked myself into a very tense frame of mind."
"Touch you and you would snap. I remember." He trailed a gentle finger over her bare arm and she shivered. "But I'd never seen anyone looking more beautiful than you did that night, until today of course. If I'd had suspicions before I definitely knew then. Something had awakened in me and all I could dream about was you."
"Then we made love."
"It was inevitable, wasn't it?"
"Inevitable, incredible, indescribable. I've never been so lifted from within myself."
"Me too," his voice tailed off and he smiled with something suspiciously like moisture in his eyes.
Mara caressed his cheek surprised to find that he needed to shave again. She trailed over the little cleft in his chin and smiled as he kissed her fingers. "It was then I realised I was in love with you."
"So you ran away."
"I ran away with my mother's voice ringing in my ears. She liked you."
"I'm a very likeable guy."
"Then I found out what you were doing to yourself, Skywalker." Her face grew pensive at how lost she had felt without him. How vulnerable her emotions had left her - all because of him.
"I had to do something. I hoped you would reconsider, but there were no guarantees. I'd had you in my arms for one night. No one would ever take your place there. My lifetime choice was made. You or no one. Greoa Prime needed me and I was glad to go." Luke sighed. "I thought I'd botched another relationship and this one I'd never recover from. I needed to go where I didn't have time to think because if I did think, all I could see was your face. The volcano reminded me of the volubility of out relationship. Say the wrong thing and something would explode."
"I had to go and get you. You were in trouble so it was my job to get you out."
"Did you ever wonder why you always did that?"
She pinched him hard in the ribs. "I tried not to, Skywalker. I was feeling things I didn't want to feel and I tried to ignore them by using my anger as a shield. But I gave in on the trip to Greoa. I was coming to get you, but this time I was coming for me. I loved you and I knew you loved me. Things suddenly seemed simple. I'd never thought beyond the my finding you part and the sacrifice I'd have to make in return. I'd never considered the fact that finding you and opening myself to the Force would give me a true identity but it did."
"You're quite a woman, Mara Jade Skywalker."
"I'm married to someone very special, so I'm a lucky one and in the end I didn't have to make a sacrifice at all. The things I thought I desired weren't what I wanted at all. They were meaningless and hollow without you."
Luke pushed her to her feet and stood up. Pulling her back into his arms he wrapped his arms around her and they stood like that for a while. Luke wanted to make love to her but he was prepared to take his time, in fact the delaying tactics were heightening the eventual surrender by both of them.
"The holocron is a wonderful piece of history for the Jedi. Kam was especially pleased to see his father's teachings held within it. He's grateful to your mother for keeping it safe. Mirahn has given him a real gift. She's given me one too. I get you." He kissed her nose. "Did I tell you how beautiful you looked today?" Luke gazed at his wife, her cream gown of crushed shimmersilk accentuating the fiery red-gold curls and the sharp clear green of her eyes.
"Frequently," she murmured as her eyes danced into his. "But I don't mind. You were certainly the most handsome of the men. You know I quite fancied you. Blue is your colour." Mara smiled wickedly, enjoying the teasing. That was until Luke bent his head and bit gently at the sensitive point of her neck. Mara Jade Skywalker wasn't the only one who could tease. She let out a breathy moan. "Luke…."
He swallowed and his eyes turned smokily dark with desire. The time for playing games had just run out. He began to kiss her in real earnest, kisses that left her aching and breathlessly desiring more. For a moment they paused stepping away from each other. Mara picked up her glass and offered her husband a silent toast. Luke fetched his glass and returned in kind. Then he drained his glass, deposited it on the table, plucked Mara's from her fingers and roughly swept her into his arms.
Mara slid down Luke's body when they reached the bedroom and suddenly the teasing and playing had gone and the passion which existed between them burst into glorious, burning life. Luke's dark grey-blue tunic was discarded on the floor and Mara's gown received a similar treatment. They tumbled into the bed and joined together, consummating their love again and again.
"My love, my life." Luke's words were slow and slurred as he stared down into Mara's face at the point of possession. She arched her body accepting his heavenly intrusion and whispered. "This was meant to be, Luke. I love you."
Somewhere beyond the void Mirahn lifted her head. She had a new journey to take, as had her daughter. Mara had awakened from the influence of Palpatine and had now assumed the place in life she'd been meant to have all along. Mirahn could no longer return to watch over her daughter's soul, but with a last wisp of vanishing presence she sent them love and contentment.
"May the Force be with you both."