AN: Thank you to Pokey1984 for responding to the challenge of teaching me the ways of the fanfiction and for being a wonderful Beta reader. My roommate also deserves credit for showing me the plot bunny that awaited me with sharp pointy teeth and story development.

Disclaimer: I'm borrowing Mara and Luke from their rightful owners. I promise I'll put them back where I found them when I'm finished and no harm done.

The Duel

Force, I want to kiss her, Luke Skywalker thought as he leaned into the saber-lock. His nose almost brushed against hers and their eyes were locked as forcefully as their swords. In that moment, nothing existed for him but those gorgeous emerald depths.

Wait. Where am I? Oh, yeah dueling. With Mara. Stars, she's pretty. The Jedi Master couldn't loose his focus or he'd loose the duel, but it was hard to focus on anything when the energetic red-head was so close.

Suddenly she broke away, aiming a slash at his legs. He jumped over her lightsaber as it scythed through where his knees had been and brought his own weapon through an overhead strike, aiming for her collar. Her blade flicked upward catching his in a cross that once again left them staring at each other. This time the temptation was too much. He grabbed her right hand, locking their weapons in position. Then, leaning through their crossed sabers, the Tatooine farmboy kissed the Emperor's Hand.

The fire in her eyes blazed as she broke his hold on her arm and shoved him away. "What are you doing, Skywalker?" she growled.

"I should think that was obvious, Jade," he answered, trying to appear cool as he closed for another round of slash and parry. I'm dead, he thought. He was further convinced of the fact when she refused respond to his attacks despite the murder in her eyes. He knew Mara Jade well enough to understand that the former assassin's usual reaction to anything out of the ordinary was violence. Non-aggression with her was like the peace before the thermal detonator blew.

What was that? Mara asked herself, then dropped the question as her mantra became, I'm going to kill him. I'm really going to kill him this time.

Never mind that he has the most gorgeous blue eyes you've ever seen, some part of her answered.

Or that you just melted when he finally kissed you, yet another part continued.

What, are you all going to gang up on me? She asked herself mentally, and what do you mean "finally"?

Just that you've been waiting for him to do that for, oh, ten years

Have not.

Yeah, hon, just keep telling yourself that.

Finally the reasonable part of her mind piped up, You do realize he's waiting for us?

In more ways that one, her inner cynic slipped in, smug at getting the last word.

She finally woke up and noticed Skywalker staring at her. There was a softness in his blue eyes that she had never seen before.

You've seen it, you've just never bothered to notice.

"Shut up."

"Huh?" Luke gazed at her quizzically. "I didn't say anything, Mara."

"You did now," she scowled. He knows he's a dead man, her mind supplied, let's remove any doubt. She threw away her lightsaber, the blade dousing itself as it left her hand, and closed for hand-to-hand combat with the Jedi Master.

Hey! I'm going to need that! She yelled at herself.

Not if you want him to touch you.

Luke took the full force of her kick to his solar plexus. He dutifully dropped his lightsaber; it wouldn't do to fight an unarmed opponent with such an elegant weapon. Even if that opponent was Mara Jade. The bluntness of fists and heels deserved to be answered in kind. She likes you, some part of himself smugly informed the rest of him.

Then why is she trying to kill me? He asked.

You kissed her, Skywalker. What did you expect her to do?

I don't know. Kiss me back?

In your dreams, farmboy. The part of his mind responding sounded disturbingly like Mara.

He continued blocking most of her punches and kicks, occasionally daring to throw a few himself. Strangely enough, all his blows fell in all the right, or maybe the wrong, places. Not wanting to hurt her, the Rebellion hero took it upon himself to moderate his attacks until they were almost caresses. It took a fight to get you to do what you've wanted to for years? What's wrong with you?

"Shut up." Unintentionally, the words escaped his lips. Resolutely closing his mouth, he continued talking to himself non-verbally. At the rate she's going, I'll end up in bacta.

And you'll enjoy every minute of it.

"Shut up yourself, farmboy," she hissed as an open-handed touch reached past her defenses, in more ways than one. That's it, when I'm done with him he'll be in bacta for the rest of his natural life. Her incensed fury surprised her.

Ooh! Make it painful, her inner fiend urged.

Now, dear, an unsettling, motherly tone intruded on her thoughts, you really don't want to hurt him, do you?

What do you think I'm trying to do? She screamed at herself as yet another of Skywalker's soft blows wormed its way to her side.

We don't know, you seem to be going the right way for a dinner invitation.

Yeah, if he can speak when I'm done with him, she retorted, aiming for his teeth with the heel of her hand. The blow never landed.

Oh, he won't be able to, the tigress in her purred, just for a different reason.

Where did you all come from? Get out of my head!!

We're part of you, and we only get to come out and play when Luke's around.

Great, something else to blame on the farmboy.

Oh come on, the chorus whined, sounding disturbingly like Lu- Skywalker, let him in and we might shut up.

What do you mean by that?

Let your guard down.

What! He'll have me on the floor in two seconds!

That's the idea isn't it? Something silky cooed in the back of her mind.

"Shut up."

"Still not talking, Mara," Skywalker responded, blocking her punch and aiming a strike of his own.

Oh, he's looking at me. He's looking at me! She wailed.

That's a good thing, sweetheart.

Luke softened what would have been a stunning blow to the neck as a look of fear floated in Mara's eyes. Instead, he ran his hand under her chin, letting his thumb clock the pulse racing wildly just beneath her alabaster skin. Her attacks had grown increasingly mild, until they were playfully wrestling rather than actually sparing.

She's letting you do this, you know, a reasonable part of him observed.

Sure I know. It's Mara. If she wasn't letting me do this, I wouldn't be doing this.

Too true, farmboy, the strange Mara-sound in his head was back.

But why is she letting you do this? The timid girl-shy Luke asked.

Let's see what else she'll let us do! The reckless pilot answered.

She won't let you do anything if you keep fighting her, common sense reasserted itself.

Huh? All the voices in Luke's head cried out in puzzlement.

Stop fighting and let her do what she wants. Don't block anything from her.

Are you crazy? She'd have me on the floor in two seconds!

That's the idea.

Suddenly, Luke grabbed Mara's waist and lifted her off the floor. She struggled violently, and Luke just held her at arm's length, waiting patiently for the Emperor's Hand to bring her murderous tendencies under control. He did nothing to stop the blows raining down on his head and shoulders.

What'd you do that for? Now you have to hold her while she squirms.

But at least, I'll be holding her.

Oh. Hey! Good idea.

Mara finally stopped struggling, going limp in Luke's grasp. "Put me down Skywalker," she commanded. She was surprised when he actually obeyed her, bringing her in close to him and setting her lightly on her feet.

"Luke," he corrected gently, keeping his hands on her waist.


"Luke," he repeated. "It's my name." He hesitated and then finally decided to say what was on his mind. "We can't keep going like this, Mara."

"Like what?"

"Like this. Mara, you told me twice already to shut up when I hadn't said a word, even through the Force. I kissed you, you responded, and then you nearly tried to kill me. You're arguing with yourself and it's about me," he didn't know why, but he was certain of the fact.

"Just like you've been arguing with yourself about me," Mara shot back.

Luke didn't bother to deny it. "We've been fighting with ourselves and each other for ten years, Mara. It has to stop."

Mara hooked his ankle with her leg and jerked, sending him crashing to the mat. He continued to hold her tight and she landed on top of him. "The fight's over now, Luke," she purred, then silenced all other voices with a kiss.