The Emerald Price Chapter 35
By Ash Darklighter
Disclaimer:- The characters and situations used in this story are the property of George Lucas and Lucasfilm Ltd. I am only using them for some entertainment and will not even make one Republican credit from this endeavour. This is set around eight to ten years after Luke and Mara met each other for the first time. This one is for all the girls on the AA list and of course for Mona – what would I do without you? My thanks also to Niqella and Rhea for their encouragement and invaluable suggestions.
Kam Solusar's Office
Kam clicked off his com and turned to the other occupants of the room. They were seated around the oval shaped table ready to begin the weekly staff meeting. "Master Skywalker won't be joining us tonight," he said gravely, but there was a twinkle lurking in his grey eyes. "You heard the gist of our conversation?"
Streen gave a genial, if absent-minded smile. "There have been strange currents in the Force for these past few days. I could read them in the wind and the warmth of the rain."
"All centring around Luke and Mara Jade," Tionne added, her brow furrowed worriedly. "I knew it."
"Who else is so caught up in what the Force is but Luke?" Streen said softly, attuned to the elements around him. "I have heard their voices crying for one another in the Force for many years but lately it has grown stronger. I try so hard to shut out the many voices so I can hear just the few."
"Nothing is wrong I hope?" Tionne asked her husband anxiously. "You have a keener sense for such things than I do."
"I just have the impression that things are about to come to a head with their relationship. Luke is definitely distracted."
"Is this a Force suggestion or just your intuition?" Tionne enquired.
"Both." Her husband's lips twitched into a smile. "To be honest, there is not one member of our community here on Yavin that does not know how Luke regards Mara."
"His eyes follow her," Streen offered musingly, his fingers plucking at the edge of his fuzzy white beard. "But he is afraid to let go of his control. He wants to…"
"It's not an easy thing for any Jedi to do," Kam murmured thoughtfully. "…lose control. Especially for Luke. But this is also about Mara. She's also afraid to lose the control over her own life that she has so recently won. I don't think we realised how hard Mara found it to let others have some say in what she was doing. The legacy of Palpatine runs deep."
"Is it about control or trust?" wondered Streen aloud.
"Mara trusts Luke implicitly. He's one of the few beings that she has always trusted," said Kam.
"But can we rely on her where Luke is concerned?" Tionne asked. "I haven't any doubt now myself but outsiders may…"
Kam sighed. "I suspect at one time, none of us would have trusted Mara not to hurt Luke."
"She would never do that," Streen stated. "When it came to the moment of truth, Mara could not kill Luke. She has a good heart. It's still a little bruised from her early time with Palpatine but Luke will heal it."
"She loves him," Tionne said, a soft look in her pearly eyes.
"As he does her," Streen confirmed. "He has borne much on behalf of the Jedi and deserves some peace and happiness. Perhaps we could give him some space."
"What do you suggest?" Tionne gazed calmly at the wise old man. She was willing to listen to any ideas that might help as she was beginning to think that her former master needed to be shaken hard until he came to his senses. He would have no peace and happiness with Mara Jade until he did. But somehow, Tionne just couldn't quite see Luke and Mara's relationship as being peaceful.
Kam grinned at his wife and nodded slowly. "I think I have an inkling. The tension in the Force has not only been picked up by ourselves but also by our students."
"Force blind people could pick that up," declared Tionne with exasperation. "It has to break soon."
"We need to ensure the Master and Mara have some privacy to er…vent their feelings," Kam hinted suggestively.
"Suppose nothing happens…again?" Tionne demanded. "Although I do think Mara won't let this state of affairs continue for much longer."
"She won't," Streen mumbled. "I can feel it."
"Then I suggest we set up a Force shield. If Mara pushes for a confrontation we will need it."
"Just in case," Tionne agreed. "If nothing happens there's no harm done."
"Something will happen," Kam insisted.
"Yes, I think it will and that's what worries me," Tionne said with a sigh. "I worry that it won't be what we want for him – that she will change her mind at the last minute."
Kam reached across the table and pressed his hand over his wife's. "Don't worry, my love. They will be alright. I can almost touch the anticipation in the air."
"Their union is meant to be," Streen murmured softly. "Let them be undisturbed by our many voices. It is the will of the Force."
Kam nodded. "I agree but even though Luke and Mara's current situation is fascinating, can we return to more mundane subjects and Academy business?"
Luke Skywalker's quarters
Mara walked away from the monitor without a backwards glance, leaving Luke to slide into the seat she had vacated and face his sister. She guessed Leia would bombard Luke with the same reproaches she had visited on Mara. She hoped Luke was no more immune to them than Mara herself had been. Leia could be very persistent and in some areas could out-stubborn her brother and that was saying quite a lot. Luke was the most obstinate, intransigent nerf that Mara knew.
"Leia…" Luke's voice muttered helplessly in the other room.
'It's not his fault,' Mara thought, bracing her hands on the galley kitchen counter as she heard him begin to argue with his sister. She peered into the sink as if it could give her the answers she sought. But the two plates they had used earlier, soaking in the mixed solution of water and detergent, gave her no answers.
She heard the raised voices dwindle into murmurs. Miracle of miracles, Luke had managed to placate Leia for the time being – not the easiest of tasks. Mara's mind returned to her own problems – the failure of the man she loved to take a step closer to what could be serious happiness for them both. What if he never could? It would be difficult to accept what happened if it wasn't in their favour. She wasn't being totally selfish - this was for them both. She would remain close to Luke whatever he decided to do. His presence was as necessary to her as life itself. If he rejected her now, she would bide her time and try again. She would never give up trying. But she was under no illusions with regards to the difficulty of her task should Luke continue to prove obdurate.
Luke stood motionless for a second or two, staring at nothing. Slowly he lifted his chin, his purpose growing inside him and took a step towards the kitchen. He could see Mara standing at the sink, facing away from him, her head bowed. There was something in the way she held her body – in the stiffness of her shoulders - as if fearing another rejection from him. For the first time, she looked defeated. Carefully he stretched out with the Force to touch her mind. Her barriers were down; she had no defences left. He'd been a fool but no longer. He took a deep breath and stopped weighing up his every move. Time to let the real Luke Skywalker out of the Jedi Master straightjacket he'd kept him in for so many years. Time to get what he wanted for a change.
She turned at the sound of his voice as he said her name. Suddenly, he moved swiftly towards her, trapping her against the sink unit, one hand fastening at her waist, the other behind her head, pressing her to him as his head lowered.
He kissed her.
"No interruptions," he muttered.
Startled, she stood almost passively as his mouth moved against hers, his lips firm, scorching her with his touch. This wasn't really happening – was it? Then she couldn't do anything but react to what he was doing to her. Her hands, trapped by his embrace, worked at her side, aching to touch and caress the man pressing his body against hers - the man kissing her with such fervour. He kissed her breathless until her head whirled and she lost track of her surroundings.
"Farmboy?" Mara uttered faintly between the feverish kisses being planted on her receptive lips, her liberated hands moving up to grasp the front of his tunic.
"Ssh!" he whispered, his mouth closing over hers, his tongue darting inside to deepen the salute. Pulling her closer, Luke's hands began to wander as he kissed her passionately.
"Luke!" Mara wrenched her lips from his with difficulty, her breath emerging in little, short, shocked gasps. "What the hell is this all about?"
Luke's face flushed crimson as his eyes skittered away from the fire in hers.
"Skywalker!" she demanded, noting that he was as affected by the kiss as much as she had been, his breath coming out in quick little puffs.
His eyes flicked to hers and immediately darted away again. "Didn't you like it?"
"Of course I did," she snapped, trying to quench the fire that had begun to rage inside her all because of a few kisses. Force, that man could kiss. "But that wasn't what I asked."
"I thought it was what you wanted," he whispered, his face betraying his agony. "I thought you…"
"It was…it is," she answered fervently responding to his pain, her green eyes vivid in her pale face. "But it's not enough. I've said this to you before. I want more than just kisses – I want it all and I have to know that you understand..."
"All?" he echoed.
"All," she replied firmly.
"What if you can't get it?" he questioned shakily, his mind reeling. Mara was fuelling his fantasies and he was only human. He'd seen them wrapped together in his dreams. He'd seen them rising and falling in the act of becoming one person. He'd hidden these desires deep so that no one would know they were there but he knew. What Mara did not understand was that he could only give his all…otherwise it was all nothing. He wouldn't survive a half-romance. Not with her. He couldn't love her and then lose her.
Mara could sense the wheels turning in Luke's mind. She had the feeling that the Jedi Master was regaining control of his emotions and she wondered if that would change how he was acting. He still had his impulsive streak. The kiss had been risked with the finesse of a seasoned warrior-male, not a carefree boy with only his talent and a sense of adventure to his name. However, she wanted the whole man – the warrior and the boy-adventurer - and he had to want her with his mind as well as his heart and body. She smiled tremulously. "If I can't get what I want, I shall stay close hoping that he…you," she amended, "…will change your mind."
There was a silence as they eyed one another carefully. Luke's measured glance assessed the woman before him. She was strong in the Force, decided in her opinions, stubborn, strong, brave and beautiful and she still affirmed that she loved him despite his stupid behaviour. "You're not going to leave, are you?"
"No. My place is with the Jedi and you."
"Oh." Luke was momentarily at a loss for words.
"I won't change my mind," Mara said, lifting her chin with a defiance Luke found enchanting. This was his woman, acting in the manner he loved best.
"What if I asked you to leave – told you to go?"
Mara reached inside herself to the place where the Force existed in her heart and let her instinct guide her. Her eyes fastened intently on his as she said quietly, "Then I would go." She raised her hand to stop him from interrupting her. "No, I'm not finished." She glared at him in the manner of old. "Will you listen? I don't need you getting the wrong picture inside that nerf brain of yours because you weren't listening properly. I would go," she repeated. "But I would return the exact same day probably within minutes of you telling me to go. If you banished me from your side again I would still return on the morrow. You're not getting rid of me. I would always come back to you," she declared, all the while wondering what he was thinking, and decided it was time to let her actions dictate their future path.
Taking her courage in her hands once more, Mara stepped closer to Luke and brushed her lips lightly across his in a teasing, tantalising salute. "Luke…you saved me in so many ways and I'm not wasting any more time on my regrets. We should have been doing this a long time ago. It's time for us."
Luke closed his eyes letting her nearness fill his senses.
"Trust your feelings, Luke." Mara murmured into his ear the words he'd so often heard from Yoda and Obi-Wan, her breath warm against his neck. "Listen to your heart."
Luke opened the link he shared with the beautiful red-head and smiled as she gasped. The strength of their union in the Force truly became apparent for the first time. Mara smiled in response as her hand curved around his shoulder, finding the back of his neck where his hair grew just a little too long, and pulled his head down towards her. Luke's breath caught in his throat as a flicker of fire ignited inside him at her lightest touch. Consigning his fate to whatever the Force decided for him, Luke's hands snaked around her slim body as he began to kiss her in return. He kissed her with the knowledge that this was it. There was no turning back this time. Force, he had no desire to stop. Let the rest of Yavin deal with any crises that arrived.
But even as she had her ultimate desire finally willing to commit to a definite course of action, something within Mara couldn't believe that fate, or the Force, would reward her without more trouble or pain and she drew away. "Can you look me in the eyes, Farmboy, and deny that you love me?"
Luke groaned silently as he tried to quell his body's escalating urges. She had him there.
Mara pressed her advantage. "Could you say the words…lie to me?"
Luke moved his head from side to side seeking some way to keep his fading secret. It was in vain – he could not.
"You cannot say it. You cannot deny what you feel for me."
Luke's head dipped.
At his silent admission of guilt, Mara tightened her hold around him and pressed her curvaceous form against his, inciting him to wildness.
He could have lost her forever back on Elrood. How could he have survived without this woman in his life? The scent of her hair and her skin sent the last vestiges of sanity spinning from his mind. Even so, he tried a last gasp at holding onto his solitary life. "Mara…if we don't stop this right now…"
"Who wants to stop?" she muttered between kisses.
"I don't know," he replied feverishly, as he leant her against the kitchen counter. "Not me." She was right. He could not deny his feelings any longer. He loved her.
Hands began to wander, careless caresses turning deliberate, mouths connecting to skin until Luke's hips began to pulse unconsciously against Mara's. "Not here," she said breathlessly. From somewhere, Mara gathered her wandering senses and, with a smile that promised much, stepped away from Luke, her hand extended towards him. "Come," she invited sensuously.
Like a man half drugged, Luke immediately obeyed her command and by the inexplicably difficult task of placing one foot in front of the other managed to follow Mara from the kitchen, through the lounge and into his bedroom. Once there, he seemed to come to life again, glancing around the room as if he had never seen the surroundings properly before, refusing to let his eyes focus on the large bed that was waiting so patiently for him to fulfil all of Mara's desires.
"Luke…" she whispered. "Make love to me."
His head turned slowly towards her, the blue of his eyes intensifying as they made contact with the vivid green of her own. "Yes," he said and it was as if the weight of the galaxy had fallen from his shoulders.
Just that one simple word made Mara's heart soar.
Force, all he wanted to do was claim her quickly. She was his – he knew it. Mara must have sensed his thoughts through their bond, for her head lifted proudly and a strange expression coloured her green gaze. Discarding her carefully planned seduction, Mara impulsively stepped forward, her face raised for his kiss, her arms reaching to wrap around him. For a moment there was something tender, something more profound between them until she closed the gap and nestled against him. When naked skin finally met naked skin, the galaxy, the Jedi and all that they thought they were disappeared leaving just a man and a woman and their primal need to mate. Finally Luke Skywalker's much vaunted control shattered.
"Force, Mara," he breathed. "I nearly lost you…you could have died. I would do…would have done…anything to stop that from happening."
"And you did," Mara soothed, even though her very blood was raging at his touch.
Luke leaned his forehead against hers. She'd been part of him for so long. How could he have considered being without her? It was sheer madness on his part. He hadn't realised how much he loved her until he'd almost lost her forever. "Mara…" he said, his voice so quiet that she had to strain to hear his words. "I couldn't lie to you. Not when I…"
Mara placed her fingers against his lips. "Ssh!" she said. "I know."
"You do, don't you?" His voice sounded surprised yet resigned. She could see through him as easily as a Vors Crystal tower. He had to have her – he could resist her lure no longer. His hands moved from her waist to clasp her leather clad buttocks.
Mara's heart began to beat faster as his strong hands began to knead and squeeze. "When I found a lightsaber crystal belonging to someone in a location he was never supposed to have been anywhere near, I admit to being suspicious and it seemed like something you would do for a friend. So yes, I knew."
He kissed her again hungrily. The more he did so, the easier it became. His kisses became more demanding, demonstrating his need for her as it finally began to roam free of the tight constraints he'd placed upon himself and his masculine desires. The Jedi Master finally gave way to the man.
Mara matched him as only she could.
"How could you let Lando and Karrde take all the credit?" Mara demanded, breathing hard, her heart beating wildly as she worked at the fastener of his black pants. "I called for you."
"I thought you loved him."
"I never loved him. How could I - when I love you?"
"I came for you…I will always…come…for…you…" He punctuated his words with soft, open-mouthed kisses.
"But I didn't know…" Mara's voice rose.
"You did." He soothed her fretful tones with a kiss. "No other man could have found you in time. You would not have accepted the touch of another man. It had to be me."
Mara reached for the memory in Luke's mind and saw how she had almost instantly responded to Luke's touch despite his disguise. He was right.
As if by unspoken mutual consent, they stepped apart and removed boots and pants leaving Luke in his usual clinging black undershorts, the bulge in front showing how much he wanted her, and Mara in one of the seductive lacy trifles that had so affected the Jedi Master when found in amongst his own laundry. Luke eyes darkened almost to navy at the sight of the woman he loved. Removing their final items of clothing, they closed together, easing onto the bed, kissing, touching, and sighing as they stretched out together, the heat radiating from their entangled legs seeming hot enough to scorch the bed linen. Finally there was nothing between them – only skin.
Lifting a shaking hand up to her face, he traced the graceful contours, brushing a lock of red-gold hair away from the smooth perfection of her cheek. He kissed her deeply, drinking in the sweetness of her lips and then moved gradually down to her breasts, learning every inch of her perfect body. His clever mouth found her one of her proud, rosy nipples, licking and suckling until Mara's back arched and her voice cried out from the sheer, unbearable pleasure of what he was doing to her. "Don't stop," she moaned softly. "Don't ever stop."
With sensation spiralling within and between them, there was no room for any part of the galaxy but the two of them.
It was as if the Force within them was magnified. The light of the Force was a warm, living entity and it finished its task of joining Luke Skywalker fully to Mara Jade. This was no ephemeral tie. This would be a union like no other – true-mated Jedi bonded for their lifetimes.
With a shuddering cry, Luke Skywalker emptied his seed into Mara's receptive body as she reached her matching pinnacle of fulfilment with a keening wail.
Silence. Only the sound of their breathing as they fought to gain some semblance of calm. But how could they after such a…rapturous happening?
Luke reached out blindly and entwined his fingers with Mara's. "Force, Mara…"
"I know…I love you, Luke."
"I…love you," he whispered, his heart in his eyes as he pulled her close.
"Tired," she managed to say.
Luke gave a wry chuckle. "I'm not surprised." He grabbed the quilt and pulled it over their cooling bodies. "Sleep…"
"Mmm," she agreed.
This had to be one of the most profound experiences of her life, Mara admitted to herself as she opened her eyes, wondering if last night's rapture had been a dream. But it was no dream – everything had been real. She was still lying wrapped in Luke's embrace as if he couldn't let her go and he was still fast asleep.
She gazed thoughtfully at the sleeping face of her lover, seeing for the first time the dark circles under his blue eyes, the more pronounced facial structure. This had all been a tremendous strain on him. He would never bear the load alone again. She would make sure of it.
She couldn't wait any longer. She eyed the fresher door resenting the necessity of leaving Luke but there were some things even she couldn't ignore. Mara slipped carefully from his arms trying not to wake him, her heart jumping into her throat as alone, his face suddenly showed distress even in sleep and his arms immediately began searching for her.
"I won't be long," she murmured soothingly. "Ssh…sleep."
At the sound of her voice, Luke's restless movements stilled as he relaxed back into slumber.
He was pulled from the most wonderful dream by an intense feeling he couldn't describe. Luke opened his eyes and blinked, gazing sleepily around the bedchamber, his usual morning alertness lacking. Something felt different. He felt different. He felt as if something uncommon had happened to him. 'Mara!' he thought as memory returned to him. He turned his head, his hand stretching out to where Mara had been but the bed was empty. It had been no dream. Last night had been rapturous - he'd almost been transported to another galaxy - but now she had gone… 'Steady, Skywalker', he advised himself as he felt the first stirrings of panic. She couldn't have been gone long. Her place beside him was still warm and he could hear the shower running.
If she'd been so keen to escape from him she would not be in his fresher using his shower. Luke lay back on his pillows castigating himself for his inability to believe yet again. Yoda had chastised him time and time again and still he fell into the old habits. She said that she loved him and that she would never willingly leave him.
'And I won't.'
Luke sat up abruptly; her voice was ringing loudly inside his head. He had opened their link fully last night. He could feel her vibrant presence within him. His hand came up slowly, rubbing across his face. He had meant to be strong but he was weak and craved the companionship of the woman he loved. Yet, in his weakness came strength. Mara and he were meant to be together. Perhaps together they were stronger in the Force. The way of the Force was not a solitary one. He was just about to take a new path.
The shower stopped running and Luke winced as his fresher door slammed open. He could feel the strong emotions rolling off the naked woman stalking towards him. Luke gulped and froze. Her water-darkened red-gold hair clung wetly to her still damp body. She was a glorious study in cream and pink. The greatest of the reputed Alderaanian artists couldn't have done her beauty justice in any medium.
Mara clenched her fists as she headed towards the sleepy looking man in the bed - although he appeared to be waking up fast. She had received the thoughts that he'd broadcast through their shared bond loud and clear. This new, enhanced reception between them went two ways. "I don't say things that I don't mean, Skywalker. You, of all people, should know that."
"Mara…" Luke's eyes devoured her body and Mara found it almost impossible to hold onto her anger. What could she do to make him truly believe? Her own emerald gaze fastened on Luke's face, down over his muscular chest until it came to where the quilt dipped low against his hips. Mara's tongue darted from her mouth to moisten her suddenly dry lips and Luke's eyes turned navy. He could feel her sudden arousal as it spiked through their bond.
In an instant he pounced and she was lying underneath him on the bed. Mara had forgotten how deceptively fast he could be when he wanted.
"I'm not properly dry," she protested as his lips started nibbling on the sweet flesh at her collar bone.
"Don't care," he mumbled.
"I'm mad at you." The words emerged fast and a little breathless. She had meant to be strong but the moment he touched her, the last of her ire vanished. In typical Luke fashion he was holding on to his freedom to the bitter end. She wouldn't have him any other way.
"Don't care," he said again, his lips finding her breast and teasing her nipple to hardness. Mara gasped as heat travelled swiftly to the moist feminine place between her thighs.
"This issue needs to be sorted out," she managed to force out.
"I'm not leaving you."
"Good." Luke found a particularly sensitive spot and watched in amazement as Mara's whole body arched with pleasure and then relaxed, shuddering.
"Make love to me?" she pleaded.
"That's what I'm doing, Jade," he snapped, as he pulled himself up her body, peppering her skin with firm angry kisses that gentled as he moved until he pressed her against him and stared directly into her green eyes. "You're mine," he whispered, the intense expression on his face changing to one of awe and delight. "You're really mine. The Force has blessed me…"
"Of course, I'm yours," Mara muttered saucily. "You bought me as a pleasure slave."
"Mara…" Luke didn't want to be reminded of that.
"Am I worth the price?" She wriggled against him savouring his tortured groan.
Luke closed his eyes. "You know, Mara, I would never…"
"I think we could enjoy it, my prince." Her hand reached down and grasped his maleness. "Your pleasure is also mine."
"Mara, please," he said removing her hand from his body. Luke stared deep into her bewitching green eyes. "I only did that because it was the only way I could get you free without endangering the lives of everyone else around us. I abhor the practise of slavery and I wanted to free every single being held with you but as Feenus Adremetis pointed out, 'It was not my fight.' When I think what they could have done to you…" He broke off, his voice trembling. "My lightsaber crystal was the only thing I had that was worth enough to free you. I could build another crystal, but you are irreplaceable."
"But Farmboy," she said. "A lightsaber is the symbol of the Jedi. The weapon is more than it appears."
"An example of a civilised age – of the Jedi's history?" he queried quietly. "Yes, it is. None of it would have mattered without you. I would have lost you and that is unthinkable."
"I don't understand. You put me ahead of the Jedi and yet, you deny our love." She ran a finger across his chest and watched as he shivered. "This Jedi had decided that he should not know love. But you put that aside to rescue me. I was not a crisis of galactic importance. You came for one woman.
"The lightsaber is only an outward sign. To be a Jedi and accept the Force is more than just wielding a lightsaber. That is a lesson I learned. But I'm not denying our love. I can't…not anymore. I cannot lose you. You are the only woman I would do such a thing for. I love you so much. You are part of me."
Mara swallowed, her mouth suddenly dry. "Then marry me." The words emerged as a croak.
"What!" Luke thought that his heart had ceased beating. Surely he was hearing things? There was a silence.
Her chin lifted proudly. "Marry me," she said more boldly.
Luke's eyes widened. "Are you serious? I would in a heartbeat…" He frowned. "Are you sure that's what you want?"
"Would I ask you if I didn't?"
"No…I guess not."
"Then will you?"
Luke rose up on his elbow and stared down at Mara. "Do I get time to think about it?" he asked, a smile playing about his well-shaped lips.
"No you do not," she muttered. "I want an answer now."
"But Mara…" he said, a twinkle in his eyes. "Are you ready to take such a step? I mean…marriage and all it entails."
"Someone has to keep you under control," she retorted, her lips forming a perfect pout that Luke ached to kiss away. "Who else would have you?"
"Now, there's a question." Luke smiled tenderly at the woman in his arms. With a shaking finger he traced the soft curve of her cheek. "Are you sure?"
"Farmboy…I cannot imagine my life without you. I would have no life without you. From the day we first met…"
"And you swore to kill me."
"And I swore that I would kill you," she muttered. "I failed that task. I wasn't meant to be a deadly assassin after all – at least, not your assassin."
"But what a way to go," he said lightly, dropping a kiss upon her nose.
"It's not funny, Luke. I could have succeeded. I was a good assassin. One of the best."
"What about a Jedi Knight?" he asked. "I think you could be one of the best there too."
The effect of Mara's smile felt as if both Tatooine's twin suns had just shone into Luke's eyes, dazzling him with her joy. "Got that covered."
"You have, have you?" Luke's mouth curved in response.
"The head of the Jedi Order himself, confirmed that status upon me."
"I think he's still upon you," Luke mumbled, taking a sudden indrawn breath as Mara wriggled underneath him. "Mara…" he warned, as his body instantly reacted to her teasing movements.
"You won't believe that I mean what I say unless we make it legal," Mara stated, her own body affected by her proximity to Luke's.
"No, that's not true," Luke denied vehemently. "I trust you. I still can't believe that you actually love me…We don't have to…"
"Will you stop running yourself down, Skywalker!" Mara exclaimed. "You are kind, brave, handsome…"
"Please…" Luke's face coloured.
"Stubborn, argumentative, reckless…" She half closed her eyelids and peered up at him through her lashes. "I could ask you the same question, although I'm not so sure you really want to marry me. You say you're in love with me."
"I am in love with you. I've been in love with you for years," he burst out and twisted around to lie on his back.
"For years?" Mara sat up, holding the quilt to her breasts in an instinctive gesture of modesty. "And you've done nothing about it?"
"Of course I haven't," he said, sounding tired. "I had your friendship and your trust. I didn't want to complicate the issue by adding the burden of love. You weren't ready to hear it from me then. You had other…" His lips clamped mutinously together, his eyes turning to a stormy grey as he tried not to think of Mara with other men.
"Maybe I wasn't but how did you know I wasn't ready?"
He turned his head to look at her. "I know you too well, Jade. The same as you do me."
"I thought I did."
"You do," he murmured. "When did you realise you loved me?" Luke asked softly.
"It was after one of our practise saber fights," she said. "I arrived to find you in the middle of your warm up routine. It was beautiful to watch – such grace and power. I was still carrying your lightsaber crystal in my pocket and when I touched it I saw us…"
"You saw us?"
Mara lay down beside him and curved into his side. "I saw us tangled together making love. It seemed so right and I wanted it to be like that. When I opened my eyes you were standing in front of me calling my name. That's when I knew it for certain. I guess in some ways I've always known."
"You challenged me on the whereabouts of my saber," Luke recalled.
"And it was in pieces under a cloth on your workbench. I'd already checked, although I didn't need to. I knew for sure that you had lost your crystal and were attempting to create a new focusing jewel."
"I never thought you would find out," he murmured. "I never wanted you to relive that experience. Hell, I never wanted any harm to come to you…ever."
"You were pushing me away."
"I had to for your own good, Mara. I'm not the greatest catch in the galaxy. My record with the female of the species is deplorable…"
"They weren't right for you and I am." Her voice showed the scorn she felt for the other woman who had loved and lost Luke Skywalker. "They weren't strong enough or determined enough to match you. I'm just as stubborn as you are and I'm no weak-willed Core aristocrat. I've had to fight for everything I've got and that includes you."
"I couldn't help falling in love with you," Luke whispered. "I still wonder if I'm tempting fate by doing so."
"We will make our own destiny, Farmboy," Mara affirmed, her face solemn. "I have seen it. I carried the lightsaber crystal everywhere with me and I used to touch it for comfort – perhaps because it was yours. That day…"
"We both saw the images of the prince and his slave girl?"
"My fingers were curled around the stone and because of our close proximity…"
"The Force called to us." Luke nodded his head with understanding.
"My body had already recognised my feelings for you, Luke, even if my mind had not. That was the day it caught up. That was when I recognised I could call to you with greater ease than I could to Palpatine. I was aware of your presence with me always. I always associated a relationship or marriage with control and loss of freedom yet with you I felt safe but free to be and do what I wanted." Her smile wobbled a little. "Then I overheard you talking to Han and you admitted that you loved me."
"You heard?" Luke's mouth formed an 'oh' of comprehension.
She nodded. "It wasn't like the Luke Skywalker I knew to be so cautious. I couldn't understand why you hadn't said or done anything."
"I was afraid. I still am. I don't want to lose you from my life."
"You shouldn't be afraid. Fear is a dark side emotion. You have no cause to fear anything if it concerns me."
"I know but I didn't want to take the chance that I would lose you. I thought a platonic friendship would keep you in my life."
"You won't lose me," Mara said confidently. "I am a Jedi Knight and if you go on any other missions, I'm going with you. I still remember how badly you were bruised after that last 'diplomatic encounter'. Diplomacy was the last thing on your attackers' minds."
"I can take care of myself," Luke countered.
"Sure you can," Mara retorted. "That's why you have a running supply of bacta…"
"I do not!"
"I'm still coming with you. As your wife I will have the right." She kissed him sweetly. "You have a class in half an hour."
"Mara!" Luke was taken aback at her rash predictions for their future. It had been years since he'd considered the possibility that one day he would have a wife.
"And I expect a formal answer to my proposal by this evening or…"
"I get Leia and Han involved."
"Can I tell you now?"
"But I've made my decision and Han and Leia will only interfere in ways that neither you or I will like. I love my sister and my brother-in-law but I'm under no illusions about what they might do."
"Meditate on it."
"Jade!" Luke's beleaguered body had had enough and with a groan he pulled her to him and began to make love to her.
"But Luke…you have a class," Mara protested weakly as his mouth found her nipple, laving it with special attention.
"So I'll be late."
"Late…Yes…" Mara's protests drifted away with the power of his touch.
Unable to concentrate, let alone meditate on anything for the entire day, it was with a sense of relief that Luke finished his last class and headed back to his quarters to dress in his best Jedi tunic, pants and black knee length boots. Moving quickly through his bedroom he opened his precious boa-wood trunk and searched for the gift he'd meant to give Mara when she'd finally achieved her knighthood. Perhaps it would do for a betrothal gift instead. He had refrained from presenting it to her previously because he had thought it was the kind of gift a man gives his lover.
He had never, after his last disastrous affair, expected to be considering marrying anyone. Callista's departure had savagely torn from him his hopes for a home and a loving family. Mara was different. He could admit that quite easily but couldn't quite see her fulfilling the traditional role of a wife and homemaker. But then, he could never be the perfect husband either. He wouldn't want Mara to be anything but the woman he had fallen in love with. He didn't want her to change. The conventional relationship would end, as had his others, in bitterness and despair. He needed the part warrior, part sage, all-woman and Jedi Knight that made up Mara Jade.
He had wanted Mara, he realised, now that he was being honest with himself, as his lover for a very long time but his fear of rejection and failure had held him back. At her graduation – the most important time of her life, he had presented her with an impersonal set of holo-books on Jedi History. The look in her eyes when she'd received his gift had made him shift uneasily. It was as if she knew he had intended to give her something else.
"Ah…" he said with satisfaction as his hand closed on a carved bantha tusk box. Flipping it open he gazed at a necklace he'd made himself years before. The necklace was made of slivers of emerald green illum wrapped within gold. Luke had discovered that the shards of green polished stone matched her eyes when she was happy. He scooped it up carefully, noting the small pulse it gave out in the Force and placed it in a small pouch before stowing it on his belt.
He had noticed that the rest of his colleagues were eyeing him carefully all day but not by so much as a word did he let them know of the happiness and trepidation lightening and darkening his heart. He had to settle his mind and see things with more clarity. She had told him to meditate and he would. Luke closed his eyes and began to meditate on his possible future with the beautiful red-head. After an hour he opened his eyes surprised at how quickly the time had passed. The Force approved of this, that much was clear, but it had to be his total decision. Luke wondered if he would have debated for so long if it hadn't been for the Force and his position as head of the Jedi Order. Was he so full of his own importance that he was frightened to make mistakes? He should have claimed Mara Jade long ago.
Luke took a last assessment of his person, brushing a piece of fluff from the front of his tunic, before heading to the dining room where he hoped he would meet Mara for supper. As he entered the hall, he could see her hair shining out like a beacon across the room. He reached out with the Force to alert her to his presence but she had already felt him enter and her head lifted.
Kam Solusar also felt a ripple in the Force as Luke entered the dining room, the Jedi Master's blue gaze seeking out Mara. He watched carefully, seeking signs that the previous evening's happenings had made a difference between the pair.
Mara's eyes met Luke's and she smiled. There was nothing else that marked out a distinct change in their relationship but Kam could feel the difference. A new closeness was clear between Luke and the Jedi's newest knight, even to the most unobservant of beings. He smiled at his wife. "I think they are going to be fine."
Tionne's pearly gaze gleamed with silent mirth. "I think so, too."
"Well?" Mara said as she and Luke exited the dining room.
"Was it my imagination or were all the Jedi present watching us?" Mara asked dryly.
Luke grinned, stretching out his hand and capturing hers. "They were watching us," he said. "Very closely."
"I don't know if that was really the answer I wanted to hear," Mara muttered, her face breaking into an unwilling smile.
"They couldn't have felt us…you know…" He stuttered to a halt, his face flushing.
"Experience the power of Force-enhanced sexual intercourse?" Mara put in, her smile wicked. "With what we generated last night, Farmboy, I suspect they could have sensed us on Coruscant."
"Um…no. I put up a shield as did Kam, Streen and Tionne."
"What!" Mara couldn't help feeling a little relieved yet somewhat put out that Luke had been rational enough to think of it and not as totally caught up in the rapture as she had been.
Luke lifted his hand and caught Mara's chin, whispering softly, "I was totally lost in the rapture we created, Mara. Never think anything different."
"How…? Oh…our link."
"Yes, Jade. And it was more than anything I've ever experienced. If we were as sexually explosive as I suspected we could be I had to do something and believe me, my love, it wasn't easy. I didn't want the whole moon to know our business."
"I think they had a pretty good idea," Mara said with a sigh.
"But they don't know the whole truth, do they? How you seduced me…" Luke chuckled as Mara placed her hand across his mouth. He kissed her palm and then dipped his head to kiss her sweetly smiling mouth. "Come on." Luke stepped away from her and held out his hand once more. They walked towards their quarters savouring the simple pleasure of being with one another until he stopped outside the door. "I wanted to give you this when you became a Jedi Knight but I thought it was too intimate."
"What is it?" Mara fingered the tiny black velvet pouch remembering the rather impersonal set of Jedi history scrolls he'd presented to her on their return to Yavin after he'd conferred the rank of knight upon her and Ix Io.
"Open it and see," Luke said quietly.
"Will I like it?" Mara wondered.
"I hope so," he said as he waved his hand over the door control. It opened with an almost silent hiss.
She pulled eagerly at the little drawstring tying the bag closed, her female heart beating fast at the thought of Luke buying her a present he thought personal. She dipped her fingers into the bag and caught hold of the fragile chain. Luke had bought her jewellery. She drew out the necklace and stared at it and then felt the care and the love in the construction of the object. He had made it for her and she'd never seen anything that was so beautiful or felt so right. This made it far more precious. The colour of the green illum chips wrapped in gold glittered in the entrance light from their quarters. She traced one of the stones and felt it pulse through the Force. "Luke, this is…"
"I'm buying you back," he stated, not looking at her.
Mara could feel his nervousness through the Force. "You are what?"
Luke took a deep breath. "You earned your freedom by becoming a Jedi and returning my crystal to me but I want you. I don't want to be without you - ever." He drew her inside and the door closed behind them. "I know that our love is beyond price but…It's a feeble gesture, I know but…"
Mara's eyes widened as she glanced at Luke. Her once reluctant lover had gone into overdrive. He stood in the entrance hall shifting nervously from foot to foot.
"I'm buying you back," he repeated.
"Can I examine it properly first before I decide?" Mara drawled slowly leading the way into the lounge area – all the time conscious of the almost imperceptible pulsing of the Force and her heart hammering inside her chest in tandem.
"I thought any woman liked jewellery," Luke quipped shakily. "You were the one who wanted to marry me."
"Why would I want to do that?" Mara stared at the fragile work of art in her hands. "It's beautiful," she murmured. "Where did you get it?"
"I've been collecting the illum chips for years - especially the green ones. They match your eyes. I had Leia's jeweller help me to make it up for you in a design of mine."
"I would like to have it," Mara admitted, lifting her head to stare at him.
"What about the price?"
"I would stay with you without it," Mara said softly. "I love you, Skywalker."
"Luke," he said.
"I love you, Luke," she amended, her eyes glittering in the exact same emerald shade as the crystals making up the delicate necklace she held in her hand. "Could you?" She held up the chain.
Luke took the necklace and fastened it around her slender neck. "It looks perfect," he said gruffly. "Do you want my answer?"
"Answer?" Mara queried.
"Earlier on, you asked me a question." Luke's lips found and caressed the sensitive pulse at her throat, then tracked their way to her delicate earlobe where he bit gently. Mara shuddered with pleasure.
"I did? Of course, I did. What question?" Mara found it hard to think as his arms closed around her.
"You proposed to me," Luke whispered, as his mouth found the soft, sweet curve of her neck.
"I did? Yes…I believe I know your answer," she managed to say, her voice husky. "You have an answer?"
"It's 'yes', by the way," he mumbled as his hands began to seek out the fastenings of her clothes.
Mara began to breathe heavily. He was too good at this. "If you had said 'no', Skywalker, I would have shown you no mercy, tied you down and made love to you until you changed your mind."
Luke lifted his head, fire blazing in his eyes. "I am open to persuasion," he muttered. "I can change my mind again."
"Oh, no you don't," Mara said warningly. "I love you and you love me and we're getting married as soon as Karrde, Solo and your sister can get out here for the ceremony."
"Sounds like a good bargain," Luke whispered as he kissed her soundly. "The galaxy can do without us for a while."
"I agree but I hope Kam and Tionne are remembering to shield tonight," Mara murmured as Luke lifted her into his arms and bore her off to bed.
Epilogue – several months later
"I was beginning to think that this would never happen," Han said quietly into his wife's ear as they watched Mara Jade finally marry Luke Skywalker.
"If I had insisted on a Coruscant wedding they would never have married at all," Leia beamed as her brother sent a wave of love and happiness in her direction.
"It couldn't have been any one other than Jade," Han pronounced loftily.
"No. He didn't love the others enough."
"Yes, I agree but more importantly, Mara loved him enough back and had the nerves of durasteel ready to deal with the Kid."
"This was inevitable, wasn't it?" Talon Karrde strolled towards the Solos, a glass of wine in his hand.
"You thought so too, Karrde?" Leia said.
"It could only have been death and destruction or love and marriage," the smuggler chief pronounced.
"I heard that," came the indignant voice of Mara Jade Skywalker.
"He's probably right, my love," Luke whispered into her ear as he slid his arm around her slender waist. "We'd better go."
"Go?" Mara blinked.
"Yup." Luke's smile was just a little smug. "Small matter of our honeymoon."
"Lead on, husband," Mara said jokingly.
The rest of the company tried not to watch as the Jedi Master and his bride slipped from the great temple and disappeared.
"Where are they going?" asked someone.
"I haven't the faintest idea," Leia admitted. "Luke's been very close-mouthed about their destination."
"Quite right, too." Kam Solusar glided towards the Solos. He gave his wife a secret smile. He and Tionne knew where Luke and Mara were going. He'd arranged for complete privacy around Luke and Mara's quarters.
"Do they suspect we're still on planet?"
"Don't think so, or my sister would be visiting us sooner rather than later."
"Tonight!" Mara exclaimed, half in horror, half in jest.
"No, not even Leia would come anywhere near us tonight." He winked mischievously at her. "I need more than one night to make love to my bride properly. In fact, I don't know if I will ever tire of her."
"You'd better not," Mara threatened amiably, but her words held hidden promise of things to come.
Luke ambled onto the balcony and ran a gentle finger across the dark red petals of one of the climbing roses framing the doorway. "I kept the flower you left for me."
"What flower…oh…You kept it?"
Yes, it's between the pages of one of the books in our bedchamber.
Mara was stunned. "I never would have thought you would do something like that – so romantic."
"I can be as romantic as anyone," Luke protested.
"I know, Mara said curving herself against him. "It's one of the things I love about you, Farmboy. You really mean every little gesture and that is so special to me. Talking of romance…" She let her voice drift off.
"I love you," Luke said tenderly as he took her hand and led her into the bedchamber.
"The price I paid for you?"
Emerald eyes widened at his temerity. "Yes, Master Skywalker," she drawled warningly.
"Worth every crystal…Mistress Skywalker."
Mara wound her arms around him and raised her face for his kiss. "I love you," she said softly. Then there was no more conversation - only the sighs of lovers as they became one. Somewhere in the vast eddies of time and space, a ripple gentled and smoothed. The Force approved.