Chapter 9 - Dreams

Lord Skywalker's private quarters aboard his personal command ship, Allegiance, were large, but sparsely furnished. His bedchamber housed a communications center and that was all he needed - or so he was determined to make himself believe.

He had lived in this quiet space since his father's death. Unwilling to take the helm of the Executor or return to Imperial Palace, he saw to the affairs of the galaxy in seclusion, leaving much of the hands-on business to his staff of well-trained Admirals and Moffs. Occasions such as today, when he'd been obliged to make a personal appearance, only made his homecoming to the isolated womb of his chambers even more welcome.

Lord Vader would not have approved. His father had always been a visible sovereign, leading his own forces into battle even before overthrowing the late Emperor. He would have given Skywalker a pointed lecture for sitting behind a desk at all. Command without risk was for the weak, he would say.

But he was gone, and the lecture would not come.

And the only other person in the galaxy who would dare hold him accountable was gone as well.

Seated at his desk, Skywalker rested his elbows on the ebony surface, rubbing his temples. True to her word, Mara had offered to stay with him, to honor her unspoken commitment and the bond they had formed. He had felt her deep concern for him entangled with the carnal desires to which they had succumbed. She had given herself to him without reserve, asking nothing in return and silently suppressing the pain from the wounds he had inflicted on her. But when it was over, he knew he could not force her hand and, in humiliation, he had dismissed her.

A memory twinged, prickling at the back of his skull. The days immediately following his father's death were hazy, little more than a fog of grief, but he recalled that Mara had been angry. They'd argued and she'd left in a fury. It wasn't until days later, when he'd stepped on the shards of a broken holoframe, that he even remembered that she had smashed it against the wall.

Every waking moment since had been an exercise in distraction.

Her aura in the Force was consuming, a constant awareness that he fought as hard as he had fought his father's in the beginning. His head pounded mercilessly, increasing incrementally with his efforts to push her away. At times, the miserable pain almost gave him the dark strength to sever their attachment. Almost.

The only reprieve came at night when she would shine as a beacon through the fog of stars between them. In dreams, she was the blanket that covered his soul when he slept. Some nights, he could almost smell the scent of her hair on his pillow or feel her warm touch on his cool skin. But then he would wake to another day, welcoming the fuel of despair that inevitably took hold.

He knew he could go after her – bring her back and keep her just as she had feared he would. Her anger could not be any more painful than the wretched pounding in his skull. Lowering his head onto the cool surface of the desk, he rubbed his temples even harder. Damned headaches-

"They're very distracting," a familiar voice completed the thought.

Unsure if it was real or imagined, he snapped his head up and startled at the very tangible form standing before him.

"Mara-" he faltered. "I didn't hear you come in."

"You're blocking me," she answered simply. It had been less than a month since their parting, but she was pale and thinner than he remembered. Dark circles had formed under her eyes and her hair hung limply around her shoulders.

She scrutinized him with an indiscernible expression then, with sudden decisiveness, came around the desk to stand behind him. "Here," she placed her fingertips on his temples and began to massage them slowly.

He closed his eyes, relaxing into the warm waves of healing power that flowed from her hands. Her fingers worked their way down the back of his neck. "I saw your address on the HoloNet," she commented quietly. "It was good. The new balance of power between the governors and military should work very well."

Her touch sent shivers down his spine and he pulled away, standing to face her. Her eyes were the same flat, empty orbs that he saw in his own reflection on the rare occasion that he bothered to consider his appearance. "You didn't come here to talk about the State of the Empire address."

"Of course not," she blinked. "You called me."

He glanced at the comm center in confusion. "I did?" Perhaps the days of solitude were, indeed, weakening his mind.

She shook her head. "Not there. Last night."

Last night? And then he remembered - his dream. In the dream, he'd called her to his arms and she came willingly, drawing him into her arms and her bed.

His thoughts bled over into hers and she smiled sadly. "We are happy in our dreams, aren't we?"

"Yes," he murmured, reaching out and brushing the hollows beneath her eyes hesitantly. "You look exhausted."

"I don't sleep much," she said. "It's too quiet on my ship."

"You know you are welcome here anytime," he offered in a conciliatory tone. "The entire fleet or the Palace even-"

Mara turned away abruptly and crossed to the opposite side of the chamber. Staring intently at the exotic artwork over the bed, a gift from some foreign diplomat no doubt, she crossed her arms over her chest as if to ward off a sudden chill in the room. "I see."

Her voice was hard with an emotion he could not name and he rose from the desk to stand behind her. "What's wrong?" he frowned, resting his hand on her shoulder.

Gazing straight ahead, she studied the wall, her eyes darting back and forth, looking far beyond the art work. "Why did you call me here?" she asked tightly.

It was a hideous painting, now that he looked at it properly. "It was a dream," he answered. He could block her from his conscious thoughts, but could not hide his desire during the vulnerable hours of sleep. Dare he confess how much of him she had taken with her? How much he feared the weakness of dependency?

When she turned to face him, her face was distorted with an expression that could only be described as abject sorrow. "Is that what you think of me?" she asked hoarsely. "That I am nothing more than a weakness to be overcome."

Shocked into focus, he blurted out, "No! Mara you -" He touched her cheek, caressing it reverently. "You are everything to me," he confessed without reservation. "Why would you say that? Or even think it?"

"You sent me away," she answered accusingly, her mouth contorted in anger. "Like a discarded concubine."

Horrified by the implication of her words, he snapped back, "You wanted to go!"

"You never asked me what I wanted! You assumed. You were too absorbed in yourself and -" Closing her eyes, she looked away, her anger dissolving as the retort died on her tongue. " – your grief."

"I'm sorry." The words fell from his dry lips. "I wasn't -"

"You weren't yourself – I know." Mara shook her head dismissively. "I don't want to fight with you, Luke," she said, sounding suddenly very tired.

She moved to walk away and Luke stepped in front of her. "What do you want?" he asked solemnly, realizing and understanding at once that he'd never asked. He'd never known.

Slipping his finger beneath her chin, he lifted it gently to meet her eye-to-eye. "What do you want, Mara?"

Without hesitation, she answered simply, "I want to come home."

Home. He mouthed the word silently.

Mara took a step closer, staring up at him with fierce honesty burning in her eyes. "I did not give myself to you as an empty gesture of pity or obligation. I would not dedicate my heart, and soul, to any man if I did not love him."

She leaned into his hand, brushing it with her lips and he threaded trembling fingers into her hair, reeling at the words, if I did not love him.

Lowering the barriers he'd so diligently built between them in the Force, he swayed with the influx of emotion that flowed from Mara. Her soul was as bare as he'd ever felt, exposing desire and devotion that she did not disguise behind the barriers of self-defense that she had perfected over the years.

An unfamiliar burn stung his eyes as he pulled her against his chest, pressing his cheek then mouth against the top of her head, caressing her hair with his lips. How had he been so blind?

"Stay with me, then," he breathed, embracing her and sliding his hands down her back as he dropped to his knees. Taking her hands into his, he lifted her newly-healed wrists to his lips, tenderly kissing the wounds he had so carelessly inflicted upon her. "I will not hurt you, Mara. Never again – I swear it." He brushed the pad of his thumbs over the shiny scars, as he looked up into face. "Be my wife."

She was smiling down at him, shaking her head incredulously. "Get up, you fool," she almost laughed. Pulling him to his feet, she laced her fingers behind his neck. "You are my home, Luke," she whispered, affection shining through their bond. "And I have loved you for so long…"

Gathering her swiftly into his arms, he pressed his lips to hers, pouring his adoration into a kiss that she met with equal fervor. Following her lead, he stumbled toward the bed, never breaking contact as she drew him down onto sheets that were still jumbled from his restless lack of sleep the night before.

Rolling to the center of the bed, Luke shifted his position to free his hand and began to glide it lightly over the gentle curves beneath her clothes. He slid his lips along her jaw, lingering at the delicate skin behind her ear and nipping her ear until she rewarded him with a gentle laugh. He pulled back, smiling down at her and she blinked in surprise. "I've never seen you smile," she said, as if in wonder. "You are beautiful."

He shook his head, unfastening her shirt slowly and running admiring eyes and hands over her fair skin. "You, my love, are exquisite." Kissing his way down her neck and throat with increasing pressure, he released the clasp of her undergarment, cupping and caressing the supple mounds of her feminine form until she arched her back, moaning softly.

Following her momentum, he slipped his hands around her, resting them on her lower back. Lifting her hips to his mouth, he devoured the soft, salty skin around her navel as his own yearning began to throb relentlessly below his waist. Lowering her again to the bed, he ran his palms back up her abdomen, capturing her breasts again, harder this time. She gasped, clutching the sheets as he suckled each pink tip into a hardened pearl.

Sliding his hands down her sides again, he reached waist and she lifted her hips as he pulled off her pants and boots. She parted her legs and her sweet scent assaulted him, as she rose onto her knees. Tugging his tunic open, she ran her palms over his chest, leaning forward to kiss his neck and collarbone as she pushed the tunic off his shoulders, and his skin sprang to life under her touch. Kneeling closer, she kissed him hungrily as she hooked her fingers into his waistband, pushing his trousers down and releasing his waiting manhood.

"Not yet," he purred, kicking off his pants before lowering himself beside her. Claiming her mouth with his own, he slid one arm beneath her shoulders and held her there. Dipping his other hand between her legs, he began to stroke the center of her desire.

Mara groaned at the new sensation and he felt the blood roaring through her veins, dousing her in sweat and engorging her fully. She tried to pull away, moaning with the mounting pressure in her core, but Luke deepened the kiss even further, demanding the full attention of her mouth as he slowed his ministrations, easing her to the edge of ecstasy.

She began to shake in his arms, her entire body shuddering for release. Writhing in desperation, she tore her lips from his, "Oh gods…" And with a soul-consuming spasm, she threw her head back on the pillow, crying out with unbridled release.

Gently kissing her flushed neck, he waited for the tremors to subside before covering her body with his, taking care not to crush her with his weight. Green eyes shone up at him from the pillow and she shifted, opening herself to receive him.

Finally granting his aching manhood relief, he buried himself in her hot depth, sighing her name with reverence. Wrapping her legs around his hips, she pressed him deeper, rocking with his rhythm. They moved as one then, gradually increasing the tempo of the dance with the pounding of his pulse.

He pushed deeper and faster, clutching her hair, kissing her hard, breathing her name and words of love as if they were air. When the shock waves of climax crashed over him, he enveloped her fully in the Force, embracing her body and soul, carrying her with him to the heights of mutual euphoria.

Hours later, Luke turned over under the sheets, reaching for the warmth beside him. The space was empty, yet he sensed she was not far. Climbing out of bed, he pulled on his discarded trousers and made his way toward her presence.

Mara stood in the adjoining room before a wall-sized viewport. Wearing nothing but his cloak, her slim silhouette glowed in the reflection. He watched her for a moment, shimmering in the star light, before embracing her from behind as she leaned into his arms.

He pulled her hair aside to brush her ear with his lips. "See anything interesting?"

"If I didn't know better, I'd think you could see the whole galaxy from here." A cluster of comets twinkled across her eyes. "It's incredible."

"It's yours," he stated simply. "Anything you want. The entire universe - " He leaned around her shoulder, pulling her into a kiss. " - is yours."

She turned to face him, shaking her head so that her hair brushed against her face. "I don't want a universe. This," she placed her hand on his bare chest over his heart, "Lord Skywalker, is all I want."

"But you have it," he answered. Lifting her hand, he pressed it to his lips, gently kissing the salty, lightsaber-calloused skin of her palm. "You already have it, Lady Skywalker."

She smiled and he pulled her securely against his chest, turning to face the stars and the indigo expanse, as vast and open as their future.

-:- THE END -:-