AN: Here's the conclusion as promised. Appologies that it took so long. Please don't hurt me! Song lyrics in bold.
Eruannelaviriel – You review, I respond.
Szhismine – Thank you for the review and the capital letters!
Celtic Knot – I'm glad I could make you cry. Thanks for multiple reviews on my stories.
InsaneJediGirl - thank you. If you want more of Mara's thoughts try "Memories of Tomorrow" It's all Mara's POV. (And yes this is shameless self-promotion, but can ya blame me?)
The Good Twin - I couldn't not play with them just a bit more, but yes your wish will come true. Kudos for most enthusiastic review.
Jedi-2B - Hopefully this is a good finish
MaraJadeSkywalkerJedi - Here it is! Have fun.
Nasb - points for the smileys ;D
Kayladie - why do you think I picked that song? It is right up their alley isn't it?
Sithspawned - That's my forte, angst. It's usually short so it fits my attention span. Re: Remorse review. With a name like Sithspawned, how can you accuse me of being evil?
DMS - and hello to you too.
Pokey1984 - as if you don't already know
Zipporahvulcan – I hope this is just as fun for you
Jedi-lover – I'm updating! I'm updating!
Disclaimer: Who would want the emotional train wreck that follows? I would. Unfortunately, not mine, none of it. I would love the song if it were mine (Bette Midler, curse and bless you for thinking of it first), and I do love it even though it's not.
Karrde saw his totally exhausted second-in-command out his office door, then sat back to contemplate what she had revealed, and plan a way to coax the ex-imperial back to what she'd foolishly walked out on.
His comm beeped. Who could be calling in the middle of the night? Annoyed, he slapped the transmit button. "Karrde." As if the person needed to know considering that they were one of the few with his private com-code.
Han Solo's face materialized in front of him. "Yeah, Karrde, I need a special delivery to Coruscant within the week." The old pirate got right down to business.
The smuggling boss sat up straighter. "Can it wait 'till Remembrance Day? Mara will be on-planet then."
His fellow Corellian seemed to be hiding a smirk as he shook his head. "Nope, definitely gotta have this in before that."
Karrde nodded. Mara would probably want to avoid him for a while anyway; she usually holed up after discovering a crack in her formidable shell. He might as well send her on a run to Coruscant, and then tell her to actually enjoy her time off until Remembrance Day. "All right, now what's the cargo that has you in such a rush?"
"A certain green-eyed stone of your acquaintance."
Karrde frowned wondering if respectability had made Solo loose what little sense he still had. That had to be the weirdest order he'd ever received, and he'd fielded some interesting ones in his time. A certain green-eyed stone? Then it hit him. Jade. Mara Jade. The information broker let the beginnings of a smile creep into his aspect. The answering grin on Solo's face gave him all the confirmation he needed.
"And who would be taking delivery of this precious cargo?"
The devious man on the other end of the line made a show of considering the question. "Well, you know, I'm kind of busy helping plan for the celebrations, but I got a brother-in-law who'd be more than happy to do the honors."
Karrde began to grin in earnest. "Consider your package on its way, Solo."
Mara grumbled as she exited hyperspace above the teeming world of Coruscant. It would be a while before her ship could merge with the tightly controlled traffic patterns of the galactic capitol so she might as well get some business done while she waited. Karrde had shoved a stack of data cards into her hands as soon as she'd showed her face in the morning, and then practically pushed the Jade's Fire out of the airlock with strict instructions to "relax and regroup". She had the sneaking suspicion after glancing through the data cards that he just wanted her on Coruscant for some reason. By the time she entered the atmosphere, all the necessary calls had been made. She was left with four days on Coruscant, and absolutely nothing to do. And farmboy to deal with, she realized with a mental groan as the other entered sensing range. She'd just barely managed to talk with a neutral third party about what had happened between them. There was no way she could talk to him about it. Quickly, she flicked on the comm, hoping that she could find a reason to avoid the waiting Jedi Master at least for a few more days.
Mirax Horn answered the comm. "Mara! So good to see you. How are your attempts at trading coming?"
Mara shrugged noncommittally. "As well as any. Karrde's given me a break for a few days, and I'm on-planet. Do you think I can borrow your husband for sparring practice today?"
Corran, hearing the offer, stepped into visual range. Mara suppressed the pang of jealousy when his hands rested possessively on his wife's hips and he laid his chin on her shoulder. "I'm always ready to spar with you, Mara. The usual place?"
The redhead nodded. "Give me 15 minutes to get ready then meet me there." She took on a teasing tone to hide the yearning in her eyes. "Be ready for a tumble, Horn."
"In your dreams, Jade. Horn out." Corran reached down and cut the transmission then turned his attentions to his wife's neck.
"She's avoiding someone," Mirax observed.
"Hmm, what makes you say that, love?" Corran continued to nuzzle.
"She called from orbit, and really just wanted to get busy as soon as she landed. She also looked jealous when you held me." Mirax turned to twine her arms around her husband's neck.
He flashed her a roguish grin. "Why wouldn't she be?" he asked recklessly.
She playfully shoved the fighter pilot away. "Why you - Go get ready CorSec, I am not defending your honor against the likes of Mara Jade. Besides, I'm counting on you to find out what, or rather, who's bothering her."
"All right, all right, I'm going," Corran grumbled quickly changing into work out clothes and grabbing his lightsaber. This was going to be an interesting fight.
Mara finished braiding her hair and called her lightsaber to her on her way out of the ship. As expected Skywalker was there to meet her. He wore a white tank top and had found a pale yellow jacket to go over it in an obvious attempt to escape ribbing about his all black wardrobe. Mara allowed herself to register how the jacket made him look ruddy, but continued to glare coldly at him as she paraded down the boarding ramp. He did not deserve to be grinning at her like that after what he'd put her through. His brilliant smile dimmed as it went unanswered, and he began to shift uneasily.
"Um, Mara?" he began picking up on her bellicose thoughts. "About . . . that . . ."
"Look, Skywalker, I don't want to talk to you, especially not here, and definitely not about that. I'm on my way to a meeting, so back off!" From the way Luke staggered back, she got the feeling that she'd overdone it just a bit. Realizing she'd lost her cool, of course, did nothing to help her regain it. Storming past the still fidgeting Jedi, Mara made her way to the exercise room that she and Corran usually used. Her blue saber ignited as soon as she cleared the door.
"And hello to you too," Corran quipped, bringing his own iridescent blade up in answer to her stance.
"Shut up and fight, Horn," she commanded, striking with all her fury. Some part of her warned against the Dark Side, but at that point, she didn't care.
"You know, Luke's on-planet," the Rogue pilot commented, parrying for all he was worth. "I'm sure he could . . . or maybe not," he finished quickly when the ex-assassin's scowl became a murderous glare. His curiosity though wouldn't let him leave it at that. "What happened?"
"Why does everyone want to talk about Skywalker and me?" Mara raged, never breaking stride in the spar. "I will tell you this once Horn, and you can inform the rest of the idiots who believe it is their Force-given right to know my private life. Nothing happened between Skywalker and me, and nothing ever will." She shut up, aware on some level that the very vehemence of her last statements gave the lie to her entire argument. Corran wisely remained silent.
They fought on, the deadly dance of parry and riposte giving physical expression to tensions Mara would not allow herself to express otherwise. Corran finally surrendered when it became clear that Mara would keep going until they both dropped from exhaustion. His lightsaber retreated into the pommel and he dropped to his knees, gasping. Mara was in only marginally better shape.
Drawing on training most of the galaxy didn't even want to hear about much less experience, the Emperor's Hand recovered her strength in a fraction of the time that it took the former Corellian Security officer. "You're off your prime, Horn," she informed him only half-teasing.
"Nonsense, I'm in perfect shape for a good solid hour's worth of exercising," her fellow Jedi informed her. "It's the second and third hours that got to me."
The corners of her mouth jerked upward for half a second, then she started bouncing lightly on the balls of her feet and brought her weapon back up to bear. "Again."
Corran gave her an incredulous look. "Mara, I've got a wife at home, and I'd like to get back to her sometime this week. She'd never forgive me if I stayed out late playing with you."
Mara glanced at the wall chrono, intending to tell him how much time he had to keep "playing" with her, and blinked. Was it really that late? Sighing she tossed him a towel from the stack by the door. "Get going, Horn, or Mirax will never forgive me."
Corran gratefully wiped the dripping sweat off his face, and then studied his sparring partner as an idea hit him. Maybe . . . just maybe he could help bring happiness to two of his closest friends. "You know," he commented, "Mirax and I are having a little get together two days from now. You'd be welcome to come."
"Remembrance Eve?" she asked. "Why not Remembrance Day?"
Corran made a face. "Most of the guest list has official functions they must attend the next day, so we all get together to forget the coming misery."
That got the first real laugh of the day out of Mara. "I know what you mean. I'll dance attendance on the diplomats and contract-worthies if I have to, but I'll marry Skywalker before I'll enjoy it." Her jaw dropped as her dearest wish fell out unbidden. Corran smiled knowingly as she attempted to paste a sneer on her still shocked features, but he left without comment.
Now why'd you say that, Jade? She asked herself making her way to the apartment she used whenever she was on-planet, Never mind that it's true. Her footsteps slowed as she approached her door. Flashes of memory teased at her weary mind. Every hateful word she'd ever spewed at the Jedi Master was painfully revisited. Of course after all this, you'll be lucky if he talks to you. The final insult, her last interaction with Luke drifted teasingly past her eyes. Face the truth, Jade, you'll be lucky if he even looks at you again!
She listlessly keyed in her entry code and wasted no time throwing herself into the overstuffed chair she usually curled up in. Her eyes were burning and her vision was blurry. She took a half-hearted swipe at the brimming moisture in her eyes. Cleared, for a second of its film of tears, her sight finally registered the flower petals strewn over her kaff table. The sight made her sit up sharply, adrenaline singing in her veins. Someone had gotten into her apartment! A single, large candle burned dimly in the center of her table, assaulting her senses with a warm glow and the spicy smell of carmena blooms. Well, whoever it was had an interesting idea of breaking and entering, because that certainly wasn't hers. A note stuck out from under the wax. Picking it up, she saw Luke's careful script.
Forgive the liberties, but I wanted to apologize.
She smiled in weary gratitude and extinguished the flame, letting its delicate scent dissipate gradually. Only then was she aware of another smell, one that reminded her she hadn't eaten anything except ship rations for a while. Ducking into the kitchen, she found more rose petals dusting the counter surrounding a small pot of stew on the warmer. Nestled in the petals was another note.
Sparing's hungry work, take time for yourself.
So he knew what she'd been doing? Very well, as long as she didn't have to face him right now, everything was fine. Her meal was delicious, but she couldn't help thinking that the only things missing from it were the soft voice and easy laugh of her best friend. She dumped the dishes in the washer and dragged herself to her bedroom. Force, she was exhausted. Sparring with Corran had achieved its purpose; she probably wouldn't dream about the Jedi Master tonight, she was too tired. Tugging the sheets down, she caught sight of a splash of red against all the green. A single long-stem rose rested delicately against her pillow. Tied to it, was a final note.
I can't tell you how much you mean to me.
Pulling a nightgown on, she left the rose where it lay and curled into her bed, falling instantly into dreams of ice blue eyes melting in a Tatooine tan.
What if she didn't like it? What if that's why she never called? Luke Skywalker, the normally placid Jedi Master, was about as nervous as he had ever been, and that included his night with Mara almost two weeks ago. He knew if he wanted to get back the perfection of that night, he would have to do something today. Tomorrow he would be too busy helping Corran with his party. The day after that was Remembrance Day with all the diplomatic boredom that entailed. And if he knew Mara, she'd blast off as soon as the last toast was drunk. He'd meant to call this morning and find out her reaction to his arrangements last night, but he found himself unable to place the call. The afternoon was now half-gone and he felt his chance slipping away. Desperately, he tried again to punch in the comm number of the woman he loved more than life, but his hand stubbornly refused to move except for a slight, uncontrollable tremble. The comm buzzed before he could bring his muscles under control. Maybe if I ignore it, they'll go away and then I can get back to trying to call Mara. He knew the inexperienced farmboy in him was doing the reasoning, but could not find fault with the logic. The comm buzzed again sounding almost miffed. Finally the voice answer picked up for him, and a much loved voiced flooded the room.
"Skywalker!" Mara barked. "I know you're there so answer the comm!" Not even light could move fast enough for him at that moment.
Luke finally answered and Mara could see the way his smile suddenly went nova as his face materialized in front of her. In her tolerant mood, it was hard to keep from answering his smile with her own. Force, but he was cute when he grinned like that. Trying to throw him off center for a bit, she growled, "You got into my apartment last night." It was not a question.
His smile faltered briefly, but crept back across his face when no further reprimand was to be had. "Yeah, hope I didn't scare you, but I knew you were going to need something to eat, and I doubted you wanted to cook."
"I'm still hungry, you know." Luke's face lit up further with childish hope.
"You want to come up to my place?" he invited.
Mara instantly backpedaled. She wanted to possibly get back together with him, but not that soon. "How about someplace public? I'm not sure how well I can control myself if we're alone. You might end up speared with your own lightsaber." The last was said in jest, but Luke seemed to take it into consideration nonetheless.
"Well then, for my safety at least, we should go out. Where do you suggest?" He was deadpan serious, only the sparkle in his eyes hinting at the playfulness of it all.
Mara smirked in response, "Oh, I'll think of somewhere. Say, the Last Chance?"
Luke gulped, the implications of the club's name striking every nervous chord into dissonant life. He had one last chance to win Mara back, or lose her forever. "I'll pick you up at eight, then?" he stammered.
"I'll be ready, farmboy. Will you?"
"Oh, I'm ready now." The words fell from his mouth without the consent of his brain and he immediately wished his lips were better gatekeepers.
Mara laughed at him. "Are you really? Well, I'd better hurry then. I don't want to keep you waiting. See you at eight." With a final smile, she signed off. Now, what to wear?
The door chime rang at exactly eight and Mara reached out through the Force to trigger the door. "I'm almost ready, be there in a moment," she called not because she needed more time to dress, but because she needed time to calm her tingling nerves. This was it, her big chance to see what truly connected the two of them. She set the final emerald pin in her hair and gave an experimental twirl in front of the mirror. Her sea-green knee-length skirt flared with the spin and wrapped becomingly about her thighs as the motion ceased. The shimmersilk blouse was dyed a matching color. Wrapping over her left shoulder, it flowed over her curves and hugged her waist. It was perhaps a little fancier than she would normally wear to meet someone at a club, but she wasn't meeting just anyone, and the Last Chance was hardly a run-of-the-mill club. As prepared as she could be, she stepped out into the living room.
Luke was waiting for her. He was dressed in his Jedi blacks, but allowed the soft gray lining of the shirt to be seen. Mara had never before allowed herself to fully appreciate just how well the dark colors set off his blonde hair and clear blue eyes. She did so now. Her eyes wandered the length of his frame before stopping in surprise at his belt. He wore no lightsaber.
"A bit overconfident are we, Jedi?" Mara teased. "Going somewhere with a woman who wants to kill you and not even carrying the lightsaber?"
"What about you, Mara?" Luke asked in return gesturing at her bare forearms and conspicuous lack of weaponry. "You planning on taking me out with just your looks? It might actually work."
Mara blushed at the compliment. "What makes you think I don't have a vibroshiv in my boot?"
"I never said you didn't," Luke answered frankly. "Then again, I never said I didn't either."
Mara grinned at the comment. "You're finally learning, farmboy."
He answered her smile. "I was taught by the best. Shall we go?" He offered her his arm in a gesture reminiscent of the Imperial court. She took it, letting him lead her outside and hand her into the waiting air taxi.
The Last Chance was high up in the Coruscant nightlife, literally and figuratively. Occupying the entire top floor of a medium-sized tower, its transparasteel roof gave a stunning view of the Imperial Palace and what used to be the Jedi Temple. Fine surroundings meant that everything took a heavy toll on the credit balance, but to most of the club's clientele, the credits didn't matter. A traditional stop-off for troops departing on tours of duty, the club took its name from its claim to offer a last chance at anything, even love. They talked through dinner about everything and nothing, careful to avoid the subject foremost in both their minds. When a good dancing beat began, Mara was thankful for the distraction.
"C'mon," she commanded, grabbing Luke's hand and jerking him out of his chair.
Luke spared the attention to catch and right his falling seat via the Force while Mara dragged him onto the dance floor. "What are you doing?" he asked as she began to twist in time to the music pulsing around them.
"What does it look like I'm doing?" Mara returned, throwing an acrobatic twirl into her assortment of seemingly random motions. "I'm dancing." When he made no further motion, she continued, "Dance with me, Luke. Enjoy your last night of freedom." He wondered what she meant by that last comment, but didn't say anything. The way her loose skirt and flowing top caressed her figure was doing his heart rate no good and making it difficult to think as well.
"I don't know how," Luke finally managed to get out wincing as his voice cracked.
"Sure you do. I've seen you."
"I mean, I can do ballroom dances, but this is new to me," he clarified.
With a devious smile, Mara guided his hands to her hips, where blouse hem met skirt waistband and the way she was moving meant he caught more skin than anything else. Shifting closer, she allowed her forearms to ride on his shoulders. And all the while, her sensual motions continued. "Just go with it, Luke," she whispered in his ear. "Feel the rhythm and go with it."
She couldn't know how much she affected him. Luke's mind had completely shut down by the time Mara put his arms around her. Lost in the feel of skin and the smell of hair, Luke never noticed that his motions were matching hers perfectly. He drew her closer to him, wanting more physical contact.
With a dancer's grace, Mara spun out of his arms. "Oh no you don't, farmboy," she teased. "You'll have to do better than that." A shimmying step and she was back in his arms as if she belonged there. Which, Luke reflected, she did.
Again he stepped foreword to better hold her, and again she danced out of reach. Midway through a twirl, however, he found purchase and caught her about the waist. With her momentum still spinning, she lost her balance and almost fell. Luke turned the stumble into a graceful dip, then set her back on her feet, his arms encircling her from behind.
"Is this better?" he asked, his breath tickling along the back of her neck.
Mara laughed over her shoulder, laying her arms casually on top of his. "Much better." They continued holding each other and dancing almost to Mara's door.
"I don't suppose you're doing anything tomorrow, are you?" Luke asked shyly. Corran could take care of his own party if Mara was free. He felt a brief conflict of interest in Mara before she shook her head.
"Sorry, I already told someone I'd meet them." The deliberately vague answer broke Luke's heart more than any words of rejection could. He'd had his last chance, and he'd blown it. They would be friends, but they could be nothing more.
"I guess this is goodbye, then," Luke muttered.
Mara nodded. "I guess."
Taking hold of Mara's shoulders, Luke dropped a kiss on her forehead. "You will always have a part of me, Mara. I'll see you around." Turning he forced himself to walk straight-backed away from the ashes of his dreams.
Mara floated down from her private cloud to realize they were at her door. "I don't suppose you're doing anything tomorrow, are you?" Luke asked quietly in her ear. Mara debated with herself. On the one hand, she had confirmed to herself that she and Luke truly had a deeper connection; one she was looking forward to sharing with him again. On the other hand, she had told Corran she would be at his party. She finally decided Luke would understand when she extended her leave of absence from Karrde after Remembrance Day.
She shook her head. "Sorry, I already told someone I'd meet them."
A flash of . . . pain? regret? Burst off Luke as his eyes went cloudy and hidden. "I guess this is good bye, then." There was a storm brewing behind those words that puzzled Mara.
"I guess," she replied.
Luke put his hands on her shoulders, his thumbs tracing meaningless arcs under the points of her collarbones. Mara tilted her head up and closed her eyes anticipating the kiss that landed with disorienting softness on her forehead. "You will always have a part of me, Mara," Luke breathed into her hair. "I'll see you around." With that he turned and left, his mind still churning with a bitter brew that Mara wished she understood.
"Mara!" Her name shouted over the normal babble of the party pulled Mara from the memory she was still trying to understand. Mara spun away from Calrissian's overly solicitous guidance and turned toward the trim man who had called out to her. Wedge snagged another drink from Mirax as he passed her and approached the Emperor's Hand. "I didn't know you were on Coruscant."
Mara shrugged accepting the glass. "Karrde has me here for Remembrance Day politicking. What about you? Aren't you leaving some insanely overprotected Mid-Rim planet vulnerable?"
"Rogue Squadron always gets called back for Remembrance Day. I should be working off fifteen hours in an X-wing right now, but Luke was so adamant that he didn't want to remember this week that I had to come." The Corellian fighter pilot was grinning into his cup visions of the great Jedi Master in a less than sober state dancing in front of his eyes. However, Mara could sense the worry behind the smile.
"Wait a minute. Skywalker invited you? To Horn's party?"
"Oh they both invited me and I would have come regardless. I'm surprised Luke didn't invite you." Wedge downed the rest of his drink and shook his head. "He's got it bad, Mara and he's really down since you rejected him. His words not mine," he added hastily as the assassin in Mara came to the foreground. "Quite frankly, I don't know what he's talking about. Pash Craken saw the two of you at Last Chance and, according to him, Luke was happier than he's been in ages. On the other hand, he's more withdrawn tonight than ever."
Mara followed Wedge's gaze to the darkest, most secluded corner of the otherwise cheery and crowded room. Luke was slumped in a chair, some drink or another mostly gone in front of him. He was toying with a small object and it's equally small box. The way the shadows wrapped around Luke, Mara could almost imagine that the Jedi Master was calling the darkness to him, and the image was not a pleasant one.
"He's been playing with whatever that is all day," Corran commented greeting his newly arrived guests and guessing at the object of their obvious concern. "Problem is, whenever someone gets close enough to see the thing, it pulls a disappearing act. All I could get out of him was that he no longer needs it, but he can't let it go."
The worry that Corran's report should have caused Mara was lost in the wake of a total mental shut down. Luke, sensing the gazes on him, looked up, his eyes locking with Mara's through the shrouding shadows and across the room. His blue eyes seemed hollow and shady, as if nothing but grief could hide behind their crystal screens. Never had Mara seen such despair in the eyes of another. It briefly occurred to her that that was how she must have looked before Luke saved her from herself. The two Rouge pilots, catching looks across a mass of red-gold curls, quietly left.
It was Luke who broke eye contact. With all the finesse of a child who doesn't want to talk he studiously began to look everywhere except at Mara. The reflected glint of the party lights in his eyes was the only indication of emotion left in his face. Mara reached out to him through the Force, and ran up against an adamantine wall. Luke was blocking her out. Yet, even through his shields, Mara caught a tendril of longing. Longing . . . she frowned in confusion . . . to be loved?
"Hey, what's up with the kid?" Han tracked Mara's gaze to the solitary corner. Mara could hear the concern in Solo's voice because it mirrored her own.
"I wish I knew." Mara's eyes traced the tear courses down Luke's face, or were those just shadows? "He was fine last night, right up until he left me at my door." Out of the corner of her eye, Mara watched Han size her up. She idly wondered how much of her relationship with the Jedi Master his brother-in-law was privy to.
"He loves you." Apparently, quite a bit of it. Mara turned toward the former smuggler.
"I know." The Emperor's Hand was not afraid to meet Solo's eyes, and the scoundrel was equally bold.
"And you love him?" The inflection was questioning, but the expression on Han's face broadcast certainty.
"How can I not?" She mimicked Han, right down to the glimmer in his eyes. "Now you know this Solo, and I know this. The Question of the Day is whether Luke knows."
Han gave an eloquent shrug. "Only one way to find out, isn't there?"
Mara gave him a half-smile and began to thread her way across the room to the lonely Jedi. Luke looked bad from across the room, up close, he didn't look much better. In fact, he looked worse. Those were tear stains on his cheeks and by the red rimming his eyes, it seemed Luke had gotten as much sleep last night as she had, namely, none. The fine lines that had begun showing on his complexion drank in the shadows, giving Luke's face a pallor that didn't belong there. He just looked run down.
"You left early last night, or didn't you plan on coming in?" Maybe if she got him to tell her why he left in such a state, she could figure out what was wrong.
"I did . . . last night." Mara heard the whispered qualifier as her concern morphed into full-blown worry.
"You don't any more?" Luke heard the pleading tone of her question and looked up at her. Mara's eyes were swimming and she radiated hurt. That was the last thing he wanted. Withdrawing to lick his own wounds was bad enough, but to know that he had hurt Mara in the process, it was almost too much to take.
"We're friends, Mara," he responded choking on the words, but pushing them out nonetheless. "You don't need my life to come crashing down around you." And without you, it will, he added in the privacy of his own thoughts. It broke his heart to warn her back, but it was the right thing to do for both their sakes. Last night proved that.
"Luke, if your life is going to come crashing down, that's exactly where I want you to be." She meant the words to be reassuring, but somehow they just didn't come out right.
"I thought you were meeting someone else." Luke's tone was too carefully neutral to actually hide the unspoken accusation. The abrupt change in subject caught her off guard for a few moments, until she could collect herself.
"I am. I'm meeting Corran at his party. Of course, if you're going to sulk back here, I won't be meeting very many people now will I?" She tried to put a joking tone in her voice, but it still rang with a silent plea for Luke to come to his senses.
"Don't let me hold you back" Luke murmured bitterly, withdrawing into himself even more. But even as he shut himself off from her, Mara caught the thoughts blundering around in his brain. You never have before. You deserve to love someone better than me.
Mara pulled a chair up to the solitary table and sat. "Who says you're holding me back? So, you want to let me in on the big depressing secret?"
Luke turned away from her, studying the wall with determined exactitude. "I don't want to talk about it, Mara." If you have to ask, you won't understand.
"What won't I understand?" Mara pried picking up on his final thought. Luke continued his scrutiny of the paint, pointedly ignoring her question. "Luke, I-" Luke turned a lifeless blue gaze on her and the final two words died in her throat. Defeated, Mara sighed and stood. "Suit yourself, Skywalker."
Mara winced as Lando screeched yet another note that was too high for his physiology to accommodate. Sometime after too many drinks, Tycho's impulsive decision to croon an Alderaanian ballad to his wife had turned into a full-blown karaoke night. The bay window in the living room made for an impromptu stage giving the singer the stunning background of Coruscant at night. Unfortunately it did nothing for the sound. And since too much alcohol was already in their systems, no one seemed to notice that they couldn't sing. The final chord of Lando's chosen song soured before it left his throat and Mara impulsively got to her feet making her way toward the "stage."
"You're not actually going up there, are you Mara?" Leia gasped in delight.
"If it's take a turn or let Calrissian sing again, it's my duty," she primly informed the Chief of State while paging through the song choices. One song in particular caught her eye. Well, well. If farmboy wouldn't respond to words, maybe music would open him up.
Luke looked up from his exiled table as the gentle strains of a new song filled the room. Mara was standing in the bay window, her black leather suit silhouetted against the dark, but still well lit corona of Coruscant at night. In the somber backdrop her hair flamed to angelic life surrounding her face with a halo of red-gold. The microphone that would feed her honeyed voice through the sound system clung to her head like a crown. She looked up, her emerald eyes lancing through the cloak of shadows he had woven for himself to spear his mind into shocked silence. He felt the gentle touch of her mind against his shields and instinctively dropped the barriers between him and the woman he loved. Her presence filled him, whispering half-heard words he didn't understand as she began to sing.
Some say love, it is a river that drowns the tender reed.
Some say love, it is a razor that leaves the soul to bleed. The image of himself in the years following Callista's desertion floated before his eyes. With it came Mara's concern for him and empathy.
Some say love, it is a hunger, an endless aching need. His mind brought up the image of Lando and Mara together, but the picture dissipated with a breath of Mara's contempt for the businessman's over zealous advances.
I say love, it is a flower, and you its only seed. From across the room, Mara held out her hand to him. All eyes followed her gesture to rest firmly on his stunned visage. Come here, Luke. Mara's voice commanded him in his mind. Dazed, he stood, the crowd clearing a straight path to the window that showcased his love. Unaware of anything else, he reached out and took the offered hand, stepping up into the window with Mara. Quietly, she guided him into dance position.
It's the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance. Spinning in, Mara wrapped Luke's left arm around her waist, silencing any protest with a mental caress. She laid her head on his chest and continued singing.
It's the dream afraid of waking that never takes the chance.
It's the one who won't be taken that cannot seem to give. He heard every thought she'd ever had about not wanting to give up her freedom as they screamed their banshee's calls in her mind.
And the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live. Raising her head, Mara looked into his eyes tears of regret making their jeweled depths waver and shift before Luke's gaze. I was afraid to love. Her mental voice broke like her song could not.
Luke hung his head under the weight of "if only." And I wasn't? he sent back. Gentle pressure on his chin lifted his face to meet Mara's earnest gaze. She sang, now, for Luke and Luke only. The rest of the party faded into oblivion lost in the periphery of eyes that said more than even minds could.
When the night has been too lonely, and the road has been too long.
And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong. The image of Han and Leia, with their beautiful relationship ghosted between them, filling both Luke and Mara with the longing for a similar love.
Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows,
Lies the seed that with the sun's love in the spring becomes the rose. With the final strains of music still ringing in her ears, Mara brought Luke's right hand up to feel the frantic beating of her heart. For uncounted, instantaneous moments, they stared into each other's eyes. Then with agonizing slowness, Mara stretched up to brush her lips against Luke's.
"I love you," she whispered pulling back a bit to gauge his reaction to her statement. Luke stared back at her stunned. His heart sang and breathing was suddenly an optional activity. She loved him! Mara Jade loved him! The room spun as his mind spiraled into heaven before free-falling back to reality.
With a grateful sigh, Luke gathered Mara in his arms, crushing her to him and kissing her with all the passion of renewed hope. The Force exploded around them, broiling with all the fears, dreams, thoughts, and feelings that Luke and Mara poured into a single indescribable communication. Emotional wounds were dressed and bandaged. Misunderstood words were repeated and put aside. And if they glowed with the joy of their renewed bond, no one blamed them.
Luke broke the loving tableau as his body reminded him that air was necessary for life. Force, this was better than anything he'd ever hoped for, and he could kick himself for being so dense. But he couldn't think about anything right now, much less that. Impulsively, he dropped to his knees in front of Mara, trapping her left hand with both of his own. "I can't tell you how much you mean to me, Mara," he began. "I know I've asked you this before, but will you marry me?"
Mara raised her free hand to her mouth as tears began flowing from her eyes. Quickly, before, sobs robbed her of her ability to speak she nodded her head. "Yes," she whispered. Luke brought out the trinket he'd been toying with earlier, a ring. Reverently, he slipped it onto her finger. Then in one fluid motion he stood and swept her into his arms, making it almost to the door before the rest of the party realized Luke and Mara were leaving. The two Jedi were in the hall before anyone could stop them.
Mara adjusted her elbow-length gloves for the fiftieth time, then reached down and made sure her lightsaber was secure on her belt, also for the fiftieth time. Luke chuckled low in his throat and placed a reassuring kiss on her temple. "Karrde was fine with you staying?"
Mara smirked remembering her conversation with her boss. "His exact words were, 'Took you long enough.' I don't think he expects me back, and if he does, he's not nearly as smart as he acts." She continued checking her appearance.
Luke grabbed her hands and stroked them, stilling the nervous motion. "We'll be fine. It's not like anyone in there is capable of changing my mind. You?"
"Not a chance. I'm afraid you're stuck with me, Skywalker." She kissed him warmly to take any sting out of the words.
Luke smiled at her. "I think I'll live." He offered her his arm and they allowed the doorman to announce them.
"Jedi Master Luke Skywalker with Jedi Mara Jade . . ."
AN: There you have it, the happy ending everyone was waiting for. Hit the review button on your way out and tell me what you think.