AN: Last Chapter. Yay! This is your official warning, there is character death in this chapter. so break out the tissues and be ready to bawl.
SylvanDryad - Thank you for the review. Maybe others will follow the lead (hint! hint!)
He was dying. They both were. As Luke's strength waned, so did Mara's spirit.
"I've had a long life, beloved," Luke whispered stroking her cheek. His normally steady hand quaked with fever and fatigue as his failing body surrendered to the lassitude of impending death.
"And you'll have a longer one," Mara replied leaning into the unsteady caress before grabbing his hand to plant desperate kisses on the palm and wrist. She refused to let the tears pooling in her eyes slip out. She had to be strong for Luke. Luke was headed for a final adventure and he would need her at his back the whole way.
"Boring way to go," the aged Jedi Master quipped, his low chuckle strangled in a fit of choking coughs that left his hands speckled with blood. The end was near.
As hurriedly as she could, Mara helped her fragile husband sit up, rubbing soothing circles on his lean back with her free hand. The points of Luke's spine protruded as he hunched forward trying to relieve the pressure on his chest. She helped him bring a cup of water to his parched lips, washing away the crimson flecks that colored the grey pallor of his face.
"You'll heal," Mara insisted as her worry once again subsided until the next time. The fits were coming more often and it was getting harder and harder for Luke to breathe after they left, but she refused to believe that he wouldn't come through. He had to heal. He always had before.
"Strong am I in the Force, but not that strong," Luke quoted his dying Master to his wife, suddenly understanding the words himself. Eternity was calling and as much as he might want to, he did not have the strength to resist it.
"Don't do this to me, farmboy," Mara begged seeing dreamy acceptance of his situation float in the deep blue eyes. "You swore you'd never hurt me and this hurts."
"You're strong, Mara," Luke soothed. The statement was more lip movement and thought than breath as his lungs seized. Painstakingly, he forced them to relax and draw in the air needed for one final statement. "I love you."
The hand clutching hers tightened convulsively before the grip loosened. Mara watched impotently as the shades of death pulled their gauzy curtains over eyes that had always been crystal clear. His body went slack against hers, all muscle tone deserting the withered carcass that no longer needed to move.
"Luke," Mara pleaded settling the dead weight of her husband back onto the bed. But the call fell on deaf ears and the film over his eyes refused to lift. Her own eyes shed their covering tears as the reason for denying them vanished into the Force. Rivers of salty sorrow ran down her cheeks, gathered in the creases which age had bestowed on her face before dripping onto the unflinching visage of Luke Skywalker.
The full force of her grief slammed into Mara as she contemplated life without her soul mate. Clutching at his once strong chest, she buried her face in his shoulder and wept her pain. Luke was beyond motion or comfort, staring with sightless eyes at a world he no longer inhabited. What peace she might have drawn from his embrace was now beyond the realm of possibility. She was alone.
Her hands shook as she composed her husband's body, closing changeable blue eyes forever to mortal sight, caressing his face one last time. He looked so peaceful, the burden of years falling from shoulders that had supported the weight of the galaxy for decades and yet still found strength to shelter the Emperor's Hand.
Suddenly, Mara felt the pull on her mind where Luke had always been. It sang of safety and comfort. It beckoned her towards a blinding light that she somehow knew contained her husband. The siren's song of love and rest was too much for her to resist.
"Hang on a minute, Luke," Mara called kissing the final lingering warmth from unresponsive lips. "I'm coming with you."
In the council chamber, silence descended as the speaker's words died on his tongue. The Jedi's quiet reigned supreme for a few minutes before the Senior Council Member addressed him. "Master Skywalker?"
The younger Master shook his tousled strawberry blonde hair and drew a shuddering breath. Absent mindedly he worried at his lower lip, blinking rapidly in the fading daylight. Concerned, Jacen Solo tried again. "Ben? What is it?"
Master Ben Skywalker took a few calming breaths before opening his eyes. Silent tears swam in the watery depths of eyes he inherited from his father. His voice shook slightly as he made his announcement. "The last heroes of the New Republic are dead."
Master Jacen Solo bowed his head allowing quiet grief to wash over and through him, acknowledging and accepting the pain of loosing two whom he loved. "Go Ben," he instructed. "Be with your family. Mourn your parents."
The remaining Master Skywalker sketched a half-bow to the Council and left. He found his parents' final resting place and gathered up an artificial hand and two sets of robes, all which remained of the two greatest Jedi of their age.
MARA JADE SKYWALKER
The Force will be with you, always.