MY ALWAYS

Summary: A new bride makes an unexpected discovery

Disclaimer: All these wonderful characters belong to George Lucas. No Imperial or Republic credits are being made off this story.

Author's note: This is not a Callista-bashing story, and I'd appreciate not getting any reviews that paint her in a derogatory manner.

Mara Jade Skywalker put her hands on her hips and shook her head in exasperation. She and Luke had returned from their honeymoon late last night – too late for anything more than an obligatory greeting to Kam and Tionne. So naturally Luke had risen early this morning in order to check on the academy's operations during his absence. Which left Mara to unpack, rearrange, and find room for her own possessions in the cramped quarters that would be their home while on Yavin IV.

"And I thought Jedi were supposed to be ascetic," Mara mumbled to herself as she shoved a crate to one side. It didn't help that several shipments of wedding presents ended up here – items that Luke deemed might come in handier at the academy than at their apartment on Coruscant.

By mid-morning Mara had catalogued most of the assorted parcels, separating them into neat stacks according to use, priority, and destination. Wiping at a bead of sweat on her brow, she paused long enough to retwist her heavy mane of hair into a knot atop her head. "Why couldn't any of these boxes contain a cooling unit?" she groused, silently cursing the jungle moon's insufferable humidity.

Finally satisfied that she'd done as much as she could with the plethora of gifts, Mara then turned to finding room for her clothes in the dilapidated wardrobe along the wall opposite the bed. Luke had told her that she was free to clean out the bins of paraphernalia that were crammed under his single rack of tunics, trousers, and robes.

Droid parts, drained blaster power packs, microchips, burned-out glow rods, lightsaber circuits, a scorched training remote ... Doesn't he ever throw anything away? Mara methodically picked through the mess, tossing every other item into the waste receptacle. Blowing the dust off an old datapad, she switched it on to check if it was still functional. To her surprise, a datafile shimmered onto the screen. But it was the first words of the file that caused Mara to sink to the floor in a dazed stupor.

Hello Callista,

Mara felt numb. A letter to Callista. She shouldn't be looking at this. It was private. A private love letter. She peeked again at the date of the file – just over six years ago. That would be about the time— No, it didn't matter. It was none of her business if he wrote a love letter to Callista back then. At least he hadn't started the letter with 'My darling Callista' or 'Dearest Callista.' It was simply 'Hello Callista.' So maybe—

The datapad clattered softly to the floor. She should just put it back in the wardrobe, Mara thought, and pretend she never saw it. Not that Luke would ever chastise her for seeing it. They didn't keep secrets. Mara knew how much Callista had meant to him. And Luke knew that she knew. She glanced once more at the innocuous pad. She'd better turn it off before doing anything else with it. She'd better—

With a strangled cry of frustration, Mara snatched up the datapad and began to read.

Hello Callista,

I'm not sure how many times I've picked up this datapad and set it back down. Perhaps because it's taken me so long to decide what I want to say.

Seeing you again on Nam Chorios made me feel ... well, not the way I anticipated. You appeared well, and I'm glad of that. Did I expect you to be miserable? To come rushing into my arms as soon as I landed? I don't know. Realistically, no, I guess I didn't really expect that. Mara is wrong – I'm not always too optimistic for my own good.

You remember Mara, don't you? Mara Jade – Talon Karrde's associate, the one whose ship pulled in your escape pod from the Eye. In fact, you met her again when she visited Yavin to bring a message for Leia. I remember you refused to give me any details of your conversation with her, which still confuses me. I know Mara can be ... sort of abrasive ... until you get to know her. She's really been a good friend to me - better than I deserve.

A pang of undecipherable emotion gripped Mara's heart. She hadn't been nearly the friend to Luke back then that he deserved. So many regrets ...

Anyway, back to the point of this letter. I thought maybe writing down my feelings would help me work through them. Actually, it was Mara's idea. Not this letter, specifically. She told me once that she'd heard it was good therapy to write down your thoughts – good or bad. I wonder sometimes how many journals she filled up writing about me after Palpatine died.

Mara chuckled lightly. You have no idea, sweetheart.

So ... here I am. Writing a letter to you that I'll probably never send. I wouldn't even be sure where to send it. I considered recording a hologram, like the one you sent me, but, well ... I just couldn't bring myself to do that. A letter is just easier. I can work on it while lying in bed at night. A bed that I had once hoped would one day be shared with you. Maybe I'm not meant to ever have a wife. Mara says some people just aren't cut out to be married. I suppose that's true – for people like her and me.

Mara let an amused grin escape. Force, Skywalker, if you talked this much about me to her face, no wonder she left. Inwardly a warm feeling filled Mara's being as she realized how often she'd been in Luke's thoughts. Very subtly, she reached out through the Force, grateful that Luke seemed engrossed in whatever mundane report Tionne was probably insisting he read.

I know you said you'd come back to me eventually. When you find the Force. But I want you to know that I won't hold you to that promise, no matter what the future holds for you. I'm not sure that things could be the same between us anymore. I know that sounds harsh, but I don't mean for it to. You have your own path to follow; I have mine. Perhaps they were never meant to converge.

I sincerely hope that someday you'll find happiness with someone, Callie. I want you to be happy, after all you've been through, all the sacrifices you've made. I'm sorry I wasn't able to provide that happiness for you. I'm sorry I wasn't able to help you find the Force again. Sometimes I wonder, if you had found the light of the Force before you left, would we have been happy together? Truly happy? I know we had enjoyable moments together – lots of them. But I can honestly say that deep down, there were times that I felt something was missing. Maybe I use Han and Leia too much as an example – they have a passion together that I've always envied. I wanted so much to have that passion with you. Or maybe I just wanted to have that passion with someone, and then you appeared on that monitor, and then you said you loved me ... I don't know. I had always thought that people needed a history together before they could fall in love. We didn't get that chance, or maybe it was that we didn't take the opportunity to get to know each other before believing we were in love. I just don't know.

It's funny how other people expect me to have the wisdom of a Jedi Master, when I can't even figure out my own feelings. I really am just a poorly educated farmer from a third-rate planet, and I could never believe you when you acted like I was on the same level as the Jedi Masters you must've known. Yes, you were right – I have a problem with self-esteem.

Well, I've been writing on this letter for a full week now. You'll never know how many paragraphs I've erased and rewrote. I guess it's time for me to just stop writing, and get on with my life. That was Han's advice, the last time I saw him – to get on with life, not dwell on the past. Leia just looks sad and gives me a hug. I imagine Mara would have the same philosophy as Han, if she ever deigns to come around again. She seems to be continuing to spend all her time with Lando, from the rumors I've heard. Now there's a match I never saw coming. You always acted like you were glad she was involved with him. They are both my friends, but I just can't see a relationship working out between them.

So, time to close.

Know that I did love you, Callista. In many ways, I will always love you. I don't regret one moment of our time together. And I'm glad that I was able to see you on Nam Chorius, even if it was only a glimpse. I think we needed that closure. I know I did.

With all my heart, Callie, I hope that someday the Force will be with you again.

Luke

Mara let the datapad fall into her lap. There were no more entries listed, no indication that the file had ever been transferred. She was just swiping at the tears pooling in the corners of her eyes when her head jerked upward at the sound of the door opening.

"Hey, there." Luke smiled, then glanced around at the neat stacks of boxes. "Looks like you've been busy."

"Yes," Mara murmured, doing her best to hide both her nervousness and the datapad. "Somebody had to take care of this mess."

"Sorry," Luke said. He crossed the room quickly, slipping behind Mara on the floor and wrapping his arms and legs around her."I promise I'll help finish up."

"So the praxeum didn't fall apart while you were gone?" Mara casually nudged the datapad under one crossed leg, hoping he wouldn't notice what she'd been looking at.

A hope that was utterly wasted on her perceptive husband.

"I think they do better when I'm not here," he said dryly. Mara caught the confused look on his face as he reached around her and pulled out the datapad.

"What's this?"

"Nothing," Mara said quickly, snatching the pad from his hand and tossing it aside. "You told me to clean out your closet, and that was ... just ..." She trailed off, stiffening guiltily as Luke called the datapad to his hand and switched it on.

"Luke, I ... it's ..."

Luke stilled as he saw the contents. "Oh."

"I didn't mean to ... Really ..."

"I'd forgotten all about this," Luke said quietly, tightening one arm around Mara's waist. His eyes slowly scanned the letter, then he laid it back down on the floor. "I should have gotten rid of it a long time ago," he murmured, his chin resting on her shoulder.

"I'm sorry, Luke. I shouldn't have read—"

"Shhh. It's all right."

Mara hugged his arms as he embraced her, reveling in the feelings of love and understanding he was sending her way. Only her precious husband would seek to comfort her, when she should be the one comforting him for all the painful memories that had been dredged up.

"Callista was my past." Luke stroked the side of Mara's face gently, his breath warm on her other cheek. "You are my present, my future, my always." He turned his attention downward, picking up the datapad once more. "This Mara person I kept mentioning was wrong about one thing, though," he said. "She and I are cut out to be married."

Capturing one of Mara's hands with his, Luke guided their joined fingers toward the keyboard, and together they pushed 'delete.'

THE END