Genre- Angst
Character Focus- Mara, Luke

Summary- Mara's thoughts and feelings as she watches the Jade's Fire make it's final journey into the hangar bay of the High Tower… with Luke Skywalker beside her.

Setting- During: Vision of the Future

oXo…

It was too late to change her mind. Even as his voice reached out to her in her mentally, she wondered vaguely if, perhaps, there might be a way to undo what had been done already.

Mara…

She heard him calling her in her mind, his tone sounding almost hopelessly frustrated. Though he had every right to be… She pulled the Force in close around her, unsure if she wanted to be found or not.

She sighed, her breath almost ragged, letting her shoulders slump in defeat. It was too late to do anything, anyway… If Skywalker had shown up three hours ago, there might have been time to call things off…to change things… But even the Jedi Master himself couldn't undo what she had done…

Up here, she reluctantly thought, shifting her weight from one leg to another. She really only wanted to be alone… If her life was to be taken away from her…she wanted to do it unaccompanied.

Skywalker had to have noticed her presence dim as she pulled her mental cloak around her, because he quickly sent her a thought.

Where are you? She could sense his frustration at her…attitude, if it could be called that. He had probably wanted to bash his way through her mental barriers for years, but she couldn't really help but pull them up higher and higher… She didn't want him to be with her…it just wasn't a good time…

She hesitated, knowing that her reluctance in letting Luke find her was childish. She set her chin stubbornly, the fire in her eyes sparking. She could handle this just as good as any silly Jedi Master!

She thought back to her climb up the steep cliff, sending her route back to Skywalker. His unspoken acknowledgement came quickly, as he saw the path she had taken. But the encouragement that came her way made her sink down lower on the ledge where she sat.

It didn't even take him ten minutes to reach the outcrop in the rock. "Hello," she called out, softly, before he could say anything. "How are you feeling?" It was hard to make such trivial talk when she felt as if her life were slowly being ripped away…

"Completely healed," he answered, the small frown on his face an indication that, even though he could not see through her, he could feel the edge of sorrow seeping out from beneath her mental barriers. "What's going on?" He took a seat beside her, turning his blue eyes in her direction.

She briefly wondered what it was she should tell him…but a slightly indirect approach would be best. "The Hand of Thrawn's over there," she said, lifting up her right hand to point ahead. "You can see the four black towers against the clouds when the light's right."

"What have they been doing?" he asked, his gaze following her hand.

"Nothing much. That ship that was out- remember the gap we saw in the parking array? It got in about three hours ago."

She saw his frown deepen slightly, most likely the thought of a ship that could head off to Bastion at any moment. "It hasn't left again?"

He saw her shake her head out of the corner of his eye. "Not that I could tell. Anyway, Parck said that they'd be debriefing the pilot before he made a final decision."

"I see," he said softly.

She knew what he was thinking, and it made it twice as hard for her to hold in her emotions. The meeting would undoubtedly be a rushed one, and it would only take that ship a short amount of time to lift into the air… and then the Empire would have everything.

Soon, she knew. Soon… For a few long moments, she was torn. Should she explain it to Luke? After all they'd been through, he deserved to know…

"It's funny, you know," she murmured from beside Skywalker, breaking the short silence. "Ironic, really. Here we are: the woman who's spent ten years trying to build a new life for herself, and the man who's spent those same ten years rushing madly around trying to save the galaxy from every new threat that reared its ugly face." She held her chin up, steady. Her eyes narrowed in an attempt to keep her own voice firm.

She could feel his eyes settle uneasily on her face. "That's us, all right. Not sure I see the irony, though."

"The irony is that with the New Republic ready to tear itself apart, you rushed off to save me…" she said, knowing that she was starting to lose her internal battle. "Ignoring your self-delegated responsibilities in order to save that one woman and her one life." She took in a deep breath, trying to steady her voice, too keep it firm and solid. "And that one woman," she started, her voice coming out undeniably soft and weak, "Is now the one who has to sacrifice that new life she wanted. To save the New Republic."

She could feel his eyes on her face as a distant flash of pale green illuminated the ridge where they sat. "Looks like you got here just in time," she whispered, just loud enough for him to hear, as a loud thunder-crack made her flinch.

She knew that it had started… Too late to turn back. And she knew she was about to break, as Skywalker turned his head to see a pair of turbolasers from the top of one of the towers shoot across the sky, followed quickly by another pair- the shots aimed in the direction opposite where they sat.

"Ranging shots, probably," she said as calmly as she could, realizing that she sounded like a taut spring, about to snap. "Trying to gauge the distance. It won't be long now."

She knew he was looking at her; that he could feel the pain building inside of her, leaking out of her barriers as if it were water leaking from a dam.

"Mara, what's going on?"

"It was your idea, you know," she said, almost as if she hadn't heard him. "You're the one who wanted so much for me to become a Jedi." She could feel her eyes watering as she watched the green lasers fly across the dark sky, lighting up the landscape. She sniffed loudly, a last, pathetic effort at holding back the tears that were threatening to spill over. "Remember?"

She knew he was confused, as he craned his neck to try and see what she was talking about… All four towers were firing persistently, accompanied by the blue Chiss weaponry. Aiming in the same direction.

As he looked at her tortured face, she knew that he had figured it out. "Mara," he breathed. "No. Oh, no."

She sighed as her tears finally fell from where she had tried to hold them. "It had to be done," she finally spoke, her voice wobbling unsteadily. "It was the only way to keep them from taking all of this and handing it to Bastion. The only way."

It was her new life…her…only life, and it was fast disappearing. Her home, her possessions… All she owned… would soon be gone. And she would have to start over again… Lowering her eyes, she tried to take calming breaths. But she could feel the inner turmoil roll through Luke's emotions.

He was blaming himself, again. Trying to think of a way that he could give her back her life… She knew him too well. This wasn't just Jedi Master Luke Skywalker… This was the farmboy, who tried to make things right.

She felt him reach for the Force, and quickly spoke, before he could actually do anything. "Don't. Please, don't…" Her voice was ragged, tired… from trying to keep her barriers in place…and making an effort to hold upwhat little bit of a life she had before she crumbled. "It's my sacrifice, don't you see? The final sacrifice every Jedi has to go through."

She let her hand reach for his, half un-consciously, knowing that Luke Skywalker couldn't do anything for her home, but that he might be able to help her; if only a little. His hand was large in comparison to hers, warm, and calloused. She knew her hand felt cold and shaky in his, but she needed the simple touch to hold her together.

"There's nothing you can do. Nothing at all."

She heard him take a ragged breath, and knew that he was thinking. Though, after only a few moments of pondering on it, he seemed to acknowledge that it was her decision, her responsibility, and that he should not interfere.

She hadn't expected his arm to wrap around her, and for a moment she stiffened, resisting his touch, her mind screaming that he was too close. Fear and loneliness mixed with her churning river of pain and sorrow…but then, realizing that she needed this, just this once…she let her mental barriers fall, melting into his side, her face against his shoulder.

She felt his grip tighten as he sent her comforting, warm thoughts and feelings, and she knew that she really did trust Luke Skywalker. This man who had been beside her, through so much… Even as he watched her life crumble in front of her, he was there…holding her to him, helping her as only he could.

Cutting low over a distant hill, its hull burnished by the effect of full shields operating in the atmosphere, it dodged or shrugged off the attack savaging the air around it, firing back steadily, but uselessly in return; only one goal in mind. The beckon call that Mara had spliced into one of the alien ships' comm system was calling for the ship…bringing it closer to the hangar bay, the one weak point of the entire fortress.

Mara's personal ship, the one thing in the universe she actually owned.

The Jade's Fire.

Her shoulders tensed as she leaned forward to watch, her face looking strangely haunted in the light, tears long forgotten. The ship ducked toward the hangar as the towers intensified their attack, but it was too late.

Luke's arm tightened around her shoulders as the ship fell out of sight, the sound of the following explosion nearly deafening. A second explosion came a few moments later, silencing the towers, and they were left once againwith the soft stillness of the night.

They sat there for a long time, his arm around her, pulling her to him as he shared her burden. Skywalker really was a good man. The life she had been trying to make was gone, she realized as she clung to this man that had been with her for so long, but there was always a chance that she could make a new one. Perhaps…she could even make a new life with this wonderful, thoughtful, man…who seemed to help her in so many ways.

She snuck a glance in his direction, his sky-blue eyes dark in the lack of light. They held an affectionate compassion that made her feel as if she had a true friend. Laying her head on his shoulder, she decided that it wouldn't hurt to let him help her…at least for a few more minutes.

oXo…

Author's Ramblings: The title comes from two things- The Jade's Fire (fire representing the Phoenix, who can represent rebirth), and also, the rebirth of a new life, hopefully with that one man in her life who truly cares for her.

Most of the dialogue came from the book, Vision of the Future, but I spiced up the details, lengthening it in some places, while shortening it in others.

This was my first Star Wars fanfiction; I hope it was satisfactory. I thought that my first SW fanfiction should be a relatively simple one...I'm not new to fanfiction itself, just the fandom. I have a lot more ideas (mostly for one-shots), but I'd like to get feedback on this, first.

So, review! Let me know if you liked it, or if you didn't like it; and why. Criticism is well-accepted. I'm always looking to improve my writing.