Lady in Red

Part II

Verse 2 Lines 1-3

"Corran, look at them!" Mirax smiled, "They're so happy!"

Glancing at his wife, Corran replied, "I know how they feel."

"Watch it Corsec," the reproach was pleased as they passed under the overhang into the dining hall. Hearing some commotion she frowned, "What's going on?"

Her husband followed her gaze, "I don't…Oh wait, I know, leave it to him to ruin this for them."

She glanced at him inquisively, and then her head snapped back as a roar of fury came from Chewbacca. "Oh no."

In the center of the dining hall stood Borsk Fey'la. Moments ago he seemed to have been arguing about his seating placement; or some other minor indignation. (It was later determined that his problem was with the smugglers he was sitting with.) Chewbacca, sensing an argument, had roared to shut him up, and at the same time gestured to his seat at the main table.

"Good ol' Chewie, giving up his seat, even though I think that is what Fey'la wanted the whole time. What is he planning?"

"Now Mirax, we don't know…" He stopped at her withering stare. "Ok Ok, I'm no longer thinking as Corsec, I promise."

"For now"

"For now," her eyes twinkled causing him to grin, "Come on, we're sitting with Wedge and Iella."

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Mara turned to Luke, Want to switch seats?

Why?

Borsk-- I don't think I am in the mood to get annoyed Luke's amusement rolled towards her, I'm serious

So am I, Mara I think you can handle him.

Thanks for your confidence, excuse me if I don't share it.

Before Luke could answer, a gravely voice broke in.

"Mara Jade, allow me to convey congratulations on your engagement, and improved connections."

Restraining her surprise, and annoyance at his veiled insult, Mara remarked in her kindest voice. "Thank you, Councilor, having you here means a lot to Luke and me."

"Yes, I know…"

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Wedge broke into Iella, and Mirax's conversation, "Girls, that is nothing compared to the time when Luke thought that the bureaucrats were taking to long, and decided to take our new power cells on Hoth…let us just say no one came out of that fiasco without being covered in flour and feathers."

Corran gave him a suspicious look, "I don't believe it, what did you guys do?"

"Well we were trying to sneak them out of the supply lock (they were taking too long to clear them) and we took a small shortcut through the kitchen." He looked up at the incredulous look on his wife's face. "WHAT, its true, I..." he broke suddenly, his eyes widening, "Corran, look at Mara and Fey'la."

In complete unison, the remaining three pairs of eyes swung toward the dais—Mara's face had gone completely pale, and Luke looked like he was about to interfere, but something was holding him back.

"What is that…vermin doing?"

"Mirax, what if someone hears you?"

"Iella! No one will, and it's true anyway. What's going on now?"

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Luke had been growing more and more aware of Mara's growing aggravation toward Fey'la. His hand snaked over to grip hers and squeezed reassuringly.

At that moment Fey'la, equally annoyed that he wasn't fazing Mara, leaned over toward Mara and spat out—"I am sure your marriage, at least this sham of one could survive, but not past you trying to murder Luke Skywalker in his bed for your LATE EMPEROR". With that he got up and motioned to his bodyguards to follow him outside the dining hall.

Mara found herself briefly choking on a sip of wine, as blood drained off her face. Even worse, she felt a bolt of anger from Luke. Realizing what was about to happen, Mara reluctantly let go of Luke's hand, and quickly squeezed his thigh. His anger immediately became cautious. Luke let me handle this, TRUST ME.. She stood up, and gripped the table.

"Councilor Fey'la, if you could stay a few more moments." The hall became silent, as she waited for him to stop and turn around. "Leaders of the New Republic, my friends…my family."

You can do this, she told herself.

"Many of you who know my background, and have accepted it as the past, know where my loyalties lie. But someone just questioned them, making me realize that a lot of you don't."

Her mouth dry, she went on. "I was the late Emperor's hand; WAS is the key. My alliance to him died long ago, and changed as I learned the true nature of my young life under his control. I, like many of you had known nothing about life outside the Empire. But that is not an excuse, because I accept it as my past"

"Today, my loyalty is to the Force, the Chief of State Organa Solo, my new family, and Luke." She paused, seeming to collect her thoughts, and Luke stood up reaching for her hand again. When Mara looked up her green eyes pierced the crowd, glaring at Fey'la. "My loyalty is to the light side, to put my past behind me and become part of a family."

She turned so she was facing Luke, aware of the rest of the family's eyes on her. In a softer voice, but still loud enough for the hall to hear. "My loyalty is to you, my love, who has taught me more about loyalty then anyone here will ever know."

Mara you amaze me

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Verse 2: Lines 4-5

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After a few moments, the silence in the dining room gave way to a low growl as Chewbacca moved towards Fey'la. Sensing the danger, Borsk beckoned his bodyguards and quickly left the room. Everyone turned back towards Mara and Luke, who stood staring at one another in silent communication. When their eyes unlocked Mara turned towards her waiting audience, brushed something from her eye, and gestured that she was finished. Gradually a low hum took over the hall.

Later, Luke would say he had never felt so much acceptance in one room before. And as the receiving line flew by, Mara felt curiosity, not hostility, a feeling that would remain with her for a long time. Han, Leia, Corran, Mirax, Wedge, Iella, Lando and Tendra watched Luke and Mara thank the last guests. As they walked towards the waiting group the doors behind them slammed open.

In came three figures cloaked in black, and Chewbacca carrying a series of boards. Three figures who looked very familiar to Wedge and Corran. Chewie shook his head, growled, and each figure pulled out white boards from under their cloaks.

The Boards Read: LUKE AND MARA—TRIAL BY FIRE

This was followed by a guffaw from Chewie and his signs

COURTESY OF ROGUE SQUADRON: MAY WE NEVER BE GROUNDED

A moan escaped Wedge's lips "Oh no—why didn't I notice them disappear before. This is going to be interesting."

Then the figures spoke left to right:

"Luke Skywalker, you are hereby charged with fraternizing with the enemy."

"By which we mean an X-wing fighter pilot falling in love."

"In love with a private freighter owner—worse yet an owner without a ship."

"How do you plead?"

At that moment the first figure whipped of his coat. Tycho dressed in Tatooine whites exclaimed, "I plead guilty!"

The second cloak went off. And there was Hobbie, with a minute scowl on his face. Under the cloak was a very convincing copy of Mara's dress.

"Stars of Alderaan, Hobbie you look better than you did on Adumar." Wedge called out causing Iella to burst out laughing. "Go Bugbite."

Hobbie's scowl grew deeper.

The third figure, still cloaked called out. "Excuse me, we are trying to hold a trial."

A high-pitched voice came from Hobbie. "Right as if this farce of a court room will really prove anything, and you Skywalker are in deep trouble for losing my ship."

Tycho grimaced, "Now Mara, when we go back to Yavin I'll buy you a new ship, just let these military men have their try. They can't convict me …I'm LUKE SKYWALKER" The last words were spoken in a holohero type pose.

Then the third cloak came whooshing off. Of course who else could it be but Janson, playing himself. "Before the judge comes in, we must swear in our two witness'—fellow grounded X-wing pilots." He glared comically at his audience.

Corran smiled and hopped out of his seat. "I'm game."

Mara scowled, "Corran, you were in on this?"

"Sorry, too much fun to pass up." He leaned towards Wedge. "General come on, and bring your chair"

"Attention in the court, the honorable and good looking bailiff Wes Janson, that's me, would now like to swear in the witnesses." He turned in military stance towards Corran and Wedge.

"Do you Corran Horn and Wedge Antilles, former General swear to tell the whole truth or nothing but the truth, so help me you will never fly again?"

"We do." In unison they both tried to control their laughter.

"We shall now call in the judge, who I believe wrote his own announcement which is somewhere here." Janson fumbled around for some paper, picked one out of his pocket and started delivering it from memory. "Hero of Yavin, Endor and Hoth. One who has protected the tail of a certain Jedi Master for a long time. Fought against Thrawn, Si-Rukk, and helped save Wedge Antilles fingers. I present you his honor."

Chewbacca roared and opened the door to the outside, in came R2-D2 whistling a popular tune as he came in.

Hobbie wailed angrily. "Hey that's no fair. He's biased. He flies X-wings!"

"Now Mara, if it is meant to be, it is meant to be."

"Stay out of my head Skywalker."

Luke burst out laughing when Hobbie delivered that line, receiving odd looks from the rest of the group. Mara's face had turned a shade of scarlet, "I'm never going to be able to say that without hearing Hobbie again!"

Janson cleared his throat, "AHHHEEEMM, the judge is waiting." He turned back to R2-D2, "Your Honor what is question would you like to ask our witnesses?"

Artoo whealed around letting out a short series of beeps.

"Perfect," Janson glanced at the translator hookup. "Wedge, Corran, why do you think Luke deserves to be grounded. Seniority first."

Wedge made a face. "Seniority, ugh. Well, First of all, Master Skywalker is basically doomed unless he marries Mara. He'll become one of those people who are always listened to and praised, look at his ego now. He needs Mara to make sure it doesn't get any bigger." Through out this dialogue his face was composed in mock seriousness.

"Hear, hear" roared Han and Lando from the audience, "Hear, hear." Next to them Leia and Tendra were crying with laughter.

"Wait, I'm not done. Second of all, if he flies again, all of us will be forced to work harder, to stay good. And well we're Rouge Squadron, we hate hared work, vaping enemies is easier."

Corran's testimony was more thoughtful. "Well, I've known Mara's had a thing for Luke for a while. That was probably the only reason she showed up at the academy, until she had some competition, "Me", and when she did come back, she was too shy to say anything and left "Me" to protect him."

Wes yawned at Corran's posturing motioning his hands forward, "Get to the point."

Corran glared at Janson. "She needs to protect him, and to keep herself from blaming me for when her ships get destroyed, and telling me off. I think Luke should hear the venting, instead of me."

Mara called out, "Hey who decided to get go right into Exar Kun's attack with my ship? It WAS your fault. You decided to play hero."

The Corellian Jedi rebutted quickly, "I didn't kill your Z-95 headhunter and you know it."

Janson, speaking over them yelled, "Now we give his honor time to decide." He grinned as Artoo whistled, "You like how the cloak looks? Not too obvious, thanks…I picked it out just for the occasion."

Artoo twittered again, sounding irritated.

Wes sheepishly grinned, "Oh yeah, the verdict." He leaned over the readout and then frowned, "Uh oh." Deliberately he walked over to Tycho and patted him on the back in sympathy.

"What's wrong?" Hobbie cried.

"You don't want to know."

Wedge let out a mock yell, and ducked under the table, "Run for the hills, run. Whenever Janson says that it has to be bad."

"Wedge, SHUT UP."

The bailiff composed himself. "The verdict is : Grounded for life, with a sentence of marrying Mara or facing the consequence of being deprived of her sharp tongue for life. Mara you get a punishment too, your punishment is dealing with Luke's ego. GOOD LUCK!"

Tycho faced Hobbie. "See, everything turned out fine."

Hobbie grimaced, "Ok we're done, can I get out of this dress now?"

"OH HOBBIE!"

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Verse 2: Lines 6-7

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"Mara" Tycho blanched, "I personally would like to apologize for Hobbie's horrific portrayal- he really doesn't do you justice."

"What! Are you saying I can't act?" Hobbie followed Tycho out the door as they went out to change.

Wedge sighed, "I leave Rogue Squadron and look what happens."

Mara smiled inwardly, "I think a little humor is allowed."

"Oh of course, I was talking about Hobbie's cross-dressing, and Janson's ego. Even Tycho, he never would have taken part in something like this before."

So the late night began, with old friends becoming reacquainted, and some new ones passing along old stories.

Mirax's lips twitched mischievously, "Mara, did you know that there was a time where our men decided we should never meet?"

"No, I don't get why though." Both women glanced at their significant others with suspicion.

Luke broke in, " I can tell you why. The two of you separately can be stubborn, the two of you together you would terrorize civilians, and us."

Corran elbowed Luke " What he means, is that you two are more alike that you know—that's all."

Mara and Mirax eyed each other "I don't see the resemblance"

"Neither do I."

Their laughter rang clear and true, and finally before the last toast Luke stood up, "For the family and friends that were there for me when I refused to see the truth, and to Mara for finally showing me the way."

"I can drink to that," grinned Corran

Leia steadily rose to her feet. "To my brother Luke, without whom I wouldn't be here today, and my new friend and sister, whose bravery saved my life on more then one occasion."

"To Luke and Mara."

As everyone left Mara felt a twitch of sadness, growing up without a family had left its mark on her. They turned toward where Leia and Han were gathering up their things.

"Going?" Luke asked

"Yes, I have a senate meeting tomorrow afternoon, and Han is…well what are you doing?"

Han grinned, "planning a surprise."

"What are the kids doing?" wondered Mara

"Well school until midday, do you want to pick them up?"

She glanced at Luke; " I would like that, seeing them."

"It's done, goodnight you two."

"Bye"

As the door shut behind them Luke glance at Mara, "Shall we go?"

"Now? Is there anything left to do?"

"I don't think so." Luke turned and walked towards the door, realizing as he reached it that Mara wasn't behind him. Looking back he saw her and stopped in his tracks.

In the middle of the dance floor, Mara turned slowly, taking in the moment, and the night. She drank it and bathed in it, with her expressions changing as she relived the evening. Looking at Luke she said, "Can we…go out onto the balcony? I want to see something."

Puzzled he followed her out, "Of course."

Standing out at the edge of the balcony Mara pointed, "See that?"

"Yes, It's the imperial palace."

"No, Look at it, through my eyes."

Frowning, Luke took a deep breath and touched the Force, reaching out for Mara's spirit, touching her memories.

He saw her, young (not quite sure how young) sitting by herself in the grand corridor, watching people go by.

He saw her at Jabba's Palace, alone.

He saw her older, sitting in the arboretum, reading, and watching two kids running through the brush.

He saw her as she was over ten years ago, before joining Karrde, working on ships on Coruscant's docking bays, not a soul in sight.

Mara shifted her eyes, to the stars, showing him her life in Karrde's organization and how even early on she couldn't quite fit in. Then she showed him what she saw when her eyes fell on his face.

People looking after her, while she slept after Luke saved her from EV during the fight for Katana.

The immediate trust gained, from saving Leia's children.

Scaffolding down a building on Correlia with Leia beside her, working together.

Her watching him sleep at the Academy after he awoke from Exar Kun's attack.

He felt her pain/curiosity when she met Callista, and her sadness when they had thought Callista dead.

She glanced to the room, where the face of people who had become her friends flashed by. Her eyes flicked back to him, an she spoke, haltingly at first. " I had always been alone, until I met you."

"Since Karrde saved you from deep space, based on my feelings, I have had more people care for me, merely because you cared. I learned from you without seeing."

"You asked me on the Chimaera about why I would want to marry you: To rid myself of loneliness, to become part of a family, and that we were stronger together than apart. What I couldn't say then and I can now is that I love you, you who took the sorrows form my self-imposed exile and let my spirit live among the stars, like it was meant to. My loyalty is not the only thing that is yours, my heart and soul is as well."

Luke gazed at her awestruck; he did the one thing he could do, pulled her towards him in a hug that crushed the remainder of Mara's deepest fears.

And he showed her how much life without her would kill him.

He showed her his pride at how she stood up for herself to Borsk.

At their last moments hoping for a miracle in the Niruan caves.

He fast-forwarded back, showing her how after Callista he was lost, wandering.

Then revealing his life before Thrawn needing a guiding light.

He spoke softly, "Sensing you on Karrde's ship ten years ago, made me understand that others needed to be trained. And then there were your words in the cave, showing me my mistakes. You have been my guiding light, as a student, a friend and my love. Together we are stronger, because of our love and because of the Force."

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Chorus

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They stayed under the stars for a long time; until Mara stirred, "Luke, they'll lock up with us inside. We need to leave."

"Ok, let's go." Quietly, they descended to where the speeders were, "Do you want me to drop you off? Or do you want to take your..." He stopped as he saw how tired she was. "Come on, we'll take mine."

Mara yawned, "We have to, I came here with Leia and Han."

"Oh really? How'd the new designer go?"

"Hmmm, good."

Luke's lips twitched, as he put her in the seat. "Pull your legs in, that's it." After he belted them both in he asked, joining the traffic flow, "What does the dress look like?"

"It's white, with..." Her eyes snapped open. "Luke Skywalker, I can't believe you. Wipe that grin off your face, I told you nothing."

"I know, I know," They flew in silence for some time, and as Luke pulled into her building, he eased the speeder into a space. "Mara, can you walk? Or do I have to carry you eight stories?"

She opened an eye and stretched, "I'm not crippled, just tired."

Luke let out a soft laugh. "Indeed Mara, indeed."

"Hey, aren't you coming up?"

He blushed, "Of, course, why?"

"Farmboy, I never got a second dance."

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When the lift door opened they found themselves on the roof, instead of the hallway, "Luke, did you push the wrong button?"

"No, you said you wanted a dance, so I gave us a better view."

Without, checking to see if they were alone; and seeing her about to form an objection, he kneeled. "Mara, just come here."

"Luke, you're joking right?"

"No, I just want you in my arms once more tonight. I think this is a time where your practical side has to lose, and besides you wanted this."

Mara sighed, and walked towards him, "No music?"

"This is a dance you can do without music."

"Oh-" he silenced her with his hand, and replaced it with his mouth. "Shh-- Mara let's just be tonight."

Abruptly, Mara pulled away. For some reason being this high above Coruscant was making her euphoric. Dropping Luke's hand, she ran a few steps form him, looked up at the sky, and began twirling, letting her gloved hands spin with her. The stars turned into star lines, and she flew higher, higher, higher, until it was only her, Luke and the stars.

In reality, a few feet away, Luke watched her with his hand covering his smile.

She said something, which rushed towards him as she spun, "I...feel...so...free!"

Finally she stopped, dropping to a crouch and closing her eyes until the spinning subsided. When she opened them Luke's brilliant blues were twinkling at her.

"Now that is a side of Mara Jade that I've never seen. Perhaps too much champagne?"

"No, she whispered, still out of breath, "Tonight was too important to cover in an alcoholic haze."

"True," He helped her to her feet.

"Luke, can we talk for a bit?"

"What is it?"

"No more pouring my heart out, I swear."

"I like it when you pour your heart out."

She smiled fiercely." Actually this is more of a worry and a question."

He sobered, "Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin."

Her forehead creased and she leaned against the ledge, "Yes, I was wondering about them and kids."

"They like you Mara, they really do."

"Do they? I hope so-Luke, do you want kids?"

Luke stood slightly taken aback by the forcefulness of the question. "I do, but not at the expense of our relationship."

Mara got up, "Oh it's not that I don't want kids; I was just wanting wait a few months, a year or two. This has been a change for me. I wanted to know if you would be willing to wait. Whatever you're ok with is what I'm ok with."

Slightly taller, Luke stood on his toes and kissed her head. "We're in this together, of course I'll wait. I have a feeling we'll know when the time is right."

"I think so too...Let's dance."

And so they did, just silently thinking, and watching the stars shimmer. As the light of early dawn approached, Mara was asleep, but still dancing in his arms.

Luke chuckled to himself, "I get to carry you after all."

She stirred lightly, "Don't let it get to your head Skywalker. I wouldn't want Janson and Hobbie telling me I'm messing with the verdict."

"I won't." Picking her up he carried her to the lift and into her bedroom. Sitting her on the bed, he held her with one arm and deftly pulled out the combs from her hair with the other, letting down her fiery mane. He put her head on the pillow and pulled her feet up, tucking the sheets under her chin.

"My beloved, sleep well." Kissing her lightly on the lips he let himself out, laughing as he heard her murmur. "Wait, I'll come with you," before falling into a deep and happy sleep.

"Not this time Mara, but soon forever after."

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Last Part of the Chorus, repeated

FIN