Disclaimer: Star Wars belongs to George Lucas and other assorted folks, all of whom are not me. Also I'm not making any money off of this so please do not sue me.
"You're taking me into a bar?" Ben Skywalker's voice cracked mid-word as his voice rose in disbelief.
"Sure," was the unconcerned answer that drifted back to him. "Why not?"
"Because I'm under the age of Galactic majority for humans." He paused. "Mom will k-" He stopped mid-word and took a quick step to catch up with her.
The line of his jaw tightened into a stubborn and determined set. He finally looked up as they stepped into the bar and unconsciously took a step closer to Jaina as they began to move through the crowded bar toward a deserted table in the back.
Ben was the bigger of the two people. He stood several heads taller than his older cousin and he had a powerful build that would seem intimidating to some. Jaina was lithe and petite, with dark brown hair and deep brown eyes that contrasted sharply with his light good looks.
Jaina was also the one that the patrons of the bar quickly stepped away from and made way for. She seemed to not even notice.
Finally, they reached the table that she had picked out. Jaina dropped into the seat in the corner that left her with a good view of the door and waved Ben into the seat across from her.
She waited until two unsavory-looking Bith had passed the table before she looked over at him. She flashed him a wide grin and then started talking.
"Okay, little cousin, you said you needed to talk to me," she prompted.
Suddenly Ben didn't know how to start. "I – Mom – she…"
"Hel-lo there, darlin'," a nubile Twi'leck interrupted them. She held a piece of flimsy and a writing implement in her hands, but her attention was focused solely on Ben. "What can I get for you?" she purred.
Even in his preoccupied state, Ben flushed.
Jaina rolled her eyes. "Two Corellian Whiskeys." Ben looked over at Jaina sharply. Jaina only met his gaze with a crooked smile.
"That will be all," Jaina said firmly. The waitress flashed Ben another looked and flounced away with a pout.
Jaina leaned back in the booth, sparing Ben the embarrassment of commenting on his new friend. "Now," she said unhurriedly, "what were you saying?"
Once again, all of his good humor and embarrassment were gone, leaving him with only boiling rage.
Ben spoke before he could think. "I found something today and I want to know if it's true."
"What is it?" Jaina's voice was a little bit more serious now, sensing his abrupt change in emotion.
The waitress was back then. She set their drinks down and turned towards Ben. He didn't look up at her. "Go away."
Jaina paused, the shot of whiskey almost to her lips and cocked her head, still surprised at his outburst.
"Fine," the waitress sniffed, clearly insulted. She walked away with a glare.
"What was that about? You're usually the easy-going one in the family."
Ben slipped a datapad out of his pocket and put it on the table between them.
With her free hand Jaina picked up the datacard and casually put it in her portable cardreader. She watched as a list scrolled onto the screen – data, names and places. All were in neat orderly columns. Beside each entry was a name. One name appeared over and over again down the list.
"It's a list of officers of the Rebellion or Rebel sympathizers that were killed by the Empire, during the war." Ben's voice was low and desperate. "Why is her name there, Jaina?"
For a moment, Jaina hesitated, and then lowered the glass of whiskey in her other band back to the table. She looked him steadily in the eyes.
"Mara's name is on the list because she was an Imperial assassin, Ben."
Ben looked as if someone had just knocked the breath out of him. He stood up unsteadily anger flashing in his eyes. "How could she? he demanded. "They've lied to me my whole life!"
"Oh shut up, Nerf poodoo! No one cares!" The shout from the other side of the bar was echoed by other patrons as Ben's voice rose.
Ben looked around wildly as Jaina rose to her feet. "Sit down," she said firmly. "You need to hear the rest of this."
Ben started to obey automatically. Her tone was enough to send a combat-hardened veteran dropping back into their seat. He stopped.
"I've heard enough." Ben turned away and stepped directly into the path of a surly Gammorean.
The hefty being roared with indignation, and shoved back at Ben with enough force to send him staggering back into another table. He hit it with considerable momentum and fell back onto it. A mug of lomin ale doused on patron, while the second patron was showered with the remains of broken dishes. The table slid back under Ben's momentum, knocking the table's third occupant out of his seat and onto the floor.
Jaina was already springing up from their booth. "Back off, Hutt breath," she snarled at the Gammorean. "Ben," she questioned, risking a glance over her shoulder at him, "are you o-"
The Gammorean charged at her. Jaina side stepped his rush easily. She pivoted on her heal and added a helpful kick in the middle of his back to send him sprawling past her to the ground. He crashed into the third occupant of the table who was just beginning to rise. With a wild yell, the other two members of the table shoved Ben aside and charged at Jaina.
It was the only thing that Jaina had time to say as the bar erupted into fighting.
Jaina looked down at the stun cuffs on her wrists. She was well aware that she could slip them off at any time. One thought and her wrists would be free…but it had just been a bar fight. She wasn't fighting for her life against people who wanted to kill her or enslave her. She was simply being detained until a responsible party could be found to pick her up. It didn't matter at the moment that she was a respected Jedi Master accompanied by her cousin, the son of two respected Jedi Masters. They had been taken to the detention center along with all of the other participants in the fight.
Jaina didn't mind. It had been a pretty fun fight. She hadn't even bothered to use the Force, and her lightsaber had remained clipped to her belt for the entire fight. She and Ben had been in the thick of the fight with everyone else. Or at least, she had. She had tried to keep Ben out of the worst of the fighting. She was very protective of her cousin.
She watched him pace back and forth across the cell that they were currently sharing. Jaina cocked her head at him thoughtfully and winced as the motion made her head throb even more.
"Are you ready to listen now?"
Ben didn't look up from his pacing, or more accurately, his brooding. "I think I've heard enough."
Anger flared within Jaina. She surged to her feet and covered the distance between them with startling speed. "You don't know anything! Yes, Mara was an Imperial assassin, but she was more than that. Do you know how she became an assassin?"
Ben looked down at her defiantly. "Apparently I don't know anything about my mother."
For an instant Jaina realized how Mara must have felt during her apprenticeship, when Jaina had been so angry with her own mother. She had been too blinded by what was in front of her to see the bigger picture.
"You're right," Jaina said softly. "You really don't know anything about Mara." She took a step closer to Ben. "You don't know that she was taken from her parents at such a young age that she can't even remember them. You don't know that she was trained by Emperor Palpatine and shaped by him to become his perfect Hand. You don't know that she could hear his voice in her mind from anywhere in the galaxy! Her final mission was to kill Uncle Luke!" Jaina's voice rose with her level of anger. "You don't know how hard she had to fight to carve out a new life for herself, and apparently you don't know how much she loves you and Uncle Luke."
The anger and defiance had slowly drained out of Ben's face to be replaced with horror. Jaina looked down, thoughtfully.
"You're right, Ben. Mara did many horrible things in the name of the Emperor. She's never forgotten that and she's never denied it. It's a part of who she is…but being your mother is also a part of who she is. You can't have one part of Mara Jade without the other. Maybe someday you can see that. I hope that you discover it sooner rather than later, because this will break Mara's heart."
She turned and slowly made her way back to her side of the cell. She closed her eyes and tried to find a comfortable position. It was difficult to do. She hadn't lost the fight, but she and Ben had been heavily outnumbered and now everything hurt. She drifted into a trance-like state, lingering between sleep and instant awareness. It was a trick that she had picked up during the Vong War to catch rest even in the most vulnerable of situations.
She heard Ben slowly walking towards her and flicked her eyes open. He looked bad, she admitted to herself. One of his normally brilliant blue-grey eyes was surrounded by an ugly bruise that left his eye almost swollen shut. His clothes were torn in several places and he looked very, very tired.
"Jaina," he repeated urgently as he walked towards her. "You can't tell Mom that I know about this."
Jaina sat up, her attention suddenly caught by this request.
"I need some time to think about Mom and," he added quickly, "everything that you've said about her. It's just – I feel like I don't really know her anymore."
"Ben, you know a side of her that most of the galaxy doesn't even think that she has."
"I just want her to be Mom," he said in an anguished voice.
Jaina winced. "I know." She wrapped her arms tenderly around his shoulders. She could feel him relax, and she tried to soothe him as much as she could with the Force. She wondered briefly how she would one day handle this conversation with her own children.
The opening of the cell doors down the block sounded loudly and Ben pulled away from her. Jaina pretended not to notice as he wiped away a stray tear.
They saw Mara striding down the corridor towards them with an extremely displeased expression at the same moment. Ben blanched and Jaina winced.
"So you want me to tell Mara that I took you to a bar, where we got into a brawl, which we didn't come out of as the uncontested winners and then we ended up in the detention center waiting to be bailed out…all without giving her a decent explanation for why I did this?"
Ben looked at her pleadingly. "Yes."
Jaina looked back out at Mara.
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