Standard Disclaimer: These characters belong to G. Lucas and T. Zahn. In other words: not mine.
Dedication: To anyone who loves hot chocolate.
Rating: M (just to be on the safe side)
Spoilers/Timeline: After The Corellian Trilogy but before "Vision of the Future".
A/N: Do read and review.
Chapter 1: Don't Look Down
Lightheaded all of a sudden, Luke closed his eyes briefly as he felt the blood in his head go rushing... somewhere else. Somewhere tight. And getting tighter by the minute. "Don't look down, don't look down, don't look down, don't look down..." He chanted that mantra over and over in his head, knowing that it was futile.
She looked down.
Quirked an eyebrow.
"Oops," she breathed out, in a tone that did nothing to support the notion that what she had just done was intentional.
"Did I do that?"
And he watched, mesmerised, as she put one hand over his bulge.
The part of his brain that was so far unoccupied by the surreal scene unfolding right before his eyes thought: "This is not happening to me."
It was supposed to be a simple reception for the Ambassador of some world or other which recently joined the New Republic. He wasn't even supposed to be on planet for more than a day or two – he had arrived to meet the engineers of the company which supplied battle drones for Yavin IV, to test out their new prototype battle droid. It was part of a contract which he signed when he established the Praxeum, agreeing that he would conduct usability (and durability) testing for five models of the company's battle droids each year. In return, the Jedi Academy would be given two hundred battle droids per year to use for Jedi training purposes.
He shuddered as he remembered the legal wrangling that went into that contract. Thank goodness Leia had sent him in with a brilliant law student (the Academy couldn't afford to pay anyone legal fees, and he didn't want to be beholden to Leia or the NR) who managed to see the holes in the original contract, and drew up another, tighter (and two hundred pages longer) agreement. He shuddered to think that he could have been on the Holonet endorsing their battle droids to the whole galaxy, had Isaar not been there to catch the clause. He recalled the last conversation they had, after the final signing of the contract had been completed.
"Thank the Force that's done," Luke commented to Isaar after they had signed the final contract. "I don't know what I would have done without you."
"It's an honour, Master Luke," Isaar said. "Everyone in the faculty is envious that I get to meet with you, and some of the contract law professors are dying to take a look at the final contract that you just signed, no doubt to tear my work apart as 'academic critique'." Isaar smiled as they descended from the droid company's office.
"I'll take your word for it, and lunch's on me today," Luke said as they walked toward a row of eateries. "But if you ever need help that I'm able to give, please don't hesitate to send word to Yavin IV."
"Hmm..." A mischievous grin split Isaar's face, reminding Luke again that he was only a law underclassman, despite his genius in untangling difficult contracts. The fact was further underscored by his next statement. "Does your praxeum have any attractive female Jedi around my age?"
Luke's left eyebrow quirked as he gestured Isaar towards a Corellian eatery. "Not that I can think of, but you're welcome to Yavin to visit and…look for yourself." He grinned and shook his head. "But don't tell anyone I told you that. It wouldn't bode well for the galaxy to discover that the Jedi Praxeum is really a matchmaking agency, would it?" They laughed at this, settling down in their seats.
"Then how about just Mara Jade?" Startled by the question, and at the mention of her name, Luke turned and frowned in confusion. "What about Mara Jade?" he asked.
"Would you introduce me to her?" Isaar asked earnestly. "I've heard so much about her, but I've never even gotten close to seeing her. She's not really a celebrity, so she doesn't make public appearances, so nobody's really met her, but some of my friends and I have been having hypothetical debates on her legal position in the New Republic, what with her being an ex-Imperial and all, and…it would very, very cool to meet with her," he finished with a wry smile.
"I'm not really sure if Mara Jade would welcome the attention, but I'll run it by her and we'll see how she takes it," Luke said sceptically. "If you find me missing and a pile of my clothes somewhere with lightsaber singe marks, know that she's made good on her long-ago promise to kill me, and tell my sister that I love her very, very much, and to please forgive Mara."
They had a good laugh over that, and passed the afternoon pleasantly chatting over lunch.
This was the first time that he was to fulfil the terms of the contract, and he had not planned to stay more than a day to test the prototypes, but he had gotten lost somewhere along the way to the company's research facility, and thus arrived late for the prototype testing. As procedure dictated that a lengthy human-droid interaction debrief would ensue immediately after each test that he made on the battle droids, after testing three droids it was suggested (very meekly) by one of the engineers that the Jedi Master return the following day to complete the two other tests. Luke had immediately agreed, sensing the weak Force signatures of the testing group waning fast after the second droid test-discussion.
'Not that I'm fresh out of the oven myself,' Luke thought wryly, sniffing delicately at his clothes. He dug for his comlink and called Leia.
"Good evening, how may I be of … Master Luke! How wonderful to hear from you! Is Artoo with you? It must have been several months since your last visit to Coruscant – "
"Hello Threepio, is Leia around?"
"Yes she is, and Captain Solo as well. Shall I get them for you?"
"Yes, that would be good. Thank you Threepio."
Luke yawned as he walked towards the research facility exit. He hoped that Leia would put him up for the night – anyway, it was her fault that he had to place to lay his head that night, she had wanted to re-do the interior of his apartment, so the least that she could do was to let him bunk in her guest quarters. Or, he yawned and stretched again, he could always put in a request for pilot quarters to the NRI, who normally oblige when they knew that it was The Skywalker calling.
Luke snorted in derision at the term. "The Skywalker" indeed. He was just a pilot that got lucky with the Force genes. It could have been anyone else in his shoes.
The comlink crackled to life.
"Luke! I thought I felt your presence somewhere. Back on Coruscant for a flying visit, or do you need a place to stay rent-free, since you probably blame me for wanting to make your apartment a little prettier?" Luke twisted his mouth sardonically at his sister's jibe.
"It was only going to be a day trip, but looks like it's going to take longer so yes, I'll take up your offer to stay at your place, thank you very much, and why yes, I'd love to have dinner too," he smiled into the comlink.
"Come on over. The twins are home, and your arrival has gotten them excited, so by the time you get here they should be bouncing off the walls, and I'll pass them to you to handle."
"I'll be there in a bit. Skywalker out." Luke closed the connection with a smile on his face, and made his way to Orowood Towers.