a/n: This story is fairly dark, and I cannot even believe that I've written it, honestly. But the idea hit me thanks to a challenge at the SJRS, and I couldn't resist. I'm still working on later chapters, but the story is mapped out…I'm just a very, very slow writer.

Mara awoke with a pounding headache, shutting her eyes quickly against the bright sunlight that was pouring in through the huge window that sat opposite the sofa she slept on. The light seemed somehow brighter than it normally would, the time of the morning at which she and Luke routinely woke. Mara rolled her neck, wincing as the action caused her already throbbing head to protest by sending a sharp pain down her spine. Looking at the chrono on the holovid unit she saw that it was late…nearly two hours later than she normally would wake. Well, that explains the brightness of the morning, at least Mara thought, wondering how she had gotten such a bad headache if she actually had more sleep than she normally did. She chalked it up to the fact that she had spent the previous night on her sofa, and vowed to speak to Luke about buying a more comfortable settee.

Mara sat up and stretched, feeling achy and out of sorts. She noted that the bedroom door stood open and was surprised to see Luke's arm dangling from the side of the bed that she could barely make out from where she sat. Why had they slept so late? The family was exhausted to be sure, Ben had recently reached a stage where he was afraid of the dark and he had refused for a week or more to sleep in his own bed. Luke had finally gotten him back into his own room after a frustrating week of listening to the little boy snore, and of feeling his little knees and elbows burrow into their sides and backs. Luke had bought many night-lights in the shapes of different New Republic ships. Ben loved them, but the first night he had been sent back to his room they had found him camped out in a bedroll in front of their room, clutching two of the ship-shaped night-lights. But gradually he had begun to spend the night in his own room again…exhaustion probably having played some part in that. They were all only now beginning to catch up on their lost sleep.

Mara rose from her bed and stumbled into the 'fresher, palming the light switch and foregoing a look in the mirror. Instead she fished out a few headache meds and decided to seek Luke out and have him help her reduce the pain. He seemed more adept at spontaneous healing than she. Mara was surprised that he hadn't already awakened in response to her pain…their Force bond allowed them to be in constant contact with one another, and Luke, being known to be a bit overprotective of her, was always aware of when she was in pain.

Through the pain of her pounding head, Mara could sense Luke, though his presence seemed a bit off to her. She wondered what had caused it and decided it was probably the headache she was experiencing…never had she experience a headache to this degree. The meds didn't seem to be working quite yet. Perhaps Luke is sick too? she thought, trying to remember what they had done the night before.

The previous night was a bit fuzzy to her, and that frightened Mara. What had happened? Mara kept trying to remember, before she panicked. It couldn't have been too bad, whatever it was, as she was here at home…with Luke, and Ben. Seeking to reassure herself Mara cast out with the Force, first touching Luke's sense and sending a wave of love to him. Luke's sense still seemed…off…almost as if he were far away, both physically and emotionally. No answering wave of love arrived, and instantly Mara began to fear the worst. What is going on?

It was at that moment that a cold feeling of dread descended upon Mara, making her feel far worse than her still-pounding headache did. Just as a barely formed questioning tendril of the Force came towards her from Luke, Mara brushed it off in order to check on her son. She wasn't alarmed by his lack of sense in the Force; since he had taught himself to withdraw from it he could hide from her and Luke fairly well. But as she reached into that place in her mind, her maternal center, the place that Ben's presence filled so completely, Mara found it empty, and bare.

"Ben?" She cried, through the Force, and for good measure, aloud. She kept reaching out, seeking her son's presence, that warm little light in the Force that encompassed her baby--a small little mixture of herself and Luke and the huge presence that was all Ben's own.

Ignoring her headache and the pain that still radiated through the rest of her body, Mara ran from the 'fresher, intent on finding her son. Confused as to the state of things since she had awakened, and frightened by the fact that she could not remember the previous day, Mara ran down the hall and skidded to a stop in front of Ben's room, viciously slapping the door unit open and stepping in, hoping to see Ben curled up, in his X-Wing pajamas, safely asleep.

Liquid fear gripped her belly then, choking her, and causing hot bile to rise into her throat. Little Ben Skywalker was in his bed, but he was not sleeping. He lay still and cold, his head was turned at an angle that Mara knew from experience was not humanly possible.

Mara didn't even feel her feet move as she made her way to the bed, so intent was she to get to her son, her child. But as she reached the bed a wave in the Force hit her with such power that she stumbled and fell to her knees, crying out as she hit the floor, paralyzed by the images presented to her.

Love…Luke was making love to her…warmth, exhilaration, ecstasy…

Her hands around his neck…

Anger, overwhelming anger. "YOU WILL KILL LUKE SKYWALKER!"

Fear, distrust--the Force! No…I won't…but can't let go…no!

"Daddy!" Ben had called, entering…feeling the shock that had emanated from his father and the rage that came from his mother.

Stop. A look. A witness. Never leave a witness.

Pain, shame, anger…another small little neck…so easy…too easy.

The remembered feel of bones cracking under her fingers…

Mara Jade Skywalker opened her mouth to scream, but no sound came. As the room swam before her eyes, she distantly heard someone banging on the apartment door, but in her anguish and confusion, pain and fear, she was too far gone to care. The banging grew louder and the door seemed to be bashed open forcibly just as she fainted, falling forward halfway onto the bed and the child she had only recently murdered.