"Mara?" A voice in the darkness.
"Mara," Luke's voice, she would know it anywhere.
"Mara," again, he spoke, but Mara didn't dare open her eyes, lest she lose the sound of his voice.
"Daddy, why isn't Momma waking up?" A tiny voice stage-whispered next to her ear… Ben.
Mara's heart seized in her chest. Ben, Luke! Her lips trembled. Was she still waiting, on the edge of execution?
Hesitantly, she opened her eyes.
"Mara, oh, Mara…"
Mara reached out, grasping, needing the connection only her husband and son could provide to her. Something was attached to her arm… the execution device!
No, came Luke's voice, through their bond, that bloomed to life around and in her, Mara, you are safe.
His hand grasped hers, and Ben leaned forward to place a kiss on her fingers.
Moisture fell from her eyes then, clouding her vision, bringing her throat to ache.
"Shhhh…" Luke spoke, aloud. "Rest now, love. We'll be here." His hand moved, allowing her to twine her fingers with her son, as he began to stroke her hair, and send calming waves to her through their bond. "We'll be here."
Unsure, but no longer frightened, Mara slept.
- - - -
Mara broke consciousness to the sound of a familiar voice. "Master Skywalker? How does your wife fare this evening?"
"She is doing much better, thank you," Luke answered. "I have been monitoring her with the Force and she appears to be sleeping peacefully."
"Good, good…" the familiar voice said, moving to the foot of the bed she lay on. Mara heard him pick something up.
She opened her eyes to see her Twi'lek guard standing at the foot of her bed, scrolling through a datapad.
Her eyes widened and she found that she still couldn't put all the pieces together…
Luke felt her panic, and immediately took her hand, sending her comfort and love through their bond. "Mara, I see you're awake again. How are you feeling?"
The Twi'lek looked up at Luke's words, lekku twitching.
Luke, picking up on her jumbled thoughts and feelings, squeezed her hand. "This is your healer, Elav'Distombe. He's been with you since you were brought here. He's one of the premier specialists on the topic of poisons."
The healer smiled at her. "We've had some interesting times, you and I," he said, humor lacing his words. "I don't think you like me very much."
Mara stared at him. In her memory, she remembered him as cruel, causing her pain, taunting her, referring to her as a murdress. And yet, here he was, gently teasing her, friendly with her husband, apparently her savior.
Blinking to coalesce the images of her Twi'lek guard/healer, a vision of Luke's face swam before her eyes. She backtracked and remembered his face as she lay suffering after the attack, when she had read his lips, while he said, "poison." She looked to her husband. "I…" her voice cracked from disuse. "I was poisoned."
"Yes," Luke said, reaching his left hand towards her neck. "A tiny dart hit you here, and unleashed the poison on you."
"It's amazing you're alive at all," Healer Distombe said. "Most infected with the Timoritus poison die within hours. You've been here, fighting it, for three days."
"Timoritus," Mara said. She looked at Luke. "Fear," she said, thinking of the word's root.
Luke nodded. "The poison acts almost as a hallucinogen. It generally projects a person's greatest fear into their minds, making the person "live" through their fear. The poison ultimately shuts down a person's body, one organ at a time."
"But how am I--"
Healer Distombe answered her unasked question. "Master Skywalker managed to find out the poison from those who attacked you. There is an antidote, and it is effective if administered quickly. Thankfully, we were able to do so, and purge the poison from your system."
"I…" Mara was overwhelmed. The relief was coursing through her body, unchecked. She hadn't murdered her husband or her child, what she had perceived to have happened over the last few days, Jaina, Han, Leia, her execution… nothing more than the byproduct of a malicious poison that had invaded her body. "Thank you, Healer," she said, finally.
The Twi'lek smiled at her, turning to leave the room. He turned back when he reached the doorway. "I'm sorry about your cheek, by the way," he said. "You were fighting against us, and we had to inject the antidote."
Mara raised her hand to her cheek that thrummed with a dull pain. She remembered her vision, the guard slapping her… "That's quite all right," she answered.
"Master Skywalker," Healer Distombe inclined his head. "If you need me, please do not hesitate."
Luke smiled at him, watching as he left, before turning back to Mara. She could see the fatigue, and pain in his eyes, and wondered how close she had come to death, this time.
"Too close," he whispered, evidently following her thoughts.
Mara raised his hand to her lips and held it there, finding comfort in the small act she allowed herself. After a moment she pulled their hands back and settled them at her breast. "Where's Ben?" she asked, looking around the room.
"Jaina took him down to get something to eat. He was getting a bit restless."
"I'll bet," Mara said, looking at the stark whiteness of the room. She reached out with her senses, along her maternal bond, and felt Ben and Jaina's individual Force signatures. Ben's was very hazy; Mara almost couldn't feel it.
Luke looked at her. "He's getting better and better at hiding from the Force. But, Mara… he used the Force to reach for you, to help pull you from your nightmare."
Mara nodded weakly. "I know, I felt it. During the…" Mara trailed off, unsure of what to call what had happened to her. "I could feel your presence vaguely. In my mind I thought there were ysalamiri in the room with me. I suppose the poison hindered my use of the Force?"
"Actually, Mara, I think you were hindering your own use of the Force. I think the fear, especially when you couldn't feel Ben's presence… I think it was easier for you to hide from the Force."
Mara thought about that. "Luke, do you know what I saw… do you know what my fear was?"
"Not exactly… I know it had to do with me, and Ben. But I wasn't able to fully use our bond. You, or the poison, were blocking it."
His voice shook, and Mara thought of the strain he must have endured over the past few days. "Come here," she said, tugging on his hand. He moved in closer to her bed, and she reached an arm up, to tangle in his hair. She had been unhooked from all the machines that still surrounded her, and she took advantage of that freedom.
She tugged him forward and he complied, meeting and sliding his lips against hers, softly. He stopped, then, lips just resting against hers, as they simply breathed together. Luke slowly moved his lips over hers, reconnecting, and Mara responded, needing him closer, to block her memory, her pain… she slid her hands up to his neck, deepening the kiss, pulling him closer still.
Love…Luke was making love to her…warmth, exhilaration, ecstasy…
Her hands around his neck…
Her hands around his neck…
She started as a vision from her poison-induced nightmare assaulted her mind, and abruptly pulled away from Luke's kiss.
"What--" he started to ask, when a noise from the doorway startled them both.
"Momma!" Ben cried, hurtling himself towards her hospital bed as quickly as his little legs could carry him.
Jaina smiled at them from the door. "I see things are quite cozy in here," she teased, noting the lack of space between her aunt and uncle on the bed.
"You sound like your father," Mara said, rolling her eyes, but smiling at her former apprentice, as Luke settled Ben into the bed with her, making sure he didn't hurt her with his jerky, quick movements, in his haste to be near his mother.
Jaina grinned. "Speaking of, Mom and Dad send their love. They're so relieved you're all right. They tried so hard to get back from the conference, but you know how politicians are…"
"It's okay," Mara said, meaning it. She wasn't comfortable, even now, with thinking that people would be waiting in a room, watching her live, or die.
"I'm so glad you're better, Aunt Mara," Jaina said, quietly. "When I sat with you two nights ago… I was so sure…" Jaina's voice trembled, and Luke moved to put an arm around her shoulders, even as Mara sent a wave of comfort to the girl through their bond.
"I'm glad you're better, too, Momma," Ben piped up, finally situating himself and laying his head on Mara's shoulder. "I was very scared. Were you scared?"
Mara had difficulty swallowing, remembering the horror of her poison-induced nightmare. She squeezed Ben in a one-armed hug. "I was a little scared, but I just thought about you and your father and I felt much better."
Ben accepted the half-truth with a nod. "That's how I always felt, when I was afraid of the dark. I just thought of you and Daddy. Or I went to sleep with you in the big bed."
Mara kissed the side of his head, amused at how earnest he was. He closed his eyes against her shoulder, exhaustion and the comfort of her embrace lulling him to sleep.
Mara felt Jaina and Luke's gazes resting on her, but found she couldn't quite meet their eyes. Instead, she leaned her head against Ben's, and followed him into sleep.
- - - -
Sometime later, Mara jerked awake to a quiet and darkened room. Ben was still a heavy weight against her arm, which tingled from the lack of movement and his body against it. She didn't care, or try to move, however. The feeling let her know she was alive, and Ben's soft breathing against her cemented the fact. She looked down at her son, smiling at the way his mouth hung open against her arm and found that she didn't even mind the wetness that clung to her skin from his exhausted drooling.
Inclining her head she smiled to see Luke with his head rested against the side of the large chair he sat in, his mouth hanging slightly open just as his son's. In his lap lay the holonovel he had been reading for more than a week.
"Luke?" she asked quietly, hoping not to awaken Ben.
He awoke immediately, eyes locking onto hers fiercely. "Are you all right, my love? Do you need the healer?" he appeared ready to jump from the chair, despite the fatigue in his eyes.
"No," Mara whispered, noting the relaxation of the muscles in his body. He pulled the chair close to her bedside, and lay his hand over top hers on her stomach.
"Do you need me to get you anything, love?" he looked down to the holonovel on his lap. "Do you want me to read to you?" he smiled, remembering her amusement over his interest in the novel.
No, Mara sent, through their bond, trying to impart a measure of solemnity and afraid to move her body and wake her sleeping child. Luke, I… she trailed off, unsure of how to continue.
Luke didn't force her. Instead he rubbed the sensitive skin between her thumb and index finger, prompting her.
She looked into his eyes and wondered at how to tell him that her greatest fear had been of losing control and murdering him and their child. Could she tell him?
Should she tell him?
"Luke," she said, making up her mind. "I'm sure that if I move over, you could fit here with me, and Ben."
Luke's brow furrowed. He seemed to want to ask her something, but stopped himself. "I'm sure that I could," he answered, instead.
Mara took a moment to move herself and Ben, who stayed asleep through the ordeal. Luke put his novel onto the nightstand and slipped into the hospital bed, pulling his family towards him, dropping a kiss into Mara's hair and running an affectionate hand up Ben's back. Mara relaxed against her husband, relishing the deep, even breaths that came from Ben against her chest and the feel of Luke's steady heartbeat against her back.
"You know that you can tell me anything," Luke murmured into her ear, after a long moment of silence.
Mara nodded quickly, ignoring the part of her that yearned to tell him all about her experience, to unload and share the burden with him. But what would he think, knowing my greatest fear is still that I could murder him, and our child?
Eventually Luke dropped off into sleep, his arms still holding her tightly. Mara lay awake the rest of the night, clutching both her husband and her son, almost desperately.
As the darkness outside her window turned towards the purpling light of morning, Mara wondered at herself.
I have faced my fear, but has it made me stronger?
As Ben began to stir in her arms, and Luke moved towards wakefulness behind her, Mara found she didn't have the answer. But what she did have was her family, and that was surely the greatest antidote to her unspoken fears.
- - - -
Thank you so much to everyone for reading this fic! A special thank you to my girl, JadeLotus for all her encouragement and beta work. I've said it before, and will again, but you're the best, gal!
BlueSaberThank you so much for reading, lady! I made up Timoritus, but I think that 'timor' is Latin for 'fear'. (At least, I hope!)
Jedi71: Thanks for reading!
tasujaI hope the rest of the fic didn't disappoint, but if it did--thanks for at least giving it a try!
Whiskers10Thanks for reading! Looking at your reply, I'm thinking of how many directions this fic could have gone!
purebristlesAh, I had so much fun begging you to update! Thanks for giving my fic a try!
Jedi-loverHey, you, thanks for giving this a try! I know, I can't believe how dark it turned out to be, either! But, there will be a smutty sequel…know anyone who'd be interested in reading that: )
Lissa StrawberryThanks so much; I hope you enjoy the last chapter!
Shada: Thanks so much! I hope you like this chapter!
Linwe ElendilI don't usually read Luke (or Ben) death-fics, either! And I cannot believe I wrote one! LOL I hope you enjoy this, thanks for your review!