High Flying, Adored
Chapter Twenty Five
Disclaimer: You can tell this is not professionally done as it takes so long for me to write, so please, don't sue.
A.N.: Remember my crazy life? It got crazier. My computer died during finals week, so I'm typing this on my new laptop on Open Office. I'm still adjusting to it, so please bear with me for formatting issues. I apologize this is taking so long. My play is almost done, and I just wrote a musical revue. I'll also be moving across country for school this fall. However, due to the economy, I have no summer job, so maybe this will take a little less time to write? Maybe?
P.S.: I must have written that previous note, let's see...the spring of 2009. Holy poop on a pogo stick, it's 2014. I started this fic when I was sixteen years old. I am 25. Where in the hell does the time go? I want to thank everyone who kept reading and favoriting, because – amazingly – that hasn't stopped, all these years later. I'm sure a lot of the original readers have abandoned this by now, and I can't blame you. But my intent is to wrap this up – probably not in this chapter but very soon. For that reason, I'm probably going to make this chapter short, so you people finally have something to read, before I start wrapping up. My endgame plans have changed a little, which is – I think – mainly a product of maturity, and a small part of me almost wants to go back and rewrite the things I did nine long years ago. I don't think I will, I think this should stay as it is. But maybe someday we can revisit the galaxy far, far away, or other lands and other worlds. To you I give my undying affection, as I am always blown away by your affection for me. Yours, dear reader – Shadow13
P.P.S.: I know this is the part I usually respond to all your wonderful reviews, but many of you I've written to personally, and I'm only going to respond to one because I think it's important.
Tenages: Yeah, you're right. I was 17 when I wrote this, what do you want from me? A lot of what you said was also addressed in other chapters, so the best I can accuse you of is willfully not reading the notes. Look, kids (guys, girls, adults, whatever), I want you to go back and look at this and learn something here: this person is right about a lot of things. A lot of you are going to get negative feedback like this, because you can be William Faulkner and people will still dump on you. And a lot of times, they are going to be right – but if they're being jerks about it (and I think we can agree this person was, even all those years ago), they are still, in some way, wrong. People who unleash undeserved negativity on you want you to stop. Don't stop. If you cooked dinner and it was inedible, what would you do, never feed yourself again? Take a step back. Look at how they're right. Own that, fix it, resolve to look them in the eye and say, "Yeah, you're right. But I'm going to get better." People who are tearing you down will never get better. They can't. They can only destroy. You can create. Keep creating – be imperfect, be bad, make horrible, horrible things – God knows that most of the stuff that I have on this account makes me cringe. But then pick yourself up, see what worked, toss what didn't, and keep going.
Even if it takes you five years, I want you to keep going. - Shadow13
I should hate you!
There I was, the world in my hands
Can one kiss kiss away
Everything I planned?
Mara knew she was on the brink of making a very important decision in her life – to commit fully to the Jedi or else to not. However, rather than face this daunting issue boldly, she attempted to ignore it for as long as she was home. She could feel Yoda's eyes upon her even when they were not, half-paranoid that he was seeing right into her and seeing her doubt and clucking his tongue; or worse, preparing to make the decision for her.
She hid, most days, with Master Obi-Wan, pleading that she needed more training. He called her clingy and foolish, but provided it. It made her a better user of the Force, but it did not help her decide to remain a Jedi Knight or not.
The rest of the time she tried to spend with Leia and the Organa family – now extended to include Captain Solo as well. The bomb had been dropped and Senator Organa was less than happy about it. One of Mara's precious three months went by before Bail could be worked around to not snarl at poor Captain Solo whenever he saw him.
"He's just putting on a show," Padmé assured her daughter. "He's as thrilled as I am."
"If by thrilled," the reformed space pirate grumbled, holding his little bride's hand, "you mean he wants to tear out my throat." His wookie companion made a low, growling noise and he replied, "I hear ya, Chewie." Padmé chuckled in dignified amusement.
Mara wanted to spend as much time with the Organas – particularly the now Organa-Solo member – as possible, partly because she felt she had earned a rest after the work she had suffered through in the last three months, and partly to satisfy a curiosity she felt was becoming near-morbid.
"What is it like to be married?" Mara asked of her childhood companion one day as she lay upon the stone partition separating the walkway from the glorious garden on the border of the Temple. Leia was sitting back in the warmth as well, trying to read, and she glanced up at the Jedi with a curious expression.
"You should know," she laughed. "You've been married far longer than I have, more than a year."
"I am not married," Mara replied, sensing an ache in her voice and herself. "I may as well not be, Luke and I never-" She stopped there. There were so many nevers to cover, many deeply personal, that she'd rather just leave the subject alone. "Anyway, I want to know what it is like for you."
"It is not perfect," Leia replied, setting her reading to the side and looking up at Mara. Jade thought she seemed older since the last time she'd been home – and of course she was. But she seemed even older than her twenty five (almost twenty six) years would allow. Was Leia too young to be married in any way that was not political? Perhaps that was what had Bail so upset. Mara just shook her head and hated that she'd been thinking so much lately. "Quite often I want to hit him over the head with a plate. But when it's good, it's very good," she sighed, brown eyes reflecting she was half gone in another world, the world only she and Han and their future children could populate. "So good, and – well. It makes all the rest worth it."
"Hm," was all Mara said, plucking a stem from a flowering plant and placing it between her teeth to be furiously chewed; an attempt to do something other than brood.
Skywalker, Skywalker, Skywalker. Skywalker was filling her brain, day and night, night and – no, not him. It was the Empire, she tried to tell herself. It was merely an unhealthy preoccupation with the work she must do. The illness that stupid man seemed to have passed to her did not abate, she could not make it go. Oh, she did not cough or sweat the way Luke had in his dirty cell, oh no. This illness was something far worse, far more insidious. It did not consume her body, it consumed her mind. Skywalker, Skywalker, Skywalker.
Obi-Wan must have sensed her disquiet, he must have, yet he said nothing? All the Organas commented on her unusually silent demeanor over the days and weeks that followed, but Obi-Wan never said a word. Yoda, in fact, seemed quite pleased with it. "At last, reaching the peace of the Jedi, she is." Peace. Had he only known the horrible, aching tumult that raged within, he might have cast her from the Order where she stood. But Master Yoda knew nothing about the emotions of a young woman, and all for the better. However, in the last few days of her stay in Alderaan (how ashamed she was to admit she found herself gleeful at their end, rather than morose), he took her aside one beautiful, clear summer morning.
"Mara," he called to her from the door of her cell – for that is what it was, a cell designed for a monk, not for a woman. The fiery-haired Jedi looked up from the clothes she was folding and found her master assessing her with his gray-blue eyes in a way he had not seemed to do before.
"Come walk with me in the garden. It's a good day for it." Without hesitation, she left her cases and walked with him side by side – not as master and padawan, but as equals, for that is what they were. She knew it now all this time later in ways she had not known before; Master Obi-Wan no longer referred to her as, "Child" when speaking, nor called her, "girl," nor silly, foolish. She could be and sometimes was many of these things, but she seemed to have passed them by more thoroughly than at anytime in her adult life. All her anger and petulance and confusion had been replaced, it seemed, by this...quiet.
At last, he remarked upon it. "You seem to have been in deep, reflective meditation these past few weeks, Mara Jade."
"I...suppose I have been, Master Obi-Wan."
"Master Yoda attributes it to your possible promotion to that of Master Jedi." She was silent. "This news does not please you."
Mara took a deep breath, let it out and watched it flutter a long, curly tendril of her red hair. "If I'm being honest, Master...no." To her surprise, he said nothing. "The fact is...I have been thinking a lot these last few weeks, about my path as a Jedi. For so long, this was the only way I ever knew – I thought that meant it was the only thing I ever wanted, but now I'm starting to wonder if I just didn't know any better..."
He nodded, hummed, "Mhm," which actually surprised her. She expected more panic, more scolding.
"Some trepidation is natural; becoming a Master Jedi is no simple step. You would not be human if you did not feel some twangs of uncertainty."
"Y-yes..." she agreed, humming slightly. How little he knew, some uncertainty... "The fact is, Master..." She sighed again. "I was very young when I was sent to Coruscant. I didn't know it then, but I was."
"I remember telling you so at the time."
"You still do," she muttered dryly, casting her eyes askance at him. How odd the pair might have looked to a strange observe, two people so different in age, in complexion, in disposition, both walking side by side, hands tucked into the long sleeves of their cassocks. Would Obi-Wan understand what she was trying to tell him? Perhaps more importantly...would she? Even Mara was unsure. Something in her knew what she wanted, had shouted it to the moons and stars that night those weeks ago, but now she wasn't sure. Or perhaps...
She was afraid.
A horrible emotion in a Jedi. But she had grown strong enough to admit it, to own it. Yes, she was afraid of what choice she might make, what consequences she might wrought.
Yet...what else could she do, but choose?
Continuing at last, she said, "I didn't think I would be affected by that world, I thought I would be a pure, true Jedi and come out unscathed...I-I'm not sure I have."
"I am sure you have not." Not turning when she looked at him with startled, green eyes, he continued. "This does not have to be evil. Not every impression is Darkness creeping in. It's true we lose our innocence through experience, but learning is not evil, whatever else may be said of it."
"Master Obi-Wan..." She hesitated, took a very deep breath and begged the Force to give her courage. "Listen. This is about Luke. When I talked to Leia, about...about...that is, I felt-" How frustrated she was to be so painfully bad at communicating! "Ugh, something is wrong! I don't know if I know what it is, but I..."
Mara Jade had stopped walking the edge of the garden, had turned to her Master in deep, emotional turmoil. He stopped as well, still not looking at her, taking in the whole of the public garden – where sat, far from them, on the opposite side under the shade of glittering trees, the Princess and her Scoundrel.
"...I think I may know what this is about," he said at last, which did startle Mara completely.
He nodded. "Yes. I understand what you have picked up. To be honest, I should have told you sooner. It was inevitable."
"...w-what...? You knew-"
Master Obi-Wan nodded. "I did. I was apart of it from the start."
"...wait, what? What are we talking about?"
"Luke and Leia, of course." She must have been able to hide her utter confusion, for he continued. "Their relation."
The Force was whispering to her to be still, to reveal nothing and instead take a moment to learn. It was a good lesson; diving headstrong into life meant she sometimes missed out on its numerous secrets. This could prove to be one of them. "...go on," she merely prompted, and Master Obi-Wan sighed, leaning against the cool marble of the Temple behind them.
"Well, tell me what you have suspected."
"I-I haven't been sure." Suspected? What did that mean?
"The truth is, Mara...Leia is not as young as we have told you – as we have told her or anyone else. She's the same age as you and Luke."
That was not what she had expected to hear, but the Force whispered that it was important to know, and so she listened. "What? How is that possible? She's Amidala's daughter, isn't she?"
"Well, she can't very well have two children and the same ti-" Mara stopped. The Force around her seemed to nod in knowing approbation. Of course she could. People did it all the time. Well, not all the time, but... "...but then how would Senator Organa..."
Obi-Wan sighed. "I want you to understand something, Mara, as I'm sure you are fully capable. Whoever sired Leia Organa, it is Senator Organa who is her father."
"Of course..." she murmured, staring out across the garden, faintly hearing the tinkling laughter of her best friend. "B-but what does this...mean?"
"Mean? Well. I suppose that's very much up to who knows." Darth Vader...Leia's father. What might he have said, she wondered, had he known in the library the last time she saw him? Would he have been as full of love and admiration as he had been for his son? Or would it have been even greater, as father's spoil their daughters. Would Leia still have disliked Luke? And what would he have been? Kinder? Softer? Gentler?
Or is he even cruel at all, she wondered.
"Mara." Master Obi-Wan called her out of her silent reverie. "What I have told you must not be repeated to Leia."
Her pale brow furrowed at that, a sudden anger in her hot, green eyes. "You are asking me to lie to the person who is my closest friend."
"Asking you to lie would involve you speaking a falsehood. I want you to say nothing at all."
"It's the same thing! Hiding the truth is hiding the truth whether it's spoken or it isn't!"
"It isn't that I don't agree with you," he nodded, refolding the long sleeves of his robe over his wizened, wrinkled hands. "This was not something I chose, but it was something that was agreed upon – by all parties involved – when she was still quite small."
"No, not all parties involved! Her...her father..." It felt wrong to say it. Force help her, she did not mean to betray Bail, a man who had always treated her with dignity and kindness; certainly she did not wish to favor Darth Vader over him. But it felt as though it was not his long-lost right she was defending...it was someone else's, someone far more...dear. "He had no say at all."
Obi-Wan scoffed at her. "Really now, Mara Jade. Would you have told the Emperor? Don't turn your face from me." Quite gentle, he put two fingers to her cheek and turned her back to him, defying her to be brave and to be honest – with herself, as well as him. "Would you have had her stolen away as Luke was?"
"..." She struggled. "You know I would not...I just...what were his rights?"
"He abandoned his wife as thoroughly as he abandoned the Jedi order. Your compassion is laudable, but it may be overly sentimental."
"Maybe," she struggled with a growl, pulling her face away now and folding her arms over her breast. "But Leia's not small anymore! She deserves the truth as much as anyone ever did."
"You are quite right." What? The young woman picked up her head a little, unused to hearing that from the Master Jedi. "Your indignation is justified, and what has transpired has not, in the clearest of ways, reflected well on us. Unfortunately, that is the price of adulthood – there are choices."
"Don't make excuses, for Force sake!"
"I am not." His smooth, old voice held the slightest tone of a reprimand, and Mara dropped her gaze down to the cobbled floor. "However, this you must trust, as you are a Jedi: if it is the will of the Force that Leia is to know her parentage – and I do believe it may be – then the truth will come to her in its own good time. For what does the Force have, if not that? If not time?"
Mara turned now, watched as heat rippled off the plants of the garden, watched the insects buzz in adulating alive-ness. And Leia did, too, across the long, long garden, safe in the embrace of the man she had chosen. The young Jedi smiled a little. "...Maybe it doesn't matter if she knows or not," she admitted softly. "Maybe nothing has to change. She loves Senator Organa...and he loves her."
Kenobi nodded with a soft smile. "My young apprentice...as tough, as bitter as you are, you learned the truest lesson in this vast universe: the lesson of love."
She looked back at him, eyes shimmering with a wetness that was not tears. "I know it better than you may think."
He said nothing for a moment, but smiled again. "Whatever that reason may be...I trust in its goodness."
"I trust in your goodness, Mara Jade." Surprisingly to her, the old man took her soft, radiant head in his hands – and kissed her in paternal chastity, dearly on the forehead. She looked up at him then, stunned. "I know what has been said of you, but you are good."
"After everything – after all the training, after going to Coruscant – you think that?"
"I think nothing. I know. I have always known, more than anyone else has – yes, even more than Amidala and Organa." And...Mara believed him. A coddling nursemaid Obi-Wan had not been. He had been...something dearer to her. Oh! What was she to do with all this? How could she choose a life now?
She could choose in the same way, the Force seemed to tell her. This was not a shackle to hold her to her old life. It was an encouragement to be brave, to be strong – to at last be her own. Obi-Wan's care – his love – strengthened her determination, it did not weaken it. That is the beauty of a true, good parent.
For the first time in many a year, Mara hugged her Master as a child does its father. She did not cry, she smiled. Through all these many trials, through these achingly hard months that had passed, the Force had given her a great – a priceless gift.
Force help me to earn it, and to keep it always. Even – especially as I return to Coruscant.
So let her be blessed.