Title: Too Many Stars

Disclaimer: We can't always own the things we want. That's what Anakin found out at Mustafar. That's what I found out at the copyright agency.

WARNING: This fic contains OCs, nil mush, Mara Jade sans hair descriptions, Luke Skywalker sans eye descriptions, personal reflections on the meaning of life, flashbacks, and miscellaneous references to a deceased bantha. If any or all of these items could induce panic, nausea, shortness of breath, or an overwhelming desire to throw rotten tomatoes, please refrain from reading further. In the incident of accidental overdose, promptly locate a fic crammed with angst, mush, pleasing clichés, and/or your favorite character shirtless and screaming. Devour immediately.

"People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life…I think that what we're really seeking is an experience of being alive…"

—Joseph Campbell


The racket was growing louder, and Mara glanced over her shoulder, heart pumping. They had to get out of this clearing. Once in the trees, she and Skywalker would be practically invisible. They had almost made it when he suddenly halted and looked down.

"Please…" The word was barely audible, wisping out of what had once been a face. Skywalker knelt down swiftly and began to suppress the dying soldier's pain, horror and deep concern in his eyes.

"Skywalker." Her voice was tight. "We have to keep moving." He seemed not to hear. "Skywalker, they're coming!" Still he did not move. "Luke," she finally sighed in exasperation, crouching beside him. She glanced over the mangled form in front of them with an impassionate eye. "If this man survives, and that's a big if, he'll be in horrific pain for the rest of his life. He won't be able to eat, speak, breathe, or move on his own. You want to be merciful, you put him out of his misery and move your Jedi rear into the woods before we end up like him." He finally turned to look at her, and she was startled at the intensity of the grief and desperation on his face.

"But there's life in him…" he whispered. "I can feel it." There was a subtle echo to his words, a whisper twined about them of something far more personal than this soldier's pulse. She noted the anomaly, then shook it out of her mind as the crashing of their pursuers grew louder. There had to be something that would convince this nerf to move. His blasted issues could wait until he was in somewhat less danger of being blown to bits.

It turned out that she didn't have to convince him, after all. The blaster bolt that narrowly missed her shoulder hit the fallen soldier squarely in the forehead, effectively ending the argument. As she half-dragged the Jedi to his feet and out of the clearing, dodging and returning blaster fire, a part of her wondered at the wistful sadness in his eyes. It still there when they slipped past the remaining defenses and he destroyed the crucial piece of hardware with a deft swipe of his lightsaber. It was still there when they shot away from the planet with a score of enemy fighters on their tail, only barely escaping into hyperspace. It was still there when Mon Mothma formally praised their actions and the entire Senate rose to its feet and applauded. It was even there when his sister hugged him somewhat stiffly and Solo shot Mara a puzzled glance.

In the days that followed Skywalker was quiet, grave, and elusive. Fine with her, she'd thought at first, after informing the nearest medic that his checkups were long overdue. She liked him best unconscious, anyways. But when three weeks went by and Skywalker evaded her increasingly blunt inquiries with disturbing skill, she went to Organa Solo, only to be met with an equally disturbing coldness.

"For all his bashfulness, Luke is incredibly hard-headed," she told Mara icily. "If he doesn't feel like talking about something, he'll take his own sweet time about it. Believe me." Her tone clearly implied past experience, and even more clearly warned Mara not to pry. "I'm sorry, Mara, but you've come to the wrong person. Now if you'll excuse me, there are matters I must attend to." As she swept away, Mara could see her fists clenching and unclenching, knuckles white. She knew that the woman's anger had absolutely nothing to do with her.