Disclaimer: Not mine. Except for all the thinking. I don't believe either George Lucas or Anderson had Luke thinking very deeply!

I can feel you beside me. I even heard your voice when you said hello. I can't see you, but I know how you're sitting. Your feet are planted rock-solid on the floor—no demure leg-crossing for you. One elbow is planted into your knee sharply, and you cup your chin in that hand. You're playing with your hair with your other hand, twisting a lock of it back and forth through your thumb and middle finger. Your eyes are closed.

Your shields are relaxed, and currents of your mind are quietly bitter.

I can't see you, but I know how you sit when you think no one's watching.

It's a strange feeling, to be completely aware of my surroundings and equally incapable of responding to them. I've heard of this kind of thing, of people in a coma waking to detail events they have no logical explanation for knowing, being clinically unconscious at the time. You were always skeptical of the idea. I wasn't. Skepticism has never been one of my strong suits—nobody's perfect, Han would say. It's one of the reasons he still sees me as the Kid, gullible as a fish and hopelessly naive.

I wonder sometimes.

Do you know what your name means, Mara? I found out the other day from an old holocron. Bitter. Mara means bitter. Did the Emperor choose it as a sick joke, or was it your parents? Was it the Force itself? At times like these I am brought to the brink of believing in predestination.

On the other hand, I also learned that Anakin is corruption of the Huttese noun for pastry chef.

Destined or not, you are bitter, Mara. You never let people see the depth of it, only controlled flashes when occasions justify its presence. Such as murderous, upstart Jedi and undercooked bruallki. What they don't see is that it never quite leaves when the occasion does, that it simmers behind your shields ever day, leaking acid into your voice and hardening your eyes. They don't see because you don't want them to. Because you hide it. There's a place in your heart where it stays, a dark, lonely place where you shield it from the galaxy and from yourself. Don't understand it, don't acknowledge it—that's another view of Han's, by the way.

But you can't hide from me, Mara. I've seen it too closely to not recognize it again.

Obi-Wan once thought as you did.

I can't draw too many parallels between the two of you. For one thing, you're much better looking. But his heart hid the same throbbing darkness as yours, and his eyes, though gentle on the surface, were cold and impenetrable when he told me of my father's "demise." I didn't realize it until…after, when everything was over. But beneath all the serenity, he was a deeply scarred, even cynical man. Mara, he truly believed that it was impossible for my father to turn back to the Light. Impossible. How can a master of the Force fathom the notion of impossibility?

How can a woman who grew up in the bleakness of a life without love spend the rest of hers running away from it?

I wonder if it's because you're too busy hiding to seek.

He was wrong about my father. He didn't count on love. I, on the other hand…actually, to be perfectly honest I didn't really analyze the situation at all. Only in my old age have I become a deep thinker. Darth Vader was my flesh and blood. It was as natural as the rising of the suns for me to seek him out, to pour myself into the quest to bring him back to a place where I could look into his eyes and call him Father. Obi-Wan thought too much. Maybe that's why I walked away from my Death Star duel still filling out my clothes.

Perhaps it's not that he thought too much, but that he had too much to think about. They had a deep bond, the two of them did—I'm sure of it. Why else would they hate each other so passionately? There was friendship between them, and perfect trust. Anakin's betrayal must have ripped the trust from Ben's heart and left a hole behind.

A dark, lonely place.

Did Palpatine create yours when you realized the magnitude of his betrayal? Or is your hiding place being eroded all the time? I think it is, Mara. I think I understand.

In your way, you're more naive than I ever was.

I'm still attached to all my appendages—that settles whether you can hear me or not. But since you're sitting here, I may as well keep talking. I don't get the chance very often these days. Maybe I'm pushing you too hard to accept yourself and the abilities you were born with.

Maybe I'm pushing you too hard towards me.

Is that so wrong, Mara? To want you? To love you, and want to be loved in return? To see into that place in your heart and wish I was there instead of the bitterness?

I know what you'd say if you could hear me. You'd tartly remind me that I'm not really qualified to judge right and wrong anymore. And I wouldn't be able to deny it. Not after Byss. But I would look into your eyes while you were talking…and I would see it, under the green. I would see just how it is that the woman who defines cynic is more naïve than me, the man who defines backwater.

It's not your bitterness you hide, but that precious, shameful, fragile thing that causes it.

You hide your innocence. To keep it safe.

Deep down, Mara Jade, you cling to decency, to justice, to chivalry, to a right to freedom and a reason for existence. To the basic honor of sentient beings. How old were you when you realized for the first time that we aren't honorable? How long did it take you to piece together your splintered faith? Did you begin to hide it away then, to bury it under layers of toughened skepticism until you forgot it existed, or did you wait for it to be pulverized again? It doesn't matter, I suppose. The fact stands that it is buried now, and that your only hint of its presence is the bitterness that seeps up through the cracks, the blood that never stops dripping from a wound that will never heal.

And you sit here all alone and wonder where it comes from.

Don't think I can't understand. If you're smart enough to make me feel dumb simply by being in the same room, surely you realize that every being with a heart gets it broken once in a while. Recall for a moment, if you will, all the cold facts you learned about me in briefings behind closed doors. Target: Luke Skywalker, remember? I was an orphan, Mara, an ignorant farmer, the quintessential innocent bystander. All I ever wanted was to know about my family and to fly. Here's some friendly advice: never wish on the first star. I flew—and my first flight was one of unspeakable terror and destruction. I found out about my family, all right. My mother was dead. My sister was the girl I had a crush on. My father…my father was the man I hated more than anything, the living incarnation of all the evil I knew.

I trusted my uncle when he promised to send me to the Academy. I know now that he never intended any such thing. I trusted Ben Kenobi with my absolute faith. He lied to me from the day I met him. I trusted Anakin Skywalker, my dead father, to have been the good, just man they told me he was. He—well, he was actually alive and Darth Vader, to boot. I know that Uncle Owen and Ben had good intentions. I'm sure that even Anakin did.

Unsurprisingly, he ended up in hell. I suppose some platitudes have to have practical basis. His road led him to the darkest depths a human soul can wallow in, and he held out his hand to me as he broke my heart, my faith, my trust, and beckoned me to join him there.

I didn't take his hand.

I fell.

This is the secret that I know and that you don't, the reason I can live with myself and a fatally flawed galaxy. Life and the people you love the most will always, always let you down…unless you let go before they do. You will still fall. It will still hurt. But you'll land on your feet, because your trust in them isn't your lifeline anymore. When it breaks, you won't. When your faith shatters, your heart will stay intact. It will bleed, but it will heal. You will love again. You will be able to forgive.

Fall, Mara, let go, fly free. Fall.

I'll catch you.


A/N: Any thoughts? I loooooove comments cough