Genre: Drama, wildly … nay … happily AU, H/L, L/M
Rated: PG. Some mild language and adult situations.
Summary: In the year following Grand Admiral Thrawn's death, everything changes.
Disclaimer: I own a big fat nothing. Not my hopes. Not my dreams. Nothing. All were pawned off to pay for school.
A/N: This is more of a set-up fic than anything else and is intended to set the stage for my (eventually) forthcoming trilogy entitled The Unseen War that replaces the nonsensical Jedi Academy series entirely. This fic begins 5 weeks after the end of The Last Command (which, unfortunately, was the last good SWars book for a very long time IMO) and veers into AU territory according to how I wanted the franchise to go. No silly cloned Emperors or body-jumping Jedi (how is that not evil, BTW?) or Gary Stu Mandos here. There are about eight planned chapters that cover a period of one Standard year.
The rumors would not stop.
As she finished her reading of the daily briefings, Leia Organa-Solo grimaced at the less than subtle implications of this latest NRI report regarding her brother and the ex-Imperial assassin, Mara Jade. There was no substantiated proof, of course, but it was impossible to conceal the fact that the government of the New Republic was paying very careful attention to the rather significant amount of time the last Jedi Knight spent in the company of the erstwhile Emperor's Hand. Had it been anyone other than Jade, Leia seriously doubted that Luke's latest project would have warranted more than a paragraph or perhaps even a single sentence mention.
In the five weeks since the defeat of Thrawn, though, Luke had been seen almost every day in Jade's company, whether it was attending a victory celebration banquet together or visiting one another's quarters in the Palace at all hours of the day. Joint expeditions to the remains of the Jedi Temple had become commonplace, leading Leia to suspect that her brother was continuing the training that Han said began on Wayland. Innuendo and rampant speculation flowed like wildfire among those aware of the unexpected relationship, and, according to this report, on at least one occasion, Skywalker had been sighted entering Jade's quarters shortly before dusk and not leaving until dawn the following day.
It didn't take a genius to decipher what was going on between the two.
The sludgenews had gone wild with the implications that Luke Skywalker may be romantically involved with an ex-Imperial operative, and public opinion remained starkly divided: half of those polled seemed to think it was the most romantic thing to have ever happened in the history of the galaxy while the other half – the half that remained afraid of all Force-users in the wake of Palpatine's effective propaganda blitz after the Clone Wars – remained convinced that Skywalker was trying to set up a new Force Empire with Jade as his consort. Leia grimaced at what would be said if the media knew the complete truth about Jade's background; it had taken every gram of her political capital – expended on her idiot brother's request – to make sure that the only people who knew that Jade had been the Emperor's Hand were those who needed to know.
A stress headache began making itself known, and Leia tossed the flimsi to one side so she could focus on something else, something far more important than Luke's social life. Her opinion on the budget proposal that Mon Mothma planned to submit to the Senate was long overdue, and Leia still needed to actually read the damned thing. Ackbar was already complaining about funding for the military – as usual – and rebuilding efforts in the wake of Thrawn's recent campaign were falling behind schedule. A dozen other things sprang to mind, each far more worrisome than her brother's choice of nightly dinner companions.
Despite her best efforts, though, her mind came right back to the idea of Luke being with Jade. It was such a ridiculous notion that it seemed almost inevitable.
"Damn fool," she muttered under her breath as she reached for the flimsi once again. This was just like him, to carry on with an unknown quantity like Jade when anyone with a lick of sense would have kept as far away from the ex-assassin as possible. The woman had threatened to kill him, for kriff's sake! What kind of suicidal idiot stayed around someone like that? Oh, right, Leia reflected darkly. The kind that insisted there was still good in a monster like Darth Vader. She fought back a sigh.
"You're thinking about your brother again, aren't you?" The melodic tones of Winter Retrac drew Leia out of her growing funk, and Organa-Solo shot her executive aide a frustrated glare. It didn't help Leia's temper that the other woman was wearing an amused, almost condescending expression from where she accepted a datapad from an oddly silent C3-PO.
"I'm worried that he's going to get himself killed," Leia growled as she scanned the flimsi for a second time, noting the times and dates of the Jade/Skywalker sightings by the NRI agents assigned to follow the ex-Imperial. Almost as bad as Luke's constant presence was Jade's ability to simply drop out of sight, seemingly at will. It seemed as if she were playing a cat-and-mouse game with the agents following her and, unsurprisingly, Leia automatically placed the ex-assassin in the role of predator.
"Because of Mistress Jade?" Winter asked calmly, and Leia nodded.
"I don't trust her," she said simply. "And I'm afraid Luke trusts her too much." She placed the flimsi in the 're-read later' pile and reached for the budget analysis once more. "Why he would want to be around a woman like that in the first place…" Leia shook her head in mixed disgust and confusion. To her surprise, however, Winter chuckled slightly.
"Surely you're not that naïve, Your Highness," the woman laughed, and Leia frowned. "I've seen the way he looks at her."
"What way is that?" Leia asked hesitantly. She found herself praying that it didn't mean what it sounded like it meant.
"She's a very striking woman," Winter pointed out. "Red hair, green eyes, Force sensitive…"
"Like Shira," Leia said darkly, and her white-haired aide sobered quickly.
"It's not the same, though, is it?" the other woman asked somberly. "He's learned so much since then."
"He's still a man," Leia pointed out as she scanned over the analysis. To her disgust, none of the data had sunk in and she paged back to the beginning to start over. "And men don't always think with their brains." The startled gasp from C3-PO at her less than diplomatic language would have caused Leia to laugh out loud if she had been in a better mood.
"But Luke isn't like other men, your Highness," Winter reminded her.
"No," Leia said softly, images of her late and unlamented biological father flashing across her mind's eye. "He's much more dangerous." She glanced up, meeting Winter's eyes. "She was the Emperor's personal assassin. I would like to trust her but somehow, I doubt that sort of brainwashing goes away just because she killed a clone."
"She saved your children," Winter pointed out softly, and Leia winced slightly at that reminder. A part of her wondered if she was being too hard on Jade, but that part was quickly swallowed up by her worry over her brother's tendency to lead with his chin.
"One good deed," Leia replied, thinking again of Vader and Luke's description of the Sith Lord's last moments, "Doesn't undo a lifetime of evil."
Winter was silent for a long moment before finally responding.
"What will you do?" she asked.
"Nothing," Leia responded coolly. "There's nothing I can do. Luke's a grown man, and if he wants to do some as categorically stupid as getting involved with an ex-assassin who has spent the last five years wanting to kill him, there's not much I can do about it." Despite her bluster, Leia knew that she would be keeping an eye on Jade.
Just in case.