Timeframe: Toward the end of Vision of the Future, just as L&M are returning to Coruscant.
Summary: Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade are looking forward to beginning their life as a happy couple. But as they say, the best laid plans ...
Notes: Many thanks to PonyTricks (GreatOne) and RebelMom for their helpful hints and betaing, especially when I drove them crazy agonizing over details. I'm shooting for posting twice a week, depending on Darth Real Life. There will be thirty chapters in total.
Disclaimer: All things Star Wars belong to Mr. Lucas, even if we don't always agree with what he allows others to do with them.
Mara Jade spared a quick smile of satisfaction as she settled the Chiss fighter into New Republic Intelligence's secure hanger. She allowed the smile to return, and linger, as Luke Skywalker nodded in approval.
"Nice touch down," he complimented after acknowledging Control's final instructions.
"Adequate," she replied smartly. "Considering I can't read any of the markings on the instrument panel."
"Well, you did get to practice at the Alliance base we stopped at," he returned, a slight pout coloring his voice.
"Oh, did you want to do the landing this time?"
Luke just shook his head in mock dismay as he unbuckled his safety harness. "I get dibs on the next alien ship we pick up."
After Luke signed an authorization pad for the ship, the couple left the grey austere building, blinking in the bright Coruscant sunlight.
"Leia and Han should be landing soon." Luke let one hand trail down Mara's arm. "Are you sure you won't come with me to meet them?"
Mara rolled her neck, stretching out the kinks. "I really need to check in at Karrde's office."
"If he's there, are you going to tell him? About us, I mean?"
"I was planning on saving that until you're along." Mara narrowed her eyes in suspicion. "Are you telling your sister?"
"I'd rather we'd both be present for that, too." Luke gave a weak smile. "But I'm not sure I can hide it, especially from Leia."
Mara shrugged her shoulders, pretending to study the polluted fog that hung low between the nearby buildings. "Tell her, if you want. With any luck, the shock will have worn off by the time they see me."
"They'll be happy for us," Luke insisted in that eternally optimistic tone he had.
"Hmmm… Maybe the Caamas Document will distract her."
"I'm sure Leia will insist you come for dinner this evening." He raised one eyebrow questioningly.
"It's not polite to invite company to another person's home."
"You're going to be family, not company." Luke paused. "And perhaps, after dinner, we could go back to my apartment, for some, uh, quiet time alone."
"We just spent several weeks alone together." Mara casually tucked a strand of hair behind one ear as a warm breeze wafted around them.
"I meant, without any Imperials or Chiss or leathery flying companions. Without anyone shooting at us, or drowning us, or trying to recruit us for their Empire. You know, somewhere with … uh … comfortable furniture, and, uh …"
Mara reached out a hand to halt his fumbling. "I know what you meant, and it sounds wonderful." She grinned wryly. "Though you're still pathetic at being devious."
Chuckling at how well Mara could read him, Luke glanced at the short row of airtaxis parked in front of the installation's entrance. "We could share a taxi."
"We're going in opposite directions, farmboy." She favored him with an amused smirk. "Are you that worried I'll leave you if you let me out of your sight?"
Luke shook his head. "You, leave a great catch like me? Never." He brushed his fingers lightly through her hair, and all thoughts of a smart comeback vanished from Mara's mind. "I just don't want to be apart from you, even for a few hours," he said, before leaning in for a lingering kiss.
"Aren't you afraid someone will see us?" Mara said as they finally pulled apart.
"No one was looking," Luke murmured. "I made sure of it."
"What did we discuss, about unnecessary use of the Force?" Mara admonished lightly.
"It was necessary. Unless you want to be mobbed by holoshills already."
"I never want to." Mara sighed. "I know it's inevitable, but I'm trying not to think about it."
"Good plan." Luke laughed, then gave her hand a warm squeeze. "Until this evening, then. I'll comm you about dinner."
"I'll be waiting." Mara stepped into the open taxi, reluctantly letting Luke's hand slide out of hers. He stepped back, the wide grin never leaving his face.
Artoo-Detoo whistled impatiently, having already picked out an available airtaxi for his master. Walking backwards, Luke waved a hand at Artoo, his gaze never leaving Mara. As she settled back into her seat, Mara thought that she'd never seen him look so … utterly happy. The thought crossed her mind that he may very well be thinking the same thing about her.
"Welcome to Terson Comfort Carriers. Destination, please?" the mechanical voice of the pilot-droid intoned, breaking into Mara's musings. She absently gave the address of Karrde's headquarters, chuckling to herself as she watched Luke manually wrangle Artoo into the cargo rack of the taxi. Sometimes he took her lectures much too seriously. As her own coach rose and smoothly slipped into the steady stream of traffic, Mara followed Luke's taxi turning and heading toward Leia's home in Orowood Tower.
Save for the loss of the Jade's Fire, the past few weeks had been like a dream, Mara reflected, closing her eyes and basking in the warm sunshine. A wonderful, cherished dream that until now she had never dared let herself hope to come true. They'd wasted so many years apart, and she knew she was as much to blame as he was, perhaps more so. How many times had he invited her to his academy? Despite her scolding of his ignoring her during her short-lived training sessions, he really had always made time every day to check on her progress. It was she who had built up a wall around her feelings, blocking him out. But she'd invited him in now, wholly and without regret. Never would she allow anyone or anything to come between them. They were a team, forever and always.
Only a few minutes away from arriving at her destination, Mara felt a cold prickle on the back of her neck. Sitting up, she scanned the surrounding vehicles, one hand brushing the reassuring weight of her lightsaber. Nothing seemed out of order. Traffic was always heaviest this time of day, and the current flow of speeders was no exception. Luke's warm presence echoed back her inquiry in his direction; he was fine, but she got the feeling that he'd felt a warning tickle also, perhaps even stronger than she had. Gripping the edge of the worn leather seat, Mara considered her options. She started to reach for her comm, hoping that Luke would have a better grasp on the Force-warning, when shock and pain suddenly exploded through her. Sucking in a gasping breath, she struggled to control her emotions enough to ascertain that she hadn't been injured.
And she could no longer sense him at all.