I own EVERYTHING! *George Lucas enters with crossed arms surrounded by Mace Windu, Darth Vader, Obi-Wan-Kenobi and Yoda* My mistake!!!! *RUNS*!
I, You, We.
Slowly and sedately Mara stalked across the busy but stylised lobby of the 'Nova' hotel, snaking her way around the white couches and transparisteel tables. Beneath her tightly laced top her muscles were tense, and her emerald eyes roamed around freely, intent on any suspicious figures that sprung up around her. Being the Empire's top assassin had made her slightly paranoid, and being a smuggler now didn't help the matter.
A verpine dressed in a long, dark coat caught her attention standing behind a group of snazzily dressed businessmen, he was still……too still for Mara's liking. With narrowed eyes she studied the alien, waiting for her trusty danger sense to kick in.
So fixated was she on the shady figure, she did not notice the man in front of her before it was too late.
The two collided.
Her toned body pushed his back, while his did the same to hers. Two pairs of eyes snapped up in an instant; cool, calm blue melding with livid, lively green, both flashing with swift recognition. The female shifted her weight back onto one leg and crossed her arms over her chest as she glared at the man facing her with venom in her stare.
He, however, was clearly trying to be more civil; a smile played on his lips and he innocently stuffed his hands into his pockets like a schoolboy.
"Mara," he chorused finally, nodding his head as he addressed her so his blonde hair bobbed rather cutely around his attractive, boyish face, "Fancy meeting you here."
She scowled in reply; her tone was icy and unforgiving,
"Your Jedi senses on the blink or is it just your day off Skywalker?"
Luke tried to hide his grimace as he mulled over her words, as surprised as she at their collision. He had sensed her, of course he had, after so many voyages together her presence was almost as familiar to him as his own; but it was as if his course through the crowded entrance hall had been predetermined and this very meeting fated.
He shook his head and closed his eyes tight shut, pushing the thoughts out of his mind, wondering what in Sith's name he was thinking….why in the galaxy would the Force have literally pushed him into the hard-skinned redhead?
"You're pulling faces," she snapped irritably, as he looked at her once more with a pained expression, she was not comfortable being unaware of what was flitting through that naive, little mind of his.
Meanwhile he could not understand why she couldn't even pretend to be nice after all this time?
It seemed he just couldn't win with her; if she wasn't trying to kill him she was insulting him, and if she wasn't insulting him at best she was ignoring him.
Sighing he placed his hands on his narrow hips, just above his utility belt and stared back, mimicking her own appearance.
"What are you doing here Mara?" he sounded exasperated.
Mara studied the young man with mild interest, pondering what his sudden and unexpected regard for her doings was about. A Jedi he might be, but he did not have to know everything.
"Need to know basis Skywalker. And you don't need to know."
Luke tucked his fingertips into his belt, playing unnoticeably with the fabric, his eyes still boring into the female, who retained her blazing look.
He rolled his eyes sloppily, fighting the urgent need to discover what she was truly doing there. It would have been so easy for him to just slip into a half-trance and glide into her mind, where all her plans would be laid out for him to read at his leisure.
But their relationship (if that was what you could call it) was tight and tenuous and he was well aware of how strongly she disapproved of his casual and apparently unnecessary use of the Force. If she felt his approach through her own limited abilities she would explode in anger, and it was inevitable that the slender, stretched, shaky thread that tied them together would snap.
He did not want that.
If anything he enjoyed their verbal sparring too much, and there was still that pair of flight goggles he had to win back off of her at their next lightsaber duel…….nothing to do with his own pride, of course.
"It could be," he countered, "If you're here on smugglers business then it could be a threat to the New Republic."
Mara laughed. A number of scolding looks from both wealthy guests and the polite staff were shot in her direction but she cared not. It had been a while since she had laughed so much. Under the service of the Emperor such things were most definitely improper. Bursting out into a fit of hysterics in the middle of the Imperial court, or worse in the darkness of an alley where you were awaiting the appearance of your prey, would have only won you a blaster bolt in the back. So now she revelled in the times, gleeful at the freedom, and unsure of how she could have ever felt at home behind the very visible bars of the Galactic Empire. Still she didn't often laugh like that.
As she laughed she spared a fleeting glance over Luke's shoulder.
The Verpine was gone, long gone by the looks of it, and replaced by a typical silver-plated cleaning droid.
Standing before her Luke watched, finding it almost impossible to contain his own chuckles, for despite the fact she was laughing at him it was infective.
"You're making excuses now," she half sniggered, eyes shining; and then quietened, forcing herself back into her severe, cutting persona….the Mara Jade people expected to be confronted with, not the giggling teenager she rarely displayed, "Quit digging your own grave."
The man shrugged as if her constant cruel comments didn't bother him, but his gaze told a different story. He seemed about to respond in his usual witty, but less callous manner, instead he was cut off.
He was cut off by a man he knew all too well, dressed as sharply as ever, an antique cape of Alderaanian silk fluttering behind him as he swaggered forward.
"Ah Miss Jade," he cooed, placing himself between the two with his usual smugness and picking up one of Mara's folded hands to bring it to his lips.
Luke watched a spark light in her eyes; it seemed there had been no need for him to pry after all, the reason behind her visit was all too obvious now. His face fell by a millimetre or so, even as he tried to keep it neutral. No need to give her ideas now was there.
Mara Jade snatched her arm away. For a while the poised fellow looked wounded and Luke wondered whether he had missed her kicking him or something. A smirk lit his face. "Lovely to see you."
"I was on my way up Calrissian," clearly she was annoyed, "You have no patience."
Lando scoffed, "And you do?"
There was a tug on her lips and she gave a very faint and rather pretty lop-sided smile, well Luke thought it was pretty….and judging by Lando's lustful gaze he found it rather alluring too.
As much as Luke tried to hide his emotions Mara could and always had been able to read him like a book, such things clearly had not been on the curriculum of the Jedi Master's he had trained with. She glared as an almost-dream-like look passed rapidly over his face and pointed with one lithe finger at him accusingly.
Lando spun round on his heel, a heel enclosed in the supple leather of designer shoes and, as soon as he had gotten over the initial shock at having missed his old friend, gave Luke a friendly hug, slapping him hard on the back and cackling raucously. Luke frowned at the hard hits over Lando's shoulder, and Mara offered a sickly, sweet smile as a silent reply, her eyes teased him gently and he bit back a grin yet again. It seemed so natural now, smiling when she was around. He knew many, including his own sister, would find their odd, hot-and-cold relationship twisted; but it worked for them.
"How're you doing buddy?"
Luke snapped out of the look he and Mara were sharing as he realised Lando was talking to him again. Perhaps Mara had been right about his Jedi powers taking a day break.
"I'm fine Lando."
"You on this crowded rock for long?"
Shaking his head Luke gave a polite answer, aware that Mara was coolly observing the scene and catching her eyes for a second as he spoke,
"I'll be heading back to Yavin in a few days. I just came to see the kids really, and do another sweep of the Senate's records…"
"Still searching for any information on the Old Jedi Order?"
"Yep," Luke nodded solemnly, "There's barely anything left though. I'm thinking of going further afield, there has to be something remaining, the Empire can't have destroyed every single trace of the Jedi….Anyway enough of that, how have you been?"
Lando rolled his shoulders comfortably as if he had just been waiting for that very question to be asked; he twiddled his moustache between two fingers,
"Oh nothing important…business carries on as usual, in fact demand has rocketed since the Imperial threats from the Outer Rim began…I think people are panic buying, you know. There's been a few problems with pirates, but nothing I can't handle…" he glanced over at Mara, then turned his attention back on the Jedi knight, a half-contented smile on his lips, "Otherwise I've been relaxing…Mara's been a great help."
Every muscle in Luke's body clenched, his toes digging into the soles of his boots and his fingers grasping tightly at the hem of his tunic hidden beneath his dark robe. His chin and lips trembled faintly; it was barely noticeable thanks to the self control Yoda, Ben and himself had taught.
Lando seemed oblivious. Mara stared.
A moment of heavy silence passed between them. It was broken only when Mara stepped forward, punching the fellow less than lightly on his arm, her voice was undeniably strained when she spoke,
"You say anything else along those lines ever again and you'll be permanently relaxing."
"Understood ma'am," the playfulness of his answer disguised the waves of anxiety rolling off of him, though they were quite palatable to Luke, and from Mara's satisfied smirk, her as well.
Flicking his darkened blue eyes between the feisty redhead and the brash businessman/smuggler/General Luke decided that it was high time to leave…or rather flee. He had seen enough and did not want to know anymore, for as much as Mara denied any attachment, (other than her business dealings), with Calrissian, having just seen them together firsthand, Luke was no longer so sure.
After all Mara had no cause to tell him the truth…particularly about private matters such as this.
Just because he expected it did not make it so…whether he willed it or not.
"I really should be off," he implored.
"Of course," Lando said hurriedly, "We didn't mean to keep you."
Oh, Luke thought, it's 'we' now is it?
The two men shook hands before Luke stepped around his friend, nodding his head slightly to the female and wishing her a proper and polite farewell as well. He was no longer in the mood for their friendly banter.
"Watch where you're going next time Skywalker," she warned him, using those words to replace the normal farewell any other person would have given him.
But her caution was sprightly and mischievous, something that suited Mara even more than her typical roughness, and she gave the Jedi a taunting wink; a little taken back when his face refused to soften and his eyes remained clouded and unreadable. When he eventually did give a smile in return it was forced, fake and skin-deep, not quite reaching his eyes in the ways to which she had grown accustomed.
Her eyes followed him as he made his way stealthily through the bustle, not brushing anybody even with the large number of bodies crushed together in the relatively small space, and could not help but feel her heart sink a little.
Great, she thought, another evening spent fighting off the pathetic advances of Lando Calrissian.
She almost ran after Skywalker, deciding that option was better than the situation she currently found herself caught in.
How had Karrde ever persuaded her to do this?
And why had she ever, ever agreed to the whole, sordid arrangement?
Luke vanished through the automatic, sliding, transparisteel doors, out into the weak Coruscant sunlight and she felt almost sad to see him go.
Damned Calrissian, always around when he wasn't wanted.
Turning back to him, not bothering to shroud the poison in her eyes, she shrugged his hand away when he went to take her elbow and trudged heavily towards the turbolift and the familiar, minimalist suite that awaited them on the one-hundredth and thirtieth floor, resting her hands on her lower back as she did so, stretching out her spine and vowing that this time it was his turn to sleep on the sofa. After days of flying she wanted a bed, her own bed ideally, but if that wasn't possible a hotel one would do just fine, as long as one certain business partner stayed a considerable distance away.
Inside the lift she tried to think of other things, focusing on the alien aura's of the fellow guests that stood around her, but her mind's eye lingered on the look on Skywalker's face; that tense expression she had not seen before stretched over that expanse of flesh. She wondered whether she should go and see him before he ran back to his academy, or whether she should think nothing of it.
Skywalker was a big boy; Sith! He was a Jedi Master; he was more than capable of looking after himself.
This weekend was going to be bad enough without the added worry of him being thrown into the tumultuous mixture, but still she just knew he was going to haunt her for the full two days…..maybe longer.
Outside Luke Skywalker wandered aimlessly around the upper levels of the galactic Capital, not something commonly done by a Jedi Knight, they were supposed to be focused, always with a purpose. But now his mind seemed to be in turmoil and he could barely think straight.
Lando and Mara.
Mara and Lando.
For the past months he had been sure she was telling him the truth and had even defended both of his old friends when others had interrogated him over their rumoured relationship.
He had never questioned her.
But what other reason would see both of them meeting at a posh hotel on the city's capital? Certainly not business. Mara was not one who allowed her trade to mix with pleasure, Lando maybe, but certainly not Mara.
With one balled up fist he hit himself in the leg, getting an inquiring look from one passer-by as others began to avoid him as they strolled casually past.
Why was this bothering him so much?
It was Mara…Mara Jade, the woman who had wanted to kill him not that long ago…the woman who was now one of the best friends he had, even if their meetings were often short and separated by months of intense work and travel. If she and Lando were seeing each other it did not change his friendship with her, and if she was happier then he should be happy for her. Shouldn't he?
Yes, he told himself sternly, of course he should. What a stupid question! Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Next time he saw her he would remember to congratulate her, even if it earned him a slap or a blaster bolt at his heels.
He was happy for her; he was overjoyed for her and Lando.
But if that's true, that frustratingly, vexing and hassling voice at the very back of his mind butted in to his collected and logical thoughts, why do you feel so betrayed?
Let me know what you think!
Love it or hate it, I don't care, just let me know.
Any other fic ideas...let me know (although it does NOT mean that I will definitely write it.)
And thank you to everyone that has read this story, or any of my other stories. I hope you continue to enjoy reading my writing as much as I love writing it for you! You people are brilliant!!!!!