Mara entered the small quarters she had been assigned, not quite slamming the door behind her. She was still shaken by her earlier session with Skywalker. The connection that had flared up between them when she had finally touched the "light side" of the Force had shocked her more than anything ever had before, leaving her breathless. Worse, she had allowed him to see her confusion, her weakness.

Even now, she could still feel him in her head as if he had taken up residence there with no plans to leave. In a strange way, it filled the empty place where Palpatine used to reside.

Through her years as Emperor's Hand, Palpatine had maintained a constant connection with her which allowed him to contact her anywhere. This was like that, yet not. Skywalker's presence was as different from the Emperor's as day was from night.

Skywalker was a brilliant star, illuminating the darkness inside her. Did she want that, though? Darkness had always been her friend, her strength, protecting and hiding her. Could she really give that up?

She flung herself on her cot, squeezing her head between her hands. Why did it feel so right? It had to be because she was used to Palpatine, and simply felt lost with no connection. That had to be it.

Mara faced Luke across the training room; he held a long metal tube in his hand. She grinned at him, trying to appear nonchalant, hefting a matching tube. He had made the training weapons to match the size and weight of lightsabers as closely as possible without the danger of the real blades.

"Not bad, farmboy." She held hers up in front of her, scanning the length of it. "The balance isn't quite the same, but it's pretty close."

He nodded. "As close as I could get without using actual lightsabers."

She raised an eyebrow. "Worried you might get hurt, Skywalker?"

He walked toward her, his long limbs and easy grace reminding her of a jungle cat. "No sense in risking injury just for a practice session."

She nodded, her mouth suddenly dry, though she wasn't sure why. She dropped into a fighting stance. "Let's see what you've got."

He said nothing in reply; holding the thin tube in both hands vertically before his face, he closed his eyes. Was he meditating? Probably. He did a lot of meditating. She narrowed her eyes. She would give a lot to break that placid serenity of his. His father was Darth Vader—there had to be a core of fire lying hidden beneath the ice.

Some would think this a good time to attack, when he wasn't paying attention. She knew better; he would see any move she planned as soon as the thought formed in her mind. So she didn't allow any intentions to form, and she didn't touch the Force, for he would sense that too. She simply allowed her body to do what it knew so well, and flung herself at him.

Their weapons met with a clang that reverberated around the empty space. Knocked off balance, he stepped back and caught himself, his eyes flying wide. Determined to press the advantage, she turned, putting her shoulder into his chest, sliding her arm under his elbow; then she pivoted, flipping him over her back.

He landed on his back, but instantly rolled away from her and back to his feet. Turning back to face her, he grinned. "Nice."

She grinned back, triumphant. Without the element of surprise, that move wouldn't work again, but she had cracked his calm exterior—for only a second or two, but small victories were still victories.

They circled each other, watchful. He had quickly recovered his poise, and she pondered how to break through that shell again. An idea came to her and, as soon as it occurred to her—hopefully before he could read her intentions—she acted. Raising a hand, she pushed at him with the Force, and he lost his balance—only very briefly, but that was all she needed.

As he stumbled, she pushed herself forward with the Force. Their training weapons clashed together and she pushed again with the Force, knocking him further off balance. As he caught himself, she hooked a leg around behind his knee and yanked. To her dismay, he hooked his other leg around hers as he fell, and they landed together in a hopeless tangle.

Gasping for breath, she raised her head and met his eyes. The intense blue was deeper than it had been, the link between them thrumming with something she had never felt before, something powerful and deeply intimate. Sudden fear gripped her, and she pushed hard, flinging herself away from him.

Luke slowly sat up, watching Mara disappear through the door. That had been… interesting. To say the least.

He laid his metal tube on the floor beside him—his hand was trembling. He lifted it up before his face and stared at it. It wasn't fear, though that was part of it. It was simply Mara's nearness that had made him all aquiver.

He took a deep breath. He wasn't completely naïve, despite what Han might think, but he had never felt this way before. The only girl he had ever thought he might be interested in was Leia, before he found out that she was his sister.

This was definitely going to complicate things, especially since Mara didn't want anything to do with it. That spike of fear just before she fled made that clear. He sighed. Besides, she was his student—and she had yet to prove her trustworthiness. Nothing could come of this attraction.