"I hate you," she told him, though she was looking at her feet.
He stepped behind her, lifted her braid and draped it over one shoulder so he could lean forward and press his lips, cold, against the back of her neck. She shivered.
"I know," he replied, voice soft and far away.
"I mean it," she said, and tried not to stiffen when his fingers brushed her cheek, moved forward and ghosted across her lips.
"I know you do," he said.
One lone tear fell. "Damn you," she whispered. "Why did you have to go?"
Then she woke up.
She was warm.
He didn't know why he was so surprised; he knew that she felt cold, as her constant shivers could attest, but her skin was warm. More than warm. Burning.
"You'll be all right," he whispered, his fingers running lightly from her forehead to her hair. His hand touched the red-gold strands and settled among them, stroking ever so gently.
In her sleep, she leaned into his hand.
"Luke…" she breathed, but she was not awake. He almost smiled, that she called for him in her delirium.
"I'm here," he assured her, and brushed his lips past hers.
"Don't leave," he told her, but she just shook her head and wouldn't look at him.
"I've got a job, you know." Her voice was almost gentle. Why was it like that? He didn't want her gentleness if it meant that she was going to leave.
"This is important—" he tried, but her eyes flashed, and he knew he made a mistake.
"And my job's not?"
His hand, which had been reaching out to her, dropped to his side. "I didn't mean that."
"I know." And then she turns and goes, and he watches her, unwilling to look away.
He never drinks—well, rarely drinks. He can hardly say never, now, with a glass of whiskey in his hand.
"Come on," she tells him. "It's not going to kill you."
"Not yet, at any rate," he mutters.
"You need to loosen up," she continues, and tips back her own glass so that the whiskey falls like rain down her throat, without splashing. "You're so stiff all the time."
"I'm not!" he protests, but she smiles knowingly at him, and he can't help but smile in return. Then he shrugs. "Here's to you," he says, and drinks the whiskey down.
This is uncomfortable, she thinks, with his arm wrapped around her and his breath warm and even against her neck, but she doesn't move.
Sometimes he's too close. Stifling. This is almost one of those times—she's pressed against him, and whenever she shifts his arm tightens, as if subconsciously afraid that if she moves away she'll never move back again.
She contemplates it, on occasion—she's not used to this, to be so close to another being so often. But contemplation is all it is, because she knows, and thinks he should too, that she'll never truly move away.
We seem to bicker all the time.
It's sorta funny. I remember watching Han and Leia argue like this—well, not exactly like this (go away stay out of my head maybe I'll renew my vow to kill you), but close enough—and thinking to myself that they should just kiss already. I'd still loved Leia then, of course, though now it's changed a lot, but that didn't stop me from seeing what was right in front of my eyes.
Now it seems that Mara and I bicker like that…and come to think of it, it's not funny at all.
"It's okay to cry."
She slid her hands up his arms, rested them for a moment on his shoulders, then reached back and pulled him into an embrace.
"I know," he replied, but his voice sounded ragged, and he was still repressing tears. And if he felt like this, then Leia…but he knew Leia was torn apart. Anakin was—had been—her son.
He held her back, glorying in the feel of her in his arms, though she had come so close to death herself. So terrifyingly close.
"It's okay to cry," she repeated, and slow tears soaked her shirt.
Giddy. That was the best word to describe him right now.
"Mara," he called to his fiancée—what a wonderful word; the only better one he could think of was wife—and she looked up.
"Hmm? What is—hey!" But she didn't say any more, with her mouth otherwise occupied.
When she finally pulled back, she looked amused. "What was that for?"
He grinned, brushed his lips across hers once more before saying, "Do I need a reason?"
A smile twitched at her own lips, despite her effort to be serious. "I guess not," she replied, before leaning in again.
I watch him. I don't think he knows, because he's laughing and talking with Antilles, but I can't help it. For some reason, I just want to look at him.
The party goes on around us, and I try to concentrate on my conversation with Mirax, but it's harder than it should be. He's so animated now—I rarely see him like this. He's having fun. How often does that happen? Not as much as it should.
His hair is longer than normal, and keeps falling in his eyes. And I shouldn't want to brush it away, but I do.
She blinked again, trying to stay awake, and resented how he was sleeping like a baby.
How could he do it? In the middle of a strange forest, bereft of the Force, with predators out for his blood and his only living companion—that stupid droid of his didn't count—someone who wanted nothing more than to see him dead…how could he sleep so calmly?
But more than that, how could he sleep with death on his soul, the death of the most important person in the galaxy?
He should not be able to sleep as deeply as he was.
I don't know how it happened, or even when. But that's not important—what is important is that it happened at all.
It didn't change anything, of course. I wouldn't let it. I had my life, and I liked it. Quite frankly, I didn't like his much, and I didn't want to share it, but it's what would have ended up happening, if we took that path. He could no more give up the Jedi than repudiate his father. And I didn't even know what he felt.
It was an impasse—and it hurt more than I would have thought.
What does she want from me?
He didn't understand her. Sometimes she would be friendly, and he loved it—she could make him laugh like no other, and he could return the favor, and they'd actually enjoy being with each other. But other times…other times she was cold, and tried to stay as far away from him as possible.
She was unpredictable. And while he enjoyed that variety she presented, he often wished that he could understand what would trigger her changes in mood, and why she kept going back and forth, to him and from him, like a pendulum.
He's so small.
Despite having seen his sister's children as infants, Luke would never have imagined that there could be a being as small as this. Yet here he is, asleep in Luke's arms, and it's the most amazing feeling in the galaxy, even better than when he had first accessed the Force.
"He's tiny." Her voice is hushed, and unconsciously echoing Luke's thoughts—he smiles.
"He is," Luke agrees. And something in his heart is just so, so warm. His wife is here, and his son—his son!—and despite all the troubles in the galaxy, everything is perfect.
I sorta like her.
Well, maybe like isn't the right word. I know she hates me, a lot, and says that she wants to kill me, and that's not exactly a good basis for liking someone. Not that I'm normal that way; I loved my father, despite all that he'd done.
But there's something about her…she's got so much life. Even the hate gives her more energy—and if she's this pretty when she's glaring vibroblades at me, what would she be like with another strong emotion?
Not that I'll ever find out, of course. Silly of me to wonder.
"Relax. Han and Leia like you. Don't worry about what they'll think." He smiled reassuringly.
"They like me when I'm an acquaintance they see a couple times a year. Not as someone who's going to become family."
He took one of her hands in his, stroked his fingers along her palm. "That doesn't make any difference." With his other hand, he tipped her chin up, so she was looking directly into his eyes. "Trust me. Though they won't love you as much as I do—I don't know if anyone can—they'll be happy for us. Promise."
Reluctantly, she smiled.
I should have asked.
I didn't, of course. Her business, didn't want to bring up old memories…all those excuses I told myself, that stopped me from asking her what it was like.
I wonder—did she feel like this, when carrying out his orders? Like she's superior to almost everyone, and can crush them like insects beneath her foot?
I shouldn't feel like this, but it's hard to stop. I should have asked—Force, I should have! Forget her business, forget old memories…
Maybe if I'd asked, I would have been warned, and Palpatine would never have taken me in.
She wants to yell at him.
She doesn't, of course. He's not even awake to hear her, in that healing trance of his—but what business did he have needing a healing trance in the first place? Why did he have to be such a trouble magnet?
And that other woman, whose proper name Mara didn't catch, the one who looks like Cray but isn't…Mara doesn't like her. She's not quite sure why, as she doesn't even really know her, but she doesn't like her. Something about her just rubs Mara the wrong way.
Oh, Skywalker, just wake up soon…
She never would have thought simple kissing could be so much fun.
Well, maybe not simple kissing. Nothing with him is ever simple, but the complicated things about this are the feelings it brings up in her.
No one else had made her want to laugh in delight at the movement of his lips against hers. No one else had that strange mix of gentleness and force that made her feel protected and loved without giving the impression he thinks she's fragile. No one else even tasted as good as he does.
But then, no one else is Luke Skywalker.
She obviously loved to dance.
Luke watched her, and was glad that she could at least find something enjoyable at this function—he certainly couldn't. Making small talk with government officials that he didn't like and who didn't like him wasn't his idea of fun, especially with Leia and Han, his usual rescuers, all the way across the room.
He turned for a moment to absentmindedly answer some ambassador. When he turned back, she was gone.
Then there was a hand on his elbow. "Dance with me, Skywalker," she demanded, and with a smile, he followed her onto the floor.
"Tighten up your left leg block," he advised, circling around her. "It's larger than it should be, and gives your opponent an opening."
"Skywalker, do you ever stop teaching?" she sighed, but mentally made a note. It was useful to remember.
"Nope," he said cheerfully. "But then, I also never stop learning."
She lunged, angling for his thigh, but his blade was there to meet hers, as it always was. She disengaged, pulled back, and returned to circling.
"Maybe you should take a break," she said. "Don't you get tired of being the Master all the time?"
He didn't answer.
I've been in love before.
Or at least, I've thought myself in love before. With Leia, before I found out she's my sister, with Callista, even for a long time after she left me…even my feelings for Gaeriel might have eventually become love.
But it hits me now that while I might have loved them, I wasn't in love with them. And sitting here, in the pilot's seat of this strange Chiss vessel on our way home from Nirauan, I know why.
My feelings before were nothing to my feelings now. This—what I have with Mara—this is love.
Sometimes she makes me so angry. I try not to let her get to me, but I can't help it. It's like she knows what buttons to push and delights in pushing them.
Then again, she probably does. She probably enjoys making the Jedi Master lose his vaunted calm and send him scrambling after it like a teenager trying not to make a fool of himself in front of the girl he's got a crush on.
The girl he's got a crush on…where did that come from? No matter. I've just got to not let her make me so angry.
Sometimes I hate him. I really do—especially when he tells me that hate is of the Dark Side. Just let me wallow, dammit!
I hate the way I can't talk to him without him trying to teach me something. I hate how he always beats me in a lightsaber duel, and not even winning in hand to hand makes me feel better.
I hate that quirky smile of his, the one that's not cute. I hate that his hair is getting longer so he brushes it out of his eyes.
I hate that I can't make myself hate him.
Somehow it's become tradition for them to find each other on this day each year.
Sometimes they meet on Coruscant, sometimes on Yavin. They rarely say anything—the silence is companionable, and speech wouldn't be. But then, they still can't talk to each other often without getting into an argument, and they don't want to spoil the peace of the moment that way.
They both lost something on this day—father, and father-figure and master. Though they both gained something else, sometimes they want to remember the loss, because it is part of what shaped them into who they are.
"Go away!" she wants to yell—but doesn't, because that would hurt him, and she doesn't want to hurt him.
It feels like he's stifling her, wrapping her in a spidersilk shroud of love and care that she would have to destroy to escape, but she can't bring herself to hurt him by telling him sometimes it seems he suffocates her.
He loves her. She knows this, and loves him too. But it's her illness, her death that might be staring her in the face, and despite her appreciation for his caring, it's something she needs to deal with herself.