I love him.
I shouldn't, but I do.
He doesn't know, of course--no one does, except for Karrde, but Karrde's not an information broker for nothing. Too damn observant, that man.
But I can't tell Skywalker. I don't know how he feels, but he might be obligated to try, just to make me happy, because I'm a friend...I couldn't do that to him. I've done too many things, things that I'll spend my entire life repaying. I know he's done a lot too, but there's always been this aura around him, of goodness or something...he deserves better than me.
I wonder about her, sometimes...wonder about what her life was like, before Endor.
I'd never ask her, of course. It's really none of my business, and I know she'd likely not answer me anyway. But I wonder how she was found, how she was trained.
If she'd ever talked to my father.
And I wonder, too--could that have been my life, had my father found me when I was a young child? Could I have been as slavishly devoted to the Emperor as she had been, before she broke free of the lie?
Would I have ever met her?
"You look tired."
"I'm all right."
"You'd say that as long as you weren't dying, and maybe even if you were. What's been going on?"
"Nothing. Just the usual."
"Of course. The usual."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"If you don't know by now, nothing I can say would get it into your thick skull."
"There's no point, Skywalker. You won't stop."
"Stop what, the missions? I can't. I'm needed."
"See, you're not listening."
"Maybe if you say what you mean!"
"Look, Mara, I've got to go. I'll see you later."
She tried not to flinch, really. She knew she was giving the wrong impression, because she really did want him to touch her--
It was just so much to get used to, when she never let people get as close to her as he was now.
"Relax," he whispered, his voice raising goosebumps on her skin. Such contradictions--she wanted his touch, but having it was strange enough that she kept flinching...
"Habit," she said, offering him an apologetic smile. She would make the effort, because she wanted to learn to let him touch her almost more than anything else.
"I'm all right," she murmured, and blinked sleepily at him.
"I'm putting you to bed," he said, picking her up as easily as if she'd weighed as much as a bird. She was losing weight so quickly...
"'m fine!" she insisted, but she leaned her head against his chest and closed her eyes. Within a minute, she was asleep.
"Oh, Mara," he whispered, shifting her in his arms so that he could brushed a strand of hair out of her mouth. "We'll find out what's making you so sick, and we'll cure you." He kissed her forehead. "I promise."
"Are the kids in bed?" she asked, quietly, as if the kids could hear her from behind their closed doors.
"Yeah," Luke answered, similarly quiet. "Han and Leia should be back in a couple hours. Then we can leave."
Mara smiled briefly. She didn't mind watching the Solo kids, though. Jaina hung on her every word, and it was a treat to watch Luke with his nephews. His sister's children could make him laugh as little else could, and Mara loved to listen to him laugh.
Maybe someday, she and Luke would have children of their own to laugh with.
It was funny how human Luke could be sometimes.
Of course, she'd always known he was human, unlike what seemed the rest of the galaxy. She didn't expect miracles to come from him with every exhaling breath.
But surely it wouldn't take a miracle for him to remember to pick up his socks? To not steal the covers, especially on Yavin when he couldn't possibly be /cold/, despite coming from a desert planet? To use coasters so that his mugs wouldn't leave water rings on the tables?
Then again, maybe getting Luke to do those things would be a miracle.
"Here I was hoping that someone who apparently knew so much about me wouldn't have such expectations of me," he grumbled, just barely audible.
She glared at his back, one hand on her blaster, the other on his lightsaber. "Expectations?" she growled. "What expectations?"
But he turned and met her gaze unflinchingly. "That I'm a monster because you think I killed the Emperor, and I'm going to kill you or escape, or both, the minute you glance away," he replied calmly. "I'm not what you think I am."
She snorted. "Close enough," she said, and prodded him until he moved.
He couldn't face her.
Han and Leia, he could face. It was hard, and even harder whenever they had baby Anakin with them. But Leia wouldn't let him avoid them out of guilt, and so he didn't.
But he couldn't face Mara. When he fell prey to what she had recently escaped from, when he'd kept pressing training on her, to follow him in the ways of the Jedi.... He couldn't face what he was afraid he might see in her eyes--disappointment. Anger. Maybe even concern, pity.
Most of all, he couldn't face her possible, damning lack of surprise.
He liked watching her early in the morning.
She liked to sleep in a bit, or at least more than he did. He was usually up, showered, and with breakfast ready by the time she padded into the kitchen in slippers, smiling at him and the food.
Sometimes he would delay starting breakfast and stand in the doorway of their bedroom and watch her as she first stirred, as she blinked and opened her eyes, coming awake all at once. She'd stretch under the covers, and then she'd catch him watching and smile.
He'd smile back, and go start breakfast.
"I've never wondered why she can only touch the Dark Side."
"Oh?" He crossed his arms over his chest.
She snorted. "Wake up, Skywalker. Cray may have acted like a Jedi, selflessly giving up her body so that you two could have a chance, but your lover"--spoken so derisively--"accepted it for selfish reasons. Wasn't it you who told me that the Dark Side is inherently selfish?"
He flinched. "That's not true. She--"
"Was dead for thirty years," Mara interrupted unrelentingly. "But she took someone's body for her own happiness. If that's not the Dark Side, what is?"
Everyone has secrets, that they keep even from themselves. Things in the dark corners of their minds that they don't want to look at, don't even want to remember exist...
He never actually asks, but when he looks at me, with those big blue eyes, it's like he's looking into everything I am. The light in him spills out uncontrollably and illuminates what I don't want to acknowledge...
But I can't help but think that those things will probably shrink into nothing when brought into light, like I'd been hiding piles of nothing. Things just seem better in the light.
Sometimes I wonder if she knows what a friend is.
She looks at me like she thinks that I'll demand something of her, get angry if she doesn't do it, or demand something else if she does. Wary, and perhaps overly abrasive to make up for it. I don't think she's ever had a relationship that wasn't either business or had some sort of control issue, like with Palpatine.
But I'll teach her, if she lets me. Friendship is--wonderful, exhilarating, impossible to truly describe. I hope she finds as good as friends as I have, because she deserves them.
He wasn't in bed. She'd woken up when she stretched and hadn't felt him. Strange how feeling him used to wake her up, and now it was the lack...
But she knew where he was. She went there on sleepless nights herself.
"Ever wonder what kind of girls he'll bring home when he's older?" he whispered as she approached, chuckling softly when he turned and saw her raised eyebrow. "What? It's better than wondering if this war will end."
She put an arm around his waist, leaning into him as they watched their infant son sleep. "It is," she agreed.
She loves me.
It's strange, thinking that. I mean, I know people love me, like Leia, Han, and the kids. Callista loved me too, though not enough to stay.
But that Mara loves me...not strange that Mara loves, because I know she feels more deeply than she'll admit even to herself. But the life she's had, the sacrifices she's made...I don't know if she's ever loved anyone before, like this. I know she's not a virgin, but none of the men she'd been with really touched her. Before me.
I'm unbelievably honored to be the first to hold her heart.
He gave me his father's lightsaber.
I know what it means to him, his own first saber, one he used while learning what it means to be a Jedi. Perhaps the only physical thing he has left of his father.
And he gave it to me. Why? I am not a Jedi, and I probably never will be. He has his own now, of course, built by him for him, but this one is a symbol.
Perhaps that is why. I don't need a symbol to remind me of what I could be, but...thank you, Skywalker. I'll keep it safe.
"What do you know of service?" Her voice was bitter. "You've never had a master."
His was gentle. "I have," he said. "I still do. I serve the galaxy, and I serve the Force. From the moment I first touched it, my life was no longer my own. I know service."
"I know nothing else." She turned away and would not look at him. "I'm barely finding out how to live my own life, and you want me to be a Jedi? That I cannot do."
When she looked at him again, his head was bowed and he was silent.
It's probably selfish of me to make him say it first. We know each other now, deep into mind and soul, and he hasn't known as long as I have. That's not to say his feelings are weaker, or aren't as deep and lasting, but he is newer to the understanding.
I've known for long and long that I love him, but I couldn't take the first step. There's myriad excuses for that, and some of them are even good ones.
Yet I want him to be the first to speak it out loud. Perhaps then I'll know it's real.
I want her to be all that she can. Is that so wrong?
Well, she would think it so. Shut up, Skywalker, she tells me. It's my life, and I'll live it.
Yes, it's her life. But I don't think she can be happy, denying a part of herself. And she is, every time she leaves Yavin. Leaves me.
But Mara, the Force is beautiful. It doesn't enslave you, doesn't trap you. In choosing to serve it, you free yourself, and in learning to live inside it, you become what you are meant to be.
I want that for her.
There is love here.
It is a quiet thing, perhaps. It does not require bells to announce itself. She kisses his fingertips, and love beats in time to the rhythm of his heart. She smiles at him, and he lets his eyes return the gesture. She makes love to him in the dark of the night and the light of the day, until he wonders how it is possible that he can be this happy.
He knows others do not understand what he sees in her, but he does not care. It is there, and that is enough for them.
He never would have thought how much a blessing kissing without interruptions could be. To be able to have Mara to himself for a time, with no demands on them from galaxy, Jedi, or family was--wonderful.
So he kissed her as if it was both the first and last time, and she returned it with feeling. His hands were just sliding around her waist and creeping up the back of her shirt when he felt something tug on his clothes.
"What you doin'?" three-year-old Ben asked solemnly, looking up at them, and Luke sighed as Mara stifled a chuckle.
The dream again. Three people in a darkened room, all of them clothed in black and swathed in shadows, two fighting while the third looked on--
Then the turn of heads, the pivot, the raising of lightsabers, green and red. She struggled, tried to open her mouth to shout a warning--in vain, as always. The last thing she saw before she woke was a pair of merciless, cold blue eyes.
YOU WILL KILL LUKE SKYWALKER.
Her eyes snapped open, and she unconsciously tensed. But slowly she relaxed, and vowed, again, that when she met Luke Skywalker, he would die.
"I don't know what I'm doing, sometimes," he confessed, as she approached and took a seat near him.
"Is something going wrong?" she asked, frowning. Well, more wrong than usual, with Skywalker around.
He shook his head. "Not quite," he said, "but there's the potential to become trouble. I don't know what to do about it. I'm just human, Mara!" he burst out suddenly. "I can't fix everything, even though I want to. I don't know how." He sighed.
"Glad you finally realize that," she said sardonically.
"What do you mean?" he asked, looking taken aback, but she didn't answer.
His voice washed over her, deep in her meditation.
"Find the Force inside you," he murmured, sounding as if on the other side of the galaxy, though she knew he was kneeling in front of her. "Immerse yourself in it, know what it feels like. Then reach out to the Force outside you, and become part of that as well."
Carefully she followed his instructions, reaching out, touching the jungles of Yavin--then touching him as well. He touched her in return, gently, a soft caress that she could feel with more than just her body. Still immersed, she smiled.
He was baking, and loved it.
Mara, who was likewise baking, but who had not lived under the twin suns of Tatooine, did not.
"Why not go to Coruscant?" she complained, fanning herself with one hand. "I know you like being here to meet new students, but this heat is too much."
"Maybe you'll feel cooler if you take the shirt off," he said, plastering an innocent look on his face when she looked over.
"Do you have any subtlety at all?" she asked, though her eyes were dancing. "It's too hot for that!"