The Long Road Home
by Melissa Boberick []

Dear reader: If you have not read "Planet of Twilight", you will find this story to be something of a spoiler. I have chosen to ignore anything that happened after that particular novel (not because I didn't enjoy it, just for my own purposes). Here within the boundaries of my tale you will find no space battles, no super weapons, no returned Grand Admirals and no Dark Jedi. I have instead chosen to tell the story of how Luke might make the journey from Callista to Mara, and what happens along the way. And since I have always been baffled as to why two twins as close as Leia and Luke are supposed to be never seem to share any real "moments", Leia figures prominently here on many occasions. Special thanks to my first beta-tester Winter1138 for reading and bugging me for new sections to keep me going, to Marlene JK, the edit queen, with many thanks for the suggestions for the epilogue, and to other members of the ClubJade listserv for encouragement. New title creativity due, with great thanks, to Erin, also known as AntiChem! Comments are requested and welcome to

This story is dedicated to the memory of Christopher Divel, who introduced me to the possibility for obsession inherent in all filmed science fiction.

Based on characters and situations created by George Lucas, copyright Lucasfilm Ltd. Not for sale, no copyright infringement intended. Please request permission before circulating this fiction in any way.

On Yavin Four, the planet awoke long before its few inhabitants had slept more than a few hours. The jungles that made up the majority of the surface area were thriving, breathing, teeming with all sorts of creatures and indigenous plant life, underground, above ground and in the air. Much of it was wild and overgrown, for the planet would grow according to its own will. Those who had chosen to live there had done so with this knowledge clear in their minds, and, indeed, this had been a factor in the choice when originally made so many years ago. The planet objected to any disturbance in its chosen growth, and manifested this dislike in a mass tangle of plants that wrapped around the stone temples and rough dwellings that dotted the surface. On this dark, early morning, a thick, humid haze hung in the air as the sole humanoid inhabitants stole what sleep they could.

A shadow moved across the face of the temple that served as the primary dwelling, and a lone figure paced back and forth slowly, head bent deep into the cowls of his black robes. His outward calm was a reflection on the tight control that reigned within him, the absolute and total lock he had on the emotions that rose and swelled within him. He was determined that nothing further would disturb the much needed rest of the others. He had already made the mistake once of allowing his feelings to broadcast on a wide range, and only succeeded in plunging the entire group into depression. The regret for that total lack of control on his part he shoved to the side, along with the despair and anger he was trying to keep a damper on.

"Do or do not, Skywalker, there is no try... remember?"

Luke whirled around in shock, hood falling back from tousled blonde hair, hand moving reflexively to the lightsaber that hung at his belt. With narrowed eyes, he peered through the mist towards the direction of the voice. In the shadows of the temple, the black-clad figure of Mara Jade stood silently before him.

"I see you have been practicing, Mara."

Mara snorted softly. "An AT-AT could have sneaked up on you. Didn't you hear the Fire land? You aren't exactly giving much attention to observation this morning, nor are you doing as good a job on locking down those feelings as you think. Several of your students are awake and aware, something you may want to consider as you are trying to get a grip on yourself." Her emerald eyes glittered across the glade at him as he grimaced in irritation at her statement. He knew he was causing a problem with his students, had known it for several days ...but the only alternative was departure from the Academy, and right now, he couldn't imagine being anywhere else. He wanted to be amongst his memories on the forest world he had called home for so many years now. He wondered, as an afterthought, what she was doing there, a thought he voiced aloud.

She stared silently at him a moment, then sat down under a tree with a slight shrug. "I was coming back anyway...the atmosphere in the Force only hastened the journey." She unfolded her legs into the moss with a sigh. "You are causing quite a Force disturbance, Skywalker...don't you think that's a problem?"

He turned away from her, eyes closing in himself, for his inexcusable lack of control, at whoever had sent her, and at her, for the way she was looking at him. *How much of me is still on Nam Chorios? It's been a year,* he reminded himself. "Yes, is. I was thinking of leaving for awhile. I think it's time I had some time away from the students." He ran a hand along the back of his neck and whispered, "I just don't know where to go." Away from the temples, where they had waged joyful saber battles; away from the closet where her clothes still hung; from the feeling of her in the air and their holos in his desk; from the forests where they had lain beneath the green trees and..."What brings you back here, exactly?"

Mara regarded him from beneath the pile of red-gold hair that was carelessly pulled to the top of her head, and specifically ignored his question a second time. "I didn't know coming back here would bring me such peace. Apparently it has not done so for you."

Luke turned back towards her, gazing down at her with an unreadable expression on his face. *How much training has she been doing these past months? Or have I lost all control over my thoughts?* In turn, he ignored her comment. "You have come back to complete the training, I presume?" he asked, his words sounding strangely familiar. Her eyes met his and held, and she dampened her growing irritation with this man who was but half of the Jedi Master she knew, and chose to answer his question and wage the war of wills he was pushing her towards later.

"I was sent here, Skywalker, to fetch you to Coruscant. After that little trip is done I shall return here; Kyp's been expecting me for weeks but I've been delayed. At that time, yes, I will complete my training, or as much as I have time to do. I have been practicing these months with a friend but I have found that it is not enough."

"Kyp's been expecting you?" He was surprisingly hurt that she would choose to train under Kyp -- true, his desire to teach was lessening daily, and Kyp was his greatest pupil, but -- He shoved the feeling aside to deal with later and burst out, "Sent to fetch me? To Coruscant? By whom?" He cut off her attempted reply. "Leia. But why? She can't need me for anything. She has several Jedi stationed at the Palace. She has herself and her children, not to mention Han. She is linked to me by comm station and by the Force. And she has not attempted to contact me personally. If she wanted me there, she would ask me, she wouldn't send.." His voice trailed off as Mara's gaze hardened to green steel.

"No, finish it. She wouldn't send me. Well, I am sorry to inform you that I have spent the last six months on Coruscant, at your sister's request, and she did indeed ask me to come here. So if you'll get the rest of your monk's wardrobe together, I'll meet you back at the Fire. " She rose sharply and began to walk off through the trees to the landing platform. Luke stepped forward and took hold of her forearm, forcing her to either turn back towards him or stumble. She chose the first. "Let go of my arm, Skywalker," she bit out.

Luke pulled his hand away but did not move away from her. "I am sorry; that was rude." He sighed and let his hand drop. "Why did she send you--or anyone? I could have easily flown to Coruscant myself."

Her eyes softened slightly. "Because you have been ignoring all transmissions from the Capitol! Your sister can't reach you through the Force, presumably because of your pathetic farmboy wallowing, and couldn't spare the time to come herself, otherwise it would be she on this side of your overwhelming hospitality, and not me. Apparently you have forgotten the approaching anniversary date, and your expected participation in the celebration. I was coming here anyway, as I said, and volunteered to get you in the meantime." She stared at him for several minutes, one eyebrow raised, until his face changed in the light of dawning knowledge.

"Endor," he breathed. "How could I have forgotten?" *Because you chose to ignore it,* he snapped at himself. *Because you are so wrapped up in your own personal misery everything else has become unimportant.* "A happy but painful time, for many reasons," he said quietly, almost to himself. Without a word he turned and strode into the temple towards his quarters, leaving Mara to hurry after him in disbelief. The mood swings of a temperamental Jedi, she fumed. This should be an interesting trip.


By the time she caught up with him, he had already reached his quarters. She nudged through the partially open door and stood inside the room for the first time. It was as she would expect, spartan and spare, a simple bed, a meditation cushion, several utilitarian cabinets, a worktable. The only decoration in the entire room was a large canvas hanging over the bed; a sand painting that showed a desert landscape. *Probably that backwater planet he came from,* Mara thought with a snort. Multiple black Jedi robes hung in the closet next to a few more colorful items she had never seen him wear. His head was buried in the clothes now, several items having already been carelessly tossed into the open flight bag on the bed. "Somewhere in the left hand cabinet are my medals, Mara...I suppose I'll be expected to have them. Could you get them out for me, please?" he called over his shoulder without looking around.

Mara moved to the indicated cabinet and opened the doors slowly. Inside was a hodgepodge of strange items...small tools, childish drawings obviously from the hands of his niece and nephews, several indistinguishable rocks, arranged carefully on a shelf...ah, and the medals, thrown carelessly in the corner, under...her hands stopped, coming to rest on a small holo, laid carefully in the drawer. Luke smiled out at her, joy in his expression, a relaxed quality to his body she had never seen as he sat beside Callista under a tree. Her hair was blown back in the wind, and she was looking at him with unabashed love from the corner of her eyes. Mara swallowed unsteadily, feeling like she was intruding on something sacred, despite her earlier disdain for his lack of control. Reflexively her fingers moved over the edges of the evidence of the last happiness to truly inhabit Luke's life.

"That was three months before she left," he said quietly from behind her.

Carefully Mara laid the holo back in the drawer and scooped up the handful of medals. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to intrude," she began, turning to face him. She was prepared to face sorrow, but the emptiness in his eyes was completely unexpected.

"It's beyond sorrow now, Mara." He reached out and took his war prizes out of her hands, placing them on top of the clothes in the flight bag. Without another word, he picked it up and walked out of the room. After a moment she followed, closing the door quietly with only a quick look behind her in the direction of the open cabinet, a corner of the holo still visible.


Hours later, Mara sat alone on the flight deck of her ship, staring out into the bright blurs that the stars became in hyperspace. While she usually spent this time sleeping, her body would not cooperate with her on this occasion. She sat quietly at a side table, a thankfully silent Artoo as her only companion, fingers wandering idly over the surface before her. Her hair fell over her face and she pushed it back with a sigh, fingers tangling in the red-gold masses, and thought of what had transpired in the last months.

She had come to Coruscant on an ambassadorial mission for the Smuggler's Alliance, and as a courtesy had been invited to dinner at Han and Leia's apartment. This, she surmised, was as much a chore for them as it was for her, for they had never really gotten past civility. However, upon her arrival, the uncomfortable politeness had been banished in the wake of the twins, Jacen and Jaina, and young Anakin, who attached themselves to Mara with the friendliness of children and the insight of the Jedi knights they would eventually become. Conversation somehow wound from the Smuggler's Alliance, to the raising of children, to the chameleon like government strategies of the New Republic, to Jedi training, and eventually to Luke himself. Hours after her arrival, Mara found herself sitting with Skywalker's twin analyzing his character, of all things, for Leia was in despair over her brother's seclusion on Yavin and his failure to let her in, even through the Force. While Mara had no suggestions on what might improve Luke's state of mind, she offered to help Leia strengthen her hold on the Force that she might better try to reach him that way. A tentative truce began the next morning when she met Leia in a practice room to begin what would be the first of many joint training sessions. A simple request to Talon Kaarde on behalf of the New Republic freed Mara from her immediate responsibilities, and she found herself remaining on Coruscant for almost six months. Her mutual dislike of Leia slowly evolved to tolerance, then appreciation, and finally, what she had to admit could only be genuine friendship, something Mara had never really experienced with another woman before. Leia applied the same diplomacy and open mind that had made her such a successful leader to her surprising new relationship, and Mara stepped away from her usual disdain of friendships in general and Leia specifically to see the woman for what she really was -- and they were both astonished to find out how alike they really were. From there, it was only a matter of time.

When Callista had made her final choice on Nam Chorios to have no further contact with her brother, Leia had known that no matter what he said or how stable he pretended to be, that decision would have a serious and long-standing effect on him. She prepared herself for anger, for sorrow, for disbelief, for loneliness...but not for a total severing of their Force bond. However, she decided that she would allow him the solitude he needed to regain his strength and resolve, and let him alone. But as the anniversary of the battle of Endor -- the true beginning of the New Republic -- fast approached and celebrations were planned all over Coruscant, Leia became more and more agitated by Luke's apparent ignorance of her attempts at communication. Eventually, this agitation became such that she decided to go to Yavin and confront him with it personally.

Yet as the day of departure grew closer, it became more and more apparent that Leia would not be able to go to her brother as she wished. Preparations for the celebration became more and more demanding, as it would be one of the most important events to happen on the planet in years. After practice one morning she had quietly asked Mara if she would go in her place. Mara had been reluctant, as she and Luke had always had a very precariously balanced relationship, but was equally reluctant to upset the friendship she had spent months forming. Finally after about a week of repeated requests, Mara agreed to go to Yavin and bring him back, and then decided to return to the Academy to complete her training. It was a wise decision, she thought at the time, since there was nowhere in the galaxy she was more loath to be than Coruscant during the celebration of the downfall of the Empire. She may have joined the New Republic in spirit, but the memories of that time were still too painful to relive in such a fashion as the Council was planning. 'Luke cannot let Callista go, Mara,' Leia had said at the end. 'I am hoping that if I get him back here, I can help shake him out of it. Life goes on.'

"It goes on, yes, it it always will."

Mara's head jerked up in surprise to see Luke standing a few feet away from her in the center of the floor, hair mussed from sleep, his flight suit wrinkled and askew.

"I sleep lightly," he continued, "I am always aware of the Force. Emotions create Force disturbance, you know," he half-lectured. "You should learn to not let down your guard if you don't want to share information. So you and Leia have become close." It was a statement, not a question, and though she put out a light probe it was impossible to tell how he felt about it from the expressionless state of his face.

"Yes." She stared up at him from underneath her tousled hair. "Is that a problem for you?" *Watch it, Jade, you are way too defensive.*

Luke's face reflected surprise, as he crossed the few remaining feet and sat down across the table from her. "No, of course not, two are of a like mind in many ways. I am surprised....but I am more surprised that Leia has been training, not that she has been training with you. Her position allows for few friends. I am grateful for every one she obtains. Loneliness is not something I wish for my sister."

"Just for yourself."

Luke looked away from her. "I do not wish it. I accept it."

Anger Mara didn't know she felt swelled within her, causing Luke to look up sharply. *Why are you so upset by that?* she berated herself. *If he wants to wallow, let him!* She took a few deep breaths to calm herself and then surprised them both by continuing, "Why? Why do you accept it? What reason is there for acceptance?"

"When one is denied what one wants, one accepts that one cannot have it."

Mara smacked a hand, open palm down on the table. "Don't chew up your Jedi garbage and then try to feed it to me, Skywalker. If you would stop reciting by rote and start feeling something for a change, you'd be a lot more interesting. I don't know where you got this convoluted idea of how a Jedi Master should act. If you look up 'Jedi' in the dictionary, it doesn't say 'person clad only in black. Must spend life exclusive of love and happiness'. If it did, you can bet I never would have signed up for lessons."

Luke met her flashing gaze clearly. "I have love from my family--"

"Your sister's family--"

He ignored her completely. "--and my work brings me contentment. I ask for nothing more from the Force. What I have is my destiny."

She stared up at him in disbelief. "Did someone drug you? That's a load of Bantha fodder and you know it! Who has foreseen your future? Don't bother to try and tell me you have, because you may be the most powerful known living Jedi, but that is beyond even your reach." She ran a hand irritably through her hair. *Careful, Mara, you're getting in over your head here.* "You know, I don't think even you believe half the stuff that comes out of your mouth. You're just reciting what you were taught was truth."

*So what I told you was true...from a certain point of view.*

Luke got up, this memory of Obi-Wan still ringing in his head, and strode across the room to the viewscreen, staring out into the starlines. Without turning, he said, "It is the truth that I live with, Mara. I believe it because it is happening. It is my destiny because I see no other." He spun, suddenly, to face her. "Why does this upset you so much? The last time I checked my happiness and general well-being were not top on the list of Jade urgencies. What's changed?"

Mara opened her mouth, then shut it abruptly. *What are you doing?* Being friends with Organa Solo was strange enough. Being friends with her brother was quite a different story...what was happening here? She turned her face away from him for a moment. True, the days had passed when she wanted nothing more than to see him dead; true, she had been strongly entertaining the idea of immersing herself in Jedi study--albeit not with him; and true, she was showing an awful lot of concern for his current frame of mind. *I knew I spent too much time with the Solos,* she thought wryly. *I'm even picking up their nauseatingly sweet concern for each other.* But seemingly without even thinking, she slid over on the bench.

He started at her voice in his mind, and for several long seconds neither one of them moved. Who was more surprised, no one could tell, but eventually Luke walked over and sat beside her, shifting his weight uncomfortably several times.

Mara glanced sideways, and continued when she saw his eyes fixated on a loose thread on his sleeve. "The idea of my being close to your sister is still...well, very strange. It was also unexpected." She looked down at her hands. "I haven't had a lot of friends in my life. The Emperor ensured that he had me to himself, so the ins and outs of relationships are a little unknown to me. No one was more uncomfortable than I was by your sister's request for me to come for you, and as you have already found out through your Force eavesdropping, I nearly didn't agree."

"Why did you?" asked Luke quietly.

Why did I indeed? she thought to herself, careful to shield it from him. *What is with me these past months? Growing soft am I.* She groaned internally. *Great. Now I'm even talking like his dead Master.*

"Mara?" he reached out and touched her hand briefly, but it was enough. She leapt to her feet, almost stumbling in her haste to stand. With a shiver, she stepped neatly away from the table and away from Luke. It worked; the moment was broken.

"I have to get some sleep. Think you and this tin trash can of yours can watch the readings, farmboy?"

His coolness quickly matched hers, in defense. "I think so. I saw a holofilm on it once."

She raised an eyebrow at his uncharacteristic sarcasm before striding from the room without a backwards glance. Luke ran a hand through his hair at Artoo's indignant series of beeps. "No, Artoo, she's mad at usual. I just wish I knew why this time." He stood and walked to the flight chair, where he collapsed with a sigh. He couldn't wait to get to Coruscant. It had been easier when she had just wanted to kill him. At least then he understood her.


Mara sat on her bunk two days later, pulling on her utility boots and wondering how on earth she had gotten into this miserable situation. After the first night he spent on the flight deck, Luke had not emerged from his cabin--not for food, for exercise, and certainly not for her company. While she was not exactly insane about the idea of spending every waking moment in his presence, she thought she would at least have something besides a droid and her own thoughts to talk to. Several times she had stretched out tentative Force tendrils, only to have a wall slammed down on them before she got anywhere near to contact. On the second day of his self-imposed isolation she gave up trying and decided he could rot first in his cabin, and then on Coruscant, for all she cared. She would only come out of orbit long enough to drop him at the palace, and then she would put as much distance between herself and the celebration as possible. Let him spend the rest of his life mourning a woman who had technically been dead for decades. It was his choice.

"Yes, it is!"

Stunned, she jerked her head up to see Luke, standing in the open doorway, eyes afire with anger.

"How did you get in here, Skywalker?" she demanded.

He ignored her question, brushing it aside with an irritable slash of his hand through the charged air. "You have spent far too much time with Leia, I think. Something all the women in my life must accept is that I cannot and will not let Callista go. I don't care whose body she inhabits. I don't care if she can touch the Force. And it doesn't matter if she is here physically, she is always, always here!" he thumped himself roughly on the chest. Mara swallowed hard, looking up at him in disbelief. "No one, Callista included, can believe that. So I am apparently destined to be alone. Fine. I have accepted that as a part of my life. Apparently it is the fate of the male Jedi to live a solitary life. Obi-Wan, Yoda. It is only the other people in my life that cannot accept it. What I feel for her goes far beyond love. She is the other half of my soul. And if I have to wander the galaxy for decades, alone, waiting for her to regain herself and return to me, then so be it!" he thundered at her.

Unexpectedly her eyes were flooding with tears. For herself, the way he was screaming at her? Perhaps. For him, for the life he had resigned himself to? Maybe. But it served one purpose: his anger was gone as quickly as it had arisen, and regret dawned in his eyes. "I'm sorry, Mara," he whispered. "This is why I severed the bond with Leia. No one should have to share this."

He turned quickly and walked out, letting the door close behind him. Mara sat back against the wall, not bothering to wipe the few tears that escaped from her eyes, and stared at the spot where he had just been. His words rang in her ears as she slowly sank to the mattress, curled up to defend herself against any further verbal onslaught, should he come back. Silently she cursed the light-years that still lay between their current position and Coruscant, and eventually she fell asleep.


Luke spent the night in the cockpit of the ship, staring restlessly out at the starlines. *What is wrong with me?* He had been much better at controlling himself in the past. He had accepted this...hadn't he? He dragged a hand through hair that was badly in need of a trim, and wondered when the last time he had actually thought of his appearance had been. Why was he suddenly so angry at everyone? He thought back to that day on Nam Chorios, reliving it in his head for the thousandth time.

A figure had come rappelling over the wall and he had watched it climb down the rope to the ground. When it had brought up a hand to release the veils that covered its face, he had known, immediately, instinctively, that it was Callista. The hair he had only completely seen in visions had blown around her head as they stood, motionless, on opposite sides of the compound. He could feel her begging him, silently, not to move. Every cell in his body screamed against this, but somehow he obeyed. Somehow, he found the strength to raise a hand in farewell, instead of hurtling his body across the space that separated them and gathering her into his arms, instead of somehow finding a way to keep her and allow her to find herself at the same time. 'I understand,' he had said silently to her plea. And then, once again, he had watched her walk out of his life. Watched her turn away and walk up the gangplank into the ship that would take her away from him, perhaps forever. And he had done nothing to stop her. Nothing.

The anger he had grown comfortable with over the last months again settled over him. 'Anger can be but a symptom,' he remembered hearing somewhere...Ben, perhaps, or Yoda. 'A way of cloaking feelings too awful to experience directly.' So what was it he was avoiding? Who was the anger directed towards? Himself, for retreating into his lonely past, being considerate of everyone's feelings at the expense of his own happiness? Callista, for choosing her endless, fruitless quest over the joy they had found together, bringing a winter to his life more bleak and deadly then the one he had survived on Hoth? Leia, for insisting that he rejoin the world of the living, for persisting in her incessant contacting of him, urging him to move on? Mara, for getting under his skin and intruding on his private sorrow? Or was the anger truly, as he had been told, just a symptom? And if it was, what did it tell him?

Luke stood and walked to the dining console, calling up a cup of hot chocolate which he carried to the table. For years he had accepted that he would be alone as he watched one woman after another walk out of his life, usually choosing duty over him. He would do the same in most instances, wouldn't he? Nothing was more important than the Jedi Academy, than rebuilding the lost race to make the New Republic a safer place. Right? His thoughts wandered to the Academy, and the growing realization that it functioned just as well when he was gone as it did when he was there. Well, that was what he had wanted, wasn't it? He had never been completely comfortable with the teaching role and had been only too pleased when several students progressed to the point that they could take over that role from him. So what was he needed for on Yavin? To be the role model, the great Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, the paragon of virtue, the example to follow? The Jedi Knights were changing and evolving with the years, regaining their strength and position. It is what he had fought, labored, and struggled for. He was a part of it, yes, but no longer the center. He was not alone any longer...not in that sense. It left him in the uncomfortable position of not really being needed on his own planet. And if the Academy didn't need him, what was he to do?

He snorted to himself. The ex-Commander Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight and Master, was no longer needed. His responsibility to the galaxy, it would seem, was over. Oh, Leia could find countless positions for him, lists of duties; he could return to the Academy and continue to teach despite the fact that others there were more than capable. But he slowly realized that he wasn't needed to do those things. For the first time in years, he was truly free of obligation--and he didn't know how appealing that idea was. Freed from the constraints that had bound him to a routine life, what would happen to him? What was to stop him from jumping into his X-wing and taking off for parts unknown? Why, there were several vacation planets he had been meaning to visit for years--perhaps Han could get a few weeks away and they would take the Falcon and--

Luke shook his head sharply. What had gotten into him? He had lived the life of the Jedi Master for so long it was impossible to tell where the Force left off and Luke began. And perhaps, he thought, that was the problem. He was so ingrained in the Force that Callista was unable to remain with him. It was too painful for her; too much of a reminder of what she had lost--and if she needed to touch the Dark Side to find her way back to the Light, it was all the better that he was not there, for his battles against the Dark had been many and painful. Would she find her way back to him? Probably not. Would he survive it? Liegeus had said that the human capacity for loving was too great for a single loss to blight. Callista's future lay down a different road than his--whether those roads would eventually merge together someday was impossible to foretell. He knew that she was safe, and strong, and as happy as she could be without half of herself. She could no more give up her quest than Luke could give up the Force to be with her. It was something he was going to have to accept, or life would eventually become unbearable.

Somehow, somewhere, over the years, he had managed to retain part of the Tatooine farmboy deep within him. It was a part of him he had lost over the last few months, a part he needed to find again. A good place to start would be with humility: he owed someone an apology. Resolutely he stood and walked towards Mara's cabin. No answer was forthcoming at his knock, and he was loathe to open the door through the Force. "Mara?" he called softly. "Mara, open the door, please."

To his surprise the door slid open almost immediately and he was confronted with the sight of her, face pale and eyes red, hair in disarray. She looked...*awful,* he thought. came her voice quietly in his head. He just stared at her, hardly able to believe that he had upset her this much, and having absolutely no idea what to say to her. Several moments passed, as an embarrassment went back and forth between them, for she was equally unbelieving that she had actually let him get to her like this. Finally, she swallowed and said with a mustering of her usual spirit, "If you tell anyone about this, Skywalker, I'll string you up on your Great Temple." He reached a hand out towards her, but she flinched away.

"Come on, Mara, I've been missing lightsaber practice lately. You always enjoy trying to kill me."

The silent apology was offered. Mara stepped through the door past him, hand already drawing her weapon, and accepted it.


The next two days passed without incident. Mara and Luke spent most of their time circling each other, neither eager to have a repeat of the emotional clashes that had cluttered their first few days in hyperspace. Apart from the daily lightsaber practice, which Luke always won--though Mara gave him quite a run for his money-- each spent a good deal of the day in their respective cabins. When they did emerge, they spent most of their time good-naturedly arguing over meals or battling for control of the holovid player. Luke would sit for hours in a corner and listen to Artoo's chatter, something that baffled Mara. Better silence than talking to a droid, any day. Their last day in space dawned the same as the others; Luke was nursing a cup of hot chocolate at the dining table when Mara sauntered in with her saber in hand.

"You're a little early, aren't you?" he grumped into his drink.

She favored him with a withering look and gestured to the floor behind her. "You always have the advantage of being awake--do you think an opponent is going to wait for you to be well-rested? On your feet, already." Lazily she began to spin her blade around in midair. "Boy, are you slow."

Luke's eyes narrowed as he pushed back from the table and got to his feet. "You know, Mara, sometimes you can really--"

Without warning her blade was ignited and swinging down towards his head. Reflexively his saber leapt from his belt to his hand, igniting in mid-flight, to effortlessly meet and block her blow. "You have to get up a lot earlier to fool me like that." He parried her next swing and brought his blade up sideways to meet hers again, and the battle was on.

Artoo whistled from the corner incessantly as they drove each other across the floor, blades crashing into one another. Mara's stride was sure and even as she fought against him; she had been growing more confident every day though she had not beaten him yet. A long side stroke from Luke almost disarmed her, but she spun out of the way in time and jumped behind a desk. He released the desire to cut through the piece of furniture and swung at her several times, chasing her back out into the open. They continued this way for nearly half an hour, each pushing the other's limits, back and forth across the room. The air was charged with energy and the Force was strong around them as each sought to better the other.

Unexpectedly though, Luke caught his leg on the back of the table and, with a look of surprise, went down on his back, lightsaber flying out of his hand with a clatter. Mara's face began to light up with glee--until he deftly grabbed hold of her ankle and, yanking hard, brought her down on top of him. She landed like a dead weight on his chest, momentarily knocking the wind out of him, disbelief painted across her face that he would take her victory so poorly. he laughed in her mind. Her temper flared and, left with no other route of revenge, she moved her hands swiftly to his stomach...and tickled. Luke jumped reflexively, trying to dodge her fingers, laughing. "So, the all-powerful Jedi master is human after all," she chortled, relentless in her attack. Laughter was rolling off Luke in waves as he caught her wrists in one hand and flipped them both over, pinning her down beneath him on the floor--and then it died abruptly on his lips as he looked down into her face.

Mara's eyes went suddenly hazy, dusky clouds overshadowing the brilliant emerald, her lashes heavy on her cheeks as her eyes met his. He was completely aware of the length of her body pressed against his, her thighs against his thighs, her hair spilling over the floor and brushing his hand where it held hers high above her head. Her breasts were pushed high into his chest, but surprisingly enough, he fixated on her heartbeat, pounding in her ribcage under him. He swallowed loudly, lips suddenly dry, as the color first drained from Mara's face, then swelled back into it, flushing her cheeks scarlet. Several seconds passed as they stared at each other, unable to move.

A series of beeps from Artoo startled Luke out of his reverie, and he scrambled up from the floor to the cockpit, leaving Mara to collect herself in peace. "We're, uh, we're coming up on Coruscant," he stammered. Get a grip on yourself! he snapped silently to himself. Aloud, he said, "I'll transmit the clearance codes to the landing crews." Nothing but silence greeted him, and finally he drew the courage to look over his shoulder to see Mara with her back to him, staring out the side port. *Thank the Force we're here,* he breathed. *But nothing would have happened. Everything is under control.* He eased forward the instrument that dropped them out of hyperspace into orbit around the capital planet.

"Coruscant Control," he said into the comm unit, "This is Jedi Master Skywalker aboard the 'Jade's Fire'. Request permission to land."


"What's going on between you and Luke?"

Mara spun around from the window of the briefing room to face Luke's twin. Leia Organa Solo stood before her clad in a simple practice suit, hair twined around her head in the same braids she had worn for years. A few wrinkles outlined her eyes delicately, but other than that, she could easily be the same girl who had cheated death many times during the Rebellion. Her lightsaber swung casually from her belt as she planted balled fists on her waist.

"Hello, Leia." Mara's voice was clipped.

Leia smiled wryly. "That may have worked before, Mara, but I think we're beyond this now, don't you? Do I have to fight it out of you?" she chided. Mara stood silently before her, emerald eyes meeting brown, and said nothing, her face curiously still. "Mara?"

The lanky trader turned back to the window, heart pounding. What could she tell Skywalker's twin? What she couldn't even explain to herself? How could she describe those days on the Fire, those six days during which she had felt a wider range of emotions than she had felt in the last six years? She had spent years nursing an extreme hatred of the Jedi Master; had plotted his death hundreds of times. A series of events beyond her control had changed that plot before her eyes, as she found herself again and again forced to ally herself with him for one reason or another, until finally she had to admit that she no longer sought his extinction. Over the years they had formed a sort of truce, and though she wouldn't admit it in public, there had been times when she enjoyed his company. But that is all! she told herself fiercely, and willed herself to believe it.

Slowly she turned back to Leia, a brief smile flickering across her lips. "We had a few arguments, Leia, that's all..Luke probably thinks I am still mad at him."

"Are you?" Leia said, her tone dubious.

"Yes." That would give her an excuse to not be seen in his presence, if needed. Which was what she wanted. *It is,* she chided herself when she felt the doubt settle over her. The sooner she could get her business on Coruscant wrapped up and head back to Yavin, the better, for all concerned. "Practice yet today?" she asked lightly.

Leia looked at her through narrowed eyes. "No, I was waiting for you. Practice room three in an hour?"

Mara nodded, and Leia smiled briefly, backing out of the room with a slight wave. It was only then that the trader let out the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding.


Leia pursed her lips thoughtfully as she strode through the halls of the Palace towards Luke's quarters. *What is going on?* she thought. She hadn't even seen Luke since they landed--in fact, she hadn't seen him in over six months, since the day they had arrived back at Coruscant from their mission to Nam Chorios. He had seemed fine on that journey back; he had appeared to come to accept Callista's chosen path through life and had seemed at peace and free. What had happened when he arrived back at the Academy she could only guess at-- but if it had been she and not he in that position, returning to a home she had shared with a love now lost to her, she might also choose to immerse herself in sorrow and self-pity for a time.

She would not, however, sever her Force bond with Luke. They had spent so many years not knowing of the other's existence, and even after they met, they were unaware of their kinship with one another. It seemed it had taken years to discover all the details of their lives apart, and even now he never failed to surprise her with things like another story of his youth on Tattooine, or a food she didn't know he liked. It was a constantly growing bond, a vital part of her daily existence. While they didn't communicate every day, it was comforting to be able to reach out with her senses in the middle of a tedious meeting and touch the edge of his warmth. Through the Force, she was never alone--until, abruptly, he had shut walls down around his mind and refused to let her behind them. She assumed it would be a brief isolation, but as it went on for weeks and then months she slowly progressed from resolve, to anger, to hurt, and finally to acceptance as she realized what he needed to do for himself.

Now that he was "home", though, Leia was fed up with it. Several attempts at mental greeting had come up against the same walls he had held her at bay with for months. It was after the third such try that she decided it had gone on long enough, and she began the long walk from the Senate briefing room to his apartments in the same wing that housed hers. As she reached the door, she wondered for the hundredth time that day what exactly had happened on board the Fire. She reached out a hand and rang the door chime, and the door opened almost immediately.

Brother and sister stood for several moments in silence, each examining the effects of nearly seven months apart. Leia was shocked to see the first evidence of aging in her twin; his hair had begun to gray slightly around the temples, his face looked drawn and tired, his posture was stooped. Luke, on the other hand, thought his sister had never looked better; her hair was shining, her skin bright and clear, her figure under the trim practice suit showed off the months of practice she had indulged in. Finally, he reached out his hands and drew her into the room and into his arms, pressing a kiss to her forehead.

"I've missed you," she murmured into his shoulder.

"It's good to be home," he replied softly. Home had always been where she was--even before Ben's revelation on Dagobah. He drew back slowly, saying, "I'm sorry, Leia, for--"

She laid a finger on his lips. "Ssh. Don't apologize. It's been a long and lonely time without you, but you did what you had to do."

He sighed and drew completely away from her. "No I didn't...I did what I wanted to do. I wasted half a year floundering in my own inability to accept and process the truth, wallowing in my loneliness and self-pity. I shut you out of my life, something I have never intended to do...and I am sorry for it, Leia. Can you forgive your selfish brother?"

Leia smiled up at him, pulling him forward for another long hug. "There is nothing to forgive, Luke, as long as you intend to lower those walls and let me back in." She felt him stiffen at that, and backed up a little. "What is it?" she asked as he looked away from her, uncertainty flickering in his eyes. "Luke," she asked cautiously, "What happened between you and Mara?"

His head jerked up immediately. "Why? What did she say?"

"Nothing, nothing more than you are, but I got almost exactly the same reaction from her when I asked." She stepped forward and laid a land on his arm. "Is something going on between you two?"

Luke shook his head slowly, almost dazedly, and finally looked up to meet her gaze. "No...nothing...I don't think anything is going on."

"You don't think?"

"We had a few rough days on the Fire, that's all. She stepped beyond where I thought she should go, I overreacted, we had a few fights and some fierce lightsaber battles. Everything is fine now."

Leia examined her brother closely. There was definitely something different about him, beyond the aging and weariness that the prior months had caused, something different about the eyes. They stood there staring at each other for several moments before she nodded and said, "I hope so, Luke. It's been hard on all of us without you." There was something different in his eyes, though. Something she hadn't seen since their trip to Nam Chorios: somewhere, somehow, a little hope had come back into him -- and she had her doubts that it had anything to do with Callista.

Smiling, she hooked both her arms through one of his and looked up at him. "The children and Han can't wait to see you -- are you up for some dinner later?"

Despite his overall mood, he found himself grinning down at her in return. He had definitely been gone too long. "Let me change and make myself look a little more human, and I'll meet you at your apartments."

She nodded and pressed a final kiss to his cheek, stepping away and towards the door. With one hand on the panel, she called back over her shoulder, " I have practice first, so take your time. I'll make sure Mara can come."

She felt him stiffen behind her, and smothering her overwhelming curiosity, she left the room.


Several hours later, Luke found himself in the middle of Leia's -- his -- laughing, smiling family, inhaling the smell of perfume, sweat, fur and crayons as his friends and relations welcomed him back to the fold. Jaina threw her arms around him like she would never let go, and Luke smothered a laugh as Jacen, having recently reached the noble age of five, solemnly offered him a hand in greeting. His father's namesake clamored to be picked up, and he reached down and swung young Anakin onto his shoulders, leading the parade into the living area. Luke settled himself into a corner of the couches, his niece and nephews surrounding him, Han, Leia, Chewie and Winter all nearby. It was indeed, after everything, good to be home.

"OK, I want to hear what mischief you've been up to since I've been gone," said Luke with a contented smile. All three children started to talk at once, and the clamor was deafening.

"One at a time!" their father laughed.

"Uncle Luke, I'm playing you in the school pageant!" Jacen said excitedly, his dark head close to his uncle's blonde one. Luke looked at him, dumbstruck, completely at a loss for what to say.

Han's laughter rumbled in his chest, mingling with Chewie's bark of amusement. "Kid, if you could see your face right now -- "

Leia tucked away her grin and began to explain. "It's part of the celebration for next week; the Junior Academy is staging a pageant honoring the success of the Rebellion. Jacen has been chosen to play the part of Commander and Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker,"

Jacen jumped to his feet, bowed, and announced, in as deep a voice as his five year old vocal cords would allow, "This is Red Five, I'm going in!"

Hysterical laughter rang throughout the room for several moments as Luke took this all in. He shook his head, unable to believe it. "They are actually turning the Battle for the Death Star into a play?"

His twin looked over at him, eyes dancing merrily. "They're turning the whole Rebellion into a play. Wait till I tell you what you get to do next week!"

"Oh, I can only imagine...hmm, let me guess...lessons on how to cook Yoda's famous swamp stew? to infiltrate Imperial bases when you're too short to be a stormtrooper? How to slice bread with a lightsaber?" Luke laughed back at her.

She shook her head, grinning. "Better. Among other things, you get to judge the "Why the Alliance is Better Than the Empire" essay contest for the sixth level." She opened her mouth to continue his list of duties as a wry voice said from behind them,

"You had better make sure he knows how to spell 'alliance' first, I think."

"Mara!" the children launched themselves at her like one body, and nearly knocked her over in the onslaught. As the family rose to greet her, Luke hung back for the chance to observe her unnoticed. This was a Mara he rarely got to see, for she had discarded the worn flight suit for long, flowing robes of greenish-blue, and her hair was wound around her head in intricate curls, rather than flying about her face as usual. He thought that he preferred it the other way, loose and wild, and then was surprised to realize it.

I never knew you noticed, she spoke in his mind. He ripped his gaze from her, taking a deep breath to clear his senses. What had gotten into him lately? And why was she having such an easy time hearing his thoughts? He seemed to be swinging from one extreme to the other. One moment he was lost in a sea of memories of Callista, the next minute he was mooning like a schoolboy over Mara Jade's hair -- Mara, who had wanted to kill him; Mara, with whom he had never really gotten along; Mara, who bore his father's lightsaber, which he had given to her; Mara, who had risked her life for his time and again.

"....listening to me, Luke?"

He pulled himself back to the world, meeting Leia's gaze across the room. "What? Sorry." He dragged a hand through his hair. "Did you say something to me?"

Leia gestured towards the dining room. "Could you get Mara a drink, please?"

He nodded, backing off in that direction. "Sure...a drink..." he disappeared around the corner. Han pulled his wife around the corner under the cover of Jaina's overloud description to Mara of the outfit she would wear for the festivities, and asked "What's with him?"

Leia looked up at her husband, concern mingling with merriment in her eyes. "Something to do with Mara, I assume...but I don't know how I feel about that, and apparently, neither do they."

Han's eyes widened slightly, as he looked back over his shoulder at the Jedi trader whose head was huddled close to his daughter's. "Luke and Mara? That Mara?" his breath came out in a rush. "I never would have guessed that in a million years." He pulled Leia to him in a brief embrace. "How do you think you would feel about that?"

She shook her head thoughtfully. "I don't know...I don't know. We get along far better now than we ever did -- you know we've grown closer these last months -- and Luke has always trusted her, even when she was going to kill him. His intuition has always been better than mine." Several seconds passed before she glanced up at him again. "Callista was a good friend."

Han nodded, thoughtfully. "Yes, she was." The years had not changed him, and he was still a man of few words. "Pretty, too."

Leia swatted at him with her free hand. "Scoundrel," she teased, before growing pensive again. "She chose the road she needed to follow, and it doesn't look like it will lead her back here. I hate the idea of him waiting for her for the rest of his life, on the off chance she may someday regain her Force sensitivity. I know they basically agreed to part and lead their own lives, but I don't know if he will do that. It's a waste. He should have children of his own."

"And what if he decides those children should also be Mara's?"

Leia was silent for a long time before turning around and looking at him. "Then I would like to think I would look on her as the friend she has become rather than the enemy she was in the past. The Empire is all but dead, Han. Maybe it's time for my old prejudices to join it."

Han rested his forehead against hers briefly. "Are you going to tell him about the part of the celebration you have been keeping quiet?"

She shook her head. "Not yet. He has too much on his mind already. We have a week left--there is time." Leia looked around the corner, at her children, entwined around their uncle, and at Mara Jade, drink in hand, watching it all from Chewie's side. *It was going to be quite a celebration,* she thought, and stepped back into the room. " everyone ready to eat?"


The sunset view from the roof of the Palace had always been spectacular, and tonight's viewing had been no different. A slow but steady breeze blew across the rooftops as dusk crept in to take possession, and one by one the lights in the buildings below began to come on. Luke lifted his face into the night, closing his eyes and stretching out with the Force to be more a part of the evening. How long had it been since he had stood here like this, with the stars shining down on him, the stone railing pressing into his stomach, the concrete hard beneath his boots? A lightness filled him, as he grabbed hold of the railing with both hands and leaned back, his hood falling from his head, the wind running its fingers through his hair. He spun around on one foot and began to trace a path along the ledge, hands held out needlessly for balance. Exuberance had been slowly creeping up on him in the last few days, and he was beginning to realize that the memories on Yavin had been holding him prisoner. Here, away from the forests and temples, in the bosom of his family, he could not only see the road away from Callista stretching out before him, he could actually think about starting the journey down it.

*She is well, and strong,* he thought for what must have been the thousandth time. It had become like a mantra to him. It was a mantra he thought it was time to let go of. He looked down at the black tunic, pants and robes he always wore, and thought of Mara's definition of Jedi: 'person clad only in black. Must spend life exclusive of love and happiness'. Her voice rang in his head as he chuckled at her sarcasm, and then the laughter faded from his lips. Mara was right. Leia was right. Holding on to Callista, even from a distance, would never bring her back to him. It was time to begin life again.

Slowly he reached his hands up and pulled a chain over his head. At the end of the chain swung a small medallion with the symbols of the Old Republic and the New side by side. Callista had given it to him as a humorous reminder of the years that separated them. It was the only reminder of her that he kept on his person, and taking it off would be a large step in returning to the world of the living. He held it up to the light, seeing it reflect off the 'C' and 'L' that were carved on the other side. He started to place it in a pocket, but his hand paused halfway there. *Let the past go.* Bringing it to his lips, he flung out with his mind, There will always be my love for you...may your road be a good one.. He knew there would be no response and that she had not even heard him. Pulling his arm back, he flung the medallion into the air, and with a nudge of the Force, sent it flying out of the city into the night. Goodbye.

He expected to feel sorrow, but finally, after all those long, dark months, he truly felt freedom. His love for Callista was tucked away within him, would always be part of him, but would no longer consume him. It, like his career as a teacher, seemed to be fading into the past. What he would do next was a question for tomorrow, perhaps, but for now, he felt strangely like celebrating.

"Littering, Skywalker?" Mara had the satisfaction of seeing him jump. "Shouldn't throw things randomly into midair; small creatures may mistake it for food! Wouldn't want to choke an Ewok, would you?" she asked wryly.

Luke met her smile with one of his own. "No, but I know you would, knowing how bloodthirsty you are." He turned back to the city before him, suddenly self- conscious. "Dessert over?" He felt her walk over and lean against the rail a foot or so away from him.

"Yes, and since Jaina helped tonight for the first time, she was none too happy that you missed it."

"I had some business to take care of."

Mara snorted. "On the roof? You don't have to make excuses to me, Skywalker."

"You know, my first name is a lot easier to say. It only has one syllable." He was delighted to see her flush and turn her head slightly. "Come on, can do it...although on second thought, you know, I bet you just have a speech impediment, is that it? You're afraid I'll hear you call me 'Wuke', like Anakin does! If that's the case, then.."

Mara spun on him, a dangerous gleam in her eyes. "Can it, farmboy."

He would have thought she was angry, if he hadn't caught the slight shake of her shoulders as she turned away. Laughter came bubbling up out of him, and finally she joined him, laughing so hard she had to sit down on the pavement. When he sank down beside her, she wiped a tear from her eye and said, "Help me, oh great Master Wuke," which set them both off again. Several minutes of hilarity passed, after which silence settled over them as they both sat, lost in thought, staring up over the ledge and into the night.

"Do you remember the last time we were up here?" he asked quietly.

Her hand went reflexively to her belt. "Of course," she said lightly, remembering all too vividly her confusion when he had drawn his father's lightsaber out of his tunic and handed it to her, his aw-shucks farmboy side showing through clearly. She didn't know if he had even known why he had given it to her, but she had been grateful for it on many occasions since then.

"You know," he said thoughtfully, "you are strong enough to make your own now."

She met his gaze steadily, hand tightening around the weapon. "I'm used to this one."

He stared at her for several moments, unblinking, nodding slowly. "I figured you were." he glanced away, looking up at the stars. "I'm sorry for everything that happened on the Fire. There was no excuse for my making you a part of that."

*For everything?* Mara thought involuntarily, her mind recalling the feeling of his weight pressing down on her. She shot a glance at his profile, drawn and a little pale in the moonlight. Whatever demons haunted him, they seemed to be disappearing. She remembered once upon a time, when she didn't deserve it, he had cared enough to help her banish hers. Tentatively, she reached out and took hold of his hand. He started in surprise and looked down at their intertwined fingers. A few moments passed as they both got used to the unaccustomed feeling. Slowly he lay back on the pavement, forcing her to either also lay back or let go of his hand. She chose the former.

Several minutes passed, and then out of the corner of her eye she saw him raise his free hand, pointing toward a distant spark in the sky. "That's Yavin, you know," he murmured.

A smile swept across Mara's face and she tightened her grip briefly. "I know, flyboy, I took astronomy. Do you know what...that one is?"


In her rooms far below the roof, Leia stretched through the Force to touch, with surprising ease, the edge of her brother's mind. She was amazed at how relaxed he was, at the calm that radiated outwards from him--so amazed that it took her several unbelieving seconds before she said, 'Is Mara with you?'

She felt his smile. Yes--I'm sorry we haven't come back to dinner.

What are you doing? she asked dubiously.

Arguing about whether a dot in the sky that I know is Kashyykk is Kashyykk. Mara's a little stubborn, you know.

I heard that, Wuke, Mara joined in, and Leia could feel their silent laughter.

Wuke? she asked. Never mind. Have a good night, you two.

She felt Mara pull away from them.

I love you, Leia...stop worrying. I think I'm going to be fine.

Leia smiled in spite of herself. I know. It's been a long time coming. I love you too...good night.

She was still smiling moments later when Han emerged from the twins' bedroom. "What is it, Princess?"

"Luke. He's with Mara, on the roof, arguing about the stars."

Han's lips stretched in a brief grin. "That sounds like the Luke we know."

"I know," she sighed. "I know it does."

"He'll be OK, Leia. Maybe he's catching up on his lost adolescence." She made a face at him. "Stop worrying."

She turned and put her arms around his waist. "That's what he said."

"Wise man. Must have picked up more from me than I thought."


Hours later, night had truly wrapped its arms around the city, and a slight chill had settled in the air. Mara sat up abruptly, shivering, momentarily disoriented and unable to focus on exactly where she was. Stone. Lots of stone. Cold, hard stone. What the Sith was she doing laying on cold, hard, bare stone? She looked up at the stars and then, rapidly, to her left to see Luke flat on his back beside her, head pillowed on his robes, obviously fast asleep -- as she had apparently been until a few minutes ago. She shook her head sharply, trying to shake off the haziness around her eyes, rubbing the sleep out of them. The last thing she remembered was his voice telling her some overlong story about that lackluster planet he grew up on, and then...nothing but dreams. What had she been dreaming about?

Mara drew her knees up to her chest and hugged them, trying to will some warmth back into her body as she became more fully awake. This was weird, all right; she was sleeping on the Capitol roof with Luke Skywalker. They had spent hours looking at stars and ribbing each other. She had spent six days with him, fighting in hyperspace, and six months becoming friends with his twin sister. Both had been her sworn enemies. Luke had been her personal death mark for years. And now she had not only willingly spent the evening in Luke's company, but had been at ease enough to drift off into sleep.

Their conflicts had, for the most part, all been over for awhile now, but the effects of them still lingered. She could see that while she and Leia could only be called friends now, the Chief of State was concerned over her relationship with Luke. *What relationship?* She snapped at herself. She wasn't sure if Leia trusted her entirely, but she supposed that would come in time. It was very easy to forgive but much harder to forget. *That could be the theme of my life,* Mara thought wryly. Han was harder to read, but she could see that he respected her, and was much easier with people than his wife. Their children seemed very fond of her. Whatever had been between her and the Solos seemed to be fading away to nothingness--so that only left whatever was between her and the other twin.

Mara glanced down at him a second time, trying to remember what it was that she had been dreaming about. He had been telling her about a landspeeder race he had been in...he had won, she recalled...and the party afterwards at a pilot's house...some girl called Camie...and..

Her heart started to pound reflexively as the memory of her dream slammed through her. She had dreamed that she was that girl with Luke that night, had kissed him goodbye, and when he had won the race through the desert, she had met him at the party, where they had danced, and laughed, and then...*oh no.*

She started to get to her feet, only to be stopped immediately by the pull of a hand on hers.


"Let me go, Skywalker, it's cold and I am not spending the night up here."

She jerked free and stood up quickly, nearly falling back to the ground. He was beside her almost as fast, steadying her with a warm hand at her elbow.

"Why are you in such a hurry all of a sudden?" he asked, voice low.

Mara tried to moisten her dry lips, turning her head away from him, unsuccessfully trying to pull her arm free. "I told you, it's cold, and I have an aversion to sleeping on rock."

Unwillingly, she felt him turning her around to face him, and she still kept her face averted. "Come on, Luke, I'm freezing!"

They both froze in shock as they were taken aback by her first uttering of his given name. *It's just a name,* she whispered to herself fiercely as she slowly brought her face around to his. *It doesn't mean anything.*

Finally he said, his voice so low she had to strain to hear it, "Tell me what you dreamed, Mara."

She shook her head. "It wasn't important."

"It was a dream that you opened up to the Force. It must have meant something for you to be thinking about it so much."

She finally succeeded in pulling away, taking several halting steps away from him toward the door, shaking her head to clear it, before the impact of what he said really sank in.

"To...the Force? You mean.." she groaned, unable to believe she could have been so careless in her sleep. Without looking at him again, she started once again for the door, her feet moving far more slowly than she would like. She had almost reached it before she felt him move, and his hands were on her shoulders, first stopping, and then turning her around. She was stunned by the storm in his eyes as his gaze met hers, and slowly, his right hand lifted. Gently, he traced the line of her face from cheek to jaw with the backs of his fingers as his left hand ran lightly over her hair; Mara's breathing became shallow as his hand curved around the back of her head, pulling it towards him. "You are so beautiful," he murmured, wonderingly, as if he had just noticed. No, she thought desperately as their mouths met for the first time.

Yes, I was there with you, he whispered like a caress in her mind, his hands cupping her face as the kiss deepened. Mara's senses were jumbled and confused, her hold on the Force weakening. His mouth on hers, so gentle, compelled her to let go completely. She could feel him reach into her mind and, unable to resist, followed where he took her. He shared the memory of the dream with her, the dream she realized he had been all too aware of. Dimly she felt her hands move up first to his chest, and then twine around his neck as the moments blended into one another. She was aware of his body, hard under her hands; aware of the strength she felt within him, a physical strength she had never been conscious of before; aware of his arms, wrapped tightly around her back; aware of the wind whipping her hair around his face. She was powerless to move away. This was a Luke she had never seen before -- she supposed she had always known he was a man of great passion, he showed it in his teaching and in the way he cared for people -- but she had never before realized it on such a large scale.

Carefully, slowly, she pulled away from him, and he let her, pressing a kiss to her forehead and then leaning his against it, his breath coming raggedly. Mara's eyes remained closed, her thoughts swirling together incoherently, her heart racing out of control. *What is happening here?* She thought dazedly. Her hands tightened convulsively on his neck, and he reached around, taking them in his and bringing them up between them. She opened her eyes as he kissed her fingers one at a time, lightly, and took several deep breaths. She could feel the effort within him to calm down, and eventually, she was able to match it. Several minutes after their lips had separated, Mara raised her eyes to meet his. His gaze was virtually impossible to read, and she was at a complete loss for words. This had to be part of the dream. Naive farmboy and sarcastic trader seemed to have vanished, leaving in their places two silent Jedi, both stunned by how far they had come that evening and in the last few days. Both were wondering what had happened to the people who they had been but a week ago on Yavin Four.

Mara opened her mouth to speak, only to have Luke lay a finger on it to silence her. "Come on," he said quietly. "It's late. I'll walk you back to your room."

She stared at him for a moment, strangely disappointed and visualizing all too clearly the feeling of his lips on hers, and then nodded. "Yes," she replied, feeling foolish. "It is late."

Luke turned and headed for the door but didn't drop her hand until they had descended the stairs and entered the main building, and even then she felt his reluctance to do so. Their journey through the hallways was awkward and strange, and neither would look at the other. Mara walked beside him silently, not daring to speak for fear of what she might say, afraid and uncertain of what she was feeling. All too quickly, they reached the deserted corridor outside her room. She opened the key panel and punched in the code for the door, which slid open as the light came on automatically.

"Come in for a minute?" she asked, suddenly very self-conscious.

Luke smiled briefly, but shook his head. "I don't think that's a very good idea."

Mara stared up at him, heat rising in her cheeks as she caught his meaning. He was right...absolutely right. This was not something that could or should happen. *I don't even like him,* she told herself unconvincingly. *He's not my type.* Well, that certainly may have been true before, she thought next, but that had somehow changed in the last fifteen minutes. The Luke that stood before her, his eyes lidded heavily, the storm in them still brewing, the strength flowing through him so clearly she could almost reach out and touch it -- this was not the Luke she had brushed aside on so many occasions. The power she felt within him attracted her so much that she wondered why she had never felt it before. She was powerless to stop her heart pounding in her chest all over again, so loud to her own ears she was sure he could hear it. As if in response, Luke took hold of her hand once more, placing it over his own heart so she could feel it racing. In that moment, her resolve snapped and she all but hurtled into his arms, smothering his mouth with hers, abandoning her carefully constructed control.

Somehow they managed to get inside the room and shut the door, and Mara found herself pressed up against the wall, his mouth on hers relentlessly, his hands roaming ceaselessly over her body. While the first kiss had been a simple, sweet thing, this one made it quite obvious to the two Jedi that there was much more between them than animosity and sarcasm; much more, even, than friendship. There was no slow buildup here. This was a ferocious passion, roaring through them like dry brush fire, pulsing through them, wet and slick. Her fingers tangled tightly in his hair, forcing his mouth closer and deeper, then her hands were loose and running down his sides as she felt him shudder in response. She was aware of him as she had never been of anyone before. This was a side of Luke she had never seen, never suspected was even there at all. It filled and intoxicated her, and she knew, instinctively, she was the first to see him this way.

Luke's breath strangled in his chest, his desire for her almost consuming him. The dream that he had tapped into had been like a door blowing wide open, and the things he had seen there had created a rush of feeling in him like he had never before known. The intensity of her response both thrilled and frightened him, urging him forward, driving him to an edge he had never reached. At that moment, there was only Mara; her brilliant hair fanned out over the wall, her body straining towards him, her mouth crushed beneath his, and, unlike nothing he had ever imagined, her Force sense creeping into his mind. He had never felt exactly this way before, this passion that verged on dangerous; the almost violent entanglement through the Force. His mouth ravaged hers, his hands unable to touch enough of her. They were one in mind, each one running forward, daring the other to follow, the seduction becoming so amplified Luke was nearly insane with wanting her. His mouth left hers to linger over her face and neck, her breath coming faster as he followed the collar of her robes, his fingers coming up to fiddle with the ties at her neck. Her eyes flew open as his did, his body screaming for her, and she showed him, through the Force, what she thought their next step should be. He could only nod, breathlessly, in agreement.

He bent at the waist and effortlessly swung her off her feet, her legs looped over his arm, her face nuzzling his neck. He started in the direction she indicated, every step carrying them closer to what now seemed like an inevitable conclusion. They had eased slightly out of the mind link to slow things down, and as Luke's mind began to clear a little, his steps also slowed. After what seemed like the longest moment of his life, he carefully set her back on her feet and stepped back a few inches, his eyes moving over her. Her emerald eyes were almost black with desire, her face flushed darkly, lips bruised. His hands in her hair had dislodged the last of the pins holding it together, and they now littered the floor beneath their feet. Her robes were askew, falling open to reveal enough flesh to make him take another step forward, and her lips lifted in a slight smile as she met his gaze, breathing hard.

Luke took a deep breath -- several, in fact -- and then dragged his hands through his hair and over his face, fighting for a semblance of calm before speaking. Unsure of what he was doing, Mara busied herself with straightening her robes and trying to restore order to her hair. "Leave it," he whispered. "That's right," she replied, matching his sudden solemnity. "You like it down." She pursed her lips together, and then said, "OK, Skywalker, what's going on? That was you and I a moment ago, right? I am not sure I understand exactly what--"

"Mara." he interrupted her. "Believe me, right now, I want nothing more than to continue the journey we just began."

She looked away, almost shyly--well, as shy as Mara Jade could get--and then back, saying, "Then come here."

Luke sighed heavily, fighting down the impulses that raged through him, seemingly impervious to even Jedi control. "Ours has been anything but a calm relationship thus far," he began, and Mara snorted. "And, much as I do not want to return to my room tonight, I think maybe we should..." he stopped. "I just think maybe we're..." another long pause. "I'd like it to be more special than this, Mara...not from the roof to the bed in fifteen minutes. It means more to me than this. We tear each other apart enough verbally; I'd rather not do it physically as well." He sighed. "It sounds really, really stupid." The unsure farmboy had definitely returned.

A pang went through her suddenly, and she was surprised to realize that she was touched. "No, it doesn't." She stepped forward and raised a hand, smoothed his hair. "It sounds exactly like you, Skywalker."

Luke looked carefully to see if she meant that as an insult, but saw only sincerity in her now steady gaze. He grinned down at her. "I liked 'Luke' better."

She laughed at him. "We'll save that for another time, I think."

He bent his head, brushed a kiss over her lips.Yes, we will, he whispered in her mind, unable to resist transferring a little of their earlier feelings back to her, pulling her against him briefly. She swatted at him with both hands.

"Get out of here, Skywalker, haven't your emotions caused enough Force disturbance this week?"

"Be nice to me, Jade, or that will be the last you see of them."

"I should be so lucky."

They stood there for a moment, staring at each other, unsure of what to say or how to say it. Their usual wit seemed to have suddenly abandoned them.

Luke walked quickly to the door, turning back briefly as it opened. "I'll see you tomorrow?"

She nodded, and the door closed behind him. Walking to the bar, she poured herself a glass of water and, quickly draining half of it, sank into the sofa. One hand trailed up to trace the path his lips had taken across her neck, and disbelief began to settle over her. *What is going on here?* But as she drifted off to sleep, her only thoughts were of the way his eyes looked before he kissed her for the first time. *He kissed me,* she thought sleepily. *I must be insane.*


It was hard to tell who was more surprised -- Leia or Mara -- when Luke burst in on their practice session the next morning, taking the trader by the elbow and escorting her from the room. "Sorry, Leia, she'll be right back, I promise." Leia stood, mouth open, as the door closed behind them, then shrugged, and lifting her lightsaber, reactivated the remote.

In the hallway outside the practice room, Mara turned to Luke with a smile. "Change your mind about last night? "she quipped. When he didn't respond, she said, "You couldn't wait until the session was over? At least bring your weapon and join in." He was silent, staring at her, his face expressing confusion and...hurt? Mara asked, "What is it?"

"Why is the Fire being prepped for departure?"

She met his gaze evenly. "You know I can't stay here during this time. I told you on the trip I would be going back to Yavin."

Luke let his breath out in a rush. "You never said anything about when. It isn't until next week, Mara, and even then -- I thought you had put your past behind you, I thought we were both doing that."

"This doesn't have anything to do with you. Yes, I am putting away the past -- but surely you can understand what a painful time this will be for me, especially here, watching Coruscant celebrate the victory of the Rebellion!" Mara's eyes flashed emerald fire, her voice rising.

"You mean the victory of the New Republic, of the Alliance, which you are now a part of!" Luke shouted. He held up a hand when she would have jumped in, and his next statement was quieter. "I'm sorry. I know it will be painful. But you're not the only one who will be hurting, Mara. My father died that day. He died redeemed, but before I ever had a chance to know him, to learn from him, to understand him. I became the last of my name that day and , for a time, the last of the Jedi. I stood on Endor, I put Anakin Skywalker's body on a funeral pyre, and watched my friends, and my sister, rejoice over the death of the Emperor. Part of me was happy, but mostly I just felt alone. Alone and abandoned."

"Me too," she admitted. "Everything I thought I was died with the Emperor."

Luke paced away and back a few steps. "But Mara, that's just it -- everything you were did die with the Emperor! You know you are not the same girl that he molded and formed to his whim. The Emperor's Hand is long gone and you are as much as part of the Light as I am now." He took her right hand in both of his. "Stay here, and face it."

"It's not just that." She looked away but made no move to retrieve her hand. "People shouldn't see us together, because of who I was."

"That doesn't matter anymore. It's been ten years. You have more than proven yourself to the Council. Besides -- Vader's son and the Emperor's Hand -- we both have those legacies to deal with. You don't have to do it alone. I'll be with you." Mara looked back at him, her eyes solemn. "I don't know how I'll deal with it. You may not like what happens."

"Let me worry about that."

"You shouldn't have to."

He let out an exasperated sigh. "I want to. Let me." When still she hesitated, he said, "Don't be afraid of what's past. Only the future is frightening."

She caught his double meaning, and nodded. "All right. But don't tell me I didn't warn you."

He gripped her hand fiercely, but there was a twinkle in the seas of his eyes as he said, "I knew you'd see it my way."

Some of the life returned to Mara's eyes as she pulled her hand back and smacked his shoulder with it. "Get your immense ego out of here, Skywalker, unless you plan on coming inside and trying to beat me."

Luke snorted. "Trying? What are you planning on doing, tripping me again?" He ducked around her next swing and opened the door to the practice room. "After you, oh mighty Jedi."

Mara sauntered past him, casually unclipping her lightsaber from her belt. "I'm glad you finally realized my superiority," she said, and spun on him, blade ignited, as soon as he had closed the door. He laughed at the look of disappointment on her face when he brought his up immediately to meet it. "Have to get up a lot earlier to second- guess me, Jade," he called over the clashing blades.

"Hey, who invited you?" Leia shut the remote off. "I guess I get the winner."

"That'll be me," shouted her twin, easily parrying a side stroke from Mara.

"Don't count on it, farmboy," Mara spit at him.

"She's a sore loser, Leia." He laughed as she lunged at him. Leia stood back a ways and watched the sparring, and this time, seeing the brilliance of his smile, it was much easier to banish the uncertainty.


The first day of the planned three-day celebration arrived far too slowly for the citizens of Coruscant who rose early to wait for it. The landing platforms of the capital city were busy all morning, bringing dignitaries from all over the galaxy to honor the heroes of the Alliance and celebrate the beginning of the New Republic ten years before. *Has it been ten years already?* thought Luke to himself as he walked the length of the Palace roof and back, over and over. Ten years since they had met the Empire's fleet head-on and won; ten years since the destruction of the second Death Star; ten years since his first victory over the Dark Side, the death of his father, the discovery of his sister, and the beginning of Mara's journey towards the Light. He could hardly comprehend the seemingly simultaneous passing of the years, in which he had done much to further the cause of the Jedi and restore them to a position of power in the galaxy. From his vantage point on the roof he watched the ships descending from orbit one by one, people streaming out of them into the buildings of the city. The streets were full of people already, yet dawn had not yet broken. The excitement in the air was palpable.

"I was wondering how long you were going to sleep," he said to Mara without turning. He could feel her move up behind him, knew she would step to the railing next to him before she actually did it.

"It's barely light out, Skywalker, I should actually still be asleep."

Despite her light tone, Luke could feel the tension she was trying to hide from him. "You didn't sleep at all, did you?" he asked. He felt her shake her head.

"Why didn't you call me?" he went on. "I was up here almost all night." The knowledge that he, too, had been unable to sleep was a comfort to her somehow.

She shrugged. "I thought our troubles would intrude on each other. I didn't want to burden you with mine on the eve of the reminder of your own."

Luke reached over, took her shoulders and gently turned her to face him. "Mara, I am the one who insisted you stay here for this. I told you I wouldn't let you face it alone. I meant that." They had not really touched since the incident in her room six days before, and both had been careful to remain in the company of others while together. But he pulled her into his arms now, one hand coming up to stroke the hair that had been left down more and more often lately, and she rested her head on his shoulder, her breath coming out heavily.

"I thought I would be angry," she murmured. "I thought I would be consumed with nightmares again. I was afraid to stay, especially to be with you."

Luke nodded, though she could not see him. "Afraid that the Emperor and his commands still live in you somewhere?"

*He understands me so well,* she thought, deep inside her mind. "Yes...and I have come to a rather astounding discovery, for me," she said.

"What's that?" he whispered into her hair.

"I not only have no desire to kill you, I think I would be very, very sorry to see you die...Luke."

Luke tightened his arms around her, the unbelievable sweetness of her remark soaring through him like a spring breeze. He reached into her mind and wrapped a blanket of comfort around both of them, and they stood together, silent and still, as dawn broke over the city in a blazing display of color and light. "The universe holds many wonders for us," he said, watching it over her head.

She laughed a little. "Not the least of which, some would say, would be you and I, together on this roof right now." She shifted in his arms, turned her face towards the light. "What are we doing?"

"What do you mean?"

Mara turned, so that her back was towards him, and leaned back into his embrace, her head falling back on his shoulder, her breath warm against his cheek. "This all just seems...very sudden. And surprising. And unbelievable. And surreal."

"Anything else?" he asked, smiling but serious. Mara looked up at him, and saw only light in his eyes, and relaxed a little. *One step at a time,* she thought. *Give it a chance.* "Okay, Skywalker, I'll try it your way." She reached up and placed a hand over his already open mouth. "Don't even say it."

Luke rubbed his chin in her hair, gently, and kissed the top of her head. "My way is the right way, Mara, eventually you will see that."

"Don't count on teaching me anything," she snorted.

Luke laughed. "Right, right...your training is complete. I forgot how good you are with a lightsaber."

When she whirled on him, eyes flashing, hand at her belt, he hauled her against him, kissing her with a thoroughness that made her momentarily forget what she was angry about. She started to smile back at him, then shook her head sharply. "That won't always work, you know."

"Worked that time," he said with an audacious grin. "We'd better hurry...we don't want to miss the start of today's events." He darted away from her swinging hand and dashed for the door, Mara just steps behind him.


Three hours later, Luke and Mara were mysteriously summoned away from the lunch they were attending and asked to meet Leia in a somewhat remote area of the Capitol. Their escort led them down several levels and then, surprisingly, outside to a small garden behind the main building that neither of them remembered being there. The guard left them at the gate in the surrounding wall with a brief salute, and, looking at each other in confusion, they entered the garden.

Inside the walls, meticulously sculpted paths led through a profusion of plants, flowers and trees to what seemed to be a center clearing. Hearing voices ahead, they hastened their steps, passing several benches and a small pond. They came around a bend in the path, and saw a small group of people standing in front of what appeared to be a sculpture of some sort. Luke's vision was obscured, however. Leia stepped forward to meet him, and as they embraced, he smiled over her head at the others: Han, the children, Chewie, the droids, Lando, Mon Mothma, Admiral Ackbar, Winter, Wedge, and several other friends from time long past.

"What's going on, Leia?" he asked.

Leia looked up at him, taking a deep breath. Her face was solemn. "I had something done, Luke, that I hope you approve of. I thought this would be the best time to show it to you, but for reasons you will soon see, I thought it best we make this more of a family thing rather than a public one."

Luke stared at her for a long moment, trying to read her expression, then nodded. "I would like to see it."

Leia gestured and the group began to move to the sides, and taking her brother by the hand, she led him forward to the small stone monolith placed in the center of the clearing, a tree growing behind it. Luke sucked in his breath as he saw what was engraved on the stone:

'Anakin Skywalker. Jedi Knight and Father.'

He stood there for a long moment, one hand reaching forward and tracing the letters gently, before turning back to his sister. "You have finally accepted it."

She nodded. "I have." She reached up, tucked an errant hair behind her ear. "I thought this might be the best way -- and time -- to prove it to you."

Luke pulled her into his arms and they stood that way for a long moment, his chin resting on her hair, unable to believe that she had done this. He felt someone move and looked around to see Mon Mothma beside them.

"We honor the person your father was and became again, Luke," she said quietly. "We must begin to accept as well as condemn if we are to truly conquer the Empire once and for all."

Luke looked around at the faces of his family and friends, a new light in his eyes. He was no longer the only one who believed in Anakin Skywalker. There were now others...and hopefully, someday, Darth Vader would be remembered solely as the separate entity he had become at the end. A smile lit his face...until his head turned and he saw that Mara was gone.


Mara stumbled inside her room, punched in the security code to lock the door behind her and fell onto the couch, breathing heavily. *Get ahold of yourself, Jade.* She closed her eyes, forcing her mind through first one and then several Jedi relaxation techniques. Nothing seemed to be working. She jumped up, nervous energy pulsing through her, and began to pace around the room, mind racing. *You shouldn't have run off like that,* she admonished herself. *You promised Luke.* Well, yes, she did -- but she had also warned him. She had made it through most of the first day fine. She had stood beside him as he awarded the prizes at the essay contest and endured the curious stares of the other attendees at the lunch they had been invited to. She had felt odd at first, and then her natural pride kicked in and she conversed, ate and drank with a toss of her head. *The Empire is dead,* she had thought. *I belong here now.*

She willed herself to believe it.

Her will wasn't as powerful as she thought.

She had awoken that morning from a hideous nightmare, the likes of which she had not had in years. She was left with no real memory of it, just a lingering impression of the Emperor and an overwhelming sense of the Dark Side all around her. She was sweating and shaking, and though her first impulse had been to reach out and call Luke, she didn't. 'You don't have to do it alone,' he had said. 'I'll be with you.' She knew if she touched his mind he would come to her, immediately. But she stayed silent, and when she met him on the roof later, she had said nothing. Then they had been called to the garden, where Leia had decided to honor her father, Anakin Skywalker who had been Darth Vader, Lord of the Sith, and Mara had felt the overwhelming compulsion to run.

Vader's son and the Emperor's Hand. Two enormous legacies and histories to deal with and, in her case, to live down. Luke's may have been similar to her own in some ways, but hers was much larger and much more personal. Luke was Darth Vader's son, but he was also a Jedi Master, a hero of the Rebellion and the brother of the Chief of State. She, on the other hand, had willingly served the Emperor for most of her life, had been part of the Empire, worked side by side with the Dark Side. It was fruitless to try and gloss it over, and regrets and remorse would change nothing. What was past was past. There was no way to change it or make it pretty. And, undeniably, she had spent years dreaming about and planning Luke's destruction. It had kept her alive.

While that was no longer part of her, she was still the same Mara Jade somewhere. She hadn't changed completely. She knew that everyone knew that as well as she did, though they seemed willing enough to accept and trust her now. *I've done enough favors for them,* she snorted to herself. The fact that the government was willing to allow the honoring of Luke and Leia's father was a sign that things were changing for good.

No matter how much she tried to deny it, she was part of the New Republic now. She just wasn't sure if that included her relationship with their beloved war hero. Mara and Luke. It was impossible to imagine it happening, yet it was happening. He was doing all he could to show her that she was important to him. *How important?* She wondered, curling back up on the couch. Something began to turn cold inside her, the more she thought about it. *You should leave,* part of her whispered. *Leave before it's too late.* That was her last conscious thought before she fell asleep.


Several chimes at the door awoke her, which were followed by a series of loud knocks. "Mara?"


The last person in the galaxy she wanted to face right now. She entertained the idea of pretending to be out, but knew that he would never fall for it. She got to her feet, rubbing her face, trying to clear her mind. Slowly she moved to the door and opened it, stepping back to let him inside. Quickly she averted her face from him and preceded him into the living area, walking to the water pitcher.

"Thirsty?" she didn't wait for a response before pouring two glasses, but before she could pick them up, she felt him behind her.

"Tell me why you left."

His too quiet voice, and the carefully controlled calm that rose from him, combined in a dangerous combination to Mara and her hand tightened on one of the glasses as she turned to face him. "You're the all powerful Jedi Master," she bit out, anger swelling in her at an alarming rate. "Can't you see for yourself?" She stepped away from him, glass in hand, knuckles white around it. *Calm down!* She snapped at herself heedlessly.

"I'd much rather you tell me," Luke said in an even tone, not allowing her sarcasm to get to him.

Mara's arm pulled back and she flung the glass against the wall, shattering fragments over the floor. "Don't you ever get emotional about anything?" she raged. "How can you be so calm all the time?"

Luke glanced over his shoulder at the mess she had created, feeling his face get hot. "How can you ask me that? Why are you deliberately trying to provoke me? I had no idea Leia would do that, or that it would bother you, or that you would care!"

She stared at him, stunned. "You didn't know it would bother me? You didn't know I would care? She erected a monument to Darth Vader, close pal of the Emperor, who cut your hand off and tried to kill her! She erected a tribute to an Imperial!"

Luke could feel his irritation growing, festering, being nurtured by her like some Yavin fungus. "She erected a monument to Anakin Skywalker, my father! It's not quite the same thing, Mara!"

"You have the most amazing ability to compartmentalize things into these perfect little packages, Skywalker, so everything comes out just the way you want it. Life just isn't like that!"

"Well, apparently the memory of my father doesn't bother you too much, since you carry his lightsaber!" Luke shouted at her.

"Because his son gave it to me!" she shot back at him. Luke's anger began to fade quickly in the light of this heated, but no less important admission. "I gave it to you for a reason."

She turned away from him, chest rising and falling quickly. "I know you did." Her anger, too, was fading as quickly as it had sprung up. *How does he do this to me?* She felt like she was riding an endless wave of emotion, up and down, over and over. *You are leaving, Jade,* she admonished herself sternly, though she knew it was a lie. Something was holding her on Coruscant, and like it or not, that something was Luke Skywalker.

"I told you this wouldn't be fun," she said quietly, her back still turned.

"And I told you I could deal with it," he reminded her. She nodded, and he walked over to her, turning her to face him. "Why do you keep turning away from me? I'm not going anywhere, Mara, although I may stay away when you have glass in your hand." Mara looked up at him and smiled in spite of herself.

"Your aim stinks," he continued.

"Next time I won't aim for the wall then."

Luke's face went sober again, and he reached out, cupping her face in his hands. "You don't scare me, Mara, and neither do your emotions. I can handle it, as long as you can, too." Her breath caught in her chest, came out in a heave. "I am trying."

"That's all I ask." He stared into her eyes for a long moment until she gave him a slight nod. "Come on, we have a dinner to attend, remember? How quickly can you be ready?"

Mara groaned. She had forgotten about the dinner honoring the heroes of the Rebellion, at which Luke was scheduled to be a speaker, and hadn't noticed that he had come dressed in his formal black robes. In a weak moment several days ago she had agreed to go as his guest, but right now she could imagine nowhere else where she was more loath to be. She opened her mouth to make an excuse, then abruptly shut it again. She had made a promise and she would keep it.

"Give me about twenty minutes and I'll be out."

He nodded and she quickly walked down the hall and into her bedroom, pulling open the door to the closet. Carefully her eyes scanned the contents, selecting and rejecting several dresses before alighting on one hanging towards the back that she had never worn. She smiled. If she had to go to this boring, stuffy dinner, she would at least get a little revenge on Luke for making her.


"Ready to go, farmboy?" Exactly twenty minutes later, Mara emerged from the bedroom, her cape hanging over her arm. Luke got up from the couch, straightening his robes, and then finally turned around and looked at her, and his mouth went suddenly dry.

Mara, too, was dressed from head to foot in black, in a deceptively simple dress that was long enough to brush the floor. That, however, was where the similarity ended. The dress was fashioned from a fabric that shimmered every time she moved, and clung to her body like a second skin. It skimmed across her shoulders, just barely covering them, ending in sleeves just above her wrists. From her shoulders, it split into two separate pieces of fabric that crisscrossed her chest and wound around her waist, creating a deep slash of a neckline in which dangled an intricately twisted series of gold chains. The fabric then continued down into the skirt, which was cut high above her left thigh to reveal matching boots with heels that added several inches to her height. How this dress was held together was not apparent. Her glory of red-gold hair was gathered at the back of her head and then left to stream down her back, secured only by a handful of glittering hairpins.

Luke stared at her, his mouth stretching into a wry smile. *So this is how she is playing it,* he thought, shaking his head. "Ready?" he asked, making no reference to the way she looked.

Mara raised an eyebrow, one hand on her hip, and then shrugged. "Sure. Let's get this over with." He stepped forward to help her on with her cape, and she stifled her disappointment that she had apparently not affected him in any way. She turned around and lifted her hair off her neck so he could fasten the ties around her neck, and then sucked in her breath sharply as his hands reached around and traced the path of the dress from shoulders to waist.

"I play this game as well as you do," he murmured, trailing a kiss down the side of her neck. She shivered, turning in his arms, her eyes bright.

"Apparently, though you'd never guess it to look at you," she said. "Let's get this dinner over with."

"Where's your lightsaber?"

"I'll show you later."


It was several hours later that Mara and Luke found themselves once again on the roof, sitting on the ledge under the railing and necking like teenagers. "Why are we doing this to each other?" Luke asked, finally pulling back from her, running relaxation exercises out of habit despite the fact that they had stopped working days ago. Mara laughed, pulling her dress back into its proper places from which his hands had dislodged it.

"I was all for just going back to my room, Skywalker; you're the one who suggested we come back to this very public roof. We could have resolved this days ago."

"You know you mean more to me than that." Suddenly uncomfortable, Mara rubbed her hands together and changed the subject. "That was a pretty impressive speech you made about the future of the Jedi Knights in the New Republic," she said lightly.

"If only I could figure out what my place in all of it will be," he said, a bit wistfully, and then went on, "Why do you change the subject any time I start to talk about us?"

"Is that what we are? An 'us'?" she gazed off into the night, trembling a little.

*Here we go again,* Luke thought. "Why is this so hard for you to talk about?"

"It's not."


Mara turned her head and looked at him. "I'm not completely convinced there is an 'us'."

Luke took a deep breath before speaking, biting back his first impulses. "How long are we going to keep this going?"

Mara got to her feet, hands combing through her hair, and stood at the railing. "I can't deny I am incredibly attracted to you -- but after we resolve that, then what?"

*It's like talking to my lightsaber,* he thought, exasperated, standing up next to her. "Sometimes I think I speak Bothan when I talk to you," he sighed. "You mean much more to me than physical attraction, Mara, and you know it. Otherwise, it would have been all over with a week ago."

"A week ago you were shouting out your eternal devotion to Callista. The journey from that to this roof is what confuses me."

Luke put his arms around her and looked down at her face, but she was looking off into the sky. "Is that what is worrying you?"

"Not just that--but yes, that's part of it." She pulled out of his embrace and walked a little farther down the railing, leaning her arms on it and staring down at the city. "I feel very out of character here. Maybe we're both just emotional and lonely."

"Not the Mara Jade I know."

Mara laughed mirthlessly. "And which Mara Jade do you know, exactly? The one who wanted to kill you? Or the one who has flitted around the galaxy since then, unable to commit fully to the Jedi Knights, the Smuggler's Alliance or the New Republic?"

"Maybe the one I know is neither of those people." She whirled around to face him. "You don't know me at all! Maybe this is all just a big mistake, a joke of the universe. I think we're both just fooling ourselves." She stared at him for a long moment. "Something like this could never work."

"Really? Why not?" Luke could feel the irritability in him rising, and struggled to set it aside. "A week ago, you were still calling me names and treating me like a paid lackey. Now look at us! Which do you think are the true Luke and Mara? The ones constantly at each others throats or the ones who were arguing over the stars last week? This hasn't exactly come out of nowhere, you know. How can you not see that we have been moving towards this point for almost a decade?" She flinched at that, but he pressed on. No one could get to him quicker than she could, and it was working already. "Why are you fighting this?"

"There are ghosts standing between us."

"What?" he made a meaningless gesture. "What does that mean? What ghosts?"

Mara looked at him in disbelief. "Can you possibly be as dense as you seem? Callista, the Emperor, your sister, my past, your past. All these things stand between us. Can't you see them?"

Luke stood there for a long moment. He had been here before. This was the point in the conversation when the woman turned and walked out of his life. It had happened to him, many times. Each time, he had been silent, let her do what she felt she needed to do. Each time, he had watched her back as she left him, and then moved on.

Not this time.

Luke stepped forward suddenly, catching her hands in his before she could step back. "Look at me. Mara!" he snapped, when her head did not turn. Seconds passed, and then she met his gaze evenly. "There are no ghosts here. Callista is gone. She has chosen what road she must go down. I didn't like it, and yes, I held on much longer than anyone else would have, but I was lost, and deeply hurt. That has happened to me so many times now -- maybe not on that scale, but it has happened -- that this time, I was out of positive reactions. The Emperor is long dead; he was dead years before you could banish him from your mind. My sister is obviously overcoming any lingering ill will she felt towards you -- she's pretty good with a lightsaber now and you're still living. Your past was not pleasant, but it is over. The Empire is dead and you chose the right path to follow. And my past?" he took a deep breath and said, "My past was empty because I had no time for love." He stopped, breathing heavily, before saying quietly, "I'd like to make time now." He watched the change come over her eyes, and nodded. "I'm in love with you, Mara."

She stared at him, mouth open, and then jerked her hands free. "No! Impossible. This is not happening, I will not let you do this!"

Luke could have cheerfully banged her head against Artoo. "What is wrong with every woman I meet, why do they all want to save me from themselves? Mara, I am doing it. How can you stand here and deny this?"

Mara shook her head, her face stony. "I'm sorry, Luke, but I just can't." She turned and walked to the door.

"Then go," came his voice suddenly from behind her, flat, cold. She stopped, feet rooted to the ground, uncertain she had heard him correctly. "You did," he continued, each word coming to her as if he was speaking through ice. "Do what you have to do."

She had never heard that tone in his voice before; never heard him sound so angry, empty, and cold all at once. She faltered for a moment, not recognizing the emotions that lay behind what he had said, but then managed to bite out, "Kyp's waiting for me on Yavin."

The sound of the door closing was nothing compared to the sound of Luke's mental shout of frustration and despair.

On the other side of the door, Mara hesitated, one hand pressed up against it as if she was reaching for something. *Go,* she snapped at herself, before turning and stumbling blindly down the stairs.


Luke without Mara, thought Leia somberly, would be a much harder person to live with than Luke without Callista. They were two hours into another state banquet for which Mara was to have been his guest, and while Luke was doing a credible job of paying attention to the ambassador brought in as a substitute at the last minute, she knew that he was only half aware of her or anything else around him. Leia didn't know what had gone on between her twin and the trader, but whatever it had been, it was apparently over as quickly as it started. Even as they ate, Mara's ship was making its final preparations for departure and would be on its way to Yavin Four before the night was over. It was only the sheer volume of people still coming to Coruscant that had even kept her there this long.

She watched him out of the corner of her eye all night. When she and Han got up to dance, Luke joined them with the ambassador. He talked and laughed, danced and ate, and if you didn't look too closely at him, had a fabulous time. Only Leia could feel the hopeless atmosphere in the Force as she touched on the fringes of his mind. He had been unreachable after Callista had left, for he had truly loved her; somehow though what was between him and Mara was completely different but possibly even stronger than that, simply because of their connection through the Force. Because this had happened so suddenly to him, it was hitting him much harder. She could see that this time, he had given up completely.

*I won't let that happen,* she thought fiercely, frowning so hard Han reached down to smooth the wrinkles out of her brow. He knew what was happening as well, but didn't have the same view of it that his wife did.

They came to a part in the dance where a switching of partners was called for, and Leia found herself in the arms of her twin. Come out onto the balcony with me, she said to him, and before he could protest, stepped neatly out of the combination towards the doors. He followed unprotesting, and silent.

"It seems to be going very well," he said quietly as they reached the privacy of the balcony. Night had settled around the capital, but all over the city there were lights coming on, music was playing, and the sound of shouting and cheering drifted up to them. The Council had made sufficient preparation so that every citizen of Coruscant as well as the visitors would be part of the celebration. The true festivities would not start until tomorrow, and then there would be two days of parades, speeches, presentations and awards of all kinds, as well as dancing and music all over the city. Luke stood next to Leia, unmoving, his face implacable.

She decided she had nothing to lose by plunging right in. "So Mara is going back to the Academy."

"If she isn't already gone, yes, she's leaving soon."

"You know she isn't already gone."

Luke shrugged. "It really doesn't concern me anymore. I told her to go."

Leia grabbed his arm, pulling him around to face her. "You can tell that to Han, but don't try to fool me, Luke. You trained me too well for that. What are you doing here instead of on that landing platform?"

He would not meet her eyes, but stared off over her head into the night. "She is leaving. I can't stop her." His voice faltered a bit, then he said, stronger, "It's better this way."

"Oh, come on, Luke, who do you think you're talking to? Stop throwing these politically correct statements at me and tell me what happened!"

Luke looked down at her, his eyes the color of the storm-tossed seas on the Alderaan of long ago, and thought about what Mara had said. 'You don't know me at all...this is just a big mistake. All these things stand between us.' "She doesn't believe it can happen, so it won't happen. That's why I told her to go. I can't force her hand. I learned with Callista that no matter how much you want something, the other person has to want it as much as you do, in the same way, at the same time. Otherwise your roads can do nothing but diverge." 'The journey from that to this roof is what confuses me,' Mara had said. "Perhaps it is just the way of the Jedi."

Leia turned away, biting down on the first five or six things that popped into her mind to shout at him. *Calm down,* she warned herself. *It won't do any good to get angry at him.* "You base that statement on the few Jedi that you have known, Luke. You hardly know anything about their pasts. How do you know who they loved and what happiness they had? Just because they were hermits when you knew them doesn't mean they were always that way." She stepped forward, took his hands in hers, looking up at him with a great sigh. "You are a man of great passion, my brother. I don't think it is the will of the Force that you expend all of that feeling on the restoration of the Jedi Knights. Did Ben Kenobi go to all that trouble to hide us away only to have the Skywalker name die with you?"

"You don't understand."

"I understand just fine. I understand that you have decided to stand back and let the joy of life pass you by. I understand that you are perfectly willing and, somewhere in the convoluted way you have been thinking, content to sacrifice your happiness on the altar of the New Republic. And I understand that once again, you are going to let a woman that could make you happy turn around and leave. You need a family, Luke."

"I have a family."

"You need children of your own, and a wife who will share your dreams and help you make them a reality. You have too many talents not to pass them on to another generation, and you have too much love in you to live out your life as a hermit, or as 'Uncle Luke'."

She held on tight when he would have pulled free, and led him over to a small stone bench. As they both sat down, she said, "I liked Callista. In time, I would have loved her. There was a peace about you in her presence, as if she rooted you in the Light. But that was not to be. So I watched -- we all watched you spend months of your life worthlessly, trapped within the confines of your sorrow and inability to let it go. It was a hard journey for you to make."

"It is good to have an end to journey toward, but in the end, it is the journey that really matters." Luke said flatly. Leia stared into his eyes for a long moment. "You don't believe that, not really." Only when he looked away did she continue. "I spent years in mistrust of Mara. I couldn't get past her conditioning by the Emperor, long after she was past it. Somehow, through the will of the Force, that all changed. She is good for you, Luke, in a way that Callista never was. She could help you find the Luke of old again, the one we haven't seen in years. You are so grounded in the Light that the Force is all you can see! The way you have been the last week since you came back...I never thought I would see you like that again, and it has everything to do with Mara."

She took his chin in her hand and tugged until he looked at her again. "Luke, it is we who destroy ourselves, but it is also we who save ourselves. No one else. If you want it badly enough, it can happen. Look at how my life has turned out."

Slowly, Luke nodded. "You have everything you have ever deserved, Leia."

"You deserve that too." She stood up, tears in her eyes, and smiled down at him. "I doubt your life will be easier with Mara, but it will certainly be happier. Now, do I have to call and forbid them to allow the Fire to take off, or are you going to go do something about it?"

Luke stood up beside her, pulling her into a rapid hug. "I love you," he whispered, before turning and practically sprinting off the balcony. Leia wrapped her arms around her stomach, turned her face up to the stars, and threw a smile at the universe. He had told her so months ago, but she finally felt that Luke was going to be all right...provided Mara would cooperate, she thought wryly.


Mara couldn't remember the last time she had been so angry. She thought that if she could have seen herself, the steam rolling off her would have been visible in waves. Her boots were loud against the stairs as she stomped up to the roof, having been forbidden to leave the landing bay until the following morning. Her anger flourished anew as she recalled the officer who had told her apologetically, "Sorry, too much incoming traffic; all departures have been postponed until tomorrow." She needed to get back into her ship, off Coruscant, and away. Now. At this point, she didn't even know if she was going to Yavin, she was so furious. She reached the roof door and threw it open with the Force, satisfied to hear it bang against the outer wall loudly.

Against the rail, his back to her, stood Luke.

Abruptly, her anger vanished. Her heart constricted in her chest at the sight of his profile, turned into the wind, blonde hair blowing around it unchecked. She was surprised to see him wearing formal clothing of midnight blue and silver rather than the black she had seen him wear almost exclusively for years, and the edges of her mouth lifted in spite of herself. He knew she was there -- she could feel it -- yet he didn't move, and said nothing. She stood there for several moments, waiting for him to turn around. As the seconds passed and he continued to stare out over the city, her emotions wavered between irritation, sorrow, and confusion. The part of her that wanted to turn and run warred with the part that wanted to go beg his forgiveness for the pain she had caused him, until finally she realized what was happening. *He's letting me go,* it dawned on her. *He doesn't want to, but if I want to walk away, he won't stop me.* As he had watched the others walk away -- not because he was a man of no courage, but because he was a man of incredible nobility and sacrifice.

Despite that; despite who he was and who she was, with all that had transpired between them, he still wanted her. Her. Truths came rushing at her faster than she could process them. Knowing she would be stuck on the planet one more night, he had come up to the roof to give her one last choice. He wasn't trying to hold her. He was trying to keep her. Mara realized that she knew the difference, knew as she had never known before that what she had read years ago was true: the only real voyage of discovery in life consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. They had crossed paths so many times, but she had really only seen him for the first time that first night on Yavin Four. She knew if she turned her new gaze inwardly, she would see what he wanted her to see. She feared it no longer.

Slowly, one step at a time, she moved towards him. He remained motionless, and as she reached out through the Force, she realized he had closed himself to her. In momentary confusion she paused, then realized why: if she had chosen to turn around and leave, he didn't want to feel her walk away again. That realization both created an unfamiliar lump in her throat and hastened her steps, until finally she stood at the rail next to him.

"So, how much did you have to do with the Fire not getting flight clearance?" she said lightly, though she had never been so nervous. She watched his pulse leap against his neck as she spoke, heard him clear his throat softly.

"Nothing. You should know I would never try and force you to stay."

"I know." Still he did not turn to her, as Mara ran through a million possible things to say in her mind. *What are you waiting for?* she scolded herself. She laid a hand on his arm, took a deep breath and said simply, "No one's forcing me now, Luke."

His head whipped around, his azure gaze piercing through her as he searched her face. "What are you saying, Mara?" She smiled nervously at that, brushing the hair out of her eyes. She knew he wouldn't make this easy for her, and because she had expected it, she was ready for the question. "I'm saying I'll stay...not just on Coruscant, or on Yavin, but with you. I think we're insane, but -- "

Luke cut her off completely, yanking her into his arms, his mouth meeting hers, his hands tangling in her hair. She could feel the tension vanish from his shoulders, then his back, as he opened himself up to her completely and she felt his relief, his stunned joy, and...

"I love you, Mara Jade," he said, pulling back from her slightly. The lump in her throat returned, hearing the words for the first time. He laughed, a little unbelievingly. She grinned up at him, feeling more than a little foolish, then shouted with surprise as he lifted her off her feet, spinning them both around. Their lips met again in midair, as he lowered her back to the ground and her body slid down his, making both of them shiver in remembrance. This time it was Mara who reached for him, deepening the kiss until they parted, breathless, minutes later.

"I love you, Luke," she said quietly, and his pride in her swelled. He knew that the admission was hard for her, and that made it all the more incredible. "I've don't think I've ever said that to anyone," she realized aloud. His throat tightened at that, and he buried his face in her hair.

"Then I am doubly lucky."

She laughed. "You may not think so when I start turning your life upside down."

He picked up his head, looking down at her. "You're wrong, Mara -- I feel like I've been drugged for months. My life could use a little excitement."

"This from the man who blew up the Death Star? Speaking of which, we can't miss Jacen's performance tomorrow."

"What time is it?" he asked, smoothing her hair out of her eyes.

"Um...noon, I believe...Luke!" she jumped as he began to trace her body with his hands.

"I love hearing you say my made me wait long enough for it." He kissed her temples, lightly, and her cheeks. "Noon? Hmmm...we should be up by then." Her heart slammed into her ribcage. "If we ever go to sleep, that is."

Mara chuckled, low in her throat. "I have to get used to this side of the Jedi Master, I think. Not," she cautioned, as he moved to draw away, "That that is a bad thing, of course."

"Of course," he laughed back at her, and then his face turned suddenly somber.

"What is it?" she asked. Luke took her by the hand and led her around the corner to another identical section of the wall, one that they both recognized. It was the spot where, five years before, he had given her his father's lightsaber.

"So this is where the road ends," she murmured, and he shook his head.

"No -- this is where *that* road ends. Our road begins here." He picked up her other hand, and brought them both up between them. He searched her face for a long moment, his gaze tender. "It is obvious to both of us, I think I am safe in saying, that there is an incredible attraction between us that we are both eager to explore. Would you agree with that?"

Mara looked at him, wondering where this was going, and nodded.

"Well," he continued slowly, "There's something I think we should do before we carry out those explorations any further." He took a deep breath, before saying quietly, "Marry me, Mara. Complete the circle we began so many years ago."

Her eyes dropped to the lightsaber that swung at her belt, and then she looked back up at him, and opened her mouth to speak.

"Wait -- don't tell me what I know you're thinking: whether we should or not. Don't talk to me about what people will say or how long we've been involved or who we were involved with in the past. Don't tell me it's too soon to ask, because some part of me has been waiting ten years already. Just tell me yes, or no."

Mara looked up at him: Jedi Knight and Master, once her sworn enemy, her sparring partner, her verbal adversary. Once upon a time, it seemed as if he had ruined her life. She looked up at him, and saw none of that before her. She saw only Luke, handsome and strong in his Jedi robes, peace surrounding him like a calm sea, blue eyes full of his love--for her. And, even more endearing to her, she could see that despite his outward calm, he was awaiting her answer with farmboy nervousness.

Mara opened her mouth again, closed it, and then finally said, "We're oil and water, you know. Conflict and peace...chaos and order." Relief began to settle over Luke. "Any more cliched pairs you can compare us to?" He gripped her hands tightly. "Maybe, together, we can have all those things, and more."

Taking a deep breath, she went on, "I won't give up the Smuggler's Alliance."

"The only things I ask that you give me are daughters with your hair and sons with your will and determination."

She looked up at him, thinking how powerful her children could be with Luke as their father, and smiled a little. "What if they all have my temper?" When he didn't respond, she went on, "I also don't intend to set up permanent residence on one of your backwater planets. Yavin isn't my idea of an eternal home."

Luke's eyes met hers, and his love for her sparkled within. "We are home, Mara."

She nodded, silently. "Maybe we are. I think I know where all the roads go from here." She reached up and touched his hair, cupped his cheeks in her hands. "I will marry you, Luke."

In the dusk of the first day celebrating the events that had started them towards each other so long ago, the emotionally scarred trader and the battle scarred farmboy finally put aside their pasts and began to assume their destiny. Two Jedi, bound at last by the love they had never believed could happen, descended the stairs of the capital. The winter of their lives was ending, and a quivering spring lay just around the corner.


Leia was not at all surprised to hear the chime at the door later that evening. Han had long since fallen asleep on the couch next to her, the kids were safely in bed thanks to Winter, and she was taking a few precious moments alone to catch up on her reading. She leaned over and shook Han awake -- never an easy task; he slept like a Wookiee -- and urged him to sit up.

"Is there a war on?" he grumbled.

"Not this week, General," she smiled. "You still need to wake up. Luke and Mara are here." Han closed his eyes defiantly at that, sinking back into the cushions. "If it's only Luke and Mara, I'm going back to sleep. Wake me up for something important." Leia reached over and kissed her husband, lingering until his arms circled her back, and then pulled away abruptly and stood up.

"Hey...come back here," he protested, pulling at her hand. She shook her head, folding her arms and waiting for him to stand.

"You're awake now, no excuses. They have something to tell us." He grimaced as the door chime came again, and finally lurched to his feet. "I suppose I'll get it," he mumbled, heading toward the entryway. After a little fumbling with the light switch and the door panel, the door slid open to reveal Luke and Mara, just as Leia had said. Han clasped forearms with his brother-in-law and gave Mara a half- smile, saying, "It's a little late, kid, this better be good."

Luke grinned at him. "Don't worry, old man, we'll let you get back to sleep soon enough. We have some news we thought you would like to hear right away. We would have been here sooner, but...ah.." he broke off abruptly when Mara elbowed him painfully in the ribs. Han, however, missed this and was too busy rubbing the sleep out of his eyes and yawning to notice that Luke had stopped talking. He waved them inside, turning around too soon to catch the meaningful look that passed between them, and walked back into the living area where Leia waited. He watched his wife kiss her brother, and then walk to Mara, taking her hands. He was completely baffled by what was happening.

"You know?" Mara asked, quietly.

Leia nodded. "I can guess, from the general atmosphere, and the way you both look." Luke stepped forward and laid a hand on Mara's shoulder, a sign of solidarity. His sister smiled. "You have more than my blessing, Mara. Who do you think gave the order to stop ships leaving the planet?"

Luke gaped at her. "But you said..."

She turned to him. "Of course I said that. I didn't want you to think I was interfering." Looking back at Mara, she went on, "I hope that this union will truly put the past to rest once and for all. My brother deserves a road that heads forward, not back. Our family would be honored if you would travel it with him." Luke smiled as he recognized the well-wishing from an ancient Jedi ceremony they had studied together. Mara gripped Leia's hands, and the two women embraced. Han, meanwhile, was still standing slightly back from these events, comprehending nothing. Finally Leia became aware of this, and reaching out, drew her husband into the circle. "Luke and Mara are going to get married, Han."

He looked surprised for a second, then pleased. "It's about time someone married him."

Mara snorted and said, "Thanks, I think." She looked down, surprised, as two arms circled her waist.

"Jaina, what are you doing out of bed?" her mother scolded her gently. "It's late."

"I know," said the little girl with a yawn. "But everyone was so happy it woke me up." Mara reached down and picked her up, and Jaina rested her head on the trader's shoulder. "Are you really going to marry Uncle Luke?" she asked sleepily.

Mara met Luke's eyes over Jaina's bent head for a long moment before answering. Rather than the sarcastic comment she would usually make, she said, "Yes, Princess, I really am." She blinked back unexpected tears before going on, "I hope that's ok with you."

Jaina nodded, eyes closed, but pleased to have been asked. "...Aunt Mara..." she mumbled.

Mara smiled, kissing the top of her head. "Come on -- I'll tuck you back in." She shared the smile with Luke before walking down the hallway to the children's room. Already a new peace seemed to be falling over her. His eyes followed her as she walked away, his niece cradled in her arms, her glorious hair falling over Jaina like a blanket. *Our children will be powerful,* he thought. *And feisty,* he added, the corners of his mouth turning up slightly.

Leia watched her brother, seeing something he had long sought begin to settle carefully over him. He would have his own family now, something long denied him; he would have chaos and excitement every day through Mara; and perhaps some adventure would return to his life. While she knew that he had been trained to not crave excitement, she knew that he had always struggled with it and Mara would now give him an excuse to give freedom to things he had long been denied. *With good cause, usually,* she reminded herself, *and some of the denial was his own fault -- though not always.* There had been tremendous pressure on him since the day his aunt and uncle died on Tatooine, and it had waxed and waned over the years, but never really died out. With the resurgence of the Jedi Knights and the steady growth of their powers, Luke would be free to relax a little.

Well, as much as I can relax with Mara around, sent her brother wryly.

"Stop eavesdropping in my brain!" Leia scolded him out loud, smiling.

"Stop broadcasting your thoughts to every Force sensitive in the area!" he retorted.

Mara came walking back into the room, and though she had taken pains to tuck her feelings safely away, Leia could see that she had been touched by her short encounter with Jaina. This union would be as good for Mara as it was for Luke, for the trader had never really known the feeling of family, and had never been loved as fully and as unconditionally as Luke loved her. Together they would make a formidable couple, and the Skywalker line would continue. Reaching out for her hand, Luke pulled his future wife next to him.

"Have you thought about when yet?" Leia asked.

"As soon as possible, as quiet as possible," Mara said quickly, but Leia was already shaking her head.

"Impossible -- it will have to be a State wedding, due to Luke's title and position, his relationship to me, and his past with the government -- not to mention his fame in the galaxy as a war hero, especially now, during the anniversary period. That will take at least two months to put together properly as well as send the required invitations through the proper channels."

Mara was aghast. "A State wedding? Two months?" she turned to Luke, irritation beginning to burn within her. "Somehow you neglected to mention all that."

Luke bit back a smile. "I didn't know; I've never been married before. Well, I assumed that we would have to have a public wedding, but I didn't know it would take so long to set up." He carefully set up a Force barrier and, stepping slightly behind Mara in the pretext of brushing some lint off his robes, winked at his sister. "I am sure Leia will only invite the most important guests, keep the delegation as small as possible, isn't that right, Leia?"

Leia nodded, all seriousness. "And I am sure we can trim the time to one month, but that is the absolute minimum."

Mara turned to Luke, her eyes like green ice. "Don't patronize me, farmboy. The last thing you want to do is tell me there will be 20 guests and then have me walk in on every delegate in the free worlds."

"Excuse us for a second, Leia, Han," said Luke quickly, pulling Mara to the side. Han and Leia were amused to see the rather heated discussion that proceeded from that point, Mara waving her hands, Luke obviously placating her, until finally they seemed to come to some kind of agreement and walked back across the room. "One month," Luke said. "And we get final approval over the guest list."

"And," cut in Mara, "We use the old Jedi ceremony, but with one important omission."

Han and Leia exchanged glances, then looked back at her, baffled.

With a side look at Luke, Mara said, "Anything about promising to obey is removed from the text."

Han burst out laughing. "I would think that would be in Luke's vows, not yours, anyway!"

As the women's laughter joined his, Luke retorted, "That's right, I forgot that the Solo household is ruled by a woman and not by a man."

Leia elbowed her indignant husband in the ribs. "You could never take as well as you give," she laughed.

"Yeah, your brother's a real comedian," Han growled. The Solos walked the future Skywalkers to the door. Luke and Mara both embraced Han and Leia in turn, Luke whispering to his sister, "I owe you for this."

"We're finally even, now, I think," she whispered back. "Be happy."

"I will."

"May the Force be with both of you," Leia smiled.


The disturbance in the Force was such that even the non-Force sensitive people waiting on the roof felt it. On the temporary dias that had been placed at the far end, Luke winced at the effects of Mara's insecurity, fury, and doubt that were flying at him through her mind. Han clapped a hand on his shoulder in response, and he grimaced a little. He knew that eventually she would walk through the door on Talon Kaarde's arm to meet him -- it was just a matter of when.

"Serves you right for almost missing my wedding, " Han muttered under his breath. Luke ignored him, his impatience growing by the minute. It was rapidly being overtaken, though, by an urge to laugh. It was typical Mara, especially since the wedding plans had begun a month ago. She alternated between backing out of the ceremony (which she was never really serious about) to eloping (which she thought was an excellent idea) to killing Luke (which she had already tried -- he wasn't worried), and her mood swings and tempers were too much for almost everyone. Luke put up with everything she doled out, knowing most of it was for show.

The true Mara was the one he had spent every waking moment with since she had agreed to be his wife; the one who teased him mercilessly, who tried to beat him at saber practice, who made fun of his cooking and laughed at his stories and played with his niece and nephews and yet somehow managed to retain that dangerous edge that had drawn him to her so many years ago. That was the Mara he loved, and he knew that once this day was over, she would be back for good -- more or less. Life would be boring without her unpredictability to liven it up, he thought with a smile.

The audience before them grew more and more restless as the minutes passed, and the bride still did not appear. Leia, he called, Is she coming or not?

He could feel Leia's tension across the link, loud and clear.If she doesn't, I am going to cut her in half with my lightsaber, and have told her so several times. A pause was followed by, She's so nervous, Luke...but she won't admit it. I think she's hoping you'll forget about it if she waits long enough.

Across the link, Luke felt Mara's indignant response to that summation of her feelings. He shook his head, marveling at her ability to keep him on edge until the very last second, and reached out to her through the Force.

Do you realize you are keeping the most important people in the galaxy waiting? he chided.

I suppose you are including yourself in that august assembly? she shot back.

Game's up, Jade...either you love me or you don't. A long pause followed before she whispered in his mind,

You know I do.

Really? Get up here and prove it, then, he challenged her.

Abruptly the link was severed. Luke turned to the door expectantly, and, sure enough, the door opened slowly to admit his sister, beautiful in a gown of flowing white. He heard Han suck in his breath next to him. Luke said to her. Her answering smile was brilliant, though not as loving as the one she bestowed on her husband when she reached the top of the steps to stand next to him.

Everyone in the audience rose as a slim figure clad in a ceremonial Jedi gown of deep green appeared on the arm of Talon Kaarde, commander of the Smuggler's Alliance. Mara was radiant, her head uncovered, hair unbound and falling in red gold masses about her shoulders. Her head was high, her bearing more regal than Leia's, and her eyes only for Luke. He stepped down to meet her at the bottom of the stairs, holding out his hands to her. He felt the slight tremble in her fingers as they locked with his, and he squeezed them gently, gazing down at her, his expression unreadable.

Do you approve of my hair, farmboy? she asked, her teasing words belying the seriousness of her tone and masking her confusion at the look on his face. "You are more magnificent than I had imagined," he whispered out loud, breath catching in his throat, his eyes full of pride. "You, my love, were definitely worth the wait." The low caress of his tone delivered the double meaning to her, and she felt her eyes dampen as she smiled up at him. Together they stood there for several seconds until Han cleared his throat meaningfully. Mara glanced up the stairs, then back at Luke, raised her chin, and nodded. He tucked her hand into his arm and they climbed the stairs to the altar where Mon Mothma waited.

"Please be seated." She said to the assembled crowd.

And so it was that Mara Jade and Luke Skywalker knelt down on the roof where their story had begun, at the threshold of their road together, in the company of their assembled family and friends, and were joined in mind, body, and the Force forever more. Luke could feel his father smiling down on him from somewhere.

After years of searching, he had come home.