Title: Life Day Author: Lazy K Timeframe: between Union and the NJO, I guess Characters: Luke/Mara Genre: vignette, fluff Keywords: Summary: Luke, Mara, and a ysalamir take a snowy trek on Life Day. Notes: Inspired (i.e., rabbit sicced on me) by Cold Hands, Warm Hearts by Briannakin . Life Day It was Mara who suggested taking a holiday, of course. Luke had declined, saying his administrative duties wouldn't allow it. Mara had applied her powers of persuasion in the form of a stun blast at point-blank range, hoisted him onto her shoulder, and delegated Luke's duties to the first Jedi Master who got in her way. When Luke woke up, he was on Kashyyyk with something heavy on his back. This turned out to be a nutrient frame for a ysalamir, complete with a sturdy lock on the harness and a total lack of the Force. He was trying to figure out how to get it off when Mara appeared, a mug in one hand. "Don't," she said. "The lock's wired to an explosive. Try anything funny and it blows." Luke grinned. She didn't. "Wait, do you really mean -" She shoved the mug into his hand. "Let's just say I don't want the hassle of breaking in a new husband. Now drink up. We have a lot of ground to cover and not much time to do it in." He obeyed and found the drink to be something like hot chocolate, only spicier. A lot spicier. "What is this?" he asked between coughs. "The Wookiees call it wet fire. It's something they use to stay warm when they go out in the snow." Luke nodded, not yet trusting himself to speak. His stomach was on fire and it was spreading outward to his limbs. It was a wonder he wasn't sweating like a Hutt. It was at this time he noticed he was wearing a very thick coat that must have been designed during an ice age on Hoth. It was colored vivid green, made to stand out even in a blizzard. Mara had on a violently crimson jumpsuit that had the look of a vacuum-rated spacesuit. Life Day, he thought. A Wookiee holiday to celebrate life in all its forms. Like family. And a planet's ecosystem. So why are we dressed for subzero weather? He voiced his concerns more or less coherently. Mara grinned savagely. "They say that if you find an ice blossom on Life Day, it will bring good luck." "And you believe that?" "I know if you don't go looking for it, I'll give you bad luck like you wouldn't believe." "Oh. Right." He looked out the window and saw it was still dark. And while it wasn't snowing, the trees - normal-sized ones like those found on other planets - were doing a wild dance in the wind. He suddenly had a bad feeling about this. "You said something about a time limit?" "Ice blossoms don't last long after the sun rises." He glanced down at the harness. "Um, if you could help me get this off -" The grin on her face became downright carnivorous. "Sorry, Skywalker. You'll have to do without the Force this time." * * * * * Several hours later, Luke was making slow but steady progress on a field of densely packed snow. Or rather, snow coated with ice. The Wookiees called it a tangle field. According to Mara, it was what happened when two trees - two of the enormous trees - grew so close that their branches became intertwined. Over the centuries silt, leaves, and other debris would accumulate on this natural net, in time forming a ground of sorts that you could grow crops on. This was not the sort of thing you wanted to hear on a very windy day, especially when you were not equipped with repulsorpacks or at least lifelines. It was just plain wrong for the ground to be some sort of giant hammock. The other thing that was bothering him was the portable ysalamir frame. Not the fact that it inhibited his connection to the Force, although that was bad enough, but its weight and size. He couldn't remember the exact specifications, but this frame was definitely lighter and more compact than the ones he'd seen back when they were fighting Grand Admiral Thrawn. The ysalamir was also protected by a sturdy blast-proof cover. Someone had gone through the trouble of developing the frames for practical use - probably someone in the criminal fringe. He made a mental note to have Han look into it later, just in case. He looked up and saw Mara walking about ten meters ahead and to his right. She never looked back, not even once. It made sense, of course. If he lagged behind, she would know the minute she was out of the ysalamir's Force-repelling field. In a way it pleased him that she was sure of his competence, that he could keep up with her pace despite wearing twenty kilos of nutrient frame. But sometimes he had to wonder if she actually cared . . . He realized he'd walked the last ten steps or so without paying attention to the ground. He retraced his steps as quickly as he could, sweeping his handlight in swift arcs. If he unknowingly passed over the ice blossoms in his haste, well, it was Mara's fault for not showing him holos or at least giving him a description, right? "Hey, Skywalker!" he heard Mara cry. He looked up guiltily, half expecting a vicious tongue-lashing. Instead she pointed with a gloved hand at the horizon. "Sun's coming up!" And it was, just as bright and blinding as a simultaneous double sunrise on Tatooine. Perhaps even more so because of the light reflecting off the frozen snow. Luke shaded his eyes, both trying to see and not see the magnificent sight. Then he remembered what she said before they set off on their search. The ice blossoms, whatever they were, wouldn't last long after the sun rose. They renewed their search, trying to cover more ground while at the same time examining the frozen surface more carefully. Luke fully expected they would fail in their quest, going back empty-handed with nothing to show except sore muscles and snow-burned faces. Then he saw a flash of light to his left. Something was reflecting the sunlight, something small that he would have easily overlooked when it was still dark. "Mara!" he called out. "I found something!" It was roughly ten centimeters tall and fifteen wide at the base. It looked like an ice sculpture of a plant, or possibly a parabola antenna that Nature had created in one of her more fanciful moments. When she came to where he was, she whooped and hit him playfully in the arm. "Congratulations, Farmboy! You found an ice blossom." "I have?" Luke asked, still not entirely convinced. "But what is it?" "I'll explain later. Let me take this first -" She tapped a short rhythm on the harness clasp, making it open with a minimum of fuss. She helped him out of the frame, then shouldered it and carried it away. While she did so, Luke examined the ice blossom. It appeared to be a plant with a black bulb growing on top of a slender stem. It had wide, dark leaves that had fuzzy hair growing on them. The morning dew must have condensed on these hairs and frozen, forming natural mirrors. These would reflect the sunlight - which he was blocking, he realized, and hurried out of the way. And then the world burst into detail as the Force returned to him. It was nothing he could describe to anyone who never felt the sensation. The closest he could come to was seeing color after only having seen shades of grey. Even though it was winter when most organisms were dormant, he could still feel the flow of Life everywhere. Creatures slept underneath the snow, dreaming of spring. Insects huddled underneath the barks of trees for warmth. Each seed in the ground was a microcosm of power just waiting to be unleashed. Even the air was teeming with microbes. And, of course, there was the ice blossom. He could feel the warmth of the sun's rays as they were collected by the leaf mirrors. The energy was focused on the seed pod at the top of the stem, which was reaching critical temperature even as he watched. There was a small burst of Life as the pod burst open, hurtling its seeds into the air. For just a moment Luke felt he was totally enveloped in the Force as the seeds hung around him. The feeling of loss when they were swept away by the wind was almost impossible to bear. But at this time something new appeared, a brilliant supernova that made him blind to everything else. It was Mara, his wife, his beloved. "Well . . . gosh," he said. He wanted words to describe how beautiful she looked, but realized what poets despaired of: that words were only a poor approximation of reality. "You're nice to look at." "Looking good yourself, Farmboy." She grinned, making him wonder what she saw. "Happy Life Day, Skywalker. Like your present?" "Yes," he breathed. "Oh yes. It's lovely." She looked down at the plant, whose leaves were already wet with melted ice, then gave him a puzzled look. "Really?" "Yes, really." Then he frowned and said, "But I didn't get you anything in return." "Don't worry, you already have." When she saw his puzzled expression, she added, "I got Jedi Master Luke Skywalker all to myself. That's worth any ten presents you can name any day." Luke winced. Both compliment and barb. It was nice to know Mara was still the same after all these years. "Ready for the trek back?" she asked. "Sure." "Good. Because you're carrying the frame." "Oh. By the way, did you mean it about the explosives?" The look she gave him was best described as cryptic. "Let's just say if you took it off, I'd be looking for a new husband." It wasn't an answer. But then, he hadn't needed one. Not really. He took his time going back, earning quite a lesson in derogatory epithets. He endured them all with a smile, because no matter what she said, Mara Jade was slowing her pace to stay by his side all the way.