Title: Shattered Ties (L/M)-- 6th Annual Fic-Gift Exchange. Fanfic for Mavjade Author: Jedi_Lover Time Frame: VOTF era Characters: Luke/Mara, Han/Leia Summary: I was asked to write a story for @mavjade for the Fic-Gift Exchange. It was to have the following aspects in the story: It would be written in the BEYOND THE SAGA era. A life threatening injury would need to occur. The injury would need to cause permanent change either physically or psychologically. It would need to be a hurt/comfort story. I could write about either L/M or Ben/Jysella or Ben/OC. I am really bad at Hurt/Comfort—that is Briannakin’s forte. I like happy endings. I wrote this story and it has the original ending you will see here and also I had an alternate ending that I showed Ginchy and she told me it was way too sad to post. So, I hope mavjade will like this although it is not a classic hurt/comfort story. ~JL~ _____________________________________________________________________ Water…Luke dreamt of cold water rushing over and around his body, water so frigid he actually shivered within the dream. A small smile graced his lips as he thought of his friend Mara. No, that’s not right—his fiancé, Mara Jade. ‘Mara…will you marry me?’ ‘You mean if we get out of here alive?’ ‘I mean regardless.’ “Yes…I will.’ The sensation of freezing water running over his face increased until he abruptly awoke, cold, shivering and half submerged in water, his head and chest resting on a rock outcrop. He looked around in confusion before he remembered where he was. He was on the planet Nirauan. Specifically, in the caverns under the fortress called The Hand of Thrawn. He had fought Sentry droids…he and Mara. “Mara!” he jolted to an upright position and scanned the dark flooded cavern desperately. He reached into his pocket and pulled out and activated a glow rod. It illuminated the large underground grotto as water swirled around the rocks and stalagmites on the cave floor. In the dim light he could see Mara floating face up in the water, her skin pale, and looking lifeless. It was exactly like the vision he had of her while he was on Tierfon. “Oh no! Mara!” He splashed through the water as fast as he could. He had put her in a hibernation trance, but he lost his grip on her in their journey through the rushing current. ‘Gods, what if it didn’t work?’ he thought panicked. He scooped her up in his arms calling her name. “Wake up Mara.” When she didn’t move dread quickly set in. “Mara, wake up!” Luke heard Artoo twittering somewhere in the cavern trying to tell him something. Luke didn’t understand what was said, but it reminded him that they had arranged to use a phrase to take her out of the trance. A smile flashed across his face as he said the words, “I love you, Mara.” He waited for a second for her to recover, but she remained still. “Mara, I love you. I love you, Mara.” Luke repeated urgently. “Oh no!” He scooped her up into his arms and moved her to an area where he could do rescue breathing. He placed his lips over hers and blew, filling her lungs full of air. He checked for breathing and a pulse and when he found none he repeated his action and then started chest compressions. “Please Mara, wake up! I love you, Mara. Mara! I love you!” . . . Coruscant Medical Center: Nerve-Regeneration Therapy Ward Luke sat next to Mara Jade’s bedside at the medical center. He rarely left her alone since her near drowning. That awful day on Nirauan was permanently burned into his memory. After what seemed like an eternity performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation he finally found a pulse and got her breathing on her own, but she remained unconscious. He quickly put her in a healing trance and got her to a New Republic medical center as soon as possible. The prognosis was not promising. She was without oxygen for quite some time and there was severe damage to her brain. Luke took some comfort in the fact that Mara had already successfully undergone neural regenerative therapy in the past. The doctor said that was a good sign and indicator that her body is receptive to the therapy. She completed the treatment days ago and Luke was told she should come out of her coma soon. It wasn’t soon enough for Luke; as the hours crept by he became more anxious by the moment. Mara lay on the bed surrounded by medical equipment and monitors. One machine beeped at a slow, steady pace as it tracked her heart rate. There was an IV running into her right arm and other tubes and wires running under the gray sheets she slept under. Her dip in the bacta tank had cleared up her multiple bruise and abrasions she suffered during their underground journey and the blaster burn in her shoulder she received from the Hand the Thrawn guards earlier in their adventure had totally healed. “I thought I’d find you here.” Luke’s attention quickly turned to the room entrance where his sister Leia stood along with her husband Han Solo. “Luke, you need to go home for a while and get some sleep,” Leia said as the two entered the hospital room and sat down in the chairs next to Luke. The Jedi shook his head miserably. “I can’t Leia. I don’t want her to wake up alone.” Leia reached over and put a hand on his shoulder and gave him a compassionate smile. “She won’t be alone. She has an entire medical staff dedicated to her and they'll notify you immediately when she wakes up.” Luke took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “No, I can’t leave.” He looked over to his sister. “Maybe you can bring me fresh clothing. I’ve been showering here, but I didn’t pack enough outfits.” “I’ll do that,” she nodded with an air of sympathy. “Luke, it’s not your fault she was injured. You did your best in a difficult situation.” Luke fought to keep his voice steady. “Unfortunately, my best wasn’t good enough.” Leia sighed dejectedly as she looked down to her chrono on her wrist. “Luke, I have a meeting at the Senate. When I’m done I’ll swing by your apartment and pick up a couple changes of clothing for you.” Luke gave her a sad smile. “Thanks, Leia.” She stood and gave him a kiss on the cheek and then turned to her husband and gave him a brief kiss on the lips. “Watch him,” she whispered before she left. As Leia left the room, Han turned to face Luke. “Now that your sister’s gone, maybe you wouldn’t mind telling me what is really going on between you and Mara.” Luke squirmed in his seat. He hadn’t told anybody about his engagement to Mara Jade. If she, Force-forbid, didn’t make it, he didn’t want anybody’s pity. “What do you mean?” Han rolled his eyes in an exaggerated gesture. “Luke, I've checked on you a few times in the last week and you never once noticed me. I am standing in the door and you are sitting next to Mara with your head in your hands and looking at the floor. How does a guy like me sneak up on a Jedi Master and walk away without you knowing…this has you tied up in knots…more so than when she had her first neural regenerative therapy. I never seen you so distracted.” “Of course I’m distracted my friend is injured and we don’t know if she’ll recover.” Luke’s voice took a defensive tone. Han put his hands up in a surrender gesture. “Whoa, I’m not saying that you wouldn’t we concerned about a friend. I know her injury is upsetting, but the things I heard you say to her while she slept tells me she is more than a friend.” Luke let out a sharp breath. “What did you hear Han?” Han rubbed his temples and looked like he wasn’t going to answer. “Not much. Once I realized you were talking to her I would walk away…but once I heard you say that you loved her.” Luke’s head dropped, but he felt the tension seep from his body at the prospect of talking to somebody about this. “It’s true. I love her and we’re engaged to be married.” Han sat back in his chair. “Okay,” he said slowly. “That I didn’t expect. I didn’t even know you two were dating.” Luke glanced down at the floor. “We weren’t.” “Weren’t what?” Han asked confused. “We never dated,” Luke clarified. Han gave him a perplexed look. “You never dated, but you’re getting married. That doesn’t sound like something you would do and it definitely doesn’t sound like something Mara would do. When did this happen?” Luke ran his hand over his face not wanting to answer. “Remember when I told you we were trapped in the room filling up with water?” Han nodded. “Yeah, you both thought you were goners.” Luke heaved a sigh. “It was then. We experienced a deep Force bonding while fighting the sentry droids and I realized I never wanted to be without her, so I proposed.” Han winced. “Couldn’t you wait until you were out of there? That’s not the best timing.” Luke’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean by that?” Han adverted his eyes. “Nothing, I just thought you would find a more romantic place and time.” Luke frowned. “That is not what you were thinking.” He looked to Mara and then back to Han. “You think she said yes because she thought we were going to die…she agreed so I would die happy?” Han shook his head and looked like he would rather be thrown into a rancor pit than have this conversation. “Forget I said anything, kid.” He stood to leave but Luke grabbed the sleeve of his shirt pulled him back down into his seat. “It’s not like that Han. We bonded in the Force. It is something special. It is a very rare event between Force users. I read only a few Apprentices and Masters experienced such an intense bonding. It binds your soul together. To be apart would be unbearable.” “Maybe Mara knew that,” Han said softly. Luke was getting a little irritated. “What are you saying?” Han stood up looking terribly uncomfortable. “Luke, I don’t know this Force stuff and this is none of my business. You caught me off guard with the marriage proposal and I just blabbered my mouth without thinking like I always do. That’s why your sister is the politician and I’m not. I really don’t understand this bonding you are talking about, maybe it’s best to talk to another Jedi.” Han was backing out of the door as he made the last remark. “Sorry Luke, I have to go.” Han said and then quickly moved down the hall. Luke sighed and sat back down. He scooted his chair closer to Mara’s and clasped her hand in his gently. “You’ll wake up Mara. You’ll be alright and we can get married.” He leaned down and gently kissed the palm of her hand and then he laid his head down on the bed and eventually sleep found him. . . . He woke sometime later by somebody poking him in the head. “Farmboy, wake up.” There was another light pat on the side of his head before he sat up abruptly, looking disheveled and with lines across his face where the fabric of the hospital blanket made an imprint. “Huh,” he said groggily. He looked over and realized Mara was sitting up in bed and smirking at him. “Mara!” he shouted as he quickly rose, grabbed her in his arms and delivered a firm kiss on the lips. He could feel Mara stiffen in his arms as she gently pushed him away. “Luke!” she stared at him in shock. “With that kind of greeting I must have been at death’s door.” She looked around the hospital room. “What happened?” “What happened?” Luke frowned. “What’s the last thing you remember?” he asked with much apprehension. The doctors said she might show some confusion and possible memory loss, but nobody knew how pronounced it would be. Mara looked up at the ceiling in thought. “The last thing I remember is you putting me in a trance.” A wide smile blossomed across Luke’s face. That meant she remembered their bonding and his proposal. Mara looked to her shoulder. “It looks like the healing trance worked. My shoulder is healed.” Luke stood dead still. “What?” She rubbed her shoulder that was shot by the Empire of the Hand guards. “My shoulder feels good. Thanks.” Luke’s heart sunk. “Mara, you don’t remember fighting the sentry droids or the generator chamber filling with water?” She looked at him blankly. “No should I?” Luke groaned and sat down. “I was hoping you would…because you had accepted my marriage proposal.” Mara broke out in laughter, but when she saw he wasn’t laughing she went quiet. “What?” Luke leaned back in his chair. “We experienced an intense Force bonding and we decided to be together forever.” Mara shook her head. “A bonding? What type of bonding?” He looked up into her eyes. “Relax and I’ll see if it is still there.” He reached out with the Force and suddenly their minds were joined. Mara’s eyes went wide with panic. “Get out! Get out of my head!” She put her hands to the side of her temples as if trying to physically ward him off. Luke pulled away quickly. “Oh kriff!” Mara was hyperventilating and was actually shaking from the experience. Her head shot up and she glared at him. “Never, ever do that again. Kriff! I feel… violated.” Luke sat back into his seat suddenly nauseous. His world was crumbling under his feet and he felt like half of him died at that very moment. “Mara…” was all he could say before words failed him. Her eyes turned hard. “Get out.” Luke didn’t move. He didn’t think his legs had the strength to hold him steady. “Mara…” he muttered again his voice tinged with pain and despair. She squeezed her temples with her fingers and then looked back up at Luke, her features softening slightly. “Please Luke. Give me some space. Maybe at the time that this bonding occurred it was tolerable to me, but not now…not today.” Luke slowly stood and nodded in understanding. When he got to the door he looked back. “Can I come back tomorrow?” She closed her eyes as if in pain. “I’ll call you when I’m ready.” He gave a forlorn nod and left. As he walked down the hall he recalled all his failed relationships with women. Every one of his girlfriends had either died or had something heartbreaking befall them. He had worried that dating Mara would curse her, doom her to a tragic end…and he was right. He should have never attempted a relationship with her. It was doomed to fail. And now he was burdened with an unbreakable bond with a woman who didn’t love him or want him. The thought was crushing his soul and he knew things would never be the same. . . . Mara hadn’t been back in her apartment more than a few days before she was visited by Han Solo. She opened her apartment door and greeted a very upset looking Corellian smuggler. “Can I come in to talk Jade?” She didn’t want to talk to him. She knew this was about Luke and that was one subject she didn’t relish discussing. After Luke left her hospital room she refused to accept calls or visits from the Jedi. She did listen to his voice messages and the things he said broke her heart. He loved her, she could hear it in his voice and even from a distance she could feel it in the Force. She couldn’t see a way out of this mess. Luke’s love was unreciprocated. She liked him. She even enjoyed his company and sometimes she would reluctantly admit to herself that she found him attractive, but she didn’t love him and without love she wasn’t going to talk about his proposal or marriage. “What is it Solo? If this is about Luke, forget it. I don’t know what he told you, but I am not entertaining any of his fantasies.” Han walked past her and into her apartment uninvited. Normally Mara would protest and throw his sorry behind out of the building, but lately she found herself not having the strength to do much of anything. This situation was taking a toll on her mentally and spiritually also. She sighed. “Fine, come in.” She walked to the back kitchen. “Do you want a drink? I have juice or whiskey.” Han shook his head and uncharacteristically turned down an alcoholic beverage. “No, I need you to come with me to see Luke.” “Oh no, I’m not.” She said matter-of-factly as she folded her arms across her body defensively. She expected him to yell or threaten, but what he did do caught her completely off guard. He dropped down on her couch and buried his head in his hands and begged. “Please Mara. If you have any feelings for Luke, please talk to him.” Han looked up to her his eyes imploring. “Leia doesn’t know about the proposal, but I do. I know what he’s going through. When Leia almost left me for Prince Isolder I cracked and kidnapped her. I could have been thrown in jail for the rest of my life.” Mara scoffed. “I’d like to see Luke try that with me.” Han shook his head. “He won’t, he’s not like me. I gamble and I never consider the odds.” Han sat back on the couch and gave her a sad gaze. “Luke withdraws. You saw what happened when Callista left. That was bad, but in the last week…” “What happened in the last week?” Mara asked as concern for her friend crept into her consciousness. “I think he’s dying of a broken heart,” Han said and the way he said it told Mara he wasn’t trying to be overly dramatic. “He’s holed up in his apartment. I went in to see him and he’s always passed out drunk. It doesn’t look like he ate, slept or bathed since he last saw you.” Han looked her in the eye. “Jade, you have to remember that whatever happened between you two and the Force on Nirauan was not of his making. You can’t blame him for what happened. But I can tell you one thing…it would have never happened if he didn’t go to rescue you.” “Oh, so this is entirely my fault,” Mara shot back defensively. “No, but it would have never happened if he didn’t go rescue you. He wouldn’t be in his apartment drinking himself to death. You have an obligation to at least talk to him. I’m not asking anything more of you. Tell him you aren’t marrying him, but at least give him some closure and please…please try to keep your friendship intact. Totally cutting him off like this is killing him.” He stood and walked over to Mara. “Please come with me to see him…before he does something stupid.” Mara groaned. “Skywalker is always doing something stupid.” Han nodded. “I know. Will you come with me?” Mara chewed on her bottom lip in thought. Eventually she nodded. “Yes.” . . . They arrived at Luke’s apartment and Han leaned on the door indicator hoping to wake the Jedi. Eventually he gave up and used the keypad to unlock the door and entered the small apartment. Luke had closed all the drapes and shades making the residence dark and gloomy. Upon entering, Mara immediately sensed the smell of alcohol. As her eyes adjusted she could see two or three empty whiskey bottles sitting on tables and counters. She could hear a soft snore coming from the living room couch. Mara and Han walked over and found Luke asleep in an upright position, his head tilted back and resting on the back couch cushion. Mara shook her head sadly. “He is in bad shape.” “I know,” Han whispered in the dim light. “He’s probably in no condition to talk,” Mara remarked. Han pointed to the kitchen. “I’ll make some caf and we can try to wake him.” She shook her while looking at the sleeping Jedi. “No, I’ll stay here and wait until he sleeps off this hangover. You can go.” When Han didn’t move she turned to him and gave him a defeated look. “I won’t leave until we talk, Han. I promise.” She turned to gaze at Luke. “You’re right. If I didn’t need rescuing he wouldn’t be in this predicament.” “Okay,” Han said as he moved toward the exit. “Call me if you need anything.” He then left Mara and Luke alone. Mara sighed and sat down next to Luke and hoped he would wake up sooner-than-later. . . . Mara woke up with a start. For a moment she didn’t know where she was, but as she gazed around the unfamiliar surroundings she remembered she was in Skywalker’s apartment. She felt weight on her legs and looked down to find Luke’s head in her lap as he slept. She realize he must have fell over from his upright position at some point. Her immediate instinct was to stand up and let him fall to the ground, but she hesitated. He looked so…peaceful when he slept. Even with a week of facial stubble on his face and the smell of booze on his shirt it didn’t detract from his ever-present Farmboy charm. She sighed and gently ran her fingers through his blond hair. It was something she always wanted to do, but she never would admit that to him…ever. Eventually Luke’s eyes fluttered open and he looked up at her, his eyes glazed over by too much alcohol. He smiled. “I must have finally drunk myself to death.” “Why do you think that?” she asked. “Because I’m in the arms of an angel.” He gave a drunken grin. Mara rolled her eyes. “What greeting card did you get that sappy sentiment from?” He laughed and then looked at her intently. “Is this another dream?” She shook her head. “No, I was just ready to talk to you.” She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Luke, I can't do this bonding thing with you...not yet...maybe not ever, but I want to remain friends." Luke nodded as he slowly sat up. He had a forced smile on his face, but she can tell he was terribly disappointed. "Luke, I sometimes wish I didn't forget,” she said slowly and hesitantly. “It sounds like such a quick and easy way to get over years of deeply ingrained protective behaviors...but those barriers are still here with me now. The doctors said the damage was severe and I would never remember those moments you so cherish." She paused in thought. "Was I happy?" "What?" he asked. "In the short time that we bonded, was I happy?" He smiled. "We both were." She gave him a steady gaze. "The Force flipped a switch and changed me...but fate changed me back. Why?" He shrugged sadly. "I sometimes think the Force doesn't want me to be happy, to have a family. It likes to take away the people I love." He pulled his hand through his hair in frustration. "Why it decided to give me a glimpse of happiness and then take it away...I have no idea." "Maybe it was a mistake...maybe it was never meant to be." He shook his head adamantly and she could see him wince from the movement. "No, it was no mistake. We completed each other. Together we made a stronger whole. Mara…we loved each other." Luke's composure faltered as tears ran down his cheeks. Mara gazed as her friend sadly and put out her arms offering a hug. He leaned into her arms and laid his head on her shoulder. She could feel him take shuddering breaths and she knew he was crying. She gave him a warm embrace. "Luke, Luke please…please don't let this destroy you." "It's too late," he said sadly. She had never heard him so defeated. This wasn’t the man she once knew. This wasn’t the Luke Skywalker who could crush AT-AT’s with a wave of his hand or walk across Lava. The galaxy needed that man and she'd be damned if he disappeared on her watch. She pushed him away far enough so she can look him in the eye. "No, it's not too late.” She said each word firmly and with emphasis. “You are just going to have to man up and do things the hard way. No Force arranged marriage for you. You are going to have to ask me out, convince me you are the man of my kriff'n dreams. You need to do what every other male in this galaxy has to do to get a mate. You have to woo the woman. You have to take a risk." Luke tried to stifle a bleak laugh. "I'm to woo Mara Jade. That's a risk I might not survive," he said pessimistically. She stood up and straightened her clothing. "Well, Skywalker, I suggest you grow a pair and start taking risks." She smirked. "For Force sake, Han kidnapped Leia when it looked like he was going to lose her. What do you do? You sit in your apartment drinking and feeling sorry for yourself. Some Jedi." Luke sighed. "I thought you were here to comfort me." She scoffed. "Luke, I don't do hurt/comfort scenarios very well. Instead I am giving you a chance to win my heart." She leaned over and grabbed the front of his shirt and pulling him to his feet. Her face was inches from his as she gave a predatory grin. She leaned in and whispered in his ear. "I'm on planet for the next twenty-eight days. The chrono is ticking." She pulled away with a smirk, then turned and walked to his apartment door. Before she left she gave a stunned Luke Skywalker a wink, "Good Luck." Luke stared at the closing door dumbfounded. He was unsure if what just happened was real or an alcohol induced illusion. He smiled widely. ‘It doesn't matter if it was a dream or not. It's what I need to do,’ he thought. He had a goal and a purpose and he would pursue his dream...even if it killed him…but, what a way to go.