Title: Visions of Plooma Author: JediMara77 Timeline: during Vision of the Future, the second climb up the fortress. Disclaimer: MICKEY MOUSE OWNS ALL OF IT. Words in italics are from Vision of the Future by Timothy Zahn. Summary: During their time on Nirauan, Luke and Mara reflect on the mission to Plooma. Notes: Several years ago, I wrote a fic called X-Wing: Knights of Plooma with @Lane_Winree. In that fic, Luke and Mara are forced pretend to be married as part of a mission to bring Plooma into the New Republic. That fic was written to fit into canon. I also wrote a "what-if" adult missing scene that was posted elsewhere. A friend of mine, @taramidala, requested a "sequel" in which Luke and Mara discuss their rendezvous. Many months later, I finally got along to writing this. Thanks to @Lane_Winree for writing the original fic with me, @taramidala for the idea, and @ginchy for reading it over. I haven't written L/M for a long time, so eek! Here goes nothing! HAPPY HOLIDAYS! ___________ Luke took a deep breath, and she could sense him forcing old memories and extraneous thoughts to the back of his mind. “But as you said, we’ve got a job to do,” he said briskly, “and it’s going to be a long climb. Let’s pack up the gear and get going.” * * * “So what happened while I was asleep?” Mara asked suddenly. They had been climbing for several minutes now, only exchanging words when necessary. Luke had remained silent for her sake, thinking she’d talked enough back on the landing. Apparently, she hadn’t. Or maybe her curiosity had gotten the best of her. Either way, Luke was happy for her company again. “Nothing very exciting,” he told her. “I stayed with you while the Qom Jha and Qom Qae scoped out the fortress and fetched supplies from my ship. Other than that, I did a lot of thinking.” “I can imagine,” Mara said. “No wonder you couldn’t stop talking once I woke up.” Luke winced, still smarting from their earlier argument. “I’m sorry for arguing--” Mara waved her hand dismissively. “Don’t be. It was my fault as much as yours.” “But I should have known better.” “And so should I,” Mara snapped. “Stop taking responsibility for everything that isn’t your fault.” “But a few days ago you said--” “I said those things to get you to understand why I’ve been upset with you,” she said, her tone softer than before. “To explain why things have been different between us since you started the Jedi Academy. But what happened to Callista and Gaeriel isn’t your fault. Blaming yourself for that is just as arrogant as believing you could challenge Palpatine all by yourself.” “I don’t know,” Luke said, unable to suppress a grin. “It worked pretty well on the second Death Star.” Mara scowled at him. “Very funny, Skywalker. You know what I mean.” “I do,” Luke said, sobering. Surprisingly, Mara’s words eased some of his lingering guilt and worry. For the first time in a long time, he felt at peace with his decisions. “Thank you.” “You’re welcome.” After a moment, Mara continued, “There’s something else I need to tell you. About Lando.” “I’ve heard enough about Lando for today,” Luke said, trying not to shudder as he thought about Mara and Lando’s pretend romance. Surprisingly, learning that his friends’ relationship had been a cover story was a relief, but it still made him jealous to think of how much time they’d spent together. Time in which he and Mara had grown apart. “Just listen,” Mara said, a bit of an edge to her voice. “I just thought you should know that Corran knows, too.” “Corran knows what?” Mara rolled her eyes. “Don’t act stupid. He knows that my relationship with Lando was a lie.” “Wait a minute.” Luke paused their climb to look Mara in the eye. “Corran knew about that, but you never told me?” For some reason, that hurt even more than thinking about Mara with Lando. “He guessed,” Mara said impatiently. “You think I would have told him a secret like that?” “That’s true,” Luke mumbled. “I still wish you’d told me.” “Anyway,” Mara said, resuming their climb and avoiding Luke’s eyes, “Corran figured it out on Plooma. I don’t know how--probably all that damned Jedi training of yours. Then he spouted off some nonsense about me wanting our respective relationships to be on equal footing.” “What do you mean?” “Oh, he said that if you knew I never actually dated Lando, then you’d one-up me in the relationship department. I told him that was ridiculous.” “Oh.” Luke paused, thinking of something appropriate to say. All he could think of was, “Now I’m even more shocked that you didn’t kill him.” Mara snorted. “Me too, Skywalker.” “Why are you telling me this?” Luke asked, confused. Like Corran, he would never have expected Mara to show such vulnerability, especially to him. “I felt you should know,” Mara said after a long moment. “Especially after what happened on Plooma.” “Right,” Luke responded. A chill ran down his neck as he reached his arm over his head. He shook off the feeling and continued his climb. “Now that I think about it, it’s no wonder you hated that mission. Not only did you have to spend time with me, but you had to pretend to be part of a couple again.” Mara’s lip quirked. “That irony didn’t escape me.” Her smile disappeared as she turned her head to look at him. “It wasn’t personal, though.” “Sure. You don’t have to lie to make me feel good, Mara. I’m a big boy.” “Don’t flatter yourself. Karrde won the bet, didn’t he?” “I guess so,” Luke said slowly. Mara had indeed admitted that Luke would make a good husband, and returned to Karrde’s employ after the Plooma mission. When he looked back at her, she gave him a fond smile. “I told you a long time ago, I like being around you. Occasionally. When you’re not spouting off about me being a Jedi.” “Duly noted,” Luke said dryly, remembering their argument during the ball on Plooma. “But I really am sorry for what happened, Mara. I never wanted to make you uncomfortable.” "It's not your fault, Luke. Trust me, I've already voiced my displeasure to those responsible. Several times." "I'm sure you did. I hope you didn’t leave General Cracken with any permanent damage." "Of course not,” Mara said, looking offended. “I'm discrete." “That you are. But I’m not talking about the mission.” Mara glanced up, concentrating on the climb. “Oh?” Luke shook his head, even though she wasn’t watching him. “I’m talking about us...about what happened that night before we left.” He forced himself not to think of that night, of holding Mara in his arms, of feeling her lips on his. He had long ago resigned himself to forgetting it had ever happened. Only now, with her at his side, that was much more difficult. “I’m sorry,” he said again. Mara stared him directly in the eye. “I’m not.” Luke stumbled, nearly falling back into the caverns below. “You’re not?” “No.” Then she quickly looked away. At first, Luke didn’t know what to say. After leaving Plooma, he had never mentioned that night between them. He had assumed Mara regretted it, and didn’t want to be eviscerated by her lightsaber. But the talk of Plooma had made him nostalgic, and as long as they were revealing secrets... “Speaking of that mission...” He trailed off, waiting for Mara to acknowledge him. “What about it?” she said, still not looking at him. For a moment he wondered about his next words, and whether he should say them at all or just remain quiet. He didn’t want to create any more tension between him and Mara. But in the end, his farm boy honesty got the best of him. “Back on the landing, after you passed out,” he began tentatively. “After you put me into a healing trance, you mean,” Mara interrupted. “After you went under,” Luke continued, ignoring her, “Child of Winds referred to you as my beloved companion.” Luke spoke in a rush, unfamiliar nerves getting the best of him. “It’s a good thing you were out, because you might have charred him otherwise. I know how much you hated that word.” Mara blinked, but otherwise betrayed no emotion. “Beloved companion? Why would he say that?” It took awhile for Luke to respond. While Mara was asleep, he’d thought long and hard about that question, along with many other topics he’d done his best to ignore over the years. Along with his actions at the Academy, and building a new Jedi Order, his thoughts had continuously strayed toward Mara. How they were connected since before their first meeting. How, despite all the obstacles standing in the way of their friendship, they’d forged a strong alliance during the Thrawn crisis. How that had fallen apart in subsequent years. As much as Luke wanted to blame himself for all of that, he couldn’t. Mara was right--he couldn’t take responsibility for everything bad between them. She had always been the one to run away. Luke shook himself out of his musings. Perhaps at another time, things with Mara could be different. But not now--not with the vision of her lifeless body dancing through his mind. Not after what had happened to Callista, and Gaeriel, and so many other women he’d cared for. Turning his focus back to their climb up the fortress, Luke shrugged and answered Mara’s question. “It must be obvious that we’re such good friends.” Mara didn’t respond. After a moment, Luke dared to glance in her direction. There was an odd expression on her face, a combination of wistfulness and regret that was so unlike her usual mask. “Yeah. Must be,” she murmured. Their hands brushed momentarily, and Luke didn’t pull away as quickly as he should. Neither did Mara. He kept opening his mouth to say more, but couldn’t bring himself to do so. There was too much at stake. They made the rest of the climb in silence. * * * It was, as Luke had estimated from the numbers the Qom Jha had gathered for him, indeed a long climb. Nearly as long as it had been from the bottom of the hidden stairway to that first door, in fact. And with Mara’s muscles still recovering from five days of idleness, and Luke himself therefore handling Artoo and all the rest of their equipment, it should have been something of a strain. But to his mild astonishment, it wasn’t. And it didn’t take any deep Jedi insight to understand why. The barrier he had set up between him and Mara was gone.