A few days ago, I made a very unexpected discovery - my old stash of fics, hidden away on a creaky, old little USB drive. Huzzah! Much of the material isn't postable as is (the Cheese is strong with this one ) but there was one little ficlet whose quality I deemed satisfactory without any retouching. I once posted this here but it's now truncated, so I'll share it again for posterity. Title: A Future Assured Characters: Luke, Mara Jade, and Ben Skywalker Timeline: post-TUF Genre: Family/semi-fluff Summary: A short snippet of peace and love for the Skywalkers after the YV war. Disclaimer: All characters and situations are the property of the Mouse House [Disney], George Lucas, Del Rey and James Luceno; italicized portions are quoted from The Unifying Force. No sooner had Kenth dogged the hatch than Mara came running through the forward compartment, calling over her shoulder to Tahiri and the Noghri that everyone was safely aboard. "Where's Uncle Luke?" Jacen asked. Mara grabbed him by the arm and hauled him into the aft cabin space, where Luke was laid out on one of the small sleeping platforms. Han, Leia, and Jaina crowded in behind them. Jacen kneeled by the bed and carefully removed the dressing Kenth had placed over the deep puncture wound in the left side of Luke's chest. Luke's face and hands were white. His lips and the beds of his fingernails were slightly blue. His eyes were closed and his breathing was shallow. "Shimrra's amphistaff," Mara said anxiously. Jacen looked up at her and nodded. "I saw him get stabbed." Mara pressed her hands to her eyes and began to cry. Jacen took her tear-moistened hands in his and brought them to Luke's chest wound. He held them there for a long moment, removing his hands only once, to convey some of his own tears to Luke's wound. Luke's chest heaved as he took a sharp inhalation, and his eyelids fluttered open. Sobbing openly, Mara laid her head on his chest, and slowly Luke's left hand rose to caress her red-gold hair. "I'll live, my love," he said weakly. * Mara reached up to unfurl her braid, to let her loosened hair give her an extra measure of warmth, as she walked through the frost-laden path in the boras forest that led back to home. Home. The small cliffside dwelling that she and Luke had been given by Sekot was oddly a place that Mara felt deserved the title of “home” more than any other residence they’d lived in. Aside from the obvious connotations of being closer to nature, she supposed it had more to do with the circumstances. There was something about reaching the end of a long, hard journey that made everything more significant. The threat of loss made every moment precious. But so did relief. She’d known well before she arrived at the cave that Luke had already returned from his meetings. The Errant Venture had finally come in the pre-dawn hours of that morning, bearing the Jedi children and their custodians from the Maw, and there had been many long-awaited reunions both joyous and solemn. The image of Luke hastening to meet the children and taking the time to sweep each of them into his arms was still fondly vivid in her mind, and brought a smile to her lips. But all else had paled in comparison to the moment in which she had seen Ben. No holo could possibly make up for the time they’d lost with him. One instant he had emerged toddling behind the rest of the youngsters, led along by Tionne, and in the next time became a blur. All Mara could recall of it was a sudden vanishing of the distance between them, and then Ben was in her arms. Luke had been seconds behind her, dropping to his knees and wrapping them both in a fierce embrace. All of them had been too moved to speak, the Force swirling through them in a maelstrom of elation. In that moment she never wanted to let her little boy go again. And so it went now. Even when they were apart, all she had to do was reach out and find him again, and hold his radiance fast to her. She had always been able to feel Ben no matter where he was, but with him so close now the ease and reassurance was exquisite. Mara grinned again as Luke appeared at the trapezoidal entrance to the dwelling, extending a hand to help her up the last rungs of the wooden ladder that was their only means of access in the otherwise bare, steep canyon. “So, what have you two troublemakers been up to?” she quipped. Luke smiled. “Not much, really. Sorry to disappoint.” Mara gazed at him knowingly. It had been over a month since Luke had recovered from his injury, but he had yet to fully heal, and it was questionable whether he ever truly would. She’d hardly left his side for the first week afterwards, despite knowing he’d pull through. At least by now it was apparent to no one outside the family that he still tired easily, and suffered random afflictions on occasion. For that, she couldn’t be more thankful for the prolonged peace they’d enjoyed on Zonama, and the well-earned rest it gave him. An inquiring noise from Ben broke into her thoughts. Seated on his father’s bedroll, the little boy held up a completed puzzle cube for approval. “Very good,” Luke crooned as he walked back and lifted him up, studying the toy. “And so fast!” Throwing a wink at Mara, he sat down gingerly and shifted Ben around to face him fully as he stretched his legs out. Mara came to crouch beside them, staring on in amusement. “You always make me proud,” Luke murmured softly into his son’s hair. “You know that, Ben?” Finally drawing his attention away from his project, Ben looked up at his father and gazed unblinkingly at him for a long minute, round little face completely solemn. Then abruptly he reached up and poked Luke in the cheek, his aim playfully random. Luke pulled back slightly, chuckling. Ben lunged forward again, but this time to encircle Luke’s neck with his small arms, and bury his head under his father’s chin. Luke fell contentedly silent, one hand coming up to stroke the child’s soft ruddy hair. It was a silence Mara didn’t wish to interrupt. As ordinary as that brief interaction had been, it somehow felt profound to her. Luke’s eyes had drifted shut, his only movements being the placid rise and fall of his chest and his thumb caressing Ben’s crown. She wanted to freeze that tableau in her memory forever. His quiet voice brought her back from abstraction. “I was thinking of him.” Mara’s brows knitted slightly. “What do you mean?” “When I went under, after you found me in the Citadel. I was willing to give up my life to protect him, to protect us all, but...when I knew I was dying, I didn’t want to leave him. I didn’t want him to grow up like me. “He was what kept me fighting in that trance.” Mara shivered, a gall tightening her throat. She hoped she never had to feel such a horrible thing again – at least, not for many, many years to come. The experience of sensing Luke slowly being torn away from her had been like watching all the stars in the sky wink out, one by one. It had shaken her in a way nothing had before, not even the Emperor’s death. Detecting his mother’s echo of distress, Ben came aware again and flailed out towards her. Luke held him out to her, and Mara pulled him in with a kiss. “Thank you, sweetie.” She rocked him as she met eyes with Luke over the top of his wispy locks. “Thank you, for more than you can possibly know,” she whispered. Luke leaned forward to slide an arm around her back, and pressed a kiss to her forehead. Mara reached up and cradled the back of his head so that he would stay like that, his warm breath stirring her hair. Promise me that if anything happens, you’ll love Ben with all your heart, and you’ll make him the center of your world, as he is to me. I will - if you’ll make me the same promise. Then no matter what, the future’s assured.