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Beyond - Legends And Have We Done With War At Last? (L/M, post-TLC)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Gabri_Jade, Nov 28, 2020.

  1. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fanfic Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Nov 9, 2002
    Title: And Have We Done With War At Last?
    Author: Gabri_Jade
    Timeframe: New Republic, a few months past the end of The Last Command
    Characters: Luke Skywalker, Mara Jade
    Genre: introspection, mild angst, vignette, one-shot, friendship

    Summary: Some wounds are less visible than others, and some scars are slow to heal.

    Notes: Title is from the poem Two Fusiliers, by Robert Graves. Many thanks to LadyPadme and ViariSkywalker for their insightful comments and suggestions <3

    They sit on the sofa in Luke’s apartment, the lights not exactly low, garish reflections from Coruscant’s never-ending activity shining through the large window and splashing against the walls and ceiling. It has become a common thing for them to spend the evening in each other’s apartments, just talking. Luke isn’t sure exactly when that happened, but neither does he feel inclined to question it, or worse, potentially derail it. Somewhere deep down where he doesn’t dare look too closely, Mara’s company has become so natural, so looked-forward-to, that the thought of scaring her off terrifies him. Not that Mara scares easily, but if she knew just how much he’s come to rely on the time they spend together—well. Just because she doesn’t want to kill him any longer doesn’t mean that she’ll welcome anything beyond the tentative friendship they’ve carefully developed over the last few months. It’s a fragile thing still, and he shies from the possibility of damaging the new rapport.

    And so most nights they discuss her work (productive, but frustrating), Jedi training (often the same), how fast Jaina and Jacen are growing, whether this year’s rainy season will be wetter than normal, and other such ordinary things.

    Tonight, somehow, takes a different turn.

    “Do you ever think about the lives you’ve taken?”

    Luke stills, the mug of hot chocolate warm and steaming in his hands. Her sense in the Force isn’t accusing, as it once would have been. It’s a genuine question, and as such, teeters dangerously on the edge of all sorts of subjects they’ve touched on only lightly and in passing.

    It could be progress, a deepening of their relationship, of her trust in him.

    It could also backfire spectacularly.

    But for all that, there’s really only one answer to her question. “Yes.”

    The quiet stretches again, and he steals a sideways glance at her. Those deep, emerald-shining eyes shift from their gaze at the window, with its riotous lines of reflected color from the endless traffic lanes outside, to meet his, and there’s faint amusement in them, backed by something far more serious. “Go ahead and ask,” she says with a sigh. “You know you’re no good at the devious thing.”

    Straight-out farm boy honesty. “Do you?”

    “I didn’t used to.” She looks back at the window, her fingers tightening around her own steaming mug. She teased him when he first introduced her to hot chocolate, but he’s noticed that she never turns it down, either. “Now, sometimes.” Her gaze shifts down, to the mug she holds in her lap, her legs curled gracefully beneath her. He remembers that she was a dancer, and wishes, briefly, that he could have seen her perform. But then, he’s seen her duel. He still usually bests her in their sparring sessions, but a lot of that is his greater experience; her grace and determination make it a foregone conclusion that she’ll soon catch up. It doesn’t help that he’s so often distracted just watching her.

    As he is now. A bad mistake in sparring; a potentially more dangerous one now.

    He takes a sip of hot chocolate, gathering himself, and says, “The worst is the nightmares.” Her gaze flicks toward him again, recognition in her eyes. He isn’t sure whether she means for him to see that, though, so he pretends he doesn’t. “No,” he amends, “the worst isn’t so much the nightmares as it is waking from them. That moment—” where you jolt awake, gasping, the horror clinging, not just remembering but living it all over again—

    “Where you expect to see blood on your hands, or a body on the floor,” she finishes softly. “And you’re looking for it, confused—”

    “And then you realize, but the feeling doesn’t fade. And you don’t want to remember but you’re afraid to try to sleep again—”

    “And nothing you do makes it fade, you just have to wait it out.” She’s quiet for a long moment, then, even more softly, “You haven’t figured out any tricks to make it fade faster, have you?”

    He sighs. “No.”

    She sips her chocolate. “You know,” she says, almost hesitantly, “I used to believe so completely in the rightness of my actions for the Emperor. I used to think—” she pauses, and Luke holds his breath. “It wasn’t just right, it was noble. I had purpose, and dignity, and fought for and upheld something bigger than myself.”

    “I know,” he says, softly, thinking even as the words escape that he should have bitten them back.

    She doesn’t seem to notice, eyes on the window again. “Did you believe that, during the war?”

    He closes his eyes, remembering. The exhilaration and terror of battle; the adrenaline rush so strong that sometimes, afterward, when they’d jumped to hyperspace, he would sit alone in his cockpit feeling dizzy and sick. The empty feeling as you tallied the names of those who didn’t return; the guilt, like a kick to the gut, when you let yourself realize that someone, somewhere, was tallying the names of those you had killed, those who also weren’t coming home. The dogged determination that you had to prevail, for the cause, weighted against the sheer futility of it all that could overwhelm you in the middle of the night.

    “Yes,” he says.

    He opens his eyes, and hers are on him again, her head tilted, her coppery hair shining in the muted light. “Do you still?” she asks, her voice quiet.

    “Oh, Mara,” he sighs, before he’s aware of it. “Yes, but that doesn’t mean the deaths don’t weigh on me. The lives I took and the ones I ordered into battles they didn’t come back from.”

    “You resigned your position as general only six months after you were promoted to it,” Mara says, unrelenting.

    He takes a breath. “Because I was tired of killing. I had wanted—you know the Death Star was my first combat mission.”

    She nods, silent. Takes another sip of her chocolate.

    “According to our information, there were 1,148,309 people assigned to the Death Star. Not counting any prisoners, or Imperial personnel who were just passing through, or droids. That’s how many people I killed with one shot, Mara. And only two other pilots—and Han and Chewie—survived the battle on our side. I’d hardly gotten off Tatooine before I was drenched in blood.”

    “The propaganda the Emperor got out of the Death Star’s loss,” Mara murmurs.

    “I know. I saw it,” Luke says. He hesitates, then decides to forge ahead. “I was stupidly young at Yavin—”

    “Because you’re so very ancient now,” Mara says, her lips curling up just a bit. Despite the subject at hand, his heart lifts a little at the sight.

    “Okay, stupidly younger at Yavin, and everything had happened so fast, and I’d just helped rescue a princess, for pity’s sake, and now here I was in a Rebel stronghold, surrounded by noble, selfless freedom fighters, with the battle station that had just destroyed Alderaan bearing down on us, everyone’s lives about to be snuffed out if we didn’t stop it somehow, and these fools were actually handing me an honest-to-gods starfighter, me, with no experience at all in a ship like that, but it’s everything I’ve ever wanted, and here it is. And I can be noble and brave and romantic and daring just like them and fight for a bigger cause, and I’m even going to get to fly with my long-lost best friend as I do it.”

    Mara, who has already heard the story about Biggs, on another day when he’d been telling her some tale of his childhood and she’d asked if his friend was still on Tatooine, presses her lips together and looks down at her mug again.

    “And then afterward, we were all so high on adrenaline and relief, and it was such a scramble to evacuate the base, and—” He pauses, remembering. “They gave me a medal, before we evacuated Yavin. Me and Han, for destroying the Death Star. And I was so proud. But a few days later, when we were in a convoy, looking for a new base, I read the reports that the analysts had written. And I saw that number, how many had been on the Death Star when I blew it up. That was the first time I realized—I didn’t just save lives with that shot. I took them. A lot of them. Almost six times as many people as the entire population of my home planet.”

    It’s not sympathy in her eyes, exactly. But not condemnation, either. Closer to understanding. “What did you do?”

    Luke snorts. “I threw up. I spent an hour in the ‘fresher, throwing up until there wasn’t anything left in me to throw up, and then dry heaving anyway.”

    “But you stayed,” she says softly. Still no condemnation.

    He shrugs. “I had nowhere else to go. And anyway, like I said, I did believe I was doing the right thing.” He takes a sip of hot chocolate. “But I put that medal at the very bottom of my storage crate and didn’t look at it again for years.” He sighs. “And then I got routed into command, and soon I had a squadron of my own, and I wasn’t just killing people in battle, I was ordering them to their deaths. Nineteen,” he adds quietly, “is far too young to be writing condolence letters to the families of people under your command.”

    The silence stretches for a long time. Luke has almost finished his hot chocolate by the time Mara speaks again.

    “I was fourteen the first time I killed someone.” She’s looking down at her mug, but her eyes are unfocused and distant. Seeing her memories instead of her surroundings. “It was practice. Because they couldn’t send me out on missions if they weren’t sure I could accomplish my objectives, could they? He was a condemned prisoner. They told me he was a traitor to the Emperor, and I would have the privilege of carrying out the sentence.”

    Luke winces, and she must sense it despite her unfocused gaze, because she shrugs in her turn. “It was what I was always meant to do. I killed him with a vibroblade. Turns out there’s a lot of blood in a human. I didn’t flinch, though. It never even occurred to me that I should. I was carrying out the Emperor’s justice. It was a tremendous honor.” She looks up. “I killed three more prisoners that year. With a blaster, and a lightsaber, and with my bare hands. And I never flinched. And my instructors analyzed my technique, and if they thought I was less than efficient, then they made me do it again, on a dummy or a droid, until they were satisfied that I’d made the cleanest kill possible.”

    She sets her mug on the side table and folds her hands in her lap. Her fingers are long and slender, and Luke thinks about her holding a vibroblade at fourteen, about her using it, about the sort of people who could put a deadly weapon into the hand of a child and tell her she was doing something noble by killing.

    “I was very good,” she says. “I always had been, for as long as I can remember. I suppose if I hadn’t been, he wouldn’t have kept me around. The next year, I started going on official missions. But I never thought about the people I’d killed, not even after the Empire fell. Not until recently.”

    Luke sets his own mug aside. “It’s hard. Memories like that. I wish I did know how to make them fade. For you and for me.”

    Mara looks at her folded hands, and he remembers her earlier words, and his stomach drops. Oh, gods, he thinks. It wasn’t a metaphor. She wakes up seeing blood on her hands.

    She wakes up, thinking she’s fourteen again, seeing blood on her hands.

    The rage surprises him with its totality, the way it suddenly fills him until he feels like it must be seeping out of every pore. His kills will always outnumber hers, outnumber everyone’s, but he remembers what it was to realize at nineteen that he had taken a life, and he remembers what a difference there was between fourteen and nineteen. He had at least been an adult—a stupidly young one, but an adult, and he had made the choice freely, even if he hadn’t understood the full scope of its consequences. Mara had been only a child, stolen and twisted and brainwashed and used, and taught to be proud of her own exploitation.

    He almost can’t breathe past the rage.

    “Don’t do that,” Mara says softly. “You can’t fix it, anyway.”

    This is the first time that Mara has ever admitted there’s anything about her upbringing and background to fix, and Luke thinks that’s probably progress. He tries hard to focus on the Force, to wash away the anger and replace it with peace. It doesn’t work as well as it usually does.

    “You,” he says, quietly, deliberately, “are an amazingly strong person, Mara.” Her deep green eyes turn to meet his, slightly wary, but the wariness doesn’t scare him now the way it would have at the beginning of this conversation. Right now, on this subject, they’re on equal ground, and they both know it: soldiers sharing advice on how to survive the weight that will never fully lift from their minds and hearts. “You are. Most people wouldn’t have survived your training, let alone grown into someone as capable and assured as you are. I wouldn’t have.”

    “But is it a good thing?” she asks, tilting her head again. “Do you really think I can be a Jedi, if I’m the sort of person who can excel at—the sort of things I was taught to excel at?”

    He reaches out before he thinks, lifting her hands from her lap and holding them tightly. Her eyes widen, but she doesn’t pull away. “I know you can be. And of course it’s a good thing. You’re here, aren’t you? The galaxy would be a lesser place if you weren’t. And my life would be a lot emptier.”

    “I almost took your life,” she reminds him. He thinks she sounds slightly breathless, but that has to be his imagination. “Multiple times.”

    Luke smiles at her. “And yet I’m still here.”

    Mara lifts an eyebrow. “Don’t get cocky.”

    He laughs, and releases her hands. He doesn’t really want to, but it’s probably better not to push his luck. “Han said that same thing to me, not long after we first met.”

    “I’m shocked,” Mara says, deadpan. “Completely shocked.”

    “Uh-huh,” Luke says, and is sure that Mara stifles a smile in response.

    The conversation turns from there to a comparison of when and how each had learned to fly—combat-adjacent but no longer entirely focused on the subject—which leads to an agreement that they will beg some simulator time from Wedge at the first opportunity. Luke, greatly daring, lays out the stipulation that the loser owes the other one dinner, at which Mara actually laughs and agrees.

    She leaves for her own apartment not long after, but they are both more cheerful than they should be after such a discussion. Luke remembers a saying of Aunt Beru’s, that a grief shared is a grief halved, and wishes that Aunt Beru was still here for him to tell her how true he’s found her words to be. For him to tell her how much she shaped him and how grateful he is and how often he still thinks of her. For him to introduce Mara to her.

    It’s not until he’s in bed that he realizes that Mara probably intends to cook him dinner rather than buy it if she loses in the sims, and that’s why she laughed. He remembers the time, a few weeks ago, when she suggested ordering dinner in and he said it was just as easy to cook their own, and how surprisingly bad Mara turned out to be at anything involving food preparation, for a person who is astonishingly talented at everything else.

    She, he decides, is definitely better at the devious thing than he is.

    The reflexive grimace at the thought of eating Mara’s cooking fades to a smile, and he lets himself drift toward slumber.

    He sleeps peacefully, and dreams not of fireballs that had been friends, or of blood on snow or sand, but of green eyes and trust and possible futures.
  2. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Kessel Run Hostess Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 9, 2002

    I will be back, but I love this so much.

    Edit: Back!

    Okay, first of all, I still love that your muse wouldn't let you rest until you wrote this, and "I couldn't sleep until I got it out of my head" will forever be my writing mantra or motto or whatever. Seriously, I need that on a poster right next to my computer. (And in tiny letters underneath: Dang Stover)

    I love all of Luke’s observations here. I can just feel how his admiration for Mara is right on the brink of turning into actual love. Maybe it already has, in a way, without him even being aware of it. And I love how he can nearly picture her as a dancer because of how he’s seen her duel. I imagine sparring sessions would be almost like dancing to them, and him being distracted by her is a perfect detail to add in.

    And there’s that hint of levity that helps make this whole conversation hurt just a little less. Luke being happy to see Mara smile, even just a little, will never get old.

    This might be my favorite passage in the whole of this understatedly angsty vignette. I love the reminder that Luke still has that quick-burning rage, so like his father’s in its intensity and in how fast it flares up. Just because he has a gentler nature than Anakin did, that doesn’t change how fiercely he feels for others, especially those he is closest to.

    Now for Mara. I LOVE her understated reaction to Luke’s reaction. Like I said before, you’re one of the few people I’ve read who allows Mara to have these quiet, vulnerable moments without losing who she is. She doesn’t wallow. She doesn’t want to wallow. Like she says here, Luke can’t fix it anyway. It does no good for him to get angry about something that can’t be changed. And he understands that and her enough to dial back that rage and just be there for her in that moment. It’s so good, Gabri. So good.

    My initial reaction of “just kiss already!” still stands, but of course it wasn’t going to happen here. :p It’s obvious that they’re both feeling something here that will lead to more… one day. You really nail their reactions here, and it feels perfect for this period in their lives. And obviously, good on Luke for telling her she is absolutely Jedi material.

    LOL, oh you snarky children, never change.

    Aunt Beru :(

    And possible (probable?) continuations of this vignette? ;)[face_mischief] Although I probably need to stop reminding you of other decade-old plot bunnies and let you finish the ones you’re already working on. [face_thinking]

    It is a beautifully written piece of introspection, my dear, and I am so glad you shared it!
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2020
  3. Bel505

    Bel505 Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Jul 4, 2006
    I love it. It's exactly how I imagine them in this period, still grappling with what they share, finding themselves inexorably drawn to one another... having hard conversations they wouldn't have with anyone else. They offer one another something that no one else could give. And Luke's quiet rage at the life Mara was forced to live... it's just perfect. Thanks for sharing. :)
  4. LadyPadme

    LadyPadme Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 26, 2002
    Yay! You posted! As always your characterizations of Luke and Mara are so spot on and insightful (especially because you are actually Mara in disguise). Lovely dialogue and introspection!
  5. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The (FavoriteTM) Fanfic Mod With the Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004

    I, too, will be back with a better review than that, but I had to let you know that there was quite the squee when I saw that you posted a new L/M story! :D [face_dancing] Talk about a treat to be savored!

  6. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Bravo on having Luke and Mara share so in character such a hard topic, which I agree with bel505, they wouldn't or couldn't share with anyone else with a level of safety or yeah I've been there kind of texture. The emotive undercurrent between them you have struck brilliantly. =D= There is an on the brinkness on both sides, Luke's more overtly than Mara's perhaps. All throughout the talk, before and after, you can really sense the comfort level they have with one another.

    And CAN I JUST DO THE HAPPY HAPPY DANCE? Because an L/M specialist has returned. ^:)^
    Mira_Jade and Gabri_Jade like this.
  7. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fanfic Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Nov 9, 2002
    In the EU, by the time you get to VotF, Luke's distracted and overloaded himself every which way, whereas Mara's had plenty of time and distance to think about things and has her own emotions reasonably well sorted out. But if you rewind them to this point and let things develop without all the tangents the EU insisted on taking, Luke is the more emotionally healthy one and Mara's still coming to terms with a lot of messy stuff about her own life. She's quick on the uptake regardless, but I do think that Luke would be the first to realize just where this is going. He's not quite there yet, but almost.

    Right? Luke's just a sweetheart, really. And even though Mara isn't very demonstrative, I just couldn't see her letting this pass without comment. Mentally and emotionally, yeah, it's been a lifetime since Yavin. Physically, Luke's not thirty yet, and Mara, with her dry sense of humor, would catch the inherent absurdity of this aspect of their lives.

    It's my favorite part too. TTT was pretty busy, y'know? Lots of hugely important things to think about at every turn. And although they've done a lot of talking since, Mara doesn't confide in people easily. Luke knew she'd been raised to be Emperor's Hand and it for sure wasn't a normal childhood, but in my head, he hadn't realized just how far from normal it was, either. So they get to this point in the conversation, which is the first time Mara's mentioned any of this, and the pieces fall into place for him, what she lived through and how the aftereffects are hitting her now that she has enough distance to begin to process it, and he's suddenly just furious over it all, because he's Luke, with that quick temper and fierce protective streak he inherited from Anakin.

    And Mara is just so pragmatic. She's starting to realize how wrong so much of her life was, but she's not bringing it up out of self-pity or to get sympathy. What's done is done; the important thing for her is figuring out how to deal with it. At this point she trusts Luke enough to - so very obliquely - ask for help with that. But as much as he understands her, to tone his reaction down and just be there for her, she understands him, too, that his instant emotional reaction doesn't upset her or scare her away. She just points out that it doesn't help anything. They always did work well together and understand each other. I love writing them so much, Vi. So much.

    Thank you, darling! They're so very tentative still, but they'll get there. And Luke always does have such faith in people. Fully justified, too, in Mara's case.

    lol, more like an expansion of the plot bunny this was supposed to be a scene for instead of a vig. In addition to the other plot bunny. And its sequel. And the other one :oops:

    That's a perfect description of them trying to figure out their relationship at this point. And Luke would be so angry about it, wouldn't he? And rightfully so; though Mara's early training isn't described in the EU and may not have played out as I imagine it here, she was still a child being taught to kill. It's completely inexcusable, but Mara's never had the outside context to think of it that way before. It would have to be a profoundly difficult adjustment for her. Thank you so much! I'm glad you liked the story :)

    Don't give me away, Jieh [face_shhh] Thank you for your perpetual support and beta work [:D]

    [face_blush] I had wondered whether anyone would remember me, so this made me smile all day, thank you [face_blush]

    Thank you very much [face_blush] I'm glad you liked it :)
  8. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The (FavoriteTM) Fanfic Mod With the Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    I'm here, I'm here, I'm here!! Even if it took me way longer than I wanted to get back to leaving this story the proper feedback as it so deserves. Because this fic has stayed with me over the last few weeks, and I've thought about it more than once. [face_love]

    So! To dive into the nitty gritty of what I enjoyed best . . .

    Aw! I just adored everything about this. For their relationship being so fragile and new there's still this tremendous gravity linking them together and pulling them into each others orbit. It's a bond they can both realize and admit to - to a certain extent, of course.

    With that said, I loved the entire atmosphere you carried throughout, how the tone was so soft and hesitant and yet powerfully thick and raw with emotion. That's quite the delicate balance to achieve, but somehow you pulled it off!

    I also loved - but apparently forgot to highlight the quote! - the few indications of attraction between then, too, with Luke reflecting on Mara's dancing. It's not quite romantic yet, but there's still that awareness and appreciation that was just so sincere for being in its first, nascent stages. [face_love]

    Ain't that it in a nutshell? :p

    What I really appreciated was that Mara opened up and broached this topic first - choosing to trust and seek a confidant in Luke. It's largely because of his straight-out farmboy honesty. I loved that line!

    Those little telling details. [face_love] And, great bit of banter to lighten the heaviness of the scene.

    Oh but all of this hurt so very much. I'm trying to find the words but coming up short. For all that they were fighting the fight that needed fighting, there were still so many lives lost. On both sides! Though there isn't a single thing he would have - or could have - done differently, the toll that takes psychologically is bound to leave scars.

    And when they were finishing each other's sentences about the nightmares . . . :_|

    And the hurt continues. =(( Thinking about how Mara was abused and how she thought herself grateful and honored by that same abuse is always enough to get my blood boiling. Kinda like -

    Yeah. Just like that.

    I love how you allowed Luke this rage, too. He's not just our blue-eyed farmboy. Still waters run deep, and there's nothing more formidable than the righteous anger of a gentle man moved to defend. Seriously, I loved this moment for Luke. Top tier, five stars outta five moment. =D=

    Oh, Mara. =((

    Again, I love how you managed to marry such softness and strength all throughout the tone of this. She can be soft around Luke. She's not all snark and temper and hard edges. (That's a gross over simplification that really pushes my buttons with certain fanon interpretations of her.) Mara is looking back on the wrongs done to her and finally able to admit them as a wrong. She was a victim who was horribly used by those she trusted and wanted to please, almost in a parental aspect when it comes to Palpatine. She's processing her trauma as best she can, and pragmatically moving forward as she has to for her own sake. Because she's Mara, and that's just so completely what her character would do. Gah, A+ characterizations all around!

    [face_laugh] [face_laugh]

    And still all the sass. I love it. [face_love]

    Oh, but that hurt like pain! But still so, so beautiful.

    And this was a gorgeous, perfect ending. There's just the future left there wide open before them, and it's that hope that defines them rather than their pasts. Just lovely. [face_love]

    I have to end this by saying welcome back, again! I loved reading this so very much, and hope that this is just the first of many more new stories yet to come. ;) =D= [:D]
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2020
  9. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fanfic Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Nov 9, 2002
    That's high praise right there [face_blush]

    I just can't imagine that they wouldn't wind up spending a lot of time together just post-TLC, you know? Not only did they work well together even when Mara was dealing with the Emperor's command, but at the end of TLC Mara admitted to herself that her future was here, with the New Republic and the Jedi (which makes it all the more annoying that the EU then shuffled her right out of the picture and mostly forgot that she existed :rolleyes:), and Luke is by far the most sympathetic friend she'd have on Coruscant at the time. (To give Leia and Han their due, I have no doubt that they would also have worked to make Mara feel at home and part of the family - because we all know that she'd be considered thus forever after for saving the twins, let alone what she did at Wayland - but they do have newborn twins still. Little time consuming, that.) And of course Luke would want to spend time with her both as a student and a friend.

    Okay, and maybe he'd also be happy to spend time with her because he really likes her and she's graceful and pretty, even if he hasn't quite put all those pieces together just yet :p

    An important point, so I'm glad you noticed it! Yup, she trusts him enough to tell him things she's probably never mentioned to anyone else, and look for possible help in dealing with her own pain, because she knows he can be trusted to such an extent. As far as "straight-out farm boy honesty," I'm sure you caught it, but I lifted that straight from the last chapter of TLC. I wasn't going to do better than Zahn in describing that aspect of Luke, so why try?

    Luke and Mara bantering is by far my favorite thing to write. Gotta sneak it in even here :p

    War will mess you up, no matter how much you might believe in the cause. And I'm glad the finishing each other's sentences bit works! There's almost nothing in this vignette that I deliberately crafted; it just kind of poured out of my head fully formed after rereading parts of Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor (dang Stover). Wasn't even supposed to be a vig, it was meant as a scene for a WIP. Read through it after I wrote it and thought, huh, I think I wrote a vig? For the first time in a decade? Wonder how that happened? So it's nice to know I still remember how to write :p

    Yeah, I feel like that aspect of her background gets overlooked too often. Mara is, as Luke says here, a tremendously strong person, but that doesn't change the fact that she was kidnapped and lied to and abused for her entire childhood. That's an incredible amount of emotional baggage to deal with and try to overcome.

    Thank you [face_blush] And I love the way you worded that: "there's nothing more formidable than the righteous anger of a gentle man moved to defend" is such a good description of Luke!

    Oh my gosh, don't even get me started on certain fanon interpretations of Mara. (Or do. But Vi will tell you, you'd better have some serious time set aside once you get me going on that subject :p) Mara is one of my favorite characters ever, not just in SW, because there's so much depth to her. And for those who complain that she's too hard, too cold, too abrupt, etc, she's a recovered kidnap victim, abuse victim, child soldier. Just because she's recovered pretty well doesn't mean there's not still trauma there.

    And you know, some things that get chalked up as flaws on Mara's part aren't even really her traits to begin with, like temper. When you read Zahn's books, which are always the gold standard for Mara characterization, she's actually very controlled with her emotions. Luke is the one with the quick temper, not Mara. Maybe the myth about Mara's temper sprang from the fact that she was simply angry in TTT, but that was largely the influence of the Emperor's brainwashing and his voice in her head, berating her, for five years. Would sure have put me in a bad mood! Plus some perfectly natural residual emotional fallout of, oh, I don't know, her entire life and world falling to pieces around her and the way she dropped in a heartbeat from the very top of the Imperial hierarchy to scrambling for survival on the edges of society. She was literally still in the middle of a whole lot of profound trauma that she thought Luke, personally, was responsible for. That's what was causing the anger, not something inherent to Mara's personality. She wouldn't have survived very long as an undercover intelligence officer and assassin if she couldn't control her temper, would she? Even when she was under the last command, she didn't ever actually give in to that anger. And once that command was out of her head and she could start on the process of becoming truly her own person, the anger itself disappeared. If anything, Mara leans toward the unhealthy side of emotional reserve - which is addressed head-on in VotF.

    Whoops, I got started :p

    Luke and Mara sass, my favorite thing ever [face_love]

    I always feel that Luke and Leia's adoptive parents don't get enough attention in either the EU (Legends, anyway, I've only read a handful of the new canon books, so I can't say much about them) or fanfic, and I especially feel that Beru and Owen are unfairly overlooked and maligned. Owen wasn't a slave driver, he was actually pretty indulgent, and it was obvious he and Beru and Luke were a close family. Of course Luke would still think about them and miss them. And I always think that he would have wanted them to know Mara, and that Mara would always wonder a little if his parents would have liked her.

    Thank you so much! I often find endings the most challenging part of any writing, so it's especially gratifying when someone thinks I made it work :)

    Thank you again! I'm so pleased you liked it. I tend to be a slow writer, but there are a few things in the works. Hopefully it won't take me another decade to finish them :p
  10. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Kessel Run Hostess Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 9, 2002
    I can confirm this to be true. ;):p

  11. mayo_durron_666

    mayo_durron_666 Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Nov 26, 2005
    This was wonderful to read. I've missed these two (L/M). [face_love]
    Thoroughly enjoyed Luke and Mara's friendship being explored in this.
    It was interesting to see an ex-rebel and ex-imperial discuss their past fighting/killing actions and decisions.
    I liked how they could talk about the difficult subject with each other without judgement.
    Nice one! :)
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha likes this.
  12. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fanfic Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Nov 9, 2002
    Luke and Mara's relationship, at pretty much any stage, is always my favorite thing to write. :) And it really is interesting to think of how they'd compare notes on their extremely different lives. Zahn has said that in designing Mara as a character, he was trying to write the best possible complement to Luke, and I definitely think he accomplished that. Whatever their differences, they balance each other so beautifully that they're always drawn to each other and compatible. Thank you so much, I'm glad you liked it!
  13. Bel505

    Bel505 Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Jul 4, 2006
    Okay! I've been meaning to come back to this and explain more about why I love it so much, so let's do that:

    So, right from the start I'm fully invested. Going back to read the last scene in "The Last Command", and Luke and Mara have this tangible camaraderie that is already bordering on intimacy. It's also clear they've spent time together between the battle at Mt. Tantiss and their meeting on the palace roof. Them as a pair has thus been pretty well established, and it leaves all kinds of questions about what happens next between them?

    Well, I've always assumed they'd fall into a semi-awkward, increasingly comfortable camaraderie. And that's exactly what you present here: Luke craving her company in an active way (not surprising, he clearly did even when she wanted to kill him), and terrified of scaring her away; Mara ... I'm not sure what's going on exactly in Mara's head. She probably doesn't think about it much, just lets herself be drawn like a moth to a flame by Luke's enthusiasm.

    She isn't scared of him—she's probably one of the few people who legitimately isn't (and therefore one of the few people who treats Luke like a human being and not a divine actor)—and she lets them have the deep conversation she needs to have.

    Who else in her life could she talk to like this? She has no friends, no family. She doesn't particularly trust Aves, who is the only member of Karrde's crew we see her interact with; her relationship with Karrde is still young in HttE and doesn't qualify as "friendship" (not yet, not from her end anyway). Luke knows more about her than anyone else alive by the end of the Zahn trilogy, and more importantly she trusts him, so she lets him ask. And she's willing to answer.

    (Also, she started it. She brought the topic up in the first place, and she had to know he would ask. She always will be the one to start it, too, because Luke's not going to press her.)

    This is my favorite part of the fic. Luke gets righteously furious, in a way that of course he will every time he finds out more about what Palpatine did to her. She was taken from her parents, molded into a weapon, lied to and deceived, her mind mangled by the Emperor's Force powers. Luke cares for people (and I think Zahn makes it pretty clear during the Katana battle in Dark Force Rising that he has more than platonic feelings for her even then).

    Mara has the reaction that she will always have with him: she doesn't like to see him enraged like that, any more than she likes to see him blame himself for Vader's deeds. They're protecting each other, but not in a way that might be immediately obvious even with their telepathy.

    (Thus, IMO, in Vision of the Future when they have their moment of radical unity, they're like: oh. We're totally in love with one another and have been for years. We just never knew how to communicate it. Sadly, the fact that they spent almost no time together meant they never had a chance to realize it naturally, so the Force clobbered them over the head with it. )

    Mara also has an instinct to just ... move on. Deal with it by focusing on what she's doing now, let herself process while she worries about what to do next. It works and keeps her moving, but it makes healing difficult. Luke lingers in moments, and here and at other times he'll just take her hand and sit with her and let her process, being the support she needs—even if he never says a word.

    And this is why they're so good for each other. Mara's strength and determination, her trials and survival and continuing goodness and deep instinct for what is right (which he can see even if others might not so easily) inspires Luke. That's why he never has a single qualm about whether Mara can be a Jedi. And Luke's stubborn belief in people, his "farm boy honesty" is exactly what Mara needed all her life, not just in a romantic partner but from everyone and everything, to help her overcome all of Palpatine's persistent deceptions and programming and a whole galaxy that conspired (knowingly or not) with Palpatine to lie to her.

    So yeah. When I read this I was so excited. In my head I said "right after TLC Mara and Luke spend some time together, talk, share stories. Everyone around them assumes they're a couple or going to be. Then Mara leaves for a while, probably about a year, because she has work to do with Karrde and because she does need to have the chance to process away from Coruscant (the place is probably very bad for her) and away from Luke (because otherwise the relationship might start to seem like a dependency, and Mara would rebel against that). So I'll start my fic when she comes back.

    Then I read this and it's like: aha! "Yes, exactly that kind of moment, that's the kind of moment they shared before she went away for a while," and I can plug it straight in and say "yes, this happened before Interregnum." So! Yes, as far as I'm concerned "And Have We Done with War at Last" is Interregnum-verse canon.=D=
  14. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fanfic Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Nov 9, 2002
    I totally agree that they're established as a pair by the final scene of TLC, and with your assumption of how their relationship would progress. Even when Mara hated him and Luke knew she wanted to kill him, they also both knew how well they worked together. There'd be some residual awkwardness from that (and from the simple fact that Mara's really never had a friend before), but as far as I'm concerned, Luke was more than half in love with her by that point anyway, even if he didn't quite realize it himself, and Mara knows she can trust him, and that he'll respect her boundaries. I figure it would take her longer than Luke to think about any of this consciously, since she's so new to the whole having a personal life thing and is still dealing with some trauma from having Palpatine in her head for five years, but in the meantime it's just comfortable to be with Luke.

    Exactly. She likes Karrde, but she doesn't consider him a personal friend yet. She surely recognizes that Han and Leia and Winter and Chewie are friendly toward her, but she's not close to any of them yet - really hasn't spent much time at all with Leia or Winter, in fact. Luke knows her probably better than anyone else ever has, on a personal level. He's proven he can be trusted, that he genuinely doesn't hold her past against her (nor does he pity her, no matter how angry he might be about how Palpatine used her), that he doesn't expect more than she's willing to give, and he's also just such a kind person.

    Because of course the more time she spends with him, the more she trusts and likes him, until she's willing to bring up something as personal as this. And no, Luke would never push her on anything personal, especially not this early on. As insightful and empathetic as he is, he'd be trying so hard to give her the space and independence she needs to learn who she is as an individual rather than as the Emperor's Hand.

    Could not agree more about Luke's feelings in DFR. I mean, come on, not only does Luke actively sense Mara specifically in the heat of battle when he's nowhere near her, but Han literally thinks that Luke is looking like he just lost his best friend instead of someone who wanted to kill him. Clearly Luke's feelings are already engaged. So even though he'd be angry about anyone being abused the way Mara was, how much more so would he be over the abuse of the woman he loves? Look at his instant and violent reaction to Vader's threat to turn his attention to Leia. Luke is wildly protective of the people he loves.

    One of my favorite things about these two is the way they're always looking out for each other. [face_love]

    Exactly. I still can't believe the EU dropped such an incredibly obvious opportunity with these two.

    I love the thought that Luke lingers in moments. Mara is so very practical that it can work to her own detriment, as you say here; that focus on practical necessities neglects more intangible aspects of life. Luke won't sit her down and insist on a therapy session, but he'll make her hot chocolate and just be there when she's finally comfortable enough to talk about something.

    Right? Luke has always seen all of her good qualities, and that she's still that sort of person after everything she experienced would always be something he'd admire. And Mara's never had someone who simply believed in her. Not her abilities or usefulness, but simply her as a person. He'd be such an anchor for her as she worked to figure out her own life and mind and heart.

    Especially considering how good Interregnum is, this is high praise, thank you [face_blush] I'm very glad you enjoyed it so much! :D