Title: ...For the Rest of Us Author: Tarsier Timeframe: 21 ABY Characters: primarily Luke and Mara; appearances by Artoo, Aves, Ghent, Dankin, Faughn Genre: mush, fluff, maybe a little humor Summary: Festivus! Notes: For the SJRS Details Exchange Challenge. I got mavjade's details, listed at the end. Happy holidays, mavjade! I hope you like it! As Luke flipped through the Midwinter Festival greetings cards he and Mara had received, one in particular caught his eye. It was addressed to simply “Mara Jade.” The card was a flat slate grey with the words “a Festivus for the rest of us” printed at the top. At the bottom was handwriting: You should come. Bring him if you want. – Aves “Hey, Mara,” Luke rose from the table and carried the card across the room to where Mara was sitting on the couch. “What’s this?” After glancing at the top line, Mara hastily grabbed the card from him. “Nothing.” She crumpled up the card and tossed it in the trash. “What is it? I’ve never heard Midwinter Festival called Festivus before.” “That’s because it’s not Midwinter Festival. It’s not a real holiday. It’s nothing.” His curiosity piqued, Luke prodded, “So when is it?” “I don’t know.” Luke looked skeptically at Mara. “Really, Luke, I don’t know. It can happen any time between now and late spring. They just sort of decide a few days ahead of time. In fact, I doubt there will even be one this year. Karrde outlawed the whole thing a few years ago when the Feats of Strength got out of hand.” “Feats of Strength? This is sounding better all the time.” “Seriously, Luke, can we please drop this? The best part of not being a smuggler is not having to think about Festivus.” “The best part? Are you sure about that?” Luke wrapped his arms around Mara’s waist and pulled her close. *** Two weeks and four days later… Mara distractedly smoothed the fabric of her favorite green dress as she gazed out the speeder window at the bright lights of the city. “Where are we going, Luke? I thought you made reservations at the Glowstone.” From the backseat, Artoo gave an uncertain twitter. It seemed the droid knew something Mara didn’t. Luke glanced over at Mara and gave her such a big grin she could tell this wasn’t going to end well. “I made other arrangements.” Mara’s heart sank as she realized they were nearing Karrde’s docking bay. Recalling the conversation from several weeks ago, Mara could think of only one reason for Luke to be bringing her this direction. Festivus. Kriff it, Luke, I told you not to do this, Mara thought to herself. She wanted to voice her unhappiness, but Luke was so proud of himself she couldn’t bring herself to spoil his fun just yet. She figured she could either demand they turn around and have Luke forever believe that Festivus was some grand adventure she had deprived him of, or she could just follow along and cash in a major “I told you so” later. She was still weighing her options—she really didn’t want to attend another Festivus—when the speeder finally slowed. Luke parked right next to the Etherway. Apparently Aves had offered up his own ship to host the Festivus shenanigans. Mara decided to make one last attempt before they entered the ship. “This is not the kind of party where everyone is exchanging gifts and spreading good cheer. It’s more about relieving tension with alcohol and brawling. I genuinely don’t think you’ll enjoy it. Are you sure you want to do this?” “Of course. I barely know your friends from the company.” Mara opened her mouth to object further, but Luke rushed ahead before she got the chance. “I know you think I’m some boring old professor-type, but I can have fun too.” Luke grabbed her hand and started dragging her toward the ship before she could argue. Artoo trundled along behind them. *** Half an hour later they were seated at a long table with a dozen smugglers, none of whom Luke recognized. He had gathered that the tall blond man directly across the table was Aves, the host of the party. Everyone had been served what Luke would generously call a meal. It seemed to involve severely overcooked meat along with equally undercooked vegetables, all drowning in a sticky brown sauce. Luke had no idea who had prepared the food, but he would a venture a guess that they had never set foot in a kitchen before today. However, the centerpiece of the meal, and the only thing that was actually consumed as far as Luke could tell, was the wine. It was a deep, rich burgundy. And it tasted good. Luke had never been a connoisseur of wine before, but this particular type of wine just might be enough to change that. Mara was still fuming beside him, so Luke just kept smiling and slowly sipped his wine as he watched the antics of those around him. They were currently involved in what he’d learned was called the Airing of Grievances. Individuals were taking turns standing up and telling others what they’d done to annoy them in the last year. The wine had apparently been flowing for some time before Luke and Mara had arrived, so many people were slurring their words and generally ranting incomprehensibly at one another. Luke found himself oddly entranced by the whole production. There was a refreshing honesty to the drunken ravings and no one seemed too offended to be on the receiving end. He wondered if there wasn’t something to be learned from these people and their odd rituals. *** Typically the timing of Festivus was determined by when tensions within the company got too high and needed a release. This year it appeared the timing was based on something completely unrelated to inter-company relationships. Rather, it seemed someone had come into possession of a large amount of wine that needed to be disposed of. From the bits of conversation Mara overheard, it appeared the wine came from Bakura and was stolen, or else some sort of unlawful bribe. There was also some indication that consumption of the stuff was illegal in its native Bakura. And with good reason—apparently it was made in part with the mildly-narcotic namana fruit. She was only on her second glass and was already starting to feel it. She noticed Luke was almost done with his first glass. She knew he was a lightweight when it came to alcohol and was trying to come up with a way to subtly suggest he’d had enough when the random yelling known as the Airing of Grievances made its way to their end of the table. Aves, who was thoroughly tanked and who Mara had begun to suspect had invited her and Luke for just this moment, stood up. “I’ve got a problem with a lot of people in this room,” he began, looking out over his coworkers, “But I’ve got the biggest problem with you.” Aves unsteadily pointed in Luke’s direction as he spat the last syllable. “You show up looking all innocent and harmless and then you steal our second-in-command! We coulda killed you years ago, ya know. You were our prisoner and we let you go. And then you take Mara from us! You lyin’ stealin’ son of a bantha . . .” Aves continued for some time, but he became increasing hard to understand as we worked himself into a lather over his unhappiness with Luke. Artoo gave a nervous whistle from behind Luke as Aves came closer. “Don’t worry, Artoo,” Luke said soothingly. “I’m sure he’s harmless.” Is it too soon to say I told you so? Mara mentally asked Luke as Aves half climbed onto the table and grabbed for Luke in the midst of his tirade. Aww, I think it’s kind of sweet. It shows how much he really cares about you. You’re an idiot, Farmboy. Luke just grinned his silly farmboy grin and leaned back, avoiding Aves’s drunken reach. Annoyed that Luke was not more unsettled by the ridiculous display, Mara stood up. “Alright, I think we got it Aves.” She pushed Aves away from her husband and he gracelessly fell back into his chair. “I declare the Airing of Grievances to be officially over.” “Time for the Feats of Strength!” someone shouted. “Yeah!” several people enthusiastically replied. Mara cringed and threw Luke a withering glare. *** To Luke’s mild disappointment, it turned out the Feats of Strength were little more than impromptu wrestling matches between those individuals who had really gone after each other during the Airing of Grievances. After a few rather unremarkable matches, someone announced that it was time for the Grudge Match. Luke found himself being dragged toward the open area in the center of the room where the previous wrestling matches had taken place. Luke looked to Mara, hoping she would be able to stop whatever was about to happen, or at least give his some guidance. But she just gave him a very unsympathetic shrug. When Luke reached the open area, he saw that Aves was standing at the far side, waiting for him. “Festivus isn’t over until someone pins the guest of honor!” a voice announced from behind Luke. Apparently they really expected him to fight Aves. “Wait!” Luke shouted as Aves charged toward him. With some reluctance Aves stopped short. “I really like this tunic,” Luke explained as he removed the dark red satin garment and set it over a nearby chair. “Okay, now I’m ready.” *** It had taken Luke approximately four seconds to pin Aves. Unfortunately, pinning Aves had little effect, as several other smugglers stepped in to take his place and soon Aves himself was back on his feet, entirely unfazed. Luke knocked them all to the ground with little trouble (the most difficult part being preventing injury to the falling men) but they kept getting back up and trying again. Mara watched with boredom, wondering if they would ever get to leave. “Not bad, Jade. Not bad at all.” Mara turned to see Shirlee Faughn approaching her. The other woman pulled up a chair and sat down beside Mara, her eyes never leaving Luke. Mara opened her mouth to tell Faughn to quit gawking at her husband, but then closed it without saying anything. Faughn was human after all, and Luke did have amazing arms, which were currently glistening in the artificial light as they wrapped Aves into a headlock. Luke slipped in a puddle of spilled liquor and fell to the ground, dragging Aves down on top of him. Then Luke started laughing uncontrollably. It appeared that the Bakuran wine was starting to catch up with him. Mara smiled despite herself as Luke clambered to his feet and staggered toward an approaching combatant. He was still laughing as he lifted the smuggler off his feet and dumped him on top of Aves, who was still struggling to get to his feet. “Hey, Mara.” Giving her husband’s bulging muscles one last lingering look, Mara turned to the new voice. It belonged to Dankin, a pilot in the company and, though she was a bit embarrassed to admit it, one of Mara’s greatest admirers. “I came to warn you away from the wine. Stuff that potent should not taste that good. Might as well be vrelt poison.” Mara lifted her empty glass. “You’re a little late.” Seeing Dankin for the first time in nearly a year, Mara couldn’t help but be reminded of the fact that most of the people Mara interacted with these days met her with various degrees of distrust, disdain, and condescension. It was a nice change to be in the presence of someone who thought she could walk on water. As much as she hated to admit it, Mara was actually starting to enjoy herself. And speaking of people who think I can walk on water. . . Mara turned as she felt a familiar and very excited presence enter the room. “Over here, Ghent,” she shouted to the blue-haired slicer as he picked his way across the room. “I’ve had a breakthrough,” Ghent said excitedly as he approached Mara with a big smile on his face. “I think I can finally finish the extraction tonight. Is the droid here?” Artoo gave an uncertain whistle and rolled behind Mara. “Great,” Mara answered. “Can you come to the apartment with the data tomorrow morning?” Before Ghent could reply, Luke staggered up to the group. “I fought them for you, Mara. I fought them all!” “Better make that late morning,” Mara corrected as Luke fell into her lap. She put her arms around him and he laid his head on her shoulder, already half-asleep. “Go on and take the droid,” Mara told Ghent. “Somehow I don’t think Luke will notice.” “Come on, Artoo,” Ghent called. Swiveling his domed head back and forth from Ghent to Mara, the droid reluctantly followed the slicer as he made his way off the ship. *** After a rather unimpressive end to the Feats of Strength—after Luke fell asleep in Mara’s lap the others had been too tired to insist on pinning Luke before they let the festivities come to an end—Mara had driven Luke home and half-carried him to bed. The next morning she was preparing some extra-strong caf, hoping Luke would have his head back together before Ghent arrived. Just as Mara was pouring herself a cup, Luke entered the kitchen looking surprisingly perky. Rather annoyingly perky actually, considering Mara’s head was still pounding from that Maker-forsaken Bakuran wine. “Did I get in a fight with your friend Aves last night?” Mara allowed herself a modicum of smug satisfaction that apparently Luke was not entirely immune to the effects of the wine. “In a manner of speaking, yes.” Luke scrunched his brow as he tried to remember. Mara put her arms around his neck and pulled his face close to hers. “Thanks for last night. As much as I hate to admit it, it was nice to see some of those people again.” She kissed him deeply and could feel all thoughts of Aves and half-drunk escapades evaporating as he kissed her back. A knock at the door interrupted them. Mara pulled away. “Since you had a surprise for me last night, I have a surprise for you this morning.” “Am I going to like this?” Luke asked uncertainly as Mara led the way to the door. “You’ll just have to wait and see,” Mara replied. A moment later she opened the door to reveal Ghent and Artoo, the slicer’s eyes shining with excitement. “It’s a Festivus miracle!” he declared, handing Mara a datacard. Artoo twittered and rolled back and forth eagerly beside Ghent. “What is it?” Luke asked. “A few weeks ago, I was using Artoo to run a system check on Sabre. While he was hooked in, Sabre’s computer picked up some anomalies in Artoo’s memory banks. Since you were out of town, I had Ghent take a look. It turned out that the anomalies were hidden data files. After a little digging, we were able to determine the files were created forty-five years ago.” Mara paused to watch Luke’s reaction. “Unfortunately, the files were highly encrypted, so we had no idea what they were. I didn’t want to get you too excited until we knew more. Last week Ghent was able to reveal a small fragment of one of the files. Just enough that I knew you would like it.” Mara smiled. “And last night Ghent found a way to decrypt all the files. Right?” Ghent nodded eagerly. Mara plugged the datacard into a projector. A fuzzy image was projected, depicting two figures standing face-to-face. One was wearing flowing layers of white; the other was shrouded in darker colors. “Who are they?” Luke asked, looking to Mara and Ghent. Artoo squealed excitedly, but Luke got his answer directly from the projected image. “I, Anakin Skywalker . . .” the darker figure began. Luke turned with his eyes wide to Mara. “That’s my father?” Mara smiled and Luke turned back to the image just as the figure in white took a step toward the darker figure. Most of the sound was garbled, but Luke picked out two words: “Padmé Amidala.” “My mother,” he breathed. “That’s my mother.” Mara gave Luke’s shoulder a squeeze. “I thought you might like it.” mavjade's details: 1) What is the name of the holiday? Festivus 2) What does Mara give Luke as a present? Something about his mother. 3) What is Mara's reaction to Luke's gift to her? Anger at first, then she comes to love it.