This a One-shot I have wtitten for @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha as a thank you gift for all the wonderful help provided with nine-months of proofreading my story "Provenance". It was a big writing challenge for me and it would have never turned out the way it did without Ny's commitment and patience. I will be forever grateful to you for this Ny I hope you like this small gift. And to anyone else reading, I hope you enjoy it too. Thank you for reading. ___________________________________________________________________________________ Right after the events in VOTF. "Just You and Me." The faint sound of running water told him that it was the start of the day. Last night’s outing had been intense. Although he’d expected it to be a simple announcement of recent events and decisions, sharing the news with his family had taken more energy than he would have expected, and after a few bottles popped open the night had turned into a full-blown celebration. He knew he had to get out of bed and get ready, he needed to go to his place and get a fresh change of clothes and a shower… A busy day was ahead of him. He wished he’d be at Yavin IV in the Jedi Academy, a place he had called home for the past ten plus years, teaching and overseeing his student’s training, … but he’d agreed to spend some time in Coruscant. All too aware of the challenges in the day ahead of him, he remained lying down, taking pleasure on the feel of the silky sheets against his undressed body, relishing in the scent left by the woman he’d spent the night with… Mara Jade. His Mara. Right after coming back from Nirauan, he and Mara had been spending a lot of time together… if not all of their time. They were engaged after all. Spending time with her under this newfound dynamic in their relationship was thrilling, exhilarating, exciting… After everything they’d gone through, nothing would ever tear them apart. She was his perfect match and he was head over heels for her, he could admit that to himself now. During the past days they had talked a lot, come forth with their concerns and expectations, gone out on dates and had engaged in other types of activities that didn’t need any talking at all. The exploration and discovery of one another was an adventure in itself. Slowly, his blue eyes opened. His sight trying to get some focus on the surroundings in the lavish bedroom he’d been sharing with his woman for the past several days… Her home. Perhaps what they each now called home would have to change address, he and his gorgeous fiancé had not gotten to that just yet. But he didn’t really care, for him home would be anywhere Mara was. After a long, long time, Luke Skywalker could now tell that he felt truly happy. The sound of running water stopped. The Jedi could sense the redhead moving about in her walk-in dressing room. With softness he sent a loving greeting through their Force bond, a greeting that was soon answered with equal amounts of tenderness. The bond they had always shared had become deeper and more intimate after that mind-merge in the Force they had experienced during their mission. And for the looks of it, everything signalled that it was a permanent thing. It was true that this link had felt a bit overwhelming in the beginning, but it seemed like as the days had passed they had both learnt to modulate its intensity and felt more comfortable with it now. Luke could have never thought of having someone to know him the way Mara knew him now. There were no secrets, no hidden traits, insecurities or desires; through their Force bond everything he was, was in plain sight for her to see… And she accepted him, just like that, without any reservations. Mara knew him better than anyone, in ways no one ever would. And he knew her too, with the same intimacy… and would never, ever want any other woman but Mara by his side. A sudden beeping disrupted his contemplations… It was Mara’s holo comm unit in her living room. Someone must be in a hurry to talk to her since the beeping kept on going. “The message mode must be off!” He heard Mara’s muffled voice calling from inside the dressing room, “Could you get that? Just switch on the message mode and I’ll answer later.” Luke wasn’t familiar with Mara’s home holo comm unit, so he could not use the Force to make it go into message mode from a distance… He’d have to do it the regular way. Lazily, he got out of bed and walked towards the comm unit in her living room. Standing in front of the sophisticated gadget he studied it for a few seconds, ‘Where’s the frikin’ switch?’ He pushed what looked like the right option with one finger, turned around and walked away towards the bedroom. “Good morning,” a cultured, cautious, semi-surprised voiced called from behind the Jedi. Luke froze… ‘Shavit!’ He must have pushed the answering switch by mistake! That was Talon Karrde’s voice! And his naked rear end was definitely in the holo comm’s angle of vision, he realized. He could just not flick off the comm terminal! He must show some sort of dignity. Carefully, he reached out to a nearby couch and grabbed the first cushion his hand could reach, placing it in front of his private parts. Slowly, he then turned around trying to look as dignified as possible. Luke wasn’t self-conscious about his body, he was extremely lean and fit, but to stand literally naked in front of his fiancée’s boss wasn’t exactly a comforting feeling. “Hello, Karrde,” Luke greeted the other man on the holo screen as he gave one long stride towards the device, taking a seat on the desk’s chair as soon as he reached it. That move would at least allow him to only show the upper part of his body, he had to use the Force to stop his cheeks from blushing. “I take it Mara must be busy,” Karrde’s demeanour was as cryptic as he only knew how to do it, denoting nothing. “She’s just finishing getting dressed… hum, ready… getting ready!” Luke silently cursed his luck. He was definitely the expert at compromising situations and the HoloNet was there to bear witness. Compromising holos, misinterpretations, distorted statements, wrong words put in his mouth… Most times he was way too innocent to comprehend the reaches of such situations until it was too late. Being candidly honest always put him in so much trouble! But it was what it was. All his PR blunders were legendary and were something he’d already learnt to live with. For a short moment he gave this thought some consideration… Would Mara ever get used to that? Luke really didn’t care about what others said about him, but he had an obligation towards the Jedi Academy and he knew he should be more careful. Of course he understood this, he was not a moronic idiot! This was exactly why he and Mara had decided to leave their relationship – and particularly their engagement, a secret for as long as they could stretch it, at least they would have the chance to enjoy some normality before the media bomb exploded. He could only imagine the buzz on the HoloNet and gossip columns once the news were out. Sometimes he missed his old life, when he was an ignored, young farm boy of Tatooine. But he was who he was now, thus he should not take himself too seriously either. Specially in situations like the one he was facing just now. “You’ve made a lady on this side of the holo-comm very happy this morning,” Karrde ceremoniously said, but now unable to hide his amusement. To see the revered Jedi in such a compromising state was both surprising and utterly amusing, “Faughn here is quite delighted to see you,” Karrde specified, although he could think of another lady the Jedi had already made exquisitely happy overnight. It felt uncomfortably weird to think of Mara that way… Having sex… with the Jedi Master. Mara had already told him about the engagement, but to see the Jedi standing naked in the middle of her living room made things all too real. At the mention of her name, Shirlee Faughn’s face popped on the screen behind Karrde’s, “Oh yes! Now I can say that I have lived to see the Jedi Master’s wholesome arse and die happy,” Faughn half-joked unable to conceal her delight. This time not even the Force was able to stop the Jedi from blushing at Faughn’s remarks, ‘Smugglers!’ Luke rolled his eyes. “I’ll tell Mara to call you back as soon as she’s ready,” he just wanted this to be over. “No need, I’m ready!” Mara’s husky, calmed voice came from behind. Smartly dressed as usual, the redhead approached the comm unit prepared to have a business conversation with her boss. With one hand, she pulled the holo-screen in her direction, making Luke go out of frame and giving him the privacy he needed to get the hell out of there. Luke took the chance and left. “Karrde,” Mara greeted, just as cool as she always was. “Hello, Mara,” the senior trader could not hide a small smirk of amusement, “Faughn sends her regards, she just left the room.” Mara didn’t miss her boss’s amused smirk and felt a bit irritated, but hid it well. Actually, it was not Karrde’s fault that Luke was an expert at getting himself into all sorts of messes; good thing that this time it had been amongst friends, so things would stop there. “I suppose you’re calling about the expansion plan I just sent you?” “Yes… It is very detailed, very ambitious and very well planned; I couldn’t expect less of you…” Karrde made a pause. The young trader had definitely become a valuable asset within his ranks. As his second in command, Mara had proved time and time again that she understood the business and had great vision about how it should be run, but now things were morphing and this worried him. “Mara, we have not yet discussed how your responsibilities within the Organization will change now that… Well, you’re engaged to the Jedi Master!” “So what?” Mara shrugged one shoulder. “Mara, he’s just not any regular man, someone who can easily be removed from his duties; he’s got immense responsibilities with the Galaxy as a whole, and this will affect you.” Karrde’s demeanour was severe and concerned, he’d grown to care for Mara as if she were family and he was obviously showing it now. Of course Karrde was worried, Mara could understand it, and she knew he meant well. “Talon, you have nothing to worry about,” she appeased his boss’s concerns, “Do you really think I have not thought things through? I know what marrying Skywalker involves. We’ll just have to work things out, as we always do.” “So I guess we’ll have to trust the Force with this?” Talon let out with a sigh. He didn’t really believe in the Force, but he’d seen enough of it to consider it a strong influential part in anyone’s life. The redhead laughed, “Not the Force! Trust our capacity to run this business!” She said with firmness, eyeing her boss, a gleam of certainty in her green eyes. Talon just chuckled; Mara was right. Throughout his years, first as a smuggler and then as a respectable trader, nothing had ever been certain in their line of work, but they always had come out of everything firmly standing, so he had to trust their own abilities to plan and play it by ear when needed. “I guess you’re absolutely right… I must confess, the very thought of losing you gave me a panic attack,” and Karrde knew Mara knew that he was one to never panic. “It is nice to know that one is appreciated,” she granted her boss a tiny smile of satisfaction. Karrde smiled back. Mara Jade living the life of a married woman. This would certainly turn into a very interesting new adventure. oOo After the general hearings, a small group of the high-ranking members in the Senate gathered in the meeting room adjacent to the Senate Chamber. This small group included the Chief of State of the New Republic and a select number of Senators. Also today’s group included Han Solo – not too happy of having been called back for service again, as a General again, to undertake a humanitarian aid mission to the far away sector of Traskalas, and Luke Skywalker, Master of the Jedi Order. A few matters of the involvement of the Jedi in the humanitarian mission were going to be briefly discussed in this separate meeting, and Luke hoped to use this opportunity to announce officially his intentions of marriage. Soon the points in the programme of the day were gone through and it was time for Luke to make his announcement. He spoke for a few minutes about his immediate plans and everyone in the room listened attentively. As he went, Luke could sense the feel of the room change dramatically… Suspended in the atmosphere there was surprise, veiled alarm, utter shock, uncertainty… but also feelings of happiness and warm encouragement coming from those close to him. When he finished, it looked like everyone present needed a few moments to let the news sink in. There was absolute quiet. “Master Skywalker, we thank you for your information,” it was Senator Fey’lya the one to break the silence, trying to take charge of the situation as he so frequently did, “We will pass on your request to the rest of the members of the Senate, who will deliberate on it and will let you know their resolution in due time.” Luke couldn’t do much to avoid a look of shock, “What?!” Was all he could utter. “To marry a former Imperial Agent… It is outrageous!” One Senator shot. “We would have expected better of the Jedi Master,” another one added with indignation. Luke felt a lash of anger creep in, and before Leia or Han, or anyone on his side could speak, he stood his ground, “With all due respect Senators, but I am not asking for the Senate’s permission to marry Mara Jade: I will marry her. I am just extending the courtesy of letting you all know about it.” “Excuse me Master Skywalker, but you are a high-profile member of this Government and we all must be consulted when you are making a decision of such magnitude,” Fey’lya expressed with resentment. What was happening? He could not believe this! Luke’s blue gaze cooled down several degrees, he eyed everyone in the room and talked to all, “I may be a high-profile member of this Government, and in all matters of State I have always consulted with this Council, and will continue to do so,” he clarified, “Apart from that, my personal life is no one’s business.” Then he addressed Fey’lya directly, “Perhaps this has slipped your mind Senator, but I do aspire to having a personal life, just as you have formed one of your own, or anyone else present has.” No one dared to speak at this point. “All these years I have faithfully served what you all represent, first as the Rebel Alliance and later as the New Republic… I have remained loyal to the dreams and aspirations of the members of this Council, dreams and aspirations that we all share. Under this capacity, I have formed a new Jedi Order, ready to serve and protect peace in the Galaxy for years to come. I have led numerous perilous missions putting my team member’s lives, and my own, at risk every single time… with no reservations, no complaints, no looking back. And this just because I have believed, and continue to believe, in what we have fought for and in what we have accomplished… all of us, together. If anyone at this table is willing to tell me that I have no right to want or wish what I now want for myself, then where’s the freedom and democracy we all have fought for?” This was insane, how this people could be so narrow minded? The real outrage was in their behaviour. Luke calmed himself down, there was no point in showing anger, he could be better than that. He took a deep breath, “During all these years I have backed you all up, now I am just asking you to do the same for me.” Absolute silence enveloped the room. Luke could sense Han and Leia’s frustration, but both had remained silent, surely to not make things worse. “Master Skywalker…” finally Gial Ackbar broke the silence, “No one is questioning your loyalty or the valuable years of service that you have provided to this Government… Nor do we want you to feel like a puppet in our hands. If the previous remarks have offended you in any way, I extend an apology in the name of every member of this Council.” Luke knew that Ackbar would always be on his side, and could sense how the sincerity in the Admiral’s words was knocking some sense in the opposition. Ackbar continued, “We have always trusted your judgment and there’s no reason why we should not trust it now. We congratulate you on your marriage and wish you all and every happiness.” “Thank you,” Luke softly nodded to Ackbar with sincere gratitude. Then he addressed the whole room, “The wedding will be held in Yavin IV in three months’ time, everyone present will be receiving an invitation. We hope to see you all there." Luke left his seat and headed out, leaving everyone in the room thinking that a cross Jedi Master was never a good idea. As the Jedi walked down the corridor, Han caught up with him, “You really made quite an impression back there Kid! I am so proud of you!” Han cheered victoriously. “I tell you, sometimes it feels as if we’ve been living to cater to this morons… and they’ve become so used to it that now they’re just greedy.” “I know, but they’re not gonna get what they want this time,” Luke firmly said. “They didn’t want me either, remember?” Han put in. Luke remembered all the fuss around Han and Leia’s engagement, “Sometimes they make me feel like if nothing has changed,” Luke answered, feeling very weary. “I guess this will remind them that change is something they can’t stop,” the Corellian cheered up his friend. “They can’t,” Luke felt grateful for his friends. “Are you coming to talk to Leia?” Han invited. “Sure.” A few words with his sister would do him good. oOo The day had started to die out by the time business in the Senate Complex were over. The moment Luke Skywalker put a foot outside the Senate building, a mob of reporters armed with bright, blinding lights and holocams approached him in a hurry. “What is the date of the wedding?”, “Do you plan to set residence in Coruscant?”, “Aren’t Jedi supposed to live unattached, celibate lives?”, “Master Skywalker! Is it true? Are you marrying and Imperial ex-assassin?”, “What can you tell us of your fiancée? Is she repentant of serving under the Emperor?”… And a dozen other – mostly inappropriate, questions exploded towards him as he made his way down the Senate’s great staircase. “No comment!” Luke repeated over and over again, just how Leia had taught him to do in such situations. It had only been a few standard hours since he’d spoken to the Senate and the news were already out. Someone must have leaked out that information. Surely some Senator unhappy with his decision had decided to give his and Mara’s life hell. He could think of a couple. Luke just wished to be back at the Academy were he could forget all about this crazy parade. He needed to warn Mara, let her know everything was now in the open. The moment he took off in his landspeeder, he called her. oOo An elegantly dressed, beautiful looking Mara Jade sat at a small table reserved for two in one of Coruscant’s most exclusive restaurants. Despite her reluctance to go out tonight, Luke had insisted they had dinner there. She’d had enough of people and she’d have preferred to stay home and have some quiet time, enjoying one of those savoury meals Luke could cook… but he’d insisted on them going out and she’d agreed. Mara knew Luke had gone to speak to the Senate, and that he was going to drop the big bomb about their engagement on them, she wondered how that had turned out. Mara had arrived to the restaurant early and had been finishing the day with a few business calls. When she hung up from her last call, the beep of a voice message called her attention. It was Luke’s. Mara let the voice message play: “Hi, Sweetheart. I’ve been trying to reach you but your comm keeps putting me on hold. Going out tonight will not be a good idea, something’s come up. Be wary of reporters, I'll explain later. I hope that you have not reached the restaurant. Please, meet me at my place instead. Love you.” Mara hissed, what was it now? What kind of crisis Skywalker had put himself into? Good thing she knew how to properly hide a lightsaber underneath the type of fancy dress she was wearing. She was ready, no time to waste. She paid for the drink she’d ordered and headed to the door. Before reaching it, through the high-ceilinged windows of the place, she noticed lots of movement outside… Several News speeder-vans parked outside, and a troop of reporters stashed around the main entrance. Probably some celebrity was having dinner in the restaurant tonight… “Madame Jade,” the manager of the place approached the redhead, “I’m afraid these people are here for you,” the man politely informed. What?! How?... Then it hit her, so this was the crisis Skywalker was talking about. “May I suggest an alternate exit?” The tall man politely offered. There were still good people in the Galaxy! With a short smile Mara accepted the offer. oOo Mara made her way to the Senate District with ease. Having been a spy – amongst many other things, she was resourceful in ways most sentient beings weren’t. Luke’s apartment was housed within the Senate Complex grounds, which was always heavily secured, but she had an access code granted by the owner of the apartment so she got in without any delays. When Mara entered her fiancée’s apartment, the place was dimly lit by an alternate source of light. Did the place have power problems? Or had Luke decided to keep his home poorly lit to avoid prying cameras and drones? She felt Luke’s presence in the Force and walked further in to find an elegantly set up table, lit by candlelight and adorned with her favourite orchids. A very romantic scene set up by her Jedi. She found him in the terrace, smartly dressed and handsome as ever. “Your apartment will be surrounded by reporters… At least this is a no-fly zone and no reporters are allowed in the grounds of the living quarters of the Senate Complex, so our privacy is relatively safe in here,” he reassured. Mara could feel certain anxiousness in him. She walked towards him and kissed him tenderly. “You look beautiful tonight,” Luke sweetly told her. “You look very handsome yourself,” she replied while reaching out to fix a strand of his unruly blond hair, “So, the news is out…” “Yes, it took them less than three hours to leak everything,” Luke gravely said. The Senate. She had to ask, “How did it go?” “To be honest… Much better from what I expected!” He chuckled. “We have no opposition!” “At least not openly…” Mara retorted with sarcasm. Despite her sarcasm, Luke could feel some apprehension in her, “Mara… Nothing, no one, is going to prevent me from marrying you. I don’t care what they think, or say, or want… It’s just you and me.” “Just you and me,” she firmly echoed. “We have a deal Farmboy,” she then teased. Luke wrapped her hands in his and kissed them, “I still feel that it is me who is getting more out of this, Mara,” he stressed with concern, “I mean, I’m used to this but… Now it is going to be you the one in the spotlight, perhaps being harassed by news and gossip column reporters… Getting the dirty eye from anti-Imperialists… I’m used to all of that, but you… You’ve always been such a private person, always keeping yourself out of anything of the sorts.” “Well, I’ll adapt… as I’ve done my whole life. Don’t worry about me.” She then gave him a roguish grin, “I wasn’t the Emperor’s Hand for nothing! An once we’re out of Coruscant, things will wind down.” It was true that living with Luke meant a lot of new things and changes in her life, but it also meant the same for him. And they would figure things out as they went, they would find ways to compromise so both had what they needed. She was not helpless, he wasn’t either. He had just told the whole Senate to shove it! He’d done that for her. “The entire Galaxy, the Senate itself… They can think, wish or say whatever they want! Bring it on! I can take it! Nothing is never, ever, going to keep me away from you,” Mara challenged the Universe. The Jedi looked at his future wife with sweet adoration. This remarkable, brave woman wanted to be part of his life and he was so lucky for it. “I love you, Mara Jade,” he said, “And I’ll spend the rest of my life proving this to you.” “There’s no need to prove anything… Aren’t you forgetting that I can feel every single feeling you feel?” She teased, plus she was right. “I love you, Luke Skywalker,” Mara returned her own adoring look to her future husband. “I know everything about you… You know everything about me… I mean, everything!” Mara stressed with amazement she still hadn’t gotten over with, “How many sentient beings can say they know their partner this well? Or anyone for that matter! And I’ll have you with it all… and you’ll have me.” That Force merge had been absolute and they were now learning how to step back in their minds so it wouldn’t feel intrusive. Mara was right, between them there were no secrets, no private thoughts, no hidden fears… What they had was unique. Luke leaned over and kissed her with absolute passion. Passion she returned, unrestricted. They broke their kiss, relishing in the warmth of each other’s embrace. “And what’s all this?” Mara gestured towards the beautifully set up table. “I thought I could not let them ruin our night,” he answered. “I just wanted this moment… with you,” Luke explained, “In some regards, I’m still a traditional kind of guy,” he gave her a sheepish smile. “And I love you for it,” Mara replied. He smiled, “Are you hungry?” “I’m starved,” Mara admitted, “What did you make me?” “You’ll see,” he added with utter satisfaction, he loved that she loved his cooking. Gallantly he led her towards the table. They dined and talked about their plans, their dreams… Made a toast for a happy life together. There was nothing Luke wanted more than to spend many private, precious moments with Mara, just like the one they were sharing tonight. Things would continually change around them; soon whatever interest others might have in their relationship would fade away and they would be left alone to do as they pleased. They just had to be smart about the whole thing while it lasted. Due to Luke’s position, of course their lives were destined to be lived in the spotlight… But that was a challenge they would learn to navigate. As long as they had each other, everything would be all right. They were both very strong individuals, and together they were even stronger. And it was true that, for as long as they relayed on one another they would get through anything, there would be nothing life could throw at them that they could not face and conquer. The power of two would keep them standing strong. Forever. The End.