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Beyond - Legends "Lift Not the Painted Veil" (Luke/Mara, AU) Chapter 2 10/03

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by JadeLotus, Aug 22, 2011.

  1. JadeLotus

    JadeLotus Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Mar 27, 2005
    Title: Lift Not the Painted Veil
    Rating: PG
    Characters/Pairings: Luke/Mara
    Timeframe: AU
    Summary: Sometimes the greatest journey is the distance between two people.
    A/N: The plot bunnies, they bite.

    [I]Sometimes the greatest journey is the distance between two people[/I] - Anon

    “Uncle Luke!”

    He’d barely made it through the door before being bowled over by three pre-pubescents evidently intent on knocking the wind out of him. Luke gave an inelegant “Oomph” as he fell backwards where, luckily, the door had slid shut behind him.

    Jacen, tugging on his arm, Jaina, with her arms around his waist, and Anakin, attached firmly to his left leg, all began speaking at once and Luke couldn’t make out a single word from any of them.

    “Slow down,” he tried to tell them, “one at a time.”

    But they simply talked faster and louder in an obvious attempt to be heard over each other and Luke sighed in exasperation. All of the power of the Force at his disposal, and he couldn’t manage three children.

    “Alright, alright.” He was saved a familiar voice and Luke was relieved to see Han appear. “Little worked up, aren’t they kid?” Han grinned at him as he worked to extract his children’s death grips on Luke.

    “What do you do, feed them pure sucra?” Luke asked as he unwound Anakin’s hands from his knee, and gave the boy a fond pat on the head.

    “You wish,” Han picked Jaina up and held her high in the air, making her squeal with delight. “That’s pure Solo tenacity.”

    “It’s something pure Solo something, alright,” Luke joked as Jacen tugged at his father’s arm, demanding to be picked up as well.

    “Better than Skywalker shrillness,” Han shot back as he put down Jaina and lifted up Jacen. “Erg,” he grunted, “you kids are getting too big for this.” He put Jacen back on the ground and ruffled his hair. “Now you terrors go amuse yourselves with those model ships and if you’re lucky, Uncle Luke will come and have a look at them.”

    Given their mission, the three children saluted their father and rushed towards their shared playroom, Han shaking his head as he watched them go.

    “You know sometimes, Luke, I miss the good old quiet days of the Rebellion,” he said, although a smirk played across his mouth. “Peace and quiet, just a battle now and then, the Empire knocking at our doors every other was serenity itself.”

    But Luke’s eyes were still on the door to the playroom, which had shut behind his niece and nephews. “You wouldn’t trade it for the universe, though,” he told him. “You’re lucky,” he added wistfully.

    Han gave him an odd look, almost as if he wanted to say something, but evidently checked himself. “Yep,” he agreed. “That I am.” He cleared his throat and patted Luke firmly on the back. “So I see you’ve put in an effort for the shindig tonight,” Han continued, giving Luke’s wardrobe a sarcastic appraisal.

    Luke glanced down at his Jedi robes and shrugged. “The invitation said formal. This is formal attire.”

    “Oh, kid,” Han said mockingly. “So close and yet so far.”

    “It’s not like you’re making any bold fashion choices,” Luke rejoined defensively. “Isn’t that the same outfit you wore to your wedding?”

    “Hey,” Han scowled, “these are new pants!”

    “And even to get him to buy those was a struggle,” Leia said as she breezed in, ever the epitome of grace in a flowing white gown that Luke felt briefly ashamed of his Jedi robes - and the small hole he knew was in the sleeve and was certain Leia had already noticed. But she gave him a kiss on the cheek and said; “You look fine, Luke,” brushing an invisible speck of dust off his shoulder.

    “[I]Fine[/I],” Han repeated. “Not ‘good’ or ‘nice’ – fine. That’s Chief-of-State speak for [I]you look awful and are an embarrassment to the family name[/I].”

    “In that case, you look fine, too,” Leia shot back, but couldn’t keep the warm smile off her face. Han gave a mock laugh, and they continued to banter while Luke, as always, was left as a mere spectator. More often than not he was sure that they quite forgot he was even there, and while he was overjoyed to see his sister and best friend so happy and still in love, it brought his abject loneliness to the fore. And he couldn’t deny that there was ever the slightest twinge of jealously at their obvious happiness, and the love and affection that came so easily to them.

    “So, have you told him?” Leia asked Han, evidently remembering her brother was in the room.

    Han looked uncomfortable. “I thought you could.”

    Leia clucked her tongue in evident disappointment. “You always make me break the bad news.”

    “Not always,” Han argued. “Remember than time I had to be the one to tell you the New Alderaan Raiders lost the smashball finals?”

    Leia sighed. “Just tell him.” And she breezed out of the room again.

    “She’s still bitter about that game,” Han told him softly, out of Leia’s hearing.

    “Right.” Luke wasn't about to let Han distract him. “So what is the bad news?”

    Han cleared his throat again. “Well, you know this Gala tonight, or whatever in the Nine Corellian Hells it is...”

    “Yes,” Luke nodded, “the reason why I’m standing here in your living room and not back at the Jedi Academy doing something useful...the Gala that Leia told me under penalty of death that I must attend?”

    “Yeah, well, Leia was looking over the final guest list, and...well...” Han clearly didn’t want to say it, and cleared his throat a third time.

    “Just tell me.” Luke was beginning to get irritated.

    “Okay,” Han said. “Like I said, the guest list, and we didn’t notice until today, otherwise I would have said something earlier...”

    “Han,” Luke said warningly.

    “Mara will be there,” Han finally said in a rush.


    There was a long silence while Han cleared his throat uncomfortably and Luke tried to ignore how irritating the sound of it was. “Luke?” Han asked eventually. “Are you alright?”

    Luke shook away his thoughts. “Of course I’m alright,” he told Han, and smiled. “I don’t know why you were so worried, that’s not bad news – that’s no news at all.”

    Han didn’t look convinced. “You know Luke, it’s okay to be upset-”

    “I’m not upset,” Luke cut him off.

    “Well,” Han didn’t look any less uneasy, “I’m just saying if it was [I]my[/I] ex-wife who showed up at some big important event with all the holopress in attendance and I hadn’t seen her for three years, I’d be a little anxious.”

    “Well I’m not,” Luke shrugged. “I don’t care if Mara’s there – I don’t have to speak to her.”

    Leia breezed back in and appeared at Han’s side. “Are you okay, Luke?” she asked, and the pitying look she gave him made him feel ill.

    “I’m fine,” he told them firmly. “Really.” He ran a hand through his hair and calmed himself. [I]They’re only trying to help[/I], he acknowledged rationally. “Leia, you look lovely,” he changed the subject.

    “Thank you,” she smiled and adjusted the silver earrings she had evidently left earlier to put on, clearly not at all fooled.

    “I don’t know how you do it,” he continued. “Weren’t you at the Senate all day?”

    “She’s like a duck,” Han said proudly. “Smooth on the surface,” he continued, and broadly gestured to Leia serene countenance, “but working furiously below the surface.” He tapped her on the temple.

    Luke smiled, an almost forgotten memory rising to the surface. “What’s a duck?”

    Leia raised a quizzical eyebrow, although she gave a sidelong glance at her husband which indicated she was not best pleased with his analogy.

    “Sorry,” Luke waved a dismissive hand. “Private joke.”

    Leia nodded, clearly not understanding and obviously about to work her way back to the previous conversation.

    “If you’ll excuse me for a minute before we leave,” Luke cut her off before she could speak. “I believe I have some model ships to inspect.”


    Two hours into the Gala, and Luke was bored out of his mind. As Leia so often pointed out, he wouldn’t be so bored if he made an effort to [I]talk[/I] to people, but Luke hated small talk at the best of times. He certainly wasn’t in the mood for it tonight. He’d spent the evening seated at his designated table, studiously avoiding conversation with dignitaries and staying out of range of the holopress - and so far he’d been successful.

    “Hello, Luke.”

    [I]Typical[/I], Luke thought, not even needed to glance up – he would know that crisp Coruscanti accent anywhere. “Hello Mara.”

    She didn’t say anything else, and so Luke kept his eyes fixed on his hands that were clasped and resting on the table in front of him There was silence for several moments, although Luke could sense that she didn’t move away. Eventually, curiosity got the better of him and he looked up.

    Mara stood next to his chair, one hand resting on her hip and the other holding a glass of whiskey – Corellian, he remembered, was the one she favoured. She looked exactly the same as the last time he’d seen her, three years earlier, on the day their divorce had become final. He remembered signing the datapad containing the documentation, and feeling with each bitter stroke of the stylus the finality of it all. Mara had looked at him then, in the eyes, and nodded – perhaps in thanks, he wasn’t sure – signed her own name and then left.

    Luke looked back down at his hands without speaking.

    There were another few moments of silence, before Mara finally spoke. “It’s good to see you, Luke.”

    [I]Luke[/I]. When they’d been married, it had always been [I]Skywalker[/I] or [I]Farmboy[/I] – there’d been such tenderness in those names. [I]Luke[/I] was so formal.

    When he didn’t answer, Mara gave an irritated sigh. “You’re not even going to be civil?”

    “I am civilly ignoring you.”

    “I see.” Mara took a seat next to him, clearly not going to let him get away that easy. She stared at him until he felt worn down by her gaze.

    He relented, leaning back in his chair, folding his arms crossly and returning her sharp gaze. “Why are you here, Mara?”

    “The anniversary of the peace accord between the New Republic and Imperial Remnant?” Mara shrugged. “It seemed to be right for me to be here.”

    “Reconciliation, and all that,” Luke nodded. “I suppose there’s irony in there somewhere.”

    “I suppose.” She glanced down at his side where his lightsaber hung, clearly visible outside his Jedi robes. “Although it hardly seems fair,” she gave him a slight smile. “I am unarmed and therefore at a disadvantage.”

    “No blaster hidden away up your sleeve?” he asked ightly. “You’re getting lax.”

    “Not really,” she told him. “They checked all weapons at the door – full body scans.”

    “Ah.” He indicated his lightsaber. “Ceremonial weapon, you see.”

    “One of the perks, I suppose” she smirked, as always finding some way to cast derision on his lifestyle. "Few that they be."

    “You never cared to find out the rest,” he retorted shortly. "You made your choice."

    Mara visibly bristled, but evidently shook any annoyance off quickly. “Yes, the choice not to spend hours meditating on the infinitesimal difference between Force philosophies,” she said teasingly. “Or contemplating a spukamas cat’s thoughts of the universe?”

    He clamped down on the smile that was forming. “Go away, Mara,” he told her. He’d be damned if he’d allow himself to be charmed by her and forget the bitter arguments, the long, cold silences, and finally, her unwillingness to even try and find a solution, ending in callous abandonment.

    “Fine,” she shrugged, but couldn’t hide her irritation. “I’ll leave you to your bitterness,” she left as a parting shot as she walked away.

    Luke raised a glass of his untouched ale to her retreating form. “Here’s to another three years.”
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Kessel Run Champion star 8 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 31, 2004
    Hi JadeLotus:

    I got snagged by the lovely title =D=

    Then by the exuberantly fun and rambunctious Solo kids greeting Luke so fondly (ah!)

    And then by the fantabulously trademark H/L loving banter. :D

    I was then brought up short by Luke's reaction to Mara's being there at the function - I thought hmmm. Post TTT yumness where they're still oblivious, almost, except for a few brief sparky/electrical glances and flirty exchanges.

    Then the final scene -- :eek: !! Wow! Three years too!! Plenty of time for one or both of them to have found someone on the rebound. :p

  3. JediMara77

    JediMara77 Force Ghost star 4

    Mar 5, 2004
    Ahh, Luke/Mara angst. My favorite kind of angst. [face_mischief]

    Very nice story.
  4. RedGold

    RedGold Jedi Master star 4

    Nov 29, 2004
    Ex-wife? ooo... the possiblities for angst here are endless... mmuuuwwahahahahaha.... [face_devil]

    So glad to have you back! :D
  5. ginchy

    ginchy Jedi Grand Master star 4

    May 25, 2005
    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, you know angst hurts ginchy's belly!!! :_| But wait... Maybe Lukie is looking for another redhead to comfort him. I volunteer!! Seriously. I volunteer out of the goodness of my heart. [face_mischief]

    At first I was thinking this was one of those cases where L/M married too early, before the VOTF timeframe but now I'm thinking ... well, I'm thinking what the kriff happened??

    Sooooo good to have you back, lady!! [:D]
  6. Book-Geek

    Book-Geek Jedi Knight star 3

    May 28, 2011
    Whoa, wait, what? Luke and Mara are divorced!?!? I'd be horrified if I wasn't so intrigued. More please!
  7. mara_jade_rox

    mara_jade_rox Jedi Master star 2

    Jun 18, 2007
    This is quite simply unlike anything I've ever read in fanfic. I am intrigued.

    I am civilly ignoring you.


    PMs if there's more?

  8. wbsaw

    wbsaw Jedi Youngling star 1

    Oct 31, 2008
    I, however, am simply horrified.....I may have to go reread "Shadows of Yesterday " know, ... for therapy..
  9. Jade_Pilot

    Jade_Pilot Jedi Master star 5

    Dec 10, 2005

    There IS more, right? Right? [face_worried] The story will develop to a satisfying conclusion, right? [face_worried]

    You had me at the title, girl! And tell ginchy that Luke may be DONE with redheads and prefer blondes in your story! [face_mischief]

    Bravo! =D=
  10. ginchy

    ginchy Jedi Grand Master star 4

    May 25, 2005


    *runs away*


  11. Clarizabel

    Clarizabel Jedi Knight

    Apr 2, 2011
    This story has a future. I can not wait for the next chapter. if you have a PM list, please add me.=D=
  12. Briannakin

    Briannakin Former Manager star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Feb 25, 2010
    This both scares and interests me. It is definitely an unique storyline. If you are doing PMs please add me.
  13. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Kessel Run Champion star 8 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 31, 2004
    Ack :eek: ginchy! That's not even close to being ... that's just icky! :p [face_sick]

    *runs away, too*
  14. Jade_Pilot

    Jade_Pilot Jedi Master star 5

    Dec 10, 2005
    I think ginchy meant herself and I meant me! [face_mischief]
  15. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Kessel Run Champion star 8 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 31, 2004
  16. Irish_Jedi_Jade

    Irish_Jedi_Jade Jedi Master star 4

    Jul 19, 2007
    EX-wife?!!??!??!? :eek: My heart shudders at the thought! But...well, you are going to give this a happy ending right?! Preferably one where they get back together with lots of love and mushy-happiness??? *sigh* pleaseeee? Still that was lovely as always, and the title is indeed what caught my eye! I am so intrigued, and excited to see where you take this! Are you doing PM's? If so, can I have one? [face_batting]

    [face_good_luck] Irish
  17. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jul 31, 2005
    Oooh, a very interesting idea. I really like the way you unwound the story - first Luke and his nephews, then a little envy by Luke of Han and Leia's family, then the uncomfortable mention of Mara, and finally seeing the word ex-wife.

    Great dialogue by Luke, especially I believe I have some model ships to inspect and I am civilly ignoring you.
  18. Luna_Nightshade

    Luna_Nightshade Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Jan 25, 2006
    Ooooh--this sounds very interesting, Luke and Mara divorced and content to hurt each other. I want to know more. I also love the Han and Leia banter in this. PMs, please?
  19. RedGold

    RedGold Jedi Master star 4

    Nov 29, 2004
    So... update soon? [face_batting]

    I know... I know... like I'm one to talk... :p
  20. Jedi_Lover

    Jedi_Lover Chosen One star 5

    Nov 1, 2004
    Angst, why did it have to be angst! Okay, I don't like this ex-wife thing, but as long as it ends in L/M bootknocking I will read through the horrible angst. Just don't be too mean to my farmboy. [face_shame_on_you]

    You know I love everything you write. I think the only thing that could get me to stop reading is Luke/Callista bootknocking. I am pretty sure reading that type of fic would make my eyes bleed.

    I look forward to seeing how these two are going to get back together. And I really want to hear the back story of this fic.
  21. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Kessel Run Champion star 8 VIP - Game Winner

    Aug 31, 2004
    J_L #2 [face_laugh] [face_laugh] -- especially after reading Pleasures of Meditation -- how did Mara give up that?!?! [face_laugh]

  22. JordanCHFel

    JordanCHFel Jedi Youngling star 3

    Mar 12, 2009

    I know! I clicked on this cuz I haven't had the best day- hoping for a little mush...and this is what I got.....

    Although Lover- we could have a little bootknocking in yours......[face_whistling]
  23. JadeLotus

    JadeLotus Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Mar 27, 2005
    Jade_eyes - Thank you! The Solo kids are always fun :D Three years is a long time - but they won't be able to ignore each other forever :p

    JediMara77 - Thanks! I do love my L/M angst.

    RedGold -Oh, yes, Ex-wife, so many possibilities [face_devil]

    ginchy - I'm mean to you, aren't I? :p This is indeed a story of an L/M that married too early.

    Book-Geek - Yep, divorced - I thought that would be an interesting concept to play with.

    mara-jade-rox - I'd never seen it before, either, so thought it would be something different. I've added you to the PM list :)

    wbsaw - Ah, yes, horrifying - but I make no apologies! :D

    Jade_Pilot - There is more - and I hope it will reach a satisfying conclusion.

    Clarizabel - Thanks! I've added you to the PM list

    Briannakin ? Scary and interesting is a good combination :)

    Irish_Jedi_Jade ? I make no promises for mush, but I hope that the story reaches a logical conclusion :D

    Tarsier ? Thank you ? I wanted it be a slow burn, almost, before the big reveal.

    Luna_Nightshade Many thanks! I?m not confident at H/L so glad it came across okay.

    RedGold ? If you insist :p

    Jedi_Lover - [:D] I think angst makes L/M so much better :D And don?t worry ? I promise I will never write Luke/Callista bootknocking!

    Jade_eyes ? How indeed! [face_laugh]

    JordanCHFel ? :D I?m afraid I just can?t resist the angst.

  24. JadeLotus

    JadeLotus Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Mar 27, 2005
    A/N: The first few lines are Zahn's.

    9 ABY

    Mara looked at the lightsaber Luke held in his outstretched hand. "What's this?" she asked, frowning.

    "It's my old lightsaber," Luke told her quietly. "The one I lost at Cloud City, and nearly got killed with at Wayland." He held it out. "I'd like you to have it."

    She looked up at him, startled. "Me? Why?"

    He shrugged self-consciously. "Lots of reasons. Because you've earned it. Because you're on your way to becoming a Jedi and you'll need it. Mostly, though, because I want you to have it."

    She took the lightsaber from him - it fit perfectly in her hand. "You should keep it," she protested. "It was your father's."

    "I have my own," he told her, smiling. "And I'd like to know that it's being put to use…and that it is in good hands."

    "And you're so sure that I'm good?" he questioned him, unsure of how, after everything they'd been through, he could trust her implicitly.

    "Yes," he replied seriously. "Positive."

    She looked at the lightsaber in her hand; the blade of a man who'd fallen so far into darkness and yet, at the end, had crawled his way back. Mara knew that the gift was Luke's way of saying that she wasn't at the end yet, and she was touched by the gesture.

    "Thank you," she told him softly. She looked up to meet his gaze, and found his blue eyes confronting. He looked at her with such intensity, and yet there was softness there, also. And, she couldn't deny it – affection. The air became thick between them, and she couldn't look away.

    He leaned forward, cupping her cheek in his hand and suddenly he was too close, his lips meeting hers. His kiss was gentle and undemanding, and she found herself returning it, against her better judgement. It was like warm sunshine; pure light filling her every pore, cleansing her of any bitterness or pain and she found she didn't want to put up any resistance.

    Eventually, Luke pulled away, and gave her a soft smile. "Well you haven't sliced me in half with that 'saber," he said with a hint of cheekiness. "I'll take that as a good sign."

    She forced out a laugh. "Don't flatter yourself, Skywalker," she told him, confused. "What was that?"

    Luke shrugged. "I don't know," he said, his tone light. "I like you, Mara."

    His eyes met hers again, and she let out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding. "Okay." She wasn't sure what else to say.

    Luke seemed suddenly nervous, even though he reached forward and took her free hand, his thumb caressing her knuckles. "Can I do it again?" he asked carefully.

    She looked down at their joined hands, and then back up at his unguarded expression. He had been honest with her, even though he had to have been expecting her to reject him. She respected his courage and ability to be so open – something that had always been a challenge for her. And she couldn't deny that she'd come to enjoy the time they'd spent together and appreciate his determination, his innate goodness, his dry humour. He was so easy to be around – natural, almost.

    He seemed to take her silence as rejection and so loosened his fingers, but she tightened her grip on his hand before he could pull away.

    "Okay," she told him, and smiled as he leaned in to kiss her again.

    15 ABY

    Han handed his brother-in-law a glass of ale and settled down on the couch opposite with his own. Leia was still stuck at the Reception making small-talk with dignitaries, but he and Luke has been able to sneak away for a quiet drink back at his apartment. It had been a while since Han had properly seen Luke, who was always so busy with his Jedi Academy, and he was glad to have the chance to catch up with his old friend. They'd already discussed the most recent crop of Jedi, Han's children, the smashball results and the latest modifications to the Falcon, until Han finally felt that it was safe to ask what he'd been dying to all evening.

    "So," he said delicately. "I saw that you and Mara had an encounter without blood being spilled."

    Luke smiled genially, and Han congratulated himself of waiting until Luke had a few drinks in him before broaching the subject.

    "You see," Luke told him. "You needn't have worried."

    "And you ignored her," Han was amused by the memory, "I'm impressed!"

    "Well I learned from the best," Luke replied, his tone light. "She certainly was good at ignoring me while we were married."

    It wasn't Han's place to comment on that, although he'd certainly tried to be supportive of the kid over the years. He'd watching his friend's marriage deteriorate and been unable to help, or even really understand what had happened, since Luke was intensely private, even with his family. Both he and Leia had thought at the time that Luke had rushed into marriage with Mara, but they'd both seemed happy, at least at the beginning.

    It was rare for Luke to mention her, now, except perhaps when he'd been drinking harder liquor than he had been that night, which usually had the result of sending him into a state of self-pity. Han reminded himself not to let Luke have any whiskey and told himself to change the subject, but just couldn't help himself.

    "You know, kid," he found himself saying, "I really thought you still held a torch for her."

    Luke's smile faded and he looked down into his drink, suddenly serious. "You don't stop loving someone just because they stop loving you." He swirled the ale in his glass in apparent contemplation. "But you accept it – and move on."

    Han wasn't sure how to respond to that, except feel empathy at Luke's tired resignation. But a part of him understood – he knew that if anything ever happened to Leia, he would never stop loving her, and never really get over it.

    "I'm sorry, Luke, I shouldn't have brought it up." He didn't know how to make his friend feel better and so, not for the first time, chose the path of least resistance. "So Leia's convinced you to go to this Naboo thing," he changed the subject. "Thanks for that."

    Leia had been so busy with one crisis or another that Han had barely seen her for weeks. And so when she announced that she had to make an appearance at the Naboo Boating Festival as an extension of the peace celebrations, Han had asked her if she had any way of getting out of it.

    "No problem," Luke told him. "Things at the Academy have been a bit hectic lately, it's almost like a vacation."

    "I wouldn't count on that," Han said, amused at Luke's naivety. "They say 'Festival' but really mean endless diplomatic dinners and seminars and negotiations over trade routes and health systems and Sith knows what else."

    But Luke seemed unconcerned. "Even so, I'm happy to help."

    "You're a good brother," Han reached over and patted Luke on the shoulder.

    "Yeah, I know," Luke grinned, and Han laughed heartily.

    In the cockpit of the Wild Karrde, Mara double-checked the flight co-ordinates – she'd kicked Aves out so she could programme them herself. Not that she didn't trust him, but she was thankful to have some peace and quiet and focus on her destination. Karrde had asked her to attend the New Republic festivities on Naboo on behalf of the Smuggler's Alliance – a thankless job if she ever heard one.

    "Everything prepared?" She heard Karrde's voice from behind her, but didn't answer, keeping her attention on the control panel. "Mara?" he persisted.

    "Yes," she answered shortly and out of the corner of her eye she saw him take a seat in the co-pilot's chair.

    "It's not going to be as bad as you think, Mara," Karrde told her. "Someone needs to represent us, and I trust you the most. Despite what you think, you're a great negotiator and most of it will take place at these functions - that's how politics works."

    Although Karrde had always been sure to make her aware of his confidence in her, Mara found his praise suspicious. "You know, I can't help but think you have an ulterior motive for sending me," she told him bluntly.

    Karrde smiled and held up his hands in a mock surrender. "You know me too well," he said. "Naboo is a beautiful world – I had hoped that you may take advantage of the situation and relax a little bit – you've been working too hard lately."

    "Is there any other way to work?" she replied, only half-joking.

    "Yes," he said earnestly. Mara didn't reply, and busied herself again with the nav computer. "I saw you speaking to Skywalker at the Reception last night," he added after a long silence.

    Mara bristled at the mention of his name. "So?"

    "Are you alright?"

    "Why wouldn't I be?" she responded sharply. "He's nothing to me anymore – and even if I wasn't it couldn't be less of your business."

    "Don't try that tough act on me, Mara," he said almost sternly. "It doesn't work."

    Mara sighed, and her shoulders sagged in defeat. In truth, she'd been hurt by Luke's coldness, even though she in part understood why he'd reacted in the way he did. Their marriage had not ended well, but she'd thought perhaps after three years that anger would have faded a little. But she'd underestimated his ability to hold a grudge.

    "What do you want from me, Talon?" she asked, rubbing her forehead in frustration. "I tried to be civil, and he chose to be petty – I don't want to talk about it."

    "Perhaps you need to," Karrde said carefully. "When you divorced Skywalker, I never asked questions and I never asked you to talk about it."

    She looked up at him. "And I appreciated that."

    "But maybe I should have," Karrde continued. "I've watched you throw yourself into your work and I know I'm the last person who should be lecturing anyone about the lack of a personal life, but Mara, you don't seem happy."

    Mara glared at him. "I'm perfectly happy, Karrde," she told him curtly. "I enjoy my work and I don't need anyone to complete my life – it's fine the way it is."

    "Hmmm," Karrde was non-committal. "I agree with you in principle, Mara. But I call things as I see them. I'm just not convinced that he is nothing to you."

    "Well, believe it," she told him brusquely. "It's true."

    "Oh?" he asked slyly. "Exactly how many relationships have you had since Skywalker?"

    "That doesn't mean anything," she shot back. "I didn't have any relationships before Skywalker either. At least not any that mattered"

    Karrde seemed almost amused. "So what you're saying is that the only meaningful relationship you've had in your entire life has been with Skywalker?"

    "Now when you say it like that it sounds pathetic," she said, perturbed by his insistence on discussing the subject when he knew she didn't like to talk about such things. "Besides," she continued, and looked at him in mock affront. "You don't think our relationship is meaningful?"

    "You know what I mean, Mara," he replied. "Romantic relationships."

    She sighed, sick of the subject. "Skywalker was a mistake."

    "Maybe," he stroked his beard in apparent contemplation. "But there must be a reason you opened your heart up to him."

    Oh, there was a reason. Mara remembered it all too well – Luke had been warmth and sweetness and light and after so many years of darkness and anger, she'd soaked it up greedily. But she'd soon realised that summers ended, harsh realities settled in, and just because you loved someone didn't mean you could live with them.

    "I'm just not cut out for that whole relationship, marriage…thing," she told him. "And there's nothing wrong with that," she added defensively.

    Karrde examined her keenly for several moments, and she turned away from his scrutiny.
    "No there's not," he agreed. "I won't bring it up again."

    She punched in the final details into the nav computer, determined not to look at him. "Good."
  25. Book-Geek

    Book-Geek Jedi Knight star 3

    May 28, 2011
    So. They both will end up on Naboo, eh? *mischevious grin* This should be good. *gets bowl of popcorn and eagerly awaits next chapter*