A/N - for the poetry challenge I got the wonderful 'The soul selects her own society' by Emily Dickinson. I've found this one quite challenging, both for the themes of the poem and because I chose to write Lando and Karrde, neither of whom I've written before and I'm a bit nervous about doing. It's set at the end of Union, although I seem to have lost the last two issues of that (sob!) and couldn't do any checking, so apologies if it is in any way inconsistent with canon... Disclaimer: It all belongs to Disney... “The soul selects her own society…” by Emily Dickinson The Soul selects her own Society— Then—shuts the Door— To her divine Majority— Present no more— Unmoved—she notes the Chariots—pausing — At her low Gate— Unmoved—an Emperor be kneeling Upon her Mat— I’ve known her—from an ample nation— Choose One— Then—close the Valves of her attention— Like Stone— Like Stone Lando Calrissian meandered through the crowd of the reception, looking for a quiet corner to escape. As much as he prided himself on being a king in any social situation, the long day of being extremely charming to all comers was starting to tire out even him. Plus he’d had a lot to drink and the day had been full of mixed emotions. He felt concern that his usual suave façade might start to slip. Glancing around he spotted a small alcove on the side of the dance floor that contained a table and some chairs and a single occupant. He wandered over. “Mind if I join you?” he asked. The occupant looked up from where he’d been contemplatively swirling a glass full of brandy, and examined him with cool blue eyes. “Please do.” Karrde gestured graciously to the chair beside him. Lando seated himself and set his own glass on the table. They sat for a few moments in companionable silence, both staring out at the dance floor. Only a few dancing couples were left out there after a long night of celebrations. One couple in particular, swaying in the centre of the floor, held each other tightly, oblivious to the world around them as though convinced only the two of them existed. The bride and groom. The pair they were all there together to celebrate the love of. “Does it bother you?” Lando asked suddenly. “Excuse me?” Karrde’s usually cool voice sounded surprised at the question. “Does it bother you that you’re loosing your best employee to this? I can’t imagine you have much patience for romance getting in the way of business.” Karrde shrugged lightly. “I can’t and don’t expect my employees to have no personal life. That’s unrealistic. And I have plenty of other skilled personnel.” Lando followed the man’s brief glance up to where Shada D’ukal was at the bar surrounded by a bunch of drunken Rogues. Lando briefly wondered just how badly that was going to go for the pilots. “It wouldn’t say much for me if my business couldn’t stand to loose a particular person, no matter how skilled and talented they are,” he continued. “And anyway, I think I was rather lucky to retain her as long as I did, don’t you?” They both looked back at the pair on the dance floor again. Lando turned the comment carefully over in his head. “You knew they were going to get together?” he asked in surprise. “Knew?” Karrde raised an eyebrow. “Not at all. It always seemed a possibility, from quite early on, but then the years passed and nothing happened…” He shrugged again. “It’s hardly my area of expertise anyway. But I was extremely surprised by how… surprised everyone else seemed by it, once it finally happened.” “Really? They disappeared off for a couple of weeks and came back engaged! Completely out of the blue! That’s cause for some comment, don’t you think?” Karrde looked at him blandly. “There are plenty of cultures where people get married after just a few weeks of courtship. And I’ve noticed over the years that my employees are often… brought together by going through stressful missions together.” He frowned at Lando. “Did you really have no inkling of it? I would have thought you, of all people…” Lando pursed his lips and swirled the golden liquid in his glass around, remembering… “Yeah, I knew” he admitted shortly. Karrde let the words hang, inviting him to elaborate if he wished. Lando stared out at the beautiful woman in his old friend’s arms. Mara leant back from Luke’s embrace to laugh at something her husband had said, that familiar sardonic quirk to her mouth. She smiled more now. More that he remembered the entire time he’d known her. “I pursued her a long time, as you know. I’d be an idiot not to, I mean just look at her. And that mind…. She’s a remarkable woman. I mean. Did you never think to…?” He glanced at the other man. “I don’t mix business with pleasure,” Karrde said coolly. “Well, yeah, fair enough. But you know, I could just get no-where with her. Business, yeah. And fun, we had some fun times too. But when it came down to it… Like stone. No way in.” “Mara doesn’t take on emotional relationships lightly. Given her background, that should not surprise you.” “Yeah, I know, and that’s why I gave it time, didn’t give up too easily. Gave her every opportunity to ease up and let me in. But ultimately, those barriers never came down. “Then one time, we were travelling together to a business meet up somewhere. Stopped off at Yavin to make a supply drop, as it was on our route. It was weird. She and Luke just avoided each other. I’d never noticed before how odd things had got between them, somewhere along the way. Then they decided to catch up on lightsaber practice, and went off to spar together. I tagged along to watch… And then I knew.” He sighed. “All that time chasing her, but in truth she’d let someone else in long ago, and shut the doors firmly on the rest of us.” Karrde stared at him for long moments, an eyebrow raised and amusement in his eyes. Lando feared the alcohol was making him sound a little morose. “Did it ever occur to you she just wasn’t interested in you like that?” Karrde suggested. Lando was a little taken aback by the idea. The idea that he’d actually just… never stood a chance was a little disturbing. He quickly re-caught his balance though. “What, a woman not willing to fall at the feet of Lando Calrissian, Death Star destroyer and businessman extraordinaire! The very thought!” he exclaimed sardonically, and the two men chuckled. Lando’s ego was legendary, but they both knew that it was just part of the show. “It seems to me that you found yourself a much more enthusiastic – and suitable – partner in the end though. Tendra is a rather formidable lady, I’m impressed at your luck there.” Lando glanced round the room for his own wife, a smile unconsciously spreading across his lips as his eyes found her, making conversation with Leia. Despite the lateness of the evening, she still looked as poised and perfect as always, even when the rest of the guests were showing the wear and tear of a long day of celebrations. He felt a swell of pride. “Yeah, I’ve always been a lucky guy.” Karrde laughed shortly at that. “Well okay, most of the time. This time all my chips came in though.” “I do think you’re looking at the Mara situation incorrectly though.” Karrde observed. “Oh? How so?” “Your romantic inclinations towards her may have been misplaced, but there’s more between you than that. We have a saying where I come from; ‘The soul selects her own society.’” Lando frowned. “What does that mean?” It was the first time he had ever heard the cynical old smuggler refer to his origins. Karrde must be nearly as drunk as he was. “It refers to the fact that we only meet a few people who we really let into our inner most lives. Mara and I are similar in that we let very few people get that close to us. Friendship is a precious and rare commodity. You spent so much time chasing after her for that very specific extra angle, that you failed to notice she already let you in. She accepted you as her friend. She put up with your cheesy come on’s and inability to take a hint, because she valued you for more than that. Friendship. You and I are among the privileged few she has accorded that status to, and neither of us have lost that now.” Lando blinked, and stared at the man in front of him. He had never heard Karrde hold forth on anything so personal. Well on anything personal at all. He really was drunk. And of course, he was also right. “Well,” Lando struggled for words. “Here’s to friendship.” He lifted his glass. Karrde chinked his glass against Lando’s, and downed the rest of his drink in one gulp. Then he pushed back his chair in a slightly haphazard fashion. “It’s been nice talking, Calrissian,” he said, and wandered off in the direction of Shada and the Rogues, who looked like they needed an intervention before things started getting out of hand. Lando slowly finished his drink, thinking deeply. The current musical number came tinkering to an end. Standing, he headed to the dance floor and tapped Luke on the shoulder. “May I claim a dance with the beautiful bride?” Mara grinned at him over Luke’s shoulder. “What, for old time’s sake?” “No,” he said, very sincerely. “For friendship’s sake.” Mara glanced at Luke, something silently passing between them, then she turned a genuine smile to Lando. “Well, I can’t say no to that.” She took his hand.