Title: Luke’s Little Experiment (The Scruffy Looking Jedi) Author: ginchy & taramidala / taramidala & ginchy Rating: PG-13 Time Frame: post NR era, AU (Mara’s! Not! Dead!) Disclaimer: All belongs to Lucasfilm Ltd. and the Disney Corporation. SJRS Challenge Requirements: For this challenge you must write a fic in which Luke has a beard. It can be in any universe (D-canon, Legacy, or any AU). You must include: Mara's reaction/opinion (CHECK!), a razor (CHECK!), and the word "obligated" (CHECK!). Author’s Notes: We conceived of the idea together. ginchy wrote her half first, and I followed with the leadup. For more on @ginchy's part in all of this, you’ll have to send her a PM. Luke’s Little Experiment (The Scruffy Looking Jedi) The first morning was because he overslept. With Mara gone, his entire routine was thrown off without her to make caf and poke him in the stomach while he brushed his teeth to hurry him along. So he’d foregone shaving that day, idly thinking he’d do it the next morning, and the younglings in his morning meditation seminar hadn’t dared to mention that Master Skywalker looked slightly unkempt. When the second day came, he slept even later and had gone without again. On the third day, while he didn’t oversleep, he just decided not to bother. By day four, he stood holding the razor in his hand, and found he rather liked the scruff that was beginning to take shape on his face; it would be his experiment until Mara told him otherwise. Ben returned home at the end of the first week, grumpy and tired after his assignment - something about Jacen being a pain in the eema - and scowled at the first sight of his father’s new look. Luke didn’t quite understand his resentment, and made a mental note to pass it off as the boy being eighteen and ornery, and let it go. Ben never said a word, until family dinner night a few days later. With Solos and Skywalkers around a table, the meal passed without incident. Ben and Jacen spoke of their recent trip, Jaina of her upcoming duties with Rogue Squadron, and Anakin of his latest batch of students. Leia peppered them with questions throughout while Luke sat back, stroking that new beard of his, and listening. Han kept glancing over at Luke and then back at Ben, a sly grin crossing his face as though solving a puzzle. “You know, Kid,” Han said to Ben. “Your old man’s starting to look like your namesake there.” The boy exhaled in relief. At least now someone else had noticed. His eyes met his father’s briefly before turning to his uncle. “I know, and it’s just...weird.” Luke had to laugh at that, at them both. There really was no way to explain why he’d allowed the beard to grow. He just had. With a sigh and rueful shake of the head, he said, “It’s not weird, Ben, I’m just...trying something new. Must we always be obligated to maintain the status quo?” He had a point, but to Ben it felt far too philosophical for facial hair. He frowned. “Mom’s gonna hate it,” he said. Luke shrugged. “Perhaps, but I’ll let her decide that when she gets home.” “Just be thankful your dad didn’t go the full hermit route, Ben,” Han piped in. “You wouldn’t be here.” “Family? Heh. Love? Heh. A Jedi needs not these things. Alone, they must be,” Luke said, imitating his old master Yoda, inciting laughs and smiles around the table. “Thanks, Uncle Han,” Ben chuckled in spite of himself. “I feel so much better.” ***** Two weeks on the road and Mara was ready to leave the confines of the Jade Sabre and take a nice long, hot bath, followed by an even longer nap. When Luke had asked her to take on this short, and albeit not-too-strenuous assignment, she’d told him she was “too old for this”, especially without him at her side. But practicality had worn out, and she’d gotten to pay a visit to Karrde and Shada along the way. The Sabre’s repulsors hissed as she came to a stop in their private berth at the temple, and she spied Ben standing in the welcoming position at the hangar door. She smiled. Luke must be busy to have sent their son alone. A few more flips of the switches and she was ready to go. She grabbed her bag at the top of the unfurling ramp and followed it down to where Ben had stepped forward to greet her. Mara hugged him tightly as she always did, glad to see him safe after being out with Jacen for some time. At his height he had to stoop so she could kiss his cheek. “Hi, Mom,” Ben said, releasing her. “Good trip?” “Fine. Uneventful. Yours?” “Same.” “That’s good. Where’s your father?” Mara asked. The boy shrugged, but didn’t meet Mara’s eyes. “At home. I dunno, he left early. I haven’t seen him since midday meal.” Mara felt his emotions shift and dodge her light probe. Curious, she thought. “All right, I’ll head that way. Now what are you hiding?” Ben recoiled, eyes wide. “What?” he barked. “Nothing!” She crossed her arms and frowned. “Ben Skywalker...” “Dad’s got a beard, all right? And it’s weird, and you’re gonna hate it,” Ben said. She bit down on her lip to halt a chuckle before asking, “I am, am I?” His mood was now practically apoplectic, and Mara was caught between wanting to soothe him and laugh at his distress. Ben didn’t catch the lightness Mara tried to send him, and pushed forward with his protest. “I don’t know what’s gotten into him, but he’s convinced himself that you’re gonna be okay with it.” Mara rolled her eyes at that, and adjusted her bag on her shoulder. “Well, I guess I’ll just have to see for myself. You coming?” “What? No, I’ll pass on the fireworks, thanks,” Ben snorted. “I’ve got class anyway, and then Ani and Jaina and I are going out. I’ll just crash with them. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He took off at a run, leaving her staring after him. Something was definitely off Odd, but nothing to be done at the moment. Shrugging to herself she continued on. She’d get to the root of his irritation later. The temple activity bustled around her as she made her way through the open corridors from the landing platform. A brief pause for messages in the administrative wing meant a final stop before their apartment, and as Mara turned out the light to her office, Tionne Solusar peeked her head around the corner of her own tiny suite. “Oh, Mara! There you are! I’m glad I caught you.” Mara nodded. “Tionne, what can I do for you?” Tionne smiled. “When Luke left this afternoon, I forgot to remind him of our meeting tomorrow at 0800. We were supposed to have it this morning but he said he overslept.” “He what?” Mara asked. Tionne nodded. “I’ve found it strange, too, but ever since you left he hasn’t been as prompt, or even as...put together…” There was a falter in Tionne’s thinking that flashed in Mara’s mind. A flash about her husband. Oh, this was getting interesting. Mara laughed . “Are you talking about his beard?” Tionne blushed. “You have to admit, Mara, it’s very out of character.” Yes, Mara couldn’t quite picture it. But she was growing more intrigued every moment. “But…” The silver-haired administrator glanced away and flitted her hands across her robes. “Well, one’s character can change, I suppose.” And just what character did Tionne think Luke had? After twenty-odd years, Mara didn’t understand how little anyone knew him, especially his right hand aide. “Indeed,” she said. “After a few days, we got used to it.” Tionne was making it sound as though he’d changed his wardrobe and taken up fraternizing on the lower levels! Now that would be a drastic change. Mara glanced over at the woman whose face was now a bright shade of red. She sighed inwardly; while it was fun to tease her son, Tionne’s agitation was of a whole other variety. One that made her want to end this conversation all the more. “I’m sure you did,” Mara said, patting her friend on the shoulder and making for the exit. “And now I suppose you could even said that it looks...nice,” Tionne called after her. Another flash in the Force brought Luke’s new face to the fore of Mara’s mind. Oh. Yes, she needed to see this for herself. What are you waiting for, Jade? Quit stalling, came her husband’s voice rang loud and clear. The scratched ‘hmm hmm’ of Tionne’s throat broke the contact, pulling Mara back to the moment, where she found Tionne grinning. “Please just remind him of our meeting, Mara. Glad to have you back safely,” she said. Mara nodded as Tionne skittered back into her office. The rest of the admin wing was quiet, and the passageway to their apartment lay only around the corner. Luke was broadcasting fairly heavily now, waves of love and need and missing her flooded their bond as she walked. Mara’s hand paused on the passage’s door, thinking there was one last thing she needed to do before going home. With a grin, she backtracked a couple of doors down the hall and ducked into the ‘fresher. ***** Mara barged into their quarters, dropping her bag by the door of their bedroom. Luke stood to greet her, but she forestalled him with a finger to the mouth, eyebrows quirking as his whiskers rubbed against her finger. “So it’s true.” Stroking his thumb and index finger against his new beard, Luke tried to squash a smile. “What’s true?” “That you’ve decided to hide that baby-face.” Mara took his chin in her hand and tilted his head. “How long have you been growing this?” “Since you left, give or take a day or two.” Grabbing the hand that was finger combing his facial hair, he kissed her palm. “Speaking of….” He dropped her hand and grabbed her hips, pulling her forward. “I’ve missed you.” “So much so that you had to go back to nature, apparently.” Luke made a face. “You don’t like it?” “I’m still getting used to it, Skywalker. Twenty-five years of marriage and you’ve never had more than a few days worth of stubble. I feel the need to call you scruffy, and that’s really more Leia’s term than mine.” “Who’s scruffy-looking?” Luke pulled Mara closer, mimicking Han’s voice into her ear. Mara groaned. “Don’t do that, Farmboy. I don’t ever want to hear Han’s voice in that tone…” she trailed off as his whiskers brushed against her ear. She shivered, and a spike of pleasure erupted across their Force bond before she could stop it. Luke pulled back, looking at Mara, eyes lit with good humor. “Please tell me it was me who caused that reaction, not my impression of Han.” Mara smirked. “I would say that I don’t care for scruffy nerfherders, but you’re doing your damnedest to prove me wrong.” She brushed her mouth against his but broke away, mewling in pleasure, when he slid his hands down her body. Luke worked his mouth across her cheek to her ear to make her shudder again. “I do like proving you wrong. And I can see that you’re already beginning to like the beard.” “Oh, you think so?” Mara’s voice was slightly breathy, and Luke grinned. “I think I can prove it.” And he did.