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  1. In Memory of LAJ_FETT: Please share your remembrances and condolences HERE

Beyond - Legends Pull Me Home (L/M, post-Union, OTP challenge #23)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Gabri_Jade , Jan 29, 2022.

  1. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fanfic Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 9, 2002
    Title: Pull Me Home
    Author: Gabri_Jade

    Genre: drama, romance
    Time frame: Legends New Republic era, two years post-Union
    Characters: Luke Skywalker, Mara Jade Skywalker

    Summary: Luke and Mara struggle to prioritize themselves and their marriage. Will an unexpected development be just the thing they need?


    Author's Notes: This is a response to OTP challenge #23: Overcoming Obstacles… Originally, in which your OTP has to overcome a serious relationship obstacle in an unexpected way. Title comes from the song ‘Think of You’ by A Fine Frenzy. Many thanks to @ViariSkywalker for her beta work and for coming up with a summary when my mind was a blank :p


    ---------------------



    “I love you. You know that I love you. But this is unsustainable.”

    Luke stifled a sigh as he closed the door of their quarters behind them and turned to his wife. “To be fair,” he said, “Kai usually does just fine with the accounts on her own. You’re just better, and that imbalance she couldn’t find—”

    Mara sat down and yanked a boot off, then let it drop with a thud. “I’m sick of being fair.” Thud went the second boot. “I’m sick of being fair to Karrde, and I’m sick of being fair to the Jedi, and I’m sick of all of it, every last thing.” She stood and stalked toward the bedroom. Luke followed, beginning a slow count to ten in his head. “I just got here, my first visit in three months, and she pulls me aside after dinner to do accounts. To hell with the accounts.”

    “Yes,” Luke said sarcastically, dropping his count. “The academy doesn’t need something as petty as correct accounting. You’re right; we should definitely ignore that.”

    “Oh,” Mara replied, mock sweetly. “I thought she usually did just fine. Was that a lie, Master Jedi?”

    Luke closed his eyes and tried to remember what number he’d been on a moment ago. “Let’s not argue right now. You’re only here for—”

    “And that’s another thing,” Mara interrupted him as she bent over her carryall, yanking it open. “I am sick of visiting my own husband.” Each word got bitten out with sharper emphasis as she pulled her pajamas from the bag, which then got kicked in the general direction of the closet. She threw the pajamas at the bed and turned on Luke. “It’s been two years. Two years, Luke. Why am I visiting what should be my home?

    Luke took a deep breath. “Look, we’re both upset. Why don’t we let the subject rest until tom—”

    “Don’t give me that serene Jedi shavit,” Mara said coldly, crossing her arms.

    You’re the one who insisted I needed to learn it,” Luke snapped.

    “I. Am. Sick. Of. This,” Mara said. The upper crust Coruscanti accent that had largely faded over the years was back, clipping the words with formal precision. “I am sick of seeing my husband every two months, if I’m lucky. I’m sick of Karrde needing something new each week. I’m sick of every minute bit of academy business needing extra attention when I am here. And a hundred creds says that Leia or Cracken or Bel Iblis calls you tomorrow for something that just cannot wait. They’ll be oh so sorry when you remind them that I’m here, and they’ll promise that it’ll only take a few minutes, and then after an hour you’ll come tell me that you have to go run some critical diplomatic errand—”

    “Mara,” Luke said wearily. “Do you think I’m not sick of it?”

    She sat on the edge of the bed, her expression bleak. “I can’t keep doing this, Luke. I can’t. This isn’t a marriage.”

    “I know.” He came to sit beside her.

    “We lost ten years,” Mara said, staring at the floor. “Now add two more to the total. And counting.” She looked up at him. “We agreed that we’d be trying for a child by now. Instead, I’m still visiting.”

    Luke reached over to take her hand, intertwining their fingers, a familiar pain twisting through his own heart. “There’s time—”

    “There’s not. Not the way things are going. Maybe you can keep planting seeds until you’re ninety—”

    “Mara,” he said softly.

    “—but I only have so many years, and nothing is settled yet. Nothing.”

    He lifted her hand to kiss it, their fingers still entwined. “Mara. We’ll figure it out. I promise.”

    Her eyes drifted shut. “Even our bond is fading. I know you can sense that as well as I can.”

    “We’ll figure something out,” he said again.

    She slowly leaned toward him until her head was on his shoulder, and he let go of her hand to put his arms around her. “We’ve been saying that for two years. And here we are. I want—” She actually sniffled. Luke held her a little closer. “I want my husband. I want my marriage. I want a home, and the family we planned.”

    Luke breathed the scent of her hair as he rested his cheek on the top of her head. “We’re going to have that. All of it.”

    “When?” Mara murmured. “And how?”

    Luke sighed. “I don’t know.”


    ---------------


    Luke nudged the bedroom door further open with his foot and entered, carefully balancing a loaded tray which he set on the dresser before leaning over to kiss Mara’s cheek. “Morning.”

    She stirred, opening one eye to look blearily at him. “No,” she said, and burrowed a little deeper into the pillow.

    “What was the time difference this time?” Luke asked, brushing a stray lock of hair off her face and behind her ear.

    Mara made an indistinct noise that might or might not have been meant as an intelligible word, then: “Too much.”

    “Good thing I brought caf, then,” Luke said, looking around for her robe. Ah, there it was, thrown over a chair. Usually Mara was much more fastidious than that. Another sign of her growing frustration.

    “Caf?” The word was still mostly muffled by the pillow, but she sounded at least marginally more alert now.

    “And breakfast. But you have to sit up first.”

    Mara groaned in obvious protest, but pushed herself reluctantly upright. “Caf,” she said, holding out a hand. Luke gave her the robe instead. “Not caf,” was the disgruntled assessment, but she put it on, shifting her shoulders and pushing her hair back.

    Luke turned to lift the tray from the dresser and waited for Mara to settle comfortably, then set the tray on her lap. “As an apology for last night.”

    She was already lifting the mug of caf to her lips, but at that she hesitated. “I should be the one apologizing, not you.”

    “You shouldn’t,” Luke said, walking around to his side of the bed and sitting beside her. “You were right.” He smiled at her a little ruefully. “You always are.”

    Mara sipped her caf and managed a smile in return. “I hope you’re not forgoing your own breakfast as some sort of self-castigation.”

    “Nope,” Luke said, just as Artoo rolled into the room, carrying another tray in his manipulating arms and gurgling thoughtfully to himself.

    Mara laughed out loud, and Luke sighed in relief at the sound. “He’s an astromech droid. He routinely makes stupidly complex calculations and repairs highly sophisticated machinery under battle conditions. Carrying your breakfast is well below his pay grade.”

    Artoo swiveled his dome to regard Mara, and issued a series of beeps and whistles. “He’s probably thanking you for the support,” Luke said, taking his tray from Artoo, “but I have it on good authority that he made an excellent serving droid on Jabba’s barge.”

    “Considering his usual language, he probably fit right in with that crowd,” Mara observed. “Whoever programmed the batch he came from swore like a navy recruit.”

    Artoo favored her with a disparaging-sounding blat, then rolled out of the bedroom. “Close the door behind you,” Luke called, then settled the tray on his lap and lifted his own cup of caf. “So.”

    “So,” Mara agreed, then sighed. “Look, I shouldn’t have snapped.”

    “And Kai really shouldn’t have asked for your help, not your first night back,” Luke said. “I should have told her so, instead of letting you go along with that.”

    Mara shrugged a little uncomfortably. “I am a Knight, and I did marry the Master of the Order. There are responsibilities that come along with that.”

    “Not your first night back after three months away,” Luke insisted. “I’m sorry I let it happen.”

    “You were distracted,” Mara murmured. “What did Kam want, anyway?”

    “Approval of some suggested changes in the first year instruction,” Luke said around a mouthful of toast. He swallowed, then added, “Another thing that should have waited until you’d been here at least a full day.”

    Mara smiled wanly as she stirred the little container of herbs into her scrambled avian eggs. “It’s always something.”

    “I miss you so much, Mara,” Luke said softly. “Every single day, I miss you.”

    Her eyes drifted shut, and her chest rose and fell with a silent sigh. “I know that I was—dramatic, last night, but I meant it. I can’t keep doing this. We thought we could balance it all, but we can’t. And it’s our relationship that’s being sacrificed.” She opened her eyes again, and the hopelessness in them almost frightened Luke. Mara had always been the ferociously determined one. To see that determination fade was like watching her fade away. “We’re both keeping up all our other responsibilities, but it’s at the cost of our marriage. If we keep going this way, we’ll drift apart, or possibly even come to resent each other.”

    “Then we have to reverse the priorities,” Luke replied, his own determination rising.

    Mara poked listlessly at her eggs. “How? You’re integral to the Jedi Order. Karrde is integral to the peace process, and no one else knows the organization as well as I do.”

    He set his caf mug down and reached over to stroke another loose tendril of her hair back, catching her gaze and holding it when she glanced at him. “You are my highest priority. We went into this arrangement thinking that it would be temporary, and that our bond was permanent no matter what. Now it’s looking more like the opposite is true. So we examine that truth and we find a way to prioritize each other, and our relationship.”

    Mara was quiet for a moment, searching his eyes. “I want to believe that’s still possible, Luke. You have no idea how much I want to believe that.”

    Luke leaned over to kiss her, careful not to upset their trays. “Anything’s possible when the two of us work together. That’s been our problem all along, that we allowed ourselves to be separated. We’ll spend this visit figuring out what we need to do to set things right, and then we’ll implement whatever we decide.”

    The beginning of a smile tugged at Mara’s lips. “Promise?”

    “I promise,” Luke said, and meant it more than he’d ever meant anything.


    -----------------


    A week later, the prospect of keeping that promise seemed dimmer than ever, and Luke felt closer to despair with every passing hour. Not for the first time, he wished that he and Mara could have gotten past their respective issues to see what they meant to each other a decade ago. It used to be that he simply wished to have had that extra time together; now he worried that those separate lives they had built might be an insurmountable obstacle.

    Sitting beside him on the floor, Mara set her datapad down and leaned back against the foot of their bed. “This isn’t working.”

    Luke started to open his mouth, but was interrupted by the beeping of Mara’s comm. She frowned as she reached for it, only to have the frown turn to a full-fledged scowl as she saw the incoming code. “Karrde. If that isn’t just a symbol of this whole damn mess—”

    An inexplicable tingle began at the edges of his mind, and Luke paused to examine it. It took only a moment to reach a conclusion. “Let’s see what he wants.”

    Mara gave him an incredulous look. “Absolutely not. He knows better than to bother me when I’m visiting you.”

    Luke took her hand. “Exactly. Focus on the comm and reach out to the Force for a minute.”

    The incredulous look became a wary one, but her eyes drifted obediently shut as the comm continued to beep, then opened wide to meet his. She didn’t break the gaze as she flipped the comm on automatically and lifted it to speak. “Jade Skywalker.”

    “Ah, Mara,” came Karrde’s familiar, cultured voice. Uncharacteristically, it seemed to be tinged with a faint embarrassment. “I’m sorry to bother you during your time off.”

    “No bother,” Mara said, her eyes still on Luke. “What’s the problem?”

    “It’s not a problem, exactly,” Karrde replied. “More of…a puzzle.”

    For the first time, Mara’s lips twitched into an involuntary smile. “And we all know how much you love those.”

    “Indeed,” Karrde answered dryly. “But this puzzle is for you, and for Luke. I’ve received a transmission addressed to the two of you. The planet of origin is Nirauan. The sender is an Admiral Voss Parck.”

    The tingle at the edges of Luke’s mind amplified into a buzz, and from the look in Mara’s eyes, Luke knew that she felt it too. “Well, now,” Mara said, very casually. “That’s unexpected.”

    “I didn’t open it, of course,” Karrde said, his tone clearly conveying just how much restraint that action had cost him. “I assume that going through my organization was the only way he knew to reach you.”

    Except that it wasn’t, of course. Certainly Parck knew perfectly well that he could have contacted Luke by reaching out to the New Republic government, or to Leia herself. Which meant that this communication was either very much an unofficial one, or that Mara was its primary intended recipient. Possibly both.

    Mara’s expression showed plainly that she realized that as well as he did. “I suppose so,” she replied, still casual. “Have you forwarded the transmission?”

    “H’sishi is doing so as we speak,” Karrde said. “Mara, it’s none of my business—”

    “We’ll update you if there’s anything you need to know,” Mara said, another smile briefly appearing. “We both know how insane it makes you to be left out of things.”

    “It’s so comforting to be understood,” Karrde replied, his voice again very dry. “Also, Mara: be careful, whatever it is. I was not under the impression that Nirauan had been exactly a pleasure trip for either of you, despite the engagement that arose from it.”

    “We will,” Mara said softly. “Thanks, Talon.”

    “Of course. My best to Luke.”

    The comm clicked as he disconnected, then beeped again as a transmission came through. Luke reached out to take Mara’s hand, and they just looked at the comm for a long moment. “There’s not a whole lot of good possibilities with this,” Mara murmured.

    There are a hundred different threats out there that would freeze your blood if you knew about them.


    Luke wondered which of those hundred different threats might have reared its head, that Parck had initiated contact. “Only one way to know for sure.”

    “Right.” Mara took a deep breath, then opened the communication. Luke leaned over to read it along with her, and felt her jolt of shock at the same time as one ran through him.

    “This can’t be right.” It was only as he heard the words that Luke realized he’d spoken them. “It can’t.”

    Mara was already shaking her head. “They can’t possibly have made a mistake of this magnitude. There’s no way. It has to be accurate.”

    “But survivors of Outbound Flight? Mara, it was lost decades ago.”

    “It was always meant as a colony expedition,” Mara said slowly, her eyes intense in that way that meant she was thinking hard. “If it crashed somewhere even remotely hospitable, where the hull integrity could be maintained, survival would be plausible. It’s the ‘Force-sensitive’ aspect that gets me. A trap, you think?”

    “Can’t rule it out,” Luke murmured. “But if it’s not…”

    Mara looked over at him. “You want to go.”

    He lifted a shoulder in a half shrug. “We both felt the proddings of the Force, didn’t we? Doesn’t it feel like we need to go?”

    Mara set the comm down and buried her face in her hands, and Luke put an arm around her shoulders to pull her close and kissed her temple. “I know,” he said. “I know.”

    “You promised,” she said, her voice muffled. “Luke—”

    “Mara,” he whispered against her hair. “It’ll take us more than a week to get to Nirauan, and more than a week back, not to mention whatever time it takes to figure out what’s going on while we’re there. And we can always stretch that time. If Talon truly couldn’t get by without you for that long, he would have said so. If this hadn’t come up, you’d have been headed back within a week. Now we’ll have at least three times that to keep thinking. And maybe things will be clearer if we’re away from everything for a while.”

    She raised her head, taking a deep breath as she did so. “That’s true. And if it is a trap?”

    Luke smiled. “We have a pretty good record of getting out of traps when we work together, as I recall.”

    Mara snorted. “Once a cocky fighter jock, always a cocky fighter jock.”

    “You knew that when you married me.” He leaned in to kiss her. “So? Shall we go see about possible survivors from an expedition flight lost before either of us was born? And sort out our marriage and the state of the galaxy while we’re at it?”

    His wife’s smile was more than enough to lift Luke’s heart. “Sure,” she said. “Why not. At least there’s no one else around to interrupt us on the Sabre.”

    “You always make the best points,” Luke told her, and pulled her even closer.


    -------------


    Luke briefed Kam while Mara began packing, then the two of them spent the rest of the day checking and provisioning the Sabre and carting their bags aboard, as well as loading Luke’s X-wing into the Sabre’s small docking bay. Having been assured that yes, of course he was coming along, Artoo supervised, beeping and gurgling thoughtfully to himself.

    Early the next morning, they lifted off, Yavin disappearing behind them as the stars streaked, then dissolved into the blue whirl of hyperspace.


    -------------


    The Nirauan system was quiet as they made orbit around the planet.

    For all of a minute, anyway.

    “Fighter coming in, one-one-seven by fifteen,” Mara snapped.

    “I see it,” Luke answered, keying the shields to full and readying the main guns. “Looks like one of those weird modified TIE things from last time—”

    A beep from the comm interrupted him. “Unidentified ship, state your designation and purpose.”

    “It’s definitely one of those ships,” Mara muttered. “But the pilot feels human.”

    “And sounds young,” Luke murmured back.

    “Let’s hope that doesn’t mean he’s all trigger-poppy like his friends downstairs were last time,” Mara replied, and tapped the comm. “Unidentified fighter, this is Mara Jade Skywalker and Jedi Master Luke Skywalker aboard the Jade Sabre. We’re here at the invitation of Admiral Voss Parck. Or does he not inform his sentries of incoming visitors?”

    The young voice came back, this time laced with obvious amusement. “He does, Jade Sabre. It doesn’t automatically follow that the first ship that shows up in orbit is in fact those visitors. Though it was a good bet, which is why we have a landing space ready for you. If you’ll follow me in?”

    Mara looked sideways at Luke, and though her eyes were full of suspicion, he sensed her willingness to let him make this call. He checked that the comm was muted, and reached over to squeeze her hand. “Proddings of the Force, remember? And if he tries anything, I’ll bet the Sabre can outrun even one of those fighters.”

    “It’s more the people on the ground I’m worried about,” Mara said, but she squeezed his hand in return and unmuted the comm. “Unidentified fighter, we’ll follow your lead. But be aware that we didn’t have the best of experiences the last time we were on this planet, and we are proceeding with extreme caution. Anything in our path that looks hostile will be met with appropriate measures. Including after we disembark from the ship. If we disembark.”

    “Understood and expected, Jade Sabre,” the voice responded. “Admiral Parck sends his regrets over the misunderstandings during your last visit, and his gratitude that you’ve answered his communication despite that. But he’ll be telling you all that himself soon enough. This way, please.”

    Misunderstandings?” Mara echoed disbelievingly as the strange fighter began to descend. “I spent five days in a healing trance and they’re calling it a misunderstanding?

    “Well,” Luke said philosophically, “in their defense, they didn’t know you spent all that time in a healing trance. And they weren't shooting at you specifically; they thought you were vermin. So technically, it was a misunderstanding.”

    “You’re not helping,” Mara growled, nudging the Sabre into a course matching the fighter’s.

    “Hey,” Luke said soothingly. “If you want to turn back, even now, you know I’ll support you.”

    Mara sighed. “After we came all this way? But if anyone points one of those charric things at me, they’re in trouble.”

    “I’m pretty sure they know that,” Luke said, patting her hand. “You’re very scary when you want to be.”

    This time, Mara’s sideways look was full of amused affection. “Flatterer.”

    Nirauan’s landscape was just as brownish-gray and rocky as Luke remembered, but thankfully their descent was much less eventful than his first arrival on the planet, and it wasn’t long before they were coming up on the fortress.

    “I see they’ve repaired the docking bay,” Luke remarked as they drew near.

    “After more than two years?” Mara muttered. “I should hope so.”

    “We’ve cleared a space for you within the bay, Jade Sabre,” came the other pilot’s voice. “Of course we didn’t know what sort of ship you’d arrive in—if you arrived—but it should be easily large enough to accommodate you.”

    “Optimistic, aren’t they?” Mara flicked the comm control. “If it’s all the same to you, I think we’ll stay outside, thanks.”

    There was a pause, then, “As you wish, Jade Sabre. As you can see, there’s plenty of space out front, too. I’ll just set my own ship down and be back to escort you in.” The Chiss craft ahead of them ducked beneath the hangar roof and out of sight as Mara brought the Sabre to a careful landing just in front of the bay.

    “You were joking about that ‘if we disembark’ bit, right?” Luke asked, leaning forward to look out the viewport. There was no one else waiting for them, even though the pilot who’d brought them in had to have notified his superiors of their arrival. He wasn’t sure whether that was a good thing or not, but he was just as glad to not see anyone with charrics. Mara wasn’t the only one wary of those weapons after their earlier run-in with them.

    “Joking isn’t exactly the word I’d use,” Mara said, shutting down the Sabre. “But as long as we’re here, I guess we might as well have a look around.” She checked her sleeve gun, then stood and opened the compartment they’d stowed the rest of their weapons in, tossing him his lightsaber before hooking her own to her belt and strapping on her blaster.

    An inquisitive beep came from the cockpit door as Luke stood. “Good timing,” he told Artoo. “We need you to take care of the ship while we’re gone.”

    Artoo wheeled slightly backward and blatted a protest. “No arguments,” Mara said, giving Artoo a stern look. “We don’t need you to hack into the computer system this time. We do need you to keep the ship locked and be ready to answer in a hurry if we call you.”

    “Which we probably won’t,” Luke soothed the droid. “But if we do need a quick exit, you’re our backup.”

    Artoo seemed to consider, then blew him an electronic raspberry and rolled toward the control panels. Mara snorted. “Your stubbornness has rubbed off on him,” she told Luke.

    My stubbornness? I’m not the one who went off into the Dune Sea alone at night,” Luke replied. “He’d hardly known me an hour before he pulled that one.” A movement outside the ship caught his vision, and he leaned forward to see a dark-haired young man emerge from beneath the docking bay roof. “I think our guide is back.”

    “Mmph.” Mara leaned over to follow his gaze. “Looks like a kid playing soldier.”

    “Now, dear,” Luke said, amused. Not that she was wrong, though. The pilot couldn’t have been older than his midtwenties. It was hard to believe now that he and Mara had been doing far more dangerous things than this pilot when they were even younger.

    Although, he supposed, if the Chiss and Admiral Parck had been correct about the hundred terrible somethings that threatened, maybe his and Mara’s records of action weren’t much more dangerous than what this young man faced, after all.

    With a final pat on Artoo’s dome from Luke and a stern reminder to not let anyone but themselves on the ship from Mara, they left the droid in charge of the cockpit and exited the ship.

    The young pilot was waiting politely at the foot of the ramp, standing in a loose parade rest. He nodded acknowledgement as they descended. “Master Skywalker, Jedi Skywalker. Welcome. Or welcome back, I should say. I’m Commander Chak Fel.”

    Luke raised an eyebrow, caught Mara’s own mild surprise. “Fel, you say?”

    The young man smiled. “Yes, related to that Fel. He’s my father. He sends his admiration and respect, and his regret over not being here to welcome you himself. He’s—but Admiral Parck will fill you in on that. If you’ll follow me, please?”

    He turned and led his way into the fortress, and with another shared glance, Luke and Mara followed.

    They saw few others as they wound their way deeper into the structure; merely what appeared to be a handful of sentries who returned Fel’s nods as they passed. It struck Luke as odd, but he still wasn’t picking up any indications of a threat, or even duplicity.

    “Low on staff today?” Mara asked casually.

    “Not at all,” Fel replied. “Admiral Parck simply thought that, given your earlier experience with us, you might be more comfortable without a bunch of armed guards standing around. Ah, here we are.” He came to a stop beside a door that looked the same as all the others they’d passed. “Right in there, if you please.”

    Luke looked at Mara, saw his own wary acceptance of the situation reflected in her eyes. She shrugged slightly, and he reached for the door handle, trying to keep himself between her and both Fel on this side of the door and any potential threats on the other side.

    An effort that seemed unnecessary as the door opened to reveal the familiar figure of Admiral Parck sitting behind a modest desk. He looked up from his datapad as they stepped inside. “Ah, Mara. Master Skywalker. I can’t tell you how pleased I am that you’ve accepted our invitation. I’m honored to be with you again.”

    “Likewise,” Mara said, with only a faint edge of sarcasm. “I believe we’re here about survivors of Outbound Flight?

    “Right to business as always, I see,” Park said, his lips curling into a half-smile. “Yes, indeed. Won’t you have a seat?”

    He gestured to the chairs before his desk, and with another look at each other, Luke and Mara sat. “Where are they?” Luke asked.

    “On another of our colony worlds, not too far from here,” Parck answered, tapping his datapad a few more times before setting it aside.

    “Wait a minute,” Mara protested. “I thought they were here, on Nirauan.”

    Parck rested his sharp gaze on her. “My message said that we had recovered survivors. It said nothing about their current whereabouts. Surely you know better than to make baseless assumptions, Mara.”

    Mara’s eyes narrowed, and Luke hurried to step into the conversation. “How were they recovered? Where is Outbound Flight itself?”

    “Ah, those are Chiss state secrets, Master Skywalker,” Parck replied. “In point of fact, the survivors were not recovered by the Empire of the Hand, but by representatives of the official Chiss government.”

    “I thought you had no dealings with the Chiss government,” Luke said.

    “And what’s this ‘Empire of the Hand’ business, anyway?” Mara asked, eyes still narrowed.

    Parck held up a hand. “We have no official dealings with the Chiss government. And all in good time. An Aristocra of one of the Ruling Families was involved with their recovery, and that’s all the details I can give at this point. Except that the survivors include several children who demonstrate an inclination toward Jedi abilities, which is part of why we called you specifically. And that all of the survivors are quite determined not to be repatriated to the New Republic.”

    “Wait, what?” Mara leaned forward slightly in her seat.

    “And that,” Parck said quietly, “is the other part of the reason we called you specifically. We’re hoping that you’ll agree to stay with them.”

    Luke felt his eyes widen with shock. “Stay? On a Chiss colony world?”

    “I feel like we’ve had this conversation before,” Mara said dryly. “And here I thought my answer had been fairly clear.”

    “Exceedingly,” Parck replied, matching her tone. “And yet circumstances have changed, and not only in regards to Outbound Flight. There is one threat in particular that we’ve been monitoring for a long time, and which is now a near-imminent danger to the entire galaxy. We have reason to believe that in no more than a decade’s time, they will be at our door. At that time, we must be united if we wish to avoid catastrophe. Not merely the New Republic and the Empire, but also the Empire of the Hand and the Chiss government as well, and every other sizable government the galaxy has to offer.”

    “That’s a tall order,” Luke murmured.

    “Hence, our need for your help,” Parck told him.

    “So the survivors were just a lure?” Mara asked, an eyebrow lifted.

    “Not at all,” Parck assured her. “They exist, they do not wish to return to the New Republic, and there are children who we have reason to believe have Jedi potential. They also must be helped. Which is why you and Master Skywalker are a perfect solution for this moment. You can teach the children to reach their potential, reassure the other survivors that the Chiss and the humans allied with them are no threat—for they still have doubts on that head—you have connections to both Talon Karrde’s information network and the highest levels of the New Republic government as well as extensive knowledge of the Empire, and you both have proven strategic skills. The two of you may well be the key to the success of everything we are trying to accomplish.”

    Luke looked over at Mara, and knew her reply was the same as his. He spoke for them both.

    “Tell us more.”


    ------------


    Four hours later, they were back on the Sabre, deep in conversation in their cabin, while Artoo continued his watch over the cockpit and Commander Fel again waited patiently outside.

    “We can’t really do it,” Mara said as she paced. “Can we? I mean, Parck makes some good arguments, I’m not denying that, but just walk away from the New Republic?”

    “But what if that’s how we could serve it best?” Luke pointed out. “If all that data is right—Mara, he’s not wrong that a divided galaxy could be disastrous with that sort of invasion looming.”

    “It’s still a big “if” to turn our lives upside down for.” Mara stopped beside their dresser, picked up the model nexu that Jacen had made for her last year, set it down again. “We’d be leaving everything behind. And you heard Parck—even any contact with home would be a rare thing until whatever time they decide is best for an official government outreach.”

    “To protect the location of the colony world we’d be assigned to,” Luke reminded her. “It’s a reasonable precaution, all things considered. And he also said that if we decided to leave, we could. Which is a pretty sure sign that all of that data is correct, you know. He’s betting heavily that once we get into the job, we’ll agree with his assessment, and the necessity of this work.”

    “I know,” Mara said. “I know.” She turned to look at him, and all the emotions he was feeling himself were evident in her bright green eyes: concern, reluctance—but also a wary glimmer of hope.

    He held a hand out to her; she stepped over to take it and he drew her down to sit beside him on the edge of the bed. “If the work is worth doing,” he asked, “shouldn’t we do it?”

    “But the Jedi Order, and Karrde’s organization…”

    “They’re both in good hands,” Luke said. “Mara, I admit that this isn’t what I expected, but nothing in the New Republic is actually going to fall apart without us. Kam and Tionne are more than capable of running the Order—they already do more of the day to day work than I do. And there are enough qualified teachers now. It’s still small, yes, but it’s well established. And can you really tell me that Shada can’t take over your duties? She’s incredibly bright and capable, and you’ve been grooming her to do just that for more than two years now.”

    “Shada can handle it,” Mara agreed. “There’s been more than enough to keep us both busy, but she’s smart enough to know which people to pull to help make up for my absence. And you’re probably right about the Order, too.” She frowned. “Which raises the question: if they can all get by without us, why haven’t they been? And why haven’t we seen it before now?”

    Luke tapped his fingers on his knee restlessly. “It’s probably a bunch of things. We were both deeply involved in causes we believed in from a young age, so we have that ‘if we can, we must’ mindset. You’re incredibly good at what you do, so of course you became integral to Karrde’s organization, which also played into your own need for independence after realizing how Palpatine used you. I felt so obligated to rebuild the Jedi Order—and also, to be honest, I probably threw myself into it so wholeheartedly because it always felt beyond me. Overcompensating, I guess. Either way, we both got caught up in work that took our full attention, and it became such a way of life for us that we couldn’t see a way out.”

    Mara’s eyes drifted shut. “Are you telling me that we wasted ten years apart because of our own tunnel vision, only to waste the first two years of our marriage the same way?”

    “Maybe we did,” Luke said quietly. “But if so, the question becomes: are we going to face up to that and change it now that we have the opportunity?”

    For a long moment, only the sound of their own breathing could be heard. He watched the swirl of Mara’s thoughts and emotions, knowing that she was watching his in return.

    “If we went back,” Mara finally said, breaking the silence, “could we make those changes? Could we just—just stop answering when people call? Make our own life together apart from all of it?”

    Luke sighed. “I think we could try. I think we would try. But succeed? I don’t know. We didn’t even see this possibility back home. Right up to the very moment Karrde called, we were looking for ways out and still hadn’t even thought about just saying no to everything. What if we go back, thinking that we see the light now and we’ll make all these changes and fix everything, but the minute we get back, Leia or Karrde or Kam or whoever calls us and asks for just this one favor, just this one time, just this one thing, and we fall right back into the same routine before we know it?”

    “If we take Parck up on this offer,” Mara pointed out, “it’s not like we’re going into some sort of quiet retirement. We’d still be working, and not on something trivial. We’d be preparing for war, while also running point on dealing with Outbound Flight survivors and teaching new students.”

    “But,” Luke returned, “we’d be together.”

    For the first time since leaving Parck’s office, Mara smiled—a small, tentative smile. “The holos of the colony planet are pretty. It looks much nicer than here.”

    “Thank the Force for that,” Luke said with an involuntary grin. “This planet is almost monochromatic. Can’t say I’d want to stay for long if there were other choices.”

    Mara nudged his shoulder with hers. “I saw Tatooine, you know. It’s not far from monochromatic.”

    “Better sunsets.”

    “True.” Mara slid her hand into his, intertwining their fingers. “There are children there, Luke. Families. And not just Chiss or the established families off Outbound Flight. The Fels apparently have a whole passel of kids. That means there are medical resources for humans, and infrastructure to support families.”

    Luke smiled at her. “What do you say? Want to go give the Fels a run for their money and help save the galaxy while we’re at it?”

    Those incomparable eyes were shining with a joy that had become far too rare over the past year. “Yes. But Luke, tell me honestly. Could you be happy so far away from home and your family?”

    He squeezed her hand. “You’re my family, and home is wherever we’re together. If I’m with you, I’m happy.”

    “Well, then,” Mara said, a full, warm smile lighting her face. “Shall we go sign the recruitment papers?”


    --------------


    Bright sunshine cascaded through the windows of their new home as Luke cleared away the remnants of breakfast, thinking about the exercises he would try with his new students later. Though they’d only arrived a week ago, a few children had obvious potential—one girl in particular seemed promising—and between them, Luke and Mara had begun to win over their skeptical parents. There was a long way to go, but he felt confident that they were on the right path. Today he would start the children with some of the basics alone; since that front had begun to settle, Mara was beginning her own work in the strategic analysis division this morning. Luke himself had been talking with Soontir Fel about the Empire of the Hand’s pilot training program. As they found their feet in this new endeavor, they would likely each be taking on multiple roles: teaching the Force-sensitive children of Outbound Flight, helping the other survivors settle in, analyzing incoming intel reports, planning future strategic government outreach attempts, training new soldiers in piloting and other forms of combat, and planning how to best defend against the impending invasion.

    Not to mention the new, much more personal endeavor they hoped to soon undertake. Mara had been right: there was plenty of support here for families. This wasn’t like the Rebellion or Empire they had known, where families were separated for years at a time. Here you could do your important work with a baby strapped to your chest or your toddler just down the hall in the designated and well-appointed childminder area, where you could visit throughout the day. Soontir and Syal had already shared many stories of accomplishing vital tasks with their children at their sides.

    Luke was very much looking forward to the journey.

    His thoughts were interrupted by a familiar footfall as Mara came down the hall and reentered the kitchen.

    “Hey,” she greeted him. “How do I look?” Mara held out her arms and spun slowly, showcasing her new uniform, a neat military-style gray outfit with narrow rings of red and black trim at the collar and cuffs.

    Luke smiled. “Intimidating.”

    Mara stepped closer to take his face in her hands and place a gentle kiss on his lips. “You always know the right thing to say.” He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her in for another kiss, but she was frowning slightly when they parted. “You are sure about all of this? Really sure?”

    “I have never, ever been so sure,” Luke told her. “We’ve done everything we can for the New Republic. It and the Jedi Order are in safe hands. It’s time we focus on us. And if we can do that while still helping the galaxy, well. Best case scenario, isn’t it?”

    Mara slid her hands from his shoulders up the sides of his throat into his hair and kissed him again. “Who’d have guessed we’d wind up in a place like this?”

    “I would go anywhere to be with you, Mara,” he said, leaning his forehead against hers. “This might have been an unexpected destination, but it’s better than a lot of places. Less humid than Yavin, anyway.”

    Mara’s laugh was the sweetest music Luke had ever heard. “There is that. My hair was absolutely unmanageable on Yavin.”

    “Your hair always looked gorgeous.”

    “You,” Mara said, stepping back with visible reluctance, “didn’t have to comb it. I’ll be back in a few hours.”

    “Have fun whipping them all into shape,” Luke said, blowing her a kiss.

    “You know it.” Mara blew a kiss back at him—they were behaving like teenagers, and Luke could only smile at the thought—and left their new apartment.

    Luke smiled to himself for a moment longer, then went to the apartment’s small office that the two of them would be sharing and sat down at his new desk, opening a communique as he did so. There was only one thing left now. He thought for a few minutes, then began to type.

    “Dear Leia....”
     
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb! =D= Luke and Mara were stuck in a rut for sure, a dangerous one! It's daunting to think that they would get pulled into the vicious cycle if they had returned even after realizing what they needed to do.

    They went from desperately seeking solutions to embarking on a worthwhile, exciting task together. :cool:

    You can sense the change in tone from the opening scene to the latter. They are happy and not so stressed out, a loving, wonderful partnership again. [face_love]
     
  3. Rivad_Bacar2

    Rivad_Bacar2 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Nov 1, 2004
    [face_rofl]

    See, even a dustball has awesome selling points! :D

    See first quote, part 2...
    [face_rofl]

    Oh wow. The pathos and almost certain despair of the beginning, to the hope and warmth of the end. Great use of emotion.

    I have never read much of the NJO era as it just felt too dark, doom and gloom to me, and the portrayal of Luke and Mara going into it was a big part of it. But this set-up...this I would give a serious chance. Well done!
    =D=
     
  4. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Bickering and arguments at the beginning but coming to an excellent solution and helping in the only way they can.
     
  5. Bel505

    Bel505 Jedi Grand Master star 2

    Registered:
    Jul 4, 2006
    It's always a delight to read a new Gabri fic!

    This is a moment in their life and history which is profoundly important to them both. Thanks to publication order issues, the EU got saddled with another extended Luke and Mara separation! After ten years wasted, you'd think that these two would spend every possible moment together, but they didn't... and the reasons presented here all make sense. Luke and Mara are important people, with important jobs, and they both have a sense of duty which is perhaps over-emphasized (thanks to the obligations Yoda and Ben saddled Luke with, and the Emperor tattooing "loyalty, duty, obligations" on Mara's forebrain (quite possibly) from infancy.

    And it makes sense that they would be struggling with it. I HATE the idea that Luke and Mara's bond might not be automatically permanent, but at the same time it makes more sense this way. Their profound connection in VotF wasn't because they were THEM necessarily, but because of the combination of circumstances plus the fact that they'd each been ignoring their connection for a decade. Why wouldn't it fade, if not deliberately cultivated, like any other relationship does?

    So it's heartbreaking to find them in this moment, so deeply in love and yet feeling like, for all intents and purposes, they're not really married! They have a marriage on paper, but they're not acting like a married couple, and that's tearing them both apart.

    And I love—love—the idea of them being able to just walk away and head out to the Unknown Regions. It always kind of felt like that was the story that was being set up for them by Zahn, with or without the Yuuzhan Vong (and who knows if that's the implied threat here or not), and the idea of them going out into the unknown, with Old Republicans (who don't even remember the Empire!) with Jedi potential, surrounded by Chiss (maybe another clone of Thrawn hanging out somewhere? Surely he had a backup plan to his backup plan...), with the Fel family opening up the possibility of involving Wedge and Iella...

    There's so much potential here for storytelling!

    And they get to be happy!
     
  6. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The (FavoriteTM) Fanfic Mod With the Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Needless to say, I loved this. So stand by for flailing and a probably unnecessary amount of heart emojis, because here I go . . .

    The thud of the boots was a perfect punctuation to your dialogue! Everything about this scene was so well structured from a technical standpoint, even before you get into the emotional depth from the main conflict of the plot. =D=

    &
    &
    All of this had me chuckling. :p

    Again, I could see this play out as well as I could hear it!

    I loved this detail!

    Isn't that just the crux of the matter? =(( My heart broke for Luke and Mara all throughout this scene. (Oh, that sniffle! =(() They love each other so much, and they both want a real relationship together, but they're caught in thrall to their respective duties to the point that it's hard to see a way to merge the two. This is something that I can realistically imagine Luke and Mara facing, and the toll it's taking on their marriage - and their bond! =(( - just hurt to read.

    Thankfully, though, we all knew there was that dealing with an obstacle in an unexpected way part of the prompt coming from the start. [face_mischief] Because they are Luke and Mara. This is a problem, yes, but that just means that they have to find the solution. Together. [face_love]

    I loved this detail, too. Space jet lag sounds like it would be even more awful than the real thing. Desynchronosis is never any fun. 8-}

    [face_laugh] [face_laugh]!! Artoo is just the best and I love him. [face_love]

    Don't mind me and my feelings over here. =(( [face_love]

    And there you have it. There's no more stubborn and determined pair in the galaxy than Luke and Mara. They'll figure it out. [face_love]

    Oooh, color me intrigued! [face_thinking]

    I was NOT expecting this, but my interest racheted up at the mention of Parck and Nirauan. [face_thinking]

    Also, it was brief, but I loved your Karrde characterization, as always. From his discomfort for interrupting them to his subtle concern and his desire to be kept in the know - A+, all!

    YES!!! Yes, you shall. :D [face_dancing] (And something already tells me that this is going to be even better than Oubound Flight, at that. [face_mischief])

    I do love how they complete each other. :p [face_laugh]

    [face_laugh] [face_love]!!!

    Yeah, but who followed him? [face_batting] o_O Luke does not have Mara fooled with the serene Master Jedi persona he tries to wear, and I love it. ;) [face_love]

    I already like where this is going! (Yay, Fel family! [face_love])

    The NJO could have been so amazing! Whyyyyy wasn't it as good as this simplemost premise promised it should be???

    . . . no, I will not forever be salty and bitter. Not me. [face_not_talking]

    This was such a spot-on insight that makes so much sense. [face_hypnotized] =D=

    Fair. :p [face_love]

    [face_dancing] [face_dancing] Heck yeah, you do!!! Hello, creative problem solving, but this is already ten times better than canon and I love it with all my heart and soul. Yes, indeed, I do! [face_love] [face_love] [face_love]

    [face_love] [face_love] [face_love]!!!! (Yeah, this is where my smashing the emoji button got a bit out of hand. 8-} [face_whistling])

    This ridiculous couple is going to be the end of me. [face_love] [face_love] [face_love]

    Look at that: equilibrium is already setting in! I love the promise of this AU, of Luke and Mara being united in a single goal together, answer a galaxy-altering call of duty side by side while still keeping their relationship, bond, and family at the forefront of their priorities. Everything is just as it should be. [face_love] [face_love] [face_love]


    This was a superb answer to the challenge, and a 'verse I certainly wouldn't mind seeing more of in the future if you're ever inspired. Thank you so much for sharing! [face_love] =D= [:D]
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2022
  7. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fanfic Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 9, 2002
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha
    Thank you!

    @Rivad_Bacar2
    Heh, well, she is :p

    It does! I've always been fond of Tatooine anyway, and having spent a large portion of my life in Phoenix, I've had an up close and personal view of just how beautiful and full of life deserts can be. So yeah, I'm a dedicated Tatooine fangirl (thank you, The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett [face_love] ). But also? I just really like the idea of Luke coming to appreciate the place more as he gets older. I don't think he'd ever want to live there again, but I don't think he'd always view it so dismissively as he did as a frustrated and isolated teenager. I do like dropping little hints when I can that he remembers the place more fondly than not [face_love]

    You don't marry a former assassin if you intimidate easily :p @Bel505 has a scene in Interregnum II that I love, where Mara reflects that Luke is more attracted to her when she's dressed to be deadly (and basically that she thinks he's kind of a weirdo for it :p ), and it's just the greatest. [face_love] I completely agree with Bel here, that all the things about her that intimidate other people are the things that particularly draw Luke to her. And despite coming from the NJO, the quote in my sig is a fantastic one, and comes from a scene where Han got in a fight seemingly for Leia's honor. Mara turns to Luke and says, "How about it, Skywalker? Will you still fight for me after we've been married twenty-odd years?" to which Luke replies, "What do you mean by 'still'? You do your own fighting. If I forget that, I'm not very likely to survive to our twentieth anniversary," and Mara smiles contentedly and says, "It's such a comfort to be understood." They don't have a "typical" romantic dynamic, but they have one that suits them perfectly, and that's what makes them such a perfect OTP [face_love]

    I remember very well that I put off reading the NJO for a long time, because when I skimmed the first book, here's Mara infected with a deadly disease and weeping over the family she and Luke will never have, and I was infuriated. You made us wait all that time for them to be a couple at all, and then you immediately threaten to kill Mara off? I only gave in because of these boards, actually; I joined about the time of the great Jaina 'shipping wars, and I had no idea what was going on, and it eventually annoyed me enough that I started reading it :p And the NJO was so dark and depressing, and now I look back on it almost as a time of sunshine and roses compared to the series that came afterward [face_plain]

    Anyway, I largely see the NJO these days as an ambitious idea that was more competently carried out than I gave it credit for at the time, and which has story potential for fanfic, and Jag/Jaina forever [face_love], but it's still just not the way I would have wanted the EU to go. I will forever disagree with Mara's disease, she and Luke only having one child, killing off Chewie and Anakin, the near-breakup of Han and Leia's marriage, the near-splintering of the Jedi Order, etc - and worst of all, I think it was a gateway drug into the depths of nonsensical despair that DN, LotF, and FotJ brought. In most cases, I personally am going to ignore the NJO in my stories. This story, though - the opportunity for Luke and Mara to make a new life for themselves with the EotH is too tempting to resist, and it does lead into the Vong war (yes, I could make up another conflict, but I dunno. Easier to modify existing material [face_thinking] ). So eventually I'll probably wind up writing some treatment of it - but I'm not going down the roads I disagreed with in the first place.

    @earlybird-obi-wan
    Thank you!

    @Bel505
    Aw [face_blush]

    Yeah, I had to figure out something to explain this nonsense. I still feel like the publishers/writers could have found a better workaround than another prolonged separation, but if I'm writing something during or after this time, then I have to come up with answers. And this is what I've got: it just plain didn't occur to them that they could say no and the galaxy wouldn't, in fact, fall apart without them. They're too used to being right in the middle of all the worst situations, and having incredibly heavy responsibilities.

    And see, that's where this idea comes from: how to handle this more realistically than the EU did. Because come on, no newly married couple, let alone one coming to terms with a wasted decade spent apart, are going to be perfectly content to stay more apart than not for years. That's ridiculous. How can they build a life together if they're never actually together? So yeah, I'm assuming here that they're very ordinary people here, despite the whole Jedi thing, who love each other and want that life together but can't figure out how to make it work, and they're getting angry and frustrated and hopeless.

    I'm all about the "Luke and Mara get to be happy" stories these days. I mean, it's always been my favorite fanfic genre anyway, but I'm very dedicated to it now. (I think I'm using up all my angst tolerance reading Vi's stuff [face_mischief] ) Also, yes, I think that with VotF especially, Zahn very strongly implied that if he could have done anything he wanted, Luke and Mara would have gone to the Unknown Regions. Which just makes me think - I've read complaints about Zahn's lack of romance writing for decades, and it always makes me wonder if the complainers have actually read his work. No, he's never going to write over the top romance novels. He's more restrained than not. But Luke and Mara spark together. Their chemistry was immediate and undeniable. Zahn had Han hinting that there was clearly something between the two of them from the start, and Mara admiring Luke's strength of character even before the last command was gone, and Luke pretty obviously in love with her by TLC at the latest. They genuinely like and respect each other. There are subtle hints all over the place throughout HoT that the two of them have been thinking about each other for quite a while. Mara all but openly admits to herself that she's in love with him and has been hoping for years that they might reconcile and have a relationship. Luke's obviously jealous over the idea of Mara being in a relationship with Lando. And Zahn clearly wanted his OTP to run away together. Not romantic, pfft.

    @Mira_Jade
    [face_blush] :D [face_love]

    Thank you! :D

    Poor Luke - he's also frustrated by all of this, and now their first night together in ages and Mara's mad and not about to hide it. He's got to resort to something to try not to aggravate the situation further :p

    Always a joy to hear :D

    I feel like Mara simply must have had extensive speech and accent training: how to recognize and place them, how to replicate any manner of speech needed to maintain her cover, etc. But at the same time, she grew up as part of the Emperor's inner circle and was both genuinely a member of his Court and had an alias as such, and most of her missions involved misdeeds by other high-ranking Imperials. Her natural accent was surely not just Coruscanti, but the sort that would give her away as very high-ranking, socially. After years outside of that sort of society, and especially with most of that time spent in places and circumstances where an accent like that would be a target on her back, I'm betting that she spent so long deliberately speaking without it that it's no longer her natural accent at this point. But when she's really, really mad and her emotional guard is down, I think it's likely to come back without her even noticing, especially because Mara is precise and efficient to a fault, and a posh Coruscanti accent tends to be on the clipped side anyway.

    It's better than the story I once wrote where they dealt with this mess by getting divorced :p But yeah, it is heartbreaking for them both, and I feel like Mara would be especially frustrated because she's never had this sort of belonging before. She's never loved or been loved or had a family or a home or that sort of emotional security, and then she finds it with Luke only to have it ripped away for years? Of course she's miserable, the poor girl =((

    They are good at that [face_love]

    I've only had jet lag once, when I flew to Orlando for Celebration V, jumping three time zones. I hated it, Mira :p Messed me up for days.

    He is [face_love]

    If you keep making it so rewarding to mess with your feelings, Mira, it only encourages me :p [:D]

    They're so great [face_love]

    [face_mischief] [face_batting]

    Hee! :D I do love Karrde, cultured and nosy scoundrel that he is [face_love]

    That's just embarrassing praise, right there [face_blush] (...but I'll take it [face_shhh] )

    Me too [face_love]

    True love means being able to be who you really are around the other person. Luke doesn't simply tolerate or even understand who she really is; he adores all of those things about her [face_love]

    He does not! And Luke loves that, too :p

    So much potential!

    We'll just have to rewrite it, Mira :p

    Even the smartest people have blind spots, and Luke and Mara have spent so much of their lives in situations where they couldn't say no, either literally or because others would suffer if they did. I can imagine them wanting to put each other first after their marriage and simply not knowing how - until they step far enough outside of their ordinary lives to realize that saying no is indeed a possibility.

    Like I said to Rivad, I'm pretty dedicated to the idea of Luke thinking fondly of Tatooine as he gets older, and appreciating the things he maybe didn't as a teenager. [face_love]

    :D :D :D My current fanfic philosophy appears to be "give Luke and Mara all the nice things while still writing a compelling story." It's nice to know that it's working [face_love]

    Give me all the heart emojis, Mira! ALL OF THEM

    You just know that Luke would, in fact, follow Mara anywhere [face_love]

    They're so adorable and ridiculous and deathly competent all at the same time and I just love them so [face_love]

    Huzzah! Luke and Mara GET ALL THE NICE THINGS [face_love]

    Oh, I definitely have some plans for this! You've already seen some of my WIP list/drawing board; it may be a while before I get back to this, but yes, there are plans :cool: Vi keeps saying that the three of us will wind up writing simultaneous NJO AUs; she may be right :p
     
  8. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Interim Tech Admin star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Registered:
    Jun 19, 2019
    @Gabri_Jade You have a real knack for writing dialogue that rings so true to how the characters would think and sound and that can convey such a range of emotions: humor, pain, heartbreak, and deep love and affection. Which is just perfect for an OTP challenge all about overcoming obstacles!

    What an opening line. It feels like a gut punch. Because you can feel the love but also the pain behind it. It really establishes a sense of conflict and tension from the very start.

    This line was so Mara, and I loved it!

    There is so much raw pain and honestly in this line. My heart broke for Mara here=((

    And even more heartbreak hits for me with this line=((

    This is so relatable to me because this is me after just about every flight I've taken because time changes are hard[face_laugh]:p

    Another humorous line that had me laughing[face_rofl]

    This exchange was just chef's kiss perfection!

    Aww. What sweet words from Luke[face_love]

    And an awesome reply from Mara that had me laughing again, because I can totally relate to humidity making hair unmanageable...

    Great job with this story! It is easy to see why it was an OTP challenge winner! Well done=D=
     
  9. JediMara77

    JediMara77 Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 5, 2004
    So I haven't been on the boards in ages (I'm surprised I could still get into my account) and just got back into fanfic, and this was a wonderful first fic back to find. I miss my OTP so much! I love the idea of them going off on their own after Survivor's Quest (which is a way more romantic book than people claim!). Thanks for writing it!
     
  10. Findswoman

    Findswoman Fanfic and Pancakes and Waffles Mod (in Pink) star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    I saw this come back up on page 1 again and thought I would revisit it. It’s all coming back to me what an amazing job you did on this prompt! That message from Parck turned out to be just the thing to thoroughly and decisively catapult Mara and Luke from their rut—a way for them to not stop making a difference to the galaxy, only this time together without having to limit themselves to visiting. One thing that really stood out to me was this realization from Luke:
    This right here is the key to so much about both of their characters—and as Luke says, it can be a mega double-edged sword that can hinder as much as help. But hey, in their new situation in the UR, they get the best of both worlds! It truly is a bummer that the established literature didn’t take this approach, but hey, that’s why we’ve got writers like you. [face_love] Really enjoyed revisiting this—wonderful work! =D=
     
  11. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fanfic Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 9, 2002
    @devilinthedetails
    Aw, thank you! Dialogue has always been my favorite thing to write :)

    Dialogue also often serves as a huge motivational factor for my writing, such as this line. I had been sitting on this general idea for a while, but when I decided to write it for this challenge, it was thinking of how Mara would start a conversation like this that sparked this line and got the rest of it flowing :) I always describe myself as a character study writer; plots are just the extraneous stuff I use to prop up the conversations I want to write :p

    Luke and Mara are both very self-sacrificing people, but everyone's going to hit their limit eventually, you know? And Mara doesn't pull punches when she's at that point.

    Survivor's Quest is the only book we got that gave us any real glimpse of Luke and Mara between their wedding and the start of the NJO, and they're both dealing with the whole separation issue pretty well there, but here's my take on that: of course they would be. As I recall, the whole reason Luke and Mara spent so much time apart for the first few years of their marriage was actually publishing schedules; the YJK series took place after HoT, but was published first. The editors knew that HoT was coming and that Luke and Mara would be together permanently by the end of it, but couldn't exactly have Mara at the Academy all the time until after HoT was published, so the in-universe reasoning for her absence became essentially that she was so critical to Karrde's organization that it took several years for her to fully disengage from it.

    But without those publishing realities, would Zahn himself have written Luke and Mara as spending as much time apart as together for years of their marriage? Of course not; he'd laid the groundwork for L/M back in TTT, he'd made being allowed to unite them permanently a condition of his writing HoT in the first place, and within VotF he has Mara reflect specifically on what a waste it was that they'd spent a decade apart instead of being close friends the whole time. So when on top of getting to make Luke and Mara engaged in the first place, he also got the chance to write a novel focusing on them as a married couple, he's not exactly going to waste the opportunity by having them be miserable, is he? Luke and Mara is his OTP, after all, but he doesn't get the chance to write them whenever he wants, like we do. He's limited by when a publishing company is willing to pay him to do that. He's got to make the most of it. Anyway, a miserable Luke and Mara would have thoroughly derailed the adventure plot of the book :p

    HOWEVER.

    This is fanfic. I can write whatever I want without regard for the real world obligations of professional publishing, and that means that sometimes I'm going to explore what I consider to be the more realistic outcome of where publishing took us. And I don't think that any married couple spending most of their time apart, especially in the first few years, is going to be happy about that; all the less so would Luke and Mara be happy about it when they know that they've already lost a decade. This line summarizes what I think Mara's opinion about it would be, and it is heartbreaking =((

    At least I kept them together in this fic! Years ago I wrote a vig where the stress of the constant separations made them decide to divorce :p

    I've only ever jumped time zones like that twice: to and from CV. I hated it. The memory is vivid enough to include in fics to this day :p

    Mara's sense of humor is very dry :p

    I'll defend Tatooine and its natural beauty to the death; deserts get a very undeserved bad rap. They're actually very beautiful and have incredible biodiversity. But for someone who's not used to them, the initial impression can be bleak sometimes. Mara hasn't spent enough time in deserts to fully appreciate their beauty, but Luke has [face_love]

    Luke always is a sweetheart [face_love]

    My hair is very, very curly, and while I live in a desert now, I grew up in San Diego. The humidity-induced aggravation comes from personal experience for me too :p

    Aw, thanks so much [face_blush] :D

    @JediMara77
    You're quite welcome, thank you for commenting! I fully agree that SQ is much, much more romantic than people give it credit for. I also think that Zahn left plenty of hints within both HoT and SQ to indicate that if given the chance, this is the direction he would have taken Luke and Mara. He didn't get that chance, but with fanfic, the possibilities are endless :D

    @Findswoman
    Why, thank you! This is a plot bunny I'd had for quite a while, then this particular prompt turned out to be a great excuse to finally write it :p

    I'm really glad that this rings true, because the whole premise of this story hinges on Luke and Mara not seeing any way out of this situation - but it's a situation I thoroughly disagree with and actually think makes very little sense in-universe. So it was a challenge for me to come up with a reason that actually worked - and what I came up with still isn't an airtight reason, because they could have just said no years ago. But it did feel in character for both of them, and people have blind spots all the time, unfortunately. These two just feel such a massive obligation to work for the greater good, and that can wind up hurting them personally.

    Like I said above, I really do think that Zahn very much wanted to send Luke and Mara to work with the Empire of the Hand, but never got the chance. But fanfic is all about exploring the roads not taken :D Thank you so much :D
     
  12. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Kessel Run Hostess and Champion star 4 VIP - Game Winner VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    IT'S TAKEN ME NEARLY TWO YEARS TO LEAVE FEEDBACK HERE AND I'M SO ASHAMED BUT I'M FINALLY BACK. :oops:

    I don't know, somehow this one slipped through the cracks multiple times; I blame the first KR, and probably the second one, too, and life in general. 8-} You know I love it. It was a unique response to the OTP challenge and an intriguing AU in its own right, and I'm going to dive into more details now...

    Summaries are my jam, yo. :cool: (I actually forgot I came up with this one, but I’m always happy to assist in that department, babe. :*)

    I love the little action details here that really make you see and feel Mara’s frustration. Plus, her reaction is completely understandable.

    You know I love me a good fictional argument. [face_mischief] And you did an excellent job with this one; it felt so raw and real and painful, and I ate up every delicious word of it.

    OUCH. I mean yeah, this really is a festering wound for both of them, but I feel like maybe it’s even more so for Mara, who pretty clearly thought about Luke more than once during that ten-year period. He was certainly attracted to her at least by the end of TTT, if not earlier, but then they part ways and he goes through all the DE stuff and has other relationships and gets fixated on growing the Jedi, on fixing Callista, on a dozen other things that are constantly pulling at his attention, until finally he and Mara are thrown back together and can finally figure out what they mean to each other. But like you and I have talked about, by the time you get to HoT, Mara is the one who realizes her feelings first, and I think that feeds into her frustrations here, that they’ve wasted all this time, and she still remembers what it felt like to look at him and not know if they would ever figure things out.

    That was a bit rambly, but hopefully it made sense. :p Also, the details of Mara’s actions here were very well done. I could see and hear the scene perfectly.

    lolol I know they’re fighting but it’s still funny and I love it.

    I like this detail about her accent sneaking back in. Very true to life, and again, made the whole scene come alive all the more.

    GAAAH, THE PAIN. :_| The emotional shift here was so effective, such a stark contrast to the argument. That they go from being so sharp with each other, to being so tender and vulnerable. And I could see shades of Mara’s defense mechanisms in her “maybe you can keep planting seeds” line. That part, and the way Luke gently interrupts her, cut right to my heart. =((

    :_| (But I also appreciate that you don’t treat their bond as an automatically permanent thing that exists no matter what they do or don’t do to maintain it. That’s not how relationships work in real life, and even when it comes to fictional space magic love bonds, I prefer an element of realism, ya know?)

    =((

    As always, you are unparalleled among fanfic writers when it comes to realistically portraying Mara's vulnerabilities. And that "she actually sniffled" detail... :_|

    lolll, it's me, I'm Mara. :p

    lolol yep [face_mischief]

    Oh. :( (Why was the EU so bound and determined to keep these two apart even after Zahn fixed it? You don't have to answer that here, I know we've talked about this issue at length, I was just annoyed all over again. :p)

    THAT'S RIGHT.

    You know, this is an entirely fair point. The older we get, the more established our lives and routines become, and even if you want to stretch to include someone else in that, it's likely going to be that much harder to do so. Luckily the EU didn't go this way, but it's completely possible that it could have gone this way, and you handle the possibility so well here.

    I see what you did there. [face_mischief] :cool:

    Outbound Flight! Which reminds me that I really need to reread that book, and Survivor's Quest, sometime in the near future; it's probably been well over a decade since the last time I did. [face_thinking] (Which also means I've forgotten nearly everything that happened in those books, just like I've forgotten a lot of HoT, so I know there are details in this story that I couldn't appreciate as much as I should... I guess once I do my rereads, I'll have to come back to this again. [face_batting])

    Yes, good thinking, Luke! (A whole week without any interruptions honestly sounds amazing to me right now. *sigh*)

    lolll yep, that par for the course in the GFFA, especially when there are Skywalkers involved. :p

    [face_batting] [face_batting] [face_batting]

    I like him already. :p

    LOL I could perfectly imagine the look on her face at that remark. o_O

    Perfect [face_laugh]

    [face_rofl] You always capture Luke's particular brand of humor and snark so well. *chef's kiss*

    Artoo really is the perfect droid companion for this family, isn't he? [face_tee_hee] And this was an excellent callback, by the way.

    I've finally reached that point in my life where teenagers look like babies to me, and I fear people in their twenties aren't far behind, so I really relate to Mara's perspective here. Also to the realization that those "kids" are probably every bit as competent as you once were at that age (and maybe even more, in my case 8-}).

    (Also I know you're going to say that I am like a wee baby in your eyes, and I appreciate and love you for it. :*)

    Heck yeah, that Fel. [face_mischief]

    Dang, Parck, way to live dangerously, lol. o_O :p

    EEEEEEEEEE!!!! (Okay, look, I know he doesn't have to mean the Yuuzhan Vong, but you know me, I just love the idea of us both maybe possibly one day writing stories set during our own NJO AUs, and obviously I don't want to rewrite all of it because I don't have twenty years to spare, but can you imagine how good it could be?? [face_batting])

    Er, what I meant to say is, I hope we'll see more in this particular AU, because I am intrigued and invested. :*

    [​IMG]

    Yeah, he's not wrong there. [face_worried]

    Gaaaah, Gabri, WHAT GIVES YOU THE RIGHT??? (Sorry, I apparently can't handle mentions of Jacen being sweet and innocent and thoughtful and being forever curious about and affectionate toward animals. :p And this was probably a coincidence, but the model nexu also made me think of how the profic gave Allana an actual nexu as a pet and just... come on guys. That's not a big house cat. Canon-typical child endangerment is not an excuse to give Allana a space tiger. [face_shame_on_you])

    Yep. [face_mischief] (I love their closeness in this scene [face_love])

    Valid points, all! In a way, this could almost read as a meta commentary on the EU itself, how everyone always relied on the Big Three to anchor the stories and take all the leadership positions and save the day. One of the things I still appreciate about the NJO is how they started to shift away from that in a very noticeable way, actually setting up the next generation for leadership so they could pass the narrative torch. And I feel like this AU has a lot of the same promise - you've got Luke and Mara heading off into the unknown to build something new, which in turn means that the people they left behind will have to step up and come into their own and shoulder some of the narrative burden (even if that narrative never actually makes it to the page because I know you're not planning to retell the whole NJO :p) I guess what I'm saying in all that rambling is that this feels like a perfectly valid way that the overall story could have gone, and since it's pretty clear from HoT that Zahn would have loved to write his OTP going off on adventures in the unknown, it feels like you're writing a story that Zahn himself might have written. And even though it makes me sad to think about Luke and Mara being away from the rest of their family and friends for so long, I'm still very intrigued by this AU and want to see where it goes.

    SO MUCH THIS. It's okay to say no sometimes, guys.

    That's right. [face_love]

    I love everything about this. [face_love]

    (But I also need a J/J first meeting when the Solos eventually come to visit Luke and Mara, please and thank you. :*)

    (Also, I snorted at "give the Fels a run for their money" and thought of Mara's reaction to Corissa when she insisted they needed to have like half a dozen kids. :p)

    Awww! [face_love] Now that's some romance, right there. [face_batting]

    Yes, I love it. Did Luke and Soontir ever interact much in the EU? I honestly can't remember, but I imagine theirs would be an interesting dynamic. [face_thinking]

    SKYBABIES!!!

    Look at all this lighthearted affection. [face_love] This feels like an actual relief after the tension and heartache of the first half of the story. You really knocked this challenge out of the park. ;)

    Point. o_O

    omg you two, STOP BEING SO CUTE. [face_love]

    ngl, I’m still a tiny bit annoyed at Luke for not letting his sister know about this decision before now. :p But yikes, imagine her face when she opens that communique… [face_laugh] Fortunately, Leia will understand. Eventually. Probably... [face_whistling]

    I know you already have a dozen things to write, but you know you have to continue this AU one of these days. Pretty please? [face_batting] [:D]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2023
    Gabri_Jade and Mira_Jade like this.
  13. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The (FavoriteTM) Fanfic Mod With the Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    [​IMG]

    You know . . . on top of all of your other WIPs and Mara-post-Endor AU and more Jade!sibling!Hands.

    [face_mischief] :*

    [​IMG]

    [face_batting] :cool: