Title: Reclamation Author: Gabri_Jade Timeframe: OT/Rebellion era Characters: Luke Skywalker, Mara Jade, Leia Organa, Han Solo, Darth Vader, Palpatine, Obi-Wan Kenobi, others Genre: Legends AU, drama, friendship, romance Summary: Luke Skywalker never expected to leave home for good. Mara Jade never expected to fall in love with a TIE pilot. The galaxy will never be the same. Notes: Ten-plus years ago I got a plot bunny. In late December 2019 I finally started writing it after seeing TRoS (disappoint me, will you, ST? Fine, I’ll write my own SW). Due to distractions along the way, this is still in-progress, which means no regular posting schedule; however, I do have roughly 200 pages written so far and am absolutely determined to finish this story. Hopefully it won’t take me another three years, but hey, you’ve been warned Endless thanks to @ViariSkywalker, @Bel505, and @Mira_Jade for their early reading of and willingness to discuss this story, thus keeping me motivated, and to @Mira_Jade for finding the perfect title that eluded me The red light from the setting suns fell gently over the homestead, giving it a melancholy air as Luke cast a final gaze upon it. He’d always dreamed of leaving, but somehow none of his plans had gone so far as leaving forever. He would always have come back at least for visits—to help Uncle Owen with the vaporators again, to help Aunt Beru cook dinner, to fly out to Mos Espa for old time’s sake with his friends. The epidemic had changed all that. Few families near Anchorhead had remained untouched, and even those few would be dealing with the financial fallout for years. Poor in the best of times, Anchorhead was too small a community to absorb the loss of population easily. The Lars farm wasn’t the only one that had failed. He’d been lucky to find a buyer at all, accepting a price low enough to have broken Uncle Owen’s heart. But what else could he do? At sixteen, he could hardly run the place alone. He had no other family, no money to hire help even if he could have brought himself to stay. So he’d sold the farm, the equipment, the droids, the household goods, and tried not to think about what Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru would have said. Unlike him, they’d always been dedicated to the land and the homestead. Strange to think that now when he was finally, utterly free, it was suddenly hard to walk away. Luke turned, walking to the speeder that was parked by the graves of his uncle and aunt and the grandparents he’d never known. He stood beside the graves for another moment, but no words would come and his tears were spent. There was truly nothing left for him here now. He climbed into the land speeder and started it. He would spend a few precious credits on a small room in Anchorhead tonight, then at first light he would travel to Mos Espa, sell the speeder, and enlist in the Imperial Academy. After that—well, he’d figure something out. The speeder jumped forward, and Luke didn’t look back. To the select and privileged few, Mara Jade was known as the Emperor’s Hand, a top secret assassin and undercover agent answerable only to the Emperor himself. To the traitors her master sent her to eliminate, she was known as the Emperor’s justice, and the last thing they ever saw. To most, if she was known at all, it was as a lowly palace dancer, easily overlooked as she kept a watchful eye on the elite of the Emperor’s Court. She had been rigorously trained from early childhood in the skills that were of service to her master: combat, intelligence gathering, espionage. Her least known skill, though, was that she was Force-sensitive, with a particular talent for communication. She could both hear and speak to her master through the Force, no matter how distant she might be. She was, in short, a secretive and deadly weapon in service of Emperor and Empire. She was also desperately bored. Her assignment, ostensibly, was to watch for undercurrents of dissatisfaction or disloyalty at tonight’s formal reception in one of the Imperial Palace’s many ballrooms. An unlikely thing at a gathering such as this, which hosted mostly low-level Fleet officers: a welcoming gala for those newly assigned to Coruscant and their superiors. Still, it was a chance to sharpen her abilities. It was wiser never to take such opportunities for granted. Or so she’d always been told. That really didn’t help with the boredom, though. She was jolted a step forward as someone walked into her, accompanied by a startled gasp. “I’m so sorry, ma’am,” the voice from behind began as she turned— Only to be confronted with the bluest pair of eyes she’d ever seen, belonging to a TIE pilot, a young one. About twenty, she guessed; near her age, then. Clearly one of the newly stationed junior officers. “Not a problem,” she said, raising an eyebrow. “Your first time at an affair like this?” The junior officer made a face, reddening slightly. “That obvious, huh?” “You did just nearly run me down,” she pointed out. “Watching your surroundings instead of your path.” He grimaced again, then sketched her a quick bow. “Lieutenant Luke Skywalker, ma’am. Just assigned to Coruscant. You’re right, nearly all my previous assignments have been in Rim Systems. This—” he paused to gesture at the lavishly appointed ballroom and equally lavishly dressed guests “—well, it’s a little different from what I’m used to.” Mara eyed him. “You must be fairly good, to make the jump directly from the Rim to Coruscant.” He grinned at her while ducking his head slightly, a combination of cockiness and humility that was unexpectedly charming, and she found herself returning his smile. “I’d like to think so. Can I get you a drink? To apologize for nearly running you down and all.” Mara hesitated for a moment. She wasn’t here to socialize—but then, casual conversation was as good a cover as any to observe the crowd from, and this Skywalker was already better company than many at these receptions. “That would be nice, thank you.” “I’ll be right back—” he paused expectantly. “Mara,” she answered automatically, then sighed inwardly. Stupid mistake, to give her real name; she really was thrown by the sedateness of this gathering. Clearly she needed to work on her focus more. At least she’d only slipped with someone she’d never see again after tonight. “Mara,” Skywalker repeated with a smile, then headed toward one of the serving droids off to the side. She watched him for a moment, then glanced around and went to sit in one of the many small conversation circles scattered throughout the ballroom. This one had only four chairs, all empty, and was placed along the side of the far wall, where it would be easy to keep an eye on everything without being obvious about it. Skywalker joined her only a few minutes later, sitting beside her and handing her a tumbler of brandy with a flourish. She took it, impressed; most of the time when a man brought her a drink at one of these functions, it was some frilly, overly sweet pastel concoction. “How long have you been on Coruscant?” he asked. “Longer than me, I’m assuming.” “I grew up here,” she replied, sipping the brandy appreciatively. “Where are you from?” “Tatooine. In the Rim.” Mara shook her head. “Never heard of it.” Skywalker shrugged. “You’re not missing much. It’s pretty much all desert. Binary system, harsh climate, scarce water—there’s not a lot there that’s worthwhile, to be honest.” “Is that why you joined the navy? To get off-world?” Recruitment was always high in obscure systems, she knew; an opportunity to escape poverty or boredom. A shadow passed over his eyes. “Mostly. I did always plan to join, but I wound up doing it a little earlier than I expected. My family died, and I didn’t really have any other options.” “Oh,” Mara said, taken aback. “I’m sorry.” “It’s okay,” he said, taking a sip of his own brandy. “It was four years ago. And it has worked out reasonably well, all things considered. I’m a very good pilot.” He smiled at her again. “And it gave me the opportunity to meet you.” Mara smiled back before she realized it, a genuine and probably foolish smile. She was no naive girl; she was perfectly accustomed to being flirted with and knew well how to either turn that attention to her advantage or shake off a fulsome admirer. But Skywalker was disarmingly open, and there was no deception or expectation in either his expression or his sense in the Force. He simply said what he meant—and that, Mara was not accustomed to. “What do you do?” Skywalker asked. He looked at her appraisingly. “Intel, maybe?” Mara blinked. The surprises were coming too fast for her to keep up with. “Um, no. I’m one of the palace dancers.” “Really?” he asked, sipping his brandy again. “You’re sure that’s not just your cover?” Mara had just taken a sip of her own drink, and actually choked at that one. “I’m sorry,” Skywalker said quickly. “I didn’t mean to be rude. I’m sure you’re an excellent dancer. You just strike me as too smart to be a—not that dancers aren’t smart, I don’t mean that—” “It’s all right,” she said. Skywalker grimaced. “As you already noticed, I’m not exactly used to this sort of thing. I really am sorry.” “It’s all right,” Mara said again. “Really. It’s—it’s kind of a breath of fresh air, actually. Not very many people in the Palace say what they mean.” He looked at her ruefully. “Probably keeps them out of a lot of trouble.” “No, it usually makes a lot of trouble,” she admitted, surprised she was saying this at all. Something about him—Mara looked him over again, intrigued. Skywalker smiled. “More trouble than I just made for myself?” “Considerably more,” Mara said, and smiled back. “Glad to hear it,” he replied, and Force help her, they just sat there smiling at each other. She felt ridiculous, yet couldn’t stop. It was almost the end of the evening before Mara realized it, lost in conversation with Skywalker, her assignment forgotten, and when he suggested they meet the next afternoon at a small caf shop midway between the Palace and his barracks, she agreed with only the smallest hesitation. She had no other engagements that afternoon, after all. What could an hour hurt? He bowed over her hand as he left, those blue eyes shining at her, and Mara smiled to herself all the way back to her apartments.