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Beyond - Legends Return to Coruscant III: Mara (Interregnum Missing Moments #3)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Bel505, Apr 30, 2021.

  1. Bel505

    Bel505 Jedi Master star 2

    Registered:
    Jul 4, 2006
    Title: Return to Coruscant III: Mara
    Author(s): Bel505 (Admiral Byzantium)
    Timeframe: Between Chapters 33 and 34 of Interregnum
    Characters: Luke Skywalker, Mara Jade
    Genre: Romance
    Summary:
    Mara kissed Luke, then they each found their own ride back to Coruscant.
    What happens next?
    Notes: This was written as one of three "Missing Moments" vignettes taking place between Chapters 33 and 34 of Interregnum. If you haven't read my admittedly epic-length fanfic, this will present some pretty major spoilers. Luke/Mara.

    Thanks
    My sincerest gratitude goes to DrMckay [https://archiveofourown.org/users/DrMckay/pseuds/DrMckay]. His help on these stories is always just what they need.

    This one is for @Gabri_Jade and @ginchy. Thank you both for all the years of inspiration. Gabri, you helped me write this, and Ginchy, you're the reason for the Ruge.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2021
  2. Bel505

    Bel505 Jedi Master star 2

    Registered:
    Jul 4, 2006




    Return to Coruscant III: Mara


    The Wild Karrde’s kitchen was quiet. The rule Karrde established for his ship’s operation was that the ship’s chrono was always set to the time at its intended destination, so that the crew could begin adjusting to the time there. It was currently just before midnight in the Senate District on Coruscant.

    While she had been the Emperor’s Hand, Mara had found it easy to adjust to a new time zone, able to sleep or stay awake no matter how long it had been since she last slept, instantly adjusting to the change.

    But she couldn’t sleep.

    There was no mystery as to why, either. She glanced at the chrono again, counting back the hours. Had it really only been six hours since she had kissed Luke Skywalker? Since he had kissed her back? Since she’d seen all the promise of a future shared? She wrapped her hands around the warm mug of hot chocolate (to which she had added a minty liquor Karrde had picked up on Rishi), letting the heat sink into her fingers.

    She had kissed Luke Skywalker.

    Mara had never been sentimental. Any tendency towards sentimentality had been driven out of her by the Emperor’s training; righteous anger was the default setting of the Emperor’s Hand. Consequently, her current state of tender joy, the subtle smile she still could not wipe from her face, the quickened beats of her heart were all alien sensations. They were new and wonderful and she didn’t want to sleep for fear she’d wake and find she’d lost the capacity to feel them; that old training would kick back in and puncture the wonderful, encompassing bubble of elation that currently surrounded her.

    She sipped her hot chocolate, feeling the liquor add to the warmth in her chest.

    She had kissed Luke Skywalker. Felt his surprise when she did, felt the moment when he realized she had, felt the moment when he started to kiss her back, his arms tightening around her to draw her close. Felt his stunned shock give way to disbelieving joy.

    The strangest thing, the most wonderful thing, was that she had no doubts. Kissing Luke had been the best decision she’d ever made; the momentary impulse, fed by her desire, her conversation with Iella, the memory of the sudden, catastrophic moment in her fight with Kam… and by Luke’s total and complete inability to hide his own feelings for her, which blazed like a beacon in the Force with each subsequent meeting, with every spar or meal or touch. The Emperor’s Hand would have said the impulse to kiss him was borne of a moment of weakness, but Mara Jade, having actually indulged that impulse, was firmly of the opinion that it had been a moment of strength.

    She had no idea what to do next. Romantic attachments had most assuredly not been part of Mara’s life as the Emperor’s Hand, and since the Emperor’s death she had done her best to not get attached to anyone in any permanent way—no enemies, no friends. A simple, solitary life, one that maximized her freedom of action and minimized her responsibilities.

    And then Luke. Her assigned enemy. Her fastest friend.

    Her elation showed no signs of diminishing.

    The sliding door to the kitchen slid open; Talon Karrde stepped in. He paused in surprise to see the dim lights on in the room. His long stride took him across the room, still not noticing her curled up on the couch. Seeing the hot chocolate mix sitting on the counter, he shrugged to himself and started making himself a cup.

    “Add some of the Ander Schnapps,” Mara said softly.

    Karrde jumped, nearly knocking the mix over, and Mara smirked at having caught him off guard. “Mara!” he said in surprise. “I did not see you there.”

    “Clearly,” she replied dryly.

    Karrde regarded her; Mara tried to school her smile from her face and could not. Karrde’s expression twitched fondly, then he turned away and poured himself some of the hot chocolate mix and added the suggested liquor. He curled his hands around his mug when it was ready, then walked over towards her, pulling out a chair to sit next to the couch. “Thank you,” he said.

    Mara tilted her head. “For what?”

    “Coming to rescue me, of course.”

    “That is what seconds-in-command do,” Mara pointed out. She offered him a small smirk. “Unless they’re particularly ambitious.”

    Karrde laughed softly. “I will keep that in mind.” He watched her another moment. “We should both be asleep,” he pointed out.

    “It’s not that late yet,” Mara said.

    “I suppose not.” Karrde sipped his drink, made an appreciative sound. “Oh, that is good,” he said agreeably. “Should we talk business?”

    “Please, no,” Mara said with an amused groan. She really was in a good mood; that didn’t sound anywhere near dismissive enough. “Not tonight,” she added, her voice softening.

    She saw Karrde hide his smile behind a sip of hot chocolate.


    * * *​


    The next day they were about an hour out of Coruscant, done with the briefings on all that had happened since their last meeting, when there was a knock on the door to her quarters. With a frown Mara hit the door release, found Karrde holding a bottle on the other side. “Karrde?” she asked, frowning. “Is everything all right?”

    “Everything is fine,” Karrde agreed. “Well, as fine as things can be, after all that has happened. I wanted to give you a gift… call it a thank you for coming to rescue me.”

    “You don’t have to thank me,” Mara replied dryly. “I thought we went over this last night. I’m your second-in-command. Coming to your rescue is part of the job description.”

    “Ah, yes, but as you pointed out, it doesn’t have to be,” Karrde replied. He extended the bottle. “Here, take it.”

    Mara did, examining the label. Her eyes widened. “Karrde, is this genuine?”

    “Yes. I’ve been saving it for a special occasion.” He nodded at her. “It is meant to be enjoyed with someone special.”

    Mara froze, her green eyes tracking up towards him. His expression was annoyingly smug. “Is it?” she asked, quiet danger lurking in her voice.

    Karrde was not intimidated. “Yes.” He took a step back and offered her a half-bow, complete with flourish. “I hope you have someone to share it with. My gift, Mara.” He smiled.

    Mara considered shooting him somewhere painful. Instead she just sighed. Karrde was Karrde. “Thank you, Talon.”

    “Call it a tangible advance on the raise you are due. And you are most welcome.”






    Luke’s apartment in the Imperial Palace was small but comfortable. He still didn’t like living in the Imperial Palace, but there was nothing he could sense in this place remotely like the Dark Side presence that haunted the Jedi Museum, and Leia and Han were only a short walk away, so he stayed. It was a bachelor’s apartment, with inexpensive, sturdy furniture easily afforded on a General’s pension; the only decoration that he had explicitly purchased was a painting of twin suns setting over a desert. He wasn’t sure if it was intended to be Tatooine or not, but it reminded him enough of home—of his Aunt, who had on occasion sat and watched the suns set, and of his Uncle, waking him up before they rose to make sure he got the vaporators running at peak efficiency during the prime extraction hours—that he’d felt compelled to purchase it.

    The golden sand dunes rolled into the distance, merging into a reddish-orange sunset that seemed to cast red-gold light into his apartment. Looking at it, Luke thought that maybe his Aunt and Uncle had not been the only people he wanted to be reminded of every time he came home.

    He swallowed hard. Sometimes the last few days still felt like a dream; when he sat down to think about it he was overwhelmed with a dizzying sensation.

    He could feel that she was back on Coruscant, had been back since that morning. The Falcon had beaten the Wild Karrde back to Coruscant handily and Luke had been counting down the hours until Mara arrived. His heart had been lodged firmly in his throat every time he thought of their embrace, of Mara’s silky hair between his fingers and her lips under his. He’d distracted himself helping get Kyp and Kam situated; for the moment, Kyp had moved into Han and Leia’s spare bedroom (much to Leia’s initial confusion, though she hadn’t hesitated to bring the teenager into her house), and Kam was staying in a vacant room that Winter had secured for him in the palace. Helping them had been a formidable distraction, but a corner of his mind never lost its focus, searching for the spark of Mara he could always feel when she was near.

    When she had appeared, finally, after hours that passed like days, he’d felt her reach back, the edges of her Force-sense intermingling with his, a reassuring sharing, banishing his irrational fears that the kisses had been provoked by a fleeting impulse that would pass and fade in his absence. No, he thought as he admired the painting, smiling at the intermingled gold and red of sand and sunset, instead he could feel Mara’s eager trepidation as she snuck through the palace passageways, avoiding surveillance and sludgenews alike.

    Luke felt like a teenager waiting for his crush, hoping she’d not get caught by Uncle Owen. (Aunt Beru would have just smiled and pretended not to see anything.)

    Mara wouldn’t understand that. She hadn’t gotten to be a teenager. The thought would, under other circumstances, have sent a cold anger through him, one that could grow to rage, but not at that moment. Not with her coming nearer with each passing moment, the brightness of her presence in the Force gleaming with even more luminous brilliance.

    Would every Force-user see her the way he did? Luke wasn’t sure. He suspected that there was something special about the way he saw her, about their connection in the Force, all they had shared, all they would share. But maybe that was just the hopeless romantic in him talking.

    Her presence was just beyond the door now and he opened it before she could knock. She stepped into the room, their hands jointly closing the door behind her. Luke had never seen Mara Jade look shy before, never once—and he half-suspected he never would again, so he committed the sight to memory. In her hand she had a small bag, a frilly thing that looked like something a tourist might purchase at one of the local thrift shops at Wenbas Court or Commerce Hall. For his part, the apartment smelled of numerous herbs and spices he’d seen her enjoy when they had gone out to eat together, and his kitchen was quite busy with dirty dishes from the somewhat excessively elaborate meal he was (attempting) to make in her honor.

    Her gift and the meal were both forgotten. Her hand went slack and the bag dropped to the floor, her fingers suddenly much too busy holding the back of his shirt or his shoulders as their lips met, gently at first but with steadily building passion, their breathing growing ragged as his hands returned to her silky hair. They broke apart at the buzzer he’d set in the kitchen; reluctantly he stepped away, needing to make sure the ahrisa he was baking didn’t burn untended.

    He felt her amusement, heard her reach down to retrieve her gift bag. He glanced at the entrance to his kitchenette; Mara was leaning against it, smiling a wry, still almost-shy but nonetheless confident smile. Luke realized that neither of them had said a word as he rearranged the cooking ahrisa and added the last ingredients to the soup, remembering making this meal with Aunt Beru when he was younger. It was simple but wholesome and tasty and Luke wanted to give Mara a true, home-cooked meal.

    The silence stretched out as she watched him, as he worked. There was no tension in it; indeed, the longer it lingered the more relaxed they both seemed to become, the more confident in this thing that had grown between them. He knew Mara could sense his faith in her, his faith in them, that what they felt was not something as tawdry as lust or as fleeting as a crush. They fit together, reinforcing the other’s weaknesses, enhancing their strengths. They were, simply put, stronger as a pair than either of them was apart. They always had been, he thought, be it at Myrkr, or on the Chimaera, or at Wayland, or at Linuri.

    He set the soup to a simmer and turned back to Mara, smiling a soft, affectionate smile that was mirrored on her face.

    “I got you something,” Mara said. “Two somethings actually.” She stepped in closer, finally handing him the bag. He put it on the counter, withdrew an expensive box of hot chocolate mix and a bottle of Alderaanian Ruge.

    “Where did you find this?” he asked, holding the bottle to examine it. Alderaanian Ruge had become extremely rare after the world’s destruction, and from the looks of this bottle it had actually been produced on Alderaan, not on Borleias or any of the other worlds which had begun producing imitations since the Death Star had done its bloody work.

    “Karrde gave it to me,” she replied, her cheeks darkening. “He just said it was meant to be enjoyed with someone special.” She rolled her eyes despite the blush. “He’s lucky I didn’t shoot him.”

    “Mara,” Luke chastised gently, placing the bottle back down. “It will go perfectly with dinner.” He stepped nearer, leaning in to steal a gentle kiss. “Which will be ready in a few minutes.”

    “You didn’t have to…” Mara’s voice trailed off, taking a deep breath and inhaling the scent of spices. “But that does smell good,” she finished softly.

    “You didn’t have to either,” he replied, his hand sliding over her cheek, pushing an imagined loose strand of hair back over her ear. “But here we are.”

    She took his hands in hers, squeezing. “Yes,” she replied softly. “Here we are.” She gazed up at him, her thumbs stroking gently over his hands as they swayed close to one another again.

    “I’ve been thinking,” he said, finally finding the nerve to break the companionable, intimate silence.

    “Oh no,” Mara quipped, her usual sardonic wit tempered with a thick, cushioning blanket of affection.

    Mara,” Luke laughed softly, hearing hers match his in a quiet chorus of shared amusement. “You’re never going to make anything easy for me, are you?”

    She rolled her eyes good-naturedly. Despite the gesture, her hands squeezed his and he could feel the affection swell between them in the Force, feel her untrammeled confidence that this was right which paired awkwardly with her cautious uncertainty about what this was in the first place. She put voice to the question. “I take it you’ve been thinking about what we do now?”

    Luke nodded, drawing her in nearer. He heard the soft inhalation of breath, the darkening blush to her cheeks.

    “Have you come to any conclusions?” she asked.

    “Well,” Luke replied, “I thought we’d sit and have dinner and enjoy one another’s company.”

    “You know what I mean.” He could feel her thinking, thinking about his sister and friends and worrying what they would think; thinking about the Smugglers’ Alliance and Karrde and the Senate—

    “Stop that,” he hummed softly, releasing her hand so he could tilt her chin up to face him. Her emerald gaze relaxed along with her thoughts as she gazed at him, her hands snaking back around his waist. And she thinks it’s dangerous when I think too much. He saw the twitch of her lip as she caught the essence of the wayward thought, but he brought her attention back to him by gliding his thumb over her jaw. “Focus on the present, Mara.” Share this moment with me. He leaned down and grazed his lips over hers; she slid her hands around his back and deepened the kiss.

    He could feel her relax, embracing the swell of shared happiness; could feel the moment she, banishing the last of her trepidation, invited him in to truly share in her stunned, incredulous, increasingly confident joy. Her happiness washed over him with the brilliance of a Tatooine sunrise, warm with the promise of more to come. Her worries were not gone, but she pushed them aside with the defiant certainty that they would deal with each one when its time came. Together.

    Together?

    Oh, shut up, Farmboy. But she held him tighter, anyway. Yes. Together.


    * * *​


    By the time their shared hunger brought their attention back to dinner it should have been either cold or badly overcooked, but when they returned to the kitchen they found Artoo-Detoo tending the baking ahrisa, his grasping arm awkwardly manipulating the stove controls. His dome swiveled, the lenses of his single large eye focusing on them. He whistled at Luke, a chastisement, and Luke laughed, blushing. “I know, Artoo,” he replied. “I just got a little distracted, that’s all.”

    Mara blushed herself. Karrde knew—or had guessed—that she and Luke had grown closer than just friends (the bottle of Ruge was a sure sign of that), but she hadn’t confirmed it to him one way or the other. But if she had to admit it to someone, she thought with more than a hint of trepidation, probably better Artoo-Detoo than anyone else… she could feel Luke’s quiet amusement, his slight prompting through the Force.

    Artoo’s dome swiveled to focus on her; Luke’s hand slipped into hers, squeezing with encouragement. Mara bristled slightly—why would she need moral support to talk to a droid, of all things! But Artoo wasn’t just a droid, he was Luke’s family—and he was the only other member of Luke’s family she’d actively talked about killing. How strange, she mused in a quiet corner of her mind, that Artoo had gone from glorified inanimate object to… she had no idea how to characterize either her relationship to Luke or Luke’s relationship to Artoo in any of the words available in basic. A Huttese word that described an adopted ward came to mind, but it was unpronounceable by human vocal cords.

    Luke took mercy on her. “Artoo, Mara and I—”

    Artoo cut him off with an amused sounding series of whistles and beeps.

    “What did he say?” asked Mara carefully.

    “He said he’s pretty sure he already knows what it means when he catches two people kissing,” Luke murmured back.

    His astromech went into another series of whistles, ending with a rather triumphant trill.

    “And he says as long as you don’t threaten to dismantle him anymore,” Luke added, the corner of his mouth curling up with amusement, “that he doesn’t have any problem with you and me being together. He rather likes you and thinks you do a good job of keeping me grounded. And that we should really eat dinner while it’s still hot and before it’s too badly overcooked.”

    Mara eyed him sideways. “Did he really say all that?”

    Artoo whooped, dome spinning.

    “More or less,” Luke said with a grin.

    There was a rude blatt in response.

    Luke shrugged at Mara’s questioning look. “I may have embellished some in the middle. But he’s mostly annoyed that he didn’t win the pool.”

    Mara blinked. “The what?”





     
  3. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 9, 2002
    Now that's a useful skill I-)

    I really like Mara's awareness of her emotional transition here, and even the fear that it might be temporary feels perfectly in character, because it's all so very different from anything she'd ever experienced. That's always been something that I thought Mara would notice, in any AU where she and Luke got together relatively soon after TLC: that she was actively happy, followed by a realization that she never had been before.

    Her emotional growth throughout Interregnum is just beautifully done, and I especially love moments like this where she realizes that so many things she would once have categorized as weak actually require a great deal of strength.

    There is that :p

    Well, Mara, if you're going to sit around in the middle of the night smiling to yourself, someone as sharp as Karrde is probably going to catch on :p

    I always love mentions of Luke's affection for Owen and Beru and Tatooine itself. Sometimes it feels as though Luke and Leia's thoughts of home and family are trapped in amber (or carbonite :p), forever characterized as they were in a handful of fleeting scenes in ANH, and thus Leia is forever bereft of her beloved family and home so ruthlessly destroyed, while Luke hardly ever even thinks about the people who raised him or the world where he grew up because the saga happened to start while he was a restless teenager yearning to escape his tiny hometown/world and go have adventures.

    I'm certainly not arguing that Leia's trauma wouldn't be a lifelong thing - in fact, I think the actual trauma of it very rarely gets addressed enough - but this characterization of Luke is both unfair and based on misinterpretations of the source material. Yes, he wanted to leave Tatooine, but that didn't mean he hated the place. It meant he was a frustrated teenager who, as Beru said, had watched so many of his friends leave, and was afraid he'd be trapped in a life he didn't really want. And I just will never understand how anyone watches ANH and comes away with any interpretation other than Owen and Beru and Luke being a close and loving family. First of all, Owen clearly respects Luke's opinion; when Luke suggests taking Artoo instead of the droid with the bad motivater, Owen doesn't even blink before taking his advice. Secondly, every parent on earth has said some variation of "you can waste time with your friends when your chores are done," and if Owen was really a harsh father figure, Luke would never have gotten away with that exceptionally snide "looks like I'm going nowhere" remark. Instead Owen takes it calmly, and promises Beru that he'll make it up to Luke. And "that's what I'm afraid of"? If that's not enough of a giveaway that Owen is trying hard to protect Luke from something dangerous, even if we don't know what it is yet - well. I could go on, but I've rambled long enough.

    But this is a subject I'm passionate about: Luke loved Owen and Beru, and his parents were as brutally and suddenly murdered as Leia's were, yet both they and Luke's love for them are often forgotten in fic, pro- or fan-. And while I'm sure he'd never want to live there again, I just can't see him not looking back on Tatooine with fondness as he got older. Once the fear of being trapped is long in the past, he'd be better able to appreciate the beauty of the place and the good memories he had of it.

    tl;dr: the small detail of this painting makes me disproportionately happy :D

    Of course, this detail doesn't hurt either [face_love]

    I'll defend Owen to the death because he gets such a raw deal, but yeah, this is Beru all over [face_love]

    Yes, this. In canon when it's almost a decade past TLC when they finally pick up the friendship that went awry with DE and JAT, they've both had a lot of time to come to terms with stuff like this. In any AU or pre-DE canon-compatible story, I'm firmly of the opinion that Luke would be furious over everything Palpatine stole from Mara.

    A good idea, because yeah, this is probably the only time :p

    I'm fond of ahrisa because my headcanon is that it tastes like falafel :p I've occasionally seen fanfics (or profic! Dustcrepes, Denning? o_O) imply that Tatooine food is bland, but come on. The Tatooine locations were filmed in Tunisia. I'm no expert, but the North African/Middle Eastern food I've had is ridiculously flavorful, and I think Tatooinian food should be, too. (I'll also defend Tatooine to the death. Possibly because I live in a desert myself and know how beautiful and full of color and life they really are.)

    This is an excellent detail. If you can be comfortably silent with someone for a long stretch, that's a true sign of emotional intimacy.

    lol, a completely fair point. Mara's the overthinker here, Luke is the impulsive one :p

    I really like "defiant certainty." That's Mara all over :D

    Is there anything a good astromech can't do? :r2:

    Well, Mara's still learning about human relationships, never mind genuine friendships with droids :p

    Dying, I am dying. Whoever told Luke, Mara will get it out of him, and then that someone is in deep trouble :p Unless it was Artoo himself, informed by Wedge or Corran's astromech, and Luke just thinks it's funny to spring that bit of information on Mara this way. In which case Artoo will be fine and Luke's in trouble :p
     
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  4. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    [face_laugh] [face_laugh] Delightful! I love Mara's natural exuberance and Luke's basking!! [face_dancing] I also adore that Talon knew of course, doesn't everyone? [face_rofl] ^:)^
     
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  5. Bel505

    Bel505 Jedi Master star 2

    Registered:
    Jul 4, 2006
    It really is. I felt like I struck gold when that spilled out onto the page. I was tempted to name Mara's new ship Defiant, but that name already belongs to a certain famous Sci-Fi ship.

    I do not know exactly what Luke is thinking. One possibility is the Rogues were very cavalier so Luke found out quickly and he just assumes that Mara already knows, not realizing the intense precautions Karrde takes with such things...
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2021
  6. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    Artoo was in on the betting pool? Heeee!!!!

    Love a good solid L/M. Well done. :)
     
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  7. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Couldn't have said it better myself. :D
     
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