Title: Settling In Author: Gabri_Jade Timeframe: New Republic, post-Union Characters: Luke Skywalker, Mara Jade Skywalker Genre: fluff/mush, slice of life, missing moment, Legends canon-compatible Summary: After all the challenges that Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade have faced together, decorating their first apartment should be easy. Right? Notes: Look, sometimes you just need some meaningless happy fluff. Thanks to @ViariSkywalker for her beta work, for always patiently listening to me angst over whatever detail of the current WIP isn't cooperating, and for her absolute faith that I'll figure it out eventually “I hate that color.” Luke paused with his paintbrush in mid-swipe and glanced over to where his wife was sitting cross-legged on the floor in the middle of their living room. “You picked out this color.” Mara propped an elbow on her knee and rested her chin glumly in her hand. “That doesn’t stop me from hating it.” Looking back, he had to agree with her. What had looked like a bright, cheery blue on the swatch had somehow transformed to something more suited to the starring role in a daycare’s mural once it was on the walls. “What about the green?” “It looks like toothpaste.” Again, it was hard to argue. “Gray?” Mara sighed heavily. “It looked so elegant on the swatch in the store. Now all I can see when I look at it is the interior of a Star Destroyer.” “Definitely not the ambience we were going for.” Luke pried the lid off another small can of paint, picked up a fresh brush, and swept a new patch of color on the wall. Stepping back to regard it from a distance, he had a hard time suppressing a cringe. When examining swatches, they’d agreed that this shade of purple was a sophisticated amethyst. On the wall… “I don’t know what we were even thinking with that one,” Mara groaned, covering her face with her hands. “Okay,” Luke said. “We knew we were going to discard most of these anyway, right? So we can hate all of them as long as just one works. How about—” He picked up another can and brush and painted another patch, then sighed himself as he stepped back to look at it. “It’s orange,” Mara said, her voice as close to a wail as he’d ever heard it. Luke read the label on the can again, just in case the store had mixed up their order. “Mon Calamari Coral. That was the shade we picked out, wasn’t it?” “Yes,” Mara said, rubbing her temples. “It looked like coral in the store, didn’t it? Am I hallucinating here?” “It definitely looked—softer,” Luke said. “Like the inside of a shell. Not—” “Orange.” “Orange.” “What about Sunrise Spice?” Mara asked, a little desperately. Luke looked through their dwindling stock of sample cans, found it, painted another patch, sighed. “Don’t even say it.” She did anyway. “It looks like someone threw an orobird egg at the wall.” “Black Caf, then,” Luke said, beginning to feel a little desperate himself. “You really can’t go wrong with caf, can you?” A few swipes of the brush was enough to demonstrate that you absolutely could go wrong with caf. Like when you tried to smear it on your living room wall. Mara actually laughed at this one. He’d have worried about the slightly hysterical undercurrent to the sound if it didn’t express his own feelings so perfectly. “It looks like your father’s armor.” He’d have sworn, absolutely sworn, that Black Caf had been a deep but refined shade of brown when they’d chosen it. Once seen on anything larger than the credit-sized swatches the store had offered, though, it was indeed closer to a familiar shade of glossy black. He picked up another can. “Gourmet Mushroom.” “That,” Mara pronounced as he painted, “is the most boring shade I have ever seen in my life. That is what psychologists would say to paint the walls of a trauma ward, to try to lull the patients to sleep.” “You picked this one out, too,” Luke said, exasperated. Not that he could disagree with her assessment. “Well, you picked out Sunrise Spice.” “It reminded me of the sand back home, just before the second sun rose.” Luke looked at the yellow patch again. “Until it was on the wall, anyway.” “How many more do we have left?” Mara asked, her eyes closed now. “One,” Luke said, picking it up. “Berry Silky.” “Just think,” Mara said. “Someone has to actually come up with these names. Someone, somewhere, is making a living naming paint shades. Why didn’t I stumble into an easy gig like that after the Empire fell? Do you know all the trash jobs I worked for five years, while someone else pulled a paycheck coming up with names like ‘Berry Silky’ and ‘Sunrise Spice’?” “Mara,” Luke said. Somewhere along the line he’d lost the thread of what she was saying, transfixed by the latest horror he’d just inflicted on his own home. “Tell me this one looked better on the swatch. Tell me we didn’t knowingly pick out this shade.” Mara paused in her tirade and opened her eyes. Silence fell. Very slowly, Luke put the paint can and brush down, then walked to the middle of the room and sank down beside Mara. Together, they regarded what had been a perfectly serviceable, if bland, wall, now covered with a patchwork of obnoxious color. “Once,” Luke said, “when I was about eight, Deak got perfect grades the whole school year and his mom let him throw a party for all us kids in the Anchorhead area as a reward. She made a huge pika cake with pink frosting. Fixer dared me to eat—well, a lot of it. I did, but on the ride home I threw up. It looked a lot like Berry Silky.” “And yet,” Mara replied, with an almost worrying veneer of calm, “you did not mention this resemblance at the store when we were picking out paint shades.” “If it had looked that pink on the swatch,” Luke said, eyes still on the wall, “I do promise you that I would have mentioned my disgusting childhood vomit story before we bought a sample can.” Mara groaned and flopped backward to lie on the floor. Luke matched her, mostly so that he could look at the ceiling rather than the patches of paint. She muttered something he didn’t catch, then asked, “How did all of these colors look so nice on credit-sized swatches and so awful on an actual wall?” “I suppose we could just leave the walls white,” Luke offered. “Or at least, leave the other walls white and repaint that one to match.” Mara huffed a sigh. “I really wanted the apartment to be—well, pretty. It’s the only real home I’ve ever had besides the Fire, and the Fire was more about being able to leave than wanting to stay. Whenever people talk about home, they always make it sound like—” She waved her hand vaguely. “Like it somehow expresses their personality, like it’s this perfect space where they’re always comfortable, where they’re proud to welcome guests. I wanted—that, I guess.” Luke reached over to capture her still-waving hand and squeeze it. “Then we’ll make it happen. No matter how many paint samples it takes.” She returned the squeeze, the disappointment that edged her sense softening in the warmth of their shared affection. “I don’t understand it,” she said. “I grew up in the Palace. I moved among the Empire’s most elite strata of society for years. I know they weren’t exactly nice people, but they sure had the money to hire the galaxy’s best designers. I recognize good design when I see it. Why can’t I replicate it?” “We’ve hardly started,” he reassured her. “We’ll figure it out.” “We’re starting from such a ridiculously blank slate, though,” Mara said. “You’d really think that at least one of us would be bringing some decent furniture or art or something to this marriage.” Luke shrugged. “We’ve led kind of busy lives. Too many other things to think of, I guess.” “So much work now, though. And you know we won’t have much time to work on it before the stupid galaxy pulls us back into its stupid arguments and obligations and—” “Hey,” Luke interrupted her, amused. “We don’t have to get every detail of our life together perfect in the first few months. We’ll get it started and the rest of it will eventually fall into place.” Mara tilted her head back, arching her neck a little to glance around the room. There wasn’t all that much to look at, Luke thought; she was right that neither of them had entered marriage with an abundance of home furnishings. They’d traded the individual apartments they’d each been granted in the Palace long ago for a slightly larger one in a different wing, but the catch was that this wing had been sparsely populated since the Empire’s fall until recently, and many pieces of furniture had been moved to the more central areas where the New Republic government had first set up shop after retaking Coruscant. This new apartment had the most basic comforts, but not much else, and since neither of them had ever bothered to do much in the way of personalizing their earlier places, there had been little for either of them to bring along to start their new shared home. At the time, that had been part of the appeal: the opportunity to create a new place together, one that reflected both of them. It had even sounded like fun. Of course, that was before realizing how slender a connection to reality the average-sized promotional paint swatch had. “So,” Mara asked, settling back down. “Do we stick with the ‘choose a paint color first’ tactic, or should we reverse course and go furniture shopping and then try to match the paint to the furniture? Because I really do hate that couch. And we haven’t even started on any of the other rooms yet.” “Lando,” Luke said, unable to resist, “did suggest that we paint the bedroom walls red.” Mara pulled her hand from his to fling her arm across her eyes, an exasperated sound escaping her. “Not in this lifetime. Or in the next, either.” “No argument here,” Luke said, grinning. He bumped her knee with his own. “Let’s take a break. I know what always relaxes you.” Mara eyed him sideways. “Do you, now.” He trailed a finger along her arm. “Absolutely. You’re very predictable.” “Not a word anyone’s ever used to describe me.” “They just don’t know you like I do,” Luke told her. Mara raised an eyebrow. “Prove it.” Luke twined his fingers with hers and leaned a little closer before murmuring, “Caf?” “Gods, yes.” Luke laughed and rose, pulling her along with him. “Let’s go to that little cafe three blocks over, behind the old smashball courts.” “You’re only suggesting that place because you like their choclime twists,” Mara observed, retrieving her holdout blaster from the entry table and sliding it into her forearm holster, then smoothing her tunic sleeve over it. “I am shocked,” Luke said, “shocked that you would think your happiness isn’t my first priority. You love their frothed toffee nut caf.” Mara narrowed her eyes. “You promised—” He stepped over to her side and kissed her before she could continue. “Don’t worry, I didn’t tell a single person that you like some fancy cafe concoction instead of straight caf as black as the Maw. Your deep, dark secrets are safe with me.” One side of her mouth quirked upward playfully. “I should hope so, now that you’ve shared such good material for evening the score as disgusting childhood vomit stories.” “It really is amazing,” Luke remarked, “all the little details we somehow missed in that Force bond moment on Nirauan, just because we were about to die at the time.” “I can’t imagine how that one escaped me,” Mara agreed. “Ready to go?” “Ready,” he said, taking her hand. “All the sugar will help take our minds off the fact that even after we figure out how to decorate this place, there’s still our rooms on Yavin to sort.” Mara stopped dead in her tracks, staring at him, and for just a moment Luke wondered if he’d pushed her too far, and the thought of two homes to decorate might have snapped her somehow, the way their circus of a wedding hadn’t. He really should have known better. An air of fierce determination came over her, and she squeezed his hand tightly. "Okay,” she said. “We’re going to need to make a couple of stops before the cafe. First, we find the nearest bookstore, and we clear out their home decor section." "Sounds good," Luke agreed. "What’s the second stop?" "A liquor store," Mara informed him. "Because I am absolutely going to need more fortification than caf and sugar for this job." Luke grinned as he guided her toward the door. “Going to leave the blaster behind and smuggle the bottle into the cafe in the holster?” “I am shocked,” Mara tossed back at him with perfect mimicry, “shocked that you think that’s the only holster I’m wearing.” “Don’t know what I was thinking,” Luke conceded. He caught a last glimpse of the blotched wall as he turned to lock the door behind them and made a face before he could stop himself. The same face, in fact, that Mara was making beside him. “Black Caf is the first one we paint over,” he murmured, slipping an arm around her shoulders. “Before we go to sleep tonight,” Mara agreed fervently, putting her own arm around his waist and leading him down the corridor. Married life might have its challenges, Luke thought, smiling fondly as they walked, but the galaxy hadn’t yet invented the challenge that he and Mara couldn’t eventually surmount together. Not even interior decorating.