Title: ‘Till Death Do Us Part Characters: Luke, Mara, Ben, Darth Caedus, Lumiya, Alema Rar. Genre: Angst, some hurt!comfort, and an eventual happy ending (promise!) Timeframe: A continuation of the Star Wars Legends timeline after Crucible. Takes place between 40-46 ABY. Summary: A sacrifice doesn’t have to end in death. Darth Caedus let everyone think Mara died that day in the tunnels, but he knows the truth. Notes: This is a response to the Luke and Mara Index & Discussion board's hysterically named"Back from the Dead”/”No-one-can-tell-us-it-is-au-if-it-is-past-Crucible" Challenge. The idea was that somehow, Mara comes back after the events of Crucible. We couldn’t change the existing events of the books, so things had to unfold as per Legends Cannon. BUT! Since Disney said that our EU is now “Legends”—maybe this is what actually happened. I chose to add events within the Legends Cannon that could logically have occurred in the “spaces.” This will be a multi-post, but this one is unbeta’d, so all mistakes are my own. **Italicized text denotes direct quotations from Sacrifice by Karen Traviss** 45 ABY, Chiloon Rift Sitting in the cockpit of the small shuttle Lando had loaned him, Luke stared at the small speck that was Base Prime. The swirling gases of the Rift swirled around the small caravan of ships that hung in the mists, waiting. Ben’s voice crackled over the comm. “Everyone ready?” Assents came from the various vessels, and Luke voiced his own with less exuberance than some of the others. “Okay, here we go.” It took a moment for anything to become visible, but then the effect of Ben’s action became apparent. The charges planted around Base Prime exploded fantastically, and breached the containment field that held the monolith together. Then the station seemed to expand for a moment…and then shrink in on itself, like a black hole, until all that was left was a pulsing glob of molten concrete and metal. A few moments later, everyone else had jumped out of the system…except for Luke. He sat and stared at the glob that had once been the gateway to the greatest fountain of the Living Force he had ever encountered…and wondered. Why hadn’t she been there? If the Force was incarnate in the monolith…why hadn’t his Mara been there? The ache blossomed in his chest—familiar after five years alone. Five years of struggling to breathe, of reminding himself that his heart was still beating, even though it felt like it had been ripped from his chest. He sighed. Perhaps it was for the best. If she had been there…he doubted he would have left with Han and Leia. He ached to hold her, to hear her laugh, to see her smile. Knowing that all the times he thought she had reached out to him throughout the years had actually been Abeloth had only intensified that desire. What would he give for one more day with her? To not have slept through her leaving? To have taken her on that vacation he had promised himself they would go on after finding Lumiya? To tell her one more time that he loved her. But that wasn’t to be. Mara was dead. 40 ABY, Kavan—Hapes Cluster The effort froze Jacen for two vital seconds. But he knew if he didn’t get up now and fight back, Mara would come in for the kill, again and again, until he was worn down and too weak to fend her off. He scrambled to his feet, staggering more than standing, and suddenly understood. It was Mara who had to die to fulfill his destiny. It was so crystal clear to him now. Allana was the one who he loved most, but Ben…Ben was more his son than Allana could ever be. By killing his mother, he would be immortalizing his love for Ben by sacrificing it forever, once he found out that his mentor had taken away his mother. He swung at her again, purpose thrumming through his veins. Her vibroblade grazed his neck. He fumbled in his belt for a dart. She jerked back with a massive effort, leaving him clutching a handful of red hair, and the only thing that crossed his mind as she arched her back and held her arms high to bring both shoto and vibroblade down into his chest was that she would never, ever harm Ben. Jacen stared into her eyes and instantly created the illusion of Ben’s face beneath her. She blinked. It gave him the edge for that fraction of a moment. But in that fraction of a moment, something flashed before his eyes. He saw Ben, kneeling by the corpse of his mother. He saw Luke decapitating Lumiya as she hung over a cliff. He saw the battle of Fondor and Niathal’s betrayal. He saw Jaina, running with Mandalorians down a shadowy hallway. And then he saw Jaina, leaning over him, and felt her heart breaking as she drove home the blade aimed at his heart. He realized in that second that it all depended on this moment, that Mara’s death would galvanize all these events…and her death would lead to his end. So he called on the power that flowed within him, and in a moment transformed the molecules of the poison within the dart just as Vergere had taught him. Now instead of being a paralytic that lead to death…it was simply a paralytic. He jabbed the dart into her leg, and she fell. It’s my destiny, Mara—to be a Sith Lord, and bring order and justice…You’re going to save so many people, Mara. You’ve saved Ben. You’ve saved Allana, too. It’s not a waste, believe me.” “You’re…as vile as he was.” Jacen could hardly understand what she was saying. “Who?” “Palpatine.” …Mara was breathing heavily now, one hand slack in her lap but the other still clenching and unclenching as if trying to form a fist to give him one final punch. Her vivid green eyes were still bright with relentless purpose. He knew he would try to forget them every day of his life. “You think…you’ve won,” she said, slurred, but utterly lucid and unafraid. “But Luke will crush you…and I refuse…to let you…destroy the future…for my Ben.” The paralytic reached its apex, and she fell unconscious. Jacen hobbled over and stared at her slumped form, trying to think. What was the Force trying to show him? Why would it show him with blinding clarity that Mara was his sacrifice, and then show him just as clearly that she would cause his end? And then he realized…sacrifice didn’t have to synonymous with death. He knew what the Force wanted of him. He knew what the Force wanted of Mara. “I’m not going to kill you, Mara. I’m going to sacrifice the good in you, the light. You will become the weapon that will crush all those you love on my order. You will be the ultimate immortalization of the Sith legacy. You will be the blade that cuts out the hearts of those I love.” Then he placed his hands on her temples, and blasted her from the Force. ~//~ Ben suddenly couldn’t hear the voice of the Sith sphere. His own name—Ben, Ben, Ben—drowned out every other sound, even though deep in his head, it was quieter than a whisper, a summons and a farewell for him alone. He forgot about Lumiya, and stumbled toward the source of the voice, blinded by tears. “Mom!” he yelled. “Mom!” ~//~ In the cockpit of his StealthX heading for Hapes, Luke Skywalker felt a hand brush his hair, and as he reached out involuntarily to touch it, he knew his world had ended. ~//~ Grunting, Mara opened her eyes. The world swam for several minutes as she struggled to bring her head up. Finally she was successful, though her head lolled a bit before she could find the strength to hold it steady. Blinking, she took in her surroundings, surprised that they weren’t the nebulous embrace of the Force in the afterlife. The small room looked like it had been carved from stone with a pickaxe and a hammer. The walls were crude, rough and uneven. At the top of the room, which was around ten feet above her, were deep crevices that seemed to have some sort of plant life growing in them. She looked in the pocked and cracked mirror that had been propped up to her right, and studied her restraints. It was a roughly square apparatus, fastened to the wall and floor of the room, and was filled with what looked like pipes snaking at all angles, like a maze. She had been secured to various points in the maze with metal restraints that dug into her. Her arms were fastened above her head, twisted so as to keep her shoulders at an awkward angle, and her feet didn’t reach the floor, so she hung painfully. She took inventory as best she could, noting first that she felt like her thoughts were swimming through thick mud in her brain…clearly she had been drugged. Closing her eyes, she began to run through a Jedi detoxification technique and tried to remember what had happened. Jacen. Lumiya. Caves. Poison. Darkness. Her breathing quickened as she realized that the detox wasn’t working…and then she realized why. Eyes darting up to the crevices, she saw that they contained not just plants, but animals. Yslamiri. Gritting her teeth, she stretched out, trying to find a flicker of the Force, anywhere that the cursed animals Force-void bubble didn’t extend. Nothing. And then the door to her left ground open, and the person Mara hated most in the galaxy stepped through. “Hello, Mara.” She tried to speak, but found her throat raw and uncooperative. She hung, glaring, as he brought a small cup with a straw over, and she took a deep drink. The liquid burned as it went down, and she coughed convulsively, her shoulders pulsing with agony. “Cute little evil lair you have here, Jacen.” She rasped, and he shrugged noncommittally as he replaced the cup on the large metal table next to the mirror. “Just remember Yslamari don’t live forever. As soon as one of them dies—“ Jacen cut her off smoothly, stepping back so that he was inches from her. “The Force will rush back in a glorious torrent, fill you with strength and you’ll escape and kill me?” A smirk twisted her bloodied lips, “Pretty much.” He shook his head, almost sadly. “No, it won’t. Because you’re not a Jedi anymore. You don’t have the Force. The next time you feel it, it will be the Dark Side.” He smiled a tiny, self-satisfied smile. “One of the skills that I learned while I was traveling after the Yuuzhan Vong war was how Vergere was able to take the Force from me…and now I’ve done it to you.” She gave him a bored look. “Easy to say when you’re standing in the middle of a ring of Yslamiri. Besides,” she coughed a few more times, “you’ve always been a terrible liar.” Jacen gave her a lazy grin. He reached onto the table, took the blaster from it, and shot four of the Yslamiri. His eyes never left Mara’s, and she felt the beginnings of fear wash over her…nothing had changed. Jacen lazily released the blaster, and it floated up from his hand to be joined by several small rocks that began to spin above his fingers. “See? The Yslamiri are here for my benefit. Wouldn’t want anyone to feel what I’m going to be doing, after all. But in case you were hoping that you could get out of your restraints, kill the animals, and save the day…you can’t. Because, like I said, you’re not a Jedi anymore. You’re not anything that I don’t want you to be. But someday…someday you’ll kneel before me.” Setting the blaster back on the table, he turned back towards her, oozing nonchalance. She continued to glare as best she could, with one eye swollen halfway shut. “I’ll die before that happens Jacen. I didn’t turn for Palpatine, I won’t turn for you.” The lazy grin remained in place, and for the first time she saw the yellow beginning to take over the soft brown of his eyes. “Oh, but Palpatine never actually tried to turn you, Mara…he just used you…besides, didn’t you say I’m worse than him? I am going to turn you…and I’m the grandson of Darth Vader, the one who took down your old master.” “You’re forgetting Vader’s son. My husband.” Jacen’s smile turned predatory. He pulled a data pad from his pocket, and held it out to her. On it was grainy security footage…it was of Luke, staring at…her. She was laid out on a table, draped in a white sheet. He took her hand, and his shoulders were hunched, cowed as he pressed a kiss to her forehead. Then her son walked in, and Luke embraced him as Ben’s shoulders shook, crying like the child he was. Shock filled her as she watched, and a knife seemed to twist under her heart as she saw the pain on Luke’s face, despite the grainy quality of the image. How could she be laying there? How could he not know that body wasn’t her? “You see?” Jacen’s voice interrupted her frantic confusion. “Nobody is coming for you. Luke isn’t scouring the galaxy, senses flung out, searching for your presence. Because you’re dead.” He smirked, “Your funeral is next week.” Sliding the data pad back into his pocket, he walked towards the door, smiling as it began to grind closed. “Don’t worry. I’ll give Luke a hug for you.” Then the door shut.