Huh? Well--do ya?! Well, I'm sorry, but you've come to the wrong place then. Hehehehehe . . . okay fine, judge my story any way you like. All these characters were made up by two people that I haven't even met, but thanks you guys for making up two of the coolest Star Wars characters ever!! (except for Callista . . . ::shudders::) Oh, I guess I should mention the names of the men who did that...give them some credit...Okay, everyone--"Thank you George Lucas!! Thank you Timothy Zahn!!" Everyone happy? I hope so...well...except for those Callista fans out there...ugh...but I have something special for you... >:-D Oh yeah, sorry, but I must give credit where it's due to Barbara Hambly . . . I must say that I wrote this in August of '99...
WARNING: No milk! j/k Okay, if you are a Callista fan (which you are few and scattered...), then I advise you not read my story because you probably won't like the way I wrote her in here. And then you'd send me hate mail, and I don't want that, now do I? Form some nice way to tell me my story sucked if you didn't like it. Let's all be nice to eachother okay? I didn't write this to be mean to anyone! I wrote it becuase this is the way I feel about a character that should never have been written (IMHO). I can't help it if others agree. If you can't guess by now, I DON'T LIKE HER. Who's her? Why, the hag of course...
Email me (Mara Jade Skywalker) :
MaraJade@swfan.net, PadawanMJS@marajade.net, <-----be kind and I will read and respond fittingly to ALL mail sent to me with a subject that has my storie's name written somewhere in the subject. If not, then I will throw it away and probably won't read it. You must remember that if you want me to reply. Feed-back is always welcome. Anything that makes my stories sound better. :) And please DON'T use this story or my ADVENTURES OF A VISION story, or any other ones I wrote, WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. Okay? Thank you . . . Now, on to the good stuff.
"Ha!" Mara Jade Skywalker said triumphantly as she knocked her sister-in-law to the floor. The dazzling blue-white blade of Mara's lightsaber sizzled angrily as she pointed it down a safe distance away at Leia's throat. "Beat you again Leia," Mara said with a wide grin on her face. She shut down the lightsaber and walked to a bench in the training room to sit down.
"Yeah well," Leia said grudgingly as she got up off of the soft mat. "You caught me off guard, that's all."
Mara nodded her head and hid a smile behind the squirt bottle she was drinking out of. "You could say that," she conceded as she wiped her forehead with a towel. "Or we could have another go and see what you say then."
"Mara," Leia said with a sigh. "We've been at this for hours."
"Afraid you're going to lose again?" Mara teased. "Come on," she said getting up from the bench and unhooking her lightsaber. "I need the practice."
"No you don't," Leia said, backing away a little. "And besides," she said a little cautiously. "aren't you supposed to be waiting for Luke to come back?"
Mara shrugged. Luke had gone on a small, but rather long mediation trip to the Partoon system. The two species of the main planet of Parta, had been having land disputes for quite some time now. New Republic intervention hadn't proved productive so they had sent Luke out there with two of his higher Jedi Knight students to try and settle the dispute. He'd been gone for nearly two months and had always called her regularly telling her still how much work needed to be done. The Partans had asked Luke to survey the different damages done to their separate continents supposedly by the Tirans; the other native species of Parta. Luke had agreed if only for the fact that it would help him settle the problem as cleanly and as equally as he wanted with the utmost fairness to both sides.
Finally, Mara had gotten the call from him telling her of his return. She had missed his sorely and had tried to tie up her time with regular lightsaber practices against Leia and small odd jobs around her home hoping that it would hide all the loss she was feeling. She suspected that Leia knew despite Mara's attempts to hide it. She had never confronted her outright about it before, but that didn't mean she wouldn't leave her alone about it now. "He won't be back for another couple of hours," Mara said, feeling the pang of guilt near her heart at the unconcerned tone she heard in her voice. Leia's your friend, you can tell her more. "I'll be ready by then."
Leia studied Mara for a moment then walked up beside her and sat down. She motioned for her to do the same, her dark eyes never leaving Mara's. "You okay?" she asked quietly.
Mara looked away from Leia and set her gaze on the lightsaber in her hand. She fingered the cool metal of the weapon and let the warm memories of Luke drift into her mind. He had given this to her so long ago . . .
"It's just," Mara began quietly. "he's never been gone this long before. I thought if I told someone I'd seem a bit possessive. As if I couldn't handle the fact that my husband was gone for two months. I know it's not that long of a wait, but Leia, you understand, don't you? I mean, you were apart from Han longer than that more times, right?"
Leia smiled and reached her hand up to hold Mara's arm. "Yes, but that doesn't mean it gets any easier," she confessed. "Don't worry, I won't tell anyone that Luke has possessive wife."
Mara laughed. "You'd better not," she said mock-seriously. "I can always take you down with my lightsaber."
A friendly silence filled the room for a while until Mara decided to break it. "Well," Mara said, getting to her feet and gathering her things. "I should get going now to shower up some. It wouldn't be nice for Luke to come home to a dirty and sweat-streaked wife, now would it?"
"He'll just be happy to be with you again," Leia said.
Mara smiled and gave her a hug. "I'll see you later okay?"
"At the docking port?" Leia asked.
Mara nodded. "Bye Leia," she called over her shoulder as she walked towards the door.
Mara arrived at her quarters about five minutes later and was in the shower five minutes after that. Mara decided to take a long and hot shower. It helped ease her worries and got her a bit relaxed. Now, she thought, I'm ready for Luke.
The suite she shared with Luke had seemed so empty without him. The bed was now only half warm, and for comfort she'd sleep on his side with one of his shirts on. She had always made hot chocolate in the morning and would sip at the warm and sweet liquid waiting for Luke's next call. He'd be here soon, and then she wouldn't have to miss him anymore. Mara walked into the kitchen with a smile on her face and tied her robe sash a little tighter around her waist. Luke's coming home was a good thing indeed. She actually hadn't realized just how much she missed him until her little talk with Leia earlier. It would be good to be able to melt into Luke's arms once he came home.
Picking up a cookie, Mara munched away as she went to the living area to fetch her towel. Downing the last of the cookie, she started to dry off her hair. More and more she has thought of cutting it shorter. It was getting to be a full exercise just trying to comb it. Luke seemed to like it longer though, and a little exercise never hurt anyone. A beep from the comm made Mara turn around with a frown. Who could that be?
Walking over to the comm, and silently promising herself that if it was Luke telling her his arrival would be delayed, she'd strangle him, she turned it on for a small full body view. The slight static cleared and a holo of a tall woman appeared before Mara. Someone who looked vaguely familiar . . .
"Hello Mara Jade," the woman said politely with a nod. "I was told I'd be able to find Luke Skywalker and his wife here."
And his wife? And how did she know Mara's name? Well that was a stupid question. Anyone who had watched the news recently would know her name. Apparently this woman had no clue who she was talking to, and at the moment, Mara couldn't seem to find the right name for that face . . . Well it would come in time. If the woman had no idea what relation Mara had to Luke, then she'd play with her a little.
"Yes," Mara confirmed. "They can both be found here. I'm afraid that Luke isn't available at the moment though. His wife, as it happens, is."
A slight smile creased the woman's face. "Am I permitted to speak with Mrs. Skywalker, then if her husband isn't available?" she asked.
"I don't see why not," Mara answered. "But if confirmation is what you want, then you should of asked me when I first answered."
A puzzled expression filled the woman's face and with a jolt, the identity of the woman came crashing down on Mara like a thunderclap. Callista. Mara held no particular grudge for her, but did have a strong argument towards what she'd done to Luke. Acting on those arguments would only be childish, though. The old gal must be way out of touch if she hadn't heard that Mara was, in fact, the Mrs. Skywalker she seeked.
"Evidently, you don't know who I am," Mara supplied the dumbfounded Callista. "Do you?"
"I assumed," Callista said warily, "that you were Mara Jade. No other woman I know has hair like that." she said nodding up at Mara's half-dried hair.
"No," Mara confirmed, ignoring the comment on her hair. "You're correct. But that's not what I meant." Callista, apparently, wasn't into guessing games.
"I'm sorry," she said carefully, "but I don't understand."
Mara smiled sweetly. This woman was arrogant enough to not even think of Mara as a candidate for Luke's wife. Although, Mara wouldn't blame her after the rather shady and untrustworthy reputation she seemed to have among others. Well think away, she thought silently towards Callista. It won't do you any good.
"It's very simple," Mara told her. "I'm sorry, I should have told you from the beginning." she paused slightly, her appearance was a bit off, but personally, she didn't care what Callista thought of her apparel. "I am Mara Jade--" she paused for barely a second, just to let it what she was about to say sink in--"Skywalker." she finished. Silently she watched the older woman's face change from being polite and patient to something looked as if it'd been hit with an active electrical wire. The expression lasted only a second, then vanished and was replaced with another smile.
"Forgive me for not knowing," the woman apologized with a nod.
"You're forgiven," Mara said easily. "You wanted to speak with me; here I am. What is it I can do for you?"
Forgetting her momentary shock, Callista straightened up a bit. "I have something I need to discuss with Luke."
"Oh really?" Mara questioned. When she didn't say anything further, Callista spoke again.
"I'd rather tell Luke," she said a bit guardedly. "If you don't mind, that is."
"No," Mara said. "I don't mind." What she didn't voice aloud was the fact that Luke would probably tell her what it was afterwards.
"And," Mara asked, "you needed to speak with me because . . . ?"
"I wished to set up an appointment," Callista answered. "If he's not available, then maybe we could set up a time for me to speak with him when it's convenient."
Mara almost laughed. You hardly needed an appointment if you wanted to talk to Luke, but the less the old bat knew, the better.
"Well he won't be available for the next few days," Mara said, lying a bit. Yes, he would be available, but only to Mara. She wanted to spend some time alone with him for a little while. "Could you call back in say, five days?"
"That would be fine," Callista said. "Thank you for your time, Mrs. Skywalker." That last part sounded as if it was added as an after-thought, but Mara paid it no mind.
"You're welcome," Mara replied with a polite smile and with a nod, Callista's face vanished. Mara stared at the blank comm for awhile, wondering what in space was so important for Callista to be telling Luke. She had gone out of his life and was just now deciding to come back? What made her want to come back now? She already knew Luke was married, what else could she want? At the moment, though, Callista was the farthest thing from Mara's mind. Finishing up drying her hair, Mara got herself ready for Luke's homecoming.
An hour later, she arrived at the docking port to find Leia already there waiting.
"My, aren't we a bit early?" Mara asked as she walked towards her friend.
Leia smiled in return. "My, aren't we a bit late?" she countered. "Where have you been? Luke's ship is already in the planet's atmosphere. It'll be a matter of a few minutes before he gets here."
"I'm not late," Mara said a little defensively. "I'm just on time. Besides, someone called and made it a point to not know who I was."
Leia raised her eyebrows slightly. "Oh?" she questioned.
"Actually . . . do you remember Callista?" she asked.
Leia gave her a strange look. "Yes, why?" A soft probing of Mara's feelings through the Force confirmed Leia's belief. "It was Callista who called?" she asked calmly.
"Are you going to tell Luke?"
"Of course," Mara told her. "Just not now."
Leia nodded and looked up towards the bright Coruscant sky. "I think I see Luke's ship," she said, her voice a bit unintelligible being projected into the sky. "See? Right there." she said pointing with her finger. "It should land any minute now."
Mara followed the pointed finger with a hand up to shade her eyes, and saw the tiny ship. Tiny from the distance, but up close it longer than an X-wing; being able to house about six people.
"He's going to want to know eventually," Leia reminded Mara. "You can't keep something like that from him. No matter what feelings he has for her now."
"I know," Mara said reluctantly. "And I will tell him . . . in my own way and time."
"As long as you tell him," Leia said.
"First, he's going to spend some quality time with me though," Mara said firmly.
Leia smiled and looked at Mara. "She didn't say what she wanted?" she asked quietly.
Mara shook her head. "No," she answered. "She said that she could only tell Luke. It's not like he won't tell me what it is later, though."
"True," Leia said with another smile.
A few more minutes passed until the ship could be seen clearly making it's safe way towards the docking platform. Mara waited until then to feel for Luke's presence. He hadn't made a try for hers, so Mara would surprise him. Clearing her mind as best she could against the quiet excitement building up within her, she stretched out with the Force to feel for Luke's warm and loving presence. She found it almost immediately, and felt his mind wrap around hers like a warm and comforting blanket. It was something Mara had nicknamed a Force hug, because that was what it felt like. She couldn't really describe the feeling, but a hug was as close a word as she had found for it yet.
Opening her eyes, she saw that the ship had already landed and the hatchway was slowly opening. Leia walked with her towards the ramp and waited for the first person to emerge. To Mara's surprise, it wasn't Luke, but his two Jedi Knights. They took measured steps down the ramp in their brown robes and boots. Mara shook each of their hands as they approached her and gave a polite nod. Where was Luke?
Looking into the ship from her point of view, she could barely make out a shadow crossing the entrance, then she saw Luke walking down the ramp. He was dressed in his own, darker-colored robe, with a pair of boots and some earth-shaded clothing on. Nothing she had remembered him ever owning; he must of bought it on Parta. His hood, like that of his Jedi students, was drawn up, hiding his face from view. He finished the small trip down the ramp, and gave Leia, who was closer to the ramp, a hug. He said a few soft words, then walked up to Mara.
He put his hands on her arms and held her gently. He looked into her eyes, and she could finally see his face. He smiled, the soft blue of his eyes wandering around the features of Mara's face. *I missed you* she heard him say through the Force.
*I missed you too* she sent back. He wrapped his arms around her and held her close. Mara buried her face in his shoulder and took a deep breath. She could smell his hair, and the sweet yet faint scent of his aftershave. She had waited two months for Luke to come back, but it was worth the wait. Mara could feel his heartbeat softly against hers, and the subtle strength of the muscles on his back against her arms.
He parted away from her slightly and gave her lips a soft kiss. *I love you*
*I love you, too* she sent back.
Luke looked again into Mara's eyes, then held her hand firmly in his.
"We don't have to unload until later," he told her and Leia. "There wasn't actually too much we brought back. Just some paper-work I want you to get a look at." he said to Leia.
She nodded and smiled. "It's good to have you back, Luke."
He smiled at Mara and caressed her face with the side of his hand. "It's good to be back," he answered quietly.
After Luke had given a complete description to the Council about his meditation trip to Parta, he came home to find Mara had prepared a small dinner for them.
"Thank you, Mara," Luke said as he came into the kitchen. Mara was getting some plates from a cupboard and setting them on a counter. Luke put his arms around her waist and rested his cheek on her head. "I appreciate the meal a lot. You don't know how tired I am."
She smiled and turned around, her hands going around his neck. "Why thank you," she said with a smile. "But if you're that tired, then maybe I should put everything away for tomorrow."
Luke shook his head. "I'm not too tired to spend some time with my wife," he said firmly.
"Well then let's get eating so you can rest," Mara said grabbing the plates and setting up the table. Luke came around and sat across Mara's seat at the small table. She came around and put a plate in front of Luke with something that made his nose tingle. He waited until Mara was seated and had her plate down in front of her to take his first bite. The meat he was chewing was thick, but not as tough as he thought it would be. The tingle in his nose was from a sweet nectar that had been poured on top of the meat.
"This is tasty," he said around a mouthful of the tangy meat.
Mara smiled. "Thank you," she said. "Wait until you eat the desert."
Luke smiled. "So," he began. "What did you do while I was gone?"
"Nothing much," she said. "I practiced with my lightsaber a bit more. Leia was my sparing partner." she finished with a smile.
"Oh really?" Luke asked. "Who won?"
"Me," Mara said with another smile. "Of course."
Luke smiled back and shook his head. "I'm sure she'll beat you eventually."
"Uh-huh," Mara said chewing on her food. "So tell me, how was your trip?"
"Well it wasn't a trip," Luke said with a tired sigh. "And it certainly didn't feel like one. Just between you and me: I never want to do that again. You don't know how time consuming that was." With a look from Mara, Luke corrected himself. "Okay, so you do know how time consuming that was. Anyway, the Partans are so hard to negotiate with. I wish Leia had dealt with them. But then she'd be the one in my position. This is all boring, you sure you want to hear it?"
Mara nodded quietly telling herself that even if he was talking, she could just look at him and watch the features of his face that she had grown to love and know so well over the years. She let him talk while she served him some desert, then the meal was over and Mara put the dishes away in the dishwasher. Then she and Luke went to the couch and sat down to have some quiet time together.
They sat down, holding hands, watching the holovid.
"Did anyone call for me while I was gone?" Luke asked.
Mara's mind froze and her thoughts drifted automatically to Callista. "Um . . . no one," she said, trying her best to shield the truth from Luke. "Why?"
Luke looked at Mara a little warily. "What is it? Who called?"
"No one," she said. "No one called."
"Mara," Luke warned. "Who called?"
Luke felt resignation fill Mara's mind as she prepared to tell him who called. What had bothered her so much that she didn't want to tell him who had called?
"Well," Mara said with a sigh. "I was going to tell you eventually. I mean, after I got to spend some time alone with you." She looked down from Luke's face and spoke again. "It was Callista."
Almost immediately, she could feel the surprise coming from her husband's mind. She could feel it in the way his hand had froze around hers, and the tightness of his sense. Other than that, though, she couldn't feel anything else. No past emotions being brought up, no mention whatsoever of the woman he once claimed he loved. Nothing.
"Luke?" she asked quietly.
Mara knew better then to think that he might still have feelings for Callista. She understood what had happened, why she had left him, and how Luke had felt about her. But all the knowledge in the universe, wasn't doing Mara any good right now. She was scared; scared because she didn't know how Luke would respond to the news or if he would still love Callista even though he was now married to Mara. Luke must of heard her private fears because when he spoke, he tried to calm them.
"Mara," Luke said at last. "It's okay." he paused for a minute, then spoke again. "What happened between Callista and me was . . . a long time ago. You understand that, don't you?"
"Then why are you so scared?" he prompted quietly.
Mara was silent a moment, thinking of the feelings and emotions that might of gone through Luke's mind the minute she had spoken that woman's name. It only made her feel worse. How could she tell Luke how she felt? He would only jump to the wrong conclusion and say that she was jealous. But she wasn't; was she? "I don't know," she said softly. Luke would definitely argue with her over her thoughts on Callista's leaving him, so she would stay away from that. Actually, during their entire relationship together, Mara had pretty much stayed away from any mention of the things she had come to call Luke's "soft spots". Callista, along with a few other woman, she had come to know were one of those soft spots. But Luke had never mentioned them either. Maybe he was right and his feelings were only in the past. But maybe he himself didn't know what he was feeling and was only trying to hide the truth for Mara's sake. Shaking away the frustration she was starting to feel at herself for jumping at things that weren't even solidly there, she took a deep breath and looked into Luke's eyes. What did Callista feel when she had looked into those same eyes? What had Gaeriel or any of the other woman felt? And why did Mara care what they felt? Why was she getting so jealous all of a sudden?
"I'm sorry, Luke," she apologized. "I don't know."
He shook his head slowly and stroke her hair with his hand. "No need to be sorry," he said. "I just want to know what got you so scared. Are you all right?"
She nodded her head. "I'm fine," she told him. "Really; I am."
Luke could still feel the wisps of an emotion that was swirling through Mara's mind, but if she didn't want to talk, then he wouldn't make her.
"Okay," he said. "I won't ask you that anymore. For now at least. Now, what did she say when she called?"
"Well," Mara said, pushing away some nasty thoughts of Callista out of her mind. "Not much. Only that she wanted to talk with you. Alone."
"That's what she said," Mara confirmed. "And it seemed to be something important. I was hoping maybe you knew what it was about."
Luke shook his head, an oddly distant look in his eye. Probably thinking of the last time he had been with that old burden of a woman. "I wish I could help," he said. "But I'm as much in the dark about this as you are."
"Well I told her to call back in a few days. So whatever it is, you can get it out of her then."
"Mm-hm," Luke said, his eyes still with that faraway look in them. Then, slowly, he came back to reality. "Come on," he said getting up and taking her hand. "It's getting late and like I said, I'm tired."
Mara turned off the holovid and walked with Luke into their bedroom.
"It feels good to be sleeping in my own bed," Luke commented as he took off his robes and put on something more suited for sleep.
"It's good to have you back here," Mara said as she got under the covers. Luke joined her not long after and lay down with his elbow propped up on the pillow.
"Did I tell you that I missed you?" he asked as he let his eyes wander Mara's.
"Only once, I think," Mara told him, smiling.
He leaned over and kissed her again, but this kiss was nothing like the one he had given her at the ship. It was soft at first, then it became more passionate, and Mara found herself breathing only when Luke would let her come up for air. She could feel his hand gently massaging the back of her neck, could feel his thoughts penetrating into hers, and the warmth that his body brought being so close to hers. *I think I like this welcome better* she teased. Mara could sense the silent laughter in Luke's mind.
*So do I* he responded.
Slowly, she let herself get taken over by Luke, and hours later, she lay against his naked chest, breathing a bit more evenly than she had been a few minutes ago. She could feel Luke's warm breath on her forehead and the gentle rise and fall of his chest as he breathed.
"I love you," he murmured to Mara, playing with her mop of hair.
"I love you too," she answered. "I thought you were too tired to do anything." she asked him wryly.
He laughed quietly. "I guess I had more energy than I thought."
Smiling to herself, Mara eventually fell asleep.
About an hour later, when she should of been resting, Mara was wide awake. She found herself off to one side of the bed, watching Luke's bare back as he slept. He was truly asleep; that much she could get from his overall sense and his breathing pattern. What had kept Mara awake, was something that had just started to nag at her again: the mysterious comm call from Callista. Luke, she knew was taking it better than she was. But what was it that Callista had needed to tell Luke so badly? And not for the first time, Mara asked herself why she cared so much. Maybe because she didn't want Luke to get hurt again, but he couldn't, could he? He had married Mara because he loved her and cared for her. In that way, he couldn't be hurt again; Mara wouldn't hurt him. There was virtually no way for him to get hurt by that woman--by that old bat that had left him when she was striped of her Jedi powers. Why didn't she leave him from the begging if she would do so anyway in the end? Why prolong the inevitable? Maybe it was because she thought she could still live with Luke, could still be around someone who was so in tune with the Force. But if she thought that in the beginning, then it certainly faded at the end.
Mara sighed and closed her eyes. She would not let herself get jealous over someone that was thirty years older than her, and was technically dead. She had to talk to Luke about this. At the right time, she would. But she would let him bring it to a conversation, not herself. Luke had pledged his love for her many times in the past and had shown it as well. She had nothing to worry about; nothing at all.
* * * * * * * *
The next few days passed with Mara slowly dreading Callista's call. So when that call finally came, Mara knew she still wasn't ready. But it could be nothing, remember? she reminded herself. Forcing herself to relax, she turned on the comm. Again, Callista's tall frame filled the small screen. Her clothes, Mara noticed, were much different than when she'd first called. The old girl had gone from rip-off senatorial-like robes to a formal yet casual gown. Trying to impress Luke, are we?
"Hello," Mara said politely, not quite being able to call the woman by name. She had thought that this woman would evoke no harsh feelings from her. Apparently, she'd been wrong.
"Could I please speak to Luke?" the older woman asked.
What, no hello? Being a little informal today Callista . . .
"Just a moment," Mara said reluctantly.
*Luke?* Mara sent stepping away from the comm.
*What is it?*
*Callista.* She felt his sense tighten a bit. He came out of their bedroom and met Mara in the lounge. Luke looked at her--a bit nervously, she thought--then squeezed her hand.
*Don't worry. I'll tell you what it is later okay?*
*Okay . . . I love you*
*I love you too*
Silently, Luke walked over to the comm . . . and into a rush of old memories. The woman standing there in small holo form was indeed the Callista he had known. Her features were now fully that of the woman's spirit he remembered from the Eye of Palpatine. Emotions pushed and shoved their way into Luke's mind: the way he had felt when he'd first seen her, the joy he'd felt when aboard the Hunter's Luck he'd seen her physically and felt the touch of his skin to hers for the first time, and the extreme pain he'd felt when she'd so abruptly left him. Oddly, though, none of those emotions and feelings were even half as strong as they'd been when he'd first experienced them. They were more like odd echoes of the past that he could grasp, but not completely hear. Maybe he'd truly healed from that part of his past.
Taking a deep breath, and trying hard to calm down the uneasiness he felt, he spoke. "Hello, Callista," he said solemnly.
She smiled warmly and seemed to relax a bit. "Hello Luke," she responded. "It's been a long time."
"Yes it has," he said quietly. Momentary silence filled the air and Luke, wanting to get this over with as soon as possible, broke it.
"You wanted to speak privately with me?" he prompted.
"Yes," Callista said, noticeably pushing back the past. "I did. But if you don't mind, could we talk in a more secure place?"
"I don't see why not," Luke said carefully. "But this is a secure channel."
"Is Mara there with you?" she asked, and there was no mistaking the quiet scorn in her voice.
"Yes," Luke said, purposefully ignoring the tone of her voice and turning his eyes to Mara. She was seated at the kitchen table looking a bit troubled, but otherwise under control of any emotion she was feeling. "But I can assure you, she can't hear you." Abruptly, Mara's head snapped up from it's unconcerned view of the wall and those brilliant green eyes bore questioningly into Luke's. He gave her a fractional shake of his head and turned his attention back to Callista.
The older woman seemed to consider that, then nodded. "Fine," she said a bit reluctantly.
And this was it, Luke realized. This was when he would find out what Callista had wanted to tell him.
Taking a deep breath and visibly bracing herself, Callista continued. She opened her mouth as if to speak, then closed it again.
"No," she said. "No. I'm sorry Luke, but I'd much rather tell you in person. I'm sorry."
Suppressing the sigh that had started to creep its way to his lips, Luke nodded. "All right," he said. She definitely did not trust the fact that he told her Mara couldn't hear. Or maybe she didn't trust Mara. "We could go to the palace roof if that's okay with you."
"I'd like that a lot," she said. "Okay, then I'll head up to the roof now."
Luke hadn't exactly meant now, but it'd only be for a minute. "Okay. I'll see you in a few minutes." He signed off and turned to Mara.
"Well it looks like she doesn't trust you."
Mara raised her eyebrows in question. " I wonder why," she asked dryly.
"What's that supposed to mean?" he asked suspiciously coming up and sitting down beside her.
"Only that she's jealous and doesn't want anything to do with me," Mara explained. "That's what makes her not trust me."
"That's not true," Luke protested. "Why would she do something like that?"
Mara gave Luke a sarcastic look. "What? Get jealous? Why do you think?" she told him. "She's jealous because I married you. Me--the woman who once wanted to kill you. Me--the woman who was once and probably still is considered untrustworthy."
"I still don't see why she should be jealous," he said. "You've changed a lot."
"Luke," Mara began. "She doesn't think that a woman with my past is even capable of loving you. Do you know that she had the nerve to not even think of me as being your wife?"
"Maybe she's been out of touch for awhile," Luke answered quietly.
"She doesn't think I deserve you because she still cares for you," Mara said.
"What?" Luke asked. "Is that it? No," he said shaking his head. "I moved on and she probably moved on too. Maybe you two just got off on the wrong foot."
"Yeah, probably," Mara muttered looking away from Luke. Callista, in her mind had caused her fair share of trouble. But why was she making Mara so mad all of a sudden?
Luke must of felt Mara's dark mood deep further. "Mara," he asked quietly. "What's wrong? Would you please tell me?" He gently turned her face towards his and held her hand with his free one. He searched her face, trying to read any sense behind it. But her emotions were all tangled up and it was hard for him to decipher one from the other.
"Mara?" he asked again. "What bothers you about her? She doesn't have to like you for you to live the rest of your life, you know."
"I don't seek approval," Mara snapped, the anger in her voice making Luke back away, "from a woman who's probably old enough to be my grandmother."
"What?" Luke asked, astonishment filling his mind.
"You know full well what I said," Mara bit out. "She was probably too selfish to not let Cray's body rest in peace along with her soul." Her green eyes were flashing now with fury.
Mara didn't even know Callista, she had probably only talked to her once in her entire lifetime. "Mara, don't," Luke said, trying to stay calm. The way she was insulting Callista . . . "Callista never did anything to hurt you. Leave her alone."
"Yes she did!" Mara practically yelled. "She left you and everyone knows how well off you were after that."
"In the first place," Luke said, getting up to his feet, his voice quiet but with an edge to it. "It was Cray's decision, not Callista's for her to be able to leave the Eye. And second, I understand that she left and her reasons for doing so."
Mara opened her mouth as if to speak, but Luke cut her off. "But knowing why sure didn't help any."
"That's what hurt me, Luke," Mara said, her voice not nearly as loud or uncontrolled as it had been before. "It was extremely hard for me to watch a man I respected; a man I loved go to pieces over someone he met on a ship and was born decades before he was."
Luke only looked at her; at those anger-filled green eyes. He'd never known this before. Never once had she talked to him about this. Now he knew why.
"But I loved her," he whispered, knowing somehow that it might hurt Mara.
"That doesn't mean you weren't hurt," she said, her voice barely louder than his. "And now she wants to just waltz back into your life as if nothing happened."
"That's not true," Luke said, trying to reason with her. Why hadn't she talked to him about this before? "I don't even know why she's back."
"No, you don't," Mara said. "But that's what you're going to find out, isn't it? She can only hurt you again, Luke."
"Why do you keep saying that?" he asked.
"Why do you keep defending her?" Mara countered.
"Wouldn't you do the same to someone you used to know?" he asked.
"Only if they hadn't hurt me as much as she did to you," Mara said.
"I wish you'd stop saying that," Luke said.
"And I wish you'd stop treating all this as if she's a perfect angel that did nothing to you."
"Don't you think I know what she did?" Luke asked, his voice starting to rise. "Don't you think I lived every day after that for months thinking what I had done wrong? What I could have done to make her stay? But unlike you, I forgive. And if you'd even bothered to notice," he said, his voice hot with annoyance and anger as Mara for not being able to understand. "I forgave you, too after you'd vowed to kill me. And look where we are now. I forgave what Callista did to me, no matter how much it hurt me, so I could get on with my life."
The air between husband and wife was thick with tension. Luke didn't want to stay if only to fight more. He hated arguing with Mara more than anything. At least maybe now she would understand why Luke felt no anger towards Callista. He was working on calming himself and his pounding heart down when, abruptly, Mara got up and stalked past Luke.
"Mara," Luke pleaded quietly, holding her arm in his grip to try and stop her.
"Leave . . . me . . . alone," Mara said, her voice a whisper as she bit out each word. But there was a pain in there that he'd never heard before coming from her. She tugged her arm free and went to their bedroom.
"Mara, I'm sorry," he called after her, knowing that he meant it. All he got in response, was the sound of a door slamming shut. Why did I yell at her? he scolded himself. Stretching out with the Force to get a feel of Mara's emotions, the emotions that over the years had melded so much with his that is was as if they were two bodies of flesh and blood made from one soul. He found it right away and once again tried to apologize.
*Mara, I'm sorry I yelled, please forgive me*
What she did, Luke wasn't expecting. It was as if a black curtain had fallen over Luke, concealing all of Mara's presence from his mind. He felt so empty inside; he hadn't realized literally just how much a part of him she had become. He felt so cold, so alone all of a sudden. Luke leaned against the wall by his side and fought back the tears that had sprung to his eyes. He closed them and took some deep, comforting breaths. Slowly, he got up and walked to the door and left. He couldn't talk to Mara now, not matter how much he wanted to, and she certainly didn't want to talk to him.
Why hadn't she talked to him sooner? She should have told him how she felt about Callista. But would that have made things happen any differently? Or would Mara still have shut him out?
Luke reached the turbolift and keyed it for nonstop toward the roof. He put his arms around himself and tried to bring warmth into his body from the coldness that he felt. He was in no mood to talk to anyone except Mara, but he had given Callista his word and he would keep it.
Strange, he had forgotten why Callista had wanted to talk to him on the roof. Then he remembered--it was Callista's lack of trust, or in Mara's words, her jealousy, that had caused her to want to talk more privately. And what had sprung his argument with Mara.
All too soon, the turbolift door opened and the wind from the outside whipped its way into the car. Luke got out and searched the rooftop with his eyes for Callista. She was standing with her back towards him, her eyes watching the twinkling city far below. Luke walked up beside her and waited quietly. He had forgotten just how tall she was when compared to him. Slowly, she turned towards him, her hair being blown to the side by the wind. This time, though, she evoked no memories at all. Luke only wanted to be with Mara, and it was because of Mara's thoughts towards Callista that she wouldn't speak to him. Callista's gray eyes came to rest on Luke's and she spoke softly.
"Have you ever thought of me, Luke?" she asked. "I mean, since what happened at Nam Chorios."
"Yes," Luke said a bit hesitantly. "But not recently."
"I thought of you," she said, turning to her view of the city again. "I thought about you every single day after that. I think sometimes I still do. I wondered if you had ever found someone else, or if you felt like I did and never wanted to fall in love again."
"I did feel that way, at first," Luke admitted. "But I wanted my life to continue; with or without you, I needed to begin living my life again."
"And you chose Mara," Callista said with quiet scorn in her words.
What was with them? They both didn't trust or like each other. What could he do to make them act otherwise? What could he tell them?
"Yes, after awhile I fell in love with Mara," Luke confirmed.
"How long after?" she asked
"I said, how long after did you fall in love with her," Callista repeated.
"Why do you want to know?" he asked quietly.
"Please, just tell me," she said.
Feeling uncomfortable with the way the conversation was going, Luke answered her. "About a year," he confessed.
Callista could of nodded, but Luke couldn't tell in the increasing darkness.
"But you wanted to tell me something," Luke prompted, hoping they could stop talking about a past that he had no desire to be brought back into.
Callista turned her attention back to Luke, and he saw a distant pain in her eyes.
"It took you a year to get over me?" she asked.
"Callista," Luke began. "Could we please talk about the present?" Now he wished he hadn't told her that.
"I thought you loved me," she said. "Don't you still love me?"
That made Luke a bit angry. Didn't she see he was married? That he had found someone else? Just because maybe she hadn't found anyone didn't mean Luke hadn't. He loved Mara, not Callista.
"I did love you, Callista," Luke told her. "But the point is that I loved you then; not now. I love Mara now, and I'll love her for a long time." He really wanted to get talking about something else, but Callista didn't feel quite the same way.
"Why did you fall in love with her ?" she asked. "She wanted to kill you."
Luke sighed. "Look, I didn't come up here to talk about who I love or who I don't, okay?" he said with a bit of steam in his voice. His argument with Mara had gotten him upset, and Callista was only feeding that emotion. He hoped rather fervently that she would stop asking him these questions and tell him what it was that had seemed so important that he needed to know. "Could you please tell me what it is that I need to know?"
"You didn't answer my question," she said.
"And you never answered mine," he countered. "What did you want to tell me?"
"I had a child Luke," Callista said quietly. "Shortly after I left you."
A cold fist grabbed at Luke's heart, making him feel almost paralyzed. No . . . Everything in him screamed out no, but there was doubt in there, too. It was possible, he knew that. There was a slim chance that she could have had his child, but wouldn't he have known? What was he thinking? What would Mara do if she found out? She'd kill him, that's what.
"I wanted to tell you at Nam Chorios, but I didn't," she said.
I don't even have a child with Mara . . . he thought to himself. How could he tell Mara? He was having a hard time believing it himself. How could he have been made a father without knowing it?
"Is it mine?" he asked, his voice sounding unreal and alien to his ears. Luke's eyes were unfocused as he thought; things going through his mind that he never thought he would have to go through. Mara would definitely be mad.
"I don't know," she confessed. "That's what I came here to find out. I was hoping you would take a paternity test."
Luke's mind was buzzing. His knees felt weak and he wanted to leave. Please don't let it be mine, he thought. But what if it is? He would have to take the responsibility and be part of it's life. Something inside him told him that if it was his, he would be it's father in name as well as in fact. He would help take care of it. But what about Mara? Again, he tried to feel for her presence, and again he felt cold wash over him. He wanted to leave, to run into his bedroom, to find Mara and apologize, and make her forgive him. But he knew he couldn't do that. Why did I come up here?
"Is it a boy or a girl?" he asked quietly.
"A boy," she answered.
Luke nodded and covered his face. He took a shuddering breath and tried to calm down. If Mara had talked to him about this all sooner, maybe her feelings would be different now and she would be able to help him with all this.
"Are you okay?" she asked with concern in those gray eyes.
"I'm fine," he said, his voice a bit shaky. "When would you want me to take the test?"
"The earliest I could set up something would be in a few weeks," she said. "I know it's a long time, but things are really booked over at the clinic."
Luke nodded wishing he hadn't yelled and had understood what Mara was trying to tell him. She would be a great comfort to have right now. But with her as mad as she was, he would only upset her more. She had to know, so even if it got her furious at him, he'd tell her as soon as he got home. That is, if she let him go home.
"I think I can wait," he said. "Does he have a name?"
Callista nodded. "I named him Darek."
"Darek," Luke repeated softly. "Do you have a picture?"
Callista shook her head. "They're all at home."
"What does he look like?" Luke asked.
"Well," Callista said, her voice going a little dreamy. He'd heard that tone before, in Leia's voice when she talked about her children. "He has the softest brown hair, and his eyes are the color of the sea. He has a sweet little laugh that makes his eyes and face light up with happiness."
Luke nodded again. It could be his. It could be. But he'd have to tell Mara first thing when he got back. "I'm sorry, but I have to go now," he told her. "I need to tell Mara this, she'll want to know."
"I understand," Callista said. And in the dark, Luke thought he saw a smirk cross her face, but he dismissed it as a trick of the moonlight.
"You'll call me as soon as you need me for the test?"
"Yes," she said.
"Okay, thank you for telling me," he said. "Good-bye." He left without waiting to hear Callista's response.
Mara sat alone on the bed she shared with Luke; in the bedroom they shared together thinking hard why she'd just cut off the mental bonding they had also shared. Thinking hard and trying to fight back the cold blanket that suddenly wanted to wrap itself around her. Was it because she'd shut out Luke? Mara had never done this before or had even thought about doing it. She'd been with Luke for over two years now and she had just now come to understand just how close they'd gotten emotionally and mentally. It was something that she had taken for granted.
Pushing back her anger at Luke, she took a deep breath and tried again to come to the reasoning that she'd had when she'd abruptly cut off her husband. But as hard as she tried, it wouldn't come. She'd done it out of anger and frustration; something Mara thought she'd learned to control. But all that talk about Callista only made all that effort go to waste.
Why hadn't Luke understood that Mara didn't want that woman to hurt him again? Why had he even agreed to talk to her? Dimly, she wondered if Luke still had feelings for Callista. But Mara would have known, and the most she could sense was something distant. Something so far away that all hope of retrieving it was lost. She could have followed his emotions up to where he met Callista on the roof, but she'd decided to be childish about it. If Mara couldn't have her way with Luke, then Luke would have no Mara.
Scowling with frustration at herself, she walked over to the window. He'd tried to apologize, but it wasn't his fault. It was Mara's. Listen to myself, she thought. I was sitting there trying to tell Luke not to go and talk to Callista because she'd hurt him and what have I just done? If he was feeling half as bad as Mara was, then she would go right now to the roof and apologize. Only if she did that, then it'd give Callista the chance to gloat a little at how much Mara was being a hypocrite. Callista had no doubt knew Mara's feeling on her. She had probably seen it when she'd talked to her via the comm. Mara had seen and heard the small, almost invisible hints at Callista's dislike for her. Then she'd tell Luke later. He would eventually come down; she'd tell him then.
Letting out a quiet breath, Mara looked out of the window she was facing. Night had pretty much fallen on to the Imperial City while Mara had been scolding herself. Somehow she'd never known how beautiful the city could get until she'd met Luke so many years back. Thinking about the past made Mara wonder if she would ever take anything back about the new life that Luke had helped her achieve. He'd given her so much over the years and what did she have to repay him? To thank him? She'd cut him out of her mind, that's what. Nothing. She had given him absolutely nothing in return.
Glancing down, she experimentally rubbed her flat stomach with her hand. Not even a son or a daughter had Mara given him. She'd seen the way Luke looked at his niece and nephews, had seen how wonderful he was with them. He would make an excellent father. Mara on the other hand would probably make a terrible mother. Still looking at her stomach, a sudden thought struck Mara. To all outward appearances, nothing looked like it could possibly be living in there, but maybe if she looked inside instead of just outside . . .
It might just work. Mara closed her eyes and cleared her mind of all thought, except for the patch of void that seemed to be covering just about everything at the moment, and stretched out with the Force toward the small spot she knew what she was looking for would be. If it was even there, that is. Sending out all the mental strength she could summon, Mara continued her search with small excitement growing inside with anticipation, only to be discouraged. Whatever was there, it was too small for Mara to know about. If there was anything there at all to begin with. Mara tried again, and again she found nothing.
With a sad sigh, Mara brought her mind back to the world and opened her eyes. It was probably that there was nothing there, but it could still be a bit too early. Mara had been with Luke last only a few days ago. Maybe if she tried later she'd find something . . . No, she thought. There probably really is nothing there.
Walking away from the window, Mara went to the bed again and laid down. Luke wouldn't be gone too much longer, and when he did come back, Mara didn't want to feel totally depressed.
Luke arrived at his suite not long after he left Callista. The conversation he'd just had ran through his mind all the way down from the roof and even now as he walked to his suite. I shouldn't have yelled at Mara, he thought to himself. I should have tried to understand or at least told her that I understood. Maybe then she wouldn't be mad at me. I need her now, more than ever . . . Sadly, Luke keyed open his door and walked inside.
He still couldn't feel Mara, but a quick assessment of the rooms nearby told him she must still be in the bedroom where she had gone before he'd left. Luke walked to the bedroom door and stood outside for a moment gathering his thoughts and deciding how in the world he was going to tell Mara what Callista had just told him. She wasn't going to like it no matter how he worded it, but she had to know. Bracing himself, and hoping Mara would help take away the coldness around him, he knocked on the door.
A small voice came from the inside. "Come in," Mara said.
Luke opened the door and saw Mara sitting on the bed. Strange, he had never seen Mara without ever feeling her. It was always her mind that he found first, then her physical being. But now he could only look. He couldn't feel for her warm presence, and he knew that she could feel for his presence either. He'd gotten so used to her mind always being there with him . . . and now he was so alone.
Luke walked over to where Mara was seated, and sat down beside her. She made no attempt to push him away and that made Luke feel somewhat better. He put his arms around her and held her close.
"Mara," Luke said softly. "I'm sorry."
He felt Mara shaking her head. "No Luke," she told him. "It was my fault. I should have listened to you and let you do what you thought was right. It was your decision, not mine. I'm sorry."
"No," Luke said firmly, pulling a little away from her and looking her in the eye. "When I married you, I made the choice that whatever I do, even if you're not there, I'm always thinking about what you would do. I make decisions based on your say too, not just mine. If what's important to me hurts you then I'll stop within reason okay?"
Mara nodded and put her arms around him again, only this time, Luke felt a surge of emotions rushing in on him. He could really feel Mara next to him. He held her tighter, and after a long time, he pulled away again. Now comes the hard part, he thought.
Mara must have sensed his thoughts. "What is it?" she asked.
Luke braced himself again. "Mara," he said. "I have to tell you something."
"What? Is it what Callista wanted you to know?"
Luke nodded his head. "Please, listen to me through the end okay?"
"What is it?" she asked again.
"Okay," she assured him, a bemused look on her face . "I will."
"Callista had a child," Luke told her. "Shortly after she left me. She thinks it's mine, but she said she can't be sure unless I take a paternity test."
Mara sat there, staring at him, her face a ghostly white. Her sense in the Force told him that she was indeed surprised. But there was something else there too . . .
"What do you mean she can't be sure?" Mara asked. "I thought you were the only person she was with."
It did make a good point actually. "I don't know," Luke admitted. "But I told her I'd take the test in a few weeks."
She was silent for a long time, staring at the air past his shoulder. Luke waited, hoping that she wasn't as mad as he thought she would be. He held her hand and held his breath. Finally, she spoke.
"So you don't know if it's yours?" she asked, her eyes still fixed past his shoulder.
"No," he told her.
"Did you get to see the child?" she asked.
"Callista didn't have any pictures with her, but she said his name was Darek," he said.
Mara nodded, then fell silent again.
"You know," Mara began. "She could be lying. There could be no child really and all that she wants is to get you to be back into her life."
Luke let out a sigh. Was she going to start again?
"Mara, please, don't do this again."
"Don't worry, Luke," Mara assured him, her eyes finally coming to rest on his. "I'll keep all this to myself. You don't have to pay attention to anything I say about her if it bothers you that much, okay?"
What an interesting change. What changed her mind? At least she wasn't mad at him anymore . . . but from the look on her face, he could tell that if she wasn't mad, she wasn't happy either.
"What's wrong, Mara?" he asked.
"Luke," she said, her voice noticeably under strained control. "You know what bothers me. But I can't do anything to change my feelings or yours. You just go take that test and you tell me what happens. I'll leave you alone about it until then okay?"
"Are you mad?" Luke asked.
"Not mad, Luke," she told him softly shaking her head. "I'm not mad at you. I don't trust her, that's all. But I trust you, and I'll back you up if this is important to you. Even if I don't totally agree with it."
Luke hugged Mara again.
"Thank you," he murmured.
"I know that you're probably having a hard time with this," Mara told him. "I know I would if it happened to me." she paused. "But I also know how you must feel if she's not sure that it's yours. Especially when you two were supposedly seeing only each other."
Luke looked into Mara's eyes. "You think she was with someone else?" he asked quietly, and Mara knew that no matter how far behind him Callista and that part of his past were, it still hurt him to know that someone who he thought had loved him, would do such a thing. But like Mara had tried to tell him, if she had hurt him once, she would do it again. And apparently she might have.
"I don't know Luke," Mara said.
"But truthfully," he told her. "Do you think she was?"
Knowing that this was dangerous ground, Mara still had to tell him. He had just asked her, and she couldn't lie to him.
"If what she says is true," Mara said, somewhat guiltily. "Then, yes. She might have been with someone else."
Luke nodded and set his eyes and head down.
"But that was a long time ago," she reminded him, hoping it would cheer him up a little. "Even if she wanted to hurt you again, you're far too much into your new life to let it upset you, right?"
Luke nodded his head again, then looked back at Mara. "I guess you're right," he said, a small smile playing around his lips. "I guess it's too late to go out for dinner. We didn't have much chance at that earlier."
"No," Mara agreed. "But we can go have something light before hitting the sack."
"All right," Luke said, getting up and offering Mara his hand. Mara took it and together, they went into the kitchen for some food.
Mara stepped inside of her home, quickly searching with her senses and eyes to see if Luke was home. He said he had some errands to run for the afternoon so he probably was still gone.
"He's not home," Mara told the person standing at her side.
"You sure?" the person asked. "You said you didn't want him around when you did this. If he's here, you'll have to try later."
"I can't do this later," Mara said, leading her guest inside and turning on the lights. "It'll be too late to do this later." She set the small bag she was carrying on the kitchen table and took off her jacket.
"What did you bring me here for anyway?" Leia finally asked as she took a seat at the table. "All you said was that it was important, that you didn't want Luke to find out, and that you had to do it as soon as possible. But you never bothered to mention what it was."
"I said that I didn't want Luke to find out right away," Mara corrected her sister-in-law. She pushed the bag to sit in front of Leia. "What I'm planning to do is in there." She waited until Leia had stopped eying her strangely and finally got to opening the bag. Leia reached her hand inside and pulled out a small package. She turned it around until she found the label . . .
"Mara?!" Leia exclaimed, her eyes slightly bulging out of their sockets. "You're pregnant?!"
"Sshh!" Mara admonished her. "Not so loud. And I don't know if I am. That's what's inside the package is for. Now come on, I want to get this over with as soon as possible." She started to get up, when she looked at Leia and saw the look on her face.
"Why don't you just feel down there with the Force?" she asked. "I don't think it's a crime."
Mara didn't want to tell Leia that the reason she didn't do anything like that was because she was so scared. It had only been a little over two weeks ago when Luke had broke the news to her about the child Callista was claiming belonged to him. Mara certainly didn't trust her, but if Luke found out that the child was his, then only to find out that Mara was having another one of his children--Mara didn't want to think what would go through his mind at having two children both belonging to him, but having different mothers.
"I don't know," Mara told her instead. "I just trust this way better."
Leia still eyed her strangely, probably thinking that she trusted the Force far better than any other test, but whatever she was thinking, she didn't voice it.
"All right," she said. "You want me to wait out here or do you need some assistance?"
"Ha ha," Mara said sarcastically, grabbing the bag. "I can do it myself, thank you. You can wait out here or outside of the bathroom. No matter what, you'll find out eventually if you're going to be an aunt or not."
"I'll wait outside the bathroom then," Leia said, an odd glint in her eye. It was probably the mention of her becoming an aunt.
Together they made the short walk to the bathroom and Leia waited outside while Mara did her part. It seemed to take forever, but finally she came out.
"Well?" Leia asked as Mara stepped out of the bathroom.
"I won't know for another two hours," Mara said shaking her head.
"What if Luke comes back before then?" Leia asked.
Mara seemed to think for a minute. "Maybe we could go somewhere," she suggested. "Take this with us." She held up the small plastic device.
"Actually," Leia said. "We could go to my apartment. I could put it there with some of my things. Han wouldn't snoop--he's working on the Falcon --and the kids wouldn't go in there. It won't be too odd for you to be there with me."
"Okay," Mara said. "We'd better go now."
The two women walked to Leia's apartment, and when they got there, Mara was bombarded by her niece and nephews. When Mara greeted them, she saw them with new eyes. If she did turn out to be pregnant, then she could easily have her own little person running around the house all the time. It wouldn't be all that bad . . .
"Auntie Mara, Auntie Mara!" Anakin exclaimed. "I want to show you what I drew!"
"I made a new X-wing model!" Jaina said.
"Only because you stole mine!" Jacen told his sister.
"Nuh-uh!" Jaina said. "You didn't want it anymore!"
"I did too!"
"All right," Leia said, stepping in between both twins. "You two stop right now. You're too old to be fighting, okay?"
"No," Leia said firmly, cutting Jacen off. "You keep fighting like that and you two won't get any desert." At that, both children silenced. "I expect you all of you to behave, especially when we have a guest. You know better than that."
Mara marveled at the way Leia had just quieted down both kids without even raising her voice. Would I be able to do that? Only if you had two kids, Mara, and you don't even know if you're going to have one.
She felt a tugging at her pants and looked down to find Anakin there.
"Auntie Mara?" he asked.
Mara squatted down in front of him. "Yes?"
"Where's Uncle Luke?" the little boy asked.
"He's busy right now," Mara said. "But I'll tell him to stop by later okay? I promise."
Anakin nodded and Mara got up.
"Come on," Leia said. "We'll to to my bedroom." She turned her attention to her children. "Mommy has to do something with your Auntie Mara okay? Play out here where your daddy can see you when he comes home."
She got a chorus of okays from all three children, then led Mara to her room. Leia took the small package Mara held in her tunic and put it with her perfumes.
"No one should think to look there," Leia said as she sat down on the bed. "Now all we have to do is wait." She turned her attention to Mara who was still standing up, staring intensely at the small pregnancy test Leia had just hid away.
"What is it?" Leia asked.
"What was it like Leia?" Mara asked, her eyes still solidly fixed on the small test.
"What was what like?" Leia asked.
"When you found out you were pregnant," she said, her eyes finally coming to rest on Leia. "How did you tell Han? What changed between you two? What did it feel like?"
Leia laughed lightly. "You have a lot of questions, don't you?" she asked. "Come here and I'll tell you."
Mara sat and listened to Leia tell her an answer to everyone of her questions. It was strange to know what her relationship with Luke would be like with a child in the middle. Luke would make a great father. She had seen the way he was around his niece and nephews; they loved him so much. Come to think of it, they really liked her, too. Mara imagined holding a baby in her arms, watching it sleep, playing with it, and being able to be a good mother. Could she pull it off? Could she be as good a mother as Leia was?
The time passed and before Mara knew it, her two hours were up.
"Well, I guess this is it huh?" Leia suggested.
"Yeah," Mara said mechanically, her mind frozen with fear at what the little test would say. She could be a mother . . . She'd be responsible for the caring and well-being of someone other than herself. What if she did something wrong?
Leia studied her friend for a moment. "Do you want to check, or should I?"
"No," Mara said, still thinking hard at how much her life could change in the next minute. "I'll go."
Slowly, Mara got up and walked to where Leia had hid the pregnancy test. She found it sticking out among a bunch of colored bottles and picked it up. It had turned upside-down, so Mara turned it around to see her results.
She took a deep breath and held it. Wordlessly, she handed the test to Leia and watched the smile spread on her face.
"Mara," Leia said, her voice a mix of surprise and awe.
"I know," Mara said, her eyes unfocused and staring at the floor not being able to say anything else through her shock. "I'm going to be a mommy." She brought her eyes back to look at Leia, a smile on forming on her face. "I'm going to be a mommy."
Leia smiled and hugged her sister-in-law. "You'll be a great mother," she told Mara.
"How do I tell Luke?" Mara asked. "I have to tell him, right?"
Leia laughed as she parted from their hug. "Relax," she said. "You'll find a way to tell him. But if you don't want to, I could always do it for you."
"What about that whole Callista thing, Leia?" Mara asked.
"What about it?" Leia said.
"He's been going through so much with just that," Mara said. "How do I tell him this when he's got that to worry about?"
"Mara," Leia said. "You shouldn't worry. There's nothing you should worry about. Luke will be thrilled to hear about this. It's his child and one that's he's sure is his." She came closer to Mara and whispered in her ear. "Just between you and me," she began. "I don't think Callista's child is his."
Mara smiled. Leia was a good friend indeed.
"I hope it's not," Mara said. "I think I'll go back now to wait for him."
"I don't think you have to," Leia said slowly, her eyes unfocusing slightly. "I think he's coming here."
Frowning, Mara stretched out with the Force to feel for her husband's presence. He wasn't in their apartment . . . no, Leia was right. He might not be in the apartment, but he was coming to Leia's suite.
"Now he'll be surprised," Leia said.
Mara smiled. If she told him now she could get it over with. Plus, she'd have Leia here for comfort if something went wrong. The door chime rang out softly from the front room, and Mara could already here Leia's kids running towards it. They apparently knew who it was, too.
"Let's hurry before the kids get there," Leia said, leading Mara out the room and throwing the pregnancy test away in the bathroom as they passed it. "They're not supposed to answer the door no matter who it is."
All three Solo children were at the door, but the door wasn't closed. Luke was there, bending down to pick up Anakin. He saw Leia and Mara and smiled.
"Hi, Leia," he said. "Hi, Mara."
Mara walked up to him and gave him a light kiss. Anakin, who was in his arms gave out a little "eeewww..." which Mara smiled at.
*I have to tell you something Luke*
A slight frown creased Luke's face.
*Is everything okay?*
*Everything's just fine, don't worry*
He nodded his head slightly, and turned his attention back to the little one in his arms.
"How have you been little Jedi?" Luke asked as he bounced Anakin up and down gently.
"I'm great!" Anakin said. "Can I show you what I drew?"
"Sure," Luke said.
Anakin crawled out of Luke's grasp and ran into his room. Halfway there, he stopped and turned around as if remembering something, and grabbed his uncle's hand and pulled him in the room with him. Luke laughed and followed Anakin.
Shortly after, Luke walked out of the room with Anakin holding a folded piece of paper.
"Anakin wants to show you something," Luke told Mara who was sitting on the couch next to Leia.
"Okay," Mara said with a smile.
Luke led Anakin around the couch to stand in front of Mara and sat down himself next to her.
"I drew this," Anakin said looking at his folded piece of paper. "I wanted you and Uncle Luke to see it." The little boy unfolded the piece of paper and showed it to Mara.
"Oh Anakin," Mara breathed. "It's beautiful."
The drawing (done all in crayon) was of Luke holding the hand of one of the two small people in between him and Mara. The two small people . . .
"Who are the two little people there in between me and your uncle?" Mara asked.
"They're my cousins," Anakin said.
"Cousins?" Mara asked a new thought creeping its way into her mind. Could Anakin know that she was pregnant? Or did he think of this up all on his own? Mara turned her attention to Luke and found him staring intently at Anakin.
"Yeah," Anakin said. "My little cousins. Do you like it? I drew it all by myself." He smiled proudly.
"Oh I love it Anakin," Mara said. "This is pretty good if you ask me."
Her nephew smiled and crawled his way on to her lap.
"You want little cousins?" she asked him quietly.
Anakin gave her a puzzled look, something adorable on his seven-year-old face. "I Already have little cousins," he said, his tone indicating that Mara should already have known that.
Mara threw a puzzled look at Luke. He just shook his head.
"I don't know," he said softly.
Mara turned back to Anakin.
"Sweetie," she said. "You don't have any little cousins yet."
Anakin gave her another puzzled look, then turned to his mother. "Mommy?"
Mara stretched her senses towards Leia. What would she say to get it a surprise from Luke? Something warm suddenly snaked its way onto Mara's hand. She turned around and saw that Luke had wrapped his hand around hers. She gave it a squeeze and waited for Leia to speak.
"I think that your auntie's right, Anakin," Leia told her son.
Anakin crawled out of Mara's lap and took Luke's other hand in his.
"Right here, Uncle Luke," Anakin said placing Luke's free hand on Mara's stomach. "Really, look."
Mara eyes flicked briefly to Leia who shrugged in return.
*He might have overheard* her friend sent her.
*But we didn't way anything to really give it away*
Mara looked at Luke who was staring warily at his nephew. His eyes turned questioningly into Mara's.
"Mara?" Luke asked quietly.
"I don't mind," she said shaking her head.
Luke nodded, took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He gave Mara's hand one last squeeze, and then let himself become enveloped into the Force. Mara felt his warm mind enter hers and then start to wander down her body.
It was odd to have someone enter and wonder around your insides like this, but Luke was serious about it, and, come to think of it, so was Anakin. Finally Luke's searching reached the point where Anakin had wanted him to go to, but before he peeked inside, he hesitated, just a little.
*Go on Luke* Mara sent, hoping to encourage him.
As long as he found out, Mara would be fine. She had wanted it to be a surprise, but this was technically a nice way to find out . . .
Luke took her advice and continued with a little fear. Wait--fear? Yes, that's what Mara felt coming from him. Why was Luke scared? Or was it the fact that he was going to find out if he was the father of a child for certain?
A flush of surprise rang out from Luke's mind suddenly at the end of that last thought. His eyes flew open and he inhaled sharply.
"You're," he sputtered. "You're going to have a--" Luke smiled and he pulled Mara into his arms.
"Surprise," Mara said.
She could hear his unbelieving laughter as he held her tightly
Luke pulled away and held Mara at arm's length. He turned to Leia with a smile on his face.
"You knew about this?" he asked.
"I just found out," Leia said. "You're not mad?"
"Mad?" Luke asked. "How could I be mad?" His eyes turned to Mara. "I love you," he whispered.
"I love you, too!" Anakin said from Luke's side.
Mara laughed. "I know you love me, Anakin. you too, Luke," she said looking at her husband.
"I told you I had little cousins," Anakin said.
"But I only felt one little person in there, Anakin," Luke said a little confused.
"The other one's hiding then," Anakin said with a shrug and left to play with his brother and sister.
Luke watched him go, then turned his attention back to Mara. His eyes roamed over the familiar features of her face and he smiled. He pulled her to him in another warm embrace.
"Thank you," he said into her hair.
Mara laughed. "You had your part in there too," she reminded him.
Luke parted from Mara and smiled again. He looked at Leia with the smile still on his face.
"Congratulations, Luke," Leia said getting up and walking over to hug her brother.
"Thank you," Luke said. He turned back to Mara. "I can't believe it. You're serious?"
Mara nodded. "That or I've been sick a lot lately."
"I didn't know," Luke said quietly.
"That's because I didn't want you to know," Mara told him. "Not until I was sure. And I am now."
Luke smiled that wonderful smile of his again and rubbed her hand gently.
"I still can't believe it," Luke said from beside Mara.
She turned her head and looked at the silhouetted form laying on the bed beside her. She could make out all the features of his face from memory since the moon only highlighted it in shadows.
"Neither can I," she said.
"I'm going to be a father," Luke said, staring at the ceiling. "A father, you know that?"
"Yeah," Mara said smiling. But the smile faded with she realized that he might already be a father. Speaking of which, it had been quite some time since Callista had spoken to Luke. Did she decide not to go through with it? Or was she lying in the first place and was too embarrassed to admit it? Maybe Mara had been right. Maybe all Callista wanted was to get Luke to love her again. But what if the child really did belong to Luke? What then? How would they explain that to their child?
"Mara?" a quiet voice asked.
Mara snapped out of her pool of thoughts and realized that Luke was staring at her. "I'm sorry. Just some stray thoughts."
She'd hoped that that would be enough for Luke not to ask anymore questions, but he wasn't fooled. Mara could never lie to him.
"What kind of stray thoughts?" he asked suspiciously.
"Nothing serious," she told him. "Really. Now let's get to sleep. I want to get a doctor to check on this little baby first thing in the morning."
Mara turned over and closed her eyes, hoping Luke would be quiet and go to sleep. Maybe he sensed that she didn't want to talk about it, so he agreed.
"Okay," Luke said strangely.
Mara felt the slight shifting of the bed as Luke rolled into a more comfortable position. For awhile, she just lay there, thinking whether or not she should tell Luke. Telling him would help ease what she felt, but not telling him would also be keeping her promise of not mentioning Callista until she called.
But she couldn't keep this from Luke. She wouldn't lie to him or deny him information that he had every right knowing.
"Luke?" Mara whispered.
At least he hadn't dozed off.
"Can I tell you something?"
Mara felt his arm go over her shoulder and he rested his hand on hers.
"Yes," he said, his breath warm on the back of her neck.
"You know what the first thing I thought of when I found out that I was pregnant was?"
"No," Luke said. "Tell me."
"I thought about you," Mara said gently playing with his hand. "I thought how much I didn't want to tell you because you had so much to worry about."
"Callista's child," Mara answered softly.
Luke sighed and turned Mara around so that they were face to face.
"Mara," Luke began. "you know that I love you with all my heart and more. I love what we have together and now I have something else to love. Our child is our child and it will be loved by both of us. I don't know if Callista's child is mine or not. I have no way of knowing until she calls. But I do know that the little person inside of you belongs to the two of us."
He reached out his hand and caressed her cheek. "Please understand," he asked softly. "Or pretend you do. This is harder for me than it is for you. I can't love something unless it's all there. I'm not sure if her child is mine, so I can't start to love it. What is I got attached and found out he wasn't mine? What would I do then?"
"I understand," Mara said softly. "And I'm sorry. Sorry for all I did to make you keep on explaining. But I still don't trust her."
"I know," Luke said. "You've told me so many times it's getting hard to forget."
Mara smiled. "I love you, Luke," she said snuggling up to him and hiding her face in his neck.
"I love you too, Mara," Luke said.
He wrapped his arms around her and slowly, they both fell asleep.
The medical wing in the Imperial Palace was well furbished and smelled of disinfectant like any other good hospital. Mara, was glad they had her in a small room that didn't smell like it'd been sterilized a thousand times.
She was lying on her back on a flat table/bed with the head end raised for comfort. Luke was beside her with one hand on her shoulder and the other wrapped around her own hand. Both were staring at a tiny black-and-white screen while the medic ran a small machine over Mara's abdomen.
The tiny machine tickled and felt odd against her skin. The odd sensation was also coupled with the cold feeling from a gel that had been rubbed on first. At the moment, Mara wondered how many times she would have to come back and do this.
"Well," the medic said fiddling a little with something on the screen. "All seems to be in place. At least as far as I can see this early."
"So the baby's healthy?" Luke asked.
The medic turned to look at him and smiled strangely.
"Yes, but--" he started, "Well here, you'll see."
He moved the tiny device a little around Mara's abdomen until he gave a grunt of satisfaction. "There. Mr. and Mrs. Skywalker, I'd like you to study the screen for a moment if you will."
Mara craned her neck back to look at Luke who shrugged and turned his eyes to the screen. Mara did likewise and studied the odd picture. For a few seconds, she didn't see anything of major interest or anything worth pointing out, but then something moved and peeped out from behind the small figure centered in the screen. And then Mara got it. Anakin had been right.
They were going to have twins.
She felt a smile of awe spread across her face and looked back at Luke who was smiling proudly back at her. Mara turned back to the medic with the smile still on her face.
"Twins?" she asked.
"Mm-hm," he confirmed. "I actually didn't catch it until a moment ago. Congratulations."
"Thank you," Mara said, still studying the screen. "Can you tell if they're boys or girls?"
"I kind of wanted it to be a surprise," Luke piped up from behind.
Mara turned her head again. "Surprise?" she asked. "You don't want to find out now?"
"Not really, no" Luke said.
"Actually," the medic said. "It's a bit too early to see that anyway. You two decide what you want and at a later appointment we can look into that for you."
He pushed a button on the machine attached to the screen and then took back his little device.
"Would you like a photo?" he asked handing Mara a tissue to wipe the gel off herself.
"Sure," Mara said wiping off the gooey gunk.
She pulled her shirt down and swung her legs over the side of the small table/bed.
"Here you go," the medic said handing Mara a tiny picture.
She took it and smiled.
"Our first baby picture," she joked.
Luke smiled and then turned his attention to the medic.
"When can we make the next appointment?" he asked.
"Well," the medic said. "I'd like her to come in in another few weeks. But I'll make sure to call you."
"Okay," Luke said, "Thank you."
"No problem," the medic said as Mara and Luke turned and walked out the door.
Both were nearly to the turbolift, when someone not too far away started to call out Luke's name.
"Master Skywalker!" the voice said coming closer. "Master Skywalker!"
Luke frowned and turned around to see a young security officer walking briskly toward him.
"Yes?" he asked as soon as the man was close enough to hear.
"We have a prisoner that wishes to speak with you," the man said a little breathless.
"Who is it?" Luke asked taking Mara's hand and following the officer back down the hall.
"My commanding officer knows," the man said. "He's with the prisoner now, but he wouldn't tell any of us until you came."
"Any ideas as to why?" Mara asked.
"No ma'am," the officer said shaking his head. "Only that it was Master Skywalker's right to know before any of us."
Luke frowned down at Mara who gave him a shrug.
"Why are they being held prisoner?" Luke asked.
"Again, something only my commanding officer knows," the young man said.
The rest of the walk down to security HQ was filled with silence. All the time, Luke was thinking who could he know that could have been imprisoned? Of course, it could be a civilian who just wanted to talk with the hero of the Rebellion before he was executed. But somehow that didn't feel right to Luke. So he waited until they got there to think any further.
"I think it's all right if you come in now," the young officer said unlocking a door.
"Thank you," Luke said.
The officer finished unlocking the door, then quietly swung it open and allowed Luke and Mara to enter first.
Luke didn't know who was more surprised at the sight of the prisoner; him or Mara.
He stopped mid step toward the middle of the room and held his breath. His eyes went wide as he wondered why in the world they had this person put in prison.
There, seated no more than two meters away, the woman sat. Her hands bound together by a pair of wrist binders; the only sign that she was the prisoner. She had on her own clothes, and her face seemed sad and distant. Luke tried to find another name t go to the familiar face, but only one came. Callista.
He heard the sharp inhale of air from Mara and he stood there quietly not knowing who should speak first.
"Why are you here?" he asked quietly, wondering at the question with all his mind.
"I think I could answer that for you, Master Skywalker," a man's voice spoke from the side.
Luke turned his head to see what appeared to be the young officer's commanding officer. He nodded, letting the man continue.
"I am from the planet Kliyt, as is this woman," he said gesturing to the prisoner. "She was not born directly there, but if you decide to become a citizen, you must abide by all the laws that natural born citizens must live by."
Luke nodded understanding, wondering at what Callista had done.
"I received a tip from this woman's confidant that she had been holding conversations with you about a child that might belong to you, correct?"
Luke nodded again, a flush of slight embarrassment coming over him. To have all these people know about that . . .
Mara squeezed his hand to help comfort him. He looked at her and in her eyes, he saw that she really did understand. All that he had been trying to explain, she had finally come to understand: his reasons for staying calm with the wild accusation of Callista's child being his, his reasons for wanting to continue on with his life no matter what, and his reasons for not being angry with Callista.
He turned his attention back to the officer who then continued with his talk.
"Her confidant also told me that it was a lie. And such a lie, by Kliytian laws can only be punished by death."
Luke looked sharply toward Callista. Her eyes were focused on the floor, not daring to look at him. A lie? That's what she had told him? He had trusted her, and she had betrayed that trust. His anger rose slowly until he was too mad to speak. She lied to him. Lied to him.
The small room was suddenly very quiet. Luke took a deep, slow breath, trying to calm himself. Never had anyone done something like this to him. Never had anyone betrayed his trust like Callista had. Mara had told him that she had never trusted the woman. Now Luke wished he had listened to her. Once he had collected and calmed himself enough, he spoke.
"Why?" Luke asked Callista, his voice not betraying any of the emotion he was feeling.
She reluctantly looked up at him, her eyes looking tired and worn. "I had to Luke," she said softly. "I had to get you away from her. She's evil."
Her eyes still had a distant look to them, but there was something else . . . something that sent a shiver up Luke's spine.
Luke looked at Mara, then using the grip he had on her hand, brought her closer to him.
"You see it too, don't you?" Callista asked looking from Luke to Mara. "Evil . . . "
The law on Kliyt was something he had no force over, no control. If Callista had promised and vowed she would abide by them and had just broken them, then Luke could do nothing. But then, he was too mad, too confused, too tired all of a sudden, to really want to do anything.
"The law states that you are permitted to attend the execution," the officer said.
Luke only nodded again. "Thank you," he said.
With a final look at Callista, he knew that one last piece of his tangled past was finally being buried. He led Mara with him out the door and away from the woman that had hurt him so long ago forever.
The wind howled, rustling the tree limbs and blowing into the faces of the small band of people gathered in the only clearing of Craven forest. Craven forest stirred fear into the very hearts of the people of Kliyt. Demon stories of a hideous beast hidden within the shadows of the ancient trees had plagued the people of the small world for centuries. Those called upon to enter the woods were those who had broken the laws that the people help so sacred.
This night, the usually noisy and busy animals stayed uncommonly quiet. A whisper of coming death seemed to hang in the air above the heads of those present. All was too quiet; too eerie to seem real.
But to one of those standing, the one who was to be executed, it seemed very real. Her small execution party stood fidgeting behind her. All wanting to leave the feared place and trying to watch all directions at once with wary eyes.
A twig snapped and all heads turned frightened toward the sound. Whispers rose among the small crowd, but Callista--the prisoner--paid them no mind.
She knew her end was here. And she knew she couldn't prevent it. Sure, she could try and run away, but it was a toss up as to whether the hidden beast would get her, or she'd get lost in the tangle of brush and trees and starve to death.
Callista took a deep breath, shivering involuntarily as the cold wind played up her spine. Luke was supposed to be here. He had a right to be here. But he had denied that right. He hadn't wanted to come. And Callista didn't blame him. She had lied to his face. Lied to him, betrayed the trust she knew he had in her, and now she was going to pay dearly for it.
But why did she do it? Why did she lie? For so long, Callista's mind had been bent on just taking Mara away from Luke and replacing her in Luke's life. Was that it then? Callista no longer knew. Now, thoughts came and left, she couldn't stay in line with one thing for too long. Memories came and went at their own desire. Others, she heard whispering that she wasn't sane anymore. But if she wasn't sane, then why did Luke still want to be with her? Oh he did. Callista knew. Mara, that little tramp wife of his, had gotten in the way. She made Luke go away . . .
A roar came from the distant trees in front of Callista. She gasped, temporarily forgetting that she was here for a purpose. Following shortly after the roar, was a rustle in the bushes from a little closer. The rustling grew closer, and closer. With each coming minute, a member from her execution party would leave in fear, not wanting to witness the inevitable.
The sounds grew louder and eventually, only one person remained standing with Callista. One person had to stay to tell if the prisoner had, indeed, died. Callista, still not moving, but still thinking, wondered what the end would be like. Wondered what would happen after she was gone . . .
Too soon, sooner than she thought, the beast same out from the cover of the trees. It's huge, monstrous fangs glistened in the moonlight. The saliva dripping slowly off it's teeth and mouth in hungry anticipation of the future of the lone human woman in front of it. It's long, lithe body came closer to Callista. So close, she could smell the putrid rot and mold on its skin. The creature brought about its powerful tail and wrapped its prey in it.
For a moment, it stood there, watching Callista intently, its wide bloodshot eyes catching her every movement.
Then, without warning, reached a bony claw down and grasped Callista.
She did move this time, with fear. She was scared. Now, Callista wanted nothing more than to have not lied to Luke, to have stayed out of his life and left him alone. But it was too late. Now, when Callista wanted to run and hide, prevent her death, she was far too late.
the creature saw her fear and took pleasure in it. It snaked its other arm around and grabbed Callista's long leg. Casually, it pulled it off, tearing bone and flesh away from Callista's body. She screamed in agony, her cry being heard from the small village at the edge of the forest.
Callista closed her eyes against the searing and unbearable pain. She heard the crunch as the beast made due of her leg. opening her eyes again, she looked the creature straight in the eye. She knew she'd either faint and not witness her death, or she'd get eaten first. It didn't matter what she did now. Eventually she would die.
The creature returned her stare with an evil glint in its eye. Something that could almost pass as a smile spread on the monster's face. And before Callista knew it, she was gone.
The lone standing witness ran in fear, seeing what he needed to see and running back to his village home hoping against all hope that the monster wouldn't think about having any dessert. The only sound that was heard in the village far away, was the inhuman, blood curling howl the creature gave in satisfaction of its meal.
Callista never even had time to scream.