Author's Note: Thanks to Gabri for beta'ing. This is the sequel to The Lives of Dreaming, which was the sequel to Just Dreaming.
Life had never been what Mara Jade expected. Through the routine of her life in training, it all changed quickly, with each new teacher, each new task and the ever present uncertainty of failing. Through being the Emperor’s Hand – and losing it all. Through being Mara Jade, who worked her way up through Karrde’s organization. Though being the Mara that fell in love with Luke Skywalker . . . and losing that, too.
She could say with some pride that she had gotten through all those things intact – just barely, with the last.
She had it again. That’s why.
The kiss had been gentle. Gentle, as Luke so often was. She remembered when he was fierce, and that would come in time, but gentleness . . . she loved that, too. She felt precious in his hands.
It had been their first kiss.
Well, not the first. But the first in this new thing they were moving towards. Divorce seemed so final, but Mara had been given a second chance. They both had. They had realized their mistakes, and were willing to work through them. Even though for months Luke had only been Mara’s teacher, he was already learning from her, and she from him, their different natures.
Mara breezed through the jungle with ease. At first it had thwarted her, the thick vines unexpectedly stopping her progress – not to mention making noise. Mara had been trained to be silent, and it was a skill she was proud of. Luke had at first questioned her overwhelming desire – maybe drive was a better word – in conquering the jungle, but after a few glares and pointed remarks he dropped it.
Maybe that was that understanding thing going on.
Mara stopped. Talon Karrde was wading his way through the jungle, towards her. Her eyes widened with surprise – she had not known he was coming to Yavin – then she went back to meet him.
“Karrde,” she said with a nod. “What brings you here?”
“I've been calling you for a few minutes,” he said wryly. “I wanted to talk to you about something.”
Mara felt herself blush. “Oh.” She shook that off. “What is it?”
Karrde studied her for a moment. “Your position – I’ve found someone to fill it. Now the only question is if I will.”
Mara paused, mentally and physically. Her position – she had never completely left it, even when married to Luke. When she came to Yavin IV, she went on extended leave – probably also leaving Karrde in something of a lurch.
She was training as a Jedi. How committed was she to that? To give up her way out?
And Luke. Force, Luke. He’d be understanding if she kept it, if she left and came back . . . at least for appearance's sake. But the truth was, her calling was not to be a smuggler. She knew that.
What kind of step was she willing to take? Luke had asked her if she was committed and ready, and she had said yes.
And she would be leaving Luke. If she came back, even briefly, that’s what would happen.
The answer was simple enough.
“Give it to the person. I’m sure you chose well,” Mara said simply. Dedication. More than what was in the dream. She felt something heavy and comforting settle inside of her.
Karrde hesitated. “You will be missed,” he said with a regal nod.
“You’ll miss my ability to take care of things myself,” Mara retorted with a smile.
“That I will.”
“Do you want to go back to the Temple with me?” Mara suggested. “We have dinner in about an hour.”
Karrde shook his head. “No, that’s all right.”
Mara nodded slowly. “I’ll walk you back.”
Luke was meditating when he felt Mara approach. She had left only an hour ago, and was usually gone for two on her walks. He remembered when she first started those walks how frustrated she would get that she could not move silently. For all that her training had prepared her for, it just didn’t happen to cover the peculiar nature of Yavin IV’s jungle, and she had been determined to feel comfortable in it.
At first, Luke hadn’t understood. How did one feel comfortable in a place? For Mara, that meant knowing it completely.
They had fought over that a bit, before they both reminded themselves of years before; Mara had tried to explain why she had to do things that way, and Luke hadn’t even let her get that far, just apologized.
Come to think of it, that was the first time since the divorce they had laughed together – and not been hiding from the past.
Luke opened his eyes. He wasn’t in a private place, so the students were free to interrupt this meditation, but it was Tionne who was talking to him this time. “Yes?”
“Talon Karrde was here briefly. He left before I even knew he was here, but I thought you would want to know,” Tionne said.
Luke nodded after a moment. “Thank you.”
Tionne smiled, and disappeared as silently as she had arrived. Luke looked after her for a minute. Tionne and the other students had somehow appointed themselves counselors and support personnel for both Luke and Mara, alternating between gossiping and offering advice. Leia had done her best to do the same since learning of Mara’s staying on Yavin, and even Han had gotten into the act – most reluctantly.
Still. Karrde. He had probably spoken with Mara. Luke was aware she hadn’t entirely quit her position as Karrde’s second in command, nor her trader contracts, but hadn’t commented on it. That Tionne hadn’t mentioned Mara leaving with Karrde was . . . something.
He took a deep breath.
Luke twisted around. Mara walked fully of the jungle, smiling. Little leaves were stuck in her hair, not twisted in, but as if they had gently settled there. She moved with all the grace he knew her to have – and speed. Within moments, she was up to him, and not even waiting for him to rise, she took his head between her hands and kissed him. Deeply. No gentle kiss, this.
“Hi,” she whispered.
Luke just exhaled.
“Karrde replaced his second in command,” Mara murmured, sitting beside him on the flat rock.
“Permanently?” Luke said, slightly unsure.
“What do you think?” she retorted.
Luke closed his eyes, knew her commitment, loved her, knew her, and then laughed.
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