Author's Note: This is inspired by all the feedback that goes along the lines of, "If only this had happened earlier!" and "Finally, we don't waste ten years!" This is entirely my fault, regardless. I think you readers could disagree or react differently on this one, not only on the characterization, but just about everything else. Constructive criticism by PM is welcomed.
A/N2: Thanks to Jedikma for not only beta'ing (and so quickly!), but for her great insight - and really making me think. Thanks for sharing.
Feedback is, as always and ever, appreciated and adored.
When she opened her eyes, she could see
right through their home. See beyond the corners and walls, every shadow sharp
and the daylight hard. She felt like she could walk perfectly straight, and come
from one side to the other without stopping.
She walked. Slowly, but she walked; her path was set.
It seemed both familiar and alien, like watching her life through another’s eyes. She walked out of the living room, past the couch they had once fallen asleep on, in each other’s arms. Never imagining that a year after she threatened to kill him, they would be married, and laughing at the joy of life. Sitting there, slowly realizing they had a home together, and meeting his eyes and knowing he had just realized it, too.
She slipped past the dining table, fingers lightly skimming the wood surface. It was cold to the touch, and she briefly closed her eyes, seeing the warmth of times past. Her failed attempts at cooking, his manly attempts at eating it all anyway. And telling her if they had any kids, they might want to get a cook, because he couldn’t prepare food either. She had laughed, and agreed . . .
She opened her eyes and moved on, her gaze lingering briefly on a shelf lined with holos of the two of them – each insisting this one or that one be kept up, because even though she felt it was silly having pictures of herself up in her own home, he had wanted them. And vice versa, is what it had been.
One of their few agreements.
Her hand went up to her neck, pushing her red hair out of the way, her hand feeling cold even to herself as she traced the spot, just under her jaw, where he liked to kiss her. Before they went to sleep in the same bed.
She walked past their bedroom without pausing; she could not bear to linger, knew it would be foolish. But her lean body tensed, momentarily. Where they had made love; where for the first time, Luke reached out to her, and she could not feel the warmth of his mind, because something in him was incomprehensible to her, and she hadn’t known, until then. Hadn’t known that she did not understand Jedi, yet, and he was one.
She walked out to the patio.
Beyond the patio was a great vista of plains. It was dusk, now, but even still the golden fields shone. They had chosen this place for that reason – that, and because this place had nothing of either of their pasts. The Empire hadn’t been interested in it, though it had eventually joined the New Republic anyway. Not that it mattered for the two of them, in the long run. Plans fell apart.
The patio was built of wood. A rarity for him, and even for her, in the sense that the wood was unfurnished, the patio simply built. Beautiful in its roughness. She remembered thinking that it reminded her of him.
He was sitting on the single, swinging bench. He wasn’t looking at her, but out at the sunset. The lingering rays of light turned his hair into a mellow gold, and his eyes almost gray, instead of blue. He was leaning forward, hands clasped, seemingly relaxed. But his shoulders were tense, body taut in readiness, regardless of the uselessness of anything physical in this, here, now. She understood that, at least. She felt it herself.
“Luke,” she whispered.
He didn’t respond.
She sat beside him, cautiously.
He looked at her, and she knew he was noting her sleek jumpsuit, her boots, even her lightsaber by her side. Ready to leave; on the other hand, so was he, dressed in black pants, the loose blue sweater she had given him one year.
“So I guess this is how it ends,” Luke said at last, voice rough. His face twisted briefly, but settled into something placid and unnatural once more.
“Better this, than . . . other ways,” Mara returned softly. “I don’t regret the time we had,” she added, watching him.
His lips quirked. “Better than assassinating me, I suppose,” he said with a touch of humor, heartbroken even as brief as it was.
“Yes,” Mara agreed quietly, smiling faintly.
“You think we were too different?” Luke asked. “Or just . . . too soon?”
“I don’t know,” Mara whispered, remembering their fights. He just didn’t understand that she could not trust others easily. He didn’t understand how she related with reality, and she couldn’t understand how he did. It wasn’t that she was pessimistic and he was idealistic. It wasn’t a lack of trying. They were too strong, she had sometimes thought, to yield to the other and learn and change.
He reached out to touch her face, and she shook her head.
He let his hand drop. “I just want . . .” he breathed.
“No,” Mara said. It was illogical to prolong this beyond what was necessary.
“A moment,” Luke finished, expression wry.
Mara watched him. “I don’t want to be a Jedi, Luke. I just wanted to be your wife.”
“I wanted you to be the other half of me,” Luke replied calmly. “Being a Jedi was part of that, to me.”
Mara stared at him, wondering . . . All the times they had talked, and she didn’t understand. He somehow saw something within the Force that she did not. He saw unity, and she saw a tool. She thought, again, as she had so many times before, of the time they had first kissed, that one time just after Thrawn’s death. And that single kiss had led to more, so rapidly, and they were married so quickly – and here they were, two years later. The love had not faded, but been swamped out in their confusion, and somehow they had been helpless to stop it – and it was themselves, no one could help them in this. She felt like she was reaching across a great divide when she spoke to him – when he spoke to her.
She had often wondered why Luke couldn’t simply see that the Force was not a part of her, as it had been with him. He so strongly believed it could be. That it was necessary. But that wasn’t who she was, and she gradually began to resent his insistence. She enjoyed learning from him, while they courted each other and after, but she did not give what he wanted. She didn’t surrender to the strange mysticism she saw in him, that had taken over his life.
He didn’t see her strength; he wanted to protect her, saw her as someone to be protected. No, not physically, but in every other way, and that Mara could not endure. He had tried to stop, had tried to change for her, but as he admitted to her once, she wasn’t where she should be in the Force, and so he felt the need, regardless of it’s validity – or of her opinion of it’s validity.
“I do love you,” Mara said at last. It was true – it was true in the way he laughed with her, in the way he held her when they slept, the way he kissed her so gently, the way he was constantly bemused yet patient with her fierce ways.
“Our relationship is unequal,” Luke said softly. Pain shadowed his eyes, but he smiled. “It’s time to let go, for both our sakes. I know that.”
“Better this way,” Mara said. Regardless of where he thought their relationship had gone wrong, they had disagreed where to take it. And hurt each other, in that they could not be one in that most basic, important thing. He could not see her as she was, and she could not be what he wanted. “Briefer pain, this way.”
“Always the end result,” he murmured, but with no censure in his tone.
Mara cocked her head. “Sometimes it’s the journey, not the end of it?”
He closed his eyes. “You know me well,” he said. “Sometimes,” he agreed.
“You think we could still make this marriage work?” Mara asked him, wondering if even now, while they were separated, he still thought that.
He shook his head. “Not now.” He took a deep, pained breath. “Maybe not ever.” He shook his head. “Life changes and goes in unexpected places. Just as we will.”
Mara touched her chest, over her heart, thinking how ironic it was – they always said, in tales, how they heart ached, and Mara had never known that it was true, that she could feel something inside of her was breaking like shattering glass. “We separate now, and we have to consider it forever.”
“Yes,” Luke said, dipping his head, not meeting her eyes.
Mara looked out at the setting sun and licked her lips, straightening her posture, doing anything. Anything to escape the moment. “It was over,” she said, “when I couldn’t touch your mind through the Force anymore.” Something about him was beyond her now. It hurt her, to see him, and feel him, and never know him as deeply as she once had. And he couldn’t reach out to her. They were set in their ways, unable to reach each other. Would it have been different, given time?
“A moment, you said,” Mara whispered, looking at him again.
He met her eyes. “Yes.”
She reached out, touching his rough cheek, the stubble, and then kissed him on the lips, very lightly, but warmly. She held it for a moment – just a moment – and pulled away. In the swift, quiet gesture, she felt something within her ease. Goodbye, she thought. That’s what he wanted. A moment of goodbye. And she understood, understood with complete clarity, even though it wouldn’t last, wouldn’t be so in other things.
It wasn’t enough.
Every time she was with him, and he wanted to share, there was that gap between them. And it cut her down to her soul, and she saw her pain mirrored in his eyes. But she couldn’t change, and neither could he.
“Goodbye, Luke,” she said simply. She rose to her feet, walked across the patio, her footsteps hollow, knowing she would never set step again in their house. She walked out to the plains, knowing her ship was just beyond the hill. She didn’t look back. She would not look back.
She looked back. Luke had left the patio, but stopped just beyond it, at the edge of the prairie. He wasn’t facing her, wasn’t aware of her regard. She watched him sink to the ground, face in his hands, moving like he was falling apart. She saw him shake, and knew he would never again step foot in that house, either.
Tears burned down her cheeks, the pain a match to that in her soul. But she kept walking, thinking, hoping, that one day this pain would fade, for both of them. And this affair would truly be ended.
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