Practical and Pragmatic
A/N: Many, many thanks to Jedi-2B, aka Michelle , for beta'ing. Thank you! You were so nice to take on three of my viggies at once.
I’ve always considered myself a practical sort of person. And, I believe, with just cause. I joined the Rebellion when I was eighteen; I was on the Death Star run with Luke Skywalker. You learn a lot about practicality in death and dying. War, naturally, is composed of little else.
Because of that, I always rather thought that Mara Jade was a practical person. Pragmatic. I haven’t had many dealings with her, but I’ve heard about her and even seen her in action once or twice.
That opinion was drastically altered the other day.
I was working on my X-Wing. Since finally taking the promotion to General, I don’t get much time to fly, and whenever I do have time – that’s what I’m doing. At least, when Iella isn’t around, which she wasn’t then, though she would be in a few hours. Iella is definitely better than flying. But I had nothing to do – besides paperwork, which I was avoiding – so there I was. My X-Wing was grounded for repairs, and I liked working on her myself. A pilot should always know his ship. It’s something I believe, and something I always tried to instill in the pilots under my command. Every edge counts.
Anyway, that meant I was in the hangar bay for a few hours. Some time into my stay, Jade stalks in. I don’t mean she walked; she stalked, like she was planning on hunting something down. Judging from the distracted fury on her face, I guessed the object she was stalking wasn’t present, and I decided making sure she didn’t change her mind about her target was a good idea. I’m not ashamed to admit it: I hid behind my X-Wing, out of sight. And watched her out of the corner of my eye as I worked.
She didn’t enter her ship. She walked back and forth in front of it, muttering to herself. Sometimes she would pause, wait, and then she would start off again, like she was talking to someone who wasn’t there. The black jumpsuit she was wearing apparently matched her mood.
“Damn that Skywalker,” she said, finally loud enough for me to hear.
It wasn’t hard to guess which Skywalker she was referring to. Couldn’t be Leia, and that only leaves one.
“Who the hell does he think he is?” she fumed, starting to pace again.
Their fights were becoming legendary – both for scale and regularity. There was a betting pool on who would kick the other’s butt first; Jade was winning. I wonder what it was over this time: her being a Jedi, the Republic, life in general . . . Jade didn’t strike me as someone hard to make angry.
“I’m not going to the stupid Academy of yours, Skywalker,” she snarled, speaking to the air.
Ah. So it was that, this time.
She suddenly spun, tensing, getting into a subtle ready position. Her right arm was tilted oddly, hand curved slightly under. “Who’s there?” she demanded.
I sighed and looked around. I was the only other person in the hangar, that I could tell.
“It’s just me,” I said, stepping out.
Her green eyes narrowed. “Antilles?” Her arm relaxed, and she shifted slightly out of the ready position.
I gestured at my X-Wing. “Doing some maintenance,” I said casually.
She still looked wary. She folded her arms. “I don’t normally talk to myself,” she said sharply, eyeing me carefully.
“I’m sure,” I said conciliatorily. “If you don’t mind . . .” I waved my spanner.
She frowned and said nothing.
I deliberately turned away, and tried to appear busy.
I heard her walk up to me, and then lean against the side of my X-Wing, watching me. “You know Skywalker pretty well, don’t you?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said warily.
“Is he always so stubborn?” she demanded.
“Only when he thinks he’s right,” I replied dryly.
For a second, I thought I saw a flicker of a smile – then, “Which is most of the time,” she said, more of a statement than a question.
I sighed. I have never pretended to understand the Jedi; Luke changed a lot when he became one, and while a lot of my old friend remains, I know there are things about him I just can’t understand anymore. Things he sees and I can’t. The thought doesn’t bother me; Luke has his burdens, and I have mine. “I really don’t know much about the Jedi . . .”
“Forget the Jedi, then,” Jade said shortly. “What about – just Luke?”
“What about him?” I asked, wondering if I was wandering into a Sarlacc pit.
Jade almost bit her lip. “Does he – I mean . . .” she began awkwardly. “It’s all he can talk about,” she finally said, watching me. Maybe not so pragmatic and unfeeling after all, from those words, that tone.
I had a sudden suspicion that I was getting into a . . . relationship . . . issue. “Luke is pretty driven,” I said diplomatically.
She snorted. “He’s idealistic.”
I didn’t see what one had to do with the other, per se, but I nodded anyway.
“He thinks if he just tries hard enough, everything will work out like he wants. He thinks I’ll just get some blinding flash of insight one day and tell him, ‘Oh, yes, please take me away to your Academy so I can dedicate my life to total strangers!’ Damn arrogant man,” she ranted. I’d seen Jade angry, but never quite so – irrationally infuriated. “What the hell is wrong with him? Why the hell does he think he has to be right? How does he know I’m meant to be a Jedi?”
“Maybe he just cares,” I offered.
Full-stop. She looked at me, lips slightly parted, eyes wide. She shut her mouth. “Why do you say that?”
“Uh, well . . .” I scrambled. “Most of the time, Luke’s a very accepting person. I know he said to me once that not every Force-sensitive is meant to be a Jedi – like Gaeriel. Why is it that he’s so persistent with you?” There. Maybe that’ll make her think and leave me alone in the process. I’d heard the rumors: Luke and Jade bickered like a married couple. And everyone knows not to get in between a fighting married couple, married or not.
Jade looked taken aback. “Maybe he’s just a stupid farmboy,” she muttered, not very convincingly.
“Maybe,” I said agreeably. Not so practical after all, getting so emotional over . . . I didn’t want to know what.
She frowned again, studying me closely. I fiddled with my spanner busily.
“Mara?” Luke’s voice echoed, coming from nowhere. Both Jade and I jumped, and I saw her get into that ready position again before relaxing. She gave me a cool nod, and stepped away from my ship.
“Yes?” she said, tone frigid, looking at Luke as he walked deeper into the hanger. She walked slowly up to him, casually, as he focused on her. In his typical black, blue eyes intense. Yes, I was definitely getting a suspicion about those two. I wondered if that betting pool would ever get resolved.
I stayed out of sight.
Everyone knows, after all, not to get in between a couple fighting. Iella and I had some knockdown, drag-out ones early on, and I knew those kinds of fights could be messy. And I had a lingering suspicion that’s more of what Luke and Jade’s were.
I’m a practical, pragmatic sort of person. Smart, too.
I went home to wait for Iella.