The Lives of Dreaming
Author's Note: Huge thanks to Gabri for beta'ing so quickly and thoroughly. You are excellent, as always.
A/N2: This is the sequel to "Just Dreaming". There's also a sequel to this, which I suppose makes this a trilogy, except it doesn't have a trilogy feel to me. ;)
Feedback is, as always and ever, appreciated and adored.
Luke sat on the stone floor. That in itself wasn’t unusual; it was something he often did on Yavin IV when he meditated. The cold of the floor didn’t bother him; the Force warmed him, filled him, relaxed him. He always rose again feeling refreshed, and it was easy to move, no matter that hours had passed.
He wasn’t meditating, though. He sat leaned up against the wall in his room, staring blankly at the side of his bed. His arms were crossed over his shins. He leaned his head back, so his eyes focused on the ceiling instead.
That really wasn’t any better.
It didn’t matter where he looked or what he did; Callista was still gone.
Mara never meditated, but she wondered if she should take it up again. It would be useful for long trips in space like this one. Of course there were painful memories associated with learning it, but regardless of that, it might well prove useful to her.
She had really thought she would be angry, but strangely, she wasn’t.
When she and Luke agreed to separate and divorce, neither had been angry, and neither had honestly expected anger to be part of it. It was a reasoned decision, by reasonable people. Yet when Dayk sat across from her, took one of her hands in his, and told her that he no longer wanted a relationship with her because she was too closed to him, she had thought, briefly, that she should be angry.
Mara was quite aware that anger was very much a part of her, but she couldn’t seem to summon it.
Instead she just felt empty. Perhaps finding Dayk so soon after Luke had not been so much of a sign as she had thought. She and Dayk had been together for three years, and it had really seemed – to her – like it was going well. She loved him, he loved her; she was still fairly certain of that. Dayk was a smuggler, like her; practical, like her; didn’t expect a soul mate, like her.
Perhaps, she realized, that was the problem.
Of course, where did that leave Luke in the scheme of things . . . ?
It had been so stupid, she thought. She had not quite dreamed of the perfect life, but close enough; she had thought she didn’t need to change, someone out there would accept her for ‘who she was’. As if she knew in the first place. A stupid dream, an unrealistic dream.
Mara opened her eyes. The viewscreen of Karrde’s ship, so kindly loaned to her without any questions – she had met Dayk through Karrde, when Dayk joined the organization – showed Yavin IV spread out before her.
The comm beeped again. Luke sighed. The students were concerned about him, naturally enough, and had been luring him out of his rooms occasionally since Callista left. But they had never been so persistent before, always remaining respectful of his grief over Callista leaving him after a year together; it must be something important, something that wasn’t a ruse.
He rose to his feet and answered the comm. “Yes?”
“Mara Jade is in orbit, preparing to land, Master,” Kyp’s voice said.
Luke nearly dropped his comm. “Thank you for telling me,” he said with forced calm, and cut the signal.
They had spoken little since their divorce. They remained polite, even friendly, but it was painful for both of them and they avoided contact if possible. And yet Mara had clearly gone out of her way to see him here, out in the middle of nowhere. He liked the middle of nowhere these days.
He also wasn’t unaware that Mara had a fiancé, Dayk. A former military man that ended up in the criminal class with Karrde – he had had him looked him up after hearing about it. Lando hadn’t even asked why or commented in any way, before or after he investigated Dayk; he was a good friend.
Luke ducked in the fresher and took a good look at himself. He had a scruffy appearance, messed hair and he needed to shave. He sighed at himself, ran a hand through his hair, and just grabbed a cloak.
He left his rooms to meet Mara at the landing pad.
There wasn’t, he noted with amused fondness, a student in sight. They were leaving him some privacy.
Mara landed the ship with great care. She always landed with great care, of course, but she didn’t normally take quite so much time doing it, and she cursed herself. She stared at the controls, resolving her will. She had decided to do this, and she would do it. A mere moment later, she was on her feet and to the hatch.
It opened easily, and she stepped out.
Luke was there, waiting for her. He met her eyes calmly. It looked like he was growing a beard, and his hair was brushed back casually. He looked very much like a Jedi; he held himself perfectly still, but it was a stillness that was born of serenity rather than threat.
She slowly took another step, and reached the floor of the landing pad.
“Hello, Luke,” she said simply, starting with the easiest. “It’s good to see you again.”
Luke nodded. His hands came out of his sleeves, and he stepped forward and hugged her. Her arms came up around him, and they stayed that way for a moment.
Mara cleared her throat. “Leia sent a message –”
“I’m sure it can wait,” Luke interrupted.
Mara smiled faintly. Didn’t think you’d miss seeing through that. She did have a message, but it was offered after Mara mentioned she was going to visit Luke. Leia hadn’t commented, though she probably wanted to. Something acidic and hurtful, no doubt, but for her brother’s sake Leia had always accepted Mara.
“Do you want to talk?” Luke asked softly.
Mara nodded. “I do. Can we go somewhere private?”
Luke smiled, surprising Mara. “This is private – I think all the students and Knights ran for the hills. But we can go somewhere more comfortable.”
Mara laughed, just very lightly – yes, she could imagine all the students leaving. Not just running for the hills, but for Luke’s sake. They loved him dearly. “Lead on.”
Luke lead her away from the landing pad, to what just looked like jungle. After they were in a few dozen meters, though, a small clearing appeared with a simple, slightly crooked stone table and stone slabs for seats. Luke silently sat on one, and Mara sat beside him.
“How goes the Temple?” Mara asked quietly. It wasn’t what she was here to talk about, but there was no point in hurrying. And she wanted to know, from him.
“Pretty well,” Luke said with a faint smile. “Knights are taking Padawans – there are enough now. We’re finding more and more information on how the old Jedi did things. It’s interesting, and the students love helping out.”
“I’m glad,” Mara said. She paused, then decided this was as good a segue as any other. “I heard about Callista. You have my sympathies.”
Luke shot her a sharp look. “Thank you. Sympathies?”
“News travels out faster than it does in, I suppose,” Mara said, gesturing at the jungle, silently making a remark on the out of the way place. “Dayk and I separated.”
Luke lowered his head. “I’m sorry.”
Mara sighed deeply. “He broke it off, actually,” she admitted. “It was hard to open up, afterwards, and – it just didn’t work.” She laughed harshly. “I was just dreaming.”
“Dreaming isn’t bad,” Luke murmured, not looking at her.
“Isn’t it? Dreaming just ignores reality.”
“Dreams give you something to reach for,” Luke disagreed, looking up.
“But having them isn’t enough,” she said, meeting Luke’s eyes.
He didn’t look away. “No, it’s not. I think we, better than most, know that.” He blinked. “Callista knows that now as well, I suspect.”
“Is that why she left? In the same way you and I –”
“She couldn’t feel the Force,” Luke said smoothly, “but that wasn’t all of it. She wouldn’t . . . try.” He shrugged.
Did we try hard enough? she wondered, and didn’t want to know the answer.
Luke stared at his hands. “Why did you come here, Mara?”
Mara swallowed painfully. “Are you still my friend?”
Luke started and looked up, but his answer came swiftly – “Always.” He shook his head, more at himself, Mara suspected. “Always,” he repeated. “What do you need?”
Mara took a little breath, then gained control. “You always offer that so easily.”
“It’s not easy,” Luke replied frankly. “But it’s right.” He paused. So many pauses, here, so many uncertainties. “You took the first step,” he added.
“Teach me,” Mara said. “I want – I need you to teach me.”
Luke looked utterly taken aback, eyes wide with surprise. “Why? Why now?”
Mara closed her eyes. “I looked at my life and something was missing. Not just you – not even you – I’m sorry,” she said helplessly, the words not coming out right. She waved her hand in dismissal. “I ignored a vital part of myself, the Force. As well as my duty to it.” She licked her lips. “I wasn’t wrong when I told you that not all Force-sensitives are meant to be Jedi. But – I was.”
“Are you certain?” Luke asked softly. “I have to ask, I don’t mean to be . . . cruel, but are you ready to dedicate yourself to this? I know once you do, you will, but that doesn’t follow with readiness.”
Mara nodded, opening her eyes. “Yes, I’m positive.” She didn’t mind Luke’s words, as much as they – all of this – reminded them of their brief marriage. “It’s not Dayk’s leaving that made me come here, except perhaps as a catalyst,” she assured him. An understandable concern on Luke’s part.
“Okay,” Luke said, and stopped, as if not sure where to go next.
“I’ll be like any other student –” Mara began.
“You’ll never be like any other student,” Luke interrupted, a wry note in his voice.
Mara grabbed Luke’s hand, seized by impulse. “I’m sorry. It was my fault –”
“I gave up on you. I wouldn’t compromise. I wouldn’t accept you,” he whispered, slowly looking into her eyes. “It was my fault, too.”
Mara shook her head. “I’m sorry.”
Luke didn’t let go of Mara’s hand. They stayed that way for long moments, listening to the chirps and whistles of animals, the gentle rustling of leaves, and the occasional odd noise that inhabits every jungle.
“Do you think we could ever dream again?” Luke finally asked, voice so quiet Mara could barely hear him.
“I won’t give up,” Mara whispered. “If you won’t.”
Luke smiled, and Mara could see his heart breaking in his eyes.
That’s all right, Mara thought. I’ll be here when it’s renewed. She squeezed his hand, and awkwardly, came closer to him, and they embraced, each movement slow and painful. They held onto each other tightly, and when Luke began to rock back and forth, Mara didn’t object; she went with him, closing her eyes, breathing deeply through her tears.
It was too soon for anything else. But the dream lived again, and it was something to reach for – even if never achieved, for perfection is little achieved, Mara knew she would love the journey.
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