Author's Note: Thanks to Michele (Jedi-2B) for beta'ing. :) This was a gift for Gabri for helping me with an English paper. ;)
The Jedi Temple did not
honestly look like a temple. Certainly not in the normal, stereotypical ways one
thinks a Jedi Temple should look. Children ran across the grounds, where the
plants were quickly and vigorously winning against any attempts at gardening,
and there was little difference between the children and adults, save that the
adults were usually taller. There were a few notable exceptions, as there
Luke and Mara strolled leisurely through the Temple, the Temple actually being several buildings with swathes of healthy plant-life growing around them, connecting them. Unlike Yavin IV, this place was a nearly unknown planet, with surrounding nebulae that made it difficult for others to see in – or attack. Something important, especially after the war with the Yuuzhan Vong.
They held hands, and Luke kept rubbing his thumb over her knuckles. Luke’s eyes were half-closed, completely relaxed. It was early morning, and the mist of the night before was just starting to settle.
“See that one?” Mara asked, gesturing loosely. “Kerenth is going to take her as his Padawan, I just know it,” Mara said with breezy confidence. She looked over at Luke, watching his eyes.
Luke looked over at the young, human girl. She sat in the grass, talking to another initiate waiting to be chosen. They were plucking little bits of plants and studying them as they talked. As Luke and Mara watched, the first girl glared at the other and said something imperiously. “You think so? She’s awfully feisty for him,” Luke remarked, remembering Kerenth’s calm personality, and quickly eyed Mara, partially the one before him, and partially the one he had known years ago.
“He’ll handle it well.”
“You’re just saying that because he was your apprentice,” Luke said wisely, wincing when Mara dug her nails into his hand.
“See, he’s already got practice!” Mara said, shooting Luke a wicked smile.
Luke laughed, and they continued on the roughly pebbled pathway, past the girl. Despite it being so early in the morning, many were awake. Jedi walked from place to place, talking quietly – and sometimes loudly – and children went on their way more randomly, more energetically.
They came upon a man and woman, sitting by a huge, gnarled tree that sat nearly in the center of the Temple – each on opposite sides, naturally, facing away from each other. Arms folded.
“They had a fight yesterday,” Luke confided in Mara.
“Oh? How’d you find that out?”
“I think half the Temple heard it,” Luke replied in an amused tone.
“So they’re not speaking to each other?”
Luke shook his head. “But glaring all the time. If they were really angry, they wouldn’t do that much,” Luke said pragmatically. They were bothering to fight. “They’ll make it,” Luke said with easy confidence.
Mara squeezed Luke’s hand, fondness in her eyes. “Pretty certain?”
Luke leaned over to her quickly, kissed her forehead. “I usually am.”
She shot him an amused, patient look, knowing full well what else he was referring to. Patience, so rare in Mara, had an occasional blossom.
They kept walking, mostly keeping to the path, meandering here and there. The day was ahead of them, after all. But Luke’s eyes were on Mara. Small streaks of white – never gray – showed at her temples, running through her long hair. It had taken longer for her hair to show signs of her age than Luke, but as time went on, Mara simply grew more beautiful to Luke. As he got to know everything about her, as time matured her as it had matured him, as their bond grew deeper and closer. Aging . . . time, had its benefits, he thought, with a little smile.
Mara paused, slowing, and motioned with her chin at a young child playing the dirt. “Athena just got her younger sister,” she said softly, a new quietness in her eyes, and Luke knew she was thinking of Ben, and his little sister, Padmé. Not that either were very little, at this point, having inherited their grandfather’s height.
“Was that yesterday?” Luke murmured, thinking back. They both kept careful track of everyone – Mara catching onto the habit, which she alternatively called spying and gossiping – just generally keeping watch. Mara had once remarked that they were doing to the others what he had once done to her.
Mara nodded slightly. “Painful, of course, giving birth, but Jess was exhilarated.”
Luke smiled. “I bet Jelric is pretty happy, too.”
Mara raised an eyebrow, eyes laughing in remembrance. “I bet,” she agreed, knowing to definitely not take up that bet.
Luke shook his head, amused; he hadn’t thought she would argue, because he would definitely win that one, and she knew to pick battles, even playful ones. Their pace quickened slightly, and they continued on, different and varied thoughts drifting through their minds. Luke sensed a sort of wistfulness from Mara, but he didn’t follow the feeling to its source. Time passed, as they traveled through the tangled paths, slowly traversing their way across the Temple grounds.
“Ana is having trouble with Adam,” Mara said softly, on seeing Ana, a young Twi’lek woman, meditating by a pond.
Luke sighed in sympathy. “Most of it passes when they get older.”
Mara shook her head and muttered something under her breath. Then she looked up, and taking her hand out of Luke’s, gently traced the lines around his eyes. “I hadn’t noticed,” she said lightly, turning away before Luke could retort.
Luke smiled again, rather ruefully.
The morning was getting later. Dew had settled onto leaves and branches, and they occasionally passed under a tree that gave them a little cold shower. Mara gave a small giggle, and Luke brushed droplets out of her hair.
“Kyp thinks he might be finally retiring from the Jedi Council,” Luke offered into the peaceful quiet between them.
Mara was surprised, graceful brows rising. “Oh? Getting old, is he?” she inquired with a small snicker.
“Just think about what that makes us,” Luke returned, a glint in his eye.
Mara narrowed her focus, gazing at Luke intensely. Then she smiled. “It makes us wise, for getting out early,” she said, mischief dancing in her eyes, attempting to give a good retort, and not entirely succeeding.
“Giving us more time,” Luke replied softly, bringing her a little closer, his arm wrapped around her waist. Mara allowed it, leaned into it, and closed her eyes, dropping a gentle kiss on the curve where his neck and shoulder met. They were ready for whatever awaited, with grown children and so much behind them, but also enjoying it all, seeing all that was ahead.
The moment continued; it was odd, now, how they so easily adjusted to each other. They didn’t fight so often anymore. It had lessened gradually but steadily over the years, as they came into greater understanding of not only each other, but the Force – and life.
Still . . .
They had been through a lot in their lives. Didn’t spend as much of it together as they could have, which they both regretted. But they had taken in those experiences, and learned. Stronger for it, too. Still, some things remained, in a slightly different form, perhaps. Mara was still competitive, Luke was still idealistic – both of which could be good and bad traits, depending. Perhaps it was not that they had changed, so much as been transmuted into something new: aggression into fierce protectiveness, competitiveness into playfulness, animosity to love.
“That new Padawan can take Kyp, you know,” Luke said, watching Mara.
“Like hell, Skywalker!” Mara replied shortly, knowing better. Kyp wasn’t that old.
“Want to bet?”