Chapter Twelve - Pain

Karrde, Horn and Antilles, with Solo and Leia standing off to the side, watched the Jedi couple through the med bay observation window. A droid had removed the tattered flightsuit from Mara's limbs and now she was covered with a white sheet that clung to her small form like a second skin. Luke was still wearing the blood stained tunic though on the black fabric the even darker blood stains were almost invisible. Leia had insisted that he get himself freshened up but with a look so void of any emotion he had just declined her offer. With seeing the agony on her brother's face at Mara's condition, Leia feared that whatever happened, she had lost Luke. She had been replaced as the most important thing in his life.

On their way back to Coruscant, the Princess was appalled to hear that again her brother had experienced another loss and she felt his pain almost as deep as if it were her own.
When she had come face to face with her twin, she was almost frightened to see how deeply he and Mara had been emerged in the Force and how deeply their love ran for each other. Cradling the unconscious and hibernating Mara to his chest, he had barely acknowledged her and when she had sent out a tendril with the Force, she had only experienced slammed down barriers but with a distinct touch of Mara woven in between.

Now she was watching the two Jedi with tears in her eyes. Part of her was sad at the distance between her twin and herself but another part was exceedingly happy that Luke had found happiness in a woman at last, even if it looked that this happiness was short-lived.

"A credit for your thoughts, Princess," Han's voice was soft and for a moment, Leia felt as if her husband's voice enwrapped her whole being and she wondered fleetingly if that was what Luke and Mara felt for each other.

Without an utterance, Leia turned and buried her face in the strong chest of Han Solo and sobbed. She remembered another time when they had waited upon Luke and his injured friend, had waited for word of Mara recuperating, but this time she felt it twice as hard to keep up hope. Now that she knew how high a price her twin had paid again to be with his lover.

"Have you asked yourself if the child had been a boy or a girl?" Leia whispered softly, and Han had to strain his ears to hear the soft words. Hugging her closer, he dipped his head against hers and brushed his lips over her ear.

"That is only for Luke and Mara to answer, Leia, my love," he whispered. "We need to help them getting over it, not putting more questions and doubts onto them with possible what ifs..."

Leia's head snapped up and for a long time her brown eyes drunk deeply from his hazel ones.

"When did I marry such a sensitive and insightful man?" she asked with a small smile. The pain that had pressed into her like a transparisteel ring around her chest, was loosening up and for the first time since they had met up with Karrde and the others, she felt a small flicker of hope.

"Since the time I happen to meet a Princess and rescued her," Han answered with a roguish smile on his lips.

It had grown dark beyond the transparisteel windows of the med center and only the monitors of the life support system gave off a faint glimmer of light. Luke Skywalker sat slumped in a chair, his hand intertwined with Mara's still life-less fingers. Ever since the OneBeeTwo droid had stabilised Mara's condition, he had joined his mind with hers again. The extensive use of the Force had tired him but sleep was not an option.

The fear of loosing Mara as well was making him irrational. He knew this but could not fend off the thoughts that if he fell asleep he would loose her forever, just like their child. Luke shook his head wearily.

If I continue thinking like that Mara will pick up on it through the Force, he thought and with his mechanical hand he rubbed his eyes wearily.

*Come on, love, you have to fight,* he sent her but the soft light that was her Force signature still hid from him in the Force.

Skywalker heard the soft thud of the door and bleary eyed he looked up. Han was standing just inside the pool of light and watched his friend with sad eyes.

"Leia and I thought you might need a caf and a rest, kid," Han said and, a cup of steaming caf in hand, came slowly over, resting a hand on his friend's shoulder after he had reached him.

The Jedi Master shook his head. "I can't, Han, she might ... I might loose her if I sleep."

Han bit down on the sharp retort he was about to issue and drew a chair over to his friend's side. Seating himself he handed over the caf and watched until Luke had taken a couple of tentative sips.

"Look, you cannot do anything right now and it won't help Mara if you wear yourself out. She needs you to be strong when she comes to, and not in a coma. You need sleep and I'm sure Mara will appreciate it as well if you are there to care for her instead of floating in a bacta tank," Han said and gently pulled Luke to his feet.

"Go on, you need sleep," he urged. Before Luke knew what was happening, Han had deftly opened the fastening of the Jedi Master's tunic and had pulled it over his head. Then he shoved him none too gently towards Mara's bed and while Luke gave him a begrudging look, nevertheless the Jedi Master removed his boots.

"Sleep!" Han ordered and tucked both Jedi in. When the Corellian was satisfied the Jedi Master would stay put, he turned out the lights and walked over to the door. Turning again, brown eyes met blue and Luke nodded in thanks.

"Anytime, Kid," came Han's gruff reply before the ex-smuggler left him alone.

Mara felt warm and safe and when her consciousness battled the last threads of sleep, she finally opened her eyes. She lay on her side, two arms securely wrapped around her midriff, protecting her and her baby.

She tiredly sent out a tendril with the Force, but the child was gone. Mara gasped and closed her eyes in pain when memories washed over her. She had lost the baby, had lost it because some mad man had thought she should be his wife. A groan escaped her lips and for a moment, Mara Jade felt the void that was left behind.

"Shhhhh," the voice was near her ear and instinctively she knew that Luke was spooning her, holding her tightly.

Mara closed her eyes and slammed her barriers shut. How can he be so understanding? it screamed inside her head and all she could feel was the pain of the loss.

Of course, Skywalker always had wished for a little family of his own and while the loss of the child had been a hard blow to him, he still knew that if he had also lost Mara, he would have never gotten over the despair. She was his guiding light and he doubted he could ever raise a child without her.

"Shhhhh, love, it is alright," Skywalker whispered again, carefully drawing her nearer towards his chest. "We will get through this together."

"How?" Mara spat out the words, the lump in her throat almost choking her. "How can you still ..." she drew in a shuddering breath. "I lost the child ... our child ..."

Luke felt her withdrawing both physically and mentally but he would have none of it. He knew that moving was painful to her and he held on to her both through the Force and physically.

"We lost the child," he emphasised and put a soft kiss onto her cheek. "But first we have to get you back on your feet again."

Mara shook her head silently and turned away. Drawing in a shuddering breath, she prepared herself for what she was about to do.

"Go away, Skywalker," she whispered, shrugging off his comforting hands. "Go away, and just don't come back! It was a mistake and we pay for it. I pay for it!"

Luke watched her dumbfounded then sat up.

"What do you mean?" He croaked out.

Jade squeezed her eyes shut, trying to remain calm when all she wanted to do was to rave and rant. She had never thought she would feel so strongly about a baby that by all means would have changed her life completely.

"It was a mistake, Jedi. This whole thing. We are not made for each other, the Force showed this in more than a hinting way. So now, Skywalker, get yourself up off my bed and the hell out of here. Go find yourself another more fitting woman, someone who is wife and mother material. I'm neither."

"What are you talking about?" Luke asked and tried to turn Mara around to face him. "One of the reasons we are together is the Force, we've bonded ever since Tatooine ... I don't understand ..."

"Don't be so mentally obese, Jedi!" Mara growled and despite her physical pain she whirled around, heeding the need to make her mental pain vocal. "The Force doesn't want us together, otherwise it wouldn't have let the child be killed. I'm not the right mother to your child nor, gods forbid, the wife of a Jedi Master. I never thought that having a child could be fulfilling. I know who I am and what I have done in the past, this is my way to pay for it. You can't imagine how much it hurts, you are not me, you never have met the child for more than a few minutes. I knew him! Now go, leave me alone."

Skywalker stared at her in disbelief, part of him wanted to believe her. The very part that grieved for the child he had only known briefly through the Force, but the part of him that had gently let go of his child, had eased the pain of loosing him, was riling him up.

Grabbing her by her arms, he came almost short of shaking some sense into her.

"You are not the only one hurting, Mara!" He spat out and took a deep breath. "I hurt too. You know how much I long for a family but if I have to choose between a child without a mother and you, it will always be you, do you understand??"

In the brief pause, all Mara could do was stare at her lover open-mouthed. She had never felt this mixture of fear and happiness with overwhelming grief in the Jedi Master before.

"I hurt, too. I wanted the child as much as you do and I thank the Force that we could at least know him for such a brief while. But if you think you can leave me alone in my grief, you can think again. We are in this together and I make you understand that nothing we did or did not do has anything to do with us loosing our child!"

Luke took a deep breath and tried to choke down on the tears that threatened to well up inside of him.

How dare she think she can monopolise the mourning for the child? he asked himself angrily, but deep down he knew that this was a way for Mara to deal with the loss of their child, but he wanted to be a part of it, he needed to be a part of it.

"Don't you ever tell me, that I don't know how much you hurt. I know and even if I haven't felt him stirring inside myself, I had a connection with him too. He was my child as well ..." Now he couldn't stop the tears from streaming down his face and letting go of Mara's arms, he turned away and hid his face behind his hands.

"I wanted ... him, Mara ..." he whispered. "Just as much as I want you in my life ..."

Mara Jade watched and for a moment it seemed as if she too would start to cry, but she angrily wiped the tears away with a shivering hand. She tried to stay furious tried to stay angry with him to have gotten her into such a situation.

If it hadn't been for him I would never have gotten pregnant in the first place, the small angry voice in the back of her mind whispered.

She just could not make herself forgive him, nor herself.

The next couple of days were strenuous for all of them. Mara who was recovering physically with all possible speed removed herself mentally and no one could jerk her out of her self-confinement.

Luke Skywalker sat near her on the other side of the room. Only a few minutes ago they had quarrelled again, Mara spitting venom and telling him for the umpteenth time that he should leave her.

Four days, he thought as he watched Mara's rigid back as she sat in a comfortable chair facing the window. Four days, and she's still walling me off. Closing his eyes he probed her gently, just brushing her mind to see if she had cooled off or if she saw reason.

They were both raw with pain and Luke knew that without a breakthrough their fragile relationship would not survive the ordeal. Sighing he opened his eyes, appalled by the strength of Mara's barriers. Where he had been able to pickup on her thoughts so easily in the past, now the walls around her mind were so strong, even if he wanted to he would not be able to penetrate them easily.

Talon Karrde was staring through the small transparisteel window and watched the two Jedi silently. He had come with the determination to drag Mara Jade out of her self-imposed pity party but he had not counted on two moping around Jedi.

The Master trader looked up when he noticed someone stepping up beside him.

"How are they doing?" Han Solo asked.

"Same as before," Talon almost growled, frustration evident in his voice. "There must be a way to make them see reason. They are as stubborn as Banthas."

"Perhaps if we butt their heads together?" Han suggested and both men, after exchanging a look, chuckled softly.

"You know that isn't such a bad idea, let's keep that in mind if words don't help." Resting his hand against the door controls, Talon threw Solo another look. "Ready to face the Rancors?"

"After you, Karrde!"

Sitting back in his chair Luke resumed watching Mara. The longing and pain evident in his eyes, he no longer bothered to hide it from her or from the others. The door opened with a soft whoosh, and without bothering to look he knew that Talon and Han had entered.

With a nod he acknowledged the visitors but resumed his staring.

"Hello Mara, Luke," Talon said as he walked over to the window, placing himself beside Mara's chair and staring out of the window.

"What do you want, Karrde?" Mara growled, not taking her eyes off the stream of speeders that were trafficking beyond the window.

"Just musing over Coruscant traffic, Jade. Or do you really think I'm here to talk sense into you and that Jedi boy over there?"

Mara's head jerked up and green eyes sparkling with cold fire bored into Talon's steady gaze.

"Just take Jedi boy and leave, Karrde," Mara snapped and resumed her staring.

"Now, don't you think it is impolite to talk about someone who is present in this room as if he wasn't here?" Talon admonished softly, although his whole demeanour was that of someone who didn't have a care in the whole galaxy, he was tense. One wrong word and only the Emperor knew what would happen if Mara blew up.

"Hey, Luke, don't you think it is impolite of Jade here?" he yelled over to where Han and Luke were sitting. He caught Han's weary eye, but he winked at him. "Hey, Luke, one would think after all she has been through the great Mara Jade would be a bit more appreciative about her friends risking their necks getting her out of .... OOFFFF!"

Talon Karrde landed with a loud thud on the floor. Mara was standing over him and shook out one of her fists while her other hand clutched the still healing scar of the operation.

"MARA!" Luke and Han cried out in unison.

"What?" Mara spat back and whirled around. "Do you want a go, Solo? Or you Skywalker?" she challenged and when both men shook their heads, she leant against the back of the chair, breathing out in shallow pants. "I thought so, now get out of my room."

She squeezed her eyes shut, and when she felt Luke's inquisitive brush on her mind she slammed her barriers shut. Pain still surged through her but it wasn't so much physical pain. It was true she still felt shaky and she had not regained her normal physical state, but what pained her more was the mental pain. She had thought that she was not mother material, had even told Skywalker so but deep down it felt as if something was missing. The short time she had been aware of the little child growing inside of her, she had grown accustomed and protective of it and now it felt as if she was missing a whole part of her persona. The was not whole anymore, perhaps had never been.

Ignoring the thud of the door she drew in a shaky breath, suppressing the tears that threatened to spill forth, but she could not hold them back any longer. Painful sobs raked her body as she slumped against the chair on her knees.

Gentle hands caressed her back and her arms, soothing her pain as Mara Jade let go of her pain and sobbed.

"Ssshhhhh, Mara, it's alright. Let it all out," Luke's voice was near her ear, unshed tears evident in his own voice as well. Skywalker held the woman tightly in his arms while she wept.

After a while, the woman in his arms grew still and Luke stiffened momentarily when he felt her change of breathing. He had desperately willed this break down to happen but now he was not so sure if they could resurrect their friendship, their relationship ... their love.

Luke looked down when Mara stirred in his arms and a gentle hand brushed back the sweaty strands away from her face. Green eyes still bright with tears met with blue ones and for a moment they just stared at each other.

"Why are you doing this?" Mara asked gently, her voice raw from the crying.

"Because we are in this together, Mara," Luke answered, not sure if he should tell her about his love, this impossible, all encompassing love he felt for her.

"How can you still ..." Jade broke off and with trembling lips she looked away. She knew this talk was inevitable, and she knew Luke had been waiting for long painful days for this to happen but she was not sure, if she could face this. She still felt too hurt, too cheated out of something she had only unwillingly accepted in the first place.

"How can I still be here? With you?" Luke helped her and raised her face towards him softly with a hand beneath her chin. Blue eyes, dark with love, care and sorrow, searched her face. When she nodded, he continued.

"Because I love you, Mara Jade. I hurt too, I wanted this child, I loved it as much as I love you because it was a part of you ... and me. I don't want you to eat yourself up. If you are angry, then be angry at me for not taking care of you as I should have ..."

Mara almost gaped at him. He is taking the blame for me getting hurt or does he regret getting me pregnant? she thought and immediately felt the answer as his mind touched hers.

"You are not to blame, Luke," Mara answered softly, unconsciously her fingers searched and found the spot on her left arm where the suppress med device had been. "How could you know what the device was. We were both careless ..."

"But I should have protected you, Mara. I'm sorry I had been so careless and caused you so much pain. I know it must have been a shock to find out you were pregnant..." He searched her face, not daring to probe her with the Force.

"I ... was ...," Mara acknowledged softly, leaning her head against his chest. "I was frightened and angry and I thought I'd kill you once I could get hold of you ... but then ..." she bit her lower lip and looked up. "All I wanted to do was kill the Emperor over and over again. He did this to me, if he hadn't told me I was infertile I wouldn't be so careless and then ... then there was the child ..." Her voice broke and she looked away.

"I had a vision of our child in transit back to Coruscant, when we returned from Cha Niem," Luke confided slowly. "She was beautiful ..."

Mara's head jerked up and for long moments they gazed at each other.

"But it wasn't a girl," Mara blurted out. "I knew it was male, even if it was too early to determine the gender by any medical means."

"I know, I felt him too. That's why I was so surprised to feel a boy, after the vision with the girl ..." Luke croaked out and for a moment squeezed his eyes shut.

*The future is always in motion, young Skywalker,* Yoda's voice was so strong that both were jolted out of their reverie.

"Did you just hear that?" Mara asked and when Luke nodded, she cuddled deeper into his arms. "Yoda knows more than we do ..."

"The Force knows more than we do," Luke chided her softly and hugged her close. "I wish I could have known our son better, Mara, I really wish I do."

Our son, Mara thought. It was so easy and yet so complicated. But if she was honest with herself she had to admit that she liked the way it sounded, liked the way it implied more than she had ever thought possible for her life.

They fell silent both afraid of the words that had to be spoken out loud. After a while Luke shifted uncomfortably his legs, they had both forgotten that they were still half squatting, half lying on the cold floor of the med center room and when Mara picked up on his discomfort, she shakily got up to her feet.

Skywalker looked up at her, unsure if he should stay or if Mara wanted him gone and a surge of relief coursed through him, when she extended a trembling hand towards him. He drew himself up on his knees and followed her to the bed, sitting down beside her.

Mara watched silently, opening herself up to the grief that she and Luke both felt and she understood that his mourning for their child just ran as deeply as her own. She had been selfish to think only she knew how much it hurt to loose the child. Even though Luke had not bore the child for the last month, he had already established a deep connection with him and he felt the void in the Force just as deeply as she did.

Moving cautiously, she snaked an arm around his shoulders, drawing him towards her and as if by a silent accord, they lay back, hugging and sobbing at the same time. Both drawing and giving comfort in the long night of mourning for a child that they would never really know in flesh but had been so deeply connected to already, that anything else waned in comparison.

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13