Chapter Four - False Assumptions

In order to ignore the throbbing in his arm, Wedge had volunteered to take first watch and now after two standard hours in the small cockpit of the Corellian freighter, he felt bored. Watching his friend slumped over in the pilot's seat, he mused about how Corran would groan and moan over his stiff muscles once he woke up.

The wild pleasures of being a NRI agent, Wedge thought dryly and wondered how the two Jedi were faring. He and Corran had parked their craft in the lowest possible orbit that allowed them to be undetected from any devices off the planet's surface and the Corellian was counting the hours that ticked by on the ship's chrono.

"Come on," he whispered and stared out the view-port, trying to will the image of the X-Wing as it cut through the ionosphere of the planet, but, of course, it was fruitless. Sighing, he settled back in the pilot's chair and waited.

Wedge Antilles was never a man who waited gracefully, in fact, not a lot of people knew but he was short tempered. His short temper had mellowed and rounded over the years during the Rebellion and in the NR military, but deep down inside he was still the Corellian hotspur of his youth. Standing up again, he walked the short distance to Corran Horn and shook him awake.

"Corran, wake up for maker's sake," he growled and watched his friend and comrade as he slowly came awake.

"Are they here?" Corran asked, stretching out with the Force and not finding any presence of either of his Jedi friends.

"Nope, but we are going down there. I don't care if we haven't have enough defensive weapons, we find those two and get them out." Wedge said and moved towards the cockpit's controls.

Horn was still a bit sleepy headed but he was quick to move after Wedge and kept him back. "Don't be so stupid, Antilles."

"I'm not stupid, those two are down there, and we don't know if they are still alive or not," Wedge growled and tried to push Horn out of the way.

Corran sighed and rubbed his tired eyes. "Wedge, Mara and Luke are both full-fledged Jedi, do you think they would let themselves be easily killed by pirates? Come on, you are stressed out and your wound is troubling you. Don't mother them. Leia is already bad enough with Luke."

Both men looked at each other and all of a sudden they both burst into laughter. "Am I that bad?" Wedge asked after a while, wiping tears from his eyes.

"I guess you had a talk with Han before we came out here, huh?" Horn asked and Wedge nodded.

"Han is as bad as Leia if it comes to that and we Corellians have a pretty protective streak," Antilles said half-seriously.

"You telling me?" Corran shot back and laughed. "I guess if I had watched Luke dumped into a bacta tank over and again like you guys, I'd freak every time he goes on a mission. That Jedi Master is far too reckless."

"He isn't. Not when people are concerned, he always puts himself into the line of fire to protect others, he was always like that," Wedge said and rubbed his chin. "When we were attacking the first death star he sent me away after an engine failure, I was his wing man and yet he told me to abandon him. He always puts his life on the line for others and that makes us so protective of him..."

Corran wished he had known the young Luke, the young Luke who had been carefree and not hunted down by the dark side and the burden that came with being the only living Jedi Master in the galaxy.

"Well at least he has his own personal rescuer down there now," Corran said dryly and both chuckled at that. "If anyone can keep Luke out of trouble, it is Mara Jade."

"Yes, she is as protective as his own family," Wedge said and rubbed his lower lip in deep thought. "It is as if she belongs ... even when she tried to kill Luke. I guess she can keep our Jedi out of trouble."

After they had settled down into the pilots' chairs again, Corran thought about what Wedge had told him and while the minutes ticked by on the chrono, he suddenly spoke, startling them both.

"Why don't you tell me about young Luke?" he offered his friend and Wedge pursed his lips.

"What do you want to know?" Antilles asked. "There are a lot of stories, but don't tell Luke I told you, he'll kill me if you do."

Both men laughed at that and Corran shook his head. "Don't tell me Luke was a hell-raiser?"

"No, not like some of the Rogues, or Solo. Luke was ..." Wedge stopped and tried to find the right words. "He was not so different than he is now. It was just that he was more innocent and more easy-going. It was both refreshing and excruciatingly annoying but we all liked him soon enough. When he first turned up with Solo, the Princess and Chewbacca I thought he was just a kid, but one of my squad mates, Biggs, told me we should try him in the simulator," Wedge shot Corran a look that showed both respect and annoyance. "He was a natural shot and pilot, he even beat me and that is telling a lot. After Luke had destroyed the first Death Star we took him on a tour and filled him up. That was his Rogue christening and I guess we overdid it because ever since then I never saw Luke drinking more than a bottle of Corellian whiskey or ale. I guess we pretty managed to keep him off the booze."

"Which is what that christening is all about, Wedge," Corran shot in. "You did the same with me and Tycho."

"Yeah, I guess you are right. A wing-man who likes too much to drink is as deadly as the next enemy," Wedge explained before he elaborated into more tales of the Rogues and young Luke.

Mara closed her eyes in overwhelming pleasure when she felt Luke's hands travelling down her legs as he pulled her trousers and pants off. She did not know what he had in mind, so shortly after his release, but she sure was basking in his ministrations. She circled her arms around his neck when he covered her body with his own, keeping the chill off her and showered her forehead, eyebrows and nose with soft, languorous kisses. His tongue snaked over her closed eyelids, licking away the salty pearls that had gathered there. Slowly, seductively, his mouth travelled over to her ear lobe - first on her right, nibbling and licking at the very sensitive spot, while a deep arousing humming sound came deeply from his chest.

The woman shivered all over, goosebumps appearing on her skin from the sheer pleasure his tongue created in her. Mara moaned softly when Luke's hands joined his lips and tongue, and with soft, butterfly touches, barely discernible on her heated skin, he massaged her temples and neck.

In slow pleasurable torture, he moved over her body, never forgetting a spot of her heated skin that he did not worship with his tongue and hands, lingering in special places here and there. When he reached her aching breasts, Mara could feel she was close to her own release without Luke ever touching her secret core once.

She gasped when she felt his tongue swirling around the already painfully aching hard pearl of one of her breasts, arching into his touch, as her hands moved restlessly through his silky hair and over the prominent muscles of his shoulders.

"Luke!" she gasped when she felt his teeth graze her nipple, not biting hard enough to be painful but letting her ride on the right mix of pleasure-pain that let her whole body and mind soar high.

"You are ... so beautiful, Mara," Luke mumbled softly around her other nipple which he had switched to and Mara shuddered beneath his touch. Her back left the ground and the coarse padding she had been laying upon and whimpered when a surge of pleasure crashed down on her, taking her over the brink with a shuddering climax.

Luke smiled smugly, as only a male could smile who was wholly satisfied with what he was doing. Watching Mara as she writhed in her pleasure, he set his mind to give her even more pleasure. He wanted to give her as much pleasure as she could possibly take, and he knew she needed lots in order to wash away their last experience together.

Sliding lower on her, her body still shaking from her recent release, he showered her bellybutton with soft, wet kisses. His tongue danced around it then dipped gently into it, and Mara's eyes flew open and she stilled his head with her hand.

"Please ..." not sure if she wanted him to continue or for him to stop. Luke spread his hands over her wonderful breasts, kneading them slowly while his head dipped lower, beyond her sensitive belly button to his ultimate goal.

Mara did not know if she could bear anymore pleasure, her whole body was aching and writhing and basking in the sensation all at the same time. She whimpered and lay back again when she felt Luke's hands roaming over her hips, then gently down over her thighs, all the way down to her feet.

"Sith," Mara gasped when she felt his tongue dancing on her toes, teasing and tickling but at the same time applying a gentle massage to the pressure points there. Well the Jedi definitely doesn't need the Force to make me writhe in pleasure, she thought, the first coherent thought in hours or so it seemed to her. She had always thought that their physical bond was also based on the Force, but as she now discovered, that was not true. Gasping again, she dug her fists into the padding beneath her, bunching the material between her fingers as she felt a new wave advancing in her body.

She felt as if her whole body was made from Tayabo jelly as she thrashed her legs restlessly, almost shaking Skywalker off his perch, but the Jedi Master held on, watching his lover in such a state of pure, raw passion.

Nipping at the delicate skin of her inner thighs he moved higher, kneading, caressing and licking his way up to where her thighs met with her abdomen. Spreading her legs, his nostrils flared when he caught her delicate scent that was so uniquely Mara. Bending his head as if to give grace to the gods of ancient times, he dipped his tongue over her wonderful nether lips and had to steady himself on her, when her hips began to buck frantically.

"... Oh Luke, please," Mara gasped, opening herself wider, offering herself to him. He slowly, erotically began to kiss her, sucking on her little fleshy nub that was pulsating beneath his lips.

Groaning slightly when her legs came to rest on his shoulders, drawing him nearer, he kissed, licked and sucked her with all his might, enjoying the cries Mara could not retain any longer. He had to smile against her when she started to cry out his name alternating it with names of any god throughout the galaxy.

She went wild beneath his touch. Mara knew she was loosing it completely but she did not care, all she could feel was Luke lips on her secret core, relentlessly teasing her, keeping her on the brink, then pushing her over and then starting it all over again without her being able to catch her breath. She had never experienced so much pleasure before and she was certain she would die of it. She could feel her heart pounding hard against her ribs, the blood racing through her veins and with it the bolts of pure pleasure. All she could feel was Luke, as if for this special moment the Force was freely flowing between and around them. Through their natural bond even without the Force itself to draw on, they had established a powerful physical bond.

Alternating the thrusts with his tongue, drinking in her juices, he felt himself getting giddy with both her scent and taste. Slowly, he replaced his tongue with his finger, first inserting only one and when he felt Mara's velvety walls clenching down on it, a second one joined the first. Pushing himself up slightly, he watched Mara as she came in a nerve-rattling climax again.

He stilled all movement when he felt Mara clenching and unclenching on his fingers, her whole body shuddering. It took a long time, till Mara's body stilled, slowly letting her catch her breath again and when she did their eyes met. Skywalker was staring lovingly into her smiling yet teary eyes from his position between her thighs.

Mara had to use all her willpower to raise her hands to him. She wanted to feel his body all over her just as much as she wanted him inside her. Luke felt his emotions well up inside him and, quickly crawling over her, took her into his arms so as not to betray his own tears. This moment seemed to burn into his memory, searing itself into the fabric of his soul for all time. He could feel the love in her touch as her slender arms gripped him with a softness he had never felt before.

This time it was his turn to groan when Mara opened her thighs for him and soon his hips lay intimately snuggled against her secret core. Mara's hands snaked down, pushing his trousers down and off his legs with the help of her agile legs and feet. Adjusting his weight, Luke felt his member slipping effortlessly into her soft warmth. As soon as Luke felt her still clenching velvety sheath, his own passion burst, sending him again over the edge. He felt as if he tumbled when Mara held him tightly in her embrace.

When he had recovered his breath, Skywalker gently eased himself from her arms and raised his head to look into her eyes. He saw the tears of joy running down Mara's face, making her cheeks glisten softly. He bent down and gently kissed each tear away from her face, and pulled her close to him again, but this time he couldn't stop his own tears. Spent and satiated, they fell asleep in each other's arms.

The room was dimly lit ... a stately, brightly coloured room at day light but now with the heavy durasteel shutters closed, keeping out the twinkling purple of the night of the planet, the room looked drab and deep shadows swirled like living beings in the far corners.

The man pacing in front of the com console ignored the darkness, in fact his mind was far away. Far away from this outer rim planet and this office. He had waited patiently for three standard days now but now as the fourth night drew close, his patience flew out of the window just like the light of the fading sun light fled this side of the hemisphere.

All in all, his plan had worked well so far, he had to admit. He knew it had been hard to stage this little operation and it had been a difficult and tedious enterprise to lure the Jedi Knight to the Cha Raaba system, but from what his spies in the NRI had reported back to him, it had been successful, so he knew he was close, very close to his ultimate goal. Setting up the trap was easy, almost too easy and silently he congratulated himself for such a simple yet integrate plan. In order to get what he wanted he would get rid easily of the arrogant Jedi Master.

Finally, the soft beeps of the com cut through the silence of his even breathing and he immediately switched it on. Without greeting he came directly to the point.

"I heard you have asked for Velda?" he watched the three unwashed men in front of him on the holo projector. "So you captured the NR agent?"

"Yes, sir, we did," the leader of the pirates answered with hesitation in his voice. "But we ... he is not here anymore. Velda ... she turned on us..."

The man gripped the edges of the console and bent closer to the holo image, as if he could actually intimidate the three pirates. "What do you mean?"

"Well ... the woman, Velda, helped the agent escape ..."

"What do you mean, Velda helped him escape?" The man's face contorted with anger. "What did this woman look like?"

One of the pirates swallowed and avoided the angry glare of the man in front of him when he answered, "She was short, and old ... she hid her face."

"Short?" the man on the holo repeated. "Velda Dakeela is almost as tall as a Bothan and as ugly as one of them as well. You fools ... that was not Velda. That was the Jedi I told you would come for the NR agent ..." Growing angrier by the minute, the man in the darkened room was shouting now. "I knew I shouldn't let you lead the operation. Even on a Force-free planet you get fooled by Skywalker's Jedi tricks."

"Sky- Skywalker?" one of the pirates visibly blanched on the holo image. "You didn't tell us the NR agent was the Jedi Master. You ... you said it was a simple NR agent and we should sell him tot he slave traders ... if we had known ..."

"Shut up, you incompetent nerfherders! You had a simple mission and yet you screwed it up while you let Mara Jade walk into your stronghold and get the Jedi out of there. Good thing is you didn't know who the NR agent is, you'd probably would have gotten yourself killed ... though it wouldn't be too much of a loss," the man snorted.

"You had her, you stupid idiots and you let her go. I want her in your custody or you'll regret it."

"Yes, Sir, we will recapture the Jedi and this Jade woman ..." the pirate murmured but he was cut off by the man.

"I don't care about the Jedi, I want Mara Jade!" the man on the other end of the holo conversation snapped. "I really don't care how you do it, but as soon you have her, bring her to my trading post on Briem."

"Yes sir, what about the Jedi?"

"If he is with her dispose of him, otherwise leave him alone."

They had taken a rest for a couple of standard hours but both knew they soon had to break camp and make their way towards Skywalker's X-Wing. After Luke had drawn the ration kit nearer towards their make shift pallet, Luke and Mara settled into each other's arms, snuggled up together underneath the thermal blanket.

Munching on her rationbar, Mara pushed herself up on her elbows and watched Luke out of deep green eyes for a long time. Luke felt a little bit uncomfortable under such close scrutiny and he actually felt himself blushing.

"What is it, Mara?" he asked after a while, breaking the silence. He sat up and when his bare back hit the ice-cold wall behind him, he grabbed his discarded tunic and stuffed it behind his back. "Mara, please ..."

"I'm sorry, Luke," Jade quickly said and put her hand onto his stomach in a soothing gesture. She had been so mesmerised by the soft play of his muscles in his arms and stomach that she had almost overheard his question. "It is nothing, I just ..." She grinned and lowered her head, when she felt a blush rising in her cheeks. "I guess I wanted to make sure that this was real ... that you are real..."

Reaching out to brush an errant curl away from her face with the back of his hand, he grinned at her. "I'm very real, Jade."

"So I have noticed," Mara said in her usual bantering tone. Settling her back against Luke's chest, she watched as Skywalker's arms encircled her and draped the thermal blanket securely around them.

Resting his chin on her naked shoulder, he closed his eyes, drinking in the moment deeply. But he also knew that they had to talk about what had happened. Luke knew that he could not go through the same pain again that he had gone through the last three months. Mara was like a part of him, he needed her and he desperately wished that she in turn needed him.

"We have to talk ..." Luke held his breath after that and bit his lip, waiting for any reaction of the beautiful trader in his arms. He could feel her stiffening and he hugged her even closer.

"If you start again with me continuing the training, Skywalker, think again," Mara had felt Luke flinching when she had used his surname but he still held her tight. She turned around and watched the Jedi Master from over her shoulder.

"I won't go to Yavin, Luke," she added softly and the Jedi Master's eyes lit up at mentioning his name.

"I don't want to push you into training, you will resume training when you are ready," That got him a smile from Mara. "But we have to talk, Mara. We are beyond of just being friends..."

Mara pushed away and settled a few paces away from him, shivering in the cold. Deeply in thought, she brushed over the bandage on her arm that was already showing the bright stains of blood again as the wound had reopened.

"Do you always have to complicate things, Farmboy?" she asked suddenly and locked her gaze with him. "Just accept it as what it is."

"Mara, I'm not the one complicating things," Luke's voice rose as a sudden gush of anger surged through him. Only Mara had the ability to cut through his Jedi calm like a lightsaber through durasteel. "I should accept what? That I have a secret, little affair with my best friend which I have to hide every time we meet in public? I don't think so, Jade."

Mara Jade sighed and turned away. "This is the only thing I can offer you..." she whispered so softly, it was almost inaudible to Skywalker. "You know I can't give you more. As for a secret little affair, this has to stop, Luke. I..." she bit her lips and examined her fingers closely, frowning when she saw the blood of her bandage on them.

Luke watched her. She looked so forlorn that his anger quickly subsided again. Moving slowly, he drew her into his arms, making sure they were both warm, he laid back against the pallet.

"You what, Jade?" he asked softly, stroking her hair. "Tell me, love."

Mara felt as if her heart was breaking over and over again. How can he be so understanding, so loving when all I have ever done is hurting him even more? Mara asked and she knew the answer immediately. Because he loves me.

Closing her eyes, she clung to the Jedi Master, trying to keep her confusing thoughts under control as all the tension gave way to tears and she wept on his chest.

"I don't want to loose you, Farmboy," she said softly after a while, drawing in a shuddering breath. "I have seen affairs coming and going with others, in the end they were meaningless, but with us it is different. We are friends, and I don't want to loose this."

So this was it, Skywalker thought and hugged his friend closer to himself. When it came down to her feelings, I'm only a friend she respects and cherishes, but nothing more.

"I want us to be more than friends, more than partners in missions, Mara," the young Jedi Master said softly and gently stroked her face that she had raised up to him. "I know that a relationship is always difficult, for all parties involved. But why should we fail were other's were successful? Look at Leia and Han, they are friends, partners and lovers. I want us to have the same, Mara, is that so difficult to understand?"

Mara had held her breath during Luke's confession and deep down inside her soul she felt a small flame of hope and warmth kindling but she also felt unworthy of the love of this fine man. She knew she still felt unworthy of him, felt that she had failed while he had - even during his dark side time - struggled for the light, while she had been in the clutches of the Emperor almost all her entire life, mostly by choice.

Luke had the strength to fight against the dark side, to overcome it by himself while I knew that the Emperor was evil and yet I still was his Hand. He abused and used me and when he was dead I was still in his clutches ... I AM still his. Luke battled him, even in his weakest moments and yet he did not break, Mara thought and closed her eyes. Resting her head against his chest, she tried to come to terms with his love, accepting and cherishing it.

The Jedi Master was afraid. Seeing Mara in such a contemplative state was new to him. He had known that she had depths, perhaps more so than he himself, but now after his confession that he wanted more than just being friends he feared he had pushed her away from him even more.

"I'm sorry, Mara," he said softly, his left hand caressing the side of her temple and her cheek. "I shouldn't have said that. I know you want to be just friends with me and I shouldn't make more out of our being together than there really is, right?" He noticed the catch in his voice and he closed his eyes, trying to push away the anger and sadness welling up inside of him. Oh Mara, why is everything so complicated with us?

Jade knew she had to tell him something, anything and if she was honest with herself she owed him as much.

"No, Luke," she said softly. "I am the one who should be sorry. You are the kindest man I have ever met, I knew that even when I was submerged in hatred for you. And if I wasn't the person I am I'd be more than happy to take what you have to offer, but I was the Emperor's Hand..."

"Mara," Skywalker interjected and drew her up so he could look into her face. "That is behind you and together we can overcome the mind rape of the Emperor. Look at you! You are an intelligent, beautiful woman, a successful trader and you have found your place in the NR. You cannot change what you were in the past but you have changed."

"Have I?" Mara asked. "You know people always say that you are the sum of your experiences ... and look at me. I was taken away from my parents, have no recollection of who they are or if they loved me. I had always thought the Emperor is my only reason to live, and where did that lead me? I'm incapable of making friends, having relationships. Even with you ..." Mara turned away and bit her trembling lips.

"You mean too much to me as to easily risk all of this with ...with.." she made a vague gesture, encompassing them both and the cave and Luke hugged her close.

"Love?" He asked and kissed her softly on her forehead. "You just have to let go, Mara. Trust your feelings. You know that this is love."

"How should I know, Luke?" Mara's head snapped up and her hands rested against his chest. "I never had guardians who showed me comfort and love. You know how I was as a kid. The only time I felt loved was when I was with you in that cave on Tatooine. I felt save there for the first time in my miserable life," Mara's voice trailed away and Luke stared at her in open shock.

I knew her life as Emperor's Hand was hard but I never thought it was this void of all the things Aunt Beru gave and showed me, he told himself silently and then drew Mara back into his arms.

"Tell me, Mara, tell me how it was when you were a child?!" He demanded softly and to his surprise Mara did.

"The earliest recollection I have is that of me kneeling in front of the Emperor. I was five or six standard years old I think and he told me that I was to be trained by the best teachers in hand to hand combat as well as weapons. I didn't know what that meant at the time but in the years to follow I hated every moment of it. Then later I was taken on missions until I was twelve when I had to kill the first Rebel agent..."

"It was so messy, Luke, and afterwards when I was debriefed by Vader and the Emperor himself I was punished when he detected compassion for the victim," she looked up and met Luke's warm gaze. "He almost killed me then and there, you saw the welts of the Force-whip on my back. Afterwards I knew that I had to kill off all those feelings I had. The Emperor made sure to harden me ... and Vader too."

Mara shivered when she thought about this time and also about the irony that the son of the very man who had been responsible for her hardness was the one man she loved. Yes, she thought. I love Luke Skywalker.

"I wish I could have helped you, Mara. I really wish I could just wash away those memories, make it all go away," he whispered softly. "I wish my father had shown more compassion, Jade."

"And what would you have done, Luke? I barely could shield your presence when we were on Tatooine. If you had been present, you too, would have been submitted to the influence of Palpatine. I really don't want to imagine how you'd turned out if Vader had found you or if Palpatine had probed deeper to see that you were Force-sensitive," the young trader cupped his face with her hand.

"That is what draw me to you, you know. Your innocence and openness was so refreshing after the stifling deceit on Coruscant, Luke. And Vader showed compassion even though he never showed it openly. When I returned to Coruscant and Palpatine unleashed all his anger onto me, Vader brought me back to the med center afterwards. Against Palpatine's orders he eased the physical pains while he carried me there."

"He did?" Luke asked, surprised, and Mara nodded.

"You see, he was not the deadly Sith Lord everyone thought he was, there was still some of Anakin Skywalker in him that the Emperor could not reach," Mara said softly and watched as Luke's face brightened up with a small smile.

"Yeah, I guess so, Mara," Luke whispered and captured her hand. Drawing it slowly to his lips, he placed a soft kiss into her palm. "I'm glad that he did, even if he was Vader at that time. And I'm glad that you are who you are, Mara. If you had not been the Emperor's Hand, we wouldn't have met. In a way we should be grateful, Palpatine planted his last command in you ..."

Mara Jade had to smile at that. Trust Luke to see the positive side of things, she thought and leant closer. "I wish I could view the world just as positive as you do, Farmboy" she said. "You are way too positive for your own good."

"Positive, huh? Don't you mean my naivete, my genius, my ... ouch," Luke gasped when Jade's elbow connected with his ribs.

"How about your questionable bad habit of trying to save the galaxy single-handedly?" Mara asked and leant closer to tickle him.

"Okay, Jade, I get the drift," he grinned and hugged her closer. But he could not give up without one last banter. "And don't forget my penchant for certain red heads."

"Oh really?" Jade quirked and eyebrow at him. "Do I know them?"

The Jedi Master grinned and pursed his lips as if in deep thought. "Could be, there is this woman I know. She is the most aggravating woman, who can turn a certain Jedi Master into complete fits of anger with just one word, she is unselfish, cynical, cannot sustain relationships, doesn't conform and can wield a mean lightsaber, does that ring a bell?"

"Hey, I'm not cynical," Mara said and straddled his hips. She started to tickle him more seriously now and they both laughed. Luke tried to ward her hands off and captured her wrists. Both drew closer in unison and their lips met in a soft kiss. Groaning, the kiss grew deeper and they would have pursued their renewed passion if not for a noise from outside the cave drew their attention away from the happier pastime.

"What was that?" Luke asked as he held Mara close, trying to slow down his rapidly beating heart. Mara's head lay against the crook of his neck and he could feel her shaking her head. Slowly, as to make not any sound, they drew apart and grabbed their clothing.

Luke was the first to be fully dressed and armed with her thigh blaster, he crept closer to the entrance of the cave. Checking outside, he saw that the sun was slowly rising over the horizon and that one of the natural inhabitants of the planet, a lizard-like creature, had come out of his hiding spot for the night.

Waiting for any other noise to reach his ears, Luke made sure that their lingering had not brought their pursuers on their heels. When he turned he saw Jade standing behind him, already holstered up and her satchel slung around her uninjured arm.

"We have to go," Luke said and for a moment their eyes locked. They both knew that their time together was drawing close. As soon as they met up with Corran and Wedge again, their ways would part - again.

Mara handed Skywalker the satchel when he held out his hand and followed him silently into the forest. When they had reached the trees that surrounded the hiding place of the X-Wing, Mara turned back again. From afar, the opening of the cave lay in shadows and she was only barely able to notice it up on the ridge of the mountain. Somehow she felt as if a part of her was still up there in the cave together with Luke. It is strange that things seem to repeat themselves in our lives, she thought, before she turned her back to the cave and followed look into the thickening forest and the darkness beyond.

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