Chapter Five - Visions and Dreams

It had taken them five standard hours until they had reached Luke's X-Wing. Both were tired and sweaty as they had to backtrack a couple of times while hiding from the pirates who had picked up their trail. Twice they had been forced to climb up the mountain again when the pirates had been too close on their trail and both Jedi were tired and fed up with the hunt.

Mara had been all too glad to climb into the X-Wing, making herself comfortable in the small space behind Luke's seat after they had removed the webbing from the craft. She had watched tiredly as Luke had climbed into the seat and checked the displays in front of him. Soon they were space bound and had reached the Corellian freighter in little under a standard hour.

Wedge and Corran stood a little to the side and waited as the X-Wing landed with a thud on the hard durasteel plates of the hangar floor. As soon as the engines had powered down Horn walked over and tied down the craft. The canopy of the X-Wing opened with a hiss and both Rogues were relieved when the Jedi exited.

Soon all four found themselves in the small mess hall of the freighter and after Luke had eaten his fair share of ration meals, which elicited some teasing from his friends, the Jedi Master and his companion relayed what had happened on the planet.

"You can imagine when Velda all of a sudden turned out to be Mara," Luke said and chuckled when he remembered the scene. "I thought I'd die of a heart attack."

Mara grinned at that. "Sure, Jedi, you stood to attention as well," she deliberately used the ambiguous meaning and laughed when Luke blushed.

"Jade ..." he protested lamely, while Wedge thumped his shoulder.

"Way to go, Skywalker," Antilles teased and winked at Mara who raised an eyebrow.

"Antilles, you have a very dirty imagination. Skywalker here thought he was sold off, so he was on his best behaviour," she snickered and Luke glared at her.

"Thanks a lot, Jade," he shot back and chuckled. "But yeah, I was on my best behaviour when Velda inspected me."

After they had given their friends a diluted version of what had happened on planet, the events of the past days slowly caught up with all four of them and after a while the conversation died down and Mara Jade rose to her feet.

"I better turn in," she said and when she rolled her shoulders two loud popping sounds could be heard. "But first, I will put you and Iella to the test," she grinned at Wedge as he looked at her dumb-founded. "The dye, Antilles. If you lied to me, your rest will be imminent and eternal," she mocked him and Corran and Wedge laughed while Luke looked totally lost.

"Jade, Iella said the dye is water soluble and I took her word for it," Wedge said slowly, a little doubt creeping up in the back of his mind.

"Well, I hope you are right," Mara retorted and turned on her heels. All three men watched her as she walked down the corridor to one of the three small cabins that brought up the crew quarters.

"Any famous last words, Wedge?" Corran asked after the sound of water running could be heard from the refresher and Wedge shot him an annoyed look.

"It's not funny, Horn!" Antilles said and Luke and Corran grinned.

"Fitting words, Wedge," Luke shot out but he kept his Force senses on the woman in the fresher across the corridor.

*Is the dye coming off, Jade?* he asked her through the Force and for a moment he could feel the hesitation coming from the woman.

*Well, you can tell that friend of yours he will live ... for a little while longer,* Jade snarled back and Luke had to grin at that. He took another sip of the caf they had all been drinking and after making sure the cup was empty, returned it to the small cooking unit in the mess hall.

Leaning back against the counter, he watched his friends conversing softly. A sense of calm and also gratefulness washed over Luke as he watched them and he felt lucky to have such good friends. Corran must have picked up on his thoughts as he raised his head and gave Luke a wink while he listened to Wedge talking.

The Jedi grinned back and turned his head in time when he heard the soft thud of a door closing shut in the corridor.

Mara Jade walked in softly, her hair a glorious halo of half dried curls of liquid gold and red around her head and down her shoulders. When Wedge noticed her, he smiled.

"I told you it was water soluble," he offered her with a cocky grin and Mara had to laugh at the smug expression but also at the wave of relief coming from him.

"So Iella won't be a widow after all ... I think I would have made her very happy though," Jade knew the retort was sharper than she had intended but she could not help herself. She still felt fidgety and tensed up after all that had happened and she suspected that she had a slight case of after-mission jitters. Or Luke jitters, she added silently.

"Yeah, Wedge, Iella would make a very happy widow," Corran teased. "Even now she has to ward off all those suitors .."

Wedge sat up straight and shot Corran an angry glance. "What suitors??"

"Well," Corran drawled and leant back in his chair. "There is Wes, and Hobbie ..." He shot Mara and Luke a glance that clearly said: 'Play along'.

"And Tycho was smitten with Iella," Mara added, hiding a smile when Wedge looked at her as if she had just grown a second head.

"And don't forget Lando," Luke added and exhaled loudly when Mara's elbow connected with his ribs. *Thanks Jade* he sent her through the Force.

*You are welcome, Jedi. That is only a small price to pay after mentioning his name in my presence.*

*Sorry, Mara, I didn't think,* Luke said apologetically and for a short moment their gazes met before they turned their attention back to Wedge who was looking as if he had the first signs of a stroke.

"Not Lando," Wedge groaned and the others burst out loudly. "I guess I will have a serious discussion with my wife. Iella can have all the Rogues but not that one," he said though he had a hard time to hide his grin.

"Oh that you should, friend, that you should," Corran laughed out loud which elicited another sour look from Wedge.

"By the way, CorSec, how is your father-in-law, Booster?" Mara asked sweetly and it was now Wedge's turn to laugh at the sour expression of his friend and comrade.

"Mara, you are killing me," Corran said and put one of his hands dramatically onto his chest.

"So you are still not on speaking terms with Terrik?" Luke asked and hid a yawn behind his hand.

"Well, every time I try to speak to him his eyes shoot blaster bolts my direction. I think the only reason I'm not dead is Mirax. She keeps Booster at bay," Corran chuckled at that. "He let me know in not so many words that if I ever hurt Mirax in any way, I'll pay dearly, and I believe him."

"Sounds much like Booster, alright," Mara commented. "You better heed his warning, Horn."

Corran threw her a look and nodded shortly. "I guess that this is my cue to turn in," he stood up and after bidding every one a good night, he disappeared down the corridor to the cabin he shared with Wedge since they had two additional guests on board now.

The remaining three occupants of the mess hall lapsed into silence and all could feel the tiredness seeping through their bones and Wedge shifted uncomfortably in his seat when his arm began to throb again.

"I guess I'll go back to the cockpit so I can take first watch," he said and pulled himself to his feet. Mara grabbed his uninjured arm when he swayed.

"You better turn in as well, Antilles. And no more wild dashes till we reach a med center on Coruscant, is that clear?" she growled but the underlying care in her voice was evident.

Wedge was tempted to reply with a snippy 'yes, mother', but he cut down on the banter when he saw the fire in the deep emerald eyes of the Trader.

"Yes, Wedge, go on and get some sleep. I'll keep first watch and then wake up Corran," Luke joined in and ignored the flash of annoyance coming from Mara.

Jade sighed and shook her head. "No, you two get some sleep and I will wake up Corran. Now go, both of you," she demanded and shoved both men gently down the corridor.

They had reached the cabin, and Wedge bid them goodnight while Luke shot Mara a glance.

*Are you sure?* He asked her as he felt her tension. Sending her all the love and affection he felt for her through their bond, he smiled when he felt her opening up to his emotions.

*Would I offer it if I weren't?* Mara shot back but brushed his mind with chuckle. *And I think you would appreciate sleeping on a bunk than the cold floor or a chair in the cockpit.*

They stood facing each other for long moments, just revelling in the presence of each other. Luke raised his hand to her cheek, stroking the soft skin beneath his fingertips and for a moment he felt her own fatigue.

"Thank you, Mara," he said softly and both smiled at that.

"You know I will always be there when you need me, now go on. You need the sleep as well as the others. I'll be fine," Mara Jade replied and cupped his hand with her own. Raising her head slightly, she brushed her lips over his, still feeling surprised that she had accepted his love for her so easily.

Now with their Force bond securely in place again, she could feel Luke's own emotions and how he liked her kiss, and she felt how he longed to deepen it but that he was aware that they weren't alone. She chuckled softly, when she sensed Luke's struggle to draw back, and after another chaste kiss, she stepped away from him.

*You need to sleep, Farmboy. When my watch is over I'll join you,* Luke heard Mara's voice through their bond and for a moment Luke was thrown off.

*I would like that, Jade,* he replied and felt a mental nudge in his ribs. "What?" he asked loudly.

*We will sleep, Jedi. There are just too many Force sensitives on this ship*, Mara snapped back and tried to shove him through the open door behind his back. They both chuckled as they wrestled playfully and both did not notice the door opening across the corridor and Corran stepping out.

Horn grinned when he saw the two Jedi in such playful mood and had just decided to retreat into the cabin he had been coming from when Luke noticed him.

"Sorry, did we wake you up?" Skywalker asked and straightened visibly.

"No, I just need some ear plugs, Wedge is sawing down the great forests of Corellia ..." Corran replied and turned towards the medikit where also medical ear plugs were located. When Horn returned he saw Mara just turning into the cockpit and Luke staring after her.

"She is one fine lady," Corran commented and chuckled when he saw the blush creeping up in Luke's cheeks.

"Yeah I guess so," Luke murmured and tried desperately to control his blushes.

"You guess? And here I thought you knew that already," Horn replied and nudged Luke in his ribs. Both men laughed softly and Luke shook his head.

"Doesn't take a Force-sensitive to notice that, huh?" Luke asked sheepishly and brushed his hand over his neck. Both men laughed again and bid each other a good night.

Before Corran opened the door to his cabin and Wedge's snoring, he turned back and couldn't suppress a last banter.

"Sweet dreams, Luke. And remember, the bunks in there are really small so you have to use some of your Jedi inventiveness to make do."

"Oh great, thanks, Horn!" Skywalker shot back.

After Skywalker had his turn in the refresher, smiling at the two bottles of cleanser Mara had left there for him, he walked back into the small sleeping cabin, rubbing his hair with a towel before tossing it into the hamper.

When Mara and he had arrived Luke had taken his small flight bag from the X-Wing and now he dumped it upside down and rummaged through its contents. To his relief he found his sleeping pants and put them on before he returned the other items to his bag again.

*Feeling bashful, Farmboy?* he felt Mara's teasing voice in his mind and he chuckled.

*I don't think it is such a good idea to sleep in the nude, Jade. After all, we are not alone,* he sent her back.

*Do you sleep in the nude, Farmboy?* Mara asked back, all of a sudden realising that although she had shared his apartment, she did not know anything about his sleeping habits.

*What if I were?* Luke teased back, flashing her a short image of him in bed.

He felt her chuckle and he softly caressed her mind with love and affection. *I got a taste of how nice it is to sleep in the nude, when I spent a night and a day in a cave with a red head, Jade.*

*Oh now I'm to blame for the Jedi Master's sleeping habits?* Mara answered and shook her head. *Go to bed, Jedi.*

*Only if you promise to join me later,* Luke retorted and felt her mental ribbing.

*Go to bed.* He felt her say then she cut the connection and he sighed. Climbing onto the small bunk, he sat cross-legged on it. Breathing evenly, he slowly let himself emerge in the Force and the meditation washed away any aches and worries he still had from the past mission.

He relived some of the events - his capture, Mara posing as Velda - and he had to admit that she had even fooled him. Slowly, he worked his mind to end the meditation when the first flashes of a Force vision penetrated his mind and consciousness.

Memories of their time in the cave came back to his mind, the lovemaking, their kisses and gentle explorations of their bodies. Luke wondered fleetingly why the Force showed him these when the vision shifted and brought him back to the moment he had removed the tracking device and for that instant he knew that it was not what both he and Mara had assumed it was. Again, the images before his mind's eye shifted and he found himself back on Yavin. Frowning, he looked around, tried to make hand and foot out of the vision he was experiencing when he felt a small hand tugging at his own and he looked down into deep blue eyes in a small face framed with wild red curls.

His dream self squatted down in front of the girl, laughed and spoke to her, though the Force did not give him any indication what about. A wave of feeling, love, affection and a sense of belonging washed over Skywalker as he took in the sight of the girl.

The future is ever in motion, he heard the words of his old master Yoda clearly in his head but for the moment he did not want to think about the future. All he could see was the little girl, her features a perfect blend of blue eyes and red hair, showing clearly her parentage and deep in his heart, Luke knew that this little girl was his and Mara's.

Understanding washed over him as the vision faded at last and for long moments, the Jedi Master just sat there, staring at an unseen point on the wall opposite him before he reached out with his senses and sought out Mara. The vision had shown him something and he had to make sure, had to know if the Force vision just wanted to tell him something about his future with Mara or if the future was already in motion.

For a moment he basked in Mara's presence then he retreated as quickly as he had sought her out. No use to probe her without her knowing, he thought and closing his eyes, Skywalker exhaled softly. For a moment he was overwhelmed with the newly acquired knowledge and he was sure that he could not sleep after what the Force had shown him but soon his breathing grew even and before he knew what happened, he snuggled up beneath the covers and fell into a deep, soothing sleep.

Three standard hours later Mara entered the cabin and found the Jedi Master deep in slumber. The woman smiled and after she had undressed herself, sat down beside him. Watching his sleeping face, she was amazed how young he looked and she had to admit that she should have known that he was her farmboy because when asleep he looked much like the young boy she had met over fifteen years ago.

Brushing away the bangs that had fallen into his face, she leant over and put a soft kiss onto his cheek, still afraid about the depth of emotion she felt for this man. She paused for a moment when he stirred, mumbling something that sounded much like her name.

"I'm here," she whispered softly and moved to stand up to go over to the small bunk on the other side of the cabin but the sleeping Jedi swarted her effort by encircling his arms around her waist.

"Mara," Luke murmured again and scooted off to the wall while his arms held unto her. Sighing softly, Mara slid in beside him and after she had laid her head onto his shoulder, her eyes drooped shut and soon only their even breathing was heard.

Talon Karrde threw the data pad onto his bunk and rubbed his eyes tiredly. For three months now he had to deal with all the little business details that Mara Jade had taken care off even as she had built up her own business now.

Time for you to come home, Jade, Talon thought and groaned when another data chip with calculations appeared out of the blue on his desk. He stood up to retrieve the data pad from the bunk when his comm link started beeping. Slipping onto the seat before it, he opened the channel and frowned when he noticed it was audio only.

"Karrde," he said and he was greeted by a soft, mellow voice of a man.

"Mr. Karrde, I'm calling to inquire into a shipment you and your business partner Mara Jade promised to deliver, but so far we haven't had any contact with you or Miss Jade."

Talon squeezed his eyes shut and rubbed his temples wearily. "Can you tell me the shipment number? I'm sure the shipment went out..."

"Of course, the shipment number is Decca seven-three-one-eight-nine and it was ordered by the Jin'quii Consortium on Briem. Of course, we do not want to complain but this shipment is rather important to us."

"Yes, of course," Talon replied and frowned when his data pad showed him clearly that the shipment was still in a warehouse on Coruscant. "I will see what I can do to get the goods to your location as soon as possible."

"Thank you, and if it is possible, it would be a pleasure to meet Miss Jade again, her services to the consortium were very valuable in the past..." The man said and Talon, out of habit rather than mistrust, checked Jade's last trade runs with the consortium and noticed she had always come back with more and bigger orders than any of his other traders.

"I don't think that will be a problem, Mara Jade will deliver the goods," Talon said with a satisfied grin and picked up his hand held comm unit. "When do you need the goods specifically?"

"In about a standard week, give or take a few days, but the Consortium would be highly pleased if we could get the goods in question in two standard weeks."

"I think that is manageable, sir."

"Good, then I won't take up any more of your valuable time, Mr. Karrde," the man on the other end said and the transmission was cut off. For a moment Talon grinned to himself, the prospect of getting an even bigger order took away some of his fatigue, but after a moment he realised that he had not asked after the man's name.

"You are getting soft, Karrde," he chided himself softly and flicked his private comm link on to contact Mara Jade.

Mara Jade was floating on a soft ocean of warmth and the up and down of the waves kept her safe and gave her more time to ignore the incessant beeping of a comm link somewhere. Suddenly the ocean she floated on moved beneath her and sleepily she opened her eyes only to realise that she lay sprawled over Luke and that the up and down of the ocean of her dream was actually his even breathing.

"Comm link," she murmured tiredly and moved off to the side, her back to the wall and her head snuggled up in the crook of Luke's neck.

"Mara, it's your comm link," Luke whispered softly but the slight snoring sound told him that Mara was already fast asleep again, with a sigh he eased out of her embrace and groped for her comm link. By the time he had found it on her utility belt lying on a small table, he was awake enough to think about a feasible excuse that he was answering her comm link.

"Yeah?" he croaked into it after he had thumbed it on.

"Mara? You sound awful," Talon Karrde's baritone filled the small cabin and Luke groaned inwardly.

"Karrde, it's Luke, Mara is asleep ..." Luke said and congratulated himself for his up front excuse.

"Oh, hi Luke," even through the comm Skywalker could feel the broad grin of the trader. "I didn't know you two were back on track. How are you and Mara?"

"Fine, Talon, listen ... she had a pretty tiring day and she is still asleep. Can she call you back?" Luke replied and sat down on the bunk again. He inhaled sharply when Mara's hand crept up around his waist and started caressing his stomach. Trying to ignore her hand and also the feelings it aroused, he concentrated on Talon's voice.

"I imagine that the two of you are tired." Talon offered and chuckled softly.

Luke tried not to roll his eyes at the man's insinuating tone. "From our mission, Talon. She's tired from dodging blaster bolts and hiding from pirates."

"The things you two get in to. Let me guess, she rescued you again?" Talon's voice roared with laughter now, his tiredness forgotten temporarily. "I'm sorry to interrupt anything, Luke, but I really need to talk to Mara. Something has come up..."

Luke sighed and caught Mara's wandering hand as she brushed over his chest. "Hang on," he said and fingered the comm link for the mute button. He turned and bent forward, nuzzling his nose in the crook of her neck.

"Mara, wake up! Talon needs you ..." he said softly, giving her a soft kiss on her earlobe. He felt Mara waking up and he nudged her through the Force to come completely awake.

"Luke," Mara murmured and fully turned on her back, her arms snaking around his neck while she raised her head and put a soft kiss on his lips.

"Mara, Talon is-" Luke tried to say but her hot mouth cut off any coherent thoughts and words and for a long moment they kissed.

*Forget Talon, Farmboy,* Mara sent him, her hands tousling his hair.

Talon on the other end of the comm link sighed and tried to ignore the kissing and whispering sounds but to no avail. As much as he liked Mara, eavesdropping was not his forte and he cleared his throat. When the kissing sounds increased he closed his eyes.

"Luke, Mara," he said and when he still could hear the sounds of the couple coming through the comm, he cleared his throat again, more loudly this time. "Mara! LUKE!"

The couple on the small bunk flinched at the loud noise and Luke closed his eyes in embarrassment.

"Sithspit!" Skywalker swore and sat back on the bunk, groping for the comm link. "Ah ... Talon ... I thought ... I had put ... ah ... umm ... the mute on," Luke murmured.

Mara snatched the comm link from his hand and flashing him a half-mocking grin, she scooted beside him.

"Talon, what is the matter?" She hid a yawn while Luke stood up and walked over to the 'fresher. She followed him with her eyes and had to smile when she remembered what they were about to do before Talon interrupted him.

*Don't be long, Farmboy,* she sent him while she concentrated on Talon.

Luke entered the refresher and let water run into the sink. His face still burnt from embarrassment and when he thought about it, he realised that he should be happy that Mara had taken all of it in stride. It showed that she had accepted their relationship and that made him extremely happy.

When Skywalker returned, Mara had switched off her comm link and was sitting on the bunk, her arms slung around her naked legs. Her hair was framing her small figure like a veil as it ran down her back and shoulders to her hips. For a moment, Luke just stood there, taking in the beauty of her. He still could not believe that this wonderful woman was a part of his life, she was his life, his every breath, his heart beat.

He must have made a sound as she looked up with those beautiful deep green eyes and for a minute or two he just drowned in them, letting himself surrounded by them. Slowly, he walked over and sat down beside her, reaching out a hand and brushed some errant strands of fiery hair away from her face.

"Bad news?" he asked gently, burying his hand in the wild abundance of her hair at her neck.

Mara shrugged and turned her face toward him. "Yes and no," she said and smiled at him. "Talon asked me to run some goods for him, which is good as he wants to hand the customer over to me but I have to leave immediately for Coruscant."

"Immediately?" Luke asked, suppressing the feeling of annoyance. "I thought we could return to Yavin and ..."

"I have a business, Jedi, I just can't leave for Yavin on a whim!" Mara cut in and stood up.

"A whim?" Luke asked and rose to his feet likewise. "I don't think spending some quality time and perhaps some training with me on Yavin is a whim," Luke growled.

"Oh I knew it! You just can't lay off, can you, Skywalker?" Jade snapped and stepped closer to him, so that their bodies almost touched. "How many times do I have to tell you that I'm not returning to that stupid moon of yours to resume my Jedi training! I don't want to become a Jedi, don't you get that into that dense head of yours?"

Luke stared at her and he shook his head. "Mara, this is not about your Jedi training. I don't want you to go on this trade run ... not immediately."

"Now the great Jedi Master wants to tell me how to run my life? Not with me, Jedi. I have a life, without you," she whirled around and crossed her arms over her breasts.

Luke flinched as if he had been whipped. "I guess you're right," he said flatly and slumped down the bunk. "You don't need anyone, great Master Trader Jade. And who am I to tell you how to lead your life, if ever."

"Oh please, Skywalker, don't self-flagellate yourself!" Mara growled and turned back towards him.

"Don't tell me what I do or cannot do," Luke shot back. "If you tell me not to meddle with your life, then stay out of mine as well!"

"Fine!" Mara shouted and Luke rose to his feet.

"Fine! Good that this is cleared up!" He turned towards the door and looked back at her. "If you'll excuse me, but I think it is my watch now, Jade, so I will leave you alone."

Mara whirled around and grabbed his tunic from the nearby table. Throwing it at him, she lashed out one last time. "Don't forget your tunic, Skywalker, you might need it to soak up all that pity you are wallowing in!"

The door closed with a loud thud and Mara suppressed a sob. Squeezing her eyes shut, she knew that she was yet again the reason why was wounded Luke. Jade knew that the words were vicious, coming from the corner of her heart that still feared the Jedi Master. Her defences had kicked in and she knew that her sharp tongue had only one reason to lash out, to cover up the growing ache in the part of her heart that cared deeply for Luke Skywalker, the part that felt pain and fear of leaving him again so soon.

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