Chapter Five

Mara Jade had crossed the city in record time. After the passion had faded from her mind and her body, she was capable of thinking straight again. Blindly she moved through the city, her Force sense helping more than once in avoiding speeders and other passersby, before bumping into them. You are the most irresponsible woman in the galaxy! Mara berated herself as she swiftly avoided a merchant on the walkway. Mara Jade, you are a fool. You almost got into bed with Luke Skywalker!!! she closed her eyes for a second. Of all men, I have to get almost horizontal with the Jedi, she snorted at that and moved forward, her eyes fixed onto the sign of the spaceport authorities looming in front of her. Ignoring the guards at the entrance, she marched straight into the general direction of her ship. She didn't notice Talon Karrde standing at the hatch of the Jade's Fire as she brushed past him.

"Damn you, Skywalker," she muttered underneath her breath but Karrde heard it nevertheless.

"That Jedi of yours getting you into a huff seems to be becoming a habit, Mara. What did he do to get you all worked up like that?" He asked by way of greeting and caught his breath when Mara whirled around, blaster in hand, ready to pounce on her supposed attacker.

"Talon!" she exclaimed and as quickly as the blaster had appeared in her hands, she secreted it inside her sleeve again. "Skywalker is not MY Jedi!" Mara retorted and jumped up the hatch as it slowly descended. "Anyway, Karrde, what are you doing here? You are supposed to be on Bespin, meeting with other traders at Cloud City."

"I came early, as I had a hunch that my number one would neglect her duties," Talon chuckled when he heard Mara's snort. He sat down in the pilot's chair and took in his surroundings. "You bunking here again?" he asked and Mara's head appeared from behind the refresher door.

"What is that supposed to mean?" she shot back.

Talon shrugged indifferently and swiveled around on the chair. "Just a simple question, Jade, no need to jump down my throat. Though in the light of that hickey you are sporting on your neck, the important question is why you are bunking here ..." Talon watched as Mara's head disappeared quickly inside the fresher. He could picture the redhead gazing into the mirror and when he heard another barrage of swear words and gasps all directed at a certain Jedi, he chuckled. "Not her Jedi, my ass!" he grinned.

This is it. This time he's dead meat. Dead Jedi Meat, that is! Mara swore beneath her breath and tried to rub the love bite away. She flinched at the soreness of the skin and she leant her brow against the cool mirror. How did I get into this mess? she asked herself, only to be taunted by images of Skywalker's lips on the very spot where the love bite was. Groaning, she tried to dismiss the images.

After she had taken a sonic shower, she felt better. Then Mara dressed into a black, high collared flight suit, she met Karrde out in the cockpit. The ex-smuggler grinned when he saw the high necked top. It was summer time and he was sure by the time Mara left the air-conditioned Fire she would be sweating.

Mara stood in front of him, as if she was waiting for something. Raising an eyebrow, Karrde first stared at her, then scrambled quickly to his feet and vacated the pilot's chair. Settling himself on the other seat, he grinned apologetically.

"Did you forget we were supposed to meet here?" Talon Karrde asked by way of distracting her of his blunder. "We wanted to celebrate the commerce treaty with the Briem, if you are successful. Word is out you were highly successful," he grinned.

"Yes," Mara replied and tossed several data pads into his hands. "The Briem not only agreed to the commerce treaty but also in joining the NR. Senator Organa Solo was very pleased..."

"How is the old war horse? Is she still meddling with her brother's life?" Talon chuckled when he saw Mara's sulky pout. "Let me guess that's why you are bunking here instead of at Skywalker's, right? Did the little Princess object and give out all the Sith shit she hears from her so called well meaning friends?"

"What?" Mara asked, a frown forming between her brows.

"Ah... Jade, you know. Former Emperor's Hand and now Skywalker's ..." Talon quickly shut his mouth.

"Skywalker's what?" she asked, but when she saw Talon's sheepish grin, she shook her head and jumped to her feet. "I can't believe it, is everyone only interested in who gets who intot he bedroll here in Coruscant?" With a sigh she threw her hands up. "Even if it were true, that Luke and I ... I mean, if Skywalker and I had this kind of relationship, it shouldn't be daily talk in the city."

Talon chuckled at that and watched Mara pacing back and forth. "Well, with the Sith lords and the Empire defended, people don't have much to talk about. And with you and Skywalker such shining public personalities they talk ..."

Mara snorted at that. "They should keep their dirty thoughts to themselves," she whirled around and pinned Karrde with a look to his seat. "So when did this Bantha shit all start?" she asked.

"Rumours of you and the Jedi being more than friends?" Talon asked and Mara nodded. "Well, rumours have been around for quite a while. Rumours, I might add, that were fanned when you moved into his quarters. Ever since then they are only waiting for the public announcement ..."

"Announcement? About what?" Mara asked, but paled when comprehension dawned on her. "I don't believe it. This is really ridiculous! As if I would marry a Jedi!"

She laughed a bit forced but Talon only raised an eyebrow at that as he watched her almost buckling over with laughter. Mara, you really need to talk to psych-droid, he thought. I've never seen someone as intent on not getting what she wants like you. Knowing full well, he would never dare to tell her that in her face.

Leia had made it just barely back to her apartment and when she let herself in, she found her husband sitting on the couch. Leia's heart opened to Han Solo, former smuggler and renegade, when she watched him as he went through a couple of data pads. For a moment she counted her blessings that she had given in to the attraction she had felt for the handsome man, and that despite the wagging tongues of the New Republic dignitaries they had married.

Closing her eyes, Leia suppressed a shudder. Isn't this what it is all about? she asked herself. Isn't this what Luke wants? A family, a loved one, kids? She must have made a noise because when she opened her eyes again, Han was standing in front of her, cocking his head slightly and searched her face questioningly.

"What is it, wife of mine?" He asked softly and was taken off guard when Leia threw her arms around his neck and kissed him deeply. Returning the desperate kiss, he groaned and slung his arms around her tiny waist and lifted her off her feet.

When they broke away from each other they were both breathless and Han's face showed the sign of a definite smirk. "Care to tell me, what that brought on?" he asked teasingly and Leia borrowed her face in the crook of his neck.

"I'm just glad that I married you," she whispered and hugged him close.

"Now wait a minute, I married you," Han retorted which brought a giggle from his wife. Oh Gods, how much I love this man, Leia thought and kissed him soundly again.

"Let's say it's a draw," she said after a while and cupped his face in her hands. "I'm the luckiest woman alive to have married you, General Han Solo."

Han Solo searched his wife's beautiful face and for the first time he saw the apparent signs of dried tears on her cheeks. Carefully, he extracted one arm from her waist and put it beneath her knees, lifting her up in his arms. When he had settled down on the couch again with his precious burden in his lap, he caressed her cheek and temple.

"What happened, Leia?" he asked softly, knowing full well that something must have happened. "Did you quarrel with your brother again?"

"No nothing like this, Han," Leia said quietly and studied her hands. "He was not alone when I went over. He ... he is so alone, Han, I can't bear it ..."

Solo frowned at that. How can the kid be alone and not be alone? he asked himself silently. Heaving a sigh, he raised her chin to look into her eyes.

"Leia, my heart, tell me what happened," he ordered softly. "How come Luke wasn't alone and yet he was?"

After Leia had told her husband what had transpired between her and her brother, they sat in silence for a long time. Both trying to register all they had heard.

"I'll be damned," Han exclaimed and hugged his wife. "Do you know what that means? I was right all along and Karrde and Lando are owing me a great share!"

"Oh Han Solo, you are the most insensitive man in the galaxy!" Leia exclaimed and tried to rush to her feet, but her husband drew her back onto his lap.

"And you love me, your Highness," he retorted softly. With a chuckle he stroked some errant locks out of her face. "Do you know what this means? The kid gets hitched up at last. Not that I really absolve his choice but setting everything aside, it was not so impossible that he would chose someone like Mara," he shook his head when he felt his wife wanted to interrupt. "Think about it, Leia. They are both Force-strong persons, I even think that with the right training Mara could rival Luke's strength in the Force. They are a perfect match come to think of it. I have seen them at work as a team. They are awesome, it is as if they are one-mind, one body, when they fight."

"But Mara Jade? She wanted to kill him ..."

"But she didn't, Leia. And if I might remind you, you wanted to have my hide more than once during the rebellion," he chuckled at that, remembering their quarrels.

"That was different I loved you ..." Leia shut her mouth when Solo threw her an incredulous look which said See what I mean?. "Do you think she loves him, Han?"

Han heaved a deep sigh. "No one but Mara Jade can answer to that question, honey. But despite all the things you can say about Mara Jade, she is a person with a deep sense of honour and she chooses her bed companions carefully. Those who have boasted to have met Jade in a more intimate way have later refrained their words. I think I don't know any man who actually had any sexual relations with her. And even if it's just a sex thing, it will help Luke to loosen up and if he is happy, then so should you."

Leia nodded to that but she just couldn't stop worrying about the well being of her twin.

"I just don't want him hurt, Han, my love. He has gone through so many things and I doubt he could recuperate if he gets another blow like the one with Callista."

Han hugged Leia gently and kissed the top of her head. "You know, Mara has been many things in her life but she is definitely not the Callista type. And from what you told me, I think she's rather more fond of the farmboy than the Jedi Master and that," And here he looked his wife straight in the eye. "That is the difference between Mara and Callista, and even if she is not aware of it, the kid sure is."

Leia had to admit that her husband had a point, but she was still feeling uneasy at the thought that her gentle brother was falling head over heels in love with the deadly Mara Jade. She was so engrossed in her thoughts, that she almost didn't hear Han's suggestion.

"Why don't you invite Mara to our table at the reception of the Briem treaty? She has been imperative to the outcome and she will attend anyway. You can then see for yourself if she harbors any soft feelings for Luke. Set them up, dare them if you like, but don't ask her outright. I'd rather have my wife in one piece." They both chuckled at that.

Softly they conversed with each other, devising a plan to set up the beautiful smuggler turned trader, content in the each other's feeling of love.

The apartment was once quiet again as Luke walked back to his bedroom. After Leia had left, assuring him that she won't meddle with his life again, which he strongly doubted, he had felt drained and tired. Toying Mara's light saber in his hands he fell back onto the bed and stared at the ceiling. When he felt calm enough, he repeated the events of the day on Jedi replay and he had to admit that his twin had an awful timing.

Luke grinned at that and closed his eyes. Immediately he could smell Mara's hair and feel the texture of her skin beneath his fingertips. The young Jedi Master groaned when he felt the first stirrings in his groin, and despite his best efforts to keep his rebellious body under control, he failed miserably. Sighing with the air of defeat, he let his body and mind wander, reliving the moments of lust and desire with his best friend.

At this his eyes snapped open. Is she my best friend? he asked himself. Or is she more? he closed his eyes again, trying to decipher the emotions surging through his body and soul. Judging from what they were about to do before Leia had disturbed them, he had to admit that his feelings for Mara had changed. For quite some time now he had felt desire and longing for her, and the dreams he had experienced didn't help him quenching the errant thoughts. He had tried to ignore his growing feelings for her, had tried to think of her as his best friend rather than a woman of flesh and blood.

*Do or do not, there is no try* Luke could feel the presence of the old Jedi Master through the Force and he smiled. For once he had not tried but had taken action. So is that why I kissed her? he asked himself and fumbled for an answer. For quite some time the Jedi Master had felt himself attracted to his best friend. Face it, Skywalker, he teased himself. I was smitten with Mara since Myrkr. Never thought a blaster held to my head would invoke so many conflicting emotions like fear and arousal at the same time. And yet, something about her had felt familiar since the day, she and Karrde had picked him up in his disabled X-Wing. Something about her had struck a chord in him. Part of him knew that he cared more than he let on with Leia, he could feel that his feelings for her ran far deeper, that he wanted to be with her always.

He sighed and turned onto his side, looking out of the window, he searched the spaceport squires with his eyes in the far distance. He knew better than reaching out to Mara with the Force, but somehow he knew he could sense her just by looking into the general direction she was. He could feel Mara's own troubled thoughts and despite her desperate efforts to shield herself from him, her warring emotions reached out to him through the Force almost in crystal clarity.

Skywalker knew his signature was disturbed likewise. Every time he closed his eyes she was with him, he could feel, smell and taste her, feeling even more real to him than in the cursed dreams that had led to all of this.

If kissing had resulted in this strong a bond what would love-making do to them? he asked himself and somewhere deeply hidden in the far corners of his soul a flicker of fear ignited. He had never experienced something as strong like this and although his Jedi senses told him to heed the warning, it seemed that his whole being longed to find out first hand what would happen if the Jedi Master and Mara Jade ever gave in to their mutual attraction.

Closing his eyes, he decided to take a nap. After all, his head was still throbbing from the night out with his friends and the experiences with his two most favourite women had left him drained both emotionally and physically.

It was already nightfall when Mara Jade returned to her craft. She felt irritated and tired. Not only that she had to put up with Talon Karrde's constant banter and teasing all afternoon, to her infinite chagrin she had run into Lando Calrissian and he had worn off the last threads of her patience.

Throwing her jacket onto her bunk, she made her way slowly over to the cockpit. Slumping down in the seat she pulled her knees to her chin and rested her head on them. Images whirled in a mad dance of despair and passion inside her head and try as she might she could not dispel the one person who was responsible for them ... Luke Skywalker.

Mara groaned, she could still feel his hands on her body, as they had roamed freely and passionately over her heated skin only a few hours ago. Hugging her knees to herself she tried to suppress the passion coursing through her body, tried to ban the images out of her mind which made her long to be right back in his arms.

The young trader still could not fathom why she had acquiesced so easily to the Jedi's touch. I would have known if he had used a Jedi trick on me, wouldn't I? she asked herself. The instant she thought that, she knew that Luke was never that devious. It was a trick for sure, Mara relentlessly pushed on. The charm of the farmboy had me tricked. Closing her eyes against this realization, Mara shuddered.

It was just hormones, nothing more! I'm over it. It was just temporary insanity! she tried to convince herself but like the Force bond she shared with Skywalker that got stronger and stronger, she knew that her desire to bond physically with him was almost as strong. She knew that if she had wanted, she could have stopped both of them. She could have harmed Luke to make it all stop, but deep down Mara Jade knew that she didn't want to stop. Her whole body and soul longed for the touch of the Jedi even if her mind was still recalcitrant.

Her body had fit to Luke's muscular frame like the other side of a medal, she felt she belonged. Letting out a frustrated sigh, Mara tried to ignore the tingling feeling that someone had just brushed her Force sense.

"Luke," she whispered softly, then shook her head, forcing herself to build up her barriers against the Force and especially one force-strong Jedi. With every kiss, with every caress she had felt as if her barriers weakened, as if they became insubstantial. Mara knew that giving in to the attraction to Luke would cost her many fold, it would bring her the most highest joys ever imagined but it could also bring her down and enslave her - forever.

Deeply engrossed in her dark musings, Mara almost missed the soft, insistent beep on her com unit. Pushing the swivel chair around towards the console, she punched the access button and came face to face with Han Solo, who was holding one of his twins in his arms while studying something off the holovid camera to the bottom left. Obviously he had not noticed her answering the call.

"Leia, she's not there. I guess we just leave her a me-," he looked up and saw Mara. "Oh hi, Mara!" he grinned into the camera and the little boy in his arms did likewise, already displaying the famous Solo charm.

"Solo," Mara said by way of greeting and suppressed a sigh. What now? she thought.

"Leia thought...suggested I...I'd call," Han said and shifted the child in his arms. "The Briem Treaty celebration is tomorrow and as you were imperative to the outcome, we thought we'd throw a little party after the formal ado was over. You know, knocking back a drink or two with the gang ..."

Immediately, Mara's danger sense flared up. "I don't think I can come, besides the Briem were more than willing to join the Core worlds, all I did was a little bit of coaxing," Mara said, frantically searching her mind for a more polite yet resolute apology for not attending.

"Oh come on, Mara!" Han drawled and flashed her the infamous Solo smile which worked on half of the female population of the galaxy while the other half being already dead. "Have you taken some I'm too humble for this galaxy lessons from Luke? You took them in stride, those guys are smitten by you front, left and center. Besides, the Rogues and their spouses will be there as well as Lando ..."

And Luke, Mara added silently and grimaced. Han who had caught onto her expression, misinterpreted it completely though.

"I know Lando is not on your most favourite persons' lists but we'll keep an eye on him, promised," Han said. "Besides, you have to admit that the man's got exquisite taste if he is pursuing the most beautiful woman in the galaxy, apart from Leia of course."

"I heard that Solo, and it just saved you from spending the night on the couch!" came Leia's voice from the background. Mara smiled at that. She had often listened to the good-natured and loving banter of the married couple and it reminded her of the banter between Luke and herself - she caught herself before pursuing the matter any further.

"So, it's a deal then, Jade? The official thingy will start by nightfall and it is an open end. But you can always crash at Luke's." Before Mara could answer, the com channel went dead.

"Sithspit," Mara exclaimed and rubbed her temples wearily. "Is the whole universe out to get me?" she asked herself out loud and try as she might, she could not silence the little voice inside her head which continuously laughed at her.

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