Chapter Seven

Mara had tossed and turned half of the night and when she had fallen into a deep, dreamless slumber, it was already shortly before dawn. Edging an eye open, the assassin turned trader groaned and all the thoughts, she had neatly tucked away in the far recesses of her mind, came back to the surface. Last night, after she had left Skywalker, she had berated herself and then in her dreams the nagging voice started up again with enforced urgency.

Now stop fooling yourself, Mara Jade! The little voice in the back of mind taunted. You and your bravado. Where was it when Skywalker acted like the man he is? You bolted, plain and simple. You were so afraid of letting go and giving yourself up to him that you made an utter fool out of yourself!

Mara gritted her teeth at that and jumped to her feet. Luke and I are friends! she reminded herself. Friends don't sleep together, and I don't want to lose him.

And that is what you are afraid of, Mara Jade! You want to be more than friends but you are too afraid to take that final step. Perhaps the Emperor was right, you're a failure! No man will ever love you, Mara Jade. They only see your pretty face and your body. Didn't the Emperor tell you that, didn't you learn your lesson back then? A sob escaped Mara's lips as she collapsed into a heap on her bunk, her dry sobs raking her small frame mercilessly. She knew that she was playing with fire, she had always known that Luke Skywalker was a dangerous man, he had the power to leave Mara exposed and vulnerable. For the first time in her life, Mara realized she was scared to death.

The incessant beeping only slowly invaded the mind of the woman on the bunk, the nightmarish images only slowly receding. With a groan Mara tried to blend out the beeping from her communit, but try as she might she could not ignore it.

"This better be good," she muttered as she dragged herself to the commlink, only to be greeted by the cheerful face of Luke Skywalker. "What is it, Skywalker?" she growled and stifled a yawn.

"And a very good morning to you, too, sleepyhead," Luke replied and grinned. "You look as if you have danced all night."

Damn him and his blasted farmer's chrono, Mara thought and grimaced. "No thanks to you, I haven't danced all night, Skywalker," she snapped and rubbed her eyes impatiently. "So, what is it you want at this gods-forsaken hour?"

Luke grinned. He really liked what he saw, Mara looked as if she had just gotten out of bed, her hair a tumbling mess of russet colours interwoven with gold and copper. Even the sleep-filled eyes looked cute. And the sleeping shift she was wearing ... I wonder if she knows how revealing that is? Luke thought as his eyes roamed over her image on his holovid.

"I just wanted to remind you of our training this morning, the Briem already commed me twice to make sure it is still a date," Luke responded. Mara groaned at that.

"It is not a date, Jedi. It is a training appointment," Mara snapped, getting annoyed now. "They commed me last night and I already had confirmed the sparring." She rubbed her temples wearily and tried to clear her mind. How come I still fight him, even after what has happened? she asked herself and snorted. Nothing happened, some few kisses, some heavy petting here and there... Luke is a friend, my friend. And nothing happened!

"Mara," Luke's voice intruded her thoughts. "You know that more than something happened, there is no denying..." Mara stared at his image on the monitor.

"Get out of my head, Skywalker!" Mara growled and switched off the commlink. Burying her face in her hands, she wondered how she had gotten herself into this mess. She had almost had sex with Skywalker! And then these Force exchanges, she added. I don't think they're healthy in the long run. Standing up, she felt her body tingling as she remembered the last time their Force-senses had mingled and her body tensed at the thought.

Unconsciously she started to recite the Jedi code ... There is no emotion, there is peace. There is no passion, there is serenity. No passion, no passion ....

Mara had dressed in grey workout pants, her usual boots and a top that had once belonged to a certain Jedi Master. She had mistakenly tossed it into her bag when she had so suddenly and hurriedly made an exit of his apartment a week earlier. Strangely enough, wearing something of Luke's had calmed her considerately and as she entered the assigned training room which Skywalker had reserved for the Briem's sparring, she was looking forward to the dumbfounded expression on his face when he would notice the top. If he notices it at all, she huffed silently and forced a smile on her face when she saw Tovar talking with the Jedi Master.

Luke was wearing almost a mirror attire to what she was wearing, only that all was black. Sighing she went over and greeted the Briem as well as Skywalker. Luke smiled at her, his blue eyes twinkling ever since he had felt her presence in the Force. He had also picked up on her earlier thoughts and he had to admit that she filled out his tank top rather nicely. Shielding his thoughts from her, he turned toward Tovar again who seemed eager to fence with Mara. The woman, Malaar, and the younger Briem, whose name was Michaan as Luke had found out, seemed somewhat nervous and try as he might, Luke could not find the reason of their nervousness.

"Shall we begin, Master Tovar?" Luke asked when Mara had shrugged out of her customary pilot's jacket, unlaced the boots and kicked them unceremoniously into one corner of the work-out hall. Now she was waiting on the workout-mat, lightsaber in hand.

"Oh yes, of course, Master Skywalker, you wanted to demonstrate us some of the Jedi fencing," Tovar's smile was too toothy for Luke's liking but he could not sense any ill-wish from the man. Following Jade's example, Luke joined her on the mat and after a short nod towards each other ignited their sabers and in one fluid movement went into the attack stance. Luke waited for Mara taking the initiative but he was surprised when she actually nudged him through their Force bond.

*Go ahead, you won't submit to the dark side if you attack!* her voice even through the Force dripping with a smirk. Luke grinned at that and used a more traditional angle of attack, giving her every opportunity to parry his thrusts and slashes. Soon they were so absorbed in what they were doing, they forgot that they had onlookers. Each of them was wrapped up in that deadly dance as their lightsabers kissed and kissed again, as they parried and blocked each other's attacks.

*You're good, Mara* the woman heard inside her head and she grinned at his admonition.

*You sound surprised, Farmboy*, she retorted and attacked with a vicious upward slice which Luke blocked without effort. Their Force senses were so attuned to each other that they could actually see how the other was reacting, resulting in even more and more rapid attacks and defences.

*Not surprised, I knew you were this good, Mara*, Luke responded and laughed when he felt her snort. *You don't believe me? Jedi don't lie!*

At that Mara laughed out loud and the Briem looked at her startled. Especially Malaar and Michaan exchanged a puzzled look. What they had witnessed in the last few minutes was astounding and they had their doubts, that their friend Tovar would best any of the two in this sparring.

Mara and Luke sensed their concern and after a few more parries and blocks, they killed their blades and turned towards the waiting dignitaries again.

"As you can see, light sabers can be used both as defence as well as offence - but a Jedi uses it mostly for defensive reasons," Luke commented and showed several more moves with the sabre while Mara tried to ignore his teaching voice. She had noticed that Skywalker was the Jedi Master again, calm, composed and teaching. She sighed.

Just be thankful, girl, she told herself and watched her friend through slitted eyes. If he is the Jedi Master, you can stay away from him. It's easier this way.

As if he had heard her thoughts, Luke's head snapped up and when their eyes locked he gave her a wink. *You bored?* he asked through their bond and Mara shrugged her shoulders.

*You seem to enjoy yourself, Farmboy. Don't let me distract you from lecturing*.

*I'm not lecturing, Mara,* Luke answered sternly and she could feel he was somewhat miffed at her constant nagging.

*Yes, you do, oh almighty Jedi Master. But I don't care as long as you don't start to lecture me again!* Mara snapped back and for a short minute their eyes seemed to battle a silent war before Luke answered to a question of Master Tovar. Mara sat down on one of the benches and absent-mindedly took a swig from her water bottle. She let Skywalker's voice wash over her as he explained the concepts of the Force to the Briem and grudgingly she had to admit that he was a good teacher. He didn't lecture but his teaching method was that of asking and answering questions, challenging the mind of the pupil. Mara could see that Luke Skywalker, Farmboy turned Jedi Master, was a born teacher and the discovery made her proud. The young trader snorted at that and shot an angry glance at the man.

Luke's back stiffened a bit when he felt Mara's open scrutiny of him but as soon as he felt a wave of genuine pride coming towards him he relaxed. *So you are proud of me, Mara?* he asked with a chuckle and he could sense the trader snorting.

*Stay out of my head, Skywalker!* she replied through their bond and felt a small brush of his Force signature gently caressing her cheek.

*If you stop broadcasting - sure,* he quipped and shot her a quick grin over his shoulder. Mara shook her head and enforced her barriers towards him but she knew as well as he did that their bond could not be severed permanently. Not anymore. Especially not after the kiss they had shared last night.

Better not go there, Mara reminded herself and stood up. *Enough is enough, Jedi!* she sent Luke. *I have things to do, places to go. Either you continue your lecture or you get a move on so I can have that blasted sparring with Master Tovar.*

Luke nodded and turned towards the Briem. "So, Master Tovar, are you ready for a little sparring?"

The Briem grinned to himself. He had waited for this very thing all morning and he had been eager to spar with the beautiful trader. Tovar had been careful to watch Jade's moves during her work out with the Jedi Master. If his plan was to be successful, he had to best her and that was what he had in mind. Unclasping the cover he had brought, he took out a handle similar to that of a light saber but when he ignited it, the blade snaked around like a living being.

Malaar and Michaan gasped while Luke and Mara watched the blade in fascination.

*Impressive blade, I've never seen anything like it,* Mara commented and Luke shot her a sideways glance.

*Me neither, in fact during battle this kind of blade would be lethal ... not to your opponent but to yourself. You never know where it will turn,* Luke replied and Mara nodded to that.

*Didn't Michaan say something about a ritualistic weapon? I wonder what kind of ritual requires these kind of blades.*

Michaan stepped closer to Tovar who was shrugging out of his elaborate mantle. "Master, I beseech you, do not use the Tal-tch'iym blade."

Tovar's head shot up and sized the younger man with an angry glare. "This is none of your business, young Michaan. I will do a I please and this woman heed my every command once I have defeated her."

Michaan blanched visibly at that. "But Master Tovar, she is Jedi and she does not know about the Tal-tch'iym ritual. From all we know she is already spoken for to the Jedi Master. You cannot really assume she will have any part in this mating ritual?"

"Enough, Michaan. My mind is set. She will be my wife," Tovar hissed and turned towards the two Jedi who were standing a few paces away, obviously deeply in conversation.

"Anything the matter, Master Tovar?" Luke inquired. He had felt inclined to eavesdrop on the conversation between the two Briem but he had ignored the urge.

"Nothing at all, my young companion here only reminded me of how dangerous this blade can be," Tovar assured him and Luke as well as Mara felt their danger sense rising.

*He is up to something, and I have the feeling I won't like it,* Mara told Skywalker through the Force and Luke nodded slightly.

*Be careful, Mara. I don't want you ending up in the med center,* He sent her with heartfelt compassion and for a moment Mara was overwhelmed by the depth of feeling he was transmitting.

*I haven't been the Emperor's Hand for nothing, Skywalker!* Mara Jade snapped to cover her surprise and she felt Luke cringing. With a nod towards Tovar she resumed her attack stance and waited.

Luke watched as the two opponents circled each other slowly, assessing the other's weaknesses. He felt Michaan and Malaar stepping beside him and their signatures in the force were emanating fear and nervousness. The Jedi was about to probe further when Michaan bent his head slightly and stepped closer to him.

"Master Skywalker," the young man began tentatively and Luke inclined his head towards the man to indicate he had heard him but never leaving his eyes off the couple fencing in front of him. "Remember last night when I said that we use a similar weapon to the light saber, only it is for ritualistic purposes?"

"Yes, Michaan, I remember," Luke answered, his danger sense flaring up ever so slightly. He felt the other man's nervousness increase with a tinge of guilt and fear.

"This blade is called Tal-tch'iym and the ritual is for ..." Michaan swallowed and hesitated. "Master Skywalker, this woman, Mara Jade, she is spoken for, right? She is in no need for the Tal-tch'iym ritual?"

"Michaan, what is the Tal-tch'iym ritual?" Luke asked and for a moment it felt as if he could see what concerned the young alien.

"Mating," the young man pressed through clenched teeth and blushed all over. "Tovar wants to mate. We are an old race and we only can reproduce when a female is submitted to the Tal-tch'iym blade, it will connect to the female's abdomen and put the seed in her. "

It took all of Luke's Jedi calm not to cry out loud. "You are saying that if Mara Jade is hit by the blade Tovar is wielding she will get impregnated?" He asked, barely containing his anger and disgust. Michaan nodded and tried to avoid the ice-blue stare out of the Jedi's eyes.

"Please, Master Skywalker, Tovar misinterpreted Mistess Jade's boldness when she offered to spar with him. She is not familiar with the Tal-tch'iym, is she?"

Even if she were I wouldn't tell you, Luke thought to himself and immediately regretted it Jedi do not lie!

"I don't think she is, Michaan. But I can tell you this," and here he directly pinned the young Briem with his gaze. "She and I are connected through the Force..."

"I know .. I saw what happened last night. You seem to be soulmates as well as lovers, that's why I'm telling you!"

Good, Luke thought and nodded. And I didn't even lie. Satisfied that Michaan had picked up at what he had suggested, he stretched his sense towards Mara.

*What is it, Skywalker, I'm kind of busy here!* Mara snapped at him through their bond.

Inwardly sighing, Luke replayed the conversation he had with Michaan to her and he felt her frowning.

*That son of a Wampa!* Mara shot back and ducked when Tovar attacked again. *I'll make sure he won't pull such a stunt ever again on any unsuspecting female ..."

*Mara, don't... you can't kill him. He is a dignitary, remember!* He sent her when he felt a ripple of anger running through the Force.

Mara snorted at that but Skywalker could feel that she agreed to him.

Slowly the man circled the trader, his blade sneaking wildly in front of him. Green eyes watched the movements of the blade rather than the man and sensing that Luke was doing the same, she sent him a heartfelt *Thanks*.

Ever since Skywalker had warned her about Tovar's real intention, she made sure to avoid the blade and its wielder and stayed well out of his reach. Gracefully, she stepped out of his way when he charged in on her and with a twist of her hand, using the Force only slightly, the nasty looking weapon was wrought out of her opponent's hand.

Pointing the tip of the lightsaber ever so slightly against his chin to let him feel the heat emanating from the saber's blade, she raised an eyebrow.

"Master Tovar, because you are a representative of your government I will spare your life, but what you tried to accomplish today, in front of your friends and fellow-countrymen was despicable and disgraceful. You better have never cross ways with me again or you'll not live to regret it." Her voice had a deadly ring to it and she killed the saber with a loud snap.

The younger Briem picked up the ritualistic blade and with an apologetic look towards Mara and Luke, he dragged the older man after him towards the exit.

For long moments the silence in the training hall was oppressive. Luke had been so engrossed in his thoughts that he only barely heard the distinctive hum of a light saber being ignited. He turned around and saw Mara hacking at imaginary opponents.

*Mara?* he queried silently, and only the determined set of her jaw indicated that she had heard him.

"I need a good hard fight, are you up to it, Skywalker?" Mara growled all of a sudden and advanced towards him. From the way she walked, Luke could see she meant business. She was carefully rolling off on the balls of her feet, his father's lightsaber resting effortlessly but firmly in her right hand.

"Go ahead," Luke nodded and prepared himself. At the last moment, when her saber came down in a wide arc of blue, he snapped up his own, igniting it shortly before both blades met in angry hisses. They were enemies, opponents who sought each other's weaknesses as they battled. Neither of them used the Force as they circled each other, attacking, blocking and parrying the vicious blows and hacks as the two Jedi sparred. To anyone it seemed as if they were both intent on killing each other but they both knew they needed the let-out, even considering physical harm.

They had been fencing for several minutes when Luke managed to twist the saber out of her hand but before he could challenge her further, Mara made a back-flip and her saber was called back into her hand. Again the woman started in on him, attacking him with blow after blow until she felt her arms weakening but she couldn't stop. All the frustration she felt at the hands of the Jedi Master came to the surface and with what had happened with Tovar, she turned to the one being she could vent her anger at - Luke Skywalker.

*Mara! Stop it!* she ignored Luke's voice in her mind and advanced further, trying to corner him. But Luke was not fazed by her determination and instead of pulling back, he advanced as well and their blades meeting again in a deadly mocking kiss. With their arms raised high over their heads, their bodies met and for a moment the air was knocked out of their lungs.

Mara stared at Luke and became aware of how close and intimate their bodies touched. She killed the blade and stepped away from him, avoiding the hurt look on the Jedi's face. Her body trembled and only with utmost willpower she tried to suppress the shudders racing through her body.

By the Force, why me? she thought and hid her face behind a towel she had snatched up from one of the benches lining one side of the walls. Why do I feel so attracted to him? It's not fair. He is a Jedi!

Luke had watched her and when she had turned away he had shut down his saber as well. He had enjoyed their little sparring in the solitude of the gym. Here, they could banter and train without the suspicious eyes of every one and only citizen of Coruscant. But he too had been aware of the undercurrents of sexual tension coursing between them. He strolled over to her and gladly accepted the waterbottle she was holding out for him.

"Thanks," he murmured and took several deep gulps. Mara watched him, watched as errant water droplets ran down his jaw and his throat, down over the sweat drenched top he was wearing. Skin that stretched over taut muscles and glistened in the artificial light of the training hall. The young trader almost reached out to touch the muscles but she suppressed the urge and swung around on her heels.

Get a grip, Mara! she told herself off. This is the Jedi Master, isn't it enough that I almost got a taste of carnal knowledge of him? Shaking her head as if to clear it, she did not notice that Luke had stepped closely behind her and when she turned towards him, their bodies touched.

"I-I better go now," Mara gasped as her drenched torso came into contact with Skywalker's chest. So easy to give in, a voice taunted her. He is yours to take, Mara. Don't be a fool! Shivering she stepped away but was immediately stopped when she felt Skywalker's hand on her arm.

"We need to talk," she could hear Luke's voice as if from afar and with the last threads of her willpower she tried to focus on his voice, tried to concentrate on what the Jedi Master was telling her.

"There's nothing to talk about, Skywalker," she said through clenched teeth and freed herself, but she felt her mutinous body was unable to take the few steps to leave the gym. "Don't you think we have talked enough? We made a mistake and last night ..." she could not talk about the kiss and the Force exchange without feeling all the sensations she had felt then coming back to her mind.

"Last night, the kiss, was magical, Mara. Can't you see?" Luke tilted her chin up, gently nudging her to lock her eyes with his. "The Force is telling us something and I think we should heed it. And after what happened last night almost everyone on Coruscant will see it as a known fact that we are together."

Together! the word pounded inside her brain. "Skywalker, we both know that this is not true. You and I ...," she closed her eyes against the piercing ice-blue of his stare for a moment only to snap them open again when she felt the feather like touch of his thumb against her cheek. "Don't you see? What happened between us was just two people feeling lonely and giving in to urges that were hormone driven. We would never pledge life-long partnership to each other if we take a moment to think about it," she tried to avoid his eyes when she looked up but she couldn't. She could not avoid the small intake of breath and the hurt look on his face.

Finally submitting to the urge of touching him, she gently rested her palm against the stubbly side of his cheek. "You are still in love with Callista and you would feel as if you had betrayed her, when we both wake up from this insanity..."

"Callista?" Luke had difficulties to get the name out. "This has nothing to do with Callie, she left me, and this is just between the two of us."

Mara shook her head and finally felt the power to step away from him, twisting her fists deeply into the towel that still hung around her neck. "You told me so when you were drunk, Skywalker. You still love her and you should value yourself and the love of her higher than a quick tumble with an Ex-Assassin."

The Jedi flinched and spun around as if her words had hit him like a whip. "I never told you about how I feel about Callie, Mara. You are just making it up." He sighed then pinched the bridge of his nose with his finger. "But maybe you are right, maybe you are not worth the trouble."

Now it was Mara's turn to flinch but she quickly swallowed the barb that rose to the surface. "For once you speak the truth, Jedi," she said softly, her voice shivering. "I for one value our friendship more than anything else and I won't let anything come between us. Even if I'm not worthy to be called a friend."

"Mara, that's not what I said!" Luke retorted and faced her angrily. "You really have a way of twisting the words in my mouth. Do you think we would be having this conversation if I'd thought you were not worth it? Sithspit, Mara, you really have a twisted view of the world. We have been dancing around this issue for what? Days? Weeks? Years?" he asked and stepped closer to her. "Ever since Myrkr there was this connection between us and don't you deny it!"

Mara laughed at that and shook her head but even to her ears the laughter sounded more like a sob. I can't let it happen! she reminded herself.

"Even if it is true, don't you think we should be content with what we have?" She dared to look into his face and immediately regretted it. She could not bear the raw emotion freely displaying in his eyes. "Look, Skywalker. We almost made a mistake and Leia saved us from that. Last night was a blunder which we will have a long time to live down, let's not destroy our friendship. I'm not good at relationships, you know that as well as I do. Getting into bed together would hurt us both, would hurt you. I'm not the woman you could be content with and you are not the type who would be content with what I'm able to offer," Drawing in a shuddering breath she noticed through their Force-bond that Luke wanted to interrupt, so she held up a hand and shook her head. "I'm not good at this, Skywalker. Never have been and never will. Unlike me, you have dreams, hopes and you have to admit, you have a somewhat romantic outlook on life in general and on the woman in your life in particular. You always wanted more and you deserve that."

Luke watched her and wondered how she had gotten such a deep insight of him. In all those years that they knew each other they had always carefully avoided talking about their emotions or their past and future relationships. To hear such an accurate assessment of himself from her hurt, but what hurt even more was that she thought so little about herself. Reaching out, he cupped her cheek with his left hand and bent his head to rest it against her brow.

"And what about your hopes? Your wishes, Mara?" he rasped and he could feel her shivering beneath his touch.

"Luke ..." her voice trailed away when she felt the gentle probe of Luke's mind. "I have no hopes in this direction. I know who I am and that lo- that is out of my reach." She had almost said it. She had almost admitted that she craved for love - for his love. She wanted to shake her head but suppressed the notion, unwilling to end the soft touch of forehead against forehead. No, she thought. I don't love him, I can't!

"You need someone who truly loves you, not some meaningless tryst that leaves both parties unsatisfied after a while. And I don't want to hurt you."

"You won't hurt me, Mara, you never can," Luke's voice sent ripples of pleasure down her spine. "Mara," his voice was heavy with undisguised passion. "I want you."

Mara understood him only too well and she was more than willing to give in to the wanting of the Jedi Master. She was familiar with want and need, she had experienced these emotions herself for the past ten years and she was glad that he had not mentioned love, the one emotion that put such a deep fear into her.

So easy to give in, she thought as she realized that her lips were mere inches from the Jedi's. I want him, too, Mara admitted silently to herself.
Luke's thoughts were on a similar line. He had felt compelled to tell her that he harboured far deeper feelings for her than need and want, but he knew Mara good enough to know that she would bolt the moment he would speak of love.

"Want me?" he asked instead and he held his breath till Mara nodded an affirmative yes. The tingling of the power exchange was not as overwhelming as it had been but then again they both had grown accustomed to its frequent happenings and when their lips met, their senses mingled and the Force around them manifested itself again, like it had a day ago at the dance.

The Jedi felt like nothing before, his senses went into overload as he tried to smell, taste and touch Mara all at once as they tore at each other's clothes. Her scent was more intoxicating than any drug known in the galaxy and the taste of her skin was sweeter than any delicacies he had ever tasted. Caressing the small of her back with his right hand he bent his head and let his gaze travel lovingly over her perky breasts after he had almost ripped the tank top apart that she had been wearing. In awe he cupped one of her perfect breasts with his left hand, weighing the fullness in his palm and slowly brushing the nipple until it was teased into a tight rosy pearl.

Mara watched him as his eyes widened at her obvious pleasure of his touch and she had to battle hard not to chuckle. He must have felt it though and his head jerked up and watched her face.

"You are beautiful," he breathed which send another shiver down her spine. "Not just this ..." to emphasize he lightly gave her breast a squeeze. "You are beautiful, Mara." With this he bent his head and kissed her deeply. Mara groaned into his mouth and gasped when his lips left her and marked a hot trailed down her jaw, her throat and onto her breasts and she arched further into his mouth when he started suckling on one of her breasts.

Mara's senses whirled and she arched her whole body into Luke's touch. The sensation almost too much for the young woman. She moaned when she felt his teeth grazing her nipples and she staggered backwards into the wall as she lost her footing. She did not care for the wall scraping against her bare back as she caressed Luke's head, tousling his hair which was again too long to befit a Jedi Master but she loved it. In fact she loved all of him and the things he was making her feel. When Luke hefted her up into his arms, Mara gripped his strong shoulders, revelling in the feel of rippling muscles beneath her fingertips.
She shuddered when she felt herself being lifted and Luke's hard erection brushed gently against the hidden layers of her feminine core. She wanted him, needed him to make her whole and searched his lips as she wrapped her legs around his hip. Barely, she was aware that Luke's shields were faltering slightly, but she was so overwhelmed by the taste and feel of his tongue and hands on her that she did not care for one minute if they were broadcasting their love making to any Force-sensitives in the city.

*We are safe,* she heard Luke whisper inside her head as if to reassure her. *The barriers are still in place... barely.*

Mara laughed at that and let her hands roam down on his chest and further down until she could grip his manhood. What she could feel was amazing.

*I never thought a Jedi would be so well endowed,* she sent him and she felt his chuckle in the Force. *But a Farmboy would*. A brief flash of a memory long forgotten crossed her mind, a young boy and an even younger girl, limbs entwined after their first love-making. A Farmboy that had spoiled young Mara for any other man, until now. She wanted this, she wanted to become one with this man, even only physically as she knew Skywalker's heart still belonged to his lost love Callista. The few men she had recreated with had not quenched the longing that she could not understand. Not one man in her past was able to fill the void she had been feeling ever since that wonderful night and day in a cave in the Toshe desert on Tatooine with her Farmboy. Not until now. She groaned when she felt Luke's tongue invading her mouth again, caressing, teasing and demanding.

Luke did not sense her disturbing thoughts as he tried to split his awareness between all the sensations he experienced from kissing, touching and tasting Mara and also protecting them both with a force shield and keeping nosy passers-by at bay and away from the gym hall. He wanted so desperately slow the pace at which they were going, wanted to slow the racing of his heart as it drummed against his ribcage, but all his calming techniques failed him. He needed her, needed her with a determination that was almost brutal. All he could feel and taste was the woman in front of him, Mara, who leant against the wall while he slipped her legs around his waist, opening her up for him.
He then stilled his movements, his mind was threatened to be swept away and he desperately focused only on his throbbing shaft which pushed at the entrance of her liquid warmth. Raising his head, he searched for her passion-filled gaze.

"Mara," he croaked and her head snapped up from the soft resting place of his neck. "Are ... are you sure?" he forced out of oxygen-starved lungs.

"Yes," he barely heard her whisper and with this, all his doubts dissolved and with a desperate lunge forward he sheathed himself deeply into her velvety warmth with one powerful stroke. Only at the fringe of his perception he felt the impact of his thrust, as they both slammed into the wall behind Mara, felt the momentary pain emanating from his partner and he drew her away from the wall and supporting her solely with his strong arms.

"Mara," he breathed and felt her arms encircle him. They both raised their heads in unison and stared at each other.

"D-don't stop now," Mara breathed and slowly gyrated her hips against him. She could still see stars in front of her mind's eye but not so much from the pain she had experienced when her back had painfully connected with the wall, but from the onslaught of feelings she had felt when Luke had entered her for the first time. The first time, she mused as she looked deeply into his blue-eyes. It doesn't feel like the first time, she thought. It feels as if he belongs, it feels as if he is reclaiming me ... her thoughts dissolved when she felt Luke moving inside of her, pushing into her deeply only to withdraw from her and to plunge into her again. The rhythm was intoxicating and she could feel herself responding on her own accord. Yes, I want this, she thought as she held onto his shoulders and met his thrusting hips with forward motions of her own hips. All they could both think of was the pleasure of each other and their bodies moved frantically to adjust to the desire and need rising in them both.

Despite their need to join together, Luke could feel that they both were holding back, albeit for different reasons. When he tried to probe her mind, he could feel that Mara was scared of something but was giving herself freely to him, even only her body. With him trying to hold up the barriers and concentrating on Mara, it was a great strain of his split concentration abilities and every time he wanted to open himself more to Mara, he could feel the barriers swindling around them. Cursing, he re-established the barriers again.

He could feel their force senses mingling, although it was not as strong as they had when they had shared their kiss last night. But still it was a sensational experience both gratifying body and mind.

What will it be like if we are both concentrating solely on each other, without shielding us from the outside world? Luke thought and renewed the kisses he was bestowing on her neck. Beneath his lips he could feel Mara's erratic heart beat as he drove them both to their final pleasure.

When their passion had subsided and both were able to breathe evenly again, Luke's head rested against her brow.

"I'm sorry, Mara," he breathed softly and brushed ever so slightly over her ribs only to rest his hands just beneath the swell of her breasts. "I wanted our first time together to be in a romantic setting with candle light and a comfortable bed, not ..."

"Propped up against the wall of the work-out hall?!" Mara finished for him and raised her hands slowly to cup his face. "I don't care where it happened, I'm glad it did at all. But next time we use a bed, I've had enough of this unlikely places thing," she said with a smirk and kissed him deeply before he could reply.

"Next time?" Luke groaned out, but it was swallowed by her luscious mouth. *Does that mean we will be doing this again?* he sent her through the Force and he could feel his heart and hope rising when he felt her affirmative sensation. He already felt the need to be with her again, to fill his whole being with her perfection but he also knew that they could get caught any time now, their allotted time for the gym having run out long ago.
Reluctantly, he slipped from her, resulting in their joined moans of protest. Gently, he let her down onto the ground and both felt the strained muscles due to the unusual situation of their love-making.

*Will we ever make it as far as a bed?* Mara asked him while she bent to retrieve her torn tank top and trousers. She watched with desire as Luke first slipped into his pants and when he noticed, he threw her a grin.

*I don't know, Mara. You are too damn sexy,* Luke retorted through their Force bond and they both laughed.

Mara had finished dressing and watched her lover as he dressed in his Jedi Blacks again. She liked the way that the boldfaced Farmboy was coming to the surface during and shortly after their lovemaking, she definitely preferred that to the Jedi Master. Mara was deeply engrossed in her musings about Skywalker that she missed Luke's outstretched hand towards her.

"What is it, love?" he asked softly and a shudder of pleasure but also fear rippled through her, disturbing her signature in the Force.

"What did you say?" she asked breathlessly.

"I asked you what was wrong," Luke said, oblivious to the endearment he had used.

Mara could feel the sincerity behind the slip and she let it pass. In fact part of her had basked in the knowledge that she was indeed Skywalker's love while her other part, the one that was still being held in thrall by the Emperor and his dark clutch, shuddered at the thought.

"Oh, I'm fine," Mare said and gave him a brilliant smile that not only lit up her face but gave a new glimmer to her green eyes as well. She took Luke's still outstretched hand and stepped into his embrace.

"We have to go, Mara," Luke whispered softly into her ear as his face nuzzled in the crook of her neck, inhaling deeply her scent.

"I know, so it is back to the Jedi Master?" she teased but part of her felt her heart clench.

"'Fraid so," Luke responded and gave her a quick peck on her brow. He did not trust himself to kiss her on the lips without wanting more and more of her and then being unable to stop. If Mara ever finds out what kind of hold she has over me, she can kill me and I wouldn't even put up so much as a fight, Luke thought as he disbanded the shields he had resurrected around the gym earlier and hacked in the access code for the door.

Stepping outside, his composure changed and before Mara's eyes she saw the transformation from Farmboy and lover to the austere and calm Jedi Master. She frowned at that and Luke sensed Mara's thoughts. For a short moment he allowed himself to brush gently over her cheek with his left hand.

"You cannot have the Farmboy without the Jedi Master, Mara. That's what I am," he said firmly and Mara nodded. Sending a warm wave of reassurance to her, they headed towards Luke's apartment.

Down in the hall Leia had felt a small tingling in the Force and she frowned. She knew that quite a number of Force-sensitive beings were residing in the palace at the time being but it had felt familiar. When she looked around she saw her brother advancing towards the lifts with Mara Jade at his side. Reaching out with the Force she felt the familiar barriers surrounding Mara's mind but when she probed her twin, she felt the rigid Jedi barriers up as well. If it was for her benefit or for Mara Jade's Leia did not know.

Leia greeted her with a smile, even if she was still cross with her brother for leaving the party early - and with Mara Jade of all people.

"Luke! Mara," she said and hugged her brother. He even felt different and when she probed gently she could feel the lingering smell of a woman on him. Her sharp intake of breath was not lost on her brother.

*Leia,*, he sent her as a warning. *Not a word!*

*Of course not, who am I to tell you how to live your life?* Leia snapped back through their Force-bond. *Just let me know when I have to pick up the pieces again*.

*I will*, Luke replied calmly which surprised his sister.

Does he really know what he is letting himself in this time? she asked herself and turned towards Mara. The trader looked unusually subdued and if she hadn't have picked up upon her brother's feelings through the Force, she could have sworn, the woman was detached from all of this. But the strong barriers she had created where a sure sign that the trader was not as unaffected as she wanted to appear.

"So how did the sparring go with the Briem?" Leia asked and saw that Mara flinched and Luke was inhaling sharply. "What?" she challenged.

"Leia, Master Tovar will not attend any further negotiations with the Republic. He was accompanied home by his friends," Luke answered matter of factly.

Leia looked from her brother to Mara Jade and back again. "What did you do?" Remembering that Tovar wanted to spar with Mara Jade, she fully turned towards the woman and stabbed an accusing finger at her.

"What did you do? I thought that you as an Ex-Imp you had more brains than to rouse a dignitary of the New Republic!" Leia said, her voice dangerously low.

"Leia," Luke started but stopped when his twin whirled around and met his gaze with a deadly stare out of brown eyes.

"Don't you Leia me, brother dear. I was talking to that friend of yours here!"

Luke's jaw set firmly. "Leia, stop ... it!" Skywalker said and stared down at his twin sister. "Tovar wanted to..."

"I can speak for myself, Skywalker," Mara cut in and gave both of them a haughty look. Turning towards Leia, she put her hands on her hips, forgetting that the short jacket she was wearing was revealing more than she thought, like the fact that her tank top underneath was ripped open from hem to hem. While she didn't notice Luke Skywalker surely did. "What Skywalker here wanted to say is that your oh so well behaved dignitary wanted to have little baby Briem with me in the middle of the work-out hall," she blushed slightly when she remembered what else had been done in said hall.

"What?" Leia was able to mutter. "I don't understand ... what did he do?"

"He wanted to impregnate me with some ritualistic weapon, apparently he thought I make a good enough mommy to his off-spring without having the questionable pleasure of being courted first," Mara snapped. She caught Luke's stare down her body and when she followed his gaze, feeling the intensity of his feelings through their bond, she quickly closed another button on her jacket.

*Can it, Jedi!* Mara sent him but she had to smile despite herself, softening her tone. Leia had finally noticed her friend's dishevelled state as well.

"I'm sorry, Mara Jade ... I ... I thought ... Nevermind what I thought," she shook her head dismissively. "If you want to place an official complaint, please meet me in my office in the afternoon."

"She will," Luke said and met Mara's eyes with an raised eyebrow when he felt a tendril of anger coming his way from her. "What?" he asked.

"What do you think you are doing, Skywalker?" Mara asked, her temper coming to the surface again. "I can speak for myself and I won't press charges against that sorry excuse of a human. Not after what happened ... I mean ... They will need evidence," she cut herself short and met his blue eyes with a cold emerald stare of her own. *They will probably see it as an attempt of rape, how am I going to explain to them that I had sex shortly afterwards?*

Blushing deeply, Luke nodded and tried to ignore the inquiring look of his twin.

*You are right, Mara,* he managed to send Jade and tried to suppress his blush that was burning his face.

The nagging feeling that something had happened between the two had increased and while Leia was studying the pair, she had to admit that despite their more usual bantering, there was an underlying tension of ... What? she asked herself. Anger, frustration? Then it hit her. It all makes sense, somehow. Mara's refusal to press any charges as she knows that she has to pass a med test, Luke's unfamiliar presence in the Force and that smell..... Blushing like her brother, Leia tried to calm her turbulent thoughts.

"Well then, I better get going," Leia said and tried to be as nonchalant as ever. "Just make sure you won't get caught in any more public places you two. Last night was already enough to last me a life-time." With this she excused herself and left two very dumbstruck Jedi in her wake.

"Does she know?" Luke asked and Mara's head snapped up to look at him.

"She is your sister, how do I know?" she breathed.

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 100