Chapter Five - Peace

Mara stopped struggling after her initial shock had worn off. Struggling only helped to grind herself into the embrace of the Jedi Master and his burning hand that still cupped her left breast. Swearing beneath her breath, she felt herself going rigid, staring at Leia, Senator of the New Republic and a very angry twin sister to the man who was still holding her to himself rather intimately.

But what surprised and shocked her even more was the tingling sensation racing through her and a soft glowing light exchanging between them. The touch of the Force was not discomforting but in the given circumstances, it was uncalled for.

"Let go," she managed to demand softly, only for Skywalker to hear and to her utmost surprise, he immediately let go of her. Mara slumped forward but out of training she caught herself.

Two hands gripped her shoulders and when she looked over her shoulder, she met the wondrous stare of the Jedi Master.

*You felt it too?* she heard Luke's voice inside her mind and she gave him a curt nod. Gathering as much of her torn garment as she could, she flashed Leia a haughty smirk and turned toward the first door she saw. Unfortunately, it was Luke's bedroom and when Mara noticed she cursed beneath her breath.

"Sithspit," Mara growled and leaning against the closed door, she quickly scanned the room. Seeing Luke's earlier discarded tunic, she quickly made her way over and shoved her arms into the tunic that covered her from her neck down to mid thigh.

She extended her Force sense towards the two persons outside the room and Mara gasped when she felt the barely contained laughter coming from Luke.

"I'll be Kesseled," Mara muttered annoyed. "This is not funny, Skywalker!" She extended her senses more and when she was sure she had a strong hold on her emotions she ribbed the Jedi Master hard through the Force.

As soon as Mara had made her exit, Leia had lashed out at her brother.

"You and Mara Jade?" Leia said and shook her head. "I thought you were more sensible than that!"

"Leia, you are jumping to conclusions. Mara is staying here as a guest," Luke replied and hid a smirk after he had noticed that Mara had turned towards his room instead of her own. After all, Leia was right, it looked like Mara and himself were an item.

"Oh do I?" Leia asked and crossed her arms over her chest. "She just vanished behind your bedroom door, so don't take me for a ride in the Falcon, brother mine."

Luke's anger had worn off and was now replaced by an uncontrollable urge to laugh. He had to admit that the whole situation was extremely funny and hysterical. He tried to hide the smirk and almost toppled over when he felt the not too gentle ribbing through the Force.

*Jade!* he sent her and felt her snort.

"Luke, was is it?" Leia asked alerted, when she saw her brother flinching.

"It's okay, Leia," Luke breathed and straightened. "It's what I deserved."

He held up his hand and motioned Leia over to his couch where he seated himself opposite her. "Go on Leia, you can cross-examine me, but know that Mara and I are just friends."

"I won't cross-examine you ... I ..." Leia's anger fell flat when she remembered the despair coming from him earlier. "I just feared you had made another mistake ..."

The twins' gaze locked with each other and Luke knew what his sister was referring to .. that he had made another mistake like the one with Callista.

"Don't be silly, sis, I have learnt my lesson," Luke whispered softly and broke the connection. "I had a nightmare and Mara woke me up. We then talked and we got into an argument," he broke off when he heard the soft thud of his bedroom door and a whirl of red-gold and black appeared in the corridor leading to the spare guestroom.

"Mara," Luke called out, sending forth a tendril of the Force, but Mara's barriers were slammed tight against him. What he could feel was that she tried to ignore him deliberately. When he had seen Leia, he had come to a decision. He would tell her about Callista, the complete shabby truth that only Leia and Han knew about. When Mara was about to return to the spare room, Luke stood up without even noticing it and willing her to turn around, he used the Force.

"Skywalker, you use the Force one more time on me and I kill you for good, and I don't care if your sister and the whole NRI come after me!" Mara was all sparks and spittle. She hated scenes, especially in public and she considered Leia Organa-Solo public, even if she was the twin sister of her best friend.

"I'm sorry, Mara, but you won't listen to reason if I'd ask you to join us," Luke said, not a hint of regret in his voice. "Now that I have your undivided attention would you please join us? Leia won't bite."

He flashed his sister a smile and for a moment, Leia got the fleeting feeling that he actually enjoyed baiting Mara. She just wasn't sure if it was such a good idea, given the circumstances. Earlier she had seen that there was no way Mara was wearing any concealed weapons, but she had been sure to have seen Luke's old lightsaber in her hand.

"Luke," Leia uttered warningly and turned when she heard the snort coming from the fiery redhead. But to Leia's surprise, Mara came over to them and seated herself in the only other unoccupied chair, her arms crossed in front of her chest as if to say dare me.

"So what now?" Mara challenged. "Do you want to hear that Skywalker and I had hot, wild sex, before you barged in unannounced, Madame Senator?!" Only Mara could give the honorary title a decidedly nasty ring to it.

Both twins gasped and Luke's head snapped into Mara's direction. For a long moment their eyes locked and the tension between them was palpable.

*There is no need to get nasty, Mara!* Luke admonished her. *Leia knows nothing has happened, riling her up again does not do us any good ...*

*Us?*, Mara shot back. *There is no US, you better get on with whatever you want to say so I can leave!*

Leia heard Luke's sigh of exasperation and she hefted expectant brown eyes onto her brother, she felt his intention before she could had even reached out with the Force towards him and with a gasp, she blurted out. "No, Luke!"

Luke Skywalker smiled sadly at his sister and shook his head. "It is time, I have to let some more people know why I have those nightmares ..."

Mara Jade watched the exchange between the twins and she had the nagging feeling that this was something important and that she would probably be let into some dire Skywalker secret.

I don't want to be part of this, Mara thought and prepared to get to her feet, the minute she heard anything she had no business to hear. Skywalker made it quite clear, we are all private persons and some things should stay private!

"Skywalker, look," Mara started and both twins turned toward her. Jade fidgeted unconsciously and tried to re-establish her cool and calm demeanour. "What ever the big secret is, I don't want to know. As you said, Callista is private and it is none of my business. You had a nightmare, you woke up, end of story," she pushed herself to her feet and straightened. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have a long day tomorrow and I need to get a bit of sleep on the Fire."

"Mara, this is important, so please stay."

If she had not known better that Skywalker wasn't foolish enough to use a Force trick on her, she could have sworn that her reaction to his soft plea would stem from just that .. a Force trick. But curiosity had always gotten the better of her, ever since her childhood days, and even with the Emperor trying to quench this little streak of her character, she had to concede that she wanted to know what this was all about. With a sigh, she nodded her consent and sat back down again.

"This better be important, Jedi," she growled but even to her own ears it sounded not at all threatening.

Luke sat back and watched the two women in front of him. He should have come clean about all of this a long time ago, but somehow it had never been the right time.

"Mara, you asked me about Callista ..." Luke began, shifting uncomfortably in his seat. "Remember the day when you came to Yavin IV and we had that argument over her?"

Mara shook her head. Not about that time, she pleaded with herself and tried to shut out the pain that was trying to overwhelm her.

"Skywalker, it wasn't an argument, we had a full blown fight over Callista, and I remember breaking your nose. You don't want to warm up old stories, do you?" Jade asked with a heavy sigh and she looked up, first at Luke and then at his sister. "Look, I'm sorry, for what I said and did back then, it wasn't my business then and it isn't my business now. I overreacted, and that's it. Perhaps I should have apologised a long time ago, but better late than never."

Leia was astounded. She had never seen or heard Mara Jade apologising for anything and that had to be the first. She still remembered clearly the blood gushing from Luke's broken nose, and for a moment she had feared Mara Jade had at last fulfilled her threats and killed Luke. Only later she had found out from Jaina that she had felt them arguing over Callista and that she too felt the way Mara Jade did ... what exactly she felt and thought, Jaina never told her though.

Now this could be very interesting Leia thought and bent slightly forward.

Mara felt as if she had been put up on the spot and the hairs at the small of her neck raised in silent warning.

"Mara, no need to apologise for something I found out the hard way later on," Luke surprised both women by saying. "You were dead right about Callista, she only loved ... the Jedi Master and the power that comes with such a title..." Squeezing his eyes shut, he gathered his thoughts. "Callista and I ... never had ... a close relationship and after you had clobbered some sense into me I knew why I had felt apprehensions not to have deepened our commitment toward each other..."

"Luke ..." Mara said but a raised hand from Skywalker let her hesitate.

"No, Mara. You need to know the truth, you deserve as much, my friend," Luke said and his blue eyed stare almost pinned her to the spot. "Callista and I never ...," he stopped when he felt a furious blush heating up his cheeks. "We never ..."

Mara had heard enough for her own good. She shook her head and rose to her feet again, this time ignoring both Luke's pleading look and Leia's outstretched hands.

"It's none of my business Luke, I don't want to hear it. I'm sorry, that my words had caused a rift between you and Callista's relationship, I never thought my words would actually change anything." Rubbing her eyes furiously, Mara willed herself to remain calm.

Battling between her curiosity and the urge to flee this situation, she shook herself mentally. I have to get out of here! she told herself, some deep fear growing in the pit of her stomach. Ignoring the two twins, she made her way determinedly to the spare room.

Leia just stared after her. Even with her not too fully fledged Jedi senses, the Senator had picked up the tell-tale signs of stress coming from Mara Jade.

But why? she asked herself. I never had her pegged as the apologising or regretting type and now she not only apologised to Luke, she regretted ever talking to him about Callista.

Looking up she met Luke's intent gaze and for a moment she focused her mind on him but the barriers he kept so tightly around himself were up stronger than ever.

"Luke, what happened?" Leia asked softly, not only asking about the time when Mara had decked him but also referring to tonight.

Luke shrugged his shoulders, the light playing on his skin and for a moment he raked his hands through his hair that was already too long to befit a Jedi Master.

"Leia, I don't know," he answered slowly, and raised tired eyes to his twin. "I guess Mara and I are not made for vacation ... well not spending it with each other. We always end up arguing."

"I'm sorry, Luke," Leia whispered softly and Skywalker grinned. Reaching over, he squeezed her hand for a short moment.

"It's alright, sis, the situation looked strange. It's just that ... by not telling her what kind of nightmare I had, we got into a fight," he shook his head. "She is right, you know. I bugged her about letting me help her with some of the stuff to come clean. I argued with her ceaselessly before she ever committed herself to me to show me those nightmares she had since her early childhood days. She wanted to give back some of the help and I shunned her."

Luke stood up and walked over to the transparisteel windows, unseen eyes staring out onto the cityscape beyond.

"I enjoyed tonight, we did stuff that all normal friends do and because of my stubborn pride she is leaving."

Leia watched her brother and for the first time she got a glimpse of how lonely her twin brother must be. She knew that sharing a Force bond with each other gave him strength, but from what she had picked up between him and Mara, even through her weak fledgling Force sense, their Force bond was even stronger and it seemed, unconsciously, Luke was craving for such a bond.

But does he know that such a close bond also ensues other more physical intimacy? she asked herself and stood up. Is he aware that it could lead to more heartache?

"Perhaps you can talk her into staying, Luke," Leia commented softly and smiled when Luke whirled around to face her. "She apologised which was a first for me. So perhaps she surprises you even more with staying."

Skywalker grinned at his sister and nodded.

"Thanks sis," he said and walked Leia over to the door. After it had closed he rested his forehead against the cool durasteel and squeezed his eyes shut. Mental pain, shame and regret washed over him, almost choking him.

Mara Jade had quickly changed into her clothes and now she stood in front of the transparisteel window in the spare room, staring out at the thousands of lights throughout Coruscant.

She was still angry, at herself and Skywalker. She felt foolish to believe that she could have helped the Jedi Master and her resolve to leave was stronger than ever. Turning around, she checked her carryall again, then with a last all encompassing gaze, she turned towards the door. Since their latest quarrel, Mara had kept her barriers closed up but when she entered the living room a wave of shame and regret hit her unexpectedly.

Cursing underneath her breath, Mara made her way to the exit but came short when she saw Skywalker leaning against the door.

Luke turned when he felt Mara behind him and leaning against the door, he crossed his arms over his chest. Both Jedi watched each other for long moments, until the Jedi Master broke the silence.

"I don't want you to go, Jade." he said softly, almost inaudible and Mara had to enforce her hearing with her Jedi powers. "I'm sorry."

Jade shook her head when his words sank in. Although she was prepared to muscle her way out of his apartment, she stood rooted to the spot.

"Don't do this, Skywalker," the Ex-Emperor's Hand said. "You are a very private person, I am a very private person. We should accept and respect that and just go on with our lives, with our friendship as it is."

Luke looked up and pushed himself off the door. All Mara could do was stare at the Jedi Master as he advanced on her with feline grace. Still, even in her anger, she had to admit that her best friend meant more to her than she could have ever imagined possible. The compassionate side of her, which had been apparently eradicated by the relentless training the Emperor had inflicted on her, was still there underneath the layers of her outward cold demeanour.

"Friends talk about what is bugging them. I told you that long ago when I wanted to help you with your nightmares and I should allow you to do the same, Mara. You are my friend."

He had stepped closer, their bodies almost touching. "I'm sorry that I let my pride come between us, but .. you see ... the dream ... it started out with you and I ...," Luke shook his head and averted his gaze. "I just felt ashamed to tell you that ...umm.. I dreamt about you and then it changed to Callista."

Mara was dumbstruck. When she had come here first, she had never expected to find out so much about the elusive Jedi Master. Of course, he was her best friend, perhaps the only friend she had, but they had never crossed the line where they exchanged the more personal aspects of their lives. Tonight, it had changed and Mara Jade was not sure if she liked the influence the turn of events had on their lives, on her life.

She wanted to tell him all that and more but all that her mind could come up with was, "You dreamt about me?"

She could see that Luke's facial colour increased and when she probed his mind, his barriers slammed shut immediately.

"Yes, I dreamt about you ... us," Skywalker said in a low voice. "I'm sorry, Jade, I didn't .. I mean it was unintentional, I guess my mind just had to deal with so much tonight that ..."

"That what?" Mara snapped. She dumped her travel bag to the ground and crossed her arms over her chest.

Luke sighed and ran a hand through his hair. Better get it over with, he thought and motioned her towards his sitting area. I just have to watch my limbs, if she gets angry. And she will get angry!

He waited till Mara had seated herself on the couch, then he sat down in front of her on the small table and took her hands. He had always avoided touching Mara, instinctively feeling her unease at a more personal touch, but this time it was important to him that she'd understand.

"I dreamt about Myrkr," Luke started and prepared himself to be lashed at but when he probed Mara all he could feel was cold curiosity, so he continued.

"I dreamt about the waterfall .. and what could have happened," he said slowly, eyeing her suspiciously but to his surprise she remained calm .. on the surface, but through their bond he could feel her barriers being tightened. "It wasn't intentional but I guess our talk on the roof top triggered something that I had thought not possible .. and then .. then it changed to Callista. I guess ... what I want to say is .. that I don't want to lose you. We are friends, best friends, and I don't want you to go away just like Callista did but deep down I fear that you might, if you knew the real me."

Mara had been still through his whole confession and although she did not like to be touched, avoiding handshakes and other signs of endearment like a Rancor in his pit, she had to admit that his hands holding hers had a soothing effect on her.

She had to keep from smiling during his little speech as he reminded her more of a shy farmboy than the all mighty Jedi Master. It was good to see that Skywalker was only human, she thought and had to grin to herself. So he dreamt about me, no big deal. Nothing to be worried about unless ... she frowned mentally to herself. Unless he has had the same dream I had before I woke up ... but that is not possible, he still is very much in love with Callista.

"So you are afraid I would just leave a friend who is in his core both a stuffy Jedi Master and naive Farmboy?" Mara asked softly, laughter evident in her voice. When Luke nodded shyly, her lips twitched into a grin.

"You really should work on that inferiority complex, Skywalker," she threw him casually and retrieved her hands from his grasp. Immediately she felt a ripple of regret coming from him so she raised her right hand and placed it on his naked shoulder to squeeze it briefly. "Anyone who thinks of you only in these categories should get their minds examined. You are much more. Even if you are stuffy, naive and annoying at times, Jedi."

"Thanks Jade," Skywalker said and gave her a lopsided grin. "I'm sorry, I didn't tell you before, I just ... I guess ..." he fell silent when she shook her head, the wild mass of her red-golden tresses swinging softly by the movement.

"It's okay, Skywalker, everyone has those fears ..."

"Even the great Captain Jade?" He ribbed her and he had to grin when Mara flashed at him out of green eyes.

"Speak only for yourself, Farmboy," she mocked him but stopped when she heard his stomach growling. "You can't be hungry again, can you?"

Luke looked at her sheepishly then stood up. "Well it is almost dawn, breakfast time." He held out his hand toward her and Mara reached out towards it hesitatingly. "Care to join me for breakfast?"

"Sure, but you cook!"

Luke laughed at the fear in her voice. "Of course, I don't want to have ration bars for breakfast ... ouch!" He rubbed his head where Mara's knuckle had hit him the second time in twenty four hours.

"That serves you right, Jedi, I know how to cook, I just don't feel like cooking for myself, that's all."

"If you say so, Jade," Luke shot back and both walked over to the kitchen.

After a scrumptious breakfast of Tatooine milk, scrambled yayagou eggs and the bachon she was so fond of, Mara stretched in her chair and leant back. Service at the Skywalker hostel was better than in a first class hotel, though she had tried to avoid those to keep her credits together. Mostly she stayed at small hostels that were scattered all over Coruscant.

During breakfast they had bantered and Mara had to admit to herself that she enjoyed his company. For once he had let his barriers down and he was a normal human being with her, which she enjoyed more than the cool mask of the Jedi Master.

One could think he is still the young pup he was during the Rebellion, she thought as she watched Luke carefully. That is better than the all powerful Jedi Master he Force disguises himself in.

"So, you want to look for a hotel room?" she had almost missed the softly spoken question and she blinked several times, before she could concentrate on the source of her contemplation.

"Yeah, I just hope that Senate's meeting was cut short and I'm out of your hair in a couple of hours," Mara replied and pointed her fork towards his head. "You know you should see a barber or something, your hair is too long."

Luke mock-groaned and buried his face in his hands. "Not you as well, Mara. Leia is already after me, because of that. I like it that way, besides, it isn't as if any high ranking NR officials visit me on Yavin ..."

"So you are running around unkempt in those jungles of yours?" Jade shot back and grinned when Luke shot her an exasperated look from between his fingers.

He just looked like Anakin - cute! it shot through her mind and she immediately had to reign her thoughts. Now, now, Jade, you are loosing it.

*You think I'm cute?* she heard Luke's voice in her mind and for a moment the deeply rooted fear came crashing back to her. Only the Emperor was able to penetrate her barriers so easily, and it still made her uneasy that Luke could obviously do the same.

"Stay out of my head, Skywalker!" she snapped and sighed. Rubbing her temples and slamming up the barriers against him, she stared down on her plate.

Luke watched her. He still could not understand the bond between them. It had been already there when she had held a blaster against the side of his head onboard the Wild Karrde the first time they had met. It still amazed him that the bond was stronger than that to his twin sister.

Or to Callista, he added silently.

He could still vividly remember the bond between the beautiful Jedi and himself back on the Palpatine's Eye, but although it had been strong it had to be nurtured by a powerful use of the Force to keep it established. With Mara it just came natural and he knew that more than once he had unconsciously trespassed her mind. Not intentionally, never that. Her voice was always so strong in his mind, that he sometimes could not distinguish between her thoughts coming to him through the Force and her actually spoken words.

Skywalker frowned at that. He had never heard about such a strong bond - only what Mara had told him in bits and pieces about her bond with the Emperor. Perhaps she has a gift to generate and enforce, he mused silently but immediately discarded the thought.

Such a gift never works two ways and Mara can just as easily pick up on my thoughts.

The silence between them stretched and groping his mind for something to say to her, and getting rid of the tension that was slowly building up between themselves again, Luke blurted out:

"You looked good in my tunic, Jade, better than I do!"

He immediately groaned mentally. Great, I just put my boot in my mouth again, he told himself and waited with baited breath.

Mara was first stunned then she understood his try of diffusing the tension and she laughed. It was a good-natured laugh and after a few moments of hesitation, Luke joined her.

"You know, Farmboy, every time I think I will kick your butt, you come up with such a statement. You'll be the death of me one day," Mara breathed and wiped her eyes with one hand while the other held her side.

"Never!" The tone of Luke's voice let her look up and although she had expected him to grin, his serious expression wiped her own grin off her face.

"What?" she asked and suppressed a surprised groan when Luke grabbed her hand and squeezed it almost painfully.

"I'd rather kill myself then let anything happen to you, Jade." The seriousness and also the fear that laced the voice of the Jedi Master made Jade shiver.

"Skywalker, be reasonable people die all ..." Mara started but Luke shook his head.

"No Jade, I mean it. I wouldn't want to live without my friend. We look out for each other!"

Mara stared at him wide-eyed and after she had retrieved her hand from his, she shook her head slightly.

"You are too protective, Jedi. You cannot keep everybody out of harm's way," she felt Luke wanting to say something but she held up her hand. "Listen to me, Luke. You cannot save the whole galaxy, let alone me. If my time has come, it will come and no-one, not even you, should interfere with it."

Green eyes locked with blue ones and for a moment they remained still.

*I just want to keep what's mine out of harm's way, is all,* Luke sent her and Mara rose an eyebrow at him.

*What's yours?* she challenged him silently and to his grace, the Jedi Master flushed a deep crimson.

*You know what I mean, Jade. My circle of family and friends ... and you are my friend.*

"I know," Mara replied softly when she broke off their bond in the Force. "But you are not almighty, Farmboy. I can look after myself, you know that."

"I know," Luke answered and heaving a heart-felt sigh he pushed himself to his feet. "I would still feel better if you stayed here. You can come and go whenever you want. You know that I'm not here all the time," he grinned sheepishly when he saw Mara's frown. "I guess I just am over-protective, it is a bad streak of mine."

"And not the only one," Mara shot back and grinned when he threw her a nasty look.

"Oh thanks, Jade, nothing better than a friend who reminds you of all your short-comings," he shot back as he gathered their used cutlery and plates.

"Oh but, Skywalker, that's why you love me," Jade replied sassily.

The plates and cutlery almost slipped from his hands but he recovered quickly and turned towards his disposal unit. He knew that she had meant it in jest, but deep down he knew that Mara Jade was not far from the truth.

The End

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5

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