Krissmasna - Day One
Luke Skywalker walked along the deserted corridors of the huge former Imperial Palace, his faithful astromech trundling along behind him. Ever since he had landed his X-Wing on one of the landing pads on the huge city-planet, he had wondered why the normally busy docks and air streets had been deserted. A lone landing pad officer had given him the explanation: "It's Krissmasna, Sir, the three day festival of the light."
The Jedi Master had sighed and rubbed his eyes wearily. Coming from the outer rim, from a non-seasonal planet to boot, he had heard of Krissmasna but had never celebrated it. Planets with a warm and cold season celebrated Krissmasna, celebrating the light in the middle of the cold season. He had never really grasped the concept, Tatooine was always warm at day and cold at nights, the two suns never generating as much as a slight change in climate. But on Coruscant and almost all core worlds, the festival of light was celebrated, right now.
He had thanked the man and had started out towards Leia's apartment. Luke had not told his twin sister that he was coming. He had not even thought about taking a vacation till Tionne and Streen had pointed out to him that he looked tired.
Skywalker scratched his beard stubble. It was true, he had felt tired and the classes he taught were strenuous and a couple of days away from the Academy, spending them with his family would be pure bliss. Or so he thought.
When he arrived at his sister's apartment he activated the door buzzer. Artoo whizzed and whistled and the Jedi Master turned towards the little droid.
"I don't know if C3PO is here, Artoo," he explained patiently. "But I'm sure if he is, you two can catch up."
Something that sounded like a groan erupted from the little domed head and Luke stifled a laugh. Obviously, Han Solo's resentment for the golden droid had rubbed off Artoo.
"Come on, you like talking to him," Luke said and grinned. He still waited and his hand hovered over the door buzzer again, when he decided against it and stretched his Force sense into the apartment. The flat lay silent and unoccupied and Luke quickly punched in the entry code.
Before he could give Artoo an order to plug himself into the family computer, the little droid had already extended his extension into the computer and was whizzing away softly. Meanwhile, Luke inspected the apartment but it looked clean and deserted.
"Artoo, any info on where Leia and Han are?" he asked his droid and Artoo whistled softly.
"Kashyyk? Oh they went with the kids to celebrate the festival of light?" An affirmative whistle was the answer.
Skywalker sighed. Great, just great, he thought and brushed an errant bang out of his face. "Okay, Artoo, let's head home." He turned but his astromech whistled at him again.
"You are right, Artoo, I need nourishment, and over the festival the shops are closed and I don't think I want to survive on rationbars for three days," Luke answered him and headed for the kitchen. Soon he had found several deep freezed foods, including Nerf steaks and Narishinni fish. In the refrigeration unit he still found several ripe Cin'chi fruits that were just right to be eaten and some ingredients for a salad or two.
Balancing the parcels of food precariously with one hand, Luke went over to the hall just in time to see his astromech rolling in front of the door, whistling and buzzing away to his master.
"What do you mean I should take a bottle of wine or two?" Skywalker asked and stopped in front of the little rotund droid. "Jedi don't drink."
Another spurt of whistles and beeps erupted and Luke had to grin when he read the readout on the little data display.
"So the Jade's Fire docked half an hour ago?! Artoo I told you to leave the NRI databases well alone," Luke shook his head and shot the little droid an annoyed glance. Another whistle and something that sounded like a snort erupted from the droid.
"What do you mean it happened by chance? The docking files are compartmentalised and we are not officially with the Rogues anymore." He bent over the datadisplay and had to grin when he read the little droid's arguments.
"Of course I'm glad Mara is on Coruscant. Yes, Artoo, I'm always looking forward to see her ...," he paused and read the latest printout. "And yes, I don't like it either that she calls you squirt and tin box. But that is Mara to you. She calls me Farmboy, remember?"
Another whistle, soft and clear like a laugh answered him.
"What do you mean, I am? Oh thanks Artoo, now I get bickering from my own droid."
They proceeded through the door and after the Jedi Master had made sure to secure the door, they went towards the turbo lifts.
Mara Jade paced impatiently in front of the turbolifts. She hated celebrations and festivals with a vengeance. The deserted streets and airways of Coruscant unnerved her on days like these. In former years, she had always avoided going to Coruscant during the great festivals, but especially during the Festival of Light. But Karrde had insisted that she see the Chief of State, Leia Organa-Solo, about a trading proposal and here she was.
She still could remember the days when she had been a small child at the Emperor's Court and how utterly lonely she had felt during these days, the service staff had told her tales of how joyous and peaceful and fun the festival was when they spent it with their families but to the small Mara Jade, it had been three days of complete silence and desertion with only Vader occasionally checking in on her.
Mara shuddered, remembering the memory and she was glad when the sound of opening turbolift doors yanked her out of this particular sad reverie.
"I really hate festival days," Mara muttered as she boarded the lift. With more force than she intended she punched in the level of Organa-Solo's quarters.
Rubbing her neck tiredly, she waited while the lift was set in motion and tried to ban the dark memories. Of course, she knew that people loved Krissmasna but to her, it only held sad, disturbing memories. Totally engrossed in her thoughts, her body reacted before her mind when the doors opened and she stepped out, bumping into the man and his droid barring her way.
"Mara!" Luke smiled and steadied the redheaded woman that had bumped right into him. With a sudden rush both their barriers softened slightly and each their presences washed over the other.
"Skywalker," Mara growled and stepped aside. "What in the Hutt's dirty mind are you doing here?" When her Force sense had opened to Skywalker, she had been taken by surprise and before she knew what had happened her whole being had basked in the Jedi Master's presence in the Force before she had clamped her barriers up tight.
"Nice to meet you too, Jade," Skywalker replied and bent down to pick up a package of Nerf steaks that had fallen down.
"Oh, have you looted your sister's refrigerating unit?" Mara asked and quirked an eyebrow at him. "Typical bachelor, huh?"
"Unlike you, Mara, I can only stomach so many ration bars. What are you doing here? I thought you were with Karrde?"
"I was with Karrde, but had to make a run for him. What about you? I thought you were on Yavin?" Mara inquired, then frowned. "Don't tell me you are on v-a-c-a-t-i-o-n?" She said, spelling out the word rather than pronouncing it.
"What is wrong with a little vacation, Jade?" Luke asked, his voice having a definite whine to it.
"Because, Farmboy, you always get into trouble when you are on the dreaded v-word," Mara shot back, and turned towards Artoo when the little droid beeped.
"Hello Squirt, I trust you keep the Jedi Master out of trouble on his v-a-c-a-t-i-o-n," she said. She didn't expect an answer but the little silver-blue droid erupted in a frenzy of beeps and whistles. Mara frowned and looked over to Skywalker. "What did he say?"
Luke stifled a laugh when he had read the words on the data display. "He said his name is Artoo and that he detests being called Squirt."
"He detests being called Squirt?" Mara asked and looked between the man and his droid to and fro. "I always thought you were the one in dire need a psychdroid but you better get his circuits straightened out too."
Another beep answered her and she shook her head with a snort.
"Now, come on, Jade. It's not as bad," Skywalker replied and moved his packages to the other hand.
Mara waved at him with her hand and shook her head. "Whatever, Skywalker. I'm in a rush anyway, I am here to see your sister, not to give your droid a psychreport."
A brief flicker of disappointment went through Luke but he quickly cloaked it. "Leia's not here. She, Han and the kids are visiting Chewie. They are scheduled to come back ..." he turned to Artoo's datapad again. "After Krissmasna."
Mara stifled a groan and impatiently rubbed her neck again. "Great," she muttered. "Now I'm stuck on this Sithforsaken planet."
Luke Skywalker watched his companion and the wave of dissolution coming from her through their Force link made him curious.
"Why, Mara? I believe Coruscant during Krissmasna is a very peaceful planet." Another snort from the woman piqued his curiosity even more.
"What is it, Jade?" he inquired gently. "Surely you don't want to tell me you are suffering the seasonal blues, do you?"
Mara's head jerked up and green dazzling eyes shot laser bolts at the Jedi Master. "What would you know, you come from an outer rim backwater planet that doesn't even have seasons."
"Hey Mara, I only asked you a question," Luke said and closed his eyes briefly, trying to calm the sudden rise of anger surging through him.
Jade watched the man in front of her, trying to ignore the spear of anger that was coming from him through their Force bond.
"You are right, Luke," Mara surprised both of them by using his first name. The mixture of sadness and destitute coming from the woman surprised Luke and hesitating, he reached out his one free hand and put it gently on her shoulder. Her muscles tensed underneath his fingers but she did not move away from the Jedi Master.
"Mara?" he asked. "How about spending the night with me?"
The redhead quirked an eyebrow at him. "What Skywalker, you taking pity on me or do you want to come on to me?"
Luke Skywalker flushed when he realised what exactly he had said. "No ... ah Mara, I didn't ..." his voice trailed off and his face grew in colour with embarrassment.
Jade shot him an amused look.
"Skywalker, relax," she said and pointed towards the parcels he was carrying. "So are you serious? You want to feed me with the result of looting Leia's kitchen?"
Luke grinned sheepishly at her. "Yeah, they are on Kashyyk and your stomach would appreciate something else than the customary rationbars."
A smile tucked at Mara's lips and she shook her head. "You should try them. They are good."
"You really want to spend the next few days on the Fire with only rationbars as company?" Luke asked and shifted the food awkwardly into his other hand, the Cin'chi fruits perching on top of the parcels precariously. "My offer still stands, Jade," he said. "Nerf steaks and salad at my place."
Mara mused over this, creasing her nose. "You cooking?"
"But of course," Luke answered quickly. "So I'll pick you up at six?"
"Skywalker, it is not a date," Jade groaned out.
"Of course not, but I have to check on my X-Wing anyway ... you are docked on platform seven, right?"
Mara Jade's head jerked up and when Luke shot her a sheepish look, she sighed and let it pass.
"Alright, Jedi Boy, at six sharp. I'll bring the wine."
Mara Jade scowled at her own image in the small mirror. Her tiny cabin on the Jade's Fire was strewn across with various clothes and dresses. On her way back to the Fire she had been determined to give Luke a hard time during dinner, but somehow the mood of Krissmasna had gotten to her and after a quick sonic shower she had actually rummaged through her small set of formal clothes she had on her ship.
Turning around in front of the mirror, she scrutinised her appearance. The soft, long silk dress she was wearing flowed around her slender figure like a living being and she had to admit that this was one of her favourite dresses. The dress had a tight bodice that clung to her like a second skin, the long skirt flaring around her legs. Her shoulders were left bare and then long arms reached almost to her fingers. It was a beautiful dress, with a rich dark green colour that set off the gold of her hair and the creaminess of her skin just perfectly.
She twirled around and grinned at her reflection.
"Perfect!" Mara exclaimed and clapped her hands together, then suddenly she frowned and stopped dead. It isn't as if I'm going on a date, she told herself.
Hesitating for a moment, she reached behind her to open the fasteners. "I don't want to give the Jedi Master any ideas," she muttered to herself. "As if he'll ever get ideas anyway ..."
The sudden thought of Luke Skywalker looking at her and the dress made her shudder. With renewed vigour she attacked the fasteners and groaned when she felt Luke's advancing presence.
*Mara?* Luke asked and felt the annoyance coming from the beautiful trader aboard her ship.
*Hang on a minute, I have to change,* Mara sent back. With a flick of her hand she activated the ramp of the craft with the Force, unconsciously opening her barriers for a short moment.
Shrugging out of the dress, she picked up a fresh flightsuit.
*I liked the dress,* she heard Luke's voice in her mind, and for a moment she flinched.
"What?" she asked aloud and could feel Luke's presence just beyond the door. "Skywalker, get out of my mind and keep your Force sense to yourself!"
She heard the soft chuckle. "All I said is that I liked the dress, Mara. You were projecting ever since I entered the hangar. So if you like to wear it, don't mind me. I like it."
With a sigh, Mara put the flightsuit back onto the bed and slipped into the dress again.
"Okay, but I don't want to hear any stupid remarks..." she said through the closed door.
"Because you are into the Krissmasna mood at last?" Luke shot back.
"Ha Ha, Skywalker, you are getting smart on me?" Mara asked as she opened the door.
Luke's sharp retort died on his lips when he saw the beautiful vision in the doorframe. He swallowed audibly. Even the images he had picked up from Mara's mind had not prepared him for what was now standing in front of him. This vision was striking, captivating and just perfect. The tight, thick braid that always swung down her back was gone and Mara's hair, that had grown considerably over the months he had last seen it open, reached down to her waist, the soft waves and curls sneaking down in heavy tresses in a colour that was living fire. Luke suspected that, if she had straight hair, her hair would reach even farther down.
Mara frowned. She could have sworn the Jedi Master was gawking at her, but that, she mused, was impossible. But Luke's next words took her by surprise.
"You look perfect, Jade," Skywalker mumbled and he felt like the farmboy she always accused him to be. He had never seen someone who looked both beautiful and regal and utterly captivating like Mara Jade.
Mara frowned but closed her mouth again when she wanted to blast him. If she had to be honest with herself she felt strangely flattered. In his function as the Jedi Master, Skywalker had every opportunity to meet the most beautiful women in the galaxy on the many official celebrations his twin always seemed to drag him to and yet he thought she was perfect, not beautiful mind, but perfect.
"Thank you," she heard herself whisper and her cheeks grew hot. The awkward moment intensified and the two Jedi just stared at each other. Luke was the first to recover and self-consciously he turned slightly, his eyes noticing the two bottles of wine standing on a table in the small kitchenette.
He picked up both and cocked his head towards the hatch of the ship. "Shall we?" he croaked out and groaned inwardly.
"Sure," Mara said and turned again to grab a soft, warm shawl in the same deep green colour as her dress.
In awkward silence they made their way to the former Imperial Palace, both engrossed in their own thoughts.
Artoo was buzzing softly away at his power station when the two Jedi returned to the Master's apartment.
"Hello tin head," Mara greeted the small droid and a set of whistles erupted from the domed little head.
"Artoo, behave," Luke admonished softly. "And you too, Mara."
The young trader's eyebrows shot up. "What, Skywalker, you want me to apologize to your droid?" Mara asked incredulously.
Luke shook his head and blushed under the scrutinizing and slightly annoyed look of the Ex-Emperor's Hand.
"Of course not. I never heard the great Mara Jade apologizing, let alone to a Jedi Master or his droid."
"Good that we understand each other, Farmboy," Mara replied and strolled over to the seating area. She passed a wall that was adorned with several holo images of all sizes, showing Skywalker's family as well as students and friends.
While the Jedi Master returned to the small kitchen to set the table, Mara inspected the pictures and was surprised when she found one that showed her and Skywalker. She was certain that it had been taken by Streen or Kyp because she could remember the last time she had been on Yavin. Out of fun, Kyp had asked her to spar with the Jedi Master to show the pupils how masterful a lightsaber could be wielded.
The holo was perfect. It focused on both Jedi as they were clashed together in duel, lightsabers raised high above their heads. What surprised Mara even more was that both she and Skywalker were actually laughing at each other. Thinking back, she remembered how much she had enjoyed trying to best the Jedi Master and obviously Skywalker had enjoyed the sparring as much.
"It's beautiful, isn't it?" Luke's voice came from behind and Mara flinched slightly.
"Yes, from an artistic point of view it is perfect," Mara answered and stepped away both from the picture and Luke. He had been so near that his breath had brushed over her ear and it had sent tiny ripples down her spine.
"So, who took it?" she asked to mask her embarrassment.
"Kyp Duron, he gave it to me as a joke but I love it."
They stood in silence, both deeply engrossed in their own thoughts. The delicious smell of food wavered through the apartment and both started.
"I guess dinner is ready," Luke said and turned. Jade watched him go into the kitchen and for the first time she noticed that he was not wearing his Jedi Blacks. Well, not entirely. The black pants and vest set off the dark blue shirt and for a moment she was reminded of Han Solo's outfit more than of the austere attire of the Jedi Master.
Jade followed him slowly and watched as he set the table with plates of Nerf steaks, salads and Korach vegetables.
"Smells and looks delicious," Mara commented and Luke looked up at her, blushing.
"It's not much," he replied, a bit embarrassed. "Not a normal Krissmasna dinner ..."
Mara looked down at the table.
"I wouldn't know ..." she whispered and only with his enhanced Jedi senses he could hear her.
"I thought because of the Festival of Light is commonly celebrated here on Coruscant you have taken part at every dinner ..." Luke's voice trailed away when the feeling of sadness washed over him. Glimpses of images flashed though his mind before Jade tightened her barriers.
"I'm sorry, Mara," he said gently and reached out a hand helplessly towards her.
The young woman looked up and their eyes met, dark green meeting bright blue and for a moment their eyes locked.
"I never really thought much about it. Krissmasna was just another set of days where my life was even more solitary than normally. Vader ..." Mara closed her eyes and suppressed a shudder. "Your father checked in on me once a day during the time of celebrations. He never answered my questions ... I guess he didn't want to sadden me further ..."
"Because it is a family festival?" Luke asked and Mara nodded.
"At those times it was even harder for me not to have any roots or family," Mara Jade replied, her voice hard. She slipped onto the chair, that Luke indicated for her and both Jedi lapsed into silence.
Mara Jade had to admit that one of the Jedi Master's assets, apart from his prowess and skills as a Jedi, was that he was an accomplished cook. She ate the steak and salad with relish, enjoying the taste.
Luke covertly watched Mara and after seeing her enjoying the meal he dug into his own food. They ate in silence but this time it was not awkward in the least.
The moment Mara had finished her meal, Luke sped up to finish his, which was not much of a problem, and as he laid back his fork, he ushered her over to the living area.
Earlier, he had expertly opened a bottle of wine to let it breathe, and now as he poured them two glasses, he watched Mara as she walked over to the wall of holos again. It seemed to hold a strange fascination for her.
Strolling over, he gave her a glass and watched almost mesmerised as her slender fingers held the glass of highly crafted Delaya crystal. Taking a sip, Mara reached out with her other hand and picked off a holo showing the Solo children. Ever since Wayland she had felt a special bond with the children when she had put her own life at stake to protect and save theirs.
"They look so happy and loved," Mara's voice clearly showed her confusion and surprise.
What she had found had both made her sad and happy, reports and innumerous holos of her as a child. The first sets of holos showing a girl of perhaps four years of age while others showed her in her teens. They had been made from the surveillance devices that the Emperor had installed in every room of his Palace. Even though he had been able to feel every intend in the people surrounding him, he had controlled them the old fashioned way as well.
Shaking the memories, she looked up at Luke who had silently stood beside her. Even without using the Force, she was certain he was worried, his facial expressions not as safe-guarded as his barriers on their Force bond.
"They are loved, Jade," Luke replied softly. "I guess those three are the most loved children in the galaxy, having protective parents, an over-protective uncle and a Wookie, Noghri and Winter the ever present nurse..." he paused when he noticed that Mara smiled at the holo and he then added. "And the Ex-Emperor's Hand to boot."
Mara's head jerked up. "I don't lo ... I don't have those feelings for them, Jedi," she snarled but caught herself and looked down at the holo again. "I don't know what love is or what it feels to be loved, Skywalker. But I will protect them, with my life."
They stood in silence both deeply engrossed in their own thoughts. The Jedi Master watched the woman covertly. He was surprised that Mara Jade shared this much with him this evening. Normally she was almost paranoid where her past and present was concerned but he saw it as a nice and welcome change.
"They grow so fast," Mara whispered and put the holo back onto the wall. "As a child I always thought the years would drag on, and now ... they seem to move so fast."
"Afraid of getting old too fast, Jade," Luke teased her to get her out of her obviously sad mood. Mara chuckled and shook her head, her golden-red curls dancing around her head and slender figure.
"Just speak for yourself, Jedi," she shot back and pointed her glass towards him. "It must be the season, you are normally the one who has all these thoughts about the past and the future."
Luke grinned and bent closer, his head almost touching her own. "I must be rubbing off you, Jade."
They both shared a smile, seemingly oblivious of the fact of how close they stood together, focused so intently on each other. But they both had noticed and both were weary and elated to have their friendship deepen and settle into a comfortable companionship.
Of course, the Jedi Master still annoys me, Mara told herself silently. But the edge is out of the banter. It is as if we are really friends now.
Luke also had similar thoughts though, as was the bane of his life, his errant thoughts already took a few steps further. Over the last few months he had found Jade mellowing toward him. They had more serious talks, delving deeper into their pasts, dreams and futures, and he had enjoyed it very much. There was the occasional flare of temper but most of the time they were both apologising rather than clutching to their anger.
What had amazed him even more was that several of his friends and fellow Jedi had commented on that, Cilghal going even as far as mentioning a life bond which Streen when confronted with such a preposterous thought had enforced rather than dismissed.
Perhaps it comes with age, Luke thought. We are settling down and the need to quarrel is receding. Perhaps that is meant with a life bond, Mara and I would gladly give our lives for each other, because we are friends.
Mara quirked an eyebrow as if she had picked up on his thoughts, but she turned her back to him and pretended to study another set of holos.
Mara's mind was a whirlwind of confusion. She had easily picked up on his thoughts, something she had always thought only the Jedi Master could do. Even though she still ignored all pleas of her becoming a Jedi on Yavin, she had noticed the change in the Force, things that had always tired her or had even caused problems while using the Force, were progressing.
Shaking herself mentally, she tried to focus on the holos in front of her. No use to think about that now.
In silence they perused the holos. After a while, Luke beside her started fidgeting and although Mara tried her best to ignore it, she turned around in exasperation and shot Skywalker an annoyed glance.
"What is it, Skywalker?" Mara asked and saw Luke sheepsihly looking at her.
"I just remembered that tonight there is a concert on the holonet that I'd like to listen to ... Would you mind ...?"
For a moment a flicker of disappointment washed over Mara which she quickly blocked off. The thought of Skywalker rather listening to music than spending some time with her, hurt, but she quickly battled theses thoughts. Surely, the Jedi Master has better things to do than spending the evening with me.
"Of course not, Jedi," Mara forced herself to say and even managed to put a smile on her face. "You only invited me to share a meal with you, not letting me peruse your holos and boring you with stories all night." She turned and put the glass of wine aside in search of her shawl.
"No, Mara, I didn't mean ..." Luke's voice halted, then he tried again. "I asked myself if you'd mind if we listen to the concert together. I'd like to share it with someone. It was advertised as a mix of classical and contemporary music. It ... it would be nice to enjoy it together." Silently, Luke chided himself for babbling, but the thought of Mara leaving hurt him more than missing the concert if she said no to his request.
Mara stared for long moments at the Jedi Master, then she nodded her head slowly. She loved music in all its forms and the prospect of enjoying any piece of music together in company that wouldn't make fun of her while listening was a welcome change.
"So when will it start?" Mara asked and had to grin at the genuine smile that flashed over the Jedi's face.
"In half an hour, so we have time to cosen up and you can bore me a bit more with your stories," Luke said and his smile faltered when he saw Mara's quirked eyebrow.
"Cozen up?" She asked.
"Oh-uhhh ... well," Luke scratched his neck sheepishly. "The sound system is just perfect if you camp on the floor in front of that marble monstrosity Han calls a fireplace."
"And probably he says it with a leer," Mara added and laughed softly when Luke looked at her a bit dumbfounded. "The Corellian have a thing for fireplaces ... on Corellia they mostly have it in their bed rooms ... umm.. you know .. to have ... romantic encounters in front of them."
"Mara, I'm shocked that you know such things," Luke whined and rubbed his shoulder where Mara had hit him. He fought off another swat by her hand and tickled her. "The great Mara knowing about Corellian mating rituals." He hissed when her foot connected to his chin.
"Ouch, Mara ..."
"Serves you right, Jedi Master," Mara said, pointing a finger at him. "Fewer men have fared less well when assuming such a connotation."
Luke felt the wave of genuine annoyance coming over the bond. "I'm sorry, Mara, I didn't want to imply that you ... you know."
"Good that we understand each other, Skywalker," she replied tartly and with a graceful twirl she moved in front of the fireplace. "So Skywalker, bring on the music."
"Sure," Luke hurried to comply and switched on the holonet. When he returned from a quick dash into the kitchen to get more wine and some snacks, he was surprised to see that Jade had strewn a couple of comfy cushions onto the floor in front of the fireplace. He sat down beside her on the floor when the announcer finished his little intro speech and the first bars of a traditional music piece wavered through the speakers into the room.
Soon the two Jedi were enwrapped in the music and Luke who had been sitting rather stiffly beside Jade, watched her as she slipped off the shoes she had been wearing and wiggling her toes in time with the rhythm of the melody.
"You can dance if you like," he commented with a grin and gestured around. "If you need more space, I can move some of the furniture ..."
"No, it is alright, Skywalker," Mara replied but stood up nevertheless. Softly, her hips swayed to the music then she gracefully twirled, her skirt an almost perfect circle around her graceful legs. She laughed when she saw Luke's sheepish grin. From his viewpoint he had a perfect view on her slender legs.
The music ended and a more livelier piece started while Mara Jade performed solely for the Jedi Master. Luke watched her, smiling at her when she closed her eyes and made an intricate stepping pattern. He could feel her enjoyment over their shared bond in the Force and he was certain that only a few people before him had ever seen Mara Jade that relaxed and happy.
After a while, he released the fasteners of his boots, and removing the black leather boots together with his socks, he moved them away. His whole body was vibrating with the music. It was yet another more traditional piece he still knew way back from his childhood days. In fact, his aunt Beru had hummed it to him when he was still little and she had taught him how to dance.
Mara finished another graceful twirl, having felt the mixture of joy and sadness in the Jedi. Coming over, she held a hand out towards him.
"Care to join me?" she asked and for a moment, Luke hesitated.
"I'm not good at dancing, Jade."
"Who cares? Your sister is not here to reprimand you, Jedi. And I won't complain, honest." Hauling him to his feet, she moved him over in front of the fireplace, the music slowing down to a soft, slow theme.
Luke took Mara into his arms, swaying softly just as Beru had taught him, from time to time leading Mara into a more difficult step pattern, which the woman followed easily.
*You are good, Jedi, who taught you?* Mara inquired over their bond and Luke told her. Mara tried not to flinch at the sense of sadness washing over her. Instinctively, Mara reached out and placed her palm against his cheek.
"She won't be forgotten, Luke," she whispered softly, locking eyes with the Jedi Master. It was a simple gesture, borne from compassion and friendship, but Skywalker felt a surge of something completely different surging through him, something more powerful and raw than he had ever experienced.
It was as if he saw the woman in his arms for the very first time. Mara Jade was bautiful, no doubt about that. She was his best friend and he could count on her with his life, but for the first time tonight he had seen the caring woman who, like him, felt lonely at festivals like this one. They had always been connected, first by hatred, induced by the Emperor, then by careful respect and now friendship. But this friendship, at least for him, had taken on another level, and he was not sure if he could accept that, let alone make Mara see that more than friendship even existed between the two.
Not trusting himself to do anything foolish, Luke tucked her head at his shoulder, fleetingly revelling in the soft texture of her beautiful hair. For a long time they stayed this way, swaying to the music, not noticing that a new song had started.
*Thanks for being here, Jade,* Luke sent her after a while, his mind still racing with the infinite possibilities the realization had given him. The realization that on this day of the Festival of Light, he had found another, much more brighter light, that not only touched him but also shone deeply into his heart.