Day Two
Luke groaned and for a moment he wished sleep would enwrap him once more, but after a few more seconds he opened his eyes and tried to adjust to the dim light that came through the transparisteel windows.

For a moment, the Jedi Master felt disorientated and when he sat up he knew for sure that something was wrong. The light from the windows was wrong, even the position was off. Rubbing his eyes a few times, thinking he must still be dreaming, he sat up completely and noticed that he was still wearing his trousers and shirt. For a moment he panicked, then memory started in and he had to smile.

He remembered vividly the passed evening, how he had danced with Mara Jade until the concert had ended. Afterwards they just talked, nursing their wine and after a while, Mara had fallen asleep right beside him. He had done the gentlemanly thing and carried her over to his bed, then had tried to fall asleep on his couch.

Well, I must have succeeded, Luke thought. He stretched, several bones popping as he did and Luke realized that he never knew how bumpy his sofa really was until now.

On tiptoes, he walked over to his bedroom, slowly opening the door which had been left ajar. Inching forward slowly he made his way towards the refresher, but his eyes were inadvertedly drawn to the bed.

Mara Jade was still sleeping, red, fiery curls set ablaze by the morning sun seeping through the windows onto the bed. Skywalker knew he had tucked her in last night but now her legs were entangled with the sheets and her skirt.

For a moment, the Jedi Master considered straightening out the sheets, but after he had taken a step towards the bed, he stopped dead still in his track. She'll kill me if she wakes up and finds me fiddling with the sheets, he told himself silently and with effort he turned away. But the image of the peaceful sleeping ex-assassin, in his bed, was burned into his retinas. With almost a groan, he entered the fresher.

Luke slumped against the door and squeezed his eyes shut. Last night, before he had fallen asleep he had almost persuaded himself that the feelings he had newly discovered for Mara Jade were nothing but alcohol induced. They had finished off not only the two bottles Mara had brought but also had looted the small but potent storage he had in his apartment.

But today, even with a headache that he deserved, he knew his feelings towards Mara ran deeper than he had thought.

Sithspit, Luke thought. Mara was right; I always get into a mess during my vacations.

And this time she is the only one who can get you out of this emotional mess, a small little voice nagged in the back of his mind.

Great, and I might lose another limb or two in the process, Luke added silently. With a sigh, he pushed himself off the door and turned on the water in the shower. Quickly shedding his crumpled clothes, he stepped under the spray and flinched slightly. He had unconsciously set the water to cold.

After a long cold shower, Skywalker dressed in his usual Jedi blacks and left the fresher and his bedroom without another glance at the sleeping woman in his bed. During his shower, where he had recited the Jedi code more often than he had bothered to count, he had decided to vent his head with a long walk through the deserted walkways of Coruscant.

After he had found a blank data card, he left Mara a message and put both reader and card beside her on the bed, then he left the apartment quickly. When the door behind him slipped shut, Skywalker let out a sigh of relief. He had not noticed until then that he had been so tense ever since he had woken up.

I just hope Mara won't notice once she is up, he thought and secretly wished the beautiful trader would be gone on his return.

Mara creased her nose as if something tickled her and with an unladylike grunt, she brushed her hand over her face. The tickling stopped but Mara's finger had been caught in her hair. Awaking fully, she opened her eyes, examining with wonder her hand and the soft strands of hair that had miraculously wound around her finger.

With a sigh, she unwound the hair and sat up. From the opened door she heard the soft whirr of an astromech, and with crystal clarity the events of last night came crashing down on her. With a groan, she buried her face in her hands and squeezed her eyes shut.

Okay, Jade, this time you did it! she chided herself and looked down her front. I still have my dress on, so I haven't done anything improper... Good.

The headache Mara was sporting was killing her but she tried to ignore the throbbing inside her head and sat up again. On wobbly legs, she pushed herself up and held her head with a groan. Sithspit, this hurts!

A warble of shrill beeps came from the living area and Mara groaned out loudly. "Not now!" she whispered and her head snapped up when the beeps continued and came from the open door.

"What is it squirt?" she asked the little droid then frowned. Great, now I'm talking to Skywalker's droid! Turning her back to the droid she mumbled, "Forget it!" and entered the fresher.

Luke had run at a comfortable pace in the training area, even considering training with one of the practice droids when he heard someone calling out his name.

Stopping and looking up he saw Wedge Antilles standing on the gallery, giving him a mocking salute with a grin.

"Never any down time, huh, Boss?" Antilles shouted down and grinned.

"Antilles, has your wife finally seen reason and thrown you out?" Skywalker retorted and wiped sweat off his face with his tunic.

"Ouch! Don't remind me, Luke. I'm supposed to find this special ingredient for her Krissmasna pudding and I can't find an open shop," he replied and walked toward the lift that led down to the training area below.

Luke watched his descent and grinned when he saw his friend coming towards him. "The joys of marriage," Skywalker taunted and Wedge shook his head.

"Just you wait, till you get married, Commander," Wedge replied sourly and almost missed the slight flinch of the Jedi Master.

"Yeah well ... you know, Jedi Masters and marriage don't mingle well ..." Skywalker had sobered and rubbed his arms with his tunic. Wedge saw that the Jedi Master contrary to his normal training didn't wear his training attire.

"So what happened? Impromptu training session?"

"Something like that ... I can't go home ... well I could but Mara ..." Skywalker's voice trailed off and he felt himself blush. Great, Jedi, how am I supposed to explain that I can't get home because Mara is in my bed?

"But Mara?" Wedge asked and quirked an eyebrow at him. The blush didn't escape Antilles and he grinned like a Vornskr ready to prey. "Way to go, Luke. I always knew you and Mara would end up with each other, you are like two sides of the same medal!"

The Jedi Master stared at his friend open mouthed, and then with increasing face colour, he shook his head.

"No, no, Wedge, it isn't like that ... Mara spend the night with me ... but ... not like you think ... I'd never ..." he swallowed and felt his face colour even more increasing. "She stayed in my bed and I slept on the couch."

Wedge eyed his friend and ex-commander closely, the way Skywalker hatched around the subject of Mara in his bed, without him in it, told whole data card archives.

"So now you are venting your frustration because you didn't sleep in your bed?" Antilles asked.

"What?" Skywalker asked and it was obvious he was in shock. "Wedge! I never ... I mean Mara is my friend ..."

"And she is a real beautiful young lady, Luke. Sith, Luke, you were always too good for your own good. Anyone else would have taken the chance to get 101 with Jade..."

"I'm not anyone else," Skywalker bit out and turned, but Wedge held him back.

"I know, Luke, and that's why you are the great guy we all know and like," Antilles said and grinned sheepishly. "Hey, look, I'm sorry. I know it isn't any of my business, but you should loosen up a bit more. Reclusing yourself on that moon of yours isn't doing you any good ..." he waved his hand at Luke when he tried to reply and Wedge shook his head. "I know you are the Jedi Master and all that, but you are also a man. I know you," he dug a finger into his Luke's chest. "Others might want to make a holy man out of you but you need to get out more, do things that other guys do ... and if it is with someone as beautiful and sharp as Mara Jade, do it and Sith to all who think it is inappropriate."

Luke swallowed hard then looked down at his hands, his cheeks burning even more than before. "I can't do that ... not with Mara ... she'll skin me alive and eat my heart with Canindarii sauce ..."

Both men chuckled at the visual but sobered after a while.

"Well if not Mara then with someone else ... not all women are like Callista, you know," Antilles said.

"I know," Luke sighed and checked the chrono on the wall. "I better get back, Wedge ..."

"Sure," Wedge half-turned then swung back on his heels. "How about you come by tonight? Iella asked about you just the other day, and now that we are all on planet at the same time, and with Krissmasna and all, we should celebrate. I get the other Rogues together and have a smashing time."

"I don't think ..." Luke started but was cut off by Wedge.

"Don't think, do ... we'll have a grand time, Luke. Come on ... it'll be fun."

Luke thought about it but then he remembered that the Rogue members would probably turn up with their wives and he would feel again like the third conductor to a landspeeder.

"And bring Jade, Iella would like to meet her at last ..." Antilles grinned slyly when he saw Luke's dumbfounded expression. "See you later, Red Five!"

It took a long time till Skywalker had recovered and he stared at the empty spot where Antilles had stood.

"Sithspit!" Luke exclaimed and rubbed his face. "How am I supposed to tell Mara Wedge invited us both over?" With a groan he headed towards his apartment.

Mara stood under the warm spray of the shower and stretched her muscles. Despite her hangover, she had never felt better in a long time. Closing her eyes, the trader leant against the shower wall and let the water run over her. She wondered where Skywalker was, so she stretched out with the Force and immediately felt Luke's presence.

She quickly finished her shower but when she stepped out, she noticed she had not had any change of clothes with her. Sighing she grabbed the first thing she could find, which was a huge towel she wrapped herself in. Hurrying to get finished before Skywalker might catch her in the fresher, half-dressed, she slipped into her crumpled dress, cursing as she did so.

Keeping close tabs on Skywalker's approach, she towel-dried her hair furiously and was ready when Skywalker walked into the living area. From the pensive mood he was in she knew something was wrong.

"Skywalker?" she asked, throwing the used towel into a hamper nearby. She walked out into the living area and watched Skywalker leaning against the counter in the kitchen and sipping some caf.

"What is it, Skywalker? You look as if a Bantha just poked into your behind?!"

Luke watched the beautiful apparition in front of him, readying himself for the argument that surely was to follow shortly.

"Good morning, Mara," he greeted her but the red-head would have none of that.

"Stop hatching, Jedi, what is it?"

Taking a deep sigh, Luke decided to get it over and done with. "I ran into Wedge earlier and he invited us over to a Krissmasna party with the Rogues tonight. He said Iella wants to meet you."

"Us?" Mara asked incredulously. "Why should he invite US?"

Luke shrugged and continued to sip on the quickly cooling caf. "I told him you were staying here ..."

"You told him I stayed overnight?" Mara asked furiously and angrily brushed her hair aside that fell into her face. "Every time I think you have shed off your Farmboy's naivety you come up with such a stuff."

"Mara, you know I don't like lying .. you staying here is the truth and Wedge is my friend .. one of my best friends ..." Luke answered. When Mara was one of these moods, she was both dangerous and formidable.

"Well you could have used a white lie, Jedi. Antilles is likely to talk ..and then this ludicrous idea about turning up at their Krissmasna party together ... which Rancor did ride you there?"

Luke sighed and cast his eyes down. This was ridiculous, he thought. I get blasted to the other end of the universe just because I wanted to do friend's stuff with Mara Jade.

Sighing, he sat down in one of the comfortable, overstuffed chairs and rubbed his eyes. "You know, Mara, the way your are going at it, one could think we are married. It is just a party of friends. Nothing carved in stone, I will comm Wedge and Iella and tell them I'm coming alone."

"What?" Mara gasped and came over, her hand on her hips.

"I said I will comm Wedge ..."

"No, before that, Skywalker!" Mara demanded and watched as the Jedi Master blanched visibly.

"Well you behave like a Wentarra fish wife," Skywalker defended himself angrily. "It is just ONE party!" he almost shouted.

"Don't you rise your voice with me, Jedi Boy," Mara snapped back. "Wentarra fish wife indeed. Whose fault is it that I always lose my temper, tell me, Jedi?"

Skywalker jumped to his feet and almost collided with Mara. "Oh now it's my fault all over again?" he growled. "Mara, I'm not the one who brings out the worst in you, it is yourself. You have to keep a tight reign on your emotion or you will never succeed in becoming a Jedi..."

Mara snorted and turned on her heels, strands of her fiery curls almost hitting Luke across his face.

"Now we are at it again!" she murmured and grabbed her shawl.

"Mara ... I'm sorry," Luke said when he felt her barriers tighten against him. "I know you told me again and again that it isn't my business but you are so strong in the Force, you shouldn't waste your talent and skills. You could be my equal in the Force if you just trained properly ..."

"Skywalker, sometimes you really sound like a broken holo message on repeat. Watch my lips, I DON'T WANT to train with you!" Jade spat out and tried to suppress the urge to lash physically out at him. "One Master is enough to last me a lifetime ..."

Luke stared at her, her words piercing something deeply in his heart. "So ... so you think I would turn into a second Emperor?"

Mara felt hardly disguised pain washing over her through their shared Force bond and she knew she had done enough damage for the day.

"I'm sorry, Skywalker. That was uncalled for," she started and swallowed hard. Skywalker had turned his back to her and was staring out of the transparisteel windows onto the cityscape beyond.

"Perhaps you are right, I should train .. but ... but look at me, I'm a trader and the skills and abilities I have now are enough for my business. I ... couldn't train without loosing my life as it is .. who would make business with me if they knew I'm a Jedi?"

Mara had waited for what seemed to her like the longest time and when Skywalker did not answer her, she knew he was in one of his moods again. Sighing, she wrapped her shawl tighter around herself and moved toward the door. Artoo was barring her way and was chirping almost in a sad pleading way and she just shook her head.

Luke's shoulders sagged and for a moment he closed his eyes. He knew she had a valid point there. She loved doing trade runs and being her own woman, all that would change if she dedicated her life to become a Jedi. My own life changed ever since I became a Jedi ..., he thought and almost missed the soft thud of the door. Whirling around, he came face to face with an empty room.

"MARA!" he shouted, almost breaking in a run when he skidded to a sudden halt. The scene before him was almost comical but he refrained from laughing.

"Skywalker, tell your droid to let me out or I will slice him open with your lightsaber," Jade growled.

Another barrage of chirps and whistles made Luke chuckle. "I can't, Mara," he replied and shook his head. "Artoo thinks we should quit quarrelling and go to the party."

"He thinks WHAT?"

"I told you and I don't remember you having hearing problems," Luke retorted and hid a grin when Mara scowled.

"Alright, Jedi Boy, for once I will heed your droid's advice, only to get out of here. But," and here she whirled around to face the Jedi Master. "I'm not going out with you wearing your Jedi Blacks. Force help me, I'm not turning up at the Antilles party with you all clad in drab black."

A whirlwind of green and red rushed past Skywalker and all he could do was stare open mouthed after Mara as she disappeared behind his bedroom door.

When he had composed himself enough, he followed her and saw her rummaging through his wardrobe.

"Mara, I only own black," he started when she dived into the deeper recesses of his cupboard and obviously found what she was looking for.

"HAH!" she cried out triumphantly and held up a midnight blue tunic Luke remembered but had never worn.

"Mara, don't you think you are overreacting?"

"This isn't exactly bright, but for tonight it will do, Skywalker," Mara said and laid the tunic onto the bed. "This combined with black trousers and you might look smart in it, Farmboy."

"Uhhmmm, thanks, Jade."

"You are welcome, Skywalker," Mara replied and grinned. "So, in order to get me out of here, tell your droid to remind you to pick me up at seven at the Jade's Fire."

"What? Mara, I thought ..." but Jade shook her head.

"You thought wrong whatever it was. I have to change and get ready for the party!"

As Mara had told him, he had managed to find some flowers to give to their hostess and although he felt pretty uncomfortable with a bouquet of Daladharijnoi flowers in his hands, he had to admit he had done an admirable job at arranging the flowers.

*Stop worrying, Farmboy,* he heard Mara's voice in his mind and he chuckled.

*You ready?* he sent her. Ever since she had walked off to the Jade's Fire, he had found it increasingly hard to think about anything but the beautiful trader. He now really looked forward to spent the evening with Jade, which is what normal friends did anyway.

Skywalker fingered the high-necked tunic Mara had found for him in the back of his wardrobe. He had known he had the dark blue tunic, but he had never bothered to look for it. Now he was wearing it and although he liked the soft feel of the rich material he still thought it was too stylish for himself.

"Stop fidgeting, Jedi," Mara's voice came from the ramp of the craft.

The Jedi Master looked up as the ramp lowered itself and when Mara came in sight, he almost gawked. The dress she was wearing was the same shade as his tunic and the velvety quality hugged her stunning figure. It was high-necked but knowing Mara he knew the dress had a twist.

"Like what you're seeing?" Mara asked while she turned on her heels one time but it was enough for the Jedi Master. Where her front was high-necked the back of her dress was low ... very low.

"Wha-t?" Luke breathed softly and gripped the bouquet of flowers tighter so that his knuckles whitened. "I ... ni-ce dress, Jade," Skywalker said and tried his best to dampen his furious blushing.

How does she do this? How can she always easily throw me off like that? Luke asked himself and swallowed audibly.

"Don't .. don't you think you'll catch a cold?" he inquired stupidly and Mara laughed.

"I should have known you would come up with something like that," she said and hooked her arm with his own. "Now stop gawking and lead the way. We are already fashionably late as it is."

Later, Luke couldn't remember how he and Mara had managed to arrive at Wedge and Iella Antilles' place or how he managed to keep a straight face when the others noticed just how special Mara's attire was. Now, he was sitting in one of the big comfortable Corellian chairs and listened to the anecdotes Janson and Klivian told.

Almost all the Rogues were there, mostly those who had been under his command when he had been Rogue Leader, but also some whose names and faces he were familiar with but who had joined the Rogues after he had been decommissioned.

For once he felt like a normal human being. No one was Jedi Mastering him and for most of his friends he was just plain Luke or Boss. Watching the people in the room, his gaze caught up with Mara who had a lively conversation with Mirax and Iella. He grinned when Mara obviously showed Iella where exactly she hid one of her hold out blasters.

*Shocking the Coruscant lady-folks again, Jade?* he inquired and watched as Mara's head jerked up and her green intent gaze scanned the room. She spotted Luke sitting with the pilots, drinking Corellian ale.

*Just passing along viable information Skywalker. A lady has to be prepared.*

Luke chuckled at that and almost missed Corran Horn sitting down beside him.

"So how did Mara manage to drag you off Yavin?" Corran grinned when the Jedi Master looked up startled. "Enjoying the view?"

"What? Oh that, no Mara cracked a joke," Luke quickly recovered and watched the CorSec. "I didn't know it was Krissmasna and thought I'd visit Leia and the kids, catch up with Han .. but ..." He shrugged his shoulders. "When I arrived here no one was there and I ran into Mara."

"Ah, I see. Yeah it's fortunate almost all of us are on planet ... the only missing is your sister and Solo," Horn replied.

"Yeah well ... only two more days then they will be back from Kashyyk ..." Luke stated and grinned.

"And the Rogues will be off again," Corran answered and sat back comfortably in the chair, nursing his ale. Both men watched the group of women across the room and after a while Corran pointed his half-empty bottle at his wife and Mara.

"You know, we should do that more often, the women seem to get along well from the looks of it."

"Hmm, well I need to get back to Yavin again soon," Skywalker replied and got a very fuzzy feeling in his stomach when he saw Mara laughing at something Mirax told her. Sith, she is beautiful, he thought.

"Surely you can spare some time ... Mirax would be delighted to see you and Mara. All of us should get together by the end of the week ..." Corran commented and watched Skywalker's reaction with a grin.

"Me and Mara?" Luke asked and dragged his eyes off the Trader and onto Horn. "I don't know when she will be off again, she said she wanted to see Leia on business for Karrde ..."

"But I thought..." Corran frowned and stared at the Jedi Master. "Wedge told me she stayed with you ...and I presumed you two had finally gotten your act together ..."

"You presumed wrong, Horn," Skywalker said, his jaw set. "Mara and I are just friends."

Corran sat forward, after he detected the longing in the young man's voice and he shook his head. "Luke, sometimes I really admire your thick-headedness," he laughed at Luke's comical face.

"Corran, I think you are horribly wrong," Skywalker choked out. "I already told Wedge that Mara would have my heart on a platter if she ... if I ..." The man sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Besides, I'm the Jedi Master .. Ex-Imps and I don't mingle well ..."

Corran watched the Jedi and was barely able to hide the chuckle. I've never seen a more love-sick man in my life, he thought and decided to help the Jedi Master. Excusing himself he walked over to his wife, hugging her from behind while he peeped over her shoulder at Iella and Mara and Corellian woman Hobie has brought.

"Oh, the enemy is listening in," Iella chuckled. "We have been discussing men. Tell us Corran, do you think that men are always faithful or are our men only the exception?"

"Who said your men are an exception?" Mara cut in and received two raised eyebrows while Corran chuckled. When his wife's and Iella's wrath turned towards him, he raised his hands. "Hey don't shoot laser bolts at me!"

"Of course our men would never digress, Corran of course knows what will await him if I ever caught him," Mirax said sweetly and Mara grinned mischievously, her green eyes brimming with laughter.

"Ah that will be a field day for Booster," the Trader said and laughed at Corran's flinch at the mention of Booster Merrik's name.

"You are a cruel woman, Mara Jade," he spit out and caught his wife's hand, which was about to pinch him. "But even without Booster like the proverbial lightsaber of the Sith hanging over my head, it doesn't answer Iella's question. I would say, from the male perspective that any man would stumble if he does not have the right woman at his side..."

"Except for one man," Pertilla, Hobbie's girl friend, cut in and three pairs of eyes focused on her. She giggled when she noticed. "No, not Hobie. He is a flyboy, remember, he had his fair share. No," she shook her head and pointed across the room. "The Jedi Master. I don't know any man who is as unmale as he is."

Corran almost flinched when he felt the wave of anger washed over him, and he immediately from where it was coming from.

"Now, Pertilla surely you don't mean it this way ..." he started but the girl giggled again, taking a swig at her own beer.

"No, I mean Luke Skywalker would never cheat on a woman, he is too cute and nice for that. Besides, is he allowed to have a woman?" she asked.

Mara's knuckles had grown white where she held the glass of Andonorian wine, and now she relaxed visibly. "Skywalker is a man like any other," she ground out. "Being Jedi doesn't mean he has to live celibate." Taking a step nearer towards the girl, Mara pierced her with green eyes.

"Mara," Corran said softly, putting some Force use to it. The moment Mara turned towards him, he wished he had not used the Force. Catching the evil glint in her eyes, he shook his head almost imperceptibly then caught the Jedi Master's gaze as he advanced.

*Mara?* Luke asked. Her anger was quite palpable through the Force.

*Stay out of my head, Skywalker, this has nothing to do with you!* Mara snapped back.

*Well if my sex life or lack thereof is discussed, it is my business,* Luke retorted and came to stand beside her, their arms not quite touching.

"Luke," Iella smiled and stepped over to him, linking her arm with the one of the Jedi Master. "Now, while my husband drinks himself silly, would you take pity on a poor wife and dance with me?"

"Iella .. I ..." Luke blushed, yanking at the collar of his tunic.

"Go on, Farmboy," Mara nudged him. *If you have problems I can talk you through the steps.*

"Oh thanks, Mara," Luke spit out but with a grin he turned towards Iella and patted her hand on his arm. "It will be a pleasure to dance with you, Iella."

"Why thank you, Luke," Iella answered and smiled. Those remaining watched the couple and Mara stretched out with her Force sense to keep close tabs with Skywalker on his dancing. Corran felt the use of the Force and hugged Mirax close.

"You know, Mara you should dance with Luke, after all you do all the work already," he commented and met Jade's glacial stare with a laugh.

"Corran, I get the impression you do have a death wish," his wife cut in. "If you are so intent on making me a widow, please provide me with quite a sum first, honey."

Corran gave his wife a sound kiss while Pertilla giggled again. "Well if Hobbie doesn't come over soon I will dance with the Jedi Master himself," the girl said. "He is a good dancer for a Jedi."

Corran shook his head at the girl. He had thought Hobie was more intelligent than go for the dumb type but he had been obviously wrong.

"Get in line," Mara snarled and shoved her wine glass into the hands of Mirax. With a determined gait she walked over onto the make shift dance floor in the Antilles' apartment and arrived just in time, when the music ended and another piece started.

"My turn," Mara said with a grim smile and Iella laughed.

"But of course, Mara Jade," she answered and winked at Luke who just stood dumbfounded at Mara.

*You sure?* he inquired over their Force bond and Mara gave an affirmative nod.

*Would I be standing here, if I weren't?* Mara shot back.

The music was slow and a bit stiffly they adjusted to each other. Luke held her at arm's length while his palms seemed to burn where they lay around her waist. At first, they avoided looking at each other but after a while, the music relaxed them both.

"We can stop if you want to, I'm not good as a dancer," Luke said by way of making small talk and wasn't prepared when Mara stepped closer to him, searing him with a laser like glare.

"How many times do I have to tell you not to self-flagellate yourself?" she hissed underneath her breath. "You are a good enough dancer, you showed me last night."

They lapsed into silence after that and moved to the music. When the piece ended and another one started, they just kept going, moving effortlessly over the dance floor. Luke relaxed and after a while he drew her closer and was surprised when her head came to rest on his shoulder. They swayed to the music, the other couples softly laughing and brushing against them. The Jedi Master and the Trader were so wrapped up in each other's presence that they did not notice.

They were totally unprepared for the commotion around them and when they both looked up, they saw Iella and Wedge pointing at something above their heads.

"Luke and Mara are underneath the Krissmasna bushel!" someone yelled and the couple stopped dead in their tracks.

"What?" Luke asked and looked up, a strange looking plant hanging above them, decorated with red and gold ribbons.

"A kiss, a kiss, a kiss," Wedge started to shout with about six Rogues joining in. Luke looked at Mara but she just shook her head.

"I don't know what they are going on about," she said and stepped away from Luke.

They both looked around, their friends shouting and Janson and Celchu doing wolf's whistles. "It is an old tradition that if a couple meets up underneath the Krissmasna bushel that they kiss," Iella explained over the ruckus. "This way true lovers were found ..."

"I bet you found Wedge this way," Corran inquired and hooted when Iella laughed and drew her husband to her side with quite a pull.

"No, but I wish. It is said that if true lover's kiss underneath the Krissmasna bushel not even the Sith lords could have pulled them apart. They will crave their lover's touch like an unbreakable hunger."

"I'll be Kesseled," Mara cursed underneath her breath.

"Well, it is just a tradition," Luke said lamely, meeting Iella's laughing eyes with a sheepish grin. Both Mara and Luke had unconsciously moved away from the bushel but obviously the others had anticipated such a manoeuvre and had moved closer.

"Come on, a kiss," Janson hiccuped and nudged his ex-commander from behind. The push was so unexpected that Skywalker had to reach out for Mara as support and the two almost collided together.

"Kiss, Kiss, Kiss!" the chanting continued and Luke took a step nearer toward Mara.

*Skywalker, you are not going to heed that stupid custom, do you?* Mara sent him but her fears were confirmed when he nodded.

*It is just a kiss, Mara. A peck on the cheek and that is it,* Luke answered sheepishly.

Mara snorted and crossed her arms over her bosom.

"I warn you, Jedi," she whispered, her whole demeanour one of defiance.

"Oh come on, Mara, spoilsport," the Jedi Master retorted which made Mara even more furious.

"I'll show you who is a spoilsport, Farmboy," she bit out and her hand came up to latch squarely onto his neck, while her other grabbed the lapel of his tunic and drew him closer.

"Ma-ra ..." Luke's voice was cut off when Mara's lips covered his. For a moment he just stood there until the sensation of kissing a woman hit his brain and his nerve endings and without further thoughts about how dangerous it was to be kissing Mara Jade, he kissed her back.

A groan came from deeply within him when he felt Mara opened her lips to his questing tongue. The kiss was sweet and potent. Skywalker never had felt like this, a current of the Force was shooting through him from head to toe, and from Mara's shiver he noticed it was the same with her.

Forgetting where they were, they clung to each other, their tongues delving deeply in their mouths, licking, sucking, rubbing against each other. Luke couldn't believe the sensations coursing through him, he felt alive, his Force sense opened up and the essence that was Mara poured into him, all around him. He could feel her inside out and he loved it, revelled in it.

But he also could feel her confusion and after a while he forced himself to stop this frenzy and when they came up for air, they stared at each other, blue met green and the confusion and the fear was clearly visible.

"Skywalker," Mara whispered, staring at him. *What is happening to us?*

"I don't know, I don't know," he answered her, his hands rubbing over her cheeks.

The cheers were almost deafening and someone clapped on Luke's shoulders while Mirax drew Mara away with the biggest grin on her face that almost threatened to split her face.

As soon as she could, Mara excused herself and fled to the balcony. Her body still shivered and for a moment she leant against the balcony, closing her eyes and trying to calm down the erratic beating of her heart.

I have kissed the Jedi Master! her mind screamed and for a moment she felt as if she had to shout and rant like one of the Dathomir witches. I must be completely out of my mind to pull such a stupid stunt like that!

She tried to shut out the feeling of his arms around her, tried to forget his taste, but it did not help. As soon as she closed her eyes, all the sensations were back, perhaps even stronger than before.

"No!" Jade whispered softly but try as she might, the memory did not go away.

If I am already this confused what will it do to Skywalker? she asked herself, I hope he won't think it's fate ... or love ....

Rubbing her temples furiously, she tried to reason with herself. Of course not, Skywalker is not that daft. He is a grown man and after Callista ... yes, after Callista he won't fool himself and think that this is love ...

She did not notice the movement at the door as she paced from one end of the balcony to the other.

It's not love, it can't be. Besides, I do not know how to love, maybe never will or have. Perhaps I'm incapable of feeling love and that is why the Emperor chose me to become his Hand, she told herself.

When she heard a noise behind her, she spun around and came face to face with Skywalker.

"I think we need to talk," he simply stated.

"What should we talk about, Skywalker?" Mara spat back, crossing her arms across her bosom. "As you said it was just a kiss."

*It was not just a kiss, Jade* Luke sent her.

*Don't, Skywalker,* Mara replied silently. *You are too naive sometimes, you see more than there is.*

Luke snorted and turned, leaning against the banister. "You know, Mara, I might be naive, but I was there and I know what I felt ..."

"Skywalker, you felt nothing!" Jade snapped and grabbed him by the shoulders. "You and I felt nothing, do you hear me?"

Skywalker stared at her, mesmerised by her green fire stare.

"Want to put it to the test, Jade?" he asked calmly. "If you and I didn't feel anything, you won't feel anything if I kissed you again, right?"

And with this, he stepped forward and cradled her head with his hands. The kiss was searing and there was no doubt that this was not just a kiss.

Day One | Day Two | Day Three