Setting: Mara visits a whiny Luke on Yavin 4.
Characters: Luke, Mara, the absent Callista
Timeframe:  Shortly after Darksaber, 12 ABY.
Notes: This is an independent follow-up to Four days in a Skipray (where Luke and Mara sleep together for one night, but go on like nothing has happened). Apart from that, it follows canon.


Wretched days

Every morning was a nightmare.
At least it felt like that, Luke thought, grimacing, as he hurried through Yavin’s Great Pyramid to give his first lecture of the day.
The sun was already dancing merrily in the foliage, fresh mists evaporating from the ground and rising though the rich, green plant life of the jungle, small woolamanders chatting eagerly in the treetops and colomibri birds hurrying about their business of gathering nectar from the myriad of flowers already opening their colorful cores to the warming sunbeams. However, to Luke, all this was insignificant. His mind was on his miseries.
First, it was the awakening - to the loneliness, to the failure, to the worries - and the void.
Callista had left him and Luke felt like all joy was gone from the world along with her.
He reached his class, took a deep breath and pulled himself together with effort. Show time again.
Then, it was two hours of full concentration and comedy acting, monologues and discussions about the nature of the Force, desperate pedagogic twists and considerations, until he finally could withdraw again, smiling his false smiles to everybody who wanted to believe in them.
After lunch, existence usually seemed somewhat more bearable - perhaps because he knew evening was approaching again and that he soon would be able to close the door to his room behind him, to brood over his loss in peace. That thought, at least, brought him some consolation.
In the beginning Luke had believed that he hid his misery quite well. However, he had realized that those who knew him were well aware of what he was going through and only stayed back out of respect for his explicit wish to be alone. Luke could feel the weight of their concern and it only added to his pain. For the time being, he wasn’t able to reassure them. They would have to wait for it to pass - just as he did.
This particular morning had basically been as bad as all the recent others. The difference was, that today he had a strong feeling everything would get worse as the day went forward. Specifically, he felt a presence approaching that he would have a very hard time ignoring. Mara Jade was visiting Yavin.
Half an hour later, the red-haired trader strode confidently into his classroom and seated herself on a chair just inside the door. Luke silently cursed, fervently wishing her far away, at the same time feeling really bad about it because he hadn’t seen her for months and had actually missed her.
After the class he went to her and gave her a hug, at which she stiffened, and told her he was glad she’d come, to which she replied she certainly expected him to be. They walked together for some time during which he asked her the routine questions - how she’d been, how her business was going and so on. She didn’t really bring any news and as usual she was short in her replies, leaving it to him to keep the conversation going.
He just didn’t have the energy!
On top of it all he could feel Mara’s sharp eyes fixed on him - counting, weighting and judging. She always did that and Luke usually didn’t mind. At some point, not that long ago, he had even thought it to be a part of her harsh charm. But not now.
So when Tionne came by and asked him for help with some administrative matter he was glad to slip away. He noticed with relief that Mara went on to talk with some others she knew.
At lunchtime, Luke intentionally withdrew from the others. He needed to be alone and he sincerely hoped that Mara would understand this and respect his wishes.
She didn’t. She took her tray and strode after him with a determined look. Luke managed a forced smile and avoided her eyes, but Mara sat down with perfect ease and began to move the things from her tray to the table, like a general lining up her troops before a battle.
After determinedly arranging the plates, salad bowl, sauces, bread and glasses to her liking, she finally began to eat. Silence spread over the table.
Luke chewed his food, eyes on the plate. He could feel Mara’s inquiring eyes on him, but he didn’t want a conversation right now. She simply would have to understand that.
”Well, where’s your lady?”
Luke jumped. He couldn’t believe anybody could be so insensitive! Not even Mara! Surely she must have heard the news!
”She left,” he said a bit stiffly.
Mara raised an eyebrow. ”Really?”
There was a, in Luke’s opinion, very painful pause.
Luke looked up again and peered reproachfully at Mara. She glanced back, completely unperturbed.
”That’s a pretty intimate question”, he finally managed.
Mara chewed at his answer. ”Well, we’ve sort of been pretty intimate, the two of us… if you remember?”
Luke flared up. ”Yes, I do remember, as a matter of fact! Even though it’s been a long time ago. And as I recall it, it was you who made sure nothing more ever came out of it!” His voice rose. ”Perhaps it is me who should ask you about why she left me? At least you seem to have one thing in common, you and her! I’m sure you have a suggestion!”
Mara rolled her eyes. ”So, that’s how we’re playing today…!”
”What’s that supposed to mean?”
 “I’m just wondering how long you’re going to waste time nurturing your pathetic self-pity?”
Luke tried to stare her down with all the hurt earnestness he could manage. He should have known better than to ask for compassion from Mara.
                     She retorted with an icy look, ”But since you ask, I do have an idea about it, yeah.”  
”I thought as much…” Luke wasn’t sure he wanted to hear what would follow and started to eat again.
”What did you actually have to offer her?”
His fork stopped halfway to his mouth. ”What did I…? I love her!”
”Wonderful! Love in a cottage, then?”
”Hey there! If you’re thinking of basic needs, I can assure you that they were fully covered. We had a place to live…we had two actually - Yavin and Coruscant. We had food, work...”
”You mean you had work…”
”That’s not true. She had so much she could teach us all, or she could have taught us. Anyway, she taught me a tremendous amount…” Luke got a sudden feeling he didn’t sound convincing so he started again. “Ok. So, she couldn’t touch the Force, and that made it hard for her to be a Jedi - even to teach about it. It’s true that her lost Force-sense didn’t really return in those months, but we were working on it. And there were so many other things here for her to do…”
”So she went whistling off to work…”
”Not quite, but…”
Mara snorted. ”You were together for how long? A few months? How much of that time were you really together? And how much of it did she spend here, brooding alone and Force-forsaken while you farted around, saving the galaxy?”
”She wasn’t alone…”
”When I last visited Yavin, she seemed pretty lonely to me. Even though you were supposed to be onplanet.”
Luke’s face had become so full of shame and pain that, for a moment, Mara almost considered holding back. ”Perhaps she wasn’t the most social type imaginable, Luke,” she pointed out in a softer voice.
”Of course she wasn’t! She had been through terrible things! She had a whole different perspective than any of us. She was from another generation, from the time when the Jedi still were the mighty guardians of the Galaxy… It‘s clear that our primitive…”
”Spare me! The Golden Age of the Jedi, huh? The Great Heritage!? How close was Callista ever to the Center of Things? Was she ever on Coruscant? And it wasn’t quite Master Yoda who trained her, was it? She wasn’t even that much younger than you when she began? To me, it seemed like she was the apprentice of a rogue Jedi Master - one who pursued his own ideas.”
Luke’s eyes were as cold as Mara’s. ”Oh yes… the Center… Coruscant… I’m not surprised you of all people use that as a measure…”
Mara gasped, and for a few seconds there was something vulnerable in her eyes, something hurt. But only for a moment. Then her eyes narrowed to slits again and she went for the throat.
”Face it, Skywalker! You didn’t have a brass farthing to offer her. Nothing but constant reminders of what she once had had – and had lost again. ”
”I love her…”
”But that wasn’t enough! And you know what? I can well understand her!”
Luke shut up like a Mon Calamari oyster, but Mara had got herself worked up now and wasn’t to be stopped. ”What did you do for that Great Love of yours? Kissed and cuddled her when you took time out of your busy schedule to spend some time on this remote sweat pit of a planet? Assured her that she was the most beautiful of all the billions of females in the galaxy that would love to sleep with the great hero, Luke Skywalker? Did you ever offer her anything to hold on to? To lean up against? You didn’t even go and get married for Force’s sake! Then, at least, she could have been allowed to live in your shadow officially!”
Mara’s voice had risen so much that nobody in the room could have avoided hearing her last words. Luke could sense how the others winced on their behalf, hurrying to finish their meals and leave the room, some even taking the food out with them.
He sat paralyzed in his chair and felt ashamed. Ashamed on the others’ behalf, because they had been forced to listen to his and Mara’s argument. Ashamed on his own behalf because he had driven Mara so far by being despicable to her. And most of all, ashamed because her words were burning into him with all their horrifying truth.
Strangely, though, he felt no anger over Mara’s outburst - only shame, weariness and sorrow - such an infinitely vast sorrow.
Luke picked at his food. If he walked out now, both he and Mara would lose face completely. He neither wished that for her, nor had the energy for it himself. He sighed and pushed away his plate. ”So, what’s your point, Mara?” he wondered resignedly.
Mara glared at him. The tip of her fork was pointing towards his throat, but the fury in her face was already giving way to embarrassment. She bit her lip. ”That you should think twice sometimes, Skywalker. If you were more aware of your priorities…” She trailed off.
Luke cocked an eyebrow in mild irony. ”Do you think Callista might have got her Jedi powers back from that?”
Mara’s eyes flashed again but she kept her mouth shut.
Silence spread over the table while Mara slowly started to eat again. After a while Luke too, continued his meal.
They left the hall together but spent the rest of the day going their separate ways.
* * *
She entered his door and he briefly wondered how she’d managed to open it. Had she used the Force or was it just another of the many tricks only she had mastered?
It didn’t matter - he knew why she had come.
In spite of the fact that they had never spoken of it, he‘d never been able to forget that night they had spent together, years ago. How could he ever? Her fierce kisses, her intoxicating body, her electrifying presence against his… Every touch, every caress and kiss had sent him closer and closer to the fire, and had burned those few hours in the narrow bunk into his soul forever. No matter how much he tried to suppress those memories, they always resurfaced.
And now she was here again.
He reached out for her and she slid into his arms, soundless and delightful as the night wind over the grass of Yavin. Her skin was soft as silk and her mouth like honey. He let his lips trail her enchanting body and felt his blood rush through his veins, wild and exhilarating. Her moans kindled him and encouraged him to spread her legs, to enter her core and make her his own. He thrust into her, steadily and powerfully until her body began to tremble under his. Her legs wrapped around him and her strong arms clung to him like they would never let go. Her body shivered and convulsed under him in blissful ecstasy, until she finally exploded and surrendered to complete rapture. He rejoiced over her pleasure and knew with a surge of happiness, that with her, he didn’t have to be a hero, nor a Jedi Master - only a man who wanted and was prepared to give her the love she deserved and needed so much more than she realized. He held her softly in his arms and whispered her name:  “Mara”
He woke up, startled.
He had said it aloud. That was forbidden. However, no one was here to hear it. For a second the relief washed over him and almost overwhelmed the pain that Mara wasn’t there either. Then again - she never was.
Luke rose. The harsh feelings that hit him upon awakening had quickly made him lose all desire to take his arousal to a release. Mara wasn’t here. Never had been. She trailed her own way through the galaxy and now Callista had joined her in that lifestyle.
Slipping into a robe, he walked to the kitchenette and made himself a cup of Jeru tea, Callista had introduced it to him early in their relationship. Curling both hands’ fingers around the cup, he sat down on the window bench to look at the stars in the clear night sky. The sounds of the Yavin jungle filled the air and his senses and Luke closed his eyes.
He felt strange, dreaming hot dreams about Mara when it was Callista he loved and missed. Yet, perhaps it was foolish to read too much into it? Mara had never really left his blood, so with her on planet, it was probably a natural reaction. Perhaps he should just see his dream as an embodiment of the void Callista had left?
Mara had been wondrous and as ephemeral as the Tatooine rain. One moment he had kissed her, the next she had been gone. He had never for a second really believed she wanted more from him than what she had claimed that one night. Perhaps she hadn’t really wanted that either.
“Face it, Skywalker!”
But it was different with Callista! She was different -  like me. We fit together.  


I loved her and believed she loved me just as unconditionally. He stared, unseeing, into the darkness of the jungle.  


Maybe she did. Maybe not as unconditionally, but perhaps as much.

What I gave her just wasn’t enough. She had lost too much. She wanted two things in life and could only have one. She made her choice… But other things played a role too. Mara was right in that. Taking a deep breath, he looked up in time to see a meteorite streak across the Yavin sky.
Will I ever understand? Really understand?
Will it ever cease to hurt?
Will I ever find someone who will have me?
Luke took a sip of the Jeru tea and made a face. That sweet stuff wasn’t drinkable! Well, Callista wasn’t here. With a tick of bad conscience he poured it out of the window.
His musings had been interrupted but he wasn’t ready to sleep yet. Another quick trip to the kitchen supplied Luke with a new cup, and he sat anew down at the window.
Mara’s words popped up into his head again: ”all the billions of females in the galaxy that would love to sleep with the great hero, Luke Skywalker”.
What was he to do with billions of females when he couldn’t hold on to the one woman he had chosen?
He sipped at his cup. At least this was something entirely different! Chocolate – good and not too sweet. It was Lando who had introduced him to hot chocolate. You could say a lot about Lando but he really had a handle on things…Lando…
…Lando and Mara…
With a sigh Luke took a last bitter sip, poured the chocolate out of the window and buried himself once more in the solitary sanctuary of his bed.
* * *
Mara searched out Luke after breakfast. He was in his room which simultaneously served as his office.
Skywalker gave her a strange look when she entered, almost as if he’d seen a ghost. ”Oh, the door wasn’t locked, was it?” he mumbled, a bit perplexed.
“Of course not. You never lock it. Why should you?”

He looked at her so strangely, like he had seen a ghost. Oh Luke, if I told you what I dreamed about us last night, then you’d begin to stare for real! Mara mused but then firmly pushed those memories away.
Luke leaned forward in his chair and steepled his fingers, elbows resting against the desk. A short brush against her mind left him no doubt. ”You’re leaving again,” he stated.
”I just came for a short visit. That’s done now and there’s nothing more for me to do here.”
“There’s always something for you to do here. Your Jedi training…”
“Don’t start with that, Skywalker!” she interrupted, shaking her finger in the air.
For a moment they glared at each other, ready for battle. Then Mara softened a bit. Farmboy looked so much like he’d slept badly again. ”I really just came by to see how you were doing,” she conceded.
She could feel Luke respond immediately to her softer tone and hurried to make her point. ”And I don’t think you should be so devastated that, uh, that Callista is gone. Look at the positive side. Look at it… as an opportunity instead.”
”An opportunity?” His voice rose in disbelief.
”Well, you know, there’s always plenty of fish in the sea”
How could he look so reproachful? Like she didn’t understand anything at all.
”Not for me.”
“Have it your way.” Mara shrugged and tried to look like she didn’t care. However, inside she was starting to boil again. Why did he have to take it like that? There was no doubt anymore. The best solution for everybody was for her to leave!
She had just wanted… well, had just wanted to make him a bit glad, really. But he didn’t want to receive anything… at least not from her.
She willed her voice to be neutral. “Well, you take care, Skywalker. It might be a while ‘till we meet again, and I wouldn’t like to read about your death in the holonews before then.”
He cocked an eyebrow at her. ”What about afterwards?”
She tilted her head, a bit amused in spite of herself. ”Nah. I still have the first chance, don’t I?”
Tiredly he rubbed his fingers against his temples, but when he looked at her again, he was smiling a little. ”Sure, Mara. You’re my first choice. Always.”
A faint smile grew between them. Mara cleared her throat, a bit startled. ”Well, uh, see you.” She turned quickly and hurried out of the room.
“May the Force be with you.”
She was already out in the corridor but Luke knew she could hear him. He counted the minutes. Exactly twenty of them passed before he saw her Headhunter swish by. Almost ten more went by before her Force presence was too far away for him to be able to detect her anymore.
Luke leaned back in his chair and gazed out of the window.
He was getting used to losing and loneliness, he mused, since Mara’s departure didn’t tear his insides out as it should have, given his feelings for her.
Or maybe it just was that he had learned to trust her.
She would come back.

© 2009 Kataja

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