This fic takes place during Timothy Zahn’s Dark Force Rising when Luke and Mara are on their way to rescue Karrde from Grand Admiral Thrawn. I’ve always wondered how the two of them, their relationship tense already, could manage four days together in cramped space.
In this fic the trip turns out to be somewhat more eventful than I believe Zahn intended.



Four days on a Skipray


1st evening/night
Luke was tired.
The Jedi Master, whom he had been seeking for months, had turned out to be a madman. Now he was  travelling alone in a spaceship with Mara Jade, the woman who had sworn to kill him. He had willingly agreed to join her to help her boss Talon Karrde, a man he, strictly speaking, didn’t owe anything, though Mara claimed he did. The two of them were going to free Karrde from an Imperial Star Destroyer.
He actually thought he was entitled to be tired.
Mara sat beside him, flying the Skipray, face icy. Luke took a deep breath. “I think I’d better turn in,” he told her.
She nodded. “There are two bunks in the crew quarters. The top one is mine.”
* * *
When Mara came in an hour later he was already sound asleep. Watching the peaceful face of the young Jedi she wondered how he could be sleeping when he knew she wanted to kill him.
How come he had agreed to come with her on this trip in the first place? After all, he wasn’t that over confident in himself.
The only answer she could think of was that he trusted her. The thought gave her a hard knot in her stomach.
* * *
The howling sound of an alarm ripped them from their sleep. Mara swung herself to the floor at the same time as Skywalker scrambled to his feet.
She ran before him to the cockpit and quickly viewed the display. “It’s the hyperdrive making trouble,” she diagnosed. “It looks like it was about to overheat, so it turned off instead.”
“You know anything about hyperdrives?” Mara demanded as they hurried towards the machine room. “Or will I have to do all the work?”
He shrugged. “I’ve fixed a few in my time, so you’re not on your own. But, let’s see how bad it is before I make any promises, ok?”
Luckily it turned out not to be a severe damage, only time-consuming. The stabilizer had broken loose and got a crack in that process. Coolant had been spilled all over and had to be dried up before they could start the actual repair.
Mara threw a cloth to Skywalker and attacked the hyperdrive herself. To her irritation he wiped coolant without protests, besides being thorough with his work. He even fetched the bucket to gather it up into. “Don’t you think the wipe-off coolant still can be used?” he wondered. “It would really be a waste… Besides, if there’s another leak we might run short of it. “
She glared at him. “Maybe. I doubt it, but leave it in the bucket.”
The hyperdrive was stupidly placed in the small room. Mara had to work with raised arms and even drag a part of it down forcibly. Finally she had to call for Skywalker to hold the blasted thing. He still didn’t protest, just did as she said, focusing on the task. Mara’s arm was throbbing of lactic acid and sweat was tickling down her brow. She blinked to get it away.
They were both dressed only in their underwear; tanktop and shorts for her and the latter for him. It started to annoy her they were so lightly dressed in the cramped room. Sure, the Jedi wasn’t staring or commenting, but she was herself becoming very aware of his physical presence. He on the other hand, didn’t seem disturbed. In fact he wasn’t even stealing glances at her. Mara clenched her teeth and did her best to ignore him too.
Finally, the crack was patched and all the coolant dried up.
Skywalker had managed to get oil on his face. A stripe over his forehead and chin that looked almost ridiculous.
Mara didn’t bother to tell him. He would find out himself the next day anyway when going to the ‘fresher.
1st  day
“You want a caf?”
She looked up, sharply. “Ok.” She frowned, and added: “Yes, please.”
Skywalker didn’t seem to mind but went out to the galley. She could hear him whistle. Soon he came back with two steaming cups but stopped suddenly. “Oops, milk or sugar?”
“If there is milk…”
“Sure.” He turned and went back with his cups.
Mara looked after him, frowning.
* * *
Some hours later, she could hear his stomach grumble. It didn’t take long before he turned and glanced at her.
“I’m starting to feel hungry. How’bout you?”
Mara didn’t look up. “There’s rationbars in the galley.”
“Right…” He left and soon she could hear him rummage. “There’s other things, too,” he announced. “You mind if I cook something, or do you want to stay with rationbars?”
“Depends on how you cook,” she snorted.
He chuckled. “I’ll make something. If you don’t like it you can always go back on the bars. After all that’s what they’re supposed to be; life savers…”
She didn’t comment.
* * *
Mara frowned at the thing on the plate. Some kind of stew. She glanced at him. He didn’t look too optimistic, but started to shuffle it into his mouth.
“Just stick with the bars, I don’t mind,” he commented, mouth full.
But it smelled… well, good.
It tasted good too. Not refined or anything, just plain, simple good taste. Farm kitchen taste.
She added some salt. Now it was even better. She started to eat.
He paused and looked at her. Then he continued to eat.
2nd day

He made some food the next day, too. This time he didn’t ask if she wanted any, just made it.
It was different but as tasty as the stew. With some more salt it was an enjoyable meal.
“You should watch out with that stuff,” he commented.
“What stuff?”
“Salt. Most of us get far too much of it, you know. And there’s plenty of it in rationbars. In small amounts it’s necessary for your body but in large amounts it’s not healthy at all. Some researchers even argue you can die of too much salt.”
“Yeah? You’d better hope I get too much of it then, before I get the chance to kill you,” she snorted.
He sighed.
* * *
Even with a mission to plan, they had far too much time here. On Myrkr, they had been too occupied to have time to talk or to think too much. Travelling in the silence of space in a cramped ship was totally another matter. Mara gave Skywalker a cold shoulder, but was at the same time aware of the infuriating fact that she had been the one to ask him for help.

* * *
He was good looking, she noticed, almost impudently good looking, with blue eyes and long lashes, a masculine jaw and a lithe, muscular body. But at the same time he wasn’t handsome at all. His nose was strange and his mouth too broad. His chin was scarred, his skin faulty and his upper lip stiffly twitched.
He wasn’t that calm either. But at the same time he was. She admitted he had great hands though. Still, the one of them was a prosthetic.
Why was she thinking these things? None of them mattered. Soon, they wouldn’t matter at all, Mara reminded herself grimly.
* * *
“Why did you take the upper bunk?” he asked her.
The former assassin’s raised eyebrow would have made most people drop the subject but Luke went on. “I mean, you were alone on this ship for some days, weren’t you? Anyone I know would choose the nearest bunk, and that would be the lower one.”
“What kind of a question is that?”
The Jedi smiled. “A silly one, I guess. But I couldn’t help wondering if there was a special reason.“ Frowning he added: “With you there always seems to be a reason.”
The comment pleased and irritated her at the same time. Naturally she didn’t want to give Skywalker any kind of high ground, and she couldn’t tell him that. But he could be fun to tease though…
 “Maybe you’d like to be on top?” Mara purred, cocking her head sweetly.
He didn’t get it, just looked questioningly at her. Then it dawned on him and he blushed neatly, his traces settling quickly from friendliness to that irritating Jedi-cool expression.  It was a mask, Mara thought in triumph!
“No? Not much fun in you, is there?” she dismissed him.
He didn’t answer.
* * *
There was music onboard. Mara hadn’t noticed but of course he found it. Skywalker was the type to sneak around and find things. Mara herself searched for things that she needed or needed to know. As the former Emperor’s Hand, she had always thought she was thorough, but his farmboy curiosity made him even more so.
He started to play some awful noise but stopped it when she threatened to blast the player. “Ok. So you choose!” he offered, showing no offense.
Mara didn’t see any of her favorite music in the selection, but there were other things that could do. She found something she remembered dancing to at Jabba’s palace and mentioned it to Skywalker.
Of course the Jedi picked up interest immediately. “Were you there for long?”
Mara shook her head. “Only a day before you came in.”
“What was it like?”
”It was dreadful. Sand everywhere.” She grinned evilly when she saw his face. “The company was bad too.”
 “I can imagine it must be dreadful to dance before such a bunch…” Skywalker mumbled, staying on topic.
“That wasn’t the bad part. Dancing never is. “
”Really?” He looked sceptical.
“Yes, I love to dance! I could dance anywhere. Suddenly remembering how he had blushed earlier, she couldn’t help teasing, “I’d even dance for you.”
He seemed to remember too, because his barriers were tightly in place now. “Really.”
“Well, feel free if you’d like to.” He shrugged.
Something snapped in Mara. That arrogant son of a Sith! Well, if he wanted to play…
She arose, slowly, eyes on him. He looked back, deadpanned as if it didn’t concern him at all.
Mara began to move to the music. It was a difficult piece to dance to, with slow, sensuous parts mixing with rapid and heated rhythms. But she had done this since she was a girl and had loved every moment. She welcomed the challenge, letting herself go. Letting the music engulf her body and enjoying the feeling of freedom she twisted and moved her body shamelessly into more and more daring movements.
His eyes were on her, and that heated her. Tempting him to look freely, she carefully avoided his gaze, but she could feel him easing towards her. She knew his body responded to hers, and she allowed herself to escalate into the pleasure, in order to catch him completely. It had always been this way. When Mara Jade danced, she was in absolute control, she could spellbound a man and loved every second of it. Afterwards her pleasure always died, at least it always had. But she could feel herself heat up more and more by Skywalkers resistance. He was so very different! Could it be different with him?
The air was thick in the room and Mara was breathing rapidly now. She spun gracefully on her toes and swung downwards arms stretched to a closing stance. Finally she lifted her green gaze and met his blue. Her heart skiped a beat.
Luke’s mouth was open and his eyes fixed on her. When she looked at him, he managed to meet her eyes, but it was clear it cost him a lot of effort. When she probed against his mind, she could feel his barriers, and she could feel they were trembling.
With two smooth steps she was in front of him, grabbed his hand and pulled him up to standing position. His hand encircled her waist as if drawn there and Mara couldn’t hold back a shiver. She forced herself to lead him into the dance and realized he wasn’t clumsy at all. Why had she thought he would be? He was smooth and his hands were warm as was his breath against her face. Warm and rapid. They hadn’t lost eye contact for a second and even Mara started to find the intensity painful. But it was Luke who broke the silence. His voice was a mere whisper. “This isn’t a good idea at all, and you know that…”
“Then stop it, Jedi.”
“Mara, please…”
“Afraid you’ll loose control, Farmboy?”
“Afraid I’ve lost it already….”
Mara whispered, ”That excites me,” and Luke could feel his barriers crack for the flood.
It was like a flood of madly streaming water, but it was like a dance, too. They kissed each other against the wall all the way to the cabin, but the roaming of hands, the steps taken in between, even their breathing was like dancing. Maybe it was because the music was still playing, Luke thought to himself afterwards.
And the lovemaking – no, the sex, he corrected himself, was the most mind blowing thing he had ever experienced in his entire life. Perhaps it was because he knew she still wanted to kill him, perhaps it was her presence that always was so tense and electrifying to him, or perhaps it was because he could feel her mind like he had never felt anyone, and therefore could read her and know her wishes and responses like had they been his own.
Afterwards, they laid exhausted, too tired to distangle. “I hate that sleeping-close-thing afterwards,” Mara snorted when he forced his heavy arm to rise and encircle her shoulders. But she didn’t move away and a few moments afterwards, Luke sensed she was sleeping. He merely registered it, he was already drifting away too.
3rd day
He woke after a whole night’s long sleep, but he was still heavy and dazzled in body and mind. He was alone in the bunk and when he reached out with his mind for Mara he could feel her squirm and clamp her barriers down. Tired, he closed his eyes again and let sleep carry him back to his pleasant dreams.
An hour later Mara approached the cabin, not only angry with what she had allowed to happen last  evening, but also irritated with that sleepy-head Jedi.
She stopped at the door.
Luke was lying on his back in the bunk, absolutely relaxed with one arm over his head the other resting on his lap. He looked as if in absolute peace and comfort. Nothing bragging, just satisfied. Like a man who had just been laid. As he was. As she had made him.
Mara watched him with a mixture of feelings she was in no mood or condition to even try to begin to sort out. Carefully reaching out, she tried to probe his mind. He stirred and suddenly she was looking straight into those blue eyes, sleepy but as earnest as ever.
Mara straightened herself. “That was that” she announced in a low, warning voice. “No more of it.”
Was that disappointment is his eyes? He nodded slowly, but didn’t move.
She turned and walked away.
Luke closed his eyes again and rolled on to his side facing the wall. Sleep was still welcoming him.
Yet an hour later Mara was back in the cabin. This time she grabbed his shoulder and shook him violently. “Your inner chrono is going to be a mess if you don’t get up, Skywalker! And you should be ready to go to battle in two days!”
“You’re right. Sorry,” he mumbled and rubbed his face. “I don’t know how I’m so tired… Well, I guess I needed it…”
* * *
They hardly spoke the whole day. Only changed a few facts.
At supper he yawned again.
She glared at him. “We have a job to do and we still don’t know how…”
“I do have an idea”, Skywalker mumbled. “It’s not a great one, but it’s still an idea.”
“Really? And it goes…?”
“I think I should sleep on it, you know. And you might very well get a better one. Let’s talk about it tomorrow.”
Before falling asleep, Luke wondered about the night before. He had never been one for casual sex, always feeling it was, somehow, “half”. He wanted things to be to the whole, and to go for them wholeheartedly. But sex with Mara Jade had nothing to do with half measures. It had been to the fullest, in the word’s strictest sense. In truth, Luke couldn’t imagine anything about her being “half”.
Despite what had happened, he had no doubt Mara still intended to kill him. Sooner or later she would make a move. And by agreeing to what they had done, he had made self defence even more difficult.
He had really thought he had overcome the recklessness he’d had as a youth. Apparently not.
* * *
She came in later and looked at him while he slept. She didn’t know why, but she had to. And since no one was there to ask her why, she allowed herself the luxury not to ask herself either. She marvelled again of the peace in his face. She was sure she didn’t look that peaceful at all.
4th night
An explosion! Once again the ship was torn out of hyperspace.
Mara jerked out of the bed. Luke was already on his feet and started running towards the machine room. “Check the computer” he shouted.
Mara clenched her teeth but did as he said. She quickly got an overview and ran to him with a report.
“Damn,” he muttered. “We should have brought Artoo after all. I’ll have to go outside…” He gave her a half irritated, half joking glance. “Travelling with you isn’t boring, I have to give you that. Things do happen.”
Mara’s eyes blazed, “Listen, Jedi…”
“Later. Now, we have a job to do.” He started climbing into a space suit.
Mara stopped him. “Wait! How good a mechanic are you, actually?”
 “Pretty good.”
“Pretty good?”
“Ok,” he corrected himself. “Good! What about you?”
“Pretty good.” She shrugged. “Ok, I’ll take the computer. You’d better start with checking to see if the audio is fine.”
He nodded

* * *
The damage wasn’t as bad as they feared. It took Luke only about an hour to finish repair. He had to admit one of the main reasons was Mara’s clear messages, though. No wavering or assumptions. She told the facts and if there was any doubts she made that clear as well.
He returned to the ship. Mara had returned to her bunk long before he was finished stripping the space suit. When Luke got into the cabin, she was already sleeping.
Luke got up to his toes and took in her features, almost shyly. She could be a truly beautiful woman if there would be any softness in her face. He couldn’t recall seeing her smile even once. He remembered Myrkr. Well, at least she now allowed herself to sleep in his company.
Again he wondered why she had agreed to what they had done the evening before. Well, more than agreed. Started it. He could think of no reason.
Except, perhaps, loneliness.
He knew better than to ask. Probably she didn’t even know herself.
© 2008 Kataja

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