DISCLAIMER: Mara Jade, Luke, Leia and all things Star Wars belong to... well, they belonged to Mr Lucas when I wrote this, but nowadays they belong to Disney, don't they? It also helps to have read Timothy Zahn's books, I think. This little snippet was originally meant to be the start of a longer story. It doesn't look like I'll be writing that anytime soon though, so it will have to be its own little standalone ficlet.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Like everything else I've written this story is also available at my own fic site, http://ryufic.blogspot.se/
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To rosmari.karlssonfaltin[at]telia.com
By Carola "Ryûchan" Eriksson
"I'm not much of a nurse, but at least I've gotten a lot of practice over the years." Leia said in an attempt to reassure. "There, that should do it until we can get to a proper medical bay."
"No, this is fine." Mara replied awkwardly, flexing the bandaged arm and hand to see if her range of movement would be impeded. Not bad. Clearly Organa-Solo underplayed her skills as a nurse. "An injury this small is nothing, but thank you anyway."
"You suffered several shots of blaster fire while saving the lives of myself and my children I would hardly call that nothing." Mara blinked a little at the intense and stern, almost angry, look that faced her, and felt herself flush slightly when the look softened and a hand gently covered her own. "Thank you Mara, thank you so much."
The redhead nodded slightly, looking at the other woman from the corner of her eyes. Being around Organa-Solo was always so awkward for Mara, far more so than with Skywalker himself. She couldn't quite put her finger on why.
"The kids, are they alright?" She asked, not aware of the concern in her voice. Leia however noticed, and smiled.
"Jacen and Jaina are fine, they are unhurt and sleeping right now. Winter is sitting with them."
Well at least that was good, Maura figured. She had been a bit reckless in her stunt to rescue Organa-Solo and the children, but for some reason the very thought of those two little toddlers she ignored the fear she had felt for their mother in danger, perhaps even getting killed, had filled her with cold dread. Instead of keeping her wits about her, she had gone in swinging her lightsabre and blaster like some greenhorn.
The ship shook slightly and both women looked up, carefully listening to the distant clanging of tiny rocks against the shields.
"Think the droids will get this old bucket flying again soon?" Mara asked, wishing not for the first time for her own ship. The Millennium Falcon was fast, of that there could be no doubt, and a ship of fame really, but it barely held together on the best of days it seemed.
"Mm. R2 is quite skilled, and, well, 3PO has improved." Leia offered but didn't look entirely convinced. "Perhaps we should lend them a hand."
Mara gave her a small, lopsided smile. "Relax Organa-Solo, this asteroid is critter-free. I double-checked." And she had, with the ship's systems as well as the Force. "It's not a good place to stay for long though, too much space-rubble makes it through to hit our shields."
"I wasn't worried about that." Leia denied with a wry smile, secretly a little thrilled to see a smile on Mara's face, however small and despite the circumstances. "And it is Leia."
"My name." She picked up a nearby toolkit and started walking towards where the droids could be heard arguing over the repairs. She didn't have to look back to know that Mara was following. "Call me Leia, not Organa-Solo."
As the Millennium Falcon was once again navigating between stars, with Mara at the helm and Leia in the co-pilot seat, Mara couldn't stand not knowing anymore. She had to ask the question that had burned at the tip of her tongue ever since she had gotten Skywalker's message.
"Why me?" She fixed her eyes on the pattern of starlight speeding past in front of her, even though they had hours even at this speed before reaching their destination. "Why pick me to protect you and the twins?"
She didn't need to look at the other woman to sense the slight turmoil in Leia's emotions. Leia sighed and remained quiet long enough that Mara thought her question would be ignored completely.
"Luke has a very important and even more dangerous mission of his own right now. My husband..." Something angry slipped into Leia's voice at the word, but quickly evened out into the same strained tone as the rest. "...decided he had to go with Luke."
"What?" Maura snapped her head around to face Leia, disbelief and shock colouring both her voice and her expression. "Solo went with Luke instead of staying to protect his wife and children?" She didn't generally have a high opinion of people, but she had definitely thought better of the former smuggler than this. "And Luke let him?"
"My brother..." Leia delicately made a face. "wasn't happy with the arrangement, which is why he suggested you. He felt that if he couldn't be with us himself, we would be safest with you."
Mara didn't know what to say. They had come a long way since their first meeting, the farmboy and her, and in a way she knew he trusted her like she had come to trust him, but... to trust her with the safety of those that were dearest to him in all of creation? To trust Mara to protect his twin sister and her tiny children? She felt once again humbled by his faith, and even more determined to live up to it.
Han Solo though... Mara was no fool, even without hearing what she just had, the deeply wounded expression in Leia's eyes at the mention of her husband would have been enough for her to know that there was trouble in paradise for the Solo family. The thought of Leia's pain made her a bit angry, at Solo and at Luke as well for allowing Solo to run away from his family.
She couldn't understand it. But then again, what did Maura really know about families?
"Han, of course, suggested Lando." Leia continued as if unaware of Mara's silent regard. Mara's snort at that piece of information had her nod slightly and a ghost of a smile appear, however briefly. "Yes, I agree. Lando has many good qualities and is a good friend, but he is not someone I would entrust the safety of my children to."
"Calrissian couldn't protect a kitten from a ball of string." Mara declared decisively, feeling a bit strange at the suggestion that apparently Leia had thought her someone she could trust with the safety of her children instead of Lando Calrissian.
"You on the other hand, had already proven yourself to be someone I would trust with my children." Again Leia smiled slightly at Mara's surprised look, but once more it was a fleeting expression. "You saved my children once before, Mara... remember?"
Ah. Of course. Mara looked down, frowning a little. As if she could ever forget C'baoth, or that she would even back then have allowed innocent infants to be taken by a madman like that.
She flinched, startled, as a slender hand found hers. Mara looked up to meet hurt liquid brown eyes in a face that betrayed nothing of the turmoil of emotions that she could sense through the Force.
"I can't say how long it will take before the situation will be settled, and it will be safe for us to return to Coruscant. It may take a long time, and Honoghr is a very rural planet..."
"I will be with you." Mara interrupted, grasping Leia's hand firmly and willing her to believe the sincerity of her oath. "For however long it takes, I will be with you and the children."
Leia closed her eyes, a single solitary tear escaping as she did so.
"Leia?" Mara said after a while, hesitant to break the silence. "You know that someone else could have gone with Luke, right? Hell, I could have gone with Luke."
Her only answer was the briefest of movements that could be considered to be a nod, and an almost desperate grasp of her hand. Although a bit awkward with it, Mara said and did nothing more, allowing Leia to keep a hold of her hand for as long as she wished.
Families, like love, were indeed complicated.
They took a small detour to an old smuggler base to stock up on supplies and to have Mara's arm healed up before heading towards Honoghr as stealthily as possible. Mara initially were quite uncomfortable around the Noghri, so much so that upon landing on the planet she disembarked in full intimidation mode, visibly armed and clad head to toe in solid black, her long black cape billowing around her in that old Imperial cape-swishing manner.
It was all undone, of course, by Leia's amused question whether the display was an unfortunate coincidental preference in colour, or if Mara was actually trying to look like Leia's biological father. The cape was tucked away later that very day and not taken out again on their trip.
They would remain on Honoghr for little over five months. News of what happened in the galaxy around them were few and far between, and from Han Solo there was no word. Finally, towards the end of their stay a message was sent to inform them that the conflict would likely soon be over, and if all went as hoped, Leia and her children could safely return to Coruscant.
That long-awaited message never had the chance to arrive. A short while after the hopeful missive was sent, while late in the Honoghr night and as they all slept in the little hut the Noghri had kindly built for Leia and her 'clan', came another, far more personal and world-shattering message.
The stillness of the night was torn asunder by Leia's loud, heart-rending screams, and of the wailing of the children. Mara did not scream, but fell to her knees, overwhelmed at first by the pain. Bolted from their beds by the sounds, Winter and the surrounding Noghri all swarmed to them, and as Leia was in no condition to speak it was up to Mara to get herself together enough to reveal what had happened.
Luke Skywalker had died. And the very Force itself mourned his passing.
Leia screamed until her voice abandoned her, and continued her silent screams until so fatigued that she slipped into a long, deep sleep. While Leia slept and Winter cared for the toddlers, Mara prepared the ship and their belongings for departure. Message or no, within hours of Leia waking the Millennium Falcon soared up through the atmosphere of Honoghr.
As they neared Coruscant the news came flooding in. People were carefully jubilant, for the war was won... but it came at a price. Among the fallen were the heroes of the New Republic, men whom had personally taken down this threat at the cost of their own lives - Luke Skywalker and Han Solo.
Coruscant was broken when Leia and Mara arrived there. A terrible siege had held the New Republic's capital captive, and raids and bombardments had laid waste to large sections. The Organa-Solo home had not been exempt from the damage, in fact not much of the building remained.
The devastation provided Leia with an outlet, and whenever she was not with her children she was pouring herself into the restoration of Coruscant and its people.
Long, hard and trying months followed while Leia buried herself in work, and Mara worried for the woman she by now considered a friend. Aside from that first and frightening outpouring when they had felt Luke die, Leia had not allowed herself to mourn, not even for her husband. Then finally came the day of the official burial ceremony, delayed as it had been at first in an unsuccessful attempt at recovering their bodies, and then for the reconstruction of the city.
At the ceremony itself and the uncovering of the monument erected in Luke, Han and Chewbacca's honour, Leia remained dignified if haggard. It was afterwards, once safely in the privacy of the newly constructed Organa quarters, that Leia broke down and wept in Mara's arms.
Once the storm of emotion had abated, a tired Leia seemed to realize for the first time that Mara was still there with them, that in fact Mara had never left even if the mission she had promised herself to was long since over. Blinking away her tears Leia had to ask.
"I told you before, Leia." Came the solemn answer, Mara looking quite pale and drawn herself, especially in the black Jedi robes she had worn for the burial ceremony. "I will be with you and the children for however long you need me."
Luke Skywalker had entrusted them to her, and perhaps remaining with them, protecting them against all the dangers of the galaxy, was the only thing Mara could do for him now. But it was more than that, much more. Leia was a dear friend, and not even Mara could deny that the twins had managed to firmly grasp her heart into their tiny hands... she even found that she cared about Winter and the droids.
These people were the closest thing Mara had ever had to family, and she wanted to be there for them.
There was also that nagging worry in the back of Mara's mind regarding the children. With Luke gone, who would guide the little ones in the Force? Leia's own skills were rudimentary at best, and among those gifted with the Force that remained out there in the galaxy, no-one really held knowledge of what it meant to be a Jedi the way Luke had. No-one... except for Mara.
It was a sobering and frightening thought. Could she, Mara Jade, properly guide Darth Vader's grandchildren in the Force so that they did not fall to the dark side? She, who had been practically raised by Palpatine and steeped in darkness for most of her life? If she'd had a deity to believe in Mara would have prayed that another could be found by the time the twins were old enough, a Master or at least a good and experienced Jedi of the light side of the Force, to guide and train them. But she was a realist at heart.
As she became the recipient of a grateful and needy hug from the smaller woman at the renewed oath, Mara tucked Leia under her chin and held her as long as her friend needed her to, silently looking out at the newly rebuilt gleaming spires of the city she would now once more call home.
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