DISCLAIMER: Mara Jade, Leia and all things Star Wars belong to Mr Lucas and probably a whole bunch of others, certainly not me. I just happen to love them a lot. ^_^ Most things mentioned here, creatures and such, are taken from Timothy Zahn's brilliant SW books.
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
Mists of Memory
By Carola "Ryûchan" Eriksson
She was standing right outside the doorway to the small balcony, leaning back against the uneven rockface with her arms crossed over her chest and her face unreadable. Unruly deep red hair tossed on the wind in front of her, sometimes obscuring her vision, but the bright green eyes were not watching the oncoming darkness swelling against the last tiny rays of light as night was falling over the world around her. No, the normally so intense gaze had turned inward, and darkened on their long journey.
The memories moved back and forth as flesh and bone stood still, one fragment replacing the other in constant motion, a mire of thoughts and memories in the chill of an early autumn night on this forest world.
Coruscant, its shiny spires and towers reaching towards the night sky, all laid out under her as an endless treasure box of glittering jewels as she watched from on high. Power untold, and purpose... she took pride in both. And then came the pain and devastation... the complete loss of all she knew, all she had been.
Old power, old pain. Old memories.
Coruscant, again, years later, the shining spires in the light of day. She had woken up in a medical facility, surprised for a moment to be back on the throne world. Her memories had been hazy then, too. But only for a moment.
Battle had followed, of course, like so many other times she could remember. So many hard, desperate battles... even when all she desired was to be left in peace. But this one was different. This one meant choosing sides, fighting against what she had once held precious and for what she had been raised to hate. This one had given her a place again, a purpose... something to hold on to.
And just before it, she had met _her_. Leia.
It was not their first meeting. Their first meeting had been... somewhere in the mists of memory came the impression of sand, of vast space and harsh sun. Of moving in time to the beating drums, and a small, slender woman wearing a loincloth and a chain around her neck.
Was that their first meeting? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
She let the melancholy wave wash over her, let it fill her before drawing back leaving her to her memories. For a moment the memories cleared, became crystal and tangible, so real to her that she could feel the ghost of hair running through her fingers. Hair she had braided carefully and whose silky strands had awakened a reverence inside that had stunned and choked for a long moment.
Reverence. Adoration. Feelings such as these were not what anyone would think to ascribe to Mara Jade, least of all herself. But they were there nonetheless, and she had never thought to deny them. It was perhaps ironic for someone who had once lived her life by denying so much.
But not this life.
Coruscant, once more... an Imperial suite, a place she might have once considered home, but no longer. Troubled dreams and dark images, leaving her in despair... desperate... lost. Then...
Words were lost in the mist, but their meaning clear. She had told Leia everything... absolutely everything. Her dark past, the Emperor's Hand, her training, her former purpose, everything. She had also told Leia that she would kill Luke Skywalker.
Then she had all but begged the smaller woman to throw her in prison. An old Imperial re-made New Republic prison from which even Mara Jade, Emperor's Hand and heir to Emperor Palpatine's wrath and vengeance, could do no harm. She had done all but say please.
The mists grew thicker again, what had Leia's response been? The request had been denied, but... Abruptly the memories shifted, replaced one another and brought clarity.
She had told Leia of the Emperor's Hand, of what she was and what she was capable of. Ashamed, desperate and hurting she had pounced, trapping the smaller, much more slender form between herself, her arms, and the bulkhead grey wall. She had stared into warm brown eyes and found herself unable to look away even as she hissed in desperation. Those words were as clear and vivid as the sunset that passed before her unseeing eyes only hours before had been, and rang in her ears still.
Are you afraid of me, she had asked although it was she who was afraid, afraid of the answer.
The expression in those dark brown eyes changed, but it wasn't fear that darkened them. Small hands moved up and insinuated themselves in red hair until they circled her neck, pulling gently downwards. The reply was spoken softly, a single word on a trembling breath before taking a leap into the great unknown, but the meaning of it never wavered nor hesitated.
The first kiss had taken her by surprise and the third was reciprocated. The endless stream that followed were never counted but unreservedly enjoyed, and that drove all other thoughts from her mind. Many wonderful new memories had been made that night and the days and years that followed. Memories untouched by mist or uncertainty, memories to cherish and hold onto when the morning seemed far away.
Memories that never would fade into mist or confusion, ever. She would not allow it.
Soft footsteps approaching from behind pulled green eyes back from their inward journey and into a new and star strewn night. The moons had begun their orbit and the night wind was cold with whispered promises of winter to come.
Leia's voice was gentle, hesitant to intrude but also coloured with worry and echoes of her own pain. Mara smiled at the love that surged so easily in her with just the sound of the other woman's voice, and baffled silently once more at the peace she felt in her presence.
"I'm alright, Leia."
Her arms opened almost as if on their own accord as Leia stepped out on the outcropping that served as their balcony, and Mara sighed with satisfaction as the smaller woman willingly leaned into her, resting her head on Mara's shoulder.
They stood in silence for a long moment, Mara playing idly with Leia's long hair while basking in the sense of Leia so close to her. She remained quiet, giving the other woman some time with her own thoughts, paying attention to the shifts in Leia's spirit and offering the silent comfort of her own as best she knew how.
The bonds that held them together were so very strong, sometimes it was hard to tell what inside was Leia and what was Mara. She preferred it that way of course, but sometimes Mara wondered if their bond had been the same had they been elsewhere... Lived on another world than their beautiful wild forest paradise, someplace where there were other people. Other beings of a higher level of self-awareness and intelligence than the Vornskr whose hunting calls echoed in the distance during clear nights like these.
With other people's thoughts and souls around them, would Leia and Mara's souls still seek each other out? Had they in fact already? So much was unclear in the haze of memory, and she was unsure whether she really cared to know the answer. She could not even tell which answer she really wanted, and none of it mattered now anyway.
The forest would keep its secrets safe, perhaps long after empires and republics were all tales of long ago. Mara kissed the top of brown hair and breathed in the scent of her beloved.
"Mara?" Leia whispered against Mara's chest, knowing the other woman would still hear every word. "Are you afraid?"
Mara tilted Leia's face up to look searching into those brown eyes. She knew what the other woman was asking but felt a perhaps perverse need to hear the words spoken out loud. "Afraid?"
"Afraid..." Leia responded with that calm dignity that spoke of the Royal High Court of the long-lost planet Alderaan, despite the trace of pain that laced the words. "...of what will happen to us. Afraid that we will go insane, like everyone else has before us."
"Like all the other clones created during the wars did."
Mara closed her eyes against the sudden stab of pain caused by the tiny break in Leia's voice as she uttered the word 'clones', and pulled her lover tight against her own, stronger, frame. No verbal reply was given, and none was truly needed.
In that simple word lay all their pain and also the true futility in the evening's journey through the maze of memories.
She was not Mara Jade. She was _a_ Mara Jade.
A physically perfect copy created from tissue samples derived someplace, sometime, then placed in a Spaarti cylinder by some twisted genius like the late Grand Admiral Thrawn, and imbued with hazy, fragmented memories of a life never lived.
From the moment they stepped out of their cylinders after long years of maturing, she and Leia had been alone in their secluded mountain-based home. No-one had ever contacted them nor come to collect them, and in time they learned the truth, that they were not who they had thought to be.
But they were alive, and safe on their forest world. Perhaps it was also true that the galaxy around them was also safer because they chose to remain there, alone and unknown, on their small forest world. Certainly the women whose younger mirror-images they were would be safer that way, and so Leia and Mara remained.
They made their own lives here, their own memories.
"Perhaps it won't happen to us." Mara whispered against Leia's hair, some desperate and only half-believed hope colouring her voice. "The records said that the longer a clone was allowed to grow in the cylinder, the longer it would stay stabile, and there has never been any clones allowed to grow for as many years as you and I have."
"That we know of." Leia whispered.
"That we know of." Mara agreed, and thought for a moment. The unrest in her spirit suddenly lifted with a new idea, and in its place settled a truth that delivered peace at long last.
"I really only know two things. Whatever happens, we will always be together."
"And I will love you always."
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