Summary: Luke and Mara are given a gift to help them through the trials to come. This takes place immediately before the events in "Edge of Victory I: Conquest".
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Disclaimer: Everything Star Wars belongs to George Lucas and Lucafilms and Mara Jade Skywalker is the creation of Tim Zahn. I write purely for the entertainment value and am making no money from this.
Authors Notes: This story takes place directly preceding "Edge of Victory I: Conquest" and ends with the events that occur in chapter one of that book. This story assumes knowledge of most of the Expanded Universe and contains spoilers for some of these events. This story also includes the spectral characters of Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi so a knowledge of Phantom Menace is also assumed. There is also a character in this story who was an original character appearing in two of my earlier stories. For those who havent read those stories, Leamona Halcyon is a distant relative of Neeja Halcyon that Luke meets on a trip to Corellia about six months after his marriage to Mara. Leamona tells Luke about his father, Anakin, and about Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn. Those stories she relates make Luke aware that Qui-Gon was Obi-Wan's Master and that the two men had a personal, intimate relationship. That relationship is assumed in this story and though not explicit, there are times that a sexual relationship between the men is strongly implied. If you are uncomfortable with this, please do not read this piece.
Although to all outward appearances he was a picture of Jedi serenity, Luke Skywalker was seething internally with frustration as he listened to the speaker droning on. He had devoted his entire adult life to the needs of first the Rebel Alliance then later the fledgling New Republic. Once the new government had stabilized, he had devoted all his attention to finding other Force-sensitive individuals and teaching them the ways of the Force. He had done this in a small part to honor the memory of his father, Anakin Skywalker, and his teachers, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda. But the larger reason had been that he hoped that the Jedi would be able to aid the government in keeping the peace.
Luke had willingly sacrificed his private life to rebuild the Jedi into a group that he thought would be as well respected as the Jedi Order of old. Much to his dismay, he now found that this was not the case. The very government that he had helped to create and vowed to defend and protect was treating him as if he was the enemy. In a new twist, the Yuuzhan Vong had used the fear that their invasion was creating to rid themselves of the only real threat to their battle plan. The Vong had pledged to halt their incursion into the galaxy if all the Jedi were turned over to them. That false promise, in addition to the price they had placed on the head of every known Force-sensitive, resulted in the Jedi being persecuted and hunted as if they were criminals. Average citizens had joined the Peace Brigade and almost every bounty hunter in the galaxy was hunting them in an attempt to cash in.
As he thought about the things that had been happening since the Yuuzhan Vong invasion began, Luke shuddered with an eerie sense of premonition. Although much of the history of the Jedi had been lost, he couldnt help but compare this current witchhunt to the Jedi purges that had accompanied Palpatine's rise to power.
The phrase 'they have become lawless renegades' filtered into his musings and drew Luke back to the present. Breathing deeply to calm himself as he released his anxiety and frustration to the Force, Luke attempted to refocus on the speaker. One of President Borsk Fey'lya's cronies was prattling on about the activities of a small group of Jedi who were following their own path. Most likely he was doing this to focus everyone's attention on that small band and to minimizing the massive contributions to the war effort that the majority of the Jedi were making. He was so intent on containing his frustration at the speakers slanted view that he was completely unaware of a flux in the Force behind him. As the Force eddies dissipated, two spectral forms materialized, looking down upon the proceedings from the corner of the room.
"I am worried about Luke, Master," the shimmering image of the younger man said softly. "This persecution of the Jedi is affecting him deeply." He looked intently at his companion, ever thankful that he was always willing to stand beside and support him during these necessary vigils.
"Have faith, Obi-Wan," the older man replied. "Luke is strong and has withstood many setbacks." Blue eyes shone brightly as he placed his hand on the younger man's shoulder. "And we will watch over him and guide him through this difficult time, as we always have."
Mara felt Luke's frustration flowing across their bond as the meeting ended. Although she had not focused enough to know the actual content of the discussion, she had a pretty good idea of the main topic. The New Republic government led by the pompous Borsk Fey'lya had done nothing to dissuade the current Jedi hunting. In fact, it seemed that the government had fueled the paranoia and fear instead of curbing it. There were days when she wanted to take Luke, find a remote planet and spend their remaining years hidden away, raising their children.
When he finally reached the door to their quarters, Luke palmed it open and searched almost frantically for the one sight that would bring comfort to his burdened heart. Unwilling to take even an extra instant to extend along the Force for her shining presence, he called out as he hung his robe by the door. "Mara, where are you?" His reply came in the form of a wave of love coming from their bedroom. The sight that greeted him as he crossed the threshold into the room filled his heart with warmth and brought a smile to his lips.
Dressed in only an oversized shirt, Mara stood at her dressing table, brushing her red-gold locks free from the confines of their traditional braid. "I begged off dinner at your sisters," she said softly. She ran her hand unconsciously over her expanding abdomen and smiled impishly. "I figured after a day in the rancors den, you could use a quiet evening at home."
Luke walked over to where she stood and pulled her gently into his arms. "Have I told you today how much I love you, Mrs. Skywalker?" he said before gently claiming her lips.
"Not today," Mara replied once their lips parted. She wrapped her arms around his neck and felt the tense muscles lying beneath her fingertips. Although he would never complain, these meetings with Feylya and his cronies always left him stressed and worn out. She smiled inwardly as she thought of a small way to help her tired husband relax. "Dinner wont be ready for about an hour. How about I give you a massage?" she said huskily.
Luke sighed as he felt strong fingertips kneading the tight muscles at the nape of his neck. "You always know exactly what I need, Mara," he said as he dropped down onto the edge of the bed. He pulled off his boots and in matter of moments had stripped down to his boxers. Sighing in anticipation, he spread out face down on top of the bedcovers.
As Mara straddled her husbands hips and reached for the bottle of massage oil lying on the bedside table, Qui-Gon took advantage of the changing atmosphere to lightened their mood as well. "I remember many a similar welcome as you sought to distract me from my frustrations after some of my more trying Council sessions. Makes me wonder if youve been prodding Mara, my Obi-Wan," the older man said.
Grey-green eyes shone mischievously as Obi-Wan composed his features in a vain attempt at innocence. "Me, Master? Try to be a distraction?" he said indignantly. "That would be beneath the decorum of a Jedi. I was just a faithful padawan, trying to see to the needs of his aging Master."
With a raised eyebrow at his not-so-innocent former padawan, Qui-Gon took the younger mans hand. "Lets leave Mara to improvise on your suggestion and Ill show you how old I really am." Their vigilance presently not needed, the hovering images faded into nothingness with a blended peal of laughter.
A whisper of sound registered to Maras Jedi senses and she turned quickly to look behind her. "Did you hear something, Luke?" A vaguely audible moan was the only response to her question and Mara chuckled softly. She returned her full attention to massaging the muscles beneath her fingers. Starting with his neck and shoulders, she kneaded and probed with her fingertips until all the tension and knots had disappeared.
Luke cleared his mind and gave himself over to the sensation of Maras hands on his body. He felt the tension flow from him as her fingers smoothed over his tight muscles. He breathed a soft moan as those wondrous hands moved from his shoulders to his back.
As Mara continued to massage her way down Lukes back, her touches subtly changed from relaxing to caressing. Fingertips grazed lightly over sensitive skin rather than kneading tight muscles. When she reached the small of his back, she could feel the arousal beginning to build from her touches. Knowing that this would be the best way to fully relax Luke, she slid her hands over his firm backside.
As Maras touches became more sensual, Luke lifted his hips and gently guided her to rise from her seated position on his body. Once she was lying beside him, he rolled onto his side to face her. He pulled her into his arms and tilted her face up to his. Covering her lips with his own, he initiated a passionate kiss. He slid his tongue past her parted lips, twining gently with hers and savoring her honeyed flavor.
Their lips remained locked together until Mara flinched and chuckled. As Luke looked at her questioningly, she explained. "Your son seems to have an issue with our current activity."
Luke slid further down the bed, pulled up the fabric of her shirt and laid his head gently on her expanded abdomen. "Settle down, little one," he said softly. "This time is for your mother and me." He rubbed his palm soothingly over her stomach and sent calming pulses to the restless infant through the Force. When the movement stopped, he pulled the shirt over her head and lay back down beside Mara. "Demanding already. Must take after his mother." Before she could make any attempt to answer, he occupied her mouth in a more pleasurable activity.
Luke released her lips and kissed a path across her face and neck until he reached her breasts. As he pulled a peaked nipple gently into his mouth, his fingertips mapped the changing shape of the rounded flesh. With a final caress of his tongue, he released the rosy bud and studied it intently. Of all the changes in his wifes body from this pregnancy, the changes in her breasts had enthralled him the most. The nipples had widened and darkened slightly and the breasts themselves were fuller and heavier. Their sensitivity had also increased and Mara became more aroused by caresses and touches. He gave his full attention to the other breast until Mara was moaning and writhing beside him.
When Lukes lips left her breast, Mara rolled onto her side and shifted backwards a bit so that Luke was lying spooned against her. She could feel the evidence of his desire pressing against her buttocks and reached back to tug at the waistband of his boxers. Once he'd deftly removed the bothersome fabric, she shifted so that his manhood slipped between her thighs. She canted her hips until his shaft rested along her folds and reached back to guide him into her body.
Luke reacted to his wifes slight direction and shifted until he slid easily into the welcoming warmth of her body. He moaned softly as he was surrounded by her wetness. He placed a hand on her hip for support and began to move with slow, gentle thrusts, taking care to not put any pressure on the area surrounding the baby.
Mara pushed back in time with Lukes gentle thrusts until they were both lost in the rhythm of their passions. The only sounds in the room were their soft sighs and moans and the slap of their bodies coming together. Their breathing and heart rates escalated as they fell fully into the pattern of their lovemaking. Their surroundings faded away until nothing existed but each other. Even at this leisurely pace, it did not take long for them to spiral over the edge and explode in release. They lay intertwined as they recovered from the intensity of their joining. Within a matter of moments, their bodies drifted into sated slumber.
Mara woke to find that she was now alone in their bed. She sat up and looked around for the form of her missing husband and found him kneeling in meditation on the small balcony off their bedroom. Picking up her discarded shirt from where Luke had tossed it, she pulled it over her head and padded softly to stand beside him.
Drawn from his light meditation by his wifes proximity, Luke opened his eyes. Without rising, he placed a hand on her stomach and caressed her skin. "Did you have a nice nap?"
Placing her palm against his cheek, Mara smiled. "It would have been nicer if you could have rested too. Luke, you cant keep pushing yourself like this. Force meditation can restore you somewhat but you have to allow your body to actually sleep at some point," she chided.
"Things are disintegrating so quickly, Mara, and I just dont know how to get through to the New Republic Senators and officials," Luke admitted in frustration. "How can Feylya and his peers have forgotten what life was like living in an occupied universe? And living under the Emperor will seem like a picnic compared to what life will be like if the Yuuzhan Vong annex the entire New Republic."
"Selective memory has always been a requirement of politicians, Luke, and Borsk Feylya is the ultimate politician," Mara replied. "He is as slippery as a Calamarian eel and has a gift for twisting the facts to support his position."
Luke rose to his feet and pulled Mara into his arms. His blue eyes filled with pain as he spoke. "As much as Ive wished for the Force to give me a clearer picture of future, its probably just as well that my talent at prescience is fleeting at best. If I had known how painful the Forces chosen path would be all those years ago, I dont know if I would have had the strength to follow Ben."
Hovering above the open balcony, the spectral images watched the interaction between the couple. Lukes soft-spoken admission caused a flash of pain to flow through his former Master. "This should be such a happy time for Luke and Mara. Sometimes I wonder if the Force isnt expecting too much from him, Master," Obi-Wan said in concern.
"The Force does not present any challenges that a Jedi strong in the Light cannot overcome," Qui-Gon replied with conviction.
"There were many times after your death that I doubted that I could continue," Obi-Wan said hesitantly. "It was just so painful."
"Have you wondered why after six years the Force blessed Luke and Mara with this child now?" Qui-Gon queried in his best instructor tone.
Realization dawned in Obi-Wan's expressive gray-green eyes. "For the same reason it gave me Anakin, then Luke. To give them hope and an additional reason to continue the fight," he responded with a smile.
"Trust in the Force, my Padawan," the older man chided.
"Yes, Master," the younger man respectfully replied.
"Even when the Force was lying dormant within you, you always proceeded with your heart," Mara said. "If you trust the Force and your heart, we will get through this. We just need to decide how best to serve the citizens of the Republic while protecting our own."
"I would like to bring all the Jedi to Coruscant so that we can discuss how to move forward and try to get Kyps contingent to stop these vigilante tactics," Luke explained. "Any good military strategist will tell you that you cannot wage war successfully on two fronts. We need to convince the powers that be that the Yuuzhan Vong are the enemy, not the Jedi."
Mara bristled at the mention of Kyp Durrons name. Years ago, Luke had fought for the young man to be allowed to come back to the Jedi after he strayed into the Darkness. Like Feylya, Kyp seemed to conveniently forget that he owed Luke a substantial debt. Without Lukes support, he would have been banished or worse. "The Jedi will gather if you request it, even Kyp and his crew. Once we have them together you may be able to get through to them." She watched as Lukes expression clouded and she became concerned. "Luke, what is it?"
Luke closed his eyes and concentrated, trying to grasp the elusive thread of the future that flowed past him. Unable to bring additional clarity to it, he looked up at his wife. "The Academy," he said softly. "I think it would be best if we moved the students from Yavin to someplace more easily hidden and defended."
Mara looked at him in confusion. "That's not a combination that is easily achieved." Sensing that nothing would come from pushing for answers, Mara changed the subject. "Let's have dinner. You have always planned better on a full stomach, Farmboy." Taking his hand, she led him from the balcony.
The meal was eaten in companionable silence, with each just enjoying the solid comfort of the other's presence. It wasn't until he had finished his meal and noticed that Mara was still eating that Luke saw the chance to lighten the mood. "Our son must be hungry tonight."
"If this child doesn't stop growing so quickly, I'll need a repulsor sled to just get from one place to another," Mara said sarcastically. "I don't know how women do this more than once. Take that as a warning, Skywalker. If you ever think about doing this to me again, I'll have to reconsider my decision to let you live all those years ago." She tried to keep a scathing tone in her voice but the twinkle in her bright green eyes gave her away.
"I didnt do this alone, Mara. You were a more than willing participant in the activities that created young Ben," Luke added with a smile.
"Don't get started on that again," Mara retorted with a growl in her voice that was not totally false. "Our son will not be named Ben, Obi-Wan, Biggs, Owen, or any of the other multitude of names from your past." She rose from her seat and attempted to leave the room but a hand at her waist pulled her heavily into Luke's lap. Finding her mouth suddenly occupied in a more pleasant activity than arguing, Mara lost herself in her husband's loving touches.
"I dont see why Mara is so opposed to naming the baby Obi-Wan or even Ben for that matter," Obi-Wan said indignantly. "He could do worse than being the namesake of such a wonderful person."
"Pride is unbecoming a Jedi, my Padawan," Qui-Gon teased. The blue eyes of the translucent form sparkled mischievously as he added, "maybe Qui-Gon would be a more appropriate name. Give the child a stronger role model to emulate."
"What was that about pride, Master?" Obi-Wan replied dryly.
It didnt take very long for her current position to become uncomfortable so Mara reluctantly pulled her lips from Luke's and rose from his lap. Picking up the plates, she walked towards the food preparation area. "Let's get this cleaned up so we can relax."
Concentration creased Luke's brow as he looked over at his wife. "I need to make a few calls. I want to encode a private message to all the Jedi and attempt to contact Booster Terrik." Feeling a bit guilty about leaving Mara to clean up alone, he added with a half smile. "I'll repay you for completing my half of the cleanup with a foot rub later. Acceptable?"
With all the pressure Luke was under these days she would have done it without question but Mara wasn't foolish enough to pass up this type of treatment. "Agreed," she said flatly.
Qui-Gon looked at his former apprentice with barely suppressed humor. "That one could be your blood. Are there any liaisons with fiery redheads in your past that you would like to confess, Obi-Wan?"
"Although I would be proud to claim Mara as my own, she is too young to be the result of my adolescent oat-sowing," Obi-Wan teased in reply. The expression in the chameleon eyes became more serious as he reached over to caress a bearded cheek. "And once we took our first steps together, you know that I never shared myself with another."
"So many lonely years for you, love," Qui-Gon replied sadly.
"You were with me here and here," Obi-Wan said softly as he placed one palm over his heart and the fingertips of his other hand against his temple, "and that's all that I ever needed."
After she finished cleaning, Mara joined Luke at the comm unit. "Any luck?"
"I'm really glad you had the foresight to create this private communication system for the Jedi," Luke said. "I encoded the message and sent it. Knowing that the Force must be used to retrieve the message from the comm frequency makes me feel much more secure. There are so many out there now who would sacrifice us without a second thought."
Mara remembered that time during her illness from the Yuuzhan Vong spores and shuddered. Things had seemed so bleak for her then. But now she had recovered and was having a child. Thank the Force for small miracles, or in this case, large ones. Pulling back from her introspection, she said, "I was glad to be able to do something useful during that time, although part of me hoped that we would never have to use it." Releasing the pulse of pain that flowed through her, she added, "were you able to locate Booster?"
"Not yet, but I spoke to Wedge and he's going to use some of his contacts to look for him," Luke replied. "I tried to reach Corran too but he and Mirax are not on Corellia. Force willing, they are somewhere with Booster and will be able to help him evacuate the children. I have a feeling that we are going to need all the help we can get."
Rising from the wooden seat, Luke pulled Mara into his arms. "Now, if I remember correctly, I promised you a foot rub. Tomorrow will be soon enough to deal with the rest of this." With a flick of his hand, the door to their quarters was securely locked and the lights everywhere but their bedroom were extinguished.
After brief detours into the refresher, they changed into sleep garments and settled into bed. Luke sat towards the foot of the bed with his back against the wall while Mara lay comfortably against a couple of pillows. Pulling her feet securely into his lap, he began to slowly rub small circles on the instep of the right foot. He could feel the tense muscles relax under his fingertips and the swelling pull from the flesh of her ankles as he moved his caresses there.
By the time Luke had completed his ministrations on her left foot, Mara had slipped further down the bed and fallen deeply asleep. Gently lifting her feet from his lap, he slid carefully up the bed to lie beside his wife. Looking into her peaceful face, he realized that she had been right before. He did need to sleep. Placing a palm lightly onto her abdomen to feel the reassuring presence of their child, he closed his eyes and allowed the pull of sleep to claim him.
As Obi-Wan watched, restlessness and frustration began to overshadow the peacefulness of Luke's dreams. Pressing gently forward into the sleeping mind, he was discouraged to see the strength of the despair that resided there. Luke was becoming more fearful as each day passed, afraid that he couldn't protect the people of the New Republic, the Jedi, his friends, his family, his wife and his unborn child. Obi-Wan remembered his lessons well. How many times during his lifetime had he heard Yoda intone: 'fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering'. He pulled back from Luke's dreams to see Qui-Gon's deep blue eyes staring at him. "Master, isn't there anything more we can do to help him?"
Qui-Gon probed briefly into Luke's dreams then closed his eyes and opened himself fully to the currents of the Force. Listening carefully for the tiniest directive, he was happy to find that after a few moments the Force had given him a small clue. Turning back to Obi-Wan, he said softly, "we can offer him a tiny thread of hope. We must trust that he is open enough to read the subtle message." Opening his mind to his bondmate, he shared the vision of things to come that the Force had granted him. Once he pulled back, he continued. "We can enter his dreams and shift them to allow him to see this glimpse. I will be with you but you must be the one to approach him. Your presence will help him to understand that this is more than a dream."
Obi-Wan nodded his agreement and the two spirits sent their mental presences into the mind of the troubled Jedi Master. Darkness swirled around chaotically as they entered and the oppressive feeling of despair was very strong. Luke floundered in the darkness, calling out and reaching for fleeting images of friends and loved ones. Shifting his form from the younger one he preferred to the older one that his former student would recognize, Obi-Wan walked to Luke's side. He placed a hand on his shoulder and concentrated on the images surrounding them. Soon the darkness cleared and the rugged beauty of the Yavin jungle lay before them. After a few moments, he knew that Luke could see and sense him.
Luke turned to see two men dressed in familiar Jedi garb standing beside him. "Ben," he called in a tentative voice. "Is it really you?"
"Yes, Luke. It's really me," Obi-Wan replied.
"It's been so long and you told me you could never come back to me," Luke questioned, as he remembered the time all those years ago that Ben had spoken to him last. "I've been so alone."
"Never alone, young Luke. We have always been beside you," a deep, soothing voice answered.
Luke looked up at the bearded, long-haired man who stood slightly behind his first Master. "Qui-Gon Jinn?" he asked in confusion.
"Yes, Luke, this is my former Master, Qui-Gon Jinn. But how " Obi-Wan stopped as he answered his own question. "Leamona Halcyon. She told you about us."
"Yes, back during a much happier time," Luke replied wistfully. "She told me many stories about you two and about my father."
Luke's attention was drawn back to the scene around him. A small group of children were playing in the garden by the ruins of the Temple and he watched as a young man with light brown hair - was it his nephew Anakin?- approached the group and a small blond boy lifted up his hands and called out "Ani". The young man scooped the giggling child up, lifted him over his head and flew him around in circles like a fighter. "Your daddy used to do this to me when I was no older than you, little imp," the young man whispered to the child. "Though if he catches me interrupting your class there will be hell to pay. Oh, oh, too late, here he comes now." Luke watched mesmerized as the child looked off to the right and he could see himself and Mara approaching the group.
Suddenly the people faded from the image leaving only the empty garden behind. "Bring it back. I need to see more," Luke cried out in distress as he dropped to his knees. "What does it mean? Ben, please, help me."
Obi-Wan knelt before Luke and speared him with an intense gaze. "This is hope and love. Hold the image close to your heart, Luke, and you will know what to do. And remember, we will be with you always." He leaned forward and placed a comforting hand on Luke's shoulder.
At the word we, Luke looked up and was surprised to find that Master Jinn no longer stood behind Ben.
Luke's distress pulled Mara from a deep sleep and flowed from her into the baby. When she opened her eyes, she was shocked to see a shimmering form standing by the bedside focused on her expanded abdomen. A translucent hand hovered above her stomach and a gentle voice crooned. "Be calm, little one. All will be well." The baby calmed immediately and the specter turned towards her.
"Who are you?" Mara asked, suddenly wide awake.
"One who watches over you," Qui-Gon replied. "Now rest and remember, love and the Force will conquer any evil."
As much as she tried to fight to remain awake, she wasn't strong enough to counter the Force suggestion sending her back to sleep. Unconsciously bringing her hand to cover and protect her unborn child, she returned to the grip of slumber.
Qui-Gon reappeared at Obi-Wan's side and studied Luke intently. "Do not give in to despair, Luke. It is a path to the Dark Side. When times appear their most bleak, cling to the promise of what lies ahead."
"Love is the only thing we possess that we can give and have returned to us freely," Obi-Wan reassured Luke. "Its strength added to the power of the Light will vanquish the Darkness. Be patient, Luke, and all will be revealed in time."
With a final squeeze to the shoulder he clasped, Obi-Wan rose to his feet and took Qui-Gon's hand. "Remember, Luke, we remain by your side, always."
They faded from the dream and again hovered invisibly in the bedroom. Obi-Wan pushed Luke back into a deep sleep, allowing the memory of the vision to remain with him. Morning and the bleak reality that accompanied it would be coming soon enough.
Mara woke to find Luke still sleeping peacefully beside her. Studying the handsome face that always looked so young in slumber, she replayed the memories of the previous night in her mind's eye. Was it a dream or had she really seen the spectral image of a Jedi that she didn't even recognize? What had the man said -- 'one who watches over you.' Who would be watching over her? The remembered voice was so comforting and full of compassion and concern. The baby kicked as she lay thinking and she absently rubbed her stomach and sent him soothing thoughts. She closed her eyes and concentrated on bring up the image of the Jedi, hoping she could find some clue to his identity.
"Qui-Gon Jinn," Luke said softly. The sound of his voice caused her to jump and she looked over at him, startled. "The person you were picturing in your mind is Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn." The confusion he felt over the bond from Mara had awoken him so he had looked to see what was bothering her. A shadowy image of Master Jinn was the last thing he expected to see in her mind.
"How can you be so sure?" Mara asked in confusion. "You never met Qui-Gon Jinn."
"I probably would have recognized him from the flat pics that Leamona Halcyon showed me but I did meet him. Last night," Luke replied. Seeing the confusion in those green eyes, he added, "Ben came to me last night while I was sleeping. It's rather complex so maybe it would be easier if I showed you." Luke rose from the bed and helped Mara to her feet.
Once she stood and the baby shifted, Mara's physical needs became pressing. "Give me a minute," she said as she rushed into the refresher.
Making a quick stop in the kitchen, Luke poured two glasses of juice then headed into the common room. Knowing that meditating on the floor was no longer comfortable for Mara, he placed the glasses on the low table by the sofa and sat down on the worn cushions. He patted the seat beside him when Mara came into the room and she came over to sit beside him. He took her hands in his and looked deep into her eyes. "If we both drop into a light meditative trance, I should be able to replay my dream/vision from last night and share it with you. My recollection is rather vague at this point so this will help me to study it as well. Ready?"
Mara took a deep, calming breath, nodded her head and regulated her breathing and heart rate to match Luke's.
Once they were in sync, Luke tapped into his Jedi ability for full recall and began to replay the dream. Luke reviewed the events as they had occurred beginning with the vague but dark images that had plagued him. He watched the scene shifting more slowly this time, taking in the thriving wildlife of Yavin before becoming aware of Ben Kenobi's presence. He remembered his amazement that Ben was really there and felt the secondary persona of Qui-Gon Jinn. Again he was not really surprised that he recognized the older Master but found that something about his Force aura was very familiar. It was as if he had felt it before, many times in his life.
Luke felt his attention drawn away from the Masters by the movements of the people around him. He looked over to see the group of children with their instructor, noticing now that the person was Tionne. He watched as Anakin, accompanied by his friend Tahiri, approached the children and picked up a small boy. The child appeared to be three or four years old and as he looked more closely, he realized that this was their son. The child's greeting and Anakin's words to him replayed in his mind and the feeling of love pouring from his nephew was almost palpable. He could sense the joy as Anakin shared the childhood memory with his cousin and the gentle teasing in his words as he felt Luke's approach. He sighed as the people faded from the dream leaving only the jungle of Yavin behind in his mind.
Luke could feel his distress as strongly as if he was reliving it and could hear his pleas to his former Master. He felt Ben's calming presence as he replied and also felt the wave of love and concern that came from the older man. He focused more intently on the content of his Master's words -- 'this is hope and love' -- and realized what Ben had been trying to tell him. He continued to review the vision, because now he was sure that it was a vision, and concentrated on the words of Qui-Gon Jinn. Peace and serenity just flowed from the man, warning him of the danger of despair and the hope of the future. Finally Ben echoed his Master's earlier statement that they were always with Luke and the two men faded from his mind. He had slept then, wrapped in the comfort of the promise of love and hope.
Wetness was trailing down his cheeks when he opened his eyes and Luke was not surprised to see matching trails on Mara's face. Reaching over to trace the tears with his fingertips, he smiled. "Ben and Qui-Gon have given us a most precious gift but we must not allow ourselves to become complacent. This promise of the future will give us the strength to go on but we must make our decisions and fight this battle as if we have no knowledge of this. As Yoda was so fond of saying, 'always in motion the future is', and we cannot allow any other possibility to become reality."
"Just knowing that our child and at least some of our family survives will have to be enough," Mara replied.
Thinking back to earlier that morning, Luke realized that he had not asked Mara why she was picturing Qui-Gon. "Mara, when I woke up, you were looking at a mental image of Qui-Gon Jinn. Why?"
"I woke up when I felt your distress during the vision," Mara explained. "When I looked around, I saw a translucent form standing by the bed with his hand almost touching my stomach. He was talking to the baby, telling him to be calm and that everything would be all right." Mara looked intently at Luke and added in amazement. "When I asked him who he was, he answered--'one who watches over you'."
"They both told me that they had been with me always and now I see that they really meant with us," Luke said. "I felt so alone at times and resented that Ben wouldn't appear to me again no matter how much I begged and pleaded. But now I know that he's always been there and so has Qui-Gon." He hung his head and whispered softly, "I'm ashamed that I had so little faith."
"But you do have faith, Luke. You always have," Mara replied as she lifted his chin to meet his gaze. "I think you could always sense their presence in the Force, you just didn't know that it was what you were feeling."
"Such a smart woman, that Mara," Obi-Wan said. "Maybe I should reconsider the possibility that we are related. With the Force, all things are possible."
"I'm beginning to wonder how much of your time apart from me was spent coaching Mara instead of what you were suppose to be doing, Padawan," Qui-Gon replied dryly.
"I would never shirk my assignments or responsibilities, Master," Obi-Wan replied indignantly. "I just happen to be able to handle multiple tasks."
A familiar aura floated in the Force as Mara worked to reassure Luke. They both opened up their senses and felt waves of peace and comfort flow through them. Looking around the room to try to catch a glimpse of their ethereal watchers, Luke smiled as he saw the fabric of his hung robe fluttering as if in the wind. "Thank you, Masters. I won't forget," Luke whispered into the air.
Luke and Mara spent the next few days preparing for the conference with the Jedi. Arrangements were made and Luke worked painstakingly to create an atmosphere that would allow everyone to feel they could speak freely.
Finally the morning of the meeting had arrived. Luke rose at dawn and spent three hours in deep meditation to prepare. Trying to anticipate any possible path the discussions could take, he mentally reviewed each scenario. He used the mental image of his son and Anakin as a focus and found that it helped him to recenter himself when the imaginary discussion got too intense.
Mara and Luke left their quarters for the room they had reserved, hand in hand, about an hour before the meeting was due to begin. Luke knew that his strongest supporters would want to speak with him but he didn't want to be accused of playing favorites by having any private discussions. As they entered the semi-circular room, a nervous silence dropped over it. Attempting to resolve some of the tension, he started at one side of the room and greeted each individual Jedi personally and thanked them for coming.
At precisely 10:00, Luke and Mara climbed the stairway that led to the podium and called the meeting to order. The meeting went well at first, with each individual speaker remaining calm, controlled and polite. But soon things began to deteriorate and voices rose to a fevered pitch. As the frustration of the crowd grew, so did the anger and fear surrounding them.
A wave of despair flowed through Luke and for a moment he allowed it to overwhelm him. But before it could fully take hold, a familiar aura surrounded him and he met the intense blue eyes of his nephew's gaze. The image of his young son with Anakin from his vision filled his mind. He grasped onto it like a drowning man to a rope and pulled his heart from the throes of despair.
As Luke steeled himself to face Kyp's next verbal challenge, Ben's words filled his heart. 'Love and hope.' Combined with the Light of the Force, these were very powerful allies indeed.