1: “It will be fun, trust me.”
“No,” Leia literally put her foot down. “I’m not swinging across another chasm.” She glared at Luke, whose blue eyes were sparkling. He obviously wanted to participate—Jedi robes and all, for Force’s sake.
“It will be fun, trust me.”
He held out a hand, as furry onlookers wondered if their regal guest was actually going to follow the Panshee tradition of foefie sliding to welcome the new chieftain. With a slight grimace, she took it, other arm wrapping around him.
“Don’t tell Han.”
“There’ll be holos,” Luke nodded at the gathered press, smiling as he jumped off the platform.
2: “Just follow me, I know the area.”
The Jedi had saved him from the Skritters. Del didn’t even know what to call the emotion surging in his chest then—a rancid cocktail of misery, disbelief, and utter confusion. Yet when he’d explained what he needed, Del had expected an argument, to be turned away. Instead…
“Just follow me, I know the area.”
He’d helped. Hadn’t interfered. Asked for nothing more than a scrap of junk. Del watched the black-clad figure walk away, suddenly afraid he knew what to call this unsettling new feeling that had arrived into his life at the same time as Luke Skywalker—hope.
3: “Now? Now you listen to me?”
“Just show ‘em the lightsaber,” Han cajoled, walking down the Falcon’s ramp. “Jedi are considered gods on this planet.”
Luke grimaced, ignoring him. The kid refused to flaunt it, muttering some ancient platitude about the use of intimidation as a poor negotiation tactic.
They walked straight into sixteen raised blasters inside the spaceport terminal.
Han stabbed a hand illustratively before them. “Now? Now you listen to me?”
Luke cocked his head with an impish grin, weathered hilt flying to readied fingers. He whirled it theatrically, until it spun to a rest, ignited, in his hands.
The kid had style. Sometimes.
4: “I know you didn’t ask for this.”
The timing was never going to be perfect, Luke decided. He’d waited long enough. They both had. Cornering Mara as she was tying back her hair in the bedroom, he got on one knee, small box open.
She looked at the jewelry like it would bite her. Confused—after all, she’d already said yes weeks ago—Luke slowly got back to his feet.
“I know you didn’t ask for this,” he explained, “and you don’t have to wear it if you don’t want—”
“Shut up, Skywalker,” Mara smiled slowly, holding out her hand, “and give me my engagement ring.”
5: “I might just kiss you.”
The festive fires were dwindling into embers. Most of the battle’s heroes dreamt in celebratory stupors. Han and Leia had long since snuck away. Only Skywalker was left, standing alone near the village Gemwood tree. He’d survived—but was changed.
Lando walked over, resting a hand on Luke’s shoulder. “Go get some sleep.”
“And if I don’t?” The Jedi sounded amused at the order.
“I might just kiss you.”
Luke laughed. A good sound.
“All right, I’m going, I’m going.”
Watching the young man’s black-clad back disappear into the hut, Lando had to admit it hadn’t been an idle threat.
6: “Yes, I’m aware. Your point?”
Did you know,” Threepio lectured, “that humans attach a great deal of significance to dates?”
“Yes, I’m aware. Your point?” Han was tinkering with the Falcon, listening with half an ear.
“And, if I understand correctly, wedding anniversaries and birthdays are among the most important to celebrate.” Goldenrod paused. “And commemorate, with a gift or similar token.”
The spanner clattered to the ground as Threepio’s words sunk in.
“What’s today’s date?” Han snarled, panic threatening.
“Why, sir, it is your and Mistress Leia’s sixteenth wedding anniversary.”
“Well, why didn’t you SAY SOMETHING?” Han yelled, storming off.
7: “No, and that’s final.”
“And then mom said “No, and that’s final.” Jaina and Jacen pouted, eyes wide as they looked hopefully at their Uncle Luke.
“All right,” he soothed, “calm down and tell me, how did you ask? Exact words.”
“We asked exactly if she would give us another piece of our birthday cake,” Jaina complained.
“But…” Luke grinned, “she didn’t say you couldn’t eat another piece. Just that she wouldn’t give it to you.”
The twins nodded with understanding and delight as their uncle served up three generous slices.
“So we’re definitely not disobeying your mom. From a certain point of view.”
8: “Can you stay?”
Lando shook him, hard, before he yelled the whole village awake. Luke bolted upright, blue eyes unseeing, then gradually calmed as he focused.
“Just a dream,” Lando murmured.
Nodding, wiping his face and looking nothing at all like a Jedi Knight, Luke took a deep breath.
“Did I wake you?”
Lando shook his head. “I heard you, that’s all.”
The other man was clearly still shaken, but lay back down.
Lando stood. “Good night, Luke.”
“Can you stay?”
“Got nowhere else to be,” he answered softly, pulling off his boots.
9: “There is a certain taste to it.”
Mara watched skeptically as her husband tossed yarum and galla seeds into the mushroom and sohli concoction on the stove.
“How’d you learn to cook this?”
Luke grinned. “I watched Master Yoda make it every day, so by observation, I guess. It’s better than it smells, I promise.”
“And the flavor?” she asked, taking the spoon from his fingers and lifting it to her lips.
“It’s hard to describe,” Luke admitted. “There is a certain taste to it.”
Mara set down the spoon with a grimace. “An acquired one, apparently.”
10: “Listen, I can’t explain it, you’ll have to trust me.”
Artoo whistled and beeped a ranted protest.
“Listen, I can’t explain it, you’ll have to trust me.” Luke straightened and checked his lightsaber, wondering if it even made sense to bring it. He wouldn’t fight Vader this time.
The droid burbled and chirped, binary peppered with pleas and insults. Luke’s astromech thought his human friend was crazy.
“Take care of everyone,” Luke said, laying one hand on the little robot’s dome.
A sad affirmative reply.
“If I don’t come back, it’ll be up to you to save the galaxy,” Luke smiled.
It usually is Artoo bleeped softly after he’d left.
11: “It’s not always like this.”
Laser cannons sizzled around the X-wings as they darted and dived closer to the escort frigate and further away from the Executor. Luke smiled faintly at the whoops and yells coming through his headset as Rogue Flight engaged the TIEs. His tandem fighter felt crowded, the wide-eyed diplomat he’d rescued clearly somewhere between terrified and indignant.
“It’s not always like this.” Often, Luke admitted to himself, but not always.
“What is it usually like?” his guest asked in a strangled voice.
“Usually we aren’t up against a Super Star Destroyer,” Luke grinned, spinning rapidly into an evasive maneuver.
12: “What if I don’t see it?”
Uncle Owen pointed again at the constellation above their heads. Luke squinted and strained, finally seeing the Alpha star where it was supposed to be.
“We’ve been over this, Luke,” the older man reminded his ward. The child feared getting lost in the desert, so it was a frequent lesson. “Ancient navigators used it to mark everything. You can find your way to our salt flats, or Anchorhead…anywhere.” But Luke didn’t trust his eyes.
“What if I don’t see it?”
Owen smiled sadly in the night. “Then just trust your feelings.”
13: “I never knew it could be this way.”
Luke crossed out the last line on the flimsy.
“Nothing romantic rhymes with ‘day’,” he complained.
Leia had convinced him to write Mara a poem for their anniversary. Luke was not a poet. To put it mildly. Han laughed, looking over his brother-in-law’s shoulder.
““I never knew it could be this way.””
Luke rolled his eyes.
“That’s worse than what I’ve got,” he groaned.
“Well, don’t look at me,” Han muttered. “Sometimes there isn’t anything to say.”
“Now that works,” Luke grinned, scribbling. “You’re a poet Han.”
“Don’t tell your sister,” Han winked.
14: “I can’t come back.”
“Then my father is truly dead.”
Vader watched the stormtroopers escort his son to the turbolift. The surge of unnameable emotion he’d felt upon seeing him again, pride at Luke’s composure and strength, was polluted by the realization that the Emperor was right. His Master was always right. Luke would turn, or be destroyed. There was no other way.
“I can’t come back.”
The words weren’t filtered through the mask, only heard in his mind, in the voice of a young man who desperately wanted to return. Return home, return to who he had been, return to being a Jedi.
15: “That’s what I’m talking about!”
Chewbacca grunted a protest, waving the hydrospanner in frustration as he checked the horizontal boosters. They were vertical for some reason.
Han’s initial diagnostics were completely off.
A loud and eloquent complaint detailed his opinion of the pilot’s mechanical shortcomings.
“That’s what I’m talking about!” Han hollered from below. “It’s not my fault! It’s the blasted motivator!”
Another snarl conveyed the Wookiee’s opinion of that. R2D2 bleeped his agreement from where he was plugged into the Falcon’s computer. Chewie growled in solidarity, just as Han ducked his head around the doorway.
“Can you fix it?”
Rolling his eyes, Chewie nodded.
16: “Listen. No, really listen.”
Luke sighed, managing not to roll his eyes. Leia was on a matchmaking tear again, it was written all over her. And he was over it.
“I’ve heard it all before—she’s smart, she’s gorgeous, she’s been vetted by security, if only I’d just let you set me up—”
“Listen. No, really listen.”
His sister always knew when he wasn’t being particularly receptive. On this subject, that was pretty much always.
“Listening,” he grumbled in surrender.
“What about Mara?”
“What about Mara?” he echoed, then, realizing what Leia was suggesting—“Mara?!”
“Think about it,” she counseled, walking away.
17: “There is just something about them/her/him.”
“I don’t get it,” Luke groused to Han after the party. “Why would Leia think I’d want to date Mara?”
Han grinned, ruffling Luke’s hair like he was a teenager.
“’Cause opposites attract? ‘Cause you pretend to hate each other but somehow always wind up working together?”
“Stop acting like you know what you’re talking about,” Luke scowled.
“So you tell me kid,” his brother-in-law sounded serious for a change. “Why do you help her?”
The question seemed like a trap.
“There is just something about her,” Luke shrugged. “Doesn’t mean I’m interested.”
“Doesn’t mean you’re not, either,” Han countered.
18: “Secrets? I love secrets.”
“Mara?” Luke called, running to catch up.
“No time, Skywalker…”
Luke pretended it wasn’t irritation in her voice. Mara didn’t like being interrupted, delayed, or asked stupid questions. This was probably all three.
“No time for a secret?” he asked, hoping it sounded teasing and not childish.
That stopped her.
“Secrets? I love secrets.”
Swallowing nervously, Luke realized this wasn’t going to work how he’d rehearsed.
“Well… Leia’s trying to set us up.”
Mara laughed heartily.
“Secret to you, maybe, Farmboy. Common knowledge for the rest of the galaxy.”
19: “Yes, I admit it, you were right.”
“Well?” Han asked, eyes sparkling.
“Well… yes,” Luke affirmed with barely concealed happiness.
“Yes what?” his sister prompted, a smile playing on her lips.
Fine. The sooner he got this over with, the better.
“Yes, I admit it, you were right.”
“Which of us was right?” Han was already gloating.
“Right about what?” Leia chimed in, openly teasing now.
“Both of you. About Mara.” Luke waved a hand as if he could make them disappear with some heretofore unknown Force power.
“So when’s the wedding?” Han joked.
“Next season,” Luke grinned, enjoying the stunned and delighted looks on their faces.
20: “You could talk about it, you know?”
“You don’t understand—” Han scowled. “Leia’s tied up with work. I’ll just let Chewie take the Falcon to go back to Kashyyyk.”
“You want to go, though!”
Han was aggravated more by Lando’s insistence than the fact that he was going to miss Chewie’s party.
“…Not to mention you hate letting her out of your sight. You could talk about it, you know? Leia would listen.”
“I’m not taking advice from you,” Han snarled. “If you’re so good with the ladies, why’re you here alone?”
Lando smirked knowingly. The next hour was spent prying the secret out of him.
21: “Change is annoyingly difficult.”
She’d made rhyscate. The nutty, sharp smell hit Han’s nose, imparting nostalgia, good times, and home.
It had been a long afternoon. He was exhausted, but Leia had baked. Always a special occasion.
“How’d it go, General?” she asked as he divided a piece.
Han slid half across to her, picking up his for the toast, trying to hide the day’s frustration.
His wife saw right through him, as usual.
“Change is annoyingly difficult,” she sympathized.
“As long as this stays the same,” Han smiled, leaning over for a kiss.
22: “We could have a chance.”
Leia’s Rebellion had turned out to be as idealistic as his friend Biggs, as inspiring as Ben’s tales of the ancient Jedi. Luke fit right in—his dreams had always been lofty, his eyes starry, his ambitions fearless.
Seating among the Rebel pilots, about to take on the Death Star, Luke wondered what his father would think if he could see him now. He hoped he’d be proud of his son.
Behind him, someone’s practical vote of confidence brought laughter:
“We could have a chance.”
Luke smiled to himself.
There was more than a chance.
The Force was with them.
23: “You can’t give more than yourself.”
Wedge splashed them both refills of Corellian whiskey as Janson laughed.
“You’re kidding? Skywalker quotes Jedi wisdom at you too?”
“Yup,” Wedge took a generous swig. “All the time.”
“Sympathies,” Janson grinned.
“At yesterday’s briefing he told everyone: “You can’t give more than yourself.”” Wedge stared at his now-empty glass. “I wish I had a credit for every pilot that asked me what that meant afterwards.”
Both men were silent a moment.
“It’s sorta inspirational actually…” Wedge ventured.
“It sorta is,” Wes agreed quietly, pouring him another.
24: “Patience…is not something I’m known for.”
General Rieekan’s glare could have burned holes in Hoth’s glaciers. Obviously the Echo Base commander had no interest in hearing his reasons.
“We require your squadron and its leader with us, Commander Skywalker. I understand this is important to you, but personal errands have to wait.”
“It’s not an errand!” Luke protested. “I’m not asking for immediate leave. But if it stays quiet…”
“It won’t stay quiet for long,” Rieekan interrupted. “I’m sorry, but the answer is no, Commander.”
“Patience… is not something I’m known for,” Luke said with frustration to the empty medbay.
25: “I could really eat something.”
Smoke billowed from the destroyed Imperial communications array. The fried electronics and burnt ozone smell was oddly familiar, and distinctly unpleasant.
With a final look around, Han scooped up the bag of unused explosives, slinging it over his shoulder. Luke turned off his lightsaber and started for the exit. Falling in step alongside, Han relaxed at a job well done.
“I don’t like that smell,” Luke said. “Makes me think of droid scavengers.”
Han sniffed the air and grinned. “Makes me hungry. I could really eat something.”
“I thought Chewie was the one thinking with his stomach,” Luke teased.
26: “You keep me warm.”
“Sometimes I wonder why you married me,” Han sighed as he spooned his wife.
It had been a typically frustrating day in the New Republic, and he’d rather undiplomatically told a few too many bureaucrats exactly what he thought of them.
Leia tugged his arm tighter around her waist. “You keep me warm,” she murmured.
He chuckled against her shoulder. “If that’s all I’m good for, I may as well be a Wookiee.”
Rotating sleepily in his embrace, she ran a hand along his scruffy jawline.
“Well, you are starting to look like one, General.”
27: “Can you wait for me?”
Mara took in Skywalker’s bruised face, the rain of lacerations along his bare arm, and the ragged gash that had destroyed his flightsuit. The emdee unit said it would be one standard hour for stitches, then overnight in the bacta tank. She’d thought Skywalker was unconscious, but one swollen eye barely opened as she turned to go.
“Can you wait for me?” His voice sounded as bad as he looked.
Mara fully intended to make some crack, joke about financially compensating her, or harass him for getting them both into this mess. But what came out instead was “Of course.”
28: “Enough! I heard enough.”
“Enough! I heard enough.” Han slapped down a credit chip and glared across the table. “Put your credits where your mouth is, you third-rate conman.”
Lando tried on an innocent expression, a look he’d never successfully mastered.
“I promised your wife I wouldn’t let you make bets anymore,” he protested. “Why don’t we just—”
“Noooo,” Han shook his head, stabbing a finger towards the guest room door. “There’s no way Luke wouldn’t have told me. Not something that important.”
Lando shrugged nonchalantly, relishing the doubt he heard creeping into his fellow gambler’s voice.
“Fine. 1000 credits?”
Han grimaced. “100.”
29: “I’m doing this for you.”
Mara smoothed the oddly spiked lapels of the grey jacket, tugging the blue tunic lower on his waist. Its neckline revealed more of his chest than felt entirely appropriate. Luke grimaced—it was a charity event, a good cause, he reminded himself. Plus his wife looked radiant, so there was that.
“I’m doing this for you,” Luke sighed.
Mara smirked. “I’m doing this for the galaxy. Everyone deserves to see you in something besides black. It’s the first time ever a Hapan designer has agreed to dress a Jedi. Try to look happy about it, handsome.”
“Absolutely thrilled,” he promised.
30: “I’m with you, you know that.”
“Fine, Luke.” Leia flicked a hand towards the ship, poorly hiding her disappointment. “You have other obligations, I understand.”
“Leia.” Sometimes her brother’s voice was too calm, too wise. “I’m with you, you know that.”
Like right now. It was annoying as hell.
“You’re with me, but not here.” She felt guilty even as she finished the thought. “Where the New Republic needs you.”
“Don’t feel guilty,” Luke smiled, instinct or Force empathy in overdrive. Another maddening aspect of Force talents or genetics, she often wasn’t sure which to blame.
“Don’t you either,” she sighed. “See you in three months.”
31: “Scared, me?”
“C’mon, Daddy!” Ben tugged his hand harder.
At Mara’s urging, Luke had taken their son to the Hallowe’en Carnival. Ben, costumed as the cutest Ewok anyone had ever seen, loved the pumpkin carving, and even won a plush korrina at the blaster booth. Daddy thought he may have had a little help from the Force for that one.
“Are you scared?” Ben asked, curious. Luke cursed silently, tightening his shields.
“Scared, me?” He scoffed and smiled. “Of course not.”
After all, he’d been fine at the ‘Rabid Rancor’s Cave,’ just really had hoped to avoid wading through ‘Haunted Dianoga Swamp.’