FIC: "3 a.m." (Mara, Luke, one-shot)
Title: 3 a.m.
Fandom: Star Wars
Characters: Luke, Mara, Rogues
Timeframe: Post-Thrawn Trilogy, Pre-Dark Empire
Summary: “This is why we’re not friends, Skywalker. Because we can’t have a conversation without you preaching.”
A/N: Line theft (of sorts) from Casablanca and Macbeth
It was the last place Luke Skywalker expected to find Mara Jade at 3 a.m.; an Inner-Coruscant Police Station holding cell, colloquially referred to by locals as the ‘drunk tank’.
She was seated against the grimy duracrete wall , one leg crossed over the other and her arms folded. One man, his arm thrown over his eyes, was passed out on the bench beside her, and another was crouched in the corner, his off-key singing interrupted every few moments by stattaco hiccups. Mara studiously kept her eyes forward, and ignored both of them.
Luke approached the bars of the cell, unable to keep the amused smile off his face.
“In all the cells in all the prisons in all the worlds,” he drawled.
Her eyes flickered over him, and she gave a resigned sigh.
“Just when I thought the night couldn’t get any worse,” she muttered. “What are you doing here, Skywalker?”
He wasn’t cowed by her unwelcoming expression. “I could ask you the same question.”
Mara didn’t answer. She simply glared at him. He crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow.
“Boss!” cried the man from the corner. He stumbled to his feet and into the light. It was Hobbie.
“You’re my hero, Luke,” he slurred and tumbled against the bars, grinning broadly. Luke could smell the strong stench of Corellian whiskey on his breath.
“Yes, well,” Luke smiled. “I received a very amusing comm call from the good officer out there, explaining that Wedge had intended to place his one call to me, but had been...detained.” Luke craned his neck to get a better look at the other man on the bench, but it wasn’t the Rogue leader.
“Oi, Janson.” Hobbie stumbled over to the bench and shook Wes awake. “Luke’s here to save us!”
Wes woke up noisily, flailing his arms and kicking his legs out. One foot almost caught Mara in the face, but she grabbed his ankle and unceremoniously pushed him off the bench. Luke winced as he went crashing to the floor, but Hobbie only laughed. Mara didn’t respond and simply returned to staring straight ahead.
Wes groaned as he got to his feet. “That was uncalled for, Jade,” he grumbled. Then he looked towards Luke and squinted at him. “Is this a Jedi Master I see before me?” He stumbled forward with a goofy grin. “Or is it some former Rogue who has been missing out on all the fun?”
“Ah, but what if I had joined in on all this fun?” Luke responded. “Who would’ve come to bail us all out?”
“Good point,” Wes nodded. “But it would have been worth it. Just like old times.”
“Sometimes I have trouble remembering old times,” Luke told him.
Wes grinned. “That’s how you know that they were good!”
Mara rolled her eyes. “I have trouble imagining you having a ‘good time’ in your life, Skywalker.”
Luke shrugged. “You might be surprised.”
“Oh really?” She arched a brow. “Rollicking nights back on the farm?”
Luke didn’t really care for her sarcasm at that moment. He’d been having in his opinion a well-deserved night’s sleep when he had received the call from the station.
“Where’s Wedge?” he asked Wes and not Hobbie, who was prodding Luke’s shoulder as if to check he wasn’t merely a drunken illusion.
Wes snickered. “He’s paying homage to the durasteel god.”
At that moment the man himself was brought into the room, propped up by a Mon Calamari in a police lieutenant’s uniform, looking very ill indeed. But his face brightened when he saw Luke, and he pulled himself from the lieutenant’s grip and flung his arms around him. Luke patted his inebriated friend on the back lightly.
“You okay there Wedge?” he asked.
Wedge pulled back and shot him a thumbs up sign, seemingly incapable of speech.
“Thank you for coming, Master Skywalker,” the lieutenant addressed him, and Luke recognised the voice with whom he’d spoken to over the comm. “Usually it is our policy to keep detainees overnight, especially after a brawl,” he continued.
“Brawl?” Luke shot a surprised glance at Hobbie and Wes, still in the cell. “What did you do?”
Hobbie laughed. “Win.”
“The other party are no better off than them,” the Lieutenant continued. “They are being kept in a different cell, for obvious reasons. But General Antilles assured me that releasing his party into your custody would be preferable. And,” he leaned in closer to Luke and lowered his voice, “I don’t particularly want the sludegnews reporters disturbing the peace and order of this station. Given the high profile of these men, it would be best if you took them to sleep it off elsewhere.”
“Agreed.” Luke nodded.
The lieutenant walked over to the cell and punched a code into the keypad. The door opened and Wes and Hobbie stumbled out.
“Thank the gods,” Mara muttered to herself and rose as well. However when she reached the door, the Lieutenant held up a hand to stop her.
“I’m sorry, miss,” he said in a polite but firm tone. “I was under the impression Master Skywalker was collecting these three men. Are you also friend of Master Skywalker’s?”
Mara’s jaw visibly clenched, and she didn’t answer.
Luke found himself somewhat amused. “Yes, Mara, are you a friend of mine?” he asked innocently. “Because if you are, I’m sure they would have no problem releasing you as well.”
Mara glared at him and then turned to the Lieutenant. “I’m not drunk like they are,” she told him and indeed, she sounded completely sober. “I don’t pose any threat.”
“That is not what your blood alcohol level indicates,” the Lieutenant argued. “Nor what the witnesses have said of your behaviour. Now are you are a companion of Master Skywalker or not, Miss?”
Mara shot Luke another deadly glare, but he could almost see her weighing up the options in her mind, and the repercussions of what she would say. Of course, for any ordinary person it would have been of no consequence admitting that they were friends with Luke, even if it was a lie. But Mara Jade was in no way ordinary. Finally she sighed, and opened her mouth to speak.
“Don’t call me Miss,” she spat out at the Lieutenant, spun on her heel and resumed her position on the bench. The Mon Calamari looked at Luke, who nodded at him, and closed the bars again.
“Could you please take these three outside to my speeder,” Luke asked him. “My friend Han is waiting there. Could you please ask him to take them back to my place, and that I will see them all later.”
The Lieutenant looked slightly confused at the request but nodded, even clicked his heels at attention before leading the three Rogues out of the room.
When they had departed, Luke turned back to Mara. Neither of them spoke. Eventually Mara folded her arms again, and without breaking eye contact said; “Isn’t blackmail against the Jedi code?”
“As far as I know, there’s no such thing as a ‘Jedi Code’ but if there was, I am sure blackmail would be on the ‘don’ts’ list. I try not to engage in it myself.”
“What do you call what just happened then?”
“He asked you a question,” Luke said calmly. “I couldn’t answer for you.” He paused. “Was it so hard to say?”
“I’m sure lying would be on the ‘don’ts’ list as well,” Mara countered.
“As you are always saying you are not a Jedi, and have no desire to be one,” Luke replied evenly. “So you would not be bound by this hypothetical code.”
“No, but I am bound by my own,” she said stiffly.
There was another long silence. Finally Luke blinked, and looked away. “Would it have been a lie?” he asked, his voice betraying a note of hurt.
“Come on, Skywalker.” Mara hadn’t seemed to notice his change of tone. “You’re not serious. We’re two people who occasionally cross paths. We may have helped each other out now and then, but I’d struggle to even call us acquaintances.”
“If you say so.”
Mara shifted in her seat. “How did you get Solo to accompany you on this little rescue mission?” She changed the subject.
Fine, Luke thought. He could play the niceties game. “I told him a princess was in danger.”
Mara snorted. “As if that would work.”
“It worked with Leia,” Luke replied simply.
She didn’t seem impressed. “He was probably more interested in rescuing a potential reward than a damsel in distress.”
Luke decided not to mention how close she was to the truth – except for the damsel in distress part. “Han was spending the night on my couch,” he explained. As he’d told his brother-in-law at the time, if I have to get up, so do you.
“Trouble with the Princess, then?” Mara seemed almost pleased.
“Hardly.” Luke shrugged. “He came over to watch the Smashball finals.”
Mara seemed almost surprised.
“What?” he questioned at her expression.
“I don’t know.” She shook her head. “I guess I just didn’t know you and Solo...hung out.”
Luke bristled at her implication. “Han was my friend long before he married my sister,” he told her frostily. But, he supposed, as his ire died suddenly, he forgot how unusual it looked, the Jedi Master whose closest friends were smugglers, gamblers and fighter jocks.
“And your Rogue – and I use that term literally – friends,” she continued. “All night they were on about you, and then in here.” She rolled her eyes. “Luke will come and get us, Luke will be here, the Boss will get us out of this,” she mimicked them, before adding, “I would have let them rot”.
Luke considered this. “Well, I suppose in war you form bonds that are hard to break. Surely you had comrades?”
Mara pursed her lips. “None that weren’t expendable.”
Luke took a deep breath, and moved to take a seat on the far side of the cell. If it weren’t for the bars, they would be seated next to each other.
“I wasn’t always a Jedi, you know,” he told her softly. “It is a large part of who I am, but not the whole part.”
“Part Jedi, part farmboy,” Mara said almost sardonically. “I know.”
“You don’t know me as well as you think,” he told her teasingly.
Mara laughed. “So is this where you tell me that you’re a complex and misunderstood?” She shook her head. “Nice try, Skywalker.”
They sat in a not-quite companionable silence for several minutes, perhaps each waiting for the other to speak. Eventually, Luke gave in.
“So are you going to tell me what happened?” he asked pleasantly. “I wouldn’t have picked you to get involved in a brawl.”
Mara pursed her lips. “Neither would I,” she replied. “And I wasn’t really involved. Your friends happened to be at the same bar where I was enjoying a peaceful drink. So I had the great pleasure of listening to their vapid chatter most of the night.”
“They can be hard to tune out sometimes,” Luke commiserated. “I’ve been in that situation more than once.”
“Well, you lie down with dogs, Skywalker....” she shrugged. “I’m not exactly sure how it happened. I got the impression the other group of men were Empire sympathisers, and rather vocal about it. You’re friends weren’t too keen on that, they’d all had too much to drink, and a simple dust-up soon became a brawl.”
“And which side were you on?” he asked, only half-joking.
Mara glared at him. “My own,” she responded curtly.
“It’s all right, you can tell me, Mara,” he smiled at her. “You tried to stop it, didn’t you?”
“Forget it, Skywalker,” she shook her head vehemently. “Don’t try to pin any pacifistic, mediating tendencies on me.”
Luke shrugged. “It’s what I would have done.”
“Yes, because when faced with a decision I should always ask myself ‘What would Luke Skywalker do?” She cocked her head, considering. “Perhaps I should have it printed on a wristband.”
“I could have one made for you, if it would help.”
Mara gave him a very small, amused smile. “Maybe,” she said, her tone light. “And every time I’m attracted by the Dark Side, I’ll try to be more like you, above such temptations. Because Luke Skywalker would never even dream of giving in to the Dark Side.”
Luke felt his good humour fade. “You see, I was right,” he said, catching her eye once more. “You don’t know me as well as you think.”
Not seeming to notice her change in mood, Mara raised a disbelieving eyebrow. “Pull the other one, Skywalker.”
He held her gaze, and eventually she seemed to realise that he was serious. She shifted in her seat again and looked down at her hands. “Tell me,” she asked delicately.
There was silence for several long moments, while Luke selected the right words. “You know that my father killed the Emperor in order to save my life.”
“I’d made up my mind not to fight my father – because I still believed that he was there, underneath the Vader Palpatine had made him into.” Luke continued, looking down at his own hands and flexing his artificial fingers. “But he knew how to break me,” he admitted. “He knew that I would have sacrificed my own life in the effort to save his soul – but not the lives of my friends. I – I was too careless with my thoughts. I allowed him to discover the secret Obi-Wan had been able to keep from him for so many years. That he had another child – Leia.”
“And the Emperor, while all this was happening?” Mara asked.
“Watching, listening,” Luke told her. “Waiting.”
“Of course,” Mara said, her mouth twisting.
“Vader , he...” Luke continued, “he threatened to find Leia, and turn her to the Dark Side. And I was angry – angrier than I had ever been in my entire life. I fought him, a power at my disposal I’d never known existed. I wanted to kill him...I would have killed him,” Luke admitted.
Mara looked at him, then, clearly a little surprised. “Why didn’t you?” she asked.
“I was about to, but I saw that he was what I would become,” Luke told her, remembering how he’d thought of the test in Yoda’s cave that he had failed so miserably. “I had taken his hand, just as he had taken mine, and I could take his place at the Emperor’s side. But he was my father.”
There was silence for several long moments. “You didn’t know what would happen,” Mara finally said, turning to him, and Luke could see the confusion in her eyes. “You didn’t know that he’d save you.”
He cocked his head, considering. “I suppose at that moment it didn’t really matter,” he told her. “I’d won the battle within myself, and that was more important.” He smiled at the memory. “I even threw my lightsaber away.”
Mara looked perturbed. “I wouldn’t be so proud about that if I were you.”
“But I am,” he told her truthfully. “That was when I finally understood what it was to be a Jedi. I’ve always thought it was about strength, or skill. But I realised, then, that it was about faith.” He remembered that had been his first lesson with Obi-Wan – to trust himself, and his instincts. “It’s about trusting yourself, knowing that no matter what, you won’t give into the darkness inside you. And having the same faith in others.”
Mara looked as if she wanted to say something, but apparently thought better of it. She closed her mouth and looked away. “This is why we’re not friends, Skywalker,” she eventually said, tone neutral. “Because we can’t have a conversation without you preaching something.”
Luke couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. “Noted,” he told her, getting to his feet and heading towards the door. He walked out of the holding room without another word. He supposed the other part of being a Jedi was knowing when you should quit. He wouldn’t press her further, at least not on this occasion.
But he paused at the front desk. “I can vouch for Mara Jade,” Luke told the Lieutenant. “You can let her go.”
“Yes, Master Skywalker,” the Lieutenant answered, bowing slightly.
Luke left the station, the cold night air stinging his face as he stepped outside. He stamped his feet and blew into his hands to warm them up, scanning the empty streets for a speeder-cab. Perhaps the walk would do him good, instead.
He heard the door of the station open behind him, and within a few moments Mara appeared at his side, wrapping her arms around herself at the cold. She didn’t look at him, instead scanning the street at he had done not a minute earlier.
“Thanks, Skywalker,” she said, eyes still ahead..
Luke couldn’t help but smile. “You are most welcome,” he replied, drawing his cloak around him against the night’s chill.
And he went in one direction, and Mara went in the other, out into the night.