Coruscant is a land of endless spires. For as long as I can remember - for as long as I care to remember, leaving my past in my past - I have known these spires. I would come up here at night, as I do this night, and stare out at the endless spires and the colorful lights set so beautifully and unintentionally against the black of space and the twinkle of the stars. When my training as the Emperor's Hand would become so tough, so demanding that I doubted myself, I would come here.
I would tell myself it was merely to watch arrivals and departures, to become more aware of the maneuverings of the Court. But the truth is I loved the view. The Imperial Palace - now the center of the New Republic - had and still has the best view on the planet. I might as well take advantage of it, now as well as then.
It is just past dusk. The stars are visible just above my head, and the very brightest shine brightly on Coruscant's uneven horizon. Everything has faded from blue, to pink, to a gentle, soft purple. The wind is faint, even at these heights, with all the impediments of the other buildings nearby.
For the first time in months, I smile. It feels wonderful to be up here, and I no longer feel so weighed down by my grief. I will probably be chilled soon, as I am wearing only a simple white tunic and a pair of pants, matched with sandals. It gets cold up here.
Still, it's enjoyable. And I'm glad it takes so much security clearance to get up here, because that means I am often undisturbed.
I whirl, moving my arm so the blaster strapped to the inside of my wrist will fall into my hand easily. I don't feel any danger, but I don't take chances. Even at my age, sixty-odd-something and counting.
But it is only Luke.
If one can say 'only' of Luke Skywalker. He is dressed in simple black, which I find surprising, considering he spent all those years in Jedi robes. But . . . I first saw him in person in that outfit. Am I getting sentimental? Most definitely. He looks - normal, otherwise. I tell myself not to be surprised. His hair still has the gray, spreading outward from his temples, making him look distinguished. And his eyes are the same - I love those eyes. I love how they have never changed, and that they aren't any different now.
He smiles at me, and I smile back. He holds out his hands, and I don't hesitate for a moment; I take a few quick steps, and cautiously place my hands in his.
It isn't quite what I expected. I can feel his touch, and it's warm. I know I am touching him. Taking his hand more firmly, I squeeze it, and he squeezes back, giving a little laugh.
"Do you remember our dancing lessons?" Luke asks me softly, looking into my eyes, his love for me plain as ever. My straightforward farmboy. "This blatantly romantic setting rather reminds me of it."
I laugh. "I remember you being afraid of your sister setting you up on dates, and desperately asking for help." I pause, and continue more gently. "I remember how I fell in love with you, with each step we took across the dance floor together."
"Together," Luke murmurs, eyes going distant, then he smiles again. His hand comes to rest on the side of my face, and he strokes my cheek. He grins suddenly, and adds, "You were the one who insisted on the dance lessons. Didn't want to be seen with a man with two left feet."
I slap his arm, no longer bothered by the strangeness of touching him. "Skywalker! As I recall, us getting together was more your fault than mine. I'm not the romantic sap in this relationship, farmboy."
He grins again, and we both laugh, sharing a moment of joy as easily as ever. We had so very many. Then his smile fades. "I won't appear to you again," he whispers.
My expression fades with his. "I know," I say sadly. "And I will miss you. I won't have your idealism to balance my pessimism, anymore."
"Life goes on, Mara." He smiles, at peace. He continues softly. "I'll be waiting, my love."
"You better be," I murmur, as he folds his arms around me and brings me close. I rest my head on his shoulder, feeling his strength, knowing I will have to go on without it, for a time. Until I join the Force.
He strokes my back for a few seconds, then draws me back away from him slightly by putting his hands on my shoulders. "But for tonight," he whispers, "let's dance." His lips meet mine, perfectly familiar and perfectly wonderful.
And we dance the night away.
Original cover by obaona. HTML formatting copyright 2003 TheForce.Net LLC.