She hadn't realized that the darkness would be so comforting. Deep and soft, it was almost a tangible thing that soothed the bleeding gashes in her psyche better than - well, not better than anything could. But since what she wanted most was irrevocably gone, the darkness was the next best thing.
And then there were his arms around her, as comforting almost as the dark, and that surprised her most of all. It shouldn't be that way. He was a dubious ally at best; at times he'd been little short of an outright enemy. But here, now, she rested her head on his shoulder and welcomed his anchoring warmth. He shifted slightly, and she shifted with him, wondering at the perversity of life.
"When do you think they'll come?"
His voice shattered the enveloping silence. Mara thought about ignoring him and retreating back into herself, but decided it probably wouldn't work. "Soon."
"It's not going to be pleasant."
Mara sighed. "No."
"We could still - "
"No," Mara said firmly, shifting again and feeling the coarse material they were sitting on shift right back at her. She would never understand these Vong and their obsession against anything not living. Bad enough that she was sitting on something that had all the softness of burlap; knowing it was alive just made it plain creepy.
"There might be a way," he said testily. "If we actually talked about it instead of ignoring it, we could still find a way out of this."
Mara lifted a tired hand to sweep her frizzy hair behind her ear. "Kyp, how many times do we have to go through this?"
"Why do you seem so determined to do nothing?" Kyp retorted.
"What would you have us do?" Mara closed her eyes, breathing the moist, cloying air. "How hard is it to take the Vong out even when we have lightsabers? Even when we're at full strength? Yet you want us to try it unarmed and half-healed."
"Any attempt is better than none," he said, and she felt his frustration.
Mara shifted again, nestling close, clinging to the security of his nearness. "Not always."
She heard the soft motion as he turned his head, trying to regard her through the dense darkness. "You've changed. You were always a fighter; you never wanted to give up. I respected that."
Mara let her eyes drift shut. She thought that she opened them again, but she wasn't sure. "Things change. People change."
The quiet lasted longer this time.
"This isn't what Luke would have wanted," Kyp finally said softly. So certain.
A faint drip of condensation sounded from a corner of their holding area, so perfectly coordinated with the moisture suddenly creeping down Mara's cheeks that for a moment she thought the barely audible plop had been caused by her own tears. "No," Mara agreed, surprised at the steadiness of her voice. "But I don't have his strength."
Leaning against Kyp's chest, Mara's body moved with his as he sighed. "Few do," he murmured.
Why didn't you tell him that when he was still with us? But she was bone-weary, soul-weary, and could not summon the bitterness she would once have felt. The sob took her by surprise, sounding like a cross between a hiccup and the beginning of a wail, and she clamped her hands hard over her mouth, muffling both the sound and the pain. Luke -
Kyp gathered her closer in his arms, curling around her. "I know," he said, and she knew it was the truth. Despite the rebelliousness that had so worried her husband, Mara knew that Kyp had loved him as well, and the sudden rush of sympathy she felt from Kyp nearly overwhelmed her swiftly-faltering defenses. Brutally smothering the keening that threatened, Mara took a deep, shuddering, gasping breath, then another. Then another, over and over again. Kyp stroked her hair silently, waiting for her to regain control. She did, and rested her forehead against his cheek, feeling the prickly stubble, before raising her lips to his ear.
"I still have my vibroblade."
He tensed beside her. "How?"
"I have my ways."
She could sense the mental calculations taking place behind his usual shields. "One vibroblade won't accomplish much against the guards -"
"It won't accomplish anything against them," she corrected. "But it can accomplish something else."
Sudden, piercing concentration, all focused on her. "Mara -"
"I won't let them torture me," she hissed, suddenly fierce. "I won't let them do to me what they did to Luke, or to Ben -" She choked again, the agony ripping through her all over again, the intensity even worse than it had been at the beginning. Who had she once heard say that time eased pain? It was a lie.
His fingers were gentle on her cheeks, brushing away the tears.
"Don't you see?" she asked, placing a hand on his chest and leaning close. "They've taken everything from me. I'm taking this from them. Their grand sacrifice - Jedi Master Mara Jade Skywalker, wife of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker." Am I still a wife, without him? Still a mother, without a child? "I can't bring Luke and Ben and all the others back, Kyp. I can't win the war. I can't even kill one guard before they take me down. But I can rob them of my own life."
The answering stillness was utter, complete. They might both have stopped breathing, for all Mara could tell.
"You've thought this out," Kyp murmured.
"I will do this, Kyp. You know I will."
"Yes." A deep breath. "And Luke is going to kill me all over again for letting you." Mara opened her mouth, but was stopped by his hand against her lips. "Me first." Mara paused. She hadn't foreseen this - "I know there have been times when you wanted to, anyway," Kyp added with dark humor.
The reflexive laugh strangled, unborn, in her throat. "I -"
She stopped, not knowing what to say, what she could say.
"You're right," he said, with the sort of serenity that Luke had always said he would one day possess. "It's our last chance to strike back. If we're going to go no matter what, then let's make it count."
Mara licked her dry lips, took a not-quite-calming breath. She drew the vibroblade, thumbed it on without thinking. She looked up to where she knew his face had to be in the darkness -
- he leaned forward before she could strike, kissing her forehead. "Thank you," he whispered, and something inside Mara snapped. Old instincts kicked in; the knife whipped forward, her hand guiding it directly to his heart without conscious thought. He slumped over slowly, brokenly, and one part of her mind approved of the clean strike even as another part was sickened. Strange, so strange, how killing could be so routine. So ordinary, so familiar.
She felt for his pulse automatically, the old detachment settling over her like a shroud. The stillness beneath her fingers confirmed what her Force-sensitivity already had. He was dead, and she was alone.
The edge of her mind detected the voids within the Force drawing nearer even as she heard the muffled speech outside the door, farther down the hall. She'd been right; they had come soon.
She calmly raised the blade, ignoring both the metallic tang to the air and the slickness of her own hands.
Not soon enough.
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