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10 - Pairings – Have you ever gone outside your comfort zone and written a pairing you liked, but found you couldn't write, or a pairing you didn't like, and found you could?

I am trying so very hard to write some “nice” Luke/Mara. I'm finding that my definition of 'nice' is probably different than most of the fandom's, though.

I also don't write a ton of slash, but I've tried my hand at it more often lately. Girlslash is surprisingly easy (I <3 you, Sophie/Tara) – the boys are a little more problematic for me, though. I was surprised by that since it seems to be fandom's bread and butter. Maybe I just made things hard on myself by making the dynamic in my current effort particularly complicated. That story really is, at its heart, a tale of two love triangles, so things get... ambiguous.

Like I said above, I'm trying to go outside my comfort zone, particularly given my re-infatuation with the Star Wars EU. I'm trying to write some 'nice' Luke/Mara in the worst way (possibly in the literal sense -- it's hard!). So here are a few snippets, with varying levels of success:

From Romeo and Ethel the Pirate's Daughter -- in which I try to let these two actually work through their issues and have a grown-up relationship for once.

She looked up to find him watching her. “What?”

“Just thinking about how we met, how far we've come...” He pressed his lips against her shoulder. “It's extraordinary, you're extraordinary.”

She shook her head. “All I did was survive.”

“Like I said, extraordinary. You don't give yourself enough credit.” There was a long moment. She could hear him breathing, could hear it when his breathing changed, speeding up a little in anticipation of what he was going to say next. “I love you.”

She blinked. He'd never said that before. He was still watching her, expectant.

“Hmm,” was all she said in return.

“It's okay, you know,” he said, “if you can't say it back yet. I'm willing to wait.”

*

“I'm not in the habit of bringing fancy dresses with me on business trips to the backwaters of the galaxy...”

“No, you save those for business trips to Coruscant,” Karrde mused softly, and she had to fight the urge to hit him.

“Not that it's any of your business,” she said coolly.

“It's not my business, and it's probably best that we leave it that way.”

*

“You do like having it both ways, don't you?” Regan said, tilting her head to one side and giving Mara a calculating look. “There's going to come a point when that's not going to work anymore.”

“You're one to talk...”

“You're right. We're actually a lot alike, once you get past the surface. Each of us with one foot in the respectable world, one foot out on the fringe, trying to walk that balance.” When Mara didn't protest, she continued, “Each of us a little bit in love with two men, one from each of those worlds. The respectable one is fantastic, of course – handsome, kind, a total open book. He represents, what? A fresh start? A way out of a world you're not sure is yours anymore? And the other? He's too old for you, probably bad for you anyway, but charming – and he gets you. He's not going to try to turn you into something you're not sure you want to be; he's not going to try to get you to accept a life that you're afraid might be limiting, a little dull.” She looked Mara right in the eye. “Stop me when the parallels begin to bore you…”

Mara made a face, but couldn't quite keep herself from asking, “And what do you plan to do about it?”

“It's kind of like shopping,” Regan said breezily. “Let's say I find two pairs of shoes that I love, and I can't decide between them. Well, usually I just buy both, and wear them on alternate days.”

“You really are a spoiled brat, aren't you?”

“Maybe, or maybe I'm just not afraid to ask for what I really want. You don’t like me,” she said, pointing at Mara with one well-manicured finger. Her nails were lacquered a deep electric blue. “You don't like me, because I’m who you’re afraid to be.”

“Don’t flatter yourself,” Mara said between clenched teeth.

“Oh, I’m not saying it’s a good thing. But it’s what you want, at least a little bit, deep down. To get what you want and not worry about the consequences. It’s not entirely who I am, either, but it’s what you see.” Regan smiled. “It really pisses you off, doesn’t it?”

*

“Oh, you brought a date,” she said. “How intriguing. I hope you warned Karrde.” She let a moment of silence dangle dangerously, then continued, “You know how he is about dinner. I'd hate for there not to be enough room at the table...”

“So which shoes are you wearing today?” Mara asked tartly, unable somehow to stop herself.

Regan just smiled at her, looking pointedly at Luke. “At least I don't shop out of my price range.”

She breezed past them to where the others were waiting, her rather fashionable dress swaying perfectly in the light evening breeze. Mara noticed, though, with a vindictive satisfaction that was frankly out of character, that she struggled a little on the gravel walkway in her expensive shoes.

“What was that all about?” Luke asked, watching as both Karrde and Cale offered Regan their arms to help her the rest of the way.

“Oh, she's just Cale's horrible girlfriend. I keep hoping he'll get tired of her, but she always seems to be around.”

“You've got your own weird little family here, don't you?” he said.

“Dysfunction and all,” she replied, but then noticed something off in his reaction. “What? Does that bother you?”

*

“So, Luke Skywalker... For real?”

“For real.”

“Are you in love with the guy?” she asked, not looking at Mara, but watching Aves across the room.

“Yes.”

Zillah must have heard something in her voice, though, because she said, “Is it enough?”

“I don't know.”

“Huh,” was all she said in return, and Mara got the sense that she knew the feeling.

“Are you in love with the guy?” Mara asked, nodding in Aves's direction and allowing herself a smile.

Zillah didn't smile back. “I don't think that people like us are necessarily wired for that sort of thing.”

Mara followed her gaze to where Aves was grinning at something – probably off-color – that Dankin was saying. “But you wish maybe we were?”

Zillah turned and looked her in the eye for the first time. “Every once in a while you meet someone who just makes you wish things were different, you know?”

“I do.”

Zillah snagged a stray bottle of wine from the next table over. “Sucks to be us, huh?”

“I'll drink to that.”

*

"Is that where you really thought this was going? Marriage and happily ever after and the pitter-patter of little Jedi feet?" She had to sit down. "I can't even imagine that. At this point, I can't imagine myself even wanting that."

"Not even someday?"

"Maybe,” she said, not really meaning it, but it felt like something she should say under the circumstances.

“But not with me.” His face fell, leaving him looking completely dismayed.

"I like things the way they’ve been between us,” she said, something squeezing tight in her chest. “Why are you in such a hurry? Why are you even thinking about that stuff at this point?”

“Why wouldn't I? Of course I think about those things. I love you.”

“But children? Really?” She took a deep breath. “I think- I think that if that's your plan, then I'm not your girl.”

“Mara-” he began and faltered, then backed up and tried another approach. “I can't understand...”

“Can't understand?” she repeated, a little shocked. “I don't have any business being anyone's mother. I was raised by literally the most evil person the galaxy has seen in a long, long time; I was raised to be a weapon.”

“That's not who you are anymore.”

“It's not,” she said, softening a little at the stricken expression on his face, “but all that damage, all those scars, they don't go away overnight. Some of them – they just don't go away.” She paused. “It wouldn't be fair.”

“Fair to whom?”

“Any of us,” she said, her throat worryingly tight.

*

Mara was wearing a body-skimming dress that he was fairly sure wasn't for his benefit.

“I hope I didn't interrupt date night,” he said coolly.

“It was interrupted long before you called,” she replied, her tone equally cool.

“Trouble?”

“Nothing that I particularly want to talk about right now.”

He frowned at her, but she was suddenly very interested in the marble work in Katai's foyer.

“Oh, lovely,” came Regan's voice from the hall. “The cavalry. Honestly, Karrde.”

“What is she doing here?” Mara said, undisguised dislike on her face.

“She knows the family,” he said softly. “She's our connection.”

“And your only back-up, apparently. No wonder you called me.”

“This is more her world than ours. We need her, so play nice.”

*

“I always had a bit of special affection for you,” Katai said.

“I was a child,” Mara said, shortly. “It was inappropriate.”

“The Emperor certainly would have thought so, if he'd noticed. Not for any high-minded moral reasons, of course – he simply didn't like sharing his toys.” He watched her for a long moment, considering. “You were a lot of things back then, but a child wasn't one of them. I'm not sure you were ever properly a child.”

“And whose fault was that?”

He just smiled. “I see you've moved on to anger and resentment. Good, I think that will make you stronger – and it's certainly better than choosing to live in the past.”

“The past is dead and buried,” she said with more conviction than she actually felt.

He just smiled, as though to say, If that's what you need to believe... Out loud, though, he said, “Your friend Karrde is an interesting case. He's clearly a little bit infatuated with you. Not that I'm surprised – that has a tendency to happen with you.” He took a drink of his wine. “How much of his reputation is actually true?”

“Why don't you ask him?”

“I intend to. That's why I brought him here, after all. But now I find that I have an unexpected asset – a window into what the man is really like. I do like to have all the pertinent facts before I enter into a business arrangement.”

“I'm not your asset. I'm not anything to you anymore.”

“Your loyalties do appear to lie elsewhere these days. I imagine the Republic finds you quite useful.” He turned back to the sideboard. “How disappointed the Emperor would be, though.”

“I don't owe him anything,” she said, trying to silence the tiny voice in her head that still said the same thing to her, usually late at night or when her defenses were down. “Especially not now. He always imagined your loyalty was up for sale to the highest bidder, you know.”

“He was a very perceptive man, it's true.”

“How did you know I was working with the Republic, anyway?” That wasn't generally common knowledge. She tried to keep the whole affair under the radar, with Karrde's blessing, for a variety of reasons.

“I've kept a bit of an eye on you over the years. I didn't know about your connection to Karrde, though. He's rather discreet, isn't he?”

“I think we're done for now, don't you?” she said instead, not wanting to play this game anymore, and headed toward the door.

He put the his glass down, glancing back over his shoulder at her. “I do find Luke Skywalker's interest in you intriguing.” She stopped in her tracks. “Surely, Skywalker can't imagine that the Emperor would have let anyone with enough innate talent to become a Jedi live, let alone have trained them.” He paused, studying her reaction. “Or perhaps he has more personal motivations.”

*

“You're fired.”

“That's not funny, Karrde.”

“I'm not joking.” He looked hard at her. “Go be a hero, go have some extraordinary babies...”

“I don't want that!” she said, before she could stop herself.

“You don't want it now, but you will someday.”

To her shame and horror, she realized that she had tears in her eyes. She never cried, never. She could count on one hand the men who'd ever made her cry – Luke, Karrde and the long-dead Emperor himself.

“Damn it, Mara,” Karrde said. “Don't do that.”


From Iteration -- Everyone is a little dark in this AU, but about 80% of the L/M is kind of bittersweet and hopeful. (The other 20%? Well, those would be spoilers.)

“Are you all right?” Luke asked, coming over and putting a hand on the back of her neck. The touch was intimate, too familiar. She just barely resisted reflex, the urge to cringe, to shake him off. Every time he looked at her she felt it – this alien thing, hers but not hers. She recognized it for what is was now, mostly, was able to untangle it from the other things she felt when he looked at her. Hope – it was mostly hope underneath the rage and resentment that was only a little bit her own. There were other things there, too, unformed and dangerous, but she didn't have the luxury of looking at them too closely.

Maybe it was better that way, for all of them.

“I know this is hard,” he was saying. “It's hard for me, too...” He touched her again, and she saw it in a sudden flash – a future where Luke killed C'baoth with his own hands, and it all went horribly, horribly wrong. She'd never been all that inclined toward visions while waking (dreams, of course, were a different story), not even with the Emperor's guidance, so it took her a moment to recognize it for what it was: a possible future, a likely one – unless she did something to stop it.

So, she decided, she'd just have to stop it. It was better than hiding up here, at any rate.

She ran through the possible options, quickly discarding most of them. Her breathing must have changed, or the tension in her shoulders, or the tilt of her head, or any one of a thousand tiny intimate things that gave her away.

“What is it?” Karrde asked.

“Nothing. I just-”

“Felt something?” Luke was still by her side, standing too close to her, and again she had to suppress that not-hers urge to flinch away. Instead, she shifted her weight forward, gauging the distance, took a breath and tried to steady herself. “It's all right,” he said, his hand gentle on her wrist, mistaking her hesitation for fear. He should have known better, should have been able to tell what was really going on in her mind. She looked at him again, trying to read what was happening beneath the surface, but it was too hard find the thread of his thoughts in all the background noise and sensation. Maybe she was closed off to him the same way here.

Karrde, though, knew her well enough to guess what she was really about to do. He was watching her with this look on his face that… No, definitely not the safer choice. Her throat closed abruptly, and she had to look away from him.

“It's all right,” Luke said again.

It's not, she thought. It's not, but it will be.

When she looked up again, Karrde was still watching her, shaking his head just fractionally, speaking volumes without saying a word.

Don't do this. You don't have to do this.

He was wrong – he didn't like being wrong; she was going to miss that about him – she had to do it. It was why she'd been brought here – it was fate, destiny, whatever you wanted to call it. It was the whole point. After everything she'd done, had been used to do, it was the only ending she could imagine.

Luke looked from one to the other of them, catching on belatedly. “Wait a minute...”

“It is all right,” she said, looking him in the eye. Oh, speaking of danger... Maybe it would have gone that way with either of them, or both, no matter what. Maybe it already had. “It's all right, and I think it's the only way...”

“What is?” Now he was just being deliberately slow, playing for time to change her mind.

“This,” she said, “ and you know it.”

She pushed away from him, abruptly, jumping the balcony railing and pausing there for just a fraction of a second. The cavern fell away below her and she could feel in that moment exactly where C'baoth was, down there in the darkness and the din.

*

“How's the rest of the family?” Bel Iblis asked carefully.

“You mean Luke...” Solo looked uncharacteristically serious for a moment. “It's been a rough year, for a lot of reasons. He's doing all right. It's hard to crack that surface sometimes, though, and know what he's really thinking.”

Bel Iblis had long had the sense that Solo and Skywalker hadn't been completely forthcoming about everything that had happened on Wayland, and how their mission had managed to go so spectacularly wrong. Leia was equally tight-lipped on the subject, and none of the other players were in a position to tell Bel Iblis much of anything.

Solo read the silence with more perception than he was generally given credit for. “Leave it alone, Garm. Don't put me in a position where I have to tell you things you'd rather not know.”

*

“He can't make you do that.”

“Are you sure about that?”

He hesitated, not answering her for a long moment.

“Lie to me,” she said, reaching over and taking his hand. “It's what I want. I've spent most of my life believing comfortable lies.”

He gazed at her, sympathy and something else warring on his face, and for once she actually looked back at him. “Okay, all right,” he said, still holding her hand. “He can't do that.”

“And if you're wrong,” she said, their eyes locking, “I'd rather die than let him force me. You understand?”

“He can't force you,” Luke said again.

She started to protest. “Please... Luke, please just promise.”

Something shifted in his expression when she said his name, a look that to Han meant nothing but trouble, and said, “He can't, but even if he can... Either way, I won't let it happen. No matter what, I promise.” She watched him closely for a moment, then nodded. There was another long pause. “I trust you'll do the same for me?”

“Don't give me an opening, Skywalker,” she said, looking away again, dropping his hand. “I might jump the gun, you know.”

“You won't.”

Any second they were going to tumble to the fact that Han was there, so he started back slowly the way he'd come.

“Don't,” he heard her say as he walked off. “What happened before was a one-time deal, okay?” There was a pause. “At least- At least, until all this is over and we can figure some things out. Please?”

He couldn't quite hear Luke's response, the words indistinct, but the tone unmistakable. He didn't sound particularly happy.

The whole plan had been a disaster and getting worse every minute.

*

“You've got a lot of nerve coming here, Skywalker,” Karrde said, shaking Zillah's hand from his elbow. “What exactly did you think this was going to accomplish?”

“You replaced her,” Luke said softly instead, looking at Zillah. “I never thought you’d do that.”

Karrde’s face went dark with anger, and Aves said something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like, “Oh, shit.”

“Get them out of here,” Karrde said.

“Boss-”

“Out, now.”

Zillah, her expression still carefully neutral, pressed a call button on the intercom. “Dankin? In the main office, if you don't mind?” She closed down the intercom and then said coolly to Karrde, “Where do you want me to send them?”

“Put them in a storage closet for all I care. Just get them out.”

*

“She knew, you know,” he continued. “She knew what would happen to her if she helped you, and she went anyway.”

“The future isn't set,” Skywalker replied. “It's always in motion. She couldn't have known.”

“You just keep telling yourself that.” He fell silent for a moment, Skywalker watching him carefully, doing whatever Jedi thing he did to figure out what was happening below the surface. He didn't need to bother. This was information Karrde was more than happy to share. “She knew, all right. Toward the end she barely slept because of the nightmares-”

“She told you what she was dreaming about?”

The truth, of course, was that she'd never actually told him – but he'd shared a bed with her often enough to make an educated guess.

Skywalker studied him for a moment longer, then said, “Ah… Well, that explains a few things.” He frowned deeply, as though this was new and not particularly welcome information – which left Karrde wondering exactly what the extent of her relationship with Skywalker had been. He wasn’t jealous, really – it was far too late for that now, anyway – just curious.

“Was she sleeping with you, too?” he asked bluntly, and had the satisfaction of seeing Skywalker actually flinch.

“I don’t think that’s any of your business.”

“On the contrary, it sounds like we had a lot of business in common... Mara liked powerful men – more than that, she needed them. Whether either of us was anything more than another in a long line…?” He shrugged.

Skywalker looked ready to punch him in the mouth. Good, he owed Karrde one. The last time they’d come to blows, Karrde had broken Skywalker’s jaw. It had been a cheap shot, one that he’d never have been able to get by a Jedi under normal circumstances, but at the time they’d both been past caring.

*

"You're not much like her. I have to admit, I expected him to choose someone similar if he ever did replace her."

"He didn't choose me," she said. "Though as far as he's concerned, I am just like her – with the same agenda."

"And what's that?"

She smiled, a little wryly. "To screw him over?"

He frowned. "That was never her agenda. Things happened but... she protected him. She didn't want him hurt." He paused, then made a face like it bothered him to admit what he was about to say next. "She loved him."

"And what about you? Did she love you?"

"I think she did... maybe. Or maybe she could have eventually. I don't know." He watched her for a long moment. "You think she did."

Zillah shrugged. "It's not like I knew her, but... Karrde wouldn't be nearly so pissed off at you if she hadn't."

He actually laughed at that. "I told you I thought you were observant."


From Untitled -- yet another AU, but I'm not entirely convinced I'm ever going to do anything with this one. I am fond of the OCs, but I'm not sure there's a way this thing ends without it looking like the final scene of Hamlet...

“To hear my father tell it, they used her as nothing more than a brood mare. My memories, though, are a little more complicated than that. I was very small, but...” He looked at Leia again. “On his good days, your brother was very kind to us, Alona and me.”

“His good days?” she echoed.

“They weren't all good. He wasn't completely lost, at least not then, but...”

“What about your mother? Was he kind to her?”

Eli’s face went dark. “I think he tried to love her, but it was like… love turned in on itself, turned into something dark.”

“You remember a lot, don’t you?” Han said. “I mean, considering how young you were…”

“If you’d seen the things I saw,” he replied evenly, “you’d probably remember, too. Believe me, there are parts of it I’d rather forget. I don’t blame you for being suspicious of me, but there’s going to come a point – in pretty short order – when you’re going to have to decide whether or not you believe me.”

“Why? What's in this for you?”

“I want my mother back; I want to see my sister again. I have a brother I've never even met.”

“And Karrde's just fine with that?”

“Not a bit. He threw a complete wobbly. I expect him to show up here any minute, actually, to try and drag me home.”

*

“If only you’d been born a man,” Palpatine said, baiting her, relishing the moment. “More’s the pity, I suppose.”

“A pity for you, maybe.” She knew exactly how far she could push him, thanks to long experience at this game. She knew that, secretly, he favored her above all the others, that he was bored with their fealty, bored with all the kneeling and bowing and scraping. “You keep my father weak,” she said. “Ben is weak all on his own. You’re rapidly running out of loyal servants who are worth a damn.”

“What of your mother?”

“You broke her a long time ago.”

“And that makes you angry, doesn’t it, child?”

“It makes me,” she said, choosing her words carefully, “wiser by benefit of experience. I won’t let you do that to me.” She allowed a moment before she said, “And, yes, it makes me angry. It was careless of you, wasteful. She was exceptional, and you put her in a cage.”

He smiled, as though he’d gotten the answer he wanted, and it was entirely unpleasant. “Perhaps it doesn’t matter that you aren’t a man. Perhaps in your case I’ll make an exception.”

“Lucky me,” she said coolly.

“Your mother did me the greatest of favors by taking you away. That brief act of rebellion – it gave you something the others lack.”

“A spine?” she said, arching an eyebrow at him.

“Something like that,” he murmured. Then, “I think…” he said, his eyes going unfocused as though he read something in the Force. Alona resisted the urge to reach out herself. She didn’t like putting her abilities on display in front of him – he liked it too much. “I think we’re going to have guests for dinner – quite an interesting development.”

“Hmm,” she said, narrowing her eyes at him. “I have to wonder who exactly will be on the menu.”

“That remains to be seen. Do wear something nice, though. It promises to be memorable.”

*

He didn't really look like he belonged. The Skywalkers, herself included, were fair and fine-boned. Eli was tall and lean, his shock of dark hair falling into one eye. His mother was tall, though, he'd told her, long and graceful like a dancer. Still, they didn't look much like cousins.

Those eyes, though, clear and bright blue, left just enough room for doubt – especially if you happened to really want to believe. She had a feeling, looking at her uncle, that he really wanted that.

“Why did you come here, after all this time?”

“I came to find my family," Eli lied easily.

“You're lying,” Luke said, “but I can't quite see what the truth is. Maybe you're more talented than you seem.”

“Flattering,” Eli said, and, for a moment, Jael was afraid that his easy insolence was going to get them both killed.

“You're a flicker in the Force, when you should be a bonfire.” Luke looked at her in turn. “You, too.”

“Are you sure,” Eli said, drawing his attention away from Jael, “that's how it works? Passed down from dear old dad and all that?”

*

Jael frowned. He was watching her again.

“What is it?” she said, even though she could guess – or was it that she could sense what he was thinking? She'd ignored that part of herself for most of her life, had associated it with things that were dark and dangerous, with the things that were wrong with the galaxy.

“You don't-” He paused. “You're very much your father's daughter, aren't you?”

“I suppose,” she said with a shrug, not wanting to give away too much, though it was probably a losing battle. There was no way she'd be able to hide how important her dad was to her, not entirely.

“You are. It's almost uncanny.”

“He was your friend,” she said simply, and this time there was no question – she felt it, knew it in her gut with a certainty that went beyond intuition. She'd never been told that part of the story.

“He was my closest friend,” Luke said, and she caught the barest hint of regret behind the words.

“You betrayed him,” she said, unable to stop herself.

He actually laughed softly at that. “It wasn't quite that simple.” There was a dangerous pause. “Stay awhile, Jael, and maybe you'll find out firsthand what I mean.”

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