I watch as Master Skywalker folds his arms across his chest, and leans back against the bulkhead. His movements are restrained, but his eyes are agile, running up and down Mara's figure, then darting across to me.
With my mental guard up, the mask covering most of my face, I just meet his gaze for a moment, and nod in acknowledgement. My eyes show blue, but they could be any colour, really.
"It's a good disguise," he says to her, not me. "Who's your pet?"
"My telbun?" she asks. "Take a guess?"
"I'd know Durron," he muses. "And Jacen. Another younger lover, then?"
She grins at that.
"I was hung up on you for the longest time, you know, Skywalker?" She laughs, without bitterness. They trade faint, rueful grins. "I'm making up for lost time."
He shrugs it off, as though it's nothing. And perhaps it isn't anything.
"Enjoy it, then," he says, sounding sincere. "But a pregnant Kuati baroness? It's a bit ... high-visibility, by your standards?"
"Works for me?" she shrugs, heels clacking as she drifts a little around the floor. Then she smirks. "Skywalker, a disguise can be as in-your-face as you like, so long as it hides what's going on." She strokes her belly, and glances significantly in my direction. "This one is useful when you're carrying a kid like I am, and you want to keep it hidden."
"So," he sighs. "Beyond the abundant clarity with which you're trying to tell me that your sex-toy there is naive, energetic, and barely-legal ... what exactly are you here for?"
For a moment, there might be lightning in those pale blue eyes.
"Knowing you as I do," she sighs, with a pointed cluck of her tongue, "You'd mope if I didn't tell you my news personally. I'm depriving you of the excuse."
"News?" he asks.
"News," she echoed, stroking her belly again, and grinning like the spukamas that worked out how to operate the blue-milk dispenser. Under my mask, I grin too.
Skywalker just looks at her, then down at her belly.
Finally, he gets it.
"You're pregnant," he says, blinking.
"I am," she nods, with her most infuriating my favourite smile. What the effect on him will be, I don't know.
"That's ... momentous news, Mara," he says. The words are generous, and for a moment, he seems genuinely happly. Then his blue eyes flash at me, and I answer with another precise Kuati nod.
"You're looking good," he tells her, then jerks his head to me. "Is he the father?"
"He doesn't know," she shrugs casually. "You're the Jedi Master, you tell me?"
He grins, and shakes his head a reference to their shared history that I don't get, I presume.
"Any questions?" she asks, planting her hands on her hips. "Because I have a baby to give birth to."
He seems to think for a moment
"Just one," he nods. "When Leia was pregnant with Anakin, I remember you said you didn't want kids. Said you didn't want to end up swollen like a Hutt, giving birth to a baby that looked like one. So, what changed?"
I try to hide a laugh under a cough, not terribly successfully. He glances at me, his eyes narrowing.
"Who is he?" he asks.
"What makes you think anything changed?" Mara asked. "My child is ... an unexpected challenge, I suppose you could say. Very annoying, being jerked around by hormones. But I'll live."
She pauses, for effect, then lets out a little laugh.
"You didn't seriously think I came here to gloat, Skywalker?" she asks.
"But I thought ...?"
He looks at Mara, alarm in his eyes as, in the Force, she finally betrays the real reason we're here.
"No!" he gasps, staring at her. But this is all still part of the plan.
The blaster is already in my hand, the shot already zipping out. It takes him squarely in the brain-pan in through the temple, no exit-wound; just a fried brain inside, cerebral scrambled-eggs.
I doubt he even realised where the danger was.
The Jedi Master jerks back, then crumples to a heap on the ground. For a moment, Mara looks down at him, and shakes her head.
"You always were the innocent, Luke Skywalker," she sighs, crouching down beside him impressively agile, considering her condition. She reaches out, one elegant, long-fingered hand, and brushes his eyes shut for the final time. "Sleep well, Farmboy."
Then she turns and stands, and looks at me.
"Time to get out of here," she says.
* * *
Later, back aboard the Shadow, we strip out of the disguises.
"Should I have enjoyed that so much?" she asks, lifting her gaze to me, mock-coy. I smile tightly, and slip the surface contacts out of my own eyes.
Did you? I wonder. Really?
"Blame it on the hormones," I suggest aloud.
My eyes drift down to her bare belly, round and flushed and ripe around our child. The sight triggers all my paternal instincts, tangled up with some much baser ones. Perhaps it's no surprise that men find women more stimulating when they look fertile and fecund but in the two chaotic years Mara and myself have dogfought our way into a half-functional relationship, beyond the physical partnership of killing and kriffing together, I've learnt that nothing makes it easier for her to control me than her ability to knock me back when I'm turned on.
Then again, the child she's carrying was very much an accidental blessing. Women have needs too, and not just maternal ones.
"No regrets?" I ask, changing the subject. It's obvious enough that I don't mean her condition. I may have inherited a famous lack of Force-sensitivity, but she can read me like a file on a holoscreen program me like one, for all I know.
"He had to die," she shrugs. "You know why as well as I do."
"I don't want you biting yourself with guilt over this," I tell her.
"It's okay, Chak," she says. "I won't. Now come here."
"Is that an order, Colonel Jade Fel?" I ask.
"It is, Commander Fel," she nods, patting the mattress beside her. "It is."
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