The Personal Level Rating: PG
ThrawnMcEwok

Luke and Callista strolled along the concourse, almost dancing in the diamond-bright sunshine of a Coruscant spring morning. The Oraznio Esplanade was situated at the southern edge of the Senate Plaza, an open-air terrace set beneath a massive, age-scarred frieze that was meant to depict the birth of the Old Republic.

It wasn’t yet ten o'clock, but it was already starting to get lively, with street-artists hustling the first tourists of the day, students and bureaucrats grabbing breakfast at the pastry-stalls.

"You're worried," Callista said, looking at him.

"Just a feeling," he shrugged. "This thing with Leia and the Hutts has moved too fast. I feel I should be going, but ..."

"The government doesn't trust you?" she asked, with a smile. "Peril of being the guardian of moral integrity in the Galaxy. I remember Qui-Gon Jinn and Micah Giett ..." She smiled fondly. "Luke, you have to remember, they're not going to understand you — they're probably a little scared. Especially after Kyp."

"And after Operation Shadow Hand," he conceded. "Kyp isn't the only one."

"I know," she nodded. "But they understand Leia better, because she's one of them."

"It's Jedi business."

"What isn't?" Callista asked. "With Mon Mothma gone ..."

"You liked her, didn't you?"

"I knew of her," she nodded. "Admired her ... oh."

"What is it?"

"My stomach," she said, skewing her jaw and biting her lip. "Must have been those jellied bluns."

"Are you ..."

"Just — let me go and freshen up, Luke ..."

"Are you ...?"

"Yes. Love you though."

"You too. You'd ...?"

"Yes. I have to go."

***

From her vantage-point in one of the shadowed service-doors that led to the covered speeder-bays under the Plaza, Mara Jade watched as Skywalker and his woman parted company.

She tried to suppress her smile. They looked good together — Ming bare-armed and long-legged in a sleeveless waistcoat and a sarong skirt, Skywalker in a sky-blue tabard over one of his usual black one-pieces.

If she wanted, she thought, she could have killed them both, there and then.

If the Empire ordered her to, she supposed she would have to.

Skywalker seemed to be dreaming as she disappeared, meandering along the walkway with Artoo Deetoo following a few steps behind.

"Hey," she said, stepping out in front of him.

He blinked, and smiled, his eyes going bright. As genuine — as idiotic — as ever.

"Mara," he said. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm getting breakfast," she answered, slipping her arm under his and leading him away. Artoo booped something, and turned to trundle after them. "You're buying."

"Mara. We need to talk."

"That's why we're having breakfast together, Skywalker," she clicked, pausing at the pastry-stall she'd selected in advance, picking food for both of them while Luke fumbled in his credit-catch for change. "Double-quick for me, no frills. And a hot chocolate for my husband."

"I'll have a standard caf, actually," Luke corrected, glaring at her. "Blue milk."

"Whatever." She rolled her eyes.

"Husband?" he asked, as she steered him towards a table — shining chrome and transparent plast, round-topped, with matching seats. "Was that really necessary?"

"We make a good couple," she countered. "Good cover. Sit down. Now listen."

But Luke was leaning forward even before she'd slid properly into her seat.

"Did you kill that Moff?" he asked.

She paused, looked thoughtfully at nothing in particular for a moment, and leaned back in her chair.

"Which one?" she shrugged. "I've killed a lot of Moffs."

"Braks," Luke said. "You know what I'm talking about."

"Braks was a Planetary Governor, Skywalker," she said, allowing herself a faint ghost of amusement. "The Moff you're thinking of was Vozn. Take that as a yes, on both counts. And Admiral Savager."

She broke a corner off her pastry, and popped it in her mouth.

"Now you're playing games with me, Mara," he said. "Savager is in New Republic custody. He has been for years."

"His corpse is," she shrugged, chewing. Her eyes didn't blink. "I killed him about quarter past nine."

"Mara!" he said, palms flat on the table, his jaw working in outrage.

"It's what I do, Luke," she sighed. "I'm an Imperial assassin. Don't you understand that?"

"No," he conceded, looking hurt.

"Guess not." She took a sip of her caf. "You and Callista seem really happy together."

"We are," he said, scowling slightly at the juxtaposition. "We really are." A smile played on his lips. "She's tough enough that you won't hurt her, too."

"Why would I want to," she sighed. "Seriously, I'm happy for you. One of us deserves that sort of happiness, Skywalker."

"You were the one who walked out on me," he said.

She rolled her eyes.

"I wonder why."

An awkward pause.

"Mara ...?"

"Yes, Skywalker?"

"I ..."

"I know. Be happy. You two — you're great. I'm just a little commitment-shy for you. You deserve someone like her, and it looks like you make her happy, too."

She glanced away to her right. A group of shuttle-sized men in too-sharp suits were heading their way from the direction of the Palace — New Republic special forces. The one in the lead she really didn't like the look of — level blue eyes that glittered with cold passion, blond stubble on his scalp. Bigger than the rest of his team, as well — but from the way he moved, more agile with it.

She frowned, looked at him more closely.

"I need to go," she said.

"Mara," Luke asked. "Wait."

"That's not a good idea," she said, nodding to where the SpecForce men were closing in, tensing to rise. But there was something in Skywalker's eyes that held her there.

"What hold could the Empire have on you?" he asked. For a moment, he looked alarmingly like his sister — and, somehow, genuinely lost.

She blinked, and rocked back in her chair. Breathed out.

"Always the innocent, Skywalker," she said, her eyes flashing, a smile dancing on her face. "I should have figured that you wouldn't get it. I should have figured ..."

With a laugh, she pushed up out of the seat, and scooped up her jacket and satchel. Then she paused, and ducked close for a goodbye kiss, grabbing his head and shoulders in a quick embrace.

"One last thing," she said, hissing in his ear. "You might want to look at what's building on the Ison Corridor, Skywalker. Give Kyp a trip home."

"Mara ...?" he asked, reaching after her, but she was already on her way away, slipping quickly into the growing crowd of tourists.

As she'd known he would, he simply slumped a little when she went — sat down where she left him, his haze-blue eyes following her as she disappeared.

Half-way down the concourse, she paused, and looked back through the crowd; but he had already gone.

Her smile tweaked, like a glacier cracking its way forward, and she set off back to the Fire.

Another job done.


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