She whirled to Luke and everyone present echoed her "WHAT?" in the main hold, including an electronic beep and a Wookiee growl. His stony face had shattered to devastation and guilt leeched from behind his mental shields. He blamed himself for Grakkus' stupid orders? "Don't you dare!" She stomped closer to him. "Don't you dare call it that or call yourself that; Grakkus had a blaster to both our heads!"
He focused on only her with a face full of pain and confusion. "Then why didn't you tell me I was a father on Myrkr?"
Her anger flared up again because no matter how much time had passed and how much he had matured, he was still a di'kut farm boy. "Because you just told us Thrawn was trying to kidnap every Force user and sensitive that the entire galaxy knows about to hand over to that madman C'baoth! I thought after Palpatine was dead, no one would chase Lucinda ever again!"
She heaved in air as she tried to gather her thoughts on the rest of his idiocy, when a prissy modulated voice spoke up. "By the Maker," Threepio said from his seat at the dejarik table, "Miss Lucinda is Master Luke's progeny? When did this happen?"
"From her birthday and subtract two hundred eighty days from it," Calrissian said dryly.
Mara glared at the urbane man. So easy to be caviler about two hundred eighty days when it isn't your body changing to shelter a child inside it and being subjected to continuous broken sleep thanks to the same nightmare message given every night. Hirlyi ge'niyrer had no right to steal her child that she had fought to bring into this galaxy and fought to keep safe in it too. At least the bounty hunters had the honesty to steal her daughter for the cash, and not out of a need to punish Mara for whatever Imperial sins she had.
Before she could put her rage into words—inefficient weapons that they were—a callused hand wrapped around her left wrist and tugged her away. She twisted her head to see who she needed to strike with her hand once she wrenched it free.
Luke gently pulled her into the corridor.
She let him. She had more to say on his di'kutla notions of their relationship and she was ready to tell him all about that by the time they entered the crew bunk room and the door slid shut behind them. She stormed up at him, the way that was unexpected by anyone taller than she. "How dare you call us rape; how dare you! You gave me the choice, Luke. The only one who ever did. And I chose you!"
He stepped back and clenched his fists by his sides as he faced her. "You lied to me just like Ben and Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. Worse, you made me lie to Lucinda! I never wanted to lie to my children or Leia's."
His vehemence made her blink. "What?"
"She asked me if I knew her father back on Myrkr because you hadn't told her anything!"
Oh, she should have guessed that was what made Luci skip the dryer cycle when they made it back to base. "She was with us. How could we discuss it with her right there? What if you didn't want her?"
"Not want her?!" His anger flared, but he didn't gesture wildly but stilled even more than should be humanly possible.
"Jedi don't have families," she snapped back. "And it didn't even occur to you that Lucinda was your daughter despite being the right age and named after you!"
"I know you named her after me, but I thought it was because you liked me better than her winbekhia father. Instead, I am the winbekhia father who abandoned you."
Her rage that he saw himself like that iced her over again. "There was a war on! It didn't matter how badly I wanted to find you; no Rebel contact would have taken me with a baby on my hip to you! You were fighting and ended up doing more to keep her safe than I did." She would be fair. He and Vader killed the Emperor and the bounties on her and Lucinda's heads died with him, and stormtroopers had bigger issues to deal with.
"You didn't try to find me after Endor. And I was in the public eye by then."
She snorted and crossed her arms. "Do you have any idea how much it costs to travel in the galaxy when you cannot hop in your decommissioned X-wing they let you keep after resigning or ask a friend with their own ship to give you a lift? If you can even find a passenger liner heading into contested space? The only tickets I could afford headed further out. I saved Karrde's life on Varonat in the Outer Rim, and he hired me at wages I could start saving for a trip to Coruscant. But that was only twelve months ago, and I bet you don't know what hotels on Coruscant cost either."
His eyebrows lowered as he considered what she had said.
She squeezed her arms against her ribs as if that would keep her heart in one piece. "Maybe it was just as well that I couldn't get to you considering you seem hell-bent on considering our daughter the product of rape." Precious Lucinda, the best of them both, reduced to the detritus of a crime.
His eyebrows climbed up again. "You never told me. Myrkr," he dismissed the planet with a wave of his hand. "We both had misconceptions to clear up there. But you said nothing on the way to the Chimera or back to Coruscant and Lucinda wasn't with us."
"I kriffed you then too. Do you think I would if I thought you raped me?"
He winced. "And you flinched with guilt every time, Mara. What was I supposed to think?"
She thought she had hidden that better. "Because it was all on borrowed time. Once the paternity got out, the entire New Republic would mobilize to save the glorious hero Luke Skywalker's baby from the evil Emperor's Hand." She tossed her head toward the door, indicating the rest of the strike team that probably had the forms already filed with the right data pushers. She couldn't move her arms, that was all that was holding her upright. "They'd rather believe that red-eyed calyarnr than me. I wanted to hold this—" she jerked her chin to the deck plate. "This off for as long as I could. We were heading onto a mission that might kill us on the Chimera. And after on Coruscant? I was going to tell you during our canceled dinner. I couldn't tell you when you were running out to go on another mission. So here we are and now I told you too late. I have no idea how the Noghri found out. The Emperor never sent them hunting for us."
Luke made a scoffing noise of mingled dismay and amusement. "Too bad Palpatine didn't. A lot of truths may have come to light earlier."
Her scoff was entirely disbelieving. "I realize you trust them, but—"
He cut her off with a brusque gesture.
She squeezed her jaw shut on Death Commandos; they didn't get that name from playing with their targets. He moved around her to the comm panel next to the door. A comm panel with a lit active indicator. A different chill bore through Mara now.
He pressed the speaker button. "Chewie?"
There was a suspicious pause before the Wookiee rumbled over the comm.
"Please keep Han off the comms and give us some privacy or I will have to break the system and that's a bad idea as we fly into Imperial territory."
The Wookiee laughed, and the comm clicked off. Its lights all powered off.
Mara clenched her fists without moving her arms that were doing nothing against the icy panic pounding her heart. "Why make him stop now? Don't you want more juicy details for the custody case you have already won?"
"Han doesn't speak for me, no matter how much he thinks he should." Luke turned from the wall and she didn't recognize his expression. It wasn't angry, but he couldn't have let go of his anger that quickly. "Let's start over," he said.
She stared at him, confusion wrinkling her forehead. It wasn't possible to start over.
He sighed and dropped to the floor, crossing his legs as he did so. "I'm Lucinda's father. You weren't worried about that when Grakkus had us."
She didn't know where he was going with this, but she owed him the truth. "I had a fertility blocker, but I woke up from getting stunned without the trousers I had been wearing, and since I got pregnant, it's safe to assume Grakkus had it removed."
"Mot bpuoiaee." He shook his head. "That's why they kept testing you, and as soon as Grakkus was sure a pregnancy took, I had to go fight the Disembowler."
"I didn't know." She loosened her fists to grip her arms tighter and ignored the Huttese she didn't understand. "I didn't figure it out until morning sickness started weeks after escaping. Even though the damn nightmare was waking me up every night."
"Nightmare?" His blue eyes sharpened. "You were having nightmares in the cell too."
She sighed. There were no seats in this bunk room but the floor, which is why Luke had sat there. And her training screamed that was too vulnerable of a position to get into. So she remained on her feet. "The same nightmare. I couldn't tell you then because you would have found out about my relationship with the Emperor."
He nodded. "Can you tell me now?"
"I'm flat on my back giving birth, restrained to the medbed, attended to by droids. A midwife droid caught the baby and ignores my pleas to see the baby as it carried the baby to the Emperor. He ignored me too as he said, 'A Skywalker under my control from the beginning.' I couldn't get my arms and legs free from the restraints to get her away from him. And then I felt the cold poison pushing into my vein from the intravenous drip, and that was when I would wake up." She shuddered and rubbed her left arm where the droid had inserted it in the dream.
"You had that every night?"
It was relieving to hear horror in his voice. "Every night until Lucinda was born without variation."
"I can understand why you were so concerned about Lucinda's dreams." He looked up, puzzled. "But why didn't you tell me about it? My name mentioned every night?"
That made her drop her arms to plant her hands on her hips. "Say Skywalker in Huttese."
"Veaua kohcha, oh!"
"Oh," she repeated sarcastically. "I didn't find out your complete name in Basic until I saw your Imperial wanted notice."
"After you made your own escape."
"Yes." Her arms fell slack to her sides. "I made my way to Naboo. The Emperor never had much to do with his home planet, but I knew it was civilized and green. I thought you'd appreciate that for her birth planet."
"Lucinda showed me holos of Naboo. It's a beautiful planet." He looked up at her, letting worry crease his face. "It wasn't so bad having her there? Not like your vision?"
"Nothing like my vision," she assured him. "I had a human medic, Naboo uses birthing stools, the Emperor wasn't in the room with me."
Luke looked down at the deck plate. "And I wasn't either. I would have been if I could."
"But you couldn't." She leaned against the wall. "I wasn't going to keep her. I wanted her to have a normal childhood, and I didn't have the slightest idea how to do that. But the Emperor called to me."
"And you wouldn't give him Lucinda."
She shook her head.
"And he tried to kill you."
She nodded again. "He didn't mention you, but I'm sure he had already figured it out by then. Probably thought his frail grandfather routine was enough to get me to comply. It had in the past," she added bitterly.
"He tried that on me too. Right before he ordered the Death Star to fire on our ships."
She nodded, not surprised in the least. It was an old favorite guise of his all her life in the Palace. "I'm a little fuzzy on details after his attack. I must have told them stormtroopers were coming, but the first thing I can remember is waking up in the Gungans' underwater city and three days had passed. My medic had come with us, and she had some connection with the Gungans. She insisted on Lucinda being named according to Naboo's Name Day tradition; Amidala was a relation too. And adopting our baby out wouldn't keep her safe, and I could. So I named her Lucinda Padmé and didn't give her your surname."
Luke waved that aside. "Names are more choice than people realize. But I'm glad you had help when I couldn't help you."
"Please don't blame yourself. We've been over that."
"I'm not blaming either of us. But if things had been different, I would have been with you both." He rocked up to his feet. "Do you believe me?"
The smile blossomed unbidden to her face. "I know you would have been."
"So being with me wasn't out of obligation or guilt?"
"Selfish pleasure. I would have gotten your trousers off if you had just stayed put on Myrkr."
He still saw himself as not desirable at all with how fast confusion hit him. "You wanted? Then? After everything I?"
"Luke, you always asked. Even that first time on display. Force knows what Grakkus would have done had I told you no, and you stopped. And you would have stopped. You're the only one who ever gave me a choice." She stared at the deck plates. "When it all crashed, you wouldn't be with me, so why not take what I wanted while you were willing? I never thought you would still want me after you became a Jedi and I didn't want to ruin your dream."
He crossed the deck plate and stopped in front of her. "You and Lucinda have ruined nothing, and I'm not stealing her from you." His left hand caught hers. "Mara, I want you both, a family."
That unexpected blow sent her reeling through space. She gripped his hand, trying to reorient. "You still do?"
He nodded, and there was heat in his blue eyes that made her own cheeks burn.
"I… I didn't know which of my secrets would drive you away." The possibility that he wouldn't care had never occurred to her.
"I'm not a fan of lying by omission or flat wrong words, but," he steeled himself. "You don't have a monopoly on secrets. You both need to know it even if it still classified." He took a deep breath. "Anakin Skywalker, my father, fell to the Dark Side. He became Darth Vader."
That explained so much. And how much hell did Luke get from his allies over it? That was unnecessarily cruel; Vader didn't raise him. "So that's why you both ganged up on the Emperor. But how did you pry the Empire out of Vader's hands?"
His eyebrows bunched in confusion. "He died, but what do you think happened on the second Death Star?"
She squeezed his hand reassuringly. "The Emperor sent me a vision of you two striking him down with your lightsabers. I figured he was trying to guilt me into being his avenger. I told him, 'you deserve it, you calyarnr,' and booted him out of my head again. Don't feel bad about that; he earned decapitation by lightsaber! But Vader let the Rebellion take over, let Thrawn take over? That never made sense."
He blinked while his eyebrows remained bunched. "That's… that's not what happened at all." He gathered his thoughts. "I knew there was good in my father. Ben and Master Yoda were convinced I had to kill him. Leia told me to run, like she has ever run from a confrontation in her life. I turned myself into the Imperial patrol on Endor to keep him from finding our strike team. He took me to Palpatine."
She didn't know how to comfort him. Did he even want another touch along with her holding his hand? He wasn't letting go of her hand. "Did you expect something different, Luke?"
"Hoped for my father to run away with me, yes. I lost control of my anger twice in that throne room. The Death Star and the Imperial Navy was picking off our fleet, Palpatine kept gloating how Leia and Han would die on Endor, I snatched up my lightsaber and I tried to strike down Palpatine. Father protected him and we were dueling." He sighed. "I regained control and stopped only to lose it again when Father threatened Leia." He squeezed her hand. "I came to my senses after I cut off his hand."
"Oh Luke," came out of her mouth involuntarily.
"Palpatine came down off his throne, goading me to fall and kill my father. I threw my lightsaber aside and told him I was a Jedi like my father before me." Her eyes widened, remembering what Palpatine would do to those who displeased him. He nodded, confirming it. "Hit me with lightning generated by the Force."
Her left hand flattened on his chest over the scars she had seen and felt. "Electrical discharge accident?"
"It's all still classified, so I have to tack on 'accident' to explain the scars. It wasn't; he did it on purpose. When the barrage ended, I saw my father lifting Palpatine over his head. He threw his former master down a shaft surrounding the turbolift. That killed Palpatine, but the lightning bolts damaged my father's life support suit and he died. But he saved me and died in the Light."
She tightened her grip on his hand because now he would try to pull away.
He swallowed hard. "I understand if you'd rather—"
"Of course, you would understand. You still don't believe you have any personal appeal." She spoke briskly because there was no chance this revelation would destroy her desire for him. "We both have lessons to not pass on to Leia's children or Lucinda. But that doesn't mean I never want to be with you again. You may have second thoughts if you knew how much I want to see the Emperor tossed like a doll—"
Luke's right hand wrapped around the back of her head as his mouth fell on hers.