Author’s Note: This story came to being out of a challenge on the SSB Yahoo group.
“There ain’t no such thing as ‘hot’ on this planet, kid,” Han Solo said with a little humour to his voice. He grimaced with effort as he put all of his weight behind trying to force the bolt on the Falcon’s lifter with a wrench he was clutching so hard that his knuckles were white.
Luke Skywalker smiled and mutely nodded as he lounged against the lifter Han was working on while unconsciously fiddling with the hydro spanner he was holding for his friend. “Not that kinda hot, Han…” he admonished with a small laugh.
“Then… blasted thing… what are you talking about, kid?” The wrench gave way and Han almost fell forward, feet slipping on the icy floor of the hanger bay. He skidded, cursed and righted himself, then he caught the entertained grin on Luke’s face. “What?”
“You should take up ice dancing… I hear they have competitions on Coruscant.”
“Very funny,” Han told him in a voice that was anything but amused. He reached out and took the spanner from Luke. “Gimme that before you hurt yourself with it.”
Luke relinquished the tool. “It wasn’t me that nearly ended up falling on my face,” he reminded Han, but his voice sounded distant, dream-like.
Curious now, Solo dropped the spanner into the tool box and turned back to Luke, only to find his friend's attention elsewhere. He followed Luke’s gaze and saw a group of infantry personnel lounging around at the other side of the hanger. “What's so interesting, kid?”
“Hot,” Luke told him, going back to their earlier conversation.
“What is?” Whatever the kid was looking at he couldn’t see. All he saw was ice, and snow and Alliance personnel bundled up in several layers of clothing.
“She is…” His voice was low, husky and Han caught a distinct longing in its tones.
Solo grinned, took another look at the people across the cavern. “Which one? They all look the same to me.”
“Her,” Luke nodded briefly not wishing to point and be obvious. “The one talking to the tauntaun and scratching its neck.”
Han squinted. “Are you sure that’s a girl, Luke?” All he saw was thick swaddling and a warm cap; nothing about the figure was obviously female.
"Definitely, I noticed her a few days ago and…”
"And now your pulse is rapid, your heart's all a flutter, pants a little tighter around the groin..."
"Han!" Luke admonished turning to scowl at the Corellian's crudeness.
Solo just grinned. "Am I right?"
With a slight flush to his cheeks Luke smiled in agreement. "Yeah... She's hot."
Han bent down, lifted an oil stained rag from the tool box and wiped at his hands. "So have you spoken to her yet? Turned on the ol' Skywalker charm?"
Luke's mouth turned down and he turned to regard the girl. She was on her tip toes now, whispering and cooing at the tauntaun. Luke had considered he’d ever feel jealous of any animal. That it was a tauntaun of all things, an animal hardly blessed with cute looks… He shrugged to himself and smiled ruefully, maybe there was some hope for him yet. “I haven’t gone near her,” he admitted to Han. “My mouth dries up just at the thought.”
Han gave a loud snort of laughter. “The all conquering hero!” he announced with gleeful sarcasm. “Fine when it comes to targeting Death Stars and TIE fighters, but misfires with females.”
“That’s unfair!” Luke protested, whining just a little, but keeping his eyes on the object of his attraction. “I don’t have a problem with women… it’s just,” he was sounding dreamy again. “She’s different somehow.”
Han dropped the rag and squinted at the topic of their conversation. “Different? In what way?”
“I don’t know,” Luke shrugged. “It’s just something I feel. Something that was there the first time I saw her.”
Han winced. “That Force thing again?” He asked, regretting it the second the words passed his lips when Luke nodded.
“I think so.”
“So when did you first see her?”
“We passed each other in the corridor by the command centre. I didn’t see much as she was dressed as she is now. But I caught a glimpse of porcelain skin and a lock of her hair had fallen from her cap. The colour was…” he struggled to find the correct words, failed and finished lamely with, “amazing.”
“Amazing, huh? That good?”
“Uh huh,” Luke agreed, not hearing the humour in Han’s voice, the friendly mockery. “But it was how she felt as she passed me. It was like a warm Tatooine breeze had just floated by, like she was just meant to be there for me, but…” he trailed off, still staring at the girl. “She felt dangerous, too. But in a good way. Do you know what I mean?”
“Kid, you got it bad and there is only one cure.”
“Go get laid,” he gave a Luke a little push forward.
“Han! Don’t!” Luke jumped back. “I need to figure this out for myself. It’s not just attraction… it’s… there’s something about her that I can’t work out. What if she doesn’t want to know, what if she freezes me out?”
“Hey, Kid,” Han’s tones were a little more kind, softer with understanding. All kidding aside Luke was more sensitive than most men he knew. “Even on Hoth ice can melt. Walk by her and say ‘hi’ - simple. See what happens. What’s the worst that can happen?”
“That she’s an Imperial plant, or a Bounty Hunter, sent to track the base down?”
“Optimism was never your strong point, Luke,” Han chided gently. “Just for once throw caution away, take a chance without thinking of consequences. Just do the thing without worrying.” He rocked his hips back and froth. The humour was back.
Luke coloured but laughed gently. “I’ll keep your advice in mind.” He turned from the girl as his stomach grumbled reminding him of his other bodily needs. “I’m not due on duty until oh four hundred tomorrow so I’m gonna grab something to eat and get a little shut eye before we hit the patrols. What about you? Hungry?”
Han raised an eyebrow and smiled, but decided not to comment on Luke’s words with the wisecrack that immediately came to mind. “Nah.. I’m gonna finish here. If you see Chewie in the mess hall send him out here, would ya?”
“No problem,” Luke assured him and with a final look across the hanger to the tauntaun pens Luke turned to leave.
Luke turned back around at Han’s shout. “What?”
Han jerked his head toward the object of Luke’s fascination. “Are you sure that’s a girl?”
* * *
She sighed with relief when Skywalker turned and left the hanger bay, and as Solo resumed working on his ship. Her shoulder’s relaxed and she took a deep breath of cold calming air; for a tense moment there she thought they had been onto her, that somehow something she had done had given her away. They had seemed to be looking her way, talking closely while keeping her under surveillance. She had tried to appear unaware, had fought to keep the adrenalin from flowing, but had nevertheless loosened the strap on her holster while stroking the tauntaun‘s neck fur. It appeared they hadn’t seen the surreptitious move.
The tauntaun beside her grunted in disapproval as she stopped petting its fur then, sensing her attention wandering, it lopped off to the food dispenser on the other side of the pen. She watched Solo working for a few moments then slowly moved away from the animal enclosure. Shivering she drew the cap tighter around her head, pulled the clasp on her collar tighter. Damn the Rebels for camping out on this Sithforsaken place; the cold seeped to the very marrow of her bones, froze her breath as it left her lungs and was a constant companion. The sooner her mission was accomplished, the sooner she could leave this place and find somewhere warm to thaw out.
Determined to fulfil her duty she headed for the same exit Skywalker had used. In a few hours she would be in her own ship heading back to civilisation with the information she needed.
* * *
Luke Skywalker, deep in thought about his mystery girl, didn’t see the Junior Flight Technician heading in the opposite direction. The youth was struggling to keep hold of the large crate he was carrying and cursing that he had turned down the Supply Officer’s offer of help with it. In his show of haste and bravado he had overlooked the fact that six cans of speeder lubricant was darned heavy and that what he was trying to walk upon was pure ice - well polished by hundreds of pairs of boots. The Alliance had put down a walk way of boards to help people stay on their feet, but he’d had to step off them more often than not just to get passed the others using the corridor.
“Excuse me,” a soft female voice asked from in front of him and the Tech stepped from the boards again, turning to watch the woman as she moved passed. They smiled a greeting to each other. And, heaving the box higher into his arms, the young tech stepped back onto the boards. The collision with Luke sent the youth slipping back, the box falling from his arms, the lubricant canisters tumbling and he hit the corridor wall, slide down to land hard on his backside.
Luke opened his eyes and found himself lying on his back in the middle of the corridor and looking up at the bland white ceiling. The lights strung along it flickered and, for a moment, Luke thought the power would fail and they would all be plunge into darkness. But they grew bright once more and he winced at the harshness of the light. Then the wave of pain washed through his head and he groaned as he sat up, a gloved hand going to the back of his skull; he must have hit it as he landed.
Then the smell hit him. It was pungent, strong and burned his nostrils with its sharpness. He glanced around as others came running to help, saw a young tech staring at him in horror, saw a crate laying on its side on the floor and saw an open canister of oil spilling out its contents over his legs.
“Com…Com… Commander Sky… Skywalker!” The young man stammered as he clambered to his feet. “I… I… I’m sorry, sir. Sir, I didn’t see you, sir. I…”
“Are you all right, sir?” Another voice questioned beside him and he turned to find Dack hunkering down beside him
“I’m fine, Dack,” he assured him evenly, though his head hurt like hell. And the lub smell was sickening his stomach. “Gimme hand up.”
“Commander, I… I didn’t see you, sir… and… I… I’m sorry, sir. I… Commander, The…”
A little amused by the nervous stammers Luke turned to the agitated tech. “I’m fine,” he repeated to the young man. “There’s no harm done. I just need a new pair of pants.” And a painkiller for my headache.
“Are you sure, sir?” Dack asked with a small frown; he had noticed his commander wincing. “You hit your head pretty hard on the boards. Maybe you should get checked out.”
“Dack,” he said firmly, hating the fuss and just wanting to get to his quarters to change and lie down. “Stop worrying. I’m all right, really. He made a play of checking his wrist chrono. “Look I need to go, if anyone is looking for me I’ll be in my room changing.”
He backed away as the others began clearing up the hallway and headed for his quarters. His pants felt thick and tacky as he walk and he could feel the slime of the oil begin to seep through to his skin. He’d have to beg Han to allow him to use the fresher on the Falcon in which to wash; he hated showering in the cold of base’s facilities.
* * *
The corridor of the upper level crew quarters was empty of personnel and it only took her a few seconds to bypass the security of the door and it slid open. She quickly stepped inside the cramped room and looked around as the door closed. There were only two bunks - command staff having a little more privacy than the lower ranks, she quietly snorted laughter; even in the righteous Alliance there were class structures. One bunk was set on top of the other and she wondered which one belonged to Skywalker.
She moved closer, dipping her hand into her pocket and she withdrew a small vial and a pair of tweezers. One sample was all she needed then she could get the hell out of here. She squinted at the beds searching the pillows and smiled when she noticed the blond hair lying on the white of the cushion on the lower bed. This was his bunk, this was where he rested his head after a day of treasonous plotting with his comrades in arms.
She crouched down and carefully picked up the strand with the tweezers and placed it into the vial. She screwed the tiny lid on and placed both it and the tweezers back into her pocket. She smiled; job done.
The door opened and she whirled around in shock.
Surprised to find someone in his room Luke stumbled to a stop as the door closed behind him, shutting him in the room with…
“You!” he breathed in surprise catching a glimpse of the person in his room. His senses kicking into gear at the presence she carried within the Force. “What are…?”
The lights failed and the room was plunged into sudden darkness.
There was the sound of sudden movement and the girl barrelled into him, knocking him back against the door. As he fell he caught hold of her clothing and pulled her down with him, but she was quick and kicked and wrestled free. He smiled as he heard her punching at the door release to no avail.
“Power’s out he told her. Happens all the time. We’re stuck here until they fix it,” he reached out, tried to find her and snagged some clothing. “Why don’t you tell me what you were doing here?”
She slapped away his hand and growled. “Don’t touch me, scum!”
“Scum?” He repeated his voice sounding low and bitterly disappointed. His joke with Han coming true. “You’re an Imperial agent.” It was a statement, not a question. It was just his luck to see a girl and be attracted to her only to find that she was the enemy.
There was silence broken only by her quick breathing and a sound that lifted the hairs on the back of his neck, caused fear to pool coldly in his bowels. She had drawn a blaster.
“Now what? You shoot me and make good your escape?”
“Something like that.” Was the cool answer.
“Why me? Why my quarters? What were you after?” Luke worked through his concern, worked at keeping her still and quiet until the power came back on and from experience that could be a matter of moments or several hours. It was going to get cold too as the heating systems would have been knockout by the power loss.
“Listen we could be stuck here for a while, we should get up off the floor,” Luke advised slowly pushing himself up, grimacing as his oil slick pants rubbed against his skin. “And I’d like to change into something dry, it’s going to get cold.”
“No! Stay where you are!”
Luke sighed, settled back down. She might not be able to see where he was but if she followed the sound of his voice her aim could still nail him. “This is pointless,” he told her calmly. “You’re not going anywhere just yet.”
“What were you looking for from me?” He tried again.
“Who says it was you I looking for?” She countered, but Luke could hear the reluctance to speak in her voice, feel it through the Force, and yet she had still responded to him.
“This is my room,” he said with a little amusement.
“There are two bunks.”
“Observant,” he noted with a nod. “But you’ve been here a few days and if you have been watching, you’ll know that Lieutenant-Commander Re’fera was killed last week. And I’ve been bunking alone since then.”
“My heart’s bleeding,” she growled with sarcasm.
Luke felt a stir of anger at her words. Re’fera had been a good friend, a great pilot. His death was a tragedy. “You haven’t answered my question,” he said sourly. “Why me?”
“Why not you?”
“What were you looking for?” he was becoming exasperated at the situation and his backside was getting cold from sitting on the packed ice of the floor.
“A lock of your hair,” she told him, her voice dripping with disdain. “You’re such a hero I needed a piece of you to have and to hold.”
He heard her moving, shuffling, the rustling of thick cloth. “You’re getting cold aren’t you? The heating’s gone out with the power. We both need to get off the floor before we freeze to death.”
“I’m fine where I am,” she told him firmly, stubbornly.
“Well, I’m not,” he retorted resolutely. “This is stupid. We’ll both become hypothermic unless we do something about it. You can shoot me if you want but I’m getting off this floor.” He pushed himself up using the door to steady himself. His head still ached from the thump earlier, and the adrenalin at finding her in his room had caused the blood to pound through his body exacerbating the pain.
He moved forward heading for where he knew the bunks lay.
“What’s that smell?” The choler seemed to have gone from her voice for now; she just sounded curious.
“Engine lube,” Luke explained as he lowered himself onto the bunk glad of the softness and thickness of the quilt beneath him. “I collided with a flight tech and got covered in the stuff. I’d like to change.”
“No, just sit where you are. I don’t want you poking about for a weapon,” she sounded amused, yet still cautious.
“I’m not going to try anything,” he assured her. “I’m uncomfortable and cold, and I can’t see how you think you’re going to get out of this.”
“I’ll think of something,” she assured him evenly from amidst the darkness.
“I’m sure you’re well trained,” Luke agreed. “You must have been to infiltrate us so well.“ he paused, briefly considering the circumstances. “You know we can’t let you go, don’t you? We can’t have you giving the base to the Empire.“
“I’m not here to give the base away,” she quietly told him. “If that had been my brief you’d all be dead by now.”
Luke weighed up that statement, found that he believed her. After all, she had been with them for a few days, if she was to route out the Alliance all she had to do was get on the comm and give away their position. “Still,“ he continued. “There’s thousands of personnel and hundreds of metres of ice caverns between you and escape.”
“I’ll take my chances, farmboy,” her voice was soft, quiet with gentle thoughtful tones.
“Farmboy?” He questioned, latching onto the word. “So you were after me?”
“I did my research.”
“Did you Like what you learned?” He raised an eyebrow, grinned lopsidedly even though she couldn’t see him; her interest in him stroking his ego despite the circumstances.
“What does the Empire say about me?” He asked curiously.
“That you’re an ex-farmer from Tatooine. That you’re Jedi scum. That you murdered over a million on the Death Star. That the bounty on your head is way too much. That you’re a traitor with no morals.” The anger was back, the loathing thick in her voice.
“That good, huh?” Luke tried to joke, realising that the woman was a fanatic and that perhaps he should be more worried about this situation than he felt. But, strangely, he felt that she meant him no real harm. That sense of danger he had explained to Han was there, but it was softened by a feeling of… he frowned trying to catch the fleeting awareness. She just felt “right” somehow. He shook his head, smiling at his inability to explain things to himself. “And you know so much about me, yet I know nothing about you.”
“There’s nothing to tell,” she told him with a low warning to her voice.
He shifted around on the bunk, lay his legs on top and leaned back against the pillow. The temperature was definitely dropping. “Come on,” he encouraged her gently, listening to her moving in the darkness. “There must be something you can tell me. We’re gonna be here for a while, why don’t you start with something I can call you.”
There was hesitation, a feeling of uncertainty. Then: “No, I can’t.”
“I shouldn’t even be talking to you.”
“Just… shut up!” She ordered, and Luke at the impression of a blaster being waved in his direction.
He smiled; he was starting to get to her. But perhaps silence for now would be the prudent move. He laced his fingers together and placed them behind his head and tried to relax. He closed his eyes, willing his head to stop thudding so hard, and listened to her pace in the quiet of the small room.
Several minutes passed and Luke had been on the verge of attempting to restart the conversation when a weight suddenly dropped on the end of the bunk. He waited allowing the silence to thicken, giving her time to think.
“What were Solo and you talking about in the hanger?” She asked, her voice low, almost whispering.
Luke’s lips curled briefly. “You.”
“Why? Did I look suspicious? Did I do something that had given me away?” She sounded confused, sounded as though the very thought of her failing somehow was abhorrent and alien to her.
“Not at all,” Luke assured her.
Luke shifted his weight, feeling a little uncomfortable at the turn in conversation. He cleared his throat. “I told Han I though you were hot.”
“Hot?” She sounded perplexed and her voice shivered a little.
Luke caught the tremor, could feel little shivers ripple up from the bottom of the bunk. She was starting to get cold, and had instinctively moved nearer to him for warmth. This could be his chance to turn the advantage. “Yeah, hot as in…”
She sprang to her feet like a startled feline as she suddenly realised what he meant. “Why you…”
Luke moved, thrusting himself forward violently, and catching her in the midriff they tumbled to the floor. She squirmed under him, tried to bring her blaster arm down but he caught it, wrestled the gun from her grip and tossed it back into the room. She brought her legs up under her, bucked and twisted to the side knocking him off. Luke scrabbled in the darkness looking to catch her, when a foot connected with his stomach. He grunted at the force of the kick that turned him onto his back.
She fell on him, straddling his chest. Her knees pinning his arms. His head was grasped in two hands and her breath blew on his face as she spoke. “Nice try, farm boy,” she growled. “Next time you try something like that I’ll kill you.”
“I don’t believe you,” Luke snapped back, breathing quick. “You’ve not been sent to kill me.”
Her lips brushed his cheek. “Don’t tempt me.”
Luke swallowed, tried to move. He was suddenly uncomfortably aware of their position. “I wouldn’t dare tempt you,” he whispered back, his heart suddenly hammering again but, strangely, his head wasn’t as sore.
There was quiet above him as though she had only just come to realise where she was, how close they were. Again the breath on his cheek. “But I am tempted,” she told him and her lips hesitantly touched his. They kissed briefly, parted for a moment and then touched again, firmer this time, harder, the kiss deepening, tongues gently probing and dancing.
Luke groaned, feeling his body begin to respond to the weight of her, the feel of her, the taste of her.
The lights suddenly glared from above and she sprang away from him as though burned. He caught a glimpse of green eyes, a flash of titian red hair trailing from her cap as she dove for the blaster. Her fingers caught it, brought it up…
Luke held out his hands in a futile gesture of defence. “Wait!” he called.
She fired one burst, watched him slump back down to the floor. Then she scrabbled to his side and turned his head with a shaking hand. He was deeply unconscious the stun blast having done its job well. He would wake in a few minutes, would feel groggy and displaced for a while and having nothing more than a headache to show for this encounter.
She turned to move, to make her escape, but again she hesitated and looked back at him, trailed her finger over his cheek and she lowered her head and stole another kiss. “You’re pretty hot yourself, farmboy,” she whispered.
* * *
“Did you succeed in your mission, my child.”
“Yes, master,” Mara Jade told the small holographic projection of the Emperor as she bowed her head in supplication. “I have a sample for DNA analysis.”
“Excellent! Soon we shall know the boys parentage and, should he truly be the son of Anakin Skywalker as the Alliance claims, he may have to be destroyed.”
“I live to serve, master,” She assured him, though within she felt a stir of disappointment and sorrow.
The Emperor cackled his delight at her words, at her feelings. “Fret not, child. That job shall not be yours,” he smiled. “Not yet anyway.” He paused briefly, allowing her relief to wash through him. Jade would do any task he asked of her, no matter how distasteful. “Return to Coruscant immediately, I have another use for your skills.” He closed the connection without waiting for her reply.
Mara raised her head and looked to the controls of her ship as she guided it out of the Hoth system. She licked her lips, smiled at the memory of the brief kiss, the encounter she’d had with her quarry in the darkness. A warning tone from her sensors drew her attention and she checked her scopes noting the bulk of a Star Destroyer skirting passed the outer rim system as it deposited probes into the region. She watched as the droid capsules spread apart, as one passed her heading straight for Hoth. It would reach planet side in a few hours and she had a feeling the Alliance would suddenly be too busy to worry about her escape.
She slipped her hand into her pocket and withdrew the vial. She stared in at the fine strand of hair and found herself hoping that Palpatine would never have to give her the order to kill Luke Skywalker.