“Well,” said Arla, “you could just escape; you know that, don’t you?”
She and Fett stood in the doorway of Luke’s cell, looking in at the slumped figure that sat on the uncomfortable looking white plastic pallet. Luke shrugged.
“No,” he said, in a dead voice that the people who had heard his speech two days previously would not have recognised, “I can’t escape.” It was a voice that had given up everything, up to and including hope.
Arla looked at him, taking in two days worth of stubble just visible in the dim lighting of the cell. No sharp implements, she thought, and her mouth set into a thin line. She felt an obscure desire to try and jolly him into doing something. She glanced at Fett, who gazed at her impassively, then shrugged. Arla ploughed on.
“Sure you could,” she said, “I mean you could just walk out of here any time. Just use the bloody Force, and you’d be right out of here -”
She stopped at Luke’s expression. In the same flat voice he said, “I will not use the Force. For anything. Not to escape. Not ever. I have made that clear.”
There was a pause; Luke stared at the bounty hunters, and they stared back at him. Luke sighed, then turned to stare at the floor again. Arla shot another, more furious, look at her partner, as if to say - you do something, but Fett said nothing, just leaned back against the door jamb, and shifted his sore leg slightly. Arla sighed, more sharply than Luke.
“Well,” she said, “the door is open right now - come with us -”
It was a good thing she did not see Fett’s eyebrows shoot up in consternation.
“Yes, come with us. You haven’t done anything much - just spoken your mind. We could easily break you out - we’ve not given up the Force, you know.”
Luke turned to stare at her.
“You really think I would come with you?” he said, and there was a certain wonder in his voice.
Fett said, “no.”
Arla shot him a vicious glance,
“Will you shut up - I am trying -”
Fett put a hand on her arm, and looked at her. He stroked her hand, and said, “Luke will be staying here when we leave. He has made a choice, Arla.”
Her shoulders sagged, and she nodded.
“I know - but it doesn’t mean I have to like it,” she muttered.
Luke dragged himself a little way out of his despair as something they had said caught up with him.
“Leaving?” he asked, then really looked at the two of them.
It was, he realised, as if they had gone full circle. Arla looked much the same as she always had done, dressed in her tight fitting dark green suit. Only with all her weaponry on. Her hair was tightly braided, and her mask hung loose around her neck. And Fett, well, Fett was wearing the old familiar armour, rocket pack and all. The only difference was that he was not wearing the helmet.
Luke’s head dropped into his hands.
“What a waste,” he muttered, not to them, “everything I ever do.” Then he looked up, “So that’s it?” he said, not bothering to keep the bitterness out of his voice. “You just put your armour back on and waltz out of here, is that it? What about the New Republic?”
“What about them?” Arla shot back, still smarting. She felt Fett’s grip on her arm tighten. She wrenched the arm away, feeling cross and frustrated. “Luke, why should we stay? What is there for us here?” she cried, then subsided again. “A big fat nothing, that’s what,” she muttered.
“But -” said Luke, shrinking back from her vehemence, “you’re heroes now - you killed Thrawn -”
Arla pressed her palm against her forehead, feeling slightly ill.
“Listen to you - I thought you despised the idea of heroes. We’re going back to what we know. We’ve discussed it, we -”
“Then everything I’ve done is wasted,” Luke wailed. “This year might as well not have happened. I mean, you couldn’t be Jedi - not now, but - I thought -”
Fett walked past Arla into the room. With a wince, he bobbed down so he was kneeling in front of Luke.
“No.” he said, “Nothing has been wasted. Look at me.”
Luke’s gaze flinched away, but Fett persisted. “Look at me.” he ordered.
Luke looked. He saw an unremarkable face, strong nosed, thin lipped. Bruised. The bruises were now roughly the same colour as the man’s eyes, which glowed slightly as they caught the light. Dark curls flopped into them, as Fett stared right back. Then he began to speak.
“Don’t you see, Luke? Everything has changed. When you found me, I was just a bounty hunter. A damned good one, mind, but that’s all I was. There wasn’t room for anything else, and now - well, now I have Arla. And almost more importantly, I have myself back. And that means a great deal. A very great deal. As does Arla. Now I won’t be alone anymore - and I didn’t even know I was lonely, before. I’ve known her for years and years, but without you, I would have never even thought of - of being with her. Never. If we go back to being bounty hunters, it doesn’t mean that you have lost - or that we have, for that matter. Nor does it mean we won’t come back, but right now we want to be with ourselves, without all this political shit. We have to thank you for all that has passed; and we do, sincerely.”
He heaved himself upright again, and limped back to Arla, who held out a hand to him. They smiled at each other.
They heard a sniff, then another, and turned back to Luke again. He was crying, tears dropping onto his hands as he sat slumped on the pallet.
“Thank you,” he whispered.
Arla stepped over to him, and tentatively touched his shoulder.
“We have to go now,” she said, “the guard is coming back.”
He nodded, but didn’t look up.
“Okay,” she said, “Luke - take care. And if - if you ever change your mind, we’d be happy -”
He nodded again.
Arla went back to Fett, who stepped out into the corridor.
“Goodbye,” he said.
Arla stepped out after Fett, and the door shushed shut.
They walked back to the main - only surviving - hangar hand in hand, but said little as they did so. The hangar was deserted when they arrived, except for a few mechanics making repairs to ships damaged in the battles. Slave III sat in splendid isolation by the nearest exit. It gleamed. Fett looked at Arla, and squeezed her hand.
“We were supposed to stay for dinner,” said Arla.
They looked at their ship again.
“You know,” mused Fett, “now that we will both be travelling in it, it really needs another name . .”
“How about Saber I,” she said, twirling her own lightsaber, clipped safely onto her belt.
Fett made a face.
“No.” he said, “No, I don’t think so.”
“Or - um, Force I, ‘cos I’m sure as heck not going to stop using it.”
Fett grinned back at her.
“Hmm,” he said, slyly, “I think maybe I’ll stick to Slave’s” and caught her about the waist, and kissed her. She laughed, and squeezed him back.
“We’ll have to see about that,” she said, leaning into his embrace.
He kissed her again, then let her go. He cleared his throat.
“You know,” he said, barely concealed excitement filling his voice, “I’m not really in the mood for dinner . .”
“Nor am I,” said Arla.
They looked at the ship, then at each other. Fett nodded, then they started to run towards it.
A few minutes later, and Slave III drifted out into the star washed blackness of space. It paused for a moment, just above the atmosphere of Coruscant, as if saying a mute farewell, then there was a shot of whiteness, and the ship was gone from that place.
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