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Carrick Station

After the Assaults on Korriban and Tython

 

The Fleet was… the Fleet. Carrick Station was loud and smelled like spilled booze, leaky engines, and sweat. It wasn’t that she didn’t like people, she just preferred to not be in the midst of the large market crowds or jostling for a seat in the cantina. And it wasn’t that she didn’t mind being recognized, it was just tiring having to explain that she wasn’t a healer—she couldn’t cure someone’s weird rash. She couldn’t see the future, couldn’t predict market shifts or weather patterns. And if someone thought their kid was Force sensitive, they really needed to talk to someone on Tython—not her.

“You could try wearing something that doesn’t scream ‘I’m a Jedi’,” Kira suggested at her Master’s huffs of annoyance before she exited the Defender.

“I’m not even wearing the robe!” Jas said, exasperated.

“You’re still all tan with dark brown accents. Not to mention the lightsaber.”

Jas let out another irritated sigh. “Do I look alright, at least?”

“For eating noodles at Mama Tips?” Kira raised an eyebrow at her, and then squinted a bit as Jas turned around. “You’re not going to be able to avoid people when your eyeliner and lipstick says ‘hey there, flyboy’. We’re not going out for noodles, are we?”

“I’m… meeting someone.”

Both of Kira’s brows arched high. Any higher and they would have been popping off her head. “Who? It’s not the Grand Master’s secret love child is it?” There was an audible gasp and cackle from Kira as Jas frowned at her apprentice. It was all the confirmation Kira needed. “The mysterious past, clandestine career, fancy hair—yeah, I see the appeal.”

“He was instrumental in helping me fight the Empire off of Tython, if you recall.” Yes, that was totally the reason there had been a mixture of anticipation and dread of this rendezvous since Theron Shan had sent a message days ago asking to meet.

“Ah, I see. Help a girl save her homeworld and she’s all over you. I’ll remember that.”

Jas shook her head, but couldn’t help grinning at Kira. They kept each other honest, even if sometimes it was a little too honest. “Goodnight, Kira. Don’t wait up.”

“You know I am. I want all the details when you get back.”

Theron Shan: the spy with the Jedi heritage, yet no ability in the Force. That alone had made her curious. Then, he had been the voice in her ear—calculating and calm. When her heart was beating out of her chest and her blood boiled to expel the invaders from her home (never mind that they had just done the same thing to Korriban), he had been the one carefully guiding her so they would win. As always, she was the precision weapon, but this time, he had been her tactician—her minder. There was a certain affection for that role.

The fact that it was all bundled up inside a very attractive package—tall, charming, clever, a biting sort of humor she understood, and, of course, his fancy hair—made her impression of him several shades more complex.

Jas spotted him in the corner of one of the less-busy cantinas, lounging lazily with one foot propped up on his knee. He was watching a holo of several figures, including one that she recognized. She rocked slightly on the soft carpet and waited until he was finished.

“That was the Grand Master, wasn’t it?”

Theron sat up with both feet back on the floor as she approached. “She’s acting as emissary to the Drayvos League. Nowhere near Tython.”

Jas nodded. She had known the Grand Master was off-world during the time of the attack. “I have never seen her fight, but I’ve been told she’s amazing. No doubt she would have sent those Imperials packing far quicker than I did.”

She had meant it as a compliment because while she had often disagreed with the leader of the Order, Jas did admire Satele. Theron, however, seemed almost uncomfortable with what she had said. But then, she had never been one to pick up on the subtly of conversation. Of what people left unsaid or in the spaces between their words.

“We weren’t close, but that doesn’t mean I can’t check up on her.”

Jas realized he was making sure she was safe. That she hadn’t been caught in an explosion and was missing. That her ship hadn’t been ambushed. It was unexpectedly sweet, and Jas nodded again, this time feeling embarrassed for misunderstanding.

“Here.” He stood and pulled a chair from another table over to his. He waved at the bartender for two more drinks.

“Thank you.” Jas sat in the chair and nodded at the waiter who brought them twin glasses of some glowing blue-ish liquid. It was a signature drink of the establishment, though Jas usually preferred whatever was on tap. It was sweet, and bubbly, and quite a bit stronger than what she was used to. She took a polite sip and then set it back down on the table. “You’re her son, but you’re not….?”

Theron shook his head, a small smirk on his lips. “No, it seems to have skipped over me. I was actually raised to be a Jedi, but turns out it was a wasted effort.”

“I think you turned out pretty well,” she said, giving him a smile.

“Yeah.” He returned the smile, easier this time. “I’d say things have worked out just fine.”

“So you were raised like a Jedi—do you keep up with any of it? Like meditation?”

“Every morning.”

Jas wasn’t sure she could hide her shock even if she wanted to. He was still grinning, like he was pleased with himself over something. There was something in his smile—the promise of something dangerous, yet fun. A contraband that would garner rumors and disapproving looks, but would be worth every thrill. She reached for another sip of her drink and shook her head.

“Why? How often do you meditate?” he asked.

“Take a guess.”

His head tilted slightly as he looked at her. She could tell he was doing the spy-thing: sizing her up, cataloging everything he’d ever read about her in briefings and mission logs. He was going to use all those tidbits of information he’d gathered about her to make a guess. Though it was a little unnerving, Jas didn’t look away from him. The corner of her lip pulled upwards slightly as she wondered just how close he would get.

“Not often—a few times a week, maybe. More if you know you’re going to have to fight.”

Her eyes glanced down at the drink her in hand and and then back up at him before nodding slightly. “That is a very good guess. How did you come to it?”

He leaned forward slightly, his elbows resting on his knees. “You really want to know?”

She swallowed a mouthful of the alcohol, still unable to look away from him. If she hadn’t been a Jedi, if she hadn’t already known he was totally incapable of using the Force, she would have sworn he was using a mind feat on her and looking right into her soul. Realizing he was waiting for an answer, she cleared her throat. “Yes, tell me.”

“I ran into your Sergeant Rusk at the ammo shop.”

Theron laughed first, probably at her startled expression. After that stunned second, she laughed and set her drink back down on the table between them. Her cheeks felt warm, for a number of reasons. She chose to blame it on the liquor settling in her empty stomach and not the fact that he had apparently asked a member of her crew about her. She wondered what else he had asked, and what else he had been told.

“So the other reason I asked to meet—the ops, Colonel Darok… Something’s being buried here. I’m sure of it.” He sat back again in his seat and his look returned to the earlier intensity. “Are you going to take that shiny medal and go home like Darok’s hoping? Or are you ready to start digging?”

The momentary blush melted away and was replaced by an eagerness to join in whatever the spy had planned. Jas had been greatly annoyed that the Colonel had brushed her off after Tython. Clearly, there was something else going on that they—she—needed to get to the bottom of. It was her turn to move forward in her seat, practically leaning over the table towards him. “Where do we start?”

“Well—hypothetically—I’d have to recruit someone on the outside. Someone who gets to work around normal protocols—who’s often given a wide berth to work as they see fit.”

Jas frowned. He was going to find someone else to work with? Why wasn’t he just going to ask for her help?

Theron let out a sort of half sigh/half laugh and leaned towards her. They were quite close now; his nose just a few centimeters from hers. “You—I’m talking about recruiting you, Master Jedi,” he said, his voice low.

“Oh.” She let out an embarrassed chuckle and nodded for him to continue.

“Then, I’d find out everything I could about Darok and the Sith Lord you talked to. Find all the connections. Once I find something, I contact my new friend and we get to the bottom of this.” Again, the corner of his mouth quirked into a satisfied little smirk. Jas grinned right along with him—she liked this plan. “This is all hypothetical, of course.”

“Of course.”

“Come on, I’ll walk you back to your ship.”

Jas let out a small sigh and frowned again. She wasn’t ready for their—date? It wasn’t really a date. They had talked mostly business—the Jedi, a possible conspiracy—and he hadn’t even touched his drink. Whatever it was, she wasn’t ready for it to be over.

His hand hovered just over hers. Perhaps hesitant at first, but then his fingers grazed just barely against hers. Again, he spoke quietly, “There’s an Ugnaut at the bar who’s been watching us quite intently. I think it’s time we left this place.”

“I’m used to that sort of thing,” she said, thinking nothing of it. She couldn’t think of anything, really, not with his fingers lightly dancing over hers.

“But you don’t like it.”

She looked up from his fingers and back to his eyes. “There’s a complex answer to that. Maybe next time.”

“Next time,” he said with a smile. His fingers tightened around hers and he stood up, pulling her with him.

He led her out of the cantina, through the massive, crowded station corridors. At some point, he had tucked her hand into the crook of his elbow and held it there. They took the long way around back to the docks reserved for the Jedi Order. When Jas commented on that, Theron just grinned and acted like he hadn’t realized.

She still held onto his hand as they walked through the doors leading to the large platform reserved for her Defender. It was warm and firm—not sweaty or twitchy with unnecessary or nervous movement. His nails were surprisingly well-manicured, not chipped the way hers sometimes were from too much time spent in conflict. There was a callous on his wrist which she had asked about. Theron said it was from a bulky wrist comm he used to wear. The scar that she hadn’t asked about, he said was from a knife fight with a Zabrak on Dantooine. There was a mischievous glint in his eye as he told her and she tucked it away as something she would ask about another time.

When they finally made it to her ship, she reluctantly pulled her hand away. “Whether or not our hypothetical partnership uncovers anything, we should meet up again.”

“Yeah, we should.” He grinned and ducked his head slightly as he took a step back. “Until next time, Master Jedi.”

“Jasati,” she said quickly. “Or Jas. I’d rather my friends use my name.”

“Alright. Jas.”

Chapter Text

Oseon

After the Raid on Manaan

 

Far flung, but still with all the comforts of civilized society were the best words to describe Jas’ favorite sort of planet, moon, or collection of habitable asteroids (as Oseon happened to be). Outside of both Republic or Imperial-claimed sectors, no allegiance to the Hutts, totally owned and operated by private companies. It was the perfect place to hide out for a few days—refuel, resupply, and take a break.

“Enjoy, darlin’,” the waitress said as she placed the bowl in front of her. It was the cafe’s signature dessert and looked too enticing in the advert to not try. A chunk of warm chocolate cake covered with scoops of brightly colored ice cream and smothered with a thick, fudge sauce. Heaven in only ten thousand calories.

Jas dug her spoon in and smiled like a child when the first hit of sugar and cream coated her tongue. She sighed contentedly and enjoyed the nice, quiet—

“Don’t forget the sprinkles.”

Jas glanced up, mouth full of another scoop of her dessert, and saw someone who almost looked like Theron Shan. He was wearing a tattered duster jacket over the rest of his clothing, which looked just as rough. He clearly hadn’t shaved in several days and had on a broad-brimmed hat with one side folded upwards. Hats really didn’t suit him.

Oh, but it was him. She’d recognize that unique blip in the Force anywhere.

“Mind if I join you?”

Before she had the chance to answer, as she was still swallowing, he went ahead and slid into the chair across from her. He picked up the colorful shaker off the table and started dumping the multi-colored jimmies all over her slowly melting dessert. She frowned as the jimmies met with the wetness of the ice cream and the colors began to bleed. Soon they’d all congeal into a brown tint and her artful dessert would be a mess.

“I didn’t think we were supposed to be meeting. Eyes everywhere and all that.” She barely got her spoon in for another scoop when Theron dug in his, dragging the bowl closer to his side. Where did he even get a spoon from? Did he steal it just so he could interrupt her pleasant and quiet afternoon?

“I was in the system. Saw your ship listed on the dock manifest.” He grinned at her as he chewed the bite of cake and ice cream. “Pretty lucky, huh?”

“No such thing.”

They took turns scooping into the bowl in silence. Jas would pull the bowl back towards her and stab her spoon in, but then Theron would just drag it back to his side and take a generous scoop for himself.

“I know it’s ice cream, but I didn’t expect such a cold reception.”

She let out a sigh and left her spoon in the bowl as she folded her hands on the table. With a reminder that it was only ice cream, and she could easily just buy another, she took a deep breath and attempted to let go of the momentary annoyance. “I’m glad you’re okay, Th—”

He reached over the small table and touched her hand only just, before dragged his finger up in front of his lips. “Sheron. Name’s Sheron.”

“Sharon?”

“No, Sheron.”

“That’s what I said?” She pulled out one of the napkins and wiped the sticky residue from her fingers and lips while Theron continued to dig through what was left in the bowl. “Have you found anything?”

“Nothing solid yet—still digging.” Perhaps realizing that he had eaten most of her dessert, he pushed the bowl back towards her and also pulled out one of the napkins. “Is something wrong? You don’t seem happy to see me.”

“You asked me to murder people while they slept, Sharon. Just to deny your enemy the chance to have an advantage. And then made it very clear that I was unreliable, that you didn’t trust my judgment.” She leaned forward in her seat. Her index finger jabbed into the table to emphasize her words. She may have let go of the annoyance over having her quiet snack being interrupted, but this—this is what had been eating away at her. “This is why the Jedi distanced themselves from the Republic.”

Theron became unreadable to her. His face had lost the usual amused half-smirk and he became stiff in his seat as well as in the Force. “I’m not going to apologize for what I felt was the right course of action.”

“I’m not asking you to. It was… disappointing to realize that I had misjudged you. I am a Jedi and I thought that you, of all people, understood what that meant.”

“You’re a Jedi who plays by her own rules. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, except someone who gets results.”

She couldn’t deny that she hadn’t always followed the Code to the letter. That she had openly defied the Council. Though over for quite some time, she had an intense, romantic relationship with a member of her crew. And now, the top of her hand still tingled where he had barely touched her. What a paragon of a Jedi she was.

Lecturing someone else on how to live up to their obscene ideals was par for the course, however.

“If you want my results, you need to trust the methods that I use to get them.” Jas stood up and began to walk away. A sad sort of sigh left her as she walked past him. Whatever flirtations and attractions that had happened between the Jedi and the spy had stalled. Considering their apparent ideological differences, it was probably for the best. In that moment, Jas didn’t think there would be anything beyond professional courtesy after this. If he even wanted her assistance in uncovering this conspiracy anymore.

“You’re still in, right?” he called after her, still sitting in his seat.

“Of course. You’ll never pull it off without me.”

Chapter Text

Port Nowhere

 

At least on Port Nowhere he could ditch the disguise and get a decent haircut and shave. He paid his tab at the barber and slipped his red jacket back on and headed back out onto the main concourse.

The madame of this haven of criminals had built herself a small empire on the once dilapidated station. Not only had it become a hub of shipping illegal goods, information brokering, and money laundering, it had grown into its own little pirate town complete with restaurants, a school, holo-game arcade, and a few elected officials to keep the place running smoothly (and maintain at least the veneer of legality). There were, of course, all the things less-than-reputable types preferred as well: cantinas, gambling halls, and a brothel.

“Theron Shan, I knew it was only a matter of time before you darkened my door.”

He had been sitting alone, nursing a scotch and enjoying the view, before a supple figure with a smooth drawl took up residence in his lap.

“Captain, you’re looking as colorful as ever,” Theron said. She had long multi-colored locks, twisting and curling together into intricate designs and flowing clothing of rich fabrics that left little to the imagination. Even draped in the fancy cloth, he could still feel the outline of the blaster strapped to her thigh. “I hear it’s Mrs. Riggs now, though.”

“Surprise, surprise, SIS information is wrong. Baby boy took my name, sugar,” she said as her full lips curled into a smirk. Her fingers ran through his now short hair and then along his cheek and jaw. “You see Ryaamis for this? He does good work.”

Theron grinned and nodded. “Best shave I’ve had in months.”

“Mmhmm.” She leaned forward and pressed a soft kiss just to the corner of his lips before moving from his lap and sitting in the chair across from him. With a flick of her wrist, she summoned a half-dressed young man with a plate and a waiting drink. Everything that surrounded her was an over-the-top display of her wealth that even oligarchs and nobles would cringe at. “Little bird told me you’ve gone off the deep end. Seeing conspiracies everywhere. Think even the Republic brass have been infiltrated by a thousand-year-old ghost.”

“Only about three-fifty or so. Still a young guy.”

Te’Jal Starfire might have played dumb, acted hard of hearing, pretended not to know a rancor from a lothcat, but Theron knew it was (mostly) an act. If the way the once lousy smuggler seemed to manage her riches well enough to afford her excessive eccentricities was any indication, she was a hell of a lot smarter than most gave her credit for. It had made her a valuable asset to the Republic, as well as a thorn in their side. Since setting up her own town however, she’d stayed out of galactic politics.

“Why are you here, Theron? I’d like to think it’s to see me, but the way you’re swirling that drink and staring at the stars like a sad puppy—someone break your heart, sugar?”

Theron chuckled and stared down at his drink before pushing it away. “No, nothing like that. You know me, I torpedoed it before it even had a chance to start.”

“Typical.” She smiled again and took a long drink from her glass. “You should meet my sister. She’s coming in later—I think you’d like her. She’s like you, her own made-up moral code that gets her into trouble with her superiors. Fun, too, once you get a few drinks in her.”

“I didn’t know you had a sister.” It seemed the SIS files were indeed lacking, or perhaps she’d manged to have some of them purged. He wouldn’t put it past her.

“Lot you don’t know about me, spy-boy.” She gave him a wink before finishing her drink.

Theron polished off his as well before he got to the real reason he’d made the trip out to the pirate station. If she didn’t like his request, there was a good chance he’d be booted out the nearest airlock. “I actually want to talk to your brother.”

Te’Jal’s face went from the light, flirtatious glances to a frown and a glare. “He doesn’t take requests. ‘Specially not from SIS. Not after what y’all did to him. What? You think I don’t know about that?”

“I wasn’t on that op, TJ. I wouldn’t have let it go down like that.”

“You think that makes it any better?” Her words were harsh and sharp. Even though she was the younger sister, she had a protective streak a kilometer wide for anyone in her family, blood or found. Plenty of unfortunate people had learned that the hard way.

Theron sighed. “I can pay.”

She softened slightly at the promise of credits. “Tell you what, spy-boy. You make my sister laugh, I’ll give you a lead—a small lead.”

“Really?” It was an utterance of disbelief and not gratitude. Though he should have expected that sort of unconventional trade from her.

“You know how favors work around here, sugar.” The sultry smile returned as she stood up and sauntered up behind him. Her arms draped over his shoulders and she planted another kiss on him, this time just below his ear. “You gotta give some to get some.”

 

~*~

 

“I know it’s Port Nowhere, but let’s make sure to get all our supplies on board before we’re too drunk to remember that this is only a layover. Two days, max.” Jas looked each of her crew in the eyes as she gave her responsibility speech. Not that she would blame them if they slipped and let off some steam before all the tasks were done. All she wanted to do was slide into one of the hot baths. They’d been cramped on the Defender for months, zipping from crisis to crisis—nothing too strenuous, but they’d all gotten a bit claustrophobic in the confined space.

“I got those massage appointments for tomorrow morning,” she called after Kira as the crew dispersed. “Don’t sleep in.”

“You better be there, Master, or I’m taking both for myself. Back to back. With that cute Mirialan.”

Jas grinned and shook her head as she trotted down the ramp off the ship. It was only two days, but she was going to cram in as much relaxation and down-time as possible. Scourge was the only one not enthusiastic about their pit-stop, but Jas had promised to carve out some time where they could do some meditation and discuss more about Revan.

“Oh, it’s so good to see you!” the shorter human with the colorful hair wrapped her arms around Jas and squeezed her fiercely. “I missed you!”

Jas returned the affectionate embrace and kissed her on the cheek. “You as well. How’s Corso? And Guss?”

“Corso’s good—out overseeing some merchandise right now. Guss is, you know, Guss.”

“You’ll tell him I stopped by? And that the invitation is still open?”

Te’Jal shrugged her shoulders with a bit of a wince. “I’ll let him know.”

Jas liked Te’Jal’s Mon Calamari friend. Guss had once been a Jedi Padawan, not a very good one, but Jas was never one to give up on people. He was a snarky swindler, but at least now he was using his gifts with the Force to assist the people of Port Nowhere. Despite its illegal dealings, they often leaned towards assisting the Republic when necessary.

“Come on, there’s someone I want you to meet.” Te’Jal grabbed Jas’ arm and pulled her further into the cantina—the most crowded of the several on the station.

Jas tried to resist, tried to tell her friend she really wasn’t in the mood for loud conversation and the bottomless glasses. Te’Jal had a way of making people feel guilty. It was like her super power to convince people to do what she wanted. That, and making them think it was their idea.

“This is what my sort of people call networking, Jedi.”

“In a brothel?”

“Sometimes, the less clothing, the better deal you can make.” She shot her back a knowing wink and continued pulling her hand further through the crowd. They all parted for Te’Jal like she was a queen—and she was, to them. Even if Jas disliked many of her methods, she was proud of her old friend. Te’Jal pulled her up to the semi-private lounge that overlooked the dancing men and women and the bustle below, right into the ambush.

“There he is—I want to introduce you to my good friend, Theron Shan.”

The grin of being with an old friend and the giddy mood of the station fell away, replaced by the stoic mask of the Jedi Knight she was supposed to be. Quietly, she wondered if he had followed her out here, or if the Force found it amusing to intertwine their paths so frequently. There would be no reason for him to follow her, unless there was new information—

“Theron, this is my sister that I was telling you about. Jasati, Jedi Master, Knight of the Republic, Hero of Tython, etcetera, etcetera.”

“What? I don’t get introduced by all my titles? I’m hurt, Captain.” He held out his hand towards her and for a moment, she just stared at it.

“Oh, right, you’re a spy. Theron Shan and I have met, TJ.” It had taken her a second to figure out why he was pretending he didn’t know her—that they hadn’t attacked Korriban and saved Tython together. And had once had a lovely walk around Carrick Station together that she still thought about even after he had been a huge ass on Manaan. And then again on Oseon. “Did you set this up?”

“Me?” Theron looked surprised at the suggestion. His hand dropped awkwardly back to his side. “I was just here chasing a lead. I didn’t know you two were—how does that even work?”

“In the non-incestuous meaning of the word, sugar. Now, you two enjoy some drinks and the view. Our deal still stands, spy-boy.”

Jas had her hand over her face. This was not how she was expecting this evening to go. “Wait, what deal?”

“Can’t I just pay you for the information?”

“What information?”

 

~*~

 

Like the whirlwind she was, Te’Jal was gone—flitted off to schmooze some other patrons and left Theron and Jas with orders to enjoy a bottle of wine and “live a little.” Theron poured a couple of glasses and offered her one. She took it, but they sat in silence for several minutes. Jas leaned over the railing and watched the beings below while Theron lounged on one of the plush chairs. He figured they’d sit up here for an eternity of thirty or so minutes and then he’d have to come up with something else to offer the Queen of Port Nowhere in exchange for a conversation with the former Imperial spy.

He took a sip of his wine. Might as well enjoy the view.

Theron had first read her file when a young Jedi saved the Temple on Tython from an unhinged former Padawan. He had unintentionally followed her career—from super weapon to super weapon, thwarting gangs and Sith, saving those that had fallen by the wayside. He had approached her once, on Nar Shaddaa, and he always wondered if she remembered, but never asked. She was softer then, he thought as he looked at her now. No longer nearly as wide-eyed and there were lines starting to form on her face, though none of it detracted from her beauty. It served as a reminder that there was wisdom and strength in that pretty blue package.

“What titles?” she asked, pulling him from his thoughts, and his staring.

“Hm?”

“Titles that Te’Jal neglected to list when she ‘introduced’ us.”

“I was voted ‘Most Likely to Accidentally Set Himself on Fire’ back at the Academy.”

She turned around to face him fully, her eyes squinting in confusion at him. “I don’t believe that’s a real thing.”

“After meeting your Padawan, I really thought sarcasm would be something in your toolbox. Or at least, a language you understood.”

She glanced down at the drink in her hands and then back up. Her shoulders shrugged slightly as she walked towards him and settled onto the ottoman in front of him. “I tend to believe people when they tell me things, Agent Shan. Especially things about themselves.”

“I’ve heard the Force is a useful lie detector.”

She was giving him that judgmental Jedi look—the way she stared at him with those unblinking violet eyes and her patient, even breathing. “It’s called trust, Theron.”

Ouch. He was pretty sure he needed to go find a medkit for that burn. He wondered how much of his pride it would cost him to just apologize. He should have realized she never would have outright killed people, even freakish experiments, who couldn’t defend themselves. With as much as he had followed her escapades, he knew she often chose to offer mercy to her enemies.

“I’m sorry.” And he meant it. He let down those walls just enough so she would know. He was truly contrite.

Jas blinked and shifted slightly in her seat. “For what exactly? Because you said—”

“I would do almost anything to keep the Republic ahead in the arms race with the Empire, but I shouldn’t have put it on you. And I shouldn’t have snapped at you in the middle of a mission.”

“And Oseon?”

Theron ducked his head and laughed lightly. “Yeah, that, too. Being in hiding always puts me in a bad mood.”

He felt a clink against his wine glass as she pressed hers against it. “I should also apologize for being so annoyed with you.”

“Nah, I deserved it.” He grinned as he looked back up at her. “Here’s to everyone makes mistakes. Even Jedi.”

“Rogue SIS agents especially.”

“That’s the truth,” Theron agreed as they both took drinks from their glasses.

“So what’s this information you’re trying to get?”

“The Captain knows someone who might have some information from inside the Empire—maybe even some Revanite contacts.”

“Okay, and what does she want?”

“You to laugh.”

Jas paused, the glass just millimeters away from her lips as she went for another sip. “What? Why?”

His shoulders shrugged. “Have you been down lately?”

She looked almost uncomfortable at the question. “No, I’m fine.

It wasn’t very convincing. Theron discovered what a terrible liar she was. He wanted to reach out and grab her hand, the way he had on Carrick Station. Find another terrible pretense to wrap his fingers around hers and drag her around on another long, meandering, totally pointless walk. But he had been reminded, quite readily, that she was a Jedi, and that she took it quite seriously. No matter what his gut told him about how close she had walked next to him, or how she had squeezed his hand back. Maybe it had been in his head the way she’d looked at him after Tython.

“Tell me your best joke,” she said, again pulling him from his wandering thoughts.

“A joke?”

“You’re supposed to make me laugh. Go on.”

“O…kay… Where do spies sleep?”

“I don’t know, Agent Shan. Where do they sleep?”

“Undercover.”

She groaned and shook her head. “That’s terrible.”

“I know. Oh, how about this: How do you get down from a bantha?”

She had an amused grin on her face as she shrugged her shoulders.

“You don’t, you get it from a goose.”

“That’s—jokes are supposed to be funny.”

“It is funny!”

“No, it’s not!”

“Then why are you laughing?”

A small snort escaped her and she covered her face to try and stop the laughter she was trying to hold back. “Because it’s so bad!”

Chapter Text

Rishi

 

“This stopped being funny twenty minutes ago.”

“I think five years from now, it will still be funny.”  Jas didn’t stop snickering as they cut through the Rishi jungle.  Poor Theron had decided to take a break under a tree that was home to several nests of local birds.  It seemed they hadn’t appreciated his company.

“This stuff is like tar.  How does it even make it through their digestive system?”  Again, Theron was trying to scoop the goopy, white mess out of his hair, but with every swipe of his hands, he just made it worse.

“You’re going to end up pulling your hair out if you keep messing with it.”  Jas paused and listened to the world around them for a moment.  She was trying to find water--any water, fresh or sea—where Theron could attempt to rinse the feces out of his hair.  In addition to the complaining, it was the foulest thing she had ever smelled.

“I suppose pulling out chunks of hair would detract from my boyish good looks.”

Her shoulders shrugged slightly as she started walking again, this time off to the left.  “You’ll still have that sweet ass.”

Jas wondered if he blushed, if he was even capable of it.  Past grievances forgotten, they had fallen back into the casual flirting.  She had tried pushing it further, but he was maddeningly nonchalant about it.  The few times they’d met, either on Carrick Station or elsewhere, conversation always returned to the conspiracy at hand and they parted with friendly nods of their heads.

More than once, she had wondered if she read his reactions completely wrong.  If he wasn’t interested and just being polite.  She wondered if it was because she was a Jedi like his mother.  If somehow she represented a life and a familial bond that he had been denied.  Or maybe he just wasn’t into Twi’leks.

“Yeah, should probably quit before you embarrass yourself,”  she grumbled to herself.  Should probably work on not being a bitter, old Jedi.  Puttering around the galaxy in her ship until the next great disaster strikes.  Definitely should not try to introduce any sort of romantic entanglements—she needed to just focus on the mission and the Force.

“What was that?”  he asked as he finally caught up to her.

“Just up ahead.”

The trees broke into a clearing with a fresh water pool fed by a stream coming down from the hills.  There were a few animals, but they scattered once the pair appeared.

“Great.”  Thereon dropped his pack to the ground and started pulling off his jacket, his shirt, his trousers…

Jas turned and faced away from him, her cheeks reddening.  He was just going to take it all off right there, not even care that she was standing a a meter away.  She heard the splashing as he stomped into the pool and dunked his head in the water.  Then the frustrated groans and swearing as water alone wasn’t enough to get it all out of his hair.

“Hey, Jedi!”

Oh, that’s an interesting bug.  It’s got spots and wings and some gnarly teeth-looking appendages….

“Jasati!”

“Yeah?”

“I think there’s some soap in the survival pack.  Can you get it for me?”

She nearly laughed—nearly.  Spent so much time flirting and casting sidelong glances, and the time arrives to actually take a chance and make a move—she was nervous and blushing like a damn virgin.  “Should just go back to being a celibate monk,”  she scolded herself quietly.  She knew a few Masters on the Council would appreciate that.

“Did you find it?”

“Yeah!  I got it!”  Jas took a deep breath and stood and turned around.  Thankfully, most of him was below the water.  “You just want me to toss it to you, or….?”

“I don’t want to lose it.  Water’s not cold, just bring it out.”  Was he… smiling?  Why that cheeky—

Jas undid the fastenings on her tunic and pulled it off, leaving on the undershirt she was wearing.  She kicked off her boots and socks and rolled up her trouser legs.  She took two steps towards the water— “Oh, soap.”  —turned back around, picked up the soap, and then headed into the pool.

“Thanks,”  he said, taking the small bottle from her.  He dumped the contents right onto his head and was haphazardly smearing the soap around.  He didn’t even get it on the chunky parts of poop in the back.

“You’ve got a bit—no, you keep missing it.”  Jas let out an exasperated sigh.  It’s like he wasn’t even trying.

“I don’t have eyes in the back of my head, you know.”

“You could.”

There was a pause.  “Oh, is that a cybernetics joke?  I don’t think I’ve heard that one before.”

“Here, just let me.”  Jas took the last two steps towards him.  With his back to her, she pushed his shoulders down slightly.  Even crouched in the shallow pool, he was still too tall.

She scooped some of the foam from the top of his head and transferred it to the back where the goop had rolled down.  She dragged her fingers through his short hair, nails pinching the strands to scrape the thick substance off.

“Ow!”  Theron shifted slightly as she yanked on the strands of hair.  A few ended up separated from his skull.

“Sorry,”  she mumbled.  The pad of her finger rubbed the spot where she had pulled, hoping to rub out any lingering soreness.  “Rinse some of it off?”

His head disappeared under the water, leaving a plume of soapy froth on the surface of the water.  Jas frowned for a second and hoped that anything living in or relying on the pool wasn’t going to suffer from the contaminate they were introducing.  But the thought was chased away as Theron reappeared and rubbed the soap and water from his eyes.

“How’s it look?”

“Turn back around.”  Her fingers pushed around in his short, wet hair and found a bit more specks that were stubbornly hanging on.  She held her hand out over his shoulder.  “Soap.”

Jas lathered it up on his head, massaging it into his scalp—especially the areas where the fallout had been the worst.  She warned him before she tried to scrape her fingers across the strands this time.

He chuckled.  “Usually, I don’t mind hair pulling.”

Somehow, she was at a loss for a comeback.  Not ten minutes ago she had convinced herself he probably wasn’t interested, and now he was the one tossing out innuendo?

“You probably don’t… understand what that’s like.”  His tongue clicked and he went back to crouching silently while she washed his hair.

Say something!  A tiny, frustrated voice was screaming at her.  She kept massaging his skull, even though the last of the feces had been cleaned out for a few minutes.  It was nice, calming, even if the friendly banter had turned awkward.  “Your hair is very thick.  Have you ever thought of growing it out?”

“Yeah, when I was younger.  You know, in a band, riding a speederbike.”

“You were in a band?”

“No—I—nevermind.”  He dunked himself under the water again and vigorously rubbed at his head to get rid of the soap.  Theron faced her when he stood up—thankfully, still wearing his shorts.  “Get it all?”

“Yeah.”  Jas sucked her lip in between her teeth and nodded, desperately telling herself not to just completely and inappropriately ogle his wet, mostly-naked body.  At least wait until he wasn’t looking right at her.  “Looks good.”

The corner of his lip curled into a smirk.  He winked.  And then, walked away.

She let out a long sigh and turned, watching him push through the water and walk back onto the shore.  Jas swore he was exaggerating the movements of his hips as he sauntered back to the pile of clothing and gear.

Chapter Text

Yavin IV

 

In one of the tents in the middle of the Republic camp on Yavin IV, Theron sat with two datapads in his lap while watching a data stream on the console in front of him.  Occasionally, he’d pause the stream, make a note on one of his datapads, resume the stream, and the process would repeat.

He leaned back in the chair at the sound of the tent flap opening and the gust of warm air that made it inside.  “How’s it going out there?”  he asked as he watched her walk slowly into the tent.  It was a fairly large space—Theron had insisted on it as he had to fit all of his equipment inside.  For comfort though, he only had the one chair, and a cot.

“Well, I think.  I needed a break from Marr’s…. intensity.”

“Yeah, he wasn’t too happy you wanted the Grand Master to do the interrogation.”

Theron sat back up straight and watched her as she poked around the different equipment.  Her movements were still slow—tired.  She’d roll her shoulder like it was bothering her and he could see the fresh bruise on her cheek.  He knew there were others he couldn’t see.  That had been the risk with sending her in alone into that Temple.  In the moment, Theron hadn’t liked the decision, but didn’t see another way.  Now, seeing the toll it had taken, he liked it even less.

“How are you holding up?”

“Doc gave me a shot of kolto and some stitches.  I’ll be fine.”  She stopped her wandering just behind him, peering over his shoulder at the screens in front of him.  “What’re you working on?  Not spying on the Imperials, I hope.”

“Nope.  You said not to, and I still don’t agree, but you’re the one calling the shots.”

Jas moved around from behind him and rested her bottom on the desk with her arms crossed.  “You strike me as someone who doesn’t always listen to the one calling the shots.”

Theron let out an amused grunt and leaned back in his chair again.  “You’ve got a pretty good read on me, Jedi.”

“I have many talents.”  She still looked tired, but she smiled and the dim tent felt a bit brighter.

I’m sure you do, he grinned with his thought, but kept it to himself.  “I know you want to build trust with them.  And I want you to trust me.  I’ll even let you look over my work.”  He lifted up one of the datapads in his lap and held it out to her, but she didn’t take it.  Her eyes looked into his, thoughtful and studying.  It would have been an unnerving moment if it wasn’t also so captivating.

“I trust you, Theron.”

Theron felt his stomach do something funny.  It both fell down into his ass and also tried to leap out of his throat at the same time.  Not that all their casual flirting hadn’t gotten his pulse to quicken or caused him to smile randomly when no one else was around, but the way she had said it—the smoothness and honesty of her voice.  She’d said it looking right into his eyes, but more like she was looking into his soul.  All he could manage at the moment was a half-smile and a small nod as he awkwardly put the pad back in his lap.

Maybe she sensed his momentary discomfort, or perhaps she was just that tired, she yawned long and wide and again rolled her shoulder.

“You should probably get some rest.  I’ll come let you know if we get any information out of the prisoner.”

She finally looked away from him.  Her head tilted down and she became quite interested in picking a spot of mud off of her tunic.  “If I walk back out there, they’ll give me something else to do.  They’ll ask me questions and if I have to settle another squabble over—”

“Okay.”  Theron chuckled lightly and reached out, just touching her hand, trying to calm her irritation.  He’d seen her walk through the camp, especially in the areas where the Imps and Republic troops were mixed; she could barely walk a few meters without someone grabbing her attention.  “I’ve got a cot in here.  You can rest if you want.”

“No, I couldn’t.  Where would you sleep?”

Theron pulled back, his fingers reluctantly leaving the warmth of her wrist.  “I’ve still got a lot of work to do.  It’s fine.  You need it more than me.”

He expected her to protest further, and was surprised when she didn’t.  He got the feeling she had only protested the one time out of politeness and was thankful for the place to hide away for a little while.  She flopped onto the cot and Theron wasn’t sure if he’d seen anyone, Jedi or not, fall asleep so quickly.

Theron continued working until the data sets blurred together and he was rubbing at his eyes every few seconds.  He stood up and stretched, and was about to go find the mess tent and the caf machine when he heard a grunt and the creaking of the rusted metal legs of the cot.  Theron turned back around with the thought that she was finished with her nap.  “Hey, I’m gonna go get something to eat if you’re—”

But she was still asleep.  Jas had rolled onto her side, the thin, knit blanket tangled around her legs.  Her brows were pinched together and there was an angry scowl on her face.  Her hands came up and swatted at her head as she grunted again.

Theron moved over to the cot and leaned over her.  Gently, he touched her shoulder.  “Hey, Jedi.  You’re okay, it’s just a dream.”

Her hand came up and swatted his away and let out a low growl.  It was a frightening sound, unlike the almost pained grunts she’d been uttering before.  Again, he reached out and took hold of her shoulder, firmer this time.  He gave her a hard shake.

“Jasati, wake up.”

Her eyes snapped open and there was a second when Theron wondered if he had done the right thing.  If whatever nightmare had gripped her still had its teeth in and would cause her to strike against him.  But the haze went away and her features went from vicious and angry to frightened.  She wiped the sheen of sweat from her forehead with her sleeve and fell back into the thin mattress.

“Bad dream?”  he asked the unnecessary question.  She nodded the unnecessary response.  “Want to talk about it?”

When she shook her head, he started to get up, to give her space, but her hand came up and wrapped around his arm.  “Please, stay.  This place… its energy is weighing on me and I just… I need someone here.”  Her voice was quiet, ashamed perhaps, but he could pick out the hints of dread still haunting her.

“I can go get one of your people.  Kira?  Or one of the other Jedi here?”

She shook her head as she looked up at him and he knew that she didn’t want anyone to see her like this.  Scared and weak.  Her hand drifted down his arm and clasped onto his hand.  As her thumb rubbed across the top of his hand, they both had to take long breaths for very different reasons.  Theron’s stomach was doing that flip-flop thing again and he was sure she was trying to find some soothing thread in the Force.

“Stay with me, Theron?  Please?”

He nodded and swallowed thickly.  “Of course.  Anything you need.”

Jas scooted over in the cot and Theron shrugged off his jacket before laying down beside her.  His breath caught as she curled in next to him as soon as he had settled onto the small cot.  It was way too small for two fully grown people, but somehow they had managed to both be on it without falling off.  He wrapped his arm around her and ran his hand up and down her back.  He tried not to notice that she had one knee tucked in between his legs.  Flirting?  That was just words tossed back and forth, easily taken back or excused.  Laying in bed together with that first kiss so desperate on his lips?  They were drifting into a dangerous section of space.

Eventually, the fingers gripping onto him relaxed and her breathing changed from the long, measured breaths to slow, sleep-filled ones.  Theron had felt the soothing calm in the room and knew that she had managed to massage the Force around her into a gentle peace.  When he tried to move, however, the grip returned and her leg hooked around his, barring him from leaving.

He let out a small chuckle and pressed his lips against the top of her head.  “Okay,”  he said quietly.  “I’ll stay.”

Chapter Text

Yavin IV

En Route to the Battle with Revan

 

I am one with the Force.

Out of her mind went the fear that the Emperor could return.  She locked away the horrors he had inflicted on her personally—couldn’t let that influence her emotions.

And the Force is with me.

She focused on the battle in front of her.  The fight with Revan.  The one with the allies at her side and the Light of the Force wrapped around her like a shield.

I am one with the Force.

She drew upon the strength that Master Orgus had given her on Rishi.  Remembered what it was to be a Knight of the Order, to protect those who could not defend themselves.

And the Force—

Warm fingers wrapped around her hand, pulling her back to the bumpy shuttle ride as it cruised across the Yavin IV skies.  She stood at the back, holding onto the handhold above her to keep her feet as she meditated.  Jakarro was piloting, with Lana sitting next to the Wookiee in the co-pilot’s seat.  The others in the large cabin checked their weapons, chatted to stave off the pre-battle nerves, or meditated.

Theron was standing next to her, holding her hand tightly, trying to look reassuring.  “Be careful out there.”

“Thank you, Theron.”  She nodded slightly, though it seemed as if that wasn’t quite what he had wanted to say.  And if she was being honest, ‘thank you’ wasn’t everything she had wanted to say either.   “For everything.”

“Hey.”  He moved in front of her—his height and broad shoulders blocking the view from the rest of the shuttle.  For not being in-tune with the Force, he was so very good at reading her.  “I know that he scares you—”

“I’m not scared.”  She had pushed fear somewhere outside of herself where it couldn’t interfere.  Fear was not going to drag her around.  Fear would not lead her to anger.  She couldn’t let that happen.

But Jas was a terrible liar.  And Theron knew it.  She wasn’t scared—not for herself—she was terrified for the entire galaxy.  If they failed here; if the Emperor returned—

I am one with the—

“I was trying to tell you something on Rishi, but I’m terrible at… this.  And you were in shock about what Marr said...”

Jas had barely realized he had started talking again until she felt his hands on her.  He cupped her cheek with one hand, his thumb just brushing against her lips.  She felt a warm flush all over, completely spiraling any sort of meditative process she had been in the midst of.  He had been talking about Rishi—on Rishi he said they made a good team, that he had never been a team player, but working with you has made all this madness worthwhile.

Oh.

He was so close now.  Somehow, he’d gotten in without even moving.  Maybe it was the hand now holding onto her side, pulling her in.  She had let go of the handhold and instead curled her fingers into his jacket.

She felt like she needed to apologize.  They had been flirting and standing inappropriately close to each other for months.  She had lost count of the times she’d nearly thrown her arms around him and shoved her tongue in his mouth.  And finally, he had made a move on Rishi and she hadn’t even noticed.  She’d been so wrapped up in the revelations of what Revan was trying to do, but perhaps that had been for the better.  She was a Jedi and her duty was to stop Darkness, to protect the galaxy.

Maybe there wasn’t going to be room for romance after all.

She could feel his breath against her skin and the steady beat of his pulse in his fingers still gently holding her face.

Was that all her destiny was?  To be the sword and shield?  To experience nothing except to be thrown into the oncoming storm and take blow after blow?  Was that truly the life that the Force had set for her?  What would be the cost if she wanted to make room for something more?  What would she have to trade?

…the Force is with me.

“Kiss me, Theron,”  she whispered as loud as she dared.

As soon as the words were out of her mouth, his lips came crashing into hers.  Theron, who knew how to keep his mind protected from Force users, had let his defenses down with her.  She could feel the emotion rolling off of him in waves: affection, hope, fear, and the protective need that she was intimately familiar with.  She knew he couldn’t feel what she felt—which was much the same—so she opened to him in other ways.  Their tongues pushed against each other as her hand traveled upwards to hold onto the back of his head, fingers curling into his short hair.

When they finally parted for air, Theron had a satisfied grin on his face.  “We need to win this battle so we can do that again.”

“Yeah, I’m putting that on the list of reasons, right next to stopping the world devourer from returning.”  She chuckled lightly and kissed him softly once more.

Theron wrapped his arms around her and squeezed her in close.  “I know you’re going to worry about everyone else out there, but let me watch your back.  You take care of Revan, and I’ll take care of you.”

They were getting close.  The air was alive with the energy of the Force and the imminent battle.  Theron and Jas took a small step away from each other, but she still held onto him as she closed her eyes.  The connections she had made to the people she loved weren’t a burden, weren’t a distraction.  They kept her tethered to life.  Reminded her why she fought so hard.

I am one with the Force.

Chapter Text

Coruscant

During the Eternal Empire's Blockade

 

“Another,” Theron said, shoving the glass back across the bar.

The Zabrak barkeep with a pair of cracked horns took the dirty glass, but didn’t refill or replace it. “I think you’re at your limit, bud.”

“What?” Theron asked, leaning over the bar with only a slight waver. “My credits aren’t good here anymore?”

“Actually, no, Shan. They aren’t.” The bartender leaned over the bar right back at him, far sturdier on his feet than Theron was at the moment. “Your tab’s about to hit four digits and I ain’t seen a payment from you in months.”

Theron fell back onto the stool, his head spinning slightly from the jerky movement. “Time’s are hard, Lou.”

“It’s Lao. And time’s are hard for everyone. You’re not special. Now get the kriff out of my bar and don’t come back unless it’s with the credits you owe.”

Theron scoffed and nearly slipped off his stool as he got to his feet. A pair of meaty hands grabbed him and shoved him towards the door, but he jerked away from them. “All right, I’m going. Had enough of the cheap whiskey you try to pass off as top shelf anyway.”

That comment got Lao shouting at his muscle to toss Theron out on his ass. Theron was belligerent as they shoved him out, loudly announcing to anyone who would listen what watered down swill this establishment was trying to pass off as high class liquor. In a last act of drunken defiance, Theron spit on the door as it shut behind him.

One foot in front of the other. Come on, Shan.

He made it halfway to his apartment—well, what used to be his apartment—before he remembered he’d been evicted. His suggested leave of absence had become permanent when he’d tried to storm the Senate chambers while Saresh made the case for invading Drumond Kaas when they were under siege from the Eternal Empire. (Never mind that Alderaan had been completely blockaded and Jedi numbers had become so thin, there weren’t even guards at the Temple.) It hadn’t been his first angry outburst, but it was his last as an agent of the SIS.

Malcom had reached out, offered him a position, a chance to get back into the fight. That’s not what Theron had wanted. They couldn’t waste time fighting the Empire when Zakuul was a much bigger threat. His father only had to call his drive to fight Zakuul a “revenge fantasy” one time before Theron walked out the door. He never looked back.

And now? The Core worlds barely had enough food and other precious resources. Supply convoys were picked off, resource-rich worlds had been conquered and blockaded. Even mercs and smugglers who lived for the thrill of running the toughest barriers had stopped defying Zakuul’s stranglehold.

As he passed another bar in the lower level on his way to the small room he rented by the week, he heard the static-filled announcement from a holo-projector coming from a rundown cantina. It was packed with several beings watching the proceedings. A senator Theron couldn’t quite place a name to was on screen giving some speech, but they looked sullen and defeated. Theron pushed his way through the crowd to get a better view of what was happening.

“The cease-fire is to begin immediately. Once disarmament has begun, the blockades will be lifted and trade will begin to be re-established…”

Theron couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Surely, this was some drunken fever dream. The Republic was surrendering to Zakuul? The Senate had overruled the Chancellor?

“COWARDS!” Theron screamed at the visage of the Senator still listing the terms of their surrender. A hush fell over the once rowdy cantina and all the faces turned to search out who had let out the angry yell.

“What? You think this is it?!” Theron threw his arms up, now yelling at the crowd around him. “You think this makes them stop?! Oh, sure, Zakuul will toss us a few scraps so we don’t starve, but the Republic just knocked out all our teeth!”

“Hey, man, they’re doing the best they can in a shitty situation.”

“Who said that?” Theron whipped around, a little too fast and it sent his head spinning again. “The best they can? The. Best. They. Can. We fought the fucking Sith when it should have been Arcann!”

“Dude. The Jedi murdered their Emperor—they have a right to be pissed.”

Theron lunged at the blur of the face that had spouted that horrible lie. He didn’t notice what species or gender the voice had come from, only that it had sullied the memory of his—his—his Jedi. She wasn’t capable of murder. If she had killed Zakuul’s Emperor, he had deserved it. It was self-defense, or for the greater good. And she had given her life for these ungrateful slobs.

Theron didn’t remember much of that fight. He got hit in the head too many times and then tossed out, again. Somehow, he had crawled into his rented room in the pre-dawn hours—bloody, bruised, and not nearly drunk enough.

As he slid down to the ground against the closed door, he felt strange and light-headed. Probably the concussion. There was a gentle wind against his face, starting at his forehead and tracing down his cheek, over the blossoming bruises and cuts. Which was strange since his room didn’t have a window and he was pretty sure the air circulator was busted.

“Did you do this to yourself?”

He had seen her before, in his dreams. A few times, just before waking up. He’d reach out to her, try to grab her as she called out to him, but she was gone before he could. Then, he’d be awake and try to force himself back to sleep—force the dream to return, but it never did. But he was awake, now. At least, he was pretty sure he was. It was possible he had passed out, but would his head still hurt this much if he was unconscious?

“You should see the other guys,” he croaked out through the knot in his throat.

Her hand reached over and again he felt that whisper of a breeze against his skin as she touched his face. She didn’t look solid, but not translucent like he thought a ghost should. She was there, but not. “I don’t want to,” she said, but her eyes had drifted away from him and she looked past him, like he wasn’t the one she was speaking to.

“Jas…” He dared to reach up and try to grab her hand as she continued to gently rub her fingers over his face. He breathed out hard when his fingers curled around solid flesh. “Are you alive?”

She looked back to him and her face fell, her eyes were scared and sad, her fingers stilled. “This isn’t living.”

“Jas…” he said her name again as a tear slipped free and rolled down his swollen cheek. “I miss you.”

His lost Jedi offered him smallest hint of a smile. Something that he recognized as her wanting to be reassuring, but she couldn’t quite summon up the lie. She was starting to disappear. Like thick smoke being blown away by a wind, she was dissipating. She leaned forward and there was another brush of wind, this time against his lips. And then it was gone. His hand hit his face where it had once been holding hers.

Theron was alone in the small, dirty room. He closed his eyes and tried to make himself go to sleep, tried to make the dream come back.

Chapter Text

The Carbonite Prison

 

The lightening crashed around her.  Rain fell in sheets, soaking her through her clothes.  Jas huddled behind a chunk of permacreet that had once been a part of the great buildings of the Coruscant skyline.  In addition to the rain, blaster fire pelted the rubble around her.  She deflected several bolts back at her attackers, but the Force felt slow and sluggish and none of her deflections hit their mark.

“Kira!”  she screamed into her comm.  “I need back—!”

The device flew out of her hand as a red bolt came flying at her.  It was now a smoldering piece of twisted metal on the wet ground.  No reinforcements were coming.

“It’s over, Jedi!”  A hooded figure was standing to the side of where she had been hiding, blaster pointed straight at her.  His voice was almost familiar, but distorted, like the air was too thick for sound to travel properly.  “You’ll answer for what you did!”

“What I…?”  Her face twisted in confusion behind the yellow blade sizzling in the downpour.  “What did I do?”

“This!  All of this!”  He gestured to the carnage around them.  The bombed out buildings of the once resplendent Capital, the bodies littering the rubble, and the screams still coming from all around them.  “You will pay for this, Jedi!”

He spat the word at her like it was some foul curse, as if her life’s work hadn’t been about helping and protecting people.  Whatever had happened here, she didn’t… she couldn’t…  Had it happened again?  Had she become his thrall?  Ventured out into the galaxy and carved a path of destruction?  Killed her friends?  Her heart twisted at the possibility.

“I don’t remember,”  she whispered to herself.  She didn’t have time to contemplate what had transpired.  A flurry of shots were fired her way and she dragged her saber through the air, deflecting as much as she could.  One cut across her shoulder, but she bit through the pain and advanced on her attacker.

He was relentless, and he wasn’t stopping.  She could feel the anger radiating from him, the hatred, the pain.  Except that it felt like everything else around her—like trudging through thick mud.  His emotions were heavy and intense, but not fluid in the Force the way she expected.

He kept screaming at her.  Screaming about the destruction she had wrought at the behest of her dark master.  Through the hail of blaster fire she tried to scream back, tried to convince him that it wasn’t her, she hadn’t been in control, but his anger was only feeding her own.  He would never listen.  No one would ever believe her.  Not again.  She was alone and scared and her arms were about to give out under the assault.

Jas pushed off ground as well as she could with her lead-filled legs.  Lightsaber gripped in her fingers, she cut a downward arc across his chest as she landed.  The blasters hit the ground with a wet plop and then his body crumpled into the rubble.

Around her, the rest of the fighting seemed to die down and even the rain had slowed.  The cloaked figure was still breathing in ragged, halting gasps.  She knelt down beside him and pushed his hood away to see who her accuser had been.

No!”  she gasped in a hoarse whisper.  “No no no no.”

Her fingers gripped into his clothing as she began searching him for some sort of medpack or a comm to call for help, but it was too late for that.  Tears had started falling down her face, mixing in with the rain.  Her breathing came in choked sobs as she cradled his head in her lap.

“No, please… Theron.  I’m sorry—I didn’t know…”  She couldn’t make sense of any of it, but she had killed him.  Nearly cut him in half.  For what?  How could he think—?  Her mind failed to comprehend how this had happened.

“Jas…”  he croaked out her name, his fingers twitching to grab at her, but he couldn’t move his arms. 

The twitching ceased.  His eyes lost the light.  His lungs let out their last breath. 

“Theron!”  she wailed into the void.  “I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry.  I loved you.”

Chapter Text

Odessen

The Day After the Cantina Scene/Reuniting

 

There was a skip in his step all through the day.  From the first morning briefing, through the checking the decryptions he had running, until the pre-lunch powwow with Lana.

“Will we be seeing the Commander today?”  Lana asked while flipping through reports.

“Maybe--she looked pretty exhausted after that party last night.”  Theron winced as soon as he realized the connotations of his words.  That was not what he meant.  (Not that it wasn’t true.)

Lana appeared to let the innuendo roll past without mention.  “She’s still recovering.  She needs all the rest we can spare to give her.”  She glanced up at Theron then and he understood that the innuendo hadn’t rolled past.

“I’ll see you after lunch.”

“Take your time,”  Lana said in that dry, flat voice she had mastered so well.  Theron couldn’t tell if she was being sarcastic or giving him permission to take a long lunch.

Either way, he was going to see her again.  He’d see her every damn day if he could help it.  It put the skip in his step and the whistle on his lips all the way up to her quarters.

He paused at the door.  Though he had spent the night in there, he wasn’t sure if he should ring first or just walk right back in.  “That’s pretty presumptive of you,”  he scolded himself as his fingers reached for the call button.

The doors parted and he was greeted by the beeping of the silver and yellow astromech.  Teeseven seemed to be agitated about where the Jedi had decided to spend the morning sitting.

“I’m sure it’s fine, Teeseven.  Can you go back down and check on the decryptions I have running?  Thanks.”

With the droid sent to another task, Theron moved further into the large quarters that had originally been reserved for another purpose, but had become hers after she refused to sleep in the room they’d set up for her near the command center.

“I can’t sleep here,”  she had said.  “I can’t see the sky.”

This set of spacious rooms sat on the top level of the tallest building of the new base.  It had large windows overlooking the landing pads on one side, and the great forests of Odessen on the other.  As he rounded a corner, he could feel the breeze inside the apartment.

She was perched in an open window.  Languidly lounging with her back against one side and her leg braced on the other.  She was staring out at the trees and mountains beyond, having hardly noticed his arrival.  He noticed what she was wearing though—the dark blue shorts with the SIS logo stitched on and a shirt where the shoulders were far too broad for her slight frame.

“Hey, beautiful,”  he said as he came up next to her.  “It’s a good look on you.”

Slowly, she turned her head and looked at him.  He could tell she had been some place far away and sad, but she blinked twice and then smiled at him, her cheeks blushing slightly.  “I… don’t really have anything.  Lana bought me a couple things when we were at Asylum, but…”

“There’s not anything on your ship?”  Well, Theron knew there was a whole five-year-old Jedi wardrobe on that ship.  He’d searched it quite thoroughly, had even found the sexy lingerie she had worn—

“Oh.”  Her face fell and she glanced down, and then back out the window, and then at her hands.  It seemed she wanted to look anywhere but at him.  “I couldn’t—it was so empty.”

Oh, he should have thought of that.  To walk onto the ship that had been her home and not see all of her friends lounging in their usual spots, it must have hit her hard.

“I’m really happy that you found it.”  She reached out and grabbed his hand—warm, despite the cool breeze flowing through the room.

He squeezed her hand.  She didn’t look happy.  “Come on, let’s have some lunch.”  He grabbed her other hand and pulled her off the windowsill and shut it behind her.

As soon as her bare feet were on the floor, she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him to her.  Her lips connected with his and relished in it.  His fingers snaked up underneath the over-sized shirt and dragged slowly across her skin.

“You don’t have to ring the bell,”  she said, her breath coming in hot little puffs against his lips.

“You can wear as much, or as little of my clothes as you want to.”  He grinned and kissed her again.

Chapter Text

Odessen

 

It was late.  The sort of late where even the bugs had decided to stop their songs and settle in for the night.  Jas had listened as the sounds tapered off, as the lights blinked out in the base below her window.  She sat, as she often did, perched in the open window, watching and listening as life carried on beneath her.

Perhaps it was her own way of trying to immerse herself in the Living part of the Force—breathing the fresh air, hearing the people as they worked, and the birds and other animals.  She was so terrified of engaging with the Force, afraid that it would open her further to her unwelcome guest.  She denied herself the solace of her lifelong companion.

She glanced back towards the door and asked Teeseven for the time.  0300 already—he was never out this late.  Her chest tightened at the fear that he had gone off-world on another errand.  No, no, he would have said something.  Unless he did and she missed it, lost in her thoughts, oblivious to what was happening.

Jas had seen Theron for dinner, briefly.  He had dropped off a covered plate from the mess and kissed her before leaving again.  There had barely been a word exchanged, but surely if he was leaving Odessen, he would have told her.

“Teeseven, is Theron on a mission?”  The droid would know; he was in sync with all of Odessen’s networks, including Theron’s private subsystems.

[Agent Shan’s location = Odessen, main control room]

Jas sighed and climbed down from the window sill.  When Teeseven asked if she wanted to open the comm to him, she shook her head as she closed the window.  “No, I’m going to get ready for bed.  Go ahead and recharge, little brother.”

Teeseven whistled and rolled away, leaving his Jedi to putter slowly around the room.  She found where she had discarded her pajamas on the floor, changed, and brushed her teeth.  There was a goopy kolto cream that the doctor ordered she massage on the lightsaber wound on her abdomen.  It had mostly healed, but the doctor insisted it would aid in reducing scarring.  She held her shirt up and stared at the jagged gash across her middle in the mirror.  Sometimes, she could still feel the red hot plasma churning through her insides.

She jerked her shirt back down and dropped the tube into the sink.  Scarring be damned.  She didn’t want to touch it, didn’t want to look at it.  Theron usually did it for her, or sent a medical droid up when he knew he wouldn’t be around.  What was so bloody important that it was almost morning and he still wasn’t home?

Home.  Is that what this was?  It didn’t feel like it.  A building full of strangers with expectations she could never reach.  A planet that left her feeling unsteady with none of the familiar smells or ribbons in the Force like her true home, deep in the Core.  Her friends, the people she had lived with and cared for—except for Teeseven—had vanished.  She didn’t know if she would ever see them again.

She crawled into the bed and sat in the center, dragging the blankets up around her.  Huddled in her cocoon, she stared at the door, waiting for him to return.  Sleep was dangerous.  There was no telling what sort of fresh hell Vitiate might decide to put her through while her mind tried to find rest.  At least if Theron was here, he could pull her out of the nightmares.

Her head hit her shoulder and she snapped awake again, this time to the sound of the doors sliding open.  She blinked her eyes furiously to shake off the sleep as he walked in.  As she pushed away the blankets and shuffled to the foot of the bed, she could see Theron was practically dead on his feet.  He didn’t even bother turning on the light and nearly tripped over a chair as he dragged himself towards the bed.  Like a hewn tree, he tipped and fell onto the mattress, bouncing slightly.

“You didn’t have to wait up for me,”  he mumbled into his pillow.

“I’m not.”

There was a small grin on his face, but it quickly faded, replaced by soft snoring noises.  Jas sighed as she looked him over.  He hadn’t even bothered to take off his boots or his blasters.  Poor thing was going to work himself to death.

She clambered over him and set to work pulling off his boots and socks, dumping them onto the floor.  Next, she prodded him to roll over, which he did with an annoyed grunt, and she undid the clasps on his gun belt, dropping that to the floor as well.  Getting his arms out of his jacket was a bit harder.  Theron was dead weight and no help at all.

“Make sure you hang it up,”  he muttered and she wondered just how asleep he could be.

Jas compromised and draped it over the back of a chair before crawling back into the bed next to him.  She managed to wedge the blanket out from under him and pull it over them, and snuggled in close to him.

She sighed quietly.  He was asleep again, even breaths going in and out.  He had always been a workaholic, had admitted it openly.  But this was too much, even for him.  “Why do you do this to yourself?  What’s so important to work yourself to exhaustion?”

“Because.”  He huffed out a slow breath, trilling his upper lip, still wrapped in the beginnings of sleep.  A small smile quirked his lips as he breathed again, a bit softer this time.  “I love you.”

Chapter Text

Odessen

 

Everything is a haze.  Food doesn't quite taste the same.  The air smells funny.  The stars are all in the wrong place.  It feels like in five years, the entire galaxy has tilted.  She wonders if it's the galaxy, or just her.  No one else seems to realize how wrong everything is.  They go about their lives when all she wants to do is scream and tear the world down around her.

Jas rarely leaves the quarters they've given her.  She waits impatiently for Theron—pacing the floor, staring out the windows, and fighting with the voice in her head.  Sometimes he brings her lunch, sometimes dinner.  Sometimes he crawls into bed in the early hours of the morning, apologizing.  But he's warm and he holds her close and finally she can feel safe enough to sleep.

Her hand hovers over the door control.  He told her if she wanted to see him, he's easy to find.  Teeseven gives her another inquisitive beep, asking if she needs assistance.

“Do you know where Theron is?”

[Agent Shan schedule = unavailable.  Open comm?]

“No.  I'm sure I can find him.”

The base isn't that large.  The list of places he is likely to be is short.  She could meditate.  Open herself up and find him in the Force.  She is intimately familiar with his energy.

It would be so easy.

Just accept it.

No.  Her teeth grit and she slams her hand onto the controls to open the door.

Jas, who had lived and loved the Force so completely, fears what it could bring now.  She fears what the spirit of Vitiate could inflict through her.  As long as she is withdrawn into herself, she believes she can keep his violence at bay.

There’s a room full of computer consoles and all manner of communications technology.  A Sullustan is in there working instead of Theron.  She asks her, “Do you need something, Commander?”  But Jas turns around and walks out without responding.

The command center is mostly empty.  Admiral Aygo offers a wave and then asks her if she wants to see recruitment numbers.  He finds them quite impressive.  Jas just grumbles and heads back to the lift.

Not out in the docks, or the marketplace.

Teeseven, who is quietly following behind her, suggests the cantina.

Jas has never really felt jealousy before.  Never at her peers if they bested her at something, never at Doc when one of his many ex-lovers would call.  It’s an emotion that’s foreign to her.  But as she stands in the doorway to the base’s cantina and sees the man that has become her whole world standing on the other side, laughing and joking with his friends, she realizes he had a whole other life she had missed.

He had made friends, held conversations and shared, created inside jokes, and had adventurous stories to tell.  All things that didn’t include her.

They are but a means to an end.  They seek to use you, but you are the one using them.  Remember that.

“No, no,”  Jas grinds out through clenched teeth as her fingers dig into her lekku.  His voice—that foul voice—again in her mind.  He’s feeding on her tumultuous emotions and self-doubt.

“Jasati, it’s wonderful to see you out tonight.”  She feels a warm hand on her shoulder along with the calm, soothing voice.  “Come, let’s get you something to eat.”

Senya pulls her off to the side, away from the boisterous crowd and the man that still hasn’t noticed her.  Jas lets her, doesn’t fight it.

“I used to make this for my children when they were young and had a bad day.”  Senya settles her into a seat at the far end of the bar and then goes behind it to make a drink.  “I picked some of these tea leaves up when we were in Asylum.  It’s wonderful with this honey cake that I taught our cook to make.”

Jas stares at the sweets and cup of hot tea in front of her.  Her mouth waters at the idea of something sweet and sticky on her teeth and washing it down with a nice, warm tea, but she doesn’t trust Senya.  The deception with the Scions she almost understood, and easily forgave.  But she was wife to the monster and had mothered his vicious children.  The children she is “destined” to kill.  Jas doesn’t believe for one hot second that Senya will ever allow that to happen if she can help it.

“Their father hated it.  Too sweet.”  She smiles, warm and comforting, as if understanding Jas’ hesitation.

That’s all the encouragement she needs to pick up the small fork and stab it into the cake.  The sugar gurgles in her mostly empty stomach and she washes it down with the hot tea.  Sweet and spicy—somehow, it stirs up a memory of autumn on Tython.  She sighs and inhales the scent deeply.  It’s quite pleasant and she almost smiles, but then there’s a loud laugh from across the cantina.  It’s one she knows like a favorite melody.

Theron slaps Koth on the back and they’re both pointing at Lana who’s shaking her head, but laughing along with them.

“There are times when I feel so close to them, it’s like we’re sharing our thoughts,”  Jas says suddenly.  There are tears in her eyes that haven’t yet spilled over and her throat feels raw despite the tea.  “And other times, I feel like a stranger in my own life.  Like I’m watching everything through a window.  I don’t know them, but I wish I did.”

Senya doesn’t say anything.  Perhaps she doesn’t know what to say, or perhaps she realizes that a kind word, a song, or a piece of cake and tea isn’t going to fix their broken leader.  Jas’ eyes continue to bore into Theron’s back and she barely notices as Senya glances back and forth between her and whom she’s staring at.

Jas wonders who on the base knows.  Lana knows, has known since Rishi probably.  Known before there was even something to know.  She wonders if Lana told Koth—they seem close.  She wonders if Theron is secretive when he comes into her quarters at night, if anyone sees him leave early in the morning.  He’s not one to draw attention to himself, and sleeping with the “leader” of their Alliance would definitely turn heads.

She feels it only just, the slight burst of energy like a whisper of a wind coming from Senya.  It travels across the cantina and nudges Theron on the shoulder.  He turns around as if he expects someone behind him, but sees her.  His smile somehow gets bigger than it already was.  He says something to the people around him.  Lana looks over and offers a smile and a nod; Koth waves and gestures for her to come join them, but Theron seems to shut that idea down and instead leaves them and begins walking towards her.

“Hey there,” he says with that familiar slight drop to his voice as he slides onto the stool next to her.

Jas realizes that Senya has vanished, though she thinks she can still feel her smirk in the air.

“I see Senya gave you her special tea and cake.”

“Have you had it before?”

“A few times.”  He pauses only a second, obviously knowing the story behind the cake.  “You okay?”

She wishes he would touch her, hold her, but she knows if he does it here in front of all these people—she doesn’t want to be vulnerable in front of them.  They haven’t earned the right to see her that way.  “I was just lonely, and hungry.”

“Come on.”  He gets to his feet and pulls her with him.  Her fingers tingle with the momentary touch and it’s gone far too quickly as he pulls away.  Instead, he walks behind her and leads her out the door before she can respond.  “I’ll cook you something a bit more substantial than cake and tea.”

They’re in the lift before her virtue overtakes her selfishness.  “You don’t have to leave your friends to take care of me.”  She ignores the fact that they are her friends as well.  “You were having fun and I shouldn’t take all of your free time.  It’s not fair.”

He crowds her into the corner of the lift.  He’s got one hand resting on her hip while the other cups her face, his thumb brushing across her cheek.  He leans in and kisses her, slow and gentle.  The hand on her hip squeezes and pulls her in close and she feels like she could melt against him.  His tongue prods against her lips and she opens to him, lets him do as he will.

Jas hopes they all saw him leave with her.  She wants them to know where he’s going, who he loves, who he belongs to.  She’s selfish and jealous—all the things the good Jedi she was shouldn’t be.  Maybe one day that person will return and reclaim what’s left of her courage, but for now, she presses in close to her sanctuary and hides from the galaxy.

He pauses just for a moment, his forehead resting against hers.

“You’re the one who makes me happy.  Not them.”

Chapter Text

Odessen

 

“Hmm… If I were a master spy, where would I hide a can opener?”

Jas had dug through all of the drawers and cabinets; searched every inch of space in the tiny area that made up the kitchen.  (And really, it was just a small counter and mini-food conservator with an equally small nanowave.)

“Teeseven, do you have a can opener?”

The droid rolled up to her and stuck out one of his multi-tools, but unless she wanted to stab the can until the contents poured out, it wasn’t going to work.  When he whistled, asking what she needed it for, Jas proudly plunked the canned food item onto the counter.

“It’s Aurebesh soup!  I haven’t had it since I was like eleven and they sent all the younglings into hiding during the Sacking.  That’s all we ate for four days.”

Teeseven rolled after her as she continued to search, beeps continuing.

“Yeah, I know they have hot food in the mess.  I just really want—what’s this?”

Jas fell back into the chair at the computer terminal with a small datastick in her hand.  It had been tucked behind a stack of datapads, perhaps forgotten, or just pushed out of the way.  She slid her finger across the top until the label started blinking, and then sighed.

“What’s this say?”  She held the stick out to the droid.  Figures he’d label things in Huttese.

[datastick = songs 4 H O T jasati]

Several snickers escaped as she rocked back and forth in the chair, turning over the small piece of metal and plastic in her hand.  “He made me a playlist?  Hot Jasati.”  More snickering.

[H O T = Hero of Tython]

“Riiiiight.  Come here and play it.”  Jas waggled the stick towards Teeseven until he rolled up and ejected the tray for her to put it in.

The first several songs she didn’t recognize and figured they must have been recorded while she was in carbonite.  They all followed a same theme though—loss, longing, love…  Sweet, and heartbreaking.  There were also some questionable choices such as a dance remix about cruising in speeders picking up fine Twi’leks.  And a pirate shanty she had remembered hearing drunken privateers sing all over Rishi.

There were a few others that she knew, such as a pop single from just before the first encounter with Arcann that played on Carrick Station what felt like every other song.  The last song in the mix was one without words, but one she knew well.  It was a Jedi meditation hymn played with a small drum, a lute, and wooden flute.  Though Jas had never been one to expressly enjoy meditation, she had a fondness for Jedi customs and traditions.

All of the songs, she could see herself in them. It made her feel warm and loved and… happy, if she dared.

“When did he make this?”

[First entry = 6 years 10 months 24 days]

She shook her head, trying to count back from today.  That was…  “He started making this playlist after the assault on Tython?”

Teeseven beeped, correcting her.

When Theron came back to their room that evening, Jas nearly jumped on top of him, enveloping him him a suffocating hug.

“Hello to you, too.”  He smirked and gave her a quick peck on the cheek.  “Oooh Aurebesh soup!  I haven’t had that in years.  Where’d you find it?”

“Back of the cabinet.  Couldn’t find a can opener.  I did find something else though.”  She grinned as he cocked an eyebrow at her.  “’Songs for hot Jasati.’”

“That’s Hero of Tython Jasati,”  he said, trying to stay cool as he corrected her, but she could see the color starting to fill his cheeks.

“Uh-huh.  Teeseven says you’ve been putting it together from before we even met.  All this time, I thought I was the one who was the lovestruck adolescent.”

There was a glint in his eye as he grinned, as if he was glad she had found it and he could share this story with her.  “You filled out a survey to get a free ice cream and it asked what your favorite song was, and you put that traditional Jedi instrumental on there.  I found it during my research before I recruited you for the mission to Korriban, and that’s when I started the playlist… I added more after—you know.”

“I think it’s very touching,”  she said and kissed him sweetly on the lips.

“Lovestruck, huh?”

Chapter Text

Odessen

 

“Take a walk with me.  Like we used to.”

She had pulled him out of a briefing.  A not-so-important briefing, but one he had been in charge of.  They all got the gist of what he was going on about anyway and didn’t need to be micromanaged.  Theron liked keeping busy--like working.  It kept his mind too occupied to dwell on other matters and problems he couldn’t solve.

Like hers.  He couldn’t fix her.  He couldn’t make her whole again. 

“Like on Rishi?”  She prodded him again, her fingers hooking into his belt and pulling him towards the hangar door.

“I got shat on on Rishi, if you recall.”

But he'd try.  He’d do anything to make her happy, to see her smile, to chase away the nightmares and the problems he couldn’t fix.

Theron followed her out of the base--through the clearing, into the trees, over rocks, and across streams.  She knew which paths to take and which to avoid.  She pointed out the slippery moss to be careful of and the berries that were safe to eat if he was hungry.  Theron hadn’t realized how much time she must of spent out in the wilderness.  He always wondered where she had gotten off to when she disappeared.  It seemed she had been busy becoming Odessen’s own nature scout.

“It’s quiet out here,” she answered his unasked question.

Jas crouched down on hands and knees to watch as a bug with six long, bendy legs carried a seed almost as big as its thorax across the narrow rut of dirt in between the trees.

“It takes just what it needs.  No more, no less.  It doesn’t understand greed or poverty.  It just goes about life existing.”

Theron didn't say anything.  It wasn’t like she had wanted a response, but was just commenting on the nature of such critters.  He understood the comparison, of course.  Not that he wanted to argue about the Alliance’s resource acquisition.  Before he could say anything, she was back on her feet and pulling him further into the forest.

“Watch your head,” she warned, and pulled him off to the side as they passed a clump of many-limbed trees surrounded by white and grey splotches on the ground.  “Didn’t bring any soap this time.”

Theron’s lips quirked slightly and he breathed out a small laugh.  Such a long ago memory, but still his hand instinctively came up and rubbed at his head as if her fingers were still there, massaging his scalp.  They followed a stream of water as it wound through trees and down stepped stones.  He was about to suggest they start heading back--he still had the Alliance to run--when she abruptly stopped.

One of her hands gripped around his wrist, holding him still, while the other came up and clamped over his mouth.  Theron raised an eyebrow at her and stuck his tongue out to lick her palm.  With a frown, she pulled her hand away and wiped it on his shirt.  She brought her finger to her lips, again urging him to be quiet.

Slowly, she crept forward, her fingers still tight around his wrist.  He had no choice but to follow.  They crouched down, barely making a sound, until Jas let go of him and pointed to the other side of the brook.

There, floating in the slow-moving stream was a strange looking creature.  It had spikes on its back, but it was floating with its belly upward.  Resting on its stomach were four tiny copies of the creature, all rolled up together.  Occasionally, the spikes would twitch and little claws would poke out from underneath.  Then they'd all quickly huddle back together.

“She gave birth three days ago.  They're already twice the size!”  Jas barely breathed out the words, so intent on staying silent.

Theron had turned his eyes away from the mother creature and her young and was looking at something far cuter, at least in his mind.  The way her eyes lit up with joy and her fingers curled together next to her cheeks as if she was trying to hold in all of her excitement.  Something so small and so normal had brought her such wonder and pleasure.

“You’re so adorable.  You know that, right?”

“Shh…” she hushed him with a gentle swat of her hand, but he could see the blush creeping up her cheeks.

He leaned towards her as best he could in the uncomfortable crouch and brushed his lips against her shoulder.  “Not as adorable as four baby river-otter-beaver-things--ow!”

She swatted at him again and sighed, but he could hear the giggle she was trying to hold back.  “I can’t take you anywhere.”

Chapter Text

Odessen

 

It was raining.  A light, misty sort of rain where it was just wet enough to be annoying, but not quite enough to warrant finding a rain poncho or an umbrella.  At the end of the ramp leading down and out of the base, towards the forests beyond, Theron found her sitting on a large, flat stone.  Her knees were pulled up to her chest and her arms were wrapped tightly around.  Her skin still bore healing scrapes and cuts from her rampage through the forest, and the self-inflicted scratches on her lekku from where she’d tried to rip the monster from her mind.

“Hey,”  he started quietly, approaching slowly.  “They told me you were out here.”

Jas’ head lolled to the side towards him, her eyes cut over to the Republic trooper that had been assigned to look after her, and then her head fell back against her arm.

Theron sighed and waved the trooper off.  It’s not as if he could really do much of anything should she decide to no longer tolerate his presence.  Theron crouched slightly so they were eye to eye, though she still wasn’t looking at him.  His hands braced on the rock on either side of her.  She looked so small and vulnerable all curled up into herself.  He sighed again.  He finally thought they had been making progress, but what had happened—what she had tried to do to herself… Theron never saw it coming; didn’t think she was capable of something like that.

“Lana told me about what Valkorion did to you.  Not all of it,”  he clarified quickly, not wanting to assume that he could possibly understand what sort of torment she had gone through.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t realize—you should have told me.”

There was a very small part of him that was very upset with her and it had started to bleed through.  He deserved to know the butcher of Ziost was still alive, in some form.  And especially if it was inside the person he was sharing a bed with.  “Is it like an always on thing?  Does he come and go?  Does he see what you see?  Can he read your thoughts?”

She tried to move away.  Wiggled her hips to try and turn around further away from him, but he was crowding her space on the rock, not letting her leave.  He had tried so hard to be patient with her and understand the difficult position she was in—how much hurt she had been through.  Though now he realized he had no idea the depths of her despair.

But he had the right to know about him.

They had been on Ziost together.  Seen what had happened and failed to stop it.  If that monster was still alive and causing havoc in the galaxy, he needed to be in the loop.  To find out that Vitiate was inside the mind of the one person he couldn’t bear to lose—Theron didn’t even know how to express that level of frustration and fear.

“It would have been nice to know we were having a threesome the whole time.”

A wave of energy hit his chest and Theron landed hard on his bottom.  The wet grass soaked uncomfortably through his trousers.  Yeah, he probably shouldn’t have released all that pent up resentment with sarcasm.  Not his best move.

“I am constantly resisting the temptation of his enormous power.  I am fighting his manipulative desires to kill his son and retake the throne.  The only thing I want is for this nightmare to end, and you—”  Finally, Jas looked at him.  Pain and contempt rolled together in her violet, tear-filled eyes.  “All you care about is if he’s seen you naked?”

Theron got to his feet and wiped his hands on his trousers.  He stood back from her, not approaching again.  They stared at each other for a quiet moment, but then her head laid back down on her arm and she looked away from him.

“It’s okay, Theron.  You can leave.”  There was a certain finality in the way she had said it.  She didn’t just mean leave her solitary gloom rock.

“Is that why you didn’t say anything?”

Her shoulders shrugged, shaking free droplets that had accumulated on her bare shoulders.  “How could you want me if he’s apart of me?”  Her voice was quiet, barely audible, as if any louder and she’d lose control of it.

What?”  Was all he could manage to say.  How could he not want her?  He had spent every ounce of energy in his bones searching for her once Lana and come to him with the truth.  He hadn’t had a drop of alcohol after he’d joined the hunt, determined to let nothing dull his thinking.  When they had discovered there was something wrong with the freezing process, that unfreezing her had the potential to kill her, he had drank himself stupid over fear of having come so far just to lose her again.

“You weren’t there when I woke up.  That Voss healing ritual that you insisted on—all of my dreams were about you!”

Theron hadn’t known what it had entailed.  Only that Sana-Rae said it involved digging through her memories to help her mind heal.  He had been angry at Lana for objecting to the ritual because something was wrong with Jas and just giving her space wasn’t making anything better.  Then, Lana had told him about Vitiate and Valkorion and how he had been here, on their base, in her head, the whole time.

Lana agreed to let Sana-Rae try her ritual, but Theron had to leave.  Even sedated, his high-strung emotions were upsetting Jas.  They needed her to be relaxed, and she wouldn’t be if he was there.

For a second, Theron wondered if it would be better for her if he just left.  She was a Jedi and they weren’t supposed to get involved in romantic entanglements.  Her emotions were intensely back and forth, up and down, and Theron wondered if removing himself would help her find some measure of peace.

“I didn’t tell Lana either, until she made me,”  she confessed when he didn’t respond, her voice still quiet.  She took a shuddering breath before she spoke again,  “I was just so afraid everyone was going to leave me if they knew the truth.”

“Oh, baby.”  He’d take the risk of getting Forcibly pushed back again and wrapped his arms around her.  Her knees and arms and head, all in their compact little package, crushed into his chest.  The terrible thought of leaving left his mind as quickly as it had come.  He knew that part of her melancholy was that Kira was still missing.  Theron couldn’t think about how she’d react if she lost him, or Lana.

“I’m not leaving,”  he told her firmly—swore it.  “You’d have to chase me away with a stick.  And even then, I’d probably just lie there and let you beat me up.”

There was a wet snort as she let out the unexpected laugh.

“I don’t care if a crazy old ghost sees me naked.”  He nuzzled her rain-dampened skin, pressing soft kisses along the top of her head.  “I do mind that he gets to see you naked all the time.”

Jas vibrated against him with another chuckle.

“Come on.”  He gently grabbed her wrists and unfolded her from her place on the rock, now slick with the steadily increasing rain.  “Let’s get inside and dried off before you catch a cold.  I don’t think you want to spend another night in the infirmary.”

Her head shook as she curled her arm around his waist and walked with him back up the ramp into the base.  “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.”

“It’s not your fault.”  They paused just outside the doorway and he pressed another kiss to her forehead.  “None of this is your fault.”

“I’m the one in control of how I respond.  I feel stronger now, but… it was like I was slipping away.  He was winning, and I didn’t know how to stop it.”

“I’m here, Jas,”  he said as he wrapped his arms around her and held her close.  “I’ll always be here.  We’ll find a way to get rid of him.  We’ll beat Arcann.  Then, we’re taking a very long vacation somewhere without any comms.”

She sighed softly against him and said quietly,  “I’m glad you can see it.”

Chapter Text

Blue fingers grazed across the cool, grey metal wall of the lift. It was strange that this ship, old and foreign, felt more like home than the Defender. The sleek Jedi ship had been her primary residence for years, but it held echoes of memory that were now too hard to process. It sat derelict and unused on Odessen.

“What do you think Koth has to show us?” Jas glanced over at Lana who was standing with her arms crossed over her chest, staring at the lift doors.

“It better be that the omnicannon is working again,” Lana answered, with her usual touch of annoyance.

“Not sure why he needed to see both of us then,” Jas grumbled and poked the control panel, wondering why the lift was moving so slowly. She liked Koth well enough. He was a good man, good soldier, pilot, mechanic, but loyal to a false god. In her head, she recited the Code whenever he started talking about what a great ruler Valkorion was and how amazing it was that he was still alive. When really she would have liked to drag Koth to Ziost and show him what his Emperor had wrought. Shown him the lifeless world. Then taken him to Korriban and put him through the trials of a Sith acolyte. The horrendous sort of training those who wished to serve Vitiate would put themselves through--the treachery between students, including murder, just to get ahead. She knew it wouldn’t matter, he would never be convinced his beloved monarch was a monster.

“I can try and talk to him again.”

The corner of Jas’ lips pulled back. Lana had always denied that anything romantic had happened between her and Koth, but she never talked about all that time they spent on their own while they were looking for the lost Jedi. And there was always that hint of a wistful smile and the microsecond of an emotional sigh before the walls around her feelings closed up. “Maybe I should talk--”

Her teasing words were cut short as the lift jerked. Something on the outside crunched and they moved upwards again, but just barely. As Lana and Jas turned to each other with matched looks of confusion, the lift suddenly dropped. The lights went out. There was a screech as metal tore against metal in the tube around them.

Rather than brace themselves or cover their heads, both women reached out their arms. Strands of the Force shot out from them and gripped the shaft of the lift. The metal box shuddered again, scraping against the track before finally lurching to a stop. A red emergency light came on and bathed the cabin in an ominous glow.

Jas took several deep breaths and looked up at Lana. “He’s breaking my ship worse.”

“Oh, is it your ship now?” Lana smirked. She was breathing heavily as well, muscles straining with the sudden burst of power.

“What can I say, I’ve gotten attached. You got it?”

Lana nodded and slowly Jas pulled the tendrils back to her and lowered her arms. The lift stayed put. When she looked at the control panel, it was dead. Pushing the buttons did nothing. No matter how many times she jabbed her finger in or flipped each switch, nothing happened.

“He knew we were on our way. And I’m sure there’s an alarm going off on the bridge right now. Relax, Commander.”

“I’m fine,” Just grumbled. She wasn’t sure when she started grumbling so much. “I just don’t like the idea of being stuck in this box. Shouldn’t the emergency comm have come on? Or the brakes?”

Lana didn’t have an answer, just stood quietly and let Jas fume for a moment. After fifteen minutes or so, they swapped places and Jas held the lift in place while Lana shook out her arms and sat down for a break.

“I never really said it,” Jas started, breaking the silence.

“Said what?”

“Thank you, for coming to get me. And for not leaving me behind once you realized how utterly useless I am.”

“Don’t be foolish.” There was a subtle snap to her voice, like she recognized that Jas needed to get something off her chest, but Lana still didn’t want to hear it. “We never would have made it off Zakuul without you.”

“And now? You wanted some great leader and--” Jas grunted and the lift shifted again as her focus drifted at she lost one of the strands holding them in place.

Lana was immediately on her feet again, arms outstretched. “That’s not true.”

Jas scoffed as sweat trickled down her brow. She was straining to hold the lift secure, even with Lana now assisting. It should have been a simple enough task, but she couldn’t keep her thoughts centered. “You built me a damn army, Lana.”

“I did, but that’s not what I went looking for. I had the smallest hope of a plan to strike back against Arcann, and we were a good team--the three of us.” It may have been pity in her eyes, or just the sadness of seeing the state her companion was in. Jas gritted her teeth as Lana continued. “I didn’t go looking for a great leader or a powerful Jedi. I went looking for my friend. She just happened to be both of those things when I knew her.”

Her jaw unclenched as she watched Lana. She wasn’t lying; she was kind and sincere. “And if I’m not those things anymore?”

“You’re still my friend.”

Jas took a deep, shuddering breath and nodded her head. Her wrist rolled slightly as if she were wrapping the rope holding up the lift into a better grip.

“Shouldn’t be much longer now. I can hold it up for awhile,” Lana offered.

“I can do it.”

It was a small task. One minuscule step forwards, but she took it.

Chapter Text

“What are you up to at this hour?” Theron asked as he strode through the empty hangar. It was nearly three in the morning. There had been an emergency meeting about immediate supplies needed on Alderaan. Jas hadn’t been there, but they were used to that now. Or at least, the Admiral and other advisers had stopped asking why. Now, everyone was crawling off to bed except for a few droids rolling about.

Jas glanced up from mess of parts in front of her and wiped a hand over her brow, leaving a streak of grease across her blue skin. “I finally opened that crate.”

As he got closer, he could see she was grinning slightly before she turned back to her task. Her brows scrunched together as she twisted a particularly ornery bolt off the chassis of the pulled-apart speeder. At least, he guessed that’s what it was. She looked at the part in her hand, tongue peeking out from her lips, lost in a thought. Theron chuckled at the sight and she glanced up at him. “You’ve got a little…” His hand waved slightly, trying to indicate her face was dirty, but when she rubbed it, she just made it worse and his snickering intensified.

“You’re not helpful.” She set the part aside and got to her feet. Her limbs popped as she stretched out and moved to the other side of her project.

“So this is what was boxed up from your flat on Coruscant?” he prompted since it seemed she wasn’t going to just offer up conversation while she was focused on this pile of parts.

“Yeah! I bought it on Tatooine--well, rented it. I had to get off world in a hurry and didn’t have time to return it. I sent the merchant a few thousand credits to cover the cost. I didn’t want him to think I was a thief.”

Theron’s eyes widened slightly at the story, not the idea that she had accidentally stolen a speeder--that was actually fairly common. “I think that merchant was probably okay with that.” He nodded slowly as he glanced over the sand-blasted and salt-eaten parts. It was probably worth a few hundred max--the five plus years ago that she had “stolen” it.

“Can’t wait to get her running again. Good old Kogacheeka.”

“I’m sorry. What?” If Theron had a drink, he would have spit it out. Instead, he settled for just staring at her. “Do--” His mouth hung open slightly, unable to even form the words.

Kogacheeka. That’s what the merchant told me her name is.” She frowned at him and shook her head. “It’s a silly name, I know. It means ‘going outside.’ Of course it goes outside. It’s a speeder.” Her shoulders shrugged and she crouched back down and started working at another bolt.

“That’s--”

Theron. Stop. Ask yourself: do you really want to be the one to tell her?

Someone’s gonna tell her.

She’s had this thing for like ten years and no one has told her. Do you really want to be the one?

I can’t let her go on like this. It’s hilarious. You can’t tell, but I’m trying really hard not to laugh right now. But it’s wrong. So wrong.

But she’s so cute right now, and you’re just--

“That’s not what it means.”

She glanced up, one brow arched quizzically. “Yes, it does.”

“Have you asked Teeseven?”

“Why would I need to ask Teeseven. The merchant told me what it meant.”

“And you trusted him?”

“Of course.”

Theron sighed. Oh boy. Of course, she trusted him. Be the only Jedi that saved those useful lie detecting skills for when it was appropriate. “Koonacheesa means ‘going outside.’ Kogacheeka means…. Something totally different.”

She stood back up and faced him. Her head cocked slightly, and then her frown deepened.

BAIL BAIL BAIL

Too late for that.

Theron quieted his bickering thoughts as she walked towards him. She was using those useful Jedi lie detecting skills now, wasn’t she? “What does it mean, Theron?”

He reached a hand behind his head to scratch it and chuckled nervously. “It’s really pretty funny. You’re gonna laugh.” He had no idea she could get one brow to arch that high. “It means bed… woman… you know…”

Man, that is an adorable shade of purple.

Her hands came up to her face and she turned to the side. Her shoulders were shaking and Theron bit his lip thinking he’d really done it now. Here she was, finally having a good night--a hobby that was actually getting her outside and using her hands--and he’d just ruined it.

Then there was a snort. And another.

Her head fell back and she howled with laughter. There were tears on her cheeks as she took the last two steps towards him and hit him in the shoulder. “Why did it take eight years for someone to tell me that! Oh, next time I see Kira… She laughed every time! And I thought, ‘oh hahaha, silly Twi’lek named her speeder ‘going outside’ like a child.’ And this whole time--” She hit him on the shoulder again.

“Ow!” Theron pulled back dramatically in mock hurt, but he had started laughing with her.

“I’m driving the damn slut speeder!”

Chapter Text

Jasati had meditated. Properly meditated. Not counting the time she’d spent with Satele Shan (still not entirely sold it wasn’t an apparition), it was the first time she’d done so with any success since before this whole mess had started. It was comforting, calming; honed her senses and opened her to the Force around her. She didn’t dare think her unwelcome guest was gone, but he continued to be suspiciously silent. His absence gave her the courage to reengage with the Force like the Jedi she claimed to still be.

“We’ll be arriving soon,” Theron said from the cockpit of the shuttle. “Are you sure you’re ready for this?”

Jas opened her eyes. Awareness of the shuttle, of Theron, of the planet around her, and their objective flooded back to her mind. It was a simple task, he told her. Just knocking over some facilities Zakuul had left scattered around Republic space. They’d get in, get a little recon and some combat practice, and be back to Odessen for dinner.

Her fingers flexed and rubbed against the thick fabric of her trousers as she slowly nodded. “Yes.”

As it turned out, Theron was right. Which once she said so, she wished she hadn’t. He repeated it several times. They dispatched the skytrooper guards quickly, used Theron’s stealth generator and slicing prowess to bypass most of the surveillance, and Jas knew enough about shrouding their presence in the Force to avoid alerting the Zakuulan Knights until they were nearly on them. All things considered, it was indeed fairly simple.

“See, I was right,” he said, yet again, as they secured the control room. All that was left was to download what data they could, plant the charges, and make it outside before the place blew. “Easy as—”

First, it was a stun grenade. The flashing light and piercing noise disoriented them both. Next, what felt like a squib battering ram slammed into Jas’ chest and threw her hard against the wall. The air had been knocked clear of her lungs and her head and lekku hit the wall hard enough to black out for several seconds.

If ever there were a time she thought Vitiate would return, it would be in those seconds that almost felt like death. Where she couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe—surely, he would show up as he so often did when it felt like her life in this mortal body was over. But he didn’t. Perhaps, this wasn’t the end. Or maybe he had finally decided she wasn’t worth it.

Her eyes blinked open and through the haze of smoke she caught sight of the last Knight pummeling Theron into the ground. From what little she could make out, the Knight’s helmet was cracked and his armor was thoroughly charred—Theron had held his own while he could, but now…

Her nails scraped against the durasteel floor as her she called upon the strength of the Force to help her to her feet. Saber back in her grip, she screamed as she leapt across the room. Her yellow blade clashed against against the blue blade of the Knight’s pike as he quickly moved to defend himself. With the aid of the Force, she kicked him backwards, away from Theron.

“That’s enough of that,” she snarled as her wrist twisted the saber in an unnecessary flourish. She stalked towards the Knight, like a predator moving in on a weak kill. Jas knew that she was stronger now than she had been. Whether it was Vitiate’s power, Odessen’s soothing balm, or just the half-decade of unspent energy ready to pop off—it didn’t really matter. The power was hers and she would use it to defend the people she cared about.

The slope was quite slippery.

Blades clashed again and again, but the Knight was already injured and weak. Not that it would have mattered. The Jedi, the Outlander, the Commander, whatever she was, she far outmatched almost anyone who tried to stand against her. It wasn’t until her saber had pierced clear through his armor and embedded in his chest that Jas could feel herself breathe again. As the Knight’s energy in the Force blinked out of existence, air filled her lungs and she could feel all of her muscles flexing and straining.

The blade deactivated; the body slumped down to the floor. She turned quickly towards where Theron was rustling on the ground, as if she had just remembered he was still there.

He was propped up on his arm, bloody and bruised, and staring at her. Confused or shocked, she wasn’t sure. Or maybe it was just the large bump forming on his head that had him in a daze.

She knelt next to him and gave him a quick once over for any major bleeding or broken bones. “Are you okay?”

“Me? Yeah, I’m good. Are you—?”

“Yes, I’m fine,” she said quickly. Jas took a slow breath, realizing that he must have seen. Realized that he hadn’t seen her fight, truly fight, since Ziost. When her movements were measured and precise, following the flow of each form that had been ingrained in her since she was a child. Her stance was somewhat different now—more aggressive, more raw power. It frightened her, too, but it was useful.

“No one will hurt you,” she said softly as her fingers ghosted across his bruised features. “Not so long as I’m breathing.”

“Yeah, I believe you.” He winced as she helped him to his feet. “Let’s get out of here before we’re blown into tiny chunks.”

Chapter Text

Cards slid across the table in the briefing room. Discards, draws, bets—back and forth like it was some Hutt-sponsored professional tournament and not a handful of friends. Though it was uncertain if they’d all still be friends after the game was over.

Lana had insisted on physical cards—she didn’t quite trust Gault’s sabacc program.

Gault had laughed and asked if she wanted to play in the briefing room, too, instead of the side room of the cantina. Lana agreed that was an excellent suggestion—quieter and less distractions.

Jas had gone all-in on the first hand, but apparently misunderstood the rules of the game and lost it all. Koth and Vette didn’t last very long either. Lana and Gault had most of the bars of Zakuul gold split between them while Theron was down to his last wager. (Somehow, Gault had talked the Alliance Commander into letting them play with some of the bounty they’d stolen. All in good fun, of course. He’d put it back when they were done. Promise.)

Koth was sitting next to Lana, glancing at her cards. Every time he tried to give advice, she shot him a death glare. It was a surprise he was still in one piece.

Theron’s annoyed frown was moulded onto his face. It wasn’t from having one Twi’lek sitting closer than would be appropriate for co-workers, it was the fact that there were two. Jas sat on his right side where she would lean in close and whisper (poor) advice in his ear. Her fingers danced across his knee, occasionally dragging higher up his thigh. It was incredibly distracting.

And then there was Vette. While Jas was at least quiet with her terrible tactics, Vette laughed out loud when he would draw a weak hand and slap him enthusiastically on the shoulder if he happened to win a round (which wasn’t often, thankfully[?]). None of his cards were secret and both Lana and Gault were picking him clean.

“Agent Shan looks pretty grumpy for a man with two beautiful ladies hanging off him.” Gault roared with laughter as he dealt the next round.

Theron’s frown deepened. One one side of him, Vette giggled obnoxiously loud, and on the other, Jas grinned and leaned forward, resting her chin in her hand.

“You think I’m pretty, Gault?”

“Most stunning military commander I’ve ever met!”

“You—I’m telling Hylo,” Theron said, pointing at Gault. Then, turned his attention towards the tipsy Jedi. “And you—I think you’ve had enough of Vaylin’s wine.”

“You know,” she started as she leaned back once more. “Theron used to be the fun one.”

“Hey, I’m still the fun one.”

But on the other side of the table, Lana was smirking from behind her pile of loot. Theron really thought her sabacc face would have been better, but she seemed completely enamored with the idea of beating Gault. He had to admit, it was the most relaxed he’d seen any of them in quite some time.

“I’m trying really hard not to blame you for this,” Theron grumbled to Jas as he picked up his cards and showed them to her.

“It’s my fault you keep picking up lousy cards?”

Yes.”

“Maybe I want you to lose so we can attend to other matters.” Her hand was on his thigh again, this time dangerously close to what constituted public groping. They were lucky Vette seemed oblivious to what was happening next to her because Theron was sure she wouldn’t be able to keep her mouth shut about it.

“What are you two whispering about over there?” Gault asked, eyebrow raised suspiciously.

“I’m all-in.” Theron shoved his last gold bar into the middle of the table.

“But we haven’t even shifted yet,” Lana protested.

Theron tossed his cards onto the table as he stood. “The Commander and I have some weapons manifests to look over.”

“Oooh, weapons!”

Theron placed a hand on Vette’s head, keeping her firmly planted in the seat. “Command staff only.”

“Should I join you then?” Lana asked. She wasn’t being serious. Theron knew that she knew and she couldn’t possibly—

“Sure!”

That was way too enthusiastic. “No more wine for you. Let’s go.”

Chapter Text

Zakuul

 

“This outfit is hideous.  And also a little offensive.  Jedi robes are supposed to be simple, and loose, and definitely not made of shimmersilk.”

Jas stood in front of the large mirror and lifted her arms out to the side, watching as the dark brown fabric draped around her.  Under the robe was a cream dress in the same silky fabric meant to mimic the traditional tunic.  It was tight—way too tight.  There was no way she’d be able to fight anyone should the need arise in something like this.  Not that she should be anticipating that.  The war was over.  It was hard to believe, but that’s what they kept telling her.

She grumbled again at her reflection.  Jas didn’t like it.  Didn’t like how squished into the dress she was or the way her thighs rubbed together when she walked.  She’d rather wear trousers.  Or anything else, really.  In fact, she’d rather just go back to Odessen and skip all of these celebrations entirely.

As she stared at her reflection, she made herself pick out one thing she liked to try and stem the negative thoughts.  She did like the bright yellow sash tied with a flourish at her waist.  It was completely impractical, but it was very pretty.  At least Indo had listened when she told him she liked the color yellow.

“At least you can turn your head from side to side,”  Theron said as he came up next to her and sighed at his own ridiculous reflection.

Indo Zal’s choice in men’s formal wear was a sleek black suit in the same fabric as Jas’ attire, but Theron’s shoulders were adorned in obnoxiously large golden epaulets.  They went up and out in hard angles that also had frilly tassels hanging off of it.  It was obscene and Jas would have laughed at him if she wasn’t already so distressed.

“I hate Zakuul.”  Jas said quietly, even though all of the attendants had already been chased out of the room.  Even now, with the Emperor finally out of her head, the entire planet still made her skin crawl.  She hated the sounds and the smells.  She tried so hard not to hate the people—they weren’t to blame for what their twisted leaders had done—but she couldn’t help it.  Even their allies she could barely tolerate.

Theron didn’t say anything.  Didn’t jokingly scold her about hate leading to suffering.  He simply placed a gentle hand on her back and tried to lean in to kiss the top of her head, but his shoulder pads got in the way.

“I could kill someone with these things.”

“If you accidentally run into Indo, I won’t tell.”

“Don’t tempt me.”  He chuckled and tried to make it a joke, but she could tell he had noticed the darkness in the way that she had said it.

Jas closed her eyes and inhaled deeply.  One evening.  She could do one evening of pretend.  “If I help you take those off, will you hide this tent of a robe for me?”

“Deal.”

There were several tiny snaps and buttons.  On one, Jas had to use her teeth to separate the threads.  When they were gone, there were just a few errant strings that were easily plucked or smoothed away.  A marked improvement on his look that finally made her smile.  He looked good, and they were together here at the end of it all.  They made it past the finish line, both mostly in tact.  That was something worth celebrating.

Theron returned the grin and fulfilled his part of the agreement, removing the robe from her shoulders and rolling it into a ball before stuffing it behind one of the ornate chairs in the room.

“Too bad you didn’t take that position of Empress.  You could have decreed better style.”  He came back to her and placed his hands against her neck, his thumbs gently rubbing against her jaw.  Theron leaned in and pressed his lips to hers--a kiss that was slow in intensity, but held the promise of so much more.  She savored it, and this moment they had alone, because she knew it wasn’t going to last.

“You’ll still be my consort,”  she said, grinning at him.  “You always wanted a codename.”

“Not exactly what I had in mind.  It can be a super secret codename that only two people--”

“We should tell Lana.  She needs to know.”

Jas swallowed her teasing words with a giggle as Theron’s lips were on hers again.  More aggressive this time, delivering on the earlier promise.  Her fingers grabbed onto his silky shirt as his lips moved across her jaw and down her throat.

“Commander--Master Jasati--”  Indo Zal cleared his throat again as they obviously hadn’t heard him the first time.  Or heard him addressing the Jedi.  “We’re ready to announce you.”

“Yes, of course.  We’ll be right there.”  Jas hoped she hid her wince well enough as she pulled away from Theron and brushed her thumb across his lips.  She reached over to smooth out his collar and pulled his jacket back into place.  With a sly smile and a quick wink, her own promise of seeing those fancy clothes disheveled again later, she slipped her arm into his.

“Indo,”  she addressed the slight man as she passed him,  “make sure you announce Agent Shan as my consort.”

Chapter Text

Zakuul

 

Jas yawned and stretched out her limbs, pushing against the dead weight sleeping next to her.  She chuckled as he continued to snore lightly.  The spy, who was usually awake at the sound of a bird outside the window, had slept soundly through the night.  They had the long celebration with an extravagant amount of food and drink (as well as the late night calisthenics) to thank for that.

And Jas had not dreamt.  There were no whispers to her subconscious, no horrid memories which she couldn’t tell if they were hers or ones her former parasite had implanted.  It had been blissful nothingness.  Finally, after all this time, rest.

She ran her hand up his arm, squeezing toned muscle.  Still, he didn’t move.  Her knee hitched over his rump as he lay on his stomach and she moved closer into his space.  Her lips moved across his shoulder, peppering his skin with light kisses.  Still, his breathing was even, his eyes closed.

Jas frowned.

Her tongue traced a wet trail along the back of his neck, her nose tickling the the short hairs.  Her leg swung all the way over and she straddled his lower back, slowly kissing her way down his spine.  She dragged her fingernails lightly over his ribs and down his sides—not ticklish in the slightest.  With a sigh, she pushed her hands back up the long plane of his back and laid on top of him.

“Theron,”  she said, her face squished up next to his.  “Theron.  Theron.  Theron.”

“I liked what you were doing earlier better.  Now, you’re just kind of annoying.”

She grinned and nipped at his ear until he pushed her off.  She bounced slightly on the large, comfortable mattress and laughed as he pulled her in close.  This time, his face hovered over hers.  “I was looking forward to having a nice, long rest.  I think I earned it.”

“You did.”  Her fingers traced across his features and dragged against the scruff on his face.  “Representatives from the Alliance and Zakuul are meeting to start drafting their new Constitution.  I have to go.”

“That’s an adorable pout,”  he said before pushing his lips against hers.

She returned the kiss, but just a peck.  “Don’t you want to go?  I hear the person who won ‘Zakuul’s Next Top Chef’ is catering lunch.”

Theron sighed, his head dropping down to her shoulder.  “Hmm… boring politicians and some over-the-top celebrity chef’s food or staying here and… also food because there’s room service.  The question is: do you want to go?”

“No, but I have to.”  The days of completely pushing off any responsibility were long over.  Sometimes, she was ashamed of that person that she was.  The disconnect she had from her surroundings, the self-loathing, the roller coaster of troubling emotions.  She had disregarded so much of her upbringing, her moral compass, her good sense in those months since her awakening.  It wasn’t entirely her fault, but she had let the monster walk all over her.  Nearly let him puppet her.  She had so much to make up for now.  But she was unsure if she could do it alone—she knew she didn’t want to.  “Please?”

“Well, since you asked nicely.”  He grinned and moved in to kiss her again, but she put a hand up and pushed him back.

“You need to get cleaned up.  Can I shave you?”  she asked after a thoughtful moment.

“Uh, what?”

“Zakuul is odd.  They’re so advanced, yet they still use primitive instruments for some things.”  She was still thoughtfully dragging her fingers across his face, studying the contours and edges.  Getting up under his nose might be tricky.  “Don’t you trust me?”

“Of course I do, but…”

You’re the one that said I was good at everything.”  A wicked sort of grin spread across her face.  She dragged him out of the bed and set him in a chair and found all the various implements such an endeavor required.

“Just relax,”  she cooed at him.  She wrapped his face in a warm towel and then set to work mixing the shaving soap into a soapy froth.  His hands were clenching and unclenching against his knees and she couldn’t help the small giggle at his nervousness.  Sitting on his knee, she unwrapped the towel from his face and draped it over her shoulder.  Slowly, she spread the foaming soap across his cheeks and jaw and down his throat.

“Where’d you learn to do this?”

“I’ve read about it.”

“So never actually done it before?”

“No.”  She could hear him swallow and that devious little smirk returned to her face.  Oh, this would be all sorts of fun—for her.

“Wait right here,” she told him and left his lap to fetch the blade.  When she settled back on his knee, his fingers gripped onto her thigh inside the robe she hadn’t bothered to tie shut.  “Have you ever done it this way before?”

“No.  Just a vibro-razer.  You know, a civilized shave.”

“Zakuul would disagree with you on that,”  she said as she dragged the first stroke down his right cheek.

“We disagree on a lot of things.”  He was so tense.  She almost felt bad dragging him from his relaxed slumber to torture him like this—almost.

Jas hummed softly as she moved the blade across his face.  Every movement careful and measured.  She switched knees and wiped the blade as she eyed her next move.  “What do you think of a mustache?”

“No, thank you.”

“Sideburns?”

“I’d look pretty silly since you already shaved off one side.”

“What about growing it out?  Ever thought of that?”

“You just—”

She laughed and dipped her head slightly to kiss his shoulder, not wanting to get the soap on herself.  Left cheek finished, she pushed his chin up and then pressed the sharpened blade to his throat.

“With the grain.  With the grain,”  he reiterated quickly.

She readjusted in his lap, her knees on either side of him, pressed in dangerously close.  He’d best not move suddenly.  The first stroke went down his throat.  Wipe.

“Do you ever wish you had hair?”  he asked.

Her focus didn’t waver as she replaced the blade against his throat and began a second stroke.  “No.  You have to cut it, and style it, and wash it, and you can get fleas.”

“People don’t usually get fleas.”

Her shoulders shrugged as she wiped the blade on the towel again.  “I have yours if I want to enjoy hair.”

He laughed—she hadn’t meant to make him laugh, didn't’ expect it either.  He hissed in pain and she quickly pressed the towel against his skin.  “Sorry,”  he apologized.  Then looked confused, as if wondering why he was the one that had apologized.

“Maybe we should stop talking until I’m done.”

Theron nodded and let her finish his throat and chin and jaw without commentary.  She brushed a bit more soap on the skin below his nose and stared at it quite intently.  Eventually, she moved.  Her hips wiggled in closer, drawing a low grunt from him.  Jas pretended not to notice, even though the thought of continuing to grind down on him was rather enticing.  Her arm lifted, her elbow high in the air as she made the last few short, careful strokes against the top of his lip.

Leaning forward, she placed the blade on the table behind him and exchanged the towel on her shoulder for a fresh one.  Realizing she was no longer going to be holding the deadly instrument to his throat, Theron took the opportunity to slip his hands inside the thin robe and drag his fingers against her skin.  Jas pushed the fresh towel across his smooth skin, wiping away any extra soap or cut hairs.  Her fingers rubbed across his jaw, finally smiling in satisfaction at the work she’d done.

She leaned in and pressed her lips to his.  It was bit odd, the lack of the scratch of his stubble against her skin, and she couldn’t decide which she liked better.  Both were fine, she decided, if they were attached to him.  His arms curled around her and squeezed her into him, his tongue probing inside of her mouth until they were both nearly out of breath.

“You sure you have to go to this constitutional crap?”

“Yes, we do.”

Chapter Text

Odessen

 

Theron felt a little silly suggesting it.  Before she had finally embraced the mantle of leadership, Jas had been Odessen’s own amateur cartographer.  She’d disappear into the forests and mountains and come back with mapped out sections of the terrain and images of local wildlife.  At first, he thought it was her way of working through all that had happened, and in a way, it had been.  But Jas had told him she needed to be away from the base when the monster in her head invaded her thoughts.  She didn’t trust him, or herself, around others.

Now that Vitiate had finally been expelled, and hopefully dead for good this time, Jas ventured less and less out into the wilds.  Her days were consumed with the management of Zakuul’s new democracy, of ensuring those who had been devastated by Arcann’s and Vaylin’s reigns were taken care of, and if her own Alliance happened to need her, she was there for them as well.

Vitiate’s defeat had given her life, energy, and hope.  Theron knew it had been hard, knew she had suffered, but to see her on the other side—it was like the first spring dawn after an endless winter.  Now, she needed a break because everyone else saw it, too, and were making up for lost time vying for her attention.

“I have something I want to show you,” he said as he pulled her out towards the shuttle.

“Theron, we’re in the middle of—”

“Uh-uh.”  He shook his head and all but pushed her up the ramp of a small shuttle.  “You’ve pulled me out of more briefings and tasks than I can count.  I think you owe me one, or a hundred.”

She smiled and nodded, sufficiently scolded into tagging along on this little outing.  “Okay, where are we going?”

“I found this waterfall.”  Theron grinned at her as they settled into the cockpit and he piloted the craft into the sky.

“The one by Kira’s Corner?  Doc’s Hovel?  Hylo Hills?  The one that flows into the River Senya?”

Theron shook his head at every place she listed off.  As she had mapped most of the locations on Odessen, she took the opportunity to name everything.  Most were named after people.  He had politely asked her to choose something else for the large rock formation she’d started calling “Theron’s Butte.”

“No, I don’t think you’ve seen it, yet.  It was near where we were planning to put the new comm relay.”

It was a quick zip through the clouds to get to the place Theron had found.  They landed on a plateau wide enough for the shuttle and trekked the rest of the way upwards on foot.

“Oh, this is beautiful!” she said with a gasp.  The way her whole face lit up as she looked over the edge and took in the massive torrent of water told Theron she really hadn’t been here before. “You’re not still putting that relay here, are you?”

“No, we found a better location further east that needed less demo.”  He mirrored her happy smile.  He took quite a bit of pride in that he’d found something before her and that he could bask in this new wonder with her.

“Look at the rainbows!”  She was practically squealing as she pointed out how the mist shooting out into the air hit the sun and formed a channel of rainbows all the way down the waterfall.

“Yeah, I thought you might like—what are you doing!”  Theron stared horrified as she had started stripping off her clothing and leaving it in a pile in the dirt.

“I’m going to jump!”

WHAT!”  He quickly moved over towards her to try and stop this absolutely ridiculous idea.  “That’s a really bad idea.  What if it’s shallow?  We’re really, really high up.”

“It’s fine!”  She still had that look of absolute glee on her face at the prospect of leaping off the cliff.  Theron decided he was an idiot for bringing her out here.  Suddenly this was a terrible plan.

“Look,” she said as she pointed down towards the water below.  “There are several giant fish in that pool.  To support something of that size, that pool has to be several hundred meters deep.  It’s fine!”

That did not make him feel better.  And really, how could she see—oh, the Force.  “Giant fish?  Giant Twi’lek and human-eating fish?”

Her shoulders shrugged, the smile never leaving her lips.  “I’ll take my lightsaber.”

She kissed him.  Full-on, tongue in his mouth, hand in his hair, her almost-nude body pressed against him—like a reminder that she was alive, and hopefully not a last kiss to remember her by.  “Come on, Theron.  Live a little.”

Lightsaber in hand, she winked at him before she swan-dived off the edge.  A mix between a scream and a giggle followed her down with the plunge of the water.

“Live a little?” he grumbled as he quickly shucked off his jacket, boots, and trousers.  Not that they hadn’t been facing death, or worse, almost daily for over a year already.  With a quick prayer that he didn’t get eaten by a giant Odessen fish, Theron leapt over the edge and followed her down.

Story of his fucking life.

Chapter Text

Odessen

 

“Lift your arm up.  Higher.”

Theron leaned in the doorway and watched as Jasati tucked a training saber under her arm and bent slightly to adjust the seven-or-eight-year-old’s form to more correctly hold their own weapon.  Once finished, she took a few steps back and lifted her saber again and pulled her class--a mix of ages, species, and ability--through the forms.  In unison they blocked, stepped, and made a downward slice.

She was the leader of the most powerful faction in the galaxy--hell, she could have been its Empress--and this was her favorite responsibility.  She didn’t have to do it, but she wanted to.  Theron knew it was something that suited her far more than the other titles she held.  Despite the fracturing of her Order, she would always be that Jedi yearning for knowledge and desperate to share it.  It brought her joy in a way that they had almost forgotten about, and seeing that on her face again was what brought Theron joy.

“Very good!  Put your sabers away and we’ll do our last exercise.”

Several of the younger children started squealing and rushed to put away their tools and then back to their places on the mat.  Teeseven, who was still never far away from his Jedi, turned on the music.  It was a simple song, one with a quetarra, drums, and a man’s smooth vocals in an Outer Rim dialect.  It was a song Theron had heard before, but not since he was also a child, and in a very similar setting.  Though he shouldn’t have been, he was surprised to hear her play it and to watch the sway of her hips as she lead the class through the movements.

A few of the teens and adults moved awkwardly, while others really got into the fluidity of the motions.  The children, for the most part, swayed around and mimicked the moves in a delayed fashion with a lot of smiles and giggles.  After a few minutes, the song cut off and the class reformed into neat lines.

Jas inclined her head at her class and said with a smile, “May the Force be with you.”

Her class responded, the children most emphatically, “May the Force be with you, Master Jasati!”

Theron moved further into the room so that they could file through the door past him.  A few of the older students nodded at him.  One young woman in particular offered him a shy wave which he had no idea how to respond to so he just gave her a stiff, uncomfortable smile.  The children were the last out, as they had all gathered around their teacher to hug onto her legs and get their high-fives.

It was endearing and sweet, and completely not the way he had remembered youngling saber form lessons.

“Heeey.”  He offered a few awkward high-fives to kids as they passed.  Adorable little snot machines.  He wiped his hand on his trousers once they had all left.

“Theron.”  She smiled as he walked up to her.  “Come for a bit of a refresher?”

“No, I think I’ll leave all the fancy sword fighting to you.”  He smiled back at her and glanced around the room, double checking that they had some privacy.  “Hey, Teeseven, play Master Travin’s ‘combat-is-a-dance’ song again.”

Jas laughed lightly as he took her hands and pulled them up over his shoulders.  His hands slid down to her waist and pulled her in close.

“You’re going to ruin this song for me, Theron,” she scolded him softly.  “I’ll think about you instead of how to transition forms.”

“That’s the point.”  He pulled her with him, careful not to step on her bare feet.  Each step and turn scraped off some of the rust in his memory.  He nipped gently at her lips as he turned the simple folk song used to reiterate saber forms as art into something more sensual.  With their cheeks pressed together, he asked her, “Why do you teach them all?  Some will never use the Force the way you do.”

“No one will ever use the Force the way I do.  Each person’s approach is unique.”

“Don’t be philosophical with me,” he said, dismissing her canned Jedi response.  Though he didn’t really think it canned; she didn’t recite any of the dogmatic teachings unless she truly believed them.  She didn’t teach rejecting emotion or attachments, but to be mindful that those things didn’t override one’s good sense.  “Some of them will end up disappointed.”

She pulled back slightly and smiled at him--a warm, understanding smile that made him scowl slightly and look away.  Yeah, he agreed, that was a projection.

“Master Aqilah and I talk with all of the acolytes.  We meditate with them and discuss how we view their openness to the Force.  Even the younglings are told that the Force is a journey not all can walk.”  She touched his face and he looked back at her, still smiling.  “Some of them just think it’s fun.  They can brag to their friends that they learned how to properly swing a lightsaber.”

“I think I can hear centuries of Jedi Masters rolling over in their graves.”

“Probably.”  She chuckled.  Her hips moved against his with the tempo change in the song and she give him a wink as she brushed against the evidence that he was enjoying her close company.

There was a groan in his throat that never quite made it out and he held his breath as she planted her foot between his legs and swung down in crescent motion.  Her head back, the long column of her throat exposed--Theron nearly dropped her down to the mat to bury himself in all that delicious skin.  But she came back up, a cheeky grin on her face as she pulled her bottom lip between her teeth.  Her arm curled around his shoulder and she moved again, leading him through the following steps.

“Good at dancing, too, huh?”

“You’re not so bad yourself,” she responded with a wink.

“Never know when you might need to infiltrate a fancy dinner party.”  Every turn or twist she made, he pulled her back in close and tried to guide the movements of their feet across the mats, but she frustrated his efforts and kept on with her saucy smiles.

“Take the lead anytime you want, Shan.”

Her back was on the mat.  His lips were on her throat.  His hands bunched inside the strips of cloth that made up her clothing.  He took it all.