When Zeb’s feet touch the ground of the spaceport on Coruscant; it feels like Endor all over again.
That overpowering feeling of happiness and power that feels like a warm electric shock passing through his body. The pure and staggering excitement of victory.
Zeb knows he is probably the first lasat to walk on this planet since the Jedi Master Jaro Tapal. The first one since the massacre of Lasan. Only thing that could make this moment more perfect would have been to step on the Emperor’s face himself.
“Zeb?” Kallus asks as he turns toward him.
He had seemed to be more nervous than anyone to come here. Coruscant is free now and the New Republic is slowly getting everything up and running. There are still a lot of Empire’s loyalists giving them trouble, but it is mostly safe.
Zeb grins more watching his fiance. Being able to walk to the centre of the fallen imperial power with that magnificent human is the best part of this little shore leave.
“We have a full day before the frigate departs. No need to be so stressed.” Zeb comments as he moves to Kallus' side.
“Well, if you want me to show you around, we should get started. There's some places it's better not to be at night time.” Alexsandr commented. “We could have some more time if you stop insisting that we go back on the ship for that mysterious mission of yours. Instead of getting our own transport.”
Zeb chuckles. “We are going and you will need to trust me on this one.”
Kallus sighs a bit more dramatically than necessary. “So be it…. Then come, let’s begin.”
Garazeb snorts and follows his lover. He knows that all the secrecy is driving Kallus crazy, but it is for the best. He had been working on this surprise for a while now. Even before the event on Endor. And keeping that kind of secret from one of the best intelligence officers in the whole rebellion is not a small task.
But it would be worth it.
At least Zeb hopes so. He still worries that it might be too much for Alexsandr. He reaches to take Kallus’ hand in his.
Kallus looks at him. “Just a heads up, it is really not a holiday resort.”
“I don’t want tourist traps. Just wish to visit places that are important to you.” He assures him and squeezes his hand.
Kallus seems to be shy about all this. So he begins their tour with easy spots: a park near the Imperial Academy or a panoramic view point that has an impressive sight of the Galactic City. The sun is hitting the balcony and Zeb’s attention is soon attracted by Kallus' face.
He loves how his freckles come out under that kind of lighting. He wants to kiss each and every single one of them, but being in public he settles for a few pecks on his cheek.
Kallus presses against his side and smiles softly. “You know…. Because the sun doesn’t really reach the level I live on, I didn’t realize I had freckles until my first day outside at the academy. There were so many that I actually believe I have a skin condition or an allergic reaction to something.”
Alexsandr sends him a glare. “It is not funny. You should have seen the tired look of the academy nurse when I went to go to see her. I thought for sure they would expel me for incompetence.”
“Sorry dear, but that pretty hilarious.” The lasat chuckles.
“You better stop being mean, or I won't bring you to the best place for space waffles.” Kallus threatens to pinch his side.
“You wouldn’t do this to me. You’re not that cruel.” Zeb pleads.
Kallus only shakes his head but there's a little smile on his lips. He takes Garazeb’s hand in his before they make their way to one of the elevators. “Don’t test me dear.”
As it slowly goes down, Zeb notices how tense Kallus' shoulders become at each level they pass, as though each of them are bringing some sort of shame. He knows how the Empire was good at making people not of the elite feel bad about their humble origins.
“My heart…” Zeb mutters and gently, tilting his chin up “You know no matter what I will see, it won’t make me change my opinion on you. I mean, you chased us for years and swore to kill me. And look at us now.”
“Garazeb…” The human groans and glances away. Clearly the words were just making it worse.
“What I say … is that I love you and nothing in your past, present or future would diminish how I feel.” He explains and pushes a strand of his blond hair back.
“Future? That really a bold assumption that I won’t get on your nerves at some point.” Kallus says, trying to joke but failing.
“You are getting on my nerves on a weekly basis and it only makes me love you more.” Zeb says and brings him against his chest to hold him close.
The human hides his face in his neck until the turbolift stopped. When he finally steps back he is back to his normal self.
“Thank you love.” He whispers and presses a tender kiss on his lips.
He grabs Zeb's hand and pulls him out of the elevator. The lasat has to blink a few times to let his eyes adjust to the sudden change of lighting. He is impressed at how much activity is down here compared to the surface. It is a bit overwhelming.
“Welcome to my home level.” Kallus says as they move into the crowd.
No one seems to give a second glance to them as Alexsandr guides him through the same market and alley. This is when the real tour begins. Kallus holds his promise to bring him to a small dinner. On the way there, Kallus tells him about different places: the junkyard he goes to pick stuff up to repair and sell with his sister, their old apartment building, the cantina where he learnt to play dejarik and had his first drink. Zeb is not sure he ever heard Kallus talk that much outside of a mission debriefing.
It is refreshing.
And Kallus hasn’t lied about the space waffles, Zeb had never tasted anything like those before, and he probably ate way too much. And didn’t regret a second of it.
“So are you up for some climbing?” Kallus questions after the walk out of the diner.
“Climbing?” Zeb repeats confused. “Where?”
There is not much around for that.
Kallus just smirks and motions to him to follow him. They walk down a series of narrow alleys that seem to get deeper into the level until they reach what looks like a security maintenance gate. Alexsandr managed to open it without too much of a problem and steps inside.
“Are you sure it is safe?” Zeb asks, crouching a bit not to hit his head.
“Not at all and it's totally illegal.” Kallus answers and offers him a cheeky grin. “I have been doing this all my life.”
“I know you always have the spirit of a rebel.” Zeb laughs and follows him through a labyrinth of metallic corridors, ladders and maintenance elevators. The place seems pretty clean and well used. Clearly a lot of people utilize those.
“So where are we?” Zeb asks as they take a small break after the last ladder that felt like they escalated two levels up. He thanked the Ashla that lasat are made to climb.
“Those are the service shafts that had been used to build each level. Most have been closed and forgotten. But people have used them for years to move from level to level without having any bad encounters with security.” Kallus explains. “Don’t worry we're nearly there.”
“And where is 'there'?” The ex-honour guard asks.
“You will see.” Kallus teases him.
Someone is apparently still sore about the secret travel plans Zeb had.
They continue for another half hour. Zeb’s ears begin to pick some sound of water. Really Loud.
“Are we under one of the main treatment plants?” He says getting a bit nervous. He wasn’t a good swimmer and not a big fan of water.
Kallus tries to keep an impassive face yet his little smiles betray him. They finally reach another service elevator that is smaller than others. They both fit in it but it is a tight one. Kallus activates the turbolift and manages to squeeze behind Zeb.
“What are you doing?” The lasat asks, ears moving around to guide himself.
“Trust me Zeb.” Kallus says and stretches to cover Zeb's eyes with his hand. He presses a tender kiss on the back of his neck. “Close your eyes.”
Zeb wants to complain but the gentle pressure of his lips and soft breath on his fur is enough to calm him down. “Okay.” He mutters.
The elevators finally stops, after what feels like an eternity. There's no more sound except for their breathing. Even the sound of water seems to have silenced.
“Now take three steps in front of you.” Kallus whispers, his breath tickling Zeb’s ear.
Zeb didn’t hesitate and did as he was asked. Alexsandr maneuvers with him keeping his hand on his eyes. The doors of the elevator close behind them.
“You can open your eyes.” Kallus says as he moves his hand away.
Zeb blinks and instinctively holds his breath for a second. There is nothing around them except the deep blue of water.
“Easy Garazeb. We are safe.” Kallus reassures him before knocking gently against the glass.
“Karabast Kal, where are we?” He asks.
“Welcome to the Royal Icqui Aquaria. Well, under the main exhibit.” The human says really softly. “My favourite place on Coruscant.”
Now that he has no worry of drowning, Zeb could finally appreciate the view. Except for the elevator structure, they are totally surrounded by water. All is bathed in a soft light that allows them to see the fish when they come close enough to the glass but not much more. There is nothing here other than them and those creatures. It was oddly relaxing.
“I never had the chance to officially visit the aquarium as a child because we could never afford something like this. By studying old maps and exploring the numerous tunnels I finally found this place. I guess it was a small place they built to check on the basin. For a long time I kept this as my secret and made this place mine to escape reality. I did tell the secret before going to the academy to let others enjoy it.” Kallus explains, sitting on the ground. “Water and space look a bit similar when you think about it. Deeper than we know and full of amazing creatures.”
Zeb sits beside him and wraps his arms around Kallus' shoulders, bringing them close together. He could understand why this has been one of Kallus' favourite places. There is something just soothing and relaxing.
“Did you ever visit the aquarium after leaving?” He asks, resting his chin on the top of his fiance's head.
“Only once. I went after I managed to be accepted into the Imperial Security Bureau.” He explains and smiles weakly. “It had been disappointing. Too many people and the fish didn’t act the same.”
“They are fish, Kal.” Zeb snorts a little.
“You will see…. Here they come” Alexsandr breathes as he squeezes his hand.
Zeb didn’t need to ask when a giant creature swam up from the deep of the basin toward the top. He'd never encountered one like this before. It reminded him of a Tibidee with the large, flat grey, diamond-shaped bodies, triangular pectoral fins and a long tail.
“What are those?” he whispers.
“Orchana rays but here we call them The lovers,” Kallus answers as softly. “They never go up to the aquarium level.”
“They?” The lasat questions.
He didn’t need Kallus to answer as another ray came the same way. The first turned around to meet the second one. The moment their fins touch they begin to revolve around each other. Zeb could only gasp as a glowing pattern appear on the creature's back: one yellow and green and the other purple and blue.
It’s mesmerizing and beautiful. Zeb has no idea how long they watch the Orchana rays dance like this, but as suddenly as they show up they disappear in the deep.
“Kal … that was…” He is entirely lost for words.
Zeb grabs his face gently but fiercely between his hands and kisses him deeply. He understands how special this was for Kallus and he is honoured that he shared that moment with him.
“Thank you…. I love you.” He whispers against his lips and kisses him more.
Kallus wraps his arms around his neck and presses against his body. Neither of them were planning on moving from here before they must go back to the ship.
This only solidifies Zeb's resolve: he will bring Kallus to Lira San.