Disclaimer: It all belongs to Lucasfilm, and I don't make a cent off this, so don't sue me!
Disclaimer 2: The song is done by Lonestar and the lyrics (obviously) aren't mine.
Note: song lyrics are between these and Jedi speaking mind to mind are between these *
Come Cryin' To Me.
I can see it in your eyes,
You're living a troubled life,
And you've been hurtin' more and more these days.
Zekk watched as Jaina moved further and further from him. The loss of her brothers, the long hours, the comrades lost to the Vong, her trip to the dark side and her relationship with Jagged Fel. That stung more than he cared to admit. Jaina had been his, once, before the war. She'd been his best friend, his only link to sanity. She was moving on with her life, trying out her wings. Then Jacen had been returned to them, and though he'd seen her joy, her happiness at being reunited with her twin, he sensed the sadness she tried to hide.
They were all to be knighted, all of the gang from his days at the academy. Those that he felt close to at any rate. Yet, even as the day grew closer, he felt her pulling back from them, tuning them out of her life. He wasn't sure if she was doing it consciously, but she was doing it all the same. Beneath the cheerful surface, Zekk could feel her pain and confusion. Jaina may have looked alright to everyone else, but she couldn't hide the truth from him. Even without the Force, it only took one look in her brandy brown eyes to tell him something was wrong.
She looked up from the datapad she'd been typing on. "Yeah?"
Zekk saw an upside down diagram of a battle plan being made and inwardly sighed. She couldn't even get away from work now, when she should have been spending her time relaxing. "Can we talk?"
She glanced at the datapad, shrugged and then motioned for him to join her on the couch. "Sure, what's on your mind, Zekk?"
A wry smile tilted his lips. If he was to answer her honestly, he was sure she'd never talk to him again. He waved a hand at the datapad she place on the table. "You're working again."
The smile that had been on her lips died as if it'd never been there. "I have a squadron to train, rookies to harden into veterans. I may not be with them right now, but when I get back they're going to have to be put through their paces."
Zekk watched her eyes as she spoke. There was more going on here than he'd first suspected. Her eyes told a story of pain she couldn't accept, yet couldn't hide, and of the fear of losing more people she cared about. They spoke of death. Death for her friends, family and for herself. Zekk suppressed a shiver. Her thoughts weren't pleasant and she was burdened much worse than he'd first guessed. "Are you happy with your squadron, Jaina?"
She cocked her head at him. "Of course. I love to fly."
He shook his head. "That's not what I meant. I mean, are you happy to be considered an ace and Goddess at your advanced age of 20?"
She chuckled. "The Goddess thing gets on my nerves sometimes. I mean, it's fun for the first little while, but then it gets old. Being an ace is a great responsibility."
"And being a Goddess isn't?"
She chuckled. "That's not what I meant. It is, it's just a different kind of responsibility."
He searched her features. "So why are you working instead of spending time with your brother?"
Her eyes narrowed. "I don't think that's any of your business, Zekk."
"You're wrong. You're hurting Jaina, I can see it in your eyes, in your posture. I can read your body language."
*You don't have to hide it,
Don't even have to fight it,
Baby all you have to do is turn and walk away*
"That's none of your business, Zekk. I can take care of myself."
"I'm not saying you can't, in fact, I know better than most that you're more than capable. I'm only saying that I know you're hurting even if you don't. I'm here if you want to talk, that's the only reason I brought it up."
She looked at him through hooded eyes. "Fine. I know you're here."
"Ok, now you're mad at me, what'd I say?"
She didn't say anything as she crossed her arms over her chest and simply glared.
He sighed, taking a long look at her. "I get it. You don't like that I've pegged the reason for you're being so sullen and solitary. You've just regained Jacen but you're wondering how many more will die that won't have the chance he did."
Her jaw dropped.
"You're also worried about the losses you haven't taken the time to deal with yet. Go ahead Jaina, tell me I'm wrong."
She throat worked convulsively but she couldn't find the words to speak.
Zekk reached out and placed a hand on her shoulder, the safest place he could think of. "I know how you're feeling, I've been where you are now. You don't have to go back, you don't have to continue playing this role. It's hurting you and I can't bear to see you in pain like that."
"No, you're not."
She shrugged off his hand. "I am. So what if that's what I'm feeling and thinking? Talking about it is not going to help."
"Jaina, please. Talking about it will help ease the pain, sharing it will help."
"I can't, Zekk."
"Why not? I've always listened when you need someone to talk to, I've always been here for you. Why can't you trust me now?"
She swallowed hard. "Because if I start to grieve, I don't know if I'll be able to stop."
He watched as she slowly picked up the datapad and turned her attention back to it. He sighed, getting to his feet. "Alright. But when all this is over, I'll be here if you need me."
She nodded before ignoring him completely. Zekk sighed, shaking his head and walked away. When she was ready, she'd come and find him.
When you're tired of it all
And tears need to fall,
Your back's to the wall,
Come cryin to me.
Jaina felt him leave, felt his presence fade as he slipped out of the room. Left alone, she sighed and looked down at the plan she'd been trying to finish for the last hour. Her mind wasn't working. It was a good thing she wasn't with her squad right now, she'd likely get someone killed by her inattention to detail.
Her lips tightened as the thought crossed her mind. She knew Zekk was right. She needed to grieve, to get past the pain and hurt of their deaths. But she couldn't. Not yet. "I'm sorry Zekk," she whispered into the silence. He would understand. Zekk always seemed to understand. She found she wasn't really all that surprised since he knew her better than most people, even Jacen at the moment. Zekk knew what she'd been through and accepted it. Not gracefully perhaps, but he hadn't made it harder on her by questioning her decisions.
She sighed, tossing the plan across the table and tucking her knees up to her chest, crossing her arms in front of them. Could she, when this was all over, go back to Zekk and simply pour her heart out? Would she still have his complete acceptance, knowing what she was likely to go through between now and then? She hoped so. Zekk understood her better than Jag sometimes. Jag. She closed her eyes, his image coming to mind. Jag would understand the complications of being a fighter pilot, of needing to keep the quick reflexes. But at what expense?
Her eyes opened and she stared at the door. If those reflexes cost her a friendship she'd had since childhood, was she willing to pay it? She found that question harder to answer than it should have been. Disturbed, she closed her eyes again. The Knighting ceremony was tomorrow and Jag had promised to come. A smile curved her lips at that thought and stayed there for a long time.
You can get beyond this,
All those empty promises,
They don't have to hold you down no more.
Nothing to explain to me,
You don't even need a key,
All you've got to do is knock and I'll unlock the door.
She looked up from straightening her collar again. "Hey, Zekk. Sorry about last night, I was in a bit of a..."
He held up a hand, forestalling her excuses. "Don't worry about it, I understand. Listen, Master Luke said to tell you there's a message for you. You want that I should leave you alone to read it?"
She shrugged, "No, it's alright. Thanks."
Zekk lounged in the doorway of her door, his shoulder against the frame. Jaina was wearing her military dress uniform, and looked stunning. The lines were sharp, but didn't take away any of her form and he couldn't help but admire the view. His friend was certainly a lovely lady.
Jaina flipped a couple of switches, calling up the message and blinked when Jag's handsome face appeared.
"I have to keep this short. We've been called away on maneuvers. I'm sorry Jaina, but I can't make it today. I'll be thinking of you, and congratulations."
The holo faded out and she sat in front of the display, stunned. She blinked.
Jaina swallowed hard. Jag wasn't coming. He'd promised and now he couldn't. She should have known better than to hope he could have been here. She took a deep, unsteady breath. "I'm alright. I was just looking forward to seeing him, that's all."
Zekk bowed his head, scuffing the ground with the tip of one shoe. "I'm sorry he won't be here for you."
She straightened her spine. "I'm fine. Don't feel sorry for me, we are at war you know. I can't just expect him to drop everything and show up for my Knighting ceremony."
She stopped. His soft spoken question cutting straight to the heart of her pain. She had expected Jag to simply leave his unit to be here. She had expected him to drop everything that was important to him to be here for an important day in her life. Slowly, she shook her head. "No, I can't. Jag's an important part of his unit. If something important were happening in his life and I got called away to my unit for something secret, I wouldn't be able to go see him either."
Zekk raised his head, a ghost of a smile on his lips. "You over rationalize, Jaina."
She shrugged, "So?"
"You don't have to be strong with me. I know how much having him here meant to you. I'm sorry he hurt you, even if it was unintentional."
She straightened her collar again. "I'm fine, Zekk."
"If you say so. You look sharp, Major, the uniform looks good on you."
She laughed softly, but her smile didn't reach her eyes. "Thank you Zekk. Come on, we should take our seats or we'll miss our own knighting ceremony."
She stopped next to him, looking up and he could read the question in her eyes.
"You know what if you ever need me, my door is always open to you, right?"
She nodded, "I know."
When you're tired of it all
And tears need to fall,
Your back's to the wall,
Come cryin to me.
It was over. The Vong had been beaten back, thousands lay dead in the tunnels of the moon and all she could think of was the friends she'd lost. She was alone for the first time in days. Seven days of sharing a tunnel and survival tent with the remainder of her squadron had led to this. She would be the last to leave, as was her right.
She swallowed hard, fighting back the tears that threatened to fall. *Zekk?* she wasn't sure why, but it felt right to reach out to him for support. Him, and no one else.
She bent over, burying her face in her knees. *Is it over? Can we finally go home, go back to the way things were before?*
*We can never go back, Jaya. You know that. Let it out, you're trying to hard to resist the pain. Let it go, cry.*
*I can't.* she gulped in a breath, wiping her eyes and struggling not to. *I can't cry, not now, not until I know everyone is safe.*
He was silent for a few moments. *You know that's not possible. We lost alot of good people in this fight.*
*Was it worth it?*
*They're coming in to get you, Jaya. I'll see you on the ship.*
She swiped at her eyes. *You'd better.*
He didn't answer as she began to put on her vac suit. Shortly, she'd be back with her family and friends. Scrubbing her face, she made sure her seal was in place before stepping out of the tent.
You don't have to be strong,
You don't have to hold on,
You've been there to long,
Come cryin to me.
She was standing in the pilot's lounge when he found her. Alone, solitary, she stood with her finger tips pressed to the view port, her sad gaze on the starlines as they flashed past. She stiffened slightly as he stepped inside the room, but didn't turn to look at him. "So many."
Zekk crossed the room to stand next to her, following her gaze.
"You lied to me, Zekk."
He jerked. "I what?"
"You lied to me. You said you'd be waiting for me when I got back to the ship."
"No, I said I'd see you on the ship." He planted his feet and leaned against the window. He had a bad habit, one he couldn't seem to shake around her. "We're both on the ship and I'm seeing you now."
She turned her head to face him, tears shimmering in her brown eyes. "I needed you then. I needed to see you and you weren't there."
He reached out a hand and gently brushed the lone tear off her cheek. "I'm here now."
Jaina swallowed, trying to get rid of the lump in her throat. "Do you remember a couple of months ago when you said you'd always be here for me? That your door would always be open to me?"
He nodded. "I remember. And yes, that's a standing invitation."
"Do you think we could go some place and talk?"
He looked around the pilot's lounge. "It's just the two of us, Jaina."
"I know. I just..."
"Don't want someone to walk in at the wrong moment?"
"Alright. Come on."
He led the way out of the lounge, down a series of winding corridors before stopping at the door to his room. "You sure about this?"
She nodded. She'd been quiet through the walk; her head held at an angle that no one would question her. Being ranked as a Goddess sometimes had its advantages. Zekk motioned for her to step into the room and followed, locking the door behind him. He didn't have a room mate, but people had a bad habit of not knocking before entering. He'd learned the hard way to wear something to sleep.
Jaina stopped in the center of the small room. Zekk sat on the edge of his bed. "You can have the chair if you like." He knew, even as he said it, she never would.
Jaina paced the small room thrice before turning to him, tears shimmering in her eyes again. "There's so much I want to say, but..." she bit her lip.
Zekk opened his arms and she collapsed into them, burying her face in his shoulder. "I understand, Jaina."
She curled up on his lap and he rocked her back and forth, her tears wetting his neck and soaking the shoulder of his shirt. Silent sobs made her body quake as he rubbed her back. Using the Force, he moved them both backwards on the bunk so he could settle comfortably against the wall. Slowly, her tears ebbed, but she couldn't pull away.
Zekk gently, but firmly pulled back from her and searched her eyes.
Her smile was weak as she met his gaze, sniffling once. "Thanks."
His smile was warm as he gently brushed the tears off her cheeks. "You needed that. Feel better?"
She nodded, swiping at her nose with the sleeve of her shirt. "I feel like I could do that again. I don't mean to be such a sap."
He chuckled. "Everyone has a sap moment or two. It won't change my opinion of you."
She settled back against his chest and curled up again. "Do you think you could hold me for awhile? Just until I feel strong enough to stand on my own again?"
Zekk's arms came back around her. "For as long as you need me too Jaya. I'll always be here when you need a friend."
He didn't see her smile, but he could feel it and that warmed him clear through to his heart. He might have lost the chance for something more with her since Jag had come into the picture, but she'd always be special to him. She'd always be his best friend.