Disclaimer: I don't own the characters or anything else, it all belongs to lucasfilm...
Disclaimer 2: The song is By Anita Cochrane and Steve Wariner - it deserves credit since it was the inspiration for this fic!
AN: J/Z Viggie... *Grin* Well, enjoy, it's romance/angsty stuff ;) As for the song title... I was writing my other J/Z and this song came on. BAM! Inspiration. Don't blame me, blame the leprechaun ;) George, my muse, is a sneaky devil!
What If I said
Jaina watched him pace the small room, her gaze never straying from the haggard lines of his handsome face. He hadn't called her and yet she'd come. A full day's journey had separated them, but his unspoken message had been urgent, frantic almost, she'd felt his anguish through the Force. He hadn't claimed to need her but from the look of it, the feel of it, he did. The scavenger who'd gone out of his way to befriend her, who'd put her own welfare above his own so many times, had needed her whether he'd known it or not. Her best friend and secret love; the man she could deny nothing. The man she'd turned away from in her darkest hour for fear of dragging him down with her.
Her heart ached watching him. His dark hair, a shade lighter than black, swung loosely about his shoulders, unkempt and unruly, like the rest of him. His handsome face had gained a little color but he was still pale, almost eggshell pale, his emerald eyes lacking the fire she so admired and loved. He was tall, lean and lithe, a testament to his days in the undercity of Coruscant before it had fallen, before the Yuuzhan Vong had come to the galaxy. Before he'd been taken from her so many times.
She blocked the thoughts, watching him steadily take the seven long paces possible, pivot, and repeat the process. His clothes were loose, his shirt half undone, his feet bare beneath his dark slacks. "Zekk?" she asked finally, tentatively. She was exhausted, the day's journey in an X-wing having drained her completely. The worry she'd been through thinking about him had been terrible.
He finally stopped, turning to take a seat on the edge of a cargo crate across from her. His head fell forward, his hands dangling limply between his knees. Her heart ached watching his dejected, defeated posture. Her hands itched to reach over and part the semi-curtain of his hair to see his face but she couldn't. If she did, he might feel her feelings communicated in her touch. She couldn't, wouldn't make the first move. She'd been burned too many times before.
He slowly raised his head, his emerald eyes a sickly shade of pale yellow-green, his emotions written clearly in their anguished depths.
Her heart went out to him and she slid forward without thinking, wrapping her arms around his waist as she knelt between his knees and hugged him fiercely. She didn't need words. She didn't need him to say he'd been hurt. It was in his posture, in his eyes. It was in his soul and she could feel it. She could always feel when he needed her, and right now he did. Desperately. His arms came around her shoulders, squeezing tightly. She let him, squeezing him back just as hard.
He'd lost someone dear to him, the most important person in a long time. The woman who'd come to be like a mother to him the last six years. She closed her eyes, feeling his body begin to shake and held him securely. He wouldn't go through this alone. She'd never let him down and when he needed her most, when he needed her now, she wouldn't turn her back on him. Couldn't.
It was long minutes before he collected himself, straightening slightly but not letting her go. Her head came up off his chest as his moved from the curve of her shoulder. His hands were firm around her shoulders as he reluctantly separated from her, wiping a hand across his face.
She watched him, unable to move away. "Zekk?" she asked again, her voice just as soft.
He finally met her gaze again. His eyes had regained some of their life, but not much. "Thanks for coming, Jaina." He said softly, his voice hoarse, choked.
"How could I not?" she asked softly. "Even though you didn't ask me to come I know you needed me. How could I turn my back on my best friend?"
He smiled but it was weak at best. "You've never failed me." His eyes closed and he bowed his head again.
Jaina stood slowly, her gaze on his face as she grasped his hands. "Nor you me." Her answering smile was faint but genuine even though he couldn't see it. "Want to talk about it?"
He shook his head. "Not yet." His eyes opened again, skimming upwards to her face. "Later?"
She nodded. "I'm here whenever you need me." She felt her heart squeeze at the words. But she'd turned him away when she'd needed him most. True it had been almost five years ago, but would he turn her away now? Looking down into his eyes, she knew he wouldn't. Their friendship was strong. Strong enough to have lasted enormous distances, years and even being trained as enemies. They'd been through so much, been there for each other through it all, that she wondered why they hadn't spent more time together.
Jaina tugged on his hands, trying to get him to his feet and he came reluctantly. Carefully she guided him through the ship to his bunk. Shamelessly, she helped him remove his shirt, feeling his cool skin under her hot touch as she helped him pull the covers over his body. She smoothed the fabric down, sitting on the edge of the bed. "Nobody in my squadron would believe me if they could see this."
He chuckled once, reaching up to grasp her hand before gently brushing her hair off her cheek. "Stay with me?"
"I'm not going anywhere."
He kept her hand captive as he closed his eyes, sliding her hot fingers over the bare skin of his chest to just above his heart. She flushed, fascinated, as he gently spread her fingers and pressed her hand ever so softly into his skin before seeming to drop off completely. Yawning, Jaina stretched out beside him, kicking off her boots and not bothering with a cover. Yet she couldn't sleep. Now, with the journey finished, beside Zekk, she found her thoughts once again in turmoil.
Her hand stayed where it was, resting over his heart as he sighed softly, her gaze on his face. Propping herself up on her other elbow she watched him. She'd been through a lot in the last two years. A broken engagement, the death of her parents, the loss of her brother for the second time. Her heart squeezed painfully. Perhaps not to death, but Jacen was beyond her reach all the same. She shook it off. She'd lost Kyp and most of her squadron. She'd lost Jag. She shook her head. Lost, even if they weren't dead. Jag wouldn't speak to her and Kyp... who knew where he was. One by one her friends had deserted her, left because of her choices and actions.
Yet Zekk had remained true. He'd kept in touch, somewhat, breaking the litany her Uncle Luke had spoken about her life being a solitary one. Messages from Zekk always brightened her day, made her smile and gave her a hard time focusing. Why? Because she loved him. Because she'd loved him for a long time and now couldn't admit it. If the war hadn't come, could she have? She didn't know. After pushing him away, after making it perfectly clear that she didn't want his help, how could she tell him she'd done it to protect him? The very man who'd always come to her rescue? Who'd protected her on more occasions than she could count? She sighed. What a tangled web she'd woven.
Could she tell him now, or would he take it as a sympathy gesture? As one friend claiming to love another? Or would he take it as she meant it. As the profession of a heart long denied? Of woman who wanted nothing more than to claim the man who'd haunted her dreams since her girlhood? Settling back, she gently brushed the hair off his forehead and placed a soft kiss on his cheek, wishing she dared to place one on his lips and closed her eyes. He needed her. For now, that was enough.
*Six Days Later*
Zekk's eyes fluttered open, the familiar warmth at his side making him smile softly. She'd come. She'd come when he'd needed her, and she hadn't been called. She'd not only come, but she'd stayed. Turning his head, he looked at his slumbering bedmate, his eyes soft as he scanned her face. The face of the woman who'd held his heart for the last ten years. He pushed himself up on one elbow and watched her. She'd made loosing Findara easier to bear. It was true that when you shared grief, it was easier to deal with, but then, Jaina had always been reluctant to share her own grief. One of the reasons he hadn't sent her a message.
He sighed. The last week had been difficult. Findara had become a mother-like figure to him, an orphan with no last name, and her attention had been more than welcome. Uncomfortable at first, but he'd come to love her all the same. He closed his eyes, picturing the gray haired lady as he'd seen her last, before her death. She'd been smiling and laughing over one of his stories. His heart squeezed painfully. She wouldn't want him to be sad, but he couldn't help it. He opened his eyes to look at Jaina again. Having -her- here somehow made everything more bearable. And some things not so.
He looked for a way to crawl out of the bunk but shook his head. No way. Jaina was sleeping on the outside and his back was to the bulkhead. If he moved she'd wake up and today, feeling better than he had all week, more capable of dealing with life, he had to deal with his thoughts. Her head lay close to his arm, her dark hair spread out across the single pillow.
He noted idly that she'd failed to remove her boots before dropping onto the bed next to him. He smiled sadly. Having her sleep next to him, to talk with daily and share experiences and memories was a treasure. A treasure he wanted to spend the rest of his life with, but could he tell her? Could he reveal what he'd guarded since before their academy days? No, his heart whispered. To do so would be emotional suicide. If she didn't feel the same... What was he talking about if? Of course she didn't feel the same. She'd turned away from him when she'd needed someone and turned to Fel instead.
He no longer felt the jealousy and the pain; it was simply an ache. An ache that resounded continually in his heart. She'd chosen someone other than him for support, for companionship. She'd been engaged for Force sakes, why would she want him now? Oh, he'd listened to each of her stories, her problems, like a good friend was supposed to, and he'd offered advice he thought would help. He had wanted to see her happy and no matter how much it hurt himself and if Fel made her happy, he had wanted her with him.
Zekk settled back on the bunk, Jaina curling closer, moving her head until it was resting in the curve of his shoulder, her breathing still deep and even in slumber. He slid his arm around her shoulders, careful not to jostle her.
Could she accept his feelings now? Would she want to with everything else that was happening in her life? The losses she suffered... he shook his head. He couldn't burden her like that, but then, was love a burden? Was it truly? Or was it a gift, freely given without any thought to what could be had in return? Whatever it was, he had to figure it out soon. Before she left, she had to know what she meant to him. He might not get another chance to tell her.
Jaina looked up from tinkering with one of the gears on the chair in the cockpit as Zekk stopped in the doorway, leaning against the frame. Her face was smudged with oil, her hair pulled back in a messy ponytail, but - to him - she'd never looked lovelier. He smiled a genuine smile, his emerald eyes sparkling with life, and just a hint of sorrow. His grief would last a long time, but it wouldn't control him now. Jaina had seen to that. "Busy?" he asked motioning to her task.
She grinned. "No, just tinkering. I didn't want to tamper with the helm or anything else while we're in hyperspace. It's just not safe."
"No kidding." He murmured amused.
She threw an extra length of strap at him. "Quit it. How're you feeling?"
"Better, thanks to you," he said honestly, feeling an almost awkward silence stretch between them. He crouched to retrieve her projectile but she'd reached out too and their hands met. His gaze flew to hers, his eyes widening as he saw her face close, so close he could feel her breath sliding softly across his cheek.
Zekk swallowed hard, fighting the urge to lean forward and kiss her, just to get it over with and let his actions speak for him. He wasn't aware she could read the battle he was waging in his eyes and if he had, it wouldn't have mattered. She'd be leaving soon anyway. He fought against the dry feeling in his throat, clenching his hands unconsciously to keep from reaching for her.
Jaina watched his silent battle, unable to read his carefully shielded emotions, but she could read the signals his body was sending. She saw his tongue dart out to lick suddenly dry lips, the way his pupils dilated, his hands clenching around nothing and the sudden rigidity in his posture. She -knew- he was fighting against kissing her. In their position, what male wouldn't, but did he have to fight so hard? She saw him starting to move away, his decision made, his iron will enforcing it. The next move was hers.
She didn't think; she acted. Reaching out she grabbed the front of his shirt in both hands and tugged him forward, off balance, rolling to absorb the impact of his body as she angled her head. His lips came down on hers in a surprised kiss, his body stretched across hers in the middle of his cockpit.
Jaina angled her head a little better, sliding her hands around his neck and into his hair, breaking the band holding the silky strands together as she held his head to hers. She needn't have bothered. Zekk groaned softly, taken completely off guard by her assault, his defenses dissipating as if they'd never been. Jaina's lips on his, her body stretched out beneath him, sent every thought, every argument, out the window. She'd started it, but what neither had anticipated was their complete surrender to the other.
Jaina melted under his touch as his hands slid into her hair, cradling her head against the deck as her mouth opened to his. The kiss deepened, yet it wasn't just her mouth that opened to him. Her soul opened to him, reaching out to wrap around his, her Force signature melding with his as he reacted as he'd always dreamed of doing. As they both gave themselves over to the powers guiding, driving them.
Zekk pulled back several long, aching moments later, gasping for breath and rolled away. She tried to hold him, but he broke her embrace and sat up. His back to the bulkhead, he bent his knees and inhaled deeply. What had just happened? His gaze found Jaina's and her eyes were just as dazed and confused as his own. Yet, they held no regret or embarrassment.
He blinked, ducking his head into his knees. His body was alive, throbbing and ablaze from her touch, her kiss, but one question was whirling around in his mind. Why. Why now? Why him? Why, why, why? He shook his head to clear it but that didn't work very well. "Why?" Was all he found the strength to ask when he finally lifted his head. It wasn't that he hadn't enjoyed her touch, but this was what his dreams were made of, not reality.
He saw her swallow hard, crawling towards him to stop just beyond the toes of his boots. "Why not?" she replied softly. "I may not get another chance to do it."
"So I'm a novelty now?" he asked, raising an eyebrow curiously. Despite the seriousness of his question and her response, he felt obliged to joke.
Hurt flared in her eyes and he knew he'd erred. "I'm sorry, that was tactless, but damn, Jay, why'd you have to do that?"
"You're angry with me." She said softly, her own eyes flashing. "Will saying I'm sorry help?"
"No, dammit, I'm not angry, I'm frustrated. You just don't kiss a guy when he's unprepared."
"You weren't going to kiss me," she returned hotly, "someone had to have the guts to make a move."
"Guts?" He laughed shortly. "You want guts you've got the wrong guy."
"No I don't."
He stared at her, slightly amused despite himself. Of course she didn't have the wrong guy. "I'm a risk taker, alright, but I know when some risks are too high."
"Kissing me was too high a risk?"
He nodded. "You've got it, Stix."
"Risk for whom?" she demanded, looking him straight in the eye. "You or me?"
"Both of us."
He felt a flush crawling up his neck. He'd never been able to lie to her. "Me."
She leaned closer searching his face. "Would you do it again?"
There was a vulnerability in her eyes and face that he found appealing. She wasn't as sure as she seemed. He took a risk, a big risk, sliding his legs down slightly and leaning forward. "If you'd let me, I'd do it for the rest of my days."
She was shocked. Her jaw hung open slightly and her eyes were wide as she blinked once. He searched her face for some kind of a sign. Finding none, he slowly pushed himself to his feet.
"W-where are you going?"
He didn't dare look down at her. "Forget I said that, Jay. I'll be in the cargo bay."
Forget he said that? She stared after him, shocked for the second time in as many minutes. He loved her, he had to, there was no way someone said what he just had without it. She knocked her forehead into the bulkhead. And like an idiot she'd sat staring at him completely speechless. She pushed to her feet and went after him. She wasn't going to let him forget about what he'd said, no now, not when she finally understood her own heart.
He stopped but didn't turn towards her in the corridor. "Yeah?"
She took a deep breath. "Did you mean it?"
She flinched. His voice was flat, discouraging further conversation, but she pushed on. "Did you mean you'd spend the... I mean that you'd... uh..." she found herself tongue-tied all of a sudden, and at the worst possible moment!
"I told you to forget it. Please Jaina, just forget it."
He finally slowly turned, his expression carefully neutral. "Why?"
She smiled slightly. "I've been waiting for some kind of a sign that you'd forgiven me for my slide a few years back," she admitted. "I didn't think you'd want me in any way after my desertion."
He looked at her closely. "I don't hold a grudge, not against you. I couldn't."
"Why?" she held her breath, praying for the answer she wanted to hear, however improbable it might be.
"Because you're Jaina. You were my girl," he shrugged. "Well, sort of. You're also my best friend. Friends forgive each other."
"Oh." She almost deflated before saying so softly that he almost missed it, "So do lovers."
He blinked. "Say that again?"
She blushed. "I know we're not yet but..."
He stepped towards her. "Yet?"
She noted the slight sparkle of humor in his eyes and couldn't help but smile. "Yet." She said firmly.
"Is that a proposition?"
She shook her head. "No. This is." She stepped into his arms, tilting her face up to his. "I love you, Zekk." She tried to tug his face down for a kiss, but he didn't budge.
He stared at her, searching her gaze, her face, everything as if searching for a way to doubt her claim. She let him find none. "And I love you, Jaina Solo." He said softly, framing her face in his hands and memorizing her features, his eyes achingly tender.
She tilted her head to him, accepting the soft, loving kiss and returning it. "Do you really?"
He nodded. "Since I first met you... I had no idea what you'd say, or how you'd react if I told you."
"Is that why you kept quiet?"
He nodded. "Part of it."
"Even when I was with Jag?"
He nodded again.
"I don't understand. If you loved me then, why did you try and help me with my relationship with him?"
"It's what friends do, Jay. I love you so much. Enough that if you were happier without me, and with someone else, I was willing to let you go. I wouldn't try to hold you to me. I love you, I only want you to be happy."
"Will you make me happy?"
His smile was slow in response to her teasing question. "I will do anything you ask of me and spend the rest of my life making you happy. I promise."
Her eyes fluttered shut as his mouth came down again, and she sighed as she was pulled close to his body. A feeling of contentment, of belonging swept through her as she opened to him through the Force. She was home. No more "What if's"... They wasted time where none had to be wasted and had almost cost her the most precious treasure in the entire galaxy.
As she laid her head against Zekk's chest, above his furiously pounding heart, thoughts ran through her head. He was her best friend, her lover and her soul. Her home. She closed her eyes and smiled. It was about time.