Oct 2002
Disclaimer: Same as before...

WARNING: Dark Journey spoilers if you haven't read it!

You did What?!
Chapter 6 : Tenel Ka's Holo Letter.

Jacen climbed into his fighter almost a month after the discussion about Tenel Ka with Vergere. She'd been quiet alot since then. Almost as if she was trying to find some way to balance what he'd said against her own values. He doubted it. She was probably planning some way of showing him that his was a solitary destiny. He sighed. Having her in his quarters didn't leave him many places to go on the ship for privacy. The fact he'd also been receiving messages on his fighter's computer instead of his quarters spoke of his desire to have no one around when she finally wrote him back. If she wrote him back. He wouldn't blame her if she chose not to.

He sighed as he closed the canopy, Vergere's warnings about choosing with his heart instead of his head echoing in his mind. She'd warned him more than once. Told him he had to think rationally. He'd been rational for months, and quite frankly he was sick of it. For once he just wanted to do something spontaneous, like the person he'd been, but it really didn't feel right. Telling Tenel Ka about his experiences was rash enough. To do anything more would be tempting fate.

He closed his eyes, trying to imagine her reaction to his story. Would she be appalled? Would she accept it with her trademark stoicism? A wry smile twisted his lips. Probably. Being alive was enough to faze her; his story would probably be just an interesting tale. He brought back to memory their meeting, remembering the tears in her eyes, her smiles. He opened his eyes as the computer suddenly whirred to life. He frowned before identifying the source. His computer was downloading a message.

With hands that were suddenly unsteady, he checked the message. His heart leapt. It was from Tenel Ka. A wave of nervousness washed over him as he was suddenly reluctant to open the message. Did he really want to chance hearing her tell him she never wanted anything to do with him after his captivity? He frowned at his own thoughts. This was Tenel Ka. She was a warrior first and fore-most. She, if no one else, would understand and that was something, changed as they both were, he could understand.

With a decisive motion he punched the button to bring up the message. It was encrypted. He smiled faintly and typed out the same words he'd used as his password. It only made sense for her to make use of the same one. Slowly, the small holo-emitter in his fighter came to life and a tiny image of the Hapan Queen Mother appeared. He almost laughed at her attire. This was the Tenel Ka he remembered. Dressed in a suit of lizard-hide armor, her hair done up in warrior braids, she looked more like a primitive warrior than a Queen. Her eyes were serious, as usual, as they looked at the holo-projector.

"Greetings, Jacen.

"I apologize for my delayed reply, your message gave me much to think about." She paused and he wondered if this was going to be an abbreviated version of what she'd been through. Tenel Ka had never been a person of many words.

She nodded once, as if deciding something and began to speak again. "I have listened to your story many times in the last month and before I tell you mine, I wish for you to know I understand. I have felt alone and cut off before, and had to adapt because of it. I... admire your courage. You have overcome your obstacles yet retained your values. I fear my story is not so simple."

He frowned. Not so simple? What'd she do, destroy a world?

She paused again, as was typical of her. She had never been on for long speeches, in fact, he was a little surprised when she changed tactics and began to speak at length. "I do not know what Jaina has told you about our flight from Myrkr, we have not spoken much since your return. We escaped the Yuuzhan Vong above Myrkr, thanks to your sister and her piloting skills, and went to Couruscant. It was under attack and fell in that batter, as you probably know. From Coruscant we set a course for Hapes. It was here, above the planet that I... I felt you die." Her face didn't change its expression but Jacen could see the shadows in her eyes, even though the holo-message. "I felt you reach for me, I felt your presence as clearly as if you were beside me, and then you were gone. It was as if you were torn from me by force."

He closed his eyes, hitting the pause button. What she didn't say was written clearly on her features. She'd felt his last attempt to reach her, to contact her. She'd felt when Vergere had torn the Force from him. He swallowed hard. He'd thought he had failed, that he'd spared her that final message. He hadn't even realized he'd loved her until that moment when they'd first put him in the Embrace of Pain. After that, his thoughts hadn't been cohesive. He opened his eyes and started the holo again.

Her first words almost had him shooting out of his chair in shock. "I lost control when I felt-."

"You did what?!" he yelled at the hologram, staring incredulously at her image. Slapping the button to rewind her listened to those amazing words again.

"I lost control-" he slapped the stop button, shaking his head. Tenel Ka loosing control. No way. He frowned then. Was that so unbelievable? She'd not only lost control but admitted to loosing control! Wow. She'd cared about him, loved him, enough that his supposed death had cracked her calm control. He sat, staring at her holo-image in shock. Tenel Ka loosing control. That, more than anything, convinced him of exactly how important he'd been to her. He swallowed, trying to move his mind past that incredulous revelation. She had more of a story to tell than her lack of control, he was sure. Taking a deep breath he calmed himself and let the emotion go. He could feel the shock, could think about it later. He owed Tenel Ka the courtesy of listening to it once in its entirety. Hoping she had a few more surprises for him, he clicked the holo back on.

"-when I felt you die. I had just been taken aboard a Hapan frigate full of pirates and they were intent on holding me hostage. I am ashamed to say I took my... lack of control out on them. I did not want to live, and dared them to try and fulfill that wish. The first of them tried. Then I began to understand why I felt compelled to punish them. It was not because of your death, though it almost crippled me as surely as having my arm cut off, but because of what they were and of my responsibility as the Hapan Princess. The Jedi who lived joined me shortly and we made our way to the Fountain Palace in the company of a Chiss craft escort, Colonel Jagged Fel and his wingmate, along with Master Kyp Durron. We put down safely and moved to the palace."

She took a deep breath, pausing to take a sip of something before continuing. "My family had once again come under threat, my parents in danger of assassination, and when we arrived I found my mother to be in pour health. She... had lost a child and did not recover. With my father away, my grandmother was again in control. Did Jaina tell you she was fancied as the next Queen Mother by my grandmother?"

Her gray eyes flashed with a sudden hint of humor. "If she has not had the chance to speak of it, perhaps you should ask her. My grandmother's belief was that Jaina could be molded in her image and marry my father. They would make quite the couple, yes? My grandmother spent many hours speaking with Jaina. But you will have to speak with her about this. I digress. I spent little time in the company of my mother when I found out about her illness. She was no longer the same person. I watched as my grandmother began to plan for another ascension to the throne. She was killing my mother, but I could not prove it. My father returned during the first days of our arrival and spoke to me of assuming the throne. I did not wish the job even then."

He watched as she was silent for a few moments. "Forgive me, I am not used to speaking at length about myself."

"About anything," he returned softly, even though she couldn't hear. His heart was aching for the confused and distraught young woman he'd left behind. She'd had to take on so much grief and responsibility in such a short time. Yet, she'd survived. She'd managed to make the best of a terrible situation.

"My grandmother continued to push my father at Jaina. It did not work, as you can guess. Most of this story is for Jaina to tell, but she spent alot of her time on Hapes taunting the Yuuzhan Vong. And she was good at it. Much happened during this time, including the death of the Queen Mother. They poisoned her and left her to die a slow death. I was with her at the end and, when battle came to Hapes shortly after, forced to assume the crown." She shook her head, her braids long whispering against her armor. "I did not want it then, do not wish it now, yet I always knew I would one day ascend to it. My grandmother killed my mother, of that I am certain, but it could not be proven. She has been exiled, yet I continue to visit her. I do not know if this can help you understand how I have changed."

He paused the holo, uncertainty filling him. He suddenly wasn't sure if he wanted to hear what she had to say. Coward, he told himself, you've gotten beyond this. She knows how you've changed, you owe it to her to listen. Resolutely, he flicked it back on.

"I have undertaken the responsibility of a large consortium of worlds. I am responsible for the welfare of millions. Yet a part of me has not changed. Fact. I am many things, Jacen. I am the Queen Mother of the Hapes Cluster. A Jedi Knight, but I am still Tenel Ka. I am the daughter of Queen Mother Teneniel Djo and Prince Isolder, a young woman, who met a young man who wanted to make her laugh. I am still the Dathomirian warrior who lost control when she felt you die. I hope you can understand."

Her image stayed on the holo projector for a long moment and he blinked when he saw her suddenly smile, the rare and beautiful smile she'd smiled when he'd seen her again after his return. He detected a hint of humor to it. "I expect to hear a new joke when I see you next. I will be thinking of you, Jacen, until we meet again."

He chuckled at the regal tone in her voice as the holo stopped and he switched off the emitter. Tenel Ka. He grinned. Well, they'd both been through many trials, and hers mostly left unspoken, though he'd seen the truth of what she didn't say. She was stronger for it, though. It was clear in her eyes. He sat back in his seat and closed his eyes. Hearing her say she'd lost control was humbling, yet, fitting. He was looking forward to the day he could see her again. Hopefully it would be soon.


Author's Notes: I'm also currently working on a sequel that takes place 2 years later (when they're both 21) and after the Yuuzhan Vong have finally been defeated. When it's finished I'll post it! Thanks for reading! Please, if you have anything constructive to say, (or even not) I'd love to hear from you (R/R!!). Always looking for ways to improve my writing. Thanks in advance!