See, told you this one would be back to silliness. Apparently you lot don't like the non-funny Outtakes near as much as I do. XD
Theron sleepily rolled over in the bed as the alarm went off, feeling a warm weight press up against his side comfortably. "Morning," he mumbled as he kissed Xaja's mussed-up hair while reaching over her to turn off said alarm, a fond smile touching his lips at how innocent and vulnerable and beautiful his commander looked at this particular moment, still mostly-asleep and quite unwilling to change that state of being.
"Mmmph." Xaja draped an arm across Theron's waist and snuggled him closer like an oversized pillow. She liked mornings about as much as she liked spiders… which was to say, not at all.
Theron softly chuckled, ignoring her displeased grunt as the motion made his chest (apparently her new favourite pillow) move. He'd grown up with Master Zho being very adamant about rising early, and for most of his life had believed that all Jedi were of the same mindset, but Xaja seemed to be quite set on making herself different from the rest of the Order. "You gonna let me up so I can shower, love?"
"Mmm…" Xaja shook her head and tightened her grip.
"Would coming with me in said shower make you a bit more willing to let me up?" Theron grinned, desperately trying to not laugh outright at the Jedi's early-morning clinginess.
"... That means getting up," Xaja finally mumbled, cracking one green eye open to stare drowsily up at Theron.
"Yeah, but then getting up now means Lana doesn't come by banging on the door and yelling for us to get presentable because we're skipping important briefings. Again."
Xaja made some noise that could have been best described as a protesting whine, but apparently the reminder that Lana's morning personality was twice as grouchy as her normal persona finally encouraged her to release Theron from her hold and let him into the significantly-cooler air outside of the bed. "Whose idea was it to do early briefings at unholy hours like this?"
"Hers." Theron shivered in the cool air of her room and had to fight the urge to get back into the warm bed with his sleepy human blanket. "C'mon- if I have to be awake and coherent, so do you, Commander."
"Can't I just order you to do all my work for me today?"
"Nope." Theron chuckled as he leaned down to kiss Xaja's cheek, then moved to her jaw and lips, finally getting her a bit more awake and functional. "You coming with me? Shower's just big enough for two people."
"Fine, I'm up." Xaja kissed Theron back and finally sat up, the loose tank top she'd worn to bed hanging off her slim frame. It had been dislodged enough to give Theron a nice, tantalizing reminder of what exactly hid underneath the black fabric, what he'd hopefully see if she ever woke up enough to join him in the shower.
He grinned and bent to kiss her again as he remembered the date. It would be the first time in five years that he hadn't spent this anniversary in a cantina with two drinks in front of him, one left untouched and one being constantly refilled. "Oh, by the way- happy birthday, love."
"Happy birthday, Commander!" was the resounding chorus in the command centre as soon as Xaja's bright hair was spotted by the rest of the command crew, punctuated by Nico and Koth joining forces to throw a couple of bags of confetti in Xaja's wake (and Theron decided it best to not ask too closely about Nico's sources).
The Jedi in question yelped as she found herself doused in little colourful flecks of paper- or perhaps from hearing a greeting like that. "Uh, thanks all!" she said with a laugh as she turned to give Theron a questioning look. "Did you-?"
"Me?" Theron raised his hands. "I only told Lana what day it was, trying to get you the day off. Apparently Sith don't celebrate things like this."
"They don't," Sorand called over. "I can confirm this. But we're not in the Empire anymore, are we?" The last question was directed to Lana with a smirk.
Lana rolled her eyes and looked back to Xaja. "Do you have any idea how long it took me to convince Vette that putting Alliance resources to a party instead of ammunition and supplies was not a sound strategy for keeping you alive until your next birthday celebration?"
"It's for morale purposes!" Vette protested as she shoot Lana a mutinous look. "Everyone needs a reason to celebrate, and the Commander making it alive for another year's a good cause!"
"Can't argue with that," Koth agreed. "So, Commander, how old are ya today?"
"Twenty-eight! Old enough to know better, and too young to care, or some such nonsense." Xaja grinned as she claimed her seat at her desk, taking a quick moment to check for any suspiciously-fresh adhesives on the seat. Everyone had learned well from Theron's misfortune (which was still being laughed about), and the prank war was still ongoing.
"Damn, girl, how old were you when you started doing all those heroic Jedi things before the war? Twelve?" Koth shook his head in amazement.
"I was Knighted at twenty-three and-" Xaja suddenly froze, eyes wide. "... wait, that can't be right. I'm missing five years."
And that one sentence killed the festive mood as fast as a blaster bolt. "... So, you're thirty-three now," Lana finally said. "Welcome to being old and mature like the rest of us."
"Is she thirty-three though?" Korin asked as he spun around in his chair. "I'm pretty sure the birthdays she missed in carbonite don't count."
"But chronologically she's that age, given that her year of birth hasn't changed." Reanden frowned at his mug of caf in thought. "Her body's still that old, even if mentally she's still in her twenties. I was there when she was born thirty-three years ago, remember?"
"Technically she didn't age while she was frozen," Sorand pointed out. "She still looks like she's in her late twenties."
"... That's a valid point." Reanden eyed his daughter studiously, never minding that the subject in question appeared to be shifting uncomfortably in her seat at this analysis of her age. "I suppose it would all depend on what her current biosigns read as."
"Dr. Oggurobb probably could do something like that," Theron said as he stepped behind Xaja, absently picking a few stray bits of confetti out of her hair. "Although- Commander, are you going to take it very offensively if I say that I really hope his results say you're thirty-three?"
"That depends on why you're hoping so," Xaja looked up at her lover, one eyebrow quirked in a frown. "Because I still feel like I'm twenty-eight. Why are you so desperately hoping I'm older?"
"Because I'm thirty-seven, and I'd really rather not feel like a pedophile, thank you."
Xaja's eyes widened as Koth hooted with laughter, Reanden's eye twitched, and Lana facepalmed. "... Blast it. I didn't think about that!"
Korin turned to stare at Theron in shock, although there was an unmistakable note of mischief in his eyes. "I don't know what I'm more scandalized about, boss… the fact that you're a shameless cradle-robber an' have my older-little sister in your sights, or that you got old as hell. When the hell did you turn thirty-seven?"
"Shut up, Korin," Theron growled out, trying to ignore the deathglare Reanden was shooting at him.
"... You know what?" Sorand suddenly said an hour or so later, after Dr. Oggurobb had already collected a sample of Xaja's cells and gone back to his laboratory for analysis. "I'm personally hoping she's still biologically twenty-eight."
"Why's that?" Theron asked as he glanced over at the former Sith.
"Because I turned twenty-nine three weeks before arriving on Odessen. If she's twenty-eight, I won't be the youngest sibling!"
Theron set his datapad down to look at Sorand incredulously. "Is that seriously your biggest concern with this entire thing?"
"Would you rather my biggest concern be that my older-little sister is apparently with a guy way the frack older than her?"
Theron scowled and turned back to his work. "You know, no matter what the results of that test are going to be, I'm pretty sure she's always going to claim you're her baby brother forever." He paused. "Besides, if that theory's correct, then Korin becomes the oldest sibling, and do you really want that inflating his ego?"
"I grew up thinking he was my only older sibling. But you're right, he'd never let Xaja live it down." Sorand shook his head and sighed. "Maybe her being thirty-three is a good thing."
"Besides," Nico added as he walked by, "I've got a fifty credit bet riding on the Commander's age with your brother. She'd better be thirty-three or I'm never gonna hear the end of it."
Sorand and Theron exchanged a look as the old smuggler left the room, sighed, and went back to work.
The results were… inconclusive, as decided by all of the Alliance specialist leaders.
"Biologically, her cells are only twenty-eight standard years old. It's a remarkable discovery." Dr. Oggurobb flourished his large data display proudly, never minding that all of the strands of numbers and letters on the screens were making Theron's eyes glaze over. "Even with the carbon freezing being flawed, her aging still halted entirely. Do you have any idea what this could shed light on in the scientific communities?"
"Her spirit is old," Sana-Re countered, her blue-white eyes staring at Xaja as the Jedi pretended to ignore everyone else while reading up on the latest Star Fortress intel. "She has seen great sorrow and it has aged her soul in the Force. Her body may be young, but her spirit belongs to that of an older woman."
"Could that aging in her spirit be that ghost taking up space in her brain?" Lana asked curiously.
"It is… possible," the Mystic admitted. "But Valkorion is not the only reason she is aged. Her spirit is scarred and worn from what she has faced already, long before she learned of Zakuul. That aging is all her own."
Admiral Aygo agreed with the Voss. "Battle like what she's seen ages you in a bad way. You look at her eyes, and she looks way older than even thirty-three. I don't care what sort of things they say about Jedi aging slower than most folks- she's old."
Theron thought back to his few memories of his mother and had to agree- Satele Shan had aged remarkably well, and still looked like she was at least a few decades younger than she actually was. He'd thought it was just the Shan genes (hell, he looked relatively young for being thirty-seven), but maybe it was a Force-thing for the Jedi. Or maybe Satele Shan was just unreasonably lucky with her apparent lack of aging.
Hylo merely shrugged. "Age is just a number. The Commander thinks she's twenty-eight? Then she's twenty-eight- even if she's the most mature twenty-eight-year-old I've ever met. I guess it's a Jedi thing for that."
"Vette apparently is selective as to when she listens to me," Lana sighed as Xaja found herself being swarmed by a pack of Alliance soldiers singing a birthday song to her (loudly and off-key in a way that would have made Korin proud).
"At least it was just a surprise birthday party, and relatively low-key by her standards," Theron muttered as he leaned back against the wall. "You know she wanted to make this the event of the year here, right? I heard of a plan to confer with Bey'wan's parents to get another band out here to perform."
Lana winced. "There aren't enough morale arguments in the sector to convince me that would be a good idea." She paused, lips pursed in the way that Theron knew to mean she was deep in thought. "Has there been any agreement as to how old she actually is?"
Theron shook his head. "She's not letting us pass around a general survey of the base population, and I don't really blame her. Some of Hylo's pilots already had a running bet going as to her age, and you probably don't want to know how many of them were pegging her for seventeen or eighteen. The highest guess there was twenty-six."
"If she did actually start her 'heroic Jedi feats' at age twelve, as Koth was suggesting, she might pass for a twenty-six-year-old. But seventeen?" Lana glanced over at Theron, and now the spy could see the slight twitch of the Sith's lips. "I would have to join in all the pedophile jokes about you."
"Thanks, Lana." Theron scowled, although the expression eased when he felt a smaller, slighter hand take his. "Hey, Commander," he addressed the pretty Jedi at his side. "How're you feeling?"
"Old," Xaja grumped. "Not quite thirty-three, but old."
There were only a few instances when Theron would direct one of his scowls at Xaja Taerich, and this moment was one of them. "You think you feel old?!" On his other side, Lana pressed her fingers to her mouth as though trying to not laugh out loud.
"... Sorry." Xaja looked sheepish for a minute as she stretched up to kiss Theron's cheek. "You're not old, Theron. Just… ruggedly and maturely handsome." The petite Jedi nodded firmly at her new analysis of her lover's age. "I'm sure Lana will agree with me- right, Lana?"
"I'm staying out of this!" Lana protested, hands raised in surrender and laughter hidden in her voice. "You two can argue about how age looks on Theron on your own time."
Theron helplessly looked at the ceiling, as though begging for salvation from some invisible deity. "You wound my self-confidence, Commander. I don't know how your apparently-old-looking spymaster will ever recover from this."
"I have a suggestion for how I can possibly help your recovery from this wound I've given you and am therefore responsible for…" Xaja winked. "It's not one that would work well in this cantina though. People would talk about your poor shattered self-assurance."
"Can't have that happen, can we?" Theron leaned down to kiss Xaja's pulse point on her jaw, then teasingly nipped at her earlobe, making her shiver. "Have we been here for a socially-acceptable long enough time for us to be able to leave?"
"So you two can get on with your less-than-public behavior, please," Lana groaned, her back having turned to the couple behind her. "I'm already feeling nauseous, and I don't think that was the juma Kaliyo found."
Xaja winked and gave Theron another soft kiss to the corner of his mouth, then looked back at Lana. "To be entirely fair, I'm not sure that was juma, and I really don't want to look too hard into it."
"Probably wise of you." Theron draped his arm across Xaja's shoulders and tugged her against his side. "So, any conclusions regarding how old you actually are now? Because I do need to know, for reasons."
"Reasons that include you not getting a reputation as a cradle-robber?" Xaja asked with a laugh.
"That, and resolving the betting pool Korin and Nico may or may not have started, and apparently there's a tradition on some planets for birthday spankings…" Theron smirked as Xaja blushed to approximately the same colour as his jacket.
Lana facepalmed. "Ugh. Why do I associate myself with you two?"
"We're adorable, Lana. Or so says everyone else in the base." Xaja glanced back up, her cheeks still as red as her hair. "But in seriousness, I think I have actually figured out my age for real."
Despite herself, Lana glanced back at the Jedi. "And how old are you, Commander?"
Theron opened his mouth, closed it again, then looked at Lana and shrugged. "Well, it works, I guess…"
"Somewhere in the middle ground to accommodate your chronological and your mental ages. It's not the worst idea you've had," Lana nodded in agreement. "I don't know that we can get all of your identification easily altered for your new age, but it'll work at least for now."
"And thank you for rounding up," Theron quickly added to Xaja with a heartfelt tone. "A six-year age gap is way easier to work with than seven or nine years."
"The things I do for you," Xaja laughed as she leaned into Theron's side. "So now you're just a playground robber instead of cradles?"
Theron sighed, then shrugged. "Either way, you're past the Republic age of consent, which is, you know, important." He winked as Xaja blushed again. "Remember what I mentioned about traditional span-"
"Out!" Lana whirled around to give both Jedi and spy a firm shove toward the door. "I don't want to see either of you until that's out of your systems!"
Xaja laughed and gave Lana a cheeky wave as she pulled Theron out of the cantina and toward the lift. "So how does this presumably very sacred tradition go? One spank per year of life?"
"Normally, yes." Theron grinned as he sent the lift down to the Commander's quarters. "But I figure there's a couple of bonuses in there for unaccounted years…"
The Outtakes: addressing real issues that don't get talked about nearly enough since 2017, like how damn old the Commander actually is. XD
Thanks for reading!