Jaina Solo sat back in her X-Wing as stars faded to lines. Another day, another mission. Another opportunity to run away from commitment. She was getting good at that. Whenever Jag got that particular gleam in his eye, fingering the package he thought she hadn't noticed had been shipped from the Unknown Regions - Jaina got out of there fast. Luckily, as she was her own boss literally, whenever she felt the need to hightail it off - or perform a 'mission for the good of the Jedi', she could. And Jag was hurt and she was gone. When she got back there were sharp words, stinging replies - ending with a kiss to make up. And so she was safe for a few months.
Safe from the question he wanted to ask. Safe from the answer it sometimes seemed the entire galaxy wanted to give. Her mother would ask oh so subtly if Jag would be coming to dinner, expecting some announcement. And the look of disappointment would come over Leia's face as Jaina shrugged, signalling that hurting words were still being traded and she had spent the last few nights alone in her bed. At least her brother didn't try to be subtle about it. She knew that Jacen encouraged Jag, assuring the Colonel that his sister just needed some time. Jaina fumed when she thought of her twin and his holier-than-thou-I'm-happily-married-so-why-aren't-you attitude. It wasn't that she wasn't thrilled for the understanding that he and Tahiri had come to, hadn't been overjoyed when they had come back from what should have been a two day delivery a week late - and married. It just got to her. Of anyone, it was her aunt Mara who understood best. Who gave her those Jedi missions when she saw the nervousness in Jaina's eyes.
It wasn't as though she didn't love Jag. Didn't love his clear green eyes that gave her shivers as he silently apologized for the harsh words with tender kisses. Didn't love the way he was always there beside so, dependable and true. She couldn't ask for anything more. She didn't know why she felt there should be something more.
And so Jaina sat in her X-Wing, on her way to unlikely enough Tatooine. Something odd was going to happen over the Jutland Wastes, something which only happened twice a millennium. The rotation of the twin suns sometimes separated from one another, and a field would shimmer over the atmosphere of Tatooine. Ripples would dance across the surface of the stratosphere, or so Jaina had been told. And Uncle Luke felt a Jedi should witness it, and try to figure out what in the blazes it was.
Jaina Solo fell asleep in her X-Wing, running away from what was behind her - and had no idea of what was ahead.
A man stood on the sand dunes, watching over the particular family of moisture farmers below. Watched the tow headed toddler be chased around by the woman with the connection to this place. Raced around the moisture collectors and be caught up by the farmer, his homespun shirt becoming a haven for the small child.
The little boy giggled, clear as day to the man up on the dunes. He turned and trudged back to his speeder, to return to his little home not too far away. Far enough not to be noticed, close enough to come if something happened. He couldn't shake the feeling that something would happen. Like he couldn't shake the feeling that something was coming this way.
Jaina awoke to the beeping of her X-Wing, telling her it would be time to come out of hyperspace in a few minutes. She rubbed a hand tiredly over her face, you could never get really restful sleep in an X-Wing. She shifted and watched the clock count down - as it hit the zero mark she pulled back the hyperspace lever and was thrown into real space.
Below, Tatooine glowed golden. It looked like a pretty planet with the yellow sand everywhere but Jaina knew it was anything but a 'pretty' place. She set her X-Wing into a high orbit and pulled out the data padd Uncle Luke had given her. It described the astronomical phenomena that she would be observing in less than an hour. She skimmed through the information, on how it was caused by the orbit around the twin suns, what kind of visuals she would most likely observe. She frowned as she caught a piece of information which she had not previously read.
Pilots who flew into the atmosphere during the five minutes when the phenomena occurred disappeared. Vanished. Her brow furrowed as Jaina contemplated that. Could the phenomena destroy the ships - if so, why was there never any debris found.
Could a Jedi pilot get through it?
Jaina knew that it was a reckless thought, throwing herself into a potentially dangerous phenomena - just to see if she could. But she hadn't played a large part in the defeat of the Vong by being careful. Sometimes you had to take risks, and see where they led you. She felt a tugging to try, like the Force was whispering to her that this was the right thing to do.
She brought up diagnostics on her X-Wing, rerouting power to her shields and stabilizers. She wasn't quite so reckless that she would fly into this thing with unsteady shields.
A little less than an hour later, Jaina sat tensed in the cockpit, strapping her helmet onto her head. She bit her lip slightly as she glanced at her chrono, the phenomena should start in.... now.
She gasped slightly as a blue film began to wash over Tatooine, making it look almost as though water was dancing along the surface of it's atmosphere. Waves travelled quickly over it's surface, ripples crashing into each other. It was really quite beautiful. But she didn't have time to admire it.
She charged the X-Wings engines and headed in at a 30 degree angle. As the nose of her X-Wing cut through the blue her ship began to shake. Jaina used all of her expertise to keep the ship from bouncing off of the atmosphere. She continued to push through, realizing that the 'waves' where at least 10 metres deep, until she would hit the stratosphere. It was when her X-Wing was fully submerged that she lost all control.
The little ship seemed to be swept up in the current, flying to the side as it was carried by a wave. Jaina tried every trick she knew to keep it under control but nothing worked. She cried out as she was thrown forward and even through her helmet, smacked her temple on the dash board in front of her.
Jaina lost consciousness as the X-Wing spiralled towards Tatooine.
- - -
The man sat in his small kitchen, eating a bowl of oats for breakfast when the whine swept through the house. He jumped to his feet and moved to a window - he could tell through the Force that something was wrong. Looking towards the Dunes he saw a small craft spiralling towards the ground - the pilot seemed to have lost all control.
He ran out of his house and jumped into his speeder. He rode as quickly as he could, but only came over the Dune to see the odd ship buried in the sand. As he pulled up beside the craft he jumped out and started to pull sand away from the cockpit. To his horror he saw the pilot inside, unconscious. Pulling away more sand he felt along the cover until he queued a button and it obediently raised up.
The pilot was a lithe human woman, and he was immediately struck by her simple beauty. But from the gash on her forehead he knew she needed medical help. He unbuckled her restraints and lifted her easily out of the cockpit. He nearly dropped her when he saw the lightsaber pin on her collar.
Could she be one of.... No. He decided, he would know if she had been sent her looking for him. From the brief brush of her mind he was able to make, he could tell that she was a user of the Light.
Ben Kenobi stood and carried the limp girl to his speeder, to take her back to his haven among the Dunes.
Jaina awoke slowly. There was a constant light even penetrating her eyelids and it was giving her a headache. Well adding to the headache that felt like Piggy had performed a tap dance on her head. She moaned, rolling over in the.... bed?
She shot upright - opening her eyes. That was a mistake. The bright light dazzled her eyes and she placed a head against her forehead. "Stang it..." she whispered.
There was a chuckle in the doorway and she squinted, trying to make out who was there. Or for that matter where she was.
"Tatooine," the stranger supplied helpfully.
She frowned for a second then relaxed. "You're a Jedi."
"As are you."
She nodded slowly. "Could you put the Force to use right now - maybe blocking that light somehow. Right now I couldn't levitate my finger an inch."
He swore quickly - she could tell it was a he - and moved to the source of the light, which she surmised was a window. As he lowered the blinds she thought about the word he had used - it was a phrase her father used occasionally but wasn't exactly common. Archaic more than common. But Tatooine wasn't exactly always up on the latest trends.
As darkness came over the room and Jaina relaxed as the pain subsided. Her vision became slightly clearer as well. The stranger was a man perhaps half a foot taller than her, with chestnut hair and a beard. He was at most 10 years older than her. And he was very handsome.
"I don't think I've ever met you before - are you only new to the Knighthood?" he asked.
She nodded. "A few years maybe." She held out her hand. "I'm Jaina."
He smiled, and became almost swooningly handsome as he shook her hand. "Ben."
A little smile grew over her face. "Can I assume that you rescued me?"
"I played the Knight in Shining Armour bit, yes. You got a nasty concussion from that crash."
She sighed. "Yeah, well, I got arrogant. Thought a Jedi could pilot through something that had destroyed everyone else."
His brow furrowed. "What did you pilot through?"
"The atmospheric anomaly."
"I wasn't aware of anything like that going on," he shrugged. "But then I was never much of an astronomer. Are you a pilot then?"
She nodded, looking down a little.
"So you served in the war."
Jaina laughed a little. "Of all the topics - the last thing I'd like to discuss is the war, thanks." She kept the smile on her face even though her heart clenched. Anakin... She stopped that thought before she broke down.
She looked up and Ben was watching her with a solemn expression. "I understand." She really felt that he did. "You lost someone in it?"
"More than one," she replied. "But didn't everybody?"
Ben nodded. Sweet Force she was lovely, her long chestnut hair falling over her bare shoulder. She seemed to realize at that moment that she was only clothed in a sheet and she pulled it up around her. He averted his eyes.
"I'll let you get some more rest." He made his way to the door but her voice stopped him.
"Ben? Thank you." She smiled at him and 'A Jedi Shall Not Know Desire' flew out the window for him. It was all he could do was nod and quickly duck out the door.
Jaina looked at the door for a moment, slightly puzzled by his quick exit. She shrugged, and lay back down, falling easily into a healing trance.
Obi-Wan (Ben he reminded himself slightly - Ben was a name no one would remark upon while Obi Wan... he might as well tattoo JEDI across his forehead) moved around the small kitchen of his home, preparing a light breakfast for Jaina. He had mind touched her when he had awoken that morning and she had seemed close to coming out of the trance. And after sleeping or being in a trance for nearly 3 days, he thought she might be hungry.
He turned his neck slightly, and grimaced as it cracked. He hadn't minded giving up his bed for the beautiful Jedi, just it didn't do wonders for his neck.
Behind him he heard the door to the bedroom open and he turned around with a smile on his face. He worked hard to keep it on when he saw she was wearing one of his tunics which showed well sculpted arms, hugged her curves and exposed most of her legs. She ran a hand through her rumpled hair, wincing a little when she must have hit a sore spot. Jaina smiled at him.
"Good morning," she said, still blinking sleep from brandy coloured eyes.
"Uh - morning." Ben returned. "Hungry?"
Her smile grew. "You have no idea. I feel like I could eat an Ewok!"
Ben chuckled and served up a plate of bantha strips with some fresh eggs. She sat at the little counter and thanked him. She didn't waste anytime digging in and he smiled at her as he served himself a plate and sat down next to her.
Jaina blushed, putting down her fork and wiping at her mouth with a napkin. "I'm sorry. That wasn't very ladylike."
"I rarely enjoy the company of 'ladies'," Ben assured her. "And I know how exhausting being in a healing trance can be."
She nodded, eating another fork full of eggs. "Just how long have I been out exactly?"
She choked. "What? Oh Sith - I said I'd be back in only a day or two."
"Where exactly is back?" Ben asked. Was there a haven for Jedi somewhere?
"Mon Calamari." She answered promptly so she obviously trusted him.
"I haven't heard of it,"he commented. She looked at him oddly.
Ben shrugged. "But I haven't heard of much lately."
Jaina nodded then took on a quizzical expression. "Why exactly are you out here?"
He looked away and she touched his arm quickly. He tried to ignore the warmth he felt from the gesture.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to pry -" she started but stopped he shook his head.
"No... I'm out here because I want to be. The universe... isn't always friendly to Jedi and I like it here."
Jaina rolled her eyes. "I know what you mean. Sometimes I wish I could hide away somewhere."
Ben looked at her for a moment, at the longing in her eyes. "Why don't you?" he asked softly.
She glanced at him, a smile dancing on her lips. "Responsibilities I guess. To my squadron, my family... I guess I have an almost too strongly developed sense of duty."
"There's nothing wrong with that," he told her earnestly. "It's keeping your responsibilities which make you a Jedi." And those who abandon them.... No - he would not travel down that path, not think of the boy he had raised from the little slave only to betray.... No.
Jaina caught a hint of his unease and she placed her hand back on his arm. "Ben?"
He loved how it sounded on her tongue - wished it could be his real name she said now.
"Are you alright?"
He turned back to her. "Yes. I'm sorry. My mind just drifted... down a path I don't like to take."
She nodded, sagely. He realized that her eyes were far too old for her face. "I know what you mean." He felt that she did. She was the first person he had met in a long time who might actually know.
The looked at each other for a long moment. He surveyed her face, so lovely with it's big dark eyes and her slightly parted lips.... He stood up quickly.
"Um - maybe I should find you some clothes?" he asked, keeping himself form stammering, thank the Force.
She looked down at her attire and blushed. "If you don't mind... what happened to my flightsuit?"
"It was pretty ripped up in the crash," he told her. "I had to take it off... to see to your injuries."
She blushed even more as she thought of his hands stripping her suit from her... and even more as she realized how much she liked the idea. "I understand. But I doubt you have much..."
"No actually. I might have some things which are perfect for you." As he looked at her he realized how much she looked like... the woman who the clothes who had belonged to. The woman who also had had sad brown eyes.
He led her down the short hallway to the room where he stored the number of boxes he had brought with him but had no place for in the small house. He levitated a number of smaller crates off of one large one - a large wooden chest intricately carved and had all the dust been wipes off it would have shone. He opened it up and Jaina gasped behind him.
It was filled with long and beautiful dresses. Some simple, a white dress with flowing sleeves that would expose her midriff to another white dress than was covered with embroidery. Somehow - Jaina knew it had been a wedding gown.
She looked at Ben wryly. "Where did you get all of these? Dresses that lady-friends left over?"
He chuckled a little and shook his head. "No. They all belonged to... a friend."
"And she doesn't need them anymore?"
He paused and his eyes darkened with emotion. His voice was rough when he did answer. "No. She's one with the Force now."
Jaina looked down. "I'm sorry."
He smiled halfheartedly at her. "Don't be. She would be happy for someone to have them. I'll give you a minute to find one."
He nodded quickly at her, then left the little room, leaving Jaina looking after him.
Obi-Wan walked quickly out of the house, leaving behind the woman with the dark brown eyes that reminded him of so much. And made him want to forget every lesson he had learned as a Padawan. When he was around Jaina... he began to understand why Anakin hadn't been able to resist Padme. The electricity which crackled around her - no. He would not travel down that path.
He left the house and jumped into his speeder. He hadn't visited the Lars in a few days, he wanted to make sure Luke hadn't been having any more Force assisted tantrums. As he sped over the dunes he took deep breaths, refreshing himself in the Force, calming himself.
One of the most refreshing things about the Lars was that they never seemed to change. Through the troubles during the Clone Wars, Padme's pregnancy - Anakin's fall. The homestead was always the same dusty beige colour, the Lars themselves the same stolid, calm people they always were.
As he pulled up in his speeder, Beru came out to greet him. She would never be called a beautiful woman but she had a strength which he appreciated and you would never find someone with a kinder heart. Even though she was still reeling from the pain of a number of miscarriages she had accepted the bundle he had brought from Alderaan with open arms. She had cared for the tiny, scared little boy and was raising him in a house full of love.
"Ben," she said warmly. "It's been a while. Luke was beginning to ask when 'Be' was going to be coming."
Ben chuckled, hugging her loosely. "I've had a visitor."
She raised an eyebrow as she led him down to the courtyard. "Oh?"
He rolled his eyes. She always did treat him like a little brother even though he had at least five years on her. "You know that Jedi aren't allowed to - "
"And you know I think that's a silly rule. Anakin - "She was cut off as he frowned.
"He threw away every oath he ever made."
She stopped in the stairwell to look at him. "They were happy together. They found love in a turbulent galaxy and seized it."
"Abandoning everything else for that love. And where did it leave Padme? Alone with t- a baby with a husband whose embraced hatred and is now killing off every Jedi he can find." Ben ground out. He had decided not to tell Beru about the existence of Luke's twin. She would insist they be together. They could never be together without being in great danger - at least until they were able to defend themselves.
"You speak as though Luke is a bad thing," she chided him gently and he felt instantly guilty. Make that like a son, instead of a little brother.
"I don't believe he is." He agreed then changed the mood. "Where is the little cub?!" He asked brightly.
Ben was answered by a cry of delight issued from a small tow headed boy, who at the sound of his entrance to the courtyard had leaped up from his toys. Luke raced towards him and Ben couldn't help but smile as he lifted the boy into the air, swinging him around.
Beru instinctively put out a hand, always the mother. He smiled at her and she smiled tremulously back, not at all reassured that he wouldn't drop her foster son.
Luke threw his chubby arms around Ben's neck, giggling. Ben laughed in return.
He turned at the sound of heavy footsteps coming down the stairwell and saw Owen enter the courtyard to join them. Ben smiled at the man.
"What are you feeding this kid? Rocks? He's growing like a bantha!" Ben called out.
Owen chuckled, but Ben didn't miss the slight strain around his eyes as he gazed at the Jedi. "Well if you count those biscuits Beru makes - " he was cut off by his wife swatting him on the arm.
"You'd better like my biscuits because they're all you'll be getting for the next month. " Beru mock scolded him.
Ben shifted Luke onto his hip, relaxing in the friendly atmosphere. He decided to forget about the woman in his house, who made him wish that Beru's optimism rang true.
Jaina had spent a happy hour trying on all the gowns in the case, being reminded of all the beautiful gowns her mother had worn as Chief of State. Some of the gowns, like one stitched with flowers gave her a wonderfully ebullient feeling. Others, like a white cape only gave her feelings of dread. She left those in the box.
When she emerged from the storage room she was surprised to find Ben gone. But she forgot about her disappointment as soon as she caught sight of her X-Wing sitting about a hundred feet from the house.
It was a mess. She bit her lip as she approached it, skirt in hand. She had owned this ship for a long time, the most important years of her life and it was painful to see it so badly damaged. Plasma coils fused, one fuselage almost completely crushed... Jaina circled the ship, checking on all the functions of the ship. She was so intent upon her ship she didn't notice Ben until he was right behind her.
She stepped back slightly from the transistor she had been testing, into a strong firm chest. She jumped and spun around. She sighed when she saw him.
"You snuck up on me!" Jaina told him.
He raised an eyebrow, "And you call yourself a Knight? A Padawan should have been able to sense me coming."
She shrugged, averting her eyes slightly. "I was checking on my ship."
He rubbed a hand against his skull. "It's pretty bad."
"No? Really?" She giggled as he glared at her. "I don't suppose you have enough spare parts to basically rebuild an X-Wing, do you?"
"I've actually never seen a ship like yours before now. But we could ride into Mos Espa one day, see what we can find." He offered. Jaina smiled at him, only then realizing how close he was standing to her.
Only a few inches separated their bodies and Jaina could look up into his warm eyes. He smelled of sand and dust.... and something wonderfully musky. He wasn't that much taller than her actually - unlike Jag who towered over her occasionally. Ben was just the perfect height that if she rose slightly on her toes she could brush her lips against... She jumped away against the ship lest she continue that ship.
From the slight blush to his cheeks she had a feeling his mind had been travelling down the same paths.
"I - um, uh... " He started to speak but gave up.
Jaina nervously brushed her hands against the blue of her skirt, wiping away imaginary dirt.
He blew out a breath. "Why don't we go scrounge up some dinner?"
She smiled up at him, relieved he had thought of something because she had been drawing a complete blank. "Wonderful! I'm starved."
He stepped back and waved an arm, letting her pass in front of him. Jaina pretended she didn't brush against him intentionally. Dinner was sure to be interesting.
The next morning, Jaina rose with the sun. She had slept on a couch in the living room and there had been nothing to block the brightness. But she welcomed the time, and started to run through a series of stretches.
The bed she had awoken in the day before had been Ben's, and she refused to monopolize it anymore. He was far too much of a gentleman, insisting she take it until Jaina threatened to sleep in her X-Wing instead. The couch was fine for her, but she had a feeling it was a little cramped for the Jedi with the broad shoulders.
Jaina tried not to think about his broad shoulders, she really did... but there was something about the man. Granted, she was involved with Jag - but she had never agreed to be monogamous, it had just happened. She felt a connection with Ben. He knew was pain was, and understood how hard to forget was. They hadn't discussed it - but she could see it in his eyes.
The stretches were a routine for her, so she ran through them without even thinking about them, letting her mind wander. She wouldn't fight sleeping in Ben's bed - as long as he was in it as well. Jaina had never been so attracted to a man as she was to him. And she was sure he felt at least something for her - but something was holding him back.
She moulded her back into an arc, supporting herself on her hands and feet, face towards the ceiling. Maybe she should try and figure out exactly what that was. She pushed off her feet, and holding herself in a handstand until letting her feet fall to the floor and standing. Ben was standing in the doorway of his bedroom, watching her.
There was a moment of silence in the room as both stared at one another. Jaina frankly ogled Ben - he stood only in a pair of sleep pants and his muscles rippled as he crossed his arms across his chest, uncomfortable.
Ben had awoken at sunrise as well, but had done some meditation before leaving his bed. The bed which still carried Jaina's scent. He had come to the living room, and had watched her like a Master, noting her obvious strength - both physically and in the Force.
But it was when she stopped that he really saw her. Her hair falling around her shoulder in mahogany waves, the white tank and loose pants she wore which left nothing of her body to the imagination.
Jaina was able to speak first. "Good morning."
"Morning. I - uh - you're very strong, those are good stretches to test yourself." he commented as mildly as he could.
"I like to do them." Jaina was drawing a blank.
"Perhaps you could teach me some? " Ben tried to sound professional, he really did.
Jaina shrugged her shoulders. "Perhaps another day. I do want to expend some energy though."
An idea dawned. "How about some lightsaber practise? If you have an extra one - " she suggested.
He smiled broadly. "I do actually. It's just a practise one but it should service you. C'mon."
He led her to the room opposite the storage room, which he revealed to be a simple ring - perfect for lightsaber practise. The only confine was the ceiling, which wasn't as tall as Jaina would have preferred. There was a lightsaber hanging on the wall, which he picked up. Jaina immediately recognized the comfortable way which he held it and knew it was his own personal weapon. He extricated another from a large cabinet built into the wall and handed it to her.
Jaina judged the weight of it, it was a trifle lighter than her own but she could adjust. Surprisingly though, the casing was gold instead of silver.
"It was a prototype I designed once, " he told her. "But it never really suited me." His eyes narrowed. "Where is your lightsaber?"
She smiled, embarrassed. "I left it at home. I didn't think I'd need it."
Ben shook his head at her. " A Jedi should never be without his weapon!"
"You sound like an old Jedi master when you say that," Jaina taunted him, laughing.
"I may be a Master but I don't think of myself as old!" he protested.
Jaina shook her head slowly, gazing at him. "I don't think you're old at all."
Less than half an hour since sunrise and already two long awkward moments. This could be a long day, Ben thought as he silently put his saber up to the guard position.
Without reply, Jaina mirrored his pose. He struck first. The light sabers clashed as he darted forward and she tried to hold her ground. But he drove her back, with quick parries. She knew she was getting close to a wall so she feinted and used the chance to roll under his legs. She hopped up quickly, returning to a guard position. But as he turned she rushed him, the light sabers sparking as they met.
Jaina let the Force guide her in her movements, her awareness lessening to only be aware of her and Ben and their duel.
It was when she let that focus lapse that he won. He jumped away from a swing of her lightsaber and she cursed mentally. He took that moment of distraction to place his lightsaber against the blade of hers and with a twist spun the blade away, as his body slammed hers into the floor.
He was on top of her, lightsaber still blazing in one hand. But he let the blade extinguish as he lowered his lips to her and kissed Jaina with all the frustration that had been building since she had crashed into his life.
Finally. Finally he was kissing her.
Jaina responded to Ben's kiss completely, running her fingers over his shoulders, into his hair as she deepened the kiss, taking his lower lip between his and nibbling. He moaned. And jerked away.
Ben was lying atop the most beautiful woman in the galaxy, her eyes dark with passion and her lips parted from the kiss he had just...
"No." he croaked. "I - we can't."
Confusion flooded her features, along with consternation. "What?!"
He pulled away from her, kneeling. He ran a hand through his hair, shaking his head as he looked at her. "We cannot do this. It isn't right - "
"Right? What in blazes are you talking about?" Jaina demanded, sitting up, her face coming inches away from his. He backed away again, blanching as he stood. She followed and they stood, facing each other.
"This is against everything I ever - you ever swore!" he shouted.
Jaina's voice was a good deal lower, but just as emotional. "Swore? I never swore anything that said I couldn't kiss someone!"
He stopped, repeating the words which had been a comfort for him for years. "A Jedi shall not know fear. No hatred. Nor desire."
Jaina shook her head. "Those are tenets. I never swore to obey anything like that. A Jedi must know all those things - to appreciate them. In the case of fear or hatred - to know to fear them."
Ben laughed a deprecating laugh. "Then you must have had a very lenient master."
"No I didn't! But Jedi are stronger when we feel desire - along with every other emotion." Jaina stepped towards Ben, her hands on his chest and looked up at him. "Along with love." She raised her face to his and this time she kissed him.
Unlike the other which had been filled with frustration and passion, this was slow, gentle and loving. He dipped his head to appreciate it fully.
She pulled away slowly after minute, gazing at him. "What's wrong with this, Ben? This feels right - the Force is telling me this is right!!"
He looked at her, as she looked so vulnerable. "It goes against everything I was ever taught - everything I have believed in since I was a little child! Jaina - I, I can't."
The energy which crackled between them had never been so painful. Jaina turned and fled. So that he wouldn't see her tears.
Jaina left the little dwelling as quickly as she could, sprinting out the door towards her X-Wing. She climbed up the ladder with the ease of long practise and dropped into her seat. Her fingers flew across the controls and she prayed for her little craft to respond. She heard sputters as the engines struggled to align and start, but to no avail.
With a sob she lowered her head to her arms and let herself release all her pent up emotions. She wasn't angry at Ben - far from it, just frustrated. She had so wanted something to work out in her life for once, to find someone who understood how she felt - understood more than Jag ever could. She was friends with most Jedi, good friends with Kyp and others, but she knew she could never pursue a romantic involvement with any of them.
And the handsome Jedi inside drew her to him unlike anything else she had ever known.
Make that the Jedi standing a few metres away, watching her.
Ben walked slowly towards the X-Wing, his heart clenching painfully as Jaina looked at him, her face tear stained but still lovely.
She lifted the canopy of her ship, and stepped down the ladder hesitantly. When she reached the ground, she didn't turn to face him, but seemed to be studying the side of her craft.
"You were trying to leave." he said softly.
She nodded, laughing quietly. "Looks like the Force wants me to stay here. I can't even get the engines started. "
Ben suddenly realized how frightening the idea of her leaving was to him and he stepped closer, her back almost pressed against his front.
Jaina choked back a sob as she felt him behind her. It felt so good to have him near, to know she could lean onto him. But she couldn't - and her heart nearly broke.
Ben breathed in her scent, clean and feminine. Without even realizing it, he wound a lock of her long hair around his finger, fascinated as the light of the twin suns reflected off the strands, making them look almost copper.
"Ben - " she almost protested but couldn't bear to. Jaina slowly turned around to look at him.
"Don't leave." he asked.
Jaina looked down, sighing. "How can I stay?"
"We can't be friends?" Ben pleaded. Even he knew it was pointless, even being close to her made his blood pound. He could never be this woman's friend.
Jaina followed his train of thought. "We can't be friends, Ben. If you can't - can't be with me, I don't think I can bear to be here."
"I can't bear to have you not here." he confessed, his voice almost a whisper.
"Then you have to make a decision." Jaina told him, her voice clear even though inside she was quaking. " I can leave or..." she ran her hands up his arms and joined them around the back of his neck, bringing their bodies into full contact. "Or I can stay."
Ben didn't have to think about it. From the second he had laid her, unconscious, into his bed, he had made his decision. Slowly, tortuously slow he lowered his face towards hers and brushed his lips against hers.
Jaina lost all feeling in her legs and she clung to him - knowing that he would keep her upright, through anything. One of his arms came around her waist as he pushed her against the X-Wing, using it to support their bodies. His knees were weak as well.
They remained there, revelling in the embrace as the suns finished their ascent into the sky, spilling golden light onto them.
He had no idea how long after, but eventually Ben pulled away regretfully. Jaina was breathing in short gasps, her hair mussed and her lips bruised slightly.
"Why don't we go inside?" he murmured into her hair as he kissed the underside of her jaw line. She nodded and let him lead her inside, closing the door behind as the couple shut out the rest of the world.
Night fell over Tatooine and Jaina had never been so happy.
She lay in Ben's arms, lying on a couch in front of a circular fireplace in his living room. They had spent the day talking, laughing, kissing. They hadn't any gone farther and Jaina didn't care. Unlike with Jag, with whom she had become intimate with very quickly she wanted to know Ben. Wanted to know his soul, his mind, every contour of his lips.
His breath stirred her hair. "What are you thinking about?" he asked softly.
"Nothing. Everything. You."
Ben smiled, drawing his closer against his chest. "Me too. Great minds think alike."
"I may be great - but I don't know about you." Jaina laughed as he mock growled.
His stomach answered that growl and Ben realized that they hadn't eaten all day. Who cares about food when you have love? Like they were connected, Jaina's stomach growled as well.
"Maybe we should eat something," she suggested, giggling.
He agreed by sitting and pulling her up with him. He rose to his knees and stepped off the couch. She remained sitting, looking up at him. Ben couldn't resist the look on her fact and he bent down, kissing her slowly. His tongue nipped at her lips and they opened, giving him full access to her mouth. He lifted her from the couch and tangled his hands in her hair. She traced fingers across his back. Unfortunately, even Jedi need air and he regretfully pulled away.
"I think we were heading that way - " Ben inclined his head towards the kitchen.
"Were we? I don't remember..." Jaina laughed as he pulled her towards the kitchen.
He let go of her hand to open the refrigeration unit, beginning to assemble some simple meal. She leaned against a counter, arms crossed across her chest and she watched him. He looked so handsome in the soft lights of the kitchen, face a picture of concentration as he tried to remember how a recipe went.
"You're not trying to impress me with your culinary skill are you?" she asked.
"No... that would fail miserably," he confessed, turning towards her. "I'm not very good at toasting even a piece of bread."
Jaina laughed. "You don't need to impress me at all."
Ben smiled at her and slowly beckoned for her to come closer. He reached into the fridge and pulled out a package. He lifted out a deep red berry and placed it between her lips.
She bit down and smiled as she tasted how sweet it was. She took another bite, capturing his fingers between her lips. He tossed away the stem as she finished the berry. In turn she picked out a piece of melon and fed it to him.
They stayed up late that night, feeding each other food and laughing into the early hours of the morning. Ben then led Jaina into his bedroom and they fell asleep together, still fully clothed with a light blanket thrown over their bodies, curled up together.
The market of Mos Espa was crowded and noisy. Vendors shouted their wares, competing with one another for the ears of potential customers. There was constant haggling over prices and most customers shopped with one eye on their purse for pickpockets were rampant here.
Two patrons made their way through the crowds slowly, their faces obscured by the robes most Tatooine residents wore. They stayed close to one another, in constant physical contact as both watched those around them carefully.
Ben pressed his hand to the small of Jaina's back as he steered her towards a number of ships vendors. He hated coming into the markets here - so many people, so many who would be perfectly willing to sell everything they knew for the right credits. It could be a perfect place for some of Va.... his Jedi-seeking agents to prowl.
Jaina sensed his unease and touched his hand briefly. Ben grinned in spite of himself. The last few days he had spent with Jaina had been amazing... he had never been so close to someone. Every kiss was electric... they hadn't gone any further than kissing and caressing one another but Ben could tell they were approaching that point. And he wanted nothing more in the galaxy than to make love to her. It would be love. He had realized the night before, looking down on her in his arms with absolute awe that he was falling in love with the Jedi woman who had literally fallen into his life.
Jaina pulled down her hood as she reached the first display of parts and ignored the catcalls of some of the other shoppers. Very few women were shopping in this part of the market so she paid no attention to it. She could feel Ben's annoyance though and glanced back at him, smiling softly.
Relax, she told him quietly.
When we're home, I will. Was his reply.
Jaina turned to the Gammorean at the stall and surprised the short vendor by asking him for parts in perfect Gamorr. He scuttled to a number of boxes in the back to look for something. Ben gave her a surprised look.
"Where did you learn Gamorr?" he asked, rifling through piles of coils.
"From a friend," Jaina replied succinctly. "Take down your hood. It's considered bad manners on Gamorr to hide your face while conducting business."
Grudgingly, Ben did. He glanced around him and relaxed partially when there was no snap-hiss of a red lightsaber. The vendor came back with something very close to what Jaina wanted and the couple turned their attention to the part.
Neither noticed the Twi'lek at another booth look up and examine Ben closely. He picked up his commlink and whispered a few words into it. A ship in orbit began to descend.
Jaina crinkled her nose as she examined a fused bolt. "Do you really expect someone to buy this?" she asked the merchant.
He began to make excuses about it's high quality, just a bit of work would patch it up. She placed it back on the table and walked to where Ben was examining a transistor for his holo projector.
She slipped the hood back onto her head but made sure her face was still visible. An unease had been growing in the last few minutes and Jaina was constantly looking from side to side. She had found a few parts which would make a large difference in the repair of her X-Wing and was more than ready to go home. The repair of her X-Wing wasn't so that she could leave, just to have the ship ready. It would make both her and Ben feel better. She knew that not having a space worthy ship before had worried him even before she had arrived.
She was almost to Ben when the first shots rang out. Her reflexes took over and she dropped to the ground. It wasn't until a moment later that she realized where the shots had been fired at. Ben.
She forgot all her training and leaped up, loping around the corner to the stall where she had seen him last. He was still there. With a blaster pointed at his throat.
A Twi'lek snarled at him. "You will come with me, Jedi." The merchant, obviously in league with the Twi'lek had taken Ben's lightsaber.
"You're serving the wrong cause," Ben replied defiantly.
"Really?" The Twi'lek sneered. "I serve the Lord - and he wants your head. There is a bonus for whoever brings you in."
"Then you won't be collecting." Jaina replied, igniting Ben's gold lightsaber with a snap. A moment later and the Twi'lek was on the ground, his head separated from his body. Ben snatched his lightsaber from the quaking merchant and grabbing for Jaina's hand broke out at a run.
Shouts of the crowds increased in volume as they raced away. Jaina didn't listen to what the yells meant - she knew it meant that they had to get out of there. And fast. Luckily, the land speeder had been parked almost in town and they reached it at least two blocks before the crowd that had become a mob.
Ben leaped in before her, only waiting for a moment for Jaina to jump into the back before revving the engine and speeding off across the dunes. They were over the first rise and gone before anyone could see them go.
Jaina collapsed bonelessly against the seat as the reality of what had almost happened washed over. She couldn't count the number of times someone had tried to kill someone close to her and then Anakin.... Anakin. The memories washed over her and she started to cry.
Ben wanted desperately to stop and comfort her but couldn't. He reached out a hand to her as he continued to speed atop the sands. He drew her to him and she leaned against him as they silently raced to home. Jaina wasn't aware of the passing sands, only her own anguish and Ben's comforting presence next to her.
The suns were starting to set when they arrived at the home that had become their haven. Ben helped Jaina out carefully, letting her continue to lean on him as they entered the house and dropping the parts they had purchased and ended their trip in the bedroom. Stripping her outer robes from her, leaving her in a simple light shift Ben lay Jaina in the bed. He dropped his own robes, leaving only his meditation pants. On. He lay next to her in the bed, looking down on her.
Jaina studied his face carefully, committing his features to memory. She drew her fingers over the contours of his face. She had almost lost him....
"But you didn't," he reminded her softly.
"I know... but.... They tried to kill you..." her voice broke and Ben pulled her to him swiftly. She clung to him as her emotions crested.
"Wasn't the first time. Won't be the last. It's part of being a Jedi..." Ben murmured into her ear.
"I don't want to lose you."
"But... they killed.... killed..." Jaina's voice trailed off and Ben pulled back.
"Who? Who did they kill Jaina?" Ben asked as softly as he could. She had awoken two nights ago, crying... he thought that he had found the reason behind the late night terrors.
Jaina gulped in a breath. "My brother. My baby brother. They killed him and I left him and I lost him..." her voice left as she broke down. Ben gathered her into his arms, the warm protective circle, and she expelled all her grief and fear into his arms.
When the storm of pain eased he brushed the tears off of her face tenderly, kissing her eyelids softly.
Jaina nodded shyly, suddenly realizing that they were in his bed, both wearing very little.
"I'm sorry about your brother. But no matter what Jaina, you will not lose me. Through loss and death.... I will always be with you." As Ben spoke she raised her brandy eyes to meet his. Ben took a deep breath. "I love you."
Joy blossomed on her face. "I love you too."
Slowly she raised her lips to his. The kiss started slow and tender but quickly became more passionate and searing. Ben pushed one of the straps of her shift off of her shoulder, trailing kisses across her collarbone and beginning to move down. Jaina stopped him with a hand under his chin, raising his face to look at her.
"Are you sure about this Ben?" she asked him quietly.
He responded with a kiss and a reply against her lips. "I've never been more sure of anything in my life." Ben pulled her against him and they were lost in their own storm of passion and love.
Jaina's eyes fluttered opened as she felt light caresses down her side and sighed. She rolled over slightly to look up into Ben's smiling face.
"Good morning," he whispered as he lowered his lips to hers. The kiss started out soft and light but grew intense, Jaina opening her mouth under his, inviting him to deepen the embrace. Their tongues explored one another and Ben groaned into her mouth.
Jaina laughingly pulled away."It is a good morning, isn't it?"
Ben didn't answer her, but began to nibble at the base of her neck as he placed himself atop of her. Jaina breathed deeply as she enjoyed the ministrations.
"Don't you think we should get up?" she asked him breathily, pulling his face away from her neck, cupping it in her hands.
Ben grinned at her mischievously, "Why?"
"Because we've barely left the bedroom in two days!" Jaina protested.
"We've left the bedroom... " He murmured, twining her hair in his fingers. "Remember that bath we took?"
Jaina felt her cheeks flushing at just the memory. "Yes...."
"See? I told you..." Ben leaned down for another kiss but was thwarted as Jaina evaded him, sliding out from under him. Reaching the end of the bed, she stood and stretched languorously.
Jaina heard a growl from behind her and turned her head slightly, smiling coquettishly at Ben. He was watching her intently and Jaina almost jumped back into his arms. Resolutely, though, she crossed the bedroom and picked up one of his large shirts and slipped it over her head. When her head cleared the neck, she stuck her tongue out at him and left the bedroom.
Jaina wandered into the kitchen and began to prepare a breakfast. She peered into the fridge, shrieking slightly when she felt two strong arms pull her back.
Ben pulled her against him, kissing the top of her head and Jaina smiled, she had never felt more contented.
"You look so cute standing there, wearing just my shirt." Ben murmured into her ear.
Jaina glanced up at, "Yeah, well you look pretty cute too." She grimaced slightly as he rubbed his cheek against hers. "But you need to shave."
Ben grumbled but left, leaving Jaina to continue making breakfast. He reappeared as she was laying out bowls of oatmeal, with glasses of juice. He was completely dressed, surprising Jaina.
"Would you be adverse to going somewhere today?" he asked as he sat down.
Jaina shook her head. "No. Where do you want to go. Not Mos Espa - "
He cut her off, shaking his head. "I have some friends nearby that I haven't visited in a few days. I was... distracted."
Jaina laughed. "Sure. "
Ben waited by the speeder outside the house, waiting for Jaina. He pondered the events of the last few weeks. He had never been so happy, felt so alive as he did since Jaina had entered his life. The house didn't seem complete without her - he didn't feel complete without her near.
His brow furrowed. Was this how Anakin had felt? He was beginning to feel more and more sympathetic to his Padawan - to the young man he had angrily told to leave Padme. For the first time, he doubted his decision. He doubted the Jedi Council's stance on marriage for Jedi. Jaina had a point - working together made Jedi more powerful. Working with someone whom you loved, having that kind of affection for someone, it did not make him feel weaker - if anything he was stronger. Jaina had been there to defend him in the market, without her he might not have been able to extricate himself from the Sith agent.
His musings were interrupted by Jaina exiting their house. (He already thought of the home he had occupied for two years as theirs!) He smiled as he saw her wearing one of Padme's dresses, a white gown which exposed her midriff. Her hair was in a long braid coiled atop her head.
"Ready?" he asked, kissing her quickly.
She nodded and in a most unladylike fashion, leapt over the door into the speeder. Ben chuckled as he walked around and leapt himself into the speeder.
Jaina laughed," You weren't under the impression I was a lady - were you?"
"Of course not." With that he revved the engine and they sped off
towards the Lars. Beru stood in her kitchen, slowly simmering a bantha stew when
she heard a distinctive whine from overhead. Smiling, she turned the
heat down and picked up a rag to wipe her hands with. Luke was asleep
in his bedroom, Lars out in the collector fields so she would be alone
to greet Ben.
It had been nearly two weeks since he had last visited, when he usually dropped by at least every few days. Beru crossed the courtyard and climbed up the stairs to where she knew the speeder would be parked. As she stepped out of the stairwell she called out to Ben, who was standing by his speeder.
He turned, revealing the woman he had obscured and Beru gasped. That dress...
"Padme?" she whispered as the pair came closer.
Ben's eyes narrowed. "Beru - this is Jaina. Jaina, my dear friend Beru Lars."
Jaina extended a friendly hand, "It's nice to meet you."
Beru recovered herself slightly. "You as well." She gave Ben a look which he avoided.
"Please, come down for some tea."
Ben let Jaina proceed him down the stairwell. He hadn't missed Beru's look of surprise when she had first seen Jaina - and he did realize that she bore a striking resemblance to the Queen. The same expressive brown eyes, the same heart shaped face.
Jaina and Beru made light small talk as they entered the dining room.
"Where are you from?" Beru asked, setting out cups.
"Here and there," Jaina answered.
Beru raised an eyebrow at the ambiguous statement. "How do you know Ben?"
"My ship crashed in the Dunes about two weeks ago. He was kind enough to rescue me and let me stay with him."
Beru didn't miss the warm glance that Jaina sent Ben's way - nor the look he returned as they sat, placing a hand in the small of Jaina's back.
Beru hid a smile as she poured tea. She had been right about Ben.
"Are you a Jedi as well?"
Jaina nodded. "But nowhere near the Master level. Ben's been teaching me quite a bit."
"I'm sure he has." Beru smiled at the two.
Ben grimaced slightly, but it had a smile behind it.
"Ben said that you and your husband are farmers?" Jaina asked.
"Yes," Beru nodded. "Moisture farmers. What does your family do?"
Jaina smiled inscrutably. "Some are Jedi.... some are not."
Beru decided not to push the girl. Any Jedi in this day and age was right to want to keep some things to themselves. She liked Jaina, there was something about her which appealed to Beru. She decided they needed to speak without Ben.
"Ben, we've been having some trouble with the oxidizers in the workshop. Owen hasn't had time to fix them - would you mind...?"
Ben stood immediately, "Not at all." Before he left he caressed Jaina's cheek briefly and she watched him as he crossed the courtyard and disappeared into another door. Jaina turned back to Beru.
"What did you want to say to me without Ben around?" she asked bluntly.
Beru chuckled. "Just that you should be on your toes with him - but I have the feeling you already are."
Jaina smiled, sipping some tea. Beru moved forward in her seat.
"You know, two weeks ago Ben would have sworn to me that he would never become involved with a woman."
Jaina dropped her gaze to the table, tracing patterns in the wood with her finger. "He tried that with me..." she glanced up and her look was mischievous. "I... persuaded him otherwise."
"I got that feeling." Beru did like this woman, however secretive she may be.
"What have you two been doing?" Beru asked and sat back as Jaina blushed and started to tell her.
Ben tinkered with the oxidizer for about an hour before he realized that he had left Jaina and Beru alone. He wiped his hands on his robe and went to the door, to check on the two women.
Both were laughing, Jaina bent over with tears streaming down her face as she gasped out what she was saying.
"So there he is - absolutely covered in oatmeal, sitting there - fuming at me!!"
Beru sighed as her laughter ceased slightly. "Ben needs a bit more a of a sense of humour sometimes - doesn't he?"
Jaina nodded. "I'm working on it."
"Oh I know," Beru replied. Both women started laughing again as Ben sat down next to Jaina.
"Telling stories about me - are you?" he asked wearily.
"What did you expect?" Jaina asked him.
"I don't know - a bit of respect."
Beru started to reply but stopped as she heard wails. "The baby's up."
Jaina looked guilty. "I hope we didn't wake him..."
Beru shook her head. "No, it's time for his lunch anyways." She rose and went to the bedroom.
Jaina glanced over at Ben as she twined her fingers into his. "I like her."
"I'm glad," he replied, leaning in for a quick brush of his lips against hers. Sometimes, Jaina was like an addiction for him - he had to have her near him.
Jaina pulled away, smiling. "So, what do you want to do when we get home?" she asked as she trailed a finger over his chest. Even through his tunic the touch made him shiver.
"I'll think of something."
"I'm sure you will..." Jaina leaned in for another kiss but pulled back as she saw Beru re-approaching.
Jaina stood, a large smile on her face as she saw the little blonde boy in Beru's arms. "He's so handsome! May I?" she held out her arms.
"Of course," Beru passed the boy to Jaina. "Jaina, this is Luke."
Jaina stopped at Beru's words, looking down at the little boy. "You named him Luke?"
"We didn't. He's actually our foster son - " Beru stopped when she saw the expression on Jaina's face. "What's wrong?"
Hesitantly, Jaina shook her head. She reached out through the Force, to feel for the signature that anyone with Force potential would have. She found it. And stared at the little boy with blue eyes in her arms...
"Jaina?" Ben asked again.
Startled she looked up at him. "I -uh," she passed Luke back to Beru, taking a moment to smooth the little boy's hair. "I suddenly don't feel very well."
Ben was instantly the picture of concern," Really? Do you feel dizzy?" He was by her side, supporting her arm.
"Dizzy?" Jaina shook her head, looking up at him. "You have no idea."
Ben turned to Beru. "I'm going to take her home."
"Of course!" Beru leaned over, hugging Jaina lightly. "I do hope you feel better - and come back soon."
Jaina grasped at Beru's hand. "Thank you." Ben led her to the stairwell. Before she went up them, Jaina glanced back at the little boy with the blue eyes she knew so well.
Ten minutes, ten years later - Jaina remembered nothing of the ride back to Ben's home. She knew that she thought about what she had seen, it's implications. Jaina dipped her head as she saw the little hut rise up over a dune. The little home that had brought her so much joy - and she felt anger well up inside her. In a daze, she stepped out of the speeder as soon as it had stopped, walking towards the hut.
Ben watched her drift into the house, a far away look on her face. Cautiously he followed her.
"Jaina?" he asked her once he was inside the house, speaking to the woman standing in the living room, arms wrapped around herself. "What's wrong?"
"Wrong? What could possibly be wrong?" Jaina asked bitterly and Ben saw tears forming at the corners of her eyes. "Only everything. It's not fair!!!"
Ben stepped towards her but held himself back as she continued to speak.
"Why? Why? Why did I fly through it? Why did I have to try it? Why do I have to be so happy here. Shavit!"Jaina picked up the thing closest to her, a glass goblet left on the table and threw it against the door. "By all that's holy - No! NO!"
Ben could feel the anger emanating from her - the absolute despair that was creeping over her. "Jaina - you're touching the Dark there, love."
Jaina shook her head as she picked up one of the iron pokers from next to the fire pit. "Won't be the first time - probably won't be the last." She swung the poker and it slammed into the opposite wall, cracking the plaster. Jaina rocked on her feet and Ben was by her side in an instant. Her legs gave out and he lowered her carefully to the floor.
Jaina started to cry, great sobs that wracked her body. Ben held her tightly, murmuring soothing words into her ear. She took deep, gulping breaths trying to keep control.
Ben smoothed her hair away from her face. "Jaina, I love you, what's wrong?!" he whispered fiercely to her.
She looked up, making eye contact with him for the first time since he had entered the home. He had never seen eyes so filled with pain and tears. "I love you too," she pulled his head down towards hers, taking his lips against hers. This was not a kiss like they had shared before, one filled not with love but with desperation and loss. She pulled away, running her fingers over his face. "I love you Ben - but..." she stopped.
Jaina sat slightly away from him, her eyes raking his features, the beard.... like she was seeing him for the first time. When she spoke her voice was so full of hurt it nearly broke Ben's heart. "Oh love, why did you lie to me?"
His eyes widened. "Lie? I didn't lie to you! What -!"
She placed a finger over his lips, a sad smile gracing her face. "Of course you did. You are not Ben. Ben is not a brave Jedi Master," Jaina gulped in a breath. "But Obi-Wan Kenobi is."
Obi-Wan slowly climbed to his feet, unable to find words. She knew. How did she know. She - she was -
Jaina stood quickly. "No, dear, I'm not one of Vader's agents here to find you. None of his agents will ever find you."
Ben found his voice at last. "What in Sith is going on, Jaina. How do you know my name? HOW??!!"
"A cruel twist of fate. " Jaina stepped to him, taking both his hands in hers. "That little boy - the foster son of the Lars - you brought him to them. You brought Luke to them so that he could be protected." Jaina paused, shaking her head. "But you haven't told them what you're protecting him from. You haven't even told them he has a twin sister. You took him from his mother when he was born - so you could protect him and his sister from their father." Jaina's voice grew hoarse and her hands began to slide up his arms. "Their father is the one who is the most dangerous of all - and if he finds out that they even exist - all is lost, isn't it Ben?"
He could only nod his head.
"You trained their father, had him as your Padawan. You could never have known he would find such evil." Jaina's voice was low.
Ben couldn't help but respond. "I should have. I should have known - "
"Shh. No - you couldn't have. But his children must be kept from him - must be kept apart. So the sister, Leia will remain on Alderaan and she will be raised as a Princess. And Luke will be here - and raised as a moisture farmer of all things." Jaina ran her hands over Ben's shoulders. "And you will protect him. So well. You will protect him, love. Thank you for that." She stood on her toes slightly and kissed him softly.
When she pulled away Ben stared at her incredulously. "How do you know all of this?"
Jaina breathed deeply, fighting back tears she knew were coming. "Because I know that little boy."
"Not like how - but as who is what you should be asking. I don't know him as the little boy. I know him as someone completely different - a brave, strong, wonderful Master. A great man who has lived up to the Skywalker legacy."
Ben mouthed the name.
A smile grew on Jaina's face. "Luke Skywalker. He'll do you - and Yoda - proud one day."
"But -" Ben protested softly.
"How do I know this?" Jaina gulped. "Because that little boy's sister - the little princess growing up on Alderaan who will only vaguely remember her mother as a sad woman.... She grows up. And so does Luke. But she grows up - and is rescued by a dashing smuggler who she abhors. Hates him. Absolutely. Until... he grows on her. And Leia will marry that smuggler and they will be so happy." Tears spilled down Jaina's cheeks as she spoke earnestly to Ben. "We could have been so happy, love.... but, but..... the Princess and the Smuggler are blissful - and children come out of their bliss. Three, twins born first. A boy who will have a gentle spirit..."
Jaina let her voice trail off as she pressed her lips again to Ben's, ignoring the salty tears that mingled around her mouth. The moment was already bittersweet. She pulled away, whispering against his lips," And a girl who should never have crashed her ship into a dune, only to be rescued by a handsome Jedi Master." Her body was shaking with the despair she held and Ben stood immobile.
He sucked in a sharp breath as what she said realized for him. "You're - "
"That little boy in Beru's arms niece." Jaina could barely speak for all the pain she felt, the tears coursing out of her eyes. She started to slowly sink to the ground. "Not supposed to be born for twenty-five years!!!!!" On her knees, Jaina sobbed. The greatest trick Fate had ever played had been on her. She was in the wrong time, the wrong place but she had found the right person.
That person sunk to his own knees, lifting her face with his fingers to look at him in the eyes.
"And I - " Ben knew the answer even before he asked it, his voice rough with his own unshed tears.
Ben awoke to the sun's rays hitting him full in the face. He groaned slightly, his eyelids fluttering as he opened them. Instinctively he reached beside him and sat up when he found the place that Jaina had occupied was empty. He was on his couch in the living room, where he and Jaina had fallen asleep the night before.
As he sat up he found Jaina immediately, sitting at a small round table wearing a pair of his beige meditation pants and a darker brown tank top. She was only a few feet away but the chasm of time was between them.
She glanced up at him, a look of concentration on her face easing as she smiled. "Morning." It was not a good morning, not by any stretch of the imagination.
"Morning," he rose to his feet and crossed to her, standing behind her and dropping a kiss on her head. He rested his hands on her shoulders as he peered at what she was doing.
"I'm analysing the sensor readings my ship managed to record coming down," she told him, gesturing to the datacards scattered around the table. "I want to figure out what exactly happened."
Ben immediately tensed. So you can go back. So you can leave me - all alone, I'm going to be all alone.... His trail of thought was arrested by her jumping out of her chair, into his arms.
Brown eyes bored into hazel. "No Ben - I'm not doing this so I can leave. That's the last thing I want to do! But I have to know how it happened!"
Ben breathed deeply, using Jedi techniques to calm himself. "Understandable."
Jaina smoothed a lock of hair off of his forehead. "Trust me, love - I don't want to leave you. Never," she glanced down. "You're the first thing that has gone right in my life - in nearly 10 years."
Ben felt the turmoil underneath the surface of her calm. He pulled her closer, leading her back to the couch, "Tell me." He kissed her softly upon the mouth, drawing strength from her simply being there.
Jaina sighed as he pulled away. "I would say that it started with the war - but I suppose it was even before then, when Aunt Mara got sick. We didn't know then that the two were connected."
Ben's brow furrowed. "War? Against the Emperor?"
Jaina shook her head, chuckling softly. "My parents won that war - established the New Republic." She stopped, "Maybe I shouldn't be telling you this."
Ben kissed the underside of her jaw, smiling. "I wouldn't worry about it, dearest. I don't think you can contaminate the time continuum any more as it is."
Jaina giggled slightly, brushing her lips against his as she moved closer to him so that she was sitting in his lip. "True... almost ten years ago a new force invaded our galaxy. They call themselves the Yuuzhan Vong - and have built a civilization entirely upon organic engineering. They abhor technology - they say that they came to our galaxy to 'purify' it, as it was promised to them by their gods." Jaina dropped her eyes. "A year before they arrived, my Aunt Mara suddenly became deathly ill. Anyone else who contracted the illness died within the year and without the Force, Mara would have joined them too." Jaina shook her head, biting her lips delicately. Making Ben want to bite it for her, but he concentrated on what she was telling him. "I've never seen Uncle Luke more worried. They had only been married for a few years and there was his wife, the strongest woman I've ever met - wasting away."
Ben smiled. "I'm glad he finds happiness."
Jaina snorted. "Certainly took them long enough." Realization sparked in her eyes and she grinned at Ben. "They named their son after you."
Jaina shook her head, eyes darkening, "Ben. They named him Ben. I should have realized..." Ben cut off her self reprobation with a kiss.
"Neither of us could have known," he whispered against her lips.
Jaina nodded. "I suppose you're right."
"You know I am. Continue..."
"Yes, Master. They invaded and the war began - I was sixteen. I had this image of war as this great, brave thing where you meet the man you're supposed to fall in love with, like my mother did, and come out happy with all your friends beside you. I had no idea."
Ben pulled her against his shoulder as she breathed deeply, trying to regain control of her emotions. "Who did you lose?"
"Who didn't I lose? It started with Chewie, my father's best friend. Then a flight mate, Anni, then I went EV and almost died myself. Then...." Jaina squeezed her eyes tightly as she whispered the next name. "Anakin."
Ben started. "Anakin?"
Jaina nodded against his chest. "My little brother - it was my mother's way of making peace with her father."
Ben narrowed his eyes. "You don't call him your grandfather."
Jaina pursed her lips, adjusting herself against his shoulder. "No. Other people call him that. To some, I'm 'Darth Vader's granddaughter' - and not to be trusted, sure to fall to the Dark." Her breath caught. "I guess I proved them right."
Ben didn't respond, his heart constricting as he heard the pain behind those words.
"I fell, Ben. I felt Anakin die - my twin went missing... and I couldn't hold myself from the cliff. I fell. The Dark has always been there, taunting, calling me and I answered the call. It felt so good, killing those Vong with that lightning. They killed my baby brother and they deserved to die....." Jaina's voice broke and she clung to Ben.
It was unfair - it felt so right, too right in his arms. If the Force had meant for them to be together - why had it separated them so?
"Keep talking, love," he murmured into her ear. "It'll help."
"I fell. But Kyp pulled me back, he was my master for a while and now he's my partner. And the Vong kept on winning.... until a few years later that we turned it. They hold a corner of the galaxy now - skirmishes are fought almost constantly but it looks like it's going to stay that way for a while. And it's been so hard.... and then I found you." Jaina's voice softened and she raised herself upon her knees to look into Ben's eyes. "I love you."
He barely had time to return the sentiment before her lips crashed against his, her lips begging to be bruised, her tongue prodding for entry. Continuing the embrace, Ben lifted her easily off the couch and carried her into the bedroom. He laid her down upon the bed and they abandoned themselves to passion and sensation - hoping to forget what they knew.
The stars still hung in the sky when Ben delicately removed a sleeping Jaina from his arms and rose out of bed. He pulled on a pair of comfortable pants and moved into the refresher. He covered his eyes against the bright light with the back oh his hand, relaxing as his pupils adjusted. He went to the sink and ran cold water, bending down to splash it on his face.
Ben spluttered once the water hit him, blinking rapidly. But he was awake.
He slipped back through the bedroom to the living room. He lit the fire with a thought, then collected the data padds that Jaina had been studying in the morning. He sat down with them all and bent his head to study them.
An hour or so later, Ben raised his head from the padd, his face one of concentration. He rose from his place upon the couch, and went into the bedroom. He stood at the foot of the bed for a moment, watching Jaina. She seemed almost feline when she slept, either curling up tightly or stretching out and filling out more space than seemed possible - as she was now. He hated to disturb her but Ben moved to sit next to her upon the bed, reaching out to touch her shoulder gently.
She rolled over slightly, away from him. "Not now, Jag..."
Ben furrowed his brow. Who was Jag? He continued, leaning close to her ear and kissing her earlobe. "Jaina."
Her eyelids fluttered open and Jaina looked over at him. "Ben.... what is it?"
"I think I figured it out." He replied slowly.
"What? It's too early to think..." Jaina mumbled back, burrowing into the coverlet.
Ben smiled, but it was one of sadness more than joy. "I figured out how you got here."
That got her attention. Jaina sat up slowly, "How?"
Ben moved to sit fully on the bed, crossing his legs. "The anomaly is caused by the rotation of the suns not around each other, but when one is actually rotating around Tattoine itself. This pushes the planet slightly out of time for the duration of the anomaly - the atmosphere acting as the barrier between the two times. So when you fly in - you end up at another point in time. It's probably random what time exactly, you may even enter different times depending where you enter the atmosphere."
Jaina rubbed a hand against her temple. "So the only way to return would be..."
"To go through the anomaly again."
Jaina looked at him in alarm. "But that only occurs one a millenia!" She was more frightened at the idea than she thought she should be.
Ben sighed. "No. It happens twice. Both suns go through this before returning to their regular rotation. The anomaly is separated by a month. It'll happen again in less than two weeks. It would be your only chance to get back."
The fact hung in the air between them. Jaina dropped her gaze, looking down at the embroidered patterns on the coverlet. "My only chance...." she whispered softly.
Ben remained silent at her words but his heart clenched. His happiness lay in her hands. Their happiness.
Jaina breathed in deeply. "I'm staying." She looked back up at Ben, her gaze defiant - as if she expected him to oppose her.
Ben swallowed. "Are you sure?"
Jaina desperately wished that she could have looked at him with surety in her eyes. "No," she whispered quietly.
"You have 11 days to think about it," Ben told her. He was drawing on all the years of being a Jedi Master to not show how much this meant to him. He would love to sweep her into his arms - to revel in the fact that she wanted to stay. But he couldn't.
"11 days to make the biggest decision of my life?" Jaina shook her head. "I don't know if I will ever be sure."
Ben moved closer to her, "I know. But - don't make your decision just for me."
"I'm making it for us - " Jaina started but Ben shook his head.
"We're two people. There is a galaxy out there. I have the feeling it'll need you." Ben said softly.
"I need you." Jaina whispered back, brushing her lips against his.
Ben resisted the embrace and she pulled away. She looked so vulnerable, the white sheet wrapped around her, her hair mussed.
"Jedi aren't supposed to have needs. We do what the galaxy needs."
Jaina nodded, but her jaw was set. "That is the idea. But don't we deserve happiness? We've both sacrificed so much - so many people - isn't it our turn?"
Ben looked away. "I don't know." If only he had never let her....
Jaina reached out and grabbed his chin, forcing him to look at her. "Don't you dare. Don't you dare turn us into a mistake! This was right! We are right for each other and if guilt yourself into thinking that love isn't right.... I really will leave."
Ben swallowed. She was serious.
Jaina smiled slightly. "You know I am. And you know I love you. Do you still love me or have you already embraced the idea that Jedi deserve to have their hearts ripped out for the good of the galaxy."
"I love you."
Ben pressed a kiss to her forehead and Jaina relaxed slightly. "Let's get some more sleep - I don't think decisions should be made before the suns are up."
"You're probably right." Ben moved to slide under the covers, pulling Jaina tightly to him as the coverlet settled over them. Jaina snuggled into his embrace and Ben smiled, inhaling the scent of her.
But before he fell asleep, a thought occurred to him. "Jaina?"
"Hmm?" she responded, her breathing already slowing.
She stilled in his arms.
Jaina tried to laugh, to shrug off the question that had just
sent shivers down her spine.
"How do you know that name?" she asked.
"You said it, when I was waking you. You said 'Jag, not now'." Ben murmured into her ear.
"He's… a friend of mine. We've been flying together for about five years." Jaina told him.
Ben frowned. He could tell that she was holding something back. "A friend."
Jaina sat up in the bed. "Yes! A friend! Is that so hard to believe?"
Ben propped himself up on his elbow. "You're lying."
Jaina's mouth tightened. "I'm going to take a shower." She swiftly moved out of bed, but Ben followed her to the bathroom door. He grabbed her arm.
She slowly turned to face Ben, a conciliatory smile on her face. "Can we just drop this?"
"No. Not as long as you're lying to me."
She reached up a hand, resting against Ben's cheek. "You need to shave."
"You need to stop changing the subject. Who is Jag?" Ben's tone was firm and Jaina sighed.
"I…. I guess you could say he is, was…." Jaina's voice drifted off and Ben stepped back.
Jaina jumped. "No - no! No, he's not my husband… he would probably like to be but…"
Ben crossed his arms. "But what?'
Jaina moved slightly, sitting herself lightly down on a chair. "We've been involved for about five years. And he's a good man. Stolid, supportive, a great pilot. In all respects - he should be perfect for me. And he loves me."
Ben stood immobile. "Do you love him?"
Jaina released a breath in a sigh. "I don't know! It used to be I thought I did… but even before I came here. I've been running at any chance to keep from committing. What I feel for Jag… I don't think it really is true, passionate love." Jaina stood, placing her palms on Ben's chest. "It's nothing compared to what I feel for you."
Ben lowered his head to hers, "That's not the issue here."
Jaina nodded, lowering her eyes. "What I feel for him is great friendship, a lot of affection…. Maybe it's love in it's own way. He wants to marry me - he's wanted to for a few years. I don't think I want to marry him. I can't tell him 'No' - because that would be the end of our relationship. Why can't he just leave things the way they are??!!" Jaina pushed herself away from Ben, turning to gaze out the window. The horizon was turning blood red with the suns rising.
Ben walked up behind her, placing his hands upon her shoulders. "Maybe… I'll give you some time to think alone. You need it."
Jaina nodded quietly. She glanced to the side of the house, spotting her X-Wing sitting there. "I'm going to put some work into my ship." She turned, raising on her toes to brush her lips against Ben's. "I love you."
"I love you too." Ben gave her a little push towards the bathroom and she strolled out of the bedroom. Ben sat back upon the bed, drawing up his legs into a cross legged position. He opened himself to meditation.
Jaina pulled on a long sleeved shirt, an old one of Ben's already stained with dirt and headed out to the X-Wing, sitting at the back of the house. Parts were stacked in boxes next to it and Jaina pulled a hydrospanner out from a toolbox. She unpacked one of the boxes, pulling out a new power coupling and set to work on her ship.
She barely noticed the passage of time, of the shadows moving across the ground as the suns rose in the sky. She lost herself in the work, letting her mind wander as her hands performed the tasks. Jaina thought back to all the times she had helped her father fix the Falcon, all the times they had spent upside down conversing over the best course to fix a converter. She remembered Chewie always in the background and her thoughts drifted to all those she had lost....
Jaina, deep in thought, reached along the underbelly of the ship and cried out softly when she shocked herself slightly on a transponder. She pulled her hand back. Jaina would have pulled her finger up to her mouth if Ben hadn't taken her injured digit in his own hand, raising it to his own lips. Jaina whipped her head about. How long had he been there?
Ben chuckled softly, "Not long. I just pulled myself out of meditation a few minutes ago."
Jaina's forehead wrinkled. "What time is it?"
"Nearly eleven." he replied and her eyebrows shot up.
"I didn't even notice..." she exclaimed. Jaina glanced up at the suns now hanging high in the sky. "I got thinking..."
Ben settled to sit on the ground next to her. "About what?"
Jaina looked to the hydrospanner in her hands. "My dad - I used to help him fix his ship all the time. It's his pride and joy and it's gotten our family through everything. Ever since I was little I would help him out.... I was always good at fixing things." Jaina pulled her knees up to her chest and Ben was struck by how young she looked.
"How old are you exactly?" He asked.
"Twenty six. "
Ben was surprised. "You seem.... older."
Jaina quirked a smile. "Wise beyond my years? I get that a lot..."
Ben studied the markings on her X-Wing. "These are for all the ships you've shot down."
"In actual battle, yes. I've probably destroyed twice that number in other skirmishes. I was seventeen when I joined my first Squadron."
Ben looked back at her. "Like Anakin."
Jaina shrugged. "Most everyone in my family is a good pilot. Another Skywalker legacy. Uncle Luke won the Battle of Yavin when he was eighteen."
Ben nodded. "That's in.... sixteen years?"
Jaina nodded at first, then her face clouded and she breathed in deeply. "It's then...." She abruptly rose and began to walk back towards the hut. Ben jogged after her.
She shook her head as she continued to walk. "Not right now. Please... I - I just remembered something."
Ben caught up with her, as she reached the door to the house. Dirt swirled around them and the heat was oppressive but it wasn't the only heavy feeling in the air. "What? What did you remember?''
Jaina gave a little laugh. "It was always just a story.... something that happened.... It made me want to be a good Jedi..."
She opened the door, moving quickly through the house leaving Ben on the doorstep. "What did?"
Jaina stopped in the living room, her back to him. "It's at Yavin."
"What's at Yavin? I'm getting sick of you not telling me things..." Ben told her, his voice harsh.
"I don't want to tell you this! I don't think that you would want to know!! " Jaina spun to face him. "Just leave it, Be. Please. It'll be better this way. You don't need to know everything!"
"If it's upsetting you, I want to know. Don't try to hide anything from me." Ben moved slightly closer to her, but he was still angry.
"Some things should stay hidden." Jaina returned.
"That's not a Jedi talking. The truth should always be revealed!! There is no justice without truth - withholding the truth is the Dark Side. Manipulative..." Ben's voice began to raise until Jaina cut him off.
"You'll die at Yavin!"
Ben stepped back slightly. "What?" he whispered.
"You - you're going to do the right thing and you're going to die there.... Dammit! This isn't fair!" Tears were running down Jaina's face as she spoke to him. " I was thinking all morning as I worked.... and I miss my parents! I have a family - I have a brother, a sister in law, an uncle, an aunt, a cousin.... I have friends and co pilots and I have responsibilities..... And I can't stay."
Ben stood stock still, trying to digest what she was saying. "And I..."
"And without you doing the right thing Uncle Luke may never leave this rock. Maybe.... maybe you won't die at Yavin because you have this knowledge - but it's still a quarter of a century before I'm going to be born!" Jaina's shoulders shook as she threw herself into Ben's arms, her face pressed against his chest.
Ben's shoulders shook as well as he knew how cruel life really could be. His own tears ran into Jaina's hair as he held her tightly, trying to commit every part of her - of this moment to memory. Because in ten days she would have to leave forever.
Jaina roamed through halls unfamiliar to her. Yet as she looked around her, there was a nagging feeling that she should know where she was. It was not until she turned a corner until she realized where she was.
She was on the Death Star. Standing behind Darth Vader.
Her grandfather stood there.... his face obscured by the dark helmet he wore, his back to her. He was huge... Jaina had always had visions of Darth Vader as large and threatening but fear lodged in her throat. He swung his lightsaber about as he moved to the left and Jaina saw just whom he was fighting.
She lost the ability to speak as she saw a serious looking older man, a close trimmed white beard on his face.
"You'll never win old man..." Darth Vader intoned. From the shuttle bay a sound was heard and Obi-Wan Kenobi flicked his eyes towards it. When he turned his gaze back he caught sight of Jaina. His face was peaceful, tender, full of regret and love. He closed his eyes and raised his lightsaber upright as the Sith Lord swung...
"Ben!!! No!!!" Jaina lurched awake, panting heavily. The thin tank she wore clung to her, damp with sweat as she slowly sat up. She buried her head in her hands, trying to regulate her breathing.
That fateful battle had always just been a story... seen through her Uncle Luke's eyes as he saw his mentor give himself over to the Force. Another example of the Light Side's dignity and the perversity of the Dark Side as Darth Vader had killed his former master. It was no longer just a story for Jaina. Seeing Ben as an old man, seeing him..... seeing him....
Next to her the man of her dreams stirred and she flicked her gaze to him, taking in the sight of his young face, the still chestnut beard. He awoke slowly but sat up quickly as he saw her awake.
She didn't wait for him to ask the question. "I had a dream. Well, a vision I suppose."
"Of what?" he asked quietly, using the calming voice she associated with his status as a Jedi Master.
Jaina just shook her head in response.
"Visions are sent to us for a reason. Was it of the past or the future?" He moved closer to her, rubbing her lower back with his hand.
Jaina rested her head on his shoulder. "The future. I know exactly what it is... I just wasn't prepared to see it tonight."
His eyes were hooded, voice husky as he spoke. "You saw Yavin."
The silence was enough of an answer.
Ben's voice was even hoarser as he spoke again. "Tell me."
Jaina shook her head abruptly, moving away. "No. I won't . I won't tell you how you die!" She wrapped her arms around herself, "No."
"Then don't tell me. Show me." He grabbed one of her hands, pulling her attention to his face. Ben was utterly serious as he gazed into her eyes. "We have ten days, Jaina. We can't hold anything back from each other now."
She lowered her eyelids but nodded. Ben reached out, pulling her against him as she lowered her barriers to him, letting see the vision of the future that would wrench them apart even more than the difference in their times.
When Ben opened his eyes again he drew in a shaky breath. "At least it's on my own terms. But Anakin...."
Jaina reached up and pulled his face to hers, kissing him with all the love she held for him, trying to comfort him. He let himself fall into the sensation, to appreciate the feeling of her body pressed against him, her mind tangling with his own.
Jaina pulled away first. "You can't come with me - can you." Her statement was not a question.
Ben released a long sigh. "No. From what you've shown me... I'm needed. And no matter what - I cannot leave Luke. One day, he will need to learn the ways of the Force. He is to powerful to be left to his own devices, he would be in great danger of falling to the dark by accident or worse being found by one of Vader's men."
Jaina nodded slowly, her eyes tracing his features. "Ten days. Ten days to pack in a lifetime worth of happiness..."
Ben pulled her flush against his bare chest. She pressed her face into it, breathing in the scent of him.
"I want you do something for me." He asked after a long, precious silence.
"When you.... go back." It was almost physically painful to say this but Ben felt the need to - one of them deserve to find at least a modicum of joy in their life. "When you return, I want you to marry Jag."
Jaina pushed herself away from him, shock on her face. "What? No!"
Ben captured her hands in his, rubbing them as he looked into her beautiful, distressed face, pleading. "I want you to be happy."
"I could never be happy with Jag!" She protested.
"You could be... you would have been if you hadn't come here." Ben spoke quietly but with conviction.
"Jag and I have a lot of problems, we often don't understand each other...." Jaina was cut off.
"He loves you."
Jaina looked at Ben, pain evident on her face. "Not the way you love me. I don't love [b]him[/b]!"
"In a way, I think you do." Ben knew he was right, as did Jaina.
"Not the way I love you." Jaina breathed deeply. "You're serious."
"Very." Ben nodded.
Her forehead crinkled. "Why?!"
Ben reached out a hand to touch her cheek, caressing her cheek bone with his thumb. "Because I think he loves you. And I think that he will take care of you, protect you... He will try to make you happy. You deserve someone to try to make you happy."
She pressed her hand against his. "You make me happy."
"You don't know how much that means to me," Ben told her, a smile gracing his face. "But when.... I'm gone you need another chance for love."
Jaina shook her head but Ben stopped it with his hand, a heavy pressure against her face.
"Promise me. If you love me - promise me you'll marry him if he asks. You'll look for another love, accept that which is given to you."
Hazel eyes bored into brown. Finally, Jaina took in a slight breath and nodded. "I promise." She threw herself against Ben. "Only for you." She murmured into his neck, "Only for you."
Ben closed his eyes tightly, trying to hold on to the woman he loved for as long as he could.
Beru climbed out of the landspeeder, basket in hand and surveyed the house in front of her. Ben hadn't contacted her or Owen in nearly a week and they had gotten worried. Beru had decided to pay the Jedi Master a visit, under the guise of bringing him some home baked meals and desserts, as she was wont to do occasionally. He was a bachelor after all, he needed someone to cook for him occasionally.
She strode towards the house but before she knocked she glanced around the side of the house. A gleaming ship sat in the courtyard, and Jaina sat on a bench looking at it pensively, a mug of something steaming in her hands.
Beru stepped towards her carefully. "Jaina?"
Jaina turned her head quickly, upsetting the mug slightly. "Beru! What are you doing here?"
Beru stepped closer, tilting her head as she looked at the other woman. There were bags under Jaina's eyes that hadn't been there only 8 days ago. "Ben hadn't come by the house for a while, Owen and I got worried."
Jaina smiled wistfully at Beru. 'Owen and I...' it slipped so easily off her tongue, the Tattooine farmer woman didn't know what she had. "We've been.... occupied."
Beru lifted a single eyebrow. "Oh really?"
Jaina smiled. "Not quite the way you think." Jaina stood, motioning towards the ship. "We've been fixing up my X-Wing."
Beru looked obediently but shrugged. "I'm afraid I don't know much about ships. I was never one for flying, I don't even like driving the speeder."
"I couldn't live without flying. It's my passion," Jaina spoke quietly.
Beru smiled. She hefted the basket. "I brought some goodies for Ben. He likes my cooking so I try to keep him at least partially well fed. You know bachelors."
Jaina smiled and accepted the basket. "Come inside, please. Ben's meditating but he should come out of it in a few minutes."
She led Beru into the house and began to unpack the basket. Beru leaned against the kitchen counter and watched Jaina.
After a few moments, Jaina stopped, a package of stew in her hands. "Beru... you'll take care of Ben won't you?"
"What do you mean?"
Jaina placed the package down, pressing her hands against the counter as she bent her head. "I have to leave."
She spoke so quietly Beru barely heard her. But she listened carefully and frowned. "Leave? Why?"
"It's... complicated." Jaina replied. "I have to leave in five days."
"I thought you and Ben were happy - " Jaina cut Beru off.
"We were. We are. But, I have to go. I don't have a choice." Jaina shook her head tightly. She looked up at Beru. "Take care of him, bring him food - include him in your family. I can't bear the thought of him being all alone, becoming a hermit among the dunes... He deserves so much more and I can't give him what he does deserve. So please - " Jaina put her hand over Beru's looking into the other woman's eyes. "Take care of him. Be a friend, be there for him."
Beru nodded mutely.
Jaina gave a little nod. "Thank you," quietly escaping from her lips. She turned back to unpacking the basket.
"Does Ben know that you're going or were you just planning on slipping away in the night?" Beru asked finally, her voice cold.
"He knows. He agrees that I do have to go."
"I have duties. Away from here. Far, far away and I can't ever come back." Jaina shook her head. "If there was any other way in the galaxy I would take it. But there's not. I was never supposed to come here in the first place."
Beru studied Jaina carefully. Her anguish was clearly evident. Yet again, Jaina resembled another woman who had visited Tattooine those few years ago.
"You look like a woman who I met once. My husband's step-brother brought her. I think you've been wearing some of her clothes."
Jaina glanced down at the blue skirt and top she was wearing. "Ben gave these to me. He said they belonged to a woman who had died."
Beru nodded. "She did die. When she did, Ben brought Luke to us - she was his mother."
Jaina froze, "You knew her?"
"Very briefly. She and Anakin were here for such a brief period of time. But she was very wise and beautiful. Quite like you."
Jaina smiled fully at Beru, one of joy and Beru was struck at the light it brought to the young women's face. "Thank you."
From the exercise room, the sound of a door opening was clearly heard and Jaina left the kitchen, smiling at Ben as she handed him a glass of water.
"Thanks," Ben told her softly, kissing her quickly before he drained the water. He noticed Beru's presence behind Jaina. "Beru! What are you doing here?"
"Checking up on us," Jaina informed him with a twinkle in her eye.
Ben grinned back at her, as he reached out to Beru to give her a loose hug. "You're such a little mother."
"I am a mother," Beru reminded him.
Ben melodramatically hit himself on the forehead. "I completely forgot! How is Luke?"
"Wonderful, growing like a gundark and he's been asking when his Uncle Ben will come to visit him." Beru told him with a smile, perching on the sofa.
"Jaina and I'll try to visit..." Ben's mood dimmed as he glanced at the woman next to him who averted her eyes, biting at her lip. "It'll probably be just me visiting. Perhaps in a week or two?"
Jaina quietly excused herself and fled to the bedroom. The joyful mood which had surrounded Ben and Jaina as he had entered disappeared in a flash. Ben looked after her with haunted eyes. Beru reached out to touch him gently on the arm.
"Ben... I'm sorry."
"She told you did she?" Ben looked down. "She has duties she has to fulfill... She has to go. It's what right. As much as it may kill me."
Beru looked down. They were so in love. And both so pained now. Finally, she stood. "I'd better get back. Luke will be waking up from his nap soon."
Ben nodded at her. "I'll drop by... but not too soon. Once she's gone, I'm going to need some time to myself."
"Of course." Beru reached up to kiss him briefly on the cheek. She turned and left the little house, which had been so filled with love, where now sorrow hung in the air.
When Ben entered their bedroom Jaina was pacing up and down the room, arms wrapped around her mid-section.
"I'm sorry... I just can't think about it too much. It gets too hard." Jaina spoke quietly as she continued to pace.
Ben placed himself in her path, wordlessly opening his arms. She stopped a few inches in front of him, taking in a deep breath before she slid effortlessly into his embrace. She rested her cheek against his strong chest, breathing in the scent of his aftershave.
"I know. It's hard for me too." he murmured softly.
Jaina nodded, "The time seems to be slipping away so quickly. I - I don't want to sleep because time sleeping is time that I'm not with you, not experiencing you."
Ben reached down, kissing her temple briefly. "I love you so much," he murmured into her hair.
"I love you too." Jaina lifted her face to his, capturing his lips in a kiss that filled her to the brim with joy, with love and with pain.
When she broke the kiss, she pulled Ben to sit with her on the couch. "Can you do something for me?" she asked.
Ben nodded, drawing his legs into a cross legged position. "Anything."
Jaina smiled at his prompt response. "Tell me about my grandparents."
Ben started to rise, a frown coming over his face but Jaina grabbed his hand.
"Please. My mom and my uncle - they know so little about them. My mother only has a few vague memories of her mother and of their father... neither one of them has exactly the warmest feelings towards Darth Vader. It took my mother years to come to terms with it." Jaina's eyes were pleading. "You knew them both so well, you know how they came together. Were they ever happy?"
"Yes," Ben said softly. "They were very happy and so in love. They didn't think anything could touch them... They sacrificed everything for each other. Broke vows.... and then he found the Dark. It had been growing in him for years but he turned and he turned on her. The purest thing in his life, she adored him and she had to see him become this evil Lord. I've never in my life seen anyone more broken."
Jaina dropped her gaze.
Ben looked over at her and extended a hand to her, squeezing her hand briefly. "But you know what? She still loved him. Even when what he was doing, who he was working with became clear she loved him. She told me stories of when they were on Naboo, when he was acting as her bodyguard. They laughed, played together. Neither one had much of a childhood, she had been a politician from birth, he had been a slave until my Master rescued him. They found their innocence together." Ben paused, his eyes darkening as he reflected. "It made it even more tortuous though. She had all these memories of the eighteen year old boy who gazed at her with adoration, and then she saw the black clad villain..."
Jaina gulped in a breath. "Tell me more?" she asked, moving closer to him.
Ben pulled her against him, so that she was leaning against his chest. He lowered his lips to her ear, kissing it softly. Then he began to speak again, imparting everything he knew so that he could bring a family some closure.
When the suns rose the next morning over the two lovers, who had fallen asleep after Ben had finished speaking after a number of hours, were intertwined in each other's arms. They had four days.
A blue mist veiled the figures but Jaina could hear their voices very distinctly.
"Jaya - where are you?" her twin's voice rang, the wispy figure of Tahiri by his side.
Her parents' forms strode through the mist, yet never came close enough to be clear. Their voices were hoarse with pain and exhaustion.
A small, red haired child toddled ahead of his parents, looking so like his father when he had been a toddler. "Jaya?" Ben's young voice asked and his mother stooped to pick him up.
Alone in the crowd of figures, one alone stood erect. His green eyes seemed almost blue through the mist, "Jaina... come back to me..." Jag's voice drifted away as the mis receded -
- and Jaina awoke with a start, her eyelids flying open.
Sunlight was streaming into the room, the light hinting at how long she and Ben had been asleep. Groaning slightly she pushed herself up on her palms, rising from atop the bed. There was a distinct depression next to her but it's lack of an occupant told her Ben had already awoken. Jaina ran a hand through her mussed hair and sighed. She rose from the bed, shedding yesterday's garments and exchanging them for a loose pair of sand coloured pants and a white tank top. Braiding her hair, she entered the main living room.
Ben stood with his back to her, staring out the window at her X-Wing sitting in the courtyard behind the house. Jaina stalled in the doorway.
After a moment Ben turned slightly, catching her presence. "Morning, love."
Jaina smiled at him warmly, strolling towards him. "Morning." she rose slightly on her toes as she reached him, capturing his mouth for a brief, sweet kiss.
As she pulled away she gazed at him with love. "Did you sleep well?"
"I always do with you next to me," he murmured back, sliding his arms around her waist, resting his head comfortably atop hers.
Jaina giggled, "Flattery will get you everywhere."
"Oh I know..." this kiss was tinged less with purity and more of passion, Ben slipping one of hands underneath Jaina's tank top, tracing delicately tortuous patterns upon her spine. She shivered, smiling against his lips.
Their minds brushed against one another, their comfort overflowing barriers and shields. Ben lowered Jaina to the floor, resting her against the warm carpet as their conscious minds twined together like their limbs. Jaina moaned as Ben moved his ministrations from her back to her shoulders, caressing the curve of her neck. Ben pushed his mind into hers, exploring her wants, needs.... dreams.
The blue washed figure of Jag stared back at him in his mind's eye. Ben jerked back.
Jaina's face lost the look of contentment and became one of confusion. "Ben?"
"Who is that? Who are you thinking about? Who?!!" Ben forcefully projected the image back into Jaina's mind.
Her brow furrowed. "That's.... that's Jag. I had a dream I think, just before I awoke..."
Ben stood, stepping away from her, "You were dreaming about him."
Jaina hopped up to her feet. "What? No - I dreamed about a lot of people! I saw my brother, sister in law, parents, aunt and uncle, my cousin... every one who cares about me looking for me."
"And you saw Jag." Ben's tone was flat.
Jaina sucked in a breath. "Oh don't you dare do this Ben. A day and a half ago you beg me to marry Jag and at the very mention of him you turn into a jealous Gammorrean! You can't have it both ways... Jag does care about me. He loves me - you know that. And I care about him!" Jaina's voice softened after she reached that point, and she stepped closer to Ben. "But not the way I love you." She stepped closer, pressing against Ben's turned back, hand resting on his arms. "Ben... please. Don't do this. I only have 4 days, I can't bear us to fight. We don't have time for petty jealousies."
"I was kissing you, loving you... and then I found him in your mind. Staring at me." Ben spoke softly, his jaw clenched. "It's not petty to me. I want you to be happy - but I want you to be happy with me here! Now!"
Jaina stepped around him, looking up into his angry eyes. "I am here with you Ben, but I won't be happy if this continues. I'm here - Jag's not, and I love you."
With a broken sigh Ben dropped his lips to hers, expressing his frustration and pain in the kiss, backing Jaina up to the wall. She responded quickly, her mouth begging him to open the kiss as he lifted her, her legs wrapping around him. Passion overtook them quickly as they tried to find the joy that so eluded them.
Later, Jaina rested cross-legged against the wall, her eyes lidded with post-coital heaviness. She watched Ben, where he sat upon the couch, head in his hands.
"I told you to marry him so that you'll be happy. But I think - knowing that you're with him might just kill me," Ben spoke, his voice muffled by his palms.
Jaina moved to kneel at his feet, looking up at him. "Ben... It's possible that one day you'll meet another woman - and I want you to have the chance of love again. And that might just kill me if I knew you had found someone who could fill the hole I leave..."
"No one could ever fill that void," Ben spoke huskily as he looked at her.
Jaina nodded. "And Jag could never come close to filling your void for me." She dropped her eyes," Never fulfill me the way you do. Here... I'm so happy it sometimes hurts. And it's going to hurt even more to leave. But you told me I need to find joy again. So do you. We both deserve that. Maybe I'll come close to that with Jag... but be sure, love - being with him will kill me a little every day because he won't be you."
Ben leaned down to kiss her on her forehead, a benediction of love and Jaina closed her eyes, trying to preserve the moment. For the years of her slow death ahead.
The suns moved in the cycle they had for billions of years. They had been a sign of hope for those, the demons of the night being vanquished by the golden light. But as they rose over the Dunes of Tatooine they bore fear instead of hope. For a lone figure watched the sunrise as tears coursed down their face. For Jaina Solo had 24 hours.
Strong arms wrapped around her from behind and she closed her eyes, leaning into Ben. She drank in the scent of his aftershave, the strength with which he held himself now.
His lips brushed against her earlobe, moving down to nibble delicately at the sensitive hollow of her throat. Jaina moaned softly, but the sound of pleasure was marred by the soft sob that followed it.
Jaina turned slightly in Ben's arms, lifting her lips to his in a slow, painful kiss. Her palms pressed against his cheeks, and the feeling of his stubble did not feel so rough next to the turmoil that flashed between them as Ben opened his mind to hers.
As the suns rose fully from their point in the horizon Ben pulled away from her.
"Are you okay?" he asked softly.
Jaina shook her head, her pallor evident even under the tan she gotten since arriving. "No. Are you?"
Ben smiled slightly, running his thumb over her cheekbone. "No." His hand moved to her hair, running loose and long over her shoulders. He twined a wavy section around his finger, lifting it from the pale yellow silk robe she wore.
"I don't think I can do this," Jaina whispered softly, her eyes downcast.
"Do what?" Ben asked her softly, wrapping an arm around her.
"Live through this day. It's.... it's too hard." Jaina pushed herself away from Ben, moving back to the window. She stared out at the sky, only a few minutes ago lightened by the sunrise now darkening as a wind storm seemed to develop. She smiled slightly, as the planet seemed to reflect the pain that flowed through this house.
Ben remained where he was, watching her as she wrapped her arms around herself. They had grown so close in the Force her pain shone brightly, piercing him as greatly as his own.
"Jaina..." he started but she turned slightly, shaking her head.
"No Ben. Please. Don't be good and loving and wonderful.... I'm leaving you tomorrow! I'm going to fly away and return to my time and leave you here, all alone...." Jaina gulped in a breath. "If you're so good... I don't know if I'll be able to leave."
"You have to leave." Ben said softly. "I hate it but we both know that you do."
"I know. I can't help but feel like my heart is being ripped out doing it." Jaina moved towards him, outstretching a hand to take his. She squeezed it, looking imploringly into his eyes. "Be happy, love. I need to try for me... other wise the guilt might just kill me."
Ben pulled her tightly against him, pressing his lips into her hair. "I'll try love... though I don't know how many women can stand up next to you."
Jaina giggled slightly. "Flatterer."
"Teller of the truth..." Ben whispered as he lowered his lips to hers with a groan. Jaina raised herself up on her toes to respond more deeply to the kiss, her hands digging into his hair.
She pulled away slightly, her lips still only inches from him. "Make love to me," she begged. "Make love to me until I can forget."
In response, for his own peace of mind Ben obediently lifted her and carrying her into the bedroom, where they tried to abandon the pain all too soon in coming.
Jaina awoke with a gasp. She hadn't mean to go to sleep. She hadn't wanted to go to sleep at all. She didn't have time to spare to while away the hours. She sat up quickly, searching for Ben's chrono which he usually left on the bedside table. She illuminated it quickly and let out a soft cry as she saw it was nearly five in the morning.
She had five hours.
She glanced towards Ben, still asleep next to her, the light of false dawn playing across his face.
Maybe... it would be better if she left now. Save them the pain of that long last farewell. They had been slowly saying goodbye for 10 days now, maybe it would save them the added turmoil.
She carefully lifted the sheet that had been covering her, sliding her legs carefully away from where they had entangled with Ben's. She had placed a foot upon the soft wooden floor when a hand shot out, capturing her wrist.
A silence fell over the room as they stared at one another and Jaina was reminded of the first few awkward days they spent together, feeling the attraction build between them. The tension hung thick in the air and Jaina realized that she could never have guessed what she would find on the planet most referred to as a 'dustball'. It had become her home in less than two weeks, this man now looking at her with such pain the reason for that.
Ben sat up, his grip still tight on her wrist. "You were leaving."
"It'll be easier this... that way." Jaina licked her lips nervously. "Please, Ben. Just let me go."
"We still have a few hours," he spoke quietly, his voice hoarse. "Won't you appreciate that?"
He tugged at her wrist and she obligingly moved closer to him, nestling against his bare chest and sighing.
"I think the last few hours may be even more painful that these last days - and I never thought anything could be worse." She confessed quietly, her breath warm against his arm that he had wrapped around her.
Ben tenderly placed a kiss on her ear. "I know. Every breath..."
"Feels like fire," Jaina finished for him. "I can't ever finish Jag's sentences." she dropped her gaze to her fingers.
"I don't know if I'll ever meet anyone else who I will know like you," Ben replied and pulled her even closer, taking a ragged breath. "Have I told you I'm going to miss you desperately?"
Jaina shook her head, looking up into his dark, warm, loving eyes that seemed so sad. They were a mirror to her own. "No... have I told you today how much I love you?"
He began to reply in the negative, when with a quick movement she lifted her face to his, pushing her lips against his in a desperate, anguished kiss. It deepened quickly, unlike the slow and tender lovemaking they had shared the night before. They were returned to that first, frustrated kiss as they tried to pack as much sensation as possible into the moment. Fingers kneaded painfully at skin, bruises left on lips, Jaina's wrist, upon Ben's shoulder blade. Jaina cried out, more of sorrow than pain when another, more tender bruise was left at the nape of her neck. Ben pulled away from her, his breathing laboured.
"Not like this. Our last time together.... our last hours have to mean something, Jaina. They can't be just for lust, this has to be love."
Jaina pulled his face to hers, "Then make love to me. One last time..." Her plea was cut off by his lips returning to hers, as she was pushed down into the bed that had cradled her in the most joyful times, now for the very worst.
The sun had risen fully when Jaina arose from the bed, silently pulling on the flight suit that had been mended over the last few days. The fabric looked worn but she intended to never wear it again once she returned... home.
Ben looked away as she dressed, unable to look at her prepare for her departure. His heart rent as she zipped up the flight suit, covering up his marking upon her neck. Jaina glanced out the window, seeing the suns now shining gaily upon her X-Wing. She would have prepared to see darkness over Tatooine, to match this day.
Ben rose, pulling on a tunic and pants as she looked away from her ship, to gaze around the bedroom. She moved from the bed, after smoothing her hand over the soft sheets to the dresser, adjusting a wooden box sitting upon it. She avoided glancing in the mirror across from the bed, where some nights she had looked at herself in. Seen herself in the embrace of Ben. Jaina didn't know if she could ever look at herself in the mirror ever again, for this was the cruellest thing she had ever done to herself, to another person. She turned slightly and caught Ben's eye. He had been watching her, his face as neutral as he could keep it.
He held out a hand and she took it quietly, leaving the bedroom behind.
They entered the living room together and Jaina let go of Ben's hand, to stand by the fire. She peered into the flames as she held her hands out, they seemed so cold now.
Ben placed his hands on her shoulder, his breath warming her neck. "Do you see anything?"
"I don't know if I want to see anything." she answered quietly. "The Force has never seemed so cruel to me..."
She was cut off when he squeezed her shoulders. "The Force gave us a gift, Jaina. We have to appreciate that."
"And now we're being ripped away from each other," Jaina replied bitterly. She roughly pulled away from Ben, turning to face him. The fire was casting shadows across his face but his eyes were bright as they stared at one another.
Jaina took in a deep breath. "I'm going to miss you! More than..." she shook her head. "Than you can ever imagine."
"I know. I love you and I know." Ben reached out to stroke her cheek. They were keeping apart from one another, he realized. Beginning the void that would separate them for decades. Impulsively he grabbed her, pulling Jaina tightly against him.
She gave a little sob as she pressed her face against his chest. "I love you too." They stood there, revelling in one another. Ben stroked her hair slowly, appreciating and preserving the feel of the mahogany strands in his memory.
Jaina hated to, but glanced at her chrono, giving a little moan as she noticed the time. Less than half an hour until the anomaly would occur. Ben followed her line of sight, his mouth tightening as the implication struck him.
"We'd... better go outside. You need to run a check on your ship," he told her softly.
Jaina nodded quietly, leaving his embrace as she drank in the room one last time. The warm, plush sofa where they had lain that wonderful first day as they had kissed and laughed. They hadn't had any idea. The fire burning merrily, warming them at night as they had lain in front of it. She was struck by one memory where one night Jaina had sat in front of it, braiding her hair as she sat between Ben's legs. They had laughed so much... Jaina couldn't take it anymore and she fled the house. The storm had died down and now the sand lay strewn across the courtyard. Her X-Wing was splattered with sand in every crevice.
Ben's footsteps thudded dully behind her and Jaina turned slightly to look at him. He had thrown on his cloak, the hood obscuring his face but she knew he was watching her. She averted her eyes quickly as she brushed away the sand from her ship, climbing the ladder to start up her X-Wing.
There was a roar as the engines sprung to life. Usually that sound brought a feral smile to Jaina's face, in anticipation of the flight ahead of her. She had never so dreaded flying.
She lowered her self back down to the ground, turning back to Ben. He stood a few metres away, watching her ship with darkness in his eyes. Somehow, she knew that he was finding it difficult to move from the spot. Jaina crossed the space between them, tenderly lowering the hood to look into his face.
The tenderness and pain that she saw there buckled her knees. She would have dropped to the ground if Ben hadn't caught her, cradling her against his chest.
"I can't.... I can't..... I can't leave you!!!!! Don't make me do this.... let me stay love, please..." Jaina sobbed into his chest, her body shaking with pain.
He clutched her quietly, rocking her, leaving trails of kisses along the column of her neck. "I wish you could.... Holy Force how I wish you could stay..."
"I love you so much!" Jaina lifted her lips to his, whispering endearments between kisses. Ben's hands roamed her body, pulling her even closer to him.
"I love you.... love you...." he whispered back into her ear as he nibbled at it, before moving back to her lips. As their lips touched there was another roar, not from Jaina's ship.
The sky above burst into a rolling blue colour, dipping in waves as it raced across the sky until it covered the horizon. Jaina looked upwards, her mouth falling open in horror as she saw the anomaly. It was too soon... too soon.....
Kilometres away, Beru too looked to the sky, cradling Luke against her as she saw the rolling colour.
Jaina's hand was lifted and she looked back towards Ben. He raised her hand to his lips, kissing it. Resolutely, he looked to her. "Go."
Jaina shook her head. "No.... I won't. I love you too much!"
"I love you too." Ben dropped her hand and stepped back. "Go. Now."
Jaina stepped slightly towards him, "Ben...."
"GO!!!!!" He yelled at her, pushing her back.
Brown eyes met brown for the last time. Pain, love, fear, determination flashed between them. One last step, Jaina was back in his arms, for one last kiss. It was brief, but felt like a year to them both. Ben released her with a gasp, and Jaina turned on her heel, running towards her ship.
She couldn't look at Ben. She couldn't. Jaina pulled on her helmet as her canopy descended. She heard the click that denoted it was sealed and she felt suffocated. She couldn't look at Ben. Jaina revved her engines, and with a quick flip (it had to be quick - if she thought about it she would stop) her repulsors came to life, lifting her above the ground. The X-Wing turned in the air, raising it's nose to the sky. With another punch of a button it shot off.
Only then did Jaina look down to Ben. To the man she loved with all her heart kneeling on the ground, not looking up.
Beru placed a hand to her mouth as she saw the X-Wing climb higher and higher into the sky. She knew what was happening, who was pushing that X-Wing to go faster, to make the pain of separating less painful by going faster. In her arms, Luke began to cry.
Jaina would never really know if she had been trying to reach the anomaly. Was she pushing her craft as fast as it could go? If she missed it, if the anomaly disappeared before the hit it... she would be left here forever. Wasn't that what she wanted? She never really knew what she wanted - only knew the pain when the nose of her craft pierced the blue and the X-Wing dove into the anomalous atmosphere. Jaina began to cry as she threw up her arms to protect herself as the years began to race by...
The blue propelled the tiny craft through the waves and Jaina couldn't help but see or be aware of the passage of time. Decades.
[i]Ben strode angrily up the stairs, away from the Lars' courtyard. Owen had just ordered the Jedi out of his home, for suggesting that he should begin training Luke now that the boy was six. All Jedi children had to begin learning early, or else they might go wild. And the small minded, scared farmer had told Ben to leave and never come back.
Ben went quickly towards his landspeeder, almost there when he heard the call behind him.
He stopped obediently at the sound of Beru's voice. He turned to see her hurrying towards him, pregnant yet again. Yet, he knew that this child would also be miscarried and Beru would again cry. He let go of that thought as she came closer.
She stopped a foot or two away. "Ben, he didn't mean it..."
"Yes he did Beru - and you know it! He wants Luke to grow up with no awareness of who he is!"
"Is that so bad? How hard would it be for him to know that he has Darth Vader for a father?" Beru's dark eyes were pleading.
"He doesn't need to know that, he just needs to learn about the Force!" Ben replied, his eyes flashing.
"But he would ask questions. With neither Owen nor I being strong in the force..." Beru let her voice trail off as she stepped closer and she laid a hand on his arm. "Give Owen some time. I think of you as a member of our family. I want to take care of you - I promised...."
Ben jerked his arm away. "No. Please. Don't mention that. She... she was just being protective of me. Trying to make things better any way she could."
Beru gazed at him sadly. "You still haven't talked about it. It's been four years Ben! Why can't you even hear her name?"
Ben grit his teeth. "Because every time I do, it's like a stab to the gut. She had to leave, it was right - but it still hurts like hell." Impulsively, Ben hugged Beru tightly. "I won't come back here."
She started to protest but he shook his head. "You're always welcome to visit me, Luke too. I don't want him to forget his 'Uncle Ben'."
Beru nodded quietly, rising on her toes to kiss his cheek. Ben closed his eyes as she was close, inhaling the scent of flour and shampoo, so different yet so alike to the scent of... her. It was with eyes stinging with tears that he jumped into his speeder. [/i]
The X-Wing rose painfully in the storm, turning in the currents of energy that raced over Tatooine. Jaina tried to keep it trained towards space but it was a hard battle. And the memories...
Obi-Wan jerked as the holo burst to life, sitting next to the now eighteen year old Luke. The tiny, dark haired woman looked away yet her face pierced his soul. The same dark eyes, though these were slightly larger, the same pretty, heart shaped face. Well, this woman was pretty while Jaina... Jaina had been beautiful. It had taken nearly sixteen years but it was only recently that Ben had been able to think of her without overwhelming pain. Maybe it was a sign that the end was near...
He nodded slightly as he realized who the woman must be. Leia. Twin sister to the young, tanned farmer sitting next to him. Of course, neither of them realized to it. He listened intently to the message. And Obi-Wan realized what it meant. The end really was near. But he welcomed it - the decades had been long and hard without Jaina, with her spectre still haunting his little hut. Some days, he could hear her laughter in the bedroom. But by the time he reached it, of course there was nothing. How could she be haunting him? She wasn't even born yet.
But she would not be born if he didn't help the young woman who would be her mother. Obi-Wan made a decision and turned to Luke...
Jaina tried to regain control of her ship but the waves were too massive, spinning the craft round and round. But she could see the edges of black space now, it was close... But there was still time.
Ben quickly dispatched the low life, removing his arm in one quick stroke. Luke stared at him, wide eyed while the older Jedi nodded quietly to the bartender.
"Sorry about the mess," he offered and the ugly man nodded in return.
Ben turned back to Luke, leading him away from the mess. "I've found a captain I think..."
He led the young man over to the table where the Wookie whom he had spoken earlier with sat, with a man whose face was obscured in the shadows.
But as soon as the man laconically sat back, his face becoming visible, Ben knew who he was. His brief introduction of "Han Solo," only clinched it. This was the man who would lend the spark to her eyes, the easy grin to her face, the saunter to her walk. Ben had hired Han Solo, the man who would father that beautiful memory, even before he heard the price.
The edge of space was so close... so close. Jaina felt something pierce her side and bit back a curse, riding the ripples as far as she could to return to her time. And then there was one more flash, one which she knew all too well.
Jaina roamed through halls unfamiliar to her. Yet as she looked around her, there was a nagging feeling that she should know where she was. It was not until she turned a corner until she realized where she was.
She was on the Death Star. Standing behind Darth Vader.
Her grandfather stood there.... his face obscured by the dark helmet he wore, his back to her. He was huge... Jaina had always had visions of Darth Vader as large and threatening but fear lodged in her throat. He swung his lightsaber about as he moved to the left and Jaina saw just whom he was fighting.
She lost the ability to speak as she saw a serious looking older man, a close trimmed white beard on his face.
"You'll never win old man..." Darth Vader intoned. From the shuttle bay a sound was heard and Obi-Wan Kenobi flicked his eyes towards it. When he turned his gaze back he caught sight of Jaina. His face was peaceful, tender, full of regret and love. He closed his eyes and raised his lightsaber upright as the Sith Lord swung...
Ben's words echoed in her ears as she burst out of the atmosphere.
"I love you," his voice seemed to fill the cockpit. And then he was gone.
With a flash of light and a piercing pain Jaina's ship burst out of Tatooine's atmosphere. She found the skies above the arid planet filled with New Republic ships. But Jaina blacked out from the anguish and pain which she couldn't explain - she hadn't hit anything - before her mother's voice came over the comm.
"Jaina, baby! You're home!"
Jaina had slumped, unconscious against the control board, unresponsive. Her X-Wing was tractored into the Errant Venture, where her family awaited.
She hated that colour for some reason.... and with a flash Jaina choked as she remembered. She was suspended in a vat of bacta, barely covered by scraps of fabrics. And she was surrounded by blue yet again, something which she never again wanted to experience. Jaina started to move her legs, though they felt sluggish, her abdomen tender. Through the haze she saw a med droid roll to the bacta vat, it's mechanical voice instructing her to remain calm and desist moving. It informed her she still required three hours. Jaina shook her head as panic began to overcome her. She tried to speak but she had a oxygen pump in her mouth. She reached out with her fists, beating them against the glass. Her parents stepped up next to the med droid, she could see their mouths moving quickly in agitation. It didn't matter. She wanted out. Now.
A whirr erupted around her and she felt herself being lifted out of the glass tube. She spit out the oxygen mouth piece as soon as her head cleared the air, coughing. She was lifted out and a towel was wrapped around her thin, but tanned body.
She was sitting, clutching the towel when her parents approached her.
"Jaina -" her mother's voice was teary as she embraced her daughter. Jaina closed her eyes, appreciating the embrace.
"Hi Mom," she croaked. She turned slightly to see Han standing a foot or two away. "Hi Dad."
"Hey Princess. You gave us quite a scare. You've been missing for a month." Han reached out to caress her cheek and Jaina dipped her head.
"I know... I'm sorry. I - uh- couldn't get off the planet til now." Jaina sighed, looking back up at her parents. "I just had to get out of that tank... blue isn't exactly my favourite colour right now."
Han chuckled and Leia glanced at him, a frown pulling at the edges of her mouth. "But Jaina... you need it. You..."
"I what? I didn't hit anything on the way up," Jaina replied.
Leia averted her eyes. "Jaina, honey, you miscarried."
Jaina stared at her mother, unbelieving. "What? But - that's impossible... I wasn't - I didn't..." her voice trailed off. Jaina looked away, trying to understand.
Han kneeled in front of her. "You didn't even know you were pregnant - did you?"
Unable to speak, Jaina shook her head. Her breath was rising quickly in sobs now. She threw herself against her father's broad, comforting chest and started to cry. She could feel Leia smooth her hair, still damp from the bacta and it became almost too much.
Jaina gulped in a breath, trying to get a handle on her emotions. She pulled away from Han. "I'll... I'll be okay."
Leia glanced quickly at her husband before turning back to Jaina. "Honey, Jag isn't with the fleet right now."
Jaina almost asked why that would matter until something clicked in. They thought that Jag had been the father. She would almost have thought so if she hadn't performed a check on herself right before she left a month ago. She hadn't been pregnant then. Which left no doubt as to who the father was.
She realized that her mother had still been speaking and listened again, "... a day or two and he'll be here. Can you hold on until then?"
Later, Leia would be surprised by the calm in her eyes as Jaina had quietly nodded.
They brought Jaina to the suite she and Jag usually occupied on the Venture, leaving her there with long, drawn out embraces. It was almost a relief when Jaina entered the quiet suite. Because then she could stop pretending that she was alright.
Her knees began to crumble as she made her way to the couch. Jaina sagged against the soft cushions, letting her despair wash over her. She maintained a tight shield so that no one else could feel her pain. Unwittingly, she wrapped her arms around herself. She then realized that her hands were resting on her abdomen.
She had been pregnant. And she had left. No matter what - she had left. There was a porthole in the room, and from it she could see Tatooine lazily turning before. The anomaly was gone. Wouldn't return for another millennia. And she was stuck here. Alone.
Being alone in a room had never seemed so lonely to Jaina. There was no comforting presence of Ben in the next room, not even the faint pulse of Luke's shining Force talent a few miles away. Not even a child she hadn't even realized rested in her womb.
Jaina pulled her knees up against herself as she looked at the planet below. She could see the Dune Sea, she could see lines that would have been rivers thousands of years ago before the water was exhausted. She could almost see where Ben wasn't. He was dead. Gone. Since even before she had been born. And the only thing she could have kept of him was gone.
She rose on unsteady legs and made her way to the bedroom. She threw herself down onto the bed that she and Jag shared occasionally. The idea seemed repellent. And she had agreed to marry the man.
Jaina cried herself to sleep.
Jacen hefted the small package under his arm as he made his way to the medbay. He presumed it was Jaina's. He had been worried sick about his twin and was very glad that she had been found. His father had spoken to him once the extent of her injuries had been diagnosed. Jacen couldn't imagine what his sister was going through, losing a baby. He needed to see her.
Jacen entered the medbay, scanning the room for Jaina. A medical droid rolled over. "How may I assist you?"
"I'm looking for my sister, Jaina Solo." he replied.
The droid whirred for a moment. "Commander Solo left against medical advice several hours ago in the company of your parents."
"Yes. But her injuries were minimal so it was allowed."
"But, she had a miscarriage. Isn't that rather important?" Jacen asked.
"When a pregnancy has progressed for less than one month the trauma of a miscarriage is lessened."
Jacen went to nod until what the droid had said registered. "Less than a month?"
Jacen spun on his heel - he needed to talk to his sister. Right now.
Jaina lay curled up in her bed, the covers over her head, trying to deal with the onslaught of emotions that had overtaken her. She had awoken that morning, comfortable and warm. She had idly remembered where she was, idly wondered where Jag might be... and then the events of the last month had come rushing back. And she was back to where she had been the night before - a mess.
There was a sharp rap on the door. Jaina decided to ignore it. She didn't feel like talking to anyone. Not now - maybe not even today.
She sat up as she heard the code being tapped in. Who could that be? Not Jag - a wave of panic overcame her at the thought of having to face him now.
When her brother appeared in the doorway to the bedroom it was almost a relief. But she saw the stormy expression on Jacen's face and she tensed.
"Hey Jasa..." Jaina started cautiously.
"Jaya." he replied evenly. "We need to talk."
"About what I've been doing for the last month?" Jaina took a deep breath, trying to calm herself. "Yeah. Sure. I guess I should tell someone." She rose from the bed, reaching for the robe she had left the last time she had been here, strewn over an armchair.
"You met someone." Jacen said.
Jaina froze. She swallowed. "What do you mean? Of course I met someone - Tatooine isn't completely unpopulated."
"You know what I mean. I talked to the med droid. You had been pregnant for less than a month." Jacen stepped into the room.
Jaina lowered herself to sit on the edge of the bed. "Can we not talk about this? I - I can't deal with it right now."
"We're going to talk about this now." Jacen sat next to her on the bed, taking one of her hands in his. "Jaya... what happened down there? Why didn't you contact us?"
"Because I couldn't. It... it just wasn't possible." Jaina looked away. She saw the planet below and she felt a wave of despair rise again. She tried to clamp down on it as fast as she could but Jacen caught it.
"I've never felt you in this much pain! Who was the father of your baby?"
Jaina shook her head. "Jacen - please, don't make me think about it."
Jacen took a deep breath and he leaned in closer. "Jaya... was it rape?"
Jaina whipped her head around. "What? No... Jacen, it was anything but rape. I loved him - I still love him - with my entire soul..." The tears threatened to overwhelm but she continued, her voice rising in speed and pitch. "I loved him so much, and he loved me and I was never so happy in my entire life and then.... then I had to leave. I didn't want to but I had to. And he let me - and I know it killed him because it's killing me...!" Her voice broke and Jaina gulped in a breath. "I - I didn't know I was pregnant. But the baby would have been the only thing I had left of him. And now... it's gone. And so is he." She rose from the bed, pacing to the window and she wrapped her arms around herself.
"But... why did you have to leave?" Jacen asked. "Why didn't you bring whoever he was with you?"
"The anomaly was a space/time anomaly. You go through - you go back in time." Jaina turned her head to look at her twin. "He's dead, Jasa."
Her twin was silent for a moment. "How..."
Jaina shook her head, cutting him off. "Don't Jacen. I - I can't do this. Maybe... someday I'll tell you. But not today. It hurts too much."
He rose, pulling an arm around her and hugging her close. "I'm sorry."
"I know." She responded quietly.
Jacen pulled away for a second. "What are you going to do about Jag?"
"Marry him if he asks me."
Jacen stared at his sister. "What!"
She looked at him sombrely. "I promised. He loves me. He'll try to make me happy. He'll think that the baby was his. That's fine with me... but I promised that I would try to be happy."
Jacen sighed. "You don't love him though - do you?"
"Not the deep, fulfilling way I did love. Not the way you love Tahiri. But it's a kind of love." Jaina stepped away from her brother. "Jasa - I haven't slept well in days... do you mind?"
Jacen shook his head. "Not at all. But - Tahiri will probably stop by later."
"That's okay." Jaina slipped off her robe and sat on the bed, drawing her knees up to her chest. "Just... give me a day or two. I need time to think."
Jacen dropped a kiss atop her head and went to leave before he remembered the package. "Oh - here. You left this in your X-Wing."
Jaina looked puzzled. "I didn't have anything in my X-Wing."
Jacen handed her the white, cloth covered package. "Well, the techs found it in your storage compartment. I'll leave you to see what it is." A small wave, and her twin left her alone.
Jaina regarded the package in her hands with awe. She hefted it slightly. It didn't seem to be too heavy but there was a definite weight in the middle. She untied the cord that held it together, and opened it. Her mouth formed a small 'O' as she saw what it was.
Her grandmother's dresses. At least a dozen of her gowns packed tightly together, in perfect condition. Her wedding gown, rolled tightly around an object - it's beadwork preserved perfectly. She unrolled the precious white gown, hands tracing over the embroidery lovingly. And then she saw what had weighted the package.
The golden lightsaber lay shining dully in the dim lighting. She lifted it hesitantly, and it lay in her hand like it had been built for her. It seemed as it had just a few short weeks ago - nearly 50 years ago. Until one detail caught her eye - something which hadn't been there before.
Engraved on the bottom of the handle in clean, elegant script.
I love you. Always.
Jacen entered his quarters quietly, sat on the couch and placed his head in his hands. He had never seen his sister so despairing, so thrown off her usual happy, joking self. He had sensed that she was never completely happy with Jag... but he hadn't had any idea how unhappy she was. To find someone you loved absolutely - and then having to leave them...
Tahiri appeared in the door, her hair still wet from the shower.
"Jacen - what's wrong?" she had immediately sensed her husband's sorrow.
"I saw Jaina." he replied simply.
"She's not good?" Tahiri sat next to him, wrapping her robe about her.
Jacen shook his head slightly. "No. Far from good. She's... I can't believe she's my sister. She has no hope."
Tahiri frowned. "What happened down there?"
Jacen furrowed his brow. "I don't even quite understand it. Something about the anomaly... sent her back in time."
Tahiri sat back, knowing that he needed to talk and to be listened to.
"She met someone. Someone very special. And she fell in love with him. But she had to leave. And it's killing her." Jacen ran a hand through his hair. "She seems so utterly broken - the baby would have been his, not Jag's."
Tahiri shut her eyes for a moment, full of sympathy for her sister in law.
"I can't imagine what she must be going through..." Tahiri's husband began but she cut him off, her voice hollow.
"I can." The memories were always there for Tahiri, hazy on the edge of her awareness. His eyes so blue and bright that last time she left him, how they had looked in the locker where...
Jacen hung his head as he realized what - who - he had reminded Tahiri of. He loved her completely and he knew that she loved him just as much. But Jacen also knew that Anakin never would lose his place in Tahiri's heart and that Jacen's little brother was still painful for her to think of.
He pulled Tahiri to him wordlessly, wrapping his arms around her as she rested her head against his chest. She could hear the steady thump of Jacen's heart and it soothed her. But Tahiri understood Jaina's pain - all too well.
It was another early morning when Jaina was awakened by the chime of a door. Yet again, she heard someone enter the quarters without waiting for her. She cursed as she rose from the bed, wrapping a purple silky robe that had belonged to Padme around herself.
She had made it to the door of the bedroom when it opened first.
Jaina stopped a foot away.
He stood there, resplendent in the black uniform which he always wore. And he looked at Jaina like a thirsty man saw an ocean.
It was without a sound that he stepped into the bedroom and pulled her tightly against him. Jaina almost lost the tight hold she had on her emotions right then - the feel of his arms was so familiar, so safe.
"I thought I had lost you," he spoke into her hair. For the first time since she had known, Jaina realized that Jag's voice was shaking.
You did, flashed through Jaina's mind but she didn't say it out loud. Instead she pulled away slightly to look up into Jag's handsome face. "I'm here aren't I?"
Jag grinned, "You are." He hugged her tightly, kissing the nape of her neck. "You have no idea how much it means for me to have you here - back in my arms where you belong."
Jaina bit her lips, shutting her eyes as she breathed in his scent. Engine oil, sweat, and a dark musky Chiss cologne he had worn for as long as she had known him. She knew it so well. For the first time, there was a bitter edge to it though.
She left Jag lift her off the floor, taking her to the couch. He settled her in his lap and smoothed a hand over her mussed hair. His fingers caught at the edge of her robe, a dark blue silk.
"Where did you get this?" he asked.
"On Tatooine..." Jaina began. Jag looked up at her.
"What happened down there, Jaya? Why couldn't you come back to me? I sent you holomessages - they got rather desperate after two weeks. I was so worried..." His eyes bored into his and Jaina dropped her gaze.
"I... I can't talk about it yet. Maybe later - but not yet." Jaina looked back up. "We should be celebrating - not thinking about things past. Okay?" She reached up to run a hand through his close cropped hair. She moved slightly closer to him.
Jag picked up on her cues, smiling as he looped an arm around her waist, pulling her against him. "Whatever you say..." and he pressed his lips against hers. Jaina whimpered slightly as she twined her arms around his neck, but Jag didn't seem to notice. He was too wrapped up in her lips to notice the tears pooling in her eyes.
Later, Jag lay on his side, looking down at Jaina as he twined a lock of her hair around his finger. She wasn't looking at him, but staring up at the ceiling.
"Your mother told me," he started quietly.
"Told you about what?" she answered absently.
The word hung in the air for a moment, heavy in it's silence.
Jaina shook her head abruptly, still avoiding Jag's gaze. "I can't, please... I just can't bear to think about it Jag." her voice broke in a low sob.
Jag closed his eyes, he couldn't bear to see Jaina in pain. He dropped his head, kissing her forehead. "I know and I'm so sorry. When your mother told me - I needed to sit. We didn't even know..."
Jaina gulped back a sob as she listened. He thought it was his. Was that really such a bad thing? It would be one way to divert any untoward attention. Jaina made a decision.
Jag pressed his lips to her temple. "We can always have another."
Her voice sounded distant to her own ears. "Yes, we can. Do you love me Jag?" She turned to look at him.
Jag gazed at her with wonder. "Love you? Of course - you're my entire universe."
"Do you love me enough to marry me?"
He gaped. "Are you serious?"
Jaina laughed softly. "Deathly."
He kissed her, hard. When he pulled away his eyes were shining. "I thought - I mean, every time I even brought it up before you changed the subject! Are you sure?"
Jaina nodded. "I've never been so sure of anything in my life."
Jag sprang from the bed, almost tripping on his pants which had been left in a pile on the floor. Jaina would have laughed if she had found the situation at all funny. Jag moved to the dresser, and pulled a small box out of the top drawer. He came back to bed and opened it.
Jaina sighed softly as she saw the large golden stone set in the platinum ring.
"Jaina Solo - will you marry me?" Jag asked quietly.
Her eyes were dark - Jag saw it as emotion. Her assent was very soft.
It was over dinner with the family that evening that Jaina calmly put down her fork and quietly announced, "Jag and I are getting married."
A hush fell over the table which had been raucous with conversation only a few short moments ago.
Leia gasped. "Oh honey!" she left her seat to fly around the table to embrace her daughter. Han rose from his seat to extend his hand to Jag, who shook it formally. "Welcome to the family, kid." Han told the younger man warmly.
"Thank you sir," Jag replied gravely.
The rest of the table was still quiet. Jaina turned to look at her twin.
"Shocked you so much you can't talk?" she asked, her voice light. "I should remember that next time I want to shut you up, Jasa."
Jacen shook his head. "Yeah. This is - a surprise."
"No more than you and Tahiri running off and returning married," Leia admonished slightly. She turned to Jag who had been sitting next to Jaina. "I'm so happy for you two!" she hugged Jag as well. He returned the embrace, if somewhat stiffly.
Tahiri rose to place a light kiss on Jag's cheek. "Congratulations," she murmured as she placed one on Jaina's. She moved her head closer to her sister in law's ear. "We're going to have a... chat later."
Jaina gave her an icy smile in return.
"When do you think you'll be married?" Leia asked, returning to her seat. Jaina could just see the visions of huge weddings dancing in her eyes.
"Two weeks." Jag supplied.
"What?" Leia dropped her fork. "Two weeks? That's not nearly enough time to plan a wedding."
"For our wedding it will be," Jaina replied. "Short, sweet, to the point and private." She smiled slightly at Jag who took her hand in his. Jaina turned back to Leia, avoiding the look that Jag returned. "Jag contacted his family today. They'll be here in a week and a half. We'll be married with just our families and closest friends around us. That will be our wedding."
From his seat next to her, Jacen had a feeling that his sister's wedding might feel closer to a funeral.
He and Tahiri found his sister later, standing in their parent's bedroom. The lights were dim, and Jaina was looking out the viewport.
"Ganging up on me are you?" Jaina asked softly.
"Beating sense into you might be slightly closer to the truth," Jacen replied. "What in blazes are you doing Jaya!!?"
"What I promised," she replied stubbornly.
Tahiri stepped forward. "Jaina, Jacen told me about what happened on Tatooine."
Jaina turned to look at the younger woman. "Oh did he? I wonder how since I barely told him anything about what happened on the planet." Her tone was dark. It sent shivers down Jacen's spine.
"Jaya - please. You don't want to marry Jag." Jacen persisted.
Brandy brown eyes so like his own flashed. "Life is very rarely about what you want. You know what I want Jasa?" Her eyes darkened as she looked at him. "To not be here."
"What's here?" Jacen asked softly.
Jaina shrugged. "Now. Before, after... Anyplace where he isn't. But the thing is - I'll never be where he is. Until I die of course." Her voice was desolate as she sat upon the edge of the bed. "I have all these - memories. Of the sunshine, of the fire, of feeling happy and alive and loved... And it's all gone. Almost fifty years in the past and I was there less than 5 days ago." Jaina looked up to Tahiri. "You understand, don't you." It was not a question.
Tahiri nodded slowly as she sat next to Jaina. "Yes," she breathed.
Jaina furrowed her brow as she searched for the words. Finally, simply. "I miss him."
Tahiri reached out to touch her cheek, "I know you do. I know how you feel."
Jaina nodded. "He asked me to do this. He wanted me to be happy. I want to be happy. So why does it feel like I'm dying inside?"
"Because you are. I was too. It feels like torment now, but eventually, it eases. I stopped dying - stopped wanting to die." Tahiri turned slightly to grace Jacen with a warm smile. She turned back to Jaina. "And so will you."
"When?" Jaina asked, her voice sounding young.
"I don't know." Tahiri's blue eyes were full of sympathy.
Jacen stepped forward. "Jaina. Whoever 'he' is - he wanted you to be happy. He obviously thought that marrying Jag would make you happy. But will it? Really?"
Jaina shook her head as she met her twin's gaze. "I don't know. But I promised him. And I've just promised Jag. I can't guarantee I'll be happy, but then, no one ever really can." She stood. "I've made my decision. I'm not going to go back on it." She made to leave but Jacen caught her arm.
"We'll always be here for you. That's guaranteed."
Jaina smiled, a real smile, for the first time since she had returned. "I know. Thank you." she embraced her brother and then returned to the main room.
She left the couple alone. Jacen turned to see his wife still sitting, her head hung.
"Tahiri?" he spoke softly.
She raised her head to look at him, an expression of peace on her face. "We did what we could."
Jacen nodded and she stood, crossing over to him and twining her arms around his neck.
"I love you," she breathed.
"I love you too," Jacen replied, beginning to lower his lips to hers. But he stopped himself. "Tahiri?"
"Hm?" her eyes were lidded as she raised her face to his.
"When did you stop dying?"
"The first time you kissed me," was Tahiri's only reply before their lips met.
A fortnight later, Jaina and Jag were married in a quiet, military ceremony. Wedge Antilles, whom they had rendezvoused with along with the rest of the fleet, married them. Jag wore his black uniform and smiled as Jaina was escorted down the short aisle by her father. She wore Padme's wedding gown, the hood down and her hair trailing down her back in a simple braid. Leia cried. As did the bride. Her parents, her aunt and uncle, the rest of the guests saw the tears as those of joy. As she raised her face to Jag's she gulped in a breath, trying to control herself. As his lips touched hers, the despair was subdued by the fierce outpouring of love and joy she felt from Jag.
She clung to him, opening her mouth under his and hoping he would be able to hold her up as her knees were weak. He did, pulling her against him and resting his forehead against his.
The assembled guests rose to their feet, applauding and Jaina breathed in deeply, looking at Jag. He smiled down on her, his eyes lit with a light unlike she had ever seen in them. He loved her.
Maybe, in time, she could learn to love him.
Wedge raised his voice to overcome to applause, "May I have the honour of introducing for the first time, Jagged and Jaina Fel."
Jag took Jaina's hand in his own as they turned to face their families and friends. He squeezed it tightly and Jaina smiled slightly at him. Together, they stepped slowly down the aisle. Towards their future.
Four years later...
Jaina Solo Fel stepped through the door into the Jade-Skywalker quarters, listening for sounds of life. There - from the nursery at the back. She made her way slowly, taking time here and there to appreciate family holos.
When she stepped through the door she was hit by a miniature whirlwind.
"Mama!" her son, Davin, threw himself at her legs, clutching them like she would disappear. "Make Ben stop!"
Jaina bent to pick up the three year old, balancing him on her hip. "Make him stop what?"
Davin pouted, burying his face against her shoulder. "Bein' mean."
"I am not!!" came the reply from behind the sofa. The red headed boy popped up. "We were playing monsters and Dav' got scared!"
That caught her son's attention. "Was not scared!" He squirmed until Jaina set him down again and went over to his second cousin. "I was not scared!!"
Jaina left them to slip into the adjoining study where Luke was sitting. It was aligned so that most of the nursery could be seen from the desk and Luke may have been going over Council papers but he had been well aware of the conflict. Two baby girls played at his feet, both almost one year almost and both only a few days apart in age. Both looked up at as they entered, but only one extended pudgy arms.
Jaina smiled as she lifted Ani into her arms, breathing in the scent of the baby cleanser. She loved both of her children a great deal, but she felt much more connected with her daughter. Davin was already becoming more like his father every day, fascinated with military manoeuvres. He could sit for hours in front of the holo screen if Jaina let him, green eyes wide as he watched old war holos. Ani was still a baby, but there was a gentleness to her Force presence which endeared her to Jaina. There was so little which was calm and peaceful in her life.
Luke looked up at his niece. "Long day?" he asked sympathetically as she sank into the couch.
Jaina nodded. "I have a new, bright green, set of recruits. They're completely in awe of me and Jag and don't hear we say."
Luke chuckled. "I understand," he shuffled his papers. "I spent the day going through the latest decrypts that Ghent's gotten from the old Jedi temple."
Jaina sat forward, "Anything interesting?"
Luke shook his head. "Not especially, it's mostly a number of holos actually. But... I did find one thing which is interesting." He moved a pile of thin disks, looking for something. He selected one. "Take a look."
Jaina accepted it, thumbing the key at the bottom. The screen turned blue, rolling and a picture appeared. She nearly dropped Ani.
A cry escaped Jaina's lips, "Ben..."
Luke's brow furrowed. "Yes... that is Obi-Wan. I didn't think you've ever seen a picture of him."
Jaina shook her head slowly, eyes tracing his visage in the picture. "I hadn't..." she let out a soft sigh and for a moment forgot where she was. "He looks so handsome..."
Luke stared at his niece in shock. "Jaina?"
She jerked slightly, sitting up. Ani fussed and Jaina looked away from Luke, paying attention to her daughter until the baby had settled again. She still clutched the holo.
Luke stepped around his desk, dodging his own daughter where she played with blocks. Gaeriel was too entranced with her toys to pay attention to her father.
"How did you know that was Ben?" Luke asked gently.
"Because he's Ben..." Jaina trailed off, then bit her lip. "Isn't there a statue somewhere of him? Or maybe, I saw him in one of your memories, or..." she groped for an explanation.
"No. Never. How did you know?"
Jaina started to stand. "I'd better get the kids home, Jag will be wondering what took us for so long..." Luke grabbed her arm forcing her back down.
"You're covering up something. And you're going to tell me now." Luke told her in a quiet but authoritative voice.
Her chin came up stubbornly. "You're no longer my Master, you can't order me around."
"Jaina." He spoke as the head of the Jedi Council. Jaina sighed.
"Please, Uncle Luke. Just drop it." She looked away, brandy eyes tracing the ocean outside. "What you don't know can't hurt you."
"You don't need to protect me Jaina." Luke replied softly, "Whatever it is... it's causing you a great deal of pain. I can tell."
Her jaw set. "Oh really - can you? I've been in a great deal of pain for the last four years, some days I thought it would kill me yet you weren't able to tell before." Her tone was mocking.
Luke frowned. Four years? What happened - . A form of realization hit. "What happened on Tatooine Jaina?"
A slight, harsh smile graced her lips. "Aren't we intuitive. I told you what happened on Tatooine."
"No you didn't. We assumed what had happened. You never even told us what the anomaly did." Luke sat next to her. Blue eyes bored into brown. "Tell me."
She shook her head quickly. "No. I won't. Please... don't make me think about it. It hurts enough as it is."
"What hurts?" Luke pressed.
"Him. Where he is. Was. Isn't." The words escaped Jaina's lips before she could stop them, the pain had been building for far too long.
"Who - " Luke sat back. "Ben." He needed a moment to recover.
Jaina stood. "I really have to go." She looked down on her uncle. "I'll come back later, once the kids are in bed. I need - some time to organize my thoughts."
Luke nodded absently but reached up and grabbed her hand, squeezing it. She smiled at him, then shifting Ani in her arms left the study. Luke faintly heard her call Davin to come with her, finally exiting the apartment with both her children in tow.
It was nearly midnight when Jaina returned to the study, her story ready to be told.
She curled up on the couch, a soft shawl which usually lay at the foot of her bed wrapped around her. She looked terribly young to Mara, as she watched her niece quietly from the other side of the couch. Luke had pulled a chair up in front of his desk.
Both watched her quietly as she shifted, clearly uncomfortable.
"I - uh - told Jag that I had some 'Jedi' stuff to discuss. He believed me." Jaina shook her head, avoiding both of her aunt and uncle's gazes. "He always believes me. It's this absolute love and trust he has for me... It almost makes me uncomfortable sometimes."
"Do you love him?" Mara asked.
Jaina looked at her. "Jag? Yes. In a way. It's a comfortable love, amicable, quiet... different though."
"Different from what?" Luke prompted.
Jaina stopped. "I don't think I've ever seen a sunset more beautiful than one on Tatooine. The light just sprays across the sand, brought by one of the suns. Yet, it doesn't seem complete until the other sun joins it, hovering over the horizon." She looked at Luke. "Is that symbolic? Are we... supposed to travel the sky with someone else? Are we not complete, cannot show our true light until we have someone with us?"
Luke shook his head, catching Mara's glance. He smiled slightly. "Perhaps."
Jaina's voice was hollow. "Then what are you supposed to do when you've lost your sun? The light at the very core of you... the person who makes that sunset so much more beautiful???!" She took in a shaky breath.
Mara moved closer. "You went to Tatooine."
Jaina nodded, staring at her hands. "And I saw the anomaly. And I was a cocky Jedi. Wouldn't I be able to succeed where all others had failed? So I flew in... the anomaly was a space time occurrence. It sends you back in time. Depending upon where you go through, " she watched her hand move down at an angle, like her X-Wing had only a few short years ago, "you end up at a different time." She looked at her aunt. "I crashed my ship into a sand dune. But I was rescued."
Jaina paused, then reached over and picked up the holo lying on the arm of her couch. She stared at it. "By one of the most handsome men I had ever seen. He rescued me, took me back to his home among the dunes and he healed me.
He was a Jedi Master.
I had gone back not quite fifty years.
His name was Ben.
We fell in love." Jaina's voice broke.
Mara pulled her into the warm circle of her arms, murmuring comforting words into her niece's ear.
After a moment, Jaina pushed away, wiping at her eyes with the back of her hand. She did not look like a mother, a wife, a famed battle hero. She looked like a young woman who had lost everything dear to her.
"Did you... not realize?" Luke asked finally.
Jaina shook her head. "No. Not at first. Why should I even consider the possibility? Later, it seemed so obvious. So damned obvious and I was so stupid and so in love..." she stopped herself. "I actually didn't realize it until, one day, he took me to the home of friends." Jaina smiled brightly. "They were very nice, they had a young child. He woke up. And his foster-mother brought him down and I asked to hold him." She laughed softly. "And he was adorable. Blue eyes, blond hair... he looked oddly familiar. So I just touched against his mind and nearly dropped him." She looked up at her uncle, who still looked puzzled. "That baby was you."
"Oh," was Luke's rather brilliant response.
Jaina leaned back into the couch, "So I realized where, well when I was. We went home and I almost lost it. Ben tried to comfort me - and I clued into who he was." Jaina picked up her wrap, a soft white shawl and ran her fingers over it. "It hurt so much. To know how much we loved each other. We were everything to each other!"
Jaina rose and began to pace. "There were days where I don't think we ate! We were sustenance enough just being together..." Jaina stopped, her head hung. "He was my universe. And he's gone." She reeled on her feet and Luke jumped to support her.
He wrapped his arms around her and Jaina gave a little half sob. "I had to tell him how he was going to die, Uncle Luke. I shouldn't have had to do that!!!"
"I know, I know..." Luke murmured.
Jaina bit her lip, thinking hard. Finally, softly, she spoke. "I haven't told you something."
Mara rose, feeling her niece's trepidation. "What?"
Jaina looked up at her uncle. "He.... I made him tell me about your parents. Your mother." She slipped the wrap off her shoulders, pressing it into Luke's hands. "This was hers."
Luke had to sit down.
Jaina sat next to him on the couch, her brown eyes watching him as he smoothed his hands over the wrap.
"Where did you get this?" he asked, finally.
Jaina lowered her eyes. "Ben, had an entire trunk of her clothes in his home. I crashed without anything but my flightsuit on my back so he let me wear her dresses... When I left - I didn't know but he put several in my X-Wing. A robe, the wrap, some gowns... my wedding dress was hers. She wore it when she married Grandfather."
Mara sat. "I wondered where you had gotten it."
Jaina ducked her head. "It made me feel connected to her... and to Ben." She pulled her knees against her chest and a silence fell over the little room.
Luke looked up from the soft white shawl. "Why didn't you tell us before?"
Jaina sighed. "Because - I would've had to explain how I found out about them..." She reached out to touch Luke's arm. "They really did love one another. They sacrificed everything to be together. Marriage wasn't allowed in the old Order, and even besides that, the idea of a Jedi marrying a Senator..."
Luke's interest was peaked. "She was a Senator?"
Jaina nodded. "A very good one too. Devoted to the Republic. She had been Queen of a planet.... Naboo I think it was called. Their Monarchy is elected and one she had fulfilled her two terms she was asked to be the Senator. Their former representative had just become Chancellor." Jaina sighed again. "I hate to tell you this, but Palpatine had been their Senator before. He was something of a ... father figure to both your parents."
Luke nodded slowly. "It makes sense."
Mara crossed her arms. "Palpatine was very good at playing that role." her voice was bitter.
Jaina nodded, licking her lips. "But... no matter what, Anakin and Padme loved each other. Very much."
"Padme," Luke whispered softly. "It's a beautiful name."
Jaina looked hesitant. "Listen... you don't need to tell Mom, do you? I mean, of course tell her about your parents. But... she doesn't need to know about Ben."
"What about Jacen?" Luke asked.
Jaina sighed. "I'll tell him... in time." She rose. "I should get back home."
Luke rose as well, holding out the wrap. Jaina shook her head, smiling slightly. "Keep it. I have a number of her things, but you need something."
Luke reached out to kiss her gently on the kiss. "Thank you." But before she left, he stopped her. "I think you need something too." He held out the holo.
Her eyes grew misty just looking at his face again. Jaina looked up at her uncle. "Are you sure? It's the only copy..."
Luke nodded. "Very."
Jaina clutched it to her chest. "Thanks..." She hugged her aunt. "Good night."
Luke and Mara watched her leave the apartment, holo clutched in her hands, her fingers tracing his face as she walked.
When Jaina arrived home to her own apartment, she slipped into the darkened suite. Cocking her head, she smiled when the true silence fell over her. The children were asleep. She began to make her way up the stairs when she looked down at the holo in her grasp. She couldn't keep this in her bedroom. Jag would ask questions. Uncomfortable questions. And considering her husband's tendency to get jealous, it would be better if he never saw the holo. She stepped lightly back down the stairs, moving to her study. Both she and Jag had an office in the suite, separated by a small library. She opened the bottom drawer of her desk and slipped the holo in, it's face against the wood.
She then turned and went back upstairs, to where her husband waited for her in the their bedroom.
The reading light was on when she came in and Jag looked up from their couch.
"That was a long meeting," he said softly.
Jaina shrugged as nonchalantly as she could. "We had some things to discuss... about the Council."
He rose. He wore only a pair of sleep slacks, his still toned and muscled chest shining in the light. "I missed you."
Jaina pulled her shirt over her head, discarding it into the laundry. She smiled slightly at him. "I missed you too."
He stepped closer, his arms pulling her close against his strong chest. "I mean I really missed you." his head dipped to capture her lips in a slow, possessive kiss. She didn't fight when he carried her to their marital bed but it was a pair of soft brown eyes which she pictured as Jagged took her roughly in the dim light.
It was days later that it all came crashing down.
Jaina had been on her way out, the children in two as she was going to leave them at a lifeday party for one of their playmates. Little Miko Durron was a few months older than Ani and was turning one year old.
While she was out, Jag had started work in his study on battle plans for their respective squadrons in his study. He realized that the schematics Jaina had taken from him the week before weren't back in his carefully organized files, so he crossed the library into his wife's study.
Typically, it was a mess - a complete contrast to Jag's own, ordered office. He began rifling through piles, looking for the padd. He sat in the leather easy chair behind the desk and started to quickly open and close doors, scanning them quickly.
In the bottom drawer - something caught his eye.
He reached down, taking the slim silver holo case from where it had rested in the very well of the desk. He turned it over, to see a calm, bearded man staring out at him.
He was still staring at it when Jaina arrived back home.
"Jag?" she called from the front door, slipping off her coat. "Jag!" she called again, making her way through the apartment. She came to the door of her office, stopping absolutely in her tracks.
"What are you doing?" her voice sounded hollow in her ears.
He was sitting in her chair, the holo clasped in his hands and he was looking at it with an impassive expression on his face which Jaina had come to recognize over their marriage as his look of fury. She was suddenly very glad the children were not in the house.
"Who is he?" Jag finally asked, softly.
"Where did you get that?" Jaina replied just as softly.
Jag pushed up from the chair violently. "I asked you a question dammit!!!"
Jaina leaned against the doorframe. "Well I asked you a question first."
"I was looking for the padd you borrowed and innocently entered my wife's office to look for it. And what do I find?" Jag raised the holo.
"Give me that." Jaina moved forward into the office and held out her hand, praying that he wouldn't see her hand shaking.
He slapped away her hand. "Answer my question!!!!!!"
Jaina took in a deep breath, smiling slightly and trying to defuse the situation. "He's no one." Damn, she wished she could lie properly.
He didn't believe her. "You don't hide pictures of 'no one', Jaina." Jag stepped closer to her, and Jaina backed up towards her desk. "Who is he."
"A Jedi Master, from the old Order." Jaina tried to stand her ground. "He trained Uncle Luke, and we just found the holo."
"I don't see why you have it. I haven't ever seen you stare at pictures of... the little green one." Jag growled.
Jaina's eyes flashed, annoyed. "Yoda. It's a Jedi thing, Jag - you wouldn't understand." She reached her hand out again.
Jag grabbed her wrist, pulling her against him. "A Jedi thing? One of those other reasons I've disappointed you so - huh Jaina? How do I know all of your 'Jedi things' late at night aren't you running around like a whore?"
"I'm - not - a - whore," Jaina replied through gritted teeth, struggling to move away from him. He was physically stronger than her, bigger. If she could have tapped into the Force it would not have been a problem but she couldn't do that. Right now the only Force she could touch was the Force of anger and pain.
Jag squeezed her wrist and she cried out. "Prove it. WHO IS HE???" A quick move and he slammed her against the wall. He held up the holo again. "Tell me."
Jaina glared. "I don't have to tell you ANYTHING, you son of a - " she was cut off as he shook her by the arms.
"Yes you do you little slut. I am your husband - you belong to me!!" he pushed against her even harder, so that their faces were only a few inches apart. "I am the father of your children - "
Jaina cut him off.
"Not all of them." Her voice was quiet, sure and icy.
Jag froze, his eyes wide. "What did you say?"
Jaina pushed back against him, forcing him to let go of her slightly. "I said, you weren't the father of all my children. Are you really so dumb to think you were?"
Jag's breath was ragged, his eyes dark with rage. "Which one? Davin or Ani?"
"Neither." Jaina replied.
She never even saw his hand coming. He slapped her, hard across the face. Jaina reeled for a moment and Jag grabbed her again, and she was back against the wall.
"Tell me, you little slut..." he started.
"It was neither! They're both yours, you bastard. I lost the only child that wasn't yours." Jaina shot back.
Jag smiled a chilling smile. "Serves you right. Losing your little bastard." He looked down at the holo, lying discarded on the floor. "He was the father - wasn't he. I should've known you were lying about that Jedi crap." Jag raised his heel, his feet encased in steel military boots.
His heel came down on the holo with a sickening crunch. The picture flickered and died. Jaina screamed.
"NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Jag let go of her and she fell to her knees. She reached out a trembling hand to the holo, and it fell, broken, from her fingers. She turned dark, hateful eyes to her loving husband.
"You bastard!!!! -" she threw himself at him, punching him across his perfect jaw. "You couldn't stand for me to even have the MEMORY of happiness!!! The image of the man who actually fulfilled me in my life," her tone darkened as she knew the words would hurt him, " and in my bed. Ten times the man you ever were and his child would have been - been..." Jaina's voice broke and she fell to her knees, head hung and she cried.
Jag looked down on her darkly. "Why did you even marry me?" he asked finally, his tone angry.
Jaina raised her head slowly, so her pain filled eyes could meet his. The look was of pure venom and her voice was of pure bitterness. "Because he asked me to. Because he thought you could make me happy."
The silence hung in the air.
Jaina looked down. "Go Jag. Just go."
Jag's jaw set stubbornly. He didn't take orders from his wife. "But - "
"I said GO!"
He did. Purposely stepping again on the holo on his way out, leaving his wife alone with her pain.
Jaina remained there, her head hung for hours. She alternately cried and raged. Raged against her husband, against the universe which had put her in this position. It was there that her brother found her.
Jacen had been called to the Durron residence when neither Jaina nor Jag had come to collect their offspring. Kyp's dark green eyes had been worried, and he urged Jacen to go and check on them.
The suite had been deathly quiet when Jacen had entered it, Ani in his arm and Davin clutching his hand. Both children looked around soberly, Davin evidently looking for either of his parents. Jacen settled Ani in her playpen, sitting empty in the living room and instructed Davin to play quietly and look after his sister.
Jacen ranged through the apartment, finally coming to a locked door. He narrowed his eyes, Jaina never locked her office. She was not the kind of mother to bar her children from any part of the house. Reaching out, Jacen indeed found his sister inside and he nearly buckled when the wave of despair and pain washed over him. His hand shook as he tapped in the access code to the office, a mixture of her children's birth dates.
Jacen knelt by his sister's side, his heart beating rapidly as he took her in. "Jaya... Jaya what's wrong?"
Silently, she raised her face to his and the red mark on one side of her face was clearly evident. Rage grew in the pit of Jacen's belly.
"What the hell happened?" he asked.
Jaina choked off a sob. "Jag... found a holo I had been keeping." she waved listlessly to the pile of shards on the floor. "We had a fight..."
"He hit you." Jacen's voice was emotionless as his sister nodded, smiling slightly.
"Don't worry though, I punched his perfect chin. He's probably worse off than me." Jaina's smile turned to a grimace as she picked up a shard. "He.... he broke the holo."
"Who was is of? Why did it make him so angry?" Jacen asked.
Jaina dropped her gaze. "It was.... Obi Wan."
Jacen furrowed his brow. "Kenobi? Why would you have a picture of him?"
Jaina regarded him soberly. "Think about it Jasa."
Jacen shook his head, perplexed. "About what? I mean, he taught Uncle Luke on Tatooine... oh."
That single syllable hung in the air.
Jaina nodded. "Uncle Luke figured it out last week, and gave me the holo. I put it in my desk. I hadn't even looked at it again before Jag found it." Her lower lip trembled, more with anger than sadness. "He called me a whore."
Jacen cursed. "I think I'll go have a word with Fel." Jaina grabbed his arm.
Jacen shook it off. "Don't worry, I won't hurt him. Much." He rose but then sat back on his heels, reaching out to touch his sister's cheek. A quick use of the Force and the red had faded as he healed the nerves. He brushed her cheek gently and Jaina put her hand over his. "Go take care of your children." He helped her to her feet, leading her out of the office, Jaina casting one glance back on the pile of shards, shining dully in the moonlight.
Jacen left his sister playing with her children, a look of partial peace coming over her as she held Ani in her lap. Jacen, in contrast, was most definitely not at peace.
He ranged through the corridors, his mood becoming more and more dark as he could not find Jag. He knew that Jedi were supposed to restrain their violent impulses. But he had learned his lessons well. In a galaxy that was a garden, his twin being a perfect lily in full bloom, Jagged Fel was a weed.
He found the pilot in a gym, punching a bag hung from the ceiling. So Jacen punched him, sending the other man flying to the floor.
"What in Thrawn was that for?" Jag exclaimed, his hands over his most likely broken nose which was gushing blood.
"That was for my sister," Jacen replied calmly. He kicked Jag in the ribs and his brother in law doubled over. "That was for your children." Another kick. "That was for me and my family." Jacen knelt slowly, raising a fist, leaning in so that Jag would hear every word. "And this.... is for Ben." He punched Jagged in the groin.
In the back of his mind, from behind the shields he had erected he could feel his wife's alarm. Jacen! What in Sith are you doing
Gardening, Tahi. Don't worry dear, I'll just be a few more minutes. Jacen sent back idly, then slammed up his shields. There were some parts of himself which he did not share with even Tahiri, taken from his time with the Vong.
Jag was coughing and groaning in pain. Jacen sighed, shaking his head. The man really had no threshold for pain. He slid an arm underneath Jag's shoulders. "Come on, let's get you to the Med Bay."
Jag shot him an incredulous look. "What the hell did you do that for?!!"
"To make a point. Maybe you haven't figured it out, but you're not good enough for my sister. Never will be. You're scum, which you proved very effectively tonight. You needed to be reminded of the pain I can cause scum," Jacen replied calmly, helping Jag to his feet. "But for some reason, my sister prefers her husband in one piece, even though he is a bastard wife-beater."
Jag shot him a venomous look, but accepted Jacen's aid. "She deserved it."
Jacen rolled his eyes, counted to five then threw Jag against the wall. A sickening crack thudded and Jacen knew that at least one rib had just been fractured.
He stepped up so that the two were nose to nose. "My sister is not a whore. You should thank your lucky stars that she lets you touch her, much less kiss her. But today, you hit her. And you just insulted her. Most Jedi might think what I am doing is somewhat unethical. But they weren't tortured by the Vong. So keep talking Fel, see what happens."
Jag stared at him sullenly.
Jacen stepped back apace, calmly clasping his hands behind his back. "Now, one of the greatest Jedi Master of this age believed that you would be able to make Jaina happy. I never thought I'd see the day that Obi Wan Kenobi would be proved so wrong. But - here's what you're going to do. You are going to go with me to the MedBay and get healed up. Then you will return to my sister's home and beg on your knees for her forgiveness. And you will treat her like the Goddess she is for the rest of your life." Jacen moved so that his lips were right next to Jag's ear. "And that life will be greatly shortened should I ever hear that you so much raise your voice around my sister or your children. And it won't even be my fault - I'll just tell my father, uncle and aunt about what you did tonight. Do you understand me?"
Jag nodded tightly. Jacen smiled jovially.
"Well then, let's get you to that Med Bay."
It was hours later that Jacen escorted Jag to the Solo-Fel residence, standing just inside the door as Jag humbly and quietly asked for Jaina to forgive him for his reprehensible behaviour. She was just as muted as she forgave him, letting him kiss her cheek softly. Her eyes met her brother's for just a moment, before the hardness there forced her to look away.
Three months later, war returned to the galaxy.
An outer sector of the Republic decided to secede from the Republic and sparked a war. Several other outlying sectors and planets joined it, viciously attacking any New Republic military bases or convoys that came near their borders. After a few, violent, clashes, war began.
The sectors had all been untouched by the Yuuzhan Vong and had become safe havens for the Peace Brigade after the war. There were hundreds of thousands Peacers on those planets, who took advantage of the conflict to renew their attack on the Jedi.
The previous haven on Mon Calamari was ambushed, most of the barrage focussed on the Jedi buildings, on it's own private island. There were no casualties, but Jacen sustained an injury trying to help some of the Jedi children escape. All children, including Davin and Ani were sent away, to be sheltered on the Errant Venture. It was the night that they sent their children away that Jaina allowed Jag to touch her again, to comfort her as she wept.
But the war was unforgiving, allowing no time for forgiveness. Jaina and Jag shared quarters, shared a bed but avoided any sort of physical contact. They rarely spoke, but to discuss battle plans and how much they missed their children.
Another day, more tension. Jaina turned her head slightly as she surveyed a holo table, trying to relieve some of the tension of it.
"We were spoiled by the Vong," she sighed finally.
"What does that mean?" Saren Durron asked her, brushing a lock of ebony hair over her shoulder. She stood next to her husband with an ease, their hips brushing against one another. Jaina restrained a flash of jealousy.
Kyp slung an arm around his wife's waist. "These forces are dumb, sweetheart, and not even the good kind of dumb."
"There are no plans to poke holes in. I'd be surprised if they even made plans," Jag commented.
Jaina nodded in agreement. "Which makes them infinitely more dangerous. They're unpredictable."
Saren nodded slowly. She was a good pilot but not a born tactician like Kyp, Jaina or Jag. "I can see what you mean."
"See here," Jaina pointed to a gas giant at the edge of the contested border and the holo table zoomed towards it. "There is a clump of their forces there. They're all being repaired, their crews on leave. Any good leader - not even a good one, would not let them mass there, where we have easy access to them."
"Could it be an ambush?" Jag asked, her brow furrowing. "It seems all too easy to me."
Jaina shook her head after trading a look with Kyp. "It's not. At least not overtly."
She heard Jag mumble something about the Force under his breath. She doubted her husband was being complimentary and Jaina set her jaw. Kyp sent her a supporting Force brush and she smiled weakly at her partner. Their respective marriages had done nothing to weaken their loyalty to one another, and Jaina now considered Saren to be one of her best friends. Kyp cordially loathed Jag, but the two men always made an effort to get along.
Jaina nodded finally. "Let's do this. If we do this properly, we could knock out a third of their forces. We'll be there in less than five hours, rest until then, tell your squadrons."
Kyp and Saren nodded smartly and immediately set off. In the last few months since war had broken out, both had assembled their own squadrons, while Jaina continued to lead Twin Suns with Jag as her second.
The couple was left alone and the silence was painful.
Jag cleared his throat uncomfortably, "Uh - have you gotten any word from the Venture today?"
Jaina shook her head. "No. Not since yesterday." Ani had taken her first steps yesterday, and Tionne had sent a holo which had broken Jaina's heart. She should have been there to witness that event, not here fighting a stupid war. The seceding sectors were going to lose, that was a clear fact as they had no hope of opposing the Republic, but this was quickly becoming a very costly war. No Jedi had been killed as yet, but Twin Suns had already lost 3 pilots, Kyp's Sabres 2 pilots and Saren's Night Flyers had lost 5.
Jag reached out to touch her shoulder but Jaina brushed it off. "I'm going to go to our quarters, nap. Make sure I'm not disturbed." She left before Jag could respond.
Four hours later, Jaina awoke slowly. She had set her mental alarm and sure enough, they were now only 45 minutes away from the attack zone. The Seceding army would have no idea what hit them. With a groan, she sat up and rose to pull on her flight suit.
She was the last of the squadron leaders to arrive in the hangar bay. All of her Twins were already running checks on their X-Wings, Jag walking briskly between them, making sure all were prepared. He nodded at her quietly when he noticed her entry.
Jaina scampered up the ladder into her ship, greeting Cappie with muted enthusiasm. The pre-battle adrenaline was beginning to race through her veins and she felt better than she had in weeks.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Kyp and her attention was caught. He and Saren stood in the middle of the hangar, uncaring of the attention directed towards them. Kyp spoke quietly and tenderly into his wife's ear, kissing the bottom of her neck, caressing the chocolate skin there. She smiled slightly, looking at him from their equal height and kissed him. Their lips embraced tenderly and Kyp tightened his hold around her waist.
Jaina looked away abruptly, fighting the envy within herself. There was a time, before her trip, when she and Jag had done that before a flight, appreciating every kiss. Just in case.
She looked behind her and saw Jag in his cockpit, his eyes also trained on the couple. She locked eyes with him for a moment, before Jaina looked away. Her X-Wing hummed to life, behind her she could hear the answering roars of her squadron. Kyp and Saren had both cleared the floor, letting Twin Suns lead the ships out of the bay into battle. The floor shook as the frigate dropped out of hyperspace. The gas giant filled the open hangar bay's view and Jaina could see the fleet, hanging there, waiting to be decimated.
She cued the comm. "Twin Suns, let's go." She shot out into space.
Jaina was never truly aware of the battle as a whole, one of her few weaknesses as a tactician. She was only aware of the other ships in her wing, and the ships which were her target. She was peripherally aware of the other squadrons, of Kyp's Force awareness dancing around her own, ready to merge with her at a moment's notice. She heard and registered orders coming from Command, obeying out of habit not choice.
It was a rout. The Seceding Fleet had had no idea of the New Republic's approach and the vast majority of ships were badly damaged, becoming blazing explosions within minutes of the NR arrival. There were a few ships that managed to assemble to return fire. Jaina recognized some of the markings on them as Peace Brigade and she smiled tightly. She had been waiting for a day like this, a victory for a very long time.
It all became a haze of chases around floating debris, shots fired. She wrenched her ship into a tight roll to evade a torpedo launched at her. It hit another of the Seceding Ships and she couldn't restrain a chuckle.
Jaina never saw the smaller craft that had been tailing her, never saw the barrage of torpedos launched at her. She only screamed as her ship disintegrated around her and then it was all gone.
It was black.
She stood on black, under black and surrounded by black. But did she see hints of a blue mist at the very edges of perception?
Jaina ran her hands down herself and stopped when she felt pearls. She looked down and her mouth opened as she saw she was wearing her wedding gown, or at least the under-gown of it. Padme's wedding gown. It was a simple silk gown, with seed pearls stitched in languorous patterns. The neckline was quite low, exposing most of the rise of her breasts and the valley between them. It pooled around her bare feet, just slightly too long for her. Where was she?
Her senses were acutely aware as she realized that there was another sound of breathing. Behind her.
From behind her then, "You look so beautiful."
She didn't need to turn around, breathing softly, "Ben."
His breath became a sigh as he stepped towards her, running one hand slowly down her exposed arm as he laid his hand over the soft silk on her hip. Jaina closed her eyes, leaning her head back. His breath tickled the back of her neck as his lips found her collar bone, kissing it gently. His arm tightened around her hips.
Jaina couldn't stand it any more, and she turned, throwing herself into his arms. Ben caught her just as she knew he would, holding her tightly. Jaina pressed her face into his warm chest, breathing in the scent that had tugged at her memory for four years. Slowly, she lifted her eyes to his and the spark was still there as brown met hazel. The meeting of their lips was even more precious as she lifted her face as to his, his lips took her bottom lips between them. Jaina moaned slightly into his mouth as she clasped her hands behind his neck, feeling his hair prick softly into the back of her palms.
She lost the ability to stand, and only Ben held her up. He did so gladly, his weight supporting her pain as it had for so long.
Her eyelids fluttered open as he pulled his lips away with a soft groan.
"I missed you..." he whispered into her ear.
Jaina's lips curved into a true, genuine smile. "I missed you too." Her eyes searched his face, seeing the lines of worry there alone with the love in his own eyes. "I love you so much."
He barely had time to return the words before her lips crashed into his. This kiss was begging, seeking the love and warmth that they had missed so over the years. Ben's hands strayed lower, clutching Jaina tightly against him as one of her hands tangled in his, another snaking between them to press against his chest. She felt drunk with sensation, love, passion.
Ben's breath was ragged when she took her lips from his, kissing the underside of his jaw.
"I'm dead right." she asked softly, moving her lips up towards his ear. She chuckled slightly. "I don't care, oh Force I don't care, I just missed you too much." She nibbled slightly on his earlobe and Ben let out a long breath.
"Jaina - "
"Jaina." A new voice invaded.
Jaina froze, still entwined in Ben's arms, her back to the arrival. She moved slightly back as she watched Ben's jaw tighten. Ben grabbed her hands, holding them tightly as she turned her head slightly.
"What in Force are you doing here?" she asked softly.
"What in Thrawn are you doing?" Jag countered harshly, his eyes tracing her form. "Why are you wearing your wedding gown?" His eyes moved up and he couldn't contain the snarl. "You."
Ben's lips rose in a chilling smile. "Me, Jagged Fel."
Jag took a step forward and Jaina stepped back into Ben's warm chest. His arms crossed her waist protectively.
"Where the hell am I?" Jag demanded.
Jaina gave him a long look, one she usually reserved for dumb recruits. "Someone finally got you, hm? I'd reward them if I could, though they certainly took their time."
"Don't play with me, Jaina. What is this place?!"
Ben answered this time. "A stepping stone. To another place, where - depending on how you lived your life. Men like you Jagged... I have a pretty good idea of where you are going."
"Lived?" Jag breathed. "You mean I'm - "
"Dead," Jaina finished with a bit of satisfaction.
Understanding flashed in Jag's eyes and a cruel expression came over his face. "And so are you."
Jaina laid a hand over Ben, resting on her abdomen. "I'm happy for the first time in four years, Jagged. I've been waiting for this for a long time."
Ben looked down. "Actually..."
Jaina stiffened. "What?"
Ben stepped from behind her, so he could look into her eyes. "Jagged is dead. But you Jaina.... you have a choice?"
Her forehead furrowed. "A choice?"
Ben nodded. "Jag's ship was destroyed completely, with him inside. But you.... you went EV. Your body has been recovered by the fleet, you are still breathing. You don't have to die."
Jag stepped forward. "She gets a choice? Why don't I??!!"
"Because you were foolhardy and let a green pilot shoot you down!" Ben snapped. "It's more than time that you pay for your crimes, Jagged Fel, and I'm first in line to teach you a lesson."
"Oh really? For what?" Jag sneered.
Ben dropped Jaina's hands. "For failing. You were supposed to make her happy, not make her life a living hell. No real man hits his wife, to 'teach her a lesson'. I was no threat to you! I've been dead for thirty years! You are just a small man, not worthy of pity or mercy and you will pay." The two men stared at each other and Jag clenched his fist.
Jaina glared at him. "Jagged, drop it. It's over." She looked up at Ben, a small smile on her lips. "It's all over. I don't need to think about this Ben, I want to be with you."
Ben looked down. "It may be your choice Jaina.... but I can't let you do that."
Jag swore. "The children, Jaina."
Comprehension flooded Jaina's face. "The kids... oh my babies." her eyes sought Ben's. "I would have to leave them."
He nodded slowly.
Jag stepped forward. "For Thrawn's sake, Jaina! Think of them! Would you willingly abandon them so you can run off and be happy with him?"
"I don't know!" Jaina shot back. Her face fell. "I don't think I could be happy if I did though."
"Make an unselfish decision for once Jaina!" Jag persisted.
"Shut up Jagged! You're dead. I don't ever have to listen to you ever again and good riddance!! Go suffer for every bit of pain you've caused me and let me decide!" She lashed out, she would have hit him if Ben hadn't been holding on to her hands tenderly.
Jag quieted though with a stubborn look on his face.
Jaina sought out Ben's eyes again. "I - I don't know if I can orphan my children."
He smoothed a lock of hair on her temple. "I know that."
She closed her eyes tightly. "But I don't think I can leave you again!" she threw herself against his chest. "It nearly killed me the first time..."
"I know, love..." Ben murmured into her hair.
"I don't want to be alone!" she confessed.
Ben shook his head and chuckled slightly. She looked up and he looked down on her with affection. He dropped a kiss on her temple. "You are never alone, Jaina. Even once you went back... I waited until you were born and I've watched over you the entire time."
"You have?" she asked shyly.
He nodded. "Every day." he grinned slightly. "You were such a brat!"
Jaina made a face and playfully hit his chest and he chuckled again. His expression grew serious. "I've watched you and I've always been with you. And I always will be." He lowered his lips to hers for a sweet, tender kiss.
Jag cleared his throat. "If the holo romance is over..."
"Shut up Jag," they ordered simultaneously.
Jaina looked up into Ben's warm eyes. "I have to go now."
He nodded, his eyes sad. "I know. I'll be waiting."
She smiled tearfully. "I know."
Jaina stepped out of his embrace and turned to Jag.
Husband and wife surveyed each other for a long moment.
Jaina shook her head. "We should never have married, Jag. I am unbelievably grateful to you for our children, but..."
He nodded shortly. "I know. I was a lousy husband."
Jaina's expression softened.
"But you were no prize either."
Jaina rolled her eyes. "Why don't we try to be civil as we saw goodbye?" She stepped forward and lightly brushed his cheek. Jaina stepped back. "I'm sorry I didn't love you."
Jag nodded. "I did love you... in a way. I'm sorry for the pain I caused you."
Jaina shook her head. "No you're not. Good bye."
She stepped to the side, turning slightly to see Ben watching with dark and sad eyes. She blew him a single, soft kiss. Ben lifted his hand to catch it but she had disappeared. Ben closed his hand tightly, looking down, swallowing hard.
When he looked up again, his expression was no longer loving but harsh. "Now, Jagged. I have a few tears to make you pay for..."
Jaina opened her eyes with a gasp. There were white lights glaring down on her, quickly covered by her brother's face.
"Jaya!" Jacen let out a long breath. "We were so worried..."
Jaina coughed, and her brother lifted a glass of water to her lips.
"It was touch and go for a while," Jacen told her sombrely.
Jaina took a long sip of water, nodding slowly.
Jacen placed the glass carefully on the bedside table. "Jaya, I have to tell you something."
"Jag's dead." she replied.
Jacen stared at her. She lifted a hand to cover his own. "I knew Jacen." She pressed her face into the pillow. "And I don't know whether to cry or laugh."
"I'd tell you, but it would be an insensitive, over protective younger brother response." Jacen replied softly but with a smile. "But Kyp and I started planning a party..."
Jaina made a face at him and he took on a more serious expression. "Sorry. But Jaya... we won. The battle. A huge victory, we've crippled their fleet."
Jaina sighed. "I know... and I probably should be estatic that he's gone. But our last words were a little too bitter..." she looked down and realized that she was still wearing her wedding ring. "I have to tell the kids. I'll go see them as soon as I'm allowed out of here."
"Do you think they'll understand?" Jacen asked.
Jaina shook her head. "I honestly don't know. But I'm beginning to think that it may be better for him not to be an influence in their life." She sighed.
Jacen narrowed his eyes. "Agreed." He looked thoughtful. "How did you know that Jag had died? You wouldn't have felt it through the Force..."
Jaina looked away. "It's a long story, a continuation of an even longer story." She looked back up at her brother, a small smile on her face. "Jasa, I'm really tired..."
He leaned down to kiss her on the cheek. "You're trying to get rid of me."
"Guilty," she admitted softly.
"Are you ever going to tell me?" he asked gently. "The whole story - about Ben?"
She smiled mysteriously. "Maybe. Someday."
He nodded and with one last squeeze of her hand, left her alone.
And so Jaina sat, contemplating her new place in the universe. A flash of light caught her eye and she looked at the wedding band on her left hand. She bit her lip as she pulled it off, then held it in the palm of her hand. She would keep it, but not wear it.
She was a widow, not a wife. She had never been a good wife in actuality - that part of her life had always been a sham. She was alone for real now, truly alone. She could never rejoin the one, real love of her life until she died. She had to wait to die to be happy. She had to die to be with Ben, the man whom she loved more than life itself - yet had chosen life. She had turned her back on him yet again, out of loyalty and love to Jag's children.
A depression began to fall over Jaina as she sat. But then a small breeze travelled across her face, one that smelled of sand and sun. And Jaina smiled.
It would be a very long time until she saw Ben again. But until then...
"I can wait," she whispered to herself. Jaina rolled over to place her ring on the bedside table and settled back into the bed. She dreamed of two suns which travelled together through night and day, the good and the bad, no matter what.
And over the course of her life, over years, there would be times when Jaina stood alone and felt the pressure of the galaxy around her. It would be then that she would feel a feather light touch on her cheek, a few grains of sand in her path or the sun would shine on her in a particular way and she would be taken back...
They sat together on the bench outside of Ben's home, watching the sunset. Jaina sat with Ben's arms wrapped around her waist, his cheek pressed against hers. She traced designs in the sand with her bare toes, having kicked off her sandals.
Their sighs were one in contentment, as they revelled in the silence between them. It was a comfortable, loving silence and it warmed Jaina just as much as the sun shining down on the couple.
"I love you," she said suddenly, as if the simple words were a revelation.
She could feel Ben smile and she turned slightly in his arms. "I love you too," he whispered to her, his hazel eyes warm and deep. He pulled her more closely against him and gently brushed his lips against hers. The kiss was as simple as the words behind it, but held a depth of promise. A promise of a love that would last much, much longer than only two lifetimes.
And so Jaina waited.
Jaina waited for twenty years.
Davin Fel's mother was dying.
The incredulity of it all still shook him. His mother, a Goddess, a pilot, a Jedi Master and the strongest woman he had ever met, was losing the battle for life, right before his eyes.
Around him, the sun set on a bloodied battlefield, as New Republic Forces cleaned up after winning the final battle with the Seceding Planets. The war had stretched over most of Davin's life, never becoming an all out conflict, being restrained to small, pitched battles between small portions of the two fleets. It had taken the father he had never known, and never really missed. It had taken countless others, yet the one sustaining presence in his life had been his mother. And now this senseless war was taking her as well.
A small, protective circle had been formed around her by all those she held dearest. Davin could not believe that after spending most of her life in some form of combat, Jaina Solo had fallen to a stray piece of shrapnel.
An ion cannon had blasted the balustrade they were taking cover behind, sending debris everywhere. Jaina had shouted to her son to get down, but had not taken her own advice, rising to take a shot at the command centre of the Seceders. Davin had covered his head with his hands yet had still heard the sickening thud as his mother's body was thrown to the ground. It had felt like he was moving through water as he moved to her, falling to his knees.
"Mom!" he had shouted, tracing her body with his eyes as he scanned her with the Force. A dull kind of horror had crept over him as he realized the extent of her injuries. A piece of shrapnel had hit her chest, piercing the skin and getting through the ribs to her heart. Davin rose up on his knees. "MEDIC!!!" he screamed. Mentally, he called out to the best healer he knew, Ani!!! Ani - I need you NOW!!! His sister had been the second person by their mother's side.
His sister was next to him now, being supported by her fiancee as she shook with sobs. His beautiful, gentle, loving sister was wracked by grief.
Her blood-shot green eyes sought Davin's brown. "I - I can't save her, Dav, I can't do anything! I'm the strongest Healer in the Order and I can't do a thing to save my own mother!!!" Ani's voice broke and Miko held her even closer to him, trading a sombre look with Davin.
Miko's own father, Kyp, had knelt on Jaina's other side, holding one of her pale hands in his own. With another pang, Davin realized that Jaina would not be there to see her daughter marry Kyp Durron's son. She had been so happy, so excited. She would not see that marriage, or Davin's, or the birth of any of her grand-children.
Davin looked down at the hand he, himself was holding. Her hands had never seemed to small. They were the hands that had held when she had told him of his father's death and the little boy had cried for hours. They were the hands that had soothed his hurts, fixed his toys, and later his own ships. They were the hands that he had held steadfastly through life.
He and Ani were a great deal closer to their mother than most. She had raised them alone, though was grateful for the help offered by others. When Saren Durron had died a few years after Jag, she had become another mother for Miko and Kyp had always been a father figure for Ani and Davin. The loss of their own father, Jag, while it had been traumatic at the time, over the years both he and Ani had come to learn a little about their father. Their Uncles Jacen and Kyp did not disguise their dislike for the Chiss pilot and when asked point blank once, Jaina had admitted to her children that the marriage had not been ideal, though it had produced them.
At the time, Jaina had crinkled her nose at her two children, "Of course, considering the trouble you two manage to get into, I'm still not sure if it was a good thing..."
His mother had often joked, laughed, teased and smiled. But in the course of Davin's life, he had never seen the haunted and sad look leave her eyes completely. There were times where he and Ani had avoided Jaina, as she sat on the couch quietly, seeming to look off into nothing but tears gathered at her eyes.
Somewhat how tears were now gathered in his grandmother's eyes. Leia held her daughter's head pillowed in her lap, while Han stood above her protectively. They were about to lose another child.
And Davin was about to lose a mother.
His mother opened her eyes slowly and she lightly squeezed Davin's hand.
"My.... babies..." she whispered softly.
"We're here, Mom. Both of us," Davin replied fiercely and Ani moved from Miko's arms to kneel next to her brother.
"I love you.... both so much," Jaina told them softly, her eyes dark with pain. And something else, intangible. But for the first time in his lifetime, Davin saw no sadness in his mother's eyes. There now was carefully suppressed joy.
Ani choked by a sob, "We love you too, Mama."
Jaina looked at her daughter. "Oh honey, don't cry. Trust - me. This is not sad.... I've been waiting for a long time."
"Waiting?" Davin asked. "To die? Why??"
Jaina chuckled slowly, "It's a long.... story and I - don't have the time to tell it."
She hissed suddenly, moving her head slightly. Ani moved forward and shook her head. "She's going..."
Jaina looked up at Kyp. "Take care of them... watch - over them?" her voice was pleading and soft.
Kyp shook his head slowly. "You know I could never refuse you anything, Goddess."
Davin watched the exchange with a sinking heart. Kyp was going to lose Jaina too. The two had been partners for the greater part of their lives, and now one of them was dying.
Leia was openly crying as she leaned down to place a soft kiss on Jaina's forehead. "I love you, Jaya." she murmured.
Jaya. The name from innocence, childhood which was dying with the woman. Jacen and Tahiri weren't here, but Davin knew that Jacen was aware of what was happening. He had trained Ani in the healing arts along with Cilghal and he and Tahiri lived on Calamari with their two children. His presence was most definitely felt.
His was not the sole Force presence. Davin looked around, puzzled yet sure that something momentous was happening. He turned his attention back to Jaina.
A hush fell over the field, imperceptibly, slowly and Jaina began to cry. Davin reached out to brush his mother's tears away but he caught a feeling of her emotions. These were not tears of pain or fear, but of joy.
"I've waited for so long..." she began to whisper then gasped. "You're here." Jaina's eyes were dark as she gazed up, her face full of wonder.
Davin and Ani exchanged glances and Ani leaned in. "Who's here Mama?"
A breeze blew across the group. It smelled of sun light and sand, and it was warm like a caress. Davin almost felt a kiss bestowed on his forehead. A blue light began to percolate around his mother, as figures shimmered around the circle of bodies.
If Luke had been there, he would have recognized them all. Leia saw her youngest child and watched in awe as Anakin smiled at her slowly.
Jaina did not look to her youngest brother though. Jaina only had eyes for one, a solitary figure that was about to be solitary no more.
Her last words were: "I love you."
And Jaina Solo took her last breath.
She was wearing her wedding dress again. He wore his robes. The years had fallen away from them both. He was not the old man who had taught her uncle, but the man who had rescued her that very first day. The lines of sadness on her face were erased and she was the young, headstrong woman who had flown into her destiny.
He stood there, waiting for her as she had waited for him, by the light.
They took a moment to look at one another, in appreciation that their long time of pain and waiting had come to an end.
He held out his hand and she took it gladly. From within their clasped hands, a light began to glow as their joy became exponential. As one, they stepped into the light.