Summary: It had been the fourth time that the Alliance's commander had seemingly disappeared from the base.
Pairing: Theron Shan/f!Jedi Knight
Genre: Mostly Fluff
Word Count: ~4600
Author's Notes: Just some lighthearted fluff I found myself needing to write in between the angsty action pieces that keep trying to turn into epics.
He finally found her above the military hanger on the outcropping overlooking the clearing where the Defender was parked. It had been the fourth time that the Alliance's commander had seemingly disappeared from the base. The previous three times Theron had contacted her by the comm, and she'd eventually made her reappearance after being summoned. He could have done the same this time, but his curiosity was piqued. He had spent the past hour asking various personnel the last direction they'd seen the Alliance's commander heading in, and followed the mismatched directions like a treasure hunter following a badly written starmap. It was probably the most inelegant game of hide and seek ever conducted, but Theron wasn't one to back down from a challenge.
She stood poised near the rocky ledge, and either didn't notice his approach or was too focused on her task to pay him any mind. She was barefoot, the toes of one foot digging into the loose, rocky soil as the other was drawn up, balanced against her knee. Her palms were pressed together, fingers woven together in front of her as she balanced on the one foot, unmoved by the mountain breeze rushing past her and tossing her blonde hair up into the air. She had foregone her usual bulky, ornate armor, opting for a simpler, more relaxed set of vestments he'd spied her wearing during a few sparring sessions. The wrappings showed a small sliver of skin, which sent more of a rush of heat through him than he'd like to admit to.
Subconsciously he softened his footsteps, footfalls hardly making a noise as he approached. It wasn't exactly sneaking up on her, as that would be possibly unwise with someone who could be quite as deadly as her when she put her mind to it. Not that she usually put across those airs to most of those around her. There was more of a quiet serenity about her that he was hesitant to disturb. He was still a few meters away when she finally spoke.
Chagrinned, he flashed her back a sheepish smile. "Heard me coming?"
"In a way." She didn't break her stance, and her voice was quiet, as if coming from a far off place. It was possible that she had felt his approach more than heard it. He had a feeling that whatever she was up to had more to do with attuning to the Force than simply enjoying the fresh mountain air.
"It's a nice view," he mused as he came up by her side.
"Mmhmm," she said noncommittally, but as he spied a little closer, he could see that she had her eyes closed, concentrating on something else other than the valley and vistas beyond.
"So this is where you've been getting off to," he kept his tone light, "was starting to wonder if you had dug out some secret tunnel back when you guys were constructing the base."
"That would just be silly. Not to mention architecturally unsound."
"Well, you wouldn't want to offend the engineers. They're a touchy folk."
"Did you need something, Theron?"
He shrugged noncommittally. "Nothing that can't wait a few more minutes."
"Do you always walk so far for things that can wait?"
The beginnings of a smirk quirked at the edge of his mouth. "Well, I didn't want to disturb you over something minor."
Her serene composure started to crack, brow furrowing ever so slightly in consternation. It was clear she was still trying to concentrate on whatever she was doing, despite his continued efforts to lure her into conversation. He should have probably just have returned back to base after satisfying his curiosity about her whereabouts — but restraint wasn't exactly one of his strong points. Especially where this little blonde Jedi was concerned.
"Can I ask what you're doing?"
"Meditating. Or attempting to."
"I was doing better before things got noisy up here."
"A true master can tune out all distractions."
Her brow creased into a full frown, lips pressing into a thin line as she took a deep breath to calm herself. "Some distractions are louder and more persistent than others."
"If you say so." Out of habit he hid his grin behind his hand, before realizing that with her eyes firmly shut she couldn't see it. "I guess I should have been more specific. Why are you meditating out here? And not the Enclave?"
She let out another deep breath, this one bordering on a sigh. "It's quiet out here — or used to be." That was clearly directed at him.
"Sana-Rae never struck me as the loud type. Or are you trying to tell me you guys throw secret Force raves when the rest of us aren't looking?"
Her lip twitched, clearly trying to suppress whatever reaction he was engendering. Whenever she found that modicum of calm she was so desperately trying to project she spoke again. "It's quieter here. Both in sound and people."
"Is that a subtle hint for me to make my exit?"
She remained quiet for several more long moments before responding. "No, it's fine. I just… sometimes like to come out here when it gets hectic. Clear my mind, ground myself and reconnect to the Force."
"And you need to be barefoot to do this?"
"It's a Togruta tradition," she said simply, as if that explained everything.
"Yes, of course."
She apparently picked up on the not-so-subtly disguised sarcasm in his tone, and added. "They believe that the land is spiritually connected to them. Wearing shoes cut themselves off from the their bond with the land—"
He leaned over into her space, miming into the air as if he was trying to grasp something invisible over her head. The slight crease in her forehead transformed into a full frown, and her balance wavered ever so slightly.
"What are you doing?"
"Checking for montrals."
That finally did it, and she cracked open an eye at him, deep frown marring the previously serene expression. She looked so incredibly irritated and grumpy he couldn't help himself, and leaned down and pressed a light kiss to her lips, hands ghosting down her sides to rest on her hips.
"You're being very distracting," she murmured against his mouth.
"You said I could stay."
"This is not what I had in mind."
"I'm improvising," he murmured back, and kissed her again, feeling her press into him as she rebalanced on both feet, arms looping around his neck and frown slowly melting away.
"You did that on purpose," she accused quietly as she broke away. Their was no venom in her tone, just a quiet resignation.
He didn't check the cheeky grin he flashed her. "Maybe a little."
She leaned into him, face burying into his chest as he let her rest all of her weight on him. "Why did you come looking for me?"
"You kept disappearing. I didn't know if something was wrong." After he said it, he realized that she probably was asking what Alliance business had prompted his search. He flashed her a sheepish look, but she was eyeing him in a curious way that made his chest tighten a little.
"I'm sorry," she said, voice soft, "I sometimes forget how long things were for you."
"That's not what I meant," he returned, absently brushing his thumb at the soft hairs at the base of her neck, "but… yeah, it was."
"What did you mean?"
"We kind of sprung all of this on you. Fighting Zakuul. The Alliance. Sometimes I worry it's asking too much."
A shadow of something passed across her face, as if maybe he had hit a little too close to the truth. He thought about pressing her, but experience had taught him that the best way to get her to open up was to not press. It was frustrating at times, but there was already too much on her shoulders. He wasn't going to force her to bear the burden of his impatience. When she was ready to discuss it, she'd come to him. At least he hoped she would.
So instead, he gave her an out in the form of a change of subject. "I don't recall Togruta footwear being a part of the Jedi syllabus. Then again, I didn't exactly have the normal Padawan experience."
She flashed him a grateful smile, apparently aware of what he was doing. "I didn't either."
"Look, just because you failed one meditation session doesn't mean you still weren't the star pupil of your creche."
Her eyebrow arched delicately. "You certainly have invented an interesting backstory for me."
"Well, I certainly can't imagine you as the bully of any group."
"I never was a part of any creche," she said, nose wrinkling. "With all that research you did on me back before Korriban, you're telling me you didn't look into my childhood?"
"No," he frowned, "it didn't seem relevant."
She let out a quiet huff of laughter as she rested her cheek against his chest. "And here I thought you were thorough."
"Most of the time I am." He thought about mentioning that he had gotten distracted by the redactions in her file, but seeing as they were from the time in her life she'd rather forget, he decided to let that slide. She was at least smiling right now. "I just seem to make exceptions for this one Jedi."
"Hm, I'll have to ask her for her secret."
"Let me know if she spills them for you," he said lightly. "I keep trying to figure out how to do that."
"You could always ask."
"You could try."
"All right, I suppose there's a first time for everything." He gave her a measuring look. "If you weren't a member of the Bergruutfa Clan, then what did happen?"
"After my parents were…" She trailed off, and he felt the muscles in her shoulders tense, her eyes getting a far away look in them. She shook her head after a moment, took a deep breath, and then let it out. "I was taken in by a Jedi Knight when I was young."
"I'm sorry," he said quietly, "we don't have to talk about it if you don't want to."
"No, it's okay. I'm not sure why I mentioned it before," she said quietly. "His name was Thyos Dae. I guess you could say he raised me."
The name was vaguely familiar, but Theron couldn't immediately place it. Probably cropped up in the history books somewhere. "I'm going to guess that he was a Togruta?"
He felt her nod against his chest. "I didn't realize it at the time, but I think he was breaking a few rules teaching me instead of taking me to an enclave. It's kind of funny. He always seemed to be such a stickler for the rules."
"Yeah, things seem different when you're a kid," Theron mused, memories of Nagani Zho surfacing, "but I guess he had his reasons."
"Maybe." Her shoulders shrugged lightly under his hands. "We traveled a lot at the time. The first war was still going on, at least for the first few years."
Theron nodded, remembering his own youth, much of which had spent in the crowded interiors of starships zipping about the galaxy. Those memories ended abruptly at the end of the war, when his path had taken a decidedly different turn than hers. A sudden chill ran down his spine, as he remembered exactly what had happened during the treaty that ended the war. "You weren't near Coruscant during the Sacking, were you?"
"No, but I… felt it. I think all of us Jedi did." She lifted her head from where it had been resting, eyes searching his face for something. "Were you there?"
He shook his head. "I was in the Outer Rim. Master Zho said that the Force had called him elsewhere. That was… the end of my training."
A frown creased her forehead. "What? He left?"
Theron pressed his lips together, the usual sour feeling that settled in his gut when he thought of his time on Hasahimut was chased away by a light warmth brought on by her mildly indignant expression. Her disapproval at Nagani Zho's decision to leave Theron behind was written on her face. Without even realizing it, he was already pressing a soft kiss to her forehead to ease away the frown. "It's in the past."
"He and I made our peace with it," he assured her.
One brow delicately arched ever so slightly told him that she may not have quite believed that. He really didn't want to get into all of the events that happened in the Vesla Sector with Darth Mehkis. Even all these years later, he still felt the loss of the man who raised him keenly. He supposed he always would, people tended to leave their mark on those around them whether they realized it or not.
"So Orgus Din wasn't your only master?" he asked, tone possibly a little too light as he tried to redirect the subject.
She shook her head. "I had a few over the years before Master Orgus. I was with Master Dae the longest."
That far off look had returned to her eye, making him wonder exactly what he had missed by not digging further into her past when he'd had the resources at his hands. Sure, he could just ask right now, but like with whatever was weighing on her mind about the Alliance, he suspected it wasn't something she was ready to share yet. She readily accepted the boundaries he set on his own past, it was only fair that he do the same for her.
Even if she had lit the fires of his curiosity.
"We traveled a lot," she continued after a long pause, "I stayed on the ship most of the time when we would dock planetside, at least while the war was still going on. But before we left, we always tried to sneak in one meditation session."
"You couldn't do that on the ship?"
"We did," she flashed him a slightly impatient look, as if he was slow to catch on, "but it's different, surrounded by metal and hyperspace. There's so much more life on each planet."
"There's life in the dirt?" he asked disbelievingly.
"More than you'd think."
"I'll have to take your word for it."
"You don't have to. I could teach you how," the offer was quiet, as if she wasn't sure she should have been saying those words, "if you want."
There was about a hundred things that Theron would like more than spending his time on than digging his toes into the hard rocky soil beneath their feet, and caking layer upon layer of dirt under his toenails as he pretended to "connect" with his surroundings. But as she stared at him with that hesitant, but slightly expectant expression he couldn't think of any of them. As closed off as she was about her past, she was willing to share this piece of it with him.
"I think I'd like that," he said, and the brilliant smile that lit up her face told him that had been the right response.
Without a word she tapped his boots with one of her bare feet, knocking a little dirt on it. She flushed slightly, but they had seen far worse on their best days. He flashed her a smirk all the same which caused her cheeks to redden further, but obliged the *silent request by slipping his boots and socks off so that he was mirroring her state of partial undress. When he quirked an eyebrow at her in expectation, she motioned for him to turn around and take up the spot where she had been standing. He followed her silent direction, his larger footprint obscuring the deep impressions she'd already made in the ground.
"All right," she said softly, "first close your eyes and concentrate."
He followed her instructions, and took a deep breath, before letting it out. If he concentrated, he could feel the sensation of dirt pressing between his toes. He could hear the distant chirps and growls of the Odessen wildlife. He could feel the soft mountain breeze as it caressed his face. But those were all sensations that he was easily aware of both wearing footwear and with an eye on the horizon. Nearly forgotten words echoed in his mind, Nagani Zho's final frustrated lesson—
"There is stillness. Yet like ice on the surface of a lake, the stillness only conceals movement. Feel the wind stirring the dust. Smell the water flowing through…"
But he couldn't feel the wind stirring the dust. He could only feel it gently tease the sweat dotted at his temples. The Force could have flowed through every fiber of his being, and lit up every dark corner of the galaxy. He was still as blind to it as the day he was born, and no amount of stripping down or communing with earthworms was going to change that. He'd always be blind, deaf, and dumb when it came to the larger universe.
His frustration must have shown, because he heard her let out a small noise of disappointment, before he felt a hand lightly rest on his shoulder. "Take a deep breath, and think less. Just focus on what you can feel."
This was an exercise in pointlessness, but he could at least pretend to follow her instructions. It didn't hurt for him to look like he was trying, and if he gave up in frustration he had a feeling it would probably hurt her feelings more than if he failed after trying. Besides, the point of this wasn't for him to magically become a Jedi Knight and start throwing things around with the Force. It was her sharing something deep and personal for her, even if he didn't quite get it. So he took another deep breath, and just focused on the ground beneath his feet.
It was cold, but was starting to warm ever so slightly the longer he stood there. As they were in the shade the morning dew hadn't completely dried, and the damp granules seemed form a deep trench under his weight. Small pebbles littered the soil, sharp and unworn by the elements. His large toe brushed across the rough edge of one that had been disturbed the deeper his feet dug into the ground.
"What do you feel?"
He almost said something about the long shower he was going to take when he got back to his quarters, but stopped himself. "Dirt?"
"There's a nice breeze today."
"There is," she admitted. "Anything else?"
"Not really. Should I be trying to strike an acrobatic pose?" He attempted to mimic the pose she had been trying to maintain when he had found her, but didn't really have his feet set right so he wavered slightly. "Does that help somehow?"
She let out a soft huff of laughter, and he felt her arms circle around his waist to balance him. "That's for when you're trying to achieve balance."
It was a credit to his long training as a spy that he didn't laugh at the absurdity of that. "What are we trying to do here?"
"Let's just focus on connection for now," she said, pressing in close. Her chest rested into the curve of his back so that he could feel every breath she took. "Let me help. For now, just concentrate."
That suddenly became a much taller order than it had been a minute ago, as her close proximity sent a thrill from his spine straight down to his nether regions. He pursed his lips, trying to focus on everything but the feel of her breath tickling against his ear, and the way her palms slid across his arms as she readjusted his stance.
"Just focus on breathing," her words were barely a whisper, but sent a shiver through him all the same, "and open your mind to what you feel."
He nodded ever so slightly, knowing with her close proximity she'd feel the affirmative. Instead of the environment around him, he turned his attention to the person with him. He decided to just focus on the deep, calming breaths she took in, unconsciously mimicking her actions until they almost breathed in and out as one. He focused on the feeling of her palm pressed into his, on the light breaths puffing against his neck. He focused on the way she molded against him perfectly, like two halves of one whole.
And as he focused on that, perhaps it was just his imagination, but for just the briefest moments, despite the fact that he had his eyes closed he could have sworn that he saw the most brilliant burst of light, like every sunrise he had ever seen had been rolled up into one beautiful kaleidoscope of sensation. He grasped onto that moment, trying to stretch it out as long as humanly possibly, not wanting to let the warmth and light fade.
He wasn't sure how long it was, but at some point he opened his eyes, feeling her weight press into him from behind, as if she was taking a rest after a particularly taxing kata. He gently took a hold of her hands, intertwining their fingers together as she let her head rest against him, feeling the dotting of perspiration on her forehead as it rested against the sensitive skin on the back of his neck.
It felt wrong somehow to break the silence, but the fleeting sensation of that brilliance he'd experienced hadn't quite faded away. "Is it always like that?"
"No." He felt the smile press into one of his shoulder blades. "I… may have been trying a little too hard to help."
"I like your help."
The corners of her lips drew up into what he assumed must have been a beatific expression. "Did you feel something other than dirt?"
He had no idea if it had been wishful thinking, his imagination, or something else entirely, but that brief moment was burned into the back of his mind. "I think so."
Her lips twitched against his neck, as if she were trying to suppress a wider smile. "Good."
He gently readjusted his position so that they were facing each other, and her cheek once again rested against his chest, and he had looped his arms under hers so he could take her weight on. He had a feeling she wasn't so much tired as just settling into the moment, but he didn't mind it one bit.
"Thank you," he wanted to say for what, but those words didn't quite form. How could a blind man describe a sunrise to an artist? Anything he could say wouldn't do justice to the tight ball of feeling in his chest.
She nodded quietly, as if she knew those words anyway, without him needing to say them. "Sometimes I wish we had more moments like this. Is that selfish?"
"No." The response was immediate, instinctual. She tucked her head under his chin, the soft hairs that had escaped her ponytail tickling against his sternum, and the tightness in his chest eased some. "There has to be something in between all the action."
"I thought you lived for that."
"Used to." He took in a deep breath, feeling the weight of her chest press against his, and then let it out. "Didn't have the moments in between like I do now."
Her head rustled against his chest, as if she was nodding ever-so-slightly. "Me neither… at least not quite in the same way."
Theron wondered exactly what downtime had looked like with her and the previous crew of the Defender. At least before they had been scattered amongst the stars after her disappearance and Zakuul's conquest of the galaxy. Was the companionship as quiet and calm as they shared now, or had it been more boisterous and lively? But perhaps, he realized, that time her life was something unique. Her old crew had made its mark on her just as Nagani Zho left his on Theron.
His fingers found a bare patch of skin between her vestments, feeling the tight coiling of the muscles beneath, and gently kneaded the knots there. That time before Zakuul, before all of this, that was something he couldn't replicate, no matter how much he wanted to try and give her back something of what she had lost. All he could do was offer was what he could in the now.
"I get it, though."
"Needing a break," he said quietly. "The galaxy seems to be throwing a lot our way."
"A Jedi doesn't—"
He cut off the familiar retort before she could even get into her normal stride. "There's nothing wrong with needing a little time to yourself."
She didn't respond, but he felt the annoyed exhale of breath at being interrupted.
"I've got your back, you know that right?"
"Of course." The reply came out a little fond, if a little exasperated. As if he had been asking if she needed oxygen to breath.
"Then if you need a few minutes, a few hours, a few days… hell, weeks or months, just let me know. I'll make it happen."
"No, I told you I'd take care of things, I meant that. If you need a break from the responsibility, the Alliance, even me, just say so. I've got you covered. No questions asked."
"Why would I need a break from you?"
"I don't know," he said as lightly as he could manage, "but… I'd hate for you to feel like you need to—disappear—I mean, drop off the radar for any reason. Lana and I can hold down the fort for a little while if you need a breather."
She pushed away from where she had been reclining against him, the soft pressure of her pushing her hand into his chest pulling his attention down to her searching gaze. "I'm not going to just leave you holding the bag on your own."
"Hey, I can handle things on my own," he met her gaze evenly, "at least I can if I know you're all right."
Her eyes darted from his, searching out a distant point beyond his shoulder. "I didn't mean to worry you."
"I know," he ran his fingers through the bangs flopping on her forehead, "and I try not to. It's… I just got you back."
"I don't plan on going anywhere."
He managed the barest ghost of a smile for her. "Offer still stands, despite that. Just… please let me know if you need a little time?"
He hated the pleading note in his tone, but it was impossible to keep out completely. Just like it was impossible to describe that brief moment they'd shared, it was as equally difficult to communicate the suffocating feeling that overtook him when he couldn't confirm that she was still here, still real. He wasn't even sure it was fair for him to let her know that. So he held it in, hoping he could convey some small measure of what he was feeling.
One of her hands cupped his cheek, pulling his focus down to those wide blue eyes. "I will. I promise."
He should have said something suave, something that would have distracted her from how close she had managed to dig in with that simple acknowledgement. But that was as impossible as finding the words that often escaped him. So instead, he just dipped down to capture her lips again in an attempt to communicate what he couldn't say.
And as brief as it was, he could almost have sworn he'd found another sunrise in that small moment.