You Set Me Free

Chapter 1-

"Who do they think they're kidding?" Mara Skywalker whispered in her husband's ear.

Luke Skywalker chuckled softly without looking away from his monitor. He knew his wife was referring to his nephew, Jacen, and the pretty, young scientist, Danni Quee. The two had been stealing glances at one another for the last hour, which only served to solidify Luke's suspicions after finding the two alone in the corridor of the Jade Shadow. Although they hadn't been caught in a compromising position, so to speak, Luke could tell that their meeting was becoming more intimate than a mere discussion of dodgy surge arrestors.

"It is pretty obvious, isn't it?' he replied.

"You got that right! There's more pheromones floating around in here than a Falleen matchmaking festival," she snorted.

Luke looked up at her innocently. "Is there such a thing?"

Now Mara chuckled. "It was just a joke, farm boy." Leaning over she pressed a kiss to Luke's lips. "That's what I love about you, dear."

"My gullibility?"

"Yeah, well, that and that thing you do with-" Her voice stopped abruptly, but she finished the rest of her message via the Force. Luke's eyes widened and then a mischievous grin spread across his face.

"You know, we've got a few more hours in hyperspace. What do you say we go elsewhere and give these two some time alone to figure things out?"

"Think they'll be able to do that in just a few hours? It took us a few years!" she challenged.

Luke reached over and gently caressed the side of Mara's face. "Yeah, well, they've already got an advantage over our start."

She stared at him waiting for the punch line. "Which is.?"

"She's not trying to kill him."

"Ha, ha. Very funny," Mara replied trying not to laugh but failing miserably. Slowly she stood, glanced at the other two occupants who were stealing longing looks at one another and shook her head. Then she turned back to Luke with a twinkle in her eye. "I'll be waiting for you, Skywalker," she purred. She sauntered out of the room knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was watching her every move.

"Is Aunt Mara okay?" Jacen asked snapping his uncle out of a love-induced trance.

"Hmm? Oh. yeah. she's fine. Just a little tired is all." Luke stretched his arms above his head and yawned. "In fact, I'm a little beat myself," he added trying to sound nonchalant. "I think I'm going to go join her--- in a nap," he stressed emphatically. "You two can handle the bridge, right?"

"Sure," Jacen assured the older man. "You go ahead and get some-sleep," he added with a quick wink. Luke blushed crimson and hastily exited the deck. Jacen couldn't help but laugh out loud at his uncle's obvious discomfort. It had to be his Solo blood that urged him to taunt the man so.

Soon enough Jacen's laughter ended when he realized he was all alone with Danni. She grinned over at him and then returned to busily punching keys and perusing data at her work station. Her curly, blond hair cascaded down her back and Jacen marveled at how soft it looked. He had to suppress a desire to plunge his hands into it. Jacen shook his head and refocused his drifting thoughts. Dealing with a horde of savage Yuuzhan Vong or a fleet full of angry Imperials--- not a problem. Making coherent, intelligent conversation with a certain green-eyed beauty--- now that was a different story altogether. Around her he was instantly reduced to a quivering mass of boyhood. And according to his uncle, it wasn't likely to get much easier.

He sighed and swiveled his seat back around to his own monitor forcing himself to appear busy and useful. As he fumbled with a few buttons and switches, his mind wandered back to earlier when he'd been alone with Danni in the hatchway. He was almost certain that she would have kissed him. at least he thought that's where things had been heading.

As Jacen had rounded the corner of the corridor, he had been startled to find Danni sitting on the floor with her back against the wall and her face buried in her hands. He could tell by the slight rise and fall of her shoulders and the occasional sniffle that she was crying. A small part of him felt embarrassed to intrude upon her private moment, but a larger part-- - the part that was undeniably drawn to this woman--- couldn't be forced to turn and walk away.

At that instant, Danni looked up, quickly drying her eyes with her hands.

"Jacen, I-I didn't even hear you walk up." Shyly, she looked away. "Guess I wasn't paying much attention. I'm sorry."

"No,no," he assured her, "I'm the one who should apologize. I didn't even sense you, or I wouldn't have interrupted."

"Well," she explained, "I was shielding. I didn't want to bother anyone while I decompressed." Her deep green eyes were staring up into his, still glistening from tears she had yet to shed.

"I should go," he stated and then turned to leave.

"No," Danni pleaded softly. He turned back around to find her offering her hand. "Please stay." A sweet smile lifted the corners of her mouth in anticipation of his response.

Jacen paused only briefly before answering, "Now how could I possibly refuse a damsel in distress?" He took her petite hand, noting how his own seemed to swallow hers whole, and pulled her up to face him. It was a little awkward since she refused to let go of his hand, but he wasn't complaining. The fact that she wanted him to be with her was like a drug, and he was instantly addicted.

"I am pretty pathetic, aren't I?" she sniffed. "Hiding and bawling my eyes out like a scared little girl."

"Danni, you're far from pathetic. If you felt nothing after all you'd just been through on that slave ship, maybe then I'd think you were pathetic." She grinned in relief. "But being afraid and still doing what needed to be done-- feeling compassion for others who lost their lives. those are admirable qualities. You have no reason to be ashamed."

She looked at him and it seemed as if a veil had been lifted from her eyes. "You're amazing, Jacen Solo."

He instantly felt the blush blossoming from his neck on up to the top of his head. Chuckling awkwardly he ran a hand through his shaggy brown hair and snickered, "I don't know about that.Wonderful maybe, but not amazing."

Danni laughed at his modesty-or lack thereof-and Jacen drank in the melody of her voice. Laughter and happiness were rare commodities in the present galaxy, and seeing both displayed in such a beautiful woman filled his heart with something he wasn't used to feeling.

"Ah, yes, my humble hero," she added jokingly. They both paused to chuckle again, before becoming uneasy and looking in opposite directions. Did she just call me her hero?, he thought. He rather liked the sound of that, even though it wasn't quite true.

Glancing back to her, he noticed that her chin was quivering and her eyes welling up again. Immediately his heart constricted and he wanted to pull her to him and make everything all right. As if sensing his worry, she breathed in deeply and thrust her chin into the air, steeling herself against the anguish.

"Do you remember the first time we met?" she questioned.

Surprised, Jacen looked at her in confusion and nodded his head.

"You popped out of that frozen water tunnel and rescued me," she recalled with a weak smile.

Jacen was again embarrassed. "If I remember correctly, we never would have gotten out of there without your help. So really, you saved me. or we saved each other. How's that?"

Danni was staring up at him ready to crumble, he could tell. Shaking her head from side to side, she revealed, "No, no. What they did to Miko, it was horrible." Tears began to trickle down her face. "The things they did, I almost--- I was almost ready to give up. I didn't see any hope. Once they had broken him completely, it would have been only a matter of time before I would have been next. If you hadn't have shown up when you did, I might not be here today.

"Then when we finally got out of there and into that tiny little ship--." She paused to laugh and wipe her eyes before continuing. "There we were, crammed into that ridiculous thing, and I was so dirty. I must have looked and smelled horrendous!"

Jacen opened his mouth to argue, but she pressed a finger to his lips to silence him. "But you didn't care. You told me everything was going to be fine, and then you just held me while I cried. You were so sweet. so gentle, even then."

Their eyes stayed transfixed as she tenderly caressed the side of his face. His heart was racing, and he could sense his breathing start to increase, his palms to sweat. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw something.

It was his Uncle Luke, and the moment with Danni was over. ~~~~~~~**~~~~~~~**~~~~~~~**~~~~~~~**~~~~~~~**~~~~~~~**~~~~~~~** She could feel the heat from his gaze burning her once more and couldn't resist a quick glance to reaffirm what she already knew. Shifting her eyes slightly to the right, she was rewarded for her intuition with the brown- eyed stare of Jacen Solo. Danni lifted the corners of her mouth into a little grin, which widened when Jacen realized she had caught him in the act. Never before had she seen someone's face turn so red so quickly. Stifling a chuckle, she returned to her console with a smile on her face and in her heart.

Something was happening between herself and Jacen, something that had been forming for several years. Ever since he had first rescued her from the frozen prison of Helska 4, Danni had felt a bond with him. But back then he had only been a boy with an obvious crush on her. She still remembered their 'talk' when she had put his teenage infatuation to rest. He seemed to have taken it in stride, holding no grudge against her. They had each gone their separate ways then in the fight against the Vong, meeting only casually every once in a while. Each time she saw him, he seemed to have grown, not just physically, but in every aspect possible. Jacen Solo was becoming quite a young man.

Then tragedy struck. Myrkr. Although later he had returned from Vong capture, for nearly a year everyone had thought him dead like his younger brother, Anakin. She still recalled the devastating pain she'd felt as his life force winked out of existence. No one else knew how broken she'd been - how she'd locked herself in her quarters and sobbed until no more tears would come. She tried to tell herself she would have done the same over the loss of any friend, but deep in her heart she knew it wasn't true. No, there was something special between Danni Quee and Jacen Solo-something that was only growing stronger the more time they spent together.