Chapter 8-

They were waiting at the hatch to the umbilical, ready to enter the tunnel as soon as Mara commed that the connections were secured. Jacen was nervous. Of course, he was anxious about using his newfound capabilities. It if didn't work, they might all become captives or worse--- be killed.

However, he was more nervous about the fact that Danni hadn't said more than a few words to him since they'd left the cockpit. Several possible explanations for her cold behavior played out in his mind. He preferred to think she was embarrassed and shy about the kiss they had shared and was uncertain of what to say or do now in his presence. The nagging thought that this was her way of giving him the 'brush off'-again-was a possibility he chose not to give much play time, but like a bad rash, it kept popping back into his mind. Yet another explanation presented itself. Maybe she was simply nervous and afraid of what might happen if they failed.

His father was right. Women were nothing but trouble.

But just like Jacen knew Han Solo couldn't live without Leia, he was beginning to feel equally as dependent when it came to Danni Quee. Every man needed a good woman. His father and uncle were proof of that. Only now was he starting to feel his own desire for such a gift in his life.

Taking a deep breath and bracing himself for rejection, he plunged head first into the unknown.

"Danni, is something wrong?" he asked apprehensively.

She clenched her jaw as she looked at him, forcing down the anger that had been simmering just below the surface during their brief walk to the connecting tunnel. If she said what was really on her mind, an irreparable breach would be forged between them, and despite her negative emotions toward him right now, she wasn't ready to burn that bridge. She still had tender feelings for him. They were just buried beneath her seething rage at the moment.

Forcing a fake smile onto her face, she replied, "No. Nothing's wrong. I'm fine. You?"

Jacen narrowed his gaze. It was painfully obvious that she was lying. He debated how to proceed. "Are you. mad at me?" he asked. "Because you seem angry."

She continued to glare at him with that phony smile and it made him extremely uncomfortable.

"Angry?" she said a bit too innocently. "At you? Why, whatever in the world would I be angry with you about, Jacen?"

Something wasn't right about this whole exchange, and Jacen wasn't sure he was man enough to handle what he seemed to know was coming.

"Well, I-uh, I--,"

"Hatch," she pointed out before stepping into the tunnel that would take them over to the Imperial ship. It had finally opened. He moved in behind her and wondered what to say next.

"Danni, if I've done something to upset you, please, just let me have it. I can't deal with it if I don't know what it is I've done."

She refused to look at him, which only exasperated him more. He took a deep, cleansing breath and decided to go for it. "It was the kiss, wasn't it?" he asked, almost afraid of her answer. "I shouldn't have been so forward, I know. Just because we seem to be getting close and are good friends, and then you were talking about all of that negative touch- positive touch stuff, and my mind got all mixed up and my body just. Well, I mean, you told me a long time ago that we were just friends, and then I go and. and. and kiss you and -"

Danni had halted right in the middle of the tunnel as soon as he mentioned the kiss and then stood there listening to him rant on and on not knowing whether to laugh or cry. or smack his face. Instead she covered his mouth with her fingers.

"Stop," she said softly. "Stop talking." He followed orders and ceased rambling but didn't take his eyes from hers. "It wasn't the kiss," she admitted as she slipped her fingers away from his lips.

"It-it wasn't?" he asked hesitantly.

She shook her head lightly from side to side. "No, it wasn't. In fact, the kiss was." her mother would kill her if she ever found out, "it was. wonderful."

A tiny little grin lifted the corners of Jacen's mouth and he let go of a breath he hadn't even realized he'd been holding in. "Wonderful?. Yeah, I thought so, too." He reached down and grabbed her hand, pulled it to his mouth and placed a tender kiss on the inside of her palm. "And there's more where that came from," he said trying his best to sound seductive.

Now she did giggle, but not for the reason he had hoped.

"You seriously have no clue as to why I'm upset, do you?" she asked incredulously, pulling her hand out of his grip.

He thought for a moment hoping for some divine inspiration, but it never came. Finally with a shrug of his shoulders he conceded defeat. "Not a one."

Danni huffed and rolled her eyes, something he'd seen his sister do on more than one occasion. It must be a skill all females are born with, he thought to himself.

"But I'm willing to listen," he added hastily hoping to score bonus points. He tried not to wince as he watched her take an offensive stance, feet squared with her shoulders, arms crossed across her chest. Here it comes, he braced.

"Vongsense?!" she nearly yelled. "Why didn't you tell me you could talk to Vong life forms?"

It took a second to register fully in his brain that she was upset about his newly revealed talent. but why?

"That's why you're mad at me? Because I can communicate with Vong life? I would think you of all people would understand."

"I'm not mad because you can do it," she clarified. "I'm mad because you. you kept it from me." Now that she said the words out loud, they sounded almost silly to her ears. But she wasn't quite ready to let go of her anger yet. "You let me spend all that time over there racking my brain trying how to figure out how to do what you apparently can already do, and you didn't say a word! Why, it's insulting to my intelligence, not to mention a smack in the face of our friendship. How could you, Jacen?"

Were those tears welling up in her beautiful eyes? Tears caused by him? He couldn't stand it. He reached out to touch her face, but she jerked away.

"Danni, I never meant to hurt you," he stated sincerely. "I didn't tell you because well, I don't really know why. I wasn't trying to keep it from you. I haven't told many people about my 'Vongsense' because I don't want people to get the wrong idea about it. It's not something I can really even explain, and after being gone so long in captivity, there are already people that think I may have been brainwashed. If they knew I could talk to anything Vong, then they might get the wrong idea, or try to use me as a weapon. That's the last thing I want.

"But please don't think that I was trying to insult you or waste your time. If there were a possibility that you could use science to get us out of this dovin basal mess, then it would have been a surer bet than my so- called talent. I'm not even sure that this will work. This is just a last resort. Please believe me, Danni. I would never hurt you," he confessed, trying once again to touch her and this time she let him. He leaned forward and kissed her forehead glad she didn't pull away.

"Am I forgiven?" he asked softly, leaning his head against hers.

"I was all ready to let you have it, Jacen Solo," she whispered, "and here you are breaking down all my defenses."

"So, is that a yes?"

She looked up into his face; sure she'd never seen anyone even remotely as handsome as him. She offered him a simple nod that brought a huge smile to his lips. lips she wanted desperately to kiss again. and their gazes locked.

"You liked the kiss then?" he asked tentatively, searching her face for any sign of regret. Happy there was none there, he ventured to try again. "I'm sure I'll get better with practice. if I have the right trainer, that is."

Danni chuckled and glanced down at the floor.

"I mean, you are the guru on touching, remember?" he added teasingly, lifting her chin with his finger. "And I'd definitely like another lesson on that whole positive touch thing. I don't think I got it the first time around. In fact, that particular subject may take many, many lessons. I'm a little dense, in case you hadn't noticed."

Danni smiled widely and instantly found her mouth covered by Jacen's. He forced himself to take it slow and just enjoy the feel of her soft lips on his. She tasted sweet, better than anything he'd ever tasted before, and if not for the urgency of their current situation, he would have been tempted to kiss her until the end of time.

Finally, he ended the kiss, albeit as slowly as possible, letting his lips touch hers up until the last second. He was smugly satisfied to see her totter on her feet and grabbed her elbow to steady her. Slowly, she opened her eyes, which were now glazed over, and Jacen smiled when he saw her kiss- swollen lips. He was quite proud to have, as his father put it, 'knocked her socks off'.

"Lots of practice," she muttered breathlessly. "Lots and lots of practice."