~*Deluge*~

The rhythm of the rain pelting the roof was strangely relaxing as she lay back on the small bed and closed her eyes, soaking up the calm the storm had to offer.

"I love the rain," she stated out loud with a sigh to no one but herself. For the time being, she was alone in the small cabin. Her partner would soon return--- wet, she hoped. She giggled in delight at the thought. After all she'd put up with from him over the past several weeks, seeing him thoroughly drenched from head to toe would actually be very satisfying.

She rose and walked back to the window, peering out into the pitch-black night. Only when a flash of lightning streaked across the sky was she able to see anything at all. However, she knew from personal experience the dangers that lurked behind that inky veil. After all, this had been her home for over three years. For just a moment, she felt a tiny twinge of worry for her companion. He wasn't familiar with this world, and despite his overabundance of self-confidence, Belkadan could be a scary place. even for a Jedi.

Just then she felt a blazing presence in the Force approaching and knew he had finally returned. Hurrying back to the bed, she plopped down, hands behind her head, and pretended to be unconcerned. The door blew open and a large, dark figure filled the entryway. Behind him she heard the steady pounding of the rain and bit back a laugh as he huffed his way into their paltry shelter.

"I hate the rain!" he announced emphatically with a scowl.

"Everything all right?" she questioned, trying desperately to resist the urge to burst into laughter once she saw his dripping form.

"Besides the fact that I feel like a human sponge, yes, I'm all right. The perimeter is secured, and with the lead we got on them, I don't think they'll be able to find us tonight."

She couldn't help it. The sight of his long, dark hair plastered to his face amused her too much, and the laughter sputtered out from between her sealed lips.

He frowned. "What? You think this is funny?" he asked sardonically.

"Sorry, Kyp. I--," but she couldn't finish apologizing because, by this point, she was laughing too hard at the puddle forming beneath his feet.

He continued to scowl at her, gave her his fiercest frown, but it only made her laugh even harder. With a growl, he stomped toward the bed, slipping off his soaked cape as he moved, and then flung it right onto her lap. She jumped up with a squeal and threw it to the floor.

"Ew, yuck!" she declared, wrinkling up her nose. The corners of his mouth lifted into a tiny smile, but it wasn't enough to satisfy him. While she was trying to dry off her pants, he took a couple steps closer and shook himself wildly, forcing any excess water to shower the young woman in front of him.

"Kyp!" she yelled in protest, lifting her hands to protect her face. "Stop it! You're acting like a child!"

He chuckled and offered one last shake of his head before giving in to her demand. "What's the matter, Quee?" he questioned with a hint of amusement. "You can dish it out, but you can't take it?"

Danni glared at him, the typical smug grin spread across his handsome face. 'He needs a shave,' she thought and then scolded herself for paying any attention at all to Kyp Durron's appearance. He was the most arrogant, self-absorbed, abrasive man she'd ever met. She couldn't stand him, and yet here she was, stuck with him on a mission sanctioned by Master Skywalker. What had Luke been thinking? Surely, he was aware of her dislike for Kyp and his aggressive tactics, but even so he'd paired her with him for this assignment.

Well, she'd do her best to make things as bearable as possible.

Kyp walked away and started removing his wet tunic. "So, how are we on supplies?" he asked, suddenly all business again. It was amazing how he could switch back and forth between levity and seriousness so easily.

"There were some leftover ration packs left in the storage cabinet," she began, as he turned his back to her and continued to disrobe. "We should be able to use most of them, I think." Danni tried to look away but felt compelled to keep staring when he slipped his undershirt off over his head revealing the finely tuned muscles in his back.

"Yeah, those ration packs have a shelf life of what?-two hundred years?" he snickered.

She swallowed hard. "Something. like. that." Just as he began to turn back around, Danni forced herself to look away, but not before catching a glimpse of his equally taut abdomen. The image was forever etched in her mind now, and it was all she could do to not gawk at him.

'What is wrong with me?!' she wondered, unnerved by the reaction she'd just had to Kyp. Hastily, she went to the storage cabinet and began to recheck the contents. It was completely unnecessary, for she remembered exactly what was there, but it gave her mind a much-needed diversion.

"This storm is something else!" he spoke from the window.

"Yes, it is a bad one," Danni agreed. "Worse than any I remember. Maybe it's due to all the changes the Yuuzhan Vong caused with their reshaping. Belkadan is definitely not the same place I left a few years ago," she finished wistfully.

And it was true. Belkadan was not the same. When they had arrived several days ago, Danni hadn't been prepared for the sight of her former home, and was shocked to see the landscape so altered. Yet there still remained a sense of familiarity, so much so that it was almost surreal, like living in a dream.

Only, in her book, a dream that included Kyp Durron was more like a nightmare.

Kyp walked over to the cabinet to make his own examination of the supplies. He paused next to Danni, hands on his hips, muscles bulging slightly. She made the mistake of turning to look at him as he sighed and ran a hand back through his damp hair, which was already curling on the ends. Her breath caught in her throat, and her stomach did a strage little flip as she studied the physique of the still shirtless Jedi. Finally, he noticed her staring and she looked away, her cheeks burning with embarrassment.

"Why, Miss Quee, you're blushing," he teased. "Does my state of half- undress rattle you so?"

She snickered nervously. "Not quite, Mr. Durron." It was a lame comeback, she knew, but it was the best she could manage in her current flustered state.

Kyp watched her quickly begin to rifle through several items in the storage cabinet and grinned triumphantly. "Whatever you say, sweetheart." Her head snapped up to glare at him. He just winked and then walked away in search of a dry towel or blanket.

"Why me?" she muttered under her breath with an exasperated roll of her eyes.

"What was that?" Kyp asked from across the room. "You're going to have to speak up if you want me to hear what you have to say. And I know that you always have something to say."

"What?! What is that supposed to mean?" she asked, perturbed by his insinuation.

"You know exactly what I mean. You have an opinion on everything. You even argued with me over where to land the ship-and I'm the pilot!" he stressed.

"Well!" she exclaimed. "I was only trying to keep you from destroying those shrubs! They'll make excellent specimens to take back to the base."

"Whatever," Kyp repeated, dismissing her explanation. "Look, Danni, I know that you objected to coming with me on this mission, that you've openly criticized my proactive stance on the Vong, and that you'd much rather be anywhere besides here with me. But that's okay," he admitted. "I'm used to not being liked. In fact, I've turned it into an art form."

He plopped down on the bed and leaned back on his elbows. Something inside Danni, hormones maybe, started to surge through her veins the more she looked at him, and, try as she might, she was finding it increasingly difficult to avert her gaze.

"So, now that we're both clear on the fact that you hate me--."

"I don't hate you, Kyp," she interrupted.

He snorted. "Yeah, right."

"Really," she persisted. "While it may be true that I don't agree with all of your views. or your over-inflated ego," she added snidely, "I certainly don't hate you. And I only objected to this assignment because I could be accomplishing so much more back in the laboratory."

It was true. for the most part. She had made some great strides in the development of anti-Vong technology and was anxious to continue her efforts. So when Master Skywalker had asked her to return to Belkadan to fully assess the planet's situation now some three years after the Vong conquest, she had initially declined. In addition, returning to Belkadan brought back too many memories that she preferred to keep buried deep within. Reliving her painful captivity in the hands of the enemy was something she wanted to put forever behind her. But Luke was very convincing, and so here she was.

"Luke gave you the old guilt trip, eh?" Kyp asked.

Danni thought about denying it, but he was right. "Pretty much, yeah," she replied with a quick grin.

"I figured as much," Kyp said. "He pulled the same thing with me. Told me that no one knew these systems like I did and that he trusted me completely to keep you safe. It's hard to fight him when he gets all diplomatic like that. Must be Leia's influence."

Danni's tension eased and she abandoned the storage cabinet for a nearby chair. "Leia can be very persuasive, I know." She paused and slowly surveyed the small cabin. "You know, I'm a little surprised this place is still here."

Kyp sat up on the edge of the bed. "It's barely here at all," he remarked referring to the dilapidated building they were holed up in. When he and Danni had ventured into the deep jungle in this part of Belkadan, she had nearly passed by the vine-covered shack. "Considering the rest of your Ex- Gal station was nothing but rubble, I was surprised, too, to find this little outpost all in one piece. I wonder how it's lasted this long?"

Danni shrugged. "Well, it's made from native wood. Maybe the fact that it wasn't metal, actually saved it from the Vong reformation."

"Lucky for us," he quipped sarcastically as a burst of thunder exploded in the night sky outside, rattling the flimsy windows. Danni smiled at his comment. "That's much better."

"What is better?" she asked quizzically, tilting her pretty blond head to the side.

"Your face. It's much more beautiful when you smile." Danni felt her cheeks heat up again, but then he added, "And I'm not very used to seeing you smile. Now scowling, that I'm used to."

She glowered at him and he snickered. "I should have known you were incapable of giving a real compliment."

"Oh, lighten up," Kyp insisted as he stood and stretched his arms from side to side. "I said you were beautiful, didn't I?"

Danni felt her ears heat up as her temper flared. "You are insufferable, Kyp Durron."

He simply grinned. "Flattery will get you everywhere."

She groaned and shook her head in disgust. "Don't you ever stop?" she asked, frustrated with his cocksure attitude. Kyp sauntered over to her, clearly aware of her discomfort at being so close to him, and his dark eyes gleamed with mischief.

"Most women happen to like that particular quality in my personality." The low huskiness of his voice made his innuendo unmistakable, and, when he moved to within inches of Danni's face, she felt her heart start to race. "Give me a chance, and you could find out for yourself."

Her mind struggled to form a witty reply, but those efforts were thwarted by the massive amount of heat his body was emitting. His eyes held hers locked like she was under some kind of magic spell, and she couldn't speak or pull away. She glanced at his mouth, saw it drawing nearer, and her lips practically throbbed in anticipation of meeting his.

At that very moment, the room went black. They were enveloped in darkness and both froze in place.

"What-wha--." Her question was stifled by his large hand, which had clamped over her mouth.

"Shh!" he demanded with an urgent whisper in her ear. "Listen." Kyp slowly removed his hand once Danni became still.

Focusing all her attention on listening was proving difficult since the only thing her body seemed to be aware of was his body now lightly pressed up against her. Emboldened by the cover of night, she looked straight at him, knowing he couldn't see her, not caring that she couldn't see him. In her mind she saw him clearly enough. Broad shoulders, strong neck, well- defined chest. he was all man, which was both his best and worst quality, Danni mused.

She had to stop this silliness.

"What are we listening for?" she asked softly after several long moments.

"I think we're okay, but I just wanted to make sure our 'friends' hadn't found us. I didn't sense anything out there, so it must just be the generator," he explained stepping away from her. She immediately missed the nearness of him, and was shocked at herself for being so ridiculous.

She heard him moving around the small shelter and in a moment, a glowlamp shed some light on their current predicament. He walked back to her and shoved the light in her hand. Then he turned and moved to put his wet tunic back on.

"Guess I'll go take a look at that power generator," he said, grabbing a toolkit from one of their supply bags. He retrieved the glowlamp from her hand and headed for the door.

"I'm coming with you," she announced following behind him. He stopped and shined the light in her face.

"Just stay here. This shouldn't take long." Again he turned to go, but she didn't give up.

"Need I remind you that I'm a scientist?"

Kyp paused and shined the light at her again. She grimaced and brushed it away.

"I also spent over three years on this planet, helped build this outpost, and I just so happen to be the one who installed that generator." She thrust her chin up in a defiant pose, sure she had put him in his place.

But instead, he laughed.

"Well, then, that explains why it's not working right."

Danni growled and snatched the toolkit out of his other hand. "You can hold the light for me," she called back over her shoulder as she walked out the door.

Stunned and amused, he followed. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~