She was about to make her way to the table with the food when she saw his green-blue armour-clad form limp away from the festivity. A tight feeling raced up her throat, this was not good. He must have got hurt on their mission and it made her feel bad that he had been able to hide it.
Her swearing made the woman next to her flinch and excuse deeply. It took her by surprise until she realized what caused the woman's reaction: "What? No, no. Sorry to have upset you. It's not you, just my …"
She stormed after him: "Kiffin' idiot. Hurt and again not saying anything …" Ducking under his arm she draped it over her shoulders, holding on to his wrist, while she slung her other arm round his waist. Every limping step sent a pang through her, sent her guts into turmoil, made her feel bad.
"Where are you hurt? How did it happen? Do we need a medic?"
She listened closely. His breathing was normal as he answered her, not a sound of pain was to be detected. Quite to the contrary, there was a goofy sound, he was chuckling.
A wisp of anger flared in her: "If you are not hurt, why do you limp?"
Yes, he was definitely laughing in a suppressed way and her anger made way to confusion. Slowly it dimmed on her: "What … are you fleeing from the dance floor …?" He was just pretending, the lessening of the sickening knot in her guts made her feel better.
She had had no time to observe anything while she was transporting the women back to the town. Only the very courteous way Tern had escorted a woman with a black eye and a split lip to the co-pilot's seat had made her wonder for a second, before her attention had been drawn back to steering the shuttle safely.
After having landed with their last freight of women, she gave herself the time to watch more closely. The woman was attractive, very attractive. Slim and still with curves at the right places. Her torn dress revealing the deep V-shape of her cleavage. When she stood her shoulders were pulled back, accentuating the swelling of her more than well-sized bosom. When she walked her hips swayed provocatively, more so when she stepped forward to walk in front of Tern.
Her brows had knitted as she had watched with narrowed eyes. Where she was muscles, this woman was plush, where she was rough, she was softness, where she was ample and voluptuous, she was trim and slim. A tense feeling that wanted to throttle her took hold of her whole being.
It had been only small solace that Tern kept his visor straight forward, well above the head of the alluring woman. When he sidestepped and brought more distance between the woman and himself, the tenseness vaguely lessened, it made her breathing easier.
She hadn't thought him to shy away from a challenge, but thinking over his admission that he couldn't dance, she had to admit that there very likely hadn't been any opportunities for him to develop such a skill. It made her laugh and thinking up other skills he might miss had her shortly distracted. But laughing was good, it made her feel good after the tension that had settled in her subsided.
She didn't want him to feel embarrassed and immediately felt regret at hearing his defeated voice. He wanted her to enjoy herself, with the others. She didn't know where her quipped answer had come from, maybe from their light-hearted banter before their job, but it was out before she could think it through properly: "Are you telling me that your company is not enjoyable?"
It made him stammer and the defeat in his voice gave her a sting, right where it hurt most. She had to ensure him, she had to make up for her impetuous counter: "It's more than enjoyable." It was good to see his posture straighten again, it made her feel better.
But words were not good enough. She wanted him to feel her sincerity in the most understandable way, with their helmets pressed against each other, able to hear each other breaths escaping from beneath their metal confinements.
Confined behind metal, a thought hit her, and it made her feel much better. She had smelt the richness of the beer as several people were standing near enough, so she was able to take a whiff. He would like it and they could enjoy the evening together.
It took less than five minutes. Her father was engaged in conversation with members of the council. She informed him quickly, so that he wouldn't search for them. His wriggling eyebrows and his smirk painted her face in red that no one could see.
Her explanations to those helping the people to food and drink had been short and she had been given a basket to gather everything she wanted. They would have their own little and private festivity. A content feeling smoothly spread throughout her whole being at the prospect of spending this precious time with him.
It was good that he had got used to sharing his meals in the presence of others, so it was easy to find a way to sit that he could be comfortable with. His visor eyed the layout of the food and the bottles and sat down quickly.
She heard the clank of the bottle on the table and then the long swallows he took. He was definitely thirsty and probably also hungry. The smile that spread on her face was smug. She had seen the dark colour of the beer, she had smelt its richness. It was good home-brewed stuff, the kind that gets in the head quickly.
She warned him and the sheepish giggle told her that her warning might have come too late. When he heartily dug into the food she quickly wondered where he stored it in his lean body. But it made her feel good that he enjoyed it so much.
The soft sound that emanated him and resonated through her with the way their shoulders touched made the world around her go still for a moment. It didn't sound lewd, it didn't sound obscene. It spoke of content and pleasure of the small things in life.
But maybe she shouldn't have teased and prompted him. He was picking up on her way to answer, he was a fast learner. And with the next sound he made the world round her tightened and flare up for a moment. It was lascivious and it sent a warmth to her insides, it made her feel better than she had for ages.
The alcohol, it was definitely the alcohol that was getting into his head, that made him moan lewdly, speak boldly and sigh so invitingly. She scolded herself for wanting to see what had made him sigh the way he had, for wanting to hear this kind of sigh again, for wanting to be the reason for this kind of sigh. This kind of sigh that had her innards rearrange themselves out of their own will.
She just kept standing in the doorframe and took in the scenery. He had covered the small window – no light would be able to creep in – her heart jolted, her innards knotted at what he might expect. He was lying outstretched and continued to stretch slowly in a more than comfortable way – her heart punched, the knot flared. He might not know it, but he was teasing and tempting her.
She shouldn't empty the bottle, but it tasted good and it made her feel good. It made her bold enough for what her instincts want her to do.
"Cocky." Yes, the way he presented himself, the way he called for her with his hands, even if it was only the alcohol that had loosened him, he was cocky and it made her smile, it gave her ideas.
But he was considerate, his shyness skimming to the surface a second later and she found it more than adorable. "And cute."
What he leecher could do, she could do twice as well. Moving insinuatingly was something her hips allowed her to do twice as well. Alluring him with looks was better done without a black eye. And when he responded with this slow and wanting curl of his fingers, she felt her mouth go dry. Was he at all aware of what he was doing to her?
The closed and locked door would ensure the privacy she wanted to have with him. Her pulse quickened as she remembered his careful approach at the hidden lake and his careful restraint at the old volcano. She was certain that the bottle of beer had not been enough to make him inconsiderate.
Her gaze fell to the bedside table to find the last source of light. Again, he was able to surprise her. She had seen the rose on the table, but now it was next to the bed, shone on by the lamp, illuminating the dark violet. She had to sit down. His consideration for her was charming and his compliment swept her off her feet.
It might make her legs week, but it strengthened something else. It strengthened the need to be closer to him, to show him that she wanted to be closer to him. She could hear the sharp inhale as she gazed directly into his blue visor and she knew what she wanted.
She wanted to hear this inhale again: She wanted to hear this low rumbling of his soft moans again. She knew what he yearned for, his voice was betraying him even despite the modulation of the helmet. Again, he managed to stab her heart with his consideration for her and her needs.
She could feel the pressure of his hand on her backplate, it was only soft, a guiding help without any force and it made her sigh as she rested her head on his collarbone. Maybe it was only her imagination, maybe it was only her pulse, but maybe it was his heart that was racing in a fast beat.
Of course, she could stay like this until the morning broke, but she wouldn't need the safety of a close room for that. Having been given this opportunity she wanted to take another step, to learn more about him, to feel more of him.
The darkness was only a slight obstacle and they were working well together to remove his protective layers. The creaking of the leather and the metallic clinks and clunks were the only sounds that filled the room. She would have loved to hear his low voice in the darkness, but he kept still, so she did too. Yet it was this quietness that helped her to feel safe.
The quietness and the hum. These hums with which he was unknowingly able to undo her, to shatter any doubts and restraints. These touches with which he set her on fire and drowned her in in iciness at the same time.
She smiled as she felt his hand wander down her arm, she heard his inhale as he found it bare of its armour. Her smile widened as she felt his fingertips twitch once against hers. She was able to read his subtle and wordless questions and requests, his wish to feel the bare skin of her hand.
Her smile told of pure bliss as she felt his lips against her head. She closed her eyes at the soft caressing. She relished them, they helped her to rein in her fast beating heart. With a smile she wondered how fast he could make it beat when he kissed her, when he caressed her.
First, she was curious at his lack of movements, then she remembered how she had to coax him in the volcano crater. He was holding back, he wanted her to feel good with what she was doing. It made her bolder. She loved the way she could make his breath falter, she relished the way she could draw these soft sounds from him.
She felt his straining to keep himself under control, the small twitches of his body, the tensing of his muscles, the shivers that ran down his body, the tugging at the sheets beneath him, the panting for oxygen.
She felt his loss of control as he pressed his hardness against her, as his soft moans became husky groans. She felt his hands dig painfully into her waist as she rolled her hips into him. It had only been once, but it had him at the verge of what he could take.
It made her breath stagger to realize that his want was so deep and surfacing so quickly. His kiss wasn't that concentrated anymore, her move to straddle him had him worked up so quickly. With every little touch and nip he strained more and more.
He was breathing so fast, so laboured. Getting rid of his armour was only logical to ease the pressure he felt. She tried to lie to herself, but the truth was simple. She simply wanted to touch his skin, to feel its heat under her fingers, to tend to his needs. He was pliant, helpful, even when only his instincts were left to guide him.
Under her fingers his skin felt heated. On her tongue his skin tasted slightly salty with the sheen of sweat she had managed to put on him. His muscles were quivering under her lips. His body was writhing under her nails.
She felt him give in to her touches, to his needs. She heard the punches into the mattress as her teeth grazed along his skin. She heard his pants and groans as her hands trailed down to his trousers. She wanted him to come undone for her and her alone. His need made her feel good and she wanted him to feel good.
For this first intimate night together she wanted to concentrate on him alone. He teased her and tempted her. He made her moan at the prospect of what he would be capable of. But she desired for him to lose all those restraints he had put onto himself and to give in to her completely.
She heard his last coherent words, they were direct towards her and made her heat up from inside out. Then she touched him, enclosed him, fell into a rhythm with him. His kisses turned feverish, his grip left imprints on her side, his teeth marked her neck, his groans sounded almost pained.
For the first time her name was on his lips the second his world turned into bliss. His words made her world blacken out. She just wanted to be kissed by him to make everything feel even better. She ran her hands over his sweat-stained temple while he fought to catch his breath again. It was hot on her forehead.
His voice was an exhausted mumble: "Why …?"
"Wanted to make you feel as good as I felt." It was simply the truth. All the times he had managed, knowingly and unknowingly to make her feel better.
"Hmm … felt?" She felt him lifting his head to look down at her.
"Feel." She caught his lips again in soft, plush kiss.
"Give me a minute to make you feel better."
"Ah-hmm?" The way he sounded made her grin. It was a mixture of surprise and anticipation together with complete incomprehension of her intentions.
"Getting you, us cleaned up. Will be right back." Before she opened the door, she told him to turn his head away and with a soft knock she announced her return.
She felt his outstretched arm guiding her back to his side. Her hand found his temple again: "You are sweaty."
"Ah-m, not my fault." There was this low hum and chuckle again.
She cupped his jaw tighter: "Cheeky! Now hold still or I accidentally poke you."
He did hold still when she ran the cloth over his face. Only his vocal cords didn't. He did not move when she ran the cloth over his chest and abdomen. Only his lungs did move, in a fast way. But he did flinch when she reached the V-shaped muscles. She stilled. Only their breathing filled the stillness of the room.
"Together." It was just a low murmur before she felt his hand cupping hers. It had been one thing, touching him to bring him over the edge, it had made her want to follow his arousal. Being guided by his hand to clean his body sent shivers over her skin that even intensified the lingering desire.
She put the cloth on the nightstand and heard him sit up. He was wrestling with his bunched-up suit. But soon the sounds of his boots dropping on the floor and another sound from metal and fabric let her know that he had discarded of the rest of his clothes.
Her heart soared high, she felt good the way it was. She wasn't sure about more, she didn't feel prepared for that yet. The mattress dipped under his weight. His hands were on her pauldrons.
"Just get as comfortable as you want." Her heart panged again with his consideration.
She let him work on the shoulder protectors as she undid her breastplate. The rest of the Beskar followed along with her boots. But when she rose to a stand to slide off her suit she halted. He settled back and waited. Her hand felt her pulse on her neck. It was beating even faster than before. Quietly she slid off her suit and let it lie in a heap. Her hand found his and he guided her back to lie beside him.
Could he feel how fast her heart beat? Her brain overworked at how to tell him that she was content the way it was. But he simple cradled her in the crook of his arm, his hand only rubbed along her arm.
"Just lie with me."
With her palm she cupped his scruffy jaw and her fingers wandered lower until she could feel his pulse beneath them. His racing heart was slowing down to a steady beat that lured her into sleepiness.
"Your father's idea, about the beacons and using Dadita … we could set up a first one here."
She put all the tension she felt in the exhale she let go against his skin. Again, he had unknowingly managed to make her feel better.
She didn't know how long they talked and when she had fallen asleep. But it felt good to wake up on his chest which was heaving in even breaths. Quietly she gathered her things and stole from the room.
He watched as Tharam limped off, but before he could move Vayra was at his side. He quickly cast the notion to follow them off. He knew that the younger man had not been injured, the food felt delicious and the beer tasted good, why should he spoil their night.
He had to shake a lot of hands and receive many words of thanks and gratitude now that he was the only one left the people of Kalish could turn to. He even made a few rounds on the dance floor, but he made sure that the woman with the black eye was not his only dancing partner. Tharam had been wise to flee from her.
When he saw the Dathomirian in the crowd he excused himself from her and went over to him.
"The Sith didn't leave many of you."
"The Empire didn't leave many of you."
He laughed amiable: "Touché. It is sad but true, we both are species on the brink of extinction."
"I was safe here on Jormark. My family had left Dathomir before the Sith struck."
"Can't say that I've been that lucky. Not many made it alive off Mandalor. It is an honour and a burden."
"Didn't you say you came from Iridonia."
"Not exactly. Cin Vhetin, a fresh start. I'm Mandalorian."
He didn't want the memories, which even after such a long time sometimes found their way into his sleep, to surface again. He didn't want to remember Ziost, he had tried to forget Korriban. The other man only nodded, sensing his discomfort.
They went to find a place to sit as they continued talking about safer topics than the past. Haggard was well informed about what went on. The most unsettling information was how the remnants of the Empire still tried to take roots, how the New Republic fought on it edges and how many different groups of dissenters, pirates and criminal bands tried to fill the void that had been left.
Soon other members of the council came to sit with them, and he used his time wisely. He brought up the idea of a beacon without giving away the Nevarro tribe. Although here had been a discussion for short time, the men and women of the council conceded to the idea.
He forgot about the time when their conversation covered many other topics. Only when he was offered the third mug of beer he declined: "It's been a long day. It's better to get at least some sleep. If you'd excuse me."
He nodded his farewell, but as he strode towards the building they had been given, Elder Macisa intercepted him: "May I have a word with you."
He took her in. The woman was not tall, the crown of her head barely reached up to the lower rim of his cuirass. Her snow-white hair was short and curly and stood out in high contrast to the darkness of her skin. Age and weather had marked her face with deep lines, but the wrinkles around her eyes bore witness that laughter had played a great part in her life too.
Dargak mused that in her youth she must have been a sight to behold: "Yes, Elder Macisa. How can I help you?"
"The question is, how can I help you."
He studied her. Her lips were smiling, but her eyes held a seriousness that made Dargak tilt his head in question.
When he didn't react, she continued: "Your past, her future. You are not her natural father, yet the Force has found a way to unite two sides of a coin. You were meant to be her father."
"I can't quite follow." Although he had no clue how she could have known, he could guess what she was referring to about his past. He set his face into a neutral mask and controlled his breathing.
The way she cackled almost hurt his ears: "Don't play coy. Or shall I remind you of your days on Korriban."
Although he had tried to prepare himself, physically and mentally. But being confronted directly derailed his facial expression and a low snarl rose from the back of his throat: "No one knows, no one that knew is alive anymore. No. One."
"I know." Her statement was simple.
"Who are you?" Neither his glare, nor even his pointy teeth bared in a snarl made her flinch back.
"You know who I am. Elder Macisa."
"NO. Who. Are. You?" Without blinking he stared into her black eyes.
"Just someone who was deprived of a certain future by the Empire. That what called to you, called to me too. Just in a different way. If you hadn't so rigorously cut your bonds, you could still feel it the same way as I do."
Another predatory snarl made it through his vocal cords. He had cut these bonds for a reason.
"Reach out you will see the truth. You still remember how to do it."
He was still able to form words, snarled and gnarled like a wounded animal. His cords were still able to press out words, jarred and creaking like an old tree in a storm: "No! … Never again!"
It took all his will to stay grounded, to neither flee nor fight. His nails dug crescents into his palms, and he felt the stickiness when they broke the skin.
"You felt it. Where there is no emotion, there is peace. Isn't this how you lived since you found your daughter?"
His piercing stare didn't waver, her whole form filled his vision: "I do have emotions, I feel pain, loss … love …passion …" – Peace is a lie.
"You felt it. You gained more with serenity than with passion. Wasn't it always your calmness that helped her to calm when she was in uproar?"
Everything around sank into blackness only her form loomed before him. His memory threw all the situations at him when he had soothed her.
"My passion empowered me as her father, it was and is what gave me the strength to calm her. Without it I wouldn't be here. – Through power I gain victory. – Harmony.
"Leave the chaos behind you and you will find harmony."
He felt his fists clench until his knuckles cracked, the length of his arms shook. His shoulders were tight and the pain in his collarbone increased.
"I … I … am a warrior!"
"You were made a warrior in Ziost, in Korriban."
"I … it was a chain … I broke my chains. I am free. I … I am a Mandalorian!
"Then how are you going to help her?"
A jolt went through his whole body. It was as if all the air around him had been sucked away. He gasped at its loss and doubled over on his knees.
"W-wi-tch-ch. W-what-ch … you're … d-doing?" He tried to suck in air, his lungs did not inflate. "S-stop …it!"
"I'm not doing anything. It is all your doing."
He couldn't move as she stepped closer. Like a cornered animal he glared into her black eyes. He wanted to pull back his head as her hands reached out to cup his face. A strangled sound escaped his furled lips as he fought in vain.
Then her cold hands touched his skin and all the air he had so desperately wanted to inhale rushed into him. His hands snapped up and grabbed her hands, stained them with his blood, but he couldn't pull them away. A small, old woman was stronger than him. – Through passion I gain strength. – Focus.
"Focus, Mandalorian. Focus on my hands. Focus on my face."
He stared at her and slowly blinked. Those wrinkles at the corners of her eyes, they come from laughing, those wrinkles come from laughing. – Harmony.
He blinked again and was able to pull her hands off his face. They did no longer feel so cold in his.
"W-what wa-was that?"
"Confront yourself with what you have locked away. Then tell your daughter. She has to … needs to know!"
She helped him as he scrambled back to his feet. A feeble old woman had to help him to gain his balance again.
"W-what am I to tell her?"
"Your past as it was and as it could have been. Of those like you and of those like me. You will find the right words and she will recognize the way when it opens to her. Now go and rest, the time to speak will come."
Her hands tentatively let his go, still numbed he stood, although she had left him without another glance or word. His fingers balled into fists and stretched again.
Like drunk he stepped on. It took him several steps to stop the sway in his walk, to no stain the walls with the blood in his palm as he no longer ran his hand along the walls of the buildings to feel steadier. He found his composure again and only felt a heavy tiredness tugged at him, but beneath it simmered anger.
Anger at the Dathomirian for just reminding him where he had come from, anger at the old woman who had pulled him pack into his past. Anger at his own incapacity to contain what was not to surface ever again. It quietly simmered as he stepped on.
Past one of the last houses something, someone tugged his arm with surprising strength, and he was pulled into the darkness between two buildings. His knife was out and only the high-pitched gasp kept him from slicing into the flesh of an exposed neck.
The simmering feeling flared into live: "What more do you want, witch!"
This woman was taller, the low-riding neckline revealing, the skin smooth. The darkened eye where she had received a blow was hidden in the darkness, the half of the face which he could make out smiled hungrily at him: "You."
"Can't give you what you want." Harshly he wrung his arm out of her grip and turned to leave.
Her arms slung round his midriff. Her intentions were clear the way one hand roamed up to press under his cuirass while the other trailed south: "I'm sure you can."
The squeeze she gave his crotch made him jolt. Roughly he tore her hands from his body and pressed her against the building behind her back. She wriggled and he pressed her arms against the wall above her head. Her leg swung up, she wrapped it around his thigh and pressed him closer.
He growled ferociously as she started to roll herself against him: "If I can't have him, then I want you. Heard that Zabraks are fiery and fierce lovers."
He tilted his head down at her and snarled with narrowed eyes: "I'm not a piece of meat that can be changed at will."
She tried to make her voice alluring: "What are you then?"
"A Mandalorian!" He pushed himself off of her and turned.
He didn't know what she was normally like. He didn't know if she had been like that before she had experienced the kidnapping, or if it was a result of it. He just didn't want to know.
His steps took him quickly to the small house with the destroyed garden. He noted that the door to the bedroom was closed, but the sofa was empty. It would be his bed tonight. Ossus came to his mind, it wasn't the first night that he spent on a sofa. Ossus where she had visited the temple. The temple where she had experienced these strange things. Where his calmness had soothed and steadied her.
He didn't know what time it was on-planet. Just that it was too early and that his head felt somewhat heavy. He didn't know what had happened during the night but hearing her softly hum a tune as she prepared the caff let him know that it had been something good and it made him feel better.
He could revel in the feeling until the prospect of their next planet made the corners of his mouth fall. It was good that she had spent a pleasurable night. It had kept her from concentrating on their trip to Myrkr. The trip would give him time to consider what the old woman had said.
He sat up with a grunt. The adrenaline was gone, the alcohol was gone, the pain had returned. He had felt it the second the shockwave had made him connect with the tree stem. He had heard no cracking sound, that was good. But the way his shoulder had stiffened up was not good.
He tried to roll it, it tore another grunt from him. He had her attention, she turned around and eyed him critically.
"Did you overdo it?"
"Your goor'verd'ika overdid it. Could have blown up the large temple in Ossus with all the explosives he used." He tenderly rubbed along his collarbone, feeling the swelling.
He looked up at her, she had come over, two mugs in her hand. Pressing them both in his hands she simply started unclasping his pauldron and cuirass.
When she started opening his flight suit, he was torn out of his stupor: "What are you doing? I'm fine."
"Checking on your shoulder." Carefully she peeled the suit back and hissed.
He tried to peek at what had made her turn and go for her bag. When she pulled out a small jar he sighed: "That bad?"
When her salve-covered fingers connected with his collarbone he felt how bad it was.
"Tulata told you to be careful. This throws you back at least one or two weeks."
"Will be more careful, promise. But don't give him any explosives again. And … don't break it on Tulata." His grin was lopsided, and he succeeded to make her chuckle.
"Too bad that Myrkr is not that far away to give you a proper time of rest. When we are back, consider yourself grounded or I will tell Tulata."
He pressed his lips together, this was not what he wanted to hear: "Fine."
"Reminds me, we have to stock up our med supplies. Never needed that much when I was on my own. You two are Vaulr and Haran, walking on two legs."
His laugh was a bit rancorous: "And who is who?"
She only huffed audibly annoyed and threw the knapsack over her shoulder. He was left to the words she had thrown at him. Vaulr, chaos. Haran, destruction – drazutis – Apprentice Drazutis. No! – Cin Vhetin!
He might not know it, but he was easily read. She picked up on his stiff movements when he rose from the sofa. She saw him roll his shoulder. She noted how he tenderly tapped along his collarbone. He had suffered harm from their job. And she saw how his face suddenly lost any expression.
She would have never thought Tern to be that fond of explosives, she would have guessed that her buir had placed an extra detonator for good measure. But he made her think better of it. She would have to remember this when it came anything similar like that again.
As it was, she could help him only with the rest of the Bacta salve she had left. She tried not to imagine the two men working together, chaos would be ensured, havoc would be created, and destruction would mark their way.
She had to get more supplies with these two and the oncoming job on Myrkr. She strictly kept her thought on what she would need. Bandages, normal one and Bacta-infused ones, Bacta, best several jars of it, syringes, a better, newer needle and more thread, maybe a second cauterizer, stims, if she could get them at all.
Myrkr, located on the outskirts of the Inner Rim, was known for several things. Hiding place for anyone seeking to get rid of attention, hunters and criminals alike. Forests consisting of old and huge trees, among them an exceptional kind with a high content of metal which was able to render sensors useless. And Vornskrs, pack hunters, night hunters, force hunters, deadly with their teeth-filled huge maws and their whipped tails containing a painful and stunning poison.
All the information had crept into her mind as she was on her way back to their quarters. At least it was no man's land, between the interests of what was left of the Empire and the New Republic. The sensor scrambling trees there would be a great addition to what her ship and her shuttle was able to provide.
She had got some Bacta, the needle, thread and the bandages. Of course, there had been no stims available, but at least she had got an ampoule the small dark-skinned elder had said would be useful. She had wanted to skip on it – Through passion you gain focus – it might be useful on a planet like Myrkr, or any other.
When she returned to the small house both men were already waiting. Without a word Tern took the knapsack and shouldered it. Together they went through the town, most of the people were already busy with their daily tasks and heads bobbed in friendly greetings.
The council was already gathered when they entered the long hall. Elder Macisa stoop up and pounded her staff once. Everyone who had gathered in the hall went quiet.
"Honoured warriors! Saviours of so many women of Kalish! The time to part has come. May our best wishes follow your paths. And if we can be of any help to you, remember that you will be always welcome, any of you, any time. Ret'urcye mhi."
Hearing her speak Mando'a sent a jolt not only through her but also through her buir and especially through the more conservative Tern. She scrutinized him, watched him closely. He stood as if he had swallowed a rather long and large stick. She could see the neck scarf move as his Adam's apple worked.
She could hear his quenched voice directed only to her through the helmet's system: "How does she know our language."
She didn't have to think long: "Guess those Mando'ade she mentioned. See it as her way to thank us."
Through her T-visor she eyed the old woman. An off feeling went along her spine when she saw the woman's black eyes staring directly into her eyes. Her light hair framed her dark face. The longer she looked the calmer she got, it was as if any emotion fled her – a pebble in the waters of a slowly flowing brook.
"Ret'urcye mhi." The dark booming voice of her father tore her to the surface. With a shake of her head she cast off the lingering clouded feeling.
She was glad when he turned, and she quickly followed him. It must have been too quick because she felt Tern's hand brush against her arm.
She thought that she had hid her stupor well enough, he couldn't see beneath her cloak, her helmet was hiding her face: "Using those medscans again?"
"No. You just …," he was looking for a matching word: "… felt odd?"
She turned her head to look up at his visor: "Felt odd?"
It took all the way to the shuttle until he finally answered: "Odd like … in the temple. You were … here and not here. … Odd. … There was … thought I lost you. … Worse than in the ring … there I knew what happened … in the temple I didn't. Couldn't understand it … still don't."
She felt his hand slip into hers, intertwining their fingers. He was seeking for something to anchor him. She gave him an assuring squeeze.
When they turned to wave a last time to the townspeople, who had accompanied them to the shuttle, her eyes fell on the woman again – light – dark.
She tightened the grip on his hand and felt glad when she felt the steadying hold of his hand on her shoulder. It kept her from shrinking back when the woman stepped up to her, ignoring the looming presences her father to her side and Tern slightly to her back provided.
The smaller woman placed her hand over her Beskaryc Kar'ta and a maelstrom pressed her chest against it. She hadn't moved an inch, still she felt the pressure of the small hand burning through the Beskar into her chest. It made her inhale in a hoarse gulp.
"The peace you seek is to be found in the knowledge which provides harmony."
Yellow – red – orange – blinding laser bolts – flaring detonations – green depths – soaring flames – grey locker – damp heat – blue blaze – green – blue – black.
The hand on her shoulder gripped harder. The hand on her cuirass retreated. Her exhale pushed her back into the here and now.
"We will meet again."
The people waved a last time, as Tern ushered her into the shuttle. Dazed she went into the cockpit. Her hands knew what they had do. She engaged the engines and when everyone had retreated into safe distance lifted off. No one spoke on the way to her ship and she kept quiet as she linked it to the ship, she didn't say a word as she went to the cockpit and brought the ship into space.
Her hand lingered over the button to make the ship jump into hyperspace. She let her hand sink without engaging the jump. Pushing herself out of the seat was an effort. She found both men quietly talking in the lounge area.
"I need to … gave us time to … relax."
"Vayra…" She watched her father rise and it took Tern only a moment longer to do likewise.
"Not now. I … I feel tired." She shook her head and turned towards her room.
She didn't see the looks the men exchanged, neither that Tern held the Zabrak back. But when she opened the door to her quarters, she saw his shadow hovering next to hers. When she didn't enter her room, he stepped closer. She could feel when his chest rose with his inhale, it was a deep inhale.
"Copaanir solus?" Her brow furrowed. His voice was low, a soft rumble. It spoke of – she was looking for a word as she listened to his slow exhale – Peace.
"Nayc. Temya'r ti ni?" She wasn't sure if he had heard her soft unsure whisper, but her hand that sought his spoke a louder language.
When the door slid close, she lingered in the middle of the room. She tried to clear her thoughts, to make her brain work. Wordlessly she let her cloak glide to the ground and started to work off her armour.
Tern picked the cloak up and placed it over a chair. Before her cuirass slipped off, he got a hold on it and laid it cautiously on the chair too. It took her a moment to gaze from his visor to his outstretched hands. His fingers curled, once, beckoned to her.
She had to swallow at the tight feeling rising in her throat, but it also stole a small smile on her lips. She held out her arms for him and he didn't need any words as he undid the Beskar parts and peeled off her gloves.
His curling fingers – she forced herself to cling to this image. Four times within the last few hours had he called to her with the curling of his fingers. She gnashed her teeth, the sounds didn't make it through the vocoder. She blinked her eyes, the salty pearls didn't make it through the neck scarf.
She realized that she must have stood for some time when she realized the missing weight on her back. She looked down and saw him keeling, unclasping the cuisses and unlacing the boots. Everything was placed in a neat arrangement on the chair by him.
Then he rose to stand in front of her again. When his hands reached for the dented parts of her helmet, she tasted the copper and released her lower lip from its trap between her teeth. His fingers nimbly slipped beneath.
"Tion'jor, ner meshurok?"
The weight of his helmet as he tilted his head down to rest against hers in a mirshmure'cya grounded her. Her shaking turned to quivers, turned to single shivers. The weight and his soft purr calmed her.
"Gar enteyor udes. Gedet'ye."
She felt his boot tip against softly against her still booted toes and inched her foot back. He tipped against her other foot, she inched it back. It was a slow shuffle with which he lured her back until the back of her knees braced against the bedframe.
Her knees buckled and she sat down abruptly, stiffly, as if her feet had been kicked out from under her. Her helmet followed his motion as he knelt down again to pull off her boots. The soft but unrelenting guidance by her shoulders made her sag down, lying on her side. He pulled up the folded covers over her shoulders.
A certainty had spread within her, she couldn't bear to be alone: "Temya'r."
He tilted his helmet, a silent question. A silent nod was enough for him to start shedding off his armour. Equally only in his flight suit he sat down at the edge of the bed. She scooted to make room for him and lifted the blanket.
"Shall I switch off the lights?" Again, her silent nod was sufficient. In the darkness that surrounded her she felt the bed dip under his weight.
"Now you can give me your helmet." In the darkness she felt safe. He waited until he heard the familiar hiss.
"Let me put it down." For a brief moment his fingers enveloped hers. Then she heard another hiss and soft thud, before he stretched out next to her.
With a c'me 'ere she was tugged against his chest, warmth surrounded her as he wrapped himself around her. She felt the soothing effect his hand had on her. It was warm as he spread his fingers wide, it was comforting as he rubbed in slow circles.
He stilled when her hand ran down his chest and she felt a shiver ran along form when her leg moved up his thigh. She heard him grunt as her hand fiddled with the buttons of his shirt. His hand moved from her back and caught her leg. She didn't know what he was doing, he was shifting and then her ankle was caught between his calves. Her hand was entrapped in his.
"Not now. Just rest."
She had to take several breaths. Didn't he understand that she needed him right now? Didn't he feel how desperately her heart beat? Didn't he know that she wanted him to be closer?
"You are … odd … again. I don't want to … I want to be … with you … when you are you. …Not like that."
After another deep breath she understood. He was here with her, filling the void she felt. He was close to her, calming her restlessness. He was giving her everything she needed, to become herself again. without taking anything for his own. She felt his arm tighten round her, pulling her impossibly closer to his side as his fingers wove between hers.
His chuckle was a soft rumble: "Do I make sense?" – Knowledge.
He knew her better than she did herself. He understood more of her, of what she really needed than she did herself at the moment.
"Lek … Vor'e ... Ori'vor'e." He answered her deep sigh with the hum that soothed her.
cin vhetin: fresh start, clean slate - lit. white field, virgin snow - term indicating the erasing of a person's past when they become Mandalorian, and that they will only be judged by what they do from that point onwards; like the *first turn of the screw cancels all debts* for sailors.
goor'verd'ika: little grenadier
drazutis: destruction (High Sith)
buir: parent, father, mother
Ret'urcye mhi: Goodbye - lit. Maybe we'll meet again
Beskaryc Kar'ta: Iron heart, Beskar heart
Copaanir solus: Do you want to be alone
Nayc. Temya'r ti ni: No, Stay with me
Tion'jor, ner meshurok: Why, my precious (one) lit. my gemstone
mirshmure'cya: Keldabe kiss
Gar enteyor udes. Gedet'ye.: You must rest. Please.
Gedet'ye, sheb'daab.: Please, sit down.
Lek … Vor'e ... Ori'vor'e: Yeah. Thanks. Thanks a lot.