Author's Note: Backstory action for The Blue Side of the Force: Complements. I like backstory, it's much happy fun.
Leiraya shook her head. "No, that won't work."
"Yubara! Knobisto sala inodo."
Finally fed up, Leiraya smacked him over the head. "Skyler, you're not proving anything by not talking in Basic, since I can still understand you. So talk in Basic like a normal Corellian citizen, or shut up."
"Thuba... I mean, fine." He rubbed his head. "Do you always have to hit so hard?"
Skyler Ducharme stared blankly at the wall in his cramped quarters. I'm not a combatant, he berated himself. Why am I here?
The answer was simple enough. He was sure the answer would be the same for any other number of soldiers in the galaxy. It was, quite simply, to impress a girl. Tough shell to crack, too. She was smart, funny, pretty- yeah, like every other girl any other guy has ever been head over heels for. Maybe he looked more kindly on her because he was smitten, but he had long since decided he didn't care.
He'd known her most of his life- heck, he'd known pretty much everyone in that community as long as he could remember. Maybe that was the problem, though she didn't seem to have much of a problem spending lots of time with his current bunkmate, Lieutenant Sheffield. He couldn't figure it out- they were different as night and day themselves, and yet they had been inseparable for the last three years. Arguing, mostly. At least, he liked to tell himself it was just arguing. Everyone whispered that something else was going on, but he'd always been too scared to ask. Probably since Kylan could beat him up, and Leiraya's right hook wasn't so bad, either.
"For the last time, I'm not marrying you- I hardly know you!"
"But Leiraya, we'd be perfect together! You've gotta give me more of a chance."
She whirled around with her hands on her hips. "Skyler, for the love of-" she tried to finish her sentence, but failed as he planted a firm kiss on her lips, hands starting to snake around her waist. Frantically, she freed her own hands, swung her arm around and punched him squarely in the eye. As he hit the ground, several passers by stopped to stare, surprised that the vocal pacifist Leiraya Moran had just clocked a man so hard as to send him flying.
Looking around, she could only shrug. "He was a bad kisser?"
He rubbed his eye at the memory- she'd clocked him pretty good that time. Granted, he probably shouldn't have brought the subject up so soon after their promotion to Padawan, but still. So much for being guardians of peace and justice.
The door suddenly opened, and Kylan walked in. "Still brooding?" the other Jedi grinned and plopped down on his bunk.
"I don't brood, Lieutenant."
"It's Kylan, which you should well know. How many years have we known each other?"
Skyler sighed. "Fine, have it your way."
"You're in a bad mood," Kylan observed. "Something up?"
"You wouldn't understand." He picked up his datapad and started fiddling with it, scrolling absentmindedly through pictures of friends back home.
"Try me," Kylan kicked off his boots and set them neatly at the end of his bunk. "I know more than I look like I ought to."
Skyler looked sourly at him. How on all Corellia was he supposed to tell Kylan that it was him, in point of fact, that was the problem? Instead, he decided to dance around the topic. "Oh, I don't know… do you ever wonder why you're even here?"
"That much ought to be simple." He shrugged. "To protect the Dralls from the Selonian onslaught."
"I mean, motivation-wise." Skyler paused to collect his thoughts. "Why'd you come?"
Kylan considered this for a moment, then answered. "Well, it just seemed like the right thing to do. As Jedi, it is part of our job to protect those who are unable to protect themselves."
"Maybe my motivations just aren't in the right place, then."
"Oh? And what were those?"
"It's just that, well… I wanted to show a, a person that I can do something right. That I'm not just a dork with no motivation or direction."
Kylan's eyes lit with understanding, and he smiled knowingly. "Ah. Leiraya. I should have guessed."
"Now, don't you get all smug with me." Skyler glowered at him and crossed his arms. "Just because you're the only one she's ever given the time of day doesn't mean the rest of us-"
"Whoa, back up the freedom airbus." Kylan waved his hands in an attempt to slow down the other Jedi's verbal assault. "What are you talking about?"
"Oh, don't give me that. Everybody talks about it, you know. You two argue all the time, like you hate each other or something. But you're always hanging out together, so you can't possibly hate each other. Unless you're like, masochistic or something. Which," he reflected, "I suppose is a possibility."
Kylan raised a skeptical eyebrow. "So we're having a torrid love affair while nobody else is looking?"
"Yes! I mean… maybe?" Even as the words left his mouth, he knew that Kylan made a good point.
"Look here- she's my best friend. Closest thing to a sister I've got, and I'd do anything to protect her. But, and she'll back me up on this one, there's nothing between us." He spread his hands out, palms up in front of him. "I don't know what she thinks of you, but it's not because of anything in relation to me."
Skyler looked at Kylan for several long seconds, but he knew that he was speaking truthfully. "So… you're not the reason she won't have anything to do with me."
"No. And if you're here to impress her, this isn't the best route you could've chosen."
"Not impressed by heroes?"
"First of all, we're not here to become heroes. You should know that. Second of all, she gave me such a huge lecture before I left- she thinks we're all too young to be going off to war, and that there are plenty of more experienced people to go." He shrugged. "I disagreed, and we had one of our usual lengthy debates on the subject… but she still doesn't approve."
He buried his face in his hands. "Great. So I'm here to impress a girl that thinks we shouldn't even be here."
"You know, it wouldn't hurt you to ask these kinds of things."
Skyler's head jerked up and he shook his head. "You don't know how our conversations usually end. I've been smacked over the head more times by that girl…"
Kylan sighed. "The best you can do at this point is not get yourself killed. Bonus points once we get back if you can pull off some amazing maneuver that ends the war tomorrow."
"What are the odds of that?"
He opened his mouth to reply, but was interrupted by battle alarms. "Well, I guess we're about to find out, aren't we?"
The pair threw on their boots, made sure they had their sabers, and ran out the door.
"I brought these for you." Skyler thrust the small bouquet of Corellian roses into her hands. "I'm leaving to help the Dralls, and I wanted to say goodbye before I left. Just in case, you know…"
Leiraya looked from the roses back up to him, not exactly sure what to say. "I… don't say things like that. You'll come back just fine."
He ran his hands nervously through his scruffy blonde hair and shrugged. "I just thought you might like them, they're pretty and stuff."
Examining the roses closer, Leiraya had to suppress an ironic grin. "Well, I'll pass your compliments to my mother."
"Your- what?" He
looked up sharply, eyes widening. "What are you talking about?"
"Let me see…" She rummaged through the stems, eventually finding the card dangling from a string. Turning it over, she let him have a good look at what it said. It was only two words, but it was enough to completely mortify him.
"Oh… I… My gosh, I can't believe I just bought you your mother's flowers." He buried his face in his hands, quite fervently wishing he could just sink into the ground. What had he been thinking, that he would just sweep her off her feet before he left?
"Don't sweat it," she grinned, patting him on the shoulder. "It's the thought that counts, anyway."
The longer the battle went on, the more Skyler realised that it had been a supremely bad idea to come. Kylan stayed nearby, and between the two of them they'd managed to fend off the attackers, but there were too many of them.
Well, so much for not getting myself killed, he thought bitterly.
Kylan apparently caught some of that sentiment. Don't you give up on me now, he sent back. We'll get out of this.
Lightsabers flashed, blue and green, cutting through the oncoming Selonians. So many of them, and what were they attacking for? Data corruption, if he recalled correctly. One would think that the Dralls had pointed a planet-destroying ray at Selonia, for all the ferocity they brought to the field. There had to be some way to thin their numbers- if they fell, more of them would get through, and more Dralls would die. Scanning the battlefield, Skyler looked for something- anything- that he could use.
After a few moments, he spied the perfect thing- a downed speeder, smoking in the midst of the battle. He switched to a one-handed grip, then used his free hand to check his pouches. Sure enough, he had a small supply of thermal detonators. If he could get the speeder to explode, it would take out a large number of the Selonians, and he'd have plenty of time to make his getaway.
"Kylan," he shouted, "Cover me!"
"What are you doing?" Kylan yelled after him, but it was too late. He saw Skyler running towards the burning speeder, and hoped the other Jedi knew what he was doing.
Skyler, on the other hand, was completely sure of himself, perhaps for the first time in his life. Maybe it was a result of his talk with Kylan, maybe he was just in tune with the Force. He wasn't quite sure, and he didn't care. Saber whirling around him, he deflected laser bolts and cut down anyone who tried to get in his way. He was dimly aware of Kylan cutting down his pursuers, but he pressed forward until he arrived at the speeder. A cursory check revealed that there was lots of fuel in the tank, so it would make a nice explosion. Switching back to a one-handed grip, he pulled out two of his thermal detonators with his free hand, set them to explode on a timed delay, then tossed them into the drivers' seat.
"Kylan, run!" He frantically waved his arms. "Now!"
He saw his friend nod tersely and jog away as fast as he could, blocking shots and attackers as he went. He couldn't help but smile- if this worked, they'd be home free. He continued running-
-and was caught around the ankle by a Selonian who had been wounded, but wasn't yet dead. He collapsed to the ground, lightsaber flying from his grip. Scrabbling at the dirt, he tried to kick or shake the wounded Selonian off, but to no avail. He looked up, saw Kylan look back. The other Jedi's eyes widened and he started to turn around, but Skyler shook his head violently. There's no time, he thought frantically at Kylan. Get out, get out now!
Kylan hesitated for one moment longer, but that was all it took. The speeder exploded, and Skyler's world became a crimson inferno.
Minutes or hours later, he could never tell which, Skyler would be dimly aware of the sound of a Selonian retreat call. He would also be aware of something prying the grip of a now dead Selonian off his ankle. He thought it was Kylan's voice that came, yelling something about getting a medic, but he also knew that it was over. There was no technology in the galaxy that could save him.
More voices would come, many of them shouting for Kylan to leave him there. He would refuse, and say he'd levitate Skyler back to the ship himself if he had to. Each voice, however, sounded further and further away. He wished he had the strength to thank Kylan, but it was no use. He may have won the battle, but it was over.
And with that, Skyler Ducharme finally let go.
The arrival on Corellia was one of the hardest things Kylan had ever done. He escorted the capsule with Skyler's remains back to their hometown where his parents were waiting. They'd already been notified, of course, but that did nothing to make it easier. How do you look the parents of a comrade in the eye and tell them their son is dead? He'd told many things to Skyler's parents, certainly- they'd grown up in the same town, trained together, all that good stuff. He'd eaten with the family, played practical jokes on the younger brothers. His commanding officer had offered to deliver the body and the message, but as hard as it was, Kylan wanted to do it himself.
When he arrived at the small spaceport, a small contingent was waiting for him. His parents were there, as was Skyler's family, Leiraya's family, and the Masters from the Enclave that hadn't gone off to aid the Dralls.
He greeted Skyler's family first. They looked at him helplessly, then at the capsule. Kylan could only bow his head in respect. Skyler's mother burst into tears, while his father merely shook Kylan's hand and muttered thanks for bringing their son's body home.
Turning away, he found himself facing the Morans. Leiraya looked like she was holding in a world of tears, while her parents moved to give their condolences to the Ducharmes. Wordlessly, Leiraya looked up at him, sniffled, then hugged him tightly. That could have been both of you, her thoughs clearly rang through the Force.
Letting her go and taking a step back, he looked at her sadly. It should have been both of us.
She wiped the tears from her eyes, hugged him quickly once more, then moved over to join her parents.
Finally rejoining his family, his mother held him tightly for a moment before leading the way to the family speeder, trying to smile. He followed, but couldn't help but look back over his shoulder at the two families.
They shouldn't be standing there. They shouldn't have to mourn their dead son.
Skyler hadn't even really wanted to be there.
It should have been me.