She heard a voice, a familiar one. She forced her eyes to open. A blurry image hovered over her. The taste of copper filled her mouth.
"General, are you alright?" The voice was wildly desperate and sounded helpless. She blinked and tried to focus.
"Bao-Dur," she said softly as his image sharpened. The nav room. She was on the Hawk.
"Can you sit up? What happened?"
She was sprawled out on the floor. She tried to sit up quickly and wavered a bit in the dizziness. Her head was still ringing.
"Easy, there, General. Here." He steadied her as she settled into a seated position and gently wiped her face with a cloth. When his hand pulled away, she saw blood. "I think I better get Kreia," he began.
"No, Bao…I remembered the battle. At Malachor. There was dark energy. Very dark," she said softly.
"Yes, General, you said so on the planet…"
"No, in space, on the ship, during the battle, when the shadow wave…" her eyes widened as it all clicked in her mind. "It wasn't you, Bao. The mistake on the generator. You didn't make one."
"General, please, calm down, let me get Kreia to help…"
"No, listen to me! There was a dark energy hidden in the signal from the shadow generator. It amplified the power so it could reach out as far as possible, to collect as many sentients as it could. Like I said—the planet seemed to be reaching out for the dead it would receive. It seemed alive, and hungry. It fed off the pain and destruction, consuming the Force released in the violence and death. There was something on that planet, Bao, something that used the generator for its own purpose. It wasn't you. You didn't miscalculate, you didn't make a mistake."
"You don't know how much I want to believe that, General."
"You think I am making this up to ease your conscience? Tell me, Bao, how did you think those circuits and wires you put together crippled me so badly? Did you think it sucked the Force right out of me?"
"No, I," he started, stung by her tone. "The destruction, so much death…"
"We were at war! I dealt with death every day, every damn moment of the day! When did we not lose some one, entire squads, whole ships? Think, Bao—we were being slaughtered in that battle long before you activated the shadow generator. Wouldn't I have collapsed from that loss of life?"
"That does make sense, General," he said slowly, a tiny sensation of hope and relief trickling through him.
"It was a dark power hidden in the energy signal—I felt it, I know that now, thanks to you," she smiled slightly. "I am sorry I tried to avoid you, Bao, my own cowardice, and Kreia's warning to stay away from you…I don't know why she would tell me that, she dismissed you outright, despite our common past. Why didn't she think you would help me remember?"
"Maybe she didn't want you to remember."
"Not remember this darkness that attacked me? That is what it was, Bao, make no mistake—that is the only thing that would affect a Jedi. What did it do to the other Force Users…?" She paused then focused on him. "Were there any Jedi survivors at Malachor other than me?"
"No, General, not that I know of. But I thought you had died too."
"I wonder…" she said as she concentrated. "There was an odd Sith at Peragus, badly scarred and pulsing with an energy I now recognize as the same from Malachor. He seemed to know me and somehow, I think I knew him…" Her thoughts began to drift as she searched her memory, trying to find something. All she managed to find were more holes.
"Are you sure, General?"
"What?" she asked, almost startled by his voice. She stared at him as if she hadn't quite heard him.
"Are you sure, General?"
"Positive…no one noticed you coming here," she said as the door slid shut behind her.
"Of course, no one ever notices me. I'm just the tech."
"Don't say that, BD! You're more than that to," she stopped herself, a bit of warmth starting to burn in her cheeks. She turned her head down, suddenly greatly interested in her saber hilt. "It's the party, everyone is preoccupied," she said. "One way or another," she added under her breath. It was difficult to block the emotions and images assaulting her through the Force. Her nervous fidgeting finally released the saber from its clip. At a loss as to what to do with it, she simply placed it on the small table next to her near the door.
"That party was a great idea, General," he offered. "Nothing like a pre-victory celebration."
"Everyone needed a distraction. The tension that was building…and once Revan gets here with the rest of the fleet tomorrow, there won't be an opportunity…" again she trailed. The strained attempt at small-talk fizzled miserably, replaced with a silence as awkward as the distance between them. She had barely moved from the threshold of the doorway and he remained riveted to the spot in the center of her quarters where she found him.
She cursed herself silently. They both knew why he was here, what was supposed to happen. But she just wasn't good at this sort of thing, and apparently neither was he. That made her heart flutter a bit, realizing he was as unsure as she was.
"They wouldn't be so concerned if they knew about our little surprise for those Mandies," he said. "They will get theirs, what they did to Iridonia," he nearly spat, then quickly calmed and changed his tone. "I can't tell you how glad I am that Revan and you are here to help."
"I'm glad you're here too, BD," she said, and again flushed. "The party was the least I could do for you guys. Besides, I wanted to get at least one chance to wear this insane dress uniform the Republic gave me!" She chuckled as she ran her finger under the stiff high collar. "This thing is so itchy. And ridiculously complicated."
"You look really nice in it." He seemed surprised by his own voice, then self consciously smoothed down his standard service fatigues.
"Thanks." She smiled at the small compliment, her heart speeding up just a little bit. "But really, it isn't worth it. This jacket could drive anyone to the Darkside!" She let out a nervous laugh as she worked at the frustrating clasps and unhooked the braid that crossed from her shoulder to the button near her neck. "If this is what it takes to look nice…"
"I think you look good in everything."
This time her heart skipped. She was uncomfortably aware of the crimson that traveled all the way to her ears. "I bet you say that to all the Jedi," she shot back teasingly.
"Not to Malak," he answered quickly and somewhat too seriously. Caught off guard, she laughed, a full attack of irresistible giggling that swept him into his own laughter.
"Can't fault you there," she managed between attempts to catch her breath. She was back to trying to remove the stubborn dress jacket, shrugging her shoulders aggressively, but the damn thing clung to her.
"Here, let me," Bao-Dur offered instinctively. Without a second thought he approached her as she turned her back to him in silent permission.
"Oh, thanks," she said as he eased the jacket off her shoulders. "Thought for sure I'd be trapped in…."
She sensed his spur of the moment decision a split second before she sensed his lips pressing lightly to her neck. Her breath caught in a small gasp, fire raced under her skin and a chill shivered down her spine to her knees. It took her a moment to recover, much longer than the quick peck had lasted. She felt the sleeves of the jacket pull away from her arms and she turned to face him.
"I didn't know if you'd be here," she said softly.
"I go where my General directs," he smiled, "be it by order or invitation." He blindly tossed the uniform at the table as he watched her loosen her hair and shake it out into a mesmerizing cascade that curled down to her shoulders. Her hair had been short when he first met her, and he didn't realize how much it had grown over the course of the war until now. As if in a trance, he reached out slowly, touching his fingertips experimentally into the thick waves. "So soft," he whispered.
He seemed innocently unaware of how intimate and sensual his touch was as his fingers continued to delicately comb through her hair. Her heart began to beat faster when her hand, nearly trembling, reached out to cup his cheek. Her thumb traced along the tattoo lines; she was surprised to find they were smooth and even with his skin. They had seemed so severe, as if they were scars engraved into his face, and she found herself relieved for some reason to know that was not the case.
His gaze shifted from the study of her hair to her face. Their eyes met, locked in a nervous stare. His fingers stopped their inquisitive roaming and cradled her in a firm hold as be began to lean closer. She sensed the same situation playing out all over the ship. Couples had paired off and vanished from the party all evening, and that constant barrage of emotion through the Force more than likely gave her the nerve and courage to slip him a passcard to her quarters as she shook hands with each member of her squad. Funny what people would do when they knew they would die soon.
His nervous excitement blended into and augmented her own, causing her pulse to race wildly. His approach was agonizingly slow; the small space between them seemed to stretch forever, so she took a half-step closer, placing her palm softly on his chest. There was a spike in his jittery emotions, timed with the small shiver when her hand made contact. Mixed in with his anxious anticipation was genuine desire and dizzy disbelief that he was actually there; but there was something more…a resolve and determination to prove himself worthy of her choice. Her breath caught and her heart lurched when she detected it, just as his lips pressed against her cheek, near the corner of her mouth. Slowly he brushed across her lips, ending with another light kiss on the other side.
They were tantalizingly close now; she wanted to feel him, all of him. She tilted her head back as he nuzzled past her jaw. His cheek caressed hers as he moved past, slowly pressing light kisses down the side of her neck and back up to her ear. Both his hands found their way to her waist and they slowly began to encircle her. She leaned into his embrace blindly, her head back, eyes closed and mouth open as a small sigh of satisfaction sounded from her. Longing almost to the point of agony flared through her, replacing her initial awkward caution. This was more than casual, more than basic want or need; she realized she wanted him, and sensing the same desire towards her melted away the fear that kept her from admitting it. She didn't know when she had become attracted to him, but there was no use denying it now and she definitely didn't want to at this point. She turned her face towards him, kissing and nudging, her mouth hungrily searching for his.
They smashed together in a fierce kiss, lips and bodies colliding simultaneously. Her hands snaked up to his shoulders, then along his neck, past his ear, until her fingertips brushed against the swollen flesh at the base of a horn. He grunted and his arms pulled her tighter to him, coiling around her in a firm grip. She pressed to him, rubbing her body to his. His tongue pried through her lips to explore her mouth, then retreated, her own tongue following to do the same in return. Her fingers toyed randomly at the sensitive skin surrounding his horns, eliciting deeper moans and sighs from him each time.
She pressed harder into him, pushing him backwards towards the bunk. He stumbled a half step, then another, before realizing her intent. His hands tugged at her shirt while she worked the clasp of his belt, all the while maintaining their kiss. Having reached her bed, they fell to it together, entwined in a hungry embrace.
Afterwards, they lay together on the small bunk. She adjusted herself to lay comfortably across him. He was hot and slick with sweat, his heart was thumping hard enough for her to feel it through his skin, and somehow they seemed to fit together perfectly. She leaned her forehead to his and simply enjoyed the feel of him as they tried to catch their breath.
Her hair fell around his face, and again his fingers found their way into the thick waves. "I need to get this cut," she breathed as his hands continued to tangle and comb through her jumbled mane.
"I like it this way. It is…nice." There was a sense of awe in his voice.
She propped herself up enough to look at him. "This gizka nest is nothing special, it's the same as…"
"The Zabrak women of my village did not have hair like yours," he stated evenly.
She looked at him for a moment, realization dawning. "Bao, am I your first human…"
"I do not make it a habit of sleeping with," he paused, "my commanding officers."
She couldn't help but smile at his decorous attempt to avoid admitting what he felt was an embarrassing shortcoming on his part. He certainly had nothing to worry about, and it somehow made her even happier to know he hadn't done this with anyone else on the ship. "Well then, I'll have you know you are my first and only tech."
He smiled back. "Really, you seem rather naturally adept…I mean you know where to…uh…" he stammered, his cheeks darkening into a furious blush.
"Oh, you mean this?" she laughed as she fell back to him, her hands now brushing across each horn in a dizzying flurry. A deep moan rumbled from his throat as his eyes fluttered and his entire body quivered.
She stopped as quickly as she had started, and he sucked in a long breath, then laughed. He curled his arms around her and held her tight. "Keep that up and I might have to do something about it," he mockingly warned.
"I certainly hope so," she grinned and kissed him.
An alarm sounded from the hall startling them both. It took a moment to realize it was just the shift change toll. Bao-Dur began to lift her away from him, but she pressed down, pinning him back to the bed.
"Don't tell me you are on duty now," she said with irritation.
"No," he started, "but I figured, well, if I left now during the post switch, it would not look so out of place for me to be in the corridors so no one would notice where I was coming from."
"I don't care," she said quickly.
"I don't care if they see you here." She smiled at him, her hand reaching out to caress his cheek. "Stay."
"Are you sure, General?"
She blinked. His face was so close to hers, but different.
"I should go, Kreia will…"
"No, BD," she said, her hand darting out to hold his arm. His head snapped back to look at her, his eyes wide with surprise at the old nickname, his mouth falling open just a bit with an unasked question. She nodded and smiled, her hand moving to caress his cheek.