Disclaimer: It's George's Sandbox; I'm just wrecking the sandcastles.
Timeframe: Dark Journey AU
Characters: Tenel Ka Djo, Jagged Fel
Summary: Tenel Ka finds comfort from an unexpected source.
Notes: Written for the Crack!ship roulette. I apologize in advance if I butcher Jag - I don't write him very often.
Tenel Ka's shoulder stiffened at her formal title. She didn't move from her position, standing at the end of a balcony, staring down at the drop below with little interest. She didn't respond. She felt empty and alone, her link to Jacen shattered. She was adrift, looking for release and found her thoughts taking a dangerous course; one she wouldn't normally contemplate; she dreamed of nothing more than joining him. But throwing herself off the balcony was undignified.
Tenel Ka was drawn from her dark musings by the insistent intruder. She turned her face partially towards the doorway. "Speak."
The shadow of the courier bowed low. "I apologize for the intrusion, Princess; but you have a visitor."
Tenel Ka closed her eyes momentarily. The visitor would not be Jacen. She took a deep breath, finding the center of calm that felt so distant. "Send them in."
She finally turned, pinning the emissary with a look. "Is that not what they wish?"
"Of course, but-"
"Send them in. Do not make me repeat myself."
The man blanched before scurrying away to admit her visitor. Tenel Ka turned back to the ocean below her, watching the waves crash upon the beach, the white tops cresting before rolling quickly over the darkened sand. She sighed softly, lifting her gaze to the horizon.
"One with such beauty should no be so melancholy."
She stiffened for a moment, the deep voice completely unfamiliar. "Beauty means nothing on Hapes; it is common place."
"Then I am humbled to have found a gem among baubles."
Tenel Ka finally turned. Flattery didn't normally sit well with her, but for some reason the sincere delivery warmed her the way nothing had since Jacen's good bye. "Pretty words, Major, are just as common place."
"Jagged Fel, Princess." He bowed formally. His brown hair was cropped close to his head, his handsome face set in stern, almost unforgiving lines. But there was a softness to the edges, a softness that Tenel Ka recognized because she had similar ones. The flaws of humanity.
"Tenel Ka, Major; I do not use my title."
"And I rarely use mine. You may call me Jag."
"It is my honor, Jag."
"Begging your pardon, Tenel Ka, but the honor is mine. Thank you for seeing me."
She motioned for him to come forward and take a seat at the table on her balcony. He did so, but not until she'd settled into the seat he held for her. Old style chivalry; Imperial manners. She thanked him, waiting until he was seated to begin. "I understand you pushed for this meeting. May I inquire as to why?"
His answering smile was very faint. He pulled a datapad from his pocket and slid it across the table to her. "I have come to meet my intended. You."
Tenel Ka's brows drew together at his words and she scanned through the document on the datapad. Her head snapped up. "Is this genuine?"
He shrugged, slightly uncomfortably. "It is a draft copy. Ta'a Chume has the original."
Tenel Ka's jaw tightened though there were no outward signs of her displeasure. Trust her grandmother to abuse her powers. She stopped, noting the signature on the end of the missive. "This is my mother's seal." Her thumb brushed over the mark, though it was but a copy. "I do not recognize the other."
"My father's." Jagged informed her, carefully watching the woman who had obviously not been informed of the arrangement. "You knew nothing of this?"
She placed the datapad back on the table carefully. "Nothing." Her confirmation was cool. "Have you agreed to it?"
"I will do as my father requests. You?"
Tenel Ka's gaze dropped to the table. Jacen was gone; did she really have any reason to say no? He'd been her first - her only - reason for fighting a previous attempt at an arranged marriage. She lifted her gaze, her gray eyes calm. "What is the reason for this marriage, Major?" She used his title deliberately, uncomfortable as of yet with the idea of marriage to this stranger.
"Political." Jag's lips kicked into a half-smile. "It is always politics, Princess. The Chiss government requires an alliance with Hapes. Alliances are best built through marriage; as one of the sons of the only human family permitted to live in Chiss space I was the natural choice."
"And your brothers?"
"Cem would not take this seriously; the others are dead."
"Thank you." Jagged stood, extending his hand to her. "I have one condition for this alliance, Princess."
She regarded his hand, but didn't take it. "What is that, Major?"
"Compatibility; chemistry. I will not be trapped in a marriage without them."
Her eyes flashed at the challenge in his gaze. "Chemistry will burn you, Major."
"I desire to be burned, Princess."
Tenel Ka arched an eyebrow at him. "I have been burned, Major. Would you deny me the respite to grieve?"
Jagged blinked as if she'd struck him and she knew in that moment he'd been unaware of any other attachment. He stiffened noticeably. "I will inform my father that you are otherwise attached. Good day, Princess."
Tenel Ka placed her hand on his arm as he turned to leave and stopped him. He looked at her questioningly. She was surprised to find tears in her eyes; for Jag was a stranger and, while one she was supposed to now marry, one she didn't yet completely trust. She stepped forward, sliding her arm about his waist and resting her head against his shoulder to hear the comforting sound of his heart beat. Her throat closed, her chest ached and she felt a lump block any speech.
For a moment, a single, solitary moment, she pretended he was Jacen. And in that moment she said her goodbyes.
Jagged's arms came up to envelope her and brought her back to reality. They were almost the same height; an immediate difference for Jacen was several inches taller than she. She met his gaze and was pleasantly surprised when he lifted his thumb and gently brushed away her tears. She read the question and conflict in his.
Tenel Ka tilted her head forward and, moving first, pressed her lips to his.
None of the electricity, the wild abandon that had come from Jacen's kiss raced through her, but she had expected that. Instead it was pleasant, warming the emptiness inside her the way nothing else could.
She pulled away, watching him, and found him to be watching her. "I will marry you, Jagged Fel, if you do not mind becoming the Queen Mother's consort."
His answering smile was faint. "I only live to serve, my Queen. I only live to serve."
Author's Note: That's got to be the strangest pairing - for me - that I've ever written. Pairing Tenel Ka with anyone other than Jacen is very, very strange... Ok, now I have to go write some Jacen /Tenel Ka mush...