Three days after the fall of Malachor and the death of Kreia.
The Exile groaned as her muscles flared in protest. She slowly opened her eyes, focusing on a clean, alabaster ceiling. It was round and she sensed an open balcony to one side. She could hear the sound of waves and scented salt in the air.
"Where...am I?" she rasped.
"You are awake," replied a kindly voice, "You are on Manaan, human and you are being cared for by the finest medical personnel in the universe. My name is Shaelas, I am your personal caretaker and friend to Admiral Onasi."
She turned to face the voice, biting her lip at the shooting pain that accompanied her movement. "But...but you're Selkath?" she murmured.
"You will find that your treatment at this facility will be second to none. Manaan is the home of all kolto production, two top-ranking medical schools and the finest surgeons in the known universe." he said kindly.
"Of course," she replied, embarrassed, "I'm sorry; I didn't mean to offend you Shaelas."
"None taken," he said mildly, "How do you feel?"
"It feels like I've been trampled by stampeding banthas," she said, smiling wryly, "Though, with the exception of every muscle in my body I'm fine."
The Selkath chuckled lowly, "You were severely injured when you arrived, you will find that your organs and bones have been completely healed but unfortunately the bruising will have to take nature's course."
She smiled at him, "Do you have any news on my crew? They were involved in a terrible crash-landing, are they alright?"
The Selkath paused, "Only one of your crew members remains under observation here. The others escaped with moderate injuries ranging from broken bones to concussions but they have recovered fully. Unfortunately your Zabrak technician was seated next to an electrical panel that exploded in the crash. The energy cascaded to his mechanical arm and he sustained severe organ damage and burns."
"Bao Dur?!" she exclaimed, her heart racing, "How is he?"
"He will recover," Shaelas replied, "It required four separate surgeries but his organs have been repaired and the burns have been grafted with an experimental tissue. If successful he will bear no physical scars but for the moment he is sedated in the next room. As you can well imagine the process of tending to burns is extremely painful. It is merciful to keep him unconscious for the moment but his progress has been astonishing. His surgeon may awaken him as early as this evening."
The Exile breathed a sigh of relief, feeling the aftershocks of her fear ripple towards her fingers, "You have no idea how pleased I am to hear that, but if I might, could I trouble you with one more favor?"
"Of course," he replied, "Anything."
"I could really use some time to myself today to rest and gather my thoughts, could you see to my privacy for just a few hours?" she asked.
"I will check with your physician," he replied, "he may need to speak with you briefly but other than that it shouldn't be a problem."
"Thank-you Shaelas." she called as he headed for the door. He turned, gave her a low bow and exited.
She took a moment to breathe in the sea air and slowly, painfully, she coaxed herself into a sitting position. The room was minimally furnished in ivory, as a matter of fact; the only hint of color was the raw silk cobalt sheets that covered her. She pushed them aside, turning slowly and lowering her feet to the floor. She was dressed in a thin Dramassian silk chemise that barely covered the heavy black and purple bruising that ran the length of her arms and legs. She imagined that her torso looked much the same and she grimaced. The pain was nauseating.
He had made it to the very end, the Shadow Generator was destroyed and the wound in the Force healed. She smiled sadly to herself, the end had nearly cost him his life but her heart soared at the news of his recovery. She had come to know him so well throughout their travels together on the Hawk but it hadn't been easy at first. Her memory loss had been an issue which was understandable considering how tied they both had been to the Shadow Generator. Complicating matters was his preference to separate himself from the rest of the crew. He had never been too comfortable around humans, especially groups of humans. He was aware of their folklore surrounding creatures with horns and had been on the receiving end of some unbelievably cruel comments over the years. As such he buried himself in multiple repair projects away from the others and surrounded by impartial machinery. But his interactions with the Exile had always been comfortable and over time he became her constant, her rock. From planet to planet as she tried to connect with Mira and attempted to settle dust-ups between Atton and Mical he was there. When she grieved for Kavar he was at her side with a kind word and a strong shoulder while the others bickered with one another. He supported her with his quiet intensity at every opportunity. In her mind's eye she could see him now-hunched over a small circuit panel with his remote hovering nearby. His features illuminated by the soft blue light that emanated from his repulsor arm. His dark eyes were completely focused, his jaw set as he trained his Macrofuser and the tiny web of electronics that lay before him. He was beautiful to her. She wondered if he knew.
Taking a deep breath she pushed herself upwards, standing. Her muscles screamed in protest, cutting the breath from her throat. She stopped, taking a few short, sharp breaths until her body adjusted. When she felt composed, she hobbled towards the balcony slowly exiting into the open air and letting the sunshine drench her body. The waves sparkled a brilliant blue and the cool saltiness in the air was exhilarating. The sun illuminated the myriad of colors in her bruises, black, purple, green and yellow. A horrid sort of beauty that she appreciated in a twisted sort of way, but something she knew she couldn't allow the others to see without alarming them.
Closing her eyes and turning her face to the sun, she thought of their first landing on Dxun. The jungle planet had been a lush, warm place teeming with life and a million opportunities to explore and learn. Not that it had made much difference to Atton and Mical. Atton had busied himself with getting the Hawk up and running again but cruelly sniped at Mical's offer to help. He hadn't expected her to overhear it but she had, exploding in anger at his childish behavior and Mical's unwillingness to defend himself. She had ordered them to spend every waking moment together until they either killed one another or got along and stalked off towards the Mandalorian camp, fuming. When she arrived, she learned of the missing components for the phase pulse converter and decided that a hunt with Bao would be an excellent way to ease the tension that had settled ominously in her heart.
She remembered how they had run through the jungle, cutting down and searching as many cannoks as they could find. It was a job that began at messy and ended at revolting but his easy presence and quiet humor made the task bearable. By the time they reached the Hawk again the incident with Mical and Atton was all but forgotten. They had all of the components but they were soaked through in cannok gore.
Bao grinned, raising an eyebrow at her, "The fresher awaits general." he said, chuckling softly.
She smiled, eyeing the innards that covered his clothing, "Are you sure? You look like you might need it a bit more than I do."
"I insist, ladies first," he said warmly. His voice had a singularly gentle, rich timbre that sent shivers up her spine.
"Well, if you insist," she replied, "I'll just secure these components in the cargo hold and dirty the fresher up for everyone else. I won't be long."
She gathered the pieces up in her arms and walked up the entrance ramp to the Hawk. Once inside the cargo bay she noticed that something was missing. The smallest component of the three must have fallen out somewhere along the way. She carefully eyed the floor and slowly retraced her footsteps towards the outside. It lay just at the top of the ramp. She dropped to one knee to pick it up and froze in place as her eyes drifted towards the waterfall. Apparently Bao Dur had decided not to wait for the fresher and was standing naked under the pounding falls scrubbing away the grime of the day with his rough, calloused hands. Her breath caught in her throat and she wobbled, nearly losing her balance. Steadying herself with her hand, she moved back into the shadows out of sight and watched. The water poured in rivulets down his powerful chest, along his solid thighs and she traced its path hungrily with her eyes. His repulsor arm truly was a technological marvel; it was functioning in spite of the water and illuminating the exquisite shape of his abdomen as he washed. She could not tear herself away from the sight of his wholly thick and well-muscled body. His easygoing personality was at direct odds with the raw sexuality that his physique exuded and desire flared in her in a way that she had only ever felt once before. She knelt, watching in the shadow of the Hawk until he moved forward reaching for his clothing. She jerked out of her reverie and fell back into the belly of the Hawk, quickly stowing the rogue part away and heading straight for the fresher. Once inside she spent twenty minutes with the water set to as icy as she could stand it.
She smiled to herself at the memory. It was one that had surfaced continually in their travels and had been something that she had to continually push aside in order to focus on the task at hand.
But not today.
Today was a rare day to allow for indulgences. She let every nuance she could recall swim through her thoughts and sighed softly to herself. Feeling centered she re-entered the room and carefully pulled on an ivory silk robe that hung nearby.
She needed to see him.