Here's the last chapter, folks. Hope you've enjoyed it. Just beware that when you see ANOTHER sequel pop up... Jax made me do it. XD No, I'm kidding. I was going to anyway! -T92


Chapter Twenty – Matrimony

Completely exhausted from everything that had happened, I curled up in a spare bunk and slept through the last leg of the flight home, waking up only when Chev came and gently shook me awake. His face was practically glowing with excitement, and just by looking at him, I knew we were home. Scrambling up to the cockpit, I was treated to the sight of the (well, my) little freighter breaking Manda'yaim's atmo. I was so ecstatic to see my home again that I quickly scribbled out some instructions on a scrap of paper and passed it to Sevvie. He took one look at it before turning, looking at me, and grinning mischievously. I just grinned back, eyes sparkling, as we streaked through the atmosphere so fast that everyone else just about fell over. Seeing a series of buttons on the console that operated exterior cameras, I reached for the one labeled "rear." The image that flashed up on the nearby screen was the back of the ship near the engines. Flames streaked off the metal as we broke atmo, making us look almost like a comet. Sevvie let out a holler as we dove for the planet's surface, and he waited until we were skimming the ground at ten, maybe fifteen feet, before pulling up. He was having the time of his life, and so was I, for that matter! Larra swore at him for cutting it so close to the ground, but he just flashed her a wicked grin. Turning to look at Chev, I found that he looked completely exhilarated. Well, why shouldn't he? This was my homecoming surprise for all of us.

We cruised across the wide open plains, going almost full throttle, before Sevvie pulled up and followed the next instruction on my list. He headed for the old Fett homestead—the place where the one big adventure called "my life as a Mando'ad" had begun so many years before. When we got there, we circled around a couple times, and I saw that the house was actually different. It was a bit larger, for starters; there was what looked to be a two-room wing added on to the back. I nearly asked what was going on when Larra reached over and tapped my shoulder to get my attention. I turned and found a huge smile across her face.

"That's for you," she said. "We've been living here for a while, believe it or not. We thought someday you'd need a place to settle down, so we built the extension."

"And now I guess that can be for you and Chev!" Scorch added with a grin.

Guess who was surprised then? I was thinking I'd treat them to a bit of stunt flying, and here they were treating me to a house. I looked over at Chev; his eyes were simply scintillating with glee. And me? Well, I was so surprised and so happy that I let out a squeal and tackled Larra in a huge hug. Let me tell you something right now: it isn't easy to take down an ex-ARC with a hug, but I managed. I think the joy of the moment was so contagious that she just let me. She and I went down laughing, and a few seconds later, I clambered off, beaming. Sevvie turned and smirked mischievously before asking who wanted to go get married. I think you can guess the answer to that.

Having circled the house for a bit, we shot off toward Keldabe to find the current Mand'alor. I wasn't sure if there'd even be one, but Larra assured me there was. That brought me a good deal of comfort, for it meant that, for the most part, my home, family, and culture were all still in tact. I was so glad to know that my people still lived that I almost let out a whoop of "Oya manda!" but thought better of it. I'd save that for later, perhaps; maybe I could use it during a family reunion. We'd go find Kal and all his Null ARCs, maybe track down the commando squad that had been on their way to spring me and Chev from, eh, that place the first time . . . Sprinkle in a little Dha Werda Verda to taste, stir well, and enjoy! My only regrets were that my father was dead and my brother hated my guts. But other than that, I was back, and boy, did it feel good!

When we hit Keldabe, Sevvie pulled a maneuver that I'd asked him to pull even though I knew we could probably get in trouble for it. He buzzed the city before pulling an inverted barrel roll, shooting off across the plains again, and doubling back for the landing. That one got a few excited hollers from the Delta boys, and Larra and I just grinned at each other. Chev clapped Sevvie on the backplate as we came to a graceful halt on the outskirts of Keldabe. As we all exited the ship, we found that we had all been thiiiis close to getting in very big trouble for buzzing the city, but since we were Mando, it was brushed off once and only once. Sevvie got a nice, firm warning that promised punishment if he did that again. He just smiled innocently.

After we all calmed down, we asked to see Mand'alor. The question "Why?" eventually came up, and Chev and I got a couple congratulatory nods when we made it known that we wanted to have a marriage that had been properly officiated by the leader of the Mando'ade. Needless to say, that went over well, and no, that wasn't sarcasm. It really did go over well. Even though Chev and I were practically brand-new to the Mando clans, they accepted us with open arms. I've always liked to think that it was because they could tell Chev was the epitome of a Mandalorian man just by looking at him, and I will tell you now that that is not something that comes down through the gene pool. That was something hammered into him by the one and only Kal Skirata, known lovingly as Kal'buir to us all. But honor, the Resol'Nare, and all such Mando principles aside, Mand'alor—Fenn Shysa for those of you interested—agreed to officiate our marriage. Now, before I say any more, you have to understand something about Mandalorian weddings. They aren't high-class functions where everybody dresses up, the bride wears a gorgeous white gown, and she and the groom exchange overly romantic vows. It's actually more of a legal commitment that, much like the adoption process, consists of a statement of purpose. Mando'ade emphasize fidelity very strongly, too; as if you didn't notice, Chev was extremely good at that. Anyway, after Mand'alor agreed to officiate the union, Larra hauled me off as Sevvie and the Deltas hauled Chev off. I guess they figured that any bride- or groom-to-be deserved a little "gussyin' up" before the big occasion. See, that's another thing about Mando marriages: they're expected to last for life. Divorce is rather rare except in dire circumstances like abandonment, but I didn't need to worry about that. Chev would never abandon me, nor I him.

Anyway, Larra helped me patch up my armor since that was what I'd be married in. The whole time, I was so excited I could barely breathe. I'd been waiting for this day since I was seventeen, after all! I helped her patch all the holes and repaint the more faded silver streaks, but she had to do most of the work because my hands were trembling so badly. (Later, I learned that it'd been the same with Chev. He'd been unable to sit still, so the Delta gang had to almost tie him down!) But after an hour or two, I was in pretty good shape. My armor looked brand-new, and Larra had braided a short braid into either side of my short brown hair so that they each dangled down in front of my ear. Somehow, she managed to come up with a few sprigs of flowers, and she tucked them into my hair after telling me I ought to at least look a little bit like a blushing bride. I still don't know what she was complaining about; I had the blushing part down pat! It was the bride part I was a little unsure on . . . but I figured I'd learn that quickly enough.

A little while later, Larra and I met up with the boys at Mand'alor's quarters. I was happy as could be except for the fact that I wished more than anything that Jang'buir were there . . . or Kal . . . or better yet—BOTH! That would have just made everything complete. I mean, the sun was shining, the sky was clear and blue, birds were singing, a gentle breeze was blowing . . . It was the perfect day, but it would've been so much better had the rest of my family been there. For a moment, I even found myself wishing I could make up with The Rodent . . . Ah, Boba. I'm not so angry at you anymore. Maybe you'll read this someday and know that your ori'vod forgave you.

The wedding was simple, but the whole time, Chev and I absolutely could not take our eyes off one another. His hand clasped mine, our fingers interlocked. He looked quite spiffy in his cleaned-up armor; the chevrons down the front of his chestplate had been repainted, and I noticed that he had cleaned up the charred hole over his heart ever so faintly. I guessed that he didn't want to make it totally inconspicuous so no one would ever forget what it represented. The white plates of his armor gleamed in the afternoon sun, and when he smiled at me, his eyes sparkled just as they always had before. I realized, almost giddily, that I was about to become the luckiest girl in the galaxy; I would get to wake up to that smile every morning until the day I died. At that thought, I couldn't help but grin at him as we spoke the words that would bind us forever because, you know, marriage and family is very important to Mando'ade. As Larra, Sevvie, and the Deltas looked on in absolute joy, Chev and I spoke these vows:

"Mhi solus tome

Mhi solus dar'tome

Mhi me'dinui an

Mhi ba'juri verde."

In Basic, that translates to "We are one when together; we are one when parted; we share all; we will raise warriors." That seemed to sum it up pretty well for us, I thought. It seemed to me that we'd already been keeping the first two lines even before marriage. But that was all that was said. It was a simple pledge, no fancy speeches, no frills. That was all to the wedding: a simple statement of commitment. I think everyone else had been waiting almost impatiently for us to say those vows, because as soon as Mand'alor declared our marriage official, wished us well, and bid us good day, we were attacked from every direction with ecstatic, congratulatory whoops and tight hugs. I can't say that I've ever really seen two grown men hug, but Sevvie dragged Chev away from me and embraced him so tightly that all I could do was grin. Usually, a clap on the backplate was the only show of brotherly affection; this was so tight a hug that it seemed to me Chev was having a faint bit of trouble breathing properly. But he was smiling, Sevvie was laughing, and I felt tears come to my eyes because I knew that they were brothers who had been separated much too long. Larra hugged me, expressing her joy that now we were truly sisters. That in itself was a little bit hard for me to fully comprehend because, after all, we'd met under rather explosive terms.

Looking around at my extended family, I realized that I couldn't remember the last time any of them had looked so happy. Boss was smiling more broadly than I'd ever seen before. Everyone else was grinning, and eventually, Sev let out a yell of "Chev, aren't you gonna kiss your bride?" I glanced hopefully at Chev, but he just smiled at me and raised both eyebrows in a mischievous way that said, "Boy, am I ever." Ohh, I knew what that meant, and I realized I'd have a hard time waiting until that night. But Scorch joined Sev, and the two of them protested until Sevvie grabbed Chev by the wrist and dragged him back over to me.

"You get the feeling we're being pushed around?" Chev whispered to me, and I giggled, nodding a bit.

"If they're gonna be pushy like this," I replied slowly, totally flirting with him, "then I don't mind one bit."

Chev took the hint. He put his hands on my upper arms and leaned in, kissing me as gently and quietly has he had so many years before in that darkened Kaminoan hallway. But while it may have been gentle, there was still just a hint of what I'd be treated to that night in it. Needless to say, I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him right back, but before long, the others were pulling us apart, telling us to "save it."

I've been saving, I thought, and it's time to quit savin' and start spendin'! You just leave Chev and me alone for a few hours!

Well, that secret wish didn't go over so well. Apparently, it only seemed fitting to treat the newlyweds to dinner, so Chev and I agreed to it despite the fact that we both wanted some time together now that we were married. But on the way to dinner, Larra took me off to do a little shopping in one of the downtown shops. (See, you have to know that Keldabe is a bustling metropolis!) I thought this was just some sort of torture, but instead she, being the sister figure she is to me, helped me pick out some new civilian clothes and a lacy nightgown that I had to admit was beautiful. But I did ask why I was getting such a frilly thing, and when I did, Larra just smiled at me and told me Chev would like it. My mouth just formed the word "Oh" as I understood. Putting it simply, it meant I'd have to change as soon as we got home.

After doing that bit of shopping, we finally went to dinner, where I learned that Sevvie and the Deltas had hauled Chev off to buy some "regular" clothes for him, as well. Well, that was nice. I didn't know why we'd need them; after all, we'd probably just wear our armor day in and day out. Then again, maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to have plain clothes on hand when armor just gets boring. Anyway, Chev and I were treated to an extremely nice dinner, complete with tihaar (one glass only, for it's very strong!) and a very special wedding cake: a big, thick slab of uj'alayi—uj cake! I'm certain most Mando weddings aren't like that, but I think our family made ours special because Chev and I had been through so much; one of those "it's only right" moments, I guess. Yet during the entire thing, Chev couldn't keep his eyes off me. I didn't blame him; I couldn't keep mine off him, either. I suppose that's only natural for newlyweds. But I also noticed that he would fidget from time to time, and judging by the pointed looks he occasionally shot me, he was anxious—yep, like that. (I am trying to spare too many details to prevent this from being dubbed "racy," after all!) But like the angel he is, he just kept quiet and stayed genial throughout dinner, patiently waiting.

Finally, just after dark, we all left dinner, and I started wondering how the evening would progress. I figured it'd be a little, well, awkward if all of us were in the same house on my and Chev's wedding night. Thankfully, that privacy issue had been thought of. Larra handed us the keys to a landspeeder and informed us that she and the others would be staying the night in a local inn. I think Chev almost hugged her out of sheer glee, but he magically restrained himself. He just grinned at her, and I hugged her—and the Delta boys and Sevvie. Then we jumped into the waiting speeder and sped off across the plains toward the Fett homestead.

Seeing the ol' place again brought back a dozen memories, and, knowing me, that was definitely a good thing. I remembered that there had been a plaque on the wall with a popular Mando saying, so while Chev fetched our new clothes out of the speeder, I darted inside. Sure enough, there it was, right over the mantle where it'd always been: Ib'tuur jatne tuur ash'ad kyr'amur. Chev came in behind me, I grinned at him, and as he trooped off to investigate our wing, I stuck around to see the rest of the house even though I probably should've gone with him. It hadn't changed much, but it was definitely evident that a bunch of ex-commandos and two ex-ARCs lived there. Still, Larra kept a neat house; there was nothing out of place that I could see. The sparse furniture had been rearranged a bit, but that was fine. I noticed that Chev's old ARC helmet—the one I'd given Larra just before her court martial so long ago—was resting on the mantle right beneath the plaque. Seeing that made me smile, and I just stood there in the main living room, looking around, for several minutes before Chev came up behind me. He wrapped his hands around my waist and kissed the back of my neck, and I closed my eyes, knowing what that was a hint for. A shiver ran down my spine at his touch as I realized just how much I'd wanted this. Finally, after all my waiting . . . I sighed, relishing his closeness.

"The bedroom's beautiful," he murmured, leaning around and nuzzling my shoulder. I almost giggled like a schoolgirl.

"I'll bet," I replied, then turned to look at him. "I bought a lacy little nightgown today because Larra said you'd like it if I wore it."

Chev tilted his head, stroking his chin a moment as if in thought. Then he grinned mischievously at me.

"I don't think it'll be necessary."

I was practically breathless as he pulled me in and kissed me harder than he ever had before. I hadn't thought he held such . . . power. The strength in his kiss . . . Force! Ever heard the phrase "putty in your hands"? Well, that was me. When he kissed me like that, my feet stuck right to the floor and I realized I was having trouble breathing. I didn't want that moment to end, since I was practically limp in his grasp, but it eventually did . . . or so I thought. Chev took me by the hand and led me off, shutting the door to our bedroom behind us; I guess he could wait no longer, either.

I'll spare you all the details, since you'd probably consider them too racy, after all. But I will say this: if you are ever so blessed as so have the love like the kind between Chev and me, then I hope that on your wedding night, you are fortunate enough to experience the bliss we did. By the time we were both too exhausted to even move, it was nearly midnight.Eventually, Chev just tumbled sideways, breathing hard and even laughing. I rolled over onto my side, grinning at him and trying to slow my own heavy breathing. Sliding closer, I propped my head up in my palm, resting on my elbow and just watching him. I couldn't believe we'd actually made it to our wedding night; for the longest time, I'd doubted the possibility of that. Chev gazed at me for the longest time, still chuckling off and on. I finally gave in and asked why he was laughing and he told me that he was just happy. I nodded, thinking back to what we'd just shared. I was happier than I'd probably ever been in my life, so I told him that. He replied by pulling me into his arms and gently kissing me, first on the forehead, then on the lips. I reached up and brushed my hand through his slightly sweat-dampened hair, gazing into his eyes a moment. He just smiled at me, and I noticed that he wasn't breathing as hard anymore. Not only that, but he also looked a bit drowsy. So, taking that hint, I snuggled down close to his side, wrapping my arms around him and resting my head on his chest. I sincerely felt that I was the luckiest girl in the universe to be able to wake up each day with a man like him at my side, and I knew he felt the same.

As we lay there, dozing off, he lightly kissed the top of my head before trailing his first two fingers up and down my side and the part of my hip that wasn't covered by the sheet, tracing that slight curvature. I think he'd wanted to be able to be that close to me for a long time, so I just lay quietly there until he wrapped his arm around my waist, keeping me close by. He whispered "I love you" to me, and the next thing I heard was the soft, even breathing that indicated sleep. I lay awake a while longer, gazing up at the ceiling and thinking. It was a bit hard to believe that after all the horrible things that had happened to us, we were still blessed with an even break. Even after all the storms in our lives, we still managed to keep it together. It seemed to me then that it wasn't really worthwhile to remember the bad things, but I figured that without those bad things, we wouldn't be where we were. I recalled a wish I'd had several years before that I hadn't taken that bounty before Geonosis. I remembered how I'd wished I'd just gone straight to Geo and joined the fight. I remembered how I'd told myself that if I'd done that, Chev would've survived. But as I lay there, curled at his side and listening to him breathe, I realized we would've had to fight the chains of the growth acceleration. He never would've had the chance to be totally normal. I couldn't help but wonder if we'd be all right from then on out, but knowing my track record, something awful was bound to happen eventually. I just prayed that it wouldn't happen too soon after our marriage . . . Five years would've be a decent waiting period for trouble, but ten would be even better. But for the time being, I cheered myself by reminding myself that we had Larra, Sevvie, and the Deltas, and that they were our family. I reminded myself that we were all together again, just like old times except—dare I say it?—better. And so, happy that my life was working out pretty well for once, I nestled into Chev and draped my arm across his waist as my eyelids grew heavy and I dozed peacefully off to dream of the happy days I hoped were in our future.

Because, I mean, at least we had a future, right? Right. And knowing that felt amazing.