Disclaimer: Hawk and all non-game characters are mine. Game characters belong to LucasArts, BioWare, and Obsidian Entertainment. Yes, I put them back on their respective shelves when I was finished.

A/N: Thanks to everyone who took the time to read this humble tale of mine. I hope you all enjoyed it since it was my first story that topped 70k words. Now it seems as if 70k is no problem. But thanks for reading and reviewing, and I hope you do the same with the rest of my stories. Thanks so much! -T92.

Chapter Forty-Six - The Visitor

Hawk's back straightened, and her heart skipped a beat. Her breath froze in her lungs, for she recognized that voice. It was older, perhaps a faint bit huskier, but she still recognized it. Her heart began to pound as she slowly looked up, struggling to inhale. She nearly stopped breathing altogether when she looked up completely and found herself locking gazes with a pair of brilliantly sparkling emerald green eyes. Directly above the right one was a mass of golden hair, and around her visitor's shoulders was a well-known jacket that had been patched and repatched a hundred times over. Instinctively, Hawk's hands flew up to cover her mouth, which had fallen open with surprise at seeing a familiar grin flash across the stranger's face. Tears welled in her eyes as she heaved a shuddering breath and rose shakily from her desk.

"Oh, my Force," she whispered, her legs trembling visibly as she stepped out from around her desk. "No . . . It . . . It just can't be . . . ! But it is . . . Oh, my Force! JAR!!"

With a sob of joy and relief, she raced into Jardin's arms, throwing her own around his neck and hugging him tightly. She began to weep almost hysterically as he cloaked her in a warm embrace, holding her close to himself. Clinging to his neck, she breathed a heavy sigh and dared not to let go. After a moment, however, they pulled apart, and Hawk reached up to run her fingers through his hair. Her eyes searched his, and tears streamed down her cheeks.

"I don't believe it!" she sputtered. "I—I thought you were dead!"

"I know . . ." Jardin replied with an apologetic sigh. "I should have come sooner."

"Where've you been all this time?!" she cried. "You could have at least called me to let me know you were all right! I've been thinking you were dead for twelve years! Do you know what that was like?!"

She began to cry again, and he reached over to gently wipe away her tears with his thumb.

"Hey, hey, it's okay. I'm here now."

Hawk gazed up into his eyes and realized that he'd changed somewhat from the spunky sixteen-year-old he'd been. His eyes were the same bright green color they'd always been, and his hair was still combed the same way, but there was certainly something different about him. He was an inch or two taller, his voice was a little deeper, and he'd grown a small, neatly-kept beard that Hawk discovered to be quite attractive. Yet she could still see the Jardin she'd always known in him, and she gave a tiny smile as she reached up to cup his strong jaw in her slender hand.

"I've missed you," she whispered. "All this time . . . All this time I thought you were dead, but you really weren't. Why didn't you come to me?"

"First off, I couldn't," Jardin shrugged. He nodded toward his right leg, which he flexed somewhat, and Hawk noticed the whirring of electronics as he did. Her eyes went wide, but he continued. "My leg got blown off in that explosion, and I was half dead as it was when they finally dragged me out of the rubble. I was in a coma for about three months and went through another six of rehabilitation to get used to the new leg. By the time I was out of the hospital, they told me that you thought I was . . . well, you know."

He paused and sighed, looking away for a moment. His eyes darted around the room, and Hawk touched his jaw. He looked back down at her after a moment and forced a rather tight smile before continuing.

"I wanted to start looking for you right away, and I did. Oh, sure, I crossed your path a few times, but I—"

"You what?!" Hawk's voice was little more than a high-pitched squeak. "You could have come to me then! Why didn't you?!"

"Well, it's a bit embarrassing . . ."

"I still want to know why you didn't even contact me!"

He turned and gazed deeply into her eyes, pressing her hand to his heart.

"I heard you'd started up with Travis," he confessed in a whisper. "I didn't know if you and he were . . . y'know . . . married and all, so I didn't want to risk it. Quite frankly, I was scared. I was scared you'd forgotten me, so I just decided to play dead, as it were. But then I heard you'd made Fleet Admiral, so I figured I'd give it a shot, if only to see you again."

"Oh, Jar, if I had known—"

He pressed his first two fingers to her lips, commanding her to be silent. Hawk complied instantly as he leaned in and tenderly pressed his lips against hers. He gently held her chin in his hand, and she wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him closer. They leaned in to each other, deepening the kiss. Hawk backed up, dragging him with her, until she was practically sitting on her desk and he was leaning over her, his palms pressed into the desk top. After a minute, he pulled away, and Hawk held his face in her hands as she smiled. Tears glistened in her eyes again as she tenderly stroked his hair.

"I've missed you so much," she sighed. "And Travis kept asking me to marry him, but I just couldn't. I couldn't ever get over losing you . . . or thinking I had."

"Even after twelve years?" Jardin lifted an eyebrow.

"Yes," Hawk nodded. "At first . . . at first I thought it was weird for me to be like that. I thought I was being . . . well, obsessed. But thinking you were dead left a scar on me, Jardin. It didn't heal. It wouldn't heal. I―I thought I could make it stop hurting, but it wouldn't."

With a heavy sigh, she slid off her desk and nestled herself into his arms. He rested his chin on the top of her head, and they both closed their eyes. After a moment, he took a breath as if to say something, and Hawk looked up at him. He smiled down at her, brushing his fingers through her bangs.

"Yeah, I missed you, too," he said softly. "I've been thinking about you every day. Not a day went by that I didn't think about those few days we spent on the Ebon Hawk. And y'know somethin'? I told you something on Telos all those years ago, while you were unconscious after getting shot."

"That would explain why I don't remember hearing anything," Hawk replied, deadpan. She tilted her head and looked at him quizzically. "What'd you say?"

Jardin gently grabbed her hand in his and pressed it to his heart, gazing deeply into her eyes.

"I said I loved you."

Hawk gasped, and her one free hand flew to cover her mouth, which had fallen open. Jardin's eyes sparkled, and tears began to flow from hers. She smiled at him through her tears, and he wiped the salty droplets away with his thumb. With a sigh, she reached up and fingered his beard.

"Do you still?"

"Do I still love you?" Jardin asked, and Hawk nodded. He fell silent for a minute, as if deep in thought, before smiling gently at her. "Of course I do."

Hawk gave a cry of joy and threw her arms around his neck, burying her face in his neck. Jardin wrapped his arms around her, closing his eyes as he nestled his nose into her hair, inhaling deeply of the soft, feminine fragrance of the soap she used. She turned her head slightly and lightly kissed his jaw, hugging him so tightly that it was if she released him, he'd vanish for another dozen years. She squeezed her eyes shut as tears seeped through them, and though she never spoke aloud, she whispered the truth of her mutual love to his ear, her voice just barely audible. The way his embrace tightened around her indicated he had heard her, and though he had another question on his mind, he didn't ask immediately. He waited a moment before pulling back and clasping Hawk's hand between both of his. As her bright blue eyes locked onto his, shimmering with joy, he gently asked for her hand in marriage. Hawk could barely contain her excitement as she threw herself into his arms again—an evident acceptance. He laughed as he patted her back, and she laughed, too. Second only to her inauguration, this was the best day of her life. After a moment, she looked up into his eyes, and a smile crossed his face as he tilted her chin toward him and gently kissed her.

As she returned the kiss, Hawk suddenly realized that the bruised scar on her heart was healing. She didn't feel that miserable, unbearable pain anymore now that Jardin was hers again. She felt a bit sorry for Travis; however he'd deal with her decision, she didn't know. She wondered if it was wrong that she didn't really care at that moment, but then she decided she could care later, after the fact that she was getting married had fully sunk in. By then, maybe she'd even be able to help him find a woman he could truly love and who would love him back. Yet at that moment, her mind was preoccupied with the wedding she would soon have to begin planning, and also with the knowledge that what her father had told her was right. As soon as her hand slid into Jardin's, she knew. It manifested itself as a shiver that rolled down her spine and lit a fire in her heart. It came in the form of a grin spreading across her face as she laced her fingers into his. For the first time in her life since she was a teenage girl, that part of herself for which she had been searching was finally uncovered. Her life had been something of a search for herself; she'd known that for years. Finding her place in the fleet was just the start; she'd only needed her emotional wounds to heal for the rest to click into place.

As Jardin held her and she held him, she rested her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes. A vision danced across the back of her eyelids, and though it was only fleeting, it was enough to make her heart skip a beat. She saw herself, leaning on Jardin's arm and wearing a smile as she watched a young child play. Then she saw the child: a son with flashing green eyes and shimmering cropped black hair, smirking roguishly and pridefully tossing his head so that the wind caught each strand of hair and tossed it like a wave of short, ebony locks. Hawk got another look at herself and noticed with a gasp a gentle roundness in her abdomen, barely visible under the hunter green cloth of her Republic uniform. Then, as quickly as it had come, the vision faded, and she knew she'd just seen her future as a wife, mother, and continued leader of the Republic fleet. A content smile crossed her face as she sighed happily, ready for whatever would come. And she knew she was who she was meant to be. All those longings for a home and family of her own would finally be realized, and she would still be living her dream of serving the Republic.

It had begun as a journey of self-discovery, and despite the pain and agony involved throughout the course of it, she felt she had succeeded. Everything she was and ever hoped to be was spread out before her, and she felt a renewed sense of vigor as she pondered the future of both herself and her family name. But all that didn't even matter. What mattered was that she'd finally found her true self though it was hidden amongst the brutal pain of loving and losing then getting him back. All that mattered was that she knew who she was now.

Hawk was found.