Note: The triplets are 16 and Gidden is 24 by this point.

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Vignette #9 - Growing Pains

"I hate you!" Tana screamed the phrase at her father, stamping her foot with ire before whirling to disappear into her room and slamming the door behind her. The muffled sound of sobbing could be heard behind the door, despite its thickness.

Jacen pressed his fingers to the bridge of his nose, reaching to the Force for patience and control. Tana had been out past curfew, snuck away from her bodyguard and been found sneaking about the Palace gardens with one of the Gardener's sons in a compromising position. When they'd located her, she'd been pressed up against the wall with the boy's hands in a completely inappropriate place, lost in a kiss. Unfortunately for Tana, her father had been a part of the search group.

Jacen had almost lost his temper when he'd spied the scene. He'd not yelled, to his credit, but explained succinctly on their march back to her room that his sixteen year old daughter was far too young to be engaging in such actions and if he ever heard about it again, he'd lock her away until she was thirty.

Fortunately, Jacen hadn't harmed the boy, though the boy would certainly think twice before even speaking to any member of the Royal Family again.

"Jacen?"

Jacen held up his hand, begging Tenel Ka for silence for a moment. He took a couple of minutes to ensure he had control before raising his head to meet her gaze.

She was dressed in a dressing gown, her hair loose about her shoulders, a concerned expression on her face. An expression he'd never have seen before their children had been born. "Are you alright?"

Jacen nodded, and sighed. "What are we going to do with her, Tenel Ka?"

Tenel Ka arched an eyebrow. "We? You are going to go to bed. I will speak with Tana."

"But-"

Tenel Ka shook her head once, reaching out to cup his face in her hand. "She is our daughter, Jacen. This is a difficult time for her. She is learning about being a woman and you are not helping."

"But she- they-"

"Did you let her explain?"

"Explain?!" Jacen bit the word out. "She was minutes away from becoming compromised by that boy, and you wanted me to let her explain?"

"Passions of youth, my love." Tenel Ka's eyes sparkled. "Do you not remember our own?"

"That was different."

She arched an eyebrow again. "Explain."

"I knew I loved you; that I wanted to marry you, and you felt the same. That boy is simply using her!"

"Are you certain of that?"

Jacen's laugh was harsh. "If he really cared about her, he'd have stuck around to stand up for her, not run when they were discovered. He'd have done the honorable thing by her!"

"Jacen, this is not Coruscant. This is Hapes, my love. Despite its reforms, some traditions are still very strong."

"Not with my children they're not! Tana has more sense than that!"

Tenel Ka shook her head sadly. "Jacen, go. I will speak with Tana."

He looked about to object, but she looked pointedly in the direction of their room. His shoulder slumped and he nodded. "You're right, you know. I'll think better once I've rested. But, I don't regret pulling them apart, Tenel Ka."

"I know." She placed a gentle kiss on his lips and then moved to Tana's door, reaching up to knock.

Tana punched her pillow, angrily swiping at the tears tracing furrows down her cheeks, barely resisting the urge to scream. With angry motions she grabbed the pillow, visualizing her father's neck, and twisted.

Anger is the path to the Darkside. The words, often repeated by her ex-master, echoed in her head, but she didn't care. She was the plain-Jane of the triplets, the least attractive, the least Hapan-like and the youngest. Even her younger brother and sister, Kalen and Allana, were showing signs of the typical Hapan beauty beneath their cherub faces.

Couldn't her father understand that Dennig made her feel wanted, that he made her feel desirable? Couldn't her father understand her need to be accepted and wanted by her own peer group? Especially after she'd been removed from the academy. She'd unknowingly alienated the other students and her teachers by her try-hard attitude. She'd been a dare devil, a know-it-all, unknowingly been anti-social and finally returned to Hapes as a troublesome student who couldn't learn in that kind of environment.

Oh, they'd tried to put up with her. Tried for two years, until one of her pranks had gone too far and her current Master - the third one - had calmly informed her that she was a useless fool of a girl who would never amount to any kind of useful Jedi. Unfortunately, her record of being pulled in front of the discipline committee at the Academy was a long one, and the last prank had been on the heels of a series. She'd needed structure and control, coupled with tolerant understanding and leeway the academy couldn't give. Without it, she was a - how had Master Jade-Skywalker put it? Oh yes, a disruption they couldn't afford.

Tana threw herself on her bed and hugged her pillow to her chest, burying her face in it and trying to choke back the sobs. She was a failure. She was a failure as a daughter, a failure as a Hapan princess, and a failure as a would-be Jedi.

"You are not a failure, Tana."

Tana didn't even look up, somehow completely unsurprised that her mother had entered her room - a locked and sealed room - without effort and was reading her mind. "But I am." She choked on the words, squeezing her eyes shut. "I can't even sneak out without being caught."

Tenel Ka settled onto the bed, reaching out to gently stroke Tana's hair. "Ah. But you did. It was only when you returned to the palace grounds to continue your tryst that you were caught."

Tana sniffed, wiping her arm across her eyes, but couldn't look at her mother. "Are you going to yell at me too?"

"I do not yell."

"No," Tana glanced at her mother, trying to gauge her mood. "You get quietly disapproving until we squirm. Are you?"

"What do you think?"

Tana rolled onto her side, hugging the pillow protectively to her chest. "I think Daddy sent you after me."

"Your father does not 'send' me anywhere, young lady."

Tana dropped her gaze, hugging the pillow fractionally tighter.

Tenel Ka sighed. "Tana, my little one, I am not angry with you."

"You should be." Tana's tone was miserable. "I completely lost control, Mother. If Daddy hadn't come I wouldn't have thought twice about what Dennig and I were doing."

"You aware of the consequences. I have seen to that. Are you ready for such a step, daughter?"

Tana blushed, her face heating until the red almost touched the tips of her ears. "I don't know. I think... no, I know I would probably... I would have regretted it."

"Then you are not ready." Tenel Ka reached over to grasp one of Tana's hands in her own. "Dennig may be charming and sincere, little one, but he would never be able to understand you."

Tana looked away uncomfortably but didn't break her mother's grip. "He looks at me the way the suitors for Layne look at her."

"Your sister does not have the Force to aid her in her choices."

"The Force?" Tana laughed, but it was broken off by a sob. "I'm a lousy Jedi, Mother."

"You do not have to be a Jedi to understand the Force, Tana. It can still guide your actions, aid you, and give you strength even when you are unschooled in its techniques."

"I wish..." Tana paused and then continued miserably. "I wish Gidden were home. He could help me."

"Your brother-"

"He's not my brother - not really."

"Tana!" Tenel Ka regarded her daughter in shock. Tana and Gidden had always been close; it was the last thing she'd expected her daughter to say.

Tana blushed. "Well, it's true! He's not my brother. He is more patient with me than anyone though, and makes time for me, and helps me, and calls me beautiful..." She trailed off, tugging her hand free of her mother's. "Do you think he'd take me on as an apprentice?"

"Your brother would likely do anything you ask; he does adore you."

Tana blushed. "You think so?"

"You do not? He has always spent more time with you than any of his siblings."

Tana sat up, pulling her knees to her chest. "I guess. Do you think... do you think he'd be upset by my escapade with Dennig?"

"Upset? You will be lucky if he only lectures you on the error of your ways."

Tana giggled softly. "I hope so. His eyes flash the neatest shades of brown when he gets upset. And his voice catches, like he's trying to say so much more than what's come out of his mouth. And he gets this cute little dimple-" she cut herself off. "I don't, I can't think of him as my brother."

"I see." Tenel Ka regarded the youngest of her first born children with compassion. "Then it is best you did not continue with Dennig."

Tana sighed, resting her chin on her knees. "When I'm only Gidden's favorite sister?" She felt tears well in her eyes and she blinked them back.

"Gidden has been gone for several years, Tana. He may not always see you as his sister. For you are correct; you are not related by blood." She seemed to shake herself. "Is this the reason for your recent actions, for your continued attempts to sneak out, and your sporadic relationships around the palace and city?"

Tana ducked her head, nodding miserably. "One of them should capture my interest, shouldn't they?"

"Tana. My darling little one." Tenel Ka slid over, pulling the teenager into the crook of her arm and gently stroked the plain, straight brown hair until Tana's head came to rest on her shoulder. "If what you feel for Gidden is the way I feel for your Father, there is nothing and no one that will be able to substitute. I suggest focusing elsewhere. Find something that will make you happy, something that does not require his presence or approval. Something just for you. Teasing the boys of the palace and the surrounding area is a good way to wind up in trouble, both with them and your Father."

"I owe Daddy and apology, don't I?"

"In the morning." Tenel Ka gently pressed her lips to the crown of her daughter's head. "Sleep on the matters of which we have spoken. Choose a path to follow and then apologize to your Father. He will be more pleased to have you pointing in a direction, and less inclined to focus on your actions from last night."

Tenel Ka made to go, but Tana caught her hand. "Thank you, Mother. I'm sorry I cause so many problems."

"It is a part of growing up." Tenel Ka gently hugged her daughter. "Get some sleep. I will see you in the morning."

Tana nodded before watching her mother go. She sighed, stretching out on her bed, and turned her gaze to the holo on her night table. It was of Gidden's last Life Day at home, just before he'd left for his current mission, and he'd been caught by surprise, his expression totally open and honest. He'd been opening her gift; a small, silver pendant with the family name on it, and been caught in that moment of shock. She'd been eleven; it had been his nineteenth.

She closed her eyes, rolled over, and strove to follow her mother's instructions. It was well past the midnight hour before she finally fell asleep with her mother's advice bouncing around in her head.

It was when she woke the next morning, rested and ready to face a new day, that she knew what she had to do and which path she would follow.

Fin

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Author's Note: - The sequel, called "Homecoming" is being prepped for posting. It focuses on Gidden and is directly tied into these vignettes. Thanks for reading!