Title: Spring Fever
Characters: Fess Ilee (Ferus Olin), Leia Organa and some bugs.
Time: Ferus is forty-one.
Disclaimer: I make no profit from this fanfiction set in George Lucas' Star Wars.
Summary: Ferus or Fess, Leia doesn't like anything about her botany tutor.
A/N I wrote 'The End' to 'Song of Myself.' And then I thought of a small series to extend the circumstances of Ferus Olin's and Leia Organa's relationship, an unusual one in Star Wars, perhaps not so much Master/Padawan as Mentor/Student. But a little bit Master/Padawan. Anyway, this is part one of a continuance. Concrit welcome. This fic is illustrated on my LJ, if anyone should be interested.
Stars and galaxies, was this girl completely dense to the Force? She couldn't be, not Anakin's child. Even a commoner with no Force-sensitivity at all had something inside the soul to quicken in springtime. Ferus took Leia's hand and brushed its slender fingers against the lumigrass etching. Her hand was as unexpectedly soft as Anakin's had been. It unnerved Ferus. "Uh, close your eyes and feel the patterns." The sensory motivation was there in the beginning and perhaps a bit of the Force would seep into her in this lesson. She wouldn't realize it, but it was a start. Obi-Wan had said to let her choose her own path, but sometimes Force-sensitivity needed guiding. Obi-Wan's experience teaching Anakin had devastated the man; Ferus had had no Padawan to wrench his heart. He pressed Leia's finger's against the viridian moss shadings of the border. "Squeeze this gently for me, Princess --- no, that's too rough, you'll crush it --- "
Leia yanked her hand back. Ferus felt Fess' facade slip a little as a small amount of Jedi sternness crept in.
"Botany is a science. You need a control and an experiment. I am your control."
"No one controls me," Leia snorted.
Ferus had regained his balance. "On the contrary, Your Highness. Your father does, your environment does, and at this moment, if you wish a better grade in botany class, I do." He smiled Fess' smarmy smile at her, calculated to make her explode. I'm certain I can divert her anger into a passion for study. In the end, it doesn't really matter what she thinks of me.
Leia withdrew, nearly hissing. She glanced through the doorway of their small sitting room into the next room. Except for the first grass etching, the duffel bag on his bed was as yet unpacked. He had come from his home to help her. He was not the enemy. "So you grew these? They're all right."
Was that a compliment after years of scorn? Ferus knew better than to cling to it. "That's right, entirely right! Alderaan's grass paintings inspired these tiny etchings when I first arrived onplanet. It was a part of my initial study, when I wasn't herding nerfs, to understand symbiotic relationships, you see." They were gone, his stubborn nerfs, released to other rural neighbors after he had moved into a suburb of Aldera. He hadn't had much patience with the creatures after the first few harrowing months of his guardianship. Having responsibility for twenty non-sentient lives had steadied him immensely then. Now he wanted only the responsibility of guiding Leia along the path to adulthood. Ferus truly did not know if a better Force connection would help him in his task; he'd overheard parents and they seemed clueless at times, too.
Leia, for all her education, tended to focus laser-sharp on what she was interested in and gloss over the rest. For instance, Ferus remained quite sure that going to a man's home --- and this was his temporary home in the palace --- to look at his etchings had not the suggestive cachet that Ferus had heard of even as a Padawan. "These pieces are what I did when I first came to Alderaan," he babbled, as would Fess. "They are simple, haha, you know me, but if you don't like them, perhaps you can at least learn from them." Alderaanian artists painted broad sweeping meadows of windcast seeds, using the gusts to dab and daub splashes of wild colors. Ferus' efforts stuck to frames a half-meter square which had sustained themselves with minimal care for fifteen years now. He allowed himself pride in their endurance. It reminded him of his own.
The grass etchings formed the background, but that was not all there was to the piece: the foreground moved. There was a multi-legged thing crawling on the etching. Leia squinted. "Your idea?"
"Yes. Something mobile, for interest." Another thing joined it. There was a certain tang in the Force that Ferus had almost forgotten about. "These frinker beetles live on the grass, subsisting on its molds. See how they cooperate in feeding each other, male and female." Ferus was being heavyhanded and knew it. "These beetle pairs reject others of their kind; they are all in all to each other." The beetles finished their repast, faced each other and then circled, first one way, then the other. Oh, stang.
"What are they doing?"
This was turning into another sort of lesson and Ferus scrambled to regain control of his curriculum. "They are practicing foreplay." They would do this now, of all times. He Suggested to them that they postpone their activities, but they listened about as much as any sentient would.
"They're good at it. It's working."
"Yes." Their feelers intermingled, their bodies aligned. What followed would last for hours. Ferus needed to redirect Leia or she would miss her own party.
"Look! What are they doing now?"
"What many species do in the springtime."
"Oh. Oh!" Leia stared. Ferus became embarrassed and protective and a host of other things he couldn't identify. This etching would have pleased his art instructor in the Temple, but as Leia's guardian, he flushed beneath his beard. Surely Bail hadn't been too busy to give Leia the Talk?
"Princess, back to the lesson." Bold, she was as bold as when she was eight and decided to explore the marketplace alone at night. He drew on Fess' skills, not Ferus', to salvage this session.
"I know what they're doing. I'm not stupid."
"Definitely not. You knew when to ask for help in your studies, not the mark of a stupid person." There, she was distracted. The glare could have blistered paint off the walls. "Now, botany includes pteridology and palynology, lichenology, the study of mosses --- "
"They're soft, mosses are." Without his prompting, Leia's fingers brushed the mossy bits in the etching.
Ferus fanned the flame. "Yes, and nutritious and useful for mattresses when you're out in the wild." Siri had taught him the art of survival on so many planets he'd lost track. Maybe he would dream about her tonight. It wouldn't be the first time he'd dreamt of her, of a one-on-one relationship rather than the myriad clots of conversations he'd be called upon to join tonight. Maybe he'd Suggest it to himself right before he fell asleep, and have a dream worth keeping. He'd better curb his drinking tonight.
"Is that why you love it, botany, I mean?"
"I --- Princess, 'love' is an extraordinary word for it. I appreciate all life" --- wait, that sounds too cosmic, too Jedi -- "as part of my personal philosophy" --- worse, Olin, worse! --- "erm, I mean that I had to study something, so I picked botany." A sentiment that a student could identify with. It marked him as the sort of person who was noncommittal, pragmatic, an Ilee who fit her previous opinion of him. He added a self-deprecating giggle as Fess would. Sure enough, the spark of interest died in her eyes. "This is not what I'm like!" he shouted mentally. Aloud, he said, "Back to business, if you're ready, Your Highness."
Dull, dull, dull. He could hear the words, almost see them shooting from her frontal lobes in his direction. Erm, no, they would be from the emotional center in her limbic system? He wasn't sure. It was as well that he had stuck with stoic, boring botany. Sap and phloem, stamens and pistils were more understandable. "Now, Princess, the lumigrass subsides on the statihydroponic nutrient layer and when combined with plentiful exposure to solar full-range radiation ... "
One hour later, Leia's eyes glazed over and Ferus stopped. "You're needing to leave, right you are, the party begins at eighth hour." He put away the final etching. "See you there." Leia's aura flared, dull green cycling through to flaming saffron. Was saffron the hue of Leia's spice? By no stretch of the imagination could she be called completely sweet.
"Oh, you're invited, that's right, um, yes. I will see you at some point. I suppose." Leia smiled at the mention of her party, but not for him. "I'm going." She was out the door then with echoes of Anakin's speed. "Thank you for the lesson!" she tossed over her shoulder. Ferus put on the exquisitely tailored robes that Bail had dispatched to his suite. They snugged him around his middle this time and it looked like he would need to go in for a new fitting. He sighed at the prospect and prepared himself for yet another noisy get-together.
Leia's 'fresher mirror showed a young lady with no expression at all. Leia stared at herself, criticizing one thing after another, approving of few things. What she wanted was to appear sophisticated, which the white floor-length septsilk gown accessorized. Leia knew that Winter would have looked less tomboyish in it. Winter was slender and as elegant as lace and just slightly enough senior to Leia to have lost her baby fat. Leia sucked in her cheeks to see how she would look in a few short years, resisting the urge to look cross-eyed down her nose. Her nose would stay its unsatisfactory shape forever. "Don't worry, you'll grow into your adult figure in just a little while," Father had said when she had modeled this gown in front of him. "Don't scowl, that's my baby girl." Mother would not have said that, Leia was fairly certain. Suddenly, she ached for Winter to talk to. The scramball away tournament would have to be this week, and Winter's smashing on-goal delivery was crucial to the team.
Leia surveyed her shape. Slender enough for anyone's taste. Arms akimbo, she practiced her fierce look, then her seductive look, then her contemptuous look, the kind she could not keep from her face when Fess did or said one of his usual ungainly things. Eh, it was time to go.
Ferus edged closer to the group loosely gathered around the party girl. Leia and the one who had captured her attention leaned in conspiratorially and Ferus had to use the Force to amplify their words.
"Charming gown, Highness." Toric oozed. Ferus had said the precise three words earlier in the evening to no effect; to Toric, Leia smiled gravely, offering her hand as he led her to the dance floor. The crowd switched its attention to Ferus and he mumbled something about good food always made for a good day. He could hardly follow the Princess out dancing, he chafed. The couple swirled away from his view.
Senator Girn Toric showed warped to Ferus in the Force. A malaise consisting of boredom and cupiscence sickened the man's aura. His urbane outward appearance would appeal to anyone, male or female. In fact, he reeked of sophistication with a soft, genteel voice, caring looks, a half-smile at all times. Ferus did not like him.
But Leia did. Earlier in the evening, she spoke with him somberly of the situation on Spanos Prime, the plight of the plague victims on Boffix and when he betrayed an interest in pittins she beamed. And now it was time for pointless conversations about anything but the subject of the party herself. A dowager captured Ferus and pressed him about where he procured his fancy robes. Bail provided them, he didn't know Bail's tailor personally, he had little interest in robes, save that they were clean.
"Ooh, but aren't they difficult to drape?" The lady's fingers worked their way up his forearm and he nearly slapped them down.
"It's all right, they're fine. Not a problem, no more than yours are."
"I simply must know the manufacturer of this fabric. Perhaps I can get some from the same bolt of cloth, don't you think we would make a fine pair in matching outfits?" She pinched his cheek and Ferus cursed old ladies, a raucous string of epithets in a tongue he knew she couldn't understand. Siri had taught the curse to him. He smiled as his words dripped sweetness contrary to their meaning. The entire court knew he was not from Alderaan and they would assume this was his native language.
"Madame, you and I? I am nowhere in your league. And don't tell him so, but your husband ought to look out for competition. I see him watching us, no, don't look!" But the old lady persevered, talking whether she received a reply or not. By the time Ferus looked up again, a small disturbance at the other side of the banquet hall had subsided and then dispersed. Leia and Toric had disappeared. It was easy to find a cozy, private niche in the vast palace.
A bow, a kiss to a wrinkled knuckle, and Ferus was free to shoot towards the door. She is my Princess, thought Ferus, amazed. I've been an Alderaanian citizen for so many long years that I feel loyal to the throne. He redoubled his pace towards the receding spark that was Leia. Protect. Protect. My guestroom is near Toric's. If the major-domo had assigned him to somewhere farther off, I might not Sense a situation developing. The Force must be moving on it. It's clear that she needs protecting tonight.
He Called Leia's name instinctively, foolishly, but he couldn't help himself. This evening felt ripe for the Force to shift focus for him, for Leia, or maybe just for their vague vicinity, for anyone, including Bail. The fuzzy Force connection Ferus had put up with for years now bothered him more than usual. Kriff. Ferus slammed one hand into the other as he puffed down the corridor. His two hands stung, the pain splintering like his callout to Leia. I want a better Force connection and I'm not getting one. What do I have to do?
There was a planet called Alderaan whose people knew the value of politicking and living a life of public service to the full. There was a palace on Alderaan which rocked night and day with parties and receptions. And one fine evening in the midst of her Sweet Sixteen Standard banquet, the palace's resident princess waited near the closed 'fresher door of one of the palace's innumerable guest suites.
Leia Organa perched primly on an elegant loveseat, trying not to picture the unclad man within the 'fresher. She was ready for this step in her coming of age. Everyone said so, particularly her favorite aunt. "You're sixteen today," she'd said. "It's almost an Alderaanian ritual. Time you spread your wings." Leia was unsure if she wanted this power, but she had it, so why not use it? It seemed to be part of the arsenal of life in an unforgiving Empire. Winter said that it would come like a thunderbolt over a mountain peak one day, the realization of power over the opposite sex. Today was that day. Leia frowned as she tapped her fingers on her new reticule, a gift from her father. Some strategy here? Go for the jugular? No, too overwhelming; this was to be a delicate battlefield. The experience should hone her diplomatic negotiating skills. Again, Leia wished that Winter were not away so that they could compare notes on each other's evening. Of course, Winter's memory of her experiences would be clear as transparisteel and Leia's colored by yearning, but that was all right: they were true friends and meshed in all the important ways.
Leia felt on the verge of a discovery of a principle in some major area of life. The sight of underclothes spilling out of untidy drawers, the array of colognes on the dresser's waxed veneer, everything in the room spoke of masculinity. Winter, she couldn't stop thinking of Winter and their comm last night. Winter always seemed to know the things that Leia only guessed about. So anyone could satisfy me, it would not matter who he was as long as he was male. It could even be F--- No. Not ever. Never him. The touching, the rubbing, just no. It would kill all the romance in her soul to allow someone like Fess Ilee to place his pudgy hands --- and as for herself, never could she do those things with Ilee that she and Winter giggled over. Leia shifted in her seat. Step back, step back out of particulars and live in the moment, someone whispered through her hair ... imagine being the picture of your imaginings. Or was it picture being the image of your imaginings? Leia laughed and ducked her head. She really ought to gain control over these rhapsodies or reveries or whatever they were, she realized, straightening her posture. Now she was daydreaming about a wise man with a flowing mane of tangled hair and twinkling blue eyes, the very image of counsel. I'm in over my head with this. I need to leave. I need to think.
"Senator, I'll comm you tomorrow --- " she said to the closed door and gathered her reticule.
Senator Girn Toric of the Vorzyd Sector, the man of a certain age divesting himself of his wardrobe inside the 'fresher was nice, Leia decided. He danced divinely, he was not too tall to dwarf her, and he smelled like her father. She could do this with him without sacrificing any of her standards. That felt good.
The 'fresher door slid open. "There. Rid myself of those beastly trousers." He posed in the doorway, backlit by the soft lumapanel. Leia approved of his trim, toned figure. He didn't resemble that Ilee person at all. When he approached the sofa, she smiled hesitantly up at him, playing with her gown's scooped neckline.
"I hope the stain comes out of them, Senator. I apologize." A few sips of Nabooan blossom wine had gone directly to her head; she had been too nervous to eat much before or during the banquet. The spill had been entirely her fault.
"Pishtosh, my own clumsiness, dear Leia. Now then. On to more pleasant topics." The leisure suit fit the man's suave persona, down to the heavy wrought-aurodium chain with its fist-sized pendant. The suit was an intense mauve with sun-yellow piping. Its nap looked soft to the touch. "You wanted privacy to make a request?"
Leia caught herself from reaching out. Well, of course his suit was soft! The finest denier of veda cloth always was. She braced herself for the big question. "I'd like to be your intern, Senator. My goal is to be elected to the Senate and if a few months can be arranged for me on your schedule, that is, well, what I'm hoping for ... " She had rehearsed this before the mirror. She had. The sips of wine certainly couldn't be causing this dizziness, could they? It must be the headiness of ambition.
The man moved like a well-oiled speeder and before she knew it, he was sitting beside her on the loveseat, uncomfortably near. Leia leaned away, then back into the plush, tempting cushions. Relax, relax. He is a nice man.
"Ah, you are a sweet young lady, and my name is Girn, Leia."