Author notes! Jaina is seventeen; Zekk is bumped up to twenty. Very AU. Jaina has a rare heart condition; it's explained in the story. I don't it's possible for one like it to exist.
"Miss Solo has shown some improvements, but not enough to jump into a free lance craft of any kind," the doctor informed Leia Solo.
On the way out of the office, a curious Jaina pleaded to know what the results were. Leia finally gave in, but wished she hadn't when she say her daughter's expression turned sad, and fell silent.
"How about some frozen yogurt?" Leia suggested, wrapping an arm around Jaina's shoulders. The younger lady looked up, a half-smile on her lips, and agreed.
We were almost home when I felt it. It hurt to breathe suddenly, like my rib cage had shrunk and now pressed against my lungs. I immediately went down on my hands and knees, and then carefully rolled onto my back.
It happened there, in the middle of the walkway, my mother screaming into a commlink for help.
My heart completely stopped for two seconds, and then painfully restarted with rapid, hard thuds. All the while I was trying to breathe, but my rib cage was getting smaller and smaller. My body was going into shut down, minimizing the load on my heart, until all the operated were internal organs and barely my mind. . .
Nothing can convince me I have a rare syndrome. The attacks were few and far between growing up, but in the last seven years have grown abundant.
And it keeps me from flying in a squadron. My dream.
There's nothing the Force can do, either. Plus, it's on my list of harmful things that may induce an attack. Not a heart attack, but if too much stress began to build, my heart would need a short rest. And then it would try to catch up. I don't understand it. Any activity with cardiovascular endurance was simply out—my heart was too weak. I'd learned not to question my top-notch physicians when they told me the gravity flux in flying would probably bring the "big one" upon me.
We got home in time for dinner. Dad was home, and had bought take-out. He would've asked why we were so late, but the hospital band around my wrist explained it all.
"Zekk called," he informed me as I emerged from my room, clad in baggy pajama pants and a matching midnight blue long-sleeved shirt. "He musta left a message, but I didn't listen."
I shrugged, walking over to the comm console in the living room. "Even if you had, I wouldn't mind. What would he say that you and mom can't hear?"
"Jay, sweetie, that boy is in love with you," Dad spilled. "Everyone can tell—that is, everyone but you."
"We're friends," I insisted, resting my finger on the play button.
I rolled my eyes and played the message. Zekk's voice came over, just loud enough for Dad to hear. "Hey, it's me, uh, Zekk. It's about 1530 and I felt something. Let me know how things go…. Um, give me a call back, I guess. Bye."
"I did call him," Dad piped up. I raised my eyebrows and he said, "Invited him for dinner. Nearly jumped out of his skin, he was so happy. We oughta have him over more often. Why'd he stop coming, anyway?"
"He started a squadron, Dad," I supplied. "Remember? We had this great big party, and he told me that when I got better, I could be Dragonfly Two—"
"Oh, yeah. And we teased you, because he named the squadron after you. I remember. What was that, a year ago?"
Before we could say anything else, the doorbell chimes went off, like a clock tower announcing the time. Since the famous Han Solo wouldn't move to answer the door, I did.
Just as I knew I would, I looked up at the towering figure revealed by the opened door. His head brushed the doorway, his wavy black hair loose. He smiled not only in lips, but eyes and body.
"Zekk!" I jumped up to hug him, feeling my heart give a few irregular beats. He caught me, keeping me close.
"How bad was it?" he whispered.
"They released me after an hour of monitoring," I assured him, smiling sweetly.
"Alright," he said, letting my feet touch the carpet. We walked into the kitchen, and Dad put down the newspaper he'd pretended to be interested in.
"There's the boy. So, Lead, how are the Dragonflies?"
"Good, sir. We finally found a temp rookie to replace Eight while she's on maternity leave." Zekk shrugged off his jacket and I took it without a word. His eyes followed me, full of concern, to the coat closet as he continued, "She's due in Rosebury next year."
I smiled at Zekk as I passed him on my way to the sink, and gently touched his arm. I'm fine, I thought, knowing he'd pick up on it. Ever since the attacks had started increasing, he'd made sure to form a Force bond with my presence, whatever that meant. I didn't pick up on his emotions or anything, but he was always attuned to most of mine.
Discovering his Force potential had all been an accident, too. It was the earliest month of our friendship and I brought him to dinner for the first time. Everyone was there even—Uncle Luke, Aunt Mara, Kyp Durron. Well, Jacen thought he could get people to laugh by making fun of Zekk. My brother made a rude remake about bringing home strays, and the next thing he knew, Zekk had ripped the stool from under him. Uncle Luke screened Zekk the next day, only to find in my friend a vast potential. He went through basic training, but two years ago, returned from Yavin 4 to help me.
Since then he'd become a known face, so much that Mom felt she'd adopted him. But recently with the start of my namesake flying team, he'd "disappeared." Late hours in headquarters, and since it was a few blocks from us, our sofas were always open when he didn't feel like traveling across the city. Several times had he taken us up on that offer, but was usually gone by the time I got up.
"Ah, that's the month Jaina was born in," dad said. Rosebury, despite the flowery sound, was the dead middle of winter by the Coruscanti calendar, and the second month.
"Yes, sir. On the fourteenth. The day of Conquering Hearts," Zekk added. The Day of Conquering Hearts was a comic holiday for lovers, associated with chocolates and flowers and hearts. I always got something like that for my lifeday. But while most people say it for love, I saw it as maybe I could conquer my heart and its crazed defect.
"Yep." Dad finished folding his paper. "Zekk, can I ask you a question?"
"Of course, sir."
"When are you gonna date my baby girl?"
The water I'd been drinking came out of my nose. I hurried to clean it up while Zekk stammered, "Excuse me?"
"When. Are. You. Going. To. Ask. Jaina. Out?" He emphasized each word.
Zekk looked sucker punched, then remember who he was standing before and straightened. "As soon as she'll have me."
"What do you think, Jay honey? Would you have him?"
The heat crept up my neck as two pairs of eyes settled intently on me. "Uh—I, uh—this'll make being friends kinda awkward."
"Zekk, go hold her hand."
He obeyed, and my father studied us. "Yeah. I think I like the way this looks. What do you think, Leia?"
There was a bright flash, and my mother stood there with a camera in her hands. "They're a bit stiff."
"You, young lady, aren't allowed to speak until you take Zekk up on his word. Be thankful I like this kid."
I looked up at my friend for support.
"Please?" Zekk asked, sincerity in his voice and on his readable face.
There was a brief silence before Dad said, "Let's eat!!"
As commanded, I kept my mouth shut throughout the meal. With my defenses out of the way, Zekk was getting grilled, and the comments were outrageous. But he endured it well.
Somehow, they'd stumbled onto the subject of his childhood.
"Well, my first memory is of my mother," Zekk answered to Mom's question. "And of the genocide movements in our region."
He must have felt my questions and curiosity, because he smiled down at me, saying, "A man wanted a pure people on Ennth. He gathered followers who also wanted only fair hair and eyes. They raided our mountains, Bettle's Hope, eliminating anyone on the spot. My parents died their hair, and I spent my first few years bald. Anyway, in the memory, Mother was outside hanging linen, and I wanted to help her. There were swaying white daisies, a dark mountainous backdrop. I tugged her apron, and she bent over and hugged me."
Zekk seemed to stop short, hesitant about what else he should say. Then he continued, "She was beautiful. Curls black as night, fiery violet eyes."
"Does Jaina compare?" Dad asked.
Zekk looked down at me beside him, and I turned my gaze to my plate. He studied me, played with my hair.
"In all respects to my mother, Christ rest her soul, I think Jay surpasses her."
I reached over to squeeze his hand. Dinner resumed, as did the questions, and he was ready to answer all.
"I give up!" Dad finally exclaimed as I put things away. "I can't find a fault in this boy! Jay, sweetie—"
"Will you go out with me?" Zekk spouted. "Please? I want to make you happy."
"But you do that already," I objected. "Probably the happiest I ever am."
He begged me with his eyes, intensity burning in those jewels.
"Why do you even want me?"
"You're amazing – I want to make you smile. I love your smiles. Every time I think about you, I wonder what I can do to coax one from you."
"Oh," was all I could say.
We'd made it halfway through a holovid when Zekk suggested he go, because he had to work early. I walked him to the coat closet, got his jacket, and held it out for him to slip into. As he put it on, I trailed my fingers around his midsection as I moved to face him.
"Yes," I whispered, zipping his jacket.
I cut him off with a nod.
"Talk louder, we can't hear!" Mom piped up.
"Good night." I attempted wrapping my arms around me. He embraced me, leaning over to kiss my forehead.
"What was your mother's name?" I asked. We were eating dinner in his office at the hangar as our first official date.
"Lyla. Like my grandmother."
"I'm boring you, huh?" He turned from the monitor he'd been working at.
"No, you're aren't."
"Yes, I am. Come on, I'll show you around."
After a tour, I asked, "How far can you go without leaving Coruscant?" His fighter had room for a pilot and copilot. On the exterior view, it was mostly wing, with spiffy engines for speed.
Zekk answered in space and flyer terms that I didn't understand, but I didn't ask.
"I wanna go that high."
Zekk strapped me into the seat next to his. "Are you sure?"
I nodded, smiling. Then he took his seat and fired it up.
Up, up, and away we went. It was exciting to watch the city blend in color below us, escaping its confined society. And then the stars came into view, enhancing the surreal-ness of the experience.
"Thank you, Zekk." I leaned forward, like I could touch—
I was suddenly aware of creepy crawlies in my chest. He felt it, too, because we were speeding down to land. My vision lost root, my fingers and toes tingled. I gasped like a fish, leaning my head back. We landed and he rushed, pulling me out of the fighter and laying me on the metal hangar bottom.
"Help is on the way." Zekk knelt beside me. "How bad?"
"I'll help you!"
"No!" My shout to stop him was the final grain in the mill. My ribcage shrunk, my heart stopped. My mind hung weightless, waiting. One… two… three… four.
Then it beat, a thud so powerful and hard that I jerked and screamed. The blood flowed then slowed again, burning me inside out. Another thud. Sweet Death, help me!
Zekk wouldn't me lie there to die screaming. He wrapped his arms around my shoulders, lifting me to his chest, rocking. I opened my eyes, to see his fighter, and the dragonfly symbol, like the other ships.
But under his dragonfly was printed, "For Jaina, so she can fly."
Closing my eyes, peace took the place of my heart. I let go enough, free of my body, the painful prison. It was all for me. Zekk's years of hard work, the blood and sweat and tears to put together a squadron. All for me. All his love, for me. Could I leave?
The Force blanketed me, lifting me completely out and away from reality. I smiled, the bond with Zekk blazing hot and strong, now even as I passed on.
I pulled back long enough to see her smile. Slowly, her head lulled to the side, and she let out a long, relaxed breath. Her small hand, which had been holding mine for dear life, slackened. She didn't move anymore. She was at peace. No pain. Her suffering ended.
But I could still feel her in my head.
It was overwhelming. I hugged her close, weeping into her hair, "My only love…."
The late paramedics, that might have tried to take her from me, stood back, making room for Luke, Han, and Leia.
Leia got on her knees beside me, crying as she stroked her daughter's hair. Han turned away, Luke closed his eyes.
I don't know how long we sat there, sharing grief. Finally, the paramedics pried her body, her small body, from me, to be examined. There was press here now, flashing cameras and asking questions.
"Thank you for taking her out there," Leia whispered.
I looked up at her, unable to hold back tears.
She opened her arms.
I was lost in her mothering embrace.