"So Nails," 'Peeler' – a young fellow pilot from Green Squadron with dark hair and piercing brown eyes – laughed as he raised his pint of ale in the general direction of Aubé's lightsaber. "When did you join the Commander's… 'Church of Hokey Religions'?"
"Huh… what?" Aubé replied muddily, running her hand through her own dark curls.
"Watch yourself, Peeler," Wedge said sagely, taking a long pull from his own glass. "Luke takes his Jedi business pretty seriously, and he is still a Commander, even though he resigned his commission as a General."
"Huh? Luke?" Aubé echoed blearily, still not comprehending the question. She was tired and perhaps more than a little hung over, and decidedly not fully awake after all.
"Aww, come on Nails!" Peeler said wryly. "Everybody knows you've always had a thing for him, and everyone knows that you and he have been spending an awful lot of time together…"
"And…?" Aubé replied, a slight growl to her voice as understanding dawned. The fact of the matter was that she and Luke had spent their first night together the night before, but she had seen no reason to discuss it with anyone, at least not now.
"And it just so happens that you were seen leaving The Commander's private apartments at oh-ought-early this morning…"
"Peeler…" Wedge cut in, a warning note in his voice, but Peeler was not going to be deterred.
"Come on Nails!" he pressed. "Everybody knows the Commander is as pure as snow on Hoth – unless you helped him drift last night?"
"Where in the Seven Hells are you going with this, Peeler?" she snarled rising from her chair and barking her shin on the table. In her anger, she barley noticed the fourth person joining them. Wedge and Peeler stood up just as quickly, with Peeler offering a very stiff salute.
"Luke!" Wedge called, relief evident in his voice.
"Commander!" Peeler yelped, still standing at attention.
"Oh!" Aubé gasped, turning around to see Luke. "Commander…"
Luke arched an eyebrow although the rest of his face remained stoic. "Is there a problem here?" he asked mildly, not taking his eyes from Aubé's.
"Sir! No Sir!" Peeler replied smartly, keeping his gaze upon the wall behind Luke while Wedge looked on with slight bemusement.
"None whatsoever," Wedge conceded with a smile as Aubé stood in front of Luke silently, eyes cast downward.
"I just finished up a bit earlier this morning than I thought," Luke continued. "Thought I'd see if Aubé would care to start her lessons early…"
Peeler bit down on his lower lip, now steadfastly refusing to look at anyone or anything but the ceiling. Now Luke cast his formidable gaze on the young Lieutenant who was evidently choking back laughter. "Something amusing, Lieutenant?" he asked levelly.
"Sir! No Sir!" Peeler snapped back to attention, all traces of amusement banished now, a slight bead of sweat appearing on his brow. "Nothing at all, Sir!"
"Good," Luke said, stepping slightly to the side. "Aubé – Lieutenant Canaille – would you like to accompany me to the gym?"
Aubé raised her head with a snap, hurt sparkling in her eyes. "Oh… of… of course," she stammered. "Anything you say…"
Luke thinned his lips, and with a nod, he turned on his heel without looking behind him to see if Aubé was following him.
As they walked down the hall, with Aubé lost in her own thoughts, it was Luke who broke the silence at last.
"So it's 'Commander Skywalker' again now, is it?" he asked softly. "What happened to 'Luke'?" and a hundred other things you said last night?
"Com – I mean – Luke, I'm so sorry!" Aubé gasped, stopping dead in her tracks. "It's just that… Peeler… It's just…. It was…"
"A mistake?" Luke finished for her, a touch of ire creeping into his voice.
"NO!" She shouted, both shocked and angry, oblivious to the fact that people around them had stopped to watch. "That's not what I was going to say!"
"But you were thinking it!" Luke snapped, colour rising to his cheeks.
"Get outta my head!" Aubé snarled back. "Or if you're going to be so damn nosey, at least get the whole story before you pass judgment on me!"
He leaned back against the wall, arms crossed protectively across his chest, lips thin. "I'm waiting."
Aubé took a deep breath. "I was thinking it might have been a mistake to let myself get carried away so quickly last night!" she said choosing her words carefully. "That you must think I'm… I'm easy… or all I wanted from you is… well, you know."
Luke nodded, his face softening a bit, but he didn't interrupt. Around them, stilted conversation started up again, but he was well aware that people were hanging on their every word.
"But it's not that simple…" she sighed, looking down at her feet again. "I… I care about you. I have always cared about you from the day we met – since I clocked you one they day of the party – if not before. There was something … elusive"
A ghost of a smile touched his lips now as he remembered the incident. "You threw up on my shoes," he said.
Aubé blushed to the roots of her dark hair. "Yeah, I remember…" she sighed. "And now…"
"I feel like – like I've blown it," she sighed. "That you see me as some cheap hanger on…"
"Not at all," Luke cut her off, cupping her chin in with his fingertips. "Never…"
She smiled, meeting his eyes at last. "Sure?"
Without a word, he leaned in and kissed her, softly, tenderly on the lips, uncaring of the hoots and cheers that suddenly erupted around them as the kiss deepened.
Reluctantly, she pulled away, stars dancing in her eyes. "Yeah, I guess that's pretty damn sure…" she said. "But Luke, what about – "
"I don't care what they think," he murmured, pulling her into an embrace. "What ever happens is between us and us alone…"
Aubé wrinkled her nose. "I'll have you know that's not what I was thinking about!" she said pointedly. "I was wondering about my lesson!"
Luke laughed, fully and heartily as he guided her down the hall, continuing onwards to the gymnasium. "I thought you already knew?"
"All right, I'll bite," she grumbled, playfully poking him in the side as they walked. "What is it?"
"Oh hell," Luke burst into a fresh bout of laughter. "I'd hope you would have told me! Let me off the hook as a 'wise Jedi Master' and all!"
"How about communication and honesty?" Aubé murmured seriously. "I think that's a good lesson for both of us, if we're going to pursue this… further."
"Sounds like a plan, Nails," Luke said agreeably. "But if you don't mind, I think from now on I'd just like to call you… Bé…"