Disclaimer: I do not own Star Wars.
Note: It's me again! Woo! I'm really inspired with these two at the moment. Now, I meant for this fic to be rather angsty, but it turned out to be more fluffy than I wanted, which means I'm not really very happy with it at all. Since I promised more one-shots, however, I figured I should post it. I may rework it later or post a better version, but all depends on time. Also, this fic hints at more mature content than my previous ones. I've not put the rating up to M because it's nothing explicit, but, if I'm wrong, please let me know and I'll change it.
And, a question to those who are better versed in the world of Star Wars than I: Do Jedi always produce Force-Sensitive offspring whether or not the other parent is a Force-Sensitive or not? I.e.: is Force-Sensitivity a dominant gene? (Yeah, you know where I'm heading with this one…)
Theme: Does being a clone really matter?
She had been fooling herself, she realised.
Fooling herself into thinking that what they had could ever be considered normal. She and Starkiller. Together. There was nothing normal about it and despite her naivety in thinking that, she was beginning to realise that even now – after all they had been through – things weren't going to get any easier. Not for the foreseeable future, at least.
Juno was worried about him. Desperately worried. She recognised – where he often did not – that talking about concerns and fears was a good thing. Starkiller – or Galen, as she had come to call him – had always been a closed off individual. Indeed, he had never had anyone to talk to before they had met. Yet, even though she knew this, getting him to break the silence and speak his deepest feelings was…infuriatingly difficult.
But…even if he wanted to talk? Time was a luxury that they couldn't seem to afford. Ever since her rescue and Darth Vader's capture on Kamino, they had been thrust into an unstoppable vortex of chaos. There were meetings to attend, missions to undertake and a whole mountain of issues to sort out. Yet, with Galen keeping a low profile, she found that their paths overlapped very little. So, when the opportunity had come up to take the lead on a recon mission she had jumped at the chance. Piloting the Rogue Shadow was topped only by being on the vessel alone with Galen. Well…if you didn't count PROXY's bumbling presence. The droid was rather annoyingly hard to ignore.
Even now he was standing a few paces behind her, tinkering with controls that really didn't need to be tinkered with. And Galen? Well…Galen had been somewhat twitchy and distant ever since they'd boarded the stealth ship and made their first of four planned jumps through hyperspace.
Juno released a withering sigh. If she didn't know better, she would say that Galen was doing his best to avoid her. At that moment, the co-pilot chair he normally inhabited was empty. Perhaps half an hour ago he had excused himself, taking leave of the cockpit and of her. It was odd, really, to think how distant he had become. When they'd been reunited on Kamino – her lips upon his – he had dared not let her leave his sight for the following days. Then, quite suddenly, he'd become somewhat vacant and aloof.
Something was clearly bothering him.
She swivelled in her chair and called over to the gangly droid. "Can I ask you something, PROXY?"
"Of course, Juno."
"Does…Galen seem…different to you?"
"Well…I don't know. Distant and…quieter than usual?"
"Perhaps he is – what do you call it – tired?"
Her face grew taut with worry and, without warning, she was on her feet. The only way she was going to resolve this was to talk to him herself. She could pin him down here. Might as well make the most of the opportunity instead of sitting alone, worrying about it. "Could you watch the controls for me for a moment?"
"Certainly." PROXY's chipper response sent a bolt of irritation through her. She shoved it down a moment later, leaving the droid to move over to take her place. She waited until he had settled before punching the door release mechanism and stepping through into the narrow, curving corridor.
The walk from the cockpit to the training room seemed suddenly ominous.
The pounding of her heart was almost painful as she stepped up to the door that led into the small, circular-shaped training room. The sound of the engines did well to mask any sounds from within and, with a sharp intake of breath, she activated the door and held back as it opened with a hissing 'swish'.
He was pacing, his hands raised and twisting before him. Clearly agitated, he turned back to walk the length of the room again and saw her standing in the doorway.
Their eyes met with the force of a tidal wave against rock.
The silence between them was thick and awkward and Juno felt herself choking in it, drowning in it. The intensity of his eyes on her was…unnerving and when she finally found her tongue, the words stuttered.
"I, uh, came to see if you were…were okay."
He made no move to come closer, but the tension in his shoulders eased a little. "I'm fine."
She set her jaw, steeled her determination, and closed the gap between them. Perhaps he would have stepped away, but her hand came up, sliding into his; holding him in place. "Talk to me."
His fingers reflexively tightened around hers.
"We've not had a spare moment since we left Kamino and…something has been bothering you. Please, Galen, let me help you."
There was a horrible, stagnant pause.
"I'm not him."
"I'm not him. I'm not Galen."
She remembered, with distinct and nauseating clarity, the faces of the 'unborn' clones, floating in vats of amniotic fluid. Their features, smoothed and younger, but distinctly resembling the man who stood before her. But this man. This man of flesh and blood before her. She knew him. Truly knew him. His face was worn with worry and fatigue, wrinkles already marring a brow which – given his approximate age – should have been smooth. The rough fingers gripping at her hand felt the same as they always had. For crying out loud, he even smelt the same! Clone or not, he was exactly as she remembered; every last detail, right up to the tiny white scar on his left temple.
"Do you really believe that?" Her voice was low and soft.
"I…I don't know what to believe."
She shook her head. "Do you remember when you came to save me on the Empirical. Do you remember what I said?"
There was a long and painful silence before he responded. "You came back…" His voice was as quiet as hers.
"And when I walked in on your conversation with Vader. When I realised you were still carrying out his orders. Do you remember what you said to me when I asked why you bothered to rescue me?"
A half-smile twitched at the corner of his mouth. "I needed someone to pilot the ship."
"And do you remember all the pain and the hurt and the joy of freedom? Do you remember the struggle as you fought to survive? The panic and fear and desperation as you raced to save the Senators before the Emperor silenced them forever? Do you remember…" She paused, swallowing. "Our first kiss above the Death Star?"
"Yes. All of it." He closed his eyes. "As if it were yesterday."
"Then what does it matter?" She cut in before he could continue. "Whether you were him or are his second, you have his memories, his thoughts and feelings. When I look at you, I have no doubt about who you are, Galen." She lifted her free hand and took his other, squeezing it tightly. "Don't be afraid to live now that you're finally free."
She watched his face carefully, looking for any sign that she had gotten through to him. His head was slightly bowed, eyes closed. His brow was furrowed with thought again but, as she looked on, it began to smooth over.
"Galen?" She prompted.
"And, in the future, if we discover that I am a clone, will you…will you have any regrets?"
"What could I possibly regret?" She shook her head, a fond smile breaking out over her face. "For being given a second chance to be with the man I love?" Suddenly it clicked into place. "Is that why you've been distant? Oh, Galen, why didn't you talk to me about this sooner?" Did he really believe she would think him a fraud? A monster?
He flinched, glancing away, confirming her half-formed thoughts.
He shook his head. "-If my emotions feel real, is that enough?"
"They feel real because they are real." She insisted.
"And what if..." He fell silent, looking pained. She was determined to get him through this. Determined to make him see that it didn't matter to her. She had been blessed. He was a gift. A miracle. She wasn't about to let him go again, through despair.
"I love you, Galen." She repeated, tugging on his hands to drag his attention back to her. "Nothing will change that." She was surprised of the vehemence in her tone. "You are you. I don't care what anyone says."
His dark eyes flared open, pupils contracting sharply. The words seemed to stick in his throat and he remembered, with a sudden poignancy, that he had failed to speak them in his previous life. Failed to tell her how he felt before he had faced the Emperor.
He freed a hand from her grasp and she felt the warmth of his fingers stroke up to touch her face. They trembled and she leaned into his palm to settle him.
"Juno. I love you, too. If I'm not sure of anything else, I'm sure of that."
And then they were kissing, slowly and softly at first; more exploratory than passionate. It was an act that they had not had much of a chance to indulge in since being swept up into duty. An act that was still very new.
Juno reached out to touch his face and draw him closer, trying to ignore the moisture against her hand which could only have been from tears. His tears.
She hoped they were tears of relief.
Juno kissed him harder and the passion flared at once. His arms were around her, pressing her close, his breath in her ear as he tried to keep himself from suffocating without breaking away from her. She reached up, catching his lower lip in her teeth and gave a small sound of delight as he opened to her.
How long had she yearned for this moment? A time when it was just him and her, alone, able to give freely of their love without fear of being interrupted or judged. She pulled him closer still, smiling against his mouth as she fought to win the upper hand of this suddenly competitive kiss. He fought back and claimed her – until, of course, he was forced to break apart or faint from lack of oxygen.
The warmth of his mouth drew a line across her jaw, a rush of breath sending tingles down her spine to her toes. With a pleased sound rumbling in the back of her throat, she arched into him, baring her neck as he kissed a line down its pale column. She purred contentedly and he growled in appreciation, moving back to kiss her on the mouth.
Deftly, she leaned away from him, pressing a finger to his slightly pursed lips. Confusion twitched across his features at her sudden rebuke and then deepened at the secretive smile slowly appearing on her face.
And, when he failed to pick up on her signals, she backed away towards the door, drawing him with her by the hand. A little voice in the back of her mind chided her. She had work to do. She was professional and responsible. So...what exactly what she was doing? Fortunately, there was another, louder voice, that encouraged her. It was refreshing. It was...thrilling.
"What are you—?"
She silenced him with an enhanced look - not wanting to give him the opportunity to make her think too long on this and have her change her mind. Her smile widened all the more as she saw the realisation set in on his face. There, now he understood where this was going. She pressed a gentle kiss to his curled fingers and drew him through the open doorway, following the corridor further around to the room she had in mind. A small room with one cot set about with plasteel containers. It was hardly romantic but certainly better than nothing at all.
And was it her or was Galen looking a little flustered?
If she were to hazard a guess, she would say that he had not done this before. After all, when would he have been given the opportunity? He'd been stolen away and kept a secret, unable to be seen by anyone in case word got out about his existence. The only touch he had received before her had been to cause harm and pain. She was so glad that it would be her to show him that it needn't be that way. That a person could be touched lovingly, too.
She backed up into the doorway and he took the opportunity to pin her there, pressing another hot and eager kiss to her pliant mouth. Her hands busied themselves, pulling the shirt free from his belt so that she could run her hands up and over the muscles in his back. They twitched beneath her touch and his kiss increased in fervour. Smiling mischievously, she hit the door activation panel and sent them both tumbling inside.
She hit the bed with a soft 'thwump' and threw her arms around his shoulder to keep him close, hovering above her. Their mouths met again with bruising force and Juno stretched out her toes to hit the panel again, closing the door on the world.
They paused again for breath and she touched the side of his face, tenderly. "Are you okay?" Her words were breathy and light.
He nodded. "I, uh…I've not…"
She silenced him with yet another kiss, sparing him the embarrassment of having to admit his inexperience. "That's fine. I'm not that experienced myself." She'd not exactly spent a night with a man she had ever truly loved before.
They could both learn together.
He was aware, quite suddenly, that this was all he had ever wanted. All he had ever set out to gain. Being able to hold her in his arms; keep her safe. Keep her happy. And there she was; her back snuggled against his chest, her head pillowed on his arm, her bare shoulder tucked beneath his chin. She fitted against him perfectly. As if she belonged there.
The woman of his affections shifted drowsily and his arm tightened instinctively around her.
"Galen?" Her voice was slurred with sleep and he smiled warmly.
"Shh, go back to sleep."
Their recon mission had been officially abandoned, left for PROXY to oversee – though it was not likely the droid would make the next jump without Juno's say so. Odd, really, that the tactless droid hadn't come in search of them. Perhaps he had more tact than he was given credit for.
Juno shifted again in his arms and he placed a kiss against the white-gold of her hair.
He supposed really, the only thing he had to worry about was that another clone would appear out of the blue. A clone much like himself. One that loved Juno with all the intensity that he loved her. What would he do if that happened? If Vader had lied and he was not the only 'success' they had been gifted with. Though…he could hardly be called a success…
Would they fight to the death to win her heart? Would she simply throw her hands up in disgust and want to be rid of them both? It seemed hard to believe that anyone else would hold such feelings for her but...if he was a clone and there had been others before him...what if all of those clones in Kamino held the memories of her love within them?
He swallowed back the sickening feeling the thought brought him and tried to talk himself out of it.
No. That wouldn't be the case. If there was another clone still out there, he'd be alive only because he was what Galen was not. A puppet. A tool of the Dark Side whom Vader could manipulate.
And why should Galen fear such a thing?
"What are you thinking?" Juno sounded more awake this time.
"About you." He spoke, his voice quiet. "About us." A part-truth, he supposed.
"Oh? Do tell."
"When do you think you could get us another recon mission?" He joked, quick off the mark.
She laughed, turning in his arms to face him, the blanket now between them just high enough to keep her modesty. She wriggled closer, pressing herself close, folding her arms around him. "Enjoying yourself, are you?"
"More than I thought." He replied.
"I almost feel like we were set up, you know."
"How do you mean?"
"What's the betting that when we arrive, we find nothing of value at all?" She smiled at that thought. It would be nice to think that someone was looking out for them.
"So, this is the Rebel version of a break?"
"Or matchmaking." She shrugged. "Take your pick."
She smothered a yawn into her hand and, with a smile, he pressed a kiss to her forehead before reluctantly retreating from the warmth of her touch. He did not miss her disappointed and questioning look as he moved to retrieve articles of clothing from where they had been haphazardly discarded.
He could feel her eyes watching him silently as he dressed and, at last, turned his gaze back to her. There was a small smile on her face as she sat up, holding the blanket securely around her. The lack of his warmth had brought goose bumps pimpling across her arms. Tresses of white-blonde hair danced across her shoulders; so pale that it seemed woven from sunlight. He was drawn back to her, running his fingers through its softness, pressing another kiss to the corner of her mouth. Pulling back, he startled at the intensity of the look in her eyes.
"A smile suits you." She spoke after a moment. "Smile more often."
And he was aware of its presence on his face, aware that it was not something he had ever done before meeting her.
"I'm…going to go and check on PROXY and get us on our way."
"Had enough of me already?"
He threw her a mischievous smirk. "I'm just thinking of the journey back, that's all."
She threw a pillow at him as he exited the room, striding up the corridor towards the cockpit with a mood that could only be described as 'at ease'. He had no doubt that there would be bad and difficult times ahead. But, as long as he had Juno, there would always be something worth living for.
"Ah, Master, there you are." PROXY turned to greet Galen as he stepped into the cockpit. "I was beginning to worry that you were not coming back." His photoreceptors seemed to glow more vibrantly.
Galen dropped into the co-pilot seat and leaned across the console, pointing at a small dial set with a blinking, green light. "Are we ready for the jump?"
"The jump has been prepared for approximately 2.45 hours, Master. Juno set the coordinates into the navicomputer herself."
"Better get to it then."
The droid's metallic digits clicked obediently across the console and the ship accelerated smoothly into hyperspace, streams of light passing them by at incredible speed. Galen found himself lost in the dizzying light show. It both horrified and astounded him; this additional layer of space. Another dimension.
The sensation was almost cleansing, feeling suddenly as if he were leaving his troubles behind him.
The galaxy was huge.
Even if there was another clone out there, love-struck and pining, what were the odds of them crossing paths? Unless...unless the other's determination was as strong as his own had been.
He felt the beginnings of a headache and his good mood began to drain away. No. If there was another clone out there; whether evil, good, misguided or manipulated, their paths would cross at some point. Maybe not now. Maybe not tomorrow. But someday...
...If he wasn't killed in action first, of course.
Killed fighting for the Rebels.
The thought should have pleased him, but it didn't. It was certainly ironic that the very rebellion he had started was something he didn't want to be a part of. He remembered Kota's insistence that he turn back from his path to help the Rebels. He had repeatedly told him that he didn't care for the rebellion. That the only thing that mattered to him was Juno. Perhaps, he thought, his part to play in the change of the future was to inspire. Inspire and leave them to lead and fight alone. He couldn't see a place for him among the Rebels. In truth, he struggled to see a place for him anywhere in the galaxy. He did not fit. Did not conform. He walked neither the path of light nor of dark. Certainly he was not a Sith anymore. But who could - hand on heart - call him a Jedi? For, though he respected Kota, he was nothing like the old man. Nothing at all. Galen, for all that he had been through, was a fiery, passionate and emotional individual. He had a temper, he was possessive and selfish, He could not be who Kota wanted him to be. He could not be a selfless knight willing to risk his life for anything other than that which was personally important to him. He could not be that man.
Where was there a place for a Jedi dwindling in the shades of grey?
His face grew solemn.
If it had not been for Kota's subtle guilt-tripping, he probably would have left at the earliest opportunity. Even now he could be tempted by plotting a new course and stealing them all away across space, never to be seen again. But Kota's guilt-tripping was topped by the fact that Galen had become rather fond of him. It was probably accurate to say that he viewed the man as one might view a father. He'd never voiced this, of course, but it was clear for all to see.
Then there was Juno to consider, too, and she was more important than anyone. She seemed...dedicated to the cause and he wasn't sure if he could even begin to convince her to leave the Rebels behind. Not sure if he wanted to. She'd found a place for herself during his absence and what right did he have to take her away from it?
"Please, don't make me leave another life behind."
The memory startled him back to reality and he realised, suddenly, that the droid was staring silently at him.
He flushed, clearing his throat. "Uh, sorry, PROXY, were you saying something?"
The jump through hyperspace had left white streaks in his vision and the feeling of relief brought about by the sharp acceleration through hyperspace had faded, his worries and concerns smothering him again.
"I was just saying, Master, that Juno was right. You do seem different."
"Different?" He felt his face grow hot.
"So, he's no different, even after all that work I put in to cheer him up?" Juno teased, moving across the room and grasping the back of his chair with both hands.
"I do not think your attempt was very successful, Captain." PROXY gave a solemn shake of his head.
"Hmph." She leaned forwards, wrapping her arms around him from behind. "Odd. He seemed alright before he left me."
"Perhaps you need to devise a plan that works long-term." PROXY replied.
Galen felt the sudden desire to sink down in his chair, but Juno's arms constricted around him, keeping him firmly upright. He felt the warmth of her breath on the crook of his neck, replaced by her mouth as she kissed the bared skin there. He swallowed thickly.
"I'll have to think on it." She murmured.
"Stop fussing." He found his voice at last. "I'm fine."
He felt Juno smile against him.
"Would you like to check your co-ordinates for the next jump, Captain?" PROXY continued - thankfully changing the subject.
"Let me check where we are first." Her arms drew away and she moved over to give the droid a nudge. Once vacated, she took her seat and began to look over the reams of complicated data. A moment later and she made a sound of approval. "That was a good jump."
Galen watched as she smoothed loose strands of hair behind her ears and felt a smile curl the corner of his mouth. She turned to meet his gaze and he realised, then, that he did have a place to belong. It was glaringly obvious and he was ashamed to have missed it.
His place was here. At her side. She would lead and he would follow. He couldn't imagine it any other way.