I revised the ending a bit to polish a few things that had been bugging me for a while. Nothing major, just small stuff that had been getting under my collar and irking me. But, it reads much better now. Tal's fight scene is gruffer, and more Boba Fett-like. I wanted him to be more bad ass, since Tess had never seen him fight before. I wanted him to fly into the scene like an old time hero. I also wanted their love scene to be heavier on romance, and less about the mechanics of what they were doing. I've gotten better about writing love scenes since working on "Whatever Happened to Captain Rex?" and used that to improve the ending of this story. Enjoy.




They were both silent as they drove back to the farmhouse. Tal was lost deep in thought. Tess was overwhelmed from the emotions of the day. When they arrived back at the farmhouse, something didn't seem right to Tal. He couldn't quite place what it was, but somehow his danger sense was activated. He wondered if it was just leftover emotions from a draining day. Maybe it was just being back at the battlefield? Seeing the graves of his fallen brothers? Tal shook his head, unsure why he was feeling so uneasy.

The injured clone was stiff again from sitting. Tess helped him up and into the house. He could still smell a hint of Kaliberry pancakes in the main room. Tal thought he would feel happy to be back, but something still didn't feel right.

"I'm going to check the eopies, and then I'll be inside to start dinner. Why don't you take a rest? Do you want me to help you with your armor?"

"Just leave it," he said, sinking down on the couch. After Tess left the room, he sank his head back and closed his eyes. But, after just a few seconds, his eyes popped back open again. Something just didn't feel right. His ingrained clone danger sense was still flagging him.

Tal closed his eyes again, but this time he had no intention of resting. He was tuning in to all of his keen senses and trying to get a sense for what it was his body was trying to tell him. Awareness hit him and his eyes snapped back open. It was too kriffin' quiet. The injured clone had gotten used to the sounds of the farm over the past week. Now, the eopies weren't making any noises.

Tal pushed up off the couch, ignoring the protests of his ribs. He worked his way into the kitchen, and flipped on the video relay he'd once seen OneOne use to communicate with Tess.

His heart stopped cold at what he saw.

# # #

Tess was cursing herself that she hadn't brought one of the blasters with her.

Fierfek! She always carried those things with her on her rounds around the farm these days, and the one day she forgets to bring it, he shows up again.

Dirk's breath was fetid as he pushed up against the barn wall.

"You haven't come into town in the longest time," Dirk said, pressing himself closer to her, "no one has seen you. I was starting to get a bit worried, Tess."

Tess could tell he had been drinking. Normally his disgusting advances did not get this bold.

"So, I said to myself: 'Dirk, you would be remiss in your duties as a Kali citizen if you did not go check on that poor lonely girl Tess. After all, you two have been friends since you was just little kids and all. So, here I am!'"

Tess tried to push Dirk off of her, but he was much too heavy for her.

"Dirk, we're both 25. Honestly, that hardly qualifies me as a 'girl.' Just go home, OK? You're drunk," Tess pushed against him again, trying to dislodge him.

Dirk leered, "Oh, yes, Tess. Keep doing that. I do like it when you grind against me like that. Uh huh…" He shoved his hips up against her. "Did you like that?"

Tess gritted her teeth in annoyance. This was about the worst she had seen Dirk. He had never been this physically forceful. "Go home, Dirk, or I swear I'll call the authorities. No, I'll call your father. Shab! I'm calling both of them if you don't get out of here right now." Tess tried to stomp her foot for emphasis, but her drunken neighbor was was in such close proximity that she couldn't even move her legs.

Her movements just encouraged Dirk to squeeze himself up against her even more.

"Now that is not being very neighborly, Tess. I came all this way just to come check on you."

"Dirk! No! I said leave!" Tess tried once again to push him off of her. She felt panic begin to well up when she realized that this time he wasn't going to take 'no' for an answer.

"But, I just got here!" Dirk rubbed himself closer. "Come on, Tess. You know you want me. Let's have some fun!"

"No! Dirk, I've never wanted you. Go home!"

With disgust, Tess could feel that Dirk was heavily aroused. Her efforts to push him off were just exciting him even more.

"I like it when you get feisty!" Dirk said, pressing his mouth down on hers. He began pulsating his hips against hers and groaning. Tess pounded her fists against his chest to no avail.

"Get off of me!" Tess shouted.

"You want me," Dirk said, reaching down to free himself from his pants, "I know you do." He unbuckled his belt, and began tugging down his underpants.

"NO!" Tess shouted, "get off of-"

Suddenly, Tess felt the weight of Dirk being lifted off of her. A moment later, she heard the distinctive sound of a bone cracking followed by Dirk's high-pitched scream.

"Tal," Tess whispered in astonishment.

Faster than her eye could follow, her nemesis had been pinned to the ground with this arm bent behind his head at an awkward angle.

"AHHHHH! MY ARM!" Dirk screamed.

Tal was upon Dirk like a fury. The clone's armored fists and elbows were hammered into Dirk with lightning-fast accuracy. Within seconds, the drunken man was crumpled up into a ball shouting out in pain.

The former soldier showed no mercy as he continued to strike. Tess watched stunned, seeing Tal's fight for the first-time. With just one good hand, the clone cracked Dirk's nose with a palm strike. Pinning his victim down with an armored knee, Tal proceeded to crack ribs using his armored elbow. At that point, the clone stopped, breathing heavily. His hand was now poised above Dirk's windpipe, palm-strike down, ready to deliver a killing blow.

"Say the word, Tess," Tal said, his voice low and deep.

Dirk began whimpering, "Please- don't…."

Tess stared back and forth between Tal and Dirk. After taking a moment to recover from the shock of how quickly everything had happened, Tess blinked and began considering the question. She crossed her arms and glared at Dirk. "I don't know. He has been a thorn in my side for a long time..." She chewed on her lip, as if giving the matter deep thought.

"Better to just kill him then," Tal growled.

"WAIT!" Dirk said, "I'll never come here again!" Dirk blathered around his profusely bleeding nose. "I'm sorry! I'm so sorry, Tess! I didn't mean it!"

The clone snorted at this, and glared down at the man pinned down underneath him, "Be easier just to kill you," he intoned, in a flat-deadly voice, leaning even closer to his victim.

"Who are you?" Dirk whispered, in absolute terror.

"I'm with Tess," Tal said, in a deep husky voice. He said it in such a possessive tone that the young Kalisimmons farmers felt a thrill go straight through her stomach. Suddenly, she wanted nothing more than some alone time with Tal.

"Just get him out of here," Tess said, narrowing her eyes at Dirk.

"Up," Tal hissed, in a cold voice that brokered no argument.

Dirk struggled to comply, staggering to his knees. Suddenly, he began vomiting. His attention diverted, Tess helped Tal up without Dirk noticing.

"You, OK?" Tess whispered.

Tal nodded, and mouthed, "Good. You?"

Tess nodded.

Dirk finished vomiting, and began moaning. Tal went and grabbed a pitchfork. The drunken man stared at the clone and screamed in terror.

Tal rolled his eyes, and stabbed the pitchfork into the ground by Dirk's feet, "Clean that up." He pointed to the mess on the ground.

"My… arm…" Dirk babbled.

Tal drew his blaster with lightning speed, and pushed it between the drunken man's eyes. "I'm giving you three seconds. Count with me. Three… two…"

"I'll clean it up!" Dirk screamed in a high-pitched voice.

Tal took a step back, but kept his blaster drawn with unwavering intensity. With a shaking hand, Dirk clumsily shoveled the messed hay off to the side. Tal gestured for him to put the pitchfork away with the other tools.

Dirk did so, blood dripping from his bleeding nose, and then turned to face Tal and Tess, "I… just want to go home!" he wailed.

Once again moving with lightning speed and accuracy, Tal was on Dirk. He grabbed the thumb on Dirk's unbroken arm and jerked it backwards.

"No! No more!" Dirk wailed.

Tal shook his head in disgust, again, "I'm just helping you outside," he grumbled. He tugged Dirk outside, easily leading him just by his bent thumb. With one final shove, he tossed the drunken man into his speeder.

"Ever plan on coming out here again?" Tal growled, as Dirk struggled to sit up and find the controls.

"No- no- never," staggered out Dirk.

"Good!" Tal smacked Dirk on the back in mock cheerfulness, "because I have many, many brothers. It would be a shame if I would have to send a few of them after you!"

Dirk turned completely pale, as recognition dawned. He stared at Tal's armor, "You're a clone!"

Tal stood back, crossing his arms across his chest, "Well, well, well…you're not as dumb as you look, Dirk."

"But, but, you all left!" Dirk protested.

Tal leaned forward and got right into the drunken man's face, "Maybe they left a few of us behind to keep an eye on the locals."

Dirk totally paled, "There… are… more of you?" he gasped.

Tal gave the man an evil grin, "We're everywhere. We're clones. There are millions of us."

Dirk looked like he was about to pass out.

"Go," Tal whispered to the terrified man, "and never speak of this to anyone."

"No, never!" Dirk shrieked and nearly ran into the barn in his terrified haste to leave the farm.

# # #

"Wow. Nicely done," Tess said, stepping out from the shadows of the barn.

Tal immediately made his way to her side, and his eyes scanned her face. Then, he looked her up and down, "Are you sure you're OK? Do you want to go inside and lie down?"

Tess laughed, and shook her head, "Well, this is a switch. If I go lie down, will you make me broth?"

The clone's brow lined with confusion, "Make you brother? Tess, I don't know how to make…. "

He caught sight of the farmer's gentle, teasing smile. "Ah…. So, you really are OK?" He blew out a long breath, "Tess, when I saw him with his hands on you-" Tal's unbroken hand clenched into a fist, and his jaw clenched. His body began to tremble with barely suppressed rage.

"Shhhhhh…." Tess soothed. She gently wrapped her arms around Tal's waist, and gently laid her head against his chest. She was careful of his injured ribs and back.

Tal tucked his chin down and rested it down on the farm girl's head.

"Tess," he said, simply, breathing out.

They stayed like that for a long moment, simply holding each other in the moonlight outside the barn.

Tess eventually led out a contented sigh and then reached a hand up to run it through Tal's hair. She turned his head so she could seek out his lips.

The kiss started gently, a careful exploration in the moonlight. But, it quickly began to progress into something hungry and eager.

Tal broke it off and pulled back.

"What's wrong?" Tess asked, looking up at him with concerned eyes, still slightly glazed over with the passion from their kissing.

The clone shook his head, "Tess, after what happened tonight, are you sure… you want… If we keep kissing like this…" His face flushed, and he had difficulties finishing the sentence. He looked away, and refused to meet Tess' eyes.

"Yes, I'm sure," Tess leaned up and kissed Tal on the lips gently and reassuringly, "but, thank you for asking." She looked up at him in wonder, "It's amazing that you did, actually."

Tal looked at her in confusion, trying to figure out what he did that was so amazing.

Tess just laughed again, thinking that was the best part about Tal. He could be so incredible and it was all such a natural part of him. "Come on." She tugged on his hand, and began leading him toward the house.

Tal stopped, and twisted around, "But… the eopies… don't we need…"

Tess shook her head, "Not tonight. The eopies will just have to do without for a night. This is our night."

The clone whooped, startling Tess, "Hah! I finally win out over the eopies!"

She put her arm around his waist, as they made their way to the house, "Uh huh. And, what in all of Kali was that about?"

Tal flushed, "Just an eopie thing."

# # #

"Are you hungry?" Tess asked when they entered the house.

"Well, always," Tal admitted, "but, I don't think I could eat now knowing that we're going to…. uh…" he flushed, turned red, and wouldn't meet Tess' eyes again.

Now that they were in the house, and the full reality of what they were about to do hit Tess, she flushed, too. "Yeah, uh, me neither."

An awkward silence ensued, and they both just stood there in the middle of the darkened living room. Tess noticed Tal was watching her intently. Finally, he spoke.

"Tess," he said softly, "are you sure about… this? We don't need… to….Maybe waiting… would be better?" He began rubbing her arms gently. He still had his armored gloves on, and the sensation of his rough gloves felt odd over her farm coat.

Tess shook her head, "No, Tal. This is what I want…" she looked up and met his eyes. "You are what I want… I'm just nervous." She laughed, and then admitted, "I've never done this before."

Tal laughed then, too, "That makes two of us, Tess."

"Really?" Tess breathed out a long sigh of relief.

Tal rolled his eyes, "Well, when would I have ever… if I've never met any…" he shrugged, and shook his head. "Never mind. So…. uh…" He had no idea how to proceed.

Tess lifted up one of Tal's hands and noticed he had some blood on the hand he'd used in his fight with Dirk. "Are you OK?"

"Not mine," Tal said, flexing his hand, "I'm fine."

"Yuck," Tess said, wrinkling her nose.

"I can go clean my armor," Tal immediately offered.

Tess' eyes immediately lit up, "How about a shower?"

"With my armor?" Tal's brow furrowed with confusion.

"No," Tess laughed at how literally her clone always took things. She gave him a smile, full of promise, and his eyes widened as recognition dawned.

# # #

Tal gulped audibly as Tess undressed him in the refresher. As the last piece of his armor was stacked beside him, Tal stood in front of Tess, naked, except for the bandages covering his chest and hand. His honey brown eyes gazed intently into hers, waiting, for her next move.

Tess took a step back, and her gaze swept up and down him, appreciatively. She'd seen him unclothed before while helping care for him but now after having seen him fight so spectacularly the room seemed filled with his masculine presence.

She studied the man in front of her from head to toe, truly appreciating his fine build, "You're beautiful, Tal," Tess breathed.

Tal shook his head, "I think I'm supposed to say that to you."

"No, you were right. You are perfect."

Tal quirked an eyebrow at that, "No pressure, though, then, huh? You're going to give me performance anxiety."

"Performance anx-" Tess sputtered, and burst out laughing.

Tal shook his head, "And, now she laughs at me. I believe you have insulted my honor, Tess. There needs to be some sort of payback for that…"

Using those quick reflexes that amazed Tess so much, Tal reached behind him flicked on the water, then gripped the surprised farmer and tossed her into the refresher fully dressed.

"Tal!" she shrieked, as the water soaked her clothing.

Tal followed her into the refresher, grinning. "Yes?" his face was a complete mask of innocence.

"You are in so much trouble," Tess said, her eyes narrowed. But, as the water streamed down around Tal's short-cropped hair, and the steam gathered around his muscular frame, she lost her train of thought.

Tal seemed similarly distracted as he noticed how Tess looked with her clothes plastered to her skin. She'd already discarded her heavy coat and shoes. Her shirt was sticking to her skin, and outlining every curve of her slim frame. Her pants now clung to her slim waist.

Tal's jaw dropped, and then he simply murmured, "Kriff."

His good hand reached out to trace the neckline of her shirt, and Tess shivered.

"You look so good, Tess," Tal murmured, and she could hear the absolute sincerity behind his impassioned declaration. Then, he gripped her by the back of her wet shirt and pulled her against him.

His mouth descended upon hers, and he was completely lost in the sensation of kissing his fruit farmer. As the kiss deepened, his good hand began to work at the buttons on Tess' shirt.

Impatient, Tess reached up with both hands and simply ripped the shirt up and over her head, temporarily interrupting their kiss.

"Sorry," she said, grinning, as she threw the wet shirt to the floor of the refresher, with a resounding 'thwop,' "but the shirt just had to go."

"No argument here," Tal said. "Although, I did like the way you looked in it." He took in the sight of Tess in her bra, the water streaming over her chest. No sooner had his eyes adjusted to the sight than Tess had stripped the garment off. Tal suddenly found it difficult to breathe, but, in a good way. He'd seen holos of naked women, but nothing could compare him to this reality. "Whoa, Tess…. wow."

Tess looked up and met his eyes, and tentatively smiled. "I'm going to finish getting undressed, OK? These pants are starting to weigh a kilo. I don't want to drown in here," she teased.

"I'd save you," Tal said.

His voice was teasing, but Tess knew from his performance earlier that evening that he would save her. Just that reminder alone filled her with all manner of emotions as she stripped off her sodden pants. She slid her underwear off her hips, and dropped them into the discarded pile of clothes. Tess lifted her eyes to Tal's. The intensity in his gaze was scorching.

"Tess," he breathed again, and ran his good hand down her side, along her hip.

She shivered from the sensation.

"I can't believe how you look," the clone shook his head, "I never imagined…" his gaze swept up and down her body, heating her up with its' intensity. "So incredible."

Tess just had to kiss Tal after that, and she quickly learned that naked kissing in the shower was just as incredible as kissing Tal in the moonlight. Perhaps… even slightly more so…

Tess grabbed the soap, and started by washing Tal's arms, chest and hands. Then, she soaped up his hips. Tal sucked in his breath, and felt his member, already erect from the prolonged kissing, jerk in surprise. Tess took a deep breath, eyed that part of him, and tentatively brushed a hand across it. Tal moaned.

Tess looked up at him in concern, "Are you OK?"

Tal nodded, his voice strained, "Yes…go on… please."

Encouraged, Tess rubbed the soap onto Tal. He gasped, and then hissed out softly, "Tess…"

Tess smiled, pleased with her newfound power, and ran the soap all the way up and down its' length.

"OK, that's clean enough!" Tal said, grabbing the soap from her, and pulling her back up for a kiss. As the kiss deepened, Tess opened up her mouth slightly, and felt Tal's tongue lightly touch up against hers. She gasped at the new sensation. She wrapped her arms him, careful of his ribs, but eager for more of the feel of his body against hers.

As Tal's mouth continued to prod against hers, she felt his member pressing against her lower body. She wanted more, but didn't know if they could accomplish it in the shower. After more intense minutes of kissing and pressing, they paused for a moment's rest, just gazing at each other with a kind of amazed wonder.

"We should probably move to the bed," Tess said, her head lying up against her clone's wet shoulder.

"No," came the reply from the muscled shoulder beneath her head.

Tess looked at him in surprise.

"I didn't get to wash you," Tal gave her a charming grin, and grabbed the soap. "Turn around." He made a hand gesture, indicating that she should turn.

He soaped her back, working in a gentle massage with it. She moaned as he continued to knead her muscles.

"I need to do this for you, all the time, after all you've helped me," Tal vowed.

"Tal, that isn't necessary," Tess said, her voice slightly slurred and drowsy from contentment, as he continued to knead her back. Then, she began to giggle, as Tal's hands continued on down and began to knead her buttocks. "You are most thorough."

"Oh, I'm not done," Tal murmured, his hands began to dip still lower.

Tess sucked in her breath in anticipation. No man had ever touched her there before.

Tal's hand slowly, and tantalizingly worked its way around to the front. Tess gasped as Tal began stroking her intimately. The clone watched all of his lover's reactions carefully. He touched her gently, prodding, and exploring. As he began to press on more sensitive areas, she moaned and leaned against him, breathing hitched. Tal used his hands to imitate the intimate act he hoped they would soon be doing together. When she moaned out load, he grinned with manly satisfaction at what he'd accomplished.

The water in the shower was beginning to cool to an uncomfortable level. Tal wondered if he should just shut the water off, or if they should-

"Tal, the bed," Tess implored, looking up at him, with passion evident in her eyes.

The clone reached back and shut off the water. The air in the room was cool, and Tess began to shiver.

Tal reached behind her and grabbed a towel. With swift expert strokes, he dried off the upper portions of his fruit farmer, giving special attention to her breasts. He tried to bend down to dry the rest of her, but sucked in his breath as pain hit his healing ribs.

"Tal," Tess admonished, pushing him back up gently, "easy."

Tal nodded, putting a bracing hand against his ribs. Tess dashed the towel hurriedly against her legs, and then turned her attention to drying off Tal. She took her time, thoroughly enjoying rubbing the towel up against his muscular frame. Tess could feel Tal's heated gaze upon her the entire time she was rubbing the towel against him.

"Enough," Tal finally growled, ripping the towel from her fingertips, and roughly putting it back it it's magni-holder.

Tess shivered again, partially from standing in the cold room, but also from anticipation about what they were about to do.

"It will be warm in the bed," she whispered, nodding her head to indicate they should head to the room next door, her bedroom.

"Yes, definitely."

Tess looked at him for a moment, "Oh, so you're already proud of your male prowess, are you?"

He gave her a confident smile, and then just pulled her up against him. He locked his hands behind her buttocks, and just let their bodies touch. She gasped as she felt his hard member prodding against her. He slyly arched an eyebrow, and looked at her.

Tess shook her head, "Incorrigible." She grabbed his hand, and led him to the bedroom, "Come on."

Tal grinned, and followed her into her bedroom. He looked around the room, but then decided he'd familiarize himself with it later. Right now, he was more concerned with the bed. Tess had already climbed under the covers. Tal followed her under. He wrapped his little farmer tightly in his arms, just as he had the night before when she was chilled. He held her for a long moment, while they warmed up. It just felt nice to hold her, especially when they were both naked. But, he was erect, and it wasn't long before simply holding her just wasn't enough.

The clone pushed Tess onto her back. He started by nuzzling her neck. She giggled. Then, he began running light kisses up and down her face. Suddenly, Tal stopped.

"Why'd you stop?" Tess asked, a bit breathless.

Tal looked into her eyes, "Did I thank you for saving my life?" he asked, his eyes heavily lidded with arousal.

"Yes, actually, you did. Several times, already," Tess replied, both amused and touched.

Tal nodded, and resumed kissing her. He worked his way down to her chest, and began exploring them with both his hands and his mouth. He quickly decided that he liked breasts very much.

"Tal," Tess breathed, restlessly.

"Mmmmm?" Tal replied, his mouth full for the moment.

"Tal," she groaned, gripping his buttocks, restlessly, and rubbing her body up against his, "enough of this."

"Enough of what?" he teased.

"Tal!" Tess said, frustrated, and gripping his erect member to get his attention.

"Tess!" he responded, eyes wide.

She began stroking him, noticing his reaction, seeing it worked just as it had in the shower. He gasped, and shivered. She began to increase her pace.

"Enough, Tess!" Tal pulled her hand away, "or, I won't last!"

"Last? What are you saving it for? Come on, then!" She grabbed his member and guided it toward her entrance. Tess positioned her body, encouraging him on.

"You sure you're ready for this?" Tal looked into Tess' eyes, giving her one last chance to back out.

"Tal!" Tess said, impatiently, "I swear, if you don't-"

Tal cut her off with a kiss, and drove his shaft into her entrance. Tess cried out as he penetrated her. He stopped once he had made the initial penetration, giving her time to adjust to his size. She froze up from the pain of the initial joining.

Tal stared down at her, "Are you sure you're OK, Tess? Should I-" he began to pull back.

Tess shook her head, "No. It's fine. I was just a bit startled. It burns a bit. I wasn't expecting that."

Tal looked devastated, "I'm sorry, Tess. I didn't mean to hurt you-"

The little farmer cut off his protestations by grinding her lips to his. She kept kissing him until both of them forgot what it is they had been talking about, and both of their bodies began to relax again. The pain faded away for Tess, and she found that she wanted to move.

She reached her hands back, and gripped Tal's firm muscular buttocks. His strong hips thrust into her with swift confident movements. Tess could feel their kisses building up, just as they had in the shower. She heard Tal moan with pleasure, and felt great feminine satisfaction that she could please him so much. She felt pressure building within herself, and the pace of their kissing grew more frantic.

"Kriff, Tess, so amazing," Tal groaned, his hips began sliding into her even faster, and she could feel sweat building up between them.

"Tess!" Tal shuddered. Tess felt herself build to a climax and explode. She cried out, and then lay back, completely spent.

Tal looked over at her, smiling, and breathing heavily, "Hey, when I catch my breath, do you want to do that again?"

# # #

Tal picked up on the rhythm of working on the farm like he had been born to Kalisimmon farming. Tess shook her head in wonder some days, surprised that this man who worked the land so well had been created for the sole purpose of fighting. They worked side-by-side in the orchards, and tending to the upkeep on the farmstead. Tal got along surprisingly well with the eopies. Soon, the domesticated beasts preferred him over Tess.

"Ungrateful beasts," Tess told them, playfully sticking her tongue out at the traitorous eopies.

A nightly shower, lovemaking, and watching HNN before dozing off became a comfortable nightly routine for the new couple. It was a warm sticky evening, after a heavy rainfall, and Tal had already fallen asleep after putting in an extra long day on the farm. Tess was still up, watching the news on HNN. Suddenly, the big news story broke…

"Tal," Tess' voice was tinged with a sort of nervous curiosity. The slumbering clone beside her was instantly awake and alert. The pretty farmer pointed to the screen. "Something big is going on in Coruscant."

Two over-excited HNN reporters were going back and forth reporting about the kidnapping of the Chancellor, and speculation about an impending Separatist invasion of the planet. As they watched the spectacle unfold, with a sort of morbid fascination, the Chancellor was rescued. But, the anticipated invasion and battle also unfolded and the planet was under siege.

Tal watched the battle scenes with a grim intensity, as the HNN cameras captured shot of shot of Republic fighters engaged in battles with droid fighters.

"Do you feel like you should be there?" Tess asked softly, leaning into Tal supportively.

"Yes," Tal admitted, "I see my brothers fighting, and dying. I'm not there with them. I don't know. I…" He blew out a breath, and just shook his head.

Tess hugged him tightly and just held him. As daylight broke, she got up and made them a strong pot of tea. They continued to watch the events unfold together, but neither of them was hungry for breakfast.

The most surreal news came hours later… Tess and Tal just stared at the screen in disbelief as they learned that the Jedi had unsuccessfully tried to overthrow the Chancellor, and had been 'put down' by the military.

"Order 66," Tal muttered, his brow furrowed in puzzlement, "I never thought…"

As they watched the news coverage of clone troops marching into the temple, and then the Jedi Temple burning, the couple was completely silent.

Tal finally left the room, without saying anything, and headed to the barn. He stayed there for hours, sitting alone with the eopies. As the former soldier stared around the barn, he puzzled over everything he'd seen on HNN.

He hadn't much cared for General Dayu. But, he still felt saddened to learn the Jedi were gone. It somehow felt odd, not quite right, to be living in a galaxy without Jedi. Tal couldn't explain the feeling, because he didn't fully understand it. Something just felt all wrong somehow.

He was subdued for days, and didn't want to talk about it with Tess. His little farmer gave him space, and let him work through it.

For the first time since they'd become a couple, Tal didn't want to make love at night. He began sleeping on the couch in the living room, staying up until all hours watching news of the newly formed "Empire" on HNN.

After they finished their work on the farm during the day, Tal began taking the speeder and heading over to the clone gravesite. Tess always offered to accompany him, but the former soldier just shook his head.

Tess tried not to let her hurt show. She missed Tal. She missed their relationship. She missed the way things used to be with them. This moody silence was awful, and she couldn't bear much more of it.

One morning, a few days later, she awoke early. Her stomach was roiling. She tried to make it to the refresher, but only got as far as the sink. She held on to the sides of the sink, as her stomach emptied itself. Suddenly, there were soothing hands rubbing her back.

She felt Tal's hand reach for her forehead, and check for a fever. She shook her head. "I don't think I have a fever. I'm alright," she said. She reached forward to turn on the sink, and clean up the mess.

Tal's hand covered hers, stopping her. "Lie down. You're sick," his voice was concerned.

"No, Tal, it's OK," she looked down in consternation at the mess in the sink, "I'll clean this up. You don't have to-"

Before she could get in another word of protest, Tal had lifted her into his arms and carried her back to bed. He tucked her in and kissed her on the forehead.

"Rest," he admonished, his eyes still concerned.

Tess felt a tear trickle down her cheek.

"Are you crying?" Tal looked stricken, "Is it because you're sick?"

Tess shook her head, and whispered, "I just missed you."

The clone hung his head down, "I'm sorry."

Tess reached up, putting one finger gently under his chin to push his head back up, "You don't need to apologize. I just missed you. When you completely held yourself back from me over the past few days, it was hard because I was missing the best thing in my life."

"Me?" Tal looked surprised.

Tess nodded, "Yes, you."

"The sink can wait," Tal climbed gently over Tess, and settled into bed next to her, "and the eopies can wait, too." He pulled Tess down onto his chest, and began gently stroking her hair. Tess sighed in contentment. "Just let me know if you want to hurl again, OK? So, I can at least grab a bin or something."

Tess laughed, "Actually, I feel fine now. I don't know what that was, but it's gone now."

"Huh," Tal murmured, "strange." He kept stroking her hair, and then his hand strayed down to her buttocks, giving them a playful squeeze, "So, you're feeling better? How much better are you feeling?"

# # #

"So, I was thinking, Tal," Tess murmured, over a mouthful of Kalisimmon pancakes. Tal never seemed to tire of them, so Tess had just gotten used to making them with great frequency. "Once the harvest is in, we'll have some free time."

"Free time, eh?" Tal murmured, reaching under the table to squeeze her thigh.

"Yes, Tal," Tess rolled her eyes, "more time for that, but I was also thinking of something else."

Tal's fork, completely overloaded with pancakes drenched in syrup, froze halfway to his mouth, looked at her, puzzled, "What do you mean?"

"I'd like to take a trip to Argamon," Tess said, studying Tal carefully for a reaction.

Tal sucked in a breath deeply, and placed down the bite of food without eating it. "Why would you want to go to Argamon? Trust me, there's nothing to see there. I've been there. That's where Cooper got left-" Tal's eyes got wide.

Tess just waited patiently while he worked it out.

"You mean, go look for Cooper?" Tal said the words quietly, disbelievingly, almost reverently. "But, Tess, that was months ago. The odds of him being alive are…" Tal just shook his head, not even sure how to calculate such odds.

Tess shrugged, "Said by a person who was dropped out of a gunship."

Tal just stared at her. Tess remained quiet, giving Tal time to think. He was quiet for several long moments.

"Odds are, we wouldn't find anything," he said, stubbornly, working through scenario after scenario

Tess remained quiet, giving Tal the space he needed. She could see the change in him, the point at which he'd made a decision.

"And? Should I find someone to watch the herd?" she asked, reaching over to hold one of his hands.

"We're going," Tal said, gripping her hand. "Tess… I… this..." the ex-soldier struggled for words, "…thank you." The last words were whispered. Their eyes met and a healing sort of energy passed between them. As he embraced the woman he'd married just a short while ago, the clone was reassured by the bump of her belly, pressing into him. He released a breath, closed his eyes, and knew in that moment that he'd no longer been left behind.

# # #

Author's Notes: Any interest in a sequel? Left Behind II? Tal's best friend, Cooper, the medic, was left behind on Agamar. Last time Tal heard from him, his position was about to be overrun by a whole mess of droids and he was presumed.

Updated: November 10, 2014. Thank you for all the feedback re: a sequel. Left Behind II is well under way and will be launching soon.