~* Reasons to Live For *~
Epilogue II – Five Years Later
Ka'ra's hair, despite Ordo's astute predictions, did not turn blonde.
Instead, it shimmered a raven black under the winter sun as she ran through snow and veshok woods, calling out to Kad as she went. Her laugh rang out between the trees, and Ordo found himself laughing with her as Kad's snowball hit the trunk of a tree she was sheltering behind, showering snow into her long braid. She shook her head and snow went flying like confetti; then she gathered a handful of snow and took off after Kad.
Corr and Jilka had been looking after her for the morning, giving Ordo and Besany some much-needed time together. But he'd been away too long; he'd missed his little girl. She and Kad were quite the pair now. Not even the harsh winter weather could stop their games.
As her dark head bobbed in and out of view between the long tree trunks, Ordo's laugh faded into a quiet smile of contentment. He heard footsteps approaching him, boots crunching in the snow, and moments later Besany's arm snaked through his. She watched Ka'ra for a moment, then gave a soft laugh, her breath swirling in the frozen air.
"You were wrong, you know."
Ordo glanced at her. "About what?"
"Her hair," Besany smiled, turning to wrap both her arms around his waist. "You were so convinced it would go blonde…"
Ordo laughed. "You remind me of this every day."
"It's the only time you've ever been wrong." Besany said. "The occasion deserves some kind of mark." She turned to look after Ka'ra again, and Ordo watched her eyes light up with her smile. One day, he would have enough courage to tell her that he was the luckiest man alive. He found himself grinning uncontrollably, and Besany looked at him inquisitively.
"What's so funny?"
"Not funny," Ordo said, and tried to wipe the majority of the smile off his face. She raised an eyebrow at his attempts, and he lowered his voice so he could murmur in her ear. "Just happy."
She blushed, which he found quite attractive in amongst the white surroundings. He hadn't quite managed to get her to wear beskar'gam, but she had certainly become more comfortable with Mandalorian lifestyle as the years had gone on. She hadn't objected to having Ka'ra raised as a Mandalorian, anyway. She'd seemed rather pale about the blaster training, but she hadn't said anything, and Ordo himself had been a little ill at ease that day. But they were surrounded by family here, and that was a comforting feeling. They all looked out for each other. Ordo kissed the junction of her jaw and neck, where her pulse beat, her skin hot and soft in the cold, harsh afternoon, and her blush deepened.
He smiled. Then she kissed him, and his arms wrapped around her as her lips spread warmth through his body, the kind of warmth that pooled low in his gut and tingled at his fingertips. He traced a line down her jaw with his finger softly, then sought the warmth at the base of her skull with his hand, his thumb lightly skimming her earlobe. She kissed him harder then, and he pulled her flush against him as her hands slid down his chest plate, and then came to rest on his belt. He pulled back for air, and she turned her head to kiss his hand, smiling.
"You know," she said, wrapping her arms around his middle again. "If we had more time…"
Ordo caught a flash of black and red in his peripherals; Ka'ra approaching, and kissed Besany once more. "We have all the time in the galaxy now, cyar'ika," he said, as Ka'ra bounded into his arms, laughing. "We don't need to worry about that any more." He held his daughter up on his shoulders as they turned back to the bastion, Kad by Besany's side.
Yes, Uthan had been good for one thing, it seemed. That, and curing Mij of his broken heart. The two doctors had found more than common ground and enhanced gene sequences in her lab. Etain met them at the doors, and Kad ran up to meet her.
"I hope you're all hungry, because Laseema's been very busy in the kitchen, and it smells fantastic." She kissed Kad on the forehead, and he wrinkled his nose at her. Ka'ra giggled.
Unexpectedly, stirring the still winter's air, the drives of ship whined overhead and then a small ship Ordo hadn't seen before came into view over the trees, before making for the landing-space they'd cleared for the aliit's assorted collection of ships. Ordo, immediately on guard, took Ka'ra off his shoulders. Besany took her, and they shared a look. Ka'ra frowned.
"Stay here," he kissed her on the cheek. "I'll be right inside."
It was a message to Besany to take her inside, but Besany either didn't understand or purposefully ignored it. She stood in the doorway, Ka'ra's hand in hers, both of them staring after him with the same dark eyes as he approached the ship cautiously. Mereel appeared from around the other side of the bastion, followed closely by Kal. Ordo stopped a safe distance from the ship – safe for him, anyway – and drew his sidearm. Maze came to stop next to him, and they shared a look, before aiming at the hatch. Kal waved his arms at Ordo, shouting.
"Stand down, ad'ike. It's Vau."
Ordo holstered his blaster, and turned to give a thumbs-up to Besany and Ka'ra. Then he looked back at the ship as the hatch opened and Vau came out, his black beskar'gam falling like a shadow on the white blanket of snow. He took his helmet off and clasped Kal's arm, Mando -style.
"I hope you don't mind, Kal, but I've brought a few friends…"
Ordo stopped in his tracks. Peering out of the hatch and looking out-of-place in civilian clothes, and cold, were three faces he recognised as well as his own. Because they were his own, or as close to his own as they could get.
The squad sergeant always made the first move to lead his men, and in typical army fashion, Boss stepped out into the snow first.
He was followed by Fixer, Scorch and Sev.
Oh, I can't wait to hear this story…
Maze raised an eyebrow, bringing back memories from the war where he'd stood behind Zey's desk, memories of meetings and arguments and military euphemisms, memories Ordo felt were almost from another life. He watched as Delta – or what used to be Delta, because if they were here they weren't Delta anymore – formed a line, feet shoulder-width apart, hands clasped behind their backs. It was so military. Ordo almost felt sorry for them; they looked as close to terrified as he'd ever seen them. Kal gave each one of them a hug, slapping them on the back. When he reached Sev, he patted his cheek. Sev flinched.
"How have you been, son?"
It was reflex, Ordo knew Kal didn't see Delta as his sons – yet – but it still made Ordo move protectively to Kal's side.
Sev's eyes flickered from Ordo to Kal. "It's a long story, sarge."
"Well, don't call me 'sarge' any more, but we've got time." Ordo noticed Besany and Ka'ra coming to join the party. Besany must have overheard the last few sentences of speech.
"Don't you think they'd rather get warm first, Kal?" she asked. Ka'ra stared at Delta with wide eyes for a moment, and then turned to Ordo.
"More uncles, buir?"
Ordo could practically feel the realisation sinking in; Delta weren't stupid. One day, he'd explain everything to his daughter, about the war and the clones and why they were here. But until she could understand, he was happy to let her believe what she wanted to. He picked her up.
"Not exactly, cyar'ika." He looked at Besany, and she gave a half-shrug. "Not exactly."
The troupe trudged through the snow into the bastion, and Delta's arrival caused quite a stir over a late lunch; Omega curious and glad to see their friends alive and throwing question after question in their direction, about Sev and the Imperial Army and how they'd left. Despite the new intake, Laseema had managed to make enough food for everyone – just. Delta, despite their unfamiliar surroundings and unsure future, were still as hungry. Ordo wondered when Kal would get Uthan to reverse the ageing process on them, too.
They kept stealing glances at Kad and Ka'ra, it seemed. Perhaps the idea of a clone fathering a child had never occurred to them before. If it had, this would no doubt be the first time they would have seen one up close.
Later, Vau, Kal, Ordo and Mereel convened outside, just as the sun had set and the sky was darkening.
"Enacca did some scouting on Kashyyyk and managed to locate Sev's last known location eventually," Vau said, turning away from the wind. "The war changed the landscape drastically. Anyway, I went down when she said she'd found something, and we scoped the area. Getting around the Imperial occupation was harder than we thought."
"But you found him." Kal said.
Vau nodded. "Yes. He was barely alive, but my boys, they know how to survive." It was the closest thing to pride Ordo had ever seen Vau express. "We bundled him into a shuttle and fed him up again on Coruscant, down in an apartment a young lady here let us use. Shabend of nowhere, but the presence of a Mando and a Wookiee was easily ignored. When we told Delta we'd found him, they wanted out."
"I think," Mereel said, looking over his shoulder, back into the building. "I think they're still trying to figure out if they belong here."
"Well, they're here," Kal shrugged. "And that means four more men saved. Time to get their ageing fixed. Otherwise they'll eat us out of the place in no time…"
As Vau and Kal headed back indoors, Besany came up behind Ordo and put her arms around him. He kissed her gently. Mereel gave them a look.
"Okay, I'm out of here before you two make me vomit…"
Besany moved in for another kiss, but as she did, Ka'ra came bounding out of the door, calling, and ambushed them. Mereel laughed and knelt down to pat her on the shoulder.
"Keep that up, kid, and I'll let you hold my Verp next time you go shooting."
Ka'ra looked thrilled, but Ordo raised his eyebrow. Mereel shrugged, grinning.
"Candy, then. Maybe I'll save the Verp for the day she walks in on you two-"
"Okay, Mer'ika. We get it."
Mereel laughed all the way back into the building. "She'll grow up one day…"
"And Force forbid any young man who takes to her," Besany couldn't quite suppress a smile. "You're going to be their worst nightmare, aren't you?"
"Buir," Ka'ra tugged at Ordo's hand, pointing upwards with the other. "Look."
They looked. The winter nights on Mandalore were clear and icy, and tonight the stars shone brightly from their places in the heavens, twinkling like lights that told the stories of the past. The stuff of legends. They took his breath away for a moment. Ordo hoisted Ka'ra onto his shoulders, and Besany took his arm, and the three of them stared into the night sky.
Ordo could hear Laseema and Rav setting the dinner table, and his brothers laughing in the karyai as the smells of warm food drifted out of the door. They were warm, homely sounds that six years ago, Ordo could never have comprehended. But then, the little girl on his shoulders he could never have comprehended, nor the beautiful woman on his arm. Nothing was a given. But having almost lost everything, it made him twice as thankful to whatever force existed out there that he was still alive to experience this. That they were all still alive.
Ka'ra knew what her name meant. He'd told her every day since her birth. The stars – new and old, history and future, beacons of light that travellers used to guide their way.
"You know you're named after the stars, don't you cyar'ika?" Ordo whispered. Besany squeezed his arm. ""You remember the story about the stars? About why they're so special?"
Ka'ra reached out as if to catch a star, then sat, content with watching them, her dark eyes darting across the sky as if she was trying to take it all in at once. One day, he hoped she might understand what her name really meant to everyone, what she meant. Until then, he was happy to keep telling her. Ka'ra's eyes sparkled with the night.
"Tell me again, buir," she said.
People I need to thank: Epona's Chosen, for being the best friend ever and helping with many plot ideas – love you and all our crazy conversations xx – laloga, for inspiring me endlessly and never failing to leave a review – ever - and helping me create Aerin Niobe, SerendipityAEY for her friendship and knowledge, all the girls over at TCWWU for being amazing and never letting me give up, and all the crazy, funny inspiration – countertops, anyone? – and all you readers! Yes, you. Because you make it worth it!
What a ride, huh? Please, if you've read even one chapter of this without finding yourself bored to tears, leave me a review. I'd love to know your thoughts on the whole journey. It's my first massive multi-chapter, and I will probably find myself going back and editing parts, but I would love to know what you thought of my first effort.
There is a sequel! Not written by me, but by my close friend Epona's Chosen. I beta it, so I do have a fair say in what goes, but the ideas there are all hers and it will follow the story of Jaing as he goes to find Rhiannon. So those Jaing/Rhiannon fans out there…the sequel is definitely for you! Mereel gets a romantic interest, too.
Link to the first chapter of sequel, 'Reasons to Die For' (minus spaces): (...) /s/8479195/1/Reasons-To-Die-For
That's all I need to say. The end. Check out my profile for more RepCom and maybe even subscribe to me if you want my next story sent straight to your inbox. It will definitely include clones, that much is certain!
Can I go to sleep now?