Title: Xenogamy Entasis

Author: pronker

Era: Leia is sixteen.

Characters: Ferus Olin, Princess Leia Organa, Bail Organa, Winter

Disclaimer: I am not George Lucas, make no profit from this fanfiction, and he owns Star Wars, not me.

Summary: Even a Princess can get confused.

A/N: This is an intertrilogy series in its second and final part, following "Male Gaze", "Aphrodisiac", "Getting To Entasis", "Novel Entasis," and "Upright Entasis." The first part consisted of "Song of Myself" and "Spring Fever."

IOIOIOIOIO

"Can Leia do things that Her Highness can't?" pondered Leia as she kept in step with Fess while they headed deeper into the park. "Can Intern Organa feel what Leia never dared to before? My Highness is confused." When they were close, the man beside her was Fess and she was Leia. Then came the revelation about her father - no, Bail - discussing her personal plans with Fess, and he returned to 'that intrusive Ilee person.' The one that she and Winter could not think of in any way other than ungainly. But this afternoon under the zaela tree, Fess had been anything but ungainly. Leia did not think of him as her tutor now, only a man, a nice man.

"Someone who loves you."

Fess stopped short. "What did you say?"

"Erm, thinking aloud, Fess." Daydreaming, Leia? Did he exhaust you that much? She picked up the pace.

Fess caught up to her, catching her arm. "You mentioned Master Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn earlier," he said conversationally. "Did you know there were Temple rituals for occasions in a Jedi's life?"

He sounded like he had studied the subject. "No. I thought they were ascetic and quiet most of the time. Renewing their Force power, or something." She faced him.

Appearing eager, Fess plunged on. "There were. A few, anyway. I remember, well, hearing of them on the holonet feeds when I was studying, playing as background noise and music, you see ... anyway, I remember one."

Leia stayed silent. Fess would come to the point eventually. He took a deep breath, the same way that she had before addressing the Senate.

"'The Force gives a strand, the Master gives a strand, the Padawan gives a strand. The Force supports us and we support it, because it is our ally and our friend. It lives and we live in it ... ' Um, that's all I can remember." He draped an arm around her, lifting the ends of her hair. "Oh, there were sonnets about the First Braiding and - " he touched her lower back, where her hair tumbled to its last length - "one's Master would place a ribbon here and there, and some Merit Beads ... "

Leia drew back, the differences in their heights never more pronounced. He sounded strangled, then bowed his head. She smiled uncertainly. "I've heard of their Master and Padawan bond, yes."

"Yes. It was a source of great comfort and power, I was told, and it was useful."

Leia did not know what to make of this. Fess was neither his fatuous self, nor his confident self, the one who she had admired on the field trip. This Fess was confused, too. Perhaps the fact that he was her father's - no, Bail's - employee and friend and she was the Princess was bothering him. He sounded like he needed comfort.

"'We cherish all living things when we touch the Force,'" she quoted her mother.

"'It surrounds us, it penetrates us, it binds the galaxy together,'" came the correct response by rote. He clutched her hand and she allowed it. They walked on the gravel path in silence, holding hands.

IOIOIOIOIO

Ferus scanned the deserted park, Sensing that Leia was likewise occupied, but needing to see with his own eyes that she was nowhere in sight. She wasn't. He set about his business. He pulled up his tunic, aimed for the lumigrass beside the waterfall's plunge and let fly. Looking around idly, he approved Bail's tribute to his friend Padme: the waterfall was modeled on a smaller scale from Theed's inspiring Virdugo Plunge. Foaming waters fell forty meters from a smooth granite lip, splashing to a gravel bed. For safety's sake, the engineers smoothed rocky edges of the six meter-wide stream, weeded dampness-loving itchy vetch, let the tarla trees thrive and aligned the water feature so that anyone standing at its base could view the palace far beyond. The royal residence, where Bail performed his never-ending duties. Ferus wrenched his glance back to his task at hand. As he tucked himself away, mist settled on his face and forearms, each minim of water glistening on the hairs there. His mustache dampened and he scented Leia on it. He scrubbed her traces away.

The Force surged and time slowed. He saw each droplet fall off slowly towards the ground, pulled by gravity to a common ending in a puddle. Nothing common for me. Not after today. With no particular object in mind, he launched himself into the air with an eye to the water's speed. Let's say the water is one meter deep above I can't imagine any engineer making it an unsafe depth now the water will accelerate at nine point eight meters per second until it achieves terminal velocity which means that I must move to counteract the water's downward speed. Ferus ran up the waterfall half again as fast as he needed to, glorying in his new Force connection, more powerful than he could recall in years. He got drenched as he used the gouts of water as steps, but he didn't care. Astounding himself, he gripped the lip of stone, backflipped over it and landed in one meter of icy rushing water. Staggering and flailing in the current, he righted himself and laughed as he'd rarely laughed before. Kriffed up the landing, but what a thing!

At the sound of his name drifting over the waterfall's roar, he turned.

"Fess! Can you hear me? What are you doing up there?"

Fess wouldn't have been able to hear her at this distance above the ambient noise, so Ferus pantomimed placing a hand to his ear, waved, and started down the steep slant of the green hill. He slipped a little when he got to the bottom and Leia steadied him.

"What's up there?"

He slid a dripping arm around her. "A beautiful view." She hadn't seen his stunt or she would have been all over him with questions. "Want to climb?"

She snorted. "Not if I get drowned like you did."

"I, erm, fell into the pool when I first started. You won't." He would protect her even from a soaking.

Leia studied him. "All right, Fess." They clambered to the top and enjoyed the vista of Aldera Palace, the lake, the wildflower paintings in the flat reaches of the park, everything in sync with a happy day. Leia smiled back at him, calm and quiet like she rarely was.

Ferus was entranced. He turned his back on the palace. "Without you here today, this would have been the same old project," he ventured. Seeing her lips twist at the sentiment, he hurried on to safer ground. "See those rare t'iil bushes down there? I planted them. And the hydenock tree, I planted that. And those - "

"You've been busy while I was gone, yes." She perched on a too-handy rock formation just right for her height. "And what about you, Fess? What are your plans? More plantings?"

I hope to the stars that I haven't planted a seed in you. He licked his mustache prior to answering, remembering the taste of Leia's nectar. He asked the Force a most basic question. He slumped onto the rock beside her. I haven't. "What's that? My plans? Uh, uh, oh I don't know." He fiddled with her hair, Sensing that whatever they had would not last long.

"I don't need much tutoring any more, after today." She shrugged out from under his arm, rising to link elbows with him to start the long walk back to the palace.

Says you. "Bail needs another assistant. I've been doing what you used to do for him. And Madame Vesta's new crop of girls occasionally could do with a botany field trip. If you could spare the time to come along - "

"I'll help out while I'm here, but after that, I'll be gone." They separated to tramp single-file down the hill, skidding on the mist-slickened lumigrass, laughing at their clumsiness. Plant your feet sideways to the slant when hiking downhill, Padawan. Siri's advice echoing in his ears, he turned to pass along the wisdom to Leia. She was already zigzagging down the hill, three steps this way, three steps that, each step more and more confident. She doesn't need me. She's surefooted already.

The fortress of the palace loomed in front of them before anyone spoke.

Leia smoothed his cheek. "You've shaved. I like it."

"Mmhmmm." This feels good. I want more.

She looked him up and down as she had done at the Rutabaga Queen Festival one year ago, but this time she was complimentary. "And you've changed, too. You're thinner."

"I am?" Ferus had not intended to lose weight; it had happened when he was busy and not looking. They trudged on. Experimentally, he formed scissors with his fingers and cut an imaginary braid. Perfect.

"Credit for your thoughts?"

Ferus squeezed her hand and let it go. Sentiment. The sentiment that you don't like. Fess would have given a wide-eyed cantina comic's take on the whole conversation. Ferus did not want to become Fess again just yet.

"I was wondering if I were too rough."

Leia looked him in the face. "It was a good lesson. Thank you." Then she poked him in the arm, running away from his hand that strayed to cup her bottom. "Come on!"

Fess and Ferus did the best they could to keep up. She reached the seventeenth palace gate before he did.

IOIOIOIOIO

IOIOIOIOIO

"I'm sore, Winter, are you?"

"Yes, my feet and legs hurt." Winter grimaced as she stretched out on Leia's bed. "And I've got three blisters, ouch. Sabe put me through my paces, and added ten more besides."

Leia stretched experimentally. "I think I pulled a groin muscle. Ow, right there. I need a bath, too. I smell funky."

Winter drew a bath, all the while groaning and stretching melodramatically. When she got in the large tub, Leia joined her. They washed each other's hair and backs.

"I hurt right, right down there. And how did I get these bruises on my legs?"

"You said that you fell down into mud and you're wondering that?" Winter smoothed a handful of lather over the marks. "Stang, you are thick sometimes."

Only Winter got away with such honesty. "Well, I'm sorry that I don't have your eidetic memory. I'm sorry. I'm asking you, since you were the last to see me this afternoon before I, before I t-t-took my walk with Fess Ilee."

"Not so, His Highness saw you before you left to beard Ilee in his den, I distinctly recall witnessing that as I went to practice - "

"Big deal! And Fess doesn't have a full beard any longer, just a mustache!" This threatened to enlarge beyond their normal spatting. Leia scooted away from Winter, rubbing gingerly at the marks. She swooshed soothing warm water between her legs and stood.

"It doesn't matter to me if he has one or not, why would it matter to you - oh, balls. Wait, Leia." Winter pulled Leia's hand. "Let me rub your neck. I'm sorry." The essential words said, Leia sat down again in the water. Winter splayed her legs against Leia's back, cracked her knuckles and began the massage that she did so well. Leia felt that her neck was as taut as Winter's got during a scramball final three. "You're ferociously tense," observed Winter. "This helping?"

It was, a little. When she could talk without biting out her words, Leia agreed. "Yes, thanks. I'm out of sorts for some reason. It's not your fault." She expected to feel pleasantly expended after her day, happier than she was. She wasn't happy that she was thinking of Fess Ilee. She remembered the day of the botany field trip, the day that held sunny brightness and a deluge of water and then a bonfire that sparked to the stars. Ilee hadn't been his usual self, he had been competent and reassuring, a leader like she wanted to be. On the way back to the palace that night, huddled together in girl world in the rear compartment of the regular botany instructor's skimmer while he and Ilee shared the cockpit, all of her friends had remarked favorably on the man. None of her friends were easily impressed, none ninnies or simps, just girls of a certain age, accustomed to privilege yet not overbearing or condescending. At least Leia thought so; it was difficult to tell sometimes, when you were a princess and your friends were duchesses. Why was Ilee - Fess - in her thoughts now? Hadn't she forgotten about Girn an hour after they had had sex? This didn't make any sense.

When Leia had relaxed enough to lean backwards into Winter's soothing fingers, Winter dove headfirst into the topic they had discussed often, never tiring of it. "Do you think sex with men will hurt much, the first time?"

"Not if you do some stretching exercises first - wait, what do you mean? You told me that you did it already, with someone you met on an away team tournament last year - " Leia tensed as much as the warm bathwater would allow. She twisted and splashed until she faced her friend. They both pulled up their knees, clasping soapy hands to slick elbows around the barricade of their shins.

"Don't blame me, I said that for your own good." Winter could blush; she just didn't often have to. Cheeks as scarlet as greel wood, she mumbled, "Sabe thought I could use the practice being deceptive." She straightened and then looked out the open half of the casement window, past the aquamarine sheers fluttering in the early evening breeze. A solitary flitterbug batted against the force field that let in fresh air, but shielded the room from unwanted pests. She shrugged. "What's the difference, Leia? The truth is, you and I are years away from having to think about this in our lives." She sat straighter. "It's useful to know how to fool someone, for a bodyguard or a spy or even a politician."

Winter looked under her lashes at her as if Leia might find this funny, so Leia forced a smile. "Fooled me but good, Winter." Part of the reason Leia had rushed to action was to compete with Winter the way she could not in the scramball court. She had wanted to be on a par with Winter. And so you are. Was it worth it, Self? She could not bring up the words to tell Winter what she'd done without feeling even more a fool. Yet, except after the first burn of self-knowledge, she didn't feel foolish. Now she felt - what? "Mad, glad or sad, darling?" Breha used to prompt, helping her daughter identify her feelings. I'm mad at Winter for deception, glad that I have these first experiences under my belt, and a little sad that I am no longer as I was. Leia crossed to the closed half of the privacy-glazed window, though she felt as if the whole planet could see her. She traced a freeform shape in the condensation from their bath. And maybe a little bit mad at myself, dear Mother. She studied the shape, trying to make it something comprehensible. She couldn't.

Winter threw a robe at her. "Come on, we'll be late to dinner."

"You go on," Leia replied without turning. "I'll be down soon."

The door whispered shut. I need to slow down. Fess will want more of me, I can tell somehow.

She would explode if she didn't move. The burnished armoire opened at her approach; years ago, she had attuned it to her scent, and only hers. She glanced at the reading material she'd left behind: "You're A Young Lady Now: Your Monthlies Discussed Monthly," "How To Read Body Language Of All Species," and "Tentacles And Montrals: Talents, Similarities And Differences." The stacks of Galaxapolitan and the Galactic Enquirer holomags she sighed over. She would search them for advice after dinner.

The vanity lights surrounding the set-in mirror blinded her. "Quarter strength," she growled. She pulled on a corslet, fingering the ecru embroidery that half-concealed her chest. It was not simply an afternoon dalliance with Fess the way those times were with Girn. With a snort, she yanked up a rough pair of trousers, tugged on some hose and deliberately chose scuffed boots, and finally an aged favorite top. But it wasn't true love, either, I think? Aaaack, why is thinking about relationships so difficult? He's on the way out like Girn, but I cannot dump Fess quickly. He doesn't deserve that. Telling herself that she ought to at least make her hair look decent, she toweled and braided and coiled, missing Winter's quick clever hands. There. A new look: Royal grunge. Father - Bail - will have to accept it. She was no longer a doll for him to dress or dispense candyfloss to. A pair of neon suspensa earrings and she was done, grimacing at herself in the welcome dimness of the mirror. I can't do that to Fess. I do like nice men. I just don't know if I could love one. Leia brushed a hand over her center, remembering. Fess was very nice to me.

Neither Bail nor Winter nor Fess alluded to her attire at dinner, leaving Leia seething with no outlet for it. She felt out of place. This was home and hadn't changed; she had changed. Girn had said the she would feel different after being away from home, and she did. When asked the name of her new pittin, she replied, "Poonelo," and no one called her on it.

IOIOIOIOIO

Leia smacked her lips, sticky with candyfloss. She pulled off another gob, thumbing a bookmark at the Galactic Enquirer survey "Ways To Please Your Significant Other" on her padd as she read further. Unbidden, the events of the day replayed. Another minute in the bath and I would have told Winter about Girn, about Fess, about everything. I think I am glad that I did not. She continued past some embarrassing holos that reached ephemeral fingers up at her from out of the padd. So she would never have her parents' devoted relationship. So what? Special feelings that led to sex did not have to be with someone you liked, much less loved. Take Fess Ilee, for instance. His robes were cut to disguise his belly, not that he was particularly fat, not like The Right Honorable Orn Free Taa, anyway. But he was plump.

She rolled over on her bed, pushing Poonelo onto a pillow. Poonelo growled.

"Stop that." She picked up the pittin and pressed her cheek against the soft ivory fur. Poonelo's blue eyes blinked balefully. Girn had said that breeds from Serreno took firm handling, and it was true. When the creature relented and the tension washed out of its little frame, Leia patted it for some minutes. Then she replaced it on the pillow, where it curled up tamely.

Leia pinched her own cheeks, feeling the layer of baby fat that everyone assured her would melt away with the end of her teens. How would it feel like to be Fess, nearly friendless in a crowded sea of courtiers? He was capable enough, and where he had learned his fantastic lover's technique she could not begin to guess, but the attraction ended there. She would never tell him this. She would end things soon with him, the same with Girn, and go back to the way she had been before. It would be easy. The fellow feeling that she had with Girn was professional, so she knew the breakup would not hurt him at all. She was not so sure about Fess, though. In the meantime, she would read and plan how to further her agenda, personally and in the Senate. This would take the utmost concentration and she realized that sharing her efforts would actually slow her down. This is what it means to be an adult. I don't have to tell all to everyone or to anyone.

Pulling out her mental file labeled 'Men,' Leia compared and contrasted her two entries as she returned to her bookmark:

Nine Ways To Be Kind As You Move On:

9. Revenge makes everyone look bad. Not an option that I would ever consider.

8. Take some time. Two weeks ought to work.

7. If it's over, let it end. With Girn, our time together will end naturally. With Fess, there will be complications.

6. Be fair to your shared friends. I know the difference between work acquaintainces and true friends, so that will go smoothly, with Girn, at least. With Fess, the only one who could be affected by anything that we have done is Father, because he is Fess' friend and my father - - -

Leia shut off that train of thought.

5. Don't hijack the younglings. I took precautions. I am safe. I am smart.

4. Keep your private things private. The way his large form pleased me as it smothered me still which I've had trouble with as long as I can remember, oh ho. I'll never tell.

3. Your former lover is not a mind reader, and neither are you. What was going on with Fess' lecture about the Jedi Temple? I'll never know.

2. Be honest, and do it before you're so upset that you can't be reasonable. Is desiring to move on a good reason? How about craving time to think? How about wanting nothing more to do with Vorzydiaks in informal occasions?

1. Do it in person. Your once-beloved is a real person with real feelings. As if I would do it with a comm! This is stupid!

Leia erased the bookmark.

IOIOIOIOIO

TBC