Disclaimer: Star Wars belongs to Disney and is the intellectual property of George Lucas; he created the sandbox. I'm simply destroying the sandcastles.
Title: The Fool
Timeframe: 5 years post "The Joiner Trilogy" - Major AU
Characters: Jaina Solo, OC
Summary: Jaina gets a surprise visitor - and for reasons she's not expecting.
Notes: Inspired by the song "I'm the fool, in love with the fool" sung by Lee Ann Womack
Whatever she'd been expecting when she'd come looking for Jaina Solo, the woman sitting alone at the small table in the corner wasn't it.
Pausing in the doorway to the pilot's bar, the statuesque blonde regarded the woman who was supposed to be Jaina Solo uncertainly. Slender, with non-descript brown hair and eyes to match, there were no real distinguishing features the blonde could see. Nothing that screamed of great beauty; nothing that was memorable in the distant expression on her face as she idly turned the glass before her in her hands. There was no reason why this woman, Jaina, should have been her rival for anything - until she smiled.
It was an off kilter, slight lopsided and utterly charming tilt of her lips - but it transformed plain into pretty. A sparkle came into her eyes as she turned her face towards the waiter who bent to refill her glass, and it was that moment when the blonde knew this really was Jaina Solo - the woman she sought.
Having seen her around before, the blonde had still wondered if she could have been mistaken; but she wasn't. A sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, and a sick twisting confirmed her worst fears; she would never live up to this. Jaina Solo was an icon, a paragon who had fallen only to rise from the ashes of her hell with wings of fire.
It was no wonder her marriage was falling apart because of her.
Taking a deep breath, the blonde entered the bar and headed straight for the corner table. As she made her way towards the table, her lips tightened as she thought about everything she'd ever heard about Jaina Solo - and wasn't reassured. Her name was a daily word spoken in their home; her name was one her husband couldn't forget no matter what he said otherwise.
But even as she crossed the room, the brunette seemed completely unawares - and flirted or teased with each of the men who went by her table. And there were many. Nothing serious since Jagged Fel had been killed in action more than 5 years back during one of the last engagements during the whole Killik fiasco, if the rumors were to be believed. That didn't stop Jaina from enjoying herself.
The blonde paused, waiting as the waiter flirted with the brunette before disappearing to another table. Swallowing hard, she stepped forward.
Those laughing brown eyes came upwards in idle curiosity - and then widened as they took in the blonde's appearance.
Long hair that brushed her hips, plaited in a single braid down the center of her back; fashionable half-boots paired with a conservative - but expensive - skirt and blouse. She'd dressed well in anticipation for this meeting, needing the extra confidence the clothing and height gave her.
"You don't know me, but I know who you are; I know you better, in some ways than I know myself... do you mind if I sit down?" she glanced at the vacant seat across from the Jedi - and sank gratefully into it when Jaina only nodded curiously - before continuing. "I know I'm not familiar to you, even though I'm sure you've heard my name - but I understand that you don't know me on sight; we've never been formally introduced."
"I don't spend a lot of time planet side," was Jaina's quick retort. "Just who are you?"
Whatever small hope she'd been holding out to be recognized, she knew now it had been foolish. There was no reason Jaina would know her; no reason Jaina would recognize her; she hadn't come to their wedding. Taking another deep breath, she managed a brittle admission - one that cost her more from the outset than she thought... but one that was needed to bring this conversation to where it needed to go. She had no intention of dawdling in Jaina Solo's presence.
"I'm the fool in love with the fool, who's still in love with you."
Jaina blinked, the accusation having been dropped softly, but without much inflection - and gave her the clue she needed; there was little doubt as to the woman's identity. Without inflection, her tone carefully neutral but dead certain, she identified the woman. "You're Zekk's wife; Zira - right?"
She inclined her head.
Jaina sat back and examined the blonde as she knocked the contents of her glass back. Her gaze was assessing, contemplative - as if seeing her for real this time. Seeing her for who she was and not what; seeing her for who she'd married. Whatever Jaina saw, it wasn't etched on her features, and her brown eyes gave away little - but there were questions in those eyes.
Zira endured it; she was used to being watched and looked at - it was a part of her profession.
"I'd heard he married a model, I just didn't realize he'd picked such a knockout."
"Thank you." Looking around, Zira searched for the waiter. "Do you have a few minutes?"
Glancing down at her near-empty glass, a sour tilt hit Jaina's lips. "Not as many as I'd like."
"I'll buy you a drink - or even two - but there's something I came here to say... something I need to say to you. Will you listen?"
"I'm not sure you should be talking to me."
Neither was she. "It's about Zekk." Blue eyes met brown as Zira tilted her chin and allowed her inner barriers to fall - to let the other woman see the strain she was under at home; to see the desolation in her gaze. She had little pride when it came to her husband and she wouldn't be put off by evasiveness. "There's no one else I can talk to about this; it has to be you."
There was a pause before Jaina lifted her arm and caught the attention of the waiter. She held up two fingers with a nod to Zira before dropping her arm. The waiter nodded in return to the silent signal and bent to prepare the drinks. Jaina turned her gaze back to Zekk's wife, assessing her silently before finally capitulating.
"All right; you've got my attention."
It was what Zira had been hoping for - and dreading. But she needed to do this as much for Zekk as for herself. She waited until the water had brought their drinks before wrapping her hands around the glass. Keeping her gaze steady on Jaina's, she began. "What do you know about my marriage to Zekk?"
"Other than your whirlwind courtship?" Jaina's lips curled back in a semblance of a grimace. "Only as much as he lets me."
Pain squeezed Zira's heart. "Then you know he's still in love with you."
"Was, Zira; I haven't seen him in a long time." Too long.
The last wasn't said, but it hung between them for a long moment before Zira said what she'd come to say. "Is, Jaina. He dreams about you, talks about you," tears misted her gaze. "I know what to look for; I feel the way for him that he feels for you."
"I doubt he dreams about me," Jaina scoffed.
"No? Just last night..."
Zira woke with a start, the soft moan that had woken her was accompanied by the restless shifting of limbs under the covers. Rolling, she turned to face her husband. His face was covered in sweat, the long hair she loved to run her fingers through was clinging to the sides of his face. He tossed his head as she watched, caught in the web of his dreams.
Pushing herself up on one elbow, she looked at him concerned. It wasn't uncommon for him to have nightmares about his past, but it had been almost a year since she'd seen him sweat these kinds of bullets. Normally his dreams were something from which he could wake himself, but sometimes he needed her help. She reached for him, intending to do exactly that, except the word that passed his lips shocked her.
Zira froze as he called Jaina's name a second time, his head thrashing back and forth. He was getting more agitated, more unnerved - and he called for Jaina again. The longing and pain in his voice slashed her to the quick. Her hand clenched, dropping away, but she couldn't turn away from him.
It was in these unguarded moments she'd come to realize where his heart truly lay. Jaina had ensnared him young; he'd been in love with her since he was a teenager and Zira had been foolish to think she could replace such a paragon. Wanting to do something, anything, to help him - but knowing she wasn't what he needed or wanted at that moment, her hand dropped back to her side. Swallowing back the tears that burned in the back of her throat, she withdrew from him.
Zekk's head whipped back, away from her as his body shuddered with an invisible blow - or something else - she couldn't see. The battle eased, and he quieted for a moment. Believing the dream to have passed, Zira started to ease back to her pillow - only to be stopped when he spoke again, whispering Jaina's name tenderly. Almost as tender as the way he hugged his pillow close to his chest and reached for her.
Except he wasn't reaching for her, he was reaching for her.
With tears blurring her eyes, Zira rolled out of bed and blindly reached for her robe. She couldn't stay with him and be what he needed in these moments; she couldn't pretend to be the woman he yearned for. Couldn't pretend to be something she wasn't.
Experience told her that he wouldn't remember his dream come morning, but he'd be reserved and withdrawn. Zekk would stay abed late to ensure their path's wouldn't cross until that evening and once she left for work, he'd pull out the old holos of his teenage years. Holos she couldn't bear to have in the house any more than she could bear the pain in his gaze when she'd asked him to pack them away. Instead, she pretended she didn't know he had them; it was easier to bear her own pain than to cause him more.
She loved him too much to do anything else - and it was killing her.
There was silence between the two women for long moments as Zira stared at her glass through misted eyes and it was Jaina who finally broke it.
"I didn't know."
"Don't lie to me." Lifting her gaze, Zira pinned the Jedi with a look. "I know about the bond between the two of you; I know how closely you were joined when you were a part of the hive mind. I know, Jaina. I know he... he still feels your emotions sometimes - so it stands to reason you can still feel his."
"It's been a long time."
"A whole what - twelve hours?" Zira tossed back sharply before downing the contents of her glass, coughing as it burned a path down her throat. She held up her hand to forestall whatever Jaina was going to tell her. "I'm sorry, I didn't come here to take out my frustrations on you."
Jaina said nothing..
Rubbing her fingertips over her temple, Zira closed her eyes for a brief minute and was unable to keep the defeated tone from her voice. "I'm just so... tired of fighting a battle I can't win. We have nothing in common you and I. You're from a privileged background - mine mirror's his. You're a cute tiny brunette - I'm a knockout leggy blonde... and yet I don't hold a candle to you." Dropping her hands, Zira clenched them in her lap and stared at them as the skin at her knuckles turned bloodless.
"Love, I'm told, can overcome all obstacles and make your dreams come true. We've tried and we've tried and I keep telling myself that today is the day he'll see me for me - not as your replacement. I love him so much... but he loves you. He loves you the way I love him."
"I'm sorry - but you can't hold me responsible for his feelings. I can't control them anymore than you can."
There was contrition in Jaina's words, but no guilt - and Zira realized she wasn't surprised. Here was a woman who took no responsibility for the way others viewed her, not even a man she'd once been closer to than anyone. A man who'd been devoted to her, and still was to this day, to the exclusion of everything else. Brushing away her tears, Zira nodded sharply before pushing abruptly to her feet.
"One last thing, Jaina."
Jaina lifted her eyebrows, waiting - and Zira didn't keep her waiting for long.
"I didn't come here to rag on you, or put you down - contrary to the way it may seem. You're not in love with Zekk the way I am; I can see that - I know that... but it doesn't matter. He is in love with you. Always you; only you. With his heart in your hands..."
"I never wanted it."
"Wanted or not it's yours - and you've broken mine because of it." Straightening, Zira dropped a credit chip on the table. "If you have any power over this strange bond between the two of you; if you have any last resort to sever it, I beg of you to take it before it destroys him. He can't live as an extension of you anymore than I can of him."
Without waiting to see what, if anything. Jaina would say, Zira headed for the entrance. She stopped in the doorway, looking back to meet Jaina's gaze. But the brunette was already looking for another refil and flirting with the waiter. Zira's shoulders dropped and she shook her head as the ache in her chest that was her constant companion returned tenfold.
She was a fool to have believed the other woman would care; but at least she'd tried.
Author's Note: Don't ask where this came from; I haven't a clue. I just heard the song and couldn't resist - it hounded me until it was written. Scary creatures, those plot bunnies, when they get to be rabid.