Last chapter! I hope you've enjoyed the ride. :)
But now I've seen it through,
And now I know the truth:
That anything could happen.
~Ellie Goulding, "Anything Could Happen."
Two days later...
Today the Hanna City tapcaf was busy as fire and twice as hot, so Ava was not beenpleased when her new employer – a burly Iridonian male named Gaal – told her that she had a holo-call, and that it was marked urgent. Standing between two tables of rowdy kids and their parents, recently come back from a bolo-ball game, she was balancing a stack of old dishes on a tray in one hand and a pot of caf in her other, but the news was so unexpected that she nearly dropped the lot of it.
Luckily, Gaal's quick reflexes prevented her from doing any such thing – this time – so she only gaped at her boss, who was regarding her with a faintly exasperated expression as he towered over his customers. "What? Me? Are you sure?"
"Well no, actually," Gaal said with a puzzled frown; after he steadied the tray in her hand, he thumbed towards the direction of his office door, where the tapcaf's holo-comm was located. "It was marked for a Zeltron named 'Ava,' but you're the only Zelly here, Mel."
Her blood froze in her veins. Jurma had found her, of course. There was no one else that knew her real name who could track her down all the way to Chandrila, where she'd landed. Ava felt her breath hitch, and thought she was going to drop the tray, after all.
Gaal's expression turned concerned as he guided her through the bustling tables to the back of the seating area, towards the kitchen. "You alright, Melusiné? No one's given you any trouble, have they?"
Kriff, she should have come up with a different, fragging name, at least. "Yes, Gaal," she managed, smiling up at the dark-skinned Iridonian, who frowned at her words as they stepped through the kitchen door. She sighed and side-stepped to avoid a bus-droid, on its way to clean a newly-emptied table. "I mean, no, I'm fine. I'll just take a five-minute break, if that's okay?"
"Sure," he said kindly, though he reached for the caf-pot as he spoke. "Just set all that down before you drop it, alright? Force knows we don't need you to break any more dishes."
Ava felt her cheeks heat, but nodded and did as he requested, setting the dishes on an open stretch of counter in the kitchen before making her way into the hallway that led to the office; she wasn't the best server around – she dropped more than her share of plates – but she was a hard worker, and she was thankful that Gaal had given her the benefit of the doubt when he'd hired her a few weeks ago.
It had been sheer luck that had brought her to Chandrila; back on Nar Shaddaa, after the pawnshop, Ava's only thought had been to get off-world and out of Hutt space as soon as possible. She'd bought a ticket for Tanaab, but there'd been some sort of mix-up and she'd found herself on the Core World instead.
Not that she minded. Far from it, as Hanna City – Chandrila's capitol – was the most beautiful city she'd ever seen, and she'd thought she could be happy here for a while. Gaal was kind and patient, and had been willing to hire a disheveled Zeltron with no references to speak of, so she was determined to prove that his trust was not misplaced.
Serving wasn't a particularly exciting job but it didn't matter because she was free.
The office was quiet, a pleasant break from the heat and clatter of the kitchen and the seating area, but Ava's nerves were thin at the thought that she might be on the run very soon. Once she'd taken a seat in the chair at the cluttered desk, she activated the ancient comm-station and scanned for the last message, all while considering the steps she'd have to take if Jurma had already found her; she'd managed to save up a little bit of money by now, not nearly enough, though-
The holographic image that bloomed before her was no one she recognized, which did not set her at ease. Jurma could have easily hired anyone to come find her. It was a male, she thought, though she wasn't familiar with his species; he wore modest robes and a breathing mask of some kind, and she could make out a metallic-looking cylinder on his belt.
His recorded voice was steady and even, a deep baritone that somehow set her at ease. "Greetings, Ava. My name is Plo Koon, and I am a member of the Jedi Council. Before you begin to worry, you are not in any legal trouble; this is simply a request to speak with you regarding a potential place for you within Republic Intelligence."
Ava's mouth fell open and she paused the transmission to get a better look at this Plo Koon. A Jedi? Her eyes flickered to the cylinder on his belt – a lightsaber. It must be. She checked the transmission's origin code, comparing it with others that Jurma had made her learn; sure enough, it was Republic. Moreover, she remembered Wolffe mentioning the name "Plo Koon," only he'd said this person was his commanding officer.
She hoped that this Jedi was being truthful about her not being in any legal trouble. That was the last thing she needed.
But a place with Republic Intelligence? Me? Shaking her head, Ava started the transmission again, and leaned forward in her chair, absorbing every word.
"After speaking with a mutual acquaintance, I think that your bravery, intelligence and observational skills would be an asset to the Republic. Should you decide to consider this offer, send me a response, and I will send a representative to provide you with the details."
There was a pause, then the Jedi spoke again, his voice a little wry. "Perhaps you are wondering how I tracked you down."
"Yeah, you could say that," she muttered.
The recording flickered, but it was due to the old tech rather than the original message. "Republic Intelligence is adept at two things: keeping track of its belongings – such as any pieces of technology given to its agents – and employing beings who can observe and comprehend what they see. Finding you was not a difficult matter, but if you'd like more details, I advise you to take advantage of this opportunity."
The Jedi bowed. "I hope to hear from you soon, Ava. May the Force be with you."
A series of coordinates flashed before her, so she studied them, hoping to commit them to memory. When the recording ended, Ava's back hit the chair and she sat in silence for a few minutes, her head reeling with all of the new information.
A job. For Republic Intelligence. Doing what, exactly?
The kriffing ring; that must have been how he'd tracked her down, somehow. "Beings who can observe and comprehend what they see," she repeated, and her head shook again. It sounded like espionage work, but how in the stars could the Jedi have known-
Her heart tightened. A mutual acquaintance. Wolffe. She remembered him mentioning his commanding officer as being a "Plo Koon," so it was probably safe to say that this was the same person who'd comm'd her.
A strange, warm feeling coursed through her body at the notion that Wolffe had spoken so highly of her after she'd treated that poor medic like she did, and left him in the lurch. She regretted all of it, but she still knew it had been the right choice. Difficult, but right.
Now she wondered if another choice was being presented to her with this opportunity.
There were so many unknown factors, but she knew there was no way to learn about any of them unless she took the next step, so she gathered her calm, smoothed out her hair and her work apron, and activated the holo-comm again, entering the code that the Jedi had provided.
As she waited for the link to take hold, she felt it: a flare of hope within her heart at the idea that she might see him again, and a stronger one at the thought that he might not hate her as much as she hated herself. Her Silver-and-Gold.
After what felt like hours, the channel opened, and her breath caught.
The next evening...
When Wolffe stepped through the doors of the Chandrilan tapcaf, he was assaulted by a host of sensations: the sharp, delicious scent of fresh-brewed caf; the mindless babble of the tapcaf's customers; the clatter of crashing ceramic as someone near the kitchen dropped what sounded like an entire tray of dishes.
He hoped the sound wasn't indicative of the service here.
Not that he'd even wanted to come on this errand, anyway, but the general had been oddly insistent about the entire thing. Had Wolffe been a more suspicious man, he might have thought that this was some misguided attempt to cheer him up, or at least break him out of his self-imposed solitude.
Anyway, his task was simple, which meant at least meant it should be brief: deliver an envelope of information to a Republic Intelligence agent who was working undercover in Hanna City. So he stood dutifully by the cheerful, hand-drawn sign that asked all customers to wait to be seated, and busied himself with trying to spot his contact.
There seemed to be a wide array of sentients here, but no one that jumped out at him as being an RI operative, though he assumed that was the point when one was trying to blend in. It was why he'd worn his civilian clothes, after all. Just because he was abysmal at working undercover didn't mean everyone else was.
Ava, for example, would have done wonderfully at such a job.
Shaking the thought away, he turned his attention to the servers he could see bustling around the seating area, though none of them seemed to pay him any mind, and he felt a scowl coming on. Should he go ahead and seat himself, and just be done with it? Was it so kriffing hard to-
"I don't know where you came from," a familiar voice said from behind him, making Wolffe's heart kick into a higher gear. "But I'm so glad you're here."
Before he moved, he took a breath. "Me too," he heard himself saying, then he turned, and she was there, looking at him with that same nervous smile she'd worn when she'd first told him her real name. Ava.
She was real, she wasn't a dream or a memory; she was dressed as most of the civilians in this place were, along with some very sturdy-looking boots, the sight of which pleased him on some level.
Before he could ask her anything, she began to speak. "I'm sorry for how I left," she said, her voice reaching to him through the din of the tapcaf, though at this point they may as well have been the only two people on Chandrila's surface. "A part of me didn't want to. A part of me wanted to stay with you, but I needed to make a choice. And I'm sorry about what I did to poor North, but I had to take advantage of the chance for freedom."
As she spoke, Wolffe studied her face; she looked the same as before, though he could see a tiny, healing cut on her lower lip from where Scota had struck at her. Her words were growing increasingly rapid, and he could practically feel earnestness and guilt radiating off of her.
"It was...it was the right choice for me at the time, and if I'd gone with you on your warship, I would have regretted it. You might not realize that now, but-"
"I don't care about any of that," he broke in, shaking his head. "It's fine; it doesn't matter. I know you had your reasons. Ava, I only have one regret."
Now that the stream of her words had halted, her eyes widened and her mouth fell open a little in surprise. "What?"
He reached his hand up to brush his thumb along her lips, skimming the healing cut. "I should have been there," he said quietly as the tapcaf continued to bustle all around them. "You wouldn't have gotten hurt if I had been there, and I'm sorry I wasn't."
"It's okay," she replied, blinking up at him as she pressed her hand to his. Warm. She was so warm, even through his glove. Then she smiled, a little coyly, and his heartbeat kicked up another notch. "It doesn't matter...I know you had your reasons."
The door opened, sending in a rush of cool air that lifted the edges of Ava's hair and the hem of her apron, so they took a few steps to the side to get out of the way of the door. As they did, he cast a glance around the crowded seating area, taking in the hordes of hungry customers and the large, Iridonian male who was refiling mugs of caf and shooting himself and Ava odd looks.
Wolffe looked back down at her and noted that her eyes had fallen on the envelope that he'd tucked under his arm. In addition to her clothing, she also wore an apron similar to the ones the other servers were wearing. "Do you really...work here?"
She gave him a broad, slightly abashed grin. "Not anymore." Before he could speak, she clarified. "That crashing sound when you came in? That was me...right before I got fired. It's okay. No hard feelings; I'm not a great server, and besides, I think I've got another job lined up, anyway."
With this, she reached for the envelope, sliding it out of his grasp. As she opened it and began to peer through the contents, Wolffe shifted his stance, glancing around the tapcaf again, thankful that no one aside from the Iridonian seemed to be paying them any mind. "General Plo said that was to go to a Republic agent..."
"He's right." Ava nodded and pulled out a sheet of flimsi; he could see the words Republic Intelligencein the letterhead across the top. "Well, sort of. I'm not an agent yet, but it's the next step. Your general is chock-full of good ideas."
Pleased beyond measure, he couldn't help but smile at her as he watched her reading the letter. "You're going to blow them all out of the kriffing water, Ava."
She laughed, and there was no better sound. "That's my hope."
When she looked up at him again, he saw the familiar fire in her eyes, along with the cool intelligence he'd missed more than he'd expected. "Nothing's certain, yet, but from the sound of it, I'll have the opportunity to go where I want, when I want, a lot of the time." She paused, and gave him a meaningful look. "I could stop by and see this warship of yours, sometime. If you wanted me to."
Now he was grinning like a damn fool, but he didn't give a kriff. "Nothing would please me more."
Ava's cheeks were a deep rose; he thought if he could feel her heart it would be racing. Certainly his own was. Her voice sounded breathless again. "We can make it work."
"Yes," he said, then he reached for her because he couldn't stand to be so close and not be touching, anymore.
Wolffe slid one hand around the back of Ava's head and used the other to pull her body close to his in a firm embrace; he didn't sweep her off of the ground, but he held her, completely and totally, and kissed her as hard as he could.
Nothing in his life had ever been as right as when she held him close, too, and kissed him back.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed! :)