"Can I help you with that?" Luke called to the younger Healer, who was wrestling with a stone that looked as if it outweighed him by half. Without waiting for an answer, he stepped up and over, and placed his arms underneath, relishing the physical act of labor over the using the Force.
"Thank you, Master Skywalker," Toa said gratefully, dusting his hands off on his trousers. Unusually for him – indeed it was the first time Luke had seen the young man in anything but his Healers robes, even during an evening meal in the Canaille household – he was wearing a simple, sleeveless shirt. It was only now that Luke noticed that his arms, while heavily tattooed, were also covered in scars.
As if suddenly self-conscious of them, Toa crossed his arms over his torso, even as he nodded towards an upper window of the relatively small house.
"Miss Aubé, is she resting now?" he asked, his voice as soft as his features. "I know she has been disobeying the other Healers, and refusing to rest herself." He lowered his head. "Her injuries were… great."
Luke nodded, almost imperceptivity. It had only been a few weeks since that terrible confrontation where her brother, Kay'leb had nearly killed her in a fit of madness, brought on by the Dark side. She had very nearly bled to death, despite the intervention of the other Healers and his own channeling of the Force. It wasn't something he cared to dwell on – what might have happened…
"Yes," he said at last, and a smile touched his lips only briefly. "I think she's glad to be home more than anything." He looked around at the garden that surrounded them; even as Toa picked up another, smaller stone to be set in place. Exotic plants and flowers gave off a heady perfume, and he breathed deeply of it. "It's so peaceful here…" he murmured.
Now it was Toa's turn to smile. "I agree," he said, fingering a small bloom. "I come here… often. I always have."
"How long have you been here, Toa?" Luke asked, placing another stone on the wall. It felt good to him, the sensation of the soil on his hand and the weight of the rock itself. "I mean, what brought you here? To live with Aubé's family?"
He could feel the tension, as Toa seemed to pull into himself. It was evident the topic made him uncomfortable, to say the least, but just as Luke opened his mouth to withdraw the question, Toa began to speak.
"My… my memories of my time… before… they are…" He paused, as if trying to find the words. Suddenly, Luke realized that Basic wasn't the young man's first language. He leaned against the half completed wall, listening patiently.
"I do not remember much," he admitted at last. "I was much younger, several seasons, I think, when Mistress found me in the wreckage of the slaver ship…"
"No, not Miss Aubé," Toa shook his head. "She was… away… then. Mistress Canaille. She tended my wounds, and my soul…" He turned his hands upwards, so the scared undersides became visible. "I do not remember, trying to take my own life, but I know I had made several attempts." A shy smile crossed his features. "It is obvious, I had little success…"
Luke swallowed hard, compassion welling in his soul for the young man. He knew all about despair, but not to this level. He stood there in silence, not knowing what to say, but Toa seemed to understand.
"The Mistress, she is a very gifted Healer," Toa continued absently. "My Kay'sa has learned much from her…" He paused, sensing Luke's doubt and perhaps his anger at Kay'leb. "He is not the man you saw in the Healer's Center, Master Skywalker. He is a good man…"
"I'm sure," Luke said dryly. "He tried to kill Aubé, and me for that matter!"
"He was not in his right mind, Master." Toa replied quietly. "I should have known. Perhaps I did know. I can not explain, even to myself…"
"But how?" Luke asked gently, delicately redirecting the subject. "I know you said your… bond is rather unique. That you can actually physically see for him?"
Toa's smile became genuine once again. "Yes, I can share his very being. It is not an easy gift to live with, but I have learned to embrace it."
"Handy, too…" Luke pursed his lips, remembering how Toa had entered his own consciousness, presenting himself as Aubé. "At least I didn't kiss you…"
Toa blushed to the roots of his hair. "It was necessary, Master, and I apologize… You need not fear of it occurring again. A subject must be willing…"
"Or incapacitated…" Luke grumbled. "But why Aubé?"
"You are close to her, are you not?" Toa shrugged. "I worked with the tools I was given. I do not know this 'Captain Solo,' that Miss Aubé told me about. She said you are quite close. Is he… a partner? Is that the word?" He was genuinely curious.
Now it was Luke's turn to blush as he realized that Toa meant 'partner' in a very different way than he'd ever considered. "Ummm, no…" he stammered. "I don't see him – any man really – in that way… He's just a very dear friend."
"Yes," Toa nodded. "I understand. You are like myself in many ways. We wish to only be with one person. One who truly loves us."
Luke cast his eyes up to the window of Aubé's bedroom. "Exactly," he said. "Speaking of which…"
A few moments later, Luke was at his beloved's bedside, a small bowl of red fruit in his hand. She stirred, and took a deep breath through her nose.
"Mmmm! Fayeberries!" she sighed, her eyes still closed. "Someone has been poking around my mother's garden…"
"If you want one, you'll have to sit up," Luke teased her gently. "Or I might have to eat them all myself."
"Don't you dare!" Aubé growled, pushing herself up by her elbows. She opened her eyes, and brown eyes met blue. "What is it?"
"Oh nothing much," the smile became a grin. "Just thinking how much prettier you are than say… Captain Solo…"