When I woke up the next morning Thrawn was still there beside me. He wasn’t sleeping instead he had his head propped up on his arm and was simply watching me. He smiled and brushed hair from my face looking more at ease, more relaxed than I could remember seeing him in a very long time. I guessed I was not the only one who benefited from being on Hjal.
“What?” I asked, stifling a yawn and stretching like a jax.
“I was just thinking about the very first time I ever saw you.” He said.
I looked at him with a smile. Memories of that first meeting flooded back to me. “I thought you were an arrogant pri…” He placed a finger on my lips to stop the rest of the words from escaping.
“I know exactly what you were thinking and you were probably right. My first impression was what was Vader doing hiring this little girl from the back end of space? But you surprised me with your pluck and your bluntness.” He said. “I found it impossible to believe that the red-headed bundle of spit and fury telling me she would kill me if I touched her again actually had Vader’s favour. You were the most intriguing person to step into my life in a very long time and I probably should have listened to the whispering voice in the back of my head that told me to stay away from you, that you would be nothing but trouble.”
I poked him in the chest and wondered if I should tell him that my little voice had said exactly the same thing about him only it wasn’t whispering it was yelling, loudly.
“Can you deny I was right?” he asked arching his eyebrow at me, catching my hand in his so I wouldn’t poke his chest again.
“You are not exactly the easiest man in the galaxy to be with either, you know.” I replied tartly.
He smiled, “Which is a good thing, my dear, as you do not seem to enjoy the company of men who are easy to be with.”
I wasn’t certain how to take that so I just shook my head and got out of bed, slipped on my nightshirt and headed to the ‘fresher before the conversation turned combative. By the time I returned Thrawn had poured two cups of stim-caf and was sitting up, leaning back against the head board sipping his. Instead of crawling back under the covers beside him I sat facing him, accepting the cup he handed me happily.
I took one sip and knew that Navaari had made it. “Ugh, he always makes it far too strong.”
“He said he thought you might need something strong to get started today. He won’t be back until late, he has to attend a council meeting and they tend to last a while. I suspect he was just happy to see us both still alive and in one piece, he rather feared the worse.”
I just nodded. It was not unusual for enclave meetings to be longer than usual when the weather was bad and I was also sure that Navaari welcomed the excuse to give Thrawn and me time alone together. If it hadn’t been a meeting he would have found another reason to stay away for the day. For a long while neither of us said anything at all. I suspected that neither of us wanted to break the sweetness of the morning after.
“Another cup?” Thrawn asked after seeing me contemplate my empty one for a few moments.
I nodded and watched as he vanished for a moment and then returned, handing me my cup refilled. I sipped and made another face, the second cup was equally as strong as the first.
“Did you know that would happen between us last night? I mean was that your intent when you came here?” I asked a little shyly after a long moment of quiet.
Thrawn shook his head. “No, I came here with no intent,” he sighed, “only hope.”
He nodded slightly. “Yes, hope that we could bypass our stubborn natures so that we could at least talk and perhaps resolve some of our issues.”
That made me smile. “It didn’t work.” I said, which earned me the eyebrow.“Well, we didn’t exactly talk.” I clarified.
He reached over and touched my face. “No, that is true enough but we did resolve at least one issue and the communication was positive never the less, don’t you think?”
I just bobbed my head in agreement and silence settled between us again. I sipped at my stim-caf not really knowing what else to say or where to even start. I found it strange that we could bridge the gap between us physically but the words needed to really fix the other damage that we had done failed. It made me a little sad.
He drew a deep breath and looked at me. “I put off coming here for too long. I should have come when I learned that you had passed through the period of mourning but I didn’t. There was always a good reason for staying away, always work to be done. It was one crisis after another, so it was easy to put off the one thing I really needed to do, come and talk to you.”
“Navaari said it has been difficult for you, that things in the Empire are not going so well.”
He nodded. “The Emperor’s death left a gaping maw that no one has been able to fill. Isard tries but she is not Palpatine. She has neither his charisma nor his power of will and her cruelty only serves to strengthen the resolve of the Rebels.”
“I thought that Pestage was the Imperial leader now.”
Thrawn shook his head. “No. Sate Pestage is dead. Executed by Admiral Delak Krennel, if the report I received was to be believed.”
“Dead?” I frowned. I had never liked Sate Pestage, the Emperor’s long time advisor and friend but I could not imagine him being dead.
“If I understand the news I get correctly, Isard did not like it that Pestage planned to turn Coruscant over to the rebels in exchange for immunity. She arranged for his elimination.”
“So if Pestage is dead then who….?”
“Ysanne Isard runs the Galactic Empire by herself now. Although she maintains she is merely its steward I have the feeling she enjoys the power too much to simply give it up when a better leader comes along.”
“I’ll say she wants power. That crazy bitch had her own father framed and executed so she could take his place as the Director of Imperial Intelligence. She’s insane. I hated it when she was at palace functions because she would always try to get me to talk about what it was I was really doing for Lord Vader, she seemed convinced I was some sort of super spy not an office girl and once she learned I was seeing you, well then she tried to get all the information she could out of me about the mysterious alien who had the Emperor’s favour.” I shivered as fragments of my dream resurfaced.
Thrawn nodded slowly as he let out a slow deep breath. “She has been lying to me but there is not much I can do about it at the moment, so I continue to build up the forces we have in the Unknown Regions and hope that she sees past her own nose sooner rather than later.”
“Why don’t you just take over?” I asked. “I mean you could, you have enough force and you have enough loyal men to back you up.”
He ran his free hand through his hair. “And then what, tekari? Set myself up as the next Emperor or dictator and begin the whole cycle again? No, I have no interest in ruling the empire only seeing it return to a state of law and order, not this cluttered chaos we currently have. I dislike being lied to intently but she feels secure thinking that I know nothing about the truth at the moment and that allows me a certain amount of freedom. When the time is right I will make my move but the time is not right. There are too many power hungry factions out there vying for a piece of the Imperial pie, the Rebellion is just one of many. The only thing they have on their side is that they are seen as heroes and liberators but that will change when they realise just how hard it is to run a galaxy wide democracy. Democracy fails because power corrupts and no matter what people will tell you, greed will always win out in the end. Everyone has their price, tekari, especially politicians.”
“Is Coruscant still under Imperial rule?”
“For the time being but it is the end goal of the rebellion because Coruscant is seen as the keystone to owning the galaxy. Obtain that governmental seat and you appear to have the power, eventually the other systems will fall in line with the ruling body from the core world. It is like ripples from a stone thrown in a pond. Most beings, no matter what the species are a lot like nerfs, they long for independence but they tend to follow the herd.”
I frowned, “Why is that?”
“For the simplest reason of all my dear, survival. In the herd there is protection from predators, the best chance for food, and the greater choice of mates. Being independent is a lot harder in reality than it is in theory.”
“But creating and keeping a government up and running isn’t easy either, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to even try doing that.”
“No and they will discover this soon enough. The balance between trying to please everyone and trying to maintain law and order is very, very fine. It does not take much to topple a fledgling government or a well established one for that matter. One only has to look at how well Palpatine arranged his rise to power to see that and he was a man of extraordinary strength of will and character. He was powerful with your mysterious force and, most surprisingly of all, he was fairly well liked by the majority of beings.” Thrawn said. “Now, in retrospect, people understood that despite his somewhat strict and often eccentric ways, for the most part life under Imperial rule was not so bad. Ask a world whose trade and shipping lines have been interrupted, whose population is starving and whose infrastructure is failing due to the sniper style war going on how they feel about the Empire and they will paint a very rosy picture of how things used to be. It all comes down to a point of view and popular point of view will depend heavily on how well fed and comfortable people are.”
“Was life under the Emperor really so bad?” I asked him after a moment’s silence.
He gave a slight shrug with his left shoulder. “I guess you would have to ask someone who thought so.”
I sighed and thought about the nightmare I had had. “What if what I saw in my dream was true?”
He frowned. “Which part are you referring to?”
“The first part, about the Emperor being reborn.”
“Do you think this is a likely scenario?” He asked.
“Yes,” I nodded. “But I can only think of one way. He clones himself, it’s the only answer. The power he had and used took an awful toll on him physically. It was the reason he looked so old. I had heard rumours while I was still living on Coruscant that he had actually done this clone thing more than once but it seems so unreal and I just put them down as silly gossip. People had all sorts of weird speculative stories about the Emperor because no one really understood much about the force or its nature and the darker side of it.” I said thoughtfully. “But what if it is real? What if he can somehow clone himself and transfer his consciousness, his memories? If he really can do this why didn’t he come back sooner? Surely he must know what chaos the Empire is in now?”
Thrawn just shook his head. “I can’t give you an answer for that. Perhaps there are problems with the cloning procedure. It used to be the best cloners in the galaxy were on Kamino but that facility and the knowledge base are rumoured to have been destroyed. The Empire developed its own method of cloning and due to issues with the Kaminoans stopped all production with them on that planet. Most of the Stormtroopers in the last decade have been conscripts and not clones. There were too many issues with cloning sickness among other difficulties, at least from what I know.”
“It is a form of madness, from what I have read. It happens if the cloning process is too fast. I believe the fastest that a clone can be grown is a year, anything faster than that and what is produced is rubbish.”
“Rubbish….” I repeated softly. “Clones, they are humans. They think, have feelings, know love and pain … how can you say they are rubbish?”
“Cloned madness of mind and sickness of flesh is not a human being, tekari, it is a created mess manufactured by science and technology. There is no soul, no life force as you or I know it.”
I looked at him for a moment. “The man who gave me life was a clone, Za’ar. Does this mean I have no soul?”
He sighed and chose his words very carefully. “The clones of the past, the ARC commandos were different, bred differently. They were granted independence and free will, which caused no end of headaches, in the hopes that they would make better soldiers, better leaders. I suppose they were human in every sense of the word, not born but grown but I argue against them having an actual soul. They were programmed by DNA. The execution of Order 66 showed that in the end they were more like droids than independent free born men. Clones from later generations, with production pushed up go mad. They are not human in the way you think of humans. They are created and designed from human DNA. They look human sound human and do all the things that human beings do except that they are manufactured and programmed to be obedient, to follow orders and above all to fight. Mad clones are rubbish in this context and that is what I mean.” He gave me a look so that I had to nod that I understood where he was coming from even if I didn’t agree with it, then he continued. “On the theoretical side of things, it is believed, at least in my culture, that there is one soul per being so if there are many clones of one individual how can there be multiple souls for his or her clones? It is a difficult topic at best and one with no answers. But for your question, of course you have a soul, you are not a clone. You are unique in this galaxy, thank goodness because I don’t know how to deal with just one of you.”
I smiled at his small attempt at humour but I didn’t like this line of thinking much and the morals of clones and cloning had often bothered me, especially since finding out that I was born of one. The truth was I didn’t know what to think so I just nodded and let the matter go. We had enough issues of our own to deal with without me creating new ones.
“If the Emperor did have clones of himself made, they were not on Coruscant, or at least not in the Palace I am sure of that.” I said after a while. “I am positive I would have felt it and I am certain that Lord Vader would have mentioned it at some point.”
“You think Palpatine kept this a secret from his second in command?”
I shrugged. I didn’t know. “I think it would have been seen by Lord Vader as a weakness and the Emperor knew how much Lord Vader hated him. Knowledge of the Emperor’s need for clones would have given Lord Vader an opportunity to do what he always longed to do, which was destroy the Emperor and take over as ruler of the Empire.”
Thrawn’s chest heaved as he took a deep breath. “Well, in the over all scope of things I am grateful this never happened.”
“Me too.” I said quietly. “I don’t think that Lord Vader would have been a good Emperor.”
That earned me a questioning look but instead of commenting Thrawn merely nodded. We had long ago come to the conclusion that our respective feelings for my now dead boss were vastly different and that we would never see eye to eye about him.
“You know, I would be more concerned about the part of your dream with Isard in it if I were you.” Thrawn said after a moment.
“What do you think it meant?” I asked.
He pursed his lips and shrugged. “I wish I knew. My communication with her is limited at best. She occasionally sends people to me, usually under the guise of me being able to use them but I think it is more a case of her weeding out the Imperials who disagree with her or that she feels could benefit from being made to work under an alien. Anyone being sent to me is seen as being punished. It would be amusing if it were not so time consuming and annoying. I get the impression that she is planning something and has been for some time now. She is aware that the rebellion is heading slowly but surely towards Coruscant and that she does not have the man power to head off a direct, large scale strike, or an attack that would come from many fronts.”
I raised my eyebrows in question. It had been such a long time since I had had anything to do with the Empire or heard any real news from the outside world. I felt as though I were missing huge gaps of a very complicated story.
“When the Emperor died, his hold on the entire galaxy fractured. There are many factions now who would love to obtain a piece of the galaxy for their very own. In killing the one person who truly held it all together, the rebellion has opened this galaxy up to be picked apart by all the warring factions. There are many petty war lords now vying for power in the political and military arena. The rebels know this so their journey towards capturing Coruscant has been a slow and careful one helped by the fact they also lack the man power and the ships to launch a full on attack. I am quite certain that should they decide the time is right to take back the Imperial center it will be done in a covert operation and with as little bloodshed as possible. The rebellion does not wish to be seen as blood thirsty, they wish to be seen as the good side. It is hard to be the saviours of the galaxy if you slaughter innocents along the way.”
“In my dream Isard was eliminating all the aliens, but surely she would not allow that to happen? I mean everyone would hate her even more than they do now.”
“Well one might think so but Isard does not think the way most people in power do and she has a very cruel streak in her.”
“Do you think she would actually attack the alien population to get back at the rebellion? Surely that would just generate more sympathy for them and not her?”
“Perhaps.” He said vaguely. “I am not privy to her inner circle nor do I know her plans. I only know I do not trust her and that it would not be the first time she has done the unexpected to get what she desires.”
I sighed and cradled my now empty cup in my hands. I had nothing to add to what he had said and although there were a billion questions boiling in my head I didn’t know where to begin asking them so silence settled between us once again. We were so good at avoiding the real issues at hand, so good at not talking about the things we really needed to talk to each other about. I wasn’t the only one who felt the weight of these avoidances and I wasn’t the only one who did not know how to bridge the gap.
“I hear you have become quite skilful in the art of Jhal’kai.” Thrawn said eventually, making conversation.
“Navaari is kind.” I smiled slightly. “I still fall flat on my face while walking with snow shoes.”
“But you can track.” Thrawn said. “He tells me you have a talent for that.”
“I can track.” I agreed. It was true, while walking with snow shoes gave me some issues, I was good at following a trail. I could somehow find even the tiniest traces to go by. Navaari had been pretty amazed the first few times I had done this but I thought I owed it more to my force talents than anything else. It was as if I could hone in on what I was seeking and the signs of where whatever I was looking for had been just stood out for me. Thrawn nodded and again we lapsed back into silence until he took the lead and eventually broke the silence.
“If this storm hadn’t closed us in I would have returned to the Grey Wolf which is orbit, but as it looks it could continue for another three or so days so you have some time to decide what you want to do, if you want to stay here or not.” There was concern in his voice and while he did his best to hide it I could read the touch of uncertainty in his expression. A lot rode on what ever I said next. It was a good job, I thought, it was not a difficult decision to make.
“I don’t need more time.” I told him, glancing at his face over the rim of my cup. “I can’t stay here forever and be happy. It just doesn’t work that way. Part of me would always yearn to be with you and I think even Navaari would agree this would not be very healthy. If my nightmare was nothing more than a subconscious creation then it tells me I afraid to lose you. If it was some sort of vision of the future then maybe if I aware of it I can prevent it from happening at all. Either way I don’t want to be without you in my life anymore.” I spoke plainly. “And you promised never to send me away, ever again.” I added, making sure that particular promise did not get forgotten.
After what felt like forever he drew a slow deep breath and nodded slowly, more to himself than to me. I could not tell if he was pleased or displeased and I was a little afraid to ask if he had suddenly changed his mind. “It will not be easy, you know.” He said eventually.
“You told me that but really, nothing has been easy in my life so why should this be any different?”
His eyebrow hitched up a notch, “Why indeed.” He murmured.
The silence that crept back in between us was not uncomfortable but I felt the weight of the past sitting on my shoulders. I sighed which made him look at me in question. “I’m sorry.” I said plainly.
“For what I said to you on Nirauan.” I answered. “I didn’t really mean it. I don’t hate you at all.”
“Ah.” He nodded. “Well, I know that.”
“I was so angry and I wasn’t thinking straight. I hated everything and everyone. I hated what you were doing to me, even though I knew you were right. Mostly I think I hated myself. I was so ashamed.” I sighed, “I should never have said what I did and I’m sorry.”
He reached over and caressed my face. “Is that why you never replied to my letters?”
I nodded staring in to the dregs on my stim-caf wondering if there was anything he did not seem to be able to unravel about me.
“Sometimes you are an utter mystery to me, do you know that?” He sighed. “Not even Kirja’navaar’inkjerii could riddle that one out, although he speculated on it. He said you would never speak of what happened between us the day you left. He said you don’t speak about that time much at all, at least not to him.”
“What is there to say? I poured my heart out to Ma’kehla. Surprisingly enough once I told her all these terrible things I didn’t need to speak of them with anyone else.” That was a half truth and we both knew it but Thrawn let it go.
“She has a power to heal that astonishes me to this day.” He murmured to himself, making me wonder how he would know this and more importantly why.
I looked at him for a moment but when he said nothing more I continued, “And writing an apology just seemed so inadequate. I didn’t know how to get past that and every time I tried to word a reply I ended up hating myself even more. It was easy to channel it into anger and be mad at you because you weren’t there when I needed you on Nirauan and you weren’t here either.”
The sudden quiet that filled the space between us again made me nervous. I thought that I had angered him but when he finally spoke I understood he also felt ashamed of his own actions and just like me, he didn’t know how to move past them.
“I am sorry for that, truly I am.” He said. The power of truth behind his words made my stomach knot with sadness.
I studied his face for a moment then got up. “I know we have a lot more to discuss but I’m hungry and I want to have a bath so can this wait until afterwards?”
“Shall I make breakfast?”
“Might be better if you did, the last time I tried to cook something Navaari banned me from the kitchen.”
“Oh?” His lips twitched in amusement.
“I nearly burnt it down.” I said sheepishly. That had not been one of my more memorable moments.
He laughed then. “Very well, go bathe and I will make food and then we will talk. It would appear that I am not going anywhere for a few days so hopefully that will be enough time to pull out all your secrets.” He teased.
I caught the glitter of mischief in his eyes but I swatted his thigh anyway. “I am not the only one who has lots of explaining to do, you know! You have at least twice as many deep dark secrets as I do! This is a two way conversation! Making it sound as though it is all my fault is a bad move on your part!” I said with my hands on my hips. “As I recall…”
He caught my arm pulling me to him so that I was unbalanced and fell back to sit on his lap with a squeak. I went to protest but he stopped any words from escaping by kissing me. By the time he was done I was too breathless to finish the tirade I had been about to start.
“As I recall,” He said, “you were on your way to have a bath rather than lecture me on the art of conversation.” His voice was more like a purr.
“I think it depends on the definition of conversation and of art.” I replied tartly.
He caressed the back of my neck and then began to unbutton the nightshirt I had slipped back on earlier. “I believe that when it comes to art often the hands on approach is far more useful than wordy explanations. Allow me to demonstrate....”
I shivered as he managed to slip the shirt off me without me actually noticing. It should not have surprised me though, there were parts of him that were becoming very distracting and my clothing or lack of it was the least of my concerns.
“This won’t help towards you making me breakfast or our discussion.” I swallowed and wondered if I was just confusing the sand jiggers in my belly for hunger and that really I wasn’t hungry at all, at least not for food cooked in the kitchen.
His hand trailed down the front of my neck, traced the outline of my collar bone and then went on to explore another parts of my body which made me forget anything else I had planned to say. “I like this style of conversation.” He said with a grin, “it allows me to get a word in edgewise.” And to prove his point his fingertips danced over the sensitive skin of my breasts making me bite my lower lip to try and not make a sound. “That I can occasionally render you speechless is a very, very good thing.” He added mischievously.
“Only because you use dirty tactics.” I managed to say.
That made him smile. “It is your race who says that all is fair in love and in war. It seems to me that this relationship is a little of both.”
I squirmed under his touch which was making me ache from the inside out. Then needing to find some equal footing I tugged off his pants. His smile broadened as he moved his hips to make this task easier for me. I blushed at his arousal. It still amazed me that I could do that to him. Of course I managed to regain some ground when I stroked him gently with the tips of my fingers then decided it was time to turn the tables completely. I smirked at the look of surprise which danced across his face when I began to execute some rather unorthodox manoeuvres of my own.
He arched an eyebrow. “Where did you learn to do that?” He breathed. “I don’t recall ever teaching you ….”
I grinned as I placed the tips of my fingers on his lips. “That’s because you didn’t.”
The expression on his face turned dark. “I thought you said you were never with another man in this way…?”
This time I clamped my whole hand over his mouth. “I wasn’t, you are still the only man I have ever shared a bed with but I have girlfriends here and we share things, compare notes and talk about … stuff.” I said with a little nonchalant shrug.
This time both his eyebrows shot up in surprise. “You share and compare things?” he asked sounding a little alarmed.
“That’s the great things about having girl friends.” I answered airily then before he could think to speak I just gave him a look and occupied his attention with another interesting trick, grinning broadly when I heard his own moan of pleasure.
My friends Tanika, Sh’jenni and I had spent many a lengthy discussion on relationships, men, sex and everything in between. Sh’jenni had a rather interesting holovid drama that her mate had smuggled on-planet for her… it was both explicit, amusing and remarkably educational all at the same time. We had watched it together one evening when Navaari was away. We had all drunk a little too much ice-wine so we ended up laughing through most of it, finding the whole thing uproariously funny. Aside from the holovid, its how-to tips and our own discussion on the men we shared our beds with, what I remember most about that evening was giggling so hard it hurt and the sensation of warm friendship. I had discovered that it was good to have girlfriends and I would miss them sorely when I left Hjal.
“Just what exactly do you tell them?” He asked when he found his voice again.
I just gave him a wicked grin and said. “Everything.” Which wasn’t actually true but he didn’t need to know that.
He opened his mouth to say something else then changed his mind. It was amusing to watch various emotions flicker across his face. After a second or two he simply shook his head and asked. “So what else did you pick up that I should know about, my dear? Now you have quite piqued my curiosity.”
“You know what they say about that don’t you!” I replied as I began to execute another of the more intriguing things I had learned from the silly holovid.
It was his turn to smile. “Ah yes, curiosity killed the jax, but as I recall you keep telling me satisfaction brought the unfortunate creature back to life and I have the distinct feeling you will satisfy me greatly.”
I just shrugged but he was probably right and I set about seeing if that was actually the case. The look on his face told me there would by a rather hefty question and answer session after this was all over and I looked forward to his interrogation but right now I had rendered him mostly speechless which was good enough for me.
Need shot through us both, I felt it sharply and it sucked my breath away. Suddenly I wasn’t in the least bit hungry for food any more and even though I knew he wasn’t about to go to the kitchen anytime soon but that wasn’t going to stop him from cooking up a storm. He had decided that both my having a bath and his making breakfast could wait. I wasn’t about to complain about this diversionary tactic. There were all sorts of hungers in the galaxy but this was the only one I knew he alone could satiate; the only down side was that he would take his time and drive me crazy. However, I had long since learned that it was a game two could play. With a smile I shifted to straddle his lap, pushed him back so that I could show him that he was not the only one capable of fulfilling these physical culinary delights.
Despite our rising need and aching passion, Thrawn took great pleasure in drawing out our love making with agonizing slowness. He let me play but never let me take it over the edge, always pulling us both back before it went too far and was all over. It was as though he wanted these moments between us to last forever and I didn’t complain because there was such a sweetness in our coupling that I didn’t want it to end either. It never ceased to astonish me how our two bodies could meld into one and that the power that we produced between us felt as though it could light up an entire city.
We moved together, rippling like falling water, his scent and mine mingled into a new perfume which only served to aroused us further. I breathed him in deeply, musk, spice and something unique only to him and I tasted the salt on his skin as my mouth explored his body. Making breakfast was taking on an entirely new meaning, yet there was something bitter-sweet about this. As though we were both trying to make up for something irretrievably lost. I felt the flicker of sorrow slip through him and pulled back from him to frown. When our eyes met, he shook his head in answer to the question I didn’t voice but something in the way he looked at me told me that, no matter what, I had his heart. It was an overwhelming moment and tears sprang to my eyes. If last night had been about the physical reunion then this morning was more about reuniting our souls and it was an agonizingly slow and painfully honest affair.
“What is it?” I asked him as he brushed away the tears that escaped down my cheeks. His shifting emotions puzzled me. It was unusual and incredibly alarming.
“I truly, truly missed you, sj’iu tekari.”He said gently. It was the truth and he had said it in such a way that I felt the rush of emotion which accompanied his words and understood that it was what had not actually been said that really mattered. It was like standing in front of a damn that had broken. All I could do was hold on to him with my arms and my legs, so tightly that I could feel his heart beat against mine. I dug my nails into the skin of his shoulders so hard that he hissed in pain.
If I could have captured this moment in time and held it forever I would have but time has rules and it moved forward in accordance with them. “Peyla’mer a mal’yn.” I told him fiercely, nipping the delicate skin of his neck just under his ear with my teeth to make sure he got the point. You belong to me.
“Sad but true.” He teased with a grin, pulling my hands off his shoulders, easing me back a little. “Though it would be less painful if I were to simply tattoo this on my flesh rather than have you try to mark me with your nails and teeth every time we do this.”
“Pain is good for the soul.” I said, checking the skin on his shoulders to make sure I hadn’t actually drawn blood.
He only smiled in response and then, with his mouth and his hands, he shut me up.
He had been right, as usual, when he had once said that the Chiss had astonishing stamina but he had failed to mention anything about the voracious appetite they also appeared to possess. I was grateful for all the hard work that Navaari had put me through in the last year because it meant I was in good enough shape to keep up with him. Nothing, it seemed, not even falling empires, assassination attempts or near death experiences could keep us apart. I hoped, as we climaxed together, that we had finally learned our lessons. We were meant to be with one another and that was all there was to it. Why we both seemed to fight against this was beyond me.
Long after the waves of pleasure had rippled through us both, did he finally concede that he, too, was hungry and in desperate need of a shower and that it might be perhaps a good thing if we left the bed. I was in too languid a state to argue with him or point out that he had started this particular go-around so his hunger was entirely his fault and that, yes, he really did need a shower. After he had finished in the ‘fresher, I ran a bath and luxuriated in the abundant geo thermally heated water until he came in to tell me that breakfast was almost ready. Dressed in clean clothes, I joined him at the kitchen table and for the first time since before the battle of Endor we shared a meal that was not fraught with tension or anger. He had not forgotten how to cook and I was grateful for his culinary talents both in the kitchen as well as out of it.
It was only after we had eaten and the dishes were cleared away did the tension begin to creep back into our world. He made a fresh pot of tea and then sat down across from me. I knew by the look in his face that now there would be no more distractions and when he began to talk, I listened just I knew when I spoke he would listen to me. I also knew that it would not be easy for either of us, despite the passion we stirred up between us, we had a lot of things we needed to sort out and if we didn’t get a handle on the issues here and now then our lives as a couple with all the pressures that were to come with being together on Nirauan would collide badly. If I had learned anything from my time on Hjal under Navaari’s tutelage it was when to shut up and listen. Luckily for me Thrawn had learned the very same thing from the very same man.