I sat bundled up in furs and warm clothes and watched the swirling snow from my sheltered place as the storm continued to howl. After five days of being cooped up inside the enclave I had decided enough was enough and done my usual disappearing trick. Thrawn’s restlessness was infectious and he had begun to grate on my nerves. After a year or more of sleeping alone, I wasn’t used to sharing my bed or my space and I was finding the adjustment a little difficult, though I suspected it had more to do with his edginess than his presence. He had accomplished what he had come here to do and now he wanted to return to work in the Unknown Regions but the weather, which was some of the worst I had ever seen on Hjal, was making it impossible for ships to land or take off.
It was twilight and the sky had turned an eerie purple colour as the last of the day’s light filtered its way through the storm. I was grateful for the clever design of Kerrjan’s addition which sheltered me from the worst of the frigid wind and blowing snow. This was not weather I wanted to go walking in but my need to be outside and breathe the fresh, icy air was far stronger than my love of warmth and being indoors. I sensed rather than heard the door behind me open and smiled at Navaari’s presence, shifting on the bench to make room for him.
“Impressive weather this, I expected it would be dying down this morning but I see that isn’t the case.” He said as he sat next to me and began to clean out his pipe. “Thought I’d better come and make sure you weren’t planning on spending the night out here again.”
I grinned. The bench that Kerrjan had made was just wide enough for me to lie down on and wrapped up in the warm furs of my long coat and my other outdoor clothes I had actually fallen asleep on a couple of occasions. Something about the warmth of the clothing and cold bite of the air relaxed me, I knew I was safe and so when the drowsiness had crept over me I had not fought against it. It amused Navaari to no end that I could do this in the middle of a howling gale, even though I had pointed out I wasn’t actually in the middle of it at all.
“Wasn’t my plan.” I answered.
“Your Ta’kasta’cariad was asking where you were.”
“I left a note.” I said defensively.
“Yes,” Navaari chuckled, “but ‘Gone hunting’ is not very informative. I know what that really means but he does not. He was thinking that perhaps you might be doing something … foolish.”
“As if I’d dare!” I retorted.
Navaari nodded. “I was telling him not to be worrying. You were not going anywhere.” He said. “I explained to him that you would not be making such an error in judgement again but he was not so convinced.” That made me grin. Navaari allowed you the grace to make a mistake once and learn from it but repeating the same error often provoked his ire.
“Huh, then I’m sort of surprised that he didn’t come looking himself.” I replied.
“He was asked to join a meeting that will be taking place shortly and I told him I would take care of finding you. I was thinking you were needed some breathing space, yes?”
“Something like that.” I nodded.
I felt his smile and watched as he lit his pipe, the warm red glow of the burning tobacco was a strange contrast to the white of the snow in the dark of the night. I inhaled deeply the scent which I would forever associate with the man sitting next to me. Although Navaari never smoked the pipe in the apartment, the scent of it clung to his clothes anyway, sweet and almost apple like.
“This need you have for the wide open always makes me wonder how you can love being in space in a tiny ship so much, Kycsi’i.”
“Well, it’s awfully hard to be in space without one.” I grinned at the nick name. He had long ago stopped calling me Tjällh. He said I was no longer a small, silly child so the name no longer applied but it hadn’t taken him long to find a replacement for it though. Kycsi’i was the shortcut for a word that when roughly translated into basic meant wolf-pup. It was a soft word, pronounced through closed teeth so that it sounded like ka-yey-shh-eh. I had Kerrjan to thank for it. He had taken to calling me ‘little wolf pup’ all the time and the name had somehow spread and stuck. It never ceased to astonish me how quickly some nicknames managed to stick to a person but I took it as a sign of affection and it was way better than the last one Navaari had given me. A comfortable silence settled between us again and I closed my eyes, listening to the sounds the wind made as it moved around us. It was slowing down and the mournful howling was giving way to a grating whine. I wondered if the storm was finally starting to die off but it didn’t have the usual feel of a storm’s end. I smiled at the hissing sound the snow made as it snaked across the frozen ground because it reminded me sharply of sand in the desert. That my two homes which were so vastly different had so many similarities never ceased to amaze me.
“What is on your mind?” Navaari said after a long silence. “I noticed that the two of you were quiet at breakfast this morning. Is something wrong?”
“Nothing in particular, just restless.” I said, then after a moment I added, hoping it would be enough of the truth to placate his curiosity. “Za’ar was driving me nuts.”
“He is missing space.” He said carefully, turning to give me a speculative look.
Up until a few days ago Thrawn, as a topic for conversation, had been absolutely off limits so Navaari was testing the waters. I couldn’t blame him for being cautious, Bringing up Thrawn in any kind of discussion before now had usually resulted in shouting matches, angry silences or me walking out of the room. Just hearing his name had hurt and had stirred up my anger at everything I had felt he was responsible for. Now that had changed and for the most part my reasons for being so angry no longer existed, still my reply to Navaari’s answer was cross. “I am well aware of that but does he have to make us all suffer for it?”
That made Navaari chuckle. “It will be over soon enough and then you will leave here to be with him where he is at his best.” He said with sorrow lacing his voice. It made me ache with a loss that had not even happened but would come as sure as the day followed the night. My departure lingered over everything now, only the storm’s violence had delayed the inevitable from happening. I knew I had to leave, and that staying would be the wrong move to make but knowing this did not make it any easier to deal with.
I heaved a large sigh. “I don’t want to go!” It came out sounding petulant but I didn’t care.
Navaari wrapped his arm across my shoulders and pulled me into a hug. I rested my head on his shoulder. “I know that.” He said, “But you cannot be staying here forever, you would eventually go stir crazy. Hjal has served its purpose.”
“My father said almost exactly the same thing about me leaving Tatooine when I got the job working for Lord Vader.”
“Then your father is a wise man and he was right. All pups must be leaving the den sooner or later. You have a destiny that is not here. I will be missing you sorely but I am certain you will be visiting me on occasion, yes?”
“Of course!” I said, hoping it was true. I loved Navaari with a ferociousness that seemed almost unreal at times and the very prospect of leaving him brought a lump to my throat. For over a year this had been home. He had become family to me, strong, solid and kind and in some ways I felt closer to him than I did with my own father. I often thought about this while living on Hjal because the blood ties between the families here meant so much that I wondered how I could feel so strongly for all the people I considered family in my life when I was not tied by genetics to any of them. I had asked Navaari about this one day after we had made up from a particularly loud and spectacular argument. His reply had been short and simple but its implications had weighed heavily on my shoulders for days after wards. “Love does not have blood ties, Kycsi’i,” he had said, “Love only knows love.” I had not understood this then but over time it dawned on me that I chose my family not the other way around and in some ways I was blessed to be able to do so without the obligations that being bound by the same blood line often seemed to create.
“Why can’t I be two people?” I asked him.
“Two of you?” he shook his head, “I don’t know what to be doing with just one of you….”
I made a face which he couldn’t see. “Oh you sound just like Za’ar.”
His warm, booming laughter was carried away by a sudden gust of wind. Despite my warm clothes I shivered.
“He was speaking with one of your students this morning and was most impressed with the progress you have been making. He had no idea that you would be such a good instructor.” Navaari said after a lengthy silence. “He was telling me he hopes that you will make the same progress on Nirauan.”
I sighed. “I can’t think of a job I want less, you know.” I said. “I don’t have fond memories of that place and the people on the base were not the friendliest in the galaxy. The Chiss seemed to resent the humans and the humans don’t really like the Chiss. I don’t want to be stuck in the middle.”
“You will be doing just fine and those who you teach will warm up to you.” Navaari said.
“Maybe.” I said. “I feel as though I am going back there because there is no where else for me to really go and that’s not really a good reason is it?”
Navaari’s answer was surprisingly blunt. “You are going because he needs you and you need him. Without you, your Ta’kasta’cariad is half a man though he would be hard pressed into actually admitting this to anyone. You make him whole, Kycsi’i, you complete him.” It had taken Navaari all of a second to see that things between Thrawn and I had worked themselves out, more or less. He had come back from his meetings to find us in the living room playing the Dantassi version of dejarik. The atmosphere between us was decidedly less tense than it had been twenty or so hours previously.
I snorted a little. “Za’ar was never half a man with or without me.”
Navaari’s chuckle made the swinging bench jiggle. “Do not be underestimating your importance to him or your place in his life.”
“And just what makes me so important?”
Navaari turned his head to look at me, both the soft glow of his eyes rivalled by the warm red embers of his pipe burned brightly against the dark of the on coming night. “Love, Kycsi’i, unconditional love.” Navaari said quietly. “As I said, he came back because he needs you. You bring light into the darkness. Kerrjan was very apt in likening you to a wolf-pup, you know, you are just like one. You give your love and your loyalty so freely, and I have never seen you ask for anything in return except to be loved back. It is a very rare thing and it’s precious beyond belief. Both Nikätza’arth’pavjäska and I are blessed by your presence in our lives.”
Love. I thought about this for a moment because it was a word that held so many meanings and so much promise but at the same time it also caused so many problems and it did so much damage. I sighed, retreating back in to an almost sullen silence.
After a while Navaari asked, “What’s really on your mind, Kycsi’i? Are you unhappy? Do you not wish to return to Nirauan with Nikätza’arth’pavjäska? Did you and he have a fight over something?”
I shook my head, thinking about the strange turn the discussion Thrawn and I had had as we had lain in bed the night before. “No, we didn’t fight exactly.” I answered his last question. “It’s more about things which haven’t been said.”
“What do you mean?”
I drew a deep, deep breath and let it out slowly. “He never told you he was going to use the unmasking ceremony to bind himself to me before it actually happened, did he?”
“No.” Navaari replied.
“Did he ever tell you why?” I pressed because I was certain that Navaari would have asked Thrawn this.
“I did not ask him because I knew the answer.” Navaari said after a lengthy silence which let me know I would probably not like the reply to my next question.
“And that is?”
“He knew I would try to stop him.”
A myriad of emotions flashed through me all at once not the least of which was surprise. The was the very last answer I had expected to hear Navaari give and it brought back a flood of insecurities which surfaced in my mind every now and then about belonging to and being part of the Dantassi culture. I was so alien among them and sometimes, despite assurances to the contrary, I truly felt as though I had no right to be there. For a long moment I did not know how to respond to this and then when I found my voice I asked the only question I could.