Waiting for an argument to happen…it wasn’t much fun, I thought. I changed into a comfortable dress and settled on the couch with a book in hand but I didn’t get much reading done. When the door chime sounded I nearly jumped out of my skin before waving my hand, using the force to open it. Thrawn walked in and removed his jacket; his way of letting me know that what ever went on, what ever would be discussed it was without the formality of his rank. I refilled my brandy glass and poured a second for Thrawn, then got up and offered it to him. He took it from my hand without a word, touched his glass to mine and we drank in silence.
“Nice dress. Not quite as nice as the one you had on earlier but still….” He said after what felt like an eternity. His eyes swept up and down my body.
“I was told it was a formal dinner, that is the only real formal dress I have here, everything else I own is on Nirauan.” I said defensively, avoiding his eyes and concentrating on my drink which had suddenly become incredibly interesting.
“Probably a good thing since I’ve seen some of those dresses and given the reaction the one you had on this evening caused I would have hated to see what would happen if you had worn one of those.” His words were tart and annoyed me.
“So you’d prefer me to dress down and not look my best?” I asked sipping my drink, glancing at him from over the rim of my glass. I refrained from reminding him that I was here because of he had all but insisted I come here instead of returning to Nirauan or staying on Tatooine.
He reached over and caressed my face, “I’d prefer that other men did not look at you as though you were not wearing a dress at all.”
I opened my mouth to reply then closed it again, then said with a shrug. “I can’t help what men think.” I replied. “This includes you.”
He sighed and sat down, gesturing for me to sit next to him. He sipped his drink thoughtfully and I watched, noticing he looked more tired, perhaps more stressed now than he had as I had left the dining room. I wondered what had transpired after I had gone. Both Ged and Thrawn could be incredibly bloody minded when they wanted and I didn’t really want to be around when the two of them locked horns.
“I heard you spent most of the day working in your ship, is everything in order?” He asked after a few moments of quiet had passed between us.
“The ship is fine,” I nodded. “You know me sometimes I just need to tinker.”
“That’s usually a sign that you’re bored, troubled or unhappy though.” He countered, contemplating his glass and its contents.
“Not this time.” I said which was mostly true.
“I take it you heard I will be here for a day or so more.”
“Yes, the Admiral mentioned that earlier.”
There was another long silence between us and I glanced up to find him staring intently at me.
“What?” I asked with a frown.
“Is there something wrong, Tekari?”
“Why do you ask?”
“I detected a rather tense undercurrent at that dinner this evening and it hasn’t dissipated any.” He said carefully.
I nodded, “It’s nothing.” I lied. I had no idea how to tell him about what had happened in the docking bay and it was making me miserable. I swirled the brandy in my glass and took another gulp.
Thrawn watched me for a moment then asked, “Did you and Larsen have a fight about something?”
I glanced at him too quickly and then looked away, shaking my head. He frowned and reached to stroke my face but I pulled back from his touch. He watched me for a long, difficult moment then asked, “Have I done something to offend you Merlyn?”
This time I met his eyes. “No, of course not . It’s just…” I began but I stopped unable to find the words to tell him what I knew I should. I didn’t want to lie but I was confused and he had a jealous streak which I didn’t want to bring forward.
“If it is not me then what is going on because I know that something is on your mind.” He asked carefully, “You’re acting as though you’ve been caught skulking around where you shouldn’t have been. Did you do something you were not supposed to on board Larsen’s ship? Is that why I detected such a peculiar tension going on this evening?”
“No!” I said crossly. “You know me better than that!”
“Yes,” Thrawn said archly, “I do and that’s why I am asking.”
“No, I have not done anything!” I replied hotly.
He sat back on the couch and nodded, “So then what was going on at the dinner this evening? The strange innuendos, the furtive glances….”
I huffed out my breath, feeling the weight of my guilt as well as my anger at Ged for placing me in this situation, finished my brandy in a single gulp then reached for the bottle but Thrawn, placing his hand over mind, stopped me.
“Okay, now I know there is something going on because you only drink like this when there is something on your mind you don’t want to talk about or deal with. Out with it, Tekari, no more secrets, you know what happens when you bottle things up.” He commanded.
I sighed and was about to pour out the whole story to him when the door-chime to my quarters rang. I frowned. It was far too late for casual visitors. I waited a second to see if who ever it was would go away but the chime rang again.
“If it was for me they would have reached me by comm.” Thrawn said, “You’d better answer it, it may be important.”
I made a face and got up, opened the door and sucked in my breath. “Admiral Larsen…” I started as I came face to face with Ged, holding a bottle of wine in his hand.
“How many times must I tell you to call me Ged when we are alone?” He teased.
“Not enough, obviously.” I mumbled, “What can I do for you Admiral?”
“I thought I would see if you felt like a night cap Merly.” He said with a grin I was sure he meant to be both boyishly charming and seductive all at the same time, “Since dinner was a pretty stuffed shirt affair.”
“Thank you but I’m afraid that’s not a very good idea right now.”
He frowned. “Why not, I thought we could continue where we left off earlier.”
I bit my lip and closed my eyes knowing that Thrawn, who was seated just out of the line of sight, could hear every word. “No thank you.” I said more firmly. I had his entry blocked to my quarters but he decided to ignore my body language which said please go away and moved past me to walk into the room. He was so focused on me that he did not see Thrawn at first.
“Ged, you need to go….” I tried to stop him but he just smiled and reached out to touch my face but then stopped half way when he saw Thrawn.
“Good evening Admiral Larsen.” Thrawn said, his voice was frosty.
Ged’s expression changed from playful to serious in an instant. “Sir!” He said in his crispest military manner. “Grand Admiral, I didn’t realise you were still here. I was under the impression you had returned to the Chimaera with Captain Pellaeon.” There was a rebuke under the formal tone and both men knew it.
“Indeed, though as you can see this is not the case.” Thrawn replied.
“Yes sir. May I ask what kept you behind? Nothing serious I hope?”
“I have business to discuss with Miss Gabriel in private. Why are you here at such a late hour?” Thrawn said coolly and glanced at me in a way that let me know he was definitely starting to get the wrong idea.
Ged looked from Thrawn to me and then back to Thrawn again. The tension which had eased somewhat earlier on had returned and somehow managed to double. I wanted to crawl under my bed and hide there. “I wished to let Miss Gabriel know that the requisition she placed with the Quartermaster has been filled and set by her ship for pick up.” It was a lie and I frowned as soon as I heard it, Thrawn who had been watching my face knew this from my expression and his own darkened slightly.
“I am sure this news will be of great relief.” He said. This was something that Ged could have told me by comm. and showing up at my quarters this late at night with a bottle of wine was not exactly proper procedure. For a moment there was absolute stillness then uncharacteristically Thrawn looked at me and spoke in his native tongue. “Do you care to tell me what is going on here?” That streak of jealousy he kept well hidden, well in check, the one I had really hoped to avoid was beginning to rear its ugly head.
“There’s nothing going on and you’re being rude.” I chided back in Cheunh. I felt the spike of his surprise and anger like a slap and the tension in my quarters ramped up another notch.
“Merlyn,” Ged interrupted, “There are some unfinished reports that need to be dealt with before you depart on your mission. I would appreciate it if you would meet with me to deal with them at your earliest convenience.”
“Yes sir.” I said quietly. “I’ll get to it first thing.”
Again there was another lengthy silence and then Thrawn asked coldly, “Will there be anything else Admiral Larsen?”
Ged looked at Thrawn but kept his expression neutral. “No sir.” He replied.
“Then that will be all.” There was no mistaking the curt and not so polite dismissal in Thrawn’s words and I watched as Ged’s jaw clenched for a second. He had a lot of respect for Thrawn but this was his ship and he did not like his authority being usurped, especially over me. However, deciding that perhaps this was not the time or the place for any sort of showdown he gave both me and Thrawn a curt, polite nod then exited my quarters and left us to our own silence. It was a long and uncomfortable one which eventually Thrawn broke.
“Do I have a reason to be concerned now, Tekari?” He asked. “Because what I am sensing between you and that man wasn’t present when you and I met this morning.”
I felt a stab of desire at the memory of our love making from early in the morning. It had been a sweet and gentle reunion which had been, above all, uncomplicated. “No!” I said fiercely then stammered, changing my answer, “Maybe…damn it… I don’t know, I don’t think so!” I stamped my foot and turned away from him, pacing towards the wall a few meters away. I heard him follow me but ignored him until, frustrated, he grabbed my arm and spun me around to face him.
“What in Da’han’s name is going on here?” He hissed.
“Nothing!” I said far more loudly than I had intended. He didn’t believe me even though it really was the truth.
His eyebrow arched sharply. “Oh really? Well it certainly does not feel like nothing.” I wavered and he pushed. “That man shows up at your quarters unannounced at an inappropriate time, with a bottle of wine and wants to, how did he put it, finish what you started earlier and you tell me it’s nothing?” He shook his head as if he couldn’t quite get a grasp on the thoughts running through his head, “Out with it! Now! No more of this nonsense.”
“It’s nothing! He kissed me! That’s all!” I blurted.
Thrawn let go of my arm as though it had burnt him and the sudden silence between us was like a kick in the gut.
“Ged Larsen kissed you?” His words came out quiet and precise. “And you call this nothing.”
“Is this another Zaarin incident?” He asked carefully.
I shook my head, “No, it was not like that at all.”
Thrawn looked at me, his glowing, red eyes drilled into my soul like burning needles. “So this man kissed you but you don’t feel threatened by him and it wasn’t totally against your will, what does that mean exactly?”
“It doesn’t mean anything.” I said petulantly. “And before you totally get the wrong idea I certainly did not initiate it either.”
“Before I get the wrong idea…. I think it is a bit late for that, my dear.”
“Then rethink your ideas because there is nothing going on.”
“That’s not what I am sensing. If it was so meaningless you would not be having this much difficulty talking about it.”
I sighed. “He came to see me before diner. At first it was just conversation but then it got all strange, before I knew what was going on he was kissing me and then saying that I should tell you that you have competition for my affections.”
“And do I?” He asked coldly.
I paused just a little too long before shaking my head. “No.”
He frowned just a little, looking more hurt than angry, “Do you have feelings for this man?”
I drew a breath so deep it made my lungs shudder. “Maybe, no, I don’t know.” I said miserably. “I didn’t think so but I’ve been stuck here on this tub for over six weeks and up until this morning not heard a single word from you, he’s been kind to me, I thought we were just friends and…but…I don’t know. I didn’t think so until….” I stopped before I dug this miserable hole any bigger.
“He kissed you and it stirred you up.” He said softly, more to himself than to me. “Do I no longer…”
“This has nothing to do with you Za’ar.” I said wishing I didn’t feel so confused. “I would think that after this morning you wouldn’t have to ask this question!”
“Then explain to me why all of a sudden I feel as though I do.” He said, “What the hell is going on?”
“I don’t know what the hell is going on, I didn’t expect this from him, it came out of the blue. He must have misinterpreted signals from me because I sure as hell didn’t intend for him to think I was free for the taking. But to be fair he didn’t actually know about you and I and he wasn’t lying when he told me that…I wanted to tell him but….”
An impatient wave of Thrawn’s hand cut me off mid sentence. “He misinterpreted? I somehow find it hard to believe that a man as clever Ged Larsen would manage to misinterpret signals of that kind over a period of what, six weeks?” He snapped. “You must have been….”
“I must have been…?” I interrupted loudly, “I did nothing wrong!” I yelled, realising that the more I protested my innocence the worse it all sounded, but his accusation that I was somehow to blame annoyed me. “Stop insinuating that this is all my fault!”
“If that is the case then why are you acting as if you have something to be guilty about?” He asked, his cool logic infuriating me.
“I am not!” I shot back, knowing full well I was, “I had no idea what he was feeling and I certainly wasn’t giving him mixed signals! I don’t know why he had to make it so complicated!” I yelled.
Thrawn made a small gesture with his shoulder and looked away from me for a moment, as if were deciding something. “Well Tekari, he didn’t make it complicated; you do that all by yourself. Perhaps he simply gave you a choice which you did not know you had before.”
“It’s not a choice I wanted or sought out.” I snapped back sullenly.
“Then what do you want? Because if it is to settle down in a house on a nice planet someplace and lead a normal life with me as your mate by your side I will tell you right now that is not going to happen any time soon.” Now he was angry. “I do not have to tell you how difficult things are going to get once this campaign begins in full. I give you as much of my free time as I can, if that is not enough then I don’t know what else to do,” He paused for a moment to study my face then said, “Do you see the possibility of that sort of a life with Ged Larsen?”
I looked at him with wide eyes not liking how this was all turning out. “I’m completely freaked out about a single kiss, I feel guilty because a little part of me enjoyed but you… you already have him and me living together?” I asked in disbelief, “Now who is making a big deal out of this? It was just a kiss not sex, not a pledge of marriage or anything else!” I was right and he knew it but it didn’t matter and now once again we were fighting because of another man.
“Do you wish to sleep with him?” He asked calmly, as though he were asking if I wanted another drink.
I stared at him and wondered, just of a second if it was possible to love and hate all at the very same time. “I’m still trying to work through the fact that he is attracted to me, that he kissed me. I hadn’t thought that far ahead but if you give me some time I might have an answer for you.” I said nastily.
I watched the muscles of his jaw clench. I was winding him up, and some very small part of me was enjoying it as if I wanted him angry and jealous. Another part of me kept thinking that we were acting like idiots and this was all going to end very badly if someone didn’t come to their sense very soon.
“You did not answer my original question; do you see the possibility of a life together with him?” He asked again, slowly, dangerously.
“I shook my head. “No, the answer is no. In the space of five hours he’s gone from being a simple friend to something I can’t define. I like him, we get along and there are things about me he understands like what it means to use the force but he’s not you and I never considered that this would happen, it was not something I planned.”
“Planned!” He snorted, “You don’t ever plan anything, you walk into situations and create chaos. If this was so unplanned then why do you act as though you have betrayed me.”
“I am not acting as though I betrayed you, I am confused because I felt something other than fear and loathing. This wasn’t like when Zaarin tried to rape me. It never occurred to me that another man would feel that way for me or could make me feel like that.”
“Like I was something more than just a glorified secretary or a decorative feature to be bedded at one’s convenience or someone’s punching bag!” I snapped.
“Is that how I make you feel? Because if that’s the case you’ve had ample time to say something or walk away.”
“No! Stop twisting my words!” I yelled at him. “He kissed me. I didn’t ask him to, he just did it!” I said through clenched teeth. “Once. That was all. It took me by surprise and I reacted.”
“I see.” He said coldly. “One kiss is enough to change a world A’myshk’a, you and I both know that. How do I know that is not the case now?”
“I am bound to you.” I protested, as if that was the answer to everything.
“Not in any official capacity.” He replied coolly.
I looked into his eyes, grabbed his arm and pushed up the sleeve of his undershirt. “This says otherwise.” I said, touching the bracelet around his wrist.
His head tilted to one side. “This has no meaning in the legal sense of the word.”
His words stung even though I knew what he meant. “If it is so meaningless then why do you bother to wear it?” I spat.
“Merlyn, I pride myself on having almost infinite patience but you are eroding that swiftly.” He said very quietly. “You know very well what I mean. You are not legally bound to me under any Dantassi laws which means you are still free to choose another mate should you wish to do so. The bracelet itself has great meaning for me otherwise I would not have accepted it from you, nor would I break regulations to wear it and you should know this.”
“I see.” I bit back. “Well I also bound myself to you in public with the blessing of the elder and you did not complain about it then but it was not legal or official because you won’t ever allow this for what- ever lame excuse I am still waiting to hear. While you made certain that you are unattainable to anyone else I am apparently still free for the taking and therefore an easy target to any predator that comes along!”
“There are valid reasons for this as you well know.” He said coolly.
“No, I do not well know! You never give me a valid reason!” I snapped. “Always we do things your way; always you are the one dictating how everything between us goes. Everything is under your control all the time! We meet when you say, we have sex when it’s convenient for you and our relationship is this huge secret I can’t talk about! How is anyone else supposed to know I am off limits when I can’t tell them I’m taken?” I yelled, “You’ve left me, by your own admission, free to pick and choose yet every time someone else gets close to me you totally freak out. You won’t let me officially bind myself to you yet you act as though that is how I should behave. I’m not anything to you under any law any where. How the hell do you think that makes me feel? You cannot control me or who is attracted to me even though you try. You won’t let me openly and legally bind to you so where does this leave me? You can’t have it your way all the time. ”
I was right and my point was valid, I could see that in the expression on his face but he didn’t give way, he was too angry. “So you are saying you welcomed the advances from Larsen?”
“No that is not what I am saying and you know this.” I snarled. “How many times must I tell you there is no one else? How many ways can I say you are stuck with me before you believe me? You need to get a grip on your jealousy? Stop twisting everything around, stop making this more confusing than it should be!”
“I am not the one who seems to be confused or uncertain about my feelings in the matter of our bond. It is you who seem to have some reservations. Jealousy has nothing to do with this.”
Our eyes met and I held his stare. He was making me cross, “I do not have reservations.” I told him. “And as for your feelings…” I shrugged, “You hide behind that Chiss cool and pretend nothing ever touches you but I know better, I’ve seen what happens when someone encroaches on your space. You are so jealous you can’t even bear the thought of another man being interested in me let alone touch or kiss me so don’t you dare tell me otherwise. You think you own me!”
“That is a lie.” He growled, his voice low and angry as he walked towards me so that I had to back up until I came up against the wall. Leaning over me with one arm braced against the bulkhead at my back so that I could feel the warmth from his body and the heat of his bottled fury as he spoke. He was angry but for the first time since this whole discussion began I got the feeling he was not just angry with me but rather with something or someone else unrelated to the matter at hand, this was just an outlet for something bigger that had gotten under his skin.
“Is it?” I asked. “Then why do you accuse me of being unfaithful to you when you know it’s not true, when I tell you everything that’s going on?”
“Tell me everything? Since when? I practically have to use Imperial interrogation methods to get you to tell me what is on your mind!”
“Now you’re just being mean.” I said, “I was about to tell you what happened when the door chime rang, you were the one who told me to answer it, remember?”
“Ah yes, well who knows what you were about to say,” he said, “If you really did have nothing to hide, then you would not feel so reticent about telling me the truth about what the hell is going on between the two of you and you certainly would not be entertaining him so late at night in your private quarters.”
“I did not invite him to come here tonight, in fact I was just as surprised as you were when he showed up and even had you not been here I still would have told him no!”
“Larsen does not strike me as a man who takes no for an answer.”
I narrowed my eyes at him, “Then I would have dealt with him the same way I dealt with Zaarin but I am sure Ged would not have pushed things in that direction.” I snapped, “Why are you so angry? Quit making this into an even bigger mess than it already seems to be. You’re being a moron stop complicating everything.” The moment the words were out of my mouth I knew I had pushed the wrong button and gone too far.
“Allow me to un-complicate it then.” He said and without further warning, grasped my chin roughly with his forefinger and thumb and he kissed me.
With his tongue and his lips he poured his anger into me and I fed off it as though I were starving. His jealousy and my guilt, along with our combined tempers, mingled to form a sort of madness that swept over the two of us in a way I had never experienced before. His kiss was brutal but I welcomed it, wanted it and he knew this by my reaction. When he drew back to stare at me I felt a subtle pause in time and space as though the galaxy were waiting to see which side of some invisible crazy line that we were so dangerously close to crossing we would end up on. I stared into his face wishing he would stop this insanity, wanting him to wrap his arms around me and tell me all was forgiven that he understood and that it didn’t matter but he did none of these things, he simply stared at me, his glowing red eyes burning with an emotion I wasn’t sure I could read and certainly didn’t like. For a moment we both wavered, then our eyes locked and he kissed me again with renewed savagery. I should have stopped him but I didn’t. His kisses were possessive as well as unkind. There was a power to them and it took over everything else including common sense. I soaked it in, revelled in it, craved it and sent it back; showering him through the force with everything we were both feeling complicating the madness further still. It was terrible and I let it get completely out of control driving our actions until I had no idea what we were doing. It was as if all reason, all sense had flown out the airlock. Before I fully understood where this was headed, without words he hoisted me up and, with a deftness that comes only from practice, took me swiftly against the wall of my quarters claiming what he felt was his in the most cruel, powerful and passionate way he could and part of me welcomed it openly.
“A’mal’yn!” He snarled in my ear and pushed himself deeper into my body, “Mine!” I shut my eyes tightly. I wanted to tell him he was right and that I was his in every single sense of that word but he was too angry to listen to me. I knew him too well and he did not get this angry that often but when it did happen it was like a Hjal winter storm, it was unstoppable. There had to be more going on than just the flirtation with Ged to piss him off this much, I was sure this was not the only reason for Thrawn’s mood but it was the easier to explain and the easiest for him to use. The only thing I could do was to hang on to him and ride it out.
Lifted up and supported by his arms in such a way that it gave him all the power, all of the say, I clung on tightly. I wrapped my legs around his hips and with one arm around his shoulders to hold on, snaked my other hand up behind his neck and threaded through his hair which I gripped far harder than necessary making him hiss in pain but he didn’t pull away or stop what he was doing. In fact it only seemed to encourage him. Jealousy, anger and pain it was a terrible cocktail I knew all too well. I had seen the results before and they were never pretty, not ever.
This was not the first time we had been rough with each other, our combined passion seemed to bring out the worst in us both sometimes. It was almost as if we enjoyed it, though I am not sure either of us would have ever admitted it. We were so used to each other’s bodies, we had made love so many times that even now in such an unkind and unloving manner I responded to him the only way I knew how, shivering with the desire he stirred up in me despite the brutality of the act. No one else could stir me up the way he could.
I silenced my voice by sinking my teeth into his shoulder, biting back any sounds that might have escaped to give away what was going on in this small space. When he was finished, his release a final thrust which slammed me back against the bulkhead wall, I felt my own body surrender and only then did I lift my head back to let my voice cry out for him, for us, for all that we were but he covered my mouth with his hand, silencing me. For a moment, breathless, we stayed like that locked together but more further apart than I had ever known. I opened my eyes to stare into his face. When his eyes met mine I flinched from the hardness I saw in them and the moment hung between us precariously.
I should have said what was in my heart right then and there. I should have told him I loved him, that I was sorry about what I had said to him, that there was no one else in my life not now, not ever and that what-ever had happened between Ged and me was only a fleeting, trivial thing, just a stolen kiss and nothing else. I should have told him these things out loud but instead, made dumb by the uncharacteristic rawness of his actions, I said nothing. I could only gaze into his eyes while he regarded me with the same stunned expression. What the hell had just happened? What the hell had we just done to each other?
As if he could read that question on my face he shook his head then abruptly lifted me away, separating us physically to set me on the ground. I leaned against the wall for support because my knees were shaking so badly I wasn’t sure I could stand on my own. For a moment I watched a myriad of emotions flicker across his face, fear, self loathing and above all anger. He had let his emotions rule him and he had become a force of nature. His animal instincts had taken precedence over his logical common sense and he had become an alpha male predator protecting his territory and marking what was his when it had been threatened by a rival. That calm façade he always worked so hard to maintain had been shattered in an instant by me and I wondered if a part of him now hated me for it.
I also understood that while I had committed no real sin against our bond, I had simply, by my actions and my own sense of guilt, given him cause to question everything we were and he was a man who did not often have to deal with situations such as this. Never before had I done or said anything to make him so unsure of his place in my life in such an overt and obvious manner. And while he had often told me he did not think he was a jealous man by nature we both knew that where I was concerned this was not the case. I only had to recall the terrible fight we had had over Zaarin to know just how deep that particular emotion went. He did not like it and he did his best to deal with it but this time he had been pushed too far.
He had acted out of jealousy and anger but with his physical release those emotions had retreated allowing logic to come back to the forefront. A flash of self loathing shone briefly in his eyes then receded just as swiftly. I could see that he was furious with himself for this breach of decorum, this terrible loss of control, especially since I understood there had been something else driving him, some other reason for his uncharacteristic fury. He stepped away from me, sorted himself out, picked up his jacket and without a word performed a perfect military turn to walk away and leave me alone in my quarters, shaking, bewildered and aching with a myriad of emotions I did not know how to deal with.