Title: In the Cards Characters: Raissa Baiard, Doran Blayne, various characters from Everyone Comes to Doran's Place, and other OCs Timeline: approximately 17 BBY Summary: Doran and Raissa adapt to their new roles as master and padawan as they confront obstacles such as their own self-doubt, recovering stolen lightsabers, and rumors about their relationship. Notes: sequel to Everyone Comes to Doran's Place, Not Exactly an Old-Fashioned Life Day, and Raissa Baiard Solves Them All The characters were originally conceived pre-TPM, when Jedi were assumed to be able to marry and visit their birth families. Rather than ret-conning, I've chosen to assume that these things are very much discouraged by the Jedi Council, but not forbidden, per se. It was just after midnight in Merkesh City, and Doran's Cafe Alderaan was closed for the night. The last drunk had been ushered out and the staff had all gone home, but a passerby might have noticed the faint light of a glow lamp through the windows. Inside, the Cafe's proprietor, Doran Blayne, sat at his favorite table with a woman, a deck of sabacc cards, and a bottle of Corellian whiskey. He reflected that the situation sounded much more entertaining than it actually was. The woman in question was Raissa Baiard, paradoxically both the local Imperial prefect and Doran's new padawan. Several weeks earlier, she and Doran had worked together to help a pair of fugitive Jedi escape to the Corporate Sector. In the process, Baiard had discovered that she was also Force-sensitive. Unexpectedly-- or perhaps not, given that she had a moral code that frequently put her at odds with the Imperial leadership--- Baiard had decided she wanted to learn the ways of the Force. She'd asked Doran to teach her, and, though the Force alone knew why, he said yes. The sabacc cards were his training aids. Lacking any of the teaching tools he'd used at the Jedi Temple, or any real idea how one trained a padawan, Doran had had to improvise. As a youngling, he'd spent hours "reading" images off a view screen-- a ball, a cup, a speeder....a cup, a ball, a bantha-- as a way of learning to rely on the Force and not his own senses. He hoped that having Baiard use the Force to identify face-down sabacc cards would teach her the same skills. The whiskey was there to help him get through the lesson. Doran dealt out a line of five cards on the table front of Baiard, who screwed her face into the look of intense concentration she seemed to think was necessary to reach the Force. "Three of sabers," she said. "Two of coins, seven of flasks, master of flasks, and mistress of....sabers?" Doran swept up the cards and dealt them out again, right-side up: three of sabers, two of coins, seven of flasks, master of flasks...and mistress of staves. "Shavit!" Baiard exclaimed, slapping the table with the palms of her hands. "I was sure that was sabers." She glared down at the card as if it had changed suits just to annoy her. "Four out of five is very good," Doran assured her. "Let's try it again, but this time, use the Force to tell me your answers." "Again?!" Baiard slumped forward in her chair, dropping her head to her arms. "I've done this a hundred times already! How many more times am I going to have to do it?" "Until you can get them all right. Preferably without looking like you're trying to decipher the Imperial tax code and pass a gallstone at the same time." Perhaps as a consequence of beginning her training as an adult, Baiard had some odd blind spots in her abilities. Persuasion and mind-to-mind speech came easy to her-- she'd discovered rudimentary forms of them on her own--but an exercise that was easy for a three-year-old youngling made her grit her teeth with effort. Baiard turned her scowl on him. "I can't believe this is how you train to be a Jedi. It all seems so pointless and repetitive." "It's very similar to what I did as a youngling," Doran told her. "But you're right. It is repetitive; that's the point. Don't tell me you didn't do drills at the Imperial Academy." He left out the fact that as a youngling, he'd felt the same about the endless drills as Baiard did, and earned himself numerous reprimands and lectures on the virtues of patience and perseverance. From the look on Baiard's face, Doran knew his comment about drills at Academy had scored a point, but she wasn't ready to give in. "But that's just it," she insisted. "You were a youngling; I'm an adult. I should be doing something besides card tricks. Helping you reassemble your lightsaber, maybe?" she added hopefully. Doran poured himself another glass of whiskey. He could see where this was going and felt the need for some liquid fortification. Baiard had used Paolo's lightsaber briefly during their adventure, and, like a youngling given her first practice saber, she couldn't wait to try again. The problem with that was they didn't have a lightsaber that actually functioned. Doran had sold all the crystals out of his to his buy his new identity and the Cafe Alderaan, and Moff Cassius had taken Paolo and Alyse's sabers to Coruscant to add to Palpatine's collection. Baiard had given Doran an impressive Adegan crystal for Life Day, but Doran didn't feel like his skills were up to tuning and focusing it properly. It sat untouched in his safe despite her increasingly frequent queries. "I think it's best if we work on one skill at time," Doran told her, dealing out a fresh row of cards. Baiard opened her mouth to protest some more, but Doran held up his hand. "Ah-ah-ah, who's the Jedi here? Again, and this time, use the Force to tell me your answers." Baiard glared at him again, but this time Doran felt he deserved it. Attaining the rank of Jedi had been a battlefield promotion for him. Paolo L'szelo, one of the few remaining Jedi masters, had declared that what Doran been through since the Jedi Purge was harder than any test the Jedi Council could have devised. That might have been true, but Doran knew full well he wasn't a sterling example of Knighthood, and he hadn't exactly been a model student either. He'd never been one who could easily and unquestioningly follow the ways of the Force. He'd never meditated on the Jedi code as much as the masters thought he should. And he'd especially hated it when his instructors pulled that "I'm a Jedi, therefore I know everything" line on him. He was beginning to think that the Force had a sense of humor. "Again," he reminded her. Baiard sighed. *Ace of staves, five of flasks, ten of coins...this bites...seven of staves, nine of flasks.* *I heard that.* Doran swallowed his whiskey in a gulp. Oh yes, the Force had a sense of humor. And right now it was laughing at him.