Title: When Wallflowers Bloom Author: Lazy K Timeframe: shortly after Qui-Gon becomes Jedi Knight Characters: Dooku/Jocasta Nu, a little Qui-Gon and Yoda Genre: vignette Keywords: Summary: Dooku and Jocasta Nu at the Jedi Temple Solstice Party. Notes: Written, unofficially of course, for the 2012 Fic-Gift Exchange for Alexis_Wingstar. I would like a story in Before with: 1. a stolen kiss 2. an embarrassing mishap 3. someone doing the cha-cha I do not want: anyone dying Characters: Master Dooku, Jocasta Nu When Wallflowers Bloom Nemo enim fere saltat sobrius, nisi forte insanit. (No one dances sober, unless he is insane.) - Cicero, Pro Murena There are countless rumors about the secret rituals performed by the Jedi in their Temple on Coruscant. Most of them are unfounded. The few which have some connection to reality have been distorted beyond recognition. For example, the souls of Jedi Masters are not stored in gemstones upon their death. Padawans do not achieve knighthood by facing a lightsaber-wielding foe barehanded and sustaining no injury except to their braids. And there are absolutely no midnight orgies in which the Jedi engage in unspeakable acts heedless of age, race, gender, or rank. But they do have an annual party on the night of the winter solstice. Attendance is not mandatory, though most try to make the time. There is a buffet table with light snacks and drinks labeled for biological compatibility. Music is played by a volunteer band, a strange and eclectic ensemble of styles and instruments from all over the galaxy. And while dancing is not discouraged, most Jedi usually mill about the floor, chatting quietly with one another. Jocasta Nu rarely attended. It wasn't that she didn't like the event or simply had no interest. But there was always Just One More Task at the Archives that kept her from going. But this year, she had promised padawan Qui-Gon - no, she corrected herself, Jedi Knight Jinn. He passed his Trials, remember? - she would go. Or, more accurately, he had asked her to come and she had been unable to refuse. It was his eyes, Jocasta concluded. Like those of a youngling, even after all these years. So here she was in her room, checking her appearance, again, with all the zeal she usually reserved for checking the validity of an Archive entry. Not that she was concerned with how she looked. In fact, she wore her hair and clothes in the exact same manner as she always did. To be entirely honest with herself, she was looking for excuses not to go. Why am I so nervous? she asked herself. I've been in worse situations with the ExplorCorps! Only this time there were no maps, no native guides, no fellow Jedi at her side. Well . . . perhaps not the last. Qui-Gon would be there, and his former Master Dooku. Master Yoda was sure to attend, bringing his own refreshments despite being forbidden to do so countless times. But none of them would understand how she felt. Jocasta never knew what to do on such occasions - what to say, how to act. Her Master had chided her about this, on her need to be proper and prim at all times. You shouldn't be afraid to make mistakes, she had said. It's not a matter of life or death. And it doesn't hurt for the galaxy to know that even a Jedi can make a fool of herself. It was the one lesson Jocasta Nu had never mastered. Or felt the need to. She looked at her reflection again. Not a strand of hair was out of place, not a wrinkle showed on her attire. The only thing in disarray was her face. "There is no emotion," she said out loud, "there is only peace." Right. Of course there was. She felt a Sithly headache coming on. It was a toss-up whether this or her rapidly growing ulcer was going to put her in the Halls of Healing. I need a sedative . . . * * * * * The band was playing a song from a few years back that had been on the Coruscant Top 10 for an amazing ten hours before being replaced by the next new hit. A few of the padawans and younger Knights had commandeered a corner and were attempting to dance with varying levels of success. The older Jedi looked upon them with mild amusement, thinking back to the days when they were young. And Yoda was probably watching them, trying not to laugh at those who had yet to know what old was. Qui-Gon Jinn was discussing the finer points of Laazaki cuisine with Master Dooku when it happened. There was no dramatic musical chord, though there should have been. The crowd did not spread apart to clear a path. All talk did not come to an abrupt end. Instead there were murmurs. People quietly asking one another questions. And the general air of puzzlement, of amazement, of Is that really who I think it is? Qui-Gon had his back to the crowd at the time, which was why he only saw Master Dooku freeze with his cup halfway to his mouth and stare at something with wide-eyed shock. But he felt the disturbance in the Force as a hundred-plus Jedi were simultaneously stupefied by a single event. When he turned to see what it was he, too, joined them. It was Jocasta Nu, but not as he knew her. The Jocasta Nu that he knew did not wear her hair in a flowing cascade, nor was it festooned with what, on closer inspection, turned out to be file clips. The Jocasta Nu that he knew did not wear a dazzling red dress which reflected light in strange ways and made her appear to be walking in an aurora, and which showed considerably more skin than just her hands and face. And the Jocasta Nu that he knew most certainly did not have a lopsided grin plastered on her face and a large bottle of, of, of whatever was causing that grin, from which she now took a swig. "Wow," he managed to say. "Mmrfg," Master Dooku said, possibly in agreement. They watched her walk up to the band, more steadily than a thoroughly inebriated person had any right to. They saw her talking with them, her arms gesturing wildly as she tried to make herself clear. Then she turned around to face the crowd as she waited for the music to begin. Qui-Gon recognized it as an old tune, one he'd first heard sung by oldtimers in the AgriCorps. The melody was simple, as were the lyrics. They told the universe all the singer had done for it, so could it now grant her just this one thing - "You know, she has a pretty good singing voice," he said when he was finally over the shock. "Why is she doing this?" Dooku asked nobody in particular. "You don't approve?" Dooku fixed him with a grim glare. "No." It was impossible to tell which he disapproved more: her singing, her appearance, or her drunkenness. There was a spattering of applause when the last chords died, by people whose brains had yet to restart and thus were defaulting to Good Manners. Jocasta bowed several times, even blowing kisses at her audience. When Qui-Gon turned back to Dooku, the Jedi Master was already gone. He was heading towards her, pushing roughly past anyone who was in his way. Qui-Gon followed, ready to get between the two should it become necessary. They were arguing when he reached them. Or rather, Dooku was arguing while Jocasta wasn't making much sense. Frustrated, the Jedi Master took the bottle from her hand and flung it aside, obviously not caring where it went. Qui-Gon did, however, and fielded the bottle with some help from the Force. Jocasta looked at her empty hand, then at Dooku's stern face. Slowly, something resembling realization dawned on her face. And she smiled. * * * * * Jedi are trained to be in tune with the Force. This gives them glimpses into the near future, thus allowing them to react to something before it has happened. Possibly this is what made the Jedi clear a space in the middle of the room. Or it might have been the evil smile on Jocasta Nu's face. With a push of the Force, she sent Dooku stumbling into the cleared area. He recovered quickly, taking up a defensive martial arts stance. She walked up to him, hips swaying suggestively to the beat of some unheard melody. Then she struck a pose, stabbed the air with a finger, and cried, "Hit it!" The band complied. It was an energetic piece, the kind that has your body moving in pure harmonic resonance. Jocasta laughed as she danced around Dooku while he stood dumbfounded, clearly out at sea. "Master Nu," he began, only to be silenced by her finger on his lips. "Jocasta," he tried again when she was near, but by the time he finished saying her name she was already spinning away. Then without warning, she reversed her spin and cartwheeled into Dooku. He had no choice but to catch her, his arm around her waist, and almost went down with her when she kicked up a leg and completed the flip. And somehow they ended up face to face in each other's arms. She flashed him a grin. He gave her a look of pure annoyance. "What do you think you're -" But she was twirling away. Dooku grabbed her hand in an attempt to stop her. It was only partially successful; she twirled back into his arms like a self-winding spool. "If you -" She grasped his free hand and placed it firmly around her waist. Then something pushed him from behind, a Force nudge to make his hips move in sync with hers. "Jocasta!" "Later. Just dance now." There is no reasoning with a drunk. With that realization, Dooku gave up and danced with her, relying on the Force to anticipate her moves and moving in a similar fashion. He could see it in her eyes that she was enjoying this from the bottom of her heart. Unless it was just the alcohol, of course. * * * * * As Qui-Gon watched them, the bemused look on his face slowly metamorphosized into one of amusement, then of contentment. Masters Dooku and Nu were among his favorite people. And while the Jedi forbade attachments, he thought it wouldn't harm anyone if the two of them got together more often in social activities. Not that he had ever imagined the two of them dancing with such wild abandon, of course, but what good was a world in which you could predict everything? He sidled over to Master Yoda, who showed every sign of enjoying the spectacle. "Your doing this is?" the Jedi Master asked. "Not the dancing," Qui-Gon said, tacitly admitting his involvement. "Or the bottle. I just thought it would be good for Master Nu if she let her hair down once in a while." "Good for you!" Yoda cackled. "So serious the Jedi are these days. So somber. If only we could get some of the others on the floor, hmm?" Qui-Gon watched as Dooku swung his partner nearly parallel to the floor. "Not while those two are on it, I think. Too dangerous." "Indeed." * * * * * As abruptly as the music had begun, it came to an end. The Jedi applauded, definitely more enthusiastically than the last time. Jocasta Nu stood - if that's the proper term for being draped over someone's arm - looking up into Dooku's flushed face. Adrenaline had cleared the alcohol out of her system as they danced. She felt her face heat up, and not only with physical exertion. It is hard to say which makes someone wish they were dead: the hangover, or the memory of what they did when they were drunk. In her case, though, it was very much the latter. "Master Dooku," she squeaked. "I'm not sure I . . . that is to say, I'm sorry if I -" "I'm not," he responded. Then he bent down to kiss her lightly on the lips. The roaring she heard might have been the clamor of the Jedi who witnessed the act. Or it could have been the blood rushing up into her brain. Whatever it was, she was sure she was going to regret the actions of this night for a long, long time. But not now. And for the moment, that was all that mattered.