Author: Findswoman Title: A Private Place Era: Saga–PT (pre-Siege of Lasan) Characters: Garazeb “Zeb” Orrelios, OC, and a few cameos Genre: Romantic vignette, mush Summary: Zeb surprises Shulma with a visit to her private study chamber at the Royal Lasat Academy of Shamans. Notes: Written for MMM Challenge #8: KISS. The prompt was to write a story featuring a kiss in 1000 words or less. According to www.wordcounter.net, this one clocks in at 965 words (962 if the three-asterisk separator isn’t counted). Many thanks to @Raissa Baiard, as always, for beta reading and invaluable feedback. Zeb always got lost in the Academy of Shamans. Not that he’d actually been inside the place much. Most of the time, when he came to meet Shulma, it was at the funicular station at the foot of the mountain. But this wasn’t just any other time. He wanted this time to be extra special, because he had just returned from his first big tour of duty—stealth operations training at Honor Guard Station Wyddb out on the Western Landmass. Not only had he completed the training with distinction, he had also been promoted from First Corporal to Junior Lieutenant in the process—and he wanted her to be the first to know. She knew he would be returning that day, but she didn’t know he was on his way to her study chamber right now. It had taken a while, but he thought he was finally in the right place. Shulma always said that the second-degree shamans’ study chambers were on the west side, but that wasn’t much help. The Royal Lasat Academy of Shamans was vast, labyrinthine, and confusing. Zeb had already taken one wrong turn through the faculty-only section of the library (where a grizzled older male shaman had shot him a stern glare) and another through the initiates’ wing (where some of the younger initiates, unused to seeing a hulking, armored military man lumbering through their hallowed halls, had stared and pointed). But an Honor Guard must persevere, of course. And persevere he did, scouring the ancient corridors of the academy until he came to a hallway of small cubicle-rooms, each with its own window and door and with names on some of the doors. Now it was just a matter of finding hers. (As he walked, he slipped off his bracers and knuckle guards and secured them to one of his belt clips. He had a feeling he wouldn’t want them in the way.) Ah, there it was: SHULMA VIZULI TRILASHA 2D ORDINARY. He peered through the window. There she was! Anything but ordinary, if you asked him! Sitting at her wooden desk, with her long, dark hair tumbling over her shoulders, engrossed in a large, ancient-looking book. Sometimes she paused to peer into another smaller book lying open beside it; sometimes she took notes in a small notebook. He watched her for several moments. Each of her little studying motions—peering, craning, jotting, bending over to pick up a dropped stylus—was full of her characteristic grace, the grace he loved. And she was all alone, studying her texts and her lore here in her own little private place, with no one else around to see… and Zeb wondered if someday he would be watching her graceful motions in other private places, too… Arright, head out of the clouds, Orrelios. As slowly and as quietly as he could, Zeb turned the handle of the door and opened it, then toe-padded into the room toward Shulma. She took no notice, still engrossed in her studying. Zeb smiled to himself as he sidled soundlessly over to stand behind her. Looked like stealth ops training was paying off already! He put out a hand—careful now, stealthy now—and laid it, very gently, on that lithe, wine-striped shoulder… “Oh!” A few sparks flew upward as Shulma sprang to her feet and spun around, dropping her stylus and knocking the notebook to the floor. She sighed with relief as she realized who was there, and relaxed against his chest. “Zeblove, you’re here…!” “Heh heh, ’course I am, darlin’!” He grinned as he gathered her close. “Did I scare ya?” “Yes—I mean, no—I mean, a little, but—what are you—doing here?” “What’s it look like? Holdin’ my lady, of course.” In her own little private place, all alone, so close… “Since I haven’t gotten to since the start o’ last cold season’r so.” “Mmm, well, usually you’re holding your lady out there on the transport platform.” “Yeah, but this is nicer… nicer and more private and we’re closer and…” And you’re so beautiful and so soft and I can feel your breath on my nose—“aw karabast, it’s been a really long time, hasn’t it, darlin’—” “Oh Zeblove, it has”—closer—“it has”—closer still— They kissed. And kissed and kissed AND KISSED, those mouths and stripes and scents that had been so long apart—passionately, forcefully, lingeringly—her hands tenacious on his shoulders and chest, his hands rugged on her waist and hips—fused and locked as one, and yet moving and thrilling—AW YEAH— All in that little private place, all alone, so close… They did not see the pair of bright, mischievous amber eyes that peered in through the window, then darted off—then returned with several other bright eyes that also began to peer in. Nor did they see the fallen notebook on the ground behind them— —until they both stumbled backward over it and into the corner of the desk. Shulma’s gasped cry broke their kiss as she and Zeb tumbled onto the desk in a heap, knocking the larger book closed and jostling the smaller book to the floor. There was barely time for a karabast before they became aware of the gawking eyes, the gasps, the cheers… …and a diminutive but commanding figure swept through the hallway, scattering the gawkers with a stroke of her hand and calling out, “NOW THEN, DEAR CHILDREN, BACK TO YOUR STUDIES, PLEASE!” And Shulma and Zeb sagged against each other, spent but relieved. * * * That was the first and last time Zeb ventured up to Shulma’s study chamber. Next time he came to meet her at the academy, he stayed at the funicular station and waited for her—and the next time, and the next time. Their kisses there were calmer, mellower. But neither of them ever forgot that passionate, forceful kiss in that private place. Spoiler: Notes Honor Guard Station Wyddb is fanon and is named after Naval Air Station Whidbey on Whidbey Island, one of the islands off the Olympic Peninsula of the state of Washington (and my dad’s birthplace). Shulma Vizuli Trilasha 2d Ordinary: “Second Ordinary” is a reference to her rank as a shaman; it represents that she is at about the midpoint of her shamanic studies. Shulma’s middle name was first introduced in Sparks. The amber eyes belong to another OC of mine: Yhazi Khefastu, Shulma’s fellow shaman and one of her best friends (albeit one with a mischievous streak). She is first mentioned in Sleeping Honor and has appeared in person in Calm after the Storm and Light of Lasan. The “diminutive but commanding figure” is, of course, none other than the one and only Chava the Wise.