Title: Change of the Seasons Author: DWH Characters: Leiraya Moran, Skyler Ducharme Timeframe: 11 years pre-KOTOR (our not-quite-yet heroes are 17) Notes: Written for the OC Database Fall 2008 challenge: "Something Really Juicy." Summer A warm breeze ruffled Skyler's hair, even more blond than usual as he'd been spending the bulk of his time outdoors. He smiled as he approached the Moran farm- he could see Leiraya outside, carefully picking berries from the fields by her house. Her long chestnut hair was pulled back into a loose braid that hung over her shoulder, and her blue skirt seemed to melt into the ground around her. It only seemed appropriate- if anyone were ever to literally become one with the land, Skyler imagined it would be her. As he approached, she looked up and grinned. "Here to help out?" "You know me." He plopped down next to her and started to pick the dark blue berries. Leiraya shot an amused glance at him. "In it for the inevitable pie? His defensive look only lasted for a few moments before it broke and he chuckled. "Yeah, you really do know me." "Well, we've only been friends since we were what, six years old?" "Something like that," he nodded. "Still, I'm not just in it for the pie, you know." She tossed her braid back over her shoulder and laughed. "And here I just thought Ama was a particularly amazing baker." "She is," Skyler quickly agreed. 'But, well... I wouldn't be here if I didn't like hanging out with you." Leiraya stopped for a few seconds and blinked at him wordlessly before smiling broadly. "That goes without saying, silly. Berry-picking wouldn't be half as fun without you here." For a few heartbeats, Skyler considered pressing the point. But seeing the merry twinkle in her hazel eyes, he decided he'd let it rest for now. This moment was wonderful just as it was. After all, he could think of few better things to do with a beautiful summer's day than spend it with his best friend. Autumn "She's out back,"Mr. Moran waved in the general direction of the family's small orchard as Skyler ambled cheerfully down the lane. "Thanks!" He grinned and jogged towards the cluster of trees. The leaves were only just starting to turn, and from the looks of the fruit, it was almost time for the harvest. Wandering beneath the trees, he couldn't catch a glimpse of Leiraya anywhere. Odd, he thought. The orchard really isn't that big... "Hey!" Skyler nearly jumped out of his skin as Leiraya swung down from a low-hanging tree branch and hung by her knees right in front of him. Seeing his discomposure, she laughed heartily. "Gotcha." He shook his head and grinned ruefully. "I should have known you were planning something sneaky." "Plans?"She raised an eyebrow. "You give me too much credit. I just heard you coming and thought this would be the best of all possible entrances." "You get full marks from me, that's for sure." Skyler looked up in the tree. "What were you doing up there, anyway?" "Reading," she replied simply, and pointed up. "See up there? My book is still hanging over one of the branches." It was Skyler's turn to raise a skeptical eyebrow. "Reading in trees? Isn't that a little old-fashioned even for you?" "You just say that because you've never tried it." "No, and I don't plan to-" his reply was cut off as the branch she was hanging from suddenly cracked. The whole sequence seemed to happen in slow motion- the branch started to fall, and Skyler reflexively dove beneath her, outstretched arms poised to break her fall. She landed face-down on top of him, knocking the wind straight out of him. It was several moments before either of them could muster a sound. Leiraya spoke first. "Ow." Skyler coughed. "You're telling me." Wincing, she weakly propped herself up on her elbows. "Sorry." "No hard feelings," he wheezed amiably. "I was the one who decided to be the human mattress." Her gaze softened, and she smiled appreciatively. “I’m glad you did. That would have been an unpleasant fall.” Skyler was suddenly acutely aware of how very close they were, and as he debated whether or not he should enjoy the moment, try to get up, or just settle for saying something neutral, the pause passed from comfortable into awkward. Fortunately for Skyler’s sanity, he wasn’t forced to decide. Leiraya rolled over and picked herself up, brushing the dirt from her cropped pants. “Well, at least we now have proof that all that Jedi training is paying off.” Skyler stood as well, and gave her a half-hearted smile. “Next thing you know, I’ll be taking your friend Kylan down in lightsaber practice.” Leiraya laughed. “Now that would be a sight to see.” She took his arm and led him out of the orchard. “Come on, I think Ama’s making her kavasa crisp. I think you’ve earned a healthy serving of it for breaking my fall.” “For you, I’d do it even without the promise of food,” he replied. “But I’ll never turn your mom’s cooking down.” Leiraya simply grinned. “That’s what I thought.” Winter Silver Hills was covered in an uncharacteristic blanket of snow. Normally the snow stayed considerably farther north, but a freak cold front pushed down the coast and the entire region had been hit with snow storms. It was only the promise of hot chocolate and scones with kavasa preserves that managed to tempt Skyler out of his own house and down the lane to the Moran farm. With those two things in mind, he’d put on an extra sweater, grabbed a hat and scarf, and ran out the door. The trip wasn’t a long one- in good weather, the walk was quite pleasant. In heavily falling snow, however, it was another story. By the time he reached the front door, he was covered in fluffy white flakes of snow, and his shoes were soaked through. Not bothering to knock, he quickly went inside. Leiraya, standing in the kitchen, looked up as he entered. “Skyler! You look frozen!” “Only because I am,” he replied through chattering teeth. “Who invented this crazy weather?” Shaking her head, she grabbed a hand towel and tossed it in his direction. “Wipe some of the snow off you, it’ll help. And lose the top sweater- once it’s wet and cold, it’ll do more harm than good.” With that, she walked over to a closet and started rummaging through it. He set about removing wet layers of clothing, and wiping bare skin with the towel she’d provided. Almost immediately he felt a lot warmer, due in no small part to the roaring fire in the sitting area. She returned with a fuzzy blanket, and he eagerly wrapped it around himself. “Thanks.” “Not a problem.” “So,” Skyler continued casually. “I haven’t seen much of you lately.” “Oh?” Leiraya moved back to the stove, where she poured the hot chocolate she’d prepared into two mugs. “Well, I guess school has kept me pretty busy.” “Right,” Skyler accepted the mug she handed to him. “I noticed you’ve been sparring with Kylan a lot more often.” Leiraya shrugged. “Master Gormain’s idea. She’s really putting me through my paces this year.” “I heard you’re doing a presentation with him.” She eyed him suspiciously over her mug. “You’re well informed.” It was Skyler’s turn to shrug. “I just hear things.” “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were jealous.” “I...” he trailed off. “I’m not. I just miss seeing you, is all.” “I miss seeing you, too,” she replied softly. “It’s just been a crazy year. But we’ll do better, I promise.” Skyler smiled. “I can live with that.” Spring Skyler found her lying down beneath the blooming kavasa trees. “Daydreaming?” “Or something,” she replied, not looking away from the sky. “This is the easiest time of year here, you know. Nothing to harvest, and everything’s we can store has already been stored. I like to take such times... to do nothing.” “Mind if I join you?” Her gaze flickered over to him, and she smiled. “Not at all.” He joined her on the ground, looking at the clear blue sky through the branches of the trees. He could see why she liked being down here so much- the cheerful orange blossoms were the perfect complement to the colour of the sky, accented by the brilliant green of the leaves. When the wind blew, everything danced and made a delightful rustling noise. “So.” Leiraya turned her head towards him. “Are you ready to go on to specialized Jedi training?” Skyler shrugged ambiguously. “I guess so. We have to be now, right?” “Yeah,” she looked back up. “I’ll miss classes with everyone else, though.” “You’ll have to make extra time to hang out with Kira.” “Among others, yeah.” She sighed. “We’re all splitting off on different paths now. But I suppose that’s a good thing, too.” “Yeah?” “Yeah. We’re all going to learn to use our gifts in a way that can make the galaxy a better place.” She smiled. “At least, that’s the idea.” “I’m sure we will,” Skyler assured her. “All of us, in our own way.” They were silent for several long moments as a breeze blew through the orchard. Leiraya looked over at Skyler again. “You interested in pie?” Skyler grinned. “As usual, you read my mind.” The pair stood and headed inside. For even though life changes in many ways, both Skyler and Leiraya were sure of one thing: it is always the right time for pie.