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Saga Couvade (Bo-Katan, Satine, Obi-Wan, drama,AU)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by pronker, Apr 17, 2013.

  1. pronker

    pronker Force Ghost star 4

    Jan 28, 2007
    Title: Couvade

    Author: pronker

    Era: the Jedi Apprentice years in the beginning, only far, far away from the Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan dynamic and its angst. This piece has its own angst. Speculative ending post-Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season Five. Couvade's sequel is If It Clucks Like A Chicken.

    Disclaimer: I am neither Walt nor George and make no profit from this fanfiction set in Star Wars, using its characters and settings.

    Warning: Mando'a language ahead, in which I am not fluent, neither am I extensively versed in Mandalorian history. It was fun, though, to learn this much.

    Summary: Bo-Katan and Satine, in three acts.


    Act One.

    As palaces went, the Kryze Clan home was modest, decorated with understated taste and loaded to disciplined repletion with as many antiques as Mandalorians ever allowed themselves. Even the New Mandalorians eschewed glutted rooms of ostentation and favored vast living spaces highlighted by bountiful windows, each day's available light shining onto hard, carpetless floors. It was an adamantine look at life, and Bo-Katan approved of it. The dining hall the two girls occupied now was an aberration, less a hall for Clan meetings than a room fit for a single family's camaraderie. It was cozy sitting with Satine on the banquette bench, and that made Bo-Katan the tiniest bit uncomfortable with the conversation she was having with her sister.

    "Korkie is a stupid name for a baby, Satine." Bo-Katan swiped a long lick from her herglic ice cream cone. "I like Sherruk."

    Satine smoothed her gown. "You would." She ran a manicured fingernail down the list. Satine could be delicate when she wanted to be. Bo saw her reaching for the right words. "The meaning and history of a name is important, or'dinii. Sherruk is not, strictly speaking, a Kalevalan name. And as a Mandalorian name, it is, well, last year, don't you think?"

    Bo rolled her eyes. "Just when do you suppose this event will happen, anyway? We're only thirteen."

    "I am on the far end of thirteen, little sister, and I say that it's worthwhile to plan ahead for these important experiences. Otherwise, how will you become a leader, able to advise, if you haven't experience?"

    Bo shuddered. "I don't want that sort of experience and anyway, you're the one who will inherit the title."

    "Yes, I shall be Duchess." With the physical decline of their mother, the closer this event approached reality and the calmer Satine became about it, Bo noticed. Satine patted her knee. "And that first time, it won't hurt much."

    "It will."

    "It won't."

    "It will."

    "No, it - Bo, did you read any of the material Mother shot to your datapad?"

    Bo looked away. It had been disconcerting enough to deal with monthlies and suffer at a predetermined time, but Satine, who idolized control, did not seem bothered at all at the new timetable in her life. "It will happen whether I like it or not. Well, I don't like it and I don't like reading about it."

    "Don't be afraid. Stand up and be a person, a Mandalorian person."

    "Why do I have to do this and not that, at this time and not that time? I like me just as I am."

    Two droids surged into the room on their way to the kitchen next door, racing on automatic timers and oblivious to conversation for the most part. Satine lowered her voice, nonetheless. "I don't know everything, Bo, but I do know that we have roles to play in life. It's why I like traditional dress."

    Satine was still eating her entree, pushing the greens around and around to make artistic patterns and then Bo made a face. "You always did like dressup in Mother's closet. It used to make her angry." The droids hustled back through the room, balancing a tray filled with blancmange, broth and a gentle tea. The medicinal herbs tingled the girls' noses and they shared a look. "Not so angry, I guess. She loves her girls and her boys." The droids trundled out of sight.

    "Yes." Satine took command. "Getting back to names, the historical Sherruk killed Jedi."

    "So? They deserved it."

    "Just for living? For being themselves?" Satine snorted until milk came out her nose and Bo laughed, slapping her trousered thigh. Satine was never inelegant, except for when she was.

    "Father and Mother would not have taught us that," Bo asserted, taking advantage of her sister's spluttering to interject some of her own thoughts. They would have to come quickly, or Satine would dominate the mealtime conversation again. "They taught us to be proud of own own history, proud enough to avenge its wrongs. The Jedi did us wrong." Satine coughed and sniffled as Bo slapped her on the back to help her recover. She hurried on before Satine would start up with her blasted pacifistic notions. Bo needed to say something that was personal and physical and not so karking lofty. "And we're leaving out the most important part of this equation: who will you marry?" She plucked at her eyebrows, thinking hard as she licked her cone.

    Satine batted her hand away. "Don't do that. Now they look scraggly."

    Bo ducked back, stuffing the rest of the cone into her mouth. "I don't care, why should you? And you didn't answer my question."

    "Give me a moment." Stalling for time, Satine slurped the last of her milk, then dabbed her lips. Bo stared at the used napkin.

    "Lip paint? You wear lip paint now?"

    "I'll share, you're not too young - "

    "No. Never in one hundred thousand trillion septillion undecillion galaxies will I wear lip paint." There she goes again, with that knowing look.

    It will be a rough road for you, I predict. I must guide you. "It's not impossible to change your mind. You'll want to look nice for yourself and for someone else, too. It's part of life, Bo."


    Satine thought before she spoke. "We must honor tradition. We must uphold our beliefs and pass them on to the next generation."

    "Why? And what does lip paint have to do with that?"

    "Well, there needs to be a next generation, doesn't there." Bo could see that Satine was positively preening with maturity. It shouldn't be more irksome than the discovery that her elder-by-less-than-one-year sister was slapping unnatural color onto her lips, but it was. She was unprepared when Satine continued vehemently, "It's important for Mando'a to remain alive as a language, it's important that Mandalore survive no matter what and it's important that the violent Clans not prevail. Father thinks that and so do I. I'm leaving - " She gulped back the rest of her thought. "Father has changed since Mother's illness, you must have noticed?"

    Bo stiffened. "Where are you going?"

    "Father is sending me to Coruscant to learn more of diplomacy," Satine said softly. "Next month. He is as determined to pursue peace as he was determined last year to exterminate anything that would hurt our Clan." Satine paused, brows drawn low. "Miklon and Kurtois and I are in his camp. I wish you were."

    "Why? Why is Father sending you to the Jetiise? Why depend on outsiders to educate you? Their ways are not our ways, so why? Why?" I sound like a two year-old. Before Satine could lecture, Bo burst out, "Teeni, we're different. Just accept that." She schooled her features. A strategic distraction, that's what was needed. "Don't you want to know who I think is sort of all right?"

    "I already know."

    Bo felt compelled to defend her choice. "He has a vision. He could help Mandalore."

    "He's got a lot of nerve, I'll grant you. He comes from a tough background, I don't care how genteel his manners are. I can't use him."

    This wasn't going well. "He was born to command, like you. That's why you don't like him."

    "I fail to see what that has to do with anything!"

    Now the matter was out of hand. Bo's dander stood on end. "He was born in a snap up tent! He made himself into what he is today!"

    "He tells everyone that! He was born in a Clan home similar to this one, Bo. Do not let him take you in." Satine was not posing, or acting the older sister, or dismissive. She was earnest, and she was of Bo's Clan.

    This shouldn't be such a difficult point. "Even so, he, he has good ideas. And honor. Whatever he does later on, I might join in - "

    Satine took a deep breath. "All right. If Viszla shows temperate behavior, I'd consider him for my administration. I suppose he could improve."

    'Your administration'? There's such a thing as planning too far ahead, ori'vod. "Satine, temperate is the last word I associate with you."


    "Eh, k'uur." There were no lessons today and it felt odd. From somewhere in the east wing, a droid beeped, probably the automatic cleaner droid which had run into something it could not vacuum away. The thing would need to be programmed to be quieter, for Mother's sake. It hurt to think this and she returned to the previous topic. Bo ran down her list of people who were sort of all right. Outside of Miklon and Kurtois, and they nearly didn't count because they were her brothers, it was a very short list. Her sister had a longer list. She rubbed her forehead, thinking.


    "Please, give me some credit. Never."

    "He's all right, you know. And him not being in nobility like we are might be a good thing for you." Bo realized she had said too much.

    "What do you mean by that?" Satine's voice had a habit of getting shrill when she was winding up to a argument. She probably didn't mean to holocomm so much emotion, Bo thought, but it was too late now.

    "Um, you could get in touch with regular people more?"

    "I am not out of touch! I love our people!"

    You are supplying me with such ammunition. "I know! You'll wed Merrik! He's a prince, he ought to give you plenty of - "

    "Go no further, I'm warning you, Bo! Not even for Mandalore would I partner with such, such - "

    "Nothingness? Lack of, erm, I don't know what - "

    "Balls." The two girls fell against each other, hooting and poking and pinching until a server droid hustled in, alarmed.

    "Choking human subroutine engaged. Beginning resuscitation application now."

    "Stop right there, droid. We are not choking. Go hic about your b-business." Not even a droid could withstand Satine's glare. It wheeled away.

    Bo fired a final volley. "Jerec, then." Satine had been found in deep conversation with the earnest boy last week. Bo glanced sideways to see the effect.

    The barb struck. "I - I - don't know. He's a friend."

    Someday the next generation of Kryzes would part permanently, Satine and Bo-Katan, Miklon and Kurtois gone on to adult pursuits. Bo hoped that day was far away. "I think that you will meet someone new" - because you deserve something rare - "because you like to travel, and you complain a lot about boredom, and you like challenges." She noted her sister's frown and pushed on. "I don't mean physical challenges, ori'vod. You leave them to me."

    Satine flushed. "Just because you beat me at scramball yesterday, don't think I can't defend myself."

    But you can't, since you won't. "I didn't mean that. I've seen you at your best game, remember? I meant in other ways, like with words. You certainly have a way with people. And getting back to words, how about Terentatek for a baby boy?" Bo cudgeled her brain for a meaningless concession. "You could call him 'Teri' for short, that way the name will be musical, just the way you like it with the 'eee' sound."

    The tactic succeeded. "Maybe. 'Teri,' 'Korkie,' yes, that could work."

    And for the next six years, Satine had the last word.


    Act Two.

    Run jump activate cable and swing get your legs up use the centripetal force An incredibly lucky razor-knife throw split the cable to three small strands, not enough to hold her weight. As it snapped, Bo-Katan switched on her jetpack, remembering at the last moment that it had not fired properly at startup last time, and so when it spluttered to a fizzing stop she was unsurprised. Falling like a gut-shot thranctill, she angled her body down the gulch to minimize damage. Her fellow Mandalorian fighting for the wrong side was anything but incompetent, and he or she blazed off into the sunrise, but not before tossing over a victorious shoulder a thermal detonator to complete the kill. The deadly ball struck an outcropping in the gulch and did what it did best. The blast destroyed the outcropping and Bo supposed when she could think again that she ought to be grateful to her attacker, because the blast also spiraled her out of her fall down the gulch. She shot up pinwheeling, but cleared the lip of the gulch and landed on its rim flat on her back. Such a wave of compressed air and flying rock would be too much for any jetpack or weapons belt to stay attached, and Bo never knew where they went. It was her armor that saved her from deadly injury, though what she wound up with was enough to cripple her. She tried to crawl further from the lip of the declivity and fainted.

    Before the echo of the blast faded from her mind and she knew whether she should try to resist being taken captive or not, Bo submitted to a weary-faced medic who wrapped her head in a sterile snood that kept her hair out of the wound. Bo's scalp burned, her leg throbbed and she thought she would pass out. It was quiet, too quiet, but even more unsettling than the lack of noise was the lack of rocket bomb concussion in the air or the rumbling martial vibrations in the ground beneath her supine form. The battle had passed her by. That shouldn't feel as good as it did.

    The medic said something. Bo thought it was in Basic. "What?"

    He said no more as he hustled her onto a hover gurney already loaded with one other combatant, pushing it slowly with a similarly-loaded, dilapidated Buirk'alor speeder over the ruts of the battlefield and into a plastiform snap up infirmary the size of a single deck of a starliner. It wasn't Death Watch's infirmary, that was for sure. Bo's sect hadn't the resources for this. Whoever the top-ranked Death Watch leader was, his or her vision did not include infrastructure. Someday Bo would meet this leader, she vowed. She would not remain an underling forever.

    Bo read the first medic's lips as he passed her into the jurisdiction of another medic. "Leg trauma and concussion on the female, internal injuries on the male, you can triage the rest of them. I'm going out again." She took note of where the second medic stowed her beskar'gam. From what she could see of other armor in the storage chest, hers was the smallest.

    She was deaf, that was it. Permanently? She didn't know. She would be of little use to Death Watch until she obtained implants, and who knew when that could be? She shivered. Her unknown Boss might even - no. What sort of example would that make? But for certain, her upward momentum in the group's hierarchy was in peril.

    Before she realized it, traitorous tears made an unhappy appearance and she let them fall. Mandalorian traditions could be so, so ... "Satisfying and stabilizing," her sister would have said, eyes shining. Bo had thought the same once. Now that she could be winnowed out by the harsher traditions of her people, she wasn't so certain. Compromise sounded more appealing, and a better survival tactic. She would have to think it over. If worse came to worst, the Boss could be trusted to make her end short. She dozed off with that comforting thought. No one told her not to sleep, so her concussion could not have been judged too severe. Or perhaps no one could be bothered with her. Sometime later, she realized that it was midday, gauging from the lack of shadows. At least six hours since the detonator blast, then. The triage group must have considered her case lower priority; Bo took heart from that.

    She estimated that the infirmary was one of those sanctioned by both sides with a shrug as they estimated coldly how many casualties would result and how quickly the wounded could return to the fray. Who were the medics? What sect did they honor? Bo strained to see a sigil or flag, but nothing reached her blood-smeared eyes. She swiped a hand at her scalp and red came away as if the wound were fresh. She stared, shocked, at the medic bending over her and saw his words.

    "It's not too bad. I'll get to it in a minute. This next is going to hurt, though."

    Bo clenched her fists, slamming them into the side of the cot when the medic straightened her leg. The knee screamed, the muscles cramped and she let out a moan, thrashing. Something wet and unpleasant ran down her hip, and the world shifted to chiaroscuro as a medic who she didn't know slipped a lozenge onto her tongue. She swallowed reflexively. It was sweet and sticky as she sucked on it, reminiscent of herglic ice cream. Sounds came and went. People swarmed by her cot and they did not look right without their beskar'gam. She pointed this out to yet another medic who shone a light into her eyes. The medic nodded.

    "You'll be out soon, yes."

    Bo tried again.

    "The light is too bright?"

    Bo would not be in Death Watch if she gave up easily. She spoke more slowly.

    "I don't speak our mother tongue very well, I said. Wait, are you chipped? Let me get my reader. Hmmm, 'Kryze'. You'll want to be in with your clanmate, then." This startling announcement made Bo realize that her hearing was slowly returning.

    Bo gasped, the medic did something improbable and swift and then Bo opened her eyes. Somehow it was night again, how did that happen? She looked down at her leg. It was immobilized in a stabilization board from buttocks to toes. "Eighteen hours before safe removal," blinked the monitor embedded in the rough outer material of the temporary prosthetic. The inner smooth material cushioned the injury along with pumping in drugs, and after a brief shifting to get more comfortable, Bo floated on a sea of pain killers. Clanmate, how was that possible that she could be in the same institution as Satine? Or was it her sister? Was it some distant relation instead? And if it were Satine, what was Satine in here for? How did she get to this part of Mandalore, when the Jedi Master and his Padawan had left her in putative control of the capital months ago? Pirated holonet transmissions couldn't have been that far off. The answer to her question surfaced when someone in the cot next to her coughed. Bo's mind was sluggish and the next words she heard filtered through her damaged hearing as if they were spoken underwater.



    Though her sister's face was nearly hidden by her breath mask, Satine's pallor shocked Bo. She put on a brave face.

    "What's the matter?" they asked simultaneously, reaching for the other's hand.

    Satine spoke first, as she usually did. "I'm in for tests, something respiratory, nothing major. There's a scar on my ... lower back which I could have erased while I'm here, but I don't think I will. There's no time." Even in this low state, Satine sounded in control. Even in this low state, something was going on with her, something that to Bo's ear sounded shifty. Bo didn't need to hear clearly to discern that. Well, it had been years since they'd seen each other. Even sisters had secrets, and enemies even more. Truce. I may not have studied diplomacy like you, but I have learned the value of truce.

    "Ah, caught a thermal detonator blast radius. Took a hit to the leg, and you can see my head isn't right."

    "It never was," Satine wheezed. She seemed to have new strength, because she squeezed Bo's hand painfully. A few moments later, she relaxed.

    It was too much, all at once. Bo lay back, releasing Satine's hand. The scowl hurt her scalp wound, but she did it anyway. "Have it your way," she growled. "I'm tired." She shifted again and that was too much for her leg; it shrieked through the pain killers and Bo shouted before she could stop herself. That set off a headache and Bo could not be certain but she felt a squirt as the prosthetic vein interface compensated with a double dose of medication. Soon the room became wrapped in softweave and all colors muted to pastels. Bo would have smiled at the sensation if she had not been so distressed. The medication did not help with that. As it was, she whimpered loud enough for the sounds to reach her damped down hearing. It was all right because only her sister was there to hear her.

    "Uhhhh," hollered Satine. There was a ding as a call button was activated, something that Bo remembered hearing in her drugged fugue from a few hours back. She listened carefully as a medic entered the room to converse with Satine, and then the medic lowered her voice and Bo had no hope of hearing what was said. All she knew was that Satine's cot had its anti-grav activated, the medic propelled the cot by Bo's cot on the way out the door, and that Satine did not look at Bo, but up at the ceiling, her mouth gaping like a fish's. There was something odd about Satine's proportions under her blankets. Was Satine lying about her health? Was that the shiftiness that Bo picked up on? What could it be? She spent the next hour thinking about it, and checking the timer of the stabilization board. Somehow it said "Sixteen hours before safe removal" quicker than thought. When next she looked, it said "Ten hours before safe removal," and Satine was back in place a meter away. There were no birds to herald the dawn, another casualty of the ongoing conflict on this part of beleaguered Mandalore, yet it must have been close to daylight, because glimmers of soft radiance lightened the shades at the window.

    Bo studied her sister. Satine breathed easier than last night as she lay in repose, her slender fingers draped over her covers, almost caressing her midsection. It was an odd way to sleep. Bo had seen Satine asleep many times, and the pose always had been on her left side, cuddled in among the quilts that Mother made, snuggling into her pillow. Of course, Bo had never seen her in a breath mask before.

    When an orderly arrived with first meal, the food was nutritious, bland and nothing to comm home about, Satine sleeping through it and no one bothering to wake her. The orderly shuffled around the room, clicking on medcharts, tapping at their screens, then directing a cleaning droid to get under the cots and even magnigrip its way up the walls to the lumapanel, where it whirled busily away.

    "Hey, shouldn't she have a bite to eat?" The orderly looked like he needed a cause, so Bo pushed the issue after she'd nearly finished her own plate. "Come on, wake her up. She can't get over whatever she has if she doesn't eat and get strong."

    "Which problem ya talkin' 'bout, 'cause one's lots better, and time's the only cure fer the other'n." The man lacked fire, as much as Merrik did. "She ate enough fer three, night 'fore last. She's not hurtin'." Bo supposed he was placating her when he twiddled something on the breath mask's valve. "She needs ta rest. She'd agree with me, not you." Contradicting his words, although doubtless following some inherent med-unit protocol, he lifted the shades and light leaped into the room, outlining Satine's shape.

    Bo choked. The orderly clapped her slowly on the back, whisking out an unpleasant-looking suction device from his tunic pocket in an unexpected display of speed, but his patient regained her breathing. He put the device back in his pocket, handed Bo a napkin before gathering up her plate, and headed out the door to his next charge.

    "Wait - wait! She looks different." There was a change that Bo struggled with, needing to process it, not daring to. "What happened when I was out of it last night?"

    The man could not have looked more unperturbed. "We took the baby outta her. She has leftover breathin' problems, so she'll be here fer 'nother day er three." His brow furrowed, a glimmer of suspicion. "Thought you Clan members was closer 'n that. Didn't she tell ya - "

    "I'm just surprised, is all. Sure she told me." Secrets. This is a big one, sister. "So where is it?"

    Something kind reached the surface of the man's dullness. "He's all right, he's inna special care unit. We're not useta his sort here, so he's inna bed for Lanniks, haven't had call ta use it this rotation but ya never know, says the admin. I just go with the flow and speakin' o' goin' - "

    "Yeah. Sure." Bo wanted to be alone. Her head was clearer, in a way. "Wait - who are you, and what is this place?" Knowing her whereabouts would distract from the calculation of how many months had passed, and who the father of the baby would likely be.

    He paused at the door. "Yer inna Central Field Infirmary near the Southern Sea and we're the Refugee Relief folks and we're neutral and that's all ya need t'know." And he was gone.

    Satine slept until far past midday. She whimpered, breath catching, as she woke and turned over, head propped on wrist. It was almost as if they shared a sleep chamber like in the old days. "You know about Miklon and Kurtois," was the first thing she said after she had removed her breath mask. She winced occasionally and Bo could only guess that the cause was afterpangs, not something she ever expected to experience. She handed over a piece of midday meal that she had saved.

    "I heard. Together. They would have wanted it that way."


    There was lots to talk about. She would begin with something impersonal. "How did you get old Fuzzface to put down her blasters? I never thought she would do it. Her Clan practically invented the scrimmage."

    "She was bitter about her life and angry with the entire world. I channeled that into realizing that she needed a change and gave her a choice to either go live on Concordia, or else. She moved her whole Clan, what was left of it, into Keldabe. She works for MandalMotors now, a real firebrand for the company. People are afraid of her intensity, they tell me, or I should say, she tells me. Mark my words, she'll be on the Board soon enough." Satine plucked at her coverlet. "She helped me when I needed it a few months ago. She had these remarkable clothes, Bo, that hid what I needed to hide until the very last. Last week, my advisors insisted that I 'prepare myself for the realities of being a pacifist' and so I arranged for a, quote, extensive self-defense course, unquote, and moved in here until - until."

    "So, you are a mother."

    "I am." Why, why did she sound so complacent with this disaster in her life? Didn't it bother her that the responsibility for parenting fell on her? Didn't responsibility ever not sit well with her?

    "How did it happen, no forget that, how did it happen that you got involved with someone dangerous, like a Jedi - " A new orderly blew in their room and then out again, dropping off a noisy bundle. Satine did something entirely improbable with it, as if she were born knowing how to do this remarkable thing. Twenty minutes later, Satine dinged for the orderly, another one this time, a blowsy female and as the female bent to lift the bundle, she and Satine smiled at each other as if holding onto secrets. The female orderly took away the bundle that was now quiet. Bo looked at it - no, him - for a moment, long enough to see a squashed face like a root vegetable. It was impossible that she had ever looked like that.

    "Unph. That made everything hurt more." Satine wobbled her way into the 'fresher and stayed a long time. "Ugh," she said upon return. "I could sleep for a week if I didn't need to get back to Sundari." She shook with weariness, but still managed to bend over Bo's head. "Let me see. Oh! Oh, Bo-Katan! There might be a scar they can't fix!" She tottered back to her cot.

    "I'll deal."


    "Relax, won't you? I've been hurt before."


    "Cui ogir'olar. Stop crying."

    "It's not nothing!" Satine wailed for a good five minutes until Bo wanted to leave the room. For the first time in years, she thought anew that Satine was more complex than she was, that she planned more, that she thought ahead more, that even right now, after her crying jag, she would go back to planning good things for Mandalore, according to her point of view. Did she plan this baby? Did she secure the future of Mandalore with another noble to carry on tradition, the tradition of a Duke? I don't understand such paramount faith.

    Satine subsided into hiccups, taking a few hits off her breath mask. "Lip paint is peaceful and right, Bo. I wish you could see that."

    The reference was lost on Bo, and then she remembered their revelatory conversation from years back and she knew her conclusions from a moment ago were in error. "Never mind about lip paint. See where that got you, Satine? You didn't plan this event at all, did you? Just full ka'rta ahead. That's typical."

    Satine must have been feeling better, because the fire of her next words burned Bo. "You know, I left out the part of my having a sister when I contacted the Jedi. I'm glad I did."

    "So they are under the impression that you have no close family left? Nice. Look at you. You couldn't defend yourself even if you wanted to. When this is all over with, I'm going back to my family, my real family."

    "I am Duchess now. I have others to defend me. I'm not alone. I don't have to do everything myself." It sounded rehearsed.

    Bo had to know. "But don't you want to do it yourself?"

    Exasperation and exhaustion battled for first place on Satine's face. "There is the history of the New Mandalorians to guide me in my actions. It is a good tradition."

    This was the heart of the matter. "I like the Old Mandalorian customs better. We warriors think about our limitations, not like you in your self-indulgence."

    "What he and I shared was beautiful! It was worth it all, worth more!" More tears, more sobs. After a while, Satine whispered, "I know I can trust you to keep Korkie a secret. I'm in here under our fifth cousin's name, once removed."

    "Sure." It was hard to listen to Satine sounding subdued. Bo supposed it was all the hormones swimming around inside her.

    Satine yawned. "Look at what we are building, Bo. Don't you want our world to be at peace? Feuding is not the answer, my sister."

    "I don't have any questions. I just am."

    Drifting off, Satine mumbled as she pulled on her breath mask, "Love once. Love always."

    "Kandosii! So you think I carve notches on my bedpost, Satine?" But Satine was asleep. For the next few hours, Bo simmered over what last words to leave her sister with. A lecture would be pointless; the deed was done. What Bo was left with was a repugnance about hiding and lying and these actions came so easily to Satine that it was repellent. Of course, Bo would keep the family secret. That was a given, because the small one deserved all the help it - he - could get from his aunt. She supposed that Satine could concoct a story about Korkie belonging to a family member, probably Miklon or Kurtois, since records at the time of her brothers' deaths, in fact, even now, would be scrambled to a big mess by the chaos of Clan battles, fewer though they were. What turned Bo's stomach was the secrecy. It was not right to hide and shade the truth about bloodlines. What if Korkie began to levitate items from his crib? What if the Jedi found him, despite all odds? Satine would be in a fix that she had made for herself. She was still stewing when Satine woke up shortly before Bo's stabilization board was due to come off.

    "I'm leaving soon." Bo could not wait to get out of this enforced intimacy. She would stagger, swim or crawl to get back to people that understood her.

    "Aliit ori'shya tal'din."

    "Quote all the proverbs at me you want, Satine. This thing you're doing with Korkie I simply cannot go along with. I'll keep quiet about it, for the sake of Mandalore. It would not be proper for our people to know what a deceiver their Duchess is."

    "The Mandalorian government will never hide anything from its people!" Satine shouted as she yanked off her breath mask. "What I did was for me, so that I, Satine Kryze, could have something of my own. I - I didn't know the consequences would be this, it was happening so quickly and we might be dead that very night - "

    "All this, from the one who warned me about thinking ahead. You didn't. You didn't think at all about creating this baby that now you have to lie about. Tell me, why do you have to hide him, Satine?"

    The vexation must have gotten to her because Satine replaced her breath mask, hyperventilating for some time. Then she calmed and said, "The time will be right one day to disclose him to his people. His father and I will never be together in the way that is proper. I don't even know if I'll see him again."

    "Was it the old one?"

    "What? No!" This was more than political differences, these personal differences hurt like an invisible wound. The wound scalded with Satine's next words. "I can't help it if you've not met someone to feel passion for. I can't help it if you don't know what I'm talking about. It was real, it was true!"

    Satine was too angry for tears, Bo could tell. Then all the anger drained out, replaced by what Bo had never seen in her: resignation. "You'll never know," her sister said.

    "Don't say that!" Bo wanted to shout but what came out was "Well, I guess you don't know everything." The timer chinged, the blowsy orderly came to free her from her prosthetic and she stood gingerly, testing the leg. Then she left.

    And for the next seventeen years, Bo-Katan had the last word.


    Act Three

    Ten squat-thrusts, one two three forty-eight forty-nine fifty walkovers, eight no nine handstands after the eleven forward rolls and six full splits. Breathe. Bo-Katan slogged through her morning routine, efficiency the last thing on her mind between the joint-popping stretches, triple check of her weapons and beskar'gam, and a brief real-true-actual water shower. Getting an update on the rebellion through her holocomm unit as she finger scrubbed her hair dry, she thought of her sister, the last Duchess of Mandalore. Now there was no Duchess of Mandalore, perhaps forever. Bo had no desire to step into the role, hers now though it was. Grimacing at her mood, she delayed donning her armor and jogged barefoot around the camp in singlet and trousers, ostensibly checking the perimeter. No one was fooled. As well as she did, the Nite Owls and even the new recruits knew what this day meant as an anniversary. To their credit, no one brought up the subject to her. At the makeshift canteen, she picked up a ready-to-drink puffpacket of muja juice and one of kopi tea before finding a new spot to exercise, placing the drinks safely out of range. Then she began the real workout: kick-boxing an imaginary opponent. She looked around for someone to wrestle with. No one looked at leisure.

    She would give it some time.

    "Boss! Hey, Boss!"

    Bo twisted the heatseal on her kopi tea as she walked off the stiffness that plagued her. Years ago, she had not had to do this, but at thirty-eight Standard her leg troubled her after exercise on a damp morning. She waited patiently as Soniee approached, out of breath. "Spill it."

    "The Pykes deserted, not a thing in their camp except their grotty garbage. Their last message said they were doing a recon of Keldabe and wanted cover of darkness. They left this." She held out a holoemitter of that odd Pyke design. It had a top as well as a bottom and resembled the antique timekeeper in the home of Clan Kryze. When her Boss lifted an eyebrow, gesturing with her steaming cup of tea, Soniee hurried to display the message by twisting one of the strange knobs and turning a key at the bottom. She handed the device to Bo and trotted off to her waiting friends, dropping her datapad on the way and scrambling in a slew of embarrassment to pick it up, shooting a glance over her shoulder. Bo was a good Boss and pretended not to see. She peered at the denuded face framed within the holoemitter, grimacing. The proportions of the species she'd gotten used to through the past year, but not their faces. She was not as cosmopolitan as Satine, but perhaps she'd approach it one day. The quality was low on her list of priorities.

    "This action is unprofitable for the Pyke Syndicate," Lom Pyke said, "so comm us when you can afford us. No offense meant."

    Good riddance. Not that they were bad fighters; they were inconsistent, and that bothered Bo-Katan since she became Boss. One day they were available, and one day not, the whole lot of them hunkered down in business deals for spice even though they were in the middle of a war. It was not their fight, nor any of the rest of the Shadow Collective's, either. The Black Sun goons left first, sneaking off after she had assigned them a cadre name of Forlorn Hope. That came as no surprise, either. At this point in time, the Nite Owls and the immediate company whom Bo commanded welcomed any and all Mandalorians, throwing generous promises of emoluments and to those who looked responsive to them, sinecures, both redeemable after Mandalore was secured. Maul was seen rarely; his holonet appearances showed a gaunt, wiry countenance filled with hatred and an odd sense of grief. Not for him was the demagoguery of Almec; Maul seethed menace as he excoriated rebel sympathizers in favor of the valiant, loyal Mandalorian people, in his guise of a turncoat from being a crime lord. The new Maul supported Almec's government as its enforcer. Studying Maul and Almec via poor crackling holonet transmissions, Bo was under no illusions as to who commanded whom.

    One thing about Viszla, he had taught her to compromise in the pursuit of a higher cause. The Pyke Syndicate, the Black Sun detachment and even the Hutt Cartel mercs grated on her sensibilities. During the Battle of Sundari, they took advantage of scattered holes in the security grid, escaped to unguarded ships and left orbit to throw off trackers, then had circled around to the Eastern Continent. A compound formed there, each group wary, each group eager for profit. Two weeks after the battle wound down to a snarling match between factions, Ziton Moj strongarmed his way into the Death Watch's comm frequencies, offering a base, materiel and soldiers. Reminding herself that she had also shifted loyalties, Bo gritted her teeth and accepted, mollified by the offer of soldiers that she herself had trained during Maul and Viszla's grand plan of the Shadow Collective. She didn't want to know how Moj escaped prison, or Pyke, or the sneering Nikto mercs. She could use them in her struggle.

    "You'll never know." Right, Satine, like you never knew how to fight, except in lame ways with a droid popper. In her mind's eye, it was the day of Satine's best score at scramball. Satine flounced upon the scramball court, slapping at the ball, keeping it in her possession far too long, never with a strategy in mind. No layups, no finesse, just play the game with as much passion as possible and get out quick. Something twisted inside her, a half-formed thought about conflicts and death, but the rush of memory proved too much and she surrendered to sad reflection as she would not surrender to anything else. I would have helped you if I'd had more time. Somehow, I would have. The Nite Owls and I could have - she bit back the thought, her mouth sour. Now who's unrealistic? Maul and his brother would have won, Korkie would still be motherless and though he would never have known it, fatherless, too. She scowled, defying such thoughts. The Clan would have been his all in all, the ultimate in nurturing in the Mandalorian way. He would have survived, simply not have the upbringing that she would have wanted for him, as her nephew. It was a Mandalorian conundrum. She wanted other than a communal upbringing for him and she knew she shouldn't. Perhaps she was not such a pure Mandalorian after all. She wanted him to be courtly, as she had been brought up to be before she discarded the notion. She wanted him to live in a world in which it was proper and right to help a lady into her transport, as she had seen him escort his mother during their short-lived escape.

    She kicked a pebble. Eh, there he was, a pile of scratched armor on a hillock to his side. He looked slightly ridiculous in the bottom half of his black gription suit and the top attached half knotted by its sleeves around his waist. He bent and rose on his toes, stretching slowly in some Jedi morning ritual that involved multiple twists. He was here to help Mandalore, the logical Jedi to return with the invasion. Only it hadn't been a full-scale invasion last week, it had been a detachment of six hundred clones, various Clone Commanders, and one High Jedi General. The time it took to get Republic reinforcements said something about the Republic's resources, and the relative unimportance of Mandalore. The Senate would not have liked Satine's assertion of neutrality two years ago after full clone cadres had been prepped for invasion. Long seasons marched by twice since then, with Republic victories, and Republic losses, too. If they are recalled, we'll be on our own again. The Jedi backflipped and performed two walkovers. Hmmm. Maybe I could get used to this. No don't look this way no no - oh, joy.

    He came over to talk to her after Sensing her regard in that creepy Jedi way. They stood silently together until he began his speech, and Bo allowed him to spout off, all the while staring at her camp, only half listening. It was a personal conversation, not tactics, and she really did not want to discuss his intimate history with Mandalorians, today of all days. She could cut him short, but Viszla had taught her to listen to allies in order to find their weaknesses. She forced herself to pay more attention, and it was easier than she had thought, for, indeed, one camp looked like another. Only in space and in Sundari was there cleanliness, Bo thought, as she scrubbed her dirty feet against the dewy grass which glittered in the dawn. Thick gobs of loam were left behind and she stepped to the side to avoid them. The colors highlighting the clouds reminded her of the colors illuminating the spare, hard beauty of Satine's throne room the last time she saw it, the day Maul had killed Viszla. On this solemn day today, morning could not have come soon enough, because the night's damp made the site of her old leg wound ache almost as much as the memory of her sister's death. It did not help her mood that the man beside her chose this morning to open up. He could have been one of her valued comrades, half-dressed as they all were at this staging time before morning meal. She twisted her lips at his last statement, placing her own skew upon the words.

    "So, you loved her. You left her. What more is there to it?" Bo could see Kenobi turn off the past, like a faulty jet pack valve. She wished she could do that about her actions in the village on Carlac. I exceeded my limitations that day. I hope you never learned of it, sister.

    "I never said that. I was fond of your sister."

    Bo whistled between her teeth. "So she was dear to you? I suppose she was. She and I never discussed our love lives beyond generalities, if that's what is eating you. I can't guess the first thing about how you - "

    "But I know something about you." It was either his Jedi training or his innate courtesy that made him stop, eyeing her reaction, gauging what to say next. "She thought about you right before she Passed into the Force. She valued your talents, Bo-Katan. She told me so."

    Unexpected. "Now you realize what I'm going to ask next, don't you?"

    "All right. You deserve - never mind. When she and I escaped to our faulty ship and lifted off, everything went echuta all at once. She said we must get in touch with her sister, because her sister would help. And then we were falling and spinning and dying and she fell out the hatch and I dreaded - everything went black right about then, and when I came to in her throne room, she was there. And so was Maul and that piece of poodoo Almec. You know the rest."

    'Echuta'? The man was on a roll. "Go on."

    "I looked at her, trapped by the monsters around her, and thought of how I could save her."

    Can anyone be this arrogant? "Just how would you have done that? You were overpowered and I know they took your weapon - "

    Obi-Wan's ungloved fingers reached unconsciously for the hilt of his lightsaber, but it lay atop the pile of armor behind him. "They did. I baited Maul with Jedi Dun Möch and presumed he would battle me for pride's sake. I could have found an advantage like I did years before - " He stopped. "I presumed too much."

    It's not arrogance. It's self-confidence. It must have hurt to have been so wrong and for his cyar'ika to pay the price. Bits and pieces of strategy meetings came back to Bo, almost obliterated in the intervening year of guerilla tactics. She said as softly as was in her nature, "Kenobi, Maul might have been furious with you, but he could control himself, too. Viszla and I found that out. Maul and Opress were simply too powerful together." She touched her throat, remembering Maul's invisible claws. "They had a synergy. What took place that day is your dar'yaim." She forced down the memory of her own dar'yaim. That was then, this is now. And we will win back Mandalore, because we must. Across the way, Amis, Soniee and Lagos geared up for the day, fastening each other's lightweight beskar'gam, laughing and irrepressible. For them.

    Crouched at the morning cook fire, Korkie tossed her a grin and Bo grinned back. He and his friends were the next generation of Mandalorian that she and Satine had talked about. From fifteen meters away, Korkie held her gaze for a moment, taking in the sight of the Jedi and Mandalorian together. Bo wondered what he thought, and if he would approach Obi-Wan for a personal conversation like this one. Since he had been chipped eight months ago and found out his blood type did not support the story that Satine had told him of his parentage, he had asked Bo about it, searching her face for clues that she was his mother. She had been proud of him that night, because he did not waste time in blaming her or Satine for the fabrication he had believed all his young life. She had set him straight right away, glad to get the secret off her chest. If he had not been so kriffing bright and knowledgeable about genetics, dominant blood types and paternity issues, she would have let the question slide. It really didn't matter, since he was Force-blind.

    Kenobi followed her line of sight. Before he could say anything, she pursued an answer for something else that had bothered her. "Where is the Warrior of the Infinite? We could use him and his skinny Padawan. She had spunk on Carlac."

    "Padawan Tano - Ahsoka - has gone on ahead."

    "Fierfek! When did she die?"

    "To my knowledge, she has not joined the Force. She is no longer with us."

    "So she died but didn't join the Force?"

    A look Bo had never seen on him before passed over his face, insubstantial as the fading mist on the eastern hills three klicks away. To her eye, it was supreme discomfort, but it was hard to tell. "What I mean is that she left the Order."

    So this is what it is like to talk at length to Jetiise, thought Bo. Shadows within shadows. And Satine had endured a solid year of this. Well, she had had enough. "Your loss, our gain. Where is she? She can come live with us. We take in strays. It's what we do."

    Pain flickered like sheet lightning and Bo did not need to be Force-sensitive to see it. "Neither Anakin nor I know where she is. He is distressed about it and nearly refused his current mission on Alliga and if it hadn't been for Tarkin's encouragement - never mind. All right. If I can find her, I'll tell her."

    He misses the girl, he is attached to his Anakin and he loved my sister. What a piece of work he is not to admit it. Bo looked him up and down. She could discern more what Satine saw in him, now that the mist was clearing and she stood in calm observance, without the press of immediate danger. Satine and he would have been like diamonds rattling together, never matched enough to be placed into a jeweler's setting. And only a diamond can cut another diamond. Something inside her shifted, or congealed, she was uncertain which. It was not so much that she reached an accord with him, but that she advanced, scouting for common ground. "You're staring at my scar," she said.

    "I'm sorry. I was lost in thought. Satine had a scar, too."

    "She told me she had one on her - "

    "Yes, I saw where it was. Meeting you again, it's, it's bringing back what she said about me. She said I was wielding my weapon as if on a crusade."

    I can listen. I'm not the Boss for nothing. "The meat doesn't smell tracyn'la yet, so there's time to talk, erm, well, what did you think that meant?"

    "Something from your history? I haven't had leisure to pursue it."

    Bo wanted to hurry through this. She was hungry. "As you have guessed, no don't deny it, it was mostly not a compliment. Mandalore the First formed the Crusaders, who roamed space thousands of years ago looking for worlds to subdue because they had already conquered Mandalore and hey, life is nothing without war, right? So my people ventured on crusades in the years leading up to the Great Sith War, gaining them valuable planets such as Ordo and Concord Dawn." She gestured vaguely towards the western horizon and then up. "They made conquered worlds their home. Then they got involved with a Sith, a mistake that got our Mandalore killed. The Sith was Ulic Qel-Droma."

    Obi-Wan nodded. "I know about his cousin, the Jedi Duron Qel-Droma, from a Jedi dynasty, of sorts. He was a good man."

    "A Jedi dynasty? Strange times, the Old Sith Wars." Bo shook her head. "Satine knew much more about this stuff than I do."

    "She would." They shared a look and Obi-Wan seemed encouraged. "Please continue. I don't smell that the first meal is finished cooking, either."

    She took a deep breath. "Mandalorians were originally Taungs from Coruscant who had settled on Roon when they sighted an unnamed planet, inhabited by non-sentient, big ass mythosaurs" - she flashed him the tattoo of a mythosaur's skull on her inner upper arm - "and then Te Sol'yc Mand'alor, Mandalore the First to you, was a warrior leader after he exterminated the mythosaurs, and osik, Kenobi, I would give anything to have seen those battles. He named the planet Mandalore after himself, and why not? Later on, Mandalore the Conqueror was actually the Crusaders' first leader. He expanded our resources and territory." She rubbed her forehead. "Every morning there are rumors of a new Mand'alor over the news feed that Soniee brings me, also, but I've been too busy to verify them. Satine would have been right on it."

    Obi-Wan appeared entranced by her rendition. "Erm, I'm sorry, you said the Taungs ventured from Coruscant to Wroon?"

    "Not Wroon, Roon" - she placed his lips in the proper position - "more lip rounding, like this. Anyway, later there were Neo-Crusaders, too, but never mind about that now. According to legend, the Mandalorian forefathers used to be deeply religious and used warfare as a ritual to their gods. The society changed over the millennia, and their once sophisticated holy laws devolved into the Canons of Honor, and war itself became the object of worship. Any campaign they waged became a Crusade if it promised holy carnage."

    Obi-Wan interrupted. "That was the theme of the mural at the Sundari Palace balcony showing Mandalorian Crusaders beheading Jedi, then. I wonder why Satine commissioned it." He fingered his beard. A breeze came up and he thrust his arms into the sleeves of his gription suit, shivering.

    "I didn't know about the mural, Obi-Wan, but I do know that Satine picked and chose among the Six Actions that Mandalorians are supposed to follow. She took advantage, I think, because they are unwritten laws. We used to fight, erm, argue about it."

    "I can imagine." He had stopped shivering, she noticed. Her thermal singlet kept her warm enough, for the moment.

    They are tenets of Mandalorian life and here I am, playing teacher to a Jetii. She ticked off the beliefs on her fingers. "Wear armor, speak the language, defend yourself and your family, raise your children as Mandalorians, contribute to your Clan's welfare, and when called by the Mand'alor, rally to the cause." Bo's chest swelled. "Crusaders did not conscript, but attracted by example. There is nothing to say in the Resol'nare about species, but it's true, we are mostly human nowadays. I don't know why." She shrugged. "Even with no formal organization, the Crusaders often named their informal cadres, like I named my Nite Owls."

    Obi-Wan folded his arms. "There are a few things to admire about the Crusaders, I can see that. Perhaps Satine chose the mural to depict the 'wear armor' tenet of your belief, without requiring armor to be worn by the common people except for security forces."

    He was being judicial, and Bo's patience frayed. "Like I said, she thought she could pick and choose. Don't you pick and choose from your Code?"

    "Sometimes I do." He appeared to look inward. "We are seekers, not saints."

    Her earlier thought coalesced. "Yeah, well, I wouldn't know about that, but here is the thing about death: you don't get to hash things out with the person. It hurts years later."

    "Yes." He bowed. "Thank you for the lesson. I have learned more than fingers, toes, teeth and claws."

    She had to laugh. "It goes like this: I have learned more than fingers, toes, teeth, claws and tail. Satine taught you that Taung saying, eh?"

    "She taught me much in our year together. She was unique." In another man, his smile could be called dreamy.

    Feeling caught up in a wave of sea change that threatened to sweep her off her feet and having no words to counter or elaborate on his statement, Bo thought instead. Maybe this time I'll pick and choose a custom to honor, Satine. It's called n'yoga: a man with at least one child is taken over by a younger sister of the deceased cyar'ika. It is proper, one of your favorite words.

    Bo did not recognize her own voice. "Want to wrestle?" Someone with her hand reached to touch his face. The breeze turned more chill and that must have been why she shivered.

    "I don't think you realize what I meant when I said that I was fond of Satine." He took her hand from his cheek. He held it no longer than he had to. Bo stepped towards him, in warrior mode because that was what she knew to be safe. He neither stepped back nor into her and that was enough answer for Bo. Kenobi was a bulwark of the Force and any breaching of the bulwark had been done by her sister decades ago. The cracks in the bulwark had been shored up and sealed over with adamantine material, then seared with a clear flame. There would be no more cracks. She splashed against his bulwark, dissipating like an ocean's spray against riprock. Well, then. Onward. I have adamantine beskar'gam of my own. A look at his face told her he was still lost in memory and that this anniversary of Satine's death could lead to weakness in anyone but a Jedi or a Mandalorian.

    "One of the things I remember about her most occurred when we met again after all those years," he murmured. "She hadn't changed at all. She was in full bore attack against the Senate and she cried out, 'Mandalore does not keep secrets from its people!'" He smiled again, devoid of pain. "She was magnificent that day."

    She kept secrets from individuals, though, ally mine. Maybe it's time to tell you one. Maybe you need something good in your life. It can only give you strength. She plucked at her scar, pulled her headband from her belt and donned it for the day. She straightened, withdrawing from him in new respect. "Tomorrow is another sortie against Keldabe and I want to consult with you on it, High Kenobi General Master. Let's bring in another opinion, as well."

    She waved to Korkie. He disengaged from his friends, brows quirked, steps hesitant.

    "Obi-Wan," said Bo-Katan Kryze, "there's something you should know."

    "What is it?"

    And for the rest of his life, Obi-Wan had the last word.


    The End.
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2023
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