Title: Not Your Mother's Life Day Author: Raissa Baiard Timeframe: 0BBY, shortly before the events of ANH Characters: Doran Blayne, Raissa (Baiard) Blayne, Mara Jade Blayne, Ezra Bridger, the rest of the Ghost's crew Summary: When the crew of the Ghost joins the Blayne family for Life Day, Raissa reflects on how her family is changing. Thanks to Ewok Poet and Findswoman for beta-ing and suggestions "They're heee-eere!" Annina's sing-song voice echoed down the staircase moments before the door-chime sounded. Raissa set the last tray of Wookiee cookies on the buffet table, and pushed a stray cookie back into place. "So answer the door," she called back up, stirring the crock of Hoth chocolate to make sure it hadn't scorched. "No!" Mara, who had been putting the last decorations on the Tree of Life, looked up in alarm. "Don't answer it! I'll get it! I'm coming!" She dropped the tinsel garland she'd been winding around its branches, straightened her tunic and bounded up the stairs two at time. Raissa picked up the fallen garland and tucked the end around a branch. She surveyed the tree and all its shimmering ornaments and sighed; so many memories among those branches: the wroshyr leaf wreath Doran bought her when they got married; the fuzzy Wookiee cub from Mara’s first Life Day; the Brave Little Banthas ornament--Nick’s favorite holo-cartoon when he was five; all of Annina’s handmade ornaments, covered with glitter and sequins. Raissa sighed. Normally, she loved celebrating Life Day--the lights, the decorations, all the family traditions she'd brought from Bel Luar to Merkesh, and some that she and Doran had added as their family grew. But this year was different... Somehow, Doran and Mara had tag-teamed her into inviting the entire crew of the Ghost for Life Day. And while she'd enjoyed talking to Hera and Kanan when they'd been on Merkesh--ostensibly on supply runs--and even the gruff Zeb was starting to grow on her, she still wasn't quite sure how she felt about Ezra Bridger and his continued attention to her daughter. It seemed like only yesterday, her daredevil girl had complained that all her friends wanted to talk about were "stupid bands, stupid clothes and stupid boys." This year, Mara had refused to wear her Life Day tunic because the red “clashed with her hair.” She and Raissa had gone around about traditions and fashion and family, before they'd finally been able to compromise on a white tunic with red wroshyr leaves embroidered on the hem and sleeves with red leggings. Instead of her usual single plait, Mara had braided her hair up on the sides, and left it long in the back. She'd even tucked white flowers and sprigs of gold leaves into her braids, something Raissa was used to Annina doing, but never Mara. She couldn't really blame Mara for not wanting Annina to greet their guests. Annina had some fairly...sentimental...ideas about her older sister's relationship with Ezra, and regularly mortified Mara by calling him her "prince" or her "true love". Raissa didn't know exactly where the romantic frilliness of her youngest daughter had come from; Doran must have read her too many fairy tales when she was little. It turned out that Nick had beat them all to the door, which, Raissa thought, was probably for the best. Despite the fact that he shared his father's given name, he was the child who was most like Raissa, and he took things like being a good host very seriously. "General Syndulla, Master Jarrus, welcome. Please come in." "It's just Kanan, remember?" Raised with the convention that officers were addressed by title, Nick always tried to grant him the Jedi honorific, despite Kanan's polite insistence that it was unnecessary. “Oh, okay…” Nick paused, looking non-plussed as the next members of the Ghost’s crew appeared in the doorway. “Um...hello.” Raissa hoped that he was simply unsure what titles to use with Zeb and Sabine, and not, as she suspected, that he was tongue-tied because of the Mandalorian girl. She really didn’t need two children in the throes of teenage crushes. “Hey, kid.” Zeb clapped an enormous purple hand on Nick’s shoulder and thrust a large packing crate decorated with stylized Tree of Life designs--no doubt Sabine’s artwork--into his arms. “Happy Life Day,” Nick staggered a bit under the weight of the package; before he could formulate a proper ‘thank you,” the Lasat jostled into him as the cranky astromech behind him tried to push his way through. “Ow! Watch it, Chop!” The droid prodded Zeb and started lecturing him in grumpy electronic tones. “I’m not blocking the door. I was moving, you just didn’t give me a chance. No, you’re the one being rude!” “Can you two please settle this later?” Ezra peered over Chopper into the foyer. “Right now you’re both blocking the door.” Droid and Lasat began protesting simultaneously that it was clearly the other one’s fault. “Yeah, whatever.” He rolled his eyes, skipping over the question of fault by vaulting over Chopper and nudging past Zeb. Raissa didn’t miss the way his eyes lit up when they met Mara's, or the way Mara, so outwardly possessed, seemed to glow in the Force when she saw him. They smiled at each other like they were sharing a secret joke. Raissa frowned at that; as if it weren’weren’t bad enough that her daughter could encrypt her own comlink, she could also exchange sweet nothings via mind speech. Now there was a combination she’d never expected to deal with--not like any of the parenting holo-sites discussed raising your Force-sensitive Rebel. Mara edged her way through the crowded foyer to Ezra, and Raissa thought they might have kissed, except that a girlish giggle reminded them they had an audience. Annina, dressed in the ruffliest, sparkliest, reddest tunic ever, flitted between her brother and Zeb for a better view, watching with a dreamy smile. Mara blushed a shade that really did clash with her hair and settled for a brief embrace. “Happy Life Day.” “And you, Ace.” Ezra handed her a small package tied with a silver ribbon. Annina giggled again, then her impish grin turned into a pout. “He’s not wearing red. Mara, didn’t you tell him he was supposed to wear red for Life Day?” In point of fact, none of their guests were wearing anything other than their usual attire, minus a few bits of armor, but the others seemed to matter less to Annina than her sister’s beau. “Annina,” Raissa admonished before Mara could snap at her. “Life Day is about celebrating love and friendship, not about what you wear.” She heard Mara snort. *Really, Mom? That’s not what you told me--red tunics are a family tradition!* *That’s different, young lady. Your sister needs to be more polite to our guests.* As if on cue, Annina held out an armful of glittery, tinsely garlands studded with red flowers and leaves. “It’s a good thing I made Life Day wreaths for everyone!” She did a quick pirouette and fluttered around, distributing her handiwork to each member of the Ghost’s crew. “One for you...and you..and you...and even you!” The last wreath was for Chopper, who fended it off with his graspers, swiveling his dome in an emphatic negative. Raissa was glad she didn’t understand all of his robotic tirade, and especially glad that Annina didn’t. “Aw, c’mon, Chopper, be a good sport. It’s Life Day.” Ezra already had his around his neck. Despite Mara’s completely chagrined expression, he seemed to be willing to humor Annina--a point in his favor, Raissa supposed. “Yeah, even Zeb’s wearing his,” Sabine said. “No, I’m not.” The big Lasat held the glittering wreath at arm’s length, as if it were a dead giju. “Yes, you are.” Sabine took it from his hands and dropped it over his head. It slid sideways, catching at a rakish angle on one pointed ear. Zeb growled, but Sabine just smirked at him, hands on her hips, as if daring him to take it off. “What are we all doing in here? I thought the party was downstairs.” Doran emerged from the door to the conversation circle. His dark maroon shirt was a nice change from his usual grayish-brown and brownish-gray attire. Raissa had managed to get him to do something about his untidy hair, but she’d never gotten him to move past his Jedi-drab taste in clothes. She eyed him suspiciously, There was a little too much felinx-in-the-convorees smugness in Doran’s presence. He and Mara had been exchanging significant glances all week; whatever they had planned was almost certainly not something she was going approve of. “Why don’t we head down there? Raissa’s been cooking all day. There’s plenty of roast bantha, mashed topatoes, Hoth chocolate and Wookiee cookies.” “Great!” Zeb exclaimed. “I’m starved; let’s go!” Annina skipped down after him, while Chopper protested the steepness of the stairs and protested even louder when Ezra and Mara teamed up to levitate him down them--particularly when Ezra also levitated Annina’s Life Day wreath onto the droid’s head. Raissa caught her husband’s hand before he went downstairs. “What are you up to, Doran Blayne?” “Up to? Why would I be up to anything?” He gave her a smile that tried hard to be innocent but failed utterly. “Because we’ve been married eighteen years and that look has never once led to anything good.” “Relax.” He kissed her and squeezed her hand. “This is a party; let’s go have some fun.” Raissa sighed. Doran, at least, hadn’t changed. Whatever he had up his sleeve, it was too late to do anything about it now. She put on her best Good Hostess smile and joined their guests.