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  1. Welcome to the new boards! Details here!

Saga Repost - Knights and Eros Bound (Anakin, and SSR OC's)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by DarthBreezy, Jun 25, 2015.

  1. DarthBreezy

    DarthBreezy Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 4, 2002
    I was asked and am more than happy to repost KaEB on the new boards as not onIy is it near and dear to my heart but given the recent new stance on SSR in fan fic, I think it SHOULD be. Did you know it was written in part because (back then) the beIief was that ANY 'gay' characters wouId mean it was a *smutfic* and therefore ineligible for posting? Back then, the Rebel in me couldn't resist such a chaIIange, and thus Gris (gay femaIe) Kam (Bi - femaIe/Gris's Iover) and my beIoved Schurke (the uItimate free Iove boy) were 'born'. I was so honestly and deepIy honored when it was nommed, and sheII shocked when it won.

    Note - the only edits that have been made are for 'Jedi Nookie' content, just as it was posted all those years ago otherwise, the story is here in it's entirety.

    So without...

    ****

    Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker sat in the familiar domain of Dex's diner, both just picking at the rapidly cooling food before them. This morning at dawn, Anakin Skywalker, along with for other acolytes, had graduated from Padawan to Knight status. This had not been as joyous an occasion as it had been in the past. The braids of the other Padawans had been cut by Master Windu, as they had lost their masters in the wars. Obi-Wan had been solemn and a little sad as he cut Anakin's Padawan braid, perhaps remembering that Qui-Gon had not been there for his own. Afterwards he had shed tears of joy as he and Anakin had bowed first to one another, and then to the Council... Obi-Wan had sent a quiet prayer out to the Force and both men seemed to feel the late Master's warmth and approval.

    However, Anakin's mind had wandered far from the events of this morning. In an effort to help boost the waning support for both the war and the role of the Jedi, the Chancellor had called for a celebratory banquet with the newly knighted Padawans and a few select members of the Senate. Padmé of course was to be among them and by special arrangement, Anakin was to escort her. In addition, Anakin had been granted a full week's leave before setting off on his next assignment. The prospects were... tantalizing...

    "Anakin..." Obi-Wan chastised him gently, and Anakin blushed, startled out of his reverie.

    "I'm sorry Master..."

    "Anakin," Obi-Wan repeated gently. "Look, I am sorry I can't accompany you to the... banquet," he winced, and Anakin laughed, fully and heartily.

    "Please Obi-Wan," Anakin managed at last through a fit of subsiding giggles. "If I didn't know better, I'd swear to the stars you asked for that last minute assignment..."

    Obi-Wan smiled, yet Anakin's tone became more solemn.

    "Obi-Wan, you were there when so many others couldn't be... and before, when others... they wouldn't have..."

    Obi-Wan reached across the table and put a reassuring hand on Anakin's shoulder, allowing him to continue uninterrupted.

    "Master, you've had faith in me... Stood by me, even when I made mistakes..."

    "It is how we grow Anakin..." Obi-Wan said softly. "Master Qui-Gon... your mother too, they would be proud of you. As proud of you as I am..."

    Anakin bowed his head, pleased yet unaccustomed to the praise.

    After a moment of almost uncomfortable silence, Obi-Wan broached the topic from a new angle.
    "You are escorting Senator Amidala then?" he asked.

    Anakin raised his head, carefully keeping his expression and voice neutral. "Yes, each of us is escorting a Senator... Padmé, I mean, Senator Amidala and I are still close friends..."

    Obi-Wan raised an eyebrow, but tactfully let the subject drop. Anakin was a full fledged Jedi Knight now, and so his private life was no longer a true concern of his. Yet...

    "Dessert!" Obi-Wan exclaimed with a little more joviality than he really felt as two large bowls of sweet were placed before them. "Enjoy my friend, as it seems that our chances to celebrate are so few and far between, we must seize them while we can!"

    Anakin smiled, relieved to be let off the proverbial hook so easily. His smile broadened as he realized that not only was he going to see his beloved wife, but it would be without the watchful eye of his... his former... Master. Gods, he was a Knight! And he was going to spend the evening, if not longer, with Padmé. He had everything he wanted at last. Almost...
     
  2. DarthBreezy

    DarthBreezy Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 4, 2002
    Chapter 2
    Anakin checked the chrono for the forth time in almost as many minutes. Padmé had been tied up in meetings all day and had insisted on freshening and changing before they left, so Anakin was forced to wait. To make matters worse, Typhoo had insisted on once again going over the security for the evening, and Anakin was forced to portray the dutiful, yet stoic, Jedi Knight as opposed to the anxious young husband who hadn't seen his wife in over four months.

    At long last, Padmé appeared. Her hair was done up in an elegant knot, which Anakin knew from experience would come down with the removal of three pins or less. Her dress was white and crimson. Innocence, power… and perhaps a touch of blatant lust, but as she approached the two men, Padmé maintained a formal and regal detached air. Anakin, however, almost forgot to breathe.

    "Good evening Jedi Skywalker," she said primly, yet there was a devilish look in her eye. She was hiding something... but what?

    When he found his voice, he replied with the same formal tone, yet the smile on his face was irrepressible. "Senator... Thank you for being my guest this evening. I trust you have been well?"

    "I have, thank you." She nodded to Typhoo, who was shifting uncomfortably in place. "Captain, you are dismissed for the evening..."

    "Senator..." he began, but Padmé cut him short. "Captain, I assure you I am in very capable hands. I'm sure my newly Knighted Jedi companion will take very good care of me…"

    The Captain seemed a bit uncomfortable, but nodded his assent. "As you wish, Milady. Master Skywalker… I shall be down in my quarters in the Security Sector."

    He added as almost an afterthought as he turned and left the room. "Goodnight, Milady, Master Skywalker."
    Anakin and Padmé, Jedi Knight Skywalker and Senator Amidala, watched as Naboo's Security Chief formally took his leave. They stood there almost like frightened children, unsure what to do.

    "Padmé…" Anakin said at last, his voice barely a whisper.

    Wordlessly she threw her arms around him and buried her face into his neck, and her body was suddenly racked with quiet sobs.

    He pulled her closer, cooing her name over and over like a charm until her sobs subsided at last. Reluctantly, she pulled away.

    "I'm sorry…" she sniffed. "I've… I've missed you so much…"

    Anakin kissed her forehead, then slowly and tenderly on her lips. The kiss deepened as he reached for her hair with one hand, smoothing her back with the other slowly making its way down. When he reached her lower back, he hesitated, puzzled. This time it was he who pulled away.

    "Padmé?" he asked, unsure.

    "We have to wait," she sighed. "If we don't go… people will talk…" She sighed again, but now a playful smile touched her lips. "But I wanted you to know exactly how much I'm looking forward tonight…" Slowly, she moved his hand to the side of the dress and downward. "Lift…" she entreated, and as he did, his eyes widened.

    Now his voice became a croak. "Padmé… you're… you're…"

    "Yes…" she giggled impishly as she headed to the door. "I'm not wearing anything underneath…."
     
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  3. DarthBreezy

    DarthBreezy Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 4, 2002

    Anakin and Padmé, now reduced to colleagues, walked to the transport station. As Anakin walked by, Padmé noticed that he had developed a slightly awkward gait.

    "Are you alright?" she asked coquettishly, but Anakin only grunted wordlessly. He seemed determined to make the best of a bad situation, at least for now. He opened the door to the Senatorial transport, his hand lingering against her back for the briefest of moments. As soon as the door closed, Padmé activated the privacy screen. Anakin leaned over to give her a quick kiss but almost immediately pulled away as soon as he saw the tell tale blinking light of the security cam.

    "Can we turn that off?" he whispered, a sense of urgency creeping into his voice. Reluctantly, Padmé shook her head. However, she had an idea.

    "Master Skywalker, I'm a bit chilly… Perhaps you would be so kind as to hand me that lap blanket? We can share it if you'd like. I know you grew up on a world much warmer than this…"

    A smile lit up his entire face as he reached down and pulled the blanket out of its holder. As soon as the blanket was over their lap, Anakin laced his fingers with hers, hidden from the prying eye of the cam. The pain in his midsection was slowly dissipating, and for now he was content. Four months… he could wait a few hours more.

    **

    With a last brush of fingertips, Anakin and Padmé exited the transport and made their way to the grand reception hall. Milling around and waiting for the call to be seated were a few dignitaries and their Jedi escorts. A small, intimate reception, Anakin noted mentally. Hopefully the evening would be relatively short.

    "Anakin!" came the greeting from across the room. Kampher Lutador, an Adleraanian Jedi waved them over excitedly. To Anakin's dismay, she was escorting Bail Organa and although he knew Organa was Padmé's colleague and one of her staunchest supporters,
    he still felt a twinge of jealousy when he was around . Adding to that was the presence of the Corillian Schurke Canaille, with his own escort, a younger female Senator whom Anakin didn't know. Schurke, much to the consternation of his former master, was known for having a roving eye and worse, acting on it...

    With a barely concealed sigh, Anakin followed his wife over to the small congregation. After the formal introductions and pleasantries, the small group began the process of idle chit chat and 'shop talk' that seemed to be the meat of such gatherings. Bail and Padmé began an animated discussion with Sentor Kirath of Averam, who seemed to be turning a blind eye to Canaille's advances, at least for now. Anakin stood quietly, seeming to be quietly surveying the room and trying all the while not to think of Padmé's choice of dress and the promise of the evening. At least not too much.

    Kampher, however, seemed anxious and distracted. She shifted her weight back and forth after only a few minutes of this conversation, politely broke in.

    "Master Skywalker," she bowed deeply. "May I have a word with you in private?" She tugged at Schurke's robes. "You too Canille…" Anakin brushed Padmé's hand lightly as the three Jedi made their way to a quiet corner of the room.

    "I hope this is important," grumbled Schurke. "Kirath and I are making progress you know…"

    Kampher rolled her eyes as Anakin shifted uncomfortably. "Please Shurke; you have as much chance with that senator as an eopi in a rancor pit. Besides," she added as an after thought, "Jedi aren't allowed to love. You know that as well as anyone…"

    "Love has nothing to do with this exploit, Milady…" Canaille bowed deeply with a mocking sweep of his arm. Anakin cleared his throat, impatient to get back to Padmé.

    "You wanted to talk to us Kampher…"

    "Oh that's right," Canaille grinned. "Anakin gets uncomfortable talking about the basics of all human pleasures. Master Obi-Wan's influence is showing…"

    "Master Obi-Wan has nothing to do with it!" Anakin snapped.

    Kampher stepped in between the two men raising her hand slightly.

    "Please…" She spoke softly, but her voice carried enough weight for the two men to put aside their disagreement. Oddly, she threw Anakin a pleading look that he could not quite fathom, and he decided that there was far more to this than he originally thought. He would talk to her privately about it later but for now…

    "What is it?" he asked, trying to cool his demeanor. "What's so important that couldn't wait?"

    She was nervous, but she pressed on. "It's about Gris Chevel, her Master…" She bit her lip nervously. "He passed into the Force this morning, almost right after the Knighting Ceremony."

    Both Anakin and bowed their heads momentarily. Padrone Aliéné, a venerable scholar and skilled Jedi Knight, had dissapeared on a mission to Ord Mantell only to be found in a desolate bar on Anobis several months later. The former Jedi Master had been sitting there silently, staring blankly into space, unable to explain where he had been or how he had come to be there. He had been brought back to the Jedi Temple and the Healers, completely mad…

    "I'm sorry," said Canaille, all pretense of bravado gone, Anakin nodded in agreement.

    "He was a good man," Anakin said softly. "Master Obi-Wan, always spoke well of Master Aliéné. He was like another mentor... "
    "But that's not all…" Kampher whispered. "I over heard the Healer talking to Master Windu. "It seems that Master Aliéné... he'd gone over to the darkside... "


    **

    Both Anakin and Schurke were stunned into momentary silence. Master Aliéné ? The idea seemed absurd, and yet...

    "Where is Gris anyway?" Canaille asked suddenly. "I haven't seen her since this morning, after the knighting…"

    "That's the other thing," replied Kampher, in an almost conspiratorial whisper. "She's gone… I think she went looking for something… or someone."

    Anakin shifted uneasily. Part of him wanted to hear more about their lost companion yet the siren song of Padmé's state of dress pulled at his very being. He cast a quick glance in her direction, and to his dismay, found that the Chalactan Senator was standing close to her. Too close.

    "If you'll excuse me…" Anakin said rather abruptly, beginning to make his way back to Padmé's side as graciously as he could.
    "Anakin…" Kampher called him back momentarily. "Please…"

    With one last glance at Padmé, (who had diplomatically distanced herself a little, much to Anakin's relief,) he came back to the others.

    "I needed to tell someone…" Kampher continued softly. "I'm going after her…"

    "When? How?" Shurke broke in but Kampher motioned for him to be quiet. "Tomorrow after Temple Evesong." She looked back and forth at the two men's faces, seeing the same look of stunned disbelief on their faces, and perhaps something else.

    "We're going with you…" Anakin said at last. "You knew that we would…"

    Shurke nodded in agreement. "We all hang together or we'd all swing alone." It had been their motto for many months when the four had fought together as Padawans, a vow of unity. Kampher lowered her head.

    "I haven't asked the Council…" she said softly.

    "Rule breaking!" Shurke broke out into a grin. "Anakin, won't Master Obi-Wan be surprised…"

    Anakin stole another glance at Padmé, who blinked coquettishly at him. Gods! She was a temptress!

    "Anakin?" Kampher cupped his chin gently. "Are you all right ? You seem… distracted…"

    "Senator Amidala…" Schurke's grin widened, but then withered under Anakin's glare, as he seemed to sense that this was a subject not to be broached. At least not now.

    "Together…" Anakin said at last. "Where are we to meet?"

    Kampher sighed with relief. "The 4th quadrant, second level… I've arranged transport to Ord Mantell. I think that's where she would go first... "

    A discrete chime indicated that it was time to be seated, and as Anakin fairly raced to Padmé's side, Kampher held Schurke back momentarily.

    "There's something between them…Anakin and Senator Amidala," Schurke whispered to Kampher with out the slightest hint of rancor. "But I can't tell you exactly what it is…"

    "It's love…" Kampher whispered back. "It's the one thing that might save us all…"
     
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  4. DarthBreezy

    DarthBreezy Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 4, 2002
    The Senators and the Jedi made their way to their seats, Anakin seizing the opportunity to caress Padmé's back as he pushed her chair in. To his delight, he could feel a flush of warmth radiate through her body at his touch.

    "Thank you Jedi Skywalker…" she murmured with just the right amount of propriety. "I trust your evening is going well…"

    Anakin hesitated, not wanting to upset her. "Of course, Milady…" he replied as his hand slipped down her side. Padmé, however, caught the note of apprehension in his voice.

    She cast him a look of trepidation, "Ani?"

    He gave her what he hoped was a reassuring smile. "Jedi business…" he whispered in her ear. "Discussing the merits of… long lightsabers…"

    Padmé giggled and her hand brushed his thigh, causing him to bite down…hard. Slowly and carefully, Anakin took his seat next to her, maintaining a state of composure befitting his new status of a Jedi Knight, at least on the outside.

    The Chancellor gave a brief speech and a hasty apology for not being able to stay for the actual banquet before being whisked away by a plethora of aids. For once, Anakin was relieved that the Chancellor was unable to avail himself. He could attempt to eat dinner, trying to ignore the fact that Padmé was gently nudging his thigh with her own.

    On the desert table, there was a pleasant mixture of familiar delicacies such as shuura and barabelland barabell fruits, along with cakes and other sweets. Padmé chose a rather long piece of liwi fruit and set it on her plate, and a giggle was quickly masked by a cough. Anakin managed to hold back his own bemusement only by the slimmest of projecting the appearance of merely being a concerned escort, he gently rubbed her back.

    "Are you all right[,] Padmé?" Bail Organa asked, raising his eyebrows. "Would you like some water?"
    Unbidden, Schurke raised his hand and a glass of water smoothly floated over to her. Anakin cast him an unreadable look and Schurke winked back. Kampher unceremoniously dug him in the rigs with her elbow, just as Padmé took the glass in hand and nodded her thanks.

    "Don't choke Senator…" Anakin said wryly. "Your presence would be greatly missed…"

    "I assure you Jedi Skywalker, I have no intention of choking on anything…" her eyes flashed mischievously. "If I can swallow half the Bantha fodder that gets thrown around the Senate, I can handle a little thing like this…"

    Anakin flushed to the very roots of his hair as the rest of the table burst into a mixture of applause and the commotion, Anakin lightly touched his wife's hand under the table as if to promise that she would pay dearly for this later. Padmé returned his touch affectionately, briefly slipping a finger through the gap between his forefinger and thumb. Anakin's eyes grew wide as even Kampher and Schurke picked up his surge of sensation. Thankfully, they both had the presence of mind to mask their reactions in the discord. Anakin gritted his teeth again, unsure how much longer he could last…

    As the laughter died down, Bail spoke up. "So, speaking of Bantha fodder Padmé, what do you think of the Ithorian Senator's request to turn the third and forth level conference room into a 'jungle'…"

    After what seemed to be an eternity later, the dinner party began to break up and the various Senators and their escorts departed.
    "Share a transport, Senator?" Bail asked innocently as Kampher looked on from the sidelines. "Perhaps a nightcap?"

    "Aren't you too tired, Senator?" Anakin asked with a subtle wave of his hand. Kampher rolled her eyes and shook her head.

    "No, not at all…" replied Bail, a bit puzzled.

    "I think Jedi Skywalker was referring to me," said Padmé, once ever the diplomat. "I am tired it was the wine." She turned to Anakin, taking his arm. "Of course you will be seeing me home, Master Skywalker?"

    Anakin flushed. "Of course Senator…" He gave an awkward little bow to both Senator Organa and Kampher.

    "Goodnight… Senator… Knight Lutador,"

    "Goodnight Senator... Jedi Skywalker..." came the reply from both Bail and Kampher, but the to the two were arlready on their way landing platform.


    **

    Thankfully, there was a speeder waiting for them at the transport center, and Anakin and Padmé entered it with almost undue haste.

    Anakin resisted the urge to tear down the security cam as Padmé quickly placed the blanket back over their lap. She promptly slipped her hand onto his thigh, causing Anakin to gasp.

    "Padmé!" he gasped and she giggled.

    "Pocket…" she whispered and without further prompting, he slid his hand into the slit in the dress, only to meet bare flesh.

    "No pocket!" The reply was almost a whimper.

    "Of course not…" Padmé whispered softly in his ear. "Ten minutes…." It would be the longest ten minutes of his life, and he could only nod dumbly.

    At long last, they reached the Senate apartments and they both practically stumbled out of the speeder and up to her door. Typhoo, as good as his word, had already left and they were alone in the apartment at long last.

    ********

    They lay together, nestled together in each others arms; Padmé was lazily grazing Anakin's belly with her fingertips, while Anakin caressed her cheek, silently hoping that her hand might find its way further down before too long, He kissed her forehead and sighed. Padmé knew her husband well enough to understand that something was weighing heavily on his mind. She also knew that he would never say anything about it unless she asked him directly.

    "Ani…" she said softy. "What's wrong? She ran her hand back up his chest. Anakin caught it in his own and lightly stroked her fingers.

    "Nothing…" he said, although his tone belied the truth.

    "Ani," she began again, and he sighed.

    "I have to leave… tonight…" He seemed to struggle with exactly how much to tell her.

    Padmé sat up, the sight of her breast peeking out from under the sheet made him a little giddy, and in that moment, he would have given up the galaxy for her.

    "Not some assignment from the Chancellors office…" Her face was a mask of consternation.

    "No," he said gently, and, and then his tone became a bit more serious. "One of my friends… someone… a fellow Jedi… disappeared…"

    "That's what your companions wanted to talk to you about last night…"

    Padmé said softly, "You're going after… him?"

    "Her…" Anakin admitted. "Gris… Gris Chevel. You've met her before…"

    Padmé leaned back into his arms, and began tracing her fingers over his belly again, lower now…

    "Love and loyalty…" Padmé sighed. "I should have known…"

    "Padmé…" Anakin began, but she cut him off with a kiss.

    "I understand, my Beloved…" she murmured.

    She kissed him again, a little more sensually this time. "Love, honor and loyalty…" Her hand began wandering farther down, fingers barely beneath his belly button. "When do you leave?"

    "Tonight…" he croaked.

    "That gives me a few hours then…" she whispered huskily. "I took the liberty of clearing my calendar until late this afternoon…"

    ******

    They lay together in the warmth of familiar embrace, dozing in the early morning sun. Padmé's 'remembrance' had been only a precursor to a rather lengthy morning of love making, and they were both as lazy as sated edan tigers.

    Suddenly, Anakin sat up, all senses on alert.

    "What…" asked Padmé, in a sleepy yet frightened whisper. Anakin put his finger to her lips, and motioned for her to listen. Her eyes grew wide in horror as she heard the voices in the living room… and the bedroom door was ajar.

    Anakin looked around, panicked. The fresher was too close to the door… under her bed was too obvious… he made a mad dash to the only place in the small bedroom that offered any sort of refuge as Padmé tossed a spare blanket over their cloths, hoping that the visit would be brief.

    "Senator Amidala?" Typhoo's voice rang through the sitting room. "Are you awake?" Padmé threw herself under the covers, pretending to still be asleep.

    In the mean time, Dormé began shuffling around her mistress's sitting room, picking up the cloak… No, not cloak… Cloaks…
    Her eyes grew wide as she made the connection, and she tossed the cloaks back on to the couch before stealthily made her way past the captain.

    "I'll see if she is…" Dormé interjected lightly. In this hot weather, I fear milady might not be in a decent state of dress."
    Typhoo nodded absently, directing the small security team to begin their sweep of the apartment. The two droids, which had remained in a state of shut down over night, reactivated at once.

    "Good Morning Sir…" Threepio chirped. R2 beeped in agreement. "Would you care for some Hala tea? Mistress Padmé always has some one hand for visitors…"

    "No thank you…" Typhoo waved him off absently. He noticed that Dormé had discreetly closed the door behind her, and he began walking towards it.

    R2 gave a long mournful whistle.

    "Don't worry R2," Threepio assured him, using the droid language of beeps and whistles. "Mistress Padmé can handle this… Master Anakin will be just fine… come, let's begin the breakfast…"

    Dormé had entered Padmé's room and placed a light hand on her shoulder.

    "Milady?" She asked softly. "The Captain has requested an impromptu security check… he was concerned because you insisted on being alone last night…"

    Padmé groaned, cursing her efficient and well meaning Captain under her breath as Dormé wandered over to the closet.

    "Milady?" came the call from behind the door. "May I enter?"

    "Not yet!" Padmé called, trying to keep her voice steady. "Err.. Dormé…"

    Dormé turned to face her mistress as she opened the closet door, unaware of the very embarrassed figure standing in the closet. Anakin had taken a few of Padmé's looser outfits in an attempt to cover himself, but with little success.

    Padmé tried to silently convey the idea that she was not alone, but Dormé only seemed to be more puzzled.

    She turned back to the closet. "Here, you must get dressed… the Captain wants to inspect…."

    Her eyes and mouth flew open, but she suppressed her laughter as Anakin sheepishly handed her a dressing gown. She gave him an appreciative look and closed the closet door.

    Gods, let this be brief… thought Padmé, desperately trying to advert her eyes from Dormé, who did very little to suppress her smile.

    She put on her dressing gown and allowed Captain Typhoo and his team entry, while Dormé, stood prudently by the closet door.
    When they were finished, Padmé brusquely dismissed the security team and the Captain, who bowed stiffly on his way out. Dormé flitted about the room for a few more minutes until they were gone.

    Dormé giggled as the closet door opened and Anakin stood there, still trying to cover himself, rather unsuccessfully, with one of Padmé's more diaphanous gowns…

    "Goodbye Master Skywalker…" she giggled. "Milady…" and with that she was gone, leaving them alone together again at last.
    Anakin looked down and realized that his selection was a bit… well, lacking but Padmé didn't seem to mind.

    "Do you like my new look?" he asked sheepishly.

    "Hmmm…" she purred. "I'm not sure; I think I'd like a closer look…"

    Anakin was only too happy to oblige, a smile lit up his face.
    "As you wish… Milady…"
     
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  5. DarthBreezy

    DarthBreezy Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 4, 2002
    Anakin made his way to the meeting place with a lighter step than he had had in ages. Not even that that unwelcome and unexpected interruption by visit from Captain TyphooTypho had dampened his sprits. Thank the stars Dormé had the presence of mind to refrain from giving him away in a fit of laughter, but Gods knew he would hear it from Padmé upon his return… if he returned…

    Anakin chased the thought away. This was a simple rescue and retrieval mission (although he knew differently in his heart) and his companions were among the most skilled young Jedi (barring Master Obi-Wan) in the temple. They would all come home safely, even Gris…

    When he arrived at the landing platform, Schurke and Kampher were already waiting for him. Both were sending waves of comforting welcome through the Force.

    Schurke raised a hand in greeting, a grin on his face.

    "Ahhh Anakin… or perhaps you are a clone of our dearest friend? The Anakin Skywalker we know usually radiates brooding throughout the entire core sector. The Force signature of someone who's spent time enjoying himself with…" Here he paused and raised an eyebrow.

    Anakin shot him a look, cold as steel. "Kam… Schurke…"

    "Much better! For a moment there, I thought we might have lost you!" Schurke laughed, and the tension between them vanished as quickly as it had risen.

    Kampher took Anakin in her arms in a welcoming embrace, and she too widened her eyes. As she pulled away, she looked at Anakin questioningly.

    "Anakin Skywalker…"

    Anakin blushed, but remained stoic.

    "You don't have to tell us now…" Schurke laughed, "But it's coming off your Force signature in waves…" he gave Anakin's robe a gentle tug. "Come on… we have a transport to catch…"

    "Does Obi-wan know?" asked Kampher softly, stopping them both for a moment.
    Anakin sighed, resigned.

    "Oh of course not!" Schurke giggled. "If he did, you know he'd be… 'Very grumpy' right?" He took the arms of his comrades.

    "Come on then!" he said gleefully. "It'll give us something to talk about to pass the time! We'll get our good friend here drunk, and let him extol the virtues of Jedi lovemaking and secret illicit affairs…"

    "It's not like that!" Anakin said hotly, still allowing himself to be pulled along. "It's more than that…" he added softly.

    "We know, Anakin…" Kampher replied, whispering in his ear. "It's love… real and true…"

    Anakin halted mid step, nearly causing his companions to fall down on to the duracreat. "You do?" he asked, incredulous. "And you don't… you don't mind?"

    Schurke brushed Anakin's cheek softly with the back of his hand. "Why should we mind, dearest friend? For the first time in many, many months, you seem truly happy. The Order is wrong about many things… love the chief among them…"

    Kampher nodded in agreement, but began pulling on her companions once again. "Come on! Our transport will take us to Carratos; from there we can hire a privet vessel to Ord Mantell. We can talk about it then…"

    Feeling as if a massive weight had been rolled off of his shoulders, Anakin picked up his pace, laughing as his two friends struggled amiably to keep up with his long strides. He felt truly glad to be among them…

    ****


    Kampher had managed to book a four-bunk berth on the passenger cruiser, Veretta, but dispite the relative comfort of their surroundings, none of the trio looked forward to the three-day journey. They tossed their bags onto the spare bunk as Shurke sat down heavily on the nearest one. He grimaced as he flexed his knees one by one.

    "Are you all right?" both Anakin and Kampher rounded on him, concern evident on their faces.

    "Just the leg..." Shurke flexed and grimaced again. Kampher knelt down beside him, and started running and experianced hand over the joint.

    "Where does it hurt?" she asked with a no -nonsense clip to her voice.

    "It's not that one that's causing the problem... not really..." Schurke grinned sheepishly. "The other one..."

    Anakin knelt down on Shurke's other side. "Let me see it... what's it doing?"

    "Not responding properly all the time..." he grimaced again as Kampher began gently prodding his other knee. "Wants to stop moving every once in a while..."

    "Trousers and boots..." Kampher told him shortly. "Take them off and lie down on the bunk."

    Schurke sighed and reluctantly complied as Anakin began rumaging through his bag, pulling out assorted tools. He turned to look more carefully at Schurke's leg. Like his arm, the leg was a mechanical replacement from the mid thigh down, and like Anakin, he had lost the limb at Geonosis...

    "I hate this..." Schurke said softly, throwing his arm over his eyes. "I feel like a droid..."

    Anakin took Schurke's hand in his own and gave it a squeeze before setting to work. Kampher looked up questioningly as she gently massaged Shurke's other leg.

    "Can you...?" she asked, and Anakin grinned.

    "Well Toboo?" Schurke added, regaining some of his lost humor. 'Toboo', which was the Gungan word for child, was one of the many nicknames the older Padawans had given Anakin... Only a chosen few dared use the name in front of him.

    Anakin looked over the apparatus with a practiced eye and quickly found what he was looking for.

    "Hold still!" he grumbled as he motioned for Kampher to steady the leg. "This will only take a minute, you have a loose servo..."

    "Ahh yes... Anakin the Astro-mech Jedi..." Schurke laughed, ruffling Anakin's hair a bit.

    "Watch it, Schurke," Anakin growled as he gently prodded at the troublesome part. "Otherwise I'll fix it so the leg kicks you in the rear any time you open your mouth..."

    "Yes, I think you would!" Schurke laughed again as Kampher touched his cheek with her free hand.

    "Try it now..." Anakin suggested after a few minutes, and Schurke obliged, obviously pleased.

    "Much better!" He exclaimed as he joyfully pulled his companions down on to the bunk with him. "Time to celebrate !"

    "Not like that, Canaille!" Anakin jumped off the bunk as if bitten, Kampher also pulled away, all be it a bit more unwittingly. "I only... Only with one person! And one person only..." Anakin snapped then trailed off, realizing that Shurke had deliberatly set a trap.

    "That's right... " Schurke smirked. "Senator Amidala... I'm assuming. Unless there's someone else you spent the morning with?"

    "Schurke..." Kampher said quietly. "Let it go for now... " Anakin flashed her a grateful greatful look. "We can discuss that over dinner tonight... But... I have a message." She continued solemnly solomly. "A message from Gris..."

    "From Gris…" Anakin repeated. "Then she's alive… and ok…"

    "I haven't played it yet…" Kampher whispered, and she bowed her head as if in prayer. "A Jedi knows not fear…"

    Schurke took her hand, as did Anakin; they drew strength from the Force force, and each other. At last, Kampher wiped her face with her hands, regaining her composure. "All right ," she sighed. "Are we ready?"

    "Yes…" replied Schurke, "Go ahead Kam… play the message…"

    Wordlessly Kampher took the device out of her bag and set it on the floor before them. She took on last breath and pressed, "play".
    Moments later, the small blue projection of a humanoid appeared before them. Gris Chevel stood before them in miniature, dressed not in traditional Jedi attire, but in leggings and a loose shirt that accentuated her femininity. Anakin about her bearing wasn't right…

    "Hello Kam… and as I know you'll have summoned Schurke and Anakin, greetings to you as well…" The holo paused, obviously debating about how much to say. "I've left the Order…" she said at last. "I assure you it's of my own accord, and you need not fear for me…" Again, a pause. "I know you won't accept this at face value, and will probably want to talk to me… I'm willing to do that. But I couldn't do it on Coruscant… not near the Temple… There is a bar in the outlander section of Ord Mantell; the co-ordinates will follow, along with contact information to let me know when you've arrived. Jedi aren't particularly welcome there so I would suggest you find a change of cloths first. And watch your step; this place can get a little rough…"

    The holo cut itself off abruptly, and a stream of data projected itself in its place. Simple co-ordinates and nothing more. At last, the machine shut itself down, leaving the three of them speechless. Shocked. Leaving the Order? Right after Knighting? And being on Ord Mantell… where Master Grigio had been found…


    ****

    They stood there, the three of them stunned into momentary silence. Wordlessly, Kampher rose and stepped out of the door.

    "Kam…" Anakin called, intending to go after her, Schurke but a gentle hand on his shoulder. He shook his head.

    "Give her some time, Toboo… Anakin…" Schurke said softly. "It's a lot to take in, especially for her…"

    Anakin pursed his lips, but nodded his assent. Kampher and Gris had been… close. Perhaps even as close as he and Obi-Wan were. Schurke seemed to sense his concern. Brightly, he changed the subject. "And if you're worried about our presence being missed… I took care of that already…"

    "How?" Anakin asked, puzzled.

    "Oh come now!" Schurke began to laugh. "You can't honestly believe you have the sole proprietorship on bad behavior can you? Do you really think all of my time spent in the Jedi library was really spent looking for…"

    "Alien sexual images…" Anakin interrupted him with a grin, catching on.

    "Well yes…" Schurke confessed with a gleam in his eye. "That too… but mostly ways to, well, shall we say, cover our tracks? According to the records, the four of us are on a mission to escort a small convoy of Senatorial aids…"

    The inclusion of Gris in this plan was not lost on Anakin, and he nodded in agreement.
    "How long do we have before we're missed?" he asked.

    "Two weeks…" Schurke grinned broadly. "And just to be safe, I added some names to the data base… I trust you are fluent in Gotalize?"

    Anakin offered a wry smile in return. "I'll learn…"

    Kampher returned a few minutes later, the tears still drying on her face. Anakin and Schurke opened their arms to take her into an embrace. She held them close for a moment, then pulled away reluctantly,

    "I want to try something… tonight, after supper." Her voice was soft, but full of conviction. "The three of us…"

    "Anakin will never agree to it!" Schurke giggled. "He says he belongs to only…"

    Anakin rolled his eyes. "Schurke, must everything be… well you know…" He blushed to the roots of his hair. Schurke's propensity to have lovers of any type unnerved him sometimes. "I mean…"

    Schurke regained a little self-control as Kampher shook her head again. The look on her face was a mixture of bemusement and frustration. "Nothing like that, Anakin…" She sighed. "But it is… like a bonding…"

    "It's not sexual, Toboo…" Schurke assured him. "Unless of course…"

    "Stop it Schurke!" snapped Kampher, her irritation finally reaching its peak. She turned to Anakin with a much kinder look on her face. "You know Schurke… he just can't get over the idea that you have a lover…"

    "She's not my lover…" Anakin interrupted her softly. He took a deep breath and swallowed hard before continuing. "She's… she's my wife…"


    **********

    Kampher had remained silent, but had nodded subtly as if she already knew. Schurke, however...

    "Wife…" he replied at last, incredulous. "You can't be serious…"

    Anakin also remained silent, but his expression was stony.

    Schurke started to laugh, but it was an uncomfortable sound. "Oh Toboo…"

    "I knew you wouldn't understand!" Anakin rose angrily, and began to storm out of the cabin until Kampher put a hand on his shoulder. It was almost as if she were expecting this...

    "Anakin, wait…" she said softly, her face and expression were gentle and kind, so Anakin complied. At least for the moment.
    "She's not just my lover," he said again at last, still tense but relaxing a little. "It's more than that… I love her… she loves me. We… we needed this… a promise…" His eyes flitted between the two of them, seeking understanding. He found concerned confusion in Schurke's, yet a longing to at least try to empathize. Kampher, however, never lost her look of acceptance, and he drew strength from it. "I almost lost her once… I couldn't bear to face that again…" He paused here, almost defying them to mention the code against attachment yet they remained prudently silent, waiting for him to continue. "I don't know what else to say…" he finished at last, and waited for them to pass judgment.

    "Well…" Schurke began, all traces of humor vanished. "You know what this means don't you then?"

    "Schurke… Anakin…" Kampher began. Anakin turned to leave, his anger and disappointment coming off of him in waves, but he halted as soon as he heard Schurke's next comment…

    "I'll have to spend less time finding nudes and sexual techniques and more time reassigning you…" he said, unable to contain a smile. "If you want me to that is…"

    Anakin rounded on them, still angry and yet…

    "I can arrange it if you want…" Schurke continued while Kampher watched them both. "A few extra days on Coruscant here and there… Top secret assignments you know…"

    Anakin's anger began to melt like ice under a Tatooine sunrise, but he still wasn't sure. His eyes narrowed. "Why?" He paused, assessing them still. Kampher's expression was unchanged, still full of compassion while Schurke had become almost uncharacteristically sheepish.

    "Because…" Schurke said at last, his voice was very soft and full of tenderness. "In a time of so much loss and hatred… we all need to take and give love where we find it…"

    Kampher nodded, never taking her eyes off of Anakin. He seemed to be wavering, wanting to trust yet so unsure…

    "We all hang together Toboo…" Schurke reminded him gently. "Through anything…"

    At last, Anakin offered a weary smile, the relief in the small room was palatable. "Yes," he agreed. "Or we shall swing alone..."

    "Well then!" Schurke exclaimed happily, as if they had been discussing nothing more than the rain on Coruscant. "Shall we see what they feed the hungry masses on this luxurious liner? I'm so hungry I could eat…"

    Kampher placed her hand over his mouth before he could finish.

    "Yes we know Schurke… first supper then… the we can talk about the bonding." She looked over at Anakin, who had flinched a little. "Are you all right, Anakin? If you don't want to…"

    "No… of course not," he stammered. "I mean, yes I want to do this… I'm just… just a little, well… nervous…"

    "It'll be fine." Kampher reassured him. "You must trust me… Us… Yourself…"

    Anakin could only nod, as he dutifully followed his friends to the galley.
    Trusting them wasn't the issue…


    ******


    The young Jedi Knights, the made their way to the galley, leavingtheir robes and other accouterments aside, trying to blend in with
    the other passengers as much as possible. With the initial awkwardness of Anakin's revelation behind them, the three of them were laughing and joking like the close companions they had always been. Schurke and Anakin joined the queue for the dinner line while Kampher found them a small table in a discreet corner where they could discuss things in some semblance of privacy.

    Schurke wrinkled his nose at Anakin's selection of ground shaak flankfor himself and Kampher.

    "I swear, Toboo," he sighed. "I'll never understand how you and Kam can stand to eat that. I mean. it's just barbaric!"

    "Oh please Schurke," Anakin grumbled playfully. "We all know the only way you'll eat something is if it will reciprocate."

    Schurke grinned but before he could retort, a piece of barabell fruit was shoved into his mouth. Anakin laughed, happy to be a step aheadof Schurke for a change. "Come on, Kam is waiting."

    When they reached the table, conversation came to a temporary end as they began to eat. Being used to both the short rations of the battle field, and the bare basics of Temple fare, what was merely simple foodto the rest of the passengers was a veritable feast for the Jedi.

    Anakin however; still only picked at his food, his stomach in knots.Had he told them too much? Not enough? And what of Gris? The Bonding?


    "Anakin," Schurke suddenly broke in, sensing Anakin's discomfort. "Do you remember the lecture we had with Master Aliéné? The one where he brought in the Falleen?"

    Kampher began to giggle, obviously sharing in the moment. "Gods, how could I not?" Anakin replied, beginning to laugh himself.
    "We were all of what? Fifteen? Sixteen years old?"

    "Well, you were fifteen Toboo." Schurke reminded him. "The rest of us were approaching our twenties. I guess Master Aliéné thought you were precocious..."

    "Master Aliéné was always interested in effective attacks against the Jedi," Kampher interjected. "He thought that the best defense was exposing his students to the various means, no matter howunconventional... Every male became putty in her hands. Schurke, you
    and the Rodian Padawan... Nur-ko were practically stripping yourrobes off right there... "


    "Falleen use their pheromones to either seduce or subdue theirintended," Anakin added. "Even a Jedi can find their influence hard to resist."

    "But it was worth it in the end!" Schurke interjected. "As I recall, you, Kamph I mean, and Gris and I."

    Anakin raised his eyebrows. He knew they had been lovers at one point,
    but this?


    "It was a dream, Schurke." Kampher interrupted him, laughing.

    Schurke looked puzzled, and then indignant. "No it wasn't! I remember it distinctly! Anakin and you and Gris took me back to my quarters,Anakin left and the three of us."

    Kampher burst out laughing. "It was Gris's idea. You were under the Falleen's influence to the point that Anakin had to carry you back toyour quarters before you tried to leave with the Falleen. She'd made you so damned susceptible to suggestion that Gris thought you should at least have some happy memories instead of realizing what an assyou'd made of yourself. I induced a sleep trance and Gris added the memory."

    Schurke frowned and blushed, feeling wholly embarrassed. "But. but. it seemed so. so real!"

    "All the male Padawans were in the same state to one extent or another." Kampher reassured him. Then it suddenly hit her. "All the
    male Padawans except. Anakin."


    The both looked at Anakin, incredulous.

    "How?" Asked Kampher.

    "WHY?" added Schurke.

    Anakin shrugged, it had been a long time ago,, and it really hadn't seemed as important as the exercise itself. As in all the lessons at
    the Temple, the memory seemed far away. He remembered feeling. happy. compliant. yet in the end, even then the one thing seemed stronger,more important. Self control. and Padmé.


    "Anakin." Kampher prompted softly. "How did you resist?""I thought of Padmé." Anakin replied just as quietly. "The Falleen's.
    the feelings it prompted. I only wanted. I mean. even then." he trailed off, unsure how to continue.

    "Again, the Senator." Schurke nodded, glad to have the attention shiftfrom his own fallibilities. "You really had a thing for her, even as a teen?"

    Anakin nodded wordlessly, it was now or never. "Even before then." he began, once again watching them intently for
    any trace of disapproval. When he saw none, he continued. "From the day she walked into Watto's shop. I just knew."
    For nearly the next hour, he told them everything. From the firstmeeting to their secret marriage, even to the clandestine meetings
    they so desperately tried to have. For once, he told them everything. even about the fear of loosing her. When he was finished, Anakin hung his head. He felt. purged. cleaned, relieved. As if the dark hole that often festered in his soul hadfound a temporary abeyance, yet once again, he felt like he was sitting in judgment from the Jedi and their ways..


    Kampher gently reached up and touched his cheek, and Anakin raised hishead. She was smiling, her eyes shining with a love and understandingthat he had only seen in the eyes of Padmé and his mother. Schurke too was smiling, but the puzzlement still remained. It just wasn't in his friend's power to comprehend Anakin's feelings, yet his acceptance would be enough.

    "We should go back to our quarters." Kampher said at last. "If we want to do this tonight, we should do it soon.."

    Schurke nodded, his face reflective. "I'll return the trays and meet you there." Without another word, he rose and took their plates.
    Anakin watched him nervously.


    "Don't worry Toboo." said Kampher tenderly, using the nickname for the first time that night. "Schurke is trying. this is just such an
    alien concept to him, it's not in his nature and he just can't understand just yet. He will. that's part of the Bonding process."

    Anakin pursed his lips nervously. He knew now that for better or worsehe was committed to this act to the very end. He could only pray to the gods that it was the right one.

    ***

    Kampher wanted to clean up in the fresher before starting, leaving Anakin and Shurke to their own devices before starting the Bonding. Shurke sat down on the bunk, stretching out his lanky form, while Anakin paced nervously around their cramped quarters.

    "Sit down, Toboo," Schurke entreated him. "You're as nervous as a Fen-hare! You'd think you've never done this before…"

    "I… I haven't…" Anakin admitted. "I mean, I'd heard talk about it but… No, never…"

    Schurke raised an eyebrow. "Never Toboo? You who have tasted the pleasure of one…" Here he paused. "Woman… Never?"

    "No," Anakin replied, a little embarrassed. He didn't add that he was actually afraid, considering the things he had heard and seen about the ritual. But these were his friends… his companions in arms. He had grown closer to them over the years, perhaps even closer than he was to Obi-Wan, but they had never taken this last step…

    "You don't need to be so concerned Toboo…" Schurke reassured him. "Kamph is good at this. She never crosses the line into invasiveness, and the effects only linger for a few days. We'll be able to, well, work together more easily… sense each other faster."

    Anakin frowned, still unsure.

    "If you're worried that we'll find out your more -shall we say -more 'interesting' secrets, such as how and when you make love to… to your… wife…" Now it was Schurke's turn to scowl. This was still an issue he had a difficult time grasping, but he pressed on. "Unfortunately, that's still your domain unless you're willing to share it. It's a way for us to draw closer, not mental rape…"

    "Schurke is right, Anakin…" came Kampher's voice from the fresher. "Although Gris was…is… stronger… with this gift, I can guide us through it effectively."

    She began to prepare an infusion of tea apparently lost in thought while Anakin and Schurke watched her wordlessly.

    At last she turned back towards them, a cup of steaming tea in each hand[,] with a third sitting on the counter still. She handed them each one in turn and at last took her own and then sat between them. She repeated Schurke's invitation to sit and Anakin complied at last, still fighting the fear that seemed to plague him incessantly.

    "When do we start?" Anakin blurted out suddenly, anxious to get started, and thus get it over with. He just couldn't seem to sit still.

    "Relax Anakin…" Kampher said with a quiet smile. "Drink your tea and tell us about Padmé."

    "Like what?" Anakin answered her carefully, unsure what or where this could possibly lead to.

    "Describe her to us…" Kampher replied, her voice soft and low. "Not physically, we know what she looks like… but how she is…"

    Anakin took a deep breath and closed his eyes, unaware that Shurke and Kampher had done the same. He brought Padmé to mind… not the imposing young Senator from Naboo, but the woman that she was.

    "She is like… spring…" Anakin began, warming to the idea. "Her hair, her eyes… her being…" He felt himself begin to drift as both Kampher and Schurke took each of his hands in theirs. He was dimly aware that Kamph had removed the glove from his mechanical hand but found the idea reassuring now…

    "That's good…" came Kampher's voice in the darkness, no longer emanating from across the room, but from everywhere… next to his ear, reaching into his very being. "Now…" came the voice, soft and warm. "Show us…"

    Now Padmé was there… he could see her in his mind's eye. She was standing in the meadows of Naboo, beautiful and bare. Her hair was draped over her body like a shroud and yet the lower half of her body was misty and indistinct. No… that's not for you to see, a small part of himself whispered. He knew that Kampher and Schurke were sharing in this… this vision and suddenly he understood. This was the bonding! The sharing! They would see what he was willing to share and no more… Emboldened, he tried to expand upon it, reaching out to touch her and feeling the love and warmth that made up his beloved… his wife…

    "Come with me…" came the voice again and he went with it, willing himself to follow where it would lead. He found himself being lead to another (Time? Place?) and he saw the Temple. Other Padawans… friends long gone, lost to the war. He felt laughter and love tinged with insecurity. A feeling (Belonging? Not belonging?) that was familiar yet not his own… of lovers that he had never had… (Schurke?) of finding love and acceptance with Gris and (Himself? Anakin, the man who was himself as well? The feeling was disconcerting yet…) and at last with…

    "And again…"

    Love, feeling at home… (Mom? No, not Shmi… but a mother's love none the less… Kam?) Family… separation… death… loss. Acceptance under a Jedi Master… (Qui Gon? No… Tahl? Not her master but…someone…)

    Now Gris…

    "Time to go back..."

    Slowly, Anakin began to feel the sensation of waking… he became more and more aware of his current surroundings yet he fought against it.

    "I want to know!" He cried out to the ethereal… "What about Gris?"

    "Not now… another time…"

    The ship and its surroundings lurched back into view, and as Anakin looked at the chrono he realized…
    "Hours…" he whispered, incredulous. "But it seemed so…"

    "Quick?" Schurke offered genially, He seemed to have shaken off the effects rather quickly. "It always seems that way, especially the first time." He rose and helped Anakin to his feet. "Come on," he said. "Let's put Kampher to bed… this can take a lot out of her."

    Anakin reached over and replaced the glove over his hand, once again feeling conspicuous, but perhaps now it was out of habit than any real need to hide it.

    "She'll be all right?" he asked, the concern evident in his voice, but Schurke's smile put him at ease.

    "Let her sleep for a bit… we all should." Schurke told him gently. "Only the Gods know what we'll be facing there…" He brushed Kampher's cheek with a feather light touch as they lay her down on the bunk. Other than that, there was no real discernible difference in his demeanor as the perfect Jedi Knight but, there was a feeling…

    "Good night Toboo…" Shurke didn't seem to want to talk about the experience just yet. "In the morning…" he added, as if he could read Anakin's thoughts and confusion. "We'll talk about it then… we still have at least another day before we reach Carratos…"
    Anakin nodded in agreement and lay down on his own bunk. He closed his eyes, resigned that sleep would be a long time in coming, and yet wanting to go over these newfound revelations in his mind. He always knew that he and Schurke had been more alike than either of them could ever really admit, but Kampher…

    His last thought before sleep laid claim to him was simple yet… monumental… overwhelming….
    Kampher knew her mother… and her mother had been a Jedi…



    ***

    Anakin awoke to the smell of hot food that was permeating their small quarters, and realized that he was hungry, even starving.

    "I thought I'd give you breakfast before you slept through lunch, Toboo." Kampher called to him.

    "What time is it?" Anakin asked sleepily as he rolled over to face her. Kampher's eyes were dancing with good humor and her dark hair was still wet with curls from her shower. Obviously she hadn't been awake for long either.

    "Nearly eleven, standard time, I'm not sure what the shipboard time is."

    "Where's Schurke?" Anakin asked as he sat up, a little more awake now.

    "Probably off finding someone to 'explore the living force with' as he likes to call it." Kampher sighed. "Unfortunately, if he takes a
    lover, we'll know about it."


    Anakin furrowed his eyebrows as he began to eat. "Unless he chooses not to tell us. we're Jedi, not seers."

    Kampher shook her head. "Anakin, it's a lingering effect of the bonding. If one of us, well, feels strong emotions. And Schurke has
    always been. a bit of a projector anyway."


    Anakin groaned. "And how long will this last?"

    "Only a few days," Kampher assured him. "Anakin, don't judge him too harshly for it."

    Anakin put his fork down on the plate, astonished. "J-j judge him?" he asked, incredulous. "Why should I do that? It is his way, not mine."

    "Nor that of the Order." Kampher added. "Jedi are allowed to have lovers, Schurke has always taken that ideology to the extremes. MasterAstengasi despaired of him... He told Schurke that one day he would have to choose between his lovers and the Order... "

    "But why?" asked Anakin through a mouth full of sausage. "Schurke has always put the Order first." he trailed off; suddenly it all became clear to him. "Schurke takes lovers to try to gain acceptance." Anakin said slowly. "He feels as if he'll never be good enough."

    "That is part of it, yes." Kampher agreed. "But he also believes that the Order is too limiting. too restrictive."

    "Not open to the new experiences." Anakin finished softly. Yes, he understood completely. The Order was outdated in all its beliefs. on love. on true friendship. on family.

    "You knew your mother." Anakin said suddenly. "Last night. during the bonding."

    Kampher nodded, her eyes never leaving his. "Yes. I didn't come to the Temple until I was about six. old for an initiate."

    Anakin could only stare at her, unable to reply. Thankfully, Kampher seemed to understand. "My mother was a Jedi Healer. she went to a planet near the outer rim to help with a relief mission. A long term affair that ended with a
    'long term affair,', so to speak." Here she giggled; any pain of separation had long been put behind her. "I was raised by my mother there, on Bastion."

    "Did you know your father?" Anakin blurted out, unable to control himself.

    "No," Kampher said brightly. "Not that it mattered at all. Mother began training me in the ways of the Force as soon as I was able to
    reach for it. I learned the elements of the healing arts while mostchildren were playing with toys." Again she laughed. "My poor dolls.always suffering from one malady after another."


    Carefully, Anakin broached the subject of he mother again. "What happened to her?" He asked softly. "She's. she's gone isn't she.?"

    "Yes." Kamph replied, the humor slowly dissipating. "When I was about five. nearly six. She never came home. I spent time living with theother healers until the Jedi came for me."

    "But you. you remember her. have feelings for her." Anakin pressed.

    "Yes," Kampher admitted. "I knew she had passed, and I grieved for her as only a child can. but as I grew up in the Crèche, she became more of a dream to me. The other younglings became my family, the Jedi." Here she paused. "But I dream of her Anakin. sometimes I still do."

    Anakin bowed his head. "I still dream of my mother sometimes. I wonder
    why I couldn't save her."


    "But know this, Anakin." Kampher interrupted him, placing her hand on
    his heart. "You mother, my mother, all that we know and love is with us. as long as we don't forget them. it is the way of things."


    Anakin pulled away reluctantly. "I know." he replied, but somehow Kampher remained unconvinced. "I need to find a place to stretch," hesaid feebly. "Maybe clear my head."

    "Anakin." Kampher called softly, "Don't waste time grieving for what was."

    "No," Anakin admitted. "It's just that. I hate not knowing."

    "Not knowing is part of the journey, Ani." she told him gently. "If we spend all of our time looking back."

    "I'll miss what's coming." Anakin finished for her. "Kamph."

    "You have your wife, Toboo. have you thought about what you'll do after the war? Will you stay with the Order?"

    "I don't know. Padmé and I haven't really discussed it." It was a lie and they both knew it. "I mean."

    Kampher smiled again. "Go stretch, Ani. Clear your thoughts. After supper we can tease Schurke about settling down."

    Anakin laughed, already feeling better. "Okay, you win. we'll ask Schurke what his thoughts on 'family life' are. drive him to
    distraction."


    They both knew that they were avoiding the inevitable, the discussion of Gris. So much for looking forward. at least for right now.

    *********


    The friends spent the rest of the afternoon apart, yet each still distinctly aware of the others presence. To Anakin, it was a relief to
    be alone and yet not lonely. The lingering shadows of Kampher and Schurke (who, to Anakin's relief, had not taken a lover on this
    journey) were like a whiff of perfume. Always just with in reach.Anakin found a relatively quiet place aboard the ship where he could meditate. He found it surprisingly easy to relax today. Perhaps it was Kampher's calm bearing that he shared, but either way, he would take the small things as they came. In his meditative state, he reached outfor Padmé's presence. It was very late back on Coruscant, and she would most likely be asleep, but still. Yes, there she was. he could almost see her roll over in their (all

    too rarely) shared bed, and take the pillow he had slept on in her arms. A poor substitute, but at least a comforting one. He willedhimself to her, to try to brush her consciousness with his own. Assurance, tenderness, love. to his surprise, he felt an answering presence. Padmé had never been trained in the use of the Force but sometimes he could swear she had an intuitive response to it. Indeed, the sensations he felt were not merely a reflection of his own, but adistinct. reply. love, solace. and perhaps a bit of pure longing.

    Delicately and almost resentfully, he began to pull away. They would be meeting for supper tonight and perhaps would at last address the issue they had been evading for almost the entire journey.

    Gris.


    ****

    As had been their routine for the journey, they began discussion over supper. Once again, the easier things dominated the conversation-the war, the state of the Republic, the war, and of course, the Jedi Order. This time however, things took a turn to deeper aspects…the nature of the Force itself.

    "Do you ever think the Masters are wrong, Toboo?" Schurke asked through a mouthful of Shuura fruit. "When they say that there is only one path to understanding the Force? That the Jedi way is the only way?"

    "What do you mean?" Anakin asked carefully.

    "Schurke just wants to see if bad boys have more fun," Kampher snorted. "He needs a change of scenery, perhaps."

    "Gris thought there was more," Schurke said quietly, ignoring the jibe, and both Anakin and Kampher were taken aback. "You never talked to her about it, Kam?"

    "No." Now it was Kampher's turn to be guarded. "We talked about… other things I guess…" Uncharacteristically, she blushed.

    "What did she say?" Anakin pressed, less concerned with Kampher's reaction than the question at hand. Her Master had been rather interested in the darker aspects of the force, a subject Anakin both feared and was fascinated by. Sometimes he wondered whether or not discussing the subject was another aspect of the Master Padawan relationship… a man must sometimes seek out other sources of learning in order to grow.

    "Not a lot," Schurke admitted. "Never anything specific. Sometimes she'd start to talk about it and then, usually someone would come along and she'd change the subject." He added almost as an afterthought. "At least with me…"

    Anakin grew thoughtful. "Master Aliéné, he was primarily a scholar wasn't he? I mean... before... well, you know..."

    "Yes," Schurke agreed. "He spent almost as much time in the Jedi Archives as he did with Gris. She was an 'orphan' long before Master Aliéné dissapeared... "

    "If you will excuse me," Kampher said, all at once. "We have a long day tomorrow. Securing a transport and clothing…" and without another word, she retreated to their quarters.

    Anakin and Schurke, with a new understanding that was a gift of their bonding, let her go without restraint.

    "What if Gris doesn't want to come back, Schurke?" Anakin asked suddenly. "What if she's truly happy? We can't drag her back like a rogue Bantha…"

    "We need to be sure, Toboo," Schurke replied softly, taking a sip of caff. "For Kam's sake, if nothing else."

    "And what if she's right, Schurke?" Anakin answered him in that same soft tone. "Different people, different path…What if she's right?"

    They spent the rest of the journey in quiet contemplation. Upon arrival at Carratos, however, they picked up some of their old camaraderie. Anakin and Schurke posed as freighter pilots, arguing over the merits and flaws of the different transports. Schurke predictably argued for the Corellian freighter. Anakin wanted to bypass it as being too obtrusive and suggested a smaller ship, an Alderainian Corvette that had been modified for hyperspace. Its former owner had obviously been a smuggler with a penchant for speed and thrill racing, and perhaps a bit of danger, considering the blaster burns that adorned its hull. It was a veritable beast, and Anakin had fallen in love with it on the spot. Kampher left the final decision to the boys, watching Anakin mercilessly haggle with the shipyard owner and taking this time to observe and reflect on their self-imposed mission,

    She missed Gris, that was a given fact, and wondered how long had Gris really been gone. Not physically, but emotionally… spiritually. The Knighting itself had been a bittersweet affair. With the exception of Anakin, all of them had lost their Masters in one battle or another of this dreadful war. Masters Grigio and Astengasi were now one with the Force. Master Aliéné lost to madness and perhaps...

    Kampher's reverie was interrupted by the return of Anakin and Schurke, who were obviously pleased with their aquasition. It would serve to take them to Ord Mantel, and then, hopefully, home.

    "Thank the Gods for the Temple's access to the Republic War funds!" Schurke said happily. "Of course, it was too easy to… persuade the ship broker that the thing Toboo chose was only worthy of scrapping, but…"

    "Schurke Canaille! You didn't…" Kampher cried out indignantly.

    Both men cast their eyes to the ground, Anakin sheepishly shuffled his feet.

    "No, not Schurke…" he admitted. Anakin raised his head sharply, suddenly defensive.

    "The man was a crook! He would have made Watto look like an honest business being… As it was, we had to go to four more dealers to get parts for the stabilizers! Unless you want to enter the atmosphere of Ord Mantel with our collective heads between our legs kissing our…"

    "Anakin!"

    "Enough!" Schurke snapped, the peacemaker this time. "Sometimes you have to play outside the lines. How long will it take to fix the stabilizers, Toboo?"

    "A few hours. Not long," Anakin replied, sullenly at first, and then he forced a smile. "Less time if Kam can put her other skills to good use… the hand gets sore… at least the real one… and Shurke, your com skill would come in handy…"

    Kampher reluctantly smiled back. "All right, you two pirates," she said. "Let's see what you've got."

    Peace once again restored, the three Jedi made their way to the shipyards and their new acquisition.

    "What a piece of junk…" she mused.

    "Ah she's not that bad…" Anakin retorted with a smile. "She's a lot more powerful than she looks, and as Master Yoda is so fond of saying, size matters not." He shot Schurke a look, and for once, Schurke wisely held his tongue. Kampher relented at last.

    "I'll take your word for it Toboo…" she sighed. "But if the cockpit is designed for Dugs, I'll make sure your bulky little frame is crammed into the pilot's seat in such a way that when you finally manage to extract yourself, you'll have to find new ways of sitting for a month…"

    With the three Jedi working together, repairs only took a few hours and by night fall, they were on their way to Ord Mantel… and their meeting with Gris…


    *****


    Surprisingly, the little Corvette was far more comfortable then they had expected and the journey to Ord Mantel was uneventful. Kampher had become withdrawn, leaving Anakin and Schurke to pilot the ship. They arrived, unimpeded, at a landing bay near the co-ordinates that had been specified by Gris.

    "That was too simple…" Anakin mused. "Not so much as a registry check."

    "You know what they say, Toboo," Schurke said, a little uneasy. "That thing about 'bad feelings'? We should be cautious." He turned to Kampher, "So Kam… what's the plan now?"

    Kampher was already gathering their belongings, anxious to disembark. "We go to where Gris specified I guess, and wait…"

    "Some plan…" Anakin grumbled. "Then what?"

    "We trust in the Force," Kampher replied. "And each other…"

    The co-ordinates that Gris had given them actually lead to a small boarding house in a less reputable part of the main city. The proprietor was a small Nikto, who seemed anxious just to show them to a suite of rooms that would make up their quarters during their stay.

    "Actually, we're only here to see someone…" Kampher suggested quietly but she was interrupted by the Nikto, who shoved a data disc into her hands and left without saying another word. The three disheveled companions stood quietly together, unsure of what to do next.

    "Well, let's see what she has to say now," sighed Anakin, resigned to waiting yet again.

    "Play the disc Kam…"

    Wordlessly, she complied.

    The light blue holo was larger than the one on the ship, and Gris' expression was more readable this time. More confident, with perhaps a touch of contempt.

    "I've been called away on some, shall we say, personal business," Gris began. "Make yourselves comfortable and I will send word for you as soon as I am able. I have arranged for a meeting of sorts upon my return, but in the meantime, I trust that these arrangements will suffice. I've arranged food and drink to be provided for you, as a measure of hospitality and to apologize for my abrupt departure, but the local cantinas can provide acceptable cuisine if you are so inclined. I assure you, it's far better than the fare that has been set before you at the Temple."

    Unexpectedly, Kampher reached for Anakin and Schurke's hands, and took them in her own. Again, they drew strength from one another.

    "Perhaps you realize now that I have no intention of returning to the Jedi Order and its archaic ways," Gris began again, now her face softened. "But I am willing to talk, as long as youare willing to listen." With that, the image winked out, leaving the three of them to contemplate the situation and its ramifications. The choices.

    Kampher, wearing the countenance of a war widow, sat in a small arm chair and covered her eyes. Anakin also stood by quietly, unsure what to say or do. After all of this, there was no question about leaving. They all needed to talk to Gris, although perhaps they would each have different reasons at heart. Kampher because of her devotion; Schurke, perhaps out of loyalty. Anakin felt that for himself it was a combination of both… and maybe something else, something not worth looking at too closely for now.
    An uncomfortable silence ensued, not one of them seeming to know what to do next. Kampher seemed to withdraw more and more deeply into herself, not in meditation but perhaps in self-flagellation.

    "I should have seen it coming," she whispered softly. "I should have tried to stop her…"

    "How?" Anakin asked. "Kam, she'd obviously made up her mind a long time ago… people don't change over night. We've come to make sure she's all right … that she's not being held against her will…" he was fumbling and he knew it, but at a loss as to how to stop. Thankfully, Schurke stepped in.

    "You're taking this far too much to heart, Kam…" he said softly. "You can't be all knowing and all powerful."

    Anakin flinched inwardly, but allowed Schurke to continue unabated.

    "But…" Kampher began again, only to have Schurke interrupt her.

    "No 'buts,' Kam," Schurke pressed. "You take far too much upon yourself – between yourself and Toboo, you'd think the fate of the Galaxy rested on your shoulders. Sometimes you need to let things lie …"

    "Are you telling me to give up?" Kampher asked, incredulous. "Schurke, Anakin! You wouldn't have me give up on either of you!"

    "It's not giving up, Kam," Schurke soothed. "It's taking time for yourself… another thing you and Toboo have in common."

    Tenderly, Schurke took her hand and led her to the nearest bedroom, Anakin following dutifully behind.

    "Come on Mistress Healer," Schurke said gently. "Time to relax a bit."

    They laid her on the bed and carefully removed her boots and loosened her clothing.

    "I'm all right …" Kampher protested weakly as she turned her face into the pillow. It was scented with soothing herbs; it was Gris' doing and Kampher knew that.

    "Of course you are," Schurke reassured her. "But you're not the only one of us who's proficient in the art of soothing a tired soul."


    Schurke gently lifted the leg he was rubbing and held it cradled to his chest. Anakin found himself following suite. There was closeness, a warmth between them that wasn't particularly sensual… not yet. He set Kampher's leg down and pulled away for a moment. Schurke again moved up slowly and rolled Kampher on her back. She covered her eyes with one arm but did not resist. Anakin made his way to the head of the bed and took her arm in his hand, suddenly shy.

    "It's not sexual, Toboo…Unless of course you want it to be…"

    Schurke slowly bent down and kissed her belly and now both Kampher and Anakin both gasped, sharing the sensation…

    "If he takes a lover, we'll know about it…"
    "It's a lingering effect of the bonding."

    Kampher's free hand reached over and took Anakin's hand, interlacing her fingers with his own.

    The hand that had been caressing his own became a clasp, gently removing it from her body. "You don't want to do this, do you Toboo?" Schurke said gently. "I forgot… we forgot…"

    Anakin met his gaze, and found himself unable to reply. Part of him did want this… Kam… even Schurke… his body was crying out for it and in a deep recess of his mind, the desire to physically express his love for them was becoming unbearable… But then again, was it really what he wanted? He belonged to someone… promised… pledged forever. He was longing for… something… something that he was almost afraid to acknowledge… to touch and be touched… by both of them, but…

    At last he broke. "I… I don't know!" Anakin stammered. His body began to shudder with the conflict. "I love… I love my wife… I… I…."

    Kampher sat up and drew close to him. "You're not used to this…the bonding has made you vulnerable…" Kampher told him softly. "You need to regain…regroup yourself." Her voice was low and soft, a life ring in his sea of confusion, something to reach for and cling to. Her words cut a clear path to his soul and he found comfort there.

    "Go Ani…" she whispered in his ear. "Go take yourself into the other room and meditate... reach out for her…"
    It wasn't a request…

    "Come on Anakin…" Now it was Schurke's voice, adding weight to hers. "You need to come with me… we'll keep you safe…"
    It was a command now… a direction…

    He would follow them implicitly… they would lead him back and he knew it. Back to safety… back to Padmé…

    Kam rolled over on her side watching as Shurke rose and gently led Anakin into the other room. He followed Schurke like a sleepwalker, and lay on his own bed without protest.

    "Go to her, Toboo…"

    It was the last thing Anakin was aware of until morning.


    *******

    Dressed only in a thin robe, Kampher had slipped behind Anakin and Schurke almost unnoticed. Schurke tenderly placed a blanket over Anakin's sleeping form, knowing that he had little tolerance for the cold.

    "Is he going to be all right?" Kampher asked from the doorway. "I don't think he needed such a strong sleep suggestion, Schurke…"

    "It's not the suggestion that's done him in," Schurke replied, tenderly stroking the younger man's hair. "He's exhausted… I don't think he's slept for more than a few hours since we started this… this journey."

    "He's not the only one," Kampher sighed. "Schurke…"

    "Not here," Schurke said quietly. He reached for her hand and led her back to her bedroom.

    Kampher sat back down on the bed, making no attempt to take off her robe. Shurke sat down next to her and slowly put his arm around her, but when she pulled away he frowned.

    "What is it?" he asked her quietly.

    "Schurke… we shouldn't…" Kampher began although she had placed her hand on his thigh. "It would have been nice but…"

    Shurke leaned in closer. "But…"

    Kampher remained silent, but didn't remover her hand from his thigh. Encouraged, Schurke pulled her closer.

    "I don't know," she confessed leaning into him as he began to stroke her back. "I guess I don't want to be one of your… your conquests…"

    Schurke swallowed hard. He had stopped rubbing her back momentarily and then began again.

    "It's not like that," he whispered. "I... I love you Kam," he said softly. "You, Toboo… and Gris, too. But you most of all." He moved his hand carefully along her side and just under her breast. Kampher shuddered but did not pull away. "You've always stood beside me," he murmured, nuzzling into her hair. "Stood up for me…"

    Schurke knew she was listening intently, and reaching through the bond and the Force for any sign of coercion or deception. Finding none, her touch became bolder.

    "You need a friend right now, Kam," Schurke whispered softly. "Toboo has his life mate. Gris… Gris has something else…" At this Kampher pulled away a little, but didn't disagree.

    "I am your friend," Schurke's voice was still soft, but had taken on a huskiness. "Friends express their love in different ways…"

    Now he gently cupped her chin, bringing his lips to hers. A soft kiss. "Kam…"

    Tears began to trickle down her face. "I loved her, Schurke…" Kampher admitted softly. Schurke lowered her slowly to the bed, kissing her tears.

    "You love her…" Schurke corrected her gently, lowering himself to her. "That won't change at all."

    Schurke reached into their bond. He could share her sensations, and she his. Distantly, Schurke was aware that even in his sleep, Anakin could sense and partially share in what was going on.

    "We'll give… Toboo… interesting dreams," he gasped before Kampher kissed him again. Through their bond, Schurke realized that Kampher was the stronger, that she had a gift for reaching into a being's mind that exceeded that of many of the Jedi. It had been well- honed and as guarded as her family origins. Kampher's mother, her mysterious mother, had been a Dathomirian - Force witch…

    For a brief moment, nothing else mattered. Not the War, not the Jedi, not even Gris…

    In the morning, the trio was so exhausted that they missed the knock on the door that signified the delivery of a message.


    ******

    Schurke slipped into the fresher while Kampher slept on. He was grateful for the time, wanting to think about things under the stream of almost boiling hot water.

    Kam's mother had been a Dathomirian. He had heard tales of the mysterious sect of women, but to his knowledge had never met one before. They were an elusive, secretive group and the fact that one of their own had left the planet… scratch that... allowed one of their children to leave the planet and become a Jedi? He shook his head, sending droplets of water scattering about. The details weren't as important as the implications. But weren't the Dathomirians also users of the Dark side? Yet Kam's mother had obviously imparted at least some of her knowledge to her daughter… the bonding process, healing practices that were perhaps a little less than conventional. He had heard rumors that the Dathomirians could manipulate memories by touch, but he had never seen Kam attempt such a thing, but could she? Was this the reason Kampher was so evasive about her heritage? She had proven herself again and again as a staunch ally and friend, more than a friend. So many questions that remained unanswered, but …

    He stepped out of the fresher to find her gone, probably to Anakin's room. What was she going to do? He trusted her still, but…
    Shurke began to dress.

    "Toboo, Anakin… wake up…"

    Anakin groaned. He was still tired… worn out, and he didn't know why.

    "Anakin…" Kampher's voice drifted through the haze of sleep.

    "Don't do it, Kam," Schurke called softly from the doorway, his face a mask of consternation.

    "Do what?" Anakin asked sleepily, realizing that Schurke was already dressed and Kam was readying herself for a wash. Gods! How could he have overslept?

    "What do you mean, Schurke?" Kampher replied, genuinely puzzled. "Do what?"

    "You know…"

    "I don't!" Kampher replied a little defensively.

    "There's something she needs to tell you, Anakin," Schurke said coolly. "Or do you want me to?"

    "What's going on?" asked Anakin, more awake now yet utterly confused. Unless something had happened the night before?
    Realization dawned on him as he looked alternately at Kampher and Schurke, seeing and sensing a mixture of anger and hurt on their faces. He swallowed hard, trying to grasp the more than hazy memories of the night before and finding none, at last he spoke.
    "What… what happened, I mean last night?" he asked, almost pleading.

    "You were nothing but a gentleman, Anakin…" Kampher reassured him. "You were, shall we say, a little overwhelmed by the bonding. Schurke put you to bed."

    Anakin's eyes widened in horror as some of the memories flashed through his mind, but whether they were his own or not, he could not fathom. He shrank back as Kampher put a reassuring hand on his arm.

    "Anakin…" Kampher began but Schurke interrupted.

    "It's not that, Toboo. You did nothing that you would consider wrong," Schurke said quietly. "Nothing that would harm your relationship with your… life mate." He allowed himself a slight smile. "I mean, you're still as pure as a snow drift on Hoth. It's almost a shame."

    "Then I…" Anakin trailed off. "Nothing?"

    "No," Kampher said quietly. "You helped Schurke give me a massage then we put you to bed." It was close enough to the truth to suffice, and Anakin seemed to accept it.

    Schurke's good humor evaporated once more. "Are you going to tell him, Kam?" he repeated. "I think he should know."

    "Know what?" Anakin asked again, a little afraid.

    "My mother…" Kampher began quietly. "She… she was a Dathomirian."

    Anakin looked from Kampher to Schurke again, confused.

    "A Dathomirian… A Force-Witch." Schurke finished for her. "They have ways, different ways of using the Force."

    "Does it matter?" Kampher snapped, a little angry. "She was a Healer! A Jedi for Force's sake! What should it matter?"

    "Why didn't you tell us?" Schurke snapped back. "You should have…"

    "To what end?" Kampher retorted. "Look how you're reacting! You took Anakin's marriage better than this!"

    "She's never done anything wrong, Schurke…" Anakin said quietly, uncomfortable with this discussion. Like Schurke, he had also heard of the Dathomirians but had considered them nothing more than followers of a different path. "Why should it matter what her mother was?" Suddenly, he felt his own resentment beginning to rise. "Do you think any less of me because I was a slave?"

    Schurke was taken aback, "No! Why should I?"

    "Then why me, Schurke?" Kampher said softly, trying to rein in her own hurt. "Friends, remember? Since we were crèchelings! And after last night…"

    Anakin suddenly felt extremely uncomfortable. Obviously, more had transpired between Kam and Shurke then he cared to know about. He tried to change the focus and dissipate the argument a little.

    "Is there a point to this?" he sighed. "We've been through so much, all of us together… Kam has always been one of us. Why should her heritage concern us now?"

    "It's not that," Schurke began quietly. "It's just…" He swore under his breath. "I don't know…" he finished at last. Analyzing anything too closely, even something as important as the fact that Kampher's family ties might conceivably cause difficulty in their relationship, not to mention of that with the Order, was something he didn't feel comfortable with. Such thoughts would inevitably lead to a closer look at his own feelings for her. That was another thing he decidedly wanted to deal with at another time. Just not now, and oddly, not in front of Anakin just yet.

    "Schurke," Kampher replied sadly after a moment. "Anakin is right, everything we've been through… we've always trusted each other, and that's what it comes down to, isn't it?"

    Schurke still stood in the doorway, silent but no longer as defensive.

    Encouraged, Kampher continued. "Friendship, love… trust… that's why we're here isn't it?"

    "I guess so," Schurke admitted, and he lowered his eyes. "Kam, I'm sorry."

    "Accepted." Kampher said a little tartly, the hurt still evident.

    Schurke made his way to the bedside where she was sitting and leaned over to kiss her lightly. Anakin squirmed under the blanket, feeling decidedly uncomfortable now. He extracted himself from under the cover and made his way to the door.

    "Anakin?" Kampher called suddenly self-conscious. "Where are you going?"

    "Just down to speak to the proprietor," he said airily. "You know, to ask if there has been any word from Gris."

    Before Anakin could say another word, Schurke suddenly said, "I'll come with you." He kissed Kampher lightly again, sealing his apology, and she smiled, the last of her anger and resentment dissipating.

    "I'll wash and dress then make us some breakfast," Kam said helpfully. "We'll all think better on fuller stomachs. Healing isn't the only thing I'm good at," and again she smiled.

    Schurke laughed and Anakin blushed. "I don't want to know…" Anakin sighed. "At least, more than I already do."

    With that, Schurke pushed Anakin out the door and down the hallway, leaving Kampher to make their breakfast.

    "So, Toboo," Schurke began as soon as they were out of earshot. "You don't know about the Dathomirians?"

    "Not much," Anakin admitted, shaking his head. "Just that they keep to themselves for the most part, and that they use the Force a little differently. They chant and such…"

    "A lot of… darker Force usage, from what I understand," Schurke told him. "They say they can manipulate the mind…"

    "Like the Jedi?" asked Anakin, a little incredulous.

    "More so, I've heard," Schurke replied. "It was another thing that Gris found so fascinating about them, but very few outsiders ever learn their secrets. Sometimes I wonder whether …" Here he trailed off.

    "Wonder whether …?" Anakin prompted.

    They were interrupted by the Nikto proprietor, who seemed anxious to deliver his message and be gone.
    "Have a message," he began in broken basic. "Meet your companion tonight you will."

    Anakin and Schurke exchanged a look. Gris.

    "Cantina, this place," the Nikto shoved a small data sheet into Anakin's hand and flinched. "Ten of the evening. Be there will you." Then he scurried off, not saying another word.

    "It seems our adventure will soon be at an end, Toboo!" Schurke said gleefully. "One way or another…"

    Anakin only nodded. He was relieved that this mission would soon be at an end, but more so, he was intrigued by Kampher's revelation. Dathomirian? Perhaps she would be more willing to discuss it with him later, but for now… Like Schurke, there were some things he didn't want to look at too closely. Instead, he turned to the matter at hand. "Let's take this to Kam," Anakin said quietly, as though he feared being overheard. .

    "After breakfast," Schurke amended. "Let's enjoy at least one more meal in peace…"


    ****

    When Anakin and Schurke returned to their quarters, they were greeted with the pleasant smells of breakfast cooking.
    "I hope you're hungry!" Kampher's voice lilted from the kitchenette.

    "Kam," Schurke called back, trying to control his excitement. "We're meeting her tonight."

    "Her?" Kampher replied as she carried two plates to the table. "You mean Gris?"

    Anakin nodded, handing her the data sheet. "10 local time," he said shortly. "Kam, I don't like this…"

    "Neither do I," Schurke admitted. "Something just doesn't feel right."

    "It'll be fine." Kampher replied shortly, and then she added with a forced cheeriness, "I have breakfast ready!"

    Schurke strolled over to her and gently put an arm around her waist. "Smells wonderful," he purred and once again, Anakin felt like he wanted to be somewhere else.

    "Sorry, Toboo," Schurke grinned, noticing Anakin's obvious discomfort.

    "No, it's quite all right," Anakin replied, all be it a little unconvincingly. "I… I know that things are… well… different between you now…"

    "But that doesn't change things between us…" Kampher added for emphasis. "Ani…"

    "I'm not very hungry anyway," Anakin said suddenly. "Can I meet up with you later?"

    "Where are you going, Toboo?" Schurke asked, the concern evident in his voice.

    "I miss Padmé," Anakin admitted softly. "I want to send her a message. I can send it through Senator Binks, safer that way…"

    "Take this," Kampher said as she handed him a direct comlink. "If you're not in contact with us every half an hour…"

    "Yes Master Obi-Wan," Anakin grinned as he headed out the door. "And if you don't reply…"

    "We'll reply," Kampher cut him off as she blushed. "One way or another."

    Anakin winked at them as he walked out the door, light saber concealed beneath his dress coat.
    When he reached the outside, Anakin took a deep breath, which he quickly exhaled. The main city of Ord Mantel was nothing like Theed. The air and atmosphere stank of corruption and misery, and it made him long for Padmé and Naboo even more. He knew that just standing there was an invitation to trouble, and he quickly made his way to the message center.

    After sending the message to Coruscant and not feeling particularly anxious to go back to their rooms, Anakin made his way into a local cantina. He ordered a drink and waved away the pleasure giver that sidled up to him the moment he sat down. "No… thank you," he said politely as a second woman snaked her way over to him.

    Suddenly, he whipped his arm around, thrusting out his left hand. In an instant, a vibro-blade leapt into his waiting fingers.
    "You're good Anakin…" came a sultry voice. "Much better than you used to be. Care to buy an old friend a drink?"
    Anakin ignored the barb and without looking behind, he addressed his attacker.

    "Hello Gris…"

    "Hello Gris? That's all you can say?" Gris Chevel sidled up to him and Anakin shifted aside, ostensibly to give her more room. The truth of the matter, however, was that her very presence made him uncomfortable, like a draft of cold air in an otherwise warm room.

    "So?" Anakin said sharply without ceremony. "What do you want from us? You said you wanted to talk, but…"

    "Oh come on Anakin," Gris replied venomously. "You know that the Order is doomed. Their way of life is fading and archaic…"

    "What has that to do with anything?" Anakin snapped. "We are what we are…"

    "But that's just the point Anakin," Gris soothed, switching tracts. "We're not and you know it. So do Kam and Schurke."

    She allowed Anakin to mull this over as she signaled the waitress to bring them both a drink.

    "Schurke with his need for physical pleasure, Kampher, with her mysterious gifts…" Here she paused for dramatic effect, her eyes sparkled with delight. "And you… gifted beyond all the rest yet held back at almost every turn."

    Anakin swallowed the last of his drink in one gulp, and turned away.

    "You know it to be true Anakin," she purred. "Perhaps it's time to move on as I have. I can show you things I've learned in my short time away. Ways to use your gifts… expand them…"

    "What of Schurke? And Kam?" Anakin said quietly. "Especially Kam?"

    "She's misguided," Gris replied, her tone softening. "I can lead her in the right direction; show her where she's gone astray. Such gifts such as hers… such as yours…" Now she slid closer, pressing her body next to his. She touched his cheek with her fingertips, much as Schurke had done on the transport. Uncomfortable, Anakin began to move over, almost pressing himself against the wall.

    Suddenly, Gris stood up and tossed a handful of coins on the table. "There's for the drinks," she said, once again all business. "Use the rest on one of the pleasure givers. It appears that you have more in common with the Jedi than I thought, always needing something that you're just not willing to take. I'll see you tonight, Anakin, but think well on what I have said." With that, she was gone.

    Anakin began to tremble, and the trembles became the shakes. Something about Gris.., the things she said, what she had implied, disturbed and intrigued him, repulsed and fascinated him. It was too much.

    His com began to chime, startling him.

    "Yes," he said shortly.

    "Anakin, are you alright?" Kampher voice echoed nervously from the com. "I… We felt something."

    "I'm fine," he replied. "It's nothing, just nerves I guess."

    "When will you be back?" Kam asked carefully, as if sensing his unease. "Are you having supper with us?"

    "Of course," Anakin reassured her. "I'm going to find a place to work off some energy. Skywalker out."

    He snapped off the com, unwilling to carry on the conversation any further, lest it lead to somewhere he wasn't willing to go, at least not now, not yet.

    Walking out of the bar, Anakin left the coins on the table untouched.

    ******

    After having been on the wrong side of a tongue lashing from Kam for being remiss, Anakin dutifully checked in with Schurke and Kampher on the hour. A simple mutual acknowledgement, and then an hour of time to himself. Anakin spent most of this time over at their transport, losing himself in what for him was the simple pleasure of toying with the complex mechanics. Almost losing himself…

    "And you… gifted beyond all the rest…"

    Gris' words mocked him in his head.

    "Yet held back at almost every turn..."

    And worse, in his heart.

    "You know it to be true, Anakin…"

    "NO!" he screamed at the voice in his head, and he threw a hydro spanner down through the belly of the ship. The clattering seemed to clear his head a little and he sat down heavily in the pilot 's seat. Anakin ran his hands through his hair as a heavy sigh escaped his lips and almost unconsciously, touched the com at his side. He sent a quick message of reassurance to Kam, and then allowed himself a brief moment of personal indulgence.

    "Padmé…" he called softly, and in his minds eye he saw her. She was sitting at a desk in her private office, buried in a mountain of data pads, but for a brief moment she stopped and turned around expectantly. The vision washed away as a look of disappointment crossed her features, and she buried herself back in her work.

    Grounded once again, Anakin set back to work on the ship's mechanism. He was determined to squeak a little more control out it by afternoon's end.

    Control… that was the main thing. The only thing.

    "I'm worried about Anakin, Schurke," Kampher sighed as she sat down with her third cup of tea of the day. "This can't be easy for him."

    "What do you mean, 'easy for him,' Kam?" Schurke asked softly. He sat down next to her, yet oddly kept his distance. He had been this way almost the entire morning -close, but yet…

    "He knows what it's like to be… in love," Kampher said quietly. Schurke squirmed visibly in his seat, and then abruptly got up.

    "Anakin's due back soon," he said suddenly. Awkwardly. "I'll go see what we can make for supper."

    "Schurke…" Kam called softly to him.

    "There's nothing to talk about, Kam," he almost whispered. "We're Jedi and that's all there is to it."

    "That's 'not all there is to it' Schurke Canaille, and you know it!" Kampher told him angrily. "Unless it was just a ploy to get me into your bed after all!"

    "No!" Schurke cried out defensively. "I meant what I said Kam! Every word of it, and I want to be with you… We can't be together Kam! It's just a matter of being a simple truth!"

    "The simple truth of it is, Schurke that you are so wrapped up in trying to live up to the unrealistic expectations of…"

    "Don't go there, Kam," Schurke cut her off warningly. "That has nothing to do with ourselves and our desires. We are Jedi, Kam… that means no attachments, no matter how badly we may want them!"

    "What about Anakin?" Kampher snapped. "You don't seem to have a problem with his 'attachment'? Why should ours be any different?"

    "Do you think he's going to be able to just settle down and start a family?" Schurke almost snarled defensively. "Once the Council finds out…"

    "And exactly how will they find out, Schurke?" Kampher snapped. "Are you going to tell them? Betray him in hopes of elevating yourself?"

    Schurke slammed his fist on the table, speechless.

    "As you have betrayed me…?" Kampher added softly.

    All the color drained from Schurke's face. "Is that how you see me, Kam?" he asked, anger giving way to pain. "I swear to you, it's not like that. I would never want to hurt you, or Anakin…"

    "Then what is it Schurke?" Kam pressed. "A game? Love? Which?"

    "Kam…" he replied quietly. "I'm so sorry…"

    "I am too," she answered softly and she began to rise. "I need some time alone, Schurke…"

    "Kam…" Schurke repeated, his eyes pleading for understanding and forgiveness. "Please…"

    "I'll meet you and Anakin later tonight," she told him shortly. "We can discuss this, or not, after we see Gris. If there is anything to discuss."

    Schurke reached out to touch her as she brushed past him, and Kampher abruptly pulled away.

    "No, not now, Schurke," she said sadly. "I'll take my com, and contact you or Anakin once an hour."
    With that she was gone, leaving Schurke feeling more lost and alone then ever.


    ****

    Kampher made her way through the alleys and passages of Ord Mantel, much as Anakin had done earlier, her mind overflowing with conflicting thoughts about Schurke and the Order in general.

    We are Jedi, Kam…

    Yes, she knew that, and unlike herself and Anakin, Schurke had been indoctrinated in the Temple ways since near birth. He had never known anything of real love, real affection, or family.

    You were too hard on him, Kampher Lutador, she scolded herself inwardly. You act like you expected him to make the jump from your bed to the marriage temple without a qualm. It's too much for him, especially all at once. What possessed you?

    Kampher hurried blindly through the crowds and into a small café. She wanted to sit and be still, and listen to the quiet voice that had been nagging at the back of her mind. The one she had steadfastly ignored until now. In the presence of Anakin and Schurke, she could blissfully push it aside but now that she was alone and admittedly vulnerable, that that voice that she knew all too well became impossible to ignore.

    Gris.
    Come to me, Kam… the voice whispered insidiously. Come home to me…

    This time, she obeyed the voice implicitly…

    **

    From the moment he walked through the door, Anakin knew something was wrong. Kampher was nowhere to be seen and Schurke, Schurke of all people, was sitting in a side chair, his eyes red and socketed with… tears.

    "Schurke! What wrong?" Anakin gasped. "Where's Kam?"

    Schurke wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and forced a smile.

    "We… we had a bit of a misunderstanding," he sighed. "She went out."

    "A misunderstanding?" Anakin asked, although he had already suspected that something was wrong.. "About what?" He came and knelt next to his friend and placed a hand on his arm. He didn't press. Schurke would either tell him or he would not.

    "Toboo…" Schurke began hesitantly. "I don't know what to do… what to say…" He swallowed hard. "I love her… but…" He fell silent again.

    "You're a Knight, Schurke," Anakin said softly. "It comes with certain privileges."

    Schurke cast him a look, then shook his head. "I… I don't understand what you're getting at, Toboo…"

    "Privacy, for one thing," Anakin continued gently. "No one looking over your shoulder constantly." He added almost resentfully. "Breathing down your neck…"

    Schurke pursed his lips. "But what if that isn't enough?"

    "What do you mean?" Anakin asked, perhaps a little more sharply then he intended. "What else do you want? What else could you want?"

    "That's just it," Schurke sighed. "I just don't really know…"

    "You said you love her," Anakin said pointedly.

    "I do!"

    "And?"

    "And… I want to be with her…" Schurke replied in a voice that was barely above a whisper.

    "What does Kam think of all of this?"

    "Honestly, I don't know," Schurke admitted. "She was too angry at me when she left tp talk about it much…"

    Anakin allowed himself a smile. "Safe to assume then…"

    "What do I do, Anakin?" Schurke cried out in exasperation. "What by the gods do I do?"

    Anakin contemplated this for a moment, then spoke up very softly. "Why, you love her Schurke," he said tenderly. "You love her, and then you go from there…"

    **

    The room was dark, but Kampher made her way easily through it, past the murmuring throngs of the patrons in their various states of intoxication. Something, a small part of her, was screaming in the back of her mind that she was being foolish. That she should go back to the shared flat and admit to Schurke that she had been wrong to leave. Admit that she loved him too, and wanted to be with him despite the whims of the Order… But for now, this calling was stronger.

    The air was full of intoxicating smoke, and she found the heady fumes disconcerting. Kampher drew on her inner strength and concentrated on the one thing that she was here for.

    She drew close to the young woman and found herself alternately overcome with the desire to run into an embrace, or to run out of the building. The mixture of rage and revulsion desperately battled with the desire for a familiar heart.

    Before she could make a rational choice, a silky, sultry voice cut through the din that rang through her mind and her ears that for now, sealed her decision.

    "Welcome home, Kampher Lutador..."


    **

    Kampher paused as Gris came into view. Although her back was turned, Kam found herself mesmerized by the sight. Gris was an Eithorian. Her skin was snake-like, with luminescent patterns that covered her arms and exposed shoulders. Her hair, normally pulled back in a harsh braid, hung loosely over her shoulders. Like her skin, its color was smoky and varied, and the dim light gave it an almost ethereal quality.

    Gris had spoken to her, and Kampher, who had been captivated by merely seeing her again, was shocked into silence at her words. Surely she had misheard...

    "Perhaps I should rephrase that," Gris said smoothly, not turning around. "I asked you which one had bedded you, or perhaps was it both?" A stream of heavily scented smoke drifted towards the ceiling.

    "Gris…" Kam whispered, unsure what else to say.

    Gris held out her hand entreatingly, and Kampher took it, allowing herself to be guided to a seat. Gris signaled to a waiter and spoke to him in a language that Kampher didn't understand. He bowed nervously and hurried away almost fearfully.

    Silence ensued for a moment as Gris closed her eyes and took another thoughtful pull on the water pipe. Kampher resisted the urge to send a com message to Anakin and sat still instead, waiting.

    After what seemed to be an eternity, the waiter brought their drinks and Kampher took a cautious taste.

    "It's not drugged, if that's what you think Kam," Gris said as she opened her eyes. They were cloudy with her intoxication, yet sparkled with amusement. "I know better than to try to deceive a Jedi, much less a healer."

    "What do you want, Gris?" Kampher asked quietly, trying to regain her composure. She finished her drink quickly, suddenly anxious to be gone.

    "It's not what I want any more. Kam," Gris smiled, but it didn't touch her eyes. She leaned over to Kampher. "It's what you need…" She took Kampher's free hand into her own. "Come with me," she hissed. "There's a small room in the back, we can… talk… if you like."

    Without waiting for a reply, Gris led Kam into the back room as she waved to the waiter once more.

    "I should go back," Kam told her meekly, and a part of her knew this to be true but Gris's pull on her hand, and on her heart, was too strong. She reached for the com once again and this time sent a quick 'check in' message to Anakin before turning it off. Gris was behaving oddly, but perhaps a more private discussion would ease her mind. She had to believe this. As a gesture of trust, she placed the com on the table.

    As if she could read Kampher's concerns, Gris paused and smiled, this time really smiled, at Kam.

    "Don't worry, love," she said gently. "When they come, we'll discuss what is right, and what must be done, but for now, we need to discuss things between ourselves."

    The room was small, yet comfortably furnished, and Kam carefully took a seat. All of her senses were alert, yet oddly muted here, but Gris seemed determined to put her at ease. Putting on a brave face, Kam took the drink that Gris offered her, once again carefully and discreetly using her senses to detect any abnormality. Finding none, she drank.

    "You've found someone to replace me then, Kam," Gris said softly. "I can see it in your heart."

    "Gris…" Kam murmured quietly. "I don't know what to tell you, its…"

    "No matter," Gris replied as she sat down across from Kampher, never taking her eyes off of her. "There are other things that are more important for now. Larger things."

    Kampher shook her head. Suddenly she felt… out of sorts. Out of touch.

    Gris appeared not to notice as she continued her narrative. "The Republic is dying, Kampher. I know it, you know it… even Anakin knows it to be true…"

    Anakin… Kampher tried to call out to him through the bond, but realized that she couldn't. She felt weak, woozy.
    "Gris!" she cried out. Suddenly she realized the truth. "What did you do to me?"

    "I lied, a little." Gris acknowledged. "The first drink wasn't drugged, but only contained a base. The second drink had the catalyst…"

    "Why?" Kampher moaned softly. She was loosing her grip on consciousness but fighting it with every breath.

    "I knew you wouldn't come to us willingly if you thought you knew everything." Gris drew herself closer. "When I spoke to Anakin this afternoon, I realized that I no longer had a choice. You won't listen to me…"

    "You saw Anakin?" Kam exclaimed. Now, she was winning the fight against the drug, but trying not to show it. She allowed herself to sink a little more into the chair, trying to preserve the illusion. In a moment, she would have the strength to fight back.

    "Yes I did," Gris replied. "Actually, he was rather interested in what I had to say." Suddenly, her tone became serious. "And now my friend, I'm afraid this little charade of yours is at an end." Gris produced a hypo spray, and slowly made her way over to her now captive companion. From a few feet away, she levitated the piece and pressed it against Kampher's throat.
    "I'm sorry my dear, but our friends will be here soon, and you need to rest."

    As Kam slipped into unconsciousness, she cried out once more through the bond.
    Schurke, I'm sorry...


    ****

    When the com in Anakin's hand signaled, Schurke practically jumped out of his chair.

    "Kam?" he asked breathlessly, "She's coming back?"

    Anakin shook his head reluctantly. "She's just checking in…" He trailed off, concern creeping across his features.

    Schurke frowned. "Something's not right," he said quietly.

    "I saw her, Schurke," Anakin said suddenly. "When I went out this afternoon."

    "Saw who? Not…"

    "She's different now," Anakin interrupted before Schurke could continue. "It's like …I don't know how to explain it. Cold…"

    Schurke considered this carefully, and almost fearfully he added, "You don't think that…"

    It hit them both like a blow to the stomach, Schurke more so than Anakin, and Schurke doubled over with pain.
    "Kam…" he whimpered. "By all that's… Kam's in trouble, Anakin!"

    Anakin's reply was little more than a growl. "Gris."

    Schurke shot to his feet. "We have to go after her!" he cried, but for once, Anakin was the cool one.
    "Wait," he murmured. "Think. It could be a trap."

    Schurke uttered a Corellian expletive with which Anakin was all too familiar.. "We have to go now! We can think on the way there!"

    Anakin stood up and put his right hand on Schurke's shoulder. The mechanical one. "Hold on, Schurke," he said, surprisingly composed. "We're not even sure where she is."

    "I know!" said Schurke quietly. "I can't tell you how, but I do…"

    "Yes, of course," Anakin said soothingly. "But we can't help Kam if we rush in blindly." He flexed his fingers bitterly, a hard reminder of a lesson learned.

    Suddenly, the forgotten com blinked again, and Schurke snatched it off the table.

    "Kam?" he cried. "Are you OK?"

    "She's just fine, lover boy." The voice sent a sliver of ice down their backs.

    Gris.

    "Let me talk to her!" Schurke shouted into the com-link. "Kam! Kam! Are you alright?"

    Gris giggled, another shard of ice. "She's, shall we say, indisposed at the moment."

    "If you've so much as laid a slimy finger on her, you Circarpousian water snake…"
    Schurke snarled. "I'll gut you like a roller fish!"

    "Now, now," came the reply. "After all, she did belong to me first after all. Tell me, Schurke, whose name did she cry out when you…"

    Anakin snatched the com away from Schurke's shaking hand.

    "Enough, Gris," he said darkly, cutting her off. "What do you want from us?"

    "Why it should be obvious, Anakin!" answered Gris smoothly. "I want you to come to me… let me show you some things…"

    "And if we refuse?"

    Schurke howled with rage. "NO!"

    "I'll kill her."

    Anakin was stunned into silence while Schurke slammed his fist into the wall. What could have possessed her? The one they had called friend for so long. The one they had fought side by side with. The one they would have died for…

    "One hour," Gris finished coldly, interrupting his thoughts. "I'm sure you can find us without any trouble."

    Suddenly, there came the whine of feedback and the unmistakable hum of a broken connection. Gris had evidently smashed the com-link as a minor deterrent, or a hint of what would happen if they refused. The message was not lost on them.

    "All right , Gris," Anakin said quietly to the dead com. "Let's see who is the stronger one."

    Schurke's eyes had become hollow and bleak, and there seemed to be a glimmer of madness there.
    "Not much time," he said tenuously. "Toboo…"

    "We'll save her, Schurke," replied Anakin. "Even if it means loosing ourselves in the bargain. But it won't come to that."
    Schurke began gathering their things, taking special care to clip his light-saber within easy reach. He put his hand on Anakin's shoulder.

    "All together then?" he asked hoarsely, and Anakin nodded.
    "We will not hang alone…"


     
    leiamoody likes this.
  6. DarthBreezy

    DarthBreezy Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 4, 2002
    Anakin and Schurke strode purposely through the dimly lit streets of the settlement. They were unmolested as they passed. They had abandoned any pretense of being anything other than what they were - Jedi on a mission - and their very bearing, their deportment, left no room for doubt. Only a fool would attempt to accost them this night.

    As they entered the dimly lit cantina, the patrons unconsciously shifted in their seats even as they outwardly ignored the two men.

    "Where, Schurke?" Anakin asked softly as they paused at the door. He knew Schurke was more attuned to Kam's whereabouts, and just like on the battle fields, Anakin trusted him implicitly.

    "Through that door," Schurke murmured. "And she's not alone."

    "Gris," Anakin agreed, and he furrowed his brow in consternation. "I don't sense anyone else, though. Droids perhaps?"

    "It wouldn't be like her," Schurke replied. "Not the Gris we know, anyway."

    "All the more reason to keep a look out," Anakin finished for him. They made their way carefully through the crowded, smoky room like two small ships passing through a calm sea. When they reached the door, they hesitated again.

    "Do we knock, or…" Anakin began, but the door opened before he could finish.

    "Kam!" Schurke cried as, heedless to any danger, he dashed through the door and to the reclining chair in which Kampher lay. When he reached her, he pulled her close and cradled her languid form in his arms, whispering her name over and over again.
    Slow, sarcastic applause echoed through the room from behind.

    "Recklessness isn't usually your style, Schurke," Gris purred. "That's normally Anakin's domain. You're damn lucky you're not dead."
    "He doesn't have to be lucky, Gris," Anakin replied coldly. "We've always looked out for each other."

    "Why, Gris?" Schurke asked angrily as he stroked Kampher's head and face. He wore an expression of such cold fury that it sent a chill down Anakin's back. "Why?" he asked again.

    Ignoring him, Gris gestured for Anakin to sit down. "I'd offer you a drink," she said. "But somehow I think you'd refuse me anyway. No matter."

    Anakin carefully walked over to the couch where Kam was slowly coming around.

    "Schurke…" Kampher mumbled into his chest. "S' time to go home I think…"

    "We'll get you out of here soon." Schurke promised her, and he gently kissed her forehead.

    "If you are quite finished…" Gris said with a dramatic sigh. "Or I can just leave you for a while. Maybe you could even get poor lonely little 'Toboo' involved this time…"

    "No more games Gris," Anakin snarled. "Tell us what you want!"

    Wordlessly, Gris slinked across the room and over to a cupboard. Anakin was on his feet in an instant while Schurke covered Kampher's body with his own.

    "Please," Gris intoned, rolling her eyes. "I would never harm any of you. Poor Kam is just the victim of circumstances. It was the only way I could assure that you would come together." She flashed a smile too wide to be genuine.

    "Schurke…" Kam whimpered softly. "Let's just go home… don't like this at all…" She murmured something else in Schurke's ear. Something that sounded to Anakin like 'buy me time'… Schurke nodded almost imperceptibly.

    "Wait." Gris interrupted coolly. "If anything, I'm sure you want at least some answers. Master Aliéné, for example…"

    "He's dead," Anakin said shortly, following Schurke's unspoken lead. "But you knew that before you left." Here Anakin paused, considering. "Why did you leave, Gris?" he asked softly.

    "Padrone Aliéné was weak!" Gris snapped, ignoring his question and with all pretense of good humor gone. "He couldn't handle the power… the gifts of the darkside!"

    "There are no 'gifts' Gris…" Schurke answered sadly. "Only suffering and…" here he paused as realization set in. "And madness…"

    Gris turned away from the trio. "Only for those who can't, who won't treat it with the care it deserves!" she said sadly. "Master… Aliéné, he was too impatient. He rushed things…"

    "What things, Gris?" Anakin asked smoothly, trying to keep his focus away from Kam. She was obviously up to something, and he knew that he had to keep Gris' attention away from her. "Surely it's not as simple as that."

    "It's not!" Gris replied angrily as her self-control slipped another notch. "The Order has taught us that there is no anger, no hatred! They are wrong!"

    Anakin reluctantly conceded the point. "Yes," he said quietly. "We've spent the better part of three years seeing this."

    "But anger and hatred have made the Separatists strong!" Gris snarled. "They use hatred as a weapon, convincing the populaces that the Jedi blindly serve a Republic that has abandoned them! That the Jedi are only the Republic's tool of subjugation! For each peaceful Jedi, each friend we have sent out… how many have been returned to the Temple torn apart by the masses that no longer believe that the Jedi truly have their best interest at heart? The enemy knows and exploits our… their weakness!"

    Anakin snapped back. "We do our duty, Gris."

    "Is our duty to die senselessly for a lost cause, Anakin?" Gris answered coolly, her eyes again dancing with amusement and madness.

    Anakin recoiled as if slapped, but recovered quickly. "That's no excuse Gris… we are Jedi, not monsters!"

    Gris shifted tactics. "Are the innocents that are slaughtered daily monsters Anakin? Surely you would call those that attacked your wife..."

    In an instant, Anakin had ignited his light saber and pointed the blade at her throat.

    "Do not speak of her!" Anakin snarled as he lunged towards her, Gris however, remained undaunted and unmoving.

    "Are you never afraid, Anakin?" she asked, an oily tone creeping into her voice. "Afraid that someone will, perhaps steal her away? Take her very life?"

    Anakin glowered, and lowered his saber. "No harm will come to her as long as I draw breath," he said, his voice as cold as ice.

    "Ah," smiled Gris. "But as long as you refuse to give in to your rage, you deny the power
    that the dark side can give you…You are afraid!"

    Anakin trembled, unsure. She was mad, that much was clear but Gris was speaking the simple truth. He was afraid of the power it gave him and yet …

    Before he could retort or even gather his thoughts, Kampher suddenly pushed herself up, weaving unsteadily on the couch. Her eyes closed as she reached out her hands in an attitude of supplication. The room was silent but for one whispered word.
    "Gris…"


    ***

    Anakin felt as if an invisible hand had shoved him to the floor and was stunned as a wave of energy passed over him. It was like being caught in a storm emanating from…

    "Kam?"

    Anakin turned his head to see that even Schurke had pulled away in shock. Kampher was radiating power from her small frame, and it was directed at Gris.

    "Enough!" Kampher said softly. "Gris, let me help you."

    Gris screamed and threw her hands over her eyes as she backed away, but Kampher was unfazed.
    "You're ill, Gris," Kampher continued, undaunted. "Let me help you."

    Both Anakin and Schurke were rooted to the spot. Anakin reached through the Force to assist Kam. He felt Schurke do the same as they both strove to infuse her spirit with their own, lending her their strength. Kampher took it gratefully, adding it to her own.

    Gris screamed and thrashed about and Anakin cringed, feeling her pain but he would not, could not let go. Anakin refocused his concentration, sending Kam a new wave of support.

    "Get out of my head!" Gris screamed. "Leave me alone, all of you!"

    "We want to help you, Gris," Kampher said soothingly. "Please let us."

    Suddenly Gris fell to the floor, wrapped her arms around her knees and addressed the trio. Her eyes were wide and fearful, and yet lucid.

    "You can't help me! He's always there! Just go!" Gris, the real Gris, cried. "I don't want to hurt you! Please!"

    Kampher slowly stood up, steadying herself on Schurke's arm. "Gris, we won't leave you. Come home with us…"

    "Who won't leave you?" Anakin asked shakily, even though a small voice whispered in his ear that he knew who it was…

    "Kam…" Gris began and at once her head rolled bonelessly in her neck and her body writhed like a basket of snakes. Her three closest friends stared at her in horrified silence as Gris dealt with her own inner turmoil. When she raised her head again, all traces of their friend were gone and only the madwoman who had taken her place remained. She started to laugh, a dry, hollow sound.

    "Gris?" Kam asked warily. She shivered involuntarily as Gris laughed again.

    Anakin slowly regained his feet and made his way over to Schurke and Kam, not noticing that Gris had slowly reached behind her back.

    "I warned you…" Gris told them softly.

    Schurke's eyes widened in horror and Anakin whipped around just as a blaster shot rang out. In an instant he was covered in a spray of blood and the hum of a light saber being ignited was lost in a sea of screams.

    ***


    It was a moment of eternity.

    Gris had drawn a small blaster from behind her back and Schurke had simultaneously ignited his saber and forcefully shoved Kampher back down, shielding her with his body.

    "No!" came the cry, but from whom it was impossible to tell.

    A shot echoed off the walls of the small room. Another scream as the blaster bolt was deflected by Schurke's blade.

    Anakin stood frozen in horror as he realized what had happened.

    She couldn't have…

    "Schurke! No!" Kampher cried from beneath Schurke's form. "Please don't hurt her!"

    "I won't let her harm you!" Schurke snarled, but his eyes widened in shock as he saw Gris fall. "Gris! No!" he exclaimed, stunned by the sight before him.

    Kampher pushed him roughly aside and sat up, and then she too, froze at the sight.

    "Oh Gris…" she said softly.

    Gris Chevel, friend and once Jedi Knight, lay before them with her arms outstretched, with a gaping wound just below her throat. It was the expression on her face that had stunned them into silence. One of… relief.

    "I-I tried to deflect the blast…" Schurke stammered when he found his voice at last. "It went up and away…"

    "She jumped towards it," Anakin said softly in disbelief. "She knew where it would go. What you would do."

    "She took her own life…" whispered Kam. "Rather than completely surrender to the Dark side…"

    "She won her fight," Schurke agreed quietly but Anakin shook his head.

    "She earned a draw," Anakin amended, a chill in his voice. "In the end, she knew that she wasn't strong enough to win. But she fought back."

    "Gris…" Kam murmured softly as she reached down to stroke her head. Tears began to stream down her face.

    Anakin and Schurke kneeled down next to her, and they each put a hand on her back as they too lowered their heads.

    "Safe journey, old friend." Schurke said quietly.

    Anakin took Gris' limp hand in his own, and pressed it to his cheek wordlessly, headless of the blood that now mixed with his tears.
    They stayed that way for a long moment, each lost in quiet contemplation of what had been lost. A friend, a lover, a colleague… and a little more innocence.

    Kampher was the first to rise.

    "We need to finish this," she said through a haze of tears. "There is an abandoned temple just outside of the city. A… a Holy place. We can…" here she choked, barely able to continue, "set her free..."

    "She is free, Kam." Anakin murmured. "But yes… we'll send her off right. As a Jedi."

    He removed his robe as did Schurke, and with an infinite tenderness, they shrouded Gris' body with their coverings and their love.
    Schurke insisted on carrying her remains while Anakin carried Kampher in his own arms, despite her protest. Kampher had tried to stand up but due to the effects of the drug, or perhaps being simply overcome by the amount of energy she had projected in hopes of saving Gris, she simply could not. Anakin cradled her as closely as he would have Padmé… or as he had his mother… and as before, they made their way through the crowded cantina unchallenged.

    It was nearly dawn when they had finally finished the pyre on which they would lay their friend.

    "It seems so lonely," Kam observed sadly. "Gris, you deserved better."

    Anakin slowly reached into a small pocket in his tunic. He pulled out a small envelope and tucked it into the folds of the shroud.
    "Flower seeds," he said quietly. "From the most beautiful planet in the galaxy."

    Schurke approached the makeshift alter, and placed his light saber next to Gris' pale and cold hands which had been placed across her chest He cast a look at his two companions, seeking , and finding, understanding.

    "Fight on, my friend…" Schurke whispered as he rejoined Anakin and Kampher.

    Kampher was the last one to approach the body. She leaned over and kissed the top of Gris' head before rewrapping the robes about her form.

    She pulled her Padawan braid out of her pocket, and placed it on Gris' covered chest.

    Slowly, she walked back to her companions who each now had an unlit makeshift torch in their hands. Schurke handed another one to Kampher and they placed them together for Anakin to light.

    As the sun rose over the city, the three companions ignited the pyre and stood together, united in their grief.


    ***

    The pyre, like the sun, had burned throughout the day and as the sunlight faded into the horizon, the last of Gris Chevel's mortal remains passed with it.

    None of them had openly wept. Kampher had prayed softly to herself while Schurke was often found staring into the fire, hollow-eyed and lost. Only Anakin had remained outwardly stoic, burying his grief beneath a mask of concern for his two companions.

    Grief, and rage.

    Inwardly, he fought with his own inner demons.

    He's always there!

    No. It wasn't possible.

    Always there…

    No. Gris had been mad at the end…

    I don't want to hurt you!

    I won't fail again…

    Anakin ran his hands over his face. This wasn't the time to think about such things.

    She took her own life…

    ENOUGH!

    Anakin barely managed to suppress the urge to cry out as a gentle hand touched his shoulder.

    "Anakin," Kam's voice entered his consciousness like a soothing balm. "Are you all right?" She was pale, and her eyes were red from unshed tears, but her voice was steady and soft.

    Anakin took a deep breath and exhaled slowly as he pulled himself together. Gris was gone; it was time to move forward. He had to.

    "We should go," Kampher said in that same soft voice. "There's nothing more we can do."

    Anakin nodded his assent and they slowly wandered over to where Schurke stood, looking for all the world like one of the mourning statues on Naboo. Kampher was the first to approach him with footsteps as light as snowfall. She took his hand and carefully led him away from the fire.

    "It's time to go, Schurke," she told him quietly. "We've said goodbye…"

    Schurke nodded wearily, his eyes still distant and his face pale yet he followed Kam's lead without complaint or comment. It was only when they finally returned to the ship that Schurke seemed to come back to himself a little. He made sure Kampher was secured in a bunk, insisting that he and Anakin could handle things from there, and then joined Anakin as the co-pilot.
    They made their way easily through the perfunctory traffic control and into space with their conversation restricted to only the necessities of space travel. Anakin knew that Schurke wanted to talk about something, but he would wait until his friend was ready to open up.

    At last, upon clearing the main atmospheric traffic and after checking on Kampher (who had quickly fallen into an exhausted sleep) Shurke approached Anakin.

    "I'm not going back," he announced abruptly. "I think it's time for me to move on."

    "I can't see a reason ever to return to that hell hole anyway," Anakin agreed, although he knew that Schurke wasn't referring to Ord Mantel.

    "I'm asking Kam to come with me," Schurke continued, as if he hadn't heard. "I'm tired, Toboo. I want to start a new life. I'm tired of losing my friends to death. Senseless death…" he trailed off, becoming distant, but Anakin understood.

    "I will wish you well, Schurke." Anakin said softly. "And I envy you…"

    "Why don't you go then, Anakin?" Schurke asked him. "Take the Senator and leave. Settle down someplace and raise a family…"

    Anakin sighed and lowered his head. "I… I can't…" he said at last. "Padmé is too devoted to her cause… she would never…" Now it was Anakin's turn to trail off, lost in thought. It wasn't just Padmé anymore…

    "Take me to Alderaan" Anakin said thoughtfully. "There are enough Jedi there where we wouldn't be noticed. If Kam will consent, which I know she will…"

    Schurke smiled for the first time in days. "You have a true heart, Toboo," he said. "Are you sure your father wasn't some Corellian soldier?" This remark elicited laughter from both of them, waking Kampher at last.

    "What are you two laughing about?" Kampher asked sleepily from her bunk. "Share the joke?"

    Schurke cast Anakin a look. "Wish me luck," he said quietly, but Anakin only smiled and shook his head. He motioned for Schurke to go back to her and then returned to the business of piloting the ship and setting a course for Alderaan.


    ***

    There had been no sounds of joy from the back of the small ship, but Anakin knew all the same that Schurke's, for want of a better word, proposal, had been accepted. Schurke had stayed in the back with Kam, probably suggesting outrageous ideas only to be tempered by Kampher's gentle practicality.

    Anakin, having nothing more to do until they neared Alderaanian space, checked the Senate message center. Although normally off limits to non- governmental personnel, Anakin knew ways around that particular obstacle. After all, Schurke wasn't the only one who was good at accessing data.

    Suddenly, his heart leapt into his throat. It wasn't possible! It would be too much to hope for and yet.

    There it was in plain Auberesh! Bail Organa was hosting one of his many Loyalist committee 'fundraisers' at the Alderaanian Palace! Without a doubt, she would be there.

    Deftly, yet quickly, Anakin coded and sent a message to Padmé's private com. If she received it in time, which she undoubtedly would, they could arrange to see each other away from the prying eyes of the entire Council or the Senate. Hopefully.

    "Anakin?" Kam called from the rear of the ship. Although the remnants of the bonding had faded, she still had the uncanny knack of picking up on Anakin's feelings.

    "It's all right," Anakin replied, barely suppressing his joy. "I'm just hoping to meet someone."

    "The Senator?" Schurke asked. He and Kampher had wandered up to the bridge, fingers delicately interlaced. Anakin nodded.

    "There's a good chance she'll be on Alderaan," he said with a smile in his voice. "Committee meetings and all."

    "It's a shame we won't have time to meet with her," Schurke said. "I mean, now that. well you know. That we now have something in common. But we should leave as soon as we are able. Get a few supplies and what not."

    "Have you decided what you'll do?" Anakin asked pointedly and Schurke ducked his head almost bashfully.

    "Correllia," Kam replied softly. "Schurke would be welcome on his home planet."

    "As would my life mate," Schurke added, blushing to the roots of his dark hair. "Correllains have a more sensible view when it comes to Jedi, even former Jedi, and families." He trailed off wistfully. "Are you sure you won't come with us?"

    Anakin just shook his head and turned back to the controls. Hopefully, he could coax a little more speed out of their little vessel. The sooner they reached Alderaan.

    "Do you want me to take over for a while, Toboo?" Schurke asked, although he already knew the answer.

    "Not for a while," came the predictable reply. "Go back and rest."

    "I'll stay up here with you for a while Anakin," Kam said to him. "Schurke, you don't mind?"

    Schurke bowed deeply, then kissed her hand and then leaned over and kissed Anakin on the top of his head before making his way back to the bunks.

    Kampher sat down in the co-pilot's seat, and after a perfunctory check of the readouts, she turned to address Anakin.
    "Why do you choose to fight this battle on your own, Anakin?" she asked softly.

    "What do you mean?" Anakin replied, keeping his expression carefully neutral, yet looking away.

    "Your own inner conflict."

    "There is no conflict." Anakin began, but trailed off, resigned.

    Kampher put a reassuring hand on his. "Anakin, we don't need to be bonded for me to see that you are deeply troubled. Why won't you talk to me?"

    Anakin met her eyes at last and found them as they always were. Kind, understanding, and most importantly, non judgmental. He hesitated, but then pressed forward as if by telling just this once, by giving his demons a voice, he could exorcise them. Just this once.

    "I'm. I'm. afraid." he admitted softly.

    "Of becoming like Gris? Of giving in to the anger, the rage at the injustices of the Galaxy? Of. of failing.?"

    Anakin lowered his head and nodded slightly, never taking his eyes off of her.

    "Gris chose to give in to those things, Anakin. Our choices make us what we are. Our choices."

    "Do you ever." Anakin started, and then faltered, unsure how to continue, Kam seemed to understand.

    "Every day," she murmured softly. "Everyone does. Myself, Schurke, even the Masters at the Temple. it is how we choose to live that makes us who we are. We make our own destiny. Do you understand?"

    Understanding washed over Anakin like a wave. Inner strength, the ability to command oneself would keep him strong for himself and his loved ones. He would not fail as Gris had done. He had to believe this.

    He smiled at Kam, who had turned to look back towards the other end of the ship where Schurke had gone. She seemed puzzled, almost distracted as if a shadow had passed over her thoughts. For a moment, Anakin thought he sensed another presence, and it chilled him to the core but the realization passed almost as quickly as it had come. Now it seemed unimportant, almost trivial, and Anakin regained his composure once again.

    When she turned back to look at Anakin, all she saw was the relief that had come from unburdening his soul a little.
    "Go to him Kam," Anakin said softly. "I can handle things up here for a while." He offered her a reassuring smile, which Kampher,
    her mind now drifting towards thoughts of her new life, returned.

    "All right," she agreed as she rose from the co-pilot's seat. "If you need anything."

    "I'll have what I need once we reach Alderaan," Anakin interjected with a little laugh, and then he grew serious again.
    "Kam." he called to her, and she turned to face him mid step. "Thank you."

    Kampher smiled again, and gave a little bow before resuming her journey to the rear of the ship, leaving Anakin to his thoughts.



    ***


     
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  7. DarthBreezy

    DarthBreezy Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 4, 2002
    Alderaan.

    The city of Alderra was a virtual hive of activity, but unlike Ord Mantel, the overall atmosphere here was pleasant and light hearted. It was almost as though the people of the planet of Alderann refused to allow the shadow of war to dampen their collective spirit. Not even the presence of the heavily armed clone troopers that seemed to be posted at almost every street corner had any real effect on the populous, at least on the outside.

    Upon landing, Schurke had slipped into the records office. He knew that even here, he could make a simple amendment to the official casualties list, and he and Kam would be able to disappear with the notation of 'Missing, Presumed Lost'. In the meantime, Anakin, dressed in his Jedi robes and Kampher posing as a civilian, had made their way through the various markets collecting a few more supplies for the journey to Correllia where she and Schurke would start their new life. .

    Padmé's reply to Anakin had been brief: A simple address, a room number and a pass code; but it was all Anakin needed to know. He would meet her at her hotel and share an all-too-brief encounter, unlike Shurke and Kampher; soon they would be able to openly share their love for the rest of their lives…. As he entered the lobby, Anakin cast his thoughts back to his friends. Their parting of the ways had been almost anti-climatic. A long embrace, and then they were gone - as quickly as a teardrop on Tatooine…
    Hours later, with a last silent prayer for his companion's happiness and with a wave and a gentle Force push that would assure that the clerk would not even register his presence, Anakin strode by the reception of the hotel. He would put aside sadness and grief, the sense of loss, and give himself to… no; loose himself, in Padmé's embrace.

    After deftly coding in the entry key, Anakin quietly let himself into the darkened room.

    He was greeted by a soft whistle and a beep of R2, who quickly went about to the business of resetting the room's security and Anakin sighed in relief. He and Padmé would be alone, at least for a while.

    Anakin walked into his wife's bedroom and for a moment just stood there watching her sleep. Her face was drawn and worn, and she looked far older than her 27 years, but in his eyes, her beauty was undimmed by cares, and she was still the most beautiful thing in the universe….

    As if sensing his presence, Padmé sighed and rolled over in her sleep, a smile creeping about her lips that transformed her appearance. Anakin felt his breath catch in his throat, transfixed. Of all the things in the galaxy…

    Gathering his wits about himself once again, Anakin slowly began to undress. Tunic, belt and trousers, for once all neatly placed on the chair. For once, he didn't feel the need to rush…

    When he was finally completely undressed, he carefully slid under the covers and cuddled up to the back of her unclothed body.
    She only does that when she expects me to come, Anakin thought to himself wistfully. She always has faith that I'll return to her…

    Padmé sighed again, settling into his embrace. "Don't wake me unless you're really here," she mumbled sleepily. "I couldn't bear it…" Anakin placed a tender kiss on the top of her head and she rolled over wide eyed.

    "You are here!" she exclaimed as fully awake now, she brushed his cheek with her hand.

    Slowly, Anakin lowered his face to hers for a kiss. Making love had actually been the least of his priorities, but now…
    She rolled over to face him more fully, kissed him again, more sensually this time as she ran her fingers through his messy hair. Anakin allowed his free hand to wander down the side of her body and to the small of her back. He pulled her closer, suddenly almost desperately needing her, and Padmé responded in kind, her breath already coming in short little gasps.

    "I-I dreamed of you while you were gone," she stammered between kisses. "It was-interesting… lonely…"

    "Did you now?" he asked her huskily.

    "Yes!" Padmé gasped, running her hands down his back.

    Suddenly, Padmé buried her face into his neck. It was like… falling…

    Love her Anakin…came a soft voice through the haze of release. Be with her…

    The bliss of lovemaking was becoming the realm of dreams…

    Now more voices, images…

    Kampher, Schurke, even Gris…

    Love will save you

    He saw Padmé, it must have been the future… she was…

    Love will save you

    Holding an infant, with blue eyes like his own…

    Love will save you

    Obi-Wan, an old man in tattered robes looking content…

    Love will save you

    A young man, with blond hair and blue eyes with Padmé's determination…

    Love will save you

    I am a Jedi, like my father before me…

    Love will save us all...



    ****


    Epilogue

    Transmission date: 029.08.005
    Transmission source: Correllia-98a-ya8-6456aXXX (coded=XX76X)
    Message follows: 89.765.90XX7X4

    Our Dearest, Over the last few months we have settled into our new journeys rather well. I have joined the local Healer's guild here and our own dearest one has joined the political spectrum of all things and has successfully run for a local Council position. His reasons that, because he cares so passionately about the state of his home world, this is the best way to still 'serve'. He is doing well in this new found arena of politics and politicians, but he jokes that the only reason he is so successful is because he's slept with half of them.
    I hope this finds you, and finds you well. Before I sign off I have some news to share. We are expecting the first heir to the house of Canaille, possibly as early as first blossom time. Her father expects that great things will come to her, in time.
    Our love and blessings,
    K & S


    End Transmission





    &&&&


    Dedicated to...
     
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  8. Golden_Jedi

    Golden_Jedi Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 10, 2005
    So nice to see this beautiful story here again! Congrats Rick! :)