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Saga - PT "So Few Things" | OTP Romcom Redux & Wistful Piano Challenge | Bly/Aayla; Song!verse AU, Short Story

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Mira_Jade , Mar 17, 2021.

  1. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Title: “So Few Things”
    Author: Mira_Jade

    Genre: Drama, Romance (a bit of action; a smidge of humor; a dash of angst and suspense)
    Rating: PG
    Time Frame: 5 years post-RotS; AU, my Song!verse
    Characters: Bly/Aayla Secura, Quinlan Vos, Amund Tholme/T'ra Saa, Volfe Karkko, various ECs and OCs


    Summary: When a mission to Kiffu to apprehend a monster out of myth – an Anzati hunter long since thought vanquished – turns deadly, old wounds from the past are reopened, just as secrets from the present threaten to be revealed.


    Notes: Sooo . . . where do I even begin? I feel like I have so many things to mention, so we'll just take this from the top. First off, this story was written in answer to the OTP thread's 19th Challenge: The Return of the Romcom ... In Space! The elements I had to include were #8. Disturbance in the Force, and #8. Coworkers. I've also self-imposed the challenge of including as many romcom-tastic tropes as possible, just for fun. Undoubtedly, you'll recognize more than a few as the story progresses. (I spent way too much time on tvtropes.org in the name of brainstorming, to say the least.)

    I also incorporated my answer to @Pandora's Pretty, Dreamy, but Wistfully Sad Classical Piano Challenge from the Mini-games in a chapter to come - you'll know which one when you see it. ;) My absolutely lovely, inspiring piece was Robert Schumann's Papillons Op. 2.

    As for the story itself, this plot bunny first started to nibble back when I was writing Color Me Pink, about this time last year. Bly/Aayla is a very old ship for me (see my ramblings in With Both Hands), and while it is usually a painful ship of pain in the context of canon, my Song!verse lets me hand-wave all that unhappy heartache away (Order 66, what Order 66?) in favor of this instead. Because I'm a sucker for happy endings, what can I say? [face_love]

    For those of you who may not be familiar with my Song!verse, it's simply an AU where Anakin was not quite as dumb and Sithy, and thus made better life choices during RoTS. His decisions circumvented the events of the OT, thwarted Palpatine's machinations, saved Padmé's life, and preserved the Jedi Order - which, along with the Republic itself, has since gone on to make some much needed reforms. Prior reading is not required to understand this story; that's really all you need to know, and I've done my best to include any and all necessary context here within the fic itself. But, if you're curious, links to the rest of this series can be found under the spoiler tag below.

    As a last note, this story draws heavily from Legends as regards to Aayla and Quinlan's history; I'm mixing and matching with TCW's canon to create their backstory. To be honest, I've pretty much drawn entirely from Legends - though I might try to find a way to replace Khaleen Hentz with Asajj Ventress, because Dark Disciple was such a guilty pleasure for me until Asajj was fridged for the sake of Quinlan's redemption. (Don't worry, I'll fix that too. ;)) There's just too much fun potential there for me to pass up on!

    This story also borrows one of my favorite minor Legends pairings in the form of Tholme and T'ra Saa - the latter, some of you may better recognize from the Legacy comics. With the changes in the Jedi Order they are now happily married and living their best lives together, because that's just how my Song!verse rolls. I have, of course, provided plenty of notes and wook links at the end of this chapter for anyone who is interested in knowing more about these characters and their history.

    Now, with all that said, let's get on with the story! :D

    “An Old Song, Re-Sung” - the one that started it all! A complete RoTS AU short story where, and I quote: Anakin is not dumb and Sithy. From a certain point of view, at least. [face_mischief]

    “Her Still, Small Voice” - the sequel to AOSRS. A Mara Jade origins story that is, unfortunately, on hiatus.

    "Even Without a Voice" - my answer to the 2018 DDC. Ahsoka's companion story to Anakin's, picking up right from her leaving the Jedi Order through just after the subverted events of RoTS.

    "In That There That Isn't Here" - this is something a little different for me. A Sintas Vel diary I started for the 2020 DDC. This is, as of now, another incomplete WIP, but one that I hope to start up again in July

    "All That's Unsung" - a complete short story, set 3 years post-RoTS. Featuring Anakin and Padmé trying to have a date night, and Rex and Ahsoka babysitting the toddler twins.

    "Color Me Pink" - a complete, goofy short story written for the 2020 April Fools Challenge, featuring the preteen twins and Mara Jade building their lightsabers, set about 13 years post-RoTS. It mainly focuses on one of my OCs, Rhysa, and her relationship with Ezra Bridger. With bonus married and happy Aayla Secura/Bly on the side.

    "We Claim Our Own Landscape" - a WIP short story, set about 20 years post-RoTS, where Han meets the parents.

    Then, various odds and ends can be found in “The Rest is Silence”, "Our Love of Constellations", and my "Cut Into Little Stars" UDC thread.

    [face_love]



    Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, but for the words. :)






    Index: Part I (below) | Part II | Part III






    I have faith in so few things.
    but you
    oh, you.
    I can have faith
    in the indomitable will
    of one who has survived,
    who has crawled out of the ashes,
    who has taken up a sword
    and becomes a shield,
    who stands as a witness
    to what can be overcome.
    I believe in you.

    ~ heronfem, a Tumblr poet






    "So Few Things"
    by Mira_Jade

    I

    Commander Bly knew from the beginning that the mission wasn’t going to be to his liking.

    It only took a glance at his General to know that something was wrong. Her posture was stiff; the set of her shoulders tense and the line of her back unerringly straight. Her lekku, even when muted in their harness, were tightly coiled in an unease that spoke louder than any words. They flicked at his arrival, but the motion was more of an unconscious twitch than the more familiar flutter of her usual greeting. Standing at the opposite side of the tactical table, General Kenobi – who was usually one of the more levelheaded of their commanding officers (usually, at least – Cody had stories to the contrary) – wore an expression of outright concern on his face. That alone was enough for Bly to pause, his sense for danger stirred. Yet what cinched the feeling was the narrowed, almost hostile look that the Jedi next to Aayla turned on him, and let linger. That was fine, Bly thought. Unhelmeted, he levelly met Quinlan Vos’s stare as he came to take his place at his General’s right, standing at attention to mirror the rigid tension in her own pose. He cared as much for the Kiffar Knight Errant as Vos did for him.

    Although he was no longer strictly required to do so – the Jedi/GAR Reformation Act had taken direct supervision of the Republic’s armed forces from the Jedi Council, putting a much needed distance between the Jedi and the State – he saluted General Kenobi and General Tholme, the older Jedi Master standing next to him. The gesture was as much out of sincere respect as it was a deeply ingrained force of habit. He’d fought campaigns with both men, and would trust each of them with his life and the lives of his brothers any day on the battlefield. Vos, he pointedly ignored.

    “I still don’t think the clone is necessary for this.” Perhaps somewhat predictably, Quinlan was the first to speak, his voice thick with condescension. “This is a Jedi matter; a personal matter, even. I’d rather take a droid along with us, the same good it would do.”

    “Quin,” General Kenobi sighed, a tired sort of censure in his voice. Undoubtedly, Bly imagined, he was repeating a point already well argued. “You know exactly why we are seeking assistance beyond our ranks for this endeavor. You know that assistance cannot come from you, just because of how personal a matter this is.”

    For that, Vos swallowed an oath. Aayla, however, tilted her chin and refused to indulge her former Master’s clearly rising temper. “If this is the Council’s decision,” the lilting syllables of her accent were firm with resolve, yet all too brittle for his liking, “then I will accept the mission. For that, my faith in my Commander is absolute. If he agrees, there is no one else I would trust more by my side.”

    The subtle slight was clear. Vos scowled as her words found their mark, but said nothing. Bly, for his part, felt a wholly inappropriate surge of possessive satisfaction for her claim. It was as it should be: he was his Jedi’s shield and fisted right hand and second self, all as she needed him to be. It didn’t even occur to him to hesitate: “Whatever it is, I accept the assignment.” No matter what the parameters of the mission were, he’d be there to watch her six.

    “Wouldn’t you like to hear the particulars of the situation first, Commander?” the corner of General Kenobi’s mouth twitched, just slightly, to ask.

    “All due respect, sir, but it honestly doesn’t matter,” Bly shrugged. “Wherever the General goes, I'll follow.”

    It was what he was, quite literally, created for. His purpose for being was an instinct written down in his very bones and impossible to ignore. Yet . . . where she goes, let me go too. That thought, somehow, wasn’t quite the same.

    Aayla’s posture eased for his words, though still not nearly enough for his liking. Vos merely gave a derisive snort. “You may rethink that,” he said darkly, “when you hear exactly what it is we’re up against.”

    Bly ignored Vos' implication, as he usually did, and instead turned his attention to the briefing he'd been summoned for. Crisply, he asked, “What is the situation, sirs?”

    With that, however, the Jedi paused to gather their words. Bly cast his gaze around the room, allowing himself a moment to take in the gathering more closely. They were standing in a chamber in the newly reclaimed Temple on Ossus, a holotable glowing faintly blue and as of yet unused at the center of the group. Next to General Tholme stood the Neti Jedi Master T’ra Saa, the Watchman of the Kiffu sector, and, more recently, General Tholme’s wife. (And Bly was not thinking about the changes brought about by the reforms in the Jedi Order just then, nor of his own recently declared freedom through the Clone Rights Bill – he was not.) The florasapien had ageless yellow-green eyes that were then shadowed with consideration as she looked between him and Aayla. Story told that T’ra Saa was nearly as old as he Republic itself. She had been Grand General Yoda’s first apprentice, and since then scores of Jedi had trained under her – including General Windu himself. Though her time with her Human husband would be relatively short, that didn’t stop the two from making their bond official as soon as they were permitted to do so. Or, perhaps that was exactly why they didn’t waste any time once the opportunity arose.

    General Tholme, for his part, was a middle-aged Human whose hair was already more steel-grey than the black it had once been at the beginning of the war. A prominent scar dominated the left side of his face – a keepsake from a duel against Count Dooku that sliced vertically through his pale blue, prosthetic eye. But his seeing eye was dark and canny, and he carried himself with a regal sort of grace that many of the senators on Coruscant could never hope to match. He'd been Vos’ Master, once, and had taken over Aayla’s training when Vos’ brush with the Dark Side made him unsuitable to continue on as her Master. Tholme was important to Aayla, and she looked up to him as her mentor still; as such, he was important to Bly.

    Standing in Tholme’s shadow was his current Padawan, Nen Netl – a young mixed near-human girl, though the species augmenting her Human blood was still unknown. She'd been found as an orphan on one of the last fueling stations before the Unknown Regions, and her proximity to the undiscovered and unexplored of their galaxy had served as explanation enough to the stumped Jedi Healers. There was a faintly green-grey cast to the brown ocher of her skin, and her braided hair was thin and ashen blonde. The high slope of her forehead was lined with ridges, her nose was slightly upturned, and her webbed ears were long and pointed. Standing out in striking contrast against her skin, there was an interweaving pattern of sharp red-violet markings decorating her lower lip and chin – most likely applied as tattoos shortly after her birth.

    Most impressively, though, was Netl’s singular ability to disappear from the eyes of the Force. While such a skill was one Master Tholme had taught himself only after years of discipline and study, the ability came naturally to Netl. For her presence – and General Tholme’s, Bly wondered what it was, exactly, they were about to be sent up against.

    He didn’t have to wait long to find out.

    “Tell us, Commander,” Tholme was the first to speak, “have you heard of a race called the Anzati?”

    Even as Bly prepared to answer that no, he had not, a dormant memory roused itself. He blinked to process the information – recalling his flash-training still left him feeling queasy and disoriented, and the memories settled like an ache in his temples as his mind processed the knowledge and rewrote it as his own. These were memories that belonged to him, in a way, and yet at the same time did not; somehow, his subconscious knew the difference. He exhaled, and dutifully recited the same as if he was a cadet standing before Kami Ra’s expecting gaze all over again: “Anzati, a near-human species of average height and build; above average strength and reflexes; and advanced regenerative capabilities. Their species is extremely long-lived, which is attributed to their unique form of preferred sustenance. They . . .” and there Bly paused, wondering if his information was somehow faulty. Surely, this couldn’t be correct?

    Yet the Jedi were still waiting for him to go on, so he continued, “They are a carnivorous species who prey on sentient life-forces, which they then use to augment and extend their own. They have two retractable, prehensile proboscises that they use to extract a victim’s brain-matter, often through the nasal cavities of compatible species. Their capacity to sense the strength of another’s life-force, and their telepathic ability to hypnotize their prey into complacency in order to feed, has been theorized to be some form of Force-sensitivity, not unlike the Kiffar with their psychometry or the Neti with their florakinesis.”

    Though his words sounded preposterous to his own ears – grotesque, even, like something out of one of the sub-grade horror-holos that Trig and Tug liked to watch between campaigns – not a one of the Jedi chose to refute or correct his information. Swallowing against his suddenly dry mouth, he finished by saying, “There’s some debate amongst professional xenobiologists as to whether or not the Anzati are an actual species, or mere folklore.” Tales told by old space-farers to scare one another as they traveled the long, dark ways of the hyper-lanes . . . that’s all that they had to be.

    . . . right?

    “Oh, the Anzati are real enough,” Vos murmured. Bly could feel his animosity press down against him like the weight of a gravity-heavy planet. But, for once, the Kiffar’s anger was not directed at him personally. This, he thought, was an old rage . . . stemming from an even older wound.

    Neither did he miss the way that Aayla had paled next to him, the vibrant cerulean of her skin taking on a dull grey cast that he only ever saw on their worst days back during the war, when their losses outnumbered their victories. She took a step closer to Vos, as if in an instinctive gesture of comfort. Just barely, Vos flashed a wry look at his former apprentice, and Bly felt as something unspoken passed between them.

    Alright then. Time to call out the rancor in the room.

    “I take it you’ve had experience to the contrary?” he sought to confirm.

    “Yes,” Vos answered simply, looking stonily ahead.

    “More than one, unfortunately,” General Kenobi picked up the briefing to confirm. “A Jedi life-force is considered a delicacy to their kind. Those in this room stand as some of the few, lucky survivors of an encounter with an Anzati hunter.”

    There was a point Obi-Wan was getting at, Bly thought. He had a feeling that he wasn’t going to like it when it came. Not in the slightest.

    There, Master T’ra continued, the quasi-sentient mass of root-like tendrils growing from her scalp swaying in agitation around her, “In the earliest days of my childhood there was an Anzat Jedi Master by the name of Volfe Karkko. Despite the fears of some, we believed that he’d successfully suppressed the natural instincts of his kind. He did much good on behalf of the Order, in the name of the Republic, yet he became arrogant for his resisting the lure to feed for so many years. He believed himself superior to his birth for his discipline and control, and for his belief in his superiority he allowed himself to indulge once on the life-force of another, believing that he would be greater than his hunger. Yet he became addicted, consumed by his need for more. He . . . he hunted his fellow Jedi, and fell prey to the Dark Side in his ruthlessness to feed. His power,” T’ra drew in a subtle breath, her gaze lost to old memories – old losses, “was very great, indeed. It took the combined effort of the entire Jedi Council to subdue and apprehend him, and he was condemned to a life sentence in the prisons of Kiffex underneath the custodianship of the Kiffar Guardians. He remained there in stasis for centuries, his body dormant but his mind very much awake and aware to dwell on his hate and his rage.”

    There was only one possible way for this story to go. “Let me guess,” Bly said, “the Kiffar somehow let him escape.”

    Vos inhaled for the insult against his people, but before he could summon a retort, Bly was surprised when Aayla looked up and stated: “No, they did not,” her voice cold. “I did. I was the one who freed him.”

    Bly blinked, unable to process her claim. No, you didn’t, he wanted to insist. There's no way you could have. If what she said was true, there had to be more to the story, for he couldn’t believe -

    “ - you were not aware of your actions at the time,” fast on the wings of his thoughts, Vos softened his tone in a rare show of gentleness to say. “You were not yourself then, Aayla, and cannot be held accountable - ”

    “ - but I was aware of my actions,” Aayla stonily insisted, taking a physical step back from her former Master. “No matter what extenuating circumstances there may have been, I knew exactly what I was doing and who I was freeing.”

    “That . . . that thing was in your mind, preying on your thoughts,” Vos growled, stubbornly refusing to agree. “And you had no memory of who you were, or the life you lived at the Temple to protect you. You only knew - ”

    “ - that I wanted to hurt you,” Aayla tersely interrupted. “And so . . . I did.”

    For the finality of her words, silence fell, brittle with unease. Bly looked from Aayla to Vos and back again, feeling wholly confused. He only knew that he wanted to step in and protect his Jedi – someway, somehow – even from herself, when -

    “ - prior to this, Quinlan and Aayla had been assigned to investigate a new strand of glitteryll being produced on Ryloth,” mercifully, T’ra caught his eye to explain. “Aayla’s birth-uncle, Chieftain Pol Secura, had been assisting them – though, unbeknownst at the time, he was truly behind the entire operation. When they came too close to the truth, Pol drugged them with an overdose of glitteryll to erase their memories. He kept Aayla in his household in the guise of a servant, on a steady dose of the drugs to keep her compliant and confused. When Quinlan tried to break through her amnesia, he unwittingly killed her uncle in the struggle that followed. This was the only thing Aayla saw, and Aayla knew. In retaliation, she swore vengeance.”

    “And I served Volfe to achieve that vengeance,” Aayla’s judgment fell like the swinging of a blade. She did not view herself with the same mercy her colleagues and mentors clearly had, and yet still did.

    “Volfe was in your mind, feeding on your anger and your pain,” Vos tried again to insist. “He twisted your emotions, and he made you - ”

    “ - yet, ultimately, the choices I made were my own, were they not?” Aayla disagreed. “I didn't care for the dozens of poor, doomed souls I helped deliver to him and his followers. It didn’t matter, so long as I could have my vengeance. Their blood is on my hands; I will carry responsibility for their deaths until the end of my days.”

    The tension in the room thickened even further. Bly felt the urge to speak bubble up in his throat. He wanted to fix this – he wanted to fight – and yet, how could he aid his general when the opponent she faced was herself? No matter Aayla’s own belief in her accountability, he knew firsthand the choice she would make as she, herself, time and time again, without question. She would always put the needs of others first. She was a knight in the truest since of the word, and she lived to defend and serve. It was something that Bly had respected about her from the first; it was something that he admired about her now.

    Yet, that wasn’t a thought he could voice just then. Instead, he pressed forward, “I take it that this Volfe,” just the name of the shadowy presence still haunting his Jedi made his voice drop to a low rasp of sound, “is still at large?”

    “He shouldn’t be,” Vos huffed – and, for once, Bly was united behind the Kiffar in his anger. “I cut him in half the last time we faced each other.”

    Good, Bly thought without a shred of remorse – he’d leave grappling over the loss of life to the Jedi and not lose a wink of sleep himself. Vos should have shot the corpse again for good measure; maybe even burned it too.

    “I can tell you from experience,” General Kenobi said with a wry, gallows humor – one that Bly usually appreciated, but couldn’t share just then, “that doesn’t always work.”

    “The regenerative capabilities of the Anzati,” T’ra said diplomatically, “are great indeed.”

    “He’s returned, then?” Bly asked the question he already well knew the answer to. And, as that conclusion spiraled into the next, he suddenly understood: “And now you want to use Aay- General Secura as bait to draw him out into the open?”

    “Volfe was besotted by Aayla – obsessed with her, even,” Tholme finally said, his every word carefully chosen as he closely observed his former Padawan – both of them. “Where she undoubtedly began as a tool, a means to an end, he quickly decided that he wanted to keep her by his side as he led the Anzati to become the dominant species in the galaxy. His belief in the superiority of his kind was absolute.”

    When he looked, Aayla’s gaze was hard enough to cut durasteel. “Once, I would have let him,” she whispered.

    That, Bly very much wanted to argue. Instead, he focused on their path forward; on any action that he could take. His hand itched to fall to the blaster holstered at his side. “Well then, what’s stopping us from finishing the job Vos started?”

    An itch for battle and a want for war – so carefully engineered and bred into the very marrow of him – was a howl of rage then. He’d never wanted to pick up arms and march more fervently.

    “Clan Vos is still the ruling power on Kiffu, now underneath the leadership of Sheyf Keanos Vos,” T’ra started, and Bly nodded to absorb the sudden change of pace. “Keres Vos, his sister, he much dotes upon. And she has been seen in public often with her new suitor, Count Orfeo of Anaxes. Count Orfeo, we have reason to believe, is none other than Volfe Karkko himself.”

    “Why aren’t you able to apprehend him, then, if he’s hiding in plain sight? The Republic has jurisdiction on Kiffu, correct?”

    “Not quite,” Tholme shook his head. “Sovereignty between Kiffu and the Republic is . . . tricky, at best. And the Sheyfs hold a trump card in their guardianship of Kiffex, whose prisons contain the most dangerous criminals in the galaxy. The last thing Chancellor Organa wants is to anger the Sheyf of Sheyfs. He has asked, instead, that we handle this matter quietly, if we can. We need to prove that Orfeo is indeed Volfe before we can make our move – only then will Sheyf Vos agree to his arrest and deportation.”

    Bly scuttled and then dismissed his disappointment that this mission wouldn’t be an all out firefight. But then, when did things ever go that easy for them?

    “For that, you'll need an invitation from the Shyef to get close?” Bly processed. It wouldn’t be through Vos, he knew – Quinlan had disposed of the previous Sheyf, his great-aunt Tinté Vos, during his time undercover as one of Count Dooku’s acolytes (because of course Vos’ body count was now yet another mess they had to step around) – so, how -

    - yet he didn’t have to ask. T’ra continued, “Keres Vos prides herself on being a generous patron of the arts, and she’s lavish in entertaining her tastes – especially now, while she is trying to entice her suitor into offering an official proposal. This wouldn’t be Aayla’s first time undercover, and, if she accepts the mission, she’ll pose as Fonteyn Fae, an up and coming dancer of some renown. As Watchman for the Kiffu sector, and my relationship with the Sheyf, I’ve been able to subtly encourage Keres to invite Aayla, under her alias, to perform. The engagement is two nights from now.”

    “Volfe will recognize her,” Bly said, his words neither a question or a statement as he processed his thoughts aloud. Volfe would recognize her, and Volfe would undoubtedly try to -

    - subtly, he inhaled, and let his breath out slow.

    “With any luck, we can make him think that Aayla still does not have her memories. If he sees an opportunity to seduce her back to his side, and thus give us proof about his true identity . . .” for that, Tholme cast a significant glance at Aayla. “This mission, however, is not one you have to accept, my dear. We can think of another way to cast a light on Volfe’s shadow. This need not be your burden to bear.”

    “There is not another path forward that would apprehend Volfe so quickly,” Aayla shook her head in the negative. “The entire Kiffar race is attuned to the Force to some degree or another, and, as such, Kiffu is ripe with victims for an Anzat – and any Anzati who have undoubtedly returned to Volfe’s side. If he’s bold enough to hide in plain sight, whatever he’s planning must be nearing some sort of fruition. For that, we need to stop him as soon as possible. Innocents are dying with every day we leave him be, and that is . . . that is my burden to bear.”

    But it wasn’t, Bly wanted to insist, it so kriffing was not, and he wished to every higher power he didn’t believe in that there was a way to convince Aayla of the same. But, his Jedi was honorable – too honorable. This was not a fight she would let go, and so, Bly would not try to convince her to.

    Instead: “What will her assets in the field be?” he focused on what little he could actually help with.

    “Us,” Tholme answered evenly. “Volfe will sense a Jedi’s presence – yet, between myself and Nen,” for the first he gestured to his Padawan, who had been respectfully listening to her elders all the while, “we should be able to mask our presences. T’ra is known to the Sheyf and his family already, and she may openly attend the performance and the ball to follow. The rest of us will have to stay hidden, until we are called upon for assistance.”

    That wasn’t good enough, not nearly. Bly didn’t like the idea of leaving his Jedi out in the open and purposefully vulnerable; he didn’t like it at all. Aayla needed someone there, right there by her side in order to -

    - yet he inhaled sharply as he realized that he, on the other hand, would be so far beneath the notice of a predator the likes of an Anzat to not even warrant his attention.

    “Sirs, if I may speak freely, I would like to offer myself as - ”

    “ - you, Clone, are more dumb and blind to the Force than a rock,” Vos snorted, speaking with and then over him at the same time. “If you went in with Aayla, Volfe wouldn’t even look twice at you. And you would be able to offer . . . some protection, at least.” That, he rolled his eyes to grudgingly admit.

    “What Quin means to say,” Obi-Wan cut a withering glance at his old friend, “is that with so many alternative sources to feed upon, you'd go relatively unnoticed by Karkko. You would be able to stay by Aayla’s side where we cannot.”

    “With their release from the GAR, there are now many clones finding their way in the galaxy,” Tholme mused aloud. “It may stretch belief to have you there as her bodyguard in any way, yet - ”

    “ - if you were to pose as her lover,” T’ra finished, her unnaturally bright eyes turning to fix on him with a sudden intensity, “your presence shall not be questioned. Indeed, any sort of jealousy that would invoke in Volfe would make Aayla succeeding in her mission all the more possible.”

    The universe, Bly thought, had an ironic sense of humor that wasn’t at all funny. And, the ones who marched on save him from himself, but he knew that there was heat rising in his cheeks as he glanced down at his feet like a rain-soaked shiny who was still tripping over his boots. He was going to be a professional about this, he was. His Jedi needed him – him – and not the ridiculous, nerf-eyed admiration and lov- infatuation – that had been growing in the starved desert of his heart since the first time he saw her tear the head clean off a battle-droid with her bare hands on Geonosis, all those years ago.

    Now wasn’t the time, and it certainly wasn’t the place. Especially since he’d long ago resigned himself (ha, yeah right) to the enormity of his affections . . . and the ever polite camaraderie Aayla showed him in return. He was her fellow officer and brother-in-arms on the field; he was her commander, an extension of her authority and even her very self when necessary. She respected him, valued him, and maybe even viewed him with the same fondness she showed for all of her men. No, he knew she felt that much, at least. After eight years of sharing each others shadows, he could safely call her his friend, no matter the professional barrier of Clone and Jedi that otherwise stood between them.

    Yet, that was it . . . there wasn't anything more.

    Kriffing get a hold of yourself, trooper,
    he inwardly berated himself the same as he would a still stark-white rookie who was sticking out like droid-bait on the frontlines. You were designed to be a professional – the best of the best, so kriffing act like it.

    Bly swallowed against his suddenly dry throat, and managed to say, “Whatever the mission requires, I will do.” He was proud that he kept his voice neutral and even. He glanced at Aayla just in time to see her look away. Her jaw was fixed and rigid, her lekku coiling even tighter in discomfort against her back. That . . . that helped sober him more quickly than anything else. This was just a mission, a mission, and he needed to focus on it as such.

    “This is not something you should feel compelled to do, Commander,” Aayla still did not look at him to say. “This is not an order you have to obey; you are under no obligation here.”

    Yet, wasn’t he? and by an impetus so much stronger than the initial reason for his creation and the truth of his existence. He was bound, true, but bound by choice.

    “This is what I want to do.” He refused to add general or sir to the end of his words; he couldn’t just then. Yet, neither could he assume the familiarity of addressing her by her name.

    “You heard your clone, Aayla,” Vos bristled. “He agreed. That’s that; it’s settled. So, let’s focus on exactly how we're going to put this bastard down – this time, for good.”

    Once again, Bly found himself in the rare position of agreeing with Vos completely. It was proving to be a strange day of firsts – in more ways than one.

    Tholme, however, was not so easily convinced. He held Aayla's gaze for a long moment, something unspoken passing between them through the bond they still shared from their days as master and apprentice. When he turned to him next, Bly met his eyes levelly, and let him look. Whatever he was searching for, he must have found it. Tholme sighed, clearly troubled – but it was much as Aayla had said. This was their best chance for apprehending Volfe quickly and quietly; they had no choice but to act.

    "It is decided, then," Tholme turned to nod at Obi-Wan, who too had been carefully observing them both.

    "Yes," Aayla echoed, her voice steely with determination, "it is."

    With that, she waved a hand to activate the holotable, clearly settling down to business. Bly shook his head, and reminded himself that he needed to follow her lead. Professionalism was the only option going forward. It wouldn't help him to notice the arc of her lekku as he stepped closer to her to study the holomap; he had no cause to think about how close the hand she had resting on the table was to his own. It wasn't his place to be so acutely aware of her strength, of her grace – and he most certainly wasn't thinking about the color of her eyes as they reflected the glow from the holograms, or the cool warmth he could feel emanating from her body. He was definitely ignoring the impossible dip of her waist as she bent forward; the shape of her mouth as her lips pursed in thought.

    "Last time, this was where the majority of Volfe's followers gathered," she enlarged a diagram of the catacombs underneath the Old City on Kiffu. "I suspect that their ways will have changed but little."

    Shaking his head, Bly forced himself to clear his mind and focus on the mission at hand. It helped, just barely, that Vos was openly glaring at him – unnoticed by Aayla. There was a warning in his eyes, one that Bly would heed only because he too knew it was for the best. He couldn't afford any distractions from here on out.

    Yeah, good luck with that, a small voice deep inside of him offered its unwelcome commentary. It was one that, even so, Bly was stalwartly determined to ignore.



    TBC


    Alright, then! I tried not to hit you guys over the head with an info-dump, there, but I may not have succeeded. :oops: For those of you who are familiar with the PT comics, this is all old news. For those of you who are not, however: buckle in, folks, because it's a wild ride . . .


    Quinlan Vos: My favorite Jedi dumpster fire; he gives Anakin a run for his money, even. Seriously, I want to punch him half the time for his arrogance, brusque attitude, and bullying tendencies. But he really does have a heart of gold underneath his rough edges, and it's amazing how many times he has pushed the Dark Side away throughout his life. Quinlan is Kiffar, a race known for their psychometric abilities; he can read memories from inanimate objects, and even living people. As a Padawan himself, he was the one to find Aayla as a child on Ryloth when he heard her mental cry for help. They forged a Force bond, and when she came of age he took her as his own apprentice. They remained together until the events I described on Ryloth that led to both of them grappling with the Dark Side. After they returned to the Jedi Order with their memories restored, Quinlan re-trained with Mace Windu, and Aayla finished her apprenticeship with Master Tholme. (Later, Quinlan would have another intense battle with the Dark Side when he went undercover as one of Count Dooku's acolytes to discover the identity of the Sith Master. But, more about that below. ;))


    Tholme: The former Jedi Watchman of the Kiffu sector. He was the one who discovered Quinlan as a youngster, and he started to train him on Kiffu at the wish of his parents, who did not want to be parted from their son. Yet, when Quinlan's parents were killed by an Anzati hunter, Quinlan joined the Jedi officially, even though he was traditionally too old to do so. Quinlan fought strong feelings of fear and anger - and thus, the Dark Side - from witnessing his parents' murder, and Tholme did his best to help guide him. Tholme also had a strong connection with his fellow Jedi Master, T'ra Saa, who eventually took over his position of Watchman, that developed into love. In the Legends 'verse, they both survived Order 66, along with Quinlan, and they married. He spent the rest of his life quietly with his small family, and passed away of old age. T'ra Saa was said to have taken root next to ashes of his funeral pyre until the emergence of the New Jedi Order, when she felt drawn by the Force to serve again.


    T'ra Saa: A Neti - a race of sentient trees, who can shape-shift into various different humanoid forms - Jedi Master who's several hundred years old. She was Master Yoda's first apprentice, and she went on to train many Jedi herself - including Mace Windu. She served during the Clone Wars, and, again, survived Order 66 with Tholme and Quinlan. Eventually, she gave her life, alongside Nat Skywalker, to give the Jedi time to evacuate the Hidden Temple when Darth Krayt attacked. Neti seedlings grew from the fertile soil left behind in the ruins of the Temple, and, through these births, her legacy continued.

    Just, THESE TWO:

    [​IMG]

    &

    [​IMG]

    I love them, in short, and was all too happy to include them in this story. [face_love]


    Nen Netl: Yep. I AM GOING THERE. If you read all of the not-so-subtle clues in her description, then: yes. You read right. Eventually I would LOVE to take this AU that far, and I have PLANS for this OC. But, one step at a time. ;)


    Aayla's Amnesia: Let's just say that eighteen was a rough year for our girl. [face_plain] Events did happen as I related here. When investigating a new strand of glitteryll coming from Ryloth, she and Vos were overdosed by her uncle to wipe their memories. Pol Secura dumped Quinlan on Nar Shaddaa, and kept Aayla in his household as a servant. She was drugged daily to keep her complacent and confused. When Quinlan returned to Ryloth he tried to break through to her, but she still didn't remember him. In the scuffle that then resulted with Pol, he was accidentally killed by Vos. This enraged Aayla, and she swore vengeance. Aayla was a foe to be reckoned with as a Force-user with no memory of her time as a Jedi and no qualms about using the Dark Side to achieve her goals. She followed Quinlan to Kiffex. There, Volfe Karrko sensed her, even deep in his stasis, and . . .


    Volfe Karrko: Oh boy, but isn't this villain a real piece of work? He's SW's Count Dracula down to the last detail: a former crusader of the light who fell victim to his own anger and lust for power and became the monster he once swore to destroy. He was eventually subdued by the Jedi Council and imprisoned on Kiffex. Yet his mind was still awake, and he mentally called more and more Anzati to Kiffex to build his 'army' for when he eventually escaped. He became somewhat of a legend to his kind, and a cult grew around him. He sensed Aayla's anger in the Force when she arrived on Kiffex, and he lured her to free him. She agreed to become his apprentice in exchange for him helping her achieve her vengeance. She led his followers to attack and feed on the local Kiffu populace until Sheyf Vos called for the Jedi to intervene. As expected, the Council sent Quinlan. Through a whole series of crazy events, Volfe's plan to absorb as many Jedi essences to grow his power for galactic domination (I know o_O) was finally thwarted. Quinlan broke through to Aayla, and 'killed' Volfe. Though, for my purposes, I'm making that not quite stick. :p

    Afterwards, Aayla went on to finish her training with Tholme. It took her a long time to recover her confidence, and she harbored immense guilt over what she did in Volfe's name. Counseling with Yoda helped, somewhat, as did sessions with Plo Koon to re-organize her memories and heal her mind. Eventually, though, her ordeal only inspired her to want to serve and defend even more fervently than ever before. She would never take the worth of even a single life lightly again.

    . . . which leads to quite the interesting head space for this story. [face_whistling]


    Events on Honoghr: This won't be referenced until later, but it helps with context. Quinlan had yet another brush with the Dark Side when he was sent to infiltrate Count Dooku's inner-circle of Dark Acolytes. His aim was two-fold, looking for an opportunity to neutralize the Count, as well as discovering the identity of his Master. His spying provided the Republic with valuable intelligence during the war. Yet, for three years, Vos had to pass Dooku's many tests of loyalty, which pitted him against his Jedi comrades and resulted in several cold-blooded assassinations. This included his great-aunt, Sheyf Tinté Vos, who, as it turns out, was responsible for the deaths of his parents - as she betrayed them to the Anzati to consolidate her own power. The Jedi tried to bring him in at that point, fearing that he had truly fallen to the Dark Side. Quinlan himself could hardly tell the difference at the time, though Tholme and Aayla held out hope that it was just a ruse.

    On Honoghr, Aayla and her troops were assigned to capture a datachip containing plans for a Separatist bioweapon. Quinlan too was there to make sure that the chip remained in Separatist control. He convinced Aayla that he still served the Light, and she grudgingly agreed to work with him. (Needless to say, Bly hated this. :p) Yet, when she recovered the chip, Quinlan turned on her to steal it back and even went as far as to try to apprehend Aayla and take her back to Dooku. (The man was in deep here.) Aayla fought him, holding back and trying to break through to him all the while. Bly, however, took the chance he had to shoot Quinlan during their duel. Quinlan, wounded, fled empty-handed.

    Eventually, Vos faced his demons and ultimately triumphed over the Dark Side. He was reinstated as a Jedi Knight. But, as you can imagine, it was a rough road to healing, and he's always going to have to contend with the repercussions of his actions. And now, here we are.


    I think that about covers everything? If there's anything I missed, or if you have any questions, as always, please don't hesitate to ask. I love chatting about this world, and these characters. [face_love]

    Until next time! [:D]




    ~MJ @};-
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2021
  2. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    *snags*

    :D

    Edit: Would you believe I had nearly my whole response typed up, and then I stupidly hit the back button instead of preview? :oops:This is what I get for trying to do this on my phone for once, lol. I'm going to respond with a new post once I get it all typed up again, but for now:

    Aaaahhhhhh, I'm so excited it's up!!! :D
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2021
  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    When all the flurry of mini games started, I hoped they would blend with and inspire other plots, and so here I found a riveting thingamajig. =D= Yay! I am so utterly stoked you are starting something. =D= I love Bly's thoughts and distraction ;) and the interplay amongst the characters, Aayla with Quin and Tholme. I look forward eventually to the telling of Tholme's and T'Ra's story.
     
  4. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    This is good. I particularly like watching Bly trying so hard to put himself in Cleopatra Mode. (Denial, denial)
     
  5. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    Back for real this time! ;)

    Ah, tvtropes... the abyss which I have descended into so many times in the name of "research". :p

    I loved seeing the complex relationships between all these Jedi and Bly. You do a great job of showing the various dynamics, and I just love the disdain Bly and Vos have for each other. [face_mischief]

    Aw, these clones and their feelings. [face_love] I really love how you explore the different bonds the clones form with their generals, but I especially love how - throughout so many of your fics - you handle the idea of different clones dealing with feelings of attraction and love when they were only ever designed to live short lives as soldiers and then die in combat. And I feel like there was some other comment I had the first time I drafted this reply, but I can't remember it now. :p

    YUUZHAN VONG, AAAAHHHHH!!! I know I already flailed about this to you earlier, but OMG THE POSSIBILITIES!! Just imagining fully realized Jedi Master Anakin freaking Skywalker versus the Yuuzhan Vong... yeah, that's not something I've thought about, nope, not at all. [face_whistling] [face_mischief] [face_batting]

    I have a lot of thoughts about this. There are so many things. And I would love to see what you'd do with it! ;)

    I always love when people who mutually dislike each other find themselves in strong agreement for once, lol. It's also interesting to see the difference in how Bly views killing someone in combat versus how the Jedi are expected to feel about it. And that's not even a judgment of which view is right or wrong or if there is a clear answer... I just thought it was a good and realistic detail to include from Bly's POV! (And again, I think my first version of this comment was more coherent, ha.)

    [face_laugh] [face_laugh] Oh, Obi-Wan. Never change. :p

    I did enjoy seeing this bond between Tholme and Aayla. He seems to probably be the closest thing she has to a father/grandfather figure, and I could really feel that sense of protectiveness from him in their interactions. Again, I love how you brought in all these interconnected Jedi with their complex histories. :D

    FAKE DATING TROPE FTW!

    :p

    I am definitely looking forward to seeing how this all plays out. [face_mischief]

    I love that that was the moment that he started falling for her. Because of course it was. ;) (Also, "starved desert of his heart" is fantastic wording!)

    Oh, Bly. You're really reading it wrong there, buddy...

    Well, at least I know they'll eventually figure it out. :p

    This is off to an excellent start, and I'm excited that you were able to get so much done already! And the way you've weaved together so many different elements of canon, both old and new, as if they were always meant to lead to this story... It's really just the best when things work out that way, isn't it? [face_batting]
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2021
  6. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Yay! I'm glad that you found this to be a riveting thingamajig. :p Once I got started, I just couldn't stop, and now there are just so many elements that I can't wait to share. Including more about Tholme and T'ra. (Goodness, but I had their action figures posed together on my desk right next to my Aayla and Bly set back when I was a teenager in the PT heyday. So this is really coming full circle for me. :p)

    As always, thank you so much for reading! Your encouragement and support is always so appreciated. [face_love] [:D]


    Oh, Bly is sailing down that river in Egypt with no paddles. Poor guy. [face_laugh] [face_mischief] I'm already having so much fun at his expense, and it's just going to get even better. (Well, for us, at least - worse from Bly's POV. ;))

    Thanks for reading! [:D]


    Oh, I believe it. Dang boards! [face_laugh] :oops: 8-}

    [:D]

    [face_laugh] Yep, research. It's a dangerously slippery slope!

    (Not to spoil anything, but for the next update I spent more than a little bit of time watching ballroom dancing videos on youtube to "research". Before I knew it, I had wasted a few hours of my day. But there was just so much gorgeous music and pretty swirling couples in formal wear and I couldn't look away. It's hard being a writer sometimes! [face_laugh])

    Oh my goodness, but Bly and Vos mutually detesting each other was one of my favorite parts of the Honoghr arc, I'm not going to lie. Bly is usually so respectful and deferential to the Jedi - he's literally required to be - so the amount of sass in his bickering with Quinlan really said a lot. Outside of protecting Aayla, Bly was all too happy to shoot Quin in that same issue, I can only imagine. :p

    THESE CLONES AND THEIR FEELINGS. [face_love] [face_love] VIIII!!!! I will never tire of exploring these dynamics, I tell you. Because you're right! It's fascinating how many different personalities have grown and developed from, quite literally, the same genetic baseline. While there are going to be a lot of common factors - that uncertainty and awkwardness and even awe that comes from experiencing new things when they were supposed to be a product purchased and commissioned to live short, violent lives - it's interesting how, when writing, the voices I use for Bly and Rex and Cut, and even Fox, are all uniquely different. And their relationships are all different, too. Or, at least, I try to write them that way. Who knows? I might be a broken record droning on repeat at this point. But, here I am. :p

    SO MANY THOUGHTS; SO MANY THINGS!!!

    I know we've chatted about this, but I have to take a moment to flail again: Anakin Skywalker, fully grown into his powers as a mature Jedi Master and the kriffing CHOSEN ONE himself, going up against the Yuuzhan Vong with his children and grandchildren and the full force of the Jedi Order and a unified Republic behind him? (PLUS writing in a Thrawn who has been an ally the whole time in this 'verse, who's known about the Vong from the beginning??? And PLUS, PLUS, PLUS a Palpatine that is still out there at large causing his own problems? [face_mischief]) Personally, I'd read that story in a heartbeat. In a perfect world, I would rewrite the entire NJO in this 'verse in one massive epic that would undoubtedly be my magnum opus as a SW writer. But, maybe I'll start small with a short story or two. [face_whistling] [face_mischief]

    That's really one of the reasons I was first drawn to your EtF 'verse. Honestly, I think I can feel your brainwaves at times. ;) [face_laugh] [:D]

    Ha! Perfectly coherent, don't you worry. ;)

    And thanks! I loved adding that detail. Besides showing how much Quinlan and Bly do share in common (just don't tell them that :p), it's fascinating comparing and contrasting Jedi philosophy with a more martial outlook on killing in combat. Because neither are wholly right or wrong; they are just different. Like you said.

    And, when writing, I was totally remembering that scene in the Zygerrian arc of TCW where the honest to goodness actual slave overseer - the one who had just tortured and murdered how many people? in one episode - was taunting Obi-Wan about not being able to kill him. Because he was an unarmed combatant, and Obi-Wan was an honorable Jedi Knight with a strict moral code. With the incredible power at his fingertips, and the balance needed to keep the Dark Side away, it makes sense that he has to keep to a higher standard for himself. But, while Obi-Wan was hesitating, Rex didn't even blink to skewer the scumbag with a spear. (Wow, that sounded so violent to summarize. Tell me this was a kid's show again?) The whole:

    [​IMG]

    *chef's kiss* Yep. That's easily one of my top five Rex moments from the show. Especially as this arc was only mere days after Rex lost half of the 501st and 212th at Umbara thanks to him being required to obey a Jedi, even if General Krell had fallen to the Dark Side. He ignored his instincts, and his men suffered as a result. He didn't make that same mistake again here. [face_plain]

    ANYWAY. The entire dynamic between clones and their Jedi is fascinating, and in this essay I will -

    [face_laugh] [face_laugh] As soon as I knew that I wanted Volfe to be my villain, that line just wrote itself. Honestly, if Darth Maul can keep popping back up like a weed, then I can resurrect Volfe too.

    Plus, you know: Obi-Wan and his sass. What's not to love? [face_love]

    I have SO MUCH LOVE for this cast, and I am glad that their complex relationships and histories came across so well! I've had a blast exploring all these bonds so far, and can't wait to dive in even deeper. [face_love]

    YAY FAKE DATING TROPE!!! With that, I have one square marked off my romcom trope bingo . . . let's see how many more I can include before the story is through. [face_whistling] [face_mischief] [face_laugh]

    You know that Bly loves that Aayla is an actual space goddess who can bench-press him if she wanted. Maybe that's a bit of his inner quasi-Mandalorian coming out, but, there it is. I couldn't resist including that detail. :p

    And thank-you! I loved writing that line, too. [face_love]

    Thank-you! It was like a domino effect, everything falling into place for this story when I first sat down to brainstorm. Just like it was always meant to be - I loved that, because that's really how it felt!

    As always, thank-you so very much for your kind words! I was giddy to read your comments, and that just made me want to work on this story even more. :D [face_love] [:D]



    All right, then! With that said, I have the next chapter finished and almost ready to go. It just needs a last bit of editing, so I'll most likely post that tomorrow if all goes to plan. Until then: [:D]


    ~ MJ @};-

     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2021
  7. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    @Mira_Jade if you write the NJO over again I WILL SO READ IT! [face_dancing] So awesomely scrumptiously good! Deep and wonderful character growth and plausible, exciting plotting without any of the head-scratching frustration we got so much of. :rolleyes: We wouldn't lose Anakin for one thing and Mara, yup. That whole story arc would be different too. [face_laugh]
     
  8. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    I wish there was a button to extra like something. [face_love] Because I didn't start rereading Vector Prime with an eye to rewrite the entire NJO in my Song!verse. Nope; no siree I didn't. [face_whistling]

    Because, you know, baby steps and all that . . . ;) [:D]
     
  9. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    II

    The journey from Ossus to Kiffu was relatively long on the galactic scale. The Jedi were as efficient as any clone battalion, however, and they were soon ready to depart. Once onboard the Surety – the Ambassador-class starship T’ra used in her duties as Watchman, Bly expected their discussions on tactics and contingencies to continue. As such, he was taken aback – though, in retrospect, he shouldn’t have been – when Tholme drew him aside and said, “We’ll have to do something about your wardrobe.”

    Ah. Clearly he wouldn’t be wearing his armor on this mission, a thought that filled him with a moment’s unease before he dismissed the feeling. Outside of his armor, he had either his dress greys or his casual greys to choose from; both would have been just as conspicuous.

    Still, he was faintly surprised when Tholme led him to the stateroom he shared with T’ra and gestured to his options. “Which do you like?”

    Bly found himself at a loss. It was a simple question with no wrong answer, yet he stared at the various articles spread out before him, his mind a complete blank. He felt like a cadet frozen in the kill-zone of one of his Cuy’val Dar trainers all over again, unable to do anything more than stand still in shock as adrenaline and his natural prey-instincts battled for dominance in his reflexes. “You’d best be glad we weren’t using live rounds today, ‘52 – your performance was an insult to Fett’s blood,” he could still remember staring into Sargent Tay’haai’s violet, T-shape visor at the end of the simulation, shame coursing through him as the Mandalorian sneered. “Remember, that won’t always be the case.”

    So he stopped thinking and simply acted. He picked up the first thing he could reach – a brown-black jacket made of some type of leather, and nodded at Tholme. “This will do,” he said, only somewhat awkwardly. “Um . . . thank-you, sir.”

    Tholme smiled at him. The expression seemed sad, though – tense, even, in a way that he didn’t have enough context to interpret further. “Take your time,” the Jedi encouraged. “See what you like – truly, and call me if you need assistance.”

    With that, Tholme left him alone and still feeling no small amounts bewildered. Well, Bly thought as he surveyed his selections again, turning through them the same as he would cautiously disarm a live charge on the field, he did like the jacket; he liked the feel of it and the weight, even though it was nothing to the comfortable assurance of wearing a cuirass. He supposed that was a start. Hesitantly, he reached for the first pressure seal to unlock his armor, and resigned himself to go from there.

    No matter Tholme’s invitation, he made quick work of dressing and packing a few items in the case that had been provided for him. He picked a cream colored shirt of a ribbed, woven material simply because he liked the softness of the texture, and matching green-brown pants that were nondescript and practical. They oddly fit tighter than his greys, even if they were nowhere near the second-skin of his blacks. He supposed that was a deliberate choice of style that he would have to get used to. He spent longer condensing the plates of his armor to stow until the mission was done. He kept his vibroblade, though – both of them, and his blaster too, along with his service pistol and the sleek set of throwing knives he'd received from the natives on Felucia. (Though, technically, he was breaking GAR protocol at the time in keeping anything personal for himself, he'd deliberately ignored that rule in an act of defiance that had felt terrifyingly right at the time. Felucia, as far as he was concerned, was the ninth hell of the galaxy, but for some reason the people who lived there loved their humid, fungal petri dish of a home. That was all that mattered. Bly had helped them reclaim their world from the Commerce Guild, but only after several months of intense fighting with heavy casualties taken from both the local populace and the 327th. Besides being visually pleasing - they were carved from a copper-gold stone that matched his own paint, the blades were wickedly sharp and perfectly balanced. They were more than just a gift, and it would have been a waste to turn them over to MPCD for disposal as contraband.) A pair of gauntlets and a holster made of a matching leather and fabristeel, rather than the stark white plastoid he was used to, had already thoughtfully been provided so that he could arm himself. When he was done, he traced the vertical band of gold on his chest-plate one last time before shaking his head for his misplaced sentiment. He was, he scolded himself yet again, being ridiculous.

    It wasn’t like he hadn’t gone without his armor before, Bly continued his internal dialogue as he left the stateroom, because he had. But, he'd never worn civilian clothes before, and for the discomfort of the change he felt like he was stepping out into the lounge of the ship wearing nothing but his blacks. He could feel the attention of the Jedi shift to him, and had to refuse the initial instinct he had to duck his gaze away. Aayla, he noticed, had changed herself. She wore neither her battle leathers nor her more traditional Jedi robes, but instead a night-blue dress made out of a decorative, heavily textured material. The dress covered her from neck to wrists, but chevroned patterns in the fabric alternated between opaque embroidery and vaguely transparent lace, allowing tantalizing flashes of more intense blue flesh beneath. Matching boots with more of a heel than he’d ever seen on her before hugged her legs all the way up to her thighs, with only a thin strip of skin visible before the hem of her dress. She was almost fully covered – she wore considerably less on an active battlefield, at that – and yet he’d never seen his general dressed in a way that was so . . . so wholly and undeniably feminine.

    He was not, Bly firmly told himself, staring.

    “You clean up nicely, Commander,” T’ra approved in greeting, startling him from his thoughts. (For a moment, Aayla had been the only one in the room.) Somewhat guiltily, he tore his attention away from his general to focus on the elder Jedi Master as she openly evaluated him. Sitting next to her on the lounge's sofas, he still couldn’t help but notice, Aayla was carefully looking away. And he . . . he wasn't sure why he wanted her to look in the first place.

    “Thank-you, sir,” he was proud that he kept his voice level in reply to T’ra’s compliment. Even so, he was sure that the tips of his ears burned.

    T’ra’s mouth slowly drew up at the corners as she continued to observe him. Somehow, Bly knew, there was danger waiting in her smile. “Tell me,” she said next, “do you know how to dance?”

    “Uh . . . can I what, sir?” Bly stammered, somewhat dumbly.

    “Dancing, Commander,” T’ra repeated slowly – and he most certainly wasn’t imagining the sharp edge to her amusement then. “Do you know how?”

    “I,” he started, yet had to pause to collect himself. Stalwartly, he tried again, “I can’t say I’ve ever had the opportunity,” he finally managed. “So, um, . . . no, sir.”

    “Well then,” T’ra rose from her seat, “at least that gives us a blank slate to build upon.”

    “Sir?” Bly was smart enough to guess her intention, but he still hoped he was wrong. Though he’d never shied away from an enemy since that day as a cadet with Sergeant Tay’haai, he had to consciously keep himself from taking a physical step back from the diminutive Jedi as she approached.

    “All Jedi are taught the basics of the standard galactic dances,” T’ra said by way of explanation. “Before the war, especially, we served as peacekeepers and negotiators, first and foremost; we were diplomats and envoys of law and justice in the name of the Republic. Often, in the arena of politics especially, more battles are fought and won in the opulent halls of state from Coruscant to Bakura to Onderon than they are on the battlefield. If you are to follow Aayla into the palace of the Sheyf of Sheyfs, you must be properly armed.”

    His opinion must have shown on his face, no matter that he tried to keep his expression professionally neutral. T’ra laughed outright, a bright, musical sound that had the root-like tendrils swaying about her fluttering in delight. “Don’t look so apprehensive, Commander,” her assurance was, somehow, just as off-putting as General Grievous himself trumpeting out a war cry. “I have taught many before you, and I will undoubtedly guide many after.”

    Yes; he’d most definitely prefer to grapple with Grievous just then. He’d rather walk into a tinny ship unarmed and without backup, even. The Cuy’val Dar themselves had nothing on the petite, dangerously amused Jedi slowly advancing on him.

    “I’m not apprehensive, sir,” still, he felt the need to protest – especially as Vos snorted loudly from where he was lounging with his feet irreverently propped up on the communal table, “I’m just - ”

    “ - T’ra,” the Neti gently corrected him. Only there did her humor fade; her expression sobered as she met his gaze. “Please call me T’ra, Bly,” she used his chosen name as well. “You are a citizen of the Republic now, and, as such, you are equal to each one of your fellow citizens. There is no need for you to demur any longer."

    T’ra, he tried, but the syllables were seemingly stuck on his tongue; he couldn’t give them a voice. Bly exhaled, frustrated with himself, but was spared any further comment when General Kenobi mercifully – from a certain point of view, at least – switched on the ship’s audio system. The soft strains of an orchestral track filled the room, the song upbeat and lightly airy. With a smile and a wink, Obi-Wan gave an exaggerated bow to Nen Netl, who accepted his hand with a smile of her own. With a fluid motion, Obi-Wan pulled the girl to her feet and then into a dance. They moved in time with the music, swaying and spinning without seeming to move much at all. Bly watched them for a moment, dread settling in his gut as T’ra clapped her hands in time with the beat.

    “We will start,” she announced, “with the Chandrillan foxtrot – the classic of classics, and then we’ll go from there.” Bellying the encouraging cast of her words, her expression edged into more of a smirk, and she actually winked at him to say, “follow me, my young friend, and we’ll have you dancing the Zeltrosi tango in no time.”



    .

    .

    No matter her kindly demeanor and smiling countenance, Aayla knew from experience that T'ra could be the most exacting of task-masters – in many ways, Master Windu simply fit the mold he was cast from. She had a critical eye for detail and an infinite patience that was unique to the longer lived sentients of their galaxy. Yet Bly, no matter his clear discomfort, caught on quick to her instruction. Half of his progress could be attributed to T'ra, but the rest was due to Bly himself. Once you broke it down to the basics, dancing was simply another form of motion, and the clones were designed to be superior athletes in every way. For that, she'd long since thought, her commander was exemplary, even amongst his brothers.

    Not long into their lesson, Bly shucked his jacket as he built up a sweat from the exercise. Glancing up over the top of her datapad, she’d started to see the sleeveless design of the shirt he wore beneath. His arms were bare, leaving the swirling designs of tattoos on his shoulders and biceps – the same that banded all the way across his chest, she knew – visible. The metallic gold (the color that declared him hers) almost blended into the already tawny complexion of his skin, yet the ink glittered to catch the light and shone faintly iridescent in the shadows. (And there was plenty of contrast from light to dark playing in the highs and lows of his musculature.) He’d recently added to the design, as she knew he’d been considering but hadn’t known he’d actually followed through with. It'd been some time since she last saw him out of his armor, she hadn’t realized until he’d come out dressed like . . . like that; not that she was noticing, of course, not beyond a strictly objective viewpoint, and not -

    - are you sure you don’t want me to add blue this time, sir?” she remembered overhearing Moko – one of Bly’s demolitions experts and her battalion’s go-to inker – tease before she’d very carefully turned and walked in the opposite direction of her men. She hadn’t retreated – never that – but if no one noticed the tight curl of her lekku or the indigo flush undoubtedly darkening her skin for the implications of his words, well then, that was for the best.

    With a stern force of will, she put that thought aside – far aside – and tore her eyes from her Commander. She had work to do before they reached Kiffu, a thought that should have grounded her for all of its ominous forewarning. Yet the words on the datapad blurred together until they were nearly illegible to her eyes. She’d reread the last sentence a good three times, at least, and she still couldn’t register what it said.

    Goddess, she thought as she ignored Quinlan’s considering gaze – and the more pointed question churning in the usually still waters they both maintained of their old training bond – but she was in trouble.

    “No, no, no,”
    even so, she looked up again when T’ra sharply clapped her hands together, interrupting the flow of the music to chastise. “Remember, you are not marching, you are dancing. You are much too stiff – far too stiff!" The elder Jedi frowned for a moment before turning to her. "Aayla?” she called.

    The same as if she was still a youngling who'd been caught with her mind wandering when she should have been meditating, Aayla started. Dutifully, she sat up straighter. “Yes, Master?”

    “Here, please take my place,” T'ra waved a hand to summon her forward. “It will be easier this way.”

    Easier for whom? Aayla had to scuttle the thought before she said it aloud. Apparently, she wasn’t completely successful for the way Quinlan huffed next to her, the sound clearly disgruntled.

    There wasn't, her mind raced, any way she could avoid this without calling attention to everything that she was trying not to pay any mind to. So, summoning a feeling of poised tranquility and the stubborn determination to maintain it, she walked up to her commander. Bly flashed her a rueful expression as she stopped just in front of him, and, despite herself, she couldn’t help but smile back.

    “I can’t say I won’t step on your toes,” he forewarned. “I have to beg your pardon in advance.”

    “There’s nothing to forgive,” she assured him. “We’ll just take this one step at a time.”

    Even so, she hesitated to close the remaining distance between them. She accepted his hand when he offered and put her opposite hand on his shoulder, trying to ignore the warmth of his skin and the supple muscle she could feel shifting underneath her touch. Bly, she thought, drew in a breath before putting his left hand on her waist.

    “Closer,” T’ra crisply instructed, her command breaking through the tension of the moment. “Come now, Aayla, he doesn’t bite.”

    She acted as years of obedience to her masters had taught her, and reflexively took a step closer. With hardly any space then left between them, she could hear as he sucked in a shaky breath. If she but inclined her head, her nose would brush against where his pulse leaped in his neck. His hand on her waist scalded her, even through the fabric of her dress. They’d been closer than this before, she'd tried to tell herself, and with far less between them, at that – sparring alone eliminated any and all barriers, not to mention some of their more eventful days on campaign. Not that she was thinking about Bly shirtless and barefoot as he beat one contender after the next, just then, with those blacks almost just as bad as his bare skin as they clung to his hips and thighs. She certainly wasn’t thinking about that at all when he was so close to her, all delicious warmth and enticing musk and such heady Human pheromones filling her senses and dancing tantalizingly against her lekku until she felt light headed from his nearness. He was all the high of glitteryll without the fall, and she wanted nothing more than to breathe him in. She had to remind herself – again – that he didn’t even realize that he was calling to her, he couldn’t consciously regulate his biochemical reactions like her species could; he'd be mortified if he even knew what she was able to sense, at that, and it didn't matter that she all but ached to answer -

    - and that's enough of that. She hadn’t survived her training at the Temple by humoring her more base instincts, Aayla mercilessly willed away any and every thought and feeling that wasn't strictly becoming of her as a Knight of the Order. She was a Jedi Master and a General in the Grand Army of the Republic, she grit her teeth to focus, and she would act like it. She was a professional; she was dignified and poised; she was the kriffing embodiment of Jedi serenity, even. She could be stronger than herself, she could.

    After all, the thought was more a chilling dose of reality than any other, she knew the dangers of attachment better than most. She’d been ensnared in the mire of selfish possession and reckless vengeance before, and she’d long ago vowed to never let herself fall victim to such base emotions again. No matter what so many Jedi now thought themselves strong enough to triumph over and endure – like Knight Skywalker with his wife and children, or even Tholme and T'ra and their union – she knew better, at least for herself. The Dark was ever present just beyond the Light; it was patient, and it was hungry. Long ago, she'd vowed to never let it swallow her whole again.

    She’d only hurt herself – and Bly – if she indulged these thoughts any further. So, she held tighter to her sense of duty and resolve, she was determined to be strong enough for the both of them.

    “ - besides,” Aayla blinked to realize that T’ra had been speaking while she grappled with her thoughts and desires, “you two should get used to this. You will have a role to play upon reaching Kiffu, and you'll need to be convincing. Much more convincing, if you want Volfe to believe you are what and who you are pretending to be.”

    No matter her resolve, Aayla couldn’t help but think – again, that this mission was going to be the death of her.

    Then: “Ready?” Bly’s quiet murmur, so close to her ear-cone that she could feel him whisper, grounded her, anchoring her against the maelstrom of her thoughts. All right then, she exhaled deeply, choosing to focus on the here and now; she could do this. Tightly, she nodded.

    "I'm ready."

    They had moved onto the Alderaanian waltz, Aayla recognized from the tempo of the music – even before Obi-Wan and Netl started to dance. Just as she thought as much, she heard -

    “ - this is a waltz, Bly dear,” came T’ra’s wry instruction. “Your hand needs to be up higher.”

    Bly snatched his hand back from her waist as if burned, and then obediently corrected his stance. Aayla felt his hand settle low on her shoulder-blade, even as she mirrored his stance to complete the cradle required for the dance. “Sorry,” he whispered, his cheeks flaming.

    Aayla couldn’t keep herself from smiling if she tried. Perhaps she was a rare being in the galaxy to look upon such a perfectly designed specimen of war and think that he was absolutely adorable . . . but she did. “Please, do not be,” she assured him. “Dancing is supposed to be enjoyable, you know.”

    “So I’ve heard,” Bly flashed her that wry half-smile that she usually found so distracting, and it worked to steal her thoughts then as it always did. T’ra started to count in time with the music, and Aayla hardly registered beginning to move before she was.

    The steps of the Alderaanian waltz were deceiving in their simplicity – they were the same three steps for the leading and the following partner, only at twice the speed of the more traditional Galactic waltz. “One, two, three,” T’ra’s voice rang out, “two, two, three.”

    “Three, two, three,” Bly muttered under his breath, his brow furrowed in steely determination. “Four, two, three - ”

    “ - good, good. Now: contra check,” T’ra instructed. “Natural turn, and - ”

    But, Aayla obediently turned to her right even as Bly faltered to the left. There was a brief tangle as they tried to follow each other, their arms tugging against each other yet still intertwined. It was only a combination of Jedi grace and clone reflexes that kept them from stumbling and tripping outright as they tried to recover their footing again.

    “Sorry, sir, sorry,” Bly said – too quickly, much too quickly for Aayla’s taste. "I'll do better next time." He held himself stiffly, as if expecting a rebuke – or worse, even from her. It was a reaction she only saw but rarely from her commander, yet just the same then as each and every time before, she had to hold back a surge of righteous anger as it threatened to overtake her. Not for him, though – never for him. Instead, she still didn't know how Shaak had handled being stationed on Kamino and observing their methods for product development firsthand for so many years; Aayla knew herself, and she would not have been able to maintain her silence.

    “Do not be,” she said simply. She had to fight the instinct to let her arm slide from his shoulder to the back of his neck in a caress. The urge to sooth him, to provide comfort and peace, felt as natural to her as the lightsaber hanging from her hip. Yet . . . that was also why she held herself back. “It is much to learn at once.”

    “I’ll get this,” Bly only repeated, his voice low to promise. He wasn’t looking at her, Aayla noticed, but at Obi-Wan and Netl as they finished their set. His gaze was as focused as if he was studying intel for an upcoming battle, planning lines of assault and tactical contingencies from every angle. She could feel his determination tug against her own senses like a tide.

    “I do not doubt it,” Aayla agreed. Glancing over his shoulder, she met T’ra’s eyes. A moment of silent question passed, and then T’ra nodded.

    “Here,” she said as the music started again. “Let’s try something different.”

    "Yes, sir," Bly agreed, his brow furrowed as they took their positions again. As they began to move he continued to mutter, “one, two, three - ”

    “ - shh,” she hushed him, her voice close to his ear. “Just close your eyes, and dance.”

    He hesitated for only a fraction of a heartbeat, clearly bucking against his own instincts and what he interpreted as a command from her. Yet, he trusted her, and obediently closed his eyes as she bid. With a nod, he communicated his readiness, and then, together, they began to move. She knew he knew the steps – he was engineered with an impressively eidetic memory, after all, and, more importantly, he knew her. After years spent fighting together with life and death on the line, of learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses as well as they knew their own, finding a rhythm in order to dance was relatively simple when compared to navigating the discordant cacophony of a battlefield together.

    Beyond that, Aayla loved dancing. She enjoyed the freedom of movement, and how she felt beautiful and confident and exuberant as she moved in time to the music. For her, personifying the emotion of any given song was similar to the way she felt when channeling the living Force from the wider world around her. A part of her wanted to share that experience with Bly – something that was done purely for self-expression and joy, rather than a skill learned solely to shape him further into the weapon he was initially created to be. He was so much more than that, however; life was so much more than war and its waging.

    At first, their steps were still somewhat stilted as they found their stride. Bly was thinking too hard, still. He was trying to contextualize art the same way as would break down schematics from a manual to better understand. But after one pass through the basic sequence, and then another, Aayla felt as he relaxed. His body recognized hers, and they fell into a rhythm together. They passed through the steps successfully once, and then twice. Running weaves and tumble turns and hinge lines – and even a ronde or two on her part – came next without conscious thought, embellishing the standard pattern of the dance as they grew in confidence together.

    Before she knew it, her eyes fell closed too as she allowed herself to simply enjoy the moment. She cleared her mind until there wasn’t the weight of her past or the uncertainties of the future pressing down against her. She could forget the menacing presence of Volfe – an ever constant reminder of the worst parts of her own nature, just as she could push aside the way Quinlan’s shadow continuously tugged at her own, ever grappling between the darkness and the light. Instead, she was just she, herself . . . and, with her, there was Bly.

    Eventually, the song came to an end, and they slowed to hold their final position as the last notes of the music faded away. Obi-Wan and Netl came to a stop just beside them, each sharing encouraging smiles. They'd done it – they'd successfully gone through the entire set without mishap. Aayla blinked to awareness in time to see Bly do the same. He too was smiling, she saw – not the sharp, wry grin that was his usual standard, but that softly joyed, wonderous expression that she only saw every once in a while, whenever he experienced something new for the first, something that should have been commonplace and second-nature to him, but yet was not. His smile only grew as he met her eyes. The gold dashes highlighting his cheekbones lifted, and, Goddess help her, but there went his dimples. Aayla found herself powerless to return his look with a smile of her own; her heart felt painfully light and fluttering in her chest.

    “Beautiful,” T’ra approved, clapping her hands once. "You two are natural together." Obi-Wan and Netl applauded outright for them, as did Tholme from where he was standing off to the side of the lounge, observing all the while. Vos, for his part, merely rolled his eyes, but even he didn’t have anything negative to say to the contrary.

    “With that,” yet the Neti Jedi was not one to let them rest on their achievement for long, “I believe that you're ready for something a little bit more complex – the Rylothian rumba, perhaps? Aayla, I believe this dance is one that, in particular, you excel at. Would you mind terribly much staying on as Bly’s partner?”

    Only years of strict discipline and a carefully developed mask of stoicism kept Aayla from groaning outright. This mission, she thought – not for the first time, and certainly not for the last – was determined to be her undoing.



    TBC





    End Notes:
    How many romcom-tastic tropes will I get into this story before it ends? Let's see if we can find out . . .[face_whistling] [face_laugh] [face_mischief]

    Thanks for reading, all! I hope that you enjoyed that very self-indulgent chapter as much as I did writing it. ;) [face_love] [:D]


    ~ MJ @};-
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2021
  10. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    Yaaaaassss!

    More thoughts when I have a bit more time, but I loved this! [face_love] You're so great at describing the motions of dancing. *takes notes* *side-eyes a certain fic*

    Edit: Okay, so I'm really impressed with all the details about things like the types of dances and the differences between them, and just the general description of the movements inherent to each. (You put my research to shame. :p) And then of course how could I not enjoy the awkward first dance attempt that is so romcom... even though Bly and Aayla figured it out by the end. :D

    I really love this whole description for a couple of reasons. One, because it's a way of showing Bly's particular brand of individuality and that he views those knives as a connection to the Felucians that he helped liberate from the Separatists. But also? Because we all know what would have happened on Felucia in another world, and this was a subtle reminder of the pain and suffering that was averted in this one. :(

    Not staring, hmmm? [face_batting]

    I always approve of the Jedi getting to wear some other types of clothes for once, yeesh. :p

    Aw, Bly. =((

    This is a great bit of worldbuilding here! And it makes total sense. So really, we should be seeing even more stories about Jedi attending grand balls and such? Because that's what I'm getting from this paragraph. [face_batting]

    I see what you did there. [face_mischief]

    Aw, Aayla being so proud of her man... I mean, commander. [face_whistling]

    Force bond! I like this exploration of how it feels to tap into a bond that is no longer "active" so to speak. Not that it ever goes away, but that it lies almost-but-not-quite dormant... "usually still waters" like you said.

    Fascinating exploration of the differences in their species, with details I wouldn't even have considered before I began reading your fics! And it does add an interesting spin to the typical romcom story, because Aayla clearly does know that Bly is attracted to her. But I like how Aayla has to remind herself that Bly's experiences are different than hers. Great details!

    I LOLed at "kriffing embodiment of Jedi serenity". [face_laugh] Yep, no frustration there, that's for sure. :p

    =(( This poor woman. I get why she'd feel this way, but still.

    They're both adorable, honestly. [face_love] (And more dance details! I need to pay more attention to this stuff!)

    More dance details! And this one I can actually picture pretty clearly, since the waltz was probably the style I researched most for that certain fic... and by research I mean reading on wikipedia. :p Hm, maybe I should have watched more dance videos... [face_thinking]

    I want to see these dances in live-action SW now. Make it happen, Disney.

    This is a great observation! And very eloquently expressed. :D

    That's really what it's all about with the clones and their journeys, isn't it? Learning to live their lives beyond the narrow confines of the role that they were created for, and to live fully, experiencing art and fun and love and all the things that make life worth living. [face_love]

    I can think of no one else who tells their stories as well as you do. =D=

    Wow, that was just some beautiful imagery right there, and lovely prose. Aayla and Bly, just themselves, together.

    Aaaaand now I want more, Mira. [face_batting] ;) I can't wait for the mission to start and for things to get really interesting for our characters. [face_mischief]
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2021
  11. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Delicious! I loved every wonderful detail of the dance and how Aayla and Bly are so not reacting to each other =D= [face_love]
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2021
  12. Findswoman

    Findswoman WIP Month Champion and Hostess Extraordinaire star 5 VIP - Game Winner

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Ah, you and these Jedi-Clone romances--always such a treat! [face_love] Throw in some good ol' fake dating, ballroom dancing, the Mira lyricism, and fold in with a dangerous and intriguing mission, and what a scrumptious treat you've got. :) This mission is definitely very serious business if an Anzati is involved--and especially one to whom Aayla has personal ties of a sort, and who (if I read things aright) is part and parcel of a personal vendetta she has against Quinlan for the death of her uncle Pol--what a fraught situation! But I don't think Aayla could ask for anyone better than Bly by her side on this mission--for numerous reasons, of course! :D Ah, that dear fellow--constantly feeling the pull between his "programming" (I guess one could call it) and his real, true feelings of love for Aayla, and just as constantly trying to stuff the latter. Of course, she is doing the same thing, and the dancing in chapter 2 really comes to symbolize the dance they're doing around each other and their own feelings! I have an inkling that their spectators--T'ra, Obi-Wan, and Nen--can pick up on it, too. (Count me in with those who are curious about Nen, especially given what I seem to be reading about her in people's comments! :eek: I'll be following her with interest, for sure!)

    Romance burgeoning on a dangerous mission, with the keen, finely limned characterization at which you're such an ace--you bet I am looking forward to more! =D=
     
  13. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Dang, the sexual tension between those two is so thick you could cut it with a knife!
     
  14. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 9, 2002
    lolol :p

    Whhhaaaaaaaa :eek: I was texting Vi as I was trying to figure this out and now I have more plot bunnies and I blame both of you [face_not_talking] Anyway, yeah, wasn't expecting a Yuuzhan Vong in this story [face_hypnotized]

    This is very well expressed; yet another practical aspect of being a clone that I'd never thought of [face_thinking]

    I can hear Obi-Wan saying exactly this :D

    Uh-huh :p

    I firmly approve of this and think there need to be more ballroom scenes in SW, and not only because I like finding fancy dresses for the characters [face_batting]
     
  15. pronker

    pronker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jan 28, 2007
    SQUEEEEE! Not only did the "infodump" rejuvenate the ol' Republic comics love, but the inclusion of Tholme and T'ra ... *goes speechless before reading on*

    I'll just bet he does. :)

    Excellent act that solves so, so much ...

    I always thought Tholme was drawn to resemble [face_laugh] Billy Bob Thornton![face_laugh]

    She is uniquely drawn and now described.[face_alien]

    They all know each other so well.

    Lovely ...@};-
     
  16. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Well, my original plan was for this story to be finished by now, but . . . April, you guys. It turned crazy. 8-}

    But I finally have the next update written and ready to share! First, though, I have some replies to your absolutely wonderful feedback. [:D]


    Aw, thank-you! And, that certain fic came out marvelous itself. [face_mischief] ;) [face_love]

    I am WEAK when it comes to dance scenes, weak I tell you! Especially when it involves two pining idiots who are definitely not in denial. Hello there, romcom tropes, but we are going to be friends this story. Yes indeed we are. :p

    That description was so indulgent on my part, so I'm glad it stuck out to you too. Because Order 66, what Order 66? Not in my house, there's not. [face_whistling]

    Not staring at all, just noticing on a purely professional level, our Bly is. [face_mischief] [face_laugh]

    And yeeees. I second your approval of Jedi getting to wear different types of clothes. (And I won't even get into how ridiculous Aayla's primary design is for battle. Sheesh, Lucas, but you're such a guy sometimes.) Needless to say, I have a whole lineup of fancy space-clothes coming up that I can't wait to share. Can't wait!

    Heck yeah that's exactly what that means. All of the fancy dresses and fancy dances, for everyone! [face_mischief]

    Such lines with Obi-Wan really just write themselves! [face_laugh]

    [face_laugh] [face_whistling]

    Force bonds! :D You know that I love everything to do with these magical space wizards, and Quinlan and Aayla are such an interesting case to explore. There's such a deep love between them, but they've also been at odds more than once and have each hurt each other deeply. Their "usually still waters" are always going to be a wee bit turbulent as a result. But of course Quinlan is going to notice Aayla's noticing. And he's not going to approve at all. :p

    Somewhere in the background, Kit Fisto is having a field day with this, I tell you. [face_laugh] [face_mischief]

    I love the idea of humans being as fascinating to other species as other species are to humans. Especially with how Twi'leks and others of the like are oftentimes objectified, in-universe and without. And non-human worldbuilding is half the fun of writing in a sci-fi fandom!

    Then, as much as I love a side of denial with my mutual pining (NYaH is going to be the death of me, I swear, sometimes slow burns are the worst), it really was all sorts of fascinating to explore something a bit different here. After so many years together, how could Aayla not know? And of course she's self aware enough to realize her feelings in return. The tenson is all the more rife between them now with the reformations in the Jedi Order and Bly being a free citizen, but she's still holding herself back due to her previous encounters with the Dark Side. It really is interesting to take a Jedi who truly believes in the rules of non-attachment and have them come face to face with love and the possibility of a meaningful, lasting relationship. Needless to say, I'm having a bit of fun here at Bly and Aayla's expense. [face_mischief]

    Have I mentioned that I love giving our Jedi ladies all of the personality? I had a hoot including that line. [face_laugh] (Also, I was in deep with my Lore Olympus reread at the time, and I so had Persephone shrieking that she was the freaking Goddess of Spring in reply to Hades' daring to call her melancholy fresh in mind. Of course she obviously has to be happy. :p)

    Riiiight? Poor Aayla - she's not that same eighteen-year-old kid with no memories, all but drowning in the Force with her confusion and her hurt and her anger. But, at the same time, people died due to her giving into her darker emotions, and she's never going to put innocents in that position again if she can help it. In a way, this is her own form of self-imposed penance as much as it is a very real respect for her own power and the power of the Dark Side. [face_plain]

    Anyway, it's very interesting writing Aayla in this mindset as opposed to, say, Anakin in similar circumstances. As much as I love our very own trash king otherwise. :p

    SO ADORABLE, VI! Honestly, they kill me dead. [face_love]

    Oh yay! I'm not going to lie: I was totally faking it with these details, so I'm glad they came across clear and easy to envision. (And just you wait for the honest to goodness actual ballroom scenes I have coming up. Mmmhmm, Disney doesn't know just what it's missing out on. Though there's still time for them to fix that, I agree. [face_mischief])

    Thank-you! I loved writing that paragraph. :D

    Aw, thanks! Sometimes I worry about sounding like a broken record with these stories. But then, there's a reason why the science fiction genre as a whole is so riffe with characters - from androids to robots to clones to mixed human characters like Spock - discovering their own unique identities and learning what it is to be human. There's something so relatable and powerful in those storylines, and I really do love exploring my own variations on those themes. [face_love]

    Plus, from Republic Commando to TCW, if SW didn't want me to be so invested in all of these dear boys, they should have wrote them different! [face_laugh]

    Thank-you. [face_blush] I adored writing that part, especially from Aayla's point of view. [face_love]

    Oh so interesting. [face_mischief] Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride, because don't I have plans for these two. ;)

    As always, I can't thank you enough for your kind words and wonderful comments! Reading them always makes my day! :D [face_dancing] [face_love] [:D]


    So not reacting to each other, of course! [face_laugh] [face_love]

    I'm thrilled to hear that you are enjoying this story, and can't wait to share more! [:D]


    Ha! A part of me worries about droning on and sounding repetitive and predictable with these stories, but I really just love all of these dear characters and am all too happy to hand out a happy ending or two in defiance of canon. Especially when the OTP thread keeps on coming up with so many wonderful challenges. ;) [face_love]

    Aw, thanks. [face_blush]

    Yeah, it's no walk in the park our two are up against - as if it ever is! Volfe and Aayla do indeed go way back, you read right. He used her as a tool when she was amnesiac and mistakenly looking for vengeance against Quinlan (which she has long since recovered from - as much as she can, anyway), and it's going to be . . . rough, to say the least, for Aayla to confront both him and her own demons again. But she has the best partner and support team she could ask for going into this mission, you're too right. [face_love]

    A dance really is the best way to describe it, isn't it? These absolute darlings. They are trying so hard to be Professional and Do the Right Thing, but they'll figure it out. [face_love]

    Ha! I bet they can too. :p

    And yay! I'm glad to hear you're curious about Netl! She's a character who rather sneaked up on me, but now there is just so much potential to explore. So much. In both this story and those to come. [face_thinking]

    As always, your kind words completely made my day when I first read them! I am thrilled to hear that you are enjoying this story so far, and hope that you continue to enjoy it as it goes! [face_love] [:D]


    Seriously, but is it painful! I really am being so mean to these characters, aren't I? [face_mischief] [face_laugh]


    I couldn't resist with that line. [face_laugh] But then Cody can pretend to be long-suffering all he wants. I still remember the time in TCW when Cody thought it was a good idea to jump on General Grievous' back to wrestle him down AFTER PUNCHING HIM IN THE FACE, and his men just followed him and joined in the dog-pile without a care for the four flashing lightsabers. I think Obi-Wan almost had a heart attack for that one. o_O In short: all of these dorks are just so extra. :p

    I WASN'T EXPECTING IT EITHER!!! I blame it on Vi - talking about how Anakin Skywalker vs. the Yuuzhan Vong would go in this 'verse and in EtF, too, and now . . . well, I have to set up my groundwork. [face_mischief] ;)

    Thanks! I just love exploring these characters and their world to pieces. [face_love]

    Not gonna lie: I had Obi-Wan join this mission for the sole purpose of saying that line. [face_laugh]

    Bly is so professionally not trying to swim against the current of the good ol' Nile. :p

    Heck yeah there do! We need all of the fancy dresses and all of the fancy dances, and where the pro!writers have slacked it's always wonderful to jump in and pick up the pieces as a writer. [face_mischief]

    Thank you so much for your wonderful comments! I hope you continue to enjoy this story as it goes! :D [face_dancing] [:D]



    Yay! Another Tholme/T'ra fan. Oh but this story was so nostalgic to write, in more ways than one. [face_love]

    The entire Skywalker-Tano-Kenobi trio was just an absolute nightmare for their clones, I can bet! But: as if Cody and Rex were much better themselves, no matter how much they'd like to pretend to be. :p

    Right? There was a reason Palpatine was able to tear the Republic down in just a decade or two, after all . . . [face_plain]

    [face_laugh] Then, erm, a regal and graceful Billy Bob Thornton. :p

    I LOVED bringing T'ra to life here, so to speak. She has one of my favorite non-human designs in SW. [face_love]

    So well. [face_love]

    THESE TWO! They're gonna be the death of me, I swear. [face_love]

    Thank-you so much for your kind words! I hope that you continue to enjoy the story as it goes. [face_love] [:D]



    Alrighty! I have the next chapter written - and to no one's surprise I had to cut it into two parts when it got too long. So I technically have the next two parts written. 8-} I will hopefully have that up sometime today or tomorrow after I edit out a pesky typo or two. Or ten. :p

    Until then, I can't thank you all enough for your feedback and support! You guys are gems, every last one of you. [:D]


    ~MJ @};-

     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2021
  17. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    III

    When they reached Thyferra, the last major system en route to Kiffu, Bly and Aayla left their group behind to take civilian transportation the rest of the way. They couldn’t be too careful, and if they were seen arriving with T’ra there would be questions; questions that could potentially endanger the successful outcome of their mission if asked.

    The spaceport in Thyff city was bustling and noisy. Here, away from his battalion and without any of the visible trappings of a clone trooper, Bly was just another face among many. He hadn’t realized just how much civilians had gone out of their way to avoid him before. His helmeted stare and white plated armor could part the crowds like a tide, even when he wasn’t on active duty. Yet in this dense throng of sentients, shoulders brushed with shoulders and harried passengers had no qualms about dashing in front of each other if it meant making their connection on time. More than once he’d had to step out of the way, instinctively sticking to Aayla’s side to cover her even when there was no immediate battle for them to fight.

    When they reached their gate they had to stand due to the unavailability of seats. Bly didn’t mind too much; he had energy enough to spare and standing afforded him a better view of his surroundings. Even so, he glared at a rude young Kuati man who had two chairs claimed for his luggage and the three different datapad screens he was cycling though. But the kid was plugged in and tuned out in as prime an example of Deep Core entitlement as there ever could be, and didn't notice. When Bly caught Aayla’s eye she just sighed and shook her head, clearly of the same mind.

    “I thought our pods were bad,” Bly couldn’t help but mutter when they finally took their seats aboard the starliner. Stowing their luggage in the overhead bins was a trick, but he managed. “I can’t believe people actually pay for this.”

    The regional jump between Thyferra and Kiffu – relatively speaking on the galactic scale, of course – meant that there were no staterooms aboard the ship, only seats. Even in their upgraded cabin there was hardly any space between one row and the next. His knees almost touched the seat in front of him, and he was of average height for a baseline Human; he could only imagine how the Ithorian family he’d seen at the gate was faring further back on the ship. Looking around the tight quarters, Bly was uncomfortably reminded of the way the Kaminoans stacked them in pods, twelve high by twelve long in semi-stasis, when they were first delivered to the GAR for deployment. There wasn’t a single one of the vod’e who didn’t loathe those transport ships, but they hadn’t had any choice in the matter. This, however . . .

    Aayla flashed him a small, rueful smile, her eyes bright with that unique gleam they took whenever he experienced something new for the first time. Her amusement only grew when a protocol droid colored with the starline’s livery stopped to offer them pre-departure beverages and he faltered to answer on the spot. He wasn’t used to having his preference asked outright about anything, and he could have kicked himself for his floundering. Nothing said shiny more than him dumbly gaping at the most innocuous of questions – especially when compared to the Kuati kid sitting in the row in front of them, who had imperiously grilled the attendant droid about the vintages of wine stocked onboard and then complained aloud to his companion about the shortcomings of commercial transportation when the answers weren't to his liking.

    Aayla, thankfully, took pity on him and told the droid that water was fine. She didn’t say anything further as to his lapse, for which he was grateful. His ears were already burning enough as it was.

    His flush only deepened when she reached over to cover his hand on the armrests between their seats. She too had noticed the Kuati’s rudeness, and, gently, she squeezed. The distraction worked as intended: Bly had a hard time focusing on anything other than the duality of softness and strength in her touch. She had calluses from a lifetime spent wielding a sword, and a long, winding scar bisected her palm in a slightly upraised texture from the smoothness of her skin. She'd earned that particular memento from the war when she’d pulled a vibro-wire free from where it had been strangling Trig during that awful campaign on Honoghr. The ruin of her hand had been nothing compared to one of her men losing his head, she’d argued, and Bly had only been half-heartedly able to ask her to wait for the damn medic next time as he wrapped her wounds as best he could without any bacta. She'd held the high-ground during that round, and she knew it.

    There was no reason for her to be touching him, he thought next. Though their ruse had technically begun, who was there to see them now? Maybe it was for the sake of acclimation, he tried to reason. Better to get any awkwardness out of the way now, before their charade started in earnest. Yet, beyond the surprise of novelty, there was nothing awkward to acclimate to – which was unsettling enough in its own right for all of its inherent implications. Instead, he felt as if he could never get his fill of touching her, even for something as simple as holding her hand. The number of sentient beings who’d touched him without violence or in clinical inspection throughout his life was depressingly limited – a thump on the back, a helpful hand up, or even an embrace from his brothers was one thing, but this . . . this was Aayla. That changed everything.

    Bly held his breath, trying to ignore the urge he had to turn his hand over so that he could trace the line of her knuckles . . . the fine bones of her fingers and the softness of her palm. Instead, he gripped the armrest and tried to scuttle the parched, yearning impulse from deep inside of him that never wanted to let her go.

    The flight was short, and before he knew it they were descending through Kiffu’s atmosphere. The approach, he had to admit, was stunning in its novelty. Kiffu was close enough to its sister planet, Kiffex, that the two shared a single orbit around their sun. Every rotation at the Mingling the two passed close enough to one another that vibrant electrical storms played in the grazing of their magnetospheres. Bly had never seen a binary planetary system outside of his flash-training, and the golden face of Kiffex looming large and imposing in the bright mid-morning sky over Kiffu’s primary continent was mesmerizing to see for the first.

    Besides its frozen poles, the majority of Kiffu was arid and temperate, with coastal regions that were both warmer and cooler by season in their turn. They flew over vast shrub-lands and rugged mountains of pale yellow stone capped with snow, all interspersed by forests and farmlands in the valleys between the rolling hills. The close proximity of Kiffex meant that the tides on Kiffu were wild and dramatic, and the shapes of the water-masses were in constant flux. Now at low tide, the gem-like blue of the Saiferu Sea sparkled underneath both the natural sunlight and the reflected glow emanating from Kiffex. Islands rose from the water in dramatic formations from the mercurial nature of the water that carved their shorelines. Some of the atolls were hardly more than barren ridges rising from the sea, while other islands were large enough to support mountain ranges and dense forests of their own in a mirror of the mainland.

    The largest of the land masses he’d yet to see then came into view: Krete, the ancient seat of power for Clan Vos and the long-held capital of the planet. The majority of the island’s coastline was composed of rugged white cliffs that plunged into the sea, where mighty waves crashed and foamed. Here and there were sandy coves and calm bays carved into the shoreline, but those natural harbors were few and far between. The backbone of the massive island was formed by a triptych range of dormant volcanic mountains. Aigaion, Idaea, Kaspros; he found the three interlocking chains, each dominated by their own snowy peaks, woodland valleys, and farm studded plateaus. The city of Krete itself was built from the same yellow-white stone of the mountains. Long and flat roofs dominated most of the architecture, punctuated by stylized domes and all supported by massive columns painted in bright pops of vivid color. The city clung to the cliffs and followed the steep dips and rises in the hills of the coastline. One building seemingly pilled on top of the next as winding roadways and switchbacks separated one zone from another in a construction that was elegant as it was necessary. Although he’d seen dozens of planets since his deployment – a hundred of them, even – Bly could admit that there was something about the drama of Kiffu that was especially beautiful, even when just glimpsed from the air.

    . . . not that he’d ever tell Vos that, of course.

    Yet while he stared out the window, awestruck, Aayla’s hand tensed over his. He glanced over, wanting to make sure that he wasn’t hogging the view. But his general wasn't as taken by the scenery as he was. Instead, her eyes were closed and her breathing was tight and shallow. Their years together let him know when she was listening to the Force – drowning in its call, even, it now seemed. He didn’t say anything aloud, but he did turn his hand over to return her grip pressure for pressure. He’d never envied her power; he could only begin to understand her connection to the unspoken and intangible of the wider universe around them. Yet in that moment he wished that he was more like her Jedi comrades if only so he could absorb a fraction of the burdens she so clearly bore. He’d seen Vos offer her a spiritual shoulder to lean on before – General Tholme and General Fisto, too; just as he’d seen her do the same for her fellow Jedi. But, in this way, he was useless to her.

    Not wholly useless, though, he reminded himself when he felt Aayla squeeze his hand in return. After all, it wasn’t a Jedi who could follow her on this mission. In their stead he’d just have to figure out how to be all the back-up she required. He wouldn't fail his general when she needed him.

    He waited until she exhaled, loosing a deep breath before inhaling again, only somewhat more steadily. Her eyes fluttered open, but her gaze remained distant and troubled. He wasn't sure how present she was there with him, and how much of her was still lost into the incorporeal in a way that he would never completely understand.

    “Aayla?” finally, he whispered. It felt odd to use her given name – a stolen, guilty thrill – but he couldn’t very well call her general or sir then. Any other . . . endearment he could have used didn’t feel quite right, either.

    But for hearing him her gaze sharpened; her eyes focused. She frowned for her thoughts, still clearly troubled, but he felt as she returned to the here and now.

    “He knows I’m here,” was all she said. For her words, it was then Bly’s turn to stiffen. He didn’t say anything aloud in reply, instead only nodding in an affirmative. But he held her hand all the more tightly before he consciously realized his actions. She, for her part, did not let go.

    They spent the rest of the landing and deboarding in silence. Krete's spaceport was built away from the island out on the water. It was a massive structure supported on high stilts to counter the turbulence of the tides in a way that, for a moment, reminded Bly of Kamino. But here the sunlight was impossibly bright, magnified by the orb of Kiffex overhead and then refracting off the jeweled tones of the water beneath them. Between the white stone columns dominating the construction of the spaceport, the permaglass walkways were transparent, offering them a view into the undersea world below. Amazingly, Bly could pick out colorful fish and even structures of a vibrant coral reef in the currently shallow tidal waters. Trying to swim on Kamino meant taking your chances with anything from a school of arcuuda, at best, to a giant angler-squid, at worst – and that was if the ocean currents didn’t drown you first. This, however, was captivating in its beauty . . . inviting, even.

    Only belatedly did he realize that he'd stopped in the middle of the crowded throughway to look down and stare. But he couldn’t bring himself to tear his eyes away, not even for the disgruntled huffs and glares of those who had to walk around him. When he did look up, it was only to make sure that Aayla could see what he saw too.

    “There, uh, there are fish,” he faltered to explain. He couldn't manage to express the whole of his wonderment, with so many foreign words all crowding together in his mouth and trying to form at once. "It . . . it's nice."

    “Krete has amazing options for diving,” Aayla watched him for a long moment before agreeing. “Perhaps we can find a bit of time to explore after we’ve achieved our goals.”

    She didn’t say mission or assignment, but the lingering pall in her gaze spoke volumes. Even her soft smile for his gapping at the reef wasn’t enough to push back the shadow so clearly reaching out to ensnare her.

    “Soon, then,” he allowed himself to say in reply, and her smile edged closer to reaching her eyes. That little bit, he allowed himself, felt like a victory.

    “Soon, yes,” she agreed, the low determination in her voice then more like what he was used to from his general. There was his Jedi, he thought; there wasn’t anything that Volfe could do that could take that away.

    With that, Bly knew they had to be going. From the spaceport they took the over-water tram to the island. Aalya lingered close to him, pressed against his side until her head nearly rested on his shoulder. It was just the logistics of space, Bly sternly told himself. The tram was crowded, and there was as much space between them as there was the Fondorian business woman who was issuing orders into her comlink at his back and the trio of Guardians to their left. Even the tell-tale gold star insignia they wore and the markings of Clan Vos striped across their faces didn’t earn them any extra space, but they bore it good-naturedly as they chatted with a pair of uniformed pilots from the starlines who were at the end of their shift.

    If he stepped just the slightest bit closer to Aayla, then that was only to better avoid the increasingly heated conversation the Fondorian woman was having just behind him. He didn’t want to be jabbed by her elbow again.

    The accommodations T'ra had booked for their stay were at the heart of the city center, near to where the imposing structure of the Sheyf’s palace sat atop the highest point of Vrea’s Hill. Bly hesitated just inside the gilded doors of the Kosemme Suites and Spa, immediately feeling as if he was somewhere he didn’t belong. All around him were sentient beings in rich clothes, their heads held imperiously high and radiating auras of wealth and power. The hotel itself was built in a way that extolled luxury and affluence. The architecture was primarily composed of bright white lines that glowed to reflect the brilliance of the sun and the sea, both of which were clearly visible from the massive windows and promenade of columns that encapsulated the space. Mosaics of blue and gold swirled in elaborate patterns underfoot, and detailed frescoes were nestled between every white arch and beam of the cavernous atrium. He could hear the sound of falling water from somewhere within the massive planters of tropical foliage, and faint strains of delicate music filled the air.

    Taking in the decedent opulence dripping from every detail, Bly wished – yet again – that he was wearing his armor. This felt like a battlefield, in every way, one for which he was inadequately armed to combat. But Aayla walked forward with her head held high, commanding her surroundings then just the same as she ever did. Where she went, it was instinct to follow – even if it still felt somewhat surreal to walk arm in arm next to her, rather than just behind and guarding her side. But, at the very least, it was second nature to fall into step with her and match her stride.

    As they approached the front desk, it took Bly a moment to realize that the, “How may I help you today, good sir?” from the concierge was directed at him.

    Inwardly, he froze, but a lifetime’s training to suppress his reflexes and control his reactions served him as well then as it always did. He didn’t like how the Kiffar behind the counter automatically assumed to address him, hardly even glancing at Aayla by his side. Here, Bly could well imagine, among the wealthy and elite, a beautiful Twi’lek woman on the arm of a Human man usually only meant one thing.

    His jaw tightened, even as he smoothly turned to Aayla and gestured her forward. “Cyar’ika?” he looked to her, making it clear that she was no prop, no ornament. If anything, it was he who was honored to be there with her.

    Still: cyar’ika, he’d called her. He hadn’t meant to let that slip – hadn’t even considered the term of endearment and all that it entailed before giving his heart a voice. He felt his face flush as Aayla tilted her head for the word, recognizing the sound of Mando’a and yet not understanding its meaning.

    But she wasn’t able to indulge her curiosity then – for which Bly was grateful. Instead, she stepped up to the counter to check them in, gracefully commanding the attention of the concierge without a word said aloud, and that was that.

    Their room was just as opulent as the rest of the hotel. At first he stopped just within the door, stunned by what he saw. Surely this couldn’t be right? There was just so much . . . so much space. This one room could fit Cherek Company’s entire barrack from aboard the Superior. The ‘fresher alone attached to the suite was twice as big as the private bunk he had as commander of the 327th, even. The walls of the suite were built out of the same glowing white stone as the rest of the hotel, with continuing mosaics on the floor covered by thick, plush rugs. More floor to ceiling windows let in a spectacular view of the surrounding Saiferu Sea. The hotel sat high enough on Vrea’s hill so that there were no other buildings in their line of sight, only endless, glittering waves and the faint impression of far off islands in the distance. The room’s best feature, in his eyes at least, was the generous balcony, supported by yet more columns and then open to the air with a private pool all their own. Inside, there was a circle of couches in a sitting area, and the one wall that wasn't open to the windows was covered by a tinkling cascade of water over the rough hewn stone. It was . . . indulgent, in every sense of the word.

    “T’ra didn’t have to do this,” Aayla shook her head with a fond huff as she walked into the room, as easy in the lavish abundance of her surroundings as she was any backwater world in the Outer Rim. “A fraction of these accommodations would have sufficed.”

    For himself, Bly agreed. His general, though, deserved every good thing the galaxy could offer after the long, harrowing years of the Secession Crisis and then some. She . . . she matched the beauty surrounding her, with all the bright sunlight and the mesmerizing expanse of the sparkling sea. That thought, however, he didn’t dare say aloud.

    He couldn’t say much of anything, at that, when he finally tore his eyes away from the view – and the vision of Aayla framed by that view – and noticed the room’s singularly defining feature.

    There was only one bed.

    Granted, it was a massive bed – with more space than even two people could ever need, and nested with a luxurious comforter and indulgent looking pillows in all shapes and sizes. Of course there wouldn't be two beds, not with their ruse and the obvious assumptions that came with it. There was, he tried to tell himself, more than enough room to keep a perfectly respectable distance from each other if they so chose. He'd slept closer to his general than that before, even – battlefields didn't exactly give a care for propriety and needs must simply were what they were while on campaign. And yet, this . . . this . . .

    It was just different.

    Get your head out of your shebs, trooper, Bly sternly ordered himself. The couch would be plenty comfortable enough – undoubtedly more so than anywhere else he’d ever slept before, even. He didn’t know why he was focusing on this. He had no reason to be thinking any of the thoughts he was then daring to . . . well, to think.

    Fett help him, but that was enough of that.

    “What next, sir?” grasping for the comfortable familiarity of rank, he snapped to attention before relaxing into an exacting parade rest, his hands clasped behind his back and his head raised, ready for her orders. His doing so was . . . necessarily, he felt. Crucial, even.

    Aayla, however, simply looked at him without speaking. (For a moment, he thought to observe but then immediately scuttled the thought, Aayla had been looking at the bed too, her expression unreadable.) He watched now as she considered and discarded a dozen words before finally saying, “You must remember not to address me so formally in the presence of others, Bly.”

    He could see the question in her eyes. Cyar’ika, he’d let slip earlier. It had been so easy to call her such – too easy. Only, once he started indulging that habit, he wasn’t exactly sure how he would ever be able to stop.

    “What’s next?” he asked again. “ . . . Aayla.” He shaped the rolling syllables of her name carefully. The sound was beautiful, he had long since thought, and speaking it then felt somewhat stolen, somewhat forbidden. “Aayla,” he tried a second time – wanting to sound less like the rasping sigh of a love-sick fool and matter-of-fact and professional, like he’d always had the right to call her by her name. He managed something of a strong voice with that attempt, but only just. He forced himself to meet her eyes, and this time did not so demurely look away.

    Which was why he saw when she closed her own eyes and sucked in a small breath, one that shuddered before she slowly released it. Was this, he couldn’t bring himself to understand what his senses were telling him, somehow as difficult for her as it was for him? He didn’t see how, and he was clueless to interpret the suddenly tight coil at the end of her lekku or the rich indigo flush that had stolen over their swaying length. There was no way he could ask her, either – normally he didn’t have to search for bravery, but this, he somehow knew, was something he couldn’t yet manage.

    “Aayla?” instead, her name turned to a question. Even he didn't know what exactly it was that he was asking.

    But it did the trick. Her eyes snapped open, and she blinked. Her jaw squared, even as her lekku twitched before losing that strange sort of tension they'd held. “Yes, perfect,” she said, every inch the cool and collected Jedi again no matter that somehow – somehow he instinctively knew that, for a moment, she'd been anything but.

    From there, he didn’t have to wait for her orders. “Volfe has sensed me,” Aayla said, blunt and forthright to bring them back to the mission at hand. For the reminder of their purpose, Bly felt his own gaze narrow and focus. “So I will give him an opportunity to find me. What do you say for going out and seeing the sights? The Old City of Krete is of particular interest for those who have not seen it before.”

    And that was where, Bly remembered from the briefing, Volfe’s Anzati followers had once congregated. A little bit of recognizance, now, was clearly in order to see if they had returned with their master. This, he felt, was something he was better equipped to handle: a course of action and a goal within reach, all by his Jedi’s side. That return to reality would help clear his mind from the sound and the feel of her name and the decadence of their surroundings and the burden and stolen thrill of their cover . . .

    Yeah, it was definitely time to focus on the mission. For the sake of his professional pride, if not his sanity.

    “Well then,” Bly confirmed her orders, meeting her eye with a look he knew turned anticipatory and hunting, “the Old City of Krete it is.”


    TBC






    End Notes: I did not mean to have yet another chapter of exposition, I swear. It just kinda happened. :p But when I took out the proverbial red marker to edit, I liked all of the details too much to cut anything down. So . . . here we are. I promise that we'll dive into more of the action and plot with the next chapter. ;)

    Until then! [:D]



    ~ MJ @};-
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2021
  18. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    I was going to wait until I had time for a full response, but I couldn't resist because NOW I WANT TO GO TO KIFFU. Or, you know, a beach of some kind. That's my happy place, right there. [face_love]

    Also, I was legit laughing at Bly's horror over the one bed situation. [face_rofl] ALL THE ROMCOM TROPES!

    I will be back with more in-depth comments, but I really enjoyed this update. ;) :D
     
  19. pronker

    pronker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jan 28, 2007
    The fic flows into a TripAdvisor mood and I love it!

    His humanity shines through and yeah, the armor mutes it.

    Aw.

    A chilling thing, no doubt.

    Eeee, this comes so naturally to him.

    Tension ramping up ...
     
  20. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails WIP Month Champion star 5 VIP - Game Winner

    Registered:
    Jun 19, 2019
    Ooh, this is magnificent. I really love how you write Bly, really entering his mind and getting under his skin to understand what motivates him and makes him tick. You have some of the most realistic and well-fleshed out versions of clone soldiers I have ever read, and it is so consistently awesome=D=

    It was a special treat for me to see Obi-Wan included in this story as well because I love me some Obi-Wan Kenobi[face_love] So is it any surprise that some of my highlights included him?

    "Standing at the opposite side of the tactical table, General Kenobi – who was usually one of the more levelheaded of their commanding officers (usually, at least – Cody had stories to the contrary) – wore an expression of outright concern on his face."

    This line was excellent. I really got a chuckle out of the idea of the high-ranking clones swapping stories about their commanding officers and complaining about how even the most level-headed Jedi do crazy things[face_laugh] It is just such a perfect little detail to include and it rings so true. I can totally picture clones griping about this sort of thing in the mess hall or whatever.

    “Wouldn’t you like to hear the particulars of the situation first, Commander?” the corner of General Kenobi’s mouth twitched, just slightly, to ask.

    “All due respect, sir, but it honestly doesn’t matter,” Bly shrugged. “Wherever the General goes, I'll follow.”

    It was what he was, quite literally, created for. His purpose for being was an instinct written down in his very bones and impossible to ignore. Yet . . . where she goes, let me go too. That thought, somehow, wasn’t quite the same.


    And this section was very powerful. Like a gut punch. Because it shows not only the depth of Bly's loyalty but also emphasizes just how much free will the clones were denied at their creation. That they were quite literally made to obey and follow in a military context and that purpose is written into the very fiber of their beings.

    You just do a wonderful job of getting all the details right and entering the minds and hearts of your characters! Beautiful!
     
  21. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    [face_dancing]

    There's a reason I ADORE!!! the trope of a couple who aren't yet but have to pretend to be for a mission, actually have those feelings underneath. On Bly and Aayla, it's sweet as ever can be; the only couple it'd be sweeter on is Luke and Mara. :D I love how instinctive and reflexive his admiration, affection, and respect are. =D=
     
  22. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    [face_love] [face_dancing]

    [face_rofl] [face_rofl] This makes it even better.

    I agree, very interesting exploring the similarities and differences as all these Jedi venture into uncharted relationship territory! [face_mischief]

    Trash king :p

    Right??? They've got plenty of fairy tale princess ballroom scenes, now we need SPACE ballroom scenes! (Or I guess we can just keep writing them. o_O)

    I love this. YES.



    [face_not_talking] Both of y'all blaming me for all your little Yuuzhan Vong plot bunnies, which... okay, fair, but still... Listen, you guys know what I'm about by now, of course I would inject even my happiest AU of an AU with the angst of the Yuuzhan Vong if it means ANAKIN SKYWALKER GETS TO FIGHT THEM. And when someone starts a new fic and drops a half-Vong OC in there, of course I'm going to flail about that a little...

    [face_mischief] [face_mischief] [face_mischief]



    And now, back to your regularly scheduled story comments!

    This is a really great observation! All of your descriptions of the flight to Kiffu were wonderful, and they were made even better knowing about the RL experiences you likely drew them from. ;) But I can really feel just how disconcerting it must be for Bly to experience a crowd like this without his armor on, packed in with the rest of the masses.

    I just love how Bly analyzes every interaction with Aayla and tries to rationalize why any seemingly affectionate or even romantic gesture can't possibly be because she feelings for him. He's adorable. :p

    :( When you really stop and think about it, touch is so essential to life. (Look at how miserable so many of us have become in the last year for lack of being able to meet in person with loved ones and embrace them.) To think that so much of Bly's experience with touch has been in the context of war - even if, like he says, some of those experiences were positive ones, they were still part of his life as a solider - that's just so sad.

    Well... you know I love me some wild, dramatic tides to go with my beaches. [face_batting] ;)

    This really is such a gorgeous description though, and I just love it. I could perfectly picture it all. [face_love]

    Space!Greece! [face_laugh] I swear, when I saw "Krete" that was the first thing that came to mind! :D

    For as much as I love the Force and the Jedi and the fact that family members and romantic partners can sense each other and bond with one another through the Force, I've been feeling a real itch lately for some good ol' Jedi/non-Jedi pairings, and I love seeing these sorts of issues reflected on. How does it feel to be Han, or Padmé, or Jag, in the midst of a Force-strong family, with so many deep connections? How does it feel to be Bly, who feels he can't ever give Aayla that same depth of connection that she shares with her fellow Jedi, especially the ones closest and dearest to her? (I would argue that he absolutely can, and that there are connections between people that defy logic and space magic, and who's to say that Bly and Aayla, or Han and Leia, or any of the other couples can't be just as deeply bonded, even if one of them isn't Force-sensitive?) But I'm glad to see Bly recognize his worth here, that he is able to stand at Aayla's side in a place where other Jedi cannot.

    So. Dang. ADORABLE. [face_laugh]

    And I still really want to go to Kiffu. :p

    Another setting that I can see so clearly, and it is beautiful. You picked the perfect destination for this romcomtastic story. ;)

    I love both the fact that Bly called Aayla cyar'ika without thinking and that he didn't hesitate to put her above him when she was being so casually disregarded. [face_love] (I also love that Aayla doesn't know what it means... but I'm guessing she'll eventually learn. [face_batting])

    [face_rofl] [face_rofl] [face_rofl]

    BLY, SHE LOVES YOU, AND THIS IS JUST AS HARD FOR HER AS IT IS FOR YOU, MY GOSH.

    (Deep breath, Vi, they'll get there.)

    Seriously, though, he cracks me up. He's so hopelessly enamored, and then it's like, nope! Back to reality, must focus on the mission, this isn't what you think it is, stop letting yourself get caught up in all this romantical stuff... Yeah.

    Poor Bly. Poor Aayla.

    As always, a beautiful update! =D= I can't wait to see where this goes next! [face_mischief]
     
  23. amidalachick

    amidalachick Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Aug 3, 2003
    So I've only read the first chapter so far, but what a start that was! I love the poem you quoted at the beginning, and I can already tell this is going to be a heck of a mission! :D

    This is a beautiful line, and so true.

    [face_laugh] I could hear him say this.

    And I love Bly's internal dialogue - that struggle between professionalism and what he was 'designed' for (which is such a poignant thing in itself), and his own thoughts and feelings. I've always liked your stories about the clones, but after finally watching Clone Wars (one of the few good things that happened this winter was brother and I doing a massive SW TV binge :p), I have a new appreciation for them and how you write them. There's something so powerful about finding oneself and figuring out what you want vs what you "should" want (or in the clones' case what they were literally created for), and I can't wait to see how that develops in this story. And I hope some of that made sense, my brain is not functioning on the highest level right now but I still wanted to comment while I have the time. :p

    Anyway, once again, this was a wonderful start and I'm looking forward to catching up on the rest. =D=
     
  24. amidalachick

    amidalachick Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Aug 3, 2003
    Slowly catching up!

    So Part 2 is just such an incredible chapter, and sorry in advance for all the rambling I'm gonna do. :p

    Awww. This whole scene was so poignant. But I love seeing him begin to choose for himself.

    OH! I don't blame Bly one bit for not staring. This all sounds SO PRETTY! I WANT!! [face_love] Also, the 'makeover' trope and outfit descriptions have always been one of my favorite things ever so this bit made me really happy. :D

    I love the idea of Jedi being taught dancing as part of their diplomatic skills (and now I'm imagining an Anakin/Padmé dance, because as a Queen and Senator I'm sure she would also have learned those dances)! It makes so much sense and is just a wonderful idea, and I totally headcanon it now. :D

    [face_laugh] So trope-y, I love it!

    And then THE DANCING! Every word of this section is just amazing. The characterization, the descriptions, everything - it's just SO GOOD!

    This is so beautifully written!

    [face_love] I love this so much. On a personal level, it's something that's been repeated to me over the years, in horseback riding lessons and piano lessons and yes, dance lessons, and I've used it in so many other situations too. Just close your eyes and breathe. Feel the music. Trust yourself, and just dance. It's so simple but so profound.

    YES! In these few words you really capture why dancing is so incredible. It is about joy and connection and movement for movement's sake. And I truly believe it's something we're all born with, no matter if we convince ourselves otherwise and say we can't do it.

    Again, you just perfectly capture that feeling when you let go of the inhibitions, and trust yourself and your partner and the music, and just dance. So beautifully written. [face_love]

    I hope somewhere in all that I managed to convey at least a little of how much I enjoyed this chapter and how much it resonated with me. Fantastic work, as always, and I look forward to reading the rest! =D=
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2021 at 8:02 AM
  25. Findswoman

    Findswoman WIP Month Champion and Hostess Extraordinaire star 5 VIP - Game Winner

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    "There was only one bed." Oh yeah, you better believe there was! :D Ooh, what a wonderful, beautiful setup not only for an exciting mission (OK, goal, that word works, too! :D) but for an absolutely classic and tropetastic fake-(real)-dating scenario! Wonderful details about Kiffu, Kiffex, the tidal and meteorological results of their conjunction, their culture, their absolutely drop-dead-gorgeous scenery, and especially that hotel suite—WOW-o-rama. :eek: (Just incidentally, I think T'ra knew what she was doing in setting these two up with this room. ;) ) I would say I want to hug Bly, because his "fish out of water" feelings are real, urgent, and understandable, but I know that's best left to Aayla down the line. :p But what I definitely want to say to him is that he too deserves those spacious, beautiful surroundings—he too has fought hard and valiantly and deserves no end of good things! If only he could see that—but I get the feeling he will, in time. And of course both of them are still so sweetly oblivious, so sweetly chin-deep in that certain Egyptian river, but that makes the moments when those feelings slip out—like his "cyar'ika" and even his "Aayla"—all the yummier. I can't wait to see how their trip to Krete will go—both what it will mean for their mission and eventual encounter with Volfe (which is of course the shadow hanging over the romance that also makes the romance all the sweeter) and for their own relationship, because I know it will! Keep up the wonderful work, as always, ma'am! =D=
     
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