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Saga - OT "Still, You Give"| post-Rebels AU; two part Fic-Gift for Nehru_Amidala!

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Mira_Jade , Jan 10, 2020.

  1. Mira_Jade

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

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Title: "Still, You Give"
    Author: Mira_Jade

    Genre: Fluff, Drama (with a smattering of Action/Adventure)
    Rating: PG
    Time Frame: Saga-OT, AU; Nehru_Amidala’s “Winter Rose” ‘verse
    Characters: Zeb Orrelios, Alexsandr Kallus, Rhiannon Hektor (OC), Jacen Syndulla, Minerva Hektor (OC)/Grand Admiral Thrawn, Ensemble Rebels Cast

    Summary: When a meeting with their newest Fulcrum agent, Minerva Hector, goes awry, it's up to Zeb and Kallus to keep the children of their group safe until help can arrive. Hiding out on the ice-locked planet of Panwa, winter traditions of old are shared even as new ones are made, with our heroes taking the time to reflect on exactly who – and what – they’re fighting for in the first place.


    Notes: This is a fic-gift written for the wonderful @Nehru_Amidala, featuring her OC fanbaby Rhiannon (daughter of Grand Admiral Thrawn and her OC Minerva Hektor), Zeb and Kallus, and a whole lotta fun spent babysitting. I received this request a bit late, and it has since grown beyond its initial parameters as I offered to tackle her AU Rebels/Doctor Who fusion to make this a true tribute-fic. Now, I am so glad I did! This has been an absolutely amazing sandbox to build castles in, and I'm having a blast. As such, I am doing exactly what I said that I wouldn’t do, and this story will now have more than one part. There will be a second part - maybe even a third - which will hopefully be posted in quick succession, if not all by the deadline of January 12th, which I do apologize for! But, my giftee deserves no less, so here we go! :D

    Nehru, I hope that you enjoy this story, just as I doubly hope that I portray your OCs and 'verse as you envision them! If not, I suppose that we'll just have to call this an AU of an AU. ;) [face_love] [:D]

    For anyone else who wants to come along for the ride, I thank you for reading, and hope that you enjoy! [:D]


    Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, but for the words. Minerva and Rhiannon and this entire AU ‘verse belong to Nehru_Amidala, and are borrowed with affection. [face_love]








    “Still, You Give”
    by Mira_Jade


    I

    The planet was called Bootana, a relatively small world that was nonetheless crammed fit to burst with cobbled together buildings of every shape, size, and origin of sentience. Far from the gleaming ecumenopoleis of Coruscant and Alsakan, Zeb was more or less reminded of Nar Shaddaa, where the sprawling urban landscape was built over its own rot time and time again, leaving a pervasive sense of decay to hang heavy in the atmosphere around them.

    Yet, Bootana was the closest Hutt satellite in the Outer Rim to Lothal, and, as such, it was a place where few questions were asked and anything and everything was for sale. It was the perfect location for them to meet with their current Fulcrum agent within the Empire, the one and only Lady Minerva Hecktor herself.

    It was dangerous, Zeb knew, for them to make face to face contact like this – usually they operated solely through encrypted transmissions and dead drops – yet she had information that was highly imperative that it be delivered in person, and so, here they were. Bootana never would’ve been his choice for a meeting – the stinking mudball (quite literally) looked like a Hutt’s back-end and smelled even worse – but his opinion was moot in the face of the relative discretion the world had to offer. So he suffered through the way his fur itched from the heavy pall of pollution in the air, and ignored the way his toe-pads stuck to the ever present mire coating the permacrete sidewalk. They were waiting in an honest to goodness children’s park a level up from the ‘antiquities’ shop where their drop was scheduled to happen. Antiquities – ha! yeah right. if the Squib inside was a dealer of antiquities, then Zeb was their very own democratically elected Emperor himself.

    But, no matter how he’d attained his wares, the Squib did have in his possession a rare piece of Nautolan water-art. Coming to broker a deal for the piece on behalf of her husband had been Minerva’s very believable cover for visiting the Hutt world; all they had to do was to conveniently be there.

    “Take the kids, would you?” earlier, Hera’s eyes were strained in a way that made him swallow his initial protests for a grudging agreement – letting his friends walk into a potentially dangerous situation alone went against every single one of his deeply ingrained instincts and then some, after all. Yet, Hera didn’t need to hear him argue; her lekku were tightly curled as it was, and her mouth was pressed into a thin line; this was not an order that brokered his input, and Zeb knew when to better shut his mouth with a sir yes sir instead. Kanan had a bit of an . . . interesting relationship with Minerva’s mother, to say the least, that transferred over to the woman in question herself. The last time they’d seen the elder Time Lord, there had been no small bit of violence involved, and Zeb understood why their relationship was so contentious, yet . . .

    . . . eugh, even just thinking of the . . . wibbly-wobbliness of the whole mess Kanan was caught in made his head hurt, and he tried not to wrap his mind around the logistics of it overly much. Zeb didn’t begrudge Kanan his conflicting feelings in the slightest: to find out that a passing lover from years past was actually a time-jumping alien from another dimension that had given birth to a daughter that he’d never known about, and now, thanks to those same time-jumping shenanigans, that daughter was now the same age physically at he was . . . and married to one of the highest ranked admirals in the Empire, no matter what Thrawn was now doing to aid their cause otherwise . . . yeah, it took a few creative mental leaps to understand the situation, let alone accept and deal with its further reaching implications in full.

    Zeb felt for Kanan, he really did . . . to a point, at least. Because he did know that, whoever and whatever River Song had been, Minerva was not her mother and neither was little Rhiannon. For someone who had lost everything, with no way of having his people returned except in memory – something that he could empathize with as few others could, Zeb was honestly flummoxed as to why Kanan was being so stubborn about reaching out for whatever sort of relationship he could have with his daughter and granddaughter. They were his, they were kin, no matter who their mother and grandmother may have been.

    His opinion was one that Hera shared, Zeb knew, and he wished her all the best as she picked up her arms and went to battle. Hence, his shutting up and accepting orders in the meantime.

    Mom and Dad are fighting again,” had been Ezra’s cheeky eye roll, all before Sabine had smacked him and told him not to start – saving Zeb from having to do so himself. But then, the young Mandalorian woman was often on the same piece of flimsi as him, especially where Ezra’s sass was concerned.

    “This will be quick, at least – we’ll call you soon,” Kanan had darkly muttered before they left with the little ones, for which Hera had stubbornly narrowed her eyes in response. Standing next to Hera, as regal as any queen as she turned up her chin, Zeb found himself feeling for the tight way Minerva had stared at her father in reply . . . it was a feeling he tried not to examine too closely.

    So, here he was now, sitting with Kallus on a bench and watching as the slightly older Jacen led the now toddling Rhiannon around the playscape. In the way of children, they had no idea about the weight of their shared histories, and the . . . uncle and niece? Bogan take it all, but time travel made things weird – were already fast friends. Though bringing Rhiannon along had helped solidify Minerva’s cover, and Jacen was always part and parcel of his parents’ dangerous lifestyle, Bootana was no place for kits. But Zeb was a Guardsman of Lasan, and, as such, he knew he was where he was best needed: with his riffle balanced across his lap in as bald a threat as any while he eyed the few other souls milling about the park. And Kallus, well . . .

    . . . just because Thrawn was now actively aiding the Rebellion didn’t mean that Kallus had to like it one bit, which Zeb couldn’t begrudge him for in the slightest. There was too much history between them, and all, to let go of easily. (Once, Zeb had been solidly where Kallus was – and all the more so, even, with the genocide of his people a barrier standing between them.) But the Human man was honorable, and he wouldn’t see the sins of the father on the child. Besides, it was hard be sour in the face of Rhiannon’s smiles. She was a cute lil’ thing, and already had a talent of melting even the coldest of hearts. Watching her and Jacen play, Zeb couldn't help the way his own expression softened.

    Bootana – what a joke, right?” after a long minute, Zeb muttered, half in an attempt to fill the silence as it was to ease the tension from his companion. Kallus had leaned forward and propped his elbows on his knees, his hands steepled before his mouth as he stared ahead with a pensive expression, clearly restless. Bootana – the gardens, in Huttese – may have been an accurate description from a Hutt’s point of view, but Zeb didn’t get the appeal in the slightest; the green, soggy city-planet just wasn’t his cup of Jawa-juice, to say the least.

    But, sure enough, his statement did the trick: Kallus gave a derisive chuckle in reply. “You took the words right from my mouth,” he agreed, his expression twisting slightly before smoothing out again.

    Zeb gave a grimace of his own. “I s’pose beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or somethin’ like that, but still, it’s not in my eye, that’s for karking sure.”

    “The kids don’t seem to mind,” Kallus flashed a brief, brittle smile to shrug – which was true, at least. Uncaring of the unnaturally green sky above them or the unique . . . aroma lingering in the air, Jacen was chattering a parsec a minute as he helped his even younger companion climb up to go down one of the smaller slides again. Rhiannon – be it her Chiss blood or her Time Lord genes – was already able to keep up reasonably well with Jacen’s three-year old vocabulary, even if she was still not quite steady walking on her own feet. Beyond them, there were a pair of Twi’lek mothers chatting as their children played in the park, and even a hard looking Barabel woman watching over her brood of hatchlings with a fond eye. There was ever new life to be found, even here on Bootana, and that life was as of yet untouched by the shadows in the galaxy; it was as it should have been.

    “They shouldn’t mind,” Zeb found himself softening to say, even as he better balanced his bo-riffle across his knees. “It’s the right way of things.”

    Kallus' pensive look returned for his words. He only nodded without saying anything else, and Zeb sighed as the silence fell between them again. That was why they were still fighting, he reminded himself, no matter how what was left of the Rebellion was struggling to carry on in the wake of their defeats: the possibility of a better galaxy to leave to the next generation to come – for Jacen and Rhiannon and all the little ones the Empire had snuffed out before their time on worlds like Lasan and Alderaan and Jedha. There were an uncountable many who would never get the chance to grow up like these two would, and they deserved justice.

    Zeb inhaled, letting his thoughts fill him and spur him forward even as he tucked his own pain away – which was a still a feat of its own, all these years later. It was then that he saw it – them – from the corner of his eye. His reaction was instant.

    “Jacen, get down now!” he yelled, trusting the boy to obey him without question, even as he brought his bo-riffle around and, with a single shot, took out the figure who had slunk forward from one of the alley-ways nearest to the park.

    Sure enough, Jacen was quick – the Ashla be praised, and he immediately ducked with Rhiannon safely protected with him. The children just narrowly avoided the stun blast that flew over their heads – answering Zeb’s question of just who their adversaries were and what they were after. Had they been simple mercenaries looking for the bounties on their heads as members of the Rebellion, they wouldn’t have bothered with stun-bolts. But, if some sleemo got wind of Minerva and Rhiannon’s presence on the planet, no matter how careful they had been, well . . . no doubt they thought her parents would pay a shiny credit or two to see her returned safe and sound.

    Zeb allowed himself a moment to darkly snort, already well able to imagine the absolute carnage that Thrawn would inflict on anyone who put his family in danger – and that was only after Minerva was through with them. But then, criminals out for a quick fix weren’t always scraping from the smart end of the barrel, to put it mildly.

    Yet, no matter how they may have had nuna brains to go after a mark like Rhiannon, they were still armed nunas, and thus not to be taken lightly. A blaster-bolt was still lethal, no matter where it was fired from. In unspoken agreement, Kallus kept his own weapon holstered and didn’t even bother trying to pick off any of the unfriendies emerging from the alleyway. He trusted Zeb to cover him as he darted forward to protect the children, scooping Rhiannon up in one of his arms and Jacen in the other – no matter that the little boy was quickly getting to be too big to do so easily. They had no choice but to manage, then.

    By his count, Zeb counted five uglies in pursuit – minus the first one he'd felled, with old training and veteran experience now combining to give him a practiced eye for danger. They were a mixed bag of nasties, to be sure: a Weequay, a three-eyed Gran, a Lethan Twi’Lek with one long orange-red lek’ curled over his opposite shoulder, and two heavily muscled Trandoshans – one who was packing some serious heat in a mini-arsenal across his back. He was a foe, in particular, whom Zeb knew better than to take lightly. Zeb covered Kallus as they ran, high-tailing it back to the Ghost as fast as they could. He didn’t even consider stranding the rest of his crew planetside; he knew exactly what Hera would say if she was there: take the kids and get out of here. Jacen’s – and now Rhiannon’s – safety had to be their first and only priority.

    Sure enough, his comlink went off, and he heard Ezra’s voice come over without preamble: “Kanan felt a spike in the Force from Jacen – what’s going on?”

    “We ran into some friendlies at the park,” Zeb barked in reply, not for one second taking his eye from the scope of his riffle. He ran as fast as he could, darting from cover to cover before turning back around to take warning shots at their pursuers. Still, they doggedly kept after them, careful and persistent; grudgingly, Zeb upgraded his first opinion of their foes. They may have had nuna brains, but they were apparently nunas who knew what they were doing. Wonderful. “They’re trying real hard to say hello.” A heartbeat passed as he took aim again, and then he added, “We think they’re after the girl – they’ve set their blasters to stun.”

    Mostly, he added mentally as a red bolt went sailing by close enough to singe the fur on his shoulder as he just narrowly stepped aside. That would have been dead-center for his heart if he hadn’t moved in time. Karabast upon karabast!

    Ezra breathed out a matching curse, and there was the sound of something muffled from his end of the line. “Sabine and I are coming to cover you – just hang on! Hera says get to the Ghost and blast outta here; we’ll leave with Minerva and rendezvous with you as soon as we can.”

    Zeb snorted, in spite of himself; he’d expected no less from Hera. “Copy that,” was all he had time to growl, though, as they ducked down another street – using the few precious seconds they had to sprint in an all out run before their pursuers caught up. They were almost to the hangar now.

    Chopper, do you read me?” Zeb switched frequencies, huffing as he ran. “We’re coming in hot and we need to leave now.”

    A flutter of binary very rudely informed him that Hera had already given him the same order, and the Ghost was ready to go; Zeb was the one taking his time. Zeb didn’t have the time to inform the bucket of bolts just where he could stick his back-talk before they burst into the hangar and made their last push for the – thankfully – open boarding ramp. It was close, so close, as they just narrowly dodged their pursuers – who took cover behind the crates in the bay and took careful aim all while avoiding Zeb’s own return fire. He couldn’t manage to score a hit, and could only hope that the distance the Ghost would soon provide would be enough.

    They had just lifted away from the ground when Zeb burst into the cockpit – leaving Kallus to secure the children in the common area – his gaze immediately zeroing in on their adversaries. His heart dropped when he realized what the second Trandoshan had strapped to his back: a disassembled shoulder canon, which had quickly been assembled and was now taking careful aim. That, he had only a second to fear, had enough power to -

    Karabast, karabast, karabast!

    “Brace for impact!” he slapped the intercom open to holler, warning Kallus just as Chopper sent them careening forward. They had to be fast enough, they just had to be.

    But, this time, they were a second late and a credit short: the blast tore into their starboard engine, and they trailed smoke behind them even as they dashed towards the atmosphere. Zeb looked down, expecting another shot, but there was a tell-tale flash of a blue lightsaber below and Sabine’s currently purple and orange painted armor was instantly recognizable as she flitted about with her jetpack, providing Ezra cover from above. Zeb liked the odds of the two of them against the mercs, yet they had no idea just how wide their network was or how committed they were to cashing in on their mark. They couldn’t risk it; they had to get as far away as they could.

    “What’s our damage, Chop?” Zeb barked as Chopper clicked and beeped and whirled, communing with the Ghost’s computer. He rolled his eyes at the astromech’s reply, and bit out, “I know we are hit, no need to state the obvious; I wanna know how bad it is.”

    Chopper was more somber to give his next reply, which was telling in of itself. With one engine offline and the other compensating, they wouldn’t be able to make it to true hyperspace. They could only do in-system micro-jumps, and they had to do it fast. They had no idea if their adversaries had access to a ship, or more in their team who did, or -

    “ - what are our in-system options, then?” Zeb leapt ahead to the next step, wincing even as he thought about Hera’s reaction to the damage. While he knew she’d do or sacrifice anything for her son, the Ghost had been her constant companion since long before any of them; her ship was her own blood, just as much as Jacen was. Zeb didn’t want to be the one to return the Ghost to her in anything less than one piece.

    Chopper gave a thoughtful whirl before beeping out an answer. Zeb brushed aside his first suggestions of the uninhabitable Bootana II and the gas giant Granee, which only held a few outlier mining station in its upper atmosphere. Yet, there, the furthest out from the system’s single yellow sun, was . . .

    “Panwa?” he mused aloud, tapping on the screen that Chopper provided with a large, careful finger. Panwa was an ice-locked world on the edge of the solar system that wasn’t inhabited but for a few ski resorts and arctic retreats that Zeb had heard about even on Lothal – it was a relatively popular tourist option in this sector. If they stayed well enough away from the resorts, they could find a place to lie low and then check in with Hera and Kanan when they were safe. This was far from their original rendezvous point had things gone wrong, but, well, needs must being what they were . . .

    But his decision was made for him when, sure enough, three Z-73 Headhunters rose from the atmosphere and – far from joining in the steady flow of traffic around Bootana, they seemingly zeroed in on an attack vector towards them.

    Zeb, simply put, had a very bad feeling about this.

    “Chop,” he warned, just in time for the ships to open fire – even to the squawking outrage of BATC. Yet, Zeb acknowledge grimly, if their pursuers were in any way connected with the Hutts, then the planetary traffic controllers would soon let them go to their own ends. Either way, he acknowledged, it was time for evasive maneuvers.

    Evasive maneuvers that were admittedly difficult to manage with one engine out and their sub-light boosters struggling to compensate for the damage. The console was alight with blinking red lights and wailing warning sensors, and Zeb angrily growled as he turned off the aggravating chimes. He could pilot well enough when push came to shove, but he was no Hera Syndulla, that was for certain – especially when the Ghost was operating at less than peak efficiency. He much preferred the ground strong underneath his feet and a weapon held in his hands as compared to this, but he was managing.

    Sure enough, a moment later BATC went silent, and Zeb cursed aloud again. That wasn’t a good sign if their foes were funded by one of the Hutt families, even as he filed the information away to pass on later.

    The trio of Headhunters was still gaining on them, and, no matter how Zeb twirled and dove and spun he couldn’t shake them.

    “That jump can come any time now, Chop,” he grunted, hardly able to spare the droid any further attention than that as he struggled to hold the ship steady through the strain he was putting on the systems. Their shields were flickering with all of the power he was diverting into their remaining engine, and he didn’t want to think about what damage one good hit could inflict. Thankfully, he knew that their adversaries wanted them – or at least little Rhiannon, alive. That was making the Headhunters cautious, and careful. They just had to hold on a little while longer, he steeled himself, just a moment more until. . .

    Just as the stars elongated around the viewport and Chopper gave a triumphant whistle, one of the Headhunters struck true, and an error message overrode his command for silence – screeching in his sensitive ears as they made their jump. Oh karabast upon karabast – the thrice-cursed Bogan take it all and then some, but why did this always seem to be their luck?

    Yet, while the micro-jump may saved them from the Headhunters – and released them back into real space a moment later with a dizzying drop of speed and reversed inertia – the Ghost was down another engine and on sub-light batteries only as they careened towards the deceivingly serene icy-blue planet that was looming ever larger in the viewport.

    This, he acknowledged grimly, was going to be a bumpy ride – and that was even if he could pull off the landing in the first place. Hear me this time, will you? he sent a prayer up to the Ashla as he hadn’t in far too long. If not for me, then for them, he held onto a picture of the children in his mind – of little Jacen’s easy peals of laughter and Rhiannon’s trustingly sweet red eyes – and gave their fate over to its will.

    Well, one way or another, their desperate flight was about to be over, he reflected grimly. This was it.

    “Brace for impact!” he warned again over the intercom as the atmosphere blurred around them in a screaming whirl of motion. A wall of white was all too quickly slamming into view.

    It was all he could do to hold the Ghost steady, and then with a jarring series of thuds and ominously straining durasteel they crash landed on the snowy mountainside.



    ~MJ @};-
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2020
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    [face_dancing] [face_dancing] [face_dancing] Riveting edge of seatness & wonderful having it be from Zeb's snarky but on-target point of view. @};- Fascinating reading about how Minerva, Hera, Kanan, and Rhiannon are related. [face_thinking] Could the Time Lord straighten out the ST you think? [face_laugh] :oops: Was that a dangling plot bunny? [face_batting] :*
     
    Nehru_Amidala and Mira_Jade like this.
  3. Nehru_Amidala

    Nehru_Amidala Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Oct 3, 2016
    Oh my gosh, what a cliffhanger! I love this so much! You described Bootana so well, it sounds icky!

    Kanan and River’s rocky relationship was well put, and the feelings are mutual on both ends. At least Jacen and Rhiannon get along. Geez, are they adorable!

    Thank you again so much for writing this, can’t wait for part 2.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  4. Mira_Jade

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

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Ha haa! You know what, a bit of Time Lord interfering solving the ST would be just the thing, wouldn't it?? :D

    It was so very interesting dabbling in this world, with our near and dear characters being their old familiar selves and then even more so for the inclusion of these OCs - but that's half the fun of fan fiction, isn't it? I'm glad you enjoyed this first part, and hope you continue to with the next! [:D]


    I am so, so glad that you enjoyed this first part! :D [face_dancing] It we had the action and the . . . ickyness of Bootana :p, then this next part is going to shift gears to sweetness and holiday good cheer! I couldn't resist in the slightest, and figured that it was a fitting tone to honor the spirit of these fic-gifts! So, here we go, and I hope that you continue to enjoy the conclusion. Thank-you ever so much, again, for giving me this fascinating world to dabble in! [face_love] [:D]


    ~MJ @};-
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2020
  5. Nehru_Amidala

    Nehru_Amidala Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Oct 3, 2016
    It was my pleasure.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha likes this.
  6. Mira_Jade

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

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Author's Note: I have to thank @Nehru_Amidala for being so patient, waiting for me to post this next part! Hopefully the end result is worth the delay. Enjoy! [face_love] [:D]






    II

    Well . . . they made it.

    Though it was doubtless one of the Ghost's less graceful landings, they managed to finally skid to a stop in one piece. The navmap of Panwa said that they’d tumbled down into a valley nestled in one of the lower summits of the Lanwee mountains. Looking outside the viewport at the swirling eddies of snow and forbiddingly icy peaks crowning his line of sight, Zeb couldn’t quite bring himself to believe that this was the planet’s equator; it looked as cold and unwelcoming as anything he could rightly imagine otherwise.

    After taking a long moment to catch his breath, he released his crash webbing. With a glare, he flipped a rude gesture Chopper’s way when the droid gave a few disparaging beeps about his skills at the helm. Any landing you could walk away from, after all, was a good one in his book; he’d never claimed to be equal to the skills of Chopper’s mistress, nor would he ever be. All that mattered was that they were here here, and they were safe. For the time being, at least.

    Yet, still:

    “You sure do listen to the letter of my prayers, don’t you?” Zeb scrubbed a hand over his brow as he left the flight deck, muttering an oath to the Ashla all the while. Just once he'd love to not feel like a punchline of some cosmic joke; he was heartily sick and tired of the whims of fate, and was ready to catch a break – or, more of a break, at least.

    His first order of business was to check in on the others. Kallus was just fine, Zeb assured himself with a glance, and little Jacen was all wide eyes and boundless questions for their impromptu flight from Bootana, of course he was. Zeb snorted to acknowledge the handful that Kanan and Hera would undoubtedly have on their hands in the years to come; he wished them all the luck. But then Jacen was their son; genetics were largely to blame in the first place. Rhiannon, Zeb was more concerned to look and find, was quiet for the stress of their adventure. But she was subdued in a thoughtful way, he finally allowed himself to exhale a breath in relief; her red eyes were unblinking as she took in everything around her, and her small mouth and shoulders were relaxed. Good; he would hate to hand back Minerva and Thrawn’s daughter in any less than the condition she’d been entrusted to him; his honor wouldn’t allow it any more than his healthy respect for the threat of her parents’ retribution did.

    “We’re okay,” Kallus said aloud before he could ask, even as Jacen turned and exclaimed: “That was so wizard!” in a voice that was all exuberance and adrenaline. “Where are we now? Can we go outside? It’s snowing here, right? It never snows on Lothal and I wanna show Rhi - ”

    “ - hey there, cut your hyperdrive, kid,” Zeb held up a hand, and Jacen snapped his mouth shut, his green eyes still comically wide as he swallowed the rest of his sentence. “We have no idea if it’s safe here; we might have been followed.”

    Zeb didn’t bother adding that he was certain they would be followed – eventually, anyway. Now it was just a race to see who found them first: the rest of their party, against whom he almost pitied the mercs’ odds, or their adversaries. With the Ghost in need of repairs before it could fly again, and them being stranded in unfamiliar territory with an unforgiving climate, Zeb knew which option he preferred.

    But, the ongoing cosmic joke of his life being what it was and all, they had to be prepared for anything.

    Zeb briefly considered leaving the Ghost behind and footing it to one of the arctic resorts in the mountains. But, the nearest location was still a good twenty klicks away and it wasn’t as if there was a friendly road they could follow. It was too dangerous a venture for the children even without the risk of being caught out in the open by their pursuers. Their best bet was to hunker down with the Ghost and see about repairs as best they could. If worse came to worst, the batteries for the canons were still more than functional; they could make a stand for themselves if need be.

    That decision then settled, Zeb and Kallus kitted up into cold weather gear to go outside and inspect the damage. The children were quick to follow suit, but only after extracting a promise from Jacen that he would turn around and run back inside at the first sign of trouble. There would be no keeping him cooped up otherwise, Zeb knew better than to trust the boy’s ability to sit still for a second, and his senses would be better soothed with the children clear in view anyway.

    The first blast of cold air made his eyes sting, and he turned in on himself – even with his fur and the hood of his parka up over to cover his ears – in an instinctive gesture to seek and consolidate what heat from his body he could. The snow had ebbed, at least, offering them visibility even as it granted that same clarity to their pursuers. That thought sobered Zeb, and he grit his teeth as he stepped out into the snow.

    Kallus, he noted, looked as if he was faring little better for the frigid weather. He didn’t say a word aloud, but his skin had turned an angry pink from the bite in the wind, and his breath frosted on the air in puffs of vapor as he loosed a sigh from between his teeth. “Next time,” he was droll to quip, “if we could crash somewhere with palm trees and an ocean, I wouldn’t mind in the slightest.”

    “Yeah well, it was this or the gas giant,” Zeb muttered. He shrugged his wide shoulders, and loosed a toothy grin to add, “Makes this place seem downright cozy now, doesn’t it?”

    “Point taken,” Kallus agreed. “I suppose this is the more scenic view.”

    Even with the cold and the snow they worked well together; they always did. As they investigated the damage in keeping with Chopper’s internal diagnosis, they kept an eye on the children. Showing none of the adults’ consternation for their boreal surroundings, they had flown out into the snow uncaring of the cold. Little Rhiannon, even, seemed to light up for the change in temperature, and her giggles were high and bright as Jacen pulled her around on a spare piece of paneling that he’d converted into a sled. Zeb couldn’t help but give an amused chuckle for their simple, unfettered joy, and his spirits were eased as he returned to work.

    After a while, though, he could feel Kallus’ eyes on him, staring in consideration before turning away again. The Human man was lost in thought, and the thin, terse line of his mouth tellingly warned that it was one of those thoughts even before he asked aloud: “Did it ever snow on Lasan?”

    Zeb sucked in a breath, taken aback by the sudden bite of pain that surged through him before fading as quickly as it first appeared. Years later now, and it was a reaction he still couldn’t avoid. All he could do was crest the wave of grief as it rose from his gut into his throat, and then exhale long and slow as his pain ebbed. It took him a moment before he could answer. “Lasan was mostly arid.” His voice was distant to his own ears; it sounded like his, but not. “The only snow we really had was what fell in the mountains, and even that was shallow and mild compared to this.”

    “Ah,” was Kallus’ only response before he fell silent again. His question about Lasan wasn’t the first he’d asked over the years so much as it was simply the latest of many. At first, Zeb had thought that his doing so was penance, of a sort. Maybe it was, at first, but now, as a friend, it was as if he really wanted to know. Zeb grunted for the thought as he opened another access panel to run his scans. It wasn’t sympathy he felt for Kallus’ guilt, as bald and plain to see as it was – never that – but Kallus was more than the sins he’d committed on behalf of the Empire. If Zeb could admit as much and then focus on the better parts of his companion, then he’d have Kallus do the same.

    Yeah . . . you do work in funny ways, don’t ya? he sighed to offer up another cursory thought for the Ashla, not for the first time that night and certainly not for the last.

    “How ‘bout yourself? Was snow a thing for you?” Zeb asked when the silence threatened to stretch. “You’re from Coruscant, right?”

    Kallus shrugged. “Yes, I grew up on Coruscant, but my family is Chandrilan. There are no shortage of those in the Inner Core who’ve flock to the capital to better expand their power and Influence. I come from a very old, rather auspicious family, even if it’s one that’s more built on merchant’s money than noble blood – though my mother never cares to be reminded of that fact. Yet . . . my paternal grandmother was from Alderaan. It was quite a scandal when Grandfather married her; apparently, her name was of very little consequence and did nothing to further the family’s connections. But my grandfather loved her. That was all that mattered.”

    “Alderaan?” Zeb repeated, his voice gentling, just slightly, over the syllables of the name.

    “Yes, Alderaan,” Kallus was quiet to confirm. He fiddled with his hydrospanner, for a moment sounding as if his thoughts were very far away. “After my grandfather’s death she moved back home. I spent some very happy times there in my youth. She lived in the mountains; it was . . . very much like this.”

    Zeb waited, but Kallus wasn’t forthcoming with any further information and he didn’t bother prying for more. A man’s past was his business; after all, Zeb knew that he himself rarely wanted to speak of Lasan, no matter how close he was to his fellow Spectres otherwise. That part of his history was his own, and he didn’t often feel the need to share it aloud. Instead of speaking, they worked together in silence for some time after, and if the absence of words carried with it a strain that hadn’t been there since those early days on Yavin then neither of them were much inclined to mention it aloud. Zeb simply kept half an eye fixed on his welder, and the rest of his attention was taken by how Jacen had taken to ambushing Chopper with snowballs, with Rhiannon toddling after him trying to do the same. In the end, though, she was much too young to be of aid to Jacen in his fight and the two instead settled in to build what a snowman they could. They were both tiny little things, and when the repairs slowed to a point where it became apparent that the Ghost would need to be towed and worked on in an actual ship’s bay, both he and Kallus gave in and played with the children instead.

    Time passed, and their snowman neared completion. Zeb had Jacen on his shoulders while Kallus held Rhiannon, and by the time they put the buttons in for the eyes – red, at Rhiannon’s insistence – their initial circumstances of flight and danger and hide felt very far away for the easy moment of peace they were able to claim in its stead.

    Soon enough, though, the kids were nicely exhausted from their exertions. Yet rather than going inside completely – as Zeb would have preferred for the way he was losing feeling in his toes – they steamed cups of hot cocoa and sat on the landing ramp together to drink their spoils. With the heat of the bay behind them and the snow-capped mountains in front of them, he had to admit that the view made for a pretty picture. The snow flurries from earlier had halted entirely and the atmosphere was clear of clouds to show the star strewn night sky above them. There was the red shadowy orb of the neighboring gas giant in the system, and two small crescents from Panwa’s twin moons. But, closer than that, curtains of light writhed overhead, mostly a rich emerald green cut through with streaks of vivid violet and a red that was just as bright as Rhiannon’s eyes. The children were delighted for the sight, and when Jacen asked just what the lights were, Zeb readied an answer about magnetic fields and solar particles before Kallus answered to say:

    “On Alderaan, we called them Etevenard’s Lights.”

    “Evererds?” Jacen repeated clumsily, his face scrunched, even as Rhiannon chirped, “Etevenard!”

    “Yes, Etevenard’s Lights,” Kallus patiently repeated, slowing his enunciation for the benefit of the children. “He was an old folk hero to the Alderaani people.” Curious, Zeb thought, how he wouldn’t claim them as his own, even if he shared their blood. “Would you like to hear it?”

    He received eager affirmations from Jacen and Rhiannon, and so, Kallus let a slow, soft smile stretch across his face to say, “Years ago, back in the time of the Old Republic, the first colonists on Alderaan struggled through the harsh winters in the mountains. The nights were long and cold, and the sun went away for months on end. Game was scarce, and there were times when many went hungry in the absence of the sun. People turned greedy, closely guarding what they had to care for their own families and turning a blind eye to the suffering of their neighbors. They told themselves that they were simply doing what they had to in order to survive.”

    Zeb listened, even as Kallus looked down into his own mug, quiet for a long moment. The wind made a lonely sound as it moaned through the valley. Overhead, the mountain peaks were indomitable in their silence.

    “That first winter was hard and miserable, and people prepared for their second winter to be much the same. Yet, when the cold came and the nights turned long, they found food turning up on their doorsteps, as if by magic. Someone was hunting and sharing their spoils with the rest of the colony. Fish and game was left behind in the dead of the night, along with woven blankets and carved toys for the children. Whatever each family needed, suddenly, it was there. This happened that winter and the next and the next, until, just as suddenly as it first began, the gifts stopped.

    “Though no one had ever been able to see their mysterious benefactor, there was rumor of a man who lived even higher than the colony in the mountains – old man Etevenard. He was a hermit, who chose to live apart from the rest of the settlers. Many thought him to be their guardian in the snow, as they could see the footprints of his massive wolf-hound next to the tracks of a man in the morning after their gifts were left.

    “When the colony realized this, they were worried, and in a large group they went to the old man’s cabin. When they arrived, though, they found that he was dead; he’d passed away in his sleep.”

    For that, Zeb had to interrupt: “This,” he grumbled, “is an awful story. What do you mean he died?”

    “Hush; just listen,” Kallus shook his head with a chiding huff – a sound that was usually reserved for the likes of Jacen, or worse: Ezra. Zeb felt a growl building low in his chest for the unwitting comparison, but fell silent as bidden.

    When he was satisfied that he wouldn’t interrupt again, Kallus continued, “With no one to provide for them, the town had to turn to each other to see the whole community through the winter season. To honor old man Etevenard's legacy, they made it a tradition to give gifts on the longest night of the year; each family would light a candle in the window for Etevenard to see by. On Alderaan they still trade gifts on Etevenard's night . . . or I should say they did, to honor his spirit of charity through showing kindness and appreciation for our fellow man. The lights in the winter sky, they say, is him and his hound hunting in the beyond; where he still looks out for any who are in need.”

    The children were nodding off, nestled between them. For a moment there was just the distant moaning of the wind through the peaks and the writhing of the lights overhead. It was left to Zeb to whisper after a long moment of silence, “It’s a good story.”

    “Alderaan has . . . had many of them,” Kallus looked down at Jacen to reply; he wasn’t quite able to meet his eyes. “Many civilizations have similar such wintertime traditions. Did . . . did yours?”

    The past tense still bit at Zeb more so than the cold could ever compete with, but his pain seemed to dull when he exhaled. He knew if he fell silent completely then Kallus would not push him. He was simply offering to listen if he wanted to speak.

    So.

    “We didn’t celebrate a winter solstice, not like you’d be more familiar with,” Zeb started to say. Kallus, he noticed, seemed surprised that he chose to answer; surprised but pleased and pained all at once. It was a feeling that Zeb could empathize with in its entirety, albeit in a different way.

    “You counted your years by seasons, right?” Kallus was gentle to encourage when he had to stop to gather his words. “Not by solar rotations but after your dust storms?”

    “Yeah,” Zeb was surprised and yet not that Kallus already knew. “We did.” Did, that same old pang returned anew, stabbing deep in his side to lance behind his heart.

    “Know thy enemy,” Kallus was bitter to mumble, shrugging his shoulders in explanation. “At the time I was an eager student.”

    But what Kallus would have known from some ISB report on flimsi was different than what Zeb himself had once cherished and lived in actuality. After years of silence on the matter he found the words bubbling up and frothing over as if drawn from a deep geyser: about the storms that would lash against the land before finally calming. How they would celebrate at the end of the raging season with festivals and good cheer in a direct counterpoint to the solemn Storm Solstice Festival that marked the start the Dust Season. Entire towns would host carnivals while households would commemorate the passing of the season together on a more intimate, private level. Even then Zeb could remember roasting prongbok over the fire and drinking seerwine with his family to toast the new year. They too gave gifts, just as many Human civilizations did, to express their joy and acknowledging how the Ashla had kept them safe and succored through one season more in a reflection of its generous grace.

    Zeb hadn’t said as much about his home in so long – too long, really. In that moment, Lasan felt close enough to touch, there on that snowy world with the drowsy children safely cradled between them and Kallus patiently listening to his memories.

    “Now,” Zeb found himself concluding to say, “there are not many left alive who remember our ways.”

    “We’ll just have to make sure they do,” Kallus quietly resolved, looking down at Jacen and Rhiannon . . . for Lasan and Alderaan and Jedha and all of the untold worlds who had suffered at the Empire’s hand . . . it was all they could do. They would keep fighting, keep giving – until there was nothing left to give; until peace was achieved and they were finally allowed to keep.

    Zeb didn’t have to say that it was a reminder as clear as day for what they were still fighting fo. Zeb pursed his mouth, wondering what Hera and Kanan would say to exchanging gifts on the Ghost to honor Kallus’ story; maybe they could combine it with the Storm’s End feast he remembered from home. Surely the Jedi had their traditions, and Mandalore and Ryloth and Lothal too. They should share more of what made them who they were with each other. Once Zeb was taken by the idea, he couldn’t quite let it go.

    Zeb was lost in the spiral of his thoughts, but it was a prolix that buoyed him rather than threatening to drag him down. He was only distracted when he noticed a shadow appear above, blocking out the shimmering veil of lights in the night sky. Was that . . .

    He found his feet, reflexively shifting so that he held Rhiannon in his left hand and his right drawing his bo-riffle, ready to fight again. He bared his teeth, until -

    “ - I believe this one’s on our side,” Kallus sounded relieved to exhale.

    Sure enough, it was an Imperial shuttle descending on a vector towards their position – and Zeb swallowed a snort for how that was now a reason for relief. There was a shadow even higher in the atmosphere, he noticed; by then Zeb was more than canny enough to spy the familiar outline of a Star Destroyer in orbit. It wasn’t just any Star Destroyer, he suspected, but rather . . .

    You really do work in mysterious ways, don’t you? he huffed to the Ashla. But even he couldn’t help but smile to see Lady Minerva dart first down the landing ramp to her daughter. Her husband, the grand admiral himself, followed close behind.

    Rhiannon,” Minerva dropped to her knees in the snow and held her arms open for her daughter just as Zeb put Rhiannon down to go to her mother. It was touching, watching the way the woman clung to her child, tracing her hands over her arms and up and down her back as if to better assure herself that Rhiannon was there and all was well and would be well. She was safe, and would remain as such.

    Thrawn was more subdued than his wife, only bending briefly to touch his brow to the little girl’s when Minerva stood with Rhiannon still held in her arms. For a moment his eyes closed, and he exhaled, and then the moment passed and he was all steel in his spine and crisp, military lines before them once more. No matter the aid and intel he and Minerva were now providing the Rebellion, Zeb couldn't quite help the wary way he watched the other man; he knew better than to turn his back on a konculor, after all, no matter how tame.

    Following close behind the first couple, Hera and Kanan had mimicked Minerva and Thrawn's reunion in much the same way with their own son. Hera was relieved to see for herself that Jacen was safe, and for a moment the little family was entangled with each other and aware of little else. Only Zeb looked and saw the way Kanan glanced up from Hera and Jacen to stare over at Minerva and her daughter. His mouth was tight, and he looked like he would say something, though whatever he first wanted to say was lost before being voiced aloud. He seemed torn, Zeb thought, before he simply looked away again and the moment passed.

    “Daddy, we built a snowman!” Rhiannon chirped, her bright, cheerful voice breaking through the tension in the adults’ reunion. To the children, there had never been a moment of danger to concern themselves with in the first place. Yet that was, Zeb acknowledged, just as it should have been.

    “So I see,” Thrawn acknowledged. For a strange moment to Zeb's eyes he wasn’t an admiral, imperious in white, but a father. When he turned his attention to them the usually fathomless lines of his face softened to say, “You have my gratitude.” He first looking to Zeb, and then to Kallus. “Thank you, for keeping her safe.”

    “Ah well,” Zeb was gruff to acknowledge – it was one thing when Hera and Kanan turned grateful looks his way, but from a man he still had a hard time acknowledging as anything more than an enemy, he didn't exactly know what to say. His senses were torn; his instincts confused. “She’s quick to grow on you; how could we do anything else?” He wanted to say something about her being unlike her father in every way, but stopped himself; then wasn’t the time, and really, he didn’t even know if those words were true any more in the first place.

    Mysterious ways, he wanted to sigh again. Mysterious ways.

    “It's true. Someday,” Minerva was soft to agree, looking down on her daughter with clear fondness shining in her eyes, “they’ll be the best of us.”

    Kanan, Zeb thought, was staring again. Hera, in her turn, looked between her husband and his daughter with no small amount of determination steeling in her own eyes. “It’s how it should be,” Hera agreed. “They’re the entire reason while we keep on giving.”

    “Like Etevanard!” Rhiannon chirped, and when her parents turned to her, curious, she was all eager chatter to relay the Alderaanian story she had heard in her own childish way. Zeb hadn’t realized she had been listening so closely, but in the end he supposed he shouldn’t have been surprised.

    “And Storms’ End!” Jacen added.

    It took Zeb by surprise, at first, hearing an honored tradition of his people being repeated in such a simple, innocent manner . . . but it was only right, he finally exhaled to conclude. Just as Hera had said, Zeb agreed; it was as it should be. This, after all, was the real reason they still stood to fight.

    "Yeah," Zeb rumbled softly. "Like Storms' End."

    With that, he felt a peace all its own spread through him as they stood there, listening to the children preserve the ways of old even as they forged their own paths anew.


    FIN







    End Notes: The Lasat fanon of Storms' End is borrowed with much love and affection from @Findswoman and @Raissa Baiard's fanon as detailed in their Lasan and the Lasat post in the fanon thread. Prongbok, seerwine, and konculors are also their creation. As ever, their lore is never far from my heart when I dabble with these characters, and I was honored by their permission to use their fanon. [face_love]


    [:D]!!!


    ~MJ @};-
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2020
  7. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Beautiful how Kallus and Zeb have a lot to empathize with one another over, though it's heart-wrenching, but it gives them a basis for understanding and rapport. Lovely sharing of legends of the two cultures and reunions of the 2 families.

    Raissa's and Findswoman's Lasan "facts" are totally enmeshed in my own heart as well, and you totally did it justice.
    =D=


    P.S. I keep writing dearest Shulma into the subtext... I cannot help it. :* [face_love]
     
  8. Nehru_Amidala

    Nehru_Amidala Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Oct 3, 2016
    I apologize for the late response, this snuck up on me. Thank you for such a lovely story, this was well worth the wait.

    Kallus and Zeb sharing tales of holidays past was sweet, considering both have bittersweet memories of the past. Then again, just by talking lifts the burden. Also, the kiddos seemed to enjoy the tales.

    I loved how you portrayed Rhiannon, she was so adorable. When she told Mom and Dad she built a snowman, all I could think of was “Do You Want to build a snowman?” from Frozen.

    Thank you again many times over.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  9. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Wow, with one thing and another, it has taken me a very long time to comment on this, and I want to apologize for that, especially given your wonderful use of fanon elements by @Raissa Baiard and me (thank you so much! <3 )—and the way you very cleverly worked everything into @Nehru_Amidala ’s intriguing characters and universe! I enjoyed this winter tale of friendship, bonding, and. Like the title says, giving—it really had it all, from the riveting action in the opening chapter, to the crash landing, to the recalling of old times, to some plain old fun in the snow with the two very adorable younglings, to a sweet reunion of families, with such a beautiful lesson—that togetherness is why we keep fighting, why we keep giving! Of course I always greatly enjoy your portrayal of Zeb, and love that he was the viewpoint character—we get to see both his tough, pragmatic side and his softer side (I love that the character so clearly has both)—and I really enjoyed the background details you came up with with for Kallus, too. His Alderaan connection was especially intriguing—especially the very St. Nicholas-like story of Etevenard—and, of course, it gives him an important point of commonality with Zeb. And how sweet and bittersweet, indeed, the way both of the younglings latch on to both men’s stories about their seasonal observances! True proof that they live on in their way, and that right there is reason to keep on giving. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful work with us, as always! =D=
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2020