Chapter 10 Council Chambers Jedi Temple, Coruscant The Council meeting ended, but not without great disagreement. Luke glanced at his nephew speaking with Corran Horn, Kenth Hanmer, Tresina Lobi and Kyle Katran, all of whom supported many of Jacen’s ideas and his placement on the Council. Even Luke had to admit a lot of Jacen proposals for the Jedi seemed in the Order’s and the GA’s best interests. However in the back of his mind, he couldn’t ever shake the nagging feeling that Jacen had an ulterior motive. He couldn’t understand why Jacen would want anything but the best for the Jedi Order and felt great sadness in the way his relationship with Jacen had gone. Although it wasn’t just with Jacen, my entire family is torn apart. As he took a deep breath, he met Mara’s gaze. She gave a microscopic nod and her love, support and concern for their son washed over him. Letting that bolster his resolve, Luke headed for Jacen and the other masters. “Excuse me, Masters,” Luke interjected when Kenth paused in his speech. “I’m sorry, but I need to speak with Jacen regarding a personal matter.” “Of course, Master Skywalker.” Kenth bowed his head. “Master Solo, we will continue this later.” Jacen smiled and nodded. “Most definitely. Your input is greatly appreciated.” As the group shifted away, Luke called, “Corran.” Luke waited for the younger man to turn. “I just wanted to say despite the decision today, I will personally stand behind Valin through this just as I have Jaina, my sister and Knight Chivel.” Corran nodded and folded his arms inside the sleeves of his robes. “Thanks Luke. I appreciate your support and I know Valin will, too. But as I said in the meeting, I don’t think it will do the Order any favors to openly support someone the GA will surly see as a traitor and as a rogue Jedi. We can’t afford anymore bad press.” As Mara stepped up beside Luke, he smiled at her. “Jysella told Mirax she wants to wait to take her trials. What do you think? Is she not ready?” Mara shrugged and slipped her arm through Luke’s. “I think she’s ready and don’t know what is bothering her. She’s usually open with me, but recently she hasn’t been. But I know she and Ben are close. Maybe he knows.” Corran looked from Mara to Luke. “This isn’t the time or the place to discuss this, but I think we should talk about the…ah…complications of how close they have become. Mirax related something to me that has me concerned.” Luke nodded and sensed Mara’s irritation spike. She didn’t understand his concern over a potential relationship between Jysella and Ben. “I agree. I will admit I’m not completely comfortable with their closeness. Ben is so young and Jys is…” Corran nodded. “Too old for him. I agree.” Corran looked back at where Kyle and Kenth waited for him at the door. “But we can finish this some other time. Good day.” With a bow of his head he walked toward door. As the group left the chamber, he turned to Jacen. He smiled, glancing from Luke to Mara. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. I know what you want to talk about.” “Jacen, we need to discuss Ben’s apprenticeship and where he’s going,” Luke said before Mara had a chance to. She glared at Jacen, and her frustration shifted from Luke’s concern over Ben’s feelings for Jysella to focus on their nephew. “We’re concerned about his use of his anger and emotions to tap into the Force.” Jacen sighed and folded his arms inside his black robes. “I understand your concern and I am, too. However, you also know my philosophy.” “Which you know we don’t buy into.” Mara unhooked her arm from Luke’s and took a step toward Jacen with her hands fisted at her sides. “If there wasn’t a Dark Side, there wouldn’t have been a Palpatine or countless other Sith Lords who have ripped this galaxy apart. Maybe if Ben wasn’t placed in situations where there were as many dangers, he wouldn’t feel touching the Dark Side is the only option.” “Aunt Mara.” Jacen’s tone was almost condescending, but through the Force, Luke only sensed resignation. “We have discussed Ben’s involvement in the GAG more times than I care to remember. Ben is doing what he wants to do. He is contributing to the unit and he feels like he is accomplishing something important. And almost as importantly, he is doing well at it. I do not force him to go on missions. I make the assignments, but he knows he can back out at any time he doesn’t feel comfortable.” “Like he would do that?” Mara shook her head. “Come on, Jacen, he’s only fifteen. He doesn’t want to look weak in front of the other GAG officers. He wants acceptance and to be viewed as an adult.” “Mara, he’s been doing this since he was thirteen.” Jacen turned his gaze to Luke. “He has been going on missions with me since he was ten. I never expect Ben to do anything that he is not capable of doing, but it is important to his development as a Jedi to participate where he can. I don’t expect any more from Ben than you did out of Jaina, Anakin and me at his age.” He looked back at Mara. “In fact, Anakin was only fifteen when he saved you from the Yuuzhan Vong on Dantooine.” Mara masked the pain shooting through her at the memory of Anakin defending her from Vong warriors with calm coldness. Luke sent her his peace and rested his hand on the small of her back. “Anakin was extremely brave during the war, but we aren’t talking about your brother, we’re talking about our son. What concerns us is to see Ben in situations where, he thinks the only way out is to touch the Dark Side in the belief that it is all right because it is part of the Unifying Force.” “Uncle Luke, we’ve discussed my belief in the Unifying Force nearly as much as we discussed Ben’s apprenticeship. There was a time when you also believed in the Unifying Force. But I will reiterate I’ve taken your concerns into consideration in my teachings and I haven’t taught Ben anything that isn’t traditional Jedi teachings.” Jacen glanced at his wrist chrono, then smiled graciously. “Unfortunately, we will have to continue this some other time. I have a meeting with my command staff regarding my recommendation that Major Shevu be promoted and given control of the GAG. But let me reassure you that I have Ben’s best interests at heart and would never do anything to unnecessarily endanger him or to jeopardize his training.” Jacen bowed. “Aunt Mara, Uncle Luke, have a good day.” He turned sharply on his heal and headed out the door. As the door slid closed, leaving them alone in the massive chamber, Mara folded her arms over her chest. “Luke, I don’t like he has so much control over Ben.” Luke glanced at her profile. “Me either, Mara, me either.” Corran’s comments regarding his daughter and Ben came to mind. “Do you think Jysella is ready for her trials?” Mara narrowed her green eyes and pierced him with a sharp look. “Skywalker, what do you have up your sleeve?” He sighed and looked back at the door. “I’m really not comfortable with Jysella’s feelings towards Ben.” “Luke, they’re kids. Don’t you remember Jacen and Tenel Ka’s romance and Jaina and Zekk’s? Anakin and Tahiri were even younger than Ben.” He turned to face her. “Yes. That’s what worries me. I feared for Tahiri after Anakin’s death. I think she was closer to the Dark Side than we’d like to think.” He sighed. “If Ben was older I would more than support this relationship. What I fear almost as much as Jacen’s influence is Jysella’s.” “Luke, what are you talking about?” “I’ve seen how those two look at each other especially since we came back from Mullin. I know they are bonded through the Force.” Luke looked away. “I think they are becoming more serious then we’d like to admit.” Mara looked as if he had just slapped her. “You don’t mean…a physical relationship?” Luke swallowed and nodded his head. The thought bothered him as much as it did her. “I’m concerned something like that will happen. Ben thinks he’s an adult, Jys looks at him as he is one. I remember what it’s like to be a hormonal fifteen year old boy.” “You think if Jysella passed her trials, she could be sent on a mission and away from Ben for a while to let things cool off between them a little.” She took a deep breath and pushed a lock of red-gold hair behind her ear. “I love Jysella as a daughter, Luke, and would love if she and Ben have a future together, but I think you’re right. They need time to make sure this is really love and not a crush.” Luke nodded, took her hand and squeezed. “That is exactly how I feel. Then we can concentrate on Jacen.” **** Training Room Jedi Temple, Coruscant Jysella backflipped away as she parried his strike with her lightsaber. When she landed on her feet, she lunged as he advanced. Ben caught her blade and easily deflected it, but before he had a chance to bring in his saber for a kill, she ducked and swiped at his legs, forcing him to leap over the hissing arc of golden light. Ben’s lightsaber skill was a flawless dance of smooth strikes and perfectly placed parries. Jysella’s style was more Dathomirian than anything—a choreographed mix of athletic spins and leaps with well placed lunges and feints. Not surprising, considering the master who shaped her into a Jedi had been Dathomiri Kirana Ti. What did surprise them was that they were well matched, and each time they sparred, Ben had a harder time keeping up with her. Jys allowed herself a small smile as she leaped over a low strike, and as she landed on her feet, she caught Ben’s lightsaber near the hilt, knocking it out of his one handed grip. “Ahhh!” He growled as the hilt hit the mat several yards way. “Well, that wasn’t too difficult.” Grinning so wide her cheeks hurt, she deactivated her golden blade and clipped it to her belt. She stood straight with her hands on her hips and caught her breath. Ben called his saber to him. As it landed in his hand, he shrugged. “Like I said, I’m as weak as a whisperkit.” She walked over to the side of the training room and picked up her outer light green robe from their things. As she pulled it on over her tan pants and white tunic, she laughed. “Oh, no, you don’t!” Turning to him, she pointed her finger at him. “I won that fair and square.” “If you say so.” He stepped close to her and grinned as he raised a brow. As he picked up his uniform shirt and pulled it over the sleeveless undershirt, the toned muscles in his shoulders moved under the newly healed skin of his shoulders and upper arms. Blushing, she swallowed and glanced away, but he’d caught her watching him. As he buttoned the shirt, she looked back at him. They stared at each other for a long moment, and the way her heart raced had nothing to do with the exertion of sparring. She wanted to kiss him, but she knew they shouldn’t. Her mother was right, Ben was still young and if they truly loved each other they could wait for each other. As he reached out to touch her face, she quickly turned away. She instantly felt his disappointment. “Jys? What’s wrong?” Slowly, she took a deep breath. “Ben, I told my mom about us.” Ben stiffened his spine and furrowed his russet brows. “And what did she tell you? No, let me guess. She told you that I’m too young for you and that you shouldn’t love me. Am I close?” Jysella glanced away and slowly nodded. “Yeah. That about sums it up.” As he spun away, his frustration blazed through their bond like a torch. “Ben.” She touched his arm, turning him toward her. He narrowed his eyes and lifted his chin, and she dropped her hand to wrap her arms around her fluttery middle. She didn’t want to hurt him, but she had to try to make him understand her perspective. “Maybe we shouldn’t rush this. I mean we’re both young. I’m only eighteen and I’m not ready for where this is heading.” He took her by the shoulders and shook his head. “I know you don’t mean that, Jys. I can feel it.” The fire in his eyes burned through her resolve. “Maybe I do feel more for you than I should. But I can’t help it. It’s like I’m drawn to you and I can’t imagine my life without you. Mom and Dad are always saying that I’m growing up too fast. Well, maybe I have.” She couldn’t move, he completely mesmerized her with his bottomless blue eyes, and for several long moments, he seemed as enthralled by her. He broke the spell by moving away again. Disappointment cooled the heat bubbling through her veins. She rubbed her forearms to warm her sudden chill. The day couldn’t end like this. She wanted to spend it with him. “You promised to take me out to lunch after we were done.” He picked up his blaster and shoved it into the holster on his right hip. Boys don’t carry military weapons. Or look that good wearing them. She shook the thoughts from her mind as he shrugged into his uniform jacket and buttoned it. His eyes twinkled as he grinned and touched her face. “I like your thoughts” Her mouth went dry and she gaped at him. He hadn’t picked up her admiring him, had he? “What—what thoughts?” He kissed her nose and laughed. “I do look good in uniform, don’t I?” Her face flamed as she blushed. “Stay out of my mind!” “Nope. I like thoughts like that.” Spinning away, she grabbed her bag. “We were discussing lunch and you doing the buying.” He shrugged and folded his arms over his chest. “Since it was you who brought up the idea of lunch and not me, you should do the buying.” She raised her brow and tapped her foot. “Okay, I’ll buy, but you have to at least try salm soup.” He made a disgusted face as they headed toward the door. “On second thought, it is very ungentlemanly of me not to buy you lunch since you did beat me and all.” She laughed and took his hand. “Smooth, Skywalker. Real smooth.” **** The Market Cross was a fifteen-minute slidewalk ride away from the Temple. The new restaurant bordered the small Naboo neighborhood of New Theed and specialized in Naboo and Gungan ethnic food. Ben and Jys entered the bright and cheerful establishment that boasted an open-air dining area. A bronze colored protocol droid greeted them and led them to a table near the stone-like low wall surrounding the balcony several. Jys smiled as she sat down and looked around. “I love this place.” Ben nodded and took a deep breath to calm his racing heart. A planter of a native Naboo flower filled air with a sweet scent. “I do too. It reminds me of going to Naboo with Dad, Mom, Aunt Leia and Uncle Han after the Swarm War.” She folded her arms and leaned over them. The afternoon sun glinted in her black hair, making her ethereal. “Is it really as beautiful there as they claim?” Ben remembered the trip to the home of Aunt Leia’s and his father’s mother. “Yeah, it’s beautiful there. Maybe someday we can visit.” Jys smiled, brightening her eyes. “I would love that.” A service droid interrupted them. They placed their orders, and after their no-ales arrived, Ben asked, “So, have you heard anything more about Valin?” She took a sip of the soft drink and shook her head as she sat the bottle down. “No. Except that the trial is to take place within a few weeks and will occur here. I overheard your dad tell your mom that he thinks Naithal is trying to play politics with my brother’s charges.” Ben averted his gaze and picked up his bottle. “I wouldn’t doubt that. I know Jacen supports her, but sometimes I don’t think she will make a good Chief of State.” He took a sip of his drink. “What do you think the Council will do?” She shrugged and folded her hands on the table. “I don’t know. I think the Council shouldn’t get involved. Ben, don’t get me wrong, I love my brother. I always will. That he may have saved Syal is great. But as terrible as it is, Syal chose to become an enemy. And now my brother has become a traitor.” He couldn’t talk to anyone about this. Only Jys wouldn’t look at him as unsupportive of the cause. “I wish this whole war would just stop. Jacen keeps telling me the war is necessary to bring about a lasting peace and the Corellians are terrible for starting it in the first place. But I sometimes have a hard time believing people like Uncle Han and Aunt Leia or Wedge and Iella Antilles are bad or wrong.” She sighed and picked up her fork to study the tines. “I want the war to stop, too. I’m afraid of what this is doing to my family.” Laying the fork on the pale blue cloth, she leaned back in her chair. “Val is likely to be sent to prison for treason, at the very least. Mom and Dad fight all the time about his position in supporting Master Solo and the Senate, and her belief the Insurgents should be allowed to leave the Alliance if they want to.” Ben narrowed his eyes. “But you still support the GA, don’t you?” Her green eyes widened with obvious surprise. “Of course I do.” “I’m sorry, Jys.” Ben wished he’d never doubted her and held out his hand. She took it into hers and treaded her fingers with his. He loved how small her hand felt in his. “I just mean I’d understand if you didn’t. That’s all.” “Ben.” She squeezed his hand and he met her gaze again. “I don’t agree with Corellia. The only way the galaxy can rebuild and be strong after the Vong War is by uniting. What Corellia and its supporters are doing is damaging whatever has been done since the end of that war. I don’t like that we had to go to war over Corellia’s petty disagreements with the GA, but I know there was no other way. The galaxy has to be reunited.” Their food arrived and they ate in relative quiet, except for Ben’s occasional derogatory comments about Jysella’s soup and her defensive replies of her choice. Once they were finished, the droid took away their plates and brought them the traditional dessert of peca fruit torte. As they ate the flaky sweet delicacy, their conversation turned serious again when Ben asked, “So, has Mom recommended you take your trials yet?” Jys slowly swallowed her bite and laid her fork on her plate. “Yes.” Something was wrong. He put his fork on the plate and reached across the table to lift her chin with his thumb. “Jys?” Fear brightened her green eyes and she trembled. “Ben, I’m afraid if I’m granted Knighthood, I’ll be sent away.” His full stomach tumbled with dread. Nothing like that had ever crossed his mind. “What do you mean?” She took his hand from her chin and kissed his fingers, then held it between her trembling hands. “It’s simple. If I become a knight, I’ll have to go on missions. I’ll have to leave Coruscant, and if the Council assigns me to an outpost like Lorrd or some other Force-forsaken planet, I’ll have to go.” His heart thumped against his ribs at the terrible thought of Jys going away. He shifted her hands to enclose them in his and squeezed. “I won’t let that happen to you—to us. I need you too much. Jysella, I can’t lose you.” She squeezed his hands back and whispered, “Ben, you’ll never lose me. But I don’t want to be sent away.” Icy fear seeped into him and froze his blood. He shivered at the possible truth. His mother loved Jysella, but Mara was also over-protective of him. What if their parents weren’t happy with their closeness? He didn’t understand what everyone’s problem with them was. Why do they feel that our love so wrong? The only one who didn’t seem totally against them was Jacen. “Jys, if you are ready for your trials then you should take them, but we can talk to Jacen. He can help make sure that you aren’t sent away.” Thanks for reading, everyone.... Love the comments so far!