DISCLAIMER: I'm not George Lucas. I don't own these characters. Please don't sue me.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Set after the Legacy of the Force series, but before the Fate of the Jedi series.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
It feels like centuries between them and the days they'd spent together at the Academy on Yavin IV. Those children were dead and gone. Their hardships are etched in their skin. Jaina knows her own face mirrors Tenel Ka's: lines at the mouth; at the eyes; small scars here and there from the wars; more gray hair than either of them deserve.
"Jaina," Tenel Ka wavers, her arms coming up and her body moving forward. She catches herself. Stops. Looks away. They haven't seen one another since Caedus died. Her voice is soft. "It has been a long time."
"Yeah." It's the only thing she can get out. She reaches up to rub her neck. It's a habit most pilots collect in their time, one she knows her dad tends to. She wonders how she must look in her dirty, rumpled flight suit.
Tenel Ka recovers from the awkwardness first, turning to invite Jaina further into her private quarters. "Come, sit. You must be hungry."
Jaina picks the chair she's least likely to get grease on and shrugs. "Not really. I keep rations in the X-Wing."
"Thirsty, then." There is no question in the words. Tenel Ka pours water into a finely wrought glass kept at the bar. Jaina takes it, drinking more to stall than out of any interest. The queen does not sit. She stands, her good arm crossed over her stomach. It is the closest she has come to admitting vulnerability that Jaina can ever remember. "Amelia... She is well?"
"She's fine." It's inadequate. Not what Tenel Ka wants to hear. "Great. She's fantastic, really. Mom and dad love her so much. She's a breath of fresh air for the family. Especially after-" She falls silent, playing with her glass.
"After Jacen. Yes." Tenel Ka moves to the window, her back to Jaina. "Why are you here, Jaina?"
"What are you talking about?" Jaina's brow furrows. "Uncle Luke said you requested me."
"I did not." The surprise on her face as she turns is proof enough, but the Force ripples with her feelings. "Why would he say such a thing?"
Jaina doesn't reply immediately. Her brain turns over the issue. It's obvious when she considers recent events. Sighing, she lowers her head. Wisps of her hair escape the low tail at her neck and drift down to cover her face. "Because I needed a friend."
She's there, then, her hand on Jaina's knee. Her eyes are a cool, clear gray. "What is wrong, my friend? Why do you need me?"
Tears are not something Jaina allows herself. They are a luxury for people without duty. They cause cracks in her armor. They make her weak. She struggles to hold them in. Tenel Ka takes the glass from her hands before entwining her own hand with Jaina's. She doesn't press. It's one of the things Jaina loves best about her at this moment.
She knows the Force is reflecting her pain, her anguish. Her anger. She's tried so hard to keep her emotions in line. To be the Jedi her uncle needs. To be the daughter her parents need. To be anything other than what she is - a broken, bleeding sister. A child wracked by guilt.
"It's just-" She gasps. The tears begin to fall. Tenel Ka's hand squeezes gently. "I killed him."
All at once she's weeping. Distantly she feels arms surround her, knows her head is being pillowed on a chest, hears the murmurs of soothing words in hear ear. But Jacen is dead; she killed him. She killed her brother. It's a thought that burns so brightly in her mind that she cannot put it out. It's there when she wakes, when she sleeps. It follows her always, branding her for fratricide.
She doesn't know how much time has passed when she stops crying. The light in the chamber is different. Tenel Ka is rocking her gently and they are on the floor. Her hair has come down and her nose is running. She flushes rudely, pulling away from Tenel Ka and getting up to wipe at her face. "I'm sorry."
"Do you think I blame you for his death?" The question stops her movements. Her chest constricts. She says nothing - she doesn't have to. The Force says it all. "I do not."
"Why not?" She whispers. "I did it, didn't I? I cut him down."
"This may be a fact," she replies as she stands. Jaina can hear her movements before she feels the heat of Tenel Ka's body behind her. "But it is not the truth." Jaina flinches when Tenel Ka touches her shoulder. "Jacen died in the war. The boy we knew was dead and the man we thought we knew was a lie. The way we remember him - it is the boy we remember. His laugh. His smile."
The Hapan stops. When Jaina turns to face her Tenel Ka is crying silently. She cannot offer physical comfort. There is none in her to give. All she can say is, "I'm sorry."
"You did not take him from me! Vergere and the Yuuzhan Vong did." Tenel Ka reaches out for Jaina's face, her fingers trailing the lines she finds. "I will not also lose you to them. I could not bear to lose you both."
Jaina closes her eyes against Tenel Ka's touch. She knows what is happening here, does the same thing in the mirror every night. Tenel Ka is finding Jacen. Using Jaina's face to return lost details to the picture of him in her mind.
She knows what Tenel Ka is thinking as she looks at her. Jacen's jaw was stronger. His lips thinner. Their noses are the same, but his had been broken by the Vong. Jaina's eyebrows are shaped. She has a scar on her forehead from hitting the underside of her X-Wing a little too hard. Opening her eyes, she shows Tenel Ka that hers are the same color as his, but they lack his wisdom, his kindness. Instead there is anger and grief. Despair and regret.
And then Tenel Ka is kissing her. It's a gentle kiss, a light pressure. It's sweet and perfect and Jaina melts against it. Jag can't give her this, try as he might. It's why he'd left for the Remnant. But this, oh this. This is what she needs.
She mewls softly in the back of her throat and Tenel Ka presses forward to stand against her, their bodies flush. The kiss turns deep. It burns against them, their need spilling out into each other. Jaina's hands dig into Tenel Ka's sides, her fingers looking for purchase on the queen's armor. Tenel Ka's hand is wrapped in her hair at the base of her neck.
When they pull away for air, their eyes are dark and their skin is flushed. Tenel Ka leans in, resting their foreheads together. Jaina closes her eyes. "What now?"
"I-" Tenel Ka seems uncertain what to say. She struggles for several moments to find the right words. Jaina lets her, calmer now than she's been since Mandalore. Eventually Tenel Ka pulls away from her, putting distance between them. "I do not want you to leave. But, I do not know why..." Trailing off, she gestures between them.
"Yeah, sure." Jaina runs her hand over her face. "That makes two of us." She lets out a long breath before she asks, "Am I just a replacement for him?"
Tenel Ka smiles slightly, one side of her mouth turning up almost against her will. "How could you? You do not tell jokes nearly as well."
She can't help herself. She laughs, a sharp barking laugh that ricochets around the room. "Okay."
"Yes," Tenel Ka nods as she takes Jaina's hand, squeezes it. "Okay."
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