Jaina sat with Ralph in the cockpit of the Black Raven watching him pilot the spaceship out of Byss's atmosphere. Regret and excitement filled her chest, she'd never seen the stars so close before and yet she was leaving behind the only home she ever knew and the happiness she had with Zekk. What if her real family didn't approve of her relationship with Zekk?
Ralph flipped the com switch; "Mara, the Millennium Falcon is hailing us. Do you want to come up and speak or do you want me to take the honor?"
"I'll be right up there. Jaina please come down to the med center." Mara's distorted voice answered quickly.
Jaina unbuckled herself from the seat, stood up, and left the tiny room. Racing to the med center sent her blood pounding through her veins, but she wanted to see Zekk and make sure he was all right. When they first got on board, Mara and Ralph spirited Zekk away from under her care while Packard kept her back from following. She didn't fight Packard's restraining arms, she knew Zekk's condition was bad. Ralph had blood -Zekk's blood- covering his shirt and wore furious glint in his eyes, which seemed directed towards Mara. After all it was had been her plan to use Zekk.
The door opened and the image of Zekk sitting on the cot greeted her. It was an unsettling picture. White bandages were wrapped around his wrists and he winced when he moved to make room for her on the cot.
"Are you okay?" Jaina was surprised by the strength of her own voice. It sounded distant, as if someone else had spoken.
"Are we off that miserable the planet?" Zekk countered warily.
"Then I'll be fine." She didn't flinch when he reached up and moved a strand of hair that had fallen out of her ponytail. His expression was a mixture of sadness and longing at the same time.
"What's wrong?" Jaina desperately wanted to make everything better for Zekk. Guilt over his treatment stabbed at her.
"You still don't have your memories back. I'm afraid that you'll hate me when you start remembering..."
Jaina interrupted. "I could never hate you. I didn't hate you before, did I?"
"No I don't believe you have ever hated me." A tiny smile tugged at the corner of his mouth but only for a brief moment. "I think I have to go away for a while."
"No you don't. Stay with me." Jaina kissed Zekk, not wanting to hear him talk about leaving. He kissed her back but then gently pushed her away, knowing this may be the last time he had the courage and privacy to tell her what was happening.
"I'll come back Jaina, I promise. This isn't about you or what happened on the planet or what will happen when you see your real parents. This has to do with the dream world I visit every night when I sleep. I'm losing control of it. My mother bought me some time to remain here but not enough. I have to train on their ground. Please just let me hold you." He pulled Jaina to him and hugged her. Her arms wrapped around his waist, inadvertently pressing into his wounds. He hissed briefly from the pain but didn't push her away. Zekk ignored the pain, needing her close to him.
"I don't understand, but I'll stay with you for as long as you want me." Her mournful whisper against his chest made his heart ache with love and longing.
"I love you Jaina." He said quietly into her ear and mind.
Before Jaina could say anything the door opened, Zekk looked up recognizing
Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. "What's going on here?" Han asked. Jaina jumped -back startled at the interruption.
"Nothing." Her pale skin did nothing to hide her blush. "Who are you? Does
Mara know you're on her ship?" Jaina asked briskly, he didn't have to read her mind to know she was embarrassed.
"I told you she doesn't remember anything." Mara said stepping by the two men and entering the small room. "How are you doing, Zekk?" She asked standing in front of him.
Zekk could not bear to look at Mara; too many images of what happened on the planet filled his head. Jaina whimpered and clutched his hand tightly, pain shooting up her back and making her lightheaded. Zekk's control slipped another notch when he felt his own pain echoed back through Jaina. Within moments, everything flooded into Jaina's mind, the rape, the beating, pain from his broken wrist and the humiliation of Mara and Sax standing by not helping. Then it was gone and a fine sheen of sweat stood out on Zekk's half naked body.
"He'll be fine," Jaina answered for Zekk although she herself was stressed and distraught over what had happened.
It took her a moment to remember they had visitors. Releasing Zekk's fingers she stood up and hesitantly approached the two men. "My name is Jaina." She held out her hand like Yuri taught her when meeting new people but slowly lowered it when they just stared at her, shocked. She turned around and looked at Zekk hoping for some clue or help, he was siting with his head in his hands. All she could see were the whip marks.
Mara's blank expression metamorphosed into a smile. "Skywalker, General Solo come with me. Princess Leia is aboard and in stasis. I am sure your command vessel has better medical facilities than the Black Raven. I will take you to her now." With a backward glance, Mara quietly said. "Jaina, stay here and keep Zekk company we'll be back soon." Both men let her lead them out of the room. Jaina sat down next to Zekk and wondered what they were going to do.
"Would you mind explaining what the hell just happened back there?" Han Solo demanded after the metal door to the med center closed.
"It's a long story." Mara said taking her time in going to the cargo hold.
"It's a long way to Yavin 4." Luke countered calmly.
"While were at it then, I would like to know what the New Republic has been doing for the last two months." Mara said, angry that battleships were just a breath away from the planet but did not do anything.
For a moment Mara could see Han Solo's control waver. "Our hands were tied. No one could get near the planet without that energy field screwing the ship's sensors. We lost many ships trying. I do not know how I'm going to explain the money loss to Leia...As of right now, you know more about the energy shield, than we do. Now I want to know what happened to my wife and daughter. And what was Jaina doing hugging that boy?"
"Zekk is strong in the Force and my student," Luke rebuked Han.
"His hands were all over her." Han almost yelled. Knowing he was being irrational, but this was his only daughter.
Mara, losing patience, snapped. "Shut up! She lost her memory and Zekk is her only friend. Both of those kids went through a lot of shit. I do not want to hear one word about Zekk out of your mouth. If it were not for him, we would still be stuck on the planet. Now do you still want to see your wife or not?"
Han shut up and kept his peace, for the moment, but seeing Leia in the stasis unit almost made him lose control. He felt like shaking Mara until she told him everything she could about what happened on Byss. "Han, I'm going to comm the fleet and tell them to head back to Corusant. I think all of us need to make for Yavin 4--Leia will get the best treatment there and maybe seeing Jacen and her other friends will help Jaina regain her memory." Luke nodded his consent and took his leave, patting Han's shoulder before leaving the semi-dark room.
"Will you tell me what you know?" Han asked quietly to the still and silent woman standing next to him.
"Yes, but not here. I think we should do this over tea and crackers. I am hungry and I do not think Jaina or Zekk should be there when we have our talk. After Luke finishes getting rid of the fleet, we will talk. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to tell Zekk and Jaina to get ready for bed."
Mara was almost free when Han said; "They're sleeping together?"
Smiling she continued as if she had not heard the older man.
Mara opened the doors to the med center, Zekk and Jaina were both sitting on the cot much like she had first left them. "Hey you guys can go to sleep now. I know you must be exhausted. If you need anything please don't be afraid to ask." She stared at them for a few moments sensing they wanted to talk but not tonight.
She left the room and headed to the upper deck, needing to inform Ralph of their course correction. Meeting Luke in the tiny corridor outside the pilot control room surprised her. He stood so silently.
Not wanting to deal with his "come to the academy talk", she started speaking before he had the chance to start. "Look I'm going to debrief Han in the meeting room. If you want to hear the unedited version of what happened on the planet be there in three minutes." Brushing past Luke she entered the pilot's cabin and endured Ralph's icy silence long enough to tell him they were going to Yavin 4 instead of the New Republic capital. She saw the Millennium Falcon out the view port windows flying parallel to the Black Raven. General Solo was still flying that hunk of junk.
They all sat down at the round table and Mara slowly sipped the warm tea out of her mug, not sure where to begin. How could she tell General Solo what depravities his only daughter had seen, or that Jaina was now madly in love with an ex street kid.
"This isn't going to be easy for either of you to hear, so please don't say anything utill I'm done."
It was easy for her to tell them how she came to be on Byss and the words flowed until the night she ran into Jaina and Zekk. When she finsihed describing that evening they all sat in silence. Then before she lost her nerve she described her plan on destroying the energy shield.
Han rubbed one hand across his eyes. "This hasn't been a good time for our family has it Luke?" he asked.
"Why what happened?" Mara asked, wondering what else could have gone wrong.
"Jacen, Tenal Ka, and Lowbacca prevented another disaster for the New Republic, but a mercenary captain abused Jacen, for weeks, in front of Tenal Ka." Luke offered calmly and too casually for someone whose nephew was abused. Han on the other hand was clenching his cup so tightly his knuckles turned white.
"For what it's worth, I'm sorry." Mara said covering Luke's hand with her own. Han looked too frightening in his anger for her to try touching. For once, she actually did feel sympathy for this family.
Mara decided this was a good time for her to leave. "I need to rest. If two are tired Jill and Packard said you could use their room for the night they have the night shift anyway. We should reach Yavin 4 in six hours. I'll wake you up."
"Well be fine." Luke said his eyes troubled.
Screaming, Zekk bolted upright from the bedsheets, his skin dripped with sweat and he was breathing hard. Another nightmare. In the dream instead of Mara defeating Yuri and rescuing him, Yuri murdered the red hair woman and raped him repeatedly, while Jaina watched. This was not working.
Jaina sat up and rubbed his back lightly, murmuring something. The roaring in his ears drowned out the words.
Neither of them was getting any sleep.
"I'm sorry." He panted ashamed when his voice trembled. He did not want to cry anymore.
For the third time Jaina whispered, "It's okay," running her fingers gently through his tangled hair. It soothed both of them and gradually Zekk relaxed. She slipped into his mind again, not minding all the aches and pains, especially the one down there. It was easier to speak this way. Mostly she invited him to her body but tonight she wanted to know how much pain he was in before asking him to make love to her.
*Not in that much pain* floated into her mind and she blushed and then smiled.
They started kissing and made love slowly due to Zekk's back injuries. Afterwards Zekk fell asleep, and she stayed awake watching him sleep. Afraid of what the morrow would bring.
Han woke early. The last months of stress and worry over his family destroyed any chance of him getting a good night's sleep. Luke stirred next to him but didn't wake up. Sharing the same bed with his brother-in-law didn't happen often to which he was glad, it was startling to wake up expecting to feel his wife's smooth shaven legs and instead feel hairy ones.
He got up and dressed quickly, wanting to see Jaina a little bit more before he had to leave on state business. Hopefully, her memory recovered sometime during the night. Knocking before entering the room never occurred to him and he stepped back in shock at the sight of his daughter and Zekk laying together, obviously naked under the white sheet.
Zekk woke up at the sound of Han's angry growl, jostling Jaina in the process. She sat up slowly making sure to keep the sheet clutched close to her breasts. "Ralph, it's too early to wake up." She mumbled before flopping back on her pillow, fast asleep. He however couldn't just go back to sleep with General Solo glaring at him, with Zekk's death warrant written in his eyes.
"You! Up! Now!" Han ordered pointing his finger at him before turning around and leaving the room. Sighing Zekk debated on whether or not he should stay here and not risk death. Yet, if he wasn't outside in a few minutes the General would come in here and drag him out, naked. Sitting up hurt, bending hurt, wearing clothes over his sore ass hurt, but he had to live with it until either the welts healed on their own or he submerged himself in a Bacta tank. Wearing a shirt was out of the question.
Zekk apprehensively stared at the closed door, wondering how much of a beating the General would give him, well only one way to find out. Squaring his shoulders Zekk opened the door and stepped out into the dimly lit hallway. Han was leaning against the far wall waiting for him, arms crossed, blaster holder empty, that's a good sign. Then Han moved, fast, his large hand closed over Zekk's arm, almost wrenching it from its socket as Han dragged him through the hallway to the lower decks of the ship. Zekk knew he could use the Force to push Han away from him, but decided to wait and see what the older man had in store for him. Han stopped and hit a panel revealing the second smaller cargo bay. At this hour, it was rather empty and private. Han's tight grip propelled him forward into the cargo bay. Already he could feel a bruise forming on his arm, wincing he rubbed the area.
"Tell me why I shouldn't kill you." Han demanded twirling him around so they faced each other; the older man was standing way too close for comfort. Zekk backed away from the angry man, father, General, ex-smuggler, whoever the hell he was at this moment. Yuri had the same look in his eyes every time he beat him.
"Jaina would never forgive you." Zekk countered defiantly, staring into the General's eyes. Daring him to try and hurt him.
Han's hand's clenched into fists; Zekk could sense how much the General wanted to hurt him, and how hard Han fought to keep control.
His throat dry, he continued speaking, projecting calmness at the angry father. "I'm in love with Jaina and she loves me too."
"You don't know what you've done." Han said harshly.
"What do you mean?"
"Four months ago the new Senate promised Jaina's hand in marriage to the Emperor of the Schridon Empire. Their scientists discovered a new form of propulsion, but they won't share the technology unless the New Republic is allied through marriage. Normally, the New Republic would do without the technology, but our intelligence has reason to believe that the Empire has stolen the technology and they are making hit and run attacks on the outer New Republic systems. Their ships are too fast to catch." Han leaned back against a stack of cargo boxes that lined the wall.
Schridon Empire? Who was Han Solo fooling? "This is a joke. They can't make her marry someone she doesn't know. That's barbaric." Zekk yelled, angry because he couldn't tell if Han Solo was lying or telling the truth and did not want to profess his ignorance.
"Well he's probably not going to want her now that she isn't a virgin." Han offered sarcastically.
Relief swept through Zekk making him feel weaker. "That's good, isn't it."
"Not if he decides to take Jacen in her place." This time Han yelled and pushed off the boxes stalking closer to him.
"But Jacen's a guy." He said sounding confused now stepping back towards the middle of the otherwise empty cargo hold.
"I know! These people have a completely different customs. This Emperor has a harem of wives and husbands. I don't think he cares who he sleeps with as long as they are sons or daughters of Kings and other high ranking officials. Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin are royalty, in case you've forgotten."
"Well see if Jacen will marry Tenal Ka. That should solve your problem. If anything her family has to be more powerful than this Emperor's..." Zekk's mind raced trying to think of solutions to help his friend Jacen and the girl he loved.
"It doesn't work that way. Tenal Ka might already be promised to someone else."
"Her parents love her, I think they'll let her choose her husband." Zekk said confidently.
"Are you implying that I don't love my children?" Han's voice lowering in pitch.
Zekk looked away wondering what to say. "Do you?" He asked, thinking that he would never marry his children off like they were objects instead of people.
Han almost punched Zekk then and there, but after seeing the look in Zekk's eyes decided not to. "Look I met Emperor Kalland and he's not a bad man. He's a few years older than you and seems honorable."
"What about Jaina's Jedi training? How's she suppose to help people if she's stuck in harem? She'll hate it there!"
"She's still a better choice than Jacen, and Anakin is too young. The Senate wants the marriage to take place in five months."
"Princess Leia isn't going to approve." Zekk whispered running out of arguments to keep Jaina single until he could return from his training. But what if she wanted to marry before he returned. Despair made his eyes water.
"She signed the papers." Han spoke softly, losing his anger, in the face of Zekk's anguish.
"Jaina can't marry this man. She won't."
Han sighed and ran his hand through his rapidly thinning hair. Wondering when his family and world went to shit. "She will if it'll keep her brother from being raped again, because I don't think Jacen will ever willingly consummate his marriage to a man."
"Jacen was raped? When?" Zekk asked bewildered. He'd checked up on Jacen a couple of times and he was fine.
"It doesn't matter. He can tell you about it if he wants." The conversation was over.
Because of his years of experience on ships, Han knew the moment the Black Raven jumped out of hyperspace. "Look go get dressed, we're back at Yavin 4. I'll have to contact the Emperor and speak to him. Hopefully he'll call off the wedding. It's not widely known about, yet."
Zekk shivered and crossed his arms, covering his thin chest and followed Han back up to the upper decks and med center. He clung to the hope that the Emperor would call off the engagement. Jaina was still sleeping when he returned to the med center so he woke her up and told her he was going to visit Ralph. Her brown eyes gazed at him, love and trust, filling them. He wondered if she'd ever look at another man the same way she looked at him. That thought saddened him even more so he quickly left the room, before Jaina searched his thoughts more closely.
Ralph was sitting in the pilot's chair eating a roll of bread and drinking tea, when he entered. The large man smiled at him, his anger at Zekk's rough treatment buried while they were together. "Hey what are you doing up so early? I haven't even called Mara to tell her we there."
"Couldn't sleep." He mumbled plopping himself down in the co-pilot seat, automatically checking all the readings.
Shrugging Ralph went back to concentrating on finishing off the roll in the next bite. "So what's wrong." Ralph asked after finishing his food. They had a few more minutes of privacy before everyone on board woke up.
"Ralph is sex with men...good?"
Ralph seemed taken aback by the question, but only for a moment. "Well depends on what you mean by good. Is it morally right or wrong? Or does it feel good? Which do you want answered?"
Blushing again, Zekk asked, "Does it feel good?" Determined
"With the right partner all sex feels good." A broad smile graced Ralph's face. "But to answer your question, before I met Kale I had many encounters with men and women. Generally, I enjoyed being with men; it's more intense. But if Kale were a woman, I would still love him. Why do you want to know?"
"I keep wondering how you can be intimate with someone if it hurts all the time."
"Zekk, you were raped. I'm guessing that Yuri was rather cruel. He went out of his way to make it painful and turn you on at the same time, and when you reacted to his touch, he humiliated you even more. Am I guessing right?"
"Yeah." Zekk sighed staring at his hands.
"Sex isn't like that when you're with someone you trust, respect, and love. Yuri was trying to dominate you, not share. I almost hope you try making love with another man, just so you know it can be good, although, Jaina will probably kick you if you ever strayed from her side. So what brought this on?"
If anyone else had asked Zekk would have kept quiet but Ralph was the only one who seemed to understand him. "A friend of mine may have to marry another man, and I can't bare to think of him suffering the same thing I went through."
"You're talking about the Schridon Empire, aren't you? Emperor Kalland is the only ruler that encourages same sex marriages that I know of anyway."
So Han Solo was telling the truth.
"Yeah." Zekk answered starting to wonder if maybe Ralph was reading his mind.
"I haven't heard anything bad about the man. I can't see him forcing someone to marry him. I hear he's extremely handsome and has women and men throwing themselves into his bed. Of course that may be an exaggeration. I can think of worse men to marry."
"But my friend only likes being with girls." Zekk complained.
"Well then he'll have a lot of fun in the harem, hundreds of girls live there. I think the Emperor can tell if a guy is open to his kind of lifestyle and won't force your friend to marry him." Strangely enough, Ralph's advice made him feel better.
Entering Yavin 4's orbit brought another surprise. A small fleet of ships sat off in the distance watching the planet. "This is different." Ralph muttered, maneuvering the Black Raven next to the Millennium Falcon. Zekk scanned the ships with the Black Raven's sensors hoping to pick up who they were, but the designs weren't familiar to him. Normally no one came to Yavin 4, there wasn't much here except the Jedi Academy and jungles.
Ralph flipped the comm switch, "Millennium Falcon, this is the Black Raven, do you recognize that fleet over there?"
"Ralph, this is Lando Clarrison, that fleet over there belongs to Emperor Kalland. I believe it's his personal escort. Fastest damn ships I've ever seen."
"Thanks Lando." Ralph said, shutting down the comm line.
"They have to be fast. It takes time to reach their space. I visited their star system once about ten years ago. They were too far away for the Empire to worry about them and perfect for trading with, if you want to get away from the Empire for awhile. I guess they found a faster propulsion system." Ralph explained to him. Now Zekk understood why he hadn't heard of this Empire until just recently.
The com signal beeped and Ralph flipped it back on. "Black Raven speaking."
A woman answered, "Black Raven state your business in this space."
"One minute please?" Ralph asked, he wasn't saying anything until he knew whom he was dealing with. Ralph's large hand covered the microphone, "Go get Mara. Hurry!"
Zekk jumped up and ran to Mara's room. She was already dressed when she answered his knocking. "We have a hail from another ship asking what we are doing here. Ralph told me to get you." Zekk said while trying to catch his breath.
She pushed past him, leaving him no choice but to follow her.
"Mara, I thought you might want to take this." Ralph said, moving over to the copilot chair.
"Yes, thank you." Sitting down and flipped on the com switch. "This is Mara Jade, Captain of the Black Raven. We are delivering food supplies to the Jedi Academy. What is your business in this sector?"
Mara sounded calm considering a fleet of warships probably had all their weapons trained on them. "You may proceed." The same female responded after a minute.
"Who are they to say whether or not we may visit Yavin 4?" Ralph asked plotting a course to the Academy.
"I don't know, but I guess we'll find out when we reach the surface. Zekk go eat. You may not have time to when we land." Mara ordered, giving her full attention back to the control panel.
He stood there for a moment looking out the window before turning around and doing as Mara ordered. He didn't like anyone telling him what to do, but he was rather hungry.
Breakfast was an awkward affair that morning. Zekk refused to look at General Solo or Master Skywalker while Jaina started asking them all kinds of questions. Where were they from? What was their favorite food? How old were they? It went on and on, until Zekk wanted to scream. That's your father and uncle! Sax joined them at the table midway through and Jaina shut up, remembering his part in Zekk's rape, then Kale showed up and started talking to Master Skywalker. It was a rather quick breakfast but it felt longer.
Mara was an excellent pilot, he barely felt them landing, a big difference from his own fiery crash from the sky two months ago. At least here, he'd be safe, and after he put a lock on his door, he'd feel safer.
A few minutes after the ship landed, Mara came and joined them at the table. "You kids are free to leave now. General Solo, you might want to stay and help move the stasis box. Luke if you can go on ahead and prepare for her, I would really appreciate it." Then she started eating fruit and cereal.
Master Skywalker stood up and left the room, presumably to do as Mara suggested.
Jaina stood up and tugged at his arm. "Come on Zekk. I've never seen this place before, you need to show me around." He smiled noticing the General's dark frown.
He stood up and kissed Jaina before wrapping his arm around her waist and leading her out of the room. "I can show you the sights." Zekk said loudly enough for the General to hear.
Zekk laughed when Sax started choking on his food but sobered rather quickly when Jaina poked him in the ribs. "That wasn't very nice. You usually aren't that bold in front of the crew. What's up?"
"I'll tell you when we got off this ship. I want to see if my room is still here."
"Do I have a room?" Jaina asked nervously.
Her hand felt smooth, small, and soft in his larger hand. He brought her fingers to his lips and kissed the back of them. "Of course you have a room. You're one of the first students here."
They reached the ramp the same time Luke did. They didn't have to go to their room to retrieve anything. Jaina smiled trying to be friendly though she wanted to tell Master Skywalker to go away. After her time in the mansion, she had lost all interest in learning how to use the Force. Any time she called on it to move objects she kept picturing Zekk chained to a wall convulsing in agony.
"Zekk after you show Jaina around please come to my office. We need to talk."
"Sure no problem." Zekk answered, wondering if Luke knew about the Senate's plans for Jaina.
He felt apprehensive walking down the ramp of the Black Raven, would his friends know what happened to him?
Jacen, Tenal Ka, and Lowbacca all stood together waiting for them to disembark. Jacen was thinner than he last remembered, but he smiled when he saw them. "Jaina, Zekk I'm so glad you're all right!" He ran over to them and started to hug Jaina but she pulled back and put her hands out to hold him back.
Jacen's brown eyes, so like Jaina's, filled with hurt and confusion. "Jaina. What's wrong? Has something happened to mom?"
Zekk wrapped his arm around her shoulder, feeling her confusion. She was probably seeing herself in her brother's features. "Princess Leia is fine." Zekk answered for Jaina.
"Then what's wrong?" Jacen asked again.
"She has amnesia. Jaina has no memory prior the past two months. But hopefully she'll regain it soon." Zekk led her away from the ramp and into the hot sun.
"Is this true?" Jacen asked following behind them dejectedly.
Jaina answered clinging to Zekk's hand. "I'm afraid so."
Now that they stood in the sun, Zekk could see just how tired and dispirited
Jacen had become. Dark circles under the eyes, thinner frame, the 'don't touch me' signals, which the Force only amplified. It was like looking at himself in the mirror. Jacen did a double take of him as well. He probably hadn't looked this scary since the Shadow Academy. Tenal Ka grabbed Jacen's hand and held tightly. Jacen smiled faintly at her.
"Jaina lost her memories." Jacen explained to his Tenal Ka and Lowbacca.
"How?" Tenal Ka asked. Zekk doubted she would ever change. She was as much a warrior today as he had ever seen her, even missing an arm she looked deadly. Much like Mara but younger.
"I think I hit my head." Jaina answered looking questionably at the strangers in front of her.
Zekk squashed the disappointment rising in his chest. He had hoped she would remember everything when she saw her other friends. Maybe he was hoping for too much. An impatient snort by his side reminded him of his duties. "I'm sorry, Jaina. This is Jacen, Tenal Ka, and Lowbacca. They are fellow Jedi trainees and your best friends. Jacen's your brother." Zekk introduced Jaina feeling a bit silly because they kept grinning.
Tenal Ka was the first to speak. "I guess you'll just have to hang out with us until we're you're best friends again."
"Was it a chore the first time?" Jaina asked smiling.
"For me." Tenal Ka answered.
All of them laughed, although only he, Jacen, and Lowbacca could truly appreciate the gesture. Tenal Ka rarely joked.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in relaxation. Neither, Jacen, Tenal Ka, or Lowbacca pressured Jaina into remembering who they were, nor did they ask hundreds of questions about the last two months, as they showed her around the temples making up the Jedi Academy.
Eventually, when the heat of the day hit finally hit them they decided to go inside and eat. The cool interior of the main temple hit them and Zekk felt blind for the first few minutes until his eyes readjusted to the being out of the sun.
"Jaina I'll show you to your room so you can take a quick shower. Lunch isn't served for another hour." Tenal Ka offered leading Jaina away.
Lowbacca's translating droid piped in. "Master Lowbacca has some chores to finish. And says it's nice to see you again Zekk." Then the Wookie turned around and left.
"You did that on purpose." Zekk accused after they were alone in Jacen's room.
"Yeah, Uncle Luke told me to keep you guys busy while they tried to save mom. And I didn't want to ask what happened with Jaina here. She honestly doesn't remember that I'm her brother." Jacen turned towards one of the many cages in his room and pulled out a fluff of fur and started petting it. Zekk tried to find the eyes but had little success. Jacen probably didn't mean to project his unhappiness, but it was in every movement and facial expression. Slow and languid depressed. The fluff of fur purred quietly. The whole room of animals were abnormally silent. Jacen probably didn't even realize his moods were affecting his pets.
Zekk opened his shield and found it easy to read Jacen. Intense feelings of shame and worry overwhelmed him. Zekk closed his shield and rubbed his temples. Talking might just be better than trying to read Jacen's thoughts or emotions.
"So we're alone." Zekk said calmly to see how Jacen would react. A spike of anxiety emanated of Jacen before the younger teenager forced it down.
"Do you want to talk about what's bothering you?" Zekk asked.
His younger friend shook his head no; "I can't talk about it."
*Zekk? Is everything all right? * Jaina asked from the other room.
*Yeah, no, he doesn't want to talk about what happened.
"What happened after we left?" Zekk asked casually ignoring friend's wishes, just this once, by asking the round about way.
This time Jacen answered happily enough. "Well we followed after you but it was too late, you'd already crashed. I thought you might have died, but Uncle Luke said you were still alive. We waited for a week or two; scientists came and went trying to figure out how to disable the shield but with no luck. Finally, Uncle Luke ordered us back to Yavin 4. And that's it." Now it was Jacen's turn to lie.
"Bullshit. You were raped don't try lying to me." Zekk's voice sounded harsh to his own ears.
Jacen flinched, his eyes widening in shock. "What? How? That's not true." The denial was so horrible Zekk just stared at his friend's eyes not knowing where to go next.
Wondering if he wasn't doing more harm than good Zekk pushed. "Your father told me what happened and I could sense the trauma the moment I got off the ship. What happened?"
"You have no right to be asking me this! You've been gone for three months and now that you're back, you expect me to confide in you? What gives you the right to demand I tell you anything?" Jacen had tears running down his checks but the anger in his eyes was unmistakable.
"I love your sister and she senses your unhappiness. I was hoping that if you talked about it you might feel better!" Zekk yelled not caring anymore that he wasn't calm and collected.
"You can't understand what I went through on that planet! No one can. It's bad enough that Tenal Ka knows about it." Jacen wasn't making sense, but Zekk was starting to get a picture of what was happening as images from Jacen's memory filled his mind. In some ways, what Jacen went through was worse than his experience. Jaina's well being never depended on his ability to perform in bed and only one person ever raped him.
Compassion filled him and he sat down next to Jacen and hugged the smaller teen. Jacen's arms wrapped around his waist. If it wasn't for the lack of curves Zekk could almost imagine he was holding Jaina. "Jacen, it wasn't your fault. None of it those bastards are dead and you're free. Tenal Ka really does love you. Just open your senses and you'll feel it. You're strong, smart, and the most compassionate person I know. Don't let those mercenaries change you. You're better than them." Zekk's eyes burned with tears desperately wanting to believe everything he told Jacen, especially the part where it wasn't his fault.
"How do you know so much?" Jacen whispered once his sobs stopped.
"I was raped too." Zekk answered simply, although it was the hardest statement he ever admitted to himself or anyone else.
Jacen pulled away from him and looked up into his eyes. Being a few years older gave him some advantages, greater height being one. "When? How?" he asked astonished.
"After I crashed, I was captured by a powerful man, who wanted me for a sex slave. I tried to fight but he was strong in the Force and so much bigger than me. After the first day I couldn't even use my powers. He had bracelets that created Force bubbles and put a collar on me that hurt me at his command. I was whipped, beaten, raped, and humiliated. Jaina had lost her memory and thought Yuri was her father. He never touched her except to hit her for screwing up. But we escaped and the rest is history." By the time, he finished speaking it felt as though everything happened to someone else. Zekk thought it best not to tell Jacen that Mara and Sax allowed him to be raped again.
Jacen didn't say anything for a few moments and then hugged him. "We're both a mess aren't we?"
"Yeah." Zekk answered smiling through his tears. "But we'll be okay. Come on let's wash our faces before our girls return."
"Our girls?" Jacen was smiling too.
"I'm in love with Jaina." as if that explained everything.
Jacen understood, after washing their faces, Zekk sat on the bed and let Jacen show him all his new animals. It relaxed them both, so by the time Jaina and Tenal Ka returned they were back to normal.
"Are you ready to eat, Zekk?" Jaina asked him standing in the doorway. Smudges of grease stained her forehead.
"I think so."
As they walked down the hallway to the cafeteria, Jaina chattered. "Oh you wouldn't believe how much machinery is in my room. It's going to take me all night to see what's there!" Jaina exclaimed happily.
*I hope not all night.*
Zekk smiled innocently when she turned around and looked at him, blushing.
*Just part of the night.* She answered back.
Tenal Ka took the conversation after that, outlining a training exercise to see how much Jaina remembered, for tomorrow. It sounded like fun and Jaina agreed to it enthusiastically.
After lunch Zekk received a silent call from Master Skywalker so he kissed Jaina and quickly left the group. Not staying to see his friend's reactions.
He arrived at Master Skywalker's door within moments and raised his hand to knock. "Come in!" Zekk looked at his hand and then lowered it and entered the room.
In the presence of such a powerful Jedi, Zekk felt apprehensive, even though he knew that Luke Skywalker was nothing like Yuri. "Sit down Zekk."
The chair in front of Master Skywalker's desk was a plain wood. Everything in the room was simple. Zekk fidgeted with his the material of his pants waiting for Master Skywalker to speak. "You wanted to talk to me?" Zekk asked after waiting for his teacher to speak first.
"Mara told me what happened on Byss." Skywalker started.
"Are you kicking me out of the Academy?" Zekk asked tonelessly, cutting off his emotions before the hurt could overwhelm him.
Skywalker looked astonished. "Of course not!" The sudden display of emotion surprised Zekk. "You'd make a fine Jedi Knight."
"Then why did you want to talk to me?" Zekk asked confused.
"I thought you might like to talk about what happened to you there. I can feel your anger and fear, its all bottled up inside. I planned on talking to Jacen later tonight. Maybe I can counsel you together. Unless you'd rather talk to someone else?"
"This is about counseling?" Zekk asked to make sure he heard right. Feeling enormously relieved.
"Yes, Jacen and you, both suffered through traumatic experiences and if you don't deal with the effects of rape now, you may never have the chance to heal. I'm also recommending that Jaina and Tenal Ka also attend counseling sessions. Han says that if I can't help you, he'll try to find someone more qualified to help you guys. He really is worried." Master Skywalker eyes were full of compassion and understanding.
Zekk didn't know how he was going to tell him that in a week or so he was going to be gone. And yet for his friends sake's he'd agree to this counseling because in the long run it would help balance them again even though he'd be gone. "I think it's a good idea. When would you want to start?"
"A few days from now. I still need to talk with Jacen, Jaina, and Tenal Ka and see if they are ready to talk about their experiences." Master Skywalker leaned back in his chair and rubbed his temples. The older man looked stressed and anxious.
"What else is wrong?" Zekk asked.
That must have been Master Skywalker's cue to tell him everything. "Princess Leia is recovering, the Emperor of Schridon is sitting above us asking when he can take Jaina home with him, and Han still isn't convinced he shouldn't use his blaster on you. And Jaina still doesn't remember her former life. That's the gist of what is happening."
"What do you want me to do?"
"Nothing for now. Show Jaina around the Academy see what skills she has and let her remember on her own. Mara and I've talked as well. I recommend you stay in this reality from now on." Before Zekk could protest or ask what he meant, the Jedi master escorted him out of the room and shut the door in his face. Knowing he when he wasn't wanted Zekk turned and strolled back towards the cafeteria and Jaina's presence, using the extra time to reflect on how complicated his life was.
Luke Skywalker leaned his head against the door after closing it so rudely in Zekk's startled face. When did everything go to hell? The only good thing that came out of the last few days is Jaina and Zekk's return with his sister, Leia. Han hadn't left her side since the medic droid took her out of stasis and started operating. They said she had to stay in the Bacta tank for at one day.
Straitening his back, Luke pushed away from the door. He was a Jedi Master and would solve each problem as it came, only for the last week they've piled on faster than he could fix them and it involved his family. Which only made everything more difficult.
Emperor Kalland sat in orbit waiting for Jaina's return so he could marry her, but now that her memory was gone, Han couldn't in good conscience allow her to marry someone without full knowledge of her past. Then there was Zekk. Luke wasn't too surprised when Han returned to their room earlier that morning angrier than a Wookie who had all it's fur shaved off, and told him about Zekk and Jaina in love. Luke knew that they were in love by the way they held hands and always looked at each other but hadn't realized it had gone so far. Han admitted the only reason he didn't beat or shot Zekk was that Yuri had already done more damage than he ever could, and Zekk honestly loved his daughter.
Sitting back down at his desk Luke picked up the letter he was reading when Zekk arrived, and reread it to make sure he didn't miss anything.
I'm arriving at Yavin 4, with Anakin in three of your planet days. Anakin misses Yavin 4.
It was dated two days ago and that was all she wrote. Nothing about how the Senate was doing or who was taking Winter's place as Leia's substitute. Anakin at fifteen was more than ready for the Jedi Academy but Han and Leia wanted their youngest son to stay with them at Coursaunt, as long as possible.
His com button beeped and he flipped the switch, wondering who was calling him. "Yes?"
Allan a nervous young trainee replied. "Master Skywalker, Emperor Kalland demands to speak with you."
It was Leia's idea to have the students take over the running of the Academy, to learn vital skills for when they left. After that, all the students had small jobs around the Academy. Luke was proud to know there were so many new students that no one was overworked. "I'll speak to him." Luke said after a moment's pause.
"Okay you're transferring over now." After a few minutes of static then hearing someone else's conversation, Allan got it right and he was online with the Emperor.
"Is this Jedi Master Skywalker?" A calm deep voice asked over a great distance.
"This is he." Luke answered. "What can I do for you, Emperor Kalland?"
The line was silent and then Kalland spoke, "I've come for my bride, Princess Jaina Organa Skywalker Solo. Your Senate promised me her hand in marriage months ago and I've received nothing but incompetence and ignorance from your great Republic."
"Emperor Kalland please give me time to explain the bizarre circumstances of your delayed marriage to my niece." Luke said, trying to placate the angry monarch.
"I'm waiting." The cold voice demanded.
This was not going to work, he couldn't tell the Emperor over a com line everything that had happened the past two months. "I think it may be best for you to visit the Jedi Academy so we can speak in person. The story is complicated and too personal for an open com line."
"I'll have to consider your proposal and seek my advisor's assistance on this matter." The com line died leaving Luke staring at the now quiet com unit.
The way the Emperor sounded he expected more of a fight. Sighing in frustration because Emperor Kalland didn't tell him when he'd try to contact him again. Luke decided to leave his spacious office and go outside to oversee the students. Many of his former students stayed on as teachers, which helped cut his workload down by half.
While reorganizing his papers and letters, another call came through. It was the Emperor. "Master Skywalker, expect my entourage in five hours." The line went dead again. Anyway else might have been angry or miffed at the Emperor's rudeness but Luke had too many things to do to prepare for the Emperor's arrival.
Quickly stuffing all his letters and important notices, including Winter's message, into his top desk draw he locked it up and left the room. The room Han and Leia used on their visits would have to do for now. Not too many important dignitaries visited. Parents of the students visited frequently and those guest rooms were located more closely to their children's rooms.
Taking the stairs two at a time, Luke ran to the med center, Han needed to be moved out of his room soon, and they also had to prepare for potentially fifty more guests if not more. Luke hoped the Emperor brought no more than twenty guests. The main temple with living quarters, med center, cafeteria, had five main levels. His office was on the first floor and the med center was on the forth. All important guests had the fifth floor for themselves, this would be the first time in ten years anyone besides Han and Leia would occupy that level. Fortunately, his students kept the fifth level clean along with all the other levels.
Han was slouched in a chair fast asleep when he entered the room. His long legs stuck out inconveniencing the medic droids who had to go around or carefully step over them.
"Han wake up!" Luke shouted, almost amused when his brother-in-law snapped out of his sleep already reaching for his blaster and instead finding him self slipping off the leather covered seat.
After catching himself from almost landing on the floor, Han glared at him. "Thanks kid. Now what's the hurry?"
"Emperor Kalland is paying the Academy a visit in five hours. Your room is the most extravagant and fit for an Emperor." Gazing at his sister floating in the Bacta tank, he added. "She'll be fine."
Han glanced over to his wife and said. "Fine. I'll stay in the Millennium Falcon, with Lando."
"Han I have a spare mattress under my bed if you decide to stay in the temple. Just dump your stuff in my room. You need to take a bath and dress in clothes fit for a prince not a smuggler. I don't think you'll have time to see the Falcon just yet. By the way, when is Lando coming in? I haven't talk to him today."
"Ah...he'll come inside once he finishes making calf eyes at Mara. Lando thinks he's in love." Han's voice verged on bitterness; he never enjoyed state functions and avoided them whenever possible. However, this was no ordinary visit. Emperor Kalland made it perfectly clear that he wanted one of Han's children as a consort, preferably Jaina. The strain over the last three months aged his brother-in-law faster than hyperspeed. If he didn't do something, Han would have permanent scowl lines embedded on his face.
"Well with any luck she'll invite him to stay on the Black Raven and you can have the Falcon all to yourself?" Luke offered trying not to smile at Han's sudden scowl. Han spun on his heel and left his boots slapping against the paved stone. Hopefully to prepare for the Emperor's visit.
Lunch was ending when Zekk returned to the cafeteria, Jaina worried briefly when she sensed his emotions spike but then they returned to normal. The Jedi Academy was like nothing she imagined. Jaina imagined grown ups lording over the children, ruling their lives with fear and punishment. Instead, many of the students were adults and the cafeteria echoed with laughter from many different alien races and people of all ages. Teachers mingled with the students, telling stories, offering advice, and becoming friends. Tenal Ka filled her in on the rules and when the classes met, where they could practice alone, or mediate. The Jedi students had remarkable freedom she thought with envy.
Many of the students turned their heads when Zekk entered the room. She didn't blame them, Zekk's dark hair, clothing, and height made him appear menacing and attractive. Zekk paused at the far end of the room looking for them, until Jacen stood up and waved his hand. "Over here Zekk!" He yelled, just in case Zekk didn't see him.
It's remarkable how much Jacen looks like me, Jaina remarked to Tenal Ka earlier. The girl from the Haps Cluster quickly informed her that Jacen was her twin brother. That explained a lot. So far everyone was treating her nice but it frustrated her that she couldn't remember anything. Weaving his way through the rows of tables, Zekk finally made it to theirs.
"Hey." Zekk said sitting down next to her.
"So what did Master Skywalker want?" She asked, fiddling with the last bit of her food, nervous about his answer. What if the Jedi Master wanted her to leave?
Thinking carefully on how to phrase this with all his friends with him, Zekk didn't say anything for a minute. "Master Skywalker knows everything that happened to us during the last few months and thinks we need counseling. He said he would talk to all of you sometime today or tomorrow."
Sighing in relief Jaina set down her fork. Then it hit her. Counseling, all her embarrassing moments would be discussed and dissected. "Do we have to go?" She quickly asked, before Jacen could say the same thing.
"No of course not. Master Skywalker says whenever we are ready is good for him, but recommends sooner is better." It better be soon because I'm gone in ten days Zekk thought peevishly.
"I have to think about this carefully before deciding." Tenal Ka calmly added, and Lowbacca roared his agreement.
Tenal Ka changed the subject after that, but it felt awkward being together as a group again, because there were some things they just couldn't mention or talk about without inadvertently telling Jaina more about herself. Eventually they all lapsed into silence.
"Jaina do you want to go swimming?" Zekk asked to her bowed head. He sighed sensing she was on the verge of tears.
*Jaina, what's wrong?*
*Everything!* She yelled in his mind before jumping to her feet.
"I'm sorry, I'm not myself!" Jaina sobbed before dashing out of the room.
No one said anything for a minute too stunned by Jaina's emotional overreaction. "What did we do?" Jacen asked, breaking the silence surrounding the table.
"It was nothing. Don't worry about it, I'll go find her." Zekk said leaving the room in the same direction Jaina took.
Zekk found her in her room tinkering with a engine. Her black clothes hid all the new grease stains she added to them. "Jaina?" Speaking out loud with Jaina felt clumsy but after the way she yelled in his mind he didn't want to take the chance, she'd reject him.
"I'm sorry I overreacted. Can we just forget about it please? I know I'm nothing like I used to be. Even my old friends couldn't talk around me. I've accepted it and moved on." The sadness in her tone belayed her last statement. Jaina set aside her wrench and wiped her hands on her pants before picking up a new instrument.
"I'm not the same anymore either." Zekk offered gently, only wanting to see her smile again, like she did on Byss.
Continuing, before Jaina had a chance to speak he tried to explain their actions. "Master Skywalker told us it's best to let you remember on your own, so we're not suppose to talk about the past. I didn't realize how hard that would be and neither did Tenal Ka, Lowbacca, or Jacen. That's why we were awkward. Don't give up hope on us frail mortals, yet."
A tiny smile tilted at the corner of her mouth and she sniffed before asking. "Do I know how to swim?"
Jacen lounged on the grass by the river, watching Jaina and Zekk playing. Tenal Ka sat next to him. She barely left his side since they returned to Yavin 4. Not that he minded. His father told him years ago that his duty as a man was to protect his loved ones, but he couldn't even protect himself. If he had his way, he'd travel planet to planet exploring the wildlife and helping injured creatures recover. Cold water splashing on his chest drew him away from his dark thoughts.
"Hey why don't you get in the water? You came all the way down here after all?" Zekk called out splashing him again.
Jacen picked up his towel and moved further away from the water. Originally, when he suggested swimming he planned on somehow kissing Tenal Ka, but after finding Zekk and Jaina, those plans were dashed. Now he was just trying to enjoy the sun and the quiet.
Tenal Ka's reddish brown hair flamed like fire as the last rays of sunlight hit the horizon. He told her so, and she looked at him puzzled before asking why he compared her hair to fire. "Nevermind." He muttered, watching his sister and best friend Zekk swimming.
Someone did a number on Zekk's back. Bruises and welts flowed all the way down to his legs. Tenal Ka pursed her lips in displeasure seeing the marks. Jacen didn't say anything, and Jaina pretended they weren't there. Jacen couldn't get the look on Zekk's face out of his mind when they had come upon the couple unexpectedly. Shame. Zekk hid it well for Jaina's sake, but it took about half an hour before Zekk stopped trying to hide his whole body in the water.
The grass on the river bank was soft and Jacen plucked at it, almost bored but not quite. On Sirus 3, he daydreamed about returning to the Academy, sitting by the river bank, now he was here with all his friends and sister and yet he still felt unsettled, almost as if he didn't belong here anymore. Maybe counseling would help...
"Jacen, don't you want to go swimming?" Tenal Ka asked also picking at the grass. "I think it would be fun and take your mind of your worries."
Knowing she was right didn't help, but he smiled anyway and said. "Why don't you go on ahead. I need some time to think. I'll join you in when I'm ready."
She stood up and peeled off her body armor. "Don't take too long, the sun is going to set soon." And with that she was gone, running towards the water. She dived in gracefully. Wishing he had her strength of character, he lay back and stared at the greenish blue sky, and tried to clear his mind of everything. A few minutes later he gave up in disgust. Zekk was dunking Jaina and Tenal Ka was on his back helping her other friend. The noise was too distracting. Tenal Ka saw him sit up and waved him over. Sighing knowing any useful mediation would have to wait for another day, Jacen smiled quickly took off his clothes except for his shorts and ran towards the water.
Jaina shrieked when he picked her up and started spinning around. If the water was any deeper, he couldn't have done it. Just as he was about to fall down, too dizzy to stay upright, he tossed her away from him. Her legs flapped as ungracefully as possible before she hit the water. Zekk laughed and Tenal Ka hooked her leg behind his and pushed, hard. Not expecting the sudden move, Zekk went down, and came back up somehow choking and laughing at the same time. After that, it was everyone for them selves.
Winter regarded her young charge with thoughtful eyes. They young teen was a changeling, already the fifteen year old was taller than his older brother and sister, and Anakin retained a childlike curiosity about everything.
"We're approaching Yavin 4, Aunt Winter. Can I land the ship?"
She sighed. "Yes, as long as you don't crash and kill us." Winter's personal cruiser could handle a lot of abuse, as she found out over the years. The Solo children were probably the only ones who can say they flew spaceships before they turned ten.
They both saw the stationary fleet at the same time. Anakin scanned the ships and was about to call them, when their com buzzed. Winter flipped the com switch, opening the channel. "This is Emperor Kalland's personal escort fleet, please state your name and cargo."
"Winter. Jedi Student." She quickly switched off the channel and took the controls away from Anakin. Wondering why Emperor Kalland was here, the news of Byss's rescue had only just reached the New Republic capital. However, much can happen in three days.
Winter sent a com message to the Academy to tell Luke Skywalker that she had arrived. Landing didn't take any time at all. Anakin rushed out of the cockpit eager to see his uncle. Youth, she thought with remembrance.
For the second time in one day, Luke Skywalker stood near the landing platform waiting for his family to land. It surprised him to receive Winter's message one hour ago. He hadn't expected her to make it here until much later. In two hours, the Emperor would arrive. Just enough time to say hi before hiding his family. Hopefully, Han would be ready by the time the Emperor arrived. Luke couldn't imagine why it was taking his brother-in-law so long.
The engines died down and as soon as the ramp lowered a high pitched voice yelled. "Uncle Luke!" Anakin sprinted down the ramp and easily lifted him off the ground in a hug. Anakin's brown hair was darker like his mothers and he had his father's height. Already Anakin was taller than he was.
"Hey how are you?" Luke exclaimed after Anakin set him down.
"The same. Where's Jaina and Jacen?"
"By the river." Luke said and smiled when Anakin sprinted off to find his siblings.
Winter glided down the ramp as graceful as Anakin was gangly. "Master Skywalker." She nodded her head in greeting.
"Winter." He nodded his head as well.
"Emperor Kalland's fleet is in orbit?"
Ten years ago he would have thought her daft, but now after years of dealing with the new Senate he quickly answered her unspoken question. "The Emperor is here to claim Jaina. In one hour he's landing. I've had all the droids on the fifth level cleaning and changing bed sheets. Today was unbelievable..." Luke stopped speaking when he spotted Anakin walking with his sister and brother, the younger brother towered over Jaina and Jacen. Zekk matched Anakin's height, barely. All of the teens laughed over something Anakin said. It was a welcome change to the gloom that hung over everyone since early this morning.
"Jaina lost her memory." Luke quickly told Winter as the group changed directions and headed toward him.
As they grew closer he noticed their waterlogged clothes and wet hair. Jacen was the only one with a towel. "Winter!" Jacen yelled and ran the last few feet and plastered himself to her in the wettest hug she'd probably ever had. Her normally composed face lost it's composure for a microsecond before she gently pushed the slippery Jacen away to stare at the young teen she hadn't seen in months.
"Hello kids." Then she smiled warmly and hugged Jacen back to her before pushing him away. "Come on, your Uncle Luke has to wait for an important diplomat to land, we can talk on the way to my rooms. I now have to change." Jaina and Zekk trailed behind the small group, and within moments the clearing was silent again, except for Winter's droid who had the unfortunate duty of seeing to it's mistress's luggage.
Luke saw to it that Winter's private carrier was docked in the hanger. Han joined him five minutes before the Emperor's ship was due to land. Immaculate in his dress uniform, Han was respectable, personified. However, the ex-smuggler quickly ruined the image by fidgeting.
"What's wrong? You've met the Emperor before? Right?" Luke asked, concerned Han would tug at his sleeves and buttons in front of the Emperor.
"It's not that, I'm worried about Leia."
Luke decided not to confront Han for lying to him. Han would tell him when the time was right. Neither man spoke until the Emperor's ship landed.
Mediating, Zekk decided after the fifth water drop landed on his nose, was highly overrated. He tilted his head back and stared at the overcast sky. When he climbed up the step temple walls two hours ago, not a cloud could be found. Now a rainstorm was unleashing itself upon him and his new clothes. Within moments, his hair plastered itself to his head and the wind whipped his loose clothing about him, hard enough to hurt. Climbing down the old moss covered stones turned slippery took forever.
When his feet touched solid muddy ground, Zekk gave a silent thanks to whoever was listening. A stone archway marked the entrance to the temple ruins. Thigh high weeds sprouted everywhere. Luke Skywalker declared this temple unfit for the Academy's use so none of the servant landscaping droids bothered coming near this plot of dirt.
Anticipation hurried his footsteps. Of course, the temple he picked had moss growing over the old brick on the inside as well as outside, and vines coated almost every free inch of space on the floor. After viewing the inside, Zekk knew why Master Skywalker closed off this building. Besides having the unfortunate honor of being dark and damp, the foundations had given way, leaving one side higher than the other. His footsteps, breathing, and dripping water echoed throughout the spacious vine covered entry hall.
Not a great place to find quiet, however its emptiness appealed to him.
Zekk didn't waste time finding a perfect spot to mediate. In the large echoing room, smelling of moss and old age, he cleared his own space to sit down. It wasn't until after he tore apart the vines did he notice that weeds grew up through the cracks in the floor. Dripping and plopping noises bounced off the walls along with the occasional scurrying. Calming his breathing took the longest, especially after his climb down the temple wall.
A few minutes later, Zekk gave up trying to mediate. Events from the past seven days occupied his thoughts. Jaina, Jacen, and Tenal Ka all said they needed time before attending counseling sessions, no surprise there. Zekk never thought such happiness was possible. Nightmares plagued his nights but Jaina's presence anchored him. Jacen and Tenal Ka grew used to the new Jaina, but privately all of them hoped she regained her memory soon. So, she could be whole again.
In spite of his protests, Jaina wasted no time in rebuilding a new lightsaber, now that her old one was missing. It was the only activity in which she would participate, lightsaber dueling. When Luke asked how her other studies were going she lied and said she was practicing with the Force. Zekk kept silent. He hadn't bothered to build a new lightsaber; already the dream world beckoned him. Every night he sat with his mother under the gnarled lone tree in the middle of the prairie, speaking to her, and basking in her protection and gentle advice. Strangely enough, Zekk felt no fear. Even now sitting on the floor in the echoing temple, he felt prepared to leave, even if it meant living in the dark underworld.
With only four days left, Zekk sought peace.
When the rain stopped an hour later, Zekk ran back to his room and changed out of his wet clothes. A knock on his door while he dried his hair startled him. Jacen and Jaina barged into his room and Tenal Ka never visited. Wondering who could be visiting him Zekk called out. "Come in!"
The door opened and a younger trainee stuck his head inside the door. "Zekk you have to come to the cafeteria! Jacen is in a fight with another student!" Waves of worry radiated off the tense boy.
Zekk threw his towel in the corner and rushed downstairs. There was no way Jacen would participate in a fight!
By the time he reached the cafeteria, the fight was over, Master Skywalker stood between two angry mass of teenagers. However, the mess in the cafeteria immediately caught his attention. Tables were turned upside down; food decorated walls and students.
The two bloodiest combatants, unfortunately, were Jason and Ben a rather loud mouth boy. Jaina stood next to Jacen with Tenal Ka and Lowbacca, she held her hand over her eye and her nose was bleeding. Tenal Ka however didn't have a scratch on her. Jaina noticed him standing by the entrance and ran over to him. Globs of food stuck to her hair and her clothes, if tension in the room weren't so violate; he'd find the situation amusing.
"Zekk thank goodness you're here!" Jaina exclaimed and threw herself into his arms. One year ago he would have died of embarrassment, but now he relished the feel of her soft curves pressing against his hands.
"Hey what happened?" Zekk asked gently extracting himself from her arms.
At the other end of the room, Han Solo appeared with Princess Leia and a tall imposing man Zekk had never seen before. Jaina didn't notice the new guests; she was busy pulling him over to Jacen, additional moral support he supposed.
Despite the mess in the cafeteria and the sight of many bloody noses and black eyes forming, Jedi Master Luke Skywalker stayed calm. Zekk probed the older man with the Force. Anger lay close on the surface of Luke Skywalker's emotions but nothing too terrible. It made Master Skywalker seem more human.
"Who is the cause of this fight?" Master Luke demanded staring down at the mass of students.
No one spoke. Even here ratting on another person was social suicide. "Fine everyone is restricted to their rooms until I can figure out who caused this mess. But till then I want this room clean."
Master Skywalker turned and started stalking towards the exit when Jacen yelled. "Wait it's my fault!" The sound reverberated through the spacious room.
"It takes more than two people to start a fight?" Luke demanded.
Tenal Ka, Anakin, and Jaina quickly blamed themselves. Zekk chimed in it was his fault too. Though, he was the only student in the room without food in his hair or on his clothes. Then Ben quickly took blame for starting it and his group of friends stood by him. It was six against six. Luke sent everyone else to their rooms, because his office wasn't big enough to hold this many people.
Han and Leia and the stranger stood back by the doorway quietly watching. Their nearness made him nervous. Neither Anakin or Jacen noticed their mother and father watching them. Or they would have run over and hugged her. Neither of them had seen her in months. The princess's pale face peered out from her curtain of dark hair, which fell to her hips. Her white dress clung to her thinner frame.
"Everyone sit down." Luke ordered.
"But the seats are dirty." Ben protested.
"I don't care. Sit down."
Amidst grumbling and protests, they all managed to find seats at the table. Zekk cleaned his off with a napkin.
"Jacen what happened?" Luke asked still radiating authority.
His friend hung his head and whispered. "I don't know." Some of Ben's friends snickered but Luke's piercing stare silenced them.
It went like that from person to person, until William. He gleefully opened his mouth and started speaking. "Ben and I found pictures on the HoloNet of Jacen..." William must have realized at that point who he was talking to so he amended whatever it was he planned on saying. "And they weren't family pictures, Master Skywalker." The teenager from the Haps Cluster fell silent.
No one else in the room appeared surprised except for Luke and Jacen's parents. Leia started to step forward but Han held her arm tightly. "So you called him names, I presume?"
"It wasn't my idea, Master Skywalker!" William quickly defended himself.
"Oh shut up, Will! You called him an ass licking whore!" Ben yelled.
"Well I didn't start by hinting that he'd make more money on his back." William shot back.
Tenal Ka jumped to her feet and faced the two arguing boys. "Shut up both of you! You aren't fit for Jacen to wipe his shoes on. I think you should go back home and learn how to be men before trying to become Jedi!" This was the first time Zekk had ever seen Tenal Ka yell. Her face flushed and her eyes promised excruciating death.
"That's enough Tenal Ka, please sit back down." Luke's voice stayed at the same level, but Zekk could sense anger in the Jedi Master. "Ben, William you two stay here, the rest of your friends need to go.
Zekk looked at his friend, Jacen to see how he was holding up and wasn't surprised to see his friend fighting back tears. Tenal Ka had her arm wrapped around his shoulder and Jaina was holding his hand, but Zekk doubted he even noticed them.
Once the four teenagers filled out of the room. Luke sighed before saying anything. "So how many people have seen the pictures?"
William and Ben looked at each other then back at Luke before Ben started speaking. "Just my friends and anyone else in the galaxy who happens to visit the site. It's a free site and his picture and name are plastered all over it. Normally, no one gets that much attention, but because of Jacen's parents the site is making it a big deal." Ben answered, only now starting to feel bad for Jacen.
"So instead of studying or mediating you where on the HoloNet searching for nude pictures." Luke stated.
William spoke this time. "Well, it was more than nude pictures, Master Skywalker, a lot more."
The implications of what these boys said and the media nightmare were clear. Within hours or days, the news will hit every major network and be spread across the Galaxy. Jacen's mother may be forced to resign her position as Chief of State and Jacen's credibility as a Jedi would be damaged. His chances of marrying Tenal Ka would be gone. This had gone beyond a simple food fight or name calling.
"William, Ben, go to gather everyone who was involved in the food fight, get them down here and clean this mess. Jacen come with me." Jacen stood up his face pale as death, except for a red splotch where someone punched him, and staggered towards his uncle. "The rest of you stay here and clean."
Tenal Ka's protest died when Jaina laid a hand on her friend's shoulder. Zekk glanced towards the wall, Han, Leia, and the mysterious man were gone. Luke led Jacen out of the cafeteria.
It only took one hour with everyone working together to clean the room. It was a dull and awkward affair, by now everyone heard about Jacen, but were too polite to actually ask what had happened. Tenal Ka scrubbed the floors as hard as possible with her mop. She refused to talk to anyone. Zekk helped wipe the tables and Jaina gathered plates and took them to the kitchen. The room was rather large and when the students started using the Force to aid them, food got into everything and on everyone.
Zekk wanted to use his ability to sneak into Jacen's mind and find out what was happening, but Jaina told him it felt like ants were crawling in her head when he entered her mind without her permission or knowing he was going to be there. He'd have to find out with the rest of his friends.
After cleaning the cafeteria everyone wondered off, most speculating on what was happening with Jacen and Master Skywalker. Zekk and Jaina and Tenal Ka, all decided to wait for their friend in his room. Anakin left to find Winter. Tenal Ka turned on the HoloNet and sure enough, messages from other students were posted to her, telling her where to find the site with Jacen's pictures. Jaina stood over Tenal Ka's shoulders curious. Zekk didn't want to look but he couldn't stop himself.
Most of the pictures were of Jacen sleeping with his arms tied behind his head. Other's had him on his hands and knees with faceless men behind him using his body, sometimes he was blindfolded, and other times tears fell down his face. In all the pictures he looked angry, afraid, and in pain, except for one. A man with his face blurred knelt behind Jacen's spread knees, fucking him and holding him upright so the camera could get a clear picture of Jacen's erection. Confusion and shame stared at him with wide brown eyes. The cameraman knew what he was doing. Zekk didn't think he'd ever forget the expression in those eyes, especially when they were so like Jaina's.
"Turn it off." Jaina whispered pressing her hand to her head. "I have a headache." Jaina stated before leaving the room. Zekk could hear her throwing up in the adjoining bathroom.
Zekk almost went to Jaina, but Tenal Ka stopped him. "Give her time. I felt the same way when I couldn't do anything to help him on the planet."
"Will you tell me what happened?" Zekk asked sitting down next to the princess.
Her face turned granite hard, but her voice strained when she gave her answer. "I can't Zekk. Jacen has to tell you. It wouldn't be right."
"I understand." And he did.
They waited in Jacen's room until the light had fallen from the sky but still he didn't return. Zekk left the girls waiting and went to the cafeteria to grab some food. The normally loud room was silent everyone looked shocked. Apparently, they weren't the only ones with the same idea. Anyone with a brain could tell that Jacen was raped. Picking mostly fruits and a roll of bread Zekk made his getaway before someone decided to stop him and ask him what happened to Jacen.
A few boys, most of them human, started to step towards him but he made sure to glare and think about killing them at the same time, and they backed off. Back in Jacen's room, they kept their vigil. None of them felt like talking, even when Anakin popped in briefly, played with some of Jacen's pets, and left like a whirlwind.
When the clock on Jacen's nightstand read midnight, Zekk decided to call it a night. "Jaina come on lets go to bed." He'd slept in her room since the arrived on the planet. She glanced at him distractedly before nodding. She stood up and gave Tenal Ka a hug.
"Goodnight." Jaina said at the door.
"Do you think Jacen will be okay?" Jaina asked once they were in her room.
Zekk didn't know and probably wouldn't be around to find out, but he answered anyway. "I think so. If he's anything like his sister."
Normally Jaina smiled when he complimented her, but not tonight. He hugged Jaina and kissed her on the mouth. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back. Maneuvering toward the bed took effort since he didn't want to stop kissing Jaina. With a twist, she fell on the mattress and he followed her down. Normally they took their time making love, but not tonight, he ripped her clothes off her and didn't mind a bit when she tore the buttons on his shirt.He quickly unbuttoned his pants and within moments thrust into her, swallowing her cry of passion.
Using his arms he braced himself above her, it was wild and Zekk spoke mindlessly. The pain of Jaina's scratches intensified the pleasure of her wrapped around him, then before he thought about the logistics, or if it was possible, he switched minds with her and he was in Jaina's body. She stopped thrusting in the first moment of disorientation but he made sure his body was far too gone in pleasure for her to want to stop. She pulled almost all the way out and thrust into him and he screamed, as pleasure burst within his body making his body twitch and jerk uncontrollably. That sent Jaina over the edge, her mouth opened and she gasped, in a deeper huskier voice, "Oh Zekk!" the effect was startling.
She moaned tiredly before sinking back onto his chest. With little thought, he switched places with her again, staring into Jaina's startled eyes. "Zekk..." She whispered in wonder.
He lay his head on top of Jaina's chest, using his forearms to keep most of his weight off her. "Shhh..." Her fingers brushed through his hair and Zekk finally relaxed in contentment. Zekk always felt sleepy after sex, but tried to stay awake and talk to Jaina and cuddle with her. It didn't happen that night the harder he tried to stay awake the faster he fell asleep. Just before he lost complete consciousness soft warm, hands flipped him over onto his back. Why Jaina used his chest for a pillow was beyond his comprehension.
Sunlight blazed into the room at the crack of dawn and woke Zekk up. They'd forgotten to draw the shades before falling into bed. Zekk groaned and tried to turn over and fall back asleep, but Jaina's head was still on his chest and her arm wrapped around his side. His abortive movement jarred Jaina enough so that she woke up. Most mornings, she took her time waking up, slowly blinking her eyes, and then stretching her mouth. It took half an hour before she was ready to get out of bed, during which time she dosed and wiggled against him. This morning however, her eyes snapped open; she cried out in alarm, quickly pushing herself away from him and fell off the bed in her haste.
"Jaina what's wrong?" Zekk asked, concern lancing through his chest.
She didn't answer, she was too busy scrambling around the room picking her clothes off the floor trying to cover her body with them. It was a useless task Zekk was positive that he tore hers beyond repair and his suffered the same fate. A moment later she realized the same thing after she tried using his ripped shirt to cover her front, Jaina stopped moving and knelt on the ground and covered her face with her hands.
Zekk climbed off the bed and knelt next to her. "Jaina please what is it? I can't help you if you don't tell me what's wrong."
The venom in her glare startled him and he flinched back. "I have my memories back." She said emotionlessly. Then unexpectedly she slapped his arm and yelled, "How could you Zekk! You took advantage of my memory loss just to have sex with me! I thought we were friends!"
Joy filled his chest when she mentioned having her memory back, but then the rest of what she said hit him. "We are friends." Zekk said stupidly too surprised by her verbal attack to do anything else but stare at her angry brown eyes and wish the pain in his heart would die.
"Friends don't sleep with their friends after they lose their memories!" She was yelling louder now. Her face suddenly paled. "I'm going to be sick." She jumped up and ran towards the bathroom. Zekk stayed where he was trying to hold back his tears even as he heard Jaina retching through the closed bathroom door. Jaina hated him, of all the outcomes he envisioned, for when Jaina regained her memories; this was not one of them.
Zekk stood up and went to the dresser and pulled out all his clothes, for the past week Zekk had slowly started moving into Jaina's room. After dressing, Zekk stuffed his extra clothes into his backpack. Then he checked the dresser for any knick knacks he might have brought with him. Not finding anything Zekk picked up his clothes and walked hesitantly towards the bathroom door, he could still hear her throwing up and Zekk winced, was he really so disgusting that she couldn't stomach the knowledge that they had made love? That thought saddened him so he cleared his mind and knocked on the door.
During a pause in her retching, Jaina yelled, "Go away!" Before starting again.
Coldness and anger welled in his chest. His hand clenched into a fist, and restrained the urge to pound the wall with his fists until one or the other broke. Grinding his teeth, Zekk stormed out of their room, slamming the door shut, before he lost control.
Zekk ran to his room and proceeded to trash the place using the Force to flip his bed up, the wooden posts stuck to the wall and the mattress fell over sideways. Ripping the mattress in half didn't take any effort nor did tossing pulling the dresser away from the wall. Nails screeched in protest, but after applying more force it pulled away, he would have thrown it out the window, but somewhere in the back of his mind was the worry someone would be hurt. After that realization, Zekk stopped using the Force and used bare hands to rip his bed sheets and throw his miniature stone figurines that Jaina gave him into the walls. Some broke and others fell to the floor intact. Anything was better than allowing the pain of her betrayal kill him. Ten minutes later he fell exhausted onto his torn mattress and the ripped bed sheets. Zekk flipped over on his back and stared at the ceiling and walls, not surprised to note small coins were embedded into the wall, propelled by his rage and the Force.
My room is completely and utterly destroyed, Zekk thought numbly. Turning over on his stomach he finally allowed his tears to fall.
to be continued