Wind blew his long black hair back away from his face. It was night in his dream. A place he'd never seen before. Two moons hung in the sky and billions of stars glowed brilliantly. The grass reached his bare thighs and it rippled like waves. Jaina stood next to him naked. Her face turned up towards the distant stars. Her hand felt warm and comfortable in his.
He'd been to many planets but none that ever looked like this. This planet was too quiet and dark. No city lights hazed the horizon with ugly orange. The moons cast shadows over everything but illuminated everything at the same time. All his injuries were healed. Goose bumps raced through his legs and arms when a cold gust of wind hit them. Jaina stepped closer to him and his nakedness did not embarrass him. She felt small in his arms but warm. He could stay like this forever.
A shooting star blazed across the sky and he had to ask, "Where are we?" in a whisper.
The silky shoulders in his arms shrugged. "I don't know. This is your dream. We need to wake up."
That startled him. "What?" Everything was so peaceful.
Then Jaina was gone from him and in her place a tall beautiful woman with black hair. His mother. "You need to wake up. That which is your birthright is being misused. Release your friend." His mother vanished like mist. Leaving Jaina tangled in the grass trying to yank herself up, but every time she broke free the grass caught her again. He cried out in dismay and fear; he couldn't lose Jaina! Sharp pain stung his knees where they hit the ground. The flowing grass suddenly became strong as steal. His Jaina started crying as the grass dragged her further down into it's depths. She started screaming.
"Wait Jaina! I can save you! I can save you!" then he screamed, "Please someone help!" The wind caught his words and carried them away. The grass twirled around him and started binding him closer and closer to Jaina, until his limbs where as useless as hers. He couldn't save her. He couldn't save her. He couldn't save himself! The stars mocked him as they slowly faded from view. Jaina had stopped screaming and held her head close to his chest.
"I trust you, I trust you, I trust you." She cried over and over again into his shoulder. A grass stem stabbed into his back and he finally screamed his terror and despair. Shouting inside his mind, Wake up, Wake up, Wake up.
Sweating and trembling Zekk flinched awake. A heavy weight on his chest moved as Jaina woke up, her body shook just as much as his. Was it possible they shared the same dream. God what a horrible dream. It was dark in the room but he could see that she was crying too. Sometime during the night they moved closer together until Jaina was sleeping with her head on his chest and her pillow dug into his side with her knee. They lay panting for a few minutes both too shaken to speak. He absentmindedly smoothed Jaina's hair back from her forehead.
His heart thudded against his chest and he could almost hear Jaina's in the quiet ship. Finally she spoke. "What a nightmare." Her voice caught.
Guilt swamped him. He knew he was responsible for pulling her into his nightmare. "I'm sorry." he murmured into her hair. "Are you okay?"
"It was just a bad dream I'll be okay." She jerked herself away from him, and sat up. "I'm sorry for waking you up." Her voice sounded distant and odd.
She moved away from him and lay back down. Maybe she had another nightmare? It was too much of a coincidence that they both woke up at the same time, but apparently Jaina thought she woke him up. Maybe he was wrong. There was no way he could pull someone into his dream. But it was so vivid. It took a long time for him to fall asleep again. This time he didn't dream.
"Rise and shine!" Mara called from the doorway. Zekk sat up groggily, this time Jaina was far away from him. At some point she'd rolled off the blanket and didn't wake up. The room was a lot warmer now than it was last night. Maybe that's why she didn't mind sleeping on the hard metallic floor. "You two hurry and get dressed. Now that you're rested we need to talk." The red hair woman left the room just as quickly as she first entered it.
He looked over to Jaina to see what she thought was going on, but she was still sleeping her face and arms and curled into the white fluffy pillow. Deciding to let her get a few extra minutes of sleep, he stood up and quickly changed into his borrowed clothes. Running his fingers through his hair barely got out all the tangles, but it was enough to tame it so he could tie it behind his head. Thank goodness his hair was abnormally straight. His back ached and other parts of his body as well, but nothing worse than usual.
"Jaina, it's time to wake up." He knelt down and gently shook her shoulder. She turned over obviously trying to ignore his attempts to wake her up. She was adorable. He never really saw this side of her. For as long as he knew her she was the boss.
Zekk tried to wake her up without startling her, but after a minute or so he finally lost patience with her, and quickly snatched the pillow out from under her. Her head hit the floor and her eyes snapped open. "Owwww!!! What the hell do you think your doing?" She demanded, quickly grabbing her pillow out of his hands.
Well it worked all right, she was awake and furious. He smiled. "Mara told us to get up. Come on, I let you have a few extra minutes of sleep."
"Didn't have to steal my pillow." She mumbled. "Here, hold this." Jaina thrust her pillow at him and stood up. Her hair was tangled and her eyes looked sleepy but her steps were firm and steady. In a few minutes she would be alert. While she changed into her clothes and fixed her hair, he folded up their bedding, making sure to keep his back to her.
"Okay I'm done." Jaina announced, quickly exiting the room. He tossed the blankets up on the cabinet and put the pillows away before following her. A little bit angry that she didn't stay to help. She slept on those blankets too. Zekk found Jaina and the rest of Mara's crew eating in the one area of the ship big enough for more than four people to sit in. The Millennium Falcon had such an area. Some ships didn't. He grabbed what looked like fruit, sat down next to Jaina and started eating. It was sweet and tangy and made a mess. He wiped his hands on his pants, after licking his fingers.
A short petite woman entered the room after him. Her blonde hair was tied back in a ponytail, after selecting her food she went and sat next to Packard. He wondered who she was; in fact he didn't really know anyone here except Mara and Jaina. Unconsciously his body inched closer to Jaina's. "Here have some of this." Jaina handed him a granola bar that was half eaten.
He nibbled on it, not sure why Jaina gave the rest of it to him. It tasted fine, but it sort of dried out his throat.
Sax entered soon afterwards. "Mara I have the systems scanning for humanoid life. So we should be fine for a while. Now what's this meeting about?" The short man asked entering the enclave.
Mara took another bite out of her apple before standing up. She didn't speak at first, trying to finish chewing the apple. "Okay now that everyone is here, I can start. Everyone, this is Zekk and Jaina..."
She went on to introduce her crew. Jill, in charge of security, smiled at them. Packard who also had the same job, was just as short as his wife, and had brown hair. Kale, was tall and slender with blue eyes and blond hair a very handsome man. He was dwarfed by his partners bulk. Ralph stood out with his tall frame and bulging muscles. His spiked hair wasn't unusual on Coursant but not too many people took to the style. Sax was also short, but made up for it by being the loudest person. He was their thief and weapons expert. His blondish brown hair kept falling in his eyes. He was maybe thirty years old. Ralph was the unlikely pilot. Kale worked with the local officials, bribery and espionage were his forte. Mara was tall and beautiful and about the same age as her crew. She used her talent to find the jobs that were worth their time and paid the most. None of the crew were young but were still in top physical condition. She must have chosen everyone carefully.
"Now the reason I'm filling you two in, is because we may need your help to bring down the shield generator. It's heavily guarded. Hopefully by the time we finish fixing the Black Raven, we'll be ready to move. We'll discuss attack plans later. For now there is something I need to show Jaina and Zekk. Everyone get back to work." Mara ordered, leading him and Jaina out of the enclave.
"A couple of weeks ago, a ship was spotted flying towards the atmosphere, however, the field prevented it from escaping the planet's gravity. It was shot down not far from here. The pilot in the ship survived barely. We've kept her in stasis which will keep her alive while letting her body heal. Our last mission required a stasis pod, which is a good thing because without it I'm afraid the occupant of that shot down ship would have died."
The door to the cargo bay opened automatically and they followed Mara into it. There was a stasis pod glowing in the center, with wires coming out and laying everywhere on the floor. Some wires led to a electricity generator. They weren't taking any chances of letting the stasis field fail.
Zekk stepped over the cable and wires. He had a suspicion of who was in the pod but he had to find out for sure. Blue light from the stasis field hurt his eyes but he ignored it. Touching the glass cover activated the viewing screen and he exhaled the breath he was holding. Princess Leia Organa Solo's face still in sleep peered out from the opaque glass. Her beauty the same as it was twenty years ago. He felt Jaina's presence next to him before he saw her. She gasped in surprise at the beautiful woman suspended somewhere between sleep and death.
"She's so beautiful." Jaina whispered reverently.
He turned to look at Jaina, debating on whether or not he should tell her the truth. But all he could think of was, you're beautiful too. Jaina turned towards Mara, and asked. "Who is she?"
The taller woman frowned, "You don't recognize her at all?"
Jaina squirmed uncomfortably before answering. "Well she kind of reminds me of someone but I can't remember who."
"Hey don't worry about it, I'm sure it'll come to you in time." He offered, pleading with Mara with his eyes for the woman to take them away from here.
"No doubt." Mara remarked, gently steering Jaina away from the stasis field. "Ralph will show you around the ship. Make sure you don't wander off too far. I have to go to town and see what Yuri is doing. Your escape from him probably upset all the guard's schedules."
At Jaina's stricken expression Mara's face softened. "Don't worry about it honey, they'll form a new pattern. The only one who needs to be somewhere soon is Kale and Ralph, they left their children with Ralph's parents. And they don't blame you for upsetting our plans. A few extra hands to help might just come in handy."
When they reached the door to the cargo hold, Mara touched the side panel. "Ralph can you please come down to the cargo hold." They could here Mara's voice echo throughout the ship.
"You two stay here until Ralph arrives. I have to go now." And with that she was gone.
"Do you really think we ruined their chances to get off the planet?" Jaina asked.
He felt like hugging her, so he settled for wrapping an arm around her shoulders and squeezing softly. "No of course not. They'll find a way off and take us with them." I hope, he mentally added.
A warm feeling spread through him when Jaina smiled up at him. He quickly let go of her shoulders and left the cargo hold, wanting to wait away from Jaina's almost dead mother. They didn't have to wait long, within moments, Ralph's huge frame filled the corridor. "Let's go."
The tour took less than thirty minutes. They'd already seen most of the ship last night and this morning. What took the longest was exploring the area around the ship. Brown nets covered the ship, effective hiding it from above. Ralph led them to the stream where they got their water. He even showed them how to clean the water so they could drink it. It looked like they thought of everything. Before Ralph left them to do another check of the navigation system he warned them not to stray far from the ship. The next three or so hours were theirs to enjoy. At any other time he would have loved having free time to explore, but he was already tired. His dream last night really scared him and afterwards, his sleep felt restless. Zekk nervously massaged the bandages wrapped around his wrists. The movement drew Jaina's curious attention. He dropped his hands and hid them behind his back. Forcing a smile onto his lips he asked, "What do you want to do?"
"Sleep." He smiled, this time more genuinely than before. Zekk didn't have much to smile about in his life, but Jacen and Jaina were always able to touch him. If it weren't for them he would have turned to the dark side. Inwardly, he shuddered.
A small smile formed on her reluctant lips. "Lets find someplace quiet then. If Mara catches us sleeping she might be angry."
"Sounds like a plan to me."
They trudged through the trees headed for the stream of water. Earlier he spotted a few small clearings that looked perfect for napping. The forest was nice and peaceful, for which he was grateful. Tall trees looming overhead made him feel safe from Yuri. He didn't think it would be possible for Yuri to find him in a forest full of wildlife. The first clearings they looked at were too much in the sun so they continued to hunt for something more comfortable.
They must have walked at least twenty minutes before they found it. Well it wasn't really a clearing, a large tree dominated the other trees and there was a spot of grass big enough for him and Jaina to sleep on. Mara told Jaina last night that there were poison nettles in the forest. So they needed to stay on the grass.
"Well how's this?" He asked his silent partner.
"It's fine." She sat down next to him and laid down. She moved around a lot trying to find a comfortable position to fall asleep in. He lay on his back and closed his eyes. He didn't even mind when Jaina decided to use his head as a pillow. Within moments his exhaustion overtook him and he fell asleep.
Captain Pellgrant shifted nervously in front of the door to Yuri's study. It was eight in the morning and Jaina and Nataku were still missing. Every instinct in his body screamed at him to run, but on this planet there wasn't anywhere to hide from Yuri's spies. With more courage than he normally credited himself, Pellgrant opened the heavy wooden door. His master was still sitting in his chair, wide awake and very angry.
He immediately knelt on the ground in front of the desk, bowing his head as far as possible. "Master Yuri, I have failed you. My men and I could not find Miss Jaina and your slave Nataku. I believe they had help, sir."
His heart started beating faster when Yuri stood up and walked around the desk. This was it. He was going to die. Closing his eyes he prepared himself for the afterlife, which didn't come. Instead Yuri grabbed his arm and jerked him to his feet. "Stand up. I forgive you for this failure. I was monitoring your progress. They truly did disappear. Jaina is very strong in the Force, her abilities were underestimated. We'll expand the search they can't remain hidden forever. Have one of your lieutenants continue the search. I need you to help carry out my plans."
His master looked more composed this morning compared to last night. Anger still burned in the black eyes, but reason had returned.
It's only through dreams can one realize their true potential. Zekk wondered who had said that, starring up into the darkness of a distant planet he doubted he would ever see. It was the same planet from the night before but the stars were covered up and he was alone. He'd never had the same dream twice, let alone twice in a row. Maybe it had something to do with the Force. Much was lost when the Emperor came into power. Almost everything the Jedi had accomplished and discovered wiped out so quickly, it boggled his mind.
Music drew his attention away from starring at the dark sky. His feet carried him towards the loud noise. Or maybe it was as loud as the planet was quiet. Orange flickers of light and dark shadows greeted him within moments. Jaina stood next the campfire, his mother right next to her.
Hugging Jaina from behind he lifted her off the ground and spun her around. Her laughter was infectious. He could do anything here. "So I'm here again?" Jaina asked with wry amusement after he set her down.
"It looks like it. Do you know where we are?" Hopefully, Jaina knew the answer. She had to be pulling him into her dreams.
His mother spoke, she could read his mind. "No Zekk, you're the one with the power. This is just the beginning. Last night was dangerous, you must not let your fear control you in this world or you'll die. Explore it. You don't have to stay here. Think of someone and you can find them. Watch out for your friend." With that she vanished.
"Your mother wasn't a Jedi Knight was she?" Why else would the image of Zekk's mother be giving them advice?
"I don't know." Zekk answered as honestly as possible. He truly did not remember much of his youth, except in nightmares.
Fingers touched his wrist and he looked down at Jaina's small hands seeking comfort. "Hold my hand." She demanded with a blush staining her cheeks.
"Where shall we go?" The sky was black as pitch. Was it really possible for them to find their friends through dreams?
"I don't know. My memories are gone."
"I want to see Jacen." Picturing Jacen in his mind was harder than he thought, he kept seeing Jaina. Slowly a picture formed in his head of Jacen comforting a small furry creature. Jaina cried out alarmed as they sped off the planet, her fingers dug into his arm. But within moments they were in a dark room. It was quiet except for the normal sounds of the ship engine. Jaina gasped, probably surprised that it really worked.
Immediately he spotted Jacen laying on his bed half the sheet laying on the floor. The younger teen looked so innocent. No shadows lived under his eyes. Regret and envy hit him and gripped Jaina's hand tighter. Kneeling on the floor next to the bed Zekk shook Jacen's shoulder and called his name. "Jacen. Wake up. Please we need your help."
A strong hand tugged the back of his shirt, almost knocking him off balance. "Jaina?" he asked already knowing she was gone. Fear swept through him. The force pulled him away from the bed and towards the wall. He tried to fight against it but then he fell into darkness.
Jacen abruptly jerked out of his sleep. Not sure why but knowing that someone had called him and that it was urgent. Whispers of two presences filled his room. He wanted to call his uncle, but surely it was just a dream. It took him a long time to fall asleep again.
Sipping her cup of coffee Mara regarded Packard with calculating eyes, wondering if she had chosen poorly. "So let me get this straight. Both Jaina and Zekk are missing, even though I had told you to watch them. Is this correct?"
The short man took a deep breath. She could sense his nervousness and fear. "Look I was watching them. They wondered around the forest apparently looking for a comfortable spot to sleep in. I even watched them while they slept. I only took my eyes of them for but a moment and when I looked again. They were gone. I searched the area but couldn't find any evidence of foul play. I swear, they just disappeared."
He was telling the truth as he knew it. Shit just what they needed two children on the loose with knowledge of her ship's whereabouts.
"I want you to show me where you last saw them. Maybe I'll catch something you missed." She stood up and headed outside.
Opening herself to the Force didn't take as long as it used to. Keeping all her senses on the lookout for life forms and other hidden dangers, she followed Packard into the forest. She barely noticed the twenty minute hike, her senses told her something big had happened. Jaina and Zekk's life force filled the clearing Packard finally stopped at. They were here, but not here. Never in all her experience had she sensed anything like this. "Zekk. Jaina. Where are you?" She called out softly.
Reaching with the Force she traced their life patterns. She grabbed the one that felt like Jaina and yanked with all her strength, blue white light filled the clearing and Jaina rematerialized four feet off the ground, once her form solidified she fell. That worked so she pulled at Zekk's essence and was astonished by the vast power she sensed in him. It took her three tries to pull him back to this world. By the time she saved him her body was drenched in sweat and her chest ached. Never in the last ten years had her heart pounded so fiercely.
Neither of the young teens woke from the fall, which worried her. Packard stared at the scene with wide and disbelieving eyes. Mara almost sympathized with him, but she was too exhausted to alleviate his fears. It was all she could do to mutter out, "We'll rest here for the night. Go bring blankets and water." At her command he left. She knelt next to Zekk and caressed his cheek. If only Yuri knew how powerful this child really was. Now that the barrier was lifted she could see that someone had bound his abilities a long time ago. While wondering who had the power to conceal and confine such a strong talent, she passed out.
The worst headache in his entire life brought Zekk awake. Cold air on his skin made him shiver which only caused another stab of agony to race from his head to his stomach. His retching brought a warm hand patting his back. "Here this should help him." He barely felt the sting of the needle sliding into his arm. The pain lessened gradually, but he still had a hard time breathing, pressing his hands against his eye lids sort of helped.
Jaina lay a few feet away from him, he could hear her thoughts murmuring in the back of mind. Mara was still unconscious her thoughts were further away. The man Packard was awake and talking to Kale.
"I swear Mara did something and they appeared out of thin air. I'm beginning to think there is more to her..." Packard sounded like he would have continued speaking except Kale punched him. He didn't see it happen but he just knew.
"Shut up. You are not to tell anyone what you saw today. If Mara decides to tell us herself what her secret is, then that is fine, but till then you won't be spreading any rumors. Do you understand?"
"You didn't have to hit me so hard. I won't say anything. Ok. As far as anyone knows a tree fell on top of her. I'm going back to the ship. It doesn't look like any of them will be able to walk tonight. Blankets might come in handy."
Packard's voice vibrated through his head sending new waves of pain. He groaned and rolled over onto his other side.
"Look I'm sorry Pack. I'm just worried. Go get the blankets, I'll keep guard."
Within moments Packard was gone. A cool hand touched his brow and he wanted to flinch away from the contact. Except the coolness felt good against his head. It shamed him to hear whimpers of agony coming from him. Wondering what happened to cause this pain, he lost consciousness.
Jaina woke with the worst headache in her life. It blinded her to everything, she didn't even feel the sting of the needle, only felt the welcome bliss of relief when her head stopped pounding. Kale helped her sit up and led her to a log where he fed her water and granola. Zekk and Mara were still passed out on the forest floor. Packard sat on another log with a blaster rifle cradled in his arms. He looked bored but his eyes constantly skimmed the area. Both sleepers had heavy blankets covering them. Her blanket lay on the ground. She didn't even notice it when she woke.
"You might feel better if you stood up and walked." Kale said standing up and offering his hand.
She smiled weakly and tried to do what Kale suggested. Trying to stand up she braced her hands against the tree log and boasted herself up. Except she couldn't stop herself from going. Her feet felt like lead. Kale caught her under the arms and stood her upright again. If she hand any strength and if all the blood in her body wasn't working so hard to keep her heart pumping, a blush would have stained her cheeks for sure. Embarrassment seemed to be her lot in life.
"Hey don't try it all at once. Just hold onto my arm. Whatever happened yesterday seemed to take a lot out of you. Once you've gained some of your strength back, I can take you to the ship. I'm sure the cot is more comfortable than the ground. Ralph is also cooking dinner tonight." At the word cooking her stomach growled. Kale laughed softly.
She rubbed her stomach and sighed. Food wasn't going to enter it for some time. Surprisingly, it didn't take long for her to regain her strength. Within thirty minutes she was ready to head back to the ship but before she said so to Kale, Mara groaned in pain and sat up. Kale dropped her like a hot plate and rushed to his captain's side. Jaina took her time getting to Mara's side, she didn't want Kale and Packard to tell her to go away. Mara truly was a lovely woman, her long red hair was braided behind her head but it was already coming loose, spilling to her hips.
Jaina's fingers reached up and touched her own hair. It felt silky and soft, but it only came to her shoulders. Not liking this strange feeling of insecurity she forced her thoughts away from comparing herself to a beautiful woman and tried think of what had happened to them. She remembered falling asleep feeling relaxed and happy, for the first time in her life. Yeah she was just going to have to accept that her life started three weeks ago. Sure she wanted her memories back, but wondering about her past only made her more unhappy. For now on she was going to live in the moment, if she couldn't do something too bad.
Feeling pleased with this new goal, Jaina tried to remember what happened once she fell asleep, but her mind went completely blank as her gaze fell on Zekk. He was lying on the ground his face tilted towards her. Wind teased his hair and rustled leaves. For one insane moment she wanted to kiss away all the hurt and pain she sensed in him. However, she doubted he would appreciate the gesture. Taking one last lingering glance at his peaceful face she moved closer to Mara and Kale who were quietly whispering to each other. She tried to move closer to hear what they were saying but the wind was too loud in the trees. Disappointed she headed back to her log, maybe catch a few extra minutes of sleep.
Just as she sat down and started to get comfortable, Kale said, "Here hold this." And thrust a pile of folded blankets towards her chest, she reached up and grabbed them before they fell to the ground. "We're headed back to the ship. So try and stay alert." Kale announced while packing some of his own gear.
"Okay." She muttered feeling sullen. Apparently she was carrying the blankets. Tired and mentally numb she followed after the rapidly retreating figures.
Mara hadn't said one word to her, in fact the older woman looked downright angry. Feeling a bit anxious she kept her distance from Kale and Mara. Briefly she thought about staying behind to watch over Zekk not wanting to leave him alone with someone he didn't know in case he woke up. But she really was hungry...besides Packard watched over them last night and he was a married man. Trying to convince herself that it was okay to leave Zekk behind she dragged her feet after Mara and Kale.
Bright sunlight filtered through the tree branches and diamond shaped green leaves. It shone right into his eyes. This time when he woke the pain was gone. Zekk felt out with the Force expecting to sense Jaina next to him instead there was emptiness. He bolted upright, dizziness almost caused him to fall back down, his hands clenched the soft grass, he was not going to faint. Slowly the dizziness passed. Opening his eyes hurt and nothing threatening lingered in the woods. Soft chirping of birds calmed him until Mara emerged from the dense trees carrying a pack. He could sense her thoughts but nothing coherent. It was just a low humming in the back of his mind.
"So you're finally awake. How do you feel?" She asked kneeling down beside him.
It took him a few tries before his throat worked. "Ok I guess. I feel weird. I don't know. Its like I can hear stuff I shouldn't be able to hear."
"You mean you're sensing my thoughts."
He was aghast. How could she know that? "What?" he asked weakly. Hoping he misheard her.
Her green eyes scorned him. And he cringed. "Don't play stupid Zekk. I know you're not. Some Jedi had this ability, it's not widely known because it was fairly rare. You'll have to learn how to control it or you'll go insane." She didn't bother to tell him how she gained this knowledge.
"How? When? I didn't...wasn't able to..." He stuttered.
Mara held up her hand for him to be quiet. "I hope you learn how to talk before trying to court Jaina." She said callously, not noticing the blush rising on his pale cheeks. "All I can say is that you did something last night that broke the barrier binding your Force talents. I'm surprised Skywalker didn't notice it..." She trailed off. Frantically thinking of reasons for Skywalker not wanting Zekk's powers free. Yeah there was the Shadow Academy stint, but the boy reformed.
Zekk's wide eyed stare jolted her back to reality. "Don't worry about a thing. Once you get back to the Jedi Academy, Skywalker will help you. But for now, while you were sleeping I went back to the ship and got some food and water." She rummaged through her pack and pulled out the bottle of water and two granola bars. He took them silently.
"Jaina is okay if you were wondering. I have a lot of questions to ask you about where you went. I think you scared the daylights out of Packard. He said you two disappeared right out from under his nose..." Mara stopped talking once she realized that Zekk wasn't listening to her.
"Hey what you're thinking? Your head doesn't hurt anymore does it?"
"No I feel fine. Thank you for the food and water." His attention was riveted to trying to find Jaina with his thoughts. There were too many life forms in the woods that caught his attention. Obviously he was too far away to sense her. He barely heard Mara, briefly he wondered why she kept talking. Normally she was closed mouthed. The humming in his head was slowly starting to form words and pictures. Ignoring it didn't turn it off. For the ten thousandth time he wished he never saw this planet.
Mara stood up and got her pack, sitting it on the grass next to him. The pack made a rather good seat. "Come on Zekk, don't just stare at the food eat it. Trust me it helps."
He quickly unwrapped the bar and took a bite. It tasted like sawdust and he barely swallowed it with the aid of water. She didn't talk to him until he finished both bars. His skin felt grimy, it must have been past noon in the day by now.
Mara's eyes narrowed and he tensed in anticipation when her small mouth opened. Her first words surprised him. "Yes you smell. And yes I'm rather upset with you and Jaina. I already chastised her for being so stupid. What were you thinking, leaving the protection of the ship? Anyone could have found out where you were."
"Are you reading my thoughts?" He demanded angry at her and himself for getting into these situations. Why did everyone treat him like a kid? Except for the incident with Yuri, he'd always been able to get himself out of trouble or avoid it altogether.
"No I can't read your thoughts," she answered exasperated, "Your face is like an open book."
"Oh. Well I guess you want me to answer you then?" Without waiting for her to say anything he decide to answer her earlier questions. "I don't know what I was thinking. I didn't realize we were that far from the ship. I kind of lost track of time. I'm sorry for making you guys worry." Maybe apologizing would make her happy, it never worked with Yuri, but Mara had to be okay, she did save him and Jaina.
It looked like she wanted to force a confession out of him, and he felt too exhausted to fight back. She sighed and sat back on her heels before jumping to her feet. "We'll talk about this later. For now let's get back to the ship. Jaina is worried about you, and I think Ralph and Jill are cooking something special tonight. I need to talk to you and Jaina, lay down the rules, and start a training schedule. We are going to be here for awhile yet." She offered her hand and he grasped it, not at all surprised when she easily pulled him to his feet.
That night sitting around the crew's makeshift table, eating, Zekk felt as though reality was slipping from his hold. Everyone looked happy, even Jaina laughed at Ralph's and Packard's jokes. All he wanted to do was hide from them. He couldn't understand how they could be so happy when he felt wretched inside, sick of what he'd done with Yuri and the knowledge that Jaina knew. Acting completely normal was beyond his capabilities and yet for Jaina's sake he smiled and talked to their hosts. Mara wasn't fooled, he could tell by the way her eyes watched him, missing nothing.
Zekk wondered if Jaina could feel the shame inside him, she occasionally glanced at him solemnly, and squeezed his hand under the table. Surprisingly it helped, she cared about him. Maybe if she had all her memories it would bother him more. Her first memory of him before the hit on her head was as a streetwise kid, now she remembered him as a chained pet, that must have ranked high in first impressions. Her eyes were older. He noticed they didn't smile with her mouth. Fidgeting also plagued both of them, Jaina's foot tapped the floor, occasionally stepping on him and Mara. Of course she immediately blushed and apologized, but minutes later she was doing it again.
He picked at his food and shook his head a lot as if it would make the voices and murmurs leave. All it did was cause Sax to ask what the hell was wrong with him. Growling low in his throat he told the older man to leave him alone. Not that it worked. For the rest of the meal Sax made it his personal duty to bother him at every moment. Mara continued eating and talking to Ralph and Kale, apparently he had to deal with it.
Escaping to the med center didn't happen soon enough. Not waiting for Jaina he cleaned off his plate and ran to the safety of the dark room. Away from all the extra voices clamoring for his attention. The dull ache behind his eyes quickly grew into a sharp stabbing pain, during dinner. Searching through the cabinets he found some painkillers and swallowed them dry. For some reason, the bitter taste stuck in his mouth made him feel better.
He'd just laid out the first layer of blankets when the door swished open and Jaina stepped in. "Are you okay?" Her large brown eyes appeared concerned. He concentrated briefly and was almost overwhelmed by her thoughts.
He's so beautiful, I wonder if he hates me, likes me? Am I as pretty as Mara? Who am I really? Were we friends? I hate that he knows more about me than I do. But I am me, how could he know who I am. Why does Zekk look so tired? If Mara had anything do with it I'll hit her...Why do I care so much for him? Is this love?...
Staggering back his hips hit the counter. "Stop thinking!" he heard the loud voice echo in the small room, not realizing that he was the one who yelled it. Her rambling thoughts stumbled to a halt and stuck on one phrase. He's in my mind, reading my thoughts, what was I just thinking? He's in my mind. He's in my mind. What do I do? It repeated over and over again. Comforting in its sameness.
Falling to the ground under the innocent assault of her mind, he covered his ears with his hands and started rocking back and forth on his heels, not aware of his movements or surroundings. Zekk tried to close his mind again but it didn't work, whatever he had done had opened the floodgates and he had no idea how to close them. Heavily breathing he stood up and stumbled over to Jaina, who was also on her knees tears streaming down her cheeks. Her hands covered her ears and she looked at him confused and in pain.
Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five...
It took him a moment to realize that Jaina was counting backwards to calm herself down. Strangely enough it calmed him as well. Soon the pain receded and he could breath normally again. He reached out and touched her hands slowly lowering them from her ears. Her thoughts were still on the surface of his mind but she concentrated on numbers and anything else that did not focus on him.
I don't want to read her mind I feel like I'm violating her. Zekk sent his feelings of regret and confusion to her, trying without words to tell her that he was sorry. She flinched back at the feelings flooding her mind. It was too intimate; Jaina's surprise almost made her loose her concentration.
"I'm trying to stop it." He gritted out between his clenched teeth. Honestly trying to close his mind down. What was he thinking? He should have minded his own business and not try and see how Jaina really felt about him.
She squeezed his hands and leaned into him, raising her face towards him. Kiss me whispered into his mind.
Her guard let down and desire flooded through him, his and hers. Senses reeling with newfound sensations he bent down and pulled her closer to him. His lips and tongue absorbed her whimper of need. With more instinct than knowledge he tumbled her down onto the thick blankets, Ralph had given him earlier that afternoon, and started ripping her clothes off. Small hands insistently tugged at his shirt pulling it out of his pants and roaming up his chest, caressing and nipping at his skin. Teeth bit at his lips and he roughened his own kisses and caresses.
This is Jaina, Jaina. Quickly he rolled her over so that he was leaning over her looking into her flushed and smiling face. Wonder and happiness filled him and for the first time in weeks he genuinely smiled. Letting down his guard he let Jaina feel what he was feeling, she laughed and hugged him to her. Kissing him again.
He slowed down from the first few minutes of frantic passion. Her shirt was ripped down the middle and hung off her shoulder, her breasts heaved under her white bra. Impulsively he bent down and kissed the tip, slowly opening his mouth and sucking in the material. Pleased when Jaina's hands grabbed his hair and moaned her back arching up into him. Cold air on his naked chest barely cooled him down. His whole body felt on fire and the best part was that he was in control.
Love you, feels good. Echoed through his head, he agreed with her.
Love you too. Zekk thought nuzzling her skin kissing her all over and caressing her with his hands. Phantom caresses touched his chest and flickered over his hips, exactly where he was stroking Jaina. Gasping at the duel sensations his hands moved lower doing his utmost to make Jaina's first time better than his.
You're the first girl I've ever done this with... he told her almost afraid that she would tell him no. She didn't. Time lost meaning as he sank further into her mind and he pulled her into his, she started crying at his memories of Yuri, he kissed her eyes and wasn't surprised to find tears running down his face as well. He buried his face into her shoulder and gently sucked at the yielding flesh of her neck.
For some odd reason she didn't associate herself with any of his memories of her. For the moment he choose to ignore this realization, focusing instead on the pleasuring his best friend and possibly the only girl he'd ever love.
When he finally entered her, he felt a brief stinging pain and then fullness; he paused adjusting to the warmth surrounding him and the hardness filling him. It was the most indescribable feeling. Her thighs squeezed his hips and her heels dug into his calf muscles. They both moaned into each other's mouths. He couldn't stop kissing her. She looked so beautiful her face flushed in passion head thrown back gasping and moaning in pleasure that he gave her.
You feel so great. Jaina, you're so beautiful. Everything about her was beautiful.
He tried holding back as long as possible but control was impossible once she started shaking; with a buck upwards, she came. Starbursts filled his vision and his body shuddered in orgasm, all control lost. Nails dug into his back and Jaina's body clung to him as she started shaking again, coming just as hard as the first time, in reaction to his orgasm. Zekk rode out her second orgasm in her mind. He'd never felt anything like it, his whole body tensed and warmth flow from his head to his toes, spreading from his her center. Breathing wasn't important anymore, just the feel of Jaina shuddering beneath him. They panted for minutes after staring into each other's eyes. Neither of them knew that such pleasure existed.
Slowly and without his control, his mind slipped from hers, she tried grabbing him but he was the one with the power. Zekk felt empty once he couldn't feel her anymore. He ran his fingers across Jaina's slightly parted lips. Almost not believing that she was real, now that he couldn't feel her in his mind anymore.
"I'm here." She said smiling, knowing him better than anyone else in the galaxy. Gazing into her eyes he could see the love she felt for him.
"I feel so empty." He whispered trying to tell her that he felt torn in half, not having her in his mind.
"I know but don't worry it'll come back. It's your gift." She curled up to him; not minding that he was sweating still.
He wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her back to his chest. He nuzzled the back of her neck licking her skin and then blowing on it, while his free hand squeezed her breasts and played with her nipples. Within moments she was moaning. Although he couldn't read her thoughts he knew what she wanted when she wanted it. Zekk inserted his knee between her thighs making room for his gentle thrust from behind, she moaned and pushed back against him. His free arm was able to reach around and he gently rubbed her clitoris in time with each of his strokes. It was a weird angle but it worked. This time he thrust slowly enjoying every sensation, from her leg on top of his to his hairless chest rubbing against her smooth back; the first time was wild like an uncontrolled force of nature. But now he held back as long as possible waiting for her to reach her peak before letting go.
They lay panting on the blankets for a few minutes before either of them moved from their interlocked position. Sweating, he was exhausted and she looked tired as well. Zekk only hoped that Jaina wouldn't regret what they had shared, he didn't. He'd never felt like this for anyone. He hugged her again before sitting up slowly. His clothes were ripped but still wearable. Mara was going to raise an eyebrow. Deciding that they needed to get dressed at least in their nightclothes he set aside the ripped ones.
Standing up made him feel slightly faint when all the blood rushed either from or to his head. Walking naked to the cabinets would have made him blush two days ago, but not after that intense mind sharing. He got the two pillows out first and threw them to Jaina before getting their nightclothes. Jaina was still sitting on the blankets modestly covering her body with the thin top sheet, which was sweat soaked. Now that he wasn't so tired he could feel her in the back of his mind, a solid presence. It made him feel complete.
"We need to get dressed in something before Mara or Ralph decides to come by unannounced." He said slowly, feeling drugged and giddy.
"Good idea." Jaina smiled and took her clothes from his hands. For a moment she hesitated in throwing aside the sheet but after her eyes traveled up and down his naked body she threw aside the sheet and started dressing in front of him. Despite her clumsiness he admired her, obviously she was nervous dressing in front of him, but she still tried to overcome her shyness.
Zekk finished dressing before Jaina, so he quickly picked up the top sheet and got another and laid it down on the thicker bedspread. His clothes felt sticky next to his skin but nothing too uncomfortable. Thinking about how he'd come to feel this way made him smile. Jaina knelt down next to him to crawl under the covers, she moved a more slowly than normal.
"Are you okay?" he asked, worried that he'd hurt her.
"Just a little bit sore." She admitted blushing, probably imaging how she came to feel sore.
Not knowing how to take the pain away from her Zekk said the only thing he could think of. "You'll feel better in the morning." And pulled her closer to him, so that she could lay her head on his chest. Her fingers thrummed against him and he almost squirmed away when she hit a ticklish spot.
"Jaina. Go to sleep." Her fingers stopped their movement and then started again. He tried to stay awake wanting to talk to Jaina, but he was too tired from yesterday and their lovemaking.
When he opened his eyes again he was in the land of dreams, alone. It was daylight this time. The tall grass wasn't so menacing now that shadows didn't cover everything. Blue skies extended all the way to the end of his vision, wrapping around the horizon. Tuffs of white clouds floated in the distance and a breeze blew his hair out of his face, it was longer in his dreams than it was in the real world. Strands of hair flickered at his waist line make sending pleasant tingles up his spin. For the first time in all the dreams he had pants on, low cut pants. The tan material barely clung to his narrow hips but it protected his legs from the dead scratchy grass.
Why was all the grass dead? Concentrating on turning the grass green again, he closed his eyes and slowly formed an image of the grassland, as he wanted it to look. Something shifted within him and when he opened his eyes again bright green greeted him. He'd messed up on the color, but at least the taller grass wasn't scratchy against lower back and abdomen.
There was a tall tree off in the distance so he started walking toward it, not sure what to do in this place. As he grew closer his mother appeared she waited for him in a blue flowing dress, her hair was loose down to her waist and breezes lifted strands and twirled them about. She looked lovelier every time they met. Zekk saw himself in her fine boned features.
"Mom?" He asked respectfully once he reached her under the shade. It was high noon.
She didn't say anything her eyes stared at him reading him almost. Nervousness and insecurity filled him. Was this really his mother? Did she know everything that had happened to him over the years? Shame overcame him as he remembered his part in the Shadow Academy and how he submitted to Yuri and his uncle. He glanced at his feet, hiding from her prying eyes. Suddenly too ashamed of himself and wanting to flee far away from her.
Warm arms hugged him from behind and it wasn't until he heard, "You'll be all right my son. I love you. I love you. I'm so sorry I wasn't there to protect you." That he realized that he was sobbing. She turned him around and he buried his face into her shoulder and cried in great racking sobs. Being the same height made hugging her easier. Her hands stroked his back and hair, soothing him. Eventually, Zekk started calming down and his sobs slowed to gentle weeping, then to sniffles. His eyes felt swollen and scratchy, but he felt better in his soul.
A soft sigh sounding of regret escaped his mother's lip, "Zekk you've been here hours, it's almost time for you to go, but remember this, soon you'll have to come here for training and it may take years before you can rejoin your friends. I would take you now, but your friend Jaina needs you as you need her."
Immediately his heart ached from the prospect of having to leave Jaina, protests never left his lips, for his mother placed one finger across his mouth. "If you don't come here and learn to use your abilities, you'll go insane and die, and you may hurt your friends as well. Just keep this in mind. Your powers are growing stronger every day, and they are out of control. Inadvertently, Jaina already taught you how to control your telepathy. Keeping calm and focusing on one symbol pulls your mind together. However, like all powers it takes time and practice before you have perfect control."
Zekk tried to remember everything she was telling him, but already he could feel himself fading away.
"Zekk are you okay?" he started at the voice so close to his ear. Then he recognized the soft tone.
"I'm fine, Jaina. What time is it?"
"It's time to get up according to Ralph." Jaina stood up and turned on the lights.
"Is it morning already?" Zekk asked puzzled, it felt like he'd just fallen asleep, except not as exhausted.
Jaina was quickly dressing with her back turned to him, while he couldn't seem to lift himself up. "Did you go to that planet?" Her question surprised him.
"Yeah." Zekk couldn't say more, already remembering what his mother had told him. Yes this world may be rotten but he didn't want to leave Jaina now that he realized he loved her and she loved him as well. Of course she was still young, only sixteen. Han Solo and Princess Leia were not going to like that Jaina picked him, a ex-street rat.
His thoughts were interrupted when Ralph opened the door and told them to hurry, the man's huge frame blocked out the faint light from the corridor. Zekk could see why the man frightened him when they first met. Ralph could probably crush his skull with his bare hands. Quickly dressing, Zekk was able to help Jaina fold up the blankets and sheets they used. Every time his eyes met hers, Jaina's face would flush and her hands turned clumsy. It made him smile, happy knowing he had that affect on her.
After breakfast, Mara started detailing her plan. "As you know, Yuri is probably the most powerful man on this planet. I've scouted the area of the field generator and discovered that Yuri's mansion contains a vital system that is keeping the generator running. However, there is no way easy way to get past the guards and security system, we would need someone on the inside to open the locks."
All eyes turned toward him and Zekk shook his head. "No way. I can't. He'd kill me." Fear clouded his mind.
Mara sighed exasperated. "No he won't kill you. You're too beautiful and you're the only one who can get close enough to him to kill the bastard."
Jaina jumped to her feet and yelled. "I can't believe you're asking him to do this! Do you have any idea what that man did to him?
Eyes hardening Mara spoke evenly, "I know what Yuri is capable of and I've explored all options, this one has the best chance of success. Zekk also has some special abilities that will get him out of there if we fail."
"How am I suppose to kill Yuri?" Zekk asked his face pale and haunted.
"Ralph and Jill will teach you, mainly Jill, she's an expert at unarmed combat. I'll try to give you a few pointers, but I need to be in town setting you up for your capture. You'll have to be alone. Yuri would kill anyone who's helped you."
"Jaina, Zekk, Ralph and Kale are going to teach you how to use our equipment and the explosives. In two weeks we are going to attack, but till then I want everyone to know how to use the equipment." That was the beginning of their training.
The next two weeks passed in a blur of happiness and intense training, he refused to think about his part in the coup. Every night Jaina and him made love, it was all they could do to remember not to hold hands when the others were around. Training was fun, Ralph and Kale always had something to teach them and he soaked it up, they only had to explain things once and they would both remember it.
Jill was also a harsh task master, he'd never realized there were so many ways to kill someone with no weapons. By the end of the second week, anxiety filled him at the thought of going back to Yuri's, of being captured, killed, or worse. Nightmares of that collar plagued his sleep. That was when he decided he didn't care if anyone knew about him and Jaina. The next time he felt the urge to kiss her he would. Jaina's self confidence blossomed under all the attention and positive praise. Of course Ralph yelled at them occasionally, and only touched him one time.
They were working with wiring explosives into what Ralph called plastic, Zekk tried to focus his attention solely to the what he was doing but Jaina's presence was always in his mind by this time. Not realizing that he'd mistaken a dark blue wire for a black one, he'd almost inserted it into the malleable plastic, when a large hand grabbed his wrist and jerked him up. Flashbacks of Yuri raced through his head and he started fighting back, trying to free himself, not realizing that it was Ralph. His head rocked back and forth when Ralph started shaking him and yelled. "Stop it! You almost blew us up Zekk. The wires are switched backwards!" Ralph's normally calm face looked furious.
Jaina wasn't around and already she distracted him. Ralph casually tossed him to the ground, Zekk tried to catch himself from falling but momentum was stronger. Breathing hard, he decided to stay on the ground, worried that Ralph would punch him if he stood up. Now that he knew it was Ralph all he could feel was shame.
"I'll say this once Zekk since Jaina isn't here. Get your mind off your dick and concentrate, or next time I'll let you blow yourself up." Then the older man stormed away.
Later that night Jaina told him why Ralph was so upset. "Zekk he was angry that you were distracted but I heard him talking to Kale, he said he furious because of your hysterical reaction when he grabbed your wrist."
"Is that suppose to make me feel better." He interrupted, bitter and ashamed of his response earlier that day, Ralph was a friend, and yet he panicked. The man must think him a baby.
"If you let me finish you'll feel better. Ralph was furious at Yuri for hurting you so badly." She trailed off.
I made a fool of myself, didn't I?
No of course not. Just give yourself time. She answered back before smothering his face with kisses.
He hugged her and used the Force to turn off the lights.
The day of their attack came too early. A few times in the dream world he'd searched out Jacen and Master Skywalker but they were always on a ship and asleep. No help from them. Zekk couldn't stop wondering why Yuri would construct a field that crashed ships. Eventually, no one would come to this planet, navigators would mark it off with a don't go there sign. Where was the purpose?
Mara was due to arrive in two hours so he had to leave soon, for the past two weeks she spent days on end in town. He never asked what she did there, and she never offered the information. Hopefully everything would work without a hitch, however in his experience nothing ever fell into place perfectly, especially for him. Yet, Jaina, Jacen, Tenal Ka, and Lowbacca had extraordinary luck in all their adventures. It must run in the family, he thought peevishly, while gathering his gear in the shade of the Black Raven.
Jaina sat across from him packing her own gear, mostly ropes and explosives. She wasn't going to be with him on this mission. He reached over and helped her retie her pack. "I can do that." She said just as he finished.
"I know but I want to help." He smiled at her hoping that would smooth her ruffled feathers.
"I'm worried, Zekk. Mara's plan is so dangerous. There are too many things that can go wrong."
"Yeah but it's our only option." He looked down at his dirty backpack wondering what he was doing. Couldn't they hide in the forest until the Republic found a way to break through the barrier? No, Mara said it was only a matter of time before Yuri's guards found the ship. He just had to trust the woman.
"Zekk come on you need to get going!" Ralph yelled. The big man was going to pilot the ship to the estate and pick them up. Kale was going with Jaina and Packard. Jill was staying with the ship to man the guns and fix mechanical problems. Sax and Mara, were going to work together to sabatoge the shield protecting the mansion.
Picking his backpack from the ground he put it on his back and he grabbed Jaina's outstretched hands and pulled her to her feet. He bent down and kissed her long and slow, afraid that he might never see her alive again. after a muffled cough coming from a few feet away he pulled back and looked into Jaina's wide brown eyes. "I love you Jaina. Now wish me luck."
Tears swam in her eyes, but she stayed brave. "Wish you luck." She whispered before saying. "I love you, Zekk."
He strode away from her before he lost his nerve.
To be continued...