I was in a romantic mood, since today is Jimbo's and my 16th anniversary.
Edit: This is a revision of the original chapter 20. Enjoy. Thanks to Emperor Devon and Jiara for the betas. I appreciate it!
If you can't stand romance, skip the section from the asterisks until the second to last paragraph.
(and Hallucination, no hunky chests in this revision.
Chapter 20: Healing
“He will recover,” Master Supat stated as we watched Dycen’a float unconscious in the kolto tank several days later. The Ithorian Master adjusted some of the settings on the tank and then swiveled his head around to us. “The only reason he survived your attack was your immediate stasis field. It took five master healers to stabilize him. He’ll likely have some permanent damage, but it shouldn’t be too debilitating.”
“When will he able to tell you anything?” asked Jolee.
“A few more days, and then we’ll be able to question him.”
“He was apprenticed to a Sith Lord. He’s bound to know something. Let us know when you find out anything, Supat. I need to go talk to Vandar a bit, so I won’t hold you up any longer. I know you wanted to see Talin and Jae as well,” Jolee said.
“I did. Come with me, please,” Master Supat motioned to us to follow him.
“Meet me in my quarters in three hours,” Jolee instructed us, and we nodded.
Master Supat evaluated me briefly and declared, “All minor injuries, which you healed well.”
Talin was leaning against the wall waiting to see the Master healer next. He crossed his arms over his chest and frowned. “Master Supat should know that you acquired those injuries in a Class fifty tornado.”
“The scale only goes up to five, Talin,” I laughed.
“Li’adin’s a special case. Their tornadoes start at five and go up from there. Were you planning on letting him know any time soon?”
“Sure, when he asked.”
“Is he supposed to divine that through the Force? He can’t help you properly if you don’t tell him anything.”
Master Supat turned to look at Talin, lifting an eye ridge wryly. “I didn’t need to ask. Jolee already gave me a report of what happened on Li’adin. He knows that Padawans have a tendency to understate their injuries.”
“He knows this, eh? How well?” I asked.
“Quite well. I saw him often enough here when he was a Padawan. He tried to tell me one time that his rib fractures were ‘just a couple bruises’ and that he could go back and finish his lightsaber practice with one of the other Padawans—Andor I think.”
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” Talin shook his head slightly.
“Because it’s Jolee,” I grinned.
“Master Supat, is there a cure for ornery old Jedi?”
He snorted in amusement. “There is no cure for Jolee. He is terminally ornery. Now come, Talin, let me take a look at you.” Talin sat down for the evaluation. “A good healing, Jae. Usually I find something that needs adjusting, but not today.”
“Jolee did a lot of it.”
Talin captured my gaze. “Jolee’s not the one who rescued me from becoming one with the Force. You did.”
“Hmm, Jolee was not very descriptive about that. Please tell me what happened,” Master Supat said.
I stood there until Talin looked away to Master Supat, then I found my voice. “When Talin’s vitals crashed, Jolee and I could feel the ebb in the Force. He told me ‘go get that boy’, so I went. I found him wandering, and I told him it was not his time yet. We cared about him and wanted him to come back. He decided to return.”
“That was all that happened?”
“That was extraordinarily risky. The two of you already share a small connection because of your injury, and that connection likely grew stronger with this incident. If Talin decided not to come back and you couldn’t break the link, you would both have been lost to us.”
“There was no acceptable alternative, Master Supat. He would have died if I hadn’t gone, and he is too important to the Order--” I stopped. Talin arched one eyebrow. “—and to Jolee and me.”
He smiled slightly in satisfaction.
Master Supat said, “Indeed. Every Jedi is important. Such powerful experiences can create Force bonds. Has that happened?”
“A bond has formed to some degree. We haven’t fully explored the extent,” Talin replied, looking over at me.
“What do you think, Jae?”
I regarded Talin for a long moment. So many different feelings!
“I can feel the link, but I’m unsure what to do.”
He acknowledged that with a fractional tilt of his head.
“Hmm. Well, it’s not like you’ve had much time to assess it. While you’re in your meeting with the other Masters, I’ll find some data on Force bonds for you. How is your study of the Scourge defense going?”
“Slowly. Too slowly. I’m concerned that I won’t master it in time.”
“Let the Force guide your learning and it will come more easily. We are researching the Scourge itself, and we might learn something more once Dycen’a has recovered enough to speak. With all of us working together, we will stop it. Now, I declare both of you healthy. Do try to stay out of harm’s way, though that is rather like asking a Selkath to stay out of water.”
We both replied, “Thank you, Master Supat,” then gave him a slight bow as he waved us kindly from the room. We walked out of the Jedi Temple’s infirmary, away from the clinical scents and bustling activity.
“We have some time before meeting Jolee. Do you want to go anywhere?” I asked. The vague feeling of being watched crept through my consciousness. I looked around quickly and saw nothing unusual.
“What’s wrong?” Talin said, eyes darting around, searching for trouble.
“I don’t know. I just had a sudden feeling that someone’s watching us, but I can’t find the source.”
“I didn’t sense it. Maybe it was someone in the infirmary.”
“I don’t know. I only felt it for a brief moment.”
“We’ve been dealing with some very dangerous people. Do you want to go to Jolee’s quarters to wait? It might be safer.”
I glanced around another time and reached out with the Force to find the source, but the feeling was gone. “I’m not sensing anything now. I’d like to see a little of Coruscant. There’s so much to do here, and never any time to do any of it during the apprenticeship. I’ll keep an eye out, though.”
“Let me show you the public gardens at my family’s compound, then. A couple hours’ tour won’t do it justice, but it’ll get us away from anything remotely medical. Especially the smell.” Talin wrinkled his nose so dramatically in distaste that I laughed. He grinned. “Come. It’ll only take a couple minutes to get there.”
* * *
I gazed at the profusion of colorful blooms, breathing in the aroma of moist earth and perfumed flowers. “This is exquisite.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that look of amazement on you before.”
“It’s an Ithorian masterwork. I’ve never seen so many different varieties from so many different planets.”
“I think the gardener studied on Ithoria for awhile.”
A breathy quality in his voice made me look up at him. His eyes were on me, softness in the blue. I couldn’t breathe--the desire to care battled the fear and the old ache. We stood like that for a long moment.
His quiet voice broke the spell so I could breathe again. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
“I’m just not sure how to handle all these emotions.”
“The Council’s stance?”
“That’s part of it.”
“Neither of us can deny the bond that formed, nor can the Council.”
“No, we can’t,” I said, giving him a small smile that he returned.
“I won’t ask for any more than you want to give.”
“I appreciate that.” We walked in silence for a bit.
“Do you want to see if there’s anything from Onderon?”
“I’d like that, yes.”
We followed a tiny stream through the various displays until he found the right section.
“Oh, my…” I said as I caught sight of the Onderon blooms, one with perfectly transparent red petals. Roben loved these, too…
I pushed the pain away.
“What is it?”
“A glassflower. The petals become clear as they mature. They’re very difficult to grow off Onderon, and here there are so many.”
“You should have it, then.” He reached down to pluck one.
I held a hand out to forestall him. “Talin, I don’t think--”
“Hush. I’m family. I’m allowed to pick a flower at least once a year, particularly if it’s for someone special.” He grinned for a moment as he handed the glassflower to me.
“Thank you. It was—is—a favorite.” I looked down at it, swallowing hard against the lump that formed in my throat.
“Talin tipped his head slightly, looking confused. “Was? Ah, Roben.”
I nodded, watching the clear flower petals rotate as I turned it in my hand. The trickling of the little stream filled the silence. My vision blurred as the tears started to well.
“There was nothing you could have done differently. Master Kavar couldn’t save him, either.”
“I know. It was his time.”
“Look at me. Oh, Jae,” He gently brushed away the tear that escaped. “Why do you do this to yourself? If Roben was the kind of man you’ve described, I know he wouldn’t want this.”
“You’re right, he wouldn’t.”
“What would he want?”
I turned to watch the water bubble over the rocks. Talin put an arm around my shoulder and gave it a comforting squeeze. “He’d want me to stop pushing people away because I was scared.”
“Scared of what?”
“Scared of getting too close and then losing them.”
“Jolee…” I took a deep breath. “You.”
He drew me in closer. “I can’t promise I’ll be alive in fifty years. I can’t even promise five minutes. I do know that some things are worth the risk of that pain of loss, and I know I’d like to spend time with you, know you better, make you happy. Tell me, would you rather have had time with Roben or no pain?”
“Roben, of course.”
“So, you’d do it all over again?”
“Don’t miss the joys in life because you fear the pain.”
I watched the light glint off the glassflower petals. I buried my nose in the blossom and inhaled the sweet scent, then lowered the flower into the stream. It bobbed up and down as the water carried it away out of sight. My hands trembled as I wiped the last of the tears away. I exhaled away the emotions except one. “Do something for me, Talin,” I whispered.
I looked up at him. “What you’ve been dying to for the longest time. Kiss me.”
Hope and uncertainty flashed across his face. “Jae, are you sure--”
I brushed my fingertips against his lips to silence him. “I’m sure.”
His mind touched mine and the wave of warmth washed over me. He leaned closer for the kiss, and my heartbeat quickened.
The scent of the garden changed abruptly. It was that ozone smell that follows on the heels of lightning strike, the smell of the superheated air around a lightsaber, and it filled the area. The hair on the back of my neck rose. “Talin, down!” I grabbed him by the back of the head to pull him out of the way. A blade of angry red light slashed through the now-empty space. I dodged to the side and ignited my lightsaber. “He’s Sith!” I whipped my blade around, catching his. Talin ducked and rolled, then came up with his saber lit.
The Sith and I locked gazes, blades crackling as we pushed against each other. His eyes sparked his hatred. “My master doesn’t like what you did to Dycen’a.”