Hello, all. I've only posted on these forums once before, but I decided to share a story or two. Hope you enjoy.
Some wounds can never be healed. Some scars remain a constant, aching reminder of what was lived and lost. And sometimes, the only way to move on is to share them with the person who bears the same.Characters:
Jaina, Tenel Ka (with mention of Jacen/Tenel Ka, Jaina/Jacen, Jaina/Jacen/Tenel Ka.)Genre/Warnings:
Angst, Hurt/Comfort. Implied adult content between two women.Timeline:
A couple years post Legacy of the Force
. Ignores Fate of the Jedi
She was the daughter of two strong and proud matriarchal societies. A devout warrior of the Witches of Dathomir for the first half of her life. Reigning Queen Mother of the Hapes Consortium for the second half and counting. Well trained in the Jedi traditions of serenity and patience. Known on all sides for her legendary stoicism.
And even she was having a hard time keeping the boredom out of her expression.
Tenel Ka Djo fought the urge to rub her temples. A petty border dispute that should have been resolved by the systems’ governors was inflating out of proportion, and three weeks of failed negotiations and botched concessions were now being dropped at her feet. The Rifle Worlds, as usual, were aptly named.
Heavily driven by the Royal Armaments Guild, Charubah sought possession of two planets within the ill-defined and unpopulated systems of her nearby vicinity in order to expand her ever growing technological bases. Modus and Maires, with equal proximity to the respective stray planets, felt the move encroached on their territories and filed complaints of infringement. Not to be outdone by missed opportunity, Cheruba and Lovola jumped into the fray, adding their voices to the escalating din and thereby pinning Charubah with allegations of misconduct from all sides. Tenel Ka was only thankful Vergill had for once opted out of the dispute.
Gathered in the Royal Court Chamber were the five regional governors, their advisors, and representatives of the Armaments Guild. The Queen Mother herself was surrounded by several of her own advisors as well as her usual following of lesser courtiers. While nowhere near filled to its usual capacity for seating members of the Cluster’s sixty-three worlds, the chamber’s noise level seemed no less raucous.
For the past two hours, the five governors had taken turns justifying their claims while at the same time doing their best to undermine each other’s credibility. Juvenile insults and baseless accusations were tossed back and forth like a children’s game and, when that didn’t work, they turned their attention to the throne and spouted ridiculous prattle meant to flatter and wheedle support from the Queen Mother. The royal advisors then had to interrupt and steer them back to the discussion at hand.
The doors to the chamber opened, wresting Tenel Ka’s attention from a particularly dull account on the importance of preserving Mairan flaxweed in other locales. She watched in apathy as her personal aide timidly approached. A curt gesture silenced the bickering nobles and their attendants, and the aide hastily bowed.
“Forgive the intrusion, Majesty. Your guest has arrived.”
“My guest,” Tenel Ka repeated, unimpressed. “I told you I was not to be disturbed.”
In truth, she was only mildly annoyed by the disruption. It gave her reprieve from the dispute, however brief it would be. She saw something unnatural shift behind her aide’s eyes, and a look of pure terror crossed the woman’s face.
“Yes?” she prompted.
“That…Her Majesty…would want to see her,” the woman finally managed, looking as though she was frantically trying to remember what could have made her disobey her queen’s orders.
assumed you would want to see me,” a familiar voice said.
Tenel Ka’s gaze snapped to the source of the voice, her mood instantly brightening with surprise.
She all but flew from her throne and crossed the chamber. She waved off her friend’s perfunctory bow and enveloped her in a hug. Before either spoke again, Tenel Ka took her by the elbow and led her several paces away from prying ears.
“How are you?”
“I’m…” Jaina looked over at the nobles, “interrupting.”
“A welcome distraction, I assure you. However…” Tenel Ka let out a breath of frustration as she followed her friend’s gaze. “Normally I would happily leave this for another day, but it has already gone on too long.”
The Jedi lifted a hand in understanding. “It’s okay. I can wait.”
“We’ll have a room prepared, and you’ll join us for dinner.” The queen waved a hand for her aide to see it done and pressed a kiss to Jaina’s cheek. “It is good to see you, my friend.”
The Jedi merely offered another small bow, this time with the smallest of teasing smiles. Once Jaina had been escorted out by her aide, Tenel Ka returned to her throne and motioned for the governors to continue, willing her focus to remain on the matter at hand and off her friend’s sudden appearance.
That had been two days ago.
True to her word, Jaina was patient while Tenel Ka tended to her more pressing responsibilities: ending the border dispute; reviewing an amended trade agreement; blessing a marriage between minor royal houses. All the while, Jaina remained quietly at her side, dutifully ignoring the curious looks and envious glares sent her way by the Queen Mother’s lesser kin, courtiers, and sycophants. Likewise, Tenel Ka shamelessly dismissed her usual male consorts in favor of her friend’s company, despite having little chance to talk. The Jedi attended each of the queen’s meals during the day and parted for her respective quarters at night with a kiss to the cheek.
Tenel Ka knew the whispers had already begun to stir from their resting place, dusting themselves off after the years of inertia. It could only be expected; that Jaina was a woman had only ever spurred the gossiping tongues to wag faster. Adding fuel to the fire, the Jedi was also a well-known face on Hapes. To her admirers, she was a hero of both the Yuuzhan Vong War and the Second Galactic Civil War. To her detractors, her relation to the fallen Jacen Solo and the ‘meddlesome’ Jedi weighed heavily against her.
By the third afternoon of her friend’s unexplained visit, Tenel Ka could barely keep her curiosity at bay. The last time she had seen Jaina was at Jacen’s emotional, if controversial, funeral. The man’s twin sister had been a broken shell at the time, still not fully healed from a battle that had inexorably changed her forever. Mere days after the funeral, Jaina had disappeared in the middle of the night and, as far as Tenel Ka knew, dropped off the grid for two years.
And here she was on Hapes, like a woman back from the dead.
While nowhere near the vibrant girl she once was and with eyes that held unfathomable volumes of sorrow, Jaina generally looked healthier. Her presence in the Force was once again a meticulously controlled tempest. Her skin had regained its color, and her hair was back to being a rich mane of well-kept waves. Even her robes were new. They were of the same Jedi origin and feminine in their fit, but these bore the stark contrast of black over white instead of muted browns. Despite all this, Tenel Ka had to wonder how many of these improvements were strictly superficial and how much remained damaged underneath.
Her courtiers easily picked up on her distraction. For most of them, it served to peak their jealousy and trigger more elaborate vies for her attention. For the few genuinely loyal, it sparked the need to please their Queen Mother through more practical means. When she finally dismissed them all from her presence during lunch that third day, those select few stifled their counterparts and ushered them away. Tenel Ka kept her gaze on Jaina, observing the Jedi accept their parting affronted glowers with measured indifference.
“It seems you have upset the fragile equilibrium of my nobles.”
“I’m not the one trading their adoring company for that of a disreputable Jedi,” Jaina returned, comfortably meeting the Queen Mother’s eye.
“Clearly the fault lies with you regardless.”
Jaina shrugged as she leaned back in her seat. “Don’t worry. I’m used to it.”
Tenel Ka searched her expression for several seconds until the Jedi raised a brow expectantly. The queen then stood from the table and held her hand out to her friend.
Jaina took her hand and followed her out of the dining hall without question. As they navigated the palace corridors, both were keenly aware of the few stubborn courtiers that continued to trail behind them at a conspicuous distance. Tenel Ka didn’t break stride until they reached the archway of her destination, where the pair of guards bowed and awaited their queen’s directive.
is to enter,” she stressed. “Instruct the sentry detail to remain on the walls. They are not to venture into the gardens. I am quite well protected.”
Her guards were experienced enough to hear the unspoken threat of death that accompanied her commands just as her nobles were experienced enough to know whatever the queen didn’t want interrupted was likely worth the risk of disobedience.
With that, she led Jaina through the archway into the Queen Mother’s Courtyard. Of course, ‘courtyard’ was an understatement even by royal standards. The sunken jungle garden stretched almost four square kilometers within the palace walls, effortlessly dwarfing the two peripheral guest courtyards. It contained its own thriving ecosystem of native flora and fauna, and at its heart was a murky pond encircling a lone island. The eastern bank was a rocky, moss-covered cliff with a cascading waterfall.
Jaina sent her a sidelong glance. “Your private gardens? Aren’t you afraid they’ll get the wrong impression?” she wondered with a wry quirk of her lips.
A wrong impression was never something Tenel Ka had concerned herself with. The nobles, as egocentric as they could be, were shrewd. Many had been intelligent enough to place Jacen as the probable father of Allana even with the altered pregnancy (though none had been reckless enough to make their speculations public). If anything, wrong impressions were what she strived to create.
As they walked along the path of alternating basalt and milkstone, Tenel Ka felt Jaina tense upon sensing the six other sentients in the courtyard. She said nothing as the Jedi quickly and systematically pinpointed the half dozen camouflaged sentries patrolling the garden perimeter. Giving Jaina’s hand a reassuring squeeze, Tenel Ka extended her own Force senses. Locating her guards one by one, she spared each a moment of eye contact, acknowledging their presence as well as warning them to keep their distance.
When they reached the edge of the pond, she paused, a rare pang of doubt settling in her stomach. She had shown Jaina the gardens once before but had never taken her to the island. It was her haven, almost sacred in its seclusion and cut off from the rest of the palace by a secret pathway only she knew how to traverse. But more than that, it was where she had taken him
all those years before. She was very suddenly aware she still held Jaina’s hand in her own and turned to find haunting brown eyes watching her.
“Do you trust me?” she asked without thinking.
“You never have to ask me that.”
Releasing Jaina’s hand, Tenel Ka kicked off her shoes and stepped into the pond, her feet unerringly finding the stone pier hidden beneath its obscure surface. She continued further into the pond with full confidence, the water never reaching past her ankles.
“So the Queen Mother really does walk on water,” Jaina remarked as she removed her boots.
Soon, Jaina was right behind her, and Tenel Ka carefully guided her along the jagged turns and winding curves. About halfway to the island, she glanced over her shoulder and held up one finger. Focusing on a section of water three meters away, she leapt across with only slight aid of the Force and landed on the pier in a graceful splash of water. She moved forward a couple paces before turning in time to see her friend land just as nimbly.
“A little variation to keep them off track,” she explained. “So far, no one has dared try to retrace my steps.”
After crossing the remaining ten meters of water, their feet finally touched the moss-covered shore of Tenel Ka’s sanctuary. Once again taking Jaina’s hand, she pulled the Jedi along the narrow path that cut through the isle’s dense cluster of Paan trees to where it opened into a small grassy clearing. Here, the entwined branches and leafy canopy shielded them from view of both the far bank and the outer walls.
Here, they could speak freely.
Tenel Ka breathed deeply as she moved from under the Paan trees, and it took her several paces to realize Jaina was no longer at her side. Turning around, she found her friend staring in wonder at the single tree standing at the center of the clearing. Its trunk was covered in smooth bark, strikingly white against the backdrop of greens and browns with a few blemishes of the underlying dark wood showing through. It was shorter than the Paan trees, its thick trunk and branches uniquely twisted and gnarled, and its small leaves a much darker green.
“It is a Snowbark tree.”
“This isn’t native to the Cluster,” Jaina guessed.
“Dathomir,” the queen admitted softly. “I had it brought here a few years after I took the crown.”
Tenel Ka gave a small wistful smile. “You should see it in the fall when the leaves turn gold.”
Ignoring the nearby stone bench, she opted for the grass at the foot of the Snowbark tree. The sun was angled in the sky enough to skirt past the shelter of the tree’s branches and shine warmly on her. As an afterthought, she unclipped her lightsaber from her sash and tossed it haphazardly to the side. The weapon had become little more than an accessory over the years anyway.
Tenel Ka heard the clinking of metal as Jaina removed her utility belt and dropped it to the ground. Her black scarf and tabard soon followed, leaving only the white Jedi tunic underneath. While the brunette joined her in sitting, it didn’t escape the queen’s notice that she kept her lightsaber within arm’s reach.
How the wars had changed her friend.
It also didn’t escape her notice that the lightsaber in the grass was not the familiar design Jaina had built at the Jedi Praxeum all those years ago. This was a new design, its metal hilt unscathed by time and wear, its blade untainted by the memories of loved ones. Not for the first time, Tenel Ka was struck by the profound sadness in Jaina’s eyes.
“It has been a long time, my friend.”
“A lifetime,” the Jedi agreed.
“It seems to have done you well.”
“As well as can be expected, I guess.”
Tenel Ka watched her friend closely, trying to decide if she was now deliberately avoiding her gaze or simply taking in the new scenery. Two years most definitely seemed like a lifetime, and bridging that gap was rapidly becoming a daunting task.
“Have you seen your parents?”
“I’m sure Allana’s fine.”
The name sent a fresh jolt of guilt and longing through Tenel Ka, even more so with how easily Jaina had seen through her. She shook herself before the tears could take hold; now was not the time to dwell. With practiced deliberation, she filed thoughts of her daughter to the back of her mind (as she could never eradicate them completely) and focused on her friend’s indirect admission.
“You have not gone back.” It was not a question, and Jaina didn’t answer. “Has the Goddess graced me with her presence before all others?”
Jaina let out a sigh at the old title but otherwise maintained her silence. Never a woman to waste words, Tenel Ka let it lie. Her friend did not come for a lecture. She did not need to be told how much her disappearance had hurt her parents, her uncle, her cousin, her friends. She did not need to be counseled on how to deal with her grief as though she was a child.
Instead, Tenel Ka resorted to uncomplicated fact. “I am glad you are here.”
“I am, too.”
The queen studied Jaina’s profile a moment longer, then shifted to sit behind her. A light tug on the arm prodded Jaina to lay back, her head coming to rest in Tenel Ka’s lap. Slender fingers ran soothingly through chocolate hair as the Jedi stared off into nothing, eyes narrowed in the warm sunlight. It wasn’t long before the queen began to feel the tension drain away from her friend. With the birds flitting between branches above them, the soft splash of the waterfall across the pond, and the occasional breeze filtering through the trees, all the stress that plagued them seemed far away. Coming to the island had been the right choice. Do you miss him?
The question echoing in her mind startled her enough to make her wonder if she imagined it. “What?”
“Do you miss it?” Jaina repeated. “Your arm.”
Tenel Ka drew her brows together. It was an odd thing to ask after two decades.
“Sometimes, yes,” she admitted. “I grew accustomed to its absence years ago, but there are times when I feel the ghost of it. Some days I even wish I had replaced it.”
“But there is no replacing it, is there?” Jaina said it more to herself than posing it as an actual question. “Do you ever wonder what it would be like? If you never lost it?”
This time, there was no mistaking the Jedi’s query. Tenel Ka took a steadying breath and willed herself not to tremble.
The woman nodded, accepting her answer for what it was. Deciding she couldn’t put it off any longer, Tenel Ka cautiously broached the subject they had been circling since the Jedi’s arrival.
“Jaina,” she started gently. “Can I ask where you went?”
“Sure, you can ask.”
There was a lengthy pause.
“…are you going to answer
“Are you commanding
me to answer?”
“Jaina.” The Jedi merely smirked, that lopsided grin inherent to the Solo family and bittersweetly memorable. “It is unwise to upset the Queen Mother.”
“How else am I suppose to entertain myself?”
“I am not above leaving you trapped on this island.”
“And if I told you there are deadly creatures lurking in the depths?”
“I’ll swim fast
Tenel Ka gazed down at her. There was a glint of the old Jaina in those eyes. A flicker of the playful, quick-witted pilot she had been before they were both marred by war and heartache. It soon faded.
“I went back to Mandalore for a couple months, but after Kyp came looking for me…” The Jedi shook her head. “Nowhere important.”
Tenel Ka pinned her with a searching stare. “And does Hapes qualify as ‘nowhere important?’”
“Willing to adopt a wayward Jedi.”
“Now you are pushing.” The brunette snorted but offered no retort. “You know you are
welcome to stay as long as you wish.”
“I think your groupies would explode with envy. Then who would fawn over you?”
The queen flipped a couple braids over her shoulder as she leaned back against the Snowbark tree. “There are thousands more lined up to take their place.”
“You must have an entire vault dedicated to their donated body parts.”
Tenel Ka grunted in amusement. The ambitious nobles of her inner circle had a habit of losing their arms to ‘fencing accidents.’ A few of the more unhinged individuals had even offered their cryo-frozen limbs to the Queen Mother as living replacements. All to incur her favor.
“Of course not,” she scoffed. “I make special trips to Reef Fortress and throw them to the Eye-Flowers.”
Jaina smiled, and Tenel Ka knew she was remembering their close encounter with the carnivorous seaweed when they were young teens. For a moment, she fiercely wished for the sound of her friend’s laughter. It didn’t come.
Letting a comfortable silence fall over them, Tenel Ka went back to combing
through Jaina’s hair. The Jedi closed her eyes with a deep intake of air and soon, her breathing slowed to a shallow but steady rhythm. Were it not for the consistent brush of Jaina’s mind against her own, it would have been easy to assume she had fallen asleep. Nevertheless, Tenel Ka could sense the sharp alertness brimming just beneath the seemingly tranquil surface.
Even here, in private sanctuary, Jaina’s mind was guarded. Open enough for the Queen Mother to read without effort, but with unmistakably defined areas of thought and emotion that were carefully walled away beyond her reach.
Tenel Ka slipped her fingers from her friend’s hair, instead letting them glide over her skin and inscribe shapeless patterns on her brow and cheek; along her throat; down her arm; across her stomach. She caught the twitch of Jaina’s mouth when she teased the flesh under the edge of the Jedi’s tunic. She ran the backs of her knuckles across closed lips before tracing the pads of her fingers along a soft jaw line. Applying gentle pressure just under her chin prompted Jaina to open her eyes and tilt her head back. She looked into those brandy brown eyes and saw two—days, years, decades
—of patience staring quietly up at her.
And there was nothing to stop her from lowering her mouth to Jaina’s.
No urgent responsibilities or petulant suitors. No heart-wrenching wars or life-and-death battles. No overriding love interests or split loyalties. Nothing to hold them back as their lips slid easily against each other, tongues joined in a languid dance. As much as it threatened to dismantle and shatter her, the gentle intimacy of their embrace reminded her of Jacen as he was in the beginning. Before his lips grew demanding. Before his touch turned possessive. Before his love became bruising.
They parted when Jaina sat up, twisting around to face her. Any fear that she had offended the Jedi with her train of thought evaporated when the woman slowly reached up to trace the jewel-encrusted circlet set on her forehead: the Crown of Hapes.
“It has been a long time, my friend,” Tenel Ka repeated in a whisper.
The Queen Mother didn’t resist as the Jedi lifted the circlet from her head and tossed it aside. A combat-calloused hand buried itself in the queen’s hair just above her loose braids.
“A lifetime,” Jaina murmured, pulling her into another kiss.
As the Jedi grew more insistent, Tenel Ka found her back pressed against the grass with a questing mouth traveling across her jaw and down her throat. The queen opened her eyes long enough to reorient herself, then closed them in submission to the vertigo Jaina’s touch was instilling.
Jacen had known. He played the part of the oblivious male well when he was younger, but he had always known. Always sensed her warring thoughts and divided emotions even when he didn’t let on. She loved him. She would never deny that she loved him. But Jacen had only been half the equation: the light throwing all else into shadow. Within that shadow, there was Jaina. And what could be said about Jaina and Jacen that hadn’t already been put into the simplest of terms?‘Jaina and I share everything,’
he had whispered in her ear. ‘Everything.’
That was the night she learned on just how many levels that statement rang true. The night that brought the suppressed complications of their triangular relationship into glaring, if surprisingly harmonious, existence.
Tenel Ka sucked in a breath when Jaina nipped at her pulse point, reminding her of the present. She slipped her hand under Jaina’s tunic, seeking the warmth of her flesh to mirror the heat of her mouth. Her caress wandered over the silken skin of the Jedi’s back to the taut muscles of her abdomen. She stopped suddenly when she reached a raised ridge she instinctively knew stretched from Jaina’s left hip to her right breast, her shock enough to cause the other woman to flinch.
Cautiously, she traced her fingers over the scar, feeling Jaina shiver above her, neither in pleasure nor anticipation. This was a wound that had nearly killed the Jedi two years before. A wound that should have been erased from sight during the extensive treatment after its infliction. Tenel Ka looked up into Jaina’s eyes—eyes that were beginning to shimmer with the coming tears—finding a raw truth in their depths.
Some wounds can never be healed.
Without leaving that solemn gaze, Tenel Ka sat up and brushed the hair out of Jaina’s face, letting her fingers trail over her cheek and neck, all the way down to the bottom hem of her white tunic. Hesitating only a moment, she closed her fist around the soft fabric and pushed upwards, exposing Jaina’s upper body inch by inch.
She knew there was a part of Jaina that wanted to stop her. She could feel the reluctance pushing weakly against her. She could also feel the need—no, the desperation
—to continue onward. To let Tenel Ka see
her and share the burden Jaina would let no other touch.
With the small bit of cooperation she needed, the Queen Mother lifted the tunic over the Jedi’s head and let it fall to the ground. Her eyes were drawn to the scar that marred Jaina’s form. Of course the Jedi had faint others mapped out on her flesh, wounds that hadn’t received medical attention soon enough to ensure complete erasure of scar tissue. There were the notches in her ear from Alema Rar’s teeth during their final duel. The claw marks across her back from a warlord’s rancor after the Yuuzhan Vong War. The puncture on either side of her calf from Tsavong Lah’s amphistaff at Ebaq 9. The gash down the center of her chin from a lesser Yuuzhan Vong’s amphistaff at Myrkr. They had all been painful, all significant in their own way, but the one spanning the length of her torso had cut so much deeper.
Leaning forward, Tenel Ka pressed her lips to the tip of that scar just under Jaina’s breast, placing tender kisses along its length until she reached its other apex at the Jedi’s hipbone. She ran her tongue over that spot, and this time the shudder she felt was definitely in arousal.
While proceeding to remove the rest of the woman’s clothing, she was pleased to see Jaina had almost fully recovered from the staggering weight loss she had suffered during the last war. Still, she was impeccably lean, and all her years of Jedi training and field combat had hardened her feminine musculature into coils of durasteel beneath ever supple skin. If there was any one thing in common Tenel Ka inherited from both her matriarchal bloodlines, it was her appreciation for the female form.
Likely sensing her thoughts, Jaina was watching her with darkened eyes and the barest hint of a smirk gracing her features. Turning away, the queen reached up to pull her braids in front of her right shoulder, revealing her neck to the Jedi. Soft lips attached themselves to the nape of her neck, followed by a playful flick of the tongue. The zipper of her dress began a slow descent down her back, those lips traveling along her spine in its wake. While her dress slipped away from her form, she was gently pulled down to the ground, where an earnest mouth quickly captured hers. With the cool grass tickling her back and the warm body covering her front, Tenel Ka ignored the threat of consequence as she always had and surrendered herself to Jaina’s knowing touch.
A while later when the sun was dipping below the walls of the courtyard, they continued to lay quietly in the clearing, Jaina’s head on Tenel Ka’s stomach. The queen’s hand was once again stroking through dark hair while the Jedi drew idle patterns on a satin thigh.
“How did you do it?”
Even having expected the question, the words vibrating gently against her flesh shook Tenel Ka to the core. She took in a lungful of air to clear the waver from her voice.
“The only way I could.”
In the silence that followed, Tenel Ka pretended not to notice the drops of wetness falling onto her stomach or the tremble in the hand caressing her thigh.
Eventually, Jaina left the same way she arrived: a teasing bow and friendly hug, a kiss on the cheek, and eyes full of patient sadness. As she took a step back in preparation to climb into her X-wing, the Jedi let her fingers linger on the cusp of Tenel Ka’s left arm.I miss him, too.
Some wounds can never be healed. Some scars remain a constant, aching reminder of what was lived and lost. And sometimes, the only way to move on is to share them with the person who bears the same.
One day at a time.Fin.