Epilogues

War rages across the Galaxy. Both the brutal Galactic Empire and the desperate Rebel Alliance reel in the face of terrible losses. A tabletop RPG campaign set after the Battle of Yavin. Star Wars: Edge of the Empire (Fantasy Flight Games)

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SteveH
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Epilogues

Post by SteveH »

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SteveH
New Face
Posts: 9
Joined: 16 Sep 2009, 12:06

Session 24.1 - Zak & Cho

Post by SteveH »

Zak & Cho discuss events on the prison ship and what they mean.
Spoiler

<Zak>

Zak watches Cho calmly as she stares moodily at her drink.

Without thinking his hand raises to the itching wound on his chest and idly scratches. A small part of his tactical mind realizing that a inch or so is all that measures why he's still here breathing.

Looking at her, he doesn't doubt for a second that he'd do it again... even at the expense of that inch and it's consequences.

His brows furrow, so much pain and conflict etched on her face. Even before... Gak, she'd seemed more troubled, more distant than usual. Was he losing her?

She's saved him in more ways than he could count. How can he keep her safe, not to mention Reeva and the rest of the crew, if he can't even stand against those railed against them. And how to help her fight her demons... that was an even more scary prospect.

Emerging from his reverie he finds himself in Cho's direct gaze; a smile flickers on his lips, as if unfrozen he pours another shot into her glass.

"Sorry, got lost. Ready to talk about it yet?"


<Cho>

Was she ready to talk about it?

The ghost of a smile played across her lips, as if the question itself was a bitter joke she'd appreciated. Talk about what? How to even start?

Cho shuts her eyes, the day's events replaying in her mind, swirling through like a dark tide that threatened to drag her down. Her expression sours from anguish to a deep, cold anger, and for a moment Zak might feel like the whole room's spinning, free-falling through space.

Then she slowly forces her way back to a semblance of calm, that core of anger leashed and held far under the surface, at least for the moment. Her voice, when it finally emerges, is almost playful, full of brittle amusement, the sort she so often covers her fears with.

"What do you think we should start with? My best friend being a torturer? My old master being the one that broke him? Or should we skip straight to the finish?"


<Zak>

Zak watches as one of Cho's pain hiding smiles sweeps across her face.

He's been seeing far too many of them recently, he almost reaches out just to hold her in his arms as if that would somehow make it better but catches himself - as the waves of elemental anger emanating from Cho hit him. Not unexpected given even Zak's limited understanding of some of the revelations, but the depth and breadth of it, it's rawness shocks Zak to the core.

Immediately concern is plastered all over his face, which only deepens as he takes in what she says. It's obviously a lot worse than he thought, today's events have obviously opened up a wellspring of feelings - knowing Cho, feelings kept suppressed for years. He can feel the effort it takes for Cho to once again batten down those hatches.

Recognising the seriousness Zak sits close and reaches out to pull her into his arms, uncertain as to whether she'll let him:

'Diya... my love... To me you are what's important... but to help, if I can, I need to understand."

He tries to meet her gaze if she'll let him;

'Even before today, something's been troubling you, I should have asked sooner, but I was... frightened. And... this...this... history has unleashed a lot of feelings you've locked away.'

'I'm here for you regardless, no matter how much or little you're able to share. Partners in crime always."


<Cho>

Allowing herself to be pulled into an embrace is a struggle in itself; warring with her own fear of letting go even slightly, as if the maelstrom inside her head will escape given the slightest window of opportunity.

In the end, though, she crumples into his arms, unable to hold his gaze for more than a few moments. Zak's sincerity somehow always slips past her guard, no matter her better judgement; she's never been sure what to do with kindness she wasn't aiming to exploit.

"Frightened? Here am I, terrifying former Jedi, bawling my eyes out in your arms."

She chuckles, at herself, the situation, how utterly fucked everything is? She's not quite sure, but the laugh is a genuine one, dispelling some of her tension in the moment.

Reina was never this much trouble, she thinks, not from what she's seen of Zak's memory. Sadness flickers across her face, but it's a passing thing. She can dwell on it later, in private.

"You know I'd never hurt you. I know I'd never hurt you. That I'll always be yours."

Her voice hardens slightly, a weary, bitter undertone to it.

"I know that the same way I knew I'd never lose Gak.

"The way I knew Master Nayim would never hurt us."

You should be fucking frightened. You're holding a bomb.


<Zak>

A certain tension that Zak didn't even know he was holding eases across his shoulders as Cho allows herself to be enveloped by his embrace.

Zak steals a moment to enjoy the feeling of holding her close, feel her warmth, smell, physicality, and wishes his arms really could give her all the protection they imply. A smile touches his lips at her genuine laugh - how he loves hearing that from her, and wants that for her.

'Hey... You know full well how scary you can be...'

again he seeks her eyes, a broad grin on his face;

'but that's not what I meant. You've seen inside me in a way few have, and now perhaps you've done so literally. I'm just hoping that hasn't taken off any of my sheen in your eyes. You've no idea how important that is to me. But we are all just who we are - if recent history has taught me any it's taught me that. The rough and the smooth. I can no more fight my past than you can yours. But together we can get through it and come out the otherside.'

He reaches up his hand and gently traces her tears, his expression going more serious;

'And likewise I'd rather step into a lightsaber again than hurt you too, but I'm old enough to realise I won't always see things through your eyes so I have to accept that I might miss step and hurt you incidentally. Just promise me you'll always give me the chance to fix things. That's all I ask. That's really what I'm worried about. Putting my big fool foot in it. As to the rest....'

Zak pauses and considers, this isn't something he's good at and he struggles somewhat to express his thoughts;

'The one thing that's guaranteed is people change. I mean... we changed each other. I'm not the same person I was before I met you.'

he looks back to Cho sincerely hoping his armchair psychology can help in some little way;

'It's not exactly sophisticated thinking but something bad changed both your master and your friend. Made them different between then and now. They aren't the same people that you knew."


<Cho>

There's a far-away look in Cho's eyes as Zak talks; she meets his gaze, but it's clear she's not listening fully. Repeating some meditation in the back of her mind, perhaps, and just letting Zak's words wash over her, the warmth and reassurance of his love, the feeling of being held.

There's one lovely, long moment where it feels to her like everything could, actually, be okay.

And then Zak's words jar her out of it.

Of course something bad happened to change them. The Empire fucking hunted them - us - down. You were there. You helped orchestrate it.

There's little perceptible change on the surface, if anything just a shift in how utterly still and quiet she is. A sense that despite their physical proximity she's suddenly far, far out of reach. All too frequent these days.

She doesn't blame him, of course. She doesn't even blame Nayim for what she tried with Gak - she understands that all too well. No, the currents of her anger run far deeper than individual people.

Everything else that ruined them, that may well ruin her too, they've carried with them their whole lives. It was only ever a matter of time.

Could Zak understand? Would she even want him to? No. Some things are too precious to let the truth ruin them early.

Everyone fails, everyone dies, everyone disappoints in the end.
Life, the Force, everything carves pieces of you away until you don't recognise what's left, chews you up and leaves you rotting in the gutter.
Doesn't mean you shouldn't live in the meantime.


She suddenly smiles, almost defiant, her eyes seeking Zak's, her gaze intense and searching. The abrupt shift in demeanor might surprise, but Cho's moods have always been somewhat mercurial, and the expression now on her face has seldom led anywhere but fun places.

Then she catches herself, glances down at his chest - eyeing the bindings on the wound - and gives an almost theatrical sigh of dashed aspirations.

"We definitely need to work on your guard."


<Zak>

As Zak finishes talking some small part of him notes through their closeness an almost imperceptible shadow of Cho's dark feelings in response to his words. At an unconscious level he tenses shivering from the fleeting feeling of cold hard anger and hopelessness - and then it's gone. Was it ever there? Or did he imagine it?

Looking at Cho, still in his arms, he sees the change flit across her face and meets her gaze as it intensifies into one he can't help but recognise.

He can't help but smile back... His Diya.. That look - Maybe some sheen remains. He's also wise enough to know the time for seriousness is passed - for now at least, and accepts that without skipping a beat while feasting on Cho's playful theatrics.

He laughs and gives her a squeeze - 'Guard? What guard? How do you guard against a damned lightsaber? You gonna teach me?'


<Cho>

"We've acted on worse ideas. You could start by learning not to throw yourself in their path."

Cho's grin is as playful as it's ever been, but Zak can see she's giving it serious thought, while idly trailing her fingers down the flesh of his arm, tracing lines of muscle and scars alike until it transitions to elegantly machined metal.

She shifts position to sit more beside him, leaning her weight against his, resting her head lightly on his shoulder. Stares thoughtfully across the room to where Nayim's - no, where her own lightsaber rests, if rest is the right word. Where it waits, perhaps.

"Can't very well do nothing, we're in the big leagues now." she muses, softly.

"And you've always been my favourite sparring partner."


<Zak>

Zak laughs, enjoying the banter; "True enough... and more than once. That's good advice, why didn't I think of it? I've lost enough pieces already."

Although said as a joke in the midst of their playing, saying it out loud makes an unwelcome connection in his mind and sends a shudder through his thoughts and reinforces just how close things were today. For a second his calm slips, his breathing and heart racing, as memories almost overwhelm him, but he fights them back trying to focus on the comforting presence against him. Gritting his teeth he lets out a breath he didn't realise he was holding.

In a slightly less humorous voice; "Sorry love, that... joke... was probably too soon..."

Determined to shrug it off, he lightly runs his slightly shaky hands along Cho's form trying to banish the last dregs of the memory with the physical here and now.

At Cho's musings Zak sighs; "The big leagues. Yeah... I suppose that's true."

The thought and its implications are dangerously close to the serious topics set aside for the moment, and Zak has no desire to face them now... so carefully sets them aside and refocuses on Cho and her closeness.

With a wry smile he gently lifts Cho's chin so their gazes can meet once more;

"Sparring? Please tell me that's a euphemism?"


<Cho>

As Zak tenses, a shadow flickers across Cho's face, inwardly kicking herself for setting that cascade in motion. It's only a moment, though, before she reminds herself that a week ago she'd have lost him to the same trigger for minutes, hours even.

Reeva'd done good, there. They all had. Fuck the Force and everything it'd done to her life so far, would still do yet; wrestling Zak's sanity back out of its jaws was the best evidence she had for not giving up on it entirely.

Never mind that she'd needed - and would need again - every tool it had to offer, meeting Gak again. She glowers across the room at her lightsaber, can almost feel an answering pulse of murderous determination echoing from it.

Then Zak speaks, and her focus shifts back to him, the clouds of her mood parting once again. Neither of them want to face what they're thinking head-on, and she easily mirrors his wry smile, holding his gaze with a sparkle in her eyes.

"You don't give a live laser-sword to a toddler, silly."

She wonders how long it'd take to explain the necessary dimensions, weighting, feel of a proper training stick to Urrly. How Hong would probably have found a way to build an ion cannon into what was essentially a glorified walking stick.

She sighs, her expression momentarily wistful. Probably easier to calibrate some training emitters herself, get something closer to the proper feel of a lightsaber.

Still smiling, she lowers her voice as if imparting some great secret.

"But yeah, I'll take any excuse to get sweaty with you."


<Zak>

Seeing the sparkle in Cho's eyes, and feeling the direction of their banter helps keep the memories back in their box and reassure Zak that he hasn't broken the moment.

After the day they've had - week, month even - they need this escape from reality - being able to focus solely on each other in the here and now even just for a little while. 'Stop the world we wanna get off.' Ahh... that phrase always made Zak smile. So true... in whichever way it was taken.

Scoffing at the toddler reference, he leans into Cho, his hands becoming more direct and decidedly adult in their direction;

"Well, in that case...." Clothing starts to be shed...

[The camera pans away...]/[Redacted to stop the GM blushing]

Sometime later... Clothing litters the room where Zak and Cho are entwined in a rather messy bed.

Zak is idly stroking Cho's leg from knee to hip and back again as he lounges in the pleasant state of fulfilled desire, more at peace and relaxed than he's been for some time. Looking at her he hopes she feels the same. The cynic inside his head notes that it's only a matter of time before the world, once more, interjects. Part of him wishes for simpler times, but the majority realises that they wouldn't satisfy. Conflict is baked into his soul - whether by nature or training was irrelevant.

Looking at the passionate creature before him, it's difficult to square how they met and the incongruity of where they ended up - but to Zak's mind that just made it all the more remarkable. While he'd had his share of liaisons as a dashing officer in uniform - lust at first sight - there was so much more here, the depth and breadth of it. It defied his attempts at description or label. All Zak knew is that he never wanted it to end, somehow this young woman had managed to entwine their souls - and never had he been so glad to have been ensnared.

A small chuckle escapes Zak's lips as he imagines trying to explain to a younger Zak. Good luck with that - Romantic bullshit... Dopamine Storm... He'd have had a number of pointed comments to make. Yeah there was no doubt.. Diya/Cho had changed him. For the better.

"That was most diverting my dear... and I'm sure reality will soon break into our little universe here... but before it does, I was serious about what I said before. Don't let me fuck this up... OK? Promise me you'll give me a chance to fix my mistakes, I don't doubt for a second I'll make some. And remember to poke me if I'm being an idiot."

with a sly smile he adds;

"Preferably not with anything sharper than your tongue."


<Cho>

Laying beside Zak, a beautiful exhausted mess, Cho feels something she might call peace if she didn't know better. Satisfaction, perhaps; a sense that things were - at least for now - exactly as they should be.

She knows it won't last; nothing does. You find your solace wherever and whenever you can in life, never knowing what would come next.

She is not at peace. She knows that with every fibre of her being; as her mind drifts, she can feel her connection to the Force, raw and discordant, still echoing with the rage she unleashed upon her one-time friend.

Peace would be a lie. She's felt it before, surrendering herself to the Force, setting aside her worldly cares. Right now, entwined with Zak, living and working among friends, her worldly cares are right where she wants them.

She'd heard folk speak of the Force as a living entity of its own, with its own will, its currents guiding events. Among the Jedi it'd seemed a comforting idea that things would turn out right in the end. The irony.

It was starting to make a different kind of sense to her now. The Force had pushed Reeva toward Romund, which had pushed a broken and twisted Gak back into her life, and that threatened to tear from her everything and everyone that she loved.

Looking across at Zak, watching him watching her, she cannot imagine anything more precious. Any better example of things turning out right. If anyone or anything wanted to take that from her... she'd go to war with the Force itself if she had to.

Her expression is hard to read, even as he's requesting a promise from her. Far-away yet absolutely present. Weary but watchful. The stillness of someone utterly resolved on a course of action.

"I promise.

"I won't let you go without a fight."


<Zak>

At her words, Zak smiles, and he gives Cho a squeeze;

"Good.. and thank you. That means a lot to this old soldier."

Zak is under no illusion that it makes them unbreakable. But Cho takes her promises seriously and having one gives him hope that his mercurial partner will at least give him an opportunity to explain himself when, inevitably, he hurts her, or says the wrong thing... or more likely, he hopes, the right thing in the wrong way.

Another wry smile hits his lips as he contemplates how Cho's volatile nature is so damn attractive, and scary at the same time. He knows full well that if she chose to she could disappear and he'd never find her... not unless she let him. He'd just have to make sure that, whatever his mistakes, he was more valuable to her at her side.

Zak sighs, looking toward the cabin door and in his mind the ship beyond. How was everyone doing out there? There were a lot of scared faces and justifiably concerned looks. Damn duty and responsibility - it always rears it's head. Everyone was still in more or less one piece but... that seemed more through luck than judgement. It had been a very close call by all accounts;

"Can we stay like this forever? I don't want this to end... The slightest excuse and reality is gonna get us. That's so damn annoying. Hope Dane's doing OK, he almost bought it."

Zak resisted saying 'too' having learned that lesson earlier. He propped himself up on his elbow so he can get a better look at Cho;

"Speaking of which, thank you for saving my life - again. It's becoming a habit - one I sincerely hope you keep."

He lets himself lay back again. Another sigh escapes his lips;

"You know I fear you're right. Intentional or not we have entered the big leagues. We're gonna have to own that or it'll bite us."


<Cho>

Contemplating the promise she'd just made, watching Zak's reaction to it, Cho's own expression is wistful, almost sad. She means it, absolutely, but considers his fears misplaced.

Will he hurt her? Perhaps. People hurt each other all the time; if they care enough they stick around regardless. She'd take that any day in preference to how she expects things to end.

A faint smile echoes his own wistful musings, wanting to drag the moment out forever; they both know the answer there, no sense in admitting it before one has to though.

"You saved my life first, today. And gave me something worth fighting for."

There's a certain odd undercurrent to her latter words, as she recalls the moment once again. Looking at her, Zak can see her eyes dart around, almost drinking in the scene again. Another shadow of that anger just under the surface, still thrashing around like an unwanted pet that just won't drown.

She takes a breath, lets it out, slow and controlled. The shadow passes.

"So thank you for that."

She rolls onto her side, peering accusingly at their door, as if to menace it into not allowing any interruptions just yet.

"Now how do we go about 'owning it'?"


<Zak>

And that thought Zak is absolutely the right question, ironically he immediately thinks of an analogy that would be better coming from Dane - or Hong;

"Well, if nexu have your scent you damned well better be loaded for nexu. I'd say that by hook or crook we've stirred up a whole fucking pack. We're not in our unusual type of trouble; this is a whole new level. I'm not entirely sure if the rest of the crew have quite got that yet."

He gives Cho a pleading glance with his best disarming smile;

"Apologies if this is a little blunt but go with my flow... Remember nothing sharper than your tongue."

"Gak was using Heathen to find force sensitives and acquire them. We waltzed in there and took what he considers a priceless 'resource' and the 'tool' which he was using to find them. He's going to be mighty pissed... and we don't know who gives him his orders."

a very sobering thought occurs to him;

"It could even be a Vader project we've stumbled into."

Zak pauses, his mind working the problem;

"If that's even partly true, time is not on our side. While the Empire as a whole can seem glacial at times, there are certainly divisions in it that can move very fast when sufficiently inspired."

"Clearly, we've got to get Heathen and the children somewhere safe as fast a possible - assuming that there is such a place."

"Does that scan so far?"


<Cho>

There are no safe places, thought Cho.

Still, she was on board with getting rid of Hethan Romund as fast as possible; granted she'd been through a lot but the ungrateful bitch hadn't even uttered a word of thanks to the team yet.

Indeed her principal communication so far had been to cast doubt on the trustworthiness of Reeva's friends. If that was the calibre of person Reina set to look after the child she'd abandoned, well. It wasn't doing either of them favours in Cho's eyes.

"Getting what Reeva wants to know out of her could be a struggle if we don't provide the appearance of safety, yes. She strikes me as the sort who's learnt not to exhaust her usefulness too quickly."

Her mind turns back to Zak's talk of resources and tools, of Gak'Fedaw, and her expression hardens further, her voice cold and tired. She sits up, her gaze hunting round the room for her scattered garments.

"Doesn't really matter what we took from him. This is personal, now. He may have someone holding his leash, but I doubt there's a shred of loyalty left in him."

Not after Nayim pushed so far, for so long, well past breaking. Well done, Master, now he's everything you sought to destroy.

"We can use that, of course. He may pursue even when his support backs off."

She can't say why, not aloud. Can't vocalise her fears that Gak will quietly hunt them down, take everyone she loves away, one by one, until she's as alone as she left him.

"So we stash the cargo. What next?"


<Zak>

Zak nods in agreement;

"Yeah, She seemed a bit of bitch, but what do I know. Maybe she just has trust issues. Who knows... She did say she's been targeted multiple times. Seems like a good reason to get rid asap."

with a sigh, he adds;

"I think we're going to need to tread carefully there. We both know how stubborn my daughter gets, and she might take Hethan's word as gospel. Especially if anything is phrased 'Your mother told me to tell you'. Plus I'd expect Lisana's going to be all over keeping the children safe too."

"Not that there's anything wrong with that. Weren't we hoping to get help with the force from her? I'm not sure that seems likely either if she can't trust us."

"Appearance of safety? Is there no hope of hiding from a force user? That's going to be a problem if so. It would mean that keeping any of them around isn't an option."

"Well, Gak is our problem to figure out, if there's no hiding from him... I don't see an alternative than to take him out. Assuming we can."

Zak gives Cho a steady look;

"I don't mean anything by that except it's an obvious solution to a number of these problems, but I'll defer to you. He surprised you before, he won't have that advantage again."


<Cho>

"Oh, you can hide. For a time."

That defiant smile of hers traces its way across her lips.

"Just like we're hiding now, I guess. Like you said, reality is gonna get us. Doesn't make pretending otherwise for a bit any less precious, but we can't stay in here forever.

"Hole up on a remote planet, maybe somewhere the likes of Gak and Reeva can't see clear enough, you buy some time, sure."

It's clear from her tone that Cho doesn't think much of hermitage as a life choice, but Carid didn't raise her to run from her problems, just evade them long enough to get a good angle.

"Doesn't stop your nexu pack from circling the shelter, waiting for you to slip."

She shrugs, already losing patience with explaining herself.

"Of course he has to die."

Her voice simmers with annoyance, as if this were some trivial but fundamental truth of the cosmos. Killing Gak wouldn't get them off the Empire's radar, but it would at least remove one unwelcome loose end. It made perfect sense, but that didn't make it any more comfortable a thought process.

No matter which way this ended, she'd be losing someone she loved.


<Zak>

Zak gives Cho another squeeze at her 'precious' comment clearly in agreement;

"So hide in some back water? Presumably one with more native life than you can shake a stick at? Some jungle planet maybe? Cholgana anyone? Humph... the best you could hope for is 'nice place to visit but you wouldn't want to live there'. Not tempting. And yes, having a baying pack 'outside' is even less tempting."

It didn't take a Jedi to pickup on Cho's annoyance, but no matter how Zak twisted or turned the puzzle, he couldn't see another way out. Hunt or be hunted. How many different ways had he been taught that over the years? At another level, putting aside his training and survival he could also see that this was likely torture for Cho. From the exchange he'd witnessed the two had, at one point, meant a lot to each other - that's the only thing that made sense of the vitriol Gak spat and the emotions that he had heard in Cho's voice. If he was a betting man he'd swear that was just the tip of the iceberg. There was no right answer, nothing really to be done or said, but he had to at least try;

"I'm sorry... "

Zak ties to catch her eyes, so she can see his sincerity;

"He means a lot to you... or did. If there's any alternative I'm with you completely."


<Cho>

Cho nods in acknowledgement, her throat suddenly tight with emotion. Squeezes his hand in thanks. It takes what seems to her a frustratingly long time to steady herself, mere moments in practice.

She looks away, gives a small shrug.

"If we want the luxury of choice, we still have to survive first."

Resolved on a course, of sorts, she starts to gather her clothes and a towel big enough for at least a token nod toward decency in the dash to the showers.

"Which means learning to fight an angry former Jedi.

"...as soon as she's had a shower and a snack, that is."

She pauses to regard Zak again, making a show of enjoying the view, then tosses a towel his way. Even as she does, her mind's changing tack, considering what other tools they might have to aid them, or at least those which might stymie official Imperial assistance.

"How much reach does your brother have?"


<Zak>

"Makes sense. Survival is mandatory."

Zak shifts in the bed sitting up and reclining, enjoying the sight of Cho naked - even collecting her clothing.

"That sounds both entertaining and moderately scary."

In a conspiratorial tone, he adds; "Of course, that could just be another excuse to get sweaty with me... only one way to tell... and you wonder why I love you."

At which point the towel hits him in the chest.

"Alright, alright... I'm getting up. Meet you in the galley."

He's just starting to move when Cho's last question hits him; it was an unexpected direction and deserved a real response.

"Huh. That's a very good question." He pauses, his turn to collect strewn clothing.

"Meri's reach was always beyond his grasp as the saying goes. Given his position, I'd imagine he's got quite a bit of pull. But how far he can push it and how publicly... well that's tricky. The more deniable the act the more reach I'd guess. Especially if it can be framed as embarrassing a competing department."

"I'm not entirely sure what Meri intends for me at this point, I'd say it could go either way. I've been out of circulation for long enough that the family might have calmed down... but whether into cold fury or something else is unclear."

"Why? What are you thinking?"


<Cho>

"He wants something from you."

That's what it always comes down to, after all.

"Granted he didn't try very hard to shelter the Hellions. As you say though, that was all very public and official."

Whereas the Empire has never - publicly - taken the Force seriously. Most Imperial personnel saw it as just another deviant religious belief to root out, reports of alien sorcery just isolated tall tales, not an exploitable weapon.

"Gak though, the whole convoy is a black operation. One in which Gak's just suffered a costly and embarrassing failure."

She peers at Zak, wondering if he's seeing where she's going with this - that Meri might not have to pull strings very hard, at least at the moment, to unravel some of Gak's official support. Even if Meri couldn't touch Gak's project, he could perhaps reduce the amount of Imperial attention headed their way.

"You've said before, the Empire is a many-headed beast. If Meri has a use for us..."

Then we might have a use for him. Gak'Fedaw was enough of a threat as a lone operator. Could they make him into one, tighten his leash and force him to go against orders - without much backing - if he wanted to pursue them?

Carid's patronage had sheltered Cho from a lot of the routine upheaval in the Black Sun over the years; being a scheming survivor's favourite pet had its perks.

She'd understand if Zak didn't want to even contemplate it; families were always a tricky business. Still, she'd never let sensitivity get in the way of exploring angles before, why start now?


<Zak>

"Then we might have a use for him." Zak finishes Cho's sentence for her.

"I see where you're going with that. Influencing an existing black op... yeah... I'd say that's right up Meri's alley. Assuming that there aren't political issues we can't see. Cough Vader cough. It will also depend on which department Gak is running with, but restricting his resources is a good play - Especially given how few we have."

"We might not like the cost though. Meri was a shrewd operator before and given his current rank, that's probably been honed somewhat. We'll need to be very careful to pull that off, unless it just happens to align with his own plans."

Zak pulls a face; "I'll tell you one thing young lady, we're gonna have to draw straws on who has to suggest turning to my brother, the Imperial spook, for help to the rest of the crew. That's going to be the pitch of a lifetime."


<Cho>

At Zak pulling a face, Cho grins playfully. "Aw, sweetie."

Her eyes widen, her hand theatrically poising over her heart, her demeanor suddenly one of melodramatic naivete.

"We're protecting children." she emotes, every syllable laden with as much sincerity as she can muster, and only the faintest aftertaste of cynicism.

The mirage of doe-eyed innocence is broken - or improved, perhaps, to Zak's eyes - as her towel makes a bid for freedom, and she has to race to recapture it with a wry look.

"I have total faith in your leadership, sir. I'm more of a power-behind-the-throne type."

She ponders the matter a moment more before shrugging slightly, then glances accusingly down at her towel, as if daring it to move again.

"Let's not bring it up before we have to. You were planning on hearing him out anyway, no? Just think on what you might be after in return, if he starts outlining a request."


<Zak>

A burst of laughter escapes Zak at Cho's performance. There was something intoxicating about the pair of them treating such serious topics with a certain amount of irreverence in their current situation that was appealing - even if some of the crew might well find it appalling;

"Bravo! If it weren't for your towel going off script that was masterful. Have you been taking lessons from Lisana? If that's just osmosis... I'm in even more trouble than I thought."

Zak lets our an exaggerated sigh of clearly fake disappointment - definitely not up to Cho's standard;

"Yeah, I figured that would end up my problem. It was worth a try though."

"To be fair just leaving Meri hanging might not be a good idea. He might decide he needs to get our - my - attention. Best not let that happen."

Having collected his clothes and come alongside Cho; he leans in and steals a kiss.

"But right now I believe you're intending to kick my arse with your Jedi tricks... post shower and breakfast?"


<Cho>

"I believe I am." she grins, a hand cheekily reaching round to assess just how ready for kicking Zak's posterior was.

She pauses, taking that one last private moment in before reaching for the door controls. Steels herself.

"Right, on mission we go."

The prospect of teaching Zak the forms - of teaching him how to properly wield a lightsaber that could just as easily kill either of them with a misplaced strike - dances through her mind, lending her a nervous energy as she moves.

It's not that she doesn't believe she can; she remembers her own training with Nayim as if it were yesterday. His physical health is beyond doubt, he'll be an eager student - but while they've tussled for fun before, she knows this will have to be different.

If they are to survive, she'll have to push him. She trusts he'll understand that, knows it won't be comfortable either way.

[Cut hereabouts, move on to training as and when appropriate?]

Last edited by SteveH on 05 Apr 2021, 13:37, edited 2 times in total.
SteveH
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Session 24.2 - Zak & Cho - Training

Post by SteveH »

Zak & Cho take some time to see if Zak can learn to wield a lightsaber.
Spoiler

<Cho>

[Episode Two, opening credits roll!]

The ship hums gently, a background note punctuated by the odd metallic groan, the squeak and hiss of old vent systems already in need of oiling again.

It still feels quiet aboard; after living in each others' pockets so long aboard the Fox, stretching half a dozen crew across the Blue Nexu's size made it feel cavernous, empty.

Cho didn't mind that. She was tense enough without anyone else getting underfoot, didn't much fancy the idea of spectators.

Zak had barely even seen her since leaving the refresher block; she'd slipped away while he was still breakfasting, bolting a nutrient bar and gone before the wrapper hit the deck.

As he catches up, he can hear the last traces of a murmured conversation with R5-L8, Cho's voice as solemn as the low beeps and whistles answering her. Something about honour? Hard to make out.

Her expression is somber as she exits back into the corridor, R5 trundling after. The droid pauses, his sensors rotating, a lens focusing in on Zak, quietly appraising the approaching figure.

Lost in thought, it takes Cho a moment longer to look back. Burying whatever she was thinking, she flashes Zak a smile and tosses a large rattling satchel his way. It flies awkwardly and one of the long metal bars within threatens to escape.

They're a far cry from the well-polished training stick she lost on the Brazen Fox, but they'll have to do; the ship's spares can only offer so much to the aspiring lightsaber student.

"Keep up, kiddo. We've got a lot to get through."

Her voice is full of cheerful tension as she turns to hustle on toward the cargo bay, R5's actuators squeaking slightly as he motors along beside her - though his lenses remain focused on Zak the whole way.

Lights flicker as they warm up. The hangar and cargo bay yawns open before them, largely still strewn with containers and scrap, a ready-made assault course.

Best if they keep clear of Dane's fancy starfighter-restoration project, though.

"So, young padawan. What do you think you know about lightsabers?"


<Zak>

Zak catches the satchel with one hand and at the sudden stop the metal bar makes a further bid for freedom. Immediately Zak makes a grab for it with his other hand, but it's pure luck that he manages to catch the last inch of the bar. It was much lighter than it looked and than he had expected when he grabbed it. Intrigued, he looks back to Cho.

A sight scoff escapes him at padawan, but seeing Cho taking an overt instructor role he easily slips into that of trainee. He considers her question, recalling past training;

"Some. Dangerous weapons. Plasma blade powered by crystals, can cut through pretty much all body armor, even blast doors if given enough time. Usually an omnidirectional blade, so can attack in any direction unlike conventional edged weapons. Can easily sever limbs and most melee weapons, but usually cauterize the wounds. Favored weapon of the Jedi order. Best to engage with heavy weapons at range and avoid melee."

"From a more personal perspective, they damned well hurt when they hit you. Even glancing blows."


<Cho>

Cho smiles faintly through Zak's report, amused but unsurprised by the practicality of it all. He was not, after all, a Jedi; couldn't be expected to have grasped what they meant to their wielders.

Powered by a crystal is accurate, she supposed. Just doesn't tell you the half of it.

"Favoured weapon of the Jedi." she echoes. "Because they're fucking hard work. Demanding of respect. Not from others, from their wielders."

They weren't weapons to the Jedi. Not really. They were so much more. That they were lethal didn't even matter, as such, though she'd been told this aided in disciplining the user. To use it only as a last resort, but to use it decisively when so doing.

There wasn't time to get into it today, though. Wasn't time for any of this, really - but they had to try, and just hope Zak was a quick study. Impatience flickers across her features.

Cho's hand twitches open, reaching out toward Zak - even as the satchel in Zak's hand rattles, and one of the lightweight metal bars she'd found rips free, hurtling to her hand like a javelin. She grimaces briefly - whether that's from the effort or the impact is unclear - and rapidly masks it with a grin.

"Figured we'd start with something with less of an edge to it. You ever study swordplay formally? See Jedi practice much?"

Did you interrupt any classes during Order 66?

"We'll go over the basics, anyhow. How do you learn best?"


<Zak>

"I did some fencing in the Academy and we covered some swordplay in basic. But that was much more about how to respond to it rather than be good at it."

Zak gave a wry smile;

"Maybe that means I've got less bad habits to unlearn? Only really saw the Jedi in action rather than training. Although I did see one doing forms with some kind of training stick once. That was a long time ago. They always made it look far too easy."

At her last, Zak shrugs, drops the satchel to the floor and steps away from it, still holding the other metal bar;

"Show me and we'll see. I used to be a quick study in another life."


<Cho>

"You're strong, fast, you get on well with the direct approach. Plus we'd better start with the beginning anyway."

She brings her hands into a two-handed grip, spreads her stance out slightly, bending her knees to lower her centre of gravity.

"The First Form grew out of swordplay, so you'll recognise a lot."

It's just doing it with a lightsaber that complicates matters. Walk before you run, though.

She fixes her eyes on a point across the room, as if studying an imaginary opponent. Lifts her 'blade' slightly in salute. Then explodes into motion, strike after strike hammering forth, forceful movements designed to overbear and smash through defenses.

She turns, repeats the motions, slower this time, speaking as she does. Her intonation is odd, almost as if she's quoting someone.

"It is the simplest form, but also the one form it's never wrong to revert to. Shii-Cho."

She motions Zak to her side, prepares to work through the sequence again with him following.


<Zak>

Although Zak had no doubt of Cho's abilities, seeing her like this was something new. For all her mercurial nature there was clearly both discipline and knowledge here. Not to mention power and grace.

He quickly stepped in beside and slightly behind Cho and focused on her movements, the grip.. the stance.. foot position.. arms... step length.. 'blade' angle.. and reset, repeat, variation.

As he picked up the rhythm he started to follow her... imperfect.. but slowly getting closer, more in tune with her form.. as much as he could.

There was a lot more to it than it seemed and Zak's brow furrowed with concentration as they worked. If he was to be of any help when facing Gak this would be the least of it.


<Cho>

You weren't listening, were you? Not properly.

Can she fault him for that? For just focusing on her movement, dutifully absorbing everything he sees? Not truly, but still it hurts.

Her mind flits back to her youth, her own first introduction to the class and to the forms - to this first form in particular. How clever Gak had clearly felt, drawing a line between Nayim's words, Shii-Cho, and the new changeling's surname. A mix of embarrassment and Gak's contagious amusement.

Utterly childish, but then that's just what they were. The nickname had stuck, of course. Had been the start of a firm friendship. A string of happy memories from before her life shattered.

No, she can't fault Zak for missing that nuance. Now is not the time for reminiscence, for petty sentimentality like hers. They'll kill Gak, bury the ashes of her childhood with him.

Her breathing pattern shifts, subtly, betraying her frustration - at herself, at the situation, the universe and everyone in it.

Her pace quickens, driving on with the demonstrations, feeling as if she doesn't keep moving she'll drown. The Force suffuses her tiring muscles, every ache and pain becoming an energising fire that dances through her.

It's a good job Zak has been working hard on his fitness; as the minutes stretch out, Cho pushes the limits of his ability to absorb and retain information as well. Wordlessly moving on to new sequences as he grasps each, never looking satisfied, her expression one of furious concentration and strained patience. As relentless as the tide, as the sweep and crash of the movements they practice.

Finally she stops, watches him follow through a last sequence, nods as if satisfied. The tension in her face, in her whole frame, says otherwise.

"Need a breather?"


<Zak>

Sweat dips from Zak as finishes the last pass of the latest variation.

A quick glance at Cho makes his heart sink... clearly he's disappointed her. How he hates doing that. He rolls his shoulders to ease some of the tension from his efforts, and tests his chest. The wound isn't helping, but that's no excuse. Cho still looks remarkably fresh and that makes Zak doubt his fitness for a second, until he recalls how Cho picked up her 'sword' in the first place. I mustn't forget she has the force to draw on. I really hope that's the reason.

"That would be good. Please remember that I'm only human... and not as young as I once was."

He steps over to his towel and water bottle. He wipes his face, takes a long drink and pours some water over his head & face. He can see Cho's impatience, frustration - although confusingly he's not sure it's entirely aimed at him.

"You're good at this. Is that where 'Cho' came from? The form's Shii-Cho you said."


<Cho>

For the briefest of moments it seems like Cho's about to snap at him, the roiling mess of emotions she's struggling with nearly boiling over. An uncomfortable echo of how Zak'd felt at times, perhaps, a wounded animal liable to lash out.

Instead she just nods, shuts her eyes for a moment. Calm spreads across her face, into her posture; Zak can almost see it creeping muscle-by-muscle as she forces herself through a quick, well-practiced meditation.

"You'll be better."

Her tone is one of certainty, of utter determination; perhaps Zak wasn't doing as much wrong as he might fear.

She offers an apologetic smile, starts walking over to freshen up a little herself.

"You'll have to be, though. You can't cheat in the same ways."

Her brow furrows, troublesome thoughts flitting past even as she's taking a swig of her water. Talking through her own history will have to wait 'til later; she doesn't quite trust herself to go there now. Just revisit the basics.

"Shii-Cho is the First Form. Oldest of seven, give or take. Simplest, easiest to teach. Some look down on it for that."

Her eyes catch Zak's, wondering how he's doing, how his own mental state is. It'll have a lot of bearing on what's to come - but she can't test him like that, not yet.

"You can pull a lot of fancy flowery tricks with a 'saber. If you've fenced, no doubt you've seen a shade of that. But would you rather fight someone who's practiced a thousand different moves, or someone who's absolutely mastered the basics?"


<Zak>

Zak could clearly see how much having to access her training and impart it is costing Cho. He could see her internal struggle, almost feel it... anger, frustration, impatience, pain and sorrow... and watched as she closed her eyes and once more pushed it down.

He so wished he could help her with that in a more tangible way, but the 'How?' of achieving that escaped him.

Having to put herself back there was obviously increasing the emotional pressure regarding her past and the recent revelations. It had to be bringing back all those similar memories of her own training. Zak's couldn't help but show concern and reached out to gently touch her arm as she came into reach.

When she talks, he clears his mind forcing his focus to return to the training - the least he can do given her sacrifice is to be the best student he can be; he nods his head in agreement;

"The basics are usually the foundations of anything more advanced so failing to master them will likely be reflected in anything more that you learn. Imperfect form can usually be exploited - assuming the lightsaber isn't an exception in that."


<Cho>

She smiles distractedly as Zak touches her arm, pauses for a moment to lean gently against him; a brief respite from the roles of teacher and student.

"No, it's no exception. Imperfect form just means... more, I guess."

Her eyes search the room, as if it's somehow hiding how to explain what she means. She looks back at him, reaches up, gently touching his head, resting a hand over his heart.

"Master the movements all you like, it's what's going on in here that'll get you killed."

Words will never do it justice; Zak will just have to feel it for himself. She masks a flash of impatience with a grin, not quite ready to see him igniting a lightsaber.

"Or win you the fight, of course."

With a sudden burst of energy, she dances lightly away from him, swapping her water bottle for an improvised training 'saber once again.

"R5, would you shut the doors please? This is going to get loud."

It was sometimes all too easy to forget R5-L8 was even in a room - the droid was so used to keeping still and quiet, his trundling off with a cheerful beep seemed quite abrupt.

Still, Zak might have a feeling what was coming next. Had perhaps already grasped which sweeping strikes would also function best to block an incoming blade.

The simplicity of Shii-Cho was, in part, that the line between offensive and defensive movements was formed solely of intent and force; that one did not deflect so much as strike weapons out of the way. A style of combat suited more to the impassable blade of a lightsaber - or a disposable metal bar - than the fragile blades Zak had begun with.

Cho stands opposite him, shifting her weight from foot to foot, eyes sparkling with nervous energy once again. Lifts her 'blade' into the ready position.

"Ready for an exam?"


<Zak>

While Zak's experiences with the Jedi had mostly been fighting alongside them in battle, he'd amassed a fair amount of stories about them - to Zak, that was one of the things that had stayed Cho's hand long enough for her to fall for him.

One thing that was clear was no matter what their apparent physical prowess was, they believed that their strength came from their rejection of strong and negative emotions and the maintenance of calm and discipline - and the Force of course, but one apparently led to the other.

As a soldier, Zak was well acquainted with the undeniable fact that uncontrolled emotions would get you killed, but he also knew that, in the absence of the Force, they could also drive you beyond your normal calm limits. He was alive today in no small part because he had used that side of his nature - used the anger or the pain to drive him on and through.

However, learning a form of combat derived from and for the Jedi deserved the respect of their beliefs if he was going to, in any way, understand it - certainly Cho's reference to the heart being the key to victory made Zak more sure that this was the right approach.

He took one last swig from his bottle and returned to face Cho, rolling his shoulders and trying to find some calm. He closed his eyes briefly and tried to push everything else away. His fears for Cho, Reeva and the crew, his past and their future were irrelevant for this moment. He had to focus dispassionately on the now... let the forms answer Cho's challenge themselves. He drew a breath and opened his eyes.

He had no doubt that Cho would kick his arse if he couldn't keep up - and he was under no illusion that that was exactly how the training should be. The old phrase 'live and die by the sword' was a familiar refrain.

Seeing Cho at the ready, he prepared himself for the coming onslaught as he too moved into the ready posture;

"Let's do this."


<Cho>

Cho watches Zak try to center himself, allows herself a small smile as he tries to find what he thought of as the Jedi's path, to set aside and deny his attachments.

She could just tell him that wasn't quite the answer. That even the Jedi's hearts were not empty - though they had often seemed so.

Zak had asked to be shown, though. Words were never enough, not if you wanted to understand the truth of something.

She starts gently enough, calling out directions with each strike, allowing a moment between them - but building a rhythm that steadily grows in pace. Every blocked impact rings out, a harsh sound that reverberates through the hangar.

His technique is unrefined, of course it is, but he's easily her better in strength and speed. Without the Force on her side, at least.

Cho's initial assault builds to a crescendo, challenging but never breaking Zak's guard, letting him practice striking back. Driving him around the room, testing his footwork. Allowing the language of the form to become more instinctive than calculated, to begin to feel which strikes answered each other best.

Withdrawing, she nods with some measure of satisfaction. Shuts her own eyes for a moment, concentrating, letting the Force suffuse her once again.

Now to show him.

There was another reason most Jedi didn't stick with Shii-Cho, preferring to use it only as a basis and move quickly on to more refined forms; to truly master it demands a mindset that unnerved many of them.

Cho opens her eyes, her gaze seeking Zak's, an amused, anticipatory challenge in it. Something in her demeanor has shifted, an unsettling air of mystery and danger, her mercurial nature somehow more on display.

To truly master Shii-Cho, one had to be wild. To harness one's raw emotions, tame them only enough to direct them; Cho would never claim such mastery, but she would admit a certain affinity. Just as Zak has, in his own way.

When she moves again, it is with a blurred, almost impossible sense of fluidity, as if gravity and inertia are mere guidelines to be ignored by the determined soul. The form in motion might put Zak in mind of the ocean, of storms across the sea; Cho's strikes are liquid but laden with force, like waves crashing and hammering against his guard, eroding his defenses.

Wherever he slips, metal stings against skin; how many bloody welts will be raised before she stops?

Will she stop?


<Zak>

Zak was somewhat surprised by Cho's considered beginning, he'd half expected her to go all out from the get go and put him on his arse. Perhaps she wasn't quite as ruthless as some of his old drill instructors - or perhaps just more considerate in her teaching.

At the start, Zak was sure that she was telegraphing her intentions for just a moment before committing, but as they duelled that became less and less and the pace and rhythm grew. There was most definitely a feel to it, an action that demanded a certain response within the forms she'd shown him. The increase in pace and rhythm drew in his focus until almost nothing existed for him except his adversary, the field on which they danced and his response.

And then suddenly, the dance stopped.

Zak had no idea how long they had duelled having lost all sense of time. His breathing and sweat told him enough - they'd been dancing a while. As he'd been taught at the academy he considered his performance. Sloppy form - unsurprising but needed work. While he had kept Cho at bay he had no way to gauge how hard she'd tried.

He watched Cho as she closed her eyes and collected herself. The challenging sparkle that appeared made realisation dawn. Crap. Now I'm in trouble.

He immediately came back into guard, just in time to meet Cho's first attack that hit like a train. Cho's movement and grace was now compelling in and of itself... inhumanly fluid... and a deadly distraction. Ogle your girlfriend another time moron! Focus!

Zak barely made the necessary block, and caught a scrape across his arm as the blow almost lands. The blows continue and Zak is pushed on the back foot, even with his strength and fitness it's all he can do to counter... He still takes an number of glancing hits around his arms and legs.

As Cho continues to press, Zak's frustration increasingly interrupts his forced calm. Moving like quicksilver, Cho flowed from one form to another like a wave, almost quicker than Zak could follow. With gritted teeth and sheer will he pushes on managing to stay mostly unscathed, the odd off blow getting through his defences. But it was a loosing battle, he might keep this pace up for a time but Cho seemed inexhaustible... and the strength of her blows easily matched his best when fresh. How long could he stand against her?

And yet... He was still learning still watching trying to absorb the skill and talent in front of him... Zak would never achieve Cho's current grace and flow... but there was something else... His form was passable, given his lack of experience but it was missing something that Cho's had in spades. What was he missing... Considering this cost him a number of palpable hits as their dance continued.

As Zak struggled to unpick this insight his form still wavering, one of Cho's blows truly found its mark. Pain shot through Zak's thigh at the blow. Without thinking he instinctively used the pain and anger to guide his choice of form and counter, and to his surprise found it flowed... felt right... resonated even. He had reacted on instinct and used the pain, used his emotions rather than denied it, redirected it rather than succumbed to it.

By this point his lungs where on fire and his muscles burning, he was frustrated and scared - if not of Cho herself, the adversary she represented, instead of denying it he embraced it, let those feelings guide him, but only within the constraints of the forms. The feeling of resonance increased and Zak's form began to flow more freely. His blocks and counters became more steady, purposeful less rushed.

But he was on borrowed time... the cost of the focus and effort he'd expended was clear - his movements where slowing and the power left in his blows fading.


<Cho>

The Jedi would not approve of what she is doing; of what she is teaching Zak to do. Too dangerous to both spirit and body for those with so little training.

Fuck the rules. This is working.

She can feel it as Zak starts to understand. To let go just enough, instinct and emotion a driving strength behind his blows, all the while remembering his purpose. She can feel it in every attack he bats aside, in every bone-jarring counter she barely deflects.

Ferocious pride in her lover swells within Cho, alongside new bruises where her guard starts to falter; for all the Force bolsters her movements she's not indefatigable, nor is her own technique perfect by any means. Just more willing to throw herself at Zak; where he's learning how best to push himself, she's struggling to rein herself in.

The pain doesn't slow her down, just spurs her to push harder.

For a time they're dancing as equals, and a savage joy spreads across Cho's features. She is wildly, vibrantly alive in the moment, almost laughing with delight.

Then one of Zak's strikes shatters her guard and hits home hard, perhaps harder than he'd expected, sending her staggering back.

Cho's eyes harden for a second, and before Zak can properly assess what he's done, she's launching herself back at him, a shockwave of cold power preceding her that drives him to his knees, a moment suddenly all too familiar as she brings her weapon hammering down, knocking his from his grasp.

Then she's on him, throwing her own weapon aside to seize and kiss him fiercely.


<Zak>

As Zak relies more on his instincts and emotions over his veneer of purpose, his perception expands beyond it's previous tight focus. There's something both beautiful and joyful in the dance and the state of consciousness that he finds himself in.

Even the pain of the hits and the ache in his muscles have a new flavour, making him feel more alive. The experience is heady and not something that he could put into words...

For a moment it seems like they really are dancing, some macabre ballet of death, neither with any advantage over the other... and Zak can't help but notice a similar joy on Cho's face and they flow from form to form like complimentary gears in the machine of life.

Whether it's the distraction in that mutual recognition or something else entirely, Zak is as surprised as Cho when one of his strikes breaks her guard... He winces at the hit even while performing it - the forms and flow leave no space for pulling blows.

Ouch! That had to hurt. While some of his blows had made contact with Cho on the odd occasion, that one was in a different league.

Before he can really register Cho's eyes hardening and brace for the inevitable counter, she's upon him. This time force of her blow staggers Zak and drives him to his knees forcing his 'sword' from his grip.

A small part of his mind wonders what that must look like to an observer... for someone of his sheer size, bulk and cyberwear to be driven to his knees by some one like Cho.. as he waits for the deserved following blow...

Only to see Cho discard her weapon and pounce on him, eyes ablaze with passion... Wrapping her in his arms he returns the kiss with a similar appetite, these new emotions skittling across that same veneer of purpose and finding a both similar and decidedly different kind of resonance.


<Cho>

For a few minutes, Cho loses herself entirely to the heady rush of power and passion and pain; time stops for her, just the two of them together, feeling somehow as in-tune as they've ever been, drunk on that sensation.

Then R5-L8 makes an enquiring bwee-oop - something about whether to fetch medical assistance? - and she swims back to the present. Mentally surveys the situation, buries her head in Zak's shoulder laughing at the state they must both be in.

"Wow." she breathes in Zak's ear, then collapses into slightly pained chuckling.

Gods, how she loved him.

"No, thank you, R5." she mumbles, waving the droid off.

There's a kit around here somewhere, Cho's sure of it. If her head would just stop spinning for a minute, she can go fetch it. She takes a steadying breath, tries to roll off Zak, wincing as she does both. Yep, feels like that last hit might've cracked a rib.

When she finally manages more than a mumble she sounds gently amused, but almost embarrassed, like a teenager caught sneaking their partner out of the house.

"So, er. How're we doing?"


<Zak>

An entangled mess with Cho - this time on the cargo bay floor Zak can't help but smile. This is becoming our default state. Not that he minded.

The shared experience and passion had bound them even closer together. Today would live with him forever, he had no doubt. R5 interrupted his reverie as they both started to consider the task of moving once more.

"Wow is right, young lady." He pauses dramatically all feigned seriousness and twinkle and adds; "So it seems sparring might well be a euphemism after all. Certainly got our blood pumping."

Moving was not without cost and Zak winced a number of times pulling himself together - he was mostly intact, but didn't want to think how he'd feel tomorrow morning. He was sure there'd be a number of large red welts under his clothes that would need attention. Some scratches to polish out of the arm. Some significant bruising... Pulled shoulder from Cho's final counter... He stopped cataloging... It was depressing. He'd got less battered in a number of their recent scuffles... Some battles even. But he'd do it all again - knew he'd need to if he wanted to protect Cho from Gak.

"OK... More or less... I think. I'm gonna need some serious TLC with a medpack, that's for damned sure. You? That last one was a doozy."


<Cho>

Cho sits herself up, eyes roving across Zak with a mix of amusement and concern. She takes a moment before answering him, glancing round to get her bearings, as if she's woken somewhere unfamiliar and wondering how she got there.

How am I doing?

The question itself seems uncomfortable, self-reflection an unwelcome guest in her mind. She takes a slightly unsteady breath, focuses herself on the practical side of things.

"Let's just say you're definitely a quick study."

She laughs, wincing as she does, pain radiating round her chest. The rest of her doesn't feel so bad by comparison, but she's always self-conscious of the way bruises and splits in her skin can twist and discolour, her changeling nature showing through.

"...and that I don't know what sort of look Lisana's going to give me when we ask her to stop by the medical bay later."

Worth it, though. She regards Zak for a long moment, eyes sparkling. Then the reality of why they'd even started on this flickers across her consciousness, her gaze resting on the bound lightsaber wound in his chest.

Maybe they should just go straight to medical. It'd be a more sensible thing to do, rather than patch each other up here. But Cho doesn't want to drag anyone else into their time together, not just yet. Not when she so nearly lost him less than a day ago, and not while there's still one thing left on the lesson plan.

"Mind grabbing us the bay's medpack while I have a word with R5 here?"


<Zak>

Zak having dealt with his fair share of combat first aid in his career was concerned by Cho's wince on her laugh, so was more than happy to get the medpack;

"Sure. Be right back. Try not to move too much. I should probably have a look at that. Then we'll decide if the med bay is a now or later topic."

Zak heads, or rather, limps over to the emergency box by the cargo bay entrance, grabs the medpack and makes his way back.

He laughs as he tries to force his leg to work properly; "You know I've been less beaten up after significant battles than a single training session with you my dear. But I wouldn't have missed it."

He plops the pack on the floor with a slightly suspicious glance at R5 and looks at Cho directly in the eyes, as if perhaps expecting an argument;

"Happy to follow your training schedule, on the condition you let me check you out first. I winced landing the blow that broke your guard, let alone receiving it."

As an aside he observes; "Shii-Cho forms don't seem particularly compatible with pulling your blows, in fact they seem quite intent on lethality. Or is that just me?"


<Cho>

Nodding in apparent agreement with Zak's concern, Cho holds off fidgeting until Zak's on the move and facing away from her. When he glances back she's kneeling opposite R5-L8, her voice pitched so that it glides just beyond the edges of Zak's ability to discern individual words.

Her tone is focused, respectful, questioning perhaps. Short and to the point, definitely. R5-L8 makes a thoughtful noise of agreement, trundles over to park himself by her side, facing Zak as he returns.

Cho watches him limp back with a far-away look on her face; as he looks her in the eyes there's a momentary delay before she refocuses and properly meets his gaze.

She shrugs slightly dismissively at his conditions, but nods nonetheless, expecting the evidence to fall on her side. Pauses to consider his observation, smiling as she does.

"I'm not sure we're particularly compatible with pulling our blows." Cho muses, with a wry look on her face.

"It's not your classic peacekeeper's art, no. Older than what we thought of as the Jedi - they'd normally just have taught it all thoughtful and calm as a foundation, moved on without going deeper until years later."

She considers her next words, not sure what she wants to share right now, her tone pensive.

"Emotions are dangerous toys to play with."

Especially when the Force is a screaming feedback loop inside you. Nayim had always helped her students face their feelings though, make peace with their presence, work with rather than for them. Until she gave up on peace.

She thinks a moment more, eyes distant, then glances at the waiting medpack, sighs and starts gingerly lifting her top, smiling faintly.

"There are better ways to get me undressed, you know."

A number of welts stand out on her from their sparring, each an ugly murky mix of bruised skin reverting to a leathery dark green and the red of broken blood vessels. The spot Zak hit hardest - along her left midriff, bottom of her ribcage - looks little worse in many ways.

Probing at it makes Cho grit her teeth, her eyes glittering and hard. It's a familiar pain though, almost an old friend; she's no stranger to broken ribs, to being reminded of a failure every time she breathes in.

"Just gimme something for the pain. Not even close to the first time, you'd think my bones would be strong enough to bounce durasteel by now."

Carid had preferred striking areas she usually clothed, a consideration to avoid compromising her ability to disguise herself much. At least she'd seen Zak's blow coming.


<Zak>

Zak smiles at Cho's comment; "Well... yes that's a fair point. But I just felt that the forms were pulling me towards lethality." He gave Cho a quizzical look; "So is that telling us something very important about my psychology or can I blame Shii-Cho?"

The emotions comment evokes a full laugh. "My dear, that is clear to anyone ever having crossed a lover.";

and he sighs in mock resignation and a sly wink at her next; "Anyway that works my dear... anyway that works."

Zak rubs his hands rapidly on his shirt both wiping them and warming them before examining Cho's chest. Perhaps surprisingly his touch is light and professional as he feels out Cho's injuries with his strong hands. He spends some time checking the welts where Cho's damaged skin is reverting to native to convince himself that it's OK before Cho moves him along. Then there's some unavoidably painful probing of Cho's ribs where she was struck. There's a certain rough competence that implies learning in the field but he's clearly done this before.

"Ouch. Looks like at least one fractured, and another two bruised one seriously. But, as they say, there's not a lot to be done with ribs. Painkillers it is."

He leans down and opens the medpack; "Lets see what the magic bag has today... OK. That might help too. Here."

He reaches into the pack and pulls out some painkillers and then goes back for a cold pack that he breaks and shakes before passing to Cho.

"That's not gonna be pleasant, but it'll help with the swelling and that will help with the healing. Medbay can probably wait assuming that you're not planning another round. Lisana will wanna check you over too I'm sure."

"So 'Sarge', what's next? You and R5 are definitely planning something."


<Cho>

Cho takes Zak's treatment with quiet acceptance and murmured thanks between grimaces, then wordlessly starts returning the favour, checking where she'd worked him over and liberally applying bacta spray on anything more than a bruise.

"No further thrashings scheduled, you'll be pleased to note."

Lisana's treated enough beatings in her time without us adding to it, Cho mused, a touch sadly. Still, needs must; if she taught at a Jedi's pace they'd all be dead before Zak had learnt a thing.

At his question, Cho pauses, not immediately sure how best to approach an answer despite all appearances of a plan. After a moment, she settles on a course.

She flashes Zak a grin, gesturing theatrically for him to sit himself down opposite herself and R5-L8.

"Next, padawan, is storytime."

She pauses, giving Zak time to settle and focus on her rather than the protestations of his limbs. R5 turns his sensor array to regard Cho, status lights blinking to indicate curiosity or apprehension.

"Let me tell you about Master Fianna Kator, the Jedi R5-L8 served."

As she speaks, there's a trace of sadness in Cho's voice, her expression growing somber. She respects this man she's never met; has built a solid picture of him in her mind, from sense-impressions upon his lightsaber and long discussions with R5-L8.

"He was a good man. Kind, determined. He never believed in the war; knew the Jedi had no place in it. Went against his duty to the Order to do what he knew was right, to defend those who needed him the most, not the organisations he was sworn to."

She looks across at Zak, smiling softly, seeing the parallels. Can feel the rightness of what she's about to say and do, but some of the reasons why cut her to her core.

"R5 wanted me to use his master's lightsaber.

"I told him -"

I told him I didn't deserve to. That it did not belong with me.

"- that I had a more fitting idea. That you would honour his master's memory better than I ever could."

The droid's motors chunter softly as it rotates its lenses to face Zak.


<Zak>

Zak was very glad that neither of them were seriously hurt. Bumps, bruises and contusions where pretty standard for hardcore combat training but cracked ribs were a little far, especially as they took a while to heal.

He'd have to work out how he could make up for it. Perhaps Lisana would have some good ideas, although Zak feared they'd involve more not less clothes.

"Well, Di, that depends if another training session would get you just a heated. I wouldn't want to rule them out. That was one hell of a kiss." He looks meaningfully in the direction of their room;

"Probably need our room to be a bit closer to the training area though, don't you think?"

At the 'Padawan', Zak stops with his fooling and sits down to listen.

Master Fianna Kator sounded like the kind of Jedi that Zak heard stories about as a child rather than those of later times that seemed more concerned with balance and the war rather than real individuals, and certainly the concept of duty versus right struck a cord with Zak immediately. One of his failings had not been to take that step away from duty when asked to do wrong.

Zak knew that a lightsaber was a symbol to the Jedi, and that it's significance was serious, so he took some moments to consider Cho's words.

"Part of me fears that without such a weapon in my hands I won't be able to protect and assist you and the rest of the crew in what awaits us. But a lightsaber is not solely a weapon, so that in and of itself is not enough. I would certainly treat it with the respect it's due and do my best to honour it's owner as that would be the least I could do."

"As to whether I can do that better any better than you Di, I'm not so sure." with a wry smile he adds "But I confess to being biased where you're concerned."

Zak turns to R5;

"More importantly, if your master gave this into your keeping then it is your choice."

"I'm no saint or Jedi, R5. I've done many things that I'm not proud of and made any number of mistakes. I once served the Empire through a twisted form of duty. But I do believe in redemption and second chances so there's that."

"If there is any truth in the stories of my youth then part of Mater Kator still resides in that lightsaber and as such I'd be happy to carry it until it finds it's true owner. As I said I'm no Jedi so I doubt it's final pace is in my hand."


<Cho>

R5-L8's motors whirr as he fidgets, uncomfortable being the center of attention, looking from Zak to Cho and back again.

Cho unconsciously rests a hand on his chassis, as if to comfort him. They'd spent a lot of time together while restoring the Blue Nexu; it'd started out as a simple tactic to get information out of him, but Cho had - much to her chagrin, once again - become fond of the droid.

She's not sure how much R5 truly understands about the Jedi, the Force or even about the lightsaber she'd returned to his care after restoring it. He seems to trust Cho's judgement, though, for better or worse.

"There are no saints or Jedi here, Zak. Just what they left behind."

She pauses to rub at a smudge of ash on the droid's paintwork, watching his status lights to be sure the shy droid is okay with her speaking for the both of them.

"We had a long chat while you were being checked out in medical yesterday. Again before coming in here."

She knew how important it was to R5-L8 that he continued to serve, how much he wanted to help. The lightsaber had been a surprising angle at the time - she still didn't know quite what parts of their conflict with Gak he'd seen, or whether he just knew a lightsaber wound when he saw one - but she could see R5 felt it important, that it should serve too.

"And he's still sure, even after watching us train."

R5-L8 doots in solemn agreement. This is his choice.

A compartment pops open in his chassis, revealing a cloth-wrapped shape. Slender manipulators tease it out, proffering it toward Zak.


<Zak>

With a certain amount of trepidation Zak gently reached out and accepted the package from R5. Zak had seen a number of lightsabers over the years but it was the first time he'd actually had the opportunity to handle one.

Through the cloth he could judge the cylindrical shape almost a foot in length, and unwrapping it revealed a simple elegant design practical but without significant embellishment. Somewhat like it's creator I'd imagine.

Getting a better feel for it in his hands, it was surprisingly heavy for what effectively looked like a large sword hilt, but of course it was much more than that.

Experimentally grasping it in both hands even unlit, there was a feeling that it wasn't entirely inert, as if the object itself was just patiently waiting. It felt utterly different from a sword, in fact, any melee weapon Zak had ever tried. Whether this was a literal and physical effect, or psychological and spiritual one was unclear. While strange in his hands the fit seemed good, solid... right. His finger found the ignition switch;

"May I?"

Cho nodded her agreement, and Zak pressed the button. The lightsaber sprang to life, a vivid yellow blade of plasma appearing above the hilt and the unmistakable purr echoing across the cargo bay.

Immediately, the feel of the weapon changed.

It felt noticeably heavier and almost alive. Just trying to hold the blade steady seemed to require action as it appeared to shift in Zak's hands as if buffeted by unseen forces - like it was squirming in his grasp.
Aware of the lethality of the blade Zak pauses and tries to get the measure of this allegedly inanimate weapon in his hands. It was almost as if it had it's own will or desire.

After what seemed like an age apparently rooted to the spot, Zak tried maneuvering the blade. It's behaviour in motion was... different, dynamic. Like normal physical rules didn't quite apply, inertia wasn't something it had to obey.

Stepping back to give himself some room, Zak finds the ready pose.

With great care and deliberation, he slowly tried a couple of the forms Cho had shown him, noting with interest how his intent and focus on the form appeared to effect the buffeting on the weapon.

He returned to ready pose and once again pressed the switch, the plasma and sound stopping immediately.

"That is like nothing else I've ever wielded. It feels alive... I can't tell whether that's a hindrance or help as yet - I suspect both."


<Cho>

A smile grows on Cho's face as she watches Zak, watches him intuitively begin to grasp the nature of the weapon in his hands; a warm glow of satisfaction, pride even, in his quick understanding, pleased both with and for him.

She tries to recall how it was first explained to her - and for a second remembers only that moment, holding a training saber opposite Nayim, her master gently teasing understanding from her student's chaotic mind.

"They are alive. Energy constantly flows through the crystal - you're not fighting with a blade so much as directing a current of power. Your thoughts, your actions, they become part of that energy, flow through the crystal, become a part of the blade."

Cho fidgets unconsciously, and a brief spike of pain from her ribs brings her crashing back to the present. To the dangers they faced, within and without. She stands up, grimacing as she does, motions for Zak to practice again.

"Don't imagine you're fighting someone else. Don't imagine you're fighting where the blade wants to go. You're only fighting yourself."

She walks round Zak as he practices, a wide circuit but nonetheless just slightly too close for his comfort, swinging an unfamiliar blade of plasma as he was. If she's concerned for her own safety, it doesn't show.

"All that messy shit in your head, concerns, frustrations? Let it be there. Acknowledge it. Then move the fuck on. There's a storm inside all of us. You need to find a balance in the middle of it, a place to stand, just you and the blade."

This was the truth of Shii-Cho, the truth at the heart of any lightsaber style. Balance and focus. Being guided by your feelings, your intuition, but still choosing your own goals. Letting your emotions fuel your determination, without succumbing to them.

Because I'm such a stand-up example of how to do that.

She watches Zak's form, his concentration on every motion of the lightsaber, slowly seeing it become lighter in his hand, less of an effort to keep on track.

"You're connecting with it. Everything you are, everything Kator was, all of that's going through the blade. It will leave a mark on you, you will leave a mark on it."

Perhaps Zak wouldn't feel it as keenly, without training in the Force. In some ways Cho hopes that will be the case; if he intuitively understands the lightsaber is becoming part of him, what does that tell him about her?

Nothing to do but face it.

The hum of the lightsaber in Zak's hands is answered by another, its discordant growl unmistakable. His lover stands opposite him, sunset-red blade flaring and crackling in the ready position, the light of it throwing harsh shadows across her face.


<Zak>

At Cho's prompting he continued with his slow and measured recitation of the forms she had showed him.

He allowed the aches and pains from sparring, the deeper ones from his chest wound mix with his feelings of awe and wonder, fear and trepidation, pride at some of the looks Cho shot him, and felt how each of these parts of him changed the feel of the blade.

The best way Zak could describe it would be that the tone of his feelings created a similar tonal shift in both his intent and therefore that of the blade. Like changing the meaning of a word with the tone of your voice, the tone of your feelings effected the lightsaber. The most important thing seemed to be the presence of mind to accept the tone and let it flow through you but not control you. Otherwise as Cho said, you'd just be effectively fighting yourself. Denial was the enemy of harmony and would create 'turbulence'.

Zak had never felt much religious or spiritual calling, but what he was feeling, building even, between him and this allegedly inert object, it could only be spiritual in nature. And whether these ideas were his or imparted from it rocked him to the core. You didn't use a lightsaber you became a functional part of it, and it of you.

As he continued the forms and adapted to these realizations the weapon felt lighter, became still in his hands at one with his intent.

When Cho ignited her lightsaber it's dissonance spoke to Zak in a way he'd not noticed before. Fleeting echoes of the time the very blade struck him down in hate resonated between him and the sabre in his hands momentarily tarnishing the vivid yellow orange before settling. It spoke of conflict and lack of harmony, almost like Nayim's lightsaber was fighting Cho... unhappy with it's new owner.

Zak's focus stuttered and he immediately stepped back into ready and extinguished his blade concern on his face;

"What happened to the blade? And... I'm not sure I understand. There's a dissonance I never noticed before... It's as if... Is Nayim's lightsaber fighting you?"


<Cho>

Zak's words run through Cho, his compassion and concern cutting through her ability to focus more surely than a lightsaber to the chest. Emotions war across her face, are forced into apparent stillness again. Her knuckles whiten on the curved hilt of her lightsaber.

"That blade will fail you if you wield it for anger's sake, or out of fear. You have to remember why, who you're fighting for."

It is the echo of a better Jedi than I, in the hands of a man better than I deserve.

If anything, Cho is less afraid of Zak wielding Kator's lightsaber than she was of a metal rod in his hands. She trusts that so long as he means her no harm, so long as his fears are for her, not of her, the blade will not betray him.

Reflecting on that for a moment, it seems so ridiculous she almost laughs. Where has trusting the Force gotten everyone so far?

Still she trusts. In Zak and Kator, if not in the Force or herself. Her own lightsaber growls like a wounded animal, liable to snap its leash if she lets her guard down for a moment. Yet she leaves it switched on, crackling and ready for a fight, letting Zak see the truth if he so chooses. Baring her soul, almost.

Never has she felt so vulnerable and so dangerous in one moment.

"This -"

To explain what she knows to be true, to have Zak see that in her, feels as if it would break her heart. And she can't find the words she needs. Her frustration builds. She takes a shuddering breath, feels pain flare through her chest as she does, turning her frustration into a white-hot lance of fury.

For a moment the lightsaber's growl almost becomes a purr, flaring brighter for a second, more coherent rather than less. She takes a step forward, the blade almost lifting itself as she raises it.

"This is what you have to guard against."


<Zak>

Zak watched Cho struggle to express herself. He could only imagine the hard lessons Carid had taught her about emotions and the trouble that they bring, that they were weaknesses to be suppressed. Now why had Carid come to his mind as the cause of that?

With his eyes glued to her face he could see the frustration segue into fury and, at that moment, the sabers' dissonance dissolves into a purr and the blade's colour deepens.

"Nayim's lightsaber is... tuned to anger and rage? Is that what you're saying? And that's the cost of allowing feelings like anger to choose your actions... of failing to control oneself?"

Zak brow furrows as his tactical mind works on that piece of information;

"Is that what happened to Master Nayim? Because of what the Empire did? Order 66... The hunting down of the Jedi, the destruction of the order. That created the very monsters that the Jedi were there to stop?"

"There is no way that could remotely be a coincidence."

Another more startling idea then occurs to Zak;

"Diya... Is it your anger fueling Nayim's saber or is its anger fueling yours? How long did Master Nayim live with the rage... How many times did he use that saber with that intent?"

Once more a look of concern is plan on his face, he didn't understand;

"Why continue to use it when R5 would happily have given you Master Kator's?"


<Cho>

Cho is silent through much of Zak's questioning, her focus slowly turning inward. The blade of her lightsaber continues to growl and hiss its discordant fury at the world, its default state one of conflict.

She cannot, or will not, look at him. With all that she's seen through the Force, through Nayim and Gak's eyes, and through Zak's own memories, parts of her want to blame him along with the rest of the Empire he'd served.

Of course that's what happened to Nayim. You took everything from her. Her peace, her children, her future, her hope. Hunted us like animals.

Cho stares down at her lightsaber, turning the blade as if examining it for the very first time. Feeling as if she's staring at herself from the outside. Get your shit together. The anger on her face slowly fades, transforms, as she tempers it into something more focused.

She did exactly what I'd have done in her situation. Exactly what I have done. Whatever it takes, to protect her people. I just have more reasons to come back from it.

She looks up suddenly, her gaze searching Zak's eyes, seeing the confusion and concern writ across his face. Her own features soften, a tracery of sadness and sudden fatigue, and she extinguishes the blade, the hold suddenly seeming very quiet and still.

Why had she kept it? Some twisted sense of duty, she supposed. Fitting.

"Because it's all I've got left of her. Because it's mine to bear."


<Zak>

Seeing Cho master her fury touches Zak to the quick.

The echoes of her thoughts and feelings flitting across her face as she examined Nayim's lightsaber in her hands before finding the strength to put her righteous fury back in it's place.

Cho's world was not Zak's, and he had seen that from the very beginning. Doesn't she realise that she'd been through as much and more than Nayim? From lost padawan to trained and abused assassin under Carid. Was it possible that she didn't see the unburnished steel that made up her soul? That the Diya that he met and loved still existed after all that had come before demonstrated it so clearly to Zak. At that moment Zak could not have been more proud of her.

When their eyes finally meet his heart is in his eyes, his entire being directed into her gaze; and her comment on duty resonates across Zak's soul.

Without hesitation he steps to Cho and envelopes her in his arms;

"Then while you carry it, let me support you."


<Cho>

Cho has always liked what she sees in Zak's eyes, liked who she is to him, even when she can't quite see it in herself.

Enfolded in Zak's arms, feeling the weight of his belief in her, she feels just about invincible. Shutting her eyes, she pushes her senses outward, feeling the Force surrounding the two of them shudder at her attention.

I can do this.

She is far from peace; even a moment ago she'd felt fury enough to kill Zak, to tear the whole room apart with her temper as she'd done facing Gak'Fedaw. Just as she'd been teaching Zak, though, she'd been reminding herself. Intent and focus.

Every new pulse of emotion she felt was electrifying, carrying with it an intoxicating flare of power within her, setting strange whorls and eddies into the currents of the Force around her. It feels new, strange, dangerous, but she can't help feeling she'll be all the stronger for mastering it, mastering herself.

Even her fear of herself, of what she's capable of, can be turned into a tool if she has to - to drive herself to do better, to contain and channel the Force into the shapes she needs.

Yet as the moment draws on, sheltered in Zak's embrace, she realises she needs no such tools, not right now. Setting aside the core of fury within her takes a surprising amount of effort, but proves at least that she still can.

There's a clattering from across the room, an incredulous trill from R5-L8 closer by, as crates and pieces of scrapped equipment from the ship refit begin a gentle orbit of the bay. A messy and makeshift solar-system of half a dozen 'planets', centred upon the two of them.

Diya pulls herself back just enough to look up at Zak, smiling.

We can do this.

"Thank you."


<Zak>

Through their embrace Zak feels Cho's breathing change as he holds her in his arms - he can almost sense her slow return to calm - or what passes for calm to Cho.

And then... something more... something searching... and things start to move in the cargo bay, random objects of different sizes around the bay lurch into the air and begin to orbit them.

It is without doubt the most remarkable and tangible display of the Force that Zak has witnessed - in line with the stories of his childhood, and his Diya was it's creator.

She looks up at Zak a smile on her face - How he loves seeing that;

If Diya can do this when stretched so thin, with calm snatched from fury, what the hell will she be capable of when she finds her inner peace.

"Always Diya."

Watching the assorted objects orbiting them Zak can't help but smile back. Together, perhaps they can weather the storm. Perhaps together... the whole crew... can make a difference. If they can stay together and keep from flying apart.

"Well, my dear, impressive though this particular lesson is I'm not entirely sure that I'm going to be able to achieve a pass." He gives a wry smile;

"Perhaps we should leave that until a later date... much much later I imagine. What do you think?"


<Cho>

She grins back, though the strain of keeping her attention in half a dozen places at once is starting to show.

"It was -"

There's an awful jangling crash as a rusted old filtration unit hits the deck on the far side of the bay. Cho winces, though her grin widens too. She gives up on trying to finish the sentence, focuses her attention on bringing the other objects in her display gently down to rest. A few land with more determination than she'd intended, but nothing so jarring as the first.

Taking another deep breath, her ribs protest again, her focused calm taking on a tinge of melancholy for a moment, her tiredness finally catching up all at once.

Gak had always envied her precision with the Force, her ability to split her attention, even braid individual filaments of wire together. She'd always envied his ability to get inside her head, to read a room, to know what everyone was feeling - at least until she'd started to realise what a painful mess most people's minds were.

To think that Reeva once reminded me of him.

She leans her head on Zak's shoulder, pressed against him, relying on his strength to hold her steady while she takes a moment to compose herself yet again.

"I think you could probably juggle them anyway." she half-jokes, gently squeezing one of his tired, bruised arms.

"Also that maybe, um. I should stop pushing and just sit down. For a bit. Can we do that?"


<Zak>

Zak laughs; "I'm not sure I'm up for juggling today. But sitting sounds like a very good plan."

"To be fair I'm not sure I can think of a safer way to practice with a lightsaber than you using the force like that... Just not today. I'm not sure how much focus I've got left in the tank."

His voice takes on a more commanding tone, aping that typical drilling instructor delivery;

"I officially declare our first saber training session over... so that we can both make it to the next one."

Zak reluctantly lets Cho out of his embrace and limps over to fetch the medkid, seeing what other options are available within;

"Come on, let me check your welts and bruises again. If we don't treat them well enough we'll both look like the walking wounded for some time. And I'm not sure purple is my colour."

He pulls over a crate to make a fair size bench for them to sit on and offers Cho his hand to draw her to her 'seat';

"And no it's not just that I want to see you in less clothes again." with a naughty smile he adds; "That's just a bonus! But I'm happy to return the favour because I think my thigh needs attention."


<Cho>

Cho murmurs her agreement at Zak's musing on how much they'd got left in the tank. Her eyes are slightly unfocused, letting Zak sit her down with a slightly dazed smile on her face, for once enjoying being taken care of.

Could've gone worse, she allowed, her smile spreading as she reflects back on how well Zak had grasped the style. She tenderly probes her ribs, wincing but oddly pleased with the sensation.

"No more painkillers, please."

This time at least, the pain would be a badge of pride. A reminder on each breath that she'd succeeded, that pushing Zak so far so fast had worked.

She leaves her top off this time, just sitting there in her underwear as Zak checks her over, then returning the favour with a degree of rigour, having him sit himself down on the floor to lay the leg out fully. Granted her knowledge of anatomy was directed more to taking it apart, but Carid did not let his investments venture out without a working understanding of first aid.

"You'll do, padawan." she chuckles, enjoying the sight of him with trousers off, no matter the bruises and welts she'd left. They'd both earnt those.

She slumps down next to him, backs against the crate, leaning her head on his shoulder once more. Exhausted but satisfied, once again feeling her life was right where she wanted it to be.

Yes, this would do.

[wrap here for the mo'?]
Last edited by SteveH on 05 Apr 2021, 13:32, edited 1 time in total.
SteveH
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Session 24.3 - Reeva, Zak & Cho - Owning it

Post by SteveH »

Reeva is woken up by feelings of pain from Cho and Zak and tries to find out what's occurring.
Spoiler

<Cho>

Reeva's sleep is troubled, fitful, at least in the last minutes before she wakes. Fleeting nightmares, more fragmented imagery than cohesive dream, flicker through her mind.

Her father in pain. Countless injuries. Fear, anger, fighting back. A faceless opponent, red lightsaber crackling, bringing him to his knees. Surges of a terrible burning cold, of dread and fury.

She wakes shivering, for a moment uncertain where she even is. Her room seems strange, threatening. The ship too quiet. Did she just hear Zak cry out?

The chrono on the wall faithfully reports the time; she's overslept somewhat. It's a reassuringly ordinary sight.

Yet she can't help remembering how she'd felt on the prison ship yesterday, torn between what she'd come there to do and what she'd felt her father going through. Her nightmares are still vivid, emblazoned on her mind; she can almost smell Zak's sweat.


<Reeva>

[Apologies for the delay, was playing Mage all day yesterday 😊 ]

Is something wrong? Maybe the force trying to warn her?

It is too quiet. Her tension doesn’t ease. She pushes her tangled mop off her face and throws her legs over the side of the bed. Still wearing shorts and a Tshirt creased from sleep, she reaches out and grabs her blaster rifle. Feeling much more equipped to deal with the day and whatever is developing, she edges out of her room, looking and listening, her barefeet making no sound.


<Cho>

Somehow a blaster rifle in hand is always a more tangible reassurance than anything the Force can offer, no matter how she trains.

Even so, all her senses are keen as she edges out into the corridor, focused on taking in the situation fully. The deck's barely perceptible thrum beneath her feet, distant engines rumbling, the creak and groan of the hull juddering through hyperspace.

Voices come to her, distant and comforting in some measure, far enough off that she's not sure if she's really hearing them or just feeling it through the Force. Lisana projecting reassurance, the children around her an uneasy murmur but captivated nonetheless. Dane and Urrly having a late breakfast. Hethan still in medbay, her sleep troubled but safe. They're all fine.

Her unease remains. If they'd still been aboard the Brazen Fox, she'd have tripped over everyone by now. This new ship is still unfamiliar, and easily big enough to lose someone in.

Where are Zak and Cho? Her feet carry her quietly to their room, but Reeva already knows they aren't in it, can feel it without seeing it. Something twists in her gut as her unvoiced question is answered.

Like a previously unnoticed star going nova, Cho's pain and anger flares through the Force, buffeting her mind despite the distance. The corridor lights seem to burn red for a few moments, and then Reeva feels her no more. Long enough to get a sense of direction, though. The cargo bay.


<Reeva>

She is reassured by feeling Lisana and the children, an indefinable ache but also a reassurance that they are safe, Dane and Urly too. She breathes now, feeling that her rifle might be a stretch too far but unwilling to leave it behind. She needs to know that Zak & Cho are safe and well. If that Force User has found them, that is who he would target. She twists suddenly, facing a new direction. She knows where Cho is.. not how she is.. but where is a good first step and where Cho is, Zak will not be far.

Cargo Bay.

She pads silently down the corridor, sure of her direction if little else.


<Cho>

The minutes stretch out torturously, even as Reeva's pace hastens; the cargo bay and hangar seeming interminably far. There are lifts she could take, but even after all the work restoring the ship none of the crew can quite trust them to work in a crisis.

Is this a crisis? The cold fire of Cho in agony certainly painted it as one, but Reeva's sensed little since. Could their adversary have boarded unnoticed? It seems unlikely, but even the possibility makes a stealthy approach feel the wiser course; alerting anyone via the ship's comms might provoke a thoroughly unwelcome reaction.

A metallic crash sounds in the distance ahead, muffled by bulkheads, hard to place exactly. Perhaps the blaster rifle isn't such a bad precaution, just in case.

Finally the cargo bay's blast doors come into view. Shut firmly; no wonder she hasn't heard much through them. A quick investigation of the control panel indicates they're locked from the inside.

She hasn't got her bypass tools with her. There's a loose side panel, she remembers that from fixing the wiring the first time, but she'd also remember what a rat's nest it was in there - breaking in could take a while, or get her electrocuted if she crosses the wrong wires in haste.

On the other hand, blasting the panel or borrowing a fusion torch from maintenance are hardly going to be subtle or guaranteed approaches either.


<Reeva>

She has choices. There are always choices. Not necessarily right choices but maybe some better than others. And maybe she might start sleeping with her scrambler key & tools? She considers. She is not feeling the Force Users presence, so either he isn’t here or is unaware of her. Carving up the joint does seem a little OTT even to her.

She looks around. There is a handy doorway which will give some cover and as escape route if needed. She lifts the rifle, knocks on the door and backs off to cover, ready to use the rifle if needed.


<Zak>

The blast door gives dull clang clang as Reeva raps on it with the stock of her blaster rifle. It's not entirely clear how much of the sound will make it through, but it's a starting point.

At her vantage point in the nearby doorway the seconds slowly tick by as she strains to hear or sense anything from the cargo bay.

She senses an echo of a sharp stabbing pain, feelings of resignation and defeat that decays into nothing but a periodic dull throb... perhaps more than one. Nothing like the intense pain and anger of before... Is it? Fading... Yes.

Reeva's focus has become so tight that when the blast doors begin to move it makes her jump. She half brings the rifle up as the doors complete their cycle, ready for anything.

Through the doors she can see partly into the cargo bay. It no longer looks as neat as she remembers... She can see that some of the junk from the refit is strewn on the floor, and a crate has been pulled toward the centre of the bay.

Something is definitely amiss.


<Reeva>

She waits. She listens.

There is a reluctance to enter that space. Maybe a aeons old hereditary response? Many caves are already occupied, often by creatures larger, fiercer, more possessive than the interloper. And they know the terrain, the hiding places, the cover to exploit. Whereas the interloper has to breach that opening, show their silhouette, expose themselves to gain entry. A big ask.

But she is sure her father is in there. Sure Cho is in there. What she doesn't know is if anyone else is. And her fear is the Force User, so she can't use the Force now as she will light herself up like a bulb to him. She is under no illusions that she can take him on. That is a joke. So... what to do?

Staying here isn't an option. It is a comforting thought but a cop-out. She cannot do anything to help from here. Hiding around the corner won't protect Lisana, won't save the kids, save the others.

And she still doesn't know if there is a threat. She activates comms but makes no sound. Her fallback plan is to shout a warning if the threat is real.

Raising her rifle, she takes a slow step, keeping her balance, minimising any noise, straining her senses forward.. sight, hearing, smell extending into the space ahead of her.


<Cho>

Reeva's grip on her rifle feels uncertain; wedging a comm device in the hand supporting the barrel it feels as if it might slip any moment, no matter how tightly she holds it. Her thumb presses into the transmit switch like it's the last thing she'll do.

She creeps in, unease creeping in further with her. The cargo bay smells of sweat and rust, eerily quiet as Reeva strains to perceive everything she can, her blaster rifle trailing her gaze as she looks this way and that.

What she sees may stay with Reeva a long time, that first impression as she steals through the hold.

The bodies look almost peaceful.

Slumped against a crate in the centre of the room, Zak's arm rests protectively around Cho. Livid, bloody bruises and welts mar both their flesh; neither is wearing much more than underwear, and all that does is reveal the horrid extent of their injuries.

A medical kit lays open beside them. They'd at least started to treat themselves before losing consciousness.

Her rifle slips in her grasp, the comm device leaping free to skitter across the floor as she tries to steady it. The sound of it feels far louder than it has any right to be, the tiny handheld betraying her position.

Something moves on the very edge of Reeva's peripheral vision.


<Reeva>

She stares, instinct wanting to take hold of her feet and run them towards Zak and Cho. But she cannot see anything life-threatening.. and she should be able to judge that by now, seen enough of it. And the medkit is out, must have been conscious for that!

OK Reeva. Dial down the panic. Need to see if there is still a threat.

Her heart jumps. Something moved! Her head turns that way, rifle tracking her where her eyes land. Her first thought are Force User.. currently her biggest.. most recent.. fear. With her new skills, they might just divert enough to get one shot off. She takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. She needs to focus not to react instinctively. She knows that will take practice.. discipline.. but you have to start somewhere.. right? Maybe it is the droid? Maybe.. maybe not. But it is enough to return at least some of her focus.

She looks around for a position that might provide an advantage. Somewhere with viewpoint, cover.. maybe a height advantage?


<Zak>

Reeva silently moves towards a convenient pile of crates when, out of the corner of her eye she catches the form of R5 slowly sneaking out of the cargo bay.

As soon as she turns, rifle still poised, a frightened warble escapes its emitters and with a whine of stressed motors it makes a hasty exit, its sensor array focused squarely in Reeva's direction.

Whether it's the adrenaline or just too many holos, for a split second she fears that R5 had seen something behind her... and spins around... catching a toolbox on the crates in the strap on her rifle.

As the toolbox topples off the crate Reeva has just enough time to register relief at no looming Force User behind her before there's an almighty crash as the toolbox hits the deck plate.

Immediately, she senses pain from Cho's direction and whips around again rifle at the ready.

Cho is now sitting up with a painful grimace, holding her side, while Zak has a surprised look on his face;

"Well that woke me up."

taking in his daughter state - short, t-shirt, no shoes or socks... but a ready blaster rifle his expression goes from surprise directly to concern;

"Reeva... Is everything OK? Have we missed something?"


<Reeva>

She swings around.. and it is the damned droid. Some of the tension drains but she is still keyed up. Reckons she.might be R5's number one enemy now, at least for the time being.

Then she wonders if it was reacting to her. She pivots swiftly, has about a second to see there is noone there and then frightens herself with a crash as she dislodged something from on top of the crates.

Pain from Cho directs her attention back to the two she had come here to find. They are both conscious now. She takes another deep breath, slow release whilst she considers her Dad's question, noting that he is not searching for an assailant.

She shrugs, adrenalin disapating quickly, leaving her tired and a little irritated.

"Don't know. Woke sensing something wrong with you guys. Came to check it out."

She looks over them both.

"So what was it? Some sort of sado masochistic get together?"

The tone is semi accusatory.


<Zak>

Zak breaks eye contact with Reeva to look down at himself and Cho and back;

Bruises, contusions, welts, broken skin, scuffed knees and knuckles... and only in underwear...

He glances conspiratorially at Cho, then bursts out laughing.

Surprisingly, given their beaten up appearance and recent history, it's the most wholeheartedly genuine laugh that Reeva has heard from her father in some time.

"Well... I can certainly see why you'd think that. But no... not really.", he wipes a few tears from his eyes and irrepressible smile on his lips; "Although at the same time, maybe... kind of."

"Cho was kind enough to give me some training. It did get a tad...", he again glances at Cho as looking for the right word in her eyes; "...intense but the blast doors were shut."

"How did we manage to wake you up Ree?"


<Cho>

Cho grins back at Zak as they share a knowing look, oddly pleased with herself despite the states they're both in. It would have been worth it just to hear Zak laugh like that again.

Pain flares through her chest as she chuckles along with her partner, and Reeva can't help but sense a flicker of it herself. The tinge of self-satisfaction around that likely won't do Cho any favours in Reeva's eyes, though.

She regards Reeva with an unapologetic look, the smirk on Cho's lips almost challenging her to make something of it.


<Reeva>

A number of things occur to her almost all at once. Her Dad laughing.. and she’d been a part of him getting there. Ree.. nicknames are often a sign of affection, she likes that! The blast doors.. aah!

“Seems like I have to eat humble pie to that droid. We should give him a name, a real name.”

Before she answers his last question she glances at Cho, sensing the pain.. and the self-satisfaction..? But then hadn’t she been feeling just that only seconds ago.

“Well it seems like I am attuned.. linked.. to you both at the moment. Maybe something you guys should be aware of.?”

She grins then. Probably less comfortable for her, does make her a bit of a voyeur, but hopefully it will fade over time. But then again, should they try to preserve it? Could they?

“Been meaning to have a talk with you both, this might be as good a time as any?”

She pauses for about a second before kicking it off before she can talk herself out of it.

“That prison ship rescue, not good. We weren’t well enough prepared.. or kitted out. Need to start treating this seriously now or someone =is= going to die. We need to make the most of all our resources, any edge we can get. This link we have, can we preserve it? Strengthen it? Can we utilise the force powers of the kids? Can we get better weapons, better defences. You guys are pretty formidable, only thing that got you through. We need to strengthen everyone else as we have too many weak links, including me.”

She looks from one to the other as she unbottles the thoughts that have been building. She needs their approval more than she knows.


<Cho>

We need to start treating this seriously now?

Something stirs under Cho's amusement, as if Reeva's scratched the surface and found something ugly underneath, just waiting to pounce. Even the Force itself seems to recoil as Cho draws a breath, about to speak; no words come forth, but perhaps Reeva hears her think them nonetheless.

This was your fucking mission. Your desperate fucking need to hunt any clue about your mother.
And then you left that clue sedated on a trolley while you ran after us. Left Lisana on her own with a bunch of helpless kids. For what? Some bad feelings I'd already warned you about?
You utter fucking child.


Cho's eyes are hard, her smile fixed and false for a moment, before she wrests her feelings back under control, leaving just uncomfortable echoes and eddies in the Force around them.

"Agreed, we're not splashing in the kid's pool anymore."

She glances across at Zak, then back at Reeva, making an effort to think through all Reeva's ideas, trying to find something positive to say.

"We can kit up further, yes. I can give you plenty of practice dealing with someone like Gak'Fedaw, if Zak stops beating me up."

A smile flickers across her lips, then fades again.

"You don't pull the kids into this, though."

Cho's tone is flat, simply stating a fact, her eyes evaluating Reeva cooly.

You really do take after your mother, then. What if Lisana had heard you suggest that?


<Zak>

The idea of his daughter being keyed into his emotions and feelings is both surprising and somewhat disturbing to Zak.

Should a child ever know what their parent is really thinking? I'm not sure that's a good idea.

He listens to Reeva as the words tumble out of her mouth, almost as if she's frightened to express them any slower. Seeing her just in shorts and a t-shirt while packing a blaster rifle is a vivid reminder that, no matter what Reeva has managed to achieve, she's still young and inexperienced.

The incongruity is almost physical for Zak. In another reality, he'd have been able to give her the childhood and education that she needed. That brings the dark cloud of that side of his past back to haunt him and he pushes it away.

But one thing is writ clear, she needs some help, training, guidance. She needs a father... Bugger. Am I capable? I guess we're going to find out.

As Reeva proceeds Zak inwardly winces at some of her words as it's clear that while her intensions are good... the phrasing would be a red flag for a number of the crew. With that in mind, his hand raises and touches Cho's arm hoping to impart restraint.

He nods in agreement with Cho's words;

"No, we've jumped from the paddling pool into the midst of an ocean, with fifty foot waves by raiding that convoy."

He sighs, and squares his shoulders. He indicates for Reeva to take a seat;

"First things first, I should have seen these things coming so a great deal of the responsibility is mine. I've been too stuck in my own head and past... concerned about crew politics and not upsetting folks to make some of my feelings clear, and that's a rookie mistake."

He catches the gaze of both of them in turn;

"And for that you both have my apologies... for what that's worth. If a member of the crew had died that would be on me as the one who should certainly know better. I'm very glad I'm not looking into that abyss."

Turning back to Reeva;

"Ree you should be rightly proud of the things that you have achieved, but every time any of us pick up our weapons we should be taking this seriously. And that's something that applies to all of us, me, you, Cho and the rest of the crew."

"For the last little while we've been getting by by the skin of our teeth - and nobody's luck lasts."

"I also owe you another more personal apology. I'm you father and I need to start acting like it."

He gives Reeva a very direct look;

"Neither of us are used to our roles - daughter or father. So we're going to both have to work at it. Agreed?"


<Reeva>

Something seems to darken the cargo bay. For a moment Reeva thinks she might have been too complacent, too early. Her fingers tighten on her rifle. But no, this is coming from Cho and seems to be targeting her. She frowns, not quite sure what she is picking up but then Cho speaks and the moment passes as Reeva listens to her words for clues, rather than trust the force sense.

“It’s not just kit, not just training me. Everyone needs to be able to at least defend themselves, if not to join a consolidated attack. And yes that includes the kids too. I don’t want to put them in danger.”

A rueful half smile.

“As that puts Lisana in danger too and I don’t want to see either harmed. Hell I don’t want to see anyone harmed. What happened to both of you last time scared the shit out of me.. and you are the best of us. I was just wondering if the kids could be like an early warning system, sense him coming maybe. I just feel that we have to consider everyone, everything.. work to minimise the risks, maximise our advantages.. but I don’t know yet what they are. We can buy time, we can run but I just feel we are putting off the inevitable. At some point we will have to confront and it should be on our terms.”

She shakes her head.

“And Dad, the responsibility isn’t your alone nor have you been yourself of late. And much as I like the idea of being able to rely on a parent.. I don’t think we can afford that luxury. I’m not looking for any decisions here, the others need to be involved if we get to that point but just to tell me there is some hope and that I’m not talking a load of shite.”


<Zak>

"That's nice of you to say Ree, but I'm the one who should have known better. I've had years of command and military training. Planning and running Ops was a significant part of what I did. Hell, I've been on Imperial ships of many kinds, seen the kind of compliment on board."

"And I definitely should have put Imperial Force users in the frame given Hethan had mentioned being interrogated." He pauses a look of self disgust on his face;

"Sloppy, very sloppy." If I make a mistake like that when playing at the big table or against my brother it'll all be over.

Zak sighs;

"But I guess shoulda woulda coulda isn't going to help either. I'm certainly not saying that you should rely solely on me, but you should feel able to share your thoughts and get the support that you need from me if no one else."

"The whole crew should be able to rely on each other. That's the point of being a crew in the first place, but I'm not sure that we all feel that way with each other just yet."

He glances at Cho;

"One thing I've learnt is it's damned important to enjoy the journey and those that you're sharing it with as that's what's really important, not just some future destination... Otherwise what's the point?"

He gives Reeva another direct look;

"The fact that these things scare the crap out of you is a good thing. It means you've got some sense."

He looks to Cho again to judge things and plunges on;

"And I think you're right. Running and hiding will only get us so far and work for so long, but avoiding confrontation should not be underestimated as a tactic. And certainly if you're not prepared for the confrontation that's likely."

"I'd say the first course of business is to find somewhere, anywhere to hide Hethan and the children. But that means hiding them from a Force user hell bent on finding them."

"So I'd say we've got our work cut out for us wouldn't you?"


<Cho>

Quiet for a time, Cho watches the two of them talk, keeping her own counsel on the matters at hand, holding her tongue for Zak's sake more than a lack of things to say.

She'll be needing to talk to Lisana, that much she's certain of.

As Zak starts to outline what he sees as the first order of business, it's her turn to rest a hand on his arm in a request for restraint.

"Let's assume we can hide the kids somehow. It's doable enough, I think, at least for now. Reeva, you want us confronting the problem on our own terms, that makes a lot of sense."

She sits forward slightly, watching Reeva closely as she addresses her.

"Imagine this is a whole crew discussion. Everyone's on board with the general idea. You're briefing us. What are our first steps after that?"


<Reeva>

“Yes, that’s what I think we should aim for, that we can all rely on each other, that we know our roles and are equipped and trained to fulfil them.. as best we are able. And let’s not do the blame game OK? Any of us could have done better.”

She nods as he continues, sitting on the floor cross-legged, rifle resting across her lap looking very natural.

“And yes, we need to hide Hethan and the children but I think we need to hide with them. Abandoning them somewhere, hoping they will be safe with no protection, that is not going to cut it. And I cannot see any other group being primarily invested in their future.”

As Cho joins in the discussion, finally putting Reeva on the spot with a direct question.

“Well, we need everyone to offer what they can do to contribute, then work out what we need in the way of kit, training etc to achieve that. We need to find out more about the weaknesses and strengths of those new to us, Urrly, Hethan and the children. We should also find out who might be willing to work with us. Maybe the Rebels? Maybe the Hellions? I don’t think we can go into this fight.. when it comes.. without help. “

She pauses, looking back at Cho.

“And you and I need to try to find a way to work together. Maybe we can find ways that the Force can support us, allow us to achieve things that we couldn’t do alone?”


<Zak>

"OK Ree. Why don't you try and break it down for us."

"Give us your take on the strengths and weaknesses of the crew. Where would you put folks? What are the pros and cons of the organisations you've mentioned? What other contacts or resources do we have?"

Zak's clearly challenging Reeva;

"Is it practical for us to be protecting Hethan and the children directly? Or would that tie us down, limit our options? Are there other approaches and options? What do we think is most important to our adversaries?"

"Try and think broadly. It's not always about the direct approach either."


<Cho>

Cho nods a brief acknowledgement at Reeva's assertion. Could they work together? They had with Zak's memories, had achieved something truly good. It feels a long time ago right now, though.

She smiles as Zak takes her lead, starts asking questions rather than just stepping in to supply his own answers. If Reeva's going to become leadership material herself, she'll need to start figuring out her own answers, her own plans.

Watching as Zak tries to coax that from Reeva, Cho's eyes flick between them, curious but still with an air of detachment. Hard to say whether she's mentally removed herself from the discussion or is just biding her time, watching and waiting until she feels a need to interject.


<Reeva>

“OK.”

She pauses for a moment to reorder her thoughts.

“There are pluses and minuses to having the kids and/or Hethan with us. Away from us I think they would be a distraction, certainly for Lisana, who of course might stay with them. That might then be a distraction for me.”

She smiles ruefully.

“If we are intending to stay mobile for a while, then they are unlikely to tie us down. Having them static in one place increases their chances of being found.”

“My main take on this is that he wants them for something, so we should do our best to deny that. With us we have more control of the situation. Away from us we have no input. And one of the resources I have not mentioned directly is info. We need to =know= the enemy, how he thinks, what he wants. We need to stay one step ahead. And when I say he, I guess I am referring to Cho’s ‘friend’ but it has a wider application too. We have poked the hornet’s nest and we have to find netting and a toxic bug spray quickly.”

“Assessments on the crew and guests:
  • Uurly, good with a weapon but can be a liability as his understanding of situations tactically is.. not all there.
  • His teammate. Might have been turned, currently too injured to be useful in a fight but if we can make him OK then he could be an asset.. and he owes us one. Not enough info though as yet.
  • Lisana, better than she thinks in a fight but needs more protection and training, bit like me really. Good at manipulating and deflecting.
  • Dane, great pilot, good in a fight except that he gets hurt too often. Is this a sign that he needs more protection, more training to fight defensively or maybe reassignment to another role. Could the ship be an effective weapon maybe?
  • Hethan and the kids. Big unknown. Need to plug that gap sooner rather than later. Though hopefully Heathan might be able to help me with the force. She seems resourceful, survived this long but maybe vulnerable in some ways too.
    (She is counting each person/group on her fingers but now glances at Cho with a little trepidation before moving to the next finger:) )
  • Cho. Most offensive force user. She can attack where my skills are not offensive. And she is a good fighter. I would like to know more about what she can do. See if there are ways we might compliment one other or combine forces for greater effect.
  • And then you Dad. Best tactician, need you to step up to that. Take control, the rest of us can only benefit from that. But you have to lose your tendency to be the hero, to sacrifice yourself for Cho or me, everyone else benefits more if you are alive and functioning. Although I’ll hate myself for suggesting this, I think we need to drill, to go though scenarios so that they are instinctive, not reactive.

“I’ve probably missed out loads and maybe my take isn’t spot on. So give me some feedback. I want to learn.”

There is almost a challenge in her eye.


<Cho>

"So glad you find me offensive, dear."

Cho smiles at Reeva, her voice playful, though Reeva might sense a slightly unnerving undercurrent to it, hard to put her finger on quite what she's feeling but it's not comfortable. Has she disappointed her?

"I'll let your father pick you apart properly in a moment, but I do have a few thoughts off the top of my head."

She stretches, winces at doing so, starts to move her legs as if thinking about getting up. Everything aches at once and Cho thinks better of it for a moment, gives a rueful grin of her own.

"I don't think it's quite fair to damn Dane for taking blaster shots for us. Are we better at evading fire, or is he putting himself in harm's way for us? Would you rather have more focused on you?"

She makes a mental note to bring a blaster pistol to Reeva's next training session, see how her Force-attuned senses fare in defending her. Set to stun. Probably.

Her gaze turns serious for a moment, grin vanishing as she surveys the mess that is the room around them.

"I don't think the kids will be Gak'Fedaw's priority, for whatever difference that'll make. We don't yet know who's holding his leash, what backing he's got, though. How would you find that out?"

She pauses briefly, her eyes snapping back to Reeva, flashing with annoyance; it feels for a moment like the hold lights flicker and dim.

"- and how the fuck is Hethan still a mystery after all this? You've had all night to grill her."

Her eyes flicker back to Zak, as if just noticing he's there again. A smile resurfaces on her lips.

"Sorry, over to you sir."


<Zak>

Zak listens carefully to what Reeva has to say, nodding occasionally.

"Not a bad start Ree. But there are definitely some gaps in your analysis."

He looks directly at her, while collecting his thoughts, before intentionally copying her finger counting;

"Firstly, if you want to survive against a ruthless adversary you have to some extent become similarly ruthless. Anything less and you immediately put yourself at a disadvantage. You have to try and anticipate how they would use or abuse the situation and those in it."

Looking directly at her, he adds; "I'm not saying that you actually have to become the monster, but you sure as hell have to think like one."

"Secondly, working out the true scope of the threat is critical to know how you might deal with it, or even if you can or should. If you don't see the full scope you're planning for the wrong things. It's better to plan for the worst."

"Thirdly, you need to consider not only the abilities of those involved but their character too. What are the capable of? You did touch on that a little but there are some implications that I'm not sure your seeing yet."

"In some ways this is another kind of ruthlessness - you need to be able to consider the negative about those involved as well as the positive."

"Forth, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. What options are there for us to apply that phrase here?"

"Fifth, fighting is always an incomplete answer. There are always more options than just that and certainly isn't the only useful skills here."

Leaning forward; "Here's a good question for you. What do you think our biggest challenge will be in deciding our next step?"


<Reeva>

Again that feeling from Cho that she is upset, angry even. With her? With Hethan? Both? She can’t ignore it any longer, even if her father can. Surely he must be aware? It is more than an itch now, more than an insect bite, this insect is buzzing around her head.

“Offensive as in capable of going on the offensive.”

She clarifies her early statement but continues.

“But currently I am picking up something from you. Seems like I might have done something wrong in your eyes.”

She shrugs.

“Join the queue. Seems it is an unwanted talent I’ve picked up. So is this to do with Hethan? Or is it just focused at me? Or maybe to do with my mother?”

She ignores her father’s feedback for the moment. This needs to be dealt with first if it is going to be a productive conversation going forward.


<Cho>

You have no idea.

Cho's expression hardens as Reeva challenges her, the room temperature seeming to drop with it. With her full attention on Cho, it's clear there's far more than a buzzing insect's presence to be felt. The weight of Cho's displeasure is a cold and crushing force - one that would take Reeva's mind back to a dark forest, to seeing someone smashed against a tree by Cho's temper.

There's just so much anger. More than she could possibly have earnt herself. Like Reeva's looking into a wellspring of pain that could easily drown the both of them.

A moment later, the sensation is gone. One chilling glimpse into Cho's mind before she locks herself down, eyes shut, attention turning inward, wearily forcing order upon her thoughts.

A hand grasps Zak's shoulder, her fingers a vice as she pulls herself up, both mentally and physically.

"Sorry. I think I'd better go get myself looked at. Leave you two to plan in peace."


<Zak>

Zak helps Cho up, not entirely surprised by her desire for some space; He flashes Reeva a look hoping she'll drop it - for now at least.
He watches Cho leave with some concern on his face before turning back to Reeva;

"Cho's not in a particularly good place at the moment, unsurprisingly given recent events."

He sits back down and regards Reeva; "Do you understand the real implications of what happened on that ship? We can get back to the tactical analysis in a bit."


<Reeva>

She catches Zak's look and waits for Cho to leave.

"Not much in the mood for the tactical stuff now anyway."

She looks in the direction Cho has gone.

"In part Cho worries me and in part she scares me."

She pulls a wry face.

"Is there any way we can help? And no, not so sure I do understand the implications. Perhaps you should enlighten me."


<Zak>

Looking at his daughter Zak quietly sighs. How can he explain the situation without alienating her. He gives her an ironic smile at her comments;

"I know that feeling but sometimes we don't have a choice if we want to make a difference."

He follows Reeva's gaze after Cho; "She should do both. That goes back to what I said before about having good sense."

"She's furious about a number of things, and rightly so. She's also had some very difficult things to face and that's used up what little patience she has."

Looking back at Reeva; "None of us did our best work yesterday, all of us fucked up. I imagine part of why she left was to spare us both some blushes until she's cooled down somewhat."

He gives an expectant look; "Self evaluation is a very useful tool. What would you say your mistakes were yesterday?"


<Reeva>

“Oh lots.”

She doesn’t look happy with herself.

“Didn’t plan well enough. Didn’t talk to Urrly to find out more about him and to explain what we were about. Screwed up the entry to the cells, triggering an alarm. Got distracted by you two when trying to leave. Left Lisana, Hethan and the kids in Urrly & Dane’s safekeeping to find you guys whereas maybe I should have stayed to make sure they were safe first. That’s when Dane got badly hurt.”

She pauses, not able to meet his eyes now. But she takes a deep breath and looks up.

“And I expect Cho will say that was my biggest mistake.. but I’d do it again. When I was instructed to stay away, no explanation as to why, that was never going to stick.”

There is still a defiance with her.


<Zak>

Zak smiles; "Ree, I wasn't saying this to upset you, but rather to make you think. If we're to survive what's coming we all need to up our game."

"But that's a good analysis. I'd say that you disappointed Cho given that she specifically asked you to stay on mission and let us take care of ourselves. Plus she has tried to train you somewhat so she'll also see that partly as a personal failure, which will, no doubt, make her angry, although perhaps more with herself."

"As you said yourself leaving Lisana, left her and the children exposed. Something you also didn't want."

In a comforting voice he adds; "What did you say to me just a few minutes ago? Sacrificing oneself for an individual team member puts the whole team in jeopardy, especially if that means you leave a gap in the ranks. Same applies. Following orders is hard, requires discipline and trust that those giving the orders both know what they're doing and have valid reasons, even if they don't give them."

"Don't you see the irony in you not taking your own advice?"

Zak's focus drifts into the distance for a second; "In fact trust is one of the things that could kill us all. We don't have enough of it between all of us, not when the hammer falls. It will come in time, I just hope not too late."

He looks back at Reeva;

"You're very much like your mother in somethings, but you're not a trained operative. You're part of the crew, and the crew as a whole must come first. If you can't do that it affects where you fit in the team."

"This is part of what I meant by being ruthless when evaluating team members. Not everyone has the attributes for every role. The quicker we all face that the longer we'll all survive."

He gives Reeva a somewhat bleak look; "If, after all this, you still think you'd still do the same thing I'd suggest that job isn't for you. Can you understand that?"


<Reeva>

“I know that!”

She listens as he continues, gathering her knees up under her chin, arms wrapped around her legs as if trying to give herself comfort. After a few minutes she says quietly.

“OK, I’ll take that on the chin.. and I’ll try to do better. Won’t be easy though. I guess I feel like I’ve lost a lot, just don’t want to lose any more. But I can extend that to the others too. Don’t want to lose them either, any of them! And we almost lost Dane, Cho and you this time around. Only luck that there wasn’t more.”

She sighs.

“I want to do more. I want to do it better. For everyone.”


<Zak>

Zak gives her a very genuine smile, clearly proud of her;

"That's the spirit. These are tough lessons Ree, tough and painful, but they're vitally important. Not everyone is ready for the front line, and similarly not everyone fits in a caring profession. Folks are all different. But please, don't for a second think that I didn't make similar mistakes in my youth."

He gives her a wry smile; "I was just lucky enough to be able to do so within the context of a military family and the academy. The worst that could happen was embarrassment. Well... that and my mother."

"Out here that's not true."

"I wish I could have given you a proper childhood and the support that provides... but we are where we are. You should be proud of what you've achieved on your own, but we've graduated beyond that now."

He looks at her sizing her up. His heart goes out to her; it's always hard to take criticism especially from a parent. He reaches out putting a firm hand on her arm and meeting her gaze;

"That's enough of that for now I think. Please take some time to think about what I've said, why and what it means. We can talk about it again if you want. OK?"

Part of him wants to sweep her up in a hug; but he's not sure how that would be taken;

"I said I'd try to explain the implications of what happened on the prison ship, or some of it at least."

He pauses collecting his thoughts; hoping that Cho would understand the need;

"Cho has just learnt that a childhood friend, a fellow padawan and confidant has... fallen, and become something... bad."

Zak pauses to let that sink in; "And what's more, by all accounts it seems it was her old master that started him on that path."

again he pauses; "Given what you know of Cho's background and her struggles, how do you think that makes her feel?"

"The one beacon of right and purity, her Jedi master, not only fell but is implicated in the fall of at least one of her padawans."

"Can you think of any deeper, more visceral betrayal? I'm not sure I can."

"Add to that, that she feels duty bound to carry Nayim's lightsaber which itself appears to be colored by rage and fury."

His eyes take on a slightly distant expression that somehow doesn't fit with what Reeva had expected from her father;

"Before Cho's training I never would have seen it, but... well... when you use a lightsaber you become a part of it and it you."

"Think about what that means."

He watches her as he gives her time to consider; "And if he's coming after us what does that mean?"

"That whatever happens, Cho faces the certainty of losing one or more of those that she loves or loved."


<Reeva>

“So you think he is coming after Cho?”

She considers further.

“Cho thinks he is coming after her.”

She is trying to reason but her knowledge has too many gaps.

“Do you think she should be using the lightsabre? Is it influencing her negatively?”


<Zak>

There's a seriousness to Zak Reeva has rarely seen when he answers;

"I think it's highly likely that Gak will hunt us down. Cho will be a driving factor in that I'm sure. But as her friends he'll attempt to use us against her. Adding the children and Hethan into the mix is far too dangerous. We know next to nothing about them or what Gak has done to them."

"We dealt him a spectacular failure in the eyes of whoever holds his leash... we took the children and his means of finding them. He's coming to settle the score. I don't doubt that."

His look becomes darker; "My guess is he wants to corrupt Cho and get her to join him. Can't think of a better way than killing or torturing us to do so."

"But loyalty and obedience doesn't seem likely as a trait so we might be able to isolate him."

He gave her a challenging look: "What assets do you think we have in play that might help us with that?"

He pauses for her answer then moves on; "From what I've learned a lightsaber influences it's wielder, but the wielder influences the lightsaber."

"So yes, Cho using the saber affects her, but at the same time she affects it. If she is strong enough she will purify the blade."

"And more significantly than that, she truly believes it's a burden that she has to carry. For her master. My guess is that it's impossible to know where Cho's anger ends and Nayim's begins."

"We cannot deny her that burden however, all we can do is understand and support her."

Zak leans over to his pile of clothes and produces Kator's lightsaber.

"Cho had the option to use this one. It belonged to Master Fianna Kator, R5-L8's master."

Reeva can hear some trepidation in her father's voice; "Both he and Cho wanted me to carry it. Felt I would be able to honour it's creator. I agreed until we find it's rightful owner."

"I can only try and live up to that." He looks directly into Reeva's gaze; "I've never been a spiritual man Ree; but becoming one with a saber has made me question a lot of things. It is undeniably spiritual."


<Reeva>

She frowns, working through all that info.

“I disagree with regard to the kids and Hethan. I don’t think we should make a decision until we have talked to Hethan and probably the children. Don’t you think it is likely that Gak will be instructed to regain those lost assets first? Do you think we can hide them from him? Do you think we can protect them from a distance? This sounds more like convenience or guilt removal ahead of the event. Placing them elsewhere may well be the best decision but we don’t know that yet. And if the Empire.. or Gak.. think this is so important we really need to know why.”

“When you say he wanted you to use the lightsabre, do you mean R5 or the Jedi? I agree it is a resource we should not ignore and certainly you have the best skills to use it.”

Another pause whilst she resorts the information in her head.

“And if it is best for Cho and the rest of us that she not use her Master’s lightsabre, then I don’t accept your ‘we cannot deny her that burden’ statement. You are too close to view that objectively. You talk of building trust within the team. We need to make them aware of all of this. I feel I have been let into a conspiracy and I don’t think this is the way to go. And what happens if she is not strong enough? “

“As to what might help against Gak, well we have two lightsabres to his one, we have two force users to his one.. though I don’t rate myself anywhere against Cho & Gak’s level. But maybe even a small weight can tilt the scale? I have been trying to build up defences against a Force User ever since we agreed to the last mission. It is only early days but it might lead somewhere. Again though, we are all working independently. We should be discussing all of these issues, getting different viewpoints, agreeing the way forward with everyone aware and in agreement with that direction. In this way we can strengthen each other, support each other and understand why things should be a certain way. The others all have different life experiences and can contribute positively because of them.”

“Do you want to talk to Cho first? Make sure she is happy with this.”


<Zak>

Zak sighs; "If Gak is coming for us, the children and Hethan will be in much more danger with us than hidden without us. And hidden doesn't mean unprotected, that's about where we chose to hide them and who with."

"From what I witnessed I certainly find it hard to believe that Gak will just let this go and focus on recovering Hethan and the children. He'll be coming for us first."

"Whether they can be truly hidden is a completely separate question, but keeping all his potential targets in one place is not a good strategy."

He gives Reeva a very direct look; "I certainly don't rate our chances of surviving if we have both the children and Hethan as additional distractions and potentially even turned assets while trying to take down Gak and whatever resources he brings with him."

"He's had plenty of time to get his hooks into both the children and Hethan. We have no idea now compromised they are."

"These are those ruthless decisions that I was speaking about before. If you really think that my motivations are.." he laughs somewhat dismissively; "convenience and guilt removal, then I'm not sure you understand what I'm trying to do here."

"I'm trying to keep all of us alive and maneuverable enough to face a threat the likes of which we haven't had to face before that's likely to be coming at us harder than anything most of us have witnessed."

His tone softens somewhat; "There's no point staying on the moral high ground if that makes you, and your team, dead."

"As to the lightsaber, R5 and Cho both want me to wield it, but as far as I'm concerned it's really upto R5 given that it was placed in his care. Having two lightsaber wielders might be the key to our survival."

As Reeva comments about Cho, a sardonic smile and certain anger slowly builts on Zak's face;

"I might well be too close to be objective, but you're not close enough. What would you say if someone tried to forbid you from finding your mother?"

"I'm pretty sure that I know the answer. Don't you even have that level of respect for Cho? After all the things we've been through?"

Zak almost spits; "What happens if she's not strong enough... We bloody well support her... just like we have you, or would Dane or Lisana or Urrly."

"I'm sorry Ree, I love you, but you need to grow up. Fast."

"As to a conspiracy that is just plain insulting, and tells me a great deal about what you think of me. Clearly it must be a conspiracy if the first damned thing I do is tell you. We're discussing things because you came to us and asked."

Zak stands, collecting his things; Reeva can feel the pain and anger; "If that's what you really think this conversation is over, before either of us say something that we'll regret."


<Reeva>

“I thought we were having a father/daughter talk. You know the ‘you can come to me any time’?”

She pauses watching to see if that percolates.

“But that seems to mean that Cho is off the agenda.”

She shrugs.

“OK. We can continue on that basis.. or you can go”

She bites her tongue wanting to add ‘something you are good at’ but somehow keeps a lid on it. Somehow she thinks he’ll go.


<Zak>

Zak's anger flows; "Don't play games with me Reeva. This isn't about scoring points, it's about keeping us all alive. You came and asked for our opinion. I'm sorry if you didn't like it."

"I've just shared with you a whole lot of things about Cho so she's clearly not off the agenda. But you're disrespecting her at a number of levels. And she is not the one who's demonstrated any lack of control or discipline... beyond being angry. You are."

"Without her I'd be dead... and probably most of the crew. You owe her a debt of gratitude not some adolescent self righteous bullshit."

"She's the one with the knowledge and the one who's offered you help and training and you've got the arrogance to deny her right to bear the burden she feels is hers."

He shrugs; "If you truly believe what you've said why the hell would you want my opinion anyway? Clearly I'm not trustworthy... You really think that wouldn't cut me to the core?"



<Reeva>

She stands as she is feeling very small against the anger and the physical size of Zak.

“Firstly I am not disrespecting Cho. I owe her. You have just shared a lot of stuff with me that I didn’t know and I was, I thought, exploring that – strengths & weaknesses of everyone, remember?”

“And just where is my lack of control showing out?”

“I clearly don’t understand either of you.”

Her voice is flat and even, as it has been all the way through, something she might not have managed some time ago. The echo in her head says ‘without me you’d be dead too’ but that doesn’t seem to count for much.

“Maybe we can leave this for another time? “

With her heart breaking but her dignity mostly intact, she turns and walks out.

Last edited by SteveH on 05 Apr 2021, 16:32, edited 2 times in total.
SteveH
New Face
Posts: 9
Joined: 16 Sep 2009, 12:06

Session 24.4 - Cho & Lisana - Enjoying the Ride

Post by SteveH »

After leaving Zak & Reeva, Cho heads to med-bay to seek Lisana's care.
Spoiler

<Cho>

The Blue Nexu's small, newly refitted medical bay is already stretched for capacity, Hethan and several other former residents of the prison ship occupying its beds - the influx of new passengers would no doubt be taxing bacta and medical stim supplies. Sedatives were already running low, which might become a security concern in itself if the new guests became restive.

Cho's shadow falls across the sterile white of the floor, leaning slightly unsteadily on the doorframe as she surveys the room. There's an unfocused quality to her gaze that Lisana has no doubt seen before.

Less commonly seen is the state the rest of her is in. Cho stands there, her top slung over one shoulder, sports bra and exercise trousers doing little to hide the livid welts and bruises covering her upper body, her changeling skin twisting and discolouring in places.

A smile flickers across her lips as Lisana notices her and looks across, that smile turning apologetic as Lisana takes in the rest of her.


<Lisana>

Cho’s blurred reflection appears in the mirrored wall fascia, and Lisana smiles. She turns to greet her, with her steri-apron rustling, and meets her eyes. And then her gaze flicks across Cho’s body, red wheals, grey folds appearing and twisting, and her eyebrow arches, just slightly.

“My cabin, I’ll be there directly”: the words were said with a smile, but Cho would recognise the edge of subtext, waiting to be addressed. As Cho turns and walks unsteadily out of view, Lisana completes the next round of meds for patients, and then seizes a handheld med scanner, splints, bacta spray and some more unusual salves. As she turns to leave, the door frame becomes a welcome prop, as the weariness ambushes her, sheer fatigue of ongoing injury treatments, settling children, feeding the crew, and watching over the youngsters in the ‘night’ since back on board.

A deep breath would have to suffice. She catches up with Cho, doing her own leaning on the cabin door. Once inside, the door closed, Lisana steps back.

“Szerxia Cho”. The only one to whom she spoke the Falleen family greeting. The words that follow are not exactly approved bedside manner “Even in hyperspace….What the fuck happened to you?”


<Cho>

"Szerxia'szalan" comes the murmured response, genuine fondness in Cho's tone.

There's something unguarded in her manner that Lisana wouldn't normally expect, not without a significant quantity of Corellian whiskey to accompany it. Even tired and injured Cho would normally have gone out of her way to cover herself, hiding injuries and especially any sign of her changeling nature.

Instead here she stands, seemingly arrived straight from whatever caused the injuries, though the glisten of recently-applied bacta spray on some perhaps lessens Lisana's concerns at the welts themselves.

Cho looks down one of her arms, at the patina of broken blood vessels, shrugs slightly as if to indicate she doesn't think they're any more than they seem. Turns slightly to show her midriff, now turning an ugly shade of leathery yellow-green alongside the bruising.

"Ribs, one fracture, couple badly bruised." she reports, with an unmissable undertone of self-satisfied pride. She realises after a moment that hasn't actually answered Lisana's question, though.

"Zak. 'saber training, pushing him. Things got... heated."

A languid smile lays upon her lips as Cho reviews the morning's events in her mind, almost lost in reverie, intoxicated with what she'd felt then.

"I was rather enjoying the ride."

She lets the statement hang there for a moment, as if examining it herself, trying it on for size.


<Lisana>

Lisana freezes as Cho’s words about 'the ride' land, and just for a second the greens and blues of the fabrics seem to her more vivid, and the fragrant narawood perfume intense.

(You are higher than I’ve ever seen you, …no entry marks on your arms ….ok, let’s see what the scanner has to say)

“We need to talk” is her firm arched response. Lisana turned up the dimmed lights. “Let me scan you to check your diagnoses”. As she approaches Cho with the scanner, Lisana is pleasantly shocked to become enveloped in the arousal and excitement emanating from Cho. Lisana almost laughs, so unusual is it for her to feel this influence from another. But then she realises, with growing amusement, that she needs to step back for respite.

(It's been too long...)

A deep breath and the promise of a cold shower would have to do for now...stepping forward, Lisana tries again.

(You are so aroused Cho …what the fuck have you been doing? Come on girl, get your head in the game.)

“Well, I can see why you enjoyed that ride….! Wow, if we could bottle what’s coming off you, I’d start a new business! ” Lisana finally manages to sustain scanning Cho, and sighs. “Well, it might be quicker to list the areas that you have left undamaged.”

“Ok, on the bed!”


<Cho>

Cho's grin only widens at Lisana's reactions, chuckling as she glides past, dropping what little kit she has with her on a cushion, and practically purring her reply in a rather playful tone.

"I was so hoping you'd say that - what shape do you want me in this time?"

Laying herself down, luxuriating in the soft fabrics of the bed, Cho very deliberately stretches in cat-like fashion. It must be excruciating given her ribs' condition, yet there's another breathlessly languid smile on her lips afterward. She slides over, pats the spot next to her.

"Awaiting further inspection, szalan. Loving the new scent, by the way."

Lisana's room has always felt like a haven from the world; she designed it as such, and Cho can't help but remember the precious times they've shared in it, the understanding they've built. Her gaze unconsciously moves to the cushion where her exercise top finally gives in to gravity and slides away, revealing her lightsaber - the acquisition of which nearly broke the two of them, only to perhaps build back stronger still.

The recollection shakes her from her amused reverie, just for a moment, before she beams another smile at Lisana, bright and brittle.

"I may be ever so slightly fucked."


<Lisana>

"You very nearly were!" retorts Lisana, before she can restrain herself. Turning to see Cho enjoying the bed, she smiles wryly. “Ok, lets just check exactly what we’re treating today.” Moving to the bedside, Lisana begins to use her hands to check Cho’s neck, shoulders and then her ribcage area.

“Does it hurt here? How about here? Ok good, nothing until maybe ..here?” Lisana prods firmly in the area of the potential fractures on the left side, and notes that Cho winces and exhales suddenly. “So just here?” She prods again along the line of the ribs, noting the continuing discomfort from her patient. Further careful pressure around the torso establishes to Lisana’s satisfaction the extent of the injuries.

“OK, szalan, you have broken three ribs, sustained severe bruising around here” prod “here” prod “and here. You are fucking lucky not have punctured a lung, bled internally or damaged the heart. And I’m not even going to list the rest just because….”. Lisana sits down on the edge of her bed, savouring the texture of the fabric. She raises her head looking up to release the tension in her neck and as she turns to look at Cho, her eyes fall on the lightsaber resting on the cushion. Resisting the urge to shiver, Lisana pulls her focus back to Cho.

“Speak to me. Fucked how?”


<Cho>

"Feel free to check everywhere."

The scent of Lisana so close is strangely comforting despite the constant tensions of their relationship; it and the narawood fragrance entwine in her nostrils, giving Cho something to hold on to, focus down on. Lisana's probing examination elicits almost as many grins as winces, as if Cho's treating the whole thing as a game, a challenge not to breathe a single complaint during the procedure, choosing to make a show of enjoying the attention despite the pain.

Her eyes grow more serious as Lisana continues, though, finishing with a complete dropping of the act as Lisana implores her to speak. Cho's eyes find Lisana's, an almost pleading look in them, utterly lost and afraid, before she looks away again. She takes another breath, about to voice something, but an infinitesimal shake of the head indicates Cho's not quite ready to face her own answers head-on, not aloud.

Ribs aren't all I've broken, szalan.

She has to start somewhere, though. Needs to explain to someone and there's only one person she actually trusts not to judge her for it. Sitting herself up, she looks back into Lisana's eyes for a long moment, as if the words she needs will be found in there somewhere.

"Had to push him. He needs to understand how to fight someone like -"

Cho pauses, Gak's name dying on her lips. Looks away, her gaze resting again on her lightsaber.

"- someone like me. Can't afford to take our time on that."


<Lisana>

(I can feel your fear crawling over my skin. That saber, and meeting Gak ... are you sliding away?)

“You are just coming down off one amazing high. Do you remember when I ..”. She catches herself, and tries to smile wryly. “You were flying just now, szalan-aua-amozru.”

Lisana gently edges up to shoulder to shoulder beside Cho.

(Like you? Gods, I have to go there… )

Lisana seeks to steady her voice. ”You believe you have changed somehow, this morning? On the prison?”


<Cho>

Cho leans gently against Lisana, staring at the lightsaber still. Remembering the discussions they'd had about it, feeling the death of the last of her ideals all over again.

"I had to do something to stop Gak."

Her voice is flat, factual; they both know she'd do anything to protect Zak. Whatever she'd done, she'd do again in a heartbeat if she had to.

Her hand seeks Lisana's, fingers brushing skin, as if reminding herself where she is, needing something to hold on to.

"I knew there would be... damage. A cost. I just -"

I didn't expect to enjoy it. To feel so utterly fucking alive. Is this how Nayim felt at the start?

"No light, no dark. Feel like I'm in complete control, but... it's like there's too much of me, keeps overspilling."

She looks toward Lisana, smiling wryly; the fun side of that amply demonstrated already. Her voice has grown more animated as she speaks, thinking about how to encapsulate what she's felt, what she's still feeling, her every sensation its own euphoric power trip. Once again, her expressions are almost aglow with the recollection.

"But you know what I'm talking about." she says, breezily, giving Lisana's hand a squeeze. "Need to get a lid on it, at least. Worried Zak. Think I even woke Reeva."

Cho looks away again, but from the set of her jaw, the faint hardening around her eyes, it's an easy read that Reeva had done something to annoy or concern her. Her eyes flick back to Lisana for a moment, clearly hesitant to raise something, then she changes tack slightly as another thought occurs.

"How were the kids this morning?"


<Lisana>

Lisana takes Cho's hand and places her arm around her shoulder. She feels Cho’s body relax slightly, and hopes.

“Well, they had all managed to get to sleep by the early hours, they’ve had breakfast, but it was weird. They were very agitated soon after that, all around the same time. Fairly sure it wasn’t my breakfast! ….wait…..if you woke Reeva….”

Lisana takes a moment: ”And concerned the children?” There is a silence, while Lisana gathers her thoughts and assesses how to even phrase the next questions.

“You tapped into something? Force based? Is that what caused you to get high? Did I feel that spilling out of you?”

(You thought this might happen. You had to have that fucking lightsaber, and now you’ve seen Gak. You choose your own path girl, stay with me for now).

Lisana then has another question that she just cannot avoid asking.

“Should I be concerned about the children and this morning?”


<Cho>

Never thought we'd be talking about the Force in terms of 'getting high'. Hard not to see your perspective on it, though. Fuck.

"Great, so now I'm scaring small children. I am officially a monster!" Cho laughs with a warmth to it that might reassure Lisana somewhat, never one to take situations too seriously, leaning into Lisana's embrace. "Still your monster, though."

And I'm not lost yet. I bet Nayim thought the very same thing, but fuck her, her mistakes aren't mine.

Her mood buoying up once more, Cho shifts her position slightly round to face Lisana again, only to face an explosion of complaint from her ribs. Through the haze of pain and power that hangs in her mind she murmurs an answer to Lisana's latest question, entirely unguarded.

"You don't have to worry about me on that front."

There's an almost imperceptible stillness in Cho's manner just after the words leave her mouth, kicking herself and willing Lisana not to lace together her tone and the way she'd mentioned Reeva earlier.

Don't see it, don't ask, please szalan.


<Lisana>

Lisana leans across her in concern.

“Oh gods, your ribs, sorry, I need to treat them” She unfolds from the bed next to Cho. “Wait – I’ll be back in moments.” On reaching the door, Lisana is grateful for the nearby wall, as a prop, and is relieved that Cho is still lost in her own thoughts. In a moment, she has returned, bringing polymer spray, matrix tape and these join the scanner on the bedside table.

“Ok, lie down flat please…right, we’re going to need to pop that displaced rib back in first, so if I apply pressure here, … can you use your …well, do what you do, to push it back the easiest way?”

It was always fascinating from a medical perspective to see Cho’s body move in that way, and small muscles shifted under Lisana’s hands in a sinuous ripple, which finally resulted in the almost audible pop of a joint and bone redocking.

“I just need to try to realign the broken ribs now. So, I’m going to use a technique my mother taught me to perform on her…and please try not to look like you’re getting off on the pain this time!” After a few minutes of hand pressure and leaning in from various directions, Lisana is content that the damage is offset as much as possible, and matrix tape and spray is applied.

“Please try and rest it for 6-8 days… and I don’t know why I’m wasting my breath on even saying it!” Lisana stands, and asks Cho to sit up carefully at the side of the bed, to assess discomfort levels.

“Ok, that all seems as fine as it is going to be. So, there is a concern about the children? What or who is the concern?”


<Cho>

Already breathless from relocating the displaced rib, Cho can only answer Lisana's admonition about 'getting off on the pain' with a dazedly wild grin that she hopes is apologetic.

Cho's always had a complex relationship with pain, particularly when self-inflicted. Inevitable, given her shape-shifting - twining together that inescapable discomfort with feelings of success, of satisfaction, of taking control of her life and her situation.

This is something more, though. Sparring with Zak, riding the waves of the Force within her, that sense of power and control had built and built. Even as she'd started to slip, started to get injured herself, she'd kept pushing harder.

I should not trust myself, szalan. You see that, more than anyone. But I do not have time for doubt.

Getting her breath back, forcing calm upon her thoughts, she dutifully sits herself at the side of the bed. Starts moving herself carefully, exploring once again what hurts where. She's not sure if the polymer lattice is there to support anything or just to remind her not to move wrong, but either way things feel more settled than before, less distracting.

Distracted she is, though, as Lisana swerves back to the topic of the children. Fuck. Of course she saw that, she always fucking sees it, we know each other too fucking well. Cho stares up at Lisana for a long moment before shaking her head slightly, either in denial or to clear her head, maybe both.

"Zak and I are agreed, the children need to be hidden. That being with us is more danger than protection."

You know I will never lie to you. That I will always have your back. Just let me steer this somewhere away from me fucking things up further. Please.

Cho's expression darkens, shadowed by frustration and tension as she continues, the subject too close for comfort for either of them.

"Not everyone will understand that they're just children. That being open to the Force isn't an asset. Clearly they're sensitive, but that just means getting them away from us - from me - as soon as we can."

I'm not sure they'll be safe from themselves, let alone the trouble that's coming for us.

"We need to understand Hethan. If she's how Gak found them, if she cares one fucking iota for what she's done..."


<Lisana>

Lisana studies Cho’s face intently, and then sits gratefully down on the designer armchair opposite the bed.

“We will now have so many agencies on our tail, that we are a high risk just by being close to them. And with your concerns about their sensitivity, we need to find somewhere else away from us, even on an interim basis, to keep them safer. Anything we can find out from Hethan, anything, will help us do the best for them.”

Lisana looks at the ceiling and takes stock of what she remembers about the Force from conversations with Cho and overheard from Reeva. “How does this finding skill work, the one that Reeva can do? If Gak or someone like him can use this to sniff them out, what do we do to counter that? Might Hethan might know something?”

(Not that I wish to be near her. Completely irrational dislike but it’s there… I don’t trust that woman)

“So you and I could ‘chat’ to her? Or Zak?” Lisana tilts her head to one side and shifts in the chair.

“OK, you and Zak are uncertain about Hethan’s motives. So, who does view the children as an asset?”


<Cho>

Cho nods eagerly as Lisana talks, feeding back where she's queried, hoping to keep her engaged on Hethan and the Force. They both know Cho never talks this much unless she's avoiding something, but it has to be worth a try.

"Reeva gets visions, impressions of things she concentrates on. Go somewhere featureless, no distinct landmarks, she'll struggle to recognise where, might get a rough sense of direction. No coordinates, just a feeling, instinct, picking a single distant note out of a chorus. Life generates the Force. The more of it, the more noise, the harder to find the one signal you want."

She smiles as she recalls Zak suggesting Cholgana, half in jest, but it wouldn't be a bad shot in those terms at least. Cho wasn't about to suggest it as a safe harbour for the children, though, not without hearing what Hethan had to add on the topic first.

"If Hethan has, as she says, a 'knack' for finding force-sensitives, we need to know how that works for her too. There's a lot we could do with knowing from her, you and I."

Even without going near whatever hooks Reina's got in her. Don't fucking want to know, Reeva's welcome to that mess.

Cho's almost waiting for the question about who views the children as an asset, ready and braced this time. She looks thoughtful, interested in working through the answer herself.

"There's Gak, obviously. Whoever's funding his project. Can't imagine it's popular, takes years to train kids in the Force properly - and if the Empire wants them as weapons, they'd be making an awfully expensive mess on a regular basis, training."

Cho's cheerful outlining of the idea falters for a moment as she remembers what she saw in Gak, remembers how Nayim hammered him into a weapon of war and kept going well past breaking point. She fidgets, suddenly uncomfortable, frustration starting to get the better of her. Pushes on.

"The rebellion would be no better. Heck, even the Jedi were no fucking better, just shove you in a temple to keep you safe and keep everyone safe from you, right up until the war started them turning fourteen-year-olds into soldiers and generals."

She glares across at Lisana, angry at herself, the situation they find themselves in, the world at large; the real reason she even started down this line of thinking momentarily forgotten.

"Everywhere you go the Force is either a myth, a joke or a fucking scary tool. Who the fuck do we trust with them?"


<Lisana>

Lisana’s facial muscles battle for supremacy of her eyebrow and the forehead muscles win. Cho sees the arch of her sleek brow rise, and probably senses that she might be pushing evasion too far.

“Hmmm. When you’re ready to share, let me know.” murmurs Lisana, surprised at her own restraint.

(I could make her tell me, but there is no point… and that is not us)

Space, permission, sanctuary – neither of them wished to breach that with each other.

“Despite my reservations, I think we ought to speak with Ms Romund as soon as feasible. A plan is needed, she potentially has crucial information and. I would like to have a short session before Reeva sees her, so that Reeva can take her time discovering about Reina. Plan?”

As she shifts in the chair, Lisana tilts her head back against the luxurious throw and tries to relax. A second later she realises that she could have fallen asleep in a heartbeat.

“Szalan, I’m not sure either of us is in the best of condition to address this problem this afternoon. Shall we chat quietly over food? I’m just going to freshen up.”

Once in her shower area, with the door pushed mostly closed, Lisana finds her helping hand. The stims administered, she steps out of the shower room, and walks unsteadily towards Cho.

(This is not going well - Shit – not again….. and she’s here….).

Lisana staggers as the adverse reaction to her helping hand hit her full force.


<Cho>

As Lisana staggers, the world seems to stop for a second in which Cho can do nothing but stare, taking her in as if for the first time. Gods, szalan, I am sorry. Here I am, leaning on you, when you are barely standing yourself.

In a moment Cho's up, flowing across the room to support her. To clasp Lisana's hand in hers, her other arm a steadying pressure around Lisana's shoulders. "Just survival" Cho murmurs, concern and determination in her eyes, leading Lisana back to sit on the bed.

"Tell me what you need."

Her gaze fixes on Lisana, warm but steady; Cho fully expects her to try deflecting from the issue, and is ready.


<Lisana>

(Don’t fail her, don’t fail the children, why now….)

“Sorry, sorry….” Lisana’s words are slightly slurred, “Just very tired. So very tired.”

(Completely true, very convincing…)

“I just need something from there please” she tries to lift her hand, and is shocked that she can barely do so. “In the shower room. Purple ampoule, and auto injector…please szalan.”

(Oh gods – my head, the pressure ….)


<Cho>

Cho knows, to a degree, what she expects to see in Lisana's bathroom cabinets. She recognises many of the compounds from training with Carid, all the ways to counter or pervert the course of the designer drugs so popular with clients and targets alike.

Still, she can't help but give an impressed low whistle at the sight of Lisana's collection, taking in both the breadth of it and how well-organised it is, even as she's processing the gravity of what she's seeing.

Cho returns quickly from the bathroom, pressing the requested ampoule and auto-injector into Lisana's hands, holding her gaze as she does so, a watchful understanding in her eyes.

"This is not for fatigue, szalan. Speak to me."


<Lisana>

Lisana smiles, despite her distress. They would often echo each others' words. She then loads the auto injector, or tries to. Her hands are clumsy, even for this action which she has performed often… too often.

“Oh come on,” her frustration and fear spilling out. Finally the injector is loaded and administered. And she waits, as her heart rate slowly descends, her sickness abates and her anxiety redoubles.

Cho’s gaze is difficult to meet.

(It had to be you. Of all people...…)

Lisana tries flexing her arms and moving her legs cautiously. “Thank you for being there. I’ll be ok now.”


<Cho>

There's a tenderness not often seen on Cho's features as she watches Lisana, her own troubles forgotten, wholly focused on her szalan. She kneels down in front of Lisana, looking up at her downcast eyes, making it quite clear she has no intention of going anywhere.

Gently but firmly, Cho answers the unvoiced thought she knows must be running through Lisana's mind.

"Yes, it had to be me."

Gods, that drug collection. I knew, on some level, but... how hard have you been pushing yourself? Cho's mind races, meshing together everything she's seen of her, reviewing observations in a new light; Lisana can practically see her slotting the puzzle pieces together in her mind as she does.

Lisana has seen Cho quiet many times, but seldom so lost for words, so shaken. A gentle smile finally traces its way across her lips. We may both be ever so slightly fucked.

"How long?"

Talk to me, szalan. Let me help you.


<Lisana>

(Of course she won’t be going …why did I even try….And how to even begin to answer that ….)

“I think I’m feeling ok, so a couple of minutes and I should be fine.” Lisana looks hopefully across at Cho, attempting reassurance and calm. There is no movement, just Cho watching her.

(Hmmm, oh well….good try Lisana)

Lisana tries to stand and fails. She holds back a growl of frustration, sinking back among the covers. With an acceptance that she will have to speak about this out loud, she sits up and straightens, as best she can.

“What to say, I have used helping hands since before I could breed. Just a little, to start with. The usual pattern. It helped…. deal with things… my mother used them too,” Lisana struggles regain control of her speech. “He is responsible for so much…. “

Her light eyes unfocus, back in a different world. “And the street time was useful…. Taught me much, what to use, how much… I learned a lot.” There is a form of pride in that tone, strength and ferocity.

“Szalan, I’m so sorry. I am still here for you, you know I am. I just need some time to sort this out. I know what I need to do.”


<Cho>

"Do you?"

Cho's tone is still gentle, careful, but her eyes glint with a fierce determination. She knows, or has already pieced together, how long Lisana has been leaning on chemicals to some extent. What she cannot be sure of is when it became a problem, when it became a threat.

They both know how Cho feels about threats to those she loves.

Cho rises. Even as she moves, there is a stillness about her, a tension, pressure from within. An ocean of fury ready for a target, but Trehees is not here. She climbs onto the bed, movements slow and deliberate, watching Lisana's face to be sure she is at ease with the approach, taking her hands in hers.

"I will not lose you."

Cho's gaze seeks Lisana's eyes once again, mirroring her own inner strength and ferocity.

"Nor will you lose me. So, szalan, how are we going to manage this?"


<Lisana>

Lisana can barely believe Cho’s words, the support. In her life few have held her like that. Her mother …she smiles as she remembers that unconditional love, Reeva –and then Lisana feels that pain all over again. For someone who can charm whoever they wish, Lisana always struggles to deal with that depth of care and kindness, but is grateful for the warmth it brings. Something meaningful, not bought by pheromones. For the first time since Hong’s memorial, Lisana cries silently, holding Cho’s hands.

(How do I deserve this? She needs support more than me.)

As she closes her eyes, the despised image of her father crystallises, and she opens them again with a start. Always there…. Lisana resorts to the pragmatic, usually a safe zone.

“You and I both know this can be dealt with. I’m trained, so it’s not a problem…. Well, it is and it isn’t.” Lisana is cursing her tongue which often betrays her when she is upset.

(Shut up, this won’t help…)

“Anyway, everyone’s struggling, we are all tired, and stressed, some injured. And Gods, I need to check medbay” she starts guiltily and then realises that she cannot stand.

(If I cannot support others, who am I? If my body fails, who am I?)

For some moments she sits, leaning on Cho, steadying her breathing, blanking her mind just for some peace to stop the slide into utter despair again. When she remembers this day, this moment afterwards, she will wonder if it was just chemicals shifting in her body that caused what happened next, or whether it was truly her.

Building determination and vision seems to grow, and with it deeper slower breathing, a relaxation of her shoulders, as if shrugging away a heavy mantle. She sits up, steadying herself and turns to Cho.

“Help me to take back my life, szalan.”

Last edited by SteveH on 05 Apr 2021, 13:51, edited 2 times in total.
SteveH
New Face
Posts: 9
Joined: 16 Sep 2009, 12:06

Session 24.5 - Zak & Lisana - A Suitable Gift

Post by SteveH »

Zak asks Lisana for help choosing a an appropriate gift for Cho.
Spoiler

<Zak>

[This occurs at an ambiguous point in time - to be decided. Sarah, please take this as an invitation rather than compulsory. ;-) ]

Walking into the crew dining area Zak is again struck by the space this new ship offers the crew and idly wonders if the Blue Nexu's size is a fair trade for it's maneuverability. Towel over his shoulders it was clear that he just finished one of his fitness sessions as he made his way over to the cooler.

Seeing Lisana in the kitchen he opens his drink and wanders over. She's busy cooking up something, pleasant smells wafting around. Taking a swig he watches her at her task for a second;

"Evening Lisana. That smells good. Any chance I could steal some advice from you?"


<Lisana>

[:) - having never been part of message gaming before, I apologise for any breaches of protocol or form. Any feedback always welcome :)]

Lisana tilts her head to one side at the question. She seems to be surfacing from deep thoughts, removed from the meal preparation, which appears almost spontaneously around her. The scent of the fragrant curry wafts through the air.
She carefully wipes her hands, and turns slowly. Zak can see her gentle smile growing, and for a second the room seems a brighter more comforting place. She gives Zak an amused glance.
"Good evening. If it's advice I can give, you have it."
She indicates with her hand a pile of blue green vegetable-like food lying with a knife on the counter.
"And some help with chopping that would be great too please. So, how can I help you, my friend?" The last words came smiling towards Zak, with a fondness he might not be expecting.


<Zak>

"Sure, no problem. Have to say that's smelling great."

Zak wipes his face carefully and washes his hands before moving around the counter to the chopping board and picks up the knife. Automatically, he shifts the knife in his hands judging it for balance and sharpness before realising he's only cutting the veggies.

"As you know, Cho's started training me with the lightsaber and things got a little out of hand."; He looks particularly sheepish;

"Broken and bruised ribs out of hand. Now I think we both enjoyed the session, but I kinda wanna get Cho a gift. Ideally something that's both an apology and that marks the occasion, coz boy that session was something I'll never forget."

"I figured that you might be able to help me come up with some ideas. What do you think?"


<Lisana>

Lisana arches an eyebrow, and looks sidelong at Zak, at his hand, so sure with the knife. Like an extension of his natural limb.

A sizzling crescendo ensues as she throws the first of the wheat cakes into the fryer. That irresistible aroma of herbs and bread rolled across the galley.

She becomes aware her body language has shifted, but Zak appears to show no signs (as far as she could tell) of recognising this.

“Yes, Zak” she said softly, “I am intimately aware of the damage to Cho”.

(Thank goodness he can’t read me like she can….. get yourself regrouped ….. that pathway is not for today…. And yet…).

“Ah well, it’s not the first time someone has done that to her. She’s tough, tougher than maybe even you know….”. Lisana watches Zak, a knowing smile on her lips, almost inviting him to speak.

(Does he know how many evenings we've shared? What we've shared?)


She then relaxes and returns to the meal prep. The next batch of wheat cakes faced their hot oil bath bravely.

“A present.. that’s a lovely caring idea. Well, what are your thoughts so far?”


<Zak>

Zak pauses briefly;

"Well, that's the thing. What I was thinking of might just be too on the nose, and there's a risk in that given the situation. But it really does appeal."

He continues chopping;

"I figured a token that she could wear, but it's how to come up with something tasteful that gets the message across without being obvious."

"Symbology is important, especially to the Jedi so I wanted something that would evoke a lightsaber without actually screaming 'Arrest me' at the top of it's lungs."

"I'm gonna need some help with that. Does that make sense?"


<Lisana>

“Yes, that makes absolute sense” she says trying to master her facial expressions.

(How warming and life-affirming, they have something so rare, a connection deeper than most, she is so at ease with him. Please let this last for her……..).

Zak’s words suddenly gave her pause for thought.

“Interesting that you mention symbology is important to the Jedi. What makes you think that Cho would still wish to identify with them?” Again, the pause, again, the invitation to speak…


<Zak>

Zak laughs at Lisana's comment;

"Oh no... It's not the Jedi that are important in this, beyond their place in Cho's life, but rather Cho's history and our shared experience. Cho's had a lot of bad times and abuse, but some things will always mean a great deal to her because of their context in her life."

He looks slightly embarrassed;

"I kinda want to give her some more positive examples of that... because she deserves it."

He finishes chopping the veggies and looks over at Lisana;

"You've got a lot more in common with Cho than I have, and as such can probably infer and understand her that much better than I can. I can't say I'm not jealous of that, but I also know that Cho needs someone who can give her that understanding. So thank you."

"She saved me in more ways than I ever thought a person could be saved, so I hope I'll get to that level of understanding, but regardless there's... something... between us. We seem to fit together and I want to celebrate that every opportunity I can."


<Lisana>

(He seems so sincere… and yet she and I have seen betrayal in so many forms…. Please give her love and loyalty to treasure)

Lisana takes a hesitant breath, almost reluctantly.

“Cho is remarkable, but you know that. And yes, she and I share much and understand each other more deeply than either of us feel comfortable with. And I don't need your thanks for that.” Unease and reserve are emanating from her body language and her rich, voice. “And yet we welcome that, because so few people do ‘get it’. And yes, you should celebrate her and your relationship, absolutely.”

Lisana begins cooking the chopped vegetables, then turns back to Zak. There is tear running down her face. “Ok, well, a few ideas for you … two clasped hands is symbolism that she would recognise, both as a Force User and as a survivor. The hand in hand can represent the hand of Force user holding the light sabre - the extension of their influence, their limb, their reach I suppose….. The survivor symbolism she will know” Lisana appears unable to speak briefly. “She will just know, trust me.” She sketched a design on her datapad “Like this.”

(Shut out the memories, don’t think, don’t feel, focus on now. You can do something to support them, to move them forward…)

Lisana begins opening cupboards for plates and drinking vessels.

“You could consider a kyber crystal, very symbolic. But rare, and not an ‘under the radar’ kinda gift.” She faces Z,ak with a wink. And then he sees a change in her, like he sees in Cho, mood shifting in a second, so fascinating and yet unnerving.

“If I’m honest with you Zak, your gift should be yourself. Give you, forever, unconditionally. She deserves that. And don’t let her down – or …”. She stops, takes breath, and attends to the meal.

“Two minutes to the miracle of the magic meal!” she states theatrically. “Does anyone ever question how they are fed on this ship I wonder…” She sighs, smiles, and then moves past him to the table, pausing when closest to him.

“Just wondering, by the way. You rightly say Cho and I have a lot in common. Do you remember when I shared something about my past with you?”

Zak ought to recognise that dangerously casual tone but…..


<Zak>

Zak notes how Lisana's posture has ebbed and flowed throughout the conversation, catches some of her hesitancy and wonders how deep the undercurrents go.

Both similarly mercurial and dangerously passionate. Both gifted women, abused and enslaved by men for their own gain at both women's expense.

Zak can feel his anger rise; Both Trehees and Carid have got theirs coming. But both are big game, not to be hunted lightly.

Seeing Lisana's tear concern is plain on Zak's face, his hand half rises before he thinks better of it;

"I'm sorry if I offended or upset you Lisana. That was certainly not my intent. I can only imagine how hollow thanks can become, but mine are genuine, and given freely. I'm grateful only for the companionship you give Cho and certainly not that you suffered similarly. I would hope not to need to add that but I fear your perception may be coloured by your experiences. I mean no disrespect or slight."

"This is something else I need help with. We come from different worlds and use different language. I've said something similar to Cho and I think it bears repeating: please don't let my words distract from my intentions. If I'm being a military clown, tell me - I've got broad shoulders."

As Lisana explains her idea Zak listens intently and nods seeing what she's driving at.

"Clasped hands make a great deal of sense. That's a great idea." He pauses slightly unsure whether to offer thanks or not.

When Lisana mentions kyber crystals, a number of emotions cross Zak's face. Shock, a flood of thoughts, realization and a certain amount of self criticism.

If Nayim's lightsaber has been 'corrupted' would a new crystal give Cho a new start? Ease the burden of carrying it? That was something worth pursuing.

"By all that's... Sometimes I can be so stupid. Of course the crystal!" There's a certain excitement in Zak's voice. This time he doesn't hesitate; "Thanks Lisana. I think that's an even better idea in more ways than you know. But both seem fitting."

He gives Lisana a direct look and tries to meet her eyes, a slight sadness on his lips;

"Whether my Diya realises it or not she has me. Has had me for a while. I am hers."

Again he finds himself wanting to echo things previously said and notes how similar these two women are;

"But I'm old enough to know that I can't promise not to hurt her or let her down, that in and of itself would already be letting her down. No false promises. I'm only human, I will make mistakes and as we've discussed I don't have the understanding that you do. All I can promise is to never do so intentionally. Not to be cruel. To be trustworthy and honest. And more importantly always be there for her when she needs me."

"As to the crew and meals... Well. Honestly, I think we could all do with being a bit more thankful for each other, and that certainly extends to your amazing cooking." He sighs; "I think we all need to stop taking each other for granted."

Zak moves around intending to help with plates and utensils as Lisana pauses right next to him. He can feel the change of tone and can recognise the thin veneer of casual;

"Of course I do. That's not a story anyone would forget, nor should they."


<Lisana>

(And again, he surprises me. Suddenly that incisive perceptiveness – they are very similar in some ways… and yet in others….)

“Oh Zak, you have not offended me.” Lisana lays a gentle hand on his arm and sadly smiles. “And I am not so naïve to believe that the path will be smooth or ‘happily ever after’ for you both. In some ways I wish it could be. But you are both strong and I admire you both for that.”

(But she is struggling … does he know how much? Should I dare to say? They have trained hard enough to pulverise her ribs, does he understand why?)

“When I shared that snippet from my childhood with you, why do you think I shared that?“

(Is now the time to ask, with the meal nearly ready? But I need to know before I make the decision …)


<Zak>

Zak chuckles; "I don't think for a second that you're naive, Lisana... I just get how important promises are to you... both of you... because of the many many failed ones in your past."

"Trust is earned, not given, and I want to earn yours and Cho's. I'm not going to give those demons the opportunity to tar me with the same brush by making promises that I know I can't keep.You both deserve better than that."

"Better to be honest and accept our own fallibility and go forward with that shared understanding."

Again he seeks Lisana's gaze;

"You are both strong, but I'm not sure that either of you recognise that about yourselves the same way you do about each other."

"You have steel in your souls. I see that. But I also recognise that also brings a certain stubbornness and independence. No offense."

"Relationships of meaning are hard and contain many conflicts. I don't want to give either of you the excuse to run away over misunderstandings."

Zak sighs; "Sometimes I worry that Cho will explode before she'll let me in to help... in whatever way that I can. But that's the line we're currently walking."

"Letting me in would increase her vulnerability and that's one of the hardest things for her I'm sure, because she has been let down so many times."

"And I'm certain she doubts if she can survive anything more. And now there's Gak... and Nayim."

Suddenly Zak realises the darkness of this line of thought and shakes his head. "Sorry... I've taken a dark turn. That was not my intention."

"To answer your question, I think you shared what you shared to tell me things that apply to both of you. But I could be wrong."


<Lisana>

(And yet again he surprises me – although am I surprised that he cannot see beyond himself and Cho – where is that incisive perceptiveness when it’s needed?!)

Lisana seems to brace herself and then allows her eyes to meet his gaze, hoping that he cannot see into her soul, although it feels briefly as if he might. Her next words are cold and balanced, well, nearly.

“Trust is earned, and the mistakes in our lives have moulded us. We know that the shifting sands can change on a word and look. Cho lived on the streets for years, and I am glad you cannot even begin to understand what that means. She will need all your kindness, your strength, your hope, to lead her back.”

She turns away. “If I can help with anything, I will. If I can take on any of her burden, I will. If I can lose myself to save her, I will. There is no light, there is no dark, there is only survival.” The last words were recited in the softest of voices, which Zak barely hears.

“The reason I spoke with you all that time ago was two-fold. I was interested to explore how aware you were of the impact that Reeva’s assault on Dane would have on the team as a whole. Especially as I knew something of Cho’s history even back then….” A pause while Lisana struggles with words, the slick delivery lost.

(Spell it out, keep speaking, level and calm, he does not seem to understand, be patient…..)

“And because I was trying to explain to you why I had recoiled from your daughter who had so abused my best friend. I'm sorry that wasn't clear at the time.” She continues arranging the table, opening the ubiquitous bottles and offers Zak a full glass of champagne. The aroma of the curry and wheat cakes swirls around them.

(At least now I can understand why you didn't pass anything on to her.)


<Zak>

"I'll gratefully accept your help Lisana and return it if I can, but I don't think Cho would consider that saving herself through losing you would be any different from either of us betraying her. I question if she'd survive either and still have a way back to truly living. You both have too many burdens already."

As Lisana moves on to Reeva, he realizes his failure. Again so caught up in the now and Cho. Am I still fit to call myself a leader or a father?

Zak manages to look somewhat guilty; "I've been a very practical and physical man all of my life. Some of the things Cho has shown me have demonstrated that there's more to life than just that, so it's quite possible that I didn't give what happened to Dave the appropriate weight."

"Understanding a thing and 'knowing' it are two different things. Let's just say some recent events have opened my eyes."

"And no, I don't think I did understand at the time or at least my understanding was academic rather than tangible, and my own feelings are biased where Reeva is concerned."

"I'll never damn anyone for an honestly held belief or reaction. My own inadequacies as a father meant I couldn't help Reeva deal with what she'd done and seeing you two fall apart... made me feel helpless. But that should have been my burden not yours."


<Lisana>

Lisana's expression morphs over five seconds across a range of emotions - a year of an analyst's training in microcosm. She looks across at Zak, only a metre away and yet he suddenly feels so much further. She appears to gather herself, and the effort is almost tangible. And she pours her third glass of champagne in as many minutes.
"Zak, I know you are trying your best, to be a father when you least expected it. To be a leader of a group that struggles to bond, and I admire you for that. To survive a fall from grace and to return to fight. Your practicality, your pragmatism are strengths."
(How to provide an alternative perspective for him, would it help him to understand? Is there any point?)
"Ask Cho to explain to you what happened to Dane. Ask her what it would have felt like."
(Hmm, maybe too much emphasis on that, pull back....)
"Just a suggestion." She takes a deep breath and empties her glass.
"And maybe it is for the best anyway. Who wants an addict for their daughter's partner."
(Fuck, why did I say that, I need a fix.)
Lisana tops up his glass, and looks down at his hands as she does so. Every line and scar and vein on one side contrasting with glossy chrome on the other. The pragmatic veteran who had survived the first professional meeting with Cho - few could claim that.
(I wonder how like Reina I really am. .... Reeva said I was so like her... that's worrying. Don't think it, you'll say something)


<Zak>

Zak becomes very serious, and sighs once more, this isn't where he wanted this conversation to go, but as he said trust is earned. His voice takes on an intense almost desperate tone;

"I imagine it would have been like someone violating the very core of your being. Beyond torture, because even there there's just you and the pain inside, there are techiques to let pain wash over you, to survive the pain."

"Those wouldn't help here, you'd be forced to realise that even in your head, in your very soul, you're not safe from someone being able to twist and examine your very consciousness against your will."

"The whole idea is abhorrent. The fact that the Force can do that is itself scary. The likelihood that Hethan has had that done to her any number of times is equally despicable."

"The fact that my daughter did that to a friend just to find out about her fucking mother makes it all the more ridiculous."

"If there was ever a lesson to learn about obsession this is it."

He looks back to Lisana;

"But how does that help anyone? What can be done? What can we do beyond getting Reeva training?"

"You were in a relationship with Reeva, from what I've been told in love, do you believe that she'd do such a thing intentionally?"

"What would you have me do Lisana?"


<Lisana>

(Oh god, he does understand. I was wrong …..)

Lisana, standing within a metre of Zak, sways slightly on her feet and the plate she is holding with one hand nearly slips from her grasp. She seems to be seeing images far removed from here, and Zak, with a honed instinct of a military leader, recognises in the body of the tall slender female in front of him traits he saw in troops after repeated and unprecedented battlefield trauma. Finally Lisana found words:

“That she even contemplated doing it is appalling. We all have choices about how we behave, and she made some poor ones that day. She has experience of assault herself. Yet she persisted with Dane because she was obsessed with finding her mother – and she still is. How do I know what she might still do to find Reina? Can you ask her that? Can you ask Cho whether Reeva can maintain control over these ‘powers’ and her maternal obsession?”

(And could I trust those answers, even if I had them? Why can’t I just let go?)


<Zak>

Zak reaches out to steady Lisana; A gentle but firm hand on her arm;

"Lisana... Don't you see? I'm frightened it's worse than that... I don't think she remotely understood what she was doing, there was no contemplation, there was no malice solely intent."

A haunted expression passes across his face;

"She just wanted to know, that was apparently enough. All that drove her was her obsession. The realization of what she'd done only came later."

Zak considers Lisana's question;

"I can certainly ask her. But you tell me... How reliable are the answers of a teenageer? I don't doubt she can control these things with training, but rather will she."


<Lisana>

Lisana's dawning realisation and growing alarm waft across the room.

(Those pheros, traitors always).

She realised with surprise that the growing need for medicinal support had ebbed into the background, and she poured herself another glass of fizzy tears as a prop.

“I appreciate your openness, And, …yes, I do trust you Zak. You are one of the most sincere people I have met in this miserable world.” Her slim hand lifts slowly, shaking slightly, and she ticked off her thoughts on her fingers.

"So ...she is training in Force use, to become more effective, and also more deadly. But the question is can she be trained to use and control herself, and does she wish to? I never knew what being a teenager was like, because...well, you know. But your words have morphed my thinking. I agree, on reflection, I am not sure I would believe her answers.” The hand swept aside in dismissal and her eyes cast downwards.

(So where does this leave us, Zak? You are worried about your daughter and the team, Reeva is uncontrolled and obsessive, and Cho is struggling on so many levels).

The meal stays warming in the hot cabinet, forgotten, as the trust and tension tips in the balance.

Raising her head again, Lisana looked into Zak’s eyes.

“In the spirit of openness and trust, I will share something with you. But please Zak, don’t share this with anyone else.”

(Why do I keep trusting people when they just fuck me over? I never learn.)

“I still care for…love… Reeva, and was looking for some hint, some hope from her - or you – that she would be able to learn, to control her …‘powers’, “ Lisana almost hisses the word, “and that we might move forward together. I was willing to put my faith in her. But now, I realise that my idealism was talking. Once an abuser….” She is sad and silent for a moment, then relaxes slightly, a long awaited decision taken. Then she looks curiously at him, as she refills his glass.

“What was her mother like, Zak?”


<Zak>

Looking at his untouched glass and seeing Lisana on her third - or was it forth? - he takes a fairly unenthusiastic sip, although what he tastes is good.

Lisana with her experience at reading people sees some surprise and skepticism in his face when she says she trusts him;

"Thank you Lisana... That means a lot. I hope I can live up to it."

Zak nods; "It's not that I'm saying I think that she'd intentionally lie... it's more that teenagers, human ones certainly, aren't always entirely reliable. The Jedi training should help with impulse control, at least that's what I've been led to believe."

Frowning he adds; "Either way, it's better having someone who has to actively choose to do something bad rather than by mistake."

He gives Lisana a direct look; "Assuming you can accept that claim."

"I guess the Jedi had their reasons for wanting to train Force users young. I'm sure it's too simplistic, but at the moment I feel like we've a loose cannon on our hands."

Zak listens to Lisana's touching confession, and considers what she's said;

"Thank you for trusting me. I'm glad that you both found someone that you could feel that way for. I know how important that is, and how painful it becomes when it goes wrong."

without even thinking he pauses for another sip; "And I do understand what you're saying about abusers. There usually is a pattern."

Zak seeks Lisana's gaze; she can see concern in his eyes; "One thing I will say.. with your experience and abilities... I'd find it hard to conceive of you falling for someone who is truly either a user or abuser."

His voice softens; "If you really fell for her, then that makes it all the more likely that her contrition is real. Not that that is an excuse. And if it is, losing you over it must make it hurt all the more, especially if she loves you and knows your history."

A dark cloud crossed Zak's face; "Reina? Hmph. She was beautiful, competent, insightful and dangerous. When I first met her she was working for the intelligence services. I fell for her hook line and sinker."

"But that was a long time ago. I'm no longer sure if I knew the real her or not. I don't know what happened. I've spent so much time over analysing it, replaying things. Trying to understand."

"Given Reeva's gifts and some other things I wouldn't be at all surprised if she was a Force user herself."

He gives Lisana a quizzical look; "Why?"


<Lisana>

Lisana looks quizzically back at him.

“Surely you had wondered where her ‘gift’ comes from? And it seems likely that Reeva already has some aspects of her mother in her, genetic or acquired over the 16 years she was with Reina. And it is likely that she will become more like her mother as she matures.” Lisana arches a beautiful eyebrow sidelong at Zak. ”’Beautiful, competent, insightful and dangerous’ you say. Well she is certainly insightful now. She said to me early in our relationship that I am very like her mother.”

Lisana’s hand, steadier now, adjusts a strand of hair away from her cheek. “Zak, am I like Reina?”


<Zak>

Zak apes studying Lisana, a wry humour in his eyes;

"Beautiful?... check. Competent?... check. Insightful?... certainly. Dangerous? Oh yes." He smiles; "Sorry, I'm pretty sure that you weren't really fishing for compliments." Or were you?

More seriously he adds; "Reina could move from professional to seductress in a heartbeat, she was passionate, independent and stubborn. She had strong options and beliefs."

"Some of those things I see in you." He pauses; "She had a certain... presence... which you also possess in spades."

"So yeah, in some ways you are like Reina."


<Lisana>

(Seriously! You think I need compliments....?)
Her tone has changed, it is enveloping, calm and terrible.
"If I wish to hold a room in my hands, I have them. If I want all eyes on me in a club, they watch me. I can delight, manipulate, influence, and cause despair. If that is like Reina, then I am like her."
Lisana leans back, refilling her glass, and scans Zak. She suddenly seems smaller, more vulnerable.
"I am enjoying this ride, but it frightens me more than I can say, on many levels. And if I succeed in what I am attempting, then I could fulfil most of Reeva's insight…"
(Am I going too far? Too trusting again? Of course I am .....)
With an effort to regain a grasp of the present, Lisana uncurls from her stance.
"So we are both frightened and so is Cho. Reeva needs strong guidance. And we have children on board who need help. And Hethan, who and what the fuck is she exactly? And we have a world of pursuit and pain coming our way, and I don’t need the bloody Force to tell me that!" The last sentence was level, without rancour, but left Zak of no doubt of her opinion. "Our crew is pulling every way, with different needs." As he leaned on the counter, brooding and yet so present, she yielded, for Cho's sake.

"What would you have me do, Zak?"


<Zak>

Zak smiles at Lisana's oration, raising his hand in supplication, unsure his attempt at lightening the mood was appreciated; "I don't doubt it. it's not just the Jedi that can do mind tricks... Seriously no offense, I just wasn't sure where you were going with that."

"Could Reina do the same? Perhaps, but her skills were..." Zak pauses; "are more intimate, less... extrovert if that makes any sense." He pauses again; "At least from what I saw."

He gives Lisana a contemplative glance; "I imagine you'd make a similarly effective agent if you chose, and I mean that as a compliment."

Once more Zak takes the time to consider Lisana's comment studying her; Beautiful, exotic, independent and... complicated. Should I go there?

"I can certainly relate to the thrill of danger. It can be addictive. Being like Reina doesn't mean that's all Reeva sees in you, you're selling yourself short if that's what you think."; Zak can't help but wince at his word choice;

"If you and Reeva care for each other I'm happy for you both. And from what I saw that seemed to be the case, until Reeva did the unthinkable."

with sincerity plain on his face; "We all have our demons and coping mechanisms. I'm not going to judge you for yours. The trick is to remain functional."

He raises his glass; "This led me astray."

He sighs; "We should all be frightened. Of what happened and of what's coming. And no argument with Reeva. The children and Hethan need somewhere safe to hide, that's likely not with us - I'm pretty sure we've got a target painted on our backs. How large a target isn't clear as yet."

"If Hethan has been... abused by a Force user, maybe I should cut her some slack... but she seems like a bit of a bitch."

"I'm not entirely sure I want her whispering in Reeva's ear unsupervised. That's likely to create more problems. I was hoping she might be able to help us with Reeva but I'm not so sure."

An honest amusement hits Zak lips at Lisana's use of his own phrase; "Touché."

Zak meets Lisana's gaze;

"I would never ask you to compromise yourself, Lisana. But I could use your help, your insights and skills to pull this crew together in whatever way we can."

"If we want a chance to get through this and come out the other side we have to pull together. We can't afford to dither, we have to be decisive."

"And I'd also appreciate any help you can give with Reeva, because I believe that she still cares deeply for you and will listen to you."

"But I'll understand if you can't do that. Reeva did something that is difficult to excuse and resonates with red lines that you have."


<Lisana>

(Well that’s annoying, he did hear the addict remark. Ok, walk into it Lisana, why not….)

“I can try to help you to regroup the crew, and I will. And if I think you have a strong plan for our next steps, I will support you. We all need your vision and skills, and those come naturally to you, you just need to own this.” She again stares at him, curious and yet unwilling to speak.

(Would it help him to share this? I think it’s go for broke….).

“You seem …stronger today than I have seen you for a long time. More confident, no.. not confident, purposeful. And calmer.” Lisana seems to be about to speak further then stops. And grimaces.

She carefully places her glass on the table between them, and tilts her head, that mischievous twist of her lips growing.

“This..” she gestures fondly to the contents of the glass, “I use this to release the tension, to numb the pain, to mark another day I have survived and to just be. Other helping hands I use– well, I need to stay awake to treat rescued patients in an overflowing med bay, to settle frightened children all night, feed the crew, treat patients again….” her hand opens, makes a subconscious gesture to her arm “…. I need to feel happy once in while, and getting sleep is helpful. Don’t think I don’t know where this behaviour is going, and it needs to be dealt with. And more urgently than ever now after today… but that’s another story.”

(This was unwise, I’m getting alarmed even considering it, I’m going to need help..)

With a genuine curiosity, Lisana asks: “Why did you drink, Zak?”


<Zak>

Zak chuckles; "I'd be happy with any plan that we can all commit too, whether it's mine or not. I can't lead the crew if they don't want to be led, regardless of whether that's about me, the plan or some moral quandary."

Zak purses his lip in consideration, and once more sighs; "Have you had any of those watershed moments in your life, when things have an awful clarity? Events that touch your core, your soul?"

"I've had a number of them in a short time. Reeva has helped me see my past and I've regained some certainty that I never was the monster I feared. And I get the irony of that given our earlier topic."

"Additionally, what Cho's has shown me has opened my eyes to new possibilities. Again, there is a huge difference between having knowledge and 'knowing' something."

His focus drifts inwards; "I had never really given the Force or spirituality much thought, but when I wield a lightsaber I cannot deny the spiritual component. It's there in spades."

A laugh escapes him; "Plus I've always been good under pressure. I feel more whole than I have in a long long time."

He listens quietly to Lisana and nods at a number of her words; "At my lowest, I sought drink to escape into an abyss to hide from my feelings, doubts, from life. At one point it was all I had left."

"And in part to punish myself. But I've known others, in service, who became hooked on combat meds so I have some understanding of that. If you need help or support know that I'll happily give it."


<Lisana>

(Do you realise what that might mean, I wonder. This detox …. Useful that you are used to trauma on the field.. yes, perhaps you could…)

“It’s good to hear that you are in a better place Zak, for you and for Cho and Reeva. And for the crew. I was wondering if the change I saw was around your time with Cho this morning.” Lisana watches him carefully, seeking his expressions. She moves on.

“Yes, we do need to begin working with everyone to discuss where we go from here. Can we chat about this after dinner, I’ll be free after I’ve checked on the young ones, and done my med-bay stuff?”

Lisana leans up against the counter, glad of the cool surface and support. The tiredness had been creeping up and suddenly impacts her. She hopes Zak will not notice, and reaches for the glass, but stops herself midway across the table, reluctantly withdrawing her hand.

“You know I will need help, and it is good of you to offer. I need to think through how I achieve this, so that I am clean in time before …. before the next step.”

Her hands are shaking again, as she lays out the food from the hot cabinet.

(Do I even dare ask what I can do to help with Reeva? Later, I can deal with that later. I’m not sure I can even stay on my feet right now.)

Lisana lights a cigarette and holds it under the smoke detector in the now traditional way of summoning everyone to dinner.

[wrap here?]

Bigby
New Face
Posts: 78
Joined: 01 Nov 2011, 21:19

Session 24.6 - Urrly & Killric - Ghost in the Shell

Post by Bigby »

Urrly helps Killric come out of his shell
Spoiler
Killric

Urrly enters Killric's room on the Blue Nexu. For a moment he cannot find him. As his eyes adjust to the darkness, he notices a pile of clothes in the corner move. Killric was asleep on the floor, although now he is fully awake but pretending.

After a moment, Killric says, "I'm sorry. Please don't...". He was about to say, "hurt me", but stops himself and says instead, "..worry/ I can't seem to get to sleep on the bed. Sorry.". Even with his former squad mate, Killric always apologises. It's engrained.



Urrly

Black-eyed and brooding, Urrly shuffles along the corridor of the Blue Nexu, unable to lope in his natural gait. Bulkheads are too low.

He wears his orange catch vest and vocoder mask as always.

Urrly killed a lot of Imps back on the prison ship. Navy Troopers, Purge Troopers. Either it wasn't enough, or he just doesn't like retreating from battle.

He's fine with the principle 'Live to fight another day' in principle. In practice, he worries he didn't give his 110%. Could he have tried harder; found some more to kill?

As he walks, Urrly tries to imagine what the other Imps felt when they found their razed comrades. They probably felt nothing, couldn't give a scrag, but Urrly hopes one or two lost someone they cared about. Maybe another Navy Trooper arrives on the scene to see their bunk-mate shot in the face, brains just a sooty stain on the wall. It might be his naive nature but Urrly hopes there are some Imps really hurting inside tonight.

And then Killric's speaking from under the bed and Urrly remembers where he is.

What the hell is going on with you, Killric? He asks in Gigorran. Barks and grunts, rendered by the transliterator as warm, concerned:

<<Killric, are you alright?>>



Killric

Killric sleeps fitfully, twitching with the occasional whimper escaping his lips. To Killric's traumatised senses Urrly's approach feels like a series of miniature earthquakes reverberating through the ship's flooring. It was an old trick he had learnt on M226. One of the many reasons he slept on the floor. That and the beds here were too damned comfortable.

His eyes startle open, his heart and mind racing. What does he want? How can I please him? A wave of shame passes through Killric and he curls tighter into his foetal position. Pass me by. Pass me by. Pass me by. But he doesn't. The door opens. Killric pretends to be sleep. It never works. But it was worth a try. Anything to avoid this moment. The dull light of the room prevents Urrly from seeing much more than a pile of darkness in the corner. Killric has obviously turned down the lights. But couldn't quite turn them off entirely. Either that or the electrical systems in the Blue Nexu are still not working as they should. Urrly's kind of ship. It's obvious that Killric is awake.

<<Killric, are you alright?>>

The simple words cause a spike in anxiety. The words to express his answer simply don't exist.

He speaks through dried and cracked lips. Water was only a few steps down the corridor and yet Killric had not dared take a step out of his room. He'd even relieved himself in the corner rather than risk leaving the room without permission. He didn't even notice the smell anymore. Eventually realising the game was up he "comes awake" slowly, stirring theatrically and sitting up. He groans as his old tortured bones, joints, and muscles protest at being moved. "I'm fine Urrly. Really. A little banged up that's all.". His voice sounds soft, a tremor undermines his words. It is hard to imagine this man leading a squad of men into battle, assurity and authority dripping from each clearly barked command and pre-battle briefing.

He pauses for a moment, then adds cautiously, "Would it be ok if I had some water please? I've not had anything to drink since getting my wounds fixed up in the medical bay.". He judges Urrly's every reaction, desperately trying to read his body language, and then quickly adds, "I can wait though - something I am good at these days.".

The timidity horrifies Urrly. Killric is a shell of the man he once was. Urrly was not a brain mechanic. How should he approach him? Goad a spark with anger? Console him with a comradely arm around his shoulder? Get him out and about, introduce him to the crew? Share an old war story? Grab a couple of drinks? This was not something Urrly could shoot his way out of. Well, maybe he could. Maybe he should simply put Killric out of his misery?



Urrly

Urrly stares at Killric, trying to see the man he is now, not who he was before Lansend.

They say that Rebel soldiers typically fight, not for the cause but for their brothers-in-arms. Urrly never joined the Rebel Alliance. He fights to kill Imperials and he kills Imperials for the evils they've committed. Their hyper-investment in slavery, its consequences for Gigor. He's heard some moofmilkers from Corewards talk about how the Empire is impinging their freedoms. Tell that to generations of fringers who have been born into slavery, whole families now separated and sold cheap to sate the Empire's industrial appetite.

Urrly isn't a Rebel, he's an insurgent. He has no affiliation; a basterd in an inglorious war.

The Gigorran looks at Killric and sees a crime. Killric is not weak. He didn't make some terrible mistake at Lansend. He was simply unlucky, the Force had not been with him. The Imperials are to blame.

Killric is still Killric but he's now victim not warrior.

<<Do not worry, Ricky. I will fetch you water.>> Says Urrly via vocoder.

Then he grabs Killric and squeezes him in a deep, furry hug.

The Gigorran's vocoder speaks warmly, reassuring: <<We're going to kill them all.>>



Killric

Killric tenses as Urrly throws his arms around him in his blanket like bear hug. For a moment he struggles against the restraint, his mind screaming that he is trapped, that this will lead to endless hours of pain. But, apart from the slightly musky odour of Urrly's fur, it does not.

Killric collapses into Urrly's embrace, uncontrollable sobbing welling up deep from within. A bottle unstoppered after years of being laid deep down. After a long moment, Killric says softly, "I don't know if I have the strength Urrly. I just don't know anymore. Not yet. Maybe in the future.".

After a while Killric pulls back and disentangles himself from Urrly's embrace. It's not embarrassment, he is far too gone down a different road to care about such things. He wipes away his tears, staring at the simple salty drops on his hands with amazement. He had long thought he had cried his last tear, the well of his soul dried up by the countless hours of fruitless crying in pain.

Whether it is deflection from his own troubles or a small step to normality, Killric asks, "What about you Urrly? You going to try and find the Rebellion?".



Urrly

The transliterator circuit in Urrly's vocoder mask is a Consolidated Learning Systems model, designed for trade and diplomacy. It might work seamlessly with a trader or diplomat but struggles to cope with a Gigoran freedom fighter.

At least it's well optimised for moments like this. Fellowship, reassurance, compassion are what it's good at.

<<Ricky, you have given enough to the war. Others will carry the fight onwards.>> Urrly says, sounding cheerfully optimistic.

Will Urrly seek out the Rebel Alliance? If only they had a fierce, uncompromising leader, someone like Nightswan or Saw Gerrera. Politicos and generals calling for the return of the Republic do not inspire Urrly. The good old days weren't good for Gigor.

But the Rebellion had won a stellar victory at the Battle of Yavin. They destroyed the Death Star and it must have had a lot of Imps on board. So someone in the Rebellion is doing something right.

<<There is a new hope in the Rebellion.>> Urrly says, standing and offering his hand to Killric, <<Let's go find a drink together...>>

The Falleen lady always has a colourful assortment of thirst-quenching drinks in her saloon and Urrly does like how she smells.

<<A walk will help your joints heal. And I will tell you about the Battle of Yavin.>>



Killric
Killric tries an uncomfortable smile on for size at the thought of a drink. It's a little nervous, but it seems to help. Killric follows Urrly as he leaves the room, groaning as his legs, especially the knees protest at the unexpected need to work for a living. Urrly lends him a supporting arm and they slowly leave his room. Killric tries to crack some humour to match Urrly's irrepressible spirit, "Alright. Maybe a drink is what I need. Take it slow and easy, I have the knees of a 60 year old now.".

Killric looks confused for a moment and then askes, "The Battle of Yavin? Is that something you were involved in...?"

[Killric and Urrly exeunt]
Last edited by nemarsde on 15 Apr 2021, 20:18, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: Here's how I'd format it using a simple asterism, no horizontal rule, no colour
rossi720
New Face
Posts: 21
Joined: 22 Jul 2007, 12:23

Session 24.7 - Cho & Lisana & Hethan - Safeguarding

Post by rossi720 »

Cho & Lisana go to have a friendly chat with Hethan about the kids.
[Timing TBD, presumed to be the afternoon after 24.4 and Lisana & Dane's lunchtime chat.]
Spoiler

<Precis>

Hethan begins to surface from a deep sleep, what might feel like the first true rest she's had in weeks, months - does she even know how long it's been?

Her head's clearer now, her blood now clear of toxins, as the medical droid burbles to itself nearby, looking at the scanner readouts on its rounds. Where is she? A medical bay, obviously enough. Not an Imperial one, also obvious enough. Small, no security in evidence, fleeting recollections of coming round amid a sea of strange faces, one oddly familiar - Reina? No, her daughter. They'd found her. She was out.

There are others in the bay, a handful of injured men and women. Asleep, sedated, non-responsive. Hethan can't easily see what condition they're in, but the medical droid burbles on about their stability in a satisfied drone as it moves through its checks.

A door hisses open, stopping with a faint oily clunk. The sound's a familiar one by now, as is the figure entering, though Hethan might not be able to place exactly why in the fog of her recent memories. Tall, slender, strikingly beautiful, the Falleen woman surveys the med-bay with a practiced glance, taking in the whole of her domain in one look.


<Lisana>

Lisana eyes scan the medbay occupants and is relieved that everyone appears to be alive, always positive! The medbot ceases its rounds, and arrives at her side, to present a report on screen with a happy series of warbles. The report confirms the patients continued to improve, and Lisana then turns her attention to Hethan in a bed on far side, as she realises that she is now fully awake. Lisana smiles warmly and reassuringly, as she steps forward. Her patient’s face is familiar from the prison ship, her dusky skin and long wavy hair at odds with Lisana’s initial expectations.

“Hello, Ms Romund. How are you feeling?” Lisana runs a few checks, and nods approvingly. “Just to introduce myself, I’m Lisana and I’m your doctor for the day! May I sit down?”


<Hethan>

Hethan stirs, trying to shake off the lethargic groggy feeling from the last of the drugs in her system. Actually maybe it was the feeling of coming round from a deep and truly restful sleep for the first time in a while. She shook her head and sat up a little. Her memory was so damned fuzzy.

She looks up at Lisana. Hethan would be considered beautiful in any normal room. But Lisana takes your breath away. He speaks, her voice raspy and dry, "I'm feeling... rested but still a little fuzzy in the head. Thank you Lisana."

Getting her bearings, she looks around. The room is filled with strange men and woman. And there are no children. Suddenly the monitors start flashing warnings. Her heart rate spikes, adrenaline spiking into her system.

With new energy she sits up, looks around frantically and starts to try and get up. Panic cuts through her voice, "Where are the children?".


<Lisana>

Lisana leans forward, placing a hand on Hethan’s forearm reassuringly.

(Well, she seems genuinely worried, but is this a concern as a mentor, or because she has lost a valuable set of assets?)

“They are safe, and with us. Just resting. We have made sure of that.” She checks the monitors, noting the readings keep fluctuating. She looks significantly at Hethan. “I promise you, I am determined that they will be safe.”

(Convincing and completely true. Just not yet sure whether they will be safer with or without you)

Cho wanders in, on the pretext of collecting some dressings for her bruises, and nods at Lisana. Lisana smiles and stands.

“Ms Romund, may I introduce you to Cho, one of our group, who was key in securing their -and your - release?”


<Hethan>

At Lisana's comforting words, Hethan reaches up and engulfs her in a hug, "Thank you.". There is no holding back or awkwardness caused by Hethan not knowing Lisana. It is warm, heartfelt and maybe a little startling for someone not expecting it.

She smiles brightly at Lisana, leaning back and looks relaxed once again. He adds, "I've never really thought much about children, either of my own or others. But these children needed me so badly. I am not sure how it happened, but I couldn't imagine life without them now.".

As Cho enters the room and is introduced by Lisana, Hethan smiles and says, "Hello.".


<Cho>

Entering med-bay with a purposeful stride, Cho glides to a stop as Lisana calls her over, breaking into a cautious but warm smile as she sees Hethan's awake.

She walks over, leaning slightly on the opposite side of the bed to Lisana, seeming at ease. Cho's long, curly hair hangs loose about her shoulders; between it and her long-sleeved top there's little obvious sign of her injuries, though she's breathing a little shallowly.

She had, of course, caught most of their conversation as entered, but resists the urge to cast a concerned glance at Lisana; they'll be hearing the same alarm bells ring, no doubt.

So open with near-strangers today? Where's her caution?

"Hey." She smiles brightly back at Hethan, arriving just as she's talking so warmly about the children. "They must be charmers, Lisana has quickly warmed to them herself."

She pauses, looking thoughtful, her tone considerate as she continues, knowing it might be a slightly tricky subject.

"How did you get to know them?"


<Hethan>

Hethan seems oblivious to the cautious undertones. She smiles at Cho, seemingly happy to have a normal conversation, "I don't think they knew what to do with them. They seemed to be collecting the children for a purpose, but didn't do anything with them while I was there. They seemed to be waiting for something, and not very patiently. It isn't like they could put them into storage or anything.". She smiles at the ludicrous nature of the thought, obviously ignorant of both Han Solo's incarceration in carbonite and for that matter Zak's.

She continues, tilting her head slightly as she recalls the memories, her voice is soft, pleasant and has a lilt that makes her surprisingly easy and delightful to listen to, "So I think they kind of gave them to me to look after in the absence of anything better. I certainly wasn't ready or equipped to deal with a gaggle of scared and traumatised force-sensitive children! But I was better than the alternatives available.".

She pauses for a moment, a small frown creasing her face. Maybe it is a frown of concentration as she collects her thoughts. Maybe she is considering whether it was a good idea to mention the force sensitive nature of the children to complete strangers. Her face lacks any worry lines and the frown does not suit her. It is gone as quickly as it came, forgotten in an instant, whatever thoughts resolved in her own mind.

She continues, "They seemed to take to me. It was hard for them under less than ideal conditions. They are all amazing really. I can't believe how well they recovered. Some of them saw their own parents being killed in front of them by those Imperial monsters.". Her voice raises in intensity betraying real animosity, not quite hatred, but it's close.

She sighs, "I'm an academic at heart. My passion is Jedi history. I'm fairly useless at anything else.", she smiles at her own inadequacies, "So I started to teach them. At first it was just Jedi history, but it's a dry subject at the best of times - at least they way I tell it. I soon realised they needed a broader, more interesting and useful, education. Reading, writing, maths, science and pastoral guidance. That type of thing. I think the routine and focus was what they needed. It certainly helped me get through it all.".

She looks up at Cho, a small expression of friendly concern written across her face, "Are you alright? You seem unsettled somehow?". She seems uncertain and hesitant in her assessment, as if unsure what she really knows or thinks might be the matter.


<Cho>

Cho listens intently as Hethan talks about the children, her teaching of them, her smile seeming marginally more fixed as time goes on. What did they do to her in there?

She's caught off guard by Hethan's concerned inquiry, at least the timing of it, and almost laughs, a slightly sardonic grin reclining on her face for a moment.

"I got myself hurt. But I think I'm in the right place." She smiles genuinely across at Lisana as she says it, gesturing round the med-bay as she looks back to Hethan.

"We're a little concerned the Empire will keep looking for them. Do you know how they found and collected the children?"


<Hethan>

Hethan doesn't seem entirely satisfied with Cho's answer, but shrugs it off as she considers the question for a moment.

A look of guilt flashes across her face and she looks down at her lap. Her hands unconciously picking at a ragged nail.

"It's my fault really. As I have travelled the galaxy looking for lost Jedi artefacts and knowledge, I've come across many force sensitive beings. It's not a power, or at least that's what I have been told. More of an knack really. I just keep seeming to bump into force users.". She looks up at Cho, "Like you and the younger one.".

She looks back down at her hands, and takes a deep breath and almost rushes out the last part, "And... I am terrible with names so I wrote them down in my notebook.". Her cheeks burn bright red with shame and guilt. She refuses to look up.


<Lisana>

Lisana blinks, not quite believing what she's just been told.

(You fucking idiot. Breathe.......Calm and charm Lisana.)

And with a smile, Lisana lays a hand gently on Hethan's forearm.

"Ms Romund, you are among friends. It's ok. The book, with the names, do you know where it is? And can they find them without this book?"


<Hethan>

Hethan seems obvilious to the incredulous undertones beginning to dominate the room.

Hethan looks up, guilt replaced with faint hurt, "Hethan please. Nobody, especially friends, call me Ms Romund.".

Her face continues to telegraph exactly what she is thinking. It screws up a little as she thinks about the question, "As far as I know it is with the rest of my stuff on M226.".

She looks hopeful for a moment, "Unless you picked it up on your way out?".


<Lisana>

With a resigned glance at Cho, Lisana sits back beside the bed. She studies Hethan’s face and body language again, wondering how broken she really is. Avoiding the question, she leans forward in what she hopes is an approachable and sharing way, and asks:

“So, Hethan, obviously we’re all agreed that we wish to keep the children safe. To do that, we need to understand more about how they can be traced. How can you help us with that please?”


<Hethan>

Hethan looks confused, "Traced? What do you mean? I don't think they had trackers installed.".. She unconsciously looks over her own arms, as if a tracker would be plainly visible to her untrained eyes.

There follows some oh-so-gentle coaxing to get Hethan to realise Lisana had meant tracking using the Force.

Hethan's eyes light up in understanding and her voice sparks with enthusiasm. She is talking about a subject she has a true passion for, although in this case of obliquely, "Well it is of course possible. I can cite many examples from the past history of the Jedi. However it is not at all reliable. If it was all the force users throughout the galaxy would have been hunted down and eliminated by the Empire."

"In fact, ", she says in a 66hushed tone, "It is said that even Lord Vader could not find the Jedi Grand Master Yoda or his old master Obiwan Kenobi."

Her expression turns sad for a moment, "Although no one knows if they still live. It's so sad to see the Jedi fade into the history books."


<Cho>

Cho doesn't have to feign her interest as she listens to Hethan talk about the capabilities of the Jedi, and those who had hunted them. It's a reassuring notion that even the fabled Lord Vader can't find everyone, having felt the cold and dreadful power rolling off him in Vemmla's palace - but the universe is a cold and cruel place, and as Hethan says, his targets might not even be alive to be found.

The Jedi had their time. It's oddly uncomfortable seeing their loss mourned by Hethan - given the mess of Cho's own feelings on the subject - but she gives little outward sign, beyond a wish to move on from talking about them.

"You've got a good eye for those of us open to the Force. Do you know how many of 'them' are?"

Cho is quite sure there were no others like Gak'Fedaw aboard the prison ship at the time, or things would've gotten even worse. If others had visited Hethan, though...

Focusing on her meetings with Gak and his like alone could prove painful, though, so Cho quickly follows with another apparently-spontaneous thought.

"Oh, and do you know how we could make it harder to find the children in such ways?"


<Hethan>

Hethan looks at Cho's face, and sighs, "I don't know. I can only sense those I see. It is not always perfect, most of the time it works, but some of the time it does not. On M226, I only ever saw Gak'Fedaw, and he was more than enough for a single life-time.". Sadness dominates her expression. Although it is not clear who she is sad for. Herself. Gak. Cho. The Universe. For that moment her sadness fills the room.

As Cho hastily moves on and asks how to conceal the children, Hethan's sadness is replaced by thoughtfulness. She cocks her head a few times at different angles, as if rolling ideas around in her head, guiding them through her maze to the end. "There are a few options. We could hide them in a place strong in the force - I have more than a few suggestions there.", she smiles fondly at warm memories.

"Although... they were all in my notebook. So they may not be useful.", her face falls again in more than sadness. Almost despair. The decades of lost work weigh heavily on her thoughts as she continues less enthusiastically and more because she has to finish, "Planets with a lot of natural life, untainted by civilisation, would also be strong in the force.".

She continues, "Realistically, constantly moving through the galaxy would probably suffice as well. It doesn't matter if you can track something if it doesn't stop long enough for you to catch it."

"I am feeling a little tired.", although it is clear it is more weariness that now weighs her down than the need for sleep, "Would it be possible to see the children before I get some rest?".


<Lisana>

Glancing across at Cho, Lisana’s eyebrow begins to travel upwards. While composing herself carefully, perhaps there are small outward signs of her reluctance, and Lisana is within an ewok’s hair of avoiding Hethan’s request.

“I’m sure we can arrange that, but they may well be resting too at the moment.” She checks the medscanner. “I think you should get some rest afterwards though. If I can, I will bring some of them to you.” Lisana was not about to show Hethan their location on the ship.

Lisana catches Cho’s gaze, seeking her agreement to stay with Hethan, while some children are collected.


<Cho>


Cho finds herself echoing Hethan's weariness as she reflects on what they've learnt of her so far. Her expressions remain credibly compassionate and interested, but she's grateful that Hethan can't really sense what she's actually feeling.

Beautiful, likeable, so utterly open to others and to the Force itself, it's no surprise that Hethan has won so many friends across the galaxy, seen such beauty in it. Cho can't help but like her too, even as she's reflecting bitterly on what Hethan's travels and notes have ultimately cost.

You might be the greatest agent the Empire never had to recruit. The Force's cruelest joke yet.

Her disappointment and pity stir the Force around her, subtle currents mirroring Hethan's own weary sadness. So much damage caused, to so many people who'd trusted her, just because Hethan had trusted so completely to the Force, had never stopped to question what her actions might cost.

Cho nods her acknowledgement of Lisana's unspoken question; it won't cost them anything to show a little kindness, will reassure the children as well as Hethan. Harder conversations about separating them can wait until Reeva gets what she needs from her.

I can at least try to keep her spirits up, help Reeva get some use out of this whole sorry mess.

After watching Lisana make her exit for the moment, Cho looks over at Hethan. There's an almost wistful smile on her lips as she asks a question she hopes Hethan will actually enjoy, passing the time before the children arrive.

"Did you ever meet any actual Jedi? I think the Order would've been as fascinated by you as you were by them."


<Hethan>

Hethan seems to relax a little knowing that the children are on their way to see her. She seems unfazed by being asked to remain behind. Almost certainly presuming it is for her own good. It would never occur to her that there was an ulterior motive.

She seems happier as she replies, almost wistfully, "I did. My family lived on Coruscant. My father worked in the Jedi temple as an archivist. I spent most of my time under his feet, 'helping'".

He continues a little matter of factly, recounting the tale more as a lesson than a memory or story, "I was tested of course, but I didn't score very highly. It was only after the temple fell that I found I had a talent for sensing force users. Maybe it was there all the time. But it made no difference as I knew who was a force user and who was not anyway. Maybe it came after. I don't know.".

She pauses for a moment, "I'm not much help or use to be honest.".

And then a tsunami of squeals, excitement and flailing arms floods into the room. Hethan looks up and over to the rising tide. A warm, sunlight smile lights up her face and she opens up her arms. They crash over Hethan, who "oofs" several times as they leap on her, various cries and squeals of, "Auntie Hethan, Auntie Hethan, Auntie Hethan!".

Hethan laughs, rich and free of concern or weariness. She wraps her arms around the children and gives them a collective hug, "It's so good to see you.". After a long time of hugs, tickles and more hugs, Hethan asks the lead child, "How are the others? Is everyone ok?".

rossi720
New Face
Posts: 21
Joined: 22 Jul 2007, 12:23

Session 24.8 - Dane & Lisana - The Golden Thread

Post by rossi720 »

Lisana brings Dane some lunch on the bridge.
[Timing post 24.4, pre 24.5]
Spoiler

<Lisana>

The medic bag brushes against the bridge doorway as Lisana slips in, carrying a tray. Dane is seated in his now usual pilot’s chair, working. Lisana smiles to see the back of his head, then stops.

The very vivid memory of that corridor. The noise of blaster fire. Her field of view pivoting to see Dane falling to floor. The taste of panic fresh in her mouth, she remembers running to him and the overpowering smell of burnt hair and flesh as she slid to floor beside him to help.

(Stop this – you’re no help to anyone if... concentrate...)

“Good afternoon.” She places the tray on the side, and moves forward. “You missed lunch my friend, I’ve brought you some. How are you feeling?”


<Dane>

Damned sprites. What was causing those fluctuations? It wasn't anything remotely dangerous, but it was unexplained, and that always worried him.

Oblivious to the view outside the cockpit window, of hyperspace flowing almost mesmerically past the ship, Dane watched the hyperdrive control readings flickering slightly as he adjusted the phase oscillator. Where's Hong when you need him?

Unconsciously, he grinned.

Never had to do this on the Fox; Hong would have jumped on this already. Good thing no sane engineer ever had to look at his fixes...would have driven them insane trying to work out why it worked, or how he came up with the insane patch.
The subtle hum of the hyperdrive faded further into the background as the hyperdrive controls stabilised.

That's better. Now the sensors.

He reached over towards the sensor controls at the copilot's console, and winced in pain as his wound started to stretch with the effort. He stopped and sat back down, still wincing. The sensors could wait.

He started to check another system for the electrical fluctuations that might be causing the sprites he was seeing in the system, when a familiar voice broke through his concentration.

"Hey," he said with a smile as he turned to face Lisana. He winced slightly from that effort. Must stop moving about quite so much!

He swivelled his whole body towards Lisana, keeping his trunk straight. His eyes moved from her face to the tray on the side console as the aroma reached him. A minor growl from his stomach reminded him that he was due a break from chasing trivial but annoying electrical issues.

"Mmm...smells great!"

His eyes took in the medical bag at her side as they returned to Lisana's face. For a moment, his face fell as there was a brief flashback to waking up in sickbay with Lisana's face hovering in view, before his eyes moved away from the medical bag.

A smile broke across his face as his eyes alighted on Lisana's face. The woman who always seemed to be patching him up, and keeping him going, body and soul.

"I'm doing good, thanks to you. Still some minor glitches, just like the Nexu, but definitely on the mend."

Everywhere he went, she was there to back him up. In a way, she reminded him of Tiernan. He hoped he could do better by her than he could by his sister.

"How are you doing?"


<Lisana>

Lisana smiled. “I’m ok thank you”

(And you are still in pain ... minor glitches? hmmm..)

“Grab the lunch while it’s still warm. I’m afraid that’s the last of the owl soup that you love, with some fresh wheat bread.” Lisana tilts her head with a wink. “I know the Nexu lacks something in speed and agility compared to the Fox, but the galley gadgets are awesome! And I can even turn around in the bar without causing havoc!”

She glances across to him, worriedly. “You weren’t at breakfast. I was concerned. You know - things are easier at the moment...with the crew... Zak seems more ummm confident, purposeful I suppose. And more at peace in himself. And he and Cho seem good together. And Cho and I have..., well, are getting on ok now. And Urrly’s good fun after a couple of Alderaan Ales.” She looks at him, appraisingly. “If it’s ok, once you’ve finished your lunch, can I check how your injuries are doing?”

Perhaps Dane notices her unusual chattiness, or maybe they have just travelled together for long enough, but Lisana seems nervous and preoccupied.


<Dane>

"Thanks," he said. "That'll be great."

He gestured at his side. "I keep forgetting about being at the wrong end of some unfriendly fire, until I move."

He gestured at the cockpit consoles. "There's a little weirdness going on, nothing I should be worried about, but it's just annoying not to get the full performance...what little of it there is. I thought I'd get an early start on it, before breakfast, but found a slight power fluctuation that I ended up chasing across most of the systems."

He sighed.

"You're right though; things seem to be fine..."

Which reminds me...need to talk to Zak.

He shook his head, then looked at her appraisingly. "...though perhaps not with you? What's up, Lisana?"


<Lisana>

At the mention of his discomfort, Lisana reaches for the medic bag, breezing past the personal question to her, as usual.

“Well, let’s just to do quick checks now, and then please report into medbay early this evening for a review.” She is all professional care as the scanner is produced and Dane is asked to move this way and that to check mobility.
Lisana steps back, and the flashback comes again.

(Come on girl, keep going, focus please)

“Ok, so...” as she regroups her thoughts. “Well, the serious wounds are healing, slowly. Minor ones are actually doing very well, you heal bruising fast. Just as well, given the number of times I’ve had to patch you up! Small medical joke there! ...Ok well, very small”

She steps back and considers options.

“When you visit this evening I can use ultra-S on the deep tissues, which should accelerate the healing rate. I will give you some exercises - gentle exercises - to help mobility. And try and rest, please.” She repacks her medic bag.

And in a small voice says “I thought I’d lost you.”


<Dane>

Dane obediently followed Lisana's instructions, smiling as she worked him through professionally.

"Yes, plenty of practice at healing! I like to think of it more as giving you plenty of practice at patching people up." He grinned.

"I'll try to rest a bit."

His smile faded as she changed the topic.

That was a close one, the closest so far.

He reached out, and gave her hand a gentle squeeze.

"Well, you didn't lose me, and I'm glad you were there."

He squeezed her hand again.

"I don't think anyone else could have saved me."

He looked into her face. "You always have my back, and you always save me from..."

Running into a firefight, jumping into danger, doing things that should get me killed, but my guardian angel always follows me into the fire.

"... from the consequences of my more impulsive actions."

I owe you so much.

"I don't think I have ever thanked you enough for that, and I don't know if I can ever repay my debt to you."

He held her hands gently. "Thank you," he said gently, "my guardian angel."


<Lisana>

Lisana gently lowers her head, and then looks up into Dane's face. She always struggles when people show her kindness, never knowing what to do with it. A legacy from her isolation on the streets.

A tear gathers in one corner of her eyes.

"We are each other's angel, my friend." She squeezes his hands in return, "We have known each other for so long now. Your friendship is very precious to me. And let's make sure we keep our wings in tact!"

Leaning forward, Lisana lowers her voice. "I've been worried about you recently, you've had so much to deal with. And that your family tragedy was involved, well....." Frowning, she squeezes his hands again.
"Sorry to ask this, but ...umm... how are you and Reeva are getting on these days?"


<Dane>

"Well, most of the family got out, and the rest are being rescued. We'll be OK, I'm sure."

He frowned as she asked about Reeva.

"I...think we're OK."

He looked away, staring into blank space, as unwanted memories returned with the thought.

"I've not spoken to her much, recently...still a lot to process there."

He shook his head to banish the memory of the incident.

"I don't believe she had ill intentions; more likely that she was like a child with a weapon that went off in my head."

He looked at her, trying to gauge what was behind that question.

"Why?"


<Lisana>

Lisana smiles sadly as Dane talks resiliently of his family. Loss after loss has sliced through his family life, and yet he moves on.

And then that pain - memories of that dreadful event loom despite her every effort. Of Dane's face, of her best friend, shocked, tortured and grey, and of Reeva, stunned at the impact of her actions. And the visceral agony of recalled trauma that Lisana could explain to no one, that caused her to emotionally withdraw. Her time with Dane in his cabin just after, just holding his hands, in silence, supporting the best ways she knew.

(Focus on the children, they need you)

"Umm, well. I would like to ask you a favour, but if you feel it's something you would find awkward, then please please tell me." Lisana looks down into her lap. "I was wondering if, after you'd visited medbay for treatment" arch of the eyebrow "and had some dinner" significant look "you would be able to look after the children for me overnight please? And I was going to ask Reeva to help as well, because there's quite a few of them!" Lisana bites her lip and stumbles to a stop. After a breath, gathering herself, she rushes on.

"It's just that I've not had much sleep since before the Haul breakout, and I'm starting to feel pretty unwell..." She looks up hopefully, even pleadingly at Dane, and the hand that adjusts her hair is shaking.


<Dane>

He watched her stumble through her request, initially with a little bemusement, then his face furrowed with concern as she started to lose her composure.

"Of course," he said quickly. "I would do anything to help you, and looking after the children would be the least I could do to help you. There wouldn't be any problem with doing it with Reeva, and I'm sure the reverse is true as well."

"You're worrying me, though. What's worrying you? Is there anything I can do to help you through it? Do you just need some 'me' time?"

He pulled her into a friendly embrace, and hugged her tightly to let her know he was there for her, before releasing her.

"I assume it's not just the pantry situation, now we have extra mouths to feed?" he said with an arched eyebrow, hoping to lighten her mood a little.


<Lisana>

Lisana smiles, despite her anxiety.
"Well, it's certainly been busy. Medbay is overflowing, the children are bit of a handful sometimes, and catering .. Well... All I can say is that it's a relief to have the bigger galley!"
She stands, gathering her medical bag and herself.
"Thanks for helping, I'm very grateful."

(Don't concern him, he's still recovering, he's had so much to deal with, but is that fair?)

Turning as if to leave, Lisana suddenly looks back, biting her lip.
"I'm kinda ok, but... Well... My err... helper is causing a side effect, and I just need to avoid using it for a bit. I will need some private time overnight, there might be some 'unpleasantness' for a while...y'know." Seeming to relax slightly, Lisana faces him. "And, it's ok, cos I will have help, as... well...Cho has some experience, so she kindly offered...".
Lisana's gestures are uneasy.
"I'm afraid Dane. You know and I know that we have a world of pain coming after us now. We all need to be as fit and ready for that as we can be." She steps forwards and hugs him back.
"I'm going to ask you another favour my friend. Would you be willing to approach Zak, and chat, find some understanding, build something back from... that grim time? Enough will divide us from out there, let's regroup for all our sakes." Lisana again looks hopefully in Dane's direction.


<Dane>

He looked at her, anxiety written across his features. It pains me to see you like this, Lisana. I hope we're doing the right thing.

"Yes, sure," he said as she asked him to speak to Zak.

He sighed deeply.

"I've put talking to Zak off for too long, and everything is becoming too awkward."

A deep breath.

"I don't know if I believe him, or whether I'm just wanting not to believe him, or..."

He trailed off for a moment.

"I don't know what is worse, that my family was caught up by an accident of circumstance, or that I've subsequently helped one of the people who were responsible for escalating a targeted attack on a single objective to a general attack that killed indiscriminately, or that that person is Zak's lover and Reeva's mother."

He chuckled mirthlessly.

"What a choice, eh?"


<Lisana>

Lisana looks relieved that Dane accepts this path. Then she starts slightly.
"Might I ask that you keep the reason for me not being around tonight private please? If anyone asks I'm taking a night to rest and get some sleep. Don't want to worry anyone, everyone's just calming down!" She carries her medical bag to the door, turning at the doorway.
"Zak seems like a good man, Dane. He has been true to this group in the field, and now he's feeling steadier, I have faith he will be as fair and open as he can."

(I hope he will be)

But, after you see him, if you need a chat, just let me know, as always. Good luck."

She blew him a cheeky kiss, and was gone.


<Dane>

"Sure." He winked. "My lips are sealed."
He sat back down, and sat back down. His lunch had cooled a little, but hints of the aroma still wafted around the cockpit.
He started on it, initially concentrating on it, but his desire to chase down the sprites soon came back to the fore, and he started twiddling with the dials again during his meal. If he was lucky, he'd get to the bottom of it in time to keep his appointments with Lisana at Medbay.

SteveH
New Face
Posts: 9
Joined: 16 Sep 2009, 12:06

Session 24.9 - Dane & Zak - Repercussions

Post by SteveH »

Dane catches Zak as he finished his work out. [Occurs prior to Session 24.5 Zak & Lisana - A Suitable Gift]
Spoiler

<Dane>

As Zak was finishing his evening exercises, Dane came through the doorway, a drink in each hand. He nodded at Zak holding up a drink to indicate that it was for him, before sitting down, a little gingerly and stiffly, at a bench.

He set one of the drinks down on the bench, and took a sip from the other, staring off somewhere, seemingly deep in thought.


<Zak>

Working through his cool down and stretches, Zak was reasonably happy with his recovery and more than a little thankful of Lisana's skill with modern medicine. He caught himself as his hand rose unconsciously to his chest as it had so many times since the fight.

Another scar marking history, another miraculous survival. How many more can I have left?

Reaching for his towel he's surprised to see Dane walking into the bay, and more so when he nods and proffers a drink. A quiet sigh escapes unbidden. It had only ever been a matter of time before he'd have to face Dane after the revelations in his restored memory.

There was nothing that he could really say. Intentions could never trump results. Command came with pros and cons and ultimately he would always feel responsible for the results of that operation, regardless of excuses. He could have questioned a number of things, made different decisions, but he hadn't. Plus he'd even been the one to press the button.

The irony to Zak was how being able to own the memories and face them had made him whole. More whole than he'd felt in a long time. While he tried to be a 'good man' he was well aware of his failings and was much more comfortable being able to own them rather than be haunted by mysterious and unclear echoes. He was certain this wouldn't be his last mistake or regret either.

What happened was a burden that he'd have to carry forever, but how could that possibly compare to someone whose family had been decimated by those same decisions?

As he wiped his face and arms he studied Dane as he stared off into space. He'd gotten the worst of it on the prison ship and Lisana had performed another miracle there. Dane didn't deserve any of this, but sometimes bad things happened to good people - Zak just sincerely wished he wasn't the cause. With no way to further delay Zak squared his shoulders and strode over to Dane.

"Evening Dane. Is that for me?"


<Dane>

So what is it I'm hoping for? What happens if the answer is terrible? Is there even a good answer here? Who really is Zak? The man he is now, or the man he was then, or both? How much of this is a shell, a front, and how much is actually him? What if...

Zak's voice broke through Dane's reverie, causing him to blink in surprise. Weird how that happened, even when he had been expecting it.

"Er, yes."

He picked up the drink from the bench and offered it to Zak.

"Good workout?"

Dancing around the subject...again. It's been so long now that I don't even know if I want to know the answer.

He started to scan around the room, before he realised what he was doing. Time to pick at that scab.

Sighing, he focused on the topic at hand.

"How's the memory situation?"


<Zak>

It was clear as Zak accepted the drink that Dane had become lost in thought in the few minutes it had taken him to finish his set. He recognised that self introspection. He'd been there a number of times himself.

"Err... Yeah.... Not bad."

Dane didn't appear to be able to look directly at Zak, but that wasn't massively unexpected. How would I feel if situations were reversed? That Dane didn't come here wanting to talk about his workout Zak was damned sure.

And then, finally a question more apposite. When it came it was almost a relief.

"For the first time in a long time, I'm whole."


<Dane>

"That's good," he said. "Was there anything unexpected or..."

He took a breath.

"..is it as you expected?"


<Zak>

Zak sighs, himself looking away as he gathered his thoughts. This is going to be painful.

"I'm sorry Dane, but I don't think you understand. I had holes in my head. Gaps in my memory. I've had that for years, been carrying it for years. During that time the most I've got of those times were effectively nightmares."

"Mostly of being struck down by a lightsaber, of being hunted, feeling truly terrified with absolute certainty that that fear was appropriate." He pauses considering his words.

"There were other echoes over the years, of battle, missions, of other events, but it was always difficult to place them in context. Plus some I'm sure relate to the situations I found myself since, and I wasn't always sober so some could be entirely imagined."

He looks directly at Dane;

"But those holes and echoes have haunted me. Scared me. Concerned me. Made me doubt who I am at a level it's difficult to express."

He gazes off once more;

"I'm not sure anyone can understand what that's like. To doubt your very self image and have no recourse. Have no certainty of what you might have done and who you really are."

"I'm no saint Dane. I've done many things that others wouldn't for the Republic, duty and even the Empire... and many more as a mercenary. No one can survive on the Rim in this universe without doing so."

"But with the return of my memories I have the missing context. Those things now fit in a whole. In my life."

Once more his gaze returns to Dane;

"But I can't answer your question, as the whole point is that I had no idea what was in the gaps... that is what was so frightening."

Zak scoffs; "Can I be certain that my restored memories are true? No more that you can be of yours." Especially given the power of the Force when abused.

"Like everyone I will always have regrets, wish I'd taken a different course or wonder 'what if' but I now know I'm not a monster or a psychopath."

Fixing Dane with his gaze he adds;

"But that wasn't really the question that you wanted answered was it?"


<Dane>

He watched almost impassively as Zak described the holes in his memories, the missing knowledge, and the contexts that made sense of that knowledge. He smiled wryly when he spoke about not being a saint - I can empathise with that.

As Zak got to the point, he put his drink down in front of him, and closed his eyes for a moment..

"No, it wasn't."

When he opened his eyes, his expression hardened, and his posture stiffened, as if he was holding himself in. Harder, more serious, deathly still. He looked straight at Zak.

"So, tell me again about the attack on my family."


<Zak>

Zak sighed. It was always going to come down to this.

Zak envied Dane his apparent moral certainty, but knew from personal experience that his love for his family didn't excuse them from their crimes, any more than some one loving him excused him of his. This was going to be painful for them both.

"I'll tell you what I remember, but nothing will right that wrong. Nothing."

"Ultimately what happened was my responsibility. I was the commanding officer."

Zak tone became serious, his bearing more military, falling back into old habits;

"It was a Republic Judicial Forces operation with Republic Intelligence assistance. Our mission was to deny the Separatists access to the HoloNet transmitter on the top of the office building that the Hellion HQ was in. The array had been compromised for use by the Separatist ShadowNet and that had to stop."

"There was also good intelligence that the Hellion corporation was involved in Separatist activities and our Secondary objectives were to obtain evidence of such and neutralise any confirmed Separatist assets."

"It was not expected to be a high casualty mission, although command was keen for us to engage any confirmed Separatist assets, that wasn't a Primary concern. This was an incursion into a civilian target so rules of engagement made that unlikely."

"It was stormy that night so we landed in the main parking, posing as a HoloNet service crew. We made entrance with minimal difficulty and made it up to the transmitter as planned."

Zak's tone shifts slightly as he interjects; "Your parents came out of the lift as we were waiting to go to the roof if I remember correctly."

"The weather made planting charges tricky, but we achieved that only slightly behind schedule. The plan was for the charges to decapitate the transmitter allowing it's fall to render it a total write off. The ShadowNet relay device was hacked and it's data downloaded."

Zak paused collecting his thoughts for the next section knowing that this would be of much more interest to Dane.

"Next priority was to destroy the HoloNet control room on the ground floor as part of our Primary objective. On the way down the lift stopped."

"It opened on the Hellion's floor and the entire team got a bit of a shock. None other than Count Dooku and two IG-100s were waiting for the lift."

"We used this as perfect cover to debark at the Hellion HQ to discover that the place was full of families having a Life Day party."

"Not wanting to squander the opportunity the team split, some heading down to the control centre to complete our Primary objective while some stayed to pursue the Secondary."

"The Secondary team acquired access to the Hellian computer system and managed to download significant evidence of Hellion/Separatist dealings before falling back to the ground floor."

"The Primary team, myself included, made short work of setting charges ready to blow the Primary targets."

"Up until this point the mission had been pretty much ideal. No civilian casualties or even injuries short of a choke hold or two. The kind of text book operation you wish for but rarely get."

"The Primary team were just moving to leave when an alarm was raised. Presumably the guard unconscious in the refresher was found or missed."

"At this point the Secondary team were exiting the lift and the Primary team dealing with suppressing resistance - mostly shock and awe rather than deadly force."

"By the time the team had regrouped and we were exiting the building we were still within optimal operation parameters."

Zak paused facing the cold truth once more;

"Until I triggered the explosives."


<Dane>

Dane listened in silence, sitting back slightly, hands resting on his lap, watching Zak closely. His body language would tell him as much as the words which were burning themselves into his memory. Some of it he would be able to verify from his own memory of the single most traumatic event of his life; others, he would have to get from his parents, but most he would never be able to verify. For those, he would have to trust that Zak was still the man he knew, before he recovered his memory.

He closed his eyes at the pause, knowing what was coming. The scene replayed itself in his mind, as it had done many times in the intervening years. A scene he had plenty of therapy, not to get over, but to get through. A scene that he thought no longer haunted him.

The slow motion fireball erupting from the tanker in the distance, silhouetting his parents as they disembarked from the cart and walked towards them. Screams, his and his siblings, to his parents to get down. Starting to rush forwards towards them, hoping irrationally to reach them before the shockwave. Being tackled by Kallis, who threw him onto the ground along with herself. His hands going over his ears. Feeling that shockwave ripple through them a couple of seconds later, deafeningly loud even through his hands. The scene of ...

Despite himself, Dane started rocking unconsciously, and his taut self-control started to crumble as his hands, gripping ever tighter into his thighs, started to tremble.

"And?" he said, in what he thought was a surprisingly level voice. He didn't trust himself to say anything more.


<Zak>

"Then it all went to Hell." Zak's voice was thick with emotion.

"I might not be a monster or a psychopath, but that doesn't mean I haven't done monstrous things."

"Pressing the detonator damned them all, and quite possibly me."

With some effort Zak regained some of his military bearing;

"My plan had been to trigger the building alarms and get the civilians out prior to blowing the charges. Had we not been blown that would have been the best choice."

"However, operation protocol was clear. On discovery or compromise the primary objectives trumped all other concerns."

He looks to Dane, sorrow in his eyes; "Nothing would have stopped me pressing that button at that point."

Whether he was damning himself in Dane's eyes or not there was no way that Zak could spin it, Dane deserved the truth - as far as Zak could see it.

With a deep sigh he continued;

"The explosions were over cooked. I didn't know it at the time but our demolitions expert had some form for being over zealous and rabidly anti Separatist. He'd even lost his hands over it."

"I have suspicions that he was assigned specifically because of these traits. Tarkin was keen to encourage neutralisation of Separatist assets during the briefing even though they were secondary objectives."

"The command centre explosion not only destroyed the command centre but caused structural damage to the corner of the building. That was never part of the op."

"The transmitter charges seemed more measured, and did what they were meant to. The transmitter tower was decapitated and fell into the parking lot."

"Fate then fucked us all."

"Whether it was the storm... or... Who knows. It doesn't really matter. The debris and tower hit a hyperfuel tanker, an apparently full tanker. One according to the recovered data was part of a supply deal between the Hellion's and the Separatists."

"We all know what Coaxium is like. The resultant explosion was off the charts. There's no way the weakened build could hold against such a blast."

"There were no survivors."


<Dane>

Dane listened to Zak's description of the events that happened. HIs admission that he would have preferred not to have civilian deaths, but had chosen that over failing the mission. That the total destruction of the building was unanticipated.

Tears appeared as Dane matched Zak's actions to what he remembered.

That awful sound of a building dying, partially drowned out by the roar of the fireball that followed the shockwave. The screams of those in the collapsing building, that I could not have possibly heard, but I did in my head. Starships as dead as their owners, wreckage strewn around the apron. We were lucky that we weren't killed by that.

"There were survivors," he said, his voice broken by emotion. "I survived, and my siblings survived, and my parents survived, and my crew survived. My world, however, did not. Nearly everyone I was looking forward to seeing that day did not."

His fingers finally relaxed their grip on his thighs, and his face fell to stare at a scene that only he could see through the bench, the floor, the hull.

He continued, more in sorrow than in anger.

"I think I went mad that day. Maybe I still am. I don't know. How can you ever justify killing all those people, none of whom posed a threat to you? Did you not stop to think how wrong that was? How do you do it?"

He raised his face to look at Zak again, tears still streaming freely down his face and his clothes.

"How do you sleep at night? Do the dead not haunt you?"


<Zak>

Zak scoffed with feeling; "No one can justify their killing. It wasn't just. I don't need to think about how wrong it was, I know it in my bones, in my soul."

"Families, children. I don't give a shit if their parents were Separatists or not. None of them deserved to die. That was never meant to happen."

"But frankly, whether it was part of the plan or not, whether I triggered the charges or someone else on the team, it would still be my responsibility. I was in command."

"There is no justification. Neither is there any meaningful explanation."

"I spent years trying to find one, searching my soul trying to understand how such a thing could happen. I can remember that now. Going over the operation again and again trying to see my mistake. I never found one."

Zak sighed a huge sigh of resignation; "There is nothing I can say to make it better, to give you a meaningful target for your righteous rage, beyond me."

"I could throw out thousands of 'if only' statements, but in the face of your loss they're truly meaningless. What happened happened. Nothing can change that."

"What happened on that operation and my reaction to it is what led to my realisation that the Republic had been corrupted. That ultimately led to my desertion."

When Zak meets Dane's eye, there's a welter of emotions playing across his face. Sorrow, shame, disgust, disappointment but underlying them all a steely determination.

"I now know clearly that that one operation does not define me. I've made many mistakes in my life, but I can't find any mistakes in the event that has haunted me the most. I did what my training taught me to do and it cost you your family."

"I will always remember the party on that floor, I'm sure it will always be in my dreams. I will always regret what happened at a deeper level than I can ever meaningfully express - regardless of your belief in that."

"I can sleep Dane, because while I'm responsible, I don't believe it was my fault. Whether you and your family can ever understand that, that is my truth."


<Dane>

As he listened to Zak, Dane started to realise that there were depths to Zak he hadn't seen before, and the words stiffened his resolve. Becoming aware of his tears, even as they dried up, he wiped them off his face.

"So, although you didn't know that it would have taken out the entire building and everyone within it, you wouldn't have done anything different if you had. Even if you knew it was the wrong thing to do."

He felt his gorge rise at that revelation. Perhaps he had always suspected that there might be a certain ruthlessness about Zak, but he had never actually seen it himself. Until now, and it felt like he was having his face rubbed into it.

"I would like to think that I would have questioned those orders at that point, or found another way of doing it, even if it meant the mission failed. If the choice was between who I am and what I do..."

Unable to sit still any more, he got up quickly, knocking over his drink. Ignoring it, he started to pace, his emotional turmoil obvious in his agitated movements.

Choices...leaving ultimately led to Tiernan's death, but it was still the right decision. I don't have to like my choices to make a decision on one.


<Zak>

Zak looks at Dane askew, shocked. He pauses, rerunning what he'd said in his head, struggling to see how Dane had come to that conclusion. Again he sighs, pain clear on his face.

"No Dane. That's not what I said. Not at all. I don't see how you got that."

"If I had known what would happen I most certainly wouldn't have triggered the explosives. Mission be damned."

"What I'm saying is I can't see anyway that I could have known that would be the outcome. That every decision in its context made perfect sense."


<Dane>

Dane stopped pacing, and looked at him. Had he misunderstood that badly? Perhaps his grief overwhelmed his understanding.

"I...see."

He returned to the bench and sat back down, his agitation gradually being replaced by bemusement. He stared at the bench for a moment, trying to collect his thoughts.

"I don't know if any of the family will be able to forgive you," he said. "It's still painful for all of us, especially for those who watched it happen."

He fell into silence, his mind in turmoil. But what about me? How do I feel about this? This new Zak, the old Zak, the circumstances, the end results.


<Zak>

Zak still emotional looks away himself;

"I don't expect you to forgive me, Dane. I'm responsible for an atrocity committed to those you held near and dear. I'll shoulder that burden and have to live with what my actions caused forever."

"Quite frankly, I'm less worried about your family than you, Dane. They're not part of this crew. You are. We've worked together for sometime, and I've always tried to be as honest and forthcoming as I can be."

"That you sought me out to get answers is remarkable enough. That you could become my friend even while knowing I could have been responsible is all that I need to know about you."

"Your family never showed me that consideration."

"I'd completely understand if you never want to see my sorry face ever again. But only you can answer the call of your feelings, just like I can't change the past."

"Maybe it's the military way of thinking, maybe it's my whole damned upbringing, the academy, all the damned training. I don't know. But I can't damn myself over things beyond my control."


<Dane>

It was only when he took a long shuddering breath, that Dane was aware he had held his breath. One of the many methods for self control he had.

"I don't know how I feel about it, to be honest."

His hand came up, rubbing his mouth, as if he didn't trust himself to say the right thing.

"First of all, you'll have to forgive my family for their reactions; they haven't had the same opportunity as I have had to get to know you as you are now."

For a moment, he struggled for the right words.

"The version of you that I first met, didn't match up to the monster that my mind had made you out to be. That we all believed that you had to be. That the mission report had commended for a job well done. It took me a while, perhaps a lot longer than would be considered fair, to believe that you weren't faking your memory loss, and longer still for me to accept that you might never regain those memories."

He looked away for a moment, before his hand dropped from rubbing his jaw, and he returned his gaze to Zak.

"I had to accept that you were who you were now, what your actions revealed, rather than the man who committed the atrocity. And I couldn't condemn you while no-one could be sure what the truth was."

He looked straight at Zak.

"Look, I won't ever be able to forget what happened, and I won't ever be able to forgive the act, but I don't think I have it in me not to forgive who you are now."

He offered Zak his hand.

"It'll take me a little time to come around to accepting my own decision, but that's just me being a little slow on the uptake."


<Zak>

Zak met Dane's gaze, and he reached out and took Dane's hand.

"I hope I prove worthy of that, Dane. I really do."


Bigby
New Face
Posts: 78
Joined: 01 Nov 2011, 21:19

Session 24.A - Devices & Desires

Post by Bigby »

Zak and Cho attempt to assist Lisana in resolving some of her issues.
Spoiler
[TRIGGER WARNING: May contain scenes of sexual content, abuse, violence and drug use :) ]
<Lisana>

As Cho lies on the bed, she props herself up on an elbow, looking across at Zak. He sits in the stylish armchair in the corner, shaded by the dim lighting in the cabin. He is perhaps less relaxed in this environment than Cho appears to be. Lisana's cabin, sumptuously furnished and rich in fragrance, is an unfamiliar space for him.

There is a lull in a previously animated conversation while both consider matters. It has been a full day, and they need time to reflect on what they have learned.

Walking steadily, Lisana approaches the cabin door having finished her rounds in medbay. The corridor lights have lowered for the night, and all seems quiet.

(All organised. Everything's ready, I hope. Except me).

The cabin door swishes open, and she is pleasantly surprised that Cho is already there, making herself at home on the bed. Lisana is reminded of their time this morning, and in her most sensual voice greets her, with a mischievous grin.

"Szalan-aua-amozru, you are ready for me I see!" She glides up to the bed and leans to kiss Cho, starting to slip her medbay top from her shoulders.


<Cho>

Lounging almost provocatively on the bed, Cho watches Lisana's arrival with a widening - almost predatory - grin, and a particular twinkle in her eyes as she realises Lisana hasn't looked round to see Zak in the shady corner.

"Szerxia, amozru" she murmurs, leaning up to intercept Lisana's kiss with her own lips, a thoroughly mischievous look in her eyes.

Eyes which, Lisana will no doubt note, are not upon her. Even as Cho's chuckling and reaching up a helpful hand to assist in removing Lisana's top, she's watching Zak's own reactions with gleeful interest and amusement.


<Zak>

While waiting for Lisana to return Zak watches Cho lounging on the bed looking both very at home and damned sultry. Might be time to pretty up our room if that's what she likes. Nothing wrong with some creature comforts.

He sighs. Zak feels somewhat like a fish out of water here. The designer armchair is surprisingly comfortable but it seems too... pretty for some one like him to be occupying. The rest screams luxury, decadance, something that has never been his thing. The whole ensemble is basically enough to make him feel he doesn't quite belong here. He can't quite get over the fact that this is Lisana's sanctuary and he wasn't invited... at least not directly. But he had offered to help and had meant it. Regardless of the consequences.

Once pointed out, it hadn't been at all surprising that Lisana was using chemical assistance to do so much. It shocked Zak that he'd missed it. She was just always around helping, feeding, tending. It had become the norm, with no thought to how one individual could do so much and still get enough rest. Another thing I'd missed. From Zak experiences recovering from a dependency was not easy and there would no doubt be some painful times ahead. She might be cursing their names before the night was out.

He's jolted from his reverie when Lisana walks in; and he can't help but smile as she unleashes her voice on Cho and notes the Falleen terms of endearment. There's a strong bond there, neither will likely abandon the other. That's one less thing to worry about.

What happens next is somewhat of a shock; Cho gives Lisana a full on kiss while staring into Zak's eyes, all the while helping Lisana out of her top;

For just a split second Zak is completely at sea... He doesn't know where to look or what to do... Then he catches Cho's mischievous look, finds firmer ground and sticks his tongue out at her;

"Evening Lisana. While I'm sure that would be one hell of a show... I'd rather that all concerned realise I was here before things go too far or I see more than I should."


<Lisana>

To her credit, the sudden tensing of Lisana's bare shoulders is the only thing that betrays her shock. After a seconds' stillness, she laughs and without turning, she takes Cho's chin in her hand, looks into her eyes and purrs: "You have been a delightful tease today. Well done!" The tension releases from her shoulders, and straightening, she turns her head.

"Good evening Zak, how lovely you could join us. You are always welcome." She deliberately leaves the interpretation open. "And I am also pleased to take this opportunity to give you a medic check, after your activities this morning." She reaches for the scanner left in her room from the morning and moves towards Zak, shrugging her top back over her shoulders.

She smiles wryly. "If you are still able to stand, please do."


<Zak>

Zak chuckles looking from Lisana to Cho and back again; "I'm pretty much outnumbered with just one of you two."

"But together... I feel I'm in deep deep trouble. Please try not to break me. I'm only just feeling whole again. If you compete to tease, my heart will likely give out way before anything else."

with a wry smile Zak stands; "Yes Ma'am."


<Cho>

Cho echoes Lisana's laugh with a genuine warmth, delightedly watching the tension in her frame vanish for a few precious moments. Good. You needed that, szalan, before what is to come.

As Lisana addresses him, Cho turns back to Zak, almost mouthing an apology at him before biting her lip in a coquettish 'well what was I to do?' fashion, still basking in her own amusement.

Cho pulls herself into a more seated position on the bed as Lisana moves in with the medi-scanner, her demeanor quietly switching from sultry to quiet reverie, a small smile dancing on her lips and growing again as she recalls the morning's events, the energy she'd felt, felt again now.

"I fear I may have been a little rough. Right thigh particularly." She grins wolfishly at the both of them. "Nothing too lasting, though do have a good feel around to be sure."

She opens her mouth to say something else, then catches herself. Here in her cabin it feels strange, wrong even, not to call Lisana szalan, yet it would somehow feel even less appropriate to do so in front of others. Even Zak.


<Lisana>

Lisana stands back, reviewing the scanner report, and looks levelly at Zak.

"Well Zak Myrto, unlike your sparring partner, you have not sustained any broken bones. But, looking at the type and extent of bruising, you should have. Your right thigh has bruising of the bones, your right shoulder muscles are profoundly strained, and I am not listing the rest - why does this sound almost exactly like my diagnosis this morning, Cho, do you think?!"

She takes a breath.

"Might I suggest if both of you are determined to indulge in rough play in future that you consider how long broken bones take to heal. Try and rest for 3-4 days, and why the fuck I bother to advise either of you on this is beyond me!"

Lisana turns, and heads for the shower.

"If you will forgive me for 2 minutes…. I had to do an emergency procedure on Haldan" and seeing their puzzlement "he's one of the fighters, and I still have the stench in my hair."

With the door closed, she seeks the cool wall to press her body on, remembering why they are actually here. She may charm and scold gently, but she knows that she uses this for displacement. Even her image in the mirror is to be avoided, reality too stark and terrifying. The shower is a welcome release after one hell of a day. And it isn't over yet.


<Zak>

As Lisana slips into the refresher; Zak moves over to the bed and sits down beside Cho, putting his hand on her hip and stares deeply into her eyes, a certain familiar fire in his;

"Diya my dear... and it's not even my birthday. That clear took my breath away... I'd quite like to... do a number of things... but wouldn't you say it's probably best if we don't get distracted? Damn shame."

He glances in Lisana's direction; "Did you temporarily confiscate her bathroom stash?"


<Cho>

Cho's gaze follows Lisana as she goes, then slides back to Zak, watching him approach with a gleam in her eyes, almost hypnotised. Her hand finds his, her lips parting slightly as he speaks... and then she catches herself again, shaking her head as if to clear it.

"This isn't about us." she says, a flicker of concern, almost sadness, shadowing her features before she smiles back at him.

She follows his glance, looking steadily across at the door to Lisana's shower. Shakes her head, looks back at him.

"I didn't touch any of them."

Trust is too important.

She rests a finger across his lips as the shower stops, listening intently for something, her eyes shut.

A few moments later, she uncoils from the bed, holding a warning hand out to Zak, silently bidding him stay put. She glides near-silently across the floor and into the shower room.

Oh, szalan.


<Lisana>

Emerging from the shower, Lisana tries to steady herself, and, seeking humour, smiles briefly when she considers Cho's transformation of her greeting kiss to tease Zak. However, her smile is short-lived, and she catches a glimpse of her hand tremors in the mirror as she towels dry her hair and dons her gown.

(I can't do this)

Visceral instinct leading her, she unlocks the cupboard, assesses the jewel like ampoules and bottles, and selects one along with an injector. As she moves to place them on the counter, an awful realisation swamps her, and she glances to see Cho's figure in the doorway.

(Oh gods, she knows me too well. I am so screwed.. betrayed her trust, betrayed myself).

Slipping the helping hands in her gown pocket, she turns but cannot meet Cho's eyes. Walking to the bathroom door, in an attempt to pass Cho, Lisana says:

"Well, I feel better for that." She forces a smile. "Drinks everyone."


<Cho>

There's no trace of judgement on Cho's face, no disappointment, just sympathy. Perhaps that makes it even worse. As Lisana closes the distance, she shifts from leaning to more fully block the slim doorway, her posture resolute.

Cho's hands reach out, not to take anything from Lisana's pockets as she might expect, but to rest gently on her sides, affectionate rather than forceful, ready nonetheless. Holds her there, so very gently, as she tries to deflect.

"You are quite intoxicating enough as you are." She answers Lisana's smile with her own, at once sad and sweet and utterly genuine.

She lifts a hand from Lisana's waist, holding it open between them, ready to receive. Her lips move in the barest murmur.

"I will not lose you."


<Lisana>

The statement slices into Lisana's spirit, cutting into the cravings. For several moments, the balance of wills remains deadlocked, and the tension across the room is almost unbearable. Lisana, with her gaze fixed on the opposite wall, battles with herself, her brain serving up visions, as the symptoms of withdrawal creep forward.

(I am losing…face it)

As her thoughts wander, her gaze finally meets Cho's eyes, and she accepts she cannot fight.

As she exhales, she tilts her head back against the doorframe, reaching into her pocket. As she places the items in Cho's open hand, Lisana, exhausted and broken, slides down the doorway towards the floor.

Cho crouches down beside her, until Lisana finally gathers enough energy to lift her head.

"Mr Myrto, under the bed, there is a green case." Lisana leans her head on the doorway for support. "If you would be so kind as to familiarise yourself with the contents, please…"


<Zak>

Watching the dance of wills between Cho and Lisana, he notes how passive Cho's use of her will is - acceptance and camaraderie, emphasising the cost of not proceeding, demonstrating complete trust and support without any coercion.

Zak sincerely hopes that there'll be no need for that, but that entirely depends on the depth of Lisana's dependency. Only time will tell. And he's under no illusions as to why he's here. To help in any way I can, whether I like it or not.

The first battle is won when Lisana acquiesces to the reason that they're all here, but there'll be many more before this is done. One step at a time.

At Lisana's behest Zak slips off the bed and searches for the green case. It's bigger than he expected and heavier as he pulls it out and places if on a nearby side board, carefully moving a number of objets d'art, making sure not to mark or scratch anything.

He smiles at his own incongruity in this room. Here I am worrying about the décor when we're about to intentionally put Lisana through hell.

He opens the case and takes a professional look. While not as skilled a physician as Lisana he's competent and quickly runs through the case's contents, even discovering a small bag with a defibrillator and epinephrine. I really hope we don't need those.

As he catalogues the drugs inside the reality of this chemically assisted detox becomes clearer, a number of them highly controlled, some even illegal. This process is going to be extremely dangerous and require some very specific timing. Not to mention being damned nasty to experience.

He lets out a low whistle; "Well... seems that you were well prepared for this. I've seen hospitals on Vardos less ready to handle a detox."

He gives Cho a concerned glance, and looks back at Lisana; "I have some idea how most of these should be used... some less so, but this is your kit and your treatment. Mixing some of these in the wrong way will definitely kill you."

"Let's make sure that we're all agreed before we start."


<Cho>

Cho takes a long look at Lisana before unfurling herself from her crouch, reluctant to leave her but needing to see for herself what Zak's looking at.

She rests a hand on Zak's shoulder, looking down at the case, her other tracing a path across its contents, taking inventory. She almost lets out a low whistle herself - this has clearly been some time in the planning - but the realisation of how much she'd missed, how long ago Lisana must've started seeing the warning signs, cuts to her core.

Her turn to force a smile. Her finger pauses on a small vial. "Gods, even Carid struggled to get hold of this stuff."

She scans down the notes on timing and dosage, frowning, murmuring queries and responses to Zak as the two of them get to grips with what's before them. It's daunting on so many levels, and this is just what Lisana planned to wash out the first four components of her current, unsustainable regimen.

Eventually she nods to herself, content that she understands the plan, even if the reality of it is beyond concerning. That it is necessary at all is worse.

She steps back across to Lisana, sits herself down opposite, gazing steadily at her. There will be no going back on this.

"We will not let you down. If we start this, we will see it through, will see you through it. No matter what."

She pauses, a hand reaching out to touch Lisana's shoulder.

"But I need to hear you say you're okay with that."


<Lisana>

Lisana uses the doorframe and tries to stand, eventually accepting Cho's hand. She turns to face them both.

"I watched my mother fail to lose her helper, and it was.. challenging. It changed me, and I worry for you both." Lisana began walking slowly to the bed. "Cho knows I find accepting help … difficult. Please forgive me, because you will see and hear things tonight that will be the scars and chemistry talking." Closing her eyes only resulted in the image of her father looming. "I, " she struggles to speak, "I am so grateful you are here. Because I am terrified."

Lisana looks across at Cho with a wry smile. "And yes, do what you must" she says and turns away, unable to face the words. She reaches across and closes the air vents.

"Noise travels on this ship, I've noticed" she grimaces, her breathing quickening and voice quietening. "I will administer what I can, I don't want you to face any more than you need to. Zak, if that injector is ready…"


<Zak>

Zak smiles at Lisana; "We're here for you Lisana, end of. We'll do whatever is needed to help you through this. You have my promise."

As he prepares the first shot, he glances across at Cho, for her support, there's no way they could let someone in withdrawal self medicate that would be far too risky;

"If you'll allow me, I think it would be better and safer if only one of us is responsible for dosing. That way there's no ambiguity or misunderstandings, less chance of mistakes. OK?"

Holding the injector ready Zak awaits Lisana's agreement.


<Cho>

Cho nods back at Zak, then turns to look apologetically at Lisana. She can understand her wanting to take charge of the process herself, both to take ownership of the ordeal and to somehow shelter the both of them from some of it, but Zak's right.

As Lisana reluctantly agrees, Cho reaches out and gives a gentle squeeze of her hand, holding it as she watches Zak concentrate on his task.

She's quietly relieved that it isn't her hand holding the injector. Not through lack of familiarity, quite the opposite; she's lost count of how many times she's used one, how many untraceable drug mishaps she's left in her professional wake.

The first dose glides in. No going back now.

Cho smiles brightly, still holding Lisana's hand. She runs her other up the arm that's just been injected, fingertips tickling across exposed flesh.

"Well, it seems we have a few minutes to spend. However will we occupy ourselves?" Cho murmurs, in deliberately coquettish tone, waggling her eyebrows at Zak in comically suggestive fashion.


<Zak>

A genuine laugh escapes Zak at Cho's expression and he's grateful for her lightening the mood - while she still can - as he makes a note of the drug, dose and time on a datapad.

He rolls his eyes with an exaggerated motion; "You're incorrigible." with a wry smile he adds; "I so love that about you."

He looks over the Lisana; "Whatever shall we do with her Lisana?"


<Lisana>

Lisana laughs and enjoys a few minutes of levity, joking with them, grateful for their companionship and for the distraction.

It is good to have them here.[i/]

Eventually, she stands and moves to a cupboard, selecting a small box and places on the counter above, her hands surprisingly steady.

That's going to change real quick.

She says quietly, "In this drawer are letters for everyone and this box is part of Falleen tradition. We arrange for the burial of letters to our parents when ….." she trails off, forces a smile and sits back on the bed. "Oh, and there's food for you in the cooler."

She is becoming aware of changes in her body, and knows that her skin will be fading to grey for the first time in years.

In what she hopes is a business-like tone, asks, "So, Zak, how did your practice session this morning actually go?"


<Zak>

Cho had given Zak some small insight into what to expect from Falleen traditions and while this wasn't how he'd do it, these letters were likely similar to a number stored on his datapad.

Aping Cho's earlier suggestive tone; "Which training session, do you mean the one in our cabin or the lightsaber one in the cargo bay?" He was sure his delivery wasn't on par with Cho's but it was worth a try.

Keeping an eye on the appropriated medisensor, Zak smiles; "If the latter you're probably asking the wrong person, I'm the padawan..." he nods towards Cho, "she's the master."

"However...from my perspective I can't say that I've experienced anything like it. It was... for lack of a better way to put it... an eye opener."

He notes from the display the first shot starting to effect Lisana's medical stats but keeps talking knowing full well it's a distraction from the reality of the situation for Lisana;

"Cho taught me some basic Shii-Cho this morning. The first lightsaber form. It's reminiscent of normal sword combat but the real surprise was the saber."

He glances at Cho; "They're kind of alive... or spiritually reactive. I learnt more this morning than I would have thought possible."

"For a while there everything just flowed... like Cho and I and the universe were... in sync.. flowing from form to form in some deadly ballet. It was beautiful."

He looks into Lisana's gaze; "Until is wasn't. One thing about Shii-Cho and it's forms they're not really about pulling blows once committed."

Looking again at the medisensor he adds; "Why don't you lie down.", offering his hand to assist.


<Cho>

Watching Lisana's every move, Cho's expression grows concerned as she speaks of her letters, of the box for her parents. She can see Lisana's skin growing paler, her movements more deliberate, considered.

You're telling me this in case you die, szalan. You know you're already reacting ahead of your predicted schedule, and if you get yourself killed by your own detox regime, I will never forgive you.

As Lisana sits back on the bed, Cho moves to sit behind her, smoothing down her hair, gently brushing it back, tying it neatly up behind her head. Her touch is tender, familiar, and at one point she glances over at Zak seeming almost embarrassed at being watched.

She can't help but smile, listening to Zak tell Lisana of their training. It had felt beautiful, though she finds herself biting her lip at the thought of what Lisana had said to her afterward.

Lisana's long hair bound up tidily, she lets her arms fall into a gentle embrace around her. She smiles as Zak offers to help Lisana lie down, preparing to move and make her more comfortable. Her eyes are wary, though, wondering what he's seeing on the medi-scanner - and from Lisana's pallor, the tinge of sweat on her skin, she has a feeling she knows where they're headed next.

"When did you last eat?" she enquires, her voice low.


<Lisana>

(He's worried. So am I. Have faith, I was so careful in preparing..)

"I'm pleased you both enjoyed yourself today" she says with her eyebrow arching, forming her favourite provocative expression. She looks at Zak and then turns to Cho, all irony gone. "You are so good for each other, it's great to see."

Lisana is grateful for Cho's care, and eases back into the bed, ready to try to relax. Cho's question drifts past her.

"Ummm, sorry I can't remember. I think I had something..no, I was called to medbay for Haldan, I was with the children so missed lunch, and I think breakfast kinda didn't happen?"

(Oh great, and now the nausea. Refresher, here I come)

As Lisana stumbles to the refresher, supported by Cho, she attempts a last moment of humour with Zak, "When I'm through this, you don't mind sharing her do you?"


<Zak>

In the moment, when it's clear that even before the calling of her entire digestive system Lisana is still intent on making light, Zak can't help but reciprocate;

He makes a rapid glance between them as he moves his large form out of the way; Cho supporting Lisana tightly, such a caring and loving look on her face; and laughs;

"My dear Lisana I believe that ship has already sailed - I already am. I think she's more than enough for both of us."


<Cho>

"My oh my, tomorrow must be my birthday." Cho chuckles, even as she's holding Lisana's shoulders over the refresher. I do not deserve either of you, but I'll take it.

The minutes stretch out in a succession of unpleasantness and indignities, seemingly endless in nature.

When finally Lisana quiets, Cho helps her up and into the shower. Then strips off her own slightly sullied top, grinning through her ribs' flare of protest, and wanders back through to find a pair of spare robes.

Flashing a smile at Zak, she notes the chrono on the wall behind him, now a minute late for the next dose. "Nearly there" she mouths at him, before disappearing again.

With Lisana showered and re-dressed, they emerge once more.


<Zak>

While Cho is helping Lisana clean up; Zak ups the rooms temperature a little; judging from the first reaction putting clean clothes on every time might not be a long term plan, but at least the pair can stay warm regardless;

"Ladies, I've upped the warmth in here a degree or two. Things might get a little too busy to be standing on ceremony, and I don't want either of you getting cold on top of anything else."

He tidies the bed a little and removes anything too decorative, or perhaps loved, to safer locations around the room.

As soon as they emerge from the refresher Zak almost pounces on them, prepared injector in hand;

"We're a little late on this one, may I?"


<Lisana>

As Zak approaches, Lisana looks at the injector with wide-eyed dread, clutching Cho's arm. She feels her heart rate and her breathing escalate. Her eyes meet Zak, and he is left in no doubt that she knows what is to come. With a supreme effort of will, she nods.

Ok, so what's a complete loss of psychological control anyway!

As the injection slides through her skin into her system, Lisana knows something is wrong. From her arm, the heat courses around her body, and she has a second to seize Zak's arm in alarm.

"Hot!" she manages to utter before she drops straight to the floor.


<Cho>

As Lisana falls, Zak sees something he's seldom - if ever - witnessed before, as Cho's composure dissolves into wild-eyed panic.

She races to catch Lisana, cushioning her fall with her own body, searching for some sign of consciousness, any response at all. Nothing comes.

She looks up at Zak, her voice breaking as she shouts.

"Fucking do something!"

The bathroom mirror behind her shatters.


<Zak>

Almost before Cho has a chance to shout, Zak is already moving.

With deceptive ease and surprising quickness he picks Lisana bodily up and moves her to the bed at once feeling for a pulse by wrapping one huge hand around her neck military style - looking for all the world like he might be throttling her.

There's a pulse but it's thready. The mediscanner is warbling a warning and he checks the readings his heart in his mouth. Things shouldn't be going off piste this early in the process.

At this stage nausea and sickness were expected, followed shortly by hot sweats after the next dose and then possibly fever and deliriousness. Unless... Had Lisana considered the interaction of any unmetabolised remnants of her sleeping pills?

Zak glances at the defibrillator and epinephrine on the side board... and glanced back at the mediscanner. Epinephrine would no doubt help, but at what cost the the rest of the process.

"Cho, I need you to find her sleeping pills NOW!... What was she taking? This has to be an interaction she didn't foresee."


<Cho>

Cho's entire world is in one cabin, and it's collapsing.

For what seems an eternity, she's frozen in horror, just one long moment clawing her way across the floor after Zak as he carries Lisana to the bed.

And then she's on the bed, whispering in Falleen. Don't leave me, szalan.

Zak shouts something at her. Shouts again, more desperate, using her name. Her real name.

Focus. She needs you.

She whirls round, not leaving the bed, just reaching out. There's the faint sound of splintering wood, the rush of air as a cupboard drawer grazes past Zak's arm to land on the bed.

In one fluid movement she reaches in, grabs the tablet pack, holds it out to Zak, unable to take her eyes off Lisana.

"Please."

Her voice is hollow, desperate.


<Zak>

Priorities whirl in Zak's head, that Cho is falling apart is a major concern, but not one he can deal with if Lisana is to make it. He knows how Cho feels about Lisana having witnessed first hand the depth of emotion between these two women.

Maintaining his focus regardless of the manner of acquisition, Zak grabs the tablets and checks their active agents.

She'd been taking ramelteon which made perfect sense, sold as non addictive and interaction safe, the perfect night cap for a chemically active Falleen. It would be very easy to overlook.

However, according to the medisensor there was a strong interaction with amiodarone - the drug ensuring Lisana's heart stayed regular under the chemical detox.

Quickly Zak found the appropriate counter, carefully calculated the dosage and applied the injector directly to Lisana's neck.

"This should help." said with confidence that he didn't entirely feel;

Again he manually checked her pulse while watching the medisensor... Still thready... Give the drug time to interact... There... something...

Time seemed to drag... and again... stronger...

The medisensor's readings started to move... heart rate coming back up, stronger pulse. Its warblings gradually returning to a more content tone.

Zak's sigh of relief breaks the eerie silence; "It's OK... Her vitals are stabilizing."

"Fuck, let's not do that again." His eyes seek Cho's.


<Cho>

Cho's face is gaunt, colour starting to return as Zak confirms the medi-scanner's readings. She stares back at him for a minute or so, almost unresponsive, as her breathing calms.

"No, let's not do that again." she says, her voice barely more than a whisper.

Looking away, Cho takes in the state of the room, seeing the disarray as if for the first time, taken aback. She tenses once more as impressions flood in again, realising what just happened, imagining the scene from Zak's perspective.

Shakily she rises, motion quickly becoming more automatic as she moves across the room. She heads straight for Lisana's drinks cabinet, hands locating a bottle of Corellian whiskey and two glasses with practiced ease.

You're going to have questions, I'm going to have a drink.


<Zak>

Zak watches the colour return to Cho's face with a further surge of relief, while keeping a wary eye on the medisensor - Lisana's vitals remained strong although she retained her unhealthy pallor, in some ways being unconscious was probably a blessing.

There's clear concern in his voice; "Di... Are you OK? Are you with me?"

He watches as she rises and finds the bottle and two glasses with startling familiarity. Well practiced. Looks like she could do that with her eyes shut.

Zak clears the abandoned drawer from the bed and again checks Lisana physically - hand on throat for pulse and back of hand on forehead. He does his best to make sure she's comfortable and there is no detritus or drugs from the drawer anywhere on the bed.

He looks back over at Cho pouring two generous shots of whiskey into the glasses, and makes space for her to pass, fully expecting her to return to Lisana's side;

"There's a good reason loved ones are kept at a safe distance when treatment is performed."

Studying her, he briefly wonders if he'll ever win that same openness, or if not having had the same shared experiences will always remain a barrier.

"After the deal with Vemmla and Lisana's reaction... I thought... well... I was upset for you. And I was glad when it seemed you'd reconciled. But now I think that reaction was because of the depth of the bond between you."

There's a certain sadness in his tone that most would miss, but Cho can recognise; "We'll get her through this, but I'll need your help and presence here in the now. OK?"


<Cho>

"I'm here" she murmurs, unconvincingly.

Pausing by Zak's side, Cho looks searchingly at him, watching his expression, studying him back. There's still a slight tremor in her hand as she offers him a glass, downing her own as soon as he accepts his.

She glances back at Lisana, reassuring herself she's still there, still stable. Sits herself on edge of the bed, facing Zak but staring down into the empty glass in her hands. Searching for something to answer the sadness in his tone, but she can't find the words yet.

Tatooine had seen them closer than ever before - and then further apart - that much was true. Did he know he'd been an unwitting driver in their reconciliation? That they'd been quietly supporting each other behind the scenes, while his breakdown nearly tore their crew, their family, apart? Doubtful; neither of them were much for airing their business in public, even among the crew.

She pushes the thoughts aside, at least for the moment. A faint smile appears at the corner of her mouth, glancing up, eyes haunted but warming as they look at him.

"Thank you." She fidgets, sets her glass down on the side table.

"Need you. Here too. Couldn't do this without you."

Her words are faltering, feeling hollow and insufficient as she utters them, but she means them nonetheless, well beyond the current situation. She stands again, stepping closer, Diya looking up at him with a wry grin.

"And at least I didn't throw a hyperdrive at anyone this time."


<Zak>

As Zak takes the offered drink, his hands envelop Cho's, trying to steady their shake and give her strength.

He takes a sip, savouring the liquor, as expected Lisana's taste is excellent. There's nothing he'd like more than to kick back drinking with Cho right now, but with a glance at Lisana and the medisensor he knows that's not possible.

Cho's introspection is writ large in her body language as she checks Lisana and sits on the bed and studies her empty glass. He resists the temptation to follow suit and empty his glass too.

He knows her well enough to give her the time she needs. She'll share if she wants to and only when she's ready.

When she does finally look up Zak's own gaze is calmly waiting to meet hers. Her haunted look tugs at his heart, his own gaze full of concern tinged with that same sadness and longing.

Her words comfort him somewhat; "Partners always, Di."

As Cho steps closer he can't help but reach out and pull her into an embrace; willing her to absorb his strength for what they still have to face.

A chuckle escapes at her joke; "Just as well my dear. I think we've got enough on our plate without puncture injuries from flying debris, don't you?"


<Cho>

Hesitantly, Cho allows herself to be pulled into Zak's embrace. It's all too tempting to just give in, fall apart in the safety of his arms, but she cannot allow herself. A minute passes, then another, before she feels her guard slipping and pulls away.

Gliding back onto Lisana's capacious bed, Cho checks her temperature with a tender touch and smoothes a stray lock of hair from over her closed eyes. A shape catches her eye and she leans gingerly across Lisana, picking up a pair of fallen letters from the drawer.

She smiles as she regards them, handwritten notes so rare, reminding her of the calligraphy Carid had insisted she practice, far more to do with his love of poetry than anything else.

Lisana's script is unmistakable, as beautiful and elegant as its writer, the two letters simply addressed, one to her and one to Reeva. She stares at them both for a long moment, then rises to place them back in the drawer unopened.

There's still a nervous energy to her movements, as Cho tidies the drawer's contents and investigates the damage to its housing - mercifully not beyond repair if she sets her mind to it - then moves on to tidying and adjusting things round the room.

When she's finally content things are back in a semblance of order, Cho pads back over toward the bed, tapping the room's control panel to dim the lights somewhat. She gently slides an arm round Zak, coaxing him to sit beside her as she nestles down at Lisana's side, one hand resting on each of them.

"You know, she was planning to try this alone." Cho muses aloud.


<Zak>

Zak checks the medisensor and the data pad. An hour until the next dose on the list. Lisana's vitals as expected given what her body was going through.

He watches as Cho fusses over Lisana, there was no other word for it, her concern and worry clear in her actions.

Once Cho finishes her tidying he allows himself to be drawn to the bed and sits where coaxed, happy to be included;

Zak scoffs; "I'm hoping that was denial Di. I'd say Lisana's too astute to actually attempt this without assistance. Want to... Sure, actually start the process. I'm not so sure."

"Regardless I'm glad she didn't try."

He gesticulates with the pad; "This is a complex and carefully balanced program. Genius really, but there's no way an individual could keep it straight while experiencing the likely symptoms."

"It would be a hell of a roll of the dice to even try in my opinion."


<Cho>

Cho leans against him, listening as he trots through the practicalities, shaking her head with a sad smile on her face.

"She's a gambler, Zak. She takes risks."

She pauses, contemplating that for a moment, suppressing a shiver. Then reaches out, plucking the glass from his hand and downing its contents.

Placing it down, she lets out a long sigh. "I'd better not have any more of that."

She regards Lisana for a long moment, then turns to Zak, leaning into him, looking up at him, her gaze inviting. Whispers a question.

"And if it is a physical thing, between us...?"


<Zak>

Zak breathes in Cho's scent, and enjoys her warmth as she leans in. I guess we all have our addictions.

He nods at the astute observation; "Well, she certainly is if she was really going to try this on her own."

As Cho steals his glass he objects with some humour; "Hey! That was going to last me the night."

"Hmm... mental note made... Corellian whiskey. I'll have to bear that in mind."

Zak feels Cho move against him and he looks down their gazes meeting;

He laughs his eyes clearly showing his desire, his now free hand stroking her curves intently;

"Oh I think we both know it's certainly physical..."


<Lisana>

The cabin is warm and reassuring, and the bed so comfortable. Cho and Zak are both enjoying this time to feel each other close, to remember their lovemaking earlier, to sense each other's arousal and pleasure. Sitting quietly, they revisit that amazing feeling, one that pulls them closer into an embrace, caressing each other gently, then more sensuously.

They are enveloped in each other, their clothes becoming a barrier to further enjoyment. Zak sees that Cho's hand, her dusky skin almost red in the dim light, is sliding up his leg, teasingly. And realises that he can feel her two hands on his chest and back….


<Zak>

Zak might be somewhat distracted, but even in his current state he can still count to three... just about.

He glances down slowly, restrained by Cho's passionate kisses moving to his neck and becoming nibbles almost bites as he does so, sending urgent messages throughout his body.

There was indeed a red feminine hand now running nails back down the inside of his thigh leg in delightfully tormenting manner. Involuntarily biting his lip at the sensations, he realises he's seen those nails before.

A small animalist part of his brain wants to find out where all this stimulation leads, but with an effort of will he speaks his voice almost choked with passion, getting a little clearer each attempt;

"Di... Di!... Diya!... look... we have company...Lisana's awake.. I think... I hope..." His head indicating the unexpected addition to their grappling.


<Cho>

"Oh, good." murmurs Cho, between cheerfully placing bites on Zak's neck. She turns to regard her newly awakened companion, the distraction giving Zak the opportunity he needs to slide away with a minimum of protest.

Stretching out sensually, her limbs already tangled in the luxurious sheets, she sees Lisana crawling towards her, frustrated by Zak's withdrawal. Red? Red. Oh, shit.

There's some sort of alarm ringing in the back of her mind, even as she lets Lisana close the distance to her side.

"Szalan-aua-amozru, you -" she giggles, nuzzling Lisana's neck, inhaling her scent "- you are high on your own supply, amozru."

Her eyes somehow locate Zak, a seemingly intolerable distance away across the bedroom. "Don't open the vents."


<Zak>

Zak, still manfully trying to wrench his mind back from the call of his baser desires, kept his distance from the two tempresses on the bed.

Then Cho's comment finally sank in; "Damn... Falleen pheromones. Lisana... It's you."

He chuckled in spite of the situation; "If you bottled this you could make a fortune... or get in a hell of a lot of trouble."

He glanced over at the two forms almost seething while entwined together on the bed, apparently purrs and giggles emanating from both;

"Or not." He shook his head trying to snap out of it.

Unsure he could risk any closer proximity he stumbled to the cabin door, pulled back the drape to open the emergency panel. Luck was on his side this time a single breath mask still hung in place, he reached in and put it on.

Taking a few deep breaths through the mask helped and some clarity returned. That was a trip. Literally. He paused just for a few more breaths before heading back to the bed and retrieving the medisensor and datapad before retreating once more.

The room was completely awash with Falleen pheromones - mood altering levels. Lisana's vitals were.. well... over stimulated, and Cho similarly. Zak didn't bother checking his own, no need.

Quickly he looked to the datapad, was there something to neutralise the pheromones? Searching through Lisana's note he found a footnote. Interesting.

He rummaged in Lisana's green case until he found the right vial and pushed it into the injector, gave himself a shot and moved to give Cho one too - Lisana's red hue helping his aim.

"Sorry ladies, but I think things have gotten just a little bit out of control. Di, this should help, I hate to break up the party but we've got work to do."


<Cho>

Something sharp scratches her arm, prompting another giggle, Cho gently dragging her fingertips down Lisana's back in delighted reprisal. The world starts to swim back into focus, colder and less inviting.

Largely unclad and still in a tangle of limbs, Cho lets her head roll back amidst the sheets, looking languidly up at the ceiling.

"Well now, that was refreshing. Thank you."

She can't tell herself if she's talking to Zak about the shot, or to Lisana. So that's what it's like, szalan? I do hope I remember this.

Gently, ever so gently, she extracts herself from Lisana's embrace, gathering sheets around her as she retreats to the opposite corner of the bed.

She smiles wryly across at Lisana. "You are quite the drug."


<Lisana>

Perhaps, to everyones' relief, Falleen pheromones are not inexhaustible. Lisana, slowly tolerating out on her own 'supply' and realising that her companions were out of reach, turns her head quizzically to sadly look for them. However, after a few moments, reality begins to intrude on her awareness. She reaches her hand to her head, and suddenly notices her red skin, which is fading to grey-green. Looking up in shock, she tries to speak. After several attempts she manages;

"That's …new!" She grimaces as she rolls slowly over to sit up, propped up on one hand and holding her head with the other. "Why do I feel so strange? Cho, you're undressed? Drug?"


<Cho>

Cho grins across at her, her eyes full of gentle amusement, hopefully reassuring Lisana that nothing seemed to be wrong.

"Your favourite traitors misbehaved a little. Quite the ride."

She glances over at Zak, then back to Lisana, smiling slightly mischievously.

"Don't worry, you didn't do anything I regret."


<Zak>

Zak laughs, very very glad that Lisana is conscious and talking, the relief is palpable in his whole frame;

"Yes a drug - you! We were swimming in so many pheromones we almost... Well... Suffice to say things got a little bit heated."

He raises an eyebrow and cheekily indicates the strewn garments on the bed;

"I think you both might need a moment to... redress." with that he turns his back struggling to contain more laughter, voice rich with humour; "I almost said 'get decent'... but... just no."

While the ladies recover their decorum Zak checks that medisensor relieved to see that Lisana's vitals seem on track, and Cho seems back in control.

"We almost lost you Lisana, your ramelteon interacted with the amiodarone in your program. I had to give you a ramelteon counter agent to get you heart rate back up."


<Lisana>

Processing this information slowly, Lisana's face is a picture of embarrassment already, and then she retrieves her clothes that are missing in action. Moving very carefully, not to jar her head, she redresses.

"I …have never lost control quite like that before. I'm so so sorry, forgive me." She looks pleadingly at them both.

As Zak highlights the drug interaction and what a close call that was, she stares at the datapad in his hand.

"That I find umm concerning. If I've made a mistake with that, then - " her voice tails off. "I've left this too long, my physiology was already struggling. Where are we in this delightful ritual?" she attempts her favourite eyebrow expression to seek humour, and winces.


<Cho>

It's good to hear Zak laugh, his relief infectious. Cho's face falls as he mentions their earlier mishap, though, something approaching grief upon her features as she relives the moment.

Not helpful, doctor Myrto.

She shakes her head, flashing Zak a reproachful look, then turns to hand Lisana the belt for her gown.

"Lisana. You don't need anyone's forgiveness. No apologies, no judgements, we're all fine here. But I'd forgive you anything."

She pauses, looking across at the chrono, thinking her way through the remaining schedule.

"Third dose coming up, you remember the drill. Sweats, temperature, restlessness. Sounds a lot like Cholgana."


<Zak>

Still high on Lisana being up and talking Zak sticks his tongue out at Cho with her reproachful look;

"Sorry to you both if my bedside manner leaves a lot to be desired, but it comes from an abundance of caution."

"Ramelteon is sold for it's lack of interactions so anyone could have missed that. No blame no apologies."

"The question is whether it's counter could add any further complications to the rest of the program."

"I had a look and I think we're OK, but what do you think Lisana?"


<Lisana>

Lisana stands unsteadily and asks for sight of the datapad screen. After a few moments scrolling through her preparatory notes and the datasheets, she hands it back, avoiding nodding.
"I take your point Zak, and I think we are ok. Well, there's a chance that I may be more restless than expected, the principal ramelteon metabolite may enhance the xylopenin side effects." She shrugs, and walks back to the bed. "I need to sit down. Let's get this one over with, it should be short and sharp. Doctor Myrto."


<Zak>

Zak nods at Lisana's comments and makes a few notes of his own on the datapad.

"Sorry again, but I had to ask." a certain seriousness returning to his voice as he selects the next dose in the program and loads the injector.

Zak waits for Lisana to sit down and Cho to get in place to support her.

"OK. If you're ready we'll proceed."

He looks for confirmation from them both before he reaches out lifting Lisana's sleeve and gently presses the injector in.


<Lisana>

Lisana sighs as she feels the injection, grateful that Cho is sitting by her side.

(Yes, this feels ok at least, body temperature on its way up, good).

Five minutes later Lisana is regretting this thought bitterly. Her body, hotter than she has felt in a very long time, drives her to stand up, and move from the bed, only to seek the chair to collapse in.

Seconds later, she can not sit, but needs to move back to the bed, sweating profusely.

"Oh this is great, even hotter than earlier!" she murmurs, still trying levity as an escape.

And then, sitting on the bed, she feels the need for the chair, eyes now half closed as if dozing.

Then a cool wall to lean against seems the best respite. The only wall without drapes by the refesher gives her relief for an all too brief time, and she paces up and down in front of it for some moments, in increasing discomfort.

"Sorry - need a shower."

She heads into the refresher, leaving the door ajar behind her.


<Cho>

Cho is almost getting dizzy following Lisana's motion through the room, dutifully doing her best to strike a balance between providing support and giving her space to move.

She spares Zak a weary, knowing glance as Lisana disappears into the refresher. Shuts her eyes for a moment, steeling herself. Trust.

With a tired, forced, smile she leans her back against the bathroom doorway.

"Let me know if you need a hand."

She shuts her eyes, listening, seeming to count under her breath. Step, step, spot the mirror. Wonder if that was you, or us. Shower on, cue. Glance at cabinet. Hesitate. Look again.

And you can trust us to catch you, szalan.

There's the faint tinkle of glass falling onto the sink, the few pieces of broken mirror Cho'd tidied into Lisana's drug cabinet falling back out as it opens. She sighs, looks back across at Zak.

"After you." she murmurs, wearily gesturing him in.


<Zak>

The exchange of looks between them is enough, and Zak pushes open the refresher door, his heart sinking at what he'll find.

The fact that Lisana hadn't locked it was positive... maybe she'd honestly just wanted a cold shower. They'd never know.

"Lisana... Are you OK?"

Then he sees her; sweat beading on her pallid skin in the harsh light from the mirror and a painful feral scowl distorting her beautiful face.

Zak had seen similar before on a number of colleagues fighting addictions - still it was truly shocking to see Lisana driven to that - but her appearance wasn't currently the problem.

What was was the half filled injector and the distinctive green ampoule in her shaking hands. Zak didn't have time to think through the effects that it might have on Lisana's already pushed physiology, but it wouldn't be good.

He raises his hands in supplication, trying - and failing - to make himself seem smaller and less potentially threatening. If she took that shot he'd move heaven and earth to pull her back from the brink but he had no idea if his best would be enough to save her.

Zak's voice becomes thick with emotion, layers of concern for Lisana, Cho, the whole situation;

"Lisana... That is what you want to stop doing... because you want to. That's why we're all here. You're so close. You've been through so much... just a few more steps."

Just from Zak's tone Cho is left in no doubt what Zak is seeing and what it might mean. He slowly shifts a hand from supplication to reception, holding out his hand as he'd seen Cho do earlier;

"Let us help you through this... but you have to take the steps yourself. We can't do it for you no matter how much we wish we could."


<Lisana>

For a moment Lisana eyes seek focus, and she looks desperately in Zak's direction. Her gaze burns into his eyes. Her breathing begins to slow and she gently starts to lift her hand holding the injector and ampoule, as she starts walking towards him.

At the last moment, she shudders with pain, and her eyes light with animal cunning.

Familiar manicured talons arc towards Zak's eyes. At the same time, she brings her left knee slamming up into his weak thigh, with surprising strength born of desperation. Cho would be so proud of her training.

Without looking back she slips past diving out of the doorway.


<Cho>

Listening to Zak speak, hearing him try so hard to get through to Lisana, Cho fights to focus through a surge of her own emotions. Too much at stake right now.

Her eyes alight on the wall chrono. Fuck. Final dose due.

She starts turning toward the doorway, just as there's a pained outbreath from Zak as Lisana hits him where he's weakest. Well done, szalan, but you do pick your moments.

Lisana throws herself through the doorway, a bundle of feral desperation. Cho launches herself after her, low and fast, tackling her to the ground, the two of them once again a tangle of limbs.

She sees the injector, twists the limb responsible into a disabling joint lock, grimacing as she does; she's about to wheeze an apology when her ribs explode in pain, Lisana fighting like a cornered animal.

Cho's eyes are wide, wild as they meet Lisana's, seeming for a moment just as out of control, her expression flowering into an almost rictus grin.

"Zak! Dose!"


<Zak>

Blood runs from the surprisingly deep scratches around Zak's eye where Lisana's talons made contact. He didn't want to think about what would have happened had her aim been more true, less wild.

He certainly hadn't been expecting such an all out feral attack from her and realised he'd underestimated her physicality, something he should have known better than to do. Remember Zak she's an adult Falleen, not some doe eyed school girl. A small tactical part of his brain files that away for future reference and self flagellation.

Despite the way it looked the face wasn't a real issue, the blow to his already injured leg had made it a traitor and Zak struggled to force it to do what he wanted, gritting his teeth through the pain.

He stumbled out of the refresher to the green case, keeping his feet more through force of will. Grabbing the prepared injector he turns, takes a few stumbling steps and throws himself toward the struggling pair.

By using the simple expedient of grabbing the first arm he finds and locking it into place with raw strength, he locates an upper arm of the right colour and presses the injector home.


<Cho>

Pain flares through Cho's consciousness, the distraction and Lisana's desperation prolonging their struggle. Part of her knows, instinctively, she could so easily embrace that pain and find the strength to stop this.

Not now.

She cannot risk hurting her further. Tries instead to just keep her immobilised, use her body-weight to stop Lisana getting too many more desperate hits in, until fatigue and the next injection take their toll.

Cho pulls herself up onto her knees, then shakily tries to stand, she and Zak helping each other up. She lets out a wheezing breath, holding her side.

"Let's get her to the bed."

It's more of a struggle than it should be, even without Lisana actively resisting, none of the three of them in a particularly fit state. After, Cho sighs down onto the side of the bed in relief, taking a moment to collect her thoughts.

They were so nearly there, according to Lisana's notes, but those had been... understated, to say the least.

Her eyes rove over Zak, then she glances down herself, touching her midriff tenderly, before looking back to regard Lisana with a weary mix of sadness and affection.

"You may have to hold her down."


<Lisana>

After some moments of peace, Lisana stirs uneasily in her private world on the bed.

Dane's face, tense and sad. The shock.

"Reeva….. oh gods. Why…" Still unaware, a tear appears in the corner of Lisana's eye. "for what?...I can't ….."

She calms, and her breathing slows, only to speed up again. Her shuttered eyes twitch, nose wrinkling.

That smell…the blood – why up the wall?....

"Mama? Mama?" Lisana begins to weep, to sob. She stirs again, turning her head this way and that. "Don't leave. …Stay with me. Please…please…" Her sobs are awful to hear, childlike and heart rending. Very gradually her distress eases, and her breath slows again.

She is quiet for a few more moments.

Then she starts to writhe on the bed, convulsing, clawing at her own flesh.


<Zak>

Immediately it becomes obvious that Lisana will hurt herself if not restrained, Zak steps in his big hands spreading the force needed to hold her still. But that's only a stop gap, this phase could last a while and he'll need better control.

Zak glances at Cho wondering if she'll understand. Cho's ribs make safely restraining Lisana impossible for her.

He sighs and mumbles in a surprisingly tender but intense voice; "I'm sorry Lisana, I really am, but to keep your body safe I'm going to have in invade your space. There's no other way. Please forgive me... I really hope... it doesn't colour your delusions. It's me, it's Zak... You are safe."

He crawls further onto the bed beside her and rolls slightly using his size and weight to pin her down - pinning her hip to hip with one leg across hers restraining them, an arm on her alternate shoulder to limit her writhing.

Given what he knows of her history Zak has strong fears this restraint will resonate with previous abuse, but he can't see any choice.

When he looks at Cho, bloody face and all, she sees the concern in his eyes, but also the determination; "Di... You'll need to keep an eye on the medisensor. Looks like I'm going to have my hands full."

He looks back onto Lisana's delirious face; "It's OK. It's OK, I've got you. It's Zak, Cho's right here too..."

It becomes a mantra...


<Lisana>

Lisana shudders at Zak's touch. Tries to pull away. She seems oblivious to his words.

Not again, why is he here? …..Let go….please….stop touching me… too close….. please

Lisana's eyes snap open, turning her head to look directly into Zak's. Terror and revulsion are written across her face. She attempts to loose her shoulder and hips, wriggling and writhing, desperate to escape. And eventually, through clenched teeth, still locked eye to eye with Zak….sobbing out her words….

"Father… please …..no."


<Cho>

"Get off her."

Cho's voice is a broken, distorted thing, barely able to speak as she watches Lisana writhe and plead. She climbs across the bed toward her, uncertain at first what to do but needing desperately to do something.

She can practically feel Lisana's distress, twining with her own, with Zak's, until it's an almost physical thing that threatens to choke and engulf her. She knows what to do now, but can she?

"Szalan, please, hear me."

The temple gardens, Dantooine's evening sun. Nayim sits across from her, smiling gently as a child takes their first step into a wider world, feels the gentle embrace of the Force in return.

Cho fixes the moment in her mind, letting all the pain and loss that came after, letting all of it fall away. Searches for another like it.

Sweat, cigarettes, cheap whiskey on the air. The sheets are rough, the bedding old, but she is not alone. Zak's arms enfold her, and through him she feels invulnerable. Safe, out of reach of the world.

She gathers up that feeling, reaches her hand out to Lisana.

Tatooine, after Vemmla's party. Walking Lisana back to the 'Fox, sitting with her through breakdown and rebuilding. Something between them, acknowledged, understood. Kinship stronger than blood.

"Szalan, you are safe. You are safe, and you are loved."

She rests a hand on Lisana's cheek, and lets the Force flow through her, through both of them. Feels it start to twist, slide out of her control.

It takes every fibre of her will not to fight that. To trust to the Force, to trust herself.

As she calms again, she feels Lisana start to settle. Safe, at peace, loved and understood. Her calm grows to encompass Lisana, becomes a sense of peace without surrender, without the oblivion they'd both sought before.

Eventually Diya smiles, and lifts her hand away, her gaze finding Zak.


<Zak>

Hearing Lisana's history through her delusions is something that Zak will always carry.

The pain, loss and terror emanating from her is so frighteningly tangible. That a father would do that to his daughter fans the fire of anger in Zak's mind for Trehees to new heights.

Learning these things without Lisana's consent makes him feel guilty, like some kind of sick spectator, that he's violating her free will, her trust - just knowing without being told. But his mantra isn't breaking through... She's stuck in a nightmare. A torture with no way out. He racks his brain but can't think of any alternative. In her state, any of the usual drugs would likely be dangerous, but what end to save the body but destroy the mind. Despair builds in his soul.

At Cho's broken voice he turns to her, despair and distress clear on his face almost sobbing; "You know I can't, Di"

Seeing the raw determination on Cho's face as she climbs up the bed there's a moment he wonders if she intends to bodily remove him - he doesn't doubt that she could.

But instead her focus is on Lisana.

When Cho speaks again there's a quality to her voice that makes it impossible to ignore, impossible to deny.

As she touches Lisana's cheek there's more... like the touch was merely the first motion in something infinitely more complex and at the same time staggeringly simple but beyond the mere physical.

Wrapped around Lisana and next to Cho, whether intended or not, Zak is engulfed by a wave of emotion flowing from Cho though Lisana... Echoes of comfort, belonging, companionship and safety.

All the fear and despair evaporates at its touch, leaving Zak stunned, mouth agape. He can feel beyond a doubt that Lisana's nightmare is at an end, that calm reigns.

He relaxes, shifting his weight from Lisana. And stares in amazement at Cho, quickly echoing her beautiful smile at a complete loss for words, nothing short of adoration in his eyes.


<Cho>

There's a certain timelessness to the moment, Cho and Zak smiling back at each other, Lisana safely nestled between them; it feels to her like it could go on forever, and that would be just fine.

Nothing lasts, though. That's what makes it all precious.

Cho blinks, her eyes refocusing as a teardrop makes its way down Zak's face, across the livid red tracks of Lisana's talons. Ah. That'll be an interesting one to explain.

Reluctantly she stirs, careful not to disturb Lisana too much, motions for Zak to sit up as she reaches for the nearby medpack.

With a delicate, tender touch she begins to clean and treat the wounds. "Lot of first aid practice today," she murmurs, tracing a fingertip fondly down the side of his face. Hopefully with more professional care, they won't scar, but he'll look quite the fierce warrior in the meantime.

Her attention is, of course, not entirely on the task, flashing Zak an apologetic smile every time she catches herself looking down at Lisana; she's nonetheless done a reasonable job before long.

When Lisana finally begins to stir, Cho is by her side in a heartbeat, smiling softly and leaning down to plant a gentle kiss upon her brow.

"Szerxia'szalan."


<Lisana>

To look up and see them both, smiling, sitting beside her, lifts Lisana's already peaceful spirit. As she stretches, even her aching body does not detract from her joy. She has lived through darkness.

Then Cho is kissing her forehead. Her touch so welcome. How to find words to even begin. Eventually:

"I have stayed, szalan-aua-amozru." Her eyes meet Cho's and they share that moment silently. Lisana smiles and reaches her hand out to Zak.

"We have ended this day closer than kin, Zak." Her gaze looks sad as she traces the lines of his cuts in the air, and then looks at her hand. Pausing, perhaps measuring her feelings, Lisana sighs. "I am beyond grateful. Vjix za'al."

They sit, sometimes quietly, sometimes reflecting on events and trivialities, but together.

rossi720
New Face
Posts: 21
Joined: 22 Jul 2007, 12:23

Session 25.1 - Cho, Lisana, Zak - Someone to Watch Over Me

Post by rossi720 »

Zak watches over Lisana and Cho after something of an emotional ordeal.
[some while after a challenging conversation with Hethan about the children]
Spoiler
[Trigger warning: child abuse, single post later on]
<Cho>

Soft lighting glows gently across the furnishings of Lisana's cabin, glints in the empty glasses, on the dregs of another whiskey bottle upon the bedside cabinet. Both Lisana and Cho are remarkably coherent given the quantities recently imbibed, but perhaps that wouldn't come as such a surprise to Zak.

As Lisana glides into the refresher, getting herself ready for bed, Cho pauses in the doorway behind her, tensing as a sibilant sentence sizzles in her direction and sighing. "She's too tired" Cho murmurs to Zak - rather shortening the utterance in translation - moving to stand by his side, leaning gently into his steadying presence.

Echoes of the other night reverberate around the room, and she shivers against him. Let's not do that again.

She shrugs away some of the tension in her shoulders, deciding this time they can afford to wait outside. Neither she nor Lisana have much fight left in them tonight; the haunted, lost looks in their eyes when Cho'd opened the cabin door to Zak had spoken volumes. Seldom has he seen Cho so upset, though she'd rallied somewhat over the hour of quiet companionship that'd followed.

After waiting quietly, Cho gives Zak's hand a gentle squeeze, then slips into the refresher as Lisana comes out.


<Lisana>

Lisana glides out in silk pyjamas, offering a set to Cho as she passes. With resignation, she notices her manicured hands are greying again, and is aware that she is making a significant effort to remain graceful, forcing her shoulders to stay relaxed.

As the noise of the shower hisses around the room, the vision of her talons raking across Zak's face in that refresher causes her to shudder. Walking to Zak's side, she looks sadly across at the livid wounds.

"Zak, I cannot express enough my thanks for your support over the past few days. You and Cho …well… without you…"

Words failing her, Lisana lays a gentle hand on his arm to complete her sentence, lowering her eyes.


<Zak>

Zak had had a bit of a quandary when deciding whether to check on the ladies. Not wanting to interrupt their support of each other as he worried that his presence would likely inhibit them both to a greater or lesser extent. But in the end his promise to Lisana regarding her detox won out. If they were both emotionally drained he felt it might be best for someone as damned practical as him was around - just in case. He was pleasantly surprised at his welcome and inclusion.

When Zak had arrived it was clear that the pair had been very upset and had attempted redress through medicinal use of hard liquor. He'd certainly fallen into that trap many times in the past himself so he'd accepted the glass proffered with little comment, unsure how best to help. Cho's state certainly shocked him and it was all he could do not to rush over and give her a hug.

As the conversation continued he'd been drawn in, seeing either of them so upset wasn't something he could ignore, springing to their defense when it seemed they were unfairly blaming themselves or their past for things. In the end it was clear to Zak that they both wanted the best for the children and unfortunately the situation was not one where any guarantees could exist. As the amount of imbibed liquor increased the topics got wider and before long it was clear that it was time to turn in.

Zak was once again camped out in Lisana's designer armchair in an effort to mostly stay out of the way while the well lubricated pair are getting ready for bed. A smile on his face as he assimilated all the small ways the pair were similar and different in their nightly habits. He was sure it was telling him a huge amount about each of them - if only he could decode it.

As Cho leans against him his arm comes up to hold her tight, hoping to impart his strength. He'd been particularly shocked by her state when she opened the door, he couldn't remember ever seeing her quite so distraught. He reciprocates her squeeze as her turn for the refresher arrives.

He can't help but smile at Lisana and her grace and style. If she fell in a sewer she'd probably still somehow come out smelling of roses. Although his trained eye detected a certain effort not normally visible.

When she shudders and turns, he's concerned for a moment until he releases the target of her gaze. No doubt finding another thing to be self critical of.

"Szalan, please. You were not yourself. I've had worse just from training exercises." he gives her his cheekiest smile; "As you've pointed out... more than once... and at length."

"Plus it looks quite roguish don't you think."

The humour in his voice takes a back seat as he adds; "As for the rest, you are most welcome, but had I been a better friend and paying more attention I would have helped sooner."


<Lisana>

Falleen! And again he surprises me. You are a quite remarkable man, Mr Myrto.

Her eyes brighter and more vivid than ever, Lisana looks up into Zak's gaze, and with a fluid practiced gesture, brushes the ends of her talons straight down the line of her breast bone and opens her hand smoothly palm up towards him.

"Zhratar." It was only a whisper, with a gentle smile, but it's meaning and weight clear. "You have been a strong companion and an incalculable support to Cho. And I have been so very careful to conceal the depth of this from everyone."

Lisana's eyes flick aside, and she sighs, remembering the pathway to that night of crisis and of her dark walk. Turning towards him again,

"I need to seek your help again, I feel. With my father's interest in seeking me out clearly building," and she massages her back ruefully, "There is an urgent need for me to train fast and hard in any combat techniques that might prove useful. And assistance from you and Cho would be most welcome."


<Zak>

Zak watches Lisana's response with genuine interest;

"Gladly given. I'm sure between us we can teach you some very useful techniques." Zak considers for a second and adds;

"However, I'm not sure that we want to get in an arms race with the Zann Consortium. I'm not sure that would end well, but personal safety we can help with."


<Lisana>

Lisana regards Zak as he sits before her, a huge presence compared with her slight frame. She could almost touch his essence in the cabin.

With his expertise, and she gives me so much, this could just work.

Even her face muscles are tired, but she manages to arch one eyebrow.
"Thank you. I am the only one joining that arms race. But my personal safety is a crucial part of the big play. For now however, I need to get some sleep, I'm afraid."

Lisana turns to the bed, and feels her head begin to reel, just as Cho leaves the refresher.

Oh Gods, you never learn - you've pushed yourself beyond limits yet again.

Thankful to achieve the bedside, Lisana catches herself in time before she tries to undress further. Finally sliding into the sheets, she stretches luxuriously in their comfort, and sleepily awaits Cho's approach.


<Cho>

Watching Lisana unsteadily cross the floor, it takes Cho an effort of will not to close the gap and support her. She pauses in the doorway instead, pressing a hand against the wall as if to steady her own self; now that she's no longer pushing herself to keep going, it's clear recent events have taken a lot out of her.

The flicker of a smile curves her lips as Lisana pauses at her bedside, and then a silk-clad Cho turns toward Zak, her smiling warming still further. Her movements are faltering - almost graceless - though, as she crosses the distance between them; she hadn't seemed this tired even after their last training session.

Ribs twinging in protest as she leans down to kiss him, her smile turns rueful; her hands rest gratefully upon his shoulders, stopping her just short of losing her balance.

Her kiss is tender, lingering, but Zak can practically taste her weariness, the effort it takes to push herself back upright enough to regard him properly.

"You okay?"

Not quite what you signed up for. Her eyes rove across his features, concern suddenly threatening her brittle composure.


<Zak>

When Cho turns to Zak it's very clear from his naughty smile that he's enjoying seeing her in silk and the way it enhances her form.

"Well... nice. Silk huh... I think I like it. Who'da thunk."

As she reaches down to kiss him, his a hands come up to gently hold her waist, and he returns the kiss, savouring the moment;

"Steady there my dear, you really need some sleep hon."

Seeing her concern, he pauses to give it some real consideration. He smiles;

"I think so, my love. It's been a rollercoaster few days for all of us. And there's stuff we haven't caught up on yet."

He gives her waist a little squeeze; "But nothing that trumps your need to sleep. Promise. OK?"


<Cho>

Fondly scrutinising Zak's face a while longer, eyes half shut, Cho finally nods in acceptance. She glances across at Lisana, then back to Zak, shakily leaning in to steal a final goodnight kiss.

"Thank you." she breathes, close to his ear, meaning every syllable.

She takes a few more breaths before heaving herself upright once more, and unsteadily piloting her body toward the waiting bed and Lisana.

There's an initial awkwardness to the pair of them, as they settle down; Cho sliding herself into bed between Lisana and any easy exit. The two exchange sleepy murmurs in Falleen, before rolling over to rest back to back, Lisana seeming to relax against Cho's frame.

Head supported by luxurious pillows, Cho's gaze rests a while upon Zak, smiling softly. She whispers something, just a couple of words too low to catch, then slowly shuts her eyes.

It's not long before both are deeply asleep, the rhythm of Cho's breath intimately familiar in the quiet of the cabin, small mumbles and twitches surfacing as they flee her dreams. At one point she shivers, almost waking the both of them; she rolls over to rest a hand on Lisana's form, settling into a more peaceful slumber.


<Zak>

In the now mostly silent cabin Zak watches the two with a fond smile and shifts in his seat finally able to truly relax. It had been one hell of a few days... weeks even in Zak's case.

Having to face the Hellions - all, baring Dane, happy to condemn him without real hard evidence or knowledge, seemingly ungrateful for him risking his life to save their family on D'Qar.
Losing his way with the holes in his head, and his own inner demons... the fear that the Hellions might be right.
Vivid recollections of his almost death at the hands of Cho's Master, Nayim. He still couldn't square that coincidence or the fact that Cho now wields that very blade.
Feeling so trapped and frightened wasn't something he'd ever had to deal with before.
Having to ask Reeva to use the Force to help him after she'd made such mistakes with it before, just so he could survive.
What would have happened if Reeva and Cho hadn't succeeded? He'd probably be broken and of no use to anyone, perhaps worse a danger. He'd almost depressurised the Skywatcher while in a delusion after all.
The prison ship, Gak, Hethan and the children and a number of extremely close calls amongst the crew.
Then the aftermath.
Sparring with Cho and the revelations of holding a lightsaber. Her pride in him and his in her at their performance as padawan and master.
Arguing with Reeva.
Lisana's despair at their injuries and her sincerity at his gift idea.
The revelations of quite how far Cho and Lisana's relationship had come.
Dane's acceptance and forgiveness of Zak.
Lisana's detox.
And then the moral dilemma with Hethan and the children.

No wonder the crew was all over the place. It was surprising that anyone had anything left to give.

He focussed once more on the two slumbering women in front of him and considered the most recent events, certainly he never expected to be sitting in Lisana's cabin watching her and Cho sleep. That was new.

Both beautiful and dangerous in remarkably complementary ways. Both strong willed, stubborn and... damaged.

Zak was very happy that they'd buried the hatchet after the vitriol that had occured when Cho's 'deal' had become clear, but this was on a whole other level. Clearly that whole explosion of emotion between them had been an indication of the strength of a bond building between them even then. Zak didn't doubt Lisana's opinion of her father, but the cold shoulder and disdain had seemed more likely than a public display of such hate. Lisana was a very private person... until she invited you in, so that had to indicate some serious disappointment, and given her trust issues Zak didn't doubt that it seemed like a massive betrayal at the time. Zak had mixed feelings himself that Cho hadn't shared it with him either - it made him think that it was more than likely Cho had seen problems with the choice in the first place. Better to beg forgiveness than be denied permission as the phrase went.

That they were able to patch things up was remarkable, especially in the situation. Zak knew that his descent into trauma had put massive pressure on Cho and the rest of the crew, and was glad when Lisana told him that she and Cho had supported each other through it. Not his proudest moment.

Clearly they'd found a lot in common to become that close, and Zak was sure that stemmed for their shared and similar history. They were both, beyond anything else, survivors. Of truncated childhoods, physical abuse, mental trauma and exploitation of one form or another. He could imagine that they'd have many similar stories throughout their lives, and consequently mirrored or similar perspectives. Hardly surprising that the same things upset them, and that they each knew the right things to make those same things better.

Zak was very glad that in this wide universe the pair of them had found such support with each other.

But at the same time... it did give him pause. It was crystal clear that there was love and affection between them and an understanding that frankly he was ashamed to admit he was jealous of. He so wanted to be able to share that same kind of understanding with Cho that Lisana seems so capable of. And yet, what was there to be jealous of? The hardship and emotional nightmare that they'd both faced wasn't something he'd wish on anyone let alone himself.

If they make each other happy who am I to interfere? But what does that mean for Cho & I? Can I share her? Or am I selfish enough to just want her all to myself?

It wasn't as if non-standard relationships were new to him or his family. Married for the family, a partner for yourself wasn't a new thing to the Myrtos. Zak had never really liked that idea. He'd always wanted a true partnership, a shared life rather than something arranged for politics.

And for that first time he felt he'd found someone who kept him on his toes and made his life interesting - and importantly did so in spite of the situation and personal cost. He'd been no easy option for Cho. Falling for him had, he didn't doubt, cost the younger Cho considerably.

And yet here she was... actively in his life. Even if at the moment focussed on another.


<Zak>

Zak smiled as he remembered Cho's mischief from the other day. Cho and Lisana smooching.
That had certainly been a shock. Deliciously naughty of Cho - you could always count on her to tease, especially if it tickled her unusual sense of humour. He had wanted to ravish her on the spot.
He didn't doubt that would feature in his dreams at some point - but dreams were one thing... reality another. Besides the old stereotypes though he hadn't really thought about that.

Lisana had seemed surprised by the kiss and amused when Zak was revealed. But... being a very physical being himself Zak had noticed little hesitation or uncertainty in her responses to Cho's advances until that point. What did that mean?

Zak considered, running back the exchanges he'd seen between Lisana and Cho. There was certainly love, affection and heaps of passion... and a certain physical intimacy. But did that come from Lisana being their doctor as well as such a good friend to Cho? Lisana had likely seen both Zak and Cho in states of undress more than any other of the crew, save perhaps Dane.

Lisana had been very generous about Cho & Zak's relationship, and that had seemed entirely genuine. But could there have been some disappointment in that? Possibly. Might Lisana's feelings be more than those of a BFF? That was an interesting possibility. Zak wasn't sure how he felt about it.

What he did know was that they both deserved to be happy after all the misfortunes in their lives. And whatsmore, they deserved that more than he did. He'd been married, had lovers, and had a daughter.

If Lisana did harbour deeper feelings for Cho, was that something that Cho and Lisana should face? Pushing his own involvement to the side, or at least trying to, Zak thought they probably should, if unrequited and unexplored Lisana might miss other opportunities for happiness and life was far too short for that.

The other question that Zak couldn't answer was Lisana's perspective on intimacy and sex. It meant very different things to different people. Having some insight into some of Lisana's history it was entirely possible that Lisana's relationship to the physical was, for want or a better world, corrupted by her history. She clearly knew that she could weaponise her sexuality, but did that corrupt the physical intimacy of it with those she loved?

A wry smile appeared on Zak's lips as he realised he could have asked a similar set of questions about Reina, given her seductress proclivities, but there was a significant difference between having a choice to do something for duty and a cause than having the choice thrust on you for survival.

Zak shook his head. He was falling down another rabbit hole. At the end of the day, the choice such as it was, was entirely Cho's. And he'd love her regardless.


<Cho>

As the hours roll by, settled into slumber, Cho's sleep seems deeper and more restful than Zak might've seen in some time - though perhaps that's a simple function of exhaustion. Neither she nor Lisana move much until well into the early hours.

She finds her way to waking slowly, gently drifting still. Content for a few minutes just to lay there listening to Lisana's breathing, to see her so at peace. To know that Zak's there, feel his presence in the room, watching over them.

Something is wrong. The sensation gnaws at her, corroding away at the safety and contentment she feels.

Cho's mind starts to race, analysing her every perception, though there's little outward sign; pretending to sleep easily is a honed instinct after the life she's led. Still, her companions in the cabin know her better than anyone, just as she knows them.

Zak's awake, says the pattern of his breathing. Troubled. She can hear the tension in him, and for a moment her world spirals. Vivid recollections of long, awful nights awake, listening to him grapple with his demons, unable to reach him.

Unbidden tears form in her eyes as she pulls herself back to the present. It's not a flashback he's grappling with now, turning over in his mind. He is not lost, she tells herself.

She continues taking inventory of sensations, from the sounds of the ship, the distant tremor of its power plant, to the jagged pain waiting on the very fringes of each breath. Brings herself back to the peaceful sounds of Lisana's breath, and that of Zak's, easing now.

Making a discreet show of yawning and stretching, the movements slow and gentle so as not to wake Lisana, Cho finally rolls onto her back, turns her head to regard Zak. Her eyes take in his posture in the chair, focusing quickly in on his face despite the low light.

After a minute or so just watching him, a smile flickers on her lips. Careful not to disturb her companion, she slides from the bed, silk whispering across the sheets, to sit herself at Zak's feet looking up at him, a hand on his knee. Her voice is a low murmur, pitched for his ears only.

"Ready to talk about it yet?"


<Zak>

Zak's drawn out of his somewhat painful reverie as Cho starts her languid and oh so casual stretching. He can't help but smile.

Whilst he had no doubt that the stretches were for show, he hadn't detected any sign she'd been awake. Probably been watching me for a while I'd guess.
The knowing of such things seemed part of that bond he felt they shared. As though at some deeper level there was the understanding that Zak desired in the conscious.
At that thought a small sigh escaped him. Was he wrong to want that? Being too demanding, having unrealistic expectations? Was he just lacking acceptance of what he could share with the amazing creature now coming across the room to him?

He watches her close the gap and sit before him drinking in her form, the way she moves, her smell in the air, the touch of her hand on his knee. All of those things were priceless to him, and he knew they always would be. Whatever fate threw their way.

A wry smile appears on his face at her question; "Touché" Zak keeps his voice low so as not to wake Lisana.

"Would you believe that you've both returned my own words back to me? You are very alike in a lot of ways."

"Ready or not, I always want to share my thoughts with you."

He pauses collecting his thoughts, seeking those to start with. Zak's eyes met Cho's, a heartfelt intensity in them;

"You love her." it wasn't a question.

"Hold on to her with all your might, Di. Some things are beyond value. I've never seen such natural care and understanding develop between two people. Cherish and enjoy it. Forever."

sincerity and embarrassment is clear in his face as he breaks eye contact; "I have to confess... I think... I might be a little jealous."

He looks back; "I'm not proud of that."


<Cho>

Diya holds his gaze, a defiant, determined intensity in her own eyes as Zak speaks. When he looks away, she gives his knee a gentle squeeze; her eyes glisten as he looks back.

Yes, I love her. More ways than I've words for.

"I will hold on to both of you, if I may."

Her voice is still low, carefully pitched, but there's a ragged edge to it. Her eyes lower, finding the spot on his chest where Gak'Fedaw's saber struck.

"When he struck you, I lost it. But I knew what to do." Her voice catches slightly, and she takes a long breath before continuing. "The other night, when she... when she fell. I couldn't do anything. You could. You did."

She looks back up at Zak, a familiar tracery of frustration on her features. How do I even begin to express what you mean to me?

"I'm not the person I was when we met. Not even the person I was when we got back together. Because of her, I'm... more. More able to do this. More able to love you. To think that we might actually survive this."

Twisting her frame, she looks across at Lisana, smiling fondly, then turns her full attention back to Zak, her voice clear, determined.

"I would end worlds to protect her. But when I'm with you I realise I might not have to."


<Zak>

As Cho speaks, he studies her face and gaze, devouring the emotions he sees reflected, he can't stop his hand rising to gently caress her face. She means so much to me. I never want to lose her.

In the quietness of the night and the intimacy of the situation, Zak's emotions are writ large on him in a way they aren't normally, a vulnerability and depth that's usually hidden. He listens actively, absorbing her words and emotions, nodding his understanding.

"I'm not going anywhere if I can help it. I'm yours, Di... in ways I can't begin to express." He leans forward and lifts her hand from his knee and touches it to his chest over his heart, scant inches from the wound she looked to; "You're in here." emotion thick in his voice.

Echoing Cho's look to Lisana;

"I will be forever grateful to her for what she gives you. She, like you, is a remarkable woman."

Zak meets Cho's gaze as it returns and her words hit him; their implication brings tears to his eyes. "Partners forever. Di. I mean that with all that I am."


<Lisana>

Lisana makes a show of shifting in bed and stretching her slender body. As she rolls over, she sees Cho and Zak turning to look. Her face still relaxed - she hopes - with her breath fighting her for control, she closes her eyes and pretends to stretch again.

(Jealous! Szalan, zhratar, what have I done? You need space.)

So much that could not be unheard. Two of the people most dear to her, struggling to understand each other and this broken Falleen female, who has put herself between them.

Nausea building, her skin beginning to pale to grey and with her spirit twisting inside, she rolls out of bed, to seek the refresher. And then, realising that her subconscious is drawing her to the jewels in the cabinet, she shrugs on her gown and turns away.

She sees Cho sitting gracefully on the floor in front of Zak, his imposing form hunched forward in the chair, captivated. Barely glancing at them, she runs her talons through her ruffled hair.

(So anxious, so troubled – I have to go…)

As she glides to the cabin door, she almost whispers "I left something in the bar, I'll just fetch it." And with a slightly unsteadily hand, she presses the door control.


<Zak>

Having had a better view than Cho, Zak had a suspicion. There was something about Lisana's breathing that had been inconsistent. He couldn't be sure but was he only one who didn't routinely feign sleep? What a similar pair they were.

Zak briefly considered his heart to heart with Cho... How would Lisana interpret it? To Zak there wasn't anything concerning beyond his confession and that was more about his embarrassment than anything else. But from the looks of it, it had had an unknown effect on Lisana.

In a gentle and warm voice; "Szalan, please, as you have said yourself we're closer than family, else we wouldn't be here invading your space."

"I don't wish anything hidden between us, if something you've heard has upset you I can only apologise. That certainly wasn't my intent."

"We didn't mean to wake you, and you certainly don't need to leave your own cabin for our benefit."

Zak frowned as he finally caught her off colour in the low light, and concern immediately tinged his voice;

"Szalan... Are you OK?"


<Cho>

Cho seems to follow Zak's gaze, or perhaps was already turning, having sensed Lisana's rise from the bed. Her heart swells with pride as Lisana turns herself away from the refresher and its cabinet full of helping hands.

Yet she can see the anguish in her, can't help but mirror it with distress of her own, driving her from the floor; her mind racing as her feet carry her across the room.

There's no stash left in the bar, szalan. You know that, I heard you swearing half the ship away, furious with yourself for even looking.

Not a fix you want, then. The bar meant safety, security, the familiar. When did you wake? What did you hear?

Awful realisation dawns on Cho, her face ashen for a moment, sorrow and compassion writ large upon her features. She knows she can't stop Lisana leaving, or at least that she won't, but nor will she leave her alone.

"Szalan, stay with us. Please."


<Lisana>

An open door and with the bar a mere run away, Lisana takes one step forward, grateful for the beckoning space – and then hears Zak's voice. Gentle and warm, resonant with kindness. Calm, yet concerned. A memory floats in, unbidden, of a rare moment of solace, with Hymbel's voice soft and sympathetic, teaching her card tricks, before he was forced to disappear.

The tension throughout the room is almost unbearable and her harsh gasps for breath painful to hear.

Hesitating, the sterile air of the corridor contrasting with the rich narawood scent of her cabin, Lisana absorbs the embrace of Zak's words, despite herself, with tears rising. Her inner battle to flee to a bolthole, borne of the grinding cruelty of street living, visible in the rigidity in her shoulders. With his words continuing to flow into her, beginning to calm the writhing inside, Cho's words join to support his.

(Stop running, deal with this, right now. I owe … we owe this to each other.)

Summoning a grain of resilience remaining, she turns unsteadily sideways to lean on the door frame, her black hair flowing forward. Trembling and with her pallor further increasing, Lisana lifts her gaze from the floor. Gradually her breathing slows.

Leaning her head back for support, her striking profile is framed in the doorway.

(Keep standing. Oh gods, I feel…..please be strong, deal with this)

Her usually vivid lavender eyes, dulled with fear and turmoil, slowly turn and join with Zak's gaze.

"Zhratar, szalan. What would you have me do?"


<Zak>

Cho gently takes Lisana's hands in hers and slowly coaxes her back deeper into the cabin to sit at the end of her bed once more and sits beside her.

As she does so Zak leans forward in the armchair addressing Lisana;

"We'd ask simply that you stay with us, szalan. And tell us what's wrong, so that we may help."

Zak's voice still tinged with concern, "And I personally ask what I said that upset you, so that I can explain myself and alleviate any concern."

with some trepidation he adds; "If I had to guess... would it be my childish confession of jealousy and a worry that you might harm our relationship?"

"If you heard that much, you should also have heard that the opposite is true... that your support and affection has given Cho hope, both for more from life, and for the future. How could that do anything but enhance?"

"Your support for her through my... madness... kept our relationship going when it might easily have failed."

"We owe you a debt for your support, szalan."

Zak smiles; "That Cho loves you is clear, and I meant all that I said about its value. It should be celebrated and cherished."

"As to the other, my feelings of jealousy are my problems not something that you are responsible for."

He glances at Cho with adoration; "And someone has alleviated those feelings with her words already this evening."

"I can only imagine what jealousy has led to in both your lives, but please I beg you don't judge me by those standards, but rather my actions."

"Closer than kin, szalan. The rough and the smooth."


<Lisana>

With the comforting presence of Cho beside her holding her hand. Lisana seems to calm but her gaze is still fixed on the floor, as if uncertain how to engage.

(Why this struggle with kindness given? As if there is no place in my heart for it?)

Lisana's troubled eyes turn to Cho and she squeezes her hand.

"I am so sorry szalan, but I needed time and sanctuary." And then she turns to Zak, and their eyes meet. Perhaps Zak also feels that slight shock, of a tiny connection between them, of Lisana lifting one of the veils that cloaked her.

"Thank you. You are kind and caring, and Cho will tell you that… I find receiving kindness …difficult. I do not know where to hold it in my spirit. But I feel yours."

(Essential he hears this directly)

"I celebrate all that you both have in your relationship, celebrate and cherish it – completely." She smiles gently, glancing at both of them as her black hair swayed. Then her face darkens.

"And yes, you are right that your feelings arise from within you, but they are caused by external influences and in this case, I am that influence. You are my closer than kin zhratar, and you are hurting and I am the cause. That pains me more than words can explain."

(How to even begin? Maybe just state and move on)

"To hear that you are in distress and …" there is a pause as Lisana struggles to say the word "jealous…of my relationship with Cho, impacts more on me than others, I think. I have an uncomfortable history with this, it is..…". Lisana , clearly struggling with revealing anything further, simply stops, her lips clamped in a thin line.. After a moment during which she stares intently into space, she turns to Zak again, her gaze softening.

"I would welcome a chance to sit with you and understand you better. To gain more common ground? We have walked in different worlds until recently, you and I. Now, if we choose, we can make a world that we all share."

Lisana begins to sit back on the bed, and takes a deep breath, savouring her scented cabin.

"Shall we start from the beginning? What did you both think of me when we first met on Spintir? Who was this Falleen female?"


<Cho>

Sitting hand in hand on the bedside, Cho's gaze flits from Lisana across to Zak and back again, watching their reactions to each other intently. So much depends on these few moments, she almost has to remind herself to breathe, wincing as she forgets to do so shallowly.

And again we find the words to fix things, for now. This is far from over, and we all know it. But I will not be the one who steps away; I cannot.

Selfish of me, I know, to want you both to myself. Perhaps ironically, Cho has never been one to look to the future, at least not where relationships are concerned. You snatch what happiness you can, wherever you can; she hopes she would not judge another for doing likewise.

At Lisana's question, Cho's eyes sparkle with mischief and affection, wryly biting her lip rather than speak the first words that come to mind. She tilts her head slightly, glancing briefly at Zak before returning her gaze fondly to Lisana's features.

"I did not see you then, szalan. I am glad I do now."

Cho pauses to consider her next words and decides to stop there, smiling; she instead looks inquiringly toward Zak.


<Zak>

Zak meets Lisana's gaze and for the first time sees through the calmly presented facade, the bulwark of her armour, to the eyes of the real individual within. It's a shock and a revelation.

He listens intently to her words shaking his head when she attempts to take any blame or responsibility for his feelings.

Zak's voice takes on a note of certainty; "Szalan, my distress is of my own making and comes from my own insecurities, my own fears of not being worthy. Fears of failure and loss. It's not in any way born from the care and affection you show for Cho."

"No one should have to hide their true feelings for someone they care about. My insecurities are much more likely to stem from my own childhood and it's challenges than anything in the here and now."

"But there is a power in bringing such negative feelings into the light, in discussing and addressing them directly with those we trust. Like... lancing a boil."

"You're absolutely right that we've experienced different worlds and that we need to find a common one. But until we do, just tell me I'm being an idiot, when I am."

With a cheeky smile he adds; "It'll save a lot of time."

Zak laughs with genuine fondness at Lisana's final question, hands out in supplication;

"That's easy - we saw what you wanted us to see, szalan. So I'm not sure I'm going to walk freely into that bear trap."


<Lisana>

(A trap?)

Zak would see the veil, so recently lifted, dropping like a heavy cloak across Lisana's eyes.

(Yes, I hope you saw that)

Lisana slides her body languidly across the sheets to lie on her front, facing Zak like a predatory cat, while still keeping her gaze on his face, and wounds.

She watches him for a long moment, silence heavy across their shoulders. Eventually, with careful curiosity:

"So, in what way does not falling into that 'bear trap' help us find common ground, Zak?"


<Cho>

Watching their exchange with interest, Cho sighs inwardly as Zak declines to engage; she doesn't even have to look at Lisana to know what she's feeling. A rueful smile alights on her lips.

We open the door, you walk past, we slam it shut again.

She shifts position to mirror Lisana's, laying alongside her in predatory solidarity, an expression of dangerously amused curiosity playing across her features.

This could be fun.


<Zak>

Zak wasn't sure what he said, but he did see the facade slam back in place in Lisana's eyes, and felt a change in the cabin. Something had definitely changed.

He struggled to put his finger on it... to remember when he had felt similar. The closest he could think of was when he'd be forced, by circumstance, to handle unexploded munitions.

He quickly glanced between Lisana and Cho and realised that he alone had no idea what he'd said that had affected the tone.

Crap. If my turn of phase causes backwards steps we'll all be old and grey before we find any common ground.

"Errr... Ladies... I see I've already put my foot in it." He again glances between them; "Is now when one of you tells me I'm being an idiot?"


<Cho>

One supposes it is.

Cho rolls onto her side, propped nonchalantly on an elbow, more easily able to see Zak and Lisana both. Lazily resting a hand in the small of Lisana's back, she regards Zak with amused eyes, though he'll recognise the beginnings of frustration around them too.

"Sweetie, I just didn't expect you to start so soon."

She pauses, glancing at Lisana briefly before looking back, flashing Zak a wolfish smile.

"When we want to trap or manipulate you, you won't see it coming."

Her attention turns to Lisana, trailing her hand thoughtfully up her back.

"May I answer your question properly, szalan? I thought you fascinating. Capable, dangerous - to me, even then - and proud of what you had built. Powerful. Al-Bad was made around you, the heart of it."

Reaching the top of her back, Cho's fingers caress Lisana's hair, teasing stray strands back into place. She glances at Zak, still smiling.

"What did you think of him? Who was he?"


<Lisana>

(She knows in a heartbeat what I need, breathes with me, swirls with me)

Lisana shifts to look at Cho as fingers ripple Lisana's long hair. With a mischievous twinkle, she touches Cho's hand, looking deeply into her eyes. Her voice evokes the mists of memories.

"He was a bear of a man. And I thought him potentially trouble, no, more than that - dangerous. I flagged him to my security immediately. He was clearly alert, on guard, and shrewd. Within a moment of entering the saloon, he'd assessed most of the clientele and staff more rapidly than most. I guessed military from his body flow and movements, we'd seen many like him moving through our patch, and we'd barred many too. His voice was quiet but authoritative. But, something else - he was ill at ease in his skin. Perhaps he could have been useful to me – so I remember him very clearly."

(And I remember you, szalan, very subtle yet so present, I watched you carefully)

Lisana's fingers gently overlap Cho's, which are still running through her hair. With her gaze intently on his face, she asks him hopefully:

"And you Zak? And you can be pretty sure that I'm not ‘fishing for compliments' this time either! What was I like? Who was I?"


<Zak>

Zak gives Cho a look and sticks his tongue out. Hoping beyond hope to lighten the changed mood.

"Thanks dear... but I'd say you know me well enough to know exactly what my blindspots are and when I'm likely to put my foot in it.... whether you'd tell me likely depends on how funny you thought it would be not to."

And, no doubt, how serious it was. So maybe I'm not in quite as much trouble as I think I am.

He looks across to Lisana; "Clearly a gift that I do have is to say exactly the wrong thing when talking with you. Apologies, szalan."

"In my experience, people tend to ask what you think of them for reasons other than to get your opinion."

Zak seeks Lisana's gaze happy for her to read the sincerity of his words in his eyes;

"When I first saw you there was an undeniable presence about you. It was clear that you were in charge and very competent... from what gestures I caught I could see that you had a good handle on your staff and security. At the time I felt that made the likelihood of third party trouble considerably less." He smiled; "That was certainly useful for me at the time."

"At that initial meeting, the most important thing I felt was that you weren't a threat. Not to me or the team." Before anyone can get offended Zak holds up a hand and adds; "Not because you couldn't have been but because you had chosen not to be."

"You seemed intrigued at our little group, and I judged that gave us some... leeway."

Zak shrugged; "Beyond that... at a more personal level, I could see the obvious beauty, style, intelligence and charm. But the most striking thing was your awareness of everything going on in your kingdom."

"But as to who you really were... I'm not sure how to answer that. Majordomo or owner certainly... but that's a role not more."

Zak frowns a little thinking; "I'm not entirely sure whether that actually answers your question, but without a more specific one I'm not sure what to add."


<Lisana>

At least he's shared something.

A silence follows as Lisana waits, with an arched eyebrow, watching Zak.

She glances across at Cho, exchanging an unspoken message, or was it a question? With her eyes returning to Zak, she sweeps her silken legs to the floor and kneels in front of him, taking his hands in hers. Looking up into his face, smiling gently, and her voice soft, she says:

"We are not trying to trick you or trap you." Lisana shakes her head gently, and her alluring, rich perfume rises around him. "And, while you may say some unfortunate words to me, please remember that you and I are still early in this journey. We need to find common ground, and that will take time. It is not always you or me at ‘fault', but two oblique worlds struggling to connect." She looks deeply into his eyes, as if seeking something.

"When I first asked you the question, we had just agreed to find common ground, to be open and share. But I know that you expected there to be an agenda around my words. Just like you did I when I asked you if I was like Reina. From my reaction then, you know I do not seek compliments, I do not need to." Without arrogance or conceit, just a cold statement of fact. "But let's leave that."

How to show that all I wish for them both is to learn to listen and share – openly together

"So, now you have answered the question, in the spirit in which it was asked, openly and honestly."

Lisana sits back slightly, looking down at his soldier's hands held in her slim light fingers.

"There was a pause after you finished talking. Neither Cho nor I spoke. There was a reason for that. We were expecting you to ask a question in return. To continue to engage in finding more about me, how had I managed to set up the saloon, what was the most serious issue that I dealt with…... To ask if there was anything else I had observed about you?" Lisana's eyes look into his again, and with her smile widening, squeezes his hands. "This is not a trick or trap. This is just being curious, just caring."

Let us continue with this bizarre chat

Standing, and sliding back onto the bed next to Cho, Lisana tilts her head to one side, with her silken top slipping slightly from her shoulder.

"So with no agenda and in the spirit of seeking common ground – Zak, when is Cho at her strongest and at her weakest, and why?"


<Zak>

Neither Lisana or Cho had seen Zak quite as uncomfortable as he seemed right now, clearly feeling out of his depth, and very uncertain about the situation he finds himself in.
And if Zak needed any demonstration of how different he was to these two ladies and simultaneously how much alike and intune they were, he couldn't think of a better, or worse one.

He pushed back down a wave of jealousy and despair at that thought, hoping it didn't show.

The understanding flowing between them was remarkable... and scary. He felt like a child involved in an adult conversation he couldn't hope to understand.

So many things that he didn't, couldn't understand... How could someone not want compliments from those they loved? Who didn't like them? Clearly he was missing something of great importance there.

He could also see the sincerity in the pair, and knew that this was a big deal... This might not be a trap or a trick, but it was clearly important to the pair and he would be judged by his engagement or understanding... whether they realised that or not.

With a sigh, Zak manfully tried to push it all away and focus on just answering the question... and apparently asking one of his own;

Zak smiles a weary smile, and takes the plunge;

"When those she loves are under threat she's both."

"Strongest because she's completely ruthless in their defense. She'll use anything in her power to make the difference, her passion, anger and blood - all that she is, and at whatever cost."

"Weakest because sometimes the cost might be more than she can bear, and it makes her predictable and thus vulnerable."

"But beyond that, she's strongest when she allows others to support her and weakest when she tries to carry all her burdens personally."

Zak looks at Cho;

"It only seems fair to ask when you feel I'm strongest and weakest in return?"


<Cho>

Seeing Zak's discomfort, Cho begins to sit herself up, perching cross-legged on the side of the bed as she listens intently to his words, nodding her acceptance. As she's asked a question in return, she smiles down at Lisana, hoping to dispel some of the tension in the room.

"What are his greatest strengths, szalan? I would suggest they lie in the bedroom, but sadly a less improper answer is called for."

She eyes Zak in theatrically appreciative fashion before continuing on, addressing him directly. How to navigate this one?

"Well, you're struggling right now. A soldier with nothing to fight, expecting trouble but unsure what or how to face it, no-one telling you the rules. You don't do well without solid foundations to work from."

Cho pauses, thinking back through what he'd said about her.

"But we're not so different, in some ways. You would do anything to protect those in your care. You don't let your emotions cloud your judgement on how, though; there is great strength in that. Ever practical, ever prepared."

"And you are the most honest, most sincere soul I've ever met. Little wonder you struggle with me." She smiles ruefully.

"What did I miss?"


<Zak>

At Cho's initial comment Zak can feel himself blush... not something Cho's probably seen before, but the situation he finds himself in is so outside his comfort zone apparently it's a thing. He might not make Lisana's previous drug induced red, but for a human it's damned close.

"Well... that's... Damn... I can't believe that you've actually made me blush, my dear."

"And yes, I am struggling, and I'm not sure I can explain why. I feel extremely vulnerable... Kinda like I'm handling unexploded munitions, and I think that's coming from... not wanting to disappoint either of you with my stunted emotional range."

Zak gives Cho a mischievous look; "And you're also right that I'm much happier with the literal touchy feely stuff than the emotional equivalent."

He nods; "We do have a number of similar traits, and while I try not to let my emotions cloud my judgement I do not always succeed." He theatrically reaches up to scratch his chest where the wound still lies healing, his meaning clear.

"As to what you missed... Probably that emotional range, and I don't always listen or hear what's really been said when I should. Some things also press my buttons and make all of my better judgments vacate the building."

Zak pauses and smiles; "And clearly I have a way with words that gets me into a lot of trouble."

Turning to Lisana; "Szalan, what else have we missed?"


<Lisana>

Lisana starts as she is addressed. Her head is spinning with doubt and despair at the clear discomfort and distress she had caused Zak, yet again.

What an awful mistake even beginning this.

She smiles.

Well, that at least was convincing. Now how to answer without actually saying a thing?

"I think you are right about each other. You are well-suited, different enough to keep your relationship interesting, but similar enough that you bond and enjoy each other. And of course, Zak with his wide range of skills, and Cho with hers, you are a very effective team."

"It is an uncertain time, of course. But Zak is pulling the crew together well. And you are training, effectively, well until you break each other!"

Now leave, and give them a moment, and yourself a chance to regroup.

As if suddenly realising, Lisana asks Cho:

"Would it be ok if I just quickly check on the children?" Looking at Cho, she sighs, and says levelly: "and yes, I'll come straight back, and no I won't take anything."


<Zak>

Cho merely nods, a slight sadness apparent on her face. Lisana stands, smoothes her gown and glides out of the room.

A very confused Zak watches her go, a certain trepidation and worry on his face.

"Is she going to be OK? Di... am I helping or hindering here?"


<Cho>

Cho stares at the cabin door a while, sadness warring with frustration on her face as she collects her thoughts.

This is my fault.

Frustration wins out, anger twisting her features as she wrestles her way through what to say, how to say it; Cho's reticent enough about her personal life, divulging anything of Lisana feels almost a betrayal in itself. She forces a measure of calm upon herself again, but it's clearly just a facade.

"You're doing great. Shaky start, but great."

She stands, paces over to the drinks cabinet, hesitates in front of it, turns away. Stares at the ceiling for a moment, before returning to kneel at Zak's feet. Doesn't look up, scowling instead at the refresher doorway.

"You're afraid. Of losing me, letting us down. She's fucking terrified, of getting in the way, of hurting you, me. Would do anything to support me. Us."

She turns to glare at the cabin door.

"She's not okay. Nothing will ever be okay. And among the not-fucking-okayness is a whole fucking mess of damage to do with jealousy that even I haven't gotten out of her. So this, this fostering an understanding? She's trying so fucking hard, you both are, but sometimes she will need a minute."

Some of the empty glasses littering the room start rattling in place.


<Zak>

Zak watches closely as Cho's emotions war within her. The depth and breadth of them once more highlight the seriousness of the bond between the two women.

He's not surprised, given recent history, when anger wins out, and is both relieved and worried that it seems universal rather than aimed.

Anger at fate or the universe... That way lies madness, and Zak would wholeheartedly endure Cho's full fury targeted solely at him than see her take that path. Whether he'd survive that was irrelevant.

While her words smooth, her impression of a caged tiger pacing the cabin significantly undermines them. Clearly that could have gone better.

As she sits, he shifts uncomfortably, maybe the situation has heightened his perceptions but he's suddenly very conscious of Cho kneeling at his feet unable or failing to meet his gaze - an image of supplication, penitence and subjugation that disturbs him.

That is so far from what he desires for and from her that he feels his stomach knot. As soon as he's able he slides off the armchair to face Cho as equals kneeling together, taking her hands if she'll let him;

"I am afraid Di, of course I am, because I care. Just like Lisana does. You of all people should know that I'm a tough old boot. I'm happy to take my share of the burden, I have broad shoulders."

"Training hurts but we come out the other side stronger. Sometimes the fastest way through is the painful way... you know rip the plaster off... especially when you're dealing with someone as thick headed as me."

"Lisana doesn't have to spare my feelings at the expense of hers." he smiles; "Assuming that she has a choice in that, which I grant she might not."

He sighs; "Jealousy like any feeling just is... what we feel. It's what we do with that that causes harm or hurts. I'm not proud of myself for those feelings but I have to work through it."

"Your life and Lisana's life are your own. I would never presume to know better than either of you what's right for you. And you know I'll support you all the way."

"If finding an understanding is too hard right now, hurts Lisana too much, I'll back off, I'm the one who's more whole than I've been in years thanks to you and Reeva."

He tries to meet her gaze; "And if that doesn't tell you anything else, it should tell you that there is hope for redemption, for healing and recovery."

"My fondest wish is to show you someday that, sometimes, things can be made okay once more."


<Cho>

Cho barely acknowledges Zak kneeling with her, at least at first; when he reaches out she folds her own hands in front of her, unable or unwilling to reciprocate, her whole frame rigid with tension.

As he begins to speak, she shuts her eyes, some of her focus turning inward. Fury still masks much of her expression, but Zak can tell with every twitch of her facial muscles she's still listening, still trying to process what he's saying.

The rattling glasses subside as he continues. A soft tink punctuates his speech, and then another, as they crack under unseen pressure.

As Zak speaks of hope and redemption Cho finally looks at him, and the weight of her attention, her anger hits like a misfiring gravity generator. He finishes speaking, and silence stretches out, Cho's narrowed eyes drilling into him.

Finally she draws breath, preparing to speak...

...and the cabin door buzzes.


<Lisana>

Get the first words ready – Zak, I am sorry….just needed ….

Still refining her approach to the imminent conversation, Lisana walks briskly down the corridor and presses the buzzer, for courtesy, before entering her cabin. She sees Cho and Zak kneeling opposite each other by the chair.

Lisana stops suddenly, slightly breathless. With her skin brightening, and with a steady hand, she runs her fingers through her hair.

One brief look at Cho, and Lisana tenses, stomach knotting. She needs me. Any move to support her right now, though, would tip the balance of the trio, and her eyes flicker back and forth between the two, sensing their moods.

Gods, she's angry, distressed, concerned…quick. Just reassure with your eyes, then speak before she says something we'll all regret.

With utter sincerity, Lisana begins.

"Zhratar, szalan, I'm sorry to …." And she loses her carefully rehearsed words in a swirling storm of thoughts. Pushing on, while rapidly losing her sense of calm, Lisana makes another attempt.

"Umm… I apologise for leaving so suddenly, but I needed some space to think."

Sitting down smoothly, cross-legged, on the floor two paces away, she faces them both. With a deep breath she reaches out, desperate to be heard by her closer than kin brother.

"Zhratar, I am so very sorry, please can we move on again and work together? Ask me anything, anything at all, about my life, my emotions, anything. I will answer you, openly and honestly. I wish to share this freely with you. This is not a time for doubt or questions, and, as always, you have been sincere. You are too important to each other for anything to get in the way of this. Ask me what you need to know."


<Zak>

When Cho fails to accept his hands he knows that he is in trouble, that he'd taken the wrong path, but he was committed and entirely meant what he was saying.

Her gaze when it connects physically hurts him... to see such fury in her eyes, and again he despairs how he can know someone so well and clearly not know them well enough. And he was trying to soothe... to help. Yet another level of confusion is clear on Zak's face.

Well, If I wanted her fury targeted I seem to have achieved my aim.

As she draws breath he readies himself for what he's sure will be a pointed lesson in how wrong he is about everything and why... when the door buzzes.

Saved by the bell... or not. Zak had no expectation that this was a reprieve, at most a postponement. He drew himself out of his thoughts and focused on Lisana reentering the cabin, seeing her realization of the fury in Cho.

Lisana's sincerity and her stumble in place of her usual polish, makes Zak's heart ache for her. He can see that once more she is apportioning blame where none exists. A strange calm descends on him;

"Szalan, you owe me no apology. None. I don't know any clearer way to say it. I'm the blunt object amongst precision instruments here. I'm the one without the finesse and emotional intelligence to see clearly."

"Those are my challenges to face. I hope, with your support... and Cho's."

"That you have invited me into your sanctuary and confidence is an honor I mean to deserve." He paused once more considering;

"I would be doubly honored to learn your story so that I might be better able to support you while you support me, Cho and the rest of the crew."

"But not at a cost to you. I have no right to any answer that would cause you pain to give."

"There is nothing that I need to know that your actions since I've known you haven't already told me."

"You care deeply about the crew and have taken us all as family. Even in Al-Bad I could see that you cared for your people. You have acted as a moral compass when we've needed it. You're prepared to do anything to defend and protect the defenseless. You're fiercely loyal."

He smiles; "And you've moved heaven and earth to feed us and keep our spirit alive. And in some cases keep us alive literally. All the while pushing yourself almost to the point of breaking."

"The entire crew and a number of those we've met owe you much more than they'll ever know. It's about time some of us started paying that down."

He looks directly into Lisana's eyes; "I want to know you szalan, so that I can return the support, so that I can be closer than kin. So that I can deserve your care and affection."

He pauses again not daring to look in Cho's direction;

"I understand how precious, rare and difficult your offer is, and I accept that it is offered openly and honestly so I will ask regardless of my fear of hurting you. I will not be upset if you can't or choose not to answer."

"Please can you help me understand why my jealousy concerns you so much?"


<Lisana>

Barely able to speak, Lisana blinks and takes a moment to compose herself.

He has asked – thank goodness. How to speak about this, what effect on my life?

"To hear your recognition of my place in the crew, so honestly and kindly from you, zhratar…it means so much." Pausing to look away, to see Cho's hands so close to her, Lisana takes a breath as she lifts her head, and looks into Zak's eyes. "And that you have opened your hands and accepted my offer, I am thankful." Her tone of voice lowers and softens, and the words come slowly and sadly.

"Where to begin? With …my father, of course. Other events across the years have left their mark, but the birth of this lies with him." Her expression distant, memories swirl.

"You know much of the essence of how he treated my mother…and me. He needed something, control, power. Or to satisfy his obsession or cruel streak, I have long since abandoned speculating."

This is harder than I thought. But it needs to be said.

"To control me, he tells me that he is… jealous of me. Jealous of the time my mother spends with me, and her love for me, which has taken her love from him."

She has to pause, as her hands begin to tremble.

"It is my fault that he has changed and is behaving as he is. I am the cause of his jealousy, I am the reason why he hurts my mother and then me. All me."

Lisana's face twitches, betraying the turmoil past and present.

"So I need to be punished. And if I say anything to anyone, seek help, try to run, I will be hunted down and found and punished again, because I am the guilty one, it is my fault."

"And he continues to ..visit… And he becomes more violent, every time, and then, one day" Lisana's hands begin to entwine and her voice is failing her.

"One day, I found her, lying still, hurt I thought. There was so much blood, so much. The floor, the walls, and the smell ..was…"

Eyes wide, with her breaths short and sharp, she looks across at Cho, almost pleadingly:

"That was my fault, because I had made him jealous." And Lisana's long black hair fell forward to cover her lowered face as she could not speak any more.

Eventually, with a sigh, she raises her eyes to the ceiling.

"And now I know that is not so. But try telling that to the frightened child inside me. Try telling her that jealousy does not always end in violence and pain."


<Cho>

Oh, szalan.

Cho is in motion almost before Lisana looks her way; all anger set aside and crying freely, she arrives by Lisana's side to take one hand in hers.

With a hesitant glance, Diya reaches her other hand out to Zak.


<Zak>

As Lisana bravely recounts her story, Zak can't help but flash back to her delusions during detox, making her account all the more visceral for him.

Her account proceeds and his worst fears for Lisana are realised. The sheer depravity of Treehees' abuse and torment of his own daughter sickens Zak to the core.

By the end of her account, his face is a mixture of horror, empathy and sadness. He has no words. What could anyone say to that? Words would never be enough.

When Diya reaches out her hand Zak doesn't hesitate, whatever their misunderstandings, they were immaterial in the face of such suffering, Lisana was all that mattered.

Taking his cue from Diya he reaches out for Lisana's other hand, tears in his eyes too.


<Lisana>

Lifting her head, Lisana smiles wanly into Zak's eyes and takes his hand, nodding slightly. She squeezes both their hands for a moment, savouring the touch. Her skin seems surprisingly vibrant, but there is no mistaking the fatigue in her posture.

She looks at Cho, holding her gaze for a long minute, pupils dilated, and then Lisana says huskily:

"I am very tired. Shall we get some rest? Cho, please would you help me up?"


<Cho>

"Of course. Zak, perhaps you'd like to use the refresher first?"

Just give us a few minutes. Please.

Kneeling on the floor, she waits until Zak steps away before offering her assistance. Her own exhaustion is evident once more, pale and tear-stricken, but her hands and gaze are steady enough; she doesn't take her eyes off Lisana as she rises.

She does not let go, instead pulling her into a close embrace, brow to brow and eye to eye. Tell me you haven't, szalan; the query and its answer pass wordlessly, just a shared look, a sigh and a slight shake of the head.

And if not the obvious?

Several possibilities race through Cho's mind, none of them good; Lisana would catch a fleeting glimpse of fear in her eyes before being pulled too close to see.

Inhaling her scent, steadying herself a moment, Cho's voice is a breathy whisper, almost a prayer.

"Tell me when you're ready."

Without waiting for an answer, she gently helps Lisana to bed, climbing in beside her. Softly, her voice calls across to Zak.

"There's room for one more."


<Zak>

The evening has been an emotional minefield for Zak and after Lisana's story he's certain that she'll need some of Cho's time without the fifth wheel he represents.

As such, when Cho offers the refresher he's happy to read between the lines and go, rather than be gentlemanly.

While using the facilities he catches himself in the temporary mirror and is shocked by the exhaustion clear on his face.

Clearly his emotional fitness is not up to his physical. He thinks about the horrors of Lisana's treatment and wonders if he's wrong to hope that scars like that can be healed.

With all his heart and soul he hopes that in this one thing, if nothing else, his optimism will trump the ladies cynicism.

Neither of them deserve to carry the burdens placed on their shoulders. Looking at himself in the mirror Zak promises himself that he'll do anything to grant them the relief that they both deserve, whatever the cost.

Finishing up he leaves the refresher tentatively, unsure if his guess was right, to see Cho helping Lisana into bed before climbing beside her.

He's just starting to turn towards the armchair as he hears Diya's voice... and turns to meet her gaze uncertain.

Gone, for now, is the fury and anger replaced by tiredness, sadness... and something more, but he can see that the offer was genuine.

After the emotional rollercoaster of the evening the very idea of physical contact is too much to resist and he accepts with a grateful nod, carefully slipping into what little space remains.

rossi720
New Face
Posts: 21
Joined: 22 Jul 2007, 12:23

Session 25.2 - Cho, Lisana, Zak - Up Close and Personal

Post by rossi720 »

Lisana asks Zak & Cho for some close quarters training.
[morning following 25.1]
Spoiler

<Zak>

Zak had managed to escape Lisana's cabin early and without any drama.

Given their tendency to feign sleep he had no idea whether the display of sleep emanating from the ladies as he left meant he'd succeeded in not waking them up, but he was grateful for the illusion nonetheless.

A small voice in the back of his head questioned whether he should draw any conclusions from the lack of communication, but he chose to ignore it. Maybe they really had been asleep.

He then headed to the galley to make some breakfast for the crew, presuming that Lisana would still appreciate the rest given her condition.

While cooking, he couldn't help but think about the exchange from last night. It worried him. Things had not gone well. He'd upset Lisana and made Cho furious. Not good. And the pair of them were so damned in-sync it hurt, and he felt that he was on the outside, outnumbered and confused. On reflection, Lisana sharing her history was a big deal. Zak could certainly see that, but the emotional cost to everyone involved seemed pretty high. He wasn't sure how he felt about everything. Perhaps he should give them some distance, some time to get more level. If they needed his medical skills he wouldn't be hard to find after all.

He ate his own breakfast in moody silence. As he left the galley he briefly set off the fire alarm - the traditional 'Grubs up!' signal, before heading down to the cargo bay for his morning training, hoping it would set him straight.

A few circuits later, a sheen on his face, Zak was feeling somewhat better. Give them their space and see what happens. What more could he do?

Right now, there were other things to focus on.

With a certain reverence he took up Master Kator's lightsaber and thumbed it on. The reassuring purr, calmed his soul as he began to practice the forms Cho had taught him.


<Cho>

Dimly aware of Zak's departure, Cho mumbles something incoherent and rolls over in a sleepy haze, much as she would any other morning; early starts for exercise are not, in her view, compatible with late night drinking sessions, and she has definite priorities there.

It's not until the fire alarm goes that she wakes more fully, Lisana stirring beside her, and remembers where she is. So that all happened, then. Cho regards the sleepy tangle of sheets and limbs beside her with fondness, murmuring a reassurance that breakfast was done - thank you, love - and there was no need to rouse just yet.

Fondness becomes concern and outright worry, though, as she recalls Lisana's timely return to the cabin. Lisana's looking better than she'd expect of a morning, but she'd definitely taken something last night. Cho had trusted then it wasn't a relapse, and found she still trusted that now. What then, and why? There were plenty of chemicals Lisana was still dependent on, and Cho had to concede she might've missed something in her sweep through Lisana's stashes, but instinct said it was something else.

Unable to be still, Cho slides from the bed to quietly use the refresher, noting the cracked remains of several glasses on the cabinet as she does. Fuck. As discreetly as she can, she tidies away the mess, ruminating as she does. Zak will want to know what that was about, sooner or later. Will want to know a lot of things.

Dancing round the topic in her head, she realises she probably ought to try to talk to Reeva later, too; Cho knows she tries to tune out as much as she can, but clearly caught something of her annoyance the other day. Apologising just for thinking too loudly annoys Cho in its very essence, but... ugh, understanding and bridge-building it is, then.

A scowl fades from her features as she hears Lisana starting to rouse. Cho doesn't even try to hide the concern in her eyes, but it does diminish somewhat seeing Lisana seemingly well-rested after a long lie-in. Conversation ensues, and Cho doesn't push the issue, reassured somewhat by what she's hearing.

As Lisana's finishing in the shower, Cho checks the chrono on the wall. Zak'll still be training in the cargo bay, warm-up long done, more approachable frame of mind than he'll have woken with. Good timing.

"You wanted to crash a training session, szalan? Now is your moment."


<Lisana>

Walking down the corridor, Lisana realises that her adrenaline levels are rising rapidly. With her fitness bag slung over her shoulder, containing essentials such as a towel and some perfume, she is reminded of other such moments as she prepared to train with Cho, that seem a long time past. Even when seeking out her sports clothes in the cabin, flashbacks to those times kept distracting her focus, causing Cho to look around concerned.

The sheer mental and physical exhaustion at the end of each of their sessions makes her weary just considering this.

So unfit, is there even a hope of achieving anything? How impossible is this?

Walking from the cabin, she seeks sanctuary in those moments when Cho had smiled and nodded gently, which was all the praise that Lisana had achieved. But it was plenty. When she disarmed Cho fluently and swiftly, and then again. As she had ducked and twisted from her grasp and landed a kick for the first time. Lisana had felt elated at her progress, at the pride in Cho’s eyes.

Well, there was a glimmer I suppose

Opening the cargo bay door, Lisana hears an unfamiliar noise and stops, instinctively flinching and stepping back.

No doubt a legacy of all those nexu. Oh god – Hong – no, block it out, not now

Stepping forward again, she glances across at Cho who is riveted stock still in the doorway, as she reaches a hand across to stop Lisana entering. Turning to follow Cho’s gaze, Lisana is surprised to see Zak illuminated by a lightsaber, as it glows in the low ambient light of the hold. He moves gracefully, as if one with the energy, turning and swooping, blending the blade with the air as if following an invisible path. Circling and using his hands to subtly weave the blade to his bidding, the purpose and power behind the flow is clear. It is an awesome sight, and Lisana stands transfixed, forgetting to breathe. As he stills with a final twist and strike, Cho nods and they move into the cargo bay.

Zak turns, and extinguishes the saber, carefully ensuring that it is stowed away. The bay seems less vibrant and less alive suddenly. Lisana, at a loss for words, observes Zak carefully. He seems slightly breathless but remarkably at peace. Still absorbing what she’s just seen, the best she can muster for a greeting is:

“Well, Mr Myrto, you are full of surprises. That was remarkable.”


<Zak>

Seeing only Lisana and Cho in the vicinity, Zak stands straight and greets them with a surprisingly formal inclination of his head, his hands in open welcome;

"Szerxia'al'szalan."

He relaxes somewhat and adds, a smile on his face;

"Thank you szalan, but the credit is mainly due to my teacher, and I feel I have a long way to go on a number of levels." He flashes a cheeky grin at Cho.

"It's a fascinating art, and very compelling."

He eye's up Lisana's gym bag;

"Are you here to join me training? I hope that you've both had some breakfast if that's the case."


<Cho>

Zak's choice of greeting stops Cho in her tracks.

Almost absolutely still for a few moments, only her eyes move, analysing Zak's demeanor. Formal, correct, he'd done his research. The message is clear to her, whether he'd intended to send it, less so.

Thinking hard, she barely registers his next words; visibly reminding herself to smile in return, she refocuses on the present moment, on safer ground.

"It was good work, padawan. The form suits you."

Her lips curve in a slightly guilty smile at his comment about breakfast, knowing a couple of nutrient bars were unlikely to impress.

Rather than answer directly, she steps away to find a good spot for her own kit bag and unpack the basics, though her eyes keep darting back to Lisana and Zak as she does.


<Lisana>

Blinking once, Lisana smiles as Zak uses her language to greet them.

Body language and words correct – inflection needs some work – I need to ….she has felt that….

“Thank you, zhratar, you are most gracious” and Lisana’s head bows slightly lower than Zak’s, to show appreciation to those without the option of pheromones. This is accompanied by the complex gesture with her talons and open hand, that Zak has seen before, which indicates the significance of her feelings. With a swift glance to Cho’s retreating back, she nods again.

“You are learning fast. I am moved. And I would welcome an opportunity for us to sit together in the bar tonight and we can discuss the err…nuances of our complex language?”

With a hasty look in Cho’s direction yet again, Lisana places her bag in a corner, then turns around, squaring her shoulders in an effort to energise herself, ready to receive her first instruction.

Five laps of the cargo bay – for warm up? Gods hold me.

She starts gently, her awareness of the scale of the challenge dawning. As she passes Dane’s star fighter for the second time, she can see Cho and Zak from a distance, deep in conversation and wonders.


<Zak>

There's a certain pride in Zak's voice as he answers Cho's comment; "Thank you Master."

He turns to Lisana; "Thank you, szalan. I'm sure my pronunciation needs work. I would be happy to learn the... err... basics... the nuances might take some time and a considerable amount of your patience."

Glancing between them wryly; "As I'm sure Cho can confirm."

As Lisana starts her warm up Zak looks conspiratorially at Cho, trying to judge her mood. He wasn't quite sure how badly he messed up last night in her eyes, but he couldn't detect any anger currently. A cynical little voice in the back of his head wondered if he'd be better served keeping his mouth shut rather than opening it in the first place, but he ignored it - that wasn't really an option.

"Morning love, I hope I didn't butcher the language too badly. Just felt something demonstrative might be appropriate after... last night."

His expression becomes apologetic;

"I said all the wrong things and... I don't know... I just clearly didn't handle it well. I never meant to upset either of you, I hope you understand that."


<Cho>

As Zak addresses her, Cho smiles faintly, fondly back at him. A small spark of mischief dances in her eyes, and she seems to relax slightly, walking back over to join him.

"No butchery involved." she reassures him, though that spark of amusement is growing. "And the effort was greatly appreciated, I'm sure, brother."

Suddenly stepping close, she plants a deliberately chaste kiss on his cheek, then bounces back away to regard him with a smirk.

"Seriously, for a first foray into unknown territory, you did okay. A few misunderstandings, trying to bridge quite the language barrier. Yes, we got upset. We're often upset. What does it mean that we let you see?"


<Zak>

Seeing mischief in Cho's eyes is like a salve to Zak's worry and the kiss, chaste or not, redoubles that feeling.

It's all Zak can do not to reach out to touch Cho when she says that they're often upset, but he's not entirely sure how her 'mischief' would interpret that.

"That you're trusting me." He glances over to Lisana glacefully... jogging around the bay; "Both of you."

"Allowing me to see more of you... personal things you don't usually share."

He looks back to meet Cho's gaze with earnest eyes and a smile; "I'm still sorry, Di, that I didn't handle it... better. Especially given the last few days."

His gaze returns to Lisana; "How's Lisana doing? Did she... behave when she visited the children?"

"We'll need to be careful that she doesn't push herself too far too fast. Especially if she's intending to take on the entire Zann consortium single handed."

"What approach would you suggest?"


<Cho>

Still smiling, Cho reaches out to gently squeeze Zak's arm as he apologises. She steps to his side, leaning on him as they both regard Lisana's progress round the bay.

"Present exertions aside, she's... actually doing okay." As well rested as I've ever seen her, but... She shakes her head slightly, continues on. "Behaved herself, just some post-detox niggles she's keeping an eye on. Might ask you to double-check her later."

She pauses, glancing up at Zak, then back to Lisana, shifting her weight to stand straight again.

"As for approach... you're right on pacing, need to watch that. Maybe remind her that if she injures herself our resident medic will be really annoyed?"

She grins, fondly watching Lisana closing in once more.

"I was kinda planning on leaving the evaluation and hard work to you, actually. Let you tell me off for all the awful habits I've gotten her into, and just be a willing practice droid for the morning."


<Zak>

Cho can feel a certain tension drain from Zak's frame as she rests against him, Zak clearly enjoying their closeness.

"I dunno Di... Given when she'd likely to need to use anything we teach her I think the focus should be on the most awful habits we can teach her."

"If she has to use them the situation is likely dire..." He gives Cho a very direct look, "Because I don't see either of us letting her face them alone. Not to mention the rest of the crew."

Zak watches Lisana move, evaluating. Fitness generally looked like the biggest priority, but that would take time. Her height, grace and long limbs could definitely be worked with. Plus the talons. A lot of folks would take one look at her slight frame and underestimate her. That was something that Zak could also work with.

"If we can get her to use that same viciousness the detox brough out she could give a number of folks a run for their money. She's smart so the principles should be enough."

"How did she handle the training you gave her?"


<Cho>

"Hungrily. She's a quick study, crafty."

Cho's expression grows wistful, thinking back to their time on the Fox; it seems worlds away, looking back, and she smiles at the recollection. Lisana's determination to learn had the two of them stealing any hour they could find; Cho'd been delighted at how quickly she'd absorbed things - and at how well they'd gotten on, the mischief they'd shared.

Lessons had taken a back seat after Tatooine, though. For a lot of reasons. A shadow flits across her fond remembrances, and she glances at Zak, her face momentarily unreadable.

She takes a breath, looks back across the cargo bay, her expression softening, almost unguarded.

"Lack of motivation... won't be an issue. She'll keep pushing 'til she gets there, or drops. Gets frustrated, though. Not good enough, not learning fast enough, when she's actually fucking amazing."

Cho's voice grows warmer as she talks, her eyes sparkling as she watches Lisana determinedly pushing on.

"Combat-wise, not sure I actually taught her much exactly. Just provided a keen sparring partner, helped her figure out how to best use what she's got." She shrugs. "You'd be a better match-up for Trehees' strength and reach though."

She flashes Zak a smile, running a hand briefly along his arm before stepping away to begin some stretches.

"Happy to demo where we left off so you can judge for yourself though. It's been a while - could be a good warm-up, and let's face it, you'll enjoy the show."


<Zak>

Zak stifles a laugh at the hungrily comment, far too many ways to misinterpret that, and takes Cho's comments on board.

"Yeah, a demo would be a good place to start I guess."

Zak gives Cho a direct look as she starts stretching with a naughty smile, "The pair of you in gym gear mixing in up? You'd have to be stone cold dead not to enjoy it, my dear."

"Alrighty, let's get this party started."

Zak waves Lisana over, who gratefully cuts across the bay as soon as she spots him.

"Szalan, Cho's been telling me that you've done some sessions with her and has suggested that the pair of you demonstrate what you've learned so far."

"That should give me the opportunity to assess how you're doing and see where we should go next."

"Once we've done that we can have a more specific chat about what your aims are for this training."

He glances between the ladies;

"Is that an acceptable plan?"


<Lisana>

Realising that reprieve from her ‘warm up’ was being granted, Lisana gratefully makes her way across to Zak and Cho, breathing heavily. On hearing about the plan to assess her aptitude, she nods and sheds her overtop, throwing it onto her gym bag in the corner. With her breaths still deep and rapid, she turns to Cho and suggests:

“How about the very basics we started from? The hold from the rear, then the side attack and then Zak can suggest any other moves he’d like to see?” Her face is serious and her words business-like, but Cho may perceive an extremely mischievous twinkle in Lisana’s eyes.

“Take me from behind, szalan.”

Gods – I hope I can remember this

As Cho grasps her arms in a vice-like grip to her body from the rear, Lisana drops her full weight towards the floor, and grabs Cho’s ear – I can’t do this - then letting go, without pulling down as she had been taught.

“Ok, so I would pull the ear down at that point, or grab two fingers with each of my hands and pull apart, breaking free. So, that’s the first move.”

Turning back to face Cho, hesitantly, but ready to demonstrate the next move, she can see Cho looking at her curiously.


<Cho>

Cho's puzzlement is momentary, but plain to see. Gods, szalan. I didn't realise how hard this would be for you, now.

I'll have to make it easier.

She steps away, her eyes narrowing slightly, watching Lisana closely while prowling round her, forcing her to turn to keep Cho in view.

"Fuck the beginner's self-defense, szalan. Do you want to do this properly, or not?"

Cho lunges forward suddenly, but it's just a feint aimed to rattle her. She dances past Lisana to land a kick on the side of a crate, metal screeching across the decking with the force of it.

Cho grins at Lisana, a slightly wild look in her eyes.

"Play with me, amozru. You know I like it a little rough."

She lunges again, this time slamming into Lisana in a hard tackle.


<Lisana>

Concern and doubt clouding her mind, Lisana hesitates, as Cho begins to circle. Uncertain what to expect, although they played these games previously, she warily keeps Cho in view. The sudden screaming of metal causes her adrenalin to hit like a drug.

Oh fuck – here she comes

With little time to react, Lisana tries to evade as Cho’s shoulder impacts her ribs, driving her to the ground, gasping. The world spins around her. For a split second she is shocked, flat on the floor with their bodies entangled and intertwined. Cho is lying across her body, her grasp firmly locked on to Lisana, her breath wheezing.

Gods, szalan, your ribs must be screeching at you

Desperately grappling for any form of hold on Cho, who seemed almost slippery, Lisana finally brings her knee in front of her, and prizes some space between them, causing Cho to gasp and wheeze, suddenly. Back to the cabin floor, fighting like the street child you are, detox repeated. Cho is smiling grimly into Lisana eyes. With an all out writhing movement and a swiftly placed knee, Lisana breaks Cho’s grip, twists her legs away and, with surprising agility, leaps to her feet, away and free.

She looks down to see Cho grinning maniacally, an all too familiar expression after that morning of arousal in Lisana’s cabin.

“You’re getting off on this again, amozru-mir-lhafa, I know that look. If pain pleases you so much, let’s carry on.” And Lisana moves swiftly to pin Cho to the floor with her body, as taught, stifling her rising concern about the upcoming repair work needed on Cho. And then Cho makes her move.


<Cho>

As Lisana drops to pin her, Cho rolls into the motion, reaching up to yank her off balance, pull her down into a rough hold. It doesn't take; Lisana twists Cho's arm under her as she falls, straddling Cho's hips as she lands.

Attempting to pin Cho's shoulders, Lisana finds herself rolled over on her back again, Cho grinning down at her. Then Cho finds her chin shoved back, Lisana's palm slamming upward with startling force.

Fuck. Forgot she's actually better at gutter-scrapping than me.

Cho winces as Lisana's knees slide up her chest, forcing her away; she lets herself be thrown back, enchanted by the feral gleam answering her in Lisana's eyes.

Gods, the things I could do to you.

Locking eyes with Lisana, sheer desire in her gaze, blurring forward to pin her down with sudden ferocity, lips parting. Then her world splinters as talons dig into her ribs, Lisana's eyes wild with warning, alert, gaze flicking across to Zak.

With a shuddering gasp, Cho stops herself, rolling clear of Lisana and collapsing into breathless chuckling, sounding almost delirious.

After a few moments she manages to sit up. Gently removing Lisana's hand from her ribs, her eyes are still wide with arousal as her gaze finds Zak.

"Szalan, could you give us twenty minutes or so? I think we need to... discuss further training techniques."


<Lisana>


With a gentle, knowing smile Lisana gathers her bag, brushing past Zak, looking into his eyes.

In a soft voice she says "Have fun. I'd stay, but I think three's a crowd. For now."

She winks and leaves.


<Zak>

Zak can't help but smile at Lisana's suggestive turn of phrase as the pair discuss where to start. Having spent the last few days in such close proximity with the two he's become accustomed to their banter. The only question that remains is how much his presence exacerbates their need to tease. He's not entirely sure he wants to know the answer to that question however.

Such a mischievous pair, but I'm damned sure that they know exactly what they're doing.

They start well and then Lisana disengages, resorting to explaining instead of demonstrating. Zak frowns. If Lisana is... worried about hurting Cho that ruins her as a potential training partner. He sees a similar puzzlement on Cho's face and is about to query it when Cho pretty much speaks his mind - bringing a broad smile to his lips.

He watches with interest as Cho ups the ante, forcing Lisana to re-engage. Cho's on the nose double entendre eliciting a shake of his head in amusement - even now they can't help themselves. Zak can almost see Lisana's thought process as she realises that she must respond - that non participation is not an option.

Cho takes Lisana to the floor and Zak can see that Lisana evidently has some experience of street fighting. Her agility and flexibility is also... distracting and... exploitable.

He shakes his head again, a broad grin on his lips at yet more innuendo. These two were incorrigible... and the more he sees it the less it concerns him. It was becoming clear to Zak that this was as much a part of them as any number of his own habits. He could either trust in them and the care and feeling they expressed for him, or become jaded and jealous over something far beyond his, or their, he'd wager, control. Given the strength, independence and stubbornness of the pair Zak can't help but realise he'd have better luck trying to resist a black hole than get in the way of their mischief. No matter where it leads.

Shut up and enjoy the ride Zak my boy, because what's the alternative?

Zak winces in sympathy as Lisana uses Cho's vulnerable ribs, and nods in acceptance of a logical opportunity taken. So she can be ruthless and vicious when pressed. Good. She'll need that.

Plenty of things to work with here. Not to mention some interesting insights into both of these remarkable creatures before him.

As his gaze connects with Cho he has no doubt what state she's in. Ah... Di, your proclivities will definitely get you into trouble one day.

When Lisana brushes past and their eyes connect she sees humour and acceptance in his eyes - with a soupçon of tightly controlled arousal;

"Ah szalan, be careful what you wish for... or we'll need to discuss some very different words than szalan." He winks back.

Shaking his head again at the situation he finds himself in, he strolls over to Cho, offering his hand - fully expecting her to take advantage of that fact, his own excitement clearly visible;

"How are the ribs hon? And, more importantly, what training techniques in particular did you want to discuss?"


<Cho>

Cho watches Zak's approach with a predatory smile; she takes the offered hand, surging to stand close, her weight pressing against him as the sudden movement catches up with her.

Regaining her balance, she pivots the pair of them around. "Less talking." she growls, driving Zak toward the nearest wall, hands all over him as she does.


<Zak>

Zak leans into Cho as her weight hits him, a similar hunger building in his eyes, his hands all over her as she drives him back to the nearest bay wall.

Their desire is matched and increasingly urgent, no capacity remains to even consider the fact that the cargo bay is, in fact, a public space, their desire far too piqued for either to care.

The pair devour each other in a steamy kiss and hands tug at clothing...

When Zak's back hits the wall he effortlessly lifts Cho and spins them both around pinning her against it, jarring them both in his enthusiasm.

A feral groan escapes Cho and her legs rise to wrap around his waist, as she bites his lip, hands reaching for buckles...

[Camera pans up and away... :-)]

Zak and Cho, unruly and partially clothed, lean breathless against each other and the cargo bay wall, looking considerably more exercised.

Zak chuckles as he dabs at his bit lip tasting blood. "Well... That wasn't the training I was expecting... but then you always had interesting appetites."

He glances at Cho the embers of slated desire still burning bright in his eyes and a big grin on his face;

"How are the ribs?"


<Cho>

Well. Should've seen that coming I suppose.

Suddenly weary and a little pale, Cho nonetheless grins dazedly back at Zak, still basking in the moment. She lets herself slide gently down the wall to sit on the floor, her appearance of sated contentment gradually tempered by the way she's breathing rather deliberately and shallowly.

"We... well, I may have gotten a little carried away, there. Very welcome addition to the morning, though."

She tries to run a hand through the thoroughly ruffled mass that is her hair after grappling with Lisana - and then Zak. Sighs and rolls her eyes at how poorly that goes. Then, experimenting with a deeper breath, Cho feels tenderly round her ribs, paling further as she does.

Med-bay it is again, then. Sorry, szalan. Something resembling sorry, at least.

She sighs once more, refocusing on Zak, a languid smile slowly returning to her lips as she does.

"So, uh, training and demonstrations. Mr Myrto, what is your evaluation at this point?"


<Zak>

Zak laughs; "A little carried away? May have? Really, Di?"

"You certainly improved my morning no end." concern tinges his voice as Cho slides to the floor and she pales; "Doesn't look like it helped your ribs much however."

"Come on, we've a scolding to face. Probably best to get that sorted sooner rather than later. I wouldn't want our szalan to add any other infractions to the list."

He straightens his clothes somewhat, picks up a few items of clothing tucking them into his waistband, and checks that the pair of them are, more or less, decent.

"Grab hold my dear, I think transport is required."

He bends over and as gently as he can scoops Cho up in his arms. He carefully supports as much of her slight frame with an arm under her thighs and another encircling her shoulders, in an attempt to minimise the strain on her ribs.

With Cho safely in his arms, Zak slowly and carefully makes his way to the medbay, chatting as he goes;

"As to the errr... demonstration. Well... beyond a number of lewd comments about what an excellent spectator sport it was..."

Cho can clearly hear the humor and teasing in Zak's voice without having to see it in his face.

"She has potential, but I think we'll need to find a happy medium between her not engaging and someone being injured."

"If we can get her to channel that ruthlessness and vicious streak when pressed into a more refined and applied technique we could be onto something."

"But her fitness is the biggest hurdle at the moment as that will limit all else."

Shortly they arrive at the medbay, and Zak indicates the door controls with a nod of his head;

"If you'd do the honors." Cho reaches out and hits the controls.

As the door slides back, Zak is relieved to see Lisana still in her gym gear pacing the bay datapad in hand, trainers discarded beside her gym bag.

"Szalan... as I'm sure is no surprise, someone here needs your tender ministrations."

Trying to emulate the ladies level of innuendo he indicates the various couches and medical beds and adds with a wry smile;

"Which is your prefered position?"


<Lisana>

Somewhat distractedly, Lisana looks around, and sighs, as the expected visitors arrive. She notes Zak’s lip and neck abrasions without reaction.

“Ribs? Of course it is. On that couch please.” No innuendo, no mischievous glance. She moves to lower the head end of the couch so that Cho can lie flat, and places Cho’s hand behind her head.

“May I?” and she rolls Cho’s top partially up to reveal the previous injury site in order to remove the support mesh. Then, seizing the nearby med-scanner, Lisana carries out her usual checks swiftly, moving carefully around Cho. Her face is unreadable.

Then, with an arch of that elegant eyebrow, she observes:

“Further displaced fractured bones, and more muscle disruption and inflammation since the last time. No further injuries, just as well I’m ineffective at fighting, isn’t it?” Placing the med-scanner to one side, she indicates the desk where she has been working. “Mr Myrto, please feel free to sit down, this will take a while. Cho, apologies, but this will hurt, and you know what I’m going to say next….”

Arousal linked with pain – increasingly so – interesting.

Zak sits down, moving Lisana’s trainers and gym bag to make room, and glances across the desk, noting the medical scans and interrupted notes that were ongoing.


<Cho>

Arriving through the med-bay doors in Zak's arms, Cho is full of jovial cheer despite the state she's in, practically aglow. Then she registers Lisana's expression. Her good humour shatters, that inner light guttering and going out; unguarded and unready, Cho feels the distance between them like a sudden bereavement.

You are not okay. Did I -

Spinning back through blurred recollections of the last half hour, she studies Lisana's face intently, hears the subtleties of her tone, seeming very still and very fragile in Zak's arms. Cho glances up at him addressing Lisana, somehow relieved his attention isn't on her that instant.

Arresting the thoughts spiralling through her mind for a moment, she shuts her eyes for a second, takes another shallow, careful breath. Her expression becomes one of watchful neutrality as she arrives on the couch.

Lisana begins her examination; Cho's eyes are wary as she examines her in return, face occasionally shadowed by flickers of concern, frustration. She looks away, eyes searching the room. Glances at Zak as he's sitting down, taking in what he has to move out of the way.

An infinitesimal amount of tension drains from her frame, and she smiles faintly as Lisana apologises for the pain to come, nods in acknowledgement. Perhaps surprisingly, there's no trace of the arousal response Lisana might be expecting to see in her eyes; she could not seem further from it right now.


<Zak>

Zak is taken aback by the abrupt change in Lisana's personality and is instantly worried about what it might mean. His first thought is whether it's drug related but the change isn't in keeping with her previous usage.

The concern grows as the usual banter doesn't materialise between the ladies. Sitting at Lisana's desk he looks things over on the off chance there's a hint or clue as to what is going on.

On the desk terminal he notices a number of diagnostic test results - blood tests, lung function tests, ECG, chest scans. All by the looks of them on a Falleen female taken today. Some are still pending. Plus in the background behind the results he spies a number of in depth papers on Falleen physiology.

His concern deepens, but his lack of knowledge on their physiology limits the conclusions he can make. While some of the readings would certainly be abnormal for a human he has no idea whether they'd be normal on a Falleen or not.

Whatever the results, clearly Lisana has been busy doing a significant work up of her own health, which in and of itself is something of a worry. Zak considers... Maybe if he just gives her time she'll raise her concerns with them, let them know what's going on. Let them help.

If not he'd have to ask. There were far too many unknowns to let it slide. Especially in the wake of it's apparent effect on Lisana's usually buoyant personality. Zak's not sure he can think of anything more scary than the comparison between Lisana he's used to the one he is seeing now. Something is definitely amiss.

For anyone looking it's clear from Zak's face that his previous joviality has been replaced by concern and worry.


<Lisana>

Oh szalan, of course you see, I’m so sorry, I just want to protect you from this.

Sighing and climbing onto the couch to kneel over Cho - zhratar, what will you make of this I wonder? - Lisana begins manoeuvring bones and muscles under the skin as she had done so recently and yet what felt like so long ago. Cho would recognise the same movements and leverage, but the pressure to various areas across her is intense. Perhaps Zak notices the tension and twisting of Lisana’s back muscles, spine and thighs as she struggles to restore order to the bones and swollen tissues.

Mama – thank you for your skills, at least one good thing came from his ..visits.

Trying to avoid Cho’s gaze, Lisana leans over her shoulder to apply pressure, Cho turns her head and sees a flash of metal on Lisana’s wrist, and then a world of pressure and pain explodes as bones slide into order under Lisana’s skilful hands.

“And if you do this again szalan, I will not be able to help without surgery” is Lisana’s blunt reminder, as she struggles on, leaning back briefly for respite from her own screaming muscles..

After an exhausting twenty minutes, Lisana climbs down slowly from the couch and scans Cho’s battered body again. With a brisk nod, analgesics, mesh and polymer spray are yet again applied to the injuries. She leans back against the wall to release the tension and discomfort in her shoulders, neck and chest, turning her head side to side wincing.

When are they going to ask – and how?

Turning to them, with her professional face fading, Lisana’s expression softens, and she smiles gently and fondly.

“Might I suggest you both should have some lunch, and then maybe we can return to our training. If, that is, you are not too tired, having discussed further training techniques so extensively?!”


<Zak>

Zak pauses very unsure how his... interference will be taken, but he can't in good conscience let it pass.

"Szalan... I'm sorry, I know that you're a very private person... but..."

"but I couldn't help but notice these tests... and you didn't seem yourself when we arrived."

"Would my guess be right that you were reading Falleen physiology papers when we came in?"

"I have to confess I'm worried for you and what it all means."


<Lisana>

Lisana hesitates briefly at being asked directly, and then, as if balancing herself, smiles at Zak slightly sadly.

“Zhratar, you are worried, and I am sad for that.” Shifting her neck, chest and back uncomfortably, as if unable to find ease, she places a hand on Cho’s shoulder for support and gently grips it. She seems glad to feel Cho’s presence.

“I had mentioned to Cho this morning that there seem to be some minor health aspects of the detox that are niggling. And, as I haven’t had a medical in - well - rather a while, I thought I would give myself the routine checks, just to benchmark.” She looks down at Cho, meeting her eyes, reassuring her. Then Zak finds himself in her gaze again.

“So, zhratar, I was wondering if you might help me please, after our training this afternoon, by running a further suite of tests, for prone resting state data? Those are the only checks I can’t run alone.”

They are so good together, they will have each other for support


<Zak>

As Lisana responds Zak releases a breath he hadn't realised that he'd been holding... but then he'd got things very wrong before so maybe it wasn't a total surprise.

He happily meets her gaze and sees no deception there - although that small voice in his head asks whether he'd be able to tell if she didn't want him too anyway. One day... perhaps.

"I'd be happy to help in any way I can, szalan. I'm at your disposal whenever you need me."

"As to training..." He glances over to Cho and back, "Well... I think we have limited options given Cho's aggravated injuries."

"We could have another session if you're up for it, if you're happy for me to step in?"


<Cho>

Sitting up on the couch, Cho reaches for the hand upon her shoulder, gently gripping Lisana's in return. She can feel the warmth and reassurance in Lisana's gaze, in her words - just as she can see the fear behind it, almost smell it upon her, so well does Cho know her.

She smiles ruefully back at Zak as he refers to her ribs.

"Happy to step back and do as I'm told" she grins. "I'm quite sure I'll enjoy the show."

She thinks for a moment, still yet to relinquish her hold on Lisana's hand. Glances up to her, then regards Zak again.

"Would you mind grabbing something for all three of us, love, so that our beloved medic doesn't miss yet another meal?"

As Zak exits, Cho rests her hands on Lisana's waist, gently encouraging her closer, gazing up from her seated position. Her eyes speak volumes, from concern to steely determination.

Cho's lips curve in a crooked smile.

"Don't you ever tell me you're 'ineffective', amozru. Not in a fight, nor in... other ways."

Her eyes sparkle, but there's concern in them, too. You and I both know I nearly lost it, there. Cho looks down for a moment, something resembling embarrassment flitting across her features; she bites her lip, intimately aware she doesn't need to voice anything more.

She lets one hand fall away, trailing the other up Lisana's side and across to rest over her heart. Locking eyes with her once more, Cho's voice has an edge of steel in it when she speaks again.

"And don't you dare try to shelter me from this. Whatever comes, I will be by your side. So speak to me. Take your time, if you must, but speak to me."


<Lisana>

With Cho’s hand on her heart, Lisana is fighting to regain control of her expression.

She will have seen that, but she has an idea already. To voice this makes it more real, more frightening.

“Amorzu-mir-lhafa,” is all Lisana can whisper in the air, staring intently into Cho’s eyes. A moment passes, and gradually her words return.

“This…. this may be more than just passing side effects, I am not sure yet. We …need to wait for more analyses. Probably simply temporary.” Turning her eyes to the ceiling, Lisana tries to control her breathing. “But I am frightened, szalan.”

She places her taloned hand gently over Cho’s heart and closes her eyes, unable to continue, seeking comfort, savouring her touch.

After some moments of stillness, the tension in Lisana’s shoulders becomes unbearable and she winces and shifts, opening her eyes.

Gods, it was close – I nearly couldn’t fix her this time.

“And please take care of yourself, szalan. Ribs like yours will not recover a third time.” The arched eyebrow is probably a relief to Cho, as some normality returns to Lisana’s demeanour.


<Cho>

"I will behave myself." Cho murmurs, smiling back at her. "For you."

Well, mostly behave. In this context. You know what I mean.

The gentle humour of their shared look is a welcome relief; Cho cannot, will not let herself process the implications of what she's just been told. Not while Lisana needs her comfort and strength.

Cho slides herself off the couch, suddenly close, eye to eye with Lisana. A smile flickers across her lips, eyes alight with recollections from earlier, but she lets it pass; her voice is a breathy, mischievous whisper.

"See? Behaving, in so many ways. Now take a seat so I don't strain anything."

Gently steering Lisana with her hands once more, Cho guides her over to sit at the desk; standing behind Lisana she begins to massage out some of the tension in her shoulders.


<Zak>

Zak was pretty sure that Cho's request for him to fetch lunch was just a convenient way to remove him from a personal discussion that needed to happen between her and Lisana.

From the results of the training session there were obviously a number of things that needed to be said, and a number of ways he could see that going. Either way he could accept it would be easier without any spectators along for the ride. That being said, as he recalled the session he couldn't be entirely sure who's decision actually caused the additional damage to Cho's ribs. Clearly, Lisana had struck the blow, but there had been something about the feral look in Lisana's face that Zak had caught that made him wonder if Cho... well... if Cho hadn't actually deserved it. It had happened very quickly and Cho had been pushing Lisana... maybe there was something more to it.

He could think of no reason why Lisana would have actually resorted to Cho's vulnerable ribs if she'd had any other choice. Especially, given her repeated and lengthy comments regarding broken ribs and their healing time.

It was a puzzle that Zak wrestled with in his head while he raided the galley. He ensured that he chose a variety of items that he knew both Lisana and Cho liked from their many meals together, and that there would be more than enough, especially as he had a strong suspicion that neither had breakfasted adequately before coming to training.

While Zak knew that Cho could get carried away, he suddenly realised that it had become more frequent recently. Not in ways that had concerned him up to this point but... If Lisana had felt that she actually had to defend herself... What did that mean? Was Cho losing control of her anger or something? She hadn't seemed angry at all... It was something else. But something that Zak would need to pay attention to. Maybe even ask Lisana about it if the opportunity arose.

Having trayed up the assorted goodies, he stuck a few energy drinks on the tray and slowly ambled back to the medbay, trying to give the pair of them plenty of time to have their heart to heart.

Being careful to give them advanced warning of his return, as he opened the door he called in a loud voice "Grubs up!"


<Cho>

Some time later...

The cargo bay lighting flickers slightly, warming up once more. Cho sits kicking her feet off the side of a repulsor-crate, idly drifting; her eyes are fixed upon a scene in the centre of the bay. Unease coils in her stomach, and it isn't the remains of her lunch complaining.

Lisana and Zak stand opposite each other, squaring off. The two people Cho loves most in the world are about to get really quite physical with each other; Cho has never been one for introspection, but is in this moment finding she isn't entirely sure what her feelings are.

Watching the pair of them warming up, Lisana showing Zak some of what she and Cho had practiced in their sessions together, even that had been strange enough.

There was, however, no arguing Zak was a better practice substitute for an angry male Falleen; his strength and reach had repeatedly proven tricky for Lisana to counter... and even with medication dulling them, Cho's freshly reset ribs were impressing upon her the necessity of taking it easy for a time. Sigh.

She nudges a nearby box with her foot, setting herself drifting closer once more. Clears her throat noisily, regrets the reflexive deeper breath that follows, grimacing.

"Okay, padawans. Time to impress the crowd with role-play! Zak, angry guard - grab and subdue for an audience with the boss, minimal damage. Lisana, he's in your way."


<Zak>

At Cho’s cue Zak charges Lisana. She gives ground. He accelerates and swerves trying to find advantage. She skips to the side, redirects his momentum. Recovering Zak spins and lunges back looming over her. Lisana feels her panic rise, and struggles to control herself. Instinctively she lashes out at Zak’s legs, but his sheer mass stops her kick in its tracks, instead becoming entangled; both falling to the bay floor together.

Lisana finds herself pinned by Zak’s body, his weight almost crushing her, his breath on her cheek and his scent enveloping her. Memories surround her and stifle her sense of reason, and she struggles, writhing and wriggling to free herself, her eyes wide open and unfocussed, breath rasping. Desperate feral instinct drives her, gasping and gouging. She loses all sense and takes a breath to scream in sheer terror.

Pressed against Lisana’s body it’s impossible for Zak not to feel her panic rise, he can feel it viscerally through his skin, can smell it on her. A moan escapes from Lisana that instantly takes him back to their shared nightmare. Her face, so close to his, is screwed up like a child’s, tortured.

Dread fills Zak as he realises what he’s caused. Again.


<Cho>

A repulsor-crate drifts, alone, across the cargo bay.

Cho looks down at the pair of them, blinking back tears. At her hands, clenched into fists. She's only a couple of paces away, unsure when she closed the distance.

Her feet carry her forward; she falls to her knees, hands cradling Lisana's face, leaning in as if to shelter her with her own body.

She tries to speak; can only gasp and sob. Tries again.

"Szalan, you are safe. You are safe and you are loved."


<Zak>

For a moment Zak is lost in Lisana's horror with her. Suddenly he snaps out of it realising that his continued presence is keeping her trapped in her memories and he feels sick to his stomach.

His usual calm and control almost fractures as his concern for Lisana overwhelms him. By sheer force of will Zak asserts military discipline across his mind, regaining control of himself.

With surprising agility and efficiency he disentangles himself and rolls away from Lisana.

Only once at a safe distance, does he allow his feelings to come crashing back though his calm.


<Lisana>

Terror and dread surround her, suffocating and dark. Swirling through her essence and carrying her down beyond reason. Breathing in gasps and unable even to cry, Lisana trembles and awaits her punishment. Then her voice, Cho’s voice, is there close beside her, her body holding Lisana’s head, warm and still, anchoring her between light and dark.

As the weight lifts from her body, Lisana lies unmoving except for tremors across her body, her eyes screwed shut. A stillness permeates the space, and their breathing alone fills the silence. Gradually, after some moments, she slowly moves, still trembling, and reaches her hands to Cho, pulling herself into her arms. Her head resting on Cho’s shoulder and with her arms clinging to her, Lisana begins to re-engage with the world.

Lifting her shaking hand to her own mouth Lisana kisses her fingertips and gently touches them to Cho’s lips, staring into her eyes, reaching in.

Gods, what have I done to them? They do not deserve this

Lisana turns to seek Zak, and crawls unsteadily to his side, with Cho supporting her. Reaching out her arms to his, pleadingly, she looks intensely into his eyes. As they embrace, Lisana rests her head on his chest, and begins to cry silently.

Reaching a hand across to Cho, she seeks her touch and the three of them hold each other, uncertain what to feel or think.


<Cho>

Gently but firmly, Cho's embrace grips both Lisana and Zak. Her injured ribs register their protest, but the driving need for closeness, for support, drowns it out.

She looks up, her eyes at last meeting Zak's, as haunted and uncertain as she's ever seen him. She finds her voice, ragged but certain.

"It's okay, Zak. Don't you dare go taking responsibility. Nor you, szalan."

Giving each a gentle squeeze, she takes a slow, measured breath, careful of her ribs. Her voice steadies further as she addresses them both.

"We're all damaged. We're all hurting. But we should know exactly who to blame right now, and it is not you."

She holds Zak's gaze a few moments longer, eyes fierce. Places a kiss on each of them in turn before releasing her embrace, letting her hands rest tenderly on their shoulders.

"So take a moment. Take as long as you need. But then I'm going to ask you both to get up, and do that again. Because he does not get to win."


<Zak>

For all of Zak's experiences of war, villainy and survival on the rim, being a trigger to such reactions from Lisana was hard for him to bear.

Logic and reason being trumped by experiences so heinous and visceral as to cut the soul to the core and mark it deep. That he could evoke such things disturbed him at a fundamental level, challenged his belief that his choices and actions could affect and define his influence on those around him. The scars that Lisana carried not only burdened her, but could twist the best efforts of those who just wanted to help her, or even love her. After her experiences could she ever have a fulfilling relationship with a Falleen male, or any male, should she wish to when one had abused and debased her so? Could anything heal that harm? Would even vengeance, wholly justified in Zak's opinion, help heal or just cause further damage?

Someone's approach breaks his trance. That it is Lisana gives him hope, his eyes full of sorrow meet hers; "Szalan... I'm so sorry..." and he tenderly accepts her embrace, his arms protectively encircling her, gently stroking her hair as she sobs. "You're safe. We're here for you." His haunted eyes seek Cho's and he recognises a similar sorrow.

Her words resonate. He'll do whatever is required, share whatever suffering or burden that Lisana can pass on to ensure that Trehees will never win.

"Never have truer words been said Di. Never."


<Lisana>

Some moments later, two figures stand facing each other. With Cho tense to one side, Zak and Lisana try to master themselves, dreading the coming moments. Lisana is the first to speak, concern forcing her to break the silence.

“Zhratar, are you ok to continue?” Her eyes are fixed on Zak’s, overflowing with emotion. A tear runs down her cheek.

“This is more difficult for you than for me. I have lived this every day for more than 20 years. For you, this is new, fresh, raw, and I remember so so clearly what that is like.”

“So if you need more time, or to step away from this, I will completely understand. You are my closer than kin zhratar, and I will protect you with all my strength.”


<Zak>

Zak's eyes meet Lisana's full of genuine respect and admiration; His delivery falling into more formal cadence matching Lisana's;

"Szalan, that you would offer me that crutch honors me more than I can express, but how could I, in good conscience, use less of my strength for an instant than you have shown for more than 20 years?"

"To exorcise that demon no cost is too great. You have carried that burden alone for far too long." He looks to both Cho and Lisana determination clear on his face. "Together it's time for us to lighten it in any way we can."

"While you have need, I'm at your service. Closer than kin."


<Cho>

Standing on the sidelines, Cho watches the two of them fight, her hands balled into fists, fingernails digging into her palms. All she can do now is be there; she will not allow herself to flinch or look away.

Both determined, both reluctant to see the other hurt. Pushing themselves hard just to keep going. Bit by bit, blow by blow, she sees those barriers come down.

She sees Zak's arms enfold Lisana again, lifting her bodily from the floor, grip like a vice. Sees the feral glimmer in Lisana's eyes turning to visceral fear, forgetting where she is.

Oh gods, here it comes.

Feeling Lisana go rigid against him, Zak freezes; his eyes widen with dread. Cho's breath stills in her lungs, transfixed. Then she sees something that makes her heart ache with pride.

Lisana's hand moves, not to pry at Zak's grip, but to gently clasp his hand in hers. Her lips move not to gasp or scream, but to breathe words of comfort.

Eyes glistening, Cho allows herself a smile.

"Good. Again."

rossi720
New Face
Posts: 21
Joined: 22 Jul 2007, 12:23

Session 25.3 - Cho, Reeva - Shared Burdens

Post by rossi720 »

Cho attempts a supportive chat with Reeva.
Spoiler

<Cho>

The ship is quiet today; its engines silent, reactor quiescent, slumbering on low power mode while still docked to the Wheel. A difference Cho feels more than hears, the absence of vibration reminding her how long they've been still, been findable once again. At least I know what to do about external threats, she reflects.

Having skipped breakfast again, Zak handling it while she gratefully overslept, she's not sure whether Reeva's even up yet. Hadn't visited them in the cargo bay this time. No sign of her in the bar, nor had Dane seen her when asked, but Cho wasn't sure he'd seen anything beyond the internals of the astrogation computer at the time.

Probably in her cabin, then. Meditating, maybe? Sorry, no peace and quiet for you, not just yet. She raps her knuckles on the door rather than press the buzzer, waits a moment; thinks she hears Reeva sigh and hit the door control. It hisses open.

Cho leans in the doorway, a quizzical smile on her lips.

"Hey, kiddo. Okay if I intrude for a minute?"


<Reeva>

There is a pause as Reeva looks up, a guarded expression on her face but the ‘kiddo’ intro seems to suggest that maybe this is not going to be another dressing down as she is not in the mood. She decides to give the benefit of the doubt, start out with the right intentions at least. Hopefully the Force will at least acknowledge that she is making an effort.

She had been sitting on the bed, cross-legged, her eyes closed, trying to empty her mind to gain focus but without much success thus far. Her mind is too full of worries, concerns, small flashes of hope.. and in some ways they were the hardest to deal with as they brought a dash of euphoria which really screwed with the calm nothing that she was striving to achieve. But at least she had them. It helped in the everyday routine, kept the despair away.

“Sure.”

She manages a half smile, though it doesn’t last. She reaches for a point of commonality, something they share, a way of connecting as they had before.

“How’s Zak?”


<Cho>

There's a degree of uncertainty to Cho's movement as she enters, unusual in someone who typically makes a point of appearing decisive, controlled, in command of her surroundings, no matter what she's feeling underneath.

She's never spent much time in Reeva's cabin, only during the ship's restoration work, but had always taken her as a 'doesn't have much, doesn't need much' sort - rather like her father in that - so is unsurprised to see her sitting on the bed rather than a chair.

Cho deliberates for a moment, then sits herself cross-legged on the floor opposite, looking slightly up at Reeva.

How is Zak? She takes a few moments to think through the question, evidently deciding it warrants far more of an answer than a simple 'well, thank you'.

"Your father's one of the reasons I knocked. He's doing well. Will be better than me with a lightsaber before long, I think." She pauses, a genuine smile flickering across her lips, almost wistful.

"We all have our moments - gods, I certainly do - but I think he's actually, genuinely okay on a level I've not seen before. Whole."

Her eyes seek Reeva's, determined to hold her gaze as she continues.

"That's down to you."

She lets the words hang there for a moment, absolute certainty in her eyes.

"Thank you for that."



<Reeva>

Reeva notices Cho’s uncertainty. Perception is a high ability for her but it does cross her mind that Cho could be faking it. That thought having arrived, she dismisses it, acknowledging her own paranoia and also not coming up with a motive that might support it. She also notes Cho sitting on the floor, psychologically a lesser position, though subservient might be a better word and that is likely calculated.. but preferable.

“Glad I could help.. but I’d say that was down to us. We seem to do OK when we combine to help Zak. Strong motivation I guess.”

She is also relieved to hear that he is doing better. Cho sees more of him that anyone else and therefore is in a better position to evaluate. She breathes in slowly and then exhales, aware that she is tense, aware that Cho has not gotten around to why she is here. And hates it that she is defensive, waiting for a bombshell to drop.

“And how about you?”

It takes some courage to ask this, to open herself to whatever is coming.. but sometimes harder to endure a silence.


<Cho>

Watching Reeva watching her, Cho sighs inwardly. She can see the tension in Reeva's frame, the expectation of imminent trouble. Guess I've given her plenty of reason to expect it, lately. This is long overdue.

"We did more than okay, Reeva. You did something outright fucking amazing. Yes, I helped. I'm glad I could. But I couldn't have done it without you."

You did a good thing, kiddo. Own it. Whatever Reeva's suspicions, whatever's motivating Cho right now, her words ring with genuine belief.

She stares at Reeva a moment longer, as if she could make her acknowledge it by force of will alone. Perhaps she could, but the currents of the Force are quiet around the pair.

"As for how I am..." Cho looks away, frowning back at the cabin door. I'm okay, if you average it out. If swinging wildly between extremes can be called okay.

"I am getting a handle on my shit, I guess. Things were... pretty rough during your dad's breakdown. Couldn't seem to reach him, couldn't help him, didn't deal well with that. So again, thank you."

She glances up at Reeva, an uneasy mess of emotions flickering across her features. Presses on anyway.

"Seeing Gak again rattled me to fuck and back. Still does. I am very much not fucking okay, there, and have not exactly been reliably pleasant company since. Sorry. Still working on getting a lid on that."

It's possibly the single longest, least evasive set of statements about herself Reeva has ever heard from Cho. Even Cho seems to be reflecting on it, slightly surprised at her own utterances.

She looks at Reeva again, seeking her gaze.

"How are you doing, really?"


<Reeva>

Reeva is somewhat surprised and that breaks through her control such that, for a moment, that shows. She had no idea that Cho actually approved, really felt she had done well. She takes another slow breath, fighting the urge to open up, let down her defences, feel Cho and get that confirmation that she really wants. But she won’t. Doing that cost her the one thing that she has never wanted to lose. It is the hardest most painful lesson ever but for now she has to live with it, live with it and regain trust. Trust is always taken for granted until wrenched away. She can only hope that time will heal that breech.

So she takes Cho’s words on trust, knowing she must give it in order to receive it and only hopes that it will actually work. It does still feel that they are fencing around each other but maybe they are both trying?

“I am glad things are improving for you too. It has been.. testing for all of us in different ways.”

She is still holding onto her core, thinking before she speaks, treading carefully.

“I know that I am.. inexperienced but if you think I could help..?”

The offer is made readily, not something she would have thought she’d be saying when she saw Cho framed in the doorway.

She meets Cho’s gaze, her eyes sad and somehow senses this is a time for honesty, a time to be real, even if it costs.

“I feel lost.”

She struggles with finding the words.

“I need an anchor point, something to believe in, focus on, achieve. I think I have lost.. “

Her eyes close. She can’t say it, can’t substantiate her biggest fear. Saying it makes it real, confronts it. Her defences are too weak for that right now. One tear slides down her face. She brushes it away, tries to centre herself again. Slow breath in, focus..


<Cho>

Cho smiles gently, seeing Reeva's sincerity in offering to help. Just like your father, sometimes.

"You're already helping. The whole crew is."

For a moment, as Reeva falters, Cho considers crossing the distance, giving her a hug. Then thinks better of it. She knows Zak would in a heartbeat, but it might throw Reeva even further off balance, or be outright unwelcome.

Still, she can't help empathising - and can only hope she's on the right track, or that Reeva will steer her there.

"This to do with what we saw, in fixing Zak? Seeing her through him?"

Her eyes reflect Reeva's own sadness, a rueful smile on her lips.

"Haven't spoken to him about it, but that really did a number on me. Been so caught up in my own shit that I hadn't seen how much it'd shaken you, though. Sorry."

She rests her hands on her knees, palms up, body language as open as she can make it while still mirroring Reeva's cross-legged position. Deliberate, but the unspoken offer is genuine.

Whatever it is, I'll listen.


<Reeva>

“Oh that was the icing on the cake.”

Reeva’s tone indicates that it did have quite an effect but there is a touch of anger, no. bitterness, in her voice here. It does not seem to be on par with the sadness she had showed earlier. And in some ways she uses that to shore up her defences, to put up the screens again.

“Seeing Reina..” She doesn’t use the term mum. “..in that mission, it is like seeing her as a different person. “I don’t know who she is any more.”

Head down, she picks a piece of fluff from her trousers.

“I mean it is like she is this professional operative, maybe without feeling, then she turns into a mother, the person I thought I knew, to have then turned back into an operative again, as if I never existed.”

She shrugs.

“And what about Gak? What are you going to do?”


<Cho>

Not that, then. Frustration flickers briefly across Cho's features, kicking herself for letting the moment pass, seeing Reeva hardening up once more. She watches and listens to Reeva intently, keenly though, Cho's expression still seeming relatively unguarded.

She almost flinches as Reeva moves back to Gak, her face forced into deliberate neutrality, everything about Cho suddenly very still. After a moment she shrugs, almost unconsciously echoing Reeva's own motion back at her.

"Kill him, I suppose. Before he hurts anyone I care about."

Her voice is flat, controlled, matter-of-fact. Taking a deep breath, wincing slightly as her broken ribs protest, Cho seems to steady herself, relaxing her guard again somewhat, though unease creeps back into her expression as she considers how to continue.

"I've... been, a professional operative. Done a lot of very shitty things to people who had lives, families, without even having a cause to justify it."

Cho's eyes stay on Reeva, warily watching as she forces herself to keep talking, keep trying to open up. Why the fuck am I trying to give perspective on Reina of all people?

"You learn to bottle shit up. Put it in boxes in your head. Be numb, most of the time. But it does not go away. You don't get to stop caring, not really."

She looks down, sighing, then glares out at the cabin door, her expression twisted in an unhappy mix of compassion and frustration.

"I didn't just look at the mission. No, fuck that, I am too fucking nosy for my own good, couldn't keep from watching the rest of Zak's memories. Some of the happiest times of his life, with her."

She hesitates, then pushes herself on, seemingly warring with herself as she talks.

"Not round that mission. Well after, on his last posting. She'd supposedly quit service, fuck knows what she was really up to, but they clicked. Both of them fell, hard. It's not exactly comfortable me saying this, but I've seen it, in excruciating fucking detail, and that - if nothing else - was not a lie. She loved him."

Her voice softens slightly, though there's still a determined edge to it. She looks up at Reeva.

"And I do not for a second doubt that she loves you. You do not give someone sixteen fucking years of your life and stop caring. Yes, she left. Yes, it's been a fucking long time. Worst case, she's an unreliable fuckup of a mother. There will be guilt, shame, all that shit."

She sighs again, gaze steady.

"If you don't know who she is anymore, find out. She owes you some fucking answers."


<Reeva>

“That’s true. I often forget about your former life as I kind of met you at the end of it.”

She listens to the rest, letting it filter through her mind.

“Maybe I should cut her some slack.. at least until I’ve heard her side?”

She sighs softly.

“Guess I’m just trying to prevent another loss, or the possibility of it. All of us, we can only take so much.”

She acknowledges Cho’s pain in that ‘we’. Maybe that might provide some commonality.

“Reina was 20 years ago. Zak is in a different place now. He has made his choice. Be secure in that. Reina is no threat to what the two of you have.”

It is clear that Reeva has no childhood delusions that her mother and father will reconcile. Heck she doesn’t even know if a mother daughter relationship is on the cards. She is not the same girl that was deserted over 3 years ago.

“And I don’t think that dealing with Gak will be that easy for you. And I mean emotionally. I don’t need to be Force sensitive to realise that. When you are ready, maybe we should talk. Maybe there is another way. And yes, that is a huge maybe.”

She smiles, less shadows in it now.

“Seems we both have our burdens, kind of feel sorry for Zak.


<Cho>

Cho smiles faintly back as Reeva replies, offering her own perspective and reassurance; she might have doubts aplenty, but the sentiment driving Reeva is not among them.

Her smile widens into a crooked grin as Zak is mentioned.

"Don't feel too bad. He likes to be kept on his toes."

Cho stretches without rising, flexing her arms and shoulders, releasing some of the tension in her frame. Lets herself slouch back ever so slightly, leaning on the wall behind her, smiling across at Reeva.

"And I think you'd find you're stronger than you expect. Everyone's got limits, sure. But you'd be surprised what you can survive and rebuild from."

She pauses, considering her own words, eyes wandering the room.

"Particularly when surrounded by a crew who'll pick you back up when you fall."

Cho glances back at Reeva, as if checking she understands just how true that is.

"What can I do to help?"


<Reeva>

Reeva returns Cho’s smile when she says Zak likes to be kept on his toes. She hopes that’s true as it will make it easier for him.

“Stronger? Maybe.. but I have learned I don’t like pain, don’t want to endure it ceaselessly.”

A soft sigh follows, maybe a touch of relief at the admission. Cho then reminds her that the crew have her back.

“Being picked back up.. not all it is cracked up to be. It’s like standing up skittles when you know they are going to get smashed and scattered again.. and again. I am trying not to go the self-pity route but it is hard.”

She swallows and then shakes her head slowly.

“I appreciate the offer Cho but I don’t think this is something that can be fixed. I screwed up.. so badly.. not sure there is any redemption to be had. There are times I still have a glimmer of hope and like the skittle get back on my feet. But each time I get back up it is with less hope than before. It colours everything.”

The sadness is back. Her head drops. She has said all she can without mentioning her name, probably as much as she can manage.


<Cho>

Oh, fuck. So that's what this is about. Is still about.

The realisation doesn't come as a surprise, per se, as Cho reads between the lines. It chills her to the bone nonetheless. Still pinning everything on one broken foundation.

Fuck fuck fuck, this is really not my place.

Time stretches out as Cho scrabbles to gather her thoughts, arrange them into something constructive. She fidgets, grimaces as her ribs protest at her yet again.

When Cho finally speaks, her tone is level, matter-of-fact.

"Hope will fuck you like that, yes. You screwed up, yes. You will always be a person who has screwed up. You do not have to be, to stay the person who did that, though. Does that make sense?"


<Reeva>

“And that is the consolation prize? I’m already there.”

Her tone shows what she thinks of that. She raises her head.

“Told you this wasn’t something you could fix.”

There is a resignation, a despondency to her tone. Then another soft sigh.

“Appreciate the interest though. Helps a bit.”


<Cho>

Reeva might well have expected Cho to snap back in return, given the tone she'd just taken; instead she just becomes very still for a long moment, and then sighs, looking away.

"No, it's not something I can fix. Not something anyone but you can fix, if it's about fixing things at all. All I'm trying to say is that one mistake doesn't have to define you."

She looks back at Reeva, gaze softening.

"That you aren't alone in having messed up and having to keep moving anyway. That yes, it is a horrible place to be, and time can crawl on for seeming eternities between the good bits in life."

All anyone can offer is their perspective and their time, kiddo. You have to actually want to save yourself.

"The implication there is supposed to be that things won't always suck, by the way, but I'm aware how utterly useless that is in practical terms. And that I am a terrible counsellor." She smiles ruefully.

"Just know you've got people willing to sit with you through the shit bits. But if you want me out of your hair or to shut up, just say."


<Reeva>

“To be honest, you have helped. And I know this is something I have to try to work through..”

A wry smile touches her lips.

“..but there are times it hurts too much, times when I question staying but I guess deep down I know I would just take it with me.”

Another soft sigh.

“If you are willing, I think it might be good to do something physical. A run maybe? Or some sort of practice?”

Maybe she can feel normal.. just for a while..


<Cho>

Genuinely pleased to hear it, Cho smiles softly across at Reeva. Her smile turns somewhat rueful as she considers her options for exercise, though, fingering her busted ribs.

"We can figure something out, sure. In fact, I could use your help."

She grins, carefully getting up from the floor. Then nods toward where Reeva's blaster rifle rests.

"Was thinking it's about time we set up a range in the hold, if you fancy lending a hand?"

rossi720
New Face
Posts: 21
Joined: 22 Jul 2007, 12:23

Session 25.5 - Cho, Dane, Lisana - Not Killing Zak Yet

Post by rossi720 »

Cho, Dane and Lisana share a quiet drink.
Spoiler

<Cho>

Even more so than the primary reactor, The Blue Nexu's bar is, perhaps, the heart of the ship.

More comfortable than most of their cabins, it's a warm, welcoming place even untended. Perhaps it reminds the crew of Lisana's Al-Bad saloon, of their first meetings in that frontier-town bar. Sweeping blues and greens, gentle on the eye, it's well-furnished and tremendously well-stocked, taking advantage of the Nexu's size and store-rooms.

It's rather late, but Lisana's familiar profile stands at the back of the bar, double-checking that most critical of ship's supplies - cocktail ingredients. No great surprise to see her here, even at this hour; perhaps not that much of a surprise to see Cho sat at the bar either, given she's been quietly at Lisana's side through most of the recent days.

A rare, unguarded smile sits upon Cho's lips as she sits there, watching Lisana over the glass she's sipping from. Her expression cools subtly as she realises someone's walking in, turning to regard Dane with quizzical, gentle amusement as he approaches.

"Hey there cap'n. Done chasing electrical ghosts for the night?"

Right. Let's give this a shot.

She pats the stool next to her, inviting him over, seemingly in a convivial mood for the moment. Glancing briefly over at Lisana and the mess of bottles around her, Cho grins at Dane, her eyes searching out his.

"Can I get you something while our proprietress is busy? Been meaning to buy you a drink anyway."


<Dane>

Dane enters, seemingly distracted by something. He looks around as he enters, not sure if he was expecting anyone. His eyes skip briefly over the scene; sees Cho, then sees Lisana either restocking or stock-taking. He's not sure what to make of it.

Cho question breaks through.

"Hey Cho. Must be my lucky day, being bought a drink."

He smiled wanly.

"The universe must really want something from me," he said as he went over to the stool she indicated.

"I'll have a Corellian whiskey."

He sat down, glancing at Lisana before turning to look at Cho.

"I'm done chasing ghosts. It's down below any threshold sensible to spend time chasing. Unless we need to outrun a similarly slow but well-armed ship, in which case I'll need to find that final 0.01% during the pursuit."

He waved an arm in the general direction of the corridor.

"Or Urrly will have to while I'm out dogfighting."


<Lisana>

Hearing Dane's voice, Lisana turns and gives him a broad welcoming smile. Without hesitation, she lifts a bottle of Corellian whiskey from the mass of happiness on the bar ready for the stock take.
A generous golden portion in the beautiful swirled glass, she hands this to Dane, with her cheeky wink, a now traditional greeting, just between the two of them. Perhaps Dane notices something less familiar, a shadow behind her eyes.
Turning to Cho, she nods at the empty glass.
"Can I get you another one, Cho?"


<Cho>

Cho watches Dane with open curiosity, wondering quietly what'd had him so distracted on arrival - though Dane has always been a hard one for her to read, the two of them perhaps each finding the other an agreeable mystery.

"Excellent taste as always, Dane." She nods at Lisana's inquiry, thanking her politely as a generous measure of whiskey makes its way into her glass as well.

"Not sure what the universe wants from any of us, beyond jerking us around. I just wanted to catch up, really. It's been one hell of a few weeks."

She takes a hefty swig, savouring the taste. Glances at Lisana, a rueful smile on her lips.

"Lisana's been doing her best to keep us all together, but there's been a fuck of a lot of pressure on the crew. Not least on you and Zak."

Cho swirls her whiskey round the glass, staring down into it for a moment, then looks up at Dane quizzically.

"How're you doing now? Managed to chat things through?"


<Dane>

"Thanks," he said, accepting the glass and smiling at the generous measure. He swirls it, briefly, savours the aroma, then raises his glass in a salute to Lisana. He smiled at her, but...something wasn't quite right with her. He raised an eyebrow quizzically, but left it at that.

He took a slow sip, savouring the taste. He turned to Cho.

"Yeah, it's been a heck of a few weeks. Lots of crap going down, and around."

He sighed.

"Look, I'm sorry if I was the cause of any of it; I'm sure it can't have been easy."

He was silent for a moment.

"Yes, we talked. I've told him that we're good, but it's going to take me some time to get through it."

He fell silent, staring intensely into his glass.


<Cho>

Cho shrugs and shakes her head, gently, as Dane apologises. No judgement or blame to be had here. She peers down at her own glass, unconsciously mirroring Dane's posture, then glances up at him again.

"Always respected the way you approached Zak, to be honest. I didn't go about things nearly so well as you, when I first met him."

She smiles ruefully once more. Everyone on the crew knows at least the basics - that Zak had once been a contract of hers, one she'd declined to fulfil - but Cho had never been one to readily supply details on the matter.

"I was determined to hate him, in fact. For what he'd done. For his role in the death of my... family."

She leans back, an arm outstretched along the bar. Watches Dane's reaction closely.

"A contract had come up for a high-ranking ex-Imp. So much redacted, but one thing stood out. He'd lost a limb fighting the Jedi. Decorated and praised for his part in their downfall."

She sighs, sets her glass down to study the hand that'd held it.

"So of course I took it."

Gods, what a disappointment that'd been. Drunk and broken in a dead-end bar, the bottle already doing her job for her.

"Couldn't let it go. Wanted to see him suffer. Thoroughly un-fucking-professional of me, but I was a naive idiot back then. Told myself I wasn't doing it for Carid, but for me."

She glances at Lisana, then looks back at Dane.

"Had to make it hurt. So I figured I'd get to know him. Lift his spirits. Stuck this pretty face on, gave him my best smile, my best lines. Even told him my real first name - idiot me, doing this for myself, right?"

Picking up her whiskey, she downs the remainder in one.

"He clocked me as trouble the instant we met. And didn't fucking care. Playing games with me, telling me stories. And I let him in. Let him get under my skin."

Reaching for the bottle, she smiles as Lisana beats her to it, refilling her glass and sitting down opposite the pair of them.

"Oh, how I have fucking paid for that. But I'd do it again."

She turns to face Dane fully, meeting his eyes, lifting her glass in a toast. A quizzical smile on her lips.

"To not killing Zak yet."


<Dane>

Dane gave Cho a rueful smile as she compared their approaches to Zak. He hadn't been exactly kind to Zak, but he had, at least, been cautious. He had needed confirmation from Zak, one way or another, that he had been guilty of the deed, as records could be faked, though there seemed little point in faking these records. There was nothing to be gained by trying to punish someone who wasn't aware of what they had done, and while he was never quite convinced of Zak's memory loss at the start, he had grown to accept that, even if it was faked, at least it was consistently so, to the point he couldn't tell if it was or not.

He did look surprised at Cho's revelation that Zak had something to do with the death of her family. She rarely mentioned her family, biological or other, or indeed her background; any questions on those were usually evaded, sometimes subtly, other times in a way that implied that the answers were dangerous. Very rarely, the latter came with a subtle undertone that the danger might very well have immediate and regrettably permanent consequences. He had never probed her much as a result.

Zak's decline into self-destructive behaviour was known to him, but it was different having someone who had watched it all on display telling him about it. For a moment, he felt some pity for Zak. A man broken by what he had done.

As Cho continued her description of Zak, and the process of falling for him, he could almost feel her pain and confusion at the time. Someone else with a need for vengeance. It was a feeling he was familiar with. But she hadn't sated that need. Instead, it had been...subverted? changed? into something else.

That was then. This is now. It's the same Zak, but with different eyes, and maybe a wiser soul.

He raised his glass to match Cho's toast. "To not killing Zak...yet."


<Lisana>

Smiling at the wording of the shared toast at the bar, Lisana walks to the sofa area with a bottle of best Corellian whiskey and three glasses, which she places on the table, filling the glasses with practiced ease. Kicking off her boots, she arrives back on Dane’s side of the bar, and slips an arm through each of theirs. Ushering them gently from the bar to sofas, she seats them together with a smile, and gracefully positions herself opposite them indicating the golden glasses on the table. Her smile turning mischievous, she says:

“And I am thankful by the way that you both decided to keep him alive, at least for now. He is far too useful and we need him!”

Come on girl, you need to explain. He seems in a kind of reasonable place….

With a glance at Cho, Lisana reaches forward and placing her manicured hand on Dane’s arm, says quietly, “Dane, I apologise for not having spoken with you until now. It’s been manic, med bay full, extra mouths for the galley, and the children to care for. And thank you so much for taking care of the children that night.” She shifts slightly uneasily in her chair.

“It’s about that night, you may remember I mentioned I had a few health concerns? Well, I urgently needed to come off some of my ..well.. helpers. That night.”

Her edginess growing, Lisana forces herself to stay seated. Her hands begin to clasp and loose repeatedly.

“I had been preparing for something like that for months, pulling in all sorts of favours to get the drugs I needed for detox, all sorts. And I needed medical skills to support me, and Cho and Zak …were amazing …there was an incident when…my heart nearly failed…and they got me through.” She shivers, her eyes unfocussed, treading that dark walk they had all taken in their various ways. Then she straightens and looks Dane in the eye. ”And Cho is keeping an eye on me to make sure I’m ok, and I am so grateful to her for that.”

“I didn’t say because I could see you were in a dark place of your own. But you seem more… yourself now?” And she takes both his hands in hers.

“You still seem preoccupied, I’ve been really worried? And you were very distracted when you arrived? What’s up?”


<Dane>

Dane looked up at Lisana and she sat down with them, and glanced down as she put her hand on his arm. She's apprehensive about something.

He listened to her, explaining what she had gone through. He had known that she had some chemical assistance sometimes, but he hadn't realised how deep the need was.

Oh, my poor angel. All this time, you were supporting me, when you needed the help.

He couldn't imagine the pain she had experienced, physical and mental, but he could tell that it had been excruciating. It had cost her a lot to keep going, which meant that she had reached a personal breaking point before she realised that she couldn't continue with them.

When did I get so focused on myself that I failed to spot that she was reaching breaking point? Or even the breaking point itself? How did I totally fail to see that?

"There's nothing to apologise for," he said as she took his hands in hers, "I should have seen that you were hurting, that you were in need. And I'm really sorry that I failed you there."

He turned to Cho. "Thanks for being there."

He turned back to Lisana.

"My distraction is nothing, really." He took a moment before continuing. "Since the...conversation...with Zak, I've been a little distracted. I'm seeing ghosts, or rather, remembering them. They're not pleasant memories."


<Lisana>

Lisana’s eyes blink back tears, as she hears Dane’s apology.

“No-one has failed anybody, my wonderful friend. Please do not think you played any part in causing this. I was very careful to conceal this, so very careful, probably to hide this from myself as well as others.”

His admission of perceiving ghosts causes Lisana to freeze for a moment. Carefully she looks into Dane’s face, seeking his eyes.

“Dane, as your friend I am very sad to hear this. And as your doctor, I am concerned for you.” Lisana’s tone changes and they both recognise her medical persona sliding to the fore, her body straightening slightly. “You have suffered a major head trauma recently – and believe me, the injuries were such that I was afraid there might be some side effects.” She squeezes his hands reassuringly. “This may well be your memories resolving as the past becomes more clear, but equally I would like to check you out again tomorrow please.” She lowers her voice to a whisper.

“I don’t want to lose you.”


<Dane>

His eyes glistened as he saw Lisana's tears. Pull yourself together. He swallowed and blinked back his own unsummoned tears.

He returned her squeeze, ever so gently.

"You won't lose me," he whispered back, "as long as I don't lose you."

He cleared his throat, before continuing in a more normal tone.

"I'll check in with you as you need me to. I'll try not to be a grumpy patient."


<Cho>

Cho watches their exchange quietly, seeing in Dane the same series of painful realisations she felt when Lisana told her, seeing Lisana's own sorrow at bringing them forth. She's glad Dane's attention is largely on Lisana; Cho struggles ever so slightly to limit her own expression to gentle concern.

Steadying, she sets her glass down on the table, straightens up her posture. Regarding them both, Cho's voice is low but determined.

"No-one is getting lost, not on my watch."

A wry smile flits across her lips, and she glances down, gesturing vaguely at her own midriff, her voice softening.

"And I think even grumpy you'd get more patience in med-bay than I did, Dane."


<Dane>

He glanced across at Cho, looking a little puzzled at her gesture.

"I'm not sure what you did in med-bay, Cho, but unless it involved flashing lightsabers, I can't imagine it was that bad..."

He turned to Lisana.

"Was she chasing Zak around the medbay, cackling maniacally as she tore her stitches?"


<Lisana>

Lisana nearly laughs and raises her eyebrow again at Cho, as if seeking permission to have some gentle fun.

“Well, lets just say that she and Zak had been training hard one morning, and things had got a little carried away. With medbay overrun, you can imagine how pleased I was to find out that, for both of them, the injuries I was treating were inflicted by each other. You’ve seen the state that Zak was in. Well, anyway, I think I made myself clear to both of them about my views on their ‘training’!”

Lisana’s wry smile is directed at Cho and then switches to Dane.

“When you come to medbay tomorrow my friend, you will receive a much warmer welcome that they did!”


<Dane>

"Ah, 'training'" he said with air quotes.

He smiled, happier with the heavy mood in the room dissipating.

"Thanks Lisana. I'll try to make sure all my injuries are somebody else's fault. I think I've managed that so far."

rossi720
New Face
Posts: 21
Joined: 22 Jul 2007, 12:23

Session 25.4 - Cho, Lisana, Zak - Raising the Bar

Post by rossi720 »

Lisana, Cho and Zak chill out in the bar in a getting-to-know-you session.
Spoiler

<Lisana>

As each evening draws onwards on the Blue Nexu, there was one place that Lisana could almost always be found. Created for comfort and style, and reminiscent of her long lost Al-Bad Saloon, the bar with its rich green and blue velvet drapes, luxurious seating, and subtle gold lighting, whispers relaxation and welcome.

Behind the bar itself, a panoply of bottles, large and small, glowing in the backlighting, are neatly arranged on the shelving. Alone for the moment, Lisana steps back, champagne glass in hand, having finished restocking.

With the neck of the half empty bottle casually held between her middle fingers, she saunters across to the sofa area, her white trouser suit contrasting with her long dark hair and bright manicure. Kicking off her fashion boots, she takes a long draught of the straw-coloured luxury, gratefully sinking onto the sofa facing the doorway curtains.

Gods, what a day. So much to celebrate. And I ache. So much. The tougher than tough combat training – yet that amazing outcome. But so hideous for them both to travel that road with me, again.

Lisana shivers, taking another drink. She unbuttons her jacket, revealing a low-cut black top that clings to her every contour.

And Cho’s ribs, fuck, that was close. Surgery would equal major stress, me leading and Zak in support – doesn’t bear thinking about.

Lisana fervently wishes her brain would stay in the light zone, but she is almost certain that’s not her destiny this evening. She lights her evening cigarette. Feet on the table in front of her, glass in hand, she is looking forward to some gentle mischief and chat.

Zak and I seem to have… an understanding now, he’s such a sincere, deep and surprising man. Cho and he are great together – long may that continue.

And what about you girl – where are you now, with all this shit looming – would they manage without me? I reckon, eventually, with some care.


As familiar lovely voices approach, Lisana puts aside her thought cascade, and waits with her warm smile for Cho and Zak.


<Cho>

Cho murmurs her thanks as Zak stops to pull the bar's velvet curtains aside for her, the gentle chiming of their beaded edge announcing a new arrival.

She pauses a moment, framed in the doorway, smiling appreciatively back at Lisana. Cho's trouser suit's rich, dark blue fabric shimmers like water in the soft lighting as she crosses the room; she glances back, smiling at Zak, beckoning him in.

Welcome to another glimpse behind the curtain.

Smoothly stepping out of her shoes as she arrives at the sofa, she sinks into her usual spot shoulder-to-shoulder with Lisana.

She reaches for the table's waiting bottle of whiskey, her sleeve revealing an elegant bracelet, its sinuous lines glinting as she pours a glass each for the three of them. Duty discharged, she relaxes back once more, stretching her toes a moment as she puts her feet up next to Lisana's.

One hand deftly unbuttons her own jacket, the other cheekily reaching across to steal a drag from her companion's interestingly-fragranced cigarette before returning it with practiced ease.

Stretching as languorously as her ribs allow, she watches Zak's approach, nudging a glass toward the chair opposite with her foot. "Do come and join us."

Well now, this will be interesting. What will he make of us?


<Zak>

Although he'd never admit it, Zak was surprisingly nervous about this evening's mini celebration. As such there was a certain trepidation within him as he pulled back the curtain letting Cho lead the way, before stepping in behind her, and once more smoothed down his party clothes - the ones Lisana had given him for the Spiral.

There was certainly a lot to be thankful and grateful for.

His eyes sort out Lisana. She looked completely at home almost draped across the sofa, her ensemble perfectly pitched to draw in the eye and enhance her natural charms, glass in hand. He couldn't help but smile at her bare feet - he'd never understand the shoe/women dynamic.

It seemed that he and Lisana had gone well past merely finding common ground. Over the last few days, Zak's understanding and empathy with Lisana had changed fundamentally. To him it was a done deal. She'd already burrowed her way into his soul. He'd be there for her whenever she needed him, whether she realised it or not. Closer than Kin wasn't something he'd ever take lightly. He still found invoking her past troubling, but they were working through that and would hopefully beat that demon eventually.

Watching Cho walk over, Zak also couldn't help appreciating the view, he'd never tire of seeing his Di move, and these particular threads added something. As she kicks back and relaxes next to Lisana, stealing a draw on her cigarette it's clear the depth of familiarity between them. He could imagine many similar evenings between them while he was lost to his memories, and he was truly grateful for the support they had shared.

The pair of them lounging together was enough to make Zak pause. Both exotic, independent, stunning creatures. Complimentary and similar in so many ways. Not a red blooded male who wouldn't try their luck, and most would probably end up running with their tails between their legs. Together he couldn't think of much that they couldn't accomplish between them, which was as an amusing and scary thought as any.

"I'd be honoured my dear. Szalan, looking stunning this evening."

He pauses a few feet before them and makes a show of absorbing the scene a wry smile on his lips.

"Queen's of the venue wherever you go, that much is certain."

He reaches forward and picks up a glass, implicitly proposing a toast;

"To building bridges and defeating demons."


<Lisana>

At Zak’s words, Lisana raises her glass to them both and sips her drink, aware that she had imbibed an acceptable quota for a single evening in the space of half an hour. She inhales deeply on her cigarette, and offers it to Cho.

“Szalan, zhratar – and it is to you I drink – you have fulfilled closer than kin beyond measure. Vjix za’al.” She inclines her head to them both, her face serious yet gentle. Meeting Zak’s eyes, she smiles warmly.

“Zhratar, I imagine you have many questions regarding the Falleen culture and language, that you would wish to ask? As Cho has spent many years ‘observing ’ Falleen in one of her previous lives, she is well placed to answer these for you.” With a broad wink and her arched eyebrow, Lisana links her hands and rests them on Cho’s shoulder, leaning in closely and watching Zak over her fingers.


<Zak>

Zak smiles at the pair, catching a faint hint of the mischievous undercurrent between the pair, but not enough to truly follow it;

"More than a few certainly, and I appreciate the offer. I'd be honored to learn all that I can to better understand your language and culture szalan. But I wouldn't want to turn a pleasant evening into too much of a chore for either of you."

"Especially after the last few days we've had."

"I'd ask that you both fill in gaps in my knowledge when appropriate and ideally before I put my foot in it."

Zak pauses and considers his own mischievous smile appearing;

"It would however be nice to have something other than 'sister' to greet Di with, if that's possible."


<Cho>

As Lisana leans against her, cheerfully dropping trouble in her lap, Cho's eyes sparkle with amusement. Well played. She blows Lisana a kiss across the tiny gap between their faces, then turns to regard Zak.

"A chore? We can dance round the truth all night, it's a favourite sport. No questions off the table, ask away."

Taking a thoughtful swig of her whiskey, she smiles gently over the glass at him.

"But you don't need anything else to call me. Diya will always be yours."


<Zak>

Zak laughs; "True enough, I was looking for an endearment in Falleen rather than a name my dear." As well you know.

"For instance how would I say 'my love' or 'my dear' in Falleen?"

"And for that matter would those phrases actually even make sense in Falleen? I guess that they might not depending on the culture."

He takes a sip and rolls it across his palate; What did he really want to know? And did any of that really matter?

"I'd certainly like to understand how the Falleen consider gender. Is Falleen society a patriarchy or matriarchy or is there further nuance?"


<Cho>

It's clear from Cho's sparkling eyes that yes, she knows perfectly well what Zak was getting at.

Perhaps more of a surprise is that when Zak moves on to what else he wants to know, for once she doesn't elect to focus on only the least troublesome of the topics presented.

"Terms of endearment are a dangerous business, as well you know, 'brother'. And I would honestly prefer you expressed such things, to me at least, in the language we share."

Glancing down for a moment, Cho notices she seems to have been holding Lisana's cigarette while its owner leans on her shoulder. She takes another drag, exhaling slowly and gently proffering it to Lisana's lips before looking back at Zak.

"Still. You don't say my love in Falleen; feelings aren't yours. They're gifts. And there are a lot of words to choose from, based on context and relationship. For me, the word you would use is one you've heard already."

Her smile is crooked, her eyes gentle, playful as she watches his face.

"Amozru. Beloved." Or lover, inflection can change a lot.

Turning to Lisana, her gaze roves fondly across her features.

"For guidance on how to avoid propositioning a Falleen dignitary, context on how utterly patriarchal societies can survive in spite of having females so very capable as this one, and so forth, I will defer to an expert."


<Lisana>

Lisana and Cho exchange a long look, their faces close together as Lisana leans on her shoulder. Lisana smiles lovingly at her and then turns to Zak.

“The society I grew up with was patriarchal, but knowing what you do about my childhood, I’m sure that comes as no surprise.” Taking another drink from her glass, she looks at the ceiling and closes her eyes. “Males make the decisions, do business, and lead clans, and in some cases become dominant in the extreme. Females interact more subtly to support, negotiate, network with each other and organise. Males and females look and sound very different, and use pheromones of different … essences. There are nuances across the galaxy, but I will share something of my background, my culture.”

“My world is a strange mix of the formal and the flexible. Among Falleen we use many modes of communicating, pheromones being relatively unique. And complex. For those not of the Falleen, we use gestures, a few of which you have seen.”

She looks back at Zak, and moves to sit along the sofa with her back leaning against Cho’s right hand side, resting her head back on Cho’s shoulder.

“For such a formal and reserved society, we are a remarkably passionate race.” With the whiskey and cigarette finally giving her release from herself, Lisana seems more alive than ever. Her eyes sparkle and glow as she asks:

“What else would you like to know zhratar?”


<Zak>

Zak smiles a sad smile;

"I had assumed szalan, but never asked. Does the extreme patriarchy also extend to polygamy or multiple wives for a male Falleen? Are females generally suppressed or does Falleen society allow them independent freedoms?"

He glances to Cho, a slightly cheeky smile on his face;

"If we're doing 'no questions off the table', I could ask you the same questions regarding Clawdites and their society. Patriarchy or Matriarchy? Monogamous or polyamorus? Wives and husbands?"


<Cho>

Near to finishing her whiskey, Cho considers the glass in her hand, the bottle left on the table, and the fact Lisana has just made herself comfortable resting against her. She looks hopefully at Zak, then peers down at what's left in the glass, tipping it this way and that.

"Falleen aren't much for marriage as we'd label it. If you're powerful, you get what you want. Some of those Carid had me spy on had quite the harem." She shrugs her free shoulder ever so slightly. "Maybe it's different on their home planet, but neither of us have ever visited."

She looks back at Zak, her gaze quizzical and amused.

"And what have clawdites got to do with anything? I was raised a Jedi, and you know they collected dust under their robes. Though I've done a lot of things to blow off steam since."

Something shadows her expression for a moment before a faint, wry smile reappears on her face. She leans her head on Lisana's, the moment's tension fading.


<Lisana>

Lisana leans her head more closely into Cho’s, reassuringly, knowing what Cho is feeling. She looks upwards, smiling sadly, and then refocuses on Zak.

Not for now. Steer away.

“So, zhratar, we have shared something of Falleen ways, and it is good that both Cho and I can give you our perspectives. But we have yet to hear from you about your beginnings. It would support me to understand you better.”

Twisting gently to lie on her side, keeping her head on Cho’s shoulder, she twinkles her eyes at him.

“Questions like where were you born, how were you raised, what was expected of you? Your parents – paint us a picture please.”

Lisana settles down, her jacket falling open, expectantly watching.


<Zak>

The ease and familiarity between the pair in front of him adds another dimension to his physical distance from them across the table, separate, alone. An inner voice has a lot to say on that, but he refuses to listen, refuses to let it colour his evening. What will be, will be. Life is too short. What he couldn't deny was the certainty of what his conclusion would be if he saw a similar ease and familiarity between two people anywhere else.

Zak savors another sip of his whiskey, considering the pair in front of him, and their question.

"I was born on Vardos into a family with a long history of military service to the Republic. Army, Navy all branches of the military, going back generations. My parents too were in service."

"I was given every advantage that money and influence could provide, and pushed to excel. It was expected. I believe that my parents loved me, but they certainly pushed, and demanded results."

A wry smile hits his lips; "My mother, particularly, was a very determined individual, and drove us hard. While it was nominally a patriarchy, in my family Mother ruled."

"Both my brother and I were groomed as scions of the family. Our duty to do whatever was required to take the family forward, increase our influence and security."

"Marriages were to be arranged for advantage and power. I'm not sure how Merri escaped that, but my 'wife' was selected for me. To join the Myrto and Dagmar families going forward."

A laugh escapes Zak; "Hmm... I wonder how Roza took my... disappearance. Not well I'm sure. No doubt it would have all been about her. Most things were as far as she was concerned."

"I honestly enjoyed my youth. The challenges and experiences... the Academy and beyond. It was all laid out in front of me and I was brought up with a hunger for it. Duty and honor were baked into me as I grew up."


<Lisana>

All the while Lisana glances at Zak as he describes his experience, and shifts her position as he speaks, sitting up and slightly moving away from Cho to reach for her cigarettes. She lights another, offering it to Cho, before topping up their glasses. Turning again to Zak, she pauses, then seems to find confidence to speak.

“You are clearly an honourable man, and the one of the most sincere people I have ever met. I admire you for that.” She drinks from her glass, staring into the depths.

“Privilege and influence, entwined with obligation and an arranged marriage on the cards. A strong matriarchal figure. I imagine that was not easy to manage, the pressure and expectations?”


<Zak>

Zak leans forward and pours himself another shot of whiskey;

"I try to be honorable. I'm not sure I've always succeeded. I lost my way out on the Rim. Did things... I'd have condemned folks for, in my previous life. Out of necessity. To survive. That changed me."

He sips once more;

Zak smiles a crooked little smile; "I can see why you'd think that, but it wasn't really like that from the inside. That pressure and duty was, at that point, all I'd ever known. I didn't know any difference."

Zak looked to the ceiling obviously recalling those times;

"I just wanted to please my parents and be the best I could be. I wasn't alone, there were cousins and friends, camaraderie."

"I was lucky enough to have been born with enough skill and talent to rise to the challenge. And my entire childhood was designed to make the whole thing a game I wanted to play."

He meets Lisana's gaze; "That I was manipulated, pushed, encouraged, persuaded and even punished when appropriate is undoubtedly true. But at the same time I never felt abused or isolated."

"For the family, for honor and out of duty... we all knew what was expected and wanted to complete. Wanted to make our family and our allies proud."


<Cho>

Armed with a cigarette of her own and a refilled glass, Cho listens quietly, her eyes on Zak; she doesn't seem to register Lisana distancing herself slightly, apparently too absorbed in what Zak is saying - or lost in her own thoughts.

We've all 'done things' to survive. Was it harder for you to adapt as an adult? Or for us to face that as children?

Unwelcome memories visiting, Cho's smile grows subtly more brittle, her gaze cooling. Taking a swig of her whiskey, she forces her focus back into the room around her, looking from Zak to Lisana and back again, tense and uneasy.

She tries to shrug it off, wincing; the motion opens her jacket, medical bracing barely visible under the lines of her top.

"I could say the same of Carid. Manipulated, pushed, punished; never for a moment did I call it abuse, undeserved."

Neither of you would agree. But he made me who I am today, and I am not ungrateful.

Cho sets her glass down on the table and starts to rise; she almost laughs on realising Lisana is doing likewise at her side. Some of the tension drains from her as they share a look, and Lisana sits back down.

"Just going to use the refresher."

Cigarette still in hand, she pauses by Zak's chair, gently running a hand up his arm, squeezing his shoulder. Flashing them both a smile, she ducks out through the bar's curtains.


<Zak & Lisana>

Zak reaches up and squeezes Cho's hand, aware of her unease, trying to put all of his support into that simple touch. Abuse deserved or not is abuse, my dear.

Although from a certain perspective how different was forcing Cho to kill than having your sons join the services? Not a question Zak had ever considered before. He’d been trained to kill too, perhaps for duty and honor, rather than money and survival. How different was that really?

Zak turns and watches Cho leave; “It affects her still…”

He looks to Lisana contemplating, and meets her gaze;

”It’s surprising the commonalities, given our very different beginnings in life.”

“Indeed. There appear to be many. It is good to see you two so well-matched.” Lisana takes advantage of the space on the sofa to lie on her side along it, holding her cigarette firmly. She weighs up options, her mind spinning, feeling her anxiety begin to build again.

They look at each other, each unsure what next to ask, Lisana acutely aware that she needed to keep conversation flowing, and Zak seems far too content with the silence.

Eventually Lisana yields. For them to be happy, that’s so important. Move this on, make or break. She arches her eyebrow resignedly.

“In your spirit of directness, do you find it difficult speaking with me, zhratar?”

Zak grins; “Szalan, I do find myself doubting my... word selection. But that will pass as we share who we are, and where we’ve come from.”

“Again, speaking directly, is there anything you wish to ask me without Cho present?” Lisana’s eyes are positively glowing with mischief.

This elicits a genuine laugh, and his own mischievous twinkle in his eye;

“Things that I wouldn’t be brave enough to ask in front of Di? No, amozru. I merely struggle with how to ask some things without causing you pain.”

Lisana’s eyebrow flicks upwards, and she tilts her head to one side. “Ask zhratar, I will tell you if I am able, and if it would cause me pain, I will tell you too. Deal?”

Maintaining eye contact, Zak takes another sip of his drink;

“Sincerely offered and taken. What of your family? Was everything tarnished by him, or was there more? It pains me to think of you growing up without… what I consider family.”


<Lisana, Zak, Cho>

Lisana takes a long drink from her glass and opens another bottle of whiskey, refilling her glass. Rolling on her back, and staring at the ceiling, glass and cigarette in hands, she exhales. “Then you will not like my answer. It will cause you pain. But friendships have come to mean far more to me as a result. You may have noticed..” turning her head to look at Zak, her eyes fierce.

“Once my mother was buried, I lived on the streets, staying away from anywhere he would know. Ask Cho if you wish to know what street living is like for a young pretty girl. I think you can imagine. Your face and thigh know something of what I learned over time. Dark, cold, unforgiving, it was a grounding in resilience. As I grew, I became crueler and harder than I believed possible.”

Zak nods in understanding; “Survival will do that to you.”

For a dangerous moment, Zak sees her eyes burn, reminding him of Cho in her incandescent rage. Then the veil drops, and in a measured tone, aware that the alcohol and drug are affecting her judgement, Lisana breathes:

“Remind me Zak, where were you when you were 11 years old?”

“Right where I told you I was szalan. I mean no disrespect. I’ve had to face my own demons. You asked me to ask and I have done so with sincerity. I don’t claim to have experienced your life, or suffering. Only that I can relate to some.”

“I’m sorry zhratar, that was unfair of me.” Lisana looks upset and unfolds from the sofa to kneel at his feet. “Forgive me.”

There’s a genuine anger in Zak’s eye’s as he speaks, one she hasn’t seen before;

“Get up szalan, you are my equal not inferior. You never have to kneel to me. Not ever.”

His tone eases; “And you're most certainly allowed to be angry with my lack of subtlety.”

“There’s a reason I mentioned before for being quieter than you liked. Poor word choice.”

He smiles; “Probably a military affectation.”

Lisana reels back in her mind, shocked by Zak’s anger and recalculating frantically how to avoid escalating this situation.

Fuck, I think I need some time for a breather, otherwise I’ll fuck up again

The bar curtains sound their subtle chimes as Cho re-enters, a much-diminished cigarette still in hand.

She nearly drops it as she takes in the scene, Lisana in distress at Zak's knees; the bar shelves' contents rattle momentarily. Her eyes narrow a moment, reading Lisana's face, Zak's posture, then soften again; her voice is gentler than she expected to manage.

"Refresher's free, amozru-mir-lhafa."

Thankful for the exit strategy, Lisana stands and murmurs,

“Thank you, I’ll just..” and the curtains fall back into place as her foot-steps fade along the corridor.


<Cho & Zak>

With the faintest of sighs, Cho crosses the floor, pausing to quirk an eyebrow at Zak beside his chair. Her eyes evaluate his expression for a long moment, before she shakes her head and slides herself gently onto his lap. In a low voice she enquires:

“What just happened?”

Zak sighs, genuine frustration and sadness apparent in his whole form, and he gladly accepts her form against his;

“I clearly said something wrong again, Di. I felt I was being supportive but clearly not.”

How is this ever going to work? I’m trying so hard… and yet…

“And why does she feel the need to kneel before me like I’m better than her? I'm not. I’m afraid that made me angry. No one should be subjugating her.”

Cho’s smile echoes his sadness, tracing her fingers along his cheek, gently hushing him.

“She loves you, Zak. Respects you. Would not ever wish to hurt or upset you. But sometimes we can’t see past our own scars.”

She glances past him, to the curtains’ gently fading motion. Eyes what's left of her cigarette, feeling uncomfortably sober in the moment.

"It's not about who's better than who. Guessing she snapped at you? Knelt apologising?"

"I might have done the same. Say you feel you've wronged someone, want to communicate sincere regret, put yourself in a deliberately vulnerable position to show trust. How else would you do that quickly?"

Zak considers Cho’s words; “Just apologising is fine... sitting with me as equals too. I really don’t like the echoes of subservience.” He looks into Cho’s eyes; “From either of you.”

“You’re both amazing women, having gone through all the trials that you’ve faced and come out the other side still with what you have. That’s amazing. It shows the steel in your souls.”

”You’re both worth so much, and deserve to own your abilities and competence. It reminds me of those who’ve taken from you without giving back.”

Cho sighs at him. “I know who and what I am, Zak, no matter how I’m sitting. Those echoes are in your head.”

He smiles; “Quite possibly Di, but I’m not the only one with triggers. I really hope you both do understand how remarkable you are.”


<Cho & Zak>

“She’s starting to, I think.” Cho grins back. “Though gods help the galaxy when she realises it fully.”

Zak scoffs; “At this point the bloody galaxy can look after itself. I’m much more worried about the two of you and the rest of the crew.”

“That’s fair. We’re quite trouble enough.” Cho allows herself a wry chuckle, sliding off his lap to take a last drag of her cigarette and stub it out on the table’s ash-tray. She regards him a moment through the smoke, then sits back on the sofa, patting the spot beside her where Lisana had been sitting earlier.

Thinking ‘Are you really sure, my love?’ Zak smiles and moves over to join Cho on the sofa, glass in hand, snagging the whiskey bottle from the table on his way past. He tops up his glass and offers to top up Cho’s. She nods, but leaves her glass on the table.

Cho eyes Zak mischievously, leaning against him. “Oh. In the spirit of avoiding further awkwardness, I should probably warn you against calling Lisana ‘amozru’. She might find it presumptuous, depending on your inflection.” She pauses, gazing into his eyes with a crooked grin. “Or try calling her ‘lover’ and we’ll see what happens, I suppose.”

Zak laughs, feeling some tension drain as he enjoys Cho’s proximity; “No… No, that's fine. I’ll happily take your advice. There are some battles best had after the war is already won.”

Turning her gaze outward across the room, Cho’s expression grows thoughtful, though her smile is still somewhat mischievous. “How would you define that war, Commander Myrto?”

Zak apes serious consideration; “I was hoping it would be a charm offensive to demonstrate the trustworthiness of the Commander to the femme fatale and win her trust and adoration.”

With a wry smile he adds; “Turns out it was just offensive.” He sighs; “Certainly not my intention.”

Aware he’s pushing his luck, but unable to help himself, he adds with a mischievous grin; “Who’d have thought I’d run into another strong, independent woman who was even more mercurial than you, my dear.”

Cho smirks back, her eyes glinting for a moment; her glass seems to shiver in place a second before flying to hand, contents swirling. She takes a long sip, watching Zak over the rim, still smiling, then shakes her head. You've a lot yet to see, then.

Sighing, Cho leans back into the sofa, feet arriving on the table once more as she watches the bar's entryway.

“She's doing her best. Stressed out and intoxicated, but doing her best. Be flattered she lost her temper with you. Shows she cares enough to let her guard down.”

Zak raises his eyebrows, looking a little stunned; “You know I hadn’t considered that. Maybe we’re further along than I figured. I keep seeing the barriers slam shut, but forget that they’d been opened in the first place.”


<Lisana, Zak, Cho>

Lisana arrives at the bar curtains, steadier and more alive than earlier. As she pulls one curtain apart slightly, she sees Cho sitting with Zak on the sofa and pushes on into the room with unusual resolve.

This is going to be tough as well, but we need this to work, for all of us.

Walking up to the sofa Lisana addresses Zak.

“Please – I would like to speak some words for err…czalsiahiun – err. Like conciliation I guess…” Lisana fervently wishes that her brain would clear.

“I am a creature caught between two worlds and you will see me switch between both. I have scars from both that affect how I react, I use drugs to help me manage through. That is what the world has handed me. I strive to overcome these factors.” Taking a deep breath, she ploughs on.

“Things we have in common, we are both stronger than we know, we have both fought against injustice, we have struggled with addiction and I still do. We have lived on the edge of society, or reason, and yet we are alive. And you have supported me unfailingly when I have been so very low, and are my closer than kin brother.”

“And I do not deserve you.”

“But we need - I need - to acknowledge that we are different – and I need to work on accepting that you are simply being honest. Why did our conversation go wrong just now? You said ‘Survival will do that to you’ and I reacted poorly. I felt that you had no idea of what that life was like, and I wear those scars in my soul. Whenever you enter that life, it is a shock, I should not judge the impact of that on someone else. And I did, and I nearly lost my composure, and that was not right. And I am sorry.”

“And I angered you again when I knelt, and I know why and I agree with your view that I am your equal. But my ..father.. insisted that I did so from a very early age, and …some things are not so easily changed…If you could be softer …” Lisana stops to gather her thoughts, and filter them through the alcohol and drug induced blur.

“Please Zak, may we start again? I am trying so hard and yet we seem…” Lisana cannot continue and puts her hand to her mouth.

“Szalan, we don’t need to start again. We just need to continue the journey. Build on what we’ve shared and learnt about each other. That our worlds were so far apart it’s no surprise that it’s been an effort for both of us.”

Lisana looks surprised, and then smiles and nods gratefully. She takes another bottle of whiskey and fills glasses, sitting down in the chair opposite. She offers Cho a cigarette.

“What about a positive question for each of you? Let’s try… what’s the best thing you’ve experienced in your life?”

Taking the proffered cigarette with a smile, Cho considers the question only for the briefest of moments, smile flaring into a grin as she regards the both of them. “That one’s easy on me. I’m sitting with them.” She pauses, thinking further. “Although if you want a fuller answer, the best thing would be… that sense of connection, I suppose.”


<Lisana & Zak>

Inquisitively looking at Zak, Lisana’s eyebrow arches, the smile still on her lips from Cho’s reply..

Zak grins; “Szalan, you have a gift for insightful questions.”

“Well, for want of a better way to phrase it, finding a true partner… and holding on for all I’m worth. Although it’ll take a lot to beat the euphoria of hearing Di’s voice when I thought I was done. I never expected to make it out of the carbonite alive.”

“That must have been very special. Cho and Reeva there… Did you even know who Reeva was then?”

“No, not at all. That revelation came later after I’d recovered somewhat.”

“So how did you learn that she was your daughter?”

“Ree told me herself, and showed me a holo of Reina talking about her.”

“And what did Reina say? Was the holo meant for you?”

“That I had a daughter and she wanted me to know. There were two, one for me and one for Ree.”

“What did you feel when you heard this news Zak? That must have been a shock?”

“It took sometime to process. I never knew she was pregnant, and I still don’t understand what happened - we were meant to escape the Empire together.”

“And that didn’t happen?” Lisana seems surprised. “I’m sorry, Reeva shared something about this, but I didn’t understand that part.”

Zak sighs; but realises that with Reina’s reemergence this isn’t going away;

“Old Republicans were being disappeared. Those not subscribing to the Imperial party line. We were both on that list. We’d made plans, quite extensive ones. But none of it panned out. I had to run and after I couldn’t find any trace. And I can’t square some of the things Reina said in the holos with things I know to be true.”

Lisana looks puzzled. “Such as?” She flicks the controller buttons under the table, dimming the bar’s lights and filling the room with gentle music.

“That I ‘never returned’, Batuu was never in the plan. I spent years feeling that I was abandoned. It’s difficult to know what the truth is any more.”

“That sounds tough, awful…Was that when you met Cho?”

Zak smiles clearly fond of the memories, and can’t help but glance at Cho;

“I’d pretty much given up on anything meaningful. I was drinking. Fighting. Selling myself. I’d lost my way, done things… I’d hit rock bottom and didn’t really care what happened next.”

Something else we have in common Zak - Lisana shifts uncomfortably.

He looks to Lisana with some sadness in his eyes; “But apparently I’m a bit of a survivor. I couldn’t quite end. Pissed a number of folks off during that time. Over the serious and the trivial.”

“And one evening while I was in my normal spot at the bar, awaiting the next moron stupid enough to have a pop, a breath of fresh air walked in. Pretty, trouble. Not necessarily in that order.” He grins at Cho; “I don’t know how but I knew she was dangerous. I guess I was just beyond caring. Made a few observations and she engaged, didn’t seem to be in a rush so I started spouting war stories.”

Zak laughs; “The whole thing still doesn’t make much sense. But I guess something clicked, because she came back for more, and brought me back from the dead, because that’s what I was - a dead man drinking.”


<Cho & Lisana>

“The irony is not lost on me. I’m not sure when I realised I wasn’t going to kill him. It was a splendid education in why I shouldn’t toy with my marks, mind you.” Cho displays her best predatory grin, though has no doubt Lisana can see a trace of unease in her eyes.

“But you didn’t stay together?”

Cho shakes her head, setting her glass down to rest a hand on Zak’s leg. “Had to get back to work sometime. I got Carid to take the contract off the open market. Best I could do.” And we both know I'm not telling Zak what that cost. Wouldn't be fair.

“So he had years of peace and quiet before I showed up again. Granted, most spent as a wall-hanging, but we all need rescuing sometimes.” Cho smiles warmly at Zak, taking a long draw from her cigarette before looking back to Lisana. “It's been quite the adventure since.”

“And what has been your most exciting experience do you think?” Lisana nods at Cho, who smiles back mischievously, obviously considering a variety of answers as she regards her. Cho’s grin widens further at the warning look she receives in response. I was also tempted to say getting you to answer questions in return, szalan. But I won’t make a point of it.

“Hard to pick out. You’ve been present for most of the candidates, obviously.” Her grin renewed by a second warning look, Cho continues on regardless. “But really, nothing much from my life before this crew stands out, it all went far too well in my professional career. Much more excitement in our adventures together.” Cho smiles innocently back at her.

“Though you must’ve had some fun times in Al-Bad, before we showed up?”


<Lisana, Zak, Cho>

Al-Bad – gods, that seems a lifetime away – and Dane and Hong – we were a good team

Lisana pauses to consider what to say.

“The beginning was – well – underwhelming! Al-Bad was a loose association of tents, huts, and some battered wooden lodges, I suppose. It was rough. But there was so much opportunity, many thirsty mouths. Charmed my way in – they liked me I guess - persuaded miners to help build a good quality wooden bar building, with the promise of discounted drinks rates. And it just took off, the only exciting place to be- money flowed in, I hired security, upgraded the furnishings, started serving food. Mostly packed with customers every evening and good flow in the day. It was the place to meet, to gossip, to forget.

“And the people I met, the tales I heard, people so keen to share their story with me. It was fascinating. And my team was bonded, so tight. My security guys were on every situation, watching newcomers, keeping our old hands under control with a smile and implied warning. The bar staff – just on it. I miss them.”

Lisana’s eyes look into another world, now lost. “And because people wanted to come to the saloon, more people came to Al-Bad, and a more formal town seemed to just grow around us. We welcomed them, extended the saloon, and some nights the atmosphere in there was electric.”

“Good times. You saw it at its best – buzzing and positive. And it was a very interesting day when you three walked in - but I’ve told that story.”

She reaches for her glass again, raising it slightly, toasting a vanished dream.

“What did you think of the saloon when you first arrived?”

Zak considers over a sip of whiskey. “What impressed me was the crew that you’d put together, and the way they worked together. I never would have figured that the place came together like you said… that’s credit to you Lisana. Even without the style, taste and professionalism on show that would have told me enough.”

Toasting Lisana in return, Cho smiles, recalling the saloon. "It caught me a little off guard, frankly. Clean, professionally run, but somehow homely - here we are amid a bunch of cut-throat outlaws and miners, and you'd made something most of them would kill to defend."

Cho's smile turns a touch rueful.

"Was fucking inconvenient - knew immediately that making trouble inside was out of the question. But refreshing, even a bit dangerous, to feel at home there - reminded me of an undercity bar Gak and I used to hang near. Rough area, but the owners'd feed us after hours, we'd give 'em what we'd heard."

Zak glances at Lisana; “Would you do that again? Run a bar or nightclub?”

“Possibly, but I would think bigger next time. Use it as a launch point for other businesses. It was great to work with the staff and to be trusted and respected by the customers. And one got to meet very interesting people. ” she winks at them both. “So you and Gak found somewhere similar?”

“Something like it, yes. Locals treated it almost as hallowed ground, we'd see all sorts come and go who'd normally be at each others' throats. Had to be careful, not be seen, but some of what Gak picked up... that fed us well.” Cho stares thoughtfully into her whiskey.

“So, what was Gak like?” Lisana lights another cigarette, then leans across to fill their glasses again, throwing her cigarette case on the table for anyone to take.


<Cho & Lisana>

"Gak?" Startled for a moment, Cho considers the question, her face unreadable at first. A soft smile spreads from her lips to her eyes as she recalls her beginnings.

"He was always trying to be funny. Even when I first transferred to Dantooine he thought he was hilarious. Us training in Shii-Cho, the first form, and him nicknaming a shapeshifter after it?" She can't help but grin at the memory, the childish humour of it.

"He was this goofy lil' twi'lek boy with too many teeth, and everyone adored him. Even then he knew who he was better than most adults. I hadn't a clue, but... I liked who he saw in me. Who he saw in everyone, in fact."

"Gods, he was a mischief. But gentle, kind, so fucking kind. Could just see inside you without trying, not a trace of judgement in him. He just understood, and it was lovely."

"Nayim was the same; we'd never had secrets from her, never needed them. Any time you needed support, she was already there. Didn't get a lesson? She knew just how to explain it. Needed space to think? She'd be waiting when you were ready. We learnt to trust the Force by trusting in her."

"She didn't even blink when the war came to us, on Dantooine. Just took us all on a field trip, down into the old crystal caves. Master Windu can have his war, she said, while we have a quiet picnic."

"So we sat with our lanterns, facets glinting around us like stars. Comforted those who were afraid, the littlest ones, while the earth shook. Nine years old and Gak knew just how to make them laugh, or when all they needed was a hug."

She sighs, her eyes glistening in the soft light of the bar. "Never mind what's come since - I will always remember that boy."

Lisana leans forward, as if trying to reach Cho and then stops herself, sitting firmly back in her chair. She flicks the controller to some heavier music, which she knows that Cho enjoys.

“Zak, from your perspective,
what is the best thing about each member of the crew?”


<Zak, Cho Lisana>

Zak raises an eyebrow and considers; That sounds both dangerous and very tempting.

“Don’t really know much about Urrly, but from what you’ve all said he’s clearly a competent soldier and gunner.”

He swills his drink; “Dane’s a damned good pilot, and has strong… ethics.”

“Reeva… well. She’s got potential and is a pretty good skiptracer, but I’m worried about her state at the moment. Not sure I helped that by getting cross.”

Cho sighs theatrically. “Talking about practical capabilities… far too easy. Though I see now where Reeva gets it from.”

Zak grins; “Really? You’re going there. Hey… it was worth a try. Fine. Ok.”

He refocuses; “I think that Dane’s heart is his strength. He sees things to the end no matter what when they catch his emotions. So his reliability… it’s part of that.”

“Reeva needs help to find her place in… life. I don’t think she knows where she belongs and that makes her introverted. I stick by her potential as her best thing. Obviously… I’m a tad biased… but then I’m meant to be.” I think.. I still need to understand her better.

His grin broadens considerably and he looks at the pair in front of him;

“As far as present company goes I’d be very tempted to say mischievousness, which I’ve been witnessing in spades recently. But granted that’s cheating too.”
His expression becomes more serious as he looks at each of them in turn;

“With you Lisana it’s your care. That you care, how you care and how freely you express it. Even if everyone on the crew might not recognise it. You look out for us all.”

“And Di, I’d say your passion and strength. I have no doubt you could drag us out of hell if you put your mind to it.” A naughty grin appears; “And obviously there are other benefits.”

Lisana nods and raises her glass to Zak’s assessments, and tilts her head mischievously at Cho, with her black hair cascading over one shoulder.

“Your thoughts Cho?”


<Cho & Zak>

“I think I’d agree with Zak, particularly on present company. Though you could do with a little more enlightened self-interest, szalan - but if you insist on keeping on pushing yourself on our account, I will be there.”

“We’ll both be there.” interjects Zak.

“And Zak, well. I’m sure I’ve told you all about the other benefits, but his best quality? Probably his ability to put up with everything I put him through.” She grins, leaning against him for a moment.

Zak laughs and sticks out his tongue. Cho shakes her head and continues on.

“Reeva will be fucking awesome at whatever she sets her mind to doing. Dane, well, I think you’re kinda right there. I never really got him, not to start with, but… sometimes you just know you can count on someone, right? Whatever you need. Well, providing what you need isn’t appalling, in which case he’ll just help you not need it.”

Cho pauses, pondering. “And if we’re including our adorable furball Urrly… the best thing about him? He knows who he is, I think. Who he is and what he wants.”

“What are your views, szalan?”


<Lisana, Zak, Cho>

Tipping her chin upwards, Lisana reflects on all she’s heard.

Taking advantage of Lisana’s reflection, Zak leans into Cho and gently whispers; “You’re not at all hard to take, my love.”

“Szalan, zhratar, I agree with most of your views. I stood in the same corridor with Urrly that awful moment, when I had the children and Hethan in my care, and storm troopers slamming in, and he and Dane stood their ground. As Dane fell, Urrly held ground and saved all of us. I do not know much about him, but I respect him for his strength and bravery that day.”

“Dane is my longest standing friend and has many great good qualities and I know he may not show them outwardly, he is fundamentally a sincere and honest man. That is his strength in my opinion.” LIsana considers how to even begin her next sentence.
“And Reeva, well, I think I agree with you szalan, that she could be amazing but she needs to believe in herself and have faith that she can be the best. She needs to learn to love herself. But, as you know, I find it sad and painful to think of her as she is now.”

Lisana smiles at them both, as they sit together, so at ease on the sofa.

“And you, my closer than kin. Zak, you are sincere, honest, and strong, I think those are your greatest strengths. And I also think you are reflective and more sensitive than others realise. Those too are true strengths. You are also open to new ideas and wish to keep learning. I admire you for that.”

“And szalan, what can I say about you?” Lisana pauses, looking into Cho’s eyes. “You are indeed passionate, brave beyond sense, and loyal to your friends. And you too are reflective and you feel your scars keenly, which keeps you edgy and on your game. You stay calm in the face of dangers, and fight without thought of defeat. Your strength is that you are you, without apology and with calm assurance.”

She looks slightly nervously at them: “What do you think of my ideas?”

Zak smiles and raises his almost empty glass in salute; “Can’t fault them. Maybe insight should have been one of the things we mentioned about you.”

Cho says nothing at first, just looks back at Lisana with a smile on her face, her eyes speaking volumes. After a moment she too raises her glass in salute.

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