Early Days Yet

Yep -- another Star by Star story folks! Same as with Tahiri's story -- if you haven't read, Star by Star, Conquest and Rebirth, you may get some foreknowledge that you don't really want to have. If you're familiar with the Young Jedi Knights series, especially Promises you might get a better handle on some of the references.

Jaina rolled her eyes; then her face grew hard in the same way Leia's did when she would abide no argument. "If you go, I go."

"Me, too," Tahiri said.

Anakin frowned. "You? You're too --"

"If you say young, I'll kick you where you really don't want to be kicked," Tahiri interrupted.

(Star by Star, p 131.)

Oh darn! Can't believe I let that one slip out. Trust me to put my size elevens in it! Oh well, might as well prepare myself for the roasting Tahiri's going to give me. I know just what she'll say, too, and it won't lack for logic -- something along the lines of: "OK, Solo, so if I'm too young to go on your mission to kill the voxyn, how come I'm not too young for you to take to bed?" And of course I'll say: "I don't see it as 'taking you to bed' -- I see it as me loving you." To which she'll reply: "Exactly, and it's because you love me that you know I have to go with you." Sometimes having the Force can be a curse -- makes it pretty impossible to plead ignorance. That's where Dad has it easy compared to me and Jacen. He can really claim stupidity as an excuse. We don't have that luxury.

Worse part of it is, although I was originally going to use the word "young", I'd already changed my mind a fraction before she interrupted me. I didn't mean "young" agewise. Tahiri's never been "young" in that sense. She's always had a wisdom way beyond her years -- something to do with having her parents killed almost in front of her eyes when she was three, and a few years later being forced to come to face some difficult facts about her adopted father. That she was able to accept the deal he had had to make in order to keep her with the tribe speaks heaps, not only about her ability in the Force, but also about her. She's one out of the box, Tahiri is -- unique, strong and very special.

No, I meant "young" more in the sense of me not wanting her to have to put her life on the line. It's not that I'm arrogant or anything, but although it's true Tahiri's a great fighter, she hasn't had quite the hands-on experience I've had with these guys. I mean, sure she's had experiences with them that the rest of us haven't -- being taken by the shapers for instance and having Yuuzhan Vong memories fed into her brain -- but she hasn't had the years fighting them in different situations that I have. Sith spit -- that does sound arrogant! If I try that line on her she really will kick me in a place I don't want to be kicked. What I mean is that I feel older than seventeen because of the some of the things I've had to do, and there have been times when I've really had to question whether what I've done sits well with the Force. I guess I just want to protect her in some stupid way from some of the agonising I've had to go through. And why do I want to protect her? Because I love her, love her in a way I can't really put into words, except to say that I think I always have.

That's why I went to Yavin 4 to rescue her from the Yuuzhan Vong, although I didn't realise it fully at the time. When you have the sort of bond that Tahiri and me have, it's hard to differentiate how much of it is habit, how much of it is friendship and loyalty, and how much of it is something stronger. All I know is that when I held her in my arms just after we'd managed to steal a ship and she was trying to fight the Yuuzhan Vong identity they'd imprinted into her brain, I knew that we were meant to be together. As Master Ikrit said -- together we're strong. And we are. If we can pull out one thousand-year-old Massassi trees and hurl them at spaceships, we're strong enough to endure anything that life can throw at us.

Even so, I guess another reason for me hesitating about letting her come is my own fear that if she's there I might endanger the others in order to keep her safe. I guess that's something Dad has had to take into account on all the occasions he's fought with Mum. It takes an incredible amount of courage to take the risks you sometimes have to in order to survive, knowing at the same time that your decisions may not work out the way you think, and you may get the ones you're trying to protect killed. I guess this mission'll be the test for Tahiri and me.

I don't often think about the future -- don't seem to have had all that much time lately thanks to the Yuuzhan Vong -- but I do sometimes wonder what we'll all be doing when we do finally win our galaxy back again. And I'm sure we will, because I know in my heart that the Yuuzhan Vong are wrong and that they have no place here. They want to force their way in and change everything to conform to their rules, but you can't do that, not to anything, be it a galaxy or the smallest form of microscopic life. Our job is to maintain the rules, and to keep everything working so it fits back into the big cycle of life again -- like when some machine's broken and we fix it by returning it to its natural state. The Yuuzhan Vong are outsiders, they're not in tune with our galaxy's natural cycle, and that's why whatever they try and impose here is wrong; and we will defeat them, eventually, when we all start working together.

So what will we all be doing when we win? At the moment I'd be scared to look, and I guess I'm glad that foresight isn't one of my strengths. Whatever it is, I hope that Tahiri will be there and will be safe. And if for some reason I'm not in the picture, I hope she finds someone who'll treasure her at least half as much as I do, because even that would be an infinite amount.

Sometimes I wish I was better with words, because I often find it hard to say what I feel in just the right way, and I really would like to be able to tell her just how much she means to me. If I did, maybe she wouldn't get so annoyed at Alema and the way she's always trying to get me to notice her. I get annoyed, too; but I figure if I ignore it, Alema'll eventually give up and go and pick on some other poor sucker. I know Tahiri's got no cause to worry. I didn't kiss her for the first time because I wanted to find out what kissing was like, nor did I make love to her just to be able to notch one up on the bedpost and say I've done it. I didn't even plan to do them, but they both seemed right, and if there's one thing I've learned over the last few years, it's that if something sits well with the Force then it was meant to be.

She must know I'm committed to her really, and it's probably just some weird girl-thing that makes her so angry with Alema, and with any of the other girls who come near me, come to that. I mean it's not like I encourage them, quite the opposite in fact -- the last thing I want is a whole lot of girls getting in my space and asking a lot of stupid questions. That's one of the good things about Tahiri -- she asks the kind of questions she can answer herself, and she talks enough for both of us. With her around, I barely need to open my mouth, which suits me just fine. I guess this anti-other-girls attitude of hers is something I'll eventually puzzle out.

I was going to tackle her about it last night, but when I got to her room she'd just got out of the shower, and her hair was all sorta damp and wavy, and she smelt like flowers do first thing in the morning when the dew's still sitting on them, and I just sorta forgot what I wanted to say. I did remember it later, but by then she was asleep, and she looked so peaceful I just lay and watched her for a while. I thought about all the times we'd slept together when we were kids on the various adventures we had -- at the Academy, on Tatooine, Yavin 8, Dagobah, more places than I could name. I remembered the first time I ever saw her in the Grand Audience Chamber not long after I arrived at the Academy -- the colour of her hair and the way it seemed to move in swirls like sand, the green of her eyes, and the way her smile seemed to tease you and challenge you both at the same time. It seemed like all that earlier stuff had led us to where we are now, and it made me think a lot about destiny, and about how things can stay the same in some ways and yet change radically in ways you'd never be able to predict. Kissing her on that freezing Givin space station was definitely the right thing to do, but it's sure made things a bit more complicated.

I'm not the sort like Lando who can get all mushy and do romantic things. I guess I'm too much like Dad in that respect. Not that I intend to sit down and have a heart to heart about relationships with Dad at the moment. He's so edgy about all of us that any departure from the status quo is likely to send him off into the nearest nova. It's not any of his business anyway -- but I guess it should be part of the father-son thing to be able to confide in each other. I sometimes see him studying Tahiri when we're together, and I saw him getting all hot under the collar earlier on when Alema was trying to nuzzle up beside me again. I want to say: "Dad, chill out, I've got it all under control." When he calms down a bit I will -- like after he's forgiven Uncle Luke for giving the mission the thumbs up, when he's forgiven Mum and Lando for not voting against it, when he's forgiven Jaina and Jacen for volunteering to come along, and when he's forgiven me for suggesting it in the first place.

In the meantime I've got enough to think about with planning this mission to Myrkr, although I will have another crack at getting Tahiri to explain why she's turned into a girl-hater. Perhaps I can come at it from the angle of all of us avoiding any hang-ups that are going to endanger the mission -- that might work. That's assuming I get as far as even raising the issue, because lately most of the raising going on seems to happen in parts of me totally beyond my control. Pity Uncle Luke didn't provide a few pointers at the Academy on how to use the Force in these situations. I mean he must have been able to predict that when we all became teenagers, love and relationships might actually become an issue for us. Testosterone and the Force -- Ha! I wonder how Uncle Luke would cope with that?

It is an issue though. Only yesterday I was in the laboratory with Cilghal helping her with some calculations, but I kept thinking about Tahiri and how sweet she looked with her hair all damp and tousled, and with that half-surprised, half-I've-just-eaten-your-share-of-the-pudding expression she gets. And then I thought -- Sithspit! What if she stops being happy with the way things are going? What if she starts to find me a bit boring and unadventurous? I mean, I haven't really got a clue what I'm doing half the time, I'm just sorta flying blind. I know it's just ego -- but it would be kinda nice to be thought of as an XJ3 X-Wing, and not an old blastboat with its computer stuck in the same firing sequence. And then Cilghal patted me on the shoulder, and I got such a surprise that I knocked a decanter of preserving fluid all over her calculations, and I kept wondering how long she'd been standing there, and hoped that she hadn't been able to read any of the stuff that'd been going through my head.

Ah well, I guess I'd better go and face the music. The question is: do I have a shave and risk her thinking I've had one in order to butter her up, or do I go like I am and make her think that I haven't had time to have one because I'm desperate to apologise? And, would I have even had this discussion with myself a few weeks ago? No way! Life can sure get complicated, but I'm not complaining. As long as we're together I'll be happy, and Tahiri and me have a lot of time to sort these things out. After all, for us it's early days yet.

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