Hunt the Moment Rating: PG
ThrawnMcEwok

Against a backdrop of stars and darkness, two laser-swords blaze and clash, green against red — a male human and an alien female, locked in the intimate, improvised dance of a lightsaber duel.

Old scars and fresh sweat glisten on his skin; the black scales of her dragon-hide pelt glitter like diamonds in the night.

In the Force, both of them are beacons of light.

She thrusts at him again, striding powerfully forward in a march of stomps and slashes, driving him back towards the darkest corner of the vast starlit chamber, as though she owns the space and he belongs there.

With every step, with every stroke, she varies the timing and angle of her strike — high chops, low thrusts, sideways slashes and circling thrusts.

He catches every one.

Then he vaults into the air, springing up in a Force-fuelled leap. He flips like an acrobat, and his sword slashes down as he drops, battering down against her blade.

She grunts as she blocks, and gives ground, half a step.

He lands like a spukamas, and is back on his feet in a flash of speed, lashing out. His sword singing like a whip as he drives two thrusts against her guard. It's only on the third that she manages to block him squarely, and hold her ground.

For a few passes, a few heartbeats, they fence against each other's blade, but neither can find an opening.

Quick again, he breaks away and steps back, and they both drop into guard — his blade aimed low towards her belly like an emerald-shafted javelin, hers crooked back over her shoulder — a bright, blood-painted cleaver.

In the momentary pause before they dance in close again, they grin at each other.

They are enjoying this.

They are both Masters, both the children of harsh Outer Rim worlds — not so different as they seem on the outside.

The Barabel woman has height and weight on her side, as well as all the natural advantages of belonging to one of the Galaxy's most perfect predator species. Standing well over six feet tall, her scaled skin is living armour, her body a corded cable of lean muscle, from her needle-fanged jaws to the tip of her raptor's tail, from her clawed hands to her clawed feet. And every ounce of the weight and ferocity that defines her being is centred behind her Jedi blade.

Her sparring-partner is slight even by human standards, and where her rhythm is broken by bursts of raw, savage energy, he answers with elegant, accomplished passes, understated almost to the point of diffidence; but there is no real indication in the way that he fights that he is anything less than her equal. The rest of the time, he ranges around the training room in acrobatic leaps and bounds, striking back from unexpected angles. He feints with the angle of his body behind his grip, and lunges out of the darkness, lightning speed.

"This iz fun," she says to him, cocking her head out of the way as she only half-deflects a lunge from him.

"Is that what you call it?" he asks in answer, thrusting his blade up in a horizontal guard to catch the power of her chopping blow, then tumbling away to the left to avoid the follow-up kick.

Saba Sebatayne laughs back at him, and spins her lightsaber handle in her hand as she charges. She attacks with raw power, inflected with sudden whipping strikes of subtlety. Luke Skywalker answers with grace and fluency, disguising the fact that his basic instincts are those of a bush-pilot, or a womp-rat.

If there is a common chord that binds the two of them together, it is that both of them will use every means at their disposal to win the fight. Neither of them is afraid to fight dirty in the cause of good.

They lock blades and wrestle, and it's Luke who's first to break the deadlock this time, kicking out with a scything heel-hook designed to sweep Saba's legs from under her, forcing her to stumble back to avoid taking the fall. He closes, battering her blade down, negating her height advantage and forcing her to defend.

She crouches, and feints his right, but he knows that she's going come in straight on the left. As she straightens up, he's already switching his blade across.

What he doesn't expect — because the idea only occurs to her at the last moment — is for her push back to her feet to become a full-body pouncing jump.

Luke catches the lunge in a parry, and twists their lightsabers out to his left, sending her thrust coursing along the length of his own blade — but there's simply no way to stop twice his own bodyweight's worth of killer lizard, propelled straight into him by a Force-boosted leap.

He crumples under the impact, brought down like any other quarry, and crunches again as he hits the deck, a human crashmat to break her fall. Both lighstabers fly out of their hands as the impact jars them, and the momentum of her leap carries them skidding across the floor in a crazy, scything spin; but by the time they skid to a stop, there can be no doubt in anyone's mind who's lost the duel, and who has won.

She's on top of him, resting most of her weight on the forearm braced diagonally across his chest, on the knee and shin shoved down into his hip and inner thigh. He feels the clawed fingers of her free hand grip the deltoid of his left arm, her skin rubbing rough through his Jedi tunic.

But his face shows only serenity, and it's with the calm, bright gaze of a Jedi Master that he looks up into her alien eyes.

Saba Sebatyne has big black eyes, deep-set beneath a ridged forehead. Her mouth is long and slim-lipped, full of fangs. But there's something else in the way she tilts her head and narrows her eyes, something in the wrinkle of her forehead ridges and the way her broad, beak-like reptilian muzzle twitches as she looks at him.

"This one enjoys that," she says, smiling at him, with a tilt to her head that seems to ask: did you?

Luke Skywalker looks back at her, at this massive reptoid alien that's just beaten him in a lightsaber duel, and is currently crushing him to the deck; and, with a jolt of surprise, he realises — far too late — what she's thinking.

"Saba!" he gasps, almost laughing.

She laughs back, taking his sudden flash of understanding as consent, and mashes her muzzle down against his lips, her long lizard tongue snaking into his mouth.

Luke Skywalker gasps, and tries to struggle free, but her claws are crushing his biceps, and he finds himself gripping the alien flanks of her body, oddly aroused by the shape of her torso, the lean narrowness of the waist below the ribs.

"No!" he says, thrashing free. "Saba, stop!"

She pauses, and lifts away. In the Force, she feels satisfied, but curiosity still shines in her eyes. Disappointment.

"Saba," he breathes, trying to find other words. There are none. So he just looks at her.

Saba Sebatyne likes him — she's still toying with the idea of celebrating her victory by tearing his clothes off and making love with him right here on the naked the deck.

The scariest thing is, he doesn't know if he could stop her. He's not entirely sure he wants to.

For a female of a species driven by predatory hunger, whose entire civilization is built around a rough-and-tumble, full-contact attitude to life, it could hardly be any other way.

Puzzled, dazed from the impact, he looks into her big black eyes again. There's a dangerous heat in those eyes, like low-burning coals — very different from the cold, hard black of her hide. You could say that her eyes have a crimson glow, shading into infra-red; or perhaps her scales are a dark, dark green, and it's her eyes that are truly ebony.

He frowns.

Then she laughs.

"Saba," he says, his eyes switching anxiously. He swallows. "I'm married."

"I know," she teases him, with a lazy look. "It'z cute, you humanz and your single matez."

"I'm very happy with Mara."

"Of course," she nods, her tongue whetting on her lips. "But extra matez add to happinezz, not take it away."

"I'm very happy with Mara," he repeats, trying to use the Force to give his words extra weight. "She… I, we. We don't. We… no, Saba; I'm sorry. Mara is all I need, or want. And I'm loyal to her like that, as well. We took a vow."v "Loverz take vows, and break them too." Saba's claws tighten on his arms, her knee shifts against his crotch. As she intends, it makes him shiver.

But he's a Jedi Master, with the discipline and control that that implies.

"Not us," he says. "Not me and Mara. We're happy together."

"Iz that so?" she inquires.

"Yes," he says. Voice flat.

She shusshes her amusement — perhaps reconsidering, perhaps not.

"Thiz one thikz you could uze a good kizz," she teases, her accent thickening. She lifts one hand away from his arm to stroke his jaw, and her thumb-claw tickles his chin.

"No," Luke counters, trying to get a read on how serious she is, how much this is just a game. But black Barabel eyes don't show emotions like human ones. They just smoulder quietly with passion, hunger and smoky amusement. "I'm quite happy enough kissing Mara, Saba. She's… good enough, more than good enough."

"A better kizz, then," she shrugs.

In the Force, she is suddenly bright and open, laughing at him.

Luke Skywalker, Master of the Jedi Order, clears his throat, and tries to shake her feelings out of his mind. She leans closer, her jaw thrusting with the same strength that she uses to wield her lightsaber.

"Later, perhapz," she laughs, springing to her feet and thumping the deck with her tail in amusement. She reaches one clawed hand out, and her lightsaber is back in her grip.

Flat on his back, Luke Skywalker watches her buckle her weapon back to her belt. From down here, she looks impossibly big, scary like a first crush.

Crush, he thinks wryly, rubbing his chest. There'll be a bruise there tomorrow. And probably on his lips as well.

She throws his own lightsaber back to him, and grins as he catches it.

"Perhaps," he says, very slowly. I don't think so, Saba. He takes a deep breath, and tries to remind himself of his wife. He has an unsettling feeling that Mara will just find this funny.

But then he remembers what he felt in the moment when Saba kissed him, and he wonders how he can share that with his wife. He sees the way the Barabel is still looking at him now, her thoughts turned towards him, at once fond and predatory.

In the Force, her attention finds an answer in his body, hot and heady. She laughs at his discomfort, and turns to leave the training room.

Mara, he thinks, chastising himself. But his eyes track to Saba's tail, swishing behind her as she strides proudly out through the door — a mocking good-bye wave and a teasing beckon in a single gesture. It's a gesture she's given him enough times before, after meetings, briefings and sparring-sessions — and he's always answered with amusement and affection.

There is a difference, he tells himself. But no amount of mental control can deny that she does — did — something to him. His control, his loyalty to Mara, feel strangely dishonest. He feels uneasy.

What is the difference between the gestures that define their relationship and the kiss that she just offered him? Between his surprise and the fact she took it for consent; between what he felt in that moment, and how the thinks he ought to act?

What's just happened has highlighted a conflict between who he is and what he believes in. And he's not at all sure how that sits with Jedi teaching.

He's built his entire life around the belief that openness to the Force involves surrendering your own desire for control, accommodating others people's points of view, and trusting in your natural instincts.

But ... perhaps, he thinks, with a reluctant sigh — then blinks, and realises that he's just conceded — even if only a little — to Saba Sebatyne's proposition.

"Oh, great," he groans. "Oh, this is all I need."


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