This Minute Now Rating: PG

This is a not-quite-Jaina / Lowie NJO Life Day Special that TF.N decided strayed outside the guidelines ...

The song it's based around is from the Holiday Special, and unsurprisingly awful ... unless my tortured ears are simply telling me what the interrogators want to hear, it's a slow-dance remix of the triumphal march at the end of ANH — downloadable here.

Still interested? ;)

[Life Day, Year 30, Alliance Era — Bothan Assault Cruiser Ralroost, Kashyyyk orbit]

She sits alone at the table, cradling her drink and cloaked in silence. It's not that she's alone here. The rest of the squadron are on the dancefloor, currently making fools of themselves to the raucous tune of the Deeplys' Have a Mind. But she didn't feel like dancing. She stayed to guard their table in the alcove, cradling her half-empty mug of lom like a dying friend.

She isn't really focusing on anything — except, perhaps, the alcohol-stained tabletop — but her situational awareness is 'saber-sharp, her mind analysing the pattern of scars and spills in front of her — trying to ignore the intrusive, ever-shifting pattern of snapping lights and spinning dancers on her left.

She sits in the shaded alcove at the outboard end of the raised deck along the bulkhead, with her back to the wall. She's been in worse corners before. Good defensive position.

She smiles, or tries to. There's no-one to share it with.

On the left, there's a waist-high rail, and the drop to the dancefloor, thronged with people. The bulkhead hard on the right — structural transverse C, the cold, unbroken armour wearing an ironic mask of crude, colourful decorations. Ahead, the raised deck stretches away towards the cruiser's centreline — a lot of abandonned tables, and a few other people who don't feel like joining the crowd.

Couples, mostly. She sees a Twi'lek male and a Faleen girl in kissing the alcove at the far end of the deck, a sleek Selonian and a guy who looks Corellian, chatting.

It's not that she's single, though. Jag and the Vanguards are away on patrol along the convoy lines. Kyp is hunting skips along the jagged edge of the combat plane. She blinks. That thought didn't go the way she expected it to. She's seeing Jag. Kyp is just a friend — a good friend, but still, just a friend.

Just a friend?

Just a friend?

She misses them both. That's the main thing. Normally, at times like this, one or other of them would be here, doing his tactless best to cheer her up.

She remembers her brother, and her eyes become fathomless black, water beneath ice.

For a moment, Jaina Solo ceases to exist. Her thoughts fall silent, and her mind becomes cold and clear and balanced — like a naked blade; like space itself.

If there's any lingering awareness left of what it used to mean to be human, it's only a reflex of the silence; of the knowledge that she's been shaped into a living weapon by the Yuuzhan Vong — or at least, by the war against them.

She's not sure she can see the difference any more.

Then something catches her eye, surprising her — a tall figure moving way through the edge of the crowd, heading from the bar towards the steps that lead up to the dais.

Heading for her?

Her eyes flicker away, as though scanning for a trap, then snap back, and lock hard.

He moves with an easy agility, loping up the stairs, almost swinging over the rail at the corner as he turns, and dancing through the track-trap of empty tables as though it's all just a game.

"You came," she says, chancing a smile. Somehow, that touches her more than she had realised it would.

[It's Life Day], he answers, sitting down opposite, in one of the empty seats, taking a sip of something tall, dark and smelly. [I'm the only Wookie in the fighter wing].

She smiles at that, surprised at how much she can understand. She grew up around Wookies and being based at Kashyyyk for almost a year now, she's picked up more than she ever realised. Not the subtleties, but she gets the gist.

"Thanks," she nods, flashing her teeth in a grin. For a moment, there's faint tickling the back of her throat, the beginnings of a friendly growl.

So they sit together, and lift their drinks, and look at each other.

"And just for a change of pace," the DJ schmoozes, as the last chorus of the fades away — Colonel Janson, inhabiting the persona of a seedy nightclub compère with unhealthy relish. "A little piece of Rebel Retro, a Kashyyyk cult classic from the Alliance Underground, which some of you frighteningly young things might know better as the B-side of that old Kazooks classic, Day of Peace. This one… is for all the lovers out there."

A chorus of groans goes up, and the dancers begin to head back to their tables, leaving only a few couples wrapped round each other on the empty floor. Suddenly, she sees the rest of the Squadron break towards the steps — Zindra in the lead, the others following, all of them flushed and sweaty, and smiling. She feels ... single.

Lowie sees the look on her face, glances over his shoulder, and growls a suggestion.

She blinks, then her eyes go wide.

She tries to say something, and just stammers.

She feels the colour rise into her cheeks, red hot.

She understands what he's saying, of course — she's heard the same thing over the comm often enough, as he slides his X-wing into the slot alongside hers, suggesting they head back to the battle.

She hesitates.

"I'm not really sure ... ."

His answer is a series of barks, softly, insistently enthusiastic. Gentle heckling, she supposes. She has no idea of the semantics of that, but she recognizes the meaning well enough — and the sharp-toothed Wookie grin.

There's some sort of spoken-word track playing over the song now. She tries not to listen.

Then, through the Force, she catches a sudden flash of Lowie's thoughts.

It'll be a laugh.

She grins back.

The music changes tempo, something approximating a tune finally fading in over the sparkling and shimmering aurora of electronica. It's the sort of thing that was fashionable when her parents were young — and maybe not even then. It's the sort of sound that works best when you're drunk or spiced.

And she isn't exactly sober, she decides, taking another swallow of her beer, and looking at the foamy scum that's left in the bottom of the glass.

If we could only bend this minute
Infinitely extend this minute
Then I could live my whole life right now.

She looks at Lowie, a smile curling her lips. This is worse than bad. The music that destroyed the Empire, her father used to call it. And the others are coming back, the rest of the Squadron, settling at the seats around them.

Reality is sweet this minute.
Can't we repeat and repeat this minute?
Why can't it be always right now?

They're laughing now. All of them round the table, laughing in disbelief — but the rest are just peripheral. A blur.

She looks at Lowie. He's looking at her, seeing something in her eyes that neither of them had noticed before.

She stands up, slides round behind her wide-eyed friends, and offers him her hand. "Come on," she says.

I've parted with yesterday.
Yesterday's moment is cold.
All I ask is this moment to hold.

They fly down the steps to the dance-floor, hand-in-hand, but not close — two pilots in wingtip formation. Flying free.

The music shimmers on, and as they face off against each other, he growls nervously. He's never done this before, she realises.

Suddenly, something melts.

"Oh," she says, blinking. "Just hold me."

How can we ever lose this minute?
From all my life, I choose this minute.
I will give up the old and the new
Sharing with you
This minute now.

She hears the strings start to sing on the soundtrack, and holds him, losing herself in the moment. The familiar smell, a smell from her childhood. Damp carpet, earth and cigars, engine coolant. Strong arms around her shoudlers, her hands linked behind his waist.

If I could just hold my breath
And close my eyes
And not make a sound.
Will the universe stop going round?
Still the universe keeps going round and round
And on and on
And on and on and on ...
A minute's almost gone.

They're dancing now, really dancing, swaying and shuffling, to the music. There's no awkwardness, no inhibition, none of the problems that she'd expected.

They've done this before.

They've trained together since they were kids — with lightsabers, and as pilots. They don't need to say anything, don't need to explain, or analyse, or even think.

Not even to reach for the Force.

She'd just never noticed before. Never framed it like that before. Perhaps she didn't want to. Lowie has always been there for her, just like Chewie was there for her father — but when Chewie died was when the Galaxy started to fall apart.

She feels very small again, but she's not holding too tight. She's comfortable here. Happy, even.



How can we ever, ever lose this minute?
From all my life, I choose this minute.
I will never need anything more
Than we live for
This minute now ...

This minute, now ...
This minute, now ...
This minute now ...
This minute now ...
This minute now ...
This minute now ...
This minute now ...
This minute now ...

This minute ... now ...

And then it's over, and as the music fades away, she stands with her head nuzzled against his chest, very still. She doesn't want to move, but some reluctant, happiness-suffused part of her suspects it's probably going to be inevitable soon.

They stand and look at each other, alone in the centre of the floor, twin suns at the centre of a spiral sworl of swirling strobes, half-listening to the lingering vibrato at the end of the song.

And then she's smiling, laughing. Lowie is grinning, as surprised as she is by the whole thing. She looks at him. Looks up at him. She'd never really noticed the height difference before. But it's not just that. She thinks she sees something different in him — or perhaps, it's something in her ...

Didn't she feel something melt, back there?

She grins. Just because she can.

"And the next number is especially for the young lady and the Wookie enjoying themselves out there on the dance floor." It takes a moment for her to realise that Wes Janson is talking about them. "A request from the Imperial nobleman and the Sith Lord who just walked in from the flight deck. That's right, it's Hova Mensk and the Blurtones, with their version of Celebrate the Light. Ooh, yeah."

She looks, and sees Jag and Kyp standing beside the turntables, backlit in the golden gleam from the door. Both of them are grinning.

She looks up at Lowie, and sees he's grinning, too. She feels slightly reluctant, and slightly embarrassed, but they're walking over now, and smiling, and there's nothing else she can do.

Somehow, it all seems to go off okay.

Lowie takes a step back, and she falls into Jag's embrace. Kyp folds his arms across his chest, and moves to stand beside the Wookie. The two single men roll their eyes, and trade indulgent grin.

And tap their feet.

"Later," Jag whispers, smiling and planting a light kiss on her forehead. "I missed you."

The dancefloor is filling again. The rest of the squadron are heading back to join them — she wraps Zin in a joyful Wookie-hug, and sees that the bar is crowded with tall, lean pilots in black Chiss uniforms.

She laughs aloud.

And in her ears, there's the joyous rising thrum of tribal drums, and the inimitable clipping rhythm of Paroo Sheffield's famous stormtrooper-helmet percussion set.

Yub Nub!

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