You know, I normally don't address this, but I gotta say, the Mycast for this story has kinda let me down.
It's for a petty reason really because I'm a man who knows what I want when visualizing a characters live action look in mind.
See Deliah Blue is a Zeltron, a race known for their sexual appeal and allure and the choices for a live action representation for her on Mycast has left me shaking my head in disappointment.
So I'm stepping in cause I did a bit of searching for you readers to have a picture in your head of what a live action Deliah Blue would look like. She's meant to be stupidly, insanely hot and sexy so I figure Christina Hendricks or Angela White. Yes, I am well aware who the latter of these two are, why do you think I chose her?
So whenever you readers see Deliah Blue and want a live action idea of what she looks like, think Angela White cause I'm shameless and find her to be the ideal woman to represent a live action version of Deliah Blue.
So if ya have a MyCast account, go down and vote Angela White for Deliah Blue live action. Shameless I know but I like what I like. *cough* Angela White *cough* I'm Shameless and petty *cough* she's stupidly hot and sexy *cough*.
Honestly, this is an official decree. Deliah Blue's live action counterpart in this story is Angela White cause I have no shame.
And while we're at it, saw someone add Vanessa Veracruz for Dani for Sam Wilson. Our flyboy deserves nothing but the best.
Ok, weird and shameless AN starter aside, let's get on with the show, shall we?
Rate Read and Review and as Always Have Nice Day.
Avengers Infinite Wars Chapter 85: There's something in the air.
He was staring at her with a look of concerned exasperation.
She was staring at her hand again like it was either going to attack her or fall off altogether.
With a roll of his eyes, he bumped into her, placing an arm around her shoulder.
"Alright, what is it this time?" He asked with an expectant look.
"Wh-what?" She stammered out, looking up at her master in bewilderment.
Anakin grabbed her wrist with his other hand, flailing it about slightly.
"Pretty sure this here is yours and isn't gonna do anything to ya." He said good-naturedly. "So why don't you tell me what's been bothering you so much? Cause seeing you all blank-eyed is starting to worry me and the boys."
Ahsoka's jaw dropped slightly. "They've noticed? They're worried?"
"Course they are." Anakin retorted as though it was the most obvious thing in the galaxy. "Seeing their Commander not be hyperactive is disconcerting."
Ahsoka now gaped.
"I am not hyperactive." She childishly defended herself, her master laughing at this.
"You know what I mean." He shot back. "So come on, what's buggin' ya? And I won't take "it's nothing" for an answer 'cause that is the furthest thing from the truth."
Ahsoka didn't manage to find a reason to retort, especially when her master was giving her that look. Even after all this time, he just needed to resort to that face and she always caved in.
One would think after what they had recently gone through, she would at least develop some resistance to that face but even still.
Ever since Tatooine, their relationship as Master and Padawan had shifted. With Ahsoka now in the know of Anakin's secret marriage with Padme, the pair felt a type of trust that stood apart from most Master and Padawan Dynamics within the Jedi order. She would consider it problematic among several other factors as the marriage greatly goes against the Jedi code, yet she'd be hypocritical about the topic given her feelings for Peter and Barriss.
She hasn't told her master yet about Barriss and frankly, when she took a moment to think about it, what she aims for with the two that she loved, it was far more of a breach of the code than Anakin's marriage.
At least Anakin was approving of her relationship with the young Avenger. After their moment on Tatooine, Skywalker simply placed his hand on both of their shoulders, saying nothing but his expression said it all.
Peter promised to do his best for Ahsoka as she intended to do the same and that was all Anakin needed to hear.
Besides, her master would probably flay and dismember Peter if he did her wrong. Ok, more like threatening to really. Try as he might, Ahsoka knows that her Master and Peter bonded recently on a rather profound level.
The fact that he was with them on their trip to Tatooine to visit the Lars homestead where Skywalker's mother was buried spoke volumes of how much Anakin has grown to trust Parker. Really, that threat was more of a courtesy sort of thing. He acted like Ahsoka's older brother more often than as her master and she viewed him as such.
Skywalker just believed in playing the role to a degree.
He looked out and did what he thought was best for her, even if she didn't exactly appreciate it right away.
Shortly after becoming his padawan, Ahsoka went through a training regime to combat against multiple enemies firing at her. His argument being that training drones and battle droids were lazy, predictable and aren't effective in comparison with anyone else. How she needed to feel how her opponents would react and act before firing at her.
The surrounding clone troopers had their weapons set to stun and were instructed by Anakin to fire at her on and on again. For many rounds, she kept getting knocked out, despite how much she protested about not being good enough.
Her master -however- was stubborn in not letting up until she knew how to defend herself properly against such individuals. He knew this training regime was difficult, but it was a matter of life and death when out on the battlefield or in an unexpected encounter. It was his responsibility to teach her this. And the best way he could protect her was to teach her how to protect herself.
Sure enough, practice makes perfect. And this bit of training wasn't a one-off thing but happens every so often so she wouldn't feel rusty. Record so far is three minutes.
She was improving.
But right now, that wasn't the issue.
Though it was subtle at first, ever since Mortis, there had been a change in Ahsoka. Honestly, those who came back from that insane place have undergone changes.
Obi-Wan had been acting… a lot… looser? He did seem a bit more determined to assist both Anakin and Peter whenever he could.
Vision seemed wiser if that was even possible and T'Challa held a focus on getting home that he didn't have before. Granted, he wanted to get home sooner but now, there was a dead set mind to it.
If not for his personal ethics and belief in staying with the rest of the team, the Prince of Wakanda would have left with Thor the first time around.
And as for Anakin… well, many personal demons were brought up as they were settled. Yet he knows that what he experienced on Mortis was just the beginning.
Overall, those who went there were greatly shaken. Deeply, even.
It wasn't just because of the Mortis Celestials but seeing Arishem in all of his terrifying glory.
Even Rex, Cody and the other clones who were onboard the Republic vessel waiting for their return were disturbed upon seeing The Judge.
To witness such a being of size and power puts things into perspective of just how small one can be.
"So start talking." Anakin stated firmly, crossing his arms in an expectant manner. "I'm not letting you go anywhere till you talk to me. What's wrong?"
Ahsoka appeared to hesitate but after receiving another pointed look of "well?" from her Master, she conceded.
"I've been feeling… different these past days." Ahsoka murmured, rubbing her arm.
"Because of… you know."
"You implying him?" She asked, referring to Peter. Seeing Anakin nod, she shook her head 'no'.
Her Master frowned, thinking about their experience on Mortis for a few seconds.
"Then what's wrong?"
"Dying. Or near death. Only to be brought back."
Anakin's eyes widened. "Ah… that…"
"Yeah, that." Tano quietly said, looking down.
There was a tense silence shared between master and student until the former spoke up.
"I felt it, you know." His voice was void of any of his usual confidence. "That hollowness when I reach into you to bring you back."
His Padawan looked up at him, glossy-eyed and shivering.
"Our connection. I felt like it was crushed, severed. I didn't know how it could be like that of losing you, my own padawan." Skywalker's fists clenched tightly, shaking from the memory. "I… I've never felt that before. It was one of the worst things I've ever experienced. No one told me before just what it would be like to lose their master, their padawan. Or I probably never paid attention to the lesson, not wanting to know what it was like." His vision became distant as he recounted an event. "On our way back from Mortis, I talked to Obi-wan about it and he told me when he lost Qui-gon, it hurt him deeply as he saw his master die in his arms. Like a light grew dimmer in his life. In the end, it varies from person to person."
His Padawan didn't respond right away, processing everything her master just told her. She was trying to formulate a response of some kind, any kind, really. So she just let her mouth run on autopilot, recalling what happened to her on Mortis and letting whatever came to mind come out naturally.
"I felt like I was falling." Ahsoka whispered, lip trembling. "It was an endless abyss. The Son touched my forehead and it felt like my soul, my very being was plummeting endlessly."
Anakin's heart clenched up, inhaling sharply at the feeling he just had, what came from his Padawan.
This had been happening since Mortis as well. Since then, a true and proper Force Bond had been forged between him and Ahsoka, a connection that solidified their relationship as more than just master and apprentice but brother and sister.
"I thought I was going to be there forever," Ahsoka said shakily, looking up at Anakin. Tears were streaming down her eyes yet she held a wide, loving smile directed at her mentor. "But you, Peter and the Daughter saved me. I felt all three of you throwing yourselves into the abyss to bring me back."
She moved forward, wrapping her arms around her master, Anakin returning the gesture with both holding onto each other tightly.
"Thank you, Master." She softly said. "I wouldn't be the Jedi I am today without you."
"Right back at ya, Snips." Anakin murmured, patting the back of her head. "You've made me a better Jedi Knight. I'm just glad you came back in one piece, same as you were."
"Clearly not the same. One can never be the same as before." His padawan wiped the tears away from her face whilst trying to recompose herself.
Anakin 'hmphed' using the sleeve of his robe to help dry her cheeks. "True enough. The Force has changed around you."
"Yeah, that's the other thing." Ahsoka murmured. "I remember… I remember the Daughter talking about it, passing on a piece of her to bring me back."
"Must be why you've been feeling different." Anakin remarked. "We'll figure it out together like we always do. And if needed… by yourself if you must."
Ahsoka's eyes widened at hearing that, caught off guard by such an admission from her Master. They usually, if not always, did everything together.
She was his Padawan after all.
To have him say this, so soon especially…
"I won't let you down, Master." She stated determinedly.
Anakin chuckled, patting both her shoulders. "You've yet to do so and I know you never will. Go on, you're done for today."
Tano blinked at that. "Already?"
"You've been stunned enough times." Anakin joked, laughing at her flat look. "See what Barriss or Peter are up to. I gotta meet up with Rex about something."
"Are ya sure you can do this alone?"
Anakin rolled his eyes, poking her forehead. "Go on."
Ahsoka flicked her tongue at him, her Master making a face at her in return. They devolved into a small laugh before she turned to leave, Anakin watching her go.
He kept his gaze on the back of her head, deep in thought at everything that they'd gone through during and since Mortis. As a Master, he was naturally worried for his student after such a trying experience.
But taking a step back, the whole galaxy was undergoing just that, first with the war and now with that bastard Ultron. Then this happened alongside that Citadel mission that apparently was something out of a nightmare and-
The hairs on the back of Anakin's neck stood up, eyes widening to the size of saucers. He spun about wildly, shifting into a guarded expression.
There was nothing behind him…
He whirled around again, having felt a dark presence behind him.
Anakin's breath got caught in his throat and felt his heart plummet.
It was there!
He… That thing couldn't be here. It was impossible. It had to be a trick of the lights and shadows. Even the sound had to come from some machinery.
"General? Are you alright?"
Blinking, Anakin heard one of his clones speaking to him.
Looking back, he saw that thing was nowhere to be seen.
"Uh, yeah. I'm fine. Just spaced out for a moment there. Sorry Echo."
Echo looked at his General with a slightly worried expression but opted not to pursue the matter.
"General Rex is waiting for you in the hangar bay sir." The ARC trooper informed the Jedi, Anakin nodding at him.
"Right. Lead the way, Echo."
The ARC Trooper of Domino squad guided his general to the Hangar Bay the 501st occupied, leading him past many of the troops who took their time to stop and salute their General.
Anakin always nodded or greeted them in turn, sometimes asking how they were and how things were going. Off to the side, Skywalker spotted Rhodey standing amongst a number of 501st pilots, a holo display at the center. His hands were making flying motions, holo-displays of small ships following their path. Seems he was doing another lesson on the many types of aerial maneuvers and strategies from his home planet.
He passed by several more Clones that he acknowledged before reaching his first-in-command.
Captain Rex was conversing with several Clones, some he recognized straight away being Hardcase, Jesse and Fives.
But one stood out from all the rest.
One who was not a Clone and was in fact a pink-skinned woman with blue hair a shade darker than the usual blue his boys wore.
"Rex." Anakin called out to the Captain, gaining the attention of his trusted comrade and the woman beside him, both turning to greet him.
Upon seeing her, Anakin froze slightly when his eyes landed on this… well-endowed woman standing next to Rex.
Now, first and foremost, Anakin was a man of great loyalty. To his friends and loved ones, they wouldn't find a more devoted man.
As a friend, he will always strive to be there for his friends, pushing them forward whilst always supporting them.
As a husband -to him- Padme is the most beautiful woman in the galaxy.
With that said, this woman before him was… well, she oozes sex appeal, to say the least. That disarming smile only added to the woman's charm and by the Force, her body would cause any man or even a good number of women to turn their heads.
Thankfully, his love and loyalty to his wife won out, the Jedi slightly shaking his head to clear his thoughts.
"Rex," He slowly said, glancing at him and then gesturing his head in the direction of the blue haired Zeltron. "Mind introducing me?"
"Deliah Blue, sir." The Captain said professionally. "She's the 501sts first civilian conscript. The bill hasn't been fully ratified so she hasn't been assigned a rank just yet. She's conscripted in name, sir. Her files list her as a volunteer. Her rank will be assigned in due time once the bill is fully ratified."
"Uh-huh," Anakin murmured, eyeing her with an analytical look. "Deliah Blue, was it?"
"Yes, General." The Zeltronian said with respect. "And you're Anakin Skywalker. The Holo-Net never shuts up about you."
"Oh, so I already annoy you then?"
Blue rolled her eyes in faux annoyance. "By the Force, yes. It's always Hero with no fear this, Anakin Skywalker did that, blah, blah, blah, isn't he handsome, blah, blah, blah. You are just sooo~ annoying to look at after a while. Not bad on the eyes though."
The clones around them snickered and covered their mouths to hide their grins save for Rex who kept his professional look. Though it was easy to spot the amusement in his eyes.
Anakin was unable to fight back the grin that formed on his face.
'Huh.' Thought the Jedi knight. 'I like this one.'
"So you're our first volunteer, eh?" He said, crossing his arms as he gazed into her eyes. "I've been hearing a lot about the Conscription Defense Bill Senator Syndulla has been pushing forward but it's not supposed to be voted on until later."
"Well, the volunteer service has always been there." Deliah stated. "Dani was the one who told me to use that to join up."
"Dani…" Anakin parroted. "Sam's girlfriend?"
"Oh, you've met?" Skywalker nodded. "Yes, she's a dear friend of mine. She's the one who suggested I join up and I was assigned the 501st. I've heard you guys are the craziest and best legion in the entire army."
"Ya got that right." Hardcase proudly boasted, thumping his chest, puffing it out with a smug look for all to see.
"Is that right?" Anakin idly said. "We're known for being crazy and insane?"
"We try to be, at least." Captain Rex wryly said, not backing down to the disapproving look Anakin directed at him which fell away in an instant.
"Yeah, who am I kidding by this point? We're all batshit insane. I don't really do us any favors."
The Clones all guffawed now and even Deliah was gaping in surprise at his admittance, joining in with the rest of the laughing troops.
"Oh, I'm gonna love it here."
"Just try not to copy us too much." Rex advised.
"Too much?" Blue said in good humor.
"You all fall prey to it one way or another." Fives said in a factual manner.
"I am one with the Force and the Force is one with me. I am one with the Force and the Force is one with me."
These were the words repeated in a low whisper by one Aayla Secura.
The Twi'lek Jedi Knight sat alone under one of the many trees of the Garden of the Jedi Temple.
She had always frequented here when she was a young Padawan under the tutelage of her Masters Tholme and Vos and since becoming a Knight, this was one of her places of Zen she used to clear and organize her mind when need be.
Only this time, she was finding it extremely difficult and annoying as her mind was in a bit of a jumbled mess.
She had been like this since the Citadel.
And no, somehow, it wasn't because of the disturbing sights she saw at that hellhole. She did think about it every now and then, deeply troubled by what Ultron had done there but that wasn't what weighed on her mind.
It was what came after the mission, more specifically, a small interaction between herself and one handsome-
She grits her teeth, shaking her head rapidly to dispel such thoughts.
"The Force is with me. I am one with the Force and the Force is-"
"Is it?" Interjected a familiar voice. "Cause what seems to be with you is something else entirely."
Aayla sagged upon hearing that voice, opening her eyes up to see her former Master Quinlan Vos standing next to her, leaning on the tree she sat in front of.
Sensing that it wasn't just him, she peaked around to see Master Tholme and T'ra Saa also standing close by, both appearing to have just walked over to her.
"So…" Quinlan patiently said. "What's wrong?"
"Trying not to get distracted while meditating."
Her former master blinked in surprise. "Huh. Did you get that bit of snark from me?"
"Had to be, Vos." Tholme said, walking around and seating himself in front of Aayla, T'ra sitting down on her other side.
"What is troubling you, dear Aayla?" The Netti Jedi Master calmly asked, her tone soothing and motherly, just like Secura remembered it to be whenever something plagued her mind.
"Something… nothing… everything…" Aayla randomly listed off, leaning back onto the trunk behind her. "I just… I'm conflicted right now, Master Saa."
"Jeez, the Master title." Vos slid down the trunk, plopping himself down on the ground. "Must be a serious issue. Alright, spill. We're not leaving till ya do."
Secura didn't respond at first, having closed her eyes as she tried to organize her scattered mind.
"Is it about the Citadel?" Her former Master quietly asked, sensing Tholme and T'ra shift a bit when Vos brought that up.
"It's… part of it." She admitted, not opening her eyes yet. "But it's… it's more of what happened afterward."
"Afterward?" Tholme repeated, rubbing his chin. "Quinlan has told me what transpired on that mission, what you all found there."
Aayla opened her eyes, a forlorn look in them as she faced the grizzled old Jedi. "Yes, it was… horrendous what happened there. The Force itself was disgusted and… honestly, if there were a means of erasing what I saw there from my memories, I would take it in a heartbeat."
Her teachers and Jedi family didn't respond right away. Quinlan lowered his hand, placing it over hers which she turned around, the two holding hands.
T'ra placed a hand on her shoulder, a concerned look coming over her for Aayla to see.
"But the Citadel isn't what truly troubles you at this time. You mentioned afterward…"
Secura cleared her throat, glancing down for a moment. "Yes… what happened… or what almost happened when we came back."
Her old teachers all looked at each other in confusion, Tholme and T'ra gazing at Vos in particular for any idea as to what she may be talking about but the Kiffar Jedi just shrugged.
"So…" Quinlan rolled his hand. "What was this thing that "almost" happened?"
The Twi'lek was silent for a time, biting her lip.
Seeing her hesitation, T'ra spoke. "We can only give insight if you freely speak of this troubling occurrence."
They watched as the woman seemed to have a serious internal struggle for a few moments. What they did not expect was a small, darker coloring of her cheeks and now she appeared flustered.
Aayla appeared to have sensed this, moving to cover her face with her hands, much to the bemusement of her former mentors.
"Ifs abofd fteve" She mumbled in her hands.
"Pardon?" Tholme leaned forward, straining his ears.
Her hands slowly dragged down her face and she quietly muttered again, the rest still not hearing her.
But her old Master Vos managed to pick up on the last thing she said, more specifically, the name that she said, making him bare a cheeky smirk.
"What was that, my dear old Padawan?" Quinlan now had a teasing tone, hand over his ear as he leaned towards her. "Something about a strapping young lad named Steve, was it?"
Both T'ra and Tholme blinked before the latter had a smirk akin to Vos' whilst the former now held a warm smile.
Aayla merely wanted to go into her quarters, curl up in her bed and die.
"Ah~" Master Saa bumped her shoulder lightly against Aayla's. "I see. So something other than the duties and responsibilities of a Jedi now weigh upon your mind now."
"Master Saa." Aayla bemoaned.
"I mean, that guy is easy on the eyes." Vos teased, his grin threatening to split his face. "Seriously, I can see a lot of ladies throwing themselves at him. Betcha it's already happened."
"Vos." Tholme admonished, though he barely meant it.
"You've grown to care for him, haven't you, my dear." Saa patiently said. "In more ways than just a friend."
"I… I don't know, Master Saa." Aayla admitted. "I don't know what I feel about him but… Master, I thought Jedi were not supposed to form attachments."
Tholme only shook his head, reaching out to gently take her hand into his. "Attachments do not lead to the Dark Side. Fear of losing them does."
For what felt like the first time in years, Aayla felt confused like a young padawan due to her present, confusing emotions. "I do not understand. You can be attached to something, but not fear losing it? Have we not been taught to avoid attachments to others?"
"Come now, Aayla," Saa expectantly said. "Have you not forgotten our ways? What we have taught you? To always treasure those around you while you can and rejoice when they return to The Force."
Aayla's heart clenched at that. "You mean when they die?"
Tholme shook his head. "Death is a natural part of life. It's only if you're consumed with their death will the issues arise."
"But Steve is not of the Force. If and when he… he dies…" Aayla actually paused, thinking heavily on that matter. She had never even considered such a thought but now?
She shook her head, trying to banish such thoughts.
"He might not be with The Force, but he is still a part of Life, of the universe as we all are." Saa said, using the Force to cause some nearby leaves to float around her arm. "Death is the end of one chapter. What lies after is the beginning of the next."
"What matters is to make the most of what you have now and cherish it." Quinlan tacked on. "You can't let yourself be pigeonholed by fears and hesitations. That's not the Aayla we know and raised."
The Twi'lek was at a momentary loss as to what to say.
This was something that had never crossed her mind nor was it something she ever experienced.
Unlike her Jedi Masters and Mentors around her who thumbed their noses at the no-attachment rule, Aayla found herself falling into the traditional manner that Jedi conducted themselves today.
But that has changed since meeting Captain Rogers.
That man… he was unlike any other man she had ever met in her life.
Strong, resolute with an indomitable will and staunch moral code of always running towards danger and those in need, never letting anyone who could be saved get left behind.
He was a man to be admired and many within the Clone army and the Jedi Order thought very highly of him.
He led by example, finding himself to be fast friends with the bullheaded and reckless Anakin Skywalker.
All the Avengers quite frankly were rather stubborn but to Aayla, Steve was the first.
She felt mutual respect both shared and the trust they had developed throughout the war. Whenever they fought alongside one another, they knew their backs were covered.
But then came the smaller, more intimate moments shared between the two.
The moments where there wasn't some life or death situation or a heated battle to attend to.
Just the two of them simply talking and being with one another, sharing stories and feelings on more personal matters or just silently being there.
She remembered when she told him something that only her Masters knew and that was the time when she lost her memory and became a slave. Not to just her estranged uncle, but a hibernated Dark Jedi until Vos saved her.
The look she saw on him was definitely one she expected.
He at first asked if she was sure about this and she even admitted that she wasn't but she pressed on, leaving out no details.
By the end of it, she didn't remember much else after, having relived such memories. Only that Steve held her in his arms afterward, something she fondly thought of every now and then since that time.
They knew almost everything about each other by this point.
Her life growing up as a Jedi and his life in a different time and era before waking up in the modern age.
With that last thought, Aayla released a sigh and stood up.
"Where are you off to?" Tholme asked though his eyes already showed he had an inkling of an idea.
"Probably to make a mistake," She admitted. "Or… to see if I can… I'm just gonna go."
With that, Secura left her old Mentors, the trio simply watching on silently.
Walking through the Jedi Temple, she was heading over to the hangar bay where the starfighters were kept to take it over to the Avengers' residence.
But upon her arrival there, she saw the man that she opted to see already there.
"Steve." She said in clear surprise.
The Super Soldier saw her and a happy smile formed, causing Aayla to internally squirm at it.
"Aayla." He pleasantly said. "Nice timing. I just got here. Was looking for some of my teammates. Sam told me they were here."
"Oh? And for what purpose?" She said, keeping her voice steady.
"Training." Steve said. "Figure I could use some after everything. Let off some steam."
The Twi'lek gazed at him for a few seconds, taking a moment to look around, having spotted several other Jedi in the hangar.
"Before you do that," She bit her lip. "Can we… talk in private for a moment?"
Steve gave her a strange look, noticing her unusual demeanor. Nonetheless, he nodded, gesturing her to lead the way.
Looking around, the Jedi gave a quick response.
"This way." She guided him to a nearby room with two ottomans inside.
The door closed behind them and she found herself freezing up.
'What are you doing, Aayla?' She mentally asked herself, straining to come up with something until she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"Aayla." Steve's voice broke her out of her thoughts. "Are you alright? What's wrong?"
The Jedi found herself losing her voice for a moment, coughing into her hand after a few seconds.
"I just… needed to talk to you." She slowly said, turning to face him.
Steve didn't verbally respond, instead only gazing at her in silence, an unspoken question of "And what do you want to talk about?".
Shaking her head, she gestured to the seats in the room, both moving to occupy one for themselves.
Aayla never said a word, only sitting with him in silence.
It soon felt agonizingly long.
Now she began to hesitate. Maybe not now. Perhaps later at a better moment and location.
"What's going on?" Steve's voice was now laced with concern. "Is everything alright with you?"
"I feel like I should be asking you that. Whenever you want to train, you always have something on your mind." Aayla shot back almost instinctively, clamping her mouth shut. "I… I'm sorry, I shouldn't have-"
"Now I know something is bothering you." Steve interrupted and he leaned forward. "Come on Aayla, talk to me. We made that promise, remember?"
Aayla nodded but still had yet to find the proper means of telling him why she brought him here.
She let out a sigh, standing up.
"I'm sorry, Steve." She quietly said. "I didn't mean to waste your time like this. I wasn't thinking straight. I'll see you later."
The Twi'lek moved to walk away but the Brooklyn native wasn't about to just let her go like that.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, hey." He said, standing quickly and grabbing her wrist. "You can't just pull me in here for a private chat and then leave without saying anything."
Her skin tingled at the contact, a shiver going down her spine.
She felt herself slowly get turned around to face the WWII veteran, the man giving her a soft yet firm gaze.
"Aayla." He said in a low voice, not knowing the effect it was having on her. "What's wrong? Please, talk to me."
The Twi'lek glanced down, biting the inside of her cheek. She was starting to regret doing this but… damned if she couldn't find a reason to deny it.
She could if she were able to view this pragmatically.
But when emotions override logic, it seldom prevails.
"It's you…" She quietly said, Steve barely hearing her.
Aayla looked up at him, now holding a more determined look. "It's you."
This didn't really answer any of Steve's questions.
"It's me?" He frowned in thought. "Wait… are you saying… I'm what's troubling you?"
Rather than answering him directly, Aayla exhaled. "The Jedi Code forbids attachment on a personal level. Our duty cannot be to one person but to the galaxy itself. Attachments can be used against us by enemies or even by our own emotions. They are a path that can lead to the dark side."
Steve was silent the whole time, simply letting her speak.
"But my Masters Vos, Tholme and Saa never believed in such things. And try as they might with me, I never wound up as they did. Or… maybe I did and I just didn't realize it. I know the bond I share with them has always been more than just teacher and student. Maybe I just ignored it the whole time." She shook her head. "Yet I fell into the traditional category of being a Jedi. Making sure to never form deep, emotional attachments."
Aayla then surprised Rogers when she reached up and took his hands into hers.
"But… that's changed now." She softly murmured. "You changed that."
He didn't quite know how to respond to that at first.
What he was hearing right now… it was nothing short of a confession.
But there was still a hint of doubt or more like hesitation. He wanted to be sure.
"And… how did I change that?" He slowly asked.
Aayla scoffed good-naturedly, squeezing his hands momentarily.
"It was a simple start really." She airily said. "I met a soldier, a man, who fought for others more than himself. A man to be respected and admired, leading from the front and never doing anything he wouldn't do or sacrifice himself for. He was a man I grew to trust on the battlefield and over time, outside of it."
Aayla was now staring deeply into his eyes. "But that admiration changed. It wasn't enough anymore. What I saw as a comrade soon became a friend I could rely on at any and all times. And then that changed again. It was no longer an admiration or a friendship but… a desire that wants something more now."
The air between the two became thick with tension.
"Something more, you say?" Rogers' voice came out low, almost a deep rumble that made Secura's toes curl.
"Far more." She whispered, Steve barely hearing it. "And I don't know what to do with it. It goes against the Jedi code. But my Masters… they always believed in bonds and attachments. Always telling me that they would make me stronger. The Jedi Code says one thing and my Masters another."
"But what does your heart say?" Steve felt extremely corny in asking that but it's what naturally came out.
"My heart?" Aayla repeated, almost sounding like she hadn't even considered that. "My heart is telling me… it's telling me…"
She then leaned forward but stopped herself for a moment, both individuals at a momentary impasse as neither was sure if they should cross this threshold.
They lingered there, knowing that if they are to do this, there would be no going back.
For Aayla, this would go against everything she held close to her but also the start of something new, something she didn't fully understand and was even frightened of. When Steve was taken back on Jabiim, there was a pain in her heart that she had never experienced before and it almost overwhelmed her. When they got him back, it felt like the weight of the galaxy had been removed and it was there that she began to realize that he meant more to her than just a friend.
For Steve, he knew that what could happen could affect Aayla more than it would him. Or would it? The weight of the compass he still carried on him that held the picture of Peggy Carter was like an anchor he kept on him in his back pocket. He could feel it now more than ever. And then there was the fact that if they went through this, Aayla could be kicked out of the Jedi Order. He had his issues with how they conducted themselves but he'd be damned if he ever forced his views and ideals onto others. This was a core tenant of Secura and he now was challenging it. He and the rest of the Avengers were already covering for one Jedi and their secret relationship. Two now, actually after Peter told them about him and Ahsoka.
Would that be pushing it?
Tempting not only the order but the universe itself?
Should both of them be selfish and take the plunge?
Does Captain America have the right or even deserve to have such happiness? To take such a risk?
They stayed like this for a few seconds until Aayla regained her bearings and moved to pull away.
Steve froze up and stopped her, almost looking frightened at both her leaving and himself for stopping her.
She looked back at him again with those eyes of hers. Those gorgeous, stunning hazel eyes that he could get lost in.
There was another prolonged pause where neither party knew what to do or say.
Then, the damn broke.
Without warning, Aayla flung herself onto him, wrapping her arms around his head and shoulders and slammed her lips onto his.
He reciprocated the gesture, placing his arms around her hips and back and kissed her back with equal passion and fervor.
She moaned aloud, pushing him back until the back of his knees hit the seat he once occupied.
He sat down, hefting Aayla up for her to straddle his lap without breaking the kiss. Her hands dragged themselves through his hair, down his neck and onto his chest, making goosebumps appear on the Avenger. She felt the same sensation when she felt his hand graze her exposed lower back, the Twi'lek inhaling sharply, letting out a sensual moan that drove the good captain wild.
Eventually, the necessity for air pulled the two apart, both gasping for it yet it only took two seconds to resume, this time far more passionate than the last.
Aayla quickly sent a Force push towards the door, making sure that it was locked as the two had their hands explore one another.
This went on for a number of minutes, intense, passionate kissing followed by small bouts of trying to catch their breaths before picking up where they left off.
It was like a damn had been broken, a rush of emotions unleashing upon the two of them that had been compiling for months now. Relief permeated between the two as did an undeniable feeling of want.
Eventually, the two slowly devolved their kisses, small pecks here and there until both had their foreheads resting against one another.
Neither had anything to say other than to catch their breath.
They locked eyes once they were able to breathe more properly, gazing intensely at each other.
Words were not exchanged yet feelings were.
For Steve, it was a mixture of joy and sadness, taking a step such as this one. For years now, he had grappled with his place in a time not of his own, holding onto the past in a figurative and literal sense. Peggy was always on his mind and with him in his pocket but now? Now there was someone else.
Someone, who in his eyes, was an incredible, fierce, determined and absolutely beautiful woman.
Perhaps the most beautiful he had ever seen.
As for Aayla, she was experiencing a high unlike any other. Her body, heart, mind and soul felt as light as a feather, a tingly daze that washed over her the minute she placed her lips upon his. She knew what she had done.
And she didn't care.
This right now felt more right than anything she had ever done before.
But she also knew what consequences may await her now.
She had made her choice and now she had to live with it.
Placing a hand on his cheek, Aayla stared deeply into the eyes of the man she had grown to care for so deeply. The man she had grown… to love.
Was it love? Was it lust?
No… it couldn't be lust. This sensation made her both giddy and nervous. Maybe it was just that.
She saw Steve move his own hand up, placing it over hers and gently holding it.
He smiled at her, which she returned before pulling him into another kiss. This one was slow, both taking their time to better familiarize themselves with each other.
Aayla then applied some pressure on Steve and he fell back, taking her with him.
They pulled apart, laughing at what just happened. Aayla laid her chin down on Rogers' chest and the man gazed back at her.
"What happens now?" He quietly murmured, still holding her hand and placing it over his heart.
Aayla didn't respond verbally, instead kissing his hand before propping herself up a bit more to be at eye level with him.
"I don't know." She admitted quietly, leaning her forehead against his. "I'm scared but… also so happy. Let's just enjoy this moment together."
Steve wrapped his arms around her shapely body, pulling her closer to him.
"I can do that." He muttered softly, initiating another kiss which Aayla gladly returned.
At their workshop, Ant-man and the Wasp were currently going through nearly everyone's suits and giving them some maintenance. Some were easier than others.
Most of the work was normal as usual. But this all changed from what they got back from home.
"I can't believe Thor brought back Vibranium." Scott said in awe. "Thank you Princess Shuri. Gotta make sure to bake her a cake or something like that cause wow, I never would've thought we'd get something like this."
Hope couldn't deny the mutual feeling she had right now, in equal astonishment by one of the packages Thor had brought back with him when he came back from Earth.
Apparently, at the request of T'Challa, Shuri was to give Thor some Vibranium for the Avengers in space to use for themselves given the situation they were in.
But also, Shuri had left a message for the Avengers, specifically her brother, that she was going to send up Vibranium regardless if it was requested or not.
She proudly declared that now that she was an Avenger, she will always be ready to assist her team, be it on Earth or in space.
All she desired from them was to get her brother back home, one way or another. His life was more valuable to her than any vibranium in her people's possession.
Also, Clint's voice was heard in her message. Something about that as added repayment for a stove she blew up or something like that.
That certainly derailed her proud spiel and amused her brother greatly.
The Princess raged at the Archer who was in the background, the message fading and her brother making a comment of "that sounds about right".
Still, Vibranium equipment and upgrades.
They were currently applying a lining of Vibranium over Sam's wings, making it more durable, flexible and all around, stronger.
They had already applied some to Steve's suit and Widows given they were the simplest from Shuri and Tony's instructions.
After this one, Rhodey's suit was next given its more complex nature followed by the rest of the team. The amount, however, would be hard to spread out on the War Machine at the current time.
Not that it wasn't enough.
Just the complexity of it would make it a difficult procedure. They would need to do it one section at a time.
But with the instructions and their own expertise, they could pull it off.
They had to.
For the sake of the team.
But that wasn't all that dwelled on the mind of Hope Van Dyne.
She had been diligently working on the application of Vibranium onto the right wing of Sam's suit whilst Scott covered the left.
But in between her work, she kept shooting looks at her boyfriend, hoping he'd catch her gaze to no avail.
So she opted for a more direct approach.
"You know, Scott," She casually began. "I've been thinking lately."
"Hmmm? About what?" He asked, not looking up from his work.
"On having a kid."
She winced at the sound of the tool he held slipping from his hand. Scott practically choked on his own spit as his head snapped up in her direction, slightly bug-eyed.
"I'm sorry, you want what?" He said in disbelief.
She crossed her arms, looking at him intently. "You heard me."
"I did. But… uh… What brought this on?" Scott came to a quick conclusion. "It was Nat, wasn't it."
Hope shrugged, giving him an iffy hand motion. "Somewhat. More like her and Wanda."
"Merry and Pippin?" He said, making his girlfriend snort at the nicknames he gave them.
"Yes, them too." She set her tools down, casually walking around the table that had Sam's suit strewn out on it. "I haven't thought about it much up till recently, more since we came here and… well, seeing Natasha and Wanda with kids of their own and thinkin' about you and Cassie… I never really considered it up till now but…"
Scott gazed at his girlfriend, unsure of what to say for a moment. "Are you… I mean, I don't wanna ask the wrong question here but… are ya sure?"
Hope shrugged her shoulders.
"Not immediately, but one day." She said, reaching her boyfriend. She took his hands into hers, holding them tightly. "I mean, a kid with a guy like you? Doesn't sound like such a bad deal considering how good a job you've already done."
Well, now that certainly made the former convict bashful at receiving such praise.
"I mean, I could have done better. I should have been more present in her life-"
"And yet, she still sees you as her hero." Hope countered, resting her arms on his shoulders now, placing one hand on the back of his head. "That's got to count for something, right?"
Scott rubbed her hips in return, a contemplative expression for her to see as the man recalled his life up to now since getting his daughter.
"I just… never thought of having another kid after so long. Cassie is all I had after the divorce. Then you and Hank came into my life and then the Avengers and now this? I've lost more time with her, me being here. I don't know if I deserve… Are you really sure about having a kid with me?"
"You're more qualified than you realize, Scott Lang." Hope said, hand on his cheek now, kissing him with love. "I never even considered it until you."
Scott smiled at her, a grateful look in his eyes.
"But I don't wanna fail at something like that again. Marriage and a kid."
"We don't have to get married to have a kid. There is a thing called a partnership."
"True but call me old fashioned." He retorted, leaning his forehead onto hers. "I wanna make sure I'm always there for you and whatever jelly munchkin comes along."
"Jelly munchkin?" Hope parroted with a laugh.
"Yeah, Jelly. Cassie's monopolized Peanut so she'll need the Jelly for her peanut if we have a kid."
Hope laughed at that, pecking him on the lips again.
Scott grinned at her when he looked a bit nervous.
"Your dad would probably kill me."
Hope arched a brow at that "Probably?"
He rolled his eyes. "Alright, definitely."
His girlfriend giggled. "Well, for a short moment. Then when he sees his grandkid, whatever issues he'd have would die right then and there."
Scott hummed in approval, both simply enjoying each other's presence.
"You really sure about this?" He couldn't help but ask one more time.
"Unless you do something really stupid to jeopardize this," she motioned between them, "then you ain't getting away on it."
Scott deadpanned at her.
"You know, that's just you daring the universe to do something between us, you know that, right?"
"Well then we better work to make sure that never happens, don't we." She didn't give him a chance to respond, pulling him into a deep kiss, their work for the moment being forgotten.
"Are you certain of this?"
The warbling roar Prince T'Challa received made him frown at the news, a glint of worry and anger in his eyes.
Rafwarren, one of the many Wookiees he had befriended during his time on Kashyyyk, stood before him with several other Wookiees behind him.
They had been recurring visitors for some time now, making sure to stop by the "new" chieftain of the Wookiee clan that has sworn allegiance to T'Challa and his family.
Currently, they came to deliver troubling news.
The Trandoshans have been increasing the frequency of their attacks on Kashyyyk. A majority have been repelled but they have been able to abduct a number of their kin.
Similar to that of Jedi and Clones going missing.
Troubling news to be sure.
The Prince wasn't alone in receiving this news as off to the side, another Avenger was in a conversation with two compatriots via holo transmission.
"My Wookiee is rusty-"
"More like you don't understand squat."
"I'm being rather polite as I have no idea how to understand their language, Baze." Matt shook his head at the banter Chirrut and Baze had before focusing back on T'challa. "What are they saying, exactly?"
"Trandoshan raids have been increasing." T'Challa revealed, a small groan of sadness from the Wookiees being heard. "They've managed to fight them back but Wookiees are still being taken. Some of which belong to my clan."
"Your clan?" Baze parroted.
"They consider me one of their own after being with them since my arrival in the galaxy. They are to come with me to Wakanda once the gate is found and established. They are my people now and I will not allow such actions to be done against them."
The anger was evident to hear in the Prince's voice. His time on Kashyyyk endeared him to the people of the trees and now that a clan has sworn themselves to him, he took the responsibility of their new leader seriously.
"What can we do to help?" Matt asked, grasping his walking stick.
"I've already requested Tap to begin surveying Trandoshan communications and see if we can pinpoint their base of operations or where the Wookiees are being taken." T'Challa stated.
"This also correlates with Jedi and Clones going missing." Murdock pointed out, further troubling the Prince.
"A connection?" He murmured with Matt silently gazing at him.
"Maybe, maybe not. We don't know for sure if it's merely a coincidence."
"It's a possibility." Matt then turned to his friends. "Chirrut, Baze. What about your end? Have you been noticing any disappearances?"
"Well other than the ones that we do when on a job," Baze idly said, scratching his beard. "There has been some news about people going missing."
"Taken by machines." Chirrut stated. "But… there is something else."
Matt and T'Challa glanced at each other before back at the blind Force user.
"What do you mean?" Matt asked, sensing a conflicted look on Chirruts face.
"There is… a disturbance in the Force." Imwe gravely said. "A dark specter, a shadow is here, one of an ancient threat. Or rather there are more shadows. The Dark Side is in motion, my friends. I fear a great evil is coming."
"Not to mention hearing some apparent raids of Force-centered locations." Baze grumbled out.
"Kyber crystals." Both followers of the Whills said at the same time.
"Worse than that. The amount having been raided is horrendous."
"And what are they seeking to achieve? Powering a superweapon."
"The idea does come to mind, but we can only speculate." Chirrut said.
The two Avengers sighed in unison, feeling momentarily overwhelmed by all this information.
A hairy hand was placed on T'Challa's back followed by a quiet growl.
"I will be, my friend." He responded, turning to Rafwarren. "But for now, return to Kashyyyk and strengthen your defenses. It is a dangerous time right now. Make sure you all always travel in groups of three or more. Going out alone may prove to be dangerous. And take these with you."
From his suit, T'Challa pulled out several pairs of bracelets.
"Kimoyo Beads." He said, placing them in the hand of Rafwarren. "They can be split apart with ease and tracked by our AI. distribute them amongst the clan or give it out to those who go alone whenever they do."
On Thor's return trip from Earth, one of several packages he came with was T'Challa's request for Kimoyo Beads from Shuri. Now that Rafwarren's Wookiee clan swore allegiance to him, they deserved the benefits of Wakanda.
Rafwarren warbled with a nod, grasping them tightly before pulling the Prince in for a Wookiee hug.
Despite his grim mood, T'Challa was unable to fight the smile he had, hugging his friend back with the other Wookiees joining in.
Of course he would get the huggiest Wookiee clan to swear allegiance to him.
One of the many reasons why he will do what he can to figure out how to stop the Trandoshans from raiding Kashyyyk any further.
This will bear a good amount of investigation on his part. One which will eat much of his free time.
"We will keep you updated on the Outer Rim." Chirrut spoke up. "Though I believe our next conversation will not occur for some time."
"Trouble?" Matt stated more than asked.
"Like you wouldn't believe." Baze murmured tiredly. "Us, the Guardians, the Ravagers and Mandalorians have been swamped with more missions and requests. Too many sectors undefended, more criminal rampancy, cartel wars, all of it."
"Have fun with all that." The Lawyer said airily.
"Have fun with your war." Malbus grumbled back.
Chirrut chuckled, bidding Matt and T'Challa goodbye before he and his old friend logged off.
Rafwarren departed soon after with the pair of Avengers walking down a hallway in the Jedi Temple.
"It feels like things are only getting worse." T'Challa admitted, rubbing his face tiredly. "We get good news that we may be able to return home but there is still all that is transpiring with even greater dangers coming."
"War has a tendency of doing that. It can never be simple." Matt remarked.
The Black Panther hummed in agreement, glancing at his friend.
"What else have you heard in the Outer Rim? What of Mandalore?"
Now, T'Challa knew as much of the Mandalorians as the rest of the Avengers, a bit more than others since his visit there. But there was another purpose to his questioning.
"Last I heard, Mandalore is teetering on being a safe, neutral set of sectors." Matt soon gave a brief explanation. "The Protectors and warrior clans are patrolling the borders in case another Ultron attack comes around. Satine has been challenged in appeasing both the fighters and civilian populations since the talks." He let out a sigh. "At least they're working together now."
"Yet Death Watch is still out there."
The Lawyer of Hell's Kitchen nodded. "They're the one factor that's not having the Mandalorian people unified."
"And what of Bo-Katan?"
Matt halted momentarily, a conflicted look for T'Challa to see.
"That… is complicated." He admitted, shaking his head. "We've only spoken once since then and it was… tense to say the least."
"I can't imagine, really." T'Challa freely admitted. "I've never been in such an odd relationship."
"I don't even understand what spurred her to do that last time we saw each other in person." Murdock shook his head again.
"Women are quite the mysterious creatures."
Daredevil snorted, letting out a wistful sigh.
"There was one I knew years ago. Quite a lot like Bo-Katan."
"And where is she now?"
"Somewhere on Earth, somewhere I don't really care to know of." Matt said neutrally.
"...How bad of a falling out?"
"How can you tell?"
"Your voice, your posture." T'Challa pointed out. "I am not the most knowledgeable when it comes to intimate relationships, having only had one, but I believe I know enough to see a bad breakup when I see and feel one."
Matt chuckled upon hearing this.
"It's… not something I like to talk about. But let's just say that the last we saw each other, she wanted me to kill someone. Someone I desperately wanted to but in the end, chose not to."
"Yes, oh my."
"I don't want to force you if you don't want to-"
"Thank you." Matt said, patting T'Challa on the back. "Maybe for a later time and date."
The Synthetic Cybernetic Avenger known as Vision floated off to the side of one of the many training grounds of the Jedi Temple.
There, he watched in observant silence as Jedi Battlemaster Cin Drallig attended a class of Jedi younglings, instructing them on the basics of Lightsaber combat, Form I.
"The Force is to flow through you." The Battlemaster instructed. "Allow it to be your guide, act as its conduit and it will guide your actions."
"And for people who don't have the Force?"
"You're fast enough to keep up with any Jedi, Mr. Maximoff, your complaints are unwarranted." Cin blandly said though the humor was evident in his eyes.
The younglings all laughed at the speedster who made a face at them in return.
"So this is where he's been." Said a soft, female voice Vision knew all too well.
"I am surprised Pietro has the patience for this." Viz remarked, not facing Wanda Maximoff who now stood beside him.
"Even in our younger years, he had a means of procrastination with what I somewhat argue is an attention disorder. Believe that carried over with him obtaining his speed." The Scarlet Witch smiled slightly. "But when he honestly puts his mind to it, he greatly focuses and excels greatly."
"Well when one can perceive the world at a hundred thousandth of a second, one can be excused for having some issues with paying attention." Vision commented. "Still, he is improving. Rapidly might I add. His enhanced perception and physiology is a perfect counter to the necessity of the Force."
"A reason why he's here of all places?"
"His means of perhaps enhancing his skills. Aside from that, I believe it's his way of honoring Master Di."
"Master Di?" Wanda repeated, frowning.
"I didn't get to meet him but Steve spoke of the Jedi master that perished on Kamino prior to our teammates finding us. He found him on Ryloth when he wound up in the galaxy. They became good friends alongside Syndulla. Di was killed by General Grievous and now, Pietro holds onto his lightsaber as a memento of him."
The Sokovian woman gave a small nod before scrunching her face slightly.
"Aren't those lightsabers supposed to be buried with their owners?"
"Pietro wished to hold onto it. I myself am surprised that the order allowed him to keep it." Said the synthetic Avenger. "Probably an olive branch, just so long as he doesn't lose and abuse it."
"He wouldn't." Wanda confidently said. "Brash and stubborn as he is, Pietro isn't one to disrespect something like that. He never was."
"Figured. But the factor of losing a lightsaber is a grievous crime. If he was a member of the Order, it varies from case to case, likely only needing a replacement depending on how severe it was. But for one given to an outsider and that of a fallen member-"
"He won't lose it." Wanda said resolutely. "Ever."
"I know. I just wanted to inform you."
"You don't need to. I've learned a great deal about this Order."
Vision turned to her, looking at her analytically.
"Even then, having possession of one outside of the Order is… interesting. Selling or possessing one on the black market is classified as X-rating which serves you many decades in prison."
Wanda only shook her head. "Vision, I don't really care what punishments this Order gives out cause it doesn't concern us in the end. We're only helping them because the Sith and Ultron are out there. I know Cap and most of the team don't really like how the Order conducts itself. Their Code ain't exactly something any of us really believes in. Even you don't believe in it."
Vision found himself hard-pressed to disagree. When he was born, he told the Avengers he was on the side of life. That he wished to protect and preserve it. But since then, he had grown more and formed friendships and other bonds that most Jedi would discourage.
He believes that relationships make you stronger, giving you a greater incentive to fight to protect and if they were to pass on, to honor their memory.
"And what of the one you have?" He saw her confused expression. "The lightsaber you possess."
Wanda placed her hand over the spot where her Lightsaber hung beneath her cloak. "I've grown an attachment to it, despite its history."
Which was true, in a manner. Since fighting Zalem of Dathomir, she feels a unique connection with the ancient Sith weapon. Granted it happened as she was ascending into being the Scarlet Witch, which changed it in some manner to become something else. Molting out of its prior power and matching with its present wielder like a chrysalis to a moth or a butterfly.
"I saw some inscriptions on it. Sith inscriptions."
"Yeah, it belonged to one." Wanda looked around briefly, using her telepathic powers as well to make sure no one was within earshot. "Asajj Ventress told me that this lightsaber belonged to Darth Zannah. She was the apprentice to Bane who started this Rule of Two Sith Order the Jedi are looking for right now."
"And you never sought to hand it over?"
Wanda snorted. "No. This is mine and mine alone. I like it. The color matches my style."
Vision himself found himself grinning but the concern in his eyes remained, something Wanda picked up on.
"Viz, this lightsaber holds no weird Dark Side effects the others speak of like with the other Sith Artifacts. You could make the comparison when putting them right next to one or even the Holocrons back in my room. Besides, we're not of the Force, remember? Their magic and influence don't affect us like it does them."
"So you say." Vision said. "But my time with the Bendu can suggest otherwise."
"Well then it'll be our job to keep each other on the straight and narrow." Wanda countered. "The Dark Side of the Force shouldn't be feared."
"Yes but there are many in this Order that does fear it even if the one who holds the power is one of a righteous spirit."
"There's always the intent on the power and weapon. Can't blame one for using something that's considered Dark if you're good and Light if you're bad. I don't see that fair at all. From what I've known so far, it's all about the focus. Master Kreia taught me that much. XoXaan… well, she's just a bitch."
Wanda surprised Vision when she placed a hand on his arm, giving him a soft look.
"At the end of the day Viz, we can't control the fear other people have. Only our own. If we choose to be afraid of everything, we may fall into the traps we try to avoid."
Vision was silent for a few seconds, thinking hard about her words. "One can often meet their fate on the road they take to avoid it."
"Yeah, that's a pretty good saying." Wanda said with a smile. "Did you think of that one?"
"No, Kung Fu Panda taught me that one."
Wanda choked her breath and laughed. "That animated movie?"
"You haven't seen it yet?" Viz asked in surprise.
"No, I just thought it looked a bit silly."
Vision vehemently shook his head. "Wanda, Wanda, Wanda, that couldn't be the furthest thing from the truth. You've shown me much on your old shows now it will be my turn to educate you on entertainment."
Wanda happily laughed, bumping her shoulder against his.
"I look forward to it."
A comfortable silence befell the pair, both watching the class of younglings plus Pietro move through the motions of Cin Drallig's commands.
"Speaking of education, you consider going down there and joining your brother?"
"I doubt they'll let me join with this present." She said, patting the ancient Sith lightsaber on her side. "I do have my Holocrons to still learn from."
"And your charges?"
"Same, in a sense. But if they wanna come here and learn, I will talk to one of the Masters to figure something out. Maybe Anakin can teach them a few tricks. He's rebellious enough. Or Ahsoka. Or Aayla once she finally makes a move on Steve." She then turned to the holder of the Mind Stone. "Why not you, Viz?"
"Why not me what? Join the lesson?"
Wanda nodded. "Didn't you download nearly all of the knowledge of the archives?"
"Learning straight from a database and learning the "old fashion way" are two different things. Hard work is better than taking the easy way out in this case. Yes, the argument would come up and I may be an exception. But if I was more flesh and bone, the concept is more difficult. The muscle memory and reaction time under months and years of training is much more effective."
"So…" Wanda held her hands out toward the class that continued on, unaware of the pair's conversation.
"I am… unsure if I should ask now."
Maximoff stared at him in bewilderment, eyes widening slightly and lips curling upwards. "You… you wouldn't happen to be nervous, would you?"
Vision actually sputtered for a moment.
"I… no. No, that would be ridiculous."
Wanda gaped with her lips quivering, bordering on a teasing smile that may not leave her for the remainder of the day.
"Vision." She said, almost using her motherly voice she would with Merrin and Ilyana.
"I believe I am perfectly capable with the skillset I already have on hand that compliment my powers effectively."
"Vision." Wanda said again.
"It's not that I'm nervous. I downloaded the teachings of the many forms. In fact, I am likely a more suited battlemaster than Master Cin Drallig."
"Very well then, I shall go and prove it."
"Good luck sweetheart." Wanda teasingly said, giggling behind her hand as she watched Vision approach the Jedi Battlemaster.
She couldn't quite make out the words shared between the two but Cin smiled, patting Vision on the shoulder and gesturing for him to take a trainee lightsaber and join with the rest of the class.
The looks of awe, curiosity and wonder directed at him from the younglings were adorable, to say the least.
Wanda looked on with a smile with a small sense of yearning present.
She wasn't lying about what she said before about perhaps joining them down there. But with her possessing the lightsaber by her side, issues would arise. The views on the Sith were bad enough and if they were to see her red lightsaber, she'd be under a lot more scrutiny than she already was.
She knew some of the Council regarded her warily and her whipping out the lightsaber of a Sith Lord would certainly draw more unwanted pressure from the Order. She knew her teammates would back her no matter what but she didn't want to put that burden on them.
For now, it was better to just stand back and watch.
The time to learn and advance her skills will come in due time. Her mentor Kreia taught her patience and she would abide by the lesson.
And speaking of the Jedi Council…
The Council was once again gathered in a meeting, Ki-Adi-Mundi having been the one to have called it.
The reason being?
"There has been unusual movement in the sector of Korriban."
The moment he said those words, the Council was sharp and attentive, gazing at him intensely.
"Are you certain of this, Master Mundi?" Luminara quietly asked, the Cerean Jedi nodding gravely.
"Jedi Master Jedan Vesal with his Padawan Koses Lik-Har, X1 and X2 along with Nightingale Squad all sent separate reports detailing the same thing. And they said that it reeks of the Dark Side."
"You sure it's not the typical tomb raiders and scavengers, seeking riches?" Oppo Rancisis asked.
Such a thing is rather common for most people in the galaxy. Korriban was a treasure trove of artifacts many would acquire and sell to the black market.
Though the Jedi had managed to scrounge up a large collection of Artifacts from the ancient homeworld of the Sith, they were well aware they likely didn't even touch a quarter of the artifacts still buried deep in the mountains and hills of the planet. The Sith of old probably had more twisted, archaic and downright evil relics that the Jedi hadn't even faced before or had forgotten through the passage of time.
Yoda let out a humming grunt, shaking his head at this news.
"Once said, I did, of the shroud of the Dark Side having fallen once the war had begun." The aged Jedi closed his eyes in deep thought. "Now, a new specter there is, coming over the galaxy."
Obi-Wan Kenobi let out an uncharacteristically haggard sigh, leaning back in his chair and placing a hand over his eyes.
"Obi-Wan?" Shaak Ti spoke up in concern, gazing at the bearded Jedi who brushed his hand through his hair.
"Forgive me, my friends." He said lowly. "I am just feeling a foreboding sense coming over me. This news… I can't say we can just dismiss it out of hand. If there is indeed movement related to the Dark Side around the Ancient homeworld of the Sith, must we ignore such a thing? Even with the war and Ultron at our doorstep?"
"I concur." Mace Windu said, frowning at the news. "Such a matter should not be so quick to be dismissed. Even with the current war and our focus on Ultron. The last thing we need is another threat to the galaxy."
"Stability is teetering on the edge." Plo Koon gravely said. "I fear the worst is yet to come with everything we've faced thus far."
Depa Billaba frowned in thought, turning to Obi-Wan.
"Could what was detected near Korriban have something to do with the Son?" She questioned.
Kenobi shifted in his seat. "I feel it may be related to after he left Mortis. A feeling I dread to be true."
"We can only guess." Kit Fisto pointed out. "Other than yourself, only Skywalker, Padawan Tano, Prince T'Challa, Vision and Peter Parker met with this Son and fought him."
"Should I go then and investigate it myself?" Obi-Wan suggested.
"No, you're needed here." Windu firmly cut in. "At the very least, Nightingale Squad with Jedi's X1 and X2 can set up a blockade around the planet. We can have some presence there before we go there personally. Right now, we have matters to deal with here and now."
"Choosing a new member to sit on the Council is one of them." Plo pointed out, nodding his head in the direction of the chair that was once occupied by Even Piell. "And the likelihood of a ceasefire with the Separatists."
That certainly came as a shock to the Republic.
A representative and former Senator of the Republic, Mina Bonteri, had sent a message to the Republic earlier today on the notion that a ceasefire should be made. With the escalation of the War and Ultron being a more pressing threat, many within the Separatist Parliament voted to, at the very least, have a ceasefire with the Republic to combat the threat of the genocidal AI, many within the Republic actually agreed with the notion despite the vocal dissenters, wanting nothing to do with the Separatists.
A large portion of the Jedi also readily supported such a thing though there was obvious caution to this.
Count Dooku was still the head of the Separatist Alliance and being an all-but-confirmed Sith Lord, he couldn't be trusted so easily.
Yet in the message Bonteri had sent them, she stated that Dooku was the one who proposed the idea of a ceasefire.
That was both surprising and disconcerting.
No one knew what was going through Dooku's mind when going through such decisions. Those who were somewhat close to him in the past could only speculate.
"And what of the Avengers and this Infinity Gate that needs to be found?" Obi-Wan brought up.
"I cannot deny, that is something that I do believe we must assist with them sooner than later." Plo Koon spoke up.
"Anything in the archives?" Adi Gallia asked
"None that we could find so far. Either the knowledge was lost, never found or in the sad likelihood, was deleted." Fisto said, a sullen feeling washing over the Council.
"Has Ovair not been able to find anything?" Oppo queried.
"Reported nothing on his end."
"What of Jocasta?"
"Same result." Windu wryly said. "The only result that was found was how they were utilized, not of their function nor of any location we might have."
"Help them, we must." Yoda declared firmly. "Allies the Avengers are, we cannot afford to lose. Against the coming darkness, need many, we will. No longer can the Jedi stand alone. Fight with friends and allies we must to survive what is to come."
"Perhaps, then, we should look to other forms of help." Plo said, folding his hands together. "This is no longer a war for the Republic but it is turning into a war for life, for survival. And a galaxy that is divided-"
"Is sure to fall." Depa finished for the Kel-Dor Master, Koon nodding at her.
"Then perhaps the ceasefire with the Separatists is a step in the right direction." Kit started. "Perhaps even reform and reunite the Republic."
"Easier said than done." Oppo remarked. "Corruption is still deeply rooted in both governments."
"Are we no better?" Saesee Tiin spoke up, a grim look for them to see. "Our history shows us that many times over, the greatest evils and threats that have been unleashed upon the galaxy came from these very halls. The Sith that were banished by our ancient brethren, Exar Kun, Ulic Qel-Droma, Revan, Malik, Ruin and our most recent example being Dooku. Are we so arrogant to assume to be so much better than the rest of the galaxy?"
There was an uncomfortable silence in the chamber air, the Council all looking down, up or far off as they considered Tiins' words.
It was not something that could be dismissed so callously.
Many within the Order had voiced their concerns and opposition to the war. A majority of Dooku's Acolytes were made up of fallen Jedi who no longer believed in the ways of their Order.
Some had begun to question the Code itself for allowing such atrocities to even occur under their watch, stating they had been blinded by their past glories into believing no power could ever challenge them again.
Yet as the months turned to years, more and more threats had cropped up, showing to be far more than the Jedi could handle.
"To survive, united we must be." Yoda said, lightly tapping his walking stick on the floor. "To endure, stand together, we must. To overcome, learn much we do. From our past to the present for there to be a future. Destroy our enemies, not important. Preserve life for the future, our duty is. Responsibility, we must uphold. Not only to the Republic. To the people of the galaxy. That is where our duties lie."
The Council was certainly surprised by Master Yoda's words but found themselves all nodding in resolution. They knew that now wasn't the time to doubt themselves.
Even with the possible light at the end of the tunnel, the path will be hazardous to traverse through. To win, to survive, they needed to stand strong and stand together. Support one another whenever it is needed to keep the order strong.
"May the Force be with us all."
It was drawing close to night now on Coruscant, the sun having already set yet the planet remained awake and vibrant.
Despite the ongoing recovery of the planet, the city lights never turned off, showing resilience from the people of the planet through the hardship of the war.
Currently, within the Jedi Temple, whilst half the temple had retired, the other half was awake and attentive.
After the invasion of Ultron, the Jedi, who were already on guard with the onset of the war, practically doubled their guard. They were not gonna take any chances with intruders.
Thankfully, one Peter Parker was not considered to be such an individual, as he freely walked through the hallways of the Temple.
He occasionally greeted a Jedi here and there, nodding at the Temple guards before spotting the door where his target resided behind.
A day prior, he was with Ahsoka when their dear friend Barriss came to them with red eyes and a croaked voice. She had apparently come from a therapy session of sorts that was held by Sam and his girlfriend Dani and had cried her eyes out as she recounted her time at the Citadel.
Seeing her in such a state was a devastating sight and like several times before, the two pulled Barriss in for a group hug and held her until she dozed off.
Today, however, Peter was here on a mission.
Running on the same rush that he had when he first kissed Ahsoka on Tatooine, whatever inhibitions he had were squashed the moment he made his decision for tonight.
He had one objective and one only and that was about to be enacted now.
Reaching the door, he rapped his knuckles against it, hearing movement from behind.
The door slid open and revealed Barriss wearing her usual robes save for her headpiece which allowed Peter to freely see her beautiful flowing hair instead of having it confined.
"Peter?" She quietly said in surprise. "What are you doing here?"
He had lost the ability to speak for a few seconds, staring at the Mirialan who looked incredibly enticing right about now.
But dammit if he wasn't a gentleman and not some cooze hound. Least, that's what Mr. Stark used to call himself before settling with Pepper Potts.
"Yeah, can I come in?" He softly asked.
She blinked at the request but nodded all the same, stepping aside to let him in.
Once inside, Peter walked over to the window she had in her room, gazing out at it.
"That thing opens, right?" He asked, pointing at the window.
Barriss looked at him quizzically. "Yes, why you ask?"
He looked back at her with a grin.
"You wanna get outta here?"
"You being cooped up here for so long, for starters. It's not healthy." He started out. "So, I figured a date is in order."
She blinked out of confusion.
"Did I say date? I meant to say go out on the town and just spend time together."
"Isn't that just another way of saying date?"
Peter shrugged. "Yeah, basically."
Barriss stared at the young superhero and soon a blush formed on her face. It actually took her a moment to register just what it was Peter had offered and suffice to say, this was the last thing she expected tonight.
"But isn't it a bit late for that?"
"What?" Peter scoffed good-naturedly. "Are you kidding me, Barriss? The sun just set. The night is young and ripe with the opportunities to make some bad decisions."
She arched a brow at that. "Make some bad decisions?"
Peter coughed into his hands. "Yeah, figured that wouldn't work. Shouldn't have followed Mr. Stark's advice. I wouldn't exactly say that. Just… I feel like you need to do something to decompress. Just forget about everything for a few hours."
Barriss gazed upon the boy she had grown to care for so much, a smile worming its way onto her face.
"Yes." She muttered. "I would like that very much."
Peter beamed at her, quickly discarding the clothing he wore to reveal his traditional red and blue suit whilst stuffing his clothes into a backpack he brought with him.
"Where's your black suit?" She found herself asking.
"Oh, he's on me." The symbiote suit quickly formed around his usual costume before receding back. "Just know my usual suit has the GPS is all."
"Ah." She smirked, shaking her head.
"If you wanna rationalize it, I think the symbiote has attachment issues. Doesn't like to be too far away from me, apparently."
Barriss only hummed at that, walking over to him. "Ok then. So where are we going?"
"Any place that tickles your fancy?"
"I'll tell you the options along the way."
Peter nodded, opened the window and crawled out. Once situated, he motioned Barriss to come out, who carefully latched onto his back.
He was really glad he put his mask on right now cause he felt his face heating up at the feel of Barriss's body being pressed up against him. It was certainly developing, to say the least. He then felt her shift about, almost snuggling closer to him, arms wrapped tightly around his chest and shoulders.
"So where are we going first?" Her soft voice whispered in his ear and he was unable to fight the tingling sensation that went down his spine.
He cleared his throat as best as he could, squeakily telling her that other than the options she had, there was something special he had planned.
Jumping off the side of the temple, Peter felt Barriss tighten her hold on him, only furthering the thrilling sensation his body was experiencing.
Once more, his ears were greeted by her excited yells and screams as he was performing a number of his acrobatic feats.
It gladdened him to hear her joyous shouts, nuzzling him every now and then to warm herself up from the winds that whipped against them. Whether she did it with the knowledge that she knew the things it did to Peter or not, he didn't care.
Eventually, they reached a particular building with a dome on top of it.
There was a door that had a well-dressed man standing in front of it.
Upon seeing Spider-man arrive with Barriss, he smiled, walked forward and greeted them with a bow.
"Mr. Parker." He said kindly. "Your table for you and madam Offee awaits you inside."
"Thanks, Mr. Thelm." Peter happily said, pulling out a large sum of Credits and placing them into the man's hand.
He gaped at this. "Mr. Parker, you do know it is unnecessary for you to-"
"It's a tip, Janth." Peter cheekily said. "Therefore I have to."
"But Mr. Parker-"
"Thanks again, Thelm. You're the best." He cut him off, walking toward the door, looping his arm around with Barriss'.
The man could only raise an arm in protest only for it to fall, shaking his head with a bemused smile.
"What was that about?" Barriss asked in confusion, seeing Peter shrug.
"Meh, just calling in a favor from the guy, kept harping on about how he owes me and all so I figured I could put it to good use here."
The moment he opened the door to the establishment, Barriss was met with the astonishing sight of what looked to be a beautiful grassy plain with several hills, gardens and trees interspersed in the area.
"What," She gaped, trying to make sense of this place. "What is this? Where are we?"
"Ya like it?" Peter cheerfully asked. "It's a garden sector that recreates the environment of Naboo. Padme told me about it and actually suggested it. Comes here on occasion to help her feel like she's back home after long days at the senate. Thelm back there is from Naboo too and when I saved him a while back, he promised me a favor. I wasn't ever gonna call it in but now with you, I had a good reason to."
Now Barriss was unable to help herself, blushing up a storm as she looked away from the boy she had grown to love.
"Peter, you didn't have to bring me to a really nice place like this." She murmured.
Frowning good-naturedly at her comment, he cupped her chin, turning her head to face him.
"You deserve it, Barriss. I can't spare anything with those I deeply care about."
Smiling faintly, the padawan was touched by the kind gesture of how considerate her friend wanted to make her feel after her troubled time as of late.
Being brought further into the area, Barriss saw a small picnic area set up with a basket on the large blanket.
Moving past her, Peter opened up the basket and began pulling out its contents and she gasped slightly.
He looked up at her, grinning at the excitement she held when he pulled out her favorite foods from Earth.
"Caviar?" She said in disbelief. "Didn't you say it's the most difficult to find in this galaxy?"
"Well, when you introduce these kinds of foods and know a four-armed Besalisk, you kinda have a dealer always willing to supply."
He pulled out several other platters along with Aunt May's Wheat Cakes and Dumpling recipes. There also being Shepherd's pie, the closest thing he could find to strawberries, roasted Porg and some low-proof alcoholic drinks that Captain Rogers of all people got for him.
He hoped he got them right. Or Dex did, at least. That guy knew how to cook.
It was an unusual spread, but it was hard to decide what would work perfectly for tonight's meal.
"Peter." Barriss softly said, watching him set up the picnic. "You didn't have to go this far."
"I say otherwise." Peter remarked. "Care to join me?"
Without hesitation, she sat down right next to him, leaning her head on his shoulder.
"Thank you." She murmured, taking his hand into hers.
"You're welcome." He said in return, placing his head atop hers.
The evening meal was quite good and enjoyable with the tranquil atmosphere. Both ended up laying on the blanket for a time, with Barriss resting her head atop his chest, enjoying the rhythmic beating of his heart and the gentle way he held her in his arms.
She wished she could have more, but there were still places to go to throughout the growing evening.
Eventually, after finishing the rest of their food, they departed from the specialized Naboo Garden and went off swinging through the cityscape of Coruscant.
At one point, they went out for a brisk walk in order to take it easy for the time being.
This was a small plan on Peter's part, leading Barriss into the next part of their date being a large plaza.
The Padawan was bombarded by the sound of music coming from all over and she saw multiple species on different stages all performing different types of music.
It was a plaza of literal music,
With what's happening in the galaxy, most people need ways to help relieve their present troubles. What better way than some concert as one example?
Barriss was always one who was fond of learning about other cultures and customs, believing that as a Jedi, one needs the perspective of other lifestyles to be a better Jedi for the galaxy.
Music was one such way and she always did love the many melodies of the galaxy.
"How did you know?" Barriss asked in slight disbelief that Peter would bring her here.
"Ahsoka told me." He revealed. "Said you sometimes listen to other music whenever you go to sleep."
Great, now she wanted Ahsoka to be here with her. It felt unfair that it was only her and Peter experiencing this.
Throughout this portion, they merely sat and enjoyed themselves with the music and merriment around them.
At one point of the date, however, did have a small hiccup when the pair came across some black-market deal going south on the way to one of Barriss' destinations.
Instead of Spider-man taking care of it himself, Barriss tagged along on serving out some justice.
It was quick work for the two, taking out the troublemakers in a matter of seconds. The Coruscant Guard came by shortly after, a false display of exasperation upon seeing Peter, exchanging jokes and pleasantries before the pair resumed their date.
The rest of the date involved some web-swinging, visiting a few points of interest like a bazaar of food and arts, stopping by Dex to get some desert before settling atop one of the many tall buildings to eat said desert together.
For the first time in a while, Barriss was very happy. She barely recalls much of her troubles, due to Peter distracting them with this get-together.
Returning to the temple via web-swinging, Spider-man crawled up the walls with Barriss still hanging from his back. Getting back to her room, he opened the window and crawled them both back inside.
Barriss walked forward, stretching out her arms and spinning slightly.
Peter just hung back, leaning on the wall and watched her move around in a graceful dance as she hummed one of the songs she heard from the musical plaza.
"Oh Peter," She whirled around in his direction, a bright, beaming smile for him to see. "Tonight was perfect. I can't thank you enough for it. I really needed it."
"You don't have to." He softly said. "I wanted to do this for you because I care for you."
The Mirialan had a dreamy smile on her face, still humming the song as she drifted over to him.
"Do you now?" She lightly questioned, a teasing grin on her face.
She spun about and was abruptly met with Peter taking her into his arms.
"I do." He quietly said. "More than you realize."
And like that, Barriss felt her heart rate skyrocket as she rested her hands against his chest.
"I think I might have an idea, really." She whispered, soon swallowing a small lump in her throat. Bits of anxiety were slowly surfacing amongst a number of emotions. "Peter… what do you see when you look at me?"
He didn't respond straight away, instead brushing some of her hair behind her ear.
"Someone beautiful. Brave, selfless, wise beyond her years and a whole dictionary worth of the best traits anyone can have. Not to sound tacky or corny but I couldn't even begin to properly describe you."
"Then…" She bit her lip, feeling her entire body now begin to heat up. "Can you show me?"
Peter's eyes widened momentarily, locked on with hers. Chocolate brown eyes gazed into electric blue.
With a hesitant hand, he slowly brought it to her face.
He saw her inhale sharply upon contact yet leaned into his hand a moment later, basking in its warmth.
"Barriss…" Peter purely said as he stroked the Mirialan padawan's cheek.
"Peter…" She responded softly, placing her hand over his.
High on the natural, pleasant emotions between them, she did something drastic and bold.
She was tired of waiting and leaned in, finally placing her lips against his. He was momentarily shocked before calming down from the action. Her eyes soon glistened as he reciprocated the kiss and continued to stroke her cheek.
Barriss moaned and mewled in bliss as she felt a swell of emotions surfacing within her. Peter placed his other hand on her lower back, pulled her closer and stroked it. She brushed her fingers through his hair and pressed her bosom against his chest. Both parties could feel each other's racing heartbeats with how close of a contact they shared, somehow managing to match one another.
Peter moaned at this while Barriss felt part of his upper back with her second hand. She began to shiver in a unique bliss, even as they separated for air. Both looked at each other, having slightly flushed cheeks. Neither knew who moved next as they kissed each other once more.
There were small pecks mixed in with long contact ones, having them breathe through their nostrils so they wouldn't break the connection so soon.
Wasn't long before their instincts made them feel hungry for more. Her hand grasped his hair tightly while his hand moved up and down her side. Pleasant tingles and shivers slowly intensified.
They broke away before continuing on, which made them groan momentarily. Part of their rational minds telling them to stop for a number of reasons.
But that time went ignored until Barriss had pushed against Peter and they both tumbled down to her bed.
This time, they pulled away, looking back at each other, their faces really flushed. Their breaths were heavy with smiles on their faces.
Barriss let out a bashful giggle.
"Yeah…" She giddily said. "Wow."
She nuzzled against him, Peter by this point learning that she quite enjoyed the act and he returned the gesture.
Thinking about what just transpired now, her mind wandered over to the only other couple she knew of.
This was how Mak and Kass felt back at Jabiim. How they were close and shared their feelings with one another. How they would… die for each other.
They pretty much did on that later fact.
The Code forbade this, but Barriss couldn't care anymore. After what happened thus far, she ignored the Code and went through with her feelings.
She gently turned his head to face him, locking eyes with him once more.
He was startled by the intensity they held but said nothing nor did he reveal anything he simply gazed at her.
There appeared to be a moment of hesitation, her licking her lips before she showed resolution and acceptance.
"Peter Parker." Her voice was barely above a whisper but with how close they were, he had no issues hearing her. "I love you."
"I… you… what?"
His brain was reacting the same way as it did back on Mortis when Ahsoka, in her possessed state, admitted she loved him.
Rather than be put off by his response, Barriss found herself giggling. She couldn't explain it but this wasn't him rejecting her. Rather, she short-circuited his brain
Leaning in once more, she gave him several pecks on his lips.
"You heard me. I love you, Peter Parker." She whispered with a smile.
"You do?" He squeaked.
She nodded happily. "Yeah."
Offee chortled at that, shaking her head, nuzzling her face into his chest. "I don't know how it happened but… I came to terms with it a while back. For a long time, things have been subtle. Never knowing they'd crawl up and embrace me in the most unexpected way. I just never realized until Jabiim."
She further buried her head into his chest, hiding the displeasure of the memories flooding in.
"Seeing you like that… it made me think back to when Ahsoka was poisoned on Naboo, how you were both resting by my side after. How Ahsoka and I watched you recovering after what Ultron did to you…" She shut her eyes tightly, tears threatening to spill. "I didn't know how long I could avoid this any further. Distracting myself for too long. How confused I've been since those times and as of late. How… How I desire to be with you two after this war is over. To be with you both until the end. I can't bear the thought of a future without either of you."
Peter was silent in all this, having subconsciously started to gently stroke her hair.
At the mention of Ahsoka, he released a small sigh, gently bouncing Barriss to get her attention.
"Barriss, there's something you should know."
"Before getting into it, we need Ahsoka here." He said in complete seriousness.
This confused her, making her wonder what was going on.
He soon left her room to search for their friend. As time ticked on by, nervousness and anxiety ate away at her. She paced to and from in her quarters when she couldn't try and relax through meditation.
After what felt like hours, she heard the chime at her front door.
She couldn't get to it fast enough, opening it to see her friends on the other side.
"Barriss," Ahsoka said, moving to her straight away, enveloping her in a hug. "Peter said you needed to see me. Are you alright? Do you need anything?"
Barriss couldn't help but smile at the concern Ahsoka had for her, hugging her back.
"Well, not exactly." She murmured. "Just that Peter said you needed to be here as well. That we needed to talk."
Peter coughed into his hand, feeling supremely awkward. "About… about us."
Now both girls faced him and Peter wanted to be anywhere but here.
He groaned aloud, lightly hitting his fist on his forehead.
"Ok, should've planned for this one." He bemoaned. "God, I really need to think things through."
He first looked at Ahsoka, gazing at her intently, eliciting a blush from her.
The Togruta didn't have time to ask what he was gonna do as he leaned in, capturing her lips in a fierce kiss.
Ahsoka inhaled sharply, eyes fluttering close as she returned the kiss, all while not realizing the effect it had on Barriss.
Reboot… Reboot… Barriss-exe… Reboot… Reboot…
Once he pulled back, Ahsoka was in a bit of a daze until Peter gestured his head in Barriss' direction.
At first, the Togruta was confused by this but upon inspecting Barriss more closely, she noticed several things she missed when she came here not long ago.
Her hair was down and now a bit frazzled. What appeared to be the usual customary lipstick certain female Mirialans put on was now smeared.
And her clothes were a bit rugged, almost looking like they were meant to come off by this point.
Putting two and two together, Ahsoka gaped, looking at Peter who sheepishly nodded.
Realizing now what had happened between the New York native and her fellow Padawan, Ahsoka knew of this eventuality. She just didn't think it would be happening at this moment.
So, might as well complete the steps.
And if that wasn't enough for Barriss to comprehend…
Taking a deep breath, calming her nerves and fidgeting a little, Ahsoka leaned in and pressed her lips to hers.
Just like that, Barriss' eyes widened a bit more as her mind went through another fizzle.
System Error… System Error… Barriss-exe… Mayday Mayday… System Crashing…
Breaking contact with Barriss after what felt like minutes, Ahsoka pulled back with a blush on her face. Looking over to Peter, his expression was a bit mixed. Sure there was a small blush, but it was rather controlled and not exaggerating for such a display.
"What?" He said, seeing the look she gave him.
"What do you mean what?" Was her response. "I'd thought-"
"You mean two people of the same sex kissing each other? I'm not one of those people who goes outright crazy on it like some horn dog or something worse. I'm from Queens, I've seen that on the street more times than I can count. I'm rather fine and not bothered by it."
"I get that. What I mean of you being…" She was awkward in trying to say the right words. "With us and-"
"You don't need to say it. I know what you're getting at. Don't forget you're the one who talked me into it." Peter blandly said, making Ahsoka laugh sheepishly.
They both then noticed the reaction, or rather the lack of reaction from the other teen in the room.
The pair turned to see that Barriss had yet to say or do anything. She just stood there, stark still and eyes wide with a healthy coloring on her cheeks.
"Uh, Barriss?" Parker said in an unsure voice. "You alright there?"
"I think we broke her." Ahsoka nervously said, hesitantly reaching out to take her arm.
It seemed to do the trick as the contact broke Barriss out of her daze, her blue eyes gazing at Ahsoka's own blue eyes, still trying to process what she experienced.
"...What just happened?"
"Sooo~ to sum things up, we got together and tried things out after Mortis."
"And Ahsoka here suggests opening this up," he motioned between them, "with you."
"To prove that, I kissed him and then I kissed you." She then blurted out. "Please don't get mad."
The silence was soon killing them, due to Barriss processing it all.
The human and Togruta talked about this and the worst-case possibilities of what may happen. That Barriss would feel betrayed and hurt by what they were doing behind her back. How she would jump to conclusions and not speak to them for a long time. How it may all lead to her breaking apart after what she went through to the point of severing her connection with them.
So much and more were brought up for the ramifications.
The silence was killing them.
But something unexpected happened.
"I wanted to do it first." Barriss abruptly said, pouting.
Both Ahsoka and Peter stared at her, almost not believing what they were looking at.
"Wh-what?" Ahsoka managed out with a giggle. "What do you mean by first?"
"Don't you remember?" Offee had her hands on her hips. "I told you after Jabiim I wanted to see where these feelings I had for you and Peter led to. I was the one who told you this first."
"Wait…" Peter held up a hand, struggling slightly to hold back his laugh. "Are you… are you jealous that Ahsoka and I started our relationship first? Before you did?"
"I wanted to do it first." Barriss said again, almost childishly. "Or I wanted it for the three of us to do this, start this together. Just didn't expect her to beat me to the punch."
"Well, we're together now, aren't we?" Ahsoka jokingly asked.
Barriss let out an uncharacteristic 'hmph', crossing her arms and turning away from the two in an overly dramatic fashion.
Now Ahsoka and Peter couldn't contain their laughter, much to the annoyance of the Mirialan.
"It's not fair."
"Hey, I took you out on a date, didn't I?"
The Togruta in the room whirled to Peter with a surprised and annoyed expression. "You took her out on a date?"
Surprise soon morphed into a cheeky expression on the Mirialan padawan's face once coming to a quick realization. "Huh, it seems I got that one before you Soka."
"Hey, that's not-" Ahsoka then paused, a mischievous smile appearing. "How's about this instead?"
She pulled Barriss close, wrapping her arm around her hip. "How's about you and I go out for ourselves, leave Peter in the dust to think about the two of us all alone with him.
"That may be a great idea."
"Then," Barriss reached out, taking Peter's hand to pull him towards her and Tano. "The three of us can have a proper outing. Making it triple official between us."
Peter was still unsure about all this but Ahsoka nodded happily, pecking Barriss on the cheek.
"I think that's a lovely idea." She said, soon mirroring her friend's action and kissing her cheek. "Don't you agree, Peter?"
"I'm still trying to understand how this happened." Peter admitted. "I mean… I've never been in a relationship before, you know? To jump into this-"
"It'll be something for all of us to discover together." Barriss said resolutely, taking Ahsoka's hand and Peter's. "Not just simply having it go on. We have to talk it out. Keep working through it day in and day out. If talking won't work, then we will just do what feels right. And right now, I can say this without reservation after so long. I love you both so much and I want to spend the rest of my life discovering what we can be."
"Aw, Barriss." Ahsoka leaned her head against Offee's. "I love you too."
Barriss giggled girlishly upon hearing that and now both Padawans face Parker, who jerked slightly at their gazes.
"Ah come on, that's not fair. Now you're just ganging up on me again." He whined though not with much legitimacy.
"Hmmm, I quite like it." Ahsoka said with a smug look. "Now we have a tool to use against you."
"Ahsoka, we are Jedi." Barriss admonished lightly. "We can't abuse such tools against our dearly beloved."
Peter brightened slightly upon hearing that.
"But with that said," She turned to him with an expectant gaze, causing him to falter.
"Ah, you guys just aren't playing fair right now."
"Not in this instance." Offee freely admitted.
With a wistful but amused sigh, Peter took one hand from them both and pressed his lips against both of them. He enjoyed the tingling they both had, the goosebumps forming as he pulled away and stepped in to wrap his arms around them.
"Barriss Offee, Ahsoka Tano-"
"Why does she get to go first?"
"I love you both with my heart and soul."
"And we do too." Barriss murmured, kissing him followed by Ahsoka before the three of them simply stood there, holding each other in their arms.
Sharing will be truly strange for them. Not towards the same person, but each other.
It'll take time for Barriss to really consider such a thing. She already accepted the feelings she bore towards Peter and vice versa, yet the ones with Ahsoka were rather surprising in the most unexpected way.
She just never thought that it would happen but it did. And in return, Ahsoka developed the same feelings for her as she did for Peter.
It'll just take time to get used to this kind of relationship, one that greatly goes beyond breaking one of the rules of the Order.
She can still recall how Mak and Kass admitted their feelings for each other. Not a day goes by of them worrying for their safety. Them questioning her about thinking the same for those she cared for.
And they were right.
Barriss would fight thick and thin for them. For they were her anchor in these troubling times.
When she returned from the Citadel, they were the only truest form of peace that she was able to gain after her traumatic mission. Every time she needed to soothe her heart, when Master Luminara wasn't enough, Peter and Ahsoka were there for her.
And she would be there for them at any time in any instance.
She had much to think and meditate on once they left to rest for the night.
But for now, she was happy being with her dear friends and new lovers.
"Brother, why come here?" The larger of the two Zabraks inquired, gazing up at a palace shrouded in a dark mist.
One was a foot taller than the other, more intimidating even in appearance with size and stature. Yet the shorter one was more menacing with the power he held within.
Both had similar facial tattoos, one with yellow skin and brown markings whilst the shorter had blood-red skin with black tattoos.
Other than their facial makeup, both of their eyes were acidic yellow with red faintly bleeding out.
This was Darth Maul and by his side was Savage Opress.
Or rather, formerly Darth, going by Lord Maul now having abandoned the ways of the Banite Way of the Sith and embracing something better.
"There is an opportunity to be had here, dear brother." Maul stated, glancing back at him. "Opportunity for ourselves and our future. One that I will educate you on and strengthen your mind."
Savage held skepticism but nodded all the same.
For Maul, it was surprising to discover he still has family here in the galaxy. Those who share his bloodline back at Dathomir.
Through their first meeting, the former apprentice of Sidious learned a number of things from his relative. How he was cast aside by his replacement -this Lord Tyranus- from messing up on a mission. How he was sent by Mother Talzin to find him to learn more about the Force and become a better wielder of the Dark Side.
Maul was well aware of the war that had begun, knowing that his former master's plan had begun enacting the final seeds of the grand plan Darth Bane put forth a millennia ago.
But to him, that no longer mattered. He was here with a new goal in mind, a new mission.
One of a grander purpose and his followers that came with him will do their duty in making it come to fruition.
For the taller Zabrak, discovering he had another brother still alive and breathing was a shock. Especially when it was revealed to be Maul. He could barely remember him but one memory was all he needed. The fleeting pain of seeing a young Zabrak only a year or so older than him, crying out, reaching for him as he was taken away by a figure in a black robe and hood.
That was the last he ever saw of him.
It took time for Savage to find him, utilizing the talisman Mother Talzin bestowed unto him but it was worth it in the end.
Didn't take long for Maul to see there was no deception in Savage once he spoke his tale. For shortly after, he decided to take him on as his Apprentice.
"What will we find here, Brother?" Savage asked, the pair entering the large building, Maul swatting away guards that tried to stop them.
"As I said, Savage, opportunity," Maul spoke in an educational fashion. "The galaxy has been swayed in a direction for us to capitalize on grievances and betrayals. This is just one of many stops."
"Pertaining to what?"
"Potential allies for what's to come."
They eventually reached a large set of twin doors that Maul casually pushed open with his application of the Force.
Within was a large dining table with multiple seats, a few being occupied.
At the head of the table sat a man in a lavish suit, who stood and held his arms to the side in a grand gesture.
"Ah, at long last, our guests of honor. Glad that you have made it. Welcome."
"Next time inform your guards of our arrival, Senator Deechi." Maul brusquely said. "You have bodies to clean up."
"Of course." The man said, directing some of the guards in the room to vacate and dispose of the bodies Maul had left behind.
From his point of view, Savage was able to pick up the two species in this meeting place.
The first were a group of pale humanoids with either silver, gray or no hair at all. Their leader at this meeting was one who had combed gray hair, and surrounding his near stark white eyes were some dark facial tattoos.
This was Senator Mee Deechi of Umbara.
The other group was animalistic, being a blend of canine and feline with the latter being more prominent in their species.
The one seated next to Senator Deechi was a female with reddish-brown fur, gold eyes and tanned skin.
Queen Miraj Scintel of the Zygerrian Empire.
She looked at Savage with disinterest until her eyes landed upon Maul who had been walking over to seat himself across from her and to the right of Senator Deechi.
"Now that we are here, dinner can begin." The Senator of Umbara declared. "As is the discussion you wished to have."
"Yes, I thank you for taking time out of your schedule to meet with us rather than with the cowering traitors that have betrayed you." Maul said conversationally, taking a sip of his drink in a dignified manner.
Deechi hid his displeasure, but it was noticeable with those in attendance.
"What do you mean, Lord Maul?" He tried to sound dismissive. "I know not what you've-"
"Do not play us for fools, Senator." Maul sharply interrupted him, his acidic yellow eyes piercing into Deechi's. "I've recently learned of talks and peace negotiations between the two main factions of the galaxy. Such discussions have been brought up before until this Ultron interrupted your Parliament to drastically push it aside. Now the discussions have returned with the side which you defected to intends to make peace with the government from which your people defected." Maul let out several 'tsks'. "I am no fool in understanding the anger and frustration you must hold right now, to be betrayed by two governments in such a short amount of time."
Deechi was unable to formulate a response for a good number of seconds.
All the while, Queen Miraj eyed Maul coyly, a feral smirk making its way onto her lips as she idly chewed on her meal.
A moment later, Deechi snapped, slamming his fist hard upon the table.
"Those gutless, fickle bastards!" He roared aloud, finally releasing what was undoubtedly a great deal of pent-up rage. "It is a disgraceful humiliation! I sought out the CIS so my people would get away from the Republic's filth. They voted to cooperate with my decision. And now the other senators seek to appease with those we broke away from!? The nerve of them! I would kill them all if I could!"
Maul smirked evilly at the reaction, finding it predictable and exactly what he wanted to see.
The rage was easy for him to sense. He could see it clear as day even without the use of the Force. It was in the man's eyes and posture. Consummate politician he may be, in the eyes of a fully trained Sith Lord, he might as well have been a child parading himself around as a jester.
Maul then turned his attention to the Zygerrian Queen who didn't flinch at his gaze, in fact almost welcoming it.
"And you, your highness," Maul spoke with a more candid and respectful tone now. "Your people have been oppressed -in a manner- from not continuing your long-standing prosperous practices, courtesy of the Jedi and the Republic. Yet it's sad to say the Republic is rather hypocritical in allowing such acts to continue in other sectors of the galaxy. All because of fear and hubris of those in power controlling such territories. It's that and most profiting such practices behind closed doors such as the Banking Clans being one example." Maul strokes his chin. "And is it also even more disgusting considering the backbone of their army are nothing more than expendable droids made flesh, to follow their orders to the letter without questioning it; even with the Jedi's guidance."
Miraj's eyes narrowed slightly. "Oh yes. They condemn my people for our way of life yet they have their own slave army, just so they don't dirty their own hands ever further. I would puke if I wasn't sick enough already."
The former Sith Lord leaned back in his seat, placing his hands together. "So you both understand the hypocrisy that runs this galaxy, do you not?"
Both representatives of their respective species nodded at this, Deechi glowering whilst Miraj's eyes shifted into a more predatory gleam as they remained locked onto Maul.
"I can see you're a man who understands the need for subtlety and when a direct approach is needed," Miraj remarked, eyeing both Maul and Oppress. "So I would like to get to the crux of the matter here. What is it you wish to offer us with a possible alliance?"
"Protection." Maul plainly said.
This confused not just the Umbaran senator and Zygerrian monarch, but also their protectors in the room.
"Protection? From Ultron. If so, I would love to hear how that is possible." Deechi said with a scoff. "That droid has become a mess, leaving scars across every corner of the galaxy. He seeks to destroy all life within its borders."
The former Darth hummed aloud, nodding his head.
"He is an issue to be sure, one not so easily taken care of. But I'm not talking about him. I'm talking about another problem."
Deechi and Miraj shared confused expressions, the latter asking on their behalf. "And what problem is that?"
"What is to come to this galaxy." Maul enigmatically said. "I am here as a representative for someone far greater than the powers that rule this meager corner of the universe. One who has tasked me to gain a foothold of this galaxy with the forces he has bestowed upon me."
Miraj eyed him analytically, her curiosity greatly piqued.
"What are these "forces" you speak of Lord Maul?" She asked. "Are they of an elite caliber?"
Maul didn't respond, instead placing his arm on the table, his fingers drumming against its surface. "Said forces… they will be rather hard to control with their fanaticism of cleansing."
Maul soon elaborates.
"They don't like technology all that well. They see it as an affront to their culture, due to them having a symbiosis with their native star system and colonies. Their ships and weaponry may seem archaic and primitive at first glance, but they are far more extraordinary than you could ever imagine."
They could hear the odd form of respect Maul carried for these apparent forces he governs.
"And this Master of yours…" The Zygerrian Queen slowly said. "What is his purpose? Why a foothold here? And what do you mean in this galaxy?"
"Patience, my dear queen." Maul said. "Just know that my master is looking for something very important that can change the dynamics of the entire universe when the time comes."
Miraj and Deechi shared a look, unclear as to how to process what the Zabrak just said.
"Just know this. My protection is that of being outside of my master's foothold here, his forces won't attack any of your established territories and their allies. They know of their orders and will obey our leader and myself with their utmost loyalty. They have been placed under my command and know the consequences they would face should they ever go against my word and his." Maul then rose from his seat. "Aside from the offered protection, we will share much knowledge and technology my master has accumulated over the years. A branch of cooperation to help uplift what stagnancy your people are in."
"Technology, you say?" Deechi spoke up in clear interest.
"Yes." Maul's grin was sinister. "Technology beyond your wildest dreams. Technology that will leave all others as dust and rubble in its wake."
To emphasize the point, Maul pulled out a disc and used the Force to have it come to the center of the table. Once activated, many schematics appeared for the senator and queen and their protectors to see.
"Space drives that dwarf over your standard hyperdrives. Artillery which makes standard blasters seem like flicks on parchment. Armor more durable than what many throughout this galaxy wish to have. And… a new means of interstellar travel. A means beyond the confines of this galaxy." Many jaws in the room dropped upon hearing this. "All that and more."
The shock and disbelief were palpable, to say the least upon seeing this. Even Savage held this demeanor as he had not seen this before.
"This… this is-" Deechi stammered out only to be cut off by Maul.
"One of the many benefits your people can experience if you choose to take my offer." He pulled out copies of the presented disc and used the Force to hand them over to Deechi and Miraj. "You may see them in better detail in your respective homes."
Silence fell and surrounded the room, having Maul's dinner guests digest the given information.
"You have given me much to ponder about." Said the Umbaran. "As much as I'd want to agree to this arrangement right away, I must discuss this with my government."
"Of course. They are important to the coming cause like everyone else."
As they dispersed, Maul moved to speak with his brother in private.
"Brother," Savage looked a bit unsure. "I thought they would have accepted your offer as soon as you gave it to them."
"Ah, but they did, Savage." Maul chided. "You just haven't realized it yet. Take a moment to consider their body language, their reactions, their postures, the ways their eyes moved."
Savage recalled the meeting. He soon blocked out everything else and focused more on the senator and queen.
Slowly, his eyes conveyed him connecting the dots, a look of realization dawning on him.
"You see it now." Maul approvingly said.
"They were bought in the end. They are desperate, given the present circumstances with Ultron stirring up the status quo. He is making everyone adapt or die, whether they like it or not. And for Senator Deechi and Queen Miraj, they too seek to preserve their people from extinction. You just provided them an out of that conflict and what you will eventually bring."
"Well done, my brother." Maul praised. "Well done. Contact Jorus and tell him of our meeting here."
"Of course brother." Savage bowed. "And what of you?"
The answer came in the form of Queen Miraj Scintel coming up to the pair, focusing on the red-skinned Zabrak in particular.
"Lord Maul." She greeted, a coy and predatory gleam in her eyes.
"May I help you, your highness?" Maul said graciously, nudging his head for Oppress to leave. His brother did just that, leaving the two by themselves.
"I am not one to deny a good deal when I see one." Miraj admitted, stepping closer to the former Sith. "I have already accepted the proposal and likely the rest of my empire will follow suit. But, if it wouldn't trouble you, Lord Maul, I would like to discuss things further with our arrangement at my palace."
Maul placed a hand over his chest and bowed his head. "Of course. It would be rude to refuse an audience with a woman such as yourself."
Miraj wore a smile before it died down slightly in a neutral fashion.
"There are still inquiries I seek answers to with what you've offered to me and the people of my empire. Some which I do believe they wish to know further on who we'll be soon aligned with."
"I will endeavor to inform you of every inquiry you may have." Maul said, taking her hand into his own. "I am, if nothing else, a man of principle and of my word. You will not be disappointed. I assure you."
The ravenous smile returned to the Queen's face, lust now glinting in her eyes.
"Oh, my dear Lord Maul, I do believe you shan't fail in this regard."
"Of course. I await the day of my visit to your homeworld to discuss things further."
"Do try to not keep me waiting, Lord Maul. I tend to get impatient after a while."
With that, the two parties departed, aware of the small ripple that would become a tidal wave from this alliance.
Alright then, that was easy.
Jebest4781: Much happening in the filler chapter here. Set up and recounts of what's going on. Beginnings of something new, both good and bad.
FMW: To go back to the previous chapters AN, everything in these two arc chapters was originally meant for the arc set after the GOTG one coming up next. It's just that Jeb pointed out that we had a lot and I mean a lot to cover, warranting an arc of its own, as you have all just seen. This was an arc that wasn't meant to happen but it did and thanks to our synergy, we churned it out in an instant. Really, this was a "filler" arc was character work and a lot of romance in the end.
Jeb: Things progressing for certain payoffs so we may have new developments in upcoming events and storylines.
FMW: We're in the last saga of Season 3 so a lot is needed to be set up for and concluded whilst we gear up for season 4. Oh boy, is season 4 gonna be a doozy and we still have season 3 to finish.
So thanks for reading, bet you guys are real happy we got two chapters out so quickly, huh?
Also, don't forget, Mycast, vote Angela White for Deliah Blue cause I want my boy Captain Rex to have a scorcher of a space babe. Also, I'll remind you again of my shamelessness.
Rate Read and Review and as Always Have Nice Day.