The Lover
By Izzy

By the time she was 24, Knight Padmé Naberrie had slept on countless rough surfaces, so waking on the dirt floor of a canvas tent was nothing to her. But that morning brought something else new to her: she had never before woken up pressed up against another person’s body.

She’d imagined what it would be like, especially back when she’d been 13, and would have given anything to wake up that close to her Master, Mace Windu. He wouldn’t allow it, of course, no matter how cramped their quarters got. Though one time, when she’d been 14, they’d spent one night buried in a collapsed building on a war-torn planet, and perhaps in reaction to her downright regressive behavior, that night Master Windu had been kind enough to let Padmé curl up in his arms and fall asleep that way; it was the safest she'd ever felt that year. But even then he’d extricated himself by the time she woke.

Master Windu was dead now, for just over a year, but she knew he wouldn’t have approved of her actions the previous night. He would have listened through her explanation of how the Zabrak involved had not wanted attachment from her, but only understanding and intimacy, and would have countered that by giving him such things she risked attachment. She would have argued back that it was the way of the Jedi to put themselves in danger for the benefit of others, and how was this any different from joining the beleaguered Zabrak armies on Talist and agreeing to fight on their front lines, as she was going to do later that day? What his response to that would be she wasn’t sure.

His name was Zan Yant. He’d originally been conscripted here as a medic, but things had gotten so bad on Talist that he would be with her at the front. For now, though, he slept, his arm slung over her and his breathing close to her ear.

She’d dreamed of his death on today’s battlefield last night.

What time was it? Falling asleep naked had seemed to be so little trouble when they’d done so, but now she’d have to grope for wherever they’d dropped their clothes to find her chronometer.

Mentally she reviewed the sequence of events from where she and Zan had been left alone in the tent, his tentmate having departed to spend the night with someone else the same way they were doing so, trying not to get distracted by the more...affecting...part of their content.

Well, first he’d insisted on performing some of his music for her, having even brought his quetarra out from the medical facility for the purpose, but they’d remained dressed for that part. After that, he’d carefully put away the quetarra, and she’d joined him near where he had placed it...between the bedroll and the nearer tent wall. And the first article of clothing to come off had been her belt, so it had to be there.

In the darkness of the tent, Padmé fumbled past what felt like her cloak, what were definitely his boots, and what might have been his underwear, before her hand closed around her belt pouch. She unclipped it from her belt, brought it over, and fished out the chronometer.

She’d sensed Zan waking up as she did this, but even so, it was a little startling to hear a voice saying, “Second sun’s not up yet. We’ve got time.” He often sounded like her Master. And every occasionally like one certain young padawan whom she had done her level best not to think about the previous evening. Even though she’d known from the outset that she couldn’t keep him out of her mind entirely.

She pushed them both from her mind now, put the pouch down, and settled herself in the Zabrak’s embrace, which tightened around her. The warmth she could feel coming from both his body and his heart felt good. It was still time to live in the moment, as it had been last night.

It took her a few moments to realize that Zan was singing, some odd chant which might sound better to his ears than hers, but she didn’t mind. She half listened, attuning herself to the feeling of his chest and throat vibrating and the Force passing through him.

She had wanted to do this the first time she’d had sex. But that had proved to be with a priest on a planet on the other side of the Mid Rim, back when she was still a padawan, who on learning she was a virgin had offered to ceremonially “deflower” her. Master Windu had made it clear she didn’t have to accept, but she’d done so anyway, and the favor they’d earned with the government for that had made it more than worth it.

Even if she’d disconnected herself from the priest’s presence in the Force and gone into an isolation meditation less than thirty seconds into the act, because his combination of rootless self-righteousness, thoughtless misogyny, and a downright unhealthy attitude towards sex had left her feeling ill. Jedi weren’t supposed to judge, but Padmé saw no reason to allow a man like that too near her mind. She only wondered how the young females native to the planet endured this, when they probably lacked her ability to remove significance from the physical act.

It had been enough to put her off sex up until now. But with Zan Yant she’d decided to try again, and she was glad she had. It wasn’t even the act itself, though that had been more than pleasant, but the way he’d responded to it, the openness and trust he’d given, and accepted from her. And this intimacy, this warmth, having his heart beating near her own, was what she had wanted, what she had needed, a sustenance for her life. She was the kind of person who needed to reach out and hold others, and even be held sometimes; even Master Windu had acknowledged that, the one time he’d let her rest in his arms. As a Jedi, she knew she wouldn’t have this too often, but at least she had it now.

Zan stopped singing, and asked softly, “Do you know what I was singing?”

When Padmé admitted that she didn’t, he said, “It’s supposed to be an indigenous song from the inhabitants of a planet called Ack-Lock, one of a number featured in the Symphony for Ack-Lock. The planet is known for its temporal distortion caves, and the native society evolved aware of them, and thus they view time as something not necessarily unalterable. The song’s title translates to ‘Hold the Dawn.’ In it, a young man waking up with his lover invites the spirits the early inhabitants thought controlled the caves to come to his house and freeze time, so he might lie with his beloved for eternity.”

Padmé felt her heart break for her companion as he spoke. Why is he here? she wondered. Why is such a beautiful being likely to die here on Talist, killed by someone who probably won't even know his name, might not even notice he existed? Why is he here where they can’t even let him stay in a medical facility, where he ought to stay if he was here at all, which he shouldn’t be?

She wanted to ask him, or anyone, why he was here. But ultimately, she knew, there was no answer to that question.

Above them, the light filtering through the cloth of the tent grew, and the material was transparent enough for Padmé to see the low red glow near the floor as the second sun started to rise.