The Stuff of Nightmares
He was at his limit again his body screaming for rest every muscle, every joint, every bone all begging at once for just a minute worth of rest and finally he listened. He stopped and dropped to his knees falling forward planting his hands on the floor to catch himself. He allowed himself to collapse this time his training was complete, for now. He had steered away from his combat training and focused on training his mind more specifically his ability to control the Force. He wanted to improve his control over the Force to enhance his abilities beyond the impressive feats he was already capable of.
She watched him because she cared for him, because she was his friend and the subject of his love as he was hers, but also she watched because the Council had asked it of her. Their true relationship was still secret kept from everyone, but their friendship was well known and he knew they had asked her to keep an eye on him and report his behavior back to them and he did not care. He wanted to become stronger, become faster, become better. He wanted to improve so he wouldn't lose like he did again.
He stood up catching his breath at least a bit of it and exhaled slowly before turning to her and forcing a smile getting one from her as a response. The worst had passed he was no longer sad over his friend's death he had mourned and dealt with it in his own way and had finally returned at least mostly to his former self. He walked over to her and cracked a joke a bad one about the cost of staring at him.
"Its ten credits a minute to stare in public" he managed to say while still catching his breath, "It's free in private".
A joke that didn't warrant a laugh or even a chuckle, but she still smiled because she knew that by saying that he was finally back to his old self.
"You don't have to keep doing this" she said calmly, but making sure her concern was noted in her tone, "You're strong enough aren't you?"
A look of sadness mixed with apology preceded his response, "No I'm not. I'm thankfully you're worried about me and I don't like making you worry, but I have to do this. The better I get".
She cut him off, "You can't do everything yourself. No matter how good you are. Eventually something will happen that's out of your control".
He nodded, "I know".
There was no one around for the moment, so she took this as a chance to hug him, a minor display of affection that carried great weight with it. She loved him and he loved her and it was because of that love, the forbidden relationship they shared that he was able to recover from his pain. He pulled away from her after a few seconds deciding to end his training for today and clean himself up, a hot shower and then he would make them lunch, unless she wanted to join him in the shower first.
She gave him a punch in the arm for that one just enough to cause him a bit of pain, but she still smiled. She recalled when she first met him and his sense of humor how it use to annoy her however in a way she enjoyed maybe because at the time he reminded her of her own master, but now she had come to enjoy his jokes even more to almost love them. She was intrigued by his passion his strength and depth of character and after spending so much time with him she had come to care for him just as he did for her.
"Don't push yourself to far" she said as they started walking, "You're no good to anyone if you collapse from exhaustion".
His breath regained its normal pace, but he was still gasping every few words completely winded from his training, "You're right" he said quietly, "Maybe I should take a break give my body a couple of days to recover".
"Leon the Council is growing concerned about your behavior".
"That's why they asked you to keep an eye on me" he answered, "Instead of coming to me themselves with some dignity they insult me by going behind my back".
"It has nothing to do with that" she told him, "Leon you know I care about you I wanted to keep an eye on you. I know what happened with Edge was hard on you he was my friend to. I just don't want to see you lose yourself to your grief" she gave him a light backhand on his chest and smiled again, "I'll gladly help you whenever you need me ok? So don't think you have to do everything alone".
She expected him to make another joke about "helping him" probably some innuendo about spending more private time together and was already prepared to jab him for it when he did.
"Thank you Ahsoka" he said regretfully.
He arm loosened and she unlocked her elbow.
"I'm sorry for worrying you so much really I am".
"You can make it up to me by making me dinner".
He bowed to her as much as his strained body could manage, "By your command milady" he grinned widely and evilly, "And perhaps afterwards we can retire back to my room for some alone time".
She raised her arm quickly thrusting her elbow out catching him in the stomach of course she wasn't mad at him or anything it was just her way of showing her affection while being a bit flustered plus he did deserve it, although she should have hit herself for thinking he would be serious for once.
"When this war is over" he said after a while, "And we bring peace back to the galaxy. I'm going to go back home…to Dantooine".
"Why?" she wondered, "Why not just stay here and open a restaurant or something? You'd probably make a lot as a chef".
He shook his head, "No…Well I would, but I don't think I would want to. Coruscant is too noisy too busy. Dantooine…it's nice and quiet".
She stopped when he did and the two made eye contact again. There was that look, that look in his eyes the sincerity the vulnerability and the passion. The look that had stolen her breath and movement so many times in the past, she loved that look now, but at the same time it frightened her. That look was always accompanied by longing and sadness telling her that something was on his mind something he was hesitant to voice even to her.
"What is it?" she asked him.
"Would you go back with me?" he asked.
She had to hold herself back from answering right away, "I want to say yes…but the Order has been my entire life. I'm not sure if I could just walk away from it. Not right now at least" she smiled at him again, "So ask me again when the war is over".
The look in his eyes vanished being replaced by a small smile, "All the more reason to make it end sooner".
"Ah there you are Snips".
Anakin walked over to them a rather quick walk looking Leon over as he stopped next to them, "Getting any better?"
"Want to find out?" he asked back.
"Maybe after you've trained some more" Anakin replied with a chuckle, "You know that way you'll have a chance at least".
"Oh you're funny" Leon grinned cracking his knuckles, "You want to test that theory?"
Ahsoka jabbed him with her elbow again and he hunched a bit, "Argh, harpooned again" he coughed.
"Is something wrong?" Ahsoka asked Anakin as Leon stumbled away a few steps massaging his gut.
Anakin shook his head, "Probably. We received a message from Liliana she's on her way here. She said she finally has information on the final goliath".
Leon's fake stumbling ended and he slowly stood straight, "How long until she gets here?"
"An hour maybe two" Anakin answered, "She said she'd be heading straight here so I was on my way to tell the hangar she has permission to land".
"This will be the last one" Ahsoka noted, "Considering how powerful the other two goliaths were I can't help, but wonder if we'll even be able to contend with this one".
"Well hopefully Liliana's findings will help us discover a weak spot" Anakin said, but basically agreeing with her, "I'll be sure to contact you when she arrives".
Ahsoka looked to Leon after Anakin left she didn't have to sense the thoughts running through his mind she already knew them.
"Let's go get some lunch" she told him, "We can worry about whatever it is later".
"Yeah" he answered, "That sounds good. I'm going to grab a quick shower first I'll see you there in about twenty?"
"Alright I'll be waiting" she answered, "Leon" she stopped him, "I'm here if you need me".
His back was to her, but she could see the corner of his lips curve into another smile, "Thanks, but don't worry too much. Edge gave his life for mine I'm not going to go throw it away any time soon".
He walked away meaning what he said he was still angry over Edge's death, but he wasn't going to go throwing his own life away. It had taken him time to understand why Edge sacrificed himself, aside from completing the mission he was going to die anyway; his injuries were too severe so he had to try. He succeeded, Leon knew he did, but it didn't make him feel any better as long as a single one is lost there is no victory that's what he believed that's what he strove for.
Edge gave his life to complete the mission to ensure that the monster the Separatists called The Judge would never see another battlefield again and at the same time he saved a Jedi and a friend, there really was no better way to go. He could hear Edge saying that to him somewhere in his mind.
"If the time ever comes where I go down. You can bet your ass that I'm going to take down as many as I can with me".
He smiled when he remembered Edge saying that to him. There were only four members left in Titan squadron. Officially they were part of Torrent Company under the command of Clone Captain Rex and Jedi General Anakin Skywalker, but Leon was given permission to command his own team after they had proven to be so successful when together in the field. Now there were only four left including Leon himself, four out of six it was only two, but no one was more important than another.
"The next one will be for Edge" Baron had said now the ranking member of the team.
"I'm going to blow up a tank in his honor" Chip laughed, "No wait an entire fortress, that's more like it".
"Now that's a plan I can get behind" Boulder chuckled, "We'll give him a big send off in the way that only we and a hundred pounds of explosives can".
Leon stepped out of the shower drying himself off with a towel as he stood in front of the steamy mirror, "I need a haircut" he said to his own reflection looking at his wet matted down reaching down to his eyes.
He ran his hand up his face and over his scalp, "Alright Edge" he said to his reflection, "I'll take over from here".
Dried off he changed into a clean set of brown jeans and the same white sleeveless jacket he always wore and made his way to the cafeteria. Ahsoka was waiting for him as planned sitting alone at one of the tables.
"I wonder how Thalia is doing" she said out of the blue as he walked over to her, "I think about her sometimes".
"I have to" he admitted sitting across from her, "Part of me wanted her to stay, but to be completely honest she wasn't cut out to be a Jedi".
"You think so?"
He nodded, "She had the ability to be one, but she's like me she would refuse to restrain her emotions and…I don't want to say it, but she wasn't strong enough" he leaned back in his seat, "I miss her of course…I've been thinking about the Code a lot lately. Strength isn't the Jedi way it's not something we should actively seek…then how are we supposed to be guardians of peace? We can't guard or protect anything if we don't have the strength to do it so we have to be strong we have to have strength or we can't do our job".
"I've sometimes wondered that as well" she admitted, "Just before my training was complete and I was assigned to be Anakin's padawan I asked Master Yoda why we shouldn't seek strength when we so obviously need it to protect the peace of the galaxy. He said strength isn't something a Jedi should have to rely on".
"Which doesn't make any sense" Leon pointed out, "Otherwise Jedi would never fight, ever".
Ahsoka nodded, "He said something about gaining knowledge not power".
"Well the code also says emotions are bad" Leon said with a mocking grin, "If that's the case I must be the most evil being in the galaxy by now".
She grinned as well, "Ever since we…" she looked around making sure they were still alone, "Ever since we admitted how we felt to each other I've been thinking about the code a lot. I still believe in the teachings, but there are parts that now…they don't make any sense at all" she smiled and shook her head.
He leaned forward and grabbed her hand, "There are parts of the Code I want to believe in. Most of it doesn't make any sense to me, but there are parts I want to believe in" he looked her in the eyes and smiled that same smile that froze time when she saw it, "When I'm with you I realize it doesn't matter because I understand what's important".
She pulled her hand away blushing and smiling wondering so many things all at once. She was quiet for a bit unmoving actually and then she shifted in her seat.
"I wonder what would happen if they knew" she muttered, "About us".
"Would it really matter?" he asked her then answering his own question, "Well yeah I guess it would. I want to say I don't care what would happen, but it wouldn't be true. Its weird, when I first came here I was nervous and excited I was going to be a Jedi, but now…it doesn't seem as great as it was back then".
"The reality of war I guess" she noted, "It's probably a good thing that Thalia didn't stay. I miss her to, but considering what happened to her over Ruusan. I didn't think it would be possible to be so in tune with the Force that something like that could happen".
Leon nodded, "That was one of the reasons I wanted her to leave war isn't something she should experience" he chuckled pathetically, "I mean look at me Coins died Edge died and I'm just now getting over it. Thalia…I don't think she would have lasted long emotionally anyway. She's probably the one person who cares more than I do".
They both remembered their friend, how she reacted over Ruusan when she sensed hundreds of clones dying at once, the sudden and overwhelming number of lives all ending at once must have sent an echo through the Force and according to Plo Koon she was in tune with the Living aspect of the Force. Something like that was remarkable for her age, but in a time of war like this there were few times it could be considered a good thing. She panicked the sudden massive loss of life struck her even caused her pain she had somehow managed to keep herself together through the battle itself perhaps because she was directly participating regardless if something like that happened once it could happen again. Thalia was their friend and as much as they missed her since she left they had to agree that war or any large scale battle wasn't something she should be involved with.
"We should go see her sometime" Ahsoka said breaking the pensive silence, "When the war is over or starting to die down or whenever. It would be nice to see her again".
He answered with a nod instead of words. It would be nice to see her again after all he had loved her once still did in fact. Ahsoka knew it to his feelings for Thalia, but she knew his feelings for her as well. She never spent much time in casual reading, but it sounded like something out of a romance novel falling for two people, but really being in love with one while just really fond of the other.
"You know what I just realized" he said once again breaking the silence between them, "My second lightsaber I built it because I wanted a second one and I made it a reverse grip and asked you to teach me how to use it" he pointed at her with a smirk, "We never got around to that".
"No" she smiled, "No we didn't. Do you really need any lessons from me though? You seem to know how to use it perfectly fine".
He shrugged, "Well put any weapon in my hand and I'll learn how to use it pretty quick" he was still grinning, "Maybe that's part of my Mandalorian blood if I'm not holding a deadly weapon I'm not happy…well unless I'm holding you instead".
She scoffed and shook her head, "I don't know why I didn't see that one coming".
He laughed a little and stood up, "Alright I need food".
She waited for him to take a few steps before grinned, "Some chef you are I've been here for an hour, the service here is horrible".
He slowly turned back to her and joined his hands and half bowed, "I'm so sorry for your wait ma'am. Let me take my time getting to the kitchen" he turned back around and began mumbling, "Try to rush me when I'm hungry, see if I make anything for you".
She giggled a little as she heard his fake rant and watched him disappear into the kitchen area of the cafeteria, there weren't a lot of opportunities for her to tease him, but when they came around she was sure to take advantage of them and if there was one thing she knew he hated it was being hungry.
"How much longer" he moaned, "Stupid transport shuttles I'M HUNGRY!"
"Too bad you lost your supply pack" Ahsoka said to him as they waited for a shuttle to pick them up after a battle, "These emergency rations are really hitting the spot right now".
His head slowly turned to her a deranged, possessed look in his eyes as he zeroed in on the ration cracker in her hand, "You're mocking me".
Slowly she raised what was left of the ration to her mouth and made sure to chew it loudly to really rub it in. She had to be sure to keep herself from choking when she laughed as he yelled and dropped to the ground to sit muttering to himself.
It was a good thing he was such a good cook because he was always hungry.
"Ahsoka" someone called to her from the doors.
She recognized the voice one she couldn't forget, "Liliana" she called back standing up and turning to the door.
It was her, the smuggler who had earned the trust and respect of the Jedi Order and her friend. Liliana ran over to her immediately embracing her and lifting her off the ground spinning her around a couple of times before setting her back down.
"You missed me that much huh?" Ahsoka said trying to laugh off her surprise.
"Maybe" Liliana replied in the same sultry tone Ahsoka remembered, "We could always find a more private room and I can show you how much I really missed you".
She shook her head, "Well you haven't changed much. How have you been?"
Liliana shrugged, "Same as always I guess. Ran into Death Watch again so you know that's a thing".
"Death Watch?" Ahsoka repeated clearly concerned.
"Don't worry nothing happened" Liliana chuckled, "I have…had a free pass when it came to them. I'm not that fond of their leader, but his lieutenant she's someone I like".
"In what way?" Ahsoka asked crossing her arms, "When it comes to other ladies you tend to…be a bit like Leon".
"Why am I hearing my name?" Leon's voice called out to them.
"Because you're not cooking fast enough" Ahsoka called back.
"Don't tempt me" he yelled back.
Ahsoka snickered a little as his voice died down and his fake ranting faded into silence.
"Well the two of you are well on your way to being a married couple" Liliana said her face completely straight.
Ahsoka's laughs died immediately and she blushed casting her eyes to the floor, "Don't say stuff like that here" she said, her crossed arms hugging each other tightly.
Liliana noticed the hesitation in her tone, "Hold on" she said her lips finally cracking into a smirk, "That's not just the normal kind of embarrassment" Ahsoka immediately looked up to her, "The two of you are together aren't you?"
Her face glowed brighter and she looked away again, "Maybe we are" she muttered.
"Well I can't say I didn't see it coming" the smuggler chuckled rubbing the back of her neck, "Of course it kind of makes me a bit jealous. Yet another pretty girl that's off the market now".
Ahsoka's face felt hot enough for her to faint she stiffened her shoulders in an attempt to bury her own head, "You and Leon are cut from the same cloth you know that. Not only do you both flirt with every girl you see nonstop you can't stop teasing me".
"Stop talking about me behind my back" Leon yelled from the kitchen seconds before a loud metallic clanging sound echoed and a yelp of pain followed shortly after.
"Focusing on not maiming yourself" Ahsoka called to him, "My private chef is useless if he's dead".
"That's it" he yelled, "I'm poisoning you're food".
Ahsoka shook her head, "Whatever" she called back.
"Did you two get into a fight before I got here?" Liliana asked the amusement written clearly across her face.
Ahsoka shook her head again, "No he's just being him. I think he gets bored when I'm not around".
Liliana leaned closer and indicated Ahsoka's curves quickly tracing her body with the tip of her finger, "With curves like yours I'm sure you can find a few ways to entertain him".
Ahsoka quickly jabbed her in the arm making her back off, "First off don't even joke like that" she said her face completely glowing now, "Secondly keep your voice down".
"I swear the two of you might as well be the same person" she sighed irritably crossing her arms, "I'm starting to think I'd have to take my shirt off just to get one of you to stop talking for a bit".
"I'd be ok with that" Leon's voice said from right next to them.
Ahsoka gasped and her normally orange skin brightened the colors of her head tails glowing a bright, vivid red, "What?" she muttered looking around and not seeing him.
Liliana reached down and grabbed her wrist lifting it up smirking as she stared down at the comlink on Ahsoka's wrist and the faint green light on it.
"No" Ahsoka muttered staring at the activated comlink.
"Yeah you're comlink has been on this entire time" Leon said quickly, "Can we go back to the whole shirtless part".
"No" Ahsoka yelled beginning to panic, "Oh no this can't be happening".
Liliana's hands quickly reached out and grabbed her shoulders holding her still, "Ahsoka calm down" she laughed, "Its fine".
"No" Ahsoka shook her head, "What if someone else heard that? Heard any of it".
"No one heard anything except Leon" Liliana told her, her voice sounding completely confident about that, "You forget who's standing in front of you" she lifted her own comlink, "Remember my scrambler?"
Slowly she started to calm down, "I hate both of you".
"No you don't" they both answered at the same time.
Ahsoka walked over to a table and dropped down into one of the seats burying her face into her hands taking deep breaths to try and calm herself.
Liliana restrained her laughter as she sat next to her, "I promise no one else heard that. My scrambler blocks any signal from traveling more than a few meters".
"Why do you have that on here anyway?" she asked her keeping her face hidden in her hands.
"I didn't" Liliana answered, "I turned it on when I realized your comlink switched on".
Ahsoka looked up a bit, peaking over her fingertips, "And that was when?"
Liliana smiled a little sheepishly, "Right as I set you down…It must have switched on when I picked you up sorry".
"Picked her up?" Leon's voice asked "Just what are you two doing out there?"
Ahsoka looked down to her wrist in the midst of her panic she forgot to switch off her comlink; "Dammit" she quickly swore slapping her hand over her wrist.
In the kitchen Leon was holding his wrist up to his mouth, "Hello?" he said quietly after hearing Ahsoka swear, "Damn" he muttered lowering his wrist, "Just as it was getting good".
He shrugged, "Oh well I'm done here anyway".
"Wow I can smell that from here" he heard Liliana say the second he rolled the small cart out from the kitchen, "Wait I smell fish" she said her voice perking up.
"Yes you do" Leon called to her picking up his pace and stopping at the table, "Lucky you I had enough to make three dishes".
"What have we got?" the smuggler asked him.
Leon smiled at her slyly, "First off, hello" his tone smooth and deep, the same tone he used on every woman he met.
Liliana smiled at him, "We really are alike".
Leon's eyes shifted to Ahsoka who was half glaring at him, "How bout that?" he asked her with the same smooth tone.
"Why me?" she groaned using her hands to hide her face again.
Leon chuckled and changed his tone as he set the food out in front of them, "What we have here" he began in a presentation like voice, "Is a Dantooinian garfish sautéed with the milk of an alcoari fruit from Kashyyyk with a side dish of Mounder potato rice a favorite companion to many Cornelian meals and to wash it down we have some Namana fruit nectar" he set the three glasses out and waved his hand over the table, "Enjoy".
"How did you know I was here?" Liliana asked as he sat down across from them.
"You turned her comlink on" Leon reminded her grabbing the fork next to him.
Liliana shook her head, "No the garfish, the Namana. Sautéed fish is my favorite food and Namana fruit is used to make my favorite wine".
Leon took a quick bite of the sautéed garfish and swallowed, the juicy meat causing his mouth to water on contact.
"Happy coincidence" he answered, "And now I know your favorite food and drink".
Liliana shook her head a little and gave Ahsoka a quick look nodding at the drinks, "Be sure not to drink that too fast. Namana fruit is known to stimulate the pleasure centers of the brains of human and near human species. It can be slightly addicting".
"Good to know" Ahsoka sighed shooting Leon a suspicious look.
"Hold on" he said his voice muffled as he quickly swallowed another bite, "Look just drink it bit by bit alright it's really good".
"Yeah it is" Liliana chuckled already a quarter through the drink.
Leon kept his eyes on Ahsoka, "Anyway it will make you feel a bit better and me…and considering what Liliana is going to be revealing to the Council later we're or at least I am going to need something to help me relax".
"So you already know then?" Liliana asked taking a bite of the sautéed garfish, "Wow this is really good".
"Thank you and yes" Leon answered, "Anakin told us and I really didn't want to hear any bad news on an empty stomach so let's enjoy lunch and then move on to the stuff of nightmares".
"There is some good news" Liliana told him taking another bite of the garfish, "Just so you know".
"Some light is better than none I guess" he sighed, "Let's change the topic until then please, I don't care what we talk about".
"Fair enough" Liliana agreed, "How about telling me where you learned to cook like this?"
"I grew up on a farm" Leon answered slowly, "On Dantooine. I started learning how to cook when I was six been practicing ever since even after I was brought here".
Liliana swallowed another bite clearly enjoying the meal, "If all your food is this good you need to open your own restaurant somewhere on Skip One in the Smuggler's Run. You'd probably be set for life after a year".
"First off" Leon began, "Yes all my food is that good. Second I don't know where that is and third don't tempt me".
"And fourth and most importantly" Ahsoka said, "I wouldn't allow it. He's already been assigned as my personal chef".
"Oh really?" Liliana chuckled, "She's got you under her spell already huh?"
Leon shook his head, "Not really. Well maybe a little".
Liliana chuckled again, "If that's the case I might have to stop by here more often then if it means getting a lunch like this".
"Yes, yes I'm awesome" Leon said with a light grin.
"You're an idiot" Ahsoka said correcting him as she continued eating bit by bit, "A great cook, but an idiot nonetheless".
Leon's grin widened, "You're just still upset over the whole comlink thing".
Ahsoka pointed her fork at him, "Don't make me stab you".
"Hey" Leon said immediately pointing at her, "Hostile work environment".
Liliana laughed again, "For what its worth I think you two are perfect for each other".
"Well I already knew that" Leon said quietly looking back to Ahsoka.
Averting her eyes she kept her attention of the food in front of her. The topic changed again beginning with Liliana recounting her latest job running what she would only refer with a sly grin as questionable products all across the Outer Rim, from Kessel to Sullust, Bakura to Felucia and their lunch continued from there until they finally finished although each of them hesitated to take that final bite and actually say they were done.
Eventually Leon stood up surprising Ahsoka and took a step away from the table, "No sense trying to put it off" he tried to smile a bit, "Let's go hear about the stuff of nightmares".
Ahsoka and Liliana got up as well and together the three of them left the cafeteria and made their way to the Council Chambers so Liliana, a smuggler that agreed to assist the Jedi's war effort could deliver her findings on the third and as far as they knew final goliath.