And Nothing Else Matters
By: Gabe Z.

By Gabe Z.

Beyond NR


I get no money for this, and George Lucas owns Star Wars. And the title is a Metallica song, cuz Metallica rules!

Takes place maybe six years after the young Jedi Knights graduate from the Academy (Thanks to Liz for pointing out the number of years for me). Jaina and Zekk get back together after a big falling out, and Jacen and Tenel Ka prepare to tie the knot.

Jacen dropped into a crouch as he took the short leap out of the dropship. He wondered incredulously how this could possibly be part of the marriage rituals on Dathomir. Tenel Ka insisted had insisted that they have a traditional wedding. Or at least traditional to her. One of the men in the village has flown the engaged couple into the forest near the village, where they would have to fend for their lives in the perilous woods.

Hell if this is going to be easy. At least I have the woman I love here to help me. She picked up on his thoughts, and cracked a small smile, a rare display of emotion.

They had been dropped into the jungle with minimal supplies. And each other. It was Dathomirian custom that if a couple was strong enough to survive for five days in the forest, they were strong enough to be married. Jacen didn't want to go through with that part of the ritual, but he had seen how much it meant to Tenel Ka, so he had agreed.

Jacen reached into his small canvas satchel. A small amount of water, a few ration cubes, and some basic catalysts for fire. But he had his lightsaber, as did Tenel Ka. That would be helpful. He had also been allowed to carry a compact, but wicked vibroblade, stashed in a holster that was partially concealed by his light vest.

Tenel Ka had packed basically the same thing, but instead of opting for a vibroblade, she had chosen a talon-like throwing knife. Jacen had seen her practice with one similar to it, and had no doubt that she would use it with great skill, should the need arise.

Jacen wore a loose fitting pair of dark green pants, a warm, but pleasant shirt that would keep in his body heat if the need arose. He also wore a black vest which concealed the shoulder holster in which he kept the knife he had taken.

Tenel Ka wore her usual lizard-skin armor, exposing her arms and legs almost entirely to the forces of nature. She wore her brilliant red hair in braids mixed with loose hairs here and there. She carried a small pack, much like Jacen's. He lightsaber was clipped to her belt, and her throwing knife was kept secure in a holster on her left wrist. Jacen had no doubt that she would be able to draw and throw it in a matter of microseconds.

Jacen considered the situation. It would be a challenge. But they would conquer the forest, and would be married in the fashion that Tenel Ka so badly wished.

Tenel Ka and Jacen briefly embraced and locked lips passionately. They stood, kissing, for several moments, before Tenel Ka broke away. "Come, we must go."

Jacen was a bit taken aback. No emotion, even after the passionate kiss they had just shared. He shrugged, but was a bit miffed. He followed her through the woods, to a place she claimed she knew would have a supply of water, and some wild fruit.

- - - -

Jaina and Zekk stood on the highest floor of the observation tower overlooking the beautiful, multicolored fields of the planet Larkone V. Jaina slipped her hands lightly around Zekk's waist and laid her head delicately on his shoulder. Zekk in turn laid his head on hers. They stood, embracing, gazing into the beautiful Larkonian sunset.

Jaina recalled everything that had happened to her in the last six months, and smiled. She had turned twenty-two barely a month ago, and Zekk had surprised her by asking her to get married. Again. They had joyfully renewed their tarnished vows, and were on the honeymoon that had never happened.

She sighed, remembering that night. She was almost seventeen, and had graduated from the Jedi Academy. She had foolishly run off to get married to Zekk, and they had returned to his quarters, and, like the two newlyweds that they were, made love. She and Zekk had stayed in a passionate embrace for hours. They had finally fallen asleep, after several hours. Jaina winced painfully as she thought of her waking, to an empty bed. Zekk had run off.

They had met later in some dark outer rim dive, about a year later. Jaina, at that point, was, to put it lightly, PISSED that Zekk had never bothered to answer any of the daily hololetters she sent his way. She had brought him back to Yavin 4, and had introduced him to Noah. The hardness around Zekk seemed to melt into intense feelings of regret for putting her into the role of motherhood on her so young. They had argued for a moment, and Zekk, uncharacteristically frightened, left in the Lightning Rod, afraid.

Jaina had cried, sobbed, for hours, crying herself to sleep. Zekk had returned, though, to face up to his responsibilities. He had comforted Jaina as they embraced through the night. He vowed never to leave her like this, that he would be a real father to Noah, not just a shadow, hated by Jaina and unknown to his son.

And he had, thought Jaina. He had resigned his bounty hunting commission to focus on his Jedi studies. He was still in training to realize his full potential, but he could be with Jaina and Noah on Yavin 4, as long as they decided to stay there.

But now wasn't the time to think about the past. As they stood, embracing, on the balcony, Zekk asked a question. "How's Jacen? I haven't seen him in a while."

"Well, he's just gotten over that you ran away from me for so long. But I think he's finally accepted the fact that you're back, and ready to be a real husband and father. But right now, I think he's on Dathomir."

Zekk smiled. "He getting married to Tenel Ka?"

"Yeah. Some strange survival ritual that he didn't want to go through with. But he'll be happy, and so will she. I just know it."

Zekk smiled radiantly down at her. Noah was being tended back at the academy by Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade. He and Jaina were alone. It was just what we needed. They embraced tighter and kissed passionately. She stood on her tiptoes to reach his lips. They drew each other tighter and held each other close for a time.

Jaina pulled away. "I'm going for a swim in the little pond in the forest out there. Care to join me?"

"Hmmm. I have to do a few things. I'll meet you there in, say, twenty minutes."

"It's a date."

- - - -

Tenel Ka rested against a rock wall as Jacen sat on a boulder across from her. He was skinning a small mammal that she had struck down with one deft throw of her throwing implement. She was cleaning some cuts that she had received on her bare legs from various shrubs and trees.

She's so beautiful. Even out here, in the jungle. She had been right about this spot. After a day's worth of trekking and hunting, they were on course to survive the test and be married.

"Jacen... I know I've told you this more times than you could count, but I love you. I've loved you for so long... ever since we were just kids at the Academy." A tear dribbled slowly down her cheek.

"I love you so much, Tenel."

She dried her cheek and finished cleaning her scratches. "It can be very cold at night. And they did not allow us to bring any sort of blanket or covering."

Jacen looked up from his distraction, a small, rodent/bird creature, with a mischievous grin on his face. "Are you suggesting that we use... body heat?"

"Indeed. Do you not wish to do so?"

"I indeed wish to do so, you do also, I gather."

Tenel Ka replied her famous phrase. "This is a fact."

Jacen chuckled. "Well, we'd better get some sleep, so we can be fresh for tomorrow."

Within fifteen minutes, the couple had prepared a bed of soft, moist leaves. Droplets of moisture ran down Tenel Ka's legs... her legs. Jacen couldn't stop looking at her athletic body... Jacen laid down on the mat of leaves. Tenel Ka leaped playfully on top of him and pressed her chest close to his. They embraced and kissed, for a time. Tenel Ka broke away, and as she fell asleep, she muttered. "I love you, Jacen Solo."

He softly whispered back as he ran a hand through her long, silky hair. "I love you, Tenel Ka."

- - - -

Jaina discarded the last of her garments as she dived gracefully into the warm pond. It was large, but it also had a quaint, cozy feeling about it. She swam a few graceful laps around the perimeter of the pond, letting the water flow over her and she dove under. Her head emerged from the water to find Zekk, watching her swim. She felt a tiny shred of self-consciousness. Had he been watching her this whole time?

She rapidly began to not care as he shed his clothing and jumped into the water. He swam to her and caressed her wet hair. She gently put her hands behind his head and knitted her fingers, drawing him close to her. They stood in the water, in a gentle embrace, for what seemed like an eternity. Zekk began to gently massage the back of her neck. She felt any ribbons of tension seep out into his firm but gentle hands. She felt herself getting sleepy. She slowly closed her eyes and began to drift into a light doze.

- - - -

"Quickly, Jacen! Stab it behind the front right leg!"

Jacen acknowledged by strafing to the right as the vicious nerflike creature to and jabbing his blade into the flank to the creature. He hollered in pain as the creature was able to sink one of its horns into his side. The creature, gravely wounded, howled ferociously. Tenel Ka withdrew her lightsaber and quickly cut the creature in two.

"Jacen, you are hurt! I must tend your wounds."

Jacen winced. He didn't want to show that he was in pain. But it was obvious that he was not fine, by the large red stain and torn cloth over his side. Tenel Ka slowly laid him to the ground and stripped off his outer shirt and tattered undershirt. She couldn't help but linger over the hardened muscles that comprised his abdomen. But she had more important things to do. She splashed some fresh water over the would, eliciting a pained moan from Jacen.

"Do not worry, Jacen. I will heal you. We will survive."

Jacen heard the words, but he did not acknowledge. He knew in his heart, however, that her words rang true. Their love would sustain them through this ordeal.

Tenel Ka had torn apart his undershirt to fashion a makeshift bandage and tourniquet to stop the bleeding. He found that the pain was so great, it almost felt good. He knew that it wasn't right. He gently drifted off to sleep, lovingly tended to by his bride-to-be.

- - - - Jacen awoke to the dull feeling of pain. He grimaced as he risked a glance at the wound. It had stopped bleeding, but the blood had congealed on his skin, making an uncomfortable sticky film around his torso.

Tenel Ka had apparently been awake for some time. She was preparing a morning meal, and was attempting to create a new bandage to replace the blood-soaked undershirt. "Ah. Aha. You are awake. How do you feel?"

Jacen grimaced. "Not good. Still not strong enough to pull the ears of a Gundark, but maybe a Taunton..."

She broke into one of her rare smiles and smacked him playfully on the forehead. She suddenly returned to her emotionless state and began to redress his wound. Slowly peeling away the undershirt, she saw his face contort in pain, but he said nothing. She felt so bad for him, inside.

As she replaced the bandage, she laid out the objectives for the day. "We should find a new place to stay. We need to find fresh food, but our water supply is good. Can you stand?"

He nodded, and began to pry himself painfully from the ground. Stumbling ever so slightly, he stood up straight.

"Good," murmured Tenel. "We should go now."

Jacen just nodded. The pair moved on, Jacen leaning for suppor on Tenel Ka's shoulder.

- - - -

Zekk ate with gusto, while Jaina ate more slowly, but with no less enthusiasm. Zekk finished his meal about ten minutes before she was done.

"You know, Zekk, I've been thinking. What do you think we should do once you finish your tenure at the Academy? Where will we go? What will we be doing?"

Zekk, caught off guard by the question, pondered for a moment. "I have quite a bit of money left from my hunting days. We could move to Coruscant, get a place. I've been thinking about becoming a starship mechanic."

Jaina smiled, knowing that if he did, she probably would become a mechanic also. "We could start our own shop, you know, do the work ourselves."

Zekk nodded. He paid for the meal, and as they exited the tapcafé, Jaina hugged him firmly. "Oh, Zekk, of all futures, I think I like that one best!"

- - - -

"Jacen, we have completed our test."

He looked up into the brightly lit room. It appeared to be a medical facility of some sort. "Where are we?"

"We are on the Millenium Falcon."

Jacen's eyebrows raised up a fraction of an inch. "My dad... came to get us?"

"Yes. He arranged something with the officials to be able pick us up, and they let us go on the record as completing the challenge."

"I don't remember much..."

"You were hit by a falling tree branch. You have spent the last twenty eight hours unconscious."

His cheeks turned red. "I'm sorry I had to burden you like that..."

"Think nothing of it."

"Tenel Ka, will you still marry me?"

"Yes. Jacen Solo, I would love to be your wife."

- - - -

Jaina and Zekk arrived back on Yavin 4, only to be greeted by Jacen and Tenel Ka Solo. Shouts of joy and congratulations echoed from Zekk and Jaina. Jacen turned to find a familiar figure striding in their direction.

"Master Skywalker?"

"Jacen Solo? Is that you? Did you survive?"

"Well, I suppose so. I'm here, right."

Luke laughed.

"Luke, there's something we'd like you to do..." Jacen trailed off.

"Say no more. I know."

- - - -

The next day, in the grand hall of the Massassi temple on Yavin 4, Jacen Solo and Tenel Ka'chume Djo were wed. Luke performed the ceremonies, and the audience was stirred by the passion of the ceremony. Jaina embraced Zekk lightly as he rested his head on her shoulder. Mara Jade wiped a tiny tear from her cheek. Even Lowie, with his girlfriend, Karrallra, were there, tenderly holding hands and rubbing noses.

As Luke concluded his speech, he ended by saying, "Jacen Solo, Tenel Ka Solo, may the Force be with you. Always. You may now kiss the bride."

Jacen and Tenel Ka embraced and kissed, passionately, for what seemed like an eternity. As Jacen broke off, he whispered. "Tenel Ka Solo, we love and have each other. And nothing else matters."

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