Description: Tenel Ka changes after a trip to her homeworld of Hapes, and Jacen Solo comes to some realizations about his feelings for his long-time friend.
Disclaimer: The characters, events, etc. in this story belong to Lucas Films Ltd., not me, and I am receiving no sort of payment for this work. Spoilers: Young Jedi Knights series
Jacen Solo stood nervously on the landing platform of the Jedi Academy on Yavin IV, anxiously waiting for The Rock Dragon, the ship of his dear friend and fellow Jedi Knight, Tenel Ka Chume Ta'a Djo, to land. Tenel Ka had been on a six-month vacation to her homeworld of the Hapes Cluster, of which she was the princess. Still, regardless of her high position on Hapes, Tenel Ka usually chose the warrior ways of her mother's home planet of Dathomir. She dressed in lizard hide armor, and wore her long, red-gold hair in intricate warrior braids. Jacen had always been intrigued by the warrior girl, and had found her to be a good friend and easy to talk to. Also, Jacen was on a constant mission to make the seemingly humorless Tenel Ka laugh. However, he hadn't been able to talk to her much while she had been gone, and Jacen missed her constant companionship. During the first couple of weeks while Tenel Ka had been away, she and Jacen had talked everyday, but soon every time he had tried to contact her, she had either been too busy to talk, or wasn't home. By the last month, they weren't speaking at all. Jacen felt a little bit of nervousness as The Rock Dragon went into the final landing stages. What if Tenel Ka had somehow changed since the last time he had seen her? He had missed her like crazy while she had been away from the Academy, and he wasn't sure he'd be able to handle any major changes in their friendship.
Slowly, the door of The Rock Dragon hissed open, and Tenel Ka stepped out. Much to Jacen's surprise, the young warrior girl bounded off her ship, ran to Jacen, and threw her arms around him. Arms. Due to the initial shock that Jacen felt when Tenel Ka had shown such an uncharacteristic display of emotion, he almost hadn't noticed that she had two arms now. The last time he had seen her, Tenel Ka had had only one arm, since she had lost her left arm in a lightsaber accident. She had vowed then that she would never get a bionic arm to replace it. Now suddenly she had changed her mind? Jacen pushed her away and grabbed her left hand. "I thought you had decided not to get one of these," he said, his voice sterner than he had meant for it to sound. He knew it was selfish of him, but he was upset to see that Tenel Ka had changed at all, even if it was something that could probably make her happy.
"What, no 'hello, how have you been?' No, 'I really missed you, Tenel Ka?' Just a, 'what are doing with two arms?" Tenel Ka replied with mock annoyance.
Jacen forced one of those infamous Solo grins and tousled his already scruffy hair. "Sorry. Hello, Tenel Ka, how are you?" he asked. "I missed you very, very much."
Tenel Ka glanced down at the ground. "I missed you, too, Friend Jacen," she said, almost inaudibly.
"So why did you decide to replace your arm?" he asked again.
Tenel Ka sighed, but gave him somewhat of an answer. "Devin talked me into it," she replied.
"Devin?" Jacen asked, "Who's Devin?"
Just then, a young man walked off the Rock Dragon. He was tall and muscular with sandy blonde hair and bright blue eyes. "That's Devin," Tenel Ka explained as she turned around and smiled warmly at the young man.
Jacen felt his whole body bristle as he saw that smile cross Tenel Ka's usually straight lips. What was so great about this Devin guy that she could smile at him but never Jacen? Exactly how much had she changed while she was away? Trying not to read anything into the situation, since she had, after all, seemed rather happy to see him, Jacen asked, "So, ah, Devin, what brings you to Yavin IV?"
Devin gave Jacen an almost cold smile. "You must be Jacen Solo," he said with what Jacen could have sworn was an air of smugness, "Tenel Ka mentioned you once or twice."
Jacen kept his facial expression as cool as possible. "Funny that she never mentioned you before," he said. "But that doesn't answer my question."
"No, I guess it doesn't," Devin said. Then he wrapped an arm around Tenel Ka. "I came to Yavin IV because the princess here thought I might have some Jedi potential."
"That would be nice," Jacen said, although he didn't mean it one bit. Then without another word, he gently pulled Tenel Ka away from Devin, wrapped his arm around her waist, and walked with her back to the Main temple of the Jedi Academy.
Jacen could hear his twin sister Jaina and Tenel Ka talking the next morning as he approached the dining hall for breakfast. "Devin seems really sweet," he could hear his sister saying. "I'm glad he's going to stay at the Academy."
Jacen rolled his brandy-brown eyes as he approached the table where he and his friends usually sat. That Devin guy did have to be Force strong, didn't he?
Jacen felt almost nauseous as he saw Tenel Ka smile one of those rare smiles that he only seemed to have when she was thinking about Devin. "Yeah, I'm really glad he's staying, too," the young warrior girl said dreamily. As soon as Jacen sat down beside her, Tenel Ka's face quickly switched back to her normal stern Dathomirian gaze. "Hello, Jacen, my friend," she said.
"Hey, Tenel Ka," Jacen replied, flashing her one of his lop-sided grins.
"Morning, Jace," Jaina said from across the table.
"Good morning, Sis," Jacen replied.
Tenel Ka looked up at Jacen, and she looked like she was about to say something, but before she could, the Solo twin's friend Raynar Thul walked in with a hurt animal that he wanted Jacen to take a look at. By the time Jacen returned, Devin had come to the table and taken Jacen's seat beside Tenel Ka.
Feeling dejected, Jacen sat down next to Zekk, who had also joined the group since Jacen had left. Zekk glanced at Devin and then gave Jacen a sympathetic gaze, understanding how this new friend of Tenel Ka's was affecting Jacen.
"So, Jace," Devin said in a tone that somehow managed to be friendly yet cold at the same time, "Tenel Ka tells me you like animals."
"Yeah, Dev, I do," Jacen replied, mimicking Devin's tone.
"That's really cute," Devin said, right before he turned back around to Tenel Ka.
Jacen found himself getting angry, but quickly forced himself to relax, reminding himself that anger was of the dark side. Jaina gave her twin brother a look of sympathy, but Jacen quickly turned away, feeling that the pity of two people in a row was more than he could handle that morning.
Later that day, as Jacen was returning to his quarters after a training session with his uncle, Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, Devin approached Jacen. "I hear you may just have feelings for Tenel Ka," Devin said.
"She's a friend," Jacen replied, really not wanting to get into this issue with Devin.
"From what I've heard you'd be interested in more than friendship," Devin pressed the matter.
"Maybe I am," Jacen replied. "And then again, maybe I'm not. Why do you care, anyway?"
Much to Jacen's surprise, Devin grabbed Jacen by the collar of his shirt and pushed him against the wall. "Because," Devin said angrily. "She's going to be mine. It would mean a lot for my family if I could win the heart of the princess, and I'm not going to let some scruffy little zoo keeper screw that up for me. Got that, Jedi Boy?"
"Yeah I got it," Jacen said as Devin let him down and Jacen dusted himself off.
"Good, now don't forget it," Devin snarled as he turned and headed down the corridor.
Jacen stormed into his quarters and fell back onto his sleeping pallet.. He felt a mixture of thoughts and emotions rushing through him, and he wasn't sure what he wanted anymore. Nothing seemed clear. He didn't want Tenel Ka to end up with a guy like Devin, but in reality, she was a princess, and he was the son of a rich bureaucrat from her homeworld. It would be the ideal political marriage. Jacen just wished more than anything that he hadn't procrastinated for so long and had told Tenel Ka how he felt about her ages ago. Then maybe he'd feel like he had more of a right to be so upset about this thing with Devin. For all he knew, Tenel Ka could be just fine with the political aspects of her relationship with Devin, if she even had a relationship with Devin. He didn't think Tenel Ka could ever love a man for the reasons that Devin wanted her for, but then again, she had changed a lot in the six months that she had been gone. Jacen couldn't be sure of anything anymore. He rolled over on his bed and stared at the wall. He felt deep down in his heart that Tenel Ka deserved better than some phony little rich kid, but Devin did succeed in the one area where Jacen had almost always failed. He could make Tenel Ka smile.
Jacen leaned against the wall of his room watching his pets. It had been a couple of weeks since his little "talk" with Devin, and Jacen's situation with Devin was quickly deteriorating. It seemed that every word that Devin said to Jacen was an insult, and Tenel Ka either didn't notice, or didn't mind Devin constantly insulting the person that Tenel Ka referred to as "my friend." Suddenly, Jacen felt the anger that had been building up inside him for months rise up to the surface. He turned around and, with the force of all his pinned up anger, punched the wall so hard that it caused his knuckles to bleed. He stepped back and stared at his injured hand. What had possessed him to give into his anger like that? Frankly, it scared Jacen to see himself like this.
Just then, Jacen heard a knock on the door to his quarters. He sighed, not really wanting to talk to anyone right now. "Who is it?" he asked after a moment of trying to calm himself.
"It's me, Kid," said the familiar voice behind the door.
"Dad?" Jacen said, surprised to hear his father, Han Solo. "Uh, come on in."
Jacen gave his father a quick hug and then stepped away, glad that unlike Jacen's mother Leia, Han was not a Jedi, and therefore could not sense all of Jacen's negative emotions. "So what brings you to Yavin IV, Dad," Jacen asked, trying to sound as upbeat as possible.
"Oh, I just had some business to discuss with Lando on Yavin, and I decided to stop by and say hey to you kids and your uncle," Han explained. Then he glanced down and noticed Jacen's bloody knuckles. "What happened?" he asked, his fatherly concern clear in his voice.
"Oh, it's nothing, Dad, really," Jacen replied, glancing down at the floor.
"It doesn't look like nothing," Han said. "Look Jacen, I may not be a Jedi like the rest of the family, but I can still tell when something's wrong with my son. Now, please, tell me what's troubling with you."
Reluctantly, Jacen decided to just go ahead and confess to Han what was troubling him. He really wanted to get this stuff off his chest, and he knew his father would understand him more than anyone else. "It's Tenel Ka," he said finally. "There's this Hapan bureaucrat guy that wants her for a political relationship, and I think she likes him, too, but I really like her."
"Gee," Han said with a warm, comforting grin, "that sounds awfully familiar."
Jacen smiled faintly. "Yeah, but I guess what worked for you and mom won't work for Tenel Ka and me," he said.
Han shook his head. "No, seeing as Tenel Ka is a Dathomirian warrior, I doubt kidnapping her and taking her to Dathomir will exactly make her fall in love with you," he said, regretting that there was nothing he could do to help his son.
"Maybe I should just step back and let Devin have her. I mean she is a princess; I probably don't deserve her," Jacen said softly.
"Now that's not the Solo attitude," Han said as he ruffled Jacen's hair. "If I, a lowly smuggler with no real family could marry a princess, than you, a Jedi Knight/ son of the Chief-of-State of the New Republic is definitely worthy of one."
"If you say so, Dad," Jacen said with a sigh.
"Hey," Han said as he headed for the door. "I have to go find your sister. You hang in there, okay, Kid?"
"I'll be fine, Dad," Jacen assured Han as he looked up into his father's eyes with his own.
"Yeah," Han said softly as he patted Jacen's shoulder before he turned and left the room.
Jacen fell back onto his sleeping pallet and glanced up at his ceiling and then to the dried blood on his hand. Suddenly, he knew what he had to do. Even if Tenel Ka decided she would be happier with Devin than Jacen, Jacen knew that he had to let her know how he truly felt about her. He pushed himself off his pallet and left his quarters to go find Tenel Ka.
No sooner had Jacen stepped out of the Main Temple, did he see a sight that made his skin crawl. He found Tenel Ka, but it may have been too late. She was kissing Devin.
Finally, Jacen's anger exploded. What right did this guy have to just come in and screw up Jacen's life like this. He wasn't sure exactly what came over him, if it was the Solo or the Skywalker in him, or if maybe he was just at his wit's end with this guy who had taken every opportunity to either insult Jacen or make him look like an idiot, but Jacen finally snapped. He went over to Devin and, without really even thinking, punched him. Even as he did it, Jacen knew he was giving into hate and anger, two emotions that were of the dark side, and that by doing so he was behaving in a rather un-jedilike manner, but still, he did it.
Jacen stepped back from a rather surprised Tenel Ka, who was now kneeling over a hurt Devin. She looked up at Jacen with a look of shock, hurt, disappointment, and disgust, and Jacen immediately felt a pang of guilt.. He looked at her and mouthed, "I'm sorry," before running off into the jungles of Yavin IV. Hopefully there he could find the stability and piece of mind that he once found in Tenel Ka.
Jacen Solo sat by the river where he and his friends always liked to swim, and tossed stones into the water. He couldn't believe he had acted like that. He knew that giving into his emotions would only lead him down the same dark path that his grandfather Anakin Skywalker A.K.A. Darth Vader had gone down. Jacen breathed deeply, slipping into a Jedi Meditation Trance. He hoped more than anything to clear his mind, along with all the dark thoughts that it possessed. Maybe then Jacen could think clearly for the first time in a long time.
He wasn't sure how long he'd been meditating, but Jacen was pulled out of his trance by a soft hand on his shoulder and a familiar voice calling his name. He looked up to see Tenel Ka, but quickly looked away, ashamed. The young warrior girl squatted down next to Jacen and stared at him with her cool, gray eyes. Finally, she spoke. "Master Skywalker says that it's probably going to rain soon," she told him. Then she glanced up at the ominous storm clouds forming overhead, and quickly added, "Why don't you come back to the Academy with me before you get wet, Jacen, my friend."
Jacen looked over at her from the corner of his eye. "You still consider me a friend after what I just did?" he asked.
Tenel Ka looked at him blankly, as if he had asked about the dumbest question in the galaxy. "Of course I still consider you a friend!" she replied. "Nothing could ever change that."
Suddenly, Jacen felt a wave of courage wash over him. Maybe, if he told Tenel Ka how he felt about her right now, he'd still have a chance with her. He stood up, took her hands in his, and faced her in front of him.. "Tenel Ka, there's something that I have to tell you," he said in a voice so serious that it almost scared Tenel Ka to hear it coming out of Jacen.
"Yes?" she said, wondering what had gotten into her friend.
"Tenel Ka, I love you," he admitted. "I have for a long time, I've just been too afraid to tell you."
Tenel Ka looked up at Jacen, not believing what she was hearing. Then, after a couple of seconds that seemed like an eternity to Jacen, she said, "I love you, too."
At a loss for words, Jacen grabbed Tenel Ka and kissed her with all the passion and emotion he had kept buried inside him for so long. As they kissed, the clouds overhead opened up, and a cool, refreshing rain fell on top of the young Jedi Knights. Finally, Jacen pulled away, and just looked at Tenel Ka for a long moment. Then he asked, "What about Devin?"
Tenel Ka's lip quivered just a bit, and she let out a small giggle. Soon the giggle turned into a full laugh as she said, "He'll survive."
Jacen broke into an infamous Solo grin and chuckled. Then he took her hand and they ran through the rain, back to the Jedi Academy, laughing like children.