By My Side
by: Trickster_Jaina_Fel

Disclaimer: the song (in italics ;)) is by 3 Doors Down; the characters and universe belong to George Lucas. I'm not getting anything - please don't sue.

Summary: Two old friends meet after a long separation before a dangerous mission. Will they be given another chance?

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{Jaina's POV}

I stared at the mug of hot chocolate in front of me, trying to find something fascinating enough in the liquid that I might be distracted from what was going to happen. Finding nothing particularly mind-blowing, I sighed. I should have bought a caf - at least, that way, even if the caf was less interesting than my hot chocolate, I would have been kept more awake.

They blazed a trail I dared to run
They built this world and I have come

Two years.

Two very long years since that disastrous mission to Myrkr and nearly as much time since I had become the 'Trickster Goddess'. The memories of what had happened between then and now were nearly enough to make me sick. Being a Goddess had destroyed what was left of my life. For the sake of keeping up the appearance of my 'divine invulnerability', Kyp had sacrificed himself. Because of the psychological warfare methods, Jag had been pushed away by the necessary emotional - and often physical - distance. At times, it made me want to scream at Wedge for suggesting the Goddess idea; usually, though, I hated myself for agreeing to and starting it.

I rubbed my forehead wearily. Perhaps the upcoming mission was for the best - I could knock a few heads, blow up a Supreme Overlord or two, and then trade my Goddess robes for an anonymous Jedi tunic again. If the mission turned out the way it was supposed to - and if I survived - the war would be over. I could stop fighting and start trying to figure out what the Sith I was going to do next.

I need another, like a brother
For a cryin' shoulder

A burst of laughter from the bar caught my attention and I turned in my seat, trying to see who still had spirits high enough to laugh even after all the war's carnage. A young, red-haired woman - clearly the culprit - was looking up at a dark-haired man, grinning broadly - flirtatiously, almost. The man shook his head in amusement and gestured around the room, with something that smelled of good-natured teasing in the movement.

My eyes narrowed. Kriff, but he looked familiar! Where had I seen him before? His hair was dark and cut short, but from the way he shook his head just a little harder than necessary, I guessed that the short hairs had been long once. His black attire was neatly tailored but gave the appearance of being nevertheless comfortable. He was lean, but well-muscled, and his hand rested on a lightsaber confidently.

This could be the last time you will
Stand by my side

I started. A lightsaber? Openly appraising him now, I searched my mind for a Jedi that was insane enough to go around in a bar with proof that he was a Jedi. Kyp would have, no doubt, but other than him…

The man seemed to feel my stare, because he turned. Our eyes connected and suddenly I recognized him. It had been a year since I had last seen him and much longer since we had talked openly and honestly, but his face was one that was eternally ingrained in my memory.

He said something to his red-haired companion, squeezed her shoulder quickly, and strode over to my dim, secluded booth. Reaching me, he hesitated, then asked, "You mind?"

My mind worked slowly, numbly, but I managed to nod without looking too eager - I hoped. "Knock yourself out."

I can feel my soul it's bleeding, will you fly
With me this evening

He smiled crookedly and slid into the red leather seat across from me. I blinked at him a few times, trying to allow what was happening to sink in - trying to realize who was sitting in front of me. He had changed so much; he was not the boy I had known. But, to be fair, I was not the girl he had known anymore, either. I felt shaken, seeing him - but not seeing him. Throughout my life he had been much the same - a true and loyal friend, always there to catch me if I fell. The idea that he, too, could change was almost frightening.


He gave me an uneasy grin. "Hey."

He'd cut his hair. I wondered why. "Hey."

We both shifted, uncomfortable with the immense distance between us. The nice thing about growing up with someone was that the other person rarely seemed to be more than a whisper away.

It sure made it hard to know where to start again, though.

Sober mind time now is gone, they carved my
Body not of stone

"Who - who's the girl?" I asked finally, tipping my head toward the red-haired girl I had seen laughing with Zekk.

He glanced thoughtfully in the bar's direction. "A new pilot."

"The two of you looked close." I paused, wondering how to ask the question that was begging to be released but could be past some set of boundaries.

His gaze still hadn't left the pretty red-head with pixie features.

Ah, Sith.

Throwing my pride out the window, I asked as nonchalantly as I could, "The two of you dating?" My grip tightened on my hot mug, but I assured myself I was not jealous. Nope, I was just looking out for an old friend.

He shook his head and his eyes returned to me. "She's not exactly my type." His eyebrow twitched sardonically. "She goes by the name of Nariina."

I, having just taken a rather large gulp of hot chocolate, choked on the hot liquid and pinkened slightly. "Oh."

Nariina: Ord Mantell slang for 'promise of bliss'. Sadly enough, it was a name more and more desperate women were taking.

He smirked at my reaction, but his eyes were grim and sadness lurked within his green eyes. "Frankly, I like my women with strength and dignity."

A pretty maze emptiness, I've said the hell
With all the rest

Painfully, my mind taunted me with his expression from two years ago, when I had fried a 'Vong with Dark lightning. "I like my women with strength and dignity… Did that mean I had dropped far below any radar? That he pitied me the way he did Nariina? That stung - more than it should have.

Still, I tried to keep the atmosphere as light as possible. "Well, I had to ask." As soon as the words left my mouth I grimaced. Why didn't I just paste "I am jealous even though I have no right to be" on my forehead in hot pink, flashing letters?

He nodded pensively. "She's faced more than most, but she's as defenceless as Mon Cal jelly."

I raised an eyebrow, grateful that my little slip-up appeared to have gone unnoticed. "How so?" And why were you talking with her, anyway?

"The upcoming mission is her first."

I sipped my hot chocolate before speaking. "Girl certainly knows when to jump into the fight." I tsk-ed quietly, but felt a swell of pity for the girl.

"She's terrified to the point of nervous breakdown." Zekk offered a faint, charming smile. "I thought my resplendent humour might help calm her down."

This could be the last time you will
Stand by my side

I laughed quietly. "I don't even want to know who you targeted this time for your mockery." Realizing some of the ice between us had melted, I relaxed into my seat and looked outside at the snowstorm that was starting up. "She might not have to worry though - with this weather we might not be able to get off the ground." A corner of my mouth quirked upwards. "This one time, water got into the cracks of Jag's clawcraft and he couldn't get in. Of the entire squadron, he was the only one left behind on the routine check-up, running around and ranting like an admiral working under Vader." My lips curved into a soft smile. "Jag was none too happy about that - he loves control and being the best too much, I think. Must be a Chiss thing."

It was Zekk's turn to fidget - with a napkin, as he did not have a drink. "How is your Colonel Fel?" He seemed to be trying extra hard to keep his voice impassive.

My head whipped back to him as I realized - too late - that talking about one's (ex) boyfriend in front of another ex-boyfriend was hardly within good manners. "Jag and I broke up about a year ago," I stated bluntly, but quietly. "What with the Goddess thing…" I shrugged and avoided his eyes. "We were too different; I doubt it would have lasted even under normal circumstances, with no charades or distance."

I can feel my soul it's bleeding, will you fly
With me tonight

He nodded, not meeting my gaze. "I'm sorry."

I shrugged. "It's alright; I've had plenty of time to get over it."

We lapsed into an uncomfortable silence, the air thick with tension. Sith; why had I brought up Jag, anyway? Talk about rubbing the salt on any of the wounds I had caused him - and there had been a lot of them.

He ordered a stiff brandy and I winced. Zekk never indulged unless he was extremely edgy, which was very rare indeed. Again, I cursed myself to the other end of the galaxy and back, using words that would have made my father gape and sputter in indignation.

"So…um, how have you been doing?" I managed to squeak out when the waitress returned with his drink.

His eyes raised to mine, but he took a long drink of his brandy before replying. Kriff, how badly was I screwing this up anyway? "With what?"

With how I trampled on your heart like a self-centred, spiteful, and hormonal witch. "With the mission…the possible end of the war…" My voice trailed off.

His shoulders relaxed ever-so-slightly and I knew he had expected something a bit more personal. "There are people saying it's suicidal." He took a sip of his drink. "But the end of a war is enough to make anyone jittery."

It'll make or break us, I could almost hear him finish.

This could be the last time you will
Stand by my side

I shook my head. "I'll be grateful when this is over; I just want to try to put the scattered bits of my life back together and be normal again."

His eyes were sad. "Nothing will ever be 'normal' again, Jay. After everything we've seen, do you really believe it could?"

My hot chocolate was cold, but I swallowed some anyway. "No; I know better. I just…" I sighed. "I don't know what I want anymore."

He nodded. "I felt like that when I woke up in the Temple infirmary after the Second Imperium's attack. There's nothing more terrifying than finding your base suddenly pulled out from under you." He stared out into the storm. "I've been fighting so long, I hardly know who I am anymore."

I leaned in a little closer, feeling the old spark of kinship between us light softly, faintly. "I don't either." I stared at my hands anxiously before dredging up my courage and saying, "The Jedi will need a new praxeum soon." I left out the 'if' that was floating in both our minds. "Uncle Luke was thinking of sending out pairs of Jedi to find a good area." I swallowed, not daring to look him in the eye. My subtle offer deserved to be shut down, slapped across the room and ridiculed. I knew people - old friends, even - who would have done so without a smidgeon of guilt. Still, I hoped…

I heard him take a deep, deliberate breath before saying, "It sounds like a good idea." The air rushed against me as he slanted closer to me. Finally I raised my eyes to his. His eyes were bare centimetres away - he was closer to me now than any other person had been in what seemed an eternity - and I wasn't talking about just physical proximity.

I never felt more vulnerable in my life than I did at that moment - with the one person who really, truly knew me searching my eyes. I held my breath, wondering what he saw, whether I could ever rebuild what I had lost.

He blinked at last, and I took a shuddering breath as the connection became two-way and, as vulnerable and revealed as I had been, his eyes told me all I needed to know. Tentative warmth trickled into my soul, flowing more rapidly as something passed between us - hesitant, yes, but real. True.

Something to build a mutual foundation on.

I can feel my soul it's bleeding, will you fly

With me this evening

He smiled cautiously and slid out of the booth; I mirrored his movements. "I hear the base has an old, out-of-order simulator that the mechanics can't - or don't have time to - fix. Want to go show them how it's done?"

I smiled. "What are we waiting for?"

We walked out of the bar arm in arm. It wasn't hand-in-hand, like it would have been once before, but I was more than alright with it. It was a start, an invitation, and a second chance - something I could work and build with as best as I could.

What else could any of us do?

It was time to rebuild.

This could be the last time you will
Stand by my side
I can feel my soul it's bleeding, will you fly
With me this evening

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