A Heritage of Power 3: Jay's Story 3:
A Triad Formed?

by Fur and Fantasy
NC-17 for M/F and M/M
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

Jay took a breath and tried to catch himself as his telekinetic grip on himself began to slip. He twisted his body as he recognized his landing zone would be the small lake he had been flying over so he'd dive instead of crash. No guarantee he'd survive, but at least it increased his odds of getting out of this with only a few broken bones and not become a blood-slick on the calm water.

The fall was just long enough to give him time to wish he'd told somebody what he was going to be doing, or at least where. His body wrenching painfully as he hit the lake. He could almost name each bone that he felt break, fracture, or dislocate, his body burned with pain; he'd made better dives before. Of course, it wasn't like he usually dove from over two stories into one of Coruscant's decorative lakes without setting up for it to be a dive first. He managed to get to the surface, gasping for breath and trying not to black out as he struggled for the shore and didn't even think as his mind howled for his Master in desperate self-preservation.

The blood in his mouth, breathed into his lungs, leant a metallic tang to his awareness he hoped he'd never know again. He felt something hard and technological press against him, helping him get to shore before his body submitted to its damage and the knowledge that his speeder wouldn't let him drown.

He offered a small prayer to Bastet and the Gods of his youth to let him live past his first year as a Padawan before he blacked out.

Jay's mind whimpered as memories of his last few conscious moments replayed themselves to his gradually increasing awareness. Obviously someone, or maybe his speeder, had gotten him back to the Temple. No hospital smelled, or felt, like it.

"*Jay? How are you feeling?*" Master Essani's mental voice, the concerned tone of it and her familiar scent, were a comforting presence. Her question also raised an odd point; he was feeling a lot better than he was supposed to given how badly he knew he'd hurt himself.

"*Better than I should be.*" He managed to focus enough to reply, his eyes unwilling to open just yet but his mind starting to come around.

"*You have Padawan Shivasta to thank for that,*" the kushiban said softly. "*What were you doing? I've seen people attacked by kath hounds who were in better shape than you were!*"

"*Flying,*" he murmured silently, the slight jumble of mental images with it telling her exactly what he'd been doing, and that it wasn't the first time, just the first time it had gone wrong. "*Hit the lake, bad angle.*"

"*We'll have to talk about this later,*" Essani sighed mentally and reached out to brush his shoulder with her paw. "*You need to rest; we've fixed the worst of the damage, but your body still needs to recover.*"

"Most Masters can't do that!" A light feminine voice gasped in shock in the physical world, drawing Jay more fully into it.

He grudgingly opened his eyes, and focused on the indistinct form above him before blinking a couple times. Sky blue skin, perfectly smooth and soft, framed deep blue eyes that he could easily get lost in.

"*Rest, Jay,*" Essani insisted gently.

"*Yes, Master.*" He murmured and let his eyes close to drift off again.

"*Padawan Shivasta,*" Essani said to the young woman mentally, "*please keep an eye on him? I'll speak to your Master about it.*"

"Yes, Master Essani," she nodded, gently brushing her hand across the tangle of deep red hair of Jay's forehead that cover fur of nearly the same shade. "Do you want me to call you when he wakes up again?"

"*Only if I need to make him stay here,*" the kushiban said, shaking her head as her fur started to return to its normal white from the deep grey it had been since she'd heard Jay's mental scream and brought him back. "*Thank you, Padawan.*"

"I understand, Master Essani," Shivasta bowed deeply to the small Jedi. "I will see to his care."

Jay murmured, a soft, indistinct sound as he drifted awake, sharply aware of the absence of his Master.

"Feeling better now?" A vaguely familiar voice said to him.

"A hell of a lot better than I should," he answered as he struggled to piece together what had happened since the moment of stark terror when he realized he was going to hit something hard.

"You just about said that before," the blue-skinned young woman smiled. "Do you remember waking up last time?"

"Vaguely," he cracked on eye open before getting them both to focus on the blue face that had been over him before. "Mostly Master telling me to rest after she was sure I was alive."

"She wasn't the only one who wasn't sure you were going to stay that way. I'm glad I was able to help you as much as I was, though Master Essani wasn't going to let you go before your time without a fight. If I hadn't been able to heal you, she would have."

"Sounds like I'm in for a couple lectures, not just the one on doing stuff too early," he chuckled weakly, his eyes taking in her sleek, smooth skin, the eyes he definitely remembered now, the way she had her long, thick hair in several large, loose braids the color of her eyes... and the white ice-storm tattoo on the left half of her face. That marking type that was unique to the handful of races that didn't have fur. All in all, she made a striking statement in cool, calming, blue. "Thank you."

"Probably, though they're well-meaning ones," the young woman smiled. "Padawan Shivasta, in case you can't remember," she added, reaching out to take his hand in her slender one and give it a gentle, friendly squeeze that he returned reflexively. "You can call me Shi, if you'd like."

"Thank you, Shi," he smiled at her, a bit of concern in his eyes. "Was she mad, or just upset I got hurt?"

"Concerned," she answered easily. "I don't think anybody's seen her fur that deep a grey in a long time; she was worried about you, that's all."

"I never meant to worry her," he sighed softly, then cracked something of a self-effacing grin. "Never meant to hit the water like that either."

"I should hope not!" Shi chuckled. "You're the same Jay who hotwired his training 'saber a few years back, aren't you?"

"Yeah, that was me," he chuckled a bit, increasingly grateful that he was only a little muscle and bone sore now. "The first of too many lectures about not trying things before it's time."

"Well this one'll earn you another," she chuckled. "Though that you managed it well enough to get into any trouble is actually kinda surprising; a lot of Masters can't really fly."

"Probably because they don't bother to," he gingerly stretched his lean body without moving much. "I've got flying in my blood. It's just too interesting a possibility not to pick up."

"Well, the lecture this time will probably include a 'have somebody watch you' attached to it," Shi smiled. "Though I'll bet it was very impressive until you lost it."

"Not really," he smiled a little sheepishly. "I've barely got to the 'moving as fast as I can walk' stage. Nothing like what my goal is."

"Considering what happened as fast as you were going, that's probably a good thing," Shi pointed out. "So, what is it you're up to when you're not trying to prove that gravity isn't something to be worried about?"

"Proving physics doesn't exist and reminding people that technology works better when you're nice to it." He smirked playfully. "And watching corp. recruiters turn bright red when I tell them I'm not available at any price, because I'm a Jedi."

"Or working on it at least," she smiled. "Good to see somebody that dedicated. Though from what I've heard of the things you tinker with, I can see why they're after you."

"Well, they'll just have to coax things from the Council," Jay winked at her. "I'm spoken for."

"Not too loudly, I hope," she chuckled. "Enough room in your schedule for a friend yet?"

"Sure," he smiled and brushed her hand with a finger. "Just not an employer."

"I'm not nearly that demanding," she chuckled, smiling as she reached up to rub his shoulder lightly and felt the low vibration of a purr building up.

"Good," Jay smiled, the pleasure of such a simple touch relaxing him. "You don't seem all that shy."

"You come up with a better nickname and I'll think about it," Shi smirked. "Besides, you didn't know me when I was first starting out here."

"True, I was a few galaxies away at least at the time." Jay chuckled playfully and shifted to press against her hand. "And most of what I'd say in compliment wouldn't be taken that way my most." He admitted.

"I have a feeling I haven't heard all the interesting stories about you," she observed, raising an eyebrow as she scratched the base of his neck, then up to his head, just behind his pointed ears and smiled as the platonic, but intense, physical pleasure from him washed over her and his purr deepened as his eyes slid shut.

"No doubt," he groaned softly and pressed against her fingers.

"You like that, huh?" She asked him with a fond smile, shifting to 'chase' the point that she thought felt best for him and got both a very relaxed patient and a very heavy presence of pleasure that all but saturated the room.

"Yes," he groaned, his head shifting to help her unconsciously as the pleasure worked through his body to make him tingle all over.

"Mmm ... you're just a big crevasse-cat at heart, aren't you?" She chuckled, enjoying the empathic spillover.

"Mmmm, not gonna say no if they like this," he purred throatily and arched a bit. "You're good."

"Thank you," she smiled. "And they do," she added with a chuckle, moving her hand down to scratch his jaw lightly as he shivered and rolled over. His head tilted as he propped himself up on his forearms and they both began to loose track of everything but the intense pleasure her fingers created.

"*Healer Shivasta,*" a slightly hesitant young voice caught the edge of her awareness. "*He's getting really loud.*"

"*I'm sorry,*" the young woman replied mentally, reluctantly stopping, just rubbing Jay's shoulder lightly. "I think your shields go down when you get that wound up," she murmured with a gentle smile as she tried to coax him back into the real world.

"It's not my strong suit if I'm not trying to hide." He murmured softly and relaxed down till he was resting his head on the pillow of his crossed arms.

"No need to hide," Shivasta murmured, rubbing his back until he was asleep, then returning to her studies with a fond smile for the slightly younger feline.

Tes grinned down at her bound lover. As intoxicating as he was in charge, this was just as good, and did wonders for soothing the injured Alpha pride of her status among the Jedi. It was oh so much sweeter at times like this, when she was in full on into her fertile cycle and truly insatiable. It was her first cycle since their mission had been declared successful; it passed through her mind that that also meant it was the first one when they were both officially a pair in the Order's eyes.

"It's going to be long and slow tonight, Jedi." She rumbled before kissing ever so gently, her body just close enough to his so he could feel her body heat.

"Mmm ... I don't mind long and slow," he grinned up at her. He knew he could get out easily if he wanted to, but for now he was more than content to let her be in charge. "Especially not with a beautiful woman like you in charge."

"Flattery will get you everywhere," she laughed and kissed him again. Very slowly she nibbled her way along his jaw and down to his neck, which saw liberal nips with sharp teeth, but none that drew blood.

"Mmm ... it's only flattery if it isn't true," he groaned, pressing against her as she gave him a bit of the pain that could turn him on and sucked the blood from the small punctures. A low sound came from his throat when the first drops of her juices splashed against his cock from her raised hips.

"Mmm, true," Tes grinned and gave the wound a small lick before nuzzling her way down to his nipples to suckle them to hard pebbles. It didn't take her long. As much as he was turned on by and enjoyed dominating her, he enjoyed being put on the bottom just as much.

"Ooh, damn you are good at this," he rumbled, breathing deeply.

"I am an Alpha." She grinned up at him; her throat against his chest so he felt every tiny vibration and emphasized her raised hips that he couldn't sink into. "And I love driving you crazy." She added before nuzzling her way down his chest to his abs.

As potent as his scent was right next to his cock, even with the way it made her mons ache to have him deep in her body, she resisted the urge as she nuzzled and licked everything but his cock, sheath and balls while she worked the velvety soft fur of his inner thighs.

"You're evil too," he groaned, his cock rock-hard and aching for attention, from what she was giving the rest of his body and her heat-scent. "Anybody... nnngh... ever tell you that?"

"You, every time I tie you down." Tes laughed throatily, her own arousal heavy in the air around them. "Now," she rumbled and ghosted a finger along that straining flesh to lightly catch several of the slender barbs that caused him such pleasure. She grinned at the way his cock jerked and pulsed and he gasped each time. "What should I ask for in exchange for taking this beast deep into my body and ride you till your throat is raw?"

"Oh," he groaned, trying to arch up against her fingers. "What is it you want?"

"I want," she paused, her mood shifted abruptly as she leaned forward and took his mouth even as she closed her fist around his cock and stroked him until his body was quivering under hers. She let his mouth go just as she felt the roar building and squeezed a little tighter around his pulsing cock until it shot his seed between them, soaking both their fur in the pearly liquid while his voice rattled the room. "Pups." She finished with a much lighter kiss.

It took him a moment to put what she'd said together with his question. The process wasn't made any easier by his body trying to wind down from the orgasm she'd just given him, well and truly unexpected at that point.

"Wolf pups?" He asked once he started to put it together and felt his wrists being released.

"Yes," she kissed him gently again and lay against his chest to nuzzle him. "Wolf pups. Our pups ... I can't carry them anyway, so timing's not as much of an issue."

He wrapped his arms around her, nuzzling her back and kissed her lightly.

"You have a sire in mind? Or are you looking for a father for them instead?"

"I'm not looking to replace you," she nuzzled him reassuringly. "And realistically ... I'm going for a Jedi. Unless you really get along with a Wolf of good breeding that might be interested, he almost has to be just a sire."

"Especially since I know you want an Alpha already," he nodded, rubbing her back tenderly. "What would you do, while you were about to have them and just after they were born? Not exactly the best time to be gallivanting across the galaxy," he chuckled slightly.

"I'd probably stay at the Temple; pick up a few more skills." She smiled softly. "I'd have plenty of unattached Wolves to play uncle and aunt. And I'm sure the Force-sensitive ones would be snapped up in short order, as long as the Order understands that any that don't make Jedi come back to me, not some JediCorps job."

"You'd have an attached Panther to play father too, if you wanted it," he murmured softly. "At least as much as I could, with my duties. Be a good time to start training a Padawan too; spend the first few years at the Temple while the kits were starting to grow up."

"Any that stay with us," Tes nuzzled him. "Are you thinking of young for yourself too?" She smiled warmly and traced a finger down his chest. "You would make a fine sire."

"Not Panther kits," he rumbled, shaking his head slightly. "With you, some time, maybe. But like you said, that's not quite as time-sensitive."

"Some day you'll have to tell me what happened." She kissed him gently and nuzzled his jaw, right along the pleasure points. "But for now, thank you for giving me pups by another." She murmured and hugged him for another lingering kiss.

"I will," he promised, "some day. And you're welcome... thank you, for being willing to let me help raise them."

"Slow and gentle?" She murmured and rubbed her body against his.

"I think I can manage that," he rumbled softly, kissing her tenderly as the two of them surrendered to their gentler passions.

"What did you mean, being a couple of galaxies away?" Shivasta asked Jay curiously, scratching between his shoulder blades idly as the two of them rested by one of his koi ponds. She was dressed in a lighter outfit than she had been in the infirmary, a light skirt and halter-top that seemed out of place given the slightly cooler weather that had most of the Temple's inhabitants tying their robes a little tighter. A datapad with some of the Jedi lore they'd been studying was on the grass nearby, discarded as they'd turned their attention to koi-watching and back-scratching.

"When I was eight, I blind-jumped myself to this galaxy from where I'm from." He explained with a low purr for her attention, the fingers of one hand dangling in the water to tease the fish. "All we're sure of about where I'm from is that it's far enough away that there is no clue as to where it might be and the transmissions from here haven't reached there yet."

"That's probably at least galaxy or two away," Shivasta agreed with a murmur. "What was your home like, if you can remember?"

"Home was an exploration colony warship," he smiled softly and let those memories drift to the surface. "We were planet bound, in a colonization cycle, three times that I remember, including the time when I sent myself here. She was new as far as the ships went, younger than me, but her computer and parts of her remembered a lot longer because they were scavenged. But mostly I remember my folks, and a big stuffed animal with white fur I always slept with."

"So that explains those rumors Master Essani kept putting down," Shi smiled. "It had seemed a little odd that one of the students would always be disappearing to the room of a Councilor. Did your parents have your gifts as well?"

"Yeah, it's a lot easier to sleep when there's someone warm and snuggly there, and she enjoys it too." He smiled slightly. "And yes, my father had the Gift, as does my grandmother, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather, and most their descendants."

"The Force is strong in your family," she said respectfully. "Was that recognized in your galaxy, or hadn't they discovered it yet?"

"It's not recognized the way you do, or as 'The Force', but it is well known that Clawsons are a gifted line and that we have our quirks for it. It's not nearly as common, or as varied in effect, as here."

"Or if it is, it's hidden by the people who can use it," she nodded. "My people were the same way until recently."

"Possible," he nodded, relaxed and feeling good. "Just about anything is possible. Did they hide because they were feared?"

"More because it was an edge we weren't expected to have," she admitted. "Warfare was common on my homeworld until the last few generations. When people believed we had allies beyond their understanding, they were less likely to try and take our hunting territory. Knowing that it was my family's sensitivity to the Force would have reduced it to a skill they could learn themselves, given the time and talent."

He nodded. "A good reason to keep it secret. A secret advantage is so much more useful than a known one. Not letting it be known as a talent of your family would keep the mate-raids from getting debilitating too."

"It's a bit more widely known now," she admitted. "Though some tribes still think we have 'storm demons' helping us. The peace has lasted about 50 years now though; I understand that they've even started training sensitives from other tribes. I'd left before that started happening though," she admitted, though she didn't sound like she regretted it very much.

"Now how we handled it, or how I would have, but maybe it'll work out or the best."

"Time will tell," she nodded, scratching his back a bit higher. "Your family just kept quiet about it?"

"Not really. We sought it out in others and brought them in as our mates. At least the ones that weren't our enemies already. It was a very different political scene from what your world sounded like. We had a largely peaceful world a century ago. No world government yet, but the wars had been over with for a couple generations.

"Then the first Omega showed up. What you'd call a Dark sensitive. It was the first recorded appearance of anything like my Gift. In defense of his city, great-grandfather Jake, the first Clawson, used the Gift against them. We've been public knowledge since, though not many realize what it is, or what we are.

"It would have been better if we could have remained secret, we're as feared as those we fight, but it is how it is."

"It's how sensitives on many worlds were treated," Shi nodded a little sadly. "Until they became organized enough to present a face to the galaxy that people could learn to trust, if not understand."

"I'm not surprised," he nodded. "I can hardly blame those that know, the leadership, for being afraid of us, for all we're their best defense. We're their worst nightmare when we turn after all."

"Now that's a universal truth, it seems," Shivasta murmured. "The heroes always make the worst villains."

"Because to be a hero, you all but have to be well beyond the norm, and nearly unstoppable." He nodded. "A favored saying of those who need us and hate it is that it takes a Clawson and their partner to stop a Clawson. It's not wrong either."

"Your family usually works in teams, don't they?" She asked, looking over at him.

"Always," he nodded. "We aren't very safe to leave alone for long. Usually a mated pair or team of four, but somebody needs to be there. The one that went bad ... he was alone. It's the price for what we can do. We're kinda dependant on another to keep us sane."

"Another of your kind, or just another who's close to you?"

"Just somebody's who close," Jay explained easily. "Someone worth dieing for. It has to be an attachment that is strong enough to keep the Darkness at bay. Which usually means someone with stronger morals than we have." He added with a soft chuckle.

"I hope you find somebody," she said softly. "Though it sounds like Master Essani is doing for now," she added with a smile.

"Yes," he smiled warmly and purred a little deeper as he thought of his Master. "I'm sure they've been assessing your suitability for a couple months, ever since our first study session." He chuckled. "Several of them are very unsettled by the idea that I might be a solo Knight for any length of time."

"I can't really blame them," she admitted, smiling softly at him. "It sounds like you'd be happier with a partner anyways... and I can't say that I'd mind that, Jay."

"Me either, and I'm not the solo kind," he murmured. "I'm going to be a scholar, not a warrior, but it doesn't make much difference. Clawsons aren't meant to be alone." He blinked, and then glanced up at her. "You have a lot going for you, that way." He smiled a bit shyly. "Healers tend to stay at the Temple too, don't they?"

"Unless we're needed to help somewhere," she nodded with a smile.

"That's good too," he said quietly as he watched the colorful fish swim. "Enough excitement would find me without a partner who wants to go hunt it down, like great-grandfather got to deal with."

"Excitement's all well and good, but it's better to find sorts that don't try to kill you," she chuckled, leaning over to kiss his cheek lightly.

"That shows up often enough anyway," he grinned at her playfully and went with his urge to grab her and rolled them both into the koi pond.

"Ack!" Shivasta let out a started squawk as she was soaked, then laughed, the two of them struggling with each other for a bit before they finally came to a rest against the edge of the pond. Jay half on top of her, looking into her deep blue eyes as they both panted a bit. She hesitated for a moment, and then leaned up to brush her lips against his in a tentative, feather-light kiss.

She felt him kiss back a bit, his body's mildly aroused, but his mind wasn't clicking into what she meant. They were both still for a moment, then a flash of bright colored motion in the corner of his eye caught Jay's attention and he kicked off the side of the pond and was after it.

She took a deep breath, calming herself slightly as she climbed out of the pond and sat, watching Jay swim as she hugged her legs and curled up slightly. For once she was glad he was as easily distractible as he could be. A slight shiver ran down her spine as she thought about what had happened, though it had nothing to do with being wet, or the cool weather.

It had much more to do with how close the situation had come to getting completely out of hand. It was lucky that Jay hadn't seemed to put everything together quite yet, the reputation his comments had given him aside.

So while Jay chased after fish, she thought long and hard about what had almost happened.

"*Jay?*" Essani walked into her Padawan's room after several hours of hearing the confusion and mixed feelings that were troubling him. She'd meant to let him sort it out himself ... but by this point, it didn't look like he was going to manage that. "*Did something happen with Shivasta today?*"

"She kissed me," he responded, answering her even before he'd completely processed the question consciously. That came a moment later with a deep blush.

"*I see,*" the kushiban said, hopping up onto the bed next to him. "*Is that all that happened? She asked, hoping to get a feel for how far it had gone.

"Uh-huh," he nodded, flushing a bit more. "I kinda kissed her back, then bolted. Haven't been that freaked out in a long time."

"*You're not the only one,*" Essani murmured after a quick check with Shivasta's Master. "*What about it upset you?*"

That question forced Jay to really settle down more than he'd managed on his own. He took a deep breath and tried to make sense of the chaotic jumble of reactions in his mind and body that masked the core fear that they swirled around.

He glanced sideways at his Master uncertainly before he finally answered her.

"It's a huge step towards growing up," Jay said quietly, the quiver that his voice didn't convey was clear to her in his mind. "Towards having to face the Demon and trusting someone that much. I wasn't expecting it. I hadn't even thought about it. I was just abruptly there and I wasn't ready for it and I panicked."

"*I think you're right, and that she feels the same way." She told him and felt the kit relax significantly. "Jay... do you think you want to be more than friends with her eventually?*"

He reached out to gently stroke Essani's soft ears as he tried to follow that idea to somewhere that made sense.

"I like her. She's nice, and she has a presence I like being around. Her touch feels good. She's the kind of person that would be a good mate." Jay sighed softly and let his eyes close.

"I'm also very lonely." He admitted quietly. "I don't want to make a poor choice because it's the only obvious one. I think part of me was still kind of expecting to be back with my family for this; to learn how to handle sex and playmates and mates and partners and how not to get messed up by it."

"*All important points,*" Essani agreed, snuggling close to him. "*Especially that last one... love evokes very powerful emotions, and I'm sorry to say you're only feeling the start of them.*"

"They'll make or break my fight with the Demon," he shivered, though he accepted its reality. "Who I choose for a mate and partner will make more of a difference in resisting the Dark than anything I learn here, more than anyone else can do. It's usually something everybody gets involved in. Not just making sure a prospective mate is a good match for us, but making sure they understand what they're getting into and helping with the rough parts."

"*For what it's worth, Jay, we will help you as well as we can. Including helping to find you a mate who can cope with what's involved.*"

"I know," he shifted to nuzzle her in appreciation that came without reservation or doubt. "It's just not quite as comforting as having family that not only knows personally what you're going through, but have generations of experience in making it work. I'm starting to have an idea what great-grandpa Jake went through. No one knew about the Gift or the Demon or any of it to help him. I'm grateful I'm not that alone."

"*And we won't let you be,*" Essani promised. "*Though you have to keep something in mind, Jay. Whoever your mate is, if they are Jedi, there are other issues to be considered. Especially the type of love it sounds like your family needs to stay strong. It's not something that tends to come easily.*"

"It's why we tend to have lovers and mates from among our own, those families that formed SWAT back in great-grandfather's time. We share a culture, an understanding." He nuzzled her between gentle scritches. "What added issues do Jedi bring to the field?"

"What you've already heard about trying to control your emotions," Essani explained gently. "You know how difficult it can be to remain calm and in control as it is normally; love brings a whole new set of feelings into the field. Jealousy, new types of fear, passions that can take control of you in a heartbeat.

"The Code doesn't say that love is to be avoided, but several Masters feel that it's a great risk for a Jedi to give in to. Master Noloth being one of the more vocal ones," she admitted, "though Masters Shan and Surool do an excellent job of keeping him from being too vocal about it. It's very much a personal issue, but it's something that might add complications to getting involved with a Jedi."

"It sounds like it's something that will just weed many potential mates out," he considered it, and mostly just felt pity for those who avoided love for the hurt it could bring. "There are always a lot of people who don't want to get that involved. Here they just have an excuse other than 'I don't do that' or 'I've been hurt before' for it."

"*Just don't want you getting too frustrated if you end up looking around and having a relatively difficult time of it,*" she explained. "*Is there anything else you want to talk through?*"

"I understand, Master." He managed a smile and scritched between her ears. "Is Shi okay?"

"*She will be, with time,*" Essani nodded, enjoying the attention. "*She's more disturbed by letting things get out of control, though Master Temrin says she's very glad that fish distracted you.*"

"It didn't," he murmured. "I kinda figured it'd be less insulting to be distracted by a moving target than to freak out in front of her about something she did."

"*I doubt she'd have been insulted Jay, but that was a good choice,*" she nodded.

Jay smiled with a bit of relief when he spotted Shi in one of the smaller libraries for their usual study season. Master Essani's words had done remarkably little to reassure him she wasn't going to disappear on him.

"Hi, Shi." He said softly in greeting as he sat in the chair across from her, giving her a little extra space.

"Hi," she said, smiling at him softly, her blue-skinned cheeks flushing a light purple. "Jay... about what happened...."

"Forget it happened?" He offered hopefully.

"That'd probably be best," she nodded, sounding slightly relieved. "I'm sorry though, for upsetting you."

"It's okay," he reached across the table to squeeze her hand gently. "I think I was more startled than anything. It comes with some serious emotional baggage for me. You didn't have any way to know."

"Still should've watched myself better," she smiled, returning the squeeze gently. "So... still friends?"

"Definitely," he smiled in honest relief. "If we can't forgive little things, we're in a world of trouble." He added with a half-grin.

"Very true," she smiled back, rubbing the back of his hand with her thumb. "Though we might want to cut down on the scratching sessions a little," she giggled.

"If you want an incentive to get me to bed, you found it," he snickered, though he was serious as well. "It feels good."

"I know it does," she chuckled. "Believe me, I can feel it too. That's just the reason really," she admitted. "It's a little too easy to lose track of a few things when you're feeling that good."

Jay cocked his head a bit and considered her before he nodded in acceptance, if not comprehension. "Not stop it completely, I hope."

"Hardly," she smiled. "I'm just trying to keep from screwing up again, not punish us."

"Shi, you didn't screw up." He told her remarkably firmly and squeezed her hand. "You just startled the hell out of me. I don't think I'd mind if it went a little slower," he lowered his voice and blushed a bit. "You do feel good. I'm just not quite there yet."

"I'm not honestly sure I am either," she admitted. "So how 'bout we just agree to take it a little slower... see if it happens again some time when we're ready for it."

"Sounds good to me," he smiled shyly. "I do like you."

"It's mutual," she smiled fondly, blushing a light violet. Her blush became much deeper as they both heard a deep voice from the stacks of books nearby.

"Am I interrupting anything?" Doruth asked with a chuckle as he walked up to the table.

"No," Jay managed, his voice nearly a squeak and his cheeks burning, though he grinned too when he recognized the big Panther and Doruth quickly had an armful of Kat hugging him tightly.

"You've been gone forever." Jay grinned with the complaint.

"I've been a little busy," Doruth chuckled, hugging Jay back. "After I was done on Ambria the Council decided to make up for five years of not being able to send me every which way in the galaxy. And you've grown up some in the past few years," he added, stepping back a bit and looking the lanky adolescent over approvingly. "So, who's your friend?"

"Shivasta," he shifted to face her with a smile. "Doruth Parn, who got me out of two years in hell and to here."

"A pleasure to meet you, Jedi Parn," Shivasta bowed respectfully as she stood.

"The pleasure's mine, Padawan Shivasta," Doruth answered easily, returning the bow. "And Doruth, please. I might be a Knight again, but I'm still not too worried about formalities."

"Very well, Doruth," she nodded. "Should I go let you two catch up?" She asked Jay.

"Catch you at dinner?" He nodded a touch reluctantly.

"Yeah," she nodded with a warm smile, picking up her datapad and heading out after giving him a quick squeeze on the shoulder.

"So, is she just a friend, or are you as far ahead of the curve as you were the last time I saw you?" Doruth asked Jay with a half-smirk.

"Just a friend," he rolled his eyes, though it did nothing to hide the bright red under his fur. "Maybe more later."

"Good," Doruth chuckled, "on both counts. So, how's it going? Heard that Master Essani decided to take you on as her Padawan last year."

"Yes," he smiled, the warm affection he held for the kushiban unmistakable. "Though apparently I have a talent for turning her fur grey." He admitted with a bit of embarrassment. "Something about trying things before anyone expects me to."

"There are very few languages with words for how little that surprises me," Doruth smiled. "Go ahead and sit down, by the way, we'll probably be talking for a while. Just don't go too far with pushing the envelope, okay? I heard about that little flying mishap; you've only got so many lives, kit."

"And I've already used a few of them," Jay nodded and settled easily in a chair. "I think that one's going into the books for future generations for 'what can happen when you don't use common sense.'" He chuckled weakly and shook his head. "I did manage to scare the hell out of myself with that landing. Though it is how I met Shi too."

"You manage to make everything work out for you one way or another, don't you?" Doruth smirked, sitting down across from Jay. "So, what have you been up to, besides turning Master Essani's fur grey and meeting new friends?"

"And basic training that I can probably teach in my sleep now?" Jay snickered. "Mostly making corp recruiters turn red in frustration. Drives them nuts that I'm not interested in money much."

"It's good that you're not," the Panther chuckled. "Would've thought they knew enough to try not hiring a Jedi away, but maybe they figure you're new enough you might not be too attached to it yet."

"Or they don't realize I am one till I point it out," he shrugged with a bit of a chuckle. "It's unusually at a tech convention, and I tend to go in civvies."

"And, of course, you take your designs with you to show off," Doruth guessed, shaking his head. "Should've known you'd find some way to keep tech at the heart of your life."

"Sometimes," he chuckled. "Sometimes they just gather when an engineer gets that glazed over look when I start talking over his head by mistake. Or when I casually mention how to make something work better. But how long are you going to be here? I can get some upgrades done on the Gurath. I'm sure he needs some TLC by now after three years of your maintenance efforts." He teased lightly.

"If I didn't know any better I'd say you were happier about the ship being back than Tes and I," Doruth smirked.

"Ah, you know I like you." Jay pouted, though there was a grin just under it.

"Depends on if we get sent off on a mission." He chuckled. "Barring that, we might be doing a bit more wandering over the next few months, but we'll be back for a couple years after that while I start training a Padawan and we both get used to having pups around."

"Pups?" Jay blinked. "Did I miss something in reproductive biology? She's still a Wolf, right?"

"Yes, she's still a Wolf," Doruth chuckled. "And so was the sire, one of the Knights on Ambria. She was getting to the point where she wanted to be sure she had pups while it was still safe and she had somewhere to raise them that wasn't as dangerous as wandering through the galaxy."

Jay chuckled at his own mistaken ideas and shook his head. "Sometimes I forget that that's even an option. Couples seem to be just about all there are here, except for courtesans."

"You're also spending most of your life around the Jedi Temple," Doruth pointed out. "Around here it's unusual enough to be a couple for most races. When you start traveling more you'll find differences. Cereans, for example."

Jay paused a moment as he retrieved the information on them from the Temple computer and nodded. "I'd prefer a male and female over two fems," he chuckled at the unusual monarchy where it was the males that had more than one female and not the other way around.

"Just pointing out that you weren't stuck in a completely monogamous galaxy," Doruth chuckled. "For now you probably want to stick to getting around to one though."

"Yes, but which side?" He snickered with a wink. "There are a lot of attractive guys here too, you know."

"Very true," the Panther smirked. "Though it looked to me like you were leaning more towards fems a few minutes ago."

"Well, there was an attractive fem here a few minutes ago," he pointed out easily. "Now there's a handsome tom. Both work nicely."

Doruth paused and regarded him seriously. "Are you hitting on me?" He raised an eyebrow slightly as he thought about how best to handle this.

It got Jay to pause, not having expected to get that far, or at least not expecting quite that response.

The color rose under rusty fur before he nodded, much more subdued and nervous. "Yes." He said softly.

"Jay...." Doruth thought it over, trying to figure out what to say. "You're a good kit, Jay. But I'm not really the sort of guy who's the best choice for a first partner."

He could all but read what was going through Jay's mind just from his expressions. The surprise he'd expected, that it didn't lead to disappointment or anything else negative, was a bit of one. He nearly groaned internally when he caught a flash of that analytical, plotting look cross Jay's eyes that he knew too well.

"I understand," Jay inclined his head in acceptance of Doruth's reasons. "So how is Tes doing?"

"Well, though she's still getting used to being pregnant," the Panther chuckled; hiding his uneasiness about what Jay might be planning behind his training. "You'll find somebody, Jay," he added. "I'm sure of that much."

"I know," he nodded much more easily, though he was still a bit flushed. "You're just as close to family that I have here. Master Essani ... it just doesn't work."

"Uhm, no," Doruth said, making a bit of a face. "She's cute, but not in that way...."

"And soft, and fluffy, and really nice, and important to me ... but ...." Jay let the sentence trail off into what they both understood. "So did the sire join Tes' pack?"

"No," Doruth answered easily. "We figured that three Alpha personalities on the ship, even if only two were Wolves, was a good way to have one of us kicked off of it."

"Probably," Jay snickered. "Or some seriously wild parties."

"Followed by one of us getting kicked off the ship," Doruth smirked. "So we passed up on that. Besides, he's kinda married to his work on Ambria already."

"And you two are hooked to the Wandering Jedi life." He grinned. "You really think you can handle two whole years sticking in one place?"

"I'll probably be finding a Padawan to start training, so we're kind of forcing the issue," Doruth chuckled. "First year or so is usually spent around the Temple except for emergencies anyways, so it works to put the two together."

"Hopefully you manage to pick another wonderer. Or you'll have one miserable Padawan."

"It's something I'm looking for," Doruth nodded. "And why I wasn't too worried when I heard Essani had chosen you," he smiled. "It would've been nice, but now... I think you'd be happier here."

"Thanks," Jay smiled a bit shyly at him, more relieved than he'd ever admit that Doruth was okay with his choice. "She is very good to me."

"I'm sure she is," Doruth smiled. "Think you'll be able to make time to see Tes, the ship and I some time in the next few days? I'd ask about now, but we have an appointment with the Council that I have to get to fairly soon."

"Sure," he grinned eagerly. "As long as I get my studies done, Master Essani's not very strict about when in the day."

"We'll sort something out," Doruth smiled, standing up. "Have a good night, okay Jay? And enjoy your dinner date," he winked.

"I plan to," he grinned back with an utterly devilish look.

"*Welcome home, Jedi Parn, Custos Ramaris.*" Master Essani greeted the Panther/Wolf pair warmly when they entered the Council chambers to about half the full assembly. "*What request do you have for this Council?*" She asked a little more formally, though the golden tones of her fur left little doubt she both knew and approved of it.

Doruth wondered idly if Jay might have something to do with that. Not that he was particularly worried one way or the other; more likely just a coincidence.

"We request permission to marry from the Council, Master Essani," he said, inclining his head respectfully. Master Shan wasn't present at the moment, leaving the kushiban as the senior Councilor. Not that he was too worried that they'd refuse permission, but having somebody who clearly approved in charge did help to soothe his nerves a little.

"Because your bitch is carrying?" Master Ryul's words sounded like an insult, but Tes' reaction have Doruth the heads up he needed to realize that they weren't, or at least not enough to call him on. His tone was decided disapproving though; there was no mistaking that.

"No, Master Ryul," Doruth said firmly. "Because my Custos and pack-mate deserves recognition as my mate after being such in all but name. The decision to approach the Council with this request was made before Tes was carrying. It simply takes time to arrange such a meeting, and biology doesn't yield to bureaucracy."

"Who is the sire?" The grizzled black Wolf asked in a slightly more civil tone.

"Knight Tallerin Ryzish," Tes spoke up with some pride and received a fractional nod of approval from the older Wolf.

"Do you intend to continue at Knight Parn's side while they suckle?" He asked rather pointedly, though his manner held more concern than disapproval.

"No, Master Ryul." She inclined her head slightly. "I plan to stay at the Temple until they are weaned."

He nodded with slightly more approval for her choice.

"We both realize that pups that age have no business being anywhere near field duty, Master Ryul," Doruth said respectfully. "If necessary, I can take on missions for the Council alone, though I had been planning to take on a Padawan during at least part of that time, begin the training that would be best conducted here."

"Rather early to take on a Padawan," Master Noloth pointed out from his seat near the edge of the room. "Particularly given your history, and your current request. Many Masters have difficulty splitting their time between family, their duties, and training a student."

"I am aware of this, Master Noloth," Doruth admitted, inclining his head towards the Frilled Lizard. "However, given that the Council recognizes my talents for missions conducted far from the core worlds, it seems more sensible to take on a student during a period when I would already likely be spending more time at the Temple than normal.

"It is a logical plan," Master Kareth admitted from her own seat. "Particularly given that your duties, after taking on a Padawan, would likely be less far-flung for a time." The rust and grey-furred Vixen seemed to look through him, almost as though she was gauging Doruth's responses. And, in all likelihood, she was.

"*Are there any further questions?*" Master Essani asked the rest of the Council mentally. Each of them gave a small signal in return that said there were none. "*Does anyone here object to granting their request?*" With only half the Council present, any objection would need to be addressed before they came to a decision either way, but again the replies came back that there were none.

"*Jedi Knight Doruth Parn, Custos Tes Ramiris, the decision of the Council is to honor your request for permission to marry. You may make the arrangements as per your customs. And congratulations,*" the kushiban added, the golden tint of her fur deepening as she inclined her head towards them respectfully.

"Thank you Master Essani, Councilors," Doruth smiled, bowing his own head.

"Yes, thank you." Tes bowed more to Master Ryul, her head tilted slightly to show her throat in acknowledgement of his rank over hers before they were dismissed to make way for the next petitioners.

"So, how did things go with Doruth?" Shivasta asked as she sat down at Jay's table in the cafeteria that evening.

"Pretty good," he grinned. "He's still with Tes, though she's gone all maternal on him and is going to have pups in a few months. I think he's pretty happy about it, even with the crimp it'll put in his travel. He's looking for a Padawan too."

"That's good," she smiled. "Though wouldn't it be kits?"

"Nah, they're all Wolf. One of the Knights on Ambria sired them. Doruth's just their father."

"Ah," she nodded. "Didn't know he was mated to a shewolf. Do you know if they'll be staying around the Temple more once they're born?"

"That's the idea," he nodded. "At least she will be. He'll be around a lot more for a while once he chooses a Padawan."

"That will probably keep him around," she agreed. "At least with that ship you told me about they'll have plenty of space for everybody once they start traveling again," she smiled. "You like him, don't you?"

"Yeah," he nodded, his voice a lot more subdued between bites. "He's a good kat, and he got me out of hell. Nar Shaddaa's not a fun place to spend a couple years."

"Not from what I've heard," she agreed, working on her own dinner. "Did something happen?" She asked, looking at the younger kat's eyes before he dropped them to pay attention to his meal.

"No," he sighed and shook his head. "Nothing's likely to either."

"That's the problem, hmm?" She shifted to sit next to him, squeezing his shoulder lightly as she guessed what had caused the sudden shift in her friend's attitude.

"I was kinda hoping," he leaned into the contact even as he shuffled the reaction behind stronger shields to keep those noticing it to a minimum.

"I'm sorry," she said softly. "Might have something to do with being mated," she pointed out. It also occurred to her that Jay's age might have something to do with it, but she wasn't sure if that was a good thing to bring up.

"And he's got issues with being first," Jay managed a shrug. "I was pretty much expecting his reaction, I just wanted to be wrong."

"It's all right," Shivasta smiled slightly. "Besides, between his family that's on the way and training a Padawan, it'll probably be easier to try again later on."

"I know," he smiled at her and buried the way his brain was screaming that the whole point was to have Doruth be first with a desire not to have to explain why again. That practical part of him that had known since he was eight that he wouldn't have the luxury of having older kin show him how things worked and how not to get hurt shunted that much more of his heritage away to where it wouldn't get involved. "I've got plenty of time."

"Right," she nodded. "He might even change his mind eventually. Other things you can do until then," she smiled softly, leaning over to nuzzle him lightly and felt as much as heard his breath catch at the surprisingly intimate touch.

"Thought we were going slow?" He murmured with stern control of his heart to keep it out of his throat and not even sure how to control what was happening lower down.

"Sorry," she blushed, pulling back as her cheeks turned to a light violet. "I didn't mean it like that...."

"It's okay," he managed a shaky smile. "It's a kat thing."

"Probably closer to a 'Walker thing," she admitted. "It's not quite that intimate a gesture with my people, I forget that sometimes."

"Walker?" He glanced at her, grateful for the distraction and change of subject before he did something truly stupid.

"Ice Walker," she explained. "It's what my people's name translates to, roughly."

Jay nodded and reached over to squeeze her hand gently with a half grin of both amusement and concern. "At this rate, 'going slow' isn't going to be a week."

"Well, my Master wants us to take as much of that week as possible, after last night," she chuckled slightly. "I think she was as surprised as either of us were."

"I don't think Master Essani was, but I'm beginning to doubt there is anything that can surprise her." Jay chuckled with a shake of his head. "She was pretty worried though. I don't think this was high on the list of things she was looking forward to."

"Surprise, no, though you manage to give her grey fur often enough to count," Shi teased.

"This time wasn't one," he chuckled. "Except maybe a little surprised about the extent of what happened, given how we both reacted."

"Honestly, I'm glad nothing more did," she smiled. "As much as taking it slow might not be that slow, I think it'd be better if we didn't do that quite yet."

"Me too," he smiled shyly at her. "You might want to finish eating before we draw any more attention."

"Yeah, they're probably wondering why you're so quiet," she teased, moving over to work on her meal again.

"And why you keep turning purple," he grinned teasingly.

"That most of them have figured out by now," she giggled, wondering what they might be doing afterwards ... and how they'd keep it from going farther than they wanted.

Later that evening, dinner done, the sun setting over Coruscant, Shi and Jay were studying on one of the many balconies along the Temple Spire, somewhat secluded and offering privacy for meditation or reading.

Among other things, Shivasta was thinking. She put her datapad off to the side, stretching out after an hour of reading over thousands of years of theory and interpretations of the Jedi Code. She moved a bit closer to Jay, looking out at the sunset.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" She asked him softly.

"Yes," he smiled, first at her, then at the uniqueness that was Coruscant's sunset and shifted a little closer to her. As much as he wanted the contact, the touching they had had before, he was nervous about it now too.

"I don't think I'll ever get tired of this view," she murmured, reaching up to rub his shoulders lightly with one hand, slowly starting to scratch the back of his neck again and felt as he nearly moaned as all kinds of tensions fled his mind and body.

"No, or any nice view really," he began to purr and happily submitted to whatever she had in mind. It just felt too good to be touched to care right now.

"Mmm... Jay?" She moved to face him slightly; hesitation and uncertainty clear in her dark blue eyes that caught his attention more than her words.

"Yeah?" He searched her face for a clue where this was going.

"How slow?" She asked, not quite sure how else to word the questions in the back of her mind.

He stared at her, taking a significant moment to figure out what she was saying.

"How slow..." he repeated, trying to find an answer in himself and not having much luck.

"Stay dressed?" He suggested hesitantly, not sure how else to put limits as it started to really sink in how little he knew about even the physical end of things that happened before actual sex was happening and it was all instincts.

"Works for me. Don't be afraid to let me know if it's too much," she murmured, leaning close and kissing him softly, her hands around the back of his neck, rubbing and scratching lightly, but loose enough that he could pull back if it was too much. As much uncertainty as she could feel, backing away wasn't on his agenda.

"Mmmm," he murmured and shifted closer to run his hand along her sides, giving into the desire to feel her body with his hands and against his chest.

She murmured something; she wasn't entirely sure what, as shivers passed through her skin. She kissed him again, her cool lips pressed against his warm fur as one of her hands shifted to explore his back and sides, rather than simply scratch them. She felt him arch against her and groan softly in pleasure and kiss back harder, not knowing what else to do but try to get closer to her.

His groan was matched by one of her own, her tongue slipping out to caress his lips lightly as she closed her eyes and started to let instinct take over, tempering it with the mental reminder that it couldn't be followed all the way. Then an even stronger one as she felt Jay start to let go and truly feel the arousal of the situation and her presence.

Jay shuddered and opened his mouth; his rough tongue ghosting over her cool lips in an invitation he didn't completely understand was wasn't fighting.

She gasped slightly as their tongues touched; she'd known his body was warmer than hers, but not quite how much warmer until just now. Or how rough it was. The descriptions did nothing to prepare one for actually feeling a tool meant to remove flesh from bone against the sensitive flesh of her mouth.

Still, she didn't let it stop them as she deepened their kiss experimentally, her hands stilling as they just focused on holding him close and trying to keep the moment without feeding the fire she could feel inside her any more than necessary. The fire rising more slowly in his body did nothing to help her. Neither did the feel of her breasts rubbing against his tightly muscled chest through both their robes.

She was glad she'd chosen to wear robes today, instead of her usual outfit. It probably would have been half-off by now.

"Gods," she moaned softly between kisses, making up in enthusiasm what they lacked in skill. "Mmm ... Jay...."

"Yeah?" He rumbled as his mouth found its way down her jaw to her neck where his teeth and rough tongue made even more of an impression. "You taste good."

Her breath caught, the intimate touch stealing any thoughts she'd had as a soft, pleasant groan escaped from her throat.

"You like?" He breathed hotly against her soft blue skin, wondering if he'd found a hot spot for her.

"I like," she agreed, nodding slightly, his breath at that point between unusual and uncomfortable that was almost impossible to describe. Her hand roamed his back, trying to return some of the pleasure he was giving her with touches to the points along his body she knew he particularly liked.

"Good," he murmured and went back to exploring every inch of exposed skin with his lips and tongue. His hands got a little bolder too as one slid between them to caress her breasts, his body heat easily felt through the creamy cloth covering them.

"Oh Jay," she moaned softly, her breath quickening between the moments when it caught in her throat. She hadn't meant for things to go this far honestly, but she had no real clue how to stop it just yet, even if she wanted to.

Which she wasn't entirely sure if she did.

She couldn't stop the whimpering cry that escaped as his head moved down to nuzzle her breasts, almost mouthing them. She pulled back slightly, trying desperately to catch herself while she still could.

"Jay," she gasped, "s-stop!"

Even before her next breath his hands were gone and there was a good half arms length between them as he tried to settle his breathing and ignore the tingling tightness in his sheath that was demanding his attention like never before. "Sorry."

"Don't be," she murmured, putting a hand to her chest, still able to feel his body against hers, though the sensation was fading.

Even if the memory was doing anything but that.

"You did stop when I asked," she pointed out, smiling at him slightly.

"Yes," he acknowledged, still a bit reluctant. "I wonder if it's always like this." He murmured as adult behavior started to make a lot more sense.

"What parts of it?" She asked, chuckling weakly as she started to calm herself down.

"The intensity, how it feels to touch, be touched." He swallowed and regarded her softly. "You do know about felines, right?"

"What about them?" She asked, reaching out to stroke his cheek gently. "I know about the roughness, with your tongue and ... other things," she admitted. "I'm not worried about that right now... once you get used to it, it's kinda nice," she blushed.

"Good," he breathed a small sound of relief and leaned forward to kiss her lightly. "Tes usually ended up pretty bloody."

"I trust you to keep that from happening as much as you can," she said softly, returning the kiss and running her hand down his chest. "And I am a healer in training," she pointed out with a soft smile, "for what you can't." She pressed back slightly, her hand lingering on his arm. "We should probably be getting back soon," she said, just a little reluctantly.

"Yeah," he murmured, at least as reluctantly. "Before one of them comes looking."

"See you tomorrow, same time as usual, right?" She asked, looking up into his eyes hopefully.

"I'm looking forward too it," he smiled and leaned forward to kiss her lightly before he stood, a little too aware that he was close to not letting it stop there.

Shi stood up as well, lowering her eyes slightly as she blushed.

"Jay? Thanks... that was good," she smiled, hugging him briefly before walking out and back to her quarters.

"Yes, it was." He murmured before following her and doing his best to get his body under control before he got back to his quarters.

Master Essani hopped down the halls to Master Jienhui Ursal's quarters, running over in her mind what they needed to work out before their Padawans decided to work it out for them. There was little doubt in her mind that Shivasta was good for Jay, the kit had truly blossomed in the last few months now that he had a companion near his own age. It was not without risks, however, particularly when Jay was a bit older and starting to face his inner demons.

That would prove risky for both of them... though, at the same time, it was hard to deny that Shivasta could prove the difference between Jay being able to face it or not.

"Greetings, Master Essani," the massive, black-furred Bear said softly as she opened the door to her quarters to let the kushiban in, the fur of her ears tinged silver with age.

"Greetings Master Ursal," she chirped in her spoken language that so few here understood. It was usually a pleasant distraction to come talk with the healer; today, it was a little more serious.

"Come in," Master Ursal said easily, turning out of the way. "Thank you for making time to speak with me," she added, honestly grateful.

"It is always good to talk to you," her fur rippled a light silver-gold in many remembered evenings of entertaining discussions. "But when it involves a Padawan, I would never turn you away."

"Especially not when it involves both of ours," Ursal nodded, moving to take a seat on a large couch built to handle her large, muscular frame. She gave a welcoming gesture towards a smaller set of cushions laid out for Essani, mulling over where to start.

"How is Jay coping with this?" She decided to start.

"With much more forward thought than one his age should even begin to have." Essani sighed with a click of her long front teeth. "Which considering he's having difficulty separating adolescent exploration from pre-mate behavior, it is a good thing."

"It's good that one of them is," the Black Bear chuckled slightly. "Shivasta does care for him, but she's not really prone to thinking very far ahead, more so than most young adults. Do you think it's healthy to let them keep exploring like this?"

"She is very much the kind of personality that would be of great help as he grows up," she nodded slightly. "But it is a dangerous path for her as well. How much have you heard about Jay's particular issues?"

"Enough to know that he will have to grapple with the Dark Side more than most will," Ursal said. "I'm afraid that I don't know too much more than Shivasta does on that count, and he hasn't explained all the issues to her yet."

"From his descriptions, his family has a Dark Side creature of significant power attached to it. Something that takes a very personal interest in corrupting them throughout their lives. An influence that he believes cannot be defeated alone. She will not face it directly, at least she is not likely to, but his emotional bonds to those close to him are what will allow him to remain Light. The one of his family that turned Dark was notable only in that he was alone with only the Demon, as they call it, for company."

"That is an issue," she nodded grimly. "Though one she will be well-prepared to cope with by the time I'm done with her. You believe that Jay is willing to consider her as such a mate then, once they are older?"

"Yes," she nodded thoughtfully. "He is concerned that he is responding primarily from adolescent hormones and being the only one of his kind here, but he also describes her quite accurately as having all the qualities that will make a good mate for him. He hasn't mentioned the difficulties having young will be for them, but he is also from a strongly polygamistic society for both genders so it may not be something he thinks about as a real issue.

"She is from a similar society," Ursal nodded. "She will also want children by him eventually, if they continue as I believe they will. Her people tend to take their first mates relatively young. The age has been increasing lately, but it's very possible that by the time she is a Knight she would be married and ready have children on her homeworld."

"Jay's family seems to have less structure in that, but then the first four generations happened ... less than willingly." Essani clicked her teeth in displeasure. "His father's generation was the first to actually choose to have children, and those came much later in life. It has left its mark on him. I really do not know if he would welcome, accept or reject the idea of children. He doesn't know yet."

"I certainly hope that wasn't the norm on his homeworld," Ursal frowned. "I can see why that would be an issue, especially as proud of his heritage as he's known to be ... there's no sign that he thinks that's normal, is there?"

"Thankfully it is not." She shook her head a bit. "It is something he is proud of them for having survived, but there are no indications that it was even acceptable for his kind, much less normal."

"Good," the Bear nodded with a deep rumble. "It's bad enough on worlds where it's acceptable when they keep it to themselves. I suppose we have to decide if there's anything that should be done about their relationship."

"I am concerned that Shivasta may not want the deep emotional bond he will need with her. It is not a common way for us."

"Nor for her people," Ursal agreed. "But I believe she is capable of it, given time. If he wants one soon, there may be difficulty. But if he is willing to wait, to build the bond... I'll talk with her; see if they're already heading towards trouble in the future."

"He will need it before he faces his Demon, which will not be for a decade if things go as planned. Not until he is ready for his Trials."

"I understand, and I'll make sure she understands this. She does care for him Essani, that much is clear. I'd been worried about that, honestly, though it sounds like it's a good sign."

"It is for him, yes." She nodded. "It is possible he will find another before then as well, but it would be good if it is not necessary. Matchmaking is not my strongest skill."

"Which only proves you're Jedi, not perfect," Ursal chuckled. "If you would like, if it doesn't work out with Shivasta, I'm sure we'll be able to help try finding somebody for him."

"It would be good to have help before it has to go any further than us," she nodded. "He does need a mate, and I would prefer one that will stay close to the Temple overall. He doesn't need another warrior in his life."

"He plans to take a more peaceful path himself then?" Ursal asked approvingly.

"A scholar and designer," she chirped happily. "Though he is under no illusions that it may not be the path that chooses him."

"Fitting paths for him," Ursal smiled. "Though it does raise one concern... he isn't opposed to the idea of leaving the Temple for field work, is he?"

"No," Essani chuckled. "He just does not wish to go hunting for trouble when it will happily come find him, to use his words. It can not be easily denied he will do well at anything he sets his mind to."

"I don't doubt it," Ursal nodded. "Something that can be said of most promising young Jedi. I simply wanted to make sure there wouldn't be problems between he and Shivasta on that count. Healers may be able to stay at the Temple much of the time, but we do have to go into the field sometimes yet."

"As will he, from time to time. His Gift, even at this level, is far too valuable to some field missions to avoid them even now. That will only increase when he is a Knight and in full possession of his Gift's abilities."

"Very true. That may prove a curse, eventually," Ursal cautioned. "I'm sure you recognize it already, but he could easily find himself spread far too thin, given that most Jedi can't communicate with machines the way he can."

"We know. Fortunately my position on the Council will allow me to keep an eye on his mission load even after he is a Knight. I am quite sure he will not do it on his own. That is also something that that he has a long heritage of if his stories are even partially accurate. They are quite dedicated to helping, even when it is not in their best interest. Something far too many Jedi are like."

"And that healers are especially prone to," Ursal chuckled a little ruefully. "Something very difficult to train somebody with the ability and desire to do good not to do."

"Something I know you are still guilty of." Essani snickered. "Not that anyone here is likely to complain about, but I remember what you look like after a mission."

"The worst lesson to have to teach any student is the one the Master hasn't yet learned," she smiled slightly. "And I am going to have to teach Shivasta one of these days. I just hope it's not for some time... not before she has to learn the real meaning of it, at least."

"Yes," she agreed. "Some lessons can only be learned the hard way. Some of us never learn them."

"Let's just hope that learning them doesn't break the learner, especially in Shivasta's case," Ursal nodded softly. "More healers are lost that way. A more pleasant subject, perhaps?" She suggested.

"Well, I believe our Padawans are on their way home, and will probably appreciate some privacy for a while." Essani clicked her teeth in amusement and flushed reddish-pink. "Perhaps take this to one of the gardens?"

"Am I going to have to have another talk with Shivasta about not going too fast?" Ursal asked, rising from her seat.

"Not if Jay's state is any indication." She chuckled. "I doubt they did more than kiss."

"Which, for a teenager, can be more than enough to make things awkward," Ursal chuckled slightly. "Let's move to the gardens before she comes back. Last time something like this happened, I swear she looked more like a twi'lek when she saw me."

"I have no doubt," Essani giggled and flashed a deep pink of amusement. "Jay has fur to cover his reaction. It's not even always enough."

"No, it's not," Ursal agreed, moving to lead the way out of her room, holding the door open for Essani. "Shivasta, on the other hand, turns this lovely shade of purple."

Fenrik rumbled softly at the scent of a heavily aroused and frustrated male feline. This was exactly what he needed, and no doubt exactly what the other tom needed too. He licked his whiskers back and sniffed the air, following the pheromone trail as much as the Force ripple his target's potent physical state were creating.

He rumbled deep in his chest when he caught sight of his target. The Force was being kind to him tonight. It had handed him the very tom he'd been watching for three weeks in a state he wasn't likely to refuse a quickie, and quiet possibly could be convinced to stay for more.

There were times he truly loved having his Master's quarters all to himself while he was on a mission without him.

He'd just have to figure out how to approach this properly. Rumor mill had it that Jay was probably seeing Shivasta seriously after all.

"Hey," he said, his voice friendly as he walked up behind Jay and saw the younger tom wince fractionally at being caught. "What's up?"

"Hi," Jay managed a smile for him at he glanced back and felt his breath catch at what could easily be a fifteen year old Doruth. "I think I've seen you around."

"Probably have," Fenrik admitted. "I know I've seen you around. Master Essani's Padawan? Jay Clawson, isn't it?"

"Yeah," he nodded, shifting uncomfortably to make his arousal a little less obvious. "What's your name?"

"Fenrik Aren," the Panther said easily, offering Jay his hand. "So, what's got you all wound up?" He asked, deciding a direct approach was probably best right about now. He thought he'd misjudged when Jay looked ready to bolt, but he did stay.

"Nothing, really." He stammered, thrown badly off balance be being on the receiving end of his own teasing, only he wasn't so sure the Panther was teasing him.

"Relax, Jay," Fenrik smiled. "You just seemed a little tense, thought I'd offer to help you work it out a little."

"It's okay," he managed not to mumble and shifted to start back to his quarters despite what the lower half of his body wanted and suggested he do with this attractive Panther his own age.

"It's not a problem Jay," Fenrik offered, reaching out to put a hand on the younger tom's shoulder lightly enough that he could still pull away, but enough that he was keenly aware of the power in the older Panther's body. The conflict in Jay's body was obvious, even without bothering to try and sense it through the Force.

"I can tell you'd like a little help," he added with a soft rumble that went most of the way to breaking what was left of Jay's resistance.

"I ..." he started a denial, then let his eyes close for a moment and felt the warm power that called so strongly to that part of him that wanted the strong warrior. His next breath drew in a deep lung full of the Panther's scent that did as much to arouse him as the time on the balcony with Shi had.

"My quarters are private, for now," Fenrik offered and went with a gut instinct to risk it and leaned down to kiss Jay, drawing him close against his body as the lean tom wrapped his arms around his neck and kiss back until they were both almost breathless.

"My Master's on a mission; won't be back for some time...."

"All right," Jay rumbled agreeably even as the back of his mind was trying to figure out when he'd lost control so completely.

"C'mon," Fenrik rumbled back, starting to lead the younger tom back towards his quarters. "It's not far."

"Good," Jay rumbled and pressed closer as he gave in and stopped fighting the desires completely.

Fenrik was just glad they didn't run into anybody on the way; he was fairly sure that this probably wouldn't be approved of. Soon enough, they were in his Master's quarters. He turned as the door closed, drawing Jay close and kissing him, licking the younger tom's lips tentatively and felt them open willingly.

The first touch of a rough tongue against his sent such a spike of desire through Jay's body he felt ready to explode right then. He closed his eyes and let go, feeling how incredibly right this was on a level even more primal than his instincts.

Meanwhile, Fenrik's hands were busily working their way under Jay's robes, the intoxicating scent and feel of the incredibly aroused tom against him encouraging his explorative touches as his powerful fingers finally worked through dark red fur and felt inexperienced hands working his robes off to explore the hard-muscled body and sleek black fur under them.

Neither were completely sure when they had finally shed all their clothes, but then Jay was on his knees, nuzzling and licking Fenrik's heavy balls, full sheath and arched cock with it's barb-hairs just beginning to break the surface around the head and still contained in the sensitive bumps along the rest of the length that had only begun to show below the head of Jay's.

"Oh yes!" The Panther hissed, leaning forward against the wall and panting heavily as his cock was explored with tongue and fingers and the side of Jay's face before he took the tip of Fenrik's cock into his mouth to suckle and lick it, teasing the handful of exposed barbs with his tongue.

Fenrik rawred and reached down, rubbing Jay's ears and the back of his head almost instinctively, thrusting lightly into the wet, welcoming mouth as his shaft seemed to get even harder, if it was possible. Even as good as he felt, he could feel that Jay had never done this before and he'd have to be careful not to hurt him when his brain began to bliss out.

"Oh fuck," he groaned as the smaller tom began to purr, adding vibration to the rest of the sensations assaulting Fenrik's cock. "Jay... not long...."

In response, he sucked a little harder and ran his tongue around the cylinder of spongy, bare skin at the head of Fenrik's cock. It earned him a roar of pleasure that was cut off in the middle as Fenrik clamped his jaw shut, his cock spasming as his seed spurted out into Jay's mouth.

Even expecting it, Jay couldn't even begin to swallow all the gooey mass that shot into his mouth, leaving most of it to flow out, coating Fenrik's cock and soaking the fur of his groin before dripping to the floor while the rest oozed down Jay's chin and throat.

The Panther panted as his spent shaft slipped from Jay's lips, then got down on his knees to lick some of the sticky fluid from Jay's throat. He could feel the tension such an intimate and vulnerable touch caused, and that it disappeared before he could stop.

"You ever done that before?" He asked with a rumble.

"No," Jay breathed, trembling in his own arousal.

"You're very good at it for your first time," Fenrik grinned. "Mmm ... want me to return the favor?"

"Yeah," he trembled slightly in anticipation.

"Stand up then," the Panther rumbled. "Unless you want to get to my room first?"

"Either works," Jay breathed and claimed a kiss, his tongue probing deep into Fenrik's mouth. Fenrik returned the kiss with every ounce of the passion behind it, tasting his own scent on Jay's breath.

"Room," he said simply as their lips parted. He stood up along with Jay, starting towards the smaller quarters just off from the main room. When they were there, he turned to kiss Jay deeply, running his hands down the younger tom's body hungrily as he guided him towards his bed.

Once he was sitting on the edge of it, Fenrik started kissing his way down Jay's body, rumbling deeply as Jay spread his legs and leaned back with a groan.

"Oh, yeah," Jay rumbled and arched into the contact wantonly. He was rewarded with powerful fingers fondling his downy-furred balls as the smooth underside of Fenrik's tongue caressed his rigid cock. Jay moaned, his body shaking and right at the brink from this first touch by another person.

He took a shuddering breath as his claws dug into the bedding with a sharp cry. His balls tightened and cock quivered before the first shot of come burst out.

His older lover closed his eyes, taking Jay's seed on his muzzle and throat almost by necessity before he wrapped his lips around the still-hard cock hungrily, starting to bob his head up and down its mostly-smooth length as the come continued to shoot out.

Jay tensed as he was gently pushed down on the bed before a slender finger slid around the furless pucker of his ass. Still, he knew this came next and he quickly relaxed, willing to embrace the full extent of a male lover as long as it kept feeling this good.

"Let me know if it's too much," Fenrik rumbled up at him, moving his finger to the side and running the bottom of his tongue lightly around the tight ring of muscle, slicking it and trying to relax Jay at the same time.

The sound he got in reply was a gurgling mix of intense pleasure and surprise, then a longer moan and shiver of pleasure.

"Oh, yeah." Jay closed his eyes and grabbed the blankets, trying to ground himself enough to not miss a moment.

"How far do you want this to go?" Fenrik asked, pausing in his attentions long enough to for Jay to catch his breath.

"Got lube?" He asked, unwilling to go much further without it.

"'S'why I was asking," Fenrik nodded with a chuckle, ghosting a warm breath over Jay's shaft, making it quiver and harden a bit more. "I've got some."

"Wanna feel you in me," Jay moaned softly.

"I was hoping you would," the Panther rumbled with a broad grin, moving to fetch the lube. He squeezed some out, starting to coat and stretch Jay's pucker carefully. He'd only done this twice before, but he'd learned to take a little time already no matter how hard it was to wait when his partner was hard as a rock and whimpering for more.

Their size difference made it even more important. He really could hurt Jay if he wasn't careful. It was enough to keep him focused past the sounds and smells of his lover until he felt the last trace of discomfort fade with three fingers sliding slowly in and out of Jay's ass. Fenrik was willing to bet he could get him to come again before he sank into the hot virgin ass waiting for him.

The temptation was strong enough to make him hold of a bit, taking Jay's shaft into his mouth and suckling hard as he stretched and probed his ass with his fingers.

"Gods!" Jay cried out at the unexpected assault. His body arched into Fenrik's mouth as he came hard, his body squeezing tightly around the intruding fingers as a second load exploded into the Panther's mouth.

Fenrik swallowed as much of it as he could, some dripping out of his muzzle to join the rest that stained his dark fur as he pulled his fingers out of Jay's body and slid up along it, rubbing his rigid shaft against the younger tom's spent balls.

"Oh, wow." Jay groaned, his body trembling in the aftershocks. "You feel so good," he murmured and pulled Fenrik's head down for a searing and somewhat sloppy kiss.

"Not half as good as you do," Fenrik rumbled as their lips parted, their seed mixing in their fur. "Mmm ... wanna roll over? Probably be a bit easier that way."

"Okay," he nodded and reluctantly moved far enough away to roll to his hands and knees, his tail to one side as he looked back at the Panther, his entire presence radiating his desire.

"That's better," the Panther rumbled, pressing up against Jay's back and groaning as he slid his shaft into the younger tom's hot, well-stretched ass.

"Ohhh," Jay moaned softly at the new sensations that felt so incredibly right. The small part of his brain that wasn't absorbed by pleasure tried to work out why he went so willingly with Fenrik when doing even half of this with Shi still made him uneasy, for all the pleasure of touch was the same.

"Fuck," Fenrik groaned, long and low. "So tight!"

Jay was beyond words, his body and mind overwhelmed by the incredible pleasure and rightness he was feeling with this tom over him, filling him, rubbing against his back and ass and balls and thighs.

Fenrik started to thrust into him, slowly at first, each motion sending pleasure tingling through both of their bodies. He pulled out almost all the way, sinking back in, gradually speeding up as he nuzzled, kissed, and licked at Jay's neck as Jay got hard again and began to thrust back into each stroke.

Their bodies shuddered, each motion drawing them closer to another release their bodies wanted so badly. It wasn't long before they reached it. This time, Fenrik didn't even try to muffle his roar, pumping his hot, thick seed deep into Jay's body, the tip of his shaft rubbing against a spot inside the younger tom's ass that sent bolts of pleasure shooting through him.

"Yessss!" Jay roared a moment later, his balls tightening up against his body as his seed spilled into the blankets below him and his body tightened around the shaft deep inside his guts.

Fenrik actually whimpered softly at the tightening, milking sensations around his spurting cock, panting hard as he tried to sink himself as deeply into Jay's body as he could before it was over.

"Ohhh, gods," Jay gasped, trembling and spent and still intensely aroused by the presence of his lover.

"So good," Fenrik murmured softly, gradually shifting the two of them onto their sides, his shaft still deep in Jay's ass as they willingly surrendered to sleep and contentment. Jay didn't even consciously recognize when his Master asked him where he was and didn't ask him to come back to their quarters.

Jay woke up the next morning to the very welcome feeling of a warm mouth and rough, eager tongue working his shaft and moaned, reaching down to rub Fenrik's ears sleepily.

"Mornin'" the Panther mumbled around the cock in his mouth, rumbling deep in his throat.

"Morning," Jay gasped as his brain clicked completely into the physical world. "Ohhh, good morning."

"S'posed to be," Fenrik grinned, turning his focus back towards Jay's morning wood, and giving it a good reason to go back down.

"Ohhhh!" He groaned and thrust up into that hot mouth, his body trembling as he got close to the edge now that his mind was well and truly with events and relishing it. It was the fingers against his ass that pushed him over, reminding him oh-so-pleasantly of how last night's final games had gotten started as he exploded into the Panther's mouth without reservation.

"Mmmm," Jay murmured as he started to come down a bit and stroked Fenrik's ears. "How about you?" He purred softly.

"Mmm ... care to return the favor, or want to take me under that pretty little tail of yours again?" The Panther asked, looking up with a grin as he licked a little thick, off-white seed from his lips.

"Come here, you." Jay grinned and pulled Fenrik up for a lingering, hungry kiss while he reached between them to stroke the bumpy cock that was so much more sensitive than his own.

"Oooh... mmm...." The Panther's noises quickly became less coherent, but more heated, as Jay stroked his shaft and they made out. His breath came more quickly when Jay's fingers found his free barbs and began to play with them, tweaking each with a carefully unsheathed claw while his thumb ran around the spongy, cylindrical head just above them.

"Not long, Jay," Fenrik warned him, pre leaking from his shaft.

"Good," Jay grinned at him and pumped faster while his mouth demanded everything Fenrik had to give. And he gave, loudly and in copious amounts over Jay's belly, chest and hand as Jay continued to stroke and kiss him until he came down. Then he moved on to rub Fenrik's chest and kiss down his neck.

"Can I be on top this time?" He crooned, his hands roaming over the powerful body.

"Just make sure you use the lube too," Fenrik nodded, kissing him deeply. "Mmm ... in here, or want to play in the shower?"

"In here," he giggled and squirmed out from under him to get the lube and froze, his eyes going wide in a mixture of surprise and embarrassment at what he saw at the bedroom door. "Shi?"

"Th-the door opened," she half-stammered in explanation, her own eyes wide, her cheeks flushed a deep purple. "I... I...." With that, she turned and bolted from the room, but not before even Jay sensed the near-wave her emotions sent through the Force.

"Knew I should've double-checked the locks," Fenrik murmured. "Jay, you and her... are you two serious?" The rumor mill said they were, but he honestly hadn't thought Jay would've gone along with his invitation the night before if it was likely to cause any trouble between them.

"Maybe," he snapped himself out of the surprised stillness and squirmed the rest of the way out from under the bigger tom. "I better clean up and find out what that was all about." He said apologetically with a fairly heated kiss.

"You'd better," Fenrik nodded, returning the kiss. "Want some help in the shower? Just cleaning up."

"Mmm, sure." He purred softly. "Maybe we can pick this up later."

"We'll see," the Panther smiled, standing up and licking Jay's cheek lightly. "Now, let's go get you cleaned up so you can sort out what's going on with Shivasta."

"Cub, what happened?" Master Ursal captured her heavily distressed Padawan in her arms as the door to their quarters closed.

"Jay he... with Fenrik...." Whatever she was trying to say was broken up as the young woman buried her face in her Master's thick fur, crying.

"Oh, Shi," she murmured gently, letting her cry the strongest of the reaction out as she stroked her long blue hair comfortingly. It took several minutes, her Padawan shuddering and shaking, though the tremors through her body, and that her stormy, conflicting emotions were creating around her, gradually subsided.

"I don't even know what's wrong," Shivasta whimpered after a few minutes.

"It will be all right, Shi," Ursal rumbled gently and continued to stroke her hair. "It can be a very bad shock if you aren't expecting it."

"I wasn't," she murmured. "Gods I wasn't... even with last night, we were both so nervous about it...."

"And this morning you see him very much at ease with someone else," she murmured understandingly and wrapped Shi in a blanket of loving warmth that was both physical and in the Force. "Have you discussed relationships with others with him?" She asked as gently as she could. "What his cultural norms are? Or his personal inclinations?"

"Not yet," Shi admitted. "Not directly."

"If you think you can forgive him being with a male, it might be good to try. Before either of you go further." Ursal said gently and licked the worst of her Padawan's tears away. "You could have seen many things, cub, beyond the obvious. I do not believe he meant anything hurtful by what he did."

"What if this has... what if this isn't the first time?"

Ursal looked down at her and nuzzled her gently. "What if it is?" She asked back gently. "Does it change what is between you, the truth of anything he has told you?"

"He said he didn't have anybody else," Shi nodded slightly, pressing close to her Master's comforting presence. "At least I thought he did."

"Then be sure that is what he meant, and that he was with Fenrik before then before you think ill of him." Ursal advised gently. "There is a great deal unknown about this."

"I know, Master," Shivasta nodded slightly. "I... I should try to calm myself down, before I go look for him."

"Go meditate in the frozen garden," the graying Black Bear advised her. "He will come to you when it is time."

"Yes Master," Shivasta nodded, stepping back and trying to straighten herself out a little. "Thank you," she added gratefully before she left.

Jay shivered slightly and fluffed his fur against the biting cold of the frozen garden. He appreciated the still white beauty of the place, but it was not his idea of a nice spot to hang out. It was cold for a warm-weather kat like him, but very much home to the cold-worlders like Shi. Not even his nose wanted to work well as he tracked her to her meditation spot near a waterfall held still in ice.

He found a spot where she could sense him and settled in for her to acknowledge his presence. It took a few moments, though he noticed the shift in her posture that said she'd realized he was there before she spoke.

"Hi," she said softly, lowering her head slightly.

"Hi," he said uncertainly and didn't move. Even with what Master Ursal had told him, he was still very much at a loss as to what had happened. "I didn't mean to upset you." He tried for a general apology, and it was true. He hadn't meant to upset her.

"I know," she nodded slightly. "Jay... you and Fenrik... how long has it been?"

"After we headed home last night." He said quietly. "It just felt so right, he's male, a Panther. I didn't ... it didn't occur to me that I shouldn't, because of us."

"And we never talked about it," she pointed out with a soft sigh. "I over-reacted Jay, I'm sorry. I just ... when I saw you two, and you seemed so comfortable with him ... I guess I got jealous," she admitted.

"He's a guy, Shi," he pointed out with a confused sound. "And a Panther, and a warrior. It makes a difference, at least for me. It ... that's ... Shi, I care for you. You're attractive and you're very good for me. But girls, and healers ... it doesn't come very easily for me. Any of us, really. Father said it's just how our brains were wired. There's what's best for us to stay out of trouble ... and there's what attracts us and makes us comfortable and feel safe and at home. You're the first, he's the second. I'm not really old enough for girls either."

"All right," she smiled slightly. "I hope you're more comfortable with me eventually... maybe soon. You want to go somewhere a little warmer to talk?"

"In time, yes," he smiled back in relief. "You really do make me want you," he dropped his eyes a bit, "and yeah, it'd be nice to be somewhere above freezing."

"You would never last back home," she smiled, blushing a bit at his compliment. "And thank you." She reached out, taking his hand and squeezing it gently. "Come on; let's head out to your koi pond."

"Maybe somewhere more private?" He suggested softly and drew her close. "Maybe I can make up for the shock a little?"

"What did you have in mind?" She asked, wrapping her arms around him reflexively.

"Whatever will let you believe I do want you," he kissed her lightly. "What's between me and Fenrik has nothing to do with what's between us."

"I believe you," she murmured, kissing him back softly. "Come on, let's find somewhere more private... my quarters, maybe?"

"All right," he agreed with an involuntary shiver for the cold. "And good."

"Come on," she said, stepping back to take his hand and start out of the frigid, icy room that reminded her of home so well. Before long, they were back at the rooms she shared with Master Ursal, whom she noticed was long gone.

"Thank you," she whispered softly, leading Jay into her room and sitting down on the edge of her bed after they made quite sure the door was closed and wouldn't open without warning.

"I'm sorry about interrupting you two," she murmured softly, taking Jay's hands as he sat down next to her.

"It's all right," he murmured and nuzzled her. "We should have locked the door. He's okay, we'll be okay."

"And I should've known better than to walk in when it opened," she admitted, blushing slightly. "Jay ... before we do anything, before anything else happens ... we need to talk, sort a few things out."

"I kind of figured as much." He nodded seriously.

"How much do you know about how your people, how your family thinks about relationships?" She asked him.

"Most of the basics," he nodded. "Not a lot of the specifics and legal stuff and how it actually works."

"Is having more than one mate normal?"

"Yeah," he chuckled sheepishly, finally remembering that wasn't always the norm. "Most of the time we're mates to the rest of our team, and usually someone on the outside too for kittens. Guys usually have a mate of each gender at least. Femmes do if they like both. At least when it's not Lifemate level, a guy isn't the same as a girl. I'd have asked you first if it was another female. It didn't occur to me to since he's a guy."

"We don't usually think of it as different," she admitted. "I... well, relationships are complicated for my people, at least when you're not raised with it. And I wasn't," she chuckled weakly, "at least not for more than a few years. Would it be okay if I asked you to check with me, if you can? Fenrik's okay, now that I know, and Doruth is fine if anything happens between you two, but I'd like to know if there's going to be anybody else."

"That's cool," he agreed easily. "No problem."

"Thanks," she smiled slightly. "Do you think you'll be seeing Fenrik again?"

"Probably," he blushed slightly. "I want to."

"You like him?" She asked with a slightly better smile, shifting on the bed to draw him closer.

"I like how he makes me feel," Jay purred softly and nuzzled her as he snuggled against her cool body. "The strength and safety when he holds me."

"Different from how I make you feel?" She asked him, rubbing his side gently while he snuggled against her and they both relaxed from the stress and conflict she'd felt before.

"Yes," he murmured. "You're very different. Calm, soothing, but you aren't a warrior, a protector. It feels different. Maybe 'cause he's feline too."

"Do you love him? Or think you could, at least?" She asked, moving an arm around his back.

"Don't know," he shrugged. "I barely got his name."

"I wasn't sure if anything else might've developed faster," she chuckled slightly, rubbing his back.

"That's later," he nuzzled her with a chuckle. "It's going the reverse of with us."

She blushed slightly, tipping his chin up to kiss him tenderly and felt the soft rumble of arousal it brought in him.

"Do you want us to go the rest of the way?" She asked him softly.

"Only if you're sure," he breathed in sharply. There was no doubting he wanted to, though. "It's not why I went with him."

"Do you mind going slow?" She asked him softly, kissing his jaw line lightly as he groaned. "I've never done this before."

"No," Jay gasped with a shiver. "Nether have I."

"Let me know if I do something wrong," she murmured, turning to press him down to the bed beneath her slender, cool body. The surprise that rippled across his frame with an intense spike of arousal came just before his arms wrapped around her and pulled her down, against his hot, aroused body for a kiss as demanding as anything she'd felt before.

"I will." He murmured and ran his hands down her back to feel her ass and gently spread her legs so she was straddling him. "You let me know too," he rumbled seriously. "I didn't pay much attention to how with a femme."

"And I never learned much more about how with anybody," she admitted, groaning slightly at the feel of his hands running along her body. She pulled back slightly, shedding her robes to reveal her slender body. Her pale, rich blue skin quivered as Jay's hands caressed their way up her abs and stomach to gently fondle her breasts as he tried to remember how to breathe.

With a deep moan she leaned back down, kissing Jay deeply and pressed close to his own body as she started to open his robes while he explored her cool skin with warm hands and a hot mouth until she pinned his arms to his side getting his robes off.

Finally, she worked them off, leaving them both nude on her bed; his arousal as visibly obvious to her as hers was to him by scent. She pressed close to his warm, furry body and nuzzling his neck softly, rubbing his sides as her breasts pressed against his tightly muscled chest.

"Oh, gods," Jay moaned and thrust his hips up against her smooth, cool flesh as his hands ran down her back to squeeze her ass. He pulled her hips up a little further so his full erection could rub against the only other bit of hair she had, a trimmed triangle just above her sex. As they kissed he shifted to slide the tips of his fingers down the crack of her ass to caress the slick split in her mons with a feather-light touch.

"Ooh..." She moaned softly, sliding her damp flesh along his body. "That's good," she murmured softly, pressing against his shaft as she rubbed against the smooth, hard length that made him pant and shudder.

"Yessss," he hissed and gripped her ass tightly, guiding her motions into his own as his cock slid into the slick valley between her lower lips. "Close. So close." He gasped and closed his eyes as his body tensed, his motions becoming more erratic and sharp as he pressed into the cool slickness and growled in need.

"So hot," she groaned, her own body tingling inside, the pleasure shooting through her beyond most anything she'd felt before. "Gods, Jay, please... ooh...."

"What?" He got out between gritted teeth, holding himself back for the moment.

"With me," she gasped, her juices leaking out and down his shaft, "so close!"

It was all he could do to keep his claws sheathed as he thrust up hard and pulled her hips down with a roar, his burningly hot seed shooting across her clit to land on his abs before his cock began to rub it into her sex with each thrust and grunt that pumped more between them.

She gasped sharply, her body tensing in his hands before she sealed her lips against his, kissing him desperately as she came hard, her body hungrily clenching, aching to be filled.

He held her there, her mons pulsing around his twitching shaft as they both calmed down a little.

"That was good," he murmured and kissed her hungrily again. "Very different too."

"Good different?" She with a murmur as their lips parted, nuzzling his neck.

"Yeah, a good different," his breath caught as their hips moved when he ran his hands up her back, then down to caress her breasts with his thumbs.

"Mmm ... that feels good," she murmured, kissing him lightly. "Think you'll need some attention before you can handle another round?"

"Not really," he chuckled with a bit of a blush under his fur and rubbed his still-hard cock against her sex before he tightened his grip a bit and rolled them over to put her on her back. He rumbled and kissed down her neck to nuzzle her breasts even as his hands rubbed her thighs.

"Oh...." She moaned softly, rubbing his back and scratching at his neck and ears lightly. "Jay... is this going too far? Little late to ask now, but... mmm...."

"I'm okay," he rumbled as he stretched to lie next to her and kissed her while his fingers began to slide along her lower lips.

"Oh yes," she moaned, his fur adding to the sensation of his touch against her most sensitive flesh as she wrapped her own hand around his shaft and stroked him lightly.

"Ohhhh," Jay shuddered, his concentration broken for a moment as he caught his breath. "The nubs," he moaned as he ran a finger around her hard clit.

She nodded slightly, her breath catching as she worked on teasing the tiny bumps just below the spongy head of his cock with her fingers much the same way he was working her clit. His mews as he buried his face against her shoulder and began to thrust into her hand added enticement to the way he squeezed and rubbed her clit and sex.

"S-Shi ..." he began to tremble and worked his free arm under her back to hold her tightly.

She wrapped her own free arm around him, holding him close and kissing him hotly as she stroked his shaft faster, paying special attention to the tiny spots that were making him feel so good.

His breath quickened as pleasure began to disrupt his fine motor control, turning his rubbing into pressure against her clit. A deep growl pressed his clenched teeth against her soft skin with a shudder. Burningly hot liquid splashed across her hand, side and belly even as sharp claws made pinpricks in her skin.

Her own breath quickened, the mix of pain and pleasure pushing her closer to her own orgasm. She pressed her body against his, crying out as her next climax rippled through her young body.

Gradually they both caught their breath and pressed close, Jay licking the pheromone-rich sweat from her skin for a high that didn't let him soften. Her pleasant moans for his exploration turned into a sharp gasp when he buried his muzzle against the richest source of the intoxicant and began to lick her sex of its juices. She reached down, rubbing his ears and the back of his head, doing her best to focus on giving him even half as much pleasure as he was giving her.

She could feel his control begin to slip, something blurring his mind as he lapped at her swollen and twitching sex until he actually nipped her clit. Not enough to draw blood, but enough it was a little more pain than pleasure even before his rough tongue attacked it.

"Ow! Jay!" She pushed his head back, panting hard, looking down at him apologetically. His tongue was just too much, at least that side of it. She hoped he'd change his focus instead of just going back for it again.

"Sorry," he mumbled and lowered his muzzle slightly to lap at her lower lips before he pressed his tongue experimentally into her body.

"Ohh...." She groaned deeply, leaning her head back. As much as it had been too much on her clit, it felt incredible inside her like that, the powerful, hot muscle scraping her tight insides against and again while his muzzle pressed against the outside. She lifted and spread her knees a bit, shuttering a bit in surprise at the spike in intensity it caused.

She couldn't help herself from tightening her hands against the back of his head, pressing his muzzle against her even more. She could feel the way his mind clouded as he licked more eagerly the closer she got to the edge again.

It didn't take long for her to come again, her smooth, blue-skinned thighs tightening around his head as she moaned deeply, giving him a rush of her juices and scent as a reward for his efforts. It made him hungry in an entirely different way and he moved up her body to kiss her almost desperately, his hard cock rubbing across her sex as he sought to sink into her body.

As badly as she wanted him inside her, and she did want it badly, she remembered what he'd said about not being ready. And the troubling way he wasn't thinking clearly.

"Jay," she panted, pushing him back slightly. "Jay, stop...."

For a second she though he wasn't going to listen, but despite the way he was panting, he stilled, looking down at her with a bit of a wild look in his amber eyes.

"You didn't want to do this," she murmured, sitting up a little bit and rubbing his back. "Maybe I can do something else for you instead?"

He nodded slowly and kissed her more gently. "A shower maybe." He rumbled, still seriously turned on. "Your smell ... never knew anything like it."

"Thank you," she blushed, reaching down to rub his shaft lightly. "Maybe in the shower I can return the favor? Or here, we can always clean up later...."

"Shower," he decided despite the moan she caused. Then his breath caught for an entirely different reason. "Crud!"

"What?" She asked, looking over at the clock, her own eyes widening as she realized that they were both very much late for when their training usually started.

"Yeah," he blushed brightly. "Share a shower? We're already late, we might as well not smell too much of why."

"They probably already know," Shi pointed out, still blushing. "But yeah, that'd probably be a good idea." She grabbed her robes, and then something occurred to her. "How hot do you usually shower?"

"Hot, but right now I could use a cold one." He found the last of his clothes and poked his head out the door to see if there was anyone in the living space waiting to pounce on them.

Fortunately, there wasn't.

"That probably would be a good idea," she blushed, grabbing the rest of her own clothes and moving up behind him, holding her robes up in front of her. "It looks like Master Ursal isn't...." She blushed even more.

"She says we should get the shower and quit worrying about being caught. She also says that if we're not out in thirty minutes she'll come in to make sure we're staying on track...."

Jay choked, nearly loosing his footing as he bolted for the bathroom. "Cold shower. Definitely a cold shower."

The two of them were finished and dressed again in record time, well before they had to worry about the thirty minute "limit." Shi gave Jay a quick kiss before he left, but for once they managed to keep it at that.

Before long, Jay was tearing through the halls back to his own quarters as quickly as he could. All he could really think about was just how much trouble he was probably going to be in when he got back.

As the door opened, he was greeting by Master Essani sitting on the floor next to it, looking up at him with the closest thing the kushiban had to a stern expression, her fur a deep, almost maroon color.

"Master," he bowed to her. "My apologies for loosing track of time."

"*Sit down, kit,*" she said as her expression softened slightly, her color lightening. "*We need to talk.*"

"Yes, Master." He did as told, really not wanting to hear whatever she was going to go over before he had a chance to work out what had happened for himself.

"*I'm not going to scold you for what happened,*" she told him, hopping up onto her own seat, turning to look at him. "*Normally I might, but your situation isn't normal, and it's something your culture encourages. But I hope you see that you have to be a bit more careful about it?*"

"Yes, Master," he bowed his head. He really meant it to. Running on instincts was something he really needed to work on avoiding, or at least controlling better. They didn't have much place here, at least not the ones he tended to end up using.

Essani's color seemed to drain away back to her normal white, and she sat down calmly. "*You nearly hurt somebody you cared about today Jay, though unintentionally. This is what I meant, when I warned you about the emotions involved with love and sex.*" There was no reproach in her mental tone, simply a gentle, almost motherly tone. "*You need to think things through a little bit more in the future. And to try and not lose yourself when you're intimate with somebody.*"

"Yes, Master," he bowed his head again even as he added 'and learn the local rules' to that list. All together, he rather wished that the last two days hadn't happened. Or at least that Shi hadn't kissed him in the pond. It had led to too much he wasn't sure of now, events and knowledge that scared him in retrospect and brought too many doubts to his mind.

Essani stood and walked over to him, nuzzling his arm gently.

"Go meditate for a while, Jay. You need to sort things out ... but don't be afraid to ask for help, of myself or the other Masters."

"Thank you, Master," he lifted a hand to scritch her almost on reflex before he stood to find his favorite spot deep inside the Temple's Shadow Garden to work out what he was going to do.

Doruth watched the assorted Jedi practicing in the gym with interest. He remembered the long days he'd spent honing his own skills just a little too well, but it was worth it. Looking around, he realized that the skill levels varied as much as they always had. Some of the Padawans, Knights and Masters were as good as he was or better, some of them were worse. More of them were worse than the last time he'd spent any real time here.

There was one particular Padawan he was focused on though. Fenrik Aren. He'd heard about the relationship the Panther was starting to have with Jay, and wanted to get to know him a bit better. Watching him now, practicing despite his Master's absence, he was struck by how much the younger Panther reminded him of himself when he was younger.

With a Temple upbringing, of course.

Still, he had to wonder if that had something to do with Jay's interest, given what he'd said the other night.

"Padawan Aren?" He asked once Fenrik had finished his kata.

"Yes, Jedi." He brought himself to a relaxed stance and faced the Panther twice his age with the respect do to any who had passed their Trials.

"You're not bad," Doruth observed. "Would you care to join me in practice?"

"Thank you," he bowed slightly and smiled a bit eagerly. "I would enjoy an opponent."

"Would you prefer to start out on the offensive, or defense?" Doruth asked with a smile of his own, drawing his lightsaber and igniting the bright blue blade as his opponent's brilliant white one flared to life and Fenrik dropped into an easy defensive stance.

"Defensive," he chose his weaker skill.

"Very well," Doruth nodded, shifting into a formal attack stance. He centered himself, then made a few light, probing attacks that he knew Fenrik would be able to parry easily, trying to read the younger Panther's fighting style. It wasn't a surprise, well, not much of one, when it became clear that Fenrik was both aggressive and of varied style for his experience. Doruth expected Fenrik held the same place he did: top in his class.

A few more experimental strikes and Doruth was getting flashbacks of what he must have looked and fought like fifteen years ago.

Except for one small difference. Fenrik, so far, still fought by the rules. It was helpful that their styles were so similar; most of the flaws were the same.

"Watch your left," Doruth warned him. "You favor your strong arm too much."

He couldn't help but appreciate how well Fenrik responded to a correction he no doubt had heard many times already. The kit was as serious about correcting his flaws in live combat as he was about the katas. A distinction that marked a sharp difference from what he'd seen of Jay's training. He didn't like fighting a live target with a lightsaber, though to be fair no one else particularly liked being around it either when the Darkness in Jay began to flair at having a target.

Jay just didn't understand the difference between sparring and fighting yet. He always went to the latter... and the way he responded to it was something Essani would probably have to work on a lot before he was ready to become a Knight. Fenrik didn't have any issues with that yet.

"I'm going to change things up a bit," Doruth warned the younger Panther. "Just block for now, but try to focus on anticipating what I'm going to do before you see me start to do it." He relaxed a bit, making sure he did give Fenrik enough warning, though not making it too easy for him. He started to mix it up, dropping out of the formalized dueling techniques Fenrik was used to and working in some of the personal techniques he'd developed.

He felt as much as saw the teen focus a bit more on the Force that could truly tell him what was coming. He wasn't as skilled as he was in the formalized pattern, but his Master and experience had clearly begun training him well for the real world. Strike, dodge, parry ... they easily fell into an understanding of just pushing Fenrik's limits that came a bit too easily for not being Master and Padawan.

"You're doing well," Doruth complimented him after a few minutes. "Now, go ahead and mix some offense in. Watch for leaving openings when you're getting ready to attack."

Fenrik nodded and did his best to keep his defenses up, even not striking on most of the occasions when Doruth gave him an opening that would force him to give the older Panther one in return. They were both peripherally aware that they had drawn a small crowd, including one slightly pregnant shewolf, and Doruth couldn't help but approve that it didn't change Fenrik's focus at all.

It wasn't long before Doruth stepped back slightly, lowering his lightsaber and holding it off to the right. He smiled fractionally when it was mirrored instead of Fenrik extinguishing his saber and held there for the couple breaths that were expected for good form.

"Thank you, Jedi." Fenrik bowed and extinguished his saber, Doruth's own fading.

"You're welcome, Padawan," Doruth smiled, bowing his head respectfully. "Are you expected anywhere, or are you free to talk for a brief time?"

"I am free. My Master is away on a mission." He grinned slightly, though it was obvious to most that he'd much rather be with his Master on that mission than with free time on his hands at the Temple. Something else that stood in strike contrast with Jay, who would likely be happy if he never saw field missions.

"Then why don't we go grab something to eat and talk a little once you've cleaned up," Doruth suggested with a smile. "I'll meet you outside the gym." As Fenrik nodded and hurried off, the Panther turned to Tes, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek as he holstered his 'saber.

"I'll see you later," he told her softly as the small crowd dispersed. "I just want to talk with him a bit about Jay."

"Just try not to scare him too badly." She chuckled and kissed him back. "Jay's getting old enough to make his own choices."

"I'm not trying to scare him," Doruth chuckled. "Just making sure Jay's making a good choice. Try not to flirt too much with the Jedi you practice with," he winked. "Don't want things getting too rough," he added, rubbing the small swell of her belly gently before he left her to watch the sparring, and he went to meet with Fenrik.

He was only about half surprised to see the teen waiting for him just outside the gym's main door, his robes in order and his tail swaying lightly.

"Knight Doruth Parn?" Fenrik asked him politely.

"Yes," Doruth nodded. "Though you can call me Doruth, if you wish."

Fenrik nodded and grinned at him a bit nervously. "I'm not going to hurt your kit, sir." He said seriously.

"You guessed what was coming up, hmm?" Doruth chuckled, smiling some. "I'll admit, I do want to talk to you about him. Though he's not my kit, not really at least."

"There aren't that many reasons you'd pick today to notice me, Doruth." He pointed out politely with a curious look. "Then it's not true that you brought him here and petitioned for his acceptance?"

"That is true," Doruth corrected him, leading the way from the gym towards the cafeteria. "But he's not mine by blood, and I doubt he'd say he thought of me like a father if you asked him. By the way, what do you prefer to be called? Padawan, Fenrik, something else?"

"Fenrik," he nodded and kept pace easily and held his peace about Temple gossip that said Jay definitely did consider Doruth is local next of kin.

"All right," Doruth nodded easily. "At any rate, he's a great kit. His real parents are probably worried sick about him, but there's no telling how long it'll take them to get to this part of space ... if ever. And I do care about him," the older Panther admitted.

"It shows," Fenrik smiled a bit. "Both ways. He thinks a lot of you if talk is anything to go by."

"He's mentioned it," Doruth chuckled, blushing slightly beneath his fur. "At any rate, you can see why I'm interested in talking with his new boyfriend."

"I'm not sure I am," he admitted as they walked and rubbed his neck. "His girlfriend hasn't had her say yet, and Jay didn't have a clue what the deal with her was."

That explained the ruckus Doruth had heard about that led to finding out about Fenrik in the first place.

"Is it true she caught you two together?" He asked, stepping into a lift.

"Caught implies we were doing something wrong, sir." He pointed out firmly but politely. "She did walk in and see us together, yes."

"I hadn't meant to imply that, Fenrik," Doruth said appraisingly. "Though I can see why that would cause problems for all three of you," he admitted. "You want to keep seeing him, assuming he comes to an agreement with Shivasta that allows it?"

"Yeah," he nodded thoughtfully. "It may sound presumptuous, but I don't think it was an accident that I came across him last night."

"The Force works in mysterious ways," Doruth granted. "There are some issues you would need to be aware of before the two of you got into a serious relationship, but I want to check with him before bringing them up. He prefers to keep them private," he explained.

"The Dark in him?" Fenrik nodded as the lift came to a stop. "I kind of figured he'd bring it up if this was going to be more than a one-nighter."

"I wasn't sure if you were aware of it yet," Doruth nodded. "And he probably will. He likes to keep it under wraps, but he brings it up with people who should know, that he trusts." The two of them got off the lift, walking the rest of the way to the cafeteria.

"I don't blame him for it, but anyone who's seen him spar with a real opponent can feel it in him. My Master said it was probably fear-triggered, not anger or bloodlust based."

"In a real way, it is," Doruth nodded. "A couple years on Nar Shaddaa on top of his background before that, and he's used to fights being for his life, not for practice."

"Ouch," Fenrik winced in sympathy. "That's not a fun place for a mission. No wonder he's grateful to be here."

"Most people who've spent any time living there would just about kill to even be in the slums here," Doruth chuckled slightly. "I was just glad I could get him out of there. He's paid me back for it at least three times over too, without my asking for more than help getting us both off-planet."

"Can't say I'm surprised," he smiled slightly at the older Panther. "He's well known for being generous to his friends. And just as well known as someone not to get on the bad side of." He added with a bit of a chuckle.

"Oh yeah," Doruth agreed with a chuckle as the two of them fetched their meals and found seats. "He can make your life so miserable if he wants to."

"That tech-talent he has," Fenrik sat down with a grin. "It tends to blind-side folks to. It's not exactly an obvious gift."

"No, and when you're lightsaber turns off in the middle of a fight it's not exactly something you're thinking is going to happen," Doruth agreed with a chuckle.

"No," Fenrik blinked. "I hadn't heard about that one. That's nasty."

"I imagine Master Essani's done her best to train him not to do that except in a real fight," Doruth chuckled. "From what I understand, he had a bad habit of using his tech talents to solve most of his problems early on. Effective too," he observed.

"As tech-intensive as this world is, I don't doubt it," he nodded thoughtfully. "He'll be quite the unique field operative if anybody manages to talk him into it. I expect he'd be good at it too."

"Probably," Doruth nodded. "Though it sounds like he would prefer to stay in the Temple as much as he can."

"What I heard too," Fenrik nodded. "I heard it's why he's with Master Essani and not you."

"Yeah," he admitted. "And he's more scholar than warrior. Master Essani is a much better fit for him."

Fenrik nodded, not about to question a choice of Master.

"What was Jay's life before Nar Shaddaa?" He asked quietly as they ate.

"From what he told me, he lived on a colony ship," Doruth explained. "There was an accident that ended up with him on Nar Shaddaa and his ship light years away with no clue where he was. As much as he loved space, I was a little surprised that he wanted to stay on one planet," he admitted. "Though I suppose being able to fly off whenever he can get into a fighter helps. He could probably tell you more about his life before, I didn't ask too much about it. At the time, it seemed better not to make him focus on it."

Fenrik nodded and took a few bites, working on just how to ask what he wanted to know without asking Jay directly.

"He was about ten when you found him?"

"About," Doruth nodded. "Assuming he was tracking years right. Makes him about thirteen now," the older Panther pointed out, his meaning clear.

"With more skill than anyone with the experience he claims should have," he said quietly, watching the Knight carefully. "Something he probably didn't pick up here."

"If you're asking how he made a living on Nar Shaddaa," Doruth said, shaking his head, "that's not how. He was a petty thief, not a part-time hooker. But it sounds like his family was pretty loose, relationship-wise. Kit knew way too much about sex for any ten year old when I met him."

"There are worse things to be naturally talented at," Fenrik chuckled a little self-consciously. "It just didn't seem to mesh with somebody who'd gotten his first kiss two days ago."

"I'm surprised it's taken him so long," Doruth chuckled. "Shivasta?" He asked, raising an eyebrow slightly.

"From what I've heard," he nodded. "They hadn't really gotten past necking last night. I was half surprised he went with me, much less stayed the night."

Doruth fought the urge to ask Fenrik what he'd been doing making a suggestion like that to somebody as young as Jay. After all, they were a lot closer in age, and it had come just hours after Jay had hit on him.

"You two friends before that?" He asked instead.

"Not really," he stayed still despite the urge to put some distance between himself and Jay's guardian. "We met a few times since I got here."

A couple years ago, he might have had to put that distance between the two of them. As it was, Doruth's displeasure was noticeable, but he didn't seem angry.

"Was he your first too?" The older Panther asked, pretty sure he knew the answer already.

"No," he admitted quietly, his tail down and head slightly lowered in instinctive submission to avoid angering his better. "I've been with a couple other guys. He was acting older than me when I came up," he pointed out quietly. "You don't usually get into girls till your mid-teens."

He actually preferred that answer, honestly, and he couldn't refute the point that if Jay'd been making out with Shi beforehand, it made him out to be significantly older than he was, something Fenrik would have had little way of knowing until they were undressed and well too late knowing Jay.

"How did it happen?" Doruth asked quietly, but firmly. "I can guess that you asked him, but why'd you ask him, and how'd it work out?"

Fenrik swallowed. In retrospect, he'd done plenty to get himself in serious trouble if the Knight or either Master involved took offence at it, even if it wasn't technically wrong. Just Jay's age, something he hadn't even thought of until things were over with, could look bad. It was just two years different, and Jay was into puberty with the first of his barb hair nubs, but it could be made to look very bad.

"Even before my Master left for his mission, Jay had my attention." He said quietly, trying to put the events he'd never questioned in order. "He didn't spend much time alone though. I never really got a chance to talk to him. Last night I was looking for company, and he wanted it, badly. I wasn't expecting him, I just did what I usually do and walk until I catch the right scent.

"I offered to help him wind down. We kissed, I think I started it, but he was in charge so fast. We didn't get much past the main door to my quarters before we were kissing and touching again. He licked and mouthed me as soon as he got my robes were off. Didn't take him long either." He paused to focus himself enough not to cause too much of a ripple.

"When I asked him how he wanted it, he asked to have me in him." Fenrik shook his head a bit. "I made the first move, but it wasn't my ideas past that."

Doruth mulled it over for a few minutes. It didn't sound like he'd taken advantage of Jay; he certainly didn't believe he had. Jay probably wouldn't either ... and, unless Essani was going to raise the issue, that was what mattered. Jay did have the right to make his own choices, after all. Even if they weren't necessarily the brightest ones ever.

"When you found out who I was, you said you weren't going to hurt him. Make sure you keep that promise, unless he gives you a damned good reason to break it."

"I'm not suicidal, Knight Parn." Fenrik looked at him seriously, it all too clear in his manner that that was just what he considered hurting Jay to be, and that it wasn't entirely do to the protectiveness of the other Panther.

"I wish you luck with him then," Doruth said, bowing his head slightly, "assuming you're with him after he sorts things out. Just take good care of him when you can."

"Thank you," Fenrik inclined his head, more relieved that he'd realized for a while. "I will."

Doruth stretched slightly as he walked back to his temporary quarters after talking with Fenrik. It had actually gone fairly well. He'd still have to talk with Jay later, but it could wait. The kit needed his meditation time and as the door opened, he caught sent of something that needed his attention more. He chuckled and started to undress once the door had closed, then stepped the short distance to the bedroom where Tes was laid out on the bed, her attention on the lower two pair of tits that were starting to fill with milk for the pups that had begun to show in her swelling belly.

"Want some help with that?" He asked her, licking his lips as he took in her body. As much as he loved the sleek, muscular look she usually had, there was something very appealing about her like this too, so full and round with new life.

"Always," she grinned at him and extended a hand in welcome. "Everything's getting sensitive."

"Mmm ... even these?" He asked, quirking an eyebrow as he took her hand, kneeling by the edge of the bed and licking her much smaller secondary breasts tenderly.

"Ohhhh yeah," Tes gasped and arched into the contact as she ran her hands along his shoulders. "Especially those."

"Mmm ... good," he grinned and rumbled, licking at them, suckling lightly at the swollen mammaries and their hardening nipples that made her squirm and moan more than teasing her breasts normally ever managed.

"Ohhh, Doruth," she rubbed his ears and spread her legs, encouraging him to both continue and to move lower. "That tongue of yours is indecent." She shuddered in raw pleasure.

"But you love it anyway," he grinned up at her, nuzzling over to the swell of her belly, licking her navel tenderly, then down to her slick sex.

"Raaoowwww!" Tes howled and gripped whatever her hands were near as her body quivered so close to an orgasm it hurt. "Ohhh ... Doruth." She shuddered and pulled away a little. "Want you in me." She breathed sharply and curled up to kiss him hotly. "Without getting yelled at again. Healers gave me a new ... lube-stuff to use."

"Mmm ... to put in you, or on me?" He asked with a rumble, returning the kiss hungrily.

"On you," she licked the side of his jaw and reached between them to stroke his nearly full erection. "Promised it wouldn't dampen anything, but they're really wound up about scarring right now."

"I can understand why," he rumbled. "Mmm... you want me to put it on and let us see if it works, or mind if I try giving you a little TLC first?"

"When have I ever objected to anything you wanted?" Tes breathed hotly and kissed him. "Just need to put the lube on before you get serious."

"I will," he promised, kissing her tenderly and moving up to lie down beside her. "Let's see what it takes to make you whimper my name, hmm?" He ran his hands down her front, caressing her breasts and belly before ghosting his fingers along her swollen lips.

"Very little," Tes murmured, then moaned and spread her legs for him and snuggled against his broad, flat chest.

"Then we'll probably be moving on soon," he rumbled, licking her muzzle tenderly, shifting one leg to help hold hers up as he fingered her sex, holding her close with his free arm.

"Yes," she shivered, her tail wagging against his balls as her sex quivered around his gently exploring fingers. "Ohhhh, yessss."

"Like that, hmm?" He rumbled, rubbing her clit lightly, then reaching down, circling the hot, wet entrance to her body with a dark-furred fingertip.

"Ohhh, Doruth." Tes whimpered and arched against him, spreading her legs further, silently begging him to fill her.

He pressed a fingertip into her slightly, teasing her a little more as he rubbed his own rigid cock against her ass.

"Tell me what you want," he rumbled deeply.

"I want that hard cock of yours where your finger is," she whimpered and pressed back against him. "Want you to fuck me."

"How badly?" He asked with a deep, lusty rumble. He knew he was just teasing her; he was already reaching for the lube they were going to use with his hand, leaving her pussy unattended.

"Bad," Tes whimpered hotly and shifted a bit so his cock slipped forward to rub across her hot, slick mons.

"Mmm ... guess I'd better get inside you then," he rumbled, kissing her as he spread the thick green gel over his shaft. "Can't deny you anything," he purred, pressing into her with a deep groan. The coating the gel provided transferred the tightness and warmth of her sex perfectly, pulling at his barbs as he started to thrust into her.

"Oh, Gods!" Tes howled and stretched out along his body, relishing having Doruth inside her without any pain. Each slow thrust drew a fresh rumble from each of them as he held her against his chest gently and fondled sensitive breasts.

He savored the sensations as he licked and nuzzled her neck and shoulders, his powerful body rubbing against her back and rubbing all her breasts with his hands as he sank himself into her body time and again. As difficult as it was, Doruth kept his body strictly under control as her pleasure mounted and her body gripped him more and more tightly.

"Ohhh, Doruth." She moaned as she gave into her pleasure.

"Mmm ... Tes," he rumbled, licking her neck as he thrust into her sex a little faster. "So hot...."

"Fill me with your seed, Doruth," she cried out sharply, her body milking his cock. "Tell our pups who their father is."

He let out a roar, coming hard and pumping his seed into her deeply as her body milked him for every drop.

"Oh, yes!" Tes squeezed down around the hot smoothness deep in her body, panting as they came down slowly.

"Mmm ... you like it with that, hmm?" He rumbled softly, contentedly, fondling her breasts as his hands strayed from one set to the other.

"Yes," she murmured and turned her head to kiss him lightly. "It's nice not to have it hurt."

"I'm sorry about all that," he murmured, returning the kiss. "Have to thank whoever came up with this when you see them next. They outdid themselves."

"Yes, they did." She murmured and shifted to face him for a lingering kiss. "And the pain is not your fault, Doruth. I knew before you ever touched me what I was getting into."

"Mmm ... still, glad they figured out a way around it," he murmured. "After all," he winked, "only way you liking sex more is a bad thing is if you end up working me to death."

"I have faith that's not possible," she grinned and snuggled against him. "You just bring it out in me so much."

"Mmm... I do my best," he rumbled, nuzzling her fondly. "Love you Tes," he murmured softly.

"I love you, Doruth." She whispered back and claimed a lingering kiss. "More than I thought was possible."

"Hey, Shi." Fenrik called out to her softly as he walked up to her studying alone by Jay's favorite pond the morning after she'd walked in on Jay with him.

"Hmm?" She looked up, surprised to see the Panther there. She hadn't been too surprised that Jay wasn't there, honestly, but she'd just thought that meant she'd be studying alone. "Hello, Fenrik. Care to sit down?" She asked politely.

"Thanks," he settled down a respectful distance. "I was hoping we could talk a bit ... sort thing out between us."

"And between us and Jay?" She guessed, though it wasn't hard to tell that it was at least on his mind. "I'm sorry about yesterday," she opened up, something she was getting a little too used to saying. "Jay and I did talk about it."

"Yeah, well, I really should have locked the door." He blushed a bit. "He was just really distracting right then."

"I ah... think I've got an idea what you mean," Shi blushed a light violet. "He can be remarkably distracting when he sets his mind to it...."

"Yeah, he can be," Fenrik smiled fondly. "But mostly I came because we both care about him and we both want to stay in his life. It'd be good if we got along too."

"That it would," she nodded. "Though, just so you know, I don't mind you two seeing each other yet," she added with a smile. "Don't know if Jay would've told you yet."

"Not yet," he let out a small breath of relief. "Thank you."

"Neither of our people have ever really believed in sticking to one partner," she smiled slightly. "I was just a little surprised to see he'd already found another."

"More like another found him, but yeah, I get how that can be pretty rattling." He nodded seriously. "It's not something you usually expect."

"No," she agreed, leaning back and relaxing a bit. "You don't mind sharing?"

"No," Fenrik shook his head easily. "I don't mind. I'm not really into femmes yet, but if he's happy, I can't really object."

"I don't think he's really into femmes yet either," she admitted. "At least not as much as he likes males. So," she smiled, looking over at the Panther sitting next to her, "truce, friends?"

"Truce, friends," he smiled back. "And give him two or three years. You'll probably see a real change after his barbs start breaking through."

"So about your age?" She asked curiously.

"Yeah," he nodded, blushing a bit.

"What'd I say?" She asked, giggling a little.

"Just reminded me I'll probably be interested in you in a few months." His flush deepened. "It complicates things a lot."

"Uhm, yeah," she agreed with a blush of her own. "It would. Though I doubt Jay'd mind too much," she chuckled slightly.

"Probably not," he nodded slightly. "It's not like who sired the kits is an issue."

"No," she agreed. "Even if it was possible, it wouldn't be an issue for a long time."

"Very true," he nodded and cocked his head a bit. "So how did you two end up together?"

"I help heal him after he found out why you're supposed to wait until you're a Knight before you practice flying with the Force," she chuckled slightly.

Fenrik blinked a couple times. "He got far enough to require a healer from the crash?"

"He has a talent for trying things before he's ready, and making it farther than he has any real right to," she nodded with a slight smile. "He doesn't talk about it too much, obviously."

"I'm beginning to feel sorry for Master Essani," he murmured with a shake of his head. "And why she has him. Not many Masters could handle a Padawan like that."

"He's getting better about it from what I can tell," Shivasta chuckled. "He seems to be focusing on what he's supposed to be studying a bit more, so it's not as risky when he focuses on what he wants to."

"I expect Master Essani has added a few instructions for experimental time too, like 'don't try new things without me around'." He chuckled slightly. "At least for potentially dangerous ideas."

"I wouldn't doubt it," she nodded. "He said himself that he had a bad habit of turning her fur grey."

"At least she changes back," he cracked a grin. "Most turn grey from us and stay that way."

"Am I the only Padawan here who doesn't delight in leaving her Master new colors?" She asked, looking over with a slight smirk. "The chlorophyll incident aside?"

"Oh, most don't delight in it," he chuckled. "We just do it. Though I bet the green Bear was a bit of a sight."

"To my credit, I only managed that once," Shivasta chuckled. "And Master Ursal thought it was funny too. Not that I did it intentionally. Other than that, all her grey is natural."

"You're both Healers too," Fenrik pointed out with a smirk. "You guys never seem that inclined towards pranks or crazy behavior."

"That's because we have to keep you warriors and scholarly types on the straight and narrow," she smirked back. "Besides, if we managed to get ourselves hurt doing something like that, who'd patch you guys up?"

"And who'd be able to lecture us about not doing stupid things." He chuckled. "It doesn't come across quite as sternly when the lecturer is as guilty as the lectured.

"Very true," she chuckled. "Mmm ... though from what I've heard, Essani comes close with most of the lectures she's given Jay."

"Yeah, but she's his Master. It's different."

"True," she nodded. "Though it is a little odd to think of a Master as pulling some of the pranks she has."

"True," Fenrik chuckled lightly. "She never did grow out of prankster mode. But she's a rabbit. An odd sense of humor is required to get along when nine-tenths of the known universe conceders you either food or a pet."

"True, though it's amusing when somebody tries to treat her like either," Shivasta smiled. "I still remember this time not too long after I was here, some Panther cub tried 'hunting' her."

"Picked him up by the scruff and explained why you make sure something's not sentient before you go hunting?" Fenrik chuckled ruefully, rubbing the back of his neck.

"Oh," Shi giggled. "Sorry...."

"It's okay. Everybody who hunts gets that one. I did learn after the first round, after all."

"Which is better than a lot of others manage," Shivasta nodded. "Like that Navik creep, before he had himself shipped back to Rodia. Don't think he ever really accepted it."

"Yeah, him." Fenrik snorted. "You'd think they'd know better than to bring in certain races. Some just aren't capable of being socialized right, no matter how Force-sensitive they are."

"Fenrik," she said, frowning slightly. "There's always a chance. It was worth that much, even if it didn't work out. Who knows? Maybe some day he'll figure out where he went wrong."

"Maybe," he shrugged. "But most of the Jedi killers out there were trained here. They shouldn't be turned loose like that when they fail. We're making the Dark stronger that way, and loosing good Knights in the process."

"And only a handful of Jedi, Knights or otherwise, ever are turned loose that way," she pointed out softly. "There's no chance for redemption after death."

"Is that what they teach Healers?" He asked quietly despite the slight bristle of fur. "Make you fight death that much more."

"It's also true, as far as anybody knows," she pointed out softly.

"They're twisting the truth for you," he sighed. "Death is redemption. You rejoin the Force when you die. It's the ultimate redemption."

"Not if the hold of the Dark Side is too strong on you," she pointed out. "If the spirit fights rejoining the Force. And if it's not strong enough, then they can to the light without dying, make amends for their crimes, whatever they are. Either way, what does it say about us, if we're willing to kill somebody for something they might do in the future?"

He regarded her, and then shook his head sadly. "It says that the people in charge are willing to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of innocent lives rather than killing a few very dangerous people when they first knew they were trouble."

"The ones who killed the most we never saw coming," she pointed out. "Exar Kun, Malik, they were both well on their way to being Knights in good standing when they turned. Revan was nearly a Master, and if Knight Parn hadn't stopped him, Master Zykell would have devastated entire worlds. These are the people who've dedicated themselves to slaying Jedi, and they were Jedi until they turned. Nobody saw it coming until it was far, far too late."

"Because no one wanted to believe it, or it happened fast." He countered quietly. "It's not something that concerns us either, any more than why a government would let a disease ravage a world unchecked for years before calling for help. I get sent to pick up the pieces for the Council's mistakes, you get sent to pick up for health departments. Both could be avoided if the people in charge would see what was happening and act on it."

"I think we should just agree to disagree here, at least for now," she said quietly.

"Sure," he accepted easily. It wasn't a debate even his Master got far with very often. "So how did it go with Jay after he caught up with you again?"

"Well, we sorted out what had happened," she explained. "I misinterpreted ... well, pretty much everything," she admitted.

"Like what?" He asked, his tone quite gentle. "Maybe I can give you a heads up on any surprises that are coming."

"We'd been friends for weeks before kissing came up," she explained, blushing slightly, "let alone anything more. When I saw him in bed with you like that... well, I assumed you'd been together longer, and he'd told me that he didn't have anybody. So it started out just being a shock, and from there, I started to wonder if he'd lied to me about being alone, or other things he'd told me."

"Ah, no." He flushed a bit himself. "I was just lucky. You never left him alone long enough to have anyone else. I was looking."

"I didn't think I monopolized him that much," Shivasta blushed. "He explained it... he's just a lot more at ease with toms right now."

"I seriously doubt he wasn't enjoying it," Fenrik smiled slightly. "And yeah, welcome to feline biology. He'll figure it out on his own in a couple years if you don't teach him sooner."

"What is it about feline biology that makes males more interesting?" She asked. "You mentioned it earlier, but not why."

"Female felines usually need the extra stimulation of the barbs to have the right kind of orgasm to conceive," he explained easily. "So until they come in and a male can actually sire kits, interest in females is usually minimal. Interest in sex starts with the first nubs though. It's two or three years between the two when males are interesting but females aren't. He's just barely got his first nubs; it'll be a while before the barbs come in."

"So that's why those were so sensitive," she mused, her eyes getting wide as she realized what she'd just said.

"Yeah," he nodded. "It's nothing compared to what the barbs feel like though."

"I'll take your word for it," she blushed. "At least for now."

"You'll get your chance in a couple years," he nodded easily. "I don't see Jay taking off on you."

"I hope not," she smiled softly. "Though I don't know that he's gonna take off on you either. Thanks for finding me, Fenrik," she added. "It's good to get a chance to know you."

"It seemed like a good idea," he smiled a bit. "You'll have him a lot more than me after all. You're both staying at the Temple mostly, I think this is the longest stay I've ever had here."

"Just hope we don't both end up off-planet on a mission for too long," she chuckled. "No telling what's going to happen to him without us to keep an eye on him when Master Essani's too busy."

"He'd find someone else." He chuckled easily. "It's just how things tend to work. He's not the kind that takes walking alone well."

"Very true," she nodded with a smile. "He needs friends, at the very least. I'm afraid I have to get going," she said, sitting up. "Master Ursal won't be too happy if I'm late for my lessons again," she chuckled slightly.

"No, they never are," he nodded and waved her off.

The next day Shi went looking for Jay. She eventually found him swimming in one of the Temple's ponds, his robes at the shore. She could tell he was fairly well relaxed; there was something about how he moved through the water that seemed much more like his old self. She sat down by the edge of the lake, watching him with a soft smile.

They'd both been doing a lot of thinking the past few days, though he'd done more than she had. Talking with Fenrik had helped explain a few of her questions, and erased any doubts she had about her ability to share Jay.

She waited for him to climb out; she wanted to talk with him next, see how he was doing. She couldn't help but look him over appreciatively as he climbed up on the large flat rock and sprawled out on it to dry off. She also couldn't help but blush as she noticed his half-hard shaft. She walked over, leaning back against his rock.

"How's it going?" She asked him.

"Better," he nodded, rolling his head over to look at her. "How are you doing?"

"Pretty good," she smiled. "I talked with Fenrik yesterday. He's a nice guy, though it's definitely easy to tell he's a warrior at heart."

"I noticed, believe me." Jay chuckled. "It makes quite an impression."

"Mmm ... in case he hasn't told you, we've decided we'll try to be friends, and that we can share," she smiled, shifting to kiss him on the cheek lightly.

"Good," his tail patted the rock lightly and he rolled a bit to kiss her back on the mouth. "It'd be rough if you didn't like each other."

"Philosophical differences, but not anything we can't ignore or sort out," she smiled, nuzzling him lightly and reaching up to scritch his chest. "He did mention something though, that I've got to run by you before it's an issue."

"Mmmm?" Jay rumbled with a deep purr.

"Well, he explained why it is that felines don't get interested in females for a while," she explained, smiling at him. "And he mentioned that he might be developing an interest in me in the next few months."

Jay blinked and looked at her curiously. "News to me." He murmured. "But if you two get along that well, I'm fine with it."

"Mmm ... don't know if we will or not," she admitted. "But I wanted to clear it with you first. After all," she smiled, "fair's fair, right?

"Fair's fair," he chuckled and nuzzled her.

"And he said something about getting more interested once the barbs come in," she shrugged slightly. "Instinct thing."

"Possible," he nodded. "And just some exposure'll help too."

"Mmm ... well, we can work on that some," she smiled. "So, you have things sorted out better now?"

"Yes," he leaned the rest of the way to his side and kissed her. "Mostly it was coming to an understanding of why I did what I did, and what I wanted to do now."

"And what did you decide?" She asked him, scritching his chest lightly as his arousal slowly mounted.

"Mmmm ... that I made a mess of not figuring it out first, but I want you both in my life, for different reasons."

"What did you make a mess of?" She asked him. "What part, at least? After all, you're hardly the sole source of the mess the past few days have been in general."

"I made a mess of my part." He shrugged. "I didn't check to find out what your expectations were and I didn't find out before I went with Fenrik that you'd be okay with it. It's not like I don't know I'm not back home. Running on those social rules is just unreasonable."

"Well I made a mess of mine too, if that's the case," she smiled softly. "Went off without knowing what had happened, what was happening. What your expectations were. So, just for the record, let's just each blame ourselves and not worry about it, okay? We've taken care of it."

"Works for me," he rumbled softly and ran his fingers along her soft blue neck.

"Mmm...." She shivered slightly, rubbing down his chest towards his stomach. "Decide anything else, beyond that you want us both in your life?"

"To take my time to make this work," he murmured and guided her down for a kiss. "As little or as much as that means."

"It doesn't have to mean being uncomfortable," she murmured, returning the kiss, closing her eyes as she got into it. "No farther than you're comfortable with, whether you think I want it or not."

"I know," he rumbled and ghosted a hand over her breasts behind the light robes she was wearing. "I could feel how badly you wanted it, and you still stopped me." He kissed down her jaw and neck. "Thank you for that."

"You're welcome," she murmured, shivering again. "Mmm ... should we find somewhere more private?"

"Suggestions?" He rumbled and rolled to his feet down to the grass to get his robes.

"Anywhere we're not likely to be found by wandering Masters or people who won't let us live it down," she giggled. As he pulled his robes on, she walked up behind him and hugged him impulsively. "And maybe somewhere I can give you that shower I promised before we saw the clock," she whispered.

"That rules my room out," he turned in her arms and kissed her soundly. "Essani likes the sonic kind."

"Mine?" She offered. "Master Ursal kind of made an offer; she won't interrupt unless she has to or we're supposed to be somewhere in ten minutes."

"Works for me," he chuckled and nuzzled her. "I'm not due anywhere until after dinner."

"Then we'd best get going," she smiled, kissing him tenderly and rubbing his back before they broke apart to walk to her quarters.

Shivasta really had no doubt that everybody they passed on the way back knew that something was up, though she hoped they didn't know what. The trip back to her quarters was much longer than she wanted it to be by the time they finally got there, and she drew Jay close for a kiss that he returned with a fair amount of passion and explorative hands that worked under her light, loose clothes.

He didn't say a thing as he began to kiss down her neck, his hands under her short top to caress her breasts, his thumb taking special care in circling the hardening nipple when he found it.

She moaned softly, her hands working along his own back to find each point she could remember that would wind him up.

"Shouldn't we get to the shower?" She asked him, groaning as his furry fingers teased her nipples.

"Mmm, that's a good idea," he shivered in a combination of her touch and the thought of having her under water, even cool water.

"Let's go," she grinned, leading the way, shedding what little she was wearing on the way. "Mind if I set the water?" She asked him, climbing in ahead of him.

"Go ahead," he nodded as he stripped, taking a little longer than strictly necessary to watch her slender sky-blue form move and licked his lips in the hunger her backside raised in him. He wasn't sure if she'd realized the effect it had on him, but after she'd set the water temperature where she wanted it she leaned back up, playing her hands down along her body to accentuate her lean curves.

"Join me?" She asked him with a seductive shyness.

"Anywhere," he rumbled and stepped under the spray that made her skin glisten. It was shockingly cold, below what he took for a cool shower, but after an instinctive shiver he tried to think of it as rain and ran his hands up her trim body, his mouth lavishing attention on her breasts.

"Oh yes," she groaned, reaching down to stroke his sheath and fondle his balls, water streaming down her body and matting his fur. She could feel the pleasure her touch caused, but as he knelt and kissed his way down to the trimmed triangle of dark blue hair above her sex, she could feel that this was pushing his temperature comfort zone pretty seriously.

"Want to move to my bed instead?" She offered, realizing that it was definitely chillier than he liked.

"Mind if I warm up first?" He looked up, willing to pleasure her first.

"If you want," she smiled. "Just want you to enjoy this too, y'know?"

"It won't take much," he promised with a kiss to her sex before he stood.

"I'll meet you in my room," she promised, stepping out and grabbing a towel to dry off quickly before she wrapped it around her waist and walked out of the room. She could feel the heat on her back at the water temperature went up a solid thirty degrees and he groaned as the chill was burned from his body.

She shivered a little, though not from the cold. Just imagining being under that water almost hurt.

They'd definitely have to lay off playing in the shower.

It took her a moment, but it sunk in that it wasn't just the physical chill that had made him uncomfortable. Something about the cold triggered instincts that spoke of dangerous places and things to fear.

She lay down on her bed, stretching and waiting for him to follow her in, untying the towel and getting ready to open it when he was there. It didn't take him long; his fur was still a bit damp as he walked in.

"Sorry," Jay rumbled as he knelt on the bed to kiss her. "I'm just not built for those temperatures."

"It's okay," she rumbled, returning the kiss and laying the towel aside. "What about in here?" She asked, knowing that her room was probably still below what he was used to, for all that he hadn't complained before.

"In here I have my fur to make up the difference," he purred and kissed her softly, one hand trailing along her breastbone. "It's cool, but you warm me up."

"Why don't we see just how warm I can make you?" She offered, stroking his side and pressing into his hand. "Might not be in the shower, but I do still have a few plans for us, if you're in the mood to play...."

"Definitely," he shivered in pleasure and began to kiss down her neck to her breasts again.

"Mmm ... oh no you don't," she rumbled playfully, pulling him up for a kiss as she rolled over on top of him. "My turn to use my tongue this time," she smiled, kissing him deeply before she moved to nuzzle his neck and start kissing down his chest.

"Anything you want," Jay moaned softly and relaxed after his initial startled reaction. It didn't stop him from running his hands along her body, taking in her soft, cool skin that was so different from Fenrik's sold fur-covered heat.

She licked at his furless nipples lightly as she moved down his body, her tongue cool against his skin as her fingers worked his sheath and balls, slowly coaxing him to hardness. It wasn't a difficult task, she could feel the pleasure that wasn't completely physical every touch caused and he had no inhibitions about voicing it with a small multitude of whimpers, moans, groans, rumbles and purrs.

His hands didn't still either, their marked heat a wave that ran over her back and shoulders, encouraging her to go further down to where his cock was stirring in it's velvet-soft sheath. And lower she went.

When she reached his groin, she started to nuzzle it, lick at it, anything she could think of to draw his young cock out of its hiding place. His voice, as much as his body, told her what he liked best and she nuzzled him more, using her tongue and mouth on his balls as he peaked out; the spongy, cylindrical head rewarding her efforts along with his moans and pleasure.

She ran her tongue around the head, moaning softly at the heavy, musky taste. She took him into her mouth, far cooler than he was used to, but just as enthusiastic as she coaxed him out and teased his nubs with her lips and tongue.

He stiffened instantly with a sharp cry of raw pleasure that turned into a drawn out whimper; his entire body reacted to the bolt of sensation by stiffening even as he submitted completely to her attentions.

She moved her head up and down his length, playing her fingers along the nerves and pleasure points around his crotch, thighs and the furless pucker of his ass. She suckled on his shaft lightly, closing her eyes and focusing on pleasuring him. The sensations pouring off him, their utterly unguarded and unfiltered nature, was a distraction that made it more difficult to focus than when his instincts began to take over and he thrust his hips up into the cool, wet warmth.

For a few brief moments, she tried to find some way to keep focused, but quickly gave in to sheer instinct, moaning around his cock and pressing her finger into his almost painfully hot body. She let his reactions, both emotionally and physically, guide her to what felt best for him, her own arousal quickly mounting as his peaked.

"Sh-Shi," he shuddered, his hands working in her hair as he tried not to hurt her as his control of his hips began to slip.

She ran her tongue along each of his nubs, hungry for his seed, almost not hearing him as she worked him towards the edge, then over it with a roar. His hips jerked up sharply, shooting the gooey strings into her mouth with each thrust and it's matching cry of pleasure so intense it was nearly painful.

Shi pulled back sharply, but managed to keep his tip in her mouth, swallowing the intensely hot, bittersweet liquid as it poured over her tongue.

Once he'd finished, she pulled off of him, nuzzling his sticky shaft lightly, memorizing his scent and taste before she moved up along his body to kiss him lightly, pressing close. He wrapped her in an embrace and rolled them over, putting her on her back.

"My turn," he rumbled softly as he nuzzled his way down her neck, his hands exploring her body with a relaxed hunger he didn't try to control.

"Just wanted to be sure I got my turn this time," she teased playfully, moaning as his furry fingers and the hard tips of his claws played along her body, exploring to find the pleasure points that she knew by training.

"Ever had a fantasy about me?" He rumbled, his breath hot against her bare skin as he nuzzled her breasts, giving every inch of sensitive skin attention.

"Ooh... a couple," she admitted, blushing and moaning softly. "We're probably not really ready for those though...."

"Involving something besides my tongue inside you?" He guessed with a rumbled, his rough tongue swirling around her nipple until it was a hard pebble he couple play sharp teeth over.

"Mhm," she nodded, her breath quickening as he slid one hand down, his palm flat across her stomach. "Mmm ... you have any more our speed?"

"Maybe," Jay rumbled, his fingers teasing her mons with a feather-light touch. "Most involve Fen too. Or playing like guys do."

"Mmm ... not quite yet," she said apologetically, rubbing the back of his head. "But at least we have something to work towards," she giggled, before moaning as his fingers played along her slick sex.

"What about this?" He murmured against her neck and gently slid one finger inside her body.

The sharp gasp of pleasure and arch of her smooth body answered as well as anything else could. Her body tightened slightly around his finger.

"Good," she moaned.

"Like that, do you?" Jay smiled and slowly slid his finger in and out, mimicking the action of stretching a male lover out. He pressed a second finger inside her and shifted so his palm rubbed against her clit while he occupied her mouth with his own.

She pressed up into his hand eagerly, her smooth tongue dueling with his rough one as she scratched and rubbed at his back, relishing the feel of his hard body and harder cock against her even as she ached to have him inside her for real.

"You want me inside you?" He offered softly, his body and mind keyed up to mimic the act of his fingers even as the idea triggered instincts of dangerous things that should scare him off ... and made it even more enticing.

"A-are you ready yet?" She asked, her breath quick as she kissed his neck hungrily.

"Willing to try," he shivered in pleasure as his cock rubbed against the curve of her hip. "Shouldn't even think you're interesting yet, but I definitely do." He murmured and kissed her, his fingers rubbing the inside of her body.

"Mmm ... I'll take that as a compliment," she groaned. "Just stop if it's too much for you, okay?" She said, looking at him seriously.

"I will," he murmured, a shiver of excitement ruffling his fur as he removed his fingers, sliding the slick fur around her clit as he shifted to settle between her legs, her lower lips spread open by slick fingers to expose the small, deep purple opening he pressed his rock-hard cock into slowly.

"Oh Gods," she groaned, raking his back with her fingers as she pulled him close and wrapped her legs around his waist even as he began to thrust.

Jay could only shudder with a groan, the tight heat, so much cooler than Fenrik but still intense, closed around him. He squeezed his eyes closed and whimpered at the sensations and instinctive drive to pound into her. It took all his focus to keep his teeth off her tender skin so his hips had their way with her body.

Shivasta could only moan and whimper as he pounded into her, his shaft spreading her virgin sex.

"Oh Jay," she whimpered, pressing back into his thrusts as her body twitched and spasmed around him. It drew a suddenly powerful thrust as he snarled a roar and pumped a load of burningly hot seed deep into her with each motion.

She cried out in pleasure, almost screaming as her sex clenched down around his, milking it for every drop of his essence as she clutched his furry body close to her smooth one until they were both spent and panting for breath.

Jay murmured something indistinct and rested his head on her chest; his body both exhausted and keyed up beyond anything he understood was possible. He didn't particularly want to move, but he didn't want to stop either.

Her hands rubbed his back as she worked on recovering herself, her mind still spinning from everything that had happened.

"Mmm ... me on top this time, maybe?" She suggested, catching on that he wanted to keep going, for all that some parts of his body didn't necessarily agree.

"All right," he murmured, kissing her lightly.

She rolled the two of them over carefully, keeping his hot cock inside her body as she kissed him deeply, starting to move her body against his as they explored each other's pleasures.

Jedi Knight Doruth Parn glanced at his mate-to-be, the nervousness at a formal ceremony carefully controlled so he showed a flawlessly settled exterior to the small gathering in one of the private gardens of the Temple. Almost everyone present were in Jedi robes, the only exception was Tes' mother, who wore the subdued finery of a successful Wolf merchant who hadn't left her warrior tenets behind. It left him with few doubts where Tes had gotten most of her nature from.

He felt more than a little out of place here at the center of a half-moon of onlookers who represented both their 'packs' and extended family. Despite knowing practically everybody there well, the preponderance of Wolves, mostly Tes' adoptive extended family since she'd come to the Temple three years before, made him feel a bit like an outsider. The only people there who weren't Wolves were Jay, Fenrik, Master Essani, and Jolani.

Still, looking over at Tes, at ease and happy to be making this official, he knew it was worth being a little uncomfortable. Besides, they'd been over the important parts time and again; he knew what was going to happen and what he was expected to do and say.

He was still running over the less obvious over in his mind when a subtle shift in the gathering brought his attention forward to the male Wolf, his fur graying with age, that was approaching to officiate the event in full Jedi Master robes. He almost showed his surprise when he recognized Master Ryul, then spotted Master Karyk not far behind him, her presence nearly masked by her own skills.

He glanced over at Tes, wondering if she'd known who was going to be in charge and saw a bit of surprise, and that she was more than a little in awe that the Council Wolves had chosen to do this. He certainly hadn't been expecting them. From what he understood, they might have been expected to officiate the marriage between two Masters, but between a low-ranking Knight and a Custos just about any Wolf Master, or even a high-ranking Knight, was acceptable.

On the other hand, there was certainly no doubting that they had the right to if they wanted to. He just had to wonder why they wanted to.

"Greetings Alpha Ryul," Doruth bowed his head in the greeting that Tes deemed the most important thing to get right in the entire event.

"Greetings Alpha Karyk," Tes matched his motion, directing it towards the other female that was mate to Alpha of Alphas among the Jedi and a Wolf of great rank in her own right.

"Greetings, Alphas," Master Ryul returned the greeting without bowing, his tail and head high in the dominant posture that he didn't use normally. "What business has been called before the greater pack?"

"The formal mating of Alpha Doruth Parn and Alpha Tes Ramaris of my pack," Doruth answered easily and received a nod in reply.

"Are there any who object to this mating?" His strong voice rang out across the crowd.

Doruth offered a silent prayer that he'd made a good impression with Tes' mother, and that nobody else would decide she deserved better than a Knight who'd run away from the Order and returned. He knew that just about anybody there could stop this right now if they wanted to. At least anyone willing to fight him, and possibly Tes, over it if they were not willing to back down. He knew without looking that at least a couple pairs of eyes went to Knight Tallerin Ryzish, the sire of Tes' pups and the one with the best challenge claim.

"Very well." Master Karyk stated after an excruciatingly long time that wasn't even a full minute and focused on the pair again. "Doruth Parn, what do you bring to this union?"

"I am a Jedi Knight," he answered easily. Despite the accomplishment it represented, he knew it meant remarkably little to bring in among those gathered here. "And am able to provide well for my pack, now and as it grows."

Master Karyk nodded acceptance and shifted to look at Tes. "Tes Ramaris, what do you bring to this union?"

She took a small breath before answering. "I bring the wealth and holdings of the Ramaris packs as its Lord Alpha's sole heir," she claimed her heritage for the first time in almost ten years. "We claim three Heroes and two Jedi Masters from our packs in the last century. The pups I carry are strong and the Ryzish have accepted that they are Ramaris and will carry on our bloodline and my place in it. I have successful led a pack in trading in the outer rim, have completed Custos training and survived the field with a Jedi."

Master Karyk nodded again; ignoring the nearly silent murmur of surprise that swept through those gathered and the pride of the elder Ramaris at hearing it.

"Who is the senior Alpha among you?" He asked formally.

Doruth was grateful for the question; it helped to remind him what was going on after hearing about Tes' heritage and inheritance for the first time.

All in all, it was enough to make him feel a little odd as he closed his jaws lightly around Tes' for a moment in the proper answer of 'I am'.

"Very well." Master Karyk accepted the statement and cast his attention back to the crowd. "All have heard their standing. All know their intent. Do any object to this union of packs?"

Another short moment took an eternity to pass while they waited for an answer that didn't come. Doruth relaxed inwardly, half-convinced that Tes' mother would have objected once he found out who she was.

"Then let it me known and accepted by all that Doruth Parn and Tes Ramaris are now mates and joint Alphas of their pack, and each is to be accepted by the other's family as kin." Master Karyk rumbled with his full authority as the excitement and approval gathered in the howl that nearly drowned out his last words. "*Good life,*" he added silently to Doruth before slipping away to allow the party to start.

Doruth watched as Jay practiced his lightsaber style with Master Yamari. As much as the kit didn't enjoy combat, he certainly seemed to enjoy practicing, at least with the blue-furred Mouse. He wasn't half-bad either, though her technique was much more graceful than Jay's own with the half-century of experience she had on the kit.

Not really a surprise honestly, but it was interesting to watch the two of them in their dance-like motions, similar to but quite different from Doruth's own. He even caught the beginning of what would become a rather unique set of moves in Jay's flowing motions.

He smiled slightly as the pair separated and signaled the end of the match, extinguishing their lightsabers with a bow. His smile spread as he realized that at no point during the match had Jay lost control the way he was prone to. He stood up, walking down to the two of them where he could be seen easily.

"Master Yamari," he said with a respectful bow. "Any objections if I kitnap Jay for a few hours? I did check with Master Essani, and she approves of giving him a little break."

"Of course not," she smiled warmly up at the much bigger feline. "He is learning his lessons very well."

"It looked like it," Doruth nodded. "At this rate, they'll end up turning you into more of a dancer than a scholar," he teased playfully, reaching down to squeeze Jay's shoulder.

"Hardly a bad thing if I'm any good at it," he grinned back unrepentantly as they headed out of the gym. "So what are we doing?"

"Well, from what I've heard, you've spent the last three, four years almost either in the Temple or going to some tech convention," Doruth explained with a chuckle. "So I talked to your Master, and she agreed it'd be a good idea for you to see some of Coruscant. Besides," he smiled warmly, "be good to spend a little time with you that isn't in the middle of a personal crisis for one or the other of us."

"You're not going to get an argument from me," he grinned, his tail swaying happily. "In civvies or as Jedi?"

"Civvies," Doruth smiled easily, his own tail swaying. "We'll be taking the Gurath," he added, "so you can change there after you've grabbed some clothes."

"Very cool. What's on the agenda?" Jay almost vibrated in excitement.

"Mostly general sight-seeing," Doruth explained. "Possibly pay a visit to the Senate building, if it interests you, but mostly poking around the tourist traps that you don't find unless you know your way around. And Tes said something about wanting to hit the shopping district," he chuckled.

"Be afraid," Jay snickered.

"I know," Doruth chuckled. "I sensed a great disturbance in the Force when she told me. Like thousands of credits crying out in terror... then suddenly being silenced."

"Oh ... that's mean!" He grinned until his cheeks hurt.

"True though," Doruth chuckled as they walked back towards Jay's room. "At least the sinking feeling in our bank balance. Though she's certainly entitled about now; she needs to find a few things that aren't quite as tight with the pups on the way."

"And I doubt she's done any shopping to speak of since she met you." He nodded. "At least not around here."

"Not seriously," Doruth nodded. "Certainly nothing to get her ready for a litter of pups."

"Maybe we can sneak away and not get stuck with porter duty." Jay winked with a mischievous grin.

"And here I thought mind-reading wasn't your best suit," Doruth smirked. "Though there are enough people there who'd be happy to do the job for us."

"True," Jay nodded. "And droids always behave for me."

"Porter droids behave for anybody," Doruth chuckled as they reached Jay's quarters. "Why don't you grab yourself some clothes, I'll wait here."

"Right," he nodded and ducked inside, coming back a moment later with a neatly folded set of general wear clothes in his arms.

"Great," Doruth grinned. "Now, let's get back to the Gurath and get ready."

Jay looked around as the nature of the building around them changed from the chaotic bustle of government to the somber stillness of the Hall of Heroes with its statues and perfectly polished floors and walls. His head and ears dropped down, almost the kind of submission kits usually displayed to the Council the first time they comprehended who they were facing.

"Everything okay, Jay?" Doruth asked, squeezing the kit's shoulder lightly. He could understand the impact; it could be imposing to know what each statue represented ... and, given Jay's talent for reading objects, it was probably even stronger for him with everything these statues and memorials must have absorbed over the millennia some had been here.

"Yes," he nodded slightly, still in complete awe of what he was feeling, hearing, from the memorials. "It's just ... they're almost here." He struggled to explain having the statues so impregnated with their events that it was almost as potent as having their real ghosts there telling the stories.

"If it's too much for you, let us know," the Panther told him softly, watching as Tes' attention was caught by assorted Wolves in the Hall and she moved off to watch, touch ... sometimes even commune with her own kind held in such respect.

"I will," Jay nodded and striated a bit, though the aura of extreme respect never left him as they walked slowly down the great central hall with it's alcoves for each heroes memorial.

"Anybody in particular you want to hear more about, or just want to listen to them?"

"Anyone here you knew?" He asked curiously, his attention drawn to one statue in particular. A young Weasel in Jedi robes, his lightsaber a glowing sea green as he held the classic defensive position.

Jay's hand ghosted over the written inscription without activating the holo-recording and he smiled shakily. "This is who my family is, Doruth."

"More people I know of," Doruth admitted, looking up at Charmis Missuri. "Now he's one that didn't make the Order happy. Not all of it, at least. He died like a Jedi though, whether he was one or not. Went out facing the beasts of Malys VI when they were besieging the natives. Left the Order when they decided they didn't have any place helping against natural phenomena."

"Who did you know?" Jay asked him quietly.

"Down more towards the end of the Hall," Doruth explained, leading the way to a statue of a shewolf dressed in the rich clothes of a noblewoman on the third level of statues. "Anwyn Solace; friend I met on my solo mission. Didn't know her too well," he admitted. "She was killed evacuating a hospital during the bombardment of Dantooine; the survivors petitioned to have her recognized here. Not all the heroes are warriors."

"She was brave though," he cocked his head a bit. "Not many would risk their life for a people not their own."

"I know," Doruth nodded, smiling a bit. "Just commenting on it. Most of the people here were warriors, or did something that made the entire galaxy stand up and take notice. She's one of the exceptions."

"Another odd one is Arkennin Tyos, the inventor of the hyperdrive." Tes nuzzled her mate, drawn to him by the distress clear in his mind and looking to help keep his dignity intact. "He's one of the few recognized for contributions to science, rather than an event or action."

"Yeah, but you'd have to be one hell of a hypocrite not to include him," Doruth chuckled, grateful for the shifted focus. "After all, he basically made the Republic possible. About the only Arkanian here too," he noted as they walked past the statue of a tall, furless male with four long fingers and featureless eyes."

Jay cocked his head, respectful of the brilliance required to accomplish what the Arkanian had, but not so sure it qualified for a place here. "A hero?" He questioned. "For creating a piece of technology that would have happened anyway? He risked nothing."

"It might've happened anyway, or it might not have, at least not for a longer time," Doruth pointed out. "It's also a factor of how people get in here. There are a lot of heroes that'll never get in here, for one reason or another. The Senate decides based on the petitions they hear; it's why Arkennin Tyos isn't the first statue there. Nobody thought to sponsor him in until after the Hall already had several occupants."

"Politics," he sighed and nodded, acknowledge that nothing happened without it, not even recognizing heroes. "I really shouldn't be surprised."

"Necessary evil, kit," Doruth pointed out gently. "Though they don't do too bad a job of it, usually."

"I know," he managed a tolerant grimace. "There are far worse ones than here."

"Definitely," the Panther nodded. "At least here they're mostly honest politicians."

"As honest as the species gets at least." Jay snickered.

"True," Tes chuckled. "It is a relative thing."

Jay nodded, even as his attention was drawn to vixen in Jedi robes. "Why would a Hero be so feared?"

"Because that particular hero didn't just save the Republic, she almost destroyed it," Doruth explained. "Jedi Revan, eventually Master Revan, defied the Order to lead the Republic forces in the Mandalorian Wars. She was pretty much the sole reason we won it too," he said respectfully. "But when the Wars were over, she, her Padawan, and a good part of the fleet disappeared beyond the Galactic Rim.

"When Revan returned, she had become a Sith Lord, and gathered an army that nearly destroyed the Republic. A handful of Jedi were sent to kill her, but they captured her instead. She redeemed herself by turning back to the Light, facing her old apprentice and defeating him, destroying the ancient artifact they had used to build their fleet and crippling the Sith army. The decision was made to include her here for her role in the Mandalorian Wars more than for what happened after, but her full story is in the archives."

"Did she ever say what happened? What made her turn ... both times?"

"She never said what made her turn to the Dark Side," Doruth said, shaking his head. "What redeemed her... the Council of that time used a technique that suppressed her identity and memories. They had hoped that she would simply fade into obscurity, at the time, but she returned and they decided she needed to be retrained. She was adamant about one fact, once she found out who she really was. What made her resist the Dark Side that time was the support of her allies. An odd bunch to say the least, and each one just as likely to lead her to the Dark as to the Light, but together they helped her stay on the straight and narrow."

"Sounds right," he nodded, now very curious about what had turned her evil. "Friends can make or break any path in life."

"That they can," Doruth nodded. "Want to stick around here a bit longer, or look around a few other places?"

"Let's see something else," he grinned up.

"How 'bout a visit to the Coruscani Zoological Gardens, then we go hit the shopping district?" The Panther offered, looking from Jay to Tes for their preferences.

"Works for me," the shewolf grinned, her primary interest clear.

"Sure," Jay snickered, a bit curious about the idea of collecting animals.

"Let's go then," Doruth smiled, chuckling slightly at the thought of how perfectly normal the day had actually been so far.

"Hey," Jay smiled a bit seductively when Fenrik opened the door to his quarters later that night. "Free for company?"

"Sure," the Panther grinned. "You've been pretty scarce today."

"Doruth katnapped me for a day of fun," he grinned and slipped inside, claiming a kiss when they had a little privacy.

"Mmm... and now you're looking for a different sort of fun, hmm?" Fenrik rumbled, returning the kiss and wrapping his arms around Jay lightly.

"Yap," he grinned unrepentantly and ran his hands down the bigger tom's chest. "And you're it."

"So, have a good time with him?" He chuckled as his hands explored Jay's lean body.

"Yeah," he chuckled and nuzzled in. "A little weird when nothing went weird, but it was fun. Tes was a terror in the shopping district though."

"Only you would think nothing weird happening was weird," Fenrik smirked, giving Jay an affectionate nuzzle. "So, wanna tell me about your day a bit, maybe let me help you wind down while you do?"

"Oh yeah," he licked his whiskers and slid one hand between them to fondle him. "We hit the Hall of Heroes, the Coruscani Zoological Gardens, Eternal Falls ... and even a few shops that were interesting." He added with a wink.

"Mmm ... do I want to ask?" Fenrik rumbled, slipping Jay's robes back off his shoulders and kissing his neck lightly to an appreciative purr.

"Only if you want the lecture of your life for 'encouraging' me," Jay snickered as he made short work of opening Fenrik's robes. "Doruth was a little freaked that I recognized things he didn't."

"I'm surprised he let you into a shop like that," the Panther rumbled, working Jay's robes off and running his fingers through dark red fur, tracing some of the stripes and spots with his fingers. It was moments like this that made it so hard to remember that Jay's nubs had just started to come in. He acted ever so much more experienced.

"Don't be fooled, the pregnant one runs everything." He snickered and arched into the pleasant contact before he began to kiss his way down the broad black chest in front of him. "And she thought it was funny as hell."

"Mmm... I'll bet you did too," the Panther rumbled, rubbing Jay's thighs, then reaching around his front to stroke his sheath lightly. "So, you get anything there?" He asked with a smirk.

"Uh-hu," he nodded with a rumble and bit of a blush. "For later," he stretched up to lick Fenrik's jaw.

"Mmm... works for me," Fenrik rumbled, turning to kiss Jay soundly. "Can I taste you?" He asked with a deep rumble, reaching down to fondle Jay's young balls lightly.

"Ohhh, any time you want." He breathed out softly with a moan and let his eyes drift closed as Fenrik trailed kisses down his jaw and throat. He knelt slowly, nuzzling his way down Jay's chest to his crotch, licking his sheath slowly.

Fenrik rumbled at the arousal built, the light but distinctly make musk permeating his nose while he gradually encouraged Jay to full hardness before taking him into his mouth while Jay moaned and rubbed his ears. It was a little like when he'd played with a Wolf, but instead of the most sensitive parts being a ring at the base, Jay's were just under the head.

And he tasted all feline.

He licked at the tender nubs lightly, bobbing his head up and down Jay's shaft as he rubbed the younger tom's ass. His own shaft was getting harder every moment, the taste and smell arousing him like little else could. Jay's historic willingness and enjoyment of being well fucked only added to the anticipation.

"Ohh, yeah." Jay shuddered and thrust lightly into the mouth pleasuring him and his fingers worked Fenrik's velvety ears. "Want you in me." He groaned.

"In my bed, or out here?" The Panther rumbled, looking up at him and teasing his pucker with a fingertip.

"Shower?" He rumbled, the first time he'd really associated the fact that he was a lot more turned on by water than most folks. "All wet and slick and humid air holding our scent there."

"Mmm ... I think we can arrange that," Fenrik grinned, standing and kissing Jay soundly. "You go get the water ready, I'll grab the lube from my room."

"Right," he rumbled excitedly and darted for the bathroom, happily soaking wet and lightly playing with himself with a hungry look for Fenrik as the Panther walked in.

"You don't waste any time," the Panther rumbled, climbing into the shower and pinning Jay to the wall with a hungry kiss as the water soaked his own fur. "Mmm ... turn around and raise that tail of yours, and I'll give us a reason to have to clean up."

"Oh yeah." Jay licked his whiskers as he turned around, moaning deeply with his lover as his ass was spread open by Fenrik's thick, hard cock.

Jay was sitting in the library, wondering where Shi was. Normally they'd be studying together right now, but she was nowhere to be seen at any of their usual spots. He doubted she was upset with him. After two months things had seemed to settle down nicely. She and Fenrik were both content enough with the attention he gave them and their Masters were satisfied that none of their studies were slipping now that the first week of traumas had been sorted out.

"Sorry I'm late," she said, hurrying in, a slightly winded look on her face.

"You okay?" He glanced up, looking her over with concern.

"Yes, just...." She sighed, sitting down opposite him. "I'm afraid I can't stay long. Master Ursal was assigned to help on Necropolis; I'm going with her."

"Necr ...." Jay went tense, his eyes wide. "That's a plague system."

"Which is why we're going," she nodded. "Along with every healer the Order can spare. They need us, Jay. Don't know how long we'll be gone, but it'll be months at least."

"Are you likely to be coming back?" He asked quietly.

"Do you really think Master Ursal would take me with her if she thought I wasn't going to survive it?" She asked him.

"At some point our Master has to lead us into danger, as much as they all hate it," he murmured. "Not every Padawan survives to become a Knight."

"But the danger they take us into isn't danger they think is more likely to kill us than teach us lessons," she pointed out, reaching across the table to take his hand. "I will come back, Jay. I'm sure of it. I'm not going to die somewhere like Necropolis."

He squeezed her hand and nodded, needing to believe her words more than truly agreeing with them. "I'll try to be here when you do."

"I'll write you," she smiled softly, squeezing her hand back. "Promise."

"Thanks," he managed a smile, his distress under a blanket of calm and acceptance for her sake. "I hope it's not as bad as it sounds."

"I hope not too," she nodded, standing and leaning over to kiss him gently. "I should go finish packing; I just had to come and say good bye before I left."

"Thanks," he squeezed her hand before she had to hurry off. It was enough that he stood and quietly walked out a few minutes later. Studying was pointless right now. He needed to calm down.

Fenrik shook his head as he saw Jay sitting next to his favorite koi pond, teasing the fish into nibbling at his fingers. Word had traveled fast about the deployment to Necropolis, and the Panther had known how it would hit him.

"Hey," he said softly, sitting down next to Jay. "How're you doin'?"

"Better than an hour ago," he said quietly, looking over at him with his eyes lowered. "Still scared half to death for her."

"Can't blame you," Fenrik admitted. "Hell, even I'm worried. Tell you what, why don't we do something to take your mind off it for a while?"

"What did you have in mind?" He asked non-committally, not particularly interested in doing anything, but knowing it was a bright idea. Brooding never helped, after all.

"Two tickets to the holo-theater," Fenrik offered, holding up the chip with the data on it. "Warriors of Fire 3?"

"That's cheating!" He pouted, but the grin wasn't far behind.

"Didn't Master Essani teach you that yet?" Fenrik asked with a grin. "Jedi don't always play by the rules."

"Nah, she had to teach me there were rules first," he snickered. "It's why her fur is always gray these days."

"Well, let's go occupy you for a few hours, let her relax for a while," Fenrik chuckled. "After all, how much trouble could you get into watching a movie?"

"Do you really want to know that?" Jay smirked with a wink as they headed back towards their rooms to change into less conspicuous clothing.

"Probably not," Fenrik agreed, chuckling as they walked off.

A few hours later Fenrik and Jay were walking back to the Temple from the holo-theater. Jay was excitedly going on about the movie, special effects, and how to improve the theater's projection systems in roughly equal proportions. Fenrik, for his part, was half-listening, offering his own comments when it was appropriate and he had half a clue what Jay was talking about. He knew Jay didn't mind.

A few blocks from the theater, his focus shifted entirely away from Jay's conversation. He had a feeling they weren't entirely alone, but he couldn't place it yet.

"What's up?" Jay asked in the same rapid-fire voice as he had said everything else since the credits had rolled.

"Probably nothing," Fenrik said, shaking his head. "Just keep walking... keep an eye out though." The more they walked, the more certain he was that somebody was following them. And not just somebody else from the Temple following them back.

"Muggers wouldn't be that stupid, would they?"

"It's not like they know where we're from," Fenrik pointed out quietly. "Besides, I might be wrong."

"No, you aren't." Jay murmured after a moment of contact with the blasters in the area even as he slid his lightsaber from it's concealed sheath under his loose sleeves.

"Great," Fenrik muttered. "Well, let's see if we can shake them." They kept walking, turning the corner towards a better-lit street. A trio of Duros turned onto the walk ahead of them, starting their way.

"So much for shaking them," the Panther murmured.

"We won't have to worry about vibros and blasters, but its not good odds," Jay shifted slightly so they could guard each other's backs and started to really focus on not loosing control in a real fight.

"Let's see if we can get out of this without a fight if we can, okay?" Fen suggested, slowing down as the Duros approached from the front, and the part of the gang tailing them, another Duros, a Gamorrean, and a Rodian, came up behind them.

"Hey! Move out of our way," one of the Duros ahead of them demanded.

"If we could, we would," Fenrik said easily. "I'm afraid there's nowhere for us to go, since your friends are so close behind us."

"Are you saying we're crowding you, fuzz-face?" The Rodian sneered in its native language.

"No, just that you're too damaged to see the obvious." Jay replied coolly, a little too at ease with the harsh language and it's insults.

"I don't know what you said," Fenrik muttered at the Rodian's offended squawk, "but I don't think it helped."

"You're the one who'd brain damaged, crossing us, fuzzy," the Rodian shot back. "Or can't you count?"

"In case you couldn't understand that," the Duros said calmly, "unless you're looking for a fight, he'll need an apology. A rather large one," he added, rubbing his thumb and one large forefinger together in the near-universal sign for money.

Fenrik's fur bristled slightly, but he held back the growl. Unfortunately, he was also broke, so even if he was inclined to pay them off he couldn't.

Not that he was particularly inclined to.

"How about this instead?" Jay rumbled in Basic and flicked his deep blue lightsaber to life. "You move, or we find out if Rodian really does make good eating."

"Jay," Fenrik cautioned him, slipping into a defensive stance as he felt chills run up his spine from the younger tom's reactions.

"Jedi?!?" The lead Duros exclaimed in surprise, all four of them stepping back and reaching defensively for the weapons at their hips.

"Pretty toy, fuzz ball," the Rodian muttered, even as he stepped back slightly and pulled two strange blades out of his pockets. "You know how to use it? No Jedi young as you."

"Ignorance always was your kind's strong suit," Jay sneered in Rodian, hatred over a year dormant flaring white-hot with an unprotected target in the offering.

The Duros drew their blasters, and Fenrik was very glad to be behind Jay as he saw one of them pull the trigger with no result.

"Walk away," he said levelly. "We won't tell anybody, you'll get out of this with all your limbs intact, everybody's happy."

"Fuzz-face pays first." The Rodian snarled and flicked his blades towards them, the micro-tech in them making a hard target to hit or dodge as they buzzed around the pair.

It was also the excuse Jay was looking for. He took two fluid steps forward, uncaring of the blade the lodged into his shoulder for a moment before they both fell to the ground, their innards no longer working. He brought his sword-arm in an upward arc that cleanly separated the Rodian into four pieces with an immensely satisfying shenk.

Two of the Duros, typically not a violent people in the first place, decided that living was the better part of valor and ran. The other two dropped their blasters, drawing vibroknives that, despite not working as they were supposed to, still made serviceable weapons. The Gamorrean, by contrast, pulled a heavy metal rod out of a loop along its back and slammed it against Jay's wounded shoulder.

Fenrik snarled and turned to put himself between the massive pig-man and his tumbling friend, slashing its arm with his claws and earning a pained squeal. It was just in time for him to feel the Dark rising in Jay as the kit got to his feet, his rage giving way to a survival-based fear as the Duros closed on him while Fenrik was busy trying to survive the giant pig out to crush him.

He ducked out of the way of the rod hurtling towards him again, making another quick, darting attack, wishing he'd thought to bring his own lightsaber. It might not have helped keep them out of the fight, but it would have made it a lot easier if they were both armed.

He lashed out again, as the two Duros left at a run when they realized that they were the ones left facing the lightsaber. He felt the Gamorrean's makeshift club smash into his left arm, but ignored the pain as he sank his claws into its wrist, pulling it forward and off-balance, planting his foot on the back of its neck.

"You really don't want to fight anymore." Jay growled at the downed Pig, the Force a palatable presence in his voice even as his lightsaber singed the hair of the Gamorrean's thick snout.

It squealed incoherently, though the fear behind the noises was obvious.

"Jay!" Fenrik said sharply, wincing and cradling his arm. He had a feeling he wasn't going to like what the medic said when they got back to the Temple. "It's over; he's not going to try anything."

The lightsaber took too long to deactivate, but it did before a second life was lost.

"It hurt you," Jay said quietly as he touched his friend lightly.

"You too," Fenrik pointed out, nodding towards Jay's bleeding shoulder as Jay's lightsaber vanished into his sleeve again. "Let's get that bound up and get back to the Temple before those Duros decide to come back with friends." He took his foot off the Gamorrean's neck, snarling at it in warning that sent it squealing away.

"I liked this shirt," he pouted a bit as they began moving again, though not even he thought the attempt to lighten the mood on the short walk remaining was funny.

The staff in the infirmary was much smaller when Jay and Fenrik got back; a keen reminder of how many of the Jedi and Padawans who would be working or training here had been sent abroad just hours before.

"Take it easy on that arm for a few days," the MediCorps worker told Fenrik firmly, tightening the sling around it mostly as a formality. The bone had been set and the worst of the damage healed, but it was still sore.

"I will," Fenrik nodded. "Thank you," he added, bowing respectfully as he stood and walked over to Jay near the door.

The younger tom's injuries had been easier to patch up being light muscle damage, and mostly required a little care with a medkit and a good tip to the driver of the sky car that had brought them back to the Temple to get the seat cleaned.

"So, they're done with you?" Fenrik asked, smiling slightly.

"Yeah," he nodded and fell in next to his friend. "I heard you snapped bone."

"It's been set, won't be any serious damage in the long run," Fenrik said dismissively.

"*Which means you were both lucky,*" Master Essani's familiar mental voice told them both as the kushiban trotted in to the Infirmary and hopped up on a nearby chair.

"A good reason to never go out unarmed." Jay nodded, mostly to Fenrik and completely missing his Master's intent.

"*Also a good reason not to let your emotions guide you in a fight,*" Essani told him, her mental voice directed at him alone.

"Master?" He looked at her, a bit at a loss as to the reprimand.

"*We will discuss it in private in the morning,*" she explained.

"Yes, Master." He accepted without question.

"*I'll see you in the morning, Jay. Or will you be sleeping in your room tonight?*"

He shot a slight look at Fenrik, then turned back to her. "I will see you in the morning, Master."

"*Very well,*" she nodded slightly. "*Rest well, both of you,*" she added, emphasizing the word 'rest' purposefully.

"I don't think either of us are game for much else, Master." Jay murmured as the kits walked out of the room, though he shot a last look at his Master as if it could tell him what he was in for a lecture on in the morning.

"I think she's mostly worried about how you responded in the fight," Fen told him softly as they walked back towards his quarters. "Not physically, but emotionally. I know I could feel it, and she's much better at sensing that sort of thing than I am."

"What happened?" He looked over, concerned that he really had no clue what they were talking about. Everything felt natural and correct in review, unlike every other time he'd gotten in trouble for fighting.

"The anger and fear," Fenrik explained, trying to come up with a way of putting it into words. "Jay, even before the fight started I could feel it; that Rodian really pissed you off.... Why don't we get back to my room before I try and explain it better, okay? Better in private."

"Sure," he nodded as he placed that much in the memories and walked in silence. Fenrik reached up, tentatively putting his arm around the younger tom's shoulders, alert for any sign that he was aggravating his injury with the added weight. When they got back to his room, he groaned slightly, leaning back against the door as the lock clicked behind them.

"And I was trying to get you to relax tonight," he chuckled slightly, shaking his head in a mixture of frustration at the timing and a little in acknowledgement of exhaustion that was making itself felt.

"I appreciate it," he smiled and stretched up to kiss him lightly. "Feel like a cup of warm milk?"

"Mmm ... only if you let me make it or make yourself something too," Fenrik rumbled, returning the kiss. "No fair pampering me when you got hurt too."

"You aren't making anything," he smirked up and turned for the small open kitchen. "And warm spiced milk sounds good to me too. Now go sit down somewhere comfortable."

"All right," Fenrik chuckled, going to sit down on the bed, laying back and testing his arm gingerly. It still hurt, but at least he could move his arm reasonably well already. He unhooked the sling from around his neck; trying to sort out how to talk to Jay about something his own Master was having a hard time explaining.

If Jay didn't understand that he'd drawn on the Dark even before the fight, it could be nearly impossible to make him understand. Still, as badly as Jay's actions in the fight had unnerved him, there was no way Jay was Dark yet. Now that he was calm again, the taint was gone.

"You put that back on," Jay tried to sound stern as he came in Fen's bedroom with two steaming mugs of warm milk, one well-doctored with fragrant spices.

"Jay, my arm is fine," the Panther grumbled, sitting up and making room next to him. "It's just a little sore is all."

"Which is why you need to wear that sling tonight." He pointed out and handed a mug over before settling in next to him.

"Jay," Fenrik groaned, though he set the mug down and hooked the cling back up over his neck, picking up the mug and leaning against him lightly. "You do realize I'm only doing this to humor you," he muttered affectionately.

"Of course," he grinned and kissed him lightly, the sweetness of spicy milk on his lips. "It's the only reason you warriors do anything good for you."

"Oh, like you're one to talk," Fenrik pouted, sipping his own milk. "You know you'd be in just as much trouble left to your own devices."

"Yeah, but I make no pretences of having any kind of good judgment." He pointed out with a chuckle and long sip of milk, almost purring as the mixture slid down his throat and relaxed parts of him he forgot could tense. "You're supposed to if you got left alone."

"Oh just you wait until you're supposed to be respectable too," Fenrik rumbled teasingly. "You're going to be so glad that Masters aren't supposed to chide their Padawans publicly."

"Hey, there's a reason I'm looking to stick around the Temple, you know." He snickered and licked a drop of milk from Fenrik's jaw. "They tend not to ask the questions I can't answer around here."

"Not yet at least," the Panther rumbled, shifting to kiss Jay lightly. "Mmm... I seem to remember we had a conversation to have here...."

"Yeah, what freaked you out about the fight," Jay looked at him uncertainly.

"Yeah," Fenrik nodded, sighing a bit and leaning his head against Jay's good shoulder. "It's not really easy to explain, but as much as it worked...." He sighed again. "The emotions you were reaching into, and the way you reacted to the Rodian... they're dangerous feelings, Jay. Fear, anger, hatred, they're all parts of the Dark Side, almost word for word." He shifted to nuzzle Jay's neck lightly.

"It's not you," he murmured softly.

"It's very much me," he murmured and let his head lean against the Panther's. "More than the Light is. It's why I'm not a warrior. I can't afford to live that close to the fire. It ... it doesn't feel wrong because it's most of my connection to the Force."

"Jay, that's not true," Fenrik said firmly, reaching across his body to rub the younger tom's arm lightly. "You're not a creature of the Dark any more than Knight Parn. You wouldn't just be being trained if you were... you reacted the same way most Padawans do in their first real fight, that's all."

"I ..." he looked over at the Panther seriously, debating just how much to explain. He dropped his eyes with a sigh and wrapped his hands around his mug. "How much about my tech talent has made the rumor mill?" He asked quietly.

"Not too much beyond what you do with it," Fenrik admitted.

"You have a right to know what I told the Council, what my family is. At least the quick version of it." He murmured. "We don't have a name for the Force back home. I'm not completely convinced what I do with machines is though the Force as you know it. But I'm the fifth generation in the family to be able to do it and a sixth generation has been born.

"It started with Jermain Tabisan. My great-great-grandfather. He probably had the Gift already, but it wasn't enough. He made a deal with the Demon to give him much more power, the power to warp reality itself through the machines he created. It drove him mad in the end, completely to the Dark as you'd call it. He nearly destroyed the world many times before Great-Grandfather Jake killed him.

"But the Demon already had a hold on Jake, who stumbled on the expanded Gift without knowing the price of it years before. Jake fought the Demon inside as the ones in the real world until he was killed in the line of duty with his partner. He was the one who named it, explained the price and boons to his daughter by his father, my Grandma Jessie. She's still fighting it every day. She chose the Gifts, the ability to do real good even with it's price.

"My father made the same choice. So have I. Most of our power comes through the Demon, a creature of the Dark Side. It's not like it is for most sensitives. The Force isn't something that starts neutral and our wishes draw us to one side or the other. Clawsons are born Dark. We learn to appreciate the Light, but it never comes that naturally for us. Not the way the Darkness does. I have to pay attention to not draw on the Dark Side."

"Jay, it's like that for most of us," Fenrik said, squeezing the younger tom's shoulder gently. "The Dark Side is easy to draw on, and it offers a hell of a lot of power for the effort. That's what makes it so seductive. Just because you call on it without thinking doesn't mean that you're evil, or that it's the way you're strongest in the Force. I've done it before, Knight Parn has, I'd be shocked if you could find even one of the Masters who hasn't, some time, when they were younger or desperate.

"*You're not evil, Jay. What taught your family to use the Force might have been, members of your family might have been, but you're not."

Jay wanted to argue, to make Fenrik understand ... then part of him that didn't like the status of condemned whacked most of him upside the head and made him shut up. Maybe if he repeated what Fenrik had said enough times, he might manage to believe it. It was an incredibly seductive thought, even if it only lasted tonight.

The morning would come soon enough when he had to face the Masters who did believe he was intrinsically Dark.

It was enough to make him want to cry, a lump in his throat as he wondered if these were the kind of things that Chance had told Jake when he was hurting about his choices. He could believe that this was what kept his kin out of trouble, and the lack of it cost them their battle with the Demon.

Empathy had never been Fenrik's strong suit, but he knew when it was time to shut up and just be close to somebody he cared about... and Jay qualified, more than he'd thought he would at first. He wrapped his good arm around the smaller tom, ignoring the ache as he held him against his chest and the sling between them.

Master Essani watched Jay walk in the next morning, letting out a quiet 'whuffle' of mild frustration. This was never an easy discussion to have, and what she felt inside him said this wasn't going to be an exception. He was clearly conflicted about something, though she couldn't be clear what yet. Knowing her Padawan as well as she did, it was almost certainly not going to make things easier.

"Morning, Master." He bowed his head to her in respect and settled nearby, ready for a lesson that he didn't really understand what it was about.

"*Good morning, Jay,*" she said softly. "*Did you sleep well?*"

"Yes, Master," he nodded. It was true after all, even if it had been a bit of a strange sleep that left him waking up feeling no better mentally than when he curled up against Fenrik to rest. All he knew from it was that Fenrik could control the Demon. In the end, it was all that truly mattered. If he couldn't control the Demon, he needed a mate that could.

"*How is your shoulder feeling?*"

The question seemed to surprise him a bit. "Almost healed, Master."

"*That's good,*" she nodded. "*Did you and Fenrik talk about your response the fight at all?*"

She wasn't entirely sure what to make of his reactions, honestly. Most Padawans were disturbed after the first time they killed in battle, though given that the Rodian had attacked first it was quite possible that Jay wouldn't be. Between his culture, early years and personal quirks, he rarely reacted like most Padawans did no matter what the situation was.

What worried her more were the feelings she could sense behind his mental shields; she was beginning to get a clearer impression of what he was upset about and it wasn't good that it had lasted this long.

"Yes, Master." He nodded, putting the blur of that time into as much focus as he could. "Mostly that I was angry even before anything started. I don't remember being angry, just a smooth transition between trying to talk our way out and the fight, but I do not doubt his recollection of things. Something happened. I just don't know what."

"*You responded to a Rodian who was trying to goad you into a fight, from what I felt,*" she explained. "*It was a very intense response. It was also a very troubling one, given that I doubt it was the goading that made you respond that way. You've dealt with worse from Navik before without reacting that strongly.*"

"Navik was protected." He said even before he realized what he'd said.

"*This is the problem,*" Essani sighed softly as things began to fall into place. "*I'm surprised nobody noticed it before, but you still have a lot of issues with Rodians, don't you?*"

"Yes, Master." He lowered his gaze, knowing he was in the wrong.

"*We're going to have to work on that,*" she said softly. "*Not all Rodians are like Navik, or like Guilden. They have a tendency to be violent and bullies, but they're individuals as much as any other race. They can be brilliant, honorable, even peaceful, despite their culture.*"

"Just not the ones I've met," he murmured. It wasn't a denial; just an uncertainty about how he'd react if one didn't try to push.

"*Granted,*" she admitted. "*Their culture values hunting and combat ability highly; many of them turn that into a violent streak. We had been hoping Navik would turn out better, but that didn't happen. I think we're going to spend some time working on trying to introduce you to better ones.*"

"Yes, Master." He accepted it, wondering what kind of creature a non-offensive Rodian would be like. It was a difficult concept to wrap his brain around but he was quite willing to try.

"*Now... there's also the issue of your response to a fight in general,*" she said gently. "*You're going to have to fight without responding with fear and anger eventually, Jay.*"

"The Dark Fenrik said I call up," he nodded seriously. "I don't remember doing that. I don't remember it feeling anything other than right." He admitted quietly, deep down very afraid that he may have already lost the most critical battle of his life. "Master Yamari says I'm making progress. It just hasn't been fast enough."

"*It's a natural response, Jay,*" she explained. "*I'm sure Fenrik told you how easy it is to tap into the Dark's power, especially when you are afraid or angry. It's simply a response you have to learn to control, preferably before you get into another fight.*"

"Yes, Master," he nodded submissively. "I am working on it. It's difficult to deal with that part of me when I'm not in a real fight. I lock it away ... I don't even know exactly how anymore. It's like it doesn't exist until a fight is real."

"*Do you believe you can learn to extend your sense of it being a game to when the fight is real?*" She asked him, moving over to nuzzle his arm gently as he nearly jumped, his eyes wide in shock at the idea.

"I ... urrr ... isn't it dangerous to take fighting that way?" He asked, a bit stunned at the concept coming from his Master. "Make it too easy to take that route?"

"*Just until you're better at controlling it,*" she explained. "*We can control the situation here, keep it from becoming deadly. We don't want you to forget the consequences of fighting, but you need to learn how to handle knowing those consequences are possible without responding emotionally.*"

"I ... yes, I can." He decided that it was simply going to happen, the odds be damned.

"*I have to go sit with the Council today,*" she explained, "*but I want to start working on teaching you to do that as quickly as we can.*"

"I understand Master." He nodded quietly. "I would like to spend the day mediating. Maybe I can remember what happened; exactly what I did, where it went wrong."

"*Very well,*" she nodded. "*I hope it goes well, Jay. I'll see you this evening?*"

"Yes, Master," he smiled a little more warmly and reached down to scritch between her ears until she became a light golden. "I am glad I chose not to become a warrior. As natural as it felt, I don't think I like how easy it was to kill."

"*That is a good thing,*" she agreed, rurring slightly and putting a small paw on his leg, pleased not only in his statement but that her approval still meant so much to him. Both things made life much easier. "*I hope you never do, to be fair. It's necessary sometimes, but not something you should ever like.*"

Padawan Jay Clawson looked like anything but a Jedi as he walked into the Temple of Akwina, dressed in the loose brown and green robes he remembered from his kittenhood, his ears decorated in the slender gold and gem clips and fine chains. It was almost half the world away from the Jedi Temple and home, but it was as close to his homeland as this world had to offer. For all it was dedicated to a deity he'd never heard of before finding this place, it felt right.

The hand-carved stone was warm and old, done for love of the Power, not to impress visitors that didn't believe. The stained glass and small statues and artwork of the mother feline of all bloodlines and her legends were rich with the efforts of many artisans. Even the central statue, close to three times life sized was dressed in much the same way as he remembered Bastet was in the temples back on Aristal and those build with each colony and ship.

Full and rounded in a body representative of all her children, the mother of all felines stood with her translucent robes of all colors and smiled at those who entered with warm eyes.

Jay let out a small sound as he relaxed, comforted by the familiarity of something so incredibly similar in this land so far from his home and kind. He settled easily near the central statue on the pillows provided for just that and relaxed his mind and soul with the prayers and silent offerings from his home.

"Thank you for overseeing my travels Lady Bastet," he murmured. "I am you son still, and always will be. I ask for your protection in this journey inside."

With the formalities over with, he sank easily into a deep meditation, seeking out the source memories that he could only remember as a blur when awake.

The beginning came easy. Fenrik thought they were being followed. The blasters and vibro-weapons confirming the familiar pattern. Then the Rodian was in front of him and something he hadn't felt in over a year woke up in his mind. Vicious. Hateful. Destructive. Utterly gleeful to have a target that wasn't protected.

He had enough control to keep the first insult from being his.

But the words were exchanged, the details blurred, and something warm and dark and controlling oozed around his mind.

And he welcomed it, embraced it.

Not for one moment had he fought to free himself until Fenrik had asked him to.

Even then, he hadn't wanted to. He hadn't wanted to have the power cloaking him go away.

If that was the Dark, the thing that destroyed its users, why did it feel so comforting? So natural and right?

Tracing its retreat through his mind, he abruptly stopped.

This was it.

This was the door Father and Grandma talked about.

The door to their full Gift.

The door the Demon lived behind.

Essani hurried through the ancient feline temple as fast as she could respectfully. She - and the rest of the Council - had felt the chill coming from this place an hour ago, a flash of Dark Side power of a level that usually heralded disaster. Master Noloth was with her now, his aged, scaly face showing a dark scowl.

She didn't know why Jay was here, or what had happened that had made him the source of such a powerful surge, but she was glad for the Lizard beside her. Even if Jay did have things under control, like he'd said when she'd contacted him, she wasn't entirely sure she wanted to be there alone if he lost it.

"*Jay?*" She called telepathically as they walked through the door into the aged church.

"*Here, Master.*" His mind-voice came back easily, directing them to the central statue as he stood smoothly. It look serene, but she could feel how completely terrified he was just below the surface of calm.

"What happened?" Master Noloth demanded in his heavily accented Basic, a nearby acolyte looking at the scene with a slightly distressed expression.

"*Master Noloth,*" Essani said firmly, walking towards Jay, her fur a dark grey. "*What happened, Jay,*" she asked more gently.

"*I was following what happened in the fight in my mind, trying to understand what had happened. I found the door.*" Jay recounted, a tremor in his mind-voice that spoke volumes of it's meaning to him. "*It's not well sealed. I didn't open it, but the Demon could reach in when I got too close and tried to grab me. I managed to shove it back and close the door, but I don't know how long it'll stay closed.*"

"*Let's get you back to the Temple,*" Essani said soothingly. "*It clearly didn't get you, but I think we'd best be back there in case something happens again.*"

"*Yes, Master.*" He nodded and followed her, relieved to have them present.

"I thought you said he was going to wait," Noloth asked her quietly, earning a sharp look from the much smaller kushiban.

"*He did,*" she pointed out as they returned to the waiting sky car. "*Come on, we'll discuss this on the way.*" They left, climbing into the back seat before the driver, one of the Temple's custodians, lifted off and started back towards the gleaming spires half a world away.

"*What were you doing out here?*" Master Essani asked Jay, looking up at him from where she was curled up on his lap for the trip. "*It's not exactly a short trip for somewhere to meditate.*"

"It's very much like the Temples to Bastet," he stroked her lightly along her ears. "It's ... home." He tried to explain something that wasn't even a feeling. He'd learned not to speak of Powers seriously, but no amount of knowledge had damped his belief that Bastet was real.

"How long have you been coming here?" Master Noloth asked, his voice not betraying any of his reaction.

"Eight months, Master Noloth." he answered formally.

"*And it hasn't interfered with his studies, Master Noloth,*" Essani pointed out, cutting off the Lizard's next question. "*Jay, are you certain the Demon is contained for now? At least as far as you're concerned?*"

"Yes, Master," he nodded. "I do have to give it an opening of some kind to get out."

"So what kind of opening was involved this time?" Master Noloth asked.

"I got too close to it, Master Noloth." He tried to explain. "The seals on the door are incomplete, so it could reach out a little way when it had a target."

"Did this have anything to do with the altercation you had last night?"

"No, Master Noloth," he said simply. "It has to do with being an adolescent Clawson. This is part of what I tried to explain when I first got here."

"*This Demon is definitely a powerful Dark Side force, whether it's powers are or not,*" Essani mused. "*I suspect it's native to your galaxy, whatever it is.*"

"Agreed," the Lizard nodded. "And not a power to be trifled with."

"*Regardless, as long as it's not going to be released, I believe we'll all be fine,*" Essani said softly. "*Were you able to come to any conclusions before your encounter?*"

"*That it was the Dark that felt good,*" He told her as privately as he could, a mixture of acceptance and horror at it.

"*The power of it?*" She asked, hoping to make things clearer.

"*The warmth of it, the fire that made things so clear.*" His thoughts barely made it to her. "*It didn't give me any power. At least I don't think so.*"

"*I see,*" she murmured mentally. Warmth was usually the last thing anybody used to describe the Dark Side, even those who embraced it. "*That's definitely unusual. I'll have to speak with some of the others, Jay.*"

"*The Demon knows my family, it know me. It knows what will attract us, what we won't fight. It's been in my head since before I was born.*"

"*I believe I understand,*" she nodded. "*For what it's worth Jay, we're not going to let you go that way, not without a struggle.*"

"*Thank you,*" he smiled slightly and stroked her ears, almost oblivious to Master Noloth sitting next to him. "*Fenrik helped a lot too. I pushed the Dark back after the battle because he asked me to. It spared the Pig's life.*"

"Gamorrean, kit," Master Noloth corrected him, leaning his head back with something that was almost a chuckle. "There is a difference."

The last part earned him a curious, and rather questioning look, but Jay nodded. "The Gamorrean's life."

"*So, think you can handle the rest of the day without giving us reason to come chasing you half-way around the world to see if you released a swarm of ancient Sith spirits?*" Essani asked with a mental chuckle.

"Yes, Master." He managed a bashful smile. "I think I can manage."

"So, anything bothering you?" Jay asked Fenrik later while the two of them were snuggling.

"Mmm ... well, you're leaning against my arm a bit," the Panther chuckled, taking the glass and pressing against him lightly for emphasis. He was still wearing the sling, at least when Jay was looking, but more to humor him than for any real pain left in it. "And I'm a little worried about Master Kiris," he admitted.

"Your Master?" Jay shifted and nuzzled him.

"Yeah," Fenrik nodded slightly, pressing into the contact. "He's been gone longer than he was supposed to be. Probably just some little delay that came up, but ... I worry," he admitted.

"He matters to you," he nuzzled him gently. "I'd worry about her if Essani left me alone, late coming back or not."

"We probably all would," Fenrik chuckled slightly. "Worry about our Masters, that is. I'm just feeling a little nervous, I guess. I haven't heard from him since he left, which is normal enough. Just all those little things that go together to make you nervous."

"I know," Jay murmured and nuzzled him. "And if he's stressed, you're feeling it too."

"It's like that with you and Master Essani too?" Fenrik asked, returning the nuzzle.

"Yeah, it's how they always know about us," He smiled a bit sheepishly. "That Master-Padawan bond gives them access past our shields, but it's not completely one-way."

"Uhm ... did Master Essani ever tell you if she feels anything through that bond when we...."

"Only if she's checking, or it's very strong," Jay looked at him curiously.

"That's good," Fenrik nodded, blushing beneath his fur. "It just occurred to me that she might be picking up on things when we were in bed together... y'know?"

Jay blinked, then blushed brightly. "Umm, well, yeah, she probably knows. Maybe not details ...."

"I hope not," Fenrik nodded, turning to kiss Jay tenderly. "Now, let's both try to forget either of us thought of that."

"Yeah," he grinned and kissed him back, slipping his tongue into his lover's mouth with a bit of hunger.

"Mmm...." Fenrik returned the kiss, their rough tongues exploring each other's mouths. "Want to see if a day's been enough?" He suggested, leaning back on the couch and drawing Jay back on top of him slightly as he worked out of the sling.

"Yeah," Jay rumbled and relaxed to straddle his hips with a more heated kiss. "I could definitely stand a workout."

"Mmm ... who in who?" Fenrik rumbled, wrapping his arms around the younger tom.

"You in me," he breathed hotly against Fenrik's neck between kisses as the Panther worked to get his robes off.

Master Jienhui Ursal stretched out in her bed on the transport ship, absently checking those around her by reflex, beginning and ending with her Padawan, who was understandably nervous. Already the young woman, normally a fairly late riser by Jedi standards, was in the meditation chambers on the ship, attempting to deal with it as privately as she could. Normally the great Bear would have left her to do so, but today she decided it wouldn't hurt to offer a little help, if it was welcome.

She lumbered out of bed and made for the shower, giving Shi enough time to come out of her meditative state if she cared to before she got there. It was only a short walk to the meditation quarters, and it was no surprise to find her Padawan was not alone there. This was the first mission for many, and even those who knew what was coming needed the extra calming.

Especially those who knew what was coming, in several cases.

Shivasta stood and walked out of the near-silent room, smoothing out her robes and bowing to the older Bear.

"Master Ursal," she said, quietly but politely. "You wish to talk with me?"

"Yes," she rumbled gently and guided Shi to the abandoned observation deck. "About what is coming, and what you have left behind."

"I had a feeling," the young Ice Walker nodded slightly, following her Master out, looking out the view screen at the strange surroundings of hyperspace. "I'm a little uneasy about it," she admitted.

"About the mission, or Jay?" She asked kindly.

"Both," Shivasta said softly. "And they're both connected, yet not, at the same time. It's a little confusing," she chuckled slightly, blushing a light violet.

"Perhaps I can help you sort it out," Ursal offered. "Visions are frequently confusing, even after you know what they are about."

"I'm not sure if it's a vision," she admitted. "Probably just nerves. I've never had to help people who needed it this badly before. I know it's what I'm training for, and that I can help, that I want to, but... I don't know how much I can."

"You help as much as you can," Master Ursal said simply. "It is all any of us can do. It is all any of us are expected to do."

"I understand, Master," Shivasta nodded softly. The Bear only wished it was as true as her Padawan felt it was; she was certain that many difficult lessons would be learned before they returned to the Temple. "I'm also worried about Jay," she admitted, "in several ways."

"What ways?" She pressed gently.

"I'm worried about him worrying about me," she chuckled slightly, pressing back against her Master's comforting size and warmth. "He was terrified when I told him where we were going, not that I can really blame him."

"I can not either," Ursal nuzzled her lightly. "But it does no good to worry about such things. You can not control what he thinks."

"No," she admitted. "But I wish there was some way to help him feel better about it. I promised him I'd write, but I don't know how much that helped."

"It will be enough." She said simply. "But something else is bothering you, cub."

"Yes," Shi admitted softly. "I'm scared... not just about the mission, but about what I'll find when I come back."

"That he will have moved on?" She asked gently.

"Yes," the young woman admitted. "I wouldn't blame him either. We could be gone for years."

"Yes, we may be," Ursal nodded solemnly. "If he has, and you have not, you have the option to court him again."

"I know," she nodded. "It's just that difference between knowing and knowing," she said, wishing there were words in Basic that better explained the difference.

"I understand," the elder Bear smiled gently. "At least you will be able to keep up on his life. It may not be being there, but you can write to each other. It will not be completely disappearing from his life."

"Thankfully," she nodded. "And he has Fenrik."

"Yes, he will not be alone." She said gently. "Things will be all right, cub. Trust in the Force."

"I will Master," she nodded, sighing slightly. "Thank you."

"I will always be here for you, Shivasta. Even after you have earned your place as a Knight. You are not the first I have helped through this, I do not expect you to be the last."

"Which part of it?" The young woman asked with a slight chuckle.

Ursal smiled and chuckled in return. "The first serious, long mission. The first plague. The first patient you can't help. The first time you leave a lover behind. The first time you come home to a lover or mate you haven't touched in months or years. I've seen it all a few times."

Shivasta turned, embracing the Bear as well as she could.

"And to think," she murmured fondly, "some people don't think old people know anything."

"Mmmm, Doruth," Tes nuzzled him as they snuggled on the large, soft couch in the living room of their quarters. She watched the news while he was more interested stroking her swollen belly. "I think I can help get an audience with Dilvam Tam. I know him from a few years back. He's usually happy to see me."

"Really?" He asked, looking over into her eyes. "That'd be great, if you can swing it. Thought he was a little paranoid about 'guests' though?"

"Oh, he is if he doesn't know you. But if you appreciate his work and are willing to bring in supplies or play a few games of pazaak, he's a friendly little guy. He knows I'm good for all three."

"How is he with new people then?" Doruth asked. "After all, we're hoping to introduce Jay to him without getting either of them ready to gut the other."

"They're either be the terror of the tech circuit or they'll try to kill each other." She chuckled softly. "He's friendly, but you can not shut him up about his new toys if you show a wit of understanding."

"I think we'll have to have Master Essani schedule a month or two off of Jay's studies," the Panther chuckled slightly, snuggling up. "Thank you, love."

"Anything for my packmates," she murmured and nuzzled him. "Besides, Jay's a good kit. And it'll be fun to see Dilvam again."

"Mmm ... just don't let the two of us get into a pazaak match," Doruth chuckled, nuzzling her back. "I'm trying to kick that gambling habit yet."

"Do you seriously want me to keep you from playing, or just put a limit on the finances?" She rumbled in soft affection and stroked his ears and forehead.

"Mmm... tip me off before I tick him off," Doruth chuckled. "I might lose money in games sometimes, but I'm not that much of an addict. Learned that much from my father before he kicked off."

"Oh Doruth." She rolled her eyes with a chuckle. "It's a friendly game, no fair using Force to tweak the odds."

"I won't!" He said seriously, nuzzling her neck. "Only do that when it's serious. I just mean before I clean him out," he smirked. "I was a pro, remember? I didn't always cheat."

"Mmm, we'll see then." She winked at him and followed it up with a kiss that left no doubt of why she'd brought the lube out into the living room.

"Mmm ... that we will," he rumbled, returning her kiss. "Y'know, at this rate, you're gonna have another litter on the way before this one's born," he winked, running his hands down her sides and reaching back to caress her ass.

"I think I could live with that," she grinned and leaned forward to give him ample places to touch even as she pushed him back a bit to lay on the couch. "You're a lot more enticing than their sire."

"Good to know," he purred, nuzzling her neck and inhaling her scent, heavy with arousal and the pups in her belly. "Mmm... almost a shame it doesn't work that well."

"Oh, I don't know," she rumbled as she pushed his robes from his shoulders to expose the sleek black fur and powerful chest. "This way means you can stay with me during my heats without pups."

"Mmm ... which is going to end up making things awkward when you go into heat when the pups are getting old enough to wander around the ship on their own," he pointed out playfully, pulling his arms out of his robes and starting to undo her own looser robes.

"As if your Padawan won't be?" She raised an eyebrow, her mind elsewhere with a groan when his mouth found one nipple. "Oh gods," Tes shuddered and ran her hands along his face and ears. "You and that tongue."

He just grinned up at her, suckling first one nipple, then another, fondling her lower sets as he bathed them with his tongue. It was so delightful how she moaned and squirmed without a trace of reservation. She held nothing back from him.

It felt so good event before she touched him, something she did very well when he wasn't distracting her too much.

"Willing to try something new?" Tes breathed with a shudder.

"Mmm ... surprise me?" He asked her with a rumble, certain she didn't have any kinks he couldn't at least tolerate.

He saw her dark brown eyes glitter and a wide grin spread across her muzzle.

"Then I need you undressed before you get too turned on." She licked her muzzle eagerly.

"I think I can manage that," he grinned, pulling his robes off the rest of the way, leaving himself naked as he pulled her down for a hungry kiss that was surrendered to completely as her own robes came off in a hurry.

"Now, now," Tes tried to get herself under control enough to not jump him immediately as she kissed and licked her way down his chest and abs while her hands gently fondled his full balls to bring him to the right state of arousal.

"Mmm ... how long will you need me like this?" He asked with a groan as she got him about half-hard and kept him that way while she reached next to the lube bottle to bring a rather wobbly slick black ring with a much more slender second loop under it.

"Just till I get this on." She grinned up at him adoringly before kissing his cock.

"And what is 'this'?" He asked, rumbling and focusing on keeping his body from getting any more aroused until she was ready as she slipped the gel-dildo like ring over his half-full erection, then slid the smaller loop behind his balls to tighten the arrangement like a cock ring, except the part around his cock was rather soft and far too high up.

"This is a delightful little thing that'll let you tie to me," she grinned and ran her tongue up his cock, catching as many of his barbs as she could. "Let go, lover."

He did so with a groan, quickly hardening the rest of the way at her attentions and knew just as quickly that this thing would world like a cock ring, strange configuration or not.

"So this is what you... oooh... bought while Jay was... mmm... asking what those beads were for?"

"Yap," she grinned and stood to run her hands over his body. "I won't ask often, but I have so missed tying with my lover."

"Mmm ... and how could I possibly deny you," he purred, running his hands down her body. "Be interesting to see what it's like for your kind," he rumbled.

"It is very intense." She shivered in anticipation and coated his barbs with the lube that made it so good for them both. "How do you want to snuggle for twenty minutes?" Tes murmured with a kiss.

"Mmm ... you in my lap," he groaned. "Damn, woman... mmm... you sure this thing'll swell then come down, right?"

"Yes," she kissed him soundly and pressed him back to sit on the plush couch so she could straddle him. At first she just rubbed her pelvis against him, relishing in the feel of a canine cock on the male she loved. "Gods, you make me impossibly hot."

"I do my best," he rumbled, nuzzling her breasts, lapping at them with his rough tongue, groaning as she rubbed against him. "And you more than return the favor."

"That a request to get in me already?" She giggled a bit and licked the back of his ears even as she shifted her hips up to take him in.

"Mmm ... it's certainly not me complaining about it," he grinned, suckling one nipple hungrily as he took her hips in his hands, pressing up against her wet, eager sex and slid in easily until they came to the ring she had slipped on him.

"Ohh, yeah!" Tes howled and shuddered, her body nearly on overload already from the sensations and instinctive response to the knot pressed against her sex.

Doruth just started thrusting, savoring the sounds she made and the feel of her body, tight and hot around his own. He didn't particularly like cock rings, or things like them, but what he'd said before was right - there was no way he could really deny her something she wanted in bed, especially not something that minor.

Besides; if it made the ecstasy he could feel practically pouring off her a more common thing? He could live with that very easily.

A few nights later, the quiet chime of somebody asking to be let into the suite shared by Jay and Master Essani woke the kit out of his near-slumber. Reluctantly he uncurled from around Essani's small form and slipped out of bed, quickly pulling an outer robe on to cover his nudity before he went to see who was asking in at this hour without waking his Master telepathically first.

Opening the door, he saw Fenrik on the other side, looking exhausted and very wound up.

"Sorry I woke you up," the Panther said apologetically. "Jay, do you think I could stay here tonight?"

"It's okay," he assured him quickly and guided him inside with a gentle hand. "You're welcome here." He said seriously, knowing his Master wouldn't object even before she confirmed it mentally while she walked out of Jay's room and settled into her own, smaller bed.

"Thanks," Fenrik said gratefully, letting the door close behind him before he hugged Jay close; a sort of needy hunger in the embrace.

"What's wrong?" Jay asked and hugged him back.

"I don't know," the Panther admitted, a fact that clearly worried him almost as much as whatever was wrong did. "I just... I can't be alone tonight," he murmured.

"No problem," Jay nuzzled him supportively and urged him to his bedroom. "I understand."

"Thanks," Fenrik repeated, following him into his room and sitting down on the side of the bed. "I hope Master Essani doesn't mind."

"*I don't, kit,*" she told him gently from the other room. "*Calm down, and try to get some sleep. You'll probably be feeling better in the morning.*"

"Yeah," Jay nuzzled him. "Warm milk, or just snuggling?"

"Snuggling," Fenrik murmured, turning to return the nuzzle before he shifted to kiss the younger tom. "More, if you want."

Jay was caught between the reflexive answer of yes, and a doubt that it was really what Fenrik wanted.

"Snuggle," Jay kissed him back lightly even as he let the loose outer robe to the floor and encouraged Fenrik to stand so they could get under the covers. It wasn't hard at all, though the Panther's arms were back around him as they crawled under the sheets, both of them naked.

"Don't know what's wrong," Fenrik admitted with a kiss as Jay snuggled close with a content sound.

"Maybe your Master is stressed," Jay nuzzled him gently. "Or the worry you mentioned before is getting stronger. It'll be okay."

"I hope so," he murmured, rubbing Jay's back, working strong fingers through his fur; unconsciously touching all the right spots to turn his lover on.

"Just try to focus on what's here and now and let the worry slip away," Jay tried to concentrate on helping his friend and not on what Fenrik's touch was doing to his own body.

"Right," the Panther murmured, kissing Jay tenderly. "Here and now's good...."

"Yes, it is." He breathed in sharply as wondering hands tried to draw a whimper of arousal from him and stop his own hands from returning the favor.

"Take me," Fenrik murmured softly, nuzzling Jay's neck as he got over the shock of the request and it's phrasing.

"All right," Jay kissed him gently and ran his hands along sleek black sides, trying to gage the mood a little better as he kissed his way down Fenrik's muscular body.

He earned a deep, soft moan and felt the Panther shift, leaning back slightly and lifting his upper leg to give Jay better access to anything he wanted. He rubbed the younger tom's back and shoulders, kneading them as he closed his eyes and surrendered completely to the distraction of pleasure that Jay offered him so freely.

Running, darkness, pain shooting through the side. The beast was probably still chasing him.

People screamed in the streets, diving out of the way as he ran by, pursued closely by a nightmare he'd thought was nothing more than a legend.

Master Kiris leaped up onto the roof of a small building in the Corellian slums, running and jumping to the next before he dropped into an alley and tried to catch his breath. He looked up with a start, igniting his lightsaber as a wall exploded in a shower of plaster and the terentatek howled for Jedi blood.

The Panther dropped into a defensive posture, wincing as blood dripped from the gashes the beast's claws had left in his back after it killed the Dark Jedi he'd been hunting. The giant, beetle-like creature growled, its mandibles clacking as it gauged its foe and smelled something that no enemy the Jedi had fought had smelled in years.


Kiris thrust his hand out desperately, stabbing at the terentatek with the power of the Force and trying to knock it off balance, following the attack with his lightsaber. The wave of Force energy washed over the creature, but the lightsaber blow struck true, biting into its chitin and burning through its flesh for a few inches... still, not nearly enough damage to stop it. A massive claw grabbed the Panther by his arm, pulling him up towards massive, spreading wide, ready for the kill....

Fenrik screamed, shooting up in bed as he grabbed for his own throat. Agony shot through his other arm as all the fears and insecurities of the past few weeks came crashing together into one jumbled moment of stark terror.

"*Master!*" Jay's mind voice screamed at Essani, who was already rushing for their room. He had no idea what was wrong, what the jumble of images, thoughts and information in his mind was, but he knew what it took to draw that kind of sound and smell from a warrior. That in and of itself was a terrifying concept when all he could do was try to hold Fenrik and convince his brain that whatever this was wasn't happening to him right now.

The door opened, letting the kushiban in as Fenrik shuddered in Jay's arms.

"*What happened?*" She asked, hopping up on a chair as the Panther tried to calm himself down.

"Master Kiris," he panted. "Something... something killed him!"

"Terentatek," Jay named the thing that reminded him of stories of his Great-Grandfather's adventures. "A giant beetle."

*Is that what you remember?*" she asked Fenrik. Jay could feel the shock she kept tightly shielded from anybody else, even from her fur.

"Yes Master Essani," he nodded, licking his lips. "That was the word my Master had for it. It was killing him."

"*It may only have been a nightmare Fenrik,*" she told him soothingly. "*I will call the Council, we will see what has happened. If you two can sleep, it would be best.*"

Jay looked at her, uncertain why she would not tell him what they all knew had happened. "*Master, may I add some somuric to his milk?*" He asked along their tightly shielded bond.

"*Do so,*" she nodded. "*And take some yourself, if necessary. I may be busy for the next few days Jay, along with the rest of the Council. I'm sure you'll have your hands full helping Fenrik cope.*"

"*I understand Master.*" He nodded fractionally, squishing his curiosity until it was a better time to ask what had her so frightened about a giant beetle. "I'm getting you some warm milk," he nuzzled Fenrik gently. "Okay?"

"Just don't take long, please," Fenrik said, looking into Jay's eyes with an expression that was closer to lost than anything the younger tom had seen before.

"I won't," he leaned down to kiss him reassuringly before hurrying to make the milk that would hopefully be strong enough to let Fenrik sleep despite the ragged ends of a shattered bond in his mind. "*Master, shouldn't he see a mind-healer for the bond?*"

"*In the morning,*" she confirmed, moving to the door. "*For now, he needs to sleep. Force willing, when he wakes up there won't be any need.*"

"*Yes, Master.*" He took the small glass of warm milk back to his room and handed it to Fenrik before settling next to him to hold the bigger Panther. "There's somuric in that. It'll help you sleep."

"Thank you," he murmured, taking the glass as the door slid open and closed. "Jay... do you think it might have just been a dream?"

"No," he sighed and hugged him tightly. "I'm sure it wasn't."

"I didn't think so," the Panther murmured, squeezing his eyes tightly shut as he drank the drugged milk and wrapped his arms back around Jay, fighting to keep from breaking down.

"It's all right," Jay murmured quietly as they embraced and he stroked Fenrik's ears.

"Not yet," the Panther murmured softly, pressing his muzzle against Jay's neck. "Not until I know for sure."

"Then lay down and don't fight the somuric," he said softly and guided him down. "They'll know in the morning."

Before long, he held the drugged Panther in his arms, sleeping with a peace and calmness that was completely at odds with what he actually felt.

The twelve Masters of the Council were clearly tired as they gathered, but none of them protested the extremely unusual meeting. They also paid little attention to the usual protocol, simply gathering in a circle and settling in.

"We all know why we're here," Master Shan said softly. "Master Essani, I assume you believe that Padawan Aren's vision was valid?"

"*I do, Master Shan,*" the kushiban agreed, her fur a deep, steel grey. "*And if it is, then we must act quickly. There is no way to save Master Kiris, but Corellia has many Jedi there, most of whom would stand no chance against a terentatek, let alone the damage it may do to the people there while hunting us.*"

Master Ryul nodded seriously. "Are there any still alive who remember the last time we hunted one?"

"Not who saw the hunt," Master Kareth said softly. "However, the records still exist, as well as how they have been slain. Those who leave on the hunt must be skilled in blaster combat, as well as with lightsabers. What concerns me is why this one has returned; they've been thought to be extinct for over a thousand years."

"It means what it has always meant," Master Yamari said quietly, her gaze elsewhere. "The Dark is strengthening as it has not in generations."

"Given the associations, could this be linked with Padawan Clawson?" Master Noloth asked pointedly.

"*It may,*" Master Essani admitted. "*Though not because of anything he has done directly. The Dark Jedi we sent Master Kiris to hunt went to Corellia for a reason; it may be connected to the appearance of the terentatek there.*"

"Which means we will need to seek to find what that connection is, if there is one," Master Surool said, frowning slightly. "And if there is more than one to deal with. We may need to begin training for another Great Hunt."

"For now, what Jedi have the skills to hunt this one?" Master Charn looked around, his long black tail lashing sharply. "Besides Knight Parn."

"There are more Custos who are qualified than Jedi," Master Noloth admitted. "But Master Kylyanni is qualified. There are others, but I don't know their names off-hand."

"I am as well," Master Kareth said softly. "Master Kiris was the superior warrior, but I have studied the terentatek more than most others, and prepared for this day to come."

"I would say that makes this mission yours to lead." Master Ryul inclined his head to the slender vixen.

"It is the sensible decision," Master Noloth agreed. "Do you believe that the three of you, possibly with Custos, will be sufficient?"

"We sent three Knights to finish the Great Hunt some three thousand years ago," she pointed out. "Two Masters and a Knight should be able to handle this one without anyone else being slain." She stood up. "We should leave soon; I'll contact Master Kylyanni and Knight Parn and have them meet me in the vehicle bay."

"I strongly recommend taking a few of the more blaster-inclined Custos as well." Master Shan cautioned her. "We do not know if this creature is alone. Do not become too confident from your rank. Those three Knights had battled many terentatek before their final kill. No one with you has."

"Very well, Master Shan," she agreed, inclining her head towards him. "We will be cautious."

"*May the Force be with you, Master Kareth,*" Master Essani said softly as she left.

"Where are we going?" Tes asked amicably, a bit excited, when Doruth came back to their quarters after the middle-of-the-night emergency meeting and started to pack.

"We're not," he said softly, knowing she wasn't going to like it. "I've been assigned to a joint mission to Corellia with Masters Kareth and Kylyanni, trying to find out what happened to Fenrik's Master. I'm afraid I have to leave you here for this one."

"Like hell!" She growled softly. "I'm not on maternity leave yet."

"Tes...." He sighed and closed the small case with the clothes he thought he'd need in it. "Master Kiris was probably killed. What did it is supposedly a creature called the terentatek. It's a Jedi-hunter specifically, but it goes after anybody who can wield the Force. They picked the three of us who were best at fighting without lightsabers or the Force to face it if it's there, and we're taking several of the Custos with us, but I don't want you anywhere near it until it's dead, or we know it's not real." He moved over to the bed, caressing her cheek lightly. "Please," he said softly, "I don't want to take the chance that this is going to go badly."

"It's that terrible a beast?" She calmed down significantly, worry replacing outrage and she cupped his face.

"The Jedi have tried to hunt its species to extinction, multiple times," he nodded softly. "Lightsabers barely touch it and the Force is practically useless against it. If something goes wrong, you've got our pups to worry about too." He leaned forward, kissing her softly.

"Which is why you're going." She nodded regretfully. "Not many Jedi are good hunters without those two things."

"Exactly," he nodded. "It's that, or hire mercenaries or bounty hunters to go after it. Frankly, it's better this way. Sorry about the short notice," he said apologetically, "but if this thing's real, we need to change that as quickly as possible."

"Be careful, love." Tes murmured and kissed him; a lingering, passionate contact not intended to distract him but to have him leave with a taste of her in his mouth. "You have pups to come home to."

"I will," he murmured softly, reaching down to ghost his hand along her belly. "I have you to come home to too; no better reason than both of those together."

"Good," she rested her head against his chest for a moment before stepping away to let him go. "Force be with you, love."

"Thank you," he murmured, kissing her briefly before grabbing his pack and turning to leave. The walk to the hanger where their fast transport was already waiting was brief but too long, and he stopped dead in his tracks when their Custos contingent came into view. Five Wolves, no doubt a working pack from the way they interacted, with enough heavy personal weaponry to take on a small army of heavy droids.

The blaster carbines he could understand, even the heavier models. But the repeating blasters he saw were almost overkill, especially the one the largest of the Custos was carrying, almost too big to be used by a person without a tripod.

"The concept of 'overkill' is lost on them, isn't it?" He asked Master Kylyanni quietly as he walked up next to her.

"They said something about wanting to be certain the Alpha's mate returned," the Ferret pointed out. "They're very dedicated to making sure we all come back from this, particularly you."

"Tes'd be glad to hear that, I'm sure," he murmured, raising an eyebrow as they loaded a number of high-caliber slug throwers. "Excuse me," he nodded politely to the older woman, stepping forward to have a word with the Wolves.

"Greetings Knight Parn," one of the females, well-built with brown and grey fur, inclined her head to him without breaking from overseeing the others as their equipment was locked in place in the cargo compartment.

"Greetings, Custos Resh," he said politely, inclining his own head slightly, though not quite as much. "Don't you think this might be a bit much?" He asked, indicating the growing arsenal.

"Hunting anything that scares Jedi more than Sith does warrants whatever might be needed." She said firmly but politely. "We do not yet know if these are improved terentatek, or how many we face."

"I understand your concerns, but I'm worried about what might happen with the slug throwers. What type of ammunition are you using?"

"Hollow point, dum-dums, tumblers, incendiary," she ran over the inventory in her mind. "And a load of armor piercing variants for if it turns out a lot tougher than reports indicate."

"I hope you don't plan on using the armor piercing rounds unless they're necessary?" He asked hopefully. "We don't want to endanger bystanders with bullets that rip through the target, after all."

"Of course not," she almost sounded miffed. "Those are only for if the target is too tough for the other rounds and is blaster resistant."

"Which it shouldn't be," he nodded. "It's not that I doubt your judgment, Custos, it just seemed like a little much. Which, given my track record, probably means something's going to happen and we end up under-gunned," he admitted with a slight chuckle.

"I suggest you not tempt fate, Knight Parn," Master Kareth chuckled. The lean vixen looked very unusual with a blaster rifle strapped across her back, particularly a light sporting rifle, but Doruth had a feeling that it was heavily modified for what they were going to be doing.

"We are prepared for it if he does." Resh said simply. "We were chosen because we know how to retreat when it's a good idea."

"A skill we may end up using," Master Kylyanni agreed as she walked up to the ship. "Is everything ready, Custos Resh?"

"Yes, Master Kylyanni." She bowed politely after the biggest male in her pack nodded that everything was secured and accounted for. "We are ready."

Master Essani walked into medical, noting mentally that she had been here far too often for her liking since taking Jay on as a Padawan. Not that it was his fault by any means, but he did have a knack for being found here, with or without somebody else.

Now he was sitting with Fenrik as the mind-healers finished smoothing over the remains of the bond that Master Kiris' death had shattered. It was always painful when a Master's death ended the bond, but when death came in an instant, when it didn't have time to fade before ending, it was worse. She wasn't surprised that Fenrik had screamed, or by the rest of his response the night before.

She only wished she had better news for them. Not that they didn't know it already, but she never enjoyed telling a Padawan that they had confirmed it. Hopefully Fenrik wouldn't ask about the condition of the body. The look Jay flicked her way when he realized she was there warned her well enough that her Padawan would, even if Fenrik did not.

This was not going to be pleasant.

"*How are you feeling?*" She asked the Panther gently once she was sure the mind-healer was done.

"Better," he said softly. "They said the bond was why I was as wound up as I have been lately." He sighed, closing his eyes. "I still can't believe he's gone...."

"That takes time." Jay murmured and hugged him supportively, speaking from far too much personal knowledge for one his age.

"*Time that you'll have,*" Master Essani reassured him gently. "*I'm afraid that I can't tell you you're wrong either. We received word from Corellia today; they found his body.*"

Fenrik swallowed hard, trembling slightly in Jay's arms.

"Are they sending him home?" He asked.

"*Here first,*" the kushiban said softly, "*but yes, back to his homeworld after that, assuming his wishes didn't say otherwise.*"

"They don't," the younger Panther said softly. "He only talked about it once, but he did want to go back home. Was it...."

"*We're not sure if it was a terentatek or not,*" Essani explained. "*But we've sent a team to find out, well prepared if it was. They'll find out what killed your Master, Fenrik. For what it's worth, his death was swift, and likely painless beyond what had happened in the fight.*"

"It's something," he nodded softly. "I should go back to my...." He swallowed hard at the thought of his quarters, or going back to them. They were his quarters now; his alone.

"You don't have to," Jay offered, his voice low and respectful in his offer to stay with his lover, or have Fenrik stay with him.

"If you don't mind, Jay, Master Essani...?" Fenrik sounded hopeful, and the kushiban nodded.

"*It's no inconvenience, and understandable,*" she said softly. "*You can stay with us until you're ready.*"

"You don't need to be alone," Jay squeezed his hand. "There is plenty of room for what you need in my closet."

"I should go pack up what I'll need then," the Panther said with a shaky smile as he stood up. "Jay... do you mind coming with me?"

"Just try to get rid of me," he managed something of a stern face, but the concern behind it ruined the effect.

"Wouldn't dream of it," the Panther murmured, wrapping his arms around Jay in a tight hug before he caught himself and stepped back slightly and found his hand captured as Jay took charge and guided him out into the hallways to his quarters.

The quiet hum of Master Kareth's blaster rifle charging broke the background rumblings of the Corellian streets. The trail of the terentatek had led them up out of the slums and into the upper city... and, frighteningly, closer and closer to the parts of the city that Corellia's Jedi tended to gather. It hadn't killed anybody else yet, but it was only a matter of time before that changed.

"It's close," she said softly. "To the east... it's approaching the Testing Grounds."

The Custos pack nodded and double-checked their weapons that had been ready throughout the hunt and exchanged glances to double-check that they all understood the battle plan and orders.

"Let's get going then," Resh's voice was low, nearly a rumbling growl as they picked up the pace a bit.

The three Jedi moved with them, Doruth and Kylyanni's blasters already prepared.

"Master Kareth," Doruth asked quietly, "how can you sense where it is?"

"Look for the void in the Force," she answered. "That is where it will be."

"I see what you mean," he nodded, focusing and seeking for the sensation she described. Suddenly, he leaped up and over the pack of Custos, bolting in the direction of the beast making its way towards a cluster of young sensitives who would have no way of surviving the encounter.

"Move!" Resh barked and hit a dead bolt run to get into firing range before the Panther got himself killed doing the Jedi thing.

"Can't blame him," Master Kylyanni pointed out softly as they hurried to follow him. "Not given all that's at stake." Her blaster pistol, almost comically large in her small hands, was ready for use when they were in range. The sound of a blaster discharge, followed by a bellowing roar of pain, said that wouldn't be long.

"Damn crazy Jedi going to get himself killed." The biggest Wolf rumbled in a mixture of frustration, distress and respect even as Doruth appeared in front of them so quickly he was nearly run into.

"I got it's attention," the Panther pointed out, turning and firing his heavy blaster as the great beast appeared from around the corner, earning a roar of pain as the shot struck on its shiny black-brown carapace.

"We noticed," Kylyanni said dryly, moving out from the middle of the pack and firing her own weapon, spreading out so it had to focus its attention on multiple targets rather than a single group. Master Kareth started to move away from them as well, though she went a different direction - up, onto a nearby balcony.

Resh made a sharp motion with her free hand and two of her Wolves vanished into side streets to come around behind it while the remaining three opened fire even as they spread out, their much heavier repeating blasters making a significantly bigger impact.

"*Hold Fire!*" Resh ordered calmly across the Force with the note that her two packmates were about to lead it into the open where it would be an easier target and them much harder to get.

In the moment of silence terentatek roared and spun around, scuttling after the two Wolves that were harassing it from behind. It drew back a massive arm, swinging for one of them even as their repeating blasters fired volleys of energy-bolts into its chest.

A massive crack from the balcony drew everybody's attention to Master Kareth's shot, just before the beast howled in agony, the arm it had drawn back falling to the ground, twitching as green ichor flowed from the wound.

"Finish it," she called down to the others.

"With pleasure," Doruth growled, the seven warriors on the ground opening up with a second series of shots that left the nightmare of the Jedi dead in the streets, its body twitching slightly, its armor scorched and burnt.

"Heavier weapons next time," Resh commented absently as she stepped up to the carcass.

"Definitely." A packmate nodded decisively. "That took far too many hits."

"At least it's dead," Doruth pointed out, looking up at the Grey Fox putting her weapon away. "And none of us are even seriously injured. What the hell sort of blaster was that?" He asked.

"Tensor rifle," she responded easily as she jumped down from the balcony. "I acquired it while I was still a Knight, when I was researching the creatures. I'm glad it worked as well as it did."

"Nice," Resh rumbled appreciatively. "Illegal as hell, but very nice."

"A Jedi isn't a creature of morals," the Vixen chuckled slightly. "At least not when necessary. Now, let's go deal with the rest of our task."

"Should we bring the body back with us?" Master Kylyanni asked. "It might prove useful to study one."

"Custos Resh, do you believe it's possible for us to carry it back?" Master Kareth asked the Wolf.

She glanced at the carcass, then at her packmates, and nodded. "It would be easiest to carry it to the Testing Grounds and land the ship there to load it. Even with Force assistance, the bugger's heavy and the streets ill-suited to maneuvering it in.

"I'll help you move it then," Master Kareth offered. "Knight Parn, Master Kylyanni, if you two would be kind enough to bring the ship?"

"Yes, Master Kareth," the Panther and Ferret nodded, turning to head back for the transport as the rest of them worked to move the massive predator to the Testing Grounds.

"Is it just my natural paranoia going overboard, or was this just a bit too easy?" Resh asked Master Kareth quietly as they used a combination of Force and muscle to get their prize into the open.

"It does feel that way, doesn't it?" Master Kareth agreed. "But I do not sense another. I find myself wondering if this one might have been the Force's way of giving us a warning."

"Hell of a warning," the shewolf muttered. "Leaving a Padawan without a Master."

"He'll find a new one," the Vixen said certainly, knowing that it was little comfort to the Wolves, and would be little comfort to Fenrik if he heard it ... if not upset him. And yet she knew it was true. "What I can't help but wonder is what it's a warning about."

"Hello Jay." Shivasta's image flickered in the holo-message. She looked well-rested, calm, at peace. Jay hadn't been sure what to expect, but this was a good sign he was sure.

"We're about to arrive at Necropolis; I wanted to be sure to record this while I had the time. The trip's been uneventful, mercifully. I've been talking with some of the other Padawans here... even some of the Knights are nervous. I'm not the only person who hasn't seen anything of this scale before... I guess that's comforting, in a weird way. I might be out of my depth, but I'm not the only one. We've all heard the reports, read them... it's bad there, but we all know we can help.

"That's the important part. We can help there." She looked away from the camera briefly and nodded.

"I have to go soon. I hope everything is going well for you and Fenrik. Write back when you get the chance; it'll be good to hear how things are at home. I'll bet you've managed to get yourself in trouble a dozen times just since I left," she chuckled with a fond smile. "I'll write again as soon as I can. Until then, think a fond thought or two for me. I know I'm thinking them for you," she smiled, before the image flickered out with the 'end message' chime.

Jay drew a deep, thankful breath, debating just how much to tell her of the hell that had gone down here. Some he really did have to tell her, some ... she just didn't need to hear from him.

"Anything you care to say to her?" He looked over at Fenrik, who was trying to relax on the couch.

"Wish her luck, and tell her I'm glad she left you here for me to take care of," the Panther chuckled slightly. "It didn't quite work out that way, but one of us is takin' care of the other at least."

Jay nodded with a forced grin and turned back to the holoscreen to make the recording.

"Hey Shi. Glad to hear the trip was uneventful. Things are moving along here. Doruth got sent on a hunting trip with a couple others and left Tes behind, so she's been a real terror. Hopefully they'll send word he's coming back soon.

"Fenrik wishes you well, and sends thanks that you left be behind to take care of," he winked with a playful grin. "Essani's kind of adopted him since his Master is gone." He did his damnedest not to look as stricken as that made him feel. "Still no word on when he's getting back.

"I hope things turn out not to be as bad as it sounds, and things get sorted out soon. I already miss you." He clicked the recording off and sent it to her.

"I'm sure she'll be fine," Fenrik said softly, moving to hug Jay from behind. "I wonder when they're going to hear about Master Kiris," he mused quietly, closing his eyes as the pain washed through him again. "And I'm sure Doruth will be back soon... it should only take them a couple days to get to Corellia, at worst."

"And not much longer to hunt that thing down, I hope." He nodded and turned to hug him back, embracing his lover in all the caring warmth he could offer. "They'll probably know in a few days. It's news, but they're going to be really busy."

"I know," Fenrik murmured. "And they're going to have their own troubles to deal with too." He sighed slightly. "Come to bed with me?"

"Of course," he stretched up to kiss him lightly and nuzzled him before standing, still in their embrace.

"Master Essani?" Doruth asked politely, approaching the kushiban as the entourage of tall, well-muscled Panther Jedi of both genders boarded the Gurath.

"*Yes, Doruth?*" She looked up, watching as her Padawan boarded with Fenrik.

"I noticed you're not on the list of people I should make sure are on-board before we leave," he said softly. "There is space for you, if that's the concern." Of course, if she was any larger there wouldn't be; the Gurath's quarters were well and truly filled with Panthers coming along for Master Kiris' true funeral on his homeworld of Shiraak Prime.

"*No, I am not coming,*" she agreed quietly. "*I am needed here on the Council. I trust you can take care of Jay and Fenrik for this journey.*"

"Very well, Master Essani," he nodded, surprised at the level of trust involved. Of course, it wasn't like they were planning on having any trouble on the way, but it was still a sign. "Thank you," he bowed respectfully.

"*Just bring my kits home safe,*" she said softly, her full confidence that he would clear with the words.

"I will, Master," he promised. "We'll see you again in a few weeks," he said before turning to board the Gurath and run the last of the pre-flight checks that Tes had begun.

"Hey," Jay caught Fenrik gently by the arms and guided him to settle on the simple bunk they'd share for the next couple weeks. "It's too early to pace."

"Sorry," the Panther said apologetically, ducking his head a little. "Guess I'm just a little wound up. It's kinda strange to think of all these people are coming along with us to pay their respects to him, given how little time he spent with most of them... most of anybody, for that matter."

"You never did talk about him much," Jay reached up to caress Fenrik's face. "What was he like?"

"A warrior in every sense," Fenrik smiled softly. "And ultimately a Panther too. Fiercely independent, a real loner. Guess that's why I'm so surprised by the turnout; most of the people here he only knew by virtue of being another Panther, as far as I know.

"But as much as he was a private person, he always fought for the right side of things. Not necessarily the legal one, but the right one, unless his vows forbid it."

"There are such vows?" Jay frowned, trying to think of such a thing worth keeping.

"I saw them in action," Fenrik admitted. "The Jedi are viewed as representatives of the Republic, so we can't necessarily enforce our morals in an area where they conflict with the local laws. Nar Shaddaa was the place I saw it happen. Slavery is legal there, and the Republic has so far not taken a stance opposing it in Hutt space. No Jedi may strike against slavery within Hutt Space. Outside its boundaries is another matter, but within it would be seen as an act by the Republic against the Hutt's laws, which we do not have the right to represent until it is an accurate representation."

"Oh, that," he nodded. "Didn't think of it that way."

"True though," Fenrik pointed out. "It was downright painful to watch him the time I was there with him; I could practically feel the offense he took at it, though he never let anger show, even in private. He stayed away from Hutt Space for just that reason; he only went when the Council required it of him for a mission.

"Beyond that...." Fenrik sighed, snuggling up next to Jay. "He was incredible. It's hard to explain it, but he is... was... everything I want to be."

"Everything you will be," Jay said softly, stroking his ears and neck gently. "It's good to have at least one person like that in your life."

"I just wish I knew what to do now that he's gone," Fenrik murmured softly, nuzzling Jay's neck and holding him close.

"You accept it, heal, and find a new Master to complete you training with." He answered simply.

"Is it really that simple?" Fenrik asked, looking at Jay searchingly. "I've been his Padawan since I was ten, Jay, six years.... How do you find somebody you can connect to like that again?"

"That simple, yeah." He nodded seriously. "That easy? Not likely. It's not much different than falling in love or finding a lifemate after one's died." Jay murmured and stroked Fenrik's neck and upper spine. "It can take a while, but it can happen." He looked back and kissed him softly. "And this one really comes down to the fact that if you don't find someone you can at least trust, even if it's not as much as Master Kiris, you can't finish your training. Give it a few months. Someone will become apparent as the right choice to do the job."

"I hope so," the Panther nodded slightly, kissing Jay back and sighing softly. "It just doesn't feel like it right now," he admitted. "I know better, but feeling it is a lot harder."

"Fenrik," Jay got him to look at him directly. "You just lost him. Traumatically. You haven't even buried him yet. Don't worry about anything but seeing him off and healing from the loss for a while. No one is expecting you to move on like nothing happened."

"You're right," Fenrik admitted, snuggling up closer to him. "Thank you, Jay," he murmured softly. "For being sensible for me."

"It's what friends are for," he nuzzled him and held him tightly. "And mates are to hold you when you cry for the loss."

Fenrik turned over in bed, trying to let Jay sleep. He'd woken up a few minutes ago, his mind tossing and turning as he tried to calm down. The nightmares weren't as vivid anymore, they didn't have the immediacy of Master Kiris' true death, but they were still there.

He sighed softly, turning again and kissing Jay softly before extricating himself from the younger tom's arms. He climbed off the cot and moved to the small dresser in the room, opening the drawer and pulling out his lightsaber.

His Master's lightsaber, made for him.

He walked out to the cargo bay where Master Kiris' remains were in stasis. He still remembered the first time he'd seen it, after Knight Parn and the others returned from hunting the beast that had killed him. It hadn't looked too bad, except for the one glaring flaw. The head that the beast had taken off and partially eaten had been replaced by a false one. The imitation was flawless, but that only mattered if you were looking at the appearance. The fact that it didn't belong was too obvious... and, in its way, more disturbing than the simple absence would have been.

Fenrik tried to ignore the nearby body, instead igniting his 'saber and starting a simple kata. As the blazing white blade cut through the air, he focused his world down to three things; the blade, himself, and his troubles. Each stroke illuminated the shadows of his troubled mind, bringing things into clarity and giving him a point of focus to tackle until another issue became more clearly the source of the trouble.

The young Panther fought his phantom battle in the cargo hold, lights flashing off surfaces, the quiet hum of his blade the only sound in the ship.

It was that unexpected sound that woke the usual inhabitants of the ship. Tes lifted her head, checking with her eyes what she felt, that her mate was indeed still in bed and not the source. With a soft mumble she settled back down even as Doruth kissed her gently and slipped out of bed to dress quickly. No one should be practicing at this hour. No one should be conscious at this hour.

In the back of his mind, he wondered if one of those on board had his meditation method. It was usually him that was up at strange hours with a saber in his hand, using the katas and glow of his saber to bring clarity to his troubled thoughts.

He made his way back to the cargo hold, and paused at the door, watching the youth. To almost any other in the Order, it would look like 'saber practice. To Doruth, who used it himself, the difference between that and combat meditation was obvious. He could hardly blame the youth for needing it either. Loosing your Master was never easy, even after you were a Knight. To loose him half way through training in such a traumatic way with half a galaxy between you ... that had been known to break a Padawan.

Fenrik continued his meditation for a few minutes before he realized that he was being watched. He finished the kata and extinguished his blade to turn to face the Knight with a bow.

"Did I wake you?" He asked, looking up politely.

"Yes," Doruth nodded slightly. "I'm usually the one doing that." He paused, regarding the admittedly strange scene. "Is it how Master Kiris taught you?" He asked softly.

"It is," Fenrik nodded, closing his eyes briefly. "It was how he meditated as well, when he had the space."

"I wish I had known him better," he murmured. "I had to learn on my own how to clear my mind. I didn't realize there was another Jedi who used kata meditation."

"Neither did I, except for him," Fenrik admitted with a slight smile. "He said it's not very common, even among the warriors, though I'm sure a few others do it. It works," the cub chuckled slightly, putting his lightsaber in its holster with ease. "That's the important part."

"Yes, it is." Doruth nodded with a small smile of his own. "It's good that you are taking the time to. It's not an easy or quick thing to come to terms with."

"No, it's not," Fenrik nodded. "I just needed to clear my thoughts tonight."

"Then I will leave you to your thoughts, before Jay decides I need to be 'encouraged' to go back to bed." He smiled warmly and turned to leave, even as he realized that it was much more likely to be Tes who came to drag him back to bed, though that was unlikely to be restful. He was definitely going to have to invest in some serious soundproofing before he took on a Padawan.

"He's more likely to encourage me," Fenrik chuckled slightly.

"Quite possible," Doruth grinned at him over his shoulder. "He's as bad as Tes from what I've heard."

"Knight Parn? Would you mind staying for a little bit, if it's all right? It might help to have somebody who knows what they're doing a bit better to talk some of this over with."

"Of course," he said easily and turned fully to face Fenrik. "Here, or up in the observation bay?"

"Probably be better in the observation bay," the younger Panther admitted, looking at the stasis case holding his Master's body as he moved to follow Doruth.

"It is rather unsettling, for all the copy is perfect," he nodded, speaking quietly as they walked.

"I know they meant well," Fenrik nodded slightly. "But it's just not him. I can't believe that creature...." He shuddered, sitting down in the observation bay and felt the bigger Panther settle next to him and put a strong hand on his shoulder. "It does get easier, right?"

"The going on, day to day? Yes, that gets easier with time and acceptance that he is gone." He nodded solemnly. "Loosing someone close to you? No, that part never gets any easier."

"Guess it's not supposed to," Fenrik nodded slightly. "Why do we do it the way we do?" He asked, leaning back in his chair with a sigh.

"Do what?" Doruth asked, a bit at a loss as to which thing he was asking about.

"I...." Fenrik sighed, trying to think of how to say what he was thinking. "The whole thing. We're not supposed to get too attached to anybody, anything, it's the whole reason most students are taken when they're so young. But then we create a bond like the one between Master and Padawan... even without the actual bond, there aren't any pairs that don't have a connection like that. I don't know how you were able to do it, turn against him when you had to."

"I almost didn't," he sighed, the memories of it still a faintly terrifying pain. "The rest ... that's a complex answer." He sighed and shifted to lean against a bulkhead and stared out at the stars rushing by. "The lack of attachment ... emotions tend to cloud judgment. It makes it hard to think, to see things for what they are and the path you should take. You just went through a fairly civil round of why you are encouraged not to be close to anyone with Jay and Shi. It would have gone much differently if there weren't two Masters intervening in the fallout. It's why it's so hard to accept what the next year will bring, that you'll heal enough to have another Master for the remainder of your training and risk it all again, possibly even a third time if it comes to it.

"The bond with a Master is mostly to protect the Padawan. You learn so much, you're put in so much danger so young and so often that it's almost the only way a Master can make sure you aren't getting into trouble, physically or with the Dark. It's not something a lot of Masters relish having from what I've read. It's not something I liked having at your age. It's not something I'm particularly looking forward to when I take a Padawan, but I know from my own time that it's needed if he'll survive to become a Knight. I have to be able to know when he's in danger from anything to protect him until he's ready to protect himself, and that means I accept the bond and all that comes with it."

"Didn't do either of us any good when we needed it," Fenrik pointed out, his tail betraying the brief rush of anger he felt.

"Life is like that," Doruth said quietly, understanding the anger and pain all too well. "Things don't always work out the way we mean them too. A lightsaber should cut anything it touches. A Master should see his Padawan a Knight. A Jedi is the hunter, not the hunted. We shouldn't let emotions cloud our judgment or fall to the Dark Side. But it all happens and the incredibly small odds of any of it isn't much comfort to those that face the results when things don't work out right."

"Especially not when you could've done something," Fenrik nodded, swallowing hard. "Should've said something sooner."

"You had that premonition before?" He frowned; surprised that such a dramatic Force-ripple could have been missed.

"Not the premonition, but the whole week leading up to it... I was feeling more and more stress from him, so many things that should have said something was wrong...."

"Fenrik, as frustrating as it may be, even if you'd said something nothing would have changed. He was expected to call for help if he needed it, even if it was just to you. He was hunting a Dark Jedi, a fallen Master. If he was close, that is how it feels. It can drive you crazy to be the one left behind, knowing something's going on and blocked from even being moral support." Doruth sighed. "Taking the blame for what happened won't help any either."

"Did you at least found out what happened to the Dark one he was following?"

"The terentatek killed him."

"It balanced things out," Fenrik murmured, sighing and shaking his head. "At least his mission was completed."

"Yes," Doruth nodded. "And that one won't hunt another Jedi."

"I just hope there aren't any more of them out there... whatever created it, it's an abomination. How could anything exist outside the Force like that?"

He held back his real beliefs that it was the predator of the ultimate predator. "I don't know," he admitted the truth. "But we've tried to exterminate them time and time again, and every time the Dark rises in power again, they come back to hunt us all."

"I'm going to hope this was just a fluke," Fenrik sighed. "Rather than something about to go very, very wrong. Thank you for speaking with me, Knight Parn. We should probably both get back to bed, before we're missed."

"Any time you'd like to talk, you're welcome to," he smiled warmly and squeezed the younger Panther's shoulder. "I may not have all the answers, but I've been through a lot of what you are."

"Thanks," Fenrik smiled slightly, putting his hand on Doruth's before he stood to leave. "I'll keep the offer in mind."

"Have you assessed how far in his training he is?" Master Ryenth casually asked the female next to him on the observation deck.

"He's at the point where I would recommend starting to train him in lightsaber construction," Master Zaian admitted, inclining her head slightly as her ears twitched, taking in the report on the vid-news Master Charn was watching. "He seems to have a reasonable grasp of how to use his abilities, though he relies on his training before his talents. I believe he would be ready for his Trials within five years, if not for the interruption this will cause."

"And the difficulties his bonding with Clawson will cause." Master Charn commented without truly joining them. "They are as tight as any mated Knights, and less likely to take separation well for all it is all but a given."

"It can't be that close?" Ryenth frowned. "They are far too young to have developed that closeness.

"Barely three months." Charn confirmed. "Impossible or not, it has happened and it will be an unpleasant thing for them to have end."

"And recent events have only brought them closer," Master Demria, youngest of the four, pointed out quietly as she walked onto the observation deck. "Though Clawson's involvement has helped Aren to maintain his balance throughout this."

"Agreed," Zaian nodded. "Their closeness is surprising, but has worked out for the better thus far."

"It is when they are separated for an extended period that will require careful management." Charn cautioned. "It would be best if his new Master has helped someone through such a separation, and has experience with the death of someone close."

"He needs a healer or counselor more than another warrior most, right now," Demria agreed. "Though that may change through the next year."

"Right now, that is what he will have." Charn nodded. "He won't have another Master until he is ready and at least largely recovered from what has happened. Master Essani has agreed to oversee him until he is ready to accept a new Master as he is likely to all but live in her quarters anyway." He paused to look at the three most likely candidates for that new Master. "Make no mistake, even healed, this will leave its mark on him long past his Knighthood.

"He will not be the first troubled Padawan to be trained successfully though," Zaian pointed out.

"None of us expect him to forget what happened, Master Charn," Demria agreed. "Losing your Master is never easy, especially not through violence. The question is what nature that mark will take. Kiris would not have wanted his death to end his Padawan's training, or leave too great a shadow over his future. Properly directed, this trial could serve to temper him, rather than tarnish him."

"Yes it could. It will simply require special care for it to. Not every Jedi is ready to provide that."

"Hardly," Demria agreed. "Though I am willing to," she added, "if it is possible when the time comes. He deserves the best chance he can get, both for his own merit and as Kiris' Padawan."

Master Charn nodded thoughtfully. "I would encourage you to include yourself in his life then, and Padawan Clawson's as well if they are ever separate. I can already see in the Force that his will shall be the deciding factor, and it is quite unlikely that their opinions will differ for long." He advised her calmly. "They are both very strong willed kits."

"Once we have returned to Coruscant," the younger Master nodded. "For now, he has enough to do with grieving and the responsibilities he has accepted. As I understand, he has taken the position of Master Kiris' heir for the ceremony."

"At least he is unlikely to have difficulties beyond finding a suitable location," Charn said softly. "And his perfectionist nature."

"That is helpful," Zaian agreed. "And I'm sure Clawson will be willing to point out when he's worrying too much about finding a perfect location."

"And Aren may actually listen to him," Ryenth chuckled. "At least more than to anyone else on board."

"We can certainly hope so," Demria nodded. "He doesn't need to give himself any more stress than he's already under."

"Very true," Charn nodded. "It'll be a rough enough year for him regardless."

Fenrik knelt beside the grave Master Kiris' body was resting in. Most of the others had gone already, leaving Fenrik to pay his last respects. He looked around at the spot they'd chosen, a quiet clearing surrounded by massive jungle trees. It was a quiet, peaceful place, one that had felt right when Fenrik had first visited it.

He hoped his Master would be happy here.

"This is it," he sighed, reaching down to brush his fingers along the dead Panther's arm. Most people would have thought the grave was far too shallow, balked at the lack of a casket ... or the fact that there was a burial at all. Most of the Republic had gone on to cremations, for space among other reasons. But their people's traditions were different; here, Kiris' remains would go on to rejoin the planet's life cycle and his spirit would rejoin the living Force of the area.

He looked down at his Master's remains. His real head was beneath the body, what was left of it at least. The false one remained on his shoulders, a training 'saber replacing the one the terentatek had destroyed after killing him. Fenrik sighed, closing his eyes as the pain washed through him.

"Jay?" He asked quietly, sitting up a bit straighter.

"I'm here," he answered softly and stepped closer to put a supportive hand on Fenrik's shoulder.

"Can I have a few minutes alone?" Fenrik asked softly, putting his hand on top of Jay's. "There's something I need to do."

There was a moment of hesitation, fear that the Panther meant to kill himself, but he nodded and squeezed Fenrik's shoulder. "I'll be by the river."

"I'll be there," Fenrik promised as he glanced up and realized that Jay had been crying silently during the ceremony for someone he had never met, the only visible grief any of them had shown. "Don't worry," he smiled slightly, "I'm not that far gone."

"Thank you," Jay stopped himself from kneeling to kiss him and let go, his steps away steady despite the emotional turmoil inside as he tried to cope with his own losses, eventual death and how much family customs actually mattered to him. Things no thirteen year old had any business thinking about and he'd put off for too long already.

Fenrik swallowed, taking his lightsaber out and setting it down at his knees. He was grateful for Jay's tears; he'd have to let him know later. He knew the others felt their own grief, in their own ways, but none of them had really showed it. He felt his own tears roll down his cheeks, and for the first time since the body had been brought back to the temple he didn't try to stop them.

He wasn't sure how long he cried, though he was sure Jay had gotten back to the river some five, ten minutes walk away. He wiped his tears away as his nerves steadied, then picked up his 'saber.

"I know it isn't yours, but at least it's one you made," he said softly, carefully removing the training 'saber the Jedi on Corellia had placed there as a formality and replacing it with his own. "Besides ... I promised to return it to you when you were done with my training. I wonder if you knew it would be like this. I know I never did."

He holstered the training 'saber, hoping nobody would notice ... or, at least, that they wouldn't mention it if they did. He looked up at the false head that had been bothering him since he had known about it. Ironic, really.

Master Kiris had told him once that even if he lost a hand he wouldn't have accepted a replacement. He'd considered it a sign of pride overcoming faith in the will of the Force. And now, when it wouldn't have helped him, the decision had been made for him. Fenrik reached into the grave again, taking the head and twisting it, wincing at the sound of the mountings sliding out of place as it came off in his hands.

"This doesn't belong here," he said softly, standing up and hiding the offending prosthetic by one of the nearby trees before he set about the task of shoveling the soil back into his Master's grave. Once he was done, he brushed some of the dirt from his sweat-soaked robes, his tired muscles giving him something else to think about as he started to walk back towards the river where Jay was waiting.

"Goodbye, Master," he murmured as he followed Jay's steps to where the kit was sitting by the water's edge, his knees to his chest and his face buried in his arms on top of them. His entire body was shaking, the tears no longer silent as any attempt to control himself had been abandoned well before.

Fenrik sat down beside him, wrapping his arms around the younger tom and held him close, silently offering some of the support he'd been given since this had all started while Jay pulled himself together enough to face the adults again.

"I don't suppose there's a swimming hole nearby?" He murmured quietly, rites he barely remembered hearing about combining with not wanting the Jedi on the ship to see them this tear-soaked to drive events for a time.

"There should be," Fenrik nodded, helping him stand up and felt him lean against him even as Jay tried to be supportive as well. "They don't expect us back for a while, I'd wager, and they can find us if they have to ... why don't we go clean ourselves up?"

"Better than looking like this what we see them." Jay nodded and hugged him back.

"It's okay for you to cry too, Jay," Fenrik murmured softly, kissing him gently before they walked to the small pond nearby, steam rising lightly from its surface.

"Wouldn't know it from the adults," he made a small sound of relief and shed his robes just far enough from the water's edge to avoid getting them wet before stepping in with no concern for any critters that might be in residence or that it would be too hot.

Fenrik followed him in, groaning as the hot water soaked through his fur. It was almost too hot for comfort, but the heat felt good as it soaked into his shoulders.

"They've seen too many friends go already," he pointed out softly. "They're just keeping it inside, like everything else."

"I know," he moved to rub Fenrik's shoulders even as his nuzzled his powerful neck. "I just still remember how much trouble we'd get in for doing just that. Dad said it was how the Demon got a hold in your mind, how you fall to the Dark. It just doesn't seem right." He sighed. "Some parts of your world I'll probably never get used to."

"That holding it in was?" Fenrik asked, wanting to be sure he was hearing it right.

"Yeah. Holding everything inside was the best way to go suicidal, insane or Dark, whatever came first." He murmured.

"Only if you bottle it up, instead of handling it," Fenrik murmured, turning to rub Jay's back. "We're just not supposed to let our emotions rule us, after all... it's just that bottling it up seems to be the easiest way to do that for most of 'em."

"And it works for most," Jay consented and groaned softly in their embrace, not really questioning the reasons or method. "It just isn't how I was raised as a sane choice. It just feels not right to have that much grief around and no tears or ... well ... social outlet." He sighed and rested his head against Fenrik's chest. "I just never realized till now just how different things are here; that my funeral's going to be anything but what I'd want just because of who'll be there."

"Maybe you'll manage to get home before that happens," Fenrik murmured, rubbing his back. "Besides... it's not just the Jedi approach. Panthers aren't exactly renowned for showing their feelings," he admitted, "especially not warriors. Not unless it's 'pissed as hell.'"

Jay couldn't help but chuckle weakly and tried to lighten the mood a little with a kiss. "Or horny as hell."

"Mmm ... very true," Fenrik chuckled, returning the kiss. "Sorry I haven't really been in the mood lately."

"You just lost the most important person in your life." Jay looked up at him seriously and cupped his cheek. "Sex is hardly the top of my concerns list."

"Thanks," the Panther murmured, kissing him gently. "Don't know what shape I'd be in by now without you here, Jay," he admitted.

"It doesn't matter," he said firmly. "I was here, I am here and I'm not about to leave you."

"Good," Fenrik murmured, rubbing his back. "So, feeling better now?" He asked, licking the younger tom's tear-matted cheek lightly.

"Yeah," he managed a smile, purring weakly at the intensely personal and caring touch. "You?"

"About as much as can be expected," the Panther smiled slightly. "Thanks for giving me that time."

"Anytime you need it, just ask," he kissed him gently before stepping back and closing his eyes to sink completely under the water to work the tear stains from his fur.

Fenrik took the chance to clean his own fur off, though he stayed above the water to do it until Jay was back up himself a few seconds later.

"I will," he smiled, "though I don't think it'll be too often."

"Good," Jay murmured and ran his hands up Fenrik's chest before kissing him soundly, the hunger in his mind from memories from home not matching the lack of arousal in his body. The conflict took a third way out and made him blink as he finally placed what was off about the incredible silence of the area. "I can make you a real one to practice if you'd like." He offered hesitantly, remembering Doruth's polite but very firm refusal of an improved 'saber over a year before.

"You noticed that, huh?" The Panther asked softly. "It just wasn't right to leave a fake one there... and I might take you up on that, eventually. Surprised you know how to do that already."

"I don't, technically," he looked up with a bit of an impish grin. "But it's seriously hard for me not to pick up how to create something I spend so much time working with. I built one for Tes a couple weeks after I got to the Temple. It doesn't take long, really. It's the tuning it to yourself that's the time consuming part, and it's not something you do unless you can build your own. I could probably have it ready in a day or two at the Temple."

"I'll consider it," Fenrik smiled slightly. "It'd be a lot easier to explain," he chuckled a bit.

"I doubt anyone will question it, whether I build you a new one or not." Jay kissed him gently and climbed out of the pool to shake off. "Sun-dry?"

"Works for me," Fenrik nodded, climbing out and shaking the hot water out of his own fur, laying down on the grass next to Jay, reaching over to rub his chest lightly.

"Mmm, feels good." He rumbled softly, a contented sigh escaping as relaxed in the strangely blissful silence of this world.

"Do you think I picked the right spot, Jay?" Fenrik asked, rolling up onto his side and absently scritching along his lover's front.

"Did you want somewhere calm and peaceful and full of life?" He glanced over.

"Yeah," Fenrik nodded. "Somewhere worthy of a protector's spirit, but where he could be at peace."

"I think you found a perfect spot then," he smiled at him easily.

"Thank you," Fenrik smiled. "Mmm ... you ever come up with some way I can thank you properly for all this, just let me know, okay?"

"Come to peace with this," Jay rolled to his side to look at him seriously as he reached out to caress his face. "Don't let this scar you for life."

"I'll do my best," Fenrik nodded slightly, leaning forward to kiss him. "I won't forget... but I won't let it ruin me either."

"That's how it should be," he nodded and kissed him back with a bit of fire. "Life does go on and you have a lot of life left."

"And a good tom to live most of it with," Fenrik murmured, returning the kiss and snuggling up close as they passed the time it would take to dry.

Jay let the light pack he'd brought for the funeral trip drop to the floor of his room at the Temple unceremoniously, too emotionally worn out to care about clothes. Fenrik had made some headway after the funeral, and Jay couldn't begin to express how grateful he was at that. He was already thinking far too much about death for anyone's good and how to word his instructions to a people that believed in cremation and letting the ashes drift on the wind.

The very idea was enough to make him shiver. Not all his kin were lucky enough to have a body left to burry, but to intentionally destroy it with no marker they ever existed ... it scared him more than he dared admit.

He was grateful too that Master Essani didn't seem to be around as he checked for messages and saw one from Shi a couple days old.

"Jay!" Shivasta's image looked as frustrated as she sounded as she said his name. "You should have said something! Gods I'm glad I had Master Ursal view the first version of this message before I sent it!" She sighed, straightening up slightly. "Please tell Fenrik I'm sorry about his Master. I wish I was there to help. We've been here about a week now, and I have to say... they've cleaned up the reports we get out there," she admitted. "It's not too bad around our outposts, but you get too far from those and...." She sighed again, shaking her head.

"The plague is bad, Jay. Don't tell anybody out there, but I don't think it's natural. The Masters are looking into the cause while the Knights and Padawans try to help as many people as we can. I've never seen this much suffering in one place before. It would be so easy to be overwhelmed by it, but we have to be strong. I helped a little girl today," she said with a smile. "Her parents were frantic, but I was able to bring it under control. According to the doctors, those we heal should have the antibodies to fight the plague better, so she should be immune now. I hope they're right.

"Give Fenrik my condolences, Jay. I miss you terribly, but he needs you there. The Force be with both of you. And don't give Master Essani any heart attacks while all the healers are gone," she winked as the message ended.

Jay closed his eyes with a defeated sound and let himself drop into a nearby chair. There was no way he could answer her now. Too wound up and worn out to say what she'd need to hear. It ached to have her missing. She could have made the death go away in a few minutes.

But he had to be strong, for her and for Fenrik ... and for himself. He could feel the Demon alternate between raging against the door and crooning sweet promises of power that they both knew were true.

Fenrik interrupted it as he got into the room, setting his own pack down as he noticed Jay's mood even as he realized that almost all the furniture in the room had been changed out to be more suitable for two.

"What's wrong?" He asked, kneeling next to the young tom.

"Shi's seriously ticked I didn't tell her about Master Kiris, the plague is really bad ... the unnatural kind of bad, but don't repeat that ... I guess the last few weeks are starting to really catch up with me too."

"Shi's probably not that ticked off," Fenrik said reassuringly, standing Jay up and guiding him over to sit on his lap on the bed, wrapping his arms around him. "And they've got more healers there than they do back here, I'm sure they'll figure out what's really going on and solve it."

"I know," he willingly surrendered to the embrace and closed his eyes. "I'm just really worn out right now."

"Shh, rest then," the Panther murmured, kissing his neck gently. "You lay down, I'll help you relax enough that you can get some sleep in your own bed, okay? I'll even give you a big black body pillow to snuggle up with," he smiled.

"When am I ever going to refuse that?" He managed a grin and kissed him softly. "I think I've gotten used to the relative silence of a ship too. The chatter's intense here."

"And here you said you used to gripe about places that were too quiet," Fenrik chuckled, pressing him down to the bed and starting to work his robes off. "You can tune it out, right? If it's too intense?"

"Yes," he groaned and arched up into the touch and coming nakedness even as he worked Fenrik's robes off his shoulders. "Just like you do minds."

"Just checking," the Panther rumbled, helping Jay take his robes off, then working his off the rest of the way. "Roll onto your front, okay?" He suggested and got an almost immediate response as Jay shifted to his arms and knees.

"Fuck me, now." Jay shivered, his body only half aroused but his mind driving a need so intense it hurt if he let it.

Fenrik blinked. He'd expected Jay to be wound up, but this wound up he hadn't been expecting. Even so, he reached into the nearby drawer and pulled out the lube.

"Sure you want this?" He asked, opening the tube and spreading some onto his fingers.

"Yes," he breathed hotly and looked back at his lover with pleading eyes. "I want you in me."

Fenrik made quick work of preparing his partner. Jay looked almost as desperate as he'd felt the night....

He shook his head, dispelling that thought. No way that was going to happen. He pressed against Jay's back, nuzzling the back of his neck as he started to press his shaft into the younger tom's ass with a moan. He groaned with a shudder as he felt Jay let go of something deep inside that hurt like hell. Not the pain of loss, but something related.

"Yessss," Jay hissed and pressed back, embracing the almost-pain that came with such pleasure and a kind of comfort he had no words for. He tightened his body around the invading cock, relishing the feel of every bump along its length and the barbs near the head that made Fenrik whimper when he pulled out.

"Oh fuck," Fenrik groaned, starting to thrust slowly. It had been weeks since they'd done this, literally. It added an extra level of intensity to it that was a lot like their first time. The main difference was that Jay was a much more active lover now; thrusting back when Fenrik thrust forward and rippling the muscles of his lower body to milk the cock inside him ruthlessly.

"So good," Jay whimpered.

"Nnngh ... can say that... again," Fenrik panted, gripping Jay's hips lustily as the pace picked up and the musk of their arousal began to fill the air around them.

"Harder," Jay almost growled, pushing back hard against Fenrik's groin.

"If you want," the Panther growled, starting to thrust harder, searching for the nub inside his lover's body as he reached around to start stroking his cock, paying special attention to the small nubs around the head and particularly the two new ones that had come in since the last time he'd truly explored Jay's body.

"Ohhhh," Jay moaned deep in his chest and didn't fight the rising pleasure in his body. He was vaguely aware that he cried out when Fenrik found the right spot deep inside him that felt like nothing else in the world. The scream that came with the second thrust into his prostate combined with the two fingers just below the head of his cock that squeezed his nubs down in unison left him feeling lightheaded and mewing as he came, spurting his seed across his bed and Fenrik's hand. His ass spasmed around Fen's shaft, drawing a deep roar from the older tom as he pumped his cum deep into his ass.

They were both panting as Jay turned his head to nuzzle his lover. "Face to face?" He rumbled softly.

"Gimme a couple minutes, Jay!" Fenrik protested playfully, even as he pulled out with a groan. "Me in you yet?"

"Yes," he groaned with a shudder and rolled over with his knees up and spread, his ass leaking the Panther's seed as he casually stroked himself, his eyes on fire with desire for the tom kneeling above him.

"That's a very good look for you," Fenrik rumbled, licking Jay's seed off his fingers before pressing against his chest and kissing his neck, pressing himself into his body again.

"Ohhh, yeah!" He groaned and pressed up against the solid mass over him, kissing him and filling him. If mortal heaven existed, he had found it here with this tom claiming his body and mouth with all the strength and deep passions of his kind.

The new position rubbed them both in all new ways, the tight slickness and pounding, the hand that touched everything right, and moaning cries of pleasure and for more pushed them both to a second orgasm in ten minutes.

Fenrik panted as he pulled out of Jay, kissing him hotly, the smaller tom's seed mingling on both their bellies, his own dribbling from his ass.

"Mmm ... how 'bout a break, 'kay?" He asked hopefully.

"All right," he murmured and ran his hands up Fenrik's chest, but the look on his face belied his words.

"You're still wound up?" The Panther chuckled, kissing him lightly and laying on his side.

"Some," he admitted and shifted to snuggle in. "You haven't really been in the mood for a while."

"Mmm ... spirit is willing now, just not sure if the body's up to it," Fenrik chuckled, nuzzling his neck. "So... how 'bout you tell us a 'bedtime story' while I rest up?"

"A story?" Jay looked at him, completely at a loss.

"Mmm ... you can't tell me you haven't been thinking about Shi any. About what you two might be doing if she was here...." Fenrik's fingers ghosted over Jay's cock and its sensitive nubs.

"Oh," Jay moaned softly as his hips lifted into the touch as he tried to get his brain into het mode with all the male scent in the room. "She likes being in charge," he admitted, his cheeks burning lightly even as Fenrik kissed him soundly enough to make him forget that and just want to please his lover. "Her body's so cool, even her mouth. It's kinda weird, exciting too, knowing that's normal for her. Her scent's utterly intoxicating, even more than yours."

Fenrik gradually guided one of Jay's hands down to his cock, letting him take over the stroking so he could scratch the younger tom's chest.

"Go on," he rumbled. "What would you two be doing, if she was here instead of me? Just let go and imagine it...."

"Not as much," Jay breathed in sharply at the touch to his chest and his own fingers around his cock. "She'd pin me on the bed, straddle my hips and let her robes fall away from all that soft, blue skin. Make me just look and feel with my hands for a while before I can finally get undressed. She makes the most incredible sounds when I lick her nipples and run my fingers along her sex." He whimpered as memories combined with touch to bring him to full hardness. "It smells incredible when I rub her the right way and she comes."

"And how would she make you cum?" Fenrik asked, nuzzling Jay's neck lightly and inhaling his scent.

"Sometimes with her mouth, like you do, or her hand," he made an indistinct sound as a tremor ran through his body and his fist closed around his cock. "But what's really good is when I slide between her legs. She's so slick and eager and her clit is hard against my cock as she moans and moves. It never takes long."

"You want that?" Fenrik asked with a seductive rumble. "Want her here to make you come onto that soft, smooth skin of hers?" He trailed his fingers down Jay's front, paying special attention to each of his hottest spots.

"Yes," he admitted with a long moan, intentionally keeping his hand slow to draw out this new game. "Or feel you inside her with me." He whimpered as the idea broke most of his self-control.

"Mmm ... go ahead Jay," Fenrik purred, "make yourself come for her."

The strange idea didn't really have time to register as instinct tightened his grip and sped up his strokes, bringing his hand up to squeeze the nubs just below his cock-head with each pump until his hips thrust off the bed with a sharp roar and his seed spurted across his abs. Each motion drawing a little more come from his body and another whimpering sound from his throat.

Fenrik purred deeply, inhaling the scent and caught Jay's mouth in a tender, intimate kiss once the younger tom's roar had passed, his cock still shooting his essence up onto his stomach and fingers.

"Mmm, that was different," Jay murred lazily after he caught his breath.

"Bet she'd like to hear some of that," the Panther purred. "Maybe watch too," he winked.

That got a raised eyebrow in return, though Jay was far too relaxed to particularly argue. "She doesn't have anybody to play with."

"You have clearly never learned about having a partner who's in the field," Fenrik chuckled, kissing him lightly. "Sometimes Jay, the important part isn't having somebody there to play with, but knowing that the person who's waiting for you still wants to play with you, even if they've got somebody else. Honestly, from talking with her, I'd say especially if they've got somebody else."

"I'll think about it," he murmured, his cheeks a bright red under his fur. "That's a lot to send with a message."

"But I think it'd be worth it," Fenrik smiled, nuzzling Jay lightly. He was cute when he was embarrassed like this. "Not like you have to do it this time," he chuckled. "Now," he purred, rolling back on top of Jay, between his legs, "let's see if I can make you come as hard with me here as you did thinking about your girlfriend across the galaxy...."

Shivasta groaned as she dropped onto a seat in the common area, closing her eyes and reaching back to rub her neck gently. Her entire body ached from exhaustion and stress. She wasn't the only one either; most of the Healers who were coming off their shifts were just as wiped out.

Some of the Padawans were already sleeping on their tables, too wiped out to make it back to their quarters. One of the Knights looked like he was meditating, but Shivasta could tell the difference; he'd put himself into a stasis-trance so he'd be available in case of an emergency. She wondered how Master Ursal was holding up, and how close their were coming to finding out what was going on in this system.

Normally a Healer had a few minutes to rest between patients, recover their strength. Here, they were seeing them as quickly as possible, one coming in the door practically while the last one was still being tended to. It was like her worst shifts in the infirmary back on Coruscant, only about ten times worse since only the patients who had the mildest cases of the Plague were able to be sent home cured most of the time. The rest were left for the next shift's treatment, the theory being that giving the work some time to 'settle in' might make the next attempt more effective. She hoped it would work that way. It was the only hope some people had.

She stood up stiffly, walking over to the front counter of the barracks.

"Any messages for Shivasta Stormwarden?" She asked hopefully. The young man behind the desk, a local volunteer, looked through the list and pulled out a small disk, handing it to the grateful Ice Walker.

"Thank you," she smiled, starting up to her room. She hoped it was from Jay; she could use some news from back home. Compared to things here, it was bound to be good news as long as nothing had gone horribly wrong since the last one.

She closed the door to her small room behind her, stripping down with a grateful sigh. Gods it was hot around here. She couldn't wear her lighter outfits while she was on-shift either, not unless the heat was enough that regular robes were dangerous for her. It made things even worse, exhausting her faster than just the work would.

She slipped the disk into her holo-deck and opened it, cocking her head slightly as the menu rose with two messages from Jay. She opened the first one and sat on the edge of the bed while it started.

"Hey Shi," Jay's warm smile came across in the hologram. "I hope things are going better for you. I've missed having you around. I am sorry I didn't tell you about Master Kiris. It happened after the last message and things happened really fast after that. So for now Fenrik's staying with me and Master Essani until he's ready for a new Master." He glanced off the viewing area and ducked his head a bit. "Yeah, the side benefits are pretty good too.

"Anyway. Things are settling down again now that the funeral is over and everybody's back home. Tes is getting huge. Between her belly and three sets of tits she's one big rounded front. Looks rather like a pear with teeth and legs. I think she's starting to scare Doruth too." He snickered. "She's just a bit erratic with only a month to go before the birth."

He paused, shifting a bit uncomfortably. "But Fenrik talked me into something he thinks you'll like. Just please don't watch the attached movie anywhere public, okay?

"I hope you enjoy it. Talk to you later." He smiled shyly and clicked the recording off.

She cocked her head slightly, wondering what the devil could have him that embarrassed. She let her hair down, the long, dark-blue braids falling behind her, then pulled the viewer over so she could watch it as she laid down on the bed. She hit the keys to open the attachment, and lay back with a sigh.

The vid opened with an image of his room... rearranged with new furniture so two could live in the small space ... and focused on the bed, but no one there. She had just long enough to process that when a Jedi, soon obvious as Jay's lithe form walked into view wearing the heavy outer robe she had gratefully just gotten out of.

Her breath caught as he shifted fractionally, his back still to her, and let the dark brown robe slide from his shoulders to reveal the long lines of his nude back before he slipped onto the bed and rolled over to face her, his body relaxed and his smile warm and just a touch loopy.

"Thank you Fenrik," she murmured softly as she started to guess what was probably about to happen. She rested her hand on her pale blue stomach as she watched, wondering what had caused the odd smile.

"I've missed you Shi," he murmured softly, his voice low and seductive as he ran one hand along his tightly muscled chest and abs while the other stretched up to lengthen his already slender form. "Missed how only you touch me," he rumbled, circling one nipple with a finger as it hardened, "how you feel against my fur."

She shivered slightly, licking her lips as she watched him caress his body and felt the first stirrings of arousal in weeks.

"Your skin's so cool when you touch me, run your fingers through my fur, it's exotic." He lowered his eyes with a soft sound when he finally ghosted his fingers over his sheath, encouraging his cock to fill. "Even at your hottest, it's an electric shock against my skin. Doing things I never thought possible."

He drew in a sharp breath and arched up slightly as his cock peaked out and he circled the head with the back of one claw.

"Your skin is so soft, like your tongue and curves ... everything." He moaned as much in memories as his own touch. "You're so different from Fenrik, it makes you that much more enticing."

Her eyes roamed his miniature body, from his filling shaft up the lean muscle and soft fur she remembered against her own body the times they'd been together. A shiver of pleasure ran down her spine as she reached down to touch herself, drawing in a slight breath at the pleasure.

She was sure Fenrik was in the room, an impression that only got stronger as she saw ghostly 'fingers' leave furrows in Jay's chest fur. She looked at the lean tom's face, focusing on his expression and the unguarded pleasure there.

"You smell so sweet when you're aroused," he groaned and closed his eyes, his concentration on his words faltering as his fingers circled over the multitude of tiny nubs just below his cockhead. "But it's nothing compared to how you taste when I slide between your spread legs to tease your clit. Nothing matches the intoxicant of what you taste like inside when I press my tongue inside that incredible tight body of yours and make you cry and squirm as you start to loose control."

She whimpered softly as she started to stroke her sex... then stopped, pulling her hand back as an idea came to her. If he was going to do this for her, the least she could do was return the favor. But she wanted to watch the rest of this first. She tried to imagine him there with her, his scent, how it would feel to be getting that attention from him.

Gods she missed him.

"Nnn ... it makes me want to be inside you, to feel the tight slickness around me as you come." Jay managed even as his balls tightened and he stroked himself a little faster. "To be able to kiss you as you come so hard around me and feel my come pour into your cool body." He whimpered and shivered with a deep groan as his hips thrust up, precariously close to pushing himself over the edge before her eyes.

"Go ahead," she whispered to herself, "come on...."

It was only a moment longer before he growled, his teeth bared and clenched before a low rumble turned into a sharp roar as he let go, the white ribbons of his seed in sharp relief to the darker background and his dark, rusty-brown fur.

"I miss you Shi," he murmured as he panted in recovery.

Shi pressed her legs together almost shyly, now well and truly aroused as the recoding faded to black and clicked off. She removed the disk from the viewer. She was going to want to hang on to this.

And she definitely wanted to record her 'reply' while she was still interested in it. She'd grab a nap and record a real message later, but for now....

She slipped in a blank disk so she could give it to transfer later, and started the recording. As the recording signal came on, she smiled.

She was going to give them both a show they wouldn't want to forget.

Tes growled as her swollen, uncomfortable body woke her at a truly vile hour once again. There hadn't been a comfortable position to sleep in since before her mate had left to burry his kin, and it was getting worse every week. At least now Doruth was back to help warm her ... at least when she wasn't overheating and crawled out of bed to stick her face into the small freezer to try and cool off.

She couldn't fault his backrubs though, which couldn't be often enough for her. It felt wonderful, and even managed to get the swelling in her joints to go down for a while.

"Force!" She gasped as consciousness hit at the same moment as a shot of pain through her wombs.

"What's wrong?" Doruth asked, waking up quickly at the pained sound.

"Probably nothing," she murmured, her hands rubbing her swollen belly even as it rippled again. "Or not." She grimaced. "Contractions."

"Think you can get down to medical without help?" The Panther asked, fully awake in a flash, sitting up and grabbing their robes from near the bed. "Or should I call for somebody?"

"I can walk," she nodded stubbornly and scooted out of bed as much got up. "My water hasn't broken yet. It's not far along."

"All right," he nodded, helping her get her own clothes on. "Though you're not going there without me. I thought you were supposed to have a month or so left?"

"I do." She said simply, grateful for the help and his presence. "It's not unusual, just requires attention."

"Just let me know if you need any help," he said, putting an arm around her as they started out of the room and towards medical. She was being calm about it; it couldn't be anything too worrisome.

At least that was what he was telling himself on the entire walk, which took far too long for him, and from the number of times she winced, for Tes as well.

"Tes?" The MedCorp healer on duty looked up in surprise as they walked through the door. "What is happening?" He asked calmly and professionally.

"Pre-labor pains," she explained with a wince.

"A month and a half early." Jameric nodded and guided them into a private room. "The Healer will be here soon."

"At least they're not sending in a medical droid," Doruth murmured as he sat down near Tes.

"Not for four Force-sensitive pups." Jameric smiled at him. "These things are serious."

"Four?" Doruth asked, raising an eyebrow and looking at Tes, wondering if she'd known there were that many on the way.

She nodded. "I found out while you were gone."

"It's part of why we're watching this so closely." Jameric added. "That's twice what it is usual for a first litter."

"And it's a lot to carry." Tes grumbled.

"No kidding," he agreed with a slightly concerned frown as he reminded himself that there really wasn't anywhere better to be.

"No, there isn't." Tes squeezed his hand gently. "Even if they were born today ...."

"Which isn't likely." Jameric interrupted.

"It's far enough along that they won't be in much danger." She finished.

"Good," he nodded, chuckling slightly and squeezing her hand. "Y'know, for being the one in pain, you're doing a remarkably good job of being the rational one of us."

"One of us has to be," she pointed out with a tolerant grin, just before she winced.

"That doesn't look good," a well-rounded black she-bear said as she entered the room. "Has your water broken?"

"No, ma'am." Tes spoke with more submissive respect than she gave anyone.

"Good," Healer Ethrins nodded and knelt to run her hand over Tes's swollen belly.

"Is anything wrong?" Doruth asked the Bear quietly.

"No, but we do need to control the contractions to be on the safe side," she answered him soothingly. "More for her comfort than for the safety of the pups. They are not nearly strong enough to be a danger."

"So she's not having the pups yet?" He clarified, squeezing Tes' hand reassuringly as he felt the pain ripple through her again. "I think I'm speaking for both of us here; anything you can do to make this more comfortable for her will be welcome."

"No, your pups are not coming yet." The big Bear nodded and stood. "I will be back in a moment with something to ease the contractions."

"You okay?" He asked her softly as the Healer walked off.

"Yes," she smiled up reassuringly. "It just hurts.

"Just checking," he smiled back at her. "You didn't even treat the medic who was patching you up after Xagobah that well."

"Midwives rate extra respect," Tes chuckled softly. "Maybe it's a Wolf thing, but the one who makes sure pups are born healthy to a healthy mother rates that kind of respect. Especially since they have to deal with you during the birth when it's not going to just happen."

"She has a healthy sense of what's good for her," Healer Ethrins rumbled with a distinct chuckle as she returned with a small band and bottle of pills. "These are for the pain, try not to take more than one every twelve hours without talking to me first." She handed the bottle to Tes. "And this will monitor the contractions and limit them until it's time. If you'd stand up." She motioned slightly and Tes stood and helped rearrange her robes so the thin, soft ribbon could be hooked around her middle. "Take it off for water activities; showers, swimming, water therapy and such. If you need it to control the contractions for that short a time frame, you need to come in, because something is wrong."

"I understand," Tes nodded politely and got her robes back in place.

"Good. Then I will see you in four days for the regular weekly." She turned her attention to Doruth. "Do you have any questions?"

"As long as everything's all right, I don't think so," the Panther smiled slightly. "Not that I can't ask her instead at least," he chuckled, giving his mate a gentle hug.

"All right," she nodded easily. "You two get back to bed, and try for rest," she eyed Tes sternly. "Understand?"

"Yes, ma'am," she blushed slightly. "I'll behave."

"And you?" The Bear leveled her materially protective gaze on Doruth.

"Yes'm," the Panther chuckled slightly, raising his right hand. "Rest, for her especially."

"Good," she nodded, apparently satisfied. "Call me if anything happens."

"I will, Healer Ethrins." Tes promised as they headed back to their quarters.

"Padawan Aren, have you eaten yet?" Master Demria walked up to him just outside a sparring gym from a round of practice.

"Not yet, Master Demria," he said politely, almost used to having a Panther keeping a discreet, or not so discreet, eye on him much of the time. "I was about to go do so."

"Would you care to join me?" She offered with a slight smile that managed to carry the fact that it really was an offer, not a politely worded order.

"Certainly," he smiled and fell into easy step with her on the way to the nearest cafeteria.

It was odd, in a way; she wasn't usually all that friendly. Of course, he was starting to get used to the Panthers, Knights and Masters alike, taking more of an interest in him. In the days since the funeral, several of them had talked to him, or been watching him. He was pretty sure he knew why too; they were all wondering which of them, if any, would stand the best chance of being his new Master once he was ready to accept one again. And to make sure that he would be able to accept one again, no matter how unlikely it felt to him right now.

Only Doruth didn't seem to be acting that way, but then he'd taken an interest, because of Jay, before anyone thought Fenrik was going to need a new Master. It was kind of funny, because he was also the only one who'd been actively looking for a Padawan when it happened.

"Did Kiris ever speak of me?" She asked easily.

"Some," he nodded. "He said you two had been good friends, when he was younger." He felt like he should say something sympathetic, express some sorrow for her loss, but he wasn't sure what to say. She certainly hadn't seemed more upset than anybody else had. Then... she was a Master. That was hardly unusual, especially for a Panther. Grief ... almost all strong emotions ... were dealt with in private, or with one's mate at most.

"The closest either of us came to having a mate." She nodded, apparently at ease with the fact. "He said you had the most potential of any available when he took you as his Padawan."

Fenrik blushed slightly beneath his dark fur, holding back the twinge of pain that came with knowing he'd never be able to thank him for the compliment.

"I think he changed his mind about that a few months after he took me on," the younger Panther admitted. "Took a couple years before I reached the point where he was satisfied with my progress."

Demria couldn't help but chuckle a bit fondly. "You learned quickly then. Most take nearly to their Knighthood to get the perfectionist nature down that well."

"I wanted to please him," Fenrik said easily. Thinking back, it really had been that easy too. It wasn't a matter of resenting his lessons, or putting them up against anything else. It was a simple matter of knowing that he had to improve in order to prove his Master had made the right choice in selecting him as a Padawan.

"I guess that's part of why I feel as lost as I do now," he admitted. "I don't have that anymore."

"I think you do," she said almost gently as they entered a lift. "It maybe not as focused as it had been, but it seems clear that you still care about your skills and place as a Jedi."

"I do," he admitted. "I'm just not sure yet how much of that is because I don't know what else to do."

"Being a Jedi is not the only thought you have had?" She asked, intent on the answer.

"I came to the Order when I was barely old enough to climb," he pointed out. "Serving it, serving the Force, is all I've really thought about. It never seemed to be something in question, as far as I can remember."

Demria nodded. "Your ... friend ... Jay, may be able to help you understand if you wish to explore other possibilities. I understand he spent much of his youth elsewhere."

"I might," Fenrik nodded as the lift stopped and they stepped out. "And mate, please. At least boyfriend."

"As you wish," she nodded, easily accepting Jay's status even though she thought they were decidedly too young for it. "Few make it as far as you have if serving the Force is not in their heart, but it would not hurt to be sure of that in yours." She advised kindly.

"You're probably right," he nodded. "Though honestly, it'd take something very unusual to fit me as well, I think."

"Such is true with most who come to the Temple," she nodded easily. "It is very unusual to have the talent and focus to become a Jedi after all."

"Very true," he nodded. "And honestly," he added, smiling a little, "I think Master Kiris' spirit would come back just to rip me a new one if I gave up because of this. He hated wasting his effort," he chuckled slightly and got a warm smile for it.

"That he did," Demria chuckled herself as they got in line to get their meal. "He rarely did either."

"Can't let this be the first time then," Fenrik smiled a little as he took a meat-heavy plate and followed the older Panther to a table. "Guess I'm still trying to please him after all."

"I don't know many Jedi who are not trying to still please their Master." She admitted with a slightly amused chuckle. "After so long, it comes naturally."

"Of course, most of them would never admit it," he chuckled. "After all, we're not supposed to care either."

"True, but it still shows. Especially when you've known them from Student all the way to Master and know what to look for."

"I imagine," he nodded, eating slowly. "Do you stay close to your old Padawans?"

"As much as it is possible," she nodded. "Monith is quite the wondering Knight."

"So it's not just one-way," Fenrik smiled. "That's good to know."

"It depends on the Jedi involved," she countered slightly, "but no, it is rarely one way."

"One thing I have learned," he smiled, "there are very few things that apply universally."

"Only the Force," she chuckled. "Before a sentient gets involved."

"And then it doesn't always like to work the way it's supposed to," he chuckled. "I still don't get how everything I've seen works, even with the Force behind it."

"Ah, such is the nature of the Force," Demria smirked. "There are debates dating back to before the Jedi that are still going about exactly how we do some of what we do."

"And then you get to some of the things other creatures do," he chuckled. "And I know I haven't seen much of what's out there. No wonder we still haven't figured it all out in about twenty thousand years."

"And the fact that we keep figuring out new things to do ourselves." She added easily. "The Jedi bag of tricks is much larger now than it was in the beginning."

"Not likely to stop growing for a long time," he nodded, finishing his meal.

"No, it is not," she agreed quietly and finished the last of her milk. "So do you have a schedule you are keeping?"

"Not much of one yet," he admitted, "but I'm expected back at my quarters pretty soon," he chuckled.

"Ah," Demria rumbled in understanding. "I will not keep you then."

"Thank you, Master Demria," he smiled, standing and bowing politely. "I'll see you around?"

"Until I am sent on a mission," she inclined her head. "Have a good time."

"Thank you," he smiled, before turning to head back to his quarters and see what Jay had been up to for the past few hours.

He walked into the suite he shared with Jay and Master Essani to a face full of musky male arousal and semen-scent that definitely belonged to his lover, and no one else.

He grinned and walked into Jay's room, holstering his new Clawson-made lightsaber.

"So this is what you do when I'm off practicing, hmm?" He asked, looking at the naked and spent tom on their bed.

"Mmm, nice timing," Jay purred with a deep rumble. "Get that tail of yours over here. Shi sent a reply."

"Oh she did, hmm? Were you working on another one?" The Panther teased, slipping his robes off and sitting down next to Jay, nuzzling his neck and inhaling the musky scent that went straight to his own cock.

"Not yet," he chuckled and pulled Fenrik's head down for a heated kiss. "I had to wind down a bit."

"What did she put in that reply?" Fenrik asked once he had his lips back. He had an idea... but he really hadn't expected that Shi would do that, at least not on her own!

"Watch," he purred throatily as the projector turned on.

The Panther turned to do just that, guiding Jay's sticky fingers up to his lips and starting to lick his cum off them. He stopped when he saw Shi's image appear; slender, statuesque and completely naked in all her sky blue glory with long, thick, dark blue braids spread out around her.

"Whoa. I can definitely see the appeal," he rumbled, turning to kiss Jay's cheek.

"Hi there you two," Shi said. "I'm guessing that Fen's going to watch this some time with you Jay, so I just want to say thanks for your last letter. I really needed that," she said, ducking her head slightly.

"Wait until she touches you," Jay breathed and claimed another kiss as his free hand slid between them to fondle Fenrik's balls and filling sheath, earning a soft moan from the Panther. "It's like nothing else."

"I'm guessing you've watched already?" Fen asked with a rumble, nuzzling Jay's neck before he turned his attention back to the holo. Shi was fondling her breasts lightly; and spread her legs to rub her slick, damp lips.

"Mmm ... I love the way your fur feels against me," she murmured, her eyes closed as she drew up the memories of the times she'd been with Jay. "It's soft and warm, spreads your touch out all along me. And your tongue." She moaned, spreading her sex and fondling her clit. "Gods, kat, the things you do to me with that tongue of yours...."

"Umm-hum," Jay murred and worked his lover to hardness before rolling them over so they could watch the holo, Fenrik upside down, and took the bigger tom into his mouth to tease him.

"Ooh, I know what she means about your tongue," Fenrik groaned. As he watched, Shivasta went into some detail about just what Jay did do to her, and the younger tom demonstrated some of his other talents.

"And I love the way your come feels on me," Shi said, clearly blushing from the way she ducked her head. "It's so hot it almost burns, but the way it tastes, the smell... gods Jay, it's so entirely you...." She gasped slightly, slipping a finger into her body and starting to work her sex slowly.

"Mmm ... she definitely wishes you were there with her," Fenrik panted. "Damn, Jay, this isn't gonna take long...."

"Then I'll just have to move," Jay licked his whiskers and slid up Fenrik's body to straddle his hips. With a long, low groan he reached back and guided the Panther's thick, hot cock into his well-stretched and slick ass. "Because I love your come in me."

"Oh fuck," Fenrik groaned, his attention directed away from the video as he started to thrust up into Jay's body, gripping his hips to pull him back onto the barbed length.

"Oh Jay," Shi panted, fingering herself faster on the video, "I want you inside me... want you to be a part of me...." Fen closed one hand around Jay's shaft, stroking him, fingering his nubs as all three of them approached their orgasms.

Jay tightened his ass, drawing a potent roar from the tom under him even as he threw his own head back and cried out in the unabashed pleasure of pumping his seed across Fenrik's chest in time with Shivasta's cries of pleasure and spasms on the holo-vid and Fenrik's balls pulling up to his body, emptying their contents into his ass.

The Panther pulled him close for a heated kiss, rubbing his back and scratching it lightly.

"Damn that was intense," he purred, as Shivasta curled up onto her side on the bed in the video, trying to catch her breath and control of her body.

"Imagine what it could be like with her really here," Jay rumbled and kissed him solidly again. "Having her between us, or sinking into me when I'm in her."

"I know I can think of worse things to do," the Panther rumbled.

"Sweet dreams you two," Shi murmured, smiling into the camera, wrapping her arms around herself. "I know mine will be." The projection turned off as the two felines made out, largely oblivious to its silence.

"So," Fenrik asked when he could talk again, "when were you going to mention that new little toy of yours?" He asked, raising an eyebrow and glancing at the feline dildo on the floor, clearly used before he'd gotten there.

"Keep forgetting about it when you're here," he shrugged with a grin. "I like the real think too much."

"And who says you can't have both?" He asked with a smirk. "Or at least not have the real thing while I settle for your little friend, if you don't think you're up for going that wide."

"Both?" Jay looked down at him, it clearly written on his face how lost he was about Fenrik's suggestion.

"Don't worry," the Panther chuckled, shaking his head and kissing him deeply. "Probably wouldn't be up for that. Though it might be fun to use during a sixty-nine," he winked.

"Oh, yeah." Jay shuddered in anticipation of that idea, even as something mischievous flicked across his mind. "That's not the only think I keep in my sex drawer."

"I seem to remember noticing a few of your 'toys,'" the Panther grinned. "Question is, how to put them to use?"

"It's a pretty damn hot thought both ways." Jay licked his lips and lowered his body to kiss Fenrik slowly, passionately. "But I'd like to know what it feels like with you really in charge." He whispered with a throaty rumble.

"You sure?" Fenrik asked, rolling over on top of him. "I haven't really done anything like that before."

"Neither have I," Jay looked up and caressed his cheek. "But I do trust you."

He could tell that the statement meant more to Jay than the words suggested. He kissed the smaller tom tenderly, drawing out of his body with a groan.

"Just tell me if I do something you don't like."

"I will," he promised with an excited shudder.

"All right," Fenrik purred, kissing him again before moving to the drawer and pulling out the small box with Jay's toys to explore just what was in the bondage for beginners kit. Padded handcuffs, soft rope, blindfold and gag.

He glanced back at his lover to see Jay stretched out, his hands over his head and desire crystal clear across his entire body.

"Now where should we start," he rumbled, walking back over to the bed and pulling the cuffs out first. He straddled Jay's waist, leaning down to nuzzle his head as he cuffed him to the headboard.

"Just how creative do you want me to get?" He asked with a purr.

It earned him something of a curious look as Jay lightly tested the hold the cuffs hand on his wrists. "Just how creative can you get?" He grinned mischievously up.

"Shall we find out?" Fenrik asked with a grin, pulling some of the ropes out.

"Yes," Jay licked his whiskers with an excited shiver.

"I have no idea if this is going to work," Fenrik admitted, blushing a bit as he tied the end of one of the ropes around Jay's thigh.

"We'll just find out, then," he purred reassuringly and tried his best to cooperate with the positioning.

Fenrik helped him lift his legs slightly, though not all the way yet. He tied the rope around the base of the barbed dildo, pressing the tip into Jay's ass.

"Mmm, nice start," Jay rumbled with a soft moan, curious where this was going.

Fenrik tied the other end of the rope around his other thigh, then tried moving his legs a bit, the rope moving the dildo inside him.

"How's that for a start?" He asked.

"Different," he moaned softly at the penetration. It wasn't as good as a real cock, but it was good.

"Good," the Panther purred, leaning forward to kiss Jay deeply, rubbing their shafts together a bit as he moved his legs to thrust the dildo up into his body in time with his movements to soft whimpers as his lover hardened again.

"Very good," Jay stretched up to claim a second kiss as heated as the first. "Oh, yeah."

Fenrik rumbled deeply, his tongue exploring Jay's mouth as he started to get into a pleasant, easy rhythm that they could keep up for a while. Each motion rubbed his short, stiff barb-hairs and the nubs below them against Jay's nubs, their cocks rock hard and slick with Jay's semen. He experimented a bit with different ways to move the dildo inside his lover's body.

Jay abruptly stiffened with a gasp, then whimpered as pre began to leak from his cock.

Fenrik grinned, repeating the motion and leaning back a bit, looking down at his dark cock rubbing against Jay's lighter one, moaning deeply as he started moving a bit faster, practically transfixed by the display of male flesh. The soundtrack of pleasure Jay was providing only encouraged his own moans as the body below him began to tremble.

"Close ..." Jay gasped out, his head thrown back and his eyes closed as he panted.

Fenrik just panted, moving faster and rubbing himself against Jay's cock harder. He threw his head back with a roar, thrusting his hips up as his seed sprayed through the air in pearly arcs, the motion driving the dildo in Jay's ass deeper, up against his prostate and as deep as it had ever gone.

"Yesss!" Jay groaned and shuddered as his entire body tightened, around the dildo, around Fenrik's hips and against the restraints holding him down as the last of his seed pumped from his cock to join Fenrik's on his chest.

"Oh, gods." Jay panted softly, his eyes still closed as another soft moan escaped him.

"Fuck," Fenrik panted, letting Jay's legs down and snuggling up with him, reaching up to open the padded cuffs. "We are so going to have to do that for one of your letters to Shi," he grinned a little loopily.

"Yeah," Jay shifted to untie the dildo and pulled it out before snuggling up close and kissing him with a slow, contented passion. "When it's not my fourth round in an hour."

"Mmm ... she really got you wound up, didn't she?" The Panther chuckled, wrapping his arms around Jay tiredly. "Not that I don't approve," he winked.

"Yeah," he murmured softly. "She's beautiful; so exotic and soft and strong-willed."

"You've got it bad, kat," Fenrik chuckled, kissing him softly. "At least you two have your letters. I don't know what I'd do with you if you couldn't get in touch with her for a few months."

"You'd get even more action than you do now," he snickered and kissed him back, snuggling in contentedly. "I hope things get under control soon. I miss her a lot."

"Shh, don't worry," Fenrik smiled, rubbing his back. "If there really is something weird behind it, then they'll figure out what it is, beat its ass, and be back as fast as the transports can travel."

"I know," Jay murmured and relaxed. "And she's doing something important in the meantime." He smiled softly. "I'm just glad you're still here."

"Don't worry, I'm not about to leave," Fenrik smiled, closing his eyes a little sleepily. "Mmm ... when we get up, remind me to tell you how your new lightsaber worked."

"All right," Jay murmured and snuggled in with a content sound.

Doruth Parn approached the meditation chambers quietly, walking past numerous Jedi in quiet rooms, seeking one in particular. He found Master Essani stepping out of one of the rooms, ready for the meeting she'd called him for.

"Master Essani," he bowed politely. "You called for me?"

"*Yes,*" she nodded her small head easily. "*Come. Am I correct that you have a relatively open schedule right now?*"

"Unless the Council has a mission for me, I find a Padawan, or Tes goes into labor," he nodded, following her out towards the gardens. "Which, unless you're going to say something about the first, should mean I am for the next month or so."

"*No, the Council does not have a mission for you,*" she chuckled warmly, easily keeping up with his much longer stride. "*But I would like your assistance with my Padawan, or rather, with his mate.*"

"Is Fenrik still having problems?" Doruth asked, looking down at her with concern in his expression. "From losing Master Kiris?"

"*No more than is expected. Actually, he is doing much better than most do.*" She assured him and found a flat, sun-drenched rock to sit on. "*What concerns me is that they may be growing too close, too quickly. It has not been three full months yet and they are literally inseparable. It has done wonders for Fenrik, but it is troubling as well. They will have to part company in a few months.*

"That is an issue," Doruth admitted. "And not one that either of them will want to deal with. I take it you'd like me to try and wean Fenrik off Jay?"

"*While I work on helping Jay deal with him not always being there. It is very natural for Jay's society, so they will never have what most Jedi think of as a normal level of attachment, but they do need to learn to function without the other for more than a couple hours.*" Essani cocked her head slightly. "*I hoped you would conceder taking Fenrik camping for a few days. Somewhere nearby, but far enough that they aren't on the same world. The wilderness would likely do Fenrik some good.*"

"I have a few possibilities," Doruth nodded. "Do we want to try and keep them from guessing why?"

"*At least with Jay. He has a tendency to not learn well when he knows it's a lesson setup. Fenrik could know once you are gone if it seems like a good idea.*"

"I could say Tes is getting nesty, and I'm looking to get out before I get buried under a comforter," the Panther mused with a slight chuckle. "Of course, the problem would be only taking Fen. I don't know if you're looking for the strain it might cause if you said Fen could go but Jay had to stay for his studies."

"*True,*" she nodded. "However, if we work it correctly, it will be Jay who insists that Fenrik goes. He has lost a great deal of his study time recently and he needs to focus on it before he gets too far behind. Fenrik is not in such a position. I believe Jay would tell him to enjoy the trip. Or you could invite Fenrik for some 'quality Panther-only time' away from everything.*"

"And Fenrik would likely offer to stay," Doruth nodded. "While Jay practically packed his bags for him," he chuckled. "So, should we try that?"

"*Yes, and hope they do what we want.*" She clicked her teeth.

"If they don't, there are other ways to get them apart for a little while, I'm sure," Doruth pointed out with a slight smile as he stood. "I'll go clear things up with Tes."

"*I will see you later today then,*" Essani nodded and hopped down to go round up her charges for lunch.

Doruth waited by the door as he watched Jay and Fenrik practicing in their room. The device Jay was holding gradually shifted its colors in response to the younger tom's body temperature, pulse, breath rate, and other vital signs.

"And how are you keeping him from having the machine turn the color you want?" He asked Fenrik with a chuckle.

"I don't tell him," the younger Panther grinned up at the older one. "So unless he's giving them exactly the body rate he wants, he has to do it himself."

"And that'd be a lot faster than what we're seeing," Doruth nodded, somewhat impressed.

"Yep," Fenrik nodded. "Hey Jay, take five."

"Okay," he nodded and set the device down. When he rose to his feet it was instantly obvious that the body control exercises had drained him heavily.

"Whoa, relax," Fenrik said easily, helping him sit again.

"You're doing better from what I've heard," Doruth smiled.

"I'm actually getting some results," Jay nodded, looking up curiously. "What's up?"

"Tes is getting nesty," Doruth chuckled. "I was thinking of getting out for a few days so I didn't get buried under a comforter, wondering if you guys wanted to come along, if Master Essani didn't object."

"Sounds great," Jay grinned widely. "Camping's fun with you."

"And it'd be more fun with a second Panther around huh?" Doruth smirked slightly.

"Yeah, I get to play instead of just watch," Jay winked at him.

"Go talk to Master Essani you little scamp," Doruth smirked. "And just hope I don't go walking in on you two while we're gone."

"Maybe you'll learn something," Jay snickered and focused inside, to the bond he had with his Master and the only way he could talk to anyone silently. "*Master?*"

"*Yes, Jay?*" The kushiban replied.

"*May we go camping with Doruth for a few days?*"

"*I'm afraid you need to focus on your studies, Jay,*" she said. "*Perhaps next time, but you have to catch up after the last few weeks.*"

"*I understand, Master.*" His disappointment was evident, but so was his unquestioning acceptance of her decision. "I can't go," he told the two Panthers.

"Guess you'll have to go on your own then," Fenrik told Doruth apologetically.

"She said I couldn't go." Jay pointed out. "You're free to."

"If you want to come along you're welcome, Fenrik," Doruth offered.

"But...." He trailed off, looking at Jay, clearly torn. He knew how Jay was likely to handle being alone... and, beside that, he still wasn't honestly sure how he would handle it, even with Doruth there.

"I've got Master Essani," Jay smiled reassuringly at him. "Go have fun. It's not like you'll be that far away."

"All right," Fenrik said, leaning over to kiss Jay lightly before he stood up. "I'll get packed."

"I'll meet you at the Gurath," Doruth smiled. "And don't worry. He'll hold up for a few days."

"I'll be fine," Jay smiled at Fenrik before the Panther headed out and Jay started to stretch a body that had not appreciated his most recent studies.

Doruth grunted as he pulled himself up and onto the next ledge, panting a bit as he climbed back for a bit of a rest, waiting for Fenrik to catch up. He looked out over the ledge, over mountaintops and small forests thousands of feet below.

This had definitely been a good idea.

He pulled his robes a bit tighter around him as a gust of wind went by. Between his robes, his fur, and his training, he was actually handling the cold remarkably well.

The look on Fenrik's face as he appeared over the edge agreed with Doruth. He was breathing a bit hard, but he was grinning ear to ear and probably wasn't even feeling the cold or thinner air as he pushed up with his arms and kicked off with his feet to make the ledge with a leap and settled next to Doruth.

"It's not the jungle," the older Panther grinned as he leaned back against a cold rock, "but you never get a view like this on a jungle world." They were in the 'tropics' of Mirrus Prime, an arctic world orbiting one of the tiny, unknown stars just a few hours travel from Coruscant. It was just far enough away that it qualified as a vacation but not so far that either kit, or Tes, would be concerned.

"No, it's not," Fenrik grinned at him and settled back. "You don't get climbing like this either."

"That you don't," Doruth agreed. "Though if you have to climb back up from the Shadowlands of Kashykk it's close enough," he chuckled. "Hell of a lot more dangerous too."

"True," he nodded and breathed deeply of the thin air. "And that's hardly camping for fun."

"Not for the sane," Doruth agreed, enjoying the fresh, clear scent. "So, how are things working out between you and Jay?"

"Good, I think." He smiled fondly for the small tom. "He's got it bad for Shi, but he's seriously wired for polygamy."

"That's good," Doruth smiled. "It can really suck to be interested in somebody who's monogamous and interested in somebody else."

"Yeah, but then I wouldn't have gotten to that first kiss, much less to where it was an issue."

"True," he nodded. "I'm glad you three managed to sort that all out with as little help as it took."

"Yeah," Fenrik smiled, a bit of a flush trying to show on his cheeks. "She was just caught off guard at a bad time, but her kind usually take more than one mate, and I doubt Jay ever thought about it, even as an abstract concept. He was born to his father's third lifemate. It's probably just how they do things."

"Probably," he nodded. "You're okay with it too, right? Not just playing along?"

"It's a little weird," he shrugged. "But that's honestly more from being involved with someone seriously. She's attractive to be sure."

"That's better," Doruth chuckled. "On both counts. She's a good kid, just like you and Jay both are."

"There aren't many at the Temple that aren't." Fenrik pointed out with a chuckle. "A few stellar exceptions, but they're way easy to spot."

"By the time they're stellar exceptions, yeah," the older Panther admitted. "How are you holding up?" He asked, looking over at Fenrik more seriously.

"Still off center," he admitted quietly, looking out over the open sky surrounding them. "How did you kill it?"

"The terentatek? Blaster fire. It probably would have killed one of the Custos with us, but Master Kareth had a tensor rifle she used to take its arm off before it could connect. If we'd all been armed with lightsabers it would have been a much closer battle."

"Does it really mean the Dark is coming back to hunt us?" He asked quietly, frightened despite not showing it.

"I doubt it," Doruth said, reaching over to squeeze his shoulder slightly. "It may mean that there is a force for the Dark Side rising, that the balance is shifting again, but the last time they rose in serious numbers was after two wars with the Sith. This was probably more of a fluke than anything else. Some rich idiot on Corellia who found one that had survived and let it get out of his zoo."

"I hope so," he murmured. "The last thing Jay needs is a recruiter for the Dark coming from the outside too."

"Definitely not," Doruth agreed. "He has enough trouble without any of them," he sighed. "It's always the darkness that doesn't try to recruit that's the hardest to resist."

"You don't see it coming," he nodded, his voice low. "Have you ever come across a belief in inherent evil? That a group is born that way and they can't do more than break even?"

"Come across it? Yeah," he nodded. "Believed it myself?" He shook his head. "The Sith embrace the Dark Side willingly, they wallow in it. But even Sith can be redeemed. How can anybody be born irredeemable?"

"I don't know," Fenrik admitted. "But Jay thinks he is, his entire family is. I tried to tell him he's wrong, that what inside him isn't different from the rest of us, but there's something going on with him that's just not normal. I don't think there's a sensitive on Coruscant that didn't feel it when whatever it was happened to him a few weeks back. There is no way to be the center of that big a surge in the Dark and not reek of it afterwards, but there wasn't a trace of it on him an hour later. He was still pretty freaked out, but it look longer for the Dark to wash away after the fight the night before, and that was nothing in comparison for intensity."

"Then it's not him," Doruth said, shaking his head. He recognized what that sounded like; it was all too familiar. "That sounds more like a Dark Sider of power, one that knows what it's doing and how to hide it. A Sith or Dark Side Spirit maybe, but not somebody who is evil, but doesn't know how to deal with it."

Honestly, he wasn't sure what disturbed him more.

"Then he's ... he's in a lot of danger, isn't he?" Fenrik looked over, half-hoping for a reassurance that he knew couldn't be given. "Or we are."

"No more than he already knew he was in," Doruth admitted. "From what I understand, that surge was the 'demon' he's mentioned. It's very powerful, but not something his family hasn't dealt with before. Not something he can't handle, given the support and reason to fight that he needs. Something that I think you and Shivasta can provide him," he said, looking over at the younger Panther.

"It's ... real?" He looked over, more than a little disturbed. "And the Masters haven't gotten it out of his head?"

"It may be real," Doruth admitted. "As for getting it out of his head ... I'm sure Master Essani would if it was possible. Unfortunately, it may simply be that this spirit can find him. Unless it manifests, there may not be a way to 'get it out.'"

"At least he handles separation reasonably well." Fenrik murmured. "I'm not likely to be stationed at the Temple all that often."

"I have a feeling he'll probably be with you or Shivasta at least most of the time once you're all Knights," Doruth said reassuringly. "You'll all have missions, but the Order doesn't exactly make it a point to split up mates when they can help it."

"Mostly he'll be with Shi, unless he changes his mind and goes warrior." Fenrik glanced over. "He's got the same feel as most warriors, even though he's denying it."

"He does," Doruth agreed. "But I think I know why he's avoiding it. You were with him, during that fight you two got into. When it's that easy to slip into the Dark Side, to let hate and anger take control, you don't want anything to do with it if you're smart. It can take the warrior right out of you, or at least the desire to be one. I should know," he chuckled slightly. "Took it out of me for a solid five, six years."

"It does put me pretty solidly in the 'occasional lover' category, though." He tried to sound like it didn't bother him. "This is the longest I've ever been in the Temple in six years, and I'm seriously looking forward to getting back into traveling again."

"You'll figure something out with him, I'm sure," Doruth said reassuringly. "He's not likely to let that get in the way, and he knows what it's like to have to travel."

"No," Fenrik had to chuckle. "I don't think he lets much of anything get in the way of getting what he wants, once he decides he wants something."

"It still bothers you though, doesn't it?" Doruth asked him softly.

"That I care this much about somebody's who seems to be on the top of the 'in danger of going Dark' list, yeah." He sighed. "That there's good odds I won't be within a week's journey when he really needs me with him ... a lot more." Fenrik admitted and let his arms drape across his raised knees. "There's enough to being a Jedi without worrying about someone else who won't even be around."

"For what it's worth, it's best if you worry about coming home. He has Shi, she won't let him turn if she can help it. And if he would turn ... I think he'd be the first to say that it'd be best if you were somewhere else, where you could find out safely."

"I don't know," Fenrik murmured. "It just means that much longer before I'd have to face him."

"You mind hearing something you might not particularly like?" Doruth asked, looking at him seriously.

"That usually means I need to hear it," he looked at the older Panther quietly.

"It also means you'll get the chance to hear about it," Doruth said softly. "He won't decide to take you out before you can confront him. As hard as it is, it's better for somebody who cares about them to do it, if it gets that far. They have the best chance of turning them back... and they'll make it fast, if they can't."

Fenrik nodded slightly, mulling that over. Not just in context of Jay and the future, but in context of the tom telling him this; a Jedi who had faced someone he cared about gone Dark.

"It's also kinda academic." Fenrik murmured. "It's not like I'm going to stay at the Temple much."

"True," Doruth nodded. "Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, we tend to keep busy unless we take teaching jobs."

"Or a mate who's expecting," he managed a bit of a teasing grin.

"That's an entirely different sort of busy," Doruth smirked. "Don't get me wrong, the pups'll be worth it, but there's a lot of work involved keeping her happy."

"How did she ever talk you into it?" Fenrik gratefully went after the new subject.

"Like I said," he chuckled, "they'll be worth it. Besides, she's wanted pups by a Wolf for a while. Her best odds were for now."

"Before she gets much older?" He took a hesitant guess. "Or did she find the perfect sire?"

"A bit of both," Doruth explained. "She's hardly old, but it was getting to the point where it was a good idea to have her first litter soon, and she hit it off with one of the Knights on Ambria."

Fenrik nodded, then considered the older Panther a bit. "Is she really getting nesty?"

"Perceptive, aren't you?" Doruth said, chuckling slightly. "She is, but I'll be honest with you, it's not the only reason we're out here. Master Essani was getting worried that Jay might not take separation too well, when the time came for it, if he didn't get a little bit of it soon enough to start getting used to it."

"I didn't think he was that far behind in his studies," Fenrik chuckled softly. "It's probably a good idea. I don't think he ever sleeps alone when he's got a choice."

"Not that far behind, but it'd be better to get him started now, rather than when you're more than a few hours away," Doruth chuckled. "Hope you don't mind being kept in the dark."

"Nah, it's not like you could tell him." He nodded easily. "And the camping is a nice break from the Temple."

"That it is," Doruth chuckled, nodding. "So, want to see if we can make the peak before we have to head back to the ship?"

"Sounds good to me," he grinned and curled to his feet easily.

Jay was on his way home from The Power of The Panther, wishing Fenrik had been there to watch it with him and just as sure he was having a blast with Doruth. With his studies only fractionally heavier than before, he was very suspicious that his Master had actually masterminded getting them some time alone to bond. They had so much in common, Doruth would make a perfect Master for Fenrik in a few months when they were both ready. It was a sneaky plan perfectly executed. He loved it.

He was just getting ready to hail a cab back to the Temple when he heard somebody shouting around the corner. The desperate, frightened tone drew his attention and he didn't even question his choice to track it down.

He rounded the corner just in time to see a short, powerfully built Rodian force a brown-furred Rabbit fem up against the wall.

"Shut up, female," it said in rough Basic. "You should have used the money you paid to get here to pay off the Hutts." It pressed its thick forearm against her throat, shifting its hand and taking a short, familiar metal rod from its sleeve.

What was a Rodian bounty hunter doing with a lightsaber?

A low growl rumbled from Jay's throat as it clicked the only way it would have one was from a dead Jedi.

"How about picking on someone who can actually use one?" He called out to the Rodian with a sneer in his tone even as he advanced, his newly built 'saber lit a brilliant sea blue that gave no indication it was at all unusual, much less than it had a mate still hidden in a concealed sheath under his off-hand sleeve.

The Rodian looked over at him, looking him up and down before stepping back from the terrified woman. She looked between the two of them, then bolted into a nearby alley while the Rodian was distracted.

"Any suggestions where to find someone like that?" The Rodian shot back, its own 'saber igniting much to Jay's irritation with a deep, blood-red tone that no true Jedi would have used, not even a fallen one. Only those who completely embraced the Dark used that particular crystal. The Rodian slipped into a combat stance easily, holding its 'saber at ready.

"Obviously not in front of me, katchutak." Jay sneered in almost flawless Rodian. Part of him knew he shouldn't be doing this, that he should call for his Master, or at the very least not bait this fighter a rank or two above him by Jedi standards, but his hatred for the scaled pig overrode it all.

"Little fuzz ball has a death wish," the Rodian growled as Jay matched his stance with a more aggressive one ill suited for the Jedi public image. "I'll be sure to send your daddy's lightsaber back to the Temple after I've carved you up."

"Maybe yours should have taught you how to build a real one," Jay shot back, his ears flat and body calm even as he felt the warm rush of rage that clarified everything into perfect focus and stilled his nerves to a level most Knights would be respectful of.

"Oh it's real enough," the Rodian sneered. "Let me show you!" He lunged forward, his 'saber flashing towards Jay's.

The kit didn't even blink as he side-stepped and blocked the strike, his entire existence a pool of smooth flowing heat very much like how most Jedi described it when they were in tune with the Force, but founded in hatred and rage. Only his smile was chilling. He had a kill in sight and he relished it.

The Rodian ignored his expression, shifting the force he was putting on his 'saber and forcing Jay's hands to the side long enough to plant a sturdy fist in his stomach. It drew a grunt from Jay, though the kit refused to double over even as a smirk crossed his face.

The unique hum of a lightsaber activating joined the fray to mark the second blade of his primary 'saber flaring to life and the fractional shift it took for Jay to send it across the forearm impacting him.

The dark warrior's hand drew back sharply, but not fast enough to keep it from cutting into his scaly flesh.

Jay felt a satisfied glow inside him as he heard the snarl of pain, though he would have preferred it to be accompanied by the thump of his attacker's hand. His 'saber crackled as the Rodian slashed at him, catching the blue blade and forcing him to return his full attention to defense.

He took a step back, trying for a little breathing room and found himself pressed all that much harder. He gritted his teeth and ducked a strike, dancing around his opponent to put some distance between them and went on the offensive, using his natural speed and agility to counter the strength across from him.

Before long, that wasn't enough. The Rodian started turning the tables, his attacks becoming more aggressive and forcing him onto the defensive. Suddenly his feet were yanked out from under him, sending him sprawling onto the ground. He suppressed the startled yelp and rolled to one side to avoid the incoming strike, but he couldn't stop the visible signs that he was tiring.

"*I will protect you.*" A low, male voice promised soothingly from deep in his mind.

Jay tried to ignore it as he scrambled to his feet and dodged the next attack with only a fraction of an inch to spare, the ozone of the blade that close to his fur lingering in his nose as he started to conceder a retreat no matter how much it galled him.

Before he could consider it too strongly, his lightsaber was knocked from his hand, going out as it rolled along the walk. A spark of panic flared white hot, shattering the focused calm of his rage. His coordination dropped and he lost all appearance of training for a moment before regaining some semi-balance of it with his second 'saber in his hand from it's hidden sheath under the loose sleeve of his off-arm.

He barely managed to block the next attack. Their eyes met through crossed 'sabers and both knew who was going to win.

The Rodian grinned, pressing his advantage with a flurry of attacks that Jay only barely managed to dodge or parry even as the kit worked his way back to his other lightsaber.

"*You will win.*" The Demon promised even as a fresh wave of calming hate flowed forward, this time laced with power and knowledge far beyond Jay's. "*I won't let you die.*"

It instantly settled the kit's heart and nerves as he threw a blast of Force, knocking his opponent back ... and, seemingly, evaporated him. Suddenly there was no indicator, sensory or otherwise, that the Rodian was there, or ever had been; just Jay's lightsaber sitting on the ground, the metallic walkway scored where the blade had landed.

"Stand down, Padawan," a firm voice said as the Rabbit stepped out of the alley, her bearing nothing like the frightened woman she had been minutes before. The tone, and her bearing, spoke to training that he had little inclination to disobey, even coming from a stranger.

Still, she saw in his eyes, in the hesitation before he complied, that he had suspicions that had nothing to do with the Darkness not wishing to leave his mind even as it began to drain away. Despite the uncertainty about her and the Dark-drenched combat high she could feel in him, he never considered attacking her. It was only moment before he settled to look at her with a bit of confusion, extinguished his secondary saber and stepped back to claim his other without taking his eyes off her.

"It's over," she told him firmly. "Come," she added, signaling a sky car, "we have to get you back to the Temple and your Master."

"*Master?*" He sent a querying thought along their bond, his natural paranoia and having his mind mucked with so intimately making her agreement needed.

"*Come back with her,*" Essani told him. "*I was aware of this. She is Knight Winda,*" the kushiban added.

"*I understand, Master.*" He murmured silently and stepped inside the sky car with the Knight. Most of his mind was relieved beyond words that they now had a real understanding of what was happening to him so it could be stopped, or at least controlled. If they'd gone to all this trouble, it was being taken seriously and would be dealt with.

"I'm sorry for the deception," the Rabbit said, folding her ears down as they climbed into the sky car. "It was necessary that you believed it was real for us to determine what was really happening," she explained.

"I understand Knight Winda." Jay inclined his head to her easily. "I am looking forward to having better control over it."

"That is the idea," she smiled. "To the Temple Spire," she told the driver, settling in as the car lifted off and sped towards the massive ziggurat, it's occupants in easily silence.

Winda passed the trip thinking about what she had seen, how the young feline had responded to her illusions. Much of it was disturbing ... but, to her, the most disturbing part was the sense of something other that was there, guiding his reactions gently.

He wasn't receiving all his training from the Order; that much she was certain of.

As the car touched down, Master Essani was waiting for them. Winda stepped out, looking across to see if Jay was aware enough to realize they'd landed and found him completely in touch with the here and now as he slid out after her to bow to his Master. She bowed to the older Jedi as well, standing up as Essani nodded to both of them.

"*Knight Winda, would you please accompany us?*" She asked.

"Yes, Master Essani," the Rabbit nodded.

"*Jay, if you would come with me to the Council chambers? We have much to discuss.*"

"Yes, Master." He agreed, his voice soft and cooperative as they followed the kushiban to a nearby lift, the trio traveling in silence as they rode up to the uppermost levels of the gleaming white tower. Jay was certain that Essani and Winda were discussing what had happened, but he couldn't tell what they thought about it so he remained silently in the background as they continued out of the lift to the Council chamber that Master Essani spent so much time in.

The similarities between this visit and his first one weren't lost on him. The entire Council had gathered, and except for a few year's more grey fur they were practically identical, right down to the expressions most of them wore.

Essani took her seat, leaving Winda and Jay standing to face the twelve Jedi Masters.

"Padawan Clawson," Master Shan said evenly. "In previous discussions with this Council, you have talked about something your family calls 'the Demon.' You haven't gone into much detail regarding how it has helped your family to use its abilities. Can you do so now?"

"Yes, Master Shan," he bowed politely to the Council leader, though it wasn't lost on any of them that the kit had always been willing to.

"It guards the door, the path, to an ability to warp reality with machines and enhancements to our natural genius that my family has used for six generations." He began easily. "To access that power and ability, we have to open the door to it. That allows the Demon access to our mind, but also gives us access to the full Gift that is our birthright. They come from the same place, but are not the same thing.

"What it did today, while I recognize the effect from recent years, is not anything in family lore. It may be something about me that is different, or it may be the fact that I am actually training to use the Force as well as my natural Gifts. Force abilities as you know them are not something I know from family lore."

"So it would be fair to say that your family, those who have chosen to pursue the full Gift, has been trained in how to use its gifts to their fullest by this Demon?" The Dobie asked.

"No, Master Shan." Jay said respectfully but very firmly. "All I know says that we learn on our own, sometimes with help kin who have already been through it. We have to fight to keep the Demon out from the moment we accept the full Gift. It is possible the Demon teaches those who are insane and have turned against the family, their lives are not well recorded in that way, but it does not do more than attack and tempt the rest of us."

"*However, you do agree that it is acting differently towards you than it has towards the rest of your kin, to the best of your knowledge,*" Master Essani said.

"Yes, Master Essani." Jay inclined his head to her.

"Knight Winda, when Padawan Clawson was fighting your illusion, what did you feel?" Master Kareth asked softly.

"There was something else there," the Rabbit said easily. "I don't know if it was this 'Demon,' but there was another being involved in the way things played out. Not simply an anthropomorphication of the Dark Side, but a conscious entity. It also believed that the illusions were real, and interfered in the fight shortly before I ended it."

While Jay did not speak, he nodded in agreement with her words.

"*You described the Dark Side as feeling warm, comfortable, after your last battle, Padawan,*" Essani said. "*Did it feel the same this time?*"

"Yes, Master. The rage and hate brought more clarity and focus than I have ever managed calmly." He nodded, honestly a bit disturbed by actually speaking what he knew. "It is like a lagoon of flowing lava that orders and claims everything in its path to protect me."

"Is it possible that the Demon was influencing your perceptions of it?" Master Noloth asked. "We have never heard such a description of the Dark from those who have been exposed to it. However, we have heard similar descriptions of the minds of those who wield it."

"It is likely, Master Noloth." Jay bowed to the ancient Frilled Lizard. "We do not know what its goal is, but we do know it tries to turn us ... Dark." He said for lack of a better word, though the gathered Masters could tell what it was in his mind, Omega, and it meant something much more specific than the simple label: violent, insane, megalomaniac, betrayer, destroyer, Evil. "And it uses any means it can come up with to do so.

"From what I have read of the Dark Side, it is not something any of us would accept easily or not question. The cold ..." he paused, struggling to put to words something he just inherently knew and feared. "My kind are sun-cats, from the desert tropics of a warm world. Cold is a bad thing, something instinctively avoided, even feared. It is death and bad meat." He stopped himself before he got wound up again in how incredibly wrong everything about the Dark was. "It is not something any of us would willingly go or stay near without incredible desperation or insanity already festering."

"Where the warmth is seductive and welcoming," the Lizard nodded. "Did you feel that same presence during the surge you felt at the temple you visited?"

Jay had think about that, comparing the incredible differences in how the two kinds of events felt before he nodded in agreement that the essence behind all three times, both fights and when the Demon nearly grabbed him directly, was the same. "I believe so, Master Noloth. Two very different approaches, but the essence behind it is similar if not the same."

"I would suggest that it is possible that your apparent comfort with the Dark Side is, instead, the Demon attempting to make you comfortable with it," Master Surool said. "Would you agree?"

"It does make sense," he agreed with the pink-skinned twi'lek, though he wasn't completely sure where it was going.

"*Why would such an obviously powerful entity waste its time trying to turn somebody who was inherently evil, evil?*" Master Essani asked him, visibly startling the kit.

Jay snapped his mouth shut to stop the reflexive statement that she didn't understand, even as he was fully aware she 'heard' it perfectly well and wasn't going to let it drop without an explanation that satisfied her.

"Inherent in that it was there before I was born, and I can't get rid of it, Master." He spoke softly, his eyes downcast. "It may be a separate entity, something you do not see as part of me, but you can not take the Demon out of my family. It is a major part of what we are, who and what I am. I have seen what happens to those who chose to refuse their Gift to avoid dealing with the Demon. They are ... incomplete. Even they can feel it. They exist, but they do not truly live. It almost hurts to be around them, to be near that ... emptiness ... the lack of life ... that was kin."

"*However, you are not evil in that you, yourself, are a creature of the Dark Side. The Demon may be, and you have to deal with it. However, members of your family are not born evil. They still choose whether or not they want to face it... and whether or not they want to fight it.*"

"Yes, Master." He met her eyes briefly, accepting her statement as fact even though he couldn't internalize it yet.

"It still leaves us with the question of how to handle this," Master Shan pointed out. "Do you believe that you can learn to resist what it offers? The power and clarity may be comforting, but if you begin to rely on them... it can be dangerous in the long run. The anger may not leave everything clear, when it suits the Demon's purposes."

"Yes, Master Shan," he focused on the Dobie without any doubt in his mind. "Knowledge is the Demon's downfall. It may not be as quickly as any of us would like, but as I learn to stand on my own in a given subject, it will have less and less ability to influence me without my acceptance."

"Which subjects do you feel you need to learn to stand in the most then?" He asked. "Combat, clearly, but are there any others?"

Jay stilled, seeking to answer as completely and honestly as he could.

"Accepting that I live here," he began softly, knowing it was the true way the Demon had into his mind in a real, permanent way. "That I will die here." He added, the pain of that idea a sharp, tearing ripple in the Force around him before he settled a moment later.

"Acceptance that it is not my place to fix everything." Jay continued, his eyes solidly on the floor as he exposed part of himself to the Council that not even his Master had had privy too. "Acceptance of ... loss." He added simply, the multitude of its meanings, from the loss of a fight to the loss of a lifemate, clear in the intent.

"*Acceptance of the ugly parts of life,*" Master Essani offered, her mental presence reassuring and gentle.

"Yes, Master." He nodded, his exterior flawlessly controlled despite the turmoil just under the surface that they could all see. "It's best way in is to be ready when I want something bad enough to make it happen, the laws of reality be damned."

"How is it that your mates help you to fight this?" Master Noloth asked. "In general."

"They are a reason to resist, Master Noloth." He tried to explain something he was only beginning to translate from imperial knowledge to practical understanding. "It is something inherent in my family. We do not cope with being alone well. It will gradually drive a Clawson insane to be without that connection to the living world. Once insane, the Dark is embraced as the only warmth available."

"*It is also a part of his people's culture,*" Master Essani said, giving an explanation that made much more sense to the old-fashioned Lizard. "*Padawan, I want to work with you to develop some way of training you to handle the things you have discussed. We have to deal with this now, rather than once you have accepted your full Gift.*"

"Yes, Master." He inclined his head to her, relived even as it scared him.

"*We should get started then,*" she said, standing. "*Thank you for your assistance, Knight Winda.*"

"You're welcome, Master Essani. If either of you feel that working on non-lethal ways of handling fights would help, feel free to seek me out," the Rabbit said, looking at Jay in particular.

"Thank you, Knight Winda." He inclined his head to her, though he wasn't quite settled enough to think that far ahead. He made one last bow to the gathered Masters and followed his Master out.

"Master Ursal? You called me?" Shivasta asked softly, walking into the Bear's quarters. She was plainly exhausted, mentally and physically, the extra-long shifts in the infirmaries taking their toll. Even so she saw the shift in her Master's manner as she came in the room. The old Bear locked a calculating gaze on her, the kind usually reserved for patients being too stubborn.

"Yes, cub, I did." She nodded. "You are pushing yourself far too hard."

To be fair, Shivasta had been expecting this talk for a while now.

"Master, there are a couple hundred of us to a system with hundreds of thousands of patients. If we're going to make a difference in the end, we have to keep pushing ourselves."

"A Healer can make no difference if they push themselves too hard." Master Ursal pointed out firmly. "You can not help anyone if you can not focus."

"Very well, Master," Shivasta sighed slightly. "I'll cut back to single shifts again, at least for a time."

The old Bear leveled her gaze on her Padawan; a bit surprised she had acquiesced so quickly, then nodded. "Good. Now you should get some rest."

"Thank you, Master. How are you and the others doing at finding the source?" She asked.

"We are close to pinpointing it's origin point, and have confirmed that it is most likely a natural pathogen mutated by exposure to a concentration of the Dark Side." She said with a slight smile.

"Naturally, or did somebody do this intentionally?"

"We do not know yet," Master Ursal admitted. "While such concentrations of Dark outside of a person are rare, they do exist."

"I understand," the young Ice Walker nodded. "I should go rest... I'll see you later, yes?"

"Yes, cub," she smiled easily. "Go rest now."

"Thank you, Master." Shivasta turned and started walking out, leaning heavily against the wall next to the door as soon as it had closed behind her. For a few minutes, she closed her eyes and focused on summoning the strength to make it back to her quarters. A pained look crossed her young face as she felt a twisting in her stomach.

She'd been working too hard, that was all... she just had to make it back to her quarters, get something to eat, maybe see if Jay had sent a message. She hadn't had the time to reply to his last one yet... maybe she could do that before she went to sleep. Just a quick letter, let him know everything was okay. She stood up and started back towards her room, focusing on each step, trying to stay steady on her feet. The last thing anybody needed right now was for her to pass out, get sent to medical and taken off all her shifts.

"Shivasta." Her Master's deep rumble came from behind her even as strong arms scooped her up. "That is not simple exhaustion."

"I'll be fine," she protested softly.

It was strange. Part of her mind was looking at everything that was happening and agreeing with her Master. Another part of it seemed completely unable to accept the simple truth of it. Maybe it wasn't simple exhaustion; she'd been pushing her endurance and her training to its limits for almost a week now. But she didn't seem to be able to make herself accept that something might be wrong that a good night's sleep wouldn't fix.

The debate was ended briefly by another twisting pain in her stomach. She curled up in her Master's arms slightly as Ursal carried her towards Medical. One of her braids shifted slightly, revealing a small black mark that quickened the Bear's step.

"You will be fine." Ursal rumbled with a fierce determination. "But you will not be taking your shifts for a while."

"Just working too hard," Shivasta insisted weakly. What was wrong? She could tell that something had happened, but not what. "What's wrong?"

"You have contracted the plague." Her Master informed her quietly as they entered the barely organized bedlam of the medical area.

"No I h-nngh...." Shivasta bit her lip to stifle her groan. Her healer's training seemed to go to work on the problem immediately once she'd been told that, getting past the stubbornness that felt obligated to keep working. She knew the symptoms, and knew that the stomach cramps were a sign that it had progressed beyond the stage where it would be treated easily. She hadn't seen any of the marks or lesions that usually preceded them, but knew too well from seeing too many advanced patients that it was possible to miss them unless you checked for them routinely and rigorously.

She hadn't been taking that sort of time lately.

Any more protests she had were stopped by the possibility that continuing to work could end up making things worse, rather than better. If she infected a patient, or somebody near them who'd dodged it so far....

"Master Ursal," one of the Healers said, a young twi'lek. "Your Padawan too?" She asked, looking at Shivasta.


"Too?" The old she-bear's rumble held a hint of surprise and a great deal of worry to any who knew how to read her.

"Yes," the twi'lek nodded, her own expression much more clearly worried. "Since the last shift started, we've had more and more of the Healers reporting in. Mostly Padawans but one or two of the Knights... it's like something flipped a switch," she admitted, turning around and starting through the crowded rooms. "Follow me, we should still have a clear medical bed."

Ursal nodded and set her mind to finding the cause of this. If it was affecting Healers now, it was far more than a planet at risk. Such a disease could not be stopped if it got out. And, in the back of her mind, she was more certain than ever that this was not a natural accident of pathology.

Doruth and Fenrik walked down to the training rooms shortly after the Gurath had set down on Coruscant again. Master Essani had met them and said that Jay was practicing with his new lightsabers, so they went to greet him when he was done.

Doruth whistled lowly as they approached and he looked through the gathered crowd to see what Jay had done with the basic lightsaber design. It was incredibly ambitious for a Master to make that radical a shift; for a Padawan not even two years into his training it was almost unthinkable.

Which did make it perfect for this particular kit.

"I'm glad he didn't try that with mine," Fenrik murmured as they took in the extremely basic kata Jay was working on to get used to a lightsaber with its hilt in the center.

Even at this level, it was fairly clear that he felt more at ease with the design that he ever had with the two-handed sword style almost all Jedi used.

"I have a feeling he might've worked with similar weapons before," Doruth murmured, watching him. "It'll be impressive as all hell once he's got the kinks worked out."

"Y'think Master Essani knows about this?" Fenrik asked.

"I'm wondering if Master Yamari does yet," the older Panther chuckled slightly. "She'll be the one helping him perfect it, most likely."

"I do," the small, blue-furred Mouse informed him with a slight smile. "He has shifted his focus significantly in the past few days."

"What happened?" Fenrik asked, looking down at the Jedi not a third his height with a concerned expression.

"He should be the one to tell you," she declined. "He, and the Council, understand his particular situation much better now."

"All right," he acquiesced. It was good to hear that, though he had a feeling that finding out had been awkward at best.

Maybe it had been best that he'd been gone for a few days.

"So, how long has he been at it?" Doruth asked the older Master.

"Only forty minutes," she said easily. "He should stop after this kata."

"All right," He nodded. "It's definitely something else to watch. You teach him the basics, or did he come up with this on his own?"

"These are his moves," she acknowledged. "I merely formalized and smoothed them out."

"And to think, he's planning on being a scholar," the older Panther mused. "Probably be one of the best in a fight in a long time."

"That was not something he ever contested would happen if he became a warrior," the Mouse informed him as Jay came to a central, open stance with his sabers pointed to the floor in line with his arms before they were extinguished. "That choice was not about his potential, but about his wishes for his life."

"Just odd for somebody who isn't interested in being a warrior to develop a new style," he clarified, "particularly one that dramatically different."

"Let's just go meet him when he's done," Fenrik smiled, his tail twitching in eager anticipation as the crowd began to disperse.

"Hi guys!" Jay's grin was ear to ear as he moved as swiftly as he could with any kind of dignity left to embrace Fenrik tightly.

"Oof! Mmm ... what'll you do when I have to go for a couple months?" Fenrik asked with a chuckle, despite hugging Jay back just as tightly.

"Drag you back to our quarters, fast." He rumbled hotly with a kiss that was bordering on indecent that Fenrik returned hungrily.

"Speaking of which, you two might want to get to them pretty soon," Doruth smirked. "Before he jumps you half-way there."

"I'm not that bad," Jay smirked back from where he was quite happily tuck in Fenrik's arms. "But you should get back to Tes before she hunts you down." He snickered.

"I did call to tell her I'd be there as soon as I'd checked on you," Doruth pointed out with a smirk. "Which, having done, I'll be on my way back. Master Yamari, Padawans, good evenings to all of you," he said politely, bowing to the much smaller Mouse before he left and she drifted elsewhere to give the kits some privacy.

"Have fun," Jay grinned at him, then nuzzled Fenrik. "But his idea of getting to our room is good."

"Agreed," the Panther rumbled, kissing him quickly. "C'mon, I've missed a warm bed."

"I bet," he snickered, easily keeping up as they headed back to the small room that they'd claimed as their own. "Did you have fun, though?"

"Oh yeah," Fenrik grinned. "Mountain climbing on Mirrus Prime, mostly. Sounds like things were a little more introspective for you here," he observed, looking down at his boyfriend, who ducked his head.

"And explosive," he nodded, but held otherwise silent until they got to the quarters they shared with Master Essani and the door shut behind them. "We got a pretty solid look at the Demon, and what it's doing."

"Safe explosive, with a good result?" Fenrik asked with a worried tone, holding Jay close and rubbing his back.

"Controlled at least," he nodded and rumbled happily for the close contact. "Results ... at least hopeful. We've got a better idea how to take its tools away now."

"Good," Fenrik rumbled, nuzzling Jay lightly. "Mmm ... I've missed you."

"Good," Jay licked his nose and tugged Fenrik lightly to their bedroom. "Master just gave me the afternoon off."

"Good," Fenrik grinned, following him into their room easily and turning him back against the door with a hungry kiss. "Send that new message off to Shi while I was gone?"

"Mmm, yes." Jay purred and slid his hands inside Fenrik's robes before he got a little more serious and kissed him softly. "Slow and gentle?" He whispered softly.

"With pleasure," the Panther rumbled, returning the kiss and starting to work Jay's robes off. "No reply yet?"

"Not yet," he breathed as his neck was kissed, relishing the emotional warmth that was so much better than what the Demon offered.

"Mmm ... then I'll have to keep you occupied until one gets here," Fenrik grinned, licking his neck as Jay's robes fell to the ground. "Or until you have to go study again."

"Such a hardship for my Panther," Jay couldn't help but snicker between moans at the loving touch.

"Well, something's hard at least," Fenrik grinned, pressing him back to the bed. "Or will be soon enough," he added with a rumble, kneeling and nuzzling the younger kat's sheath.

"Ohh, yeah," he moaned and relaxed, giving the moment over to his lover.

A few hours later, the two of them were snuggled up in bed, happy for the familiarity of a warm, welcome body to press up against.

"So what did happen?" Fenrik asked Jay softly, kissing his forehead.

"One of the Knights caught me in an illusion," he murmured. "One designed to trigger a violent response, to get me to call on the Dark like I did before. She did a good job too, even the Demon believed it. It interfered, showed itself when the Masters were watching and a Knight was in my head. That's why I'm learning to fight as well as any warrior. It's the most likely way it has in right now; offering protection when I'm out of my depth."

"So they have a better idea of what it's doing to you?" Fenrik asked, rubbing his back. "And how?"

"Yeah, and how to slow it's progress ... to give me better than a fighting chance to stay on this side of the Force."

"That's good though, isn't it?" The Panther asked, scratching his back lightly as Jay purred and continued his gradual journey to muscle-jello.

"A very good thing," Jay smiled and nuzzled him happily. "I'm curious that they aren't looking at destroying it, but focusing on survival skills is good."

"They're probably not sure how they'd reach it to do the job," Fenrik pointed out. "So, if that's a good thing, what are you doin' giving off those 'horrible things I don't want to talk about happened today' vibes?" He teased, tickling the younger tom's side.

"It was just really stressful." Jay nuzzled him even as he squirmed a bit at the tickling. "They didn't exactly let me in on this experiment until the Knight made it vanish and ordered me to stand down. We weren't even in the Temple." He sighed. "It's just ... not pleasant to have my nose rubbed in my weaknesses that blatantly. I understand why, but it's ... kinda unnerving."

"You'll find a way around it so they can't do it again," Fenrik promised him, licking his cheek and got a nuzzle for it. "So, what's up with those new 'sabers of yours? I think you even impressed Doruth."

"I'm not completely sure, honestly." He chuckled sheepishly. "There as much as I could get them to do right now. Mostly it was for the surprise factor, they do work as a normal one," he rolled over to pick one up, "and they look normal unless you get close. The fighting style ... that only came about after the mind-game fight. And just for reference, don't even joke about Rodian Sith bounty hunters." He shuddered.

"What, did they age Navik for the fight?" Fenrik asked, raising an eyebrow. "Sounds like that's about the only button they didn't press with that one."

"No, but it was damn close." He pressed close, the memories of the previous night still sharp. "I really need to work on that too," he sighed. "I knew I was outclassed and I still walked right into that fight, even after his target was safe."

"Doruth mentioned that he wanted to introduce you to somebody while we were out camping," Fenrik said, rubbing his back softly. "Think you'd mind meeting a Rodian techie who doesn't even like to argue with people seriously?"

"Sure," he looked up, curious that such a creature could exist.

"Think you've got a field trip coming up some time soon then," the Panther smiled. "I'll probably have to stay here, but it'll do you some good."

"And you won't have to suffer through eye-glazing chatter between two geeks," Jay snickered and kissed him.

"Mmm ... just promise you won't come back with a lightsaber that cuts through force fields as easily as they do through doors," the Panther smirked, kissing him back.

"I refuse to promise that on principle," Jay snickered, but behind the grin was a very real attempt to figure out how.

"You do and I'm never sparring with you again," Fenrik muttered good-naturedly. "I don't want to know what happens when you breach a lightsaber."

"It turns off," he said simply with an easy confidence. "No different than hitting cortosis."

"Yeah, it probably does," Fenrik admitted, "but do you want to be the guy holding one when you find out differently?"

Jay looked at him dubiously. "You do realize the reason I told you not to spar with your 'saber at full power is because it can cut through another 'saber with a good hit?"

"Glad I'm not one of those contrary cats then," he murmured, kissing Jay lightly. "Hope you're right."

"I am," he nuzzled him reassuringly. "I wouldn't have given you something likely to hurt you. Besides, Tes has had one for almost three years now and no problems."

"Good," he smiled, kissing him a little more playfully. "Gotta watch out for you mad inventors though," he smirked.

"Welcome to the family," Jay winked and snuggled in. "We're all like that."

"Mmm ... if they're all like you, I think I could live with a family like that," Fenrik purred, snuggling up and pulling the sheets up over them.

Doruth watched his class practicing with their lightsabers, moving down the line. Most of them had mastered the basic moves he was demonstrating, each one had progressed past the point where simply wielding the lightsaber was dangerous to themselves. None of them were Padawans yet, but most of them were candidates ... which, to be fair, was about half the reason he was teaching the class. It gave him a chance to see several potential Padawans at work, see if he would connect with any of them.

"Keep your hands closer on the grip, Ellis," he told the young Beagle at the end of the row. "You'll be able to react faster when the pivot is shorter." He demonstrated what he meant; nodding approvingly when the Beagle went through the kata they were practicing almost flawlessly.

"Don't stiffen up so much, Quoon," Fenrik said in the back of the room, helping the twi'lek to loosen her stance enough to be able to react properly. Doruth smiled as he walked up to the front of the room, looking over the dozen or so students he was working with and nodding as he saw them perform the kata perfectly. He couldn't honestly imagine what it must be like to train the younger students; this was far enough down the scale that he was content to stay here for now.

"All right," he said, as Fenrik walked up from the back. "You've all just about mastered the basics. From here, we'll move on to basic dueling and sparring techniques. Everybody pair off. Padawan Aren, if you would help me demonstrate?" Fenrik bowed easily as the students split off into pairs.

"We'll be starting with basic blocks and strikes for now," Doruth explained. "Students on the left of the pair, assume stance Alpha-1, partners assume stance Delta-1." He slipped into the basic attack stance easily, igniting his lightsaber as Fenrik assumed the matching defensive position. The two Panthers demonstrated a simple dueling exchange, Doruth making some light, probing strikes that Fenrik blocked with ease, returning with a few counter-strikes of his own.

Each moved into the end stance, then turned off their 'sabers before bowing to each other respectfully. They turned back to the class, their training 'sabers glowing a variety of colors.

"Now," Doruth said, "practice what we showed you. Don't try to get fancy; don't try to 'beat' your partner. This isn't a duel, you're simply practicing the forms." He nodded to Fenrik as the students started working, more slowly than they had, and the two of them split up to give pointers and corrections as they noticed the need for them.

After about five minutes and four switches between aggressor and defender, Doruth checked his chronometer and saw that class was scheduled to end shortly.

"Assume end-stance," he ordered the gathered students, each obeying him quickly. "Turn off your 'sabers and bow, then class is dismissed. I'll see you the day after tomorrow at the same time." He bowed slightly to the class as they returned the gesture, then leaned back against a desk as they started to filter out of the room.

"The last few weeks have given me an entirely new respect for the Teachers," Doruth chuckled, shaking his head as he looked at Fenrik, the younger Panther nodding in agreement.

"Yeah. But it's worth it to see them when they get it," he grinned back.

Doruth chuckled and nodded, standing up and moving over to put a hand on his shoulder. "Yeah, it is. Well, I'm going to go check on Tes. See you tomorrow for our alternate class?"

"You bet," Fenrik grinned. He was getting to enjoy working with Doruth on this. It gave him something to do besides his private studies and coaching Jay, which was definitely welcome. And, he had to admit, working with Doruth felt good. Not quite the same as it had when he had been working with Master Kiris, but similar.

"Knight Parn," a young Civet in Healer's robes, his hair not even bearing a Padawan braid yet, bowed deeply as Fenrik left. "Custos Tes' labor has begun."

"Is she in Medical, or on the way?" He asked, starting towards the infirmary quickly.

"She is in Medical," the kit confirmed, following him more slowly.

"Good," he nodded. "How long ago did it start?" It couldn't have been long if they were just telling him now.

"Twenty minutes, Knight."

"Twenty -" He turned around, then shook his head slightly, walking a little faster, grabbing a lift that was just about to close. Of course they wouldn't have wanted to interrupt his class. He hoped Tes wouldn't be upset about it.

It took most of his self-control not to pace as the lift moved far too slow for him, but eventually it deposited him outside of the section of Medical devoted to birthing and the very young.

He tried not to run over, but anybody watching could see that he was in a hurry. He stopped at the entry desk, hoping the student there would be ready soon.

"Doruth Parn, my mate came in about twenty minutes ago, in labor," he explained once he looked up at him.

"Yes," the young Tigress nodded easily. "Healer Jameric is with her now in the birthing room. Please sit. It will be at least another two hours before they are all born."

"I can't go in to see her?" He asked, raising an eyebrow slightly at the fractional look of surprise she gave him. That wasn't normal, as far as he was aware. "Is everything all right?"

"Yes, everything is going quite well." She looked at him almost apologetically. "You are not invited to see her until the pups are at least dry."

"According to who?" He asked, keeping his reactions in check.

"Wolf culture," she informed him gently. "Not even other Healers are welcome to attend."

He calmed down slightly internally, nodding. It would have been nice if somebody had told him about that. Of course, Tes probably hadn't thought about it. He certainly hadn't thought to bring it up.

"All right," he nodded, moving to take a seat and wait.

The next few hours passed much, much more slowly than he liked. Occasionally one of the younger students would come in with a minor burn or feeling sick, but this part of medical was usually quiet. There weren't too many children in the temple who were young enough to go here instead of elsewhere.

All in all, it left Doruth with very little to distract himself from the nervous anticipation. Would everything go well? It had sounded like everything was fine so far, but he couldn't help wondering about the things that might happen, to Tes or the pups.

About the last question that occurred to him, just as Jameric stepped into the outer room, was how the four pups would work out gender-wise.

"Doruth," the old she-Bear rumbled softly, a smile on her face. "Tes has calmed down enough you can meet them now."

"She's healthy, along with all the pups?" He asked, standing up and starting towards the door.

"Yes, it went well," she nodded and guided him towards the back, beyond the space where minor injuries were tended. "Three females, one male, all strong in the Force and suckling well. Tes is tired and sore, but she has nursed them and bonded as she should. She is likely to be a bit touchy about space until their eyes open in about two weeks, after that is when socialization typically starts."

"So I should expect to spend a lot of time keeping myself busy for a couple weeks?" He asked, just to be sure he understood as he followed her back.

"It would be good," she nodded sympathetically. "It is a real testament to how much she trusts you that you are going to have any contact with them before then. She is the first shewolf to do so that I have cared for."

"I understand," he nodded. He did too, when he thought about it. They were incredibly vulnerable. He remembered something his father had told him once, about not being allowed to see him for about a month.

Of course, he'd thought the reason was entirely different at the time.

"Any idea how much contact with them she'll accept at this point? I don't want to upset her, after all."

"I'm not sure," the Healer admitted, pausing at the door. "She isn't either. I would advise not trying to touch, however."

"Understood," he nodded. "I'll make sure to check with her before I do anything that might go too far."

"And you're in the right place to be patched up if she changes her mind." Jameric chuckled and opened the door, poking her head in to make sure Tes hadn't done just that already. "All right, come in." She stepped inside the sizeable room and to one side so he could follow.

Doruth walked in, looking at his mate curled up on her side, watching him with cautious, deep brown eyes. The bed she was on was thick and fluffy, and contrasted greatly from most of the beds in the medical bay. He smiled at the site of four small, dark balls of fur suckling at her lower tits.

He moved a little closer, still leaving plenty of space and being careful to stay up towards the part of the room that the kits weren't in.

"How're you doing?" He asked her softly.

"Worn out," she smiled wearily at him, but it was impossible to miss the warmth there despite the shift in her arms to cover her pups a bit more. "They're doing well too."

"Good," he smiled and crouched down to be more on her level; not moving any closer without knowing it was all right. "So, I hear I should look at staying on the ship for the next couple weeks?" There was no missing the good-natured tone to the question, serious though it was.

"Yeah," Tes blinked in surprise. "I figured you knew that."

"I forgot to double-check what the rules were for living with a Wolf who just had pups," he chuckled slightly. "Don't worry, it'll be fine."

"Thanks," she said warmly and started to stand to hug him, until the whine of a puppy dislodged from it's tit stopped her and settled her back on the bed for it to latch back on. "Obviously I'm not going anywhere for a while."

"Not if they have their way," he smiled. "You mind if I come down to give you that hug?"

Tes froze, the internal struggle clear on her face before she shook her head. "Not a good idea." She apologized.

"It's okay," he nodded. "You're taking care of our pups, I can wait a couple weeks to give you that hug. You'd just better be willing to take a kiss along with it then," he smiled.

"I'll be expecting a lot more than that after two weeks," she snickered and winked. "I'm not going to be sore that long."

"Careful or we'll have you back in here in another year or so," he teased, winking at her. "I'll let you and the pups rest up."

"Can't think of a better way," she rumbled even as Jameric glared at her to calm down.

"I think it's time to go before her libido overcomes maternal instincts for a few minutes." The Healer commented and took Doruth's arm to show him out.

"Yes ma'am," Doruth chuckled, following the Bear out of the room. "You'll let me know if anything out of the ordinary happens?" He asked her more seriously as the door closed behind them.

"Of course," she nodded easily. "You should also be prepared for a lot of attention from the Wolves around. What she got while pregnant will be nothing compared to the pups once they can crawl. I wouldn't be surprised to have some of them already checking them out as potential Padawans."

"Pack animals," he chuckled tolerantly, shaking his head. "Thank you for the warning though, Healer Jameric. Tes probably wouldn't have mentioned it until I asked why there were eight Wolves wanting in to pup-sit at odd hours of the morning."

"I can send you the summaries and important notes of Wolf culture at the Temple if you'd like. You will probably find them useful to avoid moments like that."

"If you wouldn't mind?" He asked with a smile. "There's a lot there to cover, and I'm lousy at just picking out the important tidbits."

"Of course," she chuckled. "You are not the first to take a mate outside your species. I'll send you the packet when she's asleep."

"Thank you," he smiled. "Send it to the Gurath though, I'll be moving there once I've finished packing up for the stay."

"No problem," she nodded and watched him walk out before turning back to care for Tes.

Doruth paused by the door, a small pack with the clothes he'd been wearing for the past couple weeks over his shoulder, and looked at the panel. He smiled a bit as he saw the door was open. Tes had told him it was time for him to come home and meet the pups, but he still felt better after making sure.

He opened the door, glancing down just in case the pups were growing up faster than he expected them to.

He glanced back up just in time to find his mouth completely claimed by his mate as he was pulled inside enough for the door to close.

He wrapped his arms around her and returned the kiss without really thinking about it, purring at the welcome warmth of his mate's body.

"Mmm... damn I've missed you," he grinned as their lips parted.

"Me too," Tes nuzzled him with a contented sigh. "Long two weeks."

"Yeah," he purred, pressing his muzzle against her neck and inhaling her scent, different than what he'd gotten used to during the last few months. "How're you and the pups doing?"

"I've been missing my mate," she licked his face playfully. "The pups are strong, always hungry and now have sharp little teeth that hurt."

"Sounds like they're healthy enough," he chuckled. "And you're not the only one," he rumbled, kissing her. "Just hope we have a little time to get ... reacquainted ... before I get called off somewhere." He rubbed her back with his powerful hands, scratching her lightly. "Love you, Tes," he purred.

"I love you too," she nuzzled him back, then stiffened at a small sound from the bedroom. "Feeding time. Again." She chuckled ruefully and stepped back, stripping her loose blouse off to reveal the three half-cup bras that supported her swollen breasts.

"Any way I can help?" He asked her, focusing on the task at hand for the time being.

"Tell me a story?" She looked at him hopefully as she settled on the large padded bed on the floor to be assaulted by four waddling bundles of thick fur with stubby legs as they sought her tits and the thick milk they produced.

"What about?" He asked with a smile, watching her pups move to feed.

Their pups, he corrected himself. They weren't his by blood, but in all the ways that would matter, they'd be his too.

"Anything," Tes chuckled and tried to relax. "They'll be at this for a couple hours before I can get up."

He moved to sit down behind her on the padded bed, pressing close to her back.

"Well, how about you tell me their names, then I'll give you a story I know you haven't heard before?" He suggested with a smile.

Tes chuckled and stretched back to nuzzle him. "The boy is Badru," she scritched a dark furred one with a rich gray mask and paws. "It means 'born at full moon'. He was the first to come out."

"And the first to get over here to eat," Doruth observed with a chuckle, reaching down to pet the pup's dark head gently. "Eager little guy."

"Mother says that boys are like that," she chuckled. "Never can get enough tits."

"I'd be offended, but I happen to resemble that remark," Doruth chuckled. "How about the girls?"

"Yes, you do," she reached back to ruffle his scruff, giving him an excellent view of her breasts in the process. "Karina is a sweet girl," she smiled and gently stroked a creamy grey pup suckling eagerly. "And takes gruff from no one. It means 'pure' and she'll be a healer or great leader."

"Your impressions?" He asked her, scratching the other pup's head gently. "Or one of the healers'?"

"Mine," she chuckled a bit sheepishly. "Just Wolf lore, not Force predictions."

"Wolf lore?" He asked curiously. "And believe me love, I trust your impressions too."

"Yes," she smiled softly. "Sweet natured and strong willed pups tend to grow up to be healers, teachers, peacekeepers and great leaders."

"She'll have a chance to be any of the four she wants, I'm sure," he smiled, nuzzling Tes lightly.

"Cadhla is going to be a great heartbreaker when she comes into her tits." Tes smiled. "Her name means beautiful, and these markings," she ghosted her fingers along what was nearly a tiger-stripe pattern of black among her dark grays and browns, "and the white star on her chest are very desirable. She is perfectly formed too. Likely one of the most exquisite examples of a Wolf bitch to be born this generation."

"I might be biased, but I think her Mother wins out in the beauty contest," Doruth smiled, though he did have to admit that she was going to fit her name when she grew up.

"Just wait till she's older," Tes chuckled. "And be grateful you're a top duelist. You'll have your work cut out for you in keeping the suitors at bay."

"Just wait 'til she's older," Tes chuckled. "And be grateful you're a top duelist. You'll have your work cut out for you in keeping the suitors at bay."

"Just remind me when I cross over from 'protective' to 'anal,'" he chuckled.

"If I don't, she will." Tes smirked and shifted to kiss him, only to yelp and settle back with a tolerant glare for the richly pattered tri-color pup. "And that would be the warrior of the lot. Aitana, or 'glory'."

"Lemme guess," he smiled, running a finger down the pup's spine, "she's learning to use her teeth faster than the others?"

"And which tit is the most sensitive to those teeth," she sighed and tried to relax as the pups nursed. "And exactly how to nip for best effect. She'll be a terror."

"Wonder which parent she got that from," Doruth teased playfully, licking Tes' neck.

"I would think you," she smirked and brought her tail up to tease him.

"I'd agree if she'd known me for more than just a couple minutes," he smirked, stroking her tail with his hand.

"Now, you promised me a story?" She rumbled softly, her eyes closing in contentment at having her mate at her back and her pups suckling at her breasts.

"That I did," he agreed, kissing her neck softly. "Though it's a little less story than history, if you don't mind hearing a bit about me before Temrys fell."

"Not at all," she smiled at him softly, recognizing how rare an offer this was.

"I already told you that I grew up in the slums of Nar Shaddaa," he explained softly, holding her close. "My family'd been in the Refugee Sector since the Jedi Civil War. Don't honestly know if I had that much family, outside my Mom and my old man. You don't really get the chance to follow family lines too well in there. Either they get out as fast as they can, or they're just as willing to gut you as anybody else if they think it'll leave them any better off."

Tes shuddered, the idea a difficult one for her to swallow, but she knew it was true too many places.

"I never really had the chance to know my Mom," Doruth admitted. "She died not long after I'd been weaned. Don't know if it's just wishful thinking, but I remember she was a good person, gentle and caring. Deserved better than who she ended up with." He closed his eyes, pausing for a few moments to get the old pain back under control. "Don't know if my old man was the one who killed her or not but... I always figured he was the one, but if he was it was the one thing he never 'fessed up to. I just know that one day she was gone."

"It's not something he should have expected to live through if he had," she murmured, wishing she could turn and hold him.

"He didn't last too much longer," Doruth pointed out with a grim chuckle. "He brought me up for about four years ... taught me how to gamble and how to fight, though he didn't mean to do either of 'em. Never slow to say how much he'd make from the Hutts or the Exchange for selling me to 'em either. Drank himself to death before he decided selling me would be worth more than what he made off me with con jobs."

Tes really had no idea how to respond to this. It meshed so poorly with her mate that it was hard to wrap her mind around.

"Believe it or not," he admitted, "that's when things started getting better. Nar Shaddaa might not be the bright spot of the galaxy, but if you lay low and stick to low-stakes gambling and the occasional con job, the Exchange leaves you alone and you can make something resembling a living. Didn't hurt that I was pretty good at fixing chance cubes or guessing the outcome of a hand of pazaak. Then I made the mistake of trying to rig a game of chance cubes with this old Wolf who looked like an easy mark," he chuckled slightly.

"Only he was a Jedi," she barely had to guess.

"Master Temrys," he nodded. "He could tell I was a sensitive, and when his mission was done he brought me back to Coruscant, took me on as his third Padawan."

"Over the objections of some of the Council, I expect." She murmured, knowing he must have been far too old to begin his training.

"Master Noloth, among others," Doruth nodded. "Master Essani too, believe it or not, though she changed her mind after a private talk with Temrys. Not that I knew any of this at the time, of course. I just knew I was finally warm during winter and could actually count on my belly being full without having somebody wanting my hide for it the next day.

"When I started training, I had the chance to do something different. Master Temrys was giving me the chance not just to improve my lot in life, but to give other people the same chance to life better lives. You wouldn't believe some of the dreams I had," he chuckled slightly. "I was such an idealist back then; thought a Jedi could solve anything."

"It's not a bad dream to have," she smiled fondly and raised an arm to scritch his jaw. "And you never quit giving other people a chance, even when you were playing at being a drifter."

"I tried," he admitted with a smile, nuzzling her neck. "And maybe not, though I know now that there's only so much that can be done without causing more harm than good."

"That's just part of growing up," she said softly. "Most pups think they can solve the universe's problems. The trick is to realize you can't and still keep doing what you can."

"True," he nodded. "And I do... even against my better judgment sometimes," he chuckled. "Like saving this smuggler I've never seen before who was being attacked by a Hutt's troopers."

"And just look where that got you," she grinned up at him.

"Mmm... a lovely mate and partner, and the start of a wonderful family," he purred, shifting to kiss her gently. "I keep getting results like that, and I'll forget that there was a reason I used to try and keep my conscience from overriding my common sense," he smirked.

"And then there is Jay," she nuzzled him as best she could. "He's going to be a force to contend with when he gets a little better with those 'sabers."

"I know," he nodded, rubbing her sides and returning the nuzzle more easily. "And he got me back here," he added with a smile. "Mmm ... so, want a somewhat more cheerful story until the pups are full?"

"Yes," Tes smiled easily.

"Mmm ... how about the legend of Master Par'tah and the battle for Telos?" He asked, bringing the story to mind. "It started just a few years after the Jedi Civil War had ended...."

Master Essani trotted through the Gurath purposefully as it traveled through hyperspace, waiting outside the quarters Jay and Fenrik shared and mentally 'knocking.'

"*May I come in?*" she asked, more to give them time to dress if necessary than because she thought she wouldn't be welcome.

"*Yes, Master,*" Jay replied easily, his state surprisingly calm given he was clearly in close proximity to the tom that could make his blood burn.

She waited for the doors to open after brushing against the pad with the Force and stepped in to see her Padawan snuggled up in Fenrik's arms with a datapad held so they could both read it.

"*How are you two doing?*" She asked as she jumped up onto the chair in the room.

"Good, I think." Jay smiled at her. "Kinda nervous." He admitted. "No one's ever counted on me for their life before."

"He was born for this," Fenrik added with a knowing grin. "Not half as nervous as I was, and has a lot more reason."

"*He's also used to visiting strange planets,*" Essani pointed out with a mental chuckle. "*You'll be fine, Jay. We will need your gift with machines to ensure we can get inside, but any combat that's necessary will likely be something that Knight Parn and I can handle without either of you having to draw your lightsabers.*"

"I think she's trying to be reassuring," Fenrik chuckled, hugging Jay. "Just don't go using that gift of yours to turn anything on unless you have to, okay? If this thing's right," he said, indicating the datapad, "*most of the defense droids should be deactivated."

"I can control the ones that aren't, or blow them up." Jay said simply, not the least bit concerned with the defenses. "It's the ghosts that I don't want to meet."

"*Those we deal with,*" Essani said simply. "*Though if they worry you greatly, we can work on some techniques to help deal with them once your studies progress further. Those are advanced, rare skills.*"

"It's mostly just going to a world with so many of the Dark kind," Jay admitted. "My bio-skills are pretty weak."

"Which should help keep them from really getting through to you," Fenrik pointed out, nuzzling him reassuringly. "You'll be fine."

"It didn't stop Winda." He countered quietly.

"*Remember Jay,*" Essani told him. "*A Dark Side spirit is incapable of affecting you the same way a living Sith would be. They cannot touch the living, and their Force abilities are mostly focused on sustaining their own existence. They're much more likely to focus on the two of us, rather than you two. Even with as many as there are on this world, if we encountered more than one at a time I'd be surprised. The Sith are not renowned for working together well in life, let alone in death.*"

"How do they attack then?" He looked at her curiously.

"*The most powerful ones have some Force skills that they can summon,*" she admitted. "*Most of them, however, 'attack' through the creatures and plants their presence corrupts. Or through cults dedicated to their worship. The greatest power a spirit of the Dark Side has is the power to turn the mind, but they do so the same way any Dark Sider does - by talking. You simply can't force a spirit to be quiet the same way you can a living opponent.*"

"Not without a lot of effort at least." Fenrik nodded. "It'll be okay." He nuzzled Jay.

"I know; it's just pre-mission jitters." Jay nuzzled him back. "I can hardly doubt the quality of my team."

"Thanks," Fenrik chuckled. "I'd be more grateful, but I know I'm the least of the people in that list."

"*Don't underestimate yourself, Fenrik,*" Essani cautioned him, though her mental tone was amused.

"Everyone has their own specialty," Jay smiled with a low chuckle. "And their own reason for being here."

"*I think I'll go make sure our landing zone is cleared,*" Master Essani chuckled, standing from her seat. "*I'll see you two when we've set down, yes?*"

"Yes, Master." Jay nodded easily and uncurled from his place in Fenrik's arms to get his equipment ready and double-checked.

Jay looked in the abandoned campsite with a casual sweep of his eyes that moved on to the tombs cared into the mountainside that the archeologist had been exploring. There wasn't much to it, but he was quickly drawn to the primary piece of technology there: an almost working protocol droid.

"Did you find something?" Doruth called to him, the older Panther still working with Fenrik to search the site for any sign of the scientists who were supposed to be there. The buildings had been damaged badly, some of the duracrete structures apparently carved apart. He frowned mentally; some of this damage looked like it had been made by lightsabers.

"Their droid." Jay called back as he followed the 'pain' of the badly damaged droid into a structure.

It wasn't hard to find it - what was going to be difficult was finding all the pieces. It looked like somebody had practically taken the C3PO unit apart at each joint, and not gently. Looking around briefly, he found the gold-colored head buried beneath the rust-red Korriban dust.

It was damaged, but he could still feel the delicate droid brain inside. It could function, with a little coaxing.

Essani, Doruth, and Fenrik all followed him inside as he focused his attention on the intricate unit and coaxed it back to functioning, half it's circuits fried or not.

Languages were the first thing to be recovered. Languages and scraps of cultural information from more societies than he'd known existed. They weren't what he was looking for though; they were simply the part of the droid's functionality that was the most resilient.

The scary part was that he knew there were billions more that hadn't been recovered by the time the recent data stores were online. The droid's vocabulator was next, though he knew it would take some time to recover its personality. He could still get it to replay its last recordings.

"Master Chano," the droid's modulated voice complained. "We have been unable to contact the ship for days. All I am saying is that we should take the shuttle back briefly to see if there is anything wrong with the communications array. What would happen if a dust storm were to hit?"

"You worry too much," a deep, gravelly voice replied easily. "I'm sure Duril is simply tied up in a translation. If any of us could understand the Sith writings on Pall's tomb," he chuckled, "we'd probably have left you back there to help him."

"I rather wish you had," the droid muttered, at least as much as a protocol droid could. "At least then I'd be able to - what was that?"

"What was what?" The deep voice, presumably Chano, asked. There was a distant sound, shouting.

"I do say, I think something has hap-" The droid was cut off by the distinctive sound of a lightsaber hacking through the door.

"Oh my!"

Jay almost had to chuckle. Almost. The droid's fearful protest cut off a moment later as, presumably, the head was separated from the body, ending the recording as the power shut down to preserve what was left of the brain.

"That doesn't sound good," Doruth said, frowning as the four of them listened to the end of the recording. "Not at all."

"It answers quite a bit about the who and how," Jay nodded and silently promised to recover the droid after the mission was finished and he had time to do it right. "Just not the why."

"*If there are living Dark Siders here, then they likely want to keep their presence a secret,*" Essani observed. "*The archaeologists would be a threat to that.*"

"But why take them with them?" Fenrik asked. "Why not just kill them and be done with it?"

"Because, for whatever reason, they want them alive," Doruth observed. "There's no sign that the violence here was directed at the scientists beyond what was necessary to get them to come along without putting up a struggle. They might not even be Dark Siders."

"If not, somebody went to a fair amount of trouble to make it seem so," Fenrik pointed out. "Lightsabers are not exactly a common way to cut through a door."

"*There are people besides Jedi and Sith who use lightsabers, Fenrik,*" Master Essani pointed out quietly.

"Potentiates?" Doruth suggested.

"*It's possible,*" the kushiban agreed. "*It would explain the lack of violence against the living, and the apparent use of lightsabers.*"

"Potentiates?" Fenrik asked, looking at the older Panther.

"A heretical group of Force wielders," Doruth explained. "Many of whom were Jedi-trained before they left the Order. They believe the Light Side and Dark Side are just different words for the same thing, that the Force as we understand it is wrong. Unfortunately, they also believe that in order to truly understand the Force, you have to delve into both paths. Deeply."

"*Korriban would be an excellent starting point for a group of Potentiates seeking to study Sith philosophies and techniques, compare them against the Jedi,*" Essani nodded. "*Jay, can you get any more information from the droid without having to repair it completely?*"

The teen nodded and slid his mind along the electrical paths of droid memory. "What do you want me to look for? There is a lot in here."

"*Anything that might suggest where they went,*" Essani explained. "*If they felt there was something particularly interesting about one or another of the tombs, they might have stumbled across something that made whoever attacked this camp decide they had to act to silence Doctor Chano and the rest of his team.*"

He nodded and started searing for 'tomb' first, then 'Ajunta Pall' and 'Tulak Hord' and the variants as he found the names.

Both tombs had had relatively fresh bodies in them, compared to the rest of the artifacts ... both with Sith uniforms, according to the data. They hadn't managed to fully explore Tulak Hord's tomb yet, but the droid had been brought into Ajunta Pall's to help translate some ancient Sith writings they had found on some of the artifacts.

"They had finished with Pall's tomb." Jay said as he unwound his mind, now full of more information on both tombs than any of the archeologists that he was still working through. "And were working on Hord's, though one of the team was very insistent about going back to Pall's to look at the swords Chano wouldn't let them remove, and Chano kept refusing to let him go."

"Why wouldn't they have taken the swords?" Fenrik asked, cocking his head slightly. "I thought the whole idea was to find artifacts and bring them back."

"According to Jedi records, Ajunta Pall's spirit threatened to kill anybody attempting to remove a sword that wasn't his from the tomb," Doruth explained. "If Chano wasn't sure which one was the right blade, then it makes sense that he wouldn't risk it."

"*Those same records also said that Tulak Hord's tomb had never been fully explored,*" Master Essani said. "*It may be that they were making too much progress. I feel we should look for them there first.*"

"We'd better get started then; it'll be a bit of a hike according to our maps of the area."

"It's not that far," Jay commented as he stood, his mind and body still a touch disconnected until he was fully on his feet and had gotten feedback from his entire body. "We shouldn't have to hunt them either once there."

"What do you mean?" Doruth asked.

"The tombs are constructs, not much different than any other building," the he explained. "I can just ask at the entrance if anyone's in there, how many, where they are and anything else you want to know."

"*The tombs have been influenced by the Dark Side for millennia, Jay,*" Essani pointed out to him, though he could tell it was privately. "*The structures may not want to tell you everything, given they were built to keep people like us out of them.*"

"Well, unless there's anything back here we're looking for yet, we should start walking," Doruth said, looking down at the kushiban.

"*No,*" she said, shaking her head. "*Let's get started.*"

She paused to look back at her Padawan when Jay stopped at the damaged door to run his fingers along the cut edge, and his eyes went wide in surprise.

"This isn't lightsaber damage." He murmured, and then moved to follow them.

The others were all left to ponder that statement, and what could have done the damage. They walked towards the ancient tomb quietly, Essani and Doruth occasionally pausing to check their map against the local features, mostly weather-worn spires and columns that remained after over twenty-thousand years of exposure.

They found the tomb open, ventilation units placed by the archaeologists as they'd made their way into the ancient structure.

"Fenrik, you watch the rear, I'll stay in point," Doruth said softly, the quartet rearranging themselves so they'd be ready for any attack that might come.

Contrary to Master Essani's concerns, the ruins proved surprisingly talkative. Each time they had to stop and regain their bearings, the walls and corridors would nearly overwhelm Jay with information. Clearly they were tired of not having anybody to 'talk' to. They did occasionally leave out a 'minor' detail, like the field of poisonous puff-balls half-way to the tomb proper, but the delay was dealt with quickly, the fungus receding as Essani took the lead briefly, using her skills to encourage the plant-life to leave them alone.

Going was a little slower after that, the corridors occasionally blocked by rubble that had to be cleared away, but after what felt like hours of searching, they reached a sealed stone door.

"*They're beyond that door,*" Essani said softly. "*Jay, would you come here?*"

"Yes, Master." He took the few steps up to join her and Doruth in the lead.

"*I want you to calm your mind, your senses. Block out what's here, and stretch out with your unconscious senses,*" she explained. "*Tell me what you feel, what you sense.*"

He nodded, apologizing to the tomb for briefly blocking it out before he closed his mind to the patterns and input that came to him naturally and seeking out the Force-senses that even after almost four years among the Jedi did not come to him easily.

It wasn't hard to sense Master Essani's presence; she was almost like a beacon of warmth, light, and life, especially against the backdrop of the tomb. He 'felt' Doruth next, then Fenrik... then, as he began to focus more, he sensed something else, something cold. It felt like an icy finger being drawn down his spine.

He shivered, physically, and it took most of his will not to scramble away from it on pure instinct.

And, as alien and wrong as it felt, he could feel the appeal it had for the Demon in the back of his mind, still shut behind the mental door that kept it at bay. It excited the creature, made it restless and keenly focused on the one of its progeny that was close enough to taste the Darkness.

This was the Dark Side, practically distilled in its essence. Hatred and rage, not fiery and hot, but cold and calculating. It was everything he instinctively feared put into a form he couldn't fight but could feel. The survivor in him rumbled hotly in rebuttal, a growl that came out in the physical world; a warning that unstoppable or not, the Cold would pay dearly for him.

He knew he should have been able to feel more, get more detail out of it, but his Force senses weren't strong enough to 'see' any more without being overwhelmed, and he wasn't particularly inclined to try. He knew his enemy.

"*Our foes will be at an advantage in case of a fight,*" Essani said softly as he began to pull back into himself. "*Knight Parn, Padawan Aren, be especially careful if it gets to that point. The Dark Side is strong here, and it could prove lethal if you're distracted by it at the wrong moment.*"

"I understand, Master." Fenrik nodded, by far the most uneasy of the four but not giving any hint of that on the outside.

"*Jay, can you open the door?*" Essani asked, the lightsaber she wore strapped to her side shifting slightly. "*I would like to keep this peaceful as long as possible.*"

He nodded and reached out with his natural Gift to ask it to open for them. It did so easily, sliding open with the familiar hiss to reveal a half-dozen different robed figures all standing in the next room, gathered around a stone coffin... or an altar, to judge by the nude Skunk who was bound to it remarkably well. The leader, wearing dark black robes that stood out when compared to the brown and red ones his followers wore, turned to the newcomers.

"Well. I'm surprised it took you all this long to get here," he said condescendingly. "Did you get lost on the way? Or perhaps you simply couldn't move fast enough?" He asked, looking down to the kushiban who stepped forward, her fur an icy blue.

"*If you wanted to see us sooner, you should have been waiting at the entrance. Of course, you never believed in focusing on one goal at a time, did you Meskin?*"

The leader threw his hood back, revealing the dark-furred face of a Badger male. "I'd hoped you would be the one to come here, Essani."

"*I'd hoped you would see the error of your ways after you were exiled from the Order,*" the kushiban said regretfully. "*I can see we were wrong. What are you doing here?*"

"What I always said I would, Essani," Meskin chuckled. "Or have you forgotten so soon?"

"*You said that you would study the Potentium, gain an understanding of Light and Dark alike. I fail to see how this furthers your goals.*" The other robed figures turned to watch the discussion, their hands straying towards their hips, and what looked like the lightsabers they all wore. Oddly enough, only the Badger didn't seem to be wearing one, instead carrying a slender, gleaming sword at his hip.

Jay could tell that the 'lightsabers' they were wearing were little more than the training 'sabers he'd practiced with early on. If a real fight started, the only way they'd pose much of one would be through numbers. Fortunately, with them distracted by the two opposed masters, he was able to deactivate the mechanical restraints holding the Skunk to the tomb, though he remained bound by ropes that Jay's Gift wasn't able to manipulate as well.

"There is no better way to study the Potentium than to study at the feet of those who have mastered its elements," Meskin explained easily. "That is how I have gathered my followers. It is how I studied the Jedi ways, before you and the Council exiled me and that damnable Lizard tried to strip me of my powers. And it is how I will master the Sith ways, after restoring Tulak Hord's spirit to its full power."

"*The 'sabers are only training ones.*" Jay whispered to his Master to pass on silently to the others, so their opponents would not know they knew. "*And deactivated,*" he added before focusing on the metal saber the Badger wore, sure it must have something interesting about it for a fallen Jedi to carry it.

He quickly realized that the sword was much more 'aware' than most similar items, even compared to a vibroblade. At the same time, it was also intensely violent, bombarding him with threats and promises of a slow, painful death for all of them.

Definitely not a normal weapon. It felt almost like a true lightsaber, though one that was violent, dark, and twisted.

"Raising Tulak Hord?" Doruth asked incredulously. "That's impossible. Not even a Sith's spirit can be raised once it ceases to exist."

"*Master, that sword is Death.*" Jay whispered, a little louder than before but still private. "*Not tech. Never felt anything like it, but it's likely a match for our 'sabers.*"

"Trust a self-exiled fool to think he knows better than anybody else," Meskin observed dismissively. "Tulak Hord is still exists quite well. He simply needs power to restore his strength. Chessa is a mild sensitive," he explained, indicating the Skunk. "When we kill him here, his death will empower the spirit of Tulak Hord to give us what we seek."

"*He will give you nothing but death, Meskin,*" Essani warned the Badger. "*Think about what you are doing. You're not exploring the Dark Side of the Force; you're committing cold-blooded murder of an innocent person. Remember your own philosophy; are you still studying the Dark Side to learn the truth of the Potentium, or are you simply diving into it for its own sake?*"

"Perhaps if Master Noloth hadn't attempted to cut me off from the Force at all, I wouldn't have to resort to such measures," the Badger shot back. "After all, if I could study as I once did, then there would be no need for the Sith spirits. As it is ... they have taught me well."

Despite their master's bravado, his followers did start looking between each other. Essani's words seemed to be having the effect she was hoping for, on them if nobody else.

"*You know why he did what he did,*" Essani said, her voice carrying no trace of regret. "*Your crimes were severe enough that we had no choice but to attempt to sever your tie to the Force. You had proven you were willing to use it against the Temple's defenders to gain access to forbidden artifacts and writings.*"

"*I have warned them,*" she told Jay privately over their bond.

"Enough," Meskin said sharply. "If you will not leave, then prepare to fight us. Your lives will be a welcome addition to Tulak Hord's power."

"*Fenrik, Jay, you two focus on freeing the sacrifice,*" Essani told the younger felines. "*Doruth and I will deal with Meskin.*"

"*Yes, Master.*" The pair replied easily, a glance and subtle shifts in body and tail settled their strategy as five lightsabers flared to life, Jay's bright blue next to Fenrik's blazing white blade. Doruth's own lighter electric blue blade flared to life a moment later as he moved next to Essani, watching the Badger's followers.

They drew their own 'lightsabers,' preparing for the battle that was about to follow ... only to find that Jay's sabotage had shut them down.

"Good trick," Meskin scowled. "Let's see if it works against this!" He drew his sword, lunging forward as Essani's own lightsaber flew into the air, its yellow blade flaring to life to block the Badger's attack even as Doruth entered the fray to give Meskin two Jedi to worry about.

Fenrik and Jay each took off in a different direction, trying to make their way around the battle between the Master, Knight, and heretic. The cultists split up, moving to stop them by whatever means they could. Three closed on Fenrik, wary of his lightsaber as they focused their efforts on crippling him with fear. He tried to resist them, but as he raised his lightsaber, it was clear that fighting them was going to be difficult.

The other two moved towards Jay, reaching out with their own powers to try and stop him before he got close enough for his twin 'sabers to go to work against them, assaulting his mind with a sense of helplessness and cold fear.

They met a mind, warped by upbringing, experience and some would say genetics, that simply didn't process helplessness.

Fear he understood though, the coldness of this kind triggering fierce determination and rage from deep in his soul. Rage that his personal demon fed as much as it dared with the Master so close. Not only make the fire that overcame the coldness burn brighter, but to take advantage of how easily it broke down the kit's learned discipline to avoid its offerings.

Later, many would be surprised that the Dark did not surge in him when he lunged forward, the four blades of his twin 'sabers aiming for a crippling shots even as the two cultists cried out in pain and tried to get out of his way when their 'sabers exploded at their sides.

He reached the tomb, quickly cutting through the tight binding ropes holding the nude Skunk to the table and helping him up. The cultists Fenrik was facing quickly decided that they stood no chance against two Jedi with working lightsabers, even young ones, and ran for a passage along the side of the chamber.

Meanwhile, Meskin was proving himself an able opponent. Despite facing two full Jedi, one a Master wielding her weapon from afar, he was holding his own.

Still - Doruth and Essani both knew that he was slowly tiring. His Sith sword was heavier than a lightsaber, even altered as it was to move just as quickly and strike just as hard. The Badger snarled as Essani's yellow blade broke through an opening in his defenses and scored a glancing blow on his side.

He whirled about in a great, sweeping blow, knocking Doruth back a step before he stabbed out at the kushiban with the power of the Force. She braced herself for the impact, her fur ruffling as the gust washed over her. Doruth brought his lightsaber up in a blinding arc and Meskin screamed in pain as his hand fell to the ground with a sickening thud.

For a moment it seemed as though the Badger was going to launch into a full blood-frenzy, but his Jedi training overcame his instinct, and he went on the defensive, trying to fight his way back towards the escape tunnel his followers had used.

His surprise was evident when he reached the door and it refused to open for him; surprise that quickly turned to rage when he saw the smug grin on Jay's face.

Essani and Doruth were close behind him, along with the two younger Jedi. He brought his sword up with one hand, hacking through the heavy stone with all the ease of a lightsaber, blowing the weakened rock out of the way with his powers and bolting for freedom with Doruth and Fenrik on his heals.

"*Stop,*" Essani ordered them mentally as the Badger made his way deeper into the catacombs. "*We have to find the archaeologists.*" Her blade faded, returning to the strap on her side as she walked over to the Skunk and Jay, who was helping him get up and make sure he could still move well before he draped his outer robe over Chessa's shoulders.

"*Chessa,*" she said gently, "*do you know where the others are?*"

"D-down that hall," the Skunk nodded, pointing towards the escape tunnel. "It's not far."

Doruth stopped in his backtrack to the alter room and looked around. "I've got the door here," he called to them and lifted his lightsaber to cut through it.

"No!" Jay yelled at him, making a run for the Panthers.

Doruth stopped, looking at Jay with his 'saber ignited.

"What's wrong?" He asked, lowering his hand.

"Damnit, Doruth, the tomb is not the enemy here." Jay growled at him, rather exasperated as his keyed up mind and body sought an outlet. "At least be polite enough to try to open the door first." He added as he ghosted his fingers across the smooth stone with the request.

Doruth blinked, extinguishing his lightsaber, slightly taken aback.

"*I'm still working on his tact,*" Essani chuckled slightly. "*I think the danger's over now; Meskin and his people are all leaving, and I can sense Dr. Chano and the others are in good health.*"

"I'd rather not have the tomb pissed off at us while we're still in here," Jay pointed out as the door slid open. "It was designed to kill intruders after all. It can still decide to."

"Point taken," Doruth nodded. "Not used to having somebody around who can open locks any way but cutting through them."

"Ever think of using the control panel?" Jay looked at him dubiously with a motion to the artfully integrated controls.

"They didn't have any power to them," Doruth pointed out, to an even more dubious look, then sigh.

"I guess that's why they did it." Jay murmured as he looked a little more closely at the panel that was blatantly alive to him. "It only looks dead."

"*Let's worry about the people inside the room, shall we?*" Essani suggested, trotting between the two of them into the open room with the bound scientists.

"Friends of yours?" A Duros asked as his gag came off.

"*They get a little distracted,*" Essani said. "*Chano, are you and the others all right?*"

"They took Chessa, but the rest of us are fine."

"And we stopped them before they hurt Chessa," Doruth said, feeling a little sheepish about not realizing Jay had opened the door.

"Fenrik's with him now," Jay added, doing a quick head and face count to confirm everyone was accounted for.

"And what about the Bantha-brains who left us here?" Chano asked.

"*They got away,*" Essani admitted. "*Did they take anything?*"

"Only everything important in this tomb. They'd better hope I never find them again or I'll...." The Duros muttered and ranted while Essani and Doruth went about making sure everybody was fine. All in all, as they heard again and again, each of the scientists with them had had the sense to surrender when faced with what looked like a Sith warrior. The only one who had faced any real hardship aside from being tossed into the side room was Chessa.

"That can't be good," Jay murmured as he listened to enough of the ranting to have a decent idea of just what had been lost. All in all, it sounded like a pair of gloves, a mask, some general grave goods ... nothing too critical, until you thought about why those items and nothing else.

"C'mon," Doruth said, heading back out to meet Fenrik and Chessa along with the others. "Let's get everybody back to their respective ships, we'll figure out what to do about Meskin and the others then."

Doruth leaned against the Gurath's bulkhead, watching Fenrik as he meditated on what had happened during the mission. The white blade of his lightsaber withdrew into the hilt as he realized Doruth was there, and he turned to him with a bow.

"Still a little shaken by what those Adepts tried?" Doruth asked understandingly.

"Yes, Doruth." He admitted, knowing full well that the older Panther could tell just by looking at him that it was at the center of his struggles.

"What part of it is bothering you?" Doruth asked him. "What they brought out, or that they managed to do it?"

"That I froze," he answered easily, for all it still riled him. "Jay or the hostage could have been killed because they stopped me."

"We wouldn't have let that happen," Doruth said reassuringly. "But I know what you mean. Not much worse than that feeling, without somebody getting killed. There's a technique I can teach you, that might help you if you face something like that in the future," he offered. "Shouldn't take too long."

"I would appreciate that," he bowed a little more to the Knight-turned-teacher for the added respect the position gave him, even if it was only for a few hours.

"Don't need to get formal, Fenrik," Doruth chuckled. "Trust me, this won't be. Take a seat," he said, motioning to one of the crates. "Do you play pazaak?"

"Not really," he admitted, curious and confused by the leap in subjects. "I can almost fake knowing the basics on a good day."

"You're going to learn," Doruth chuckled, pulling a deck out of his robes. "Believe it or not, I haven't changed subjects. How easy is it to get past somebody's surface thoughts?" He asked, setting the cards on one of the crates.

"Depends on their training and shields," he answered easily and came over to take a seat so the crate with the cards became a table of sorts. "Jedi aren't very easy, most of the general population is."

"Most of it," Doruth nodded. "Unless they're focusing on something. Most mental powers we have, whether our mind trick, telepathy, or that fear-projection the Adepts used on you, function on the level of surface thoughts, maybe a bit lower than that. If you think about something simple, repetitive, maybe a little distracting, you can protect yourself against that. It fills your surface thoughts, making it harder to get through to manipulate you.

"Pazaak's a good example. We'll skip the side decks for now," he explained, playing a card out in front of himself, a six, and one for Fenrik, an eight. "Now, think about it. At this point there's not much to think about; you need another card to get anywhere close. But...." He played another set of cards out, a pair of sevens. "Now you have a fifteen, against my thirteen. What happens now?"

"Without cheating and finding out what the next couple cards are," he cracked a bit of s smirk, "stand."

"You're thinking like I do," Doruth smirked, playing off the next card, a seven. "Twenty for me, but it would've busted you, so not bad. Of course, if side-decks were involved, it'd work out differently. But the point is this. While you were thinking about it, what do you think it would've been like for somebody trying to manipulate your mind?"

"A lot harder," he nodded in understanding. "It's too full of other focused thoughts to get into easily."

"Exactly," Doruth nodded. "It can be other things. Just focusing on a single strong emotion, counting the clicks in the hyperspace couplings, anything like that can throw up a level of shielding beyond sheer will. With practice, it can even help you focus on what you're doing."

"Kind of like meditating, only from the opposite end of the spectrum. Focusing on something rather than clearing your mind of everything."

"Exactly," Doruth nodded with an approving smile. "It's ironic, but if you fill your mind, it's easier to not think about what you're doing, and let the Force guide you."

"Unless you're like Jay and function on a level of multitasking that's just scary." He chuckled softly, bemusing memories of watching his lover do a dozen or more things at once with no loss of efficiency coming too mind a bit too easily. "I can see it working well for me though."

"That's the important part," Doruth chuckled. "Honestly, I think Jay doesn't think a little too easily sometimes."

"At least about possible consequences." Fenrik smirked a bit. "He's got good intentions, just not much by way of planning instincts past the current event."

"Honestly, I'm kinda glad Essani took him on as her Padawan," Doruth chuckled slightly. "I would definitely have my hands full working with him. So, want me to let you practice this for a bit, or maybe help you learn to play better, in your head and out of it?"

"Learning sounds good," he smiled a bit and settled in, reviewing the rules in his head again. "Tactics only, no Force-usage." He set down the ground rules he wanted to play with.

"How I always play when it's not a serious situation," Doruth nodded. "Senate rules, of course," he chuckled, pulling his side-deck cards out of his pocket and spread them out. "Pick your ten, I'll take mine from what's left."

"Senate rules?" Fenrik asked, raising an eyebrow as he picked out the cards.

"Professional slang for a recreational game," Doruth chuckled. "Neither of us wants to lose anything so we just swap cards, waste time, and try to keep ourselves entertained until the audience gets bored and leaves. Senate rules," he winked.

"It does sound familiar," Fenrik grinned, setting his side deck off to the side, letting the older Panther select his and put the extra away before they started playing.

Jay carefully cleaned some fresh dust out of the damaged C3P0's casing before going back to work on the still-damaged brain. He'd finished most of the repairs already; all he had to do yet was restore and re-calibrate the personality routines before it would be working without any significant data loss....

"Don't shoot!" The eyes lit up a bright orange and gave Jay just enough warning to leap back before the droid's arms flew up in surrender.

"Oh my...." It said, looking around. "I do believe I missed something...."

"Yeah, you've been out for about three weeks." Jay informed him easily.

"Oh dear - do you know what happened to Master Chano? The last thing I remember was a large, hirsute fellow cutting through the door and attacking with some sort of strange vibroblade."

"Everyone is fine," Jay smiled slightly. "We rescued them."

"Oh thank the Maker," the droid 'sighed.' "I really was rather worried that this was going to be the end of Master Chano's lucky streak." Just then, Jay felt something off towards the east... a presence that seemed vaguely familiar.

"Nope, not this time." He shook his head and stood. "I'll be back." He added and reached out to check on his Master, uneasy about everything on this world.

"*Jay? Is there something wrong?*" The Kushiban asked him as she felt him reaching out towards her.

"*I'm ... sensing something ... east. Familiar. A person.*" He explained as he made a cautious path towards the target. "*I can't do that.*"

"*It might be something familiar to you... or something particularly powerful. Do you want me to join you?*" She asked him, as he thought he could make out a dark figure against the columns, approaching one of the tombs.

"*You, and a Panther if one's conscious. We have an intruder heading for the tomb.*"

"*Doruth is helping them ferry replacement parts back to their main ship and Fenrik will have to guard the camp,*" Essani said. "*I'll be there as soon as I can.*"

It didn't take long either. It was almost comical to those watching her, but for something as small as she was she could move when she felt the need to. She rushed out to meet him, making a small greyish blur against the red dust.

"*Can you still see it?*" She asked him, looking around as they followed.

"*Yes, near the entrance to Pall's,*" he looked down, surprised that she couldn't see it, or at least sense it. "*It's doing ... something.*"

"*Must be trying to hide itself,*" she frowned. "*I can't sense anything there except the tomb itself... what does it feel like, Jay? Light side, Dark... other?*"

The figure stood, turning as if it was looking back at them....

Back at him. Whatever this intruder was, it wasn't interested in Essani.

Jay froze, looking for the answer for his Master and struck that this person looked at him over a Jedi Master, even one that looked like a rabbit. He was sure there was power there, a fair amount of it. Intimately familiar power to him.

"*Demon-Dark.*" He told her.

The kushiban looked up at him, her grey color deepening. "*Jay, are you absolutely sure that you see this intruder, and sense that from it? That it's there now, not a memory or impression of this world's history?*"

"*As sure as I am that you are here.*" He nodded as they got closer; he wanted to find its race. "*Those are very different sensations.*"

As they got closer Jay could sense Essani's concern through their bond, though he couldn't tell what exactly was the cause of it. Then, before he could make out any details, the figure drew and ignited a pair of lightsabers, one blood-red, the other glowing black ... and both in the distinctive style of his own 'sabers; only a full-length blade protruded from each end of the hilt to mark the increased skill of the welder; a level Jay was unlikely to see for several years yet.

"Crud," Jay whispered low in his throat even as he froze, his eyes wide as he realized what he was looking at.

Essani stopped next to him, looking towards the tomb and not seeing anything. She closed her eyes and sat, more convinced now that Jay wasn't seeing what he'd thought he was. Now that she wasn't looking for a person she could feel it; a tremor in the Force, a vision trickling down from a possible future.

"*What happened, Jay?*"

"*The Demon has a body,*" he shuddered, real fear in his soul despite not showing it.

"*It's not real,*" she told him firmly. "*What you're seeing is a vision, not a person. The person you see doesn't exist.*"

The raw terror, much more intense than even what fighting the Demon had incited, that lashed through his entire self before he controlled it was not the reaction she'd been expecting, nor that he would control it by a flat denial of her words.

It was enough that she searched for the reason why, and managed to come up with one thing. He was connecting the vision he was having with being insane.

She felt the tremor shift slightly, something in the vision change.

In Jay's eyes, the figure extinguished one of his 'sabers and reached up, pulling back its hood to reveal a disturbingly familiar face.

His own.

A solid forty years older, a metal plate covering part of the battle-scarred visage that stared at him.

It made him wonder what kin had been sent here before him, his momentary recognition of his older self refused as impossible.

"*Jay,*" Essani told him, "*listen to me. This is a vision you're having through the Force, something that might happen. You're not crazy, but whatever you're seeing isn't really happening. The Force is simply giving you a warning. Come back to the ship with me.*"

"*Y-yes, Master.*" He murmured, only just trusting her over his senses. Even before he could turn away, the Dark Sider literally evaporated into so much smoke, blowing away in the hot winds of Korriban.

Jay shuddered, the terror at hallucinating striking home again even as he move to follow his Master and tried to think his way out of the stark reality of what hallucinating meant.

"*Fenrik?*" Essani trotted into the new structure where the Panther was meditating. "*I have a favor I need to ask you.*"

"Yes, Master Essani?" He asked, coming out of his meditation and looking down at her.

"*Jay had a vision, that was what called me away a few minutes ago,*" she explained. "*Unfortunately, learning that it was a vision has disturbed him greatly. He associates it with hallucinations and other signs of insanity. I've tried to explain it to him on the way back, but....*" She shrugged a little mentally. "*I can only get so far. I'm hoping you might be able to help... or, at least, calm him down enough that he can rest and realize that there isn't anything wrong with him.*"

"I can do that," Fenrik nodded. "Is he on the ship?"

"*Yes,*" she nodded. "*He should be in your quarters.*"

"I'll go talk to him," Fenrik nodded, bowing politely. "I'll let you know how it goes later."

"*Thank you,*" she said gratefully. "*I'll take up the watch.*"

Fenrik left the small building, making the short walk back to the Gurath and searching for Jay, not quite sure what he'd find. He was a bit relieved to find him where Master Essani said he would be and sitting calmly on their bed. At first he seemed to be meditating, and maybe he was, just not in the Jedi sense of the thing.

"Hi," Jay tried to smile as he opened his eyes, to present a face that wouldn't worry his lover, but even not knowing why he was here, it wasn't anything that would fool the Panther.

"Hi," Fenrik smiled, sitting down next to him. "Hear you ran into something out by the tombs," he said neutrally and didn't react to the way Jay's eyes went wide for a second.

"Master Essani wanted you to talk some sense into me?" He only half asked.

"She wanted me to try and help you calm down," Fenrik corrected him. "Though talking some sense into you usually makes that a bit easier," he teased lightly. "So, what happened? From your end of it."

"I saw something that wasn't there," he murmured, his chin on upraised knees. "Something that could have gotten an innocent killed if I'd acted instead of staring."

"How could it have gotten somebody killed?" Fenrik asked. "Essani said there wasn't anybody else out there."

"I saw a Clawson turned Sith," he shuddered and glanced over. "If anyone had actually been there when I pulled myself together enough to fight, they'd have gotten killed. I can't sense things in the Force like you do, not reliably enough to trust in a fight. I'd never know the difference."

"*If anyone had been," Fenrik pointed out. "Besides Essani, of course - I think she would've been able to stop you. Jay, visions work that way. They seem real, but they don't happen in a time and place where they actually hurt anybody."

"How can you trust it that blindly?" Jay asked quietly, trying hard to find a reason to believe. "Know it's actually a vision?"

"Essani said it was one," Fenrik explained. "When a vision is happening, it creates a minor tremor in the Force, because the Force itself is acting to tell somebody something. She'd have checked for that before she said it was a vision. There are too many ways a real person could hide to just say so blindly."

Jay nodded. It made sense. Not just in that his Master would have done that, but in the how she knew if this really was part of the Force challenging him.

"And when she's not there? How do you tell?" He looked over, a little lost and more than a little scared.

"In part, you learn to recognize it," Fenrik explained. "They don't happen too often, but most Jedi have them from time to time. Beyond that, you teach yourself to recognize that tremor. A hallucination doesn't register in the Force," he added, rubbing Jay's back reassuringly.

"That didn't look like a good vision then." He murmured softly. "If that really was a future me."

"They're also not fixed," Fenrik pointed out. "Look up some of the visions in the histories of the Jedi. They're often warnings that come in time to change things.

"I know," he smiled shakily. "Family history is full of it. We just usually take an actual trip up the time stream and back to change the future."

"Well in this case the time stream made the trip for you," Fenrik chuckled, kissing him lightly. "It was telling you what could happen, so you could keep it from happening."

"Can't be that simple," he murmured. "I'm hardly planning on going Dark."

"How polite do you want me to be?" Fenrik asked, nuzzling him lightly and got a curious look for the question.

"Can't be any worse than what's I've come up with."

"You're already prone to lashing out when you're scared or angry," Fenrik explained. "And we both know just how much love you've got for Rodians. It could be that something in the future could go wrong, and you have to choose between the Demon and between facing a galaxy you really don't want to anymore."

He nodded. "There are a lot of ways for it to happen too." He said simply with a sigh. "Most centered around losing you, or a threat so grave to the galaxy that I don't see another way to stop it. We aren't exactly renowned for our forethought." He chuckled weakly.

"So maybe something was trying to give you the forethought before you need it," Fenrik suggested.

"Then here is hoping someone can make more sense of it than I can, because I don't get it." Jay muttered and lay back to stare at the ceiling. "Whatever happened to him, I still haven't a clue about it."

"Probably something you're supposed to figure out when it's time," he admitted, lying back next to him. "Want me to leave you alone to meditate for a while?"

"Not really," Jay said quietly. "I'd rather not think much more about just how much damage he's done with my Gift."

"He hasn't done it yet... he doesn't exist yet," he pointed out, rolling over to kiss him gently. "Though if you want, I can try to distract you for a while."

"I'm not going to object," Jay purred sultrily, more hungry for the contact than he realized as Fenrik indulged him eagerly.

Doruth Parn shifted his pack on his shoulder as he approached the door to the quarters he's barely seen the inside of in the month and a half since their pups had been born and wondered what kind of mood she'd be in to see him, and just how much Wolf pups grew in the month since he'd seen them.

He smiled as he thought about them, crawling around, their eyes open and bright. They were definitely cute pups, no doubting that.

A part of his mind wondered if Tes would be in the same mood she'd been in last time. It had been another month now, and the last time had only been a couple weeks... damn was she wound up after that.

Altogether, he was definitely looking forward to spending a few weeks with his mate that didn't involve late night packing to get ready for a mission.

He checked the door panel to make sure there weren't any 'do not disturb' warnings on it, then opened it up, stepping into their quarters.

His nose told him she'd had no lack of canine company while he'd been gone, though he doubted any of it had shared her bed. Every canine Jedi in the Temple had a distinct interest in the pups already, and part of that meant making nice with their highly protective mother.

He didn't hear any puppy sounds, only Tes' humming in their bedroom. A tune he remembered from the Wolven marriage ceremony they'd had months before. He smiled as he walked into their room, seeing her lying on the bed, running her hands through her fur.

If she wasn't in the same mood as the last time he'd come home, she was certainly doing a good job of faking it. She was wearing a short top over her topmost breasts, and a short skirt that he was certain was the only thing covering her nether regions.

"Mmm ... honey, I'm home," he rumbled, starting into the room, looking her up and down hungrily even as she rolled to her feet, giving him a good look at the body she'd gotten back into fighting trim since he'd left.

Damn it had been too long since they'd really had time to be together. And it probably wasn't going to get much better any time soon.

"So I see," she rumbled seductively. "Did my mighty hunter bring me back anything?"

"Mmm ... I'll show you later," he rumbled, wrapping his arms around her and kissing her deeply as her body melted submissively against his. "Though mostly no bad news, and your mighty hunter."

"I finally got the clear to play for real," she shivered in anticipation, her voice deep and seductive as she worked his robes off his powerful shoulders.

"Now that's good news," he rumbled, shrugging his robes off and rubbing her back. "How're the pups doing?"

"Very good, and with a sitter." She grinned up at him. "It's just us tonight."

"Mmm ... which leaves us with just one question to ask," he rumbled, pressing her back towards the bed and licking her neck.

"How hard you can fuck me?" She shuddered in excitement, moaning at his touch.

"Just as hard as you want," he rumbled deeply. "Unless you'd like to try something a little new for the foreplay?" He nipped her neck lightly, but possessively, knowing long ago that she was in one of her more submissive moods.

"As long as you do fuck me raw tonight." She breathed with a soft whimper, her hands rubbing down his chest until she cupped his balls.

"Oh I will," he promised, purring deeply as he peeled her top off, fondling her breasts with one hand as the short top came off and he went to work on her skirt. "Want to feel my barbs, or keep the healers happy tonight?"

"I want to feel you," she moaned and stretched her arms up; giving her long, muscular body over to his attentions. He threw her skirt to the side, running his hands up and down her body, kissing down her chest to her top breasts. He licked one hard nipple with his rough tongue, then stood up again.

"I'm going to get you a few things," he purred even as she whimpered at the loss of contact. She made no effort to move or shift though, and simply watched him move away.

He hurried out to the front room, opening his pack and pulling out some of the things he'd picked up on the trip back.

"Mind playing dress up?" He asked, bringing in a small case.

"Not at all," she looked over at him, her curiosity clear in her upright ears.

"Mmm... first, your presents," he smiled, opening up the case and revealing a silver bracelet with small cut sapphires around the outside. A matching pair of earrings was setting above it as he offered them to her.

"Ohhh," Tes murred in appreciation as she sat up to accept them and skillfully slipped them on. "Thank you." She smiled and leaned forward to kiss him.

"Mmm ... I know you like pretty things," he rumbled, returning the kiss and licking her lips as he leaned back a bit. "And after everything that's happened, I figured you deserved a few. Though you're not the only one who likes pretty things," he winked, opening up the case to reveal a second layer under the padding, containing her 'costume,' such as it was.

"Oh, my kitty is getting kinky." She rumbled with a grin and accepted the translucent blue silks that concealed very little and were cut to not be damaged when he did take her.

"I have my moments," he grinned. "Want some help getting those on?"

"If My Master wishes," she lowered her eyes submissively, her voice sensually inviting as she easily slipped into the role of a very willing harem slave.

"He does," Doruth purred, setting the case down and pulling out the top, moving around behind her to kiss the back of her neck. "You may put the rest on, pet," he rumbled deeply as he placed the translucent silk bra and tied it into place, leaving the still swollen lower pair loose.

Tes stepped forward with the grace of a natural leader and Custos turned to sensual intent before she slipped into the matching set of light blue harem pants and made a slow, graceful twirl for her master.

"Very nice," he rumbled, leaning back on the bed to watch her, as a mischievous grin quirked the corner of his mouth. "Mmm ... very nice indeed," he purred. "Now ... convince me to take you the way you want me to." He demanded, his body betraying how easy that would be.

She smiled slyly and stepped through a slow, erotic dance for him. Her tail moving constantly to conceal what was between her legs from him as her hands played down her body, starting with her nose, down her throat and across her shoulders to cup and fondle each set of breasts in turn, making sure each nipple was hard and dribbling milk before she moved lower.

It wasn't long before he reached out and grabbed her wrist, interrupting her dance to pull her back to the bed. He shifted to pin her under his powerfully built body as she half-rolled onto her back, licking her sex from the bottom of her wet slit to her clit, then continuing up her body, cleaning the milk from each teat on his way up to kiss her heatedly

She squirmed and moaned and cried out for more, shamelessly begging for more, for him to take her, to sate his body in hers.

He took his time, rubbing his body against hers, his barbed cock playing along her slick lips as he teased her and savored her moans. Finally, he shifted to spear her body with his shaft, groaning into her mouth as he sank deeply into her hot, welcoming sex and started to pound into her.

Her legs opened even further, her body clamping down around him, relishing every prick and scrape that came along with his unlubed cock and the thick fur that crashed against her clit with each thrust. She whimpered into his mouth as he pinned her hands to the bed and she came hard.

Doruth groaned deeply into her mouth, pumping his seed deep into her spasming sex, pressing himself as far into her as he could while she continued to milk his cock and cry for more.

Instead, he pulled out of her, purring deeply as he stood and reached down to take some of their mingled juices on his fingers.

"Roll over," he ordered her, licking one finger clean, enjoying the taste and scent of their mating as she obeyed. Her rump high, her legs still spread and her head resting by her hands on the bed as she trembled in anticipation, her tail waving over her back in invitation.

He reached down, brushing the mix of their juices on her sensitive nose before he went to open one of their drawers, pulling out some silk ropes and an odd muzzle before coming back to the bed under her watchful gaze, her eyes nearly black with desire and her entire body trembling as he took his time binding her feet to the bed. She made no resistance to the muzzle; one she knew could have a gag added to it. It was nearly enough to make her come without him touching her again.

"Such a pretty she-wolf, all tied up and eager for her Master," he rumbled, moving her hands and tying them behind her back, pressing against her body from behind and nipping at her shoulder.

"Yes," she whimpered, her breath heavy and hot, her knees shifting to open her sex even more.

"You want me inside you again, don't you?" He asked rhetorically.

"Yes, Master." Tes moaned, looking over her shoulder at him with pleading eyes.

"Mmm ... you still talk a little too well through that muzzle," he rumbled, moving around in front of her. "I suppose we'll have to find something to plug you up with, hmm?" He pressed the tip of his cock to her lips, reaching down to rub her ears and shoulders possessively as she eagerly shifted forward as much as she could to take him into her mouth and work his barbs with her soft tongue.

He purred loudly as he slid forward, pressing his shaft into her mouth and leaning his head back with a deep, lusty groan. He started to thrust into her mouth, not going nearly as quickly as he could, but letting her work at his length with her tongue and teeth. She had enough skill, and knew him well enough, to make it a delight to allow her to pleasure him even when he was dominating her.

Besides, there was something about the sight of his strong-willed mate bound helplessly and gagged by his cock that was very enjoyable.

After all, she'd put him in similar positions often enough the past couple years.

His breath quickened along with his thrusts as he felt his balls beginning to twitch, ready to spill their contents into her hungry muzzle.

It didn't go unnoticed, and Tes eagerly began to suck on him, adding pressure to her efforts to draw him out again.

It was more than enough; he let out a roar that felt like it rattled the walls of their room as he sprayed his seed into her mouth, his fingers tightening in the thick fur on her back as he emptied himself into her mouth has he had into her sex. She took it easily, swallowing what she could and letting the rest dribble out the sides of her muzzle while she continued to caress him with her tongue and mouth.

After a few moments, he pulled out, still breathing hard as a few drops of his seed fell onto the sheets.

"Good girl," he rumbled as he got off the bed, picking up the gag that went with the muzzle. "Now, I'll just put this in ... then we'll see about plugging up the other end, hmm?"

She made an eager sound, the gag limiting it to a rumbling mumble, but her wagging tail conveyed what little her body didn't. He chuckled, climbing onto the bed behind her and pressing his body against hers, taking her scruff in his teeth possessively as he slid himself into her stretched sex, quickly getting back to the punishing rhythm they both enjoyed so much when she was like this.

"Mmm... Tes? You awake?" Doruth asked the next morning, nuzzling his mate affectionately.

"Mostly," she rumbled and turned her head to nuzzle him back.

"Mmm... I think we'll keep this outfit around," he rumbled, ghosting a hand over a silk-clad thigh. "Though I do have a question for you, before we get distracted again.

"Good," she rolled over to kiss him, rubbing her entire body along his. "The question?"

 "Mmm... any objections to letting Fen and Jay meet the pups later?" He asked her, purring as he rubbed her back as she gently pushed him to his back to straddle his hips and rubbed her sex along his balls and sheath.

"Nope," she leaned forward to kiss him as she ran her hands up her broad chest. "*After I'm done with you."

"No arguments there," he rumbled deeply, returning the kiss and pulling her close.

"Master, may Fenrik and I have the free time to go on one of the White Star cruises?" Jay asked Essani politely as the pair ate dinner while Fenrik meditated with his lightsaber.

"*White Star?*" Essani asked him, briefly trying to remember the name. It was a fairly high-end line of pleasure cruises, she remembered. "*I assume you're planning on paying yourself?*"

"Yes, Master." He nodded easily.

"This will only take a week, yes? An in-system cruise for the most part?"

"Easily kept to that," he nodded agreeably.

"*The week I could see,*" she nodded. "*I have to catch up on the dealings of the Council during my absence, and file the appropriate reports to get a team sent out to look for Meskin. I will expect you to be ready to resume your studies the day after you return, of course.*"

"Thank you Master," he smiled with a nod and began to review the options with the White Star computer net.

"*You're welcome, Jay,*" she nodded. "*Just let me know which cruise you're planning on taking once you and Fenrik have decided.*"

"I will, Master." He grinned and ate a little faster, eager to surprise his lover with the trip after a rough mission.

Fenrik walked back to his room about an hour later, his steps more confident than they'd been in a long, long time. He opened the door to the quarters he was sharing with Jay, moving back to their bedroom as he realized there wasn't anybody in the front room.

"Jay?" He called, opening the door. "Now what are you up to?" He asked with a chuckle, recognizing the mischievous look on the younger tom's face as Jay walked up and kissed him.

"What do you think of a little vacation?" Jay purred.

"Mmm... I suppose it depends on what we're doing to get this vacation," Fenrik chuckled. "After all, the last one ended up being a little awkward."

"A one-week White Star cruse with just the two of us."

Fenrik's response was obviously surprised. "You're kidding, right?"

"Nope," Jay's grin widened. "Just have to choose which one."

"C'mon, Jay," the Panther frowned slightly, "you can't be serious. Even if Essani would let you off for a week, how would we pay for something like that?"

"You know I mess around with equipment, right?" He nuzzled his boyfriend and urged him to sit down at the desk as the computer brought up their choices.

"Well yeah," Fenrik nodded. "Jay... you didn't mess around with a credchip or something, did you?"

"No," he rolled his eyes. "I only do that if I'm desperate. The Temple lets me keep a percentage of what my inventions bring in as incentive to keep it up. My patents are making them a small fortune already."

"And you've got enough to pay for a cruise?" Fenrik asked a little dubiously. "Just how much do your inventions bring in?"

"My cut is up to almost two thousand a month, and I've been earning something since I got here." He explained with a gentle smile and kissed his cheek. "It's a little early, but it's a nice six month anniversary event."

"Mmm... are you sure you want this?" Fenrik asked, turning to kiss Jay lightly. "After all, I won't be able to kick anything in to help with it."

"What else do I have to spend it on?" He scritched Fenrik's chin. "There're toys and there's you."

"You'll spoil me at this rate," the Panther muttered good- naturedly. "Mmm... so," he continued, drawing Jay onto his lap to look at the screen with him. "Which of these look good to you?"

"All of them," he chuckled a bit and leaned back against Fenrik's powerful chest with a content sound. "It's not like there is a bad choice in the lot."

"True," Fenrik chuckled. "Mmm... so, I suppose the question is if we want to go somewhere with nice sites to see, or somewhere we won't miss much if we spend most of the trip in our quarters," he winked.

"Or this one," Jay brought up a simple five-day cruse who's main note involved 'clothing optional adults only'. "Assuming Master Essani wouldn't glare until it went away." He snickered.

"Uhm... Jay?" Fenrik raised an eyebrow and tapped the holo-display where the words 'adults only' were displayed. "I don't know about you, but last I checked neither of us qualified."

The statement actually made Jay blink in surprise as its truth sunk in. "Hadn't thought of that, really. I don't usually have trouble with it."

"You usually have Tes along with you when you're going somewhere in the real world," Fenrik pointed out with a nuzzle, "and when you're shopping on the hypernet, they usually assume you're old enough if you have your own money. As much as it'd be a blast," he smiled, "we probably don't want to take that sort of chance."

"And Master Noloth would probably have a coronary if he found out a couple Padawans were on that kind of pleasure cruse." Jay snickered. "How about this one?"

"Might get him to take a vacation of his own," Fenrik smirked, nuzzling Jay's neck. "And that looks good to me. Enough sightseeing for us to enjoy, and a little pampering on top of it."

"How is Jay's combat training progressing?" Essani asked, keying in her move. One of her pawns stepped forward on the dejaarik board between her and the blue-furred Mouse sitting across from her, and she looked up at Master Yamari.

"Very well," she nodded and countered with a knight. "It is amazing how much easier he takes to training now that he has weapons that he has a natural feel for. He would have become proficient with a lightsaber in reasonable time, but he is advancing much more quickly, even though it is far more complicated."

"*I'm beginning to think that's normal for him,*" the kushiban chirped. "*He really does look at things in different ways.*" One of her own knights moved up and out of the way, a sequence of moves Yamari recognized from numerous games with the older Master.

"Which generally seems to work to his advantage," she considered her next move carefully. "How is he doing in other fields?"

"*Not as well, I'm afraid,*" Essani admitted. "*His telekinetic skills are almost dangerously advanced at times. I'm sure you remember the flying incident. Unfortunately, his more subtle senses are all but blind for now. It took him time and meditation to be able to feel the presence of the Dark Side in the very heart of Tulak Hord's tomb, just as a brief example.*"

"That is quite serious," Yamari murmured. "Quite unusual as well. Is it possible this will change as he reaches maturity?"

"*Possibly, certainly,*" Essani agreed. "*From the sound of it, his family's gifts are strongly tied to the 'Demon' and dealing with it. It's possible that, when he accepts his full technological gift, his gifts with the rest of the Force will follow. It may also be,*" she admitted, "*that he isn't necessarily full Jedi material in the long run.*"

"That would not be a conversation I would wish to be anywhere near," she said softly. "As hard as it is to send them away young ... it is so much worse when they fail the Trials."

"*I intend to broach the possibility before that happens,*" Essani said softly. "He seems to have the spirit, and most of the skills. Truth be told, with the gifts he does have mastery of, I would say he would be a fine Jedi... if being a Jedi only meant being skillful and having useful gifts."

"There would be many more Jedi if that was the standard." Yamari shook her head. "Do you really think he wouldn't take the Trials he could even if he didn't meet all the requirements?"

"*If he did I'd want to have medical make sure it really was him,*" the kushiban chirped, her fur turning a light pink with amusement. "*However, I would want him to know that not qualifying for all the Trials, or at least to pass them, is not a mark of shame, or of actual failure. He would be a fine addition to any of a number of fields; it's not like we only work with Jedi scholars, after all. Your move, dear.*"

"Very true," she nodded and moved a pawn. "Particularly when it is the innate ability that is lacking, not his dedication to his studies."

"*No,*" Essani agreed. "*Though I'm glad to say I have never had to caution him not to work too hard on them. He actually requested a week off to go on a White Star cruise, if you'll believe it,*" she chuckled. She cocked her head slightly, looking at the holographic board. "*I'm getting predictable,*" she mused, keying in a move that broke the sequence Yamari's last move had made too risky. A second pawn stepped out, defending the knight she had moved before.

"White Star?" She raised a slender blue eyebrow before focusing on the board and her options. "I didn't realize he was doing so well. With Fenrik, I presume?"

"*Yes,*" Essani nodded. "*And I did check on that; he's been saving up for some time apparently, and they did pick one of the less expensive flights. Though I have to say I wasn't surprised by some of their alternatives,*" she chuckled.

"Let me guess, ones that involve an age restriction for boarding," Yamari chuckled with a shake of her head.

"*And that they were both far too young for,*" Essani chuckled, cocking her head slightly as another of Yamari's pawns stepped towards the center of the board. "*You've been practicing,*" she said approvingly. "*At any rate, I arranged to have an eye kept on them. Turns out that the Razor Sisters were also on the passenger manifest, so I called in an old favor.*"

"Hopefully they won't end up getting too involved." The blue Mouse chuckled softly. "Fenrik at least is getting to that age he might notice."

"*Those two on a pleasure cruise?*" Essani chuckled, her fur shifting to a brighter pink. "*I don't think so.*" She stepped her knight up into the open, threatening some of Yamari's pieces, but easy pickings for her queen. "*If I'd thought there was a need for somebody to get actively involved, I wouldn't have asked two twi'leks like as not to be attached at the hip for half the journey.*"

"As if the boys aren't likely to be as well," Yamari cracked a grin. "The temperature goes up in any room those two are in."

"*A good match then, yes?*" Essani pointed out with a mental chuckle. Yamari's queen strode out to take down the offending knight, and Essani sprang the trap she'd been setting, her own queen avenging the fallen knight and laying in a position that would likely make the next move costly whatever it was. "*Though I doubt White Star would allow any trouble on one of their cruises. They do have a reputation to keep up, after all. Even the bounty hunters wait until their quarry is planetside.*"

"Which is saying something for the security on those ships." She nodded and studied the board carefully. "Not a bad place for two Padawans to stay out of trouble for a week."

"*Or for them to relax and recover after events that have been troubling for both,*" Essani agreed, her fur rippling with a mildly irritated red as one of Yamari's bishops moved to check her king. The next few moves progressed more quickly than the previous ones, the kushiban having little choice but to play into the Mouse's trap and try to repair what damage she could.

The game was going to prove somewhat longer than she'd thought.

"Wow," Fenrik breathed as he took in their 'room' for the week long cruise. "This is as big as Master Essani's entire quarters!"

"It's not like we'll get to do this often, might as well do it the best we can," Jay smiled warmly at his lover's reaction and let his pack slide from his shoulder and made for the separate bedroom.

"Gods know you've got that part down pat," Fenrik grinned, looking around the living room before he followed Jay to the bedroom."Y'know," he said, looking into the bathroom, "I think you could fit our bedroom in here...."

"Close at least," Jay purred from where he was happily sprawled out on the huge, plush bed. "It's real water too."

"I have a feeling you'll be spending a lot of time in here," Fenrik grinned, slipping his own pack off and stripping off the jacket he was wearing so he wouldn't stand out as much among the other passengers.

"With pools, hot tubs, really good food and a spa that will relax you in ways you didn't think possible? Not a chance." He grinned back. "Unless you're in here with me, of course."

"You are so going to spoil me," Fenrik grinned, pouncing on Jay and kissing him deeply as Jay wrapped his arms around his lover and kissed back with everything he had.

"That's the point, handsome." He purred and pulled Fenrik down against his body before claiming another heated kiss.

"Mmm... I'll have to figure out some way to thank you properly," the Panther grinned, shifting to lick Jay's neck.

"I'm sure you'll manage," Jay chuckled, then moaned softly as his shirt was opened and his lover moved down his throat to his shoulders, then upper chest.

"I'll certainly try," the Panther purred, licking one of Jay's nipples as he worked his shirt off and gave as much assistance to Jay's efforts to undress him as he could without breaking his efforts to make his lover whimper and squirm.

"I love that sound," he rumbled, nuzzling his way down Jay's body and starting to undo his belt and pants to let the erection he could smell inside loose.

"Me too," Jay breathed as he rubbed Fenrik's ears and moaned at the sensations of being nuzzled before he gasped at a rough tongue working the nubs that now existed to a quarter of the way down the hard length.

"Then let's find new ways to make you make it, hmm?" Fenrik grinned up at him, rubbing the side of his muzzle up Jay's shaft before he took the musky member into his mouth hungrily.

"Yesss!" He groaned, focusing on pleasuring his lover so he didn't come almost immediately. "69?" He gasped out.

"Works for me," the Panther grinned, removing the rest of his clothes quickly. He shifted to his side as Jay did the same with a nuzzle to his groin and took Jay's cock back in his mouth. It caused a rumbling pleasure that vibrated down Jay's throat to encompass the sensitive cock in his mouth as the pair raced to see who could be pushed over the edge first.

Master Zaian waited outside Master Demria's classroom patiently, waiting for the younger Panthress' class to finish. Before long, young students of various species started to filter out, discussing their progress in the basic Force techniques they were being taught.

Master Zaian stepped into the room, looking at Demria as she sat down to work on her reports for the day.

"So, how's the class doing?" She asked conversationally.

"Quite well, overall," she looked up from her papers.

"And your work with Padawan Aren?" the older Panthress asked, taking a seat nearby.

"Less so," she admitted easily. "He and Knight Parn are a pair." She shook her head. "Watch them in class or a sparring ring for five minutes and it is obvious Parn will be his Master."

"I've noticed it," Master Zaian admitted. "They just have to realize it yet. I think it would be best for both of them if they did so soon."

"Agreed," Demria nodded. "They are both very stubborn, even for Panthers. It may not be so easy to get them to."

"I wouldn't discount it entirely. Knight Parn is searching for a Padawan now. He could do worse than to take on one who is already partially trained, and I think he knows it. Fenrik... once he is ready, I believe he will see it as well. He is already fond of Knight Parn, I believe. He simply isn't ready to accept another Master yet."

"Not a surprise," she nodded easily. "It has only been a few weeks. Most are not ready for several months, though most do not have the close support Fenrik does either."

"No," Master Zaian agreed. "As... unorthodox... as the relationship is, his partnership with Padawan Clawson has helped him greatly through this."

"Yes, it is," Demria nodded. "Watching them, it is debatable which is benefiting more from the other. They make a strange pair, though they are strong. I expect to see impressive things from them as paired Knights."

"Agreed," Zaian chuckled. "Though they may be a while getting there. They'll be an impressive pair when they are though. And likely moreso if their pair becomes a trio. Definitely an unusual group."

"A Warrior, an Inventor-Warrior and a Healer," she chuckled softly. "A most unusual group to be sure, but a potent one indeed."

"One which hasn't been seen in a long, long time," Master Zaian nodded. "Though I hope it works out better than the last did."

"It would be hard for it not to," Demria considered. "I would also hope that living in a less dangerous time than a Great Hunt increases their survival rate."

"Consider how Master Kiris met his end, Demria," Zaian pointed out quietly. "Times might not be that much less dangerous by the time they are Knights."

"One must hope for the best, when one can not affect things directly," she countered. "It could be a random event. They have appeared before without signaling a rise in the Dark Side."

"They have," Zaian granted. "Still, hope must not be held to in the face of evidence to the contrary. Better to act to change things than to deny an unpleasant truth. We'll have to see how things develop. It has certainly made things... interesting."

"That I have no doubt of," she raised an eyebrow in curiosity. "Have you had a vision regarding the Dark rising?"

"You know that it's hard to see such things," Zaian said, shaking her head. "But I was at Pelgrin before hearing of Master Kiris' death. What I saw was... disturbing... if I interpreted it correctly. Which, of course, is always the greatest difficulty with the Oracle's visions. You can see things that no other seer could, but nine times out of ten you don't realize what they mean until after the critical points have all been reached."

"Quite true," Demria nodded. "What did you see?"

"A warm world, like home," Zaian said, leaning back and closing her eyes as she drew the vision in question to mind. "All trees and heat and oceans. It was a peaceful place, safe, but the people had gained their safety at the cost of their power to protect themselves. A great storm gathered on the horizon, but they had seen such things before, and paid it no heed. The storms would always blow away, or fade away before they had reached the secret villages.

"But this storm was unlike the ones they had seen before. It was no monsoon, no tropical rain and wind. It was a hurricane the likes of which could devour entire worlds. And, in the end, it did. When it met the jungle, ancient trees that had stood for millennia were ripped up by their very roots and cast aside. In the end, the storm did blow itself out, but not before it had laid waste to everything the people had created, everything they had been.

"The last thing I saw before the vision ended was a tiny lizard, crawling out from between some of the fallen trees, skittering off to look for a new place to live. There were more details, but that is what I recall now. I would have to review the notes I left with the seers at Pelgrin for the rest."

"At least something survived the disaster," Demria murmured, no more sure of it's meaning than the other Master.

"New life from the end of the old," Zaian nodded. "The most humble life surviving despite the death of the proudest. Unfortunately, it could be any of a number of things. All I am sure of is that the Republic is going to face something that would be charitably described as a cataclysm. It may be within our lifetimes, or ten thousand years or more away."

"If I would have to say, I expect it soon," Demria said quietly. "With all that is happening ... the terentatek appearing, a triad forming that is likely more powerful than the last, that we are training a Jedi who has a powerful Dark Side beast inside him somewhere ... something is building here."

"Agreed," Zaian nodded. "Though this would not be the first time Pelgrin's visions have proven misleading. Let's hope that this is such an occasion, until we have more proof, hmm?"

"Agreed," she nodded seriously.

"Agreed," Doruth murmured quietly outside the room. He'd been walking by after leaving his own class when he overheard the two Masters discussing Fenrik. Eavesdropping... well, technically it wasn't something he was supposed to be doing, but it was an old habit.

A bad one, to be sure, but so was pazaak.

He started walking towards the meditation chambers, planning on taking a little while to think about what they'd said... about Zaian's vision, and about his potential with Fenrik.

"You can do more than look," Jay commented off handedly as they pulled themselves out of the warm main pool to 'sunbathe' their fur dry.

"Huh?" Fenrik looked over at him, laying down next to the rusty-furred tom, honestly looking like he didn't know what he meant.

"You've been staring at her since we came out here," he chuckled softly and nodded to a striking Tigress a couple years older than them who's bathing suit left very little to the imagination.

Fenrik blushed beneath his dark fur; he had no need to look over to know who Jay was talking about, and he knew that if he did it wouldn't help his case any.

"Well, she is attractive," he pointed out, about to add a comment about her bikini, but thinking better of it. The pattern was almost a perfect match to her fur, making it look like she was almost naked except for the parts that were concealed to keep it legal on the cruise.

"Yes, she is," Jay agreed easily. "I don't mind if you play around with her."

"Jay, c'mon," Fenrik said, blushing more deeply. "Even if she was interested, where would we go? I doubt her folks would be too thrilled with it."

"We have a room too, you know." He said easily and relaxed into the rather dry heat with a sigh of contentment.

"You'd be okay with that?" Fenrik asked seriously, looking up at the artificial lighting of the ship. "I mean, it's our room after all; not that fair for me to kick you out of it."

"Okay, so I'm assuming she won't spend the night." He admitted easily. "That's my time. You could do a lost worse for your first female, and she is interested."

"And how do you know that?" Fenrik asked him, raising an eyebrow slightly.

"She's been staring back." He shrugged. "Since dinner last night."

"Okay, even if you're right... how would I approach her, hmm?"

"You seemed to have it down pretty well when we met." Jay raised at eyebrow at him.

"There wasn't anybody else around then," Fenrik pointed out, blushing beneath his fur.

"So get her somewhere deserted," he rolled his eyes. "Or stop drooling over her."

"Just remember this was your idea if it goes badly," Fenrik said, blushing as he got up and started back towards the pool.

"I'll be around to kiss everything better if it does," he promised with a seductive promise in his voice.

"Tease," Fenrik smirked back at him, turning to approach the Tigress sitting in the lounge chairs near the edge of the pool.

"Hi," he said, trying to control his nerves and remind himself that this shouldn't be any different from talking to a guy.

"Hi there," she smiled back and dropped her shades to look him over without a hint of pretence in her rich green eyes.

He recognized the look she was giving him, a little reassured by the fact that she was interested in him too, at least for now.

"Mind if I have a seat?" He asked her, nodding towards the chair next to her.

"Not at all," she smiled slyly, her eyes lingering on what his swimming trunks concealed. "Fenrik, right?"

"You have me at a disadvantage," he smiled and sat down easily, firm muscle shifting under his fur. She wasn't as muscular as most fems he knew, though that wasn't too surprising. After all, most of the fems he knew were Jedi in training or full Jedi. Still this one had a smooth, rounded body that was definitely pleasing to his eyes, and other parts he was trying to keep from commenting.

"Tesra Myshyne," she extended a hand graciously.

"A pleasure to meet you," he smiled, accepting the handshake and nodding his hand towards her with a smile.

"So what brings you over here, away from that cute tom that's watching?" She asked with conversational ease.

"That cute tom telling me I should quit staring at the gorgeous Tigress and say something," he admitted, blushing a bit beneath his rich black fur.

"Really," she raised a slender black eyebrow curiously. "I take it you are not a closed pairing."

"No," he answered easily. "Not that I take advantage of that too often," he chuckled slightly, "as you've probably guessed by now."

"Somehow, I doubt you have the time to," she chuckled softly. "He looks rather energetic."

"Let's put it this way," Fenrik chuckled, "he usually keeps up just fine despite having a girlfriend too. She's just been away for a while, or she'd probably be over there with him now," he smiled.

"A girlfriend?" Her eyebrow raised a good deal higher as she regarded Jay a good deal more carefully. "He looks a good bit young for that."

"It's complicated," Fenrik chuckled. "She's not a feline, for one thing, and for another, I think they're just about the poster children for the idea of soul-mates."

"Ah, yes, that can mangle all the usual rules," she nodded and relaxed back in her chair to give Fenrik a good view of her full breasts and flat belly. "So he wouldn't be game for a threesome then."

"I doubt it," Fenrik said, blushing a bit again. "They've got an agreement about checking with each other first. Though there's still plenty that two can do," he winked over at her, relaxing a bit more.

"Very true," she rumbled agreeably. "But it's usually a necessary concession with boyfriends."

"Doesn't have to be this time," he chuckled. "Especially not since he's the one who got me to quit being nervous and get my tail over here," he added with a grin.

"Now I will just have to find a way to thank him," Tesra murred. "I don't suppose he also offered your room?"

"Mmm... as long as you're not planning on an overnight stay," Fenrik rumbled.

"My folks would have a coronary if I tried," she rolled her eyes behind her shades and languidly stood. "Care to show me what he's taught you about endurance?"

"Are they going to come hunting for you any time soon?" He grinned, standing up and looking back over his shoulder at her as she gracefully followed his steps.

"Not unless I fail to show for dinner."

"We've got some time then," he rumbled softly, stepping to the side slightly and offering his hand to her. "Follow me?"

"My pleasure," her voice was silken as they moved off to find the suite of rooms that he shared with Jay.

"*Thank you,*" he said silently to the younger tom, leading the way and trying to act reasonably casual about it. He wasn't sure if he was succeeding, but he could feel the heat of arousal increasing for Tesra as they maneuvered through the halls until he unlocked the door to his quarters with a simple palm-swipe.

"Here ..." His voice was cut off with a grunt as she pressed him against the wall just inside the door as it closed and kissed him within an inch of his life, her soft, warm body against his hard one. Her hands worked down his body systematically, taking in every conture of hard muscle under thick fur before one came to rest cupping his groin threw his swim-trunks.

He groaned into her mouth, his own hands exploring her supple curves, so very different from any of the males he'd been with. He pressed into her hand as she rubbed and fondled him threw the silky cloth, encouraging his body to hardness quickly.

"Take it off," Tesra all but growled her pleasure when his hands got to her full breasts and kneaded them gently.

"With pleasure," he purred, reaching around her back to undo her top, setting it aside as his hands returned to exploring her breasts, his dark-furred fingers working her nipples dark-furred fingers working her nipples soft pink nipples to hardness while she claimed his mouth again.

Her hand briefly left his groin, only to return with exquisitely soft heat a moment later as she slid her hand inside his shorts to tease the barbs around the tip of his quickly filling erection.

"Mmm...." He groaned deeply into her mouth, working a hand down to caress the soft curves of her ass, moving around to the inside of her thigh.

"Can this come off yet?" He asked with a rumble, running his fingers along the line of her bottom.

"As long as yours do too," she rumbled with a playful nip to his jaw as she kissed down his throat.

"Any time you want," he purred, shifting to nuzzle her neck as she kissed the base of his. He hooked his fingers under the bottom of her bikini, pulling it down, inhaling her scent deeply.

He shuddered as his musky arousal mingled with hers when she pushed his shorts off his hips and let them fall to the ground.

"Now, where to start?" Tesra rumbled as she stepped back a bit to regard him with hungry green eyes.

"How about here?" He rumbled, reaching out to hold her hips, slowly kneeling, licking her breasts and nuzzling his way down to her fragrant sex.

"That works," she purred throatily and leaned back against the opposite wall she'd had him pinned against to spread her leg for his exploration.

He spread her white-furred pussy lips, nuzzling her clit and inhaling the scent of her arousal, feeling his cock twitch as he licked at the hardening nub experimentally with the bottom of his tongue.

"Ohhhh, yes," she moaned with a low shudder and slid her hands down to rub his ears. It was more than enough to encourage him to explore more, rubbing her legs and running his finger around the tight, hot, wet entrance to her body, so similar and so different from the toms he was used to. Not needing lube because her body provided more than enough was the biggest difference. As long as she was turned on, prep was hardly necessary.

And she was definitely turned on. But for now, he was going to wait to take advantage of that. He shifted to press his tongue into her, thinking of the things Jay had described in fantasies about Shi. He felt the instant she knew, rather than suspected, that he hadn't been with a female before. The heat and rush it brought to her moans and the touch along his head.

He started to lick her out, enjoying the differences in scent and taste and texture, trying to find things he could do that would make her moans louder, more pleasant. It wasn't difficult; she was an even more cooperative lover than Jay. At least until she tugged his head up and a searing kiss that tasted as much of her as him.


"Yes ma'am," he rumbled, moving towards the bed and pulling her down on top of him for a kiss no less heated than the last one and much more pelvic when she spread her legs and spread her slick juices along his cock as she rubbed against him.

"Mmm ... want to stay up there?" He asked her, cupping her breasts in his hands and fondling them eagerly.

"Yes," she grinned down and shifted forward as she reached back to guide him smoothly into her body with the ease of a fair amount of practice.

"Oh fuck," he groaned, his hips moving up to meet her body instinctively. This part he knew how to do; it wasn't that different from being with a guy, except for the slickness and musculature he felt around him.

And the smell that was driving him to thrust up into her as deeply as she'd let him.

Then she tightened her body around his shaft as she lifted up, plucking every single barb-hair he had with an exquisitely tight pressure around the rest.

"Ooooh...." He groaned deeply, gripping her hips, his balls twitching as he approached an orgasm. He shuddered as she picked up the pace, keeping the timing of her tightening to when she lifted up for greatest effect. He could feel how much it turned her on, the newness of these sensations to him.

It wasn't long before he let those new sensations carry him over the edge, his hot, thick seed shooting up into her sex as he roared and pulled her back tightly against him. He groaned and whimpered as she continued to milk him well past when his seed was gone and lifted her body up again. He couldn't help the way his breath hitched when she began to work her muscles in a pattern; first along the sides of his cock, then the top and bottom, then a ripple from top to bottom and back up. Even though she barely moved, it kept him hard and pushed him towards another orgasm.

This time, he was determined to make it last. He gripped her buttocks, kneading them and holding her as he started to thrust again, focusing a little attention on keeping the pleasure in check long enough to make sure she got off at least once before he did again.

He shifted his thrusts slightly, his barbs raking her insides as he tried to find her g-spot. He felt her shift as his intent did, a deep, shuddering groan escaping her throat when she got in the right position to make every shift and thrust an intense rush of pleasure that made quick work of pushing her right to the edge.

He rolled over on top of her to a bit of initial resistance from surprise. Then she wrapped her legs along his as he kissed her hotly and braced himself to start thrusting into her with his full strength, taking control and trying to push her over the edge as quickly as he could.

She ran her hands down his back, leaving deep furrows in his black fur before they came to rest on his ass to add a little more force to his thrusts. He drank in her pleasure as her self-control began to slip to a moaning shudder as she clamped down around him, her body fluttered around him with an unrestrained roar.

He rumbled deeply, enjoying the feel of her body spasming around his, but at the same time focusing on holding his own off. As her orgasm ended, he started thrusting again, nuzzling her neck, determined to prove just how good his endurance could be in the time they had.

"Mmm ... Tes?" Doruth asked, snuggled up with his mate, their pups sleeping in their padded mattress bed nearby. "What do you think of Fenrik?" He asked her softly, hoping not to disturb the pups.

"In what context?" She looked over her shoulder curiously, fairly sure he wasn't looking at the teen for a mate, which was the only context she could think of at the moment.

"In general," Doruth said, nuzzling her shoulder. "If you think you'd be okay with him being around more, that sort of thing. Want to know what you think before you're thinking about why."

"He's a good kit; you seem to get along with him very well. You have a lot in common too and I think you can help each other, either as Master and Padawan or just friends. He's younger than I'm comfortable with if you're thinking a male mate, but when he's a Knight, you'd make a great pair." She considered all the angles she had an opinion about and ran them down. "I'd have to see him around the pups to be sure about that, but I'd be surprised if it was a problem."

"He's younger than I'd be comfortable with if I was thinking of a male mate," Doruth pointed out, licking her neck. "I was thinking along the Padawan angle. I overheard a couple of the other Masters discussing it earlier... guess I've been considering it since the funeral, just never really thinking about it."

"It's probably scored you some points." She pointed out with an easy chuckle. "You're probably the only unattached potential Master that hasn't been trying to attract his attention."

"Mmm... so is that approval?" Doruth asked with a chuckle, nuzzling her neck.

"Yes, that's approval." She rolled over and snuggled against him. "Just be careful when you have to start coming between him and Jay. That's an explosive situation to walk into."

"Believe me, I've taken that into account," Doruth nodded, pulling her close. "Though it will have to happen sooner or later. With any luck, it won't go too badly."

"That it is you, may help it go better," she nodded. "Jay does care about you; he's more likely to accept your choices."

"Especially given that I'm not likely to make that particular choice without a good reason," Doruth agreed. "I'm not exactly one to talk about not having a mate, after all," he chuckled, kissing Tes lightly.

"True," she grinned and kissed him a little more solidly and rubbed against his solid body. "And one that will be coming with you on most missions too."

"Mmm... once I'm on missions again," Doruth agreed. "I'll talk with him once he's back. In the meantime...." He licked her neck, rubbing her back. "Think we can get away with moving the crib out for a bit without waking the pups?"

"I'm sure, since you want to." She rumbled and ran her hands down his body. "I think you're going to like it when they move out."

"Only when it comes to the sex," he rumbled softly, the crib rolling just outside the bedroom door silently. "I'm just not entirely comfortable with the audience," he admitted.

"I know, love," she reached up to embrace him with a soft, lingering kiss. "It's just still a little strange to me."

"Mmm ... one of us is gonna have to get used to it," he rumbled, kissing her back. "Or find a half-way point."

"I think that would be me," she chuckled easily and nuzzled him. "Up for a little subbiness?" She grinned and rolled on top of him.

"Mmm... it's a good thing that 'alpha' question was only a formality when it comes to the bedroom," he grinned, stretching his hands up above his head. "Right, 'Mistress'?" He winked.

"Right," she grinned and locked his wrists to the bed with an application of Force that worked for her this time.

"That's new," he observed with a grin. "Have you been practicing without telling me?"

"I had to have something to do while I was stuck in quarters." She smirked and began kissing down his chest as his ankles were also secured.

"Mmm... and just whom were you practicing this with?" He asked with a playful rumble, his breath catching a bit as her lower breasts rubbed against his shaft.

"Myself," she snickered and shifted to repeat to contact. "Pity you weren't around to take advantage of it, but such is life.

"Mmm ... and I have a feeling we're going to be making up for it for a long time," he grinned down at her.

"I take it went well." Jay's voice was a bit smug as he leaned against the bathroom door while Fenrik washed off the worst evidence of the past few hours.

"Like you don't know already," Fenrik grinned, showering off, their quarters still carrying the noticeable, and alien, scent of female arousal mixed with the male.

"Yeah, but I want to hear you say it." He snickered. "And details lover. You got to hear all of mine."

"And how do I know you didn't get to watch all of mine?" Fenrik teased, coming out of the bathroom and wrapping a towel around his waist, kissing Jay hungrily. "I still remember what you did with that camera last time...."

"There are no cameras in here," he pointed out as his hands roamed over the shower-hot fur. "Or you can just show me." He purred.

"Mmm ... later," Fenrik winked. "I'll tease you first," he grinned, turning and walking away, starting to set out a change of clothes, his swaying tail parting the towel and revealing the firm planes of his ass. "Would you believe she pinned me against the wall as soon as we were in here?" He asked.

"A taste of your own style," Jay snickered and watched his lover with hungry eyes.

"Mmhmm," the Panther rumbled, nodding and moving to put on just enough of a show for Jay to keep him well and truly interested. "We made out for a bit, undressed each other... damn she was eager," he chuckled. "Hot as anything too," he grinned back over his shoulder, "not that she was hiding too much when she was dressed."

"Which got her exactly the kind of attention she wanted." Jay chuckled and slid up behind his lover to run his hands down the Panther's broad chest and press his own eager body against his back and ass.

"Mmm... yep," Fenrik grinned. "I really do have to thank you properly for pushing me towards her," he rumbled, raising his tail between them. "I started to eat her out, but she stopped me. What she had in mind instead more than made up for it though," he winked back at the younger tom behind him.

"About what you have in mind to be on the receiving end of." He rumbled back and ran his hands down to tease the top of the towel.

"Mmm... well, I have been on top for the past couple hours," Fenrik grinned, rubbing back against Jay in a way that left no illusions about what he wanted. "Though I could still be mean and make you wait until after dinner," he winked.

"Somehow, I think that'd be nearly as hard on you." He snickered and stretched up to claim a kiss with both his hands cupping and controlling Fenrik's face.

"Mmm... true," the Panther grinned. "But I did get some lately," he winked. "Mmm... while we're out here away from everything, you want to try somethin' new?"

"As long as it involves you, me and sex." Jay rumbled and kissed him again, taking on a hungry dominance that was as rare in him as the desire to bottom and submit to another was in his mate.

"Mmm ... we have dinner delivered," Fenrik purred, turning in Jay's arms. "Then, once we've ordered, you have your very own pet Panther for the rest of the night...."

"I like," he grinned and licked his way into Fenrik's mouth as he claimed a kiss that gave no doubt he was willing and able to take on such a challenge. "But I think an appetizer is in order," he grinned mischievously. "After all, they'll deliver to the outer room, not in here."

"Oh I'd figured you'd go get it when it got here, I'd be waiting all nice and decked out for you," Fen grinned. "Maybe even replace the table for some of it," he winked.

"Oh you are in a playful mood." Jay couldn't help but giggle, though the idea was definitely appealing. "Any requests for the menu?"

"Mmm ... how about those Ryl shrimp I said you shouldn't eat the first night, for a start," Fenrik grinned playfully and felt his lover's heart rate spike. "From there, it's up to you, though you know my policy on meat."

"Yes, I do." Jay licked his whiskers back with a shudder of desire and pulled Fenrik back onto the bed for a tumbling kiss than ended with the smaller tom on top of his lover. "Order's placed. It'll be a bit."

"Mmm ... plenty of time for you to get started," Fenrik grinned, stretching his hands up above his head and tilting his head to expose his throat in complete submission to the tom straddling his hips.

"Yes, it is." Jay kissed his way down that thick expanse of exposed black fur with an occasional nip. He shifted to sit up and look down at his mate when the serving droid came in almost silently with a tray of objects, including a pair of cuffs that were soon secured to the headboard and Fenrik's wrists.

"Now when did you teach the droids to do that?" Fenrik asked with a grin and a purr, stretching out languidly on the bed to display his body to best effect.

"It's what I do," Jay chuckled and ran his hands down Fenrik's broad, muscular chest before he leaned forward to kiss him with a lingering passion. "And tonight, you are going to be what I do." He rumbled hotly.

"Mmm ... over, and over, and over again, I hope," Fenrik grinned, returning the kiss hungrily, sucking on Jay's tongue as they dueled and Jay rubbed their hard cocks together.

"I think that can be arranged." He rumbled and shifted down the Panther's body to lift his legs with a lingering touch along his thighs before a finger slid to circle his ass. "Play rough?" He half offered, half asked.

"Mmm ... as rough as you want, lover," Fenrik rumbled. "Though I want to be on my knees, cuffed, and sucking your cock before you let me go in the morning," he winked even as he felt a slicked cock press into his tight ass, opening him up without prep but with an intense rush of pleasure from Jay.

"Oh fuck," the Panther groaned, his ass twitching at the penetration. He strained against the cuffs, whimpering a bit as Jay's conical shaft spread him wide open in a single smooth motion. His lover growled in the rare pleasure and began to thrust, not taking a care for how quickly he came.

Fenrik squeezed down around his lover's shaft, his tight anus dragging along the sensitive nubs of Jay's length. He relished in the moaning shudders he drew from his lover, and even more the pleasure pouring off of him as Jay's control began to slip and he thrust faster, pounding into Fenrik's ass with abandon.

"Yes!" Fenrik cried out lustily, pressing back into Jay's thrusts, mentally begging him for his seed that came a moment later with a roar to fill his body with spurt after spurt Jay's hot come.

"Ohhh," Jay could only pant and grunt with each shift of their bodies that sent another jolt of pleasure along his cock.

"Mmm...." Fenrik panted, grinning up at him. "So... you've had your appetizer...." He winked, squeezing down along Jay's length.

"Yes ...." Jay moaned again and shifted so he could reach down to close his hand around Fenrik's full cock to stroke it as he began to thrust again, his lover's ass well-lubed by his come.

"Mmnh ... oh Jay," Fenrik groaned, thrusting up into Jay's hand, then back onto the younger tom's cock. "Please," he panted, his lover's fingers tweaking his barbs, "make me come!"

"Until you can't take it any more," he promised hotly and shifted until he found that spot inside that Fenrik had used against him so many times.

"Yeeeagh!" Fenrik threw his head back with a lusty cry as Jay hit his prostate, almost literally driving the seed out of his body, the thick, white juices staining his dark pelt in ribbons of pearly cream that stopped long before Jay was willing to.

Fenrik could only whimper in his helpless pleasure as his cock was stroked in time with the continued thrusts of his lover that were unlikely to take more than a momentary break for dinner's arrival.

The next evening, the Jay and Fenrik were standing on the observation deck as the cruiser's ion drives carried the ship back towards Coruscant. The stars were visible through the viewing windows, bright and clear in the black sky as long as they were looking away from Coruscant's own sun.

"Bet you're used to this view," Fenrik observed quietly, his arms wrapped around Jay from behind as the smaller tom snuggled back against him contentedly.

"Hu?" He sort of looked up at him. "Not in a long time."

"You miss it?" Fenrik asked him. "Being off-planet most of the time?"

"Sometimes," he admitted, his gaze getting a bit distant to see an entirely different set of starts. "Life's pretty good here. I try not to think about it too much."

"I was just thinking about it a bit. It seemed a little odd that you'd rather stay in the Temple, given that you grew up exploring the stars."

"That has more to do with avoiding temping fate by giving the Demon any more openings than I have to." He sighed and closed his eyes. "Being a warrior, an explorer and fixer is what I am; it's just very dangerous for the universe."

"You ever think of teaming up?" Fenrik asked him, nuzzling his neck lightly. "There can be a lot of exploring for scholars. You wouldn't have to travel alone, or face battle too often."

"Even if I never left the Temple, I would," he chuckled weakly. "My kind aren't meant to be solo. It's the one sure-fire way to have the Demon really win."

"A full partner, or just a mate?" Fenrik asked him, having thought it was the latter.

"Something in between, at least." Jay tried to find the words to explain something he knew by instinct and never really figured out how to explain to someone who hadn't been raised with the idea. "It's partners ... almost like what you think of it ... but as much as you've been trained to control emotions ... that's what lets us keep the Demon in check. A tie to the world so strong that nothing is worth loosing it."

"I think that's why we're usually supposed to avoid it," he admitted. "Because of the way a tie like that can control you... for your people, it's what you need. For most of us, it's a risk, especially the pain it creates when the bond is lost. But I'm willing to run that risk," he murmured, kissing Jay's neck lightly.

"We don't stick around past the last bond." He relaxed slightly into his lover's embrace. "And it doesn't have to be both ways." He added softly. "Just that I feel it. We don't have bonds the way you do."

"Maybe not," he admitted, "but there's enough of one there that I'd say Noloth would already be having kittens if it weren't for your circumstances."

"Probably," he squeezed Fenrik's arms. "Not that there is much to be done about it now."

"Nope," the Panther agreed, hugging him against his chest. "Mmm... wish Shi could be here too," he observed quietly, looking out at the stars.

"She'll see it sometime," he rubbed his cheek against Fenrik's chest. "This won't be our only downtime together."

"I hope not," he smiled. "Just wonder how she's doing out there, when she'll be back. You miss her more than you say," he chuckled slightly.

"I don't think I could say how much I miss her," Jay admitted with a sigh. "But it doesn't do much good worrying about her either. She'll make it back, or she won't. There's not much I can do from here."

"I'm sure she'll make it back, Jay," Fenrik murmured. "She wouldn't have it be any other way," he smiled.

Shivasta dropped back onto her bed exhaustedly, curling up into a blue ball on her new mattress. She'd just been released from medical, the Plague having run its course. She still hurt, her muscles tired and sore from weeks of convulsions and spasms. She'd insisted on walking back to her room; the staff that was still healthy was overloaded with cases of the Plague now that it was affecting the Healers as well. If they didn't manage to find out what was causing it soon....

She didn't want to think about that. Right now, all she wanted to do was curl up and go to sleep, forget about the agonizing pain, the scars she'd carry for life....

The fact that she'd gotten off easy, compared to some of the people who'd 'left' before she had.

She turned over in her bed. It didn't feel right. Everything had been replaced while she was out, everything that couldn't be sanitized properly at least. She turned on her holo-player, hoping there'd be a message from Jay. She could use one about now.

There were three waiting for her. There was an attachment on the first one and she smiled slightly, knowing what it probably was. She opened the message, fairly sure that she'd want to save the attachment for another night.

"Hi Shi. I hope things are going well for you." Jay's familiar voice and body appeared, dressed in his Jedi inner robes. "Doruth and Fenrik are off doing the male-Panther-bonding thing. I'm pretty sure it was set up to 'encourage' them to realize they're a good Master-Padawan match. They're already teaching classes together and everything. It's blindingly obvious to everyone but them. Even the other Panthers have accepted it from the gossip.

"Anyway, the movie's a bit long." He blushed visibly. "I didn't realize I'd turned the recorder on when I first played your last message, so you've got two unscripted solo rounds and two with Fenrik and me. He's probably not going to let me forget that anytime soon either, but I hope you enjoy the unplanned reactions.

"I hope to see you soon."

"Mmm ... I hope he doesn't let you forget," Shivasta chuckled slightly, bringing up the second message. She wished she was better able to comment on Doruth and Fenrik, but she didn't know either of them too well yet.

"Hi Shi," Jay greeted her with an expression somewhere between excited and scared. "Just a quick note to let you know I might not be very fast on the replies for a while. I got assigned to find out what happened to a group of lost archeologists with Master Essani, Doruth and Fenrik. She's saying it'll probably be a month or two before we're back at the Temple if it goes well."

There was one more message waiting… she opened it up, hoping it would include the results of his first field mission.

"Hi Shi," Jay looked a bit wiped out but glad all the same. "I hope you're okay. I miss hearing from you. We're back, everyone's safe and whole and the mission was a success. I'll send you a message with an update on everything in a day or two when I've settled enough to cover it in some kind of sense. It's been a long couple months." He dropped his eyes briefly before looking back up at her. "I love you Shi, and I miss you. Be well."

Shivasta reached up, turning the player off. She'd record a reply tomorrow... maybe there'd be another reply by then. She wondered what he thought, after this long without a word from her. The first messages had arrived the day after she'd nearly passed out in the halls. Months now without word from her... he probably just thought she was busy. He couldn't have seen the list of Jedi who were infected; if he had, he would have mentioned it in the last message... wouldn't he?

She shook her head, forcing the thought out of her mind. That had been the worst part of the Plague... the hallucinations that seemed to prey on every doubt, every sensitive subject.... For a little while, she'd been afraid that if she didn't die, she'd go crazy instead. Neither had happened, of course, but she didn't want to think about anything like what had occupied her mind during her illness.

She crossed her arms against her chest, squeezing her eyes shut and trying to get comfortable in her new bed. One finger idly traced one of the angry white rings that marked her arm, a physical reminder of how this mission had changed her. She'd have to wear her robes more often now.

"I love you too, Jay," she murmured softly. "Hopefully I'll be able to tell you in person soon…."

With that thought, she pulled the covers up over herself, feeling a slight chill as she tried to fall asleep.

"Something's changed," Jay murmured softly as he snuggled with his mate early on the fourth day of their cruise.

"Hmm? Like what?" Fenrik asked, rubbing his back lightly.

"You," he said easily. "You're more confident, at ease ... even more than when we first met. Like something that's been haunting you for months has finally let go."

"I guess it has," the Panther murmured as Jay traced lazy patterns in his black fur. "I've been thinking about when we get back a bit."

"Like what?" He nuzzled him affectionately.

"About getting back to my studies ... finding a new Master ...." He traced Jay's dim rosettes lightly with his fingertip.

"It wouldn't be a bad thing," Jay smiled softly and kissed his cheek. "I think you felt more at home on the mission than at the Temple."

"I'll probably still be at the Temple for a bit," Fenrik chuckled. "At least if this goes the way I think it will. I'd been thinking about it before we headed out here, honestly," he admitted.

"It'll be good for you to get back on track," he kissed him gently. "For all the break's been enjoyable."

"Mmm... which leaves the question of who to take as my new Master," he murmured, returning the kiss.

"I'm sure you'll choose the right one when it comes time to say it," Jay smiled slightly. "You're heart already has after all."

"Mmm... you think Doruth would be a decent possibility?" Fenrik asked him, kissing his neck.

"Yeah," Jay shivered and purred softly. "You've got so much in common, and face it; you work great together in the field and in classes. Even the other Panthers have noticed."

"Now I just have to hope he's still looking for a Padawan once we're back," Fenrik smiled. "In the mean time...." He grinned, licking Jay's neck suggestively.

"We have two days left here," he rumbled eagerly and ran his hands down Fenrik's hard body. "And nothing important to do."

"Party's over," Jay chuckled softly as he got out of the cab that delivered them to the Jedi Temple and he spotted Master Essani, her fur lightly golden in pleasure to see them.

"Yeah, but it's good to be back," Fenrik smiled, following Jay out as the kushiban trotted over to greet them.

"*Welcome back,*" she said pleasantly. "*I trust you both enjoyed yourselves?*"

"Yes, Master." Jay bowed politely to her, his pleasure audible and more centered and calm self a warm caress in the Force around him. "It is good to be back too."

"*Ready to get back to your studies?*" She asked him with a mental smile.

"Both of us," Fenrik nodded with a smile.

"*That is very good to hear,*" Essani agreed, her gold color deepening along with Jay's smile as he leaned against his mate with intense approval and pleasure that had nothing to do with their physical relationship.

"Yes," Jay all but purred. "It was a very good experience for both of us."

"*That's very good,*" Essani said approvingly. "*You'll be glad to hear that they're close to finding a solution to the problems in Necropolis,*" she added privately to Jay.

"*Excellent*" he answered privately, though how much he brightened got him a very curious look from Fenrik until the information was passed on.

"*There is some information I have to discuss with Jay, once we're back in our quarters,*" Essani told him, opening the band enough to let Fenrik know.

"I understand," the teens answered in unison, neither happy about the exclusion, but both accepting without question as they worked their way back to their quarters.

"*You may tell him afterwards, if you wish,*" Essani told Jay as they entered their quarters. "*I just believe you should hear this in private first.*"

"Yes, Master." He nodded more easily and handed his pack over to Fenrik when the Panther tugged on it with a silent comment that he'd unpack while Jay and Master Essani talked.

"*Sit down, Jay,*" Essani told him as Fenrik disappeared into their room to the instant obedience he usually gave her.

She settled down, looking up at him as her fur color shifted back to white.

"You are aware that some of the Jedi in the Necropolis system were infected with the Plague," she said, shifting to her native language, knowing he could understand her by now.

Jay nodded, almost sure where this was going but not willing to interrupt his Master with guesses. Even a guess based on just how few bits of news she would have any reason to deliver this way.

"Shivasta was also infected," she explained gently. "She has recovered, but Master Ursal and I agreed that it would be best to wait until she was recovering to let you know. I received word that she was being released from Medical while you were gone."

He nodded, his brain and heart quickly processing the fact that the danger was over and it was just a historical note now. As much as he hated being kept out of the loop, he had to agree with their choice as the best one. "Will she be well enough to continue as a Healer there?"

"If necessary," she nodded. "Physically, at least. From what we've heard, the Plague's effects on Jedi can have serious effects on the spirit of those infected, though Shivasta seems to be well so far. You should have a message from her waiting in your room, which is why I wanted to let you know ahead of time. There has been some scarring, not uncommon from what we've seen. She's rather sensitive about it, according to Master Ursal."

"Yes, Master." He nodded, running all that through his head and hoping that his messages to her had kept her spirits up a bit. He'd definitely have to make sure she understood he didn't care if her body was scared, that she'd still be attractive. He could probably help with it too, eventually, if it really bothered her. There were technologies available even back home to significantly reduce scaring, even when it discolored the fur over it.

"I just wanted you to be ready for it," Essani explained. "She may be coming home some time soon, if they can find the source of the Plague soon enough. She might be a little self-conscious, and this may have affected her personality slightly."

"Thank you Master," Jay inclined his head slightly. "I will keep that in mind. Even Healers need time to heal wounds. Maybe I can help her as much as I helped Fenrik."

"That would be good," Essani agreed with a chirp. She knew full well that helping both of them helped him almost as much; the events of the past few months would likely help them all become stronger with a little caution. "If you'd like, I'll let you go unpack and watch Shivasta's message. If you want to talk about this, now or after she's back, feel free to let me know."

"I will, Master." He promised with a bow and headed to his quarters where Fenrik was only just containing his curiosity.

"What happened?" Fenrik asked as Jay got into their room

"Shi caught the plague," he gave the brief summery and sat down at the desk to pull up the message waiting for him. "And knowing me as well as she does, Master Essani didn't let on until she was released from Medical this morning."

"At least she's okay," Fenrik murmured, sitting down near Jay and squeezing his shoulder as the holo-message turned on.

"Hi, Jay," Shivasta said with a slight smile. She was wearing her robes, long sleeves hiding her arms, the entire outfit looking significantly warmer than what she'd usually been wearing. "I don't know if you've heard yet, but I just got out of Medical last night. I'm just glad Master Ursal had called me in about working too hard; if she hadn't noticed it, it would've been hours before I saw anybody who would've noticed that I was sick. It ... might have been too long," she admitted.

"I got your messages. Good to hear your first mission went pretty well," she smiled. "Not that I doubted it had. I didn't get any of your messages until last night, so I haven't watched the private one yet... honestly, I wasn't exactly up to it last night, or quite yet. Sorry." She ducked her head slightly, and if the color had been better, he would've sworn she was blushing. "I will get it watched though. I could use a little... relaxation.

"At any rate... I mostly wanted to make sure I sent something back soon, after this long without saying anything. Gods I miss you, Jay. I love you ... hope I can say it in person soon." With that, the message ended, the hologram blipping out.

"Me too," he murmured softly and leaned back as Fenrik draped his arms around him from behind.

"She looks okay, at least," the Panther murmured, kissing his neck gently.

"Considering she just got out of medical on a plague world, she's looking great." Jay shifted to nuzzle him that turned into a kiss, though there was little denying that the news was starting to sink in and with it the rock in the pit of his stomach. "She'd probably have weeks left there if she was anywhere else."

"But she wasn't," Fenrik pointed out. "She's healthy again, and Essani says they've almost tracked down what's causing it, so she should be home soon.

"It won't be too soon for anyone." He murmured softly and hugged Fenrik's arms to him. "Especially now that you're ready for a Master."

"I'll have to talk to Doruth about that," Fenrik murmured. "But first, c'mon, I'll help take your mind off this."

"Well, he has been looking for one." Jay shifted to stand into the embrace and kiss him long and slow. "Maybe by our next vacation we'll all be ready to sleep in the same bed."

"Mmm ... that's up to her," Fenrik murmured, working Jay closer to the bed. "I think I'd be up for that."

"After that Tigress, I don't doubt it." Jay chuckled and pulled him down on the bed to run his hands down the familiar body and the pleasures it promised as a distraction.

Doruth bowed to his class before they started out of the room, standing up and looking to the back where Fenrik was talking with a young Iridonian who'd been having trouble with his defensive work. The older Panther chuckled as he heard Fenrik giving some of the same advice he'd given him a few months before.

"Do you think a little demonstration might help make it clearer?" He asked as he walked back to the others.

"No, thank you Knight Parn," the Iridonian said politely. "I think I understand now. I'll get some practice before the next class."

"All right," he nodded. "I'll see you then." The young boy hurried out, following his classmates as Fenrik and Doruth both looked at each other. They'd been working together with this class for months, ever since Fenrik had been ready to take on his duties again. Each knew that they'd been working together like Master and Padawan for some time now ... the next step was more formality than anything else.

"Padawan Aren," Doruth said, standing up a bit straighter. "I've been told that you feel you are ready to take on a new Master."

"You've heard correctly, Knight Parn," Fenrik nodded. "The pain is still there, but I am ready to move on with my studies."

"Have you found a prospective Master?" Doruth asked.

"I have, Knight Parn," the younger Panther nodded. "If you are willing, I would continue my training with you as my Master."

"I have not taken a Padawan before," Doruth pointed out. "We will both be learning while you finish your training." Fenrik smiled at him.

"Then we'd best get started soon, yes Master?"

"Just call me Doruth unless we're being formal," the older Panther chuckled, reaching over to squeeze Fenrik's shoulder. "Come on, let's go make sure they haven't added any paperwork and not told us."

"All right, Doruth," Fenrik nodded, easily falling into step behind his new Master as they left the classroom.

Master Ursal and a handful of other Jedi Masters worked their way slowly through the mausoleums and tombs of Wolf packs in the heart of the Necropolis system. The entire planet felt cold, lifeless, having long ago been abandoned as too full to hold any additional bodies, its 'inhabitants' being left to their eternal peace.

Or, at least, that had been the theory. They had tracked the Plague here, and sensors said that there was life here beyond the boneworms that infested most planets in the Necropolis system. Not far ahead, they could see their goal; one of the oldest Wolf tombs, its door wide open to reveal a musty, black opening to its twisting depths and the millions of billions of lives represented by the small portion of ash from cremating their head and a carved legacy in the rock itself where that bit of remains where housed, the rest returned to the life cycle of the land they called home.

It was a new tradition to the Wolves of the Republic, this saving any part of the dead, introduced by early contact with races to bury their dead and created monuments to them, but it was a concept that had very quickly taken hold and embraced with all the fervor of their more ancient ways.

"Why would anyone want to work here?" Knight Shor looked around at the ranks and names of thousands of generations of Jedi dating back to the very beginning of Necropolis.

"There is no better place." Master Xykress corrected the Leopard tom softly. "This planet has more death-energy than anywhere in the Republic, likely anywhere in known the galaxies, and this," the she-Wolf waved one silver-furred hand around to the names, each given the space not much larger than a hand, "is where Jedi Wolves have been interred since the beginning of Necropolis. What better place for a Jedi turned Dark to set up camp?"

"We don't know that it's a Dark Jedi yet," Master Ursal pointed out quietly as they walked into the tomb. The air was musty, but it wasn't stale, a sign that the door had been open for some time.

"*We do know it was Force-enhanced.*" Master Xykress slipped into silent communication mode almost on reflex.

They saw light from deeper in the tomb, near the heart of it. They could also see that a number of the names, those belonging to the highest-ranked Jedi 'buried' here, were defaced, scratched out or burned away. Some of them had even been broken open, the ashes inside stolen or scattered. It really made no sense as anything but an attempt to desecrate the tomb ... which seemed unusual for somebody who had dedicated their efforts to destroying the living.

It was enough to draw a growl from Master Xykress, her Wolven heritage infuriated before she got herself under control again and simply set it in her mind to see that it was repaired.

"*Breathers,*" Master Ursal warned them all, pulling her own close-fitting mask out and fitting it over her muzzle as the rest followed suit. "*I feel we're near the production area.*" They still hadn't found out how contagious the Plague was this way, but none of them wanted to find out the hard way. Finally, they reached a small room, lit by a small lamp that was trained on a datapad sitting next to a small supply of biological research supplies.

"*Trap?*" Master Xykress glanced at Master Ursal for a moment before lifting the pad with the Force and holding it for the two of them to figure out it's contents while the others carefully watched for trouble.

"*Blades on the side,*" Ursal confirmed. "*There's something....*" She frowned, her brow furrowing. "*Sith venom. This is all starting to make too much sense.*" She reached out, extending a claw to tap a button on the display and a robed figure appeared in the hologram that started.

"Well, you finally caught up with me. It's only been... what, three months?" The voice was raspy, tired and old. The hands were obviously a Wolf's, but they were drawn and gaunt. A lightsaber hung at the figure's hip, proof that they were facing Sith, or at least a Dark Jedi, when taken with the rest. "I have to say, I wish I could be there to greet you, but I have work to do elsewhere.

"You'll be pleased to know that there's an antivirus to my new Plague here; it's worthless as far as my original goals are concerned. I imagine one of you will probably be happy to hear that there's also an antidote to the poison I left on the pad. Or, of course, you could try toughing it out. Perhaps you'll prove yourself stronger than Ulic Qel-Droma was. If you do, and you're not, perhaps we'll meet again.

"It's really a pity I couldn't do what I'd been hoping to. It came close, but not quite close enough. Don't worry; I'm sure I'll find some use for the spores I have left. I'm sure the Ubese will be interested in a disease that can leave the Jedi helpless. Farewell, old friends. Good luck cleaning up after me." The message ended, and even Ursal was growling at the end.

But it was Master Xykress that was incensed. "So Knight Parn did not kill him in the end." She bared her fangs under the breather.

"This raises some disturbing questions," Ursal said quietly, getting her emotions back under control. "Whether or not he knows that being the first among them." She opened one of the pouches on her belt, holding it up.

"We'll need to take this back to our central operations. If he is selling the Plague to the Ubese, we'll need the cure as quickly as possible."

Shivasta settled into her room on the transport back to Coruscant. The Masters had brought back a cure for the Plague; all Healers who weren't needed to produce it were being sent back ... at least, that was the official story.

In truth, it was surprising how many of the Healers who "weren't needed" were the ones who had survived their own run-ins with the Plague.

So she had the room to herself, Master Ursal occupied back on Necropolis with mass-producing the serum. Nobody would say just what had happened, but she knew her Master well enough to know that it wasn't good.

What if something had gone wrong? What if there wasn't a cure? No ... they wouldn't be sending them home if that was the case; they'd be needed more than anybody else. It had to be something else.

And Shi needed to distract herself from it. There were a few hours left before they'd be back at Coruscant... maybe she'd watch Jay's video again.

She pulled out her holo-player and opened up the messages. She was about to open the attachment she'd saved when the alert came up that a new message had arrived. She opened it, sitting back and watching as she waited for it to start.

"Hi Shi," Jay smiled at her in the hologram. "A lot has happened in the last couple weeks. The big one is that Fenrik and Doruth have made it official. Though between Doruth's pups and Fenrik's mate, everyone is staying where they are as far as living quarters so I still have by big black pillow at night." He grinned impishly. "He's hardly complaining either.

"I'm looking forward to seeing you again. I understand they got the source of the plague and things should be under control soon. I hope that means you'll be home soon. Things are quieting down a bit, at least for now. I've made major progress on my 'saber forms too." He grinned with a bit of pride. "I hope you're feeling good enough to enjoy the extra recording too." He winked before the recording ended.

She smiled to herself. At least things were going pretty well there... and, a few hours more, and she'd be back home. She just hoped Jay would be okay with the... changes. She sighed and slipped out of her robes, getting ready to open the attachment, trying not to look at her arms as she did so; they were the worst, in her mind. Jedi weren't supposed to care about looks, she knew that the scarring was something she shouldn't be worried about... but she couldn't help it, not yet. It was just too strong a reminder of what she'd gone through.

She started Jay's video, settling back to enjoy it privately, and pass the time without having to worry about what would happen for the next few hours.

Shi quietly stepped into Jay's room, the temperature set for feline comfort in the mid eighties, and instantly realized just how much he'd dropped it for her comfort the nights she'd spent here. It was enough to make her sweat lightly already.

Still, she smiled as she saw her boyfriend snuggled up with Fenrik in the larger-than-usual bed. She hoped he wouldn't mind this ... she'd practically run down here from the landing site; she didn't want to wait any longer than she had to to be with him. She lifted the covers up, being careful not to wake him up, and slipped into bed in front of him.

Shi gently put an arm over his side, her hand resting on Fenrik's back. She kissed Jay's cheek lightly and settled in to get some sleep. She'd get the chance to talk to him in the morning. She couldn't help but feel a bit of pleasure when Jay shifted to embrace her and his nose nuzzled into her hair sleepily with a happy sound.

Another nuzzle came a moment later, his brain catching up to his nose in realizing that she was really there in his arms. Another happy sound came with a nuzzling kiss to her forehead.

"Shi?" He asked with a bit of a purr and cracked one eye open.

"Mmhmm," she murmured quietly, returning the embrace he was giving her. "Sorry, didn't mean to wake you up."

"It's okay," he smiled warmly and shifted to give her a gentle, lingering kiss. "Good to have you back." He rumbled throatily, her empathy giving her a good idea just how much of an understatement that was.

"Good to be back," she murmured, returning the kiss. "I love you, Jay," she added softly, rubbing his back reflexively as he kissed her again.

"So get these off and I'll drop the temp a bit for you so you don't sweat to death." He kissed down her neck with a light tug on her robes.

"Mmm ... I'll get the temp, and move to the couch in the main room so you two can get reacquainted," Fenrik offered, kissing the back of Jay's neck and rubbing Shi's side lightly. "Good to have you back, Shi."

"Thanks, Fenrik," she smiled, blushing slightly as the Panther crawled out of bed and grabbed his robes on the way out, dropping the temperature in the room down a few degrees towards the lower end of Jay's comfort zone.

"He is something else," Jay purred and hugged her lightly; his bare fur a marked contrast to her full robes as he kissed her again, lightly brushing his tongue over her lips, asking into her mouth to really taste her.

She parted her lips easily, melting into the touch she'd been hungry for almost since she'd left Coruscant, clinging to Jay almost desperately as she took his tongue into her mouth.

"May I feel your skin?" He asked as they parted briefly, trying to be considerate no matter how badly as he wanted her naked next to him.

"I-if you want," she nodded slightly, shivering a bit despite being warmer than she liked. "Jay... did they tell you about everything?" She asked, shifting to undo her robes.

"No," he admitted quietly. "But I know it left scars," he ghosted his fingers along her arms as they were exposed, "and that they bother you."

"Just... touch, don't look, for tonight... please?" She asked him, enjoying his touch as she removed her robes. "I just want to be with you tonight, without having to think about what you'll think when you see...."

"Shu," he crooned and kissed her to silence, his hand roaming her familiar body that had been absent for so long. "Let me make you feel good, at least for tonight."

"Please," she asked him softly, kissing him deeply, her fingers roaming through his back-fur. "You've put on some muscle," she murmured softly.

"It will continue," he shivered at her touch and kissed down her neck, doing his best to keep himself calm enough to truly indulge her body with everything he could give her. "Your skin is so soft." He murmured as his mouth found a breast to kiss, lick and suckle on lightly until she moaned with an honest touch of arousal.

"Oh gods I've missed you," she groaned, rubbing the back of his head and scratching his ears lightly while he continued to kiss his way down her body, lavishing every inch of skin with as much attention as he could.

As he reached her belly he slid one finger lightly between her legs to test her readiness for more.

Her lips were already moist, smooth and cool to the touch as usual, but fragrant with her arousal and juices.

"Please," she murmured, spreading her legs and scratching the back of his neck in just the right places to make him want to give her what she was asking for.

Jay groaned and spread her lower lips as he shifted to sink into her cool body for only the third time. When he was buried up to his sheath, his body already trembling in pleasure, he claimed her mouth gently and hugged her as he rolled to his back, giving her full control of how fast this went. It also gave him both hands free to roam over her smooth skin and pleasure her in other ways.

She moaned, tightening her body around his and just enjoying the feel of having him inside her, against her, after months of just dreaming about it.

"Oh Jay," she murmured, kissing him hungrily and starting to move up and down his shaft slowly. She could feel just how close he was, just from being inside her and how hard he was trying to hold back until she'd had at least a little more pleasure. This even as her nose finally made her realize that he still reacted like this to her after having been with Fenrik until they were sated.

"Gods," he moaned with a tight shudder and thrust up into her, his hands on her hips as they felt each other's bodies in a welcome embrace that had less to do with the pleasure than it did with reaffirming that they desired each other and their pleasure.

"Go ahead, Jay," she murmured, kissing him deeply, inhaling his arousal scent, moving her body along his shaft eagerly. "Go ahead; you'll give me more later."

He shuddered once and settled his hand on her hips as he thrust up once more, harder, before he let go with a deep groan and shot the first ribbon of come deep into her body; a splash of burning heat against the entrance to her womb.

She gasped in pleasure, hiding the slight wince as she was reminded just how hot his seed was, how hot he was. She pressed close to him, kissing him hungrily, running her tongue along the sharp tips of his teeth as he shuddered and groaned into her mouth, his body spent for the moment.

"It's good to have you home," Jay murmured and embraced her against his chest.

"And so good to be here," she murmured softly, hugging him close, squeezing her eyes shut. "There were times I was so afraid I'd never see you again," she murmured softly, pressing her face against his neck while he held her just as tightly.

"But you were strong enough that you are here." He murmured and stroked her hair. "You survived."

"I had to," she said softly, kissing his neck. "It worked both ways."

"Yes, it does." He murmured agreeably, content to relax with her in his arms and their bodies joined until she wanted more.

Shivasta woke up the next morning to the feel of Jay's quarters, hotter than she normally liked, but welcome for what it meant. She was back home, in bed, with Jay.

She could take the room being a little warmer than she liked for that.

She twitched a bit at a ticklish sensation on her back. As she realized that Jay was the source of it, she felt a chill run through her. She grabbed her robes, laying half off the bed, and tried to pull them up over her naked back as quickly as she could only to find strong hands stop her and bring the clothes back down to bed.

"Shi ... please don't be afraid of me." He said softly, his hands gentle for all the strength he had used.

"I-it's not you," she murmured, wrapping her arms around herself almost protectively. "It's losing you."

"Over your coloration?" He looked at her, unable to help the frown of confusion for all he tried to be sensitive to her fears.

"The change," she said, trying to put into words something she wasn't entirely sure she understood herself. She trusted Jay enough not to ditch her because she wasn't as attractive, if he even thought of her that way. This was something different, something she couldn't explain to herself, let alone to him.

"I'm not surprised it changed you." He said gently. "I've had a pretty eventful six months myself." He tipped her chin up to look her in the face. "But you don't feel much different."

"Feel how?" She asked him softly, fighting the urge to turn her face away from his.

"The way it feels right when you're around," he tried to explain something nearly as elusive. "The way you care, you're presence. You're still you, Shi. You feel like the same person."

"I... I am," she nodded. "Just... right now, every time I see them, I think about how I got them. I'm a Healer... this isn't supposed to happen, I'm supposed to help, not...."

"Be the victim?" He half guessed. "Shi, everyone is bested sooner or later. You came out of it alive. That's one hell of a triumph."

"Not make it worse," she murmured. "Jay, I was seeing patients the day Master Ursal noticed, patients with healthy families. That's before you look at all the other people I might've managed to infect before then, just because nobody noticed, because I didn't notice. And then I got out of it alive, when not all of them did...."

He sighed. "There is nothing you can do to change it." He said softly but firmly. "You were hardly the only Healer who had that happen, and not all of them made it." He tipped her face up. "I'm sorry it hurts you so much, but I am glad you are alive to feel that guilt."

"You don't think it was my fault?" She asked him softly, her eyes saying plainly how badly she needed his answer.

"For caring too much?" He could only shake his head. "No, what happened is not your fault."

"At least somebody doesn't think so," she murmured, drawing him close and pressing her face against his neck.

"I'm sure no Healer believed that," he murmured as he held her tightly.

"It's... complicated," she murmured. "Jay... just hold me for now? Don't want to think for a while."

"Anything you want," he agreed easily and nuzzled her hair as he held her against his chest.

Doruth frowned mentally as he sat outside the Council's chambers, waiting for them to finish their current meeting so he could find out why he'd been summoned to talk to them.

Was there some sort of technicality he'd forgotten about taking Fenrik on, some sort of additional approval he needed to get first?

No ... he was fairly certain that wasn't it. Still, there was an exceedingly short list of other things it could be, as far as he knew. They were probably just getting ready to send him on a mission somewhere, though they'd usually say that if they were.

Nothing to do but wait.

"*Knight Parn.*" Master Shan's deep voice called him in.

He stood, the door sliding open to let the emissaries from Onderon leave, and him enter. He could tell just by looking around that either the last meeting had gone very poorly, or he was here for something very serious. It didn't help his uneasiness that the entire Council had assembled, a rare event at best when it wasn't of importance to the entire Order.

Either option was a bad, bad thing.

"Tell us what happened when you last encountered Master Zykell." The Dobbie's expression was unreadable, but the entire scene spoke volumes of something being very serious, and very wrong.

Doruth frowned. Why were they asking about this again? They'd already gone over this time after time....

"I had just returned from my solo mission and been sent to meet him on his return to Republic space," he answered, going over the sequence of events again. "I didn't sense the change in him until our ship arrived at Dantooine. He turned the ship's defenses against the crew, killing all of them, and started to bombard the planet from orbit. He destroyed the Jedi Enclave there, and many settlements." He paused, holding back the pain and anger he still felt when he thought about his Master's betrayal.

"I was forced to fight my way through the ship's defenses to the bridge. When I reached him there, we fought... he nearly defeated me. He stopped to try and turn me to the Dark Side, and nearly succeeded. I beat him in the fight that followed, and started the ship's self-destruct sequence, destroying the console before running. I managed to reach the escape pods and jettison just before the ship blew up with him on it."

The Councilors exchanged the slight glances of an intense telepathic exchange, the Force heavy with their thoughts despite the content being shielded.

"*What was his condition when you left the bridge?*" Master Noloth leaned forward slightly, his reptilian eyes piercing Doruth's very soul. For a moment, Doruth was tempted to throw up a few extra defenses. In the end, he decided against it; he didn't have anything to hide from them, for all the intrusion put him on edge.

"Dead," the Panther answered, meeting Noloth's gaze. "He'd taken my lightsaber through the chest. I would have brought him back to face the Council's justice otherwise, but with the ship ready to blow up in a few minutes, I didn't take the time to bring his body back."

"*That would explain his apparent age.*" Master Essani said softly, not shielding her voice from him this time.

Master Shan nodded and brought up a holo-message in the center of the room, this time the robed figure at life size thanks to the equipment there.

"Well, you finally caught up with me. It's only been... what, three months?" The voice was raspy, tired and old but utterly unmistakable to all but one there. "I have to say, I wish I could be there to greet you, but I have work to do elsewhere.

"You'll be pleased to know that there's an antivirus to my new Plague here; it's worthless as far as my original goals are concerned. I imagine one of you will probably be happy to hear that there's also an antidote to the poison I left on the pad. Or, of course, you could try toughing it out. Perhaps you'll prove yourself stronger than Ulic Qel-Droma was. If you do, and you're not, perhaps we'll meet again.

"It's really a pity I couldn't do what I'd been hoping to. It came close, but not quite close enough. Don't worry; I'm sure I'll find some use for the spores I have left. I'm sure the Ubese will be interested in a disease that can leave the Jedi helpless. Farewell, old friends. Good luck cleaning up after me." The message ended and the Council focused on the growling Knight who claimed to have killed the speaker. They could all feel the storm building inside him, held back mostly by a thin veneer of training and their expectations.

"This was retrieved on a datapad laced with Sith venom." The Dobie informed him.

"The sensors said no more escape pods were fired," Doruth said, trying to keep his anger under control. "How could the... how could he have gotten away, especially in the shape he was in?"

"That we do not know, but he is clearly still alive behind the plague on Necropolis." Master Shan said, at ease that Knight Parn had not been aware of his former Master's survival.

"*Alive or a Ghost.*" Master Essani added quietly.

"Either way, he's caused more deaths," Doruth said softly. "Damn it...." Part of him wanted to ask permission to go, to hunt him down and stop him before he could cause any more damage. Unfortunately, that part of him immediately ran headlong into his responsibilities to Fenrik and Tes both... and into the fact that he knew what part of him really wanted to be involved in the hunt. A part of him he'd been forcing into submission for almost a decade now.

"Yes," Master Shan nodded slightly. "The hunt in Uba has already begun. He will be dealt with."

"Yes, Master Shan," Doruth nodded. "If I may ask a question?"

"Yes," the Dobbie nodded easily.

"Did the Council seriously believe that I knew he was still alive without warning anybody?" Doruth asked.

"It had to be considered," Master Noloth said simply. "You do not have the most stable past with the Order or the Light."

"*This is too serious not to look into even unlikely scenarios,*" Master Essani said more gently. "*Including that I could have missed if your rejoining the Order was part of a plan with him.*"

"I hope you're convinced that I didn't know anything about this, then," Doruth said, inclining his head and accepting it. It was true, what both of them were saying. He just hoped Noloth's opinion had been in the minority, though he knew that if their concerns had been proven true it would have been Master Essani that he needed to fear. Between his association with Fenrik, and through him her own Padawan, and that it was her final call on whether he was allowed to rejoin the Order four years before. She was his strongest supporter now, but she was fiercely loyal to her Padawans and her calling. "I might have have troubles, but never to that level."

"Yes, we are." Master Shan inclined his head. "Is there anything you can add to our knowledge of Zykell, knowing that he is still alive?"

"He doesn't just want to kill Jedi," Doruth said, thinking back. "His attack on Dantooine aside, the message he left and his use of Sith poison suggests that he wants to corrupt instead ... to turn Jedi to his path. It's what he tried to do during the attack as well, just on a more... personal scale. He'll try to find some way to destroy the Order from the inside, preferably by forcing the Jedi to serve as new Sith. His threat about the Ubese... he may follow through with it, I wouldn't put it past him, but he would have another goal.

"Most of you knew him longer than I did," he admitted, "but even as Jedi, he stressed having more than one desirable outcome for everything you did, planning ahead so that even a failure would further your missions. It seems he hasn't changed his spots."

"So you do not believe that his primary goal was to obliterate all life with this plague?" Master Bas'rath asked him; her multitude of tight braids swaying as she leaned forwarded to assess him in this new role.

"No," he said, shaking his head. "I've... heard some rumors, about the Plague, but I don't know how many of them are true," he said cautiously. "Rumors that suggested the Plague was modified with Dark Side energies. Is this true?"

"Heavily modified by them," Master Karyk nodded. "Almost certainly under the guidance of a Dark Sider of some skill and power."

"Which Master Zykell would qualify as, I'm sorry to say," Doruth nodded. "There are several Dark Side symbiotes that I've encountered, either in my studies of Jedi lore or while I was traveling a few years back.

"The one I'm thinking of was called an Orbalisk, ran into it in the hands of an old cultist from Onderon. They're a crustacean native to Dxun, which Master Zykell has visited before. The poison they inject is deadly to most people. But in the veins of somebody strong in the Dark Side, it gives them strength, and the Orbalisk itself can actually serve as a devastatingly effective armor.

"If he modified the Plague virus to be something similar, the victim would either die, or turn to the Dark Side, similar to a victim of Sith venom. Either way serves his purposes, though turning them would be more effective, especially if a Dark Sider who carried the Plague was not only immune, but benefited from it. I suspect it may have been too lethal for his tastes, and not effective enough at turning victims, explaining his 'failure.'"

"*We do know that survivors do not turn, but it is very debilitating between the hallucinations and lengthy recovery time.*" Master Essani commented, almost to herself. "*If it had been slightly more virulent, it could have wiped out the Healers as an effective force.*"

"Any thoughts on his likely next target?" Master Bas'rath asked.

"That I don't know," Doruth admitted. "He mentioned the Ubese, but that might just be trying to piss us off. After all, it's not like they'd be any less likely to kill him than they would and other Jedi. Whatever he tries, it'll probably be big. After all, the two plans of his we know of involved starting a system-wide epidemic and trying to reduce a planet to rubble. He doesn't play for small stakes."

"He never did," Master Ryul shook his head. "Not even as a Padawan. He would be on the Council by now if he hadn't turned."

"When he is found...." Doruth trailed off, not sure about the question he was going to ask, but deciding to move on with it. "When he's found, will the goal be to capture him, or to finish it?"

"Capture is always preferable," Master Shan said simply. "Particularly with one known to escape death."

"Very well," Doruth nodded, keeping his own opinion of that to himself. This time, he did put up a little extra shielding, his surface thoughts focusing on counting the light beeps of Master Kareth's datapad. "Are there any other questions?" He asked politely.

"No," Master Shan consented.

Master Ryul considered the younger Panther before speaking. "One as strong as he is must die carefully to prevent him from remaining as a Force Ghost. Such preparation is best done here."

"True," Doruth nodded, knowing that this would likely lead to a lengthy debate amongst the Council. He was distinctly glad he wouldn't have to be a part of it. "If the Council does not object, I have to go arrange my Padawan's lessons."

"*Go,*" Master Essani sort of smiled at him with a rather bemused note in her voice over what Master Ryul had just begun. Doruth bowed politely, then turned and left quickly.

It was going to be a long day for everybody.

"Jay, you don't have to do this," Shivasta protested quietly, laying on her stomach on his bed, her arms crossed beneath her chest as she wished she could at least pull the covers up over herself without overheating. He'd dropped the temperature a lot, even more than usual, but it was still quite warm to be under anything.

"I know," he said easily as he knelt on the bed and tugged her arms out from under her body and set them over her head so all the visible results of her fight with the plague were in the open. "I want to make you feel better."

"And this is supposed to do that how?" She asked him, looking over at him with her deep blue eyes.

"To give you something other than Necropolis to think of when you see them," he said softly as his hands ran over the skin of her back that was now shaded from white to her natural blue. "And maybe convince you that it doesn't look bad on you."

"I know you don't think it does," she sighed slightly, even as she tried to calm down and let him work. He could feel the tension in her body, every muscle in her back wound up more than he liked. If he'd felt like this, she'd be scolding him for a week when she found out.

"Now it's just you that needs convincing," he leaned over and kissed the back of her neck. "You are far too tense."

"Jay, would you be saying the same thing if they were battle scars?" She asked him pointedly. "And I know I'm tense...." She sighed, shaking her head. "I shouldn't be, but I know I am."

"They are battle scars, Shi." He said firmly and ran his fingers lightly down her spine, earning a pleasant shiver. "You fought no less hard to come away with them than any warrior on a traditional battlefield. They mark you as a survivor. I know the determining factor for Jedi to survive the plague is the will to live. Not other Healers, not when it's found and treated, but how much you wanted to come out alive. It's something worth being proud of."

"Then why does it feel like I screwed up?" She asked softly, almost more to herself than to him.

"Because you're a perfectionist and this didn't go perfectly." He said more than suggested.

"Like you're one to talk," she pointed out, regretting it quickly. "Sorry," she added softly.

"I am one who can talk," he countered easily. "Because I know what it's like. You'll have your chances to work on me."

"I can't just turn it off, Jay," she murmured softly, groaning as his hands worked the tension out of her back. "You know that as well as anybody... it just isn't that easy."

"I know, Shi." He said more gently. "But you can't ignore it, it won't just go away."

"I know," she admitted. "And with the weather getting warmer again I'm going to have to get used to it fast," she sighed.

"Maybe I can help with that a bit," he murmured softly. "There are very light fabrics that can be made to look like our robes."

"If we can set that up it might be good," she admitted. "You know what I usually dress in during the summer," she chuckled slightly. "Comfortable, but... not sure if I'm comfortable with being that revealing yet."

"Yes, I do," he murmured and kissed his way down her spin. "A little covering can make a big difference in how comfortable you are."

"Yeah," she admitted, enjoying his touch. "Ooh... Jay? It really doesn't bother you, or Fen?"

"No," he said gently, his hands running up her back on each side of her spine. "Neither of us are a solid color. It's just not something most felines worry about."

"Oooh...." She whimpered slightly, her muscles loosening under Jay's hands. "You two were born that way though," she pointed out with a murmur.

"If either of us gets shaved, you'll see what I'm talking about." He half-chuckled. "Fur doesn't always grow back the original color."

She actually giggled at the thought of that.

"Mmm ... I think you'd each look a little silly shaved."

"We'd be miserable, cold and itchy as hell too." He sort of chuckled. "It takes a couple months to get back to normal, and it looks weird in the meantime."

"Mmm... probably pretty embarrassing too, from what I've heard," Shi murmured. "So we'll just have to try and keep either of you from needing to get shaved."

"Mostly it's embarrassing because it can look like mange or ringworm. Those are bad things to go out in public infected with. Doctors back home have gotten good at doing IVs and incisions without having to shave, or at least shave anywhere public." He sort of rambled as he started to look at the overlapping circular patters of different shades of blue, grey and white. "But the patterns that can grow back afterwards can be quite exotic once you get used to the new look."

"You're trying to make a point, aren't you?" She asked, looking up at him with a bit of a smile. "So you wouldn't rather have me back the way I was?"

"I'd prefer it yes," he wouldn't lie. "Does this make you any less desirable to me? No."

"I'll try to relax about it a bit more," she murmured, half-turning and reaching up to caress his cheek, drawing him down for a kiss. "Thank you, Jay."

A Heritage of Power 3: Jay's Story 3: A Triad Formed?

NC-17 for M/F and M/M
Het Level is MediumHet Smut Level is Low
Slash Level is Slash Smut Level is Medium
Femslash Level is None
Herm Level is None

610 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Finished
Written February 4, 2005 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Karl Wolfemann

Setting: Star Wars (Furry)

Primary Races: Bear, Ice Walker, Kat, Kushiban, Panther, Wolf

Contents: Furry. Het (M/F). Slash (M/M). Relationship (Established), Romance (Teen), Sex (BDSM), Sex (First Time), Sex (Rough)

Pairings: Doruth Parn/Tes Ramaris, Jay Clawson/Shivasta Stormwarden, Jay Clawson/Fenrik Aren, Fenrik Aren/female

Notes: If you have issues with reading about early teen sexuality in fiction, please check out now. It is in abundance and graphically depicted here.

Blurb: It's an eventful year at the Jedi temple as the first true triad in a thousand years forms around death, birth and biology not quite ready for it.

Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.

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