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

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

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 Initiates 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 Initiates; 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 Initiates split off into pairs.

"We'll be starting with basic blocks and strikes for now," Doruth explained. "Initiates 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 Initiates 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 Initiates, 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 Initiate 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 Initiates 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 Initiates 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."

Go to Part 1         Part 2         Part 3        

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

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

204 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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