When you're worried about the final exam, Thrawn may be just the teacher you need. Maybe.
"... And that's how it almost exploded at my face! I wouldn’t have thought a simple mouse droid could be this dangerous. J.C what do you think about this?"
"(y/n) put down your datapad."
"Fascinating, Eli. A really… Enthralling… Story…"
You suddenly get back to reality, realising you are in the cafeteria with your datapad almost taped to your face. Eli seems pretty annoyed by you, to let him speak uselessly in the void.
"What are you even reading?"
"I'm just revising our classes for this semester." You answer, getting back at your screen.
He rolls his eyes with a sigh.
"Maker, I thought you would be more fun to be around given your nickname, but you're like Thrawn." He teases. "No, you're even worse than him, he has the decency to stop when it's time to eat."
"I wouldn’t need to do it if I were like Thrawn, believe me." You laugh.
"What would you not need to do if you were like me, exactly?"
You jumped when Thrawn's voice resonated behind your back. One day he will give you a heart attack. He sits next to Eli who tries to make you stop.
"She has been glued to her datapad since last week. Impossible to get her to drop it."
"I don't want to fail the Final Exams, that's all." You start to get irritated, there is no need for drama over such a petty thing.
"Your grades are already good, you don't need to worry about this exam. Come on, shut it down and eat, you didn't touch your plate."
Indeed you haven't touched it yet. The food must be cold by now but you still don't drop your pad. You choose to tease him back instead.
"I didn't know you were an overprotective mother Eli. You are supposed to look after Thrawn, not me you know?"
You both laugh along while Thrawn keeps eating silently without picking up the joke. He must look like an exhausted father forced to supervise some troublesomes teenagers.
"Anyway, I don't simply want good grades, I want the best grades! I'm sure Thrawn will support me on this one."
"I am inclined to agree. To be at your best capacities in any field must be a goal for anyone."
"Ha HA!" You laugh triumphantly at Eli and steal him a bite of his meal as a trophy.
"But Eli is also right to tell you to take a break from your device. You are not doing yourself a favor."
"Ha HA!" Eli replies back and steals your dessert as revenge.
"In this case, why won't you give me a hand, since you know better." You ask sarcastically while taking back your fruit.
"If this is what you wish, I am happy to oblige." He answers without hesitation.
"Wait, really?" You honestly didn't believe he would accept, you can't say you associated him with philanthropy. "I thought you would keep studying and scrutinize humans through our art." You ask while exaggerating your gesture for a dramatic effect, trying to obtain a reaction from him.
He looks at you in the eyes as he always does, without blinking at your act.
"There is nothing to prevent me doing so while assisting you. We can meet at the library tonight after your chore."
You consider his proposition, you asked this question to irk him but if he is serious about it why not benefit from the situation?
You turn to Eli.
"Is it okay for you Eli? Since you are supposed to assist-"
"I have no problem with this. Go on, work well!" He responded immediately, too happy at the perspective of one or two hours alone without Thrawn to "supervise".
"Well, in this case, I accept your generous offer, Thrawn."
"Very well, let us begin."
At these words, Thrawn snatches the pad out of your hands.
"Hey! What are you doing?!"
"I want you to stop studying during break times." He states while turning off the datapad.
"I can use those times as I want and I want to study!"
You try to take it back but he simply lays the device beside him on the bench, out of your reach. You let out a frustrated grunt.
"Why do you care?!"
"Pauses are scheduled for a reason, Cadet (y/f/n). If you constantly work while you should let your brain recover, you will learn a mixture of irrelevant and useless informations. Forcing yourself is counterproductive, good work comes with good methods." He preaches.
"Oh that's rich coming from you!"
Eli stays silent, careful to not bring himself into the fight. His expressions worried more and more every time you raise your voice.
"Would you care to remind me what we studied at the beginning of the week?" Thrawn inquires with his composed voice.
"Of course, we have seen the Williamson Maneuver for large ships." You respond confidently, crossing your legs.
Judging by his unimpressed expression, you have misplaced your confidence.
"Cadet Vanto, if you please?"
"We studied the Titor hyperdrive model... For large ships." Eli looks at you with "sorry" speld in his eyes.
Damn it! The maneuver lesson was last week, John Titor invented his model of propulsor after to make it easier.
You cross your arms over your chest, displeased by the turn of the conversation. In front of you, however, Thrawn is content with himself.
"Now that the point has been made, eat please. This is not the first time that you neglect to feed yourself, as Eli pointed out."
This is with those casual remarks that you remember he has eyes everywhere, especially on those who are somewhat close to him.
Bless Eli for what he must endure all day long, he surely has it worst.
"Could you give me back my pad?" You ask, exasperated.
"I will return it to you once the noon break is finished."
"Oh come on!"
You walk down the corridor in silence, passing by other students going about their daily business.
You're apprehensive of the next hour. It will be the first time you will be alone with Thrawn after your little discussion in the classroom. Even though your relationship is now… let say cordial, the situation is less comfortable than what you’ve anticipated. You know he won’t try anything, but you can’t muffle your inner voice telling you to stay on your guard around him.
As you enter the academic library you are immediately welcomed by the familiar sounds of keyboards and murmurs. Each step you make resound inside. You absorb yourself with the serious and studious atmosphere reigning here. Despite its factory's design and architecture, the library is still the least suffocating room of this Academy. You should try to come more often.
As you're wandering between the bookcases and the desks, you saw Thrawn in an alcove away from the main agitation, comfortably consulting a holobook on who knows what.
He notes your presence and closes the holo as he rose from his seat before you could join him.
"Thank you for arriving on time."
"Did you expect me to be late, sir?"
"I expected to discover it this evening. Please, take a seat."
You sat in front of his previous chair while he brought an old suitcase on the table. The latches are used and dislocated, even the insignia of the Academy graved in the case is passed. He opens it and takes out a demesne.
"Do you play Shah-tezh?" He asks, presenting the board to your eyes.
"I used to, some time ago." You respond, unsure of the meaning of all this. You were pretty sure you agreed on working your classes, not a game evening. "Does Chiss play Shah-tezh?"
"Indeed we do, Cadet (y/f/n). We possess our own version of the game."
"Nice! But what's the point? I thought you would help me to revise."
He finishes placing all the pieces and sits.
"It is part of the processus. We will play a game then we will study the theorics."
Your gaze travels between the board and him.
"You expect me to win a strategic game against you?" You ask, incredulous.
"I do not expect you to win, I expect you to progress. You may start."
After staring at the board you just place your Craft randomly, without conviction. He immediately responds with his Dowager and you realise you don't have much left of your previous games. You add your Beast in the mix before watching him slowly slide his Vizier all across the board.
"Checkmate. Two moves."
You stare at the corridor you opened for him during the game, dumbfounded by your own stupidity. A beginner's mistake.
You wiggles on your seat, out of shame. He doesn't say a thing as he replaces the pawns.
"Let us start again."
He politely invites you to begin the game and you innerly thank him for not bringing you down over… this.
You gather your thoughts and search for an idea. You place your Craft in the exact same position as later and wait for his reaction.
Ho this is a petty idea, but you can’t resist it.
He plays along and does the same with his Dowager. You place yours in the same case of your side of the demesne. He places his Vizier on the left side and you mirror him once again.
He squints at you and you smile back .
"You know you cannot win with this attitude."
"Who says I'm trying to win? I'm trying to learn!"
His eyelid twitches at your insolent answer.
He slides the Dowager of three cases and announces with a cold tone.
You sigh and let yourself slouch down your chair. Now you're just fed up and grumpy.
"You're not funny."
"I am not trying to, I am trying to teach you."
"It's a game!"
"It is a strategic game." He corrects you.
You see him place back the pawns again. Is he not down? What does he hope to achieve with all this?
"I don't see how becoming a Shah-tezh master will help me with a Final about theoretical subjects." You muttered.
"It will. You misunderstand my intentions, I will not make you a Shah-tezh champion but I will engrave some ch'af… I mean mechanisms in your brain that will help you think logically and with pragmatisme."
It's the first time you heard him stumble over a word, it's surprising coming from someone who likes to use delicate phrasing. You wonder if it's because Eli is not here to help or because you seem to get under his skin at this moment. Maybe both.
"But I cannot do this alone, I need you to work with me. If you do not want to use my methods, we will simply cease. But if you want to try my way, I will ask for your cooperation, this is not something I can do instead of yourself."
You roll your head and straighten your back. Okay, you will give him a chance, lets try it seriously.
"Alright, I will concentrate. But I really hope it's effective and you're not wasting my time!"
He starts the game this time, and advances his Disciple.
"Patience, (y/f/n). This exercise will come to fruition soon enough."
"Very good. This is much better than our first games." He states calmly.
"I still didn't beat you." You respond disheartened.
After a whole month, you didn’t find a way to break down his defenses, whether it’s in the game or in real life. But you feel like you're getting to know him better, little by little, your relationship is getting more relaxed.
You stretch your body from hand to toes, trying to crack your spine. After an intense dance lesson and two hours on the chair without moving, your body is completely numb. Thrawn raises from his seat with ease and starts to put the pawns away in the box, you feel a pick of jealousy for his physical condition.
"This is not the point of those sessions."
"Yes, but it is my personal challenge." A sly smile grew on your face. "To beat you at your own game, Sire."
"Do you think you can do it?"
"Don't you?" You blink.
He slightly shakes his head, closing the box.
"No, I think not.”
"Well thank you for your honesty, I guess…” You reply with an exaggerated strangled voice.
“There is no use to react in such a way, cadet (y/f/n). It was not an insult.”
“How? Then what was it, lieu-te-nant Thrawn?”
You imitate his posture, bringing your hand together in front of your face with your back and legs straight while scrutinizing him.
"It was a simple observation. From my analysis your talents led somewhere else. You would make an efficient ISB member."
"HA! No. Not even in dreams."
It was a thing to distance yourself from your Drug Lord grandfather and family, it was another to apply to the very organization that seeks them out.
He flashes you a smirk.
"How unfortunate. However if I judge by your recent feat in the storehouse earlier, you are more than capable in thief and infiltration."
"Hey, I did it for you and Eli! Either way you would have looked ridiculous without a proper uniform for the Gala. But if you prefer, I could use my infiltration talents to put them back and leave you to fend for yourself…" You tease.
He glances at you from the side and chuckles. He quickly covers his mouth with his knuckles as if it had escaped him.
You, on the other hand, were expecting a sneaky remark, not a laugh.
It is so unexpected, you are bewildered by how it sounds, so sparkling, so…
You are not sure how to react, you've never heard him laugh. You thought he didn’t.
You realise you have never seen him as a person of his own, but rather this aloof and cryptic alien only here to infiltrate the Empire.
Despite his intelligence, you've subconsciously deprived him of his person…
But this laugh sheds a new light on him. You imagine him smiling and joking along with his peers, maybe his brother or sister.
That's right, he had a life before getting here. He surely had friends, a family, dreams and aspirations, maybe even a spouse… His exile must have deprived him of so much more than his world.
And you, you were prompted to classify him as the stranger one, the Other one, because it made your life easier to keep the view simple and unnuanced.
Gosh, you deserve to be slapped sometimes.
He clears his throat, recovering his composure as quick as he could, but a slight grin remains.
"Come on... Do not be so radical in your threats. One day you may execute them. Let us move on to the theoretical subjects."
You observe him take a seat at your usual terminals in the library, his chest still shaking intermittently with the last laughters.
You like how he sounds, it's refreshing.
And his smile…
You will make an effort to understand him better, maybe you will see more of him.
Since your last dance lesson together, you're feeling weird.
You’re hot with sweaty hands, your thoughts are fuzzy, you stutter sometimes when you talk to…
It's happening again!
Get over it, damn it!
You try to concentrate on your screen, but you can't help yourself and look at him from the corner of your eye.
Thrawn is entirely focused on an article on his terminal. Straight and unmoving, his gaze travels on the screen as fast as his brain devours information.
You wonder if you could guess what he is looking at by analysing his posture… Since he doesn't deprive himself to do it to everyone else.
From what you've observed during those two months with him in the library he tends to join his hands in front of him while reading, he will fold them if he's analysing what he's seeing, if he watch a video he will keeps his legs parallel with his arms on them but will cross his limbs if he disagree with anything presented to him.
Currently, one of his arms is crossed over his chest while his other hand is resting on his chin… So he's not analysing, he's investigating.
He doesn't make moves to slide the screen, so not a text, and the shadows casted over his face are still, not a video either.
So he's scrutinizing an image…
You recall seeing some old tapestries on his datascreen earlier this afternoon, he must be studying the subjects further.
You keep observing him as discreetly as you could, gathering as much information as possible.
Fascinating how his hands are in comparison to his more muscular stature. With long and tapered fingers which balance out his noble and large palms, they appear elegant and delicate.
Now that you think of it, his hands were surprisingly soft in yours for someone who has trained all his life. Does he follow a routine or is it a Chiss adaptation from their environment?
He really has a superb profile…
"Is there something wrong, cadet (y/f/n)? Do you need assistance?" He asks you, out of the blue.
You blink in surprise, realising you were fixing him in complete silence for several seconds. You turn back to your screen confused, clearing your throat to give you composure.
"Nothing Sir, sorry Sir. I was just wondering what could captivate you like that… Sir."
"I am studying the necropolis plan of an early Togruta civilisation. I must admit, their sarcophagus made of cocoon and wax is one of the most intriguing funeral rites I have ever studied."
Because he studied a lot of funeral rites?
"What are you working on, Cadet?" He politely inquires, facing you fully.
"Ho, some battles simulations with randomly generated variables. I'm getting better at those, thanks to your teaching!"
You smile to ease any suspicions but your speech voice is higher than ordinary. You hope your answer satisfies him and give you time to appease the growing fluster in your bowels and mind.
You feel a weird warmth spreading as a mist through your body when he lays his eyes on you.
"Splendid. Let me see your progress."
He doesn't let you time to protest as he rises from his seat to slip behind you, his hands fold on his back.
Without a word, he observes your tactical and managerial skills in a battle of pixels where your hypothetical fleet must rescue and secure a freighter of explosives against two groups of separatists. A high coefficient subject in the final exam, and you couldn't give a single fuck about what was happening on the screen while he was standing this close behind your back.
You summon all your willpower to focus on your terminal, but your body is so tense it's stiff.
You're running on autopilot, blindly applying the manual's tactics. You try to shake you out of that state, but everytime you look at your screen the reflection of his incandescent eyes gets your attention and you lose track of the battle.
You had to bite your inner cheek to snap off of it and recompose yourself.
At the very moment you're finally concentrating on your simulation, Thrawn intervenes in one of your maneuvers.
"You are fighting two different groups of enemies. They have formerly agreed to form a coalition but they did not pledge allegiance to one another. How can you use those informations against them?"
You hesitate a moment, you thought he would have just watched how you were handling the mission and went back to his own screen.
Your mouth is completely dry when you answer.
"Hmm… I could harass one of their ships, pushing them to make mistakes against their allies and to fight each other?"
You see his reflection nods in approval, and you hear a little smile in his voice.
And like that, everything seemed easier, your muscles relax and you feel a surge of pride. You chide yourself immediately.
Something is definitively off about you. You need to take charge of your behaviour and mind.
But it is so pleasant to hear the warmth in his voice, you could indulge yourself a little.
Just a little.
You suddenly feel his hand on the backrest of your chair, cutting you off guard.
"There is a more efficient way to apply this tactic. Let me demonstrate."
Without further explanation, you feel him bend over your shoulder to grasp your mouse.
You are completely frozen.
He is so close your lips would brush his cheek if you dared turning your head.
Him, however, is stoic and focused as usual. His eyes directed toward the screen, his voice calmly details how to subdue your opponent with less casualty, but you're deaf to his speech.
All his words melt in a dulcet melody, you can feel his warmth reaching and diffusing through your body, all your inspirations are filled with his odor and it's spreading to the depth of your lungs.
You swallow with difficulty as your blood makes your cheeks go crimson.
Granted, you have already been closer than that when you teached him how to dance, but it was in context! Now, this just…
You're suddenly keenly aware of yourself, your sweat, your own odor, your body as flexible as a metal door…
How can he not notice? He prides himself on his abilities to read people and here?
Is he blind?!
Your toes curl when his arm grazes yours, you keep crossing and uncrossing your legs.
How can he keep talking so mundanely while you were on the verge of spontaneously combusting?
You swear, if nothi-
"Thrawn! Here you are. The librarian told me you had borrowed a holo I could use."
A boy of a different class just passed his head in the alcove, breaking the tension in the air.
Thrawn straightens up, still unaware of your inner turmoil, to help this other student.
"Which holobook do you need?"
While he proceeds to recommend a whole bunch of holos to this guy, who clearly didn’t know what he was up to asking him for help, you seize this occasion to release a breath you didn't realise you were holding.
You feel your blood so furiously batting in your temples you can hear your own heartbeat resonating inside your skull.
You carefully massage your temple while taking long and deep breaths
Slowly your heartbeat slows and you begin to calm.
A quick glance at Thrawn indicates he's still talking with the other cadet about something you didn't care in the slightest.
You decide to finish all your battles simulations then you will call it a day.
You stretch your body at full lenght with a deep sight.
It took you longer than what you anticipated, but at least you had time come to your right senses.
This lesson had been… exhausting.
Both mentally and physically.
As you ease the tension in your neck you study the library, coming to the realisation it was dead silent. The usual sounds of footsteps and keyboards are absent and the disparate lights of the buildings are on. No silhouette in sight.
You didn't realise it was so late already!
Why Thrawn didn’t warn you? He must be back to his room by now.
You curse yourself for your negligence. After this joke of a battle simulation he must have lost his patience for the evening and headed back to his quarters with his less embarrassing friend…
What are we both to him?
You gather your stuff while you torture yourself with questions.
You rise from your seat to leave and stop dead on your tracks.
Thrawn is still here at his terminal, hidden by your own.
He did wait for you.
His respiration is steady and calm with his hands folded on his lap, only his head slightly bent forward could be seen as unusual for him.
You carefully approach him, unsure what to do.
On one hand sleeping in this position is bad for the spine, on the other he looks so peaceful. You don't have the heart to disturb him.
After reflection, if you don't wake him yourself the librarians will do it, with less precautions.
You kneel to his side and try to wake him up as gently as possible.
"Sir? Sir. Come on, the library is hardly heated, you will catch a cold."
Really? A cold? For someone who originated from an iceworld?
You silently berate yourself.
His scent slowly reaches your nose once more, making you feel a little fuzzy once again . Under the smell of new leather and Iron, when you focus yourself, you are sure to perceive a familiar fragrance… like a forest after the rain.
You like it.
"Thrawn… Come on, wake up. We are the last one."
You slightly squeeze his shoulder but are only rewarded by silence.
He must be a heavy sleeper. It's funny, you would have bet the opposite.
The thought makes you smile as you study his face in more detail.
Even closed, the red glow of his eyes is still perceptible.
Your eyes lazily follow the lines of his cheekbones, then his nose before laying on his lips.
You stare at them a few seconds, your imagination running wild.
You wonder… how they feel.
How they taste.
Your mouth waters mildly at this only thought.
They are quite a tantalizing sight… really...
You bite yours with envy as you slowly lean toward him.
They look soft, and… inviting.
You wet your lips to soften them. Only one, like a secret. You close your eyes to savor the instant aND WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE YOU DOING?!
You jump away from him as reality hits you.
What were you thinking?!
Is that you now?!
A girl incapable of controlling herself to the point of taking advantage of a man during his sleep?!
Is that everything your former relationships had taught you?!
You're so ashamed you abandon the idea of waking him up.
You put your jacket on his shoulder to prevent the hypothetical cold and run off from the library in a mad rush without looking back.
You need to cease these sessions.
It's a good thing you didn't look back.
Who knows how to interpret that piercing red sight following you in silence as you escaped?
You have a gift to celebrate the promotion of a certain Grand-Admiral, the perfect time to reflect on your first encounter.
You were smiling to yourself inside your allocated cabin. You finally got the perfect present for Thrawn, one that you were sure he didn’t have in his private collection.
You have been chasing this piece for several months since you've heard of it and now you had it in your hands. You were proud of yourself, these items are rare nowadays and sold for fortunes at auctions… The same occurred in the black market, but threats supported by a Vice-Admiral’s plaque ensured you a decent discount. With the help of a few friends in the Ministry of propaganda your gift had been authenticated and restored in record time. Now you possessed a real museum piece, a witness of past times.
Despite the both of you being in your ninth year within the Imperial Navy, Thrawn had become your superior. He made a huge impression on you when he arrived at the imperial academy with the cadet Eli Vento. An unprecedented case! An alien and a rookie from the Outer Rim, popping in during the last three months of the formation and walking off as Valedictorian, with a rank of Lieutenant and a personal aid.
A lot of the military students were more than happy to strangle him and his rookie pal. Many both enraged and amused at this grotesque situation, how on earth could this blue freak could lead the imperial formation? Some of them decided to test the waters and see how far they could get with harassment, needless to say some got burned at this petty game and Orbar paid for all the others.
You weren't sure what actually happened. Some claimed after his humiliation at the metallurgy lab he sent a group of his friends to ambush and frightened the duo, others said they planned to kill them all along. Everybody added their own spin to the story : it was a fistfight, then someone murmured they all had blasters, Eli would have been wounded by a blade, then he wasn't even here in the first place…The story was a mess.
The real mystery started when the three aggressors simply vanished from the imperial academy. Nobody knew what happened and everyone held Orbar responsible, although behind closed doors, there were sordid rumors: Thrawn would have shot them and simply disposed of the corpses. Even worse, maybe he kept the bodies in his room to feast on his enemies
No need to be a genius to know that if someone came to die within an Imperial Military Academy the perpetrator would be punished in the most exemplary manner. Even Orbar with his high relationship network would endure a hard time, so an anthropophagic alien, alone and isolated…
But no, Thrawn was still free of his movements nevertheless, no odd and mysterious military task force came to dispose of him, so… Maker knows what happened to those boys!
Nobody actually believed those silly rumors, yet the thrill will always be more entertaining than the dull life in the army, and they still impacted the daily life of your friends, well future friends at that time, nonetheless.
Students were now removing themselves from his path, heads low and whispering behind his back, too intimidated by this strange being that seemed to disprove everything the Empire taught them about aliens. If Eli felt relieved and enjoyed his newfound peace, Thrawn still looked unbothered. In fact he always acts like that, whether he is despised or feared, as long nobody gets in his way he is imperturbable.
You talked about the rumors with Eli and his expression when you exposed the theories of your comrades was to die for! A mixture of surprise, shock and disbelief twisted his face in the most comedic way! You both still laugh about this conversation years later. He never revealed to you why or where the three thugs disappeared, even years later he just says it’s a mutual secret between him, Deenlark and Thrawn. Never mind that, you later discovered their students files in the database of Skystrike Academy during an official inspection shortly after your promotion to Commodore.
To this day, you were still fond of the way Eli talked about this "secret" between him and Thrawn. You were truly pleased by the turn of their relationship. Back when you were pushing yourself onto the duo, Eli just played cool to accomplish his duty of translator in the most peaceful way.Their dynamics took a hit when he learned his assignment under Thrawn's command instead of the supply officer position he wished. He terribly suffered off this situation, telling you he had the feeling Thrawn had robbed him of his life and choices. He was in the Academy because Thrawn asked for it and he was once again dragged to the other side of the galaxy because Thrawn suggested it. You sincerely believed it would end extremely bad between them. It wasn't the unique thing to poison their relation, Eli had the sentiment to be invisible next to him. From his alien nature to his military prowess, Thrawn tends to steal the spotlights, and Eli saw himself reduced into the role of puppet to the eyes of the others and they tried to utilize him as such… Fortunately, Eli is more intelligent than what they gave him credit for and he turned off the vultures.
It tooks several assignments for Eli to understand why Thrawn needed him at his side. If Thrawn had the brain, Eli had the guts! Thrawn is intelligent, yet all genius he can be, his tactics are solely based on his knowledge and understanding of the situation. One misinterpretation on his side and everything collapses, therefore, he tends to freeze in front of the unexpected and the vagaries. Put it simply, improvisation is not his forte. That's when Eli comes to the scene! Despite some alleged weakness in direct combat, Eli possesses an incredible survival instinct. He apprehends every situation with his tripes more than anything else, which confers him a significant advantage when hazard comes messed up and jeopardizes Thrawn's initial plans. His reactions are primal, instantaneous and effective. It has already saved you three several times and them both even more.
Time has passed since then, and you were proud of the man your friend has become. More assertive, even witty sometimes and a significant boost of self-confidence. His relation with Thrawn is now more balanced and fair than ever, and it shows during their missions together. Their trust in each other was heartwarming. They are an excellent team!
You missed Eli since his departures for a confidential mission near the Unknown Regions. Sent away by Thrawn, obviously.
What a character. Since you knew each other, he always profoundly confused you in… every way possible.
To be honest at his first day at the Academy, he made you laugh or rather you laughed at him. He was completely out of place, in so many ways. Because of his alien nature, obviously, but above all he was undeniably an already well trained and competent soldier… Why did he have to go back to a school full of angry and spoiled gremlins in their twenties?
How old was he at that time anyway? You think he was already approaching his forties, you couldn't be one hundred percent sure. His stoic face hardly gave away his age, and years barely affected him. You didn't have the same chance.
Anyway, after the entertainment he provided you the first day he arrived, you didn't care about it for some time. The other students may have enjoyed the luxury of losing their time to bully someone; you did not. You've worked hard to gain access to this school; you were now working yourself to exhaustion to be the best at graduation. Much like Eli, you weren't from Coruscant nor from the borders of the Outer Rim either. You were the "provincial" one, from a planet too far to be a part of the core worlds and too close to be considered exotic…
You couldn't count on a network like some of your comrades to enter the academy. You were granted a scholarship after your results in the Global Exam. This also meant your place in the hierarchy of students was low, and you were a victim of bullying. At least until a certain incident that will give you your nickname and build your reputation within the Academy as well.
So yeah, at first you didn't want to involve yourself with the two. You already had enough to do with yourself, but harassment at the scale of a class will ineluctably cause troubles within said class. Troubles that interfere with your work, therefore with your chances of success, and you couldn't tolerate it.
You were well aware of your reputation among your comrades but weren't afraid to play with it to be left in peace. So you didn't hesitate to intervene when you finally had enough of this whole situation.
One day at the cafeteria, Jamwest Cosblo decided he wanted a "friendly conversation" with the duo and went straight to them. From your place in the line, you couldn't hear the subject of the conversation, yet from the smirk or Cosblo and the decomposed expression of Eli you guessed he tried to impose himself as the new apex predator of the students food-chain now that Orbar was out of the league. Thrawn, always unshakeable, never raised his voice, steady and calm although Cosblo didn’t seem to care and started to get noisy. Apparently, he wasn't going to be satisfied by a simple chit-chat, and you started wondering how Thrawn could handle it. He couldn't reiterate his feat as in the metallurgy lab and Cosblo doesn’t believe in the virtues of diplomacy, you knew this firsthand, plus in a cafeteria overcrowd by bored young adults a quarrel between their new favorite and the feared pet peeve could escalated into a fight…
Your friends, in the line to be served too, started to lose patience and pressed you to get back on track, but it was a unique chance!
If Thrawn and Eli weren't accepted, they were at least tolerated because of the threat they represented. Meaning apart from some resentful hotheads like Cosblo, the mere student wouldn’t dare threaten them again. Cosblo, however, wanted to prove his power and influence by taking down those who ridiculed the former leader and avenged the three thugs whose status were still unknown at that time. His credibility was at stake. He will only achieve his goal if he succeeds against the primary menace, the blue alien who came to ruin the established order among the students. If he makes it and takes the leadership, the harassment will start again, worse than before for the other students will feel entitled to join the party. But if he failed now in front of his potential court, the duo should be safe from future assaults, and you could concentrate yourself on your studies.
Nevertheless, to be effective the situation must be solved by a student, not by the duo himself, either way it will just be a useless victory and not a meaningful action.
While you were actually curious to know what tricks Thrawn would have used in this situation, you decided to take the matter in your own hands.
You signified to your friends to not wait for you and to find them a seat already while you calmly head towards the blondie loudmouth. As you approached the conversation started to get clearer, Cosblo had stopped trying to be quiet a long time ago and drawn attention to them.
“I don’t know what artifice you will use against me, but it's not a stupid plaque that will prevent me from putting you back in your place, blueface!"
Haaaaa… Cosblo and his way of mincing his words, so peculiar. It is your personal gift to him, from a year ago.
"Am I to understand that you are ready to assault a superior over an ego competition?" Thrawn asked calmly. Despite that he had risen from his seat, understanding that logic was useless with a guy like Cosblo. He will need to use another language.
"Those badges only hold the power that we give them, and you…"
Cosblo drew his hand to Thrawn's chest. Oh oh!
"... Have no power here!"
Before his hand could reach its target, you grabbed his wrist, stopping him halfway through. He turned over to confront the one who dared to stop him and nearly choked himself while seeing you.
You could feel the venom and his unbelief dripping from his tone. As you weren't involved in any of this prior, he didn't expect to see you take action.
"I think that's enough, Cosblo."
"What? What do you care about? Go mind your own business!" He hissed.
"Believe it or not, this is my business."
He snatched his arm from your grasp and lowered his head to be eye-level to you. Something that pissed you off tremendously.
"Since when? If I recall you were pretty chill with us toying with them, why this sudden realisation? You want to play the hero? You want to buy yourself a clean and renewed conscience? Or maybe…"
He lowered his voice to manage his effect, you would have gladly ripped off his smug face but you were here to avoid a public combat. It will have to wait…
"... Maybe you're just sympathetic to them? Does it remind you of some bad memories that you need to cope? To fight against the baddies oppressors will make you feel better?"
He turned the crowd and announced dramatically.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, J.C the heroine we need but didn't deserve!"
Forget about the face, it's his tongue you will rip off. You waited some seconds for the crowd to stop cackling a bit and you seized his shoulder to force him to face you.
"Very clever, Cosblo. But I'm trying to save your head, here!"
He didn't respond, just waited for you to explain with a disdain stare on his face. You were testing his patience and even more, his power.
"Listen. I understand your concerns. Since these two appeared everything started to crumble on itself. But you can't continue what you are doing…"
Now you were the one talking with a low voice, as if you shared a secret with him. You quickly glanced several times at Thrawn's and Eli to see what they were doing. Eli was pushing away some curious cadets and Thrawn was sitting back on his seat yet fully concentrating on you both behind folded hands. His sight dissequated every mouvements, every voice inflexions… In his observation, his eyes lingered at your legs for a strangely long second before locking his eyes right into yours. You turned back your head immediately. You knew you were doing this primarily for yourself but now you actually believed you were saving Cosblo skin!
What sort of gaze was this? You could feel it burn the skin of your back while talking to Cosblo.
"He managed to erode Corbar's authority and get rid of his opponents without suffering consequences, neither from the Academy nor Corbar's family… You can't do that with a simple Lieutenant plaque, his support must come from far higher than what we are all used to!"
Cosblo remained silent but his frustration was evident now that he understood his prey out of reach, well beyond his power. However, he hated most to be scolded like a five year old by a fellow ensign in front of all your comrades. In his plans, he should have been adored and praised by said comrades right now, after administering a well deserved correction to the alien freak… Instead, he was standing like a stud while listening to you why he should retreat before the alien. He could clearly see the interest fading on the eyes of the crowd and was legitimately ready to leave it at that but you had to add something stupid.
"So don't be a moron and give up while everything can be forgotten."
"Don't give me any orders!"
He gripped you by the collar with such force you were lifted from the floor, so suddenly you didn't know how to react. His eyes were flashing and his words were even more chopped.
"I'm tired of your games (y/n)... You need to be reminded of your rightful place. I will also take this opportunity to avenge myself from what you did last year."
By instinct you reached a hand to your boot, but you suddenly fell to the ground. So hard the impact cut your breath. Raising your head you see Thrawn keeping Cosblo on the table by the skull, preventing him from moving.
"I am sorry for this rude action, but I can not tolerate violence between students, especially if it disturbs others."
You get up with difficulties, coughing to get your breath back. The former excited crowd was now mute and stunned, waiting for the next action. You could clearly see them questioning themself: should they intervene? Should they let you all in peace? You quickly realised some were looking behind you and you followed their gaze to see Corbar.
He was here the whole time?
He observed the scene quietly, contemplating the idea of getting back on the top, knowing the students will follow him.
But for what good?
Finally, he simply sat down again to finish his meal in calm, followed by Turuy and then all the students. Peace, it will be.
But not for you.
Turning back again to retrieve your group of friends, you just met crimson eyes fixed on you. You couldn't determine what emotion Thrawn had, yet you knew you're going to hate his next words.
"Cadets, follow me. I will bring you to commandant Deenlark, he will decide for a punishment adequat for your misbehaviour. Both of you."
You would rather be shot straight through the skull than facing Deenlark again. Maker, what have you done? Is this what you get for trying to help others? Cosblo didn’t act proud either, you peered toward Eli for support but he signaled you to play along with a reassuring smile. You complied before Thrawn takes a “rude action” against you to get you moving and followed with a low head, disheartened.
The four of you were heading towards the commandant’s office in complete silence, excluding some painful whines from Cosblo. His bump with the table has awakened an old pain in his jawbone. You would have felt sorry for him to have to deal with pain AND Deenlark but you were in this boat because of him. Everyone for themself!
You sighed and followed behind Thrawn. It was the first time you were this close to him, that you get the chance to inspect him in detail…
You estimated his height to be around 1m80, more than almost everyone here, with some rare exceptions. His posture was impeccable, how did he manage to be this straight all the time? His back must hurt a lot at the end of the day!
Let see… Despite the uniforme you could perceive broad shoulders, long and well developed muscles for his arms and back, his chest seemed toned and firm, and his legs looked strong enough to crush a bone. You guessed he was a type of guy who favored using an electrostaff or his bare fists than a blaster to fight. Cosblo was either suicidal or just stupid to think he had a chance against Thrawn in a one-o-one combat, at least the three thugs knew they needed to stick together to hold a chance.
"Huh?" You were distracted from your observation by a voice on your left.
"Thank you." Repeated Eli with a slight smile. "For your intervention. You're the first one to have said something."
"Oh! Well, your welcome. After receiving my reward I will make sure to never cross the path of your friend again."
"Everything is gonna be fine. Thrawn has the situation under control."
"If by under control you mean he's about to get me expelled, then yes! He got everything under control." You responded, sarcastically.
"No need to be bitter. I don't think he will support such an idea. As I said you were the only one who takes our defense and-"
"And it wasn't uninterested. Don't give me virtues I don't possess…"
"Maybe you had an idea behind your head, at the end of the day you took your stand against the mass for something you deemed unfair. He will take this in account while presenting your case to the commandant."
So this is how it appeared from a third point of view? Damn, you just wanted peace to work toward your graduation.
You had to query:
"In this case, why am I also to be punished?"
"You did involve yourself in a troubling peace bond situation, after all. Knowing Thrawn as I do, you should take this as a chance to defend yourself, he surely wants you both to have the opportunity to explain the core of the problem instead of Deenlark hearing deformed and exaggerated rumors of the incident. I mean, I think that's what he got in his mind…"
"Well tha-! ... Wait, that oddly makes sense."
It was indeed your best chance to bring all this to an end and to defend your case instead of passively accepting your punishment.
While you were reflecting on this, your group just got to an elevator and followed the most awkward moment in complete silence.
Enough time for you to determine another thing : Thrawn is hot!
In the most literal way!
Now that you were locked with him in an enclosed space you could feel warmth waves impossible for a human organism coming from him. He was irradiating the place. How high is body temperature actually is, 45°C? More? Why would his species need such a high body temperature?
And how Eli could stand 8 hours with him every night? Their room must be an oven!
You definitely wanted to tell a joke to break this stifling silence, but you advised yourself you'd better not… Too awkward.
You just cleared your throat, as someone does when they don't know how to break silence.
Which is even more awkward.
Why is this stupid elevator take so long?!
You stepped out of the elevator with relief. You saw Deenlark's office at the end of the corridor and wanted to throw yourself back in.
"You were more bold a moment ago… J.C?" Eli noted.
"(Y/N), J.C. is just my nickname here."
"What does it stand for?"
He stared at you with wide eyes.
You bring yourself closer to him with a lower voice.
"Did you notice Cosblo's way of talking?"
"Well, a year ago him and his friends preyed on a lot of other students. The day he came for me I was in the tech lab with an adjustable spanner, a huge one… Since this day, he minces every word and I got my nickname."
He seemed to process the information.
"I assume this is how you properly meet Deenlark."
"Yep, Cosblo tried to get me expelled, but I used a security camera to clear my name. It's hard to pretend to be assaulted when you're four against one and you throw the first fist." You sighed. "Deenlark was furious, clearly he both classified us as disruptive elements. I don't think he will go easy on us this time."
"We will discover it in a second." Thrawn interrupted.
Since when he was listening to the conversation? You were sure to speak with quiet voices.
Your trial was finished, and you were relieved beyond words. You thought your future was sealed, that you would be expelled and sent back to your family without succeeding .
Thrawn was indeed impartiale when he exposed the situation to the commandant and didn't try to sink either of you two. It was quite refreshing in comparison to other superiors. Deenlark, however, was actually displeased to see you all four at the same time. The type of combination he had hoped not to deal with. Ever. He first seemed furious to be disturb in his work, then he just looked tired while seeing who he had in front of him. On the bright side he wanted you all out of his office as quickly as possible, so the lecture didn't take too long.
You get to stay here and complete your formation. You still received a chore : to help clean up the auditorium of your class during a month and Cosblo inherited the Paramedic class, aka the one where the dissections took place, for three months. He was so livid he could faint right there in the middle of the hall, while you were overjoyed by the result.
"Cadet Vanto, please help our comrade to the infirmary. I am sure he would rather pass out on a mattress than the floor." Thrawn inquired.
"I'm on it."
Eli gripped Cosblo's arm around himself to support him and, more or less, dragged him to the medic block.
As you were ready to go the other direction, a voice stopped you on your track.
"Cadet (y/f/n), may I have a word with you?"
You were tempted to say no and run off, but you knew better than getting on the wrong side of the chiss now.
"Yes, Lieutenant Thrawn."
Hum, it rolled weirdly on your tongue.
"Not here, we will need a more private place."
You followed him diligently to a small classroom with a dull light, wandering about what he could have to say to you.
After closing the door, he stood straight and crossed his arms in his back, confident like he was in conquered land.
"You are surely wondering why I ask you for a discussion."
You cleared your throat.
"I didn't properly thank you for your assistance with Cosblo, sir. Thank you sir."
You didn't let anything appear but it was really uncomfortable for you to be alone with him. Isolated, you were taking the measure of his person, his presence. You were slowly taking conscience of his menace.
"There is no use for thanking me, for I was protecting Cosblo from you."
What did he just said? You were the one yanked off the floor by the shirt, not Cosblo!
You were to question what he meant when you noted his eyes kept wandering to your legs again before he locked them back with yours.
"This is what I wanted to talk about with you. Do not try your little trick, you will not be able to pull through with a simple chore if you are caught."
What, in all the creation, was he talking about?
"Try what? Helping you?" You hissed.
He slowly shaked his head with a thin smile.
"I thank you for your intervention, however you can cease your bluff. I know you carry a blade in your boot. This is highly forbidden, but I suppose survival habits dye hard. I can understand that."
Wait! When had he noticed? You've always been careful to hide it. You take a step backward.
"How did you-"
"You are not the only one who observes her peers, Cadet (y/f/n). In fact, I found your profile fairly interesting." His smile was now a satisfied grin.
There was no threat nor mockery behind it but you still hated it.
"I have done my research on you, I have gathered some fascinating results."
"You had no right to do that!" You fumed.
"I do have it when I suspect an individual to be potentially dangerous. For example, someone carrying a weapon inside the Academy." He pointed.
You started to observe your options to get out of here. You realised he purposely chose a tiny room for you to feel trapped and it was effective. He continued without ever raising his voice.
"I wouldn’t have imagined the Imperial Academy would accept the granddaughter of a famous Drug Lord. I am most impressed you have been able to hide it to everyone else."
It sounded like praise but the floor just opened under your feet.
You have worked so damn hard to get here, to distanced yourself from your heritage as you parents did. A military career was perfect to clean your name to the eyes of society, and you're gonna sink and lose all your efforts trying to help a perfect stranger. The one who's gonna drown you.
"So what? You're gonna spread it to the other? Blackmail me? Use it for favors?"
Your voice cracked yet your fists were clenched. You had too much to lose. He may be a better combattant than you, but you were the one with a knife.
You stared at each other in silence. You felt his eyes burning your skin again.
"I will do none of that, you may ease your mind." He spoke gently.
"And why not? If I am what you say, why would you deprive yourself of the price of my capture?"
"Because I know the Empire has its ways with the Drugs Lords. If you are permitted here it is because it benefits someone else in the higher spheres."
"But this is why you can't drop me, not why you won't. Am I wrong?"
"It is because I am curious to see how a profile such as yours will turn on in this system. I am quite interested about what you could become."
He didn't tell you everything. Typically him. You didn’t know at that time he would always answer all the questions without telling the core of the information you're searching, ever. Despite all that you knew he had an idea in mind.
"I think we are done for today. We will meet again, Cadet (y/f/n)." He stated while maintaining the door open for you, letting the light enter.
You rushed out and yelled.
"We are done, period!"
You sprinted to your cabin without looking back. You entered it with such speed you almost slammed into Faro, your roommate.
"Wow! Easy (y/n), what's going on?"
You took a second to catch up your breath before you responded.
"I'm just escaping from a sociopath. Nothing unusual, Karyn."
"And who was it? So I can have a polite conversation with them." She requested with a mischievous smile.
You giggled and flopped yourself onto your bed. You liked this girl, she was two years younger and your little sister here. You would never let anyone harm her.
"The blue one. Don't go near him, I'm having a hard time seeing through him…"
"You mean Thrawn? I've already talked with him."
The sky just fell on your head.
"WHAT?! WHY?!" You yelled.
"I don't know for sure. He approached me after the Academics Exams for Freshmans, not long ago, with my results. He asked about you too." She recalled.
"What did you say to him?"
"Nothing specific, don't worry. But I couldn't let a superior without an answer."
"No, of course not. Just… Be cautious around him, okay?"
You had enough emotions for now, you needed to rest a bit.
All the evening played back and forth in your mind. Why did he need to search through students files and results? What does he get out of it, you were all just mere children in front of him.
You were most concerned by his discovery of your past, few authorities in the Academy were aware of your roots, even Deenlark wasn’t in the secret. How did he access these datas?
Without realising it, you falled asleep, exhausted from this roller coaster of emotions.
The next day was not the brightest either.
You just realised, by defending Thrawn and Eli you were now sided with them, that you liked it or not. Your group of “friends” wasn’t as welcoming and they passed most of their times ignoring and avoiding you. Only one was gracious enough to tell you it in the eyes. They prefered to cut all ties now rather than be associated with you from now on.
You really had lost everything.
At noon, you were resigned to staying alone when you saw the duo peacefully eating.
You thought about it for two seconds and retraced your steps. Fuck this, there is no reason you were the only one to pay for all of this, and you wanted to clarify things with blueface.
You slammed your tray on their table with a large smile.
“Hi, you two!”
Eli startled, caught off guard, and Thrawn… Well he just saw you coming.
“Maker, (y/n)! What is wrong with you?” The first one shouted.
“What do we owe the pleasure, cadet (y/f/n)?” The second added with his usual nonchalant voice.
“You owe it to yourself, smartass!”
Thrawn merely raised an eyebrow and Eli nearly spat out. You sat in front of them, with giant grin
“You were crystal clear yesterday, you have enough on me to ruin my life. Well I’m not afraid. We can be two to play this game. Starting today, you will have me on your back nights and days. I’d repay myself a hundredfold, you can count on this.”
“And what is it supposed to be, exactly? A threat? A promise? Or a challenge?” He asked calmly.
You were almost sure to see a hint of amusement in his eyes, but who could claim to know what amuse this man?
“Anything that suits you most, sweetheart.” You responded sarcastically.
Silence followed,your eyes locked again.
You both stayed still, him testing your resolution and you didn’t drop your sight from his.
It was a battle of wills .
You didn’t know why he was doing all of this, but you knew exactly what you had to defend.
None of you could have told how much time passed that way, fixed into each other's eyes.
His iris weren’t simply red as his eyeballs, they were incandescent. You could swear they emited a slight glow, like a flame. Fixed on you, his pupils widened slightly, as black holes that could swallow anything within reach. Your skin was set ablaze once more.
What grands designs could be drawn behind those rings of fire?
You wouldn't have said the situation was comfortable, although for anything in the world you would have severed this… connection.
All your senses were muffled, your hearing was stifled and anything outside his fire orbs were blurred in your vision.
At this instant, nothing outside you two existed.
And the universe that seemed to expand beyond his eyes.
You could have stayed like this for eternity.
Time itself seemed suspended, to carry this instant forever.
Unfortunately, he severed the link. He straightened up his back and answered as nothing happened.
“Do as you wish.”
You were taken aback by the brutal return to reality.
“Wait a second you two! I have a say in this story.” Eli intervened.
“I believe you would appreciate the presence of another human, one that isn't trying to stab us in the back.” Thrawn retorted.
“No! You can’t take those decisions alone.”
While they were squabbling you realised your eyes were itchy. None of you had blinked during this moment. Maker, that hurted. Maybe this moment didn’t happen judging by his facility to break it, maybe you played all this in your head.
Your eyes still hurt nonetheless.
They finally agreed, or rather Thrawn found a way to impose his logic on Eli again.
“Do as you want, in three months it will be your sole problem anyway.”
Thrawn remained silent at this, you used this opportunity.
“While our cards are on the table, Karyn told me you approached her. If I found out you harmed her in any way, I will make you regret it. Am I clear?”
“You do not need to worry about her, I have no ill intent toward your friend.” He responded, cutting into a slice of rare meat.
To say your relationship with Thrawn didn’t start with the best intentions was an euphemism.You used your time at the Academy to tame each other. You first firmly disliked him before you could sincerely say you respected him, then appreciated him, then...
Thinking about it, you had your fair share of notable experiences with him : a dissection, a health class about spatial venereal diseases (you were sure this one was a hazing from the teachers), a wild Graduation Ball were he kinda got drunk, the only time you saw him snap, your long evenings of studying for the final exams, all the times you and Karyn had to cover his traces because he was wandering elsewhere than his assignations, your promotions to all four, ect…
Your life was way more agitated than what you had anticipated. All thanks to one, singular person.
A scratching noise called you back in the present. You realise you were fixing your gift without doing anything. The scratch persisted and you could hear an odd rumble following. You rose from your bed to see what was at your door, and found nothing.
Another guttural sound made you look down.
“Hi Rosu! What are you doing here my baby?”
You immediately started to baby talk to the ysalamir at your feet. You took her in your arms and she curled up all against you with a purr of contentment.
“How do you keep escaping your nest? Your daddy must be terribly worried. You wouldn’t want your daddy to worry, right?”
Does yasalmiry understand Basic? You could swear Rosu pulls out her tongue at you on purpose. Checking your chrono, you see it is almost time for your last personal report to Thrawn before your departure.
“I will bring you back to him. Climb on my shoulders, sweetie.”
You put her around your neck while taking your package. She croaked with enthusiasm and pawed your shoulder.
“Of course I have your favorite biscuits sweetie, what kind of aunt would I be if I didn’t?”
You handed her a bite of biscuit that she devoured immediately.
She had almost eaten half of the box when you approached the office of the freshly appointed Grand Admiral. You saw Colonel Yularen and Governor Pryce exit the room, you were not aware of their presence on the ship…
The guards gaved you back your cylinder and let you enter without investigating the reason of your presence, being part of the inner circle of Thrawn could give some advantages on the Chimaera.
The door opening announces your arrival and the hint of a smile appears when he sees you. It is the first time you met him in his new white uniform. It looks superb on him, really pleasant.
Now, let’s keep it professional.
"Grand Admiral Thrawn, I address you with my congratulations for your recent promotion." You made your heels boots resonate while you saluted him, putting the emphasis on his new title.
You like how it sounds.
"I thank you, Vice-Admiral (y/f/n)." He salutes back."I was wondering if you were coming to bless me with a visit before your departure."
"I was on my way to give you back a little rascal."
You kiss the forehead of Rosu before handing her back to him. He offers his arm for her to climb on with a relieved expression.
"There you are my beauty. You know it is not safe for you outside of my office."
She rubbed her head to his cheek to apologize, or to coax him, you will never know, it's a clever species. You let them cuddle to see her mate in their nest. Avaz was in the middle of a nap when he heard his partner croaks. He rose up to his feet and started to scratch the glass.
"Grand Admiral I think we have a couple to reunite."
You watch him manipulate and place back his ysalamir in the nest like she was the most fragile and delicate creature in the universe. There is so much delicacy in his mouvements and tenderness in his expression.
Who was the last person to treat you like that? Certainly not your last partners.
You observe how the two lizards cuddled to great one another, or rather you are observing him observing his dearest pets. It is rare to witness him lower his guard around others, even you. His genuine expression of caring and affection over his protégés never fails to melt your heart, you didn’t want to lose a crumb of it.
"What am I possibly doing for you to smile in such a way?"
Your smile widens.
"If I dared, Grand Admiral, you sound like a proud father." You whisper like a secret.
He chuckles while sitting at his desk, enjoining you to do the same.
"Now, Vice-Admiral (y/f/n), you firstly came for your report."
"Indeed." You quickly become formal and begin to share your findings. He listens to you respectfully behind his folded hands. "I have been observing Admiral Kassius Konstantine at your request since my affectation under his commandment almost a year and a half ago. The least I can say it's that he is driven by his ego and acts when it may be beneficial for his personal interest or his career. I still find his way of combat somewhat, how to say it… Merciful? He allows his enemies to flee for their life if he deems the game unworthy of his time. It has the merit to prevent useless loss of troops and assets, at least. "
"How can you affirm he intentionally let them retreat and not escape his grasp?"
"Because he still got results, his hunting count and victories are honorables. He is not the best, but he is efficient… When he wants to be."
"How every officer should be, however my requested presence here on Lothal tends to prove he is not enough. Anything else?"
"He comes from a politician family."
His eyelid twitches at this. One of the rare muscle reactions he is not able to control when he starts to get irritated. Imperceptible if you don't know him.
"What kind of politician family?"
"The kind to hate you, your strategics, your ways, your tactics. The kind who thinks anything as a price, everything is marketable from titles to lives. Especially lives for titles."
He let a silent sigh escape. He is anticipating some serious headaches.
"No need to be annoyed, his hunger for glory and success derives from an inferior complex. Surely he will prove himself to be a malleable spirit and a useful puppy once in your hands."
"Is it a pike of irony that I hear?" He point with an amused wry smile.
"I would never do such a thing, especially towards you Grand Admiral Thrawn." You bring a hand to your heart, pretending to be shocked."However, having another support in the political field such as him may be useful. Governor Pryce will not always be here and his family's influence outgrows hers on Coruscant. With all due respect Grand Admiral, you truly need someone to cover you up in the political domain. You might want to consider his potential."
"I am considering it."
He let himself slide in the bottom of his seat.
"If you need any other information, you can check this data card. I have gathered anything I could learn about him. From his day to day schedule to his favorite combat formation."
He took the card you handed him with an apparent satisfaction.
"Everyday I praise myself for not having you arrested when we were at the Imperial Academy. It would have been such a waste of your… Investigatory talents."
"Is it sarcasme that I hear?"
"I would not dare insult your skills, Vice-Admiral (y/f/n)." He politely replied.
As much as you appreciate him, his cockiness gives you the urges to rip off his smile sometimes. Other times, you would like to kiss it.
"I truly respect your abilities to always find what you are searching for, regardless of the object."
And still nothing on you and your life prior to the Academy, you thought to yourself. A real ghost.
"You are a valuable member of this team. I would not want your competences to rot or be wasted. So I will ask you to pursue your investigations on Konstantine and his crew, if you encounter someone with potential, let me know."
You have mixed feelings about this. You know it's his way to secure his position in the Empire. To infiltrate every layer down to their roots, with Eli as his diplomat and right hand, Commander Faro and Captain Pellaeon in the Navy, Governor Pryce in politics, Colonel Yularen in the ISB and finally you in the criminal underworld. He selects and places his pawns wisely to have ears and control in every layer of the State.
But the crew of Konstantine, your crew as well, is primarily composed of young recruits, some you have taken under your wing. You are not sure you want to expose a young person to a plan that you don't know the end.
You raise your head with surprise. He rarely uses your name.
You came to understand through the years it was not usual in his culture and was rather reserved to related peoples. You first convinced yourself it signified nothing for him to call you by your name, that he was just getting comfortable around you as he was with Eli. Maybe human's customs had rubbed off on him after nine years. You first thought you were fooling yourself with illusions…
Nevertheless, you must now admit you were convinced he had other plans for you both.
You didn't get those ideas out of a hat. You had collected teeny details and "coincidences" during years that meant nothing separately, but drawn a different painting once assembled. Some dated back to your time in the Academy, things you saw as camaraderie or friendship.
He tends to be more talkative and open, relatively speaking, once his service is over.
His protection and your tiny privileges as his protégé that seem to grow gradually when you come back to him.
You know he felt a connection that day. He told you himself.
And you were utterly petrified by this idea.
What do you surely know about him? What you could swear was true in him?
Yet you were here, helping him although you were not officially under his command. Having his back and covering him everytime he did something deemed shady by other high-ranking officers. You know, deep down your mind, he is preparing something. He wasn't just exiled by his People like he pretended. He is serving a greater design that he doesn't talk to you about. Yet you follow every one of his commands, you advise him, berate him even, putting your career at risk by spying on his behalf. And for what?
To be with him. To stand at his side. To see his eyes shine with pride when your mutual efforts are rewarded by victory. To help write his legend and to be able to say "I was there" when you will tell these stories in the future.
What type of relation is this? Superior to subordinate? Two friends with different social status? A genius and his sidekick? A liar and his puppet? Or were you helping a parasite to suck up the Empire ressources?
You didn't know.
And he was still able to make you dance with his voice regardless.
"Yes sir, sorry sir. I will proceed as you ordered." You respond with a smile to cover your doubts.
"Very well. Any further questions?"
Oh yes, you have a question. A lot of questions.
Why did you send Eli to the Outer Rim? Why did he have to go alone? Why do you never talk to us? Do you actually trust any of us or is it a facade? Who are we to you? How does it happen that you still don't get how politics work here? How does it work where you come from? Where do you come from? Why have you never tried to contact your people in nine years? What is the truth behind your exil? Why do we know nothing about you? Do we matter so little to you?
matter so little?
Will we ever talk about us?
Who are you really?
"None Sir. Everything is clear." You answer shortly.
"Perfect, therefore we are done here." He concludes with his usual composed voice. "You may go."
You both rise from your seats befo- Damn! You almost forgot.
"In fact Grand Admiral, I wanted to offer you something."
He raises an eyebrow, waiting for you to develop. You bend over to retrieve your fabric package and hand it over to him.
"This is a gift to celebrate your promotion and your nine years in the Navy."
His sight navigates between you and the package before taking it. You feel the tip of his fingers caress your hand for a split second. He weighs the gift with precaution while you remove your hand quickly, letting him evaluate the package in silence to prevent your cheeks from blushing as you both sit back.
You already have plenty of relationships, but somehow a light touch of him always lets you like you were striked by lightning. A simple gesture on his part could captivate you, a single word from his lips could command you.
Does he know how he affects you? You wonder. If he does, he hides it perfectly.
He inspects the pack from every angle, figuring out what was inside the fabric before he opens it. His movements slow down as he realizes what might be inside yet you can't fathom his expression.
He unwraps the cloth with great care, slowly discovering what you brought him.
He took several seconds to process what he had in front of him.
An ancient one on top of that.
It is an exceptionally rare item. The only ones he had ever seen were behind glass windows in museums or in private exhibitions by collectors.
He didn't think he would have the privilege to possess one himself.
He hesitates to manipulate it further, he does not want to damage this precious artefact, meanwhile his curiosity urges him to satisfy his hunger for knowledge and to dissect it right here and now.
Lost in his contemplation he stays silent, incredulous, letting you torturing yourself with questions.
You have imagined quite a few scenarios for this moment, but he didn't take this long to react in any of them.
Was this gift a good idea? You were not sure anymore.
Maybe it is too much for a promotion and a decade of friendship.
It IS too much!
You have never seen anybody offering this just for a promotion! What were you thinking? Those get sold for millions of credits in auctions, even if you used your network in the crimeworld to get this one in a cheaper way, the risks you have taken and the value of the book you have chosen are just ridiculously high, downright indecent for the intentions you pretend to have.
If he tries to dig about it he might discover there is more than friendship and respect in your mind when you think of him…
"It is unexpected to say the least." He spoke.
"I am sorry you don't like it."
"Please do not misunderstand me."
He takes the book with careful precaution and starts leafing through it, his face cut with a thin smile.
"I appreciate your present, it is a most refined gift. But its value must have cost you a lot, did this occasion truly worth all the troubles? Or is there something you are not telling me?"
He brings his hand to his chin, a typical fashion of him when he investigates. You swallow quickly, regaining your composure by crossing your legs.
"I mean, I won't get the opportunity to celebrate a friend's promotion to Grand Admiral any time soon. I wanted to make it count with something that could hold on your esthete tastes."
He gazes into your eyes with his coy smile, without responding. His pupils widen, he is clearly enjoying the situation.
"Of course, I do apologize. I did not want to question your words, so many people come announcing their failure with offering to sweeter me."
You gesture your hand as if to say it's nothing.
He didn't buy your excuse and didn't bother to hide it from you. You're searching for a way to deviate the conversation.
"What an interesting material. It is not flimsi nor paper, right?" He asked, passing his hand on the edges of the page to feel all of it's asperities.
"Fascinating. What language might it be? I have never encountered it until now."
"Unfortunately, nobody knows."
He stops his investigations to gaze at you with a puzzled expression.
"This codex is unique. We know it under the name of "Voynich Manuscript" and is written date thanks to the Vellum that has been carbon-dated. The illustrations helped to cut it under sections, outside of that we can only speculate on the exact content of the text and it's real author."
You see him running his fingers on the hand-drawn figures, following the curves of a limb and exploring astronomical circles traced in a long-past age but still mesmerising today.
"It could give you some intellectual evenings trying to decode it and all its mysteries. It will resist you for sure, maybe you will be the one to unravel its secrets, maybe you will fail. I simply thought you would like to take a real challenge, but if your not up to it… "
He closed the book with precaution, grinning internally. After nine years he realises how far you have grown up, how you are now able to discern and manipulate the needs and the ego of your prey, himself included. He could take some time to admire his work on you.
He is proud of you.
"Thank you, Vice-Admiral. I will take great care of your present."
He rises from his seat to escort you to his door. You feel the ghost of his hand on your back, setting you ablaze.
"Please let me know if you discovered something about the book, I too am interested. Bye my babies!"
You wave at the ysalamiri in their nest, and like that you're gone to pack up and leave, without hearing his answer.
"You will be the first one to know, (y/n)..."
He let your name rolles on his tongue, as if he could taste it.
You just leave without greeting your superior, but he won't hold it against you. He deliberately tried to shake you,he could cut you some slack.
Whether he finds something or not, you just gave him the perfect pretext to call you on something else than work.
It would be a shame to selfishly keep this gem of history for himself when you can be two to enjoy it.
Far from all this ceremonial and protocol, on his own territory, he will have all the time that will please him to scrutinize you through this book.
Then, and only then, he will decide if he could take things further with you… Or no.
There are numerous things preventing him from doing so, some that he can't ignore and could have catastrophic consequences for both of you.
On the other hand, the sole hypothesis to be with you awakens a pain he wishes he could forget and simply ignored.
A characteristic pain in the chest and lungs.
He had already seen what happened to chiss who bypassed these symptoms.
He will need to act on that as well.
But for now he will indulge himself in your sole presence at his side and your endeavour to live up to his expectations.
It will be his unique fancy in this empire where all and everyone is a potential enemy.
His personal luxury.