Star Wars is the property of George Lucas and LFL. No profits were made and no disrespect is intended with this fic.

From Empire to Rogue
Part Eight
by Banshee

Tycho enjoyed the solitude during the trek. As much as he liked Terra's attention, it was also something of a mixed blessing. Her protectiveness over the past week was beginning to convince him that she would always think of him as a kid that needed to be watched over. And the one thing he had always wanted was for her to recognize him as a peer; and he blamed himself, he was the one who had nicknamed her Guardian Angel.

As a youth, he had had something of a crush on her reminiscent of the type young boys have on their schoolteachers. That crush had turned into a full-blown case of hero worship when she began teaching him to fly. Terra was proving to be everything he wanted to become: gifted pilot and athlete, intelligent, and a natural leader who led by actions rather than words.

By sixteen, he had managed to convince himself that it was just childhood infatuation, nothing more. And then he had met Nyiestra. Where Terra taught him about the type of person he wanted to be, Nyiestra taught him about the beauty of a loving relationship.

At first, he had not enjoyed seeing Terra date while she was in college. He found himself evaluating her potential boyfriends and finding them lacking. After he met Nyiestra, he had been happy to see Terra dating, especially when she turned up at the Academy. He was ecstatic when she had begun seeing his instructor, the then Captain Soontir Fel, even if she insisted they were just friends and fellow pilots.

Thoughts of Nyiestra made his chest tighten and breathing became difficult. Since it was close to lunchtime, he sat on a downed log and watched the waterfowl on the lake as he ate and thought about his family and home.

He remembered the last time he had been there. Following graduation, he was given a brief leave before having to report to the Accuser. His family had celebrated his graduation and he and Nyiestra had spent a couple of days getting reacquainted. He could still feel her arms around him, her lips brushing his, their skin touching.

He remembered her concern for him; she was well aware of the mortality rate among young TIE pilots. He tried to alleviate her fears even though a part of him was sure she -- as well as his family -- would outlive him. What a cruel twist of fate this is, he commented to himself.

His thoughts were interrupted by the surrounding wildlife. A small canine whimpered and scuttled away and the fowl took flight. Tycho heard a snarl behind him and turned to face a large feline predator.

Kathreene and Terra had familiarized him with the wildlife in the area and he knew the small stunner would paralyze the cat without killing it. His hand found the stunner and he raised it slowly; aiming carefully, he took down the animal with one shot. Approaching warily, he could see the feline eyes following him and was relieved that the cat did not appear to be injured, just temporarily incapacitated.

A mewling from the brush drew his attention and he watched a pair of young cubs bounce towards their mother. Tycho's heart melted as he watched the kits play and he pulled a few treats from his pack and laid them on the ground near the adult, careful not to get too close to her young.

He resumed his position on the log until she began to show signs of movement. He wanted to be sure the cubs were safe until mom could recover enough to protect them from other predators, especially the canines that would most likely try to take advantage of the playful, defenseless kits.

He left soon after and resumed his trek around the lake; always listening to be sure the predator didn't decide to follow him. As he walked, he was struck by how much Terra's actions toward him were similar to the ones he showed the cubs even if she tended to be a little overprotective at times.

The rest of the trek was uneventful with the exception of the growing dark cloud cover indicative of an approaching storm. He came within site of the cabin and noticed Terra and Kathreene on the end of the pier battening down the sailboat in preparation for the coming weather.

Terra waved and he joined them to help secure the craft. They finished just as heavy winds began to pick up, followed quickly by the first streaks of lighting and rumbles of thunder.

"What took you so long?" Terra teased. "Marx and I used to make the round of the lake in under six hours. It took you almost ten."

Kathreene shook her head, "Don't listen to her, Tycho. They made it once in less than six hours and that was only because they ran the entire way. Callow and I used to stroll and it took us about eight or nine."

Tycho lifted his eyebrows, "Six hours? Really?" He shook his head in disbelief when Terra nodded and then explained the delay with the cat.

Kathreene, an eco-biologist, questioned him about the description of the animals. "Well, I'm relieved to hear her cubs are doing OK. There are two other females in the area and their kits haven't done as well." She headed into the cabin, saying something about dinner as Tycho took a seat on the porch steps.

Terra sat a step above Tycho so that she was at a height where she could rest her chin on his shoulder. "You're rather quiet. Want to talk?"

"Not really. I was just thinking about the last time I was home.quot; He sighed disgustedly, "I wish I had never gone to the Academy."

She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him back to lean against her. "If you had not gone to the Academy, the Guardiens would not exist and both of us would probably have been on Alderaan."

He turned to look into her saddened eyes, "I guess I understand about the Guardiens since you wouldn't have gotten the stunt pilot job without Major Fel's recommendation, but why would you have been on Alderaan?"

She smiled wryly, "I would have talked Dad into taking me with him to the conference. Especially since it would have given me a chance to spend your birthday with you. Assuming I hadn't stayed on Alderaan after I finished school."

"I miss them all so much. And even though I only got to meet him a few times, I really liked your father," he told her as he turned back around to watch the wind whip across the lake. He leaned against her and tipped his head back so that her cheek rested against his temple.

She tightened her arms around him and he reached up to rest his hands on her crossed forearms. "Dad liked you, too. I think he hoped that when we got older we would be a little closer than just friends," she told him sadly. Of course, he was so much younger than her and so happy with Nyiestra that she had always viewed him as being off limits.

As her words sunk in, he thought about kissing her cheek. His feelings for Terra had started to return over the past week but he kept thinking about Nyiestra and he felt like he was betraying his finance's memory. Besides, how much of his current attachment to Terra was simply a reaction to the grief he was trying so hard to hide?

Before he could summon the courage to decide, the rain began so they scrambled, laughing, into the cabin to join Kathreene in the kitchen.

Continued in Part Nine