Lodestone: A Wynston/Ruth Alternate Universe
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02.10.2013 , 11:23 AM |
In honor of Valentine's Day, some 3600 words completely devoid of nutritional content. Because reasons, that's why.
L + 23 years 9 months
Ruth offered the use of the Niral estate for the wedding, but Colrand declined; he and his fiancée, the human Sith Avanna, were set on a palace owned by a friend on Alderaan.
Avanna was a sweet girl, of the school of decent Sith that Jaesa's Academy had been developing for nearly a quarter of a century. The Empire was still a dangerous world for them – indeed, many of them ended up emigrating to Republic or neutral space – but the enclave was a good community.
Ruth offered to help with arrangements. So did Wynston. Cole and Avanna smilingly, firmly declined. It took considerable badgering for Cole to even accept some credits to help with whatever he was planning, but Ruth was determined to at least do that; he didn't need to start out in debt.
set course for Alderaan and Ruth prepared at the vanity in the bathroom. For once she didn't put on armor. Cole hadn't made any such request, but he and Avanna were both of a diplomatic bent – not what she had expected from the weaponsmaster Cole had grown into, but he was happy with his chosen work. So today Ruth would not come arrayed for battle.
A blue gown, modest scoop neck, nothing too likely to grab attention away from the bride. Her appearance wasn't what she usually used to command the room anyway. A gold choker set with blue gems, a thank-you gift from a Lorrdian businessman after a complicated intervention several years ago. Wynston had offered on several occasions to find her more jewelry she would like, but she found that plenty of it was spontaneously offered to her in a number of dealings anyway and she wasn't accustomed to wearing even that. From him she had accepted the plain gold ring she wore everywhere, and that was enough.
She decided to wear her hair half up for the day, pulling the front locks back to braid them behind her head. She brushed the free waves smooth – it was nice to have an excuse to let it down once in a while – and then, after a last mirror check, opened the door to where Wynston was waiting.
His grey-and-red formals were straight out of the society pages of Dromund Kaas; he had no extra ornamentation outside his own ring, a gold band matched to hers. It was the closest thing to an official mark they kept. He didn't wear it when he was disguised for work, but on a day like this he was free to show it.
The years and the mission had put slightly more in the way of lines and scars on him than they had on her, but his red eyes had lost none of their brightness, nor his lips their expressiveness. He met her eyes and smiled brilliantly. "You look amazing. Would it throw our schedule off terribly for us to undo that all right this minute?"
She seriously considered it. She always did. "I'm afraid it would. They'll notice if we show up late."
"You're quite sure?" Allowing himself a moment to look her over, he walked up close, placed his hands lightly on her hips, and gave her one, questioning kiss.
"Quite sure, I'm afraid. Sorry." She said it with a smile.
He nodded and let his hands fall. "As you wish," he said softly, then returned her smile. "Shall we away, then?"
"We shall." She presented him with a lightsaber. "Carry this for me? I don't want to go for the bristling-weaponry look today."
"You could probably deal with any problem wedding guest even without it," he said, but he pocketed the saber anyway. "For that matter Colrand could probably suppress any rebellion that comes up."
"I'm not expecting trouble. This is just in case." Which reminded her of something less entertaining: the fact that this would be the first time Wynston and Quinn had been put in the same room in over eight years. "You'll be all right with…him, won't you?"
"There won't be a problem," Wynston said mildly. "This is Cole's day, I think even he can recognize that."
"He will." She kissed him. "We all will."
"I love you," he informed her. "Let's go."
Ruth had to hand it to the Alderaanians: their idea of grandeur delivered. The long window arch over the great hall had only the lightest silver tracery to support the transparisteel; the sky was blue and close above it, and sunlight flooded the galleries and the broad marble floor. The carpet and banners were of the light green Avanna favored.
A reedy dark-skinned youth, one of the bride's brothers, bowed to her and Wynston and led them down the center aisle towards their seats.
The hall was crowded. For all that Cole had few blood relatives, he and Avanna had a lot in the way of friends. She saw several of the Sith he had met at Jaesa's academy, along with Jaesa herself; the matronly Sith was seated near the front with her husband. Her twin daughters were nowhere in sight; they were likely in the wedding party, then.
Vette had made it, much to Ruth's delight. General Pierce for once was not alone in looming over the general audience even while sitting; he had his clean-shaven son at his side. Pierce Junior, in turn, had a slim cyborg on his arm – possibly the prettiest man there, Ruth noted.
Her stomach flopped a little when the grey-haired man in the front row finally turned to see who was approaching. Quinn rose unhurriedly, crisp as ever in his dress uniform, and bowed with one hand on his heart. When he raised his eyes he fixed them on Ruth to the exclusion of anyone else. "My lord Wrath," he said quietly.
"Moff." She was aware of Wynston moving past her to take his assigned place two seats past Quinn. "You're looking well."
"It is a happy day, my lord." Cautious, formal. But not cold.
No sooner had they seated themselves than Colrand himself emerged from a side door, smiling ear to ear. He was a perfect image of his father, now in black robes with a touch of light green trim. His eyes were sparkling as he took a few long last paces toward the Emperor's Wrath, swept her up by her waist, and spun her in a near-full circle before setting her down and planting a kiss on her cheek. "You look great," he informed her while she was still breathless with laughter, and then he turned to clasp Wynston's hand and hug his shoulder. Once Wynston stepped back Colrand turned again and hesitated for a moment, facing Quinn, very nearly settling for a respectful nod before the older man enfolded him in a tight hug instead, grey head contrasting with black in a tableau that Ruth would not soon forget.
Cole flitted away after that to confer with his groomsmen, two of Avanna's brothers; and then, very suddenly, the music was already starting.
There were Jaesa's daughters, Cole's childhood friends, side by side in green, coming up to stand opposite the groomsmen and beam at the hall in general. At some unseen signal both Parvin and Grega blew Cole playful kisses, which prompted snorts of laughter from the Pierces and set Cole blushing furiously.
Then Avanna appeared, wearing, in defiance of all Imperial tradition, pure dazzling white. Ruth hadn't realized anyone could make that look good until now. Cole's face fairly glowed as she came to take his hand.
While Ruth listened to the readings her eyes were on her son and his bride. They seemed completely unselfconscious standing up there, smiling at each other and, for all Ruth could tell, ignoring the ceremony around them entirely. She found herself seeking Quinn's right hand with her left. He started when she took hold and squeezed; she met his questioning look with the proud smile she couldn't seem to shake and didn't want to. She held his gaze and nodded toward the bride and groom with a look that said
See? We made him for this.
And he nodded, and squeezed back, and returned to looking forward, his expression a little brighter than before.
Avanna came close to singing her vows in her flutelike voice; they carried high and clear through the hall. Colrand, in contrast, had to cough through a couple of nervous false starts before he got talking. When he did, though, his voice was strong and steady – more so than Ruth had ever heard, in point of fact. This ceremony, with these words and motions, was exactly where he meant to be.
Once the readings were read, the vows were vowed and the kiss was lingeringly kissed, the crowd was reasonably orderly in gravitating toward the couple. Ruth hugged Colrand – with less getting picked up and spun this time – and then embraced Avanna, kissing the shorter woman's cheek. "Welcome to the family," said Ruth.
"Thank you," whispered Avanna. She managed to make brimming with tears look gorgeous. She looked so very young, young and radiant. Ruth smiled and took her place down the receiving line.
The reception consisted simply of moving to the other end of the sun-soaked grand hall. Supper passed in pleasant chatter with Avanna's family, which got progressively smoother as the Force-blind parents and siblings got over their slight awe of the Emperor's Wrath. Wynston had assured Ruth a long time ago that she would never be able to really turn off the commanding presence she had cultivated for so long, but she was pleased to find that she was managing something less than "scary". Better yet, Quinn and Wynston, by tacit agreement, kept up a cordiality maintained by their genuine affection for everyone else at the table. Wynston finished and got up a little early to go confer with the musicians; he returned in time for the first dance, leading Ruth to the floor with a smile and a word.
He closed until he was leading more with his chest than his arms. Ruth followed comfortably and kept turning her head to follow where Colrand was sweeping Avanna around, quite clearly lost in her eyes.
"I can't remember the last time you were this distracted while dancing," murmured Wynston.
"Hm?" she said playfully. "I think I got more distracted that time a fire broke out in the Mos Anek cantina."
"Ah. I stand corrected. This is a close competitor, though."
"I can't help it. My son's over there." Where her mind was, her eyes followed. "He's an adult, and he's gotten involved with a Sith, which is terrible for one's health, I can't imagine why he thought that was a good idea."
"Sith women can be all right."
"You're only saying that because–"
"You're amazing," Wynston interrupted firmly, "and I love you. And she is a wonderful young woman, who is obviously crazy about him."
"She is." Her doubt passed as quickly as it had come. "Well then, maybe I'm just admiring how they look together."
"True. Cole's a very handsome fellow, and he is with the second best-looking woman in the room."
"Hush, you, this is Avanna's day."
He grinned. "As you say." Still maintaining a steady lead, he leaned forward ever so slightly to touch his cheek to hers. "They do look very, very happy. As is right and proper."
After that they fell silent and enjoyed their closeness, the instinctive way they moved in sync as they did every time they came together. And Ruth watched her son, and felt a steady little glow.
Colrand made a beeline for her the moment the song ended. "Hello, you two," he said, flushed and smiling. "I hope you're not danced out yet, Mom."
She let go of Wynston. "Nowhere close. Is there time to pick up a drink first?"
"A quick one, sure. – I'll give her back by midnight, Wynston, promise."
"Nobody's 'giving' me at all," Ruth said, faux sternly.
Wynston and Colrand exchanged looks. "Make it eleven," Wynston said seriously. "I worry, you know."
"It's a deal." Cole grinned and sidestepped Ruth's swat. "Come on, Mom."
She followed him. "You've gotten nervy in the last, oh, hour or two."
"I'm a grownup or something now." He laughed and took two glasses of water from the side table, handing one to her. "It's good."
It was with an entirely new assurance that Colrand led her onto the dance floor when the next song started. Avanna was paired off with her father; Cole shot a dazzling smile at both of them and then turned his attention to Ruth. He was surprisingly graceful in adapting to her shorter steps.
"You know," he said, "I never actually believed Wynston when he said knowing this stuff would come in handy."
"Wynston's a resourceful person, you should've listened."
"I did listen even if I wasn't convinced. It worked out; teaching Avanna to dance gave us something to do when we weren't studying."
"See? Wynston knows what he's about."
"Yeah. I'm glad you'll have him."
She raised her eyebrows. "Was this a concern?"
"Well, you know…now that I'm elsewhere, I hate to think you're…"
"You haven't lived with us for quite some time," she said, amused.
"Yeah, but it's different now. At least 'til Avanna and I get a house in order enough for you to come."
"I think your ageing mother will survive, but I appreciate your concern." She grinned. "By the way, today was your last excuse ever to pick up and twirl the Emperor's Wrath."
He made a face. "Yes, Mom."
"Also I am happier for you than I know how to say."
"Thanks. I'm glad…" He looked around, then shrugged and smiled. "I'm glad."
He let her go with a last hug when the song ended, and she retreated to the sidelines to take up a glass and join Vette and Jaesa.
"You're not tired out already, are you?" said Vette. "Lightweight."
"Good to see you, too. Hi, Jaesa."
"Hi, Ruth. You got a nice turnout."
"I had nothing to do with pulling this together. That was all Cole and Avanna."
"Color me impressed. Avanna…never showed the best organizational skills at the academy."
"No? I guess they've both grown up a little."
"Yeah," said Vette. "I can now officially say that I've seen a Sith survive from infancy to marriage. I was never really sure how that ever happens."
"I never allowed murder attempts in the house," said Ruth. "That helps."
"Some would call that a scandalous oversight in your kid's education," said Vette. "Mostly people I don't want to be friends with, but they would."
"He seems to have turned out all right. You know, for a graduate of 'Jaesa's School of Bad Sith'."
"I repeat, you oughta inscribe that over the door."
"I won't," Jaesa said imperturbably. "The school is succeeding just fine."
"At making bad Sith."
"Would you rather we break into a violent power play at the alumni reception here?" Ruth asked archly.
"…When you put it that way, no, I think I'm okay with bad Sith."
"That's what I thought." Ruth looked to Jaesa. "You know, the girls will be doing this themselves before you know it."
"Don't say that," giggled Jaesa. "I'm still not used to Cole changing his own clothes. Personally I vote for those two next." She tilted her head toward Pierce Junior and his date.
"We don't even have his name, do we? I don't see a Pierce marrying any time soon."
"That's because you're a cynic," sighed Vette.
"And this from her," said Jaesa. "Ouch."
"Hmph. This cynic is going for pastries," said Ruth. "Do either of you want anything?"
"Nah," said Vette. Jaesa just shook her head. So Ruth left them to head for the refreshments table.
She noticed Pierce Junior and his cyborg date chatting Quinn up, or possibly just cornering him, where he stood by a pillar not far from the edge of the dance floor. Quinn noticed her movement and gave a subtle gesture that served for a discreet summons, so she approached to see what was going on. "My lord," he said, probably more quickly than was strictly necessary, when she got close. "Would you grant me the honor of a dance?"
She looked at a maliciously grinning Junior and his utterly innocuous-looking friend, but decided to delay questions until after Quinn was safely away. "With pleasure," she said, and took his hand to return to the dance floor.
He allowed her to set the distance of their square formal hold, then took the lead. "Thank you," he said in a low voice.
"I never thought Junior was that bad a conversationalist."
"If you'll forgive the observation, my lord, Junior probably doesn't feel compelled to comment on your attractiveness."
She didn't laugh. Not quite. Even if she felt her eyes going wide while she was busy suppressing a smile. "I'm sorry."
"I'm here for Cole and Avanna," he said with his old harried brusqueness. "I'll survive the evening."
"Thank you for coming. It means a lot to him."
Quinn nodded stiffly.
"And…I'm glad he has you in the first place."
When he pulled her a degree closer she didn't argue. "It has been a great joy to have him in my life, Ruth."
"If I'd known how he would take to you I'd have let you in earlier."
"I understand your reasons," he said roughly.
She disentangled one of her hands to touch a finger to his lips. "Please. Nothing sad today." She brought her hand back to close her hold. "Sorry, I was supposed to be a more pleasant conversationalist than Junior."
That got him to break a smile. "I assure you, you are."
"It is really, really good, after everything, to see you smiling."
He gave her a long look of the kind that had finally matured into deep and undemanding affection. "Then I shall keep doing it."
Whatever else she felt about him, she loved him for being a good father to their son, and so she danced and for a while forgot to look at anything else.
He took a slow step back away at the end of the dance and bowed, smiled once more, then looked around. "I should find Cole. I must depart soon; I need to be in the Sullust sector by morning."
Of course. "Thank you for the dance," she said. "Even if it was just an excuse to get away from Pierce Junior. –But truly, it was good to see you."
"It was good to be here, Ruth. Take care."
"You, too, Quinn."
Ruth was startled by the pang she felt when her son left some time later. It was, after all, the natural conclusion of getting married in the first place, but seeing Colrand walk out arm in arm with Avanna made Ruth suddenly, intensely aware that he was building a life away from her.
Wynston slipped an arm around her waist. "Are you all right?"
"Hm? Of course I am." She leaned into him, still watching the empty doorway.
He took the excuse of kissing her to cup her face and brush away a tear she hadn't realized she was shedding. "Good. He's got someone to keep him in line while we're off on missions now, and that can only be a good thing."
"Right. Because Cole was always such a wild boy."
"Always watch for the quiet ones," he murmured, smiling. "What's the plan for the rest of the evening?"
"One more round of the guests?"
"With pleasure. I'm still holding some tiny hope that I can trick Junior's boy into dropping Junior's first name tonight."
"I'm not sure Junior releases that information to the men he dates."
"I have to try. It's my job to know everything; if I can get the elder's name, I'll get the younger's one way or another."
"Maybe Pierce never gave him one."
Wynston scowled. "No, that'd be too easy. He's wilier than that."
"You're never going to forgive him for not putting it on record anywhere in the galaxy, are you?"
"Never? Nonsense, there are no hard feelings that won't be resolved by me winning. Let's go, darling."
Once Wynston and Ruth finally did depart the return to the
was quick. That was just as well; Ruth discovered a powerful inclination to stay in contact with Wynston on the way, one that did not lessen when they reached their quarters. The energy of the day was still riding high and, after all, none of their dances really ended until they were in bed, the part of their never-ending conversation that was carried out mostly in the singing of nerves and the language of expressive breath and subtle varied motions.
They did get back to words, eventually, once he was lying beside her with a hand resting at her collarbone. "I love you," he whispered.
Pleasant exhaustion made her speech slow. "I love you, too."
"Let's talk tomorrow. About maybe celebrating."
He slid a hand up her arm to the ring on her finger; he tapped it a couple of times and then laid her hand on his cheek and rested. "We have our private promises, but a party might be fun."
"Copycat," she murmured.
"I'm too tired to dispute that intelligently. We'll see if it's still a good idea in the morning."
"Hmm. I think it might be."
"Did I mention I love you?"
"I love you, too," she said.
"Good. Sleep well, darling."
And so, warm and spent and contented and loved, Ruth slept.
If you need assistance escaping the sap, allow me to offer you a little imaginary rowboat and paddle. This was hard work; even though I set out to be all mushy, I still had to remove several bittersweet exchanges from the draft because Bright's brain keeps doing that. NO SAD. ONLY HAPPY.
There is a significant chance that Larr Gith and Doc crashed the reception – I mean, they're practically family, right? and everybody loves a party – and i was just too lazy to write out that train wreck.
If Pierce Junior was born before RMC's main timeline happened, then he must also exist in Lodestone.
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