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With the Sound of Distant Drums

Chapter Text

In the halcyon days of bloodshed and war that he was so accustomed to, emotion—and to add, entanglement—were not companions he considered appropriate for war, nor ones he ever expected to assume as he approached battle.

Smoke plumes in the corner of Grievous' vision while rubble peppering the ground by his feet, mechanical talons embedded in the harsh, unforgiving dirt stained with blood and death, tremble, though he does not. He looks to the sky and watches blaster fire streak through the air and ships, unforgiving sentinels of the sky, shriek across in warfare.

Here, he is content, as over the crest of the canyon he stands at the summit of, he watches as thousands of bio-mechanical creations crafted for killing indulge in what they do best (and dimly, unconsciously realize afterwards the irony of how he refers to himself as well in that statement). Here, he need not concern himself with the petty philosophical and moral quandaries that other men trouble themselves with. The battle is approaching him, and he is only all-too-eager to partake in it.

He is waiting. The ground vibrates, a harsh, guttural roar of a beast perturbed by the crossfire that rages on it, and with calculating eyes he scans the carnage below to appraise and discern with the fine eye of a murderer admiring his handiwork. Unconsciously, he does not realize he is also searching for a certain figure as well, until the tell-tale lekku dart past his vision and his neck angles, to better catch the movement before it is lost in the masses of bipedal warfare.

Shaak Ti, a master to twice avoid him and thus twice avoid death; and he is only all too ready to offer it to her once again. A thrill of adrenaline shoots up his arched spine, and his hands go to pause where trophies of past handiwork remain, until he realizes that they were already there, in the heat of the desire for conflict and his even more base desire to be involved in it. Again, he searches, for the familiar flash of lekku that instigated a shock of desire through him.

Desire for what? Other men would speculate, but Grievous is not one of them, and he disregards the thought with passing disinterest. All that matters now is the promise of a fight.

Again, he finds her face through the horde, and he notes with passing interest and mounting apprehension mingling with adrenaline that it is nearing, closer and closer with each glimpse that he manages to catch, and he comprehends, as he watches the erratic pattern, that it is nearing his position.

The Jedi is coming for him. Respect at such bravado, to perilously seek out he, along with a clashing urge to diffuse such bravery, to tear it to shreds, mingle and amalgamate, and he reveals two lightsabers, one for each hand, through his cloak that he diffuses with the slightest whim, and it unsheathes itself with a hum of raw light and energy, and so Grievous waits for his prey, his combatant, his adversary.

He can be patient. He can permit emotion, if it is but irritation and bloodlust, to come. He watches as Shaak Ti nears, graceful in her approach to death, eyes that look to his, and dare not dart away where lesser, frightened Jedi would. He remembers in another passing thought how other warriors of her kin—for that is what they are, no? Warriors on opposing sides for causes they once justified but now only use as a thin veneer for justification into slaughter—when other warriors of her kin saw him coming, and saw the death in his eyes, how they flinched and looked away before the final, killing stroke, paralyzed by the fear they so sought to deny through years of training.

And he remembers how twice, she had seen that in his eyes, and stared unflinchingly back.

Respect once more churns Grievous' stomach, evoking something deeper but not unfamiliar, baser than rage and carnage. He cannot identify it, nor does he wish to. He waits as she approaches, nearer now, almost there, and watches as she glides up the precipice with inhuman ability, trained with grace and poise that not many could recreate—a killing machine crafted with finesse. In the moment before she ascends, preceded by the hum and purr of a lightsaber unsheathing itself, he feels a crest of emotion swell over him, and abruptly ignores it, something to consider later, if ever.

And then she is there, and the wait is over. Now they can engage in battle. He notes, for an even a brute, a monster, and a murderer such as he, can note beauty, and he sees it in her, as she holds her saber before her in defense and her composed face subtly breaks with emotion that all the tranquility in the world could not repress.

She speaks, and he allows her the moment to do so, lips parting and framed with lines of age that belies her appearance at first glance—she is not naïve. And neither is he.

"A pleasure to see you again, General." She says with bitterness well-deserved; he is unimpressed at her display for banter yet cannot resist indulging in it for the moment before combat.

"Come to meet your fate, Jedi?" he snarls back in a harsh growl as he raises his sabers and does not allow the chance for a reply, opposed against one worthy of fighting him, and one worthy of surviving, if his unshakable pride would allow it, as she reciprocates with energy and force that would cow lesser men. But Grievous is not a lesser man, and willingly immerses himself in the battle that he knows she immerses herself in as well.

For entanglement and the even more compromising companion of emotion that it is associated with it was something he did not foresee, even if it is expressed humbly through the exchange of conflict. And even more troublesome, with it, the desire to wait for it to approach yet again, in the same similar and familiar form on opposing sides of a meaningless, yet compelling war.

What only lessens the burden of this realization is the fact that Grievous knows, of course, that it is also, whilst compromisingly damning, the same as well for Shaak Ti.

Chapter Text

She is permitted no expression of emotion save that of composed and imposed tranquility. Any more than that is unpermitted, a blemish upon that which is not of the Jedi, and that which is, an ideal they all strive to until the finality of breath escapes them and the last remnant of life ghosts from their eyes.

It is a ceasefire, the sun of the nameless planet they battled on hours before has descended in its continual cycle below the horizon, taking with it the comfort of light and subjecting all those who fight below its guidance, coupled with the harsh isolation the twin moons of the planet provides.

Shaak Ti cannot sleep. She reviews, with a wary, almost maternal eye to that of the night time camp not yet distant from her vision, campfires where troopers sit, humanity revealed with the removal of helmets and armor as they chuckle and converse and regale with renditions of the horrors of war through their identical, yet at the same, unique perspectives.

She pulls at the edge of her cloak while a lekku drapes over her shoulder, as she quietly attempts to conserve body heat; she is of no use to the battlefront chilled to the proverbial bone; silently, she admires the circles where soldiers huddle and revel in death and yet face it with camaraderie, jovial and unashamed of their status as companions and warriors in arms.

Warriors. The word is not foreign to her tongue; it is what she is as well, it is what she was chosen to do. That is not what troubles the equanimity she so usually maintains; it is the stark realization that although they are both of the same class, their kin differ. They are bred for following orders and the comfort of friendship and comradeship. Hers are meant for assuming command and the consolation of solitude and introspection.

Solitude is meant to be a comfort to her kind, and yet here it is only a curse, rendering her unable of even the simplest bond of companionship, save a bowed, deferred head and stiffened backs that straighten in her presence, leeching out the relaxed atmosphere that was so prevalent before her arrival. It is not a surprise to her when she realizes how truly alone she is on this planet, no one else in the same position that she has assumed, for the better of a galaxy which she fights to protect.

No one else knows. Except for one.

The wind moans through the camp, and fire dances in her peripheral vision, while the breeze prickles at her skin and causes an involuntary shudder to pass her lips before it is gone, and she finds herself alone once more with her thoughts and the implications of said thoughts.

The night continues on, and Shaak Ti chooses to increase the distance between her and the camp that, although not literally, she is denied access to, choosing to philosophize and ponder upon the actions of the day than consider the rejection of the night, recalling a clash that left her wounded but still alight with life.

Grievous passes through her mind. He is a prevailing thought, as she tries to deduct his strategy and counter it; even with the guidance of her council of officers (once again warriors of a different kin) and then those that she speaks to remotely over the digital correspondence of hologram (those of the same breed as she), she finds herself at a loss. He is master at what he does, as is she in her own right, but she cannot help but feel outclassed in this situation, and although composure is what she strives for, the inferiority he instigates towards not only all Jedi but she as well, is a blunt and cruel taunt, supplied with the deaths of many to support it.

She wonders, as she approaches the height of where she viewed the battle before it began its first breath, if that is why she sought him out, ordering her men to attack while she stole forward, alone, through the waves of forces that would not be recalled, towards him.

Bravery, although extolled by the Jedi, cannot be misconstrued for idiocy, and she wonders if she has danced dangerously over that boundary while the searing crash of lightsaber upon lightsaber echoes as a stark, unforgettable noise in her memory, from not only the battle only previously fought but twice before with the same opponent.

A glance down to the gaping ravine below reveals the mechanical corpses of droids that are nothing more than spare parts and the slain of her side, broken and battered and honored by the living, yet it does not distract her from her thoughts. Why did she seek him out?

She paces the edge of the cliff, relying on the light of twin moons to allow her mobility, and the wind prickles at her skin, allowing another involuntary shiver as she speculates on the reason for her actions; after all, introspection is the closest ally to the Jedi save each other.

Pride, rage, and revenge all are considered, and in any situation, they would be considered by her code as tantamount to sin; and yet, this is not a normal situation; it damns her to realize that this is not so, simply due to the association and intimacy with which she has exchanged through near-death experiences with Grievous.

No, something lingers, something not so easily wiped away, something extending beyond simple rivalry, and it is bitter and possessive and seductive.

Something she cannot relinquish.

The wind sighs like the pause in a conversation, and she stares away from the carnage, recalling the old prayers of her native Togruta in respect and reverence, and looks to the opposite edge of the maw that consumed so much, so quickly; comprehension that seizes her in a vice chokes the prayer from continuing as she sees the one that occupies her mind stand across at the other side; she sees her fellow warrior of similar, strikingly similar kin.

He stares, openly yet swathed in the shadow where the moonlight does not dare while she stands bathed in it, he stares the way the predator does in mild interest to one that has captured its attention, ghosting winds skirting the edges of his cloak like dark sails in the night as it does to the edges of hers, and he appraises her as she reciprocates, in enthralled confusion as to why he did not seize the advantage that was so clearly his; she had been so absorbed in her thoughts that, quick as she is, a moment's notice would not have spared her life.

Perhaps, respecting the rules of ceasefire, then. Admiration at his twisted sense of a code of honor sparks an unthinkable emotion in her veins that she neither embraces nor acknowledges as they stand; the tension is binding, for at least when they clashed hours before she had assurance that he would retaliate. Awe, perhaps, mingles with that admiration, and although it rages within, she does not allow it to ruin the calm, external façade that she upholds, as dimmed, slitted yellow eyes watch her for something that is beyond her comprehension.

It is moments, minutes, hours later, for she could not number the seconds that slip by as they unflinchingly, unswervingly, regard each other, that he offers a facsimile of a nod, deference, or acknowledgement of the inferiority that he regards all Jedi with, and then returns entirely to the shadows that shroud him.

She does not move until she is certain that he is gone, reaching out through the interconnected, intertwined, weaving strands of the Force that allow her to sense and see all, imbalances and imperfections (and in some rare instances, comprehend the ragged, discordant beauty of the universe in all its entirety) but when she moves she does so whilst reaching for her saber that hums and vibrates as it unsheathes, protection against the dark that before did not seem so encroaching.

Shaak Ti makes her way back to the camp while doing so, tranquility serving as a guise for her chaotic emotions that once she thought so perfectly controlled, now, with the stark unfamiliarity of the scars that emotion, and the unwanted familiarity that entails it, no longer.

Chapter Text

Their ceasefire was entering the last days, if hours. Something was bound to break, and the rigid tautness of the situation was stifling, although what would unravel the pressure was yet to be unveiled, as both camps waited in impatient hesitancy, finger itching for triggers that were not yet permitted to be pulled.

However, one side adjusted to the tension that the situation provided with more experienced (if anxious) ease than the opposing side did, as the twin moons provided milky, soothing light that contrasted with the flickering, nearly guttered glow of the fire, pluming with a last resistant cough as the crooning wind threatened to consume it.

"Damn it, Yan, I told you to watch that thing," Bram Ren scolded as he leaned forward, betraying the uniformity of the troopers circling around the small fire, as other groups did with fires not too distant from them, in the security of their camp.

A growl of irritation passed his teeth as gloved fingers framed by the depleting flame and layered in dust palmed the ground for the pile of kindling, and an aggravated (if somewhat diminished by exhaustion) frown crossed his face as he set a glower upon his compatriot, whose shoulders inclined ever-so-slightly with the embarrassment of forgetting but evened out as a vestige of self-defense overcame the automatic instinct.

"So sue me if I wanted a bite to eat," was the rough reply, made thick by the mouthful of ration that muffled Yan's voice, and Bram made a noise of irritation that obviously communicated his opinion on the conversation, straightening up to sit. Sparks ascended into the air, preceded by belching smoke as Bram added a few choice branches from a pile he had previously collected, to the flames.

"Yeah, too bad eating and sitting on your arse don't win us territory," came a third, languid voice from those circled, and Yan cocked his head to his left to fixate a scowl on his best friend, Carth Drake. "Then maybe we'd actually be getting somewhere and not be sitting on our hands waiting for the ceasefire to end."

"Or maybe I'd just still be covering your arse like when that B2 droid nearly took off your head, isn't that right, you giant—" Yan nearly voiced his retort accompanied by a scathing sneer cut short by an interjection into the conversation by the opposite side of the circle, Jute, heralding Bram's right and always the sarcastic peacemaker.

"Ladies, ladies, let's not go and start shoving our blasters up each other's arses right now, save that for your tents," he commented dryly and a flippant cock of the brow, allowing a long pull of his deathstick acquired from where no one knew, considering they were extremely against regulation during a campaign, even during ceasefire.

"Where'd you get the deathstick from? Nero'll have your hide if he sees you with another one," another amused voice, belonging to Thirsk Hayne, intoned warningly at Jute, who scoffed, smoke issuing from the corner of his mouth as he leaned an arm on Bram (who wasted no time in shoving it off).

"What Commander Nero doesn't know won't hurt him," Jute drawled dryly, allowing another pull, rolling his eyes to the heavens, "Besides, he enjoys my company too much to let me get in trouble."

"Something about that statement's true," a sixth, Enze Pter, deadpanned from opposite Thirsk, "but I'm pretty sure it's not that last part."

The circle rumbled with quiet, appreciative laughter, which quieted save for the crackle and snap of flame and then shifted focus onto the new arrival to the circle that emerged from the unfamiliar darkness that the now glowing, animated fire could not displace.

"Room for one more?" Yetuy Tedai inquired rhetorically as he sat, occupying the ample space between Yan and Thirsk, a small box of rations in one palm, dry dust erupting about him as he sat with a quiet thud on the rough, unforgiving ground.

"Not at all, join the party," Jute replied egregiously as he attempted once more to prop an arm on Bram's shoulder (to resounding failure), "I'd offer you a deathstick, but this one's my last."

Yetuy wrinkled his nose in decisive aversion. "I'll pass. I don't want lung disease stacked against my odds when the ceasefire ends." He inclined his head to open the latch of his box as Jute shrugged noncommittally, and then returned his gaze to the comfortable silence of the circle. "Speaking of which, you guys ready for battle again?"

A groan of mutual disgust escaped the group at this statement, aptly answering his question.

"Is anyone?" Yan asked from besides Yetuy, who shrugged in response. "I know some people who are."

"Yeah, Commander Nero is, for sure." Carth dryly interjected into the conversation, tan skin flickering a deep orange due to the dancing flame. "He was talking to General Ti about it all yesterday, just walking in and out of her tent."

"Could just be the Commander has a thing for Togrutan women." Enze proposed with a small smirk belied by his straight-faced expression framed by the glow of the fire, which caused Jute to choke on deathstick fumes from laughter and require legitimate support from Bram, who seemed disgusted by the necessity but complied in assistance.

"Commander Nero—and General Ti?" Jute wheezed out, chortling to himself. "Yeah, right. Nero has the libido of a Neimoidian and the tact of a Wookie when it comes to women; if he even had the chance to get some action with her, he wouldn't know what to do."

"Besides, General Ti's too good-looking for Nero." Thirsk commented sardonically, and the circle couldn't help but nod in consensus even though they simultaneously insulted their own countenances.

"Shoot, General Grievous has a better chance of getting with the General than Commander Nero does," Jute sneered, before allowing himself another pull, met by dumb, immature chuckles from his companions.

"It's bad luck to mention him," Carth muttered, although the weight of the reprimand was alleviated by the dirty snicker that escaped him.

"Oh please, like he'd waste time on a grunt like you?" Jute inquired, exuding smoke from his mouth with each syllable. "Besides, he and General Ti have their own sexual tension to work out. Have you seen their fights?"

"Can't say I have," Yan replied smartly as he mooched a corner of a ration bar from Yetuy, mulling over the subtle bitterness as it settled on his tongue, "I've been too busy saving my hide from blaster fire than waste time watching a Jedi and a crazy robot general fight to the death."

Carth allowed a scoff of disbelief to escape him, only to be nudged in rebuke by his friend who focused a glare of irritation on him.

"Well, I've noticed it," Jute blatantly ignored their exchange ("Of course you would," Enze rolled his eyes stoically to the heavens), gesticulating with a hand that held his deathstick, dousing ashes every direction it waved, "and it's a crying shame that the only woman in this whole damn campaign—and a nice looking Togruta at that—is having a thing with the blasted enemy general."

"You don't know that's true," Yetuy retorted after a moment of silence in which they digested this bold statement, and Jute snorted at this statement with a glib, "Yeah, right."

"Look," Bram conceded, in a tone that was more exhausted than he cared to let on and face glowing a warm red-orange thanks to the poignant, bold plumes of fire, "I just came here to play cards because you," at this he jabbed a thumb in Jute's direction, "suggested it. I didn't come here to talk about the…liaisons that our general may or may not have with the enemy."

"Did it hurt using up all your vocabulary in one sentence?" was the cheeky retort from the smoker to which he received a sharp jab in the elbow from Bram for his trouble.

"Shut up," Bram chided, and then set a swift glower at the remainder of the circle, "and the rest of you, stop encouraging him. I want to play some sabacc before the higher-ups end the ceasefire, and if you idiots ruin that for me, you guys are going to pay like that time on Giju with that Herglic."

When that statement was followed by ensuing groans and desperate, nearly cacophonous demands of Jute to relinquish the sabacc cards were made before the wisecracker made anymore rash statements, the cards were eventually and rather grudgingly dealt out by Enze over the fire; and with that, the game began in the still of night, as around them, the world prepared for destiny that somberly awaited with the next sunrise.

Chapter Text

In such ambiguous, war-ravaged times, Shaak Ti wonders what is a more worthy, noble sacrifice: to fight for peace to usher in regimented civility over unconstrained anarchy, or to be willing to relinquish the right to protect and defend when the call for for it is no longer necessary. Sometimes, she wonders if she would be able to complete the latter.

The lightsaber streaks through the empty air, radiant blue afterimage seared into her vision. Agility does her well and is rounded by grace as she parries the blow, diffusing the energy elsewhere as she circles about her opponent. Instinctively, he follows for although she is on the offensive, he looms and advances with barely-restrained power. She slices forward and he feints, but underestimates the raw power behind the blow.

At the very least, she knows she is capable of the former.

In the immediate distance, she can hear the punctuated discharge of blaster laser fire eagerly reciprocated on both sides, although it is of little concern to her now. Her opponent is not something to take lightly (although neither is she).

Grievous is relentless, both in concentrated dueling and battle strategy. They are losing the planet-side battle (the armistice long over, its tentative peace a distant memory) and, if the focused attacks continue, they may have to retreat entirely. She ducks the slice of his lightsaber, dazzling green that threatens decapitation and stands her ground to connect her saber, defiant blue, with his two. Strength demanded for the moment is retained, but the push against her is incredible and she notes a tremble in her arm that was not there before. Composure in battle is difficult, at the very least, to maintain.

Another instant passes and she is resigned to using the omnipresent capabilities the Force provides her with to skid, on the unforgiving rubble of the battleground, backwards. It gives her a moment to appraise the situation and to reconsider the merit of the current mêlée tactics she abides by. But there is little more than a sparse second before a short distance is completed and two sabers drag down upon her once more, from the side.

Vaguely, she is almost reminded of the training exercises on Shili that she would reiterate with her students, the way they were once reiterated with her master. The only difference in circumstances is that she has exchanged partners for one that will give no second chances the way she did before.

A sharp exhale of air escapes her that abrasive and unexpected as the two sabers clash with a cacophonous sound not unlike the sound of blaster-fire, carried and continuous. Repetition of battle begets repetition, yet this time interrupted by a stare that draws from the rush of saber-play instigated between the two to her gaze. Unconsciously, she still retains external passivity to conceal an instinctual lash of fear that years of training was ingrained to counteract.

He speaks, low and threatening; she silently realizes this is the first they have spoken since the exposition of their waged battle. His sabers drive against hers, untiring, and immovable as she is forced to defend what little ground he encroaches upon.

"You may as well give up, Shaak Ti," he says her name with a twisted sense of affection that makes her stomach turn in disgust and amalgamated, veiled emotions, "The outcome of this battle is already decided."

"Surely a powerful general such as yourself knows," she replies, voice strained as sweat beads at the corners of her forehead (behind her, with moderate exertion as she continues the sustained conversation, a boulder twitches and begins to levitate at her bidding, hurtling toward the direction of their battle), "that even the smallest variable can affect the outcome of battle."

She has little time to bend and roll out of the way; he turns as the boulder approaches and there is an eruption of dust and debris that litters the ground, as well as the unmistakable noise of dual sabers cutting through firm stone. It was only a momentary distraction, but successful in allowing a moment to regain her breath and regroup. It is short-lived.

He emerges from the dust, still armed, and the raw energy behind the blow he reestablishes between the two of them would have surely decimated her defenses had it touched her. Shaak Ti dodges it by a fraction of an inch but is given no chance to recuperate. A saber switches to the mechanical talons he calls feet and curves out in a broad horizontal arc meant to incapacitate (it is deflected, barely), if not decapitate once more. No quarter is given, and he returns the saber to his hand and drags it through the air with gravitational supplementation while in the other hand he carries it through, to cut at her side.

Thankfully, the Force has not left her, and she defies the trajectory of his resolve to injure her side and pushes out to make the angle awry and determinedly away from her. Unfortunately, there is no time for her to command his downward blow to follow suit, and she blocks above her with a clash of sabers that in any other circumstance might have killed her. Adrenaline, however, dictates otherwise and she finds strength within to break his offense, pushing outward with an inaudible noise of effort before she darts away once more.

He follows. She is ready.

There is a searing moment of heat that radiates off of the three blades as they connect once more, separate, and become close again. The two wielders dance around each other and through the carnage they have submerged themselves in for the routine they engage themselves in is well-played and well-repeated, but no less unique for them each time. She would not dare to withdraw from it any moment sooner than when she must.

"Well played," he comments after a further moment of sword-fighting as his blades arc out to injure but find no purchase before they collide once more; her face glows blue and green from the reflected light, in a welcome contrast to her regular ochre.

"Greatest thanks, General," she taunts back, mocking his title with a familiarity in the same fashion he did with her name, for they have bygone all sense of introduction yet are allowed permission to do so. In a sense, they required none, for through battle, they have acquainted themselves beyond the levels of which even closest friends have encountered.

They fight, she belatedly comprehends, closer than lovers, and fiercer than rivals; they fill in the emptiness that neither of them can replenish in the companies of clones or contraptions of war in a continuous battle extending the galaxies. (She wonders if there are worse fates, but finds no conclusion to her thoughts as she parries the quick jab to her ribcage that would have surely crippled her.)

It is difficult, pejorative; to choose moral and emotional disconnection from the situation or to simply embrace it. Yet the little solace she has in the current situation is that she does not have to admit it, or confront it yet, save in the heat of battle. Reconciliation with her emotions can occur later.

She advances. He pursues.

The clash of lightsabers is deafening and sizzles, crackling like the heat of a flame. Around them, the noise of battle resumes, as they do, without pause.

Chapter Text

Their presence is no longer required on the twin-mooned planet. Superiors from opposing sides have issued instructions through the static-consumed, disrupted correspondence of holographic communication for the two generals to return to their respective planets. The fight, as Grievous was reassured by hooded figures concealed by shadow and ambiguity of his side, will continue without you. After all, there are other ways such definitive abilities can be implemented elsewhere.

He knows what they imply and does not question them; the holograph depletes to nothingness.

Thus, it is his last night here; his and one other's. He spends it by choosing to admire the hard-earned fruits of his labor.

The night announces itself with darkness alleviated by the occasional glimpse that the great, full-bodied dual moons can provide. It is more than enough to admire, from the lip of the cliff to the silent, sloping journey to its nadir, to view the devastation below.

She is there. Her back is turned defiantly to him, although both are poignantly aware of the other; although silent, the atmosphere is distinct with tension. But there will be no fight tonight, for this night is their personal armistice. He admires, openly, the poise she reconciles herself to as she traverses the massacre to pay respects; the sway of her single lekku, patterned and draping down the full of her back as she moves, is almost hypnotic.

She is beautiful. Although her Jedi heritage requires this fact's denial he is under no presumption to follow suit (and this is a night, different from others, where things that could not once be expressed can now be conveyed).

They are, after all, enemies. But were they allies…

His vision shifts away from her and back to the battle-induced carnage, a heady distraction from temptation as a shudder of old emotion resurfaces. There is no security in fantasizing about a quick tryst that would only leave emptiness in its wake.

He approaches, challenging and shoulders hunched, but she makes no move save to summon her saber, unsheathed, to her palm. It is a formality. There will be no fight tonight. She still does not turn; his eyes never leave her, continuing to encourage unattainable temptation. And as she moves, he follows, close behind but never imposing. A predator respects its fellow's territory, and she does not discourage his company.

Shaak Ti is the first to speak with a calm and polished tone.

"You must be glad to leave this planet."

He expected a curse, not a conversation. Yellow, slitted eyes narrow and he circles, not to attack, but to appraise as he draws closer and closer to her.

"There are many things that would make me glad, Shaak Ti," he growls out, "But leaving here is not one of them."

She arches a brow at the response from behind her but holds her tongue to have a more civil reply.

"I shudder to wonder what would," she acquiesces. In her peripheral vision the hulking silhouette of a menacing figure, garbed in a large black cloak stands nearby. "But I think I can warrant a guess."

"Can you?" his voice is low and dangerous; he is unmoving. He wonders if she can interpret the nuance in his words or if she will construe it as a threat.

To his surprise, he is rewarded with a grin, one that he would almost describe as devilish.

"You would be surprised at what the Jedi are aware of, General."

"Is that so?" he inquires, and he wonders if she can hear the smirk in his voice as they converse. "I would be glad to be enlightened."

He seems to tower over her although he is several feet away; respect for her grows as she does not shirk or hesitate, but instead broadens her shoulders to stare back.

"I'm sure. Unfortunately, some things must still remain secrets." she denies him an elaboration to her previous statement (there is a glint of mischief in her eye and he thinks of what kind of woman she would have become had she not been chosen for the path of a Jedi), "And some of us still have a code of honor we abide by."

His throat rumbles with a chuckle at the insult and her audacity. "Clever. But these codes are only determined by what side you stand on. If someone were to—"—he looms a step closer and metallic, mechanical talons click and clank almost inaudibly with the movement—"—change allegiances, however, then what would become of that precious system?"

She has to crane her neck at a higher incline as he nears but he sees no fear in her eyes (he thinks of Kummar, but they are warriors of a different breed. Shaak Ti is dignified and civilized while Kummar was wanton and unrefined, though no less cherished).

He can see the arch in her brow at his deliberate nerve to suggest betrayal to her cause, but he is again rewarded with a disbelieving smirk. She could never be swayed so easily.

"It would depend on the integrity of the person, then. The code itself is not important but whether the person themselves will continually choose to adhere to it." She returns, and the response is even-toned and able.

"How practiced. But what does the Jedi who recites these platitudes truly think?" he inquires, and he trails around her as she does so in return, refusing to be interrogated or become the lesser of the two in conversation. He nears, closer. Shaak Ti does not discourage him.

"Perhaps that is her own secret to divulge, General. One that she will not tell even if the enemy confronts her in a demand to know, in the hope it will turn them away." she does not retreat from the power of his stare, and they continue to walk the battlefield, both wary yet unwilling to leave the other's presence.

"Unfortunately," he replies, "It only has the opposite effect."

Shaak Ti permits herself one moment to digest this; not even the greatest of Jedi can remain totally eloquent and quick-witted. "Then I am afraid that we will both have to be disappointed."

"Will we?" she can feel the tension beside her and the open, daring question that is finally articulated between the two of them. He is very, very close; his presence virtually pulsates through the ebb and pull of the Force and from the proximity he assumes beside her. "I feel compelled to disagree."

He shifts to his full height; her figure falls in shadow save her right hand, illuminating the dark amber of her palm and reflecting the glint of steel encasing her saber, a last line of physical defense. His fixated stare is for no one else but her. "There is something more to you, Jedi, than you comprehend."

"Then it appears," she replies sleekly, "that the feeling is mutual, General."

An instant of stunned, apprehensive silence passes, before the Droid General barks out a harsh, albeit genuine laugh, though he does not return his posture to the regular hunched bearing he so often assumes. He withdraws, and takes the shadow with him, returning her to moonlight's illumination.

They return to walking, Shaak Ti serenely pacing and Grievous turning the ground with the click and clack of a mechanical tread.

"A true waste that the Jedi found you first. Had it been the Sith or Dooku, the outcome of this war would be different."

"In another life, perhaps." She treads, he presses; she resurfaces with a droll addition. "At the very least, I would be an improvement to the droids."

More than you realize. He does not move to voice this and had the moment allowed him to, it would have been interrupted by the chirp of the communicator strapped to the inside of her left wrist. It beeps thrice, imperious and summoning.

"My clone commander," she elaborates more to herself than he as she turns her hand over, revealing the small, flat device wrapped around the joint, "He must wish to talk."

There is an unspoken transition between their companies; save risking blatant exposure of their companionship in the night, their time together has come to an end. Shaak Ti presses a button to confirm her recognition of the pending message, but does not push it again to begin correspondence. Instead, she turns away from it, back up to him.

"Many thanks, General," she arches a brow again and there is a touch of a wry smile on her face, "For company and, ah, interesting conversation tonight."

"The feeling," he echoes her, almost taunting, "is mutual."

They stand for another moment, extremely close yet far apart, and silenced by the words their loyalties deny them from speaking, before turning to go their separate ways. Shaak Ti ascends the slope of the cliff through the path illuminated by the twin moons that stand silent watch over the midnight while General Grievous adopts the path of shade and obscurity on the dark side of the valley.

He fights the urge to turn and look back, and opts instead for self-control. They will meet again; although whether by the clash of sabers or continued rendezvous in the midnight hour will not be determined by them.

The silence is their goodbye. They part ways as the night approaches its august progression, and the war continues once more.