Aric Jorgan was not a sentimental man. He didn’t dwell on his emotions—hell, half the time he didn’t even acknowledge them. He was also not indecisive; he believed in taking action, taking responsibility, and getting results. And so it was doubly incredulous, not to mention galling, that here he was, coming up on an hour of sitting on his bunk with his fists clenched, trying to decide what to do and feeling as anxious as he ever had in his entire life.
This had seemed like a good idea at first. It was entirely reasonable to want to congratulate the captain on her promotion, and a gift seemed like the sort of thing one ought to do for a friend. And they were friends, he had realized, after all the time they’d spent together, all the missions they’d completed. It was almost impossible to rely on someone as completely as they did in the field and not become something more than acquaintances, but it had surprised him nonetheless. The circumstances of their first meeting, his subsequent demotion while she was made his CO—all of that had stung, and at first he didn’t think he’d ever feel anything other than a seething dislike for her.
But Lieutenant—now Captain—Phila Evander was not the entitled, arrogant brat that he had thought she was, and she had proven it many times over in the hunt for Tavus and the other former members of Havoc Squad. Jorgan had come to admire and respect her over the months they’d been a team, and more than that, he even liked her.
Back to the problem at hand—a gift was a good idea, he was sure of that still, but why did he have to go and pick this particular gift? He hadn’t been able to think of anything that seemed right, until one day he was digging through his locker in search of something—he couldn’t remember what—when he found a box of assorted junk that he had accumulated over the years. Inside was a jewel he had bought from a trader on a whim years ago and had then thrown into the bottom of his pack, having no use for gems.
He wondered, now, if he’d had some sort of premonition, because it was the exact same blue as Phila’s eyes.
Before he could really think it through, he had found a Theelin jeweler on Nar Shaddaa and sent her the gem, commissioning a setting for it. It had arrived via courier while they were taking leave on Coruscant, and Jorgan had to admit that the jeweler had outdone herself.
The deep blue stone was now the centerpiece of a lovely bronzium pendant. It was shaped like an elongated diamond with thin strands of the metal woven in intricate designs that reached up to enfold the gem. It looked amazing, and in his mind he could clearly see it hung around Phila’s neck, even though he’d never seen her wear jewelry before.
The problem, though, the thing that kept him holding onto it even now, more than a month after receiving it, was that the more he looked at it, the more it felt like—well, like a lover’s token.
That was definitely not the message he wanted to send. Was it?
It was true that he was attracted to her, had been for quite some time, truth be told, but lately it had been getting worse. He couldn’t stop thinking about her, and everything reminded him of her—the Balmorran sunsets were the same deep red as her hair, a smooth sip of Corellian whiskey was her voice. And the dreams—it was a miracle that he could meet her eyes after the dreams he’d had, and thank the stars Cathar didn’t blush noticeably or he would have been in real trouble. He didn’t know what was wrong with him, but either way, Phila—he had to start thinking of her as Captain Evander again if he was going to get through this—could not find out. What would she think if he gave her jewelry?
Jorgan sighed and shifted his weight, pressing a hand to the sore spot on his lower back. That’s what he got for sitting in the same position for so long, along with a raging headache that he was pretty sure was going to require finding Elara to give him some painkillers.
Finally, with a disgusted snarl he pulled himself up and retrieved the pendant from its spot at the bottom of his locker. He had never been a coward and he wasn’t about to start now—if she got the wrong idea (or, more accurately, the right but absolutely not ever admitted idea), he would just make it perfectly clear that it was a congratulatory gift from a friend, nothing more.
Phila was pretty sure military datawork was a clever ploy by the Sith to keep soldiers from having time to come after them. She ran a hand through her hair as she finished one report and flicked it off the screen before pulling up another, wishing that this was something she could delegate.
That wasn’t fair of her, not really—Elara already did all of the datawork she could; the crazy woman enjoyed it, which was something Phila was eternally grateful for. But there were some reports that only a CO could file, which was why Phila was wasting an evening onboard the Thunderclap instead of continuing the hunt for the elusive Tanno Vik.
Technically, she could have done the work at the base in Bugtown, but she hated that place. She always felt like colicoids were going to burst through the walls at any moment—even after she and Jorgan had helped to cull the population, they were still crawling all over the place. It wasn’t like it was a big deal for her to get to the ship anyway; the shuttle ran back and forth to the orbital station several times a day, so it was just a matter of catching a ride. Besides, it would be nice to sleep in her own bed again.
Taking a big gulp from the mug of caf beside her, she was mentally fortifying herself to dive into the next report when she heard footsteps behind her. Turning her head, she saw Jorgan enter the room, clutching something in his hand.
“Hey, Jorgan,” she greeted him, turning back to the work in front of her.
“Captain. Do you have a minute?”
“Of course. Anything to get out of this datawork,” she answered with a small laugh, shoving the datapad out of the way as he pulled out the seat across from her.
The corners of his mouth twitched up, about as close as Jorgan ever got to a smile. She noticed that his hand was still curled tightly around something as he sat, but she couldn’t tell what it was.
Jorgan cleared his throat before he spoke.
“I never properly congratulated you on your promotion. You’ve come a long way since Ord Mantell.”
He paused, and she opened her mouth to say thank you, but he continued before she had the chance.
“We—we should celebrate.”
He looked vaguely sick as he said the last part, as if he had said it only because it was expected of him but actually found the prospect rather nauseating. It wouldn’t surprise her if that was the case—her XO wasn’t exactly a social flutterplume—but it meant a lot to her that he would make the effort.
Her response was designed to tease, to perhaps loosen him up a little. She couldn’t forget that day she’d come back to his inquiry about weapons malfunctions with a flirty little quip about going through her things—how his voice had dropped lower than usual when he asked if she had something to hide, the almost feral way his lips had curved in a rare smile.
It was impossible to deny she was hoping for a repeat performance when she said, “You could make me dinner.”
“You wouldn’t enjoy that. I’ve spent the last ten years living off field rations.”
His eyes danced, just a little, and told her that he was enjoying their exchange. Her smile widened—it was nice to see him joke for a change, even if it wasn’t that husky, mind-melting tone she’d been hoping for.
“Well, I guess it’s ration bars and caf again tonight,” she sighed in only half mock sorrow.
“Sorry, Captain,” he said. His voice turned serious. “But, uh, I got you a little something…”
She really had to stop smiling at him. He couldn’t think when she looked at him like that, all bright-eyed and positively glowing. It was hard enough to resist the pull of her lips normally, but when she smiled the battle tripled in intensity.
She was looking at him expectantly now, curiosity shining in her brilliant blue eyes, and since his brain was being decidedly unhelpful he simply held out the hand that clutched the necklace, waiting for Phila to mirror the gesture before he dropped the gift into her palm.
Phila gasped and immediately drew the piece closer to her face for inspection. The pendant was quite possibly the most beautiful piece of jewelry she’d ever seen, and she’d seen a lot. Even though she didn’t own much of it, Phila had always admired the pretty pieces she saw other women wear. It was too bad it wasn’t really practical in her line of work.
And Jorgan was just full of surprises tonight—not only had he given her a gift, something she never would have believed if she hadn’t seen it with her own eyes, but he apparently had fantastic taste in jewelry as well.
She became vaguely aware of Jorgan talking in the background, and she forced her mind to focus on him.
“Bought the stone off a trader a few years back. Had a Theelin jeweler fit it for me. Thought it’d look nice on you.”
He sounded slightly awkward again. Phila didn’t know if he wasn’t sure if she liked it or was just uncomfortable giving gifts in general, but she hastened to reassure him.
“It’s beautiful,” she said, raising her eyes from the pendant to meet his. “I love it. Thank you.”
He held her gaze for a moment in silence, and Phila felt a shiver run up her spine at the intensity in his eyes. She found that she couldn’t look away, and the pendant felt warm in her hand.
Finally Jorgan broke the silence. “Anytime.”
The moment faded, and Phila found herself wrapping her fingers around her gift, trying to recapture the warmth.
She really shouldn’t say it, she thought, about two nanoseconds before she opened her mouth.
“Will you put it on for me?” He looked slightly startled, like he’d never considered that as a possible scenario, and she continued. “I’m hopeless at clasps.”
That wasn’t strictly true, but she would have to go cross-eyed to do it on her own without a mirror. Close enough, right?
It took him a moment, but Jorgan finally nodded and pushed up from the table, walking around to stand behind her. Phila swung her ponytail to the side so it didn’t get in his way and held up the chain over each shoulder so that he could take it.
When he had the ends of the chain in his hands she lowered her own, trying (and mostly succeeding) to suppress the shiver that ran through her at the soft brush of his fingers against the sensitive skin of her neck. It was probably her imagination, but it felt like his touch lingered there, just a second longer than necessary, before he released the necklace and stepped back. She missed him instantly.
Jorgan cleared his throat again. “Anyway, I should get back to my duties, and let you get your reports done. Congratulations again, sir.”
Phila shook her head and twisted in her seat to look at him. “You know you don’t have to call me sir when we’re off duty, Jorgan.”
He gave what passed as a smile and simply said, “I know, sir.”
Phila laughed softly as he walked out. “Stubborn man,” she said to herself as she pulled the datapad back in front of her. She glanced down at the necklace lying against the front of her t-shirt.
“Sweet man,” she whispered, and then got back to work.