The kiss had gone on for longer than Tara had thought possible. And what was even more surprising was that she didn't want it to end. Every nerve cried out that what she was doing was wrong, that it went against everything she believed in, that it would lead her down a path she could never return from.
And yet, at the moment, she couldn't care less.
Eventually, however, air began to be an issue, and their lips parted, though they remained in their embrace, staring into each others eyes.
The silence that had begun with the kiss stretched onward, neither of them willing to break the atmosphere that had been built with that single act.
"Wow," Willow whispered.
Tara gave a shy half smile. "Wow."
Willow felt her cheeks start to turn red, and slowly stared down at her boots, wishing that her hair was longer so she could use it to cover her face. At times like this, she figured, it was good to have red hair.
"I...I never thought..." Willow began with a stutter.
"I know," Tara added, the smile on her face widening, betraying how much she enjoyed it. "I...I've always wanted to do..."
Willow's eyebrows raised slightly. "Really? I...I mean...I always thought that you..."
Tara's gaze shifted rather uncomfortably to the surrounding forest. "Even then, I...I want...want...thought that you needed to be with me."
Willow's brow creased in confusion, and Tara rushed to explain. "You remember the night we first met?"
Willow choked down a small laugh. "How could I forget? Wandering out of the Temple in the middle of the night isn't something you're likely to forget."
Tara smiled briefly, then set her face in a neutral stance. "I felt something that night that I really couldn't explain. At the time, I thought it was just nerves. After all, I was on my Trial, and that sort of thing could really...Anyway, when we got back to the Temple, I found out that the Council had planned to discharge you from the Order."
Willow wasn't rather surprised by the fact that Tara had said that. After all, for being a rather reckless Padawan, she had always known when not to cross the line too far. But when she decided to sneak out of the Temple, she knew that she was playing a dangerous game. "But how..."
"I spoke to the Council," Tara said, a hint of sadness creeping into her voice. "I asked them to reconsider their actions, saying that you still had a life in the Order, and that potential such as yours should not be wasted." She gave a lopsided smile. "I'll never forget what Master Yoda said that day." She cleared her throat, and her next words came out in a near imitation of the famed Master's voice. "'Agree I do with Jedi Maclay's assessment. Much potential for good in Youngling Rosenberg, there is. Believe I do that such potential would best serve the Republic if put under your guardianship she be.'"
Willow moved to Tara and wrapped her arms around her Master's waist. "And that's when they made you a Jedi Knight?"
Tara tilted her head to the side. "Yes."
Willow rested her head on Tara's shoulder, noting that she made no effort to repulse her actions. "I don't know if I can ever thank you for all that you've done for me, Mas..." she caught herself and hastily amended herself. "Tara."
Tara smiled and gently returned her embrace. "It's OK, Willow. We've known each other for a while. You don't have to keep calling me ‘Master.'"
Willow lifted her head and stared deeply into Tara's eyes. "I know. It's just...y'know, keeping within the rules of the Jedi and all..."
Tara couldn't help but let out a small chuckle. "And yet you're about to kiss me again."
Willow blushed. "What can I say? I like to color outside the lines once and a while."
The two shared another kiss, then took a look at their surroundings. "Glad no one's spying on us."
Tara smiled, then suddenly looked to the east. "I wouldn't be too sure about that."
Willow turned to look as well. "Trouble?"
"I don't know," Tara said as she shook her head. "But I definitely feel that there's something wrong." She moved off to the east, Willow following close behind. Approaching a nearby tree trunk, she saw several kaadu running through the swamps, astride which were several Gungans. Having prepared for the mission beforehand, both Willow and Tara knew that the kaadu was a typical mount for the amphibious race.
What both failed to understand was what it was that they were running from. Before either of them could comment on this, however, both felt a sharp jab in their lower back.
Turning, they both saw themselves staring down a pair of spear-like weapons being held by two Gungans, a third Gungan standing in between them, his eyes on both Willow and Tara and his face contorted in a frown.
"Mesa onlee gunna ask you da once," he said after a few moments of silence. "Whosa you and whatsa you thinka you doin'?"
Tara began to stutter as she tried to reply, silently cursing herself for allowing herself to be caught unaware again. At least the Gungans weren't as likely to kill her as the battle droids were. At least, she hoped so.
"We're Jedi," Willow said, attempting to cover up her Master's pause. "We're here to help."
The Gungan snorted. "Ha! Wesa already see how you help, Jedi. Mesa though da Boss deal wit you, but mesa see that da Boss was wrong. Mebee we take you to see the Boss and he can deal wit you himself."
As the two Gungans flanking him advanced to place binders on Tara and Willow, Willow moved to grab her lightsaber. "We'll see about that..."
Tara moved to place her hand on Willow's. "No, Willow."
"But Master," Willow began to protest. "We can't let them take us!"
"We have to, Willow," Tara gently admonished as one of the Gungans took her wrists and placed them within the binders. "We've been looking for them, and this seems to be the best way to do so."
Willow removed her hands from her side and allowed her hands to be placed in the binders. "I don't think I would have gotten there this way, though."
Nute Gunray sat on his mechno chair as it walked throughout the palace corridor, feeling a sense of excitement that he thought that he would not have felt during this whole escapade. But this was an event that he knew would bring him pleasure, albeit fleeting.
Arriving at the throne room, he saw several of his fellow Neimoidians arrayed around the room, along with a couple of battle droids, all of whom had their blasters trained on the only humans in the room, one of whom was the planet's governor. He turned to look as Gunray arrived in the room.
"This invasion will gain you nothing, Viceroy!" he shouted. "We shall remain defiant of you until the Queen has..."
Gunray raised his hand and waved off the accusatory retort. "It would do you more good to think of yourself, Governor. Your people are starving, and I can guarantee you that you yourself will die long before your Queen ever returns, if indeed she will."
The governor stiffened. "We will not be intimidated, Viceroy."
"Then you shall suffer," Gunray said, his patience for dealing with the indignant human rapidly decreasing. "Take them away."
As the battle droids moved to escort the humans out of the room, Rune Haako and OOM-9 approached, the former carrying a datapad, the latter a blaster rifle.
"We've managed to locate the most probable location of the main colony of these aquatic creatures," Haako said, giving the datapad to Gunray. Gunray casually glanced at it before giving it back.
"My troops are fitted for submerged deployment, and ready to move in and eliminate them," OOM-9 replied, his monotone voice conveying no emotion about the task it was about to perform. "We shall have completed our task by sunrise."
Gunray dismissed both with a gesture, not bothering to say anything more. As unknown as these creatures were, they would no doubt be crushed by the weight of the droid army coming down on it. They were, for lack of a better term, no longer a problem.
He could not say the same for the Jedi, however. It had been nearly two days, and no word had been heard from them. He could not allow himself to believe that they were dead. Being overconfident had been what had led him to the situation he was now in.
Gunray turned to leave the throne room, his mind now on what he would do when this was all over.