While Elidan and Clove were looking at the uiaras, Asadra had stayed behind. So far this trip has been a success. The two Padawans were opening themselves to each other and having some distraction from the traumas that they suffered. The Healer hoped that the benefits of this trip would continue even after they returned to the Temple.
However, suddenly everything seemed to go wrong. She saw Elidan falling on the floor and Clove screaming for her. Without thinking, the Twi’lek ran to where they were, pushing through the crowd that had formed around the boy. Some of them would yelp in surprise or curse. She ignored them, only caring for the Padawan that was unconscious on the floor.
The Healer kneeled next to the boy and gently touched his cheek. “Elidan, can you hear me?” he didn’t react. “Clove, what happened? Did you see why he fainted?” Asadra feared what could have happened to him. Perhaps she could use the Force to discover it, but the people around them could react poorly with the presence of Jedi. The people that were taking pictures of the uiaras had formed a circle around them, now being more interested in knowing what had happened with the boy.
Meanwhile, Elidan was lost in his subconscious. Several disconnected images were passing through his mind, trying to come together and form something coherent. It was confusing. There were scenes of a river of G’wenee, a crowd and a wall of glass. He wondered how he knew that this river was from this planet.
He also started to be overwhelmed by strange feelings. There was panic and confusion, but it wasn’t coming from him. It was coming from someone else, but who? Then the image of the two uiaras flashed on his mind. This made Elidan open his eyes. He was back at the Aquarium, with Asadra and Clove. While he was confused with what had happened, the Padawan didn’t notice that the two creatures were watching the scene.
Clove had never been happier to see Asadra, and seeing her rush over to Elidan and touch his cheek sent waves of relief through her body. Because, while the danger was still there, she wasn't alone in it. "I'm not sure! I... sensed... something, and then he looked at me, holding his head, before passing out!"
She was already creating a number of strategies in her head for getting Elidan out of the aquarium and back into the hotel room, where they could use the Force to figure out what was going on. But, to her relief, it wasn't necessary; Elidan's eyelids fluttering once, then twice, before opening and revealing his ocean green eyes. Clove inhaled deeply before wrapping her arms around him and pulling him into an embrace. Her emotions were running high, and the blank mask she wore during medical situations began to break as warm tears of relief streamed down her cheeks. "Elidan, you scared the living daylights out of me!"
After holding him for as long as Elidan and Asadra would let her, Clove slowly let go and began to back away, until she was sitting on her knees. "I'm sorry-" She sniffled and rubbed her nose against the inside of her elbow. Gross. "Are you all right? Are you able to sit up? What happened?"
The barrage of questions was her way of gradually regaining control, because she had not only startled herself with her sudden burst of tears, but she also couldn't meditate for the time being. So any breather she could get by refocusing her attention on Elidan was much appreciated. Plus, they were genuine questions as well; what had actually happened?
Even after Elidan woke up, he still felt a bit dizzy. The images that the boy saw while he was passed out were still on his mind, becoming more clear when he closed his eyes. The Padawan didn’t know why it happened, he never saw the places depicted in these images before. It was as if someone had injected it into his mind. He felt so confused with it.
Before he could say anything or even get up from the floor, Elidan felt a pair of arms circling around him. Clove was hugging. He didn’t know exactly how to react to that. The few times that he hugged someone before was with Zana when they were children, and mostly recently with Ruzaan during their investigation. These times didn’t confuse him because they were his friends and hugs were normal among friends.
Then it hit. Does it mean that Clove was his friend? While she was nice with him all the time that they were on this trip, the auburn-haired boy saw her more as a colleague rather than a friend. Since the massacre on Ajan Kloss, Elidan never considered others as close friends. For some time, only Zana had this privilege. Then he met Ruzaan. They lived so many things together in a short period of time that it was obvious that they were true friends. The Togruta was even the first person to hear his voice after so many years.
Now Clove was hugging him and she was crying too. It wasn’t something normal for colleagues to do. For Elidan, all the Padawans that were sympathetic to him were considered as his colleagues. However, if the girl wanted to be his friend, the boy would not deny that. She was really nice and fun to talk with.
After coming to this conclusion, the boy moved his arms until he was also hugging Clove and smiling. This symbolized him embracing their friendship. He only hoped that Thelian would not be a jealous guy. If the rumors were true and the two were dating each other, Elidan didn’t want to have the other being mad with him due to a misunderstanding.
He hugged Clove for some time until finally letting her go. Then, he picked up his Datapad and typed a message on it. “I’m fine. I think that I’m only a bit tired because of the time in space.” Elidan decided to let the images that appeared on his mind as a secret, at least for now. Maybe he could talk about it with his friend later.
“Do you mind if we go to the mall now? I think that I’m tired of this place.” he was now aware of the crowd watching them. They were whispering to each other and the boy was certain that they were talking about him. Elidan quickly got up from the floor, while trying to avoid looking at the people. He was so distracted by his shame that he didn’t notice the two river uiaras inside the tank. If someone that saw them believed that they were sentient, would think that the creatures were having fun with the entire scene.
Just a little bit tired of time in space? No, Clove didn't buy it. You don't get the look of utter despair before passing out if you're just a little tired. Her doubts were visible in her eyes, but she didn't say anything about them. There wasn't much room to argue anyway, because the autumn-haired boy wanted to leave and go to the mall instead.
The half-Annfyn was completely oblivious to his shame or the two river uiaras who were still staring. But that didn't stop her from hooking her arm around his in a friendly manner, if he let her, and following him towards the doors; if he wanted to go, he wanted to go, and she wasn't going to stop him.
Clove began to hum as they approached the front doors. "Are you certain you want to go shopping at the mall? We could also take a break at the hotel. Maybe get some lunch delivered?" Despite the fact that she meant the offer to take a break, she was giddy with excitement at the prospect of going shopping. She's in desperate need of a new dress. And! It sounded incredible to dress Elidan in something other than Jedi robes. She had a few ideas for what would look good with his pale skin and fiery red hair.
Elidan felt relieved for Clove believing in what he had said. He didn’t know what exactly had happened. It was as if he had started to see several memories that weren’t his. The auburn-haired boy didn’t want to talk about what he felt until he could understand it. When they return to the Temple, he would talk with his Master. Perhaps he could help him.
Asadra also seemed to have believed in him. However it was obvious to the empath that he was lying, but she had decided to respect his will of not talking about what had happened. “Yes, I really want to go to the mall. We could have lunch there.” the auburn-haired boy was eager to leave this place. The other tourists were still watching them and it was leaving him nervous.
“Well, if it’s what you want, then let’s go!” Asadra said, trying to sound excited. She had felt how the boy was uncomfortable and wanted to make him feel more relaxed. The Healer would guide the two Padawans out of the Oceanarium. Then, they would pick a speeder that would go to the nearest mall.
While the speeder moved toward the mall, Elidan was looking through the window. His mind was distant, trying to understand what had happened. If he closed his eyes, the half-Annfyn could still see the fragments of unknown memories in his mind. He wondered how it had happened.
His thoughts were interrupted when the speeder stopped. They left it arriving in front a mall, which was the largest that the half-Annfyn ever saw. While they walked toward it, he saw Asadra turn to them. “We arrived! By which store do you want to start looking?” Elidan looked at Clove. He didn’t expect to buy anything there, so he would let the girl decide where they should go first.
Okay, well! If Elidan wanted to go to the mall, then so be it!
On their way to the speeder, Clove was humming a quiet song, one she was taught by her mother. It was a lullaby that was commonly sung to children who couldn't sleep back on Annfyn's home planet. Everyone was quiet, and Elidan seemed distracted and lost in thought, so the half-Annfyn kept to herself so as not to disturb him.
Once they arrived at the mall, Clove excitedly jumped out of the speeder, her eyes sparkling at the sight of the massive structure. She'd been in plenty of malls before, big and small, but they never failed to take away her breath. So many stores, so many beautiful clothes, accessories, shoes, gift ships! Restaurants and hairdressers! It was like a tiny bit of eternal bliss, all in one building.
Her gaze was drawn to Asadra, who asked where she wanted to begin her search. And that was a good question. Because, while she knew a lot about women's stores, she didn't know much about men's stores. However, she remembered that some brands had both a women's and a men's section, so she decided to start there. Plus, she knew of a cruelty-free and organic brand that seemed like it would be a good fit for Elidan! "Let's start at Flora's Boutique!"
Clove excitedly began to walk through the wall, her steps more of a skip than anything else; she was truly in her element. Within minutes, she had discovered several of her favorite brands and shops, but she dutifully ignored them because her goal was Elidan.
Then she discovered it just around the corner. Flora's Boutique. The store was mostly made of warm wood, as opposed to the metal frames found in most other stores. The owners of the boutique placed potted small trees and vases with flora in some corners, giving the entire store a warm and welcoming feel. It wasn't quite as rustic as the one she visited in Naboo, but it looked close enough! "This is the store!" Clove said, happily.
Without much of a warning, Clove grabbed Elidan by the sleeve. "Come, let's go to the men's section first! See if you like anything!"
Before they entered the mall, Elidan watched Clove’s reaction. She seemed to be excited about being here. Probably she was one of these people that liked to come to this type of place to buy things. Meanwhile, he didn’t care much about it. Since he didn't have much money, it was rare for him to go to malls.
Due to that, allowing Clove to choose where they should go first was a good choice. She would have more experience moving around in a place like this than him. If he was the one suggesting where they should go, Elidan would probably make them stay in a bookstore with low prices.
Asadra nodded in agreement when Clove decided that she wanted to start by visiting a store called Flora’s Boutique. “Of course! Let 's go there.” the Twi’lek would walk after the girl inside the building. Elidan awkwardly followed them. It was going to be his first time in a boutique.
When they arrived at the store, Elidan became impressed with the place. There were so many things being sold here, most of them with prices that the boy would never be able to pay for.
Then, Clove said that she wanted to go in the men’s section with him first. Elidan stared at her with obvious confusion. He had no money to pay for anything here and the girl probably knew that. However, since she was so nice to him, the auburn-haired boy didn’t want to make her sad by refusing it. Nodding in agreement, he allowed himself to be dragged by her.
If shopping had been a profession, Clove would've been a pro. With each new piece of clothing she discovered, she took one look, felt the fabric, then shook her head and moved on to the next. She was quick on her feet and laser-focused; she was a woman on a mission. She eventually found a white shirt that felt nice and lifted it off the table, unfolded it, and held it in front of Elidan's chest without looking at the price tag.
Then, with only a few "hmm's" and "yes", she curled the shirt over her arm and moved along.
She went through this process several times until her arm was completely loaded with clothing. If Elidan tried to object, Clove would politely tell him she had a plan and that he should trust her.
She led Elidan to the changing room with the same sentence. Clove took the clothing from her arm and handed it to him. "Here, try these on. I think you'll look great in it! I chose the colors for your shirt based on your skin tone and hair color, and the colors for your pants based on your legs." She seemed to be glowing with excitement, barely able to stand still on her feet.
The outfit as a whole looked casual, but the white organic fabrics would give the impression of freedom. Some might even call it "nature vibe." Ideal for a half-Annfyn!
"Oh. Uhm. Don't worry about the price. If you like the clothing, I'd be happy to give it to you, assuming you don't mind. I don't want to fluster you or anything, or make you feel bad! But I understand how our Order works, and... I'm in a fortunate position to be able to afford these things. So I'd like to give you this as a thank you for taking me on this vacation and teaching me all about ocean life." Clove kept a shy smile on her face throughout her ramble, her fluted ears dancing up and down.
While he followed Clove through the store, Elidan watched how the girl acted. She would pick clothes and stay some time studying them, like how some botanists would do with plants. The auburn-haired boy saw her move the fabric through her fingers, feeling if it was good. When something wasn’t of her interest, she would discard. He came to the conclusion that if choosing clothes was a science, Clove would be an expert.
At some point, Clove grabbed a white shirt and held it in front of Elidan’s chest. After some minutes of scrutiny, the girl seemed to be satisfied with it and curled the cloth on her arms. The boy stared at her in confusion. He wondered what she wanted to do with it. It was probably very expensive, he didn’t have money to pay for it.
He was going to type a message of protest on his Datapad, but Clove interrupted him by saying that she had a plan and he should trust her. Elidan sighed and nodded in agreement. The auburn-haired boy only hoped that she would not feel disappointed when his money wasn’t enough to buy it.
For some time, Clove would choose more clothes. Elidan noticed that the girl wasn’t even staring at the price when she picked it. At some point, she guided him to the changing room and explained the process that she used to choose it.
During her entire explanation, the male half-Annfyn would stare at her without understanding. He always choose clothes that were comfortable, the concept of choosing it based on his hair color and skin was something totally new for him. However, he didn't question her and entered the changing room.
After changing, Elidan walked out of the room. He liked it, but the auburn-haired boy couldn’t afford the entire outfit. It was too expensive. He was going to say that for Clove when she said that she was going to pay for it. The male half-Annfyn was prepared to argue with her, saying that it wasn’t fair to har spent so much money with him. However, he saw how her ears were moving and it made him decide to accept the gift.
Then, he did the first thing that he thought to show his gratitude to her. Elidan moved abruptly and enveloped the girl in a tight hug.
Clove smiled brightly when she saw Elidan dressed in the outfit she had put together. He genuinely looked good in it, in her opinion anyway. And, most importantly, he deserved it. For that matter, any Jedi would. She wished she could provide everyone with at least one or two proper outfits, but her wallet had its limits. But at the very least, she was able to help one Jedi, one who had helped her greatly prior to it all.
The hug had caught her off guard. She was quick to hug someone, but the opposite almost never happened. Clove stood frozen for a moment, her only movement her eyelashes fluttering confusedly. But then her smile widened and she began to giggle, her arms wrapping around Elidan's back. "You are welcome." The half-Annfyn said warmly before taking a step back. "Just so you know, this won't be the only gift!"
Although it was her only gift for the time being because her wallet was empty after paying for Elidan's clothes and the postcard she promised to send to her parents. Still. She gladly handed over her credits to the cashier and the bag of clothes to Elidan, making them officially his.
"Let's go get some lunch!" Clove said vibrantly as she walked out of the boutique, beaming a smile at Elidan and Aadra.