Tip the Hourglass

Jiang Winters

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"I know Jiang. He and Sam worked together when she was a slave for Mieru - this woman from Zeltron. Mieru 'saved' Samanya from an abusive owner and let her work on her own for a couple years, but there's not much work on Zeltros 'cept in the adult business, so Sammy got to work with Jiang. She says he's an awesome guy both on and off the set; about as laid-back and friendly as guys come, not demanding in the least, and gentle! Too bad he's not available..." Ellie replied. "Anyways, I don't the rest, 'cept for Sheng. He pops up in the news every once in a blue moon."

She walked over to Valena and plopped down beside her. Samanya had always seemed very fond of Val, and Sam's trust and affections weren't easily won! Knowing that, Ellie felt perfectly content to curl up right against the human. She peered over Val's shoulder at Raz's picture and murred contentedly. "I know I said Sam has a lot of trouble with emotions, but... When she wants to be, when she really loves someone, she'd do absolutely anything for them. I bet that, when she has her kid, she'll change a lot. I just know it. Sam'll love that child more than anything else in the world. She's a rebel and a troublemaker now, but you'll see! She's more like her mom than she gives herself credit for!"

"Am not," Samanya called out from the couch. She'd only just woken back up, and she unintentionally demonstrated that by stretching out and yawning as she sat up. "So what'd I miss while I was zonked out?"
 

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Val did not object when Ellie nuzzled up against her. By now, she was entirely used to such actions. She almost instinctively reached over to pet her behind the ears before realizing that she wasn't a Cathar. The thought made her laugh out loud, though it appeared random outwardly. Val smiled at Ellie's words.

"You're absolutely right. Being a mother changes everything. I know from first hand experience. I feel like I've grown up so much since I've had Raziel. I'm a lot more sure of myself, where I lacked confidence before. I'm also more level headed, where I was the epitome of irrationality in the past. Even Sam can attest to that.."

Sam had walked out right then. Val motioned for her to wipe the drool off her face, biting back from laughing.

"We were just discussing what to get you for your baby shower."

Val couldn't help but be amused at the thought of Sam being a mother. Somehow, the visual of Sam holding the cub upside down and curiously poking at it came to mind.
 

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Sam laughed. "Gods, don't talk about that yet! At least wait until my tummy's swollen, will you?" she asked, as she wiped off the edge of her muzzle and trotted over to Val. She sat down on the other side of her, sandwiching the human between herself and Elliot. "...I'd ask for a drink, but I probably shouldn't have any alcohol now that I'm pregnant," she sighed.

"Yeah," Ellie chimed in, "You really should avoid that stuff. It'd be bad for your cub."

The Cathar groaned and rubbed the back of her head. "I don't know what I'm gonna do," she admitted. "And I don't even want to think about what I'm gonna tell Dad when he wakes up! Kriff me sideways and call me Shirley..."

Ellie reached around behind Val and playfully swatted at the Cathar's ears. "Thanks for the offer, girlfriend, but I don't think me or Val swing that way," she teased.

Samanya glared playfully at Ellie. "Funny that you should mention your orientation, because unless my memory is going, I remember that you were dating a Zeltron woman not too long ago..."

The wolfess's cheeks lit up like a christmas tree. She stared slackjawed at Sam for a moment, then slumped against the wall and groaned. "Leave it to you to make my bisexuality known to the one straight girl in the room... Sammy, hun, if I didn't know better, I'd call you the anti-cupid."

Sam laughed and hitched her shoulders. She draped her arm around Val and hugged her close. "On a vastly different note... Who's hungry?"
 

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Val raised an eyebrow and glanced from one of them to the other.

"Well damn, I'll have to watch my back!"

The quip was followed with a laugh. She felt happy to be in company of such friends, even though she had only met Ellie hours ago. The wolfess strongly reminded her of traits she had seen in both the Winters and Mohatus, little things that made her fall in love with them instantly. Val shook her head, laughing at Sam.

"Ellie and I had our fill while you were passed out and drooling. It was quite amusing, actually, dinner and a show."

Val playfully shoved Sam.

"You know, you're going to be absolutely massive when you have a belly..and then I don't think even dresses made from drapes would fit you!"

She instantly jumped to her feet to avoid any swipes from her, laughing hysterically. That was an event Sam had been rather embarrassed about. The whole matter was hush hush, though she knew it was harmless in front of Ellie. Val was still exacting revenge for Sam embarrassing her with the porn explosion in her apartment.
 

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Sam went beet red as she sprang to her feet. "Grrr... Val! You're not s'posed to share that one!" Ellie stood as well, and was almost howling with laughter as she tried to imagine Samanya in a dress. The mental image was utterly ridiculous, and she soon came to the conclusion that the only dress Sam could possibly wear would be one made for a Wookiee!

She stepped up to the Cathar and shamelessly poked her in the chest. "Can't go 'round embarrassing everyone else without it coming back to bite you in the butt, kitty!" Elliot teased. She bounded up to Val afterwards, giggling wildly. She rarely saw Samanya when she was embarrassed, and so seeing the Cathar in such a state was a treat... Right up until Sam began to growl, that was. Ellie's ears perked as she looked to Val, grinning sheepishly. "Er... We should probably run..."

The wolfess gestured towards Sam, and sure enough, the feline was advancing on Val and Elliot with her hands raised and fingers spread, ready to pounce both women simultaneously. "I'll give you two a three-second head start. First one I catch I'm dying pink... Or worse."

Elliot swallowed nervously, grinned, then promptly bolted, leaving Val in the dust. "Fight the good fight, hun! I'll come back with reinforcements once Sam's asleep!" Ellie shouted behind her, as she locked herself in the cockpit, safe and sound from Samanya's wrath.
 

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Val laughed when Ellie mentioned running.

"Yeah she hates-.."

Her laugh turned into a nervous chuckle as she noted Sam's expression. Val assessed the situation for a few seconds before turning and running directly after Ellie.

"WAAAIIIITTTT!!!"

Despite the headstart, Sam was right behind her. To her horror, Ellie locked herself into the cockpit. After mockingly shouting obscenities, Val turned and ducked into a corridor off to the side. Val looked back over her shoulder, causing her to lose balance and clumsily fall against the wall. As before, her butt once again pressed against a random button. Instantly, she was lifted into the air as gravity disappeared again. Val rolled her eyes.

"Oh for crying out loud.."

Val turned around and began to comically 'swim' through the air like a frog. She felt confident in her abilities, knowing that she would find cover in no time. Val looked down to realize she had managed to swim less than a foot, moving at a snail's pace while furiously paddling away. She scowled and evilly hoped Ellie managed to spill more things on herself for being cruel enough to lock her out!
 

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A predatory growl rumbled in Sam's throat as she chased after Val. Boasting longer legs, more powerful muscles, and a predator's lineage that gave her physical abilities far outstripping those of a human, it took her almost no effort to keep up with her friend. Ellie's betrayal only helped her to catch up, and in a matter of moments Samanya was right behind Val. She was debating whether to catch Val now or give the woman a few precious seconds to feel like she was going to escape before pinning her and crushing her chances at freedom, but before she could finish her thought Val's magical butt smacked a button.

Again.

Gravity throughout the entire ship shut down. Samanya scowled as she went hurtling through the air, but managed to stop herself by latching on to the deck plating with her fingers. She pulled herself down and braced her feet against the deck, then slowly lifted herself into a half-crouched position, much like a sprinter's starting pose. She looked ahead to see Val trying to paddle through the air with next to no success, and had to bite her lip to keep from laughing her head off. Val looked ridiculous!

With practiced ease, Sam kicked herself off the panel and shot down the hall. She skimmed the deck, using her fingers and toes to casually nudge herself along. She spun around as she passed under Val, and without so much as a hint of shame wrapped her arms around the smaller woman's midsection and pulled her in tight against her own torso, all while growling as menacingly as she could - which, considering her amusement at the situation, ended up sounding more like a heavy purr than a growl. She used her heels to slow herself and Val to a stop. A smug grin dominated her features, and she purred, "I win."
 

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"Nooo!"

Like in comical holomovies, she pretended to run away in slow motion while prolonging the 'nooo' voice. Val laughed out loud when Sam finally caught her, her face instantly pressed against fur. She came up holding back the urge to sneeze as the fur tickled her nose. Val instantly reached into her pocket and pulled out a chocolate candy bar, one of her few sins. She instantly tossed it to the side, the candy serenely floating away from them. If Sam was anything like her during the first months of her pregnancy, she would be hit with an overwhelming desire to scarf down any chocolate in her vicinity.

Banking on Sam chasing after the candy bar, Val abruptly escaped her grasp and pivoted her body. Calling on the Force to cheat this time, she remained upside down and ran on the ceiling, making her way back towards the cockpit. Right then, Ellie had poked her head out to investigate.

"AHA!"

Val immediately applied a tug with the Force, sending the poor wolfess flying right to the opposite end of the hall. Grinning evilly, Val swooped down and ducked into the cockpit, shutting herself in. Now Ellie would have to deal with Sam. Val did a victory dance behind the door, only to accidentally slam her hand against a soda container. The lid came off, the contents immediately dousing her as she floated into the line of fire. Through the door, a long string of cursing and cries of 'frozen butt!!' resounded loudly.
 

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"CANDY!" Sam squeed. Val forgotten, the Cathar went jetting after the precious chocolate bar and snatched it up. "Mmmm! Delicious chocolate!" she purred happily, curling up into a little ball as she floated around in mid-air, the bar of chocolate hugged tight to herself as she tore open one corner of the packaging with her teeth and started nibbling. She savored the first few bites, then devoured the rest of the candy ball... Just as Ellie, wide-eyed with horror, came floating out of the cockpit courtesy of a force pull. Sam grinned wickedly and licked her lips.

Ellie grinned sheepishly and started to push herself away. "EHehee, uhh... Hi, I'm just gonna go this way now..." she mumbled. It was too little, too late; Sam darted after her. Ellie screamed in mock terror and was promptly tackleglomped by a flying Cathar. Even through the cockpit door, Val would hear Ellie's startled yips and barks, the rip of fabric, and, finally, a cry of, 'Not the shirt!'

All was quiet a few seconds later, and the corridors were mysteriously empty... Naturally, that meant that poor Ellie was being dyed pink by the mischievous and malevolent Sam, and wouldn't be seen again for a good twenty minutes.
 

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Val winced as she heard the squealing and ripping of fabric, thankful it wasn't her out there. She took a moment to find the button she had pressed earlier. After randomly jamming some buttons, one of which caused an old school romance song to explode throughout the cockpit, she finally brought the gravity back. Val quietly peeked out of the cockpit, looking around and finding nothing. She let the Force guide her towards them, thought she was fully prepared in case they planned to jump her. Her robes were still stained with coke, but she ignored it for now. She peeked into the crew quarters room Sam and Ellie were in and had to burst out laughing. She really was being dyed!

"Serves you right for locking me out!"

Val grabbed a pillow from the couch and threw it at the both of them. She walked over and plopped down on the seat, stretching.

"Man, I'm beat. Way too much panicking for one day..."
 

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Ellie whimpered in horror as Val stuck her head in. Being caught in her birthday suit as she was being turned bright pink was not high on the list of things she wanted to experience, certainly not in front of Val! "Oh shut up!" she barked, before yelping as Sam started to dye her lower back. "...Ah well, 'least I get a massage outta this," she muttered dejectedly.

--==--==--

Half an hour later, Ellie emerged. Her fur was a soft pink hue; she looked absolutely ridiculous, and she knew it. The one advantage of her fur color was that it hid the furious blush that she sported on her cheeks as she plopped down on the couch next to Val. The tank-top-and-sweatpants-clad wolfess tucked her legs up to her chest and rested her chin on her knees, all without saying a word.

Samanya, having washed her paws clean of what little dye remained on them, plopped down on the other end of the couch and stretched out. "Mmmmrrrrr! I think Ellie's new shade of fur looks absolutely wonderful. Shame you distracted me though, it'd be fascinating to see what you'd look like when you're dyed pink. I bet you could pass for a Zeltron," she purred, playfully smacking Val's shoulder with her tail-tuft twice as she spoke.
 

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Val decided to hold back her laugh at the fully pink wolfess. It looked absolutely ridiculous. In fact, she visualized the looks on the faces of the bad guys when their adversary turned out to be a bright pink wolf. Val couldn't hold it back and had to laugh out loud. At Sam's comment, she simply shook her head.

"I swear you're coming onto me!"

She calmly thought for a moment.

"Although...posing as a Zeltron might get me places..."

Val smiled, glancing over at Ellie's new clothes.

"Oh that reminds me, your damn pop spilled on me. Either of you gals have anything I could change into? Preferably something I won't drown in.."
 

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Sam laughed and playfully bumped her shoulder against Val's. "I'm not, but it shouldn't surprise you if I did! You're beautiful, smart, sexy, and easy to get along with! I'd pin you in a heartbeat if you weren't taken," she replied happily. The Cathar's ears perked as Val complained about Ellie's butt-seeking-and-soaking-soda-of-doom, then laughed and rose to her feet.

"I don't really have any spare clothes that would fit you. I'm just too big. Ellie's frame is pretty similar to yours, though. Let's go grab one of her bodysuits and some clothing to go over it. I'm thinking a blue-and-white number, some cargo pants, and maybe a light sweater or hoodie," she mused aloud, as she held her hands out to help Val off the couch.

Ellie quickly piped in, saying, "You don't have to wear the bodysuit! There's plenty of clean underwear in my dresser, and most of those have elastic tail bands just like my pants, not a hole. Less risk of accidental exposure and all that less-than-fun stuff."
 

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"I uh..am.. flattered.."

Val blinked incredulously, truly caught off guard by the blunt statement. She was thankful for the distraction presenting itself in the form of clothing options. Val looked over the choices, sighing.

"You people and your hoodies and cargo pants. Would it kill you to be fashionable?!"

She held up some bland, baggy clothing, raising an eyebrow.

"I put off wearing this kind of shit till I was in the third trimester..."

Val had to grin, taking the most appealing clothing of the bunch and disappearing to change. She emerged moments later, thankful to be dry. Val decided against wearing a hoodie, favoring just a form fitting tanktop instead, along with some cargo pants. It was one of the few times she wasn't wearing full sleeves, and it showed the true damage left on her left arm from the attack. She was oblivious to it for now. The new tattoo on the inside of her forearm was also visible now. Val walked over and sat down next to them, grinning.

"Aahhh much better!"
 

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While Val was off changing, Ellie ran off to the bathroom - and to shower, to try to get the dye out of her fur. Not that she'd told Sam that when she had excused herself, of course!

When the human returned, it was just Sam on the couch, fiddling with the lounge's hologram projector and attached game consoles. She was in the middle of deciding which shooter was the goriest, and therefore, the most appealing, when she felt Val plop down beside her. Sam's tail instantly wrapped around Val's waist in a hug and the Cathar kept searching through the games, until she found one that seemed mildly appealing; it wasn't a shooter, but rather, a fantasy role-playing game called 'TES: MXVIII'. From what she understood, it was the latest in a long, long, long line of increasingly silly sequels featuring less and less clothing and bigger and badder weapons and enemies, all the while turning the epic-meter all the way to maximum.

She plopped the data card for the came into the console using the Force, then leaned back into the couch and glanced over at Val. "You look nice," she remarked. She stared for a long moment at Val's scarred left arm, then chuckled. "Y'know, I hate to say it, but I think I got off lucky with my bionic arm," she remarked, holding up her artificial limb and wiggling her fingers as she smiled thinly. She laid the arm back down in her lap and, after staring at the tattoo for a moment long, she found herself reminded of Dalang. He'd had the fur on the inside of his forearm dyed and the skin beneath tattooed - a process that mimicked ordinary tattoing, but adjusted to make the effects visible and permanent in a furred creature.

And, once she was reminded of Dalang, she was reminded of the last conversation they had. He'd been sick, so she'd spent the better part of an evening curled up against him and chatting with him to keep his mind off his queasy stomach and aching limbs. They'd shared... Well, everything, now that she thought about it. She'd ended up telling him absolutely everything about herself. About her wild flings, about her slavery, about what Poknor had done to her, about how frightened she was for her father; everything. In turn, he shared so much about himself and his family.

One of his brothers stuck out: Sonam. Dalang had told her that Sonam had been madly in love with a woman named Valena. Sam had put two and two together very quickly, and ended up going to see Sonam to find out what had gone down between him and her dear friend. What she'd learned was saddening, but also very enlightening. She also knew that Val hadn't seen Sonam in months, if not a full year; she figured it was high time that she changed that.

"So... I met Sonam a few weeks ago. Dal introduced me to him," Samanya said quietly. She wasn't sure how to broach the subject; it was extremely sensitive, and she didn't want to step on any toes. "And we talked a lot. I really like him, he's cute. Friendly, too. Very intelligent. And gods, is he strong in the Force! His presence is nearly as strong as Master Weisheng's, it's insane. I guess Jiang is training him. He's doing really well for himself, he's got a good job somewhere in the Core. He underwent a lot of surgery a little while ago, but he seems okay. He's taking really well to living with his family, especially playing 'Uncle' for Jiang's daughter - who I haven't met. I want to, she sounds cute. Anyways... We got to talking about romance..."

She paused a moment to let Val absorb the fact that Samanya was being introduced to the Winters family. [And, unknowingly, she had also given Val a chance to process the fact that she was quickly growing attached to Dalang, which undoubtedly would make Val feel much better about Samanya's motherhood] After she felt that Val had taken it all in, she continued. "He said that he missed you a lot, but... He's over you. He said that he's falling in love with someone, but he wouldn't say who. He wants to see how it all pans out before he lets his family know. I think he's doing okay, and... He asked about you a lot. He wanted to know how you were doing, and..." She paused, giggling. "He even wanted to know where he could send a birthday gift for you and for Raziel. Even showed me what he had picked out - cortosis bracers for you and a bunch of stuffed animals and building blocks for Raz. I think the stuffed animals are okay for Raz, buuut the building blocks... Little too small for a cub his age. Thoughtful, though. I offered to relay a message for him, since he couldn't remember how to contact you, and he wanted me to tell you this:"

She cleared her throat, and, trying her best to replicate Sonam's quiet and warm manner of speech, said, "I'm sorry we parted ways like we did. It's been ages now, and I miss what we had - our friendship. If you ever want to set things back the way they were with me, just come to my family's place on our homeworld. Sheng knows where. The door's always open for you here."

She cleared her throat again and shrugged. "Anyways, we didn't get to talk much after that. His boss called him and he had to leave on short notice. I think he really meant it when he said he wants to put things right. I just... I could tell he was sincere. He really misses you, but I don't think there's any romantic feelings left for you at all. Maybe regret, but that's it."
 

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Val looked at the game that popped on the screen, grimacing.

"Christ, they're still making those? VII was the best one. Starting from X, it was a joke.."

She chuckled at her own comment. It had been many years since she had played any video games. Most of that time she played them with her old friend Ronin. To this day, she wondered whatever happened to her chubby best friend. Val's smile faltered for a bit, the same train of thought leading her to wonder where her brother had gone. People closest to her had an odd habit of disappearing or fading away, something that always made it difficult for her to get attached. Val glanced over, noticing that Sam was staring intently at her tattoo. Unsure of the thoughts going through her mind, she grinned sheepishly.

"It's kind of cheesy...Huang got a tattoo representing my name on his forearm so I did the same.."

Val looked down at the black crow in flight, the same design on the blade he had forged for her. She was distracted from her thoughts when Sam began to speak. As Sonam's name was brought up, Val visibly stiffened. She hadn't heard from him in ages! She listened intently as she described how he was and what he thought of her. Val exhaled a sigh of relief at the end of it all, smiling widely.

"Thank God! I miss him so much! If I could get service I'd call him up right now!"

She fondly thought about him. Val was truly glad to hear he had moved on. It would allow them to be friends again, like they once had been.

"Sonam...was actually the one that told me to stop running."

She sighed slowly, looking up at the ceiling.

"I had a habit of running away anytime anyone got close to me. You know about Caed...well I ran from him, then I ran from Sonam and hell, even ran from Huang. When Sonam stormed off, he told me to stick with the next man I fell in love with and to treat him like he deserves. He opened my eyes to who I needed to be with and what I needed to do. As a result..I'm going to be marrying the father of my child and I've never been happier. He really opened my eyes and I owe him big time.."

Val had never spoken those words aloud to anyone before. It was obvious that the mood was heavier now. She glanced over at Sam, a serious gaze on her face. She placed a hand on her paw, gently holding it.

"Sammy...it takes a lot of things to shape us into what we are today. A lot of good, a lot of bad. Many things make us wish we could turn back time and many things cause us immeasurable amounts of pain. Sometimes life is a battlefield we have to fight through. But there is a lot of good as well, and that good is worth fighting for once you experience it. But...in order to feel that, you have to be willing to allow yourself to open up to it."

She squeezed Sam's paw, looking at her intently.

"You can't open yourself up....until you face your past and overcome it."

Val knew she would understand her meaning, the implications of her words. She only hoped Sam was ready to finally look back at her past.
 

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Samanya laughed bitterly, but unconsciously clutched a bit tighter to Val's hand as she thought of her past. "I can open myself up. I have opened myself up. To Ellie, mostly, and... To Dalang. My past hurts, Val. It hurts more than you could ever imagine. More than anyone could imagine. I don't know how I survived my slavery. I should've broken. Should've died, maybe not in body but in soul instead. But no, I lived. Maybe I'm just too stubborn to die, or maybe the Force intervened. Who knows?"

The female shook her head and gently released Val's hand, scooted away from her, and just when the woman was probably thinking that Sam was rejecting her company, the Cathar leaned over and laid down, her head in Val's lap. Sam didn't have a concept of 'personal space' sometimes - when she needed to be comforted and held, whoever she was with would know, and now was just one of those times that she needed to be held tight. "But I can tell that you think I should open up. Maybe you're right, or... Maybe you just want to know why I'm so kriffed up. I really don't care which, either way... I guess it's time I told you. My past is why you're stuck helping me, so in a way, you deserve to know. Just... Promise me, whatever you hear, don't share it. I don't care if you judge me, but I don't want anything that I say to leave this room."

She curled up against Val and, after making herself comfy, began to speak. "I was taken when I was sixteen. I'd only been sixteen for a few days when I was enslaved. Most of my friends were aboard the same cruise liner I was on, all because we thought it'd be fun to take a weeklong cruise to celebrate my birthday. Ellie had to stay behind. She was sick, I think, and Kammy was a guy so... Yeah. Anyways... The slavers took us all when they raided the liner. I was young, strong, and I was very well developed for my age from a physical standpoint, so I was singled out from my friends and sent straight to someone called a 'Breaker'. I was tortured for weeks until they broke me in. Once I wasn't a threat, they sent me to be auctioned off. I was bought and sold, bought and sold, over and over again... I lost count of how many owners I had in my first year as a slave. They weren't any different from one another. They raped me, abused me, treated me like an animal and a plaything; I was a toy to them, not a person. Kalil and his crew were the worst, but I was broken by then anyways."

"Things got better when Mieru bought me. I was... Seventeen when she purchased me. She's a Zeltron woman. Older, in her seventies. She needed a helper around the house, and saw all that I had been through and wanted to save me. She did. She brought me up, got me on my feet again, taught me to be strong. She undid all the trauma of my first year of slavery. When I was eighteen, she let me run around finding work so I could have some money to spend on myself. I... Ended up working as a porn actress. I met Jiang there, and gods I loved him. Not romantically, just... He was a great friend. He kept me going even when everything was looking down, you know? He just did an amazing job counseling me and giving me advice and training so that I could defend myself. Anyways... Mieru died when I turned nineteen, and I was sold again. Passed through the hands of a couple abusive owners, then went to the Sontrebren or Soda Beans or whatever off of Coruscant. They used me as a laborer. Guess they were too afraid of me to try to bend me over."

She laughed and shook her head. "I beat the stuffing out of one of their thugs just before I turned twenty. Their boss decided he liked me well enough after that and gave me my freedom. In exchange, I worked for him for a bit, right up until the stupid ass got himself killed. Poknor was one of his lieutenants then... Gods, I don't even want to think about how many hours I wasted bent over Pok's desk with my pants down." An involuntary shudder racked Sam's frame at the thought, but she continued.

"After we were absorbed into the Hutt Empire, I worked for the Hutts for a bit. Kept getting screwed by Pok, worked a bit more, got screwed by Pok... It wasn't all bad, he was great in bed, and I was so desensitized to sex that I didn't care about his age. Eventually I wound up heading back to the Republic, but... Poknor had me tracked down and brought back to him. He raped and tortured me. Badly. Very, very badly. I almost died, Val. He almost killed me. It took days in a bacta tank to fix me. Worst of it all, I'd been falling for him at that point. You can imagine just how badly that kriffed me up!"

After laughing mirthlessly for a moment, she nuzzled into Val's tummy and purred. "Soooo I kinda went apeshit for revenge after that. Lured him to Naboo, then ganked him and his entourage with a fellow Jedi and a mess of Republic Commandos. We captured him and killed his people, but one of his guards -the only one to get away- took my left arm. I don't care though, it was worth it to bring Pok in. From there, I just... You know me, Val. I haven't been able to feel love for the longest time. Not like you do, anyways. I just have sex. That's it. Boom, book opened, book closed. And you've always had a problem with that, huh?"

She giggled. "Sorry, I don't mean to put you on the spot, it's just... I know you don't approve of how I practically live without my clothes on. It's okay, I understand. It's... Probably not healthy, being as 'active' as I was, huh?"
 

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Val listened quietly, allowing Sam to rest her head on her lap. The story began how she had expected, from little tidbits she caught from Ellie. As she got into the details, her eyes widened, jaw visibly dropping. She couldn't have predicted anything that horrible ever happening to anyone. Val recalled being sixteen, how naive she had been. So carefree. And in the meantime, Sam had been going through so much. The thought almost brought tears to her eyes, but she knew that would only make Sam more uncomfortable. As she spoke, Val gently stroked her hair, letting her know that she was listening without passing any judgment.

When Sam got to the information about Poknor, Val had to do a double take. It had been on the news that the grand admiral had been captured, but she had no idea there was such a large story behind it. Val looked down at Sam for a long moment after she had finished, simply smiling at her question. She leaned down and placed a kiss on her forehead. It was almost a motherly gesture.

"It's not that I disapproved or looked down on it. I was just always worried about you. Doing that kind of stuff opens the door for diseases and emotional scarring. I was just worried you would end up getting hurt somehow.."

Val sighed.

"I had no idea you had gone through such a nightmare to begin with."

She hugged the Cathar tight.

"I know it's going to be difficult, but even something as terrible as that...even something as devastating and scarring as that..you can begin to take steps away from it. Thank you for telling me, I can tell its already lifted some weight off your shoulders being able to share it. And you know I won't tell anyone.."

Val was truly glad to have heard it from Sam without any alcohol involved, or having to learn it from a third party. She didn't like hearing it, but confessing it was mostly to help Sam than anything. Val lightly poked the bionic arm, grinning.

"Although..you did get a pretty badass arm out of it. All I have is a giant, stupid scar."

She had to chuckle lightly, her usual personality emerging again to lighten the situation. Val placed a hand on Sam's belly.

"All you should think about now is this little one. I promise you, Sam, once he or she comes out, it'll...it'll be incredible. You'll take one look at that face and everything will just melt away. Your past, present, future, everything. It's as if you get a do over. I'm not making much sense now, but you'll understand when you experience it. You'll have a new sense of purpose, a new reason to live and you'll wonder how such a small thing can bring you so much joy."

Val smiled warmly, realizing that she had gone off on a tangent.

"And best of all, you'll always have family and friends that care about you. You're all right now. I won't let anything happen to you. Ellie's a total dork, but I know she's the same way. All you have to do is face your past, acknowledge it and learn from it. After that, you can leave it behind. No matter how horrible things were back then, it helped shape you into the powerful and amazing woman you are today."
 

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Samanya purred quietly as Val rested her hand atop her belly. It felt good, but for some odd reason, she kept envisioning Dalang's paw replacing Val's. How big and how strong his hand was, how gentle his touch was; she could remember it all so very clearly, and she yearned for it. "So this is what being in love feels like... Dad was right. It feels... Amazing," she thought, smiling brightly as she listened to Val.

She rested her paw atop Val's hand and gently wove her fingers between Val's, gently squeezing the human's hand. "Thanks," she replied. "Hearing that means a lot to me." She paused to nuzzle against Val again. "But you know... Here soon, it's not going to be just you and Ellie watching out for me. I'm gonna have someone else, and not just the little guy in my tummy."

The Cathar grinned and rolled so that she was laying on her back. She fished around her neckline, and tugged up the tiny pendant she'd had hidden away beneath her shirt. It was a stone hammer - the Winters family crest. It was far too worn and nicked to be new, and on the reverse side, Dalang's name was etched on in traditional Mutandan text. "I'm in love, Val. With Dalang. He's the father. He's the only man I've laid eyes on since we met at that store. He gave me this when he came to visit last month; we spent two whole weeks together, it was wonderful."

A blissful smile dominated her features as she tilted her head back and closed her eyes. "Can you believe it, Val? Me? In love? Saving myself for one man? It's... Insane! But I feel so happy! I never wanted a child, but... If I have Dalang at my side, then I do want a cub. I want to raise a family, because with him... I feel safe. I don't feel like I need to prove myself or defend myself. He's right there for me, every step of the way. Never judging, never questioning, just... Loving. I feel perfect in his eyes and it's amazing!"

She caught herself rambling and blushed. She cracked open one eye and peered up at Val, grinning sheepishly as she asked, "I'm babbling, huh?"
 

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Val had to laugh as she instantly lit up when Dalang came into the topic. Sam was blabbering away as if she were a little teenager. Val looked down at the pendant, grinning. After Sam finished, Val had to whistle, having been hit with a huge wave of information. She simply smiled.

"I'm not at all surprised. I still remember when we went to the store and you used to have a crush on him."

Val laughed out loud, remembering the day.

"And you thought there was something going on between us because he ran up and hugged me!"

She poked Sam teasingly.

"Dalang is wonderful and I know he'd take care of you. But there's one thing.."

Val sighed, remembering how difficult her own situation was.

"It's.. the Order. I've had it so difficult with Raziel. I've had to hide him constantly and it's even worse that Huang's the father and on the council. It's such a mess. You need to think over what you're gonna do. If you approach them with this, they'll probably give you some bullshit about having to choose between your kid and the Order. I don't want you to have to go through that.. I've been spared so far because I'm not too involved. Huang, on the other hand, has to pretend to have absolutely no connection to us. We'll have to hide we're married, hide we have a son together, hide everything. Your man's not tied to the Order. It...may actually be smarter for you to settle down with Dalang and withdraw from the Order. Normally I would never suggest this, but I first hand know how difficult this is."

She smiled sadly.

"I'd do the same, but I know Huang can't leave the Order. It doesn't make much sense if me leaving doesn't mean we can openly be a family. So I'm flying under the radar..."
 
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