Jenny is leaning against a tree, watching a celebration. There's a big smile on her face, because she knows that she's part of the reason that they're celebrating. The people of this planet have just ended a thirty year long war (started over baking flour, of all things!) and Jenny had a hand in it. She'd landed on the planet two weeks before (which, if she'd still been counting her birthday days, something she'd stopped doing after Otherstide, was her one hundred and second day of life) and, after a bit of fighting on one side and then the other, had gotten them to agree to sit down and talk about their problems over a freshly baked loaf of bread.
Of course, she hadn't done it alone. She'd had a lot of help, which she happily admits. Lieutenant Marvel, an officer of the larger force (they called themselves The Government, and called the other side The Rebellion) had been absolutely invaluable. Besides being a brilliant tactician, something Jenny could appreciate, she was also completely devoted to peace.
A soldier devoted to peace! How could Jenny not look up to her?
Between the two of them, they convinced both sides to have that sit down. Both sides brought bread, and they shared each others' recipes (using different sorts of baking flour). It had been a rousing success! And now high-ranking representatives of both factions are gathered in a great field belonging to the smaller force (they called themselves The Freedom Fighters and called the other side The Iron Fists) to eat and drink and listen to music.
Jenny has spent most of the night watching, appreciating the happiness and relief she sees on most faces. She's content this way; to stay separate and listen to the planet's music as she considers where she'll go next.
That's when Lieutenant Marvel catches her eye and walks over, and Jenny gets the feeling that she's about to be asked something very important.
"Would you like to dance?"
Needless to say, Jenny's a bit surprised at the question. "To what?"
Lieutenant Marvel looks at her as if she's just asked what the firing range of a thirty-seven caliber hydro-firearm is. "To... dance. Y'know, dance."
Jenny shakes her head. "I'm afraid I don't know, actually."
"It's what all those people are doing. To the music. With each other. Dancing."
"Oh! Is that what music is for? It's very lovely!" It's true; Jenny enjoys this music nearly as much as her favorites that she's heard over her ship's radio system. Certainly more than some of the more lackluster styles, like Teloxian Rhythmic Hair Humming. When Jenny first heard that, she made a note on her star charts to stop at Telox when she was nearby and try to figure out how, exactly, hair could hum.
Lieutenant Marvel opens her mouth and closes it and then opens it again. "Not always, but tonight it is. Are you telling me you've never danced?"
"Nope, not ever!"
"Oh. Well, would you like to?"
Of course Jenny would like to. "Of course I would like to!" She takes a quick look around and then leans in to whisper conspiratorially. "But I haven't the faintest idea how."
Lieutenant Marvel laughs. "Don't worry, I'm a great teacher." She holds her hand out and after a second Jenny realizes she's supposed to take it.
So she does.
"Now what?" Jenny whispers, afraid that if she speaks any louder someone will realize that she doesn't know what she's doing. Dancing seems terribly important (everyone's doing it!) and she hates not knowing important things.
"Now," Lieutenant Marvel whispers back, "you stop asking what to do and let me lead."
"Lead? I - " But suddenly Jenny is being led (oh!) around the floor. It takes her a moment to catch on, but she sees the pattern in what they're doing. One foot back, and another, and a turn, and then forward forward and back again. Like marching maneuvers, though without any particular destination in mind. "Are we going somewhere, Lieutenant Marvel?"
"Going?" Lieutenant Marvel shakes her head and sweeps Jenny around in a particularly fast turn, and then laughs. "No. You dance just to dance. And, please. Call me Miranda."
"Miranda," Jenny repeats as her cheeks flush. (She's close to the fire! That's all!) "But what does that mean, 'just to dance'?"
"It means," Miranda tells her with a bright smile, "stop talking and just go."
If there's one thing Jenny knows how to do, it's follow orders. She nods, and lets Miranda lead her around the fire and back again, their movements changing with the music. Part way through, Jenny realizes that they're moving with the beat of the music, their feet keeping time (a phrase she learned from the Gravin VII Library of Music).
They dance for an hour before Miranda stops them. Her cheeks are flushed too, and her eyes sparkle in the firelight. "Thank you, Jenny. You're a very good dancer." She leans in and presses her lips to Jenny's cheek. Jenny's convinced, at this point, that her cheeks are about to catch fire, and she's surprised that Miranda doesn't feel it (or, if she does, that she says nothing).
Miranda walks away, and Jenny watches her go. A Sergeant named Moff, that Jenny's become friends with, comes over to her. "You should go with her, kiddo," he says, and nudges her in the arm.
He laughs. "To dance, of course."
Jenny wrinkles her nose and gives him that look (the one everyone gives her when she says something not quite right that ought to be obvious). "But we've already done that."
Sergeant Moff laughs again. "Good for you, mate. Good for you."
"Thank you! I think so, too!" That sets the Sergeant off on his third round of laughter, and he wanders away towards a group of soldiers. Jenny watches him go before turning to leave. Her shuttle is parked just before the first row of trees, and two weeks on one planet is a very long time.
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