Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters in the story... they are property of Obsidian Entertainement and LucasArts.
Atton was annoyed. There he was, trying to get things done around the ship, and that blonde, pompous, useless Jedi wannabe was coming by to see him for the second time in less than an hour. The first conversation had not exactly ended on a high note, with Disciple virtually admitting that he had feelings for Jena. Him! Atton scoffed at the idea. Kid couldn't even pronounce her name right! Kept calling her "Jeena" when in fact it was closer to "Jeyna". "I simply admire her," he had told Atton. "She has many qualities worthy of respect, and a strength that matches her beauty. Surely you've noticed."
Surely he'd noticed… Well, of course he had noticed. There wasn't a man alive who wouldn't have noticed. He had noticed it the very second she had walked into the room on Peragus, in her underwear no less, and had promptly ordered him to keep his eyes up and tell her who he was. How he could not have fallen for her right then and there, he did not know. And until a few days ago, he had been the man in her life. Well, unless you counted Bao-Dur… and really, you couldn't. The Zabrak always hid in the garage and didn't talk to anybody but machines, and hardly ever stepped off the ship with her. No real threat there. Atton had been the one who went everywhere with her and whom – he thought – she appeared to want to try and impress. Mind you, maybe it was just how she was… she did have a way with her that made everyone feel like they were special.
But now one stop on Dantooine, one run through the abandoned Jedi enclave, and this knight-in-shining-armor type starts tagging along. Even worse, she started training him to be a Jedi! Why she was doing that, Atton could not fathom. But much of her free time was now dedicated to this… this… Prince Charming wannabe, talking about the Force and lightsabers and meditation and whatever else Jedi talked about… instead of being spent with him in the cockpit playing pazaak. She had no idea how many times he had purposely let her win. She had no idea about anything.
He had barely seen her in the past four days… In fact, he had seen her less in that time than he'd normally see her in a single day. He had been left behind on the ship while she went off to fight those mercenaries with Disciple – Mical his real name apparently was – and Bao-Dur. Even Bao-Dur, machine-lover that he was, had got to see her more than he had, as she had left him stranded on this ship with that stupid droid and that crazy witch who never lost an opportunity to say nasty things to or about him. There were only so many times a guy could play pazaak by himself without losing his mind.
And now this… Mical… was back, after having been rather rudely kicked out of the cockpit less than an hour ago. Atton reflected that the Jedi-in-the-making must be a glutton for punishment to return so quickly after their last argument. Atton felt he had definitely come out of that one with the upper hand. He sighed loudly to indicate his displeasure, and commented every bit as loudly, "Oh great, what do you want now? To give me a hand? I told you, I don't need any help, especially from you." He had practically yelled out the last part.
"Atton, I…" Mical froze in his tracks. He had noticed the arrival of a short brunette with her hair tied back in a ponytail, with fury in her normally authoritative but kind brown eyes, and her nostrils flaring ever so slightly. "Jena. We… Atton and I…" stuttered Mical, but Jena Shel did not acknowledge him. Frowning, she grabbed Atton's right arm at the elbow and unceremoniously pulled him into the security room, closing the door behind them. Five minutes earlier, Atton's heart would have been beating savagely in his chest at the mere thought of this happening, but right at that moment, he was too stunned by what had just happened to feel anything but shock.
"Care to explain what that was about?" she demanded, her voice a lot louder than she would have liked it to be.
On the other side of the door, Mical briskly walking away from the scene ran into Bao-Dur who had come to investigate what the commotion was all about. He had heard Atton's comments and stepped into the area just in time to see Jena disappearing with Atton.
"Whew!" said Mical, rolling his eyes a little. "I'm glad I'm not in Atton's boots right now," he added sympathetically, yet smirking a little.
Bao-Dur shook his head, smiling indulgently. "You haven't been around women like the General much, have you Mical?"
"Well, no… not really…" replied Mical, his smirk fading slowly, wondering what he meant. Bao-Dur chuckled and walked into the garage, quickly followed by Mical, seeking an explanation.
"Would I care to explain what that was about…" repeated Atton, rolling his eyes. "Listen, sister, anybody but you who's spent more than two minutes talking to this guy would know what this is about. He's an irritating know-it-all, and he's driving us all crazy!"
"That can't be the only reason you've been fighting with him any chance you get." Atton opened his mouth and gestured in protest, but Jena cut him off before he could attempt to defend himself. "Oh, you think I didn't hear you earlier, in the cockpit, telling him he wasn't wanted," she continued. Atton's face fell and he looked a little worried, but she misinterpreted the look. "Oh, I'm sure you told him much worse things after that. I decided to walk away and let you talk things over and work things out like adults. Clearly I was wrong to do so, as here we are less than an hour later and you're at it again!" Atton felt an inward wave of relief, but was careful not to let it show. So she hadn't heard… she hadn't heard the very incriminating comments he had made after Mical had suggested that surely he had noticed her strength that matched her beauty… she hadn't heard him say, "Yeah, and I noticed first. Get it? So cut it out." He would not have her know how he felt… not without learning his past first… and if she knew of his past, he would lose her forever, and that, he could not live with.
Something in Atton's eyes made Jena's features soften a little, and she lowered her voice back to its normal volume. There was even a slight note of concern and kindness in it when she asked, "Are you sure there's not more to it than what you said?"
"No, of course not!" quickly answered Atton, avoiding her gaze. "What else would it be?"
She hesitated. "I don't know… for a minute I thought…" her eyes also dropped for a second, only to come right back up with a vengeance. She spoke very deliberately. "Atton, this bickering between you and Mical has got to stop!"
"Well, he started it."
Jena scoffed. "Come on, I would hardly think so!"
"Right. I forgot how perfect he is."
"Just what in the hell is that supposed to mean? Have you been chewing spice? I certainly don't think he's perfect!"
"Well, considering you're spending all your free time with him and I don't even see you anymore, one wouldn't think so." The words had come out before he could stop them.
Jena laughed. "Are you serious? That's what this is about? Honestly Atton I would love to spend more time talking to you, but all you ever seem to want to do is play bloody pazaak!"
"Oh, there are other things I like to do, sister!"
"Oh yeah? Such as what?" she asked, smiling a little teasingly, taking a step forward.
Atton briefly closed his eyes. How easy it would have been to simply tell her, "Well, maybe I'll just show you!" and to walk over to her, press his lips against hers, get caught up in the moment and take advantage of the fact that the door was closed and that they were in the one room on the ship that was not currently monitored by a camera. The temptation certainly was there… and somehow he sensed that she wouldn't be completely opposed to it. But he couldn't… he couldn't do that to her. Not without being honest about his past with her first, and dealing with the consequences. For the hundredth time he told himself he would not do that to her, and simply said, "Well, then why don't you come back and see me later… we'll talk about something that's not pazaak."
And with those words, he opened the door and walked out, leaving Jena with a confused look on her face.
It had been three hours and she hadn't come by to see him. Of course she wouldn't come. She was probably off doing some meditation… thing… with Mical and forgot all about him. Obviously. Well, it was probably for the best, he told himself, because he didn't know if he'd be able to resist a temptation like that twice. Of course, if she did end up coming, he'd have to think of something to talk about, fast! Maybe it was best if they didn't spend too much time alone together from now on… perhaps she would be better off with a guy like Mical. There was certainly no dark hidden secret in him, unless you counted spying on her for the Republic, and even that wasn't much of a secret. Everybody on board knew it. Of course, Mical swore up and down that he didn't feel for her in that way, but Atton knew better. He couldn't explain how he knew it, but he knew. Maybe it was because whenever he saw him look at Jena, Mical would have the same look in his eyes as he, Atton, could feel in his own whenever he looked at her.
Atton flipped a pazaak card he was holding and recalled the sly, expectant smile that Jena had given him when she asked him what else he liked to do… yes, it had been expectant, now that he had the time to think about it. No… no! He had to stop thinking about it! The moment was past, he had walked away, and it was for the best. She deserved so much more than to throw herself away on a man like him. He had to forget about this whole thing… focus on something else… anything else… total is ten… reverse the sign on the plus five, minus five card…total is—
Atton was startled into dropping his pazaak deck and stood up immediately to face Jena.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" she meekly apologized. "I didn't mean to startle you. Were you sleeping?"
"No… no… just thinking…"
"About pazaak?" she suggested, smiling and pointing at the cards that lay scattered on the cockpit floor.
Atton sighed. "Yeah… yeah, something like that…"
Jena picked up a card that had slid halfway across the room and walked right up to him. She stood only about two feet from him and he felt as though his heart had stopped as she looked up and smiled sweetly at him. What was she saying?
"I'm not going to force you to come up with a different topic of conversation, since your brain is already in pazaak mode. I just wanted to talk to you – to thank you again for not bailing when I gave you the chance on Telos, and for sticking around. It means a lot to me."
Atton cleared his throat a bit lest his voice betray what he was thinking. "Hey, no problem…" he said, trying to sound casual. "It's not like I had anything better to do anyway."
"Well, I couldn't have made it this far without you." She paused, and quickly added, "All of you, I mean." There was another pregnant pause. Atton started to wonder if she was ever going to say anything else. "…But especially you," she almost whispered, smiling sweetly and almost sadly. Atton's hand reached out for her, but she had already turned and was walking toward the door. She stopped, glanced over her shoulder at Atton, who was frozen in his tracks, his hand still reaching out at nothing "What do you know… I guess I do care," she said even more quietly, almost to herself, smiling still. She walked away, leaving Atton to wonder what had just happened. Had she said what he thought she said? And just walked away?
And then he heard some muffled voice calling Jena from the other end of the ship. He didn't know if it was Bao-Dur, or Mical or even Kreia – and he didn't care. All he heard was Jena's cheery "I'll be right there!" and that was enough to snap him out of his daze. In one swift movement, he ran to the door, grabbed Jena by the hand, pulled her back into the cockpit and closed the door.
"If you think for one second that I'm going to let you get away like this twice, well, you're just wrong, sister," he said, pulling her closer to him. She dropped the pazaak card she had picked up and forgotten to give back to him and ran her hands up to the back of his neck. He bent his head down and their lips met. He could feel all the repressed passion he had for her come rushing out as he sank further and further into their embrace. This felt real… this was right. Oh, so right!
But suddenly the door opened. Atton and Jena broke apart and quickly backed away from each other. A small droid rolled into the room. Jena, without as much as a look at Atton, darted out of the room. He didn't try to stop her. He could only scowl at T3-M4. "Now look what you've done, you walking tin can!"
"Dwoooooo…" replied T3, leaving the room again, fearing Atton's wrath.
Atton sighed, trying not to over-analyze what had just happened. He had always known what his feelings were for Jena, but he had never dreamed that she might feel something similar toward him. Well, maybe he had dreamed about it, but he didn't think it would actually happen.
In a way, he was almost glad that things had played out the way they did, interruption and all. She deserved to know the truth before this went any further – the whole truth.
Nar Shaddaa was their next stop. He would tell her the first chance he got.