Chapter 19 – All Good Things…
He left the room in a huff and headed back to his apartment. He walked in, closed the door, and punched the wall out of frustration. A cry of pain escaped his lips.
Well, that was incredibly stupid. Now I don't feel any better, she's probably still crying, she's still leaving, AND my hand feels like it was trampled by a hoard of banthas.
He rubbed his injured hand in an effort to lessen the pain. Well, at least it's taking my mind off my headache. He sat down on a bed, dejected. Now what do I do? I can't go back and apologize… I'll be putting her in danger if she loves me… won't I? Ouch. I really wish I hadn't use so much force… my hand really hurts. The door opened. He looked up, expecting Jena, but found himself face-to-face with Mical, whose face was white with… it couldn't have been fury!
"Go away, Mical," he said harshly, still massaging his hand.
Atton turned quickly and faced Mical.
"What do you mean, 'no'?"
"I mean, no. I'm not going anywhere until I've talked some sense into you, as impossible as that task may be." Mical's face was pale and he looked more determined than Atton had ever seen him.
"We don't have anything to talk about," muttered Atton sullenly.
"Stop being such a schutta," snapped Mical.
Atton gaped. "I'm sorry… did you just call me…?"
"A schutta? Yes, I did," he said, he eyes not wavering. "You are hurting her, and I simply won't allow that."
Getting over his bewilderment, Atton laughed sardonically. "Oh, that's what this is about, is it? You're hoping I'll let her go without a word, and then maybe she'll let you go along with her on her little trip."
"That's where you're wrong. She's going alone. She's made that quite clear. And while I would prefer to accompany her, I have to respect her choice. As should you."
Atton's eyes dropped. "But I love her!" he whispered harshly.
Mical sneered derisively. "And you think I don't? I've loved her from the moment I first laid eyes on her. I'm sure you know how that feels. But she doesn't love me – she loves you. And that makes this decision to leave you behind even more difficult for her. She is heartbroken at the thought of leaving you, but she has to do it. Just as you are heartbroken at the thought of her leaving, but you still have to let her go – and by resisting, you are only succeeding in making this harder on her. Do you honestly think you would be doing her a favor by going along with her? She will face many dangers where she is going. Her very survival will depend on her ability to remain focused. How do you suppose she will be able to achieve that if she has you to worry about?"
"I can take care of myself," mumbled Atton obstinately.
"Not where she's going, you can't. You're not strong enough. Even you must know this – deep down. And she knows it too. There's no way you could survive. Which is why you must do as she asked – remain behind, help out in any way you can here. You will be able to protect her better by letting her go than by going with her."
Atton eyed him suspiciously.
Mical's demeanor changed, and he pleaded, "Atton, believe me, if I thought for one moment that it would be in her best interest to bring someone with her, I would tell you to go." He spoke a little bitterly. "You make her happy – which is something I could never do… as difficult as this may be to admit. But can you imagine what it would do to her if you went along with her to protect her, and managed to get yourself killed in the process? It would destroy her – condemn her. As I've told you before, you are her…" He shut his eyes, took a deep breath and opened his eyes again. "You are her one weakness – and it would be very easy for others to take advantage of that, particularly if you were there with her. You saw how Kreia manipulated her… Others will sense her vulnerability and use it against her. It will be much more difficult for them to sense it if you're not standing by her side. Not to mention the…" He glared. "The distraction you would be offering, keeping her mind off her tasks. By going with her, you would not only endanger your life, but hers as well. For once in your life, stop thinking about yourself and do what's right – for her."
Atton hanged his head. He knew Mical was right. In his heart he knew it was the right thing to do.
Redemption isn't a goal – it's a path. It's about doing the right thing at the right moment.
"It's just so hard!" mumbled Atton sullenly.
Mical took a few steps forward and put his hand on Atton's shoulder.
"I know," he whispered sympathetically.
Atton looked up at him and sighed heavily.
"All right. You win. I'll let her go. Not because you want me to, but because she asked me to. And because she's right – it's what I have to do."
"And that is all I ask. I will let her know you wish to see her."
"All right," replied Atton, subdued. He watched Mical walk out, got up, and slouched down into a chair near the window. His eyes were looking outside, but nothing he saw registered in his brain. He stared blankly at the speeders that passed by. She was leaving… without him… and he might never see her again… yet he had to let her go. Atton briefly wondered if it had been as difficult for Admiral Onasi to let Revan go. Probably not. He's probably a lot more reasonable than I'll ever be. Mind you… he didn't look like the type of guy who could always be reasonable. His heart wrenched. I wonder if I'm going to end up like him… sitting at a bar, chatting up a total stranger just because he happens to be a Jedi, and so maybe – maybe – has some information on the whereabouts of the woman I love. I wonder if I'll just wake up one morning and she'll be gone, too. He sighed. Mind you, it would probably be best if she did that… because I don't know if I could handle watching her leave.
He heard a noise but he didn't turn around and still stared out the window.
"Hey pazaak boy!" said a slightly hesitant, but friendly voice.
Atton turned around quickly and looked at the direction from whence the voice came. Jena was smiling broadly at him. Did I miss something? Why does she seem so happy? Mical must've told her… Upon closer inspection, he noticed that her smiled seemed a little forced… and that her eyes were full of sorrow. He gently smiled back at her, agonizing over the fact that he was responsible for that sorrow. But before he could say or do anything, she turned around, walked back to the door, closed it and locked it. She then faced Atton again and made her way toward him. He got up and met her halfway, eager to apologize and to hold her in his arms, to chase away her sadness. However, before he had the chance to utter a single word, she had silenced him with a kiss. What the…? Oh… Okay, then. Nothing says we have to talk now… The kiss had only lasted for a few seconds when he felt a hand plunge into his robe. He started laughing, out of sheer surprise. "Well, aren't we a little…" he began, and stopped. She had pulled her hand out again, and in it was his pazaak deck. He furrowed his brow confusedly and she kissed him again.
"Wanna play pazaak?" she asked playfully. "Nar Shaddaa rules…"
"What?" asked Atton, bewildered. She smiled seductively. "Oh!" She IS serious! "Yeah, okay… if I have to…" he added rolling his eyes in mock displeasure. Then suddenly abandoning his normal demeanor, he impulsively cradled her head between his hands and kissed her deeply, tenderly.
"I'm sorry," he whispered hoarsely.
She smiled sweetly and kissed the tip of his nose. "Let's play!" she whispered, flashing the cards at him. He smiled, took her by the hand, and led her to one of the beds. They sat down across from each other, face to face.
"You deal," she said, handing him back the cards.
When Atton awoke, the room was mostly dark, its stillness broken only by the regular breathing beside him. He smiled and cozily wrapped his arm around Jena. Yes, she was still there, next to him in the small bed, facing him. He brushed the hair out of her face, smiling still. Then his smile faded. Was he making things more difficult for her already simply by being there? By… by having held her in his arms as she fell asleep, lying next to him? She seemed to care more for him now than she had before – was he not in fact endangering her more by increasing her vulnerability? Not too mention I don't know if I'll be able to let her go without a word… without asking her to take me with her again. And I won't do that… for her sake.
Atton closed his eyes and felt his heart twist and turn. The right thing at the right moment… He cringed. I wonder what time it is… must be morning… I wonder…
He reached blindly to the floor for his robe … no, that was Jena's. Ah, there it was. He got dressed silently as Jena slept. He stepped over the pazaak cards, which were strewn across the floor, and quietly slipped out of the apartment. T3 stood by, seemingly guarding the door. Atton walked over to him.
"T3, do you know what time it is?
"6? Perfect. I'm not too late." He stopped. Wait – did I just understand what that little trash compacter said? He shook his head. It didn't matter. "T3, I need a favor."
"Dwooo…" answered T3 suspiciously.
"Look, I know I haven't exactly been nice to you, but I need you to record a message for Jena. Can you do that for me?"
The recording process was activated. Atton took a step back and spoke toward T3.
"Hi Jena… I hate sounding so cliché, but when you get this message, I will be gone. As much as I would love to stay with you until the very last moment before you leave, I think it will be easier on you… and on me… if I leave now. I'll come back to Telos after you've gone. I'm truly sorry about this; I wish it didn't have to be this way. Look, I know I gave you a hard time about leaving, and for that, I'm sorry too. I was too… too focused on how devastated I felt over you leaving, to even consider the fact that you might feel the same over leaving me." He paused and took a deep breath. "Anyway, I'm sorry, and you were right about me being needed here. There's a lot that has to be done, and this will be my way of making up for what I've done in the past… even though it doesn't involve saving the damsel in distress." He laughed a little bitterly, but grew serious again. "You do what you need to do. And if at any time you start feeling like you can't cope, just think about me doing my best to save the galaxy here… and… and waiting for you. I'll wait, Jena. I'll wait as long as I have to – you're worth it." He paused. His eyes dropped for an instant, but came right back up. "I love you… promise me you'll be careful. And I'll… I'll see you when you come back." He paused again and repeated chokingly, "I love you." Atton stopped the recording process.
"Dwooo…" said T3 mournfully.
Atton sighed. "Yeah, I know… You take good care of her and bring her back to me in one piece, okay?"
"Dee-deet!" exclaimed T3.
Atton smiled sadly. "Good."
He slowly turned around, and with a heavy heart walked back toward the sleeping Jena. He gathered up his pazaak cards on the way, then stood and just looked at her for a moment, trying to capture her image in his head. He picked up her robe that lay crumpled on the floor, and carefully folded it and set it down beside her, just as she had done for him. He pulled her datapad out of his robe – he had failed to return it to her. He quickly wrote in the brief message, "Talk to T3," and set it down on top of her robe. Her face started looking a little blurry as he gazed at her one last time. He blinked. He bent down over her and kissed her cheek softly. She smiled in her sleep. Fighting the urge to crawl back into bed with her, he started walking away. Then suddenly, as though he forgot something, he quickly walked back, pulled out his pazaak deck and set it down on her robe, next to the datapad. "Don't forget to count your cards," he whispered. He then deliberately turned around and walked out.
Atton's redemption had begun.
Author's notes: Yup, that's it! Now, before I get flooded by reviews from people crying "Why, why did you have him walk away like that?" I will immediately say that the reason I ended the story the way I did is because it was the most plausible, realistic way to do so at this point. Sure, I could've gone for the flimsy, happy Hollywood ending where Atton and Jena fly off into the sunset to fight the Sith together, but that wouldn't really bode well for Atton's survival, I think. :) Anyway, if you're still upset, here's the good news... I am in fact currently working on a sequel to this story. I wasn't originally planning on it. When I wrote the final sentence, I felt I was all Atton-ed out (believe it or not), and I was getting ready to write a fic about Carth. Only I sat down at my computer a few hours later, and drew a complete blank. (sorry, Carth fans) And when I finally started typing, it was about... Atton. Yeah, as it turns out, writing about Atton is like crack. ;) Anyway, I should start posting up the sequel shortly... I just want to write a few more chapters first to make sure it's headed in the right direction. In the meanwhile, feel free to write in reviews or to drop me an email to let me know what you liked, what you didn't like, and maybe even what you'd like to see in the sequel (other than the obvious Jena and Atton back together thing). I may not use all suggestions, as I already have a fairly clear-cut idea of the plot, but I am a little stuck in some areas, so I could use suggestions, even if only to inspire me. Thank you SO much to everyone here and on the Obsidian board who took the time to let me know what they thought! Your feedback really is what kept this story going past chapter 1.