Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters depicted in this story... they are property of LucasArts, Obsidian Entertainment, and BioWare Corp.
This is meant as a sequel to my first story, Atton's Redemption. If you haven't read it, it might be a good idea to do so, as I will make reference to it throughout this story.
Chapter 1 – Bender
"Juma juice… and keep 'em coming."
The bartender nodded hurriedly as he set two drinks down on the counter. He had started pouring them as soon as he saw the familiar figure walk through the door of the Nar Shaddaa cantina. Yeah, I guess I don't know why I bother ordering anymore… I've been here every night, ordering the exact same thing, in the exact same way for the past two months. I've probably given the man enough credits to buy a brand new speeder by now. So of course he's gonna know what I'm ordering the minute I walk through the door. I bet all those Jedi would be pretty horrified to know that some scruffy guy wearing a Jedi robe and carrying a lightsaber comes here and gets drunk e-ve-ry night. Assuming they still care about their image… not that many of them left to go around anymore. Maybe they just don't care anymore… like me.
As per his usual habit, Atton downed his two drinks back-to-back, then signaled for a third one. He settled into his seat a bit more comfortably and sighed. Can't believe it's been over four months… He still remembered where he was when he last sensed her. He had been on Telos, helping the Ithorians with the restoration. He had been standing in the vivarium, discussing with Chodo Habat which plants should be transported to the surface next, and he had felt her presence a little more strongly than usual. He had smiled. It had been a year since she was gone, but he could still feel her warmth, her presence, her love through their bond. And it was what kept him going – knowing that she was safe, knowing that she too was working for her redemption, as he was for his. And then the feeling was gone – there one moment, gone the next. For the first time in a year, he felt completely alone. At first, he had thought that perhaps she had just been shielding her mind, to protect herself from some immediate danger. He kept expecting the presence to return. Any minute now… he had thought. But minutes turned into hours, and hours into days, days into weeks… After a week, he had started to really worry. After two, he had basically given up. She was gone. Either she had died, or she had gone too far into the Unknown Regions. Either way, their bond was gone. He couldn't sense her anymore. And that was when he started drinking.
He had remained on Telos at first… still helped with the restoration efforts… Still doing his best to keep up his end of the bargain: he would remain behind and help the Republic while she went to the Unknown Regions, looking for Revan, to try and stop the war that was preparing. But that was when he still had a glimmer of hope. He kept it up for another six weeks. At that point, his heart was no longer in it. He became a hollow shell of a man. The one good thing he'd ever had in his life was gone… and he was starting to think he wasn't going to get it back. The first day he truly started to doubt whether she'd return as she had promised, he gave up. He hopped the next freighter to Nar Shaddaa and got lost in the crowd. He upgraded the pazaak deck he had bought on Telos off a Twi'lek who had run up a hefty gambling debt, by buying better cards as soon as he arrived on Nar Shaddaa – and he had started haunting the Pazaak Lounge again. He would play all day and earn enough credits to get drunk that night… and start over the next day. He admittedly didn't like his new deck of cards… thought they were unlucky. He didn't do half as well with them as he used to with his old cards. He had no choice – he had given her his side deck to hold onto before she left. Before he left, rather, since he had decided to leave her before she left him, to make it easier on her… and to prevent himself for begging her one last time to take him with her.
Now he was second-guessing that decision. He started wondering whether he should have stayed longer. He didn't know exactly when she left – if it had been a day or a week after he did. It might have been worth it for him to stay a little while longer… to sleep next to her a few more nights, to feel her in his arms a few more times, to kiss her inviting lips… all the time… and to hear her laugh. He knew deep down that what he missed most was hearing her laughter. He was starting to forget what it sounded like. It had been too long. He had been able to sense her presence, to feel her love, to even know her moods through their Force bond, but he couldn't hear her laugh.
He ran his hand up his cheek, and it made a scratching sound. He hadn't shaved in days. His face was getting itchy. He had lost his razor and didn't have enough credits to buy a new one. At least, he didn't today – not if he wanted to get drunk properly. And he did – more so than any other night.
He glanced down at his feet. His robe was getting tattered. He didn't care. He certainly no longer felt like a Jedi. He just didn't want to stop wearing it because it was all that connected him to her now. She had given him this robe when she started training him in the Force. He smiled sadly as he remembered that day. She had run off the ship on Dantooine because she had been upset over what he had told her about his past… about how he used to be with the Sith and was part of Revan's Jedi assassination squad. He had run off after her and had found her meditating by a stream. And she had forgiven him – forgiven him everything, including the fact that he had killed the only Jedi who had ever tried to save him. And then she had opened his mind to the Force and made him feel alive.
Atton took a sip from his fourth drink. Down three, sip the fourth – that was his routine. He straightened his robe over his lap. He smiled, thinking of the exact moment she had given him the robe. In the cargo hold of the Ebon Hawk… He had just finished crafting his lightsaber, his double hilt viridian lightsaber, which still hung loosely at his belt even though he no longer used it. She had dug through a footlocker in search of the perfect robe for him, and in the process had pulled out the sexy dancer's outfit she had worn to get in to see Vogga the Hutt while on Nar Shaddaa – when he wasn't around. He chuckled over the recollection. He hadn't been able to stop visualizing her wearing it. She had handed him the robe and ordered him to go put it on… and he had left immediately, desperately trying to conceal how aroused the mental images had made him.
He downed his fourth drink.
He was starting to get tipsy.
His thoughts jumped forward to the day he had gotten the ship stuck between two cliffs on Malachor V. He had sought her out on the ship and found her, crying, in the port side dormitory. It was the first time he'd seen her cry… but unfortunately not the last. He had held her and done his best to try and make her tears go away. And then he had kissed her – and she had kissed him back. Still kissing him, she'd then started to undress him and had led him to one of the beds…
He downed his fifth drink.
The room started getting blurry.
A woman walked in through the door. He normally wouldn't have paid any attention to such a mundane occurrence, but there was something odd about her. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, likely because of the amount of alcohol he had been drinking in such a short time. She sat down on the stool next to him. She smiled at him. Her black hair was pulled back in a ponytail. She was pretty… at least he thought she might be, but he wasn't sure if she really was, or if it was just the alcohol talking. He gave her half a smile, and resumed staring at the counter and feeling sorry for himself.
"Juma juice. And keep 'em coming," the woman told the bartender.
Atton couldn't help but chuckle to himself. He turned and looked at the woman again. Yes, she was definitely pretty… but way too skinny. She looked like she had run into some hard living. Her fingers, drumming impatiently on the counter, were calloused, and her arms were scarred. Her left hand had a recent wound, which looked like it may have been caused by a blaster.
The bartender came back with her drink. Atton slapped down some credits on the counter. "This one's on me," he grumbled, slurring a little.
The woman turned to him and smiled again.
"Thank you," she said.
"Hey, no problem… always a good idea to be nice to pretty ladies who look like they can kick my ass. That way they might be less tempted to do so."
She laughed. "What makes you think I could kick your ass?"
She downed her drink and signaled the bartender for another one, this time putting credits on the counter before Atton had a chance to do so.
Atton pointed at her scars. "You don't get that from babysitting."
She laughed again. Atton reflected that he liked her laugh. She sounded so friendly, so… alive. The exact opposite of how he felt. And it reminded him a bit of the laugh he had been trying so hard to remember.
She downed her second drink.
I'm surprised she's still sitting up… that stuff can hit you pretty hard when you're not a heavy drinker… and despite those scars, she still looks like a lightweight to me. She can't weigh any more than… He frowned. No matter what he did, no matter where he went, everything around him always ended up reminding him of her.
"So I have scars…" she said, grinning. "Still doesn't mean I could take on a Jedi."
"Jedi?" Right. The robe. "Well, I'm not much of a Jedi," he admitted.
"I guess not – can't say I've ever seen a Jedi drink quite this much before."
That line sounded familiar… Where had he heard it before? He had a vision of the Telos cantina, but who had said it?
"So if you're not a Jedi, why are you dressed like one?" she asked, gesturing for her third drink.
"I never said I wasn't," he replied, taking a large swig from his sixth drink. He peered down at his glass. Maybe I should slow this down a little… I'm starting to feel pretty damn drunk. He put his glass back down on the bar.
"I said I wasn't much of one. I was a Jedi. I just haven't really… been one in a while."
"I didn't know you could stop being a Jedi."
Atton laughed. "Shows what you know! People stop being Jedi all the time. Sometimes they just go and get lost somewhere… Nar Shaddaa's a good place for that. It's a good place for anybody to get lost. Sometimes they're forced to stop being Jedi: exiled, kicked out of the Order." He unconsciously picked up his drink again and took another sip. "My… my master was an exile from the Order." Yup, still sounds funny to call her that.
"But she was still your master anyway?"
Did I say she was a 'she'? Must've… I'm so drunk I don't even know what I'm saying anymore.
"Yeah, she was…" He sighed. And was she ever… Never met a woman who had me whipped as much as she did.
"Is she still exiled?"
Atton frowned slightly. "As far as I know… Doesn't really matter anyway – not much of an Order left. Besides, I…" he hesitated. "I'm not even sure if she's still alive."
"What makes you say that? You don't see her anymore?" She downed her third drink and started distractedly wiping the counter down with her napkin.
Atton winced slightly. "I haven't seen her in almost a year and a half… Until about four months ago, I was still able to sense her through our bond…"
"We had… have a Force bond. I could sometimes sense her emotions or thoughts or see things she saw when we were… together. Since she… left, she'd been using it as a way to keep in touch with me. To let me know she's all right. But four months ago, it just stopped suddenly." He dropped his head and stared moodily at his lap. Why am I telling her all this? It's weird, she's just so… easy to talk to. Like she understands what I'm talking about. But how could she possibly? He lifted his head again and looked at her. "You know, in a tiny, tiny way, you remind me of her."
"Just your way… she was also easy to talk to… and actually paid attention to what I said. Nobody else ever did. Your laugh sounds a bit like hers, too. I miss her laughter the most," he added with wistful eyes.
"Sounds like you might have had a bit more going on than your typical master/padawan relationship. Don't Jedi frown on this type of thing?"
Atton shrugged. "She never cared much about that. She was already exiled anyway. Jedi are always spouting out weird cryptic nonsense, reciting their Jedi Code, and constantly warning us about the dangers of the Dark Side… I hate Jedi."
She laughed. "That's kind of an odd statement coming from a Jedi."
Atton rolled his eyes. "Yeah, well…" He shrugged. "Anyway, she was never like that. She was like… you. What did you say your name was, anyway?"
"I didn't. I'm Liah. Liah Stari."
They shook hands. She smiled. "Well, I gotta admit, Atton, you look nothing like they said you would."
"I said you don't look anything like they said you would."
"Why, Jena and Carth, of course!"
Author's Notes: I hope you enjoyed the first chapter... Please feel free to let me know what you think! Feedback really helps me know if I'm headed in the right direction. :) I've been writing furiously for the past week or so, and it would be nice to know if what I've written... well... sucks.