Atton panted. He took advantage of a brief intermission and opened his burning eyelids, craning his neck to see Jena .
Jena ... An odd sort of feeling came over him. Emptiness. He squirmed and frowned as he realized he could no longer feel their bond. He bit his lip and blinked a few times to chase the tears from his eyes, so he could study her more carefully. He had barely had time to register the fact that her chest still heaved regularly albeit faintly when the pain stuck him again with a vengeance. He cried out in agony.
Amidst the pain, Atton could at least find solace in the fact that Jena was apparently still alive. Perhaps the fact that she was unconscious was to blame for his inability to sense their bond. Pain notwithstanding, he could have laughed over his own predicament. He had lunged in front of Jena to stop Sondar from torturing her, to allow her to get away. He had however not banked on the fact that Jena would be too weak to make her escape and that she would lose consciousness.
Way... to think... things through... genius...
As his body twisted and convulsed, he picked up a strange scent in the air. It vaguely reminded him of the time he had found an electrocuted Mynock on the Hawk's power cables. He barely had the time to realize that the smell emanated from his own skin when the electric current shooting through his body stopped abruptly. He groaned, hoping against hope that it would cease long enough for him to gather up his strength, so he could do something other than writhe on the floor in agony.
"Yes..." He heard a patronizing voice. "It hurts, doesn't it?" Sondar chuckled. "You should have killed me when you had the chance, Jaq. Your sad attempt to save her was all for nothing. Touching, but useless. I'll simply kill you first, and her second."
Atton winced. Of course that's what would happen now. What had he expected? For Sondar to stop torturing him out of the goodness of his heart? He groaned again and tried to move, but he quickly became aware of how bad of an idea that was. His body felt stiff and sore, and he found himself thinking that he wouldn't feel any worse if he fell asleep, naked, under the suns of Tatooine for several hours.
Bracing himself for the inevitable pain, he grasped for the hilt of his lightsaber, weakly attempting to close his hand around it, but it lay just out of his reach. He had hesitated too long before. He had feared that striking Sondar down in anger might have led him to the dark side. He started thinking it may have been worth it regardless. But at least he knew it wasn't anger driving him now; it was sheer survival instinct, and the will to protect Jena .
He clenched his teeth to offset the pain, but his hand shook and wavered. He couldn't find the strength to get his lightsaber. He swore inwardly and swallowed. His throat felt dry. He knew there was nothing he could do to save himself or even Jena anymore. Tears burned in his eyes.
So... sorry... tried... my best... wasn't... enough...
He heard the crackle of a lightsaber nearby. He shut his eyes and braced himself for Sondar's final blow, hoping that the Jedi were right, and that there really was no death. Though at this point, I'd settle for no pain. He held his breath, and waited for the inevitable.
But there was no wave of blinding pain, and no sweet release from his torture. All he heard was the snap-hiss of a lightsaber, an agonized shriek, and the soft thud of something landing of the floor next to him.
Atton opened his eyes. Something lay on the floor next to his head. A hand, severed at the wrist. He stared in disgust and disbelief.
He looked up. Mical stood in front of Sondar, lightsaber drawn. With his right hand, Sondar was holding what remained of his left wrist. And Atton fondly wished he could kick himself. Now, why didn't you think of doing that, you idiot?
A curse escaped Sondar's lips, and with a flick of his wrist, Mical moved his lightsaber next to Sondar's neck, perfectly lined up with the burn mark left behind by Atton's lightsaber. Mical grinned.
"Things certainly appear to have turned around now, haven't they, Sith?" Mical's smile faded, and he added menacingly, "And in case you're wondering, I'm not above cutting the other hand off. So perhaps now you ought to just give up while you're still alive and still possess the ability to pick things up." He jerked his head back toward the other two Sith, both dead. "Your allies can't help you." He took Sondar's lightsaber from him and tossed it across the room. "You no longer have your weapon. And if you even try to use the Force again, know that I will cut you down without any hesitation."
Sondar grimaced. "You wouldn't... couldn't..." His grimace turned into a triumphant smile. "You're a Jedi. You can't kill me; I'm unarmed."
Mical chuckled. "Unarmed? Is that how you think I consider you? You are perfectly able to defend yourself. And even if you were not..." His eyes shifted over to Atton's still smoking body and he smirked. "Atton here could tell you that I'm not always above striking helpless people down in anger. Couldn't you, Atton?"
Atton coughed in response, hoping to sound casual and to divert the attention from him, as he was still attempting to get hold of his lightsaber. After all, Mical might have the upper hand, but it wasn't over yet.
If Mical can just distract him long enough... nothing in the Jedi Code about not stabbing someone in the back if they're trying to kill you... Well... not those exact words...
He smiled grimly. He knew that such an effort might push him over the edge. He was still in too much pain. He hoped desperately that Daynn had found Revan. Revan, or anyone else, really. Anybody who wasn't wounded would do the trick at this point. He'd even welcome HK-47 with open arms. The droid would certainly have no qualms about shooting Sondar down and making sure he remained there.
Mical turned his attention away from Atton and back to Sondar. Atton let out an inaudible sigh of relief. "And so, Sith," Mical continued, "if you want to live, you will kindly accompany me to the Jedi Council Chambers, where the Jedi Masters can deal with you as they see fit. If you're lucky, perhaps they'll give you a second chance, as they did with Revan. Nothing like starting over with a clean slate. Or so I hear." He smirked again.
Sondar shot Mical a dark look. "I'm not going anywhere with you, Jedi," he hissed amidst the crackle of Mical's lightsaber.
Mical shrugged. "I thought you might say that," he said in a bored tone. "Very well. In that case, we'll simply stand here, my blade next to your neck, until Daynn finds his mother and brings her here, as I instructed him to do when I met him down the hall. You know. His mother. Darth Revan. Shouldn't be much longer." He waited to see if Sondar would react, but the latter didn't flinch and only glowered.
"Revan isn't the powerful Sith Lord she used to be."
"True," Mical admitted pleasantly. "However, while Revan has been redeemed, I cannot guarantee how she'll react in the presence of the man who intended to kidnap her child and lure him to the dark side. Emotions can do strange things at times. Surely you know that. They can turn the meekest, kindest person in the galaxy into the most vengeful, vicious being you've encountered. And we both know that Revan is quite capable of being both vicious and vengeful. It will be interesting to stand by and watch what she does to you." He smiled wickedly.
Some of Sondar's bravado faded from his eyes and he pursed his lips. "You... you can't let her kill me, Jedi. Whether you kill me yourself or just allow her to kill me, it's the same thing. Jedi don't kill their prisoners."
"Don't tempt me," Mical said, still smiling. "I'd rather not fall to the dark side, but if you give me no other choice... I'll simply tell the Council I had no other option. Jena won't know any better, and Atton certainly won't contradict me. Not after the way you tried to kill the woman he loves."
Sondar swallowed, as Mical's lightsaber did not waver. "Look... Jedi... let's be reasonable about this. Your... Jena ... is still alive. No harm done. I see great potential in you. If you let me go... if you joined me... I could help you unlock that power. You could get all you've ever wanted."
Mical's smile turned bitter. "All I've ever wanted? And what would you know about that? Your power can't give me what I want." He pointed at Jena 's unconscious body. "All I ever wanted was she!" He turned to look at Atton and cried, "And she loves him!"
Sondar's lips curled and Atton swallowed. He knew what the Sith was thinking. Love can lead to jealousy, and jealousy to hate, and...
"Mical, don't fall for this. He's a Sith!" Atton spoke, but his words came out faint and raspy. He only then realized how dry the repeated waves of Force Lightning had made his throat. He was still quite certain he had spoken loudly and clearly enough for Mical to hear, but the younger Jedi showed no sign that he had, and simply stared Sondar in the eyes.
There's no way this is going to end well. Atton tried to reach his lightsaber again, but failed. Dammit, why is this so hard? It's right there
Sondar's worry faded from his eyes. A smile started to form on the corners of his lips. "But if you kill Jaq," he said, "then you can have her. She won't know what really happened. She couldn't, you said so yourself." He looked at Atton, raised an eyebrow and smirked. "Perhaps Jaq... died in battle?" he suggested, his smirk widening into an evil grin.
Mical stared at the Sith for a moment. Atton temporarily stopped his attempts to reach his lightsaber and looked at the two men. Was Mical hesitating just a bit too long for comfort? After all, he had tried to kill him before. Worry entered his mind as he watched Mical stand in silence for a few seconds.
"A valiant effort," Mical finally answered quietly, "but it won't work. She will never love me as I love her. And I've accepted that." His eyes darted over to Atton and he gave the wounded man a tired smile. "Forgiveness is all I seek now."
For an instant, Atton's eyes merely reflected surprise and relief. But a moment later that surprise turned to horror, as he had noticed Sondar's remaining hand twitch in a familiar manner. "Mical!" Atton shouted, his voice hoarse from the burns.
Mical turned quickly toward Sondar, just in time to see a lightsaber fly from across the room into the Sith's waiting hand. Before Mical had any time to react the crimson lightsaber ignited and Sondar slashed its blade deeply across the young Jedi's chest.
Mical's eyes widened and he dropped his lightsaber, which switched off as it hit the ground. He opened his mouth as if to say something, but Sondar swung his blade around and stabbed him in the abdomen. Mical coughed and slid down to his knees. Again, Sondar raised his lightsaber, but before he had the chance to bring his blade down, he was struck squarely in the chest by a viridian blade.
From his spot on the floor, Atton still sat with his hand out in front of him. He wasn't sure how he had found the strength to pick up his lightsaber, much less to throw it with that much power and accuracy, but he could only hope it had been enough. He watched as Sondar's lightsaber fell to the ground and switched off, promptly followed by his own. Sondar stumbled back and stared at Atton in disbelief. He sputtered something that sounded like "Jaq", and he fell to the ground, motionless.
Atton's eyes darted to Mical. The latter looked as though he was trying to smile, which Atton found a little odd. He coughed and a bit of blood dribbled from the corner of his mouth. His hand moved shakily to his lips and he pulled it away, eyeing the blood. Still smiling, he looked at Atton again. "Can't... believe... you tried... to save... m—"
And Mical collapsed.
"Mical!" Atton shouted, still hoarsely. "Ah, frack!" He painstakingly tried to stand up. After failing twice, he finally managed to get up. He took a shaky step and realized how dark everything was becoming. He heard a panic-stricken shriek from the hall.
Atton smiled, his dry lips cracking and splitting a little. "Oh, hey, Rev..." he said casually. "'Bout time you showed up."
Revan burst into the room and hurried toward him. He grabbed hold of her arm as the room started spinning uncontrollably.
"Jaq, what happened?" he heard her ask desperately.
And then everything was black.
As Atton slowly regained consciousness, the first though that came to mind was that he must have once again fallen asleep in a Nar Shaddaa gutter again. It wasn't like it hadn't happened before. However he did feel a bit more slimy than usual... and that thing on his face... what was that?
He groggily moved his hand to his mouth, and his eyes flew open. Something covered his mouth and nose. A breathing mask. He looked around, but everything was so blurry... and bluish. He blinked a few times. There was a clear, cylindrical wall close all around him, and beyond the wall, he could make out a few other tanks similar to the one he floated in. He thought he could make out a humanoid shape in the one next to him. He looked toward the center of the room. A human with bluish-gray hair, wearing a bluish lab coat, sat at a desk, staring intently at a monitor screen.
Atton squirmed and the man looked up in his direction. He muttered something Atton couldn't understand. The man walked over to Atton's kolto tank and pushed a few buttons. The world became blurry, and Atton's eyes closed again.
The next time Atton opened his eyes, he found himself to be lying down on a bed of dubious comfort. Almost as bad as the cots on the Ebon Hawk, he reflected as he sat up on the medical bay bed. And Jena always wondered why I liked sleeping in the cockpit so much. He glanced around the small, tidy, white room. Blank walls; a chair; a table with carefully folded dark brown cloth on top. There isn't even a window. More like a cell than a medbay. I only hope whoever's running this place is better at healing people than they are at decorating.
He stretched his arms out gingerly, remembering how painful the slightest movement used to be. There was still some stiffness and he felt sore all over, but as he glanced down to his chest, he saw that he was no longer wounded. At least I look better than I feel.
He relaxed and drew his arms back to him. As he did so, his eyes fell to his left hand. Where his severed digit used to be now was a silver robotic finger. He blinked and grumbled, "Oh great. A droid finger." He flexed his cybernetic finger a few times as he stared at it. "Figures."
He shook his head. A large strand of hair slipped onto his face. He ran his hand through his hair to brush it back and grimaced at the sensation of semi-dry kolto between his fingers. He grimaced.
This stuff's going to cling to me for hours. With my luck, I'll probably develop some sort of allergic reaction. He eyed the closed door. There's gotta be a fresher around here, so I can clean up a bit.
He got up carefully as to not become light-headed, and was just getting used to standing again when the door slid open. Realizing that he wasn't wearing much in the way of clothes, he quickly pulled the sheet off the bed and wrapped it around his waist, just as Revan walked into the room. She paused and shot him an appraisable glance and a smirk.
"Nice," she commented, referring to his bare chest, as the door closed behind her. "About the same as I remember. A few extra scars, though, I think."
"What do you want, Revan?" Atton snapped, unconsciously wrapping the sheet a bit more tightly around his waist. He sneered. "Or did you already get what you came in here for?"
Revan snorted. "Don't flatter yourself, Jaq Rand. Seeing you half-naked is hardly worth the effort of coming all the way out here."
Atton raised an eyebrow. "Gee, Rev, don't hold back on account of the fact I'm wounded. Tell me how you really feel."
Revan's smirk vanished and she briefly closed her eyes. "Sorry, Jaq. I've had kind of a rough couple days, and you tend to bring the sarcastic schutta out of me."
"Yeah, I'm told I have that effect on a lot of people." He glanced around the room to confirm that those were his clothes on the nearby table and paused. "Wait. Did you say a couple days? Just how long was I in there?"
"About a day."
Atton's eyes widened. "No wonder my hands are all pruny. Jena okay?"
Revan's eyebrows twitched almost imperceptibly. "Yeah," she breathed. " Jena 's fine. Still in the kolto tank, but she should be out soon, I would imagine."
The mention of Jena 's name reminded Atton how naked he really was. He glanced at Revan uneasily. "So... would it be asking too much for you to turn around while I got dressed?"
Without a reply, Revan covered her eyes with her left hand and with her right, motioned him to carry on. "You do realize, of course, that I've seen you a lot more naked than that," she added conversationally.
"Yeah, well..." He headed toward the table where his robes rested. "I think I'd rather you just remember it, on the off-shot that your memory is more generous than nature was." He picked up his garments and proceeded to put them on.
Revan laughed briefly, but her smile almost immediately faded. "You almost done?" she asked soberly.
"Don't get your panties in a bunch," Atton responded as he struggled with his belt. "Fracking thing," he mumbled as he fastened it. Having finally managed to cover himself up in a satisfactory manner, he said aloud, "All right. I'm about as decent as I'm gonna get." Revan lowered her hand and Atton added, "Now... why is it that you—" He stopped and frowned as he glanced down to his robes. "Did you have these cleaned?" he asked.
"Sorry," Revan retorted. "I didn't realize you had an emotional attachment to those vornskr blood stains."
Atton's glanced up thoughtfully for a moment. "Oh yeah... I'd forgotten about those. Anyway, so why are you here?" He readjusted his belt and frowned. "You're sure Jena 's okay?"
" Jena 's fine, Jaq."
Atton failed to notice the slight emphasis Revan put on the word ' Jena '. "Well, good," he said, somewhat relieved. He glanced over at Revan and for the first time since she came into the room, he noticed she wore cream-colored Jedi robes, and that her hair wasn't tied back in its usual ponytail. "Well, don't you look purdy," he said, stifling a yawn. "Can't say I remember the last time I saw you dressed in Jedi Robes. Must've been the Mandalorian Wars."
"I had to meet with the Council," she replied briefly. "How are you feeling?"
"Like I was hit by a half-ton speeder. Wait. No..." He massaged his left hand and eyed his cybernetic finger. "Make that a Corellian Cruiser." He looked up. "So, what did the geezers have to say? I expect they told you how bad of an impression I made on them."
Revan sat down on the nearby chair, and, not wanting to be the only one left standing, Atton sat back down onto the bed. "Well, your name did come up a few times, but probably not in the way you'd expect."
"Well, whatever it was, it can't have been good. So…" He leaned over toward Revan. "What did they want?"
"It wasn't so much what they wanted as what I wanted." She glanced away. "I asked to speak to them."
Atton arched an eyebrow. "Oh?"
Revan looked directly at Atton. "And I told them the same thing I came here to tell you. I'm leaving."
The words took a few seconds to register in Atton's mind. "Leaving? What do you mean, leaving?"
Revan exhaled impatiently. "Come on, Jaq! You know what's going on! Evidently the Sith aren't going to stop until they have what they're looking for... and seeing as one of the things they're looking for is my son... Well, I'm not about to let them. So I'm going back to the Unknown Regions, or wherever else they may be hiding now."
Atton looked her in the eyes and asked deliberately, "What about Carth?"
Revan's eyes darted away, and she didn't answer. Atton leaned over toward her, until he caught her eye again. "What about Carth, Revan?" he insisted.
"Carth understands," Revan muttered. "He'd do the same if Dustil was the one in danger. He told me so. But…" She furrowed her brow. "I'm surprised... He never once asked to come along. I guess he knew there was no point. That I'd say no. He said..." She laughed bitterly. "He said he was just glad that this time I gave him a chance to say goodbye." She winced. "I hate leaving him... Being back here, on Coruscant, it made me realize just how much..." She stopped and looked down.
"How much...?" Atton insisted.
Revan looked right at him. "How much he means to me, and how I was crazy to think I could go on without him." She smirked. "And with you." She jabbed his left shoulder with her index.
A sense of relief came over Atton, but he was careful not to let it show too much.
"Glad to see you've finally come to your sense," he said with a wry smile.
Revan smiled bitterly. "I suppose I have, Jaq. The dark Lord Revan is the one who loves Jaq Rand… but that's just not who we are anymore, is it, Atton?"
The emphasis Revan put on his name reminded Atton of the way Kreia used to do the same, and he smirked. "I guess not, Liah."
Revan snickered, stood up and took a step forward. She unexpectedly bent down toward Atton. Startled, he turned his head toward her. Revan had been aiming for his cheek, but her kiss fell onto his lips instead. Both their eyes widened in surprise as their mouths came into contact. Revan, recovering from her surprise first, smiled. She brushed her hand against his cheek, and kissed him again lightly and a tad lingeringly. Atton held his breath and shut his eyes briefly as she drew away.
"Sorry," he heard her say softly. He opened his eyes. Revan was sitting back down on her chair. She looked sheepish, though unapologetic. "I'd always regretted not getting a chance to say goodbye to Jaq Rand. I felt I owed my old self that much."
Atton exhaled. "Yeah." He spoke absent-mindedly. "Sure." He shut his eyes again and bit his bottom lip. A long-forgotten memory flashed to mind. Lord Revan's quarters. Revan glancing up at him. Atton bending his head down and pressing his lips clumsily against hers, the smell of Corellian brandy mingling with the scent of Revan's hair…
He opened his eyes.
"So," he continued, his voice cracking slightly. He cleared his throat. "When are you leaving?"
The light in Revan's eyes faded as she was dragged back to reality. "Soon. Today, I suppose. I'd like to speak to Jena before I go, so I may hold off until she's out of the kolto tank. I've said goodbye to everyone else…" She glanced down to her feet and sighed. "It was hard enough leaving him last time," she whispered. "But at least then I didn't have to see the injured look he had on his face today. This time… I don't know how I'll be able to leave him."
"Then don't," Atton stated, as the ghost of the dark Lord Revan's kiss faded away from his mind again.
Revan frowned and shook her head. "I have to," she breathed.
Atton shrugged. "Then... bring him with you!"
"I can't, Jaq!" she cried. "You of all people should know that, because if you didn't, you wouldn't have let Jena go so easily when she left."
Atton clenched his teeth and his face reddened. "Easily?" he repeated loudly. "Easily? Lady, you have no idea what I went through. And neither does Jena . You think it's hard to leave Carth behind? Is that right? Well, how do you suppose he must feel about it? Because not only are you vanishing Force knows where, but you're also casting him aside like a used medpac." He rolled his eyes. "Until, of course, you decide to come back again and pretend nothing's changed."
Revan shot Atton a stony stare. "Does Jena know you feel this way, Jaq?" she asked slowly.
"We're talking about Carth," Atton snapped.
She shook her head. "See, I don't think we are!"
Atton threw his arms up. "Don't you turn this around on me, Revan. Yes, I went through the motions of understanding when Jena left. I had to. But I don't think even she would expect me to understand so well if she left again."
"Well, what would you have me do, Jaq?" Revan blurted as she got up. "Sit by and let the Sith take our son away? Or would you rather I risked Carth's life by taking him along with me?"
Atton stood up as well and glared at her. "That's not your decision to make, Revan," he said evenly. He scoffed. "Have you even asked him what he wanted? What if he'd rather take the chance of him dying than sit here and wait for you to come back again, wondering if you ever will? The man went through hell over the past five years, Revan. But, no. You're too selfish to ask him what he wants."
Revan took a step forward. "Selfish?" she cried. "How dare…"
"Yes, selfish!" Atton yelled. "You just want to keep him safe at home so he'll be there when you come back. But who cares how he feels while you're away?"
"That's absolutely untrue!" Revan vociferated. "I…" Her mouth snapped shut and she turned toward the door. "I don't have to take this from you," she fumed. "I only came here to say goodbye and to ask you to take care of Daynn."
"Daynn?" he spat. "You want me to take care of Daynn?"
"Why not?" she snapped, turning around. "He's only your son! You didn't think I was going to leave him with Carth, did you?" Atton stared at her and she pursed her lips. "Well, I suppose he'll be reasonably safe at the temple with the other Jedi. Until the Sith show up again, that is, of course." She shook her head. "I mistakenly though you wouldn't want your son raised by the Order like Jena and I were." She took a few steps toward the door and paused. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have some last minute arrangements to make before I go." Before turning around again, she added, "By the way, the Council wants to see you."
Atton narrowed his eyes. "Yeah, I'll bet it does," he replied gruffly as Revan turned around the corner. "They never did get a chance to officially cast me out of the Order. Plus no doubt they'll want all three of us to answer for the mess we left behind."
Revan appeared back in the doorway. She was frowning, but most of the anger had faded from her features to make room for confusion. "What do you mean," she began slowly, "all three of you?"
Atton shook his head and shrugged. "I mean me, Jena , and Mical, of course. You know, the people involved in the little Sith battle that took place within their temple? They probably want to make sure all three of our stories match up, right? I'm guessing they asked to see me right away, so I wouldn't have time to consult with…" He stopped when he saw something strange in Revan's face, something he could only describe as pity. "What?" he demanded. "What now?"
Revan bit her lip. "Frack, Jaq! I thought… I thought you knew… I thought someone told you…" She shook her head. "I just… figured… you didn't say anything because…" Revan's eyes brimmed with tears.
The color drained from Atton's face. "You thought I knew what?" he demanded. "I thought you said that Jena …"
Revan shook her head. "No, no… Not Jena , Jaq. Jena 's fine, like I told you. It's Mical…" She swallowed and a tear rolled down her cheek. She walked back to Atton and she rested her hands on his shoulders. "Mical's dead, Jaq," she whispered.