An Atton/FemExile Snippit
Note: I am aware that before changing the path of his life, Atton was known as Jaq. However, I don't know his last name, so I'll be improvising. If someone happens to know his real original last name –if it was ever even mentioned- please don't hesitate to correct me. –Amber
Aelyn Drae took a deep, long, slow breath, then it out just as slowly. Steeling herself for the argument that was to come, Aelyn closed off her heart and entered the cockpit. Some of her resolve melted when she spied the warm-brown head peeking above the pilot's chair.
Sensing her entrance, Atton Rand turned a bit in his seat, smiling wryly at the resident Jedi Exile.
"Something up?" he asked, knowing perfectly well what was up. Aelyn came up to sit beside him, in the co-pilot's seat. She peered out the window. In the distance, slowly looming closer, was a mass of sickly green light emanating from a charred black core that made her ill to look at. She averted her gaze, looking instead at her pilot. Her friend. Her student. Her…
Force, what was he to her? Even she wasn't quite sure. All she knew was that it was something she could not, would not loose. And so she'd come to ask…
"I need you to stay behind, when we get to Malachor. I need to go alone." There. She'd said it. Now came the incredulous 'what's' and the shouting and the 'you're crazies.'
But it seemed, per Atton's habit, that he wasn't done surprising her. There was the unexpected moment of silence before, quietly, her scoundrel said, "I know."
Swiftly, Aelyn returned her gaze to his face from where she'd fixated it on the galaxy map. "What?" She blurted. She blinked. "That's it?" She asked, suddenly suspicious. It was Atton's turn to look away, Atton's turn to take a deep breath.
"You know I was a Sith Assassin," he told her. "Aelyn swallowed. She sensed another confession coming. What more could there be…? Resiliently, she raised shields around her heart, preparing, as he continued…
Two years before I met that one woman Jedi that I killed for showing me the Force, I met another Jedi woman. Well, didn't really meet her… But I saw her. I saw her…"
"So what do you think it is, Jaq?"
One of the many, nearly identically black-clad men inquired of their leader, whom sat across from him on the other side of the camp fire they had erected right outside the ancient Sith tomb. Jaq glanced at the man, tossing the remnants of his unwanted field rations into the fire as he stood.
"How the hell should I know? The etchings around the thing say it's some sort of 'window,' though it's gotta be the weirdest window I've ever seen. You know, being completely solid and black." Sarcasm was his trademark, and he used it now. He shook his head. Damn cryptic Sith...
"Aw, c'mon, Captain, you've gotta have some opinion of your own." The man persisted, absently plucking at the bandage on his right arm. The Boma beasts had given them hell during their trek to the tomb. Why their superiors wanted this place claimed, Jaq had no idea, nor did he care. Normally, Jaq's Assassination Squad would be doing just what their name implied- assassinations. Taking out Jedi mostly, Jaq's current favorite pastime when he wasn't drowning in puma juice, whipping the pants off his pazaak opponents, or flipping the twi'lek of the night.
"I think it's a waste of time, that's my 'own opinion,'" Jaq retorted sharply, standing up and turning away from the fire and the ring of his men that sat there. "Make sure you all check your watch rotations –it's on that datapad there- before you all hit the sack. If we're left under-guarded like we were when that pack of leigreks got us last time, someone's head's gonna roll."
"I think the Captain knows exactly what it is," one of the newer recruits shouted out, grinning alongside his squad-mates. Jaq paused, and half turned so that only the shadow of the profile of his face was visible to them.
"Really." He stated, a hint of a dangerous drawl audible at the edges of his voice. Most of the assassins picked up on it- their leader was tired, cranky, and wanted the subject dropped. Unfortunately, the man-wanna be that had spoken up hadn't been with them quite long enough to know how to pick up on Jaq's more subtle tones.
"Yeah, really," the kid responded with a lazy smirk. Jaq turned, fully, and only then did the recruit realize he might have made a mistake by goading the legendarily ruthless captain.
"So then, how would you like to test how much I know, eh?" He approached the group, reached down, and grabbed the young assassin by the back of his black overshirt, hauling him to his feet and shoving him out in front of him. He stumbled, turned, and came face to face with Jaq's extended Warblade.
"I want to sleep," Jaq said, speaking not just to the kid. "As in, without you idiots yammering on about this stupid 'window' contraption all night. So come on, all of you. You want to know more about it so badly? Let's go find out." He jabbed the sharpened point of the Warblade into the youth's soft back, and the recruit yelped, putting his hand to the bloody patch he found there when he'd danced out of Jaq's reach. Giving his captain a nervous look, he continued on forward, towards the tomb entrance hidden in the shadows. Hesitantly, goaded by Jaq's glares and snarls, the rest of the squad rose from their comfy positions by the fire and followed their captain dearest towards the foreboding tomb entrance.
Inside, it was cold, damp, and utterly dark. Not the kind of dark of being out on a deserted planet with a cloudy sky at night, but the kind of dark that invades every pore in your body, overcomes every thought, dominates every breath. The rest of the squad hardly noticed, it seemed. But Jaq did. Oh, Jaq noticed very well. He noticed with relish and the barest hint of dark delight, breathing in deeply the shadows that permeated the very air they walked and breathed in.
The descent was rapid, the floor being as sharply slanted as it was. The walls dripped with dark water, the floors slick with slime and mud. Bones littered the ground, some old, some not. Weeds and roots dangled from the cracks in the ceiling, and a few of the braver spiders had spun their webs in their path. Jaq made the recruit that had so unwisely provoked him swipe them away, not caring if the residents of the webs were of the deadly variety.
The ground sloped up again, eventually curving to the right. They came to a crossroads of sorts in the path, but they continued on to the left without preamble. Jaq kept the point of his double-bladed Warblade within a few inches of the recruit's backbone. If the lad stopped and impaled himself on Jaq's still-moving blade, well… Jaq could hardly be blamed, could he? The boy knew the blade was there.
They ran into a nest of leigreks, about ten minutes into the trip. They were dispatched quickly, but bloodily- one of Jaq's men received a bite from the nasty end of one of the Deadly leigrek's tails, his face turning a sickly green pallor within minutes. Jaq declared the wound non-lethal, and heartlessly pressed them all forward. Behind him, his men exchanged glances. Something was up beside sheer determination, now… Jaq Attarand was ruthless, yes, but rarely at the cost of his men.
And indeed, something else was 'up' with Jaq. A cold sweat had broken out over his brow, and a sense of pressing urgency had risen within him, unlike anything he'd ever felt before. Something was going to happen…something… He gritted his teeth, making himself not think about it as he pressed on.
And at long last, they reached the chamber. In the very center, resembling an ancient Sith holocron, was a black obelisk. It was battered and dented, and resting atop a small square platform with etchings covering said platform.
"Well boys, there you go." He shoved the recruit aside, waving one hand at the thing in a grand, sweeping motion. "Who wants to go first?" But something inside him was clicking noisily, again and again. So without even waiting for an answer –which would have been long in coming from his nervous squad- Jaq approached the obelisk on his lonesome. The others stepped back.
Jaq simply stood for a moment, examining the thing. It seemed to be made of darkness itself, absorbing rather than reflecting all light, despite the glossy surface. On one side of the thing, the side facing away from the entrance, if one peered hard enough at or rather, through the glossy black surface, one could almost make out a faintly glowing, dark red circle. Jaq did peer hard enough, and found the circle. He paused, simply staring at the thing for a long moment.
'Do it,' a voice whispered. 'Do it!'
'Why?' he asked it, not sure if he was talking to himself or some external source.
'Because there is something you need to see…'
Jaq put his hand to the red circle, and his world faded around him…
She was beautiful, was his first thought upon coming back to himself. She was fighting, dancing- it looked the same to him, he realized. The second thing he noticed about her was that she was wielding the weapon of his enemies; a lightsaber.
Hate filtered into his being, and he glowered at the ghostly form with loathing, his eyes roving over her two companions, taking note that they, too, were surrounded by the eerie glow of their own 'sabers. His hate increased tenfold, and he felt a vein in his temple pulse. He clenched his fists, and watched. There was something he needed to see. So he watched.
They were winning, he saw. Against incalculable odds, they were winning. They were grossly outnumbered by Sith; he recognized the familiar black garb, and yet they were winning. They stayed together, but not so much as to be cornered. They guarded each other, but not insofar as to give an opening to themselves.
The other two seemed far more intent on guarding the sole woman, more than she was them, though she certainly did her part…
There was something special about her. Jaq was suspicious as to how he suddenly knew this. Deep in the pit of his stomach, his instincts –the one thing he knew was never wrong- told her that this woman was immeasurably, eternally important.
Then one of her companions fell, and the scene was granted a whole new level of significance. A stifled cry of pain escaped the one fallen Jedi. Odd, Jaq thought in the back of his mind. He did not dress like a Jedi. In fact, that jacket looked questionably familiar…
"Atton!" the woman cried, sparing a moment from her deadly duel to glance back, her eyes wide and with the barest hint of panic, at the man that was even now picking himself back up to block another blow from the one who had knocked him down in the first place. Jaq saw the relief filter into the woman's eyes, and she returned to her own battle…
The scene was engulfed in light, and when it faded the female Jedi and the male Jedi that had fallen were the only ones visible. They were in a cramped, low-ceilinged cargo hold, and they were beating the crap out of one another. The woman was clearly loosing, and it was just as clear that it was the man who was trying to teach her. To the side, a pair of double-ended lightsabers lay forgotten.
"This is…payback, isn't it…?" The woman breathed, throwing a loose punch that the man sidestepped with laughable ease. He whirled around, quick enough that Jaq never saw his face. His movements were damnably familiar. Slowly, Jaq began to feel a whorl of suspicion curl in his belly. Then the man spoke, and the whorl transformed to a veritable vortex of confusion.
"Well, yeah," Jaq heard his own voice taunt amiably. "What, you thought I'd let you beat me black and blue in our last saber session and get away with it? I heard how you had the pants beaten off you at Atris' Academy by the Last Handmaiden. The Last Handmaiden. How you survived in the Outer Rim for as long as you did with no lightsaber, I'll never know."
"And you don't…" she gasped, ducking a kick that would have sent her flying, only to have her chest nearly imploded when one of his palms landed there, sending her flying anyways. "You don't want…to know…" She bounced back fairly quickly for someone so blatantly exhausted.
"Oh really? And what if I do want to know?" Jaq's double asked, a devilish grin on his face. The woman circled, wiping a trickle of sweat from her brow as she returned a rueful version of his grin.
"When I beat you, I'll tell you," she told him dryly, obviously knowing it wouldn't happen any time soon, catching her breath before tossing out another attempt at a punch. This time, though, to the surprise of Jaq himself and the woman's, as well, Jaq's double stuffed his hands in his pockets and stood his ground, still grinning. The punch, wild as it had been, met its target and Jaq went stumbling back. For all the blow had been badly aimed, there had been plenty of power behind it.
Jaq knew instinct when he saw it, and right then he saw pure instinct take over the woman Jedi as she pounced, landing atop his double, her hands securing his above his head while one knee landed precariously close to his throat, the other between his legs, effectively pinning him quite thoroughly. Jaq's twin beamed impishly up at his 'captor,' smirking broadly. The Jedi looked down at him with indignant amazement.
"You little…" she ground out.
"Beat me," the flattened man declared smugly. "So, now, how did you survive on the Outer Rim when you can't throw a punch to save your life? And no wiggling out of telling me- Jedi keep their promises, as you keep telling me."
"And you keep telling me that we're nothing but hypocrites," the woman retorted with a snort. She hadn't relented her position atop him in the slightest, though Jaq definitely noted that her grip had relaxed… As had her glower, the hints of an amused grin teasing the corners of her red mouth.
"Well, guess that makes me a hypocrite now, too, eh?" The muscles in the general vicinity of Jaq's heart seized, and he suddenly found it hard to swallow as he heard his double's reply. Slowly, the woman atop his twin smiled, her entire posture relaxing just a bit. The Jaq-double, in the exact manner Jaq himself would have, took advantage of her relent and twisted one of his hands from her pinning grip above his head, and instead maneuvered it to slip into the tangle of burgundy hair knotted at the back of her head, and pull that head down to his. She didn't resist; quite the contrary, she let the knee that had been dangerously close to his larynx slip down and away, planting her hands on either side of his head below her, leaning into the kiss as much as he was pulling her into it.
The double's free hand went to the small of her back, giving an unexpected shove so that her other knee slipped out beneath her, and she was suddenly lying fully atop 'Jaq.' The real Jaq swallowed and swore harshly, unable to tear his eyes from the scene. There was more than not-so-successfully-suppressed lust between the two- no, there was genuine passion, as well…
Alien emotions rose inside him at seeing himself kiss and so tenderly love a filthy Jedi. What's more, hearing his own voice betray him as one of them… Bile rose in his throat, and his fists clenched at his side.
The scene filtered out into whiteness once more. Jaq feverently wished for the light to fade to the interior of the tomb and the faces of his men, but instead the glare receded to show him, once again, the undeniably lovely face of the female Jedi.
Against his will, something inside him cried out at the sight of her. Something inside him cracked, just a bit, at the vision of her battered form, weary eyes, tear-streaked face. She was battling a monster of a man, his grey skin cracked like the surface of the most violent volcanic worlds. His bones and scaly skin cracked and popped with every movement. His words were acidic, and for a moment Jaq wondered if she were weak enough that those words were the cause of her torment. Jaq wasn't blind; it was something else other than the battle itself that was causing her extra distress… Instinctively, Jaq searched out the source of her turmoil, and what he saw when he looked past the Jedi was a vision that would haunt him for the rest of his life, even unto the very moment that he faced it for real.
Himself, laying in a bloodied, battered, broken pile of flesh that had been warped to mirror that of the crackle-skinned man the woman was fighting with all her heart.
Jaq looked back to the woman just as a blast of the sickest sort of Dark Side energy slammed into her, sending her flying several meters to slam into a concrete pillar. Somehow, through sheer force of will, the woman got back up, and came at the monster again. And again. And again…
Jaq knew everything in a brief moment of clarity. The obelisk was a window. A window to one's own future- or prospective future. Looking back to the silent form of his double, Jaq knew as certain as he knew his own name that someday, he would die for this woman. And if the way this battle was going was any indication, she would die for him. Jaq found the entirety of his attention fixated on the female Jedi. She killed the monster again and again, and again and again it rose back to its feet to challenge her once more. His words escaped Jaq's notice. He would wonder later if that was because of how focused he was on the woman, or if the obelisk had deliberately blurred the words in his ears.
Jaq found himself silently urging the Jedi to get up, to fight… He still hated Jedi.
He hated the monster more.
And get up she did. And fight she did. She just flat out refused to give up, and in that moment Jaq felt the tiniest sliver of respect for this one sole Jedi slip into his heart, and plant a seed…then slowly slip away.
She was loosing. Again she'd killed him, and again he got back up, chuckling dryly, humorlessly. She leapt into action once more, but her movements were sluggish, exhausted. Her Force was depleted, Jaq knew instinctively. She had nothing left to give but the force of her own will. And when that faltered, just once, it was enough. Crumpled against the same pillar the monster had slammed her against again and again she now lay, breathing heavily. Her eyes were dead, her grip on her lightsaber limp and unwilling. She looked up at the monster's looming form, then shut her eyes tight, accepting…
"No, damn you!" Jaq shouted without wanting to. He couldn't help it. She was too important. As much as he loathed the Jedi, this woman still had a part to play…he felt it. Oh, how he felt it…
And, apparently, his double felt it to. Against all miracles, there was suddenly a third lightsaber in the fray, blocking the blood-red one that had begun its taunting descent down to the fallen Jedi's throat. Missing an arm, but missing none of his will, Jaq's double stood, suddenly, between the Dark Side creature and the nearly lifeless woman.
"I said I wasn't done with you, and I meant it." Even now, as vile as he knew he was, Jaq had never heard his voice that cold, not to the worst or most hated of his enemies. Nor had he seen such unquestionably emotionless hatred in his own eyes, not even for the most sanctimonious of his Jedi victims.
Even with only one arm, beaten as he was, Jaq's futuristic double held his own. He beat back the monster with a savageness that defied all reason. But eventually, the inevitable was proven to be jus that- inevitable, and the double was flung back against a pillar side-by-side with the one the woman was still collapsed against, barely conscious.
"Now you die, fool," the monster's voice was grating and as dismembered as his own body.
"Oh goodie," 'Jaq' breathed, blood bubbling up. "More promises. You gonna keep it this time?"
The monster came forward, red 'saber out before him, his intent clear.
The Jedi woman's eyes opened.
There are some things in creation that are unquestionable. Unmovable. Unshakable. Undestroyable, forever, eternal, solid, possessing the sheer essence of something that is unalterable and absolute.
In the time it took a star to die, within the blink of a newborn's eye, there was a wall possessing all the characteristics of one of those few unmovable things between the monster and Jaq's double. It wrapped around Jaq, impenetrable and forever.
Then the Jedi woman pulled herself to her feet, and fought again.
Then, at last…
At last, the most important thing in the universe died, defeated, and the vision faded from Jaq's eyes, even as the agonizing scream of his double, still within that unmovable wall, cried out with all the force of a thousand dying galaxies, and the sorrow of a thousand mourning angels. Sometime during the eternally long transition from the vision to reality, that cry transferred itself from the double's throat to Jaq's, and when he eventually fell to his knees in the cold, dark chamber in the Sith tomb, he was howling with every ounce of agony that his twin had been.
It was a long time before anyone dared approach. And when they did, Jaq's only response was to rise from his bent-over position on his hands and knees, staring coldly at the obelisk for a long, hard moment before turning and exiting the tomb without a word to anyone. The moment he left, memories of the visions began to fade until the details vanished, the words forgotten, faces erased, his future as one of the Jedi he hated lost in a swirl of emotions. Eventually, only one thing remained; someone in his future, someone he would come to care about more than anything, would die draining themselves to protect him, all because he had not done something they had asked of them.
"That's why I know I can't go with you, follow you, help you… I'd only get you killed."
Aelyn was silent for a long time, her eyes once more attached to the nearing mass that was Malachor V.
"I used to think that the obelisk was lying, that the evilness of the place gave me that vision to keep me from going with you, and that that's what would get you killed," he kept going, further explaining. She head him swallow. "Then the other two visions came true. They were flipped in the real timeline, but… On Citadel Station, with the Ravager attacked. And before that, in the hold, when I offered to teach you hand to hand… I didn't remember seeing them at the obelisk until after they happened. And then I thought,if those two came true…"
"Then the third one probably will," Aelyn finished for him. Her throat was dry. So, Sion would challenge her… It didn't surprise her. But what Atton had told her about his ability to regenerate… She took a deep breath, and wiped it from her mind. Agonizing over it would do no good. She'd deal with it when she got the chance. She at last looked away from the demolished planet, and to Atton beside her. As if sensing her gaze, he turned to look at her, offering that slow, devilish grin he so often tossed her way, this one tinted with a bitterness so profound it had Aelyn swallowing harshly to keep down the bitterness that rose in the back of her own throat.
Aelyn stood, moved around the barrier between the two seats til she stood as close to him as she could. His eyes followed her, so that he was looking up at her when she came to stand by him. Letting one hand slip up to cup his face, gently, Aelyn bent and lowered her mouth to his. Softly, sweetly, slowly, she kissed him, pouring all the emotion she couldinto the act. One of his hands came up to delve into her hair, and he returned the kiss with as much gentleness as she. When she pulled away, some of her tears were on his face, and she wiped them away even as he moved to smooth away the tears that remained on her own face.
"I need to go get ready," she whispered, knowing without looking that the planet was closer than ever. Atton nodded. She pulled away, touching his face one last time as she said, with genuine gratitude in her voice, "Thank you, for understanding…"
She left, leaving Atton to pray and wish with all his blackened heart that his glimpse of the future was right, and that by letting her go face her enemies on her own, he was saving her, and not abandoning her…
'Oh, please let that glimpse be right…
Dark again, I know…geh… Mushiness next, I promise! Even if you guys don't particularly want fluff next, I do! So there! Nya!
Special shout-out to Onasi26 for being my personal idea-bouncing board last night! You rock girl! I've got the Mara-appearance books on request at my library. Should get my pitty paws on them in a few days…bwahaha…