Chapter 3

Their mission went off without a hitch, for all of his lack of confidence and attention. Jaina was splendid, charming her way through it all in the fashion only the daughter of a rich family could. Though she wasn't graceful or inclined by nature, she knew how to use what charms she had to her advantage.

A part of him was jealous, but he was accepting as well. He couldn't very well object to her pretending to be something she wasn't. Their mission accomplished, they'd slipped away form the party, pretending to be two young lovers heading for the gardens.

It had been here, when they'd accomplished their goals, that his world had fallen apart.


The voice was familiar in its inflections and timber. He continued to move with Jaina, ignoring the incredulous summons, barely able to keep his knees from shaking as that voice sent fear and anger racing through his blood.

"Aiden, is it you?"

Jaina paused, turning to look back curiously. "I'm sorry, sir, but I believe you have mistaken me for someone else."

The man before them was a figure he would have recognized anywhere. It was the towering figure that still haunted his dreams; that had found him screaming in the nights as a child and left him waking with cold fury as an adult. His face was as charming, as easy-going as he remembered.

The mask that hid the monster inside.

The man chuckled charmingly, but didn't look at Jaina. "I meant your friend, little lady."

He didn't respond to the comment; she responded for him. "I'm afraid you've mistaken my friend Zekk for someone else, sir."

"As if I wouldn't recognize my own son!" The man's declaration was almost angry, though his posture remained civil.

"I'm not your son." His voice was soft when he finally found it, refuting the man calmly, far more calmly than he'd ever dared hope.

The man's eyes hardened. "You owe me, boy, for the grief your mother gave me when you disappeared."

"I'm not your son." His voice was firm now, refuting the conviction the older man was showing. "My family died, on Ennth, eleven years ago. I do not know you."

The man stepped towards him and Jaina jumped in front. "Hold it!"

The man didn't even pause, simply swept his hand down, taking her across the face in an almost casual movement as he advanced. "Just like my late wife. Shut up you mouthy twit!"

He didn't think. His so-called father had just struck the girl, the woman, who was his best friend; who meant everything to him. His lightsaber leapt into his hand, and ignited at the same time. The older man stopped, but he didn't stop himself.

He let out a cry of pure rage before lunging. "You will not harm her!" His father cried out in surprise as he was slammed into, the younger man pressing down upon him, the lightsaber blade at his throat. "I won't let you harm her. Not the way you hurt my mother, and not the way you hurt me."

"Zekk, no!" Jaina's dismayed cry was belated as she realized what had transpired as she hit the ground. "He's not worth it!"

His eyes - his mother's eyes - flashed emerald fire ass he stared down into the shocked face of the man who'd given him life. This man, this thing beneath him didn't deserve to live. "He is, Jaina. You don't know what he is."

"And you do?"

The fire in his eyes flared, the lightsaber moving slowly closer to the man's neck, though he had his hands had wrapped around the iron grip that were holding the hilt. The man was trying in vain to keep that weapon from inching closer to his flesh.

He nodded, unable to look at her. "I know him. This piece of filth helped give me life." He didn't need to see her to see that he'd shocked her into silence. He stared down into his father's eyes, perversely enjoying the fear he was causing, feeding on it, relishing in having turned the tables on him.

Jaina's hands curved around his arm. "He's not worth it, Zekk."

"How would you know?"

"Because this isn't right; this isn't you?"

He threw off her arm with a shrug of his shoulder. "You don't know me, Jaina."

"No?" She laughed. "Then who was it that I was with when the glow-fish incident happened? Who was it that came to my tenth birthday and gave me a hug as a present? Who was it that helped the little lady that lived next to him for years because she couldn't get out to help herself?" She spoke with conviction.

"It wasn't me." But the lightsaber had halted its decent, hovering in the air centimeters from the man's throat. "I'm not from Ennth, though I lived there for a short time. I ran away from this planet, from him." He almost spat on the man who lay helplessly beneath him. "I'm a coward, Jaina. I took the name of a dead boy on Ennth because I couldn't stomach being named after this."

Her hands curled around his shoulders, squeezing gently. "Let him go, Zekk."

"I'm not Zekk!" The words were tortured, pained as he shrugged her hands from his shoulders. But, as he stared down into the eyes of the man who had beaten him daily for most of his young life, something was turning inside him. Something he hadn't given much thought to. He was seeing everything he'd accomplished in the last eleven years. He was seeing his triumphs, seeing the friends he'd made. Seeing the qualities that Jaina had spoken about.

He was better than this, he realized. He was better because he'd grown up and away from his roots. He was better because he'd fought against the very things his life's first lessons had taught and become something against the odds.

He was better because he hadn't grown up to be like this man.

Slowly, almost reluctantly, he backed away, removing the lightsaber from the man's grip and shutting it off as he regained his feet. His father was slow to recover, and he was perversely pleased by it despite having come to his decision. He took a deep breath. "Let's go, Jaina."

"But, Aiden..."

Jaina glared at the man. "His name is Zekk."

The man protested, but Jaina took Zekk's arm and allowed him to lead her away. Neither looked back, though the man continued to make a ruckus.

Jaina finally paused by one of the parks several blocks from the party, and turned to face him, her eyes clouded with confusion. "What happened back there?"

He pulled his hand from hers, and turned away, looking up into the night sky. How could he explain? "I wasn't born Zekk, Jaina. I was born Aiden Kyle. That man was Dengus Kyle; my father."

"But... What about Ennth?"

He looked down at her, and smiled sadly. "I did live on Ennth; that much is true. I had an adopted family there; a brother named Zekk. When the mudslide happened, they were sleeping. None of them made it."

She stared at him.

He turned away, moving to sit on a nearby bench, leaning his elbows on his knees and letting his hands dangle between his legs. "It's been almost eleven years since I left this world. Since I escaped him."

She sat next to him, but didn't touch, feeling his need to be alone for the moment. Her voice was hushed. "What did he do to you?"

He stared down at his hands, the remembered pain of it all flooding back as a dull ache in his heart. She deserved to hear what had happened. Despite it, despite not knowing all the facts, she had stood by him. "He... beat me. Daily, repeatedly. Not just physically, but emotionally. Nothing I ever did, nothing I ever said, nothing I ever learned or wore, or wanted to do, was ever good enough. I've still got the scars..."

He stared down at his hands, flexing his fingers. "I realized one night when I was seven that he didn't care. He wanted people's respect, to have power over them. He beat me more than he beat my mother, though she did try to protect me. The last night I was here, he put my mother in the medical ward for getting in the way when he was trying to get a point across to me. I knew he would kill me if I stayed. So I left."

"But you were only seven!" Her tone was horrified.

His eyes glazed as he spoke, remembering the hardships of those first days; he didn't react to her comment, hadn't really heard it anyway. "I had to learn fast how to survive on the streets. I stowed away on a freighter here that took me to a world that was in almost perpetual winter. I spent weeks, maybe months, on that world just learning how to survive. I almost didn't. Eventually, another supply freighter arrived and I stowed aboard. That was how I landed on Ennth. I met Zekk, the real Zekk, in a game some of the kids were playing. He looked like me, only his hair really was black and he had blue eyes, not green. We became fast friends, pretending to be twins separated at birth."

He blew out a long breath. "His family unofficially adopted me when I told them I was an orphan. They died right before I turned eight."

"Oh, Zekk..."

He lifted his head. "You know the rest."

She wrapped her arms around his shoulders, hugging him tightly, her cheek against the curve of his neck. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I was going to." He reached up to wrap his hands around the arm close to his neck. Not to push her away, but to feel closer to her. "I'm ashamed of what I was, Jaina. I ran away leaving my mother to face that monster alone."

"You were only a boy, Zekk. A child."

"Don't you mean Aiden?"

"No way." She shook her head adamantly. "You're still Zekk. You're my friend, no matter what your past. I only wish you'd told me sooner so I could help!"

He lay his head against hers, closing his eyes and basking in her acceptance. "Zekk I was, and Zekk I remain." He whispered the words softly. "Thank you, Jaina."

They left the park together, and Jaina swore she wouldn't reveal his secret. It was his secret to tell, his story. As far as she was concerned, he really was Zekk.

And so he was Zekk, the orphan from Ennth, again. And that way he'd remain. Whatever was on Corriban, whatever hold it had once held over him, was slowly disappearing. He had friends and a life to return to. He had hope and a future. He smiled as they boarded his ship. No matter what the past held, the future held more promise.

And he would eventually be alright.