Of Jokes and Dreams
I love everything about you that hurts.
- Larry (Closer)
Atton Rand is a man of many faces; a gambler, a flirt, a deserter, a murderer, a Sith, a Jedi. He has traversed the universe under the banner of a thousand purposes, most of them terrible, weaving his way through a galaxy on self righteous murder, smooth words, and shifty pazaak hands.
He is a man of many skills; a master of the lightsaber and blaster, a brilliant pilot, a deft thief, a demolitions guru, a ruthless assassin. He has acquired seedy talents and terrible secrets, using them to barter his way through a cosmos that never seems to find a place for him.
He is a man of many paradoxes: A scoundrel on the path to redemption. An inept flirt in love with an ice queen. A smart mouthed braggart with a hundred secrets. A momentary healer with the ability to choke the life from others. A sudden Jedi born to light but terribly unsuited for it. A peacekeeper who makes war wherever he goes. He is the shadow behind the true and good, attempting to find his place upon worlds that never want him, no matter which side he fights for.
And because he is who he is, he obsesses over the slightest details, thinking of her smell, of the stolen brushes of her body against his, of her soft voice tugging at the tangled webs of his mind, of the dusky soft scent of her skin, until he can bear no more and counts pazaak cards in his mind once again.
Often he wonders if there had ever been a time in his life when he would have considered himself good enough for her, and the memories flutter in his mind like pazaak cards, where he tips them over and over in his mental hands, looking for the elusive moment but never finding it. He agonizes over his choices, wondering if he had truly made them at all, or if the Force had been behind him all along. Then he wonders why the Force would even bother with him, let alone torment him so. Why would the Force would position him so close to such unattainable beauty, and then turn her towards another man?
It is galling to see the man he wanted to be sitting before him in the form of another – Disciple, Mical, the charming prince sweeping down from his throne in a cloud of honesty and faith. The younger man is good looking in a way that Atton has never been with his large nose, messy hair, and shrewd eyes. Disciple is caring in a way that he has never been, giving all of himself in everything he does, while Atton hoards away his thoughts and feelings like a miser. Mical is strong in a way that he has never been, standing beside his values with a strength and dedication that he envied while Atton still awakes with the grasp of a scream curling around his throat, not because his bloodied past frightens him, but because it does not.
He loves the Exile.
It is the sort of wretched, miserable love that springs from the hopelessness of the heart. He knows that there will be nothing between them, and because of this, he loves her all the more. It is a dark love, a desperate love. It is a love born of lust, and of obsession, but it is love all the same. It wells from within his decaying soul as pure and powerful as any Disciple could offer. Only there is a passion within it that Atton cannot control, and Mical could never hope to match.
Atton has nothing pleasing to offer her. Even he can see that. He has nothing to offer her but the tainted strands of his murderous past, and the hopelessly tangled threads of his ever weaving future. What could she want with a scoundrel? What would she want from him, when others stood for the good, the true, and the honest. What could he give her but loss, lust, rage, and misery?
…Because you'll be right here with me… playing pazaak… where they can't reach you…
Foolish words from a fool. Desperate hope from a desperate man.
He watches her as she is drawn to Disciple for his gentle, clean ways, and he aches for her behind the misery of his walled away mind. He watches, and waits, and wonders if she will change her mind; staying for long, long hours in the lonely cockpit, because this night, this night, she might come to him.
But she never does.
And so his eyes are always upon her, feeding on her wildly sweet beauty, her grace, her speed, her strength, knowing she pulls him along the path of her choosing, and unable to find it within him to mind, even when he sees that she shies away from him. Despite the layers he constructs to keep Jedi out of his mind, there is something dark and murky lurking beneath his thoughts that she sees, and is wary of. She speaks to him, uncertain and suspicious, until he finally gives way and bares his black skeleton soul to her.
Somehow she sees within him the potential to be everything he worked to destroy for so long, and because it is her who sees it, and her who he wishes to protect, he asks that she train him in the ways of the Force.
And she does.
Jedi sentinel…How could he do anything but love his maker?
Atton is strong in all the ways that matter to men, but weak in all the ways that should.
He feels little pity for those less fortunate; instead believing that they should further themselves on their own rather then depend upon others. He can fire a blaster better than any man he knows. He cracks wise at awkward moment; his mouth like a trap door that won't stay shut, and sharp, cruel barbs escape to wound those who try to reach him.
Atton doesn't want to be reached. He just wants her.
Yet whenever he speaks to her alone, his tongue turns to venom and stings her. He constantly trips on his own perversions, his fantasies, his hopes, and mishandles every sentence offered to him. He turns them back upon her, constantly defending himself from any advance she would make past his prickly defenses, and lighting confusion and uncertainty in her pale blue eyes.
He speaks to her of lust, and imagines her smooth body wrapped around his. He talks to her of cowardice and imagines her running to him, hiding herself in his arms. He explains to her of greed, and imagines taking her away from everything and everyone, to somewhere not even the Force can find them where he can devour every inch of her body, her heart, her soul, and horde away all the beauty she tempts him with.
But he is afraid, of course, of the atrocities he has committed during the Jedi civil war. Murderer, they call him. Slaughterer. Executioner. Killer. Assassin. He was all these things and more, and at one time, he reveled in the fear and hatred of those around him. He had a Mission, a Purpose. He was working for the Greater Good.
But when had the greater good been the pleasure, power and pride he felt when killing Jedi? And it had felt good… exhilarating even, to watch the arrogance and confidence bleed from their faces when they saw that they had been defeated by a mere man, as typical as any commoner they passed by without noticing so many times before. It had felt good to know he was destroying their beliefs before their bodies.
But there is no pride, no pleasure, no satisfaction within him now, not when he discovered he had help after all. Now there is only shame and fear. Shame that he had been gifted without knowing it. He had been a skillful Jedi assassin because he had been a Force adept, a pawn after all. Fear that she has not forgiven him, even though she says she has.
Aloof, cool, collected, she remains as elusive as a statue carved of marble, and he can see, so plainly, that she is above them all but can only read what she wants him to in her eyes; and that is very little. She does not trust him anymore. He has revealed himself to be a snake in their midst.
He has damned himself, for what good was a power like the Force, when the reason you had found it was gone?
… I want to learn how to use the Force. I want to learn how to use the Force to help you…
Purposeful words from a man without purpose.
And because he is who he is, and he cannot have what he truly long for, his thoughts inevitably run back to the lustful and crude.
Atton thinks of her, dressed in a skimpy little fantasy of blood red and silver, writhing and twisting to the beat of the music for a corpulent Hutt and his own lustful eyes, all blonde hair and ivory skin. He had thought that something so pure should never be so debased, so sexual. It was blasphemous, yet he could not help but want her even more because of it.
He had lusted after her, hungered for her, his hands itching to touch her bare skin, her soft hair, her soul, and make her his own.
His darkness had welled up within him, primal and sly, seeking to escape and turn him back into the vicious, the cruel. His fists clenched and his nostrils flared as he watched her twist and bend, sway and dip, breathing shallowly.
Kreia had seen it. She had sensed it. Though she called him a fool and mocked him, there was a wariness towards him from her sense of preservation for the Exile. The old hag knew of his bloody past, and sensed within him an equally bloody future should the Exile turn from him completely.
And when Atton had realized what Kreia saw when she looked at him, he knew that the only thing he truly has to do was protect the Exile from himself.
He hides behind sharp quips and easy banter, spitting venom at Disciple, fury at Mira, insults at Kreia, and avoiding all the others. He is Atton Rand, fool extraordinaire. Let them believe what they need to in order to sleep at night.
He devotes himself instead to the despondent jealousy he feels whenever he sees Disciple and the Exile, while torturous thoughts of what it might have been like had Mical not come along drift through his mind.
Though it seems as if night is eternal on Nar Shaddaa, the true nights are more depressing and desolate than the days could ever hope to be.
Atton finds himself alone on one such night, wandering through the docking sector outside the sentient Cantina. A cold, pollution filled miasma of rain is falling upon the dingy metallic nightlife, and for a time the city seems shining and clean; an illusion if any there were. Atton's ribbed jacket is shining, slicked with rain, and his hair is drifting damply into his eyes. The gaudy neon lights of the Cantina are reflected in the pavement, and he stares, mystified and lost as to why he's outside in the rain instead of inside that very place. The rest of the Ebon Hawk crew, sans Kreia, are within, sharing drinks, playing Pazaak, and conversing during a rare respite, but Atton couldn't find it within him to stay. He can't watch Mical's disgusting display of light and good for a moment longer. He can't stomach the Exile's appreciative smiles and warm eyes turned on the Disciple while he sat brooding in the shadows.
She could at least pretend to be discreet, and save Atton's pride, just a bit.
Mira's gloating is wearing him down. Kreia's insults are thinning his patience. He knows he isn't a fool. Hell, he makes Mira's bounty reputation seem like a kid's bedtime story, and he has proven himself a good pilot, and an even better fighter since the beginning. He should have their respect, or at the very least, their silence.
So why is he outside, letting the rain soak his skin, his clothes, his head, further proving to them all that he doesn't belong? He sighs, running his hand over his face and pivoting on his heel to go inside, when suddenly the Exile is standing in front of him.
The rain is tugging her hair from its tail and turning the pale blonde to gold. It drips into her eyes, spiking the dark lashes, and catching alluringly on her red lips. Her outer robes are apparently back in the cantina, because all she wears is a pale shirt with the consistency of fragile flower petals, tan leggings, and her double bladed lightsaber. The shirt clings temptingly to her skin, and Atton can't help but feel lust and hopelessness wage war for dominance within him.
He is amazed he sounds so wonderfully steady, especially when her nipples are thrusting up beneath the fabric and his pulse is beating faster then an Aiwha's wings.
"I was looking for you. Why aren't you inside?"
His pride is still smarting from her attention to Disciple.
"What, can't a guy get any privacy anymore? Maybe I just wanted some quality Atton time. Did you ever think of that?"
The rain is chilling him now, he can feel the goose bumps rising along his arms.
Instead of rising to his irritated bait, she turns toward the railing and peers over the ledge to where the buildings are lost within the grimy darkness below.
Atton stares at her, helplessly. It is no wonder she drools over Mical, what with golden lines like that.
"I love the rain. Even here, where everything is bathed in filth and desolation. For now, the illusion is real. Hope is real. Everything is washed away, and there is nothing but glistening water, cold people, and the truth that we are all connected."
She turns to him, her beautiful face serene, and Atton is so filled with desperation, loneliness, and want, that he steps towards her, jerkily and awkward. His hands itch to touch her, fingers frigid, and as she looks into his eyes, he knew that she sees him.
Lust, loneliness, agony, rage, desperation, adoration.
Her eyes darken, and she opens her mouth to speak, but a shout comes from the doorway and the moment is lost. His hand falls, and he turns to see Mical coming towards them, looking apprehensive. He carries the Exile's robes in his arms.
"You'll catch your death of cold out here. Both of you come inside."
But Atton turns on his heel, thwarted, furious, confused, and heads back towards the Ebon Hawk.
When she enters the male quarters one cool evening on Nar Shaddaa after the others have sought their entertainment off board and locks the door behind her, Atton is frightened for them both. He leans back against his bunk, lazily spinning his blasters with languid fingers.
She turns to him, blue eyes soft, red lips parted slightly, blonde hair tied away from her face, but says nothing.
"Something up?" Atton questions, standing.
He is perversely pleased to see he is taller than her, and though she doesn't flinch away when he approaches, she sighs softly.
"I wanted…" she stops herself, cerulean eyes searching his face, and for a moment Atton fears she sees the darkness within.
He steps closer, and her eyes grow hooded. Her breath catches.
Though he is new to the Force game, he can sense her hesitancy, her confusion, and her lust. She has not been close to anyone is a long time. She pushes everyone away just as he does.
He was waiting in the cockpit when she was waiting for him here.
"Do you know how much I want you?" he rasps. "I've wanted you since the moment I saw you."
She nods, and her hands come up around his waist, clutching him. He wraps his arms around her back. His breath snags on his suddenly tight lungs, and he closes his eyes, because he cannot believe this is real.
"Atton, I sense something within you," she murmurs, and she shudders slightly against him, leaning into his touch.
"It's always been there. You just haven't been paying attention. I told you what I used to be."
"But you're different now. Time has changed you."
Nothing can change what is inside.
Atton says nothing, but kisses her hard and without permission. She responds fiercely, nipping the edges of his lips and twining her tongue with his.
A devilish thought comes up to nip his mind.
Does she kiss the Disciple with the same passion?
In retaliation for such cruel what ifs, he reaches out and begins removing her clothing, unmindful of any ripping he may cause. Every inch he bares is an inch he assures himself that Mical has not seen. Every inch is a piece of her he can paint in his minds eye forever. Every inch is a step closer to the abyss he teeters over, the precipice between light and dark.
He is surprised when she lets his hands roam over her bared body. He is even more surprised when she reaches for his clothing in return.
He reaches for the band holding her white-blonde hair up, and tugs it out, running his large hands though the fine layers and watching it settle around her face. She looks much younger with her hair down, her blue eyes wide and peering up at him, and he swallows sadly, touching her face.
She runs her small hands over his chest and cups his shoulders, leaning up to kiss the cool skin. For some reason this is an intimacy he had not expected, and an ache wells up in his chest.
He can feel his emotions being pulled along when she reclines back on his bed and gently pulls him to her.
And there is a tenderness to her passion; a softness to her touch, that quells the misery and anger within him and leaves him feeling lost and bereft and more alone then ever before.
Brokenly, he whispers that she is beautiful, over and over again against her neck.
Sex has never been like this for him. It was always either drunken tumbles with cheap Twi'lek girls, and random encounters with woman just like him. Or worse still, vicious assaults on Jedi women so warped by pain and manipulation they thought he would free them if they did as he asked.
This is different. This is unique.
He feels as if he has lost his footing, and is once again a young boy with his first girl; all fumbling fingers, sweaty skin and shaky breathing until it is over.
He collapses on her, baring his weight on his bent forearms and sinking into her soft skin.
Perhaps I am too old for her.
She is panting, and brushes the rich darkness of his hair with her slim fingers, eyes closed.
For a moment they are together, and are whole, and are happy.
But fate has to intervene, and a sharp rap on the door intrudes into their solitude. He sees the Exile jerk, blue eyes fluttering open, and knows that Kreia is no doubt furiously summoning her.
He kisses her again, long, and slow, and leisurely, taking his time until her lips are red as rubies and marked as his.
"Your jailer awaits," he finally breaks the spell, and with a nod, she rises and dons her discarded, torn clothing.
She does not look back, and he does not expect her to. But when the door to the male quarters shuts, he wishes that she had.
Mical looks at him shrewdly the next time they are near, and though Atton still feels inferior next to the younger man, he now has something he knows he can hold above the other.
There is no need for words. The Disciple knows it as well, and though he remains silent, there is sadness and betrayal behind his naïve blue eyes.
But Atton never did find it within him to care.
Their journey continued, and she saved the galaxy as they all knew she would, but her duty was yet unfulfilled and she followed Revan's path into the heart of the Force.
And he followed her past through the core worlds and further out to the Outer Rim, where she began to watch him with wide, sad blue eyes, and he could sense the end coming.
The most exquisitely poignant thing, was that she gave him the only ending that could have truly broken his heart.
"Do you remember Admiral Onasi? From Citadel Station?"
"Yea, guy in red. Good looking, huge. Looks like he eats guys like me for breakfast."
"He told me something… You know he and Revan were lovers?"
No, of course he hadn't.
"Well, when she left, she told him that she was going somewhere where she could not bring those she loved. She was going where those she loved could not walk."
"Yea?" he said, pretending that the most fascinating thing in the world was his plus-two pazaak card.
She looked at him, blue eyes wide, forlorn.
"I can't bring you with me, Atton. I'm going where I cannot bring those I love. Where I go, those I love cannot walk."
His heart swells with joy and breaks with misery in the span of a second.
"You understand, don't you? I can't afford the distraction where I am going. If you are in danger, then we all are in danger, because I won't be trying to save the galaxy… I'll be trying to save you. Revan knew it too. That's why she left Carth Onasi behind. She loves him. And I love you."
Atton chuckles bitterly, and he comes around the table and touches her face.
"I can't just let you leave," he scoffs, misery clouding his eyes.
"I'll bring you to Naboo. You'll be safe there. You can be something more then a Peragus miner… Or an Echani trained assassin. You can be whatever you want to be. You can make a new start… But as a Jedi, as a Force adept, you have a duty to the universe. Neither of us can escape it."
As if to soften the restraints of his duty, she added, "there is much good you can do for Naboo."
"You know as well as I do that there's nothing for me in this galaxy after you. I'll be waiting for you for as long as it takes."
Her eyes darken with sadness, but she says nothing.
His mouth slides into a rueful grin.
"Hey, maybe Onasi's got room in his quarters for another house husband. We can shack up and pine together."
And he knows that despite herself, she smiles.
Deep within, he wishes for nothing more then to slither back into the role cut out for him; that of scoundrel, of villain. He wishes to slip into the smoke filled filth of cantinas, siphoning small fortunes from foolish pazaak players, watching Twi'lek dancers ebb and flow, and drinking juma juice until the pain is nothing but a dull echo of what it truly is.
But he cannot. She has outfitted him for a new role; one of good, and truth, and light. What she cannot know is that he would throw it all away at the turn of a card, fall to the dark side and destroy lives, wage war, annihilate planets, if there was the merest chance he could have her in his arms.
So it is a kind of relief that finds him after the smooth death of her parting; a heart pounding escape from a planet doomed to destruction, and a little death, as she ventures off alone to unknown worlds, leaving him desperate and bereft behind her on the prosperous planet of Naboo; having gained nothing from their travels together except duty, obligation, and lightsabers the color of dying orange sunsets and bright golden dawns.
He wishes for nothing more then to forget that she is gone; for in the forgetting there is a sort of elusive peace. He wants to lose himself in the memories of her, the dreams of that which was never his to dream about, so that he can imagine, pretend, that she didn't leave, he let her go. He wants the years and the memories to slide away quickly, slipping through his dirty, death tainted fingers like cards, like diamonds, until he is old, and lost, and the Force has forgotten him.
Atton Rand is a man of many faces, but behind them all there is only her.
…Loved you from the moment I first saw you… thought you were a dream… Tried to pass it off as a joke… But I loved you. I loved you all along…