Part X: Jaq

The sound of footsteps. Leaving me here, alone. A door opening, then closing.

She's gone. She'll probably be dead in a few minutes, and maybe Kreia, too.

Didn't think it was possible to feel emptier, but I do. Emptier than the blackest part of space. I look around listlessly, not sure what to do with myself. Got a hunch this planet won't last much longer. Rae would make sure of that.

Might as well die with it.

Kreia lied to me all along. About everything, including Rae. And I fell for it.

The truth of it echoes in my head again and again, but I can't make myself feel angry. Can't make myself feel anything, really, other than irony. Of course this is how it would all turn out. I've always been an easy pawn . . . or slave. First to Revan, then to juma and pazaak, then to the Witch. Through it all, to my own fears. The only time I had freedom was those few short months when I was the Exile's apprentice, and like the fool I am I threw it away.

Yeah, I'm a real sucker. Wouldn't know a good thing if it shot me between the eyes.

She kissed me.

The sudden thought makes me chuckle. Well, that was a good thing. Her lips were real soft, and for some reason I had a feeling she hadn't kissed a lot of people in the past. I should've grabbed her and kissed her drunk . . .

No. I stop that train of thought right there, remembering the dead body that's just a few feet away from me.

Truth is, killers like me have got no business getting kisses from women like her, much less kissing them. Only thing we've got business doing is doing them a favor by dying. I think she must've known that, which is why she left like she did. Or at least she must've known she couldn't convince me otherwise. She's one of those people who'd believe to the end that killers like me are worth saving.

Heh. So damn idealistic. I smile. Like she was . . .

Just then, I hear heavy footsteps approaching from my left. I straighten up; my grip tightens on the knife I forgot I had.

A wave of darkness, darker than my own, hits me.

And I know who it is without looking.

"And I get the fool," he growls, flicking on his saber.

I don't feel any fear. Or hate. Just relief, not to mention more irony. Well, well, what an ideal ending. Real funny, Force. I look around stealthily for my saber and see it on the floor by a nearby pillar. Must've been thrown there when I hit the wall.

Smirking, I turn with theatrical flare to face Sion.

"Funny. That's just what I was thinking."

"Once, a Jedi showed me the Force. I heard it, I felt it.

"At the time, there was too much pain to confront it, because if I did, it meant I would be changed into something else.

"Now, I'm not afraid of it anymore. And I think that by learning how to use it, I can help protect you. Or at least buy you some time when disaster comes screaming in."

He took a breath. Looked her straight in the eye.

"I want to learn how to use the Force. I want to learn how to use the Force to help you."

She smiled at him. It was a kind, gentle smile, the kind that only further convinced him he was doing the right thing. He would do everything he could to protect this woman, and not because he'd been saddled with the obligation by a manipulative witch.

Rae deserved it. She deserved to live, and hell if he'd let anyone else decide she didn't.

"Then I will train you, Atton," she said, her voice warm.

And she told him to close his eyes.