Pain laughs, because the Jedi thinks that he is chasing her.

She nests inside his thoughts like a feline. Her breathing is soft, her golden eyes half-lidded. While her mind sleeps, her footsteps pad gently, matching—tracking—his.


Why do I care

Because I do not want to.

She should be to me what she is to Lady Kreia—a valuable ally and pupil, one far too likely to edge toward the light side.

You're interesting, exile. Come; have this dance with the dark side. Let me see how you step, so that I might understand our accord. Let us be tried against one another in battle, that sublime mother of pain.

Their relationship is not founded on desire, on strategy, or on intimacy, but rather on distance. Across vast spaces she is watching him, and making him watch her, as the scintillating progress through the galaxy goes on. She is so far away, so different, like a fantastical tale told to wide-eyed children.

She follows him in waking and in sleeping moments, hounding the cuts he treads in the dirt of life.

Just as he follows her.

Lines of energy stretch between them like glowing filaments, tangling with her journeys through the stars.

I distract you? He wonders. Do I taint your days with darkness?

The Force as seen through his eyes is not separated into dark and light by one, clean barrier. Instead that gray place is a scribble, a convoluted, jagged line like the edge of flayed skin. So too is life; so too Pain. He thinks to convert her to the darkness if they meet. But when if becomes when, he will find the distinction between the factions to be even more permeable and complicated than he imagined.

When they finally meet in the Trayus Academy , the exile wears a cloak as black as his own attire. He senses her nervousness founded by the mausoleum of a Sith temple, by the dark Jedi thrown at her, by how eager she is to be eager to kill. Up to her knees in their dying emotions she trudges on, and the silence of the chamber he has chosen for their conflict is yet another source of fear. She's trembling from exertion and from the stimpacs she forced into her system, and the Lord of Pain can almost touch her fear.

She is beautiful to him.

Trials have granted her the title Jedi Master; in his presence, when her skill and will are needed, the fear falls away like dead leaves from a tree, swift summer blazing to life in its wake. Her fear and disgust, or any emotions at all, are pushed away. Jedi Master…

She is beautiful to him. In the Force they cling to one another like a magnet and metal, two small destinies entwining with a larger story.

At first their conflict is deceptively simple. She kills him, but he has been killed before. Instead of retaliating, he speaks of the brimming thoughts which have been haunting him for far too long.

She must prove to him that she can defeat Kreia—and not just defeat her, but out-fight her, physically and emotionally. Allowing the exile to die would tear the thread between her and Pain, and it is his weakness at this moment. The very thought of her continuing into the academy would dismay him unbearably, and for no reasons the Sith as a cabal would ever imagine.

Let go of the Force, she pleads. He surprises himself with the knowledge that he has thought of this outcome before. Only through the Force does he live, and the simplest key to her success would be his death.

He could release his sustaining clinch on existence.

As she looks at him, her lips set in a sad grimace of desperation and moving without forming words, she takes down her psychic walls. He floods her mind, questing for the answer to his obsession. She does not feel like other Jedi, not simply because her mental defenses are unbroken. The Force converges around her, creating in miniature a map of the way it connects every living thing through circles of influence. Her power is that of drawing comrades, and it has worked on Pain. As he explores the landscape of her soul, he pictures it as a building with many tenements. In an unoccupied corner a black hole waits.

It offers him the absence of the Force.

Refreshing, charismatic, alien, empty.

Her hands, fists from which ineffectual, fluorescent blades once shrieked, are held out, palms up. She is asking him to dance into death.

Pain becomes as nothing when it meets a mind which rises above and casts it into nonexistence. For the first time he thinks of himself as separate from his place as Lord of Pain.

She thinks, I can give you the respite of the singularity.

Darth Sion embraces her words and opens the door into the nothingness.