A/N: This was done for a dark!Atton challenge on DeviantArt. I don't think it's my best work--feel free to critique.


Peace, thought the woman once called the Jedi Exile, is an illusion. How could he have followed me even here if that were not so?

The Force flowed serenely in the Temple she had built on the ruins of the old one, and yet he stepped out of the dimness to stand before her as she tried to meditate, sitting with knees tucked beneath her on the floor of her bedchamber. (Why there? She had thought, with a pickiness unlike her, that everywhere else had felt far too sterile.)

His pale face half-hidden in the shadows of evening, Atton said, "Hello, my old master."

She tried to keep her voice flat. "How did you get here?"

"Maybe I didn't. Maybe you're imagining all of this. Your brain trying to come to grips with itself, trying for closure."

"Maybe so. You don't talk like that. It's not casual enough. So am I just talking to myself–?" She buried her face in her hands, exposing the bare flesh at the back of her neck to the thin metal blade she suddenly felt rest against her skin. She had not heard Atton move, but a moment later he proved his reality by speaking in his characteristic laid-back tone as he pressed more insistently against her with the flat of the knife, breaking no skin."People deal with trauma in different ways. Some feel guilty, some forget, some deny–-some fight .I felt a little guilty when you left me, when you said you wouldn't have a traitor and a Jedi-killer on your ship. I tried to feel like I should try harder to prove to you that I was lightside or somethin'. But my brain doesn't fix its troubles that way." The knife blade slowly moved, slipping under her hair, nicking her ear like a lover's bite, slowly warming to the temperature of her body. It was possible that she could Force-push him away, or cry out for Bao-Dur or one of the many students in this wing of the Temple, but part of her wanted to hear what this specter that Atton Rand had become had to say, and did not want to have to explain why, or why he had come.

Her own voice sounded small in the darkness. "You don't understand me."

He sounded almost gentle. "No, my old friend, I think I do. You told me once how you fought in the Mandalorian Wars. How blood washing over your hands was like an elixir of life, so that once in a fit you discarded your lightsaber and went at them with knives and feet and fingernails so you could feel the blood–"

She screamed, high and free and useless against the darkness. "You don't understand!" She had been naive. She had learned that no one should dream of killing–of glory gained by trampling others–but he had never grown out of the morbid fascination--

He had moved to stand nearly in front of her. No knife-glint betrayed his exact location-she imagined the blade couched half up his sleeve, held loose in one gloved palm–but she could sense the solid physical presence of him there in the room with her, the displacement of air, in the Force and with some sense more animal.

She could sense that he accepted her refusal, had perhaps expected it, but would bide his time like a carrion bird eyeing the thin skin on a dying man. He wanted to give her false ease.

The knife flashed in his hand again as he began to repeat the circle he had made around her. What a crude weapon in a world of lightsabers, she thought. It reminded her of how desperate some soldiers were for weapons or ammo or power packs during the War, how they had found just how much blood a humanoid body could spill...Atton reached down to touch her chin, and for a moment she felt both the lukewarm blade of the knife and the surprisingly soft flesh of his fingertips. He withdrew both before she could raise a hand to swat him away, somehow simultaneously depriving her of the victory of defending herself and the pleasure of human contact.

He said, "If you ever want to know how that mind of yours works, you might want to be a bit friendlier with me. The last thing I'm going to give you is closure."

All the eloquence she had left was channeled into 'Go away', and when he interrupted the thought of saying that with "You might find that the minder's couch isn't an unappealing place to be," all she had left was 'You aren't funny', a sentence too childish and denial-soaked to be allowed past her lips.

He smiled wide with white teeth. "I've fallen, and I know you want to jump down with me, if only to find out why you ever would. I'll wait until you stop holding the Jedi Order up.

We'll fall together."

He turned and disappeared.