Fandom(s): Star Wars & House
Pairing(s): vague CuddyxHouse and CameronxChase
Summary: Cameron grudgingly accompanies her master into Coruscant's underworld.
Author's Notes: This fic takes place before the movie Attack of the Clones. Thanks to LilAni for the beta and ideas for the sequel. :D
Today was supposed to be one of the proudest days in her entire life, but all the pride and anticipation of becoming a newly appointed Jedi Knight had flown from Cameron's mind like a beldon on the Bespin winds. Instead, she was stuck prowling through the underbelly of Coruscant, revisiting a very specific bone of contention that always seemed to come between her and her master. But it was the same old story underneath it all; Cameron was disappointed and Cuddy was annoyed.
This particular sector, the Southern Underground, which was famous for all the wrong reasons. As usual, Cameron kept her senses focused, prepared for the slightest confrontation-
"Really, Cameron, there's no need to be so tense." Cuddy said in a familiar, irked tone. "We've been down here a thousand times before."
"I know. It doesn't matter." Cameron replied stubbornly, shoulder to shoulder with the older Jedi as they passed from street to street. "I still think it's wrong."
"The council and I may agree that you are a fully fledged Jedi but you have a lot to learn, Cameron. In time, you'll see that." Cuddy said, picking up her pace and walking faster through the crowds.
Cameron sighed and sped up as well, keeping herself a couple paces behind Cuddy. No matter how many times she asked the Force for guidance or clarity, there was a gaping chasm between Cameron and Cuddy when it came to their temperaments and views on how a Jedi ought to behave. Cuddy, on the surface, seemed a stickler for rules and tradition. She was forever preaching how the Jedi Code was there for a reason, that it was of the utmost importance if the Jedi Order was to run smoothly, if they were to uphold the balance and stabilize the Galactic Republic.
But if you scratched a little beneath the surface, as Cameron had over their long years together, it turned out that master Cuddy's personal philosophy was a little different.
In reality, Cuddy had no qualms about bending rules and convention if the ends justified the means. It was a trait that bothered Cameron deeply. After all, she knew right from wrong, in absolute certainty, and Cuddy's dalliance with moral shades of gray was a source of constant frustration and argument for the both of them.
"I remember being that naive." Cuddy shook her head. "How many times have I told you there's right and wrong are not always straight-forward?"
"A little courtesy goes a long way, master." Cameron shot back, despite the fact that she had done the same thing to Cuddy numerous times before.
"It's not my fault that you're broadcasting your thoughts across the entire galaxy."
Cameron turned aside from the conversation as the building came into sight. The Soft Heart Cantina. She unconsciously sought out the hilt of her lightsaber, hidden underneath her cloak.
Cuddy turned to Cameron just before they entered. "Remember, I make contact with the ringleader while you gather information from his aides and-"
"You don't have to remind me." Cameron said impatiently. "Let's just get this over with." She could have sworn she saw Cuddy smirk before she turned away and walked through the doorway. A fine pair we make, arguing like teenaged sisters instead of being the dignified Jedi Knights everyone expects us to be.
The inside was as seedy as ever, maybe even more so since her last visit. The Southern Underground had fallen prey to mysterious stone mites over the past few months, kept only in check by duracrete slugs and the larger dianoga. As a result, most buildings in the sector were beginning to crumble at an alarming rate. And in a place such as this, home to intermittent blaster fights and vibroblade brawls, was at an even higher level of disrepair.
Cuddy moved slowly through the cantina, past crowded tables and gaming holos, and Cameron shadowed her every move. No one paid them much attention as they both masked their presence through the Force, and eventually they made their way to a lonely booth at the very back.
"And now we wait." Cuddy said, her voice barely audible. But Cameron heard her loud and clear, as if she were speaking in her head. Despite their differences and little fights, the bond between them was strong. Which worked very well to their advantage when they were out on missions together.
"If they don't show up in five minutes, we should leave." Cameron said to her master, barely whispering. But immediately after she spoke the words, two men approached their table. The one using a cane slid into a seat across from them while the blond-haired one kept standing.
"I told you last time that I didn't want any more interference." House growled. He was addressing the both of them but his eyes were on Cuddy. "Do you know how hard it is to run an operation like this without having gorgeous Jedi waltz into my den of iniquity?"
"Tough luck." Cuddy replied without batting an eyelash. "Thanks to the last twenty or so tips you gave me, thousands of lives have been saved. Helping innocent people caught in the crossfire is your duty."
"The only duties I have are to mentally berate my underlings and win every game of sabaac I'm challenged to."
Cameron mostly kept quiet as the two of them verbally sparred, sparing a quick glance at the man who stood at their table. Chase, his aide. Along with his communications agent, Thirteen, and his weapons expert, Foreman, House was at the core of a valuable (and borderline illegal) organization that worked on tracking down and stopping dangerous Separatist movements. Usually, he sold his information for a price. But somehow, Cuddy had discovered his existence several months ago and had been using him as a resource ever since.
Unfortunately, House was a difficult man to deal with. Cameron had asked Cuddy several times why she didn't simply use mind tricks to get the information they needed (she had, after all, done it many times before to different people in different situations) but Cuddy was adamant that they not use the Force with House.
It would be dangerous if he were to become an enemy of the Jedi. We have to win his trust the old fashioned way.
Cameron had to grudgingly admit Cuddy was right about treating someone like House carefully. There were a number of things about him that made Cameron uneasy. The biggest thing that bothered her about House, of course, was the fact that he and her master were clearly attracted to each other. Not surprising, of course; House was handsome in a rugged, haughty sort of way.
But Cameron had always had a gift for healing and empathy; she could tell that cybernetics would be a quick cure for his limp and durasteel cane. And yet, he remained as he was. What kind of man led a galaxy-wide illegal operation while remaining an easy target for anyone who found out he was siphoning information to the Jedi Council?
A man who has no fear, Cameron had concluded. An unpredictable man. And so she insisted on accompanying Cuddy, no matter how much she disapproved.
"You said last time would be the end. You lied." House stared at Cuddy like he was trying to look into her mind. It was disconcerting, and Cameron once again reached for her lightsaber, because-
"Well now, I am impressed, House." Cuddy sat back with an amused smile. "But even if you figured out you have some latent Force abilities, there's no way you could influence a fully trained Jedi."
"Damn, I should have known." House suddenly turned to Cameron. "Guess I'll just have to tap into the brain of our little padawan here instead."
"I'm a fully trained Jedi too." Cameron bristled, already brushing past this new development. Well, I'll be one by the end of today.
"House, just agree to give them the information." Chase abruptly interrupted, eyeing Cameron like she would strike them down if he made any sudden movements. "It's the right thing to do."
"Since when do you care about the right thing to do?" House curiously asked before relaxing his shoulders slightly. "Fine. Chase, take little miss 'fully trained' down to see Foreman. Tell him she needs a copy of archive 1T5-7U9U5."
"I am going to hammer out an agreement with the most annoying Jedi in the galaxy." House said, looking at Cuddy with a challenge in his eyes. "So make it quick, before one of us has a weapon pointed at the other's head."
Cameron got up and followed Chase through the dingy, back halls of the cantina. She didn't like leaving her master alone with that man, even though she knew Cuddy was a powerful Jedi quite capable of dispatching whatever troubles came her way. But her tendency to follow riskier paths made Cameron irritated, but also... protective.
"He found out about the Force stuff a couple weeks ago." Chase said, trying to make conversation as they walked towards an old shelving unit that, unbeknownst to anyone who wasn't looking, could be moved aside to reveal a repulsor-lift.
"House paid a surprise visit to his best friend on Corellia who's a dignitary of sorts. Very legitimate and righteous and all that. His friend was in the middle of a meeting with a couple of Jedi and when House stormed in unannounced, he caused one hell of a ruckus. In all the mayhem, one of the Jedi mentioned that House had some Force abilities."
Cameron considered this as they stepped into the lift. "Any idea who the Jedi were?"
"Yeah, the most popular Jedi in the galaxy." Chase replied.
"Ah. Kenobi and Skywalker." Cameron frowned. She and Skywalker were not exactly on agreeable terms, which was quite well known within the Jedi Temple. It's just like him, to be proudly brazen and tell a criminal mastermind that he has Force abilities. But Chase did not know her feelings on the young Jedi, so she kept quiet.
A moment later the doors of the repulsor lift opened, revealing the core of House's operation. The grey walls were pock-marked and grimy, the lights too far up on the high ceiling to clear away the shadows. She followed Chase as they turned right, towards the main communication center.
They neared a console with countless screens, where a man sat before them. "Our esteemed visitor needs a copy of archive 1T5-7U9U5, House's orders." Chase said.
"House says a lot of things." Foreman replied with a grumble, turning in his chair to give Cameron a curt nod. On the surface, it seemed as if Foreman hated working for House. But Cameron, with her empathetic nature, knew better. Despite the fact that he complained endlessly, Foreman had a great deal of respect for what House did, that he worked to take down the Separatist threat at any cost. Cameron could relate to Foreman, in a way. On the surface, it seemed as if she and Cuddy were forever in disagreement. But in reality, they were tied together by a bond so strong that Cameron couldn't fathom not having her in her life.
"Anyway, it'll take a while." Foreman continued, tapping at a few buttons distractedly. "That file is triple encrypted."
"How long will it take?" Cameron asked.
Foreman took a minute or so to enter some commands into the console. "I started the decryption. It will take about twenty minutes."
A strange look passed across Chase's face, one of sudden comprehension. "He knew the Jedi would want this file, so he triple encrypted it, meaning he could-"
"-Spend more time verbally sparring with Jedi Cuddy, yes." Foreman finished, shaking his head.
"So... what do you suggest I do in the meantime?" Cameron asked, feeling more at ease now than she had in the previous hour or so. Chase and Foreman were not only familiar to her, but struck her as kind, reliable individuals. She had no qualms with being alone in their presence. They were trust-worthy.
Chase spoke up, addressing Foreman. "What if I ask for her Jedi advice on... that thing we mentioned?"
Foreman raised an eyebrow at him. "What thing?"
"You know, the thing? We were talking about it two moons ago? About..." Chase sighed. "Nevermind."
Cameron suddenly felt intense emotional reactions from both Foreman and Chase. Foreman had finally understood what Chase had been talking about and was internally laughing at him. Chase, on the other hand, was deeply embarrassed. Because...
Oh. That's... why didn't I notice it before?
"You're an idiot." Foreman announced to Chase, realizing that Cameron knew exactly what was going on. "First of all, she's a Jedi and can therefore read our thoughts. Secondly, she's a Jedi. What in the world made you think she would-"
"Okay, I get it. Thanks for spelling it out for me. Again. Right in front of her." Chase said with a scowl, trying very hard to keep his pride intact.
"It's part of the Jedi Code." She explained kindly to Chase, using her presence in the Force to defuse the tension and awkwardness in the air. "We're not permitted to have the types of relationships regular people do. We dedicate ourselves to ideals, not others."
Chase was looking at her wistfully. "That's very selfless, almost cruel I'd say. I wouldn't be able to stick to a rule like that."
Cameron smiled ruefully. "Maybe. But it's a rule that hasn't failed the Order yet."
"What took you so long?" House complained with faux bitterness when Cameron and Chase returned, pointing to Cuddy. "She's been using her Jedi wiles to get me to say all sorts of things I don't mean. Like that I have a permanent obligation to inform her about our wheelings and dealings. And that she has prettier eyes than mine."
"Enough, House." Cameron said, fully fed up with his shenanigans. "The next time we see you, I hope that you have the good sense to stop playing games with us."
"Good sense is not his strong suit." Cuddy replied with a smirk, rising from her seat and fixing a mysterious look at House. "Remember what I told you. We will return in time."
"Lucky me." House used his cane to help himself stand and walked away with Chase, demanding that the younger man work with Thirteen to procure a lightsaber of his own. Chase nodded at Cameron one last time before they were out of sight.
"He's never going to change." Cameron sighed as they left the Soft Heart Cantina.
"I know." Cuddy said, a strange tone in her voice. Fondness? Cameron thought back to what she had told Chase about the rule that hadn't failed the Order. Yet. It hasn't failed the Order yet.
Cameron felt a cold chill in her bones and wondered if the Force was trying to tell her something.