What was I thinking?

Atton couldn't believe he had told her about his past. But when she confronted him on Nar Shadaa about 'Atton' not being his real name, he had been caught off guard. And he was never caught off guard. And when she pressed him for details, he just couldn't stop himself from telling her everything. He had been so angry. With her, for making him confess it all. With himself, for worrying over how she was taking it.

He had assumed she was ok with everything. Well, as ok as someone can be when they find that someone they've been travelling with is a murderer. But he couldn't be sure. She was just so hard to read! She never seemed to let her emotions show. Oh, she was definitely capable of empathy and compassion. But she did all her good deeds like it was no big deal and was something everyone would do in her shoes. It was one of the things he lov...

No. He stopped himself from finishing the word.

It was one of things he admired most about her.

He had decided to play it off and act like it didn't bother him one bit that she knew about his past. That was, until they landed on Dantooine and met up with Mical.

She was talking with Mical at the moment. Atton wasn't paying too close attention to what they were saying. He was sizing up Mical.

Mical had perfect blonde hair that seemed to stay in place no matter what he did. Atton's own dark hair was always falling over his eyes. And Mical had perfect blue eyes that matched the skies over Dantooine. Atton couldn't help but think about how drab his own dark eyes must look in comparison. Mical had that perfect way of speaking...

Atton wanted to punch him in his perfect teeth.

Look at the way he's looking at her! And the way he's talking to her, like he's in awe of her. We need to get out of here quick before this fracking murglak invites himself along.

The thought had no sooner entered his mind when Atton's attention was caught by what Mical was saying.

"If you would have me, I can apply my knowledge and skills to helping you find the answers you seek."

Atton glared at him and unconsciously clenched his fists. "Look, we're already full up. We don't need anyone else. We travel light."

Mical looked at Atton like he hadn't noticed him before.

Probably hadn't, Atton thought angrily, considering the way he's been ogling Liara.

Liara grabbed Atton's hand and pulled him into the Enclave hallway. She turned to him, still holding his hand. "Atton, we need all the help we can get. And he seems capable."

Atton barely heard what she said. His breath had caught in his throat when Liara had taken his hand. And despite his gloves, his fingers were tingling where they were in contact with hers. He wondered if she felt it, too. Or if she noticed what he was feeling.

Apparently so, as she stopped speaking and stood still. She looked up at him and swallowed. Then she abruptly let go of his hand and fixed her face back into its usual emotionless expression.

They looked at each other for a moment. Atton composed himself and lifted his chin.

"Liara, this guy is a historian. What kind of help could he possibly be?"

"The Force has led us here for a reason. You are new to being a Jedi, but your past has made you familiar enough with the Force to know it is a hard thing to understand."

Atton winced inwardly when she brought up his past.

"I can feel that Mical is meant to travel with us." She held up her hand before Atton could interrupt her. "Please, Atton, I need you to trust me."

Atton said nothing. He looked away from her, and then slowly nodded.

"Is there a problem?" Mical asked as he walked up to them.

Atton grunted in reply.

"No, there is no problem. We would all welcome your help, Mical," Liara said, never taking her eyes off of Atton.

x x x x x

"So, who's the new guy?" Bao-Dur asked Atton when they returned to the Ebon Hawk.

Atton ignored the question. He was watching Liara lead Mical down the hall towards Kreia's favored spot in the Port Dormitory. Bao-Dur noticed where Atton's attention was, but said nothing. He knew how Atton felt about the General, Liara. Atton had already approached him for his opinion on whether or not the General could ever see Atton the way Atton saw her.

Bao-Dur hadn't known what to say to him. He knew Liara from the war, but she was a General. He was just a tech. He told Atton as much. But now that they had all been traveling together for several months, he felt he could now answer Atton's question.

He had caught the subtle differences in how she spoke to Atton as opposed to everyone else. He had seen her steal little glances of Atton when she was sure no one was looking. He felt how she tensed up slightly whenever Atton was in the room, and would get more and more anxious the closer she happened to be to him.

Yes, he was confident he could answer Atton's query now. But he wouldn't. The General obviously did not want her feelings known. And if it wasn't for the fact that he knew her so well, he doubted even he would know. He was certain no one else knew, not even the old woman, Kreia. The General excelled at keeping her face neutral, her shields up, no matter what was going on. So he would keep her secret.

"Were you saying something, Bao?" Atton asked, exhaling slowly.

"I was asking who this new man was."

"Pfft. Some egg-head that's going to be tagging along with us."

Bao-Dur sensed that Atton was not as nonchalant about this new passenger as he feigned to be, but he kept quiet.

Atton half-sat against the workbench, bracing himself with his hands. He watched Bao-Dur as he repaired a minor breach in the wall of the garage.

"Bao-Dur? Are we ready to go?" asked Liara as she walked into the room. Atton immediately stood up straight, watching her instead of Bao-Dur.

"Oh! Atton... I didn't see you there."

Bao-Dur smiled to himself when he felt the General's instant nervousness. Atton said nothing.

"We are ready for lift off, General," Bao-Dur said a few seconds later.

Liara nodded at him, turned and nodded at Atton, then left the garage.

With his hands in his pockets, Atton softly kicked the workbench on his way out.

"Guess I'll be in the cockpit if anyone has need of my charms," he said a little louder than he needed to.

Bao-Dur chuckled to himself as he got back to work.

x x x x x

Liara sighed heavily as she tossed and turned in her bunk. She could hear Mira and Visas deep breathing, indicating they were fast asleep. She could see Kreia meditating in the corner of the room. Liara sensed that Kreia was in a profound trance. Liara usually meditated herself, rather than sleep, but she couldn't calm her mind enough to successfully do it. And evidently sleep was going to evade her on this night as well.

She couldn't get Atton out of her head. When she had first met him, she thought he was a self-serving chauvinist. But as they continued to travel together she uncovered depths to him she had no idea were there. When he confessed his past, she forgave him. Who was she to cast stones when it was she who ordered Bao-Dur to activate the Mass Shadow Generator. She had condemned thousands to their death with that order. Not only the Mandalorians, but many Republic soldiers and Jedi, as well. She would always carry those deaths with her.

Liara knew Atton was filled with self-loathing and guilt over the tortures and murders he had committed. They had an unspoken bond based on their understanding of each other's pain. She knew her feelings for him were growing into something beyond camaraderie, and she was confident that Atton's feelings were moving beyond lust for her. But she knew it was dangerous to act on these feelings. Jedi were forbidden to love, and her self-exile made it even harder for her to open up to anyone.

She sighed again before finally abandoning her efforts to sleep. She got up and gathered her things so she could take a long hot shower.

In the main hold, she encountered Mandalore. He was studying the holoprojector.

"What are you still doing up?" Liara asked him.

Mandalore shrugged his shoulders. "I don't sleep too well. Besides, I only need an hour or two here and there."

"I see. Well, is there anyone in the 'fresher? I was hoping to catch a shower to help myself relax."

"Nope, everyone's asleep. Have at it."

"Thanks," Liara said on her way out of the hold.

Mandalore was grateful he had his helmet to cover his face, because he was struggling not to burst out laughing at what he knew was coming in the next few moments.

x x x x x

Liara went into the refresher and shut the door behind her.

Someone must have just finished showering. This place is so full of steam, I can barely see!

She put her things down on the little table and headed toward the shower to get it running. But as she neared it, she saw someone drying off. Liara wasn't sure who it was, only that it was a man since all the women were accounted for in their dorm. She started backing away slowly, hoping to get out of there (and Force Choke Mandalore for tricking her) before whoever it was noticed her.

As if on cue, the man turned his head so he could start toweling his hair. Liara gasped.

It was Atton!

He must have heard her gasp, because his head jerked in her direction. He looked as surprised as she was that she was there. Then a slow smile came upon his face. He started walking towards her, dropping the towel, and...

Oh, Force! He's almost completely naked!

He had a towel tied around his waist. It might as well not have been there, though. Liara couldn't help but see, well, everything. She had to admit that Atton was very well put together. He was finely muscled, definitely more so than his usual attire let on. He had a few tattoos on his upper arms, something else she never knew about. He didn't have any hair on his chest, save a faint dark trail leading...down.

She quickly turned and fled toward the door, her cheeks burning with her embarrassment. She started opening the door when Atton's hand pushed it back closed.

"What brings you in here, Lee?" Atton asked her, the enjoyment all too evident in his voice. "Did you see me come in here and decide to try and take advantage of me in this vulnerable state?"

He most certainly did not look vulnerable. He seemed completely at ease, not trying to hide his naked body in any way.

Liara angrily turned back to him, careful to keep her eyes on Atton's. He was smiling at her, his hair wet and falling into his eyes, his arm still outstretched holding the door closed. Liara gulped. She had always thought Atton looked more attractive than usual with his hair in his eyes. Anytime she saw him like that, her stomach would do an extra flip. She mentally shook it off.

"No, I most certainly did not! Mandalore told me there was no one in here! I just wanted to take a shower to help me relax so I can sleep!"

"Well, the shower's all yours. You go ahead and get undressed; I don't mind you getting started while I finish up here."

"How generous of you!" she replied heatedly. "But I think I will pass on the shower after all. So if you don't mind moving your arm, I will be on my way and we can pretend this whole ordeal never happened."

Atton had never seen her so uneasy and irate. He had never seen her look so innocent. He allowed himself to hope that he was able to have this effect on her because she felt something for him.

So instead of removing his arm, he put his other one on the door so that Liara was effectively trapped between the door, his arms, and him. Liara shrank back, trying to make herself smaller while ensuring nothing on her touched anything on him. Atton leaned in closer to her.

"Hold on. I feel kinda bad that you won't be getting that shower. But I happen to know of a rather fun way for you to relax. Trust me, you won't have any problems sleeping after," he whispered in her ear. Liara could hear his voice getting deeper, and she also detected something else in his voice, something that she was unfamiliar with.

Atton smelled her hair. He heard her quick intake of breath. He softly kissed her neck. They were standing so close that he was sure she had to be able to...feel...how much he wanted her.

Frack! She was so intoxicating!

He lifted his head and looked down at her. She looked back at him. Atton could feel her fear and anger and confusion. He could feel those feelings intensify as he leaned in even closer to her. He also detected desire. She kept it hidden very well, but it was there. He bent his head to kiss her lips.

She put her hands on his bare chest, stopping him mere inches from her. He looked at her quizzically.

She struggled to breathe, so she could speak.

"Atton. Please. Don't do this. I... I... can't."

"Why not?" he asked, taking her hands in his, holding them to his chest. "I know you want this as much as I do. Why should we stop?"

She shook her head. "Please. Let me go."

Atton stood there for a few moments, looking down at her, meeting her gaze. Her chest heaved as she fought to bring her breathing under control. He finally released her hands and stepped back. She flung open the door and fled.

Atton could hear Mandalore's deep laugh as Liara ran by. He also felt it in the air when she Force Pushed Mandalore out of his chair and across the room. But her uncharacteristic outburst only served to make him laugh harder. Atton heard the Port Dorm door slide shut.

Atton shut the refresher door, resting his forehead on it. He could still smell her scent; taste her skin on his lips. He pushed himself away from the door and headed back to the shower.

I think I'll take a cold one this time around.