Author's Note: This is set just after the game. Atton fought Darth Sion and killed him but not before being badly wounded himself.
'Oh good, you're finally awake.'
I opened my eyes, only to shut them again quickly when greeted with the glare of what I suspected of being the medbay lights. Gingerly, I pried them open again, this time allowing them time to adjust. Oh yeah, this was definitely the medbay of the Ebon Hawk, complete with bubble-headed blond healer and everything. Unfortunately, this particular healer was a) a man and b) ranking only slightly above that guy on Nar Shadaa I still owed a thousand credits to and a certain evil witch who shall remain nameless on my list of people I really didn't want to see after just being involved in a fight to the death. Or ever, really.
'How do you feel?' Mical was asking, in his best concerned healer voice.
Like I just got run through the chest with a vibrosword by a guy who looked as though he fell out of the ugly tree hitting every branch on the way down, I was on the verge of retorting when I realised that actually I didn't feel that bad at all. Last thing I remembered, the pain had been searing, blinding, all-consuming and it had taken every ounce of my strength just to stagger over to the Ebon Hawk even with Visas and Mira as supports, but now I could feel little more than a dull throb in my chest and a tingling on my cheek.
'I've felt worst,' I admitted, albeit grudgingly. 'Whatever meds you've put me on must be pretty damn strong. Remind me to look you up next time I've had a rough night down the cantina.'
'I'm afraid I didn't do that good a job,' said Mical, meaning he either hadn't listened to my response or he was choosing to ignore it. I like to think it was the second one. Smirking to myself a little, I tried to sit up but Mical pushed me back down onto the bunk. 'Hold on a moment, I just want to inspect your wounds first.'
I was about to protest when I felt Blondie's fingertips gently press down on my chest and had to stifle a yelp of pain. Maybe sitting up hadn't been my best plan after all. Maybe I'd just stay lying here forever. Yeah, that seemed a pretty solid plan. The pain was becoming more noticeable as Mical poked and prodded at the wound. I gritted my teeth, trying to think of something to distract me. 'Sooo… I'm guessing we won?'
'If you mean to ask if Lexie succeeded in defeating Kreia and thus saved all life in the galaxy, then yes, that is what happened,' murmured the Disciple, focus still firmly on the task of making sure I didn't, you know, die. So at least there was that to be grateful for. Taking the hint for once, I shut up. Deliberately keeping my gaze as far from Mical's work on my chest as possible (I'm not squeamish or anything but there are still some things I don't think anyone wants to see particularly and their own chest wide open was definitely one of them), I allowed my eyes to roam around the familiar surroundings. A mixture of fatigue and painkillers had left me a little disorientated, and so it was only then that I became aware of someone else being in the room.
I felt her before I saw her. That warm flow of emotion she always gave off. Until she'd rewoken me to the Force, I hadn't even known it was there. Now, I associated that rush so closely with her that it was as though I'd been aware of it all my life. Turning my head to the right, I finally spotted her, curled up in a chair on the far side of the bay, fast asleep. It always amazed me how fragile she looked when she slept, knowing all the power and strength that she had within her. But now, there was something more than vulnerability on her features – something like triumph.
'What I'd like to know, if you don't mind me asking, is why he used a vibroblade on you rather than his lightsaber?' Mical asked who, apparently finished torturing my torso, had turned his attention to the gash on my cheek.
I winced, remembering what Darth Sion had said before inflicting the cut on my cheek and running me through. 'A lightsaber is quick, clean. Vibroblade wounds bleed. He'd wanted me to suffer,' I said, forcing my voice to sound bored and uninterested. There was no way I'd ever let Blondie know what it was like to be faced with that lunatic. He'd been about to mutilate me. Make me like him, he'd said. If I hadn't been able to grab my lightsaber… hadn't caught him unawares…
'Hold still, this will only sting for a moment,' Mical told me before spraying a clear liquid on my cheek.
'Ow,' I grumbled, a tad petulantly I'll admit.
'Well, I've done all that I can.' Again, the Disciple was choosing to ignore my little comments. Well, wasn't he just the bigger man. He began to clear away his equipment, folding bandages into neat little squares and making sure the lids to the various kolto administers were screwed on properly. Force, even after saving my life I still found him mind-bogglingly annoying. 'There will always be a mark on your chest, and I fear that the wound on your cheek will also scar.'
'Ah, I can live with that. Besides, chicks dig scars.' Without quite knowing why, I found that my gaze had once more settled upon the exile, still sleeping soundly only a few feet away. The things I'd said to her back on Malachor… I'd been so sure that I was done for that at the time it had seemed perfectly natural to tell her how I felt, how I'd been feeling ever since we'd met, and it had felt so right to finally share that with her. But now, here in the cold, clinical light of the medbay I was starting to see things for what they really were. I'd poured my heart out to her but honestly, what did I expect to happen next? What, was I, Atton Rand, scoundrel, deserter and all round bad egg, going to settle down with the last of the Jedi in a little house on Coruscant and have two point four kids? And that was if she even felt the same way… Yes, she'd said things too, but that didn't mean that she'd meant them. Lexie had always had a knack for knowing what people wanted to hear – probably part of that whole Force bond thing – and it'd be just like her to be offering someone whatever comforts she could before they passed on. So did my stubborn refusal to just die already mean that our relationship was irreparably damaged? Would she be avoiding my eyes whenever we met in the corridor of the Hawk, dumping me at the first space station we docked at, even running off with Blondie who she'd had feelings for this whole time but had only been forced to confront them by my overly dramatic and apparently premature death speech?
Yet then again, here she was, curled up in the medbay by my bedside. Surely that meant something?
Besides me, I was aware of Mical pausing in his work. When he spoke, his voice was subdued. 'She's been sat here waiting for you to wake up ever since we left Malachor.'
I glanced across at him to see that Mical's gaze had followed my own and was now also resting on the fragile little Jedi who had just saved the galaxy from which she had been exiled. Funny old thing, life, isn't it?
Ignoring my body's protestations, I struggled up to a sitting position and sighed. 'Kid, I—'
Mical raised a hand to silence me. 'Please, Atton. You have nothing to apologise for. I realise now that Lexie could have never given her heart to me, even if she had wanted to. It belonged to you long before I'd even set foot on this ship.'
My instant denial that I'd had any intention of apologising for anything was shoved aside by a much greater sense of disbelief. 'Yeah, right. She probably only told me that stuff back there because she thought I was about to go shuffling off this mortal coil anyway. No harm in telling a dead guy you love him, right?' I laughed, trying to pretend that my conversation with Lexie after the battle with Sion had been no more than that – a joke. The motion made my chest hurt. It wasn't funny anyway.
'You're wrong,' the Disciple said seriously. 'The exile has a habit of looking at people and seeing what they could potentially become. She's always been somewhat of an idealist in that respect. But when she looks at you, she sees you for who you are now, all of you, every piece, and loves you for it.'
For once, I was finding his usually open features entirely unreadable and when he fixed his blue eyes on me I found it impossible to fathom the emotion in them. 'You're a lucky man, Atton Rand.'
Suddenly finding it impossible to take the pressure of those eyes on me, I looked down, focussing instead on the mass of bandages that covered my chest. Maybe he was right. Maybe she was really here waiting for me. If so… 'Yeah, I know. I'll try not to screw it up.'
From across the room, a gentle moan told us that Lexie was about to rejoin the land of the living. The spell of stillness that had settled on us was broken, and Mical turned abruptly, gathering up the rest of his equipment and heading towards the exit. 'I'll leave you two alone then,' he muttered, bustling out of the medbay. I wanted to call after him, to tell him… I wasn't sure what exactly. Sorry? Thank you? Good luck? I was never really one with words and Force knew I had a bad track record when it came to exchanging them with the Disciple, so I just let him go. It was probably for the best; I'd have just ended up making fun of his hair or something.
Lexie stirred and her eyes flickered open. Instantly, her focus was drawn to the medbay bunk and when she saw me sat up, awake and mostly definitely alive, a wide smile spread across her face. For the thousandth time I found myself wondering how something as simple as a smile could cause my heart to start hammering against my chest like a pissed off boma banging against its cage.
'You're awake,' she said.
'So are you,' I responded, smiling back. Not my greatest line admittedly but hey, I was on a lot of medication. Besides, this was the first time we'd spoken since the aforementioned overly dramatic and premature confession back at the Trayus Academy. But still, live and learn. Almost die and learn much faster.
In an instant, she was by the bunk, one cool hand pressed against my forehead, the other resting on my arm. The contact gave me shivers. 'How are you feeling? Is the pain bad?' she asked, the concern evident in her voice.
'Oh yeah. I got stabbed, you know. In the chest.' I put on my best brave wounded soldier face. Nothing wrong with a little harmless exaggeration, I reasoned.
'So I'd heard,' Lexie said, her smile broadening. She always had been able to see straight through me. I stared into those compassionate, deep, dark eyes and found myself wondering if maybe Mical was right; maybe she really had meant those things that she'd said. Even as I considered the possibility, her hand left my brow and gently traced the gash on my cheek. 'Is it going to scar?'
I nodded, not trusting myself to speak at that moment. Already, a voice had crept its way into my head, the voice of doubt. Of course she didn't feel that way. How could she? She knew what I'd done. How could she possible love a murderer? She was just showing concern for one of her companions. It was her nature – she'd be behaving the same way if any of the others was in here. No, it was foolish to think it could be anything more than that. And I was sick of being called a fool. Swallowing hard, I forced a small smile, adopting what I hoped was a light, breezy tone. 'So, where are we headed to, fearless leader?'
'Back to Telos. Admiral Onasi wants a full report on what happened and I want us to have a service for Bao-Dur. Telos… seems fitting…'
She broke off, and silently I took her hand in my own and squeezed it gently. Sometimes even I know when to keep my mouth shut. Bao-Dur had been a good guy and he and Lexie had a lot of history. His sacrifice had saved us all, but I knew Lexie would be hurting over this for a long time. I wanted to say something comforting but knowing me it would either come out as insensitive or insincere, so I did what I did best – changed the subject.
'And what about after that?' I ploughed on, still trying to be Mr Breezy but failing fairly spectacularly.
Lexie looked away suddenly, her free hand flying to her hair, twirling one curl around her finger. I straightened. I knew that action. There was something she didn't want to tell me. Slipping her hand out from mine, she moved over to the sideboard where my belongings were neatly stacked, pulling my sidedeck out of the pocket of my jacket and waving it at me. 'Hey, how about a game of pazaak to pass the time?'
'Sounds great. Hey, know what sounds even better? You answering my question,' I retorted, raising my eyebrows at her. Lexie shuffled uncomfortably, still twirling one dark curl round and round her finger. Honestly, she should have known better than to try and pull one over on me like that. I was the king of misdirection, after all, and she was a terrible liar.
Realisation dawned on me with a cold certainty that ached more than any physical wound possibly could. And to think that for a moment I'd actually thought that… Kreia had been right; I was a fool. I ran a hand through my hair, trying not to let the disappointment become too obvious on my face. 'Look, Lexie, you can stop now, it's fine. You don't have to carry on pretending you care about me just because I said what I said back there. It was stupid of me, and I shouldn't have put you in that position, and anyway emotions were running high all round, I'd just been stabbed, you were just about to save the galaxy, it was a whole big thing, situations like that are pretty much the stuff old romance holovids are made of so it's fine if you didn't mean it, I mean I probably didn't mean it either—'
'You didn't?' The twirling had stopped. Lexie's frame was now completely still, eyes fixed intently on me.
I squirmed. Unlike her, I was a very accomplished liar but recently I'd begun to find it harder and harder to not tell her the truth. 'No, I meant it,' I confessed. 'Of course I meant it. Falling in love with you was probably one of the dumbest things I've ever done, the dumbest being telling you that I'm in love with you which I realise is exactly what I'm doing again now but—'
'Atton.' Her voice was soft but insistent, enough to cut off my rant, which I couldn't help but be grateful for because I'd had no idea where I was going with that anyway. 'I love you too.'
'You – you do?' I must have sounded pretty incredulous, because she was smiling again.
'That's what I said.' She sat down at the end of the bunk and when her eyes met mine again her expression was serious once more. 'Before she died, Kreia told me that I need to go beyond the Outer Rim and find Revan. She thought that there was something else out there – something worse than what we've faced – and that Revan's gone to find it and I need to go and help her.'
'Right, because when a manipulative old scow who just tried to end all life in the galaxy gives you a job to do, you should absolutely just hop to it,' I said sarcastically. As far as I was concerned, this was probably just Kreia's way of screwing with our minds even after death. I wouldn't put it past her. Still, the look on Lexie's face told me that not only did she believe what she'd been told, she'd already decided that she was going to go through with it and I knew from experience how difficult it could be to change her mind when it was that firmly set.
'I didn't want to tell you because I don't know when I'll be back – or even if I will come back,' she continued. 'And I didn't want you to wait for me.'
She looked miserable and I knew then that nothing I said would dissuade her. More than that, I knew what I had to do, what she needed me to do, but that didn't seem to make actually doing it any easier. I swallowed hard, already hating myself for saying this. 'If this is something that you feel that you have to do, then you should go and do it.'
The look in her eyes was a grateful one and in a rush of movement she was stood beside me, her lips pressed against mine. She pulled back slightly, staring into my eyes as I stared into hers, and whispered, 'Thank you.' With that, she gathered herself and headed for the exit.
I watched her leave, the only woman I'd ever loved, and knew that even though it hurt like hell I was doing the right thing by letting her go.
'Hey,' I heard my own voice calling out, entirely of its own accord. 'Need any company? I mean, besides, if I'm not around to bail you out of trouble, who knows what could happen?'
She turned and smiled that smile again.