AN: This is a KotOR2 story I thought up years ago but never bothered actually writing. Having recently started playing the game again with the TSLRCM mod inspired me to finally get around to writing it out. It basically covers the first trip to Dxun, with an Exile x Brianna developing relationship intermingled (nothing too overbearing, hopefully). I mixed in some of the dialogue from the game here and there, though I tried not to use too much of it since I'm not any different than most people in not wanting to read yet another copy/paste of the game script :-) So even when I do use game dialogue, I often alter where/when exactly something was said and who said it. So the story should retain some familiarity while at the same time having something a bit different to offer. The story is already written, and I'm just working through revising/editing/correcting the chapters at this point. I'll probably have the whole thing posted over the course of the next week.
Handmaiden was a bundle of nervous energy. She paced the halls of the Ebon Hawk, finally having given up on the notion of getting back to sleep after staring at the ceiling of the cargo hold for far too long. Part of her was a little stir crazy from being cooped up on the ship. It had been a long hyperspace journey from Dantooine to Dxun, where the ship had been forced to land the previous afternoon after being caught up in a space battle above nearby Onderon. But she knew that wasn't the primary reason. The bigger cause was the life altering decision she'd made the previous night after sparring with Fret Starscream, the Jedi Exile, for the third time on their journey.
Reflecting on the past several weeks, Handmaiden knew she'd opened up to him far more than she had ever expected to when she first stowed away aboard the Ebon Hawk on Telos at the directive of her mistress, Jedi Master Atris. Certainly more than she'd ever intended anyway. Back then she couldn't have imagined telling him deeply personal stories about her father, mother, and her life growing up in the hidden Telos Academy, where she was ostracized by her five sisters because she was the only one of the six with a different mother. But during the time she'd traveled with the Exile, from Telos to Nar Shadaa to Dantooine and now Dxun, her preconceptions of him had steadily come under attack. Atris had told her the Exile was a monster consumed by the dark side, incapable of feeling compassion and caring only for himself – that 'the galaxy could burn for all he cares' as she put it. Atris taught her and her sisters that the Exile had lost himself to the dark side in the Mandalorian Wars, a war he joined solely out of love of battle, pursuit of revenge, and to spite the Jedi Council that had forbidden the Jedi from entering. However, all Handmaiden had seen was a man with exceptional patience and compassion, one who went out of his way to help others even when it put himself at risk, and often even when she felt they didn't deserve it. She didn't always agree with his decisions, especially not the one where he spared the Sith assassin Visas Marr and then agreed to allow her to join the crew on their mission, but she recognized that it was a pattern of behavior for him – putting others ahead of himself.
As far as she could tell, the limit to any behavior that could be construed as dark sided was in dealing with people and organizations that would hurt innocents. And she personally didn't have a problem with him doing things such as Force persuading a couple of Exchange thugs shaking down a defenseless man to go jump into the central pit on Nar Shadaa, or Force persuading a hostile merc on Dantooine that fought on the side of the Sith in the Jedi Civil War to give the Exile his weapon and all of his credits. Even though he was quick to point out that he was not a Jedi, that the Order had cast him aside, the Exile was seemingly a model Jedi to her, the opposite of everything that Atris had taught the handmaidens.
Realizing this had been quite disconcerting at first for Handmaiden. She'd trusted Atris more than anyone else in the galaxy. Atris had been equal parts mother and mentor to her since she was very young, having taken in her and her sisters after the death of their father, Yusanis, at the hand of Revan. But as the weeks and months on her current mission passed, Handmaiden increasingly accepted the Exile for who he actually was, not who she'd been taught he was. She had come to feel like she and the Exile were kindred spirits, both outcasts of sorts. And as much as she had accepted him, he had even more quickly accepted her and made her feel not just needed, but wanted.
It all culminated the previous night, when she betrayed her oath to Atris by asking the Exile to train her in the ways of the Jedi and he had agreed. Fret pointed out that since he officially wasn't a Jedi, technically all he could do was train her in the ways of the Force. But Handmaiden knew him well enough though to know the difference was little more than semantics. He may no longer have had the right to bear the title, but she saw him as everything a Jedi should be. While Handmaiden didn't make the decision lightly and felt at peace with it, beginning her new life as a Force user both frightened and exhilarated her at the same time. She also couldn't help feel slight trepidation over how Atris would react when she found out. Her mistress had a hot and cold personality, and on a given day she could be just as likely to be compassionate as harsh. No, when Handmaiden was being honest with herself, she knew Atris would never accept this. Handmaiden had not only broken her oath to her mistress, she had done so for the one man Atris loathed more than anyone else in the galaxy.
Handmaiden continued to pace the Ebon Hawk restlessly. It was still very early and she hadn't wanted to wake anyone, so for awhile she had confined herself to the immediate area of the cargo hold. Eventually expanding her route, she walked down the hallway towards the garage before stopping in her tracks, her expression narrowing into a frown from what she saw. For some reason, the loading ramp was open, where any manner of beast or hunter could board and potentially attack the crew in their sleep. She didn't know why it was down or how long it had been that way, but the ramp was supposed to remain closed when not in use, especially in potentially hostile environments like this one. Handmaiden quickly and quietly made her way towards the cockpit, and after finding Atton asleep in the captain's chair, she entered the security room and scanned the feeds from the security cameras onboard. Satisfied that there were no threats onboard the ship, she returned to the garage and cautiously made her way down the ramp to investigate. She got halfway down the ramp before everything suddenly made sense. She wasn't the only one awake at this hour.
A short distance away from the ship was the Jedi Exile, Fret Starscream, standing on the stump of what had been a very large tree while training outdoors in the early morning light. Even though the morning air was slightly cool, not having yet given way to the oppressive humidity of Dxun's daytime jungle climate, the shirtless weaponmaster was visibly glistening with sweat. Without conscious awareness, Handmaiden's eyes took inventory of the man she knew she was attracted to. He was tall, perhaps 6' 3", and his lean physique was well-defined without being overly muscular. The long hours spent in the sun on Dantooine had given his skin a tanned complexion that he didn't have when she first met him at the academy in the polar region of Telos. The exposure to the sun had also made the freckles on his face and arms visibly stand out more. But she found even these imperfections to be adorable, much like his slightly crooked nose that had probably been broken at some point and not completely set properly before it healed. The clincher though was the eyes, golden-green orbs surrounded by eye lashes that many women would be envious of. They reminded her of autumn days on Eshan, the Echani homeworld she hadn't stepped foot on since she was a child. They were also his most expressive feature, and more than once she had to forcibly tear her gaze away, lest she lose herself in them.
The Exile's short, slightly wavy sandy blonde hair clung to his sweaty brow, making Handmaiden wonder just how long he'd been out there, and if he'd had just as much trouble sleeping as she had. Not wanting to interrupt him, she sat down on the ramp and quietly observed. It dawned on her that while she had seen him fight in battle numerous times and had sparred with him, she'd never actually seen him train. She found herself curious about his regimen.
As a former Jedi guardian that had advanced to the elite level of the weaponmasters, Fret prided himself on his mastery of many weapons and fighting techniques. Many years in exile with no connection to the Force helped with that as well, forcing him to become adept at handling conventional weapons. Whereas most Jedi were content to limit themselves to their lightsaber, he was comfortable with traditional weapons and blasters, and additionally trained hard to be equally proficient whether wielding his preferred double-bladed lightsaber, dual-wielding single-bladed lightsabers, or just wielding a single blade. He was unaware of Handmaiden's presence, but he was acutely aware of the three Mandalorians that were observing him from afar. One he knew had been assigned by their leader, Mandalore, to be their guide and take them to the Mandalorian camp, which was going to happen this day. The guide had advised them as much the previous day, shortly after the Ebon Hawk landed and they'd gone outside to investigate the area. Fret assumed the other two to be scouts out on patrol. Nevertheless, Fret continued with his workout, using the makeshift stage provided by the large stump to admittedly do some showing off.
Handmaiden and the Mandalorians watched Fret deactivate the double-bladed saber he'd been training with and set it down. She'd missed the earlier part of the workout, where he started with a single vibroblade, progressed to dual-wielding vibroblades, and then repeated the process with single-bladed lightsabers. After that he'd picked up a quarterstaff and trained with that for awhile before switching to his double-bladed lightsaber. Now that he had finished his real workout, he decided to have a little fun.
Fret picked up a pair of quarterstaffs, grinning to himself. "Kreia would ridicule me if she saw me goofing off like this," he thought, chuckling slightly. He began twirling a staff in each hand, increasing the speed until they were a motion blur. He alternated attacks with them against imaginary opponents, always in motion. Handmaiden's eyes opened wide in astonishment. She immediately recognized that what the Exile was doing was largely impractical and of dubious effectiveness if done in an actual battle, but it was impressive nonetheless; if for no other reason than the hand, wrist, and forearm strength it took to maintain control over the quarterstaffs one-handed. Setting down the quarterstaffs after about 15 minutes of training with them, Fret picked a pair of double-bladed sabers. "Time for the grand finale!" he thought, continuing to amuse himself.
Still watching intently, Handmaiden didn't notice that she now had company behind her as Fret activated his now familiar silver double-bladed saber alongside a second double-bladed saber with greenish blades that she'd never seen before but thought were striking in appearance. He flew into motion, the four individual blades seemingly twice as many as his speed made them impossible to track with the naked eye.
Behind Handmaiden, another female voice whistled appreciatively. "Impressive… this can't be helping his bounty go down any," said Mira sarcastically. "I'll have to remember to check it once we're back in civilization," she added casually, almost as an afterthought.
Handmaiden shook her head. She never knew whether or not Mira was being serious with all her talk of the Exile being her "bounty." Truthfully, it bothered her somewhat that Mira acted rather possessive of Fret in that regard, though thankfully it didn't seem to go beyond that to anything more personal.
"You'd better make your move on him soon," Mira advised her with a smirk. "If he keeps flaunting his stuff half-naked like this, I might jump his bones before you or Visas get around to it."
Handmaiden immediately frowned at the mention of the Sith's name, glaring slightly at Mira in response. She didn't trust the former assassin, regardless of Fret's opinion of her, and when she was being honest with herself she admitted that she was jealous of the time he spent with her, or to some degree even with Mira. Handmaiden knew she cared more deeply about the Exile than she probably should, especially without knowing if there was any chance he would reciprocate since Jedi were not supposed to love or form attachments. But she hoped more than anything that he wasn't developing those same types of feelings for Visas.
Mira laughed lightly at her reaction, Handmaiden's expression like someone who just bit into something very distasteful. "Relax, I'm just messing with you. Besides, even if he does keep his body in great shape, it wouldn't work. He's way too old for me."
Handmaiden raised an eyebrow curiously. "He is not that old."
Mira shook her head. "I don't mean his age. The places he's been, the things he's done… you can see it in his eyes, in the way he carries himself. He likes to joke around and act carefree, but he's burdened."
"How do you know this?" asked Handmaiden skeptically.
"A good bounty hunter has to know everything about her marks. You learn to read people, to see meaning not just in what they say and how they say it, but in what they don't say. And you often learn more about someone by seeing what they do or how they act when they think no one is watching than you do by talking to them."
"You mean spying on them."
"Call it what you want, it comes with the territory in my line of work. But seriously… if you want to beat Visas to him, I already told you how I'd do it."
Handmaiden nodded, sighing. "I know, but I don't think your idea of stunning him and then tying him up and starving him is going to work."
"Your choice," replied Mira, shrugging her shoulders.
Their attention returned to Fret, who a few minutes later completed his 'routine' by deactivating both sabers, throwing them high in the air behind him, then Force jumping into a backflip. He caught both sabers in mid-air and reactivated them on the fly before twisting acrobatically and landing while simultaneously lashing out at an imaginary target. It was only as he walked back to the stump to gather the weapons he'd brought outside that he noticed the women sitting on the loading ramp watching him with smirks on their faces. Draping his robe over his shoulders and ambling back towards the ship, he smiled sheepishly, his expressive golden-green eyes revealing a slight embarrassment.
"Good morning, master," said Handmaiden, grinning slightly.
Mira's raised an eyebrow in confusion. "Master?" she asked. "What's that about?"
Fret groaned, shaking his head. "Please… no… let's not do the 'master' thing. I'm still just 'Fret'." Turning to Mira, he added, "Handmaiden is Force-sensitive and I've agreed to train her in the ways of the Force." "Much to Kreia's chagrin," he thought solemnly to himself.
Mira laughed. "You put something in the water on this bucket that causes everyone to turn into Jedi? Me and Bao-Dur are the only holdouts left then?"
Chuckling, Fret shook his head again. "Nah, nothing so nefarious. But I haven't forgotten my promise to take you back to Nar Shadaa and show you how to listen to life through the Force."
Smirking, Mira replied, "Yeah… just don't hold your breath on that amounting to anything."
Mira suddenly grinned mischievously. "So you gonna teach her that whole crazy dual-wielding saberstaffs stunt you just pulled back there?" Both Handmaiden and she laughed gleefully at his fidgeting, self-conscious reaction.
"Well…" he began, "I was really just showing off for the benefit of the Mandies over there," he explained, gesturing in the direction of the Mandalorians on the other side of the clearing. "I didn't know you guys were over here watching too."
"It's not a big deal, nothing to get self-conscious about," Handmaiden replied, waving her hand dismissively.
"Well, I don't want you to get the impression that's how I normally train. I do generally take it more seriously than that."
Nodding, Handmaiden smiled in reassurance at him.
"Anyway," said Fret, "I'm going to go stow these weapons and hit the 'fresher. I want to get an early start on going over to the Mandalorian camp, so I'm planning to grab a bite to eat after my shower and then get ready to go. You guys want to go with me today?"
"Like you have to ask Handmaiden," replied Mira, smirking again. "Yeah, I'll go with you. It's not like anyone else on the crew knows more about Mandalorians than I do anyway."
Handmaiden blushed slightly from Mira's remark before quickly redirecting the conversation. "I keep forgetting you're a Mandalorian, you don't really fit the mold."
Mira shrugged. "Most people nowadays think that all Mandalorians are gruff males decked out in full battle armor, but that wasn't always the case. I suppose the mercenary thugs feed that impression though. Besides, the Mandalorians always took in and comingled with the strongest of the people they conquered, so over time the Mandalorian race became rather diluted from what it once was. Other than the ones that wore the traditional armor, you really couldn't tell someone was a Mandalorian just by looking at them unless you got a good look at their tribal tattoos and knew what you were looking at. It's more a culture than anything at this point."
Handmaiden and Fret nodded in understanding before Fret started heading inside, asking them to meet in the garage in 45 minutes to depart for the Mandalorian camp.