Author's note: I unearthed this from a smut challenge I had entered years ago. I edited it (quite a bit) to make it less graphic because I liked the angst-ridden psychology of it. But still, strong sexual content here. Ye be warned.

She slides her fingers over my chest. I can feel each light touch, I can feel her warm breath on my neck. Pain, anger, all melts away, fades into her,is eased and made distant by her. She burns it all away until there is only she and me, and the rage becomes passion becomes lust becomes ecstasy becomes relief and finally forgiveness. We heal each other.Lying with her warm body on mine, I am lulled into a soothing reverie where I can see the beginning of a life without the pain, anger, hatred. Their tight coils ease in me and begin to let go...

Bao-Dur started from his thoughts. Someone was watching. The pilot, probably. He shivered in the cold of the Hawk's garage. The hand holding the hydrospanner trembled. He passed it to his left that would never tremble, never betray fear. Atton is changed, he thought. It is her doing. This he banished to the corner of his mind where it lurked, ready to make its presence known again, ready to give his fear a name...

No! Not her. Atton was always dark, in his way, but she is not. I can make her see...

Bao-Dur glanced at the door to the garage. It was shadowed but he could see no shape lingering there.

In the morning, he decided. When things are...lighter. He did not retire to his bunk, but resumed his work. Sleep, lately, was hard and brought little relief. And Atton doesn't sleep at all. What is happening to us?

The question was unaswerable in any way that was comforting and so Bao-Dur abandoned it to join his other fears and apprehensions. He worked diligently as the shadows over the Hawk grew longer and deeper.

Atton waited until the Zabrak become intense in his tasks before the pilot peered through the darkened doorway again. An ugly sneer curled his lips. He scratched his chin-a nervous, jittery movement-where dark blue and green veins were becoming more and more pronounced with each passing day.

"Deep in thought, are we?"

Atton hadn't heard the Exile sidle up behind him. Immediately, he began counting cards in his head.

"It's too late for that," whispered Brynn Dahl. "I know how you feel about him." She inclined her head at the Zabrak bent over his work table.

"I just don't see the point," Atton hissed as they both moved away from the garage and towards the main hold. "We're better off without him."

The Exile raised an eyebrow. "Are we? Or are you?" She smirked. "Your jealousy might almost be sexy if it weren't so desperate."

Atton's eyes narrowed to slits as he studied her in the quiet, deserted hold. "And your pretending he doesn't mean anything to you is a damn joke."

"We need him," Brynn said, her voice toneless. "I need him to...come to our way of thinking. And quickly, too, before we proceed much further. I foresee events in which his moral nobility will get very much in the way."

Atton snorted. "If he's so damn noble then how do you think you're gonna-"

"He has pain," Brynn said. "People with a lot of pain will stop at nothing to end it. And he has love," she added, almost to herself. She glanced at Atton and said, louder, "And love is a weakness that I must burn out of him. I can use both to our advantage. With the right...techniques it'll be much easier than you think." She licked her lips and Atton, with dawning comprehension, bridled with rage.

"You promised!" he snarled, grabbing her wrist and squeezing. "You promised me..."

The Exile tore her arm from his grasp and sent him sprawling to the floor with the Force. Swiftly, she knelt over him; a vibrodagger flashed at his throat.

"Patience, Atton," she whispered though her own faint web of darkened veins pulsed along her jawline with anger. "You will be time." She trailed the dagger down over his chest and rested it over his groin which immediately began to bulge. She smirked. "See? Desperate."

"I obeyed," he said hoarsely. "I deserve you."

"Obeyed?" Brynn laughed. She sheathed dagger and rose to her feet. "You were already there, Jaq."She smirked at him lying prostrate on the floor. "Perhaps you should have played hard-to-get."

She started for her bunk when Atton's words stopped her.

"You love him."

She turned around. "Do I?"

"Since the war. He pined for you but you pined for him too, didn't you, General?And you still do."

"Govern your tongue, Atton, before I slice it out of your mouth."

Atton's sneer grew uglier but he took a step away from her. "Love is a weakness. You said it yourself. And you think fracking him is going to turn him around?" His laugh was nervous but cutting in the thin air of the hold. "You want to frack him. And when you do, everything we've worked for is going to fall apart." He took a step closer. "Let me end him. We can get by without him. I can do it. Clean. No noise. No mess..."


Atton's jaw snapped shut with an audible clack. He raised himself up as she approached and tried, for all the world, to not appear as scared as he was.

"You will not speak to me again of the war, will you?"

With a great sacrifice of pride, Atton nodded his head in obeisance.

"And you will not speak to me of things you know nothing about. He was with me at Malachor V and that alone is enough to give him a chance, do you understand?"

Atton nodded again and as she turned to leave, he ventured, "But my offer still stands." She glanced at him. He smiled like a madman and drew his finger across his throat. "Just so you know."

She grimaced and swept out of the hold. Atton watched her go and the sneer returned to his face. He crept silently back to the door of the garage where the Zabrak was still bent over his work, unaware...


Bao-Dur hated Nar Shaddaa. It was Atton's moon, and the dirty stink of it aroused that old fear in him...a fear that asked why the General had lingered here for so long.

The Zabrak pushed through the throngs on the street, his prosthetic arm keeping the crowds-and pickpockets-away with its electric hum. He found the address she had given him and the fear rose in his throat again, making it difficult to swallow. A spice den. He peered into the smoky murk of slow-moving bodies and hushed conversations. This is not her. This is not my General. He stepped inside.

The smell of spice stung his nostrils immediately and he made his breathing shallow.I will stay clear-headed. I will warn her and she will listen. But he went to the bar as she had commanded and ordered the drinks she had specified. With a white, foamy concoction in each hand, Bao-Dur made his way to the back of the den, to where the private rooms were tucked away. He approached the one she had named and its door slid open before he could make his presence known.

"Enter," she said.

He couldn't see her-the room was dim and became darker as the door slid shut behind him. He stood still, waiting until his eyes adjusted. He raised his glowing arm and peered about.

The room held no furniture save for a small table upon which stood a spice hookah; it sent lazy tendrils of pungent smoke spiralling into the air. Pillows, sumptuous and large, lined the walls and comprised the room's only decor.

"I'm so glad you came," she said and Bao-Dur looked to the corner at his left. A light globe came on. It was set on low but he could see her clearly enough. The General was wrapped in a plain white robe that brushed the floor. Her long hair was undone and lay like ribbons of black silk over her shoulders. He saw her eyes set in the pale oval glow of her face, glittering in the dimness as she watched him.

"Place the drinks on the table," she commanded and he obeyed. She still hadn't moved, but stood like a ghost, white and tall and beautiful.

"General, I-"

"Ssshhh." She glided forward. "Sit. Please." An extended arm gestured to a pile of pillows to his right, near the hookah table. Again, Bao-Dur obeyed and sat among them. "You have served me long years," she murmured. "Let me have my turn."

He watched, his heart thudding in his chest as she shed the white robe. Beneath, she wore the thread-bare costume she had worn to dance for the Hutt. At the time, he had hated that she had worn it, had detested the necessity of it that seemed as flimsy as the costume itself...but not now. Now, he was glad that the tiny gold threads seemed so fragile and easily torn...Now, he didn't lament that there was only a narrow swath of red cloth swaying between her legs as she moved...

With effort, Bao-Dur forced himself to look at her face as she knelt beside him. With slow, languid movements, she drew the pipe off the table. "Something to relax you," she said, moving closer. She leaned over him and the sight of her half-naked breasts mere inches from him silenced his protest. He let her put the pipe to his mouth and, against all reason, he inhaled.

The effects were immediate. His heart began to race while at the same time his entire body eased and felt very, very heavy. The dimness of the room took on a hazy quality, blunting all sharp edges and distinctions. Only the gold of her costume seemed brighter; it seared his eyes so he closed them and took several deep breaths to cleanse his lungs and calm his frantic pulse. Damn you! Stay in control! But he was falling, it seemed, into the depths of the pillows and he saw, through half-lidded eyes, her smile.


"No," he managed. "General..."

"Have some feli. "She reached for the foamy white drinks he had brought. "It's from Naboo...a specialty."

She held a glass of the sweet-smelling liquor to his lips, but with supreme effort he brushed her hand away and hauled his body out of the soft clutches of the pillows. He swayed unsteadily on his feet for a moment and then turned to look at her.

"General, what are you doing? What is all this?" He rubbed his eyes to clear the spice fog away, with little success.

"It's business, Bao-Dur," she said softly. She was resting leisurely against the pillows-all long legs and pale, delicate skin. The Zabrak's eyes trailed over her body. During the war, he had never seen in her in less than full uniform. How she looked now, he had only dreamed about. So much skin...Just one touch...

The General smiled. "Yes. Business and pleasure. So rarely do the two go together so exquisitely as they do this night. Come. Sit."

Bao-Dur was not so drugged as to hear the uncertainty in her voice, nor see the way her hand trembled so very slightly as she patted the pillows beside her. Sheisnotsoveryfargone.Thereishope,he thought. Aloud he said, "What do you want from me?"

"The same thing you want of me, and have wanted of me since the war."

He swallowed. "And the 'business'? What does that mean, General?"

"It means your freedom," she said, and the uncertainty he had noticed was devoured by the conviction in her tone. "Freedom from the guilt, anger, hatred you feel. I know they are there, Bao-Dur. I sense them in you. But they were in me too, until I found the way out..."

"The way out," Bao-Dur said dully. He covered his eyes with one hand. I was wrong. I've lost her, he thought. You never had her to begin with, came another. But you could...

The General laughed. "Yes, you could. And you must do as I say if you hope to... continue this journey with me."

"If I hope to live, you mean."

She shifted in her seat and for a brief moment, couldn't meet his eyes. Perhaps I haven't lost her yet. I won't lose her. My General...

...Brynn turned her gaze away from him. It was too hard to watch him stand in the center of the room, looking so alone. For all of his impressive height, for all the muscles packed around him, for all she knew of his courage and integrity, he suddenly seemed so very small and helpless. It will be easy to use his easy... But instead of the thought filling her with confidence, she found her planned speech sticking in her throat. No! Iwill not fail. I have come too far to let old emotions hold sway over me .There is work to be done and I want him with me as I do it.

She took a deep breath (though was careful not to reveal that she had) and began.

"You're no good to me as you are, Bao-Dur. Your weakness reeks stronger than the spice. I could, of course, leave you to it but it is far too reminiscent of my own past failings. Our failings. We killed a lot of people together, didn't we? But we have become lost in the result instead of remembering the necessity." She rose off the pillows and moved to stand behind him. After a brief hesitation, she let her hands trail up his shirt, touching the muscles in his back, to his neck, to his jaw where she ran her finger along the strong line of it. His breath became tight but he did not move.

"Freedom," she whispered. Her lips brushed his earlobe. "I can release you from the pain, Bao-Dur, I swear it." She cupped her hand and ran it over the back of his head, to his horns, and let her fingers gently graze the rippled flesh around one. He moaned softly. "Remember, Bao-Dur. Remember the night that Malachor died. Remember the agony of it-an agony so sharp and so substantial, it settled in to your skin, your bones, your living tissue and your immortal soul."

She circled around to his side, saw that his eyes were pressed shut and an expression of terrible pain was etched on his features. She swallowed hard and continued, trailing one hand along his arm. "There is no undoing it," she said. "There is no reprieve in fighting it. That battle is one that you can never win. You know that. You know because you've been fighting it for ten years."

He shook his head, feebly, and she knew she was close...

"Not fair, is it?" she whispered, letting her lips brush his neck. Doing so sent a shiver of pleasure-unexpected and strong- over her own skin, but she ignored it. "To wear such never be free of it. You agonize and cry over it. You spend your days trying to make amends to no one and nights sleepless and alone in the unending torture of it."

She moved to stand in front of him now. She took his living hand and raised it, placed it to her breast, while the other gently brushed the front of his pants and felt him stiffen beneath her touch. "I have found my peace, Bao-Dur, and though it is dark and cold, it is peace nonetheless. And when you are inside me, when all of your skin is on mine, then will I use the Force to grant you the same. I have," she said again, "found my peace."

Brynn leaned toward him, pressed against him, feeling that victory was close at hand...when he suddenly opened his eyes-eyes that were wet with unshed tears-and looked down at her. Gone was the pain that had touched him before; gone was the mask of propriety and courtesy he had worn since the war-the mask a soldier wears before his general. Instead, his face was open and kind and sweet, and she read in it how much he loved her without his saying a word. He had waited those ten long years until this moment to reveal it to her in full and she was astonished at its beauty. Brynn trembled involuntarily, feeling as though she were a warrior on a battlefield who had just been stripped of her armor.

"Have you, General?" Bao-Dur asked, his voice hoarse. "Is it peace, or is it denial?" He lifted his hand and traced the feint webbing of dark veins along her jaw. "I don't believe you have found your freedom. The pain is not gone, only buried, isn't it?"

Brynn tried to keep her composure. She opened her mouth to speak, to offer a protest, but he stopped her with his gentle words uttered in his gentle voice.

"Yes, my guilt is terrible, but it's the only thing I have to know that I have not fallen." His smile was rueful yet full of hope. "Don't go where you're going, General. It is dangerous and dark...and it is a place where I will not follow. But you can come with me.Run away from here, from all of it. With me. I want very badly for you to come with me. " And before she could reply, he bent down and kissed her.

The Exile reeled at the sensation of his mouth on hers and suddenly realized how silly her plan had been. She had hoped to use her body to seduce him but one kiss completely undid her. All of the work she had done was unraveling with every passing moment. Atton, by some freak twist of the cosmos, had been right.But the connection between she and the Zabrak was more than the simple pilot could ever hope to understand. Bao-Dur had been assigned to her, had fought beside her, had given his arm for her... And when Revan's order came down, he had stood beside her as they watched a planet die. Only Bao-Dur knew what that was like-to take the lives of so many people in so little time. And only he knew what she suffered when the Force wreaked its terrible punishment. They had a partnership that transcended all else and Brynn was acutely aware of how much time she had spent denying it. "Ten years," she had taunted him...but those ten years were hers too and now she cursed all the wasted time spent away from the one person she needed most.

The kiss deepened, became sweeter, then harder. A decade of denied lust came roaring to the fore, and swept both of them away. They were in the center of the room; no wall or pillows near, and so in their confusion of aching need, they simply fell to their knees.

It became a blur, this first encounter. A frenzy of touches, of kisses that were hard enough to draw blood, and a frantic removal of clothes. She sat in his lap, straddled him. He braced his prosthetic arm behind him, propped himself up with it. She tore at the catches on his belt while he rent and cast aside the top of her dancer's costume. All the while, they crushed their mouths to one another's, stealing gasps of air between kisses until the moment of their joining. They didn't move, didn't dare breathe, until the moment was fully realized by both. She met his eyes, found them shining and soft. He was trembling but when she moved to touch his cheek, she found she was too.

And then the moment ended and the need consumed them again, driving them toward release. When it happened, Brynn went silent. She clutched him desperately, holding him to her as tightly as she could while ribbons of ecstasy flooded her body. Moments later, his body shuddered and he cried out her real name, and that was a kind of ecstasy in itself too.

After, they remained still for long moments, sharing each other's labored breaths, their sweat mingling as they rested brow to brow in a silent communion. Too quickly, though, the dreamlike quality of their pleasure gave way to a cold reality. Brynn pulled away from him and looked around-at the little den, at the hookah still smoking idly, at the beads of moisture growing on the glasses of feli. And then she looked down at him, holding her gently, his warm skin the only thing that kept a sudden chill at bay.

Brynn moved off of him and hurried to put on her white robe. She moved to one corner of the little windowless room, wrapping her arms around her shoulders.

"General," he said quietly, rising and buckling his pants. "Don't do this."

"What should we do instead?" Her voice trembled and she cursed it. She didn't look at him.

"Anything. Talk to me."

The pain in his gentle tones made her angrier. She looked at him then, fixed a cold stare against his open, warm expression. Her words came out in a rush. "I'd like to know what you think is going to happen now, Bao-Dur. What do you foresee happening between us? We drop our quest-my quest to regain all that I have lost? And what would you have me do? Marry you? Squeeze out a couple of your babies-?"

"I should hope not," he said, cutting her off. "Zabrak infants are born with all of their horns."

Brynn blinked. "What?"

"Horns," Bao-Dur said. "The genitalia of Zabrak females are designed to handle delivering a child with a full head of sharp horns. Human females, I'm sure, are not. But don't worry, General. If this night has yielded offspring, there is a good chance the baby will carry the Zabrak gene recessively." He unsuccessfully bit back a smile. "Well, a fifty-fifty chance anyway."

Brynn let out a choked laugh and found it sounded more like a sob. "You think now is the time for stupid jokes?"

Bao-Dur shrugged, still grinning. "I feel…happy."

Brynn felt tears sting her eyes.

He went to her, pulled her to him. "We'll figure out what to do, General. But whatever we do, I know that you must end your association with Kreia. And Atton. And everyone else on the Hawk.They are only there in the hope that you will further their own ends."

"It's not that simple," Brynn said, though she didn't pull away from him. "Kreia and I are bonded...I am trying to recover what I have lost..."

"There has to be another way," he said gently, stroking her hair. "I'll help you. I will. But again, I ask you to come with me and turn from the path you walk now. It is...dangerous."

Brynn sighed and pressed her cheek into his hand. "But there are...advantages in the path Kreia is showing me. And I vowed I would never be as helpless as I was the day the Force was taken from me." Her eyes burned into his. "Never."

"You have strengths upon strengths, General," Bao-Dur sighed, moving away. "You don't need Kreia to find them for you. And you certainly don't need the dark side to bring them out."

Brynn started to hear those two words spoken aloud. "It's not...that,"she stammered.

Bao-Dur sat down on the pillows at the right of the small den. "Isn't it? I wasn't so sure until you let that Wookiee come aboard. I think he murdered that pretty red-haired woman we saw the other night. And Atton..." The Zabrak shook his head. "He might have a chance but he needs someone to guide him out." He met Brynn's eyes. "But I'd feel better if we just left them all. Let Kreia make her own path. She's just using you to further her own ends, too. It won't come to any good, General. Not for you or for anyone else."

Brynn chewed her bottom lip. Bao-Dur watched her, waiting. It all comes down to this, does it? she wondered. I am the weak one afterall, to give it all up for him. But it didn't feel weak. It felt right. It felt like it could be the first honest and true thing she had done in a long time.

"Don't fail me, Bao-Dur," she whispered. "Please."

"Never, General."

She nodded, watching him. Then she crossed the small room, shedding her robe as she did. Only the bottom half of her costume remained; the silky red cloth swayed between her legs as she stood over him. Bao-Dur smiled his gentle smile and it was completely void of triumph or guile. He reached out and tugged the rest of her costume off of her hips and looked up at her, admired her.

"So beautiful," he said softly, and then kissed the nexus of her legs.

Brynn braced herself, gripped one of his horns in each hand as he drew her closer to him. Slowly, almost reverently, he kissed her again…and again and again. Quickly, the ecstasy came, flooding her entire body and she threw her head back as her climax shuddered through her.

After it had passed, Brynn, breathing hard, looked down at him. He sat back on his heels and smiled up at her in such a way that she felt like she wanted to cry again, though she couldn't fathom why. I feel happy, he had said. Yes, she thought. Maybe, with him

"I hope it felt...good," he said quietly.

She nodded. "Oh, yes. Yes."

"And now what should we do, General? It is late…"

"We have time." Brynn smiled. "And it's my turn." She knelt beside him and began to remove his shirt but he stopped her.

"I have to deactivate this," he said slowly, indicating his prosthetic. His expression shifted to one of embarrassment. "I don't want to disgust you."

"You never could."

He nodded and wordlessly began to remove his prosthetic arm.

She watched as he shut off the electric hum by pressing some button or key at his shoulder. The heavy alloy hand, now bereft of energy, fell to the ground. He removed the prosthetic cuff at his shoulder, revealing a stump of scarred and discolored skin. Bao-Dur set the cuff and the hand piece aside and faced her. He shrugged and offered a small, self-conscious smile.

"I'd give it again for you, General."

The Exile nodded. "I know," she said, and then the distance between them vanished as she kissed him softly on the mouth.

Kissing him was exquisite. He tasted so sweet, so clean, and Brynn was again momentarily distracted by the seediness of the scene she had created. But his hand on her neck and his mouth moving so perfectly over hers was enough to make her forget everything else. He twined his fingers in her long hair and pulled gently, making her moan. He began to draw her down on top of him but she resisted.

"Lay back, Bao-Dur," she said.

He obeyed, watching her kneel beside him and remove his boots, his pants, his undershorts. He was hard again and this time Brynn took the time to admire him. She wanted him again, but she forced discipline. He had waited a long time for her and deserved to be touched as she was going to touch him.

Brynn slid her hands up his thighs, over the dense muscle there and let her eyes trail over the rest of him. His breath quickened, but he watched her calmly, quietly. Her hands traced twin paths up his chest, then skimmed along his shoulders and down to his arms. One found hard bicep. The other found rough, scarred skin. He shifted uncomfortably, but she did not pull away.

Brynn continued up, over his broad chest, along his face, tracing the dark tattoos with her fingertips. She brought her hands up to his head and ran her fingers between and among the horns. His breath caught as her fingers traced over the rippled flesh at the base of one.

"Feels good?"

He nodded. "It erogenous zone."

"I want to know everything."

She kissed him deeply, luxuriating in the taste of him and the softness of his tongue. And then she began the journey back down the length of him, this time with her mouth instead of her hands. She laid little kisses down his chin, his neck, his chest. She put her mouth over each small nipple, nipping them with her teeth. The rise and fall of his chest quickened as she moved lower and quickened again as her hands found him hard.

"General, you don't have to..." he said, his voice tight.

"Of course I don't." Brynn smiled as she heard him sigh and let his head fall back among the pillows.

Brynn kissed him there, touching him over and over until he begged her to stop.

"No, General...please," he whispered. "I want to be inside you."

Brynn did too, and so she moved up and lay over him. He held her tightly with his living arm, kissing her deeply. She made to straddle him again, but with surprising dexterity, he flipped her onto the pillows, using a large one to prop his amputated arm. In this way, he braced himself over her. She let him do as he pleased and was very glad for it in the end.

Bao-Dur moved slowly at first and then faster until he could no longer kiss her with any degree of accuracy. He could only bury his face in the silky thickness of her hair. Brynn touched his horns but he pulled away, gasping.

"Don't..." he whispered. "I don't want to come yet..."

Brynn nodded and moved her hands to his hips, and little moans escaped her with every movement. Another climax began to well in her, and she gave herself up to it and to him.

Bao-Dur moved even faster and glanced down, saw her eyes closed and her mouth open-an expression of pure bliss on her face. She was close and though waiting was unbearable, he managed to keep himself in check until her body tensed and she let out a cry-his name-and arched her back in ecstasy. His own release came moments later; he let out a choked sob as he came. With another sigh of relief, he sank down on top of her and she held him tight for long moments.

"I love you," he breathed into her ear as a wonderful, heaviness stole over them. "I always have."

She nodded against his neck, kissed the warm skin there. "I know. Thank you," she murmured and then sleep claimed them both.


Bao-Dur boarded the Hawk ahead of her. Atton was waiting near the gangway. His repose was relaxed enough, but Brynn could feel the tension in him. He was like a tightly coiled snake, ready to spring at the slightest provocation. He watched Bao-Dur go past him with venom in his eyes. The Zabrak ignored him but for a small, triumphant smile that touched his lips for an instant, and then he turned to the dark hall that led to his garage.

Foolish, Brynn thought, watching Atton color with rage and jealousy. The dark veins along his jaw were darker now against sallow skin. The pilot's eyes darted to her, scrutinized her intently. Be smart, she warned herself. Show no emotion. His uncertainty might buy some time. Her face stony and expressionless, Brynn nodded to him once, curtly, as a leader would greet her troops.

She didn't wait for Atton's reply, but casually quickened her pace. After stepping into the Ebon Hawk, she found her plans with Bao-Dur all the more attractive. The ship was a cesspool of dark energy and Brynn wondered if it had been that way when she left the night before, or if it only seemed so much more foreboding after the night spent in Bao-Dur's company. Either way, I want off,she thought and hurried to her bunk.

She expected Kreia to be in her usual position-meditating cross-legged on the floor. Brynn was pleased to find the bunk empty except for Visas asleep in one of the beds.

Quietly, the Exile packed her few belongings in a bag and stowed the bag under her bunk. It was too soon; she had agreed with Bao-Dur to wait until the next afternoon. They would leave under the pretense of continuing her dalliances with Visquis and the Exchange and instead, find a ride off-planet. A smuggler's freighter perhaps-

Brynn froze.

There was no noise, no sounds at all, but there might have been a blood-curdling scream for the pain she felt through the Force. Visas, so keenly attuned as Miraluka are, leapt out of her bunk with a cry and landed beside the Exile, a vibrosword drawn and ready to defend.

The air became still and cold. Brynn could not move. She could not breathe. Her heart pounded in her chest so hard she thought she could hear it. Her vision clouded with red and her muscles suddenly released their rigor-mortis hold. She fell to one knee, struggling to draw air into a throat that had closed. She gripped the front of her shirt; her heart ached and thudded hard in the shock of overwhelming grief.

Atton! Her panicked mind screamed. What did you do?

Her imagination—or maybe it was the Force—obligingly offered the horrible scenario: Bao-Dur is bent over his table, perhaps gathering his belongings. He is smiling, his thoughts are on the night before and so he is not cautious. Atton, silent as a shadow, comes up behind him. A vibrodagger flashes...No, a syringe. No mess, Atton had promised, and a slit jugular is too messy. A syringe of poison instead. A coward's weapon. Like how he killed the Jedi.

Atton catches Bao-Dur's body as it slumps to the ground, already lifeless and growing cold. He lays him out quietly, bags him up with...with what? It doesn't matter. He's found a bag and Bao-Dur is placed in it, zipped up and then...

"And then he is gone," Brynn whispered.

"The Zabrak is dead," Visas observed quietly.

Brynn felt a strangled cry well in her. She grasped the bunk with a shaking hand to keep from keeling over. The truth of it was undeniable; the Force had shuddered at the loss and Brynn had felt it in every part of her.

How? Why? Why would Atton act without my order? He knows the penalty for disobeying me. Was it Kreia? Did she order him? Is she protecting him? The questions came one after another as her grief-stricken mind struggled to provide an answer. Visions of slaughtering both Atton and Kreia in a great profusion of rent flesh and spraying blood overcame her until the answer rose up out of the chaos and became heart-breakingly clear.

"I did it," Brynn whispered, gripping the bunk post so hard, the blood was drained from her hand. "I did it," she said again, and watched in her mind's eye as the moment crystallized and revealed itself.I nodded at Atton. I was greeting him only and he thought I was giving him the okay to...oh gods...

Brynn rested her scalding forehead against the durasteel post. How long she remained crouched there, she did not know, but finally Visas' voice penetrated her pain and roused her.

"You are not well, Master," the Miraluka said. "The Zabrak was a loss, but you acted as was necessary. Your pain will pass." She bent over the Exile. "Shall I bring you-"

"Get out."


"Get out." Brynn lifted her eyes and the Miraluka took an involuntary step back. "Get out! Get out!"

Visas bowed low and backed toward the door of the dorm. "My life for yours," she acquiesced.

"YOUR LIFE FOR HIS!" Brynn raged and everything in the room not nailed down was sent flying at Visas.

The Miraluka dodged a hail of sundry items and bedding, and made her escape, shutting the door behind her.

Brynn slumped. She curled up on the floor and drew her knees to her chest. With her cheek pressed to the cold floor, her gaze fell on the bag she had packed and a new wave of grief threatened to break over her. She reached out a trembling hand and dragged the bag towards her. She hugged it tightly, clung to it, sobbed into its coarse material.

"This does not become you," said a voice.

Kreia. Brynn squeezed her eyes shut.

"You feel pain?"

Brynn moaned softly.

"Unbearable, isn't it? But it doesn't have to be."

A rustle of musty robe, then a papery hand stroking her hair.

"You know the way out. It is the only way and there is strength in it. Look at me. I should have been destroyed long ago by my losses but... I am not."

The door slid open for Kreia; Brynn had not heard it do so the first time.

"You know the way, Exile. Take it or die. You are no good to me as you are and, in any event, you've come too far to go back."

The door slid shut.

Brynn remained on the floor until she had lost count of the hours. Kreia's words repeated themselves again and again in her mind until the Exile began to reach for them, to grab them and hold on like a drowning woman to a bit of driftwood.A way out...Yes. I know the way. I was halfway there when he tried to stop me.

She stretched her senses out into the ship. Silence. Nothing. She knew then, that Atton had kept his promise. She could walk around the entirety of the ship and find no signs of his little murder. Neither would she see any evidence that Bao-Dur had ever stepped foot on the Ebon Hawk. Atton, so good at his job, would have purged the entire ship of him. And so it would be. The crew would not speak of him. Brynn herself would cease to utter his name, even in her own mind. She would take Atton; use his grimy sweat to wash away the memory of Bao-Dur's touch on her skin. He would cease to exist in every aspect of her life and in that way, she would triumph.

In the days and weeks to come it would be easier; she would bury her pain in the deepest parts of her and she would call that strength.

The rage she felt at his loss would fuel her mercilessness and she would call that power.

And although there would never be enough blood spilt to bring him back, she would try, and that religion of death she would call Sith.

It was the way out. It was the only way out.

Brynn picked herself up off the floor and unpacked the bag.