(There is a knock on Q’ayla’s door.)
Who is it?
I was wondering if you had some time to talk?
(The last seems to almost come out in a rush, like he was afraid he wouldn’t say it if he didn’t get it all out at once.)
Irsin? … Just a second!
(A few moments pass before the door opens; Q’ayla is standing there, adjusting her visor into place. She’s wearing her Jedi robe over a simple tank-top and shorts. Her hair seems longer than usual until Irsin realizes that she’s taken her braids out.)
Hey! Come on in… you’ll have to turn the lights up some, ’cause I never use them.
(It is pitch-black in her room; a dimmer switch is set next to the door frame.)
I’m going to grab some water – you want anything?
(she seems to be speaking a bit more quickly than usual)
(Irsin’s snort about something to drink is almost a chuckle)
You have any Sarlacc Kicker in there?
Never mind, water would be great.
It doesn’t take long of me working on that thing before all I can see in my head are electrical diagrams and 1’s and 0’s.
(He says this as he takes a step and flips the switch up to a moderate level. Even that amount of brightness seems to dazzle him momentarily. Q’ayla would surmise he’d been working in his room with no lights on again except the computer monitor. She’s seen him do that sometimes, as though he woke up in the middle of the night to work and couldn’t be bothered to walk over and turn on the lights.)
How are you doing?
(Irsin seems almost awkward behind his mask of calm. Like he might start shuffling his feet if he wasn’t keeping hold of himself.)
(Q’ayla leaves Irsin in her room for a minute as she walks into the bathroom she shares with Q’aleane; she returns with two glasses filled with water.)
Nothing so strong, I’m afraid. (passing him one of the glasses)
Well, I’m awake at 2:30 in the morning… but then, so are you, so I’d say we’re doing about the same.
Here, have a seat—
(She drags the more comfortable of the two chairs in her room closer to her bed, then seats herself on the bed, her back against the wall, and takes a sip of water.)
(Irsin takes the water and sits down. He seems to relax at her manner a bit)
I wanted to make sure you were doing okay. After the situation with Q’aleane, you seemed a bit shaken and… we didn’t get to talk about… that…
(He was most certainly about to say something else at the end of that sentence, but what is not entirely clear)
Heh… yeah, I guess I’m feeling better about Q’aleane. We had a chance to talk earlier today; she doesn’t remember anything else, but she seems more like herself now, so that’s good.
It was just so… eerie… a strange coincidence.
(Q’ayla shakes her head slowly)
Which part was a coincidence?
I know you woke up screaming… did you see some part of what we found?
(She nods at him)
I had a … a terrible nightmare.
(she snorts a little in disgust)
And another tonight— not the same one, but I’m up nonetheless.
But yes, in my nightmare there was a… rancor, and Q’aleane was there. The rancor killed me, and right before I died, I saw Q’aleane start crying, and her tears… turned to blood right before I woke up.
(Most of that is said quickly, and Irsin can sense that she’s left out details intentionally.)
(Irsin nods as though that explains everything, and chooses not to press her on details she does not wish to share. Who is he to ask her for more after all?)
I know a bit about nightmares.
If they get too bad… sometimes they don’t stay just in your dreams…
Sometimes they follow you around even when you’re awake…
(He gazes at his water glass oddly, lost in thought)
If you ever need to talk about them, I’m happy to listen.
(He says this without looking at her… as though he expects a rebuke for speaking up.)
(She takes another, longer sip of water before she speaks)
You mean like the flashback you had in the jungle? It started as a nightmare?
…Do you think there’s anything to them, Irsin? I’ve never had nightmares like this… I mean, everyone has bad dreams, but these… they’ve been so intense— so real. And things happen in them. Things that shouldn’t happen. Things that I don’t believe or would do. Yet there they are, playing out in my mind’s eye…
I… I don’t know. Sometimes they are just worse versions of things that really happened; other times they can be things I am afraid will happen. Sometimes my fears come true… as do everyone’s I think. But these nightmares, as you say… they are so real…
It’s hard to understand when you haven’t experienced one.
I don’t know if your nightmares are like mine, but sometimes I wake up and I forget which world is real— I can no longer differentiate them. For me, they are always variations… on things I’ve done. Things I… wish I didn’t do… perhaps regret is the right word, though I thought I’d left that behind. But sometimes those actions happen to people who were never there, in circumstances that never existed… does that make any sense?
(As he speaks, Q’ayla goes to drink again, but his words pull her away; her hand lowers with the glass, absently hanging over her bent knee. By the time he finishes, she’s nodding slowly at him.)
It makes perfect sense to me.
How could you know so completely?
The intensity is so strong, it took me a while just to wake up completely tonight…
For me, things that have happened play out, but the players and the endings are all wrong…
I sometimes feel as though my mind is betraying my heart…
I… feel like I am betraying…
Irsin, I need you to believe me. What you told me days ago, at the camp. About you… and Trasa. I forgive you for not telling me. I promise.
(Her head starts shaking…)
I believe it with all my heart— and yet…
(She lowers her head)
My mind torments me in my sleep…
(Irsin looks up then, gazing at her penetratingly. Then slowly he nods, as though in resignation.)
Sometimes we convince ourselves of things that are not really true in our deepest selves. And when we sleep the truth comes out, when our conscious minds are no longer getting in the way.
I’m sorry if I overstepped the other night.
It won’t happen again.
(As his words register, she starts shaking her head more quickly)
(She slides to the edge of the bed, standing and placing her glass on the bed-side table. She walks to him, leans in towards him and, taking his face in her hands, she kisses him fully— she’s still unrefined, but there’s a urgency and passion to it this time. She holds herself there for several moments, then pulls away; still holding his face, she speaks quietly)
You didn’t do anything wrong, Irsin… don’t say that…
I… love you, Irsin.
(Her hands fall away, and she slides down onto her knees in front of him; parts of her robe caught under her.)
(He is startled at first when she kisses him, but after a moment returns the kiss with as much passion and fervor as she. When she breaks the kiss he seems a bit breathless, but freezes when she says she loves him.)
(Moving rigidly he covers his face with his hands, his fists clenching and relaxing)
I care about you a great deal, I want you to know that.
More than I can rationally understand.
I am struggling, however…
The only people I have ever loved either seem to end up dead, kidnapped, or… trying to kill me.
I’m not at all sure I should let myself love you…
It might not make any sense, there’s no rationality behind it…
But the Force is a mysterious thing, isn’t it…
I… just don’t think I could handle you getting hurt because of me… or worse… you wanting to hurt me… or…
(He seems to dissolve into incoherence, mumbling. Q’ayla has never seem him like this. He has always been either controlled and blank or full of rage… never this.)
(She stays quiet for a long time, sinking into herself, her head bowing low)
(Eventually, she rises back to her knees and moves closer to him again. Gently taking his hands in hers, she moves them away from his face. Then, leaning in, she presses her forehead against his and leaves it there. When she speaks again, it’s barely more than a whisper…)
…I’ve never felt this way before.
Not about anyone.
I’ve never loved anyone before. Never hurt nor been hurt by love. And I’ve never met someone like you before.
My life is changing in so many ways… a new path…
I don’t know what will happen— I may end up exiled, shunned, hurt, broken… even dead. I don’t know about any of that. What I do know…
…is that I want to be by your side.
I want to go on this journey with you.
Come what may— I… love you, Irsin.
(Moments pass with his face bowed. Eventually Q’ayla realizes that the shuddering motions of his shoulders are caused by him crying. A deep bone weeping all the more powerful because of how long it has been held at bay. He clutches at her as though she is the only thing left in the world, and maybe in that moment, for him, she is.)
(He seems beyond words, and even as the shaking breaths begin to slow, he seems unable to speak.)
(She wraps her arms around his shoulders, hugging and holding him tight.)
Shh… it’s okay, Irsin… let it all out…
…you don’t need to hide anymore…
(After another long moment he speaks, though his voice is hoarse)
I can’t even remember crying before…
I’m sure I have— everyone has. But… I truly can’t remember it ever happening before.
I have loved before, or I thought I did anyway. Compared to this it seems so… pale, but I thought it was at the time.
It… it didn’t end well.
We were going to escape the Academy together, build a life somewhere. Show the world how to be truly powerful without the harshness of the Lords. Show how strong compassion could be; how powerful leadership could be.
And then I found out she was a plant. Sent to the Academy to gain my trust, and then try to kill me. To betray me. If I survived I was worth something. If I didn’t…
I knew her for years… for years we studied together. Spent…time…together. And it was all a ruse for her— an act.
I wanted you to know.
I may have seen emotions before, but… my experience doesn’t help much. And I’ve never met anyone like you either. Just because I know what love is… doesn’t make me knowledgeable, not in a way that helps.
If anything I’m worse off, because all I know is what it shouldn’t be, and I need to try and figure out what it should. You… you get to figure it out the right way. The first time.
And I promise you this: I am many things and have many flaws, but I will not turn on you. I will not betray you.
I will die first. By the Force and the legacy of my mother I will die first.
I. Love. You.
With whatever mess that brings… if you’ll have it.
(By the time he’s finished, he can feel her shuddering— crying into his shoulder, tears streaking down from under her visor… yet she squeezes him even tighter – maybe a little too tight.)
…of course I will.
Gods… I’m so sorry, Irsin. Ashla…
(One of her hands slides up the back of his neck, rubbing the back of his head)
…you’ll never feel that hurt again…
…gods, I swear it.
(He leans down and kisses her again… fiercely this time. Then, whispering…)
Thank the Force for you…
(Now it’s her turn to come away breathless, trying to collect herself; she pushes herself up off her knees and walks slowly back to her bed. As she slides back onto it, once again with her back pressed against the wall, she softly pats the mattress next to her)
Come here… sit with me…
I feel like there’s so much I want to tell you…
(He stands up and walks slowly over; as he sits down, he seems almost scared again)
I… I don’t want you to feel like you have to rush into anything…
(She lets out a short laugh, only slightly tinged by nervousness)
(She pushes against his back playfully with one hand)
Although… Q’aleane did promise she wouldn’t be watching…
(She laughs again, now harder; the hand that pushed against him now begins grazing up and down his back)
Don’t worry, I’m not rushing into anything…
…well, not that at least.
It’s just… last time we talked— really talked, we were speaking about a new path. And what that might mean… like leaving the Jedi Order…
I hope I’m not rushing into that, Irsin… I talked with Q’aleane about it, and she’s all for it. In fact, she’s already prepping the message she plans to send to the Council announcing our resignation.
It feels… wrong, somehow.
(she’s rambling a bit now)
Not— not leaving, per se. Just doing it that way. I’m decided about leaving – especially now. You saw what they did to Alema. They’d never let us be together… not really. And yet… if I’m going to leave the Jedi Order… My last deed as a Jedi should be to go there in person and tell them. I owe them that much. Especially Master Tahl. He’s been like a second father to me… and Master Ang… How will I tell him? …I can’t very well go to Ossus, can I? Have I ever told you about him?…
(she’s still rambling…)
(Irsin smiles – so broadly that it almost looks unnatural on his usually somber face)
Sometimes, you are just so very… you.
I can’t say I will be sorry to see you leave the Order; it would be dishonest of me to say otherwise, much as I wish it didn’t involve leaving behind so many good things as well as bad for you. But you must understand the wisdom of not doing it in person… I know the Jedi aren’t like the Sith, but surely they would try to hold you for some period of time. Make sure you weren’t being influenced. And even if they let you go, would they not strip you of things you have rightly earned?
Your lightsabers— perhaps even your sister’s ship?
No matter what the Jedi say – you have both earned the things you have. It wouldn’t be right to have them taken away just because you had enough honor to tell them how wrong they are to their faces. If you must, record a holo-message. But don’t go in person… too many things could go wrong.
(She sighs quietly, and her hand falls away from his back)
Of course you would agree with Q’aleane… you weren’t talking with her before, were you? You’re both so paranoid about the Jedi— I understand why you might be, don’t get me wrong. Though remember, you’re talking to one right now…
I don’t honestly believe that the masters would imprison me for wishing to leave. Jedi have left the Order of their own accord before; many times, in fact. Yes… they may wish to take my lightsabers…
That would be… emotionally painful, to say the least.
But they can’t take away the knowledge of how to build one.
They are precious to me… but they are things. Transient. They aren’t more precious to me than, say… you. Or Q’aleane. They can be replaced.
I don’t think Q’aleane will go. I think she’ll send her message and never look back – save to stay in touch with Master Vantai, perhaps…
But I have to go, Irsin. Please, I need you to understand. My new path can’t begin by throwing away my honor. Even if it doesn’t go well. I … need to be me.
But that means… I can’t hide from myself.
(She slides forward on the bed so that she’s behind him, and then slides her arms up under his own, gripping him by the shoulders gently and burying her face into his back)
(He reaches around to stroke her head, almost unconsciously)
I can’t say I like it.
But I won’t start this… whatever it is by telling you to go against yourself. This is a decision you’re coming to by finally listening to your… heart, I suppose. Who am I to stand in the way of that?
(The echo of his own earlier thought is not lost on him… and his face darkens for a moment)
But I will say this: If you’re wrong – if they don’t let you go – I make no promises about my actions to get you free. I won’t let this end in such a way.
(She nuzzles into his back more, shaking her head slightly as she does)
Shh… It won’t come to that, I promise.
They’re Jedi. It’ll—
And I’m Sith. Or was. Not everything is always how we wish or expect. Just promise me you’ll be on your guard?
It’ll be words, no more. Hurtful words perhaps – from people I respect – but words only. Trust me…
(She nods into his back)
I promise I’ll be careful.
Our relationship isn’t going to end in the halls of the Taris Academy. I wouldn’t betray you like that. We’re just getting started, love…
(He flinches at the word “betray,” but quickly gets control of himself)
Now we just need to figure out how to make it through this mission so you can go and deliver your resignation. There is a lot about this planet which I find unsettling… but somehow it doesn’t seem to matter at the moment.
I know… I can’t wait to be far away from Dathomir…
Q’aleane has some thoughts on what might be happening, but I’m not sure I understand all her points. She believes that someone… or some thing… might be manipulating all of us; us, Master Darach, Yevra, even the Nightsisters…
She thinks that may be why my nightmare— at least, parts of it, were real. Something may be affecting our bond in the Force.
Gods… I hope Barukka and Yevra can find him. What happens then is anyone’s guess. But I have a feeling… a bad feeling… that all of this is coming to a head.
As long as we stay together, though, we can weather it all. Somehow.
(She tries to reign it in, but can’t help letting a yawn escape)
…But that’s for tomorrow… or today, I suppose…
You know, this is the second night you’ve kept me up – is this going to be a habit of yours?
(There’s a snicker of a grin in the last part.)
(Irsin grins roguishly at that)
Only if that’s something you want me to do…
Perhaps you should get some rest…
(He moves as though to help her lie down)
…I wouldn’t want you to be too tired for the next time I want to keep you up.
(She begins to lie down, her back still facing the wall, leaving room)
You… don’t have to go…
(She removes her visor and sets it on the bed-side table, and covers up in her robe.)
(He smiles softly at her and half lies down next to her, propping himself on his elbow as he strokes her hair.)
I’ll just stay until you fall asleep. So you’re not alone.
(She looks up at him with her clouded eyes, smiling warmly, then snuggles down onto one of her pillows.)
I’m so… glad you stopped… by…
(She slowly drifts off to sleep.)
(He spends some time just watching her breathe. Taking it all in. He smiles warmly, fully intending to head back to his own room right up until the point when his head slowly touches the pillow next to hers and he drifts off, his hand still in her hair, and his face inches from her own.)