(There’s a somewhat loud knock at Irsin’s door)
You in there?
(It’s Q’ayla’s voice, but there’s an edge to it that seems out of place for her)
(Irsin starts out of his meditation too suddenly at the banging, reaching to the table and pulling his lightsaber to him with the Force before he consciously realizes the circumstances that roused him. As soon as he realizes he hurries to the door and opens it)
Sorry, I was meditating.
Is everything ok?
(In his haste to get to the door Irsin is still holding his lightsaber in his off-hand, though not ignited. His posture is on-guard, but his eyes search behind Q’ayla for some potential threat)
(Q’ayla is taken aback by Irsin’s stance, then she notices the saber hilt in his hand. She tilts her head down, shaking it)
I didn’t mean to disturb you.
(Even apologizing, the edge in her voice remains. She’s clearly been exerting herself; her hair is down, she’s dressed in her Jedi outfit save the tunic itself. In it’s place is her undershirt, and with her arms bared, Irsin can see several small scorch marks dotting them. They appear fresh)
(Irsin ceases searching over her shoulder as he studies her condition and begins to realize she must have been training, not fighting for her life. His posture eases to something less poised, though tension still remains)
Please don’t apologize. I thought something was wrong, I didn’t mean to misunderstand.
Would you like to come in? Sit down? Maybe I can find something for your arms…
(He says the last with significant looks at the scorch marks)
(She raises her head a bit, but doesn’t meet his gaze)
(She’s walks by him into the room, over to the chair – then around behind it, placing her hands on its back)
Don’t worry about these.
(Tilting her head to indicate her arms)
Just a little… training accident.
(Irsin can see her fingers digging into the chair back)
They’ll heal. Maybe scars.
Heh… and I know something of scars.
(Irsin looks at her fingers, then just looks her in the face, for a very long moment. His expression is flat, but he seems to be considering how much to believe her)
(In a level tone)
Q’ayla… what’s going on?
You don’t have “accidents” training. You and I both know it.
You haven’t been scorched by a training droid in all the time I’ve known you, and probably for years before that.
(Her breathing becomes heavier, her voice gaining some volume to match the edge)
Everyone has accidents.
(She looks down and, seeing her hands, she hurriedly tries to hide her behavior by taking her hands away from the chair and turning around, now leaning against the chair with her arms folded across her chest. She also begins talking much more quickly, almost rambling)
Everybody fails at some point or another. And what do you do? There’s nothing to do… nothing except get better. Be better. Got to train, got to keep pushing yourself. Can’t keep losing control— not in a place like this. Not around these people. Got to train, got to test.
(Her voice is rising)
So what if I let them hit me?! I can take it! I can… I can…
(She’s visibly shaking)
No, I can’t! It didn’t work!
(She wheels around on the chair, gesturing her hand sharply, and sends the furniture sailing to the side, banging into the wall hard)
What’s wrong with me?!!
(It’s only there for a moment— she slams her eyes shut quickly. It’s faint, but he can see it. In her clouded eyes, there’s a hint of a familiar orange and red swirling around in her vision)
(Irsin keeps his eyes on hers, and there’s a subtle widening of his eyes before he schools his expression again)
(His voice changes to one of comfort, trying to settle someone down; he puts the lightsaber down on a table by the door and holds his hands up in front of him)
I don’t know what’s wrong Q’ayla, but let’s figure it out together.
We can figure it out… it’s okay.
(As he talks he is walking slowly towards her. He reaches her and pulls her to him in a hug, hoping she will calm down)
(Q’ayla doesn’t move at all; she remains utterly rigid, her fists and eyes clenched closed. As he hugs her, he can feel her shaking beyond trembling, her breathing hard and shallow. When she speaks, it’s as through gritted teeth)
(She groans softly)
(At her exclamation of pain he pushes her back to arms length, and looks alarmed)
What’s wrong? Did I hurt you?
(She shakes her head wearily; she also seems to be deflating somewhat)
No… of course not.
It’s just my head. And my ears.
I yell, it hurts… I yell again, it hurts again. I keep forgetting about it until it’s too late.
(She turns around like she would sit on the chair, until she realizes it’s on its side near the wall. Her shoulders droop as she continues to come down from her previous state)
I— I’m sorry.
I didn’t mean to do that.
I’m so upset, Irsin.
Ashla… what’s gotten into me?
(Irsin seems to slowly relax as she talks)
Q’ayla… you’re dealing with a lot. It’s understandable that you’re a bit on edge.
(He glances at the chair)
Maybe a lot on edge.
But it’s okay, not like it’s my furniture.
(He spares a small smile for her with that to take the edge off)
(He guides her to sit down on the edge of his bed a few steps away)
Stay there for a minute.
(He turns and walks over to a cabinet on the wall, and begins rummaging around)
Honestly I don’t know how you can think you need to be better. We likely wouldn’t have made it out of that alive today without you. You’re about as good as I’ve ever seen with a lightsaber, and I wouldn’t have anyone else next to me in a fight if I had the pick of the Circle of Lords itself.
(He turns back holding an oblong bottle and a small box that looks like a med-kit; finding a small cup, he pours a reddish liquid from the bottle and hands her the cup)
For the headache.
(Then he opens the med-kit and begins taking out the things he’d need to clean and dress the scorch marks. The liquid in the cup smells like it would catch fire with only a little encouragement, but it has a deep reddish, amber hue)
(Q’ayla takes the cup, eying the substance; shrugging her shoulders, she tilts her head back and downs the whole thing— and almost drops the cup as her head jolts down coughing)
I… (cough) I thought that was medicine!
(She clears her throat hard, then begins nodding)
This will do, though.
(She manages a slight smile)
(Irsin gives her a wry smile when she coughs, before continuing with the med-kit)
It is medicine.
(Her smile fades as she looks at him, and it’s replaced by pain. While he’s rummaging through the med-kit, suddenly her hand is on his chest, ever so gently so as not to cause him pain)
This is why I need to be better.
I need to be there, to protect you. To protect Q’aleane. And Yevra.
I… I keep losing control in battle, and when that happens, people get hurt. People I care about. People I love.
(Her head begins shaking as she remembers the fight)
I got so caught up with Devira that I let everything else fall away. I wanted to hurt her. I wanted…
…to kill her.
Gods… some Jedi I’ve become. Not only do I want to kill someone – brutally – but that thirst for violence hurts those closest to me.
(She shakes her head hard— grimacing almost immediately)
I can’t let it happen again. I’ve got to get better.
(When she says she needs to protect him, he starts up from his rummaging with a hard expression on his face)
I appreciate the concern, but I’ve been protecting myself for a very long time. I don’t need a guardian. I need a friend. And I’m sure Q’aleane and Yevra feel the same way. You can’t be everywhere at once, we are a team. We work together. We accomplish things that can’t be done alone. For that to work you need to trust not just that I will act in your interests, but that I can take care of myself. If you don’t, you may get us both hurt trying to do what cannot be done.
I got hurt because of my own mistake, I let myself get caught in a battle. No one is responsible for that but myself, and don’t you dare try and make it seem otherwise.
I love you. But I am no child you need to care for.
(He says the last in a softer tone, lifting her chin to meet her eyes, hoping to soften the edge to his words)
I’m sorry, love.
(She forces another small smile)
This is just how I am.
I’ve always been protective of those I care about.
And… now that includes you. You’re stuck with me.
(Her eyes shift down towards his chest)
Does it still hurt?
(His eyes soften)
Protective I understand. Just don’t take it too far, okay? There’s a difference between protective and suicidal, and I… I would hate for something to happen to you because you were worried about me.
(He looks down at the wound on his chest. It is well scabbed over; his meditation is not complete yet, but the wound now looks a week old instead of only a few hours as before)
It’s fine, as long as I don’t move too much. It should be taken care of by morning.
Don’t worry about me.
(He pulls out some bandaging and an ointment and begins spreading the latter on her scorch marks, and covering them)
(She lets out a quick breath as the ointment is applied)
Ooo— it’s cold!
(She follows with a light laugh)
Heh… thanks, Irsin.
These really aren’t that bad, though.
You should see the remotes.
(She snickers, but shakes her head disapprovingly all the same)
And, like I said, I’ve got plenty of scars already. A few more won’t matter.
(He smiles slightly at her comment about the remotes, but turns serious again at her mention of scars)
(In a tone almost too soft to hear, as though to himself)
No one should have that many scars…
(He finishes the bandages and stands to grab the bottle again)
Scars always matter Q’ayla, you know that. And each one tells a story. One we would all as soon forget.
But that’s the thing about scars – lessons mean nothing if you don’t remember them. And nobody forgets why they got a scar.
(He pours her another cup of the liquor, and raises the bottle to her in a cheers motion)
To remembering, and learning from, our lessons.
(She nods slowly at him, then tips the cup back, this time coming back without the coughing fit)
Well, I suppose I can go without letting a pair of remotes shoot me.
What about the scars that don’t carry lessons?
What about the ones that just mark you as broken?
(She’s looking at him very intently – perhaps there’s a hope that he has an answer to this)
(She closes her eyes, and nods slowly – to herself, maybe – then turns around on the edge of the bed, sitting cross-legged with her back to him. She reaches down, tugging at her undershirt, and as it comes loose, she slides it up revealing her back; there are several vertical scars covering her back – large, deep, and jagged. After a few moments, she lets the shirt drop back down, and puts her face in her hands, trembling)
What do I take away from those, love?
(He shakes his head sadly, looking to the side and clenching his fist at his side. His voice comes out in a tight whisper. There is murder in his tone)
Those are the ones with the most important lesson. Even if the lesson is simply what the cruelty of sentience can lead to if you let it. Those are the ones that drive us to be stronger. So that no one ever has to live through what we have lived through.
(He walks around to the opposite side of the bed, and pulls her head up to face his, kissing her gently)
(Then he steps back and pulls off his own tunic. His entire chest, shoulders, and arms are covered in tattoos in the same spiraling pattern as are on his face. Embedded, almost artistically within the tattoos are long scars, some from whips, some blades, others burns. Puckering flesh stands out in all directions)
We all have our scars, Q’ayla. And we all remember who gave them to us.
And if nothing else, we hope we will have the chance to prevent that kind of harm being done to anyone else. Ever again.
(He pulls his tunic back on, and takes a long swig from the bottle before turning his back to set the bottle down on the table)
(Q’ayla’s mouth drops open slowly as she takes in the sight of this man she loves covered in brutal scars. It isn’t until after he’s turned away that she finds the ability to speak again)
These are the price of being a Sith. Everyone earns scars ascending the ranks, surviving, living. As you gain rank, the tattoos are given to you – the ones on my face mark me a full-initiated Saber. But tattoos are unique to each person, and are usually crafted around the marks that have brought the subject to where they are.
I can tell you the story about each of these. Grale gave me a few of them – lessons for not learning quick enough. Others came in duels, back alley assassination attempts, struggles for my life.
(He traces a long burn scar across the back of his right shoulder blade)
Half a second slower…
(He shakes his head, then turns back to her)
All I’m saying is that we learn something from everything we live through – what to avoid, and who to remember.
Some people simply shouldn’t be allowed to be, and sooner or later, they will pay for their actions. The Force has a long memory.
(Normally, Q’ayla might weep at a time like this; now, her face has hardened as it was when she came in. Her earlier disposition seems to have grabbed her)
Is… is she dead, Irsin?
Because if she’s not…
I don’t know.
If she’s not… I want…
If she’s not… we’ll make her wish she was.
But that’s for another day… it was a long time ago.
And it won’t do you any good to get carried away again.
Here, have another drink. I’ll have to get more of this if we ever make it off planet, but it’s worth it.
(He pours her another)
(She takes the cup and pounds the drink)
I just don’t understand.
I love you, and the thought of doing that…
(Pointing to him to indicate his back)
…makes me physically ill.
(She shakes her head slowly, looking up at him again)
You don’t have to answer, Irsin. I’m just thinking out loud, like I usually do.
(She holds out the cup again)
I will say, this is some damn good medicine – just don’t let Master Tahl catch me drinking like this.
And I assume you’re not trying to get me drunk, Irsin Rashos?
(Irsin practically guffaws)
That man would almost be a welcome sight in this pit. This place would put a sarlacc to shame for inhospitable climate. Perhaps his sheer inability to see around the rules would bring some order to the chaos!
(He laughs again, pouring her another cup)
As to getting you drunk? Well… the objective was to help you forget your pain. But there are… side effects.
(He actually winks at her)
Ha! You scoundrel!
Are all Sith this romantic?
(Despite her protest, she downs the drink)
I certainly hope not! It would seriously get in the way of my chances out there if the ‘tragically romantic Sith runaway’ was an overdone stereotype…
(He takes another swig of the bottle himself)
(She lets out a genuinely happy laugh at that)
Don’t worry, I think you’ve got the market cornered on that!
And… thanks— for helping me forget for a while.
What would I have to be to just leave this place behind? Certainly not a Jedi. A coward, perhaps? Running away from an impossible situation instead of facing it.
But… Ashla help me… I want to go home, Irsin.
These people fight us for trying to help them. Gods only know what’s happened to Master Darach, and Yevra’s been… damaged by all of this. Q’aleane is doing everything right here— why don’t they listen, or want to listen?
But if we leave without Master Darach…
…I could never show my face to the Council again.
There’s no honor in leaving him behind on this wretched planet. They might even come after us.
(She holds out the cup again, but looks down shaking her head)
Since when is being a Jedi and being a coward mutually exclusive?
(He winces as soon as he says it, but plows on; she looks away, hurt, but slowly comes back around as he continues)
Q’ayla, you’re anything but a coward, certainly not for wanting off this rock. This place is heading towards a precipice, and no one would want to be here for the outcome if they could avoid it. Problem is we made a promise, and an innocent man – Jedi or not – is out there being twisted in Force only knows what way. And whatever is stirring this planet up, making it go more haywire than it already is, it’s a threat to the galaxy if it has this kind of influence over a whole planet.
It cannot be allowed to live.
I have no interest in whether you can or can’t look the council in the face. No, that hardly matters. What matters is whether you can look yourself in the face. Lords know that I would be just as happy to leave this place now and never come back, but if you decide you wish to stay, I am staying too.
Besides, your sister can’t do this alone, and I’d not leave her to this place. Clearly she is as susceptible as anyone – if not more so.
Of course I’d never leave Q’aleane here. Besides, she’s our ride off this rock. But it does seem to have affected her and… it scares me a little. Seeing her like that. She’s been, well, frustrated, angry— she’s been emotional, and that’s not like her. Taking what this planet is doing to all of us, and combining that with how she reacted to our duel before…
But do you think we can really stop this… whatever it is that’s causing all of this? Just the three of us? Against an entire Nightsister clan and whatever else is out there?
When we got here, I was sure we could handle anything Dathomir could throw at us.
Now I’m not so sure.
(Lifting her chin to face him again)
We still can.
Look past the frustration and see what we’ve already achieved here.
At least two clans that wouldn’t have given the Bright Suns the time of day yesterday are now considering working with them to fight the common threat, and a third has had its leader exposed, if not as a member of the Nightsisters herself, at least as an unstable tyrant manipulating her own people.
All in a single day.
We just have to be careful, and we can do that, even if it’s harder here than it should be.
(Still looking at him, she can’t help but smile)
Listening to you, I can almost believe it.
But that may be the drink talking.
(She tilts her head back and shakes it a couple of times)
If you’re trying to get me drunk, it’s working.
Ahh, what a night.
I know I don’t say this enough, but I am a mess, Irsin.
I should probably get going, though— sorry again about your chair. Here, let me just—
(She slowly gets herself off the bed, stands up, and begins heading for the chair. The first couple of steps are fine, but then she starts to falter)
(Irsin sweeps in and catches her, helping her back upright)
Okay, I can get the chair. It’s okay.
(He turns her slowly towards the door and starts helping her in that direction)
Here, let me help you back to your room. You should probably get some rest while you can. Tomorrow will be busy too.
(She leans into him, clearly tipsier than she let on)
Gods, I hope Yevra’s asleep. The last thing I need is for her to see us like this…
Uggh… it’s such a long way up to the bridge…
(She’s got such a grin on her face, and her eyes are practically closed)
(Irsin hesitates at the door, and seems to reach a decision looking at her. He scoops her off her feet and carries her to his bed. He sets her down and takes off her boots, pulling back the covers and tucking her in. He calls for the ship to lower the lights, and kneels on a mat at the far wall, watching her for a long while)
(She’s already fading fast as he tucks her in, and when he’s knelt down and watching her, she says, softly)
You know, I love you… my tragically romantic Sith runaway.
(Smiling warmly, she finally finds sleep)
(He smiles in the darkness to himself. Then, whispering)
I love you too, Q’ayla. A better Jedi has never truly lived, no matter what the council says. You redeemed me.
And that has to be worth something.
(When her breathing evens out, he closes his eyes and resumes his meditation)