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Author: Emma Grant
Summary: Bruck feels isolated back at the Temple. He makes some new friends as a result.
Disclaimer: Most of these characters used in this episode belong to other people, and we apologize for abusing them. Some characters actually belong to the QAJ team! We abuse them as well.
Note: Thanks to the QAJ team for their comments and patience, as always! This one had a bit of a tight deadline due to my travels and *coughs* being distracted by another fandom *coughs*. Heh. *smooches*
"So, what's your name?" the boy asks, smiling up at me as he wipes his mouth on his sleeve.
I fasten my trousers. "Does it matter?"
His smile falters a bit. "I suppose not." He stands and kisses me, and I allow it for a moment.
"Thanks, kid," I whisper as I turn away. I don't know or care if his feelings are hurt, or if he thinks I'm a prick, or if he shrugs it off and goes to look for his next trick. That seems to be the way things are done around here.
Keli hands me a bottle of ale as I emerge from the backroom, quirking an eyebrow at me in query. I make a gesture with my hand that universally means "so-so". He grins and shakes his head, mouthing, "Told you so."
The small group of padawans has been hanging out in this corner of the club all night, watching the crowd, scoping out tricks. Whenever I spot someone interesting, there's usually someone handy who can give me all of the information I might need -- if they're any good, if they're very good, if they have any quirks or kinks I ought to know about, and so on. It struck me as bizarre at first, but after a few drinks -- and a couple of orgasms -- I learned to appreciate their system.
Siri appears on the dance floor with her new girlfriend, and Keli gives me a look. He's understandably bitter, of course, but it's for the best.
"Why did I ever think I loved her?" he whispered, clenching his jaw.
"The real question is, why did you have to tell her?" I reply. "That was where you went wrong." He grumbles a bit as he watches the girls dance, bodies pressed together. I lean close enough to nip his ear. "You could be in the middle of that right now, if you'd kept your mouth shut."
He shrugs, swigging ale from his bottle. "Been there, actually," he says. "It was pretty hot."
"I imagine it was." I'm wouldn't mind finding myself in the middle of that particular pair one of these nights. I'll do it when Keli's not around, of course. No need to rub salt into the wound.
My bottle is empty, and I head to the bar for another. The crowd is full of sweaty, drunk beings groping each other blindly. Winding my way through unmolested is a bit of a challenge. A few people try to catch my eye, but I ignore them. I'm fairly picky about whom I'll have sex with, unlike most of the padawans I've met.
Unlike one padawan in particular, who's now standing at the bar, chatting up a man.
"T'nell," I say, smiling at him in greeting. He winks at me as I pass by, and I'm tempted to stop and talk. But he has an agenda for the evening, it appears, so I move on to the bar and order another ale instead.
"Hello, Chun," I hear, in an all-too-familiar voice. I turn to see Kenobi standing nearby, arms crossed over his chest. I smile coolly at him. "Having fun?" he asks. It doesn't sound like he hopes I actually am.
"Of course," I reply. "You've managed to drag yourself out tonight, I see. Boyfriend busy, or something?" T'nell let that story slip one night after a few drinks. Apparently there were a few hot threesomes involved.
He smirks. "Why do you care?"
"Oh, I don't," I reply. "I don't give a bantha's balls about you, or your senator, or anyone else."
"Just yourself, then?"
"Nothing wrong with that," I reply. "Just ask Xanatos." He doesn't respond to my jibe, but just keeps staring at me with an odd expression. It almost looks like pity. "Go fuck yourself, Kenobi," I growl. "It seems to be what you're best at."
His face tightens considerably, and I smile. Good. A reaction at last. He turns away and walks over to T'nell, who slides an arm around him in greeting. Kenobi says something, and they all laugh. T'nell kisses him; a friendly kiss, with maybe something a bit more beneath it.
I remember T'nell from when we were children, and I'd hoped he and I could be friends again. He's been nice enough, but there's no question that he'd take Kenobi's side over mine. As would Keli, or Siri, or Garen, or any of the others I've met in the last few weeks. They've been nice to me, and even tried valiantly to get into my pants for a while, but the newness has worn off. I'm not one of them, and they know it.
Kenobi's smiling again, and he glances in my direction briefly before looking away, as if to say, "Why are you still standing there?" He's always gotten everything I wanted -- the master I wanted, the friends I wanted, the position I wanted. I wonder if I have anything at all he might want.
Ale paid for, I make my way back towards the padawans in the corner, who are laughing riotously in response to a story someone is telling. I hesitate -- they've been very gracious to let me in their group, and to explain to me how this fucked up system works -- but I can't help but feel like an outsider.
"Hello," someone says in my ear, and I turn to see a tall man -- taller then me, at least -- smiling at me. He's a Jedi about Jal's age, with sandy hair that's been carefully styled. I quickly squash the thought that he might have known my master and smile back. "I haven't seen you around here before," he says.
"I've been... away from the Temple," I tell him. He glances to where my braid would be if I had one. I hope he doesn't ask about it. There's not much I can tell, for security reasons. I gesture helplessly with my ale bottle.
"I understand," he grins. "So how long are you here, Padawan...?"
"Chun," I supply. "Bruck, if you please." I wait for him to tell me his name, but he doesn't. "Indefinitely," I say after an awkward pause. "I've been reassigned."
"From your master?" he asks, surprised. "Do you mind if I ask why?"
"I'm afraid I can't say," I reply, trying to smile as charmingly as possible. He's pretty hot, and he seems interested. I step closer. "But then, I'd rather not talk at all."
He smiles at me, and his eyes sparkle. "What did you have in mind?"
Three minutes later, I'm on my knees, sucking his cock. His hands make fists against the wall behind him and he makes little noises of pleasure when I swallow him down my throat.
"Oh, fuck... you're good at that," he whimpers. I ought to be -- I've had enough practice.
When he comes, he finally touches me, cupping my cheek almost gently and lacing his fingers into my hair. He stifles his cry, and I get the feeling he came harder than he'd expected to. I grin up at him, licking my lips.
Of course, I was in his position not long ago, and I wasn't very gracious about it.
"Thanks, Bruck," he says, stroking my cheek with one finger. I let him touch me, strangely desperate for contact. I'm hard, despite the fact that I came not long ago. I don't know if I should hope for reciprocation. It doesn't seem to be obligatory in these clubs to make certain your partner comes as well.
He watches my face for a moment, as if trying to decide what to do with me. "Are you hungry?" he asks.
For a moment, I'm confused. Does he mean that in a sexual way? His eyes are earnest, so probably not. "Sure. I suppose."
"Then let's go," he says, pulling me to my feet.
I see T'nell and Kenobi watching us as we leave, wide-eyed, and I wonder what I've gotten myself into. I don't have anything to be frightened of, though. He's a Jedi, after all.
Being back at the Temple has been strange. I'm constantly dealing with too much attention from people, followed by too little, with splashes of insecurity and self-loathing filling in the gaps.
The self-loathing and insecurity bits are front and center now, as I'm paired with Kenobi in a sparring test.
I tried to talk my way out of having the test today -- once I found out who the sparring instructor's pet student was. He's beaten me fairly soundly so far, and has dropped a few hints that I might do well to take the class he's teaching -- for twelve-year-olds.
He's baiting me, I know, and I only smirk in response. I try to find my center, to focus enough that I don't embarrass myself any more than necessary. I try to picture him in a position of weakness instead -- naked and on his knees, trembling from exhaustion, waiting for me to fuck him. It wasn't a wholly unpleasant task, after all.
I strike again, but he blocks it easily. I step to the side and try a combination of hits, but he defends himself with textbook perfection. I'm planning my next attack when he comes at me, leaping into the air and slashing down hard enough with the saber to do some damage if it hits, despite the low power settings. I try to get out of the way, but I play right into his hands. He gets a foot between mine and pulls my legs right out from under me in a move I recognize from our hand-to-hand training. Of course, it hadn't occurred to me to do anything like that. I crash to the mat and my saber extinguishes itself as it hits the floor. I'm not sure this could get any worse.
"Better get used to that position, Chun," he whispers. "It's where you'll wind up whenever you spar with me."
I push myself to my hands and knees and look up at him. There's an intense anger in his eyes, and it clearly goes deeper than this sparring match. "I thought you liked this position yourself," I retort.
I get exactly the sort of reaction I was hoping for. I barely dodge the kick he aims at my ribs, and he has me pinned down with my face in the mat in a matter of seconds.
"Enough!" Master Chefor shouts, pulling us apart. The normally calm man is red with anger, and he glares at each of us in turn. "I don't know what the problem between you two is, but you will address it."
Heh. Right. I climb to my feet. Master Chefor purses his lips, and I realize I may have actually projected that thought.
"Kenobi, I'm assigning you as Chun's sparring partner for the next two weeks."
"What?!" we both reply.
"No," Kenobi says, looking as flustered as I've seen him. "I'm sorry, Master Chefor, but I can't--"
"No arguments. He needs your help and you need to work through your anger. I'll speak to Master Jinn right away. Padawan Chun, who has been assigned as your temporary mentor?"
"Xanatos," I reply, staring at the mat between my feet in frustration. I actually have to spend time with Kenobi every day? Getting a rise out of him wasn't worth that.
"I'll speak to him as well. You two will learn to cooperate. I don't care what has happened between you." Master Chefor exits at that, leaving us alone in the training salle.
I summon up as much dignity as I can. "Well, Kenobi, looks like you're stuck with me for a while." I attempt a smile, but it probably comes out as a sneer. "Maybe I can just enroll in your little class and save you the trouble."
"Yes, you could be an example of what can happen to padawans who can't handle their sabers," he snorts, glaring at me.
I know I need to work on my saber skills, but the thought of having Kenobi as a tutor turns my stomach. I'd rather work with anyone else. Perhaps I can get Xanatos to talk to Master Chefor, to change his mind.
"Everyone else has made an example of me lately," I snarl, turning to leave. "I don't see why you should be any different."
I finally find Xanatos in the archives, doing research for his seminar on undercover tactics. He nods at me in greeting, and I sit heavily at a nearby table. He ignores me, so I attempt to appear as miserable as possible.
"What?" he asks at last. "Did you need something? I'm actually busy--"
"I need to talk to you."
"How about later this evening?"
"I can't this evening. I have plans." I learned last week that pouting doesn't work on Xan. "Please? I really need to talk to you."
Xan studies me for a moment, and I try to look as earnest as possible. He sighs, and I grin, knowing I've won. He nods his head toward one of the small conference rooms, where we can talk privately.
"Kenobi has been assigned to help improve my saber skills," I tell him as soon as the door is closed. "Master Chefor is going to call you and talk to you about it. I think it's going to be a disaster, and I want you to tell him no. You know what we're like -- we'll both kill each other. He hates me, and he'll just try to torment me every chance he gets. Please?"
Xan blinks at me, perhaps because I said all of that so quickly.
"Bruck, if Master Chefor thinks it's a good idea--"
"No, no, it's a terrible idea!" I protest. "We actually got into a fight today, and he had to pull us apart."
Xan's eyes widen. "You got in a fight with Obi-Wan?" Perhaps I should have left that part out. "Bruck--"
"Never mind," I grumble, slumping into a chair. "I know what you're going to say."
"I don't think it will hurt you to hear it anyway," he says, sitting across from me. "You've been through a difficult ordeal, Bruck, and you need to learn to control and re-channel your negative emotions. Like it or not, working with Obi-Wan will speed up that process."
"Fine," I say, standing. "I don't know why I thought you would understand."
"Padawan, sit." His voice is commanding enough that I comply without thinking. "You're behaving like an insolent child, not a senior padawan. I suggest you learn to control yourself."
I close my eyes, feeling my frustration mount. He doesn't understand. "I'm not a senior padawan, you know. Those ranks don't exist in the system I was training in." I look at him, and see that he's watching me now. I shrug. "I'm not one of them. I wasn't trained to be one of them, and now everything has changed, and my master is gone, and they just expect me to adjust?"
"They don't expect that," Xan says, voice calm. "Honestly, I don't think they know what to do with you. They're hoping you can find a new master."
"Not bloody likely," I spit. "Know how I met Jal? I'd been sent to the AgriCorps. The Order had given up on me. I hated it, and I'd decided to leave, to go back to my family. I sent a message to the Council saying so, and a few days later, this man showed up to take me home. He seemed like just an ordinary freighter captain, but we did a lot of talking during the trip." Xan smiles, as if he knows where this story is going. "I told him how much I'd wanted to be a Jedi, and how that dream was over. As we were coming out of hyperspace near my home planet, he told me who he really was, and asked me if I still wanted to be a Jedi." I feel emotion rising in my throat, and I pause to push it back down. "I can't believe he's gone," I manage.
"Me neither," Xan says, and we sit quietly for a while. "Did you know he was my first lover?"
I look up at him. "No. Your first?"
"Not first -- you know what I mean. I was only seventeen, and he'd just been made a knight. He was amazing. I was completely in love with him."
I raise an eyebrow. "I thought that was forbidden."
"It is," Xan replies, raising an eyebrow right back. "And then one day he went off on a mission and never came back."
"And you didn't know he'd gone undercover?"
"I thought he was dead."
"Oh. And you didn't know the truth until...?" Xan nods, and I feel bad for him. I've been horribly, selfishly jealous since Siri told me what happened between the two of them before I was "rescued". I resented Xan for getting to spend the last days of Jal's life with him, and I blamed him a bit for what happened. "That explains a lot," I say.
"Does it?" he asks.
"Thanks," I say, standing again. "If you change your mind about the sparring thing, I'd be grateful."
"I won't," he says, grinning.
Aubris is already at the restaurant when I arrive. When he asked if I was hungry last night, I didn't think he meant we'd just eat, and talk, and nothing more. He smiles at me when I sit across from him. I wonder if he'd like to fuck me. I think I want him to, but he kept me at arm's length after we left the club last night.
"Have a good day?" he asks, pouring some wine into my glass.
"No," I groan. "It was horrible, actually." He smiles at me and takes a sip of his wine. There's something about him that I can't quite put my finger on -- I opened up to him over dinner last night, told him more than I should have. But I had the strangest feeling that I could trust him, that I could tell him anything. "Your favorite padawan has been assigned as my sparring tutor."
His brows furrows. "You're joking." When I shake my head, he makes a growling noise. "I'd refuse to work with him, if I were you. You won't make any progress if you're constantly watching your back."
I smile and sip my wine. I knew Aubris would understand. I was horrified by the story he told me last night about Kenobi's jealousy leading to filing false charges against Aubris. "I tried to get Xanatos to talk to Master Chefor for me, but he said it would be good for me."
Aubris snorts. "He would think that. Xanatos wants too badly to be a mainstream Jedi now. He used to have principles. He's gone a bit soft, if you ask me."
"But he's a legend," I say. I'd heard of him, even though Jal and I had little contact with other undercover teams. Jal used to tell me stories about him. Funny he never mentioned they were lovers as well. "Why would he want to give up undercover work?"
"Qui-Gon Jinn," Aubris replies. I snarl, and Aubris gives me a sharp glance. "Qui-Gon's not what you might think. He's actually quite open-minded. I imagine Xan is trying to be what he thinks Qui wants him to be."
"Do you know Master Jinn well?" I ask, picking up my menu. Ooooh. Roasted yarlamak. Haven't had that in years.
"Depends on what you mean by 'well'," Aubris replies. The hint of suggestion in his tone makes me look up, but he's scanning his own menu.
I grin. "And how is he?"
Aubris puts his menu down and holds up both hands, palms parallel, a good distance apart.
"Fuck," I whisper.
"He's good at that too," Aubris says before going back to his menu.
We order our meals and settle back to drink more wine. The conversation shifts to lighter topics until the food arrives. Aubris orders more wine, and I start to get my hopes up that he's got plans for me tonight.
"Do you go to Rising often?" I ask, hoping I'm being subtle enough.
"Occasionally," he says, pushing his plate away. "I go to watch, typically." He smirks at me and I smile back. Promising. "I find the promiscuity of the padawans a bit difficult to digest these days, honestly."
My hopes sink a bit. The fact that I offered to suck his dick like a cheap whore last night probably gave him entirely the wrong impression of me. "I have to admit it's been strange for me," I tell him. "I was raised at the Temple, but you're not really aware of all of that when you're a child, you know? I had no idea they all fuck around so much until I went out with a group of padawans one night after I got here." I shrug and pick up my wine glass, cradling the bowl in my cupped hand to warm it up a bit.
"I was like them when I was that age," Aubris says. "They teach us that emotional attachments are unhealthy, and that promiscuity is the best way to deal with the hormones of youth. It's important for Jedi to learn to control their emotions and separate them from physical sensations like sexual pleasure."
"Do you agree with that philosophy?"
He shrugs. "I believed it when I was young," he says, "but that could be because I liked the message. 'Have all the sex you want, as long as it doesn't interfere with your training or lead to inappropriate emotional attachments.' The more partners, the better. It was a lot of fun."
I nod. "I can appreciate that, certainly. But it all seems so... meaningless." I shrug.
"It is meaningless," he replies. "That's the point. Separate sex from love, and keep it that way -- at least until you've mastered your emotions and aren't a risk to the Order. The Jedi are supposed to be serene and detached, right? You either have casual sex for the physical pleasure alone, or you remain celibate. Otherwise there will be emotional entanglements, which even I must admit are troublesome." We're both quiet for a moment. "What did your master teach you about sex, then?" he asks.
"That it could be meaningless, or beautiful, depending on the moment. That it wasn't what we saw in our work. That was 'just fucking', he would say, when I was 14 and horrified by it all." I take a sip of my wine, feeling my emotions begin the familiar tumble again. Every time I talk about Jal it gets worse. I wish I could just forget about him.
"So you haven't had the sorts of experiences most padawans your age have?"
I feel a strange flash of anger. "Well, I suppose most padawans my age haven't been posing as sex slaves off and on since they were fifteen standard," I reply. I can feel my heart pounding. "I suppose they haven't been tortured, or fucked by an entire freighter crew over a six hour period, or tied up and beaten for someone else's enjoyment?"
"Or threatened with castration when they didn't comply, or forced to fellate men who were clearly diseased, or fisted, or--"
"Why?" I'm vaguely aware that I'm causing a scene, but I don't care. "I haven't told anyone about any of this. Nobody has asked. Nobody gives a shit about me. Kenobi thinks he's suffered so much because of one night -- a night on which I took care of him, by the way, and kept them from doing their worst to him. They beat me up when I begged them to stop, and all everybody says is, 'Poor Obi-Wan. Look how much he's suffered. Look how upset he is.' And nobody bothers to ask me how I am!"
Aubris takes me by the hand and pulls me from the table and across the restaurant, towards the 'fresher. I feel panic rising, thinking that he's angry, or that I've done something wrong. I pull back.
"No, let me go," I whimper. He doesn't. The door closes, and he locks it behind us. I flatten against the wall when I see the look on his face -- he's angry. At me? Or was he turned on by everything I said? Now I don't want it, I don't want him. I don't want any of this. I want to go back to my life, to the way it was when it was just me and Jal, and we were working against slavers and making the galaxy a better place. I don't want to be here anymore, I want--
"Bruck, listen to me," he says, placing his hands on my shoulders. "You deserve better than that. I don't know why no one's tried to help you, but you need it. You need help."
I can only stare at him in response, uncertain what he's saying.
"I can help you," he says, cupping my face in his hands. "But I need to know what you've seen, what's happened to you. Do you trust me?"
I nod, though I'm not sure I do. I don't know who to trust. I'm not certain of anything, or anyone. My entire life changed in one explosion.
"I have nowhere else to go," I whisper, feeling one tear carve a path down my cheek. "Nobody wants me." And it's true. It's really, really true.
He presses his lips to my forehead, whispering, "I do, Bruck. I want you. I can help you."
I don't fight back when I feel him inside my mind, looking at my horrible memories, carefully opening up doors I'd closed, and holding me when I start to shake. He pets my back when I vomit, and shudders at the sight of Jal in bloody pieces around me after he triggered a bomb we hadn't known was there. He sees the time Jal had to fuck me in front of a slaver when I was fifteen to "prove" I was his property, and how he tried to be careful because he knew it was my first time, and he didn't want it to be that way. He sees how I first posed as a body slave not long after that, and that most of the sex I was forced to have then was horrible, and new, and terrifying, because I didn't know what I was doing, or if anything they were doing to me was normal, or if I should be ashamed when I liked it, or if I should fight back when I didn't. He sees how Jal made love to me after those missions, just to remind me how beautiful it could be. He sees how much I loved my master, and how the last words I said to him were in anger.
I cry, and cry, and he holds me.
I sit straight up in bed, sweating. It's dark out still -- as dark as it gets on Coruscant, at least. The chrono by my small bed indicates that it's the middle of the night. I pull the blanket around me and shiver.
I hate it here. I hate the Temple, and I hate my small room in the initiates' wing -- not far from my childhood room, where I used to stare up at the ceiling at night and dream about being a Jedi knight. I hate the way I've been treated since I arrived -- with a strange blend of awe and suspicion, as if I'm some uncivilized rogue who needs to be re-educated before I turn to the Dark side. I can't even talk about what happened to me on the last mission, because it's all classified.
And the only person who really has any idea what my life has been like these past months is the one person I hoped I'd never see again. Now he's my fucking sparring tutor.
I'm completely awake now, so I decide to do something useful. Check my messages, perhaps? The terminal screen lights the room when I touch it.
"Bruck Chun, access," I tell it.
"Access granted," the system replies, and shows me a list of messages. Most of them are crap I'll just delete without reading -- general announcements, new courses offered, the D'Lon meditation group's meeting has been postponed, and so forth. There are hardly ever any messages personally addressed to me.
Ah, but there is one tonight, from an address originating in the Senate complex.
Padawan Bruck Chun:
Your presence is requested for a meeting with Senator Palpatine of Naboo, Secondday at 13 hr, in the Senator's suite of offices at the Senate Complex. Please be prompt, as the Senator's schedule is rather tight.
Administrative associate to Senator Palpatine
I stare at it for a moment, not quite believing what I'm reading. A Senator wants to talk to me? Surely there's been some mistake. I can barely get the attention of the quartermaster these days.
I close the message and scan through the rest of the list. Nothing else has been addressed to me. I might as well be fucking invisible.
The invitation to meet with the Senator raises my spirits considerably as the day continues. Even the prospect of a sparring session with Kenobi doesn't depress me as much as it normally would.
"Have you even held a lightsaber lately?" he snorts, correcting my grip as if I were a child.
"No," I reply. "I was too busy being a fuckboy, remember?"
His eyes narrow, but he ignores the comment otherwise. "Like this -- loose enough that you have some flexibility. It's an extension of your arm, remember?" I nod, and he puts his hand over mine, showing me where my fingers should be placed. "I know it's a new hilt for you, and it'll take some time. Ready to try again?"
We spar, and he lets me take the lead, only using minimal defenses against my strikes. It's far too easy for me to push him across the mat.
"Don't fucking coddle me, Kenobi," I grumble. "I'm not that pathetic."
"Actually, Chun, you are," he says. "You need to go back to the basics of the forms. You've not even mastered the defenses most junior padawans can perform without thought."
I switch off my blade, frustrated. "And why do I need to learn this?"
He blinks at me. "What do you mean, why?"
"Why do I need to do this? I'm not a standard Jedi padawan. I was training to be an undercover operative. I've had more weapons training than you can imagine, but I don't need to be able to use a lightsaber like you do."
Kenobi looks as if I've uttered heresy. "Of course you need to be able to use a lightsaber!" he sputters. "It's the ancient weapon of the Jedi, part of our culture and our tradition!"
"Part of the standard culture, yes," I reply, realizing that his sense of propriety and order could be fun to play with. "But I'm not part of that tradition. Why should your cultural values be forced upon me?"
"What?" He's starting to turn a bit red. Heh.
"You're trying to oppress me."
"Don't be ridiculous."
"I'm not being ridiculous. I'm a minority in this tradition-bound, oversexed, lightsaber-centric Order." I drop the saber hilt to the mat and step away. "I refuse to be indoctrinated. I demand appropriate training and knowledgeable instructors in my chosen field of study."
Kenobi stares at me as if he isn't sure if I'm making this shit up or being sincere. It's very hard not to laugh.
"I don't fucking need this," he mutters, shaking his head. "Look, Chun, I don't want to be here any more than you do, but this task has been assigned to me. If you don't want to learn how to use a lightsaber, I'm certainly not going to make you."
I adopt a contemplative expression. "Well, as long as I'm not made to feel inferior during the process, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to learn." I stare at the lightsaber hilt on the floor, as if struggling to make a decision, and then look at him again. "All right. I'll consent to learning this fighting style, even though it's a waste of my time. But I expect to be treated with respect and dignity."
He opens his mouth and closes it again. He still isn't sure if I'm serious. "Look, I'll treat you with as much respect as you show me. If you continue to be a prick--"
"You're labeling me. I'm offended."
"Oh, fuck you, Chun!"
"And that remark was highly insensitive, considering my recent enslavement."
"You just called yourself a fuckboy."
"I was reclaiming the word."
He gapes at me, not sure what to think. I can't stand it anymore, and I grin at him. When it dawns on him that I've had him on, he groans. I burst out laughing.
"Oh, shit, the look on your face was priceless!" I say, wiping my eyes.
He shakes his head. "I can't work like this."
"Oh, take the gimmer stick out of your ass, Kenobi," I retort, still grinning. "If we're going to have to do this, we could at least try to have fun."
He folds his arms across his chest. "Your idea of fun is quite different from mine."
"I've noticed," I remark. "Your idea of fun seems to involve at least two other people and a supply of lubricant."
"And yours involves shagging Aubris Feln?"
The smile fades from my face. "Knight Feln is my friend. I'm well aware of what you did to him, and I'd advise you not to make an issue of it with me."
"What I did to him?" he retorts. "You have no idea what you're talking about."
"I know what he told me. Are you suggesting I should believe your story over his?"
"If you'd rather believe that lying, abusive, manipulative excuse for a Jedi--"
I take a swing at him before I realize what I'm doing, and it catches him by surprise. He staggers back, holding his jaw and staring at me as if I'd just sprouted tentacles.
"He's my friend, Kenobi, and the only person here who seems to give a fuck about what happens to me." I step closer, and he backs away, a bewildered expression on his face. "Everyone jumped to your aid, now didn't they? Just because the perfect fucking padawan had to take it up the ass for a few hours -- which isn't any different from the way you seem to spend your free time, by the way -- just because it was you, everyone jumps. Poor Obi-Wan!" I realize I've backed him up against a wall now. He's just staring at me, listening. For once, he has to listen. "Well, I was there, Kenobi. You have no idea how easy you had it compared to me. I saved your ass that night, and you've never even thanked me."
His expression changes from one of bewilderment to something else, something more collected. "Bruck--"
I don't want to hear it, though. I don't care what he has to say, as it means absolutely nothing to me now.
"Fuck you," I whisper. "Fuck all of you."
I think I hear him call my name as I leave the salle, but I don't turn around.
On Secondday morning, I'm eating firstmeal alone, as usual. T'nell said hello when he walked by, but then went to sit with Kenobi and his little clique. Somehow I doubt I'd be welcome.
I hardly give a fuck, at this point. I don't know why I thought it would be anything like it was when we were kids. I had friends then -- friends who didn't like Kenobi any more than I did. Even Tachi kisses his ass now.
"Good morning," I hear. Xan sits next to me, cradling a cup of caf.
"What are you doing here?" I ask, giving my "mentor" a disdainful stare. He gestures with his cup and smiles. I snort. "You said the caf they serve here tastes like gak piss."
Xan glances at his cup and wrinkles his nose. "It's true; it does." He puts the cup down and continues to smile at me.
"What?" I ask.
"How are you?" he asks back.
I blink at him. "Shitty, thanks for asking." I turn back to my toast and tea.
"Do you want to talk?"
"To you?" He nods, and I have difficulty containing my sarcasm. "Not particularly. What's brought on this sudden concern for my welfare?"
"I'm your mentor," he says, looking affronted. "I'm concerned about you."
"Yesterday you said I was a demented twat, and that I needed professional help."
He puts a hand on my shoulder. "You do need professional help, Bruck."
"Shouldn't you be off kissing your former master's ass, or something?"
He exhales and drops the smile at last. "I'm just trying to do my job," he mutters. "Look, I'm the only person around here who has any idea what the undercover life is like, and I know how hard it can be to deal with things you can't even talk about."
"Yes, I'm sure you understand exactly how I feel," I snort. He looks away, and I feel a tiny twinge of guilt. "I know you mean well," I continue, "but I'm fine."
"I just thought if you needed someone to talk to--"
"I have someone to talk to," I reply, smiling tightly. "Someone who actually cares about me. So you don't have to keep pretending to like me."
"That's not what I'm doing."
"Oh, right, of course," I snort. "You avoided me for most of last week because you were so hot for me you couldn't bear to be in my presence for fear of losing control."
"Treasure that you are, who could blame me?" he retorts, rolling his eyes. "Bruck, I know what you're trying to do. I used to be quite good at it myself."
"And what am I trying to do, exactly?"
Xan pauses and then looks down at his caf again. "You're pushing everyone away before they can hurt you. You're not letting anyone get close to you."
I grit my teeth in frustration. "You're wrong, Xan. How can I push people away when they won't give me a chance to begin with?"
"My point exactly. That's how fucked up your perception of the situation is."
"Oh, for--" I feel like hitting him. "Will you leave me the fuck alone?"
"No," he replies. I roll my eyes as he stands. "I know what self-destruction looks like, Padawan. I've been where you are. If you need to talk, you know where to find me."
"Yeah," I mumble as he walks away. "Right between Master Jinn's thighs is where I'll find you."
I hear laughter and look over to see Kenobi's group engrossed in conversation. Kenobi and Tachi glance in my direction, grinning. I smile back, and then show them a rude gesture. Kenobi's eyes narrow, and Tachi has the gall to look surprised.
Fuck them. I don't need them, anyway. Other people are interested in my welfare. Important people.
The woman who meets me in the foyer of Senator Palpatine's suite of offices is familiar. She's dressed in a sharp suit, with her dark hair slicked back into an intricate knot, but I'd know that face anywhere.
She smiles coyly when she replies. "Ms. Naberrie, please. I'm glad you could come, Padawan Chun. The Senator is most interested in meeting you."
"But why?" I ask.
"This way." She nods her head and walks down a corridor. I follow her, feeling a knot tighten in my stomach.
She pauses outside an ornate door and presses her palm to the comm panel. "Padawan Bruck Chun to see you, sir," she says, and turns to wink at me. It's reassuring, and I think she knows I need it. I try to smile.
"Thank you, Padme. Please bring him in." The voice is calm and refined.
Padme squeezes my arm and opens the door. She gestures me inside and closes the door behind us. "Would you like anything to drink, Padawan Chun? Tea, perhaps?" She smiles brightly.
It's on the tip of my tongue to politely refuse, but then I think, Hells, when will I have another chance to have tea with a Senator? "Tea, please," I say.
"I'll have some tea as well," I hear, and turn to see a tall, dignified man stand from behind his desk and walk towards me. He's old -- for a human, at least. His hair is wavy and grey, and his skin is thin and wrinkled. His eyes, though -- his eyes are warm, and he's smiling at me. "Padawan Chun," he says in that rich baritone I heard earlier, "I'm very pleased to meet you."
I open my mouth, but it takes a few tries before my voice actually works. "I'm honored, Senator." I remember to bow, a second too late. Force, but my manners are atrocious. I really must be more conscious of that.
Padme brings a tea tray to the table and joins us. The Senator makes small talk while she pours tea, telling me how helpful Padme has been during her tenure with his office. "She's become my right hand around here," he smiles. Padme beams, blushing. "And don't let that pretty face fool you. She's smart, savvy, and tough as nails. I keep telling her I fear the day she decides to run against me."
Padme winks at me, and I find myself looking at her anew. I've always thought of her as the party girl who fucks Siri, but if she's caught the eye of a Senator, I imagine she's a good person to know. I smile back at her, and thank her for the tea.
"To business, then," the Senator says, smiling warmly at me. "I understand you've recently suffered a terrible ordeal, Padawan."
I'm not very surprised; to be honest, I'd wondered if that was why I was here. "Yes, sir," I reply, not certain what else to say. It's all classified, and I can't say much. I've already told Aubris far more than I should have done.
Palpatine glances at Padme, who nods at him and turns to me. "Padawan Chun, I hope you'll forgive me, but I was at Richell's last Ninthday evening."
I feel the blood drain from my face. The restaurant. She heard me, heard what I told Aubris. Is that why I'm here? Am I in trouble for revealing classified information?
Senator Palpatine smiles sympathetically. "Don't be concerned, Padawan. No one is angry with you." I blink at him in surprise, wondering how transparent I am. "On the contrary, Padme told me what she overheard that night, and it troubled me deeply that a Jedi padawan was put into such a terrible position. Forgive my crude language, but my understanding is that you have been posing as a sex slave for several years as part of your service to the Jedi Order."
I swallow and look down at my tea cup, not certain how to respond. The way he's just said it makes it sound so base. Moreover, I'm stunned that someone of his stature would care about what happened to me, when no one on the Jedi Council seems to.
"How old are you, Padawan?" he asks.
"Twenty standard," I reply. I hear my voice shaking.
"Tell me, Padawan, how many missions of that sort have you been assigned?"
"Many. My master had made it his life's work to infiltrate slave rings, particularly of... that sort." I pause, uncertain. I'm not supposed to be talking about this.
"My boy," the Senator says, eyes full of sympathy, "we want to help you. If what Padme overheard is true, I believe the Jedi Order has done a terrible thing by putting a child of that age into such a position."
I swallow and try to look away, but I find I can't. The Senator's gaze holds mine, gently. Padme reaches over and takes my hand.
"Let us help you, Bruck," she whispers.
"If you tell us what's happened to you," the Senator says, "I promise we'll help you. The Jedi have abandoned you, but I will not."
I clench my jaw against the emotion I feel. I'm not going to cry, not now. I know I shouldn't say anything, but what has the Order done for me? Why should I keep their secrets when they haven't helped me at all? Senators usually have security clearances, anyway. I may not be telling him anything he hasn't already heard.
I put my tea cup on the table, clear my throat, and tell them my story.
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