Note: The story takes place after “Crisis on Umbara” Flashpoint.
Note #2: Cast:
Nayel – Sith Inquisitor, the Eternal Alliance Emperor, romances Theron
Attira – Sith Warrior, former Outlander, married to Malavai Quinn
Mili – Imperial Agent, Malavai’s younger brother
Narell – Smuggler, Narell’s older brother
If there is no one to hear you scream, does your rage exist?
Nayel’s lightsaber blindly hit random branches and bushes, as the hand guiding it flew from one side to the other and back. A path of destruction carved behind him, he did not look back. He did not look forward either, but smashed everything in his way, blinded by rage and pain. A sleepless night, and a futile attempt at meditation had not helped him control his feelings. Now he was letting them out.
One second he wanted to kill Theron for his betrayal. He wanted to punish him for humiliation. For lies. All those lies. They hurt most of all. Not the Alliance. Not the big picture. There were moments when Nayel wondered if Theron ever cared for him. Was it all just a ruse? Just an act to gain his trust, to gain access to most secure information? Was his bed a means to an end. He felt violated. Was he a tool? That was the most horrible thought. Almost half of his life he’d lived as a slave, but even when you’re a slave it’s admitted you are a human being. Theron reduced him to a mere tool: an object to be used for a particular purpose. Then he had been discarded, as used up and unnecessary any more.
Another roar of rage escaped the Sith’s throat, echoing quietly in otherwise quiet forest. He’d already scared all fauna away.
Then hope replaced anger. Maybe Theron did love him. Maybe there was a way to patch that up. Maybe he’d return, and they could work it out.
His hand lowered and dangled at the side of his body; as his head leaned forward, drops of perspiration dripped from the tip of his nose.
A tool. Not a person. Used. Lied to. Less than a slave.
Anger washed over him again, and the path of destruction continued until he reached a clearing by the Fury. Exhausted, he sat in front of the ship, putting his lightsaber next to him.
Tool. Not a person.
Attira could hear Mili’s angry shouting before she could make out his words. He was clearly furious. For that normally quiet, composed, and levelled guy raising his voice… She wasn’t sure she’d ever heard him do that.
She was closer to the war room now.
“–pical! Just typical! You are so unbelievably gullible that you can’t even see how easy it is to fool you. Everyone you ever trusted lied to you. It’s so easy to hide true intentions from you. Now more than ever it stings that Marr chose you, incompetence personified, over me to head the Intelligence. You’re the least qualified person I know, and this –” he gestured around him “– is just another proof.”
“You can’t bl–” Beniko, who was the target of Mili’s fury, tried to defend herself.
“It was your damn job to find out who was the traitor among us. I can’t micromanage everything. It was the last time I risked trusted you with anything. You’re just…” He shook his head, unable to find words. “You pathetic –”
She raised her hand, and Attira was not certain it was a gesture of defence, or a prelude to a Force choke. She made a step forward to protect her brother-in-law, but Mili’s reflexes were sharp. Seemingly out of nowhere a blaster appeared in his hand, pointed right at Beniko’s face.
“Don’t you dare,” he growled. His voice was shaking with cold fury. “I’ll blow your head off with clear conscience. You deserve nothing less.”
“If you hurt him, it’ll be the last thing you ever do,” Attira added, approaching closer.
“What? No, I wouldn’t!” Lana protested. “I just…” She looked at Mili. “I’d never hurt you, you must know that.”
He snorted at that, turned on his heel, and walked away, leaving Attira slightly amused, seeing that Beniko still regretted dumping Mili all those years ago, while he was now completely over what she had done to him back then. Now it was about her inability to do her job properly.
She caught a glimpse of Malavai passing by, dutifully immersed in his business. She recalled the letter she’d received last night. A small smile played on her lips. She loved when he showed passion. Even in writing, it was good to see the fire he rarely let out of control of his exterior composure. His anger at her being betrayed, but also at suffering caused to Nayel, was hot and burning.
Late in the evening he repeated all those things from the letter in person. Pacing in their chamber, with his hands at his back, his twitching fingers, and cold voice betrayed his raw emotional state. He fumed at his wife, brother, and cousin being almost killed by someone they had all trusted. He blamed himself for not being there by her side.
She lured him to bed – easily – and let that passion and anger find a release.
She headed for the hangar, expecting Nayel be somewhere near the ship outside. He had a favourite spot with a nice view on the mountains over there, where they often sparred. Through the opening in the rock wall she could see his small figure sitting on grass.
He played with a straw of grass when she approached him. He had to hear her steps, and certainly sensed her through the Force, but didn’t react in any way to her presence. She just sat down next to him. Wisps of hair at the back of his head were wet and stuck to his neck by sweat.
“I know how you feel,” she said softly.
“How can you?!”
“The man I trusted turned against me.”
“The man I loved betrayed me.”
“The man I loved tried to kill me!”
He was silent for a moment. “I figured something had happened between you and Malavai. Sometimes… he wears guilt like a badge.” He looked up at her. “Was it this bad?”
She’d promised Malavai to never reveal what had happened on the transponder ship, and she wasn’t about to break that promise, not even for Nayel, so she didn’t answer, just watched the other Sith.
He looked back at the mountains. “You Force choked him,” he stated flatly.
“I was angry. He shot at us. He was going to kill us all.” Nayel was silent. She still felt the shadow of the squeeze he’d given her to stop. She’d let Theron go, even if she felt he didn’t deserve to be let gone. But she could understand Nayel’s feelings all too well. She knew how hurtful it was, how shocking, how difficult to believe what your eyes were seeing.
Nayel wasn’t one to forgive or forget. People who crossed him usually ended up dead. She was the same. But that one case… that one person… All Nayel wanted was to have Theron back. He practically begged him to return in that message Mili had sent. She felt his anger simmering deep in his heart, but his pain and sadness were a lot more palpable.
A powerful, dangerous, and strong Sith lord turned into a rubble on pain because of one ordinary man. As strange as it was, she knew the power of those ordinary men. No one understood Nayel better than she did.
“If it were anyone else, we’d race each other to kill them,” Nayel said.
“I still can’t believe this is happening,” he sighed.
Malavai found his brother at a computer terminal. Mili raised his head to look at him, then returned to his task. “I can’t believe I didn’t see it coming,” he said.
“I don’t think anyone could expect that.”
“I should have.”
Malavai inclined his head a bit. Mili blamed himself too, not only Beniko.
“Why? You were no more privy to his activities than anyone else.”
“Because I know how he thinks. Because I know what he is.”
Spy. Infiltrator. Double agent.
“Were there signs you missed but are now obvious?” Malavai asked.
Mili looked at him, pondering the answer. “Honestly, I can’t think of any.”
“If you can’t see them after the fact, how could you see them before?”
“I should have,” his brother insisted.
Malavai watched him for a moment. His cheeks flushed with shame. He was a bystander, observing his family, and their reactions to something he’d done once. Shan had tried to shoot his family. He had attempted to murder what Malavai held most dear in his life. No bigger picture, no explanation could diminish the major’s hatred and rage at Theron Shan.
He had been shocked and surprised when Attira spared his life. Even more when she’d welcomed him back as her lover, and then agreed to marry him. Now, being on the other side, he was at even greater awe at her unexpected, unusual mercy. He didn’t think he’d have so much strength to forgive such a betrayal. His blood boiled, and wanted spill the guilty man’s blood to find release.
How come she had forgiven him such an act? He didn’t think he was capable of the same.
Even less, thinking how much it cost Nayel. His cousin tried to be strong, to hide his pain, but Malavai knew him too well not to see. The Sith suffered. More than ever before in his life. How could the person who caused this suffering be forgiven?
Yet, it seemed Nayel would forgive. There were moments when all he wanted was to have his love back.
But even if it was possible, who would trust him now? After all that happened, there was no return.
Malavai realised that he’d be in exactly the same situation, had Attira told anyone what he’d done to her. He’d be branded now. But for some reason her faith in him never faltered, and she never doubted his dedication to her.
For the rest of his life he would keep proving her she could trust him, always assuming she needed reminders; he felt it was the right thing to do. But he also knew she didn’t need it. She saw past that one indiscretion, capable to see in him what he always strived to be: a faithful servant.
Attira radiated calmness, which soothed Nayel’s shattered nerves. There was something in her manner, some kind of compassion or perhaps understanding, that quieted his feelings. Muffled them. Her composure didn’t really surprise him. She drew her calm from her husband, and was able to channel it, when necessary.
He was also sure it had something to do with what had happened between them. He had once asked Malavai, but his cousin refused to talk about it. They could keep their little secret, it didn’t really matter to Nayel. It was theirs to keep, and cherish.
He took a deep breath, and closed his eyes.
His holo beeped, notifying him of an incoming mail. Probably something not important, but he welcomed the distraction.
“I’ll check that,” he said, raising to his feet. Attira stayed where she was, just nodded.
He went to the ship, pondering if it would be too cruel to ask Mili how he had dealt with all those times his women broke up with him. What was the secret of healing, and getting over it?
Maybe if he threw himself in arms of every hot girl, it’d help. Every night different. Every night passionate. Every night a way of forgetting who wasn’t there. Maybe that cute Mandalorian could be swayed, too.
Nayel’s face was distorted by a bitter grimace. There had been times when tasting so many flowers would sound tempting. Those times were gone since he and Theron became a serious item.
He opened the letter, and just then realised who it was from.
“But however it ends, I just want you to know that I loved you from the moment I saw you. And I always will.”
Nayel stared at the last two sentences, his wound opened raw and anew.
Narell knew something happened the moment he set his foot off his ship. Odessen was more buzzing than usual. With gossip, from what his ears caught. As he walked toward the war room, the shards of info, and names started to build into a full picture.
He had a good idea what had happened by the time he found someone to talk to.
“Tell me what I’m hearing is not true. Tell me Theron wasn’t the traitor you were looking for for the past few weeks.”
Malavai gave him a grim look.
“I wish I could.”
“As bad as you could expect.”
“What did that bastard do?”
“He’s unharmed physically, but emotionally… You should be able to find him on his ship.”
Narell’s eyebrows drew together, as he half-ran toward the hangar.
He’d failed his little brother once, but he wasn’t going to fail him again.
Four decades ago he hadn’t really been in a position to help or save him. He still had nightmares of three-year-old Nayel crying, scared to death, being carried away by strangers, stretching his chubby short arms toward Narell, and calling his name. Narell, thirteen at that time, had been taken away by other strangers. Neither of them had understood what was really happening, but it became very clear to Narell soon: their father had sold them. He had run away a few months later, promising himself to find his baby brother, and save him, but he was in no position to do that. He understood that now: a thirteen year old boy on the run had no means to find a three-year-old. Back then it hadn’t even occur to him they weren’t on the same planet, which had in fact been the case.
He knew that, intellectually he understood that, but the feeling of guilt, and helplessness never abandoned him, and now drove his need of protecting his younger brother, even if that bother was a powerful, and nearly invincible Sith lord.
He glanced at Attira, who was sitting on grass in front of Nayel’s Fury, but did not stop to talk to her. He scurried into the ship.
Nayel was sitting on the floor, leaning his head on his hand. Narell sat opposite him.
“I’ll kill him,” he said. “I’ll find that son of a Hutt, and bring you his head on a platter. I’ll send a bounty hunter after him. I’ll send ten, to make sure he won’t get away with this!”
The Sith looked up at his brother. He didn’t say anything but Narell didn’t need words: Nayel was hurting.
“I don’t want him hurt,” he said eventually.
“What do you want? Just say, and I’ll make it happen.”
“Turn back time, and make it not happen at all.”
“Okay, this one is a toughie.”
Nayel smiled a bit. “Do you think you could find him?”
“Maybe. I’d try. But then what? You’d take him back? You can’t trust him! No one can trust him!”
“Look, Nayel. I worked undercover for almost fifteen years. I sound like a Pub, I behave like a Pub, and deal with Pubs. For years my loyalties were nowhere but credits. I didn’t work for Imperial Intelligence because I felt patriotic, but because they paid well, and offered a get-away card from every Imp prison.
“But I never faltered in remembering who I worked for, and what was my job. Even if I married a Jedi, had kids with her, and pretended to love her – heck, even if I really loved her – I would still know what my job was, and where my priorities were.
“You can never trust Theron again. He was here to do a job. He completed his job. Now he’s gone back to his masters. Whatever he ever said, it has no meaning. He built a house of lies to fulfil his task, nothing more, nothing less. He used your weakness for his purpose. You can’t trust him. You can’t forgive him. You must forget him.”
Nayel watched him, then handed him a padd with a letter. Narell read it quickly, then pressed his lips together. “Even if it’s true, it doesn’t matter. He’s not coming back. It’s over.” He silenced for a moment. “And I want him to pay for what he’s done,” he growled. “For what he’s done to you.”
The smuggler rose to his feet, and patted his trousers to clean them of possible dust, in case that stupid golden droid hadn’t done it’s job properly.
Nayel got up too. “If you find him, don’t hurt him.”
Narell put his hand on his brother’s shoulder. “It doesn’t matter if he’s alive or dead, Nayel. It’s over between you. You must forget him.”
“It matters to me.”
Narell only nodded, then headed out of the ship. There were things to do.
Mili wondered if he was losing his touch. How could he not see this coming? Was his trust blinding him? They seemed to work well together. Pulling together their resources and tricks, complementing each other’s talents. Was he being fooled all this time?
Even now, when thinking of it, he couldn’t see any signs. Yes, there were things that indicated trouble caused by a possible infiltrator, but none of them made sense as Theron being the culprit.
He found even less sense in what happened on that train. Mili wouldn’t miss, if he shot anyone from such a short distance. Theron missed. Several times. No one was seriously hurt.
He leaned back in his char, and replayed the events in his mind. Theron had shot and missed. Lana got hit, because she jumped in front of the blaster bolt, but not seriously. Just knocked out for a couple of minutes. Another shot at the window. No one was even near that window. Theron didn’t aim at people, he aimed at that window, but for what purpose…
Mili took a sip of his favourite sweet wine.
To break it! He broke the window to open an escape route!
Then he started nonsensically ramble about the Alliance, taking Nayel’s sarcastic joke too seriously, which was very unusual.
Many years ago Mili had to do the same: do horrible things to people he cared about to prove to someone else he was sincere while in fact going to infiltrate them. He had hurt Imperials to spy on the Pubs. It had to be done. For the greater good. For their own protection.
He sat up straight. Was that what Theron was doing? Had he come to a conclusion that regular investigation would not bring any fruit, so he had to go undercover, infiltrate the true enemy, to protect the Alliance, and find the real traitor?
Mili’s head was spinning but he knew it wasn’t the wine. He also knew he could not share his suspicions with anyone, not even Nayel. Especially not Nayel!
He had lied to Attira for months for greater good. He had left his brother to rot in prison for greater good. He could leave his cousin hurting for greater good.
He needed more wine. A lot more wine!
He thought of Nayel, and his unexpected reaction to all this. He’d assume the Sith would lash out with rage, do something stupid, and most likely irreversible as a result of such a painful betrayal also on a personal level. Instead, Nayel was a bundle of misery.
Family was everything for Nayel. He often said that, and on many occasions he proved that. Any of them could get away with anything and everything, and even gain his protection. Same thing didn’t apply to others. Lana had lost her arm, most of her organs, and almost all her face after the mistake of defying him. She was lucky she was still alive. She had left them behind on an exploding ship, she had said “no” when Nayel had given her a direct order.
What Theron did was comparable, or even worse. He hadn’t just left them on a train just about to wreck: he had wrecked the train himself. Had it been anyone else, Nayel would allow Attira choke the life out of them, or maybe even join.
But it was Theron. And Nayel’s first reaction hadn’t been to kill him in outrage. It’d been to tell him he’d always love him. And Theron’s face… he’d looked so miserable hearing that declaration.
In Nayel’s heart, Theron was family.
If Mili’s suspicions were correct, if Theron hadn’t betrayed them, but was working to reveal the true danger, Nayel’s reaction was the best that could be. They could be together again. They could patch it up. They could fix it.
But he couldn’t tell Nayel. Not only because it could blow Theron’s cover, but mostly not to give his cousin a false hope – in case all this double-triple agent guess was a total miss.
For now he had to do his job as usual: find Theron, find what he’d done to the Alliance, keep looking for traitor’s activity, and control the damage.
Nayel, still in the lift, took a deep breath. He closed his eyes for a moment. He channelled his pain and anger, clenched his hands in fists, then let the air out.
He was the emperor. He would not fall apart. Not for Theron, not for anyone.
He unclenches his hands, but they started shaking again, so he made fists again.
He stepped forward for the door to open, then entered the throne chamber. Heads turned in his direction, some exchanged whispers that abruptly silenced under his glare.
“Report!” he barked. There was a situation to be resolved, and matters to be dealt with. Vulnerability can be left for sleepless nights.
“My lord,” Malavai started with his dutiful address, “we just received updated reports from Iokath.”
Nayel approached him, and nodded. “Proceed, Major.”