She’d killed all the lights and gone to sleep and when the nudge woke her, she expected it. It wasn’t as though she had exactly slept well, though she was exhausted, and her neck hurt.
She took a moment to look at him, just to see what exactly she were dealing with, and if she’d been interested in him – for sex, for romance, for anything vaguely carnal – she could certainly have done worse. Scars, sure. Some people liked that sort of thing. Muscles, he had aplenty; more than Ashi felt were even vaguely reasonable on someone. But what caught her attention was his weight; he was underweight. Drastically.
She supposed it made sense. He had a haunted look.
It had, in the end, been why she’d even bothered to propose this. It was the bottom of her idea barrel, just something that had always made her feel better in the end. She waited, and he came like a child, rather than a grown adult. Tired, and harassed, and shy as new morning.
And, though it hurt her to do it, ground her soul to shreds and brought up too many bad memories, she accepted him. He lay down, and she held him, though he curled too tight to bother to hold her back, and she whispered quiet encouragement to him. The poor bastard.
Ashi had no idea, until that point, that the Dark Side of the force had such strength. It was like spice. It was like a drug. It was an all-consuming vicious animal that seized a person and took control of them. It was something that some people couldn’t control, that Damien couldn’t control, and it scared the shit out of her.
The man she was holding wasn’t a lover, but a friend, and her fear was his fear, and she worried and fretted and was scared for him, at the same time as she wrestled with her own fear and internal agony. She hated this. She hated it. She struggled with it. This wasn’t one of her friends from the ship or from Hutt, crying in her lap. This was some new person, someone she barely knew, that was nestled against her chest and seeking comfort. She did her best, anyway, and she tried.
Kark, she’d tried.
They’d barely started meditating before his rage had overwhelmed him. They hadn’t even got to the actual meditation. Something had just set the boy off like an old landmine in an open field. She’d had to deliver a pretty hard kick to his gut to get him to let go and wake up. What had it been? Candles? Silence? Ashi had no clue, and no way to know save asking. She didn’t want to ask.
And the worst part was that she could feel it. His anger. Her anger. A boiling, seething pot of hatred, that threatened to carry her away. She closed her eyes and tried to draw on the Force she knew. The Force that stabilized, that rationalized, that gave some order to the turbulent world. Althea had said it was stagnancy, but Ashi couldn’t believe that. It hadn’t been her experience. The ‘light side’, if it could be called that, stood between her fragile, luck-purchased peace, and utter madness. It was the thread of sanity in an insane, unfair, unforgiving world of brutality. It had become that so quickly that she hadn’t marked the point of change.
If Zao felt this way, it was sheer arrogance to think that she could have ever helped at all.
But maybe she was helping now.
Time passed. She didn’t know just how long, but it passed. The minutes, into half-hours, into hours. And eventually she felt his breathing calm against her skin, and she opened her eyes to look down at a sleeping man, all power and pantherine muscle, curled like a child against her.
And then, she relaxed, holding him, as she tried to find her own peace among the darkness.
She felt strangely old.
Older than Sandra, by six years. Older than this pup, by five, maybe four. She didn’t know. She hadn’t asked. But he had that sort of face, she thought, as she smoothed his hair back carefully. Nothing more than a youth who had gone strangely astray in the world. That was just how the world worked, she reasoned. All these kids, with force powers, struggling with them, while she struggled just to cultivate her own out of almost complete uselessness. How was it that she was supposed to help at all, when everyone had studied since birth, and she’d only just learned herself that she even had them?
How would she even explain this to Sandra? To Althea? Would this have to be a secret? Would she get kicked out of the Order for trying to teach someone how to control it? Did she even actually know what she was doing?
She sighed, and settled her arm around his waist, and her head back upon the pillow. She slept with a lot of them. It wasn’t like there wasn’t one or two free and just lingering around. At least he slept. Maybe it was the most peace he’d gotten in years. Aside from the dramatic appeal of that thought, she couldn’t help but growl a bit at it.
Here she was. Ashi Tevarl. Slut incarnate.
The only useful thing she could do in the end was hold him. But, on the flip side, it did seem to be helping. His breathing had calmed. This probably hadn’t been the right decision, career wise, but it was the best she knew how to do at the time. After all, it had always helped her, to hold someone.
She wrestled with it. She really did. And she tried to let the thought go, but it still came back to her, time and again, in the night, all the self-loathing that wasn’t her fault, and that she knew wasn’t her fault. All the disgust, all the revulsion. All the men she hadn’t wanted. All the times she’d been on stage, on display, out of herself. All the times she’d had to mentally retreat to some other thoughts, to the holonet shows, to all the vapid inconsequential distractions that had got her through years of use and agony.
He stirred. She blinked.
Yeah. The Force was everywhere. He was a force user. He could feel that.
Okay. Okay. Think, Ashi.
In the end she closed her eyes and thought of dancing. Not the slutty, unwatched gyrating she’d been required to do in the background of business meetings but the real dancing they’d practiced together, she and her friends, just because they could do it and it seemed like the only form of expression they’d had. Somewhere in her mind it merged with Shii-cho, and with the second lightsaber form, which Althea had said was totally useless for the type of foil she used, but which Sandra had taught to her anyway, and which she’d found that she enjoyed. It was quick and very fluid.
It settled him. It settled her. And she fell asleep, without dreams.