Star Wars Roleplay: Chaos

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The Name of Life

There were so many things to do. So many things to say. Time was precious, she understood that better now. And so too were the people that spanned it.

Irajah Ven sat in the Solarium at the manor house in Blackwater Reach. She perched lightly on the piano bench. She had been there most of the morning. Her fingers played across the keys. Occasionally [member="Samson"] or Terin would peer through the doorway, but both knew well enough to leave her alone in moments like these.

Neither knew why they were becoming more common. They hadn't asked. Samson at least seemed pleased that she was spending more time at Blackwater. If Terin, the manor's seneschal had an opinion on it, he kept it to himself. All they knew was that slowly, she was spending less and less time with her face glued to a screen, and more of it at the simple fact of living. Companionship, painting, the piano. It should have been a good thing. Yet something like an air of singing tension had settled over the Manor these last weeks, the feeling of the air before a growing storm. Somewhere, in the distance, was thunder and lightening that weighed down the sky. The sunlight was merely a precursor, but one they couldn't help to turn their faces toward. Even if only for a little while.


To: [member="Connor Harrison"]
From: Irajah Ven
Re: Blush

You don't owe me anything, after the way I acted the last time I saw you. But there are things I'd like to say now, that I couldn't before. And things that I did not know then that I would ever need to say. If you are willing to speak, please come to Blackwater Reach. I have included the coordinates.

If not, know that I thank you for the kindness you have shown me in the past, even if I did not know how to accept it. And I wish you all of the joys you seek in life. -Raj


Dark curls fell around her face, hazel eyes distant even as her hands splayed over the alternating keys beneath them. Either he would come, or he wouldn't. Despite the strange moment, the slip of a card in a crowded room, Irajah wasn't entirely certain that he would. If not, it was out of her hands. But of the things she regretted, this was one she hoped to set to rights.
 
Blackwater Reach. A location Connor Harrison didn’t know existed until today.

Still, that was where [member="Irajah Ven"] had requested he go, so he would go at once. He had mixed feelings on the short ride over, being in Avalonia at receipt of the message, the coordinates were not too far than having to trek across the galaxy.

He didn’t really want to think about the last time he had seen it. It wasn’t a nice memory, for either of them, for various reasons. There would be no dredging up the past, hopefully. And there was the fact he felt he had simply failed on his part to be there for her, to support and encourage her and, well, just BE there.

Second chances like this to at least say sorry seldom fell into his lap, so it was only right he take it after the chance reach out at Blush.

Connor was still thinking about things when the transport arrived on the outskirts of a manor house, surrounded by rolling fields that all seemed to be nestled inside a mountain range. Did places like this exist on Dosuun? Obviously yes. What a sight. It immediately broke his train of thought, and he stood with a smile of contentment. The transport waited for a while, before kicking the engines in and rising off gently to head back to the city.

The walk to the house was a nice one. Fresh air cool on his skin, a clear sky and a strong connection to the natural Force around him.

- - - - -​
Terin, a pleasant enough elderly gentleman, welcomed Connor into the house after a maid received him in the external grounds. Walking through, Connor made small talk to hide his nerves about the beauty of the house and location, greeted by complimentary chuckles and a slice of history about the place from Terin himself.

Stopping at a door leading to the Solarium, Terin left Connor be to make his own way in.

He placed his ear next to the door, hearing music. Tinkling of ivories on a piano. No real tune, just a distant series of notes. Exhaling, the Ren knocked gently and opened the door, greeted by a well-light room, an intricate frame around it all, some books, plants, a grand piano in the middle, and a familiar face sat playing.

With a smile, he walked in respectfully and clasped his hands before him.

"Hi, Irajah."

No glib remark, no witty comment - just a warm greeting to a face he was happy to see again. Hopefully he would be in a better place this time to convey his change since last time they parted.
 
She knew he was there before he spoke. She kept playing, not turning to face him right away, though as he moved into her field of vision a soft, almost wistful smile flickered over her lips. As her fingers drew the last notes from the piano, she finally looked up.

"Hello Connor."

Standing slowly, her movements were a little stiff, a little pained, but she ignored it. The last time they had seen each other, she had been confined to a hover chair. She had no intention of sitting through this meeting as well. Broken in a way that, at the time, she could see no escape from. Weighed down by fear, there had been no path through the dark woods- none at least, that she could see.

Now though, she looked far more as she had when they had met. At least in the broad strokes. The missing limbs had been replaced, she smiled and looked him full in the face. But there were still subtle differences. Her face was paler, the circles beneath her eyes more pronounced. While she had regained so much of what the Zambranos had tried to take from her, in truth it was the battle with Gideon that continued to draw more and more from her. It showed, at least to the people who knew her well.

And she knew it. It became harder and harder to hide from people like [member="Matsu Xiangu"], [member="Carach"], or even [member="Samson"] . Just how much the virus was taking from her. With them, she no longer tried to pretend. They knew, all too well, what was coming.

"I'm glad you came," she said, her voice soft, mouth smiling, though it barely reached those hazel eyes.

"There's no place for two to sit here, unless you play the piano," she chuckled and then turned, leading the way through a set of wide double doors.

It led into the library. Between dropping [member="Connor Harrison"] at the outer door of the Solarium and now, Terin had somehow managed to make certain a beverage cart was waiting for them. Ice water, tea, wine, and of course, hot caf covered the glass lined cart.

She gestured for him to help himself, silently thanking the ever attentive Seneschal. She didn't know how she'd do it without him.

"I was glad to receive your card," she said quietly. "After Maena, I wasn't.... I didn't really know..... If you wanted to speak to me. I need to.... Connor I need to apologize. For how I acted then."
 
Whatever tune Irajah played - and she played well - it would stick in his head for days. He walked through the room silently and carefully, as not to disturb the artist at work, and just listened and looked on with a small smile - there was great peace in the air.

And then, she was done. And standing, and looking at him; welcoming him and eager to lead on. While he was no master of the ivories, Connor chuckled and nodded in acknowledgement of the fact there was little room to talk and play the piano.

Was he not pleased to see her again, looking a million times better than the last time they had come face to face in an otherwise hostile, dark and conflicted way, he wouldn’t have thought twice about her change in appearance. Yes, the cybernetics were there as he assumed from Maena, but she lacked the colour he remembered so well. The hope in here eyes was a little dimmer, and the sparkle in her smile was a little fainter.

It was sad to see, and it was then he had a bad feeling about - no.

No assumptions. Not now.

Walking through into a glorious library, he looked around at was impressed by the step-up the good doctor had taken since the apartment in Avalonia. Whatever circle she was in now, it paid off.

"Thank you," he said.

Mulling over the drinks cart, he opted for the ice water. The glass cool in his hand, he took a sip while she said something she didn’t need to.

"Mm," Connor said, lowering the glass and shaking his head, "no, Irajah, not at all. No need to be sorry. You had been through quite a trauma, and I shouldn’t have even been there in the first place, let alone force myself in to try and help after I let you down the first time."

He turned to face her, an honest sincerity in those darker eyes.

"I’m glad you sent that message, because I wanted to see you and say sorry. Sorry for how I acted when I was struggling. For snapping at you. Judging you. Us. The situation. Everything. I wasn’t in a good place then. And, yes, I wanted to see you just so I could see that smile again. Got me through some hard times, that smile."

With a gentle tap on the glass, he gave a small smile and held up his left hand, flexing it.

"But look. I listened to you. Still good as new. No new scars either for you to patch up."

Time to quit acting like the buffoon. There was a question he needed to ask. He took one more sip, looking at her.

"How is it?"

He needed to know. She had told him enough of her plight before, and he never had forgotten since.

[member="Irajah Ven"]
 
She poured herself a cup of caf (no surprise there), dosing it liberally with sweetener after he had poured for himself. Perching on the very edge of one of the chairs, she settled down, the cup and saucer carefully balanced between hand and knee.

"Oh Connor," she murmured softly, "You've never let me down. Bygones, yes? For both of us?"

Even when he had known there was nothing he could do to help with [member="Jacob Crawford"], he had come, because he said he would. It had really been all that mattered. The parts that had been less than ideal, where one or both of them had been, at the very least, poor examples of friends, didn't really matter. No one was perfect. And the last year had clarified so many things for her. About what she valued in a person. How far the bonds of friendship truly went.

"And I'm glad! Very sensible, listening," she said, giving him a mock stern look that dissolved a moment later into a small smile. "It feels better then? No residual pain?"

She smiled at him, more of the woman he'd met than ever, brilliant and bright- though even then, something clearly weighed, taking some of the pleasure in seeing how well he'd healed out of that expression. It was subtle, but her mind couldn't move far from other reason she'd asked him to meet her here.

But then he asked. A simple enough question. It. There was no pretending she didn't know what 'it' he meant. After all, it was what weighed on her now. She had just hoped to find a better way to ease into it, see, perhaps, how he was doing first.

Pretending he hadn't asked, or changing the subject would be doing them both a disservice.

"I wish I had something better to tell you. Please, sit," she said quietly, looking down at the cup in her lap. Slender fingers wrapped around the fine china, the sensations subtly different between the flesh of her left hand and the cybernetics of her right.

For a moment, she just looked lost. Not sure where to begin. While others had been there through the whole thing, knew the agony of the decisions she had made and what they had cost her- how to explain it here and now? She was glad he had come, but perhaps, a smaller part of her, wished he hadn't. Because it would be better, or at least, easier, if he had simply been left with the memories of her as she had been. Rather than what she was. Or worse, what she might become.

"There's no cure, Connor," she finally said, opting for straight forward. She didn't look up at him. It was what she could want, were the situation reversed. "I have exhausted all avenues- all of Matsu's, even Carach's."

She had done horrible things, in an attempt to find a cure. The fact that they had come to nothing weighed on her, yes. But in truth, it was the fact that they had led no where, more than what they had cost. Something else she had slowly come to terms with.

"Gideon, it turns out, was too well made. I would be proud of them- as a virus, it is unparalleled. I find myself, however, distinctly disappointed."

After all, it was her life that hung in the balance.

[member="Connor Harrison"]
 
Bygones. Gladly.

He tipped the glass to her and took a sip, walking around slowly and respectfully, looking at her and the library. It certainly was a grand place, and this was probably only a slice of whatever had come her way since that small apartment.

"No ma’am, no pain," he said almost to himself with another sip.

He was waiting for the answer, and it seemed to come. Or, at least, the first part. The part that gave the whole answer without any explanation needed. As she spoke, the mood suddenly drained, and his body shivered.

The glass stayed in his hand as he gave her his complete attention, batting out the cloak to sit on a chair opposite Irajah, who was looking internally for answers. Connor decided it was better to put the glass down, so he took a larger sip, and then gently put it on the table beside him, laced his fingers and waited.

Really, he should have known that deep down a chance would only be given with one hand to dish out karma with the other. For all the good Connor had done, he was gifted with bad. Irajah wanted to see him, and there was no cure for her virus. With a deflated sigh, his head fell forward and his hand ran across his brow.

If all avenues were exhausted - and Force knows she would have tried them all - did this mean she was...no.

He looked up at her, cupping his chin in his hands for a second. He had to stay composed and calm for her.

"Now. We’ve both seen a lot of strange and wonderful things in our time in this galaxy. I for one know that all avenues are NOT exhausted. There can’t be...nothing else to try? Come on....."

The urge to go over and smother her with comfort was strong, but he needed to show restraint and space. Let her talk. Let her explain.

"How...." he steeled himself, "...how long have we got.”

She had suddenly rocketed to the top of his priorities.

[member="Irajah Ven"]
 
"All avenues that involve a cure? Yes."

Her voice was quiet but steady. It was the sound of someone who had made peace, come to terms with what was happening. But oddly, it wasn't the sound of someone who had given up.

In a different circumstance, she might have arched an eyebrow at his 'we'. But in truth, this was the just first of those she needed to tell- to explain to- about what was to come. While a few people already knew, this was different. These were people who might not be able to accept the path she was about to start down.

How long?

"Six months," she said quietly. "Eight, if I stop working on learning to use the Force."

Irajah looked up at him, caught the look on his face, and explained, as gently as she could.

"After what happened on Panatha.... the idea of letting any strength, any talent I might have, stagnate, was.... anathema. What I didn't know was that pulling my attention away from keeping the virus in check would have the.... the consequences it did."

She knew he didn't know that story. He had seen her in the aftermath, but some words were still too hard to say.

Perhaps, if she had never gone to learn the Force with [member="Carach"], she would have been able to hold Gideon off indefinitely. She didn't blame him, not even in the slightest. He had only done what she had asked him to. To help her ensure that she would never be that weak again, to be manipulated as she had been by Braxus.

No, she didn't blame Carach. But she did blame the Zambranos. [member="Darth Prazutis"]. [member="Darth Carnifex"]. Their actions had ultimately led her to that place- to where Gideon had gained enough ground to make it impossible to stop.

They had taken so much from her. She refused to give them any further ground.

"There's still one thing left, Connor. It's not a sure thing. But I have no intention of going quietly into death."

While her voice was still low, now it was under laid with steel.

"I just..... I don't know if I'll be the same. After."

[member="Connor Harrison"]
 
The sound of her voice was all that he heard. Nothing else - not the sounds around the library like a soft ticking of a clock, or nature calling from outside via an open window. He was focused on her, leaning on his elbows, chin resting in the cup of his fingers. Face intent, and the mind working to piece together what he could.

She had been involved in some accident, or some horrific torture, and lost not just parts of her body, but her soul.

She had lost grip of the control she needed, and paid the price.

Somebody had broken her. Somebody had made a mistake.

Connor licked his lip slowly and drew his hand away, linking the fingers and looking down at them as she teased a solution. There was no assumptions as to what it was, but he had a vague idea. With the company she hinted at keeping, the work of the Dark Side was going to be her only hope.

With a slow surrender to the situation, he nodded as he processed it all.

"Thank you for telling me, and you know how sorry I am to hear...to see...what has happened," he said quietly.

He looked at her, injecting the same sense of hope and determination she conveyed in his tone and his steeled expression.

"If it’s what I suspect you’re hinting at, then all I would say is trust the Force. And trust yourself. You are stronger than you give yourself credit for right now, and that spirit is the most important. Whatever happens, you will be ok. You will."

She had to be. She gave everyone else second chances, and new leases of life. Fate had to give one to her.

"I..." he opened his hands and gave a small roll of the eyes, "...I know I can’t offer much in my position, and Force knows, Irajah, I want to, but is there anything I can do. Can I help you learn any elements of the Force?"

A failed Jedi compared to Sith Lords? No thanks.

"Do you need anything here? Anything from the First Order? Name it. And,” he rose a finger, "before you say anything, nothing would be a problem."

[member="Irajah Ven"]
 
Perhaps unforunately, that wasn't how things worked. Fate, if such a thing even existed, ultimately owed her nothing. Oddly enough it would be more comforting to know that it didn't exist. After all, if it did, then all of what she had gone through had been promised long before any of the events had unfurled. That nothing she could have done would have been able to change not only what had already come, but what was to come.

And that seemed, at its core, to be the cruelest of all possibilities.

She looked back down at the cup of caf in her hands. She was turning it around and around, letting her fingers walk it full circle once, twice before stilling. But she resumed a moment later when she began to speak again.

"I have to be careful with the Force," she said with a grimace. "But I am learning certain skills that-" she paused, clearly frustrated.

She stood suddenly, almost violently. The cup found its way to the table with a hard enough clatter to splash some of the steaming liquid onto the wood, but she barely seemed to notice. Pacing, restlessly over toward the fireplace, she frowned into the low flames that danced there.

"I am being very careful," she said, each word bitten out with an anger she had never displayed in front of him before. "To balance out the time needed to complete the necessary precautions for the next step, but also the fact that I intend to grind everything the Zambranos find important into dust."

She closed her eyes, inhaling tightly through her nose. She wasn't explaining well. But that was also because she hadn't needed to before.

"I pushed, as long as I could. Studying Gideon. Looking for a cure. I did...... Connor, I did things that I am not proud of, searching for that answer. But I'm also not sorry I did them." Her voice was tight but unrepentant. She had deliberately infected people, so she could watch the progression of the disease. She had infected a child- one who had agreed, once she knew what was at stake, yes, but there was no illusions that made it any more acceptable. She knew that what she had done was monstrous.

And she still wasn't sorry.

Not that she had done them. Only that she had failed.

"I waited too long. Pushed too hard. And now, while the people who are helping me scrabble to-," she paused again. "I keep getting ahead of myself. I'm sorry. So much has happened and I....." she trailed off, finally turning to look back at him.

"I assume you are familiar with something called Essence Transfer?"

She didn't answer his question yet. What, if anything, she needed. She needed, first, to make certain that he understood. That she left nothing unsaid that needed to be out in the light. It might, after all, be her last chance for that.

[member="Connor Harrison"]
 
Outbursts didn’t shock Connor. He’d had many, and seen lots in his time. However, just now and then, the ones that did take him at least by surprise were from people he’d never expect to see them from.

Irajah was one of those people, but under this current situation, he should have expected it. He became alert when she heavy handedly placed her cup down and stood before the fireplace to talk. To vent. To confess.

But, it was natural, and he sat and continued to listen and understand.

Nothing she said concerned him or distracted him. It sounded human, and probably something he would have done. Not probably...most definitely. A few more pieces of the puzzle fell into place. The Zambranos again. A name that popped up a little more now and then in this dark circle he stood in. As if he didn’t need another reason to not care for their blood.

Connor looked to the water, took it and had a final long mouthful before he stood at her question.

"I do know of it, yes."

He had to pick his words carefully. She was a woman facing no other option than death. And that was something nobody wanted, and with those helping under such power as the Dark Side, this was the only way. And he had to be careful not to preach.

"And I also know that since you have mentioned it, you must know of the risk. Well, not risk, but more of the definite consequence." Connor looked at her, not really forcing her to answer. ”I’d hate to see you lost forever. But, in your position, I would have done exactly the same as you."

With a sigh, he ran a hand over his small beard in thought.

”For what it’s worth, I am sorry it has come to this, Irajah. I truly am."

As they were here, there was a question he had to ask to make everything fall into perspective.

”I have certain issues with a name in this galaxy too. One of them took away and corrupted a close friend of mine years ago. Trapped her. Abused her. Another murdered my former Grandmaster on Panatha. I know their names, but I have little place to do anything." There was a slight hint of menace and wonder creeeping into his voice. Just what could Irajah...become? ”The Zambranos. They did this to you. Didn’t they. Back on Maena. That was their work wasn’t it and they had you trapped there."

[member="Irajah Ven"]
 
Unconsciously, she wrapped her arms around herself.

"Yes."

Her voice was quiet, but hard. Hazel eyes flickered back to the fireplace. It was easier to explain, if she wasn't watching his reaction.

"Not Gideon. They had nothing to do with that. But one of them, Braxus..... better known outside of their circles as [member="Darth Prazutis"]..... I still don't know why he did it, Connor. Once I realized what had happened, all that mattered was getting away from them, do you understand?"

Chewing on her lower lip for a moment, she pressed on.

"He hired me to research something for him," she paused, then laughed, but there was no joy in the sound. "Even now, the habits of doctor patient privilege run deep. But he gave that up when he....." She shook her head, one sharp motion, as if shaking off a particular memory. "He hired me to investigate Dark Side Corruption. His, specifically, and to help find a cure. I don't know, but I think, he had already decided what he wanted from me. And it wasn't simply my skills as a doctor. He manipulated me- slowly, drawing me into.... something. I'm sure I would have found out if I had stayed just what it was he intended. But-"

Irajah closed her eyes, her throat and chest tight. She had only shared this with two others, and those, [member="Carach"] and [member="Matsu Xiangu"] had seen the memories themselves. She hadn't needed to put them into careful words.

"What I told you, that day on Maena, was true. I didn't lie to you. It was just an incomplete truth. Because I was terrified.I knew.... I knew that if I told anyone, he wouldn't hesitate to kill me. And I thought I deserved what they had done to me." The last part came out as a whisper.

"Braxus had his Uncle....." her face twisted, words turning angry and bitter. "The injuries you saw were not caused by the Sith that kidnapped me, Connor. They were from Kaine. [member="Darth Carnifex"]. Because I had not been careful enough. So that after I had been utterly destroyed, Braxus could build me into something..... something I can only assume that looked- acted- more as he wished I would."

Her right hand, the cybernetic one, flexed subconsciously. She still hadn't looked at him, her recitation of events fragmented and clearly leaving out details, but accurate in the broad strokes. Despite her anger, despite how far she had come from that broken creature he had found on Maena, Irajah was still disgusted with herself and how she had been so blind.

He almost made me believe he loved me. How sick is that?

"If that had not happened, if I had not needed to rebuild myself from the very ground up, perhaps I could have kept Gideon at bay indefinitely."

Slowly, she looked up at [member="Connor Harrison"] then, but didn't meet his eyes. Her left hand came up, brushing the bangs away from her forehead. The scar of a sith hexagram, the Mark of Kaine, showed in puckered white between dark brows and locks. It vanished again a heartbeat later beneath her hair and she looked away again, anger and shame in equal measures on her features.

"There are more that he......" She shook her head again. The runes marked down the entire length of her torso, hidden beneath heavy layers of cloth, always. "They took my body from me, some of it for themselves and fed the rest of it to Gideon. I know what I am..... what I am giving up, in order to live. But I have no interest in dying. Not until I have seen them both begging at my feet."
 
The mark of the Zambrano name ran deep in many things it seemed, entwining different people in many similar, saddening ways. Like a cancer. A cancer that needed to be cut out of the beating heart that defiantly tried to beat on in the galaxy.

Connor gently ran his fingers in small, precise circles, arms across his chest, as he looked on at Irajah.

When she turned, he cast his eyes across everything in the chance he had. The cybernetics. The scar. The sadness. With a heavy sigh, he simply...looked on, and felt great sadness for how a kind and caring woman had been brought down to this. Physically and mentally abused in the name of nothing but ego and ownership.

The Dark Side was many things that many people didn’t understand, but even the darkness had a code of honour for those following it, or so he believed. Maybe he was more out of touch than he imagined.

And what could Connor Harrison do now. What could the once great Jedi Master say to convince Irajah he was on her side, and always had been? He wasn’t stupid, and knew her circle of allies was great. As she finished talking, he ran his hand across his mouth and didn’t know what to say for a moment. He glanced around the library, using it to simmer his disgust and his...contempt for the name Zambrano.

"Do what you have to do, Irajah. I know you will be ok." He nodded, taking a step forward. "You will be ok."

It was painful seeing her this way, and what sort of person would he be if not to at least comfort her. He took another step forward, as if walking on that invisible mine-field, and reached out to gently rub her right shoulder.

"Thank you for telling me. I know it wasn’t easy, but it changes nothing about you. You’ll bounce back from this, and they will regret the day they did what they did, because they only made you stronger. They took everything from you? No. They gave you the reason to really FIGHT this and become someone great."

Connor leant over and picked up her drink.

"Come. Have a drink, and sit. No need to be afraid now. None at all. I’m here for you all the way. "

[member="Irajah Ven"]
 
If he had voiced his concern, how to prove to her that he was on her side, she might have responded in any number of ways. But it would have boiled down to one, simple thing. She already knew that he was. It was why he was here at all.

Unlike on Maena, she didn't flinch away from him this time. She had come so far since that day, grimly rebuilding herself, sometimes with help, and sometimes without, but always moving forward. Seeking out the truth in her own mind, the reasons she did the things she did- uncomfortable truths, brought to the surface as pretty lies drowned in the dark waters. She had clawed and sacrificed things that, until recently, she had considered such integral parts of herself that there was no way she could even be Irajah Ven without them.

Connor wasn't wrong. In any of it. And yet....

"I liked who I was, Connor," she said quietly. There was no self-pity in her voice there. Just a wistfulness of someone speaking of something they had once loved but was now lost to them- peace, but a certain longing, always. Had she been 'great?' Certainly not. But that had never been, and in truth, still wasn't, something she had sought. It was nothing she had hungered for.

What she had wanted once was simple. She had shared a little of it with him once, on that aborted flight to Panatha. What she had wanted was a basic normalcy. But the lies upon lies told by her father, her mother, had stripped the veneer, those pretty lies, from the gaze backward. How could she still want something that had been based on lies and deceit?

And yet, somehow, there was part of her that still did.

She accepted the mug, but didn't sit. Instead she leaned against his hand slightly, staring down into the fireplace.

"I believe you," she said, smiling up at him, though the expression never reached her eyes. Slender fingers wrapped around the delicate porcelain of the cup.

"I'm glad you came. That I had a chance to tell you. Especially if....." she trailed of, a shadow crossing over her face again. Don't be afraid? She wasn't afraid. But she would change, and she knew that. She just didn't know what that would look like yet. She only knew that it was a simple choice, in truth. Change, or die. It was no choice at all really.

"You coming. Knowing. That was what I needed Connor. Thank you."

[member="Connor Harrison"]
 
He smiled understandably with her, and stood still as her rock to lean on a soothing hand and a familiar presence. She was still there, somewhere. Irajah was still there.

Yet, her words resonated with him. Life was cruel, and sometimes good people didn’t ask for bad things to happen to them, but sometimes they did. And you either went with it and bettered yourself for it, or you withered and died and became a victim of destiny. Connor had tried to go with it, but was now a victim. He liked who he had been, but that wasn’t him now.

If he was still who he liked, he wouldn’t have even met the good doctor and on a world he would never have visited. So, for the bad things that had happened, good things came from it. He just never had the nerve or the courage to make them good. And now Irajah was doing the same – making something good out of the bad.

"Hey now. I liked who you were too. And I will like you who you may become. And for what it’s worth, I like who you are now."

He squeezed her gently and placed his free hand on her other shoulder.

"Thank you for asking me here. I truly appreciate it, considering how we last parted ways. For that reason above all, I am here for you, and will continue to be. Regardless of what happens, I will be there."

Sometimes it was harder to face things like this feeling there was no normality to be found, but Connor was here to keep normality as best he could. She had done the same to him as he suffered the effects of the Wall of Light…before pushing her and everything away.

With a gentle pat on her shoulders, he looked around the room to break his train of thought.

"I have to say, I am very impressed with your new abode. See. The future doesn’t look all that bad, does it."

[member="Irajah Ven"]
 
A change of topic was like a breath of fresh air, and she was perfectly happy to talk about anything else for a moment. And the story behind..... all of the rest of it..... was at least in part an amusing one.

"Well, it came with the title," she said with a small laugh.

But when she saw the blank expression on his face, she covered her mouth with her hands, hazel eyes widening slightly.

"You don't know. Ohhhhh. This is. Um. So. It's a funny story."

It was easier to relax, the topic easier. She took a sip of her lukewarm caf.

"Apparently saving the lives of high ranking government officials in a combat zone as a civilian is appreciated?"

Her cheeks flushed slightly. Explaining this was almost as awkward, but in a more amusing way, than the previous conversation had been.

"Teeeeechnically I'm a Baroness now. When they told me about it I may have had a mouthful of chocolate cake and a very confused expression on my face. Not one of my finer moments. Want me to show you around?"

[member="Connor Harrison"]
 
The colour came back to her face – just a little – and for a moment, she moved forward from it. That was worth the blank expression he had. Title?

As her expression grew, so did his. It was an intoxicating effect of her warmth that had helped him through surgery months ago. He smiled; eyes a little wide at her announcement. He recoiled slightly.

"A..Baroness?"

Connor knelt ever so slightly, sweeping a hand across his front, eyes down.

"Will thou forgive my curtness, m’Lady?" He glanced up. "Or is it…ma’am, I never remember?"

And he looked back down to the floor, grinning at her expression.

"If you have the inclination to spend your valued time showing me, a lonely battle-worn wanderer around your prestigious home, then I would be honoured."

He looked up again, this time standing. But, still, even then with a little bow.

"Your Highnessness?"

A chuckle escape his lips as he took his eyes off her again. It felt good to…forget, and to laugh.

[member="Irajah Ven"]
 
Raj tilted her head back, shoulders drooping, and let out a low "Uuuuuuuuuugh nooooooo."

If he hadn't stood up on his own she would have poked him. Fortunately for both of them that wasn't what happened.

"This is why I don't like telling people. Everyone always makes it weird," she said with an overly exaggerated grumpy expression on her face.

"And the situation is already one that couldn't get much maw-cursed weirder," she continued with a chuckle. "Come on, let me show you the manor. But if you kneel, or call me m'lady again, I'm going to have Samson throw you in the lake, got it?"

Her smile said she was clearly teasing about the lake part, but not about his stopping with the rest of it. She didn't elaborate on who Samson was. Because maw only knew how awkward *that* conversation would be.

Blackwater Reach was remote, and while the huge house was lonely, she liked the privacy as well. From any window, the view of either the mountains rising behind, or the dark lake below was visible. He'd already seen the library and foyer, but the manor was huge. They walked slowly through the halls, continuing to talk as they did.

"They built the manor for me," she admitted ruefully. "When the architect and I had our initial meeting, I told him I wanted something small and simple. He looked at the other estates on Dosuun and.... well...... I should have been more clear in my request. He thought I meant in comparison. The place is far too big, and so many of the rooms I just don't use."

[member="Connor Harrison"]
 
Connor stood and gave her a small, warm smile, and inclined his head at her…threat.

"In that respect, I hope Samson is a human, and not a First Order Wookiee."

Her reluctance to have the title was amusing, and sweet. But, he would listen and follow her instruction, at least for now, as he followed her on the grand tour of Blackwater Reach, leaving the library and passing the foyer to the wider halls and rooms.

At a gentle pace, hands behind his cloak, Connor took in the décor and the sheer scale of the building. He looked around each hall, and into any room that had the door open, and then to Irajah as she spoke. She certainly didn’t let a title change her in anyway.

It was distracting at times to focus and not take in the view outside. It was a world away from Dosuun.

Connor came to a stop after a corner turn along a hall and looked out to the dark lake and the mountains surrounding them, eyes dancing left and right, up and down.

"It looks like a dream. I would never tire of waking to this. Going for walks. What a stunning view. Just stunning." He turned to the doctor, using his juxtaposition of words and stance on purpose. "You have done well, Irajah. I’m please for you."

He turned to look down the hall, the light streaming in from outside pulling out all the furnishing and colour around them.

"You know if you have too many rooms, I am more than happy to visit and rent one out. I’ll happily move in tomorrow." With a teasing glance to her, he winced. "I mean, if Samson won’t throw me in the lake or anything."

[member="Irajah Ven"]
 
"Samson is...... close enough to human," she said, something a little distant in her tone.

Definately *not* something she wanted to explain to him. Not yet. Probably not ever. [member="Samson"] was a complicated subject, for a number of reasons, and one that she hadn't fully made her peace with yet, not that she had fully admitted that to herself for that matter.

Revenge cloning of Sith Lords tended to go better when one actually knew anything about revenge.

They passed by a parlor, a smoking room (which Irajah frankly didn't know the difference between anyway, but that was what Terin had called it), a 'family' dining room, a formal dining room, and even a small ball room. All of them with an air of disuse. And this was just in a single wing.

"It's gorgeous," she agreed amicably. "Just too much house. I tend to stick to just a few rooms, though I can tell most of the staff would rather if I didn't eat with them in the kitchen, so I try to keep them comfortable and take my meals in the study," she chuckled ruefully.

His offer didn't shock her- but then, with his teasing tone, she assumed he was joking, so there was nothing to be shocked *by*.

"You'd grow bored and foot sore from so much traipsing about just to find the 'fresher'," she teased back. "Or end up lost in the gardens and we'd have to arm a search party."

It was good, this. To not worry (ostensibly), to simply chat and joke. It happened far too infrequently these days. A simple interaction, but a good one.

She peered into the ballroom as they passed and made a face at it.

"They even keep the floors waxed. I keep telling them that's unnecessary, I won't be throwing parties any time soon. And yet, they persist."

[member="Connor Harrison"]
 
Connor nodded to himself, peering into the rooms as they passed taking note of her little jokes and observations.

"It’s a lovely place."

There was still a question to ask, as he couldn’t stay around her forever, not like this. He looked ahead as they walked.

"When will you be taking the next step in your…cure. How long will you wait? Forgive me, but I only ask as I sort of understand what you're doing and why. Time is ticking for me too in many ways. It's nice to hear another facing a tough decision and how they process it."

[member="Irajah Ven"]
 

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