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A Fool's Wager

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The apartment was spotless. Every outlet worked and was properly tacked to the wall. Every console lit up at the touch of a finger. The displays were outdated, but they worked . The lights in the refresher were a soft, supple yellow, not the harsh white-blue of the sorry excuse for a residential module the Peragus outfit had assigned. Cheap bastards .

Atton stood in the small kitchen, admiring the appliances and their lack of ever having been used, it seemed. Like everything else that furnished their TSF appointed quarters, the appliances were models put out maybe twenty standard years ago but still in good condition. There was hardly any wear, and nothing glitched. The caff machine whirred and bubbled before him, filling the room with a pleasant aroma as it managed to muffle the sounds of Eden and Kreia having it out in the next room. Aside from the amenities, Atton was thankful the kitchen had a fully functional door, completely capable of opening and closing, and was not just an open doorway where he could stand awkwardly just out of firing range.

As soon as Kreia mentioned the Ithorians and as soon as Eden’s voice sheathed its edge (a sound Atton knew enough to become familiar with now) he knew to make a quiet exit and retreat to the adjoining room. The last thing he needed was to be dragged into an argument with two people he hardly knew, let alone two people he hardly wanted to associate with regardless of their current circumstances. Instead of focusing on the task at hand, one or both of them always managed to bring the Jedi or training or any other related word into the mess of things. Eden seemed reluctant, but willing, though more annoyed than eager when it came to whatever path the universe seemed to lay before her – and Kreia was guiding her down it, not-so-gently prodding her along the way. Must be a Jedi thing , he snarled silently, thinking to himself, forever obsessed with their legacy, with masters and students and-

“Hey, you busy?”

Atton jumped in the slightest at the sudden sound of Eden’s voice at his back, the sliding door still so new, and so hardly used, that it barely made a sound as the woman slid it open without his knowing. He almost felt like he belonged in an infomercial, the kind that ruled holovid channels in the wee hours of the morning, only he was at a loss for words instead of prattling on about how amazingly well the product worked. Even Eden was impressed, gently sliding the door back and forth while she waited for Atton to answer, or perhaps she was trying not to appear too eager for his reply.

“I was-“ Atton pointed dumbly at the counter. “The caff.”

Eden watched him blankly before bringing her attention to the humming machine at the other end of his extended index finger.

“Oh, right,” she said, though she made no motion to leave. In the distance, Atton heard the door to the adjoining room open then slide closed. Kreia appeared to excuse herself, too, only Eden apparently wanted company where Kreia wanted none of it.

“Why, everything okay in there?” Atton asked, regretting it as soon as the question crossed his lips.

“Yeah, peachy,” Eden said almost too seriously, but not quite sarcastic, almost as if she did not have the emotional energy to express herself otherwise, “How do you feel about going shopping?”

“Shopping?” Atton asked, grabbing a canteen from the cupboard, already preparing for an outing. "With what credits?"

"Well," Eden began, sheepishly, "I was hoping..."

She didn't finish.

Atton stood there, caff carafe in one hand and a canteen in the other. With no response, he could only gesture vaguely.

"Yeah?"

Eden scratched the back of her head, avoiding eye contact.

"Yeah, you see, that's sorta the thing."

Atton tried ignoring her, going about pouring his caff despite the clear source of frustration behind him, failing to string a sentence together.

"That thing being...?"

Atton felt like his mother for a moment, trying to go about her sorry excuse for a life, filling their meager hearth with kindling or stirring a pot of stew over their primitive fire while Atton scrounged for words that told her his father had lost too many bets or hadn’t drunk enough wine to give him the winnings he did earn so they could eat this week. He blanched, heat rising to his face just as he felt it drain of color, but the warmth of the caff kept him on his toes and appearing just as annoyed as he needed to right now, regardless of what Eden meant to say.

"I was hoping you might be game enough to gamble for some credits?"

She bit her lip, leaning in the doorway, making a point to stare at a corner of the kitchen just off to the side of Atton's expectant frame.

"Gamble..." he said, flatly, wanting to laugh at himself for thinking of his father. The liar. The cheat. The thief.

Eden shrugged, doing her best to appear nonchalant.

"You've mentioned Pazaak in passing enough times, I figured it was more than just a figure of speech.”

Atton chewed on the inside of his lip, wishing he hadn’t thought of his mother and wishing Eden hadn’t asked what she just did. Any other day, he’d be game - but right now? At this very moment? Well, this is awkward.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to assume,” she said, shoulders slouching as she slunk from the door frame, disappearing into the other room.

It’s not like she knows , he thought. And it’s not like I haven’t done it before.

Atton sighed and took a swig of caff wishing it were juma. It trailed its way down his throat, a gritty sludge that was hard to swallow. At least Peragus gave us better food.

Wait ,” he said, twisting a cap onto the canteen as he exited the kitchenette after her.

“I actually am good at Pazaak,” he said, almost feeling pathetic as he gained on her, now in the hall. Eden’s eyes were wide as she spun around to meet him again, though perhaps more at the fact that Atton had followed her so urgently and not that he may be good at Pazaak, “If it’s our only shot at getting anything good around here then-”

He whispered now, looking about the hall as if Kreia might appear at the slightest sound, “We could check out a table, or three,”

Atton was falling into step now, dissolving into an old self, pre-Peragus, before his debts were large enough to bury him and convince him that signing his life away was the only way out. Well, maybe one of two ways…

Eden eyed him unsurely now. If she was hesitant before, she was even more so now, but likely for the sudden change of heart and the downright suspicious way Atton was going about it. His father hated it when he did this, pulling at his heartstrings, knowing he and his mother needed to eat if he wanted them to stay quiet, when really Atton just wanted to feel useful , to feel smart, to work the numbers and -

“Alright, alright,” Eden coaxed, raising a hand, almost to steady his chest though her reach never quite got that far, “But before we secure ourselves a table we need something to barter with first .”

She crossed her arms over her chest, her expression slipping into something more mischievous.

“Anything catch your eye that you think the TSF won’t miss?”

Atton was fairly good at reading people, but Eden was one of the most confounding people he’d ever met. Already a far cry from the grumpy amnesiac he’d met on Peragus, Eden was moments ago an arbiter for the good of humanity or whatever it was that the Ithorians were selling, and now she was eager to fence something from their arrest appointed quarters - which would certainly get them arrested even after their names were cleared. Her energy was always changing, multi-faceted and versatile, and yet… he still couldn’t pin her down. She knew well enough of the Jedi, having been one, but she was just as quick to call them out on their hypocrisy while still spewing cryptic philosophy alongside Kreia. And yet here she was, itching for a game of Pazaak to buy… what exactly? Supplies? New clothes? Weapons? He was almost afraid to ask.

“Well, there’s the caff brewer for starters,” Atton said, taking a swig from the canteen still warm in his hand, “But the thing’s maybe, I don’t know, at least ten years old so the most we’d be able to do is donate it.”

“Really? Seems new to me,” Eden said. “But then again, I wouldn’t really know. Most everything out on the Outer Rim is junk, so anything clean is a bit of a shock.”

Atton furrowed a brow but held his tongue, unsure of whether Eden was joking or not, or at least just being light hearted about what was likely the truth. Eden had alluded to her exile enough but he wasn’t quite ready for the explanation that might follow if he asked her to elaborate.

“Nothing here is worth selling, if you’re wondering,” he replied instead after quickly sweeping what he could of the apartment from their new spot by the front door as he took another sip of caff, reveling in the warmth that spread through him as he swallowed - almost like juma, but not quite. “Most everything in here is outdated, but not in bad shape. Now if we could find something vintage , then we’d be talking.”

“How much do you think Kreia’d fetch us?” Eden asked almost instantly, adopting an air of mock severity.

Atton laughed, no, guffawed - almost spitting out his drink.

“I don’t think gamblers are in the market for fossils,” he came back with, doing his best to keep the spittle from his every syllable, “But I like where your head’s at.”

Eden smiled now, really smiled. Almost as brightly as she did when she found that Echani staff on the derelict Harbinger, a life’s worth of muscle memory returning to her waking limbs, bits of an old self trickling back as she sparred with no one in the armory with only Atton to watch. But now she was earnest, proud to have made him laugh, and Atton was only more endeared by it. His face suddenly felt hot, and he knew it wasn’t from the caff still held aloft in his hands

Eden laughed lightly, if not just to fill the silence but maybe to quell whatever uncertainty she left in Kreia’s wake. The witch was still quietly stewing on the other end of the apartment, Atton could tell, but there was no knowing what the old woman could hear or just know otherwise.

“What’s all this about though?” Atton asked, careful to keep his tone even and non-judgmental, but not appear too nonchalant, lest he care too much. “Last I heard the Ithorians don’t need blasters to grow plants and what have you.”

“A blaster would be nice,” Eden conceded. “A proper one, mind you,” she added, eyeing the modded blaster at Atton’s hip, “But what I really want are some clothes.”

“Clothes?” Atton balked before the realization could dawn on him. Oh. Right.

Eden shuffled before him, shifting her weight from foot to foot as she tugged at her robes.

“It was the best I could find on the ship that brought us here,” she said, looking down at her sleeve and wiping away some unseen bit of lint, “Better than the mining uniform, but still. They’re not mine , and I sort of made a promise to myself to never wear robes again.”

Atton nodded slowly, fitting the pieces together as she spoke, careful to tread lightly.

“Plus, maybe it’ll stop everyone from calling me Jedi .”

Yup - there it was.

She rolled her eyes, but more so at herself than at Atton or at any hypothetical image of people they’d crossed paths with so far who thought to utter the word in her direction.

“I’m not sure clothes are gonna change much, but I’m sure it’ll help some,” he offered, “No offense, but you do carry yourself like a Jedi.”

Eden cocked her head, as if in question, though no such thing exited her mouth. Atton still found himself floundering to explain nonetheless.

“You may not be in the Outer Rim anymore, sister, but you’ll find veterans anywhere you go here in the Republic. Much as they  would like to forget, most people still know a Jedi when they see one.”

Eden frowned in thought for a moment, her eyes growing distant before a faint smile crossed her lips, fast becoming a shadow of itself in a smirk as she looked pointedly at Atton.

“Is that what you see? A Jedi?”

Atton paused, his eyes unfocused, still lingering somewhere unremarkable in the room beyond as he struggled to not only find an answer but to maybe answer her honestly . He at least owed the woman that much.

“Well… yes,” he said finally, his gaze falling on her as he watched her expression, watching and waiting for him to elaborate, or maybe to finish, “And no.”

Atton wanted to attribute the heat rising in his throat to the caff but he knew better than to fool himself, as much as he wished otherwise. He shouldered his jacket off and tossed it coolly onto a hook beside them, right by the door, thankful for the instant weight lifted despite the comfort it usually granted him.

“You carry yourself like a soldier,” he said, “You don’t make eye contact often, but when you do it’s with purpose, and you make your purpose known. You’re always ready, always in form, or at attention, or at least just one step away from it. But your movements are too fluid be infantry, and too heavy to be air force. You’re no pilot but you know how to navigate and you’re a little too quick in the reflex department. And by a little too quick, I mean unnaturally quick. But your tongue is sharper than your eyes, and I think if anything, once someone hears your sense of humor any suspicions of you being a Jedi go out the window.”

This was all from a few days’ worth of observations, a week tops if he counted Peragus, and Atton was both pleased with himself and suddenly afraid he’d said too much - no, he knew he’d said too much.

Eden’s eyes narrowed, though the smirk still played on her face, and she nodded slowly as she soaked his words in.

“Impressive,” she said finally, her voice almost a sigh, “Most impressive.”

Atton could only take another sip of caff, if not to guarantee his stupid mouth wouldn’t say anything else in the interim.

“Wouldn’t expect a flyboy to be an expert at reading people,” she said again, looking as if she may say something else but if she intended to, she refrained.

“Wouldn’t expect a Jedi to want to gamble. Former or otherwise,” he quipped, gesturing the canteen to her as if in cheers, “Looks like we’re both full of surprises.”

At this, he shot Eden a smirk to match her own, and finally set the canteen down, having already finished his caff before even stepping foot out of the door.

“So, are we itching to steal something? Swindle someone? Sweet talk another?” Atton asked, releasing the air pressure on the door. “Where we headed?”

Eden shook her head, her arms crossed though she wasn’t guarded, at least not as much as she had been on Peragus. Something played across her face - uncertainty, fear, discomfort, Atton wasn’t sure - but whatever it was, it dissolved the moment the apartment door officially separated them from Kreia, still stewing on the other side, quiet and isolated now, alone in the apartment at last. It was just the two of them now - Eden and Atton - as it had been at first when he’d met her, but something had changed since then, though he wasn’t quite sure what.

Or perhaps, he did know, he just didn’t want to give it credence… so instead he followed in the ex-Jedi’s wake, ever-ready to eagerly accompany her wherever she happened to wander next... at least for now.