Once upon a time, in the seedy corners of Coruscant, Anakin Skywalker ventured into the Crystal Strip, where the little-known Pakskka Palace held its nightly window display of bodies for sale. It was no place for a child, let alone a Jedi. And it was for that reason the young Padawan was there.
The freedom alone was courtesy of his Master, who saw it as a twentieth birthday gift. Despite their constant differences, their clashes and collisions (which Anakin blamed on the other's tight reign), Obi-Wan had decided to grant him one night and one morning of freedom on his own, in reward for his "unwavering efforts" and "outstanding performance" as an apprentice. Pushing aside his bitterness at having heard everything to the contrary for ten years before, Anakin eagerly accepted the offer.
"Just don't do anything too rash, young Padawan," Obi-Wan reminded sternly, a hint of a smile on his lips, as if he knew it was useless to ask such a favor.
In truth, Anakin hadn't planned on much recklessness; a plane ride here, another plane ride there, maybe a drink to go afterwards, but mostly just exploring the city alone, seeing everything through his own eyes, was his desire.
And he had. He'd flown a plane, responsibly (at least he wasn't pulled over), he'd ordered a drink (just one-drunkenness was unsightly) and he wandered the city.
That last one was where things took a different turn. He'd wandered too far.
To this day, the memory feels like a dream. . .
It is a winding path of cobblestones, lit only by the neon sign and window displays. Brick and stone line the walls. A sickly sweet stench lies stagnant in the air. A few men and women are enjoying drinks at an outside bar. A couple of shady looking figures are standing in a huddle at the end of the road. And on the entire left side of the alleyway, wide window displays show women and men of delectable taste, wearing little to nothing, leering and beckoning every pedestrian who so much as glance up at them. A sign over the door says, "Pakskka."
He has heard of places like this. Where people come to lay down a worker of their choosing for any price. Rumors of politicians and celebrities visiting places like this ran rampant through the galaxy, but the doubtful whispers of Jedi clients stayed underground.
He has never kissed a girl. He has never touched a girl romantically. He has never had the chance to fall in love enough to give himself to intimately to someone else. If he is to be a Jedi Master, he never will. The thought never made him cringe as a child until he got older and realized that the girl he has adored from afar, the Queen turned Senator of the Republic, Padmé Amidala, can never be his. The thought chips away at his naivé heart.
So he will never fall in love.
And he won't fall in love tonight.
"Welcome, darling," a blue-skinned woman with green eyes greets him as he enters. She is standing behind a podium with a huge open book full of names and numbers. Everything is dimly lit in tones of red and cream. There is a lounge area, a sea of couches and glass tables, and a few meters away there is a bar, adorned with every unusual bottle of liquid you can think of. The Pakskka workers are sitting cross-legged with their guests or standing at the bar laughing a bit too loudly at jokes that must fall flat.
"What can I do for you?" the woman continues?
He doesn't know. He stammers.
"...My dear, is this your first time at the Palace?"
The title throws the woman off. She leans forward, peering at him with suspicion, looking him up and down. When she gives a faint start, he realizes she has recognized what the braid behind his ear means.
"Awwww," she coos, her tone even more dulcet than before, "You are new, indeed. Are you looking for your first time?"
He swallows against a dry throat, feels the walls unsticking as he opens his mouth. "Yes."
Something like compassion glints in her eyes before she reveals a toothy smile. "I know just the one for you." Putting on large thick glasses, she leans down over the open book, muttering to herself for a few moments.
"Ah!" she shrieks delightedly, pointing at a spot on the paper. "Crimson!" He knows at once it's an alias. "Yes, Crimson! Oh, she's an angel!"
Are you an angel? He had said.
"She is on the second floor...Room 282. You have as long as you need with her."
He nods and fishes around in his pocket. "How much will that be, milady?"
She shakes her head. "Not a thing, darling. This one's on the house! This one's from me...to you." Her voice is silkiest at the end of her sentence. She points behind her and the wide wooden staircase, and Anakin, building up the nerve, takes his steps slowly and deliberately.
Halfway down the hall, Anakin wonders if this Crimson girl will look like Padmé at all.
He's not sure if he wants her to.
Grabbing someone's hips and wishing they were another pair seems unkind in his eyes. But all these nights in his little room, it has been thoughts of Amidala that leave him panting under the covers. No other woman has ever crossed his mind. Not in that way. What if this Crimson girl has Padmé's eyes, or hair, or lips, and he touches them all, only to have the illusion shatter?
There is no more time to debate. He feels himself sweating bullets as he knocks three times.
The door opens slowly on its own.
The room is drenched in red light. The paint is chipped, the walls are cracked, and the floor creaks beneath his feet. In contrast, everything looks exceptionally clean. The wooden floor shines in the light, the bed is perfectly made, and a strong smell of disinfectant lingers in the air. A nightstand each stands on both sides of the bed, with large deactivated lamps.
A woman is sitting on the other side of the matters with her back to him. He can make out a waterfall of black curls cascading down her back, tied into a loose braid.
Anakin makes to close the door, but it closes, again, on its own. He suddenly has a suspicious feeling why he was assigned this woman in particular.
"Not many Jedi come around here," the woman says, standing up slowly. "Certainly never a Padawan."
The rational part of his brain assumes this must be a trap. She could be an undercover Jedi, or worse, a Sith. No other logical explanation can there be for her presence in the Force.
"I would have never guessed the Force could reside in places like this," he responds eventually, his hand underneath his robe.
She turns around and walks purposefully up to her guest. "Then we are both pleasantly surprised."
Anakin is taken aback. Whereas the women displayed outside were dressed in glamorous garb and heavy makeup, Crimson is completely barefaced, dressed in nothing but a white shimmering slip. Her cheeks are soft-edged, supporting a flat wide nose, almond-colored eyes, and thick unthreaded eyebrows. The only crimson thing about her is is the lipstick that accents her already-pronounced cupid's bow. Her bare feet curl into the floor as she watches him observe her.
His hand relaxes underneath his robe. She is harmless. Whatever she is, she is no threat.
The steely caution is replaced by his initial nerves.
"What's your name?" Crimson asks him. "Or do you prefer not to have one?"
Against all better judgment (thank Force Obi-Wan is not with him), he says, "My name is Anakin."
Crimson smiles, raising her hand for a handshake. "What a beautiful name. I am pleased to meet you, Anakin."
He takes her hand, praying she doesn't feel his trembling. "...Pleased to meet you too, milady."
"'Milady!'" Crimson's free hand goes to her heart. "My, my. A boy with manners. They don't usually come around here."
A twinge of pity stings his heart, but it's overshadowed by his defiance. "I'm not a boy. Today is my twentieth birthday." The words are not finished leaving his mouth before he feels embarrassed.
She uses the same hand that touched her heart to lightly touch his cheeks. "Never lose the boy inside of you, Anakin. It keeps the man from falling into darkness." She let her fingers gently trail down the length of his braid, coming to rest on his shoulder. "What can I do for you tonight?"
There is still time to back out. There is still time to decline and run back home, to the safety of his hotel room, alone with his thoughts and the Force.
"I've never...done anything with a woman before," he says. "I want to know...what I'm missing. What it's like."
He then realizes that they are still holding hands. Crimson uses this to her advantage, leading him further into the room, to the front of the bed. "I would be honored to show you, Anakin." She lets go of his hand and moves to peel his robe off his shoulders. "If you have any ideas of what you want to do?-"
"N-no," he shakes his head, "not really...I'd much rather trust what you do."
She gathers his robe and drapes it over a tiny armchair against the draped window. "And trust, you can. The moment you feel uncomfortable, tell me to stop. When you feel an urge, act on it. There is no wrong way here."
He nods jerkily, sitting down, kicking off his shoes and squeezing his knees.
Crimson takes her time walking over to him, until her legs are slipping between his knees, parting them to make room for her. He looks up from the hem of her slip to her face, noting that she isn't wearing a bra.
"I want you to tell me how you feel right now," she murmurs, cupping his face in her hands.
Her fingers press gently to both sides of his temple. "Good," she purrs. "Now, close your eyes..."
It's not a hard request; her fingers are massaging him, relieving his tension and his fear. He closes his eyes.
"Keep breathing slowly. Use your other senses."
He understands what she means when feels her climb onto his lap, settling him between her thighs. His hands are numb at his sides. He is still nervous.
"Use your senses...explore..." she whispers sultrily, her breath gliding over his face.
Hesitantly, his hands lift off the mattress and rest on her knees, beginning a slow journey up her outer thighs, marveling at her softness, slipping underneath the hem of her slip until his fingers recognize the curve between her legs and her backside, and is she really not wearing any panties? His palms burn.
He can feel her gentle removal of his utility belt, can vaguely register shrugging off his leather vest, removing his hands from their ministrations to pull the outer robe off until his loose under-shirt is revealed. Her breath dances across his exposed chest, leaving goosebumps in its wake.
He can hear her breathing-slightly shallow, long and drawn out, as if she can breath his essence in and keep it inside her. He can hear his ears pounding, can hear the silk against skin as she wraps her legs further around him, her heels touching his lower back.
He can sense, lazily, her presence through the force. He senses surface feelings of care and lust, understanding and patience, before he bumps into a brick wall of a mind shield. Neither one of them mention it out loud or through the Force, but it is clear he is looking for a place he cannot go to. So he stops.
He hears, he feels, and he senses. But now, with his hands splayed across her back and her thigh's grip on his pelvis, he really just wants to taste.
He opens his eyes to find her face a few centimeters from his own. Her scarlet lips are parted. Her breath smells like cinnamon. Choppily, he tilts his head upward to kiss her. He is unsure, slow and overwhelmed. She is patient, slow and gentle. The sensation is mind-blowing-her mouth feels submissive and yet in control. He asked her to show him, and she is; guiding his movement and pace, flicking her tongue across his lower lip invitingly.
As the kisses deepen and quicken in pace, a pressure builds between the apex of her thighs and the center of his crotch. He knows what it is, has nurtured it in his solitude, and suddenly feels too hot in his cotton pants.
Crimson smiles against his mouth. "Let me," she whispers, pulling away from him. She quickly pulls his pants down and leaves his legs shivering with the need to feel her weight on them again. The moment his feet are freed of the offending fabric, Crimson puts her hands on his chest and gently pushes him down. The mattress is plush against his back. Her thighs are plush around his hips. The sensation will imprint his memory in years to come: the first time a woman wraps her legs around him.
"How do you feel?"
How do I feel? He wonders. I feel like I will explode and shatter beneath you. I feel like I'm falling into redness and never want to escape.
Instead of answering, he uses his hands to speak to her, greeting her thighs, her hips, her waist, and then the faint swell of her breasts. She is biting her lip, an action that sends more blood to the prisoner trapped in his underwear.
"Good," she coos, "very good. . .don't be afraid... do what feels right inside."
He can see no other option except what feels right. It feels right to lift his hips up against hers, to let her push back and bring him relief, to squeeze the cheeks of her backside, to push his head into the mattress...it all feels right.
Crimson falls forward on top of him, kissing the exposed part of his chest and lightly scratching his neck with her fingernails, and in a surprising move, he turns them over until she is the one writhing beneath him. Hands are traveling like nomads over canyons of skin, hot breaths mingling into one, legs twisted like braided hair. Nothing is as he thought it would be; his underwear is strained, his lips are swollen, his shirt is sticking to his skin, everything is freezing and burning, and he loves it.
He barely notices her hand trailing down his chest until he feels a firm grip on-
"You okay?" she asks him; for all her passion, her voice remains a low and calm breath.
"Y-yes," he gasps.
"You like that?"
"Yes, yes. . ."
Crimson is turning him back over onto his back, lowering her head, pulling the fabric of his underwear down to his knees, and he still doesn't get what she's doing until he feels the warm wet texture of what is unmistakably a tongue.
Anakin's eyes roll back so far it makes his headache. A strangled cry echoes through the room when all of him is consumed by her velvet mouth. The pleasure and torture is endless; her mouth recedes, building at the tip, and then returning to the whole length of him, picking up speed and slowing down at the most inopportune moments. He weaves in and out of coherency, the frustration and pressure mounting with each second that he doesn't get to come.
When he suddenly sees that he is, in fact, going to come, right now, he grasps at his voice to warn her. "Wait...I'm-I'm-g-gonna-"
"Mm-mm," she hums in dissent, the vibration perching him at the edge, before lifting her mouth off him with a loud pop and sitting up on her knees with a grin. The near-rage at being blocked again is overpowered by his need to be inside her. To be inside someone. His shirt is too hot; he pulls it off and throws it behind him. Her slip is still on; he grips the hem and pulls it over her head for her. She has her arms over her head without him asking her to, as if she sensed what he wanted.
Her nutmeg-toned skin is smooth and unmarked under the red lights.
He dares to caress it.
Her breasts, narrow and full, fit perfectly in his palm.
He dares to put one in his mouth. She tastes of sweet spice.
The black wiry curls surrounding her sex are mysterious and tempting.
He dares to run a knuckle over them, push one finger past the hair, and explore.
His actions are driven by curiosity and desire, not skill or technique. She has to guide his finger to the small nub he's only read about, maneuver his motions-circular clockwise, counter-clockwise, up and down, side to side-but when she finally, finally starts to moan, he can touch her on his own. He feels a stab of triumph when her nails dig into his shoulders.
When she is as wet as rain, when her hips start to buck against him, when his own self-control has withered away, he looks up at her and murmurs, "I'm ready."
Crimson meets his eyes and nods. "There are so many ways to do this," she tells him breathlessly. "So many positions...do you know what you want?"
He gulps. "This is good. To start with."
She grins and pushes him back down, towering over him, preparing herself.
Anakin briefly recalls wondering if she would look like Padmé, if he would have been tempted to pretend it was Padmé to find pleasure. But the reality, relieving and disturbing, is that he hasn't thought of the Senator once.
Because this is not Padmé, and he is not keen on imagining otherwise. Everything about Crimson belongs to Crimson alone, and he is thankful for it; he can focus more on being just Anakin, from Nowhere, in Pakskka Palace.
"Just breathe," Crimson coaxes, positioning him at her opening. That limited contact is enough to make him dizzy. He tries his best to breathe deep, to control himself, so this can last.
But when she sinks down upon him, he lets out primal and strangled noises that he can't recognize as his own voice.
His eyes are closed, but he can see blue tendrils of energy winding around each other, like two souls joining through the Force.
Or he could just be delirious. It is best not to think now. Just feel. Feel the rocking of hips, the grinding of pelvis, the bone of her hips, the vibration of her voice through her body, the curve of her bosom, the sweat on her stomach, the painful pleasure of her teeth sinking into his neck, the closer, the faster, the almost there, the on the edge of the cliff, the right there, right there, right there,
He blinks back into coherency.
Crimson is curled up at his side, watching him, waiting for him. He suddenly feels overexposed. He wants to get under the covers.
"Can we get-?"
"Of course," she interrupts. He wonders how she knew, but then remembers her Force-sensitivity. Ah, well. It's not as if there's any harm in hearing those surface thoughts. He's too blissful to care.
Once under the covers, Anakin lies on his side, facing her.
"How did that feel?" Crimson asks.
Anakin's nerves return for a moment, inexplicably, but he suppresses it. "It was better than my dreams. Thank you, milady."
Crimson chuckles, but it's different, like there is a cap on a bottle muting her mirth. "You are a nice boy."
The hollow tone of voice makes him blink rapidly in confusion.
Crimson turns her back to him, sitting up slowly in bed. "You sense something?" A deep sigh. "Don't worry, honey."
But he is worried. And his eyes are starting to squint under the red light.
"Can we change this red light to something normal, please?"
Crimson stretches her arms to the ceiling and flicks her finger. The red light vanishes. The lamps on each nightstand are illuminated at once, cream-white and dimmed.
The itchiness in his eyes fade, clearing his vision. He props himself up on one elbow, looking at Crimson's exposed back. Where the red light had smudged away her flaws, the lamp lights enhanced them. Specifically, one flaw-a trio of long, deep, red scars on her middle back, clearly from a clawed hand.
"Where did you get that?"
She doesn't answer. The Force is rigid with tension.
He tries again. "Did someone hurt you?"
"Nothing for you to worry about," she replies, still as stone. After a few moments, she adds quietly, "It was the first and last time."
The implication hits Anakin like a ton of bricks. Broken memories of his mother's cries flash across his mind. He hopes she won't flinch when he touches her back, and she doesn't. His fingers trace the slashes, feeling the thickness of skin, the dented flesh, a memory of-he can see it now-a vile customer going too far.
"You're strong in the Force," he murmurs after a minute.
"Why aren't you a Jedi?"
She turns around to face him, and her youthful face is aged by resignation. She holds his gaze until he looks away, and says, "I ran away."
"I ran away from the Jedi Temple. When I was sixteen. Long time ago."
". . .Why?"
"Does it matter?" she retorts, leaning back against the headboard, unabashedly exposed. "Are you planning to leave?"
"No," he says hastily, feeling flushed around the neck. She raises an eyebrow and he feels ashamed. He shouldn't be so flustered; he's only ever thought of running away once. Twice. A few times.
"Hm. Well, I didn't plan it either. I just kept training and training...until one day I just ran."
"Did you hate your Master?"
"Did you hate the Council?"
"Did you hate the Code?"
She looks at him strangely. "Why'd I have to hate them to want to leave?"
He can find no answer, so she continues, "I didn't hate them. I don't hate anyone. I love them."
Love is forbidden, is the first thing that crosses his mind, even though she clearly doesn't mean the kind of love the Jedi forbid.
"The one thing that was forbidden," Crimson answers his silent protest, "is the one thing that made me stronger. I had a taste of what it could be, and I didn't see how being a Jedi and being in love could be so incompatible." She closes her eyes, against a wave of nostalgia. "That's the only thing I didn't agree with them on."
Everything about this revelation hits too close to home. Anakin has, for all his complaints, loved being a Jedi. He loves the chance to stop evil from spreading, to drive fear out of the innocent and into the corrupt. He loves his connection through the Force to his brethren.
He loves everything. Including Padmé.
"But you don't hate them," he offers lamely.
Crimson shakes her head, a small smile on her lips, and observes him. "You love the whole thing, I can tell. Being a Jedi means a lot to you. It should; they're the best part of the Galaxy. My favorite thing about humanity." A wavering breath. "Just be aware of what you're giving up. If it's worth the loss...if it's worth the risk."
Their eyes lock with intensity, sharing messages not even the Force is trusted to hear. It's an overwhelming wave of questions, answers, and connections. She is a kindred spirit, he realizes. Whereas he has chosen to stay on the path of the Jedi, she has taken another. It's not a path he sees for himself in the near future, nor does he really want it. But he has finally come face to face with a Jedi who left it all behind, and it's not nearly as frightening as he'd been made to believe. It's an option, even if he never chooses it.
There is only one more mystery.
"What's your name?"
He half-expects her to lie, to shut down, or to change the subject. After a pregnant pause, she speaks.
"Kalaila. Kalaila Kiner."
He tries the name out on his tongue. "Kalaila. . .that is a beautiful name."
She slips fully under the covers and nudges him with her arm. "Now you."
"I gave you my name-"
He blushes. "...Skywalker."
Crimson-Kalaila pauses before taking her hand and placing it in the curve of his neck, her expression one of great tenderness. "And walk the skies, you will. They are too vast and infinite not to travel."
There is so much compassion in her voice that he forgets to analyze her words. Anakin lies down on the pillow and pulls her to him, kissing her forehead. The silence is finally comfortable
"...so," she says after a while. "You have me until dawn. What more would you like to learn?"
It's almost comical, the fall from confident confidant to sweaty palmed boy. There is something, something he worries he doesn't have the hip-control to do. Without a word, he shifts them so she is partially underneath him, legs widening on instinct. Kalaila bites her lip devilishly and grabs his hips, positioning them in the right place.
When dawn began to rise, Anakin Skywalker gave Kalaila Kiner (aka Crimson) half of the money in his wallet and a kiss of gratitude. She remained in bed, hair tousled, lipstick smeared, and beautiful as ever while he threw his clothes on and adjusted his belt. Right before he left, he tentatively reached out to her in the Force and said, Whenever you need me, reach out.
She was still smiling when he closed the door.
Obi-Wan didn't say a word to him as he entered their hotel room. He merely gestured to the breakfast plate set up for Anakin and continued on with his own food. Although, if Anakin sneaked a glimpse here and there, he could see the smirk on his Master's face. Miraculously, it did not bother him in the least.
Anakin never saw Kalaila in person again, but after their night together, he would call out to her through the Force and feel her assurance, or she would prod him with her mental fingers to see what trouble he'd gotten into that day. The small talk or the deep conversations, late at night when he could not sleep, gave Anakin a sense of purpose. For all his blunders and shortcomings, he could still be someone's protector, ready to set fire to world for her safety, to make sure that she was all right. She seemed to know this of him, so almost every day she'd whisper, "I'm all right."
And today, six months later, when she is not all right, she whispers to him once more,
Thank you. Don't worry. Let go.
He knows, by the eerie silence in the Force that followed the thump in his chest, that she is dead. He never investigates what happened, never tells anyone, never has the courage to even seek her body. He simply lets his heart shatter where she had touched it, and he folds into himself with sorrow.
This is his first loss.