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07.13.2012 , 10:53 PM |
Catching Up: Quinn’s appearance forces Ruth Niral to face some stuff that she’s been putting off for a long time. 1500 words. Implicit Sith Warrior spoilers.
Ruth stretched and yawned when she reached her personal chambers in Kaas City. A long-planned assignment had fallen through, and she found herself with a day off.
Her aide looked up from his desk as she passed through. “My lord. I thought you would be off planet today.”
“Plans didn’t work out.”
He licked his lips nervously. “General Quinn will be visiting with Rylon within the hour.”
“Oh. Ugh. That’s just perfect. Let me know when he’s gone, I’ll be in my room.”
“Yes, my lord.”
Ruth retreated to her sparsely furnished bedroom. Ever since Rylon’s birth, she had managed to be a sector or more away from Dromund Kaas during her former husband’s visits. If he was already in the city, though, hiding was safer than fleeing.
She tried to calm herself into a Force meditation. Eventually she managed an unquiet approximation thereof. It was enough to dissolve time for a while.
A wild stirring two rooms away brought her out. She sensed a powerful gathering of the Dark Side, something no one around here could manage except her son.
She strode out to the den and threw the door open.
Rylon Niral had his father by an invisible Force grip and was raising him off the floor, choking him. Perfectly matched faces, except one was a purpling red and the other was pale and smiling.
“Stop!” Ruth rushed forward and slammed the teenager’s hand down. “You do not raise a hand against your father. Not now, not ever.”
“Let him defend himself if he’s so great,” said Rylon.
“Wrong answer,” snarled Ruth. She turned to check on Quinn. He was slowly pushing off the floor, breathing hard. She gave him a hand up without meeting his eyes.
“What good is he to you?” said their son.
“He gave you life,” said Ruth. “Isn’t that enough? He does more for the Empire in a week than most people you’ll meet do their whole lives. I can’t believe I even have to say this: you will not harm him.”
“Strong words from someone who hates him. You know this is the first time I’ve ever seen you two in the same room, and you can’t even look at him? Are you going to pretend you haven’t despised him with every breath since before I was born? I can tell him some of the things you’ve said about him.”
“Believe me, everything I’ve said about him, I’ve already said to his face.”
“You will respect your mother,” Quinn ordered. “And stop this line of questioning.”
“You’re a worthless traitor,” recited Rylon with something approaching glee. “Even by Sith standards you’re a vile backstabbing snake. You never loved her for a minute, but you gave her every false promise you could think of to keep her close. You took the best of her for profit and for pleasure, and then you tried to break her. That’s her favorite song, father. Do you know all the verses?”
“Stop it, Rylon,” hissed Ruth.
“Even you wanted to kill him. Why blame me for starting?”
“Because as your father he deserves your loyalty, and as your mother I’m telling you to
“Loyalty.” Rylon scoffed. “To him. Why you bother defending people who hate you so much, I’ll never know.” He flipped an obscene gesture at both of them as he stormed past Ruth and out the door.
Ruth held very still for the space of three breaths. They were supposed to be calming breaths, but they failed. Reluctantly she looked at Quinn.
At some point in the years since they had last spoken, grey had taken over at his temples and started scattering back through the rest of his hair. He had gained weight. He was still impeccably groomed and dressed. He held himself with pride, and the lines beginning to set in his face did nothing to mar the handsomeness she so hated. He looked well older than forty-four, but strong as ever.
(And what was he seeing? She hoped she didn’t look tired. She was wearing appropriately imposing Sith robes, so that was good. If she could have concealed the scar on her lip, she would have. He had always hated it when she failed to get injuries tended to in time to prevent scarring. But no, surely he had seen her face a thousand times on the holonews anyway. No point in hiding.)
By unspoken agreement they took another moment to reinforce their composure and hide their frustration at how little a few seconds’ examination could really tell them about each other.
Then they both talked at once: “He was inaccurate in saying I hate you,” he said. And she said “I didn’t teach him all that on purpose.”
Both of them broke off. Quinn recovered first. “I appreciate you taking my part,” he said.
“I try to cultivate respect.” The statement seemed laughable under the circumstances. “What he said, I didn’t – “
“Nothing, I, haven’t, heard, before, my lord,” he said quietly. “No explanation is necessary.” Then he shook his head. “I didn’t know you were in the area today.”
“Plans changed at the last minute. I was meditating when I…felt. What were you fighting about?”
“He isn’t always like this with you, is he?”
“No. We get along on most topics. That was by far the worst outburst I’ve seen.”
Did you earn it? she didn’t ask. “I’m sorry. I try to teach him patience, but he’s difficult some days.”
“He is fourteen years old and Sith. Neither factor is conducive to the development of self-control.” Quinn shifted to parade rest, as he often did when he was uneasy. “If he were like me, I would ask you to send him to the officers’ academy. That would straighten him out quickly enough.”
“He’ll be going to the Sith Academy soon enough.”
“He should have gone years ago.”
“You’ve never been there. It’s a slaughterhouse. I’m in no rush to throw him into it.”
“He has everything it takes to survive. And he must go, sooner or later.”
Quinn was right, of course. Ruth stared at him and tried to get her heart to catch up to her head. “Rylon is my son. If I were to lose him, too…”
“The decision is yours, of course, my lord. But there is no better place for him. If he’s half the warrior you are or half the tactician I am he will thrive. And butting heads among his own kind will teach him a thing or two about his own strength and how to wield it.” He clenched his jaw for a moment. “We could go on as we have been. But you won’t be there to stop him next time.”
And that was the deciding factor. “I know.”
Now that they were face to face, she could think of a great many things to ask or say. Most of them would invite a needless fight. So instead she lifted her chin and reminded herself that she was the Emperor’s Wrath, the greatest warrior in the galaxy, and not easily hurt.
“It was you,” he said.
“Rylon and I were quarreling about you. I pressed him about your status, perhaps more than I should have, and it escalated. A great deal. He’s very protective of you.”
That was news, but not unpleasant. “Yes. He is.”
“Perhaps I didn’t have the right to ask about you in the first place.”
“No. You didn’t.”
He was definitely frowning at her scar. She wondered, very briefly, whether he was just annoyed that she hadn’t kept herself pretty enough for his taste. He had always been distressed about the injuries that left marks. Until he decided to try his hand at it himself.
“Let’s keep this about him,” she said. “I’ll talk to him and I’ll make the arrangements for Korriban. I can keep you updated, if you wish, when he goes.”
“I would appreciate that, my lord.”
“Very well.” And then, just like the day she had banished him from her life: “Dismissed.”
He looked hurt this time, too.
She didn’t know what to say to Rylon just yet. She didn’t know what to say to herself. Quinn was necessarily a part of her son’s world, but he was never, never supposed to cross her path. She couldn’t name what she had felt the moment she saw Rylon hurting him. She only knew she had felt a lot of it.
Had Rylon really picked all that up from her?
It didn’t matter. If her son hated Quinn, it was because Quinn deserved it. Even though Rylon wasn’t supposed to have overheard all those condemnations for all those years, they were all true, and Quinn had personally earned every word of them.
But that back there, beating on a man who for all his cruel strength couldn’t defend himself against a Sith, that was unacceptable.
It would seem she had a lot to take care of.
I don’t know that “catching up” is the term, but Quinn hasn’t seen Ruth in quite some time, and the encounter abruptly reels in a small boatload of stuff that had been trailing behind in denial territory for close to a decade and a half. So there’s that.
I’m surprised at how much I struggled with this one. It is by far the latest entry in the Niral timeline, and I don’t know where it goes from here.
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