Star Wars: Kandosii'tal

Training, Part II

1 month later

Li-am residence, Obroa-skai

1 year, 5 months BBY

"Ah, hello, Initiate."

Xel sighed as he sat down hard in front of the Force holocron. "Really wish you would stop calling me that. I'm not even a Jedi."

"Even so, you are still an initiate in the ways of the Force. Now, where were we last time?"

"I think we had just gotten to Force Shields."

The holographic Jedi stroked his beard as if in thought. "Maybe, but a little review never hurt anyone," he said almost flippantly.

Xel groaned internally. Except me and my sanity. "Well then," he said in the same tone, "by all means."

"Excellent. First off, Force Sense: the primary connection of any Force-user to their source of power. Sense allows the user to detect focal points of Force energy, as well as other Force-users. This also enables anticipation of attacks, danger, and sometimes the future, depending on the user's power and the will of the Force."

"Yes, yes," Xel said impatiently, "I know this already. That was, like, the first thing I learned."

"Review never hurt anyone," the Jedi reminded him, "but I suppose we could move on a bit further."

Xel squinted and scratched his head. "Let me ask you somethin'. Do you enjoy tormenting your students?"

The master smiled slightly and let out a slight chuckle. "Force Speed: enhances the running and/or motor speed of the user based on focus and power. Force Push: a basic self-defense power for all Force-users, this directs a concentrated blast of kinetic energy at a single or multiple opponents, depending on both the power and intent of the user. Force Grip: a telekinetic ability common to all Force-users, Grip can be used to lift and move heavier objects than physically possible. Records indicate that some of the most powerful Force-users are capable of ripping kilometer-sized warships from the sky. This can also be used passively as reinforcement of one's physical strength through tactile telekinesis.

"Force Jump: a Force power that gives the user the ability to leap great heights and distances. Also known as Force Leap. Force Focus: passive power that enhances all physical and mental attributes of the user through intense focus of one's Force energies. This ability is less likely to be used by Dark Jedi and Sith due to the extreme emotional nature of their philosophy." The master noted the slight narrowing of Xel's eyes, but continued. "Force Persuasion: allows the user to influence and even control other, weaker minds. This can be used to temporarily turn loyalties or even wipe memories. Force Shield: allows the user to deflect, reflect, or simply block anything from heat to solid objects to Force powers, and even blaster bolts, depending on user focus and power."

"I need to learn that one as quickly as humanly possible. I feel naked outside my armor."

The Jedi arched an eyebrow. "Armor, eh?" He motioned with his arms a few times, sending a half dozen holographic images flittering past. "There is a more advanced form of Force Shield called Force Armor. It's more advanced and effectively puts the user in a second skin of kinetic energy. It's used primarily to defend against physical impacts, but high-level practitioners can deflect blaster bolts and other advanced weapons."

"I see..." Xel grinned and crossed his arms. "Probably never measures up to beskar'gam, though."

The master sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Yes, yes, we all know you're proud of your special armor."

"But please, continue."

"Finally," the hologram said in an exasperated tone, "Force Absorb. This is by far the most difficult 'neutral' ability to master, and allows full absorption of nearly any kind of energy, including that found in blaster bolts, Force Lightning and even Curse. Also known as Tutaminis."

"Woah. Woah-woah-woah, back up. Lightning? Curse? What the hell are those?"

The Jedi's expression turned deadly serious. "Above your level."

Xel's eyes narrowed. "Of power or clearance?"

"Both. This holocron has data on Sith abilities, but those will not be cleared for you to access unless you are knighted or your master gives explicit instructions otherwise."

Xel looked away. "Right. So, if I, oh, I don't know, have to fight one, I'll have no idea what I'm up against where power's concerned."

"It's for your own good, to prevent—"

"To prevent me from learning too much too fast and become obsessed with power, yes?"

The Jedi seemed a little stunned. "Well…yes."

Xel shrugged with a frown. "Makes sense. Doesn't mean I don't find it a little impractical, especially with the Sith in control of the galaxy."

"Perhaps." They were both silent a while. "Shall we move on?"

"Yes, that would be best."

"First off, you should know that nearly every neutral power has more advanced or specialized forms."

Xel's eyebrow raised. "Oh? Do tell. Unless, of course, I'm barred."

The guardian gave him a snarky look. "Under the, shall we say, 'tree' of Force Push, we have three variations. Force Blast: a much more intense version of Force Push, Blast causes a telekinetic explosion at the target with enough force to shatter 2-inch thick solid durasteel. This is typically built-up over a few seconds with focus. Force Wave emits a wave of kinetic energy in a single direction, blowing aside anything in its path. This can be used in a single thrust or constant push. Force Repulse is by far the most difficult, and is a power that sends an explosion of kinetic energy in all directions from the user."

"That sounds…useful. All three, I mean. When can I learn those?"

"When you've mastered Force Push."

"Right. Start at the roots, right?"

"Precisely. Under Grip lie two abilities: Force Throw and Saber Throw. Force Throw is a specialized version of Grip that is used primarily in combat, allowing the user to toss various objects at an opponent. Saber Throw is—"

"When you toss a lightsaber and call it back," he interrupted. He shrugged. "Pretty self-explanatory."

"Precisely. Under Throw, there is another more advanced form: ballistakinesis. Ballistakinesis involves accelerating small, usually harmless objects to lethal speeds, effectively using the Force as an invisible slug thrower."

Xel's eyebrows shot up. "Woah."

"Yes, it's quite powerful in the right hands, but few ever take the time or effort to learn it. It's far easier to use larger objects."

"Right. More force-slash-momentum."

"Precisely."

"So what else?"

"Well, you already know about Force Armor, but there is another form of Shield called Reflect. As one might expect, Force Reflect is an advanced ability that allows the user to deflect and even redirect blaster bolts at the shooter. It can also be used to redirect other forms of energy, like Force Lightning and fire."

Xel's eyes narrowed again. "You mentioned Lightning again."

"So I did."

"So, Sith can create lightning."

"Some, yes," he admitted. "It is a difficult ability to master, but quite powerful and difficult to defend against without use of a lightsaber."

"What do you mean?"

The Jedi sighed. "Well, I suppose there's no danger so long as you don't know the details…" He refocused on Xel. "If you ever, by some terrible stroke of Fate, find yourself up against a Sith with this ability, focus on your lightsaber and keep it between you and them. Because its blade is effectively made of frozen light, a lightsaber is slightly polarized to keep the shaft from collapsing or becoming unstable. It is this polarity that attracts the electrons disturbed during a lightning strike."

"So the saber would absorb the incoming lightning."

"Exactly."

Caden stroked his chin in thought. "Awesome."

The Jedi smiled. "Glad you think so, and see? We're not all 'mystical monks.'"

Xel blushed furiously.

The guardian laughed. "There's quite a bit of rational thought that goes into being a Jedi, and using a lightsaber is just as much science as art."

"Okay, question. What if I go up against a Sith with knowledge of Force Lightning and don't have a lightsaber?"

He raised an eyebrow. "At this point in time, with your level of experience?" He leaned toward Xel for emphasis. "Run."

Xel looked off at a wall and thought about it for a second before shrugging. "Fair enough." He was quiet a while. "Exactly how much damage can Lightning do?"

The master hesitated. "Depending on the user, it can be anywhere from a static shock to the full power of a lightning bolt…sustained."

Caden cringed. "Ouch."

"It is, to the untrained or unprepared victim, painfully lethal."

"And I'm guessing beskar won't protect very much against that."

"Unless you've found a way to make metal non-conductive, no."

"Shab."

"Quite right."

They were silent a while. "Anything else you want me to know?"

"Not about that."

"Right, no, I mean, on the 'neutrals.'"

"Ah. Well, there is one more advanced technique called Force Sight. Related to Force Sense, it allows the user to recreate a scene in their mind based on the latent Force energy of the living beings involved in what happened. This can also be used if the beings in question have just died."

"So…someone who uses that could recreate, say, a murder scene in his mind, like a mental hologram or security cam."

"Precisely. This was very useful to investigative Jedi before the Order was destroyed. One notable account was Master Quinlan Vos." He did a double-take at the scowl Xel shot him. "What is wrong, Initiate?"

"I dunno if you heard the whole truth about Vos during the Clone Wars, but…" He shook his head. "He was an arrogant hut'uun,from what my dad told me. Treated his troops like slaves."

"That…is not the Jedi way."

Xel sneered. "Wasn't much of a Jedi. Went 'dark' at some point. Lot of people, mostly clones, wished the Jedi had killed him instead of bringing him back to the Light."

"That is not the Jedi way."

"Well, in case you can't tell, I don't give a vrelt's shebs about the Jedi way." He crossed his arms. "And neither did my buir." They were both silent a while.

"I think that's enough for one day," the guardian said at last.

"Yeah," Xel agreed, standing up and reaching over to the holocron. "Thanks for the lesson."

"It was no problem."

The hologram winked out of existence before Xel slumped back in his chair, a heavy sigh escaping his lips.

"You know, that last ability, Sight, I can do that sometimes."

Xel's blue eyes snapped to the doorway on his right to see Alen standing there toweling off his hands. His injuries from their encounter with the bounty hunters had healed relatively quickly, as Telia had predicted, but the slight crook in his formerly broken nose was quite evident. Jedi healing trances were quite useful, as she'd proven, but when Xel could no longer feel his brother's pulse, he nearly panicked. She'd assured him he was alive and encouraged him to feel his life in the Force, which he did with relief.

"At distance," she'd said, "this becomes more difficult, even with a Force Bond such as the one we share."

"So, if you were on another planet and decided to go into this…trance, I wouldn't be able to tell if you were alive."

"Exactly, but you would know if I was dead."

"How…does that make any sense?"

"Tell me something, Xel…when Xander died, what did you feel?"

His eyes had gone wide in recognition. "Like my heart was being torn out."

"I…felt something similar, but not quite as powerful. I suppose it was the distance. That's why I couldn't be sure, even if I couldn't feel the other end of our Bond. Maybe I just didn't want to believe it. When you told me, though…"

Xel snapped himself back to the present and rose from his seat. "You ever gotten an opportunity to try it out?"

Alen shrugged. "Yeah, once or twice. Still pretty difficult for me, and before you ask, no, I haven't tried it on a crime scene yet."

Caden's eyebrows furrowed. "What then?"

Alen sucked his lower lip into his mouth in an attempt to hide his smile.

"What did you do?" Xel asked with a roll of his eyes.

"I kind of…" He snickered. "The cookie jar."

"Huh?"

"When I was younger. Mom would always hide the cookie jar in different places 'cause no matter what, I could always find a way to reach it. When I found out about Force Sight from the holocron, I tried it out. Took me six months to pull it off, but I finally did it. Had to make Mom move the jar first though."

Xel's eyebrows furrowed. "Why's that?"

"Force Sight only works if there's latent Force energy to interpret. Essentially, whatever you're seeing has to have been done fairly recently, otherwise it won't work."

"Gotcha…so even the Force has limits."

"Well…no. The Force has no limits. We do. We're vessels for its power, or conduits, depending on how you look at it. The quality of that vessel determines how much Force power we can wield. In this case, latent Force energy doesn't stick around forever, so even the most talented practitioners would be stumped by a cold case."

"Makes sense." Xel turned away and thought for a while. "Would you…nah."

"What?"

He made eye contact. "Would you like to spar?"

Alen's eyebrows went up. "Like, hand-to-hand or—?"

"Or."

The Jedi shrugged and nodded. "Sure. You'd need a saber, though."

"That won't be a problem."

Both boys smiled at the new arrival, who was brushing snow out of her robes as she pulled back her hood. Telia reached for her belt, unclipping her lightsaber and handing it to Xel. "Use mine."

"Thanks, buir."

She smiled warmly as she stepped aside to give them room.

"You ready to get your shebs handed to you?"

Alen rolled his eyes and grinned. "What did I say about mouthing off?"

"Just shut up and fight, I know."

Two blades sprang to life with identical snap-hisses as emerald and sapphire faced off, crossing in an Aggressive Neutral position after activating the weapons' secondary "training" modes.

"Don't take it easy on me, vod."

"If I don't, it won't be a fair fight."

"If I'm up against a Sith, you really think they'll care?"

Alen opened his mouth silently.

"Train for realism, vod. It's the only way to be truly prepared." Xel raised Telia's saber hilt to his shoulder, the blade angled straight upward in Defensive Neutral. "Now come on."

Alen saluted with his blade before thrusting forward in a seamless, one-handed stab. Xel spun his right wrist counter-clockwise, deflecting the blow to the side with his blade angled down before snapping his wrist upward, angling the blade forward and thrusting. Alen sidestepped the strike with ease, twirling around his brother and aiming several slashes at his shoulder and legs. Xel's quick reflexes paid off as he avoided one strike after the next, parrying and dodging in equal amounts.

"You're holding back," Xel pointed out.

"No," Alen retorted, "I'm warming up."

A quick stab at Caden's midsection was blocked, but Alen turned the sideways momentum into a turn, swinging upward and right before snapping back in the blink of an eye in a neckward slash. Xel ducked under the strike, using his crouched position to roll to his brother's left side, cutting at his legs and hitting empty air as Alen leapt over the green blade. Unfortunately, his position also left him vulnerable to a falling side-kick that sent him rolling across the floor. Quickly regaining his balance, Caden rose to his feet, withdrawing rapidly as Alen went on the attack. A thrust was redirected and countered with a wide slash.

Alen ducked the strike and returned a slice of his own. Xel angled his midsection backward to avoid being hit, the heat of the blade felt through his shirt even though it was not currently lethal. The Mando caught Alen's blade with his own, pushing their lock to the side and shoving his shoulder against his brother's, knocking him back a step. Alen called on the Force and somersaulted over Xel's head, but his opponent shifted his grip underhandedly and stabbed backward. If he hadn't seen it coming, Alen would have lost the match. As it were, the tip of Xel's blade shot past his face by inches, and Alen closed the distance rapidly, grabbing his shoulder and shoving him forward. Xel rolled and spun back toward him, twisting around a thrust and spinning 360 degrees to deliver a powerful horizontal strike.

Alen's guard was battered away by the blow for barely a moment before he readjusted, aiming to redirect rather than block his brother's attacks. As their duel progressed, Alen's eyes narrowed at Xel's change of approach. His movements were large, wide, and sweeping, almost exaggerated. It was like he was trying to give him an opening. Wary, Alen decided to take him up on his offer, dodging another wide strike and closing the distance with a ducking slash at his midsection. Faster than he thought possible, Xel brought his blade back in the opposite direction to Alen's strike, and only a quick pivot on Alen's part kept his saber in his hand.

The surprise on Alen's face was priceless in Xel's eyes, and his grin betrayed his thoughts as the Jedi suddenly found himself on the defensive as color flooded his cheeks. "Thought Makashi was supposed to counter Shii-Cho."

"Shut up," Alen scolded, embarrassed.

Before he could say more, Xel pressed the attack with several progressively more powerful vertical strikes, finishing with a leap and downward slash on his way down. Spotting this, Alen twisted and rolled to the side, calling on the Force to keep his breathing and heart regulated as sweat streamed down both their bodies. Xel settled into a relentless plan of attack, not letting up for a second or giving his brother an opening. His blade was a blur of emerald light, Alen's having to move just as fast to stay in the game. Finally, the Jedi was backed into a corner. Xel charged with a diagonally upward strike, spinning mid-step to add power.

Alen waited until the last possible instant to step to the side and angle his blade vertically, redirecting Xel's strike away from his body and giving him the opening he needed. A rising cut to the midsection won him the match. To him, Xel's gaping expression of disbelief was just as priceless.

"You still got a lot to learn, little brother."

Xel glowered at him as he closed down Telia's saber. "Hey, I held my own." He rolled his eyes at Alen's smirk and raised eyebrows. "Let me guess, you were holding back." A snicker on his brother's part confirmed this as he walked away. "Shabuir. I told you not to."

"I know," he laughed as he wiped his face off, "I just couldn't help myself."

Xel glared at him as Telia watched them impassively. "Try harder then. I need to know my limits, and I'm not gonna find them with you jerking me around." He strode out of the room, handing Telia her saber as he made his exit.

Alen turned to his mother, who was giving him a disapproving expression. "What?"

"He's right, you know."

"Oh come on. You can't expect me to just cut loose. I don't want to crush him."

Telia shook her head, eyes closed. "He's not like you, Alen. His father raised him to be mandokarla. A lot encompasses that word. Toughness, skill, strength, and most importantly, determination." She sighed and leaned back against a nearby wall. "Mandalorians have a saying that I think sums up our necessary approach perfectly. Mishuk gotal'u meshuroke, pako kyore: pressure makes gems, ease makes decay. Do you see? He needs to be crushed to some degree, Alen. It's the way he was trained, and probably the only way he'll really learn."

"I…I see." Alen looked away, silent for a while. "I will…meditate on this."

"See that you do."


2 days later

"Anger can't solve everything."

"No, but neither can serenity. When I was on that ship with you getting clubbed to death ten feet away, there wasn't time for serenity, for that kind of emotionless focus. I had to act, so I did."

"At what cost?"

Xel gave him a strange look. "None, from where I can see. I took out the hunters, saved your life, and captured the ship. No one was the wiser to who we are or where we live."

"You used your rage."

"So? I knew what I was doing."

"But will you always?"

Xel sat back in his chair, closing his mouth in frustration. They'd been having this philosophical discussion for the last half hour and neither seemed to be getting a leg up over the other. "Okay, you have a fair point. I'm not saying I should rely exclusively on my anger. I'm just saying I shouldn't be afraid to from time to time."

"And why not? If you tap into your anger a little, who's to say it won't grow?"

"So what if it did? It'd just mean I had access to more power."

"At the cost of—"

"Cost of what? My control? My rationality? Even if I lose control of how I fight someone, I still know who it is I'm fighting. I still choose who it is I'm fighting. On that ship, I chose to use my anger. Chose."

Alen sighed in exasperation. He was getting nowhere and he knew it. Surprisingly, Telia, who was sitting in another room within earshot, hadn't entered the conversation yet.

"Look, you were raised as a Jedi, so you were taught not to use anger as a trigger. That's fine, that's your choice. Notice, your choice. If I make a different one—" he shrugged, "—so what? Even the holocrons admit that the Dark Side only dominates your mind and heart if you choose to let it in."

"And you think that opting to use anger and rage isn't letting it in?"

"Well…" Xel fell silent. "I don't know. Maybe. A little."

Alen's eyebrows shot up. "A little? The hell does that mean?"

"I…I don't know." He weaved his fingers through his hair. "I'm not cut out for this mystic debating osik."

"I wouldn't know about that," Alen said, crossing his arms. "You're doin' a pretty good job of being a pain."

Xel heard Telia's snicker from the next room. "Regardless, I'm not a Jedi. I am a Mandalorian with a warrior culture that counts serenity as pure osik and a lie. A myth and affront to sentiency itself. To stop feeling is to stop living, and I don't know about you, but I like life very much."

Alen raised his hands in a placatory manner. "Look, I'm not saying you shouldn't feel, 'cause everyone in this family knows that doesn't work. I'm just saying you shouldn't let those feelings control you."

Xel's brain stalled a bit. "What? Wait, then we just made a complete circle back to this control osik, which means I'm still beating you."

"Until you lose it."

Xel's teeth clenched. "I won't."

Alen put two fingers to his temple as he furrowed his brows in concentration. "Something tells me…you already have."

Xel let out a derisive laugh. His mental shields were up, so there was no way Alen could have anything to go on. His face was a sardonic mask until he really thought about what his brother was saying.

"You did, didn't you?"

Xel looked down, thinking hard until his eyes widened in realization. The sounds of Telia's small movements in the other room stopped. Xel rose from his seat and made for the backdoor, going outside into the cold winter air and shielding himself in the Force as his breathing became labored. The soft crunch of boots on snow alerted him to an approaching presence.

"When?"

Xel gulped. "Two months ago. Nar Shaddaa."

Alen's eyes widened. "You mean—"

"Not an hour before Dad's death." Xel's expression turned to one of horror. "Alen…Mom said that whenever someone uses the Force, they give off a signature."

"Yeah?"

Xel clawed his fingers through his hair. "It was me," he said almost inaudibly.

"What?"

He turned to Alen slowly. "It was me. I—I lost it when we were up against a bounty and I was able to…do things." His fists clenched. "Things that…didn't seem possible. I destroyed him. Beat him within an inch of his life. A man over twice my age and experience, stronger, faster, and I destroyed him." His eyes closed as he exhaled hard, anger and frustration rising. "I should've realized it sooner."

"You used the Force. For the first time."

Xel locked gazes with him, a scowl on his face. "It wasn't Dad, Alen. It was me."

Alen's ice-blue eyes widened to their max. "No…it couldn't have—"

"Who else could it have been? Dad wasn't using the Force to any degree I could tell, and from what you told me, he knew how to keep himself hidden even if he did to a minor degree." He looked away, blue eyes boring a hole in the snow. "It was me." They were both silent a long time.

"Fierfek," was all Alen said.

"I'm sorry," Xel choked out after another long minute, the snow beneath him melting away in dots as hot tears fell. A firm hand on his shoulder finally broke what little control he had.

His knees hit the snow as Alen stepped forward to crouch behind him, his arms encircling his brother's shoulders tightly as he outright bawled, too absorbed in his grief and self-loathing to notice the woman standing by the backdoor. Too focused on his pain to feel the touch over their Bond until comfort and love crashed into him like tidal waves.

"You are not to blame, my son." Telia's warm, loving arms encircled him as she mentally transmitted what was for Xel alone. "You are not responsible for the actions of anyone but yourself. You didn't know it would happen. How could you? Alen doesn't blame you. I don't blame you. Your father wouldn't blame you. So don't blame yourself."

His free arm just clenched around her torso, holding her as close as possible as he emptied himself, absorbing everything she was giving him and feeling a small part of his soul restored even as he blocked her from his thoughts. He wasn't to blame, but he damn well knew who was.

Vader.


1 week later

"Clear your mind."

"I thought we already established that doesn't work for me?"

"Maybe not in a one-on-one fight, but when you're trying to deflect bolts from multiple sources, power alone won't get you anywhere. You need connection."

Xel exhaled hard and raised Telia's saber again as five training remotes rose to greet him with a zap each. He ducked under the first two, blocking the other three as they fired in rapid succession and preparing himself for the second volley. Telia couldn't help but feel proud of her son. In just two months, he was already performing Force and lightsaber techniques that most younglings took years to master. Xel was still rough around the edges, but then, who so new to the ways of the Jedi wasn't?

Another zap managed to make its way through his defenses, and he cursed under his breath as he executed another combat roll, rising to swing his blade in a rough arc that deflected the next two incoming shots but left him vulnerable to another aimed at his thigh. He leapt over a table, swinging his blade into position 4 to deflect another shot and spinning about to see the remotes floating ever closer. His teeth clenched, anger rising as he tried to clear his mind. The remotes stopped in their tracks, floating lower as Telia walked toward him.

"Focus, Xel. Focus on timing, on anticipation, not confrontation. You're getting hit not because you don't know what's going to happen, but because you're just picking targets arbitrarily and not in the order they're coming. Focus on order. Order, Xel."

Caden took a deep breath, releasing it as he tapped into the Force and closed his eyes. The Force swirled through him, curling around his limbs and saber until he Focused it there. His eyes snapped open as a confident smile rose to his face, his weapon suddenly feeling like an extension of his body. Xel gave his mother a nod, and she waved her hand, activating the remotes again and sending them toward him full-tilt. His saber blurred as it twirled in an intricate pattern of slashes and deflects, and Telia could tell that he wasn't really controlling the blade at all. He had begun learning to let go, to release his control to the Force.

The remotes were suddenly less than nothing to him, but that power was getting to his head, and slowly but surely, his Focus began to slip. He was still able to hold them all back, though, having established a strong enough connection to keep going with just a little more effort. A flying box out of nowhere slammed into his back, knocking him off-balance and leaving him vulnerable to a hailstorm of remote zaps.

"What the hell?!"

"Sith don't play fair, remember?"

Xel glared at Alen, swinging his blade upward and catching a bolt before getting one to the side and another to the back. His Focus was completely gone, and the pain was making him reckless. The green blade swung in several arcs, catching bolt after bolt as Xel defaulted to the same Soresu drill he'd performed when first working with the remotes. Which is when Alen slammed him with the box again. He kept the Circle of Shelter up regardless, one of the remotes flanking and shooting him in the back. The box, a zap, another zap, another hit with the box. Sparks, fire, frustration, anger. Xel's teeth were grinding together as his rage began to build, the pain fueling the fire smoldering within until it was fanned into a blaze.

The box flew toward him again, and he spun toward it, outright taking the pain from his robotic attackers to slash a burning hole into it. Roaring, Xel batted one bolt out of the air after the next until he saw the damaged box coming toward him again. The emerald blade swung horizontally, cutting the wooden projectile in half before it deactivated.

Xel, panting with exertion and bubbling anger, tossed the inactive weapon aside, storming toward the back.

"Xel," Telia tried.

He just growled and kept walking.


"You know, you can't just run away every time you get frustrated."

Xel snarled at Alen. "Usen'ye."

His brother did the exact opposite.

The look of surprise on Xel's face when he recoiled from a sudden punch to the cheek was…well, priceless.

"Let's go."

Xel's eyes narrowed. "What are you doing?"

"Well you're obviously looking for a fight, and Mom sure as hell won't give it to you, so let's go." His next series of jabs was deflected almost effortlessly by Xel, the younger boy's Mando training kicking in instantly.

"I'm not fighting you."

"Yes, you are."

Alen snap-kicked his brother in the gut, his speed driven with the Force. Xel snarled and straightened himself immediately, falling into a ready stance as Alen pressed forward with a flurry of blows. Jab, cross, hook, knee. Xel blocked or dodged it all, countering every few moves but never landing a hit. Alen leapt over him using the Force, sweeping his legs out with a trip-kick and leaping onto him, leveling punch after punch against him. Xel's arms were held up as a shield, his hips bucking and jostling his brother off. Xel rolled sideways into a crouch, kicking at his unbalanced brother's head and growling as Alen effortlessly deflected the strike and flipped away.

"You're fighting both of us and you don't even know it."

"I'm trying damn you!"

A jab from Alen was caught and countered with a hook on his jaw that, once again, never landed. Instead, Alen leaned into the strike, turning his momentum against him and throwing him over his shoulder onto his front, pinning him once again and holding him in an arm bar. Xel's anger and frustration were palpable.

"Think, Xel. You think we want you to suppress your anger? It's impossible long-term, it never works. All that happens is a pressure build until it finally explodes, and that's the last thing we want happening."

Xel kept struggling rather vainly.

"But," Alen grunted as he shoved his brother down again, "that doesn't mean we like what you're doing with it now."

"What are you talking about?" Xel hissed through clenched teeth.

"You said control is what keeps you from the Dark Side, that you choose to use your anger, but you're not. You're getting angry. There's a difference."

"How?"

"Use it."

Xel's teeth gritted harder.

"Use it, Xel."

The younger boy dug deep, even deeper than he did on the hunters' ship, finding that spark already crackling out of control. Out of control. A mental hand closed around the spark, keeping it contained. He could feel it hammering against the back of his mind, struggling to get out as the pain in his twisted arm started to intensify. No, this is my fight. My life. My choice. Xel's lips curled up in a snarl as a roar built in his throat, rising to a fever pitch mere seconds later.

"Get...off!"

A wave of Force energy slammed upward into Alen, punting him ten feet into the air and freeing Xel from his grip. The Mando got to his feet less than a second later, his anger present but not dominant. Under the rage and scowling, Alen could feel his brother clearly, could feel his will directing that inner fire wherever he wanted, and right then, Alen was about to get baked. The Jedi charged in headlong, his more acrobatic style giving him a slight agility advantage…or so he thought. The moment he performed a flying kick, Xel leapt up to meet him, catching his outstretched leg with one open hand and slamming his chest with the other.

Alen's back planted on the ground, and Xel lifted his entire body, throwing him against a nearby wall and charging in. The series of blows leveled against Alen sent shots of pain up his arms even as he blocked, Xel taking advantage of his sudden sluggishness to grab both appendages and throw him over his shoulder. Alen recovered with a roll, scrambling to his feet and driving Xel back with a push-kick. The younger boy spun around a jab and elbowed Alen in the side of the head, then pushed him back before calling on the Force, a wave of kinetic energy slamming into the Jedi and plastering him to the wall. As he heaved for breath, Xel held his brother in place for a few more seconds before releasing him and dropping his hands, collapsing to one knee as he caught his breath.

"Do you see now?"

Xel looked up at him and nodded slowly, allowing his anger to drain away now that he no longer needed it. "Yes." He sluggishly rose to his feet. "Thank you."

"For the match or the lesson?"

"Both."

Alen smiled as they locked hands, his brother pulling him into an unexpected hug. He laughed lightly as they pulled apart. "Any time."


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