He's Force-sensitive and he's just learned it from a Sith, of all people. A Darksider. Warning him of the dangers he now faces at the revelation and his subsequent acknowledgement (albeit with a hint of denial, still) of the new reality he now must live with.
Arctus' throat seizes, closing up and making him struggle to get air into his lungs. It feels as if a pair of cold hands have found their way around his neck to strangle him gleefully while Coven's words play in his mind on repeat. Like a broken holorecord.
The Force sticks to you heavily Arctus.
The Force echoes like a beacon around you, my friend, drawing forces such as I towards you.
You thrum with the cloying scent of the Darkside, Arctus.
There are things far more dangerous than myself who would love to find one such as you.
Grabbing another bottle, the smuggler's hands shake as he tries to pull the cap off. The bottle slips from his grasp. He tries to catch it, but the force of his grip is too tight that he ends up crushing the glass in his hand. The sharp edges slice his palm, blood mixing with alcohol as they flow down, down, down...
He can't breathe. His palm is sliced open, he needs to stop the bleeding, kriff the wound will not kill him but it hurts, it hurts, and yet it feels so good he needs more–
Not upon yourself.
Hazel grey eyes widen at the voice that isn't his own. Arctus straightens on his seat, looking around in search of the speaker despite knowing full well that he's alone in his ship. He's still in the spaceport on Corellia, recently returned to the Cyar'ika after visiting his family. After the encounter with Coven. After visiting another bar to drown himself in alcohol to somehow forget what he's just learned about himself and beating himself up for not asking Mum if Dad's really his father and not the wandering space monk the gossipmongers have been talking about – the Jedi he must have inherited this karking Force from–
Other people might be happy about the revelation, but Arctus isn't one of them. Confirming that he's Force-sensitive only mean two things: One, he's not Dad's son. Two, the beatings and harsh words he's received as a child have been justified. No married man in his right mind wants to find out that his wife's carrying the child of another man, right?
Kriffing stars above, he's thirty-two already, he shouldn't be affected by dramatic shit like this anymore. He just needs to man up, accept things for what they are, and move on like what he's learned is nothing–
(But Arctus is still that hurting little kid who just wants even a morsel of Dad's love because he loves his old man, he really does, despite the beatings and the insults he's received and Dad walking out of their lives and never returning–)
With an enraged scream, Arctus curls in on himself, hands covering his ears as laughter – malicious, dark, and evil – fills his head with a defeaning din.
He's given himself the self-appointed task to look for a Jedi who can hopefully teach him how to stay away from the Dark Side, but what has he been doing? Oh, right.
Picking up fights on every planet he lands his ship on and hurting those who accepts his challenge. He's not so much issuing a challenge but has been actively stirring up trouble, or maybe he's just making up excuses so he can justify the sudden primal urge to hurt other people just because he can.
The voices have been screaming so loud lately, telling him nothing but to hurt them,make them bleed, show them the might of the newfound powers the Force can give you, feel them burning in your veins and just hurt. Them. All! Kill them!
His assailant lay unmoving at the foot of his ship's ramp, eyes unseeing as they stare up at him. Their skin is ashen pale, and their head is– has been tilted at an unnatural angle. Arctus scrambles up on his feet and makes a run for the Cyar'ika, closing the ramp behind him in fright.
He's done that, hasn't he? To that sentient? They jumped him, ready to gut the smuggler with a wicked looking blade when Arctus, in his panic, has lifted a hand and clenched his fist. Tight.
The voices have told him what to do. They say the sentient is trying to rob him so he must defend himself. They will help, said the voices, but only if he'll listen. They tell him to lift a hand towards the thief's direction, instructs him to draw on the Force around him, and close his fist in a crushing motion. It will make the thief unconscious, they say. Cut off their airway, Arctus, until they fall down, down asleep.
His fist has closed on nothing but air in time of the thief's neck letting out a disturbing 'crack!'
Kark. K-Kark it all to high hells.
He's just killed someone with his own mind.
The voices scream in terrible delight, and Arctus has no idea that he's put another foot forward towards the Dark Side's siren call.
Panic fills Arctus' mind in one tidal wave after another. He has killed before, he readily will admit (but not in front nor in the presence of law enforcement – he's not a fecking idiot), but this? With a clench of a fist, with his mind, and the Force?
The smuggler knows that he's far from being a good man but he can't help the shudder that wracks his body, the gravity of what he's just done leaving his mind reeling.
More, more! Do you now feel how powerful you are compared to these plebeians? The Dark Side can and will offer you more, Arctus. Just take the plunge–
Ramp now closed, the smuggler slumped bonelessly on the floor of his ship, starting to find it getting even more difficult to breathe than the last time he's been on Corellia. His heartbeats are starting to feel a little erratic, he's trembling like a leaf, and he's feeling so dizzy that his ears are filled with nothing but a loud ringing that has joined the whispers in his mind.
He can't breathe.
He needs to get up and fly the ship out and away of this strange, rocky planet.
He can't breathe.
Except he can't and suddenly he feels as if his ship doesn't deserve the name he's given to it.
He can't breathe, he can't breathe, Arctus can't feel anything else aside from the terror, fear, anger, guilt... he would've listed more troublesome things.
He can't. Breathe.
Arctus is left gasping on the floor of his ship, trying to get in enough oxygen to his body. Or maybe his lungs have finally come to reject the idea of taking in air for survival?
With trembling hands, the smuggler covers his ears as the voices start yet another morbid and hateful chorus of more, more, air blood lives pain we need more Arctus more just dive right in and let the hate flow through you!
Bile rises in his throat and Arctus retches, stomach heaving and yet nothing comes out of his mouth. He wipes a hand to his mouth nonetheless and, trying his hardest to ignore the ever-growing din in his mind, gets back up on his feet. He needs to get out of this place – out of this planet – before someone stumbles upon his ship and, subsequently, the dead body near it.
Get yourself together, Arctus! And focus on your quest!
At least he is free to break down once the ship's in hyperspace.
The Force is a disease that he cannot – can never – get rid of.
In a galaxy full of children who look up to the Jedi as if they're the stuff of legends, Arctus grew up not giving a shite about these so-called peace keepers. In his young mind, the Jedi were just glorified cops who can move stuff with their mind and fight with their equally glorified lasef swords. His younger brothers have been as crazy as these space monks-slash-wizards like the other kids, and Arctus simply couldn't see back then what the hype's all about the Jedi.
And besides, the neighbors – especially that one particular group of old ladies, gossip mongers, the lot of 'em – doesn't seem to like the Jedi. The old sods won't whisper behind Mummy's back about a wandering space monk "knocking" her up and just straight up vanishing as if he never arrived, huh? And then the looks they kept– keep giving Arctus as he grows up... that surviving old bat from hell just won't stop giving him strange looks when he comes visiting his family after that life-changing meeting with Coven. It's as if she knows somehing the smuggler doesn't, and with the Sith's revelation with regards to Arctus' Force-sensitivity he now understands.
That old kriffing lady must have been expecting that Arctus would've possessed the same blessing – curse? – his biological father has (had? He doesn't know, and he wouldn't have fecking cared if he isn't so–)
He hears voices that aren't his own. He has killed another sentient being with a thought an an outstretched fist. He is haunted by two pairs of red-gold eyes, and Arctus feels irreparably sick.
The voices demand that he hurt anyone he comes across with, to claim everything that he wants for his own, to grasp the freedom that the Darkness in his heart is offering him.
Just take the plunge, Arctus. What have you to lose?
People who show that a dumpster fire of a human being like him is worth loving, worth caring for.
Worthy of being given a second chance at life.
But the fact remained that the Force – as the gossips from the neighbors suggested in his young mind – is a sickness that he cannot ever shake off. Something that he must learn to live with. And the worst part, why he's starting to be convinced that it's a disease?
He's so close to saying "yes" to the insidious voices that plagued him, every waking moment and even in his sleep.
Sometimes, when thoughts of his family can't do much to give his brain reason to produce that sweet, sweet serotonin he craves, Arctus thinks of his lady Mando – his saviour, the angel clad in grey beskar who saved his life on Tatooine. How she gunned down the bandits who robbed him and tried to kill him, how those bastards screamed both in fear and fury as they were being felled one by one. The smuggler still wishes that he could have seen her in action that night, but her timely arrival and medical skills have been more than enough to make up for that missed opportunity.
"Yikes," she had told him when she realized that he had been spiced as kark that night. "You could've taken them out easily on your own if you were sober."
Arctus had been – and he still is – so enamored by her arrival, her actions that saved his life, how she humored him and taught him a word or two in her language (which she must have assumed he would forget once he's sobered). How his intuition the Force whispered to him that he was safe with her. Her voice, the modulator in her helmet not even marring every soft-spoken word. The way her presence felt – a touch of danger directed not to him but to unseen foes and predators hiding in the gloom.
She's the reason why he has sworn off the spice, and here he is now, in the privacy of his quarters, snorting one, powdery white line after another in the hopes of shutting the voices down.
Maker, what will she say if she sees him now?
"Disappointed, of course."
Arctus' head snaps up, hazel grey eyes wide upon hearing the voice he'd first and last heard on Tatooine two years ago. His heart was a trapped beast in his chest, pounding relentlessly against his sternum as he roughly pushed the small table away from him, disturbing the white powder that lined its surface. The smuggler frantically scans his room, desperate to see who has just spoken using the voice of his savior.
But he is alone in his room.
"Are you, though?"
He turns to look at his bed and sees her sitting atop it, legs crossed and helmeted head cocked to the side like an overly curious massiff. The T-visor gives nothing away, as impassive as he first saw it, but the tone of her voice belies the bitter sting of disappointment he can hear and feel.
"Mando– h-how did you– why–?"
"You think of me every single time you miss me, Arctus," she cuts him off, plopping down gracelessly on his bed with a loud huff. The mattress doesn't dip, nor does his pillow, and the sheets remain in the same mess he's left them in. The smuggler doesn't know if he should feel disappointed that she isn't really here, or pleasantly surprised despite the complete lack of physical interaction with her surroundings that his spice-addled mind has managed to summon a perfect replica of her for him to hallucinate on.
That same spice-addled mind chooses the latter.
He takes a tentative step towards his bed, willing for her image to remain visible to accompany the voice he always thinks of when the nights are lonely. The bed dips as he sits down, upper body turning to her direction, and Arctus takes a gamble to reach one hand out to her and touch her left knee.
His heart leaps up in his throat.
Kark, the duraplast kneeguard feels so real–
The smuggler swallows a lump in his throat, and hope bleeds in his voice when he finally asks her without stuttering like a damn fool, "What are you doing here?"
"You wouldn't want to hear an answer to that question."
Arctus frowns, lifting his legs up on the bed and turning to lie down next to her. If she is just a perfect hallucination for his brain to kriff him up, then might as well enjoy it, huh?
Now flat on his back, he turns his head to look at her. The smuggler licks his suddenly dry lips when Mando takes his hand in hers, gloved palm pressing against his as she twines her fingers with his.
Kriff. Kriff it all to high hells. He doesn't want this hallucination to stop–
"You're pathetic. You know that?"
He takes in a sharp breath through his nose at the accusation, shame and guilt making his skin crawl as she moves to lie on her side, planting an elbow to his bed so she can prop herself up to look down at him.
"You made me a promise on that medbay in Mos Espa that you'll quit your addiction," she reminds him. Her soft voice is laced with disappointment, and despite not knowing what she looks like under her helmet, Arctus imagines that a scowl complements the tone of her voice. "And I held on to your word. Believed in you."
Something bubbles within his room and, from his periphery, Arctus notices black sludge seeping from the ceiling. It spreads progressively on the wallls, then to the floor, swallowing up the stuff in his room with a sickening squelch. The bed shakes slightly as the sludge slowly eats it up as well, and yet Mando continues to remain unperturbed by what is happening around them.
"You can't keep yourself clean."
Black sticks to his booted feet, creeping sedately up at his legs when she moves to sit up, swinging one leg over his torso to straddle him. She lets his hand go in favor of cupping his cheeks in her small, gloved hands. Mando leans down towards him, T-visor looming dangerously close to his face.
"You think you're friends with a Sith."
Arctus cannot breathe, his heart beating a mile a minute as anxiety and guilt swallows him whole. He can feel the black sludge slithering up his legs, sticking heavily to his arms and sides, and slowly submerging him. His hands shoot up to grab his savior for support but his touch slip past her form.
"And you have the Force. I would have forgiven you for that, accepted you for being the sorcerer you are..."
Arctus opens his mouth to scream but nothing comes out. Mando's hands move to his neck and she pushes against his throat, fingers digging greedily and hatefully against his skin.
"But you reek of Darkness, cyar'ika. Disgusting."
With one final push, his savior drowns him in the black sludge and breaks his neck with a sickening crunch, her laughter perverted by the voices that plague him ever since he left Malastare.
"Hey, Arctus. I need you to stay awake for the whole drive to Mos Espa, alright?"
"Anything for you, cyar'ika."
"Don't call me that, dummy."
"A'ight. In my dreams, then–"
"Arctus, open your eyes–"
....he wakes up with a loud gasp.
Arctus bolts upright from his bed, drenched in a cold sweat as he greedily takes in one breath after another, his gaze wide and afraid as he scans his room for black sludge and his Mando savior.
Neither are present. His room is tidy as usual, save for the single packet of spice on the table. It's still unopened, just as he's left it before he decides that he would rather sleep his exhaustion off than stay up the whole night high as a kite.
Still, he rubs his nose with the back of his hand and checks for some white, powdery residue. Nothing. He looks at the packet on the table. Still untouched, unopened.
And the voices are blessedly quiet today. Arctus would've wept for joy at the temporary peace their absence has blessed him.
The remnants of whatever unholy nightmares his troubled mind has conjured is slowly slipping from his grasp and Arctus is simply happy to let them go, letting the memory of one of his conversations with his savior wash over the fear and paranoia that simmered in his subconscious. Letting them play on repeat in his head, the smuggler gets up from his bed, snatches the packet of spice on the table, and heads straight for the refresher. He rips the packet open and unceremoniously dumps the white powder in the vacc tube, unapologetic and not having a single fiber of regret in his mind as he steps back in his room.
"A Jedi," he reminds himself as he crawls back under the covers. "Hafta look for one, Arctus. You need someone to teach you about this Force shite..."
"You're gonna quit being a spicehead? Nice. I'm proud of you."
Finding a semblance of peace for the first time since discovering that he's Force-sensitive, Arctus drifts back to sleep, dreaming of his family and his savior, the flickering Light in his soul shining a little brighter.