Despite all the powers, abilities, and--admittedly--conveniences the Force offered, there was something oddly satisfying about manual labor. A sense of order. A firm and unflinching calm. A place for everything, and everything in its place.
Thus, Devn was not standing to the side, overseeing Mekel Jin and the rest of the forced public servants or volunteers clean up the toppled benches, trash receptacles, overturned flower beds, and destroyed shopfronts. For one night of riots, they had certainly managed to make a mess. His brown robe was slung over the handrail of a nearby stairwell, his sleeves were rolled up around his elbows, and his arms were buried in rubble.
It was somewhat surreal to be working cooperatively next to Jin, however silent or methodical they were both managing to be. Jin had mostly kept to himself since the riots, save a brief and unexplained trip to the outlands of Onderon with Acting Interim Master Dustil Onasi. Devn thought it best not to ask.
"The Council received my status report on your progress," he told the former Sith, clenching his jaw as he overturned a particularly stubborn piece of permacrete.
"That's good," the man said listlessly. "I wasn't sure you'd really send it."
"I am a man of my word." The Force thrummed in his knuckles, rattling the dust off before Devn dug back into the pile.
"Some members of the Council have expressed doubts about your sincerity--" He grunted, pushing aside a chunk of wall with one hand.
The man gave a bitter laugh. "I'm not surprised."
"In their position, would you have done any different?"
Jin paused, a piece of masonry hovering next to him. His brow furrowed, and it cracked, then split again. Finally a fine stream of sand spiraled into the waste pit, creating infill for the larger pieces. "I guess not."
Devn felt a sudden, irrational want to avoid eye contact with Jin. "They would rather you limit your contact with the Iziz enclave, however."
"Limit my contact?" Jin laughed. "That makes it sound like I'm contagious."
There were many defects that were often hereditary. "It's for your sake, not theirs."
"My sake." Jin's head jerked up. The final stream of sand exploded, showering them both with grit. He wiped his face, glowering. "Are we talking about me not seeing my kids or not seeing Dustil?"
Devn frowned, wiping the grit from his eyelids. "You worried that Dustil was influencing your decision. The Council believes the best way to determine that is to remove you from his influence."
"Remove me to where?"
"Does it matter?" He swept his hand down both of his arms irritatedly. A film of dust settled over his knees instead. "I warned you the life of a Jedi was a life of rules. If you were to become a Jedi, it isn't just your location that would be dictated by the Council."
"What about my kids?"
If the man was thinking about changing his mind again, he was going to be bloody well disappointed. Devn wasn't going to embarrass himself with a third revised request on Jin's behalf.
"They aren't going anywhere. At least, Myleah and Ganesh aren't. Ollivair will likely return to Coruscant at some point."
The man's head lifted. "I was hoping I could stay here for my training."
We all hope for things. Common sense. Decency. The annihilation of all Sith, everywhere.
"Jedi aspire to be selfless." Devn stood, hauling a piece of duracrete over to a neat pile and dropping it on top. He brushed his hands together. "They place the needs of many above the needs of the few, and the needs of the few well above their own."
Jin made a face, as if the truth a bitter pill to swallow. His shoulders sagged. "When do I leave?"
"As soon as I am free to make a trip back to Coruscant. They'd like to speak with you first."
Jin glanced at the pile of rubble in front of them and then back at Devn. "You're my escort?"
As much as Devn Rappertunie had tried to limit his association--nay, even his contact--with Mekel Jin, it seemed the Force had other plans. "I'm your master."
"But that means -- they approved that, then --" Jin seemed to be working through the logic. "If they send me away, they're going to send you away too?"
"For some period of time, I imagine."
Mekel raised an eyebrow. "You can't be pleased about that."
In another time, Devn could have replied truthfully. But the truth now was that he didn't know what might happen while he was gone. It made staying that much more appealing.
"I go where I am needed," he replied airily instead.
Mekel snorted. "You don't need to lie to me, Master. What about Knight Sez?"
It was funny how, not so long ago, he had longed for the smooth marble of the Temple, the soothing roar of speeder traffic, the hum of countless sentients living lives of civility and order. Now all he wanted was a warm bed and a quiet evening with a pink Twi'lek.
"Knight Sez is not your concern," Devn said sharply, pointing a warning finger at him.
"Oh, really?" The corners of Jin's mouth twisted upwards. "Isn't it in both of our interests to stay on this fracking planet?"
Interests, yes. Fates, no.
"I have made my appeals," Devn muttered, wiping the back of his hand across his sweating brow. "The Council would rather you were trained elsewhere." Aishie had taken it rather well.
"But they haven't decided where?" Mekel looked like he was considering something.
"Not as of this moment, no."
"You could suggest that we investigate the Sith presence on Duxn," Mekel said.
Devn cocked an eyebrow. "What Sith presence?"
"Duxn has a long history of Sith presences." Mekel shrugged. "When I was up there recently, I sensed an ancient and powerful evil. We should investigate."
Devn shook his head and digging back into the rubble. "This is the Jedi Council, Jin. Despite what the Sith might have taught you, they aren't that naïve. Not anymore." Not ever again, once he was in a position to help it.
"They let me go, didn't they?" Jin scowled at him. "Besides, it's true. There's always going to be evil on Dxun. It's in the water or something."
"Why linger on Dxun? There's nothing there other than Mandalorians and boma."
Jin looked slightly surprised. "It's close to Onderon, isn't it?"
"True enough, though you'd only be delaying the inevitable. Unless, of course, you actually found something of note down there."
"That's possible." Jin shrugged again. "Alg -- Kelbourne says he thinks there's something. There are a lot of old ruins."
Devn scoffed. "The Council will not consider Kelbourne Ordo a particularly reliable source." His mouth twisted. "And they will consider the recent riots of far greater importance."
"They'll consider what you tell them, Master." Jin lifted his hand and more of the rubble shifted.
Someday, Devn would be on the Council. And when that day came, he would marvel at the mistakes of past generations, and hope that they couldn't bring up Mekel Jin to put him in his place.
He shook his head, letting his hands dangle over his knees, allowing the dust to settle before digging in again. "You're missing the point. You've chosen to walk the path of a Jedi. You can no longer dictate how you live your life. It isn't yours anymore."
"You've gotten to choose your life." Jin was hopeless.
"Letting the Force guide me and making my own choices are two different things. The fact that both would have led me down the same path is only a happy coincidence." Well, almost the same path. If Devn Rappertunie could do it over again, he would omit a few things. An embarrassing misstep with a Zabrak girl. How long it had taken him to find Aishie. Dash Reeves.
"I will propose a side trip to the Council," he told Jin. "But not Dxun. We should choose a safer, more stable location."
"Because safety and stability are the hallmarks of the order." Jin scowled at him. "I want to be close to my kids. You want to see your girlfriend. What's the issue?"
Devn felt his features twist in exasperation. It was probably unflattering. "Our delay will be short-lived. It will have to relate to the Order and its presence on Onderon. If you want to see your children, they'll have to come along. They're all Padawans in mid-training. Or did you forget?"
Jin's eyes narrowed. "Are you saying you could train them too?"
"I'm saying that whatever happens, this may be your last chance to see them for a while. It would be wise to take advantage of it."
A wave of Force spun out from Jin's outreached arm, swirling a cloud of dust and gravel across the ruin in front of them. "I am," the man said quietly. "I'm not a fracking idiot, you know. Don't you think I know that? I'm just asking you to do something about it. It's in your interest too."
Devn lifted one dust-covered eyebrow. "The first thing we'll have to work on is your temper."
Jin exhaled. His hands were clenched into fists, white-knuckled. "I'm trying."
"The Galian shoreline isn't far outside the city. We've recently discovered evidence of poachers there, but haven't had time to investigate since election season began." He brushed away the mess Jin had created and finally found bare cobblestone. "An excuse and a location. Will you inform your children, or shall I?"
At least Devn had the satisfaction of seeing Jin stutter and duck his head. "I will," the man replied, after he had collected himself. He glanced up, suitably chastened, "Thanks."
Devn rose to his feet. He unrolled his sleeves and smoothed his robes, sidestepping the hoverbarrow brought over to collect their carefully constructed pile of rubble. The last task to be done.
"You're welcome," he replied, turning and leaving Jin to it. Jin jerked his head in a nod and flexed his fingers.