Rating: PG

Author’s Note: I'm a big Pearl Jam fan and "Betterman" is one of my favourite songs. I've felt there was a songfic lurking in the song for some time — but last week the Muse finally delivered a plot-line to use. It's written about Riina — but it involves Anakin and Tahiri. It's a bit dark — but I think that kind of suits Riina. Hope you agree.

"Betterman" is by Eddie Vedder and is originally from Pearl Jam's Vitalogy

Waitin', watchin' the clock, it's four o'clock, it's got to stop

Forever on guard. But that is how it has to be for her, this stranger domiciled in a strange land. Unwelcome, lost to all that was familiar, she knows no peace. Every day is a fight for survival, a struggle to maintain territory. Every day she is pushed further down into the shadow lands amidst ghosts of memories she doesn't share, echoes of voices she has never known. Every day she is forced to taste anew the bitter gall of failure. And time, she knows, is running out.

Failure is not something she considered, even as the would-be usurper. Of course she expected to face resistance at first, but she was confident of her ability to prevail — even though her importation was not of her own choice. She is a fighter — has always been one — from a tradition in which failure is not a word, it as an act of dishonour.

And she is sure she would have prevailed, if not for him. He — the human with the warrior's soul.

Tell him, take no more, she practises her speech

She freezes at the sound of his voice, struggles to maintain the increasing fragility of her identity. His words lash her, batter her, denying her the power of reply. She remembers her brief moment of ascendancy almost as if it were a dream — her voice strident and beautiful in its power to assert her name, her essence ... Riina of Domain Kwaad. Her dominion — the mind of the Jeedai girl.

She strives to recapture that moment. She MUST before hope deserts her. She reaches out tentatively — seeking the secret paths, few though they are, that still remain unknown to her nemesis. Only in fragments can she dare to operate, infiltrating a little here, and there, into the presence that she had once believed she had conquered. Only through the most miniscule prompts planted in dreams, or in moments when emotion suspends reason, can she maintain her mandate to exist.

But here lies her dilemma. Those moments — those instances most opportune for her to gain an advantage — leave her reeling and confused, destabilized by a language of power that transcends the infidel words she has struggled so hard to master? What is this intense energy that overwhelms and obfuscates her, rewriting the message she needs to implant? It is like nothing she has experienced before in its multiplicity of sensations and she can think of no parallel ... except maybe the exhilaration of her first solo flight soaring with the rhythm of the stars ... secretive interludes exchanging tokens of love ... the forbidden pleasure of lips exploring taste and touch.

As he opens the door, she rolls over ...
Pretends to sleep as he looks her over

The mind of the Jeedai girl is a parchment unfurled to this human, as is his to her, and together they fuse to inscribe a story that is uniquely theirs. There is no opening for the intruder, no inclusion — this much she has learned. And yet she can tell when the two minds connect and she feels the force of his thoughts, is unnerved by the caress of his emotions.


Yes, unnerved — and shaken, because she shouldn't feel this way ... it shouldn't affect her at all. And yet, when she feels the disturbing ripple of the girl's anticipation, the unsteady whisper of the pulse beat as it quickens ... she turns hurriedly away and lies dormant for fear his keen gaze will find her.

And what frightens her most is the realization that in such moments it is not annihilation she fears most, but complicity.

She lies and says she's in love with him, can't find a better man ...
She dreams in color, she dreams in red, can't find a better man ...
Can't find a better man
Can't find a better man

She knows this must be a lie. She knows it, and it tortures her daily that the only means of maintaining hope is in deceit. If she fights them — if she stands up and declares her opposition — then they will know she is still alive and they will eradicate her. And together they could, for together these two share a power terrible in its potential. Death in battle holds no fear for her, but obliteration with no right to fight back fills her with an unfathomable dread. And so she survives on a lie ... or so she says.

She grasps at her memories and the colours of childhood; she seethes with a crimson rage that she cannot voice. But she submits to the flow, powerless to protect herself from the fire of their unity. She submits so she can remain unseen ... or so she says.

Ohh ...
Talkin' to herself, there's no-one else who needs to know ...
She tells herself, ohh ...

Is it such a terrible thing to live with deception? And is it ... ? No, she mustn't give voice to the thought, for giving it form gives it life. And yet, here she is alone, the only one of her kind, in this labyrinthine world of human emotions.

Is it so wrong ... to adapt?

Memories back when she was bold and strong
And waiting for the world to come along ...
Swears she knew it, now she swears he's gone

Curled up in her corner like a tizoworm inside the contours of an ear, she armours herself with the constancy of the past ... the gentle throbbing in the tissues of the worldship as it forges its path through dark space, the faces of crèche mates ... the visage of the great Lord Shimrra simultaneously terrifying and inspiring, breathing hope — making the impossible an undeniable fact.

Lord Shimrra, who can compel with his gaze ... and his voice ... like him.

And yet she senses the power this young human male wields is different — more insidious and yet strangely unaware of self, dominating by sheer stint of presence. She knows when he is there, and when he leaves — and she wishes it wasn't so.

Because it means ... she is aware of him.

Because ...

She lies and says she's in love with him, can't find a better man ...
She dreams in color, she dreams in red, can't find a better man ...
Can't find a better man
Can't find a better man

... no, it must be a lie.

She grasps at her memories and the colours of childhood, but all she sees is red, the fire-red heat of his proximity, the blood-red of his fire tracking her until she burns with guilt ... and the pain is divine.

And the truth explodes in a shower of crimson sparks.

Yeah ...
She loved him, yeah ... she don't want to leave this way

Her own cleverness has brought her to her knees — she realizes this now. All those cunning forays through the maze of the girl's mind have only served to taint her and turn her to him. Hatred and love are merely shades of the same passion, and she is addicted to both. She must remember who she is ... she must differentiate herself from the girl. She must not become subsumed by this insane love.

She feeds him, yeah ... that's why she'll be back again

All those forays ... she catches her breath as the realization consolidates into probability ... all those secret incursions have left a trail, have dropped traces of her essence like spore. Not only has she been tainted by the girl, but the girl's being contains imprints of her identity.

And this is what he sees with his penetrating blue-ice gaze. He sees and doesn't reject ... he sees and loves ... and desires ... and returns for more.

And the realization dawns in blinding white shards of light that her greatest enemy all along has been none but herself. Had she taken the time to research the girl, maybe she would have discovered the astonishing truth — that she shares more in common with her than she would like ... ferocity, determination ... and him.

He, the human with the warrior's soul.

Can't find a better man
Can't find a better man
Can't find a better man
Can't find a better ... man ...

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