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Saga - OT A Freak Like Me / (OC Childhood Event Challenge--Ronen Syndulla-Jarrus)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Raissa Baiard, May 25, 2018.

  1. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Chosen One star 4

    Nov 22, 1999
    Title: A Freak Like Me
    Author: Raissa Baiard
    Timeframe: Saga, approx 24 ABY
    Genre: Character study, angst
    Canonicity: AU, in the Marzra-verse continuity
    Characters: Ronen Syndulla-Jarrus (OC). Noemi Bridger (OC), Kanan Jarrus, Hera Syndulla, Jacen Syndulla-Jarrus, Ayelet Syndulla-Jarrus
    Synopsis: An excerpt from the journal of Ronen Syndulla-Jarrus, the teenage son of Kanan Jarrus and Hera Syndulla. Ronen remembers his first day of school, the point at which he began feeling like a “freak”. Sequel to Freaking Out: From the Journal Of Ronen Syndulla-Jarrus

    Thanks to @Findswoman and @Ewok Poet for beta-reading @};-

    Diary Journal of Ronen Syndulla-Jarrus
    Centaxday, 10/7 3301 LY

    Noemi got mad at me today because I wouldn’t go out for debate team with her—they’d never want a freak like me on the team, so why bother? She got that look that Aunt Mara gets when her intermediate lightsaber class goofs off during katas. “You are not a freak, Ronen! I don’t know why you keep calling yourself that!”

    Oh, I don’t know...maybe because other people have been calling me one for years now?

    I didn’t used to feel this way. Back when I was a little kid who didn’t know any better, I thought it was pretty cool that I had lekku like Mom and Ayelet and hair like Dad and Jacen. I was like all of them in some way, and they were the most awesome people in the Galaxy, so that made me awesome, too, right?

    And then I went to school.

    I was so excited to go, to be a big kid like Ayelet and Jacen. I had new lunch tote, a new book satchel, the whole eight meters. School was going to be great, like the best thing ever, and I was going to meet lots of new kids and learn new things…

    Yeah, I did, just not the way I expected.

    My enthusiasm lasted about an hour and a half, until it was time for physical education and fifteen pudgy little first-years were turned loose on the playground for choice time. There were a couple of kids playing a game of catch—a Human boy with dark, curly hair, a Human girl with braids and a Twi’lek girl whose long, pale blue lekku were speckled with darker blue spots. I thought she was pretty…

    I wish I could go back and tell six-year-old me not to do what I did next, which was run up to them and say “Hey, can I play, too?”

    They stopped their game and looked at me. The boy wrinkled up his nose. “What planet are you from?”

    That seemed like kind of a silly question to me. “Lothal.” Like that should be obvious, right? I mean, that’s where we were and all.

    “No, really,” he insisted. “Where are you from?”

    “No, really!” I insisted back. “I was born right here on Lothal!”

    The girl with the braids sighed in an oh-so-superior manner. “What he means is what are you?”

    No one had ever asked me that before. I’d lived at the Academy complex my whole life. Everyone knew me. Everyone knew my parents. No one needed to ask that. No one thought anything about the fact that I was a hybrid, I was just Master Jarrus and General Syndulla’s son. Since I didn’t have any idea what the girl meant, after I thought about it for a second, I answered, “I’m a Jedi.”

    The three of them thought that was hilarious. “Yeah, right,” the boy snorted. “Where’s your lightsaber, then, Jedi?”

    “I don’t have my own yet.” And even if I did, I wouldn’t have been able to take it to school. Mom and Dad made Jacen leave his at home, because it was Not a Toy and there was no reason he’d ever have to use it in middle school. “I have to use the training sabers until I’m at least twelve!”

    “Are you really stupid?” The Human girl put her hands on her hips and stared at me like she’d already decided what the answer was to that question. “What are you? What species?”

    “Oh…” I thought about it again. Was there a name for it? Twi’man? Hum’lek? Those didn’t sound anywhere near right. “I’m, um, part Human and part Twi’lek…”

    “You are not a Twi’lek!” The Twi’lek girl was scandalized, her deep violet eyes widening in horror.

    “I am, too!” What was wrong with these kids? Why didn’t they believe anything I said? Why did everything that was obvious to me make them laugh and snort and look at me like they thought I was weirdest thing ever? “See, I have lekku…”

    “Those aren’t lekku,” the Twi'lek girl informed me disdainfully. “These are lekku.” She tossed her head, her gracefully tapered lekku swinging. “You look like you have...some kind of.. freaky... grubs stuck to your head!” They laughed at that, all of them, and suddenly, being me didn’t feel so awesome anymore.

    I don’t remember if I ran or just slowly backed away, willing them not to see me. I do know I hid myself in the Force so well that even Ayelet couldn’t find me, and they had to call Dad to come from the Academy.

    He found me in a maintenance bay, huddled with my knees drawn up under my chin in the middle of a cluster of really perplexed custodial droids whose programming gave them no indication of what to do when a small child crawled in among them and started crying. Dad carried me all the way back home. I wouldn’t even talk about what happened until we were in our conversation circle with Mom, who gave me a big plate of the Wookiee cookies she’d baked to celebrate a great first day of school—ha!

    Dad frowned when I told them what the kids had said—okay, he frowns a lot, but this was different than his serious Jedi frown; this one was kind of sad—and he put his arm around me. “Ronen, what they said was thoughtless and unkind, but it wasn’t true. You are a part of the Force and your worth doesn’t depend on what they see.” This is the kind of advice you get when your dad is the headmaster of the Jedi Academy—the kind that probably doesn’t make any sense to you at the time, and may be True in the deep, universal sense, but may or may not make you feel better at that moment.

    Mom put her arm around me, too, and she and Dad hugged me between them. “Your father’s right; we love you just the way you are.” Even at six, I knew that was one of those things that moms have to say. Like you could be a Hutt with severe acne and a bad case of festering plague, and your mother would still love you “just the way you are”.

    Jacen, a worldly-wise middle schooler, gave a huge sigh of exasperation when he heard what had happened. “Don’t listen to anything those moof-milkers say!” he advised. “They’re just a bunch of immature idiots. Kids your age don’t know anything yet.”

    I thought Ayelet was going to cry, too, but she did what she does best, which is make stuff. She got right to work in her art corner, where she kept all the supplies that Aunt Sabine sent her, and made me this certificate covered in shiny foil stars saying I was the “Best Little Brother on Lothal”. It was kind of sweet, and I still have it somewhere in my room, but it felt a little like Mom loving me just the way I was, like she had to say that or something.

    And then there was Noemi. She was only five, and still hadn’t started school, so she was excited to hear all about my Big Adventure when she came over to play on Benduday. When I told her the whole pathetic story, she screwed up her face the way she still does when something makes her really, really mad and said, “I’m going to kick them for you. I’m learning k’tara; I can do it.”

    “Noemi!” I didn’t know whether to be horrified or secretly pleased at that offer. Okay, I kind of leaned more to pleased, but since I was older, I was supposed to be the one who knew better. “Jedi don’t kick people!”

    “We do sometimes!” she insisted. “When they’re mean.” Noemi threw her arms around me and hugged me. “I love you, Ro. I’m not going to let anyone be mean to you!”

    I’m sure Noemi doesn’t even remember that, but I do. Somehow, it made me feel a tiny bit better that someone who wasn’t exactly part of my family was on my side, someone who wasn’t obligated to love me just the way I was.

    And, you know, she never has let anyone say things about me, not when we were in elementary school or middle school, even now that we’re at NLUPS. Noemi could probably be the most popular girl at the prep school if she wanted to, but she just doesn’t seem to care about that stuff. She’s nice to everyone—the grav-ball players, the dejarik team...

    Even a freak like me.


    3501 LY:
    Lothal Year, 24 ABY according to Lothal’s calendar
    "The whole eight meters”: a reference to the sport of grav-ball, similar to American football, but played on an octet, with each division being eight meters
    K’tara: a martial art
    NLUPS: Northern Lothal Unified Preparatory School, the (fanon) high school that Ronen and Noemi attend.

    Author’s Note: Ronen’s experience in this story is loosely based on something that happened to me when I was in first grade. I was born with severe heart defects and as a result was cyanotic, a condition that occurs when you don’t have enough oxygen in your blood. Instead of having a pinkish/red cast, your lips and fingernails appear blue/purple, and one day in the cafeteria, two other children asked me what planet I was from, insisting that I had to be an alien because my lips were blue. My reaction wasn’t quite as bad as Ronen’s, but it definitely had an effect on me. The fact that I remember the incident almost 40 years later is proof of that.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2018
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Aug 31, 2004
    EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK! :mad: Those kids don't know WHAT they're talking about because Ronen is exotic and has AWESOME parents -- not just in the looks department but in their personalities too. Noemi is a TRUE friend. And I cannot WAIT for these two to become an OTP because they deserve each other [face_laugh] [face_love] [face_mischief]

    [:D] [:D] [:D] [:D] to @Raissa Baiard -- now and her 6-year-old self as well. ^:)^
    Last edited: May 25, 2018
  3. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Feb 27, 2014
    Aww, Ronen! [face_love] I just want to hug the (comparatively) li’l fellow. I have to say, this challenge and this character were just made for each other—what a perfect match! And I love that you got this to dovetail with the current noncompetitive OC challenge, too (the “introduce a new OC”) one, for which you of course also wrote a wonderful Ronen piece—love how wonderfully that all fit together. :cool:

    This piece adds another dimension to Ronen’s character, as we see that his self-consciousness about his hybrid looks isn’t just an awkward teenage thing—it’s been a thing for him since he first started school. Poor Ronen; kids can be really rough on each other, especially when it comes to anything that is in any way out of the ordinary to them or that they don’t understand. It’s part of a much bigger learning process, of course, but that’s cold comfort when one is on the receiving end of it. And Ronen just can’t win here; it’s clear from things like the “where’s your lightsaber?” dig that this bunch of kids would have found something to give him a hard time about, no matter what, because kids like that always do. :(

    I really love the way way Ronen’s family members (and pal Noemi :D ) all respond to him differently, each in a way that fits perfectly his or her character. Kanan offers Calm Jedi Advice about how we’re All Part of the Force. Hera gives her youngest the good old, mom standard “we love you just the way you are” (yep, Ronen’s got our number, even at this early age :p ). Jacen is very much the Big Boy, with his “they’re all just moof-milkers,” Ayelet takes the arty approach (those little colored foil star stickers were a favorite of mine, too), and Noemi offers to try out her newfound k’tarra skills on whoever tries to give her best pal any further grief. (She’s more right about the kicking thing than she knows! ;) ) It’s wonderful how each piece of advice touches and encourages Ronen in some small way, and yet each of them isn’t quite enough. But that’s OK, because it’ll all work out to be more than the sum of its parts—’tis what family is for, after all. Ronen doesn’t necessarily know it yet at this stage, but all of those pieces of good counsel will shape him and help him and grow into the best Ronen he can be. <3

    And of course what gives this vignette extra heart and sensitivity is the fact that it’s born of your own experiences with something very similar; yes, this kind of treatment does indeed stick with people and affects them all the way through their life. It always adds so much to a story when authors pour in their own feelings and experiences—and you are so brave to share something like that with us here! @};- (Ronen has the advantage that his unconventional looks are at least not due to anything wrong with his health; I can imagine that might add a whole other dimension of hurt to something like this. =(( )

    Thanks so much for being part of the challenge, and for sharing this wonderful story straight from the heart! <3
    Kahara, Ewok Poet, divapilot and 2 others like this.
  4. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Chosen One star 4

    Nov 22, 1999
    Kids that age can be unkind to anyone they perceive as "different", and poor Ronen is about as different as they come, both in his appearance and his Jedi abilities. Fortunately, he does have awesome parents who love him very much and are there for him when he needs them--and a true friend in Noemi, who loves him and is willing to stand up for him, not just as a five-year-old, but all the way into those awkward teen years. Ronen is lucky to have a good friend like her (and she's lucky to have a riend like him, too). I'm trilled that you've taken to these two so much! [face_love]
    Thanks! I'd like to hug him, too (but don't tell him I said that; he'd probably be mortified--some more.) This wasn't the first idea I had for this challenge, but my first story just wasn't clicking, and then I remembered the incident from my own childhood and it just fit with Ronen so well that it all came together.

    Kids can be very thoughtless like that--they haven't developed that sense of empathy that lets them think "wait, how would I feel if someone said that to me?" They just kind of blurt out what ever crosses their little minds. I don't think I really appreciated how true that was until I was around small kids, first my niece and nephew and then my daughter. As you say, developing that "theory of mind" as psychologists call it, is a skill that has to be learned, and some children take longer at it than others.

    They all do have their own take on the incident, and they're all right in some way, even if some of the ways are a little beyond Ronen at the moment. Kanan's Jedi Advice is True in the larger sense and Her's mom comfort--well, just because we all say it doesn't mean we don't mean it! Mothers' love is unconditional. Jacen's Very Mature Middle Schooler advice was always the hardest for me--just don't listen to them? Easier said than done! Sensitive Ayelet goes for the tangible and creative token of her love for her little brother. And Noemi, bless her, vows to stand up for him (and yes, she's got a point about the kicking) and sticks to that pledge even as the two of them grow up.
    You know, at the time I'm not sure I thought much about it being tied to health issues; it was just part of who I was, much the way Ronen's appearance is just the way he is, although I didn't find it quite as awesome as he found his looks as a small child.

    And thank you for taking the time to comment
  5. brodiew

    brodiew Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Oct 11, 2005
    Sorry I'm late! I seem to have missed the first round of replies.:p

    Sadly, this kind of ignorance/meanness still happens, even in the galaxy far, far, away. I feel for Ronen. I experience some of this as a kid, but thankfully it did not last long. But, I know how it feels. For Ronen, it's even harder because of his physical differences. There is something specific, that cannot be hidden, that mean kids can point to and laugh. It would be bad enough to simply be socially awkward. :-B

    I'm still getting used to this family unit, but I'm thankful that his dad came to get him and that the family rallied around him. If there were trouble at home, this would definitely be worse.[face_frustrated]

    And, Noemi. She reminds me a bit of Max on Stranger Things, red hair and all. Fiercely loyal, actively defensive, and yet loving in her own way. Well done, Raissa!:cool:
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2018
  6. Kahara

    Kahara Force Ghost star 4

    Mar 3, 2001
    It's sad that sometimes the events that show the worst sides of people are the ones that seem to stick the most. (The one that you mentioned in your author's notes sounds awful and I'm relieved to hear that you were better off emotionally than your OC. That's still not something that anyone should have to go through.) Ronen might have had some decent/less terrible classmates hiding somewhere, but I can't blame him for being shattered over how he got rejected so completely.

    He had really horrible luck for his first try at befriending anyone outside his Jedi/family circles. Some mean kids grow up to be mean adults and some eventually learn empathy, but in any case it's awful to be the kid who ends up as the target of the day. And for Ronen, it really seems to have convinced him that nobody other than Noemi would ever accept him at school. =(( It's so easy for that kind of outcast feeling to turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, which is the impression that I get from how he puts himself down as a teenager. I hate to see him taking such a big chunk of his worldview from those snobby kids. But it makes so much sense for his age that he'd internalize that "freaky" self-image.

    Aww, kiddo. This is very true to life. A caring mom will love you (even with the plague and all :p), but that doesn't make that love any less real or valid. Just try convincing an insecure teenager of that, though. But @Findswoman is right that Hera's unconditional reassurance and Kanan's Jedi Dad wisdom are powerful too, along with the support of his siblings and Noemi. Those seeds might take more time to grow than the hurt that Ronen is going through, but they'll mean the world in the long run. [face_love]

    I think this is the first time that I've met Ayelet, and she is SO CUTE IT'S KILLING ME. :D Her art project was just the sweetest thing, and clearly meant a lot to Ronen given that he still has it. (Aww!)

    Noemi is such a true friend. Though she probably shouldn't use her skills to completely flatten their bullying classmates, her willingness to stand up for Ronen is great. (Maybe just a little kick... I sympathize with her there.) And it clearly means the world to Ronen. :) Even though he's on the angsty side of adolescence, there's an essential goodness to his nature that Noemi and his family all had a part in nurturing. That's the more hopeful side to this story, and I was really glad to see it since kid Ronen had a pretty harsh introduction to the world outside of his loving family.
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2018