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. ++++++ Notes: 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.