Title: Leatherface Author: rktho_writes Characters: Original characters: Portia Tarkay, Apollon Kondric, Magnus Tarkay, Mrs. Magnus Tarkay, Desdemona Tarkay, Com Narcom, Mama Waddles Genre: Unrequited pining, angst with a happy ending Timeline: 0 BBY Summary: A young Weequay grapples with her insecurities over her appearance. 0 BBY; Pasir. Portia walked into the store and thought she saw the floating plants immediately wilt. She reeked like a dewback and it was high time she bought more soap now that she had a few credits. The Pa'lowick shopkeeper glanced her direction and returned to counting the credits in the register. Portia proceeded to the hygiene section of the shop. Portia grabbed the soap bottle she came for, a cheap combination shampoo, conditioner and body wash. She gazed longingly at the perfumes. They were all too expensive. As she returned to the counter, a can caught her eye. She furrowed her leathery brow and picked it up. It was a skin cream. Portia's small eyes widened as she read that it would give the user smooth, clear skin. Portia's heart beat faster. She thought how much prettier she would look if her skin wasn't rough and wrinkled. "Oh, honey, that's not for you," said the shopkeeper. "Sorry?" Portia looked up. "'Ow d'you mean?" "That's for humans and Twi'leks and people like that," continued the shopkeeper, pursing her long lips sympathetically. "If you're looking for an exfoliator, we have one that will be much better for your pores. Let me see if I can find it." "Will it make my skin smooth?" Portia asked, biting her lip as the shopkeeper left the register to search the shelves. "Weequay skin isn't meant to be smooth, dear," said the shopkeeper, perusing the skincare aisle with her mouth turned sideways so as to allow her to peer closer at the products. "You might as well ask if there's an elixir that makes my proboscis shrink. But there isn't, because my lips are supposed to be a foot away from the rest of my face. You're fine the way you are, dear. Don't let anyone tell you different." Portia bit her lip. No one was telling her anything. What did this Pa'lowick know? Not a thing about her. Portia knew for a fact that humans didn't generally find rough, hard skin attractive. Based on the girls he'd been interested in before, Apollon certainly didn't, because they'd been nothing like her. "Here." The shopkeeper returned with a bottle and placed it on the counter. "Free of charge." Portia looked at it. Emblazoned in fancy, difficult-to-read cursive was the brand name, ClearHide. There was a picture of a nude Klatooinian model looking over her shoulder, her puggish green face approximating a smile. Portia's stomach turned. "No thanks," Portia said, pushing it away. "I'll stick with what I came for." "We have more specialized soaps than this one," said the shopkeeper. "There's one specifically made for Weequays. It's much better for your hair." "I'm alright," Portia replied, not wanting to admit how little she could afford. She didn't really want to see another unattractive model anyway. She felt horrible enough already. The Pa'lowick rang up the soap and told Portia to have a lovely day. Portia smiled and started to walk away. Then she saw there was a whole shelf full of the cream she had been coveting. Portia took a can in her hand. She glanced back. The shopkeeper's back was turned. Portia slipped the can down her shirt and ran out of the shop. —— Portia took the cream out of her shirt and admired it as she walked up to her apartment building. She imagined her hands were soft and smooth, instead of coarse and rough. "Hey there, Port." Portia whirled around with a start. "Pollon!" Apollon gave a halfhearted smile and shuffled into the elevator as the door swiveled open. His thick dark hair was ungelled and messy, and the usual captivating light in his beautiful golden eyes was dim and dull. A faint, patchy brown stubble shadowed his jawline. Portia bit her lip sympathetically. Apollon had been feeling down since the incident last week when a nosy stormtrooper had caused him to botch his chances with the girl he'd been interested in for months. He was so miserable, Portia couldn't even be slightly glad that the other girl was out of the picture. "You 'oldin' up alright, Pollon?" she asked. "Yeah," he mumbled. He straightened his backpack, but not his back, which was still slumped as if under a tremendous weight, which certainly wasn't from his bag considering he only had a few datapads in it. She put a hand on his shoulder. "I'm 'ere for you if you need me, Pollon." Apollon smiled, a bit of the dimness fading from his eyes. "Thanks, Port." Even though the smile was small and melancholy, it shot Portia's stomach full of butterflies. The door swiveled open and they walked out. Portia could hear her father singing in their apartment as she walked up to the door. He sounded like a drunken cat being strangled. Apollon went into his apartment and Portia pressed the button to enter hers. Portia's father was sitting at the counter pouring himself a glass of brandy. "'Ello, Port!" he hiccuped. "Chowbaso bunky dunko. We're goin' panhandlin' in an hour, so make sure you're ready." Portia walked past the counter and saw Desdemona sitting with her bandanna spread on the kitchen floor, inspecting the knick-knacks she'd pickpocketed that morning. She held a credit chip in her hand. "Wonder 'ow much is on this." "Lemme take a look," said her father. "Give it 'ere, Mona." Desdemona tossed her father the chip as Portia went into the refresher room and shut the door. Portia put the soap on the floor of the sonic and read the instructions on the cream. Gently massage into wet skin. This product is safe for synthetic skin. Do not apply internally. Do not apply to eye sockets, eye stalks, horns, tusks, or other non-skin body parts. Do not apply to groin area. Portia rolled her eyes. If it was safe for synthskin, it was safe for her. She put the cream on the sink counter, slipped off her blue headband, and started to undo her braids. She put each hairtie on the counter and untwisted her hair. She wished she had hair all over her head like a human, but Weequay hair sprouted in horsetails from their otherwise bald scalps instead. She'd tried leaving the tails unbraided, but it didn't look the same and the tails got tangled and messy— and it made her look more masculine, which was the last thing she needed. Portia shook her head to let her horsetails loosen out, slipped out of her ragged clothes and stepped into the sonic. The door swiveled shut. After she had covered herself in soap, she switched on the machine. The cylindrical chamber hummed as the machine vibrated the sweat, grime and dirt off her emaciated body in miniature mudslides. Portia sighed. She missed the water showers on Monderon. She hated living in a cheap apartment. Portia gripped each horsetail and squeezed her fingers through each one to get the grime out. It would have been easier if her hair was wet. The soap lather could only do so much. The soapy silt drained into the metal mesh that formed the floor of the shower. Portia watched it disappear, moved her leathery, calloused feet to make sure they were clean on the bottom, and flicked off the switch. She stepped out of the sonic and got dressed again. Her clothes were due for a wash. Hopefully Desdemona had nicked enough credits to take their things to the laundromat. Portia's fingers were itching to use the cream, but she braided her hair again first. As soon as she'd fitted the last tie around the end of her braid she turned on the sink and splashed her face with water. The water rolled off her hard skin, but she splashed relentlessly, slopping puddles all over the floor and soaking the front of her tunic until her face was wet. She grabbed the cream. She needed to act quickly before it all rolled off. Portia rubbed the cream vigorously on her gaunt cheeks. She smeared the cream on her chin and then across her squat nose. She squirted more cream into her hand and smeared it across her forehead. For good measure, she rubbed some on the sides and top of her head. She looked at herself in the mirror and rubbed until the cream disappeared. Her face still looked the same. Of course it wouldn't work right away. She'd probably have to apply it every day. She checked how much cream was still in the container. Based on how much she'd used, there was plenty, probably just shy of a month's worth. She would definitely see results by then. Would Apollon notice? Portia sure hoped so. She scratched an itch on her cheek as she picked up her headband and put it back on. That made her remember it would be a good idea to apply the cream to her hands as well. If her hands were soft, it would increase her chances of Apollon wanting to hold one of them. Portia scrunched her nose as she squirted a tiny dollop into her palm. She resisted the urge to scratch the tickle on her forehead until she was finished rubbing the cream all over her hands. —— Portia's face felt like it was crawling with juru ants. She scratched rapidly at her jaw, and scratched at her scratching hand with her other hand, which was also itching. The irritation was growing unbearable. "What's wrong, Port?" asked her mother as they walked. "Nothin'," Portia replied, rubbing her headband up and down to chafe her tingling forehead. "Just a little itchy, is all." Portia looked at her fingers. Her skin was flaking. She supposed that meant the cream was working. "'Ere's a good spot," said her father, grinning as they approached a waste receptacle on the street corner. "Right, Mona, go watch for bucket'eads. Port, work up some tears. Good ones." Portia stopped scratching and her eyes immediately began to water. Her father whistled. "That was quick. Now sit right 'ere." Portia did as she was told, taking big gulps of air in a monumental effort not to scratch. It sounded convincingly like sobbing. "You been 'oldin' out on us, Port," said her father, impressed. "You're never this good." "I'm so… itchy," said Portia, clenching her fists and holding them against her lap. "Good, good…" Her father was no longer paying attention. He set a tin in front of her. "Right, muni, you go down that way, an' I'll go this way." Her parents went down opposite streets. Portia scratched like mad and sighed with relief. She would just take scratching breaks and she would be alright. "Moulee-rah kolka?" she asked as people walked by. "Spare some credits? Excuse me, miss," she sniffled, reaching towards a passing Rodian. "I'm so 'ungry. Won't you spare a cred?" The woman stuck her sucker-tipped fingers in her pockets, came up empty-handed, and shrugged. Portia's forearm tensed as the Rodian walked away. She clenched her skirt to stop herself from scratching. The itching would be worth it. She could feel it. An Ithorian plodding past saw her sitting on the corner and dropped a few credits in the tin. She smiled gratefully at the old hammerhead and scratched her face again. The itching was just getting worse. Portia's face and hands were on fire. She gritted her teeth and sucked air through them. Tears streamed down her face as she struggled to restrain herself from tearing her skin off. Maybe the cream was supposed to make her tear her skin off? She could barely see through her watery eyes. She was crying in earnest now. Not scratching was sheer torture. She keeled over on her side. She was now curled up in a ball, shaking violently in an effort to look distraught instead of uncomfortable. She wished her head were made of water so it could melt away. Her face was a rictus of excruciation and her eyes were watering so badly she could no longer see. As she blinked uselessly against the walls of water in front of her eyes, a blurry figure in a long green coat turned and walked toward her. He stooped in front of her and cocked his head. "Are you alright?" Portia's breath came in gasps. She wanted to say she was so itchy she wanted to die, but instead she sobbed, "I'm… s-s-so 'ungry. I 'aven't-en't 'a-ad anyth-thing to eat in days, please, sir…" The man looked around. There were no restaurants nearby. Her father had chosen the spot on purpose so people would give Portia money instead of food. "I'm afraid I don't have any food," he apologized. Portia screwed her eyes shut and whimpered. Everyone who said that meant "and I'm not willing to give you money, either." "Here." The man pressed a small fabric lump into her hand. Portia gasped. She swiped at her soaking eyes and popped them open. It was a bag of credits. "'Ow… 'Ow much is this?" "Two hundred," the man smiled. Portia gasped. Two hundred! She decided to push for more like her father had taught her. She dropped the bag as she sat up and scratched furiously at her hands, unable to resist any longer. "I 'ave a family, sir… We're all very 'ungry… We're way be'ind on our rent, sir…" She scratched the right side of her face. "Do you have a rash?" asked the man, concerned. "No," she replied, clawing madly at her head while uselessly willing herself to stop. "Your skin is peeling," frowned the man. "You have bumps all over." The blood drained from Portia's face as she dug her fingernails into her cheek. "I'm a Weequay, sir… My skin is always bumpy…" But as she felt the bumps on her face, she knew something was wrong. The man furrowed his brow with skeptical pity. He took a small, transparent card out of his pocket and handed it to her. Standing, he turned and walked away. Portia heard someone else approaching. She looked up. Her father was coming, jingling a handful of credits in his hand and chuckling. "'Ave a little bit 'o luck, Port?" "Yeah!" said Portia, using the card to plow lines into her palm. She gave one last dig, tossed him the card, and tore at her face and hands. He picked up the card. "What's this?" "Someone gave it to me," Portia replied, drawing blood as she opened one of the welts on her face. "An' that!" Portia's father picked up the bag with two fingers so as not to spill the coins in his hand. He bounced it and grinned at the jingling. "'Ow much is this?" "Two 'undred, 'e said," Portia replied, alternating scratching the backs of her hands. "Two HUNDRED…" her father gasped. He dropped to his knee so he could open the bag. "Boomin' Am-Shak, Port! You managed to score all this?" "What did the card say?" she asked, digging her nails into her chin. "I didn't read it." "Let me see…" said her father, turning back to the card. "jonpolelmor@'olo.net… Says 'ere this is the h-mail address of one Jonpol Elmor. Looks like 'e's some kind o' philanthropist…" Her father cackled. "You've 'it the jackpot, Port. This could be our ticket off this dump. Good work, P— bleedin' 'ells, Portia, what 'appened to your face?" Portia was too busy scratching and whimpering to answer. "Get on 'ome an' clean up." Her father shooed her away. "I'll get your mother an' sister an' tell 'em the good news." Portia scampered off as fast as she could, heart beating almost faster than she was running. —— Portia sat weeping on the floor of the sonic, fully clothed, drops of blood rumbling from where she had torn open her hives. Her reflection was the most hideous thing she had ever seen. It was covered in angry purple bumps, and so were her hands. Her headband was stained with blood and tears and pus as she had vainly tried to stop the oozing with it. There was a knock on the door. "Port?" asked her mother. "You alright?" "I'm just so itchy!" she wailed, but that was the least of what bothered her now. "Oh, you poor thing," her mother tsked. "Is there anythin' I can do?" Portia sobbed harder. She wished she'd never seen that cream. The shopkeeper had been right and she should have listened. "Port?" Desdemona knocked on the door. "I 'ave to use the vacc tube." "Not now, Mona!" her mother hissed. "What am I supposed to do?" Desdemona whispered back helplessly. "I really 'ave to go." Portia couldn't bring herself to get up. The refresher room was the only place she could get some privacy in their tiny apartment, and she needed hours of time alone with her misery. "Portia, mufkin?" her mother asked. "Your sister really 'as to go. Could you come out o' there for a minute?" Portia willed herself to get up. Her legs wouldn't budge. She heard her sister and mother speaking to each other in the living room, but they were no longer at the door and she couldn't make out their words over the pulsating hum of the shower. Portia laid down, wishing the sonic was a water shower. At least it would provide relief from her horrible itching. She missed water showers so much. She heard the front door open and close. Her mother sighed loudly and flopped into a chair. Thirty seconds later the door whooshed open. "Where's Portia?" asked Apollon in a panic. Portia sat bolt upright with dread. "What are you doin' 'ere?" her mother sputtered. "Portia?" Apollon knocked frantically on the refresher room door. "What's wrong? Mona just barged into my apartment to use my refresher and told me you locked yourself in here." "Go away!" Portia screamed, horrified. The last thing she needed was for Apollon to see her face. She began sobbing anew. "Portia…" Apollon sounded like he was about to cry himself. "Please," Portia wept. "I don't want you to see me." "Promise me you'll talk to me when you feel better," Apollon pleaded. "Will you do that, Port?" "You 'eard the girl!" Portia's mother bellowed. "Out of our karkin' 'ouse! Now!" Hearing her mother yell at Apollon made Portia feel horrible. Apollon yelped as he was hurled into the corridor and Portia buried her head in her arms, shaking. The shuddering from her sobs put the shower's vibrations to shame. Everything was ruined. She wished she could just die right there in the sonic and rest in whichever hell Quay saw fit to send her to. Even the lowest, darkest world of torment seemed more bearable than this. —— Portia switched off the sonic, wishing she'd never turned it on. She'd probably wasted several hours of their power bill, and her father would almost definitely send her over to Apollon's to bum some of the cost off him. Then she'd really feel horrible. She went to the sink and splashed her face, refusing to look at her reflection in the mirror. When she finally opened the door, she saw three bowls of water on the kitchen counter, one large one and two little ones. She didn't recognize the large one. Desdemona approached with her hands folded. She covered her mouth when she saw Portia's face. "Are you alright, Port?" "NO!" Portia screamed. "What the hell were you thinkin'? Usin' Apollon's refresher? Lettin' 'im into the house?" "Mum let 'im into the house," Desdemona said, biting her lip. "I'm sorry, Port, if I thought 'e was goin' to come over I would've told 'im not to." "Of course 'e was goin' to come over!" Portia threw up her rash-covered hands. "'E's my friend!" "I'm sorry, Port," Desdemona whispered. "I told 'im not to come by again." Portia stood fuming silently. She glanced at the counter. "What are the bowls for?" "They're for you," said Desdemona. "To soak in." Portia approached the bowls. They were filled with water. The largest bowl was deep and wide enough to submerge her face in. "Where'd you get the big one?" "Borrowed it from next door." "Apollon's 'ouse?" "No, the ol' Gran lady with eighteen tookas." Portia stuck her hands into the two smaller bowls. "She was 'ome when you borrowed it, right?" "You're goin' soft," Desdemona muttered. "You know we're too poor to afford scruples." "Didn't 'ave many when we were well off," Portia pointed out. "I'm not 'avin' this argument again," Desdemona replied through gritted teeth. "You better not let Mum an' Dad 'ear you talk like that." "Just make sure you put it back," Portia insisted. "You know the landlady's onto us. If she gets another complaint about things disappearin' from people's apartments…" "Okay, okay, just soak your bloody face already," Desdemona huffed. "I thought you'd be grateful." Portia softened. "I am grateful, Mona." She plunged her face in the bowl. Her itching began to disappear almost immediately. Portia came up for air and dipped her head again. She turned to soak the sides of her head as well. She lifted her head and dug the water out of her earholes. Her face dripped on the countertop. "'Ere," said Desdemona, handing her a piece of red fabric. Portia looked at her sister. The bandanna she usually wore on her head was gone. Desdemona handed it to her. "Pull your 'eadband over your nose an' put this on. It'll cover most of it." Portia's eyes welled with tears. She threw her arms around her sister. "Thank you." Desdemona hugged her tightly. "Uma ji muna, Port." Portia smiled. "Chone uma ji muna, Mona." Portia let go and tugged her headband down to her nose. Desdemona tied her bandanna on her head. Now only Portia's eyes and chin were visible. She smiled beneath her new mask. "'Ow do I look?" Desdemona nodded. Portia turned to reenter the refresher room. "Don't!" Mona cried. "Don't look at yourself. You'll feel worse." "I'm not goin' to look," Portia promised. "I just 'ave to take care o' somethin'." —— Portia felt much better when she heard the container hit the bottom of the dumpster. She sighed and slumped against it for a while. How foolish she had been. Portia got up and went back inside. As she entered the building, the elevator door opened and Apollon walked out. "Portia!" he gasped. "Hey! Are you alright?" "I'm okay," she replied, scratching the back of her neck. "What happened, Port?" he asked. "I've been worried sick." "I just… um… allergies," she replied. "Oh, that's terrible," said Apollon, biting his lip. "What are you allergic to?" "It's… uh… um… I don't know," said Portia lamely. Her face was burning, but not with itchiness this time. At rare moments like this, she was grateful for her thick skin. Between her mask and her opaque epidermis, Apollon had no idea how hard she was blushing. "That's got to be one serious allergy," Apollon breathed. "Are you sure you don't need to go to the medical center?" "I'm fine," Portia replied. She noticed Apollon wince. "You okay, Pollon?" "Yeah," Apollon replied, rubbing his backside. "Your mother can shove really hard." "Oh, no," Portia gasped. "I'm so sorry, Pollon, I didn't mean for 'er to…" "Don't worry about it, Port, seriously," Apollon waved. "I'll be fine. I have to get to class. Take care of yourself, okay?" "I will," she mumbled. The doors to the building slid open and her parents walked through. "You!" Her mother jabbed a fat leathery finger at Apollon. "I told you to leave 'er alone! She's in no condition to—" "It's fine, honest," Portia insisted. "'E was just leavin' anyway." "Sir, I would like to personally thank you for 'elpin' us keep up on our rent," said her father, extending a handshake. "We can't repay you enough." "It's no trouble at all, Mr. Banquo," Apollon smiled warmly, shaking the Weequay's hand. "Just being neighborly." "I'm mighty embarrassed to ask this," said her father, scratching the back of his head ostentatiously, "but I don't suppose you could lend us a few more credits? You see, we're a bit short on—" "Oh, no, Pollon, you don't need to trouble yourself," Portia said hastily, glaring at her father. "It's okay, Port," Apollon reassured her. "No shame in asking for help. How much do you need?" "Thirty creds should do it," replied her father with a smirk. Apollon dug thirty credits out of his pocket. "Ma bukee, kuba una stoopa," Portia's father grinned, doffing his cap. "I'm sorry, I'm not fluent in Huttese," Apollon apologized sheepishly. "'E said you're the best," said Portia's mother before Portia could ruin her father's private joke. "'Ave a good day, sir." "Bye, Port," Apollon grinned, exiting the building. Portia glared at her parents. "I can't believe you two." "I was playin' sabacc with Basta an' I bet a few credits over," her father shrugged defensively. "We ask more than enough of 'im!" Portia stamped her foot. "Suppose I tell 'im what kind o' people we really are, eh?" "You can't do that," her father leered. "What would 'e think o' you?" Portia wanted to cry. "I'm sick o' bein' lowdown scum." "Well, if you want to live a life o' comfort again, we'll do what we 'ave to do," said her mother, sticking out her nonexistent lip. "We do it for you, you know. Always 'ave. Now let me see what's 'appened to your beautiful face." Portia trembled as her mother pulled her headband down around her neck. "Oh, Portia…" she whispered. "'Ow did this 'appen?" "I 'ad a bad reaction to the soap," Portia lied. "I'm goin' to throw it out right now," her mother growled. "Look what it's done to you. My poor baby. That's why I never bother with the stuff." "'Ey, wait a bloody karkin' minute!" her father objected. "You were bitin' my 'ead off just last week for not 'botherin' with the stuff!'" Portia pulled her headband back over her face and slipped away while her parents launched into a shouting match. She needed to go for a walk. And as long as her mother was getting rid of the soap, she might as well find a different kind. —— "I was wondering if you'd come back," said a voice behind her. Portia jumped with a yelp. The shopkeeper had caught her sneaking around. "How bad is it?" asked the shopkeeper gently. Portia trembled. "Bad." "This is what you're looking for." She put a small bottle into her hand. The label had been peeled off. "Should cure the rash in a couple of days." Portia bit her lip. "I'm sorry." "That's alright, dear," the shopkeeper smiled. She put a spindly arm around Portia's shoulder. "I… I threw the cream away," Portia whispered guiltily. "I figured as much," replied the shopkeeper. "Don't you worry your poor head about it. You've been through enough." Portia felt a sob coming on. The shopkeeper patted her back. Portia wiped her nose. "I came 'ere to get more soap," she said. "I told my parents it was where I got the rash from an' my mother said she was goin' to throw it away." "Oh, I see," replied the shopkeeper. She pulled a bottle from the shelves. "Here's that Weequay soap I was telling you about. It's hypoallergenic. There's no way your mother will throw this one out." Portia looked at the bottle in the shopkeeper's hand. She had to admit the model on the label was quite pretty by Weequay standards, and her horsetails were shinier than Portia had ever thought possible. "I can't pay for that," Portia said. "I don't 'ave any money." "It's free," insisted the shopkeeper. She reached into her fanny pack and dropped four credits into her hand. "Here's a refund for what your mother threw out." Portia took the credits. "I don't deserve…" "That's enough of that," said the shopkeeper. "You don't let anyone tell you what you don't deserve. Even this person." She tapped Portia's chest. A lump formed in Portia's throat. She looked up at the Pa'lowick and clasped her spidery hand. "Thank you." The shopkeeper smiled. "Come back when that's empty. You won't be charged a credit."