Major Spoilers! If you have not reached Corellia in the Sith Warrior class quests, don't read this fic.
This is my take on Quinn's betrayal. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: SWTOR and Malavai Quinn are not mine, tragically. Neither is a good chunk of the dialog in the middle of this fic.
"Are you coming to bed, Malavai?"
Quinn turned from the report in his hand at the sound of his wife's voice. His wife. How strange to think that this powerful Sith woman standing askance before him had agreed to be his bride.
When he had first meet Baras' new apprentice, one Zalith Drurteg, he'd been slightly surprised to discover she was a Zabrak. It was far from unheard of, but it certainly was not common. Despite this initial surprise, he quickly found himself mesmerized by her strength, confidence and intelligence. Her stance and all her actions displayed professionalism and an astonishing level of loyalty and devotion to the Empire to be found in a member of the notoriously capricious Sith. Yet her blue eyes watched him with an unnerving sparkle of amusement, as though she was party to some secret joke at his expense. It was those eyes, he suspected, that first doomed him - that sparkle that brightened when she dropped her professionalism to flirt with and tease him. He had been so thrown off by it, so unbalanced. Each time he thought he had regain his balance and control, she would say something else to throw him once more into disarray.
Now as he took in her voluptuous figure poised expectantly, bathed in the ever shifting light of the galaxy map, his chest tightened painfully, though his expression never faltered. She was so beautiful, and he loved her so dearly. It made what he knew he had to do that much harder.
"I will be in shortly. I simply need to finalize this document."
"Don't keep me waiting too long, Malavai," she cooed in a sultry tone, winked and sauntered provocatively toward her cabin that they now shared, her great cape swishing behind her in a regal fashion. He instantly felt his body warm in response, desire racing through him just as she intended. Making swift work of the report, he rose and followed his lord. Tonight would be for them. He would give himself this. Tomorrow he would do what was required of him, but not tonight.
In these many months with her she had torn down all his defenses. Just weeks ago, he had thought nothing could sway his loyalty to her. But Darth Baras' betrayal sent him spiraling in confusion. He should have seen it coming. Relationships between Sith master and apprentice were always tumultuous. But he had irrationally thought he would have more time to come to terms with his shifting feelings before they would be put to the test. Lord Zalith, though angry and betrayed, had not seemed overly surprised by the turn of events, which only served to make him feel more incompetent for not having seen it coming.
Quinn knew then that Darth Baras would eventually call his loyalty into question and demand he use Lord Zalith's trust in him against her. But at every turn, his lord had proven loyal and dedicated to the Empire. Surely none could be better for it than her. And Quinn loved her, dearly. If forced to choose, he would side with her, though it would pain him greatly to turn against the man who had saved his career. With this resolve, he had proposed and believed with every fiber of his being that they could do anything together.
Quinn walked through the door to their room as it admitted him to find his magnificent wife perched casually on a chair as she ran a brush through her shoulder-length ebony locks. She turned to him and smiled disarmingly as he strode across the room to her upturned face. With a gentle smile, he ran his fingers through her soft, silken tresses. Again his chest tightened painfully, though he carefully schooled his features. How he would miss this, miss the feel of her soft hair and warm skin. How he'd miss her smiling eyes and smirking mouth. Wrapping an arm around her waist, he pulled her firmly up to him, his lips crashing against hers fervently.
He had thought he'd never lose this. But as Quinn had anticipated, Baras contacted him. Unerringly, he detected Quinn's reluctance. He spoke to Quinn's reason. Explained how surely Quinn must see that he was the better choice for the Empire. He called Quinn's motives into question challenged him. Surely Quinn would not allow personal attachment to get in the way of his better judgment, his loyalty to the Empire. And Darth Baras had made sense, far too much sense for Quinn to turn a blind eye. He understood now. For the good of the Empire, he had to side with Baras. Baras was the only logical choice. He must sacrifice his own desires for the good of the Empire.
Zalith responded to his kiss with equal intensity. Malavai threaded his fingers through her hair and pulled her closer to him. She couldn't know that tonight was goodbye, but he would pour everything he had out to her in this last passionate embrace.
Later, she lay trustingly in his arms on the verge of sleep. She always had such faith in him. Never once had she doubted him. Even after hearing from the Voss that one of her own plotted against her, she never turned her suspicions on him. It made what was to come all the more painful.
Stretching contentedly, she turned into his embrace, nuzzling against his chest. He tightened his arms around her. Carefully, he buried his head in her hair. Early in their intimate relationship, Malavai had been less cautious and had nearly lost an eye to one of the vestigial horns that lined her hairline at the top of her forehead. It was not a mistake he intended to repeat. Sighing softly, she whispered against him, and he strained to hear her.
"I love you, Malavai."
He struggled for breath as she fell finally asleep. He knew she loved him, but this was the first time she had spoken the words. She said them so carelessly, and he wondered if she suspected something. But no, she had shown no such indication. His gaze fell to her sleeping face. He would get little sleep tonight, but he would etch this into his memory while he still could.
Zalith rose the next day to find her husband already up and about his business, as usual. He had seemed strange last night, over these last several weeks in fact. Something was bothering him, though she could not guess what. As she joined him in the cockpit, however, he seemed in fine form. She shrugged it off. If he wished to speak with her about something he would bring it up in due time. For now, they had work to do.
"We will be arriving shortly, my lord," Quinn updated her. She smiled a little at his overly polite manners. Someday she would convince him to address her more intimately, but for now she simply found it endearing.
"Good. I shall meet you at the exit in five minutes, then."
"As you say, my lord."
Zalith walked through the ship towards the exit, considering deeply. The Voss' words whispered through her mind, and she frowned. She was so tired of betrayal. It had been one thing coming from her master. Such was the way with Sith. She had always known it would come to that eventually. But this ship was her safe haven. This was her place, her people. She had wanted to believe that at least these she could trust. While it wearied her to know one of her own plotted against her, she was not very surprised. Only, which one? Broonmark seemed the most likely. He was violent, and she knew little of him as yet. Perhaps Lt. Pierce believed her command too restricting and wished to be rid of her as he was his former superiors? Jeasa could turn on her. She still held too closely to the Jedi teachings and may have grown to resent her master's part in separating her from them. Vette seemed unlikely. The strange little twilek had grown quite attached to Zalith. Still, she supposed it was possible. Vette could be a little too easily deceived and manipulated.
Zalith sighed and kneaded her temple. She was sick of all this doubt and suspicion. She had hoped that once she had been elevated out of the Sith academy, she would be free of it. It was a naοve hope.
Quinn joined his lord at the ship's exit, and together they proceeded to board the vessel he had convinced her carried the special signal emitters that would be required to reach Corellia successfully. Never once had she questioned him, though he thought Lt. Pierce might suspect something. Quickly they advanced through the corridors, and she easily sliced her way through the small contingent of enemies they encountered.
When they arrived in the empty room Quinn had planned specifically for this purpose, he strode forward into the center, leaving her standing confused near the entrance that now closed behind her. Taking a deep breath, he hardened his heart. This was necessary. For the Empire, this must be done. And so he confessed to his ruse.
"My lord, I regret that our paths must diverge. Out of respect, I wanted to be here to witness your fate."
"Are you breaking up with me?" she asked in deceptively calm disbelief. "If you say it's not you, it's me, I take no responsibility for my actions."
Had the circumstances been different, he might have laughed at that. It was so like her to make light of a serious situation. Steeling himself, he pushed on.
"It's Darth Baras. It pains me, but this entire scenario is a ruse. There's no martial law and no special single emitter. Baras is my true master. He had me lure you here to have you killed."
"I thought it was real," she said softly, almost pleadingly. It was so unlike her, he almost caved right then. The hurt in her voice was palpable. Up to this moment, he had not truly believed himself capable of hurting her. She always seemed so solid, so unshakable. "I thought we meant something to each other."
Inside, his heart screamed that it was, and they did. He loved her, he needed her. But this wasn't about what he needed. There were some things more important than even yourself.
"I act today with a heavy heart. But without Baras, I'd have no career. I didn't want to choose between the two of you. But he's forced my hand, and I must side with him."
"You know who I'm working for now, Captain." The coldness of her address stung him bitterly, though he knew it well deserved. "If you stand with Baras, you stand against the Emperor himself." She spoke to his reason and his loyalty, but he had considered all the sides. Baras was right. This was for the best.
"The Emperor is an absentee landlord. Baras is doing what any real patriot would do." It was not her fault that she had been forced to the wrong side. Even so, she could not be allowed to live for Baras to succeed. Quinn buried his heart deep, and his expression was stone cold when he explained how meticulously he had plotted the death of his own wife. "After all this time observing you in battle I have exhaustively noted your strengths and weaknesses. These war droids have been programed specifically to combat you. I calculate a near zero percent chance of their failure."
Resignedly, she acknowledge his thoroughness, his efficiency, and with that there seemed nothing more to say. He summoned the droids that would end her and heard the eerie hum as she ignited her lightsaber. Soon this would all be over, one way or another.
She attacked with the ferocity he had grown accustomed to seeing her use to dispatch the enemies of the Empire. In truth, it had always excited him. He delighted in seeing her vanquish their foes with such delicious expedience. Her eyes would light up, her chest heave, and she'd leap through the air with grace and strength unlike anything he had ever witnessed.
Now standing at the other end, Quinn felt for the first time that fear that surely many who'd stood against her had felt before. She was a master of death, and as he watched her defeat his carefully planned droids like she was swatting flies, he began to realize he had greatly underestimated her. Again. With this realization came the sinking awareness that he had perhaps been wrong about a great many other things. This woman could defeat Darth Baras. This woman would carry the Empire. She sincerely was the best choice for the Empire. Baras had deceived him. Baras had played him for a fool, and now Quinn would pay dearly for his folly.
She easily dispatched the last of the droids and in a few quick strikes of her ligthsaber hilt, he feel to his knees, entirely defeated. He waited for the final blow. He deserved it. He was a treasonous failure. But when the blow did not come immediately he suspected she wanted him to speak. Confused and unsure what to say, he stupidly blurted out the first thing that came to mind as he rose to his feet, clutching his side.
"I should have known. I thought I'd programmed the perfect killing machine for you. I was painstakingly precise."
"Your droids pushed me. It was a valiant attempt." Her response so shocked him that he raised his eyes to meet hers in surprise. Was she mocking him? It didn't seem like it. Pity then, perhaps. Was she trying to make his last moments less pathetic? She was unusually kind for a Sith. It was possible she was trying to help him believe he was not dying a total failure. It was pointless and unnecessary. He was a traitor, incompetent, and a fool.
"That's little consolation." He snatched onto these brief moments she had given him. She had to know how he regretted his actions. Even if it meant nothing now, he still wanted her to know. He knew forgiveness was impossible. She would end him here. Or, if she was particularly cruel, she would let him live in disgrace and drive him from her presence. The idea of being forced to live with the thought that he had betrayed the person dearest to him and destroyed his own life, career, and honor was a bitter one. No, better she end it here than that he live to see himself become a useless waste of space. Better that than be forced to live a traitor, the thing he abhorred above all else.
"I have betrayed you. Conspired with your most hated enemy. I know it is meaningless to express my deep regret. I don't expect your mercy."
But it seemed she was not done surprising him today.
"I understand your confusion. Baras can be very persuasive. I forgive you, Quinn."
Quinn stared at her, speechless. She forgave him? Hope and warmth started to fill him and try as he might, he could not quench it. Perhaps all was not lost after all. If she gave him a second chance, nothing would ever shake his loyalty to her again. He would prove how valuable he could be. He would work tirelessly for her. He knew their relationship could not be the same. How could she love a man who had turned on her so, but this...this was enough. If he could simply be a support to her, it was enough. His surprise and gratitude tumbled from his mouth, even as his mind tried to grasp the reality of it.
"My lord, I am deeply grateful. Darth Baras would never afford me the same forgiveness. If you will permit me to stay in your charge, my dedication to you will never come into question again."
"You'll just have to make this up to me in private, Captain."
And just like that, all the pieces were put back together. He was still welcome in her life, in her heart and bed. He could not imagine why, after all he had done, but he would not question it. His heart sang, and it took all his willpower not to draw her into his arms right there. But even in this happiness, he could tell that she was guarded. Her levity was a mask to hide something she was not yet ready to deal with. If that is what she wished, he would follow in suit until she was ready. He was not foolish enough to believe this would be the last of it.
"That can be arranged, my lord." He smiled, his voice low. He would certainly delight in arranging alone time with her. He never tired of her company. Remembering solemnly where they were, he brought the focus back to the present. "This interruption has delayed you enough. I'm eager to return to the ship and put this behind us."
Zalith's emotions were a raging turmoil as they made their way back to the ship. Even so, she kept her features carefully peaceful, not ready to open her heart so fully to Malavai again just yet. She was relieved that things had ended thus. A part of her had been terrified he would force her to kill him. Her heart ached at his betrayal, even though she understood it.
Predominately, however, she felt rage a deep, boiling rage unlike any she had experienced yet. She welcomed it, let it stew there under the surface. In time it would fuel the dark side in her as she brought it to bear on the one who incurred it: Darth Baras. That treacherous pig, that treasonous snake. It was not enough that he attempt to take her life, that he undermine her at every turn. No, he had to touch that which was sacred, that which was hers - her marriage, her husband, her home and he'd contaminated it with his filth and treachery.
She had been sincere when she told Malavai she understood Baras' persuasiveness. She had been deceived by him for a great while and had seen many others strong, intelligent people fall under his sway like a blade of grass before a great wind. No, she did not blame her husband for his foolishness, despite all the hurt she felt from it regardless. But she would not let that vile man destroy her marriage and happiness with his scheming and deceit. She would work tirelessly to ensure that she and Malavai rise above this and come out stronger for it, if for no other reason than to spite Baras for thinking he could twist it. By this act, Baras had ensured one thing: Zalith would enjoy destroying her master. She would bring true Wrath down on him.
They neared the docking bay, and Zalith paused, nearly sighing. She needed a moment to gather herself before she was confronted with the rest of the crew again. Turning to the captain, her husband, who had been incredibly quiet on their walk back, she motioned toward the ship door.
"The ship is through there. Prepare for departure. I'll join you shortly."
Now, however, he spoke up, though rather reluctantly.
"Of course, my lord. One thing, my lord, do you plan on telling the others what happened?"
She hadn't really thought that far yet, but immediately she knew her answer.
"No one else must know. It would compromise your ability to lead. Am I understood?"
Quinn was amazed by her wisdom and foresight. She was always so careful to maintain order, even as she allowed her crew freedom and flexibility they would not be afforded on a military vessel. Her methods kept them each operating to their full capacity, utilizing each of their strengths to make them an unstoppable force. Bowing his head, he acknowledged her instructions before turning to go.
"I appreciate it, my lord. I will see you back at the ship."
It felt strange to return to this ship like nothing had happened. He had left here expecting to return without her, to turn or eliminate the rest of her crew as was needed. That none of the others would ever know what happened and could have happened today was a strange feeling. Quickly he pushed it to the back of his mind. He had work to do, and he would work as he never had before. There would be none she could rely on more, none who served her so devotedly and tirelessly. He would ensure it. Swiftly he moved to the cockpit to prepare for departure as his lord had instructed.
It was not long before she returned. That frustrating lieutenant asked how things had gone, and she merely waved him off, replying that all was ready now for them to make their way to Corellia. She seemed confident and at ease, not a hint of the turmoil he'd seen less than a half hour before. As always, she was magnificent.
Quinn set their course for Corellia, but it would be some hours before they reached their destination. He was searching through his records for a report he knew required completion, when he felt her approach and heard the tell tale signs of her heavy boots clanking on the flooring. For all her gracefulness in battle, one could never accuse her of being stealthy with all the armor she wore. He turned to her, awaiting instruction as he would from any superior. He never dropped his professionalism with her until she did first. He could never be sure if she was here for business or pleasure, as his superior or his wife, so he always erred on the side of respect and obedience.
"Is everything in order?" She queried first, her voice all business.
"Yes, my lord. We are en route to Corellia. ETA six hours, thirty-five minutes."
Her lips quirked in a smile. While he suspected she was silently laughing at him, it so warmed his heart to see it that he hardly cared. But then her smile dropped, and her expression was serious once more.
"I'd like to speak with you privately, in our chambers, Malavai. If you are not otherwise engaged."
Ah, then she was ready to talk. He dreaded it, but was relieved it would be over, and even more so that she had not decided to wait days or weeks to deal with it. Nodding in acknowledgment, he quickly put away the report he had just retrieved and followed her to their room. The door closed behind him, and he felt briefly that this was the reverse of how things had been just hours ago. But no, she was not here to kill him. This would be nothing like his treachery for all the creeping dread he felt. With a deep breath, she turned to address him, and he braced himself for whatever berating, questions, or emotions would come.
"First, I want to say that regardless of whatever goes on between us here in our marriage, when we are in front of the crew, we need to be of one accord a united front. We are a team and if the others sense that there is dissension between us it could affect their trust in our ability to lead them, and they could try to sow further seeds of discord between us. Whatever truth or lie it may be, we are husband and wife and to anyone outside that relationship, we are happy and united. Am I understood?"
Her voice was authoritative and brisk. He had grown used to it as she issued insightful orders expediently to advance their missions. Once more he found himself awed by her perception and wisdom. She always considered every side, always took into account how something could effect the success of their mission. But something she said there toward the end bothered him. Truth or lie? Did she believe their marriage fake then? That bothered him a great deal more than he would have anticipated. He would have to wait to address that, however, as she awaited his response.
"Of course, my lord. As you say, we cannot allow the others to detect anything but solidarity in our leadership."
It felt odd including himself as a leader on this ship, though he was well aware he was her second-in-command. But she had spoken it first, so he followed her example. He heard her inhale deeply, and she sounded so weary that his heart went out to her. Her posture sagged, and she dropped her head into her hand, kneading her forehead. Before him no longer stood his superior, but simply a very tired and heartbroken woman, and Malavai immediately sensed the change. He wanted to draw her into his arms, comfort her, beg her forgiveness, but he held himself back, waiting for her to pour out what was on her heart.
"I won't ask you why you did it." Zalith started softly. "I can understand that well enough. You and I are of the same mold. We put the Empire first in all things, even at our own expense. So I understand why you would do this if Baras deceived you into believing it was best for the Empire."
He was astounded by her graciousness still, but he could find nothing more to say. She seemed to require no response though, for she pushed forward, her voice growing more heavy and weary with each word.
"What I do want to know is: was any of it real? All the things you said, our marriage, our plans for the future? Was any of it real? Or was it all just an elaborate deception to break me?"
Her voice said without saying that if that were the case, he had certainly succeeded. His chest ached so painfully he nearly clutched at his heart to be sure it wouldn't be torn straight from his chest. But that was foolishness, so he took a deep breath a spoke as earnestly as he could, hoping she would here the truth in his words.
"It was all real," he swore vehemently. "I meant every word. I love you, wife. And I will never again be conflicted about who's side I am on."
Her expression brightened a little at his words, but even so, she laughed bitterly.
"I have heard those words before. Yet here we stand."
It was like a stake in his heart, but she spoke truth.
"I meant it then," he replied softly, though it was a weak explanation. "I truly believed that even Baras would not convince me to turn against you."
The words echoed hollow in his own ears. He could hardly imagine how they sounded to her. But she merely waved him off dismissively.
"I am well aware of how treacherous and cunning my old master can be. I do not fault you for being deceived by him. Certainly you were loyal to him before you were loyal to me. It would have been a difficult decision for you to turn on him, even without him whispering in your ear. No, you would not be the man I love if you did not fight for those you are loyal to and for what you thought was best for the Empire, even at great personal expense to yourself."
She breathed deeply once more, seeming to gather herself, and he awaited her judgment uneasily. He would be there for her in whatever capacity she wished it. But to lose her confidence and companionship if she chose to remove it would be a very painful cost indeed.
"It was all real then? You married me because you truly wished it?"
"Yes." His reply was strong, sure and passionate. "There is nothing we can't achieve together, wife."
She smiled at the remembered words, and her whole posture relaxed. Crossing her arms and raising a brow, she stood with a hip cocked, looking as mischievous and alluring as ever.
"Well then, hubby," her voice was thick and sultry even as she teased him, and he raised one of his own brows in question, smirking. With just a few simple words from her, his whole body felt on fire. How he adored this woman. "I believe you promised to make things up to me...in private. And it would seem we are in private now." She motioned to the decidedly intimate surroundings of their chambers. In a few short strides, he closed the distance between them and with a firm arm around her waist he pulled her tight against him.
"With pleasure," he growled, before his lips cut off any further conversation with a deep, all-consuming kiss. He had her back. She was his. And nothing was ever going to change that again.
I hope you enjoyed it. I haven't had it beta read yet, and it is a bit more verbose than I had hoped, but I thought I'd share it all the same. Also, I once read somewhere that Baras rather resembled a Volus from Mass Effect. Kudos to anyone who picks up on my reference to that. :P
Read and review please! I live for reviews.