Somewhere Underground, Nar Shaddaa
Dredd had been standing outside the Sith's cell in silence, doing nothing but standing, and waiting. He took a long pull from a flask he had taken from his belt, relishing the warmth it brought his body as it rolled down his throat. He leaned back against the wall, eyes closed for a moment, before glancing at the cell door. He walked into the doorway, peering into the darkness to see Soleta sitting upright in her cell, her eyes locking with his as he leaned against the frame. The hunter took a deep breath and looked away as he brought the flask to his mouth once more, taking in the last of its contents as he flung himself into a chair in the corner.
"Drink?" he asked as he pulled another flask from his waist, still looking down and away from her.
"If you're offering, then certainly," Soleta answered, smiling. "It does seem a trifle dry in here."
Dredd took one last drink before he tossed the flask at her feet, not once looking at her.
Soleta picked up the flask and took a brief, dainty sip. "Thank you most kindly," she said as she stood, holding out the flask. "To business, then, I suppose. What is it you want of me?"
"I don't want your thanks, for starters." He grunted as he pulled the flask from her hands, alcohol heavy on his breath. "A good drink calms nerves, if Sith have nerves." He laughed loudly, seemingly at the absurdity of his statement.
He drank deeply again, spilling a small amount down his front. He quickly wiped the liquid off his chin, and paused, looking down and grabbing at the chain hanging around his neck, his fingers stopping on a blood-red stone which had hung over his heart.
"I've met a few Sith in my day." He spoke absentmindedly as he sat back in his chair, the stone clasped in his hand.
"I'm afraid I haven't made the acquaintance of any Mandalorians." Soleta watched intently as Dredd clutched at the pendant. "Until you, of course. Field scholarship doesn't offer much opportunity for dealing with people in your line of work."
He didn't respond to her comment for a few moments, still apparently lost in his own little world. "So you haven't worked in the field before?"
"Not the kind of field work you mean, no." Soleta grinned as she shook her head. "I was telling the truth, back there, about working for the Reclamation Service. I've been cleaning dust off of pottery fragments since before I could walk properly. Not that I expect you to believe me — you and your employer made that quite clear."
Dredd snorted, uncaring. "Never trust a Sith."
"What do you want, Dredd?" Soleta asked again. "You obviously aren't here for the pleasure of my eminently charming company, but there's something
you want badly enough to be on the wrong side of a cell with someone you dislike and distrust. What is it?"
Dredd looked up, maintaining eye contact with Soleta for the first time since entering the room, his piercing blue eyes contrasting his heavily scarred face. "Have you ever killed anyone, Sith?"
Soleta sighed heavily as she stalked back to the opposite corner of the room, sitting down on her heels with her hands in her lap. "Countless lives have met their end at my hands," she deadpanned. "The galaxy is awash in the blood of my unworthily slaughtered foes. Is that what you wanted to hear?"
"No." He asserted. "I want to hear the truth."
"Then yes. I have." She met his gaze with a challenging glare. "Most in my own defence. A few at my Master's command. None I particularly regret, aside from the first."
"Go on." Dredd urged, intent upon her words.
"He'd found out before I did that we were both being considered for an apprenticeship and, quite sensibly, he wanted me out of the way. He knew I had a terrible crush on him, so he asked me to spend the night with him, and of course, I was too busy being overawed to wonder why he'd suddenly taken an interest in me. I don't begrudge him any of that; it's simply how the game is played."
She smirked, chuckling under her breath. "He picked the lock on one of the guest chambers for visiting Darths, and we shared a bottle of Alderaanian red that he'd stolen from an Overseer's private collection. Things progressed as they generally do, and after that
first was done and he thought I was defenceless, he attacked me with the knife he'd hidden under the mattress. We fought. It went badly for him."
"I'm sorry," Dredd apologized, looking away. "I'm sorry they did that to you."
"I survived," Soleta replied with a shrug. "I'm quite good at surviving."
The room fell into silence for what seemed like a decade.
"You know I'm going to have to kill you, right?" Dredd breathed, almost inaudibly. "An hour from now? Tomorrow? I don't know. The end result will be the same."
"You'll do what you need to do," she replied, "as will I. That's simply how the game is played."
"That's it?" Dredd laughed in disbelief. "The mighty Sith's
view on life and death. A game."
"I suppose that offends your Mandalorian
honour," Soleta snapped.
"SHUT UP!" He roared in response, her words clearly striking a nerve.
He stood from his seat, clumsily catching himself on the wall. Clearly drunk, he stood there a moment before slumping to the ground. Having given up on the idea of retreating from the room he resigned himself to laying his head in his hands, pendant now pressed against his cheek.
Soleta stood again, crossing the narrow cell to stand beside Dredd. "Come on, then," she said as she bent to wrap her arms around his chest, trying to haul him up to his feet. "You're doing no one any good sitting there in a heap."
He pulled away from her halfway through being lifted to his feet, laughing hysterically.
"Where would I be without the Sith's generosity?!" he asked to the nearest wall, raising his arms to an audience that wasn't there. There was no humor in his laugh, not this time. "It's all part of the game! Who are we but pawns to the Sith?!"
"You're an idiot, for starters," Soleta replied, her tone icy. She reached out and pulled his blaster from its holster, then held it out to him grip-first. "If you're really that disgusted with me, I suggest you do something about it rather than blubbering like a spoiled child."
Dredd grabbed her hand, not taking the blaster, but instead redirected it at himself in her hands. His scarred face was mere feet from hers.
"Do it." He was grinning widely at her, the barrel of the weapon pressed against his forehead. "Finish what the others started."
"Convince me." She tried, without success, to work her hands free of his hold. "Give me one good reason why ending your misery is worth endangering my plans."
Disappointment dawned on his face and the crazed Mandalorian slowly lessened the pressure on Soleta's grip, allowing her to transfer the weapon into his hands.
"I should know better than to interfere with a Sith's game." He backed away from her slowly, voice cracking as hatred filled his eyes.
"Is this where I'm meant to apologize?" Soleta demanded as she took a step forward, closing the gap between herself and Dredd. "I'm sorry I can't help you be a coward."
"Coward?" He took another step back, nearly tripping over the chair. "I'm not afraid to live, and I'm not afraid to die. Those lines blurred a long time ago."
"Oh, of course. How silly of me not to notice how unafraid you are, while you're hiding at the bottom of a bottle and pleading with me to kill you." She sighed heavily, shaking her head. "You're going to regret this come the morning, you know."
"The only thing anyone is going to regret tomorrow, is that you didn't
kill me." He smiled, tapping his head with his blaster as he backed out of the cell. "Enjoy your rest, Sith. Here's hoping it's your last."
"Good night, Dredd." Soleta returned his smile with one of her own. "Be sure to drink plenty of water before you go to sleep. It helps with the hangover."