Damin's an interesting character. I thought the juxstaposition of droid inside/outside was well done.
I'm glad you like him.
I didn't want to force that point very much but it is a little crucial in the understanding of things.
The Balkar Incident (oh dear it has a name now) is just a very clear reminder that for as much as she's changed in some ways, she is still not a "good" person. She has some decency in a few select places, but that's about it. Complex character.
I'm glad you noticed. I was going for that but it's just a shame that it had to be Balkar...
Aw, I'd never forget about this thread. <3
(no time lapse)
'After you left, with your contact, with the distributors, with everything.' I wave my hand as if further elaboration is pointless. This apartment is too small for our memories and confused feelings.
'I flew the ship to my father's estate on Dromund Kaas. While my father's people took care of trackers, I informed him of everything that happened and the misleading information I had fed them. I was then sent back to the Imperial Academy to finish my studies before being chosen to work for Intelligence instead of the military. It seems they thought I had already learnt important field work. It was quick, easy and bloody to work my way to here.'
Everything about him is expressionless, as if it was a story of someone else. I wonder if that's how I looked to Torian: distant, apathetic and slightly terrifying. I take his hand. If it was, then this is what he needs. I'm glad to see it almost makes him smile.
'I was on Hutta a few months ago. You left quite a mess to clean up.' He mentions it with no obvious meaning. It seems everyone has to comment on what I've been doing recently. I wish they wouldn't.
I let go of his hand and his neutral expression returns.
'But you still made the Empire profit from it, I'm sure,' I comment with a sly, cynical smile.
'And Cyclone has been shut down?' I ask cautiously.
'Yes.' In the silence that follows his answer, he only stares over my head. Eventually, he continues. 'After our dealings, I went to get the Cyclone analysed,' he explains. 'The data was sent immediately to my contact. We ascertained it was a creation of a supposedly out of business corporation called VereGen. I found an old employer and questioned him. His information led me to the head quarters and to the Resistance where I managed to gain access. It's gone.'
'But?' I'm not surprised he's telling me this. In the end, vague sentences mean nothing and I came here with no expectations.
'My contact left his position,' he calmly informs me. He doesn't make it sound like an evasion. But it is. 'I didn't inform my superiors of information I had on this.'
'Feeling a little guilty?'
'No. I'm getting information in return for my silence.'
'As good as credits or weapons to you, I suppose.'
'Better than both.' He drifts into silence and then continues. 'He's going to give me information on my companion. I need to sleep with both eyes open now.'
'But it's a smart move,' I meaninglessly assure. I can't imagine sleeping any other way.
'I know. Kaliyo called me a 'cowardly piece of filth'.' I don't understand the cause for the comment when bitterness, self pity and self loathing are empty from his voice and expression.
'You're spotless, boy,' I joke as I lean over and brush nonexistent dust from his clean white shirt. 'And only a brave fool would visit their psychotic fling from years past.'
'We never had a fling,' he retorts a little quickly. I see a glimpse of the bitter man again. I couldn't do what he wanted me to. But something in me I hate whispers that if I had gone with him, there was a remote chance of a happiness that has since left me.
'It sounds better than the truth.'
He doesn't reply. There isn't a title for whatever that relationship was. Kolto, pain killers and apologies can't make it better. There was only one thing that could of and it was the one thing I could never do. Will you ever put someone else first?
'So why do you let the Rattataki get under your skin? Like her?' I try to sound casual. I don't why I should have to try to sound something I should be naturally.
'No.' The silence drifts on and my mind doesn't wander. It has no where it really wants to wander to. So it stays here in the present and enjoys feeling close to someone, even if we couldn't be further apart.
'Do you hate me still?' I quietly ask.
'No. I didn't even hate you then.'
'You lie well now,' I despondently reply. Why are you talking like this? Didn't you just say you'd gotten harder? Where is that now?
'I don't lie to you.' I can't say anything in return to that. He was disarming me with words before Torian was. Seems it's a talent he hasn't lost. If he can affect everyone else the way he does me, he must be a good Agent.
But the words unnerve me for another reason. They're a succinct copy of what Gault said to me only a few days ago. I don't dwell on it. Gault's a habitual, slimy liar. It doesn't mean anything. From either of them.
'I didn't ever want to hurt you,' I confess in a quiet voice that is still too loud for this empty room that amplifies our words, breathing and already raging emotions.
'That's a lie.'
'Maybe.' I shrug and look away with a small smile. 'I'm not sure.'
'I understand. I have had to do what you did. I know you had no choice. I have had no choice. But there is a difference.'
'You get paid for it?' I jokingly ask.
A sad smile tugs at his lips. I wonder if it's now only the sad and fake ones that twist his defined lips into a full smile.
'Yes. I have never thought or wanted to free anyone. It isn't because I would be sentencing myself to death. It isn't something they have to brain wash or force, the way doing what you do in that room because something... enjoyable
. It becomes almost a need and desire that keeps you awake at night and creeps into restless dreams leaving you in a fever. I will continue to for as long as it's necessary and I will never want or do what you did. I like it too much and them too little.'
I shiver. It isn't because of the picture he brings forward or how something insidious has entered him since we last met. It's because he's so right and I feel the craving stir again. But satisfying that addiction is impossible and can never make you happy.
'Are you happy, Damin?' I suddenly ask.
'A little too honest for Intelligence, aren't you?' I teasingly ask.
His tone is hard. It makes me look at him twice. I sweep the surroundings with my eye and listen. There's only us.
'Do you ever wish I didn't save you?' I ask abruptly.
'I don't know.' I smile and shake my head. I wish my answer was uncertainty. I wish every moment that Torian had let me die or that our places were reversed. But wishing doesn't change anything. Neither does crying.
'Come on, Damin, let's sit.' I sit down on the bantha rug and throw myself onto my back. He stiffly follows, lying down next to me yet with space between us. I'm glad.
'You have a close relationship with Gault Rennow.' He lets the pebble drop and watches what shaped ripples it will cause.
'It is,' I neutrally reply.
'You're sleeping together,' he asserts. But there's an edge in his voice that breaks the calm and dispassionate. He isn't quite perfect at hiding himself. Small things leak through that maybe no one else would notice. But he's close enough to perfect. Disgustingly close.
'You should have made that a question because you're wrong. We're just... friends.' I hesitate. The word doesn't seem right but there isn't a better one. I avoid the question of what Gault and I are. We're only what we always were but it feels like something has changed and I don't know when or how. Maybe I just never noticed something before and I'm the one changing.
'I'm married, Damin.'
'To Torian of clan Cadera,' he begins to recite, dulled red eyes distant as they see words that aren't there. 'You worked a job together on Taris and killed his traitor father, then he joined up with you and your crew. He became a Captain for an operation on Alderaan. Died aged thirty five months ago in a strike against the Republic Chancellor.'
'That's him,' I quietly breathe. The information being delivered so indifferently doesn't make the words or truth hurt less.
'I wonder about that sometimes,' I reply with a small, sad smile. His voice is too real, too close. 'Mhi solus tome, mhi solus dar'tome. He's still my husband. And I still love him.'
'I understand.' The stoic agent is back. I hate the Damin the rest of the world sees. I wonder if he feels the same about me.
But Leeriah is dead if she ever existed past a seven year old girl. He's speaking to a shadow that will fade as soon as the sun rises and morning comes. Her brief resurrection will end and Ravager Haran will be the one that leaves this building.
I reach my hand out to touch his cheek and turn his face gently to mine. The action makes something ache, and I feel like I just sullied a little bit of my memories. I withdraw my hand quickly and resist the hard urge to recoil in disgust.
'Gault doesn't know about him.'
For the first time, Damin stares at me with shock. I wonder when the last time was that anything shocked him.
I raise an eyebrow at the word but then lower it and shrug. 'I didn't mean for him to stay aboard. It was a temporary arrangement only.' So was the first and then two years past. It seems history will always repeat itself.
'He will find out. When he does, there is a 93% chance he will leave you and a 69% chance he will never stay in contact. But the chance he will become an enemy is a small one. Losing a valuable ally is the extent of the damage it will likely cause.'
The instant assessment is unnerving. I refuse to believe it. Something stupid in me tells me Gault will never leave. Because you never want him to.
'Ven seo ch'a ttan'ehah ebeucot,' he says with a small smile. You always were a complete idiot.
I guess you had to be to do what I did. But I would do it again.
'Rab ch'ah recet hen veo ven ch'eo ebeucot.' But I liked it when you were only my idiot.
He moves his hand into my hair and smiles. He moves his other hand to my waist and leans into me, pulling me closer to him. But he only kisses my cheek before letting me go. He analyses its effect on me with a thin smile.
'I was never your idiot.'
'You were. You will be again.'
He sounds confident, like he had some way of knowing with certainty what was going to happen. I wonder what the calculated chance was that it is true. His arrogance is grating, his over confidence irksome.
I shake my head. I feel it would pointless to argue with him and I am far too tired to bother. I unconsciously begin to scratch my hand.
'What is your interest in Cyclone, Leeriah?' I'm not surprised he never asked sooner. His goals merged easily with mine and the reason why doesn't always matter until the end. It didn't matter because I wasn't going against him.
'I'm just helping my crime lord friend,' I reply flippantly. A poor evasion. He sees through it in an instance.
'You are better at lying to yourself, Leeriah, than others. You mustn't of made a good agent which explains why you would be given more honest roles at the base.'
I look at him sharply, my eyes trying to shoot him down. He always managed to see through me. But now it sounds like a clinical study through observation and interaction and that is his conclusion at the end of the study. I hate little more than people getting into my head. I will not be analysed. I will not be predicted and I will not be used or manipulated.
'Why were you interested in the Cyclone?' he repeats.
'Not for my own use if that's what you worried about.' I have my own Cyclone.
'For once, my intentions are good.'
'Are there still good intentions in the galaxy?' He asks bitterly and cynically. It isn't hard to replace 'the galaxy' with 'you'.
'No.' I look away. 'Not anymore.'
He slowly turns his head to me and watches me.
'If you are to be believed, sculag, then I would always be crying.' The same answer I would give at the end of our... official time together. He was always right.
'You are. Can I stop it?' Damin's voice carries gentle concern and pleading. I can't trust it. I can't trust him. But it sounds nice coming from his lips and being carried in his accented voice.
'Depends. Can you bring people back from the dead and grant people immortality?'
'Or you could just call me every now and again.' Another person to send you messages you'll never reply to? Heartless schutta
. But I can't give him nothing but heartless jibes when he looks at me with those pleading, hurt eyes.
'I can't promise that.'
'Then it seems I'll be crying forever,' I reply with thick melodrama. The obvious threat and teasing gets a faster and more desired response than I thought it ever would.
'Once a month,' he instantly replies.
'Half month,' I return in barter.
'Two or never.'
I rest my head on his chest. He idly raises a silver-blue hand after a few minutes and twirls my hair between his fingers.
'So you and your Rataaki friend aren't a couple then?'
'Do you want to be?'
'No.' He pauses. I don't push the words he might never want to say. 'Yes' and 'no' are enough for now. 'I can't trust her. Right now, a datapad is streaming everything she's doing from listening devices in her rifle, chambers and armour as well as the ship recording her every movements.'
'I didn't particularly like her.'
'You never like any women,' he says with a small smile. I guess it's true. I don't. This revelation doesn't make me smile.
'I thought you might like her, so I spared her. I can still kill her if you want.' It's a genuine offer. I wouldn't mind.
'Can you make that an 'IOU'? I might need it,' he replies seriously.
'If you ever need anything, you can call. Which will be easy since you already are twice a month,' I teasingly remind. Something about him invokes me to tease him and I wonder if it's only because I don't want to get too close or too serious.
'I need someone I can trust.'
'Truly?' The concept is strange to me. I've never felt a need to trust another. Somehow, I could always imagine everyone around me betraying me in some way. I don't mind. I don't know another way to live then with a constant guard. Liar.
'Do you trust your crew?'
'Gault the slimy crime lord and HK-51 the mental assassin droid from a prison planet?' I pause to emphasise the stupidity of his question. 'No. But I don't mind. I guess it's because I have nothing to hide and I can kill them both rather easily.'
'Can I trust you?' Damin's voice is low and intent. His hand and breathing stop.
I wonder what the calculated outcomes of the scenarios where I have his trust are. They must all involve his gain or no loss because otherwise the Cipher wouldn't ask that of the galaxies most hated bounty hunter.
I roll onto my stomach and prop myself up on my elbows. I look at him in consideration. I kiss his forehead.
'You can always trust me. You're one of the three people in the galaxy still alive that I would never kill. And maybe you haven't noticed, but I don't exactly talk to many alive people.'
He nods at this. Of course he noticed. A secluded and hated person known to have an affection for him that will stop betrayal or murder from them and has combat training to provide military support would be a perfect confidant.
'The other two?' he asks calmly. His Imperial accent has gotten thicker since we last met so many years ago but I'm sure he can hide it with ease when he needs to. His jaw bones are also more defined, his... Don't. Just don't. That doesn't help anyone.
'Just because I don't trust my crime lord doesn't mean I want him dead. Other is a Jawa.'
'Named Blizz. Joined your crew twelve months ago but left after eight. Now travels with salvagers.' He recites the learnt information again, his dim red eyes becoming blank and distant as the words of memory appear in front of him.
'That's the one. So did you look this up before coming or do you always keep an eye on me?' I ask it in teasing but my voice is dead pan.
'Once I gained the means, I have been. Of course, there was no record of you for years.'
'How sweet. Do I have my own file?' I ask sardonically.
He doesn't reply. A Cipher never reveals the extent of information or sources.
'Have you ever thought of me?' He asks.
'It doesn't matter.'
'It does.' I pause and choke out my next words, hesitation closing my throat. 'I... am happy you're alive.'
'Alive or alive and here with you?' I don't like the way he asks the clarification. I don't know the answer to it. I don't like what it may mean to him. Whatever this is shouldn't come with expectations. But I need the boundaries I don't feel.
'Why? Because I'm making you forget your husband and love me? Because I'm making you happier than you have been in months? Because I'm reminding you of how much you always loved me and still do?'
I roll away and almost pull out my blaster. 'I said 'don't', Damin. It would be a shame to kill you now after I saved your life.'
'Don't call me that. It isn't my name anymore.'
'It will always be your name to me.'
'****, are you this g** d*mn charming to every woman you meet?' I shout in aggravation. The confession didn't mean to come out.
He gives me a thin, devious smile and his chin raises in Imperial pride. 'I am a Cipher.'
'And that answers everything. If I see you again, I will kill you. Don't contact me.'
I stand and begin to leave. I don't hear him approach. I only feel his arms encircle me from behind and pull me gentle back into him.
'I won't let you leave me again.'
'I never left you. I just didn't leave with you,' I correct with an indifference that is hard to hold.
'Then don't stay this time.'
The more earnest he becomes the heavier his accent gets. His voice surrounds me in a warmth more than his arms and body can. He bends down so his can kiss my neck, his lips resting there.
'Come with me.'
'And work for the Empire? Join your harem of fighters?' I sneeringly inquire.
'No. Just be with me.' He whispers the words into my ear with a light warm breath. His simple words and low and alluring. He kisses my ear from top to bottom. 'Stay with me, Leeriah. Please.' He kisses my neck again and rests his chin on it, pulling me into his arms tighter.
'You can travel with me on my ship, going from planet to planet. Come with me, Leeriah,' he repeats. His hand finds a hold on my waist and the other on my arm. 'You and me, Leeriah, for as long as it can ever last.'
My brain. My lungs. My thoughts. My everything. I freeze like he shut me down: cut the power, spoke a code and now I'm empty and blank.
I break from his arms with a little difficulty.
'It would never last.' I look out the window and see the dense dark of fog has slightly lifted. The light is coming and Leeriah is fading. 'It's morning. We need to go.'
I walk out through the broken door. He is a Cipher. Nothing he says is the truth. But the truth sometimes means little to me. I will not work with him under false pretenses and I will not help an Empire I hate.
'I look forward to your call in two weeks,' I call back to Damin.
And then I leave him again, slipping through the alleys at a fast, silent run. But no matter how fast I can run or how hard it isn't fast enough.
Torian... should I be sorry yet?