Chapter One: New Life
One month earlier…
Dromund Kaas. The heart of the Sith Empire, home to dark skies, darker jungles, and the darkest individuals. Rising from cavernous ravines and braving the surrounding flora and fauna, the metropolis of Kaas City stood as a defiant testament of Imperial will. A place of Sith and soldiers, housed amongst towering spires and strongholds. Hidden behind impenetrable walls, every individual was secure in their function and purpose. Every duty had been assigned, with every citizen serving the Empire to the best of their abilities. Every merchant, every curator, every sentient being fit into the cogs of the ever turning machine. Everyone had their superiors. Everyone had their inferiors. Like a magnificent web of duty and responsibility.
Whether a person be the highest of Lords or the lowliest of slaves, there was a place for them. It may not have been a place of their choosing, but it was a place nonetheless. Or rather, that was the intent. For two individuals, this system proved somewhat inadequate.
Housing district. Adjacent to the market district. A short commute from the citadel district.
Within one of the skyscrapers that dotted the gray cityscape, within one of the many homes reserved for those who had proven themselves a worthy member of Imperial society, two men slept side by side.
The bedroom of the apartment was a typical Imperial domicile. Dark and rigid materials made up the majority of walls and furnishings. Where color did exist, it came in the form of countless shades of gray. And red. Lots and lots of red. Within the bedroom, there was little excess decoration. The walls went unadorned and the various bedside tables served their purpose and little else, holding up simple lamps and housing incidental articles of clothing.
The room was simple, but its occupants had little need for excess. In fact, they had everything they could possibly need. Tucked beneath the black, silken sheets of the double-sized bed, the two figures gently slept amongst each other's embrace.
Amidst the cold, there was warmth. Amidst the rigidity, there was softness. Amidst the darkness, there was light. The typical turned atypical by merit of the pair's mere inclusion and existence.
A pair of Sith, Warrior and Inquisitor.
A pair of lovers, Pureblood and Human.
The smaller of the two, the Human lay curled up beneath the soft sheets, his partner's chest pressed against his back. As the Pureblood slumbered, his heavy yet comforting arm lay draped over his companion's shoulder. Together, there was a sense of peace and tranquility, a sense that one would soon purposely disrupt.
Whilst the Imperial city still found itself in the throes of early morning, the Human awoke, carefully opening his golden eyes. Feeling the weight of his companion pressing against his body, he would have been content to stay there the rest of the day. But there were matters that needed tending.
Carefully shifting beneath the covers, the Human moved in tiny increments, taking special care not to wake his partner. With a mixture of dexterity and grace, the Human slinked out from under his companion's arm, gently placing the Pureblood's red hand on his pillow. Lifting himself out of the bed with nary a vibration, the Human turned to see his partner had still not yet awoken.
With a smile upon his lips, the upright man crept toward the unlit room's exit, breathing a sigh of relief as he stepped into the hallways beyond. Clad in nothing but his boxers, the Human carefully navigated the darkened corridors of his home. Though his eyes had not yet adjusted, his trained senses prevented him from stumbling amidst the shadows. Passing a bathroom, a study, and a guest room, he eventually stepped into the main living area.
Fumbling his hand around the wall, the man flipped the light switch, illuminating the room and connected kitchenette. The sudden light stung the still-groggy man's eyes, prompting the release a soft grunt. Urging his almost naked form forward, the man scratched the dark, shoulder-length hair atop his head. The Human stood at an average height, and possessed a lean form sculpted by years of physical conditioning. But most remarkable was the scarring that ran up his right arm. Etched onto his pale flesh were burns and blackened, cracked skin stretching hand to shoulder. A corruption that marred his right side.
As garish as it appeared, the injury seemed little impediment to the man as he entered the kitchen. Running his hands along the clean counter, the Human passed his awakening gaze over each of the well-stocked cabinets around him. Eventually, he wrapped his hand around the handle of the conservator. The metallic box stood as tall as he and held within a bounty of preserved and chilled foodstuffs.
Back in the bedroom, after almost an hour, the Pureblood slowly stirred from his slumber. Reaching out with his hand, the man's piercing red eyes shot open when he realized he was alone. Sitting upright, the red Sith quickly scanned the room, eventually settling on the dim glow that rest around the corner of the hallway beyond. Focusing his mind, the Pureblood could hear a subtle metallic clattering.
Tossing the black sheets off of his legs, the Pureblood quickly rose to his feet in one swift motion. The tall figure moved without an ounce of hesitation or fatigue as he righted himself and moved into the hallway outside the bedroom. With heavy steps, the Sith navigated the tight corridor before finally stepping into the light.
The underwear-clad Sith stood a head taller than his partner, and possessed a much sturdier build. Broad-shouldered with a chiseled musculature, his red-skinned form seemed to confirm the thoughts of superiority the Empire had instilled in the minds of its citizens regarding his species.
"Lorrik?" the Pureblood called out, curious of the scene in front of him. His voice was low and smooth. Powerful, but not dominating. And as soon as it met his partner's ears, the Human quickly spun toward its source baring wide eyes.
"Jresh!" Lorrik blurted out, his tone sharp yet simultaneously soft. "I had hoped you'd still be asleep."
Jresh saw his partner tending a busy kitchen, various pans holding various foods held over an electronic stovetop. As meats cooked and sizzled, the Human bounced his unfaltering attention between his cooking and his partner. All the while shirtless.
"Didn't you get burned the last time you cooked half-naked?" Jresh calmly asked. The stoic of the two, the Pureblood maintained a stalwart demeanor at all times, rarely raising his voice or offering intense displays of emotion. His partner on the other hand, wore his emotions on his sleeve, as sleeveless as he was at the moment.
Lorrik released a quick chuckle as he moved one of the pans off the stove, rubbing his hands together with a budding glee. "It was a learning experience. And I'm stronger because of it."
"There's such a thing as being too Sith," Jresh joked, completely deadpan.
The Human offered another gentle laugh. "Well, since you're up, go ahead and take a seat. Your plate's almost ready."
"Was this supposed to be 'breakfast in bed' thing? Why did you think that would go over any better the second time?" Jresh asked as he slowly moved deeper into the living area, eyes set on the couch sitting against the wall.
"That too was a learning experience," Lorrik admitted. "Honestly though, if you didn't feel the need to immediately leap out of bed the moment something felt off…" The Human trailed off, eventually clearing his throat. "There's such a thing as being too Sith."
The Human mimicked, and exaggerated, his partner's stoic tone.
"Regardless, I prefer to eat un-reclined," Jresh calmly stated as he took a seat.
"But today is a special occasion!" Lorrik said heartily as he plated his partner's breakfast.
"It is?" Jresh replied with a genuine unknowing. "I mean, I know we're meeting with Syrosk later today, but…"
As the Pureblood trailed off, the Human rounded the corner of the waist-high counter separating the kitchen from the living room, multiple plates in hand. With a beaming smile, he set them down on the coffee table in front of his partner.
Jresh looked upon his meal with a budding hunger, suitably impressed with the display. Short stack of flatcakes. Still-simmering meat patties. What could only be described as a pile of eggs.
"I was doing some thinking," Lorrik said as he made his way back toward the kitchen. As Jresh took his first bite of the expertly crafted breakfast, he kept an ear open as his partner continued to shout across the room. "What with me having been a slave of somewhat indeterminate origin, I don't exactly know my birthday. And in what I assume is an effort to obscure your origins, your parent never really told you yours."
The Human returned with another set of plates bearing his similar, but significantly smaller, breakfast. Setting the meal down, Lorrik took a spot beside Jresh on the couch.
"Then I thought, hey, we should celebrate our anniversary instead," Lorrik continued. "Of course, then I realize, do we use the day we met, the day we became apprentices, the day we kissed? All of which occurred when we didn't exactly have access to a calendar. So I decided, this'll be the day. From here on out, our new life begins. So every year, this will be our day of consolidated celebration."
"Well, it's going well so far," Jresh plainly stated as he directed another bite of food into his mouth. "So why does Syrosk want to meet? Is he still trying to get us to join that Logistics thing?"
"No, he says he's given up on that," Lorrik explained. "He also says he just wants to give us a final parting gift."
"The apartment wasn't enough?" Jresh muttered, mouth still full.
"Something to help us with our futures, or so he says."
"Well, he works for Logistics… maybe it's a shuttle pass," Jresh suggested, half-joking.
"That would help," Lorrik said, gently scratching his chin. After a brief moment, the Human perked up and his eyes grew wide. "Oh, that reminds me!"
The Pureblood arched his brow as he paused his intake of meat and eggs. He watched his partner leap up from the couch and rush down the hallway back toward the bedroom. He returned a few moments later carrying a wrapped and decorated box under his arm, neatly bound by a colorful ribbon.
"A day of celebration would not be complete without gifts," Lorrik warmly stated, setting his box on the table beside his meal. The contents inside gave off a subtle rattle as the package hit the surface.
"But I didn't get you anything," Jresh muttered.
"As I recall, you didn't give me anything the first time we were supposed to exchange gifts," Lorrik joked. "I gave you that holocron…"
"You gave me a fake trinket. Which Syrosk ordered me to destroy," Jresh corrected.
"And you, of course, did the Sith thing of not giving me anything, just to prove a point to our new master," Lorrik reminded.
"Which led to you being ordered to strike me with your training saber, just to prove a point to us," Jresh replied.
"Curious how our relationship has changed since then, isn't it?" Lorrik offered with a smirk.
"Regardless, we probably could have handled that better," Jresh calmly said.
"It was, what, a day after we first met?" Lorrik asked. "All things considered, I think things went rather well. What's a few bruises between Sith?"
The Pureblood offered a soft nod of his head. Setting his eating utensil beside his plate, Jresh reached out to grab the wrapped gift, only for his partner to snatch it away.
"Whoa, not now," Lorrik playfully chastised. "I reserved us dinner at that restaurant. You know, the one by the southeast munitions depot."
"I thought you'd want to cook for our special day," Jresh admitted.
"I already did, didn't I?" Lorrik warmly offered. "Besides, I booked us for three in case Syrosk wanted to join."
"You didn't ask him already?" Jresh asked.
"I figured he might be more inclined to accept if I spring it on him," Lorrik admitted.
"Have you noticed you've a habit of manipulating our former master?" Jresh plainly asked.
"It's not manipulating," Lorrik balked, setting the gift down so that he may cross his arms. Jresh offered the brief tilt of his head before resuming his meal. Scrunching his face, the Human narrowed his gaze as he stared at the hunched Pureblood. The silence filled the room, before being broken by Jresh's low, constrained chuckle.
A smile crept along Lorrik's lips. Taking a seat beside his partner, the Human offered the Pureblood a quick peck on the cheek. Side by side, the pair continued to eat their breakfast together. Turning in his seat, the Human began rooting around the nearby cushions before returning with a small remote in his hand. With the quick press of a button, the videoscreen situated on the opposite wall lit up.
Soon, the image of two impeccably dressed newspeople seated behind a desk graced the screen.
"…however the most up to date reports detail a surging increase in certain sectors of domestic production. Recently nationalized companies have shown a marked increase since the war's end, including textiles manufacturer…"