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The Life that's Left


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EverSteam
07.21.2013 , 12:04 AM | #111
Gault on Nar Shaddaa. This contains spoilers for Audra (smuggler) if anyone is reading that in the SFWCT though that will catch up soon this will be cross posted.

Meanwhile...

She isn't sure where Rennow is going. He weaves through people down busy streets with an overt assuredness that belies his easy guile. He takes short cuts that only double back to where he began and never looks behind him. A person only never looks behind when they know that they are stalked.

Audra tries to stick to the shadows and blend in but she fails as she has never had a natural talent for stealth. Her crippled leg doesn't make it any easier. In Nar Shaddaa's busiest sector a stealth field would never work. She follows him anyway and almost looses him at times. She doesn't know that she has piqued Gault's interest. He knows that if she wanted to kill him, she would have in any of the empty lanes he took her through. He's curious to know what a Republic messenger could want. He toys with her for two hours as a test to commitment. She passes.

Audra turns down an alley she thinks he walked down. When she turns the corner it is empty on the ground and she curses.

'Sorry, Limpy,' she mumbles to her leg before sprinting as silently and fast as her little feet can take her. Half way through her awkward sprint, a shout of stop makes her slow and warily look around.

'Look up,' Gault calls down to her. 'You idiot' is mumbled under Gault's breath and he didn't need to be shout it for her to hear it. The exasperated and mocking tone of 'look up' was all that was needed.

Audra does as the voice commands. She has to turn around to see her target standing on a small ledge three stories high with a sniper rifle pointed at her.

'Robbing little girls, are you?' Audra innocently goads. She wants to reach a hand down to her thigh and massage the muscles but any movement is stupid when you have a sniper rifle aimed on you.

'Trust me, you are twenty decades too old to be a little girl,' Gault frankly replies. She can see the edge of his wide smirk but from down there can't make out the sharp points of them.

'Well, I guess I really must have no choice but to hand over my wallet to the scary demon man,' Audra taunts. She pulls out her wallet and waves it in the air.

'Cute,' Gaul sneers. 'I don't need the money but if you're offering throw it up here.'

Audra does as he asks and Gault lets it fall to the ground next to him. He has noticed her two blasters and wouldn't be surprised if there was at least one knife somewhere under those tight clothes. Gault doesn't picked up the wallet. The move would leave him distracted and unprepared enough for her to draw those blasters if she had any basic speed. From what she's done, he'd say she would be proficient.

'So I believe you're meant to tell me at this point why you're following me,' Gault conversationally shouts. He only watches her through the sniper lens. He isn't taking chances.

'Am I now? Who said I'd follow your flat arse?' Audra asks with two casual hands on her hips.

Gault shoots next to her foot. He has learnt a few things from Leer. Experience provides the rest.

'Tell me now,' he orders.

'Or you'll kill me?' she asks with snide disbelief.

'Pretty much, yeah,' Gault affirms with a shrug that doesn't shake his aim.

'After a job,' Audra answers with crossed arms.

'A job?'

'A job.'

'And is that how you came to work for the Republic? Just stalk enough senators through Coruscant and one finally gave in?' Gault taunts through heavy sarcasm. The things you put me through, Leer.

'Pretty much.' Audra shrugs and smiles. Her fringe slips from behind her ear and into her eyes. She impatiently flicks it back and continues her smiling glare at the Devaronian. I'll have to get around to cutting that again, Audra thinks. Not helpful in this situation, Audra, pay attention, she reminds herself.

'Then you have no ability for learning if that was the best shadowing you could do after extensive practice.'

'Look, shoot me or hire me. Don't insult me,' Audra warns. Her fingers inch closer to the blasters at her hips.

'Move your fingers another inch and you will lose at least one of them,' Gault warns. Audra holds her hands away from her sides. 'What job?'

'Repair man or Captain.'

'Why?' Gault demands.

'It's what I'm good at,' Audra easily replies.

'Easier talking to Leer than this,' Gault grumbles under his breath. Audra doesn't hear but her eyes regard him with a little more curiosity than they did a moment ago. 'Why do you want a job with this flat arse?' Gault shouts.

'I like flat arses,' Audra replies with a shrug and flirtatious smile. Gault remains apathatic inside.

'I'll have to keep that in mind, babe,' Gault promises as he lowers his gun. He straps it onto to his back and jumps from the ledge to evaluate the Captain without narrowed vision. He walks closer and looks her over. The word curvy enters and quickly leaves his mind. It's an understatement.

'Go to hanger 38 in my sector,' Gault eventually instructs. 'You have twenty four hours to fix the ship there.'

'And if I don't?' Audra raises and a challenging eyebrow.

'You don't get the job and I consider selling you to a bounty hunter.'

I hear your chummy with one bounty hunter in particular, is the reply that her instincts almost make her blurt out. She can stop the words but she can't stop the smirk before her practiced smile. Gault catches it and it confirms his suspicions.

'If I do it in 15 we go to dinner.'

'I was going to ask you dinner anyway but sure.' Gault moves closer and puts her wallet into her pocket for her. 'Your shout.'

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EverSteam
07.29.2013 , 01:13 AM | #112
Meanwhile....

'Ner-'

'Karyan?' Leer demands, cutting off the affectionate greeting of the other woman. The height of the woman matches that of the woman she met in the clearing. Still, she must be sure.

Karyan's arms hang in a rigid, open position as Leer's question echoes down the metal hall behind her. The older woman stands with her mouth open for a moment as if frozen in the next word. Leer only glares up at her.

Karyan drops her arms as the hug she expected to receive doesn't come. She calmly eyes the short redhead and takes in her silver eye, her imperfections and her hostile air. Karyan doesn't move to let the younger woman in and she knows that even if she did, the invitation would go without a response.

She's cold and angry, Karyan decides as she stares into the natural silver eye and the red, cybernetic camera. Despite this, Karyan refuses to believe that that's all the woman in front of her is. She has more faith in Torian than her own observations.

'I am,' Karyan replies with a faint smile.

'I have three things to say,' Leer replies coldly. Her glare doesn't soften at the blonde's smile. 'I don't care who you are. I don't care about you. I don't want anything to do with you. However, Corridan requested I be nice.' So I won't kill you, Leer silently finishes.

How did you melt her, Torian? Karyan wonders with a softer smile. How did you make this woman love you? She wants to know. Karyan chuckles and hides her smile with her hand. Leer steps back from her as she catches a glimpse of Torian's strong coarse hand hiding his laughing grin. Karyan notices the look of horror and the slight trembling of the woman's fists.

'Would you like to come in?' Karyan offers, moving gracefully to the side.

Leer eyes the inside apartment with momentary and overt suspicion as her eyes scans what can be seen for life signs. Her eye moves to the woman who stands a head taller than her. Her blonde hair is cut short in a jagged way that hints that little more than a sharp knife was used to cut it. Her eyes are a faded blue and ringed with wrinkles but her jaw is round and her brow wide.

'Why?' Leer asks.

'Talk,' Karyan calmly replies. 'Corridan left your morning free. Anywhere else you have to be?'

'No,' Leer hostiliy replies as she walks through the door way. She walks down the short way into the living room. Windows large enough to fit a well built man with armour on are high up on the wall that have carefully spaced crevices along its length. They hold flowers sculpted from crystal. Smart if all the ground floor apartments are like this. Apart from those fragile adornments the apartment is bare. There is a holo terminal and a short table surrounded by black, unimpressive sofas. Cupboards and bookshelves surround some of the walls but there is nothing on them.

Leer takes a seat that has a view of the corridor they just walked from and Karyan takes the one opposite. She notes the choice with a small smile. A little too wary, isn't she, Torian? Karyan thinks as she leans back in her chair and bring her legs up to her, resting her chin on a lazy fist.

'What do you want from me?' Leer unfriendly demands. Karyan notices the addition to the question of 'from me'. Even if it wasn't there, the answer would be the same.

'Want to know about Torian,' Karyan evenly replies. Here pale blue eyes bore into Leer's with a severe solemnity that is far too familiar to the younger woman. 'Want to know the woman he married, whether he did his clan honour until the end.' Karyan doesn't shy away from the bounty hunters glare as she waits for her daughter in-law's reply.

'Whether my son was happy,' Karyan quietly finishes.


-----

Spoiler

Adwynyth's Avatar


Adwynyth
07.29.2013 , 01:51 AM | #113
Quote: Originally Posted by EverSteam View Post
I see views so I hope everyone is still reading and enjoying
How about this?

SQUEE
Horrendously bad fan fiction: Sith in a Pretty Dress

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EverSteam
07.29.2013 , 02:32 AM | #114
Quote: Originally Posted by Adwynyth View Post
How about this?

SQUEE
!!!

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EverSteam
07.30.2013 , 02:36 AM | #115
Continuing on...

'You're waiting for me to be shocked,' Leer comments with a smirk. Leer had known from Corridan's manner who she was before she even set eyes on the face of the woman nearing middle age.

Karyan considers nodding in recognition of the astute truth but decides against it. She eyes the woman across her curiously and tries to see her as Torian might. Her hair shines like fresh blood and hangs around her shoulders, their lengths layered. Her body is muscular and curvy but lean as if she hadn't eaten well for weeks. She's shorter than she imagined but her legs are long. Any underestimation based on Leer's height is hard to consider as she radiates with a cold confidence. Her shoulders are always relaxed but the movement of her hands is hostile, her fingers disturbing. Her skin is pale beyond possibility and it carries a glowing translucence that is bewitchingly disquieting. The piercing arrogance and mocking of her eye is hard to avoid staring into, her cybernetics only enhancing her artless unfriendliness.

Karyan can't place a word to the woman. Pretty might have once been true but her hostility and cybernetics ensure that it is no longer suitable. Sweet could never even be considered after looking at any aspect of her. Gorgeous implies something she lacks. Beautiful is... too positively cheery but it's as close as the older woman can come to. Ugly could never considered and there is something awe inspiring in her as much as there is something terrifying.

'Finished your evaluation?' Leer asks with a defiant smile. The pointed teeth near the back of her mouth doesn't go unnoticed.

'Let me guess,' Leer requests with flippant mockery. The bitterness in her tone and expression is lost on the older woman. It's only a subtle difference; her jaw tightens a little in a way different from her raging determination, her voice takes on a higher lilt and her eyebrows lower ever so slightly. It's something only two men in the galaxy would notice and one is dead.

'You were wondering how your son saw me. Come to any conclusions then feel free to share, mother dearest,' Leer friendlily scathes with a short laugh.

Karyan only stares at her evenly in a way far too familiar to Leer. Leer's smile turns to a glower and she wonders what she's even doing in here.

'You pretend to be stronger than you are,' Karyan eventually replies after studying Leer through means beyond simple sight. A flash of metal shows out of the corner of Karyan's eye and she glances down to Leer's lap where her hands casually rest. Nothing untoward is there and she returns her eyes to Leer's.

'Think I'm strong enough to kill a house wife,' Leer retorts with a smirk. Karyan lets the jab slide.

'Maybe. That what strength is to you?'

'Yes. Thought any real Mando would know that,' Leer sneers. Her orders to be nice are long forgotten and she can see through the woman in front of her.

'Was raised from eight years of age until late adolescence by the Jedi,' Karyan replies with a slither of a smile. 'Jicoln led me astray. He was a brave, attractive man in need of my help. Been a Mando'ad faithfully ever since.'

'Cliché.'

Karyan chuckles at the short reply but doesn't raise a hand to hide her grin at the mischief of years long gone. She looks away from Leer for the first time and to the bare book shelf on her right. Her eyes see objects that aren't there that belonged to a man she had to crudely cut from her life for her sons sake. Love doesn't let her forget and they had a few glorious years.

'You helped Torian with it,' Karyan finally states with the same neutral line Torian's mouth so frequently made. 'That when you first met?'

'Nayc,' Leer replies, speaking Mando'a for the first time to this woman her callous heart tells her to walk away from. Karyan doesn't even blink.

'Dromund Kaas. My initiation task,' Leer explains to a woman she doesn't have to justify herself to. 'That bounty came a few weeks later.'

'Did he falter?' Karyan inquires with eager concern.

'Never,' Leer replies with a proud smile. It's the closest to gentle Karyan has seen her look.

'He died honourably?' Karyan asks hopefully.

'Conversation is over, mother,' Leer scorns as she stands.

Karyan is at a loss for words as the younger woman stares down at her such from such an unachievable, surreal height. She's entranced by the deep, passionate loathing in Leer's eye and the snarl of her blood red lips. Contempt is far too lenient a word to apply to the steely disdain that is exuded from Leer's every motion and breath.

Leer walks past her with an unnerving grace and the sound her impatient steps are muffled by the thick, dark blue carpet that lacks intuitiveness.

'Tell me,' Karyan requests as she smoothly stands to watch her enraged, injured daughter in-law leave. Leer stops but refuses to look back at the woman. She's looked at her long enough.

'I shouldn't have to tell you what your son was like. Should have enough faith in his honour and strength to know he would never act in any way but honourably,' Leer quietly replies in a dark voice that carries easily and wounds even easier. 'As for his happiness, I see no reason to tell you beyond your own petty need to cover that you didn't care. He never mentioned you once. Family is more than blood. You lack 'more', mother dearest.'

The door closes behind Leer with a humble 'woosh' but it doesn't remove the sight of the redheads back or the echo of her words that continue through Karyan's mind. Karyan sinks to her seat with elegance and feels the bitter shroud of desolation. There was too much truth in Leer's words to allow anger at the presumptuous insults.


-----

Spoiler

EverSteam's Avatar


EverSteam
08.16.2013 , 11:58 PM | #116
Later that day in the Mando'ad hunting grounds....

'Attention!' Leer bellows.

Vankx and his crew turn around and face her, standing like rigid, metal planks. Their heads are bare of helmets; nothing hiding Vankx's eternally amused smirk. He seems to be laughing at everyone and everything all the time, even Corridan, as if he was privy to life's greatest joke.

A few of the other men move to attention but most only glance and continue talking. Leer rolls her eyes which emits a short squeak of laughter from Vankx. She raises an eyebrow in inquisition as he forces the laughter down. She smirks in return and they share thoughts in that instance; they share their exasperation at such immaturity that demands a display of leadership.

Leer watches the men that don't turn to her with the look a serial killer does to a cantina full of people. Who will I take down? Leer asks herself as she watches the talking men. She identifies the leader and he has his back to her. He stands two heads taller than Leer and has a black braid down his back, hovering above his arse, not quite long enough to wipe it.

Leer gracefully marches through the muddy coating that covers ever inch of Dxun. The men that face her see her coming and send a warning with their eyes to their leader who turns around too slowly. Leer grabs his braid, twisting it around her hand, the motion yanking the tall powerful man down. She twists and twists until it covers her hand and half her forearm. He is forced to his knees and to be bending over backwards, his scrunched face staring into hers.

'Didn't you hear me?' Leer asks in a dangerously low voice that travels through the humid air to all the men as the jungle has fallen eerily silent. She pulls it some more and he grunts in the pain.

'We don't answer to you, burc'ya,' he growls in a deep, rasping voice.

Leer raises a foot and brings it down with a resounding clang on his armoured chest. His grunt doesn't quite become a scream as she presses him into the mud with all her weight and strength. She still hold the end of his braid, the rest now unwound from her arm.

'Care to repeat that?' Leer inquires in Mando'a.

The man only glares at her and gasps and she presses into his armour further, a dent beginning to press into his well toned chest.

'Listen up!' she calls to the fifty men in the clearing, speaking Mando'a. 'My name is Leer Cadera, Daughter of Mandalore, slayer of Kellian Jarro the Mandalorian Killer, Grand Champion of the Great Hunt, Destroyer of Coronet City, Most Wanted in the Galaxy and killer of the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic.'

Leer lets her achievements hang in the air, not needing to list her more recent achievements. She feels Corridan's eyes on her as they have been this entire time. He's remaining hidden behind large boulders and leaves, wanting to see how she manages in leading as well as probably wanting to make sure that dissent doesn't equal death.

Leer stares each man and woman in the eyes and dares them to speak. When the silence continues, she speaks again.

'While we're out here, I'm your second in command and your teacher. You do what I say and you do it well and quickly. I say 'drop', you sink into the mud. I say 'shoot', you don't stop until I tell you to. I say 'attention' you give it to me.' Leer punctuates the last point by pressing foot further into the man and eliciting gasps of pain that can't quite become a scream.

'You've all heard rumours of me but I don't care what you think or what they say. I only care about what I'm here to do. I'm here to teach you what you need to know so that when you go back out there, you don't get carved up by a Jedi.'

Leer's eye scans their faces, her expression grim. When she continues, her voice is low but raises with commanding hope.

'No, I'm here for more than that. I'm here to make sure that you hit them back, strike them down and wipe them from this galaxy. I'm here so you can all avenge those we've lost so far. I'm here to teach you the path to victory!'

Vankx leads a cheer and the thundering sound of steel fists on armoured chests. She lets the sound wash over her until it ends, her eyes holding Vankx's for a long moment. His smirk has become a goading, approving grin but his dark brown eyes hold an edge of wary, judgemental anger.

'It won't be easy, it won't be fun and I won't be nice. I except you to follow my orders and instructions with obedience but not without question. You want a reason, you ask for one. You want an explanation, you ask for one. But what you don't do, is disagree with or disobey me. Anyone who does won't be living long,' Leer looks directly into Vankx's eyes and he only smirks in reply, 'out there and here, they will be answering to me.'

Leer extends the shining blade on her free hand, pulling on the braid she still holds in the other as much as she can without tearing his hair from the roots. She slices the braid of in one low, poised swoop. The man protests in gagging nonsense but Leer presses the boot into his chest harder, the metal digging into his ribs. She holds the braid higher so all can see.

'Let this be a reminder of that. Now, I want everyone to divide into melee and ranged, depending on what you're more skilled in. Melee over there,' Leer says with a point to her right, the braid flying through the air like a whip. 'And ranged over there,' she orders, pointing her blade to the left.

The men and women divide into their assorted sides and Leer isn't surprised to see Vankx on the left. No one spoke throughout the move and no one speaks now. They watch the short red head as she paces and evaluates. Leer stops eventually at the end of their columns.

'This is how it is going to work. There will be four groups and each group will have two classes. Those specialising in melee will have an early morning with me on different melee styles and weapons. Class will run two hours to dawn to three hours to midday. Rangers will then have a class on melee until one hour past midday. Melee will then have a class on range until five hours past midday and then rangers taking over on until two to midnight. All other duties are expected to be carried out in breaks. Every fourth day will be a break day. Any questions?'

No one speaks but some shake their heads. 'Good. That's it for today. To those doing melee, go easy on the gal. I expect you all here, ready and sharp on time. Anyone who is late misses for the day. Feel free to skip as many as you want. I won't hunt you down though Corridan might. In the end, it's your life you're risking. Mashukir!'

They all disperse and wait until they think they're out of ear shot until they speak in low murmurs. The content varies but it makes Leer smirk with satisfaction. She doesn't hear a word from Vankx. Corridan emerges from his hiding position and approaches her.

'Didn't know you had a way with words,' Corridan comments.

'Taught politics and diplomacy long ago amongst other things,' Leer comments with a small smile. Corridan evaluates her and shakes his head, deciding it's another thing about her best not to be explained.

'Interested in Vankx,' Leer comments shortly as she watches where he disappeared to.

'Reason?' Corridan inquires more from curiosity than suspicion.

'He's interesting and dangerous,' Leer replies with a thoughtful scowl. 'He hates me.'

'More complicated than that,' Corridan replies, also watching with dull eyes the patch of forest that Vankx disappeared into. Corridan rests a hand on her shoulder. 'He was Torian's friend.'

Leer doesn't reply and Corridan eventually follows the path to the camp, his hand slipping from her shoulder.

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EverSteam
08.26.2013 , 03:29 AM | #117
That night...

'Here,' a rumbling, coarse voice harshly informs.

Leer looks into the ugly face of its owner, recognising him as the man from before. His shoulder length hair is out of its tie and it plasters itself to his neck and cheeks. Drops of water slither from their tips down his skin but he doesn't feel it. All his attention is on the piercing, silver eye of the woman sitting in front of him.

Leer glances at the bowl of hot stew that he offers her. His thumb almost touches the top of the watery, spicy liquid. She lookS back up to him and takes the bowl. She takes her untouched glass from the ground in front of her and offers it to him.

'Here,' she offers in high, feminine voice.

He takes the drink and nods in satisfaction, the problem of an apology and reconciliation effectively and painlessly dealt with. A few other camp members watch but he can't see, his back to them. Leer sees them but doesn't give them any attention. She sits far from the others, dangerously close to the line of trees that surround the camps clearing. She rolled the rock she sits on to that specific place and was perfectly happy to watch the camp move about out of the light drizzle, protected by a large roof of material. The five edges of the temporary ceiling are tied to low branches and it covers most of the camp, excluding Leer's separate tent and Corridan's that is located just out of the materials cover. From where she sits, she has a perfect of who comes and goes from his tent.

'Why don't you join us, Champion?'

'Call me that and I will cut off your head,' Leer replies. He doesn't doubt her. 'Go back and enjoy the fire, Plar,' Leer requests with a gentleness that doesn't match the assurance of earlier. His surprise at her knowledge of his name shows and she smiles a little. 'I might join soon.'

He nods and walks back, satisfied and thinking well of her but unreservedly pleased he is out of her company.

-----

Five days later...


'Damin, I've made sure this message is secure. I know you should be calling tomorrow. Should is an important word there,' Leer wryly informs.

Damin allows himself a smile. He was going to call her today as a small surprise amongst other things. He can't say he likes finding a message better. He could tell before she got past 'secure' that it means she doesn't want him to call. He considers switching the message off but that would unprofessional and petulant.

'Forget our last conversation. You shouldn't call till next week. Fill in the gaps again, ch'eo ebeucot. I know the delay will just kill you.'

The message ends and Damin's replays it. He tries to commit every gesture and every word to memory. He erases it but it can't erase the strange stirrings it causes. Vector knocks on his door and he knows he has work to do.

-----

Three days later...

Leer takes a deep breath and watches the ranged students clear the bottom of the gorge that is used as the training grounds. They disappear into the dark jungle that isn't penetrated by the flood lights in the gorge that keep the night at bay. Ranged Mando's were working today at shooting up accurately while having to dodge enemies on the ground. They had to find out themselves that both of the three groups had to work as a team, something they were already impressively efficient at. The enemies on the ground were gharzr' caught the day before and once they were dead after the first few hours, Leer recruited some melee Mando's to take their place. Everyone left with small spots of red that indicate a hit and a few bruises and scratches.

As she releases the breath, Leer looks to the dead animals and begins to climb down from her position half way up the gorge where she had been shouting reprimands and corrections to everyone. She had to kill one gharzr with her turret before it could take a fatal swipe of one of the ranged on the ground. Overall, everyone did well. It's been one and half weeks and Leer has been quickly upping the pace of training. First classes are harmless technique against her and the second are more... practical, real world experiences.

Leer jumps the remainder of the way to the bottom and feels herself being pulled into the greedy ground. Lifting her legs out with little ease, Leer walks onto the more solid ground in the centre of the gorge. Today was the second class like this. Leer hefts once of the carcass over her shoulder and she can't say that she isn't impresses by the Mando's. They've learnt to extend their awareness beyond one enemy in front of them. Today they managed to fight of each other, the animals and dodge Leer's missiles with only a few, nonlethal hits of paint.

'Cadera.'

Leer doesn't need to turn around to know who approaches her. Even if she didn't know the voice, the name would have given it away. Only one man calls her 'Cadera'.

Leer picks up the leg of another gharzr and turns to Corridan, dragging it behind her as she walks to him. Corridan watches and makes way for her. She continues to walk, not glancing at him but not ignoring him either. Ordo falls in step beside her as she makes for the trees at the far end. She'll take the bodies over four hundred metres away, making the distance between the depository and the camp seven hundred metres. It's wise not to encourage the carnivores of the jungle to come any closer to the camp than necessary.

'Want an early report?' Leer eventually inquires in Mando'a. She speaks it automatically as she has become more accustomed to speaking it than basic in the past nine days. She hasn't noticed the change. All languages are the same in her mind.

'Nayc. Came to talk about your teaching.'

'Sounds serious,' Leer levelly replies, no mockery in her voice. She ducks stray branched that threaten to hit her in the face. There's no light from the stars or the flood lights behind them. They've been swallowed by the jungle and Corridan is walking blind.

'Stop,' he requests.

Leer takes a few more steps before realising. She looks over her empty shoulder to Corridan.

'Head back to the gorge. Be back in ten. Talk then,' Leer assures. She walks to where she deposits the body, her legs mechanically moving. She dumps the bodies in the usual place, unseen things already waiting for her to leave so they can fight over the free meal.

Leer breaks through the trees and see Corridan standing tensely in the middle of the gorge. Corridan impatiently walks to meet Leer. He hates leaving the camp unattended and he'd rather not be in this area surrounded by so much blood that attracts unwanted attention.

'What about it then?' Leer asks as they stop in front of each other. Corridan's eyes search her face before looking down to the intricate pattern on her armour, his eye immediately finding the heart. Pain crosses his features for a moment and he appears a little more haggard than before. His dark hair is greying further and Leer knows this hunt isn't doing anything to relieve his burdens.

'There's been mutters,' Corridan reports as his greying eyes meet hers.

'Can't take it?'

'In a way,' Corridan cautiously replies. The grief of a moment has passed and he is a commander again. 'Mutters that you can't take it.'

'I'm fine,' Leer replies without hesitation or thought. 'What they say?'

'Lots of things. Comments on your nocturnal behaviours are being made.' Leer stares at him with murder in her eyes. He takes it and ignores it. 'Strange things are heard.'

'Nothing they should care about.' The hot hatred in her voice isn't dampened by the cold that frosts the air. Nights on Dxun are as frosty as the days are humid and wet.

'Nightmares?'

'Haven't we all?'

Corridan holds back the sting of tears. He nods and moves to the next item. She's the only person he knows that could cause so much talk and unrest in such a short amount of time.

'There's murmurs that you're taking something. Apparently Ses walked in on you injecting it.'

The vial Gault gave her suddenly seems uncomfortable as it nestles between her chest. The Devaronian hasn't been far from her mind since landing here, becoming stronger the more she wants to forget him. She won't be seeing him again.

'Sleep serum,' Leer lies.

'Not a very effective one,' Corridan sceptically replies. He pauses and waits for Leer to come forth with the truth. 'Don't lie.'

A lot of meanings are carried in those two words and they are not lost on Leer.

'Everything has its price.' Leer taps her small, red glass eye. Corridan slowly nods in a shallow, reluctant understanding. 'Anything else?'

'Been working over eighteen hours. Concerns you might be tired.'

'If I'm tired, I'll stop,' Leer snaps back. Their concern is only a confusing, unwanted intrusion. She won't allow Corridan or them to know how tired she is. Any comfort she could find was dashed by HK's last call. He still hasn't found her. And Damin...

'Vankx spoke to me. Said he saw you faint last night when cleaning up.'

'Vankx should keep his mouth shut,' Leer bites back. Her relationship with Vankx is strained. They have too much to say yet no words to say any of it. They have a lot in common yet are completely different. He wants to hate her but can't. Torian made his choice even if it meant Vankx never said goodbye. Even if it took him across the galaxy and far away from his friend.

'Talk.'

'Can't you feel him?' Leer asks quietly as if she spoke any louder, he might appear. 'Hear him? See him?'

'Nayc,' Corridan answers with a shake of his head. She's simpler than anyone would think. He knew Torian would be involved. 'He hasn't chosen me. See him?'

'Glimpses. Flashes in the corner of my vision.'

Leer's body tremors. She wonders how much of the strain her stress is placing on her body is mental. She can't take it here. Sleeping is worse and staying awake is hell. She can't stay here much longer. She can't do this.
Leer shakes her head as if to throw of the self pity and doubt. She's better than that. She's stronger than that. She meets Corridan's eyes and he sees the resolve. She won't stop until her time is up.

'Crazy, aren't I?' she asks with a feral grin. Corridan smiles a little but doesn't deny it. She laughs and looks around the gorge. 'Need to finish this soon or we might have some company.'

Corridan nods and steps aside. He watches her for a while as she picks up two gharzr and throws one over each shoulder. Her eyes remain on the task at hand, not looking to the side. Corridan silently congratulates her on her strength, not knowing how much she is falling apart inside.

----

Four hours later...

I slowly sit up, unsure whether to trust myself to be awake. Reality and dreams blur together but always in a way I can't tell them apart. I crawl to the edge of narrow tent and stand up in the rain outside. The fire crackles in a way that can't be imagined, the rain soaks through my clothes and brings a chill that assures me this is real and the distant breaks of twigs and rustle of leaves let me know I'm not hallucinating.

I walk silently, feet bare and luminous against the mud, towards him. He smiles in that small way of his as if it's hard to remove a lifetime of gravity. Against the impossibility of it, I must have blinked because for a moment I think I see Torian's form flicker and his lightly glowing body is a little transparent.

None of the Mando'ad sleeping under a large, dark green waterproof roof tied to low, sturdy tree branches stir. They continue to sleep, there out of time breathing creating a poor, deep chorus. I don't look at them. Something I haven't entirely forgotten tells me that if I do look away from him, he will disappear.

When I stand before him, I feel bare and naked in a way I haven't since our time on Belsavis. I cross my arms across my chest and feel my own slimy, smooth skin. It seems to amuse him because his smile becomes larger and I hear a deep chuckle from his throat. I blush as strongly as I can, the already strange orange glow it gives my cheeks intensified by the four camp fires.

'I've been waiting for you.'

I don't have anything to say in reply. Questions I don't want answered go through my mind. The answers scare me more than being in a pit of rancors, no weapons or enhancements. Am I insane? Aren't you dead? How are you here? Can you forgive me?

But the one that scares me most, the one I want to shout and cry out, is 'do you still love me?'

He bends down and kisses me softly, pressing his scorching lips to mine for a moment.

'Cyare, let's race.'

'Where?' I would race him anywhere. I would follow him anywhere. To death and far beyond.

'You'll see,' he assures in that firm voice so full of promises. But I still hesitate. Don't all the fables say you can't trust the dead?

'Viinir.'

'Wh-' I begin but he's already running, his form being lost in the dense undergrowth in moments.

I run after him like he would always run after me. My feet feel like they hardly touch the leaf litter as I run silently, dodging ferns, branches and trees easily. But he seems faster than he ever was and I can't keep up. My limbs feel slow: my knees like hinges that need oiling.

'Torain, parer!' I call more in frustration than desperation.

'I have been, Cyare,' he replies from somewhere ahead. All I can hear are his steps and the brushing of branches on his body: all I can see of him is an occasional flash of gold hair, his navy shirt lost in the dark shadows of the trees.

I try to run faster but suddenly I'm aware of the mud sucking my feet down, the feel of it oozing through the gaps between my toes. Each branch seems to slow me down and Torain's footsteps sound a little fainter.

'Isn't like you, Cyare,' Torian's voice scolds from ahead. An eerie concern laces his voice, melding with the rain drops that splatter on my face and drain my cheeks earlier flush.

'Need to run faster.'

'Why?' I shout back. I feel a burst of strength and pump my legs harder but a feeling of hopelessness settles on me and becomes a heavy chain on my ankles.

'Because they're chasing you.'

The words chill me. They settle on something uncomfortable and terrifying like a net that doesn't catch edible fish but dangerous and dark things that wait in the shadows of the sea floor. I know I'm hunted. I see the bodies around my ship every week, I see the people that watch me from rooftops and shadows. But no matter how many there are, I still feel the same invincibility like there is enough room for the galaxy on my shoulders and still enough for one each in my hands. It has never weighed me down before.

'Aren't you fighting towards something, Cyare?'

I don't have any opportunity to reply. A loud crash comes behind me, the sound of undergrowth being crushed under a heavy body and large feet. I turn my head quickly as I try to run faster. I grin at the sight of the large boma that is only twenty metres behind me. I find my strength and my speed. I run faster.

So does it but I catch up to Torian for the first time and he quickly looks at me with a sharp nod and fierce grin. I laugh in the way only he could ever make me and we run faster together. But after minutes pass it gets closer. We see a slightly hidden cave a head and we jump to the side into it, the boma running past harmlessly.

I laugh and sink against the wall, more exhausted than I have been in a long while. I close my eyes and when I open them, I think I see Torian flicker in the dark as if he isn't really there. But I must have imagined it. Torian is here.

'This the Mando vacation you promised?' I inquire with a fierce, taunting grin.

Torian kneels before me and as I feel a wave of fatigue I notice how bright and real he looks. He leans forward, a hand on either side of the dirt next to my waist. He smiles in that small way and kisses me, heat spreading through my body. We move our lips against each other's in a synchrony only past lovers can achieve. I move my hands to his neck so I can press him closer. I feel his sweat, his pulse, his warmth and his life. I let out a small moan and impatiently pull him closer. I can't remember why but we haven't kissed in a long time. He chuckles at my eagerness and I feel a flash of irritation. He smiles against my lips.

'It's better,' he whispers as he pulls away. He moves out from between my legs and sits next to me. I lie down on the hard, dusty ground and rest my head on his lap. He runs his fingers through my lengthening hair, weening out knots that I haven't bothered to correct since we arrived on Dxun.

'Don't leave me,' I whisper before I fall asleep to his deep breathing and rhythmic strokes.

'I never did, Cyare.'