Parting ways with the Dead 3
Time stopped for a moment and everything, everyone seemed to hold their breath. It had been a long time since I had seen Thrawn and I didn’t quite know how to react. I opened my mouth then closed it again as words fled from my brain. I stared at him and then looked at Navaari and then back to Thrawn. It felt as if the world had stopped moving. He was the very last person I expected to see here and now and if he had hoped to surprise me it had worked. My heart thumped painfully in my chest but I had learned to hide that, learned to push that sensation away. Silence made the room seem small and oppressive.
What was there to say that had not already been said before? My final words to Thrawn before I had been shipped off to Hjal still rang in my head, stirring up both guilt and anger, but mostly guilt. With another angry glance at Navaari, I ignored Thrawn and continued to my room to change out of my travelling clothes which were too warm for indoors. The storm that had begun on the way home was now in full fury so what ever it was Thrawn had come here to say to me could wait, he was not going anywhere for at least three or four days.
I wasn’t surprised when Navaari followed me into my bedroom. The set of his mouth and the hardness in his eyes had not escaped my notice. I waited till he had closed the door before opening my mouth to speak but he beat me to the punch. He tolerated many things from me but where Thrawn was concerned that tolerance waned a lot.
“Your rudeness is not becoming of you, A’myshk’a.” he chided.
“Did you know he was coming? Did you know he would be here?” I asked ignoring his statement completely.
He stared at me for a moment then said. “No. I would have spoken of it. I do not think it is wise to surprise you in this manner; it makes you difficult to deal with. He arrived early this morning and the first I knew of it was when I walked in an hour ago.” He gave me a calculating look. “But it is not unexpected; you knew he would eventually come to see you.”
I shook my head angrily as I stripped off my heavy clothes down to the warm under garments that were always worn when travelling. “Well, you can tell him to go back to his base. I don’t want to see him or speak to him.” I grabbed my robe and wrapped it around me angrily.
Navaari frowned. “Perhaps you can be telling him that yourself, he has come to be and speak with you, not me. You are the one who has shunned him by not answering his letters, not communicating with him. You have made this face to face meeting harder than it needed to be. I cannot help you here. It is you two who need to fix what is broken, not I.”
“He was the one who broke it in the first place by shipping me off!” I hissed, trying to keep my voice down.
Navaari just raised his eyebrows at me. “It was the right thing to do and you know this, you are just angry because that is easier than to be admitting the truth. You hide from your feelings, which serves no purpose at all. I will not play mediator for this, you must sort through your mess on your own. So, enough of this stubbornness! Go and get cleaned up. Your Ta’kasta’cariad has come a long way to speak to you, you will honour him with the respect the he has earned.” There was no mistaking the reproach in Navaari’s words and I had learned enough about the Dantassi ways, enough about Navaari to know I would never win this argument no matter how hard I tried.
“Fine!” I stamped my foot, feeling every bit as immature as I sounded.
“Do not cross me on this! You live in my house, you will abide by the rules.” He admonished.
I just sighed, giving in. I wondered, as I headed to the ‘fresher to shower, if parents ever stopped being parents. While I was no blood child of Navaari’s, he had taken me into his family, treated me as though I were his flesh and blood daughter. And because I probably deserved it, sometimes he treated me as though I were still a small kid as well. It was a real pain in the neck.
I took my time in the ‘fresher. If I was going to face Thrawn I would at least do it smelling more like a girl and less like a bantha but I wasn’t about to hurry. When I could no longer avoid it and had dragged my heels long enough, wrapped in my favourite robe I went back into the living room. The conversation stopped instantly so I knew they had been talking about me.
Navaari stood up. “Well, I shall be leaving you two alone. Try to sort yourselves out without bloodshed if you please.” He said coolly, “If you are needing me I will be visiting with An’jast’a.” his last words were directed at me but the tone of his voice said there would be hell to pay if I bothered him, and rightly so. I just gave him a little nod and watched as he left the apartment. The silence that remained after he left was heavy and unbearable but I couldn’t break it, I didn’t know how.
Thrawn poured two glasses of what looked a lot like Corellian Brandy and gestured for me to sit down across from him. I took the offered glass and sipped from it slowly. I hadn’t tasted Corellian brandy in a long time and just the scent of it brought many memories flooding back, most of them good and all of them had to do with Thrawn. The liquor’s fire burned all the way to my stomach, thawing me out from this inside. I felt the heat spread through to my toes and finger tips. I savoured the first sip then promptly drained the glass. When I held it out he wordlessly poured me a refill. This time I just contemplated the contents, swirling the brandy around in the glass as though watching the amber liquid whirl around in circles would help me find the words, any words to say to the man sitting across from me. For a moment he watched me then he sat lazily back in the couch and sipped his own drink. He was very good at waiting me out; he had had many years of practice.
“Why are you here?” I finally asked when I could stand the silence no longer.
“To see you.” He replied. He tilted his head to one side, as though it would help him to understand me if he viewed me from a slightly different angle.
“Well, you see me.” I answered promptly. I wondered briefly why I was being so defensive and so cold. Then I understood it was because I was afraid. If he was here to tell me that what ever had lain between us was over I wanted to be able to give the appearance of not caring. I didn’t want to be the first one to break down and I didn’t want to give the impression I felt I had anything to apologise for even though I knew I did.
“Yes,” he answered after a moment, “I do.” He pondered his own drink for a moment then turned his gaze back to me. When our eyes met I felt as though my world had tilted sideways. For a second it astonished me that with a single look he could still make my knees weak. “You look well.” He said finally.
I could only nod.
“I see that life on Hjal agrees with you.”
“I am guessing Navaari kept you informed about me.” I said, ignoring his compliment.
He shifted to lean forward, elbows resting on his knees. “He let me know how you were doing in broad terms, A’myshk’a, but if there are secrets between you two, rest assured he did not give them away. He simply felt it was his duty to let me know you were healing. It was a difficult road for you. I understand that.”
“Do you?” I shot back without thinking.
“Believe it or not, yes, I do.” He sighed. “Do you think that I needed you to come here simply to get rid of you? Nirauan was not the right place for you to be. I believed that Hjal was and I think I was right. I understand that you are angry but if I had to make the same decision all over again, I would.”
I digested his words but they didn’t make me feel any less cross. “Okay. Well you’ve seen me. I am happy here, it’s peaceful. No one tries to kill me, or hunt me or anything else along those lines. I have a place here and it has become a home. You are not here just to see if I am okay so why don’t you cut the crap and tell me why you really came.”
He nodded, the gentle expression on his face hardening again. I had done that with my harsh words and cold shoulder but it didn’t give me any satisfaction. “I’m here because I require your help.” He said. There was truth in his words but it wasn’t the whole truth.
“My help? You require my help? Let me guess, yet another mysterious planet you need to drag a force sensitive off to so you can discover another potential weapon? As I recall the last time you needed my help I almost got killed in the process but since you seem to take issue with me ending up in a med lab you’ll have to forgive me when I question your motives.”
He looked away from me and I watched the muscles on his jaw tighten as he bit back his own feelings. I threw Myrkr at him because I knew he felt a certain amount of guilt about it but it was always a low blow. When our eyes met again there was a coldness in his I didn’t like at all but I was the one pushing him away, I was the one on the defensive. I didn’t want to hear what was coming next because in the back of my mind I knew he was going to ask me to leave Hjal and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. For the first time in a very long time, I felt safe and at home and I was loath to let that go.
He took a deep breath. “Kirja’navaar’inkjerii has been keeping me informed about your progress here in teaching basic. He says that you not only have a talent for learning languages but that you seem to be extraordinarily good at teaching them to others. I have need of your skills in this area. As you know I have been populating the base at Nirauan with Chiss loyal to me and willing to serve under the Empire but the issue with the language difficulties has become somewhat of a divisive problem and I need to rectify that. I was hoping that you would be willing to return with me and teach Basic to my people and Cheunh to the Imperials. I need to have the lines of communication between the people under my command open up more, while there are a couple who can and do serve as translators this is a waste of time and man power. I need the majority to be bilingual. I need your help to achieve this. The Empire needs your help.” He spoke plainly and honestly.
I could not think of a job I wanted less. He had been right when he had said Nirauan was not a good place for me to be. My memories of it were unpleasant at best. I didn’t have to think about my answer. “No.” I said getting up. “I am happy here. The Empire made its point when Isard had a bounty put on my head, set a warrant for my arrest and threatened my family with execution if they were to help me at all. I worked hard for Lord Vader, I was as loyal as a person could be and this was how I was rewarded. My contract with the Empire ended the moment Lord Vader died. He released me from his service so I owe the Empire nothing.”
He nodded. “I understand how you would feel that way, but it is not Isard asking for your help, it is me. The bounty and the arrest warrant have been rescinded.”
“Oh really, well isn’t that nice. At least now I can finally go home and see my family without worrying about being hunted down like an animal or getting my family shot.” I replied. “The answer is still no.” I went to leave the living room, anywhere to get away but he wasn’t going to give up that easily. He had come a very long way just to talk to me and he wasn’t about to let me get away with my usual nonsense. Before I could make my escape he had gotten to his feet and grasped me by the arm, spinning me around to face him. He reached out and touched my face, as though he needed confirmation that I was real and not a ghost. The touch of his hand on my skin was electric and I gasped at the sensation of it. He pulled me close to his body, his eyes never leaving mine. I had forgotten how strong and how persuasive he could be when he really wanted to.
“Sarcasm does not become you, A’myshk’a.” he said very softly.
“Let go.” I growled trying to pull out of his grasp.
He did not let go because he wanted me to listen to what he had to say. “I understand you are furious with me. You and I have the remarkable ability to stay angry at each other for a very long time. You stir me up like one of these spring blizzards and I do not know how to contend with it. Under normal circumstances I would not ask you to leave because I know you are happy here but I need your help. You have the opportunity to be a part of something very big, to make a difference and believe me, if there were any other way I would not be here asking you now.” I tasted lies beneath the words but I didn’t understand what the lies were because mixed in with it all was the truth as well.
“So you didn’t come here because you missed me? Because you want me to come back?” I asked, not having to pretend to be hurt.
“For goodness sake Merlyn, what do you want to hear?” The anger between us sparked, the physical closeness between us made that spark a flame. Of all the things I had truly missed since coming to Hjal it had been this passion, Thrawn’s passion, our passion. Now it engulfed me and I felt as though I were drowning in it. I tried to throw up some mental defenses against it but it was too late for that so I wrenched out of his grasp and took a large step back.
“You sent me away because you said that having me near you was distracting! I am not a toy you can shove in a box every time you are unhappy with how it works!” I was shouting at him now. “What happens if I come back with you and you are not happy with the job I do? Do I get sent to Kessel?” I shook my head. “You disappeared when I needed you the most and then you shipped me as far away as you possibly could because you could not deal with how you felt. You never asked me how I felt, you never once asked. So no! I will not be placed in that position again.”
Those words hit home and he looked away, turning his back to me to draw a deep breath. In that moment I knew I loved him more than I had ever loved anyone in my life but I also resented him just as much and I didn’t know how to put those two things together. I stood still waiting to see what would happen next.
“You are right.” He said finally, turning back to look at me, making sure I knew he meant every thing he was about to say. “And I have had a lot of time to think about everything has happened. I regret how I dealt with the situation, I regret how things ended up between us but as I said before, if I had to do it all over again I would.” He paused for a moment then said, “Shall I ask that you release me from your life? Is there another man in your heart now? Is that why you are so distant and cold?”
That last question took me utterly by surprise. During my time on Hjal there had been some interest shown from a couple of men. To say I wasn’t flattered would have been a lie but when things began to get even a little interesting the only person really on my mind was Thrawn. All the encounters with brief flirtations and possible what ifs did was make me miss and yearn for him more. It seemed that I could not live with him and I could not live without him and he had utterly spoiled me for anyone else. Or maybe it was just there was only meant to be one man in my life and unfortunately for me he was it. It had never occurred to me that he would worry about such things as well.
“No.” I said softly. “Do you want to be released from me?” I asked holding my breath as he took his time to answer.
He gave me a tight smile then shook his head. “No. I did not enter into this relationship with you so lightly that I would walk away like this.”
“So it is just pride that makes you stay with me?”
“Damn it! Must you twist everything around?” He snapped. Letting a little of his well controlled temper loose.
“Then stop talking to me as though I were one of your men! I’m not! I shared your bed, in theory also your heart! You are the one who chased and seduced me. You are the one who used Dantassi ritual to bind yourself to me without my knowledge I might add, so now you deal with it! Stop running away, stop pushing me away! If you spent even a little amount of time thinking about our relationship as you do your war games you’d be better far better prepared to deal with me. ”
His lips twitched in a slight smile. “Nothing in my life has even remotely prepared me for you.” He said quietly.
I just raised an eyebrow at him but he didn’t say anything more and once again we just stood staring at one another while silence lay between us. Suddenly I was exhausted. The trek with Navaari had been a long and arduous one. I had come home hoping to eat and then sleep, not to spend time arguing with Thrawn. The brandy had gone straight to my head and now all I wanted to do was crawl into bed and stay there. In the few seconds of time that had passed between us he had read this. He knew me too well. The situation had escalated out of hand which wasn’t what he had wanted at all and now he tried to diffuse it.
“I didn’t come here to fight with you. It was the last thing I wanted although, admittedly, it was not unexpected. Up until now I have been unable to get away or else I would have been here months ago. I should have come anyway but you were right when you said I hide behind duty. I do. I am sorry for that. I had no idea how to help you, no idea how to even talk to you. I was so angry that I had almost lost you that I was blinded by it.” He said plainly. “Your grief was an overwhelming flood of emotion to me and I am unused to coping with such intensity. I felt you would be far better off here with someone who could help you through it, someone better equipped than I. It was only when you never replied to my letters did I begin to see how much damage I had done. Even though I still believe it was the right thing, the best thing to do for you I was surprised that it hurt you so much.” He stopped for a second and watched my face when I didn’t say or do anything he continued.
“Kirja’navaar’inkjerii kept me informed about your well being but it is not his way, not the Dantassi way to interfere in the personal issues between couples, it never has been and I would not expect it of him. When he let me know that you had made it through your period of sju’ru’arwy’kha, and that he saw the life-fire in your eyes come back, I knew that I had made the right choice in sending you with him even though it hurt you. Nirauan was not the place for you to be. You could never have healed there, in fact I am certain that staying there with me would have destroyed your soul altogether. I would rather lose you than see your beautiful spirit crushed by the weight of all the guilt and the sorrow you were carrying.” He paused but gestured to let me know he wasn’t finished. “It was only after you were gone, only after I had time to see past both your and my grief that I came to understand how much I also need you.” He took another deep breath and let it out slowly. “The truth of the matter is that I miss you.” It had cost him to say that, he was not a man to speak of his feelings with ease.
I stared at him not believing what I had just heard despite the fact that it was the truth, plain and simple.
The expression on his face softened. “I do not lie about the reason for wanting you to return with me, while I am perfectly capable of getting the task of language training accomplished; I have neither the time nor the inclination. As language instructor you would have an important role to play on the base, never minding the rest of your somewhat unique talents which I am certain will be more than useful. This would be a way for us to be closer and I would have a valid reason for having you there aside from simply being my bond-mate.” He said. “Ultimately, the choice is yours but you should know that if you do decide to come back with me it will be difficult at first. There would have to be certain restrictions set in place on how you and I conduct our private relationship but I promise I would try to make it as easy for you as I could. However, if you really want to remain here I will not ask again.”
I nodded slowly letting his words sink in. The air had that heavy feel to it as he waited for me to reply. It had been one of the longest speeches I had ever heard him make and somewhere in there he had apologised but I was too weary to sort through it all. “I can’t decide this now,” I said, “I’m exhausted. I will give you my answer in the morning.”
“Of course.” He replied coolly. He knew when to back off and give me space but I felt a ripple of uncertainty from him.
“You have a place to sleep?” I asked.
“Yes.” He gestured to the room which was directly next to mine.
I nodded. I had not expected him to bed with me but part of me was a little disappointed he did not bring it up. I knew he was giving me the choice, giving me space but that didn’t make me any less confused about how I felt about it all.
“Sleep well, A’myshk’a, we will speak more in the morning.” he said quietly as I left. I just gave him little nod because I had no idea what else to say.