A Moment to Dull the Pain by Chris Anderson

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Lucasfilm, Ltd. No money is being made and no infringement is intended.

He is sitting at his desk, head in his hands, trying not to break down and weep where his officers might see him, when the knock comes at the door.

"Go away," he whispers.

The door slides open anyway. Garm Bel Iblis stands there, his face dark with some emotion he doesn't want to identify, knowing it too well... Something is tucked under his arm, but Pellaeon ignores this, too.

"I said go away," Pellaeon tells him.

Bel Iblis shakes his had. "Vermel sent me, after you threw him out. Which, if I may say, you shouldn't have done."

"He's just a kid."

Bel Iblis sighs and sets the item he had been carrying down on the desk with a clunk. It is a bottle of Corellian whiskey, an old one. A good year, if Pellaeon recalls correctly. (And he may not. What does he know about good years, anymore?)

"No," Bel Iblis says, "he isn't. He's younger than you, true- younger than both of us, actually. But not that much younger. You're a fool if you think he doesn't know what's going on here. And, not that it really matters now that you've gotten rid of him, but he thinks he is your friend." He shake his head. "Look. I understand exactly what's going on here. You look at Vermel and the others, and you don't see their years of combat experience, the things that make them just as fitting for this conversation as I am. You see the Majors and the Colonels, the forever-junior officers. The kids. None of them are kids anymore, Gil."

Pellaeon sighs. "Do you think I don't know that? That isn't why I sent him away. I'm fully well aware that there are things Vice Admiral Vermel will understand that Colonel Vermel would not have, but he is still my junior, and the last thing he needs to see is me breaking down."

Bel Iblis perches himself on the edge of the desk. "Are you breaking down?"

"I'd very much like to, if you would leave me in peace," Pellaeon snaps. He looks up at the other man, though, and weighs the decision. Why not, after all? If anyone in all the stars will understand...

"I..." Pellaeon sighs. Buries his head in his hands again, and cannot bring himself to look up for a long time. When he does it is all he can do just to whisper, "My boy is dead, Garm."

Bel Iblis flinches sharply, as if struck a blow. "No," he whispers. Pellaeon nods silently; it was is he can do. "I'm sorry," Bel Iblis goes on. "I can't even tell you how sorry I am."

"Thank you," Pellaeon says. He eyes the bottle. It won't help, and a part of him knows that. The pain will still be there in the morning- it will always be there, now. But to make it go away, if only for a time... Would that be such a bad thing?

"Is there anything I can do?" Bel Iblis asks.

And Pellaeon, knowing he will come to regret it, but not having the strength now to turn away from this, says, "Open the bottle."

It is half empty before Pellaeon begins to weep, and once he begins, he feels he may never stop.