"Hey beautiful." Carth said. "Are you alright?"
"I'm fine." She smiled at Carth and swallowed.
"You look a little shaky. Are you sure you're alright?" She nodded and shivered. Carth knew she wasn't all right because he was close enough to her to know when she faltered, every unsettled feeling she felt. If she let him feel it, he would. "Are you cold?" She nodded. He put his jacket over her shoulders and she smiled.
"Thank you." She didn't have to be the Redeemed Jedi Knight with him. She didn't have to be the savior of the galaxy but she was. She was the redemption of the galaxy with all her failings and unsettled emotions. Not many people would know the personal conflicts the heroes of the Republic faced during their mission and after.
"Saleairy, wait up." She stopped and accepted a hug from Mission. "Now you two are wearing each others clothes? Strange." She chuckled at Carth and Carth grinned.
"Love makes you do strange things. She picked me out quite a nice dress actually, with tassels and lace-"
"Okay, that went far enough there, pilot man. Have you guys seen Big Z?" Mission asked. They heard his "inside voice" bellow and followed the noise. They were standing on the balcony of a very expensive hotel and they walked around the curving veranda to find Big Z conversing with Canderous.
"What's going on over here?" Carth asked.
"I was just discussing Mandolarian war tactics for planets like the fluff ball's home planet."
"Let's avoid discussions on conquering please Canderous." Saleairy spoke with a demure smile.
"You're the one who listened to my war stories."
"I was interested in your stories not conquering tactics though Canderous."
"Yes, I suppose you aren't interested in conquering anymore." Saleairy looked uncomfortable at the comment but let it blow over. Canderous admired the strength Revan was known for and she hoped that was all the admirable qualities he'd noticed.
"No. I'm mostly interested in getting something to eat." HK walked up.
"Observation: It is such a shame you have chosen new hobbies Master. I served you so well when you disposed of meatbags in conquest."
"You still serve me well HK. Besides, now you have more meatbags to play with." She winked and Carth chuckled at her purring, mellifluous voice. Even the droids would fall for her eloquent flattery.
"Yes, HK loves to 'play' since no one ever told him to play nicely with the other kids." Juhani walked up to them.
"It's time for breakfast."
They were seated at a large table and Jolee joined them. Carth sat next to Saleairy and Canderous sat on the other side. She always seemed so strong when someone needed her to be. She realized that Carth didn't always need her to be strong. Carth could be strong for her now that she wasn't fighting for the galaxy. That alone strengthened her even though intimacy, even touching Carth was difficult. She didn't touch him often during their journey but now it was more appropriate to do so and she remained hesitant. She loved him and neither of them doubted it but something made loving very different for Saleairy. She was responsible for so much pain; she caused Carth pain as Revan by the destruction in her wake and it hurt her to think of it. She didn't remember being Revan; she was Saleairy Cheran but the guilt was still there and it worsened when her mind denied any remembrance of the massacres she caused. She refocused her thoughts and blinked at her friends. They were her new family since no one would claim to be Revan's family. Carth touched her hand to get her attention and poured her a glass of fruit juice.
"This planet is beautiful." They were on some inhabited jungle moon that was a stop on their way to Telos. The Council had asked her to come there with a few of their members to show the people the power of redemption. They'd just arrived that morning and everyone looked like they would eat and fall into their beds. Saleairy was amazed when Bastila went ahead to meet with the Council. Saleairy and Carth would be dead asleep as soon as they could be; sleeping arrangements would need to be organized with haste or Saleairy would pass out on the floor. Maybe she would feel better after eating.
"What do you guys want to do after breakfast?" Mission was the only one with an excess of energy.
"Sleep." Most of them echoed the sentiment. Carth even looked a little weary. T3 came in, beeping and Saleairy whistled.
"T3, you're looking a little beaten up. Here, come over to me."
"Could we not run diagnostics at the table dear?" Canderous asked.
"I'll order you a brandy."
"Isn't it early-" Carth asked.
"I'll take that offer." He hailed the waitress and Saleairy fixed a few obvious issues T3 was having.
"Is that better?" He beeped in a positive key and thrummed off. She chuckled. "I swear he does that just so he's capable of making trouble somewhere else."
"He's not the only troublemaker." She smiled at Jolee.
"I can't help it sometimes." She said.
"And the other times?" Carth asked.
"The trouble I'm in is worth it. That's how I ended up flying around with you." She smiled and Carth chuckled. "Oh dear, did I hurt your man feelings with that one Carth?"
"Maybe a little."
"Do you want a brandy too? Technically it's about nighttime for us since we've been traveling for so long." She knew he would since Canderous accepted her offer.
"Okay." She laughed and Mission shook her head.
"We all may be sleepy but it's still morning time and brandy isn't exactly fruit juice."
"They'll just sleep longer." Juhani said.
"Try not to get too hammered though." Carth laughed as the waitress brought out two brandies. Jolee chuckled from where he sat and Saleairy offered to order him one.
"No, I think this will be more entertaining completely sober."
"Well said." Saleairy said. She took a sip of Carth's brandy. She didn't drink often because she wasn't presented with the opportunity often. It burned her throat and cleared her head. She took a bigger sip of water and Canderous laughed.
"Not much for brandy at any time if I remember correctly. More for the juma juice." Canderous said. Carth raised his eyebrows.
"I thought that night at the cantina was going to stay quiet Canderous." Her eyes twinkled in a clandestine smile.
"I think it's a quality story." Carth rested his arm across the back of her chair and she looked at him for a moment, staring into his dark honey eyes before leaning back. His hand rested on her shoulder and she drank more water. His fingers tickled her shoulder.
"Well, are you going to tell us the story or what?" Mission said.
"Recollection: I seem to remember being there as well Master." Saleairy covered her face for a moment.
"Please don't tell me you were recording, HK."
"Offended statement: I would never record anything without your consent Master, but I do have a remarkable memory."
"I think Canderous would do better explaining HK, but thank you for your offer."
"Smug statement: Any service I can offer will be above satisfactory Master."
"Alright you bucket of bolts, since you all seem so interested I'll tell the story. Saleairy, the assassin droid and I went to a cantina because Saleairy needed the advice of some real warriors." Carth didn't know if he liked such an esoteric story shared between an assassin droid, a Mandolarian and the women he'd been traveling with for so long. He hoped it would turn out humorous and nothing else.
"Observation: Putting yourself, an organic meatbag, in the same category as myself, a state of the art-"
"You'll remember I know how to stop you observations too." HK was quiet. "I ordered some drinks and watched her drink hers like a lady while the Pazaak player she was busy hustling drank like a Firaxa shark. He eventually got the idea she was cheating at Pazaak and it was just the juma juice getting to him because he had a bad deck and a bad streak. So then he thinks he'll win his money back by challenging her to a drinking contest."
"Oh God, I still can't drink that juma juice." She rubbed her temples. "Worst hang over I've ever had."
"I can see why." Canderous scoffed.
"How much did you drink?" Carth asked, struggling to contain laughter. He was glad they were all so light hearted. They had to be since Saleairy didn't drink often or in excess and no one expected her to go out and get hammered alongside Canderous and HK.
"I lost count after five. Canderous?"
"Fifteen and that was before they started playing Pazaak again. I have never seen someone so drunk mop the floor with a professional Pazaak player." Laughter broke out since Saleairy reserved Pazaak for when she needed the credits.
"I knew we were going to have a high tab when we left." She shrugged her shoulders. "I took him on because I figured Canderous would be less willing to challenge me if I was already smashed. How late were we there?"
"The pigeon left at one and we left a while later."
"Observation: You were both well beyond a safe level of inebriation."
"Is there a safe level of inebriation?" Carth asked.
"Observation: With most meatbags, I would say no, but Master holds her ales most admirably."
"That's not what Canderous thought, although having to carry me home was probably one of the funnier experiences." Saleairy said.
"She was so 'tipsy' she almost fell off my shoulders. The entire time she was muttering about how she was glad I was there because those cantina rats were an unscrupulous sort. I've never heard her sing before or since then either. What were you singing?"
"You think I remember the song?" She flushed.
"I think you do. It was a parody of some Republic song." She flushed a deeper
"I don't want to talk about it."
"You can't be a toad now. You had the bar keeps singing it before we left." Canderous said.
"Recollection: Oh, Master, I searched my data files and it appears I did record something that night at the request of Canderous."
"Play it." Canderous said. Saleairy covered her face for a minute before HK started playing.
"Voiceprint: The strength of the Republic is in traditions and regulations of old. Hire hot solders and let them get old. Give them blasters, swords and shields to wear but don't forget to make the uniforms to tight to bear. Even in the past, we knew our republic hero had an exceptional ass." Saleairy buried her face in Carth's shoulder and hid her laughter. Carth heard Canderous singing in the recording and chuckled.
"I'm amazed you sung so well." Carth said blinking at the unrestrained laughter of the people around him. "Which Republic hero were you talking about?"
"I don't remember."
"Canderous, weren't you supposed to be watching her?" Carth asked.
"I would've been watching her closer but even Mandalorians get a little impaired after so many drinks. And you can't expect me not to join in on a little Republic bashing." Saleairy showed her face again and the blush had faded.
"I could probably drink you under the table." She sipped more brandy from Carth's glass as she attempted to change the subject and Carth took a larger sip.
"Let's not find out. I don't want to hold you hair back while you vomit gorgeous."
"Realization: The following day, you battled a very fierce monster. What was it again? Oh yes, some sort of dragon? Of course with my combat readiness you had no problems-"
"You were hung over when you killed that Krayt dragon?" Mission asked.
"More than a little." They all burst into laughter and Carth gazed at her. She was beautiful and even her past life couldn't keep the vitality and vivacious energy from sparkling in her eyes. Carth touched her hand and she smiled.
"I can see why you don't drink often if you get challenged to a drinking contest every time."
"Don't worry Carth, next time I'll take you along and I'll drink you under the table and carry you back." She stuck her tongue out.
"Ha, novice." She chuckled and ran her finger over the length of Carth's hand between his thumb and forefinger. He had a burn scar from a blaster that over heated and scalded him. He was a young solder when he got it and it wasn't a war story worth telling for a Republic hero. He was practicing with a new blaster in a desolate field and a stray shot hit a domestic beast. The beast charged and Carth ran while shooting to scare the beast off and tripped over his feet. The blaster's barrel seared his skin and his startled yelp frightened the timid beast more than the blaster bolts.
Saleairy yawned and stretched. Carth and Canderous finished their brandies and they went to collect room keys. Their luggage had been placed in certain rooms and Carth and Saleairy were sharing a large suite. Mission hid an impish grin and Canderous made a ribald comment and was cut off by HK.
"Thinly veiled threat: If the Commander Onasi were to do subject my Master to any such thing, he would require punishment. I believe punishments are best fulfilled by blaster rifle, don't you agree Master?"
"In some cases it is quite effective. Other times it's easier to make the offender sleep outside, after using a blaster on the stun setting in a choice location." Carth laughed.
"No one is that cold, sister."
"Now I'm a sister? No longer the most persistent women you've ever met?"
"Whatever beautiful, I just work here."
"Okay, I think we've all seen your kinky flirting long enough. I'm going to sleep." Mission said.
"It would be wise for you to sleep too kid, or Carth will be carrying you back." Jolee said.
"You should anyway." Canderous said.
"Is that going to sleep the Mandolarian way?" Carth asked.
"Alright alright, enough. Let's go." Saleairy pulled Carth along to their room.
"Can't stand the heat?"
"Can't stand the teenaged level of testosterone."
"You should be used to it by now." Carth said.
"That isn't the kind of testosterone I want." Carth picked her up and swung her around. He made a move to kiss her but she put a finger to his lips, smiling as he held her above him.
"Is this the kind of testosterone you want?" Carth said as she gripped his shoulders while he held her in mid air. She grinned with a playful twinkle in her eyes.
"No. I like the kind of testosterone that makes you lift things. My suitcase was kindly put in the middle of the pathway in our room."