Disclaimer: It all belongs to the mighty flannel one – it's his sandbox, I'm simply borrowing his toys.

Title: I'll Drink to That

Author: JadeMax

Characters: Read and see – not my normal fare, not at all...

Timeframe: Post VotF

Summary: Dare Challenge Entry for – this one was a toughie

Notes: I've NEVER written these characters before – I apologize if I commit character hari-kari, but I did try – I even did some research, for all the good it did me. Character traits and descriptions are few and far between. ;)

I'll Drink to That

It hadn't been supposed to happen.

She'd completed her assignment and been taken for debriefing. Only when her routine physical had shown complications had they realized their time together was coming to an end.

Neither were young, neither were inexperienced, both had suffered grievous loss, but the final blow was coming, and far sooner than either expected. Sooner than either had anticipated.

Sooner than either was ready for it.

It was cruel, trying, and would force them into decisions they had only dreamed about...

"That stuff will kill you, you know."

"If it hasn't killed me by now, I doubt it will be the final blow." The amused tone was accompanied with a smile and a semi-toast of the long glass holding gralish liqueur. "I didn't figure I'd ever see you in a dive like this." She took a sip, her eyes sparkling with amusement. "Since you became respectable, I mean."

"It's been a long time, Moranda."

She cocked her head at him, her long gray hair falling to the side. "Some would say not long enough. The last time I saw you, you couldn't wait to be rid of me."

"Still sore about that?"

She shrugged. "Nah. Though, you still haven't paid me."

"Still the mercenary. Some people never change."

"I have a ship to maintain. What can I do for you, Garm?"

He slid onto the chair next to her. "How about retire?"

She paused, staring at him almost blankly. "Pardon?"

He smiled faintly. "I hate to lose you, Moranda, but this is a young persons' game. Neither of us is as young as we used to be."

"That sounds like a horrible come-on, Garm." She took another sip of her gralish liqueur. "Don't tell me Arrianya fell for that one."

He chuckled, the pain of Arrianya's death having faded to the point where it only hurt a little to speak of it. Thanks in part to the woman beside him. "I met Arrianya when we were still young, Moranda. You know that."

"Must be my age catching up with me." Her eyes sparkled merrily, but there was a hint of steel underneath. "Maybe I'm going senile."

"You?" He chuckled softly. "Never. You're as sharp as you've always been."

"Then there's no reason for my retirement." She slapped one hand down on the scarred bar top, wiggling her empty glass to the bar tender. The glass was quickly refilled and their conversation resumed with Moranda slanting a look his way. "Or is this retirement thing an undercover job?"

"I wish it were, Moranda. You're one of the best field agents I've got."

"So this isn't a request?"

Garm shook his head almost sadly. "Unfortunately, no."

She shrugged. "I've had a good run. They're not taking away my pension, are they?"

He stated at her for a long moment before beginning to chuckle. "When did we become so old?"

"I think around the time Wes Janson started playing with stuffed ewoks."

"Or when Horn decided you were better to work with, rather than against?"

She chuckled. "There's that too. We've had some fun times haven't we?"

"If you want to call them that."

She took another sip of her drink. "Considering I'm approaching my centennial, I've been told I have six months to live and I've just been told to retire, the memories are all I've got." Her voice held no rancor, no regret only simple fact. She'd accepted the doctor's diagnosis.

Garm's gaze dropped to where his gnarled hands were resting on the bar, one of his weathered hands next to hers. "I'm sorry I've got to wash you out, Moranda. If I had a choice in the matter, I would keep you on board."

She snorted. "You're sweet, even if you're a liar Garm. You have a crack team of pilots who are a third my age who are willing to take the risks I'm unable to. They'll simply have to get by without their Queen of Air and Darkness." Her eyes sparkled merrily. "I think they'll manage."

"And you?"

"Win or die, Garm." She shrugged. "I'll get by. I know you won't have time for me."

"I'll make time," he promised sincerely. "You know I'm not simply here because of the drinks."

She laughed, a full bodied laughter that carried through to the corners of the dimly lit pub. "I figured you came for the scenery."

His gaze traveled away from her to the empty pub around them. They were the only patrons; but then it was just after noon. His gaze slid back to hers and then dropped to take in her frame. Her stance changed, becoming almost defiant.

He finally looked back to her, the appreciation in his gaze unfeigned. "I think I did too. Or the company. Maybe both."

"Garm, we've talked about this." Her tone became exasperated. "Just because I'm dying doesn't mean I want a fling."

"I don't want one either."

Her look turned suspicious. "Then what do you want?"

He reaching over and relieved her of her glass, taking a sip from the same place she had before returning it to the table. Their eye contact never broke. "I don't want to watch another woman I love die."

"Everyone dies, Garm, it's just a matter of when and how. I don't intend to die in a bed, surrounded by technicians being used as a guinea pig."

"I never said you did."

"Well good." She her head at him. "Then why are you so worried?"

"Because I haven't felt this way since Arrianya. I know I'm going to lose you. I know we don't have much time." His hand settled over hers, and his gaze met hers. "But, Morand, if you'll let me, I'd like to make you the happiest woman in the galaxy for the time you have left."

She arched an eyebrow at him, but he could see the moisture beginning to cloud her eyes. "How do you propose to do that?" Her words came out whispered, with none of the asperity she normally used.

"There's beggary in love that can be reckon'd." He smiled faintly, one weathered hand coming up to cup her face and gently rub his thumb over her cheek. "Let me make your final months ones to remember forever." He searched her eyes. "Marry me, Moranda. I know we won't have long, but let's make the most of it."

She stared at him for a long minute, obviously thinking it through. "I'll drink to that Garm and consider it a deal."

"Good." His head lowered and his mouth settled over her for a gentle, brief kiss before sealing their bargain with a toast.

Somewhere between the first glass and the last glass, they'd come to an understanding.

Fin

What as the Dare, you ask?

True love can strike at any age. Write a romance between Garm Bel Iblis and Moranda Savich. It must occur any time after Vision of the Future.


Must include:
-a Horn
-Gralish liqueur

-a stuffed Ewok
-The Queen of Air and Darkness
-Win or Die
-Arrianya
It also must use the following quote from Anthony and Cleopatra:
"There's beggary in love that can be reckon'd"

Whether it ends as a comedy, romance, or tragedy is up to you. Interpret the list as you wish.

Thanks for reading! JadeMax