Carth entered the apartment slowly, closing the door as softly as he possibly could. The curtains were closed tightly, blocking out all sunlight, and all of the lights had been turned off. Sympathy cards and flowers were strewn about the floor; holos were placed upside down so that the images did not have to be viewed.
Carth bent down to straighten up the mess, and his hand closed over one of those cards, one of the ones that was bought for a handful of credits at the drugstore, one of the ones that was given out of obligation and pity rather than true sorrow. Carth dropped the card and allowed it to flutter back down to the floor as he stood back up.
The bottle of Corellian firewhiskey that he had polished off the night before lay on its side on the kitchen counter, where a few drops of the amber liquid had spilled. Carth frowned as he looked at the small puddle of alcohol, and wondered how it was that he had missed those few sips.
As of two weeks prior, the Republic soldier hadn't been drunk in over six years. As of late however, it seemed that the bottle was the only thing that he could truly take comfort in. He pulled out a jug of Tarisian ale from the bag that he had been carrying, and laid it beside the empty bottle of Firewhiskey. He didn't bother to drink it yet. There would be plenty of time for that later.
Carth headed down the hall that led to his bedroom, the bedroom that his wife should have been sitting in, curled up with one of her blasted romance novels. If he closed his eyes, he could almost see her there, blond hair shining beneath low lighting, her bathrobe tucked up to her chin as she snuggled into the pillows. He could imagine the slow smile that spread onto her face as he opened the door, could hear her say, "Hey, stranger," as she set the book aside.
Carth opened the door to the bedroom and trudged through it slowly, yanking off his boots and throwing them in the general direction of the closet as he stripped off his uniform. That was added to the heap of dirty laundry as well.
With a grunt, he sat on the edge of his bed- what should have been her side of the bed. He brought the pillow that he had salvaged from the wreckage of their home to his face and breathed deeply. All that he could smell was smoke and ash, but he believed that if he tried hard enough, he could find her scent beneath it all. That somehow, he could find the smell of her shampoo beneath the layers of destruction. He never could.
He glanced at the holo on the end table- her favorite picture. Her long, blonde hair was tied back in a braid, which was in the process of falling out, and her blue eyes shone brighter than they had ever seen them. Carth's arm was around her, their three year old son balanced between them. Carth remembered that day clearly. He had been summoned by the Republic that morning, but had decided to wait just one more day to leave home. Morgana had been ecstatic. At her insistence, they had taken Dustil out for a trip to the zoo and a picnic. Carth had never seen her so happy.
He ached just looking at it, remembering their time together. He reached out to turn the holo over, as he had all of the others in the apartment, but found that he couldn't. It was her favorite picture, and it had sat on her nightstand for eleven years.
Carth thought of the ale sitting on the kitchen counter, of the oblivion that it promised. He left the bedroom and didn't look back.
"You're a wreck." The statement came from a man a decade or so younger than Carth, the younger man's dark hair falling carelessly into brown eyes. He was a few inches taller than Carth, and lankier, and he carried himself in an easy, self confident sort of manner. As he spoke, his lips curved into a natural smirk. Carth could find only one word to describe him: scoundrel.
"You're not much better off yourself," Carth replied dryly, taking a swig of his ale. He gestured for the bartender to pour him another glass.
"Women troubles?" the man asked, picking his drink up lazily and taking a sip of juma.
"What was your first clue?" Carth said, lifting his now full glass to his lips. The liquid burned as it went down, and he knew that it would hurt like hell in the morning, but if he was able to forget for a few hours, it was worth the trouble.
"It's always about a woman." The man stretched languidly, and then gave a lazy grin that bordered on a smirk. Carth hated that smile. "Besides, only a woman would be able to get Admiral Carth Onasi in a dump like this," he said, gesturing to the slimy cantina that they were sitting in.
"You know me?"
"It's called holovision. Your face was in every living room for about six months five years ago, remember?" He gave that gods awful smile again and twirled the liquid in his glass. "And more recently, when you were accused of hiding Asstila Shan."
"Bastila, actually," Carth corrected absentmindedly, ignoring the look that came over the man's face. Apparently, the so called mistake was what the boy took for a clever nickname. "But that's water under the bridge. The Jedi aren't being hunted any longer."
"Thanks to the Exile," the scoundrel said, his lips turning down at the corners as he took a deep swig of juma.
"Sweet little thing," Carth remarked without really thinking, his thoughts begin to drift from him.
"So you'd think," the man snarled, his grip increasing on the glass so much so that Carth was afraid that it would shatter.
"What'd she ever do to you?"
The scoundrel laughed mirthlessly. "Oh, just the thing that women do best. Rip out your heart and throw it to the Kath." When Carth said nothing, the dark haired man gulped down the last of his Juma and ordered the barkeep over to order another. "She saved me, and then she left me. Said she had to go where no one she loved could follow." He slammed the now full glass down onto the counter. "Nerf shavit, the lot of it."
"My girl said the same thing."
"Don't tell me she was dating the two of us at once," the man muttered with a glower, staring down into his drink.
"One better." When the scoundrel stared at him incredulously, Carth took another drink. "Revan."
The man's eyes widened. "Well, shavit."
"How'd a wuss like you wind up with a broad like her?" the man demanded.
Carth glared at the man, but the alcohol numbed the feeling of anger and brought with it a feeling of companionship. And so he found himself telling the whole story. About Telos, Morgana, and Dustil; about the young woman he met by the name of Leighanna Starr, of how this same girl turned out to be the brainwashed enemy of the republic, and how she had left him in the end.
"Shavit," the scoundrel repeated once Carth was through. "Makes me and Mical's fight over the Exile seem pretty pathetic."
Carth raised a brow. "Atton Rand?"
Atton scowled. "How'd you know?"
"Heard the story from Mical already. We're regulars here," Carth replied dryly, and took one last swig of his drink. "The next round's on me."