"Everything I've done...for the past twenty years...has been for her."

It was the strangest feeling, hearing my voice, hearing my own confession I had sworn to myself time and time again to never speak aloud. I especially never expected to share it with my present...company.

"She was one vehry lucky woman."

Wyliaa's delicate breath at my ear contrasted sharply with her heavy accent, one I hadn't heard in quite some time. Her light hand slid just as carefully across my chest and up the side of my neck, coming to rest with her palm against my jaw. Even in the room's dim lighting, her rutian skin still sparkled with an iridescent sheen. She had put on her favorite seduction powder for me.


With a soft, sweeping movement, she brushed her lips against my cheek, planting a gentle kiss just beside my mouth. "'Oratio... 'ow long have we known each ozher? You know better zhan to use my full name." A small, teasing smile spread across her face. "Only my clients 'ave to do zhat."

I humored her, if only to keep her in good spirits. "Liaa." Content, she continued planting small kisses down my neck, but I knew my next question would stop them. "If I'm not your client...then what am I?"

She slowly lifted her head back up to me, her lekku gracefully falling back behind her shoulders. "I zhought...zhat you were a friend. You say, you need someone to talk to. So, I come. I am 'ere to listen. If we do more zhan...talking...for you, zhere will be no charge."

I'd never known her to be so...generous. "Your time is worth more than that, Liaa."

She grinned slyly. "Per'aps. But I do not always 'ave to be working. Wizh you," she added as she tightly wrapped an arm around my waist, sitting even more closely against me, "it would not be a job."

Enticing as her offer was, I knew it would only prolong my unhappiness. The void was not Liaa's to fill, but then, it really couldn't be filled by anyone...

"You are 'urting," she observed quietly, her amber eyes searching mine so keenly. Surely she wasn't reading my emotional state; maybe I had accidentally winced when she embraced me.

"Just a few bruises, nothing some bacta couldn't -"

"No, somezhing 'appened. Zhat is why you need to talk."

For a twi'lek who specialized and definitely excelled in putting men of all species at ease for a living, she was beginning to have the opposite effect on me. I couldn't have been that transparent.

But apparently my reaction was. "Why do you look at me like zhat? You say, you spend twenty years for 'er. And now you are sad. It is not difficult to zhink zhat whatever 'appen to 'er make you sad."

I swallowed hard, deciding how best to leave Liaa's snare. I couldn't tell her; she was practically a stranger, no more versed in my past than what little I had told her. And even then, most of that had been an outright lie to provide some cover in case Tzymo's thugs were still after me. I had been the one to spill my secret so readily, though, whether I had consciously intended to or not, and maybe it was for the best. I certainly couldn't go to Zanti anymore, and Kil had yet to make good on her threat to kill me on our next meeting...but I wasn't about to give her the chance.

I really had no other option.

"I couldn't save her," I eventually managed just above a whisper, staring straight ahead into the darkness of the surrounding room. My voice shook, but I was sure Liaa had already noticed my trembling as tightly as she was still holding me. "All my work...all my digging, all my efforts to find her and help her...and it wasn't enough. I was too late."

Though I fully expected her to no longer have any interest in me, much less in how I was feeling, Liaa surprised me yet again. "Oh, 'Oratio... Your 'eart is so 'eavy." With only the slightest of pressure, she rested her chin on my shoulder, her face tilted up towards mine. If it hadn't been dead silent in our small room, I may not have heard her. "I want to make it lighter for you. Tell me...'ow did it 'appen?"

Reliving the discovery was only going to deepen my sorrow, so I had to work up to it. But where was I to start with the most painful, drawn-out event in my life?

"The last time I saw her alive," I hesitantly began, "...was the beginning of the end."