Startled awake by a sudden noise, Deilia bolted upright, her eyes instantly snapping open. Laying on the floor, she had a light blanket draped over her, but she quickly tossed it aside as she scanned her surroundings, searching for the source of what she had heard. She looked to her right at the cot where she had gotten Horatio set up three days ago, and she was somewhat surprised to find it empty. He wasn't anywhere near strong enough, but...she could understand his desire to leave. She wasn't going to keep him here against his will.
Expecting him to be long gone, she released a defeated sigh, though it was interrupted by a weak, wet cough echoing behind her. She spun around just in time to see Horatio collapse against the corridor wall, his back to her as he was leaving the cargo hold. His legs were still underneath him, but she could tell his stamina was rapidly waning. On her feet immediately, she only took a dozen steps to reach him, standing in front of him and steadying him as carefully as she could. She expected him to send her away, physically or verbally, but she only read intense pain on his face as he struggled to keep himself standing.
"I hope you weren't trying to leave," she began lightly, gently easing his weight onto her as she pulled his good arm around her shoulders. He leaned onto her much more than she was expecting, forcing her to wrap her other arm behind his back for more stability as she slowly walked with him back to the open room.
His face was paler than she had ever seen. "Didn't get far."
His left arm hung limply at his side, as it had since he had woken up days ago, much to his dismay. Of course the brutal stabbing had damaged the muscles of his left chest, but it had disrupted a nerve somewhere, too, and it wasn't healing quickly, if at all. She lowered him down onto the makeshift bed with some difficulty, managing his bulk against her more slender frame when he couldn't steady himself. With a free hand, she adjusted the angle under his upper torso so he could sit more upright, allowing him to more easily breathe.
Mostly settled onto the cot, he rested his head back against the pillow behind him, seeming to even lose consciousness for a few brief moments. She stayed by his side and watched him closely, making sure he wasn't crashing as she pressed her fingers into his neck. His pulse was weak, but at least it remained steady, and as he came back around, he met her gaze silently, still trying to catch his breath.
Something about the look in his eyes kept her hand against his skin, though she was no longer paying attention to his heartbeat...
A choking cough from him interrupted their silence, and snapped out of her daze, she moved her hand down to his shirt collar, tugging on it to determine if he had done any noticeable damage during his premature departure. With a swift movement she wasn't expecting, he grabbed her wrist in a powerful grip with his good hand, stopping her. She waited for his scathing words...but when they didn't come, she kept her voice as gentle as possible.
"I just want to be sure you didn't tear or reopen anything."
Though the warning expression he gave her slowly dissipated, it took him longer to release his hold on her hand. Finally able to, she inspected his wound, carefully easing the bandage off of it. Thankfully, she didn't see any new blood on the surface, but that didn't mean he hadn't worsened something deeper. She applied gentle pressure around the edges of the delicate bacta seal, garnering several intense grimaces and groans from him, but he didn't protest further. Satisfied that he would be okay for the time being, she gingerly replaced the bandage and adjusted his shirt, looking him over for a moment. Just as she had begun to speak, Garran returned to the room briefly, bringing them some water and food rations. She smiled and thanked him as she accepted them, and as he left, she watched Horatio's gaze follow him.
She shook her head. "Cousin." After a moment, she continued sadly. "I haven't seen my son in...four years. I haven't even met my brother's two youngest children. Their fourth child, a boy named Kyren, was born a few weeks ago."
She didn't have to ask him how long it had been since he had seen his nephews, and thankfully he didn't seem upset at the mention of hers. As hard as he was still breathing, she knew he was exhausted, but still, she had to hear it from him...
"How do you feel?"
He didn't want to answer. "Weak."
She nodded in understanding. "You lost a lot of blood, and you've only had a few short days to make up the difference. Honestly...I am really surprised that you did make it, all things considered. You were...pretty critical." Suddenly curious about something else, she brought her hand back up, delicately placing her palm against his cheek. Expectedly, he looked uneasy with her touch, unsure what she was doing until she moved her hand to his forehead.
"Doesn't feel like you have a fever," she explained, returning her hand to her side. "I was afraid the bacta wasn't going to be strong enough to ward off any infection, but it seems to be doing the job so far."
Despite looking relieved, as well, he remained silent, even as she searched his eyes for some kind of response. When he gave nothing after a few tense moments, she brought up something she had just seen.
"You have another scar," she observed softly, "right next to the new one. I didn't notice it earlier." She had been too focused on fixing the gaping hole in his chest the Weequays had given him. When he didn't look too intent on explaining, she came up with something on her own. "Do you make a habit of starting cantina brawls?"
Seemingly unwilling to answer, he turned his head away, staring at the far wall for a long while before he finally spoke.
"I was attacked by a vornskr hybrid six years ago," he answered, his voice still rough and weak as he looked. "It had a spiked tail it used on me. Thought it was going to kill me."
"So you've been in this...condition before."
Still looking the other direction, he hesitated. "Not exactly. Last time...I didn't have..." He couldn't finish his thought aloud, though, closing his eyes as if to shut everything out. She gave him time to recover before she continued with something that had been bothering her since she had found him in that cantina...
"Why did you start that fight, Horatio?"
Earning his gaze once more, she watched his expression churn through a dozen different emotions. She proceeded carefully. "You had to know how outnumbered and outmatched you were... Were you trying to get yourself killed?"
Again, he was hesitant to answer. She almost thought he wasn't going to answer at all.
Moved with compassion for him, she simply waited, hoping that he would elaborate, but not demanding it. She sat down on the floor at his right side after a moment, having to look up at him though he continued to stare at the ceiling.
"When she was in her early twenties," he spoke slowly, "my sister was involved with a spice dealer. He was...violent and abusive, among other things. When she tried to leave him with their unborn son, he sent two thugs after her, and they nearly beat her to death. They both survived, but the dealer, Soran, ended up kidnapping Max two years later.
"I overheard those two Weequays talking about Soran's latest movements while I was refueling on Nar Shaddaa, so I started to follow them. Eventually they ended up in that cantina, and when one of them mentioned Recero...how he wished he had killed her before she'd had Max...to save Soran the trouble... I snapped. I don't remember anything after I landed my first blow. It's all just a...blur, of rage, and pain... I wanted to make them hurt as much as I did," he finished bitterly, "but I couldn't even do that."
Against her better judgment, against every fiber in her body telling her not to, she reached up to him, lightly gripping his hand at his side. He flinched the slightest bit as his muscles tensed with her touch, though he maintained his upward gaze. After a lengthy silence, he spoke up once more with a dark tone.
"You asked me to help Cordira, someday, somehow. What makes you think I could do it, even if I wanted to?"
She released a shaky breath, tightening her hold on his hand the slightest bit. "You did it for me...and I was quite certain you didn't want to."
Looking down at her with a hard gaze, she could see his emotions were taking a severe toll on his remaining energy. She hadn't intended to upset him so much. Hoping to alleviate her guilt, she released his hand as she pulled herself up onto her knees. It put her at eye level with him just to his side, and though he looked wary of her, he didn't move when she leaned even closer to him.
"Horatio," she breathed, "you left Coruscant so quickly that day...I never got a chance to thank you."
"I didn't want you to."
She nodded. "I know." Before he could protest, and before she could back down, she swept him up into a sweet, effortless kiss, her hands gently cupping his jaw. She could feel his body relaxing against her as he willingly gave back, and it only pulled her in more. As their lips finally parted, though, he was left breathless, and she didn't have the heart to move from his side until he had fallen asleep once more. He would leave soon, she knew, but at least she'd have done everything she could while she had the chance this time.