He should never have allowed himself to be distracted by the needs of the ship. Should never have left her side, orders or no. In those chaotic, horrible days after the destruction of Marr’s flagship hundreds of possible scenarios played through Malavai's mind on endless repeat. Even the ones where they died together would have been better than this grey limbo.
His one comfort – her Agent was missing too. One last message from Doctor Lokin told them so, and included a packet: thick sheaf of false ship papers, ID’s, untraceable accounts. Useful documents for someone who wanted to vanish; prepared some time ago, just in case. A final gift, the doctor said, from Agent Rom who was surely dead and gone on the same disastrous expedition. So his crew believed; thus the package from his ship to hers, one last communique before they were in the wind.
The remains of her crew clung together, tended the tiny spark of hope that was Jaesa’s certainty: she had not felt her master die. Agent Rom might yet live too; the two of them had escaped dire fates before. If they were together, the odds of their survival increased exponentially. He hoped and despaired in equal measure.
He had been ready to resign his commission, turn pirate, take the Fury and raze the universe in search of her or her murderer. It was Vette who pointed out that staying in the service would give him better access to formal channels of inquiry. (Vette, sensible?) More used to catastrophe than he ever was, she’d kept them moving, planning. Set alarms for him to eat and sleep when neither seemed necessary. Held onto him as he howled his anguish on the night that she’d found him locked motionless in front of the wardrobe full of his wife’s clothing, an empty box on the floor before it.
Pale and gaunt, he sat in the dim room, the datapad in his hands providing the only light, illuminating a careworn, unshaven face. He’d shave tomorrow; there was a chance of another meeting with that former Impsec bureaucrat and he couldn’t afford to look too unkempt. They were already inclined to dismiss him, asking pointed questions about his current duties, shuffling him off to yet another functionary in a round he kept up for the scraps of data they let fall even as they were pushing him out the door.
She had… not left him her estate; that would only have happened if she had died. And that had not happened. He had to... had to keep that faith. No, she had made him co-owner, partner in all her properties, something he’d discovered after… after her disappearance, when the banks who held the Wrath’s investments contacted him for instructions.
The Tatooine compound was shuttered and sealed, the droids deactivated, the squad stationed there transferred into his small command. One inner room still had power, well secured and filled with the irreplaceable items Adiira would surely want when she returned. She must return... please, let her return… The crystal garden had been sold for the credits it would bring, and drifting sand was slowly filling the empty courtyards. The Jawas had moved on; their sand crawlers passed by but no longer stopped at the Sith lord’s dwelling.
The Fury was gone, traded for a smaller ship, less recognizable, more nimble, easier for a smaller crew to run. Agent Rom’s documents had been invaluable there. Vette and Jaesa partnered to crew her. They posed as traders now (or something a bit less respectable) slipping through the blockades with élan as Vette reached out to her old contacts, weaving a web to catch whatever data might be hiding on the dark side of the holonet.
He himself maintained a small apartment in Kaas City, convenient to both his military duties and the halls of power where he searched for any clue as to her whereabouts. Neither of them had been profligate; now he was frugal, hoarding their combined assets for an eventual rescue, or revenge.
Jaesa and Vette were worried, he could tell. After every secure holocom call a care package of sorts arrived, filled with scarce and tempting foodstuffs. He was grateful; the delicacies in those packages were valuable, traded for access to this minister or that, for a glimpse at black box holo-recordings of the ill-fated expedition, or copies of reports deemed too sensitive for a mere captain’s interest.
Jaesa said she had not felt her death. Neither when the flagship failed, nor later, when they learned of Darth Marr’s death. But she couldn’t find her alive, either. It was so far…
Sudden pain derailed his train of thought. He looked down to see he’d snapped the stylus in his hand; blood was seeping from the wounds made by jagged broken edges. He set the pieces down with care and went to find a bandage.