Papers, not datapads, not holograms, littered the office, scattered like snowflakes across the floor, the furniture. Tag paced amongst them, frowning to herself deeply as she threw another paper over her shoulder.
“Fielder, file last as unavailable for duty.”
The old R2 unit beeped at her and she exhaled, pressing the heels of her hands against her eyes. “Too much, Fielder. There’s just…just too much.”
“You could always take a break.”
She spun, blinking in shocked surprise. If that had been an assassin, I’d have been dead. “Who let you in here?”
Dalsuna shrugged briefly, hands tucked into the pockets of his civvies.
His civvies. I haven’t seen him in a uniform in almost fifteen years and I still think of them as civvies. She looked down at her own clothes and exhaled, shaking her head at herself. I barely ever wore one myself and out of the service I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin, let alone whatever I was wearing. But I haven’t been comfortable since…since a long time.
“Not happy to see me?”
Her mouth worked a moment but no sound came out. She finally sighed, smiling wryly. “No, it’s not that. I…what are you doing here, Dal?”
He looked around, then picked his way through the mess she’d created in her pacing, her tossing, smiling wryly. “Came to see why you weren’t home yet, why Molly and Corsem hadn’t stopped by.” He crouched and picked up one of the sheets of paper. “You learned something from me, huh?”
“They’ll complain about me making a mess as bitterly as I complained about you doing the same thing with your crumpled bits of paper and flimsiplast.” She smiled wryly. “But, then as now, I’m the one cleaning up the mess.”
He set the few papers he’d gathered up from the floor on the corner of her desk, shaking his head. “You told me I should know that I was working too hard when I started throwing things around without thinking too much about what I was doing. Considering the blank pages, I think you’ve passed that limit, Tag.” He took her by the shoulders and kissed her forehead, smiling. “You’re working too hard.”
The smile that came was wry. “Someone’s got to do the work, Dal. Guess it just ended up being me getting volunteered for it.” I’m the one who knows what nooks and crannies to check first. Of course…anyone who hasn’t shaken loose yet…might not be coming. She sent that call out so long ago… She shook her head a little. “It’s the least I can do.”
Dalsuna stroked her cheek gently. “Are you happy, Tag?”
Am I? She frowned a little, leaning into his chest and letting him enfold her in his arms. The ache was fading, the one that she’d carried for so long. There was a war on—nothing short of that could have dragged her back into the game. But in a strange way, with everything in the galaxy going wrong, it felt more right than anything had in a long, long time. She slid her arms around his waist, pulling him tightly against her as she nodded. “Yeah. I think I am, Dal. I really think I am.”
He leaned back, looking down at her. “We’re staying here, then?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I think so.”
Dalsuna nodded, head tilted to one side, and smiled lopsidedly at her in that way all Corellians seem to be able to do. “Guess I’d better get myself a seat on a flight back so I can start packing up the house, huh?”
No. I don’t want you to leave here just yet. Her arms tightened around his waist. “Call someone at the university and have them send over your grad students to pack up the house. I don’t want you going on a transport that’s not escorted…and it’ll be a couple weeks before the next one leaves.”
“One leaves tomorrow, doesn’t it?”
She nodded. “But I don’t want you on it.”
His brow furrowed and he looked like he was about to say something. She pressed a finger to his lips.
“Don’t…don’t ask, Dal. You’re happier not knowing.” She moved her finger and kissed him gently, standing on tip-toe. He laced his fingers through her hair, shaking his head slightly.
“Make me unhappy, Tag.”
She sighed, looking down and resting her forehead against his chin. “You sure?”
He nodded, hugging her across her shoulders. “I’m sure. Tell me.”
Tag closed her eyes and exhaled slowly, arms tightening briefly, then loosening again. “Reports from Conceli VIII, with regards to the military complex and the state of their defenses…don’t look good. There are holes in system security that you could drive a Star Destroyer through. They can’t stand up to an attack like the ones we’ve seen without help, and odds are…well. All things considered, that help might not be available.”
She looked up. “…Robyn Scarlett asked for her bars back, Dal. She’s on the 58th’s active roster again. Do you really think the governor would send his wife back to the New Republic it something wasn’t…”
He exhaled a long breath, head drooping. He kissed the top of her head gently, sighing. “I have to do something to help them, Tag. If the New Republic…why can’t the New Republic help?”
“Because last night, the Aurora Force lost the Fifth Fleet. Sixty-five percent of their fighting bulk, give or take. A good chunk of the heavier ships assigned and captured over the years.” She tilted her face up toward his, chewing her lip. “What’re the odds that they’ll get more ships? Command always thought that there were too many left here in the first place.”
Dalsuna nodded slowly, hugging her again. “I guess I have a couple calls to make, huh?”
“Guess you do.” She stroked his cheek with her thumb. “Are you okay?”
He nodded a little. “I’ll be fine. I’ll see you at dinner, all right?”
The corner of her mouth turned upwards in a smile and she nodded. “Yeah.”
Dalsuna kissed her gently and then let go, slipping out of the office that she’d taken over. Tag turned around slowly, looking around at the papers scattered on the floor, took a deep breath, exhaled slowly.
“…what a mess…”