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"Didn't we just leave this party?"

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Jul. 21st, 2011 | 04:54 pm
music: the xx ~ do you mind? (live)

Another bit from Iteration,

The last time Han had seen Karrde in person had been kind of a disaster. It had been right after Wayland, everything still raw, all their wounds still painfully fresh. He wondered if Karrde would be pissed that he'd picked the same spot for this meeting, or if he'd take it in the spirit in which it was intended.

Back then, Karrde had gone to Jeldwen, Billey's old (and, if rumors were to be believed, current) stomping ground, presumably to lick his wounds and figure out his next move. Han, wanting to be very sure that whatever that move was it didn't put him, his family or the Republic in the line of fire, had followed Karrde there.

He hadn't really considered Karrde the type to down his sorrows in alcohol. The guy was too controlled, too uptight, too much of a cold fish. It was something of a surprise, then, to walk into the right kind of bar that first night, looking for someone who might be able to point him in Karrde's direction, only to find the man himself – half in the bag, staring out the window, a nearly empty bottle of pretty damned fine whiskey dangling dangerously from a careless hand.

“Well, that was suspiciously easy,” he'd said, helping himself to a seat at the bar and signaling for a whiskey of his own.

Karrde blinked at him. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“Looking for you. What else?” There was an extended pause, during which Karrde swayed ominously. “Sit down before you fall down,” Han said, and Karrde complied, nearly upsetting the bottle of whiskey as he did so. “I've gotta admit, this is something I would've bet I'd never see.”

Karrde laughed roughly. “Not very good form, is it? To be honest, though, at the moment I'm finding it a little hard to care,” he said, with what Han had to admit was remarkable poise for someone who'd drunk even half that bottle, let alone most of it. “Though it would appear you're drinking your own memorials tonight.” He nodded at Han's glass.

“Maybe I am. Care to join me?”

Karrde just made a noise of disbelief. After a moment, though, he said, “I was sorry about Calrissian, and your Wookiee friend.”

“He had name, you know.”

“Of course, he did,” Karrde said, looking contrite. “I am sorry.”

“Well, I was sorry about Mara, too.”

“Were you? Were any of you?”

“Hey,” he said lamely, “she went out fighting, and saved a lot of lives in the process...”

“Don't give me that,” Karrde said, putting his drink down. “Don't try to gloss things over just because she's gone. She wasn't some hero, and she nearly got us all killed several times over...” He paused, picking the glass up again and taking a drink. “But she was also extraordinary, and losing her this way is a damned waste.”

“I didn't know the girl very well, but she was smart and good in a fight. And...” He hesitated, wary about bringing this up. “Luke thought she was something special, and that's a pretty good recommendation in my book.”

“Don't talk to me about Skywalker,” Karrde said succinctly, draining his glass and standing up. “The next time I see him, he'll have more than a sucker punch to worry about.”

“Sit down,” Han said evenly. “We're not quite through yet.” Karrde complied, not looking very happy about it. “I don't know exactly what went down between you and Luke, but I'm happy to leave it between the two of you. That's not why I'm here.”

“Why are you here? And don't try to tell me it's out of concern for me or my people...”

“I wouldn't insult you. I want to talk about your arrangement with the Republic.”

“Don't you mean 'former' arrangement? They've made it pretty clear they no longer have any use for our services...”

“I don't agree with that, and Bel Iblis knows it, but I got overruled. I need to know, though... I need to know that you're not going to do anything to screw us over. Maybe if I can get some assurances from you, we can still offer you some protection...”

“Nothing personal, Solo,” Karrde said, “but you can take your assurances and your protection and shove it up your-”

“Yeah, that's not personal at all.”

That, unfortunately, had been that. Karrde paid for Han's whiskey (and his own, which must have been one hell of a bar tab) and disappeared out into the street – and off the map for a good long while. There were rumors, of course, that his organization was still running – even further underground than it had been before. There were even newer rumors that Thrawn was still looking for him, that the price on his head was so large it had become the stuff of legend.

An oddly-shaped shadow fell across the table, and Han, instinctively, dropped a hand to his weapon.

“He's not coming.”

He looked up to find Billey there, alone. “This is unexpected...”

“He's not coming,” Billey said again, “but I thought you and I might have a talk instead.” There was a pointed silence. “Well, offer an old man a drink already.”

Han signaled the bartender to bring another whiskey. “It's been a long time.”

“That it has. Before that stunt of yours at Yavin, certainly.”

“Hey, I helped saved the galaxy.”

“Temporarily, anyway,” Billey said dryly.

“So, Karrde isn't coming.” Han cradled his glass in his hands. “He sent you instead?”

“He didn't. He's... unavailable. I got the message directly.”

“You two working together again? I thought you were retired.”

“Semi-retired. You know how it goes.”

“That I do.” How many times had he resigned his commission now? He sighed. “Where is Karrde?”

Billey laughed darkly. “You wouldn't believe me if I told you.” That appeared to be all he was willing to share on the subject. “So, I have to admit, Solo, I'm curious.”

“And that's why you showed up. You just had to know, huh?” Billey had always been like that, maybe that was where Karrde got it from – birds of a feather.

He shrugged. “It was an unusual enough request that it seemed worth the risk.”

Han did some quick mental arithmetic on the risk/reward of trusting Billey with this. At this point, Billey was probably the closest he was going to get to Karrde himself – and it wasn't like what he had to offer was their only bargaining chip.

“I have something I think Karrde will want. I wanted to give it to him.” He took a tiny silver datacard from one pocket and held it up.

“How charitable of you,” Billey said, sounding suspicious. Then, “What is this?”

“A peace offering. I had to pull some strings to get it.”

“But what is it?” Billey asked.

Han shook his head, handing it over. “I think it's an apology.”

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