"Mike, I'm worried about Dal."
    "He spent all of last night beside Tag, not sleeping or eating."
    "Really? We'll see what we can do, Miranda."

    Sometime later, Dalsuna opened his eyes and stretched. It been a few days since Tag's accident with the bacta. She was confined to her repulsor chair and had left for a medical scan about fifteen minutes earlier.
    "Well..."looks like I'll be sleeping tonight," he paused, "maybe."
    "Keeping a vigil through real-time holocam surveillance," Mike snickered, smiling to himself.
    "Perhaps, Mike," Dalsuna said tiredly, "perhaps. But don't be giving me any wild ideas," he joked dryly. "I'm sure neither Tag nor Indy would approve."
    Mike handed Dalsuna the Echo's surveillance decryption key, "I just hope she hasn't changed the key in a while."
    Dalsuna glanced at Mike, confused, "And why would I need this?"
    "If you should want to look in on Tag at any given time," Mike shrugged.
    Dalsuna laughed halfheartedly, "I doubt if I would. That would be wrong."
    "I do it myself sometimes, with the Force--and no, the showers don't have holocams," Mike said, grinning.
    "Don't need to see what I've," Dalsuna paused, shaking his head. "I shouldn't have said that," he sighed. Mike grinned mischieviously. "I'm tired, Mike. Don't tell Tag I said that," he said, rubbing his eyes. After a moment he added, "or Indy."
    Mike chuckled, "If they want to know, there's no way i could keep it from them. I stood up to the Empire's best interrogator, but there's no way i can possibly keep a secret from Indy and Tag."
    "Just... don't have it anywhere in your mind that they can pick it up."
    "I'll keep it out of my stray thoughts, but if Tag wants it, even my mental defenses aren't that strong."
    "She won't want it, she doesn't know you have it for that matter. Women," he muttered, smiling weakly. "You know how they gossip--just... forget you heard it. I'm not myself at the moment."
    "I should have killed Chaos when I had the chance," Dalsuna said bitterly. "He's tried to kill her twice now."
    Mike tried to remember just how many times he did just that. He sighed, scratching his head.
    "I should have gotten rid of him after the first time," Dalsuna said angrily.
    "The Council should've torn him apart that first time," Mike interrupted.
    "He's caused me too much grief these past two weeks, but it's my fault for not reading the situation correctly."
    Mike smiled, "You know....I know a few good mercs," he trailed off.
    "My fault she was stabbed that first time... because I wasn't paying enough attention to him," Dalsuna continued, not bothering to process Mike's words.
    Mike shook his head, "It's my fault for not taking him out long ago."
    "And after that... after I let him go, my fault again for not realizing he'd try again," Dalsuna went on, still not listening to Mike's words. "He knew about her allergy to bacta," he shook his head. Mike suddenly held out a datapad towards him.
    "What's this?" Dalsuna asked confused.
    "Fill that out, it's a standard assasination contract," Mike sniffed.
    "I'll not lower myself to this," Dalsuna sneered, tossing the pad away. "She doesn't want me to do it."
    Mike picked up the datapad, tapping a few keys before putting it away.
    "She still trusts him, Chaos that is," Dalsuna growled. "I don't understand why."
    "There's now an open assasination contract on the MercNet, if anything it'll either get rid of him, or slim down my competition," Mike said matter-of-factly. "Either way, I win."
    "And you hope to keep that from Tag?" Dalsuna snorted.
    "No, no way in hell she could miss that one," Mike shrugged.
    "She won't approve, you know, she might even warn him."
    "She won't, but she wouldn't be that stupid. Warning him would only get him killed quicker. He'd come after me, and that's never wise and knowing Chaos, this'll only get a few rookie mercs killed but it'd keep him looking over his shoulder.
    Dalsuna sighed, "It's still my fault she's in that damned chair again."
    Mike shook his head. "It's more mine, it's an imperial assasin's fault. I should've seen the contract, and stopped it while I could."
    "Mike... I'm supposed to be protecting Tag. He may have slipped by you before, but he became my responsibility the moment he starting fighting with Tag, but when it comes down to it, he paused, "I was there on both occasions and I failed her.
    "No you didn't," Mike shot back in protectively.
    "How can you say that? Chaos stabbed her, I should've shot him and vaporized him."
    "You should've looked after Tag, just like you did."
    "And if he managed to survive that, I should've had my eye on him from then on. I should've been able to stop him when he threw her in the bacta," he said, growing even angrier.
    "Dal, there's nothing you can do about it now, just take care of her and enjoy your time with her," Mike breathed tiredly.
    "Until I screw up again," Dalsuna bit out.
    "I'll have a few watching eyes placed around, just in case you miss something.""
    Dalsuna laughed bitterly. "In a room full of 'friends' Chaos walked right up to me and shoved me in the freezer, right before he tossed Tag into a bacta tank."
    "A few bodyguards, and i'll be paying them out-of-pocket," Mike continued.
    "Now if you'll excuse me, I have a bottle of Whyrens Reserve waiting for me on the Resistant, and perhaps my sister has left me some of it."
    "Don't get too drunk," Mike chuckled.
    "I don't deserve Tag, I can't even protect her," Dalsuna said, unmoving.
    "Don't talk like that."
    "I don't know why she still loves me," Dalsuna paused, closing his eyes,  "or at all."
    "Because you two were meant for each other," Mike frowned. This was getting worse by the minute, he thought.
    Dalsuna shrugged, making a face, "People say that--doesn't mean it's true."
    "Trust me, love is a funny thing, and if you find it, don't EVER let go."
    "I think I already have," Dalsuna sighed, "I don't have the power to hold on to it. I don't deserve her," he repeated.
    Mike shook his head, "You love Tag, that's obvious."
    "I don't measure up to her standards, I know she loves me, I don't know why though."
    "You have something special going, don't try to reason with the heart, the heart knows no reason," Mike continued, doing his best to stop the image coming into this mind.
    "I should just take this blaster and blow a hole in my head right now, she needs someone better than me."
    Mike snapped his head back at Dalsuna, glaring at him. "Think of how much that would hurt her."
    "I've done enough already, haven't I? She's almost died twice because of my failure."
    "There aren't that many people better than you, your being this concerned proves that."
    "Tt proves nothing. It says that I am worrying because of something I failed at I caused all this."
    "But you didn't fail, nobody, Tag included, was expecting you to protect her."
    "Protect her?" Dalsuna rumbled, "She's been stabbed and thrown into a vat of the substance that she is deathly allergic to, what kind of protection is that?"
    "--and neither were your fault," Mike continued to argue.
    Miranda stroled in, hands behind her back, "Hi Mike, where'd Indy and Tag go?"
    "It's not the best protection, but you did what you could," he turned to Miranda, "Indy went to handle some paperwork, and Tag went back to the Echo."
    "What I could?" Dalsuna growled, "Hardly. I could have done so much more," Dalsuna bit out angrily, "I should have done more."
    "Not under the circumstances," Mike shot back.
    "What's going on?" Miranda looked at the two men with concern.
    "Nothing Miranda," Dalsuna shot out quickly, "Nothing at all."
    "I don't deserve her," Dalsuna said again, this time more defined, more serious.
    Mike backhanded Dalsuna, "Damnit, you do deserve her."
    "I don't even deserve to live," Dalsuna screamed, holding his blaster to his head.
    Zero grabbed Dalsuna, "No! Your not taking that path," he looked into Dalsuna's eyes. Zero's eyes were filled with pain. Dalsuna set his jaw, hesitating. Mike kicked the blaster away.
    "Stop it right now!" Miranda cried. Zero grabbed Dalsuna's arms and pinned them, holding them firm against Dalsuna's struggles.
    "Let go, I shouldn't be here. Why should I live? To stay with her and screw up again? Who's next?" He screamed, "You? Indy?" he paused, looking at Mike with a frightening realization, "your kids?"
    "Your dying would hurt Tag more than any injury," Mike said calmly, ignoring Dalsuna's ranting.
    "Who in your family, extended or immediate, will be hurt next because of my unableness to act? I can't do that to you, I can't do that to Indy, and I especially can't do that to Tag."
    "Dal, I trust you, you should try trusting yourself. Indy and Tag trust you."
    "They shouldn't," Dalsuna said quietly, lowering his cold stare.
    Zero rested a hand on Dalsuna's shoulder, "Dal, I know what your going through."
    "No, you have no idea what I'm going through."
    Zero fell back, pain going in his body. He focused himself, grabbing his side and ignoring the pain. He would do his best to take care of Dalsuna.
    Miranda hurried over to Zero, laying a hand on his back, "What's wrong?" she asked concerned.
    "I'm...fine..." Zero bit out.
    Mike pushed an image into Dal's mind, an image of a house, children playing in the yard, the smell of fresh bread and cookies baking, the smile of an old woman as she hands a small brown-haired boy a fresh cookie.  He shifted to an image of that same house, blood splattered over the walls and pooled on the floor, the body of the old woman lying mutilated in the middle of the floor.
    Mike shifted to an image of a large family, children, grandparents the image shifted again, showing that image, the family bursting into flames, innocent children dying, the torture of the patriarch. The scene shifted to a scene of the same room, human shaped ashen piles surrounding a man, himself.
    Mike changed the scene again, Indy, Tag, Nylan, and Slate came in. Mike showed himself igniting his lightsaber and starting to attack them, trying to kill them, Indy included. Then collapsing at the words "Mike, you're hurting me" coming from Indy.
    Mike fell to his knees, the pain becoming too much for him. Zero rushed towards Mike.
    "I....can't......do.....any....more...." Mike breathed laborously.
    "Mike, your overdoing it, take deep breaths, feel the Force," Zero soothed in a calm voice. Mike took a deep breath.
    Zero grabbed his side again, the Darkness increasing his eyes turning red again.
    "We live with our mistakes, and yours were nowhere near being bad mistakes," Mike said tiredly, focusing on Dalsuna. "Besides, there's nothing you could do that would kill us. We've all seen glimpses of the future, and we're all there."
    "Possible futures Mike," Dalsuna shot back. "The possibilities are infinite. To say my failures are not bad, is wrong,"
    Cole charged into the room, spotting Zero and hurrying to help him, Jedi senses alerting him to what was wrong.
    Zero backed into a corner, fighting the urge of Darkness, "Mike, I really hate to bother you but, we have a slight problem here," he choked out.
    "Damnit Dal, there is something I could do for you, but trust youself," Mike said, checking on Zero.
    "I trusted myself before, and I failed."
    "No you didn't!" Zero bit out painfully.
    "Almost letting the love of my life almost DIE is failure," Dalsuna growled.
    "Hey Mike," Cole said. "Zero seems to be having, um, some slight health problems here."
    "...and perceiving are two different things," Mike continued.
    "Mike...Zero's DYING. Hello? You hear me?" Cole raised his voice. Another person rushed to help with Zero. A moment later, Zero was laying still on the ground, unmoving.
     "The longer I stay alive, the more people will be hurt," Dalsuna muttered.
     Cole looked at Mike. "And I told you, too. You coulda saved him. Dammit." Turning to Dalsuna, he layed a hand on his shoulder, leaning over Dalsuna, "Whoa, calm down there, man."
    Dalsuna looked up at Cole for a moment, then without further hesitation, grabbed his blaster from it's holster and shot himself. He fell over on the floor, a smoking hole in his uniform.
    "Damn," Mike growled, falling to his knees beside Dalsuna.
    "Medic!" Cole called falling backwards in shock.
    "Tag," Dalsuna murmured weakly. Darkness was edging in on his vision already, "I'm sorry," his eyes fell shut as he lost conciousness.
    Mike quickly gathered his healing energy, starting to glow. Cole grabbed his blaster back and ran to get the med-kit.
"I won't let you hurt Tag like that!" Mike called, flooding Dalsuna with healing energy beginning to close the blaster wound.
    Cole grabbed the med-kit and tossed it over to Mike with it.
    "Dal! Oh no!" Miranda rushed from the doorway and collapsed onto the floor behind her brother, holding him. Her green eyes were filled with tears of pain and confusion.
    Cole grabbed a bacta patch from the kit and placed it over the blaster burn.
    "Brother, you won't die on me today," Miranda cried. Mike finished healing the wound but Dalsuna did not wake.
    Indy stepped into the doorway, suddenly spotting the unconcious forms in the room. "What happened?" she yelped in shock.
    "Dal, don't die on me!" Miranda sobbed.
    Indy ran over to Dalsuna's motionless form. "Goddammit, what happened?" Indy demanded.
    "He shot himself," Mike said, concentrating on keeping Dalsuna in the healing trance that he induced.
    Cole pulled Miranda away, comforting her, "He'll be okay. Don't worry, he'll be fine," he soothed, continuing to pull her away from her brother.
    Dalsuna remained unconcious. Tag appeared in the doorway. She gasped when she saw him, "Oh my God, Dal!"
    Mike looked up at Tag, "I have a feeling only you can help him now."
    Dalsuna coughed, eyes easing open. Tag drew a deep breath and moved to Dalsuna's side as fast as she could.
    "Dal?" she murmured.
    "I..." he said weakly. Tag fell to her knees, cradling his head. "I.. I'm sorry," he looked up at her.
    Tag fought back tears that were already flowing, "What have you done?"
    Indy stood looking at Mike, "What the hell happened here?" Mike looked at his wife a moment and staggered over to a nearby couch.
    "You deserve better than me," Dalsuna whimpered, the rest of his words falling away.
    Tag shook her head "No, no....Dal..."
    "It's a really long story," Mike warned Indy. She crossed her arms, looking down at him with a stern look.
    "Tell me," she bit out, "now."
    Tag sobbed, holding her beloved. Dalsuna looked up at Tag, trembling, "I'm no good to you, I can't even protect you."
    Tag hugged him tightly "Oh, Dal, that's not your job."
    "You can say that as much as you want to, but I have to, Tag, and I screwed up everytime."
    "I don't want to lose you, Dal," Tag whispered into his ear.
    "Somebody has to watch over you, and I couldn't do it."
    Tag drew a deep breath, "Dal, you're the best thing that's ever happened to me. You can't leave me now."
    Mike suddenly grabbed his head, wincing, "There will come a time in the near future when it's really only you that stands between life and death for Tag," he said, focusing on a vision.
    "What are you talking about, best?" he shrugged off Mike's vision, it was another one of his tricks to get him to change his mind, he thought. "You've almost died twice, in the last two weeks."
    "The best, Dal," Tag repeated. "And all that's happened to me.....it's not your fault."
    "Yes it is, I should have been cautious about Chaos,  I could have done more."
    Tag shakes her head, "Chris is not your concern."
    Cole looked at Mike, a smirk on his face. He still held Miranda, who had decided to cling to him rather than sit by herself. "You see anything about me in them visions of yours, Mike?" he asked jokingly.
    "Zero died,"  he muttered next, the smile fading.
    "No! He can't have died," Tag groaned.
    Cole nodded solemly to both Tag and Indy, who looked shocked and horrified at the news, "I wish it wasn't so, but...it's true."
    "I told you Mike, his death is my fault." Dalsuna said quietly.
    Tag shivered and held Dalsuna tightly, "Don't start, please, don't start."
    "Dal, this time it's my fault," Mike lowered his head.
    "You should have let me shoot myself sooner."
    I couldn't do that Dal, and you know it," Mike shot back starting to lose patience.
    Cole looked at Dalsuna, then at Mike. Shaking his head, he released Miranda and sat her on the couch before sitting at a booth alone.
    "You would've seen Zero was having a problem," Dalsuna argued.
    "I couldn't let you hurt Tag like that; I saw it, I just didn't act."
    "You didn't act because of me, I was in your way."
    Tag hushed Dalsuna "Don't talk, please.....I just want to forget what you tried to do...." Tag touched her fingers to his lips to quiet him.
    "I'm sorry," Dalsuna whispered.
    "Sorry? What have you to be sorry for?"
    "A great many things, my dear, perhaps too many," he looked up at her before passing out.
    "He might just be too tired," Miranda mumbled. "Take him with you tonight, he's not in any shape to come with me. I can't watch him all night either."
     Tag fumbled for her comlink "Echo, this is Rendar.....I need a med team down here now," she watched as Mike and Cole carried Zero away. In a few moments, a medical team arrived to take Dalsuna away. Tag followed him out, shaking her head.  Miranda stood, heading in the opposite direction her brother was being taken. She heard Mike speaking to Cole.
    "...was a good man, a good friend.....he lived a man....and he died...a Jedi...."

    "You wanted to be away," Tag looked down at him. He was placed in her bed. She sat beside him, mismatched indigo and green eyes filled with pain.
    "I," he paused. "haven't been myself."
    "That's apparent," she said dryly. She pulled a blanket over him and ran her hand through his hair.
    "I spent last night thinking about... things," he mumbled.
    Tag took both of his hands in hers, "What kind of things?"
    "About how I should have known Chaos would be still out to get you," he said, looking into her eyes. She flinched, swallowing.
    "Dal, he didn't know....he was trying to help me."
    "He knew, he just lied," he said, trailing off. "I...just need...I don't know what I need anymore," he said, confused. Tag kissed him gently. "I don't know what I should do."
    "You're not leaving me," she said defiantly.
    "I... can't anymore. I can't live without you, either way. But if I stay with you, I run the risk of screwing up again... next time... I could get you killed, my inaction with Chaos nearly killed you twice."
    Tag smiled warmly, "I've had many close to me try to protect me. But when it comes down to it, I'm the only one who can protect me. Nothing that's happened has been your fault."
    "You just say that to comfort me. I know, myself, that I failed."
    "No, it's the truth, Dal." Tag kissed him on the forehead, "I'll see you tomorrow. You just rest."
    "Do me a favor, Tag," he whispered.
    "Don't let me do anything that stupid again," he closed his eyes.
    Tag smiled, "If I can help it."
    "Dead or alive... I can't live without you," he trailed off as he fell asleep again.

Chapter Thirteen   Back