Dueling Circle Challege, prompt: What if. Alternate Universe of "What if Morgana Lived?"
Carth paused outside of his apartment and tried to rationalize why flowers were a good idea. His wife grew them, she loved them, it was completely ridiculous he'd get that same bland-eyed look that made his stomach twist into hard knots for this gesture that he'd received for every other. She had to eventually stop moping.
Even just thinking that felt unforgivably insensitive. Carth tossed the flowers out as he picked up the mail.
Bill, bill, advertisement, another banthashit sympathy card. Like the word "condolences" in pale yellow letters and a dish filled with nerf stew made anything better. The card joined the flowers in the trash.
Morgana was in the kitchen, her hands gripped around a caffa mug like it was salvation. She was still beautiful, despite the unbrushed hair, despite the deep gash across her forehead that had to be stapled shut. She looked small with his robe falling off her shoulder and it almost made him want to hold her, rock her, insist that they could both muster the willpower to make everything else fade. But then he saw the look on her face.
They said she had suffered a mild concussion in the blast, maybe that had something to do with it.
"What time is it?" her voice cracked from lack of use.
"Four o'clock, standard," he said. Carth peeled his jacket off and set it on the back of a chair. "Mo..."
"I couldn't sleep." Morgana sipped at her caffa and stared. When it seemed like the silence would crawl its way inside his skull, she added, "Again."
He blinked. "Are you using the pills?"
"No. Maybe I'm thinking too much." She snorted. "I am thinking too much. And it's stupid."
"I think maybe you should try the pills-"
"I just get thinking that if I go to sleep, I'll dream." Her laugh came out forced and quick. She really didn't need to explain, but she wouldn't stop once she'd started. "And if I dream, what if it's a good one? So good that this feels like a nightmare, I mean. And then I'll start to think that the dream's real and that's how everything needs to be, but then I'll wake up and realize that it's just not true and that's sad, isn't it?"
"Sad," he echoed. Morgana seemed to have the right of it, drinking caffa. Carth glanced at the caffa pot. It looked old.
She set her mug down, only to change her mind and snatch it back up again. "Do you think we'll be able to go back to Telos soon?"
"What?" Telos with its corrosive atmosphere, where the only thing left of their home was a blackened and crumbling foundation. Telos. "Yeah, soon."
"Don't lie to me."
He'd thought it sounded smooth. But the problem with living with someone for more than ten years is that they grew accustomed to your personal tics and nuances. Carth sighed. "If you don't like Corellia, we can look at other planets."
"I don't want to." The corners of her mouth creased. Stubborn, miserable, exhausted. Maybe that's why flowers didn't seem to bloom beneath her fingertips, anymore. Just withered little husks dotted with flimsy thorns to suffocate the windows of their new apartment.
"You don't want to do much of anything anymore," he muttered.
"That's not true, I-" She laughed. "You know what? Forget it. You're right, you win."
"Don't give me that crap." Red bricks lined the kitchen walls; it was kind of charming. He'd go so far as to say that it wasn't a half bad planet. If he didn't hate it.
"So let's just pretend nothing happened, then." Her lip curled up, feral. "Just move on. Why don't we just have another one? That's what my father said. We could always have another one."
Carth told himself that she just needed sleep. Maybe he could slip the pills into her caffa. "No. You are not angry at me about that."
"Of course not, you were there swoop down to the rescue, weren't you, Captain?"
"We came as fast as we could!" The pain arrived moments after his fist had already slammed into the wall. Stinging warmth radiated out from his split knuckles. Carth took a deep breath. "You're not being rational about this-"
"I don't have to be rational." Morgana turned around abruptly and headed towards the caffa pot on the counter. "I don't have to be anything."
"Stop it," he said. "Will you look at me?"
A mistake. Face to face with her narrowed gray eyes, there was no way he could possibly try to feed her any of that garbage typed out in pale yellow letters. Shit that looked pretty and sounded good, but was handed over by people that had absolutely no capability of understanding whatsoever.
"You know," Morgana said. She granted him the kindness of lowering her gaze. "Tell me, how did he- I mean, how did it happen?"
"I don't know." He'd been too trusting, naive. To just let Saul walk away, to want to believe the best in the other man. He should have dragged his mentor back by the throat and pummeled the life out of him before Saul Karath had the chance to betray anything.
She shook her head. "You do. You held him while he... how?"
Carth circled to the other side of the kitchen counter. "That's not fair, Mo, don't make me-"
"How did it happen?" she repeated. "Did he hurt? I deserve to know that much."
Carth glanced down. "No." Spasming in his arms, spitting blood over the front of his uniform, his son's eyes were glassy and unfocused as the boy shrieked hoarsely for his mother. Sensation began to leave Carth's own limbs accompanied by the idiotic idea that if his trembling hand could cover all the dark blood that stained his son's shirt, all the ruined flesh, the wounds didn't exist anymore. "It was quick. Painless. He didn't feel a thing."
"Go to hell."
There was a faded ring around the inside of the transparisteel caffa pot. Carth traced the broken line it made with his eyes as the silence bore down on them.
"Great." His throat wanted to close up around the word, but anything was better than that accusatory look, that quiet. Carth sat down on the tiled floor and pulled his knees to his chest.
"Carth?" Morgana sounded so small. He didn't want to look at her anymore. "Carth?"
He let his head fall into his hands. "Yeah?"
"I'm sorry." She crawled over to him and pressed her forehead into his shoulder.
"I don't know." Her tangled blonde hair caught on his shirt fasteners as she pulled him to her. "But I am."
The stubble on Carth's chin scratched red marks across his wife's cheek. He twined an arm around her and told himself that he was going to kiss her, but just ended up resting his forehead against her head. "I'm sick of being the strong one."
"I wish it had been me." He'd never heard Morgana make that sound before. He couldn't tell if it was supposed to be a laugh or sob. Maybe both. "How horrible is that? It should have been me."
"Don't say that." He crushed her body against his. "If anything had happened to you, I can't think about that. I couldn't do this without you."
"Do what? Be miserable?" Morgana exhaled and tried to compose herself. "I wish I could trade places. I would, you know and I'm sorry I can't."
"Don't be sorry, I'm sorry," he let his face slip into the crook of her neck. "Mo?"
"I don't think I can do this anymore." Pressed in deep he could inhale the salt and sweat on her skin, feel the pulse along her throat pound against his cheek. "I don't want to leave you again. The Republic has other pilots, you said so yourself."
Morgana didn't reply, but her arms tightened around him.
"I'll fill out a letter of resignation, they can charge me with whatever they feel like, but I'm done," Carth said. "I won't go back. Promise."
She kissed his forehead and a silence passed between them, some primordial sense of home. Morgana cleared her throat. "I think I left the caffa pot on."
"Okay." He made no move to let go of her.
"You're really not going to go back?" She settled back against him.
"Promise," Carth repeated.
Morgana offered him a faint little smile. "Thanks." She was warm and soft as she closed her eyes. A tangle of limbs, they stayed there on the floor a long moment. The trick was to focus on each other, the random strand of hair stuck to a cheek, the feel of respiration against an upper lip. The rest of the apartment was too empty and couldn't think to provide the safety inherent in a familiar face mere centimeters away.