Title: Sorrow Characters: Ethan Malek, Tanja Malek, other OCs Era: Post LotF Other: This story is interlinked with both the Black Sheep and The Last Stand rpgs as well as mine and Adalia´s Powers vs Passions and From Slavery to Aristocracy, though it generally can stand on its own and can be read independently. Thanks to @Adalia-Durron for the beta. The story also features brief cameos of one of Adalia´s characters as well as one from @Warrior_Goddess. Sorrow A light rain fell on them as if even the world itself was mourning with them. And so the raindrops washed the tears away from the coffin. He had done his best to remain strong in the last few days, but today he didn't hold his tears back. Why did it have to be me? Why am I the one to bury her? He and Tanja had both dreaded this day, both hoping they wouldn't be the one to bury the other. Ethan had always believed that he would die first, being a few months older than her, but in the end it was Tanja who had gotten sick and died, leaving him behind. It felt unjust to him, but he also knew he shouldn't complain. Both he and Tanja had lived long and full lives and had experienced more luck than most other beings in the galaxy. Sorrow overcame him when he thought back, why did happy emotions hurt so much more now than painful ones? He remembered their first meeting during a snowball fight at the backyard of their school. Due to the toxic atmosphere of the nearby factories the snow had been brown and grey rather than white but he and the other kids had still enjoyed it. He and Tanja had fought the longest of the other children and so when the lessons began again both of them had been too late, their clothing and hair a ruined mess. They had gotten detention for an the entire week and it had been then that they had first started to talk to each other, first out of boredom but by the end of the week they had become friends. Taking a handful of the brown wet earth next to the grave Ethan formed it like a snowball and let it fall down on the coffin, he could have used the little shovel but this was something he wanted to do with his own hands. With time their friendship had grown and they, like all poor workers children on Eriadu had dreamed of one day joining the ORSF the military unit they heard so many stories about in class. It would be a chance for a better life but only the best where taken. Ethan doubted they would have taken him if not for Tanja, the two had trained together in their spare time, constantly challenging each other to improve upon their previous achievements. It had been during this training that Ethan had first begun to see Tanja as more than just a friend, but instead fallen in love with her, a feeling she had returned. Their training would pay of and eventually both of them had been chosen. Ethan remembered how proud his parents had been and so in a quick moment, his gaze left the grave of his wife and wandered over to the one of his parents. After he had become the senator of Eriadu he had used his new connections to recover their remains from the paupers grave they had been given and reburied them here, in the mountains at the mansion he and Tanja had built for their family. When he and Tanja had told each other they had been chosen they had been so happy that they had shared their first real kiss. They began dating each other afterwards though their new responsibilities would often keep them away from each other as they were assigned to different positions. Ethan´s talent for flying earned him a place in the star fighter corps while Tanja´s speed and skill in close quarters had her moved to the infantry. It had been a great time and they had made plans for a future together, but it was also around this time that slight rift had begun to grow between them. Ethan had become the protege of the then governor of Eriadu Wilhuff Tarkin who helped him to rise quicker to the ranks than Tanja was, which lead to him having even less time for their relationship. Tanja had warned Ethan, told him she did not trust Tarkin and that he should be careful, but in his youthful pride he had brushed the warnings off, believed it was jealousy that made Tanja say these things. How wrong he had been. "You saw through him earlier than any of us, wish I would have listened to you back then," he muttered to her coffin but the rain drowned out his voice. Tanja always been wiser than him, especially when it came to judging other people. When the Clone Wars had broken out Tarkin had begun to recruit volunteer forces to fight for the republic among the ORSF and Ethan had been the first to sign up for it, despite Tanja asking him not to, while he had tried to convince her to come with him. In the end though both had accepted the others decision and they had split on good terms, both of them hoping to rebuild their relationship after the war was over. At first Ethan had seen his decision validated as they fought for the republic, but then the great betrayal happened and when soldiers everywhere in the galaxy turned on the Jedi, Ethan had unwittingly and in good faith played his part in the Emperor schemes He lowered his head to her grave and remembered how he, after he had returned to Eriadu after the civil war, had confessed all his mistakes to Tanja and how she had forgiven him, told him she still loved him, despite all that happened. Being forcibly drafted into the imperial army Ethan could only see Tanja rarely in the time after the clone wars. He had tried his best to ignore the injustices he witnessed during the early days of the new order, telling himself that it was what had to be done to create a better future, he had lied to himself and those he cared about. During this time, sensing his discomfort Tarkin had abandoned his former protege, and so Ethan had been alone. He remembered his last meeting with Tanja around nine years after the clone wars had ended. She had asked him point blank how he could support the Empire, how he could justify their actions and dared him to turn her in for her words. Ethan hadn't been able to even look her in the eyes that day, as guilt and shame had overcome him. So instead he had and spent the next weeks brooding. Ethan gently allowed a second hand of earth fall upon her grave as the same shame overcame him that he had felt back then. And so he had decided to do something, with the aid of his commanding officer who himself doubted many of the empires actions, Ethan had faked a crippling injury that allowed him to leave the Imperial service as 'unsuitable for further service'. He had thought about returning to Eriadu but knew that this could put Tanja in danger. So instead he had traveled to the Hutt space and served for ten years as a mercenary, saving the money he earned while dreaming of one day coming back to Eriadu, back to Tanja. He saw the rise of rebellions through the galaxy and hoped that one day the Empire would crumble and fall apart allowing him to return. But then, when Alderaan was destroyed, by the man Ethan had once admired more than anyone else in the galaxy he knew that he could sit this war no longer out, he need to do something. And so he had joined the Rebellion, not knowing that Tanja and several of his old comrades had done the same on Eriadu beginning to plot to free their homeworld. For the first time Ethan looked away from Tanja´s grave and towards the people behind him, he saw Alec, who had been his mechanic in the rebellion, now a middle aged man with his wife and son. The two of them had remained friends after the war and even now occasionally met and talked with each other. Next to Alec stood Amber Tehanis, his best friend in this galaxy they had been wing mates in the Rebellion and kept in touch afterwards. She gave Ethan a comforting look and he turned back to the grave. In the Rebellion many had mistrusted him and in the end he had ended up in a squadron of outcasts, but it was here that after a long time he finally found friends again. Friends who helped him come to terms with his guilt and to be more than just an ex mercenary fighting for the Rebellion. And it had been there that Tanja had found him, had send him a message telling him about her fight on Eriadu and urging him to return. Ethan had wanted nothing more than that but after talking with his friends about the issue he resolved to stay with the rebellion until the emperor was dead so his homeworld could be truly free. And so he had stayed until after the battle of Endor. On his way back to Eriadu he had been filled with doubts and fear on how Tanja would react to seeing him again after all this time. In the end she welcomed him as if they had never split up, as if all the things that had stood in-between them where gone. They had rekindled their relationship and taken part in the fight against the warlord Delvardus together, and at the day of Eriadu´s liberation Ethan had proposed to Tanja. She had said yes before he had even been able to finish his speech and only a few months later their daughter had been born. When Ethan looked up again, this time he turned his head towards the other side where his gaze met Ilona's. Now the new head of the family Ilona had taken her place as his successor without any problems and Ethan knew she would continue to make her parents proud. Tears where running over her face and her betrothed Tobin Redan had laid his arm around her shoulders. When Ethan and Tanja had met their future son in law they had been skeptical about him but the serious and stoic young man had proven he had nothing of the corruption the rest of his family was known for. Tanja and Ethan had thought that with the liberation of Eriadu and the birth of their daughter, their part in the galactic history was done and they could now retire but instead the rulers of Eriadu had made them a proposition. Due to his contacts and experiences with the rebellion they wanted Ethan to become the Eriaduan senator in the New Republic, with Tanja being offered the position of military attaché at his side. And so their adventures had continued and for around two decades they had represented their homeworld to the larger galaxy but to Ethan the most important thing that happened during this time was the birth of his second child. This time Ethan's gaze met Adrian´s, his son being overcome by the same sorrow as his father and sister. Marie stood next to him, giving him some comfort and exchanging a quick glance with Ethan. They had met during the terrible days of the second galactic civil war and Ethan seen the attraction between the two almost instantly, he was glad the two were happy together even if it made him sometimes a bit sad how rarely he saw then now that they were living on her homeworld of Dathomir. After the Vong War Ethan protests against the empire being given a larger role in galactic politics again had cost him his position and so he and Tanja had finally retired and returned here to Eriadu to live a quiet life. And they had, outside a few months during the second galactic civil war where their past had caught up to them once more. They had a good life, together, until the day now eight days ago, when the sickness had claimed Tanja's life. Ethan slowly stood up from his kneeling position in front of the grave. "Tanja Malek, Captain of the ORSF, heroine of the Eriaduan fight of independence, military attaché to the new republic. These are the things the galaxy will remember you for. But for me it will be your smile, your gentle and caring words, the strength you gave me through my entire life, the times you comforted me when I was sad, the times you forgave me the mistakes, the times you gave me hope, encouraged me to go one when I couldn't on my own strength. I wish I had listened to your advice more when I was a young man, and I'm glad you could still love me after I did not. And thankful for the time, for every day we got in this galaxy together, but most of all I'm thankful for our children, they are the best thing we ever made. It breaks our hearts to know that you are gone but I know that wherever you are now you are waiting for us, just as you waited all these years I was gone from Eriadu." With that his tears overcame him and he decided to end his speech, he saw how the other attendees, just a few personal friends alongside his kids stepped closer to the grave and began filling it with earth, while his children approach their father. When the three Malek's hugged the tears came even stronger from his eyes, because he knew that somewhere Tanja was watching them and smiled.