"Why do you look so sullen?" she asked Predator Elite as he neared both her and Raphael as they sat by the fireplace in the Keep, having a drink after patrols.
Pred took a chair near them, "I just have a lot on my mind ... I might not stay."
"Understandable," Raphael said just before tipping his glass back, taking a sip.
"You should stay, have a drink," said Shalee as she smiled at Pred, not catching on to what he was really trying to say.
"Don't keep him from his duties now." Raphael countered.
Pred turned to Raphael, "Is it really understandable?
"That you have a lot on your mind? Of course." said Raphael as he finished off his drink and ordered another.
"Is something the matter, Pred?" Shalee asked, her expression etched with concern.
"Some .... friends are returning, and I may join them," Pred said as he motioned over the server to place his order.
"Invite them here? We can make a party of it," Shalee said, holding up her drink in mock toast. "The more the merrier."
Raphael looked at Predator curiously. "I take it they're not concerned with the Crusade?"
Shalee frowned suddenly. "...oh."
"They are not.... they are mercs." Pred said with a hint of uncertainty at how the news would be received.
She frowned even deeper, "Mercs."
Raphael Saint gave a silent nod.
Shalee Lianne shook her head in disbelief, "You're leaving the war to be a mercenary...."
Raphael whispered to Shalee. "He was always interested in ISK..."
"My purpose is to kill people, a merc is what I am," he said grimly.
Zoarial entered into the Hall and noticed a few people gathered around the fireplace. He made his way over, "Hey.... I'm probably gonna be shipping out soon, what do you say to one final drink before I go? For old time sakes? I may never see you again."
"You're leaving too?" Shalee's eyes widened.
Pred turned to Zoarial, "Leaving?"
Raphael shook his head. "Is Core Impulse falling apart?"
"Yeah I've been searching for different positions for a while now. I feel that I may have over stayed my welcome here in CORIM and it may be time..." Zoarial confessed.
"I don't blame you" Pred admitted, "Where are you looking?"
"Pirate alliance with null sec ties, not sure yet. Might stick here and solo for a bit but maybe it's time I find somewhere else and make a name for myself in this sandbox." Zoarial said.
She couldn't quite hide her disappointment. "I see. Of course. Of-fucking-course." She stood suddenly, glaring at them both. "It's all about ISK. Killing. Nothing else matters."
Pred turned to Shalee, "Isk has nothing to do with this."
"So...being protectors of the Empire just wasn't good enough?" Shalee said, hands on her hips, blue gaze hot and angry as she glared at them.
"Shalee no. It's not like that at all. I'm looking for a place to fly with friends and make a name for myself... and I can't do that here anymore." Zoarial took a sip of his drink, "Most of you guys have been great so I'll ask, what do you say to one final night of drinking before I decide to take leave?"
"Being a leader of the Amarr Militia matters. Do you even know how many pilots look up to the two of you?" she exclaimed.
"I haven't made my choice yet.." Pred voiced.
"Excuse me Shalee...but they don't look up to me, they never have. And as long as I'm in the shadow of this guy," Zoarial rested his hand on Pred's shoulder, "I'll never be..."
Pred turned to Zoarial, "You know I'm good for a drink."
Zoarial grinned, "Ah first good news all day." He called over a server.
"I'll drink with you," Raphael volunteered.
"Awesome. Please join us." Zoarial said.
Shalee laid her hand against her stomach feeling as if she couldn't quite catch her breath. "I can't believe this." She started to pace the room moving away from all of them, unable to believe how well everyone was taking the news. As if their departures wouldn't have massive consequences for the Amarrian militia.
"Shalee please... come sit. Nothing's in stone for either of us, but we both need things and I have run out of resons to stay. Not all of us have had you by our sides this whole time.... some of us have only had ourselves..." He dropped his head, "So please join us?
Pred paced over to Shalee and placed his hand against her shoulder, "It's alright," he whispered.
"It's nothing you haven't dealt with before, Shalee." Raphael replied.
Shalee tipped her chin up, looking Pred in the eye, searching his face as if some kind of comprehension could be found there, some kind of answers that made sense. "What are you looking for out there? What do you think you're going to find? You want glory? You already have it here. You want fame? How many people know you and admire you. You want ISK? You can make it here. You have everything here already."
"It's not about that Shalee."
"Then what's it about?" She asked, gazing at him with dismay. "Never mind. Whatever. Go. Just go, it doesn't matter. You're just like all the others." She said heavily.
Zoarial turned to Raphael, "I think this one is hitting a little closer to home."
Raphael responded wryly, "Not at all, you'd be surprised."
"Raphael you'd be surprised about what I know..." Zoarial said with a stern stare.
Raphael looked at Zoarial, taking that as a challenge. "Oh, versed in her history now, are you? I think you presume too much."
"I presume nothing, only interpret the results." He smirked to Raph then headed over to Shalee and Pred. "For god's sake man just tell her the truth, you owe her that much."
Pred glanced to Zoarial, "Not now."
"The truth? What truth?" She questioned.
"If not now, when? When it's to late? When we have left her and may never see her again? When is the time if not now?" Zoarial said.
Shalee looked from Zoarial to Pred, "Tell me what? What else could you possibly tell me? You've already broken my heart."
"I ... can't tell you here," Pred whispered.
Zoarial looked down, staring at the floor, "The truth Predator. Tell her the truth. If not for her then do it as a final good bye to an old wingman."
"Do you have a minute to talk in private?" Pred asked her.
She nodded, "Yes." She gave an uncertain glace towards Zoarial on her way out of the room, fearing something horrible. "Follow me," she said to Pred, leading him through the oak doors, further into the Keep.
Shalee led him into the turret, her personal chambers at Mercy's Keep, and closed the door once he was inside. Moving to a sofa by the window, she slid down onto it and waited as he took a seat beside her. She stared at him.
"Have you noticed that I act different when I am around you?" he asked, breaking the silence.
"I don't think that you do, really."
"Well .... I like you," he confessed.
"Well of course you do. I like you too. We fly together so much..." She eyed him curiously, trying to relax, expecting more bad news.
"I might like you more then you think I do," he said, holding her gaze.
She looked looked at him for a long moment. "...how do you mean?"
"Well for starters... you remind me of my ex-wife."
She frowned suddenly. "Oh." She glanced down as she folded her hands together. "I see."
He looked disappointed, "I'm sorry...I shouldn't have brought that up," he tried to apologize.
"...No it's.. just...you say I remind you of someone else. And in the same breath you say you like me...is that why you like me? Because you miss her and think I am some kind of replacement?"
"No not at all. I like you because you are you."
"What does that have to do with you leaving?" She asked, staring at him, trying to make sense of it.
"I don't want to leave because of it."
"Then why are you leaving?"
"I have not said that I am leaving just yet have I?"
"But you're considering it....I just wish you wouldn't go. You've changed everything for me...I will be nothing when you leave."
"I'm just not sure how you feel," he said, searching her face.
"But you know I don't want you to leave, surely you must know that," she professed.
"Yes I know that ...but you have a good life here with the militia." He hesitated, "And Eran. I just feel like ...."
"I feel like you wouldn't take me and stay with Eran."
She tilted her head to the side, looking at him intently. "You want to be with me? Like that...? Like...in that way...like...you..and me...and we would..." She stuttered.
"As I said I should not have brought it up." He stood and paced to the other side of the room.
She quickly stood and followed him, "Pred it's just...unexpected. I never knew..." She exhaled a soft breath, thinking.
"I know which is why I should have never brought it up," she questioned.
"Are you saying that if I leave Eran and was with you...you would stay?"
"I would never force that choice on you," he admitted.
"But is that true?"
"I still may stay even if you stay with Eran," he answered softly.
She looked relieved, "Really? I want you to stay so badly...I really just can't imagine this war without you in it...or my life without you in it. If you leave everything will be different."
He turned to Shalee, "Everything will be alright," he uttered softly.
She shook her head, "No, it wont. Not if you leave."
"Why wont it be the same? The militia doesn't look to me anymore," he explained.
"Yes it does. You know it does. You have done so much for the militia."
"Perhaps... but I still feel like I should not have brought this up."
"To tell me you have feelings then tell me you are leaving most likely...I don't know what to make of it," she told him.
"I know ...that's why I was afraid of bringing it up. If not for Zoarial I wouldn't have."
"No...thank you for telling me...I just...I need to think about things," she said softly.
"I understand, and I am sorry for letting this out, for complicating things."
"It's okay...I just don't want you to ...like me, because of her."
"You have my word it has nothing to do with her."
"How long have you had feelings?"
"But...why haven't you told me before?"
"I saw you ... you were busy and stressed beyond belief. I did not want to put more pressure on you."
Nodding, "Oh, I see." She neared him, closing the distance, and reached for his hand, curling her fingers around his, "You know that I have feelings for you too...I just need to think about things."
He tightened his fingers around hers while looking her in the eye, "Take your time and seriously think about this... I'll be waiting."
"I will." She leaned forward and brushed her lips against his very lightly before pulling away, "Don't leave militia," she pleaded.
He stared at her for a moment before releasing her hands and heading for the door, "I'll be waiting."