Snuff

33 3 33

It took the death of hope to let you go...

Hope was a dim memory. Not even that, hope was a vapor of smoke reminiscent of days long gone. Day's he wished he could forget completely.

Heavy coughing broke through the din of the bar, followed with rasping smoky breaths as he leaned forward onto his elbows until he'd caught his breath. The smoking was an old habit, one that was likely going to kill him someday, but until then he had no intention of giving it up.

Cracking a bitter smile, he looked down into his glass. She hated it when I smoked.

O the sweet revenge of clinging to hated habits.

Taking the cigarette from his lips, he tapped out the embers on the end and watched the light fade, leaving only ashes. Then he dropped the cigarette butt on the counter and slid his glass forward, tapping it against the counter to catch the attention of the heavyset bartender lumbering about. The large alien gave him a sharp look and nodded, understanding the silent request.

Snuff looked back down and folded his arms in front of him on the table as he fingered his comm. He should be looking for a way off this forsaken backwater planet, but he'd lingered here long enough that the surly atmosphere was growing on him. It's dark dingy streets and putrid patrons were to him like the sweet aroma of someone's home cooking.

Closing his eyes a moment, Snuff let out a heavy breath, coughing a moment more. If only he could actually forget those memories, smells, sounds. The painful familiarity and welcoming atmosphere of it all. He wished he could go back to Kamino and demand they wipe his mind and stick him back in the assembly line like every other broken and damaged clone.

He'd grown too attached to his own freedom for that, though.

The bartender brought him another drink and Snuff looked up, taking the glass and downing it in one swig, dropping the glass heavily on the table as he broke into another hacking rasp, patting his chest until it settled down.

"That kind of a cough will kill you in your sleep," a voice said to his right.

With an annoyed glare, Snuff tilted his head to the side to glance at the speaker. He couldn't tell if the man was a clone, or simply someone with similar features. In the darkness of the cantina bar and with the weight of more than too many drinks in his system, it was hard to tell.

"It ain't your problem," Snuff grunted and looked back down at his empty glass. He fumbled in his pocket for another cigarette. His fingers caught on the package and he slipped it out, thumbing up the top to dislodge one and catch it between his fingers. He discreetly slid the package back into his pocket and brought the unlit cigarette to his lips, reaching for his lighter.

"Those will kill you anytime of day," the same voice piped up. It was low and firm, but Snuff's head was already buzzing from being saturated with alcohol and the voice may as well have been a Belvarian firegnat. Snuff only wished he could squash it as easily.

"Kriff off," he snapped, hunching up his shoulders as he lit the cigarette. He didn't need anyone else's input on how to live his life. He'd had that once. He didn't plan to let it happen again.

"Didn't know that was the polite response to someone concerned for your health," the man said after a moment.

With a slight snarl, Snuff looked over at the man who insisted on interrupting his evening. The first thing he noted, though, was that the man looked sober, and there was no drink or empty glass before him. What person walked into a cantina and sat at with bar without ordering at least one drink?

Perhaps an irritatingly concerned one. Or one who had been following someone and was finally looking to have a conversation with them.

"Where did you find me," Snuff hissed, narrowing his gaze.

"At the shipping docks. You reek of smoke and booze," the man said. "And you posses a quite irate personality."

Snuff let his lip curl into a full snarl as he looked down, growling to himself. He knew he shouldn't have let his temper get the better of him concerning that docking guard, but he'd already been through hell that day and he hadn't wanted to deal with anymore kriffing nonsense.

"So you followed me," he finally said, shifting the cigarette to the other side of his mouth, holding it out a moment as he coughed up most of the smoke in his lungs. "Why?" he wheezed after a moment.

"As filthy as your habits seem, I need a partner and you seemed a good candidate," the man said.

Staring at the bar a moment, Snuff actually considered the man's offer, then his eyes shifted to the man and he took a moment to truly look at him. If this guy had truly wanted a partner, all he'd had to do was walk into the nearest bar and announce his business. He hadn't followed Snuff just for a flying buddy. Snuff knew from the man's description of him that he saw nothing good in him.

"Nice try, but I'm not candidate for a partner. Try again," Snuff said, deadpan as he slipped a few credits from his pocket and settled the cigarette between his teeth again.

"Fine," the man said tersely. Snuff repressed a smile and looked up, watching the man press his lips into a tight line.

"I'm looking for someone. Someone you may know," the man said blankly this time.

Snuff tensed at those words and stiffened, sitting up a little. He gave the man a dark look. "I don't know anyone," he threatened.

This time the man looked him dead in the eyes, slipping an old picture from his pocket and laying it on the bar in front of him. "Not even her?"

Snuff's eyes drifted down to the picture before he could control himself. It was her alright. Same cocky haughty look as the day he'd met her. She looked about the same age in the picture too. It appeared to be some sort of an ID photo as it was standard size, and there was a tiny government seal stamped in the corner. A pilot's ID most likely.

"Never seen her," Snuff said after a moment, tearing his eyes from the photo before he grabbed it and ripped it apart. Had someone shown it to him a year ago he might have jumped on the opportunity to associate himself with her. Him, a lowly clone trooper taken into the romantic fold of one of the outer rims most renowned smugglers. If only he'd known then what a scam it had been. The scam her love had been. If one could even call that repulsive manipulation love.

"Never?" the man asked, seeming to disbelieve that.

This time, Snuff looked him dead in the eyes, his whole face void of emotion, recognition, and everything else except the slight droop of alcohol.

"Never."

The word was cold and final. Just as the day she'd left him had been. Many say that's what breaking up feels like. Some equate it to divorce. They know nothing. Those partings are the easiest and the most painless. They leave a chance for moving on, a cracked door for a new beginning.

They leave hope.

There was nothing cold and final about that. There was everything cold and final about being shot in the chest by the one you thought you loved and left to die, with only the memory of their final cruel smirk. The darkness of death threatening to drag you under, and the memory of hearing your own agonizing pitiful cries echoing off the empty corridors of the ship. That was cold and final.

That was hopeless.

The man picked up the photo, folded it back up and nodded, rising from his seat. "Well then, thank you for your time."

Snuff turned away without another word, hunching his shoulders forward again as he waited for the man to leave. There was a pause, then the shuffling of steps as the man finally walked away.

Letting out a heavy sigh, Snuff took the cigarette from his lips and inspected the embers still glowing on the end. He twisted the cigarette between his fingers, watching the tiny flicker of red on the end. He let a rare smile touch his lips, curving into a smirk. One tiny flicker of life, refusing to die. It was beautiful, inspiring. He would even dare say, a symbol of hope.

Then he snuffed it out.

GAR 2 Read this story for FREE!