It was certainly a surprise, while Theron was flicking through channel after channel of communication lines, to be approached. He was needed everywhere at once, but more often than not the preferred avenue of communication was electronic. Little reminders and requests dinging his datapad every few minutes, it was unusual for anyone besides the Commander to come to him physically. Even then, it was never a serious approach. Zal tended towards being more relaxed, more casual when he approached. A quick smile from the Sith, a featherlight touch on the arm, maybe even a peck on the forehead while Theron was sitting down (he would never reach if they were both standing), were commonly the only face-to-face interaction Theron had for the day.
The silent, yet stern approach of one trained Sith assassin, a towering Kaleesh no less, was a startling change of pace. The large Sith sat across from Theron, eyes narrowed and glaring at him from across the table.
After a few awkward, agonizing minutes Theron put the datapad down and looked Xalek square in the face, "Can I help you?"
Xalek grunted and lifted his head in an almost haughty way. "You have stayed at his side," he commented, his voice a low rumble. His eyes narrowed, "After all these years."
Theron blinked, "Uh- what?"
Smooth, smart guy. Smooth.
Xalek did not seemed phased, however, by the less-than-eloquent response to his own pointed words. Instead, he decided to elaborate, "You have stayed by my Lord's side, the one I have called Father. You returned to him after years apart."
Finally it clicked for Theron, Xalek was a part of Zal's crew. Their relationship was a bizarre sort of parent-child dynamic, the connection further strengthened by their insistence on calling each other by familial titles. In fact, Xalek and Theron had briefly met on Rishi and Yavin, where Zal was downright thrilled to introduce his 'son' to anyone he could pin down for a casual conversation for more than a minute.
Xalek stared at Theron, watched him closely for any reaction.
The man sighed, and leaned forward on the table, "Yes, I did. I looked for him when I could, and waited for him to come home when I couldn't. I knew he would be back eventually. Just a matter of when."
Xalek gave no indication of his approval, though he seemed calmer. He folded his hands in his lap quietly. He nodded, finally, with a hum, "Good. You at his side is- it is good. I do not think he could take another heartbreak."
That caught Theron's attention, "Another-?"
The Kaleesh chuckled, low and deep in his chest, "Did you believe you were the first? No. That honor belongs to Lord Cytharat."
Xalek didn't answer for a long time, not until Theron took the initiative to ask the question.
Another pause, a tense, pregnant silence. Xalek sat stock-still, his eyes narrowed as he watched Theron. Finally, he answered, "Cytharat was on Makeb, they spent their sparse free moments together. Cytharat nearly died leading an assignment, and was rescued by my father before being sent to Dromund Kaas for treatment. They never saw each other again. It is my understanding that Cytharat was his first kiss."
Now that explained more than Theron was anticipating. Zal's first kiss? Perhaps his first real moments of intimacy, although that was more speculation. There's more than one kind.
But it did explain how Zal, though often shameless and teasing in his advances, fumbled through the finer details of being in a relationship. This was his first real one, and it had been rocky from the beginning, at no fault of either party. Politics had stood between them at first, then the debacle with Revan had allowed them to see each other. The free moments were few, though, and soon politics and factions stood between them again. Then it was carbonite, where Zal spent five years slowly dying and Theron spent five years hoping.
"He loves you," Xalek rumbled, pulling Theron out of his musings, "He took a step out of the Dark for you."
"He was already like that, wasn't he? Diplomatic to a fault?" Theron asked, refocusing on the Kaleesh.
Xalek shook his head, amusement in his eyes behind the mask, "His patience has extended with you. He was always diplomatic, he feared conflict. But he no longer fears such things as much, instead he pulls himself out of the Dark for you."
Theron blinked, and opened his mouth to continue but Xalek muscled onwards, driving through and shunting comments aside. The Kaleesh leaned forwards, arms on the table so he could get as up in Theron's face as possible.
"He trusts and loves you more than anything in this galaxy, and I'm reasonably certain he would throw himself to the sarlacc for you. Do not squander what he is giving you, he was a slave, and he is giving himself to you . Do not take that for granted."
"I won't," Theron breathed, barely a sound coming out as the weight and reality of their relationship came crashing down on him.
"Good," Xalek leaned back, casually inspecting a nail, "They will not find your head if you do."
Shovel talk delivered, Xalek stood up from the table and left, silent as ever and smoothly gliding down the hallway. Leaving, of course, Theron to reconcile in his head the fact that Zal would probably destroy or save a planet for him, and that if that love was ever betrayed a Kaleesh Assassin--who lived far too close to his bed for comfort--would absolutely obliterate him without a single question asked.
The next day, Talos Drellik delivered his own promise of painful, swift retribution if Theron even considered harming the Archeologist's favorite nerd-in-arms. Alarmingly, Talos' shovel talk was significantly more scarring than Xalek's, and Theron spent a few nights checking his closet after that talk.