Red Dragon Inn
Stars End Sector => Stars End Bar & Grill => Undetectable => Topic started by: Yana Triem on April 05, 2017, 10:08:28 PM
If Mos Eisley on Tatooine was the most wretched hive of scum and villainy in its own galaxy, then Xanport on Vartrexos ran it a very close second in this one. Though not an outlying planet, and not in a galaxy torn by civil war, it was not the safest of places, even if you were on the good side of the supposed power in charge. Truth was, Vartrexos was a hotbed of criminal activity, with an equally corrupt government trying to impose restrictions on seedy cities, and Xanport was the worst of them. It was also the one place in this galaxy where you could guarantee to pick up certain very rare commodities, and any number of smugglers and mercenary groups were contracted by various systems to do just that. With the government soldiers in the streets these days, getting in and out without notice was not so easy as it had once been, and every so often, one of these runs went awry.
Unfortunately for Kalen Dain, he'd been on one of those runs, and unceremoniously abandoned by the smuggler he'd been contracted to protect during the handover. In the confusion, he'd been arrested, and for the last several days, the local governor had been attempting to convince him to turn in his employer.
Convince was not quite the word Kalen Dain would have used to describe what the governor had been doing over the last several days, not if convincing the man included a beating. He had been sorely tempted to betray the smuggler he'd been hired to protect, but in the end, he had not. What they wanted was his employer, not the smuggler, and he knew if he betrayed his employer, he might as well be dead. So, he had not cooperated, vowing to return the favor to the smuggler who'd abandoned him if he was ever fortunate enough to get out of here alive.
Apart from his regular "meetings" with the governor, he'd been kept in rigorous isolation. Which made what happened on the sixth day of his incarceration somewhat interesting. Not only was his meal delivered by hand, by one of the guards at the prison block, but embedded in the tray was a datapad, bearing a single line of code. It was a very particular code, one he had come up with for this mission and this mission only, and it translated as follows - Duck.
He didn't have much time to consider what might happen if he didn't do what the single line of code was directing him to do, instinct taking over, in place of logic and reason. He did what that line of code told him to do, ducking for cover, though he was unsure what exactly to expect once he did.
He probably wasn't expecting the ceiling and half the walls of his cell to explode from above him, the recipient of a full-power blast from a ship's guns. As alarms went off and rubble shifted, the smoke cleared to reveal the hovering back end of the ship that had abandoned him here in the first place, its captain braced on the lowered gangway with a heavy blaster rifle in her hands. She peered into the rubble she had created, one hand remotely controlling the hover of her ship.
"Well?" she demanded, shouting over the sound of the chaos she had created. "Are you coming?"
"The cavalry to the rescue, I suppose," he quipped sarcastically, as he raised his head and climbed to his feet, unable to hide the wince from his face at the bruises and possibly broken bones he'd suffered at his host's hands. There was a flash of anger in his eyes, but he wasn't foolish enough to offend his rescuer so much that she'd abandon him again.
"I said I'd come back, didn't I?" she countered, a wild grin on her face as her thumb moved over the track pad in her hand. The ship hovered just that little bit closer - close enough for him to make the leap. As chaotic as this prison break was, they needed to get moving fairly soon. Even if this governor was corrupt, he had more than a few fighters he could scramble to blast her and her ship out of the sky.
He knew time was at a premium and the last thing he wanted to do was get left behind again, so broken ribs and bruised face or not, he gathered all his strength to make the leap onto the gangway, scrambling with his fingers to hold on tight and almost colliding with his rescuer. "I didn't believe you," he told her, once they were face to face.
She reached out to grab him as he stumbled onto the gangway, breathless herself from the effort of keeping her balance in the stiff breeze threatening to blow them both off the ship entirely. "I wouldn't have believed me either," she told him, jerking her head toward the interior of the ship. "Get up there, strap in. This is going to be bumpy."
Was there really honor among thieves? Or more accurately, among smugglers and mercenaries. Until just now, he wouldn't have bet on it, but life had a way of surprising you sometimes when you least expected it. He didn't bother to waste any time arguing with her when she was his way out of here, nor did he consider that he might owe her a favor, considering she'd been the one to abandon him here in the first place. There was some irony in that somewhere - in the fact that he'd been hired to protect her and now she was rescuing him, but leaving him behind was probably the only way he could have done that task anyway. Somehow, he managed to climb the gangway into the ship and deposit himself in a seat without much ceremony. "I suppose I should thank you!" he called over to her, though he thought those thanks might be a little premature yet.
"Thank me later!" she yelled back, stumbling up the gangway herself as it closed behind her. Swaying as the ship rocked under fire from the newly scrambled fighters, she staggered toward the cockpit, narrowly avoiding dropping into his lap on her way past. "Come on, baby, not long now," she murmured soothingly to the ship, landing heavily in the pilot's seat to take manual control once again. As she'd warned, it was a bumpy exit - she wasn't the best pilot in anything bigger than a fighter, and her ship was not made to endure the onslaught of blaster fire it was receiving at that moment. As databanks erupted with sparks, she swore, heaving on the steering column to point the ship straight up in the hope that they'd break the atmosphere with time to calculate the jump to lightspeed before someone got in a lucky hit to her engines.
He grumbled a little to himself as she shoved past him to take the pilot's seat, which was his preferred domain. Refusing to merely buckle in and enjoy the ride, as she'd directed, he stumbled his way toward the rear, one hand clutching his side, to drop into the gunner's seat. If she was going to fly, then he was going to have to man the guns or they weren't going to make it. He'd thank her later all right, especially for abandoning him there. Never mind that she'd come back for him. It was only the governor's desire for information that had kept him alive, but none of that was important right now. He swung the guns toward the docking bay and fired. While he might not be able do any major damage, he might at least be able to stop them from sending any fighters in pursuit. They couldn't make the jump to lightspeed soon enough, as far as he was concerned.
Thankfully, the pilots in the fighters that were pursuing had even less experience in this sort of situation than the smuggler and mercenary they were after. Through the ship's internal comm, Kalen had a front row seat to the near-constant stream of cursing invective that was his rescuer's babble to reassure herself, offered an insight into what happened in her mind when she was simultaneously flying, evading fire, and trying to calculate a jump all at once.
"... point-four-oh-seven-two-nine - kriff!" The ship lurched as she sent them into a spin, still pointed directly at the sky. "Don't barf, don't barf ... seven-two-nine-dash-six-oh-oh - breaking atmo!" As the little cargo shuttle she called her own rose from the atmosphere into the crushing blackness of space, the artificial gravity kicked in, and suddenly it wasn't quite so uncomfortable for them.
A little too busy with the pursuing fighters to rescue her from the pilot's seat, Kalen was doing his own share of grumbling. A few choice curse words leaving his lips at the ineptness of the girl's piloting skills - at least, in his estimation. He might have even lost his lunch, if there had actually been anything in his stomach to lose. He learned back in the seat as the ship lurched forward, knuckles white as he gripped the guns. It they got out of this alive, someone was getting some flying lessons.
The ship rocked as a lucky blast caught the shield over the wing, and the smuggler swore. "Screw this ... jumping," she warned, whether she'd finished the calculation or not. One hand pushed the lever gently forward, and the ship lurched just a little more - just enough for their gait to even out into the sudden gentle silence of hyperspace. A loud sigh of relief came from the cockpit. "I hate fire fights."
He'd been a little too busy exchanging fire to acknowledge what she was saying, mumbling to himself instead something that sounded suspiciously like, "About time." Relieved as he was that she'd come back for him and that they'd made their escape, he could feel his blood pressure starting to rise. He scanned the stars to make sure no one was in pursuit before unbuckling and stumbling his way toward the cockpit. "What the hells was that and who taught you how to fly?" he asked, not really expecting an answer.
Yana Triem, captain of this ship - Pandora - and a smuggler not many people were prepared to yell at, leaned back in the pilot's seat to look at the beaten up merc she'd just risked her neck and her ship to rescue. "You're welcome," she drawled in response to his snapping question. "Sit down before you fall down, or I'll make you clean it up when you bleed out on my ship."
He glanced around at the hunk of junk she called a ship, almost too small to fit two people comfortably. There was only one seat in the cockpit, which was where he preferred to be. "If I bleed out on your ship, you'll be cleaning it up yourself," he retorted, since her remark implied he'd be dead, though he had no intention of dying just yet. "Perhaps you'd like to explain," he said, tempering his anger as he dropped into a seat behind the cockpit.
"Contract stated I was personally responsible for getting the product to the dealer on time," she said easily enough, spinning in her seat to reach for the med-kit she kept nearby. "My ship and my life on the line, I knew they wouldn't kill you outright. I did say I'd be back." She tossed him an electrolyte carton. "Drink that, or the kolto's going to come straight back up again."
"You knew," he echoed dubiously. "Because you have telepathic abilities, in addition to your obvious talent as a pilot," he said, his tone dripping sarcasm. He caught the carton, scowling at the suggestion he ingest kolto, of all things. "I'm fine. A few broken ribs and some cuts and bruises. Nothing I can't handle."
Her eyes narrowed at him. "It's not too late for me to deliver you back there," she pointed out. "Be pissed, that's cool. Don't piss me off, you'll regret it." Flipping the ship onto auto for the duration of their hyperspace journey, she pushed up onto her feet, dropping the medkit into his lap. "See if I bother helping you out again."
They both knew she wasn't going back there, no matter how much she might regret going back for him. He also knew she'd put her life on the line to come back for him, but that didn't make him feel much better about having been abandoned. "Helping me out? I'm the one who got you there, or have you forgotten that?" he asked, glaring up at her from where he sat, the carton and medkit in his lap. "My contract was all about getting you in and out safely. It never said anything about being left behind."
"You did get me out safely," she hissed back at him through clenched teeth, moving to check the state of the databank that had finally stopped spitting sparks. "If you hadn't, there wouldn't have been a me or a ship to come back and get you, you festering arse."
He realized they were going in circles, arguing over nothing, but the fact that every bone is his body was screaming in pain was doing very little for his mood. "You're welcome," he replied, echoing her own words back at her before turning away to rummage through the medkit.
She scowled, turning her full attention to the databank under her hands, her jaw clenched to prevent the words she wanted to mutter from escaping. She wasn't used to being on a mission with someone else; usually she worked alone, the risk was hers, the pay off was hers, but this time, Trethin had insisted on sending this arrogant merc along with her. As if holding her own life over her head wasn't enough to make sure she didn't dump this cargo in a pinch. Still, the cargo was delivered, and she'd felt guilty enough about leaving Dain behind to go back for him. That guilt was wearing off now.
He turned quiet, all the fire going out of him as the adrenalin rush wore off, weariness sinking in. He'd accomplished the task of getting her there safely; now he just had to see her home before he could cash in on the contract. He wondered if it occurred to her yet that as much as they tried to pump it out of him, he hadn't given her or Trethin up and would have gone to his grave before doing so. He might be a festering arse, but he sure as hells wasn't a snitch.
A crash from the narrow walkway that ran from the cargo loader to the cockpit announced that Yana had given up on the databank in a fit of pique, pushing away with a mutter about how much repairs were going to cost her this time. She moved instead to the other side of the narrow space, opening up one of the storage compartments to pull out a collection of steel poles and canvas, dropping to one knee to put them together. When she was done, a makeshift bed was lashed securely to the wall, complete with pillow and blanket. "Try not to die in your sleep," was all she said as she edged past him once again, dropping into the pilot's seat with a hard sigh.
Kolto or no, it was going to take a little more than that to heal his wounds. Weary as he was, he glanced over at the databank she'd seemed to have given up on. A smuggler by trade, it seemed her talents didn't go so far as to include simple mechanics. He arched a dark brow up at her, not quite ready to collapse, even if his body was craving sleep. Instead he pushed himself up from the seat and silently shuffled his way toward the databank to see what he could do about it.
"Rewiring my ship to explode while you're on it is a very stupid revenge tactic," she commented, not even looking up from the readout she was scanning. "A few sparks aren't going to kill us."
He didn't say anything for a long moment as he poked about at the frayed wires and burned out console. "You might want your navigational controls," he remarked without looking up. He ducked low, knocking out a panel so that he could get at the tangle of wires from beneath, moving stiffly and awkwardly, but needing to make himself useful.
"We're jumping to a Nexus Gate," she told him reluctantly. "I need somewhere safe to land and reconfigure, and Rhy'Din's the best place for that. I can limp her into the Spaceport there. Don't worry, I won't forget that you need to be paid."
"Rhy'Din?" Kalen echoed, his voice muffled as he tinkered with the wires. Thankfully, he wasn't so shocked that he whacked his head. Safe was a relative term with regard to Rhy'Din, but he made no objections.
"Different galaxy," she pointed out, never taking her eyes from the data readout in front of her. Despite their distinct lack of civility toward one another, she had calmed down, her thoughts now for the well being of her ship over his well being. "Pandora's configured for the Nexus Gates - Trethin's people don't even know where they are, much less how to use them."
"I know Rhy'Din," he admitted, wondering if this was some kind of a trick. In all his travels, he'd met few who had actually heard of Rhy'Din, much less knew how to find their way there. He fell silent again as he tried to focus on fixing the tangle of wires in front of him, his thoughts wandering to wondering what she knew of Rhy'Din.
"I figured," she mused. "Your accent doesn't peg you as coming from anywhere in this galaxy, and there's only one way you could possibly have ended up here. Hence, Rhy'Din." She glanced up, reaching to flip a flashing switch over her head. It said a lot about how professional their relationship had been before her little cut and run that they had managed to draw this level of calm and quiet around themselves. But then Pandora was a small ship. They had to put up or shut up in order to survive being in this close quarters.
It wasn't a place he was looking forward to returning to, but she had a point in that few were likely to look for them there. Professional or not, it struck him how little they knew of each other, but then, it was better that way. Better not to get let anyone get too close for fear they might end up dead or worse. There was an audible thump as he whacked his head on the console, followed by a few choice mumbled words before he came up for air, rubbing at yet another lump to the collection he already had going care of the governor and his lackeys.
"You ready to bury your pride and let me look at you now?" Yana asked mildly, still not glancing back at him. When she looked at him, she saw the bruises and blood, the injuries she had abandoned him to receiving, and she knew he'd never accept her explanation as to why she'd done it. He'd take it personally that she hadn't told him in advance.
"I've had worse," he admitted, pulling himself to his feet, obviously favoring one side over the other. He was alive; therefore, he had no complaints, even if he did feel like he'd been run over by a herd of bantha. "You have anything to eat around here?" he asked, with that indistinct accent of his that no one could quite place.
"So that's a no, then," she sighed, rolling her eyes. Finally, she spun in the chair, still avoiding his gaze as she rose to rummage through a second storage compartment. "The 'fresher is through there," she told him a little belatedly, gesturing toward a narrow door behind her. Coming up from the compartment with a handful of ration packs, she dropped them on the bed. "Take your pick. Protein in your choice of flavors."
"The kolto will kick in eventually," he replied, though he wasn't sure she had enough of it to really do the trick. It seemed to be taking the edge off anyway, so that he could move around without seeing stars. He hadn't noticed the fact that she wouldn't look at him, wouldn't meet his gaze. It was as though now that she was no longer seething, she didn't quite know what to say to him. Their relationship had been a purely professional one, thrown together more by chance than design. That hadn't stopped him from admiring the curve of a hip or the color of her eyes, but he knew better than to mix business with pleasure. "Hmm, bland or bland. I guess I'll pick bland," he said, stifling a groan as he bent over to snag one of the ration packs at random. It didn't much matter which one; his tongue was beyond caring.
She heard that stifled groan, sighing as she rolled her eyes. "Sit down," she told him in a resigned voice, moving to scoop up the discarded medkit. "You're a mess." She pointed at the bed, finally meeting his gaze with one brow raised. "Not taking no for an answer."
"Thanks to my host," he replied, not placing the blame on her this time. He knew she'd made a calculated risk and done what she felt she'd needed to do. In her place, maybe he would have done the same. At least, she'd come back for him; that was more than he could say for some others he'd worked with in the past. Too weary to argue, he eased himself down onto the bed and ripped open the ration pack, his stomach rumbling loudly to remind him that it had been a few days since he'd eaten.
She didn't reply to that, setting one knee to the bed beside him as she considered him thoughtfully. Which side he was favoring, how he was moving ... they were all clues. Deciding, finally, she reached to lift the hem of his shirt, wincing at the mottled bruises that covered his left side. This is my fault. "How often?" she asked, her voice detached as she studied his injuries.
"Beg pardon?" he asked, unsure what she was asking him exactly. How often had they kicked the crap out of him or how often had he been to Rhy'Din? Maybe it was the fact that he hadn't eaten in a few days, but his brain was suddenly feeling a little muddled.
"How often did they ... do this?" she asked, running gentle fingers over the bruising that covered his almost definitely broken ribs. Thank gods they were going to Rhy'Din, was all she could think. She could sacrifice a few hard-earned credits to get him healed up like new. It was her fault he was in this state to begin with.
Close enough to get his first really good look at her face, he was startled to realize how young she was - at least ten years younger than himself, practically a child, though he also knew she'd feel insulted if he were to say so. "I lost count," he replied, as honestly as he could. He quieted a moment, surprised also at the gentleness of her touch, even as he did his best not to flinch. "I told them nothing," he added, though that much was obvious. If he had, he'd probably be dead by now.
"I appreciate that," she murmured softly, digging through the kit for a hand-held scanner. "I want to see how much damage they did - not much I can do for broken bones, but if we know they're there, we can work around them."
"I can probably tell you that," he said, knowing which ones felt like they were broken anyway. He was lucky they had not stooped to torture, merely attempting to beat the information out of him. He broke off a bit of the rations with his teeth. "You owe me dinner," he told her, with just a hint of flirtation in the look he was giving her.
She snorted faintly at the flirt he sent her way, her green gaze flickering to his briefly before she turned her attention fully to the scanner in her hand. "You're eating my rations, isn't that enough?" she pointed out, studying the readings closely. Oh, she knew he was an attractive man. Edible, almost. But he was also contractually obliged to protect her, and she was responsible for the state he had ended up in. Now didn't seem like the time to flirt back.
"No, I mean ... You owe me dinner," he reiterated, as if trying to explain that it wasn't about romance so much as about food. "This is not dinner," he said, indicating the remains of the ration pack that was resting on his lap. It was the least she could do after leaving him behind and almost getting him killed, he thought.
"Fine," she conceded, not wanting to start an argument when he was clearly far more beaten up than he was pretending to be. She set the scanner to one side. "Looks like I owe you clean clothes, too." Might as well go all in, she mused to herself, peeling open bacta strips to lay over his bruised and broken ribs. They wouldn't heal the bones, but they would definitely heal some of the deep bruising that was making it so painful to move.
He flinched just a little at her touch. Though her fingers were gentle, his bruises were tender. He hadn't thought much about his clothing, which was ragged and bloodied from his little ordeal. What really irked him though was the loss of his favorite blaster pistol. "What is it you took from him that ..." He paused a moment to hiss a breath. "... that made him do this." She'd had her contract and he'd had his, neither interfering or questioning the other, until now.
She sighed, pausing each time he flinched, each time he winced, trying to get the bacta strips onto his skin without causing too much more pain. "I don't know," she admitted reluctantly. "I don't normally move anything unless I know what it is, but Trethin ..." She bit her lip, gently lowering his shirt back down now she was done. "He doesn't do persuasion."
"You don't know?" he asked, enunciating one word at a time, as if he could hardly believe his ears. "You risked both our lives, and you don't even know what you risked them for?" he asked, though the same could be said for him. He'd been hired to protect her, nothing more, nothing less, and had been told very little about what or who he was protecting her from.
She raised her eyes to his, her expression dull and flat. "Get some rest," she told him, rising to her feet. "It'll take a few hours to hit the Gate."
He reached out to grab hold of her arm as she rose to her feet. "What are you not telling me, Yana?" Perhaps for the first time calling her by her given name. He'd noticed the look on her face, but wasn't quite sure how to interpret it.
She flinched as he caught her arm, pausing where she stood as he questioned her. "You really don't need to know that," she told him as firmly as she dared. "Just ... this really is all my fault, okay? So drop it. I'll make sure you get paid."
Suddenly, it wasn't the creds he was worried about so much as it was what she wasn't telling him, but he knew better than to argue and besides, he was too tired. He let go of her arm, letting her keep her secrets for the time being. He had enough of his own, though his secrets had not almost gotten her killed. "Wake me before we get there. The Gates can be tricky and your flying is likely to get us both killed," he told her, before slowly and carefully lowering himself down to rest. It wasn't the most comfortable bed he'd ever slept in, but after the last few days, it felt like paradise. He had no sooner closed his eyes, and he was asleep.
He missed her scowl at his comment on her flying. She wasn't that bad a pilot. And she proved it, when she navigated the Nexus Gate all by herself while he still slept, still bristling that he had no faith in her ability to fly her own ship. In fact, she didn't make any move to wake him for a good seven or eight hours. Yana thought she might be able to come into land before he woke up, if she was very lucky.
"Rhy'Din Control, this is cargo shuttle Pandora, requesting permission to land."
It wasn't that he had no faith in her ability as a pilot, so much as the fact that he preferred to be in the pilot rather than the passenger seat. But what he didn't know wouldn't hurt him, and by the time he started coming out of his coma, she was already getting ready to land. He felt groggy for a moment as he tried to re-acclimate himself and remember what had happened and where he was, waking just in time to hear her asking for permission to land. Rhy'Din. Not one of his favorite places. Too many bad memories here, but he'd just have to make do, until he could figure out what to do next.
"Why'd you name her Pandora?" he asked groggily as he shoved his hair out of his face. He was feeling a little bit better, thanks to her nursing, but it would be a few days at least before he was feeling like himself again.
She held up a finger, waiting for the tower to answer.
"Pandora, this is Rhy'Din Control, Proceed to Pad Seven. Transferring you to Tower West."
Nodding to herself, she answered. "Thank you, Control. Proceeding to Pad Seven." Taking control of the ship once again, she glanced back over her shoulder. "Why'd I name her Pandora? Ever heard of Pandora's box?"
"I'm somewhat familiar with Terran mythology," he replied, not letting her know just how familiar. "That still doesn't explain why you would name your ship after a woman who was responsible for letting evil escape into the world," he remarked, as he climbed to his feet, moving a little bit stiffly at first.
"It's not about her, it's about the box," Yana pointed out. Now they weren't in a fire fight, she was proving that she could fly her own ship, albeit carefully, drawing the shuttle over the Spaceport toward the designated pad. "A little box that contains all that s***, and one really, really good thing. I have a little ship that habitually carries a lot of s***, and everyone else seems to think it's full of really good stuff."
"What kind of s***?" he asked, bracing himself against the side of her ship as she eased it downward toward the landing pad. It wasn't that he didn't trust her flying so much as instinctively knowing that sometimes unexpected things went wrong.
"Illegal s***, usually," she commented, blowing her hair out of her eyes. "Smuggler, remember? I don't carry living cargo, if that's what you're thinking. But I've done gun runs, military smuggling, that kind of thing. Why are you so interested? Thinking of getting me arrested to even things up?" Pandora landed - not without a bump, but infinitely more gently than she had taken off. Yana let out a low breath, reaching to power down as techs and mechs ran to secure her vessel.
He snorted at her suggestion. "No, just curious." Ducking his head, he took a peek out the cockpit window, recognizing their surroundings, the usual hustle and bustle of the Spaceport landing area. "Nice landing," he praised her, before drawing back. He had no belongings to speak of other than the clothes he was wearing, no weapons for protection but a pair of fists. "I suppose we should get on with it, yes?" he asked, intending to stick to her like glue until he got paid.
"That's the plan." With the ship locked down, she pushed to stand, blinking in surprise when she found herself looking his Adam's apple in the eye. She tilted her head a little further back, taking a proper look at him. "First things first ... you're getting patched up." She grabbed her jacket from where it had been flung over the arm of her seat, easing around him to shrug into it. "C'mon, bantha-fluff, places to go, people to see."
"That won't be cheap," he reminded her, standing his ground as she came face to face with him, or practically if he hadn't been so much taller. He didn't make it easy for her to ease past him, but it was more because it hurt to move than because he was being difficult.
"I can handle it." She paused, slapping a blaster into the empty holster on his thigh before opening the cargo loader, walking down to talk quickly with the mechanic assigned to this pad. Fuel was a given, but the repairs ... she winced, handing over a credit chit to cover the damage. Glancing back at her invalid, she jerked her head for him to join her. "Time's a-wastin'."
He followed behind, moving a bit slower than her, smirking a little at the blaster she'd thought to supply him with. Clothes were one thing, but he really felt naked without the familiar weight of a blaster resting against his thigh. "Yes, Mother," he quipped as he stepped up beside her.
She grimaced in his direction. "Don't call me that, or I'll be forced to put you on a leash," she warned, leading the way off the pad. This was the shiny part of the Spaceport; the place where you could find all the safe-for-consumption toys and sports and facilities. In her basic fatigues, she only just managed to blend in, and he stood out like a sore thumb. "You familiar with magic?" she asked mildly.
"I grew up here," he told her, which seemed answer enough. He didn't offer any further hints about his past or his childhood, other than that, but it was one way of telling her that none of this was really new to him. That didn't mean he had to like it, though.
"So did I." She touched his arm, veering off the main walkway and into a sparkling clinic that seemed entirely too clean and upper class for her to be so confident to walk up to the reception desk. "Hi," she greeted the blonde behind the counter. "One for the full work up with Doctor Xiang. I know he's free, he never has anyone booked immediately after lunch."
He arched a brow at her confession, though it was obvious that she seemed far more comfortable with this place than he was, for some reason. Then again, he did not have the best memories of this place, but maybe it was time to change that. Still, he had to admit that this was a part of the Spaceport he had not seen much of. "The full workup?" he echoed curiously, assuming she was booking this for him, as she hadn't suffered so much as a broken nail. At least, as far as he could tell.
As the receptionist called through to the doctor's office, Yana looked back at Kalen. "You need a good going over," she told him, not leaving much room for argument. "And clothes. So while you're in there, I'll sort that out for you."
"You really ... You don't have to ..." he stammered, knowing there was no point in arguing. For someone who had only recently called him a few choice names, she seemed to be going out of her way to make it up to him, but he wasn't sure if it was because she was feeling some sense of guilt or responsibility. He was fairly sure it wasn't due to kindness or caring. Still, she had abandoned him, so who was he to argue? There didn't seem much point in getting acquainted when he knew that as soon as her debt to him was repaid, she'd be on her way.
"I know I don't," she told him sternly. "I'm going to."
"Uh ... Captain Triem?" Yana turned back to the receptionist, who was glancing between them warily. "Doctor Xiang says you can go straight up."
"Thanks." Yana turned back to Kalen. "Up one floor, turn left out of the elevator, three doors along," she told him. "Tell him I'm paying."
Captain? Captain of what, he wondered. She was the captain of a tiny fighter ship with no crew and a cargo of one - him. He said nothing about that, however, and only waggled a finger at her in warning. "You still owe me dinner," he told her before turning to make his way toward the elevator.
"If I buy you dinner, you owe me sex," she called after him, immediately spinning to settle up with the receptionist so he wouldn't see the flush on her cheeks at her own boldness. All right, so she fancied him. Who wouldn't? Tall, dark, handsome, he ticked all the boxes she normally went for; and then there was that accent. Liquid arousal every time he spoke. Which just made it that much worse that they were going to be in close proximity for at least three days.
Surprised by her reply, he only chuckled, assuming she wasn't serious. Truth be told, she owed him a lot more than dinner, at least until he got paid in creds. He wondered if she realized that taking it out in trade would be more like pleasure than punishment, but he said nothing about it, only pushed the button for the elevator and stepped inside, disappearing from view. Like it or not, he was her shadow until he got paid, so she might as well enjoy it.
The full work up she had ordered for him turned out to be far more than simply having all his injuries healed up. All former injuries that might have left lingering pains were also dealt with; any allergies or adverse reactions to his environment were wiped clean. If he'd been coming down with the common cold, that would have been set right as well. And by the time the frankly enormous Doctor Xiang was done, there was a package of clean clothes for him to change into and a message that Yana was waiting for him. The coded message also offered up the information that they were headed to a bath-house next, so it was his decision whether to change now or later.
He couldn't deny that, after whatever Xiang had done to him, he was feeling like a new man. It wasn't just the cuts and bruises and broken bones that were healed, but he felt almost like he'd been reborn. All he needed now was a bath, clean clothes, and a hot meal in his stomach. And maybe some good old-fashioned Rhy'Din ale and a woman to warm his bed. You owe me sex. He chuckled again as he remembered her words, which he doubted she'd meant. Still, it wasn't an unpleasant thought. She was pretty enough, and not bad company when she wasn't focusing on that chip on her shoulder, and yet, he thought he should probably keep it professional, for both their sakes. He tucked the package beneath an arm and made his way toward the bath-house, the blaster pistol safely on his thigh in case he ran into trouble.
Yana was leaning back on the reception desk when he came back into view, around an hour or so after she'd booked him in. She had a package of her own dangling from one hand, her elbows resting on the edge of the desk. Green eyes looked him over as he approached. "We good?" she asked, though the evidence was obvious.
"Good as new," he replied, not really expecting to find her waiting for him there, but then he wasn't supposed to let her out of his sight, and he'd already broken that rule once by force and once by choice. "Until I get paid, you're still my responsibility," he reminded her, though it could be argued that she was the one taking care of him now.
"Thanks for reminding me," she drawled, pushing out of her lean. "Next stop, we get clean. I don't know about you, but Trethin's idea of a shower room makes my skin crawl. I'd rather not have to remove layers when I'm in his company." She lead the way back out of the clinic, her steps taking them down from the classier walkways higher up and toward the slightly more earthy areas of the Spaceport.
"You seem to know your way around here pretty well," he said, not only noticing how she'd known the doctor by name but how to navigate the Spaceport without having to ask for directions.
"I grew up here," she told him again, shrugging. "It doesn't take much to know your way around when you're running scams at ground level while your father's away." She smirked back at him. "Relax, would you? You're with me, you're fine."
"That's a reason to relax?" he asked, though it was a rhetorical question. It wasn't her that was making him nervous so much as this place, but he supposed it had been long enough that he should be safe coming back here. He'd never heard her speak a word about her past before, much less her father, and he couldn't help but be curious. "And your mother?" he said, the question waiting to be asked.
"Never knew her," she said. She seemed far more relaxed here on Rhy'Din than he'd seen her in the last month or so they'd been traveling together; it was obviously home, in a way nowhere else could be. "You're suddenly very chatty," she pointed out, touching his arm as she ducked off the mid-walkway and into the steamy embrace of one of many public bathhouses. "Male that way," she pointed to one of the doors. "I'm going this way."
"Thanks for noticing," he said, the barest hint of a smirk on his face. Well, at least, she'd noticed that much about him. He didn't say anything about his chattiness, as he didn't really think he was being all that chatty, not compared to her anyway. "See you after, Captain," he said, emphasizing the word.
She snorted, rolling her eyes at him. "Try not to catch your maleness in anything unsavory," was her parting shot, flicking a few credits to the old lady on door duty. A moment later, Yana was out of sight, clearly entirely too interested in getting clean to bother arguing.
He paused at the door to watch her a moment before she disappeared from view, admiring the view a moment longer than necessary. He shook his head, as if trying to clear the cobwebs or figure her out. He wasn't sure what had changed since she'd come back for him, but something clearly had. And then, he disappeared into the bathhouse to scrub the blood and sweat and grime of this last job from his body.
Bathing was not something Yana often had the luxury of enjoying. Even knowing that Kalen Dain was likely waiting impatiently for her, she took her time, savoring the hot water, the actual soap, the real shampoo, the towels that were more fluff than sandpaper. And clean clothes. They might not have been the most flattering, but she was comfortable as she walked out of the bathhouse, dressed in dark pants and a loose blue shirt beneath a cropped jacket. Her mouth was busy holding a couple of pins as she walked, hands busy twisting her dry hair into a bun at the nape of her neck.
It had been a long time since he'd enjoyed such a luxury as this, not only scrubbing himself clean but trimming his hair and beard. The only luxury better than a hot bath was a soft bed, and he took neither for granted. He was grateful, too, for the clean clothes, wondering how she'd managed to find something that not only fit him well but fit his sense of style, too. A Corellian-cut field jacket over equally drab brown military fatigues, his own black boots that they thankfully hadn't taken away from him. He'd never been much of a flashy dresser, preferring to blend whenever possible, but the cut and color of his clothes seemed to fit his face and personality well. The blaster pistol was re-strapped to his thigh, right where he liked it and where it was in easy reach. By the time he rejoined her, he was not only feeling better, but looking and smelling a lot better, too. Now if only he could get a hot meal and a soft bed for the night, he'd be all set.
Yana only looked up as she was placing the last pin in her hair, glad that only the bath-lady was looking at her in that moment. Her jaw actually dropped at the sight of Kalen Dain, looking better than she'd seen him thus far, even when they'd first been informed they were working together. "Well, kark me," she declared, letting her eyes look him over with leisurely enjoyment as her hands fell to her hips. "Don't you look good enough to eat? Shame you already requested dinner, really."
He snorted again at her remark, which he presumed to be teasing. "Food first, sex later," he said, though it wasn't a promise. It was the first time she'd looked at him like that though, and he couldn't help but wonder why. Was it still guilt she was feeling, or had she finally remembered that she was a woman and noticed that he was a man?
"Got your priorities straight, obviously," she snorted with laughter, dropping her hands as she moved closer. "C'mon." As they moved back out onto the mid-walkway, she ventured a question of her own. "What is it about being back here that makes you so tense?"
He hesitated in his answer, unsure if he trusted her enough to tell her the truth. Then again, she had come back for him, and it wasn't because of the bounty on his head, or so he assumed. "Posters with my face on them," he replied, letting her sort out the rest as he fell into step beside her, letting her lead the way.
"Gotcha. So not the seedy end of town, then." That was really all she had been asking for; a clue as to where he would rather not go in the Spaceport. "We're not going to Stars End, either. Hmm ..." She paused, stepping close to keep out of the way of passing traffic. "I guess it all depends what you fancy."
"It was a long time ago," he admitted, doubting that anyone here remembered his face anymore or had any posters tacked up with his likeness. Too many years had passed, and the Spaceport had never been a place with a long memory. He paused a moment to eye her while they stepped out of the way of traffic, wondering what she'd say if he told her he fancied her. "A steak with all the trimmings," he replied. No weird alien dishes with tentacles or eyeballs, but something that would stick to his ribs and fill the empty hole in his stomach.
"Good basic home cooking, gotcha." She chuckled, rolling her eyes at him. "All right, this way." Again, her fingertips touched his arm as she moved away, the only indication that she was steering at all. The mid-walkway here had always been her favorite place in the Spaceport - not too snobby, not too seedy, filled with a mix of races and careers that made it easy to blend in. It still felt a little strange to be in the minority as a human, but at least she wasn't walking alone this time. "In here," she nodded to a lively cantina as they turned a corner. "Word of advice, don't eat the nuts in the red bowls."
He flicked a curious glance her way that asked why without actually asking, before following her inside. The place looked safe enough, but safe was a relative term here. His fingers unconsciously reached for his blaster pistol, just to make sure it was still there. Until he got paid and they parted ways, it was still his job to protect her against any and all threats.
She caught his glance, one corner of her mouth quirking upward in a teasing smirk. "Well, you could eat them," she admitted as they picked their way between tables toward the bar. "But you'd spend the next few hours in horrific pain before dying messily. They're for dextro-based life forms."
"Thanks for the warning," he told her, eyeing the nuts suspiciously and remembering what they looked like so that he didn't make that mistake in the future. He'd spent enough time in horrific pain the last few days.
Smirking at his expression, Yana leaned on the bar, tapping two fingers against the lit surface to get the tender's attention. She placed their order, gesturing to a free table set well back from the entrance, and paid, collecting the bottle she'd ordered with glasses before straightening. "After you."
She was certainly a woman who knew how to take charge and she seemed to know her well around here well enough to do so. He turned to eye the table, finding it acceptable, noting the exits before making his way there and pulling out a chair for her before claiming one for himself. He let his gaze travel slowly about the room, taking in the others there, but no one seemed to have taken an interest in their arrival.
"A gentleman as well, huh?" Yana thumped down into the seat he held out for her, already pouring out generous measures that smelled eye-wateringly alcoholic. "How come you didn't come over all gentlemanly until now?"
He shrugged, not really having a good answer for that. "How come you didn't come over all friendly until now?" he countered. Up until now, their relationship, for lack of a better word, had lacked warmth and camaraderie. Was it because the fact that the job was finished that had her relaxing or was she still just feeling guilty about leaving him behind? "You don't have to make it up to me, you know. It's just part of the job."
She sobered, pushing his glass over to him. For a long moment, she stared into her own, before knocking it back with a shudder. "There wouldn't have been a job, if it wasn't for me," she admitted reluctantly. "So ... make the most of it, because Trethin's going to want you to incriminate me."
"I knew the risks," he pointed out, arching a brow at the rest of what she was saying. "Incriminate you for what?" he asked, not following her. He'd been hired to protect her, plain and simple. He'd been given no other orders and no details as to why she needed protection. Creds were creds and so long as he wasn't being hired to assassinate someone, he was happy to do whatever necessary to collect them.
She poured another measure into her glass. "You weren't hired to protect me, you were hired to protect the cargo," she pointed out. "To make sure I did the job. You don't cross Trethin without suffering for it." This time, she sipped, letting the harsh alcohol burn down her throat.
"No," he said, leaning forward, his arms crossed on the table, counting her drinks. He'd yet to have one. "I was hired to protect you, to make sure nothing happened to you. My instructions were quite clear," he told her, though he was starting to see there was more going on here than he had thought. "Please tell me you didn't cross him," he said, eyeing her closely.
"Not intentionally." She leaned onto the table, rubbing her palm against her knuckles. "I dumped cargo. It was that or be boarded, and that First Order lot aren't exactly known for giving smuggling ships back once they're finished with them. I paid him back what he paid me, but apparently the client was seven kinds of pissed that they never got their goods. So that filtered down to me. He doesn't trust me, and he's got me working for free to pay back what he had to shell out to keep trouble off his own back. I work, or I die, simple as."
He took that in without so much as an arched brow. He wouldn't put it past Trethin to make good on his threat, but it wouldn't be Kalen Dain who carried it out. Murder wasn't his style or part of his moral code. Defending yourself against someone else who was trying to kill you was one thing, but elimination was another. "Why'd you come back for me?" he asked, needing to know that, too. Was it just an over-inflated sense of guilt or something more? Was she expecting him to help her get Trethin off her back? A better question might have been to ask why she'd left him behind. If he'd been with her, she might not have had to dump the cargo in the first place, though that was arguable.
"Because it's my fault you were in this mess to begin with," she answered, shaking her head. "If I hadn't crossed Trethin, he wouldn't have hired you to keep eyes on me. You wouldn't have been there to be left behind in the first place. I'm not completely heartless." She sipped from her glass once again, a teasing look in her eyes as she met his gaze. "And the universe would be a sorry place without your brand of eye candy in it."
He knew when he was being sweet-talked, mostly because he'd done his fair share of it himself. "Let me get this straight," he started, leaning back in his chair. "You crossed Trethin, so now you're in his debt. What about the cargo? What about what you came for? Where is it? Did you give it to Trethin?" He wondered, too, what exactly it was that she'd smuggled out of the hellhole they'd just left, but first things first. He needed to know where exactly she stood and where her loyalties lie.
"I delivered this cargo safe and sound," she promised him. "It's the previous one I had to dump. You're safe, don't you worry. As far as Trethin's concerned, you got in and out just as safely as I did."
"Safe," he echoed doubtfully. Was there such a word in their line of work? He hadn't known what it was to be safe in a very long time. "So, you left me there so that you could deliver your cargo to Trethin, because if you didn't, he'd kill you. Have I got that right?"
She held her silence for a moment, looking into her glass. "Yeah, that's what happened," she nodded. "Trethin can't kill me unless I don't check in within the next three weeks. He had a contract written up and everything. All legal."
He looked like he was starting to seethe again, but seeing the hopelessness in her, the anger quickly faded. "How much do you owe him?" he asked pointedly, studying her, noticing how she wouldn't meet his gaze.
"40,000, give or take," she said quietly, glancing up as a server brought their food over to them. She thanked them, glad to have something else to occupy her hands. Her habit of fidgeting with her fingers always gave her away when she didn't want to talk about something.
"40,000," he echoed, dark brows arching upwards, his mind quickly calculating just how much money that was. "Okay," he said, picking up his fork and knife and cutting into his slab of meat, done medium rare, just the way he liked it. "So, we have three weeks to come up with 40,000 creds," he said, as though it was as simple as that.
"We?" She raised her brows, shaking her head. "This isn't your problem, Dain. You get paid, and I stick with this contract until I've paid him back what I agreed to owe. You don't owe me anything; I almost got you killed."
"Almost," he said, reminding her that he was still very much alive. "And you're wrong. It is my problem. You made it my problem when you came back for me. Don't you see the irony in this, Yana? Trethin hired me to protect you. It would be going against my contract to let him kill you, yes?" he asked, a smirk on his face. He pointed at her dinner with a fork. "Eat your dinner," he said before popping a forkful of steak in his mouth and making a sound of appreciation that was almost obscene.
She paused, eyeing him with almost comical dismay. "I'm going to regret saving your life, aren't I?" she mused accusingly, her lips curving in a faint smile as she tucked into her own meal. After a few months of living off protein rations, just one meal made with real food was practically orgasmic, judging by the noises they were both making.
He shrugged. "Perhaps, perhaps not," he replied, mirroring her smile with one of his own before tearing into his dinner with the zest of a man who felt like he was starving to death. They hadn't just beaten him within an inch of his life; they hadn't fed him either and only given him enough water to keep him alive. "I'm going to have my revenge on the governor," he said after a long while. "Perhaps not today or tomorrow, but it will happen, sooner or later. And Trethin, too, if he gets in my way."
"So you have a death wish," she commented through a mouthful of steak, reaching for her glass to wash it down. "That's really going to help you survive Trethin. He's not going to take having a smuggler for free taken away from him very well, you know."
"Then we prove to him that you are worth more alive and free than in his debt and dead," Kalen reasoned. It sounded simple enough in theory, but he knew it would be a lot easier said than done. "For now, we eat. We drink. We rest. We fix your ship. We lay low. We ask around ... discreetly ... about any jobs that might offer a large return." Of course, the higher the pay, the higher the risk, in most cases, but they hadn't agreed to anything yet.
Yana frowned, focusing on finishing the food in front of her, despite the questions circling in her mind. When she finally set her cutlery down, just one of those questions was foremost in her mind. She sighed, cradling her glass in one hand as she studied the man sitting with her. "Why?" she asked him quietly. "Why take this risk, for me?"
"Why not?" he countered. Why not, indeed? Why was he willing to risk his neck again for a woman who had willingly left him behind? Maybe because he sensed something in her - regret, guilt, a conscience. "There is an old saying, there is no honor among thieves, but then ..." He smiled as he lifted his glass at last. "I'm no thief."
That smile. Yana bit her lip, looking down at her glass once again. Either he knew exactly what that smile did to her, or he didn't have the faintest idea. She wasn't sure which one she would prefer. "That isn't an answer."
There were half a dozen answers he could have given her, but somehow at that moment, none of them seemed to come to mind. His usual reason for accepting one job or other was the pay, but he had a moral compass that factored into which jobs he'd accept and which he'd decline. He didn't consider himself to be very gallant, so he wasn't doing it just out of the goodness of his heart and yet, that was part of it. "Because I expect to be paid," he told her. That was the easy answer. "And because it's the right thing to do." That was the hard answer. "I hate bullies, and Trethin is a bully. It's time someone put him in his place." There was more to it than that, but he hadn't quite figured it out himself yet, so he was hardly able to explain it to her.
Her brows rose slowly as she considered this. "You're going to get paid no matter what," she pointed out. "I just don't see why you would risk getting on his bad side just to help out someone who has already proved she'll dump you and run when things get hairy." She wasn't particularly proud of herself for having done that, but it was a fair point to make. And perhaps she wasn't doing herself any favors arguing this so vociferously. After all, if she really was the sort to dump and run again, why would she care that he was volunteering to put himself at risk for her?
"How long do you think it will be before he does the same to me?" Kalen pointed out. And if the man ever found out that Kalen had a bounty on his head, he'd be as indebted to Trethin as Yana was. "Besides, next time you won't dump me and run." And how did he know that? Because now that he knew she was being blackmailed by Trethin, she was going to need him to get her out of it.
"You sound very sure of that," she said mildly, eyeing him over her glass as she leaned forward onto her elbows. "What are you going to do, marry me so I can't escape?"
That made him chuckle. "Since when did marriage stop anyone from running away?" he countered. He had a point. He'd seen perfectly happy relationships fizzle as soon as they said, "I do."
"From what I've seen, makes it easier to track someone when the paperwork insists you're shackled to them by law on some gods-forsaken planet in the arse-end of nowhere," she commented with a shrug, her lips quirking in a faint smile at his chuckle. She knocked back her glass, sighing as she set it down. "I bought you dinner. Where's the sex?"
He eyed her from across the table, trying to gauge whether or not she was drunk. "You're not serious," he said, pausing before adding, "are you?" He wasn't opposed to a little meaningless sex, though he usually preferred to to keep his partnerships strictly business.
She studied him for a long moment, her eyes narrowing as she sighed, disappointed. "Should have known you were the type who likes to have "feelings" when he strips down," she groaned, pushing to stand. "My bad."
He narrowed his eyes back at her, a little annoyed by her remark. "I'm the type who doesn't like to mix business with pleasure," he retorted, not bothering to point out that she didn't know anything about him, as it went without saying.
"Fine, then let's keep it all business, Dain," she said just as sternly, though not without a slight sway as she stood. "I'll hand you back to Trethin, and you never need to even think about me again. Suits both of us that way, doesn't it?"
He arched a dark brow at her, noting her sway but saying nothing about it. That wasn't what he'd said, but it seemed that what she'd heard in her at least partially inebriated state. "If that's what you want," he said, though he wasn't going to be that easy to get rid of just yet.
She pointed both fingers at him in a slightly inebriated double-gun gesture, winked, and turned on her heel, apparently taking that for permission to leave and never see him again. She even made it to the entrance of the cantina without upsetting more than a single glass; thankfully the owner of said glass accepted her apology as she stepped backwards and abruptly fell out of the cantina onto the public walkway, erupting in giggles at her own clumsiness.
Kalen muttered something under his breath in a language few here knew and moved to his feet to follow her from the cantina and pull her to her feet. "Are you loco?" he asked, a hiss of a whisper at her ear, as he took her arm to drag her away from the cantina before she got mugged or worse.
Heaved up onto her feet, she let him drag her away from the cantina. "I'm drunk," she informed him superfluously. "And I thought you didn't want to see me again. Kinda handsy for someone who has to have feelings first, ain'tcha?"
"Yes, you are," he told her, hooking an arm around hers to lead her away and hopefully keep her upright. "And you are putting words in my mouth," he added. "Do you have creds?" he asked. "We need a place to stay."
She wasn't expecting to end up arm in arm with him, the turn of his body pulling her off-balance as she staggered into him. "I sleep on my ship," she informed him stubbornly. He knew she had creds; she'd been paying their way since they'd got here.
"Your ship is undergoing repairs," he reminded her, doubting she'd want to sleep on her ship under those conditions. "And if we are going to be partners, we are going to need a bigger ship," he added, despite her assumptions that they were parting.
"You said no marriage, we are not partners," she argued just for the sake of arguing. A confused frown touched her forehead as she looked around. "Where are we? Are you being nefarious? Because I don't stand for that. Don't care how sexy you are, nefarious is not playing fair."
He sighed, coming to a halt and pulling her around to face him. "Do you really want to wander around the Spaceport alone in your state?" he asked, feeling just a little guilty for getting her drunk, though it had not been his intention. She obviously couldn't handle her liquor the way she thought she could. "We are going to rent a room for the night where you are going to sleep off the booze while I keep watch. You can decide how nefarious I am in the morning," he told her, not touching the compliment, whether she meant it or not.
"I'm a dead woman walking, what do I care about getting in trouble?" Yana pointed out, her own special brand of suicidal stubbornness making itself known as she tugged on her arm in his grip. "Let go."
Instead of letting go, he just held on tighter, leaning close so that she had no choice but to meet his gaze. "I am not going to let you die or get into trouble, do you understand, you stubborn woman?" he asked, leaving little room for argument.
He'd compared her to a child in his mind's eye not more than twenty hours ago. The look she gave him as he forced her to meet his gaze was definitely reminiscent of a reluctant child being scolded, her eyes sliding away as her jaw clenched. "I think I'm gonna barf."
He'd had a feeling that was coming, too, and he physically turned her away from him and pushed her forward so that her dinner ended up on the pavement and not on him. At that moment, she was a little like a child, but that only convinced him further how much she needed his help, at least for the moment.
There was very little in the way of dignity in the way she emptied her stomach onto the walkway, grimacing when she came up with an unpleasant chunk in the hank of hair that had fallen into her face. Wiping her mouth, she pouted. "I just washed that, too."
"You can wash it again," he told her, not even wrinkling his nose at the mess she'd left on the walkway, though he was thankful he was wearing it, especially since these were the only clothes he had handy at the moment. He flicked the chunk of half-digested dinner from her hair with his forefinger and thumb. "Are you done?" he asked, unsure if she was finished getting sick or not.
She made a face at him, still trying to pull herself out of his grip. "Let go," she repeated. "I can walk by myself." Given the way her body was turning toward the long walk back to the landing pad where Pandora was stationed, however, it wasn't exactly a mystery as to where she thought she was walking.
"Not that way, querida," he said, sliding an arm around her waist to turn her in the opposite direction. It might have been a long time since he'd left Rhy'Din, but things hadn't changed so much that he couldn't find a room for the evening.
She groaned as he pulled her about, missing the unexpected endearment he planted on her in favor of grumbling about sexy pirates and stubborn virgins and know the way to my own ship thank you very much. It was just as well they hadn't descended to the seedier part of the area; they would definitely have been accosted by now if they'd gone any further down. As it was, there were a few interested eyes on them.
Losing his patience, he lifted her bodily and swung her over his shoulder, hoping to hells she didn't lose whatever was left in her stomach down the back of the jacket she'd either pilfered or bought him. "Drunk girlfriend," he explained to the onlookers with an attempt at an apologetic smile. "Time to put someone to bed."
"Not your - hey!" The protest was was lost in the heavy grunt that coincided with him tossing her over his shoulder, all the breath knocked from her lungs in the same motion. The onlookers watched impassively, but they'd noted the blaster at his thigh, and the protective way he was looking after his diminutive companion. It wasn't worth starting a fight so early in the evening for them. "Why'd you have to have such a nice ass?" Yana's voice declared petulantly from around the middle of his back.
"Should I apologize for it?" he asked, though he was only making conversation to try and distract her from putting up a struggle, which wouldn't end well for either of them. He continued on past the onlookers on his way toward a slightly seedier area, but one where he knew they could rent a cheap, if tacky, room for the night. He had a feeling she was unlikely to remember any of this in the morning, so it hardly seemed necessary to think much of the compliment, which was mostly booze-induced.
There was a pause as she considered this. Then he felt one of those small hands squeezing his behind. "Yes," she said, limp over his shoulder but for that rather daring squeeze. "You should apologize, or I'm going to bite it."
"Yes, well, I apologize for having such a nice ass, then. Happy now?" he asked, turning a corner onto a district where there were a lot of bright, flashing neon signs.
She sighed, releasing his rear with a pat. "I wanted to bite it," she confessed in a disappointed tone, lifting her head. "Where are we going?"
"To tuck you in for the night. You need some rest," he told her. After all, she'd let him sleep on the ship; now it was his turn to return the favor. "Here we are," he said, glancing at the sign which said The Hidden Pearl. "Hidden, my ass," he muttered. "Do you think you can stand without falling over?" he asked, contemplating setting her on her feet so that he could navigate the door and get them a room.
"I was standing before you started getting handsy with me," she pointed out, complaining once again. "This isn't the landing pad." She raised her head further, pushing at his shoulder. "Put me down."
"No, it isn't," he said, ignoring her attempts to escape his grip. He affectionately patted her rear, before pushing into the inn with a shoulder against the door. "Just relax, querida. I won't let anything happen to you." At least, not tonight.
She squawked at the pat to her rear end, showing off a surprising double-standard. Or perhaps it wasn't that surprising; she'd pushed him away, yes, but her drunken self was all about touching and staying close. Yet she was the vulnerable one here, and she clearly didn't like it. "If you don't put me down, I'm going to make myself barf on the next person I see," she threatened.
"I am the next person you see," he countered, moving up to the desk with her still balanced on his shoulder. "I'd like a room for the night," he told the man - he thought it was a man - behind the desk. He couldn't always tell with aliens, and he didn't want to assume.
"Exactly," Yana agreed, but anything else she might have said was overridden by the answer from the desk clerk, who was pointing at the woman slung over Kalen's shoulder.
"No, no, no, we don't do criminal here," he said with a shake of his head. "Kidnappers not welcome."
"I'm not a kidnapper," Kalen insisted with an impatient sigh. "My girlfriend is drunk, and I need a place where she can sleep it off. Tell him, Yana," he said, with another pat of a hand to her rear.
Tempting though it was to yell for help, Yana wasn't so far gone in drink that she was going to do that to him. She did consider it for a moment, but in the end, she heard herself say, "One big bed, there won't be much sleeping going on!"
The desk clerk frowned, tilting his head to get a better look at the woman hanging over Kalen's shoulder. "Yan?" he said in surprise. "Little Yan, is that you?"
Yana raised her head to get a better look for herself, and groaned. "We're in the Pearl," she sighed, offering a wave to the alien at the desk. "Hi, Kless."
Kless laughed, slapping the desk in front of him. "Finally got yourself a man, have you?" he teased her, tapping something into the pad in front of him. He handed Kalen a passcard. "Best room in the place. Nothing but the best for Hix Triem's daughter."
Kalen reached for the passcard, pausing a moment to glance at it and see what room they were in, before tucking it away into a pocket of his jacket. Muttering something under his breath, he turned on a heel with Yana still hanging over one shoulder to find their room.
"Best room, my - his perky ass!" Yana called to Kless as she was borne away, only to be answered with a loud laugh. Her hand patted Kalen's backside again. "You really can put me down, you know, I'm not gonna barf again."
"But are you going to run away?" he asked, though he doubted it at this point. Not only was she too drunk to manage it, but there was hardly any reason for it now that he'd secured a room. Besides, she needed the rest, if only to sleep the booze off.
"I never run," she declared. If she'd been upright, this might have made a better impression. "I make considered retreats." There was a pause, and this time, her voice came out decidedly whiny. "Can I get down? You have a bony shoulder."
"Say please," he replied. If he was in a better mood, he might have made a crude comment in reply to hers, but at the moment, all he wanted to do was get a few hours' sleep, without worrying about her disappearing on him.
She called him a rude name instead, scowling at his back, prepared to weather the ache in her stomach that came from being slung over his shoulder rather than give him the pleasure of knowing he was in her head enough to get a please out of her.
He might have taken pity on her and let her down if she hadn't insulted him. Instead, he focused on finding their room. Even as her weight against his shoulder started making his muscles ache, he wasn't going to give her the satisfaction of knowing it. Thankfully, it didn't take too long before he located their room, not really expecting much, despite the man's claim that it was their "best room". Still keeping her balanced against his shoulder, he dug out the key card and swiped it to unlock the door.
Given the state of the rest of the place, he was right not to expect much. But at least it was clean, and the bed was large, and better yet, there was a double lock; even if the owner wanted in, the inhabitants of the room could keep him out. Yana sighed against his back, beginning to go even more limp as sleep started pressing in on her consciousness.
Kalan kicked the door closed behind him and turned to make sure it was locked before moving to the bed to deposit his burden at long last. He was none too gentle in his dropping of her on the bed, but it was more because his shoulder was aching than anything else.
She protested only very slightly, rolling over onto her side, heedless of the pins in her hair, the lumpy jacket she wore, or her boots. Drunk Yana wanted to sleep, and that was exactly what she planned to do.
He rolled his shoulder in an attempt to get the ache out of it, frowning as he watched her roll over, already asleep. If only it were that easy. He sighed and leaned over to get her boots off, even if his gut instinct told him to leave them on in case they had to make a hasty escape. The least he could do was try to make her comfortable, even going so far as to tuck the blanket around her shoulders.
At least she didn't kick him. As soon as her boots were off, she curled into a tight ball on her side, defensive even in sleep, it seemed. Small as she was, she barely took up even a corner of the bed they had rented for the night, a huddling shape beneath the blanket he laid over her. Whatever her feelings on him in the morning, it would appear that she trusted him tonight.
He was still frowning as he stood there watching her, unsure what to make of the tiny spitfire he seemed to have taken a strange liking to. Why was he helping her anyway? Especially after she'd left him behind to be beaten within an inch of his life. He sighed again and shook his head, pausing a moment to look around the room for a chair, though the bed was plenty big enough for both of them.
If he didn't know why he was helping her, the drunken snoring was not going to help him work it out, however adorable it seemed. Yana was not a snorer generally, but get enough drink into her, and she snuffled in her sleep. She also talked in her sleep - if she'd been sober enough, she might have insisted on him sleeping in a separate room. As it was, he was going to learn a few things about her tonight, if he managed to keep his eyes open long enough.
He rolled his eyes at her snoring and sighed again, before moving over to the window to look out on the hustle and bustle of the Spaceport. Even from here, he could see ships taking off, arcing into the sky until they disappeared from view among the myriad of stars, and his heart ached like it always did to be up there with them, instead of being down here. There wasn't much he could do about it tonight though. Tomorrow, they'd go looking for a bigger ship, but tonight, they both needed some rest. After a while, he dropped into the one and only chair in the room. Try as he might to get comfortable, he failed miserably, looking over at the bed again with envy.
After a while, he decided that his rest was worth more than his pride, and he tossed his jacket on the chair, pulled off his boots and settled himself on the bed, with his blaster pistol on the bedside table well within reach. It took a while, but eventually, his eyes grew heavy and his head grew weary, and he drifted off to sleep, on top of the blankets and with his back turned to her, just in case she got the wrong idea.
It was not the way either of them had expected this day to end, that was for certain.