He flinched a little upon hearing her mention the name that had caused him so much heartache, even if it had been a long time ago. "Rhel is the man who raised me," he replied, simply enough. Not only raised him, but rescued him from the streets of Rhy'Din, took him in, and taught him everything he knows. All of that went unspoken, but silently understood. Obviously, it seemed, Rhel had not been his father, but a father-like figure in Kalen's life.
It takes a special kind of grief to recognize its echo in another person. The loss of the one person who had been the center of your world was that kind of grief. Yana stopped fighting the urge, unfolding one arm to reach over and touch his hand with her own. "I'm sorry," she said softly. It wasn't pity; it wasn't just a platitude. She knew what it was to lose that one person around whom your universe revolved, the person who had made you who you were. It wasn't even condolence. It was a simple acknowledgement of the pain, and the way it never truly left.
He drew a slow breath, even as she touched his hand. He really didn't want to talk about it, and yet, in a way, it was a relief to tell someone what had happened without worrying they might betray his trust. He paused a moment as if to gather his courage before continuing. "Trethin had him killed. I am quite sure of it. And then he set me up. He framed me for Rhel's death and when the authorities put a bounty on my head, he offered me a job and a place to stay. It took me years to unravel all this and to realize it was Trethin who had Rhel killed. When I confronted him, he said that if I betrayed him, he would turn me over to the authorities and collect the bounty for himself. So, as you can see, I have no more love for him than you do. You might as well know, I intend to kill him," he added, lowering his voice to barely a whisper. "It is what he deserves, after all."
Listening, Yana felt some of her barriers peeling away, understanding what it cost to share this at all. Her eyes narrowed at his addendum. "You mean we'll kill him," she corrected him quietly. "Partners, remember? The man's holding my father's last message to me hostage. If I could gut him myself, I would. But then I don't think things through very well."
"I would have done it already, but ..." Kalen trailed off. Killing Trethin wasn't going to be easy, or he would have done it already. "So, I am not sure we will need to repay your debt," he told her, though they would need work to pay their expenses, including the loan she'd taken for the ship. "I do not like ... killing. I am not a murderer or an assassin. I am not even a mercenary. Not really. I am a pilot, but it is time Trethin paid for his misdeeds."
Realizing she was still holding his hand, she drew her arm back as he spoke. "Yes, we do," she countered. "Because the only way he'll trust us to be on his turf is if he thinks he's the one with all the power, and the only way we can kill him is to be on his turf. He needs to believe we're broken to his will if we're ever going to get close enough to get the holo and end him." She bit her lip, frowning as she considered something. "My father once told me that the highest return he ever had was on information," she said thoughtfully. "High risk, but the return was hundreds of thousands of credits from an information broker. We could pay off all debts in one go, and keep ourselves close enough to Trethin to end him."
He had not minded her touch; in fact, he had found her touch reassuring, frowning a little as she drew back, but too lost in his own grief and pain to mention it. There were no tears; he was long past tears, but his heart ached to speak of the past, and that was part of the reason he preferred to keep that part of his history to himself. "Or get ourselves killed trying," he said, pointing out an obvious but unpleasant possibility. He didn't want anything to happen to her, but he couldn't deny that they both wanted this badly enough to accept the risk. "There will be no leaving me behind next time. We need to trust each other implicitly."
"Life is risk," she pointed out herself, and visibly flinched when he brought up her cut and run yet again. Under his gaze, she seemed to fold in on herself, arms almost wrapped around her own torso as she looked down at the table, curls falling forward to hide her face. "You can't ask me to trust you and keep throwing that in my face," she said in a low voice, her jaw tense once again. "I made a mistake. I also corrected it, in case you hadn't noticed. Trust goes both ways, and you don't trust me, either."
"You are wrong, Yana," he disagreed. "You did what you had to do. I accept that. It is because you came back for me that we are talking at all." Of course, that went without saying; if she hadn't gone back for him, there was a good chance he'd have been dead by now. "It has been a long time since I have trusted anyone, but I am starting to trust you." The fact that she'd gone back for him was a big part of that trust, and part of why he kept bringing it up, but he could tell how guilty she felt about it and offered a reassuring smile. "It is in the past. I will not mention it again," he promised her, hoping he could keep that promise, even though he'd felt the need to warn her one final time.
Whatever he might have said next was pre-empted by the waitress as she brought over two steaming plates of pasta covered in tomato sauce, along with freshly baked bread and butter, and a carafe of red wine. Now, that put a smile on his face, as he leaned in to inhale the aroma.
She looked up as he spoke, the wariness in her eyes fading at his reassuring smile. He really had no idea how devastatingly handsome he was, she decided in that moment, or he wouldn't keep smiling at her and expecting her not to react to it. As it was, she could feel herself blushing, hoping it wasn't too noticeable, grateful for the distraction of the food arriving. She raised her head to thank the waitress, only to find the woman flashing a kilowatt smile at Kalen and pretty much ignoring her.
"Should I leave?" Yana asked the woman pointedly. "You're obviously enjoying this date more than I am."
Kalen arched a brow, unaware of anything unusual in the waitress' attention. She was paid to wait on them, after all, and so far, he'd didn't think she'd done anything to warrant such a response from Yana.
The waitress finally acknowledged Yana by flashing her a sweet, if predatory smile - something that a man might not notice but a rival female would. "Then perhaps you should find someone more to your liking and leave the leftovers for someone else," she said, turning that smile back on Kalen, who seemed to finally be getting the jist of what was going on right under his nose.
"I'm flattered, but I'm afraid I'm not available," he started, with a smile of his own that was more conciliatory than friendly, one hand sliding across the table to capture Yana's. "Please forgive my wife. She has a terrible jealous streak."
"And a blaster," Yana added, offering the waitress a smile that was only just this side of threatening. Then her brain caught up with what Kalen had said. Wife? Now who's moving fast? Still, it was just as well he'd caught her right hand in his; if she'd been able to, she would have drawn that blaster to make her point.
The waitress flushed, eyes flashing, more at Yana's threat than at Kalen's explanation, but she knew better than to push her luck, especially if she wanted a decent tip. "I'm sorry. I thought from the lack of affection, perhaps you were his sister," she shot back, unable to stop herself, despite the obvious warning. "Enjoy your meal," she added, before turning away, with one last glance at Kalen.
"If you have to perform for other people's benefit, then it's not real, sweetheart," Yana spat at the woman's back, but she was already feeling the creep of mortification. Why had she done that? He didn't belong to her. They'd only just finished telling each other that they didn't trust each other all the way. For that matter, why had he played along and upped the stakes? After staring at Kalen for a long moment, aware of the warmth and weight of his hand over hers, she finally came up with something. "Well, this is awkward."