Why can things never go according to plan? Theron inwardly wondered as he leaned against the wall, frowning at the small crack in the otherwise-boarded-up window. Outside, Tatooine’s twin suns scorched the tiny, abandoned moisture farm that was just visible through the crack. At least the air inside the old hovel was sheltered from the sun, even if the airflow wasn’t that great.
He would have opened the window to try and get a crossbreeze going, but that would have just announced his and Xaja’s position to the large and well-armed pack of Sand People travelling past the farm. These ones, fortunately, seemed to be migratory and not inclined to settle down in the ruined buildings.
Unfortunately, they were moving at what Theron was convinced was the slowest possible pace. “I’ve seen Hutts move faster than this,” he quietly grumbled.
“To be entirely fair, it’s mid-afternoon. Maybe they’ll pick up their pace when it gets a little cooler.” Xaja slumped down in an entirely undignified heap beside the wall and took a sip from one of her water canteens. At least she and Theron hadn’t come unprepared to meet up with Choza to plan their takedown of the Star Fortress looming overhead, just out of Theron’s field of vision. “Are they still moving, at least?”
Theron glanced back out. “Yeah, and not towards us. But they’re still too close, we’ll be seen and chased down if we try to move now. I don’t know about you, but I’m not keen on fighting a group that size.”
“It’s too hot to fight anything,” Xaja complained. She’d shed her lightly armoured jacket, and now was down to a tank top that clung to her in just the right ways to make Theron feel a rush of heat that had nothing to do with Tatooine’s suns. “We’re in for a long wait, then?”
“Looks like it.” Theron forced his stare away from Xaja’s petite frame to take a final look out the window. “We’ve probably got an hour, at least. Assuming they don’t stop.”
“May as well take the opportunity for a rest, right?” Xaja raised one of the canteens and gave it a pointed shake in Theron’s direction as he turned back around. “Drink something. I don’t know how to save you if you die of dehydration out here.”
“What, aren’t you amazing at everything?” Theron teased as he mimicked her example, shrugging off his jacket and sitting down beside her. The red leather may have offered some protection from stray blaster bolts and sharp objects, but it was a relief to expose his bare arms to the air.
“Remember what happened the last time I was given medical equipment more complicated than a kolto gel pack?” Xaja shook her head and smiled wistfully as she handed Theron the canteen. “I think Doc nearly had an aneurism.”
It wasn’t any matter that their first touches had been over five years ago, or that Theron was a regular fixture in Xaja’s bed- the brush of their fingers on the canteen still sent a pleasurable jolt through him. “And here I’d thought he was just stressed out because you’d gone tearing through the Revanite camp to find me without a plan after ‘find me’,” he said with a chuckle.
“No- well, okay, maybe that, with only an Imperial agent for backup who Doc didn’t trust yet. But apparently my attempts to put kolto on you were a crime to medicine.” Xaja smiled, but Theron still caught a glimpse of the sadness in her eyes that talking about her old crew still brought up.
“I don’t remember a hell of a lot from between you hauling me out of that base and coming to in the village to hear him grumbling,” he quickly said to distract Xaja from the painful memories, “but I’m still here, so you can’t have done that terrible a job. For what it’s worth, my semi-conscious self then probably appreciated your efforts.” He paused and grinned. “And if past-Theron didn’t properly thank his rescuer and would-be medic then for saving his ass, I’d like to make up for that now.”
Xaja softly laughed, the grief in her eyes fading to amusement. “I can’t actually remember if past-Theron thanked past-Xaja for that, mostly because I spent most of that speeder ride terrified you were going to die on me anyway. But present-Xaja fully accepts those thanks, and would like to add that saving your ass was totally worth it.”
Theron grinned and leaned in to kiss Xaja’s cheek. “Mmm, still feel like I need to fully emphasize how much I appreciate all your heroism with saving my hide all those times…” he murmured as his lips travelled down to her jawline and neck, her pulse racing under her sweat-dampened skin.
“This is hardly the-” Xaja softly gasped as Theron found one tender area of her neck to nibble at. “… the time or place, Theron!” But her hands had still come up to touch him, slim fingers tangling into his hair to keep him right where he was on her neck.
“We do have time,” Theron whispered against her skin. “It’ll be a while before the tribe is pas-” Xaja suddenly froze, making the spy look up worriedly. “What’s wrong?”
“Shhh!” Xaja’s eyes darted to the crumbling staircase the pair had climbed up not much earlier. “We’ve got company.”
Theron frowned as he lifted his head, reaching for a blaster as he strained his ears and tried to forget how turned on he’d been seconds ago. “What do you feel?” he whispered.
Xaja’s eyes narrowed in concentration. “Two below us,” she breathed out, barely audible. “A few more scouting nearby.”
Blast it! The bastards had the worst possible timing. Theron shifted as he raised the blaster, making sure to keep his body between the staircase and Xaja. The Sand People were very stealthy, but he was pretty sure he could hear the rustling of robes on the ground below- and then, a grunt in the aliens’ language that he couldn’t understand. He glanced back at Xaja and mouthed ‘Fight?’ at her.
Xaja thought for a second, then shook her head. ‘Too many’, she mouthed back, gesturing to the window and the rest of the tribe outside.
Theron frowned, then sharply looked to the staircase. That was the distinct sound of a footstep on a stair that he’d heard. Apparently Xaja wasn’t going to get her wish to remain hidden and out of combat. If I hit it with a toxin dart, it’ll be quiet until its buddies come looking for it, but maybe it’ll buy us time to find a way out of here-
A slim hand landed on his wrist and lowered his arm despite the ascending enemy. “Trust me,” Xaja breathed into Theron’s ear, barely loud enough for him to hear her, close proximity notwithstanding.
Theron gave Xaja an incredulous look, then looked back as the Sand Person’s helmeted head came into view. The hand on his wrist tightened to firmly push his blaster down despite his instincts. Xaja’s other hand waved through the air as the Sand Person turned to look directly in their direction in the traditional style of a Jedi mind trick.
The alien paused and shook its head in confusion, but didn’t start shouting an alarm to its fellow tribe members. It took a step forward, but Xaja waved her hand again, and it froze, seeming to think for a moment before it turned and headed back down the stairs. Theron heard the mumbles and growls of the nomads’ language, then footsteps and silence.
On silent feet, Xaja got up and crept over to the window. “They’re gone for now,” she whispered, “but there’s still half the tribe exploring outside. I think I’ve tricked the one into thinking up here is empty and too dangerous to explore, but it’s hard to do a mind trick that influences the mind of someone who doesn’t speak the same language.”
“Those don’t wear off fast, do they?” Theron whispered as he glanced suspiciously at the staircase.
“Not usually. I caught it off-guard so it should take well.” Xaja crept back over and slid down beside Theron again. “But we’ll have to be careful. Not sure how many I can mindtrick all at once.”
Theron nodded and settled in to wait out the tribe’s exploration of the area, his fingers drifting down to weave into Xaja’s hand comfortably. They had to pick the hottest time of the day to trap us in here, he inwardly grumbled. At least sitting in the shaded, if somewhat stuffy, attic of an abandoned hovel was better than picking their way through the canyon in the blazing sunlight. Although to be entirely fair, moving would have kept him from thinking about the long nights he’d pulled recently to prepare for this new meetup. Some desert cultures treated the hottest part of the afternoon as a naptime, and right now, he could understand why.
But no, he had to stay awake to keep watch. That heaviness in his eyes was just sand that he’d picked up during their gallivanting around Tatooine. He softly sighed and squirmed a bit until his aching back found a bit of respite in his position.
“You okay?” Xaja softly whispered as she took another sip from her canteen.
“Yeah,” Theron murmured. “Back’s just sore. Floor’s not exactly luxury seating.” He grinned and rested his cheek against her shoulder.
Xaja smiled and teasingly raked her fingers through Theron’s hair. She was the only person in the galaxy allowed to muss up Theron’s hairstyle. “Sorry,” she whispered. “Anything I can do to help?”
“I’ve found a comfy human pillow, and it’s pretty, too.” Theron winked up at her and snuggled in to make a point. “Much better already.”
Xaja had to press her fingers against her lips to not laugh. “I live to serve,” she murmured, her fingers continuing to stroke through his hair.
Theron did try to stay awake, honestly, and every so often jolted his eyes towards the staircase when he thought he heard something from downstairs. But between the heat, the fatigue, and his comfortable human pillow with her constant playing with his hair, it was an embarrassingly short time before his eyes finally closed and his breathing evened out. Those other desert cultures with their afternoon naps in the heat had a smart idea…
Xaja had drifted into meditation after several minutes of silence between her and Theron, using the Force to track the points of life that were the Sand People. They’d finally moved away from the hovel, but were still far too close to risk moving yet.
That suited their situation just fine. She felt Theron’s Force-presence fade into sleep despite his best efforts, and wasn’t sure whether she should smile fondly or groan in exasperation. Staying awake in the heat and immobility was difficult enough without a peacefully-resting man resting on her like he was, all comfortably snuggled into her neck. She was tempted to nudge him awake, but she could see the lines of fatigue running through his Force-signature. He needs rest. And he feels so comfortable and at peace -- it would be cruel to wake him up.
The fact that she hadn’t stopped stroking his hair, even in her meditative state, had exactly nothing to do with that.
The petite Jedi carefully shifted so she could rest her head against his without disturbing him, casting out again with the Force. Yes, the Sand People were still moving past the hovel with no further interest in the supposedly-empty buildings, but they’d be a while in moving to a safe enough location for the two hiding humans to escape. Plenty of time to meditate and let Theron get a well-deserved nap in. And the fact that Theron’s slow, even breathing was setting the pace for her own breaths and his arm had fallen across her waist to cuddle her despite the heat had absolutely nothing to do with how difficult her thoughts were becoming to order and align properly.
Jedi mental discipline only goes so far when confronted with heat and a comfortable snuggling companion, and it wasn’t long before Xaja’s meditation turned into a nap of her own, cheek pillowed in his hair. What better way to spend a couple of hours in the heat and silence of a hiding place?