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a white field, a fresh start

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She arrived with the sand, a storm screaming darkness to blot out both Tatooine’s suns.

Boba was distantly grateful business was done- it might have been good for the petty sort of power needed to hold the underworld here for him to occasionally roar and throw everyone out- but Leia Organa was as recognizable as his own face.

He’d been mass-produced- she was just famous, and far, far from safety.

She wasn’t even trying. Head to toe in white like a fucking beacon, brutally bright against the endless sand, even as the light faded. The Alderani mourning braid could have been clocked from a mile away, pins shining in the mass of her hair.

Foolish as fuck- maybe she did, actually, have something in common with her twin besides day of birth.

Boba pulled off his helmet, and watched the measured, sure steps, of Leia Organa approaching his throne.

It felt like too much, to say her name. He’d heard that piece of shit smuggler call her princess, like it didn’t send pain lashing through those furious, dark eyes.

It wasn’t even her correct fucking title.

“Huttslayer,” Boba grumbled, empty space carrying the rasp of his voice.

And Leia smiled.

“Lord Fett.”

Maybe not foolish. Maybe she just knew that if anyone on this planet touched her, they’d lose their hands- and any other offending appendages Boba could cut off for her, unless she wanted the work herself.

She probably would. He’d seen some of her antics firsthand, when no one was expecting her to act like royalty.

Courtly Alderaan could not be denied in anything about her- a sense of style, assassins poisoned with the very toxic meant for her, returned to Crimson Dawn wrapped in a silken bow, the true spider cloth worth more than their fee- but the woman had more mandokarla in her left hand than the surviving city of Sundari.

Leia stopped with her feet on the first stair up to the dais, gleaming boots planted firm. “I heard you’d taken care of Bib Fortuna.”

His enemy- her enemy- greedy fuck who’d nearly run the most prosperous cartel in the Outer Rim to the ground. “First kill out of the sarlacc.”

First personal kill- jobs didn’t count, not even so great a matter of honor as retrieving Din’ika’s foundling.

He’d executed Fortuna for himself- power, proof, revenge- and he wasn’t ashamed of that.

Leia’s smile grew teeth.

She’d been the one to advise him to take out Jabba’s second, years ago. For the most personal of reasons. She’d looked at Boba- pissed as fuck a sandstorm had forced him to overnight in this raucous shithole, the quarters he was always assigned as point of trade and ignored- still bloody from a job, and thought he had honor.

After Bib Fortuna had her dressed as a pleasure slave, and thrown her at Boba’s feet until Jabba had use for her tomorrow- threat implicit.

She’d rolled to a crouch. Risen to her feet in the smooth way practiced fighters or dancers had, and crossed her arms. “That one doesn’t know what a Mandalorian is, does he?”

She hadn’t been afraid of him for even a second.

In the dark, in the pain, Boba had been miserable enough to wonder if it had only ever happened because he looked like fucking Rex. That this woman was, in her own way, Vode, both one of the many and outside them all, the wrong age, different, but to be protected as their own all the same.

Much like Boba was.

He’d shrugged back at her, and continued scrubbing the blood- human red and iridescent, sticky blue, from his arms.

Mandalorian’s did not keep slaves. Did not harm noncombatants purposefully, hurt children or elders. They were hunters and they hunted- but they did not rape, did not murder. Compact of contract was apart, sacred, and there could be honor in the way they walked the world.

Boba was not a good man, but he was an honorable one.

Auretti
were rarely capable of making the distinction.

He’d dried his hands, and passed her the clean shirt he’d been about to put on. Waited for her to cover herself before saying- because even then, Boba knew exactly who she fucking was- “The sand won’t let up for six hours. I can get you out then.”

Leia hadn’t paused. Continued rolling up the sleeves, motion precise, cuffs perfectly even, until her hands were free and then some. She looked like she was thinking about throwing a punch. It was only then she met his gaze. “I don’t want out.”

Boba was fucking tired. “You want. To be presented to Jabba like a piece of meat.”

She grinned back. Which was, retrospectively, the exact moment Boba had been screwed. “Got a knife you’ll give me?”

Heat, unbidden, had flared up Boba’s neck. There went his idle wonder as to whether she spoke Mando’a- whether she had any fucking idea what she was asking for, colloquially or otherwise.

“You want to kill Jabba the Hutt, with a knife?” He laughed, despite himself.

Yes,” She sang back, before the anger she’d kept tight leashed somewhere won out, “I was ordered kidnapped to blackmail a smuggler. Possibly, for the side benefit of fucking with my little brother. They broke my gun in half”-

“Shitty gun.”

“I was on an Imperial cruiser.” She tossed her head, nightmarishly grab-able expanse of her hair swinging like rope. “No good options to steal.”

Boba thought about that. Thought about if her hair was as soft as it looked- thought about how the entire trade had been buzzing that the co-head of Alderani government had been captured, tortured, under the personal hand of Vader.

Boba was intimately familiar with the experience.

“DC-19?”

“Yes,” Her furious mouth tipped, slightly, “Storm-trooper trash of a model.”

He thought, longer than he should have, about how much he actually would enjoy seeing her with a blaster in hand. It was the kind of thought that would get even him shot- and Boba had already seen the med-droid once today.

“I’ll cut the slugs throat,” Boba offered, with a sigh. “Does it have to be a knife?”

“What? No. Haven’t exactly got room for a rifle.” She gestured, courtly lovely, to her own body- dwarfed by his shirt, nonetheless half obscene with beads and scraps of silk fluttering around her bare legs. Smiled bitter, as she met his gaze. “I can’t pay you.”

Boba was rich enough he didn’t know what the hell to do with the credits- unwilling service to Lord Vader had made sure of that. That he hadn’t gotten out- that he hadn’t even tried to leave the life, had a hell of a lot more to do with the battleground inside his head than fear of the Hutts.

He told her the truth.

“I’ve been looking for an excuse.” Looking not at the those searing eyes but to the dusty ceiling, he admitted. “My father was sold into the spice trade, once.”

Quiet swelled, beneath the roaring wind.

Leia breathed out, measured. “My grandmother was a slave. My father too- I am the first freeborn of her name."

This was what Boba got, for showing a mad woman his throat. A dare of a truth, worse vulnerability than bare skin in the desert.

“I know who you are.”

And there was that fucking smile again. “So you know I can be trusted with a knife.”

He had a slug-thrower tiny enough they could probably hide it in the top of her dancer’s outfit- it would do more damage to the old worms hide.

She watched him grimace. “How would you do it?”

“Kill the slimy bastard?”

Her eyebrows said yes, obviously.

Fuck, fuck he should not have been enjoying this.

He looked right back. “Explosives. The slime is a mild neurotoxin- humans shouldn’t even breathe around Hutts. You’d need a fuck-off of a kal to create a deep enough wound to do damage. You have to take the head or use a localized blast- those assholes can heal anything given enough time.”

Like they were friends- vod- stars, what the fuck- Leia knuckle-tapped his shoulder and sat. Right where she’d been standing, legs folded gracefully. “Well, that’s something to think about.”

Boba pinched the bridge of his nose. Sighed. And there she was, still looking at him. “You can sit on the bed.”

She rolled her eyes. “You didn’t ask for company. I’m not going to intrude.”

Someone had taught her Mandalorian manners- just not a grasp on the language.

The floor was already cold- and sandy. Boba just wanted to sleep- and not think about rough stone rubbing raw those pale, pale legs, the resonant shitty wrongness of a warrior stripped down and tossed around like chattel.

“I’ve never used it.”

He didn’t wait for her to make a face- turned, and kept himself busy shedding the bottom half of his armor. Went to the fresher, because he was going to need the sonic to get the viscera out of his hair now that it was dry- disgusting- and gave himself a minute to grab a handful of those newly fluffy curls and breathe, the pain clarity.

He was fucking fine.

When he came out, she was on the bed.

Crosslegged, that horrible bright silk puddled, and reloading his grenade launcher with sure hands.

He wanted to snatch it out of her grip- he wanted to keep watching, see what she’d go for next.

Just in case,” Leia said, with a little shrug that sent his shirt down her shoulder.

Boba made his way to- to his side of the bed- with gritted teeth. “It takes six.”

“I noticed.” She engaged the safety, and set it aside- but not out of reach. “Why the customization?”

He hadn’t shared a bed in, fuck, to sleep? Years and then some. It was surreal enough the feeling crawled over his skin, just to sit. Press his shoulders to the wall, feel the simple warmth of her beside him.

Boba ran a hand through his hair. “Five didn’t do the job, once.”

She’d laughed, husky, real.

He almost hated to interrupt, but- “Weapons now, or in the morning?”

“Now.”

And so Boba found her the mini slug-thrower, and absolutely did not watch her load it. Helped sheathe and slip beneath the nightmare of straps on her person a variety of tiny knives- not beskar, but Kashyykii steel would have to do.

It hadn’t failed Boba yet.

She pulled back on his shirt over everything, and Boba watched, unwilling kinship an ache, at the way she seemed to suddenly be breathing more deeply.

“If you want out,” He heard himself say, “I’ll get you out. Whenever you want.”

All those blades wouldn’t do shit against Jabba, but they’d keep the rest of the court at bay after the first stabbing. Jabba liked them fiery- liked to laugh at the pitiful rage of slaves. Leia could fuck up some handsy shitheads without retribution.

Boba should have killed him years ago.

Leia leaned back, braced too against the stone. “Do me a favor,” She asked, meeting his eyes sidelong, “And don’t start tomorrow until they’re shooting at me, alright?”

Boba matched her tone. “First blood is yours.”

It was an honor- and she knew it. “Why,” Leia breathed, settling lower, fatigue starting finally, to win. “Is Fortuna still alive?”

She fell asleep before Boba could think of an answer. Fearless, trusting- and, Boba would eventually realize, predawn light hazing before his gritty, tired eyes- pissed. Not only for herself, but for Boba, at Bib Fortuna’s affront.

One last night before agony and he’d slept through it- restless. Interested.

But in the belly of the beast it had become treasure- memory looked over in pieces, for fear of loss.

It wasn’t fear, pounding now in Boba’s blood.

Tension, mirrored resolute in every inch of her body. In that predator’s face. “I have come to pay a debt, Lord Fett.”

She didn’t owe him shit- and the thought must have showed. At rest- ready, at her sides- Leia’s fists clenched. “I didn’t know.” She looked up, right at him. “I thought you were dead.”

Boba sat back in the throne, legs spread. “Not yet.”

Boba sometimes thought he had died. When he fell he was already older than the original end-date for clone growth- younger than when his father was beheaded or his grandfather blown to bits- and maybe that was the legacy. Violent death to violent death, dreams of House Mereel soaked in blood before they’d had a chance.

It was just like dying- to be consumed.

Leia swore. Not softly enough to stop the words from carrying, echoing, as she marched toward him. She stopped a step away. “Bo- Lord Fett. I did not know.”

Blame had been easy, anger swift. Boba had always had a temper- he’d always been a disagreeable little shit, as Kote liked to say- and he’d still take a shot at Solo if the man was stupid enough to cross his path- but what had endured beneath the sand was not rage.

He’d never actually thought, even in misery, that she’d known he was breathing down below her feet.

There was no point in talking about the sarlacc. Obi-Wan and Kote had been there to find him when he needed them. Kix and his too-shiny, excessively enthusiastic team had done what they could for Boba’s destroyed body. He’d even let Obi-Wan cleanse the darkness from his head, floating in the strange, unarmed space of joint meditation.

And then he’d gone after his armor and Kote’s riduur had gone on a tear across Tatooine- extinction of a species handled in a single day, if the Tuskens were to be believed.

It was over.

They were face to face- not quite eye level, as she stood on that last deep step. The climb to the throne was more dramatic now than it had been in his first life. It put her at a disadvantage. “If you really want to talk about it, you can use my name.”

He didn’t actually expect her to back down, and she didn’t. “Will you use mine?”

She was, and always had been, so fucking beautiful.

Leia,” Boba breathed, because shame was bullshit he’d left behind listening to his own skin bubble and melt. “Leia Ariana Breha Organa Naberrie Skywalker, Queen-in-waiting, Queen of white mourning, Third General of the Rebellion, Senator and Speaker of the Alderani, living and lost.”

She was too close to hide the way her breath caught, though none of it showed in her expression. He’d surprised her, maybe.

He’d been honest, which was both better and worse. “Boba.”

“Hello, sweetheart.”

There was the scowl, and fuck if a part of him hadn’t longed for that too. She huffed- she stopped playing supplicant and stepped into his space, lithe sidelong motion to perch on the wide arm of the throne.

It was not, in any way, like when Fennec did the same thing.

Fierce, ferociously angry, Leia tucked her chin and growled out. “I wouldn’t have left you there. I couldn’t feel you- Luke couldn’t. We thought it killed you.”

She was holding onto to the stone so tightly Boba was, briefly, jealous of the jagged surface. He’d remembered that too: Leia’s white knuckles, her sure, unbroken grip. On the chain, pulling life from a tyrant.

Around Boba’s wrist, that morning.

There something incredible- new, heady, about being the calm one. “Obi-Wan explained to me that the pit was…a void, in the Force. Something dark. He didn’t sense me until I crawled out, and he was looking.”

The noise she made provided some clarity: maybe she hadn’t gone looking, but Leia Organa hadn’t forgotten either.

Boba let her look, let her watch him breathe. He was a ruin, but he was alive- he thought about offering up his throat to her hand in proof- he was finally so distinct no one in the galaxy would mistake him for a brother.

Alderani might fight well, but they weren’t a warrior culture enough to value scars. Not like Mandalorians or Vode did- not enough, to see something beautiful in the uneven colors of his skin, altered permanently by survival.

He’d been a handsome bastard to start with, and remained so.

He wondered what she saw.

“I have something for you,” Leia said. There was white bag beneath the white cloak, apparently just for this small burden. A Stewjoni slug-thrower, grip engraved- and a government issue data pad, the highly controlled kind that need live blood and a retina scan to unlock.

She handed him the gun first.

He didn’t need to check to see if it was loaded, safety clicked over, but ready.

It was not, of course, the same gun. Boba hadn’t been able to determine if she’d even successfully smuggled it in or not- the chain might have been cathartic, but it was also, he was nearly sure, the exact kind of brutally Leia naturally inclined toward.

She fought like a Mandalorian, unflinching.

Not Jedi calm like her brother- those silky, ridiculous katas he was trying to teach Din for the darksaber. No. Fury and might and all of herself, nothing held back.

It was also, Boba had lived long enough to learn, how Mandalorian’s loved.

Boba took the gun.

It matched his armor. His crest, that last piece of Jaster carried on. The etchings he’d added on to the motherfucking gaderffii. It had been made for Boba.

It was as good as marriage proposal, and Leia wasn’t done.

She pricked her finger, bent at the waist to meet the sudden blue glare. Even the pad was white, blood leaving prints of her less than gentle grip. Not a trace of nerves, she handed that to him too.

Boba was going to worship this woman, if she let him.

If she wanted.

Dense senatorial documents were not Boba’s usual mire, but he knew what he was looking at. He understood, perfectly well, the words suddenly graven: Republic Union of the Tatooine Free State Confederacy.

Why the fuck, would the Alderani remnants sponsor Tatooine joining the Republic?” He looked up at her, not so far away at all. “Why the fuck would you do that?”

They could do it once, every ten years. Who even knew if the colony would be successful enough for the Alderani to have their own senate contingent in a decade.

“Listen,” Leia hissed. “I owe you. Shut up- I do. If Tatooine joins the Republic, you automatically qualify for aid. Water, Boba. Bacta. Fucking grain and cloth. All those slaver’s you’re fighting off? Fall under Republic law. We have more resources than we do people willing to govern- no one is going to show up and ask where you’re allocating what.”

Republic law had voted Boba charged as an adult for the first time when he was ten years old. “I am a felon, ner runi.”

Her eyes sparked. “Ori’haat. You’re you. The Hutts are dead- you hold not just the largest part of their cartel, but of this planet. You free every slave you come across. You hold back the Crimson Dawn.”

Fen was, at this very moment, finishing an op he’d put in motion and done the groundwork of, the fatal destruction of two of the highest ranking Crimson lieutenants left in this quadrant.

He’d been happy to call himself King of Tatooine- a threat more than a lie, run freedom trains in hand with weapons and spice.

Legitimacy was genius. Insane. Absolutely fucking mercenary- she’d hand him the keys to this whole world.

This entire chunk of the Outer Rim, if water could be relied upon.

Like that was something she, Leia motherfucking Organa, trusted him with.

“I can’t sign, not without approval of the Tuskens.”

Leia grinned. “They already have. An elder from the tribes will hold their own senate seat, separate. They have senior voting rights over your representative.”

“You are wasted on the Senate.” She should have been finding a planet to rule for herself. He’d help her conquer one.

The smile didn’t waver, flash of teeth becoming enough threat Boba could feel it. “I may not have long among the Senate anyway.”

She said it like she planned to fight her way out of the convocation, which, frankly, Boba wanted to see. “Because you’re throwing away your career helping criminals?”

She punched him, hard enough to bruise, knuckles skating like a kiss across the prominence of Boba’s cheek.

“Because,” She hissed, not fighting but testing the grip in which he’d caught her hand, “Eventually, someone is going to find out who my birthfather was. Because the Senate is full of idiots and I will serve my people so long as it benefits my people. I am the Queen in Mourning, for the lost, and New Alderaan will elect a Queen for the living. That is our way.”

Her chest rose and fell in anger, fury flushing her skin. “Because Senators keep suggesting I marry Imperial remnants for peace pleas and I’m going to shoot the next person who says it.”

Boba dropped her hand.

Overhead, hidden by stone, the wind howled. They’d lost the last light while he was looking at her, blindingly out of place surrounded by a hundred hues of sand and conquest.

Boba still missed thunder, all these years later. Death storms on Kamino, rain to drown in and lightening enough to power their whole cursed planet. The sound of water, distinct as the ache in his chest.

“The wind always comes with you, doesn’t it?” Boba’s laugh was bitter. He wondered if she had enough Force osik to taste it, in the air. The truth, that he was telling her. Leia Ariana Breha Organa Naberrie Skywalker Fett Mereel. “Who tried to sell you off?”

“No one they can prove I assured would never stand in the Senate again.”

If he couldn’t have what he wanted- well. Boba was brave enough to try, but not so hopeful as to assume the universe was done throwing absolute shit his way. He made himself move slow.

Caught again her wrist- his face fucking hurt, all those nerve endings Stitches had painstaking repaired rising to her savagery- held her eyes. Pressed once, soft, her palm to his mouth.

“Would you like me to kill them,” Boba asked quietly.

He could be that for her. He’d offered it before, to get her out. Free. If murder and marriage were what Leia needed, Boba could provide both.

Would, gladly.

He didn’t know what she saw when she looked his way.

“Or threaten,” He murmured, to the callouses she had no right to have, tiny scars alike, “Break some bones.”

Boba had never had a half-hearted feeling in his life- he felt, he bled, and he kept going.

He pressed the joint of her crooked thumb to his bottom lip and waited.

Slow, Leia curled her fingertips around his jaw, one by one. “Because they’re Imperials?”

“Because they thought they had the right,” Boba growled, around her skin. “If you need a threat to hold them off, I’m good for it.”

“I can make my own threats,” Leia said, a light lace of iron present. Whatever she saw in his face made the choice- sent her sliding down to straddle his thighs.

He wanted-
he didn’t want a lie, or half a thing. He’d protect her in any way she asked, but he wouldn’t say the words hollow.

Boba was a greedy enough man to take everything Leia would offer- the planet, the aid, the ridiculous Senate seal.

His body was off the table, unless she meant it.

Riduurok, and all that came with his unruly heart.

Which clenched, painful, as Leia straightened. Used the temporary advantage of height to loom close, close, close before settling, her whole body against beskar.

She freed her hand from his grip- gentle, with a little tap his bottom lip that made Boba want to bite- and scowled.

“I think,” Leia said, curling her elbow across his chest plate to lean in, like she wasn’t perched astride a man wanted by her government and six others, who’d been a fugitive since he was a child, “We’re misunderstanding each other.”

Boba shrugged. “I’m a hell of a warning, Organa.”

I’ll be one and worse, for you.


She sighed, aggravated, and sat back. Sent that white cloak floating to the ground with a savage tug, before wrestling out of her swathing, protective clothes. She had the balance- but Boba wouldn’t actually help himself from grabbing her legs, holding her steady.

Arms bare- face vicious, fuck- Leia tossed her braid over her shoulder and drew a knife from the bandolier wrapped around her torso, overtop of her last remaining layer.

Spun in her hand, she offered it to him between their bodies, hilt first.

Small, light, easy concealed. Wavy Kashkyii steel- Boba balanced it on a fingertip, impression punched in blades center still clear, even now.

On Kamino, they’d spoken Mando’a- but for their protracted purpose, the clones were taught to read and write in Basic and Aurebresh. Galactic standard. When they saw it written, in Jango’s hand-picked and compiled propaganda, it was battle-script, ancient ceremonial use.

They’d smashed the three together and made their own way- Vode.

So the kot- strength, set in the middle of the blade- was transliterated incorrectly, as a single glyph, Aurebresh-style.

It was Boba’s knife.

Made by a brother’s hand, a whole set- atin was sheathed at the small of his back, but sisters aaray, bev, orar, tor, runi, and more besides were tucked, lethal and safe, in white, against Leia Organa’s ribs.

She carried them still- she’d kept them.

“One of the guards got the gun,” She said, looking at him with all the focus of a battle. “And I lost kote to some jackass on Endor, but.”

But she had them- she’d fucking fought with them, during the war. When he was lost to the world, Boba’s blades had been in her hand, drawing blood from her enemies.

The feeling was too big. An ocean- the weight of her attention that endless, pounding rain, desirable despite the danger. Sure, you could drown- but it would give you life, too.

There was nothing worth more in the desert.

Boba flipped the knife into his grip, slid it back home into it’s perfectly sized, custom-made sheathe. Left his hand there- splayed proprietary, heady, over her stomach. “What the hell do you want, Leia?"

“I want,”
She snapped, just as rough. “A partner.”

It was chance, that had made Boba Boba- decanted in the same batch as the original CCs, chosen at random and tweaked closer to normal. A flaw in beskar casting- and the acid would have seeped to his vital organs, death in agony, another sarlacc meal.

Chance and dumb luck- nothing personal.

Never before.

“Me.”

“You,” Leia said, and it was a challenge. “Boba,” She wasn’t fluent, he knew that, but Leia had mastered the two-syllable click, the way his soft name came out dissonant and strong in Mando’a. “Haat, ijaa, haa’it- you, if you’ll have me.”

He couldn’t hold in the bark of laughter. “If you’ll have me. I’m a criminal, ner tracinya. I carried out my first assassination when I was half your age.”

“You don’t trade in sentients,” Leia tilted her head. “Or skin. And you’re not the only one with a rap sheet.”

She kept making him laugh. “Leia.”

“I carried the Death Star plans. I’ve been an active”-

“Enthusiastic.”

“Active, successful member of an anti-imperial rebellion since I was a child.”

If they’d been smart enough to let her lead the damn thing, the war would have ended years later- with or without Skywalker’s flyboy antics.

“Two words,” Boba rumbled, pulling her close, “Diplomatic immunity, Queen-in-waiting.”

She made a grouchy little noise of rage, but let Boba close. Settled, into a soft, gentle mirshmure’cya, nose brushing his as Boba smiled. “I’m a possessive asshole,” Boba told her, “I wouldn’t do things halfway, and not for appearances either. Your enemies will be my enemies. Your problems too. I want everything, Organa.”

“That,” Leia breathed, the word fanning across his mouth, “Is why I’m here.” Boba stroked her back- once, twice, and waited for the rest of the words. “Mandalorians don’t believe in arranged marriages.”

“No,” Boba said, lowly. “We don’t.”

More than one Manda’lor had been killed over the suggestion- such things could not be forced, any more than the children of Mandalor would put down their arms and fade quietly into peace.

“I want a partner,” Leia said again, fierce. I want you, Boba heard, like a shot clean through the heart. “I don’t want to question. Be judged. Wonder. I want”-

Frustrated, the words died in her throat, but Boba understood.

He wondered how long it would take him to talk her into armor- when she’d started admitting to herself she was as Mandalorian as she was Alderani. Desirous with her whole, hungry heart, tooth and claw.

“I remembered you,” Boba whispered, “Beneath the sand.”

Her lips twitched. “If you hadn’t fallen, what would have happened?”

He’d have shot Han in the head the first time he tried to fuck with her after she told him no, walked into the war by her side. “I’d have seen you safe off Tatooine. In Slave One, you, me- moisture boy.”

“Luke does adore you, you know.” She snickered. “You wouldn’t have finished the bounty?”

He couldn’t fathom prioritizing it, had only half-heartedly been dragged into that last fight by pride. Boba nosed her cheek, tender. “Better offer.”

“Mhmm,” She was shifting, close and closer still, letting Boba take more of her weight. It couldn’t have been comfortable. “And after the war?”

“Bodyguard,” Boba breathed. “Royals garner a lot of attention- senators too. Especially mouthy ones. How many death threats do you get?”

“One, or two,” She grinned, “An hour.”

Boba hadn’t had a good hunt in a long, long time- Fen would take to it like candy, so many idiots, so many appropriate methods of negative reenforcement.

She wanted that from him, Leia. As resolute an unwavering nightmare as he could be- a matched set.

He wanted to bask in it. “Stand up for me.”

Brows arched high, Leia did- mouth twisting as Boba followed, before she caught him reaching for the clasps of his chestplate. The smile that followed was nothing short of smug, and he fucking adored that too.

He’d always- unwilling- cared about her comfort.

His to care for,
Boba could do a hell of a lot more.

There was honor and ritual to shedding armor before another. Some Mandalorian’s, like Din, rejected wholesale that anything that lay beneath beskar’gam could matter more than the actions of the person wearing it- spoke the words before their riduure could even see their face.

Some shed it with glee.

The body was just another weapon- another gift- something to use and care for with pride.

Something to give, as whole-heartedly as marching into combat.

Boba moved on to the pauldrons, pulled back to the moment by Leia’s hand- not touching, questioning- hovering over his arm.

She waited for him to nod, and set in on the other side. Leia knew the order. Barely fumbled the catches, beskar singing soft under the tap of her rings, hurry showing in the motion.

All of one’s self, with honor- the only way to love.

They stacked the plates on the stairs, easy as though this had already happened a hundred times.

Boba sat. Open his arms without a shred of fear. “Come back?”

Her grin was wicked. “Unless the rumors are true- Shand your lover?”

Boba laughed. “No. No, I don’t have much use for…lovers.”

She didn’t retreat, curled close instead, palm balanced on his shoulder. “Because you don’t like”-

“I like,” Boba purred, and tugged her even closer, “Very much. But it’s too much fucking effort, to find someone to trust enough to sleep beside, much less.” He shrugged, and Leia made a interested noise at the muscle shifting beneath her grip.

They’d rested side by side the night they’d met.

He’d covered her in song blades and slept.

The spine beneath his hand was beskar, star forged and unbreakable- she’d absolutely been a threat then, and that’s why he’d liked her. She was a threat now, concealed blaster digging into his stomach, and Boba never wanted to let her go.

He wanted to make her come,
right there on the throne, grinding against him.

To give her pleasure.

He wanted to ask her to hit him again- if only for the burst of pain to allow him to think straight.

Instead, Boba kissed her.

Softly, consciously gentled, until Leia grabbed him with both hands. Roaring, abject desire- Boba had been holding on by the skin of his teeth- exploded. Leia wasn’t holding back, and neither was he.

Maybe he had died in sarlacc.

She stiffened abruptly, the muscle beneath Boba’s grip seizing. He didn’t let himself pause- pressed harder, soothing, rubbed away at her pain until Leia’s forehead thunked to his shoulder.

“Fuck.”
It was a sigh.

Boba took the opportunity to skim beneath that last pale layer, feel out what seemed like a staggering scar, deep and puckered- across her back, down her hip, disappearing beneath her waistline.

“Shrapnel bomb,” Leia muttered. “Chandrilla.”

It was obviously entirely healed- but if she’d been in the Core, doing her job, she should have had access to the best medical attention in the galaxy. It shouldn’t still hurt.

Bacta didn’t allow that kind of lingering damage.

“You talk to Kix?”

She turned her head, one eye open to glare at him. “Do not tell Kix. Or Helix or Stitches or Nav or Plume.” She groaned. “They have so many assistants now.”

A Vode med school was one the better things to turn out from his many, many older brothers deciding to once more throw in with the Jedi. They had a planet- institutions, like Kix’s school- and a population, hundreds of thousands of Kamino shiny brothers who’d been shuffled off to cold storage when the Empire didn’t want to pay.

“I think,” Boba said, tracing the scar again. “We’re supposed to call the little shits junior doctors.”

Leia laughed, warm across his collar bone. “The last time I went to Kix he left me with a room of them. For a teaching exercise.”

“Ori’vod didn’t appreciate how you’d gotten hurt?”

“It was a tiny fracture,” Leia grumbled, “I was boxing with Luke. I didn’t even need help- but no, all the babies wanted to run tests. To know my medical history. A seventh cycle tubie asked if I was sexually active.”

Boba let his hand wander a bit lower, a different noise humming from her throat as he squeezed. “Obi-Wan sent me all their fucking pamphlets. By courier.”

Actual pastel colored paper, made fresh, cost of delivery probably worth twice their weight in coaxium. In more over-saturated color: wellness advice.

Annoying as hell- worth, patently, anything, for her searing amusement, bright on his skin.

Boba kissed her forehead. Asked, in the eventual quiet, “Does it hurt?”

“Always.” The tone implied it did not matter- Boba understood everyday hurts, the way they simply became a part of you. He could respect it, but he didn’t like it- the thought of her hurting, even here, safe in his arms.

“I have bacta,” He offered quietly, hers to take.

And found himself stupidly, utterly gratified by the warm sound of interest she made, wordless.

Her legs were already wrapped tight around him. It was nothing, to stand and take her with him. To internalize the assurance that he was allowed, as Leia slung one arm tight around his neck. She didn’t bother to hang on with the other- busy softly cupping the curve of Boba’s skull, her dark eyes on his face.

She was looking, like she liked what she saw.

He took her to bed- the same bed where she’d slept here last.

Boba had gutted the opulent chambers left behind by Fortuna and Jabba, made solid off-planet profit on the absurd furniture. He couldn’t sleep that far bellow ground, without a single sightline out.

Fen had taken things a step further, remodeling a guard tower into a bedroom- all silk and height, snipers nest hanging high above where she slept.

He hadn’t needed anything else- it hadn’t been sentimental- but it very suddenly felt like it was, to return, bacta in hand, and find Leia barefoot, comfortably stripped to the waist and laying on her stomach to wait for him.

Boba barred the door.

Knelt, dreamlike, beside her, and pressed a hand to the pale curve of her spine.

Leia twisted her head to see him. Said, because she was an asshole too, “Yes?”

Boba leaned over and bit her hip. Caught the flail of her leg, even as he soothed the mark, gentle, kissing the sloping curve. “Can I?”

She hummed acquiescence. “You know you don’t need”-

Boba absolutely needed to.

And Leia’s words faded to a sigh, with just the first cool spread of bacta. Arguably, it was wasteful to use it this way. It would take the pain, lessen the scar, but the damage was internal, and no topical fix would change that.

She’d said shrapnel, but he’d failed to fully guess how much they’d clearly had to pull out of her. It hadn’t healed right in the least.

“Who,” Boba asked, pressing his thumbs to tense, angry muscle, “The hell was your medic, sweetheart?”

Her teeth clicked together, audible. “Me.”

Boba stopped. Inhaled, anger thick in his throat. There was whole team of people, whose sole job was to keep her safe. The Senate had guards. Rex probably still tracked her occasionally from bored retirement.

“Why?”

Leia sighed. “It couldn’t be on record…that I was within range of blast.”

Boba weighed that. “You weren’t where you were supposed to be.”

“There was kid, in Republic custody. Drathomiri.” Leia shrugged despite her position, pulling beautiful the line of back. “It was the wrong choice, to make an example of her.”

So Leia had stepped in- broken apparently, the kid out of prison- and been careful enough not to get caught, but wrapped up enough in it to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

She’d have him, next time, to call. “Treason?”

Boba was a little proud.

Leia rolled on her side- careful enough his work was intact- transparently, completely comfortable. “I believe in the Republics intentions. I believe it is best for Alderaan to remain in the Republic- but it is slow and wretched and- I fought a war, to help people.”

“And you can’t turn it off."

Boba pulled off his shirt and joined her. Unprepared for the way Leia immediately reached out, resting her chin on his chest, tangling their legs together.

He was never, ever, going to let this go.

“Are you staying?”

Leia, who was idly tracing the acid scars up his side, smiled. “Tonight? Yes. Its the Spring intercession, I have time.”

They had time- they had a lifetime, if Boba had anything to say about it. Her pace to set, but he’d be there.

Here,
unquestionable.

“Time to tell me more about our supposed, legitimate free state?”

“Our?” Leia asked, so arch Boba couldn’t help but trace those aggressive brows, the stubborn line between her eyes. She was happy, tired- no less glorious for it, all strong bones and shadows in the dim light.

Like an absolute asshole, like the words were a heart on plate he could give her, Boba quoted, sweetly. “We will share all.”

And miracle that she was, sound as important as warm skin sliding against his own, Leia laughed. She was still wearing a blaster- she was half naked and glorious- Boba might have had little use for anyone in his bed in the past, but he loved and he wanted-

She touched his face. “We are one together.”

He sounded like he was dying, turned his cheek into her hand. “We are one when parted.”

“We will raise warriors,” Leia Organa promised, with the ease and satisfaction of a forgone conclusion, before crawling forward to catch his open mouth, wet and filthy, drawn out slow.

 

***

 

It was not until the next morning, twin sunrise red and bright, that Boba asked.

He didn’t bother to open his eyes. Tucked close, face buried in the nape of her neck, more than half drowning in an acre of soft brown hair. He was almost certainly laying on top of some hairpins- though most had ended up piled on the spare pillow, in as easy reach as the blasters.

“What’s the endgame, cyare?”

Leia pressed back against him in place of an answer.

Her eyes might have been shut, but he knew she came awake like an Mandalorian. Like the warrior that she was, all at once and ready. Boba hooked his chin over her shoulder. “Tell me what you want.”

How else could he give it to her?

Like she could sense the shape of the thought- and maybe she could, strong and yet terrible Jedi that she was- Leia smiled, cheek curving against his. “I want Alderani goods to have a market despite the loss of our ships. I want every slave on Tatooine free. I want to bring Republic medical aid to the Outer Rim. I want us to take the rest of Jabba’s holdings.”

Of course she did.

Dangerous- his riduur. “You want Hutt space.”

Another empire to take, this one fallen into easy decay. One Boba stood to claim already, pieces bitten off and swallowed whole.

“I want to end slavery,” Leia continued, crossing her arms over his where they wrapped tight around her chest.

“Just that?”

Not the Tatooine Free State- the Tatooine Free State Confederacy.

“Well,”
Leia purred, “I would like more of what you were doing with your tongue”-

He didn’t let her finish, swallowed the words with his lips, her laugh huffing across his face. Boba knew what she wanted- he’d give it to her, just like she would give to him.

They were partners, after all.