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Fictober 2021

Chapter Text

Corso stared stubbornly out the port window.  “I know Cap is out there.  I’ll find –”

“No, you won’t,” Risha cut him off.  “I gave the readouts to Shan and Beniko.  They know where …. she is.  They know – “  Risha’s breath stuttered, and suddenly, she was on the verge of tears, and Corso had no kriffin’ idea what to do as they stood on the observation deck of Port Nowhere –  “They know there is not a lot of time left.  Those fools on Zakuul botched the freeze.  It’s… it’s almost over –”

Corso felt himself go numb.  “No,” he denied it.  “She’s out there.  They don’t got her…”

Risha face almost crumbled down, but she refused the indignity.  “The dead are dead, Corso.  We’re still alive,” she insisted, as if trying to convince herself.  “And I need you.”

Corso tore his eyes away from the stars.  “Weren’t you the one sayin’ you weren’t gonna be an Eva stand-in the rest of your life?  That you didn’t take things off her reject pile?”  Angrily, he waved an arm at the rest of the space station they stood on.  “Ain’t that the reason why you aren’t taking this for yourself?  Would have made it a helluva lot easier to take Dubrillion before they warred themselves into a wasteland.” 

“And then what?  I’m a queen of billions of dead, and I would be partially to blame.  And yet, I’m still no less of a target for those who want the sole and only claim to the royal house.”  Now it was Risha’s turn to look out at the galaxy.  “I’m going dark, Corso.  No more comms with anybody.  No more chasing after that ghost of ours.  I’m still alive.  I plan to stay that way.” 

“And what the hell do you need me for?”

Risha’s mouth twisted, and he could see the glassiness in her eyes.  “Because … you’re like a broken nav computer.  You point in one direction, and I know exactly what do-gooder, light-sidey direction that is.”  She sucked a breath in, despite a tight jaw and trembling chin.  “That’s what she always said you were good for.”   Risha crossed her arms tightly in front of herself.  “Is it just me, or are the star dimmer than usual?”

Corso watched the shuttles come in and out of Port Nowhere’s docks, just as they ever did.  He knew the stars hadn’t changed, not a whit, not even a little just because she wasn’t there.

“…..she really is dying.”

A bell rang out in the Port Nowhere casino.  Someone had hit jackpot on the slots.

“Yes.”

No, there were fireworks.  That’s… that was a pazaak win.  Eva had always liked the fireworks when she won on Nar Shaddaa.  So she programmed them here too. 

Suddenly, Eva was too close for Corso’s comfort. 

“…let’s get out of here, Queenie.”

To his relief, Risha gave him a look of utter disgust. 

“Hey, you take me, you take the nickname. Part of the deal.”

“Fine, Farmboy.”

Chapter Text

Lana glared at her uncooperative interrogation subject.  “I will find out how that ship got off Odessen, with or without your help.”

Her counterpart shrugged his shoulders and raised his arms in the air, being excessively dramatic, in her opinion.  “You have no proof I assisted.”  His feet were kicked up in the executive briefing suit’s long table, datapads scattered across the surface.  

Lana gave him a withering look as she crossed her arms. “Theron, I would be a fool to think you weren’t involved in one of her plots at this point....”  Lana paused for a moment before seizing upon another theory.  “...or maybe this is one of your schemes and she’s acting as your merry tool of chaos again.”

“I couldn’t calculate the odds for you.  Insufficient data,” he replied with an insufferable smirk. 

Lana, in a moment of frustration, puffed a jet of air up to move a lock of hair out of her eye line.  “She needs to be here.  She is the Commander.”

“You’re trying to nail gelatin to a wall. She needs her liberty, her flexibility... her spontaneity.   Told you that on the Revanite op:  your results will be sub-optimal if you don’t let her.... you know... be a smuggler.”  Theron gave her a look that clearly conveyed he thought she was missing the obvious. 

Lana gave up.  “Could you please have her home in less than a week, this time?  And without riling up the Hutts more than necessary?  They do not take it kindly when she raids their pleasure barges and liberates their dancers.”

“You know, she did that thing like she did on Rishi and got them to unionize.” 

“Yes, I heard.”  A trill went up from Lana’s datapad, and she immediately dropped her gaze.  “How ... really, for people who embrace peace and not emotion... “  Lana turned on her heel.  “I’ll deal with you AND our wayward commander later.”

Theron watched Lana hastily move out of the executive meeting room, down the hallway, and to the lift that would take her to the war room.  The second she disappeared, he was on his feet and disabling the alarm on the window, his implants running a script to loop the holocam for a few minutes.

He’d jimmied the window’s safety latch open just as an XS Light Stock freighter appeared over the treeline and slowly cruised toward him.  Theron slammed the window behind him, timed his jump, and took the leap.

His boots touched down on the hull of the ship, and he made his way toward the hatch.  When he was just barely within range, Theron reactivated the window’s alarm and the security holo, letting them resume normal functions.  He started to whistle as he slid down the ladder.  Theron heard the ship’s engines roar to life as it reached exit velocity and escaped Odessen‘s atmosphere.

His girl met him in the hallway leading away from the cockpit.  “She thinks I’m already off planet?”  Eva asked, eyes eager and bright.

“Yeah, she’s thinking you’re long gone... you just barely missed her.”  Theron adjusted his clothes from his abrupt exit through the window.  “We cut it a little close.” 

Eva draped her arms around his shoulders.  “We can always count on Guss to make chaos in the enclave. The risk is worth the reward.” 

“I’ll say.”

Theron wasn’t sure how long their hello kiss went on for, but he had to draw back to catch his breath and ask, “Where to?”

“I have a few boltholes in the Outer Rim.”  Eva grinned up at him as she ran a thumb over his jaw.  “Left one on Yavin, if you wanted to --”

“Check off a few things on a few lists?”  His smile matched hers.  “Yeah.”  Theron bowed his head, and their lips met again as they headed toward the cockpit to settle in for the jump to hyperspace.

“Don’t think she expected me to finally trump your workaholic tendencies and actually steal both of us away...”

“That’s her problem now.”

Chapter Text

“….I’ve waited for this. And I don’t know if I actually want to open it now.”  Tim stared down at the thick envelope in his hands.  

“You don’t have to, Timothy,” Alfred reassured him.  

The young man frowned. “But the answer is right here.  And I’ve wondered for so long…”  He gave the envelope a hard squeeze with his left hand as his right ripped the short end of it right off in one quick motion.  

Bruce and Alfred exchanged a look and resigned themselves to waiting as Tim fished the results out of the envelope, letting the empty paper fall to the floor.  He pulled four packets of paper apart from each other, eyes scanning the top line results of each one in rapid succession.  

The verdict was rendered. “Nothing.  No matches.”  Tim frowned deeply.  “I… don’t know how to feel about that.”

Bruce uncrossed his arms. “The WayneTech grants just kicked in this past year.  I’m sure all four departments have a massive case backlog.  You may have to wait another year or two, but that doesn’t mean –”

“But I don’t know if I want her to be found like this.  Don’t want her to end up like… but then –”  Tim shook his head, dropped both the envelope and its contents, and made a break for the stairs.  

Alfred went to follow him, but Bruce gently put a hand on the older man’s shoulder.  “Let him go, for now.”  

“…I’m guessing this isn’t about getting accepted to college, right?” Both men turned to see Dick emerging from sitting room, where the grandfather clock door to the Batcave stood.

Bruce remembered belatedly that Nightwing had needed to do some work on his bike, discreetly. “No, it’s not,” he said tiredly as Dick stooped down to gather up the remains of Tim’s correspondence.  

He didn’t object when Dick’s curiosity got the better of him. “DNA results? Why --?”

“College.  Legal questions.  We started on this last year, so we can resolve it, but … Tim wanted a final answer on a few things, and he’s not getting it.  Not yet,” Bruce amended.

Dick made a face and turned to Alfred.  “Translation?”  

“Master Timothy’s mother,” Alfred started, and Dick’s expression turned from sour to understanding as the butler continued.  “Mrs. Drake bought a bus ticket to Central City when he was five.  Nobody has heard from her since.”

“When Batman looked into the security tapes  -- because Tim wanted to know – Mrs. Drake didn’t get off at Central City Bus Station.  She got on the bus, but she never got off.” Bruce filled in the rest as he looked up the stairs, making sure Tim wasn’t listening in.  

A line formed on Dick’s forehead.  “You sure she caught the bus in that direction?  Maybe she bought two tickets to throw off her old man, and she went in the opposite direction, toward Bludhaven or –”

Bruce reached over and tapped each of the packets.  “Gotham PD, Bludhaven PD, Central City PD, and even Metropolis PD.  Cold case evidence lockers.  WayneTech funded a grant to test all outstanding evidence as part of its women’s social justice initiative.”  

“But that’s a good thing, isn’t it?  That she’s not dead.  Or in custody.”  A smile had started to form, but as Dick thought it all through, the expression faded. “But then where is she?  And why hasn’t she --?”

“Yeah.  Shifty Drake had told Tim she left both of them – you can guess how those sorts of conversations went.  Tim asked about the story about a year ago.  I found the tapes.  Watched them to see where she went in Central City…”  Bruce shook his head.  “Now he has questions that have no happy answers.  

“And not knowing is its own special hell.”  

Alfred quietly took the paperwork from Dick and set to file it away in the kitchen, for another day.

Chapter Text

You know, you’re like a firecracker. :)

Eva just stared at her datapad’s holonet comm app before dismissing it and pocketing the device.  Things had changed in the five years she was gone.  

She was on a mission. Theron was on a mission with her. And he was the one sending pick-up lines.  Terrible ones, but all the same: professional, mission-focused Theron was flirting on company time.

Her company’s time, but that just made it even better, in her opinion.  

Eva pressed herself into a wall as the survivors of a hen party stumbled by.  As the better slicer, Theron was wedged in a nearby office building, slicing through the security protocols of a major Zakuulan contractor. Theory was, plans related to the Spire and the Palace (and their security systems) were housed there, and that would make things much easier if the Alliance had them.  

Eva’s job?  

As the women disappeared down the alley, Eva pivoted to point her hand down the street toward the security holo posted there.  One of Dr. Oggurobb’s toys fired off a small disrupter signal and fried it, along with its attached failsafes.  For good measure, Eva flipped her hand around to take care of any back-up cameras further up the city block.  

Eva heard another cluster of people approach.  She consulted her datapad, as if she was checking directions or getting a message from her boyfriend.  Which she was.  

Fine, I give up.  How am I like a firecracker?

The people moved on. Eva stole one more look up and down the street before darting out and setting the last package in place.  Morning rush hour was about to start, even though Zakuul’s sun had not yet risen.  

Eva was going for maximum impact – get all the attention of the nearby security services she could so that Theron could slip back out of the office building unnoticed.  

Eva watched her chrono as the streets gradually began to fill with speeders, pedestrians, and street-legal swoops.  The hovertram was increasingly crowded with people.  Yes. Perfect.

She waited.

She waited.

She bought a couple of pastries and two cups of caf and headed to a pedestrian bridge that crossed over one of the few natural rivers remaining in Zakuul.  It led  to a park that eventually exited out to the Eternal Swamp (and their escape route).  Eva felt her datapad buzz as she found a bench by the path, a large green space stretching in front of it. 

You’re fun to watch from a distance.  

Eva got comfortable on a bench, balancing the two cups next to her and saving a space.  Then she hit the digital actuator.  

It started as a rumble. Then the voices grew pitched and excited.

Soon, people began to rush around her and gasp as sudden plumes of color shot up from the streets of Zakuul.  Only Eva knew that fireworks were going up from every waste receptacle within ten city blocks.  The spectacle pulled civilians toward it to watch and security forces to try to determine whether this was a nuisance or an actual bomb attack from Firebrand.  

Eva remembered Kaliyo’s scoffing:  “You should be going for collateral.”

“I’m going for distraction. We don’t need damage to give Theron the time he needs.”

“Missed opportunity.”

“Maybe.”

Eva watched the building on her left.  That was the main security unit.  She went to take a sip of her caf, only to have someone rush by the bench and jar her arm. Shucks, she didn’t have a good grip on it, so it went flying on to the pavement.  Eva flexed her wrist as it went, using her wrist launcher to add another one of Dr. O’s fun substances to the mix.  When she was sure no one was looking at her, she dumped the other cup of caf on the ground too, adding the compound to the puddle on the ground. 

People were crammed onto the grass beyond the path, watching the fireworks. Eva stood up on the bench to try to see over the sea of heads.  In the periphery of her vision, she could see that the security forces were on the move.  Eva resisted the profound urge to watch them as they passed ---

And tumbled to the ground, the caf having turned slick as oil, as planned.  The unit on march stumbled over itself at her feet, and she huffed along with the surrounding bystanders.  For all the taxes they paid, surely they could get a SecForce that could stay on its feet in a time of obvious emergency!

Eva’s eyes jumped down to her datapad as it buzzed again.  

You’re dangerous up close.

Eva checked a full smile from breaking out all over her face.  She knew he was nearby.  He’d gotten out.    Now all she had to do was wait for him to rendezvous.  

She watched as the fireworks continued to blast through the Zakuulan streets, knowing well that she’d made the drops into ne21arly full garbage containers.  It was going to be a rather lengthy cleanup.  As the explosions continued, whiffs of burning garbage started make their way down the river toward her.  

The members of Zakuulan SecForce managed to peel themselves off the pavement and finally start to make their way toward city center, many of their uniforms darkened with oil-like stains.  Eva sat down on the park bench, now that her view of the festivities was no longer obscured. Theron had better –

A pair of lips appeared at her neck and delivered an open-mouthed kiss that made her gasp a little. The lips dragged up her neck to kiss her on the mouth before whispering, “And you can be ignited by the smallest spark.”

A hand appeared with a cup of caf, extending it toward her.  She quickly accepted it, and Theron vaulted over the back of the bench with his cup of caf in hand.  He didn’t even spill a drop as he sat beside her; who said the Jedi training was a waste?

“Good morning to you too.” Eva leaned in to give him a slightly less dramatic but no less welcome kiss.  She pulled the pastry bag out of her jacket pocket.   “How was the night shift?”

“Nothing I haven’t done before.  Routine. Got what I needed to get done.” Theron broke off a piece of the bearclaw Eva had purchased and popped it into his mouth.  “How’s the early shift going for you?”

“Nothing too over-the-top. I mean, I get the work done, but nothing to write home about.” Eva took a sip of caf, then gestured with her cup at the fireworks across the river.  “You catch what’s going on over there?”

“Can’t say I did.  Was focused on meeting up with you.”  Theron smiled at her and leaned over to kiss her forehead.

The pair ate their pastries, drank their caf, and watched the fireworks go off for the next hour before taking a walk into the nearby park.  

They were home to Odessen for supper.  

Chapter Text

There was a sizzle, a particularly blasphemous obscenity, and then a small puff of smoke. 

“I’m not saying I told you so –”

“Then don’t.”  A grimy hand stuck itself into Risha’s face. “Pass me a spanner.”

Risha looked into the messy toolkit with disgust. Grabbing the filthy tool between two finger tips, she flung it down into the abyss that was the power converter compartment.  

A few second later, it came hurtling back up, end over end.  “Smaller.”

Risha tssk’ed with disgust. “You know, once you find Nok Drayen’s treasure, you can get rid of this trash heap and get a ship with standardized parts, heated seats, and a water shower.”  Risha dropped another wrench down into the darkness.  She hoped she hit her mark.  

The tool clanked against the floor.  Damn, missed.

“Don’t want another ship. This one’s fine.”

Risha wrinkled her nose as she stared around the XS Light’s engine room interior and considered the hastily divided crew quarters.  “No, it’s not.  It’s barely habitable.”

Her newest smuggler – Corolastor – stuck her head up from her work, smudges all over her face.  “Hylo is here and happy.  Cats are notoriously picky about their environments.  Right, handsome?”  

Risha nearly jumped out of her skin when that goddamned cat popped out of a crate near where his mistress was working.  “That thing is a menace.”

Hylo is the longest tenured member of the crew: he’s got seniority over you and Corso… and that droid.” Corolastor made a face before ducking back down again.  Hylo lined his front paws up with the edge of the compartment, then wrapped his grey and white striped tail around the top of his feet, peering down at Corolastor.  

“The Hollis series comes highly recommended.  I insisted that we not have a Seneschal series, or else that might arouse suspicion, should we ever be boarded by Republic authorities.”

“We were doing perfectly fine without a butler.”  There was a loud BANG and then a whirring noise.   “Got it!”  Corolastor hoisted herself out of the service duct, a layer of dust now cemented onto her skin by sweat.  Hylo’s ears went back, and he retreated a few feet.  “I know, I’m disgusting.  It’s fixed though.”

“You won’t need to do that. You can get help and a better ship.”  

Corolastor pushed herself to her feet.  “Nah.  I know the Thief, and the Thief knows me.  Don’t have plans to put her out to pasture.”  She left a trail of dust as she walked toward the door and presumedly toward her captain’s quarters to sonic herself off.

“Don’t tell me you’re one of those superstitious ones that think it’s bad luck to get rid of a ship,” Risha scoffed as she slid the panel cover back into place.  

“Nah.   Ship was my parents’.   I was born here.  I’ll probably die here.  It’s my own pocket universe.”  Corolastor drew her forearm across her eyes, trying to wipe away enough dust to see clearly.

Risha already saw Corolastor clearly.  She was perfect for the job: clever, resourceful, not stupid good or idiotically dark like some of her ilk were in trying to prove themselves.  And she apparently was sincerely not as greedy as the talk outside the ship would suggest.  Everyone smuggler had to talk big; one didn’t get big jobs without a big mouth. But loose ends – that would be a problem.  “Where are they?”

“Parents?”  Corolastor asked, looking up.  Risha nodded.  “Dead. Years ago.”  She said it so matter-of-factly, as if it didn’t hurt.  “This was all they had.”  The smuggler spun a finger around once, a brief gesture to indicate the entire ship.  “Me and Hylo too, but that sums it up.”

“You don’t sound broken up about it,” Risha commented, watching her carefully.

Corolastor shrugged.  “They’re dead, I’m alive, and I’m having a good time. That’s smug life for you.”  

“What would they think of you becoming the greatest smuggler in the galaxy?”  

Corolastor had to think about it.  Then she grinned, eyes bright.  “To quote old Dad, ‘Hell of a trip, man.’”  Then she looked down at herself.  “I really need to get in the shower.  I’ll be back in a bit.”

Risha decided to retreat to the cargo bay, once Corolastor left.  As the door hissed open, her focus immediately went to the figure in carbonite. She’s perfect, Risha thought to herself, as if she was speaking to him.  Soft enough.  Trusting enough.  Can get the job done, though.    As she turned on the computer terminal, another voice that she didn’t use to address his memory spoke up.  

She had a Dad.  She’s not like you two at all.

“Good.”  The comment came unbidden and unexpectedly.  

Risha frowned.  She wasn’t supposed to like her patsies.  

She looked down to see Hylo peering up at her.  Then he wound his way around his ankles, and Risha realized he’d judged her.  

Correctly, too.

Damn.  

Chapter Text

As Phryne exited out the front door of Wardlow, she heard voices from the street.

“Dottie....”

Phryne smiled, her still wet-red lipstick shifting slightly.  No matter; it would dry soon enough.  She felt the breeze coming off the St. Kilda foreshore. 

Dot patiently gazed upward at her favorite constable from her seat on the driver’s side of Phryne’s beloved car.  “Hugh, Miss Fisher wants me to know how to drive the Hispano in case of an emergency. Given our line of business --”

Hugh balked.  “‘Our’ line?”  He leaned on the passenger side door, arms spread apart so he could bend toward her. 

Dot gave him such a look that made Phyrne downright proud.  “Hugh.  Didn’t we already have this conversation?”

“Yes, but --”

“It’s part of my job, and you said you were fine with me working after we were married,” she primly reminded him, settling in behind the steering wheel.  “It’s part of the deal.”

Hugh hung his head for a moment, adequately chagrined.  Phryne slowed her approach, not wanting to intrude, not wanting to deprive the two of them the chance to talk through this.  Phryne didn’t believe in marriage for herself, but she would never wish ill-will on those who pursued the institution, least of all dear Dot.  

“...I was hoping I could teach you,” he said quietly, and Phryne could just imagine the puppy-dog eyes he was giving Dot.  “You know, how to operate it within the speed limits.  I doubt Miss Fisher’s tuition covers that.  I’ve seen her driving record.”

Dot smiled, her gaze tipping downward.  “Oh, Hugh.” 

Conflict resolved.  Phryne made her presence known.  “Worry not, Hugh, I’ve employed a greater authority on autos than myself.”  She turned her wrist toward the sun, checking her watch. 

Almost on cue, Phryne heard a horrific screech of brakes, then the rev of an engine.  A motorcycle rounded the corner and roared down the Esplanade at breakneck speed.  

Phryne almost laughed at the look of horror Hugh gave her.  Dot’s eyes were as big as dinner plates as she peered over the seatback at the racket.

With ease, the motorcyle weaved around the parked cars and nearly pulled in front of the Hispano.  The rider hopped to the sidewalk and hastily tugged off her helmet.

“Millie!” Dot exclaimed. 

Phryne couldn’t help but feel her heart twist slightly at how very similar Millie looked to Gertie, now that she too sported a slick of red lipstick and had taken to managing her wild hair with short crop.  At the same time, the proud stance and the confidence were all Aisla’s. 

Phryne’s train of thought was derailed and any attempt by Millie to answer Dot was drowned out by the roar of a black car.  It shot down the Esplanade and then pulled in front of the motorcycle.

The driver angrily got out of the car, fist clenched, mouth open to yell at the young reckless driver  --

“Oh, hello, Jack!  Millie’s just arrived to give Dot driving lessons!”  Phryne greeted him gaily. 

Hugh’s face faltered completely at that point, and Jack, clutching his standard-issue citation pad in hand, visibly suffered a brain stall at the fact that, somehow, he’d once again ended up on Miss Fisher’s doorstep. 

Chapter Text

“You didn’t come for Grampy Jace, you didn’t come for Daddy, you didn’t come for Argo, and you’re NOT coming for me!”  

And with that, the birthday girl slammed the cargo hatch behind her, without a single touch of her hand.

Theron closed his eyes and let his cheeks puff slightly as he let out a long, drawn out breath.  He opened his eyes and looked over at Satele. “That could have gone better.”  

“It could have gone worse,” Satele reminded him.  “Everything she did was defensive.”

“She shoved you –”

“I drew too near after upsetting her.  That was my own fault.”  

Theron put his hands on his hips.  “You’re 83.”

Satele lifted up her chin, defiantly.  “I’m a Jedi.”

“And I’m NOT,” came the angry little voice behind the door.

The exterior door of the Thief opened, and the ship hummed happily.  “Captain aboard” it quietly announced.  The ship sounded as relieved as Theron felt.  

“Doesn’t sound like it’s going well in here.”  Eva Corolastor came around the hallway to the cargo bay.  “I could hear her outside.”

Theron rubbed his brow with his hand.  “Which means most of the planet did, too.  Including Argo.”

Husband and wife exchanged a look.  The galaxy worked in strange ways, when the little boy who wanted so desperately to be a Jedi was not Force Sensitive, and the little girl who wanted to be a smuggler was.

Eva grasped Theron’s hand with her own, their shoulders bumping together.  “I think they’ll both be fine.  Give her some alone time, and she’ll come out when she’s hungry.”

Satele smiled at the pair, but Theron could tell it was tinged more than a little with some regret. “I think I should take my leave. I think I’ve caused enough excitement for the day.”

Theron nodded, frowning slightly.  Eva stared at the closed door for a few moments. “So, if Dyo never develops this Force talent that she has – what happens?”

Now Theron turned to give Eva a hard look.  “Force ‘talent’?  She’s moving objects and pushing people. She isn’t doing cute baby tricks.”

Eva didn’t look at him. She focused on Satele, waiting for the answer.

Satele’s eyes bounced between the two parents, and it seemed as if she wanted to laugh.  She kept that impulse in check, whatever it was.  “Nothing.  There are many Force Sensitives throughout the galaxy that are happy with winning at gambling tables or being ace pilots or professional athletes.”

“So she won’t randomly go off killing people?  Or end up like Aunt Lana by default?”

“But I like Aunt Lana!”

Now Satele did smile openly, and Theron grudgingly allowed his lips to curve upward.  “Dyo can do what she wants… but unlike most people in the galaxy, she can choose to receive training to refine these powers.  That said, this decision must be made soon. She will become too old to train within a few years.”

“And it comes with a price. Being with her family.  Falling in love.  All that comes second.  Right?” Eva’s question was sharp and caught Satele slightly off-guard.

Theron wondered why his kid’s fifth birthday party couldn’t just end with the kids having a sugar crash in the middle of the war room or the pony escaping into the Odessen wilds or one of Eva’s friends spiking the fruit juice, like normal parties.

But the former Grand Master was as unflappable as ever.  “Yes. And that is why Dyo must make the choice herself.  Maybe not today.  But soon.”

Eva seemed to digest this.   Then she repeated back to Satele, “Dyo must make the choice herself.”

“Yes,”  Theron said firmly.   Regardless of his own concerns, Dyo would have the choices that he had not had…. That Satele had not had…

The old woman consulted her chrono.  “My shuttle should be ready for departure.  Do tell Dyo I hope she does enjoy the rest of her birthday.  I am not at all upset with her.”  She paused, then added, “If she wishes to talk…”  Satele motioned with her hand.

“Thanks,” Theron finally said, sincerely.  “We’ll be in touch.”

As Satele turned to leave, Eva called out, “Don’t forget to get your face painted and have a pony ride on the way out.”  

Theron thought he heard a soft laugh as Satele exited the ship.  

Chapter Text

A/N:  Blue daisies symbolize innocence.  One of the few things we do know about Janie is that she wore blue hair ribbons.  

Jack stared at his silent conversation partner.  “I had thought cases like yours were rare, the genius behind them uncommon.  Maddening, even.  Now....”

Jack clasped his hands together.  He wasn’t sure if it were to pray or to beg forgiveness.  “So many girls like you, Janie.  So many girls like Phryne.  Poor, lower class, and unnoticed, relegated to page 5 or 6 at best.”   His eyes turned to steel.  “Men like me failed you.  Failed them.“  A half-hearted smile crooked across his mouth.  “If your sister were here, she likely plunge in at this moment with a full-throated defense of Detective Inspector Jack Robinson.  Perhaps I deserve that... but I shouldn’t be exceptional in my line of work.”

Jack laid the small bouquet of blue daisies before Jane Fisher’s gravestone.  “They say they need men like me to stay on.  So I do. Phryne would never hear of me quitting; she believes the best in me.  But above all that.... I wanted you to know your face crosses my mind when I do want to chuck it all.” 

Jack stayed in his crouch a few moments longer before pushing himself to his feet.  He was dusting off his hands as he heard the gate to the Fisher family plot creak.  The soft “Jack” that immediately came to his ears made him close his eyes, to savour the sound, and then he turned to the voice’s owner.

The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher stood, clutching her own, much larger bouquets of blue daisies.

“Right on time, MIss Fisher.”

“You started without me,” she gently reproached him as she walked the short distance from the gate to the small line of graves.  Her eyes lingered on the two bouquets that Jack had already laid: one for Janie, and one for dear Arthur, the earth still freshly turned for him. 

“Only a little,” he acknowledged.

**

"This is it, isn’t it.”  Phryne frowned slightly as she peered over her sunglasses at the cemetery map.  “It’s.... very large.”

Jack understood the dismay in her voice.  “Over 60,000 were killed in the Great War.  Then the gased who came home...”

“Dear Freddy,” sighed Phryne.   “And the wounded who lingered.”  She pushed her sunglasses back up her nose.  “Which is why I’m here.  Let’s get to it, Jack.”

Phryne’s head was held high as she sailed down the rows of graves, heading toward the back. Her silk scarf and the wide legs of her white trousers gracefully waved in her wake.  The map, still clutched in her hand, continued to make rustling noises as she strode toward her destination. 

Jack caught up to her as she reached the wide open space.  Each planned grave plot was neatly roped off.  A small wooden sign marked the ones already taken.  As she stood there, unnaturally still for her, Jack felt compulsed to ask.  “Are you sure, Phryne?  You wouldn’t rather be with Janie?”

“Are you sure, Jack?  You wouldn’t rather be with the rest of the Australian Family Robinson?” she returned the volley handily. 

Jack held his ground.  “My parents have a plot, and the rest of us were set to fend for ourselves.  Your family plot has room,” he pointed out.

Phryne took off her sunglasses.  “The original plan was for my mother’s parents, Aunt P, Uncle Edward, and my parents to be in there -- before my father’s caddishness revealed itself.  Janie was very small --”  Phryne’s voice caught but only for a moment  “-- and we just managed to find a space for Arthur.  My mother has a space in there.  My father doesn’t, unless Aunt P really does follow through on her threat to burn his body.  Not cremation, just to confirm he’s really dead.”  Jack chuckled as Phryne gave him a grin as she continued to speak. “If I’m going to choose somewhere to spend all eternity, it will not be on that battlefield.” 

Then she turned around slowly in a circle, sunglasses still held between her fingers.  “I think a view further up the hill would do.  We might be able to see the ocean from there.” 

As Jack’s knees protested the climb, he quipped, “I very much doubt we’re going to care about the view.” 

“The British Empire has deigned to reward your service as a soldier and my service as an ambulance driver with a pair of 7-by-6-by-3-foot spaces. If I have the options for an ocean view and you as my neighbour forever, I’ll take it.”

Jack looked up toward Phryne on the hill’s summit. The breeze caused her shiny black hair to drift in the air, her clothes in motion again.  No, they probably would never marry.

But yes, forever did sound good to him, ocean view or not.

Chapter Text

“Then take the right side of the mechanism, and slot the condenser into Part A –”

“There’s no right side to this.”

“…My god, your public education system failed you.”

“Oh, come off it, Risha.” Corso finally snapped, and he put down the tool he was working with before he threw it.

“Either you two stop bickering or go somewhere else to start screwing, because we are going to get busted if you don’t shut up,” Eva hissed.  She leaned around the landing gear of the ship.  She’d drawn the long straw and didn’t have to mess around with the engine they were trying to strip.  Instead, she was on lookout.

“But Aaaay-vaaa she’s bein’ awful for no reason,” whined Corso.

“But Aaaay-vaaa he’s being dense for no reason.  There’s a right side to every object,” Risha mocked Corso.

Eva huffed and then jumped upward into the engine compartment.  She managed to hoist herself up enough to prop her chin on the floor of the engine compartment and try to look at her idiots. “Guys, seriously. Shut the kriff up, the Port Authority patrol is overdue.  Keep a lid on it for 10 karking minutes.”

Eva let herself drop back down and headed back to the lookout point, her earpiece picking up their conversation.   “He needs to learn his left from his right,” Risha hissed.

“Ok, woman.”  Eva heard Corso pick up the device.  “You look at this.  You’re telling me to slot this right here into that right there? Go right on ahead, show me.”

As Eva noticed a light come dancing through the parked ships, the silence was deafening in the engine compartment.  

Then.

“Fuck, who the hell built this thing?”

“You see?  I ain’t dumb – machine was done built by idiot.”

“Doesn’t change the fact we have to get this thing out of here.”

The guard’s electro-lamp came to a stop within a few yards of Eva.  “Hey, who’s there?”

Eva winced.  Out of time.  Well, here went nothing.  “Me, I’m here.”  She sheepishly came out of the shadows hands raised.  “I got stood up.”

She was blinded for a moment as the electro-lamp was held out toward her face.  She shut her eyes, arms bending slightly at the elbow to give her some shade to peer out and see who was beyond the light.  The guard pulled the lamp away just enough to let her see him. “What are you doing here at this time of night?”

“It’s really a question of who I’m not doing.”  Eva kept her distance from him as she walked away from the ship, taking his attention with her.  “Y’see, I met this spacer, at the cantina –”

“I need to see some identification,” he cut her off.

I need to see some identification,” she insisted.  “How do I know you’re not some guy with a light lurking around the parking lot for cheap thrills?”  Eva started to back away from the ship Risha and Corso were working on.

With an exasperated sigh, the guard turned his lantern onto himself.  He was very clearly in uniform, with the standard issue blaster in his other hand.  “Lady, if you’re hooking, you’re in trouble.  If you’re trying to rob these ships, you’re in trouble.  Unless you can prove this ship is yours, you’re in trouble. Now give me some ID, or I will have to take you in.”

Eva let a hand go to the back of her neck.  “Listen, I’m waiting for a guy who’s been delayed, apparently.  Can you give me a little more time, and he can come and clear things up?”  Her feet kept moving, slowly away from the officer.  

“Halt,” he said firmly. Eva stopped moving.  She kept her eyes on him, but out of the edges of her vision, through the dark, she caught sight of two figures moving away from the ship.

Now it was just a matter of extricating herself.  

“Hey, not trying to cause trouble –”

“You’re not in trouble. Not yet.  Just identify yourself, and unless you have legitimate business here, I have to –”

Suddenly, the electro-lantern hit the ground, and the guard followed closely thereafter, as if a ton of duracrete had been dropped on him.

Eva followed the lamp as it rolled slightly toward the massive form that had thorough boxed the ears of her well-meaning nuisance.  “About time you showed up.”

“You have no idea how rude people can be toward Wookiees, Little Girl.  I even had our food order number, and they took forever to give it to me.” Bowdaar hoisted the takeout bag to Eva’s eye level.  “Are Risha and Corso done?”

“I think they are now. Spent half the night bitching at each other.”  Eva knelt down and checked the guard’s pulse.

“He’s alive. I was careful.”

“He hit the ground pretty hard.  Are the drinks still cold?”  

“No thanks to the restaurant.”

“So we won’t eat there anymore.”

Chapter Text

After his shower, he found her on the balcony, her robe teasing her thigh as she looked out over Aargonar’s beautiful desolation.  The stars were as jewels over the desert landscape, and the three moons silently stood guard.

The night air had rapidly chilled without the sun, so Theron was quick to collect his –

His wife.  As of 36 hours ago, Eva was his wife.  

48 hours ago, he hadn’t known whether she would even take him back; she’d sent a message stating she would not make their rendezvous on Aargonar, something that had been negotiated through proxies for nearly a month.  

Then they found that they’d both put themselves on the same mission to save Odessen.  

Things progressed, as they always seemed to when they were on mission together….and….

The planetary governor had married them in the morning, him still wearing a shirt he’d torn up to bandage her, her still wearing a dancer’s costume (stars, their wedding holo would give someone a heart attack, if they weren’t adequately prepared).  

Bowie had cried. Risha tried to pretend she wasn’t crying (and failed, miserably).  Guss and Corso had gotten completely trashed in record time, and Akaavi and Mako had wandered off to have some serious conversations of their own.  

And now they were in the top floor suite he’d booked, two separate bedrooms parted by a living area… in case….

But that was far from necessary now.  

Eva looked back at him as he stepped out onto the balcony to join her.  Silently, he wrapped his arms around her from behind, and they looked out at the world together.  “It’s so quiet. First time since before I landed on Ord Mantell and met Corso that –” She wrapped her arms around herself, overlapping his, squeezing the pair of them together even tighter.  “ – it’s so quiet now.  Peaceful.”     He felt her twist to the right to look up at him. “First time in almost fifteen years.”

“Twenty.  I had my implants installed when I turned eighteen. Constant noise ever since.  Minus the times you managed to get me to turn them off.”

“And now?”

“35 hours and counting.” He’d taken an hour after the wedding to send information and tie up loose ends before he went off the grid entirely.  That included shutting down his implants.

Eva leaned back into him. “We made it.” Eva turned around entirely in his arms and looked up at him.  Her hair was loose, and her face was clean of all makeup and the Dermaplast she normally wore over her scar

Theron bowed his head to kiss the top of her head, his hands coming up to hold her chin and jaw.  A thumb trailed across her cheekbone.  “You’re still the most wonderful thing I’ve ever been allowed to touch.”  

His heart skipped a beat or two when she whispered back, “I still love you.”  Then she went up on her toes to kiss him, and he met her halfway, his fingers gripping the diaphanous fabric of her robe.  Deeper needs soon came to the fore.  

But they had to banter. They always had to banter.    “Bit drafty out here for what you’re not wearing.” Her fingers ran around the waistband of his briefs.

His hand slid up her thigh, under her robe.  “You’re not much better off.  We should go inside and fix that.”

**

Much later, she requested, “Tell me again.”

“I love you.”  Then Theron contentedly hummed as he felt Eva’s head gently land on his chest, her soft curves pressed up against him.  He reached blindly for the sheets, pulling them out of their neatly tucked corners to drape over their rapidly cooling bodies.  

In the back of his mind (and probably hers too), he knew the storm would kick up again.  Something, somewhere in the galaxy would blow up, and the Alliance would somehow end up entangled with it.  

For now, the newlyweds focused on being entangled with each other, repeatedly; they had been parted for nine months, after all.  

Theron’s sleepy, happy haze was parted as he felt Eva tenderly trace his collarbone.  “What names are we here under?  I might actually leave the room sometime tomorrow.”

“Why would you do that?” Theron let his hand wander down her body a bit as his eyes slid open.  

“I said might.  But I am curious about the cover, given what we’ve done.”  Gods, how he loved her smile.  

Theron brought his other hand up to stroke her face.  “Do you remember Metis and Antony Vaner?”

“Oh good grief.”  Her forehead tipped forward to touch his chest for a moment.  

“What can I say, Trant really, really did a good job making the IDs the first time.  I think their marriage license looks more legit their ours.”

The pair quietly looked at each other in the dim light that came in from Aargonar 3.  “So are we keeping them around?  Are… are they the cover we’re going to use from now on? When we go on mission together?”  Hope was in her voice – hope that he remembered the promises from last night… even if they were made in desperate, heated moments.

Theron nodded slowly. “Yeah. I’m… I’m not going under deep cover again without you.  I’ll still do more superficial jobs, sure.  Short term. Burner IDs, yes, but --- never that again.  Never.”

Her hand reached up to grasp his.  “Tell me again.”

“I love you.  Tell me again.”

“I love you.”

Chapter Text

Phryne stood at the gate to the small, well-worn but well-kept two-story house and yard.  She consulted the house number on the slip of paper Dot had given her.  Yes, this was it.

She smiled as she noted the presence of chalk drawings on the sidewalk, complete with broken sticks, and small toy cars and trucks, missing a few wheels and cargo trailers.  The plants that managed to survive were hardy -- nothing that would be seen on a trellis at Aunt Prudence’s house, nor something Mr. Butler would normally put in his arrangements... but still perfectly respectable. 

And then the din started.

Three boys of ages ranging from “gangly youth” down to “chubby with questionable balance” shot out the front door, the screen swinging so wide that Phryne could see every patch that the father had implemented over the last twenty years.  The trio whipped around the side of the house at top speed, hollering about something in the backyard. 

Phryne decided to maintain her tactical advantage by staying outside the gate -- to observe, of course.

Wise choice, as the source of the boys’ excitement quickly made itself known: a pig hurtled around the opposite corner of the house at top speed, running for its plump little life.

As the pig realized Phryne was on the other side of the gate, its tiny brain panicked and it made a hard turn up the main path toward the door.  At that precise moment, a teenage girl in long plaits opened the door to yell, “Tom!  Jimmy!  Johnny!  Mother wants --” 

And then the pig shot right past her and into the house. 

The boys came barrelling after the pig but came to a dead stop as they realized -- and their sister realized ---

“PIG IN THE HOUSE!” came a great shriek from what Phryne assumed to be the kitchen.

The four children outside immediately bolted inside, and Phryne’s hand flew to her mouth as she saw shadows dance across the shades as the pursuit picked up its pace.  She heard the violent thumping of a stampede heading up the stairs, then the house nearly shook as the chase wound its way around the entire upper floor.

Suddenly, the front door opened again, and Dot, still wearing an apron with her sleeves rolled up, burst out onto the front stoop.  She craned her neck to watch the top of her house sway, slightly, as her four siblings that still lived at home along with her parents chased the pig.

Desperately, Dot turned to Phryne.  “Miss Fisher, I swear, it’s not always like this.”

“I... trust that is not dinner?”

Dot wrung her hands together.  “No, that’s Stuart.  Tom’s pig,”

Phryne was already shucking her shoes and carefully rolling off her stockings.  “You forget I was a Collingwood girl -- we did chase down chickens for supper, conveniently disregarding who they belonged to.  A pig is a slightly bigger target, but I’m sure I’ll manage.”  Phryne tucked her stockings into her shoes, then opened the gate. 

Dot watched Phryne glide right past her, only pausing long enough to hand Dot her shoes. 

And then Phryne ran up the stairs to join the merry chase.  It certainly beat bridge with Aunt P and the Ladies’ Club.

Chapter Text

Watching Miot savor his planet’s most famous product before it was taxed into oblivion was worth the unplanned visited to Eva’s ship, Theron decided. “It’s been a few years,” the Sullustan sighed into his glass.  He spent nearly as much time smelling it as he did sipping it.  

Eva was playing bartender, and she stooped to investigate her cavernous holdings. “If you want a bottle for yourself –”

“No, no,”  Miot declined.  “Maybe when all six star fortresses are gone.  But for now, just one drink for one very good night.”   Miot’s lips pursed underneath his facial ridge before taking another sip.  

“Sounds like a plan,” Eva answered as she rose back to her feet. She too had her Sullustan gin and tonic, while Theron had a delicious Corellian brandy – not unlike the bottle Jace had given him years before, also pre-Eternal Fleet.  It was a step up from his usual whiskey, something a little special. Bowdaar had no shame and demanded a glass of Crème d’Infame.  It was, by no small measure, the poshest, snobbiest, tastiest thing on the ship --- and if the Wookiee wanted it, he got it.    

Eva glided with ease out the galley’s door.  “Let’s light up the medbay like a Life Day tree really quick, Bowie.  Then we can enjoy the rest of the night.”  Bowdaar followed her out, the pair of them sauntering like they owned the place.

Well, they did.  

Theron listened diligently for her footfalls, then the beeps and clicks that he recalled as belonging to the Thief’s medbay.  Once he heard everything turn on and the medbay door swish close, he redirected his attention back to his brandy.  He let the warm, deep amber fluid warm him, from his chest to his extremities and back again.  “Credit for your thoughts.”

“She’s everything yet nothing I expected from the Voidhound.  Her reputation precedes her.  She’s the Death That Walks – that’s what the Gormak call her on Voss.”  Miot looked down toward the bottom of his still mostly fully glass.  “She is that.  Efficient, deadly, quiet – I can imagine her moving through the grassy hills of Voss, leaving bodies in her wake that seemed awake one moment and forever asleep the next.”

Theron’s mind revisited the minutes after he’d emerged from his prison on Rishi, the harsh afternoon light and ever-present humidity piercing his dirty, bloodied clothing, his head throbbing.  He realized that the entire camp was dead. Minus the odd sniper, he was safe.  In her anger, she’d killed most of the Revanites on Rishi.  For him. To save him.  Later, he realized she had done it for love of him.

“Her motivations are the surprise, aren’t they?”  Theron partially stated this, partially asked this.

Miot agreed, “Yes.  And she is much younger and more human – or humane – than I expected.  I forget that she was lost for five years.  I never considered she was barely more than a child when she became that creature.”  Miot shook his head.  “Most of my planet’s young ones are in university or beginning an apprenticeship. Yours too.”

“I was in SIS, personally.”  

Miot frowned.  “Not all of us were crafted for fighting, Theron.  I used to be a concert musician. Navigation, piloting, composing, performing – they’re all glorified and specialized maths.”  Miot shook his head. “You a spy, she the goddess of the underworld.  I do not wish to ask about how both of you got there before the age of 23.  You should have been children.”  

Theron never dwelled on the passage of years, nor how he spent them. Except for one particular waste. “Don’t cry for me, Miot.  I always thought I’d fight for the future, from the time I was old enough to remember.   Whether that took the form of being a Jedi or a Republic spy, I wanted something better for all the kids that came after me.”  Theron took a careful swallow of the brandy.  “Now I’m here in a rebel alliance, and the motivation is the same.”

“And her?” Miot took a deep, generous mouthful of his gin and tonic.

“Stuff happens.  She makes the best of it and drags everyone else along for the adventure.”  Theron knew her cosmology was so much more than that, but that was something Miot could ask for himself.  “Eva didn’t ask to be made into the Outlander – but she understands the importance of running a con and being an icon.”

Miot was silent, but only for a few moments.  “I wonder what life would have been like without the Eternal Fleet. If Vitiate was simply the Sith emperor, and nothing more.”

Theron quaffed all of his brandy.  “You and me both.”  Thoughts of weekends at his place on Coruscant, dating like normal people, doing domestic, that radical idea of not worrying over her – the dreams he had shelved – ran briefly through his mind. 

The medbay door hissed open.  “Oh, Theron!” Eva sang out.  “You want to check the readouts?”

Theron left his empty glass on the counter and walked toward her voice. He heard Miot trailing behind him, taking in the lounge as they crossed the center of the ship.  Of course, as anticipated, everything read out well on the Wookiee.  “Still in good shape, Bowdaar.”  The computer then spat its displeasure at Eva.  “Nerves – we knew that.  Fatigue – we knew that.  Muscle aches and pains – nothing too bad?”

Eva made a face.  “I’ve never been a fan of fitness regimens.  Me being a little sore after squirming around air ducts and punching a droid in the processor isn’t to be unexpected.  I’m fine.” She clinked glasses with Bowdaar and they toasted each other, finishing the dregs of their drinks.  

“Mission success, then.  Good work.” Theron pulled out his datapad and finalized a brief after-action report.  “Captain, you want to finalize tomorrow’s schedule?  We left a few things since we weren’t sure when we’d be back.”

Eva nodded.  “I think I have something I can defrost in here and we can work over a late dinner.”

Bowdaar nudged Miot.  “Oh no. Meetings are boring.  I’m starving.  You want to hit up the mess?”

Miot finished his gin and tonic and set the glass down next to Eva’s. “Sure.  I heard you are a pilot yourself, Bowdaar.”  

Bowie crowed happily.  “She taught me everything she knows – have you heard the story of how she took out an entire Revanite fleet by herself and nearly blew up this ship to do it?”  

Miot replied that no, he hadn’t, and Theron heard their conversation peter out as they left the ship and made their way across the catwalk.  Theron observed, dryly, “Wookiees are good wingmen.”

“Told you.”  Eva grabbed her glass and Miot’s in one hand and Bowie’s empty wine glass with the other and walked them back to the galley, Theron close behind her.  “Want another?”

“Yeah.  But do you want dinner and dessert in that order?”  As Eva was pouring his drink for him, Theron sidled up behind her to wrap his arms around her waist.  

“Are you actually not prioritizing work?”   Eva pushed the stopper into the brandy bottle and turned to face him.  

Theron leaned into her slightly, pressing her against the galley counter. “I can probably figure the schedule out on my own, but I’d like your input, if you’re still interested in giving it. And I think you should be comfortable before heading back to work after an already busy evening.”  

Eva hummed with some amusement.  “I think tonight wasn’t too bad in terms of contact and exertion on my part.  I think you were more stressed than I was.”

He nodded, a slightly teasing grin on his face.  “I was.  Been awhile since I walked you through an op.”

“You didn’t seem too rusty,” she reassured him, her palms coming to rest on his chest and sliding up toward his shoulders.

“Watching your telemetry... it was one thing when it was just intel collection and you stealthed through the whole thing.  Combat - watching your vitals, knowing how many of them were coming....”  His arms were around her, and he didn’t care that she felt a slight shudder on his part.  “Even with Bowdaar around, I’m pretty sure my heart rate was higher than yours during some of your more daring activities.”

“You keep me safe, just like you did when I was running ops for you against the Revanites.”  Then she grinned -- that awful, wonderful, mischievous, devilish grin... “So, think your body can handle any more cardio?”

His hands told her yes.

Chapter Text

 

 At first, he had relished the silence.  For the first time since Taris, he wasn’t running around like a lunatic.  Instead, he got to stay on the ship.

And put food in the ventilation system for the stowaway (who he had never seen, but Questra had assured him was there.  And then she immediately followed up by reassuring him she wasn’t nuts.)

And be careful not to step on any of the gizka.

And now sunset was approaching for the binary suns of Tatooine, and nobody was back yet.  

Carth worried.

The communications system on the Ebon Hawk chirped at him, and he hastily activated it.  “Onasi here.”

“Hey, it’s Mission.”

Carth winced slightly at how dejected she sounded.  “I’m guessing the hunt for Griff isn’t going well.”

“No, it’s – actually, we think we know where he was taken,” she replied, her tone warming up.  “We just need the robes to get there… and that’s the part that isn’t going too good.”  Her voice dipped slightly.  “Bastila didn’t want to kill any sand people to get them, and she got into an argument about it with Canderous –”

“Because that’s his idea of a good time.  What about Questra?” Carth asked, trying to not sound as concerned as he was.  He couldn’t help but feel that the ex-smuggler was being set up for something by the Jedi Council.  He thought Bastila was being set up, too, but …  Carth had his suspicions that she was complicit in whatever the Jedi had cooked up for Questra.

Just because he was paranoid didn’t mean somebody wasn’t out to get him.  Or Questra.

He really had to stop thinking about them as a team like they were on Taris.  She was a Jedi now, and he was still just a Republic pilot.  

“Questra managed to get some information at the cantina about a homesteader that had some sand people robes – she told us not to ask him where or how they got them, but he had them…” Mission replied.

“That sounds promising.”

“And then we found out he was off-planet, and the only person at the house is his wife.  She doesn’t speak Basic… or any language we know, actually.”

Carth made a face at the comm system speaker.  “Questra’s great at figuring out languages – she got that stowaway to talk to her.”

“Well, yeah, Questra played charades with her, and then the lady had us running around doing her chores on the homestead … and now she won’t talk.  And now Bastila and Canderous are arguing again, and the lady is yelling at them and tell them to go away with her hands.” Carth could hear a little noise in Mission’s throat, and she continued, frustrated, “I just want to find Griff, and get him out of here.  Get us out of here.”

“What do you want me to do? Go over there so they can yell at me instead?” Carth asked sarcastically.

Mission was momentarily silent before answering, brightly, “Yeah!  They’d probably get away from the house to come talk to you, which means Questra could do that hand-wavy thing and persuade her.”

Carth heard Zaalbar rumbled in the background.  “Mission, I don’t think adding more humans is going to fix this.”

“C’mon, Carth. Pleeeeeeeeeaaaase?”  

Just then, a thump came from the cargo bay, and a pair of gizka chased each other across his boots.

“I’ll be there a.s.a.p.”

**

By the time Carth reached the homestead coordinates, it was twilight on Tatooine, and he hunched his shoulders up against the approaching cold night.  As he drew near, he could see the figures of Zaalbar and Mission waiting for him.  Another few steps, and he could see Canderous hulking form, being pestered by tiny little Bastila.  It was like watching a starling harass a bear.  

Finally, Canderous seemed to have had enough of her and stormed back into the homestead, nearly ripping the door off the hinges.  Carth could hear the angry squawk of the homesteader’s wife, and then Questra’s frustrated voice telling Ordo to go the hell back outside.  While the door was still open, Bastila trotted inside and added her two credits, which were not well received.

Carth gave Mission a withering look.  “You want me to go in there?”

Mission shrugged helplessly, and Zaalbar shook his head.  “I – I think Questra almost had her?” Mission offered, hopefully.  

Carth made a great show of rolling his eyes and stomping over toward the homestead.  

When he stepped through the door, Carth heard a distinctive noise, one that he knew—

His heart did a somersault, and in a fraction of a second, he had a vivid flashback to a shore leave about fifteen years ago, when he and Morgana had played lizard-toad-snake to see who had to leave the warm cocoon of their bed to –

A very hungry baby was wailing in his mother’s arms, as Bastila tried to speak to her, loudly, “Please, we just need the robes – the clothes of the sand people –”

“Talking louder isn’t going to make her understand, princess,” Canderous griped at her.  

Bastila sucked in her cheeks and turned to face Canderous.  Carth saw her check the urge to insult, but her response was indignant, all the same.  “What do you propose to do, then?  Kill her?” Bastila’s voice was calm but her eyes were fire.  

The homesteader’s wife, a Zabrak with short horns and mottled skin, kept an eye on these intruders while trying to shush the baby.

Carth’s eyes ran around the room and finally settled on Questra….who actually had a cup of tea in front of her and now held her head in her hands, elbows on the table. A few bowls were laid out on the table as well, none of which looked particularly appetizing, but all the same – hospitality had been offered.

Mission was right. She’d been so close…

Canderous glared at Bastila. “No honor in that.  She’s a civilian, not a warrior.  Unlike the Republic, we Mandalorians don’t hide behind noncombatants to provoke a slaughter and then play victim.”  

Carth bit his tongue, hard, so much to the point he nearly drew blood.  But they hadn’t seen him yet, and he didn’t want to get roped into this nerf-and-wookiee show if he could help it.  

Canderous kept his word and didn’t touch the woman.  Instead, he tried to move past her.  She blocked him at every turn.  Frustrated, Canderous extended his arms out to his side.  “Ok, lady, what do you” – he held out both palms toward her – “want from me?”  He gestured toward himself.

The woman extended the squalling baby out toward the Mandolorian, and Carth could have died laughing for the expression of abject panic that crossed Canderous’s face.  She might as well have tried to give him a grenade with the pin out.  

Hastily stepping backward, Canderous shook his head, vigorously. Displeased, the woman pivoted slightly toward Bastila who also immediately backed away, a special sort of terror seizing her.

Questra finally raised her head to watch the situation.  “…another chore.  I think if we take care of the baby, clean the house – give her a break – she’ll give us the robes?”  Questra tugged at her shirt and pointed at the baby, then gestured to the entire interior of the small house.

The woman nodded.  

“It doesn’t even talk yet – how do we know what it wants?” Canderous put his hands on his hips, an anxious glance darted at the still-wailing child.  

Carth closed his eyes and sighed.  

“Nice of you to show up, Republic.  Going to take your share of the credit without doing the work?”  

Carth opened his eyes, then looked out the window back toward Mission and Zaalbar, who were still waiting outside.  Mission was goofing around Zaalbar in a circle, bored, but still looking over at the homestead, impatient and concerned.  Then Carth looked over at Questra, who seemed so damn tired of this.

He couldn’t stop himself from saying the words aloud.  “Oh, the things you make me do.”

Carth stepped up and gestured to the woman to hand him the child.  Carth gave a lopsided smile to the child’s mother. As the weight hit his arms, he found the child was small, but dense – a good sign.  He held the very unhappy baby to his chest and sat down at the table across from Questra.  “Ok, kid,” he murmured to the small person as he lowered the child down to sit on his knee.

Keeping one eye on the child and the other on his hand, Carth grabbed a small utensil off the table and dipped it into the unidentified bowl of mush that looked like it had the smoothest consistency.  “I’m a bit rusty, but I’m sure I can still get the dropship into the hangar, if you cooperate.”  Carth presented the spoon to the tiny tyrant, and the child’s mouth immediately opened, the crying stopped now that his tummy’s salvation was at hand.

As Carth focused on his task, he said to his comrades in the room.  “Better get to work cleaning this place.  I think he’s going to crash after he has a full stomach, and we don’t want to wake him.”  

Canderous and Bastila didn’t linger a second longer in the child’s presence.  As the mother bustled around the room, doing her part to pick up the house, Carth felt eyes upon him.  

He looked up.  Questra.

“Carth, thank you,  I –”  She shook her head, her surprise evident.  “How--?”

His heart did some more acrobatics as other memories crowded his mind.  He didn’t want to talk about it.  But…

But…

Carth didn’t look at her when he answered her question, because he was sure he was going to make that relieved, almost happy look just crumble.   “I was a dad.  Once.”

He heard her breath catch, and he thought he heard Canderous’s heavy steps stop for a second in the next room.

Eventually, Questra got up from the table and left him with his small charge.  

Carth focused on the mission at hand – quelling local unrest.  

Chapter Text

 

“Your information was wrong.  Mine was right.”

“You don’t need to be so smug about it, Pollaran.”

Darmas tossed a look over his shoulder at the holo.  Keeper was, as ever, a killjoy.  “I could have told you from the start that Skavak was a non-starter for Nok Drayen’s treasure.  Too sloppy.  Too infamous already.”

Keeper raised a single finger.  “He was ambitious.  If the Drayen girl had chosen to get her claws into him, he could have been shaped.”

“You forgot to ask the Drayen girl for her services.”  Darmas finished mixing his drink of choice and turned around to face the only man he had to answer to.  “The young lady ... Corolastor.  I don’t think she needs much. Not an overhaul like Skavak, certainly.  Just... refinement.” 

Keeper arched a brow at Darmas.  “You’re rarely so kind about small-time spacers like her that associate with the filth of the galaxy.”

“You mean aliens?” Darmas cut right to the heart of Keeper’s dancing.  “She has a conscience.  If I can convince her she’s doing the right thing, the rest will be easy.  Help the Republic here and there, so you bigots don’t win.  Then..." Darmas shrugged and took a sip of his Death in the Afternoon.  Appropriate, when speaking to Keeper, he thought. 

“How old is this one, Darmas?” Keeper asked, equally blunt.  “You’ve never adhered to that adage -- what was it? Half your age, plus seven?”

Darmas’ green eyes snapped to life.  “Not even her fake chain code is that old.  And yes, it’s real, but it’s not hers.  Not sure how she procured it, but she’s been very, very clever so far.  Fake chain code, untraceable ship, no firm loyalty to the Republic except on the matter of alien rights -- “

Keeper held up a hand.  “You’ve sold me, Darmas.  That, and the fact she came up with Nok Drayen’s treasure, and survived Risha Drayen -- made her an ally, even ... yes, you have sold me on you using Corolastor as your young upstart that will challenge the Voidwolf.”

“Kirill is a human stain.  I don’t just speak of his class.”  Darmas took a long, deep sip of his drink.  “That said, he’s effective.  He does when others twiddle their thumbs.”  Darmas tipped the rim of his glass toward Keeper.  “One way or another, I do believe the Empire will win this war by uniting the underworld.  Whether it’s through the Voidwolf or through the girl, it matters not to me.”

Keeper looked down at a datapad from his desk.  “If this operation makes it that far, you’ll be free to come home...”

Darmas looked at the glass, and he decided to have one more bit of Death in the Afternoon.  “This operation is my swan song, Keeper.  My final gift to the Empire and the people in it.”

“And then what will you do for the rest of your life?”

Darmas smirked.  “Depends if Kirill survives or if Corolastor does.  If it’s the latter --  I deserve to be well-taken care of in my dotage.  Consorting with our self-made queen of the underworld would be my reward.”

”Are you so sure she’d have you, old man?”

Darmas saw a light at the end of his console.  “I have another appointment.  Pollaran out.”

Darmas killed the rest of his drink and cleared his throat.  He got rid of the aristocratic accent and let the alcohol loosen his limbs.  Then he picked up the holocomm to see his favorite brunette.

“Hello, sweetheart.”

**

“Life is like sabacc. The trick is to quit while you’re ahead and enjoy your winnings -- exactly how I’ll spend my twilight years.”

“I can’t imagine a handsome man like you living as a hermit.”

“Perish the thought. I simply have to convince the right woman to come with me.  If you have any recommendations, let me know.”

Chapter Text

“I like that in you:  your valor, your sense of discretion, your speed, your stomach capacity  --”

“Let me guess:  Mrs. Trant is already on her way.”

“Cecily is a good scout.  There’s a reason she’s my favorite daughter.”

“She’s your only daughter.”

“Enough talking, Shan, get to disposing of the evidence.”

Jonas Balkar stuck his head around the entryway into Trant’s office.  “Is this a good time?  I wanted to hand off -- oooh, hey, cheese danish.”

The man referred to as Shan made a dismissive gesture.  “Go ahead and take it.  Touch the croissants, and you’re a dead man.” 

“Acknowledged.”  Jonas put his datapad down on Trant’s desk before dipping into the breakfast order that Trant wasn’t going to be able to eat before his wife arrived.  Trant’s cholesterol and the feud between him and the Mrs. had become famous within the walls of the SIS headquarters, a non-descript building in the middle of Coruscant.  He noticed that the other agent had shed the customary red and white uniform of a Republic agent and was dressed in what appeared to be his own clothes.  “You just got the big promo?”

“Yeah. You?”

“Same.”  He was still getting used to wearing civvies in the office. 

“Theron, this is Jonas, the Havoc squad handler.  He’s the one who’s going to take advantage of that intel you hacked out of that Sun Razer.”

Theron scowled at Trant, openly.  “And what’s next for me then?”

“You’ll see.  Keep eating.  Balkar, you too.”

Chapter Text

3637 BBY/15 ATC

“Oh, kriff me.”

Eva must have been in dreamland, as she said, “Finally.”

Theron made an annoyed sound, and he rolled away from her side.  That startled Eva into true wakefulness.  As her eyes stuttered open, she found herself looking up at one of the other moons of Yavin.  Oh, wow, it was really, really late, judging late by where Yavin 2 was in the sky. “They do bedcheck over in Pub camp?”

Her companion was hastily brushing off the grass from the clearing and shrugging his jacket on. “No, but if there’s an emergency, and if Marr or Satele come banging on my shuttle, and if I’m not in there at 0230, they’re going to get worried that the man with all the intel is missing.”

“And you’d get embarrassed about being caught with me.  Even if we aren’t --” She pushed herself up into a sitting position, part of her ponytail already having broken loose. 

Theron shook his head, his expression unreadable in the moonlight.  “I’m not embarrassed.  It would appear that we are -- “ 

“And what’s wrong with that?”

Now he looked at her, sternly.  “We agreed to being discreet --”

“And unfortunately being good. Because something something, your internal ethical crisis.”  Eva looked up at him, giving him a mock innocent look, as if daring him to correct her.  “And it’s your mom.”

That broke his hastily thrown on professionalism.  “Eva!”

“I know, I know, I know.”  Eva shoved herself to her feet, still bleary-eyed.  “You get going before they send out a search party and reach the wrong side of the tracks over here.  I’ll see you in the morning.”  The temperature had dipped considerably since they‘d fallen asleep under the stars hours ago.

She heard a sigh, and then he was surrounding her in a hug.  “Don’t -- don’t say that.  I’m not embarrassed about this.”

“But me being what I am doesn’t make it easier.  Won’t make it easier, even after we get back to civilization.”

For a long, terrifying few moments, he was silent.  Then:  “We’ll talk about it once this op is over with.”

They didn’t.

And Eva was right.

**

3632 BBY/21 ATC

“Oh, kriff me.”

“Again?  Already?”

Theron made an amused sound and hastily pressed a messy kiss to the side of her head.  Eva woke as all the warmth in the universe left her bed.  “Not this again,” she grumped, wrapping herself up in her bedding and forcing her eyes open as she sat up.

Moonlight, check.  Stars, check. A cool night, check. Theron putting on clothes, check ---

except this time, he was starting from nothing, and they were far from being good.  Moonlight skimmed over his skin through the Thief’s viewports.  He bent at the waist to grab at the clothes scattered all over her floor.  “I need to not get caught in here at an indecently early hour. Someone is eventually going to see me sneaking back into base after dawn.” 

“Who the hell says you have to do that?” She watched from her warm nest on her bed as he gathered up his clothes and piled them on the edge of the bed.

“First, I want some time before Lana finds out and scolds us about security issues.  Which, second of all, is valid; I don’t want to be a liability to you or become a regularly scheduled hostage for someone trying to get to you.  Third....your image --”

“-- is something you and Lana care waaaaay more about than I do.  You’re trying to pitch me as some sort of... saintly icon or something.”  Eva drew her knees up to her chest as she watched Theron’s briefs slide over his hips.  “Or at least something concerned with greater things in the universe than having her boyfriend sleep over.  Acts of wrath are fine, but being caught snuggling with someone -- stars forbid.” 

Theron sighed and sat at the edge of the bed next to his clothes, reaching for her.  “It keeps others -- and their opinions -- out of this.  Keeps you safe -- and you know that’s my top priority right now... and not just for the good of the galaxy.”  His voice caught on the last syllable, almost imperceptibly.  But she heard it.

Eva was still for a moment, then she launched herself and all of her bedding into him, causing him to laugh in surprise.  “Eva--!”

“How can you be so smart and dumb at the same time?” At his attempt at an indignant response, she continued as she tried to wrap him up with her.  “Leave clothes over here, and pretend you met me for caf early in the morning.  Nobody’s gonna go looking for you in your quarters -- if you’re not in the war room, you’re scrounging for caf somewhere.  Everybody already knows that.”

Somehow, despite some half-effort by Theron, she pressed her bare skin against his.  There was a momentary flicker in his eyes, and then he gave up all intent of leaving.

**

3628 BBY/25 ATC

A scream bounced off the interior hull of the ship.

Then...

“Oh, kriff me.”

Eva jolted awake at the sound, then let her heart rate come down a bit as she felt shaking through her mattress.  She checked the chrono.  “Not this again.”  Then she realized how mean that sounded.  “Sorry.  I’m just --   Nightmare?”

“Yeah.  Same one. Sorry.”

He was.

He would always be...

She pulled herself across the mattress to curl into him, wrapping her arms around his middle.  “Just a dream now.  Never gonna happen again.”

“No.” He said it with strength and conviction.  And then, again, quieter, as he pulled her arms tighter around him, “No.”

**

3624 BBY/29 ATC

“Oh, kriff me.  Did I forget the baby monitor in the cockpit?”

“Ugh... not this again... no, you didn’t.  It’s here -- someone is just sleeping through the night, again.”

“Oh, that thing we never do.  But we do fall asleep together.”

“And wake up together.”

“That’s even better.”

Chapter Text

“All right.  Don’t panic.”  Eva watched the team’s vital signs race across the computer screen.  The set-up was a little more elaborate than what Theron had had during the Star Fortress days, but she was equally as helpless as he had been.  “I’m with you, you know that.”

Eva finally understood why Theron’s blood pressure shot through the roof whenever he watched her telemetry. 

That said, her crew was in good spirits.  “Been in worse scrapes.  Remember when Ramesses had to swoop in and save me from Vaylin?” Vette offered up cheerily.

“I’d rather not repeat that, especially since Risha’s now here to kill me if anything happens to you,” Eva replied.  “How’s tricks on your end, Jakarro?”

“I’ve lost an arm before.  This isn’t too bad,” he remarked.

“D4?” she asked, hoping for a slightly more ... blunt... response.

“I’m not worried about my own imminent destruction, if that helps,” he replied glibly.  “Oh, here we go.”

Based on the telemetry feeding back through the system in synchronization with the 4-D scenario map, Jakarro had just popped through the floor and decapitated some poor Sithy bastard.  “Quickly, set the charges, Ce’na,” he barked to Vette.

“And make sure you get the hell back when she does. I don’t think we can fragment D4 any further.”  Eva took a few steps back from the screen and stopped watching their telemetry.  The crew could do it.  Didn’t matter whether she was watching.  She just had to -- “Ok, you got an interception crew coming from the port side of the ship.  Head aft, then hard starboard.  I got a slice running on the doors now.” 

Within ten minutes, the mission was over.  Jakarro, D4, and Vette were on a shuttle, piloted by Koth, who was bitching about “you said you were only gonna be 5 minutes 15 minutes ago!”  In short, it was a success. 

Eva switched on the intergalactic radio and moved around the op room in time, humming along to the music.  “Cap, pipe that through here.  Koth doesn’t want to turn on the  tunes.”

“More like Andronikos put his fist through it when he was trying to talk Blizz out of taking an extra 10 minutes to scrap one of the droids last mission.”

“Did he?” Eva asked.

“Blizz got it down to 5, but the radio in this shuttle is busted.” 

Eva gave a short laugh and then sent her music through the tinny voice transceiver in the mission shuttle. 

She was in the midst of doing the after action report, still sashaying around the room in rhythm, when someone plucked her transceiver out of her ear.  “Oh, hi.”

Theron stood there, looking very amused. 

“I know, I look ridiculous.  Like a shaved Geelan.”  Eva rolled her eyes and turned away to submit the report on the computer.

“I was thinking beautiful as usual... and that’s not why I’m having a laugh.”

Eva raised an eyebrow.  “Ok, try me.”

“I’m here to tell you stop working,” Theron said, a chuckle sneaking out even as he said it. 

Eva almost doubled over from the laughter.  Theron, telling anyone --   “Have I really been that bad?” she asked as she looked up at him.

“Since you got grounded, you’ve been ... particularly fastidious about the paperwork.  As if you’re worried that we’re going to shove you into retirement unless you keep up that manic pace.” 

That sobered her.  “I--- I’m not going to be like this forever, Theron.  I’ll be back --”

“-- Whenever the medical staff clears you.  Probably three to six months after delivery, if everything goes well.”  Theron directed a pointed glance down at her distended midsection.  “And nobody thinks it would be unacceptable for you to take maternity leave the month before your due date.  So ... call it a night.  I’ll finish things up in the morning.”

Eva’s eyes looked over at the monitor on the far side of the room.  It had started as a joke.  She and Bowdaar had rigged the computer to track Theron’s vitals to see how bad he got when putting up with their bullshit.  Now, it tracked hers, Risha’s, Mako’s -- everyone who ran the ops from the control center on Odessen.  ...And she knew how precarious her situation was, especially post-carbonite...

Theron didn’t have the Force, but he was good at observing her.  “Hey.”  He turned her head, then slid his arm behind her.  With his hand to the small of her back, he gently started to nudge her toward the door.  “Just like you said to Vette...just like I said to you:  I’m with you.  You know that.  In fact, it’d be nice to spend some time off-duty with you.”

As they crossed the threshold of the mission control center and into the off-duty, now-dim hallways of Odessen’s base, the wife asked her husband, “Is that your way of saying that you’re taking paternity leave?”

“Yes, it is.”

Chapter Text

3632 BBY/21 ATC

The Gravestone was finally silent.  HK-55 had folded himself up somewhere after exterminating the pests.  The lunatic had finally stopped shrieking and sobbing. 

That left Lana. 

Ok, maybe it was a little unfair to refer to Lana’s friend as a lunatic... but Koth could not help but feel disappointed, after all that Lana had told him about this ... Outlander person.

If she wasn’t screaming for her mother, she was begging for Lana to tell her what the status of her crew was.  Whether they’d made it away from the Eternal Fleet in time -- whether she’d gotten them spaced.

Koth wasn’t going to check on her.  Nope.

Instead, he ventured down a hallway to the inner chamber of the Gravestone, the one Lana wanted to analyze further.  She said it called to her -- Koth knew that meant something important.  Lana was pragmatic and logical and even-keeled; if something simply beckoned and she followed it, it was clearly important.  Destiny, fate, the Force, Lana -- they all moved in mysterious ways, for Koth. 

He found her.  Her blonde head was slightly bowed as she knelt in meditation, facing the strange object in the middle of the room.  Koth pitched his ears a little more carefully, and -- no, she wasn’t meditating.  “Lana?”

She turned toward him, and the sight brought him to kneel next to her, immediately.  “This was not part of the plan,” she said, broken.  “This was meant to be her return in triumph.  I was supposed to save her.”  Her breath hitched, and her reddened eyes welled up, not for the first time, fro what he could tell.  “Instead, I’m watching her die anyway.”

“You --- you did the best you could.  You made all the plans, and you got her out of there.” Koth reached a hand out to touch her shoulder.  “If we have to, we can find someone else --”

Lana yanked herself away from him and stood up.  “No, Koth!” Her angry voice echoed around the chamber.  “I’m not failing some galactic hero, some person we build a resistance behind. I’m not sad about my mission failing.”  Her anger mixed with her grief on the next breath as salt water ran down her face.  “I’m failing her. And I’m going to have to tell them --   She took a quick breath and carried on.  “...the people who have been looking for her for five very, very long years.”

Koth rose back up to his feet.  “Listen, she just came out of that carbonite.  Being a little... crazy ... is a potential side effect,” he tried offer, diplomatically.  “It...it’s fair odds that’s it’s temporary.” 

“She’s in so much pain, Koth.  Mental.  Physical.  And... there’s nothing I can do to soothe her.”   Lana wrapped her arms around herself, an uncharacteristic self-comforting motion.  “I should have left her there.  She... she could have just stayed asleep and slipped away --”  She squeezed her arms tighter. “I’ve given her a painful death, Koth.  And for no good reason.”

Koth gazed at Lana. He’d never seen her like this -- he didn’t know this Outlander person at all, but if Lana was this upset ....  “She.. she must be something else.  Something special, if you went through all this to try to save her.”

Lana was nodding, and any grip on her feelings was crumbling at the same time.  “Koth, don’t --”  He saw her jaw tremble.

“Lana, we’re here for a reason.  She’s still alive for some reason -- every minute she’s still fighting, she’s -- listen to me --” Koth gently asked and took steps toward Lana as she shook her head and turned away from him, so he wouldn’t see “-- if she was meant to die on us, she would have already done it.  We wouldn’t have found the ship, if we were meant to fail.  Lana --” 

His hands went to her shoulders, and at his touch, the tension ... did not worsen.  Maybe it dissipated, a little.  “Lana, it’s going to work out.  You’ll see.” 

They stood in the quiet for a moment. 

Then Lana whirled around and wrapped her arms him, burying her face in his shoulder so suddenly, he was momentarily thrown off balance.  “I hope your silly, naive, idealistic concepts of fate ... are right.   For once.  Just this once.”  Her voice cracked.

**

Whenever Lana Beniko wondered why she kept coming back around to Koth Vortena, she remembered how he kept faith when she did not.  He might have saved the galaxy, in his own way.

Chapter Text

The music pulsed loudly enough that the floor seemed to bulge under Eva’s feet.

It was nights like that she missed the hell out of Risha and Akaavi.  They’d all dance.  Sometimes, they’d all drink -- a lot.  Once in awhile, Risha and Eva would go to the powder room...but if there was dancing, they usually didn’t.  The heat, the lights, the rhythm -- that was enough stim to keep them happy.

Doing this job would have been fun with them.  One of Zakuul’s trendiest illegal-but-oh-so-edgy-and-fashionable spice parlors was hosting Eva’s mark of the night.  This was a quality one too; it lightened up its customers by letting some high-quality, diffused product be sent through the air vents.  For free.  Eva had heard of some labs working on this years ago, but apparently, Zakuul was way ahead of the game.  They’d tamed their spice and made it as mundane as an air freshener.  Oh, there were ways of getting it more directly into the bloodstream, no doubt, and there were rooms for other tangential activities... but that’s not what Eva was here for.

One of the cocktail waitresses brought over a drink.  “Cyclonic highball from the scruffy guy at the bar”  She leaned in close.  “He just brought in the week’s shipment.  He’s loaded right now.”

Eva accepted the rainbow monstrosity and looked across the room.  The guy that had sent her a drink wasn’t subtle at all.  He looked like a typical spice runner -- tousled hair, may or may not have showered in the last day, definitely a few days of stubble, typical beat-up flyboy jacket, a shirt with questions as to whether it had ever see the insider of a washing machine...and a pair of leather pants that nicely showcased his one redeeming asset, other than his money. 

Now that’s what Eva was here for.

Making eye contact with him, Eva drank the trashy spacer drink, racing to the bottom of it before making her way over to him.  He was leaned up against the wall with few other of the suppliers, but he had brought in the big haul this week; Eva knew the sort of deference other smugs would give a guy with that cred.  They leered at her and cheered the spice runner on, nudging each other and slapping him on the shoulder, as she made her way over.  His expression was positively wolfish.

Instead of coming just within reach of him, at the very last second, Eva playfully stepped back and away and spun in a teasing circle.  And then she fell into step with the music and steadily began to creep her way back toward the dance floor, trying to lure him along.  Akaavi would be pleased that her advice to “just move like a snake” was serving her so well at that moment...

Eva only knew she had him on the hook once his calloused hands gripped her hips, and she felt the closures of his jacket pressing against the exposed skin of her back.  The spice runner kept her just close enough to him so that her every movement brought her into contact with him, but just far enough away to not restrict her movements.  He knew how this tease went, and his palms and fingers ghosted along all the various bits of skin she had on display tonight.

The fleeting brushes of skin, the music’s beat, the spice in the air -- 

The glow of the exit sign was what broke the spell before she got too lost in the sensory experience.  She tossed her dark hair over her shoulder to look back at the spice runner, a hand gesturing toward the door.

He smirked and nodded, and Eva felt his hot hand at the cool small of her back and they burst through the door into the neon night.  As the door was swinging closed, Eva could see an audience, and she instinctively grabbed at the collar of the spice runner’s coat.  Taking that cue, she felt his hands hoist her ass up so she could wrap her legs around his hips.  She braced herself  for series of scrapes on her back as she knew they were going to do this up against a wall --

And at the absolute last second, just as they both heard the door click shut, Theron gracefully turned them so that his well-padded jacket hit the wall first, then her legs were pinned behind him.  He held her in his arms, eyes bright behind the general layer of sleaze and grime he’d covered himself with.  “You ok?”

Everything was buzzing to her -- her heart, her skin, even her vision slightly trembled.  “I feel strange.”

She saw his face drop slightly.  “That is not something I want to hear, knowing where you’ve been.”

Eva pushed a hank of hair up away from his eyes, revealing the tinsel on his forehead.  “I don’t have implants to kill the contact high.  Or the massive drink you sent me.”

“Is that all it is?”   He adjusted her grip on her, making it easier for him to see her eyes and whether they were glowing.

Eva kept them open for his inspection.  “Yeah.  For five years, I was stone cold sober.  Literally.” 

Theron let out a small groan at the joke.  “Don’t...” 

He brought a hand up to pull her face toward his, but she resisted.  “Please tell me you’re not as disgusting as you look.”

He rolled his eyes at her.  She kissed him anyway. As she pulled back slightly, his eyes dropped to her low-cut shirt.  “What do you have there?” 

With quick and agile hand, Eva plucked a cloned clearance card out of her bra. “Just the master codes for the corporate headquarters.  Apparently, sonny boy was in tonight for a big, big celebration...and he got a little careless with the privileges of his new promotion.  I had an old friend in the coat room.”

Theron’s momentary elation was checked by other thoughts.  “...I can’t decide whether I’m happy or not about you running into old friends in a dealer’s den.  I mean, it just made my job easier... but --”  He let her body slide down his, and he lowered her to the ground. 

“What?”

“....Let’s get moving.”  He tipped his head toward in the direction of a side street.  “Got a speeder waiting.”  Eva tucked the card back to its secure spot and fell into step beside him.

As they walked in the dark streets of Zakuul, mindfully taking the path that had cameras Theron had deactivated on the way over, Eva turned to look at him, still feeling funny.  “It can be done, casually.  Risha did it, and she never had the trouble I had.”

Theron grunted, and he continued looking forward.  “You know I used to work vice before I handled sentient trafficking cases.  I rarely saw good endings.   And you know how I was raised.”

Eva stifled a laugh, keeping a her voice low.  “Oh, stars, you must have gotten the whole ‘do not inhale’ spiel from your uncle.  And probably your old lady,” she swapped into smuggler cant, in case someone was listening.

Theron had picked it up over the years.  “Only the old lady had regular drug testing.”

“...Never had a job that required that, come to think of it.  ...do we have a policy?”  She stopped abruptly at the thought.

Theron turned at her and reached for her hand to gently pull her along.  “Eva....”

“Seriously, Lana just fires those sorts of memos off without consulting me.  Am I exempt?  I can be. I have a medical condition,” she said with a grin.

Theron shook his head at her.  “A chronic case of not giving a kriff, I know.”

“You could get one too -- terminal professionalism.”  Eva deliberately bumped him with her shoulder.  It apparently was harder than she thought, and she nearly sent them both spilling off the sidewalk. 

Theron righted them and replied, “Ha, ha.  Are you done?”  He wasn’t laughing.

Eva gave him a side-wise look.  “...you could probably use a contact high --”

Theron pulled a fob from the inside of his coat and unlocked the hard-topped speeder, the lights flashing once.  “Not while I’m driving the speeder.”

Eva let go of his hand and hopped into the passenger side of the speeder.  ....It wasn’t that bad. “Ther --”

“Wait til we’re out of here,” he cut her off.  He swung his legs over the side of the speeder and belted himself in.  He whispered to her, quickly.  “The security forces were out reactivating the cameras behind us as we walked.  As if following the trail.”  As he activated the repulsorlifts, he drummed on the steering wheel impatiently.  “Damn, should have done two streets either side.”

“You were rushing to get to me.”

He didn’t answer.  She knew why.   

As they rose up through the Zakuulan sky, Eva looked down at the city.  ....Valkorion hadn’t done an awful job with the place.  It was clean.  It still had green in it, not like most Hutt planets.  Architecture wasn’t bad either. The people were sort of awful all around, but it would have been good for a girls’ night out.  Or a date.

Eva knew that when one had gotten just a small dose of spice, everything was glorious, if a person was in a good mood.  Less than good, one could get a little maudlin.  The numbness and release only came with the higher doses.

Maudlin it was.  A date.  One of those things she and Theron had never actually done without a mission attached or play-acting.  ... Or having to go to places that made him nervous about her. 

She felt him palm her knee.  “You ok?”

“I will be.”  She noticed that they were already slowing down.  “What’s the deal?”

”Koth already commed me to say pick-up was delayed.  We just need to find a place to lay low for a couple of hours.”  He looked over at her.  “If you pop the glove compartment, I stashed some takeout in there.”

Eva couldn’t help but giggle as she opened the larger than usual hatch as instructed.  “Leave it to you to ferret out the best take-out on Zakuul.”

“Koth gave the rec as part of his apology.”  Theron shifted the speeder into autopilot, setting the destination.  He turned his body in his seat to address her.  “And it can be the start of mine for tonight.”

“Heh.”  Eva shook her head.  “Don’t.  The last time you saw me fooling around with the stuff, it wasn’t casual.  Or a fun mutual experience.”

“I don’t like putting you in danger.... no matter how much of it is your choice.”  Theron ran his hand back through his hair, both to get it out of his face and to give his nervous hands something to do.

Eva shook her head. "Then we really should have gotten into a different career than saving the galaxy.”  That made him smile.

Then she noticed the shimmer on Theron’s hands that was now rapidly transferring to his dark hair.  “Whoops.”

“What?”  He followed the her eyes and looked down at himself.  “Great Original Light, how much body glitter did you put on?’

“Excessive amounts are fashionable right now, according to the magazines Kaliyo brought with her.”  She looked at what remained on herself... and what was rapidly transferring to the interior of the speeder.  “Hope you don’t mind getting this thing detailed.”

“Sheesh, it’s going to look like we did all sorts of things to kill time in here.”  Theron unbuckled his seatbelt and looked everywhere that Eva had touched him.  “Yeah, that’s definitely incriminating.”  He sighed and held his hands away from his body. 

Even as he did so, a puff of glitter escaped from the edge of his jacket as it brushed past the waist of his trousers.  Another sigh, another bit of glitter migrating.

“Well.”

“Well.  Can’t help it.”

“Can’t make it worse either.”

Eva’s foot kicked the glove compartment shut.

...

...

...

...

"Wait, the Jedi don’t have regular drug testing!?  Now I have questions.”

“Stars and galaxies, please stay on task.” 

Chapter Text

“Well, I’ll be damned.  It’s the Sith Slayer.”

That’s at least what Eva thought the man said.  She must have misheard.  Lana went a shockingly whiter shade of pale, all the same.  “Excuse me?” Eva asked, a hand drifting toward her blaster holster to pop the latch. 

Theron silently watched from his seat slightly further down the bar, pretending he wasn’t with the girls at all.  He could wait this out.

“Not you.  Blondie.’  The grubby Imperial of indeterminate age pointed a thumb at Lana.  “She used to be famous in the Empire for turbo-sledding.”

Eva stared at the man, blankly, then stared at Lana, equally blankly.  “What the hell?”

The color in Lana’s face returned and then progressed to a deep crimson.  “You’re mistaken,” she told the man stiffly. 

A stifled laugh reached Eva’s ears, and she turned to look at Theron.  He was shaking with contained laughter, mostly silently.  When he realized she was looking at him, Theron mouthed to her, “I knew it.’

Eva tilted her head and gestured with her hands, “What?”  Theron motioned for her to turn back around and look at the old guy, who had started laying out ... turbo-sledding... memorabilia on the bar.   

“Nope, this is you, blondie.  Champion of Hoth, Neftali, Ando Prime, and Mon Torri --”  He tapped a dirty thumb on each print -- “almost had ‘em at Ilum and Obroa-skai and Belsavis.  So many others -- I got the holo stills.”

Eva stared as a model sled was plopped on the bar as well.  Then she looked over at Theron.  “Lana’s overdue for weird shit happening to her.”

“Tell me about it.”

“Will you two be quiet?!” Lana hissed, still red in the face.  She tried to capture the attention of the collector, who was seemingly laying out his every possession before Lana.  “Excuse me, what do you want?”

“Can you sign a few things?  Especially this holo right here --” 

Eva caught a glimpse of it and sprang before Lana could grab it.  “Nice shot with the groupies, Lana.  The bodysuit does wonders for your figure.”

“Oh, my god.”  Lana lurched toward Eva trying to grab at the holo. 

Eva somehow managed to contort herself out of reach while still on her barstool.  “OH.  Sith SLEIGHER.  S-L-E-I-G-H-E-R --”  Eva pointed to the imprint on the side of Lana’s turbo-sled.

“I was very young, very drunk after Mon Torri, and ... I actually do have a rather perverse affection for puns.  That’s... that’s what I’m known for on the circuit.  Or at least was.” Lana tried her best to calm regain her cool.

“Work gets in the way, doesn’t it,” Theron commented lightly.  Eva saw him rub his wrist, almost unconsciously, even as he chuckled at Lana.

She knew he missed the swoop track.  Sometimes.

“Yes, well, I suppose this will get in the way of work if I don’t address it.  If you two will excuse me...”  Lana gained her feet and took the pen profferred by the collector. 

Theron and Eva ordered another round and settled in a few seats further down at the bar to let her do her work for her final, devoted fan.

Chapter Text

“What did I say?”

“What did you say when, Jack?”  Jack watched as Phryne sailed through the doors of her parlor and toward the dining room, away from him. 

He gave chase, as he always did.  “About putting me -- “

Phryne stopped and turned so abruptly that Jack walked right into her.  Her right arm went across the doorway, and she demanded his eye contact.  “You said you wished you could change the laws for me.” Phryne’s eyebrows disappeared behind her fringe as she looked at Jack, daring him to contradict her.

He couldn’t.  Jack had said that, years ago now.  He sighed.

Even as he signaled defeat, Phryne went for the coup de grâce.  “You also said you’d bow to my expertise when it comes to wayward teenage girls. And this is most certainly a situation wherein both apply!”  With that, she pushed herself off of the door frame, walked past Jack, and went into the kitchen.

In the name of consistency, Jack went too.  “You shouldn’t try to impede me in doing my lawful duty for the sake of both mother and daughter.”

Phryne turned to face him again.  She glared at Jack from across the table.  Jack took the opportunity to close the door behind him and latch it, then he motioned for Phryne to check the backyard.  Neither Millie nor Dot needed to hear this.

Phryne did as requested, then crossed her arms.

Jack pulled out his notepad.  “Millie left her father’s home --”

“Guardian’s home,” Phryne corrected, firmly.

Jack carried on.  “-- due to discord over her choice to attend university.  She has since taken up residence here alongside one Mittens --”

“--one Ms. Mittens, one Socks, one Hattie, and one Potholder.”  When Jack gave her a perplexed look, Phryne clarified, “Had kittens last night. Mother and children are doing fine.”

“Oh, Lord, more strays.  This house is a magnet.”  Jack flipped back into his notes.  “At any rate, Millie has remained in school to finish her qualifications for university.  She apparently proselytized several of her schoolmates --”

Phryne burst out, “Proselytized?  Jack, she told them how to acquire birth control without their parents knowing.  Namely --”

“Through you and Dr. Mac.”  Jack calmly let the page drop back down.  “I know no money would be exchanged. I know no ... procuring would be going on, despite what one of the concerned mothers said.”

Phryne made a face, as if she tasted something sour.  “Millie needs to know she has a Judas Iscariot in her midst.”

“You can tell that at your convenience.  However, I do have a responsibility to tell her that firstly, offering such assistance to underage girls could be construed as you using Millie to corrupt minors. Secondly,” Jack continued, slightly raising his voice over Phryne’s objections, “Millie needs to be careful.  And you know what I mean.”

Phryne’s shoulders tensed up momentarily as she initially -- then no, she realized what Jack did mean.  “Her birth.  Her parents -- all of her parents... She wants to be a mechanical engineer, Jack --”  she swallowed, then continued, and oh, how Jack knew that heart of hers.  “She’s a garage girl who wants to make better engines by attending schools with those that...  out-society her.  Even with my money, not everyone will forget that.”  A moment, a pause, then a question:  “Why do you think I sent Janie to school in Paris?”

Jack closed his eyes for a moment then reopened them.  “Not just for culture and education.”

“A clean slate is a wonderful thing.  A place where nobody knows your mother is permanently at the spa.” 

“Jane is already there.  You and Gertie went to Europe.  Why not--?”

Phryne smoothly cut him off.  “Because Aisla did not.  Thus, Millie wants that.  Millie...she’s just a few years older than Jane, but she knows what she wants, Jack.”  Phryne reached for a pair of glasses from the drying rack and used the sink to fill them up as she spoke.  “Millie wants to make something of herself here, so that she can write her mother.  Visit her on those good behavior days that will come in a few years.  And she can show her ... guardian...  who hasn’t changed a wit despite her presence in his life....  And she can join our club as a full-fledged member as soon as she can.”  Phryne looked out the back window again as she passed a glass to Jack.  “Millie knows what she wants. My obligation to Aisla...and Gertie... is to make sure she gets there.”

Jack nodded. He pondered his glass for a moment.  “Then to Millie, then?”  He raised his glass in a proposed toast.

Phryne smiled.  “And to the kittens, she’d insist -- Dot could barely get her to leave this morning.”

They clinked glasses and each took a long sip.  Then Jack thought for a moment.  “Potholder?”

“Dot is teaching Millie to knit in exchange for driving lessons.  Mittens, socks, hat, and potholder -- her first four knitting projects.”

“Ah. I knew there was a logical explanation.”

Chapter Text

“I ... don’t know if I’ll ever go back to Telos. And I don’t know if I want to even... develop... anymore, you know?”

Carth nodded, heart still full of hope.

Dustil pressed his lips into a thin line. “I know it’s been five years since...but...” With a sigh and in a burst of frustration, Dustil’s hand went up to run nervously through his hair, brushing it back from his face.

Carth felt as if he was watching himself fuss in the mirror. He looked so much like him in how he moved.

Dustil frowned. “I haven’t had a moment to think of Selene...or Mom... as I should.” Carth saw Dustil’s face soften, and he felt his own do the same.. “I want time to just do that, no Jedi or Sith involved.” His brows drew together. “I...I haven’t decided if I want you around for that.”

“I just want you to think about it, ok? I don’t -- I don’t want to force you into anything you don’t want or you aren’t ready for - I know how the Jedi can be, too, trust me on that --- I just don’t want you to be alone and I don’t know --” The words cascaded out of Carth.

“No promises,” Dustil said, firmly. Then he hesitated. “Um.” Again, that nervous expression that Carth knew so well. “...it’s about you not being around” Dustil searched his father’s face, trying to see if he understood.

Carth grimaced slightly. “Yeah, I know. I ... have to live with that. How much time I lost with you. And your mom.”

Dustil seemed satisfied that his father acknowledged it. “That all said...certain things would have happened anyway.... even if you were with us more...” Dustil swallowed hard, then plunged onward. “I want you to know my... issue with you....it’s not about her. I’m grateful that she --- she helped you. Helped me... That she did what she did,” he finished in a rush. “...I don’t mind about her. That’s... that’s ok, you know?”

It took another fifteen seconds for Dustil’s words to fully register on Carth. “Ok,” he repeated back to his son, a little weakly. “I...I didn’t expect it. I didn’t want -- I wasn’t ready. At all. And then it happened anyway.”

“I guess when you’re saving the galaxy, a lot of things happen anyway.” The way Dustil’s lips quirked and the look that conveyed that he was obviously humoring his father --

That and the pull in his heart said Morgana hadn’t completely left him. Never would. She understood. And didn’t mind.

Dustil had pulled out his chrono. “I... I got to go somewhere. Job stuff. Apartment stuff. You know, the things they don’t teach you at the Sith Academy.” Dustil rose from his seat in the outdoor cafe and so did Carth.

“I understand. We.... we can do this again. Next week. Next month. When you want.” Carth couldn’t remember the schedule, and it didn’t matter. He -- he’d find time and space. He’d take a desk job, if he had to.

Dustil gave him a cautious smile. “Ok. See you around, Dad.”

Before Carth could react to a word he hadn’t heard from his son since he was 11 years old, Dustil had hopped the railing that separated the cafe seating from the sidewalk, and he was off.

Chapter Text

“This time, do what I say.  Ready position.  And 1!”

“HA.”  The chorus of voices sounded off as Senya inspected the recruits’ forms.

“2!”

HA.”  The practice dual-tipped polearms came down, and Senya walked up and down the aisle.

“3!”

“She is formidable.”  Arcann and Koth sat on the second floor of the military hangar, looking down on the drill. 

“You sound surprised, like you didn’t know that.”  Koth propped his chin up on one of the rungs that made up the safety railing, his feet dangling over the edge.

“I went for many years without seeing her.”  Arcann watched his mother’s swift reconnaissance about the room, ensuring quality control.  “The way Valkorion spoke of her, he made her sound far weaker than she was.”

“Add that to the list of lies our Immortal Emperor told you.”  Koth also kept an eye on Senya for entirely different reasons. 

“Old habits die hard, don’t they, Koth?”  Koth gazed down at Lana, who had walked beneath his dangling feet, datapad in hand.  She smiled as he grunted at her and stuck his tongue out.   “I wanted to let you know that the Captain approved the additional Zaakul patrols -- nothing extensive, but she has a few old friends with a few old debts that are willing to keep an eye on things for her.” 

“I’ll take it.  Thank the bosslady for me, if I don’t see her first.”

“I will.”  Lana gave Koth’s foot a playful tug.  “What are you two up to?”

“Taking a break from a multi-dimensional chess match,” Arcann answered.

“And being scared of his mom,” Koth added. 

Lana smiled up at them.  “Thick as thieves, you two are lately. Anything I should know about?”

Koth smirked down at her.  “Lana Beniko, whatever do you mean by that question?  And is that a note of something less than professional in your voice? In regard to me?”

“I’m just trying to keep tabs on all of my assets, as usual.”

That last part was code to confirm for her place, tonight.  Yesssss. 

Koth’s internal celebration was interrupted by Lana’s next question.  “Arcann, are you well?”  Koth felt the metal in the floor flex slightly as the other man got up and left.

“Hey, Arcann?  Arcann?”  Koth called after him, but he didn’t turn around or acknowledge Koth.  

**

“Was it something I said?” were the first words out of Lana’s mouth as Koth walked through there door.  She met him there, a Menkooro bourbon in each hand.  She offered him one, which he eagerly took.

Koth sighed.  “You know that little tease thing you did, about anything you should know about?”

Lana nodded, then paused.  “Oh, dear.  I knew his upbringing was conservative, but --”  She frowned.  “Surely that won’t be a problem in working with you or--”

“No no no no no -- you got the wrong end of that.”  Koth downed the bourbon like it was shot, and his eyes watered.  “Damn, Lana, good stuff.”

“Anyway,” she motioned for him to continue on, sipping her own bourbon. 

When the glass parted from her lips, Koth took it from her.  “I earned this,” he insisted.  At her start of an objection, he explained, “Yeah, he was brought up as heir to an empire.  You know, a system of government that typically relies on biological heirs and stuff?  He was always told he was gonna have to find a girl and do the do and make more little emperors for Zakkul.”  Koth downed the other bourbon.  “I caught up to him later.  He’s realized he might not be only into that.  Or maybe even not into that at all.  He never had a choice before --”

“And now he does.”  Lana stared at him, her yellow eyes gradually lighting up and opening wide at the revelation. “Oh, my.   More bourbon.” 

Another few glasses later for both of them, Lana said to Koth, “So, is there?  Between you?”

“We’re friends.  Honestly, he’s having identity issues - not just the sex thing, but everything -- now that all the pressure is off.  He’s just --- he’s just a guy living in the galaxy now.  He can love whoever he wants, however he wants.  And Arcann doesn’t know what he personally wants yet, now that the whole ‘do it for Zakuul’ thing is off the table.”

“Well, bloody good for him.”  Lana raised her glass upward to clink with Koth’s. “To Arcann being himself.  Whoever the hell that is.”

“Whoever the hell that is.” 

Chapter Text

The tanks rolled down the streets, fully automated. The new missile launchers and all-in-one combat robotics unit flanked them.  Not a single human life marched.

Diana of Themiscyra frowned. “Your technology is impressive. But is not the military ideally created from all aspects of the society it represents?”

Lex Luthor gave her a tight smile.  “In primitive times, when human life was cheap, perhaps.  Now we can fight entire wars without a single human life lost on the field.”

Diana watched the machines file by.  “When these machines march across the battlefield, there is no guarantee they shall not meet a human resistance.”

“That’s the other side’s problem, not mine,” Lex replied coolly.

Now Diana’s forehead became lined with something deeper than puzzlement.  “Then there is no hesitation, no thought to hold back – no mercy.”

“Again, not our problem. Our people are safe in their cities—”

“And what happens when these machines of war come across a civilian settlement?  Is there any programming to spare the unarmed?  The non-combatants?  Is there any discernment vested in your metal men?”

Lex grit his teeth.  “There’s always room for improvement.  Such is the way of innovation.”

One of the tipsy fops watching the parade barged in on the conversation.  “Say, Princess, how about some bubbly and one of those neat little canape thingies – spana – spanka –”

“Spanakopita,” Diana corrected him, her voice drawn taunt, like a violin string.

“Ya mind?” The dark-haired man asked Lex as he slung an arm around Diana’s shoulders.

“You two go ahead.  … you probably need a designated driver, Bruce.” Lex said it as warmly as he could, which was, at best, slightly chilled below room temperature on a dry day.  

A stupid, sprawling smile rattled across the playboy’s face.  “Yeaaaah.”  Then he wheeled around, tugging Diana along with him.  

Once they were half-way to the buffet table and out of Lex’s sight, Diana abruptly pulled away from Bruce. Rather than stumbling or losing his balance, he smoothly rose to his full height and regarded her carefully.

Diana let her anger go on parade.  “Is that –”  she pointed dramatically back at the balcony where Luthor surveyed his war machines “—supposed to impress me?”

“Yes,” he answered simply.

“Your people use machines to avoid accusations of a war crimes.  Because a machine cannot do but what it is programmed to do. It cannot make nuanced decisions.  Do I have that right?  Or is my understanding primitive?”

Bruce could not but help admire how beautiful she was in her righteous anger, but he was most certainly not going to say a word about that.  Batman could take a punch from Wonder Woman (if he had to, not that he was excited about it), but Bruce Wayne would be in a hospital for a week.  “You understand correctly.  But not all weapons manufacturers are like LexCorp.”

“But they have to compete. They have to match.  They have to have their money as well, do they not?”  

He looked at her a few moments more.  Then:  “Let’s talk about this on the drive back –”

“No, thank you, owner, operator, and CEO of WayneTech.”  And with that, Diana effortlessly opened a window and leapt out of it, day dress and all.  

Chapter Text

 Lana propped her head up on her hands.  “Do you know what time it is?”

“No, do you?” Eva replied, dragging her hand over her face and then yawning.

“No.  Theron?” Lana asked, turning her head to look at him, eyes aching.

Theron was ahead of her; his eyes were already bloodshot.  “Uh-uh.”  His hands still moved at full speed over the keyboard at his computer station.  Lana had wheeled a chair over so she could sit at the war table and run simulations.  

Eva, on the other hand, had forsaken standing or sitting altogether and was sprawled across the top of the strategy table behind Theron, like a wayward cat.  She was pawing through Port Nowhere records regarding Zakuul that she had studiously copied out to paper (not flimsi – paper, because Eva wanted to enjoy the experience) .

She’d done it using both hands.  Once Eva had regained feeling in her right hand, she continued to work with her left, becoming fully ambidextrous. Lana had to admire her determination.  And her stubbornness.

“This would be easier if Theron hadn’t made that spice runner fake identity so… realistic,” Lana sighed.

“Is this about the glitter again?” Eva asked. “Because we did clean that up.  And detailed the speeder.”

Lana rolled her eyes and wheeled around in her chair to look at the Captain.  “No.  It’s how our … secret agent spy extraordinaire over here made friends and created such an elaborate backstory and wove it so thoroughly into their Holonet that everyone on the Zakuulan black market scene wants to do business with him, and we can’t insert any other agent in.”  

A minute of silence, of computers droning, of distant beeps as whatever Oggurobb was doing reached its completion in the wee hours of the morning.

Finally, Theron raised an eyebrow and aimed it in Lana’s direction.  “Secret agent spy extraordinaire?”

Lana huffed.  “Whatever.  Either way, your solution went well beyond the brief.  They think he’s a hot line to the Voidhound –”

“—which he is.” Eva tugged on the back of his belt to get him to turn around, unsuccessfully.

“But that was meant to be your role, as it was on Yavin – playing at being some lieutenant, not the actual Voidhound or Outlander.  Now we have to dedicate resources to two different smugglers running in and out of Zakuul, one of which is technically the operations manager of this entire base, not to mention our director of black ops.”  Lana let herself slump back on her chair.  “Really, Theron, I could kill you for this.”  

Eva leaned up on one arm. “Hey, I helped make that ID from scratch, so distribute the death threats appropriately.  Also, Zakuul has some funny ideas about what a woman can do, so having a male smuggler isn’t the worst idea we’ve ever had.  They may well rather deal with him and not me, no matter how fierce or successful my front is.”  

Lana wearily nodded.  “Chafes, doesn’t it?”

“Hell yeah.”  Eva tugged on Theron’s belt again.  “Why are you an agent of the patriarchy?”

“Maybe I didn’t have enough caf.  I think it’s 0400?”  He yawned into the arm of his jacket.

Eva rolled to a sitting position at the end of the strategy table. “If you’re gonna kill him, Lana, I wanna be there.  Blindfold him, give him his last cigarette – whatever.”  Eva reached for the paperwork she’d scattered all over the strategy table. “Ah!” She suddenly hissed.  

“Papercut?”  Theron asked, looking over his shoulder at her.

“Yes, the one downside to physical records, in my opinion.”  Instinctively, the injured side of her finger went to her mouth to try to staunch the bleeding.  

“So now we’re going to make a blood oath over how I kill Theron.”  Lana got up from her chair.

“Sure, come get your papercut.  Also, if I kill him, you can be there, too.”

Theron stared at them. Then he shook his head and yawned again. “I’m getting another carafe of caf in support of the sisterhood.”

In unison, the two women replied, “Thanks, secret agent spy extraordinaire.”

Two days later, Eva caught sight of Theron’s new Holonet signature and cackled on and off for an hour until he came home to their quarters.

Chapter Text

 

“We’re dead.  Deader than dead.”

“I am not going down. If I am, you’re coming with me.”  

“Gee, Dyo, that’s something great to say to me when –”

A head with way brown hair with a tendency to curl popped up, and two pairs of olive-gold eyes locked together in heated argument.  “It’s Dyominia – and you don’t have to shorten my name to match my height anymore, Argento.” And then she disappeared back into the engine compartment of Virtue’s Thief, desperately trying to get the engines to turn back on and the cooling protocols active before Mom and Dad got back.

Argento ran a hand through his thick, mahogany hair.  “We’re doomed.”

“Not YET.”

“We should NOT have tried to use some of the Thief’s parts on our swoop bikes.  We should have known it wouldn’t have been compatible – ”

“Though it would have been fun to fly through Odessen at mach 1.”

“That really doesn’t sound as fun as I thought anymore.”

Dyominia’s head popped up again.  “Yeah, well, you’re a drag anyway.  You never follow through on ideas.”

“I’m apparently an idiot too, because you decided it was great after I gave up, and your ideas never work out.”

“They do too!  We… just have to improvise.”

Argento stuck his head out into the circular hallway of the Thief.  “Should I ask C2 to –”

“Rat us out?  No!”  Dyominia hoisted herself up out of the engine compartment and closed it up.  

Argento turned to face her. “Well, did you fix it?  Please tell me you fixed it.”

“Nope, I gave up,” Dyominia answered, bluntly. “I’m running off to join the Jedi or the Sith or something that doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the Alliance.”  

As she shoved past her brother, he grabbed at her arm.  “First, they won’t take you – you’re too old now.  Second, what am I supposed to do?”

Dyominia shook off her brother’s arm.  “I dunno. May the Force be with you, because I sure won’t when the parental units get home.”

Argento grabbed her arm again.  “Can’t you – use the Force or something to fix it?”  

That was met with a huge scowl.  “You know that’s not how it works.  Dad says that’s not how it works.  Even Mom says that’s not how it works, and she doesn’t believe in it half the time anyway.”  

“I would really, really like to live to see 16.  Can you try?”

Dyominia sighed at her older brother.  “You know I don’t like using it.”

“That’s a lie if I ever heard one.”

Dyominia’s nose scrunched up and she made a face at him.  “I don’t like failing at using it – better?”  

“Come on, give it a shot. Not like I can even try anyway.”

“I’m pretty sure this has never worked, ever.  Trying to fix a ship using the Force.”

Argento checked his chrono. “We don’t got a lot of time.  Give it a try.”

Dyominia crossed her arms in front of her and shut her eyes.  

Argento felt the subtle static in the air as his sister reached out.  If she’d ever practiced, it would have been imperceptible.  No, she never did like using the Force, but he would have given anything – anything – to be in her shoes.  

He watched as her brow creased as she concentrated.  

Argento heard voices outside of the ship.  He didn’t say anything aloud.  He knew the party was over once somebody opened the door and felt the muggy heat that had formed in the Thief because they’d somehow broken the air conditioning and the ship was really, really old – like older than Grampy Jace.

**

Eva stopped walking and let out a slight growl.  Theron looked over at his wife.  “Something wrong?”

“Ship’s condensers aren’t firing off like they should.  Rhythm’s off.”

Theron peered up toward the ship ahead of them.  “Should we—”

“They got until my feet hit the entry way to fix whatever they did.  If they fix it, we’ll pretend we saw nothing – and I’ll run a diagnostic to make sure the Thief is ok.”

“If it’s not?”

“People have new babies at 50 these days.  Science is amazing.”

“Like we’d get any different results with our gene pool.”

**

As Argento heard his mother’s boots hit the threshold of Virtue’s Thief’s main door, the beautiful sound of the engine began its regular hum again, and blessed cool air started to circulate again.

Dyominia’s eyes popped open. “Oh, snap, it worked.”

“Told you to trust in the Force, sis.”

“Easy for you to say, you nerfherder.”

Chapter Text

“There she is!” Akaavi’s voice sounded across the small lake as a human bobbed up, dark hair slicked against her scalp.  Triumphantly, she held up a green holocron, clenched in one fist.  

The entire smuggler crew could see that brilliant grin from their positions in the cargo hold of Virtue’s Thief as it hovered over the water.  Her teeth were white against the grey water and the admittedly distressing shade of blue Eva was turning.  

“Notification: Retrieving hot towels from the dryer.” HK-55 ran off before Theron could say anything.  He swallowed hard, his throat dry, and he could recognize the shake in his hands.

They’d tried to raise the shipwreck from the bottom of the lake using the Thief’s winch, but just as it was coming over the lip of the cargo door, the back half fell off.  Eva had said a rather dejected “Fuck” and that was the only notice the crew had before she dove in after their quarry.

Theron thought he was having a heart attack, and Bowdaar had immediately grabbed him around the waist.  “We’re not going after two idiots!”  

Now Bowdaar was in the kitchen, getting a hot toddy ready, and Theron, Guss, and Corso were waiting impatiently by the cargo door for Eva to reappear.  

Despite the extreme cold, Eva moved through the water steadily with dogged determination.  Before she accepted Corso’s reaching hand, she waved the holocron at Guss to take it.  “Get that over to Rish to verify – she’s got the Jedi data.  I don’t want to catch pneumonia for a fraud.”  

“I could have tried to raise the ship myself, boss,” Guss reminded her.  

“Next time, Guss, when we don’t have an exorbitant amount of credits riding on it.” The Mon Cal took the object from the Captain’s head and held it at arm’s length, as if it were diseased, then darted into the main of the ship toward the engine room, where Risha and about fifteen space heaters were.  

“Alright, Cap, let’s get you out of the drink.”  Corso tried again to grab her, and this time, Eva let him take her hand.  She didn’t try to pull herself out – the swim had stolen her vigor.  She noticed Theron’s extended hand on her other side, and she grasped it as well.  The two men lifted her deadweight up.  As her feet touched down on the floor of the bay, water cascading off her, her knees buckled, and she knelt on the cold floor, exhausted.

That was enough for Theron.   “We need to have a talk.”  

**

Corso took one listen of that and immediately removed himself from the cargo bay, smacking the door’s button on his way out.  The bay’s lights were on and bright, as the door closed and sealed them away from the grey day.  

Before Eva could object, Theron had grabbed her under the arms, as if she was some unruly toddler, and seated her on one of the crates in the bay.  She winced at her icy throne, but he was already plucking buttons free of her wet shirt, undressing her efficiently and quickly.  No impromptu passion here. 

Theron knelt before her as he tugged her shirt off and let it land on the floor beside her with a squish.  “You could have died.  Again, and for what? Credits?”  Theron yanked off his winter coat and wrapped her upper body in it before his hands went work on her boots, flinging the offending footwear behind him as he went.

Eva tried to voice her objection, but her teeth chattered instead, and so she decided to save the effort.

Theron’s warm hands slid over the skin of her waist, then undid the fly of her wet trousers and rolled them down her legs, taking her socks with them and casting them aside. The entire time, he kept his eyes on her, his eyes gold in their intensity.

“You’re upset.”

Yes,” Theron growled at her, as HK returned with the hot towels, as promised, from C2.  

HK read the situation accurately: he peered into the cargo bay, then heaved the entire pile at Theron before turning around and leaving without a word.  

Theron caught one, but the rest landed all over the floor and some directly on Eva, which saved a step. “I will say, I appreciate the fine-tuning you’ve made on HK. Knows when not to be chatty,” he commented.

“You’re welcome.”  

Eva watched as Theron wrapped her up in the hot towels wherever his coat didn’t cover.  Then he sat back on his heels and pulled her into his lap. Almost automatically, she tucked her head under his chin.  “You really are going to kill me one of these days with a massive heart attack.”  He rocked back slightly, tightening his embrace. “I don’t want it to be like this anymore.”

“Theron, nothing happened. So I’m a little cold.  You know I’ve done more ridiculous things than this.”  Eva rubbed her cold nose against the warm skin at the base of his neck, before pulling back to look at him.  “I’m safe –"

A memory stirred to life because of how he looked at her.  He looked wounded, worried, heartbroken, angry  – stars.  “Why – why are you looking at me like the night I went a few rounds in the Eternal Championship to save Bowdaar?”

And then, so quietly: “I’m tired of having you almost slip through my hands.  Whether it’s because I’m fucked up or because the galaxy is broken or because you still like to get your thrills…I feel like I’m always losing you.”

Eva’s mouth fell open for a moment.  Then she found words and she was moving to pull herself as close to him as possible, despite a million towels and his own jacket. “You’re not. I swear to the Three Moons, you’re not.  I told you.  I’ll always come back for you.  Even when you tell me not to.”

“We don’t exactly have quiet lives.  Never have. Never will.  Probably.  Unless we ditch the entire Alliance, let the galaxy go to hell, live out our days in some isolated bolthole of yours that gets regular shipments from Port Nowhere.” His voice was ragged.

Eva blinked, then pulled away from him.  “This something you’ve been thinking about?  Like, planning out?”

Theron’s face contorted into a series of lines, brow furrowed and mouth frowning.  “No.  And yes.”

She stared at him.  He stared back.  

A shaky inward breath. “Ok.  … you do realize it’s a year to the day since Umbara?” Eva sank her fingers into his shirt, into his skin, trying to anchor herself in advance of any attempt of her brain to mutiny. 

“… Yeah.”  

“Three months since we got married.”

“Yeah….you know how you tease me about my supposed latent domestic fantasies?”

“Yeah?”

“Not so latent.  Not so supposed,” he confessed as he gently guided a few dripping strands of hair away from her face.  “I... need something more secure.  More low-stakes.”

Eva’s heart tripped over itself for him.  “…then let’s actually talk about what we do when we’re not saving the galaxy.  For once....let’s stop winging it.”

Theron nodded, slowly.  She could see him thinking, hard.  He gave her a nervous smile.  “This is so stupid.”

“Try me.”

Theron said it in a rush: “Do you wanna go on a date?  A real one.  Not... something extra tacked onto a mission. I mean, we’d still do that, but -- ” 

Eva went still.  “No watching our bombs go off over breakfast...”

“No pretending not to know each other so we can make an intel hand-off...”

“No pretending to be tourists in order to case a joint.  Or going treasure hunting for credits.”

Theron nodded.  “We still do that, but... we also do things with no risk.  All reward.  Just... a date.  Or, you know, dating, if we string a few of those together.”  He raised his eyebrows slightly, the smile blooming on his face.  “Yeah?”

Eva’s grin broke over her face like the dawn.  “Yeah.”  Then her arms were up around his neck, and he couldn’t hold her closer if he tried.

Chapter Text

Jace Malcom noted the highly encrypted, high-priority message from the Alliance Commander in his inbox.  It was marked for his eyes only. 

~~

Malcom had wanted to hate her.  She had taken his son away from the Republic.  He remembered when Theron told him he was going to resign for a dead girl.  Malcom was beside himself both in fury and in worry over Theron’s mental state.  He’d built this woman – this one-night woman from what Malcom could tell – into some sort of saint. She was pretty, but she was a criminal.  She had conspired with a Sith, willingly, in Wild Space.  

And then the Outlander had been victorious against the Eternal Empire.  Jace Malcom was profoundly conflicted. The Republic hadn’t won.  It had knuckled under.  But it hadn’t lost as much as the Sith Empire either. 

Malcom had decided after the Iokath campaign that he liked Corolastor.  The Voidhound was a criminal, but she had never failed a contract. She kept her word.  She was sharp. She was brave.  Even as he fumbled with Theron (apparently, complimenting him on how good he was in a war wasn’t appreciated), Corolastor was a cool, calm customer.  

She also slugged Saresh, which appealed to Jace in the same way that Satele dropping a mountain on Malgus had.  He liked strong women.  

And then he saw them together.  They’d thought they were alone.   Jace Malcom had appreciated how professional they had been.  He almost thought that Theron’s romantic feelings had been quashed entirely.  But then, while he was getting a cup of caf about halfway through the campaign, he heard a “hey” from around the corner, by the door that led out to one of many overviews that looked over the planet.  

There were fishbowl mirrors in the corridors at Iokath, to give people clear warning of what lay around the corner – be it robot or sentient.  Corolastor and Theron sat with their backs to wall, looking out over the planet, cups of caf at their side.  Jace could see it from his vantage point near the caf machine.  Silently, he sipped his caf while standing up, watching. This is what Theron did for a living, right?

“How you doing?”

“All right.  It’s clear he hasn’t forgotten I’m not a Pub anymore.”

Jace didn’t need to be an SIS agent to figure out who they were talking about.

“This the first time you’ve seen him since --?”

“Yeah.”

A silence.

“He’s proud, you know.”

Finally, someone got the point!

“Of all the wrong things. Combat does not suit me.”

Eva was quiet, and Jace heard a sip of caf.

“He never thinks of peace. He never thinks of a future where there isn’t war,” Theron continued.  “I work for a future he doesn’t believe in.”  

That struck Jace. Theron was so very much his son, and yet he was also Satele’s.  Jace’s memory wandered back to a conversation that had taken place over 35 years before. The last he’d had with Satele as her lover.  I don’t have to explain myself.

Jace snapped back to the present when the Voidhound responded. “But that’s the future.  What about today?”  Theron didn’t immediately response, so Corolastor continued to speak. “What do you want to do today, besides sit here and have caf with me?”

“Not a thing.”  The way Theron’s voice dropped through the floor and how the pair turned toward each other told Jace that Theron’s romantic feelings had not been quashed in the least.  They were discreet.  

Except for now, when they were being very affectionate.  

A kiss ended.  “Can you put off the inevitable fights with Jace for us to get through today?  If we wake up tomorrow, see if you can do the same thing.”  

Theron sighed.  “You never worry about the long-term.”  Jace could see Theron’s arm looped around her.

“When did I ever? This whole Outlander thing has been a trip, but I’m still a smuggler captain at heart – take everything you can every day, regret nothing.  Tomorrow isn’t promised.”  Another kiss, and Jace heard that one – youth was a wonderful thing.  “So get through today with me.  With Malcom.  Just today.”

Jace had left the mess hall at this point with his caf in hand.  At least he knew that the Alliance Commander was not averse to working with the Republic or him.  On a personal level, he’d appreciated the subtle hand she used with Theron.  He started to understand what Theron saw in the dead girl.

Corolastor looked more dead than alive when he had visited Odessen.  The light in the eyes had been smothered out, the cheeks sunken, the skin dull and growing more sallow.  The Wookiee had served three-cup mugs of hot tea, excessively sweetened.  Jace had idly asked why the tea was prepared this way, if the Alliance Commander had a taste for it.  Bowdaar had explained it was 48 fewer calories he had to fight to get into her.

Corolastor was the Voidhound at that point, constantly.  It wasn’t just an on-duty act, as Theron had explained during the Iokath op.  The identity had consumed her. She’d spoken dispassionately about where she had last tracked Theron.  She provided intel holos of Copero.

What a kriffing stupid haircut.  

That was the last time he’d seen Corolastor or Theron.

Corolastor had been kind enough to send him word that Theron had been recovered alive and that he was still an agent of the Alliance.  She had not terminated him or his service to her organization.  Malcom had been torn about this.  On the one hand, he was relieved beyond words that his son was not dead or disgraced.  

On the other hand, Malcom wanted Theron to come home to the Republic.  Hell, he’d even thought of clearing out a corner of his home office to set up a cot.  Other than a “yeah, I’m alive” message from Theron, that was all he had heard. 

~~

One could have forgiven Jace Malcom for his first observation, then, when he opened the heavily encrypted message.  She filled out nicely.

It was then that he realized that Corolastor was wearing nothing but a dancing girl outfit, and he sprayed his mouthful of caf all over his monitor.

He dropped the datapad he was holding and grabbed tissues from the box on his desk in order to try to mop the mess up.  

So, moving on from ogling his son’s (ex?) girlfriend inappropriately.  Jace looked at everything in the holo except Corolastor’s state of undress.

Theron was wearing that other stupid haircut of his (not as stupid as the one he had worn in exile, thank the stars), but his jacket and shirt were acceptable, minus the fact it seemed that the shirt had been torn in half in order to bandage the arm of Corolastor (the one part of her that Jace permitted himself to look at).  It appeared that the entirety of Corolastor’s crew was also in the photo.

Wait a second.  There was the planetary governor of Aargonar.  And there were noticeable glints of gold on critical fingers…

Oh Great Original Light, this was a wedding holo still.

Jace gave up on his 0900 caf and switched immediately to Corellian brandy out of a flask he kept in his lower right desk drawer.  Hot damn.

He decided to read the text of the message – that was probably a good idea.

Caught up with each other on mission.  

I don’t think I have to explain myself.

Your daughter-in-law,

--EC

He finally was able to look at the holo still as a cohesive whole.  Theron looked like he had soaked up a lot of sun and recovered well from his injuries. The Supreme Commander allowed himself a brief moment to remember how much Theron looked like Kal Malcom, his brother, long dead.   Corolastor seemed to be in pristine condition (stars above), minus the wound on her arm. She was somehow still spacer-pale, despite their bright desert environs.  Theron had a protective arm about her waist, and both beamed radiantly.  The rest of the smuggler crew seemed overjoyed at this development.  

Holy kark.  They’d done it.

Nobody dared approach the Supreme Commander’s office for the rest of the day, as the foreign sound of joyful laughter periodically erupted from behind its doors.

Chapter Text

She’d noticed how he’d grown increasingly quiet as they spoke, even as the topic matter got more and mundane.  

“Why are we whispering?”

“Because Clark is an insufferable busybody that can’t resist.  It’s a surefire way to get his attention.”

Just then, Bruce’s phone buzzed.  He pulled it out of his pocket, glanced at it, then smugly held it out to Diana.

I heard that.

Diana let herself smile, slightly.  “That explains the Pulitzers.”

Another buzz came, and it somehow sounded more indignant.

It’s not just about the scoop.  It’s the wordsmithing!  

Parties with Bruce and Clark were always amusing.  It tended to alternate between her and Bruce teasing Clark relentlessly, or she and Clark watching Bruce getting dumped in some high-drama scene that resulted in a ruined, very expensive suit.  

Diana, wisely, flew under the radar.

What do you need me for? You WERE whispering…

Chapter Text

He was the first up the gangplank of the Ebon Hawk.  He couldn’t wait to get out of there ---

Because the longer he stayed, the harder it was for his son to serve the Republic, the longer it would take him to finish business and get off this awful planet --  Carth’s elation drove him to march straight to the cockpit to begin take-off procedures, even as Questra was still trying to get final clearance from the port authority.  His sweat caused the dust and the sand from Korriban to stick to him and stain his skin that awful color.

He was still sweating as his hands flew over the dashboard of the Ebon Hawk.  For once!  For once things were going to be ok.  The galaxy – at least his part of it – was going to be ok, for the first time in four-and-a-half years.  Carth wheezed and then realized that he was practically hyperventilating due to the adrenaline rush.

“We’re clear!” he heard Questra yell from the ship’s entry, and without hesitation, he fired up the engines.  He sure hoped Juhani had gotten onboard.

It was only when the Ebon Hawk had left Korriban’s atmosphere that Carth realized he was absolutely kriffing disgusting.  He reeked.  Apparently, he was sweating like an over-excited teenager because it was that bad.  

He cleared his throat. “I’m going to hit the showers.”

“Please do.” Bastila’s response… was pretty reasonable, in all honesty.  

“I know, sorry.”

Carth had a foot out of the cockpit when he heard his name.  He turned around to look at Bastila, who had folded herself up on the co-pilot’s chair, knees drawn to her chest.  

“Questra told me about your son over the comm.  I can only imagine how relieved you are….” Bastila trailed off.  She looked like she wanted to congratulate him, but they both knew that didn’t quite fit the situation –

“Yeah, I am.” Carth awkwardly gestured toward the men’s quarters and the refresher.  “I’ll just – yeah.”

Carth didn’t fail to notice the way Zaalbar drew back from him with a whimper as he passed.    Carth reached the quarters he shared with Canderous and immediately went to work kicking off his boots.  

Well, at least he hadn’t stepped in something.  He was just really sweaty.

He’d just taken off his shirt when the door swished open.  “Might want to stand downwind.”

“I don’t mind,” said someone that that was most certainly not Canderous.

Carth felt his skin prickle, and it wasn’t just because of the cool recycled air in his quarters.  He turned to look at her.  “Ques.  Everything all right?”

Questra nodded and gave him a small smile.  “Just checking in on you.  After today –”

“It’s a lot.  A hell of a lot.”  And he still didn’t know how it was going to play out.  Dustil wasn’t the same child he’d had … left behind. The words caused a deep ache – always had, but now it was worse.  

Carth snapped back to the present as he felt her hand on his arm. “It’s going to be all right, Carth. I know it,” she whispered insistently to him, and he suddenly realized how close she was to him. As he made eye contact with her, he saw something in her eyes fade slightly.  “Do… do you want to go to Telos, now?  We can drop you off.”

Carth stared at her. “How could you ask that?  We’ve only got one more star map – ”

“And you just saved your son.   You can do things right now, like you wanted.” Questra withdrew her hand from his arm and let it curl in toward her, almost as if to hold herself.  “You have something more important to do than stay with me.”

He saw the most brief flash of sadness; if she wasn’t so tired after the day and if he wasn’t running off a ludicrous high, he might have missed it.  But he didn’t.  

She didn’t want him to go –

But she was telling him –

Carth couldn’t stop himself.  In a split-second, he was hugging her tight to him.  “I’m not going anywhere, Ques.”

She was rigid in shock for a few moments, and Carth was sure he’d crossed the line, misread the signals--

And then she hugged him back.

Dustil was going to be ok.

The crew was going to complete its Star Forge mission and stop Malak.  The galaxy was going to be ok.

And for the first time in years….

Cartha felt kind of ok.

He let the side of his jaw rest against her temple.

If she didn’t care about him being a sweaty mess… then neither did he.  

He heard a noise from the doorway.  Carth opened an eye, cautiously.

Now it was Canderous. And he was being an obnoxious little Mandie bastard, making lewd gestures, complete with hip thrusts

Carth wished he was a Jedi, just so he could telepathically blow up his mind with the words Don’t ruin this.

Don’t ruin this

Don’t ruin this

“….You didn’t know, did you?”

Don’t ruin this

Saul Karath’s last breath was spent laughing at Carth Onasi one last time.

Don’t ruin this

Less than 48 hours after…

Don’t ruin this

“Remember my dying words.” The blood gurgled up in his throat. “Remember them whenever ---”  the familiar rattle of an injury too severe to survive “—whenever you look at those you thought were ---”

Don’t ruin ---

….

It’s ruined.

Chapter Text

“Oggurobb, you shrank Revan.”  Eva stared, eyes huge, at the figure that stood on the platform in place of Koth and Lana. The familiar mask stared at her, about half a foot lower than it used to be.

Things were not going well in the lab today.

She threw a quick, desperate glance back at the Hutt, whose hands were flying over his monitors. Theron glared up at him and turned to look at Eva’s source of concern.  

Revan spoke – and it was not the voice either of them knew.  “Hey, I’ve always been this size.”

Theron came to stand next to Eva.  She immediately started to run a visual check on him, running her eyes up and down --

“Stop that,” he hissed.

“Hey, I’ll tell you if you go translucent.  Or get shorter.”  

Theron nudged her and turned his attention back toward….  “Are you Darth Revan?”

“I used to be.” The mask lifted itself slightly. “Interesting flag.”  The figure gestured toward the Alliance symbol.  

“Not a fan,” came a raspy voice from behind Revan (?) in the shadows of the platform.  

As he came forward to stand next to his companion, Theron shifted his weight and said with some disbelief, “Admiral Onasi.”

“I got promoted? Well, that’s nice to know.”  He drew close to Revan, a step behind and to the right.  

Eva recognized that deference to protocol – it was the same that she and Theron maintained when they were out in public.   And maybe that was all it was.  She turned to look back at Oggurobb, who for once actually looked a little flustered how badly his experiment had gone.  “Uhm.  Should we be worried about Theron disappearing?”

“No, Captain. Fortunately, we have only disrupted another universe’s timeline, not our own.  You can share information freely.”

Eva and Theron stared at each in silent horror.

“Fortunately?” At that moment, Revan removed their mask and pushed back their cowl.  “I think we need an explanation.  Now.” 

Revan was not the tall, lean man that Eva had met at the Maelstrom Prison, nor the Force Ghost that had appeared again and again over the last fifteen years.  Instead, Revan was a strawberry blonde of medium height with soft blue eyes that looked disturbingly familiar. Her hair was tightly braided, and as her hood fell, the coil slipped out.  

“Uhm.  Dr. O back there was messing around with his transporter – trying to transport people over distances to save on shuttle costs.  And our friends disappeared.  And you appeared when we tried to beam them back. Sorry we screwed up your space-time continuum?”  Eva offered.

There was an awkward silence as Revan and Onasi stared at them.  

Well.  Shucks.  “I’m Eva Corolastor, captain of this merry crew, the Alliance.”  

“I’m Theron Shan. Operations manager of the Alliance.” That was the short version of everything Theron did.  

Onasi startled slightly and stared at Theron.  “…are you related to Bastila?  Somewhere down the line?”  He looked back and forth between Theron and Eva suspiciously.  “How many years down the line?”

“300,” Theron answered calmly.  “Revan in our universe is… very different from this Revan.”

The woman seemed to immediately pick up on what Theron was getting at.  “I’m Questra Kharr.  Revan was always just a title.”  She tilted her head slightly to look up, a gesture Eva knew from --  “Someone else in your universe took that title… Malak – did you have a Malak?”

Theron nodded.

“Malak took his title. Our other friends took titles. …we were just the last two to survive.”

“But that’s got to do with Basti----?”  Onasi stopped himself as the pieces came together.  “Oh.  A.. different Revan.  Wow.” He frowned.  He pointed up at the flags.  “Explain.”

Eva sighed and crossed her arms.  “Long story short, something bigger than the Pub and Empire came around.  Some of us ditched our respective sides, joined with people who’d never been on a side.  We took care of it.  We’re a third faction in the galaxy.”  

Questra seemed to freeze as Onasi stepped forward.  “Something bigger?  What could possibly bring the Republic and the Sith together?  After everything we’ve done –”

“Carth.”  Questra said his name quietly, and Eva knew her first read on his body language toward Revan had been correct.  “I think – even though this universe is on a different trajectory than ours – because of who their Revan was – we don’t need to get into an argument over whether allying with the Sith was a good idea.” She leaned slightly to look past the smuggler and the spy. “How long will we be here?”

“Hours.  I can see the errors in my computations now – it is fascinating to see how the errors manifested through the crossing of the spatial timeways.  I would very much like to calculate at what singular point did the timelines diverge—”

“But it can be done in a few hours?” Onasi cut in, impatiently.  

“Yes, yes, it can.” The Hutt dove back into his work, hands waving wildly as they gestured at the screen.  

The four humans stood in awkward silence for a few moments as the Hutt started to hum-sing a Sith operatic aria.

“Never had a problem that wasn’t solved or at least made more interesting by going to the cantina,” Eva threw out there.  

Onasi shrugged.  “Why the hell not.  Canderous could never say he drank in another dimension.”

Questra considered the offer, then looked over at Theron.  “I think I’d like a tour of your facilities.  And maybe some gossip about Bastila, 300 years removed.”

Eva and Theron exchanged a look.  Divide and conquer it was – but carefully.  

**

“Nice work.  Most of my trainees take a week to slice that.”

Questra straightened up. She’d asked for directions to the ladies’, then had diverted quickly to the nearest computer lab.  Even after she became a Jedi (again), she always kept her slicing kit on her.  She turned to see Theron Shan leaning up against the wall near the door.  “I apologize. I didn’t know if you would divulge information about the Emperor.  Your Emperor.  …the one thing I suspect would bring members of the Republic and the Sith Empire together.”

The smirk that had threatened at the edge of Theron Shan’s mouth disappeared.  “He was.”

Questra stared at the sliced database that she had just about to access.  “…Revan could not defeat him.”

“No.”

“….did what Revan attempt… spare anyone?  Save anyone?”

“…he believed he did.”

Questra stared at the flags hoisted on the wall.  A light touch with the Force, and she could tell Theron’s mind was well-disciplined and shielded.  He had been trained by Jedi, though he was not one himself.  “But the Emperor still came.  And someone still had to stand up.  Someone – the Captain.”  

“Have you already left Onasi behind? Or … are you still considering, which is why you’re slicing into my database?”  Theron asked, bluntly.

Questra’s breath hitched.

**

“She’s a good little ship. Old now.  Can’t compete with some of the isotope-5 craft, but what she now lacks in speed, she makes up with stealth.  Can’t track her.”  Eva drifted behind Carth– he told her to call him that, now that he was on her ship – as he took in the innards of her pride and joy, Virtue’s Thief.  

“We have a Dynamic class. Puny, compared to this.  Like a quarter of the size.  And this is a light freighter, these days?”  Carth shook his head.  “And some people say things don’t change much.  Clearly have never been around ships.  Or had to pilot one of these things.”  One side of Carth’s mouth pulled up in a smile. “Don’t suppose we have time for a joyride?”

“I told Dr. O I wanted my people back in time for supper, so unfortunately, no.”   Eva followed Carth as he wandered up the main hallway of the Thief toward the cockpit.  

“You’re the boss here?”

“I am.”

“And Theron’s your man.”

“Same way you are Questra’s.”  Eva smashed the volley right down the line.

Carth bit back a laugh as he knew his attempt at subtlety had failed.  “Yeah.  How – how do you handle missions apart?”

Eva wiggled her fingers on her left hand, feeling the small weight of the ring.  “We don’t do those anymore… not long term.  Let’s just say Theron saved the galaxy – and me – and nearly got himself spaced in the process.  I wasn’t happy.  And we were tired of being apart.”

“….how did the Revan and Bastila in this universe do it?”

Eva could give an honest answer to that.  “I don’t know.  I mean, they did have a kid together, which is why we have Theron.  I’m not much of a history person.”

He wasn’t swayed.  “The bigger threat you dealt with.  It… it pulled on your Revan, didn’t it?”

Eva didn’t answer. 

“I saw how she reacted when you said that.  I-I’m not Force Sensitive, but I know her.” 

Eva watched as Carth’s mind tried to stitch the parallels this alternative universe to his own.  He kept talking.  “Ques has been having some awful dreams.  Won’t talk about them.  Keeps getting restless.  She – she takes the Ebon Hawk out to the edge of the known galaxy, sits there for awhile, comes home….it’s like she’s a jumper.  Gets up to the edge.  Thinks about going.  Doesn’t. Not that time, anyway.”  

Eva never did study history – that was more Theron’s burden.  But she vaguely remembered thinking, after doing a quick read of the whole Star Forge hunt, that Onasi was ok.  He was a skeptic – historically referred to as ‘paranoid.’  She could relate to that, as a Force-null bantha trying to make her way through the galaxy.  

The label overshadowed how mentally quick he was, how he could read people, and how he could read between the lines.  “Revan. Your Revan didn’t come back.  One of those times.”

Eva sighed and looked over at Carth.  “You really wanna know?”

**

When Carth and Questra climbed the stairs up to the transporter, they were both silent.  They didn’t look at each other.  They both seemed heavy, weighed down by the knowledge….

Just as Oggurobb hit the transporter’s actuator and they began to fizzle out and hopefully return to their home universe, Carth turned toward Questra and grabbed her arm. “Take me with you. Whenever you go.”

Questra’s mouth dropped open, but no answer came as they twinkled out of existence.  

A long silence ensued as Theron and Eva stared at the spot they had stood upon.

“Did Questra ask you about the Emperor?”

“I’m guessing Onasi asked you about Revan’s eventual disappearance?”  Theron scowled at her, and at himself.  “We shouldn’t have – ”

“Happy endings aren’t crimes.  Especially when you know exactly how sad the alternative is.”

 **

Hours later, as Oggurobb hurriedly worked to retrieve Koth and Lana, Eva and Theron sat on the steps that led up to his platform, nursing cups of caf late into the night.  They were comparing notes.  “You saw the blue eyes, right?”

“Yeah, they were hard not to notice.  But it’s 300 years, removed, in an alternative universe.  It – it doesn’t mean that things that happen here or even the people that exist in our universe will come to be,” Theron animatedly objected, waving his cup around with one hand before taking a long, long sip.  “So what, if the eyes looked like Satele’s.”

“He moves like you, you know.  The walk.”

“That’s caused by a gunbelt. Standard-issue in the Republic for hundreds of years, literally.”

“I’ve  -- ok, let’s just say out of all the gunbelts in the galaxy I’ve ever seen, only you two strut like that.” Eva deftly dodged one implication and staggered into the other.  “It’s not identical, because you did Jedi gymnastics – but it’s – it’s uncanny.” Eva let her eyes trail up to his head. “The hair color too.”

Eva and Theron drank their caf for awhile.  Then: “She was a slicer.  Satele has a knack for it. Nobody knows why.  Generations of Jedi, and somehow, she can slice like it’s second nature. Never developed it all the way, like I did but… Theron shook his head.  “Why are you so interested anyway?  This is my multiverse existential crisis.”

Eva finished her cup of caf and placed the cup out of the way.  “I’m just hoping there’s a Theron in every universe, regardless of who Revan is.  And regardless of who Revan is, they ... pick those who are willing to wait.  Like you did for me.”

A sigh escaped him, and they leaned into each other.

Oggurobb let out a triumphant “AHA!” and the transporter spun up.  Almost as quickly as they had disappeared, Lana and Koth reappeared, as if no time had passed for them.

Eva was on her feet approaching the platform, and Theron was a step behind her and to the left.  

Koth and Lana stared around the room.  “We’re home, yes?” Lana asked, cautiously.

“12 hours later than anticipated, but yeah.  …Everything in one piece?” Eva asked.

Lana exhaled in relief. “Yes. As you probably gathered, we ended up in a different universe.  One where the Alliance did exist…but not to defeat the Emperor. Events had … gone differently, 300 years before.”

Koth couldn’t contain himself any longer.  “Theron, you were a badass Jedi in the other universe.  Great Galaxies, you – you were amazing.  I mean, you’re pretty impressive now, but with a lightsaber and doing all those crazy acrobatics.  Damn.”

Eva and Theron exchanged a look, both of them laughing with some disbelief and a little bit of panic at what they might have done.

Lana added on as she descended from the transporter.  “You were there as well, Captain.  Absolutely the same.  Still a smuggler.  I think you may be a universal constant.”  Of course, Lana would appreciate that.

Dr. O piped up from the back.  “I have considered that!  The existence of anchors that manifest as sentients is completely feasible!”

“….and despite him being a Jedi, you two ended up together anyway.  Some things are just fate, huh, Lana?”  Koth smirked at Lana, who only huffed a little. Koth was exceedingly pleased by this development.  

Eva set the bait.  “So, Theron Shan and Eva Corolastor always end up together? I like the sound of that.”

Koth took it, unaware. “Theron wasn’t a Shan.  Something else.  O’Nally? O’Nasty?”

“Onasi?” Theron weakly suggested.

“Yeah!  How’d you guess?”