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Interfaction Cooperation

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Thake leaned against the wall of the ghastly little shack the bird things had offered to them for shelter, arms crossed and fingers drumming a rolling rhythm against the worn leather of his duster. Really, it was far too humid on this backwater cesspit to warrant wearing the jacket, but he would be damned if he took Thessa’s advice and tried to masquerade as a pirate. He watched her now as she discussed the most recent turn of events with Lana in hushed tones, their voices not carrying to where he slouched by the door; here she was, one of the most celebrated- that thought came with an amused sneer- agents in the Sith Empire, in the process of transitioning to the lofty position of Watcher One under the new Sith leadership, and she was wearing an enormous tricorne with ragged gold trim and a fucking feather poking out of the top.

He still wasn’t sure if her enduring naivety was utterly contemptible or stupidly adorable.

Maybe he could amuse himself by imagining the feather came from one of these shrill creatures, and Thessa was inadvertently causing a diplomatic incident by parading around with someone’s dead grandmother in her hat.

Small minds and petty amusements and what not.

He hated this- he hated her inability to just walk away from a problem, he hated this reeking toilet of a planet, he hated the Revanites, he hated being caught up again in the machinations of empires even though Imperial Intelligence was dead in the water and he was supposed to be free for once in his fucking life...

... and as a familiar figure staggered in from outside and made his way over to the table in the corner, Thake felt his jaw clench as he added Theron Shan, SIS Golden Boy to the list of things he hated.

“You’ve got an interesting look on your face right now,” came a far too smug voice to his right.

He breathed out sharply through his nose. “Fuck off, Kaliyo.”

She chuckled, far from offended. “Aw, I love you too babe,” she cooed, crossing into his line of sight. “You look like you don’t know whether you want to beat the shit out of him or kiss all of his boo-boos better for him.”

“I said, fuck off.”

“Hey, far be it for me to judge, we all have those itches we need to scratch.” She leaned against the wall beside him, close enough that she pressed up against him. “Gotta say though, never thought it’d be a grumpy ‘pub boy scout.”

Gritting his teeth, he finally tore his gaze away from Theron, who was leaning over the table and resting heavily on his elbows, one hand covering his bruised and bloodied face. Instead he looked to his partner-in-crime (both figuratively and literally) and glared at her, discomforted by the gleeful look on her face. “I want nothing to do with him,” he hissed, trying not to tense at the way her eyes crinkled with delight. “I certainly have no itches to be scratched.”

She stretched languidly, rolling her head from side to side. “Sure, I’d believe you, if you’d stopped staring at him maybe once in the last few days, or if I didn’t know you as well as I do.”

“I don’t trust him,” Thake spat, looking back to Theron. “It’s awfully convenient that he got himself free just as we stupidly risked everything to free him.”

Kaliyo laughed loudly, and for a second Theron glanced their way. “One,” she said, amusement rich in her voice as Theron looked back down at the datapads on the table in front of him, “you are the last person who can bitch about someone being untrustworthy, you asshole, and I seem to recall a good number of times that you went and got yourself out of a holding cell- even against the fucking Star Cabal, who had centuries of practice at making annoying little shits like you disappear.”

“Entirely different circumstances,” he muttered, and she laughed again, and louder this time.

“And two,” she continued, “I like to play with danger and all, but even I’m not fucking stupid enough to just leave the Jedi Grandmaster’s baby to get all cut up by homicidal droids on some shitty backwater.”

“That’s because you’re a Jedi groupie.”

She made a show of sighing dramatically. “You agree to help an old friend scam a Hutt and go on one Jedi starship and suddenly you’re branded for life.”

Thake stabbed a finger in her direction. “It was not just one Jedi starship, it was the ship of that pretentious git who thinks she can heal the galaxy with love.”

“And she basically didn’t trust me to step beyond the airlock the entire time I was there- what’s worse? That, or someone who threw a tantrum but let that old rat bastard Kothe live because it would hurt Thessa’s precious feelings if he was murdered?”

“That was not for Thessa, that was leverage.”

“What was leverage?”

At the sound of Thessa’s voice, Thake lurched upright from where he was slouched against the wall. “All the secrets I have on you,” he said snidely, inspecting an imaginary speck of dirt on the cuff of his jacket and flicking it rather pointedly in her direction. “Like your willing collaboration with Jedi.”

She didn’t even flinch; she was clearly having a good day. “In case it had escaped your notice, we are currently in willing collaboration with the Republic-”

Rogue agent, very different, I’m a rogue agent and I’m certainly not aligned with the Empire.”

How was anyone supposed to take her seriously in that ridiculous get-up? The feather was annoying enough that he was this close to just reaching out and ripping it off the hat. And it was definitely the feather that was annoying, and not his irritation at how easily Kaliyo had gotten under his skin regarding Shan.

Thessa blinked slowly at him, the gesture deliberate- the Chiss equivalent of rolling one’s eyes at someone. If she was resorting to sarcasm, then she was definitely in a good mood. “We are all of us rogue agents,” she said quietly, “but that does not mean that our loyalties do not remain biased.”

“I don’t have loyalties,” he said with a sneer; there was movement out of the corner of his eye, and his gaze shifted automatically to assess the danger. Theron had moved away from the table and was watching their argument with a closed off expression on his bloodied face.

For some reason, knowing he was listening only made him more frustrated. “I only care about making sure that I don’t die on any of your ridiculous capers,” he said. “As far as the rest of you are concerned, I couldn’t care less.”

The way Thessa narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips was to be expected- after so many years of travelling together and working together, she had grown accustomed to his pettiness- but over her shoulder, Theron’s look of incredulous disgust as he shook his head and turned away made something hot and uncomfortable settle in his chest. Something that felt remarkably like it might be shame.

Which was ridiculous because he simply did not feel shame over something as straightforward as prioritising his own survival. Only a fool with a death wish was stupid enough to let himself get maudlin over the opinions of others.

The tension of the moment was broken when Kaliyo yawned loudly, and said “I’m bored. And hungry.”

Thessa blinked slowly at her as well, clearly unimpressed as always with her. “Are you waiting for a permission slip?” she asked mockingly.

Kaliyo’s delighted grin was almost feral; she disliked Thessa almost as much as Thessa hated her. “Nah, I’m good Ma,” she drawled. She pushed off of the wall and ambled towards the door, a swagger in her step. “I’m gonna go out and grab some grub, don’t wait up.”

The silence in the shack was damn near painful as she sauntered out into the warm night air, and Thake found himself wishing he’d had the good sense to go with her. He’d happily put up with her taunting if he could get away from this damnable shack and the collective of upstanding idiots within- what was the right sort of collective noun for that, anyway? A whine of moralists?

He looked over at where Lana stood casting wounded glances towards Theron that were so utterly unsubtle as to be laughable.

He looked over to where Theron was studiously ignoring her, his lip almost curled up in the beginning of a sneer, except that the expression was obviously uncomfortable for him and he winced, turning his back on them all as he lifted a hand up to his cheek, the skin still shiny and raw from the burns the interrogation droid had inflicted on him.

This was far more than he had agreed to when he’d let Thessa drag him to the furthest reaches of space- this was invoking feelings in him.

“You’re all boring,” he said sharply, tucking his shaking hands into his jacket pockets where they couldn’t be seen. “Kaliyo was right.” It was usually the most insulting thing he could say to Thessa, and from the way her expression morphed from annoyed to furious in the space of a second, he could tell he’d picked his words well yet again.

He didn’t offer further explanation than that because they didn’t deserve further explanation than that; pointless, patriotic do-gooder idiots, all three of them. It was going to get them all killed, and someone would expect him to clean up the mess if he hung around long enough.

The interior of the hut was hot and clammy, thick with smoke from the untended fire, but outside was hardly any better. It was humid on the island, the wind dead on the sea around them, and the heat seemed to cling to his skin, clinging to him like thick kolto gel; his hands were still shaking and the heat was giving him a headache.

Fucking tropical planets and their inhospitable climates- they could never find some tyrannical asshole trying to topple the universe from the comfort of somewhere with decent fucking weather, like Hoth, or Alderaan.

Fuck, he’d even take a rainy day on Ziost over the fucking nightmare that was a humid evening without a breeze on Rishi.

There was some of the bird things standing nearby, heads cocked to the side as if they were oversized parrots waiting for him to whistle at them encouragingly. He bared his teeth instead, and hissed at them, and they shuffled away unhappily, feathers ruffled up in anger.

Kaliyo was nowhere to be seen, of course, and with nothing better to do for the moment he stopped around the curve of the hut and stripped off his jacket, tying the wretched thing off around his waist; it didn’t make a huge amount of difference without a breeze to bring relief, but anything was better than slowly succumbing to heatstroke and needing to rely on Thessa to revive him.

They were not having a repeat of Tatooine, thank you very much.

Leaning against the wall of the shack, he could hear the incoherent sounds of conversation within; he closed his eyes and rested his head back against the flimsy wood, unconcerned with the discussion itself. For all he cared, they could have been having a discussion about sending him running naked into the Revanite encampment.

He very possibly dozed off, lulled into a daze by the heat and the exhaustion creeping along his veins; whatever the case, he slammed back to awareness with a sickening lurch at the sound of raised voices right behind his head. Cursing under his breath, he rubbed blearily at his eyes as he straightened, turning slightly to glare at the wall of the shack.

That was certainly Thessa’s voice he could hear raised in anger, her accent much thicker as her much lauded control slipped ever so slightly; her opponent snapped and snarled in response, neither of them audible enough for him to make out the words.

But what was clear was that Thessa and Theron had apparently run out of patience with one another and were a hairsbreadth away from starting an interfaction incident that could have ramifications beyond anything they had planned for.

Magnificent. Really.

He heaved himself up off the wall yet again and began to meander around the curve of the hut- he had no idea what he was planning to do once he got in there, possibly resort to calling Thessa names to distract her until she cried-

Someone came stalking around the hut from the opposite direction, head down and stride determined, and Thake was so sluggish from the heat that the sense of alarm didn’t sound in his head until they had actually collided. With a muffled curse, he grabbed at the other body as they both flailed to keep their balance, failing badly and crashing to the ground together in a tangle of limbs.

Something that felt suspiciously like a blaster grip was stabbing into his hip bone, and beneath him the other body groaned violently and rolled to the side, shoving him aside desperately as it curled up on itself and made gagging noises. Panting, his blood pounding from the abrupt jolt of adrenalin, Thake sat back on his knees, resting his hands on his thighs as he spat out a half dozen ugly curses in Cheunh and blinked in the purple gloom of the evening.

On the ground in front of him, curled in a ball and choking onto the black sand, lay Theron, one hand pressed desperately to his ribs.

Swallowing down the brief flutter of dismay, he said “For a spy, you’re phenomenally awful at spotting danger.”

Theron managed a shaky laugh, although there was no humour in the sound, and Thake watched him go limp against the sand, his breath rattling over his lips. “I could say the same thing for you,” he said, his voice strained. “But then, I can’t actually tell with you- for all I know you actually like this sort of drama.”

Thake scowled, his cheeks heating. “What’s wrong with you?” he snapped instead, gesturing dismissively to how he still lay curled on the ground.

“Oh, nothing,” Theron said somewhat dramatically, choking as he went to sit up. “Just a few broken ribs, you know, nothing important. Having you charge into me like a rabid gundark was just icing on the shit cake that is my day.”

“I’m not that heavy, how could I have possibly-”

The torture droids,” Theron said loudly, over-exaggerating each syllable as if he was speaking to a simpleton. “You know, that whole thing where Lana showed her true colours like all you Imps inevitably do and left me at the mercy of Revan’s goons? Hours of interrogation and ceaseless torture? Ringing any bells?”

Ah. “And you didn’t think it was relevant to mention how badly injured you were at any point?” Thake said, doing his best to deflect the guilt by turning the responsibility back on Theron.

Theron waved a hand magnanimously in the air. “Oh, well, by all means, I’ll just send Revan a quick holo asking him for a few days ceasefire while I put my feet up, I’m sure he’ll put off his plans to destroy all life in the galaxy just to see me fighting fit when he squashes me like an insect.”

“You know, the Empire has always maintained that Revan was a woman. Or at least, that’s what the files buried in Intelligence say.”

“Oh, so are you gonna go up to the six foot guy in the mask trying to end all life everywhere and explain his mistake to him?”

The silence that bloomed between them was ugly and uncomfortable, like a bruise spreading purple and red over his skin. Theron made a groaning noise and went to sit up, and Thake’s hand snapped out to grab at him, the action more instinctive than anything else; he was warm to the touch, his skin bordering on feverish. Unsurprising, really, if he was sporting internal injuries he wasn’t prepared to admit to.

“What the-” Thake pulled him to his feet, and Theron stumbled into him, wincing and holding his free hand back to his ribs. “What the kriff do you think you’re doing?”

“Could you sound more like a Core Worlder if you tried?” What are you doing Thake old boy? “So much for undercover work, you don’t even make an effort to hide that Coruscant drawl.”

Theron tried to pull his arm free, and Thake kept a hold on it. “Well maybe I happen to be tired, and maybe I’ve spent the last eleven hours being tortured, and maybe I’m stuck at the ass end of the galaxy with no one but backstabbing Imps for company, and maybe I can’t even risk stopping to get a damn burger and a beer without risking someone recognising me and trying to grab me for the bounty on my head.”

“Is that all? Sounds like a regular day at the office to me.”

Theron looked at him incredulously. “What is wrong with you?”

Thake bared his teeth, a mockery of a smile. “Too many things to count,” he said, “now come with me.”

He dragged Theron down the winding track of the village, towards where the hunters interested in the big game on the island had established their own camp on the clifftop, a polite distance from the village without making it obvious they were avoiding the over-exuberant Rishi. It was busy enough that someone had propped up an old med-droid on some crates, half rusted in the humidity and missing both legs from the knee socket down. It watched them with interest as Thake dragged Theron along behind him, but Thake ignored it.

Instead he made a beeline for a hunter who was lounging on an empty shipping carton, the loading ramp to his ship yawning open.

“You,” he called, keeping an iron grip on Theron’s arm so he couldn’t escape as he made his way across the landing pad. “Your ship- does it have a med bay?”

The weequay hunter glanced sideways at him, suspicion written across his ridged face. “What’s it to you? This ain’t a public hospital.”

“What’s your ship worth? Three hundred thousand?” At the man’s narrow glare, Thake fished out a credit chit and extended it towards him. “Here’s three million- now give me the ship.”

The hunter chuckled ominously and refused to take the proffered chit, leering as he looked them up and down. “I don’t take no stinking Imp money,” he drawled.

Thake let go of Theron’s arm, and promptly punched the hunter square in the jaw, the crunch painfully loud as the weequay went toppling backwards over the back of the carton. Theron simply blinked at the display, a wry look on his face that seemed to convey ‘well what were you expecting?’ when Thake spun back around clutching his now split knuckles and spitting out a string of explicit Cheunh curses.

“Call me an Imp again and I’ll break the other side of your jaw,” Thake hissed, hurling the chit down on top of the dazed hunter. “Three million. Now fuck off.”

He turned back to Theron, who was watching with an expression that could only be described as amused, and felt himself scowl in response. He turned back to where the weequay hunter lay groaning on the landing platform, walked over to him, and kicked him soundly in the gut. Disgusted with himself for leaving him breathing at all, it was a small and petty compromise, but it satisfied him.

Tucking his injured hand against his chest and smearing blood against the lining of his jacket, he reached out to grab Theron again, who surprisingly hadn’t taken the opportunity to flee while Thake was making another in a series of poor life choices.

“You know, you can stop pawing at me like that,” Theron said mildly, pointedly stepping to the side to avoid his grasp. “Surprisingly, I am capable of walking by myself, despite what you may have heard.”

Thake flushed, annoyed at having been called out, and clenched his fist inside his jacket; the gesture only served to make the skin split further, and he choked on a grunt of pain, frustrated by the vaguely smug and far too knowing look on Theron’s face. He sneered wordlessly at him and jerked his uninjured arm as a gesture for him to follow him into the ship.

It was almost criminally stuffy in the hold, the air hot and stale- enclosed in the metal casing, the humidity of the night felt a thousand times worse. It smelled of unspecified animals, rank and musty, and the rusted durasteel grating on the floor was scuffed and stained; probably a smuggler’s ship, used to transport rare wild beasts off world to the exclusive safari parks in the Core that were favoured by the rich and foolish. And now he owned it, dried grophet shit and all, because apparently his brain currently had no connection with his mouth and his common sense had retreated to wild space.

He’d just spent three million credits on a rustbucket for Theron fucking Shan.


“So how rich are you, if you don’t even think twice about throwing away three million on a shitty old pirate clunker?” Theron asked casually, still following him obediently as if they were friends, as if they were colleagues, as if Theron had a reason to trust him and didn’t think anything of wandering off alone with him.

Shit. Fuck. Kriffing shit fuck. “I’m very rich. I own half the galaxy, at least, probably more. It’s been awhile since I checked my portfolio. Also, I’m the Queen of Dantooine.”

Theron was silent as he digested the sarcasm before huffing out a breath quietly. “You’re an asshole, you know that?”

Thake glanced over his shoulder at him. “I don’t pretend to be anything else,” he said bluntly.

Apparently satisfied with that answer, Theron didn’t respond; he didn’t leave either. That was a problem. Thake hadn’t really thought any of this through, his usual modus operandi, but it had made more sense when he’d been in charge, when he’d been dragging Theron along behind him, when it had felt decisive and quick and he hadn’t had time to think at all.

Because now Theron was still here, in his colossally overpriced shitbucket, and he had no idea why.

His hand was beginning to cramp inside his jacket, which was at least enough to kickstart him back into motion before the crippling humiliation of his stupidity rendered him inert.

“Well, come on,” he snapped, pleased with himself for the sneer he injected into the words. “Not all of us live on Coruscant and find the smell of shit reminiscent of home.”

In the gloom of the hold, he saw Theron raise an eyebrow in disbelief, something verging on anger flickering in his eyes- not that Thake was looking at his eyes. Or his face.


After a moment of awkward silence, Theron said “This is a CEC G5-Rigger- the med bay will be on the right there. Do you, I don’t know, wanna do the honours or something? It’s your ship now.”

“I know what kind of ship it is,” Thake hissed, stomping over to the door in question and smacking the access panel with probably a little more force than was necessary; it crunched under his fingers, and the duraplas casing was cracked when he pulled his hand away. But the door slid open obediently nonetheless, the stale air that came wafting through the door unfortunately just as hot as the rest of the ship, but seemed to imply the med bay hadn’t seen a lot of active use. The crates scattered haphazardly about seemed to reinforce the idea that it was more of a storage room than a medical suite.

Right. Well, he’d come this far, no point in getting all wishy-washy now. There was a single slab-like bed against the far wall that was currently being used to hold boxes, and he swept them all onto the floor with his good arm.

He heard Theron come in behind him, his boots scuffing against the mess. “Mm, I can really see why you went all out on such a top of the market craft,” he said wryly. “That was money well spent.”

With a snarl, Thake spun on his heel and turned to shove Theron back against the wall, his hands bunching up in the collar of his jacket as he crowded in close and-

He could feel the head of a blaster stabbing painfully into his gut, pressed against his skin so hard that it left him winded. Theron managed a weak smile, looking far too pleased with himself for how exhausted he looked. “Figured that’d get your attention,” he said, his voice a little more strained than his posture seemed to indicate. There was a high pitched whine as he disengaged the safety and pressed it in harder to his skin. “Take your hands off me, agent.”

Thake held onto his collar for a few more seconds, just for good measure, just to prove he wasn’t at all bothered by the gun pressed into his gut; then he was shoving back, Theron slumping against the wall momentarily as he lost the support of Thake’s hands and had to bear his own weight by himself.

Thake lowered his hands slowly, breathing hard through his nose. “If you have broken ribs, and I don’t have a kolto tank to drown you in, then we can’t very well do anything about it if you won’t take off your fucking shirt.”

He honestly looked like he was about to keel over, breathing shallowly through his mouth with his eyes hooded; there was a relatively fresh line of blood running out of his hairline near to his ear, still sticky against his damp skin- not that Thake was looking at his skin and trying to find adequate descriptive words to describe it because he was not interested in a Pub and he was not interested in another secret agent and he was definitely not interested in Theron fucking Shan who he’d just spent three million credits to help. Or impress. Or, fuck. Something.

Theron, despite his bedraggled state, still managed to raise an eyebrow at him and still managed to make his face heat from the implicit threat in that look. “You know, most of my dates buy me dinner first,” he said, his hands shaking as he reached up to shove his jacket off of his shoulders.

That was far too much like flirting, thank you. “Why is that?” Thake said, turning his back and pretending he had something far more interesting to look at on the other side of the tiny room. “Oh, wait, I know- it’s because the SIS is too cheap to pay you a living wage and you need the dates to live.”

“Implying that I whore myself out for food? That’s not even worthy of an eye-roll.” He could hear the rustle of fabric and the faint creak of the leather jacket as Theron undressed. “That’s so juvenile I think the nearest class of five year olds winced in embarrassment for you.”

Taking a deep breath, Thake risked looking over his shoulder and was greeted with the brown, muscled expanse of Theron’s bare back as he stood by the bed and folded his shirt and jacket like the good little boy scout he was. It took him quite a few seconds to realise that he was holding that deep breath, and it huffed out of him with just enough of a cough to draw Theron’s attention.

“You don’t actually have to play nurse or anything, you know,” Theron said, glancing at him briefly. “I’m sort of used to the solo job thing, patching myself up is par the course for me.”

As he turned, Thake caught a glimpse of the riotous array of bruises wrapping around his torso, as well as more than a few shinier patches of raw looking skin that were most certainly burns. Humans bruised so violently, their skin showing a veritable maelstrom of colours that seemed far more numerous than the colours he’d noticed in his own bruising; Theron even had a few marks so dark red they bordered on black, and it was obvious they’d been the site of some kind of incision.

He gritted his teeth, and tried to quell the awkward rush of empathy in him- this was the job they did, this was what they were trained to endure. He wouldn’t coddle Theron just for doing his fucking job.

“There’s all manner of nasty bugs on this island, you know,” Theron said, a hint of a smile tugging at his mouth as he set down the tiny first aid kit he’d unhooked from his belt. “If you keep gaping with your mouth open like that, something’s gonna fly in there.”

Thake snapped his mouth closed so fast that his teeth clacked, and the impact rattled up through his skull; it was still hot and muggy in the ship, and there was a bead of sweat tracing slowly down the curve of Theron’s spine.

He dragged his gaze away from the irksome droplet to the travel pack Theron had set out before him, his scowl deepening when he looked at the pitiful supplies he was trying to make do with.

“Is that honestly what they supply their best agents with?” he asked sneeringly, reaching up to shove his own jacket off his shoulders.

“Gee, it’s almost like being a wanted fugitive on the run for several months severely limited my access to military grade adrenals and medical supplies,” Theron drawled. He looked up from where he was drawing out a syringe of a vaguely blue liquid and did a double-take when he saw Thake removing his shirt. “Woah, hold on there chief, I don’t know how they practice medicine in the Empire, but I did not sign up to play doctor-”

“Only in your dreams, Shan,” Thake quipped, tugging his shirt up over his head and wincing as the movement battered his injured hand. Tossing both jacket and shirt onto the floor, rather pointedly in defiance of Theron’s deliberate neatness, he gestured grandly to the holster he had strapped to his chest and the compact leather satchel secured to it. “Some of us actually remembered to restock our kits before fleeing with our tails between our legs.” He paused. “And by that, I mean I stole it from Thessa.”

“Look, I don’t really want your stolen meds-”

“Sit down,” Thake said forcefully, a hand on Theron’s bare shoulder as he pushed him firmly onto the bed. Theron relented with a frustrated sigh, and Thake shoved aside his mediocre travel pack to set his own down on the bed by his hip. “And these are not ordinary stolen meds- you think I’d go to all the trouble of getting past her freakish bug husband to steal a couple of standard stims I could lift from a merchant droid?”

He pulled out a heavily modded pneumatic dispenser, the syringe full of a half dozen liquid cartridges of various colours and viscosities; Theron’s eyes widened at the sight of it.

“Okay now, hang on-”

“Despite her incessant weeping, Thessa actually knows what she’s doing,” Thake explained calmly. “She is one of the most accomplished bio-chemists in the entirety of the Sith empire, and her talents are wasting away in that bloody agency.” He held up the syringe, the mechanisms within it whirring noisily as a cartridge slotted into place. “This is Rakata tech. Or something. I don’t know, all I know is that it took her months to make and it’s very potent.”

“I’m not just gonna let you stab me with some random liquid in a giant gun,” Theron said, as if he was talking to an idiot. Which, to be fair, he actually was.

Thake chuckled darkly, waving the syringe tip of the gun in his direction. “Don’t trust me, Shan?”

“Oh gee, I wonder what my answer could possibly be, do I trust the volatile, political anarchist with a reputation for pointlessly bizarre brutality?”

“I’m not an anarchist- far too much effort involved. I’m disdainful of all governments equally.”

“My mistake, then,” Theron said. He grimaced, his eyes flicking down to the syringe again. “Look, you can’t say you’d think any differently if you were in my position. I’ve read your files, and I’ve been working with you for months now, and I still know next to nothing about you.”

Thake stared at him with a dead expression for several long seconds, and then reached up slowly to point to a scar on his shoulder. “I got this one when I fell off my dearest pet gellbeast,” he said, in the flattest voice imaginable. His hand moved further down the curve of his arm, to one that wrapped around in ugly lines across his skin. “This one I got one magical visit to our family summer house in the lake country on Rhigar-”

“Okay, fuck, I get it, sheesh.” Theron looked away uncomfortably. “Give me a break, I just thought maybe you weren’t some kind of freakish experiment and liked to open up to people.”

Thake continued to stare at him and slowly pointed to a long scar bisecting the centre of his chest. “This is where I was opened up for people,” he said.

Theron blinked. “Did... did you just make a joke?”

“It really hurt.”

“Kriff, you really did make a joke.” The disbelief in his face slowly gave way to the most irritatingly smug and frustratingly handsome grin Thake had ever had the misfortune of witnessing in his life. “There’s a person buried in there after all.”

He had no idea why Theron’s amusement should be so terrifying to him; he had no idea why anything Theron did should be terrifying to him. He’d lost count of how many men like Theron he’d killed across the years and across the stars, but here he was, half naked and blushing and concerned about the asshole’s injuries.

Fuck, what was he even doing?

With his lip curled up in a sneer, he shoved the syringe into Theron’s shoulder without warning; he ignored the yelp of pain and alarm and pressed the trigger, the liquids sliding beneath the skin smoothly.

“What the fuck?” Theron shouted, trying to shove him away without snapping off the needle tip in his flesh. “You asshole, I told you-”

“I don’t care what you told me,” Thake said, trying to ignore the way his voice shook. “What gave you the impression that I cared about anything you had to say?”

What is your problem?”

You are my problem,” Thake hissed in response. “You, you and your suicidal fucking heroics, your selflessness-”

“Wow, so, being a considerate person is a crime now?”

Thake slammed his hands down on the bare metal counter either side of Theron’s hips, leaning in close. “You think that being a goodie two shoes means everyone else will fall in line and the sun will come out and the birds will sing-”

“Fairly certain I don’t think that at all, agent, but thanks for going to all the effort of getting worked up over my imaginary traits.”

I am not an agent!” The words came out like a snarl, half wild, and though he tried to hide it, Theron flinched slightly at the anger. Seeing him recoil like that, knowing Theron feared him even marginally, didn’t feel like a triumph- if anything it just made him angrier, and this time at himself. “I ruined my life,” he said in hushed tones, biting each word off hard, “trying to stop a selfless woman with stars in her eyes from destroying herself. The galaxy is not a good place- the Empire is not a nice place, the Republic is not a nice place. There’s no such thing as nice, and your naivety and your idealism will see this universe chew you up and spit you out as a bloodied, broken husk.”

He didn’t realise how hard he was breathing until he reined himself in, the air hissing from his nose as he grit his teeth and tried to bring his anger back down. Theron stared at him, unmoving, a guarded look in his eyes. “You’ve got a lot of fairly strong opinions there,” he said carefully, his expression calculating. His gaze flicked to his lips briefly. “If I can’t call you agent, what am I allowed to call you then?”

It was a test, of course- Theron would have read his files extensively, he’d know all about his years in Intelligence, and his time as a double agent. He knew precisely who and what he was. “My name is Thake,” he said bluntly.

“Thake’s a weird name for a Chiss.”

His hands were still either side of Theron’s hips, but he didn’t remember moving them closer. “Didn’t know you were the expert on my people, Shan.”

He could have sworn he hadn’t moved, but Theron’s face was a lot nearer to his all of a sudden- close enough that he could feel each breath he took in the dead, hot air. “I like to consider myself an eager student, if nothing else,” Theron said, his voice a lot rougher than it had been a moment ago.

Thake swallowed, licked his lips. “I’m a difficult study,” he said hoarsely.

Theron’s gaze zeroed in on his mouth. “I never was one to back down from a challenge,” he said.

He didn’t want to admit that he’d moved first; he didn’t want to be the one to crumble, his resistance finally collapsing in the face of Theron’s relentless optimism and refusal to be intimidated by him.

He was very good at lying to himself.

His mouth came crushing down on Theron’s, hot and graceless and desperate, as his hands came up off the bed to latch onto his hips. Theron didn’t even hesitate, kissing him back just as ferociously as he kissed him, all teeth and heat and bruising force, his feet hooking around the back of Thake’s knees to tug him closer. Thake shuddered as he felt his hands slide up his back, his wide, calloused fingers provoking very different sensations to what Kaliyo’s far more slender, far crueller fingers tended to rouse in him; he felt Theron smile against his mouth, a huffed breath that could have been a laugh.

He tasted of salt, sweat beading on his lip, and the faint saccharine sweetness of a candy-flavoured energy drink he’d been chugging since they’d rescued him. Salty and sweet, maddeningly delightful. “Just to be clear,” Thake panted, kissing him between every word to punctuate his statement, “I don’t like you.”

This time Theron did laugh, the sound far too smugly pleased and sure of himself. “You really need to work on your bedroom talk,” he said breathlessly, his fingers digging in tight to Thake’s shoulders and his thighs tightening against his hips.

“You don’t like me either,” Thake said, grunting when Theron’s thighs squeezed warningly. He bit the edge of his jaw in retaliation, and was absurdly pleased by the shaky groan Theron let out.

“Of course not, but I’m not gonna say that, fuck.” One of his hands fell away from his shoulder, sliding back over the sweat-soaked skin of his neck a moment later to card through his hair; he wasn’t as rough as Kaliyo, not as demanding, but his fingers still clenched in his hair, hard enough to make him gasp. The action pulled him away from his neck, and for a moment they made eye contact again- Theron’s normally brown eyes were nothing more than a ring of amber around black pupils blown wide with arousal, and Thake felt his breath hitch at the sight.

“Do you often feel the need to lie to your lovers?” he blurted out, for something to say that wasn’t something to do with how fascinatingly beautiful he was.

Theron’s husky chuckle made his skin feel hot and tight, and the way he ran his teeth along the curve of his chin made him groan in frustration. “I’m a spy,” Theron said in amusement. “I lie for a living.” His feet on the back of his legs urged him closer still, until they were pressed slick and hot against one another, Theron squeezing his hips tauntingly for good measure.

Thake had no sensible answer for that, not when his head was so dizzy from the blood rushing down to his dick, so instead his hands ran down the curve of Theron’s hips, fingers digging in hard enough to pinch as they slid beneath his legs and grasped him firmly. Theron’s gasp of surprise as he dragged him right to the edge of the bed was cut off short as Thake covered his mouth with his again, the kiss so violent that it was a wonder neither of them had drawn blood yet.

The hand on his shoulder was clinging so ferociously that he could feel Theron’s nail digging into his skin, and in the haze of lust that had overtaken him he had a brief moment of glee hoping that it was enough to break the skin, or at least leave a string of deep purple marks against the blue of his body. The thought of being marked, of being left scarred by him, even if only temporary, was a desperately thrilling notion.

Theron’s ankles were crossed behind his back, and despite the hindrance of their pants he still rutted eagerly against him; Thake grunted against his mouth, his lips bruised and aching from the ferocity of their kisses. He could feel Theron’s dick pressed against his stomach, hard and wonderfully teasing when their hips rolled together and it brushed against his own.

“I’ve never fucked an Imp before,” Theron gasped, and Thake bit his top lip, sucking it between his own to soothe it.

“I’ve never even fucked a human,” Thake said in response, groaning when Theron’s hand went creeping down his back to grope at his ass.

There was a startling flash of teeth, a devilishly smug grin that sent a jolt straight through him. “I’m sorry to set the standard so high then,” he said, rolling his hips against him until they were both grinding furiously against one another.

Thake’s head was spinning, and there was heat building in his stomach, but not enough. He never had to take the initiative with Kaliyo- she always had to be the one in control, always had to set the pace and the pleasure and the pain, and he waited eagerly for her demands. Theron seemed determined to match him, but never to dominate; it was like a challenge, a reckless dance around one another, waiting to see which one of them would crack first.

Thake cracked first.

He still had one arm around Theron’s waist, keeping him flush against him, but the other he let slip between them, down to the buckle on his belt. At Theron’s agonised whine he found himself chuckling, fingers shaking as he fought with the buckle, cursing under his breath.

“What- what are you saying?” Theron panted, and Thake realised belatedly he’d lapsed into Cheunh again.

“I said ‘fuck your fucking belt, did your mother fit you with a chastity lock’,” he said, snarling triumphantly when he felt it finally loosen.

“That would imply that my mother- ah!” Thake’s fingers slid swiftly into his pants, taking hold of his dick and squeezing gently.

He kissed him, his tongue stroking his with the same rhythm that he moved his hand over him. “I don’t want to talk about your fucking mother right now,” he rasped.

Theron moaned, his head falling back and exposing his neck to Thake’s teeth. “Fine with me,” he said, his fingers tightening in Thake’s hair until he shuddered and hissed.

The way Theron writhed under his hand was exhilarating- Kaliyo never gave herself over to the moment like this, always holding a little bit back, always keeping something so that she could keep control. He was so mesmerized by him, by the sounds he made and the rhythm he falteringly tried to keep to, that he almost didn’t notice the hand on his shoulder sneak down to the top of his pants.

He pressed in closer, pinning his hand between them, and Theron glanced up at him with lust-glazed eyes. “Objections?” he panted, not attempting to push away or tease him further.

Why had he stopped him? The reaction had been purely instinctive, driven solely from his years of expecting betrayal at any given moment; the fact that Theron stopped to ask him if he was okay was... daunting, if anything.

No one asked him anything.

“None whatsoever,” he said, because that was easier than stopping to examine feelings that he didn’t want to acknowledge in the slightest. Theron’s smirk went a long way to dispelling the momentary bewilderment, and then his hand was sliding beneath the band of his pants and Thake felt his legs tremble when his fingers brushed teasingly over his dick.

“That’s a nice reaction,” Theron said, smug triumph in his eyes. He did it again, to the same rhythm that Thake was using to jerk him off, and he laughed shakily when Thake had to grab hold of the edge of the counter to stay on his feet.

“Fuck you,” Thake said hoarsely.

“Well, I’m trying, kriff.”

When Theron eased his palm over him, Thake shuddered and bucked into the touch, squeezing a little too firmly on Theron; when he gasped, a touch of pain in the sound, he mumbled an apology against his mouth and eased his grip. From there it got a little difficult to stay focused, because there was heat building in his stomach and fire sizzling under his skin and Theron’s eyes were dark and he tasted fantastic and the way he moaned when he rubbed his thumb over the head of his cock was fantastic and he felt-

Thake grunted as he came, hunching over slightly as the orgasm rippled through him; Theron was much more vocal in his appreciation, a choked series of elaborate curses that grew higher in pitch as he came all over Thake’s hand.

And then the moment was over, the air thick and musty with the smell of sex, his body unpleasantly hot and sticky, and the dick of one of the most talented SIS agents in the galaxy growing limp in his hand.

They were both panting, hearts racing; Thake could see the fluttering pulse in Theron’s neck, and the damp sheen of sweat that covered it.

I just fucked Theron Shan.


He lurched backwards, his hand getting caught for a moment on Theron’s belt buckle, and then he was free, wiping his sticky hand on his pants. Theron simply watched him, a vaguely satisfied air to him as he looked at the mess on his own hand and almost tauntingly lifted it up to his mouth.

Fuck fuck.

Say something.

Literally anything, fuck.

“It moved through your bloodstream faster while your heart-rate was up. The medicine, I mean.” He tugged his still blood-stained shirt back over his head, scowling at the broken skin over his knuckles. The blood had thickened, not quite at the point of scabbing; he reached into the medkit and found a tube of kolto gel, then smeared it liberally over the back of his hand, the excess dripping onto the floor. “So, you know, you’re welcome.”

Theron was smirking knowingly at him, panting shallowly as he leaned back against the bulkhead. “Oh, sure, because you’re so selfless and all that,” he said, gesturing vaguely in his direction. “Altruism is truly your middle name.”

“Chiss names don’t work like that at all-”

“That was a joke,” Theron said, drawling on the last word and making it stretch out into multiple syllables. “You are so deliberately obtuse.”

Thake slung his jacket over his shoulder, two fingers hooked into the collar to keep it in place. “You say that like it’s a bad thing,” he said. “Now get off my ship.”

Theron’s eyebrows went up. “Just like that, huh?”

“I’m sorry, did you want to upgrade to the deluxe package, an overnight stay that comes complete with me throwing your clothes out of the airlock tomorrow morning?”

“You could have ended that sentence a few words earlier and I’d’ve taken you up on that offer.”

Thake hesitated, thinking backwards over what he’d just said and trying to parse Theron’s meaning; after a few beats of Theron smirking at him, he felt his face flush, and a small fizzle of heat spark back to life in his stomach. “That’s- I was insulting you.”

“Mm, but you left yourself wide open for that one. Or at least, you could have left yourself wide-”

He panicked, and the only way to adequately shut him up was to make certain that he couldn’t speak- so he grabbed his wrist and jerked him forward and muffled the yelp of surprise by kissing him. It was awkward at first, lips pressed hard against his gracelessly, and then after a moment or two it softened. He wouldn’t go so far as to call it a loving interlude, but there was something about the way Theron relaxed against him, about the way he found his grip on his wrist easing, that felt... calmer. Easier, perhaps.

How should he fucking well know, he wasn’t used to this crap.

When he pulled away, Theron sighed shakily, his eyes still closed; when he opened them, there was something new in his gaze, something not quite calculating but certainly perceptive enough to make him feel naked before him. A feat in and of itself, given that five minutes ago he’d let him grab onto his dick for fun.

“I’m...” I want you to leave. I want you to stay. Fuck, I don’t know. “I’m bored. I’m going now.”

He didn’t look back, but he could feel Theron’s eyes burning into the back of his head the whole time he walked away.

The weequay hunter was still lying unconscious on the landing pad, so he stopped to kick him again just for good measure.

He felt a little better after that.


It was hours later when Kaliyo found him down at the bottom of the cliffs, sitting on the narrow strip of beach and staring out over the waves.

“You look better,” she said, dropping down onto the sand beside him. She nudged him pointedly with her elbow. “Not so itchy anymore.”

He scowled at her, and she winked lewdly in response. “I was not- shut up.”

“Hey, that was a compliment, babe,” she said, flopping backwards and lying spread-eagled on the sand. Above them, the sky was a pleasant purple colour with the coming night, and the stars were just beginning to wink into existence. “Come on, it’s like, romantic and shit, right?”

“Have you mistaken me for Thessa, perhaps? Because if you say the word romance again, I’ll-”

“Eh, you’ll do nothing, you jax shit,” she said fondly. “You like me too much to get rid of me, and if you kicked me out, you’d only have Whiner One for company.”

Despite his momentary irritation, Thake snorted in amusement at the title. “If she hears you calling her that, I’m not helping you.”

“What’s she gonna do? Cry on me? Because that’s so different from the last four years.” She chuckled softly. “Damn, I should have called her Cipher Whine. Talk about lost opportunities.”

He watched her carefully out of the corner of his gaze. “So, what did you do this afternoon, and how many bars are we banned from back in the Cove?”

“Like, not even two, the second one barely counted at all,” she said, waving her hand dismissively. “I was gonna go into a high stakes pazaak game, but for some strange reason someone decided to spend several million credits in the account this afternoon.”

“That’s my money, you know.”

“Babe, it’s our money,” she said, patting him fondly on the knee. “And by that I mean, it’s our money, except when I want it, and then it becomes my money, not yours.”

“You’re such a giving woman.”

They lapsed into silence for a while, listening to the hiss and sigh of the waves as they lapped against the shore. Finally she sighed, stretching languidly.

“So, is he out of your system, or do we have to buy a bigger bed?”