Chapter 2 - The Bounty Hunter's Gone Soft
Imperial Fleet, Orbital Space
We’d just gotten back on the ship and were headed for our next job. I was in the cockpit with Mako, feeding the coordinates into the galaxy map when she started giggling. Her amusement never failed to suck me in. I didn’t always let her see that though.
“What’s so funny?” Smooth nonchalance, that was me.
“So you wanna hear the latest news from the holonet?” She turned to look at me, laughter in her eyes. “There’s a lot of buzz about you. Apparently, you have a fan club now.”
I quirked a brow, leaving the computer station to come closer to her. “You gotta admit, they’re onto something.”
She liked my arrogance. Her grin and teasing tone was proof. “They are. Admiring you from afar. Way better than being close enough to smell you.”
Touché. After a good gun fight she usually herded me towards the showers with a vibro-prod. I changed tactics. “If one of us was going to have fans, I’d think it would be you.”
Score one for me. She got one of those, I’m-really-trying-to-control-how-big-this-gets smiles. “You’re really cute, you know that?” Anybody else called me cute I’d break their jaw. Mako called me cute I smiled. I didn’t do it that often. She knew it, and it must have made her realize what she said because she started back tracking. “It’s not going to work. You and me. It’s a small ship. Nowhere to go when things get ugly. We’re just not meant to be involved.”
I wasn’t buying that. Especially not with the looks she threw my way when she thought I wasn’t paying attention. “Just friends? End of story?”
“Strictly business.” I had to give it to her, she sounded pretty strong. Until she quietly added, “No matter how much you give me that… sort of melty look.”
A plan was forming in my mind. I let her retreat for now, after making sure I gave her another few seconds of my melty look. Back at the map I set our course for Hoth.
We spent the next eight hours in the cold. I didn’t mind it, but slight little Mako hated it. She toughed it out, though I did offer to use Torian. She refused, telling me she was no push over and to just keep going. She was cute when she was being tough.
Halfway into our current assignment, we’d made a new ally in our search. We also had some time to kill while Blizz the Jawa worked his magic on a device I was going to need to go beat up an unbeatable android.
“I saw a Cantina,” I said to her. “C’mon. Let’s warm up.”
“Yes, please. I can’t feel anything.”
So tempted, I was, to put that to the test. Patience, Hunter.
The Dorn Base Cantina wasn’t bad. I took off the bulk of my armor, took her hands between mine and blew warm air onto them. I knew she felt that by the expression that slid over her face and how fast she pulled her hands out of mine.
“That’s better,” she said quickly. “Thanks.”
“No problem,” I said easily. I looked at Gthyk and ordered us two mugs of Huttese Hangovers.
She could hold it down, and I loved that about her too. I hated it when women got sloppy and thought it was cute you had to carry their drunk, giggling tails around just to get some play.
“Wanna dance?” I asked her halfway through our drinks.
“One there’s no music. Two, you can dance? No way.”
I gave her a sly look and bought a token from the Gthyk. Easing on over to the jukebox, I dropped in the coin and selected Shake that Wampa Down
, one of my favorites.
Mako burst into laughter at my selection, and I wasted no time in showing her my moves. She looked positively delighted when I put my fists up and shook my butt to the rhythm. I pulled her deeper into my awesome when I put one hand behind my head, stuck my other hand out and bop slid to the right. Then I did it to the left. When she got close enough I could grab her, we we’re really jamming.
It was just a good time. We stayed out there for two more songs, and then she actually wanted to go out into the cold weather. I picked up my armor but didn’t put it back on.
We didn’t go far, just outside the entrance way. It was snowing, no big surprise for Hoth.
She breathed in the cold air, letting it cool her off and I just watched her. I loved looking at her. She was the balance to this rough, utterly challenging, perfect life I’d chosen for myself. She was something I’d reach for once I’d holstered my blaster. Someone who wouldn’t mind the smell of smoke and a good fight.
She shivered, and I stepped closer, putting my arm around her and pulling her smaller frame against my side. She sighed and leaned into me. She kept her arms crossed against her chest, but I felt her cheek nuzzle, felt the subtle press of her body. Patience, Hunter.
“We should go see if Blizz is done,” she said after a moment. A bit reluctantly I might add.
“Okay.” I made sure my touch lingered against the small of her back as we walked back inside.
Blizz was just cool. I reaffirmed my vow that I was going to get him out of that cage once I was done on this planet. He could tag along with us, he’d already proven himself useful, or find his own way, but he wasn’t staying in there.
He didn’t have any updates for us. One of his parts had fizzed out, so he was making a new one. He’d snuck out of his cage and rummaged around the base for the repair items he needed. He’d been back before the Chiss guard had even noticed he was gone.
Blizz assured us he would be done by morning. That was more than fine by me.
“Now what?” Mako asked.
“We’ll head back to the ship,” I said moving in that direction. Already I was forming a reason to get Torian and Gault out of sight for a few hours. “I’ve got some work to do.” Lies, all lies.
She didn’t argue with me though, so we headed back to the Mantis. It was a good omen when I found a note from Torian and Gault to the right of the door. They’d gone to fence some cargo we’d taken out of Adascorp back on Quesh. I was glad they were making themselves useful. Gladder that Mako and I were now alone.
“No Gault? Really? What a perfect end to the day.” Mako grinned and moved for the stairs. I was getting ready to disagree with her. I dropped my armor and came up behind her. She stilled with one foot on the step as I halted her movements with my hands on her hips.
“Coro…?” She liked the latter part of my name. I didn’t care what she called me. She didn’t move either, just waited.
I made her gasp in surprise when I turned her around to face me. “What are you doing?” She, like… breathed out the question. It was amazing.
“Testing your theory,” I said quietly.
She opened her mouth like she was going to ask me what theory, and I answered when I kissed her. She was unresponsive for about half a second. After that… well, she couldn’t get close enough.
I want to tell her. Everything little single thing about my life. My strange pairing of parents, my siblings, our goal, all of it. I can’t though, not yet at least. I’m no mamma’s boy, but I’m going to need mom’s council on this one. I’d ask dad, but I don’t think I have the patience for his light side, philosophical question and answer games.
“Are you writing? In a journal? Seriously?”
Crap. Busted. I quickly closed the old book and turned in my chair.
Mako was sitting up in bed. Correction, Mako was sitting up in my
bed, the sheet pulled over her chest, her hair mused, that perfect grin on her face. She looked so sated, like a woman should after the romp we’d just had.
She started checking me out as she waited for my answer, which was pretty darn distracting. I watched her gaze track my bare chest, linger over my big arms. I couldn’t help but swell with a little bit of masculine pride when her cheeks flushed like she was remembering what had just gone down between us. Okay, maybe I wanted to jump up and beat on my chest, while shouting through the galaxy that everyone could now refer to me as Lancoro: Grand Champion of Mako. Yeah, that’s right, Mako.
“Have you always done that?” she said, interrupting my thoughts. “I’ve never seen you…”
“Well you made it a point not to come near this room for a while.” I couldn’t help but remind her about all that time she’d wasted playing hard to get. Not that I minded chasing after her. She just cutely rolled her eyes at me so I stopped dodging the question. “I uh, yeah, I write sometimes. When I’ve got a lot of stuff going in my head. Helps clear it out.”
“So, what you’re saying is you’re not just a big brute that stress releases only with his bolt pistol and a live hunt?”
She was teasing me. I loved that. I hated it too. Not her, just the way it made me feel. This little slicer was turning me into a big softie. “Actually, I think you might be my new way to stress release.” I felt the need to get some man points back here, since I was really feeling like cuddling. She rewarded me by turning beet red and ducking back under the sheet. After everything we’d just done (and little miss innocent was not so innocent by the way) I couldn’t help but laugh.
“Come back to bed.”
She didn’t have to ask me twice.
I was standing in the **** pit, plotting our new course. She was behind me, freshly showered and dressed in one my shirts that completely swallowed her, sipping a mug of coffee.
“I need to go to Ilum,” I said.
“Now? Blizz should be done, you know.”
“I know. I won’t be gone long. I’ve made arrangements for you and the guys to relax on Alderaan.”
Mako suddenly eyeballed me. “At House Girard? With that arrogant woman you slept with?”
“You didn’t like her?”
“Ew. I still can’t believe you hooked up with her.”
I kinda liked her jealous. Which was why I had banged that stuck up prude, Baroness Aitalla in the first place. “C’mon, you weren’t putting out. Guys gotta do-“
“Don’t. Don’t ruin everything I love about you.”
I turned around in my chair, grinning at her. “Love huh?”
She was blushing again, and hastily avoided my eyes. “You know what I mean.”
“You’re not staying with her. You’re hanging out at Outpost Eudor with Chanya. Torian wants to go bug hunting with her.”
She looked slightly mollified. “You’re such a jerk.”
“So… what’s on Ilum? Secret girlfriend?”
“No. All business.” Sort of. It wasn’t entirely business, it was family but I couldn’t tell her that. I did get out of my chair though, and walked up to her. She was so tiny, I loved the way she just fit around me. I really liked crowding her too, and so did she. I could tell by the way her eyes got all smokey. She set the mug down and ran her hands over my arms. “You’re my girlfriend,” I said. “I’m a lotta things, but I’m not a cheater.”
She didn’t try to control how big her smile got this time. “I am, huh?”
“Yup. Better update your slicer bio on the holonet. You’re taken now.”
She laughed and there I went wanting to do the whole chest bang thing again. She prevented it by kissing me. “Hurry back. You don’t want me spending too much time with Torian.”
“What? I will push that little punk out of the airlock with my pinky.”
“Stop it. You won’t. You like Torian.”
“I don’t like him that much. Do I have to put you two kids on different planets?”
She looked a little too smug that she’d gotten a rise out of me. Her fingers crept up my arms and wound around my neck as she tipped her head back, looking up at me with this expression in her eyes I couldn’t quite place. It was new, but I liked it.
“I’m a lot of things, but I’m not a cheater,” she said and kissed my chin.
“That mean I get to be your boyfriend?”
“I guess so. Until the next champion of the great hunt comes along.”
“Wow. Way to take the magic out of everything.”
She started laughing again. “Really? You’re gonna start with me about-“
I cut her off with a kiss. She didn’t seem to mind.