The Short Fic Weekly Challenge Thread!
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02.20.2013 , 04:03 PM |
Here's a nice long piece for
. It's basically my headcanon for the last bit of SW Tatooine, and as such contains a few minor spoilers. Starring A'tro, Quinn, and more sexual tension than you can shake a stick at!
Dune Sea, Tatooine
Sand crunched under Quinn’s boots as he followed the Sith woman across the vast expanse of desert. He had not previously believed it possible to feel quite this hot. The twin suns blazed mercilessly down from a clear sky, reflecting off the sand and creating an effect that Quinn hypothesized was similar to standing in a blast furnace.
Despite the intense heat, he had adamantly refused to undo so much as a single fastening on his jacket. He’d be damned if he was out of uniform just because of this wretched planet’s environment. It had taken a direct order from A’tro after he nearly fainted twice to get him to remove it.
He would never have admitted it aloud, and was reluctant to admit it to himself, but he was grateful for the order. His shirt was soaked through with sweat, and he didn’t want to imagine what it would be like in the thick black jacket. The word “baked” came to mind.
A’tro walked a few steps ahead of him. She had removed her armor’s detachable sleeves, revealing a pair of well-toned biceps. The heat did not seem to be affecting her as much as it was him, probably due to a combination of mental discipline and her Pureblood tolerance for extreme climates. Still, there was a faint sheen of perspiration on her copper skin.
Quinn found himself watching her and unable to look away. There was something oddly mesmerizing about the way a few strands of rust-red hair had come loose from her ponytail and plastered themselves to her neck. Her small form seemed to prowl across the dunes, a predator on the hunt, challenging the desert to try to stop her from achieving her goal.
She abruptly came to a halt. Quinn stumbled and very nearly ran into her before regaining his composure. Colliding with his Sith commander would have been beyond embarrassing.
A’tro turned around to face him. “Captain,” she rasped. She unhooked her canteen from her belt and took a quick drink. “How are you holding up?”
Quinn stared in fascination at a small drop of water that lingered on her lower lip as she closed the canteen and replaced it at her side. The tip of a delicate tongue emerged and flicked the droplet away, and he felt his face heat up even more. Were those tiny ridges he’d spotted—
“Captain?” A’tro asked, frowning concernedly.
Stop thinking about her like that, dammit!
“I’m fine, my lord,” Quinn assured her hastily.
“You’re sure? We can stop for a bit.”
Quinn shook his head. “I believe it would be best to keep moving, my lord.”
A’tro nodded. “Yes, you’re right, of course—wait a minute.” She peered into the distance. “What’s that?”
He turned and looked in the direction she indicated. A large, dark mass had covered most of the horizon, and was rapidly heading in their direction.
“It appears to be a sandstorm, my lord.”
“That’s what I thought,” A’tro said grimly. She surveyed the area. “There’s no cover nearby, and we can’t outrun it. We’ll have to weather the storm here.”
Never question a Sith, Malavai.
“Yes, my lord.”
She eyed the storm with trepidation. “I can protect us with the Force. You’ll have to stay close, though—I can’t cover too large of an area.”
Quinn edged towards her, stopping once he’d passed just inside the boundary of what he considered to be a respectful distance.
She sighed. “Closer, please.”
The wind picked up as the storm drew nearer, flicking loose grains of sand into the air and blowing stray wisps of hair into A’tro’s eyes. He steeled himself and moved forward until he could have reached out and brushed her hair away from her face.
“Get behind me,” she ordered calmly as the wall of swirling wind thundered towards them.
Quinn quickly obeyed as she raised her chin and clenched her hands into fists, regarding the storm the same way that she would an enemy force. She seemed so small in the face of nature’s wrath, and yet there was something strangely solid about her. It occurred to him that he had no qualms about placing his life in her hands. She was so confident, so self-possessed, that surely no storm could stand between her and her goal.
He closed his eyes as the storm hit.
An instant later, he opened them again. They were standing inside an invisible bubble. The wind howled all around, whipping sand against the barrier with scouring force, but to no effect.
It was nothing short of wondrous. This woman who stood no higher than his shoulder had enough power to protect them from a sandstorm in the open desert. The more time he spent with her, the more she continued to amaze him…
Quinn cut off that train of thought before it could wander into places that were best avoided. He adjusted his stance into his best parade rest, turned his head so he was looking out into the storm and
at her, and settled in to wait.
It was impossible to determine the passage of time, and he had no idea how long the storm might last. He mentally cursed himself for not researching that before their arrival on Tatooine. He could only hope that it would not be too long. A’tro, as strong as she was, could not keep the protection up forever. If she expended all of her energies now, she would be left drained and vulnerable for the battle to come.
A few stray grains of sand whipped suddenly across his face. The protected area was shrinking. Quinn edged closer to A’tro, feeling suddenly nervous. What if her strength failed before the storm had passed?
No. She would not fail. He believed in her.
The storm continued to rage, and the circle continued to contract. Quinn was forced to move closer and closer to A’tro, until he stood directly behind her, with only a few scant inches of space between them. With the cloud of blowing dust blocking the suns, the temperature had dropped considerably, enough for him to be uncomfortably aware of her warmth.
At last, the storm receded into the distance behind them.
“Finally,” A’tro murmured, swaying on her feet.
Instinctively, Quinn reached forward and caught her around the waist, steadying her before she could fall. Her head lolled back against his shoulder and for a moment, he thought she might faint. But an instant later, her head came up and she took several quick steps away from him.
“Are you all right, my lord?” Quinn asked softly, then mentally cursed himself when it occurred to him, too late, that she might be offended by the inquiry.
“I’m fine, Quinn,” A’tro replied calmly. “Thank you for asking,” she added, flashing a small, wry smile.
His heartbeat accelerated rapidly. It seemed the heat was getting to him.
Quickly, he turned away from her and surveyed the landscape. The storm had shifted the dunes, and he was no longer completely certain of their bearings. He could only hope that A’tro’s instincts would continue to guide her in the right direction—wait, what was
“My lord,” Quinn said, pointing at what he had just noticed. “I believe I’ve spied our destination.”
A’tro moved up beside him, peering in the direction he indicated. “It appears you have. Well spotted, Captain. You have an eye for detail.”
It was those damned suns, he told himself, and not her praise that made him suddenly feel warm.
Quinn slowly opened his eyes. The memory of what had happened immediately before he blacked out sprang to the forefront of his mind, and he started to try to rise.
Hands pushed him back down, and A’tro’s face filled his vision. “Relax,” she told him firmly. “The Jedi are both dead.”
“I apologize for my lack of assistance in this matter, my lord,” Quinn said faintly. Stars, what would she think of him now? Weak and pathetic…
“Don’t be an idiot,” she murmured. “I don’t expect you to resist a Jedi Master’s mental influence. I handled the situation fine by myself.”
“Nevertheless,” Quinn insisted, “I shall endeavor to react more optimally if such situations arise again in the future.”
A’tro smiled faintly. “Whatever you like, Captain.” She extended a hand.
He stared at the gloved appendage until it dawned on him that she was trying to help him up. He took her hand and let her pull him to his feet, then quickly dropped it.
“Now that you’re awake,” she said briskly, “It’s time we headed back to the
and informed Lord Baras of our progress.” She swayed slightly where she stood.
Quinn frowned. “My lord, with due respect, you’ve just defeated two very powerful Jedi. It may be prudent to rest for a time—“
“I’m fine,” A’tro interrupted, turning to face him. “It’s getting late. We need to move, before it becomes too dark to see…” She wavered on her feet again.
“My lord, as your medic, I must insist on ensuring that you are uninjured."
“Oh, stop it,” she muttered, putting a hand to her head. “You just want to get your hands on me.”
Quinn felt his face flush. “I would not presume—“
“No point denying it,” she mumbled.
Before Quinn could work up a suitable reply, her knees buckled and she collapsed at his feet.
He cursed softly and dropped to his knees beside her, then removed his gloves and laid a careful hand against the side of her neck, trying not to think about the remarkable softness of her warm skin, the subtle ridges… Her heartbeat pulsed gently against his fingers, strong and steady. She was not in serious danger.
He didn’t even realize that he was about to touch her lips until he managed to halt his fingertips a few scant millimeters away. Stars, what had happened to his self-control? A’tro was a Pureblood, a Sith, and his commander. Those were three things that set her far, far above him, three reasons why it was an
bad idea for him to be taken in by her like this.
Quinn took a deep breath and forced himself to think rationally and objectively. A’tro was most likely suffering from a combination of fatigue and dehydration. There were also, he noticed suddenly, several small lightsaber wounds marring her arms and a few on her torso.
He needed to get her back to what pitiful excuse for civilization there was on Tatooine, get her water and kolto. The supplies he had with him simply wouldn’t do, and with the two corpses nearby it was only a matter of time before scavengers paid a visit. He doubted he could fight off a pack of womp rats or a wraid by himself.
There was nothing for it, then. He had to get out of there, and do it quickly, before it was too late.
Steeling himself, Quinn carefully scooped A’tro up into his arms. She was surprisingly heavy for such a small woman—probably a combination of her armor and her muscle mass. He managed to balance her weight enough to stand and stagger out of the hut.
The suns were sinking low on the horizon. While at least the heat was receding, it also meant that soon it would be too dark to navigate. He readjusted his hold on A’tro and set off across the desert.
Outpost Zaroshe had just become visible in the distance when the suns set. The drop in temperature was almost instantaneous, and Quinn shivered as his skin became cold and clammy. He had to put A’tro down for a few moments and put his jacket back on. In minutes, it had become as dark as the depths of space. Try as he might, he couldn’t make out any sign of lights from the direction that he had been heading.
They must try to keep the lights low to discourage nighttime raids by the Sand People,
A’tro was still unconscious. He was tempted to stop and wait for her to wake up, but he knew that he had to keep moving. He was practically blind in this darkness, but staying still meant a greater chance of something nasty finding them. Doing his best to continue in the direction that he had been heading before, he continued forward.
He couldn’t see, and it was maddening. He hadn’t realized how full the desert was of small rocks until he started tripping on them every few steps.
“Should’ve brought a light,” he muttered.
Then it dawned on him. It was not something that he normally would have been comfortable doing, but if it meant the difference between life and death…
Tentatively, Quinn maneuvered a hand around to A’tro’s waist and unclipped one of her lightsabers. If doing this ensured that she would survive, he would gladly endure whatever punishment she saw fit to give him for touching one of her weapons.
Finding the activation stud and making sure that the hilt was indeed pointed away from him was a bit tricky while balancing a comatose Sith in his arms, but he managed. A moment later, the scarlet blade blazed to life with the familiar
He still couldn’t see very far, but it was better than nothing. At least he could see the ground, and do his best to avoid obstacles.
It felt like the longest walk of his life. His arms were aching from the strain, and his mind was feeling a similar pressure. The desert around them was completely silent, and it unnerved him. Who knew what was lurking in the night, just out of view?
Then he forgot about everything else as A’tro stirred in his arms. He quickly shut off the lightsaber and replaced it on her belt; what she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her. He lowered her to the ground and knelt beside her, trying vainly to see her face.
“My lord?” he whispered.
There was a noise from behind him, and he started to turn around. The next thing he knew, there was a blaster pressed against the back of his head, a light shining in his face, and a uniformed man frowning down at him.
Quinn blinked rapidly to keep his eyes from watering at the sudden brightness, and reflected absently that he had never been more grateful to see the Imperial black and gray.
“Identify yourself,” the other officer said curtly.
“Captain Malavai Quinn,” he said briskly, then rattled off his service number. “Presently under personal command of the Sith A’tro Zaraine, apprentice to Darth Baras.”
The officer raised an eyebrow. “I take it that’s her on the ground there?”
Quinn nodded. “I can’t discuss the details of our mission, but she needs medical attention straightaway.” He glanced at the other man’s uniform and added coolly, “Lieutenant.”
“Do you have identification?” the lieutenant demanded, unfazed.
Quinn pulled out his identicard and proffered it to him. He scanned it on a small device and handed it back.
“You check out, sir,” the lieutenant said, sounding much more respectful. “My men and I are one of the night patrols from Zaroshe. We’ll take you back to the outpost immediately.” He gestured, and the soldier holding the blaster to Quinn’s head stepped away.
Quinn got to his feet, subtly brushing sand off his knees. “Very good, lieutenant.”
He lifted A’tro into the back of their camouflaged speeder himself.
How did I not hear the engine? It must be a stealth model.
As they set off across the dunes, only the knowledge that there were others watching kept him from reaching out to brush her hair away from her face.
“Course laid in for Alderaan, my lord,” Quinn reported.
A’tro nodded. “Very good, Captain.” She started to leave the bridge, then paused, turning back around to face him. “It occurs to me that I never did thank you for your actions on Tatooine.”
“I was only doing my duty, my lord,” he murmured.
“Still…I am grateful.” She smiled at him, then turned and walked away.
Quinn decided to indulge himself, just this once, and allow himself to reflect on how even more beautiful she became when she smiled like that.
Gah, Quinn's PoV is tricky. I hope I've kept him sufficiently in character. And speaking of in character...they kept trying to get away from me here. I lost count of the number of times I had to delete a paragraph or two because A'tro and Quinn could not keep their hands off each other.
As far as the (probably very un)realism of the sandstorm goes...I claim artistic license.
Oh, and A'tro has a last name now! I'd always planned on giving her one, but I could never come up with one that I could remember. I guess I've written Zaraine, so Zaraine it is.
...and then it just dawned on me how irksomely similar that is to Zariel. You know what? Screw it. I'm not changing it.
There's always lightning.