Arla kicked at her ship and swore loudly into the thin atmosphere of the darkening moon.
“How could he do that? How the fuck did that happen?” she asked the world in general.
“We were careless.” muttered the forlorn figure a few metres away from her, stroking the somewhat battered form of his little ship.
Arla stopped kicking and thumping at her craft, and turned to look at Fett; he was slumped, almost, over his ship, staring into the middle distance. She felt a pang of worry.
“You’re not hurt are you?”
At her anxious words, Fett stood up a bit straighter, and tried to fight back the feeling of dismay that had overcome him. Perhaps he was losing his touch. The Sarlacc . . had that only been the beginning? He forced himself to speak, though he wanted to lapse into his more customary silence.
“No.” he said.
Arla sensed that he was withdrawing from her, so strode over to where the battered form of Slave II lay. She went right up to Fett and put a hand on his arm.
“Hey!” she said, “Don’t worry. He was mad at us, I guess.”
“He will have to come here, of course. We have killed his lover and taken a bounty which he thinks belongs to him. He will have to collect the captives.”
“Yes. He wasn’t acting particularly rationally, I think. He should not have shot us down like that, not with our cargoes. So all we have to do is kill him when he arrives, take his ship and collect our bounty.”
Fett laughed, the short, curt, sound of old.
Then in a dry, sarcastic voice, said, “yes. Easy.” He paused, thinking, “but I would prefer not to leave Slave II here. There must be a better way.”
“Well, we can’t do anything about it until it gets here, so -” Arla whipped about, hearing a sound from her ship, “Shit! I forgot. I have to go and knock out the captives again. They’ll be waking up now.” She set off a run and disappeared inside her ship.
Fett shrugged, and checked the occupants of his own hold. They slumbered on. For a moment he wondered what those who were paying him wanted these people for; only for a moment though, it was not his concern. He locked them in again, and went to check out the extent of the damage to his ship. What he found did not please him, but he gathered up his tools, stripped off his gloves and set to work. His thoughts were black as he mechanically re-connected, welded, soldered and patched. He had not been the same since the Sarlacc, he knew. That experience had touched his mind in ways he was only slowly realising. Could it also have affected his judgement; he had remembered there what fear had felt like again, after a long time when it seemed not to touch him. It had been so long since fear had ruled his life, he had forgotten what it tasted like, but the Sarlacc had caused him to know again, all too well. It was not that he was afraid now, far from it, but, knowing there was the potential for reacting rather than acting - he had been a fool to become curious about the Jedi training. A couple of years ago he would not have even thought about it. And then there was the question of Arla. Boba Fett thought about his welding for a while.
Arla was doing a similar check of her own ship, and decided that there was little point in trying to affect patch up repairs as there was no way she could patch it to go into hyperspace. She clicked her tongue impatiently, this was going to be expensive, and would swallow up more than she would have wanted from the bounty on the Imperials. She wondered what would happen to them, and to whom they were being delivered. These were high-ranking officers. There could not be many of this high a rank surviving after the Death Stars had been destroyed, yet several of the people were recognisable to her, though she had only ever dealt directly with Vader; when working for the Empire. These people would not have hired her out of principal. She smiled. Empires came and went, she thought, but, her mouth twisting into an ironic grin as she walked back towards Fett’s ship, there would always be bounty hunters. She watched as an arc of brilliant sparks scattered over the top of Fett’s ship. Pausing for a moment before advancing on the vessel, she removed her mask and helmet, and swiftly unplaited her hair. She just left the helmet were it fell, and, running her fingers through her hair to fluff it up, she approached his ship.
She hopped inside the open cockpit and wandered back into the maintenance area beyond it. She heard the clunk of a rivet gun being used, then gasped as Fett’s helmet swung into view, and an arm brandishing a gun waved at her.
“Yes?” he said. He was hanging virtually upside down, holding the rivet gun, mending a hole on the top of the ship.
“You startled me! I thought - never mind. Do you need a hand? I can’t do anything with my little green baby, she’s too badly damaged to survive going into hyperspace, as far as I can see.”
The head and arm disappeared into the wiring again. A minute later, Fett was standing in front of her in the very confined space; his whole aura was very cross; he was, Arla realised, utterly pissed off.
“Mine too. Damn him. It’s like he picked up extra weaponry while collecting those two last Imperials, but there was no way he had the time. But, you’re right. There is no point in wasting effort in doing a job that will just have to be done again - what are you staring at?”
Arla was staring at his hands. Tentatively, she touched the flesh, the hand flinched away.
“Arla!? What are you doing?”
She looked at him, smiled, and then continued to gaze at his hands. They were very pale, with long, broad palms and long, square fingers. There a sparse amount of dark hair on the back of them, barely more than a few hairs. The nails were well kept, square cut, and not nibbled - she looked a little ruefully at the chewed mess that were her own nails.
“Well,” she said, slowly, “now I at least know the colour of your skin, Boba Fett, and that you have dark hair.” she looked at the helmet again, with more curiosity than she had for the last few weeks, “Do you remember, “ she started, “once I asked you whether you were deformed, or injured or -”
“Or just hideously ugly. Yes, I remember. How could I forget?”
Arla caught the edge of dry humour in his voice again, and felt danger, but pressed on, “you said no, you were not any of those things. Boba Fett, you were telling the truth, weren’t you?”
Fett was aware that the conversation was sliding away out of his control, and he didn’t really know what to do about it. Suddenly he felt very trapped, and knew he had to get out of the ship, and back into the air again. A small part of his mind panicked at the thought of his claustrophobia returning, and the memory of the Sarlacc, just a few moments before an intellectual thought, became very real indeed. He stepped back, away from Arla, and hit his head on the pipe he had been dangling from a few moments earlier. The muffled feeling brought him back to his senses again. He looked back at Arla, who stood with her arms wrapped tight around herself. He could see tears in her eyes, and felt her distress, but didn’t know what to say to her.
“Did you lie, Boba Fett? I felt you - your panic there - did you lie?” her voice was small, and slightly afraid. Fett shook himself a little, rolling his shoulders to ease the tension. A joint popped in his neck. He felt unable to focus on her question; indeed, he really didn’t quite understand it, for he had answered it already, long ago. He sighed, and tried to pull himself together.
“No, no, I’m not - any of those things. I told you that, years ago. Nothing has changed, except we are both a little older.”
She sagged visibly.
“Good.” she said, “Good.” she looked up at him again, “How old are you anyway, you’ve been a bounty hunter forever, but -?”
Suddenly Boba Fett felt very tired. There seemed no point in hiding any longer, Arla had never been effected by the mystery that his helmeted, and armoured body inspired even in other bounty hunters. He simply told her.
Her jaw dropped.
“No! You can’t be, that’s not that much older than me! How long have you been a bounty hunter?”
“For twenty years, Arla, why -?” he took a deep breath, and pushed past her out into the air of the now dark moon.
He hopped lightly down onto the ground again, and looked warily about, for the darkness did not restrict his enhanced vision. He heard Arla emerging from the spaceship behind him.
“Oh,” she said, “It’s all dark. I can’t see a damn thing.”
There was some scrabbling behind him, and the lights in his ship came on. Arla leapt off the ship and landed neatly beside him.
“That’s better.” she said.
Fett anxiously scanned the sky above, as if looking for an escape.
“He’s taking his time. I wonder how much damage he sustained?”
“Hmm? Oh, Dengar. I’d forgotten about him. Well, we’re stuck here until he arrives, so we’d better -, oh I don’t know.” she leaned against the ship and looked up too, scanning the clouds, but, without her inbuilt night-vision binoculars, abandoned near her own ship the clouds were impenetrable. She shivered, it was cold now the moon had spun into darkness. She watched Fett standing in front of her, watching the sky, his body tense from head to toe, and she shook her head. A small smile played across her face, and she stood up and walked over to him, running her hand along his arm, over the pitted metal of his armour to the tight muscle beyond.
Before she knew it, she was in his arms, held tight to him with his strong, hard hands pressing almost painfully into her sides, her breasts squashed up against his armour. She made a small, animal sound in her throat, and held him back. His hands ran over her form, and she shivered. Then she looked up at the helmeted visage, and shook her head.
“Boba Fett, if you - if we - please take the helmet off,” she said, her voice sounding harsh and loud to herself.
He let go of her, and Arla’s heart sank, but, unbelievably, amazingly, he reached up and began to click at switches inside the helmet. Arla held her breath, aware that she was shaking, with excitement, yes, but also fear at what she might see.
Then, the peace of the deserted moon was shattered by a loud screaming. Arla looked up and groaned as the sky lit up, illuminated by the flaming, out of control white shape that was Dengar’s ship. She looked back at Fett, and saw him hastily clicking the switches back on.
“Fuck.” he shouted, and grabbed Arla by the arm, as she stood there open mouthed watching the ship come down, and pulled her to the ground with him under his own ship, to safety. They watched as the burning craft plunged through the sky, sending sparks out around it, until it finally was brought up just before it hit the ground, and it gently hovered for a moment above the surface, then landed. Almost in shock, Arla and Fett watched as a figure emerged from the ship, and with his one good arm began spraying the burning hull. Arla turned and looked long and hard at Fett.
“We’ll finish that later,” she said. It sounded almost like a threat. “First,” she said, forcing the words out around her rage, “I am going to kill him, slowly, with my bare hands.”
She started to crawl out from under Slave II, but Fett grabbed her again. His words formed sharp and clear in her mind. She felt his anger, and frustration burning red around the edges of his words.
No - remember what we were taught. We can hurt him in other ways. He won’t be able to touch us.
She nodded, a brief movement, not wasting any energy. Fett saw her face set into a fierce scowl, and was aware that his own face probably matched that expression. They emerged from under the ship, and had approached Dengar before he even turned around.
“Dengar.” called Arla.
The man slipped, and fell off the ship. He landed hard, but managed to save rolling on his bad arm. Holding the hastily bound wound, he pulled himself to his feet and stared warily at the two figures facing, the light from Slave II framing them, the wind blowing Arla’s hair, almost black in the darkness, about. She had no weapon he could see, and Fett had only the blaster rifle, but that was pointing at him.
“Dengar,” said Arla again, in a light, conversational voice, “glad to see you paying attention.”
Her hand shot out, and Dengar flinched away, but nothing happened. He breathed heavily, eyes flicking backwards and forwards from one to the other, trying to ascertain their movements.
Then, he began to panic. His feet no longer touched the ground, something was lifting him up. Suddenly, he was moving fast, his body crashing against the side of his ship. He screamed in pain as his injured arm hit the hard metal of the vessel. He tried to twist about, but couldn’t move, as every movement constricted his throat to the point of stopping his breathing. From what seemed a long way away, he heard Arla laughing. He stared at the two figures, and began to whimper as something twisted his wounded arm around. Below him, neither figure moved.
Fett watched with interest as the wounded man writhed to the dictates of Arla’s thought processes. At first, it seemed her imagination was lacking, for she simply twisted at the injured arm, but she soon tired of that, and Fett heard the muffled pops and snaps of breaking bone, and watched as first his arms, then his legs went limp. Dengar’s mouth was open in pure shock, his eyes registered nothing except mindless terror as she manipulated the broken limbs, although there were tears streaming down his face. Fett smiled, and increased the pressure on the man’s windpipe, remembering working for Vader as he did so. He made sure the pressure was not enough to kill him, however, as Dengar had not really tried to kill him, it was only fair. The awareness that he could do this filled in him in one big rush; if he wanted he could burst Dengar’s eyeballs, any blood vessels; he could break bones, tear ligaments. He could stop hearts with a thought. He shook his head at this. It was, almost, too easy. Distracted as he was, the question arrived fully formed in his mind, why had Skywalker shown them how this could be done, this control? He found this question so surprising he stopped what he was doing. He could hear a thin scream at the edge of his mind, but for a moment he forgot about the reasons for doing this, and saw the scene with a dispassionate, almost distant, eye.
He had seen far worse torture than this, and over the years he had trained himself to accept it; and it was Arla’s face that fascinated and disturbed him, rather than the wreak that Dengar’s body was becoming. Her face was twisted up into an animal - a feral snarl, and it seemed that the woman he knew had been taken away and replaced with this creature. He felt a twinge of unease deep in his stomach. Arla was, he realised, going to kill the man. That was unfair, something in the back of his mind whispered, as Dengar had not killed them, nor really tried hard to do so.
He tried to contact her mind, to draw her back into rationality, but when he got beyond the surface he found little he could get a grip on. It was a maelstrom, seething with passions that clothed her mind in black and red. He withdrew hastily, feeling her anger and bitterness whirling into and attacking his own mind, and discovering emotions in her mind that he did not know how to deal with. He stood, reeling a little from the shock of her disordered psyche, and not a little revolted by it. He was brought back to reality by Dengar’s bubbling half scream. He looked up at the man again, and, despite all he had seen in his life, something made his eyes widen in horror at the streams of blood that poured down his face, and stained dark the white of his flight suit. For a moment, he struggled with an obscure feeling of compassion for Dengar; then, he realised that he felt fear for Arla - and a small part of him felt a small welling of fear of her as well. Her hands were curled into the claws that were scratching at Dengar’s face. He remembered what Skywalker had said about the Dark side of the Force, and shivered, an involuntary motion he would later put down to the chill night air. He knew though, she had to be stopped.
He closed his eyes, concentrated, and let fly his blaster from his hands. He opened them in time to see it slam into Dengar’s temple, then it whizzed back into his hand again. Dengar slumped into unconsciousness, and Arla’s hold over his body disappeared. He slid to the ground, his arms and legs settling at odd angles. Arla’s head whipped round to him and he felt her thoughts.
“What!? What are you doing, he must die! He must -”
Fett slammed her thoughts back on her again - he would never know exactly how he had done that, after, and watched her fall gracefully into a heap on the ground. He stood, collecting thoughts, for a moment, breathing the air his helmet filtered through to him. He walked over to Dengar’s prone and broken body, bending down to check that the man still lived. He did. Fett felt his mind clear, and he felt the feeling of otherness leave him. He actually staggered backwards a few steps, but the feeling swiftly passed, and he peered at Dengar with some surprise. What, he asked himself, was he doing? He cared nothing for this man, he had little respect for him after the stupidity of his attempt on the bounty in his and Arla’s holds. Why then was he rushing to see whether he lived or died? True, Arla’s actions had been stupid in the extreme, but he understood her anger, feeling a small part of it himself - though he would never have lost control in that way. That was Arla, however, and he doubted that she would ever change, although he would never risk revenge in this blatant way. And why had he thought about Skywalker’s Force? Why at that time? This was business, after all.
He heard a groan from where Arla was lying. Giving Dengar’s body one last glance, he strode over the hard packed red earth to where she was stirring. She groaned loudly, pulling herself to her knees, then sat, curled up into a little ball, holding her head and moaning. Fett watched her for a time, arms folded, until she raked a hand through her hair, and looked up at him. Her face, he noted, was almost bleached to pure white. He shook his head, not knowing what to say to her.
“Wha - what happened? I was - I was - I felt this - something - in my head and I don’t remember - ooh, Firelord, my head hurts -”
“Good. You acted stupidly. He will want revenge for this.”
She stared back at him stupidly, mouth hanging slightly open.
“Wha- what?” he watched her visibly pull herself together “And? He should die.”
“Why? He didn’t really try to kill us, not in this way. He had every right to try to stop us. It is a game, a competition. This - this power is -” he voice trailed off into a whisper “too much.”
Arla rubbed at her head again, trying to massage her headache away, and trying to get her head around Fett’s words. Her own actions too. She had rarely felt rage like that recently. Or, perhaps she should say, acted on rage like that. She shrugged. He still deserved to die, and it had nothing to do with the bounty stashed in their holds. She gingerly shook her head to clear it, and, as she did so, the most obvious question settled in her mind. Why was Fett acting like this - he had encouraged her to use those powers, had been using them himself. Why the sudden change of heart? She got unsteadily to her feet, and went over to Dengar; she sighed.
“I guess I hurt him pretty hard, but, Boba Fett - he’s not dead. He wouldn’t have hesitated to kill us, you know that - and so we should kill him. It would be no loss to the galaxy.” she looked over to where Fett was still standing. He had a distracted air about him, his shoulders were slumped and his head bowed. Arla felt a thread of unease wind itself around her; she looked about, wanting very much to be off the moon and heading far away from this sector. There was a bubbling noise by her feet; she looked down.
“Boba Fett!” she called; the figure snapped into life, and shook himself. Fett walked over to where she stood.
“He’s coming to,” said Arla. “What should we do? I say he should die.”
Fett looked down at the pathetic heap that was Dengar. Dengar looked back at him, he was afraid - no, terrified of them. He opened his mouth to speak, but no sound came out; a thin trickle of blood snaked out of his nose, and in moving his head a little way to take in both of the hunters, blood soaked through the sandy earth that had clogged the wounds on his face. The bandages around his had had slipped away to reveal a scarred, bald scalp. Fett nudged him with his foot and saw tears stream from the man’s eyes. He smiled a tight smile. Perhaps it was alright, he thought, after all, Dengar had damaged his ship - and the only reason they weren’t dead now was because of the bounty in their holds, he realised. Any compassion he had had fled.
“No,” he said, and Arla was relieved to hear his voice sounding as flat and hard as ever, “no he should not die. Not yet.”
“See,” said Fett, “he wants to die. But he should live. His lover is dead through his own stupid fault. Let him mourn her.”
Arla smiled wolfishly, “yes, then he can remember that you do not send untried meat against experienced hunters.”
At first, Dengar heard their words through a fog of pain, but by lying very still the pain ebbed a little. Anger began to return. There would be revenge. Broken limbs and a torn body were not life threatening. When they had gone, he could edge himself to his ship and put out a distress call. It would not take long to be hunting again. But, he wondered, his mind woozy with the effort of thinking around his pain, how had they managed it. Only once had he seen anything like it, when he was working for Vader once, and the Dark Lord had throttled someone with the power of his mind alone. He had heard. too, that the rebels - can’t call them that now - had that Skywanderer or whatever his name was doing similar tricks. How, though, had these two got these skills? Had to try to articulate this, had to:
“Huh -” he tried, nearly passing out from the effort of getting one letter past his lips, “How?” it was barely more than a whisper, but they heard it.
Arla laughed as she heard Dengar’s question. She shook her head.
“Never you mind, Dengar - we have friends in high places, that’s all I’m going to say. But, if you come after us, well, we were nice today, but next time - have you got a death-wish, Dengar?” She looked around her, then grinned at Fett, “But,” she continued, “For now Dengar, we are going to take your ship, and our captives, and go and collect our credits. Bye.”
She trod on his fingers, smiling at him as she crunched them into the ground with her heavy boots. Then Boba Fett leant down over him, he felt a sharp pain in his neck, and saw no more.
“Right,” said Arla, “Glad to see you are functioning properly at last. I was worried, I’ve never seen you so - well, not there, before.”
Fett slipped the syringe gun back into its pouch on his sleeve, “and I’m glad to see you behaving with some rationality.” he said.
Arla laughed again, then strode over to Dengar’s ship.
“Better see if this thing is flightworthy, or it could be a long night.”
“No, wait, I’ve had a better idea. I don’t know why I didn’t think about it before.” he set off at a run to his own ship, Arla following a couple of paces behind.
“Hey, wait! What are you doing?”
He jumped up into the cockpit and flipped a couple of switches. Arla scrambled in afterwards, frowning as a screen began to blink into existence in front of her.
“I’m going to call Slave III here. It’s big enough to take both our ships, but -”, began Fett, but stopped when a face finally focused in front of him.
“Oh, Han!” cried Arla in delight, “hello Han!” then, “Boba Fett, why are you calling Han?”
“Arla, shut up,” said Fett, “Solo. I wish to -”
“Hello Arla,” said Han, cutting into Fett’s words, “How’re you doing? Heard that you’ve been a busy girl, but why’re you still hanging out with this idiot?”
“‘Cos I like him, Han - why, do you have a problem with it, Han? I know you don’t want me back, so why be jealous, hmm?”
“I am not jealous - but you know can do better. You have done better, after all.”
“Vain now, huh? How’s things on the delightful Coruscant?”
“Fine. Luke is not pleased with you two. He wants you to come back.” Han paused, then smiled, then said to Fett, “You were saying?”
Fett took a deep breath, and kept his voice civil.
“Solo. I wish to remove Slave III from the landing bay. Neither of our ships can go safely into hyperspeed. Would you give us clearance?”
“Sure - so long as I never have to see it again.” Han went to close the link.
“No. Wait. We have to come back. I want you to take Slave I out its bay inside my ship, my ship is only designed to fit two others inside it. I’ve unlocked the security alarm system.”
“And I don’t want to be abandoned here on this fireless moon, so you will do that for us, won’t you Han?”
“Alright, Arla, for you.” he frowned, “What is the deal with you two, anyway?”
“There is no ‘deal’” grated Fett, and closed the link.
He started to set the course that the Slave III would take to reach them.
“It shouldn’t take too long. It can do most of the distance in hyperspace, it’ll only be a few hours. I’m going to see what I can do to my ship in that time. You should do the same, I’ll find you when Slave III arrives.”
“Boba Fett?” said Arla, pushing her hair out of the way, and watching him clamber back towards the maintenance chamber. A few seconds later she could see sparks. She shrugged, and hopped out of the cockpit and walked back to her own ship. She paused before climbing into it, and looked back to the Slave II. The sun was just beginning to stain the sky with gold. She sighed.
“Oh, Boba Fett, I don’t understand you.” she said, and jumped inside Vert III.
“Do you think he’ll live?”
They were staring at Dengar, still lying beside his ship. He had moved a little, to try to crawl towards his ship, but the exertion of it had knocked him out again. Fett shrugged.
“Who knows. His ship isn’t really able to fly, but he could send a distress call - though who’d answer it, I don’t know. Dengar is nearly as good at making friends as I am.”
“Was that nearly a joke, Boba Fett?” she put her hand limply to her head, “Oh, I think I shall faint from the shock of it!” she rolled her eyes and swayed.
“Well, if I’m feeling nice I might let the nearest planet’s authorities know that a wanted bounty hunter is wanting to be picked up on a certain moon-”
“You are full of it this morning, why? Thinking about all those credits that will be slipping into our bank accounts . . or is there something else?”
“If we don’t get there soon, those credits will start to decrease. So lets go.”
Fett strode off and onto his ship.
Arla smiled, though it was not a particularly pleasant smile,“you are avoiding the issue, aren’t you? Oh well, never mind, there’s time yet.” she said to herself, then followed Fett onto his ship.
She slid into the co-pilots seat and grinned at Fett.
“Why have a co-pilot’s seat? Has there ever been one?”
“No. I still have some modifications to make on this one.”
“Shall we fly this together, then? Seeing as there is a co-pilot’s seat -” she leaned over and caught his hand before he set the ship into manual control, “or you could turn on the slave controls and we could finish what was started last night, what do you say?”
Fett snatched his hand away, seeing in his mind the mad, feral face of the previous night, and feeling repulsed.
“No. I think I’ll drive it on manual for a while. I think I want to fly alone a while, there’s lots of holo-books in the living quarters; I’ll drop you off when we’ve collected the credits, if you like. I don’t need a partner now. ”
He pulled on the regulator and the ship cruised off the planet. Arla stood up, slowly, rubbing at the back of her neck. She held her breath for moment, counted to ten, then let the breathe go. It did little to cool her anger.
“What? What? What is it with you? Firelord! Don’t you have any feelings at all? Did they cut off your balls when you were a baby, or something?”
Fett slammed the ship onto automatic, and jumped up.
“That’s it. This is my ship, and I will not be insulted on it. We have the bounty, but, dammit - it was so chaotic and stupidly done, I’d have done it far better on my own! You do not ever think - you just act. How you have stayed alive all these years I don’t know. I do not want a partner - what happened last night was a - a reaction to the stress of the day. Nothing more. Now go away.”
“Fuck you! Gods, if you think that I would do anything with you now - I hope you rot. I thought that your standoffish manner was endearing and interesting. Now I see you for what you are - egocentric, stuck -up and frigid. Probably the most pleasure you’ve had has been pulling at your own - OW!”
Fett had hit her, hard, across the face.
“You DARE to touch me - I’ll -”
“Get off my ship.” Fett’s voice was cold, flat and determined. “You will get off my ship now.” He directed the thoughts at her as well, for good measure, though they were almost incoherent with anger.
“To coin a phrase - your Jedi mind tricks won’t work on mee. But, I’ll go.”
She walked stiffly out of the control room and towards the bay where her ship was stored, but turned to face Fett again after a few paces.
“I hope that this will satisfy you. My ship is far too badly damaged to support life out there - so, by telling me to get off the ship, you are killing me. I hope that makes you feel good.”
He didn’t even turn around from where he was adjusting some of the setting.
“Frankly, Arla Gen, right now, I couldn’t care less whether you lived or died.” he muttered.
Hearing this, Arla felt her eyes grow hot and prickly. She pulled her lips together in a tight line, and continued walking to the exits, while the tears began to fall down her face. She had not been lying, her ship really wouldn’t last five minutes out there. She had been putting off some work on it anyway, and Dengar’s assault had completely wreaked some already shaky areas, and some perfectly good ones for that matter. She really might die. What a stupid way to go, she thought, why can’t you keep your big mouth shut?
Fett slumped down in his chair and put his helmeted head in his hands. He could feel tears at the back of his eyes. That was unthinkable, but everything was so strange at the moment. He knew he wouldn’t let Arla leave, not really, but she made him so angry. She was so childish, and had so much luck. Something he had never had; he only had caution and now, experience. But Arla was friends with the whole galaxy, did exactly what she wanted, said exactly what she wanted and still never even seemed to get injured. She should have stayed with Solo, he thought, they were both like that. But, what was wrong with him - he never lost his temper, always acted rationally if at all possible. Never let himself get even a little bit close to anybody. And then there was the strangeness of the day before, when he stopped Arla from torturing Dengar - or when something had stopped Arla. After all, why should he stop her? Arla was right, something was, as she put it “fucking with their minds”, and he did not like it one bit.
A screen flicked up in front of him, showing Arla’s tearstained face.
“Requesting permission to leave, please,” she said, shakily.
They looked at each other for a short time, then Fett said, “oh, look Arla, I’m sorry, I -”
Her face screwed up into a snarl.
“I do not wish to stay here with someone who doesn’t care whether I live or die, thank you very much. Requesting permission to leave.”
Fett looked up at the ceiling, and heaved a deep sigh of frustration.
“Arla, Arla. I do care, okay? Permission refused. Come back, I need a co-pilot right now.”
She stared at him stoically.
“Please?” he said.
“Okay,” she whispered. The link disappeared.
Fett switched into manual, holding onto the steering column tightly, for his hands were shaking.
Arla stood and watched Fett fly the ship for a few moments before re-entering the room. He seemed completely calm, intent only on what he was doing. For a minute, she felt a chill, thinking that maybe she had imagined the conversation, that Fett would round on her again for returning. He’s ignoring me, she thought, the bastard. He thinks he can just forget about everything he says and things can just go on as normal. Her face set into a scowl. Fett was wrong, she was not going to take his insults easily.
“Thanks,” she said, “nice to hear that you don’t want me to be dead.”
She flopped down into the seat, and folded her arms.
“You think you’re so hard, don’t you? What would people think if they had seen of you what I have, huh? Do you think they’d laugh?”
She heard him sigh. He did not turn around, nor even glance her direction. She thought, I should stop this; but some demon seemed to have hold of her tongue.
“Why not ignore me then - that’s very adult, isn’t it? You have no idea, have you? Boba Fett, I know that me offering myself to you is not exactly an exclusive - but you could try and treat me with more respect. Tell me, apart from sleeping with - sorry, having sex with whores, have you ever had a lover? Any sort of relationship?” she paused, cocking her head to one side as the thought occurred to her. She studied the tense set of Fett’s shoulders. Suddenly she felt abashed, without really realising why. “I’m sorry. I’m being crappy. Ignore me. You probably had a really shitty relationship once, and you’ve been put off for life. I’ve been lucky, I guess.”
Fett turned to look at her. He opened his mouth to speak, to say, no that’s not it. I was never hurt that way. To say, there was never any point in having lovers, you’ll only end up getting them killed - look at Dengar - they would only be a hindrance, and are unnecessary. To say, yes, you are lucky - to say, you should have stayed with Solo, you’re a pair, both stupidly lucky. Both should have been dead long ago. He thought, I am only cautious, I have experience now, other people’s experience when I was younger. I was never lucky. He said none of those things, he said instead, “Arla, I’m tired. I’m putting the ship on automatic. I need to sleep - you should too. We shouldn’t go into light speed before we leave the system core, I’d rather be in the clear before we do. Go to bed until its time to go into lightspeed.”
Arla rubbed her forehead, and sighed.
“You always evade the issue. Oh, never mind. Look, you sleep. I got some sleep while you were playing with your ship last night, so I’m not tired; I need to fly, to clear my mind - would you let me take her?”
It would take several hours before they would reach the safest point to go into lightspeed, near the edge of the core of the system, he estimated. That was a long time to leave a stranger with his ship, but she was a good pilot. His mind felt woozy.
“Alright. But I’ll set my alarm to wake me a quarter of an hour before we have to go into hyperspace. Be careful.”
“Ninety gods! As if I’d do anything to your bloody ship. Trust me; we’re still partners yet. Go to bed.”
Arla sat and watched the stars go by for an hour. The flying took her mind away for a time, but after a while she started to think again. She flicked the ship into automatic and jumped up, feeling restless. She rubbed at her forehead again, as her headache had not yet gone away. She wandered out of the room and down a corridor, not really thinking about where she was going. She opened a door and stepped into a room. Looking around, she realised with a frisson of delight, these were Fett’s living quarters. The room was very spare. There was a padded bench along one wall, and the floor was soft to the touch. A table was left extended on another wall, but there was no seat visible. There were various cupboards built into the walls. Her fingers itched to open them, but she soon saw something more interesting. Two doors led out of this room. Maybe, she thought, maybe I could see him, maybe he sleeps with his head uncovered, he must do, surely? She pressed the button on the first door. It opened, revealing a bathroom. She shut the door, opened the other. Held her breath, lest he might hear her.
It was a tiny cubicle. There was barely room for the slim bunk on which he slept. The armour, flight suit and helmet were all neatly arranged on a chair next to the bed. Fett slept, on his side, knees together, almost curled up. The bedclothes covered him from the chest down. His white underclothes covered the rest of him. Even his hands were tucked under the first thin pillow. Even though his head was covered, Arla stood a long time and watched him sleep before turning away and going back to the navigation room.
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