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clints-lucky-arrow · 2 days ago
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Begrudge me one last post about Bucky’s chapter of ‘Call It A Night,’ because it has apparently been flagged and hasn’t been showing up on the tags for hours now. (Likely because Tumblr has realised that it is absolute depravity, but it’s still irritating me to no end 😂😭)
✨And so, you can read it here✨
Edit: One of my lovely mutuals checked and can see it in tags, but because I am Anxious™ I might just leave this up incase it's not showing for everyone.
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clints-lucky-arrow · 9 days ago
Right so today really has not been it at all, but it was nice to wake up to 'The Nomad' passing 1,000 kudos on AO3. 😭
Thanks to each and every one of you who read the fic, whether it is here on Tumblr or over on the Archive. Your support continues to be absolutely phenomenal, and I love you guys to the moon and back. ♥️
Maybe we'll do a little joint Stars Wars/MCU celebration when I hit 1,000 followers on here too.
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clints-lucky-arrow · 9 days ago
Call It A Hunch
(Baron Helmut Zemo x Reader)
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Summary: A questionable phone call from Bucky leads you to an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of Berlin. Upon arriving, you discover that your friends have gotten up to a little more mischief than expected in your seven week absence.
Prequel to Call It A Night.
First Encounters. Mildly Suggestive Zemo. Non-Powered F!Reader.
Word Count: 10.1k
A/N: This was much harder than expected.
Honestly. The great thing about ‘Call It A Night’ was that because it was pretty much meant to be smut piece, I didn’t have to build a background around the Reader character. And then with the prequel that all changed. 
It can be a bit jarring to try and structure something that still relates to events of CIA-Night - almost like you’re trying to work backwards in time - but I hope that you enjoy all the same! There’s no smut in this one, and is just created to focus on the relationships between the characters.
P.S. I know it seems like everyone in the MCU adores this Reader-Insert character, but I’ll assure you that it’s not the case. She just has close bonds with Team Cap from being on the run with them for so long. 
Plus, she’s adorable. I know that you guys don’t know her like I do right now, but there are some sweet moments planned where she’s an actual angel. I love her.
Any and all kind comments are appreciated. It’s been a fucking awful day.
Your unsure call echos questioningly through the derelict building. “Bucky?”
An audible hint of concern laces your tone. Ever since his name had flashed across the screen of your phone an hour ago - tense voice asking you to meet him in an unused warehouse outside of Berlin - the feeling that something was wrong refused to stop relentlessly prickling your nerves. Call it a hunch, but you were absolutely certain that something was afoot. Especially when he mentioned that Sam was there too.
There was no discernible reason for either to be in Berlin. Or Germany at all. The only exception would have been if they were visiting you, a situation which was almost certainly not the case. Having only spoken to Sam the other day, it had been clear then that Bucky was ignoring his messages. 
It’s a bit of an abrupt shift to go from not speaking to one another to heading on a joint international trip to visit a mutual friend. Too much of an unrealistic stretch. And that wouldn’t even begin to explain why they asked you to meet them in this cobweb-infested hovel rather than your bright and airy penthouse apartment. All of the possible scenarios play through your head, but leave a single answer.
This is superhero business. Avengers business. And fuck, you had been warned to not get involved anymore, but there isn't any world in which you would have said no when they needed you. Especially not when Steve’s voice, growing louder with each passing day, is playing on a relentless loop in the back of your mind. “Look after them.”
It seems that the responsibility is something that you cannot escape. No matter how enticing the draw to do so feels at times, or whether you’re a continent away. You will always come running when either of them call. After all, they are pretty much all that you have left. 
Sam is your closest remaining friend in the world. There is nothing that you would not do for him, and that it starting to grow just as true for the traumatised super-soldier who seems to have developed a particular reliance upon you. At the thought of Bucky, another pang of guilt beats within your mind. 
You shouldn’t have left. And you should have come back the moment that his therapist had called to say that he was spiralling. 
The rattle of shifting plastic rings out behind. Given the atmosphere, you immediately half-leap in shock, hands immediately fumbling downward to where your gun should be. Except, there is no weapon. Not even a holster. The rules were very clear. You’re no longer allowed to carry. Not in Germany, or the States, or anywhere else at the moment. 
You’d managed to avoid the aiding, abetting, and obstruction charges that the US government had initially levelled against you for your suspected help in the escape of the Anti-Accords group. They’d been eventually dropped due to lack of evidence, and it had been a stroke of luck on your part that you’d managed to wipe everything clean before they took you in. All the same, you knew that they were undoubtedly keeping tabs.
Luckily, the weapon isn’t needed after all. Bucky straightens, having just ducked through the clear strips that adorn the shadowy doorway. His arms are raised, almost apologetic, but there’s a light in his deep blue eyes when he looks at you. Sometimes, you wish that he wouldn’t watch you that way. It would make it all so much easier for the both of you.
“Sorry,” he states, as one of your hands lifts to your chest while you suck in a relieved breath. The smallest of smiles lifts the corner of his mouth. Despite the tension radiating from his shoulders - the slight distracted apprehension in his face - it is clear that he’s pleased to see you. “Didn’t mean to startle you.”
“Could have fooled me,” you answered, shaking your head. The lights above flicker as you do. Your head lifts once again, gaze flitting over the hovel that you’ve found yourself in. The confusion is palpable in your voice as you cut to the chase. “Bucky, what the hell am I doing here? And why did I have a missed call from a US police station just a few hours ago to say that you were in custody?”
He shifts, as if a little uncomfortable. “I had you down as my emergency contact. Haven’t updated it since you left.”
Well. If that doesn’t make you feel like absolute shit. Almost hurriedly, as if urgently trying to convey that you weren’t actually abandoning him like everyone else, you continue “It was only meant to be for a month, Buck.”
He nods, but that cobalt gaze averts slightly. “At the start. Seven weeks now.”
Before you can begin to cultivate a response, another echoing voice rings out from within the room which he just emerged from. “Who’s there, Bucky?”
Oh. Sam has no idea that you’re here. That’s a great sign for sure. Not.
Bucky’s face twists in an expression akin to a wince. Almost as if he is anticipating your forthcoming annoyance. In response to such a look, you can only furrow your brow, teeth rolling your lower lip nervously as you hurriedly stride forward to batter through the plastic-covered threshold and out the other side.
The fact that Sam sounds so pissed is certainly not a good sign. And yes, while he and Bucky usually tend to jar with one another, this sounds different, somehow. Worried. Signalling that something more is afoot than the lofty super-soldier getting on his nerves. 
He follows right behind as you step into the other room. It’s a bit better lit, and slightly less derelict in appearance than the former. Messy shelves line the space. Each hosts different kind of hardware, strewn messily atop one another. In the centre of the space, Sam stands. His hands are in his pockets, and a deep frown furrows his brow.
Those soft, dark eyes fix on your face. The reaction is instant. Sam all but freezes in place. His hands clamp at his side, tightening into tense fists. Yup. Suspicion confirmed. Something’s going on.
That gaze - usually full of soft warmth - turns cold as it lifts to the man hovering behind you. Your friend’s jaw is set in agitation, and his words come as a near growl. A more than slightly unusual tone for him. 
“I thought that we agreed to leave her out of this.”
“And we will,” Bucky replies. “She’ll be here for twenty minutes at most. Do you really think that I’d want her coming to Madripoor?”
Something about the way he says it - as if the idea is so utterly abhorrent to him - causes a rise of indignation to surge within. You round on him, brow raising irately. “What exactly do you mean by that?”
“It’s not-” Bucky’s head shakes. “I didn’t mean it like that. I just… You don’t need to be anywhere around him.” 
One gloved hand raises, gesturing off to the side. To a figure in some type of grey uniform, standing against the wide shelving unit at the other side of the room. A person who you had been too distracted to previously notice.
It takes a second for it to sink in. That face. 
Keen, vigilant intelligence shines from dusky brown eyes. Ones that are narrowed slightly in a show of amusement as he watches your jaw threaten to drop upon catching sight of him. A smattering of stubble runs across his cheeks, the colour matching sightly tousled brunette hair atop his head. It’s a style that should undoubtedly look so messy after many years kept in an isolated cell, but instead only serves to distinguish those already handsome features. His lips are curved into a thin smile. The expression appears almost sly, as if entertained by the thoughts running through his mind as he regards at you. It nearly causes a shiver to run down your spine.
A few beats of uncomfortable silence pass.
Eventually, you speak, in a voice that is both quiet and eerily calm. “Please tell me that this is not who I think it is.”
Motion flickers in the corner of your vision as Sam and Bucky exchange a quick glance. You can’t twist your head to translate the meaning of it. 
Revelling in the silence, the smug man standing against the shelving unit on the far side of the room speaks up. His voice is smooth, though lilted in a slight rasp. 
“Helmut Zemo. A pleasure, I’m sure.”
That Sokovian accent is unmistakable.
Your throat constricts as you swallow thickly. Was this the kind of thing that Steve thought you’d be able to handle? If so, he was wrong. You did not have the slightest clue what to do about this. 
The tense stillness picks up again, until you break it once more, growling a command through gritted teeth. “Explain.”
Sam’s answers from over your left shoulder. “Ask Bucky. He’s the one who broke him out of jail.”
Words won’t even form in your mind. The urge to shake him - to shake both of them - is nearly overwhelming. Desperately attempting to keep yourself in some semblance of calm, you round on them both, though your angry gaze primarily directs to the super soldier. “Do you realise that if you’re caught here with him both of your pardons will be immediately negated? They will throw you in prison, Sam, and I don’t even know where to begin with Bucky. They’ll think that he’s regressing. He will never get out of a cell again.”
It’s hard to battle away the panic. The idea of either of them being taken away is almost too much to bear. And the mere thought that you could even lose both of them… No. That’s not something that you’re equipped to deal with. Not after Steve and Nat. Not when Wanda has stopped answering your calls. 
You need to know that at least these two are safe. 
It takes a moment to realise that you’ve surged forward, and now your hands are on Bucky’s chest, gripping the collar of his jacket. That sharp jawline swims only inches from your alarmed gaze. His hands rise up, leather crinkling as his gloved fingers curl around yours. 
Although a little strained, his tone at least attempts to be marginally soothing. “We needed him. There are other super-soldiers out there. Zemo can help us find out more, but we have to get him out of here first.”
Noticing that your attention has slowly begun to fall back upon him, the escaped convict tilts his head slightly to the side. Examining you. There is an appreciation to the look as it runs lightly down your body. An unexpected appreciation. Maybe a result of all of the time in prison. 
Scowling, you release Bucky to irrtatedly tug the sides of your blazer a little more firmly around your shoulders. The business casual suit that you wear now is a far cry from your  kelvar outfits in the past. A sign of your new life as a non-agent. Not one that you are willing to give up just yet. However… There’s no choice. 
“Look after them.” 
God. You needed a drink. A strong one at that.
You take another step back, lifting a hand to run agitatedly through your hair. Deal with the same way as any another issue. As if it’s a computer problem, something that you can fix with ease. Where do you start when it all begins to go wrong? 
There are some steps that always need to be taken. 
Breathe. Focus. Asses the problem. Implement a solution. Move on. 
It takes a second to remember them. To get from the first step to the third. When you finally do, your tone is clipped. Businesslike. Settling into something akin to strained calm.
“You called me here because you want something. What is it?”
Sam shakes his head in mute disapproval. Bucky only sighs. The regret is clearly written in the downward twist of his full lips. It’s obvious that he doesn’t want to involve you in this. However, the situation had called for it, and he was unable to resist. Something greater is at play here than his protective instinct towards you, and has taken priority in his mind for now. 
“We need to get to Madripoor,” he tells you, nearly bitterly. “Zemo says that he has a plane that can take us. It’s at an airfield about an hour away, off the autobahn. We need your help ensuring that we’re not caught getting there.”
Immediately, you know exactly what he wants. 
Your tone remains curt as you ask all the same. “How, exactly?” 
“Just some tech support.” He winces a little upon uttering the words, knowing what it means. “All of the police in this country will be on a coordinated manhunt once they realise that he’s gone, and that won’t take much longer.”
Your hand lifts, fingers massaging against your temple in a wordless display of agitation. “Hold on. You’re asking me to stop police and military frequencies? That is the exact thing that I’m not meant to be doing anymore. You know how hard they’re watching me. Watching all of us. You’ve risked my neck by even calling me here right now.”
“I know. And I wouldn’t have called if this wasn’t our best option.” 
Those blue eyes bore into your face pleadingly. Frustration is plainly written across every inch of his body. It’s clear how much uttering this request agonises him. He’s always been so protective. The fact that he is willing to put you at risk signals just how important this is. To the world. To him.
And you were never quite going to be able to say no.
“Fine. Just... fine.” Your despondent sigh drifts through the still air of the warehouse. “Bucky, go and get my laptop from the car. It’s in the satchel on the floor of the passenger seat.”
He does not pause. Not to argue, or to ask why you can’t do it yourself. That 1940s gentlemanly manner still simmers under everything. He obediently trots off without uttering another word, shooting you a small, grateful smile as he does. That look only serves to make him even more handsome, and that’s not something that you should be thinking about right now. You’re a little too annoyed to entertain your attraction to him.
That confused mix of emotions within your chest only shifts further when your attention turns to Sam. All the same, you manage to push it aside, and your tone remains purposefully formal. Calm. As if your hands aren’t slightly shaking down by your side. “How is he?”
Your friend shifts uncomfortably. It’s clear from the smooth depression of his mouth that he doesn’t really want to tell you. Not that you’e going to give him any choice in the matter. Arms crossing over your chest, your stare bores unrelentingly into his face until he finally surrenders with a sigh. “He’s angry. All the time, it seems.”
A harsh twist pulsates within your gut at the words, and a pained reply spills almost bitterly from your lips. “I shouldn’t have left."
“It’s not your fault,” Sam immediately answers, voice low and soothing. “You needed time, just like the rest of us.”
Despite his kind assurance, part of you can’t help but feel like it is. It had only been a few weeks, and yet you were already failing Steve. Everything in you yearns to be able to speak with him again. To ask him what to do next, or how to deal with this situation.
But that’s not possible. He’s gone.
It’s only then that you remember that Zemo is still present. That he’s likely heard all of this conversation. The knowledge fills you with an abject dread. It only intensifies when you glance back over your shoulder. He is still standing across the room, hands clasped before him, posture relaxed to the point where he almost appears patient. 
A shiver runs down your spine upon noticing that those rusted dark eyes are locked upon you. His head is tilted to the side in another careful examination. Upon realising that he has your attention, that tight smile lifts the corner of his mouth once more. It’s hard to admit, but Zemo is undeniably handsome, and may almost look friendly if you were unaware of who he was. Of what he’s done. 
The rattle of plastic distracts you once more. 
Bucky ducks back through the plastic sheeting. The laptop bag is gripped carefully in his gloved hand. One of your own extends readily as you reach to take it, but he veers away to where a dust-covered table lays off to the side. His dark sleeve swipes down the surface until it is clean - well, more clean than beforehand, anyhow - and then sets the bag carefully atop it.
You brush past him, and he steps away to allow you the space. Straps clip open underneath the touch of your familiar fingers. The laptop itself is dark, slim, and small enough to carry with ease. Perfectly structured to suit yourself and your lifestyle, with almsot everything thing that you needed encased within. It’s a powerhouse in and of itself. 
Still, things would be easier if you had all of your equipment. 
“How long will it take?” Sam asks reluctantly. 
“Thirty minutes or so. It’s hard to tell.” 
Your head lifts, eyes searching around the space nearby for something to rest upon while you work. There’s nothing nearby. Just as you go to turn back to the computer, another voice interjects. One that you did not expect.
“Please, take this seat.” It’s Zemo. On his feet, one hand politely clasped to his chest while the other gestures towards the item in question. His face is sincere. Or at least, it appears to be. It’s hard to be certain with him, given his reputation as both suvertive criminal and master manipulator.
Maybe it is truly kindness. Maybe it’s a ploy for trust. Maybe it’s even a little bit of both. 
Regardless, you are hesitant to accept. “I’m alright.”
His head shakes, mouth flattening into a grimace as if to signal that this is a matter that he simply cannot let go of. “I insist. There are things that I must discuss with your companions anyhow.”
Your gaze flits uncertainty to Sam and Bucky. The latter is visibly apprehensive. Jaw set, hands tightened into fists down by his sides. It seems that every little thing Zemo does only serves to further piss him off. The former is also hesitant, but meets your eyes just long enough to give hesitant nod. 
Turning back to the escaped criminal, you silently repeat the affirmative gesture.
That grin grows wider - more dangerously pleased. A little roguish in nature, like you’re sharing some wry llittle secret. It’s how he always looks. Caught between impish charm and assessing scrutiny. All in all, it’s an intimidating combination.
Bucky tenses as Zemo lifts the chair smoothly into his arms. His steps are confident and unhurried as he crosses the room to place it before you. Even under the cold stares of your companions, the convict does not seem the least bit daunted. 
It’s then that you remember that he was a soldier. And not just an ordinary one. Leader of a Sokovian Death Squad. His easy front makes sense. He’s accustomed to pressure. To dealing with potential hostiles. It’s just another thing to keep in mind within his company. 
Those playful eyes linger on yours as he straightens once again.
Another slight pause passes before you can summon a response. “Thank you.”
That seems to please him, or it could just be your imagination. Whatever it is, his back straightens, chest lifting. Becoming even more confident in appearance, if that was even possible. 
"You’re most welcome, my dear. Now. Sam. James. May we proceed? I have some items to retireve and there are matters to be discussed.”
Footsteps echo as they depart. Not far, just into another room somewhere in this enormous warehouse. The distance sounds of their voices still lift through the air, but it is easily ignored as you set about your work. 
It’s a fresh challenge. Something more exciting than days spent in boardroom presentations, lecturing United Nations officials on how to improve their security systems. Most were hesitant to follow your words. After all, while it could not be proven, it was largely suspected that you were the reason that Captain America’s Anti-Accords group were able to avoid detection over the years in hiding. While they were indeed right, that delay to trust shows in their systems. 
However, you do have to hand it to them. The security for the German defence forces is better than most. Still, after fending off the probes of Stark’s AIs for multiple years, this is nothing. Twenty-five minutes work. It would have been less if you had all of your equipment, but the bulk of that had been seized in the investigation. They hadn’t been able to pull anything incriminating for it - nothing that had keep those charges from being dropped - but they had yet to return it all the same.
Part of you wonders what would happen if they stormed the warehouse now. Burst in to find you elbow deep in military databases, and the escaped Helmut Zemo only a large room or two over. It’s nerve-wracking to think about, but whatever that result would be, Sam and Bucky would have it worse. 
Especially Bucky.
And something about that realisation won’t leave you alone. It lingers, refusing to fade. Not even as your index finger indents on the final key to crash their entire network. Those words echo through your mind like a song that will not leave, but the painful memory is more nightmare than lullaby. 
The timbre Steve’s voice was frayed with age, but firm in conviction. ‘Look after them.’ And then, the response that you had choked back. ‘I will, Steve. I promise.’
They were the last words that you had ever spoken to him. You still had no idea why he thought that you could. Why he would place so much trust in you of all people, but you could not let him down. Not again. And so there’s only one thing that you can do.
‘Look after them.’
Chair legs scrape loudly across the ground - nearly grating in volume - as you push yourself back and up onto your feet. It’s easy to track the sound of the others through the echoing building. Upon stepping through the door to a vast, open room, your eyes immediately dance between the three men dotting the space. They are all standing separately amidst a sea of oddly-shaped objects draped in white cloth. 
The cover of one is slightly thrown back, revealing that the items that lie underneath are cars. The model underneath is vintage. Old. It’s the same as ever one of the others that you can clearly glean. 
The part of you that appreciates aesthetic can admire that they are indeed beautiful vehicles. However, the other more practical part of you - the deep-rooted techie within - can’t help but consider them impractical in today’s world.
“Admiring the collection?” that smooth rasp enquires from off to the side.
Helmut Zemo is metres away. A duffel bag is held aloft in one hand, while the other rests on the bonnet of the car he leans gracefully against. That assessing tinge is back to colour his intense gaze. It prickles over your skin, and you can’t help but feel like it shouldn’t. Not in the way that it does.
In an attempt to rebuff whatever tension is slowly starting to well between the two of you, your head shakes. “Give me a good modern sports car any day.”
His lip curls in a show of distaste as his head shakes. "Brute designs. No real class to them. I’m disappointed."
However, his response feels feigned, somehow. An inexplicable part of you whispers that he is not truly annoyed. When those eyes settle on you once again. amusement glints in their depths. He’s enjoying the little display of banter.
Sam’s voice calls you away. “All done?”
Your friend’s smile is both bright and brilliant. Despite your agitation at the events of today, it’s undeniably reassuring. Something about Sam never failts to make you feel better. Safer. It’s part of why you’re so drawn to him.
Taking a step closer, his voice drops slightly as one hand lifts to brush your cheek in an affectionate manner. “Thank you. We know the risk that you’ve taken in helping us. Now go on, get out of here.”
Your fingers rise, lacing with his. A wry expression grows on your face. It’s slightly cynical, projected inwards. While you don’t really want to have to do this, you know that you have to. They are all that you have left in the world.
“Sorry to break it to Wilson, you can’t get rid of me that easily.”
The others shift around you. Bucky stiffens, gaze growing colder. More searing in nature as it bores into the side of your face. Across the room, Zemo’s head inclines a little further in a display of curious scrutiny. Neither of them had expected you to make such a remark.
Sam stills a little also, and that hold on your fingers tightens simultaneously. “What do you mean?”
“I’m coming with you.”
Immediately, the protests start. Just as you had known they would. Sam and Bucky almost begin to talk over one another in their haste. The only silent, solitary figure is Zemo. He simply watches it all take place. While no Sokovian-accented commentary drifts through the air, those glinting bronze eyes host amusement. As if he finds their objections unfathomably entertaining.
“I just don’t think it’s a good idea-” Bucky begins.
Your hands shoots up to cut him off.
“Breaking Zemo out of jail wouldn’t be classed as a ‘good idea’ either, but it happened. You guys will need me. Even if it’s just for background support.” Hands settle pointedly on your hips as you finish, the gesture intent on finalising the impact the last remark of your speech.
This is not a topic that you will relent on. Steve had said to look after them. While you were still not quite sure in what way he meant, it would easier to do that from by their sides. You could be rather stubborn when you wished. This was one of those times.
“But you could-” Sam continues.
“I’ll fade out when you tell me to,” you interject determinedly, “and I’ll keep clear of fighting any super-soldiers, if that’s what you’re worried about. But I’m not negotiating with either of you. You wanted my help. Now you’ve got it.”
It takes an age for one to finally reply.
“Fine.” Sam. Of course. He’s the only one who could utter the words. The other just looks like his head is going to explode at the mere idea of you accompanying them. “As long as you promise to fall back when we tell you to.”
“I do.” Scout’s honour. Neither seem completely satisfied, but there’s no time to delay longer. Your teeth grit slightly as you throw another glance at Zemo from over your shoulder. “Now, let’s move on to worrying about getting our friend here out of the country.”
“He’s offered one of the cars already,” Sam says. “It’ll be an intense drive, but we’ll make it.”
Your head shakes in grim resolution. “It’s too risky. I’ve done what I can, but they’ll be setting up checkpoints soon.” At that moment, another realisation starts to set in. One that you are not entirely too keen on, but one that makes sense all the same. “Neither of you can be caught with him. You’re too high-priority. Too recognisable. No. I’ll take him to the airfield. It’s the logical choice.”
Immediately, another wave of heated disagreements begin to spill from Bucky’s lips. His eyes are flashing in indignation, his complete unwillingness to allow this written in each angry spark of his eyes. It’s a little much, especially since he asked you here in the first place.
“I’ll be fine,” you continue heatedly. “I’m not an Avenger. I wasn’t the Winter Soldier.” That part is said with a small, sorrowful glance at Bucky. A silent apology for uttering such a reminder. But it is one that needs to be said. “I’m just the tech support that Steve took along for the ride. I don’t have a pardon to be revoked. There are no existing charges against me. And if something does happen... I’ll trust the two of you to make a good case for bailing me out.”
“No,” Bucky replies staunchly. “I don’t like this. You can’t.”
As he continues to refuse, your temper starts to sour further. Sometimes, he’s just a little too overprotective. The rant persists, his tone growing more agitated with each passing second. Eventually, it becomes too much to bear.
“Do you forget that I was a SHIELD agent, Bucky? Sure, I mostly ran the ops, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t handle myself. And Sam… You’ve been caught up in enough problems with me to know that.”
Unlike Bucky, Sam is quiet. Reserved. A little apprehensive, but his eyes are focused on the far wall as he thinks rather than speaks. Blocking out Bucky’s worded agitation, you choose to focus on him, to search for the signs of a forthcoming decision in his eyes. Nothing gleams back, strengthening the twisting agitation growing within the pit of your stomach. 
They’re taking too long to make up their minds. Every minute spent in this derelict building brings the police closer to eventually finding you, to having their technicians fix their systems to coordinate their efforts once more. As you wait impatiently, foot tapping on the ground, neither man speaks.
A throat clears from behind, followed by that smooth Sokovian rasp. “May I interject?”
“Just sit there and stay quiet!” Bucky bellows. A snarl twists his handsome jaw as he whirls to round upon the other man. “How many times do we have to tell you?!”
Zemo lifts his hands in a soothing gesture. His face holds a conciliary patience, as if knowing not to push things too far. “I was simply going to say that I am happy to go with your friend. You are providing my escape, and have nothing to fear from my actions towards her. She is not an Avenger, and I bear her no ill-regard.”
His assurances does little to change their minds. Not that you’d expected it to. Both remain visibly reluctant to agree. A slight annoyance starts to rise in your chest as their hesitation prolongs just a little too much. And then, there comes a point where you can no longer handle it. It’s time to break out the one weapon in your arsenal that they will surely listen to.
“Steve would have trusted me to do it.”
Both freeze abruptly at the words. 
An entertained chuckle huffs from off to the side. Something about the sound grates on your nerves. The whole situation is not funny in the slightest. 
You need a drink. Likely more than one. As soon as this present danger has passed, you’re getting drunk at the very first opportunity. Alcohol has always made you a little more subdued, which is something that you can’t help but long for in this moment.
Mouth pursing, your head snaps back over your shoulder, expressionless eyes falling upon Zemo in a mixture of stern calm. Trying to appear unbothered, a curt brow arches in his direction. “Is something funny?”
His head shakes. That thin smile is perched upon his lips, projected disarmingly right into your face. It does little to combat the unease. Not when you know who he is and what he’s capable of. Another curious scan of his frame imprints itself across your mind. 
All in all, it’s hard to deny that he’s attractive. The fact that you find him in any way appealing throws your head for a spin. He’s the bad guy. But yet… There’s a lure around him, wrapped like gravity, that threatens to pull you in. And if you fall to it, you’re not entirely sure that you’d be able to get back out. That low, melodic growl of voice surely doesn’t help.
“No,” Zemo replies contritely, hands still remaining folded before him in a polite gesture. “I just find your skills in emotional manipulation rather impressive.”
“I’m not manipulating them,” you retort heatedly.
“You are using their emotions to get what you want. That, my dear, is manipulation.”
Part of you wants to respond that being stuck in a car alone with him for a solid hour is certainly not what you want. The words restrain themselves. It’s not wise to make him agitated in advance of the situation. Besides, you can’t help but somehow know that he’d have another quick retort prepared to combat anything else that could leave your lips. 
The man is undeniably intimidating, even without trying to be.
You turn back to the other two, shaking your head as a tired sigh brushes from your lips. “Come on. I’m not discussing this anymore. I’ll take him in the Porsche. It’s faster than any of the relics lying around here.”
“I take offense to that. These are much-”
“No one cares,” Sam cuts Zemo off sternly, before shifting back to you. 
Some more conversation persists. Slight arguments still stem from Bucky. At times, he is just unable to let things go. Your hero comes in the form of someone unexpected. Zemo, once again.
"Forgive me, but if we are meeting Selby, there are appearances to uphold. I cannot arrive in such state. May I go to refresh?"
Sam and Bucky exchange a pointed look. The former shrugs, shaking his head. "You busted him out. He's your problem, man."
You have to bite back a slight chuckle. There's nothing that Bucky can say to combat that. With a disgruntled lash of his hand, the resident super-soldier waves the convict onward, agreeing silently. That thin smirk only widens in response. Zemo strides off, with Bucky following doggedly at his heels. Deep blue eyes repeatedly cast back towards your face, glancing between you and Sam.
Unspoken words reflect in the taut set of his jaw. 'Talk her out of this.'
You turn back to Sam, preparing to continue this argument. It's a little surprising when he does not continue to protest. Despite that, the tired expression of his face seems much more pronounced than usual. You can't help but feel that urge rise up again. To embrace him and provide comfort, no matter how frustrated he has made you today. And so you do, just a little. In that quiet way that the two of you had always shared. One hand extending, fingers brushing together, entwining loosely. 
Your eyes fall on his, a little softer than before, but unwavering earnest. “I’m doing this, Sam.”
“What happens if you get caught?” 
The slight grin that you give shows the faintest trace of sardonic amusement. “I’ll just tell them that he abducted me, trying to use me to get back at the remaining Avengers. It’s... plausible.”
There’s a moment of contemplative quiet before Sam replies. “Because they know that Bucky would do anything to keep you safe. That I would.”
You can’t bring yourself to answer. Something has drawn in the air. Like a weight about to drop. The answer to that a question that no one has yet voiced aloud, but that lingers in the air whenever the three of you are together. 
Which one will you choose?
It’s not something that you can decide right now. Not with so many bigger things at play. And honestly? You’re still not quite sure. They are very different men, and you have yet to figure you exactly what it is that you want. Whether it is the warm safety and security that Sam's reassuring presence offers, or the precarious, tingling excitement that stirs around Bucky. 
Or maybe even neither. 
You say the only thing that you can. “I’ll be alright.”
Those rich umber eyes flutter closed for a moment. His deep inhale can be felt through the touch of your hands. It whispers reluctance, but also surrender. The act of having to travel with Zemo aside, being found with him carries less weight for you than the others. Besides, you’ve always been extremely good at not getting caught. Nat always liked to joke that it was your superpower.
Another pang ripples through your mind at the thought of her. 
The sharp click of a door closing echoes through the desolate space. A towel folded underneath his arm, Zemo emerges back into the main room. Bucky trails behind, suspicious gaze locked on the escaped convict’s back. It swiftly flickers up to you - checking your expression - before dropping to where your fingers are laced with Sam’s. Quickly, you drop your hands and take a step back. There’s no need to stir up any more conflict between those two than already exists. 
Firmly shoving the duo from your throughts, your attention returns to Zemo.
The absence of the stubble makes him look different. More put-together, even despite the furthered impact of the fitted clothes. A long leather trench coat falls from his shoulders. It does a perfect job of framing them. Of highlighting just how broad they are, which is something that you should definitely not be noticing. However, once you have, it’s hard to stop yourself from seeing all those other little things. Something stirs within, and you react with a violent - nearly disgusted - flinch. 
Those bronzed eyes run over you, holding a newer, more thoughtful kind of scrutiny. It prickles against your skin. Almost as if you are responding to a physical touch. The rational part of your brain rebels at the sensation, screaming that no matter how physically attractive this man is, he is a criminal. And that’s something that you should not forget.
“I have made a phonecall,” he announces, breaking his gaze away to sweep over Sam too. “The plane will be ready and waiting, with all of the items needed for our trip. I took the liberty of placing a few... purchases.” That final word is filled with a roguish insinuation seemingly directed at you. 
Whatever it is that he thinks of with that rogue grin, it does not take a fortune-teller to predict that the others will not approve. That only makes you more inquisitive. Especially when one mischievious eye catches yours, and drops in a conspiratory wink. 
Bucky’s rising urge to punch him is palpable. You can’t help but be a little proud when he manages to restrain it. Progress. Slowly, but surely. However, you know not to allow the situation to build too far. So does Sam.
“We’ve discussed it,” he speaks up firmly from beside you, answering the unspoken lift of Buclky’s eyebrows. “She’ll take Zemo. We’ll be right behind her, and intercept if anything goes wrong.”
A muscle leaps within that pale, chiseled jaw. Your arms cross firmly over your chest, waiting for another argument to begin. He surprises you further by not doing so. With Sam’s agreement, he is outnumbered. But that doesn’t mean he likes it.
One of his hands falls into his jacket pocket, fishing around for something. There is the dim clink of metal, and then a set of glinting handcuffs are pulled free. Bucky’s leans forward to seize a rough hold of Zemo’s arm, bringing him to an abrupt halt before snapping the cuffs on his wrists. The criminal watches with a mixture of disdain and amusement.
“Are these truly necessary?” he asks, lip curled ever so slightly as he gives the restraints an experimental tug.
Bucky’s growl all but vibrates through the room. “They are when you’re travelling with her.”
Despite the surge of attraction that his words bring o the pit of your stomach, your brain can’t help but focus on something else. “Do you just... walk around with handcuffs?”
A bark of laughter leaves Sam’s lips as Bucky’s cheeks grow tinged with red in response to your flabbergasted question. Looking at him, it’s plain to see that he’s not the same cool, sauve man that Steve had told you tales of. He’s different now. More cautious. More emotional. More prone to react to judgement. You can’t help but feel guilty. The question had been born of an honest bemusement, and it hadn’t been your intention to embarrass him. The situation is only made worse when Zemo’s low chuckle also floats into the air. 
He is the last person that Bucky would want laughing at him.
The reply that eventually comes is tight with undeniable strain. “I took them when in the prison. Figured that they could be useful.” 
Ah. That makes more sense.
Thankfully, Sam shifts the conversation away. He has always had a keen emotional intelligence, and can sense that your friend is simmering up to his breaking point. The attention turns to the situation at hand. On the exact details of getting to the airstrip.
It’s simple, really. Has to be. There’s no fancy way to get out of this. All that you have to do is drive down the autobahn and not get caught. The other will be behind, and deal with any trouble if it comes to it. Getting to Madripoor is the priority.
Finally reaching a semblence of agreement, yourself and the three men finally trudge out of the warehouse. The fresh sunlight outside is nearly blinding. Squinting slightly, your hand raises in a leading gesture towards your car. Zemo lets out a small shudder upon seeing it, something which has your lips purse defensively.
Sure, it’s not the most subtle of vehicles. A canary yellow Porsche was never going to be, but it is your baby regardless, and you don’t take kindy to any criticism sent her way. Especially not by a man who refuses to update his own collection in accordance to the time. And they would stick out even more.
It’s hard to ignore the tension mounting in your veins as the vehicle looms closer. Reality has started to sink in. The realisation that soon enough, you will be alone with a master manipulator, and there will be nothing whatsoever to distract his attentions from you. The thought fills you with nervous trepidation.
It only increases when Zemo slides forward. Cuffed hands close around the driver’s seat doorhandle. It opens in one smooth tug, pulling wild and clear. Those dark eyes flit to yours, hosting their now familiar playful glint.
That gentle, Sokovian murmur brushes into the clear sky. “Please. Ladies first.”
Your brows threaten to shoot off your forehead. Beside you, Sam shifts uncomfortably. The stony silence radiating from Bucky is tangible. He sulks behind, looming as a tense shadow over the encounter. Sharing a quick, uncertain look with Sam once more, you turn slowly back to Zemo, and quietly respond. “Thanks.”
It’s hard to keep the suspicious note out of your voice.
He shows no indication of moving aside, and you cannot linger. To do so would be a visible sign of weakness. One that would not be wise to project at this moment. And so, you draw yorself up to your full height and approach with as confident a step as possible. He waits patiently - head marginally tilted - as you slide into the seat. As soon as you are visibly settled, the door closes with a smart click.
On the other side of the glass, two sets of apprehensive gazes bore into your face. Both grow visibly darker as Zemo crosses to the passenger side and slips carefully in to join you. His joint hands rise to brush a strand of hair back over his forehead, before setting about attempting to clip his seatbelt into place. Compared to his otherwise graceful motions, this is clumsier. Less elegant. 
The struggle grows more prounced as he shifts, trying to get the angle to work. You are all too aware of the changing digit that flickers on the dashboard’s screen before you. It changes from 11:57 to 11:58 in the blink of an eye. Time is passing, and it’s only so long before the defense forces get back on track in their manhunt. 
He needs to hurry up. 
“Just… Just stop. Let me.” Your hands knock his bound ones out of the way, seizing the thin clasp and plucking it from his grip. That sly smile curves the corners of his lips upward as his cuffed hands sink to wait within his lap. Atop his wrist, the cuffs glint in the light pouring through the windshield. Some of your hair falls across your eyes as you lean in. At this proximity, you can get a hint of the natural, clean-smelling musk rising from the pit of his throat. It’s mere inches from your face, that pale skin exposed. 
Zemo just waits with that usual display of endless patience, head inclined as that sly grin graces his lips. The caress of his gaze is all too present against your face. You can feel your cheeks starting to heat in a mixture of nerves and agitation. He has no right to be looking at you the way that he is now. 
Yet, there’s no stopping him from doing so.
The seatbelt clip fumbles within your hands, movements thrown off by the careful tracking of his weighty gaze. Upon finally getting the buckle inserted into the clasp, you recoil a little too abruptly for it to appear natural. Another knowing chuckle leaves Zemo’s lips. Your hands settle on the wheel, grasping the reassuring rubber tightly, trying to push aside the nervousness at his continuing attention.
Those eyes sweep down your body as you pointedly ignore him, preoccupying yourself with twisting the key into the ignition. Underneath, the Porsche growls to life. A tremor fills the space as vibrations run through the floor underneath, electricity purring through the wiring. It’s a fast car, and should get you through the autobahn swiftly. Just don’t get pulled over, and it will all be fine.
Outside the window, Sam and Bucky watch with still-present visible apprehension. Your mouth closes into a tight smile, a vain attempt to appear reassuring. Neither of them are happy with this, but it makes the most sense. You’ve played get-away driver many times before. If Steve trusted you enough to do it, so can they. 
‘Look after them.’
That smooth voice washes over you again, suddenly a little too loud in the enclosed space. “Would it be possible to drive with the roof down?” A hint of longing graces Zemo’s tone, as if this means something unspoken to him.
Your head shakes firmly, and a colourful amount of sarcasm laces your agitated response. “Sounds like a great idea. Let me just put down the roof and lower the tinted windows. Maybe turn up the speakers to draw more attention. Give everyone on the autobahn a great view of Europe’s most wanted criminal in my passenger seat.”
He pauses, and then sounds slightly perturbed as he answers. “I was simply enquiring. There’s no need to be rude.”
A sigh billows from your chest. It’s going to be a long drive.
Bucky waits while Sam disappears back into the warehouse’s interior. As soon as the bonnet of another car -  a purpled-hued vintage Alfa Romeo - emerges from the lifting door of the warehouse’s loading dock, you start to pull away. The others follow close behind, and your eyes continually flicker up to the rear-view mirror, seeking the reassurance of their familiar forms. Zemo just hums, and leans forward to fiddle awkwardly with the radio knob as you turn off the dirt-covered path leading to the warehouse.
The stereo flickers and jumps between stations. Given the tension of the situation, the sound is jarring. Your heated palms tighten on the wheel as you fight to resist the urge to smack his hands back down into his lap. It’s hard not to still be rather nervous around him. That smooth confidence that he radiates doesn’t help. 
Trying to block him out of your thoughts, your focus shifts to the winding backroad. At least concentrating on the turns provides some distraction. 
The autobahn is the most nerve-wracking of all. You can’t help but feel the struggle to get the balance right. Drive fast enough to get through it quickly, but slow enough that your haste is not overly suspicious. The fact that you’re in a sports car helps with that ever so slightly. Anyone who took one look at the Porsche wouldn’t be surprised to see you flying down the roads at maximum speed. It is why people got these types of cars, after all.
Behind, the Alfa Romeo gets lost between a sea of other cars. Nervousness dictates that you do not delay to try and let them catch up. Keep moving forward, and they’ll get back to you soon enough. Fingers aching with tense strain, you keep on driving, trying not to openly worry at your bottom lip. 
In the passenger seat, Zemo notes the anxious action with a slightly raised brow. His throat clears, and then his voice fills the small space between you once more. The timbre is a little softer than expected. More soothing than it was before.
“I want to be clear that I harbour no ill-intentions towards you. I know who you are, and what you did for my country. The softwares that you created helped coordinate the humanitarian relief effort greatly.”
His words hold an odd, almost conciliary note. One that hints he is unaccustomed to being so cordial as of late, and not quite sure how you’ll respond to it. Your tongue brushes nervously over your lip, wetting the agitated skin as you brian works to come up with an eloquent but disengaged response. In the end, you say the only thing that you can think of. 
“I’m glad.”
It’s not some cutting barb. It does nothing to shrug off his attempt at conversation. All the same, it’s true. You are glad that it helped. And his acknowledgement is... nice.
That thin smile curves further in satisfaction as he leans back into his chair, head still turned as that dark gaze trickles thoughtfully over your face. His next words are murmured in a manner that appears unhurried. As if seeking out confirmation of an answer that he already suspects to know. 
“Such a complicated system. I failed to understand it myself. Yet, it rolled out within barely a week of the event.”
“I worked on it most days,” you confess, trying to keep your attention on the road in-front. Refusing to cave into that expectant gaze and meet his vivid brown eyes. “And nights. With the help of a lot of coffee.”
He chuckles again, head shaking slightly. “That is both impressive and exceedingly kind of you. You must be talented. No wonder Barnes asked for your help... Despite his obvious reluctance due to his affections.” A knowing tone lingers at the end of the sentence.
Oh no. You are certainly not having this conversation with Zemo.
Adjusting your hands on the wheel, it turns in preparation to overtake a slower moving vehicle. In a manner that is entirely too polite, the criminal glances at the traffic behind before confirming that it’s all clear. Desperately, your mind searches for something to latch onto. A reason to stop yourself from feeling the faintest trace of a give in the mound of your distrust for him. It’s not hard to find a reason.
“You don’t have to maintain the fake niceties,” you tell him stiffly. “I know that you’re going to betray us at the first opportunity.”
“The niceties are not fake,” he counters, using that mild tone that only serves to make him all the more frustrating. “Past alliances aside, there is no quarrel between us. You are helping me, and even though I am quite aware that it is not for my benefit, it is appreciated all the same.”
Quietly, you note that he never rebuffed the mention of an escape. It’s not like you’d have believed him even if he did. Before you can comment, the passenger continues, cuffed hands lifting in a smooth wave to accent the words as he speaks. “Besides, it will be pleasant to have such enchanting company in Madripoor.”
“Sam and Bucky don’t do it for you, then?”
Unexpectantly, your retort draws another huff of laughter. The sounds washes over you, prickling against your skin. As it does - and you realise why you’re reacting to the sound - the pit of your stomach plummets in disbelief. Luckily, Zemo continues before you can linger on why the sound of his amusement drew a slight throb from within. “And I am looking forward to seeing you in those clothes.” 
That devilish glint is back in his bronze eyes. 
Your mouth purses into a disapproving line, and your response comes through gritted teeth. “What clothes?”
His entertained chuckle rumbles within his chest. “As I mentioned earlier, there were some pieces that I arranged for. We all have a part to play for Selby. Roles to act in Madripoor.”
Something tells you that you don’t need to know exactly what he has in store. You’ll find out soon enough, as judging by the flow of traffic, no blockade has been established further down the road. It’s looking like your efforts to disrupt their channels paid off.
A thought occurs, and your eyes flicker to Zemo curiously. “You never even asked my size.”
That dangerous smile widens even further, head tilting suggestively as his gaze passes appreciatively down your body. “I know women’s bodies, dear. Very well indeed.”
Once again, he has rendered you speechless. Nervous. Uncertain of what to say next. It’s like his mind is always two steps ahead of everyone else’s, calculating every possible next move. Always having just the right retort ready. It’s enrapturing, in a way that you deeply despise.
He is both utterly terrifying, and yet inexplicably brilliant. You can’t ignore the draw as it wells within once more. It’s darker and more provocative in nature than anything you feel for either Sam or Bucky. 
You continue in silence down the autobahn. Zemo does not attempt to speak again. Maybe he can sense the shift within you. How you’re withdrawing into yourself and closing off, an action performed in a bid to keep his calculated charm at bay. Yet. it becomes hard to take him seriously when some German pop song begins to play through the speakers, and he starts to quietly sing along.
The others catch up behind. Bucky’s eyes threaten to burn holes in your forehead as he stares into your overhead mirror. Your cheeks cannot help but heat underneath the look, as a small surge of guilt begins to simmer down in the pit of your stomach. There’s accusation in his eyes. It’s like he somehow just knows. Or else you are far too paranoid. Either would make sense, given the situation.
Considering how many years he has been in prison, Zemo’s musical knowledge is quite surprising. He seems to know most of the songs that come across the radio, and alternates between that softly singing in German and lowly humming. You try to ignore him at first. Nosiness ends up getting the better of you.
“Were you allowed to listen to music in prison?”
“Yes,” he answers wryly. “Sometimes. But not like this. I’ve missed this.”
That inquisitivness flares even further as you try to decipher the note of longing in his voice, and what exactly it means. “You’ve missed what, exactly?”
“Music,” he responds with a slight shrug. “Air that has not been recycled through the vents of a cell. Pleasurable company.” That last part is accompanied by a sly wink that you do your best to brush off. He adjusts the collar of his coat before continuing. “I am confident that your friends will strive to oversee my return to confinement once this is all over. I plan to make the most of this freedom while I can.”
You can’t think of a response. Not one appropriate to broach within the calm currently inhabiting the car, anyhow. He deserves to be in prison. There is no denying that. However, that softly empathetic part of you cannot help but bleat out the tiniest bit of sympathy.
It’s soon eclipsed by a sharp surge of panic.
A few police cars whiz by one the other side of the road, screaming back towards Berlin with lights flashing and sirens whining. It doesn’t take a genius to guess the reason why. Rather than shrinking into the seat as they pass, Zemo leans forward to watch them go by with a malicious sort of pleasure. Part of you wants to snap at him to sit back, but the other knows that they cannot possibly see him through the tinted windows.
Once they grow far enough into the distance, a shaky sigh of relief leaves your lips. He looks back at you, taking in the suddenly grey pallour to your face, and his expression lifts in something akin to confusion.
“Are you alright?”
You can only nod, trying to keep your hands from shaking. Hoping that he doesn’t hear how hard your heart is pounding within your chest. Those brown eyes sweep over your face. Something in them is a little gentler than before.
“Breathe, dragă. Breathe. They’re gone now.”
His kind reassurance only confuses you further. 
The turn to the airfield follows shortly after. Thankfully. A quick glance shows no sign of the Alfa Romeo. Sam and Bucky must have fallen a little behind once more. At least, you hope that’s the case. It makes the most sense to get off the autobahn and wait for them, and so that is exactly what you do. Turning off of it feels like lifting a weight from your shoulders. All of your muscles are aching, and it’s only now that they have started to relax that you realise how just tense you were for the past hour. Zemo even shows a visible sign of relief too, letting out a small, slow exhale.
When at a safe distance down the off-shooting road, the Porsche slows, pulling carefully into the patch of grass that runs along the edge of the tarmac. You keep the engine on, but take a few moments to stretch out your fingers. Knuckles crack with the motions, and Zemo shudders once again in disapproval. You can’t help the small bark of laughter that builds in response. The amused sound seems to surprise him at first, but soon that grin grows even more smug. 
Noting it, you glance away, undeniably flustered once more. Something about him makes you nervous. Almost suspiciously so. As the thoughts trickle across your mind, the air in the car suddenly starts to grow a little too warm. Heat prickles under the collar of your shirt, flushing your chest. While you could just turn on the air conditioning, another thought occurs. His earlier request - filled with an odd, plaintive note - washes gently back through your mind. 
You hadn’t understood the underlying tone of yearning to it, but now you do. And in the light of his unexpected show of kindness, something within you responds. Swallowing thickly, you shift forward to prod a finger into one small button on the dash. 
A soft whir picks up from behind.
“What are you doing?” Zemo asks in his lilted Sokovian accent accent, leaning around to look.
“Putting the roof down.” Your tone is tight. Brisk. Warning him not to make a big deal about it. “Just for this last stretch.”
To your surprise, no smart comment falls from his lips. A swift glance shows that he is watching you with those softer eyes. Not ‘gentle’ per se, but less searing and intrusive than they were beforehand. As the roof lifts free itself from above, warm sunlight pours over him. It lights the smaller, more genuine smile that curves his lips.
“Thank you.” His words are almost lost over the whisper of wind that floods across you both, allowed to drift in now that the roof is retracting into the stretch of boot.
You twist away, knuckles paling as your fingers clamp tightly on the steering wheel once more. The rebuttal tumbles out before you can stop it. “It doesn’t mean anything.”
And yet, you both know that it does.
A/N: Now, we won’t be returning to Zemo until the Sam and Bucky chapters of ‘Call It A Night’ are out. But like... Let me assure you: If you liked that first Zemo chapter in Call It A Night that I did, you’ll definitely enjoy what else I have planned. 
I won’t spoil anything, but it is spicy.
If you enjoyed the piece, I’d ask that you please consider reblogging. It is the best way to spread the story to others who may enjoy it, and your content creators will be forever grateful!
You can also check out my masterlist to read my other works, including some shorter Zemo pieces.
To read the sequel to this story, ‘Call It A Night,’ please click here.
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clints-lucky-arrow · 10 days ago
Buckys chapter of call it a night please I’m begging 🥺🥺🥺🥺
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Enjoy! 😏
Warnings: Explicit Sex. Choking. Slight Metal Hand Kink.
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If you want to be notified when posted, please fill out my taglist form!
We’re getting there! ❤️
And... The anthem for this chapter has been "Church" by Chase Atlantic. 😉 If that helps set the mood for what you're in for.
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clints-lucky-arrow · 13 days ago
Just wanted to pop on and say I'm extremely flattered by the fact that people are sharing and recommending 'Call It A Night' on Tiktok. 😭 Thank you to everyone who has gone out of their way to talk about the fic. It's truly appreciated. 💜
✨More to come with Sam, Bucky and Zemo soon. ✨
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clints-lucky-arrow · 14 days ago
The Nomad - Chapter Seventeen (Din Djarin x Reader)
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Summary: A painful goodbye results in some internal conflict. Left to make your own way through the galaxy once more, it becomes harder not to recall the harrowing events of the past, and dwell on the implications of a future alone. 
Enemies to Lovers. Slow Burn. Eventual Smut. Morally Grey MC. Established Star Wars Character as Parent.
TRIGGER WARNINGS: Explicit Language. Graphic Violence and Injury. Imprisonment. Familial Abuse (Non-S*xual). Childhood Trauma. Parental Death.
A/N: Apologies for late upload! Life kind of ran away with me, plus I was a litte daunted about this chapter. To explain, when I initially came up with the concept of Nomad’s story, this chapter holds a scene at the very end of this scene holds the image that I built the story around. It was a bit intimidating to actually have to put it on paper because no words will ever do it justice.
And as anyone who follows me on here is most certainly aware, I became obsessed with Baron Helmut Zemo in ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,’ and he was all that I could think about for two weeks. (You don’t have to judge me. I already know.) It resulted in a smut fic that got surprising popular, so the blog had a busy time recently.
“Will you at least let me say goodbye to him?” Your voice is panickedly, slightly cracked. 
Hands clenched into fists as you stand on the ramp of the Crest, eyes fixed on the child in the Mandalorian’s arms. An ache - some mixture of remorse and shame - resonates in your chest as the infant struggles, that small face twisted in upset. He understands what’s going on. As much as you wish that he didn’t. The sight conjures an unexpected spearing of pain through your gut. It’s far stronger than you would have ever thought. After all, you had known that this day would come. It had only been a matter of time. And yet...
You had said that you’d distance yourself. That you wouldn’t get attached to him, or allow him to get attached to you. Standing here, it is safe to say that such an initiative had failed. Rather spectacularly, to say the least. And had done so to the extent where it is becoming harder to swallow against the lump in your throat as those little arms reach out again.
The lure - the need to provide a semblance of comfort - is too strong to resist. Your solid step echoes on the ramp. Within the threshold of the Crest’s frame, Mando stiffens. His earlier anger is still palpable. Tension laces the space between you both. It’s hard to brush away the sting of his earlier words - to put them aside as barbs spewed in a moment of wounded hurt at your rejection - but you manage. Just so you can say goodbye to the child.
A beat of strained silence passes. 
Your chin tilts defiantly. The refusal to budge is clear. If he wants you away from the ship, he will need to let you say goodbye. This is something that you will not give in on. No matter how many more harsh words he throws your way. 
Thankfully, that doesn’t come to pass. The child is passed wordlessly into your arms. A breath of relief escapes your lips as his slight frame settles into your tight hold. Those little fingers raise. One hand tangles in your hair, as if to hold you there, while the other falls to rest on your chin. His enormous dark eyes are swimming with emotion. You can nearly feel the sadness and pain radiating from him.
A shattered apology leaves your lips, almost whispered. “I’m sorry, bug. I’m so sorry. I just can’t.”
No response comes. Not that you’d expected one. Just the slightest hitch of his chest. A deep breath draws into your lungs as you lean forward, pressing a lingering kiss against his wrinkled brow. A burning sensation has started to rise in the back of your throat. It’s reflected by a slight stirring in your eyes. Such a surge of emotion is something that you don’t wish to let anyone else see, and so you briefly squeeze them shut to collect yourself.
The child’s grip in your hair tightens as you go to pass him back to the Mandalorian. His other hand follows the first to tangle amidst the locks. Desperate to hold you in place for as long as he can, but he does not fight when you gently untangle them. You are aware that his protector is refusing to look at you, instead choosing to keep his gaze locked on the distant horizon. 
It’s sunset again. Already. And it’s one that is so different than yesterday’s. It signals the end of something. A change that you had not seen coming quite so soon. As much as you wish to return to that quiet, softer time, there is nothing that can be done. You’ve made your choice, and your time with the Mandalorian and the child is at an end.
The desert breeze washes across your skin as you step back, out of the shelter of the Razor Crest’s bulk and back onto the ramp. Pulling away from them both, and feeling it all the while.
Part of you wants to turn, to embrace the silence and leave without another word. You can’t. For an unfathomable reason, something within you refuses to simply leave it like this. Not after last night, and that shared softness on the roof of his creaking vessel. Despite his earlier words, you can’t help but feel like you owe him a little more than that. 
“Goodbye, Mando. May the Force be with you.”
Silence. It’s hard to bite back the sting of disappointment. That after all this time, not even the farewell could be cordial. Gaze dropping, you turn to leave. The platform tremors under your steps. 
Just as you reach the bottom, his strained reply floats through the air. “I don’t know what that means.”
A tight smile crosses your lips as you look up to where they remain in the doorway. The sun is lowering behind the vessel, coating the outline in a brilliant illumination. 
One hand lifts to your brow to block it out as you answer. “It means ‘good luck.’ Maybe someday we’ll cross paths again.”
Guilt simmers in the back of your throat. It’s hard not to feel like you’re abandoning them. ‘We stay together.’ That was what you both had said. But this… Going back to Nevarro was not part of the deal. Will never be part of it. There’s no other choice. 
And so, you shoot him a melancholy nod, before your attention drops once more to the child in his arms. The infant stares back, eyes swimming as the rise and fall of his chest begins to pick up speed.
A gloved hand extends, clenched fist slamming into the orange button on the panel beside him. The ramp shudders loudly, and begins to retract. You’re thankful for that. For not having to see the moment that the child begins to cry loudly. The sound brings enough of an ache, building as the doors grind further closed to block them from your view.
Mando does not wait to watch you leave. And you cannot linger to see them go.
It would just be a little too painful. That lump grows tighter in the back of your throat. Reaching up, you focus on adjusting the straps of the pack that rests across your shoulders. The one that hosts your few meagre belongings. It’s a weight that seems to lessen with each passing year. As if you are losing more of yourself with the passage of time. Stripped down to the bones until nothing is left but a shell built around survival.
The Crest’s engine hums to life behind you. At the sound of it, a small part of yourself has to admit that recently, life has become about a little more than just that. Everything had slowly become warmer. Softer. Maybe a little kinder. Now, even under the heat of the desert’s waning sun, everything can’t help but grow more chilled once more. As if a grey haze is seeping back over the world. But there is nothing that can be done about it.
You’re back to being alone again. It shouldn’t matter. Most of your life has been spent this way. A few weeks with an irritable Mandalorian and mischievous infant couldn’t have changed you that much. And yet… Part of you worries that it has.
Sand crunches underfoot as you set off. One foot before the other. Slowly pulling away from where the Crest rises from the earth. The heat of its engines washes across your skin, and the impact of the jets swirls your cloak. It snaps at your heels, tugging around your neck almost angrily. As if urging you back.
You do not turn.
Most of the remaining evening is spent trekking towards the nearest town. The Mandalorian had set you down at the first point that the Crest came into contact with the planet’s surface. You’d been too proud to ask him to drop you closer to civilisation. Asking for help wasn’t something that you were used to doing in the first place, and besides, he had wanted you off the ship as soon as possible. It was entirely plausible that he wouldn’t have agreed if you had begrudgingly voiced such a request, and you refused to give him the satisfaction. 
Having just had some bitter truths and insecurities hurled back into your face only mere hours ago, you were not about to show any other sign of vulnerability or need. Not if it would just give him more ammunition to use in his evident frustration. 
Sighing, your hand lifts to run through your hair as you shift, adjusting the cross of your legs. The small campfire simmers just past your feet, providing some comfort against the sting of the night air. Your cloak has been tugged tightly around your shoulders. A decent sized boulder rests behind your back, acting as a support while you sit. It’s not the most comfortable - and will not be the most cosy to sleep underneath - but it will do for a single night. 
The village is another few hours worth of a walk away. Realistically, if you had kept going once night had fallen, you’d probably be there by now. It hadn’t mattered. You needed to rest, if only to ward off some of the mental exhaustion of the day. 
That initiative had failed. With everything going on, all of the thoughts and conflict swirling through your mind, your brain had simply refused to let go and rest. Instead, it remained a mess. More so than usual. A wreck of agitation and indecision. One that resonated with doubt and fear, and that thick smear of guilt overlaying it all. 
Staring into the flame, memories flicker past. Some are too fast to catch, and others are slow enough to burn into your gut and curdle in heated nausea. All contain the faces of those that you had lost. Each brings a pang. A wonder if the universe has cursed you. If the Force despises you so much that it goes out of its way to rip those you care about away from you.
‘May the Force be with you,’ were the words that you had uttered to Mando.
It seems incredibly ironic, looking back now, to think that the Force would ever heed what you had to say. That such an influence had ever given a shit about you. Yet, it was all that you could think to voice in that moment. 
Because... If the Force had to be with someone, you would want it to be with them.
The flames crackle a little louder, drawing your tired eyes in. The smoke wafting from their tendrils stings slightly. You don’t mind, or make to shift away. Just to continue to sit there with a heavy-lidded gaze, staring into the dancing streaks of brilliant orange and red. The world beyond starts to blur out of focus. Misting. Reforming. Until another time and place pulls together and something tugs you in.
It’s a familiar scene. One that you try not to think about. And yet, some undeniably forlorn, masochistic part of you decides to allow it this time. The vision washes over you, but it feels strange. Stronger than usual. Maybe some type of lucid dream with a tight thrall, because as the perfumed air of Alderaan washes across your skin, it almost feels like you’re back there.
The voice rings through the stone corridor, stopping you in your tracks. 
“My lady.”
Even with your back turned, something inside recognises that the words are directed at you. Shock ripples through your body. The address is not one that you have heard in many years. It’s followed by cold apprehension. 
Slowly, you turn on your heel, dark gaze casting down the walkway behind. Your eyes come to fix on a man standing at the other side. He is watching you silently. Alone, as far as you can see, but that does not mean much.
Still, no prickle of intuition warns at his intentions. You are possibly safe. For now at least. That doesn’t do much to relax you. Being called by your title was unexpected. Jarring. An aching reminder of a time long past. Your bracers are a reassuring weight upon your clenched hands.
Shoulder squared, and let your cold voice ring down the silent walkway. “Who are you?”
He smiles thinly, and the expression crinkles the skin around his deep brown eyes. Dark hair flops over his tanned forehead. You can’t help but think that he is handsome, but in a scruffy, unkempt kind of way. However, it is hard to feel in any way attracted to him. All that you need to do is take in the scuffed and unkempt uniform to realise his affiliation. 
As if sensing your mounting apprehension, a hand raises as he goes to speak again.
“I used to work for your father. I just want to talk,” he states. A small surprise flits through you at the words, but he continues before you can stop to ask a question. “There’s something that you should know. That you need to see. Before you do whatever it is you are about to do.”
There’s a seriousness to his tone that piques your interest. Head tilting to the side, you take another look up at the balcony of the castle overhead. Flames lick from torches along the wall, brushing away the shadowed spots where one could hide within the ivy. This was a challenge that you’d been looking forward to. 
Another footfall draws your attention back as the man takes a step closer. 
“Please,” he repeats.The accent is familiar. Outer Rim. Festian, you think. “I wouldn’t have stopped you, have given this warning, if it were not important. This is no trick. It’s about your father.”
There was a truth in his eyes that resonated. Even though it was marred by apprehension and distrust, it had blazed within their darkened depths. Something in you - that little brush at the back of your mind - had urged to trust him. The curiosity about Papa only assured it. 
Some slight hesitance still persisting, you abandoned your mission. Just for that particular moment, as you had reasoned internally. You would return to complete it later. Once you had seen whatever propaganda this rebel wanted to show you, and then dealt with him accordingly. In the end, it was not a job that you ever returned to complete. And so, Bail Organa had lived until the Death Star took Alderaan. The only target ever given that you had not put an end to.
It’s painful to remember what came next. The security footage that had shattered your entire world. How your chest had threatened to tear itself apart as you watched. How - as much as you wanted to look away - your eyes refused to obey your screaming mind. The quick, sickening sizzle and following thud that bore through the feed. A sound that you’d never be able to entirely forget. One that would creep back in empty moments like these to consume your thoughts and linger at the back of nightmares.
The Rebel did not make move to comfort you. Not that you had expected him too. This was a job to him. An attempt to sway you in some way, to twist your allegiance to the Empire. And it had worked all too well.
The holograph flickers and dies. You’re barely aware of it. All that you can feel is the pounding of blood in your veins. Your head is spinning, caught in some sickening spiral as something inside cracks open, leaking a cold, furious rage, and a deep cavernous ache. It grits your tone, clenching your teeth to the point of pain, as you rasp out a question. “Why did you show me this?”
“Because we thought that you may consider switching sides,” the Rebel answers. There’s doubt to his tone, and it’s all the more obvious that this is not his ploy. Such a command came from higher up.
He probably would have rathered put a blaster shot in your head in that darkened walkway. Part of you can’t blame him for it. The urge to lash out - to bury your bracers in the pit of his stomach - is strong. Not for any vengenance against him, but just to feel some form of release. To feel the satisfaction of having another share in the pain currently rippling through your veins. 
“I will never work for the Republic,” you reply with a vehement shake of your head. “They were corrupt long before Palpatine seized power. Why would we want to return to a world like that?”
“Because it was better than what we have now. And we can fix those past mistakes. We can start anew.” His words are passionate, and with that conviction, his accent grows a little thicker. It is clear that he feels strongly about this.
You, on the other hand, still hold too many reservations to even consider relenting. “Forgive me, but I have no faith in the politicians of this galaxy.” It’s hard to swallow back the growl, the wrathful urges still burning within.
The Rebel snorts, fixing you with a look of sheer disdain. “And yet you are willing to work for the Empire? Has what you’ve seen changed nothing?”
Something inside of you snaps. The pointed tip of one bracer is underneath his chin before he can even blink. Your rebuttal thunders through the air. “Of course it has! It’s changed everything!"
“And yet you refuse to take a stance against them,” he retorts heatedly.
To his credit, the man does not appear afraid. Maybe he had reconciled with his possible death before coming here. Imperial assassins were not known to be the most stable at the best of times. When you are about to pull the rug of their reality from underneath them, things become even more uncertain.
Leaning close, you hiss into his face. “Mark my words, Rebel. I will stand against them. But it will be on my terms, and for no greater agenda. I refuse to be used as a puppet for any longer.” 
"What are you going to do?” he presses, refusing to shy away. Those dark eyes glimmer defiantly down at you. Almost daring you to put the blade through his throat.
The words way heavily in the air as you utter them, filling the small space between you. They are determined. Bold. Unwavering in their conviction as they fall from your lips. “I’m going to kill the Emporer.”
A derisive snort catches in the back of his throat. One brow arches in a faint show of amusement. “Well. Sounds like a plan that is destined to fail, but it would save us much hassle if you do.”
You didn’t. 
The attempt had nearly cost your life. They had known that something was coming and been prepared for it. It had been a mistake to go back to your homeworld first, but you had envisioned Palpatine’s death a certain way, and been powerless to stop the thrall to make it a reality. 
That’s the thing about caring for people. You don’t think clearly when they are involved.
Slowly, the memory fades away. It leaves you blinking, head resonating with a slight ache of mounting pressure. As if something is knocking on the door of your skull and begging to be let in. 
Or maybe you’re just dehydrated. After all, you’d spent quite a few hours trekking through his damned desert already.
A loud scrape rings into the night as you lean out to tug your pack over. Items clatter within as you root around. There’s a few cans in there, a small pouch of credits, and a large flask of water. As annoyed and silent as he’d been at the time, the Mandalorian had still wordlessly pushed them into your hands before you set about dismounting the ramp of the ship. That recollection brings another faint ache to your chest. 
The water is refreshing as it passes down your throat. You swallow it with greedy gulps, careful not to take too much, before screwing the lid carefully back atop the flask. All remaining liquid will certainly be needed when that relentless sun comes up. This damned place is reputed to get almost as hot as Tatooine. 
Having taken a drink, your head feels even better. Less clouded, though some strain still drifts at the back of your thoughts. Your stomach lets out a low grumble. A wordless reminder that you hadn’t eaten a single thing today amongst all of the angst. It is probably a decent idea to break out one of those tins. Not to mention that a full stomach could potentially help ease your mind into something more pliable to allow sleep in.
Distractedly, your arm shoots out to fish around inside of the bag again. The cans have shifted around, positioned themselves deeper than before. You have to lean in a little further, mouth gritting in a line of annoyance as you do. As your hands stretch into the very depths of the pack, your gloved fingers brush against something. Even through the fabric, it is obvious that it is slimy. A yelp of shock bursts from your lips and your arm retracts as swiftly as if you’d touched a live adder.
No such creature lunges out of the bag’s confines. Confusion furrows your brow. Hesitantly, you shift forward, now starting to wonder if something has spilled. Maybe a can cracked open? 
Accompanied by a tight expression of dissatifaction, your covered hand delves carefully into the depths again. When it retracts, there is something clutched gently between your thumb and forefinger. It takes a few moments of careful examination in the firelight to realise what it is.
A half-chewed ball of food. 
Another look into the bag shows that there’s three more of them.
For a moment, your mind can only spiral. There’s no reason why they should be in there. It just doesn’t make sense. Not at first, anyhow. but as you stare confusedly at it, the prickle of understanding sets in. Initially, and then all at once, until your throat is constricting with some choked emotion, and you have to blink away more than smoke.
The kid. The fucking kid. 
Despite his little protests, he had snuck them in your bag. Packing for your trip. Making sure in his own gross little way, that you were cared for when you left their company. And at that gesture, something inside of you just snaps. 
It all comes rushing back in an avalanche. A flurry. A tide that nothing can hold back. All of those soft moments - his first little hug, his laughter floating as you played, the reassuring weight of his slumbering body in your arms - all slam into your chest carrying the force of a freigh car. Of the Crest itself. 
Memories hurl themselves against your head. Ones that shine brightly against the sepia tone of the rest of your life, sparking those precious minutes into brilliant tones of warmth. The light in the darkness. A reason to push forward.
After so many years, something to give a shit about other than yourself.
The reality is crushing. Nearly devastation in it’s impact.
You shouldn’t have left him. Him, or the Mandalorian. Because... because you can't fucking lose anything else.
The piece of food drops from your hands. Dirt scuffs underneath your boots, night air whipping around your body. You’re on your feet before you even know it. The decision is made mindlessly. Without any remaining shred of a doubt, or an inkling of a second thought. 
The Mandalorian’s idiotically heroic tendencies may just get you killed, but this would be a death that you are proud of. It would be for something greater than yourself.
A prickling runs across your skin. It’s as if the air is bridling with excitement, with expectation. Your intuition is peaked, adrenaline running on high alert. Fumbling hands scoop up the few items that you had discarded on the ground, shoving them into your pack and distrctedly attempting to yank the straps closed. The movements are hurried, highlighting the panicked urgency coursing through your veins.
They’re already far enough away by now. You’ll need to move fast to make it back to Nevarro in time. And stars, you can only hope that it won’t be too late. 
The pack slings wildly around your back, jarring into the opposite shoulder as you throw it on. In your haste, you hadn’t realised that it was not closed all of the way. There is the sensation of a weight slipping, and then something thuds against the ground by your feet. You glance down, and immediately still. 
That little cylindrical container rolls slightly in the dirt, as if struggling to right itself. Rattling echoes dimly from within, as the treasure it holds jars against the side of its prison. A murmur echoes in the darkness beind. The faintest of urging whispers sounds from over your shoulder. Panicked, you jerk around, eyes casting wildly across the expanse of desert. 
There is nothing there.
Just the still-ongoing, soft shake of the cylinder as its rocks in the aftermath of impact. The sound is rhythmic. Repetitive. Reminding you of a heartbeat, thudding in synchronization to your own. Something about it seems to call out, to draw you into stooping to gingerly retrieve it. Sand scuffs roughly against your hands as you grasp it, lifting it upward. The reflection of the fire dances within its silvered depths, as does your own face. 
Anxiety is clearly visible. Brow furrowed in trepidation, teeth worrying at your lower lip nervously. The dilemma is all too obvious. Do you open it, or not? 
Even as your brain runs through the options, there is only one answer that presents itself. The logical choice, but one that seems to be encouraged by the very weight of the world around you. 
This is going to be a battle. There can be no doubting that. Whatever it is about the kid - and especially if it is what you had suspected - the leftover Imperials want him badly.
You will need every advantage that you can get.
A low hiss simmers above the flame as the lid opens. It falls immediately, thudding into the dirt below. The interior is dark, shadowed by the angle and away from the illumination of the campfire. All the same, there is a glint from within. The faintest of greetings. 
That flicker againist your mind comes back, slightly stronger than the first time. Urging. And so, you obey with bated breath, summoning all of your courage to upend the container onto your waiting palm.
Another smaller, thinner, slightly curved cylinder rattles out from within. It is cold against your fingers, almost shockingly so, but warms quickly within your grip. A thick swallow constricts your throat as you turn it in your hands. Firelight dances across the glinting metal, casting sparks upwards into the darkness. Your gaze traces the outline, familiarising yourself once again. 
It’s been a while since you last laid eyes upon it’s bare form. Seeing it - holding it - always conjures a strange sensation inside of you. An uncomfortable tumult of mixed emotions, as if radiating through you from the weapon itself.
Slowly, your other hand lifts. Skimming up your body to where your pendant lies upon your chest. It is simmering against your collarbones. Heated. The same warmth that you had often felt in the past, one that always lingered on that particular patch of skin. Your fingers close around the red crystal, and pull it free in one harsh tug. The leather strap snaps, and it becomes loose in your fingers. 
Hands trembling ever so slightly, you slot it into that small panel running down the hilt. It fits perfectly. Snug and content at being back in its cradle. At being home.
Your arm moves away from your chest, extending off to the side as your thumb slides slowly down the hilt. It is curved, fitting solidly in your hand, but the sensation is still foreign. This blade was not made for you. All the same, that familiarity persists. It’s reassuring. While this weapon has dealt so much torment to so many, it was a symbol of safety to you. One that you could not bring yourself to part with. No matter the cost.
Soft reverence swells as your skin brushes the rise of the button, circling the smooth knob. A single, small push is all that it will take. Just a fraction of a movement. But hesitance still lingers within your chest, whispering that once you do, there is no going back. Pushing that button signals something. A change. The setting of a course that does not allow room to turn. 
It is one that may well cost your life. However… The Mandalorian was right. Not completely, but in a way. This isn’t living. Always on the run. Alone. Keeping people at arm’s length. Deciding that you can’t care about anyone else… It doesn’t work. Not if you want to truly feel alive. Sometimes you have to fight for what you believe in, even if it’s terrifying. 
There are things that are just too important to allow to slip away. 
And so, your thumb presses down upon the button.
A thunderous crackle echoes across the desert. Your father’s lightsaber ignites in your hands with a sharp flare. Pulsating. Sending out a vibration that runs down your arms, filling your body with a strange hum. The breath catches in your lungs, a mixture of awe and strange exaltation. Crimson light bathes your face as you stare into the surging depths of the blood-red blade.
The glow is just as steady after all these years kept hidden inside a container. No doubt thanks to the resilience of the crystal. Synthetic, instead of naturally occurring kyber. Designed to be sturdier, to last longer against the intense emotions of their dark-sided wielders.
A breeze picks up, scattering the sands as it wraps around you. Lifting the hem of the cloak trailing from your ankles and curdling it in the air. The tongues of flame seem to burn brighter simultaneously. Higher. As if the world is reacting to this moment. As if something has finally clicked into place.
Holding his humming lightsaber in your hand, you can’t help but wonder what Papa would think of what you’re about to do. It doesn’t take a genius to know that he would not approve in the slightest. But, it’s almost surprising when you realise that it doesn’t matter. It can’t matter. He’s gone. As painful as it is, he’s been gone for years. 
The child is not, and you cannot lose him too. You’ll keep him safe. Them. Because despite everything, the Mandalorian has managed to tentatively nudge his way into your affections too. So, you’ll keep them safe. 
Whatever it takes.
The blade flickers and dies at your command. Your eyes bore into the empty hilt for a few long moments, meeting the determined gaze of your distorted reflection. Resolve all but burns in her eyes, lacing the set of her jaw. Together, you share a curt nod of understanding before the lightsaber clips into place atop your belt. It fits perfectly, weight unnoticeable. Just another addition to the armoury. 
One final check of your bracers. The straps are nice and tight, and the blades are clean and ready for what’s to come. They remain as solid and reliable as ever, songsteel nearly glowing in the darkness, though in this quiet moment you finally notice a slight fraying upon them. Signs of aging in the hardened leather. Maybe a signal that one day soon, a new weapon will be required. But that’s another day’s dilemma.
Your gaze lifts to the sky again. One hand raises to map out the position of the stars between your gloved fingertips. They twinkle down from above, deep and dark and omnipotent. Watching with hallowed curiosity as something tugs within your chest. A strange sensation that tremors with an undeniable draw. Pulling east, in the same direction as the trading outpost. In the same direction as the dawn, when it chooses to rise. 
There’s no time to lose.
Kicking sand across the fire, you set off. Feet sinking into the cold sand, feeling the firm metal of the lightsaber tap against your thigh as you walk. It’s hard not to feel scared, but a little bit of amusement tinges the apprehension.
Nevarro is a shithole. And you’re going back.
A/N: We love our ‘something-like-a-princess’ who makes decisions to better herself. What an absolute queen. No. That’s not the right word...
Thank you for all of your patience and encouragements with me. Honestly, I have no idea what I’d do without you guys. 
I really hope that you enjoyed the chapter. When I first thought of the concept, it was the single image of a girl holding a red lightsaber, alone in the desert and standing before a roaring fire. Everything else about her just fell into place after that.
And since this chapter and the last, we got more amazing Nomad illustrations! Please show some love to these wonderful pieces below:
Rot in hell, Mandalorian: Nomad & Grogu - Created by the marvelous @dankest-farrik
A Flustered Din, A Sick Grogu, and A Pissed-Off Nomad in Chapter Fifteen - Created by the completely astonishing @ira-20
I also got the nicest gift from @bea-gonzalez in the form of Nomad’s pendant! It came earlier in the week, and honestly it was so perfect as it’s such a poignant part of this chapter!
Please check out this post to read more about it, and to check out Bea’s Etsy shop!
All of these amazing gifts did so much for my motivation. I cannot put into words who grateful I am.
To be notified of updates, please fill out my Taglist Form!
Nomad TagList: @elinedjarin @dankest-farrik @xgoldenjenny @mysticalpersontaco @greatcircle79 @1am9root6 @thatonedindjarinfan @welcometothepedroverse @joe-keerie @ayamenimthiriel @all-along-the-resolute @farfromjustordinary @zapsalis-d @dudeodin @marvelranger @tanzthompson @jooordanharrrop  @misssilencewritewell @girlimjusttryingtoreadfanfics @bookloverfilmoholic​ @theflightytemptressadventure​ @missedregrets​ @bewitchedbodyandsol @-mojomagic- @winter-soldier-007 @boomtownboy​ @supernatural1d11​ @yourpalyourbuddyyourbuckyblogs @victias @zemosugarbaby @kestrelmando @allhailkingboba @swimmingsloths 
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clints-lucky-arrow · 18 days ago
With the sudden rise in interaction over my blog this past week, I have created a Taglist Form via Google for my fics. This is because it’s growing increasingly harder to keep track of all taglist requests for the content, and stuff is going to start slipping. 
Please direct all future taglist requests to the form, as I will no longer be tracking them through DMs or comments. It also has the option to be removed from pieces that you may be no longer interested in. 
You can fill it out here:
Thank you!
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(Past tag requests have already been recorded, but feel free to peruse the form as I have also listed some universes that I have not written for yet that you may be interested in.)
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clints-lucky-arrow · 19 days ago
You guys are gonna make me cry. 😭
💜 Guess we’re doing a mini-series. 💜
Edit: To join the taglist, please fill in this form.
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clints-lucky-arrow · 25 days ago
Sneak Peek: Call It A Hunch
I got enough traction on my question on whether or not to do a Zemo-centric prequel to my TFATWS piece, ‘Call It A Night’ to encourage me to shamelessly seek out even more validation.
Apologies for the quality, I don’t know what’s wrong with it, but without further ado... Please see an excerpt to the upcoming prequel ‘Call It A Hunch’ below: 
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Edit: To be notified when it is posted, you can sign up to my taglist here.
And any ‘The Nomad’ readers, I haven’t forgotten about you all. I’m working on that this evening. Sometimes a change of pace/universe is just nice! :)
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clints-lucky-arrow · 26 days ago
I- I was late to work because I finished reading the Zemo smut this morning... I'm a changed woman, thank you
I'm glad that you enjoyed it. We love our Confident Consent King Zemo 💜
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clints-lucky-arrow · 26 days ago
Bestie I just want you to know that I've now read Call It A Night part 2 with Zemo about four times. It's so good and made me feel ~things~. I can't wait for Bucky's part! Y'all made a bitch THIRSTY.
Wait, wait. The Bestie? Is it you again?
The mystery behind who you are is intriguing me.
And OH HONEY. 😂 I guess that's what I was aiming for? It was my first smut so the reaction to it has been overwhelming.
Y'all have just made me want to hurl my mind down this Zemo gutter even further.
And god, I need to plan out Sam and Bucky. Or just find a good song to play on repeat and let the imagination take over...
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clints-lucky-arrow · 26 days ago
I'm definitely intending to bite off more than I can chew here... But would many be interested in a short Zemo-centric prequel to my 'Call It A Night' fic?
Sam and Bucky would there too, and the reader character's attraction to all three men would still be a consistent theme, but it would mostly be about Zemo because it's the moment that those two meet for the first time. No smut, given the circumstance.
Honestly, if Zemo lives through the finale he may well get his own multi-chaptered fic off me.
Edit: Click here to take a sneak peek at the prequel, ‘Call It A Hunch.’
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clints-lucky-arrow · 27 days ago
Din, Nomad, & A Sick Grogu
We got another BRILLIANT piece of art for ‘The Nomad’ (Din Djarin/The Mandalorian x Reader) today! 
It’s based on Chapter 15, where Din has to deal with his incredibly pissed-off pseudo baby-mama because she’s mad that he let Grogu eat a poisonous lizard. I LOVE IT SO FUCKING MUCH.
I will now present to you this INCREDIBLE rendition by the ABSOLUTELY ASTONISHING @ira-20​
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I adore EVERYTHING about this.
Once again, I am just so BLOWN AWAY and TOTALLY HUMBLED by yet another incredibly talented person giving their time to offer such a support to the story. 
It’s hard to put into words how much I appreciate it. How much I love every single one of you guys and the endless support that you give.
Please show this IMMACULATE work some love!
To see 'The Nomad' fic masterlist, and the rest of the amazing creators who have offered wonderful renditions of the story, click here!
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clints-lucky-arrow · 27 days ago
I just know Bucky would be pisseddd at seeing Zemo's bite mark on the reader's neck the next day 😅 The Zemo version was amazing!!
I genuinely think he’d malfunction. Like, the cogs would stop working and he'd just 🤯
And thank you so much!
Read Chapter Two of ‘Call It A Night’ (Baron Helmut Zemo x Reader) here
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clints-lucky-arrow · 28 days ago
Call It A Night - Chapter Two
Choice: Baron Helmut Zemo (x Reader)
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Summary: After a night of drinking and partying in Madripoor, your small group returns to Sharon’s apartment. Caught between the attentions of three vastly different men, a choice has to be made. Which one do you want?
In this choice chapter, the answer is the illusive Baron Helmut Zemo.
Alternate Endings. Smut. Alcohol. Jealousy. Explicit Language.
18+ ONLY.
WARNINGS: Explicit Sex. Vaginal Fingering. Blowjobs. Vaginal Sex. Biting. Zemo’s Coat. Unprotected Sex. Use of the word ‘cunt.’
Ko-Fi: Buy Me a Coffee
A/N: We’re all going to jail for thirsting after this criminal. 
Thank you so much to everyone for all of your support on the first chapter yesterday. I was completely blown away when it got over 400 notes in a day. Given that this is my first smut piece, it was a little daunting to have so many eyes on it, but I hope that it’s done to your satisfaction. 
This chapter kind of ran away on me a little. I just couldn’t stop writing. Never expected it to be as long as it is. I’m quite happy with it though, otherwise I wouldn’t be posting it, and I hope that you guys enjoy it too!
It also couldn’t have been written without Lana Del Rey’s ‘Lolita’ playing on repeat.
Without further ado...
Your knuckles rap neatly against the hard wood of the door. A nervous heat warms your palms, and it’s hard to ignore the unsettled flutter in your stomach. Remembering Sam’s face as you left, a small beat of guilt churns within. You’re not even sure why you’re here. Why - out of all the company that you could have chosen from tonight - you are seeking out Helmut Zemo.
And it’s not to check out if he’s making a damn escape rope. Sharon has the windows to this particular room barred against intruders. No way in or out. 
Sam knows that, which was why his expression had fallen slightly at your words. No judgement was voiced aloud, but you can’t help but feel a little ashamed. This is Zemo, after all, and yet here you are, knocking at his bedroom door at three in the morning because you’re completely unable to get him out of your mind.
That voice - lilted in a smooth Sokovian accent - rings out from within and recalls your attention to the present. “Enter.”
After a short inhale for reassurance, you do. Cold air immediately prickles your skin. The large room is dim, only lit by a single small lamp on the nightstand. It resides on the nearest side of an enormous, four poster bed. Your eyes cast apprehensively around the rest of the space, squinting in the dim light of the weak bulb. The only other shimmer comes from the faint streetlamp outside of the large rectangular window. It’s at the opposite side of the room to where you stand awkwardly by the door. Against the frail illumination, shadows roam freely. 
A single shape stands before that window, silhouetted against the weak glow shining in. Zemo’s head inclines ever so slightly to the side at the sound of your arrival, but he does not turn around. A silence lingers. Nervous on your part, and expectant on his. Your eyes flicker helplessly down his body as your mind flounders for what to say. It’s made harder by the sight of his straight posture. How perfectly rigid those broad shoulders are. 
He doesn’t have the coat on. Just his maroon sweater, although it looks nearly black in the dim room. All the same, it fits his skin like the gloves still upon his hands. Not for the first time, you try to ignore the unfathomable, niggling attraction that you feel towards him. 
He’s the bad guy. You shouldn’t. It doesn’t matter that he’s handsome and articulate, and filled with the cold charm of old world manners. He’s a murderer. The man who tore the Avengers apart. One who used Bucky as a pawn, and left a rift between Steve and Tony Stark that never quite healed. The fact that you would find him attractive should have you asking Bucky for the number of his therapist, but despite it all, that attraction gnaws. Thick and firm, tugging you towards to him. 
You think about making up an excuse to leave. That you got the wrong room or something. The words refuse to come. Whatever connection you feel has pulled taut at his proximity. Your body simply will not heed what your mind is urging.
Eventually, as if realising that a greeting is still not soon to make its way from your lips, he speaks. His voice is filled with a smug satisfaction that you cannot quite translate at this moment. “Your guardian is not with you.”
Guardian? No. 
You bristle, indignation helping you to finally locate your voice. “I don’t need Bucky hovering over me.”
Zemo’s chuckle drifts into the air. The sound is accompanied by a soft shake of his head. It twists slightly, and those dark eyes finally fall playfully upon your face as he answers. “I am aware of that. Even if the Winter Soldier is not.”
“Don’t call him that,” you retort harshly, arms crossing over your chest. “His name is Bucky.”
The Baron inclines his head, almost apologetically. “I meant no offense. Please. Come in.”
You try to fight the lure of his smooth tone, instead drawing yourself up to your full height and declining as firmly as you can. “I’m alright here.”
His reply is patient, nearly kind. “I understand the apprehension, dragă. Truly, I do. But you have nothing to fear from me.”
A scoff escapes your lips. “I’m not so sure about that.”
He remains completely pleasant, that tone even and patient. “And it is perfectly logical that you aren’t. But come. I want to show you something.”
That piques your curiosity. Slowly, you put one foot before the other and warily cross the room. It’s hard not to be apprehensive as you approach. The Baron fixes you with a thin smile. Something about it is oddly reassuring. There’s a hint of encouragement in his eyes. He takes a step to the side, clearing your view as his hand sweeps to gesture out of the window.
Your reflection stares back at you from within the transluscent reflection of the pane. Her gaze is almost accusatory. As if wondering why you are just standing there, allowing Zemo come so near. Just watching as his hand slides across the small of your back, coming to rest upon your opposite hip. The sensation of the contact draws a shudder from within, one that you try to ignore. One that speaks of a longing and desire that you should not voice. Will not voice.
Within the window, the other Zemo watches you with the sly beginnings of a grin curving his lips. It’s a look that you’ve seen him wear often enough. One of confidence and satisfaction that he is the smartest person in the room, and knows what move you will next make. Or rather, what move you will not make. 
You force the words to sound impatient, unwilling to melt so easily against his touch. “What did you want to show me?”
He takes another half-step closer, reflection looming as he comes to stand behind you. That firm chest lightly brushes your back. Your skin prickles in response, reacting to the heat of his body and that delicious scent of his cologne. It had almost made your mouth water in the hallway. A thick swallow echoes within the confines of your throat. 
Zemo hears it, that slight laugh spilling from his lips. One gloved hand raises, skimming along your shoulder, pointing to something out the window. Your eyes follow, straining as you peer up into the sky. Inky darkness fills your vision, broken only by the soft twinkle of stars. A beat of expectant quiet passes, before you speak. “What am I meant to be looking at?”
There’s a hint of excitement to the smooth timbre of his voice as he answers. “Ophiuchus is out tonight.”
Confusion furrows your brow, reflected on the face of your double within the windowpane. “Am I meant to know what that is?”
Zemo’s responding smile is playful. His brown eyes flit down, coming to rest on the side of your face. That gaze sends another tinge down your spine. One that you try not to think about. 
It’s as if everytime those dark irises fall to caress you, your mind just hurls itself into the gutter. His scent clouds your senses, deep and rich, with the barest hint of spice. Warmth simmers between your legs, stroked into life by the assured touch of his hand against your hip, and the way that firm torso brushes your back. His smooth Sokovian accent doesn’t help.
“It’s a constellation, dragă, and a rare one at that.”
Oh. You say the only thing that you can think of. “I never would have guessed that you were into stars.”
A wry chuckle rumbles his chest. “You learn to truly appreciate the beauty of things after years confined within the same blank walls of a prison cell.”
Of course. But you can’t quite bring yourself to feel sorry for him. Flawed as they may be, your morals have not gone completely out the window. A scrap of common sense still remains. However, you decide not to broach the subject. Your views on his actions will never change, and neither will his conflicting ideals to what you have to say. Besides, a debate on morality is not what you came to his room for.
With the practised tack that comes from often being the one to diffuse Bucky’s precarious temper, you casually divert the subject. “What does ‘dragă’ mean? Is it Sokovian?”
Amusement draws across the reflection of the Baron. You are all too aware of those elegant fingers lightly playing against the curve of your waist. They remain at their respectable height, but it’s impossible to ignore the connotation of the knowing touch. How casually he performs the action. 
And his reply send another wave of longing through your already-heated body. “Indeed. ‘Dragă’ means darling.”
You try to scoff, ignoring the twist to your insides that those words bring. "I'm not your darling."
"Are you quite sure about that?" The response is teasing, nearly a little husky. Aware that you’re lying, and deeply smug about it.
All the same, you can’t cave quite that easily. "Why wouldn't I be?"
“Because I know why you came here.”
He shifts even closer behind, until his chest is pressed up against your back. You stiffen, but do not move away. It’s a mixture between not wanting to show weakness, and just not wanting to. Warmth radiates from his body, simmering through the fabric of his tight sweater like a furnace. Fuck. You swallow again, trying to keep your face composed into a semblance of calm. To project that you are not affected by his proximity. A lie.
Zemo knows it too. It’s clear in the smirk of his reflection. Tangible in the honeyed tension spreading across the room. Those dark eyes fix on yours in the window, before slowly dragging down to run across your body. The brush of his gaze is like a physical caress. It all but burns against you. As you watch, the fingers of the hand upon your hip flex experimentally, squeezing.
The gesture is relaxed. Dominant. A sign of a man utterly confident in his motions. You try to stop your mind from desperately fixing on the contact. His grip is light yet firm, and his fingers play teasingly against your curve. The touch only makes you want to feel that hand wrapping underneath your thigh to hoist your leg around his waist. And it’s growing harder to ignore the inviting shape of the hulking bed.
Eyes fluttering shut, a deep inhale inflates your chest. An attempt to centre yourself. It marginally works. That is, until a breeze from the tiny opened pane at the top of the huge window stirs the wispy curtain before you. The laced hem lifts, brushing teasingly over the bare skin of your thighs. Another reminder of how short this damn dress is. While it is undeniably pretty, it is not a piece that you are accustomed to wearing. 
Not that this had exactly been your choice. Well… That’s not completely true. You did have a say in one thing.
Your designated disguise for the evening had been that of Zemo’s arm-candy, and so you had needed to look the part. He had almost taken a little too much pleasure in handing you your outfit, that sly grin curving his lips as he did. Both Sam and Bucky had seen the expression, and the latter had visibly bristled. Thankfully, neither had noticed the lingerie that the Baron had also had placed into the dress bag. A set that you - for some unfathomable reason - had put on after only a slight hesitation.
His voice whispers against your ear in a low murmur. “Are you wearing what I chose?”
“All of it?”
That seems to please him immensely. His eyes meet yours in the window’s reflection, that shrew smile drawing across his chiseled face once again. You can’t bring yourself to return it, but also can’t look away. His other hand - the one not resting on your hip - rises, tracing slowly along the curve of your arm. Goosebumps erupt in its wake. He leans in, so close that his lips brush teasingly against your earlobe. “Good.”
Your breath catches in your throat.
Zemo pauses, as if caught on a sudden thought. His eyes lift once again to meet yours in the window’s reflection. A vibration runs through the broad torso pressed against your back as his throat clears softly. 
His familiar low murmur washes across you. “I want to be clear about something. You can leave this room at any time. If you are uncomfortable, you can stop me whenever. I will not protest or act against your wishes. But if you do decide to stay… I can promise that you will not regret it.”
Those eyes hold yours in a sheer deadlock. Weighing so heavy that you cannot divert your gaze. Your mind churns as you watch him. Do you maintain the high-ground and leave, or stay and relish in everything that comes next? You know the answer. Despite all of your turmoil, there was only one clear choice. It was made as soon as you decided to cross the room to stand at his side.
And while you can back out, you won’t. 
The decision blazes in your eyes, mirrored in your reflection’s curt nod. A victorious smile curves Zemo’s smug mouth as that dark gaze smolders with heated satisfaction. His fingers tighten on your hip - that leather glove crinkling - and then he tugs you back even further into his muscular body. The delicious scent of his cologne coninues to haze your thoughts. 
All the same, the tiniest shred of integrity still remains. Although, admittedly, you’re not quite sure if it will persist.
“I’m not kissing you,” you tell him in a voice that is hoarse yet purposefully firm.
Another amused laugh rumbles from within his frame. “Very well, my dear. However, I doubt that resolve will last.”
With another sly smile, his gloved hand lifts to your mouth in an unspoken command. The words don’t matter. Somehow, you know what he wants. Obediently leaning forward, your teeth close around the tip of the leather covering his index finger. He tugs backward, and the glove slips free, held in your mouth as his bare hand slides out unencumbered. The fabric leaves a sour taste in your mouth. It billows to the floor after you let it slide free.
He uses that freed hand to carefully sweep the strands of hair off your shoulder, guiding them to fall down the length of your back, and smoothly caressing the curve of your ear as he does. The other still remains on your hip, a constant reminder of his control. Your eyes flicker back up to the window. He is still watching you there, face glinting in an expression that is roguishly playful. A dangerous glint lights his eyes. It sends a chill of excitement down your spine. Making sure that you are witnessing every move, he leans in to gently press his lips against the side of your neck. 
The contact is blissful. Your head falls to the side, allowing him greater access to the curve. His mouth whispers across your skin. Nipping. Sucking. Licking. All of the motions slow and teasing, and utterly confident in their effect. His bare hand travels slowly forward once again, running along your chest to grope and squeeze. 
The fingers of the other gloved hand leaves your hip, sliding up to wrap around your wrist, restraining it against your side as his mouth whispers against that sweet spot where your neck meets your shoulder. Being touched right there always sets your nerves alight. A small moan escapes you as his teeth catch on the delicate skin in a playful bite, leaving a delicious sting in its wake. 
The hand fondling your breast shifts, slipping inside the low neckline of your dress. It’s a cautious movement, allowing ample opportunity for you to stop him if you wish. You don’t, and can nearly feel his subsequent smile against your skin. That warm touch lightly skirts over the rise of your chest, making its way inside of your bra. Your heart has picked up speed, pounding throughout your body. Another small whine leaves you pathetically as his fingers circle your hardened nipple, before tweaking the raised bud experimentally. It draws another weak cry, one that Zemo seems to relish in creating. 
His dark laugh washes over your skin. The sound only increases the growing heat between your legs. Your thighs press together, trying to generate some sort of friction to soothe your throbbing cunt as his fingers continue to tease your nipple and his mouth continues its tortuous journey against your neck. Everything in you is begging for him to lower his hands and touch you in the spot that you truly desire. And so, you wordlessly command him to.
Your hand closes over the back of his, clawing it away from your breast and dragging it down the length of your body. His palm is pressed against the soft fabric of your dress. The material flattens against you as it skirts down past your navel. That sly chuckle sounds in your ear again. The sound is nearly as heavenly as the scent of him. Both only serve to make you more dizzy as he lifts his head to nuzzle against your ear.
“Growing impatient, are we?” 
That hand has stopped at the bottom of your stomach. You push, trying to urge it down more, but he will not budge. An irritated whine comes from your clenched jaw, narrowed eyes lifting to glare at him through the mirror. He takes in the expression with amusement. Those long fingers unfurl from your wrist, sliding to wrap across your waist as he tugs you even closer, head lowering to rest on your shoulder in feigned innocence. “Is something the matter, dragă?”
You remain stubbornly silent. Unwilling to give the satisfaction of saying the words that he is so clearly angling for. To have you beg for his fingers to continue that descent. 
He maintains his entertained stare for a few more moments, before finally breaking to press another lingering kiss against the side of your neck. His tongue flickers against the skin. All you can think about is what it would feel like against your own. Or between your legs. Another thick swallow comes at that thought. 
Zemo’s eyes quickly catch the motion. Something about the heat in your determined expression prompts him to move again. That hand slips further down your body. His other arm tightens further around your waist as he leans over slightly, adjusting himself so that his hand can slide between your legs with ease. Another little moan spills out as his fingers rub experimentally over your panties, feeling the wet lace covering your core. Your mind is lost in the sensation as he strokes the spot, and murmurs quietly. “Do you want me to touch you?”
Your answer comes in a pleading whine. “Yes.”
“Very well.”
Those nimble fingers slip underneath those expensive lingerie before you even have the chance to catch a breath. A ragged gasp tears from your throat as they brush teasingly over your clit, passing it momentarily before turning to circle around the sensitive bud. Your head falls back against his shoulder, eyes fluttering closed as he delves carefully between your wet cunt. Spreading the gathering slick. Teasing it around so that you can really feel just how wet you are growing. That delicious heat starts to simmer in the pit of your stomach. It only increases as his index finger experimentally dips between your folds, pumping gently in and out. 
The angle however - how far he has to bend to reach around your body - proves to be a little too awkward for him to keep them playing inside of you, and so they slip out to focus on your clit again. Both of your hands have risen to grip the forearm circling your front, nails all but biting into his skin. He offers no sign of pain, and continues to caress and massage your clit knowingly. Your body responds by eliciting soft gasps and moans, as warmth rises upon your chest. Zemo’s lips brush against your ear again, murmuring soft reassurances in a mixture of Sokovian and English.
All the while, his erection digs into your side. You reach back clumsily, fingers sliding across the hard protrusion of his trouser. Trying to return at least a shred of the wonders that he is performing on you. Zemo only tuts, his hand leaving your underwear to reach back and push your grasping fingers aside. The admonishment that leaves his lips is gentle, but firm. “As pleasurable as it feels to have you pawing at me, not just yet. You will only distract me, and I have no desire to leave my work unfinished.”
Before you can reply, his hand returns to slip between through your underwear and brush once more against your clit. You moan. And it’s his name, which would be mortifying if you were in the right mind to care. It only seems to turn him on more. His touch becomes more insistent, stroking and rubbing against your aching clit, feeling how you grow even more soaked at the contact. That heat is spreading through your body, radiating from your core, signalling that it won’t be long. His filthy whispers fill your ear, but you can only half-focus on what he is saying, the words stuttered by the grating of his hips as his erection strains into your back. 
Your image swims in the faint reflection before you, barely conceivably through half-lidded eyes. His strong arm around you, holding tightly against him as the other delves between your trembling legs. Strands of dark brown hair falling across his brow as his face hovers just above the crook of your shoulder. How his mouth is open in small, breathing increased as those murmurs of arousal continue to spill from his lips. Your hands are clawing into his arm for support, to anchor yourself against the wave of pleasure that each of his heavenly stroking against your clit is creating. 
It’s as if he’s held you before, knows exactly how to touch you.
Tongues of bliss lick against your skin as you approach the peak. Your heated face turns. Panted gasps are bursting from your lips as the euphoric simmering in the pit of your stomach threatens to boil over. Zemo notices the reaction, and strains forward, that dark gaze falls on your bare face for the first time since you joined him before the window. A strand of hair hangs over his eye, and unabated lust gleams from it. 
Something about it - how reverentially he is looking at you, how hard he is working to bring you pleasure - cracks that earlier resolve. The orgasm rises to a boiling climax, flooding through your body as you lean forward to press your lips desperately against his, breathing small cries into his mouth as the tremors of pleasure shake your frame, weakening your legs. His hold across your midriff tightens, keeping you both upright and in place as he harshly kisses you back, the bitter taste of whiskey still on his tongue. It is searing. His finger continues to massage your clit, drawing lingering jolts of ecstasy that leave you writhing uncontrollably, the remanents of your release still jerking your frame in small, elated spasms at the touch.
You have to break away from the kiss after a few moments, weakly lowering your head to catch your breath in the pit of his collarbone. It proves a struggle to regain total composure. Zemo doesn’t release you. Not right away. Instead, he holds on, allowing you to gather back your strength first, before obediently letting go as you slowly - and a little embarrassedly - disentangle yourself from his grip and distance yourself with a single step. 
Your clothes are in disarray, your face is flustered, and you can feel the slick coating your thighs. In the aftermath of release, you should be feeling satisfied. Common sense should have returned. It hasn’t, and you can only find your throat drying at the realisation that it’s not enough. That it’s only made you want him even more.
Zemo adjusts his ruffled sweater. His gloved hand lifts to sweep his hair back into place. Content that he is somewhat adequately poised once more, that dark gaze lifts to your face again. Those eyes are hungry. Yearning. He’s not finished either, but will play the part of gentleman and politely wait until you are ready to proceed. All the same, impatience and agitation are visible in the tense line of his shoulders.
Despite his attempts to put his appearance back in order, that erection still visibly strains against his trousers, begging to be freed. Your eyes lift to his, and his smooth brows arches in a silent challenge. 
Will you or won’t you?
How much further will you allow this to continue?
Swallowing thickly, your slightly breathless voice stirs the night. “Take off your shirt.”
His lips part in response, eyes widening as the command washes across him. Slowly, the Baron obeys. That sweater rides up his body, slipping free. Smooth porcelain skin lies underneath. He’s been inside that prison cell so long, deprived of the sun, that he is almost startlingly pale. It only helps define the lean muscle of his chest. Your eyes drink him in appreciatively, as his burning stare bores into your face. 
His tongue darts out, wetting his lips, before he continues. “Now you. I want to see what I chose.”
The words send a cold prickle across your skin. Your swollen clit throbs once again in pure arousal. Hips swaying purposefully, you retake that step back, until you are brushing teasingly against his bared chest, before turning to once again present him with your back. “Then you need to help me out of this dress.”
His hand rises, skating up your back. You expect it to halt around the rise of the zipper. It does not, but instead seizes a harsh hold of your hair, yanking it back to breathe another filthy kiss against your mouth. The action sends an electrified surge of desire clean through you. It makes you want to drop your panties and let him take right there. Before you can propose such a thing, he lets go, pushing your head forward as his hands tear down the zipper. The dress starts to peel away from your skin. 
The heated brush of Zemo’s hands sends a jolt through your entire body as he pushes the straps off your shoulders, allowing them to hang loosely against your forearms. With a soft thump, the dress slips from your body and onto the floor, leaving you in nothing but the lacey black lingerie that the Baron had selected. This moment - the heat of his gaze warring with the chill of the air - nearly sends you into a mindless spiral of arousal once again. Not that you are far from one at the moment.
Standing there underneath his worshipping eyes, armoured in matching set of sexy, expensive underwear, you can’t help but feel powerful. Invincible. That if you told him to drop to his knees, he would without question. Noticing how you posture straightens confidently, the Baron’s lips curve into a deep smile.
Had he known what was going to happen? 
Dull footsteps creak across the floor as he circles you slowly, drinking in the attire as one hand traces across your stomach. You allow the thrill of the touch to surge across your skin, prickling with intensity as your cunt throbs again.
 Coming to a stop before you, Zemo’s fingers rise until they curl underneath your chin, angling it gently upwards. Lusty satisfaction is evident in his shining eyes. He likes it. More than likes it. Another low growl rumbles from his chest, expressing more desire than words ever could. That carnal drive becomes even more apparent as his other hand settles firmly upon your buttock, kneading into the flesh harshly as he pulls you stumbling closer. 
His hard mouth lowers, pressing against yours. You nearly melt at the contact, hands sliding up his chest as your core tingles with yearning once more. His tongue slips between your lips, cajoling yours assuredly, and you respond to him with unbridled enthusiasm. 
Zemo was right. That earlier resolve - that promise that you would not kiss him - did not last. And deep down, you had known that it wouldn't. Even as the words had escaped your lips. Crossing that room was the first sign of a surrender that would consume you whole. And here, in the moment, you can’t bring yourself to regret a single second of it. No. You only solely and completely long for more. From him to take you in whatever manner he wanted.
Your head spins. Nothing resonates in your thoughts except for Helmut Zemo. The firm surface of his hard torso against your fingertips. The dizzying scent of his delicious cologne. The harsh brush of his recently shaved chin against yours as that kiss threatens to consume you whole. How his mouth moves against yours, tongue insistent as it plays in ways that make your knees tremble.
Those confident hands slid up down your legs, and in one smooth motion they are wrapping around your thighs and lifting you into the air. Your legs tighten around his waist, hands tangling wildly in his perfectly styled hair. His own slide down to cup your ass. You can feel the leather glove still coating one, cold compared to the heat of his other bared palm. Both grips are insistent, keeping your body pressed suspended, pressed firmly against his as he starts to move in the direction of the bed. The almost desperate exploration of his mouth against yours does not pause or end. 
Jammed against his front, the damp lace of your underwear presses against you. The fabric is soaked through, an undeniable sign of the devastating effect that his attentions are having on your body. Viewing him as a tornado, as you had previously thought, seemed utterly accurate now. You had lost yourself in him almost effortlessly, pieces of rationality and logic snatched and torn away until you were lost in the blissful eye of the storm, feeling it consume you on all sides.
The Baron tears his lips from yours without warning. There’s no time to react or question, just the abrupt sensation of falling as his arms bunch, lifting as they fling you onto the bed. Hard. The mattress bounces underneath at the sudden collision. Some of the breath knocks from your lungs, in a mixture of both the impact and the surprise. All the more aroused, you scramble to push yourself up on your elbows, rising up in time to watch him take the final few strides to the bed. 
Zemo's confident step is smooth, nearly a swagger. Your eyes flit down his form, drinking in the magnificent sight of him. Dark eyes, chiseled features, and that roguish smile that makes your chest seize. His pale, flat chest and the hardened protrusion of his cock bulging at the front of his trousers. Halting, one of his arms raises to teasingly brace upon one of the bed’s shining wood posters, leaning against it as he looms over you assuredly, and speaks once again in that lucious rasp.
"I hope that you're ready, dragă. It has been a... long time since I've felt such an urge. I will do my best to hold back. To make this pleasurable for both of us."
Your voice holds nothing but roughened lust. “Get down here.”
He laughs, and then those firm hands are skating up your thighs, seizing the rim of your panties and ripping them from your legs in one harsh motion. They are tossed aside, discarded carelessly to the darkness. You surge upright before he can climb atop your body, legs dangling off the side of the bed as your fingers fumble determindely against the buckle of his belt. He lets out a low sound of approval, hands drifting aside to allow you easier access. 
The mound of his erection radiates heat. It’s hard to think of anything else but what it will feel like pressing up inside you. All that you have to do first is get his damn fly open.
His cock spills free when you finally do, bouncing out as you tug down the waistband of his boxers. The purplish tip is gorgeously swollen. Precum already slightly leaks from the glistening peak. It’s sticky against yours fingers as your hand wraps around his dick, giving it a swift pump, running your gaze down the perfect form of his member. Zemo’s hiss comes through gritted teeth, hand reaching out to seize the solid poster again. Even in the dim light, you can see his knuckles turn white from the strength of his grip. 
He is certainly above average length, but the thing that makes your heart pound with unabated desire is how thick he is. You can already imagine that sensation of him stretching you out. How deliciously this cock can fill you. The urge to lie down and let him take you rises once again, but you push against it. He has certainly treated you well tonight, so it is only fair that you return the favour. After so long unattended, the ache must be near unbearable. 
You lean forward, wrapping your lips around him. A grunt bursts from Zemo’s lips. The wooden pillar creaks under his tightening hands. His hips begin to gently thrust, gently working himself into your mouth. You can tell that he is holding back, even as one of his hands falls to slip around the back of your head, holding it in place as you take him further into the back of your throat.
The lingering precum is salty and bitter, but you do not stop. Zemo’s muted gasps softly fill the air. The sound is music to your ears, singing to your aching cunt and filling you with the desire to have him fold beneath you. Your pace increases, feeling how his legs are tembling as your hand rises to join your mouth, carefully pumping in unison as your tongue swirls over his tip. 
And then it happens. Completely unexpected. The Baron breathes your name, and seems unaware that he does. Your eyes flicker up to land on his face, but your mouth continues to bob obediently against his cock without faltering. A faint shimmer of sweat has started to grow on his brow, and air whistles from his clenched teeth. The struggle is plain on his face. 
A particular flicker of your devilish tongue against his top has a strangled cry spilling from his lips. One of his hands shoots to your shoulder, quickly easing you back.
“Not all the way, dragă. I want to feel you.”
The words sent another tortuous ache down your body. You can only nod, hand reaching up to swiftly brush away the remnants of saliva that coat your chin. It’s only then that you notice something underneath that feels a little different from regular soft bedsheets. His long coat lies atop the end of the bed, and you are sitting towards the hem of it. Fabric rustles as you go to to shift, planning to tug it free and move it aside. 
The Baron’s words stop you. “Don’t.”
One look at his heated gaze sets the meaning clear. He wants to fuck you on that coat. And you will gladly oblige. His hand - the one still covered by the smooth leather glove - lands on the centre of your chest, pushing you firmly down atop the mattress. The coat crinkles underneath you, furred collar almost perfectly level with your neck. Zemo’s fingers recall your attention as he clambers atop the bed, having ridded himself of his trousers and boxers. The other glove is gone from his hand too, so now the contact is just sheer bare skin. 
His hands slip behind you, and you arch your back as he unbuckles your bra. It slides free of your chest, leaving your breasts exposed. The Baron is immediately hovering on all fours over you, mouthing against your chest. Teasing your nipple with his tongue, as one hand slowly trails up the inside of your leg, until those teasing fingers slide inside of your soaked folds again. Payback for the delicious torture that you just put him through. They pump inside of your cunt, leaving you writhing on the bed. One hand grips the sheets for an anchor as the other rises to tangle in his hair, only mussing it further.
That heat looms inside of you again. There’s no way it couldn’t. Not with his two fingers working so dexterously. But Zemo pulls out just before that point is reached, when you halfway there and locked in the throes of helpless lust, and settles back upon his heels. Instead, his hands tighten around your calves, pulling them upward to each rest against a shoulder. A needy keen tears from your lips as he brushes your clit again with an evil smile. The coat underneath you stirs as his throaty chuckle caresses the air, that knowing gaze lifting to meet yours. His hair is completely mussed, formed in messy peaks at the behest of your earlier hands.
His fingers leave your clit, and instead travel down, gripping his cock. He shifts closer, the heat of his body washes across yours. You can feel the strain in the back of your legs as he looms overheard, moving to position the tip of himself at your entrance. You can feel it pressing against the lips of your folds, slowly teasing them apart. The contact is absolute torture, as it the burning need to have him just slam inside of you and finally take you whole.
Pausing for just a moment, his head tilts in contemplation as another thought overtakes him. Your chest rises and falls as you wait for him to speak. It's hard to think of anything than the throbbing heat of his erection, of how close it is to giving you exactly what you want. But you manage. Just barely. 
Helmut speaks, and those soft words hesitantly broach the night air. “If I may make one more thing clear… Our encounter tonight is separate from everything that goes on during the day. This moment is you and I alone. It is born of desire, and no greater scheme than that. Regardless of anything that happens in the future, never doubt that this moment was sincere.”
His words make you nervous. The stutter of your heart only picks up when he leans down, hands sliding along the crumpled duvet, forcing your legs higher as he presses his mouth hungrily against yours again. The kiss is deep. Searching. As if he is trying to convey some unspoken meaning, one that you do not grasp quite yet. His teeth tug harshly against your lower lip, drawing a small sting of pain. The weight of his heated body presses you down, further nestling against the soft interior of that coat.
One hand slides up to seize a firm hold of your throat, fingers wrapping around either side of your neck to hold your head in place as he ruthlessly demands all of your lip’s attention. You can feel his tongue dominating the inside of your mouth, tasting the lingering salt of his precum from your tongue. The grip of his fingers tighten ever so slightly, elicting a heated moan from your lips. Zemo drinks it in, laughing knowingly against your mouth. Electrified vibrations running through his body to where he touches yours, an almost unbearable reaction to his agonizing proximity.
His throbbing cock inches further into the entrance of your cunt, skating further between the folds. The sensation is almost too much to bear. Those elegant fingers release their hold on your throat, moving back to brace against the sheets at the side of your body, trapping you underneath him. 
But escape is not even on your mind. To be taken away from this now... It wouldn’t be escape. It would be torture.
Every inch of you is screaming with need for him, one fire with the sensation of his cock being so close to drilling inside of you. Your hands skate down to dig into his thighs, urging him closer.
“Are you sure?” Zemo whispers, face dipping to bury in the point where your neck meets your shoulder.
Your response comes as a hoarse murmur. “Yes.”
That raw desire filling your tone is all the encouragement that he needs. Zemo’s hips snap forward, pushing inside in one, delicious motion. A gasp bursts from your lips as he buries himself fully, a growl tearing from between his teeth. This was what you needed. 
His thick ridges stretching the walls of your cunt in a way that makes your toes curl. A way that you knew it would. It had only taken one look at his gorgeous cock to know that it would be the death of you. The sensation of him within you - claiming you with that one single thrust - leaves your mind spinning with nothing but the thought of him, and the heavenly ripples that run through your body as he starts to rut in smooth, confident strokes.
Your hands fist into the bedsheets, tangling amidst them for some kind of hold as he starts by fucking you passionately. Slowly. Letting you feel every inch of his cock, and savouring the feeling of you trembling underneath him. Your cunt is throbbing with relentless need as he drives smoothly into you, taking it slow at first to get you used to the feeling of being impaled on his thick member. Eyes nearly rolling in pleasure, your lidded gaze falls on him. Those broad shoulders framed between your legs as his hands slip down to tightly grip your hips, pumping his need into your core. The harsh pressure of his hands is strong enough to bruise, but the pain brings pleasure, and you can’t bring yourself to tell him to stop. 
At your whispered encouragements, his pace begins to pick up. The coat crinkles underneath you, bunching as the jolt of his hips becomes stronger, those sharp snaps slamming you higher up into the mattress. Underneath the harsh drive, the bed begins to shake. Thudding against the wall with each of his rhythmic thrusts in an unmistakable manner. Too lost in the all consuming bliss, you can’t even bring yourself to care.
A filthy moan spills from your lips as the head of his cock brushes that spot. Realising the significance of the sound, the Baron repeats the motion, burying himself inside of you as he does. Those white teeth are bared as he hovers above you, face twisted into a snarl of concentration. Now, lost in a moment of carnal savagery, he suddenly looks a bit more like the villain you know him to be. Have been. You’re not quite sure. Regardless, he is not one that you are afraid of in any way. Not as his hands slide down the space between your bodies to start playing with your clit again.
The sensation is almost too much. The combination of his tip stroking that pulsating spot within your core, and the touch of his fingers against that small bud of nerves outside, guides you back toward the edge of release. One that he had taken you from earlier, to ensure that he could be inside of you when it came again. Little cries begin to spill from your lips, body writhing as he hits that mark again and again with dizzing accuracy. That delicious swell begins to simmer in your stomach once more, filling your veins with a familiar prickling heat. Helpless, your hands scrabble for a hold, fisting wildly in the sheets as you climax with a loud cry, feeling your release wash through your body, clamping your walls around his member.
Zemo groans loudly, his arousal at your orgasm plain on his face. Leaning down, his mouth presses desperately against yours once more, shifting your legs to slide down his shoulders so that it allows him closer, and the snap of his hips continues to fill you achingly. Straining upward, though still somewhat trapped by the position, you return his kiss heatedly, no longer caring in any way possible at what it means... That you are as helpless under his touch as he is under yours. Utterly unable to resist.
The heated pleasure begins to build again, coaxed by the skilled strokes of his cock between your folds. He breaks away, drawing back to refocus his attention on how his body drives yours. A grunt spills from his lips, the breathless huff billowing against your cheek. Those fingers tighten around your thighs as his motions become insistent, demanding that you climax again before his own need to orgasm seizes him in a relentless hold. The way that his eyes remain fixed on your face - swallowing the sight of your passionate throes like a man possessed - pushes you closer towards yet another release, aided by the glorious pace of his cock. 
It’s growing harder as he approaches his own orgasm. The fight to control it is visible on his furrowed brow as his teeth grit in concentration. His dick strokes against that throbbing spot inside of your cunt, building to an unbearable warmth. You can feel his dick hardening even further, swelling as his body prepares to release an urge that has been contained for so long. It’s throbbing inside you, and something about that heavenly tremor hits that spot inside exactly right. 
A jagged, wordless cry rips from your lips as the climax erupts through your body a final time. The force is utterly intense. Zemo’s face twists in ecstasy, a low gasp tearing from him as he follows immediately, hips faltering in a violent stutter. Pulsating with one final surge, his cock spurts inside of you, spilling his cum into your hot cunt. A moan escapes his lips as his head ducks down to your neck, and then you feel his teeth clamp against your skin as he bites hard. Locked in the endorphin high, the harsh sensation is nearly blissful. 
Your legs slip free of his frame, sliding down to rest against his hips. They are weak and trembling, muscles aching after being held aloft for so long.
A quiet spreads over the room as you both softly collect yourselves. Your eyes are on the ceiling, but one arm hoists up to exhaustedly sling around Zemo’s shoulders. The spent Baron rests atop your chest, nearly slumped after the force of his ejaculation. His mouth nuzzles upwards to press his lips gently against the side of your temple in a gesture that appears almost apologetic. Probably in response to the unexpected nip. 
Zemo’s head rests against the swell of your breasts. Strands of mussed, wet hair prickle your bare skin. Sweat is apparent upon him, but you do not mind. Yours is equally damp, a distinctive result of the three hard orgasms. However, it was all more than worth it.
That place between your legs is singing with satisfaction, the lust finally quenched. For now, at least.
His weight against you starts to grow a little much to bear. Hands rising, you gently push at his shoulders, Shifting off you, Helmut obediently rolls away, coming to a swift halt on his back, just against your side. The night air is cool against your still-tingling skin. Goosebumps prickle as the chill sets in, prompted by the absence of his heated form hovering above. 
Neither of you speaks at first. The silence is not uncomfortable, however. It is warm. Maybe a little unsure, but soft and reassuring.
Your whole body feels delicious light. Perfectly satisfied. However, through the residual elation of the climax, a slight stinging is finally starting to register. A frown tugs down your face, one hand lifting to press against your neck. The spot throbs at the contact, and no longer in a good way. Your fingers slid along the skin, feeling the small grooves in the flesh. 
Mouth twisting in indignation, you turn your head to arch a brow at Zemo. “Did you really have to bite so hard?”
A hint of embarrassment flickers across his face. “Apologies. I got… carried away.”
“I can tell,” you murmur in response.
Your whole neck is sore. A combination of all of the sucking and nipping earlier when his fingers were inside you by the window, mixed with that one harsh clamp of his teeth on the side of your throat at the end. The skin is not broken, but if you can feel the bitemark with your fingers, it is probably all too visible.
With an uncharacteristic hesitance, the Baron offers a husky further explanation. “I became lost in the desire. The urge was too strong. I… I needed to leave a mark. A reminder that this truly happened. One that I can look at in the light of day, as a sign that this moment truly came to pass. That it is not just an illusion conjured by my own longing, or a fevered dream.”
You’re not quite sure to reply to that. Silence spreads as your mind churns, trying to cultivate a response. Zemo waits for your answer rigidly. His body is stiff as he lies beside you, eyes fixed on the ceiling. Finally, you shift, tongue nervously brushing across your lips as you do. His head falls towards you, and those dark eyes lack their usual sly glint as they come to rest on your face.
Quiet words spill from your lips, the only ones that come to mind. “You are oddly poetic at times, you know that?”
It appears to be the right thing to say. The compliment has some comfort wash over his handsome face. Those lips purse back into their roguish smile. He twists, rolling atop of you once again, but bracing his weight on the flats of his forearms. One of his hands reaches down, tugging your leg around his waist. Not to begin again, but to keep you close to him.
Hovering just above you, that grin is directed gently down onto your face. “I had an expensive education.”
Your laugh rings in the darkness. “I’d bet.” 
The smile adorning your lips fades quickly after the words fade from the air. Noting the sudden melancholy that replaces it, Helmut’s head tilts in wordless curiosity. Frowning, your fingers play against his chest as your eyes fasten sadly on his face, running over his features. Drinking in the sight of him like this, and your happiness in the moment. It takes a few seconds for him to understand, but he figures out the meaning of your morose expression himself.
“You can’t stay.” It’s not a question.
Head shaking, you mutedly agree. “No. I can’t. They shouldn’t find me here. Us here. In this position.”
“Ah yes. I think the Win-Bucky would happily kill me for taking such a liberty with his beloved companion.” A wry chuckle accompanies his words, but you can hear the slight strain in his tone.
It’s comforting, being able to tell that he does not want you to leave. However, it does little to change the fact that tomorrow will bring a new day, a new danger, and likely only make things harder between the two of you. After all, you’re not stupid, and know sooner rather than later the illusive Baron will make a ploy for escape. And you’re not quite certain exactly what you will do when he does.
His index finger trails slowly down the side of your face, touch filled with a gentle affection that is uncharacteristic in his daily demeanour. Now, with just yourself and him and those boundaries considerably lowered, he is softer. 
“Will you remain just a little longer?”
You can’t quite bring yourself to say anything else. “Yes. Just a little while.”
A/N: Disclaimer: I’m not actually a fan of the word ‘cunt’ but writing ‘pussy’ made me feel like a pimp, and writing ‘vagina’ made me think of a gynocologist. Sometimes we have to compromise!
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clints-lucky-arrow · 29 days ago
Thank you to AO3 for 900 kudos on my Mandalorian x  Reader fic, ‘The Nomad.’ ✨ Next chapter to drop either this weekend, or early next week!
And thank you for the amazing support on my TFATWS (Sam, Bucky, & Zemo) story, 'Call It A Night’ on Tumblr today! ✨ It got over 200 notes within half a day, which is so amazing! The first choice chapter (Zemo) should be out over the weekend.
And for any readers on my Obi-Wan fic, ‘Fervour,’ the next update is also in process!
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clints-lucky-arrow · a month ago
The Nomad - Chapter Fifteen (Din Djarin/The Mandalorian) x Reader
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SUMMARY: The Mandalorian watches as you care for the unwell child. All the while, your annoyance with him radiates clearly. A past gift becomes useful. Irritation soothes as the evening progresses. Secrets are uncertainly kept, and hesitantly divulged.
Enemies to Lovers. Slow Burn. Eventual Smut. Morally Grey MC. Established Star Wars Character as Parent.
TRIGGER WARNINGS: Explicit Language. Graphic Violence and Injury. Imprisonment. Familial Abuse (Non-S*xual). Childhood Trauma. Parental Death.
Ko-Fi: Buy Me a Coffee
Word Count: 8.0k
A/N: Here we are, as promised! Chapter Fifteen, with the usual POV switch. This one is certainly slower, softer, and more domestic, but it was needed after the last chapter. 
Hope you all enjoy, and feel free to let me know if you do. Encouragement is a writer’s muse!
Songs I listened to for while writing this chapter are:
Sincerity is Scary - The 1975
For Now - Kina Grannis
Another low whimper comes through the monitor. Din tries to ignore it. To instead focus on carefully navigating the asteroid field. It’s too crowded and cramped to be able to use the Crest’s autopilot system. That functionality is a bit limited anyhow, and doesn’t work well even on the better days. Today is a worse one than usual, both in terms of the ship’s abilities and the events that have taken place so far, and so he has resigned to stay at the controls. Who knows what else would go wrong if he opted to leave.
Remaining as the pilot something that he can’t help but feel a little torn about. One part of him wants to be able to freely check in on the child and not have to be the one to worry about the craft flying into a floating chunk of rock. The other part of him is happy for a reason to stay as far away from the wrathful glare in your eyes as possible.
His child-minding shift ended around eleven hours previous. Not exactly willingly. This whole situation is his fault, after all. The kid had eaten that kriffing lizard when Din was meant to be watching him, and so he should have been the one to deal with the feverish aftermath. To his credit, he had tried, but you’d all but unrelentingly badgered him to swap the helm for the sick infant, and to leave the kid to you. He had refused at first, but you were incorrigibly stubborn and too irritated to listen to his attempts at reasoning.
Every minute or two, your voice had crackled across the intercom, offering another condescending barb about his ability to look after a child, though the unmistakable tinge of concern laced your tone. He had tried to ignore it at first. Didn’t work. You just had this way of worming underneath his skin, pawing at his nerves until they were flared and frayed. And so you continued to watch him from your seat in the pilot’s chair, eyes on the camera more often than they were on the sky (if the Crest’s jerking movements were anything to go by), and threw comment after comment in the most patronising tone that he’d ever kriffing heard. Eventually, Din had lifted his head to the camera and snapped, “so you think that you can do a better job?”
The answer, as he learned, was a resounding ‘yes.’
It was all the invitation that you needed to abandon the controls - rather dangerously, the Mandalorian might add - to drop down to the hangar deck and turn purposefully towards him. Annoyance was written plain on your face. It was unmistakable in the narrowing of your eyes, the hard set of your jaw, and the rigid posture of your back. Without another word, you plucked the infant from his arms. The harsh snap of your cape against your heels resounded as you spun to stride sharply away, retreating to sit on the ledge of Din’s bunk. The child had watched him from the vantage point over your shoulder, eyes large and watering as a purplish flush dusted his cheeks.
It had been hard to stop the pang of guilt that rose thick in Din’s chest.
Your soft whispers filled the hold as you attempted to soothe the upset child. The Mandalorian couldn’t help but note how your eyes pointedly refused to leave the infant and shift to him. That tone in which you spoke was hushed, too quiet for him to pick up the words. It was quite clear that he was not wanted. Not that he could stay even if he was.
The Crest needed a Captain.
Din made his way back up the ladder that you had just descended, entering the silent cockpit alone. It was an unspoken banishment, but an exile all the same.
Now staring out into the dark galaxy, the Mandalorian can’t help but cast his mind back to the event. All it had taken was one kriffing second. Just for a moment his back was turned and his attention rested solely on repairing the ship. There was no way that he could have seen the brightly lit reptile crawling in the grass just behind the heel of his thick boot. Nor had he seen the child’s attentive gaze, or noticed those little hands lurching to snatch up the reptile.
It had all escaped his attention until your sharp roar cut across the clearing. Those bottles - rims still dripping with water from the nearby river - clattered from your hands as you shot forward. You had snatched the infant up from the ground with unobscured panic. Din’s mind surged to catch what was going on, to why you looked so damn terrified, as one of your now ungloved hands jammed between the child’s teeth, attempting to pry his mouth open with your fingers. The only glimpse of the lizard that the Mandalorian had caught was the last inch of its thin tail being slurped up into that little maw. Your yell of horror reverberated through his helmet.
At first, Din didn’t understand your panic. The child had eaten many wild creatures and always been fine. That was until you’d rounded on him, finger extended to jam into his visor, and all but shrieked that this kriffing lizard was poisonous.  
Dank farrick.  
Thankfully, a rather frantic look through the system index had revealed that while ingesting this specimen would indeed cause some stomach upset, it was thankfully extremely unlikely to be deadly. Some discomfort would persist for a day or two, but it should soon lapse outside of that timeframe. The sickness was described as being quite akin to food poisoning.
It didn’t make Din feel much better, even though in actuality, it was a miracle that this kind of thing hadn’t happened sooner. All the same, you had not absolved him then, and the forgiveness has still yet to come almost a day later.
Your voice crackles over the security feed, calling him back to the present. “His temperature is still up.” The remark is pointed, ringing loud enough so that it can also be clearly heard through the open cockpit door. Din tries not to bristle as you continue. “If it doesn’t break by tomorrow morning, I think we’ll need to land and buy some meds.”
“Alright,” Din replies, knowing better than to argue right now. And in all actually, he agrees. “Keep an eye on him and let me know if it gets worse.”
It shouldn’t, but he can’t help but worry. There’s always the slightest chance that things can go further south. He knows that better than most.
Movement catches in the corner of his eye. Your head lifts, eyes finally making contact with him through the camera by the hangar door. The child turns in a fitful, restless sleep, shifting in your arms. You are still seated on the ledge of his cubby, back resting against one wall, and feet braced against the other. That usual black, hardened leather armour still adorns your body, and it’s a strange juxtaposition to the tiny form of the sleeping infant that you cradle so carefully.
With your hood down and mask nowhere in sight, the tired lines of your face are clearly visible, as is the stiff set of your lips as they move to form another admonishment. “You know, Mandalorian, this wouldn’t have happened if you were just watching him like you were meant to.”
It’s almost like you can see through the camera. There are no screens on the hangar deck, nothing to portray his rigid, agitated seat within the pilot’s chair, but that piercing gaze does not relent. His grip on the control’s tightens, fabric of his gloves creaking slightly. Under the weight and the accusation, Din shifts uncomfortably. There’s a truth to the words, as much as he doesn’t like to admit it.
His half-hearted attempt at a rebuttal falls weakly into the air. “It’s not the first time that he’s just snatched something off the ground and eaten it.”
Your eyes are chilling, brows slightly raised in cold irritation as you respond. “Well, it needs to be the last. We’ve been lucky. It could have been a lot worse.”
Din is silent for a few moments, before finally relenting. “Agreed.”
His words cause your head to tilt slightly to the side. Surprise flickers across your face. You’d probably expected an argument, and the lack of one has caught you off guard. A few seconds pass as your mind visibly turns, trying to decide what to say next. Whether to press the issue and force him to admit fault, or to simply let it slide for now.
In the end, you settle for a silent nod. Din shifts in his chair, choosing not to lower his guard just in case another reproach decides to come. It doesn’t. Your attention instead turns outward. That bloodshot gaze comes to rest absentmindedly on the sloping hangar door. The arm not cradling the child lifts, hand stroking reassuringly down his small back as your head thuds against the wall, eyelids sliding closed. As Din watches, your chest swells with a deep inhale, though your eyes force themselves open only a second later. The visible struggle not to fall asleep is obvious.
He speaks without thinking. “You should get some rest.”
Your head moves in a gentle shake. The motion knocks ends of your hair gently against your cheek. Those eyes lift to settle on the camera again, less annoyed now but still just as haggard. “I want to keep an eye on him a bit longer.”
Din has lost just as much sleep as you have. After all, whoever wasn’t looking after the infant needed to be flying the ship. However, your drained form shows that the lack has indeed had a greater effect upon you. It does make sense. You took the bulk of responsibility for dealing with a wailing toddler. That was bound to take it out of anyone.
He is about to tell you to just put the kid in his floating crib and bring them both up here. The child takes that as an initiative to wake from his slumber. His ears flare outwards in distress, little face scrunching up in a show of nausea, before he promptly leans over the side of your arm and vomits bright blue bits of half-digested lizard all over Din’s mattress. You leap up and away with a sharp curse of disgust, before rushing to the cramped refresher to grab a cloth to wipe the remaining expulsion of bile off the kid’s chin. Parts of your distant, reassuring murmurings are still picked up by the feed.
“Okay, bug. Let’s make a deal. You and me. If you stop eating lizards and frogs and anything else that myself and the Mandalorian do not directly hand you, I promise that I will chew your food without complaint. Agreed? And don’t bite me when I try to take something out of your mouth. That shit hurt and-”
“Language,” Din interjects loudly, but it’s hard not to feel a little amused at the proposed deal.
You are funny. He’ll admit that. It’s rare enough for someone to make him laugh, but you have managed to do it more often than most. It’s surprising, given the initial circumstance of your relationship. Enemies to reluctant allies, to something a little less wary now. Not friends. Not quite. But there’s trust growing there.
The Crest banks slightly to the left, dodging a rather large chunk of hovering rock. It’s slowly turning in the air, a previously hidden pointed end rotating into view. The action is sluggish enough that the Mandalorian has time to pull the craft out of its reach, but it's a reminder to stop devoting all of his attention to the monitor. Some needs to be reserved for this seemingly endless asteroid field.
That resolve doesn’t last long.
“Oh! I know!” Your exclamation pulls his eyes back to the camera again. He watches as you step back out of the refresher, child balancing on your hip. You set the bleary infant down on the bunk’s edge, before turning back to the cupboards lining the hull. Din watches as you rifle through them, searching intently for something. At the third, a victorious hiss sounds from your teeth. Your hand withdraws, clutching a flask that looks vaguely familiar. It’s not the larger one that you are so oddly protective of, but a smaller, thinner model. Something about it is familiar.
You brandish it happily, turning towards the kid with a large smile on your face. “That widow - What was her name? Omera. Yeah. Omera gave me this when we left Sorgan. It helped with my infection and brought the fever right down. I think it could do you some good too.”
Din’s helmet inclines, appreciating your ingenuity. He wouldn’t have thought of it himself. There’s no denying that there have been perks to having you around.
You continue speaking, not to him, but to the watching infant. “No harm in trying. Right, bug? It’s bound to be safer than a poisonous lizard anyhow.” Face raising, you eye the camera and shake the flask experimentally. “What do you think, Mando?”
Din debates momentarily, before shrugging. “I think that it’s worth a shot.”
Head dipping in a pleased gesture, your attention shifts back to the child. Swift fingers work to unscrew the lid. As it comes free, Din can see that it is one of those types that doubles as a cup. The poultice inside splatters thickly into the little mug, resembling a form of sludge. It has been a while since he last laid eyes upon the stuff, and it’s just as unappetising in appearance as he remembers. The disgusted curl of your lips signifies that your own recollections must not be all that fond either.
You offer it to the child, leaning forward as you speak. “Now, I will warn you. It tastes fucking vi-”
The Mandalorian interrupts before he can stop himself. “Language.”
“Sorry!” you exclaim, some annoyance creeping into the tone. Rolling your eyes, you look back at the child and continue. “It tastes vile. I didn’t give you much. Just try and keep it down. It’s horrible, I know, but you will feel better.”
Din watches curiously as the child takes an initial, tentative sip. That hesitation only lasts for a moment. As soon as the poultice hits his lips, those large eyes widen and his ears flare upward in an unexpected display of delight. He downs the thick, mould-flecked liquid with vigour. As soon as he finishes, those little arms raise the cup in a greedy plea for more.
Your face - flickering slightly on the monitor - turns down in a mix of bewilderment and slight disgust. “Your tastebuds absolutely terrify me, bug.”
This time, there is no stopping the rumble of laughter that sounds from the Mandalorian’s chest. Hearing it, your face turns up, a wry smile twisting your lips. “Do I hear actual amusement?”
“No,” Din replies, his smirk hidden by the visage of his helmet. “You’re just hallucinating.”
Your lips press together, as if to hold back your own entertainment at his response. “Ah. That explains it.”
He watches as you lift the child back into your arms, bouncing him gently against your chest. It’s hard not to see the change from when you first made his company. He is not vain enough to think that the shift in your demeanour is down to him. No. The root cause is plain to see. Especially now, as he watches your expression over the feed. Your face is alight in a show of warm and fervent affection as you gaze down as the infant cradled against your chest.
It’s the kid. It always was.
After a while, your voice floats back up to him. “Hey, Mando. Is it okay if we come up? I think that little bug could do with a change of scenery.”
‘Bug.’ You’ve been calling him that for a while now. One may think that it was a dismissive nickname. The way that your tone phrases the words prove it to be anything but. That unexpected softness is back in your voice, speaking of an affection that you have yet to truly state out loud.
“Sure,” Din calls. “Come on up.”
The solid clack of the heels of your boots echo against the ladder rungs. The Mandalorian stills. It’s a conscious effort to force his body to not respond to the arrival. Your reflection looms before his eyes, sliding into the mirrored image of the viewport. The swish of your cloak whispers softly through the air as you slide into the passenger chair behind. He is all too aware of your presence over his shoulder, that piercing gaze against the back of his helmet.
Something about being in this cockpit together again casts him back to that evening. The one after Tatooine. When he had allowed you into the room when his helmet had been off, and you had obediently remained. He wasn’t quite sure if that was against the Creed or not. The covert had never been quite clear on it. Not that it mattered. As soon as you had entered the room unbeknownst to him, there was no rewinding time. You had not seen his face, so it can be reasoned that no sin had been committed. At least, that is how he will choose to view it.
Your throat clears initially, before your quiet words pierce the air. “Are you hungry?”
There’s no doubt that you must be thinking of that evening too. Din shakes his head. The edge of his helmet squeaks along the plates of his cuirass. He takes another glance into the reflection, to where you sit with the child upon your lap. Your gaze is directed away, head angled sideways to gaze out at the passing stars. The kid, however, looks straight into his visor before leaning forward to reach for the little silver ball atop the control stick. The Mandalorian hesitates for just a moment, before unscrewing it and passing it back to him.
His motions have you shift to face-forward again. Noting the action, another gentle smile etches itself across your tired face. Aware that he cannot return the gesture, the Mandalorian dips his head in a curt nod in response. Your perturbation with him has considerably lessened as a result of the child’s increased mood. Good.  
Din will never admit it out loud, but it felt a little unpleasant to think that this newfound rapport may have taken some damage. Having a companion is extremely new to him. Or rather, having a partner, as Ran had put it, is something that he has never truly experienced before. Sure, he ran with crews in the past. He had the other Mandalorians. But this thing - you and him - feels different, somehow.
Back on the New Republic prison ship as he watched you fight Xi’an, he had to admit that he liked having someone to rely on. Someone to watch his back, and to step up and handle things by his side. He has always had to be the one to manage things. To push forth and act, be it to attack or to protect. It’s a rare relief to find someone just as capable. It was hard not to let his respect for you truly ingrain itself in his mind in that moment, as the sound of scuffling had filled the air.
The Mandalorians are warriors. That strength and skill is what Din was raised by, and what he is used to. It’s an aspect that he greatly honours and respects. Watching you then, it was impossible to ignore the wave of admiration that swept through him. It had been a rather impressive display.
The silence within the cockpit persists. At first, it is normal. Companionable, if still ever so slightly strained. When it drags on for a little too long, he glances back. The act happens right in time to catch sight of your eyes sliding closed. The kid is already fast asleep, leaning back with his little head resting against your stomach. One of his small arms hangs off the side of the seat. That metal ball is clasped loosely between his fingers.
Much of the purple tint to his cheeks has vanished. The poultice seems to be working. It was a smart idea.
The Mandalorian thinks about waking you, just to send you downstairs to your hammock. No one could deny that you deserve the rest. In the end, he decides not to. If you can sleep here, he will let you rest uninterrupted.
About an hour passes. Din focuses on flying the craft, basking in the silence, while you and the child slumber peacefully. The cockpit is dark and cool, though even under the layers of beskar, Din can feel the chill lingering in the air. It appears that you can too.
A small shiver runs down your frame, stirring the child reclining on your lap. That glinting metal ball slips from his hands. A loud clatter rings out as it strikes the ground. You awaken with a start, jolting upright stiffly. One hand immediately shoots to the hilt of where your blaster would hang. There’s nothing to reach for, as your utility belt is currently stored in one of the lockers downstairs. Realising the source of the noise, you settle slightly. A quick, rueful glance is thrown in the Mandalorian’s direction. As if you are a little embarrassed to have had such a reaction.
The ball rumbles across the ground, rolling back for the door. Locking an arm around the child, you lean out of your seat and stretch with the other to pluck it up. Din extends his own hand, and you press the little silver ball into his gloved palm. The movement is absentminded, but he cannot help but notice the difference in contact from when you first met. No longer do you immediately recoil distrustfully. While the touch is certainly not prolonged or extended, it is relaxed. Confident.
Your hand retreats to gently press against the child’s forehead. A wide, pleased grin splits your face, revealing white teeth. “Stars. He feels much cooler, Mando. That shit works wonders.”
Despite the good news, Din can’t help but chime in again. “Language. We’ve talked about this already.”
As soon as the words are out, he wants to recall them. After all, he is only just back in your semi-good graces. Knowing your temper, those words could have quickly tossed him right back to the metaphorical wolves. Thankfully, your current good humour persists.
“Sorry,” you chuckle, before leaning around to meet the child’s inquisitive gaze. His ears twitch happily, a toothy smile drawing his face. “Well, bug, you seem to be feeling a bit better. Have you learned your lesson? Going to stop gobbling up wild lizards now?”
“I’d put money on that being a ‘no,’” Din deadpans, the words accompanied by a wry shake of his head. “Kid never listens.”
“Ah,” you reply with a shrug. “This time it may stick. Stars above, I know that I won’t forget it.” A pause stretches. He can almost hear the gears in your mind turning, the words building cautiously in your throat. The usual struggle to decide whether or not to say something. Unexpectedly, that desire eventually wins out. “Despite only being around him for a few weeks, it’s kind of hard not to grow fond of him. Right?”
There’s a nervous edge to the statement, as if you’re not quite sure. As if you need him to tell you that it’s alright to feel this way. And so, he does. “Yeah. It is.”
You nod encouragingly to yourself, a bid to reassure that still-hesitant part of you. One that he can now see yearns to open up, but still struggles to figure out exactly how. It’s not guidance that he can provide. Being in any way vulnerable to another person is something that Din finds foreign also. Not for the first time, it’s hard for him to ignore the similarities that exist between the two of you.
In the reflection of the viewport, he can see the child shift in your lap, turning towards you. Those little hands raise, settling on the pendant hanging from your neck. You allow the distraction, instead lifting your own hand up to examine your thumb. The small crescent of a bite-mark lines the skin. An unfortunate result of trying to wrestle the child's mouth open to retrieve the lizard. Noticing the scrutiny of your digit, the kid pauses. Those little ears slant guiltily, and the playful motion of his hands still against the smooth lines of the necklace. Catching the reaction, your reassuring smile is projected back onto him once more. "Hey, don't worry about it. I've had worse."
Abandoning the pendant, the child reaches up to seize your thumb within his small fingers. You allow him to pull it down, that wrinkled head tilting to examine the tiny wound. His little fingers brush across it. A hiss escapes your lips as you yank it away. "Careful, bug. Don't go poking at it."
The child does not respond. It’s as if a small cloud of exhaustion has swept across him all of a sudden. His eyelids flutter, face drooping sleepily. You catch him with a small laugh, though a line of concern still furrows your brow. Din notes it at the same moment that you speak. "I might put him to bed. Give him a proper chance to rest."
"Why don't you take some time too?"
The sudden flare of desire in your eyes signals that you may be a little more receptive to this offer now than previously. That brief hour of sleep in the chair, while undoubtedly beneficial, would not be enough to make up for the sleepless night. And with the kid in better form, you are undoubtedly feeling a little bit more comfortable with the prospect.
The Mandalorian can last for a bit longer. Sure, he's tired too, but it won't overcome him. He would never let it.
"Are you sure?" you ask, a note of longing infiltrating your tone.
The Mandalorian nods. You brighten in tired optimism, and flash another pleased smile in his direction before rising to your feet. He turns to bid the child goodnight. The infant is already half-asleep, struggling to keep his eyes open. Not wanting to keep him from his rest, Din waves you both off quickly and turns back to the controls. He can see you appear once more on the camera screen to the side, dropping onto the hangar floor a little more sluggishly than usual.
The distant timbre of your voice floats up from the hangar as you disentangle the child’s fists from the collar of your top, carefully laying him down in his bed. The infant does not seem to want to let go, but you coax him to anyhow. He’s too tired to put up any real fight. The lid slides closed, hiding him from the view of the camera. Din watches you straighten with a tired sigh, one hand lifting to brush back the lock of hair hanging across your face, eyes shifting to glance at your hand as you do.
Then, something strange happens. A flicker of surprise crossed your expression. It’s gone in an instant, but rapidly followed by something else. The look is almost akin to suspicion. Still appearing uncharacteristically bewildered, your hand swivels before your eyes. As if you are searching for something. Din’s not quite sure what exactly you’re looking at, though the array of expressions have indeed piqued his curiosity.
Mouth pursing, your eyes lift to the camera. Even though you can't see him, Din still looks away. It feels too akin to being caught staring. The sounds of you climbing back up the ladder rungs ring out only moments later. Your shadow rushes over his arm. That, and the reflection of you in the viewport, signal your unexpected re-arrival.
"I thought that you were going to sleep," he comments, feeling a little on edge under the weight of your apprehension.
Tension has flooded the space. It’s not one that risks violence or argument, but one that weighs heavy all the same. Something about it is unduly expectant. As if the world is holding its breath, waiting to see what happens next.
It takes a few seconds before your reply comes. "I was. I… Um. I just wanted to ask you…" That uncomfortable, unsure lapse comes again. He can see your mirrored hands twisting together down at your front. The gesture appears almost nervous. It’s never been like you to be so visibly hesitant around him.
"What?" Din presses, feeling strangely uncertain also. It's not often that you restrain your thoughts. Except, of course, when it comes to your secrets. “Is everything alright?”
Your throat bobs as you swallow before finally blurting out the words. "Have you ever noticed anything weird about the kid?"
His shoulders immediately stiffen. Suddenly, Din is all too aware of your proximity. Of how your searching gaze scans his back, looking for any clues within his stance. There is no note of malicious intent in your expression, but Din can't help but feel reluctant all the same.
The kid… His abilities… This is not knowledge that he would impart lightly. He hasn't told you about the child's powers, and you've yet to have seen them in action. There's no way that you could know, that it could be what you were referring to. Unless... you do know something.
"Have you?" he responds, not going to be the one to answer the question first.
You cannot clutch your secrets so tightly, and then expect him to divulge one that he keeps. It doesn’t work like that. An age ticks by as he waits for an answer.
Finally, it comes. "No."
It's like a door slams closed. Din can't help but wonder what you would have said if he had answered differently. If you had. It feels a little too late to ask now. A reluctant step back, as both of you know that the other is not quite telling the truth. Your disappointment is tangible, mixing with his own regret.
"Alright," you speak again, an obvious attempt to sound relaxed and unbothered by the awkward turn of events. "Maybe I'll go to grab that little bit of rest now. Just… Shout if you need anything."
You vanish again, down onto the lower floor. He watches, unable to turn away this time. Under his helmet, his teeth worry at his lip. Part of him debates calling you back up to tell the truth. He doesn’t. Can’t quite bring himself to.
One of your hands extends as you walk, tugging the floating crib with you as you make your way over to your hammock. The lid of the spherical cot is closed, hiding the child slumbering within. Din tries to avert his gaze as you tug off the outerwear of your armour, stripping it off carelessly. It's hard not to see the motions, flickering in the corner of his visor. Your fingers work dexterously around those fine metal clasps, until all that remains of the vest you wear underneath. The length of the top hides the view of your underwear as a pair of dark leggings are then shimmied upwards. From there, you all but topple exhaustedly into the net of tarpaulin. It crinkles underneath you, and the sound echoes through the Crest.
The rising side of the fabric obscures your form momentarily. A hand reaches out over the edge - one of your arms - and begins to clumsily fish below. Din watches as your fingers brush the smooth metal of the child's bed. They settle there, running lightly over the surface, before your fingertips begin insistently nudging the sphere closer. The crib slides almost directly below the hammock. Din waits for your arm to retract. It doesn't. Just dangles down, resting gently atop the lid of the hovering sphere.
The action, so casually done, can’t help but burn into his retinas. Something about it is just so caring, uncharacteristic of the hard demeanour that you work so hard to maintain. It’s impossible not to look at that arm and feel himself marginally softening even further. Damn you.
Din stays up there until the asteroid field is finally cleared. A wave of exhaustion seems to hit him as the Crest glides out the other side. Now that he no longer has to focus, all those missing hours of sleep decide to make themselves known at once. He very nearly sinks into blissful sleep in the cockpit, but he is near desperate to be out of the place after so many hours cramped into that little room. Pushing himself upright, he all but staggers downstairs.
The lights are out, save for those one of two red bulbs that always illuminate the space. Your form remains unmoving inside of the hammock, arm still hanging down beside the child’s crib. No noises come from within the sphere either, and the stats on the side note his vitals as being relatively normal, even if his temperature is still slightly more elevated than normal.
Another dose of the poultice may be needed in a few hours.
Din makes his way to his bunk, pressing the keypad to slide the shutters open. It’s only then that he realises the child’s lizard-vomit is still staining the mattress. Too exhausted to clean it, he simply tugs it outside and drops it onto the ground. The cubby floor will be hard, but it’ll do for tonight. He’s slept in much more uncomfortable situations. The helmet stays on, as he wishes to keep the shutter to the bunk open. While those dim red lights do not provide much of a glow to see by, it’s enough for him to be uncomfortable with risking sleeping with his face bare.
It doesn’t take long at all for sleep to whisk him away. His dreams are blank, exhaustion even having overtaken his subconsciousness. There have been plenty of occasions in which he has had far less sleep, but the worry of today has proved truly draining. His hazed mind resounds with a distant, agitated hum. It’s not the most fruitful rest, and of course, is broken before too long. One can’t expect proper rest with a sick kid around.
The garble for attention comes in the middle of the night. Din wakes blearily, his eyes feeling like sandpaper. One of his hands raises to rub them, but instead counters solid beskar. Being so disoriented after the abrupt awakening, it takes a second to remember why he feels so much lower within his bunk than usual. 
Ah yes. The child’s stomach upset. The discarded mattress that he’ll probably have to replace. Oh well. It was becoming time for a new one anyhow.
His head lifts, eyes scanning for the distant cry. Just a few metres away, the tuft of your scalp appears above the rise of the hammock. Your hair is mussed, eyes blinking rapidly as the rest of your face lifts into disorientated view. Below you, that noise comes again from inside the crib. The child is awake, and he’s not happy.
What else is new?
Din watches as you reach down, pressing the button banded below the lid. It slides back to reveal the upset kid within. Through the night-vision in his helmet, he can see your head gently shake. Your words are a quiet mumble, a hush that is likely due to a lingering fog of sleep and the desire not to wake Din. “You alright, bug? Do you need some more of that poultice?”
It’s not any affirmation that Din knows, but you respond all the same. “Okay, fine. I’ll get it. Just give me a second.”
Fabric rustles as you clamber out of the hammock. That vest is all twisted around your side, hugging the curves of your body. Your arms lift in a stretch as a yawn slowly bursts from your mouth. One hand raises to slap across your lips, blocking it from view as you stumble over to the lockers, bare feet padding across the ground. The nearest cupboard lazily creaks open, and you lift that silver flask free. That hand moves from your mouth to the back of your neck, holding it as your head rolls stiffly. He can hear the gentle crack of your joints from across the room. The child whimpers impatiently once again.
“It’ll just be a second,” you reassure him softly. “Don’t wake Mando.”
“Bit late for that,” Din rasps.
He sits upright, legs dangling out the ledge of the bunk. Beskar creaks with the motion. Upon hearing his voice, your head swivels towards him. A tired smile shrugs your lips momentarily upward. His head dips into another brief nod in response. His usual form of acknowledgement.
You go back to unscrewing the lid of the flask. A soft splattering fills the air as some of the sludge drops back into the cup. The child watches attentively back in his cot, one hand resting on his growling stomach. Its upset rumbling can be heard halfway across the hold.
“Do you need a hand?” Din mutters, trying to fight the urge to slump back down in exhaustion. His back is sore and aching, probably due to resting on the hard floor.
“It’s fine,” you answer, waving him off. “I’ve got this. Almost done, anyhow.”
Obediently, Din lies back down. Still, his head is angled to the side, watching you and the child. After putting the flask down upon the ledge, you make your way - still a little unsteadily - back to the kid. His scrabbling fingers all but snatch the poultice from your extended hands, slurping it down ravenously. Your fingers lift to pinch against your nose, trying to ward off the smell. Din can even get a whiff of it creeping under his helmet too.
You weren’t kidding. The stuff is fucking vile.
The child finishes his medicine quickly. You take back the cup, screwing it back atop the flask, before turning to go back to bed. His arms raise as you brush past the hovering sphere, a shrill command of nonsense bursting from his lips. You pause, face angling down at him.
“Come on, kid. You need to go back to bed.”
His insistent chirp rings out again. That usual determination is furrowing his little brow. There will be no room for argument.
“Fine,” you sigh, plucking him out of the cot.
In a smooth motion, you collapse back into the hammock with the child clutched to your chest. The fabric creaks, swaying with the momentum. Din notices how the motion has your eyes sink closed, struggling to stay awake. The child lets out another whimper, forcing them to flutter halfway open again. A soft comfort, sounding half-dazed with tiredness, hisses from your lips. “Ssh. It’s alright. You’ll be fine. Relax.”
But the child will not. That earlier dose has worn off, and this last one has yet to take effect. Your hand absently strokes down his back, attempting to lull him to settle. One of his fists raises to grasp hold of your pendant, his legs kicking with discomfort. Your soft sigh billows across the hushed space.
The Mandalorian can see your eyes turn up towards the ceiling, debating something. It takes a few seconds before you nod to yourself. Your hold on the child adjusts, snuggling him closer, as a gentle song hums from your lips to fill the quiet hangar.
Dins stills, eyes rovering across the roof of his bunk as the wavering tune washes over him. There’s an uncertainty to the melody, as if you are struggling a little to recall it at first. The child stills atop your chest. Din can see his large eyes widen. How his eyes prick, listening intently. A slight waver fills your tone as you forcefully continue, trying your best to sound relaxed even though your nervousness is obvious. The apprehension is still somewhat muted by the tiredness, which is still apparent in the hazed fluttering of your eyes.
The tune is soft and sweet. If not a little haunting. It’s a melody that sounds old and familiar, one that has been passed down from generation to generation. As it flutters onward, your murmuring becomes slowly steadier. As if the memories are trickling back in.
Although no words are uttered, visions dance before Din’s eyes. Ones of rolling hills, green forests, and grey skies. The brush of cold rain across skin, and the trees alive with the rustling chill of the moss-scented breeze. He has never heard this song before, but it seems familiar all the same. In the way that all lullabies are.
You finish, lapsing into silence. The child lies peacefully atop your chest, eyes closed. His little body rises and falls with deep breaths. Din thinks that you might go to return him to his crib. You don’t. Instead, your eyes, filled with a far-away sadness, rest upon the ceiling. There’s a downward twist to your mouth.
Something about it compels him to speak softly. “Nice song.”
He nearly holds his breath. That quiet felt sacred, in a way. To break it was not a crime, but it signified a shift. A desire to comfort you in what appeared to be a melancholy moment. His gaze flickers nervously to the ceiling, and then right back to you.
Your head has turned toward him and a tiny smile adorns your lips. It is accompanied by a half-whispered response. “My nursemaid used to sing it when I was young.”
He shifts in place, sliding his hands up to rest behind his head. Although his gaze lifts to the dark ceiling of the bunk, his attention is still very much on you and your words.
“Your nursemaid?” he asks, uncertain if he has actually heard it right.
There is a beat of silence before you respond. “Yes.”
Din swallows, adjusting himself to drop his eyes back towards you. He can just about see your form over the rim of the visor. Your gaze is still on him, and your expression is almost nervous. The air is expectant as you wait for his response. It comes a few moments later.
“Not many commoners have one of those.”
He doesn’t expect to get an answer. Part of him anticipates that you will change the topic. Maybe even bid him goodnight and twist your head away. Din knows by now that you don’t like to talk about your past, for reasons that are both understandably cautious and obviously painful.
It’s a surprise when you do answer, though you offer a soft acknowledgement instead of any further information. “You’re right. They don’t.”
It’s hard not to press further. Especially with this little concession. Feeling your gaze roving over his helmet, Din continues curiously. “What were you? A politician’s daughter? Some type of princess?”
That last one is not exactly serious. A stab at the far-reaching to make the question seem less intense in the all-consuming quiet of the hold. That’s why your reply causes him to still, hands splaying down by his side: “Something like that.”
There’s no jest to the words, just a strained longing, and a hint of regret. The air grows thick again, the hushed world taking on a new stillness. Din swallows, mind working furiously. “And how does ‘something like a princess’ end up as a bounty hunter on Nevarro?”
This time, a rueful chuckle hushedly escapes your lips. “With a shit tonne of bad luck.”
Din smiles to himself, head tilting so that his eyes clearly meet yours through the darkened visor. You smile back at him, not knowing that you are, and your expression is both a little wry and rueful, but warm and soft all the same.
“Going to elaborate?” he breathes.
This time, he knows for sure what the answer will be. You’ve already given more than you ever have before. This tentative trust is a slow process. It’s not going to happen in one night. That fact is only gently solidified when another tiny laugh whispers through the hold, caressing over him.
Your voice holds a smile as you hushedly murmur your response. “Probably not.”
Now, the silence that resumes is pleasant and reassuring. It’s enough to draw you in and lull you back to sleep. Din lingers in on the verge of unconsciousness, mind still unable to completely let go of your earlier admission. His unfocused eyes rove over your face, scanning the lines of your nose and cheekbones, trying to reconcile it with a dynasty. With royalty.
It just doesn’t feel real, and yet, he heard the vulnerable truth in your words. ‘Something like a princess.’ What does that even mean? But…
Another thought occurs to him. You shared a secret. It was only small, but it somehow feels like enough. His tongue brushes nervously over his lips as his whisper stirs the air, murmuring your name. No response comes. Din shifts upright, elbows pressed against the hard surface below, in quiet preparation to tell you what he knows about the child. Instead, he stills, realising that you are already fast-asleep.
With a sigh of defeat, Din settles back down. Another day, perhaps.
He remains lost in that thought, dancing between blissful rest and hazy wakefulness, until the urge to do something compels him to move. Lying there simply isn’t cutting it, and he hasn’t used the refresher in hours.
Clambering out of the bunk, he makes his way into that little room. With the door locked, he takes a moment to tug off his helmet. In the greenish light of the mirror, he can see the ruffled strands of his hair, the tiredness shadowing the pits underneath his eyes. The lines on his face are a little more pronounced. Maybe a result of spending the last two stressful months on the run. He takes a few moments to brace himself over the sink, enjoying the refreshing sensation of the air across his face, before pulling back on his helmet and going about the rest of his business.
When Din steps back outside, he once again notes just how cold the Crest can get. His gaze lifts to where you still slumber amidst the gentle folds of your hammock, the sleeping child still half-curled underneath your chin. One of your arms is draped across his back, holding him steadily in place.
The scene is peaceful, and once again the Mandalorian feels the same tinges of  warmth as earlier. A sense of growing trust. The hopeful possibility of becoming something more than reluctant allies. Of someone that he can actually rely on. A partner. Maybe even a friend.
As Din watches, that shiver runs down your body again. Same as up in the cockpit. His eyes rove over your bare arms, the goosebumps prickling the skin there. You’re cold. He’s always brushed you off at any time where you’ve complained about the Crest’s chilly temperature, but this time he cannot.  
His hands rise up, reaching for the clasps of his gray, woollen cape. Taking a quiet step closer, he lifts the fabric into the air, allowing it to gently billow out and over your sleeping form. It drapes over the sides of the hammock, trailing in the air as the tarpaulin sways ever so slightly. His hands carefully lift the hem, tugging it upwards until it frames your shoulders. As he does, the side of his hand brushes against your arm. Your eyes flutter open in response, immediately coming to gently rest on his helmet. They stare there momentarily, caught in a tired confusion, before dropping down to take it in the makeshift blanket.
When your gaze lifts to his visor once more, that softness is back. His throat goes a little dry at that gentle, appreciative look. “Thanks Mando.”
Din ducks his head, trying to think of a response. All of a sudden, he's rather thankful for the helmet. It's hiding the red, uncomfortable tinge warming his cheeks. He doesn't usually do these things. It’s not normal.
Your keen eyes watch him, and he can’t just say nothing. Spinning sharply on his heel and striding away, he throws the uncertain response back over his shoulder. “Don’t mention it.”
And everything in him hopes that you won’t.
A/N: GUESS WHAT? The forever amazing @abeneplaceto7​ drew a scene from this chapter. Please click here to go and check out her immaculate portrayal of Din watching Nomad cradle Grogu on the security feed and show some love! 
Honestly, it’s exactly how I envisioned it in my mind. This astounding artist puts so much thought and effort into her work, and I am truly grateful that she chose to grace me with her talents. She is also just an awesome human who I am delighted to call a friend.
From now on, chapter drops will happen simultaneously across Tumblr and AO3, so you don’t need to be worried about getting it later. The only reason that AO3 was ahead to begin with was that the first twelve or so chapters had already been posted there before I decided to start putting them up on Tumbr too! However, this does mean that updates will space out. So far I’ve been managing once a week for new chapters, but do not have a set schedule.
Ko-Fi: Buy Me a Coffee
Thank you for all the support so far! If any of you would consider reblogging if you liked the chapter, that would also be much appreciated as it would help spread the fic to more people who may enjoy it! :)
To be notified of updates, please fill out my Taglist Form!
Tagged: @dankest-farrik @xgoldenjenny​ @mysticalpersontaco @greatcircle79 @1am9root6 @thatonedindjarinfan @welcometothepedroverse @joe-keerie @ayamenimthiriel @all-along-the-resolute @farfromjustordinary @zapsalis-d @dudeodin @marvelranger @tanzthompson @jooordanharrrop  @misssilencewritewell
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clints-lucky-arrow · a month ago
clints-lucky-arrow main masterlist
Welcome, weary travellers! 💙
Thanks for stopping by to check out my Main Masterlist. I decided that it was probably time to start showcasing things a little. Everyone else is doing it, and I enjoy sharing my work.
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If you like my stuff, you also have the option to buy me a coffee via Ko-Fi!
And if you wish to be notified of uploads, please fill out my Taglist Form!
Please see all of my active stories below: 
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Din Djarin (The Mandalorian)
The Nomad - Din Djarin/The Mandalorian x F!Reader
“Running low on both credits and options, you return to Nevarro to enquire into the available Guild contracts. On your way to the cantina, your path crosses with that of an irrate Mandalorian. Out of the resulting conflict, a strained partnership slowly forms. Relationships change, and two people who have been alone their entire lives inch closer together.”
Read on Tumblr
Read on AO3
Obi-Wan Kenobi (Star Wars)
Fervour - Obi-Wan x F!Sith!Reader
“The orders are clear: Capture the escaped Queen of Naboo. Kill those who accompany her. But on the harsh sands of Tatooine, one encounter changes everything. The Force works in mysterious ways, and an inexplicable bond between a conflicted Sith and resolute Jedi may be the most mysterious of all.”
Read on Tumblr
Read on AO3
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Helmut Zemo (MCU)
The Serum -  Baron Helmut Zemo x F!Reader
“It all can go wrong in the blink of an eye.”
Read on Tumblr
The Remnants - Baron Helmut Zemo x F!Reader
After Zemo flees through the tunnels of Latvia, he comes face to face with a familiar group, and their unexpected leader. Little does he know that he is not the only master manipulator currently inhabiting Riga.
Read on Tumblr
The Darksaber - Baron Helmut Zemo x GN!Reader
“After years of searching, Baron Helmut Zemo holds aloft the mythical Darksaber for the first time. Except there is more to the blade than simply meets the eye.”
Read on Tumblr
Little Hours -  Baron Helmut Zemo x Reader
Every night, you wake to find the other side of the bed cold. There’s only one other girl that Helmut would rather spend the night with, and you can’t begrudge her that at all.
Read on Tumblr
Call It A Hunch - Baron Helmut Zemo x F!Reader
“A questionable phone call from Bucky leads you to an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of Berlin. Upon arriving, you discover that your friends have gotten up to a little more mischief than expected in your seven week absence.”
Zemo-centric Prequel to ‘Call It A Night.’
Read on Tumblr
Read on AO3
Call It A Night - Baron Helmut Zemo x F!Reader (Alternate Endings for Bucky & Sam)
“After a night of drinking and partying in Madripoor, your small group returns to Sharon’s apartment. Caught between the attentions of three vastly different men, a choice has to be made. Which one do you want?”
Read on Tumblr: Chapter One
Read on Tumblr: Chapter Two - Baron Helmut Zemo (Choice Ending).
Read Full Work on AO3
Bucky Barnes (MCU)
Call It A Night - Bucky Barnes x F!Reader (Alternate Endings for Sam & Zemo)
“After a night of drinking and partying in Madripoor, your small group returns to Sharon’s apartment. Caught between the attentions of three vastly different men, a choice has to be made. Which one do you want?”
Read on Tumblr: Chapter One
Read on Tumblr: Chapter Three - Bucky Barnes (Choice Ending)
Sam Wilson (MCU)
Call It A Night - Sam Wilson x F!Reader  (Alternate Endings for Zemo & Bucky)
“After a night of drinking and partying in Madripoor, your small group returns to Sharon’s apartment. Caught between the attentions of three vastly different men, a choice has to be made. Which one do you want?”
Read on Tumblr: Chapter One
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Warm Hearth - Laszlo Kreizler x F!Reader (The Alienist)
“As a storm tages outside, you spend a quiet night in with your husband.”
Read on Tumblr
Tuesday Afternoon - Laszlo Kreizler x F!Reader (The Alienist)
“You don’t like people touching you. Doctor Kreizler knows this. With time and patience, he becomes the only exception.”
Read on Tumblr
Fate, I Guess - Leonard “Bones” McCoy x F!Reader (Star Trek)
“Sometimes people have to never meet in-order to come together. All that a love story might need is countless missed connections, a well-used book, and some spilled coffee. Fate can be a strange thing.”
Read on AO3
The Instructor - Gary “Eggsy” Unwin x F!Reader (Kingsman: The Secret Service)
“After losing someone extremely important to your life, you get saddled with an exceptionally unwanted job: To train the new candidates to replace Agent Lancelot. Trouble is, you don’t see much potential in any of them. But even as a know-it-all Kingsman agent, people can still surprise you. And, as someone once said, posh girls love a bit of rough. Even if it takes them some time to realise it.”
Read on AO3
Continuum - Mike Munroe x F!Reader (Until Dawn)
“After the events on Mount Washington, Michael Munroe is a wreck. With constant nightmares and an alcohol abuse problem, that night of horrors left him with some issues. Input one bruised and bleeding girl showing up on his front doorstep demanding answers, and he's right back in square one. In the place he and his friends swore they would never return to again. His therapist had said he needed to confront his issues head on. This was probably not what she meant.”
Read on AO3.
I do have more on AO3 than shown on this list, but included these specifically as I plan to update them soonest. Feel free to take a look through my other content! 
Also potentially upcoming are the following stories. Likely once I have some WIPs finished off:
Geralt of Rivia x F!Reader (The Witcher)
Lambert xF!Reader (The Witcher)
Joel Miller x F!Reader (The Last of Us)
Poe Dameron x F!Reader (Star Wars)
Armitage Hux x F!Reader (Star Wars)
I’m always curious to see what people are interested in, so don’t be afraid to drop a line into my ask-box if one of those stories appeals to you! No promises, but I will keep it in mind. :)
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clints-lucky-arrow · a month ago
The Nomad - Chapter Fourteen (Din Djarin/The Mandalorian x Reader)
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SUMMARY: Despite your apprehension, the Mandalorian talks you into partaking in an off-the-grid job for criminal Ranzar Malk. The resulting brush with your newfound companion’s volatile past aids in futher strengthening your developing partnership.
Enemies to Lovers. Slow Burn. Eventual Smut. Morally Grey MC. Established Star Wars Character as Parent.
TRIGGER WARNINGS: Explicit Language. Graphic Violence and Injury. Imprisonment. Familial Abuse (Non-S*xual). Childhood Trauma. Parental Death.
Ko-Fi: Buy Me a Coffee
Word Count: 10k
A/N: This one was long. Writing it was absolute torture, and I’ll be happy never to watch Season 1 Episode 6 again. I really hope that you guys enjoy this chapter, it took a lot of effort!
ALSO - I’ve been having some trouble with tags recently. If you are on the tag list and not being notified, please let me know.
The Razor Crest’s hangar opens with a hiss, somewhat drowning the uncertain timbre of your voice. "I don't like this, Mando." 
"Those credits you got on Tatooine won't last much longer. This job is under the radar. It could be a while before we get something else as good." There is a finality to his tone that leaves no room for argument. All the same, you can read the tension in his beskar-clad shoulders, the caution in his rigid back. “Just stay together.”
Eyes fall upon you as the ramp lowers to the ground. The Mandalorian starts walking, and you move with him, keeping steady at his side. A taut silence stretches between you both. Not aimed at one another, but a product of the situation. The platform shudders once more underneath your stride, before you step off and onto the solid floor of the space station. You fight the urge to turn and glance back up at the hold, towards where the child rests within Mando’s enclosed cubby.
An arm jarring into your side snatches back your attention. With a seething glare, a dishevelled woman shoves past you. She is pushing some kind of trolley. A golden tooth glints from the fore-front of her sneered mouth. Next second she is gone, but another unkempt figure takes her place. And then another, and another, all milling through the cramped loading area that you are trying to navigate.
Their scrutiny is thick and unrelenting. It reminds you of being back on Nevarro in the early days, wading among the sinister inspections of hardened criminals. There is no doubt that that’s what these people are too. 
“Mando,” a voice calls from somewhere to the left. “Is that you under that bucket?
Your companion adjusts his course, elbow lightly bumping into yours as he turns slightly to respond to the summons. No murmur of apology leaves his lips. Not here, where such words would be viewed as weakness. It’s a fact that you recognise better than most. You shift with him, attention falling on a short man with a long, scraggly beard who is watching you both. His expectant eyes had first rested on the Mandalorian, but now he turns to you and pointedly lifts a brow. Mando steps in-front, blocking his view, and the man recoils momentarily before extending a hand.
“Ran,” he greets, not sounding overly enthusiastic.
“I didn’t know if I’d ever see you in these parts again,” the other man -  Ran,  as he is apparently called - replies. “Good to see you.” His attention turns you to you as he shifts, inclining his head to look around the Mandalorian’s stoic form. “And who’s this? There were no plus-ones included in the invitation, Mando."
"She's with me,” the Mandalorian answers firmly, taking a step back to draw level with your side. “And she stays with me.”
Unabated curiosity flares in Ran’s eyes. “Your girlfriend?”
A snort bursts from underneath your mask before you can stop it. The sound captures both Ran and Mando’s attention and they turn towards you. The Mandalorian’s helmet tilts, and from the rigid set of his shoulders it is apparent that your snicker may have irritated him slightly. You can’t help but feel marginally uncomfortable at their combination scrutiny, but hold firm with a languid shrug. “He wishes. No. I’m not his girlfriend. We travel together.”
“So you have a partner,” Ran baits, gaze shifting between the two of you as he works to further decipher the dynamic. “Funny. When you left us, you said that you wanted to work alone.”
“Things change,” Mando responds guardedly. “That was years ago.”
Ran nods, gesturing for you both to fall into step as he starts walking. You do, with the Mandalorian situated in the middle. You have to lean forward slightly to overhear the conversation. There’s just so much background noise. Shouts, clanging, the screech of metal. Still, your keen ears can make out his following words. 
“I was a little surprised when you reached out to me. You know… Because I… I hear things. Like that maybe things between you and the Guild aren’t working out.”
You have to fight not to visibly stiffen. Slightly concerned, your gaze flickers to the Mandalorian. He is still, silent for a few seconds, before finally responding. “I’ll be fine.”
“Sure, you’ll be fine.” Ran’s dark eyes flit back at you again, as they seem to every few moments. “Especially since you’ve got that partner now, right? You got a name?”
Your tone is even and unwavering as you respond. “Nomad.”
His head tilts, a sardonic grin curling his mouth. “Is that your  real  name, darling?”
Darling. Your hands tighten into fists down at your side. “It is to you.” 
Your response comes at the exact same time as another, sharp words overlapping.
“Don’t call her darling,” the Mandalorian interjects simultaneously. His voice is low, a half-growl. “And you know the policy, Ran. No questions.”
With an exaggerated sigh, Ran’s hands lift in surrender. “You’re right. Apologies Mando. Nomad.”
Your teeth have clamped down on the inside of your cheek, biting the flesh in an attempt to control your annoyance. Condescending bastard. You could kill him in his sleep. A gloved hand brushes the crook of your elbow. Mando. You can hear his words without him needing to utter them aloud. Calm down. 
It is only then that you realise that the crew members around have stilled to watch the exchange. Their hands rest tensely on any items that could be used as weapons. Obviously, they are anticipating a potential skirmish. You have to force your stance into something less aggressive, allowing your arms to hang loosely from your side.
Ran continues, detailing the job as you listen in sullen silence. It sounds simple enough. Or rather, as simple as these things ever are. One of their associates got caught by competitors, captured, and Ran has put together a group to get him out. It was a five person job, but he will begrudgingly allow you as the sixth. The way he says it, it’s almost as if he expects you to thank him. Not a chance. It’s not like he is offering any more money for an extra body, and now both yourself and Mando are on the chopping block if things go south. 
The kicker comes when he reveals that what he really needs is the Razor Crest. Stars. Everyone is so obsessed with that relic. 
“The ship wasn’t part of the deal,” Mando cuts in, protective as ever over his vessel.
Ran shrugs, expression relaxed. He knows that you both don’t have another choice. “The Crest is the only reason I let you back in. Besides, a trade for a trade. You get to bring Nomad, and we get to use the ship. An even deal.”
The Mandalorian is silent in response. Underneath the privacy of your mask, your teeth worry at your lip. Fuck. The kid is still on there. It’s not exactly like you can just leave him here either. Ran is not like Peli, and you wouldn’t trust him with the infant. Your arm brushes against Mando’s, a movement that looks almost natural to any onlookers, but conveys a silent statement similar to his earlier action. We’ll deal with it. 
The team is introduced. Upon catching sight of the first member, cold shock runs through your body. You know him. You fucking know him. But his eyes pass right over you to linger on the Mandalorian. He doesn’t recognise you. Thank the stars.
“Mayfeld is going to run point on this job,” Ran supplies, gesturing to the other man. 
He is balding, shorter than Mando, with the makings of a red beard growing on his face. The energy radiating from him is agitated, competitive now that he is assessing your companion. You get the feeling that he is trying to make his dominance clear. Ran continues on, ignoring the silent posturing between his right-hand man and your so-called partner. “Well, Mayfeld is one of the best triggermen I’ve ever seen. Former Imperial sharp-shooter.”
“That’s not saying much,” Mando remarks.
Mayfeld, who had been walking away, rounds back, both instantly and angrily. “I wasn’t a Stormtrooper, wise-ass.”
You hide your laugh behind a feigned cough. Ran motions you back toward the Crest. Mayfeld falls into place on the Mandalorian’s other side, muttering under his breath. You ignore him, gaze drawn to the hulking, crimson-skinned humanoid. He is absolutely huge, and carrying a crate of supplies as if it weighed nothing. Two stout horns spout from either side of his temple, dark in colour. A devaronian. It had been years since you had last seen one. 
Mayfeld introduces him as Burg. Drooping the crate, he looms before yourself and Mando, leaning in to sniff the air around your face. You hold firm, not allowing him to intimidate you. Upon gaining no reaction from either of you, he circles around to stand between Ran and Mayfeld. 
The droid is introduced next. It’s named Zero, which is probably the most basic moniker that one could think of. You refrain from commenting so. It probably wouldn’t be best to insult their originality in the middle of their decrepit base. Not with so many around, and a job still left to do. The droid in question approaches, and you note the Mandalorian tense ever so slightly. It leaves you confused for just a moment, until the memory of your arrival in Tatooine flashes before your eyes. Right. He doesn’t like droids, for whatever reason.
Mando rolls his shoulders and speaks again. “I thought you said that you had four.”
And just as he finishes the words, there is a knife at your throat as a female voice silkily chimes in. “He does.”
You react instantly. One hand seizes the arm gripping the knife, and your other elbow goes to pump back into the face of your assailant. But it meets nothing. The arm vanishes from your grip. A giggle sounds in your opposite ear and you spin, bracers activating as you slash wildly. Nothing comes into contact. Just the loose swing of your blade through the air. You falter, wild eyes casting around. They come to rest almost immediately on the twi’lek seated atop a crate a few metres away, one leg crossed coquettishly over the other. A malicious amusement lights her eyes as a knife twirls against her index finger. 
Anger and embarrassment surge. You lunge for her. Mando’s arm wraps around your waist, dragging you back. His touch has a sobering effect. Your struggling ceases almost instantly as you rip yourself away from him, shooting a furious glare as you straighten your clothes, retracting the blade. 
The twi’lek laughs, gaze flitting from the Mandalorian to yourself, before abruptly darkening in annoyance. She must notice something. You’re not quite sure what. He’s not even touching you anymore, just standing close with one of his hands hovering calmingly above your shoulder. Whatever it is, it has an instant effect on her mood.
“Hello Mando,” she remarks, pushing herself off the crate and sashaying forward. 
“Xi’an,” he responds stiffly.
There’s something about his tone. You get the feeling that she is familiar, and he is not exactly pleased to see her. Despite the inclination to turn your eyes to him and scan his body language for clues, you cannot tear your gaze from the twi’lek. Her posture screams menace, and the gleam in her eyes hints at something unhinged. She stalks closer, continuing to twirl that dagger between her fingers, and you bristle as the encroaching proximity.
“Tell me,” she continues, gazing shifting back to your companion, “why I shouldn’t just cut you down where you stand?”
And she lunges forward again, hissing like a serpent. This time you’re ready. Your hand seizes her wrist just before she can press the tip of her blade against his neck. A faint surprise flits across her face. The Mandalorian does not react, which you take to mean that this behaviour is not out of the ordinary. 
Xi’an - as he called her - laughs, baring sharpened teeth, and goes to retract her arm. You don’t let go. She pauses, head tilting, as your cold eyes bore into hers. Without changing your expression, you  squeeze.  Her lips twist in a slight wince of discomfort, her arm starting to shake before the knife finally clatters from her fingers. The others are watching with curiosity as the twi’lek rubs her undoubtedly sore wrist with her other hand, face twisted in anger. 
“You’re not nice,” she remarks with a pout. “I was only just playing.”
The response you give is cold, an attempt to copy the Mandalorian’s unbothered demeanour. “I’m a grown-up, darling. I don’t play games.”
Mayfeld and Ran laugh from somewhere behind. They are undoubtedly enjoying the display. The twi’lek seethes slightly, narrowed eyes running down your body, before she pointedly turns her shoulder toward you and steps in closer to the Mandalorian. He gives her the knife back, having picked it up from the ground. Seriously? The action has your jaw set in disdain.
“This is shiny,” Xi’an remarks, clacking the blade against his beskar plates. She is right up against him, and yet the Mandalorian does not move away. “You wear it well.”
Your brow rises at the familiarity of the action. Suddenly, their proximity seems a little too intimate. And is his refusal to budge to show that he will not be intimidated? Or is it because he is enjoying the contact? Whatever it is, it’s just bizarre. Mayfeld must think so too, as his face twists in disgust before remarking, “do we need to leave the room or something?”
That prompts Ran to chuckle, before offering an unexpected explanation. “Well, Xi’an’s been a little heartbroken since Mando left our group.”
Mayfeld leans in, a mocking expression on his face. “Awwh, you gonna be okay, sweetheart?”
“Oh, I’m all business now,” Xi’an remarks with coy severity, before angling the knife at the Mandalorian. “Learned from the best.”
Ran chooses to interject again. “Alright, lovebirds. Break it up until you get on the ship. Right now we don’t have much time.”
At their boss’s command, the others start to drift away towards the Crest. Xi’an pushes past you. She only pauses to look back and shoot the Mandalorian a sly wink. That pointed gaze then shifts to you. Her teeth bear into a snarl, showing off her elongated, pointed canines. Your brows lift coolly, maintaining the stare until she rolls her eyes and turns to leave. The Mandalorian steps up beside you, side brushing yours.
The look that you shoot him is both incredulous and exasperated. “You better not tell me that that’s your ex-girlfriend.”
Mando is up in the cockpit, keeping an eye on the droid. Of course, he would grow fixated upon the idea of it piloting the ship. This has left you downstairs, with Mayfeld, Burg, and Xi’an. Unfortunately. Arms folded defensively across your chest, you are leaning against the shutter of the Mandalorian’s bunk. Blocking them from getting anywhere near the sleeping child inside, even though they are not aware of his presence. Your eyes pass between the three of them distrustfully. 
“So Nomad,” Mayfeld calls, drawing your attention. His brow is furrowed slightly as he looks at you. You know exactly what he is about to say before the words leave his mouth. “Do I know you from somewhere?”
Before you can respond, something else happens. Movement catches in the corner of your eye. Xi’an is on the ground, upper body half-underneath the bench. Fabric rustles as her arm fishes around inside something. The sound is familiar. 
“Hey!” you bark, surging forward. 
“What’s this?!” Xi’an exclaims gleefully, drawing backwards before flouncing to her feet. 
That lunatic smile still bared upon her teeth, but you can hardly register that or the malicious gleam in her eyes. No. Your gaze is dead set upon her hands, which are clutching your metal cylinder. The little bitch had gotten into your pack.  
It takes every fucking iota of self-control not to lunge across the hangar floor and her apart by the lekku. Blistering warmth swells in the pit of your collarbones, as if the skin there is inflamed and burning. Your hands ball into tight fists down by your side, fingernails digging into your palms as a vicious internal battle wages to keep your face in some semblance of calm. “Put. It. Back.”
Her eyes flash as your taut tone betrays just how agitated you are. With an almost coy expression, she lifts it to her ear and gives a small shake. Metal rattles within, a muted thudding. Underneath the safety of your mask, your mouth twists into an animalistic snarl. Her hands settle on top of the container, and her shoulders strain as she attempts to peel it open. The lid does not budge. It won’t. While it has all appearances of a flask, a very specific combination of twists is required to open it. Despite the annoyance, a chuckle escapes your lips as she grows increasingly irritated, unable to pry it free.
“Oh, honey,” you simper. “You can’t even take off the  lid.  Is this why you need so many men around? Someone to open jars for you.”
The cylinder sails through the air. Your hand shoots up at the last moment to snatch it before it can hit the wall. Xi’an snarls, a guttural sound spilling from her throat. Behind you, the weapons panel slides open as Blurg’s bumbling fingers press into the panel on the wall. You are about to round on him too, to tell him to get the fuck away from the gear, but the Mandalorian’s hands settle on your shoulders. Given the commotion, you hadn’t heard him come down the ladder. 
Mando shifts you aside, swiftly lunging to grab Burg’s hand as the devaronian goes to touch the keypad again. The two begin to square up. Your eyes go to Xi’an. She stands in a near-crouch, almost salivating at the thought of violence. Tensing also, you square your shoulders, prepared to intercept her if a fight begins. 
To his credit, Mayfeld tries to diffuse the situation. “I’m a little particular about my personal space too. So let’s just do this job. We get in, get out, and Nomad and Mando don’t have to see our faces anymore.”
“That sounds good to me,” you reply curtly, staring Xi’an down.
Catching your seething look, the Mandalorian leans in and utters a low command. “Go upstairs. Keep an eye on the droid.”
Your arms folded across your chest stoically. “No.”
“Go.” The Mandarian’s order grates against your skin.
Your jaw sets. Around the hangar, the stares of the others in that group prickle your skin. The Mandalorian knows just as well as you do that your temper will boil over sooner rather than later. That initial encounter with Xi’an has already set you on the path to overload. Something about her just burrows underneath your skin. Your head jerks down into a shallow nod, annoyance lacing every inch of the movement. The rungs of the ladders are cold as you haul yourself up, the cylinder crammed underneath your armpit.
“Ah,” the droid - Zero - remarks as you slip into the cockpit. “You might want to secure yourself. We are almost there.”
“Thanks,” you mutter, slipping into the passenger seat and buckling yourself in. 
One hand raises, fingers slipping along the smooth edges of your pendant. A familiar gesture. Used as a calming motion by now, a way to feel close to Papa. The other hand drums against the container resting between your knees. 
A creak draws your attention as the droid leans forward, pressing the intercom.
“Dropping out of hyperspace now.” And he does instantly, without any further warning. You can hear the shouts below, the crashing and clattering. A sickening lurch twists your stomach as the Crest spins wildly. Fuck. It was enough to bring up your dinner, but thankfully all you had eaten in-advance was a dry ration bar. 
Zero speaks again. “Commencing final approach, now.” 
Your thighs squeeze together, holding the cylinder belonging in place. The edges dig harshly into your skin. The droid whips the ship into a wild spiral. Eyes squeezing shut, you fight against the uncomfortable roiling of your insides. 
“Cloaking signal, now.” 
That last spin is absolutely sickening. 
“Engaging coupling, now.” 
The vessel drops, letting out a low thud as it settles against the New Republic prison ship. A loud click can be heard as the boarding doors engage, settling atop one another and latching into place. 
“Coupling confirmed. We are down. Commence extraction now.”
You take a few seconds to catch your breath. Inhale. Exhale. Try not to retch. Uncoordinated due to the haze of dizziness tossing your senses, your hands fumble slightly as they open the clasp of your seatbelt. At the noise, the droid’s attention turns to you. 
“My biometric scanners show a sizable increase in your heart-rate.”
“I wonder why,” comes your sarcastic reply.
Giving him no further concern, youpause only to stuff the cylinder inside a locker just outside the cockpit before descending the ladder again. The first thing that you notice is the hangar is in absolute chaos. Items are strewn around, crates overturned. Must have been a rough ride down here. 
Shit. The kid.  
Your gaze fastens on the Mandalorian’s bunk, a bursts of fear filling your chest upon noticing that it’s fucking open. The horrifying images of him being tossed around the hold fill your mind as you whip around, casting desperately for that familiar little green face. There.
You’re barely aware of shoving past Xi’an and Burg. All that consumes your thoughts is the little infant in the Mandalorian’s arms. You pluck him out without a stopping or hesitating, scanning down his body for signs of injury. He looks a little perturbed, but that’s all. Those enormous dark eyes are still wide and attentive as they settle on your face. One small hand reaches out to grasp hold of your pendant.
“He’s alright.” Mando’s raspy voice murmurs against your ear. He is standing right beside you, hard torso brushing against the back of your shoulder. Close enough for you to feel the faint heat from his skin. One of his fingers lifts, brushing your arm as it glides past to settle in the grasp of the child’s other hand. 
The low comment that Mayfeld directs at Xi’an pricks your attention. “My mistake. I guess they made that thing.”
You don’t bother to respond, instead choosing too carefully bring the child back to the bunk. Heavy footfalls shadow your movements. Mando guards your back as Xia’an tries to encroach on your space again. He blocks her path with his own solitary and unyielding form. Despite the high-pitched giggle tinkling from her lips, the anger in the sound is palpable. You bid the infant a final, quiet goodbye, before locking the shutter. 
Once the Mandalorian has opened the ship door, Mayfeld is the first out of the exit and down into the prison vessel below. Noticing Xi’an tensing to be second, you surge past her. Your cloak bilows behind as you leap, landing with both knees bent and one palm flat against the ground. The twi’lek follows almost instantly, coming up from her roll to press a blade against your waiting neck. 
Having expected this, you only tilt your head and chuckle. “What are you going to do? Give me a paper cut?”
“Easy, ladies,” Mayfeld hisses. “I love a good catfight as much as the next man, but we’re here on business.”
“Then the pleasure will just have to wait,” Xi’an simpers.
Burg comes after, and is shortly followed by Mando. A few seconds lapsed between the two. When he dropped into the New Republic ship, you could sense his apprehension. Automatically, you shifted back, taking your place at his side. Stay together. That’s the agreement. You’ll have his back… And you trust him to have yours. At least, while it’s convenient for him to do so. 
The group sets off through the corridors. Mayfeld is on point, while yourself and the Mandalorian come up right behind him. Xi’an and Burg follow. You’re not exactly keen on the idea of having your back to them - especially to her - but there’s no time to argue. You are on the clock, as Mayfeld reminds you. There’s only so much time.
Prison cells line each of the walls. None bigger than a simple few metres, and most host some type of unwilling guest. Your hands raise to run over your mask, checking that it is in place before tugging your hood further down. It’s best to obscure as much of your face as possible. You never know who you could run across in a place like this. 
The aura of this ship is ripe with tension, a lingering unease that does not threaten to fade.
“I don’t like this,” the Mandalorian intones, and you murmur in agreement, blaster shifting between your fingers.
A prisoner lunges at the door of his cell, startling Mayfeld. It catches you by surprise too. Just a little. Xi’an slides forward to hiss at him, allowing another clear look at her pointed canines. Your gaze flickers from her to the Mandalorian beside you, trying to figure out how the fuck that had ever happened. It was like trying to work a math problem. You just couldn’t get it. 
Catching your curious look, his helmet tilts to the side. “What?”
You are just about to shrug him off when a small cleaning droid rounds the corner ahead, chattering happily to itself. It immediately halts upon catching sight of your group. You relax, knowing that this little creature poses no danger. Everyone else does too, lowering their weapons. All except one. 
Burg, who seems to be playing the stereotypical role of ‘dumb muscle’ all too well, ignores Mayfeld’s warnings to hold, and taunts the shuddering bot. It starts to flee, as anything would after a single look at him. That’s when he shoots it. The much larger security droids almost immediately round the corner. You hurl yourself backward, realising as it is too late that you are cowering in the same cell door frame as Burg. Immediately, you twist, searching for Mando. He’s not behind you. Maybe shielded against one of the others? There’s no way to peer out past the frame to see. Not with the bolts of red blaster fire passing so close. You focus on trying to return shots, but the angle is too narrow, and the last fucking thing that you want to do is get lean out and get hit. Again.  
The droids continue to converge, spelling out doom for all, until Mando silently strides around the corner behind them. He rushes forward with vicious intensity, sliding across the floor to slash the legs out of one droid, before knocking back another with a hard kick to its centre. His blaster raises, firing a perfect shot at the third. The other droid behind him lifts its weapon, and a blur of red sparks off his beskar armour. Shit. 
You scramble out of your hiding space, pelting forward. Up ahead, Mando swiftly rounds, dealing with the droid that shot him. As it falls, another takes its space instantly, roughly shoving him back into the door of a cell. One fist raises, trying to connect with his helmet. Both your feet lift from the ground as you leap, boots slamming into the droid holding him. The impact of both of your legs knocks it back into the lip of the corner. Landing in a half-crouch, you shoot upwards once again, bracer jarring through its thin metal skeleton and into its central processing unit. 
A blaster shot streaks past you, singing the side of your hood. Two other droids converge. The former goes to fire at you again, but the Mandalorian tosses a blade burrows into his head. Sparks burst at the impact, and it collapses back to the ground. Your blaster levels at the other, a single shot to the mass of wiring putting an end to its artificial life. 
It seems like it’s over, that the fallen droids must have been the bulk of those in the immediate area. Wrong.  A scarlett bolt pings off of your blade as another two fucking droids round the corner. Standing in the centre of the hall, you are exposed, immediately in their field of fire. They go to shoot, but an arm wraps around your waist. 
The Mandalorian flips you back over his shoulder, and you land heavily on the ground. His beskar-clad form kneels with his back to you, protecting your body from their shots. The flamethrower on his wrist activates. A roaring jet of fire streaks into the oncoming droids. You can feel the heat in the air. One bot falls, but the other still stands. Mando goes to rise, to take out the remaining loner with whatever means that he has left, but you abruptly sit up behind him, blaster hovering just above his shoulder, and fire. The last droid crumples to the ground. A few seconds of silence stretch out as you both catch your breath.
“I had it, you know,” he remarks dryly, rising to his feet. 
His hand extends downward. The material of his glove is rough against your palm as you slap your hand into his and allow him to pull you to your feet. A wry grin curves your lips, though he cannot see it underneath the confines of your mask. “I know.”
The others push past, and it’s only now that you realise that none had lifted a finger to help Mando. Apprehension rises once more. Burg shoves roughly past the Mandalorian’s shoulder, battering it aside. Your glare follows the devaronian’s back, jaw setting. Looking up at your companion, you pause before speaking hesitantly, jerking your thumb after Burg. “Utreekov.” Idiot.
Mando stiffens instantly, helmet jerking back towards you. “Since when do you speak Mando'a?”
Your shoulders rise and fall in a shrug, palms feeling a little warm. “I told you, I knew one when I was younger. Picked up a very limited amount of phrases. 'Idiot' is kind of a staple.”
His lack of a response causes your mind to spiral. Was this a mistake? It isn’t like you to willingly reiterate a secret. Maybe something about being here, stuck as eachother’s most trusted companion amongst a group of nefarious criminals, has prompted the desire to share. All the same, this unanticipated divulge feels so foreign that the urge to suddenly escape his company is overwhelming. 
You press ahead, following after Mayfeld and the others, only turning to throw another few words over your shoulder. “You coming?”
That provokes him to move. His footfalls ring behind you as you break into a near jog to catch up with the others in-front. The hallways are clear. Zero has already directed away the rest of the security alert. You arrive swiftly, joining the others just as the door to the control room slides open. The blaster is still in your hands, prepared incase of more droids inside. There are not. Instead, there is a man. Not what you had expected. He lunges upward from his chair, levelling his own small blaster at Mayfeld. Your muzzle automatically settles on his face.
“Stop!” the officer exclaims, an audible waver to his tone. “Just stop, right there.”
The Mandalorian brushes against your left side, just as Xi’an slides past your right. The tip of her knife teases the hardened leather armour crossing your stomach. You don’t deign to respond this time, and instead just focus on keeping your weapon steady upon the New Republic soldier.
The officer’s hand is shaking slightly, but he still does not relent. “You put down the blaster right now.”
There are five of you, and one of him. It’s not going to work. Unintimidated, your group presses further into the control room. You keep close to Mando, remembering the earlier mantra. We stay together. There is a prickling at the back of your neck that signals a rising tension, something soon to break. When it does, it would be best that you both are not separated.
“Nice shoes,” Mayfeld remarks, nodding at the white boots that the guard has on. Although his words and tone are polite, there is no mistaking the menace in his smooth stride. “Matches your belt.”
As if nothing more than a record stuck on repeat, the New Republic officer repeats his earlier words. His head darts nervously as your companions spread out around him. One on each side, trapping him in a tight circle. Burg and Xi’an laugh, salivating at his tangible fear. You remain composed and reserved. 
The Mandalorian, on the other hand, speaks up. “There were only supposed to be droids on this ship.” You can hear the apprehension in his voice.
He doesn’t want to kill this man. It’s… strange. You’ve watched him murder dozens. Yet here, he draws the line for some reason. Maybe because this man has not posed a direct threat to him. Or maybe, it’s simply petulance as this is not what he signed up for. That seems to be a running theme on this mission. 
Mayfeld does not answer at first, examining the flickering monitors instead. Undoubtedly he is looking for their arrested comrade. Whatever he is searching for, he seems to find it quickly. “Cell two-two-one. Alright. And now, for our well-dressed friend here.” His attention turns back to the New Republic guard, hand going to withdraw the blaster from his holster.
Noting the action, the man panickedly pulls something free of his own belt. It’s small, pale, and rectangular. Upon catching sight of it, Mayfeld’s face immediately drops into something more serious. His earlier malicious playfulness has fled instantly. Your back stiffens as you recognise it too. A tracking beacon. Fuck.
“Woah, okay. Easy. Easy, egghead. Put that down. Put that down, come on. Put that down, now!”  Mayfeld’s last word is a roar, and this time his blaster does lunge up to fix on the soldier again.
“Easy!” Mando shouts, before forcing his tone into something more conciliary. “Nobody has to get hurt. Just calm down.”
“What is that thing?” Burg asks, clueless as ever.
“Tracking beacon,” you supply, keeping your voice even. 
“If he presses that thing, we’re all done,” Mayfeld adds in. “A New Republic attack team will hone in on our signal and blow us all to hell. Put it down.”
“Are you serious?” Xi’an asks, her face for once lacking it’s usual contemptuousness.
“Yes, I’m serious,” Mayfeld snaps back. 
Two start to bicker. Mayfeld rounds on Xi’an. It’s distracting, and a little irritating to say the least. You don’t trust either of them, and so your eyes jump between them and the New Republic officer, not completely able to focus on one or the other. 
That’s the thing about criminals. You’re all a volatile bunch. 
The Mandalorian continues to try to reason with the latter, to convince him to put the tracking beacon down. You can understand the young man’s indecision. If he presses the button, he’s dead as there is no reason to keep him alive. If he puts it down, he’s lost his leverage, and then he’s dead too. Mando just doesn’t seem to realise this.
“Look,” he says, sliding his blaster back into its holster and holding up his hands to signal that he is not presenting a threat. “Put it down. Just put it down.”
“Are you crazy?!” Mayfeld retorts sharply.
“Shut up,” Mando tells him, before turning his attention back to the terrified man. “What’s your name?”
The response comes in a stammer. “Davan.”
“Davan,” the Mandalorian repeats. “We’re not here for you. We’re here for a prisoner. If you let us go about our job, you can walk away with your life.”
“No he wont,” Mayfeld retorts, just as you expected.
The Mandalorian’s arm jerks, blaster levelling at the criminal. Mayfeld’s second gun lands on him in return, the first still aimed at the officer. Immediately, your gun refocuses to Mayfeld. Burg’s changes to point at you. Yours switches to answer Burg’s threat. 
The room grows tense, threat of violence looming. A shoot-out in such a cramped space is not ideal. While you personally don’t have many qualms about killing the New Republic officer, Mando does, and you are here with him and not them.
“Get that blaster out of my face!” Mayfeld roars, his anger obvious.
A fight seems imminent. Surprisingly - or unsurprisingly, considering the method - Xi’an brings the situation to an abrupt halt. Her knife flicks through the air, impaling the guard. He clatters backward into the controls, before immediately slumping to the ground. As dark an idea as it is, you’re a little glad for her action. At least it’s over with now. But that relief is short-lived as Mayfeld notices the blinking tracking beacon on the ground. 
The button was pressed. It’s active.
The comms unit crackles, Zero’s voice filling the line. “Zero to Mayfeld. Zero to Mayfeld. I’ve detected a New Republic distress signal homing in on your location. You have approximately twenty minutes.”
Xi’an shrugs, apparently less bothered than you are. “We only need five.”
“Come on,” Mayfeld shouts, the urgency in his voice apparent. “Let’s go! Move, move move!”
You do. Urgency pumps adrenaline through your veins. The beating of your heart has kicked up, and you can feel blood thudding in your ears. Fear accompanies it, growing at the back of your throat. The last fucking thing that you need is to be caught by the damn Republic. 
Your boots pound across the solid floor of the prison ship, rapid pace keeping level with that of the others. Another security droid is encountered in the next corridor. This one is far bulkier than the first models. Burg lunges forward with a shout of fury, smashing it to cyber-death before tossing it into another model. The resulting explosion lights the corridor.
The rapid hurry continues. Numbers flash by your eyes as you rush past the cells. Two-one-eight. Two-one-nine. Two-two-zero. And finally, two-two-one. Mayfeld lurches to halt, scrambling to unlock it. Yourself, Mando, and Burg face outwards, keeping an eye for any more security personnel. A few tense moments pass, and then a hiss of air buffets the back of your cloak as the door behind slides open. You turn, curious about the prisoner emerging from the red-lit interior. At your side, the Mandalorian stiffens.
“Qin,” Mando greets coldly. 
A male twi’lek steps into the corridor. “Funny, the man who left me behind is now my saviour.” His skin boasts the same pale purple hue as Xi’an’s. The tone of his voice is menacing, and his elongated canines are bared. Crossing the threshold, he leans into the Mandalorian’s face and growls a sinister greeting. “Mando.”
Hatred simmers between them. You tense, leaning in, watching this Qin in the event of an attack. Too distracted, you fail to consider the threat from behind. Xi’an’s hands collide with your back, sending you stumbling into the cell. Falling against the wall, you twist immediately, blaster rising to fire back. Your shot goes wide as the Mandalorian’s body collides with yours, Burg having tossed him in after you. His heavy impact knocks the air from your lungs as you go down in a sprawl, that heavy beskar-clad body atop yours. The red beam from your gun ricochets wildly, pinging off the cell interior like a ball in a Canto Bight slot machine. 
The Mandalorian scrabbles atop you, arms encasing your head, cuirassed chest squishing your nose. The rebounding shot finally impacts against his shoulder plate. His body jerks in a painful spasm, knee digging into your thigh. The blast finally abates against his hard armour. He scrambles unceremoniously off you, cursing wildly. Your chest rises abruptly as a sharp inhale is drawn into your aching lungs. You can hear the shouts of the others as they retreat down the corridors. 
The bastards double-crossed you both, and have left you to die.  
Xi’an’s shout rings out the clearest. “You deserve this!”
It’s likely not aimed at you, but coincidentally probably also applicable.
Finally able to speak, you manage to rasp out. “I told you that I didn’t like this.”
Mando doesn’t respond, too busy casting around for a way out. You rise also, snatching up your blaster from where it fell. The Mandalorian does not turn to look at you. Knowing better to push for a response, you busy yourself with the same action, searching for a route of escape. 
There are no cracks in the walls, no air ducts that would fit either of you. No weakness in the structure of the door, and the hinges are screwed on tight. You draw back with panicked eyes, hand reaching into the hood of your cloak to rake through your hair. “Mando, I can’t-”
He lifts a finger to where his lips would be underneath the helmet, cutting you off. Your mouth snaps shut instantly. His head tilts to the side, as if listening. You follow the motion, hearing nothing at first. But then… Footsteps. 
The robotic clank of a security droid. One of his hands drops to the opposite wrist, pressing the keypad on his own wrist bracer. The point of his fibercord whip juts forward on the notch of his wrist, preparing for launch. Instantly understanding what he means to do, your back presses against the opposite corner at the cell door. The droid jangles past, not noticing the two bodies inside the space. When it pulls slightly in-front, Mando fires. 
The whip embeds itself into the droid’s neck, and with a grunt, the Mandalorian pulls. It crashes forward against the outer-side of the cell door, struggling against his control. He doubles over, yanking the cord taut and dragging the scuffling bot off the ground. One of its arms angles back, pointing a blaster into the open ridges of the cell door. You lunge, bracers activating, and shear the hand off before the droid can fire. Black ink spurts, splattering across your clothes. Not pausing to assess, you twist and fire out the gap in the door. 
The close-range shot shatters the droid’s head, and it slumps to the ground with a loud crash. Mando stoops, picking up the disembodied arm from where it had dropped. His fingers shift over, reaching inside the crook of the severed elbow, and pull a lever inside. 
A key pops out of the palm. The same shape as that on the cell door. 
He fits it into the lock, and the doors open after a sharp twist. A grin curves your lips. One of your hands raises, hovering in the air. He examines it for a moment, a little cynical, before relenting and clapping his palm against yours in a high-five. 
The modulator hisses as he speaks, anger curdling his words. “Let’s make them pay.”
“Would you like to do the honours?” the Mandalorian asks, gesturing to the control board.
Your brows quirk upwards in an expression of delight, as your lips turn up in a savage grin. “Don’t mind if I do.” The words are almost a purr.
Your pointer fingers angles over the power button, and presses steadily down. The satisfaction that you feel as the lights overhead die is almost unholy. You can see the others on the monitor. How they falter, faces turning up in horror at the realisation that something is wrong. Doors begin to close around them, forcing them to flee. The Mandalorian moves up beside you, his dexterous fingers attacking more buttons. Together, you herd them, and when the time presents itself, one push of a button splits the group in half. Mayfeld and Qin make it through a door, but Xi’an and Burg do not. Their shouts of fury and frustration are sweeter than the classical music that used to tinkle out of Papa’s study. 
Your eyes turn to the Mandalorian, finding him in the scarlet-tinged darkness. The emergency generators provide a red haze of light, similar to what lit Qin’s prison cell. It illuminates what would have otherwise been pitch black, and is more than enough for your eyes.
“Can you see?” Mando asks, rotating with his blaster in hand. He stoops to pick up the tracking beacon, sliding it onto his belt.
“Yes,” you reply, pausing momentarily, before adding, “I’m half-Garwian.”
His helmet turns slightly, those eyes undoubtedly scanning the angles of your face, the shape of your nose and eyes. “Oh. Interesting.”
You bite your lip underneath your mask, head dipping into a semi-nervous nod. An odd appreciation settles over you. You had revealed something about yourself, something that he did not previously know, and he had not pushed for more information. Granted, the time at present wasn’t exactly optimum for a heart-to-heart, but you had the impression that he would have restrained himself from enquiring further regardless. 
A thought occurs to you, and you give voice to it dubiously. “Shall we split up? You take two, I take two?”
It makes sense, could possibly cut the time in half. 
Despite the potential benefits, he refuses. “No. We stay together.”
You’re glad to hear it. The trust between you has improved drastically since that night in the cockpit last week. While you’re still not exactly close with one another, it’s hard to deny that some tendrils of solidarity have set in between you. At least, he’s probably the being that you trust most in the galaxy at the moment. Not that it’s saying much. Anyone else who you had ever relied on is long dead.
A quick glance at the cameras shows that Burg is headed back towards the control room. It seems that they don’t have the same qualms about leaving one another. That will be to their detriment. People are easier to pick off one by one.
The devaronian is strong, so the element of surprise will be of the most use. Strike fast, and don’t give him time to recover. Your eyes scan the room for a hiding spot. The options are the ceiling above, their grated floor having a hatch to allow access. The less agreeable option is to cram underneath the desk. Angling cool eyes at Mando, you suggest a strategy. “I go high, you go low?”
His head shakes. “Other way around. I have a plan.”
And that’s what happens. He settles on the floor up above, kneeling against the ground. If one were to look up, he would be immediately visible, but you don’t think that the devaronian will have the presence of mind to do so. You fix yourself underneath the desk, ensuring to keep as still as possible. His heavy footfalls grow increasingly louder, and then he enters the room. You can hear his heavy breathing, the growl as he speaks. 
“Where are you, little mouses?”
A sharp crack sounds from above. Mando’s fibercord whip shoots down to wrap around Burg’s neck, tightening like a noose. You vault out of your hiding place, bearing down on the adversary. The devaronian struggles, hands finding the wire around his neck and sharply tugging downward. His strength is too much. The ceiling crashes down, bringing Mando with it. You vault to avoid the raining fragments, one foot launching off the control board as the other sails straight for the devaronian’s face. His large hand snatches your ankle before it can make contact, and then he is swinging you around like a fucking ragdoll. 
Your bracers activate, right arm extending to slash a sharp line in his thigh. He drops you with a roar of fury, and you manage to change angle just in time to avoid coming down straight on your neck. Face twisted in rage, Burg gives charge straight. The ground shakes as he thunders straight for you. The Mandalorian intercepts, tackling him from the side into the control panel. Sparks flicker, filling the room. You surge to your feet as Burg grabs hold of Mando by the back of the neck, slamming his helmet repeatedly into the buttons of the desk. 
Snatching your blaster up from where you had dropped it on the ground, your finger curls around the trigger and a red beam connects directly with the devaronian’s back. His body surges in pain, grip on the Mandalorian weakening enough for the latter to bat him aside. A wave of fire swells from Mando’s flame-thrower, lashing into Burg’s face. Caught off guard but not visibly pained, the devaronian staggers back. Fireproof bastard.  
You slip before his hulking frame, ducking under the jet of flickering orange. Shoulder heaving, you lift the piece of the ceiling grate from the floor, and summon all of the strength at your disposal to swing it for his stomach. It collides with a loud clang, knocking him further back. Movement blurs in the corner of your eyes as Mando lunges towards the control panel, fist slamming violently into a button. The heavy steel door comes down on the devaronian. His massive shoulders catch the weight, and to your disbelief, he begins to lift it. You reach past the Mandalorian, fingers fumbling. The button for the secondary, vertical door clicks under your touch. The frame slams down upon him almost comically.
From out in the corridor beyond comes a now recognisable scream of rage.  Xi’an.  That rage builds again at the idea of her. Turning to the Mandalorian, your arms cross over your chest stubbornly, expecting an argument. “Look, I know that you two have history, but she’s mine.”
There is a second of consideration, and then he nods. “As long as you leave Mayfeld to me.”
Surprising, but fair.
“Deal. But we don’t kill them. I have something else in mind.”
 Mando keeps at your heels, but knows not to interfere. Part of you wants to tell him to hang back. He’s so loud that Xi’an will undoubtedly hear him coming. A herd of dewbacks would make less noise. However, that matra rings in your head. We stay together. It makes sense. You wouldn’t want to be separated from your ally like the others were. Not that you weren’t pretty confident in your ability to handle the twi’lek. 
It would be a good fight, but you were once an Imperial assassin. And your father had been one of the greatest duellists in the galaxy. Combat was quite literally in your nature.
The hidden blades of your gauntlets activate once more as you turn the corner. Up ahead, the dim red haze of the emergency lights illuminate that familiar slender form. Xi’an. Your ears catch the hiss that she lets out, having undoubtedly heard the Mandalorian’s clunking steps. The short-swords of your gauntlet’s cross before your face in preparation. Her preference for those little knives have been noted. There’s only one move that she will use to begin the fight.
And she does, exactly as expected. Spinning, the first pointed shard flickers past your face. You’re faster than what she is used to, quickly spinning to side-step that shot, before continuing to rush forward. Another follows straight after. The flat blade of your bracers knock it away with ease. However, you have to hand it to her, Xi’an is fairly nimble too. 
The next rapid strike catches on the length of your forearms, just below the safety of your blades. Her knife burrows into your stiff leather sleeve, tip of the shard tickling the soft skin underneath. It doesn’t quite reach far enough to draw blood. While your armour is not quite safe against blaster fire, it can still halt a well-thrown point of metal just well enough. All the same, it would be best to avoid another blow landing again. 
Your blaster raises. A shot bursts from within, aimed directly at her. She has to duck to avoid it. Boots rapidly pounding across the floor, you rush for her. Xi’an takes aim with yet another dagger. This time, you dodge as she throws, one foot braced against the wall in your signature vaulted leap. Her blade hisses past the side of your hood. Next thing, you are bearing down on top of her, primed fist colliding with her face in a heavy blow. She stumbles back, dazed for just a swift beat of time, before her fangs bare and she lunges again. The knife in her hands slashes, nicking a line over the bridge of your nose. A sharp sting of pain trails in its wake. You recoil sharply.
Snarling in rage, your foot collides with her chest, knocking her back. Staggering slightly, her recovery is swift as she surges forth to lunge for you again. You can feel the air whip at the speed of the motion. A knife glints in the dim red light, threatening to come crashing down upon you. Your arm slams upwards, fingers enclosing around her wrist. The twi’leks eyes widen, recalling your earlier show of strength. This time, you don’t  just  squeeze her wrist. You pitch around, twisting sharply. In one taut paull, she is yanked over your shoulder and slammed on the ground, landing heavily upon her knees. A startled gasp bursts from her throat. Your arms encircle her neck, yanking her into a headlock. One of your knees is braced harshly into her back, jutting her body and making it hard for her arms to angle to grasp any weapon. Splutters burst from her throat as she claws at your arms in a desperate bid for air. You hold firm, restraining any of her fervent struggles.
Over her trembling lekku, your eyes meet the Mandalorian’s stoic form. He is leaning against the wall nearby. The inclination of his helmet signals his curiosity, although his shoulders seem a little too tense for it  just  to signify interest. Appreciation, perhaps? Admiration? When Xi’an’s body goes limp, you allow her to thud unceremoniously to the floor. Rising to your feet, you cautiously ask, “what?”
Part of you wonders if he is about to give out to you for manhandling his ex so violently. It could be possible that some inkling of affection or protective instinct still remains for her. One of his hands lifts in a wave as he responds. “Nothing.”
Huh. Guess not.
You accompany him to deal with Mayfeld. As promised,  he  is the one to put him down. It was nice of him to let you handle Xi’an, so only fair to return the favour. You remain at the end of the corridor, on the turn that leads back towards the Razor Crest. One of your hands rests on the hilt of your now sheathed blaster, eyes jumping from Mando and Mayfeld to scan the corridor for a sign of Qin or Zero, though you doubt that the droid would have left the craft unattended. For all that Ran boasted of Mayfeld’s golden reputation as an Imperial Sharpshooter, the man’s skill in hand-to-hand combat is no match for that of the Mandalorian. Your companion - your partner - makes swift work of him. 
Your hand extends for another high-five as he passes, the unconscious man draped over his shoulder. There’s less hesitation this time as his palm thuds into yours. Progress. You continue on.
The missing twi’lek is found trying to mount the ladder back to the Crest.
“Qin,” the Mandalorian calls, voice cold, stopping him in his tracks.
Face twisted in a growl, the male in question looks back with bared fangs. “You killed the others.”
Not quite. They’re nice and cosy in that cell they had set aside for yourself and Mando. All ready for the Republic to come along and discover. You would have been happy with ending them all. If not just to ensure that they could never come after you. The Mandalorian didn’t agree, and so you relented with a small sigh. It was his call. You’d let him have the final say. Just this once.
“They got what they deserved,” the Mandalorian deadpans. 
Qin snarls, twisting to point his blaster at Mando. Yours levels on him immediately, as does Mando’s own. Against the two of you - and  especially  with the Mandalorian covered in thick blaster-repellant beskar - the twi’lek does not stand a chance. Aware of this, he decides to go another route. One that might work, knowing the inherently greedy nature of bounty hunters. “If you kill me, you don’t get your money.”
You shoot a look at Mando. One that says ‘I don’t think we’re going to get our money regardless.’ He doesn’t glance back at you. Or at least, not that you can tell, with his helmet remaining pointed straight ahead. 
Encouraged by the silence, Qin continues. “Whatever Ran promised, I’ll make sure you get it. And more.” His face twists in a savage smile. “Come on, Mando. Be reasonable.” The blaster in his hands is pointedly dropped aside in surrender. It’s meant to be a gesture of good-faith, but in reality, it’s because he has no other option. He continues with a sneer on his face. “You were hired to do a job, right? So do it.”
Much to your chagrin, the Mandalorian listens. Those cuffs - the ones that had bound you for a matter of weeks in a time that seemed  so long ago  by now - are pulled from his belt and clipped around the male twi’lek’s wrists. Mando must sense the argument stirring in your throat, because he turns to murmur something softly. 
You don’t understand the words. Not at first. And then one of them tickles your memory. It’s Mando'a, but as you said, you do not know much of the tongue at all. There is one word that you can make out. Trust. Or at least, something similar. 
Trust… me?
Your head dips in concession. The Mandalorian goes up the ladder first. You are in the process of prompting Qin up after him, blaster pressed against his back as he makes lewd comments, when a single shot rings out from up above. A beat of fear laces your veins as you stare up after your companion, having shouted his name as soon as the noise rang out. Relief floods when he leans over the gap, the child cradled in his arms.
Everything’s okay. You’ve actually managed to make it out of this damn mess. 
Up in the Crest’s hangar, you take the kid from Mando’s arms. He shackles Qin to the railing that once held you. There you remain, seated opposite him for the trip back to Ran’s base, infant bouncing on your knee. The child’s little hands rise up to play with the crystal hanging around your neck, stroking it clumsily. After a while, he grows bored of it, and those fingers lift to tug at the mask covering the lower half of your face. You quickly untangle his grip. Qin’s eyes carefully watch the action, head tilted to the side as the lekku shift on his shoulders. 
You remain within the threshold of the hangar, child angled towards your chest, as the Mandalorian descends from the cockpit to escort Qin off the ship. The expression on your face, though it is mostly obscured, is stoic and cold. Ran stands below on the floor of his space station. Although he does his best to hide it, you can sense his slight surprise at the fact that you both made it back. It is quickly covered by a laugh as Qin lurches to greet him. The two engage in a quick hug, before the twi’lek steps back. 
Ran’s eyes sweep across you before coming to rest on the Mandalorian at the end of the Crest’s ramp. “Where are the others?”
Mando’s helmet tilts challengingly to the side. “No questions asked. That’s the policy, right?”
“Yup,” the man replies ruefully, “that’s the policy.”
Plucking a sack of credits from his pocket, Ran tosses them into Mando’s chest. There’s a decent amount. You can tell by the way the fabric sags at the bottom. That familiar tension is in the air once again. This time it is a strained calm, a reluctant stalemate without acknowledging it to be so. The Mandalorian knows that Ran set you both up, and Ran knows that Mando and yourself foiled his plan. The ramp vibrates slightly once again as the Mandalorian makes his way back to your side. One of your hands lifts in a snarky wave down at Ran and Qin, but you are unable to leave it at just that.
“Bye darling,”  you say pointedly, simpering maliciously.
Their glowering expressions are the last thing that you see as the platform closes up. A chuckle escapes your lips as you turn to regard the Mandalorian with a small, tired smile. He holds your gaze for a moment, before turning abruptly away to stride to the ladder. “We should get moving.”
You follow at his heels, still clutching the child. “What’s the hurry?”
That sound comes again. One that you have only heard on a few occasions before, but by now is slowly growing a little more familiar. The unmistakable sound of his gruff laughter, with the slight distortion of his modulator. You can hear the smile in his voice when he speaks.
“I put that tracking beacon on Qin. The New Republic will be along in a minute.”
Surprise falters your tracks. All you can do is shake your head, appreciatively eyeing the soles on his boots as he vanishes onto the floor above. Brilliant. Fucking brilliant. You have to give it to him… He surprises you sometimes. 
The child coos in your arms, drawing back your attention. Those small hands reach for your mask again, insistent that it has to come off now. You look down at him and smile wryly, raising him up slightly so that his little fingers can curl around the edge and slowly start tugging it down, revealing your soft grin. “Know what, bug? Your dad’s not half-bad.”
That laughter comes again from above, reverberating on the intercom as the Crest rises and pulls out of the space station. It’s only brief, however. There’s a slight scuffle as he hurriedly leans to shut off the intercom. Your lips purse together, holding back a wry chuckle. Two laughs in a day is apparently too much. He wouldn’t want you getting the idea that he’s starting to find you undeniably amusing. 
A/N: I got more awesome renditions of Nomad for this chapter, and absolutely adore all of them! Please take a look at where they are linked below, and show these brilliant creators some well-deserved love.
Please click here to go check out this amazing piece of Nomad in Battle Pose. It was such a lovely surprise, and our snarky yet lovable assassin looks BAD ASS. I’m simping! All credit goes to the talented creator, the wonderful @herasokas​
Another piece came in from the amazing @light-yaers​. Beff drew this amazing illustration of Nomad and the cut across her nose from this chapter! Nomad looks so grumpy but cute, and I wuve her.
And then, just when I thought that things couldn’t get any better, the incredible @light-yaers​ came back again with another sheer work of art! Beff drew Nomad, Xi’an, and Mando at the start of this chapter. Let me tell you, I screamed. Click here to see it! All credit for those two beautiful pieces go to her, this incredibly generous and talented creator.
Just to make you all aware, as well as being an amazing artist, @light-yaers​ is also a wonderful writer. Please go and check out some of her fabulous works via her masterlist!
Thank you for all your support so far! If any of you would consider reblogging if you liked the chapter, that would also be much appreciated as it would help spread the fic to more people who may enjoy it! :)
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clints-lucky-arrow · a month ago
The Nomad - Chapter Thirteen (Din Djarin/The Mandalorian x Reader)
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SUMMARY: The following afternoon, you all but stumble back to Peli’s hangar bay. An unexpected guest waits within. After dealing with the situation yourself, the Mandalorian views you with a newfound respect. A misunderstanding results in an unexpectedly gentle moment.
Enemies to Lovers. Slow Burn. Eventual Smut. Morally Grey MC. Established Star Wars Character as Parent.
TRIGGER WARNINGS: Explicit Language. Graphic Violence and Injury. Imprisonment. Familial Abuse (Non-S*xual). Childhood Trauma. Parental Death.
Ko-Fi: Buy Me a Coffee
Word Count: 8.0k
A/N: Nearly level with AO3! They are only one chapter ahead at this moment, so we will be level in the next day or two. Whenever I get the time to upload Chapter Fourteen. And then, updates will space out to link simultaneously with them. :) 
Thank you to everyone for all of your support and your kind words so far! This is another of my favourite chapter so I hope that you enjoy it!
Please read my end note for something awesome!
Given the circumstance, luck for once has been on your side. Kind of. While there will undoubtedly be some cuts on your hands and tender points of bruising across the rest of your body, it is miraculously little compared to what could have happened. You might have called it a spate of luck, if the situation hadn’t been inherently unlucky to begin with. It was a close call, and one that you will make a point not to repeat. Your own impulsive nature will likely be the death of you. 
Part of you wants to blame the Mandalorian. If he had not put you in such a sour mood, you may not have felt quite as much of a need to get those credits. But it isn’t his fault. You've always had a tendency to charge into things when your temper is heated. That’s exactly why you’d tried to murder him on the ship in Nevarro. Act in your own self-interest first, and pause to re-assess later. Maybe not the best way to go about things.
The two suns of Tatooine are high in the sky. It’s approaching midday. Maybe the Mandalorian will be back, and hopefully the ship will be ready. You definitely do not want to encounter the New Republic, get recognised, captured, and get slapped with some war crimes charge. They’d probably try to use you as some sort of bargaining tool also, an attempt to bring your remaining brothers and unruly homeworld under control. Little do they know that Bryden and Ajax don’t care for your life. Just your death. 
You’re not worried about the remaining gang members from the old slaughterhouse. In the wake of an event like this, they’ll be too disorganised to come after you. And with any luck, they’ll be too distracted in trying to hunt the gungan who directly caused the chaos. Not many had been present to witness his death, and his body is likely obscured underneath the fallen roof. Their troubles with you may be able to wait for a few hours, at which time you will be long gone. 
Screw what the Mandalorian said. If Peli needs the droids to get the Crest fixed up quickly, so be it. You’ll deal with any potential fallout from him later. For now, getting clear of your mess is the main goal. 
Having been so focused on scanning the streets, ducking from one corner to another, you almost don’t notice the prickle of your intuition. Not until one of your hands is raised, about to press against the button to open the door to Peli’s hangar bay. The hairs on your arms prickle. You freeze, tilting your head to the side. At first, it takes a second to realise what is wrong. There are no noises coming from within. No clanking or whirring. None of the sounds that one would expect from a mechanic repairing some rather extensive damage. Instead, it is just completely silent. 
Something’s wrong. And you’re not about to walk into a trap. Not again, at least. No. You’ll come in a way that no one will expect, and assess the situation from there. Once again, your eyes fix on the roof. Second time in two days that you’ll be on top of a ceiling, but it’s certainly better than being crushed under it, like the gungan. Ah, morbid humour. It’s exactly what the shitshow that is today calls for. Honestly, without it, you would have gone insane long ago.
The roof wraps around the hangar bay in a tight square, penning in the yard that the Razor Crest lies within. The hem of your cape trails behind as you crouch on top of it, keeping low as your eyes carefully rove over the area. It’s completely deserted down there. Not even a single droid is in sight. No sign of Peli either, and her usual brass commands do not ring out to stir away this unnatural calm. The feeling now becomes a certainty. Something is definitely wrong.
A squat tower rises on the side that you stand on. It’s mere metres away, pulling upwards in a large square block to break away from the rest of the roof. An open window faces you, a rectangle that looks possible to squeeze through. Activating the shortsword of one bracer, your other hand drops to pull your blaster free from its holster. You cautiously approach the pane, stooping to peer in the frame to ensure that the interior is secure. No living beings meet your eyes, but the soft mutterings of a distant voice reach your ears. Male, so not Peli. You would have thought that it could be the Mandalorian, but it doesn’t sound like him either, and your companion does not tend to talk as much as this. No. It’s someone who likes the sound of their own damn voice. 
You vault in the window, landing lightly on the floor in a half-crouch. The board underneath your left foot creaks ever so slightly. You freeze, ears straining to make out the sounds of an approach. Nothing. After a few moments, you decree it safe to move again. The voice is louder now. Possibly a little familiar, though you can’t place it at the moment.
 It’s coming from somewhere downstairs, outside the room that you find yourself in. A bedroom. You would say Peli’s, if you were a gambling woman. Which you were as of an hour ago, but no longer, as it seems like a good idea to maybe to take a permanent step back from the game. Especially given this recent spate of ridiculous bad luck. 
Keeping close to the corners and walls, you move silently, still defensively lowered. The beat of your heart is steady, in tune with the gentle swing of the pendant against your neck. While you had been in enough brawny skirmishes to be confident in handling yourself, this is where your true strength lies. In sneaking, in keeping to the shadows to finally pounce and deliver the most careful and efficient kill-strike. Assassins. They are the champagne of the warrior world. Or maybe that’s just your bias talking.
There is a man in the administration room at the bottom of the stairs. The one that looks out into the hangar bay. You can see your pack by the exterior door, but it is too far to reach. Not that you need it, but its mere presence is always reassuring. Head lowering, your calculating eyes assess the figure. Stars. You’re really not in the damn mood for this.
As you thought. Not Mando. He’s too short to be your companion, and the sunlight filtering in the large windows illuminates fine strands of dark hair atop an unhelmeted head. Peli stands next to him, her face pale and nervous. Not a friend. Your blaster raises instantly, focusing on his back as a curt command barks from your lips. “Hands up.”
The stocky figure turns. You recognise him instantly. Toro Calican. The novice who had set off with the Mandalorian. Except he is here, and your shared companion isn’t. In his arms is the child. You freeze. He pulls Peli up roughly from the chair, pressing the blaster clasped in his other hand against her temple. Great. It’s just one damn thing after another today. As his eyes settle on you, his face breaks into a dark grin.
“I was wondering who’d be back first,” he remarks. “Had a feeling that it might be you.”
Your aim does not waver or drop. “Congratulations. Do you want a prize or something?”
“Not a prize,” he answers with a smirk. “Just your surrender. I heard about what happened on Nevarro. Two bounty hunters, a Mandalorian and a woman, took some high value target and disappeared. I’m going to bring you all in.”
Your eyes shift around the room quickly, before jerking back to him. “Is Mando here? What the fuck have you done with him?”
“Not much. Not yet. He’s probably slowly making his way back across the desert, realising that I’m a lot smarter than he gave me credit for. Finally knowing that I’m really the one in-charge. There’ll be no choice but for him to surrender when he gets back. Nothing he can do when I have all three of you as hostages.”
That’s absolutely fucking hilarious. The boy thinks that he has a chance, that you’ll just lay down your weapon and go sit on the swivel chair like a good little girl. Nope. You haven’t gone through all of that shit this morning just to lose to Calican. That was something you’d never live down. Being bested by a fucking novice, of all things. No. You have absolutely no patience for it right now.
“Let’s not.” One of your hands lifts to wave him off in irritation, though the other keeps the blaster trained on his face. “I’ve had a seriously shitty night, Calican. Just don’t start. Put the damn gun down, and I may just let you live.”
That takes him by surprise. He falters momentarily, before shaking his head. The blaster muzzle presses further into Peli’s temple as she cringes away. An action designed to show that he means business. Sure. He probably does. But one of you has done this many times before. And it’s not him.
“Listen to me. I will kill her,” he seethes. “Unless you put on those cuffs and take a seat.”
Some of your amusement fades as a sneer curls your lips. 
“Go on, then.” A dark challenge, spat out with vehemence.
Peli starts, her face a mix of horror and fear. You do not look at her, but keep your cold eyes fixed on the young bounty hunter. His bafflement grows once more, this time not so easily reined in. One of his brows lifts in confusion. “You’d just… let me shoot her?”
“Sure,” you reply with a crude laugh, teeth flashing. “The mechanic isn’t that important to me. Not more than my own life. But I will let you in on a little secret. About just what will happen if you do.” A malicious smile spreads across your face, lightning it in a dangerous glow. Calican waits, and so you continue, feeling that savage amusement rise thick in your chest. “If you shoot the mechanic, that’s all the time that I need to incapacitate you. And maybe you’re willing to risk your own life. That’s fine. We all take chances in this line of work. But once I have dealt with you, I will take that child from your dying arms, and then I will get on board the ship and fly to Naboo.” The final word comes in a low growl, filled with meaning. His face blanches in a mixture of shock and fear. 
You continue coldly, letting an icy threat fill each word. “That’s where your family lives, right? Parents… And siblings?” His eye twitches involuntarily, which affirms your assumption. “What do you have? Brothers? Sisters?” At the second, his left index finger flexes slightly on the blaster’s hilt. Your maniacal grin is a snarl of bared teeth, though he cannot see it under the mask. “Sisters, then. One. Two. Three. Fou-” He swallows thickly at ‘three.’ 
“Three sisters,” you conclude. “Big enough family. And wealthy too, from what I’ve heard. They shouldn’t be hard to find. And they’ll never see me coming.”
“How the fuck do you know this?” he spits, in a voice filled with wavering fear.
You scoff. “First rule of bounty hunting. Don’t go running your mouth to strangers. The past will always have a tendency to come back and bite you in the ass.” That slow, menacing smile curves your lips once more. “And the second rule? Don’t pick fights that you can’t win.”
His hand twitches. A slight movement, but you duck all the same. The blaster whips from Peli to you as he pulls the trigger. A red beam slams into the wall behind, knocking a dirty whiteboard to the ground. You’re already moving quicker than he can anticipate, hand reaching out to snatch a paperweight from atop a locker and launching it straight into his face. It slams into his nose with a loud crunch, the force behind the blow shattering his nose instantly. His hold on the child drops as his hands fly to his face, a cry of agony bursting from his now-bloodied lips. The mechanic snatches the infant before he can hit the ground. 
You are on Calican the next moment, anger swirling hot in your chest as you collide with him, tackling him through the window of the hangar bay. Glass shatters all around, raining down. He struggles, but the hilt of your blaster smashes onto the side of his face, bruising his cheek and dazing him. Using one hand to pin him down, your other slams into his chest, blade piercing his heart. 
His body spasms before stilling. There is a sickening squelch as blood rises, pooling on his chest and coating your knuckles in a deep red stain. 
He’s dead. Stars. That was fucking easy. But realistically, what hope did he have? A novice bounty hunter going up one of the Emperor’s best trained assassins? It was suicide from the moment that he betrayed the Mandalorian.
With a sigh, you gingerly get to your feet. Your whole bloody feels exhausted and filthy, soaked in a mix of ash, soot, dirt and blood. And sand. Sand is fucking everywhere in this damn place. It’s mixing with the blood now, itching against your skin. Stars. You’d kill for a shower. Looking down at Calican, you have to think that maybe you just did.
Peli’s loud, irritated voice rings out. “Why did you have to break my damn window? Could have just shot him?”
You pause, considering. She’s right. The blaster is still in your hands, after all. 
“Sorry,” you respond, a tad gruffly, reaching down to start rifling through Calican’s pockets. A few bars of credits lie inside. Jackpot. “It just seemed like too easy a death for him. I had to make him pay. Just a little.” 
He had threatened you, and threatened to bring the kid back to Nevarro, after all. You turn, money in hand to extend towards the mechanic. That’s when you see the mix of annoyance and distrust on her face. The expression also hosts something akin to almost parental disapproval, like how your governess used to look whenever you had done something wrong. It tightens your insides, prickling your conscience. 
Rolling your eyes, you relent with a sigh. “I wouldn’t have let him shoot you.”
She makes no move to take the credits just yet, although her expression still hosts some trepidation as she hesitantly speaks again. “Would you really have killed his whole family?”
Your head shakes. “No.” Peli relaxes further, until you finish the statement. “Naboo is just a little too far out of my way.”
He’s riding some dewback across the desert. It’s almost funny how damn slow the thing is. Sauntering more than walking. It seems likely that he would not have arrived back in Mos Eisley until tonight, given such a pace. Well. He doesn’t have to worry about that anymore. Nomad to the rescue. Someone roll out the fucking red carpet.
You can see that silver helmet lift upward as he spots the Razor’s Crests arrival. The landing gears engage as you expertly lower it to the ground, aware of how its legs sink a little unsteadily into the shifting sand. The ship looks good. Or rather, as good as it probably ever has looked. It’s still a hunk of junk, just slightly less broken. Peli had managed to finish pretty swiftly, not even needing the droids. She was a gifted mechanic. They were hard to come by, so you were rather glad that Calican hadn’t shot her. You’d given her the sum of the credits that you’d found in his pocket, partly to ensure that she’d hurry, but also as a small apology that she had been dragged into this mess. All that was left was the measly amount that the waitress had handed you outside of the smoldering makeshift casino.
The child is seated next to you in his floating crib, one hand resting on the arm of the pilot’s seat that you are currently occupying. You shoot him a comforting smile, before descending the ladder and hitting the button to open the cargo bay’s ramp. 
Always one for a slight dramatic flare, you make a show of booting Calican’s lifeless body off the lowering platform for the Mandalorian to see. It rolls down wildly, sprawling onto the desert sands and kicking up dust. The Mandalorian examines it, before lifting his impassive gaze up to you. Your arms cross your chest as a wry smile adorns your lips. “Lose something?” 
He ignores the question. “Is the kid okay?”
“He’s fine,” you answer, one hand lifting into a small gesture back towards the cockpit ladder as you watch the Mandalorian clamber off the dewback. “Up there in the cockpit, admiring my piloting skills. He said that they’re better than yours.”
“I’m sure,” the Mandalorian remarks sarcastically. 
His footsteps resonate as he mounts the ramp. Your eyes run down his strong frame as he comes to a halt before you. Those usually shining beskar plates look a little singed, as if they had taken heavy fire. You think about pointing it out, mocking him for obviously letting the young bounty hunter get the best at him. After a brief deliberation, you decide not to. It’s not like this has been your best day either.
“Did you get Shand?” you decide to enquire instead.
He nods, dipping his head almost imperceivably. “Wanted to take her in alive. Calican shot her and took off. She’s dead. Had to leave her back there.” He extends a hand in the general direction of the way he came. 
You catch a small jerk of his chest at the motion. A wince. One of your brows raises as you take a step closer, unable to restrain the small tinge of concern in your voice. “Are you hurt?”
“No. Just took a few shots out there. It all hit the beskar. I’m fine.” His slightly unsteady stance leaves you doubtful of the rebuttal. 
Even though you know what will happen, you speak the words anyway. “Go lie down in your bunk. Drink some water. I’ll take us out of here.”
The response comes exactly as expected. “I’m fine.”
Arms folding across his chest, you allow your eyes to scan down his body with pointed scrutiny. “You’re not. I can see you swaying. You’ve been in that suit for hours in the middle of a desert, and you’re probably dehydrated and overheated. Honestly, I'm surprised that you're not slow roasted.”
The Mandalorian tries to interrupt. “I’m fine-”
Don’t even try it.” With an impatient wave of your hand, you cut him off. “I’m not about to let you get behind the controls. For myself and the kid’s safety as much as your own. I'm in better shape right now. I'm flying.” 
You expect an argument. It doesn’t come. Instead, he just remains stiff and silent, considering your (somewhat valid) point. It must take a lot to show even the slightest hesitation, or else it be perceived as weakness. 
Finally, the slow relent comes. “Okay.”
It’s… something. Progress. Baby steps. One at a time, spanning days and weeks as they slowly add up. What they will create, you do not yet know. Only time will tell if you two can ever truly be friends. But for now, this small satisfaction is contentment enough. The little victories count too.
The Razor Crest hums softly as it glides through space. You stifle a yawn against the back of your hand. Now that the adrenaline and conflict of the day has somewhat faded into the monotony of flying the craft through the open galaxy, your body is finally free to feel all of the aches and pains radiating from your limbs and through your joints. Everything feels gross. Your hair, your body, your eyes. Crusted in a variety of different filth, all except for your hands. There had been enough time to scrub Calican’s blood from them before you set off in search of the Mandalorian. 
Speaking of your stoic companion, he is awake now. He had gone to wash in the refresher, and then slept for a few hours. Only recently had you heard him clanging around downstairs, and he had since come up to take the child and put him to sleep in the cubby within his bunk. The cockpit felt strangely empty without another presence, all that was left being yourself and your thoughts.
Your mind had been wandering, trying to construct a version of today where you didn’t come off in as bad of a light as you did. Looking back, gambling the Razor Crest had not been the best idea. Then again, you’d taken worse risks with your own life. All had paid off, as by some miracle, you were still standing. Incredible, really. 
A chime echoes from below, capturing your attention. Beskar plates meeting the ladder rungs. You automatically stiffen, torn between wanting to put off this conversation for as long as possible, and by the desire to just get it over with. What’s done is done. You could lie, but what would be the point? 
This guilt is something that you are not entirely used to feeling. After years on your own, everything became about survival at any cost, and to get ahead you had needed to take chances. Now that there are other people involved, a rare sense of discomfort has surfaced. It’s the kid. Must be. He’s started to worm his way into your affections, making you soft and vulnerable. Actually making you feel conflicted about the destruction of that shithole casino, and all the death that had come from it. How many children had lost loving parents this morning? It was a kind of pain that you wouldn’t wish on anyone.
The doors slide silently open behind. Your hands tighten against the controls, knuckles straining. Silence permeates the air as the Mandalorian enters the cockpit. Vaguely, you can hear the swish of his cloak against the back of his heels. His footsteps thud across the ground. You expect him to tell you to get up, to let him take command in the pilot’s seat. He doesn’t. Not yet. 
Instead, the fabric of the passenger chair crinkles as he seats himself. You can see his dim reflection in the window before you. Glinting silver armour, the usual impassive helmet. But his fingers… They are resting upon his lap, fidgeting together in a gesture that almost appears nervous. No words come from your mouth. It takes an unusual cowardice to shut you up, but the lack of sleep and that odd emotional weakness has taken its toll.
The quiet persists. You can sense his gaze on you. Something about it has a worried apprehension welling within your chest. You pray that he won’t ask about today. It’s an idiotic wish, because of course he will want to know what happened.
“You seem… Quiet.” They are the first words to have left his mouth since coming upstairs.
Almost automatically, your hands tighten even further against the controls. It’s a visibly nervous gesture. Your mind automatically casts back. The smell of smoke fills your nostrils. Within your chest, your heart rate starts to quicken. Still, your voice stays calm as you answer. “Just tired.”
It’s true, but not the whole truth. After all, it’s been well over a day since you’ve last slept. Or showered. At least those few granules of soot still stubbornly clinging to your palms helps solidify the grip of your sweating hands. The Razor Crest remains steady on its course, guided by your smooth commands. 
From the corner of your vision, you can see the Mandalorian’s silver helmet tilt towards you. His gaze grows keen underneath the tinted glass of his visor. Assessing the tight set of your jaw, the taut pull of your shoulders. You know that he sees through the words, but you don’t expect him to care enough to remark on the lie. It’s a surprise when he does. 
“It’s not just that. There’s something else.”
Your tongue darts out to lick your lips. “Really, Mando. I’m fine.” 
But you are not. Not completely. And the fact that you feel so conflicted is only serving to agitate you more. Sympathy is not something that one in your position can afford. It all too easily gets one killed. The Mandalorian should know that. He should understand, and just leave you alone for a few hours. Just until you get over it.
One gloved hand reaches forward, past where you sit in the pilot’s seat, to flick the switch on the dashboard from manual to autopilot. The controls go stiff in your hands as the Crest’s navigation system pulls the vessel slightly to the left. You retract your arms, setting your hands into your lap, trying not to visibly fidget.
That hand comes to grip the back of your seat, slowly turning it to face him. The gloves don’t go all the way down his fingers, and you can see tanned skin overtaking from where the fabric cuts off. It’s the first time that you’ve ever noticed it before. Were they always like that, or did you just not care to look? Your eyes stay to the side of his helmet, purposely fixed on the darkened galaxy outside of the cockpit window. 
The Mandalorian shifts his head, tilting that silver beskar in to block your view. To force you to meet his hidden gaze. In a voice that does not hold as much of its usual bite, he asks, “what happened back on Tatooine?”
You hesitate, debating whether to tell him. Eventually, the resignation to confess rises, thick in the back of your throat. There’s no denying it. “I fucked up, Mandalorian. It got bad.”
Your tongue darts out, nervously licking your lips. Stars. There’s no telling how he’s going to react to the story. All the same, you have no choice now but to tell him. “Well. To put it simply, I may have agreed to bet the Razor Crest in a game of Sabacc-”
“What?!” The words are all but spat.
You wince. Of course, you had expected such a reaction. It would have been unrealistic if he had not responded in kind. All the same, your hands in a conciliatory gesture, pleading with him to hold his temper for now. “Just let me explain.”
And so, by some miracle, he does. You recount the whole tale quickly, not allowing him the time to interject or properly grow annoyed before moving on to the next event. His shoulders remain stiff throughout the recollection of the casino. You deign not to mention the Chiss male. It’s not important. The rest of the story comes readily though, told through stammering words and nervous breaths. His head tilts as you tell him of the fire, how it spread so rapidly. How the stairs collapsed, and the only other exit filled it with fire. Your voice tremors a little at that part, embarrassing as it is. But you push through until the end. When you finish, there is just…
Silence. And then. “So… You bet my ship in a game of Sabacc?”
Mouth setting into a thin line, you fix him with a glare as your arms cross defensively over your chest. “Really? That’s all that you took from this? Not the fact that I had a building come down on me?” 
It’s a struggle to keep your tone calm. As much as you wanted to pretend that the experience has left you unbothered, the truth is harder to conceal. In reality, you’d been scared shitless. And as someone who is usually too stubborn to feel fear, that is terrifying.
The Mandalorian shifts in his seat slightly, and speaks again. “Just trying to get all of the facts straight.” There is no tangible glean of emotion to his flat tone, as if he is reserving his judgement for now. Or maybe he can see your discomfort, and has decided to rein in his anger momentarily. Unlikely. He’s never given a shit about your feelings.
Your eyes pointedly roll skyward, the discomfort in your chest forcing you to avert your gaze elsewhere for a few seconds. “Fine. Yes. I betted your ship in a game of Corellian Spike. But they were offering thirty-six thousand credits. And I wasn’t about to let them take it, anyhow. The damn gungan just reacted before I could think of a plan.”
There is a slight pause as the Mandalorian absorbs the rare conciliation in your voice. “I see. How many credits did you get in the end?”
Biting your lip anxiously, your gaze briefly averts from his helmet once again. “... A little under two thousand.” Still, it’s more than nothing. Which is exactly what he had brought back.
The Mandalorian does not seem satisfied. “Couldn’t have snatched anymore as you were leaving?” That chrome head shakes in wordless disapproval. Undoubtedly, his mouth would be set into a line underneath that helmet. Critical as always. 
Your temper surges in response. “A building was coming down on top of me. What was I meant to do? Hold it up with one hand and root around for coin with the other? Ask it to wait a few seconds?”
That earns a dry chuckle from the depths of his helmet. Unexpected. He pauses briefly, before enquiring again. “And Calican?” There’s a shift to his voice now. You can tell that it’s an uncomfortable topic for him to broach. Undoubtedly, he is still feeling a little shamed. The urge to tease him rises once again, but you push it down. Be the bigger person. Even if he’s been making a really obnoxious effort to point out all your earlier mistakes.
But what happened to Calican… That was not a mistake. Nor do you regret it. Your shoulders rise and fall in a wry shrug, purposely languid under his heavy gaze. “I dealt with it. Nothing more to be said.”
He pauses, elbows braced against his knees as he leans in, capturing your gaze. Your eyes are drawn to his visor as your arms fold defensively across your chest, expecting another form of admonishment. Instead, he surprises you with hesitant words. “Nomad… ______. Thank you.”
You pause, digesting the exchange, before your head moves in a rueful shake. “I have to admit, I’m a little surprised that you’re not screaming at me.”
“We… We all make mistakes.”
He screwed up today too, you realise. Calican got away from him. Tricked him. What would have happened if the ill-fated novice decided not to take the chance on bringing in two traitorous bounty hunters? If the honour of just returning the child would have been enough for him? That would have cost you both most of all, regardless of whether you had been gambling in some filthy underground casino or away on an actual job. 
If the Mandalorian were to hold you accountable for your errors, then he would have to recognise his own, alongside the similarities that exist between you both. It’s an odd moment of recognition to realise that you are equally flawed beings. So very alike in some ways, and so completely different in others. 
Not knowing how else to respond, you shoot him a tight-lipped, slightly awkward smile. “And undoubtedly, we’ll make many more.”
That draws another small chuckle. His helmet lowers slowly, scanning your body. As always, you are uncannily able to get a sense of his emotions. Vague amusement, and slight disapproval. His tone contains both when he finally speaks again. “You’re filthy.”
Your head shakes ruefully. “I know. I probably smell ripe too. Haven’t had a chance to wash.”
The Mandalorian nods, one arm extending to gesture towards the ladder back down to the hold. “I’ll take over. Go get cleaned up. And then rest for a few hours. You look like you need it. I’ll wake you when it’s your turn to fly.”
Oh. Wow. You’re taking turns now? That’s more progress than expected. 
You choose not to remark on it. After all, the siren call at the idea of a shower has called your thoughts to focus on the refresher downstairs, and the blissful apparatus that lies within. Dipping your head in a pleased inclination, you slowly release the controls and rise to your feet. The Mandalorian brushes past you - his hard chest whispering against your back - and slides into the seat that you just abandoned. He takes the controls into his firm grip without another word. 
Not having any desire to linger, your light footsteps pad across the floor to the ladder. You are in the hangar in seconds. A quick glance towards the Mandalorian’s bunk shows that the hatch is closed. The child is undoubtedly sleeping peacefully inside. Part of you wants to open it, just to check on him, but you determinedly ignore it. You’re not his mother. You’re not his nanny, or his governess, or anything like that. You cannot afford to grow attached. Not more than you already are.
Instead, you swiftly duck into the refresher, pausing only to grab your pack, before stripping your armour and quickly ducking into the shower. Fuck. Is this what heaven feels like? Must be. And you will savour the sensation, as it’s probably the closest that you will ever come to that kind of paradise. 
Steam rises up from the floor. The water is blissfully warm as it cascades down upon your naked skin. A soapy lather soon coats every inch of your body. It washes away when struck with the water, carrying the filth of the day with it as it swirls down the drainpipe. Your eyes close, head tipping back to allow it to freely caress your upturned face. The sensation is soothing and refreshing, much needed after the events of late night and this morning. 
When the water circling the drain eventually runs clear, you step out. As nice as it would be to stay, to linger underneath the heat for longer, there’s only a certain amount of water on the ship. You need to conserve as much of it as possible. A rough towel hangs from a hook in the corner. The fabric is harsh, and it is obviously well past its better days, but no matter. The soft comforts of the plush, expensive towels of your youth are long since past, and you have dried yourself with far worse. You decide not to bother with your hardened leather outerwear. It could probably use a clear anyhow. Instead, your fingers tug on the soft black vest that you wear beneath, alongside a pair of thermal leggings from your pack. They are well-insulated against the cold, which works well as the Razor Crest is as chilly as always. 
Once dressed, your attention turns to your wet hair. With no other means to dry it, there is no choice but to give a rather vigorous scrub with the towel in an attempt to chase away some of the dampness. In the aftermath, your hair clearly resembles the scruff of a spine-wolf, sticking up wildly in all directions. Luckily, the beast is somewhat tamed by a harsh downward tug of a comb. The spokes catch on the knots, and your scalp protests with a sharp flare of pain. With gritted teeth, you take hold of the hair above the brush, and hold the strands steady as you begin to tease free the knots. 
It takes time. Outside of the refresher, some slight rustles meet your ears. You do not pause to question them. When your locks finally resemble something that is almost acceptable, you assess your appearance in the mirror. The flickering blue light above strains over your face. A little noticeably battered, but finally clean. That thin plaster still lines the side of your temple. Your appearance will do. For now. With a nod of satisfaction, you step outside.
Something catches in the corner of your eye.
A plate sits on the small ledge outside of the refresher door. On top, a glinting tinfoil cover hides what’s inside. You pause, glancing around, wondering if the Mandalorian had made himself a meal and then accidentally left it out. There’s no sign of him. As you glance back to it in confusion, his voice rings crackles over the intercom. “It’s for you.”
Something about it sounds strange. Different. You can’t quite place why. It’s not down to emotion, as the words conveyed very little. The timbre is just slightly off. Not as robotic sounding.
Curiosity wells in your chest. The tinfoil crinkles as it’s pushed aside, revealing the contents underneath. A gloop, of some variety. It doesn’t look wholly appetising, but the plate is warm. Some kind of rice pudding. As you glance back around the room, a red tin sticks out. The label is in a language that you do not know, but it doesn't matter. The act is shocking all the same. Wow. He decided to offer something other than ration bars. It’s more than a little surprising, especially as he guards those damn tins with his life. Only last week had you tried to take one, and he’d pretty much smacked it out of your hands. 
You take it trepidatiously, as if still expecting some kind of trick. Nothing comes. You can't help but get caught up in the potential meaning of the action. What does he want from you here? Should you say thank you? Should you join him upstairs? The latter may be appropriate, and help to solidify this ever-reluctant bond between the two of you.
And so, your decision is made. Plate in one hand, you climb the rungs with the other. Reaching the top, the cockpit doors do not slide open as usual. Locked, apparently. No matter. You'd seen the security key over the Mandalorian’s shoulder two days ago. Your free hand jabs the digits into the panel thoughtlessly. The light on the monitor blinks green with acceptance.
The doors slide open soundlessly. You note the lack of noise with satisfaction, recalling the same lack of grating when the Mandalorian had entered earlier. Having had Peli grease the mechanisms at the side, the agitating jar that they usually let out when opening is gone. On silent feet, you step into the room. Darkness wraps around you in an almost disorientating manner as the doors almost immediately slide closed.
All the lights are out. You can barely see anything. The cockpit is deathly quiet. Beyond the window, the dark galaxy spreads out endlessly. A timeless sprawl that continues forever, and will so long after you and everyone you know are dust. The shadowed universe is only lighted by glinting silver stars, flickering with warm and inviting light. Your eyes finally fix on a dark silhouette in the pilot’s chair. The Mandalorian - for those familiar broad shoulders are now unmistakable - sits there with his back to you, but something’s still changed.
And then you hear it. The familiar sound of a fork clattering against a plate. A soft exhale of satisfaction. He's eating. But that means… Your mind immediately pieces it together. Your hands splay in shock, almost dropping your plate.
He doesn't have his helmet on.
That was why his voice sounded slightly different earlier. Instantly, you turn to leave, hands slamming onto the button to open the doors once more. The rubber soles of your boots squeak loudly on the floor. You freeze, angling your face skyward as your mouth twists in a grimace. The Mandalorian audibly stiffens. The stilling is accompanied by the low clink of his beskar plates shifting. 
“I'm sorry," you say instantly - earnestly - staring at the ladder that descends back into the cargo hold. "I didn't know."
The Mandalorian is quiet for some seconds, before finally speaking. “I thought that you would eat downstairs.”
A fair assumption. It wasn’t like you tended to consciously seek out one another’s company. Plus, he'd locked the damn door for a reason. You had just been too ignorant to realise why.
"I just…" Awkwardness bids an uncomfortable heat to warm your face.  "Just wanted to say thanks. For the food. For earlier. I'll go now. Sorry again."
His voice rings out after two steps. "Wait." Having been just about to start your descent, you pause. He falters also, debating, before continuing. There's a nervous tone to his voice. “It’s… It’s fine. You can stay. Just don’t turn on the lights, and keep by the door. Don’t look.”
A startled disbelief jolts through your body. He is… letting you stay? It's nearly unbelievable. Part of you whispers to be insistent, to descend to the below deck and not make him anymore uncomfortable. But he asked you, and that must mean something. 
“I won’t. I promise.” And for the second time in what has been a very long day, you keep your word.
The cockpit doors slide closed barely a hair's breadth from your face. The sheets of steel are cool against your back as you turn, sliding down until you are seated on the floor. The plate rests on your lap. It’s not clear whether he intends for you to eat together, or if he had finished his meal just as you arrived, and you’re a little too awkward to ask. Keeping your eyes angled downwards upon your plate, your fork scoops up some of what you have appropriately nicknamed ‘The Gloop.’ It’s hard to see it in the darkness, but those forever handy Garwian genetics makes things a bit easier to guide the food towards your mouth. No other sounds fill the tense air.
You are still all too aware of that silhouette in the corner of your vision, but remain true to your promise. Minutes pass as the Mandalorian sits, as still as a statue. Discomfort radiates from him in waves. The need to say something, to offer a little more reassurance, grows unbearable. “I’m not looking, and I didn’t see anything. Swear on my life.”
It is the truth. His dim shape had been visible, nothing more. Save maybe the marginal rise of slightly tousled hair, but that could have been a trick of your eyes still adjusting to the dark. 
A soft exhale leaves his lips. Relief. He must believe the promise. A few more seconds inch by before he resumes eating, apparently having had some food leftover after all. As you had been eating during his nervous pause, your meal is done first. It wasn’t half-bad, if not a little strange of a concoction. The plate lowers to the ground by your side, clinking lightly against the floor. 
Drawing your knees up to your chest, your gaze lifts to the ceiling, to settle on the window overhead where the stars are also visible. Your head falls back against the door, letting out the slightest of thuds. The soft noises of the Mandalorian eating subside only a few minutes later. Not wanting to disrupt the peace, you choose not to speak. A sense of precarious, hopeful calm fills the small cockpit. Belly full of warm food and the contentment of a hot shower still clinging to your skin, a feeling of relaxation begins to loosen the tension in your shoulders. 
There you sit, propped against the door, as the Mandalorian sits with his back to you in the pilot's chair. On opposite sides of the small, dark space, but you've never quite felt as close to him as you do in this moment. Your eyes remain above, on the roof's window. His shape is only a blob at the bottom of your vision. A small smile crosses your lips.
As if sensing the shift in demeanour, the Mandalorian’s soft voice breaks the silence. “Did you like it?” 
You respond without thinking. “The Gloop?” 
Immediately, the urge to slap a hand over your forehead rises. The man had made you food, a rare gesture of kindness, and you had called it 'gloop' to his face. Were you always so damn obnoxious? No wonder he wasn't too fond of you.
He responds, and to your surprise, the words sound almost amused rather than irritated. “Yes. 'The Gloop.'”
Your head dips in a nod of confirmation, even though he cannot see you in the darkness. Especially not with his back toward you. The thought only occurs after a few moments have passed, and you hurriedly rush to answer. “I did. It was… different. A nice change.”
“Good.” Nothing more follows the word. His tone is smooth, deep. Not as much of a rasp as when distorted by his helmet, though some of that gruffness still remains. He sounds more human.
Curiosity to hear his unfiltered voice prompts you to speak again. “What made you decide to use one of the tins?”
It takes him an age to respond. As if he is trying to work out what to say. 
“You didn’t get your pastries.”
An odd warmth builds in your throat. For some reason, you just can’t bring yourself to tell him that you did. The admission would somehow break the companionship of the moment, weaken the tentative display of comradery that he is trying to project. Your words are a soft murmur, but you know he hears them all the same. “Thank you, Mando.”
There you remain in the quiet, which is only broached by hesitant attempts at conversation from both parties. His dark shape, still in the pilot's chair and facing forward, burns on the edge of your field of vision. It is pointedly ignored, just like that tiny fraction of niggling curiosity suggesting that you take a peek. 
Anyone in the circumstance would have the urge, no matter how faint. If they were to pretend to have no desire at all, you would consider them either a holier-than-thou liar, or too naive to recognise the certainties of a person's curious nature. At least you've always been honest about your failings. There are too many to keep track of if you were trying to obscure them.
None of it matters. To look would be wrong. A transgression and a betrayal of the trust he has taken the chance to place. You hold firm in your resolve to respect his wishes and his creed.
"How's your head?" he asks.
A second passes before you catch on to what is referring to. One of your hands lift, fingers tracing the line of the damp plaster running down your temple. Stars. It all seemed like so long ago. "I'm fine… And you? Couldn't have been easy, being seated on that slow-ass dewback for hours."
A rueful laugh puffs from his chest. The sound only spans a brief moment, but it still makes you feel a little more at ease.
"Didn't have any other option."
The courage to probe further on the events of the Dune Sea leads you to finally ask a trepidations question. "What happened to your speeder?"
"It exploded."
"By Calican?"
"No. By Shand. She's a decent shot."
A wry smile twists your lips at the slight concession, and you are unable to stop yourself from remarking. "I told you she was good."
"That must mean a lot, coming from you." He baits you with the truth. It's almost too much to bear. 
Still, you manage to ignore your instinctive reaction to boast, and remain coy and reserved. "Now, now, Mando. Don't ruin this nice conversation by angling for my secrets."
Another sardonic chuckle huffs into the air. "I should know better than to think that you might give any up."
You can't help the small, knowing smile that curves your lips. "Maybe some day. If you earn them."
His unmoving silhouette burns into the corners of your retinas. Despite the temptation, the curiosity stirring your senses, you do not deign to falter. You will not look. Not with so much to lose if you do, and so much to gain if you don’t.
A burning asteroid glides past the window, briefly illuminating the space of the cockpit. You close your eyes. 
A/N: My wonderful, amazing, spectacular friend @abeneplaceto7​ drew this illustration of Nomad and Grogu from Chapter 11. This is one of the best things that has happened, and I am so in awe of her talent and constant support. Please go check it out and show some appreciation!
I have to add that it was her encouragement that got me posting this story on Tumblr. So if you are reading this here, enjoying it, and never saw it on AO3, you owe it all to her!
Thank you for all the support so far! If any of you would consider reblogging if you liked the chapter, that would also be much appreciated as it would help spread the fic to more people who may enjoy it! :)
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