“You saved my life.”
Smuggler’s Run: Chapter Fifteen
Awesome art by @commander-sarahs-art
Read the previous chapters here: Prologue 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
Smuggler’s Run Chapter Fifteen:
Skin battered and burnt to a crisp from the sun and wreaking of Bantha, Morff was decidedly not in the mood to deal with an assassination attempt today. Yet, here he stood, in the middle of the Tatooine desert, face to face with a pair of Sith assassins dressed in black.
Two cloaks fell to the ground. Past the radiant heat waves rising from the sand, a dark billowing cloud of dust and debris loomed like an ominous shadow. Sandstorm! Just like Captain Thane had predicted. She warned him about traveling outside the city alone. Now he was in the middle of nowhere, roasting to death under the blazing heat of dual infernos. The sun, and the heat rash that went with it, was the least of his worries. To the north, the sand storm continued to gain speed. To the east, and west, two Sith warriors, twin brothers, prowled around him in a circle. Two red sabers ignited with furious growls.
The blinding sun beat down on the back of his neck. Sweat poured from every pore. Morff’s eyes darted between his two opponents. He drew a deep breath that stretched to the bottom of his lungs. He called upon the Force to guide him, whether he was to resolve their stand-off peacefully, or end it with the swing of his saber. Piddling distractions faded to nothing. There was no sandstorm, there was peace. There was light, there was hope, and there was faith in the Force, and in his training. Morff opened his eyes, mind empty, soul centered. Right... Now, to work.
“I have no quarrel with you,” Morff analyzed the first Sith, combing his posture for any clue of his fighting form. “There is no reason for this to end in violence,”
“You’re right. If you give us that shiny Datacron you’re holding,” The Sith paused for effect. “There won’t be a reason for us to gut you like a puffer pig on a spit,”
A crude metaphor—that didn’t make the threat less chilling.
“Very well. If I can’t persuade you to peace,” Morff ignited his first saber with a forward rotating spin, then the second. “We’ll have to let our sabers negotiate the outcome. The Datacron is mine, gentlemen. Take it, if you dare,”
Morff winced; the last sentence was heavy-handed on his part. He blamed Powin’s influence and flair for the dramatic. No time to lament the poor word choice—the first brother attacked with a mighty leap into the air. Morff raised his saber at a diagonal and braced for the impact of the charging warrior. There was a shuffle of feet, the soft hiss of scattered sand. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end.
A second attack, this one to his flank. From the corner of his eye, caught the flash of a saber lifted high above its owner’s head. Morff spotted a weakness. In one fluid motion, he took his rear saber and drove the point home into his attacker’s chest without looking. The world slowed. There was a groan, an agonized sputter. Morff pulled his saber free from chest cavity and flesh. The Sith dropped to the ground.
The first brother paused mid strike. His mouth hung open in shock as he drank in the sight of his sibling’s fallen body. Morff kept his sabers up in a defensive posture.
“You killed him,” The man’s voice broke.
Morff sensed the rising storm of grief.
“I did not for wish his death,” His voice cracked; he wanted to spare them both. “It’s not too late. Lay down your sabers and surrender,”
The Sith dropped to his knees and pulled his brother’s body into his arms. He wept, touched his brother’s face with tender affection. Morff averted his eyes. Perhaps he ought to offer the man some comfort? His brother was one with the Force now. There was peace in that. No, better to let him have his moment without clumsy platitudes.
Moff disengaged his sabers as a show of good faith. The sandstorm edged closer. He calculated the plodding pace of his Bantha, the trajectory of the storm. If he left now, he might outrun it. Morff turned and walked at a steady pace toward his mount. He gripped the lead. The wind whistled a warning.
A red saber slashed and swiped; Morff dodged right and left to avoid being cut in half. Old Bart gave a terrified yowl and tossed its mighty head; the lead slipped from his fingers. The Bantha charged away with a bounding leap. There wasn’t time to lament the loss. He activated his sabers, blocking blow after enraged blow. His feet danced across the sand. Space, he needed to put space between them, regain his footing and take the upper hand. The first brother attacked with relentless fury, unyielding in his thirst for revenge. Swipe! The tip of the red saber grazed his shoulder. Morff felt a surge of burning pain. His right saber slipped from his fingers.
Morff blocked two more blows and seized the opportunity to call for his missing saber. In his haste to take the advantage, he’d forgotten one crucial lesson. The lesson that he, as a Jedi Master, taught his pupils on their first day of saber training. A Jedi was always mindful of their surroundings.
The push from the Force caught him square in the chest. He tucked into a backward somersault and scrambled with his hands to gain traction in the sand. As he slid, his cheek ground into the dirt and coarse stone until, he reached the edge of the cliff. He dug his fingers into rock to gain purchase. His legs and arm dangled like a child’s plaything. Don’t look down! Morff’s vision swam. How long was the fall? 50 meters? 60? With a gulp, he snuck a glance at the jagged rocks below. Yes, definitely 60 meters.
Morff craned his head up. A spray of pebbles and sand blew into his eyes and mouth. Blinding white twin lights obscured his vision. All at once, a dark shadow obliterated the sunlight. Grit dug into the whites of his eyes. Morff forced himself to ignore the pain and look past it. The first brother sneered down at him, seething with dark, malevolent pain. There would be no negotiation. Pity, remorse, were absent from the expression. This moment, dangling from a rock in the middle of the most wretched planet he’d ever had the misfortune of setting foot on, would be his end.
The Sith took a step forward. With a sniff of disdain, he took the toe of his boot and kicked burning sand into Morff’s face. Morff let out a grunt of agony in response.
“And now,” The first brother lowered the heel of his boot onto the top of Morff’s hand. “I will have my revenge,”
The boot compressed bone and flesh. Morff’s knuckles cracked in response. He yelped in pain. Motivated by the sound, the Sith lifted his boot to strike again. His grip on the edge of the ravine weakened. Time slowed—Morff surrendered to his last moments. He retreated into his center and found tranquility in the Force. The sharp jagged rocks would hurt upon impact from the fall, but in the Force, he would see Master Si again. A small part of him relished the idea.
A single blaster bolt shattered his focused calm. The shot echoed through the canyon as the bolt hit its target with a sizzling thud. The Sith’s sneer faded. His body gave a jerk, then the pressure from the boot abated. The first brother tumbled head over heels onto the rocks below.
Five long fingers, dressed in leatheris gloves, shoved themselves into his face. Morff didn’t hesitate. He gripped the wrist of his unknown savior. Hand over hand, his rescuer pulled him up the side of the cliff and onto the safety of solid land. He crawled on his hands and knees away from the deadly edge of the cliff.
For the first time in his life, Morff gave silent thanks for the feel of burning sand between his fingers. Chest heaving, heart pounding, and dizzy from his narrow brush with death, he squinted past the bright light of the suns. His eyes traced the shape of a pair of worn leatheris boots with frayed laces. They continued with their upward trajectory until they stopped at the sight of an elaborate holster that rested on a familiar curve of hip. Morff recognized the shape in an instant. His eyes absorbed the details faster, the navy blue vest, the cavalier way that the rolled up tunic sleeves stopped at the elbow.
“Captain Thane?” Morff stared at her aghast in silence, unable to accept what his eyes were showing him. “What are you doing here?”
“What does it look like I’m doing? I just stopped you from becoming a smooshed Bantha-butter pancake,”
Perhaps she was a mirage. Morff took the edge of his robes and rubbed the excess sand away, to prove to himself that he was hallucinating. He opened his eyes. Captain Thane stood with her head cocked to one side, with the edges of her lips curled up into the beginnings of a smirk.
“You saved my life. How are you.... why are you...” Morff stopped himself short and managed: “What I’m trying to say is, why did you save me? I thought you hate me,”
She threw back her head and laughed. A genuine sound, less grating to his ears than her usual sardonic snort.
“I’m as surprised as you are, Porff Maxis. But I can push you back off the cliff if it’ll make you feel better about it,”
“No, that’s alright. I’ve had enough mountaineering for one day. Tatooine is an abysmal place,”
“Would you look at that? We finally agree about something. Here, take this. I don’t want some of those cuts leaving bloodstains all over my ship,”
Captain Thane handed him a kolto injector, then cast a worried look at the storm on the horizon. The sandstorm raged in their direction.
“Thank you.” The clumsy words of gratitude felt like spitting sand granules out of his mouth. Still, it was the right response, given the extraordinary circumstances. “Thank you for saving my life,”
Zallia waved a dismissive hand and rolled her eyes.
“Don’t get any ideas, Kyber head. Saving the life of the hand that feeds me is good for business,”
“Business decision or not, I’m grateful,” He hesitated, then added: “I won’t forget this,”
Morff, with a trifle more eagerness than was appropriate, stuck out his hand to her to shake. She took a small step back and blinked at the hand in dismay. Oh right, the dirt. He rubbed the palm of his hand on the edges of his robes to clean off the excess grime, then returned it back to its original position. Captain Thane stared long and hard at his offered hand.
She turned away from him and looked prepared to walk away. He felt a keen sense of disappointment, though couldn’t quite work out a reason. Perhaps it was because of the failure on his part. Purely for the sake of a positive evaluation from Master Nightstar, he hoped this might represent a turning point in their fraught association. Their walk together from the ship to the Cantina had not been unpleasant. What would it be like to call the Captain a friend?
After two steps, she turned. One of her hands was conspicuously missing its glove. She looked at her hand, shrugged, and put it out to him to shake. The expression didn’t match the attitude. For the first time since the night of the Sabacc tournament, the Captain’s face drained of confidence. Gone was the self-assured, swaggering smile. In its place, misgivings, but also a touch of hopefulness in the expression around the eyes. Or perhaps he was reading too much into it. The palms of their hands collided with a hearty slap.
Calluses and scars brushed against his palm. The wind picked up, glittering sand swirled around them in a dance. A strange thrill shot up his arm. Again, he sensed her aura in the Force, the tint of green grew less shapeless with the touch of her hand.
Something about her touch, as inexplicable as it was, felt familiar to him, calming, like they had known each other their entire lives. She moved to pull her hand away from his first; the aura faded. Morff blinked and released her hand like it had burned him. Curious; he had a nagging sensation that this moment, as simple as it was, was significant. The Force had marked it, but why? A polite cough interrupted his train of thought.
“Come on, let’s get out of here.” She jerked her thumb toward a dilapidated speeder. “If you keep making this weird, I’m gonna throw myself into that sandstorm,”
She hopped onto the front of the speeder bike and reached for the throttle. As she did, she flexed her bare hand and stared at it for a moment with a curious expression. Captain Thane shot him a wary look, then hastily pulled her glove back onto her hand.
Mos Eisley rose in the distance in dark shadow, while in front of them, the dual suns set, engulfing the sky in radiant hues of pinks and purples. They traveled in silence, each deep in thought. At the edge of the town, the speeder slowed. Morff gave voice to a question that had been on his mind since his rescue.
“How did you know I would need help?”
The speeder took a sharp turn to the right. In the distance, the rumbling bass of the Cantina band echoed. The smell of roasted meat wafted through the night air. The streets narrowed, buildings aged. They were close to the winding maze of back alley shops.
“I didn’t steal your magic powers, Master Praxis, if that’s what you’re worried about,” The speeder slowed to a crawl. She pulled it to a stop in front of the Jawa’s tiny stall. “I used my eyes. Those two gave me the creeps in the Cantina. Noticed they were giving you the stink eye and figured they were up to no good. Call it a hunch, but I guess I had a bad feeling and followed them,”
He felt a surge of gratitude and shame in the same breath. She could have ignored that ‘hunch’ and left him to die, but she didn’t. The decency of it humbled him.
“Stay put. Bin’s kind of attached to that Bantha. I can’t guarantee that he won’t shoot you for losing it…”
Zallia drew in a shaky breath, tugged on the edge of her vest so that it sat straighter on her shoulders, then saddled up to Bin Takt with her arms stretched out wide.
“Well, if it isn’t my oldest friend on Tatooine,”
Her voice dropped in volume as she explained the missing Bantha. Bin Takt gestured angrily at the speeder, as he unleashed his frustration in rapid Jawaese. Morff picked out a swear word or two. To his surprise, Captain Thane held her own—he added fluent in Jawaese to the list of languages she spoke. He felt terrible about the Bantha. He hoped the smelly oaf wasn’t still wandering by itself in the middle of the desert. Bin Takt pointed to the speeder again… Wait a second… where had the speeder come from?
“How did you get the speeder?” Morff interrupted with a suspicious tone. “You said all the speeders were gone,”
Captain Thane froze. Bin Tarek said something in lightning fast Jawaese, then step-by-step backed away. The Jawa broke into a run as Morff approached. Zallia dug the toe of her boot into the sand at her feet and refused to meet his eye.
“Look before you get all grumpy and stop talking to me again, remember that I saved your life,”
“Where did the speeder come from?”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m getting to it. Don’t rush me okay...” She tucked her chin to her chest. “There was never a festival; I lied,”
Morff threw up his hands in exasperation.
Her shoulders pulled up to her ears. Her fingers fiddled with the frayed edges of her vest.
“Think of it as a practical joke?” She met his eyes. “Okay, fine. It was funnier in my head. You kind of deserved it,”
“You think I deserved two hours in the blistering suns, and a near death experience at the hands of not one, but two Sith Lords?”
“Well, not when you put it like that. Come on, it’s a little funny don’t you think?”
“Not in the slightest. What possessed you to do such a thing?”
Captain Thane’s eyes dropped to the ground. An inexplicable flush climbed up her cheeks.
“It’s stupid... I ... I... wanted to be your friend,” She said in a soft shame-filled voice. “When I’m friends with a person, I play little jokes on them. Pranks are kind of my thing,”
“You and I have very different definitions of the word friendship. Did it never occur to you I could have been killed after the Bantha ran off? I could have been wandering around in the desert with little food or water, with no comm signal!”
Zallia’s eyes flashed; her head snapped up in defiance.
“Ugh, and there you go again, lecturing me with your nose up in the air. Did it ever occur to you I wouldn’t have let that happen?”
Morff took three steps forward. Fatigue, hunger, and the chill of sunburn frayed his last nerve. He opened his mouth to fire back a furious retort. Captain Thane closed the distance between them. She put her hand over his mouth to interrupt.
“Save it, I already know you didn’t. The Bantha had a tracker on it. I knew where you were the entire time. I decided that if you weren’t back by the end of the day, I’d go looking for you,”
Morff clasped her wrist with a delicate touch between finger and thumb to dislodge her hand from his mouth.
“Friendship is predicated on trust. You stole my lightsaber the night we met and haven’t given me much of a reason to trust you since,”
Captain Thane pushed her hand back over his mouth again.
“I stole your lightsaber the first time, because I thought you would use it to slice me in half. Do you know how many death sentences I’ve collected thanks to Theron? People are trying to kill me all the time. I thought you were a Bounty Hunter, not that you ever bothered to ask me,”
The thought had never occurred to him that the stolen lightsaber had been out of self-preservation and not out of spite or greed. She pulled her hand away from his mouth. The tips of her fingers lingered at the edge of his beard. She gave the whiskers a peevish tug.
“Your carelessness has almost gotten me killed twice, and you expect me to turn a blind eye?”
“No, Porff Maxis,” Her voice contained a defeated edge. “But it sure would be nice if you stopped turning a deaf ear to everything I’m saying,”
Her features drooped with the heavy weight of resignation and sadness. Morff blinked, disarmed by the earnestness of it.
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that you’re holding a grudge. Look, I’m sorry I took your lightsaber the first time. It was an honest mistake. But you’ve already sized me up, and all my choices, past, present, and future based on that one mistake. Ever make a mistake, Master Jedi?”
His voice was hoarse, his mind burdened with memory. He met the fury of the Captain’s gaze with uncertainty. The haughty superiority of what he thought was the moral high ground cracked beneath his feet.
“Maybe it’ll help if you meditate on that. Spaceport is three rights and a left. Mind the Womp Rats. They feed at night. Don’t wait up for me, dear,”
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Blurb Again Because I'm Depressed™
Damian Wayne, as always
I think it's gender neutral but read with caution
Prompt List • Masterlist (in bio)
He's used to you by now. He's used to you leaving dishes to pile up until the end of the day to be dealt with. He's used to the number of pillows you have on the bed. He's used to you chucking throw blankets over the backs of furniture and only folding them when there's company. He's used to the way you organize the refrigerator and the pantry. He's used to air fresheners you buy. He's used to making mental notes about where he sees your keys get dropped because he's also used to you forgetting not five minutes later.
He's especially used to your sleep schedule. More accurately, the lack thereof.
He woke up an hour ago, at the same time he always does on a Saturday. Seven in the morning. The two of you are supposed to drive to the Manor for the day. You agreed to leave at nine, so it's not too early to bed Alfred for a late breakfast. You asked him to rouse you at eight.
He woke up at seven. You were buried beneath blankets, face squished into your second favorite pillow—only rivaled by him—with an arm slung over his middle. He'd stolen only a moment to admire you in the dim morning light. Then, he was pressing feather soft kisses to your cheeks, the ball of your nose, your forehead, all while rolling you over to lay on your back.
You'd grumbled the whole time, something about it being too bright and what could you possibly want from me, but you'd been smiling sleepily the whole time. "Time to get up," he'd told you. It wasn't. This is your first alarm.
He'd slinked out of bed. Taken over the bathroom. Showered, brushed his teeth, gotten dressed, foxed his hair—all the usualities.
When he reemerged, you were still rolled on your back, dozing again. He bent over the bed, pressing his lips against yours and skimming his hands up your arms until you hummed again.
"Time to get up," he said again. Your second alarm.
Your hand raises blindly to scrape blunt nails across the hairs on the back of his neck. You're smiling when he pulls back, eyes barely open enough to see his face. He presses your fully charged phone into your other hand, because he's used to your morning rituals, too.
He leaves you to your own devices at seven fifty-six. He takes over the kitchen, then, Alfred the Cat yowling at his heels for breakfast.
You're finally out of bed by eight fifteen.
You shuffle into the kitchen, still looking mostly asleep.
He turns away from the coffee machine to greet you, like always.
You amble across the cold tile, swathed in your fluffiest throw blanket and pajamas. He opens his arms for you, and you burrow into his chest like second nature. His arms are warm and you're feeling drowsy again when he presses a kiss to your hairline. "Good morning," he rumbles.
"We could just...not go," you mumble into his shirt, arms curling up his waist.
His arms, barred across your shoulders and upper back, tighten just a tad as his chin rests on the crown of your head. "We could. But then you'd miss out on Alfred's cooking."
Your hum is non-committal.
"You promised Mari you'd be there," he reminds. He knows that'll get you. You'll never miss a opportunity to wreak havoc with his niece.
As with most things when it comes to you, he's right. You sigh deeply, a tell tale sign of relent. You pull back some and smile at him. "I suppose I don't mind getting up at the ass crack of dawn for Mari."
He scoffs and rolls his eyes. "The sun rose an hour ago."
With enough will power and the ever tempting smell if caffeine, you pull yourself from his arms and duck around him for the coffee machine.
He chuckles, leaned against the counter while he watches you fix two travel mugs. You hand one to him, grinning proudly because you've memorized exactly how he takes it.
(He'll never tell a soul, but he's never liked coffee. Not unless you make it. Part of it is being too stubborn to tell you he doesn't drink coffee, and part of it is because he can only stand to drink it the way you make it for him.)
With your tumbler in hand, you shuffle back to the bedroom to get ready.
He waits patiently on the couch, double checking the morning's news before the pair of you leave the safety loft and get caught in traffic.
At eight forty-five, Grayson texts him, checking that you're still intending on joining them. He calls across the home to ask how much longer you think you'll be. You say fifteen minutes, but he knows you too well, so he gives a ten minute cushion.
Sure enough, at nine o'clock, you're flitting around in a rush to find your sunglasses.
By nine-0-five, he's steering the car onto a busy road. Because he knows you, he keeps his phone's Bluetooth turned off so your phone is the one to connect. It's your music flowing through his speakers, and your fingers curled around his on the leather console.
And it's because he knows you like no one in the world does that he's confident you wouldn't have it any other way.
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