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D. Wade Hyde and Christopher Levy.
Zero years after the Battle of Yavin (35:8:35) in the Essesia system: Esseles (Calamar: Hotel).
El-Nay Darr and Tycho Starlight.

El-Nay Darr sat on the floor of the shower in the small refresher that was in their hotel room in Calamar. She had been in there for a nearly an hour, allowing the warm water to flow over the body, wash away the dried blood, and sooth her soul. She had told Tycho she was just going to freshen up, but she gradually became too scared to come out of the refresher. She knew what he expected and she was not unwilling, but she had not been with a man since the Nerf Herder, and that had been her only time with a man. She did not want to disappoint him, nor did she want him to see her naked body with its bruisers and scars. She did not think she was very attractive and part of the appeal of the armor was the fact that it covered her up, with the helmet shielding her face from those she encountered. She had kept him waiting too long and so, trying to be brave, she stepped out of the shower and began to dry herself off. She frowned as she examined her naked body in the large mirror, turning to examine the recent bruising on her ribs from where had struck her earlier. "Shit. Did he break a rib?" she asked, gently poking at the black and blue spot, wincing slightly as she touched a particularly tender spot. When she opened the refresher door she was horrified to see that the light was on, and she bolted towards the controls to turn the lights off. "I told you no lights..." she said, exposing a vulnerable side, as she moved towards the bed. "Ow!" she groaned, as he leg caught itself on a small table, as she blindly moved towards the bed. She hoped he did not get too much of a good look at her during the time the lights were on, and as she gingerly climbed onto her bed, she bit her lower lip, and lay down beside him, her back towards him.

When they had first arrived back at the hotel, Tycho had started by setting both of their noses. It had been painful, but necessary. With multiple bacta patches and an injection each, they were starting the healing process. He'd went in the shower first, standing under the warm spray and letting it wash away his aches and worries. The whole time, it was her he thought of; the mistakes he'd made, the way this day had skewed off in a direction he hadn't intended. In a way, they'd had fun, but he worried that she was upset with him on a level he couldn't repair. He had come out of the refresher with but a towel around the waist, showing scars all over his muscled form. Whereas she didn't want her body to be seen, he had nothing to hide. He laid in bed as he waited, nude beneath the sheets, and stared at the ceiling. He listened to the water for what seemed like an hour, until finally the refresher shut off. He swallowed back a tiny bit of nervousness in his anticipation. Then, she was there, though he'd hardly had a glimpse of her. He could tell just how vulnerable she was feeling, how afraid and unsure. She was ashamed of her body, worried about what he'd see. He rolled onto his side toward her and touched her shoulder softly. He could barely see her outline, but he could feel the soft skin under his fingers, save for where he traced over a scar. "You don't have to hide," he said, quietly. "You're a beautiful girl. There's nothing to be ashamed of. Let me see you. Please?"

El-Nay shuddered against him at that first touch, goosebumps immediately breaking out upon her. It had been so long since she had felt a touch that was meant to cause pleasure rather than pain. So long that she had almost forgotten what it felt like. Her heart was racing, and tiny beads of sweat were already beginning to form upon her naked flesh. She considered what he asked for a moment, before slowly rolling over onto her other side so that she could face him. She could barely make out his face in the darkness, so she brought her left hand up to gently caress it, feeling his textured facial features, including his scars. "I don't want you to see..." she said weakly, a vulnerability that had been exposed. Under the armor she was still very much a girl and her embarrassment over her body was with her at all times.

"You have nothing to be ashamed of," he insisted, running his fingers over her cheek. He leaned in and kissed her softly, his lips playing against hers for but a moment. "I already know that you look good ... just let me see it for myself. Please. You shouldn't have to hide in the dark. I ... want you to see me. I want to be able to see your face."

That was the first time a man had ever kissed El-Nay like that, and it weakened her into a puddle of mush against his rigid body. She melt, pressing her lips back against his, before the kiss was broken. She exhaled, her eyes still closed, before falling away, weakly, onto the pillow. "OK..." was all she could muster to Tycho, before grabbing at the pillow beneath her. She brought it up over her face to hide from the light that he was about to turn on and hoped that if she could not see, maybe he would not see either.

*Click* said the light switch. He drew the covers back off of both of them, so their naked bodies were completely revealed. They were both scarred and bruised, but in his mind it did nothing to take away from her feminine appeal. She wore the marks of a warrior, as well as an abused girl. He could choose to feel pity, but he didn't. He cared about her, but she was a fighter and she'd earned every bruise and scar because she wasn't afraid to face the pain. He smiled faintly at that thought and ran his hand down her side to her hip. His hand crossed over the bruising on her ribs. The bacta was helping, but she still looked in bad shape in that spot. They'd have to see that doctor after all. "Looks like I hit harder than I thought."

As his hand caressed her side she inhaled sharply, and arched her back, raising up off the bed slightly. As she began to become aroused her nipples began to protrude involuntarily, and a rush of color began to fill her face, which she still kept beneath the pillow. "Does that mean you don't want to?" she asked, her voice slightly muffled, fearing the worst when he commented on the extent of her wound. She knew she was right not to let him see, she thought to herself, while her hands nervously digging into the pillowcase.

"It most certainly does not," he replied, chuckling. "I was just trying to lighten the mood. If you're in too much pain, you can stop me... otherwise, my plans haven't changed." He leaned in and kissed her. Not her lips, since she was hiding those, but her shoulder, then her arm. He took her hand and trailed soft kisses down to it, and held the back of her hand to his lips for a moment. He caressed her fingers with his cheek, murring quietly at the feel of her imposed touch.

"Ungh. Oh..." El-Nay moaned in soft little murmurs as he kissed her flesh, causing her to squirm against the soft sheet of the bed. It had not been like this her first time ... then the other hunter had not even deemed to remove his helmet. "Don't stop..." she said, pleading with him, as she began to become uncontrollably aroused. Instinctively, her legs began to spread, but she was unable to stop the sensations that were rapidly flooding her feminine frame. Finally, her hands moved to remove the pillow, bringing her face back into view. "Tycho..." she said, looking at him with her steely gray eyes, and wanting to believe so much that he was all the things that he could be. He had her, and she had mixed feelings about giving herself up to someone, but her body would no longer stop. She wanted him ... she had to have him now.

When it was over her mind was awash with a wave of sensations and emotions ... it was almost too much for the young woman to bare. She gently pulled away from him, her body still shaking lightly, as she moved to pull the sheet back over her naked flesh. She rolled over onto her side, turning her back to him, as she lay down upon the pillow. She had hoped she had done a good job, but she would not come out and ask him. Now that she could begin to think clearly she began to remember the danger she was in, and how she could not hole up with this happy little life ... even if she wanted to.

Tycho was tired, but in a way felt invigorated. As he lay beside her and pulled the covers tight around them, he slid in closer to spoon with her. Everything was very messy, but she was warm and inviting, and at the moment he wanted nothing more than to hold her. He had an arm around her waist, while he kissed her shoulder. "Thank you," he said. "I've been lonely ... I haven't had anything like this in a long time. It ... meant something to me."

El-Nay was overcome by what he had said, combined with the warm embrace he offered her. "You're not just saying that are you?" she asked, as she grabbed hold of the arm that was wrapped around her for reassurance. She lowered her head to kiss at his forearm with several gentle, birdlike pecks, as it was the only part of him she could easily reach. The warmth that radiated off his body made her feel safe and secure, but she knew that it was temporary, and that the only way she would ever be safe is if she overcame her fears and became the warrior that she dreamt of being, rather than played at being.

Playing the warrior ... he had said something like that before. Apparently the reason it angered her so much was because she knew it to be true. Either way, he had only her on his mind. Warrior, girl, pilot, whatever she was or wanted to be, he liked it. "I'm not just saying it," he said. "I'm saying it because I mean it. I'm a bastard, and I'll do a lot of bad things ... but I'll never lie to you. Not you."

"Why?" El-Nay asked, as she shifted in his grasp in order to move still closer to him. "Why not me?" she asked, trying to understand how it could have been so different with Tycho than it was with her last. She had a lot to learn about human intimacy, and she wasn't sure what was so special about herself that made Tycho claim that ... she certainly did not feel that way about herself. "...and you're not all that bad," she said, after some consideration, as a thousand thoughts raced through her mind in a feverish whirlwind.

Tycho chuckled at the last comment, but he wasn't sure how to answer her question. "Well ... I mean, unless I have a reason to deceive someone, I'm usually a straight-shooter anyway. I don't have a reason to deceive you ... and I wouldn't want to. I haven't been close in this way for a long time. It's nice to care about someone again. I'm sorry ... I can't explain it any better than that." He paused, snuggling in closer, though he didn't tighten his grip, as he knew her ribs were bruised. "Tell me, how are you feeling now? What's on your mind?"

El-Nay did not know how to answer his question, and at first her only reply was to more aggressively cling to his arm. "I feel..." she said, before lowering her head again, weakly closing her eyes as she tried to figure out what she could safely tell him. "I'll let you know someday, OK?" she told him, after an awkwardly long silence, inhaling sharply through the nose as she felt the first traces of tears beginning to form in the corner of her eyes.

"Okay," Tycho said, leaving the subject alone. She was a confused, traumatized girl, and her thoughts seemed to linger on the people who had hurt her, versus what she had just had with him. He just kissed her on the shoulder and repeated, "Okay. I understand, El-Nay." Then, he switched off the light and closed his eyes. He was happier than he had been in years.

Several hours had gone by since they had made love, and while Tycho had fallen asleep, El-Nay had lay there a wreck, teetering on the edge. Once she was sure she would not wake him, she quietly slipped from the bed and moved back towards the solemnity of the refresher. When she was sealed inside she activated the lights, and looked at the girl in the mirror ... and that was the problem ... all she saw was a girl and she knew that's all Tycho would ever see. She did not want to be someone he had to teach, or worry about, and least of all take care of. She wanted to be seen as a woman ... as his equal. She turned on the sink and let the water fill the basin before bringing up two handfuls of water to splash upon her face in order to wake herself from the dream life she had been living those past few hours.

Tycho rolled over when she slipped away, disturbed by the movement and her warmth leaving him. He didn't wake however, simply groaning and falling back into his slumber.

El-Nay reached into one of the drawers to find a device that was used to record messages, and set it down upon the vanity in front of her. She stared at it in naked silence for at least fifteen minutes before deciding on how to start, and only then did she push the button. "Tycho. I was brought into this life for one purpose. To bring honor to my family and to my clan. I have tried so hard. Harder than you realize..." she said, closing her eyes almost immediately to cause her voice from breaking. "If I stay here and let you protect me and care for me that would be giving up on everything that matters to me. The only way you will ever respect me ... the only way I will ever respect myself is if I go and confront this bounty hunter myself. I ran from him once and the shame of that cowardice not only stained me, but every Darr. If what you said to me was true I know that this will hurt you, but if I let you fight my battles for me I'll always be a girl, and not a warrior," she said, exhaling in a deep sigh, as she was surely conflicted over by what had transpired. "I would rather die a warrior than live as a girl. I am not Corellian. I am Mandalorian. But I cannot truly claim that until I do this," she said, before deactivating the recorder. She placed it aside before bringing more water to her face, discarding the tears, and sharpening her focus.

El-Nay began the process of sliding on the environmental suit that she wore beneath her armor, as she began to suit up for what very likely could have been her final battle. One by one the pieces of orange beskar began to cover up the suit that lay below. To her they meant everything, but to Tycho they were a liability that he could never understand. As she looked in the mirror and held her T-shaped visor helmet above her head she gave herself a good long look ... a last look. She vowed to herself then and there that this would be the last time she would look upon the face of a scared little girl. She would wear this honor with pride ... or she would be buried in it. Hoisting her jetpack onto her back she gathered her weapon and the datadisk that Intel had provided her for the job. Stepping quietly back into the room she gave a last look towards the sleeping Tycho, before opening the door and slipping out to meet her destiny.

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