Second to pulling the trigger, I think that was the single best feeling I'd ever had in a long time and when he started screaming at me, blood pouring from his squashed nose and the gap made by his lost tooth, I was downright considering doing it again. The blue twi'lek on his arm, fragged out of her head on spice was now trying to comfort Javoran who moments before had been busy beating the kid at his feet mercilessly. Useless. I didn't step in when Javoran grabbed hold of her and shoved her hard enough she went end-over-tea-kettle over a chair and sprawled on the floor. But he went to lay a hand on me and I hitched my fingers in my belt.
"Wouldn't do that, Chief," warned him. He's lucky we worked for the same fella and I liked my butt alive. "Don't think our mutual boss would like to hear how you've been playing with the merchandise, mm?" Hiking my head to the sprawled out dancer I was pretty sure was his newest toy. The new ones he kept for himself to break in didn't let anyone sleep with them until he was done and bored with them. And then it was onto the dance floors with 'em and to whomever would pay the highest price.
It worked, because he'd been going to take his blaster out of its holster which would have been the exactly worst thing he could have done and then stopped. He stared at me with beady little red eyes with as much hate as he could muster.
"You wouldn't," he said.
I turned my head and spat at his feet. "Try me."
We had a good long few moments of staring each other down, where the girls all crawled away thinking things were gonna go down and they were all experts at runnin' like cowards from trouble. After what seemed like half a year, he turned his head and spat out blood. Didn't say anything else as he turned away like I knew the spineless grub would. Marched over to the blue twi'lek he'd sent sprawling and gripped her rough by the arm, hauling her up and scrambling back to his private office. Didn't look good for the girls the way he started up shaking the blue one and screaming n' yelling again at the others, but for me, the danger had passed and I didn't care.
It wasn't until I heard the barest scrape at my feet that I remembered the kid, totally forgot about her while I was sorely tempted to put a bolt through that idiot's head.
I look down and she's a mess. Nothing that would scar her permanently on the outside but
Yeah. Well. Her guts were gonna kill her tomorrow. I hunker down a second though just to check she's still with me and make sure she ain't bleedin' out. She's the scrawniest twi'lek I've ever seen, kid or no. Her limbs were all long like her body hadn't figured out yet how to catch up to her growin'. Both her eyes swollen up pretty good. She was there but she wasn't, you know? There's a place we all go when life hurts too much and I think she was there and was fast becoming expert in going there by now. So I reached down and hiked the filthy scrap Javoran probably gave her for a shirt and took a look at her bellyit wasn't what she probably thought it was as her eyes flickered open (as much as she could anyway with them puffin' up like that) I was checking for signs of internal bleeding. I didn't know what the hell I'd do if I saw any, but it seemed like the right thing to do. In the business of killin' I wasn't very good at treating the living, but I thought this seemed like something I should check.
She looked fine and the way she was staring at me began to creep along my spine something I didn't recognize. Something that made me want to put my coat around her and tell her everything was going to be all right which went against pretty much everything I was and taught myself to be. You don't know how much that frightened me to the very core at that split second and everything in my gut was telling me to go, run, leave now.
Let go of her shirt like it burned me through my gloves and put my hands on my knees to push myself up. The silence was getting to be awkward and I ain't a man knowin' how to make good words.
And that's when she reached out to stop me. She'd come back to the here and now sometime between the fear of me maybe touching her and through the pain of a pretty good beating and she touched me. Her little fingers found the gap between my gloves and my jacket and braved whatever consequence there'd be to grab hold of my wrist and make me stay.
Her eyes aren't like mine anymore, I remember thinking. Because she was looking at me like I'd never seen anybody look at me before. She was grateful and she was trying to smile despite the splits in her lips.
She was looking at me with hope.
"Thank you," she quietly said and then began to cry. Well hells. Ain't nothing worse that a girl crying. And I mean, not the snotty-nosed hiccup sobbing kind either. No sir, kid had learned that sometimes crying got you beat harder so she didn't make a damned sound. Just these big fat tears rolling down her face while her shoulders crumpled inward and she kept smiling at me and what the hell'm was I supposed to do?
I didn't think. Reached down and picked her up. Didn't weigh more than a data pad in an ion storm anyway. So I did, and she told me quietly all the while crying to put her in the kitchen 'cause that's where she sleeps so I did what she said like I'd been doing it all my life.
The kitchen was as banged up as the front room and the only time I'd ever been in it. Had a stove, a food keeper, and an old military grade issue cot near the far corner neatly made. It was clean though. Cleanest place in the Painted Lady and later on when I had my head on straight I'd understand the irony in that more.
She told me to put her down on the cot and I did. But my brain was catching up finally to what I was doing and it was jabbering pretty clearly: dangerous, it whispered, costly I agreed. So I put her down and I backed away.
She tried to thank me again and I stopped her with a look. I said, like a fool, like an idiot, like a blaster-brained flot" Kurakk Khdor."
Sithspitting, Gravel maggot, bantha-poodo headed! I cursed myself. I'd given her my name. Not my code name or my number or the hundreds of aliases or something I made up off the top of my damned head. No, no of course not. That was my name. The one I'd been born with and the one down on file somewhere in a cold, empire run part of the data-net. If I could have strangled myself at that moment I probably would have. I went from this odd sensation that some little girl no bigger than a baby tuskat would be brave enough to do something someone hasn't willingly done in two decades to spitting mad at myself.
I wasn't going to stay just to have her thank me again. So I left.
But it didn't matter that I actually physically left, because whatever that girl did made sure I kept coming back.
Something I can't explain.
She grew up good and she grew up very good, if you get my meaning. And I've made damn sure to stay out of her way. I don't know what to say anyhow. Don't know what to do and don't want to jeopardize myself any more than I already am.
But it's been seven years and she's walking out of the kitchen and she turns to look at me with those big purple eyes and she might as well have shot me dead. She gives me a little smile that tells me she's never forgotten and I get to thinkin' what it would sound like from her mouth if she said my name. And that's not the sort of thing any man in my business wants to think about too long.
So I tell myself I'm only here for the watered down ale but I know the truth.
And the truth is
I think I'm already gone.