Written for a prompt from MJayde66 on Tumblr: "The paint's supposed to go where?"
"You know, the paint's supposed to go on the hull."
The comment earned Theron an annoyed glower, but the blonde Jedi didn't pause in her efforts, just dipped the large brush back into the comically gigantic bucket to refill it with red paint. The thick liquid congealed and oozed down the handle as she hefted it back up. As she applied a generous swipe to the durasteel hull of the Defender, several splatters found their way onto her, the bright red paint standing out in stark contrast against the freckles dotting her bare arms.
Theron propped his hip against the metal landing strut, safe to watch the show in a splatter-free zone. "Unless this is supposed to be some kind of performance art."
"It is not," Grey said primly, "I'm just tending to my ship since it got a little scratched on our last mission."
"Uh, you realize that you have people for that now, right? One of the perks of being the boss."
"Yes," her tone was even, but Theron detected an undercurrent of irritation peeking through, "but the damages are superficial."
"And as the ship can function perfectly fine with scratched paint, I am not going to spend our resources on a vanity project."
He arched a brow. "Vanity project, huh?"
"It is purely for aesthetic purposes," she replied simply, "so what would you call it?"
"Um, routine maintenance?" He tried but that didn't seem to garner any reaction. "Still, you're the Commander of the Alliance now. You don't have to do menial tasks anymore."
The next few swipes of the brush perhaps carried a little more force than necessary, and Grey dipped the brush back into the bucket. When she glanced back up at him, several more flecks of red having found their way onto her cheeks. From the deep-set frown, he knew it would not be wise to give in to his urge to smile at the sight, but it was a hard fought battle to keep a neutral expression.
"What if I want to do it?"
"I never really pegged you as the painting type," he said slowly. Although he probably still wouldn't, given the amount of pigment that had wound up on her person and the surrounding ground rather than its intended target. "Nor someone that concerned with the appearance of her starship."
"I'm not, it's just…" She dropped her gaze back to the bucket of paint and the brush. "This had been our home for so long. I know it's not any more, but…"
'Our home'. Not his and hers, but that of her and her old crew. Practically her family for so many years, now gone and scattered to the edges of the galaxy. With the exception of Teeseven, the ship had been the only thing he'd been able to find and bring back to her. The humor of the situation seemed to evaporate with that realization.
"It seems wrong to make someone else take care of it," she added quietly.
He eyed her, the dripping hull, and the wet paintbrush for a significant pause before he let out a long and resigned sigh. If it was important for her to maintain some old tradition, some vestige of the life she used to have, then he wouldn't try and stop her — but that didn't mean she had to do it alone. Without a word, he slipped out of his jacket and carefully hung it on the strut. When he glanced back up, she was looking at him curiously.
"What are you doing?"
"I don't want to make anyone do this."
"You're not making me do anything," his reply was muffled slightly as he pulled his shirt over his head. "I'm volunteering."
Pink rushed to her cheeks. "But why are you stripping?"
"Well, clearly you and that paintbrush have some issues to work out." He unceremoniously dropped his shirt to the ground before joining her in the splash zone. "And I don't want to have to deal with dry cleaning my jacket."
"I," she stuttered, "that still doesn't explain your shirt."
"That could just be my favorite shirt and I don't want it getting dirty." She narrowed an eyebrow in disbelief, glancing at the haphazard way he had discarded it. The corners of his mouth quirked up as he fought down a grin. "Or maybe I just wanted to make you blush."
The color in her cheeks darkened. "Well, you're not succeeding."
"Clearly." There was no fighting the grin at this point, but he was proud of himself for not sounding too smug, and tried to just focus on the actual task at hand. "I'm having a hard time believing no one ever taught you how to hold a paintbrush."
"Well," she said, "usually Doc and Rusk took care of repainting the hull. I always assumed it was some kind of male bonding."
He gave her a look and gently took hold of her hand, readjusting her grip on the paintbrush before helping her tap out the excess on the side. The blush in her cheeks darkened to nearly match the red on the hull as he wrapped his arms around her, using his grip on her hand to demonstrate the proper, controlled stroke to use.
"See, this way you get the paint where it's supposed to go."
"I could have done that."
"But you weren't."
The glare she directed at him contained no heat, and he just returned it with a teasing smirk.
"Theron Shan," there was more than a little exasperation in her tone, "I'm starting to suspect you are intentionally trying to irritate me."
"Maybe a little," he admitted. "Your nose wrinkles when you glare and it scrunches all of your freckles together. It's adorable."
"I do not."
"Oh look, there's that glare again," he said, "and the nose wrinkle."
"You are impossible."
His grin just widened, but instead of teasing her further, he grabbed an extra brush and began to fill in some of longer scratches that were just out of her reach. She watched him for several long moments, and out of the corner of his eye he saw the annoyed expression melt away into a tiny smile. Without a word, she delicately dipping her brush back into the bucket in the manner he had instructed and carefully began to smooth out her erratic strokes from before.
He paused, glancing down to be rewarded by quiet, but genuine smile. He couldn't help but return it in kind.