"Sorry. But do you think you could help me for a moment?"
I couldn't help but smirk as I watched Bril do what Bril always did best. He was a remarkably smooth operator, and combined with his naturally beautiful Twi'leki features and his honey-toned voice, people didn't mind stopping for him. I could pull it off too, but I had to work harder at it than Bril ever did. Feigning kindness and innocence just came more naturally to my partner-in-crime than they did to me.
I approached the mark from behind. Bril's eyes never once left the man's face. When we were younger, little slips like that - eyes darting behind a target at an inopportune moment - would ruin any chance at success. Years of practice had fixed that. In distracting targets, Bril was unrivaled.
Our mark was a human dressed in fine clothes, probably a businessman of some sort and one with at least some money, since he wasn't coated in grime and dust and didn't smell like a Hutt's back-side like most others on the smuggler's moon.
He was the perfect target for a pickpocket like me - too well dressed and confident to be poor, and foolish or naive enough to believe that he wouldn't get robbed walking through busy streets. Maybe he'd have been safe thinking like that on an inner rim planet, but not on Nar Shaddaa.
For a moon populated by gangsters, thieves and prostitutes, Nar Shaddaa seemed to have an odd propensity for attracting visitors that couldn't seem to watch their pockets." I suppose that's partially because nobody ever keeps anything truly valuable in their pockets, just a few credit chips or an odd trinket or two. Still, one would think that people who have money would be better at keeping it secure. I mean, I always kept their money more secure than they did after I stole it, so I know it's not all that difficult.
I guess I just valued their credits more than they did.
It might go too far to say that I needed it more, but like most pickpockets, I had fewer options than the people from whom I was stealing. At least my targets could re-earn their credits - I had no choice but to steal to earn mine. One doesn't live long on Nar Shaddaa without any credits, after all.
As Bril kept the man talking, I stretched out my left hand, darting it precisely into the man's deep pocket and grabbing a handful of what felt like standard credit chips. The same as Bril's skill in keeping me unnoticed, my skill at smuggling items out of unsuspecting people's pockets came from experience. People on earth often say that practice makes perfect, and that certainly rung true with my skill in pick-pocketing.
As soon as my hand left his pocket, I cut away through the crowd and headed towards our meeting spot. I trusted Bril to end the conversation quickly and make his way over as usual so we could leave. Only an amateur would hang around. Most marks didn't notice we had robbed them until after, but if it happened sooner it was best to be well and truly gone.
I started moving as soon as Bril reached me, and he had to run to keep at my side as I ducked and weaved through the crowd. Luckily for both of us, we were both quite small for twelve-year-olds, and getting out of an area without a hassle was usually easy.
"Well?" Bril asked quietly when he reached my side. "Anything good?"
We stuck to the busier parts of the streets as we fled the scene. That was a skill learned from experience, too. Busy streets made it infinitely easier to hide compared to abandoned alleyways, especially given our size. Anyone chasing us would probably only have seen an ocean of heads, with us ducking in and out underneath it all.
"Just some credit chips," I grumbled. "Hopefully enough to keep Lady Kallis happy."
Bril looked disappointed at that, not that I could blame him. Most days we only made enough to break even, and despite all signs pointing to the fact that it would never happen, we always dreamed of making enough money to make it off such a backwater planet and live a decent life.
Like any of our targets, we too had bills to pay. Well, not bills per se, at least not in the traditional sense, but a percentage of everything we stole had to go towards Zorbo the Hutt's cartel. For protection and board, Lady Kallis claimed, and I couldn't disagree. The Hutt himself owned the brothel we lived in, and only a madman would steal from or attack a Hutt's property.
"You say that like she's ever happy," Bril said after a few moments.
He had a point. One would have thought that someone valued so highly by Zorbo that he allowed her to run one of his most lucrative businesses would be a little happier. Doubtless she was making enough credits to fill a mountain, but still, she was… well, frankly, a rotten, evil bitch.
"She'd probably be a whole lot happier if you wouldn't push her buttons every other day," I said.
Bril didn't answer, but no doubt he was sticking his middle finger up behind me.
"Do we have time for another, do you think?" he asked.
I shook my head slightly. "Not worth the risk. It's getting kind of late."
We were part of what I liked to call day criminals. We still broke the law, or at least, whatever system vaguely resembled laws on Nar Shaddaa, but only ever through the day. Nights on Nar Shaddaa were entirely different. The night was the time for gangsters and more hardcore thieves, almost always armed, and in an altogether different league than us pick-pockets.
"Damn it. You're probably right," Bril said, sounding as frustrated as I was. But like me, he knew that it wasn't worth staying out and getting robbed ourselves, if not shot, stabbed or beaten.
I never stole alone, or did anything alone, not from my first day on Nar Shaddaa when I was five years old. Bril was always with me. Neither of us ever acted without the other, and we would never have been as successful stealing solo as we were as a pair.
Half of our success came down to pure genetics. Bril, though male himself, took very much after his beautiful mother, with a skin pigment of royal blue and a soft dusting of darker blue freckles across his nose. Twi'leks have always been known for their beauty and grace, and not only was this true for Bril, but he could easily have been the poster child for that entire reputation. Despite being noticeably male, he was prettier than most women.
It's a trait that never failed to garner attention, especially when we entered 'The House of Plom Bloom,' the brothel run by Lady Kallis that we called home. I always walked in front of Bril when we went through the central area of the brothel, trying my best to act as a physical barrier between the lecherous creatures and my friend. His good looks weren't always an asset.
It was hard to miss the ogling eyes from the brothel's patrons, especially from some of the disgusting, shameless creatures who didn't even bother to do it with subtlety. Only on Nar Shaddaa would people feel comfortable enough to admit their attraction to one so young. In more ways than just this, it really was the biggest shithole in the galaxy.
I spent the whole walk through the brothel mentally cursing at them with every horrible insult I knew, and continued doing my best to keep Bril shielded from their view. I almost had to bite my tongue to keep from speaking them aloud, and I would have if not for Lady Kallis. If ever I misbehaved on her watch, and especially in her brothel, I'd have been out on my ass within minutes. That's assuming she wouldn't just order me beaten to death instead. In the end, it was always best that I kept my mouth shut.
But Bril's lack of reaction made me just as angry. No doubt he felt like he needed a good scrub down after being leered at by so many filthy aliens, but still he refused to even give them so much as a glaring at. He was under the same rules as me with Lady Kallis, but just once I'd have loved to hear him tell one of them off. But he wouldn't do that, not while he wanted something from Lady Kallis.
We stepped into the back rooms past the familiar bouncers. Taking solace in the fact that the same men who'd just been leering at Bril would kill to go where we went without harm. The men and women who worked in the brothel usually washed and prepared themselves in the back rooms before heading out to their customers, not that we cared about such things. Living in a brothel had a funny way of numbing you to experiences that some people pay big money for.
Lady Kallis stepped out of her office as soon as we entered, somehow always knowing when we'd returned. It wouldn't have surprised me if it was because she could smell the credits on us, greedy as she was. To her, what we had was nothing, a single drop from a vast lake of wealth, but she wanted it anyway, and she wanted it all.
Although she wasn't physically imposing, Lady Kallis was still intimidating. Like all Cereans, she had a tall coned cranium and pale skin, and her glossy black hair flowed down her back like a sheet of silk. Unlike other Cereans, though, Lady Kallis' eyes were blood red and held a hint of danger and madness. She didn't need to be physically strong herself. She could have someone shaking with fright with a mere glance with those eyes.
"You two stink," came her pointedly sharp tones. "You'd better hope one of our patrons doesn't complain about the smell."
I wanted nothing more than to argue that she only lets us bathe once a week, and even then we were only given a handful of minutes each. She claimed it was so we didn't take time away from her girls. I didn't see how that could possibly be true, given that she didn't have workers using the showers all the time, but arguing would have been foolish. Lady Kallis wouldn't tolerate any backchat.
"Yes, Lady Kallis," I said. Next to me Bril said nothing, but he seemed suddenly jittery, and he was rolling back and forth on the balls of his feet.
Don't do it, idiot.
"Is my mother available? Do you think I could see her?" Bril asked without a hint of fear in his voice, even though he probably knew what the answer would be, and the reaction that the mere question would cause.
"She's working. I've already had five requests for her tonight," Lady Kallis replied shortly.
"Well, maybe she could have a break?" Bril suggested, his deep blue eyes shimmering with vain hope.
Damn it. Just as I expected, Lady Kallis turned her vicious, terrifying eyes towards Bril. Before he could say or do anything else, she reached out and backhanded him across the cheek, one of her expensive rings carving a thin gash across his cheek. Blue blood welled and began to slide slowly down his face, but he still didn't flinch. Bril was the only person I had ever seen not to show her any fear, and she despised him for it.
"I said no, brat. Give me my credits and get out of my sight."
Before Bril could argue any further and cause us some real trouble, I reached down for our daily take worth of credits and dropped them into her outstretched hand.
She tutted at the amount. "I hope you two are capable of more than this," she said, eyeing the small pile of credits with distaste. "Soon, you might be more trouble than you're worth."
When Lady Kallis stalked away and out into her brothel, I had to grab Bril's arm to get him moving. Whenever Bril was refused contact with his mother, he looked utterly destroyed. He let me guide him towards the stairs at the very back that led to the small storage room that Lady Kallis allowed us to sleep in. It was hot and musty and housed way too many spiders, but it was home.
"You really need to stop," I huffed as I finally let go of his arm at the bottom of the stairs. "One day she's going to get fed up and toss you to the streets."
"Shut up. My Mother wouldn't let her do that."
I let out a sigh. While it's true that Bril's mother was Lady Kallis' best courtesan, and the only reason she allowed us to live in the brothel, Bril always had a habit of overestimating how much influence she had. Really, she was just as replaceable as anyone else, though I could never have said as much to Bril.
When I went to answer, Bril was holding the side of his face, his thick blood sliding through his fingers from the cut on his face.
"Come here," I sighed, gesturing to a small box in front of me.
Still holding his face, Bril came over and sat on the box I was gesturing toward. I guided the hand away from his face to have a better look at the damage. Fortunately, it didn't look too deep, and though I was hardly an expert on medical work, I'd had enough cuts and contusions in my time to be sure enough that it wouldn't scar.
"Bloody idiot," I said fondly, mimicking some of the favorite and only words I could remember from my Uncle Vernon. "You know how unpredictable she can be."
I tore a small strip from the bottom of my shirt and wet it from our only source of water, a slightly leaking pipe on the wall. It wasn't perfect, but it at least let me clean the wound.
"Is it so wrong to want to see my mother?" Bril asked, tilting his head to the side to give me better access.
"You know I don't think that," I said, wiping at his face with the slightly wet cloth. "But I think sometimes you forget how dangerous she is."
"No I don't!" Bril argued loudly, pushing me away and fighting back tears. With a swift kick he sent the box sailing across the room and into the wall. "I just want to see my mother!" He snapped. "Why can't she just give me a few minutes?"
I never said a word in response. What could I have said, anyway? Telling Bril that things would change and Lady Kallis would eventually relent and let them spend some time together would have been a lie, and he wasn't stupid or naive enough to believe otherwise. In the end, there was nothing I could do but let him ride out his rage, maybe offer him what little comfort I could.
He was doing his best to fight back angry tears, but his eyes were definitely wet. I wrapped my arms around his back, hugging him tight. I didn't particularly care about his mother, but Bril was the only friend I ever had, and when he was upset, I was too. But there was nothing I could do but hold and let him know that I was still there.
Maybe that would be enough.
Lady Kallis finally allowed us to wash the next morning. Even if she only gave us a few minutes each, it at least let us clean up enough so we didn't appear to be street kids on immediate sight. That alone always helped us be more productive. We always managed to find targets out on the streets eventually, but it was still easier when we were clean. Dirt repelled wealth, after all.
Our first stop was one of the busiest areas on the top levels of Nar Shaddaa, a place where we were always guaranteed to find a good mark. In the middle of the courtyard was a giant statue of Zorbo the Hutt, easily one of the most influential Hutts in the cartel, and probably the most important individual on Nar Shaddaa. I hated the very sight of the statue, except for the fact that it was quite useful to us. Climbing up just the lowest part of the statue gave us a good vantage in which we could search the crowd for a good mark.
While Bril occasionally picked a solid mark for us, we both knew that I had the better eye for it. Most times, I could tell from a glance the sort of people who were carrying money on them, and of those who would be best to approach.
Unlike other days when we could be waiting hours for a suitable target, it wasn't long before I found a potential mark walking through the crowded courtyard. He fit all the criteria I was looking for - alone, likely unarmed and definitely with the air of wealth about him. His expensive clothes and tidy hair were proof enough of that. More than that though, he looked nervous, his eyes constantly shifting and scanning the people around him warily. Even better, he was carrying a thick, heavy case.
Before I could point him out to Bril, the young man looked directly at where we had perched on the bottom of the statue. His eyes locked on our location like glue, and for a moment I thought he had realized what we were up to. After a moment more, it became apparent - he wasn't looking at me at all. He was looking at Bril, and after years of living in a brothel, I could recognize the look in his eyes.
It made him the perfect mark.
So I hope you enjoyed the first chapter. The idea for this fic just kind of randomly hit me when I was playing SWTOR one day, and ever since scenes and plot have been just coming to me. At this point its probably the fic I have plotted the most.
This fic is set in the time of The Old Republic, which means both an active Republic and Empire at the same time. It also means a whole lot of Jedi and a whole lot of Sith are out in the galaxy, but in this, Harry is not a force user, but will still have his magic.
Also, hogwarts and earth will absolutely play a role, and in the coming chapters I will reveal how Harry ended up on Nar Shaddaa.
Please feel free to leave a review or any constructive criticism. I can't even begin to describe how happy reviews make me.
PS. I've created a discord for anyone who might be reading my fics and has any questions. I'm planning to update it every day, updating you guys on where I am with updating any of my fics. I'll be open to suggestions, maybe give you guys some early snippets of upcoming chapters or who knows. I might also rec some fics that I've been reading or you guys can rec some to me or each other or whatever. I've also got a section for you guys to recommend your own fics to the rest of the discord, and hopefully a space to set up review swaps. Just a space to talk about fanfiction, really. A few people have already joined.
FFN is super weird about putting up links in general, but especially on stories themselves, but the link is at the top of my profile.
Hope to see you there!