Title: A Solstice Karrde
Author(s): Jaina
Fandom: Star Wars
Timeframe: Post NJO
Characters: Shada D'ukal, Talon Karrde
Genre: Vignette, Action
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Lucasfilm, Ltd. No money is being made and no infringement is intended.
Notes: Originally written for Annie in the '06 DLC Secret Santa Exchange.

"There you are, dear," Karrde said, as he reached out to lay a possessive hand at the small of her back. "We've been waiting for you."

"Oh," Shada D'ukal turned into his touch slightly, following his lead. She smiled slightly at the Biths in front of her and then glanced up at Karrde. "You ran into some friends?"

"Yes, some old friends."

The slight stress that he put on the word told Shada, if she hadn't already deduced it, that these beings were not friends, either of the old or new variety.

"You should introduce me then, dear," Shada encouraged, laying a playful hand on his chest. She used the opportunity to let her other hand fall to her side, where it was only centimeters from Karrde's blaster.

She cursed the fact that he had convinced her to come down to the Winter Solstice Celebration on Bimmiel. She hadn't wanted to come and now it seemed as if she had been right to not want to visit this party.

Shada listened as Karrde told her the names of the beings in front of her, but they meant nothing to her. They were either aliases or a group of beings that she hadn't heard of before. In the past ten years since joining Karrde's organization, she'd had a vast amount of information at her fingertips, but it was still a big galaxy out there.

Even now, as his second-in-command, she was still unwilling to take any chances with Karrde's safety. In fact, she admitted to herself, she was probably less willing to risk his safety now than when she was his bodyguard. Maybe it had something to do with not always being there to protect him now. Either way it was a fact that troubled her on the occasions when she allowed herself to think about it.

The Biths barely acknowledged her presence, or Karrde's introduction before they turned inwards and began conferring softly with one another.

Shada risked another glance up at Karrde's face. If he could give her some hint as to what was going on…

Karrde flashed a smile at her that she had rarely seen. He was a man who knew the value of information and treated his own emotions as information that was valuable and should not be given away for nothing. This smile was unguarded, full of warmth and totally unlike anything she'd ever seen him direct at her.

He bent over, as if to whisper some lover's secret meant only for her ears and Shada wished that she'd had the foresight to leave her hair falling down her back, instead of held up in place by the two long stick pins that had been Karrde's Winter Solstice present to her. It had seemed fitting when she was getting dressed, but now it only made it easier for the Biths to overhear what Karrde was saying.

"They have snipers up on the roof, and they're jamming our comms."

Shada nodded, and kept her smile firmly on her face, even as a distinct chill went down her spine. It wasn't from fear, but rather from a cold anger that settled over her.

She squeezed the lapel of his jacket with her free hand and then casually glanced around the plaza. It only took her a few moments and quick glances to spot the scattered snipers on the surrounding roof tops. There were three of them and only one direction that they had left open for she and Karrde to retreat in the small, crowded square.

It seemed that they were trying to herd them in a specific direction. Or maybe she gave them too much credit. Still Shada preferred to err on the side of caution, at least when it came to underestimating her opponents abilities.

Right now she didn't feel like being cautious at all. She leaned into Karrde, and whispered, "Get down."

It was an indication of their years of association and his trust in her that he immediately did as she asked. As he dropped, Shada pulled the blaster out of his holster and one of the pins out of her hair. A large section of her hair tumbled free down her back, and she turned and threw the hair pin. It flew with the accuracy that it had been specifically designed for and thudded into the far wall of the square.

It detonated on impact. Shada just hoped that whatever unpleasant surprise that had been waiting for them had just received an unpleasant surprise of its own.

She didn't waste anymore time on her thoughts though and whipped the blaster up to spray blaster bolts at the four Biths. The tallest Bith, off to the right, pulled one of its companions in front of him ruthlessly, blocking her shot. He cast the dead Bith aside with a shove and whipped out a blaster of his own.

The blaster was not pointed at her, but several meters away from her. Shada exhaled and concentrated on not squeezing the trigger. She knew she needed to look away, and she knew almost what she would find. Somehow they had Karrde.

She breathed in, narrowing her focus to the Bith's eyes. Her next move came to her as she felt the second pin in her hair slowly slipping free without its mate to help hold her hair in place.

She grinned and took back her previous condemnation. They had to be the best Solstice gift she'd ever received. She'd have to remember to thank Karrde for them, just as soon as she got done using them to save his life.

Shada tilted her head slightly, just enough to finish freeing the pin from her hair. It fell into her left hand as if it had been made to fit there - which it had actually.

She threw the second pin at the Bith holding the blaster with just as much force as thrown the first pin, but didn't stop to watch it reach it's destination. If it didn't hit its mark, she was dead anyway.

She swung her blaster to the right and began firing the second that she got a visual on Karrde. The Bith holding him dropped an instant before the explosion of the second pin threw her to the ground.

Shada hit the ground hard and felt the air leave her lungs. She gasped for air, but couldn't and forced herself to get moving and scramble towards Karrde.

She felt a hand slip around her waist and pull her to her feet. She looked up to find Karrde pulling her into his side, and hustling them towards the milling, frightened crowd of people. Quickly Shada did her best to straighten and look as if she hadn't just been through a blaster fight and wasn't responsible for the explosions that had just so frightened these people.

She tried to suck in air, and finally found that she could again. She took a minute to just breathe and then focused on where Karrde was taking them.

"Do you have a plan?"

Karrde squeezed her waist and then let her go. To her surprise he caught her hand again and kept pulling her through the crowd.

"I'm hoping that Dankin already has the ship back under our control."

"But if he hasn't," Shada pointed out.

"He'd better have," Karrde growled. "This was nothing but a two-credit set up. We shouldn't have been caught out like this, Shada."

"Karrde," she hadn't heard him angry like this in quite a while. Not since the worst of the Vong War. "They'll be fine."

He stopped and looked down at her abruptly.

"And if they aren't, we'll deal with the problem."

Karrde nodded once, sharply. He had never regretted making her his second-in-command. As much as Mara had been his right hand, Shada was different.

She was his perfect complement, while she constantly found new ways to throw him off balance. Shada was the only one who could consistently surprise him and push him beyond what he was comfortable with.

"Yes, we'll deal with it." He agreed, and there would be a one more thing that they would need to deal with when they returned to the Wild Karrde, but that could wait until he and Shada had a quiet moment. She wasn't going anywhere and he would make sure of that.