Summary: Hobbie and Wes are on vacation. The bad guys aren't.
Thanks to hmyrie and nyohah for the beta.
This Wasn't in the Brochure
Hobbie Klivian pressed his fingertips against the skin of his arm, watching it flash white before fading back to red.
"I think I have a sunburn already," he said.
A meter to his left, Wes Janson grunted without opening his eyes and waved a lazy hand in the air. "Put on more of that stuff."
Hobbie picked up the bottle of sunblock lying next to him and squinted at the label. It was the strongest he could find, but it was obviously no match for the Soleran sun. He looked back at Wes. They'd only been on Soler for twelve hours, at the beach resort for ten, and on the actual beach for two, but already Wes looked several shades darker. Hobbie hadn't realized it was possible to tan that quickly, but he figured if anyone in the galaxy had mastered a useless skill like mentally controlling his melanin production, it was Wes Janson.
He pushed himself into a sitting position so he could see his legs. They stared angrily back at him. If he stayed out here much longer—mega sunblock or no—his skin would match the stripes on his X-wing.
"I'm going to get one of those tent things before I burst into flames," he said, standing.
"Ooh!" Wes opened his eyes and tilted his head back to look up at Hobbie. "Get some food! I'm starving."
"Fine." Hobbie brushed the sand off the back of his legs, aiming for Wes's face. Rewarded with a grunt and a sputter, he set off toward the food stands lining the top of the beach.
Focused on weaving through families of all species and not stepping on any of the myriad knee-high children determined to play in the sand directly beneath his feet, Hobbie didn't see the woman until he'd slammed into her.
She bounced off his chest, nearly dropping the beach bag in her arms, and his sunburned skin protested at the sudden impact. He hissed.
The woman's head snapped up, and she tried to extract the arm she'd buried elbow-deep in her bag. "Oh!" she cried, taking a step back. "I'm so sor—"
She tripped on a toddler and, with her arms still tangled in her bag, couldn't catch her balance.
Hobbie caught her elbow in one hand, and the other slipped around her waist to keep her from falling. His hand settled against the small of her back, and he froze.
Beneath his fingers lay something solid, something that wasn't clothing or flesh or bone. Something that, from its size and shape, could be a vibroblade.
He dropped his hands and stepped back, looking at her more closely. She only stood a centimeter or two shorter than him, trim and toned. Her dark hair was piled on top of her head, and her skin seemed to welcome the sun rather than fight it. She was pretty rather than exceptionally beautiful, the kind of woman he'd generally feel he had a shot with. Wes aimed high; Hobbie aimed rational.
Her gaze—sharper, he thought, than it had been a moment ago—swept him from head to foot. When her eyes met his again, she gave him a bashful smile, and the sharpness was gone. If not for the remembered feel of a vibroblade sheath pressing against his fingers, Hobbie would have thought he'd imagined it.
"Thank you," she said. "I'm so sorry for bumping into you. I was trying to find my sunlenses and forgot to pay attention to where I was going."
"Don't worry about it. I'm surprised we have enough room to stand."
She smiled again, looking down and then back up, exuding shy flirtation. Hobbie's toes curled into the sand as his muscles tensed.
"Well," she said, shifting to the side. "I suppose I should…"
"Right." Hobbie tried to back up, but there was nowhere to go. The woman slid past him, her bag held between them like a barrier as they twisted around each other. Once they'd switched places, she turned to leave, then stopped and looked over her shoulder.
"You should probably put on some sunblock, soldier."
Hobbie watched her leave, picking her way across the sand with a grace that came naturally to actresses, dancers, and people with a certain degree of combat training. She disappeared into the crowd of beach-goers, and Hobbie relaxed.
A child's inflatable ball bounced off the side of his head, and he sighed. Even his scalp felt sunburned.
It took him almost an hour to rent a sun tent, find food, and drag it all back to where Wes lay. Wes had rolled onto his stomach but otherwise didn't seem to have moved.
Hobbie dropped the sack of food on his friend's back and wrestled the main pole of the tent into the sand.
"Mmph," Wes said, twisting an arm around his back and snagging the food. "What'd you get us?"
"Sandwiches. You owe me ten credits." Satisfied at the pole's stability, Hobbie crouched and set his finger on the expand button at its base. "Watch out."
He pressed the button, then fell over backward as four arms shot out of the main pole and arced straight up, dragging a layer of fabric with them and nearly taking off his head. The arms locked perpendicular to the center pole, fabric quivering between them. Secondary stabilizers fell from the tent's arms and planted themselves in the sand. Wes yelped and rolled out of the way as one of the stabilizers landed where his shoulder had been.
Hobbie looked up at the two-meter square awning above his head, then down at the shaded area it created on the sand. He smiled.
"Sithspit!" Wes sputtered, eyeing the tent from his hands and knees. One hand still gripped the sack of food. "You nearly impaled me."
"Then I could have eaten your sandwich." Hobbie spread his towel in the marvelous, beautiful shade and lay down. He swore he felt his skin sigh.
"You were gone for ages," Wes said through a mouthful of food. "Did you get lost? I'm sure we can rig up some sort of homing device so you can find your way around without me."
The shade felt too blissful for Hobbie to bother rising to the bait. "Just lots of people. I don't think you could find a more crowded place if you dedicated your entire life to the search."
He heard Wes flop onto his back. "Great, isn't it?" he said with that particular tone of voice that meant he was pleased with himself. "I don't understand those people who want to go somewhere quiet for vacation."
"Quiet is not fun. Have you ever done anything quiet that was fun?"
"Like what? Because stakeouts aren't fun, at least not the quiet part. And hyperspace? Ugh. Sleeping is necessary, sure, but I wouldn't call it fun, and I know for a fact you don't sleep quietly. I wish you did."
Hobbie smiled. This shade was miraculous. It even made Janson less annoying.
"And anything fun you do with a woman shouldn't be quiet. Though—" Wes's voice took on a rare thoughtfulness Hobbie usually found terrifying. "—I suppose if it were secret, like if your wingman came home unexpectedly, and you had to hide in the closet and—"
"Please stop," Hobbie said. "I'm on vacation."
Even miracles had their limits.
"You're being quiet. We've just established how much I hate quiet. You're supposed to entertain me."
"Fine." Hobbie rolled onto his side and propped his head on his hand. "Speaking of women—"
"I like this story already." Wes sat up and shoved half his sandwich in his mouth.
"I bumped into a woman earlier. I think she had a vibroblade."
Wes swallowed and made a show of looking around. "Sounds like my kind of woman. Where'd she go?"
"Doesn't that strike you as strange? Why would she have a vibroblade at the beach?"
"How do you know it was a vibroblade? It was probably her comlink."
Hobbie paused. He hadn't thought of that. "Weird place to carry a comlink, though."
Wes rolled his eyes. "You're the only person I know who, when they bump into a beautiful woman in a romantic setting like this, instantly assumes she's an assassin."
"But she tagged me as military."
"Hobbie, a four-year-old would know you're military."
"You're not at all suspicious?"
Wes set his sandwich on his knee. "Okay, let's pretend it was a vibroblade. Maybe she's just paranoid and carries it for protection, to make herself feel better. She's probably never even turned it on."
Hobbie pushed himself into a sitting position. "But weapons are illegal on Soler. That's a big risk for some peace of mind. And I don't think that's it. She didn't feel like—"
"You felt her?"
"Focus. I don't think she was just a tourist. I think she carries a vibroblade because she knows how to use it. She's a professional of some sort."
Wes sighed. "Look, she was probably one of Cracken's people here for the same reason we are—to get a tan. Or, in your case, to test the limits of bacta in the area of skin re-growth."
"And if she's not?"
"I stand by my comlink theory, but even if you're right, what can you do about it?" Wes spread his arms, indicating the packed beach. "You'll never find her again in this."
Hobbie collapsed on his back and stared up the tent awning. Wes was right. An intelligence agent, whether on leave or on a mission, fit. It still didn't feel right, but twenty years' worth of people trying to kill him had probably made him paranoid. There was nothing he could do about it, anyway. He had no way of tracking her down in Soler's tourism hub.
"Relax, all right?" Wes said. "This is our first real leave in years. I refuse to spend it chasing imaginary bad guys."
"Right," Hobbie said. "Okay."
"Good. That's settled." Wes bounced to his feet. "Race you to the water!"
The club was definitely not quiet, which meant Wes was having a great time.
He could feel the bass from the dance floor on the upper level pound in his chest, and he wondered how much liquor it would take to get Hobbie up there. He signaled the bartender to make their whiskeys double, and then leaned against the bar and surveyed the crush of humans and aliens all around him. The club, like Soler in general, was crowded, noisy, and tacky.
Wes loved it.
A woman in a tiny dress squeezed herself into the miniscule patch of air at his side and waved down the bartender. She shouted her order in his ear, then turned to Wes. He smiled. She looked him up and down and gave him a decidedly inviting smile in return.
The bartender slammed his drinks on the bar, and Wes picked them up. He winked at the woman and pushed his way into the throng.
Hobbie guarded a table against the wall, trying not to look miserable. As Wes approached, he watched his friend fend off a pair of Ishori, wrestling the empty chair away from them. The Ishori brushed by Wes on their way to steal someone else's chair, and he set the drinks on the table with a thunk.
"We're never going to attract any female company if you keep looking like your best friend just died." He spread his arms. "Especially as he obviously hasn't."
Hobbie straightened in his chair, plastering a bright look on his face. "Oh, did Wedge call you?"
Wes placed a hand on his chest. "That hurts. Especially after all the effort I went through to get you a drink. I nearly lost a limb." He picked up his glass and took a swig, then coughed. "Waste of a limb."
Hobbie made a face and his eyes wandered the club's interior. Wes squinted at his glass, trying to decide if what he'd paid for it justified forcing himself to drink it. He'd had worse, and terrible alcohol was still alcohol.
Before he could make up his mind, Hobbie tapped his arm and nodded behind him. Wes turned. The girl from the bar was navigating through a large group of Sullustans and definitely heading their direction.
He smiled. "Oh, I'm good."
He stood as she approached with two tall glasses filled with red liquid in her hands.
"Hi," she said, wearing that same inviting smile. "I'm Seline."
Her eyes slid to Hobbie. "Oh, good. There's two of you. My friend Racha is just over there." She tilted her head to the right. "Like to join us?"
"Well—" Hobbie said.
"Absolutely," Wes said, louder. "Lead the way."
He hauled Hobbie out of his chair by the arm.
"Ouch!" Hobbie yelped. "Easy on the sunburn."
"Stop whining." Wes shoved one of the whiskeys in his hand, and set out after Seline as she swayed through the crowd. She turned every few steps to give him an encouraging smile, which he returned.
Halfway across the club, Hobbie grabbed his shoulder and spun him around, spilling most of his whiskey on his shoes. He swore and glared at his friend, who was staring into the depths of the club.
"What?" Wes shouted over the noise of the crowd. He turned and saw Seline disappear behind two large men. They didn't have time for this. "She's getting away."
Hobbie gestured with his glass. "She's here."
"The woman from the beach. The one with the vibroblade."
"You mean comlink?" Wes looked the direction Hobbie indicated, then realized he had no idea what the woman looked like and stopped straining his neck. "So?"
"She's heading for the back of the club. Come on." Hobbie pressed his glass of whiskey into a bystander's hand and strode into the mass of beings.
"Hobbie!" Wes hollered. "Hobbie!"
He looked over his shoulder. Seline had come back and waved when she spotted him. Wes watched Hobbie's quickly disappearing back. He sighed, gave Seline an apologetic shrug, and followed his friend.
Usual disclaimers apply: Not mine. Non-profit organization.