The whole place was crawling with refugees, which made this all the harder for him. Not that refugees weren't easy marks–on the contrary they were almost tooeasy–but usually they didn't have much worth conning them for. He really needed to find some way of getting more than a few credits, and it wasn't likely to happen any time soon by sticking around the crowded spaceport.

He made his way through the masses and out into the clouded, rainy evening. He'd never been to this planet before, but he had a finely honed sense of where to find the best marks.

He stood in the dimming light not quite directly across the street from a bar. Drunks, especially local drunks, were always easy to prey on. If he could find someone…. He'd definitely make it worth their while; he'd just leave them with their pockets a little lighter.

He let the first few stumble by. He considered a pretty Thallian woman, but left her alone as she flagged down a cab. A couple then came out, clumsily leaning on each other and rather loudly considering their options. It was tempting to join the two of them, but they were Unjool who were not fond of Humans in general, much less as sexual partners.

A few more minutes passed before he spotted the man. He was stumbling, obviously drunk (though he hadn't exited from the bar he'd parked himself outside of), but he looked to be the melancholy drunk type, rather than loud or angry. And, wow, could he pull off melancholy–soft expressive lips, curly brown hair, classic jaw line. He couldn't really tell his age in the dark like this, though the man wasn't young. And he was human, or near-human anyway.

As the man stumbled in his direction he emerged from the shadows and smoothly caught his arm, saying, "Let me help you there, friend."

The man started and pulled back away from him.

"Hey," he lifted his hands to show the man he meant no harm, "you just looked like you could use some help staying upright. You heading somewhere close? I can give you a hand."

The man regarded him with startlingly clear eyes and he felt a tell-tale prod in his mind.

Damn he thought. He would, of course, manage to pick out a telepath. He was prepared to melt away into the shadows and find another target when the man surprised him by nodding and grasping his shoulder for balance.

"Let's find a hotel," the man said softly; his accent was a surprise–it sounded like the higher social strata of the inner Empire. What he was doing out here was anyone's guess, but it probably meant he had money.

They located a hotel fairly quickly. The drunk fumbled in a pocket (where in the world had he managed to find a velvet coat? There weren't many who could pull off such an outfit, but this guy–it looked like it had been made for him) and threw a few credits on the counter, asking for a room for the night. The host handed them the key card, informed them when checkout was, and then turned his attention resolutely to whatever it was he had been doing before.

"Ah, service," The con man quipped. His companion gave a thin smile. They were quiet as they moved to the correct room. The drunk didn't offer, or ask for a name, and anonymity suited the other man just fine. He let the drunk lean on him heavily as he triggered the lock to their room.

Once inside, he started kissing him. The other man was slow to respond at first but soon got into the spirit of things. The stranger let him lead him to the bed. But when he started to unbutton his shirt the other man put a hand over his and said softly, "No."

That caught him off guard. As he looked at the other man sitting on the edge of the bed, he realized that he was sober–completely stone cold sober. The look in his eyes was one he recognized, desperation, pain, grief.

"I thought…"

"I know. But I don't want that."

This made him wary. "What do you want?"

"I just want you to hold me until I fall asleep."


A haunted, half-mad, look crossed the other man's face and it made him shiver.

"I'm dying."

That startled him and made him back away completely.

"I won't live through the night. There's nothing a hospital can do for me, nothing I would want them to do even if they could. I wasn't supposed to live this long. I wasn't…I didn't intend to survive. But I'm dying now. I just…I just don't want to be alone when I do." There was fear and begging in the man's tone.

This was so not what he had signed up for. He quickly turned to the door, intending to get out of there as fast as he could. There were better marks out there than a crazy, dying man.

"Please. I don't mean to frighten you. I just don't want to be alone. I can make it worth your while–rifle through my pockets all you like. Anything there is yours. I won't need it much longer."

He stiffened, turning around. "I'm not one to pilfer a corpse."

A wan smile crossed the other man's face and he stood, shakily, and removed his coat, throwing it onto the chair by the window. "Like I said, anything in it is yours. There's some gems, some credits, odds and ends. Just, please hold me until I fall asleep, I won't wake up again."

He stared at the man for a long time. Now that he was looking for it he could see the man was not well. He was pale and his breathing not quite even.

"Okay." He finally said. It was one of the weirder ways he'd made money and somewhere a part of him was saying it would be a much better idea to just take the damn coat and run right now, but a bigger part of him wondered what kind of person was so desperate that they would pay a stranger to hold them while they died? Even deeper though, there was something else–the knowledge that if he himself died now there would be no one who cared, no one to stay with him. He was on the run, little more than a petty thief, no family to call on, nothing but his wits and charm to his claim. He didn't even have a name. He couldn't use the name he'd been brought up with and he hadn't settled on an identity yet. All of it together–he could understand why this man didn't want to be alone.

He approached the bed and sat down, removing his shoes. The other man just laid back. He moved so he could hold the other man, wrapping his arms around him. The man's skin was a little cooler than he was expecting. The other man though, evidently, liked the warmth of the embrace and nestled closer. A sigh escaped his lips and some of the tension eased from his shoulders.

Laying this close to him, the con man could feel the thin frame under the clothes. He guessed that the man would have been pleasantly muscular had he been healthy, and he almost regretted not meeting this man when he had been better. The man was certainly attractive and he thought maybe the personality matched the wardrobe choice.

They were silent as they lay there. It was a long time before the man said, "Thank you." Minutes later his breathing slowed and he relaxed into sleep.

He waited to make sure he was asleep. Then he carefully extracted himself and moved over to the chair to pick up the coat and leave. But he paused a moment and looked at the sleeping man on the bed.

He set the coat back down and brought the chair closer to the bed. He held the man's hand as he watched him sleep–his breaths growing shallower, face paler.

A few hours later the man stopped breathing. Just to be sure, he felt for a pulse and found nothing. Then he picked up the coat and left the room.

Half an hour later the body began to glow.