From the moment I met him, it was hard not to turn and sneak a second look when he sauntered by. After all, our dubious ally looked like he'd been chiseled out of an Anobian quarry wall. And he walked like a man who owned the galaxy - or had, at least, at one point (if only in his own mind).

Canderous Ordo oozed danger. Maybe that's why I found my eyes fixated on him from our first encounter in Taris' Lower City. He walked with a swagger that was certain to catch any female's eye.

It was a swagger that said he knew he caught attention from the fairer sex. It was a swagger that said he didn't care.

I was quiet, mostly, as he guided us through the streets and walkways of Taris, toward Davik's private estate. Any question I asked was met with a one or two-word answer at best; our guide wasn't one for idle chatter. Carth didn't say anything, either - I could practically feelhis disapproval pressing against my back as he finished out our party in the rear. It didn't take a genius to know that this wasn't going to end well - if Ordo held up his end of the bargain, he was probably going to travel with us for a while.

Which meant, at some point, I would probably have to peel him and Carth apart before they ripped each other limb from limb.

Secretly, my bets were on Ordo. Not that I didn't respect Carth's abilities as a fighter - we'd been through the Nine Corellian Hells and back again since the moment we met. But...

I eyed the size of Ordo's biceps as we rounded a corner. I hadn't yet had the pleasure of seeing any part of Carth's anatomy bared to view - much less his arms - but I was willing to bet Ordo had a good fifty or more pounds of muscle on him. Carth might have had speed on his side, but Ordo had brute strength. I decided I really didn't want to see what might happen if the two got in their heads to be all macho and male.

I stifled a small sigh. A part of me began to wish I'd asked Bastila to come along. Or even young Mission. Heck, even the Wookie would have been a better traveling companion (and more than enough of a match against the Mandalorian merc). But, no...I'd asked Carth to tag along. It was out of sheer habit, at this point. We'd been through a lot together - it seemed like an eternity had passed since that fateful meeting on the Endar Spire. We'd faced Black Vukars, Sith, rakghuls, and a host of shady characters since we'd first step foot on Taris. Not to mention, Carth had been the one to pull me out of my escape pod's wreckage and to find temporary safety for me to recover.

He'd watched over me from the very beginning. And I had a feeling he always would - whether I asked him to or not.

When faced with the first real choice to leave him behind or take him with me, I hadn't really hesitated. Carth seemed like the obvious choice. Disapproving or not, he felt comfortable to be around - like a favorite pair of clothes or a well-forged viroblade.

He'd called me "beautiful", too. It was hard to leave behind a man who said that - even if it was just in passing flirt.

I considered the broad back that swaggered in front of me. Even though we had only really just met, I couldn't imagine the Mandalorian being so frivolous with his words. My first impression of him would probably always last, I mused - tall, grim, tough, and deadly.

Carth made a soft noise in the back of his throat and I glanced over my shoulder to toss him a smile. It was forced, but it seemed to bolster his spirits all the same. He brushed back a few stray strands of his dark brown hair and met my eyes briefly with a lop-sided grin of his own. But, then his eyes shifted past me, toward Ordo's back; only after a few pointed seconds of watching our guide, did Carth meet my eyes again.

"Trouble", his eyes said. I could only nod in silent understanding and then shrug. I broke eye contact and focused on turning the corner in front of us. There really wasn't anything we could do about the situation at this point. We had already stormed the Sith military base - no doubt, they were combing the streets of Taris for us, even at this very moment.

And, we needed a way off of this thrice-damned planet. So far, Ordo had been the only one to offer a solution. I - like the rest of of my companions - had balked at how much he had asked of us. Even I couldn't blame Carth for wanting to know why the Mandalorian couldn't take care of business on his own. But, Ordo's reasoning had been sound - logical and rational, as one would expect of a man bred for war. And even when I had wavered on the wisdom of our choices, Bastila had assured me that she had felt no deceit in our guide.

His desire to leave Taris was, at least, as genuine as ours. Though, I had to wonder about his ulterior motives.

What did he hope to find, in the galaxy beyond us? And, more importantly, who was he? 'Canderous Ordo, bounty hunter' certainly had a bit of a ring to it, but it didn't tell me a thing about him, about his past, about his intentions, about his character.

"We're almost there," Ordo's deep voice broke through my mental musings.

He stopped, suddenly, and I didn't pay attention fast enough to keep myself from running face-first into his back. I could feel the tips of my ears flushing as I collided into his burly width and I threw a hand out to steady myself.

His red vest was warm underneath the tips of my splayed fingers; even through two layers of clothes, I could feel the curve of muscle near his hip. I opened my mouth to apologize, but nothing came out - not even a squeak (of that, at least, I was thankful). I kept my eyes fixed firmly to a distant point straight ahead - safely past his upper torso - as I tried gallantly to ignore the close proximity of what was, quite possibly, the most muscular human male in all of Taris.

Bad attitude and gray hair aside, I'd have to be catatonic not to notice the impressive physique. And dead, not to appreciate it.

"I'm going to guess those aren'tthe reflexes that won you that swoop bike race, eh?" Ordo's voice was a little rougher, a little deeper.

I would remember this moment as the first time I heard him purr.

My ears burned brighter and I was saved - yet again - by Carth.

"Briah's got a lot on her mind," I felt a large hand settle on my shoulder, as Carth pulled me safely away from Ordo's personal space.

He kept his hand on my shoulder - an oddly territorialgesture - as I cleared my throat and dared to meet Ordo's amused face. The Mandalorian's scent crept up my nose and threatened to scatter my thoughts - he smelled like metal and sweat. A strong mixture, but not unpleasant. I forced a sneeze, to buy my thoughts some time.

"Seems I've got something up my nose, too," I sniffled dramatically for affect.

My act seemed to have satisfied Carth, but when I risked another glance at Ordo, the line of his mouth had thinned, as if he was trying to keep himself from laughing. The thought made me indignant and I grabbed a hold of it - any emotion was better than embarrassment.

I shrugged away Carth's hand - I could face this mercenary oaf on my own, thankyouverymuch. I squared my shoulders and titled my head back to meet Ordo eye-to-eye. He toward over me and I couldn't help feeling rather small and fragile.

It was the first time that I could ever recall, where I didn't feel as if I was meeting a male as an equal. Even when standing casually to the side of a fairly busy walkway, he had a dominant sort of arrogance in the set of his shoulders, of his hips. Ordo was a man used to being in charge - I suddenly suspected that he submitted to the likes of Davik and the Exchange only out of sheer necessity.

I also began to suspect that he wasn't the type to ask for help. Ever.

"Who areyou?" I narrowed my eyes at him and set my jaw stubbornly as I prepared for a battle of wills.

Ordo surprised me, though. It would be the first time of many, as I would later discover.

"Someone who would rather be your ally, than your enemy," he answered cryptically.

"Oh, c'mon -" Carth began, but I raised my hand to cut him short.

Surprisingly, he acquiesced to my silent request, though I didn't catch any reaction I might have caused, as I never turned my eyes away from Ordo. The Mandalorian quirked an eyebrow at my gesture, but said nothing.

I had a feeling that I was being sized up - both from the back andthe front, by both men. I lifted my chin a little higher in response to the pressure of their mutual consideration.

"Will you answer some questions when we get to -" I paused and allowed my attention to be briefly diverted by an Ithorian ambling past; I lowered my voice a notch or two, as I turned back to Ordo. "-Where we're going?"

"I won't promise to answer everyquestion," Ordo slowly hooked his thumbs in the holsters that rode low across his thighs; I failed miserably at trying not to notice how that added to his rugged physical appeal. "But, I'll promise to answer what's prudent for the circumstances."

I searched his broad, scarred face for any sign of duplicity. Carth - not afraid to voice his disapproval - huffed and Ordo narrowed his slate-gray eyes as his attention shifted from my face to over my head. I took the opportunity to roll my eyes and curse my shorter stature.

Carth's suspiciousness aside, I knew instinctively that Ordo was merely being honest. In the home of the employer he intended to betray, there wereonly so many questions he could answer safely. I had little choice but to be happy with the promise I had been given.

"That all?" Ordo took a moment from glaring over my head, to look me in the eye again.

A corner of his mouth twitched and I knew what he was really asking - "Was that what you had 'on your mind'?" I chose to ignore his unspoken question and the implications that it held.

I could still smell him - that heady mixture of metal and sweat. It was different from Carth - who always smelled like leather and soap. This was a rawsort of scent. Unmistakable, really.

"Yeah," I played stupid and shrugged; it was safer that way. "You said we're not far...?"


A/N: Next up - Canderous!

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