Disclaimer: The Star Wars universe belongs to George Lucas, I own none of the characters or settings to be found herein. No profit is being made from this work of fanfiction.

A/N: Written for somebody on dA who requested a ficlet featuring "a tender moment between Hondo and Aurra". Naturally the setup required a little background ultra-violence.

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Spicewine flask in hand, Hondo Ohnaka surveyed the carnage around him with what could best be described as cursory interest. None of it shocked or alarmed him. One did not, after all, become the Sertar Sector's most feared (or at the very least most infamous) brigand without developing a somewhat pragmatic attitude towards death(1). Nor did one remain Aurra Sing's on and off lover for over a decade if one had any inclinations towards squeamishness.

"A good day's work for you, my dear," he said, turning his gaze to the form warming its hands on the small camp fire.

There was a snort, bitter and amused in about equal measure. "I didn't get what I came for." Aurra's voice betrayed surprisingly little anger.

"Four out of five isn't bad," he said, gesturing to the row of gagged, bound and heavily sedated Aqualish laid out next to a large hunk of metal that looked as though it might have once been the back end of some kind of ground assault vehicle.

"It was the fifth that counted."

Hondo glanced at the lifeless Nautolan they had placed to the left of their captives and shrugged. "Someone will pay something for the corpse... A considerable something."

"Not as much as Jabba would have for bringing him in alive."

The pirate shrugged and took a glug of his spicewine. "These things happen."

"This one wouldn't if you hadn't killed him."

"He was hurting you."

"I could have taken it, Hondo. I would have had him in the end."

Hondo knew that what she said was probably true. She'd endured worse injuries and subdued stronger men. But when he'd seen the bastard stab her in the leg and then seize her around the neck, taking hold of the Nautolan and beating him until he stopped moving (and indeed breathing) had seemed at that moment like the most natural and legitimate of responses.

"It was..." Through the mild spice induced haze in his mind he sought for the right word. "It was instinctive."

She gave another snort. "Pity you couldn't have been instinctive when that Kel-Dor and Skywalker's brat showed up on Florrum."

"That was different." He wished that she could spend a day in his presence without bringing that one up.

Her lip curled. "Of course it was different. That Jedi scum might have actually succeeded in killing me."

He sighed. "I warned you that getting involved with them was never a good idea, but would you listen?" Then, despite himself a brief smile tugged at his mouth. "Of course not. Aurra Sing never listens to anybody, unless they tell her to do what's she already wants to do. I should know that... But you brought the Jedi to my door and I had no wish to deal with the results." He didn't mention that, despite everything, he'd felt just a little guilty when he'd watch Slave One go down. Let the woman know just how far under his rough Weequay skin she'd managed to get and she'd play him for all he was worth. Quay knew, she'd done it before.

Of all the females in all of the Galaxy why had his younger self gone and fallen for this one?

"You asked me to come here and watch your back," he went on. "So I did."

She didn't say anything, opting instead to poke at the fire with a long, thin bit of duraplastic debris.

Muttering something about troublesome women, Hondo checked the bindings on the Nautolan's four lackeys, before sitting down next to her on the upturned cargo container she was using as a makeshift bench. Up close he could see that she was looking thoroughly dejected.

"What's the matter?" he said. "You can't need the money that badly."

"I can't afford any more kark-ups, Hondo. Not after Alderaan."

"What, that Senator?" he failed to suppress a small chuckle.

Aurra cuffed him on the back of the head, but there was no conviction in the blow. "It was humiliating."

"So, you got overconfident. It happens to all of you bounty hunters eventually. You'll do better next time." He diplomatically refrained from pointing out that overconfidence and a tendency grandstand had always been her failing. To his knowledge only Jango Fett had ever managed to get away with that kind of critique of her hunting skills.

"This was 'next time'." Despite the fire and the warm evening, she visibly shivered as a breeze ran through the valley.

"You're cold?" He touched the side of her face that wasn't sporting a huge grey-blue bruise. She felt like ice.

"Malastarian healing agents," she explained. "They burn you up then cool you down."

He looked at her various injuries. The ones on her neck, face and arms were relatively superficial and fading fast as the medicaments did their work. The wound on her thigh was another matter. Unless they got their hands on some bacta it'd take days, possibly weeks, to knit up properly.

Poor Aurra.

Hondo knew what she was and what she was capable of. Knew that even by most underworld standards she was beyond the pale. Yet there was something about seeing her like this that brought out a whole slew of oddly protective feelings. It had been that way ever since Jango had brought her along on that Corporate Sector job. He hadn't realised quite how resilient - or indeed dangerous - she was back then, but the instinct had never entirely faded.

Without really thinking about what he was doing, he shrugged off his beloved red coat and wrapped it around her. For a second she stiffened, clearly surprised, then the sides of her mouth quirked upwards and she nudged up closer. Returning the smile he wrapped an arm around her and offered her the flask.

She took several long gulps before handing it back, almost empty.

"My pirate," she murmured, resting her head on his shoulder, antenna thankfully retracted.

"My troublesome, dangerous woman."

She made a soft, contented noise.

In the distance he could hear his men taking apart the remains of the Nautolan's ship. Despite Aurra's failure to take her bounty alive this had been a good day for the Ohnaka gang. The contraband cargo of gems, spice and deathsticks more than made up for the effort expended. Still, right now this seemed a slightly distant consideration, the body against him taking up most of his immediate attention.

He knew that, all things considered, he'd be better off selling her out to the Jedi or any of the other organisations and beings who'd be willing to pay for her head. But he also knew he'd never do it. He'd loved her once and, despite nearly getting him killed on sixteen separate occasions, the feeling hadn't entirely gone away. She was cruel, sadistic and self-interested, but she wasn't wholly incapable of affection, and it was the rare demonstrations of such that induced an odd sense of loyalty.

She shifted against him.

"Do you remember what I said to you that first time on Boonta?" she said, voice suddenly husky.

Hondo tried to cast his mind back. "You can't put that in there, it's too big?" he said, speaking the first recollection that came to mind

"After that."

He thought again. "That you wouldn't kill me unless somebody offered you one million credits?"

"I lied," she said, reaching to stroke his chest.

"You did?"

She made a noise of assent. "They'd have to quadruple it and throw in a star fighter."

Aware that this was very probably the closest thing to a declaration of eternal devotion he was ever going to get from her, he grinned like an idiot.

She was a bad habit, but he knew that he'd never be entirely able to give her up.

-0-

(1) Which is to say that if somebody absolutely positively had to die in a given situation one should always endeavour to ensure that it was the other guy.