A/N- Shada and Karrde have eaten my brain. I can't stop thinking about them.
Setting: About a year after Timothy Zahn's Hand of Thrawn Duology
Shada and Karrde were having a late dinner at a tapcafe on the Diamond Level of the Errant Venture after having spent the majority their day meeting with Booster Terrick and several of their other contacts.
As always, Shada kept one eye on the entrance of the tapcafe as she and Karrde ate their dinner. She froze for a moment when she saw Mazzic enter. This was going to be awkward. She hadn't seen Mazzic since she had resigned from his organization nearly a year ago.
Karrde felt her stiffen beside him and looked up from the remains of his meal to see what had caught her attention. "Ah, our friend Mazzic." He put his utensils down and stood as Mazzic approached.
"Booster said you'd be here," Mazzic said by way of greeting.
"And so we are." Karrde shook his hand and offered him the chair across the table from them. "Please join us."
Mazzic sat and focused on Shada offering her a tight smile. "Shada, it's good to see you again."
"You too, Mazzic."
Karrde took his seat beside Shada again. "I'm afraid we're done with our meal, but will you have a drink with us?" He was, as always, unfailingly hospitable.
"Yeah, sure," Mazzic said absently. He couldn't seem to keep his eyes off of Shada. It made her more than a little uncomfortable. After a few moments, he regained his focus and turned to Karrde. "Actually, I'd like a word with Shada if you don't mind."
"Of course," Karrde said easily. "I'm sure you two have much to catch up on." He placed several credit chips on the table and stood. "If you'll excuse me. I'll see you back on the ship, my dear."
Shada watched him leave, vaguely irritated that he had left her to deal with what was sure to be an unpleasant conversation. Physical confrontations she had no problems dealing with, but this type of thing was another matter entirely.
"You look different," Mazzic told her.
Shada looked down at herself. Her pale blue shirt and black nerf hide jacket were much more conservative than what she had normally worn when she worked for Mazzic even for a casual dinner. She shrugged. "Karrde's style isn't quite as flashy as yours." That was true. Karrde generally liked to blend in, rather than draw attention to himself unlike Mazzic.
"It suits you. You look good. Happy. You like working for Karrde?"
"Yes, it's been an interesting experience," she said diplomatically.
"I'm sure it has. Karrde's a real piece of work."
Shada decided it would be best if she didn't comment on that.
"I know I was angry when you left. At the time, I didn't really understand what was going on, but I wanted to tell you that I really appreciate what you did for me. What you gave up to save me. I've been wanting to thank you for a long time," he told her sincerely.
Shada smiled. "You're welcome. I was your bodyguard. It was my job."
"Yeah, but most people wouldn't have done that. But you've never been most people have you?"
"I suppose not," she conceded.
Mazzic reached out and took her hand, stroking it as had been his habit.
"Don't do that," she said pulling her hand back.
"Sorry." He took a deep breath. "Look, I want you to come back and work for me. I'll double whatever Karrde's paying you."
"Mazzic, I can't just go back to being a smuggler's bodyguard again. I want more than that."
"I'll give you a ship if that's what you want, but I want you back."
"I'm sorry, Mazzic. I just can't go back. Karrde's doing something important with his information bureau and I want to help."
Mazzic crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back in his chair. "It'll never work in the long run. You know that."
"Maybe not. But I want to see it through."
"Well, I can't argue with your loyalty since it saved my life. Do me a favor though and think about it. For old times sake."
"I will," she told him, even though she knew that no amount of thinking would change her mind.
"Good," he nodded. "I'll be kicking around here for a couple of days while we wait for our cargo, so I'll check back with you before I leave."
She found Karrde sitting in his office absently stroking his beard and staring blankly into space despite the pile of datapads on his desk. He studied her with cool interest as she lurked in his doorway.
"Mazzic asked me to rejoin him," she told him.
"Will you be leaving us?" He asked, keeping his voice carefully disinterested. But she heard the words he wanted to ask anyway, Will you be leaving me?
"Why not? You were with him for over a decade. Time like that engenders a lot of loyalty."
"Do you want me to leave?"
"No, I value your skills far too much."
"My skills?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.
"You are a very valuable part of my organization."
"I see." She looked away from him. She didn't know why she expected Karrde to give voice to his feelings. He guarded them even closer than she did.
"You are very valuable to me, Shada," he said quietly. "But I won't try to stop you if you truly want to leave."
She looked up and caught his eye. For once his pale blue eyes were unguarded and she saw the fear lurking there. "I don't want to leave."
She watched the tension ease out of him and he smiled at her. "Good." He held out his hand to her and she moved around to the other side of his desk to take it. He brought hers to his lips, placing a fervent kiss on back of her hand. "Will you stay with me tonight?" he asked.
He never took her favors for granted and always asked permission to be with her. It seemed a strange courtesy, especially since she'd never refused him, but he was always careful never to pressure her. This facet of their relationship was still new and seemed very delicate.
That night he was possessive in a way he'd never exhibited before with her. Shada knew she would find herself covered in the marks of his possession the next morning. Not that she minded particularly, his back was likely covered with scratches from her own passion. She had to admit she liked seeing him lose his careful control for once.
Afterwards, she lay in his arms almost lulled to sleep by the rhythmic motion of his fingers combing through her hair. Lying sated in the arms of Talon Karrde was the last place she expected to be a year ago.
This time last year, she was still a Mistryl Shadow Guard serving as Mazzic's bodyguard and that seemed likely not to change. Then her Mistryl sisters had turned against her and her world fell apart. Karrde had given her a purpose again and his quiet, steady support as she picked up the pieces of her life again.
There had always been a spark of attraction between them, even when they had first met ages ago during the Thrawn Crisis. That attraction had continued to grow more intense the longer they worked together. Until one day, with the exhilaration following a rather daring caper and both feeling particularly pleased with themselves and each other, their attraction could no longer be denied. Karrde had shocked her by pulling her into his arms and kissing her in triumph and she had responded in kind. He had pulled away from her, panting slightly, "Tell me to stop."
"Don't stop," she had told him pulling him back to her. And that was the beginning of their rather peculiar affair. They had both guarded their hearts so closely for so long that they found it difficult to let those old habits go.
The next morning, Shada was standing in front of the mirror in the refresher dabbing bacta on the numerous bruises marring the pale skin of her neck and chest. "I'm not going to be able to leave the ship today," she said quietly to herself with a sigh.
"I'm sorry, my darling," Karrde said coming up behind her and sliding his arms around her waist.
"No, you're not. Whether it was deliberate or not, you wanted everyone to know I belong to you, especially Mazzic," she told him meeting his gaze in the mirror.
He had the good grace to look slightly embarrassed. "I'm a selfish man, Shada. What more can I say."
"Nothing." She shook her head slightly and smiled. "I suspect I left my marks on you as well. Let me see your back."
He released her and turned around. Sure enough his back was covered in little red crescents and long scratches from her nails. "Oww."
"So much pleasure is worth a little pain."
She didn't know how to respond to that so she said nothing. She gently rubbed bacta on his scratches. "Let that dry before you put your shirt on."
"Thank you." He turned back to her, reaching out to push her dark hair out of her face before leaning down to kiss her.
Shada hadn't been able to find a shirt with a high enough collar to cover the bruises on her neck. So she put on a scarf, wearing it in a rakish style reminiscent of the fighter pilots in the old holo serials. Hopefully, no one would comment on her obvious effort at concealment.
After she had made herself presentable, she went to the ward room and had her morning caf and a bowl of fruit. A short time later, Karrde wandered in pulling on his jacket. He poured himself a cup of caf and joined her at the table. "What a lovely scarf," he told her with a devilish twinkle in his eye.
"I'd watch it if I were you, Captain Karrde," she said pointing her fork at him menacingly.
"Oh, indeed?" He grinned as he stole a piece of fruit from her bowl and popped it into his mouth. "Or what?"
"Or I'll-" She stopped as Aves entered with a datapad in his hand.
"Here's the information you wanted, Boss. Odonnl says that's everything."
"Thank you, Aves," Karrde said accepting the datapad. He took a sip of caf as he started scrolling through the information
"No problem." Aves walked out and then stuck his head back in a moment later. "Oh, yeah, one more thing. You two," he said motioning between Shada and Karrde, "are not fooling anybody."