Author's Note: Happy Valentine's Day everyone! This is just the kind of year I've been having so far, so I figure this was appropriate... enjoy!


Freedom

Season 5, Episode 5, Ahsoka's been captured by Hondo

"Come now, Ahsoka, it's not so bad."

"Speak for yourself, Hondo; you're the one with the control in hand," her gaze narrowed, "when I get out of here-"

"Tsk tsk, you are a Jedi, not a Sith and Jedi have no quarrel with me; your General Kenobi told me himself."

"Then it's a good thing Master Kenobi isn't my Master, now isn't it?" She exhaled, struggling to rid herself of the anger and frustration her current position as Hondo's prisoner had only helped escalate. "They had no quarrel with you before you attacked a transport ship full of younglings, and took me prisoner."

"The little lady makes a good point, Ohnaka." A new, familiar voice drew Ahsoka's head around as far as it would go. "Jedi are damnably persistent in pursuing their lost ones. Especially this one's Master."

Ahsoka felt her whole body tighten in preparation for action as Cad Bane stepped into her slowly revolving view. "Bane."

He was looking right at her and reached up to touch the brim of his hat in a mockery of polite acknowledgement. "Padawan Tano."

"I should have known you were a friend of Hondo's."

Bane's smile was easy as Hondo reacted with typical indignation.

"Friend is such a harsh term; more of an old acquaintance. An associate."

"I don't really care what he is to you, Hondo."

"Ah. Ah ha, but you should."

Frowning, she glanced back to Bane to see her eying her with a look that made her mouth go dry and her stomach clench with dread. The logical reason for Bane's visit suddenly made sense. "Bane? Cad Bane is the buyer you have in mind?"

"The resale value on a properly broken and submissive Togruta is worth the investment," Bane turned his attention to Hondo, "this one will never be either."

"No," Hondo sounded as if he lamented the fact, but Ahsoka could see his grin. "A shame, is it not?"

"You lie as badly as you dress, Hondo," was the Bounty Hunter's dry reply. "The journey to break her might be worth it for the right party." Bane crossed his arms over his chest and examining Ahsoka once more as the fingers of his right hand beat a tattoo against the bicep of his left.

"Buy me, and you'll be dead inside a day."

"Charming as always, Jedi." Bane looked back to Hondo. "How much?"

"You're not seriously thinking of buying me, are you?"

Bane ignored her and Ahsoka felt a ripple of real alarm rip through her chest. Hondo was a conniving fool, but at least he was an honorable one. There was no telling what kind of treatment she'd get at Cad Bane's hands.

"How much, Ohnaka."

"Surely you don't expect me to bargain in front of the girl."

The smirk that crossed Bane's face turned her blood to ice in her veins. "Hardly a girl any longer."

"And just what are you implying, my friend?"

Bane's gaze turned her way once again, deliberately assessing and insulting - to her way of thinking. It made her want to squirm, to get away from that look and its wearer.

Hondo drew himself up, as if insulted, "Your implications are wrong. My hospitality is as honorable as ever - but one certainly can't say the same for yours."

"What I choose to do with the Jedi after I buy her is none of your business. A price," his hand settled on his belt, near his blaster in a nonchalant manner.

Ahsoka had dealt with Bane enough to know that he was anything but. Of course, she'd dealt with Hondo too and never dreamed he'd be selling her; and not, as she'd initially hoped, back to the Republic. "You can't afford me."

"The beautiful thing about merchandise, sweetheart, is that once you own it, you don't have to hold back if it gives you some lip."

"The… Jedi is not for sale just yet," Hondo finally offered with a faint shrug, "I've only just acquired her, would be a shame to sell her without ascertaining her real value first."

"She's a Jedi," Bane retorted contemptuously, "what else she can do is irrelevant."

"Even Jedi have other useful talents beyond a bargaining chip, my friend; come, we shall drink and discuss and trade stories of our glorious battles against the Jedi!"

Whatever Bane said, Ahsoka didn't catch, her head still faintly ringing from the abuse she'd taken in her capture. They left the room, the door sliding shut and leaving Ahsoka to her own company. Rotating slowly within the field, her force abilities frustratingly suppressed, it was galling to know she was at the hands of Pirates and Bounty Hunters.

Time had no meaning as she spun in slow, endless circles. Moving just slow enough to keep the details fresh, but just fast enough that sleeping was uncomfortable. How long she hung there, she wasn't certain, but it felt like an eternity before the door to the room opened again.

And she was facing the opposite wall; fan-kriffing-tasting.

Listening, she didn't hear a tread and her stomach cramped. "What do you want, Bane?"

"Hardly the right kind of welcome to give your rescuer, little lady."

"Rescuer?" Not in a million years would she consider being bought a rescue. "You're hardly the hero type."

"Not a hero," he sounded almost amused to her ears, "but a heroic act by definition with you being the damsel in distress."

Wishing he'd either step into view or go away, Ahsoka tried to turn her head to see him with no luck. "A momentary set back; Hondo has to let me down sometime."

"And when he does, you won't last a Galactic minute." There was a moment of silence and then a soft exhale and the smell of something acrid and burning reached her, making her cough. "What would you do for your freedom, Jedi?"

"Not kill you?"

"You're not exactly in a position to bargain."

Bane moved into her line of vision and she wrinkled her nose as she caught sight of the cigarette in his hand. "Then why ask?"

"Because everyone has a price; even a Jedi."

Ahsoka considered him, realizing after a moment that he was deadly serious. "I don't have any credits."

"That wasn't the question."

Her gaze narrowed as he deliberately swept her frame and her shoulders stiffened. "I won't give you my body, if that's what you're thinking."

"Pleasurable as it would be for me," he barred his teeth in a semblance of a smile, "you're not my type, Jedi."

"Then why the look?"

"Eye catching females - and you've become one in case you missed it," the compliment was unexpected, "are a sight better to look at than bare prison walls."

"I…" what was she supposed to say to that? "Thank… you?"

He smirked, tipping his head, and took another drag on the cigarette, watching her. Ahsoka waited for him to say something, but he didn't, continuing to smoke leisurely, as if he had all the time in the world; which he probably did, but he remained mute.

Patience wasn't typically one of her virtues and she spoke up after a couple of minutes when Bane seemed content to stay silent, watching her with a gleam in his eyes that made her want to squirm. "What?"

"I await your answer, Jedi."

"My… I don't know what I have that you could possibly want, Bane."

"A lady Jedi must have skills in her arsenal besides that sharp tongue." He dropped the cigarette and rubbed it out with the twist of one booted foot. "Or perhaps it's just that sharp tongue. In which case, you're wasting my time."

Ahsoka swallowed, his words giving her an idea, and she blurted it out before she lost her nerve or thought about it too much. "A kiss."

Bane paused mid-turn, glancing back her way.

"You like what you see, right?" she couldn't believe she was considering this but she had nothing else to offer; if Bane freed her, she'd return to the Jedi and offering a Bounty Hunter any kind of marker would be akin to career suicide. Whatever she 'gave' him would have to be now. "Even if we're… physically incompatible, we both have lips - sort of."

His curved. "You have my attention, little lady."

Which was what she'd wanted when she'd rashly made the offer, but now that she had it, she wasn't certain where to take it. "So... you get me out of here and I'll kiss you." He looked disinclined to comment, so she clarified, inwardly cringing. "One kiss for one rescue. A fair trade."

"Depends on the kiss." Bane turned back to face her. "You initiate. You control it. Willingly on the lips." He smirked. "Even if you need to picture me as someone else, sweetheart."

"Deal."

Stretching out one hand, Bane shut off the field holding her in suspension. Ahsoka landed lightly on her toes, glad to be free and turned to face him. "Let's get out of here."

"Remember your deal, Jedi."

"When we're free and clear, I'll kiss you within an inch of your life," she snapped, "but we have to get out of here first."

Getting out was ridiculously easy and Ahsoka realized as they reached the perimeter of Hondo's compound and Bane's ship, that she's likely been had. Bane had probably bought her after all.

Stopping at the base of the ramp to his ship, she planted her hands on her hips. "No 'rescue' is that easy."

"Hondo and I came to an... agreement." Bane lifted one hand and tipped his hat back a little, watching her. "You keep your end of the bargain, Jedi, and we're square."

"You're seriously going to let me go for a kiss?"

"That's on you."

Meaning she had to make it worth the price he'd paid to free her. "A little much for a kiss, don't you think?"

He smirked. "Get on with it, Jedi."

So she did. Stepping up the ramp, Ahsoka passed Bane just enough to be above him on the ramp. Their eyes locked and she was deadly serous when she spoke. "A kiss for my rescue; one kiss, and you let me go free."

"That's the deal."

Taking a deep breath, Ahsoka closed the distance between them, bracing herself, and stepped into Cad Bane's personal space. I can't believe I'm doing this. Reaching up, her gaze never leaving his, Ahsoka slid her fingertips tentatively over the side of his face. His skin was scaly, drier than anything she'd ever felt, but the unfamiliar sensation caught her off guard. He was watching her, still and deadly, and Ahsoka knew he was waiting for her to fail.

She refused to.

Close enough their chests would brush if she inhaled deeply, she leaned in, cupping Bane's jaw in one hand, and pressed her lips over his. He was unresponsive, the dry, hard bone plate that passed as his lips a carry over from his skin, and Ahsoka felt one catch on hers, tugging. As she pressed a half step closer, her mouth opened a fraction to run the tip of her tongue along the edge of her lips to sooth that tear, and inadvertently along his.

Bane took that as some kind of unspoken signal, opening his lips a fraction, his own tongue briefly touching her lips as his moved against hers. "You've lousy technique, Jedi."

That stung and somehow she managed not to pull back. This has to work. Angling her head, she fused her lips to Bane's, closing her eyes as she pictured herself in the only other kissing incident she'd ever been a part of.

Her montrals touched his hat and knocked it from his head, but Ahsoka barely noticed as she was intent on her task. Fingers sliding along Bane's skull plate, they dug in as she pressed herself completely against his lean frame and opened her mouth to his, the tip of her tongue tracing the outline of his lips.

He participated then, accepting her kiss and returning it, but Ahsoka knew he was just waiting for her to fail. She gave no quarter, deepening the kiss, feeling a little thrill of excitement race through her veins as he responded, his arms finally coming up to hold her, embrace her.

The give and take of the kiss was almost feral, fierce, and Ahsoka unwittingly lost herself in the game. Absorbed by the challenge, when the pressing need to breathe forced her to withdraw, her chest heaved as her eyes drifted open.

With a start, she was brought back to the present and the reality of her situation as Bane's gleaming red gaze clashed with her own. Her chest heaved against his and she stiffened, but Bane's arms tightened their grip, keeping her hostage. "Seems I was right. That sharp tongue of yours is good for something else."

It took a few tense moments for her to find her voice, unable to believe what she'd just done. "Was it good enough for you?"

"It will do."

The pressure of his arms eased and Ahsoka took a step back, only to be halted by a tug on her belt. Her gaze snapped down even as she pinned his hands in place with a lightning move. Her lightsabers; he was refastening her lightsabers to her belt.

Not understanding, she lifted her gaze to his and slowly released his hands. "What... why?"

Bane took a step back, bending with an economical move to collect his hat. Dusting it off, he slapped it back on his head before turning to climb into his ship. "See you around, Jedi."

"Bane-"

"A word of advice, little lady."

She stared at him as he turned to glance back down the ramp, waiting.

"Leave before they've a mind to take you prisoner again."

With that, he activated the ramp and Ahsoka was forced to step off it, reeling from what she'd just done even as she forced herself not to think about it. Backing away, she spied a small fighter that looked hyperspace capable a few meters over and headed for it, determined to lock this encounter away in the back of her mind and never think of it again.

Within moments she was following Bane into space, knowing that when she saw him again, it would be all too soon.

fin