Two. High left.
Colt signed rapidfire, and Havoc rolled out. Blitz was flanking right, but there were enough for all of them to keep busy.
Four were bearing down, but Colt waited. Blitz’s position would hold, and Colt could take those four out with what cover he had despite the burning muscles in his thighs.
Right. Move out.
The sound of blaster fire filled the air for seconds. Colt handled his four, and then the two behind, as a clanker landed in a heap a step behind him.
Havoc didn’t sound sorry at all.
Blitz lined up the last one for a shot well outside reliable range for his deeces, and dropped him easy. Just for fun.
“Trib’s not here to impress.” Havoc teased his brother once he’d tugged his helmet off.
Colt set his own helmet down, running fingers through his damp hair before rolling his shoulders. They’d run Torrent’s training course a half dozen times, getting more daring and foolish each run, firing up the sims in increasing difficulty.
The three of them could still do a platoon’s job when there was a need.
“Again, Colt?” Blitz was grinning, bright and loose.
“I had hoped to steal the Commander for a bit.” Shaak spoke from the observation room.
“Sir.” Colt hadn’t noticed her arrival, but she stood beside a very self-satisfied looking Captain Rex. Karking Hells. “Could have shut it down, General. We were just….” messing around like a bunch of di’kute who had nothing better to do with our unplanned downtime. “Getting some training in.”
“I enjoyed watching.” Shaak’s eyes were bright and happy and Colt was tempted to shove his bucket back on. It was one thing to look like a love-struck sap around his own men, another to do it around Torrent. He’d never live down the teasing. “It is rare I see you three train together on Kamino.”
“Yes, sir.” Blitz cleared his throat. “Better to train with the men we fight beside.”
Unlike Blitz, Havoc was no help. “We’d never get a chance to do it like that in a real fight. This was just showing off.”
“Sure was,” Rex drawled. “Got a few aboard who are sorry they didn’t see that demonstration in ARC Training.”
“They got plenty of demonstrations.” Colt did his best to make himself presentable before approaching his Jedi.
He had promised Rancor would back Torrent up if anyone had tried to run off with Rex’s second class of ARCs. Colt had said as much to 17.
And yet, the Alpha was too impressed with Droidbait’s unconventional, acrobatic style to let him get on the transport with Hevy and Cutup.
“What can I do for you, sir?” Colt knew Rex knew. Knew his own men, and probably all of karking Torrent knew, but that was no reason to act anything less that proper in public with his General.
“I was hoping to go over some reports with you.” Shaak played along, but it was absolutely the thinnest excuse she’d ever given.
“Of course, sir.” Colt shoved his bucket under his arm and fell in beside her. “Lead the way.”
She nodded her thanks to Rex, and started down the halls with Colt, but her eyes were bright with teasing. “Will they make do without you?”
Colt was too distracted by the way she was looking at him to answer right away. Right, his men. “They’ll be fine. Havoc wanted to poke around in the kitchen, and if Blitz didn’t bring his sketchbook, I’m sure someone will spar him…”
After their talk in 79’s, Colt knew he and Rancor would back whatever scheme Rex dreamed up to get his missing ARC back. Somehow the comm asking for Rancor’s three top command staff and their General to depart Kamino without warning and bunk down with Torrent until Alpha-17 gave up Droidbait was not what Colt had expected.
If it was a kidnapping, it was a very friendly one. It might as well come with a hand-written flimsi invitation.
All four had come aboard, ready to play their part in whatever revenge Rex might have cooked up for the Alpha. Instead, they were cheerfully welcomed aboard, and encouraged to make themselves at home.
Colt had barely seen Shaak since Rex’s Jedi ad’ika had greeted her in the docking bay with big, hopeful eyes, all but bouncing on the balls of her feet to speak with the Master Jedi. Colt had seen her care for his brothers, large and small. Seen her interact with her own Jedi peers when they visited Kamino, or when traveled to Coruscant. He’d even been lucky enough to be there when she could be with Ottoo.
He’d never seen her with one of her own species, never seen her put into such an ori’vod role for one who was so clearly of her own.
Even if he might have hoped to steal a bit more of her days, he was still lucky enough to share her nights.
They were almost back to their rooms. Rex, the karking troll, hadn’t even pretended Colt needed his own bunk. Colt waited until they were in the room before allowing himself to wonder what Shaak asked for him for.
“Reports, sir?” Colt couldn’t bite back his smile.
“Yes,” she agreed, perfectly convincing as she began to strip off her robe.
“Is this going to be that type of meeting, sir?” Colt wasn’t one to argue. ARC Training had kept him busy, kept him pushed to the limits of his energy and patience. A chance to step away from Kamino for a day or two wasn’t the worst thing that had happened to him.
The night before had been the only one in all the time they had spent together they hadn’t needed to muffle their voices or sneak around.
“That is tempting.” Shaak smiled at him, all fangs. “But, I had thought of something else that might make our current mission more effective.”
According to official records, their current mission was a surprise inspection of Torrent’s facilities, and the mission would not be completed until Alpha-17 came to his senses and gave Rex his newly-commissioned ARC back.
“Captain Rex’s invitation made it clear Rancor would be returned well-rested and relaxed.” Shaak patted her hand on the bed. “I had thought to work on those knots in your shoulders, and then we would both enjoy a nap.”
Every night he could sleep with Shaak in his arms was better than any without her, but Colt hadn’t had a nap in years. Even then, the ‘naps’ were the few lucky minutes or hours he could grab between engagements to continue to function without real sleep, not something he chose for enjoyment’s sake.
“I did notice you might be a bit sore from the current training schedule.”
And by that she meant he’d finished every day of training the current ARC class with daily long cold showers to bring down the inflammation quicker and far more stretching than he’d ever needed before. It was just as important as ever to make sure the ARC candidates never saw it, but Colt pushed himself hard to get the best out of them. “Not as young as I used to be.”
That got a sweet smile from Shaak. “Who is?”
The rush of love for her twisted his heart, made all the more bittersweet by the knowledge that eventually they wouldn’t have these moments together anymore. “You haven’t seemed to change much, sir.”
He’d thought about that more since his talk with Cody, about how impossible any sort of future between them really would be. Even if she was older than he was, Colt was catching up quickly. The war wouldn’t go on forever, and it was the purpose he and his brothers had been made for. Shaak would go back to doing whatever Jedi were supposed to do when the war was over.
Her fingertips skimmed his chestplate. “I have changed in many ways.”
There was something so tender in her tone, her touch.
Colt caught her hand and pressed a kiss to her fingers. The conversation was charting a course he knew better than to follow. Romantic confessions were not something they could share, particularly when he was keeping secrets from her.
“Right, so.” Colt cleared his throat. “What do I need to do?”
She rapped a nail on his chestplate. “Armor off, and the top of your undersuit if you are comfortable.”
Colt nodded, but it still felt like it was going to end up like one of those meetings.
Not that he had any objections.
In moments, he was out of his armor, top of his blacks stripped off, and watching as Shaak lit a candle on the desk. She kept them in her rooms on Kamino, but this one smelled different, sweeter than the ones she usually lit.
“A gift, from Padawan Tano,” Shaak answered before he asked.
Because Rex’s ad’ika clearly admired her, Colt filled in silently.
He held out his bare arms, ignoring the aches down his back and shoulders. “What next, sir?”
“Lay down, on your front.” There was a sparkle of mischief in her eyes.
“Still sounds like one of those meetings,” Colt informed her, laying down on the bed. Clearly, Torrent was prepared to have a Togruta aboard. They had a good half-dozen pillows on the bed. Colt dragged one under the top of his chest and allowed himself a long moment of relaxing into the bedding. “What next?”
That drew a little chuckle out of Shaak as she turned down the cabin lights. It wasn’t dark, just dimmed to pools around the recessed lights and the warm glow from the candle on the desk. “Next, you relax your body, and allow me to do the rest.”
That didn’t seem fair, but Colt kept his mouth shut and did as he was told.
Until Shaak dug a knuckle into a knot in the middle of his back.
He just barely managed to bite back a grunt, and Shaak hmm’ed thoughtfully for a moment before climbing on to the bed and settling a knee on either side of his hips.
“Sir.” Maybe this wasn’t meant to be one of those meetings, but Colt was beginning to get the wrong idea.
Shaak’s nails dragged through his hair, sending shivers down his spine, and followed those shivers with the flats of her hands. She began repeating the steady stoke down his back with a steady rhythm. “Relax, Colt.”
“Am, sir,” he gritted out, as the heel of her hand came down on that sore spot between his shoulder blade and spine.
“I see.” She clearly did not agree, switching to kneading her thumbs into the muscles at the very top of his neck, and dragging out a low, rough sound.
“Shaak.” Colt wasn’t sure if he wanted her to stop or never stop, but the electric zing of the pressure and the soothing warmth as she eased off the aching muscles.
She eased up a hair, but kept working at his neck. “These knots have been here for weeks.”
Colt wasn’t entirely sure those knots hadn’t been there his whole life, but he was sure that was not the answer she wanted to hear. “ARC Training.”
“You could have come to my quarters during training.” It wasn’t exactly a scold, but he did notice she put a little more pressure into the spot at the base of his neck.
To be seen at her door in the middle of the night while Tipoca City was crawling with ranking personnel? “No chance.”
That pressure increased until something made a deep pop sound and whatever it was that made turning his head shoot pain down his side disappeared. The groan that followed just slipped out.
“Better?” Shaak sounded suitably smug.
Yes, better. He thought loudly and hoped she could pick it up.
Answering with words was impossible because he had started to melt into the thin, GAR-standard sheets.
Either she heard him or understood the silence because Shaak shifted further down his back to focus on his aching shoulder, and Colt was putty in her hands. She paused for a moment to trace the lines of the tattoo on that side. The one he’d gotten to share with his Edee brothers.
“Does Pots know about this?” She made slow circles against the back of his shoulder joint, and Colt could feel the tendons strung like rappelling lines.
Colt made a non-committal sound.
“I see.” She was smiling, he could hear it, but Colt’s eyes had slipped closed, lulled by her weight on him and the good sort of ache her hands were spreading through his battered muscles. “Are all of your ARC candidates this sore?”
“ ‘m not sore,” Colt mumbled into the cushion. “And they were rotated.”
ARC training was a grind, but Alpha-17 wasn’t unreasonable. The troopers were rotated through with rest days and proper nutrition. ARC training was hard, but it was never cruel to the candidates.
But, there were only so many trainers available. He’d started rotating Hammer in to get Blitz and Havoc a few breaks, but Hammer wasn’t an ARC Commander yet.
“The candidates were rotated,” Shaak repeated. “But you were not.”
Alpha-17 wasn’t either.
Not that Colt was an Alpha.
Or really comparable to an Alpha in most any way.
“My job to make sure they’re ready.” The pillow seemed to swallow half of the words, but Shaak combed her fingers through his hair in silent reassurance, so he could only assume she’d heard him.
She shifted over him, climbing off the bed and Colt missed her weight on him.
“Sir?” He could get up, could move, if she wanted something.
There was a light pressure at the center of his back urging him still, and Colt went along without complaint. That pressure trailed down his back, ghosting over his side, and pressing knuckles into the very top of his hamstring and dragging a moan out of him.
The last time anyone had cared for him like this, Colt had been a cadet struggling through his last growth spurt, and he, Fox and Gree had done what they could to ease aching limbs through.
This was different. Shaak wasn’t a brother also suffering, or Alpha-6 trying to comfort three cadets at once. Shaak also seemed to know what she was doing with a sharpshooter’s accuracy.
Colt let out something closer to a whimper as she kneaded up his calf and into the back of his knee.
He must have drifted off at some point because he woke feeling tender and boneless, covers pulled up over him, and Shaak laying half on top of him. The lights were still low, but the candle was out, leaving the sweet-spicy smell everywhere in the room.
“Sir?” Colt attempted, though it came out as more of a wordless grumble.
“Stay.” Shaak rubbed her nose against the close-clipped hair at the base of his skull. “You’re warm.”
Clearly, she’d moved on to the nap portion of the afternoon. Colt yawned, rolling the shoulder that wasn’t trapped under his sleeping General and noticed the distinct lack of shooting pain.
There were a lot of things he should be doing other than napping, but selfishly, Colt hoped Alpha-17 held on to Droidbait just a little longer.