“So, boss,” says Aphra, cheerfully, legs swinging under the table as the waiter serves them a croissant each (and Anakin tries not to think about his already-light wallet and the hit it's going to take from this meeting), “I heard you shacked up with Ben Kenobi and started fighting the good fight now.”
Anakin glances upward, lets out a long sigh. He really should’ve expected this, he supposes, after tracking her down and arranging to meet up with her again to try and get more out of her about Kylo Ren and Poe’s disappearance, and how they're connected. But it's been a while, and the last time he'd seen her--
("Please! Please, let me out, boss--"
He turns and walks away, hears a muffled cry before the cab disappears into the water.)
--he's kind of surprised she's willing to talk to him at all.
“Yes,” he says, shortly, then: “Just tell me what you know about Kylo Ren, Aphra. I’ve actually got a job I need to get back to after this.”
“Well, since you went to all this trouble to get me this croissant,” says Aphra, picking up her croissant and biting into it, “I’d shay--”
“Swallow first,” he says, quickly. Somewhere in Hell’s Kitchen, he’s fairly certain Obi-wan is laughing at him. How ironic, coming from you, he'd probably say, with a grin. “I need to make sense of what you’re saying. When did he first show up?”
Aphra nods, swallows, then says, “Okay, good croissant, better than what I've been having for a while, but anyway--Kylo Ren’s Snoke’s protégé, from what I hear. Sort of like you and the old man were. He first showed up around--a little over eight months after you and Palpatine went to jail.”
Anakin stabs his fork into his croissant with a little more force than necessary. “Go on,” he says, restraining the urge to hit something. There's nothing to hit, and he isn't Ahsoka.
“So,” says Aphra, after a moment’s wary pause, less cheerfully, “I also heard Snoke gave him a gift of some kind. What it is, I’m not completely sure, but there’s rumors it’s some kind of superpower.”
“So Kylo Ren’s a metahuman?” He should really stop being so surprised by all the things coming out of the woodwork these days, he thinks. New York's been getting stranger since the Invasion.
“That’s what the rumors say,” says Aphra, with a shrug. New York, right? she doesn't say, but Anakin catches her meaning anyway, ducks his head to snort out a laugh. “What kind of powers he has, everybody’s a bit less clear about. Freezing bullets in mid-air, making things float, mind control--all everyone can agree on is that it’s got something to do with the mind.” She bites into her croissant again, swallows, and says, “Hey, boss?”
“Hm?” says Anakin, looking up.
“Why’d you ask? And why’d you ask me, of all people? Why'd you go to all this trouble to track me down?” She tilts her head to the side, calculating, scrutinizing. Anakin meets her gaze, steady and firm, for just a moment before he looks away. “I was kind of under the impression that you wanted me dead, last time.”
“What gave you that impression?” Anakin asks casually, looking back at her. Liar, liar, he thinks to himself.
She shrugs. “I told you I didn’t want to swim,” she says, “and yet.”
Anakin gives a sigh, the familiar weight of guilt pressing down in his stomach. “I don’t want you dead now,” he says, and it's the first time, he thinks, that he's ever been honest with her. “You’re the only person I hired from when I worked under Palpatine who isn’t going to stab me in the back, even if you have all the reason to.” And she has more than enough of a reason to want him dead, she'd seen him walk away.
And yet here she is anyway, on his call, knowing how little in the way of protection he has now.
He bites into his croissant, swallows, and says, “Besides, your network’s probably better than mine now.”
“True,” Aphra acknowledges. “Hey, uh. Since you said you don’t want to kill me: about this--thing? That you’ve got going right now?”
“The ‘fighting the good fight’ thing, I’m presuming,” says Anakin, dryly.
“You’re pretty optimistic it’ll work out,” Aphra says. “It’s not a bad thing, mind, I'm glad, you’re so happy that it’s actually kind of weird for me--”
“You could also call it desperation,” says Anakin, mildly. “Since, if I don’t, it’s straight back to jail for me, and that’d disappoint my kids.”
Aphra gives a nervous laugh, tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. “Yeah, I guess that’d suck for them too,” she says. “Boss?”
“I’m really glad for you.”
Anakin blinks at her. Then smiles, faintly.
“Yeah,” he says, sincerely, “I’m glad for you too.” He leans forward and says, "Anyway, do you know anything else? Especially if it involves Poe Dameron, I've got a--a friend, let's say, who's worried about him..."