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“Cuff yourself.”

Toro looked up at him, back down at where the binders had landed in the sand, and back up again. His jaw was stiff against the pain, but he cocked one dark brow, like he still had plenty of attitude left. Too much by half.

Din recognised that expression. It was a look that said, make me.

And tonight—with sand up his plates and other places he’d rather not think about, his flightsuit stinking of stressed dewback, and his blood hot at the sheer waste of it all—he was fresh out of patience for brats.

He drew his pistol and aimed it square at Toro's hotshot mouth—where he would’ve aimed the first time, had the kid not been tucked next to his chin.

Toro was rocking a little to distract himself from the burning kiss of a blaster shot against his ribs. He shook his head. “Nah, Mando.” His face flickered between a grin and a grimace like a shoddy holo. “You won’t do it. You’ll bring me in warm.”


“Oh yeah.”

“Why.” What about a guy in head-to-toe beskar said, I’m a pushover for backstabbers, he'd like to know. People made a lot of dumb assumptions, nowadays, with the kid around. He found that odd. He’d left plenty of corpses in that cradle’s wake.

“I can make it worth your while,” Toro said.

“And who’d pay for a filthy Corellian piperat like you?”

Toro's false smile held a history of hurt. “I’m Kuati, actually. But you’d be surprised,” he chuckled, legs splayed in the sand, challenging Din meekly, almost sweetly, from underneath eyelashes he must have stolen from his mother. “This wasn’t my first first job.”

Now here was a raw deal.

If only the underground economy hadn’t collapsed on Tatooine. No Guild. No Hutts. No market for mouthy streetwalkers who flubbed their chance at a career change. Not even an Imperial Garrison for the bay manager—probably local, probably union—to pester, demanding they press kidnapping charges, until whoever was in charge of these things, or whoever had to do the paperwork, became so haggard they just shuffled Toro onto the next work camp transport.

No, Din had played it safe. And now he’d have to waste the punk himself. Great.

“Cuff yourself,” Din grumbled again. Or maybe growled. He wouldn’t think about that, but he hoped Toro would. It might sell this.

This time, Toro did as he was told.

Fisting the collar of Toro's vest, Din hauled him to his feet and turned to the bay manager. She’d scooped up the kid and Toro's thrown blaster from the ground during the scuffle, and was clutching both like they were hers by rights. He’d have to get her something better than Imperial credits now.

“I would be grateful if you could finish what repairs you can,” he told her.

The bay manager, who only sometimes knew when to mind her business, waved her blaster arm in the air, exasperated. “And just where are you going now?”

“Unfinished business.”

He marched Toro out into the wider spaceport, barrel in the small of his back. None of the five people they passed in their tense, moonlit procession looked at them twice, but all five seemed to slink along the walls, too. Beskar, beskar gleaming bright, end your footsteps in the night...

Something about reaching the edge of whatever kind of civilization Mos Eisley represented spooked Toro. His boots shuffled in the deepening sand, and he swivelled under Din’s hold to shoulder them both into a tight, blunt alley.

“Hey, hey, listen, Mando. I can make this right,” he weaselled. He wasn’t begging, not yet. Just trying to renew negotiations, not seeming to realize he’d just pushed himself into the perfect tomb.

Din held the entrance, pistol primed. “Not likely.”

Toro leaned against the back wall, all provocative angles, and splayed his cuffed hands in silent offering. His tongue teased from inside his mouth, like the swell of a sparsely stubbled cheek belonging to a bloodied, overconfident gunslinger was the hottest ticket this side of Nar Shaddaa.

“Come on, Mando. Can’t blame a guy for trying.”

Din, wound tight and not a little desperate himself, might have been stirring against his left trouser leg; but he knew Toro wasn’t talking about trying to pull one over on him for a seat at the Guild’s top table. Not in that moment.

It was a poor display, and that was more frustrating than anything. All hype, no hyperdrive. “You either do something or you don’t. Just trying is a waste of everyone’s time.”

Before you could say jumping jakrabs, Toro was in his space, shoving the heels of his hands into Din’s crotch.

Din grunted, half-skewered by what felt like the press of his own absurd arousal into his lungs. His backplate clanked against the mortar when he twisted to catch their combined weight against the wall. Toro's fingers warred with the canvas, kneading at Din’s groin with the single-mindedness of a starved tooka. And he might have gotten a desperate buck or two out of his quarry, had his nose not been smudging Din’s visor in the most offensive way.

It earned Toro a shove back. He winced as he thudded against the opposite wall.

Now Din was hard and provoked.

And, he could admit to himself, a touch more impressed.

Stars, it would be easy. Easy to just drop the punk here. Easy to make him drop here, make him fall on his knees, open that shabla mouth of his, and suck for his pathetic life. He’d obviously done it for much less.

And for a moment, heart pounding beneath his plates, Din let the idea into the cockpit. How he’d like to pump Sorgan from his head, forget all the softness he’d left behind, one mindless, primal thrust at a time. How Toro's full lips would pull tight around his cock, gulping his head right down with thanks for not making him swallow a blaster for his stupidity.

What was it Dune had said? Don’t get clogged up, it's not healthy.

Maybe it wasn’t. But neither was taking out his frustration and his … fear—yes, his fear about losing the kid—on this miserable youth. Not like that.

“No,” he said, out loud for them both.

It was hard to tell if Toro was drooping in pain or supplication. “‘S cool, ‘s cool,” he said, trying to talk around whichever it was. “I don’t have to touch. What if I just turn around? Up the cargo hold. Nothing too personal, yeah? I’m clean, I swear.”

He faced the wall, shoulders scrunched and starting to shake against the settling chill of the desert night. And, switching to infrared, maybe the blood loss, too.

It wasn’t as tempting of an offer. The punk had no backside, and he tried to compensate for it with those jaunty flares. Still, Din fell back to being the copilot in his own head: apprehensive, but willing to see what course his hindbrain plotted.

Toro might be growing colder to the touch, but inside, he’d be warmer than a Navarro groundspring. Enveloping. Dense. Not as peaceful, but cheaper and just as purgative. His flat cheeks would take cock fully, right up to the godsdamned hilt. He’d milk the coiled want right out of him: no demands, no expectations—not in the moment, at least—and no painful questions about why he wouldn’t show his handsome face. About why he wouldn’t look on freely, without his integrity in the way.

He didn’t blame anyone for asking. Just like he didn’t blame the kid for his hair-trigger state, amped-up with no where to go. That thing with the mudhorn … well, it freaked him out. Set something off in the air. He was sure the kid was one of those who could feel things. So he refrained. He’d almost confessed it to Dune; she might have eased up with the tinhead jabs. But Mandalorians had a word for kids like that, and they never spoke it. Like it was cursed. So he kept that to himself, too.

“Oh, nine hells, just fuck me, Mando. I think I am actually dying here,” Toro moaned to the wall. He widened his stance, still shaking.

Din felt stiff enough to cut kyber, but he’d get over it. Eventually. “No,” he repeated. “Not here.”

Toro popped round with a look of genuine hope, and maybe a little excitement, too. Din didn’t trust it anymore than he trusted the rookie—every mark reckoned time was on their side—but it pained him briefly, like the sting that stalls a sneeze.

He’d feel better when this was done.

He grabbed Toro by the scruff again. He directed them out of the alley. As they turned right, towards the edge of town, he felt Toro's momentum thrown off. The punk had actually expected a left turn, towards a warmish room at the back of some cantina. Towards safety. Towards forgiveness. Towards the kid.

Not a chance.

The dewback was still at the hitching post, loafing in the sand like a monument to unconcern.

Din shoved Toro face-first into its scaly side. “Don’t move,” he ordered.

Toro scoffed. “This is what does it for you? Dewback sweat and every sandfucker watching? Passing my binocs around and having an ugly, honking laugh?”

A pistol barrel into his charred side made Toro choke on air. Din reached around for Toro's holster belt, unclipping it one-handed. It dropped limply to his boots. Then he undid Toro's pants and, with no ass to resist, shucked them and his briefs down easily.

Din loomed up behind him, pressing himself bodily to Toro. He’d remember this later—so would Toro, dangerously exposed and surrounded by carrion, recalling the thrill of beskar against his bare thighs and cursing himself for a fucking fool. This might be the last pleasant sensation of his sad life.

“Step out,” Din purred into his ear.

Toro obeyed, even going so far as to kick the pile out of the way. “You, uh, not a back man?” he asked, ducking his cheek to his collar.

“You’ll need the jacket.”

“Plates pinch?”

Din couldn’t say it was something he’d considered before. “That’s right,” he agreed, equally thankful that his ruse was holding up. Toro was even dumber than he looked.

Pulling a long stretch of rope from a pouch, he squatted down and whipped it round one of Toro's ankles.

“Hold on, what kind of rodeo banthashit is this—”

Din reminded Toro of his blaster wound, viscerally. “You pull a blaster on a stranger and his kid in the Outer Rim and expect a bed of roses? This isn’t your grandmother’s holodrama, rookie.”

With his face buried between the dewback and his shoulder, shuddering in pain, Toro didn’t notice the other end of the rope being tucked in and tied around the saddle strap. That was probably for the best.

Din unclipped his rifle and took a moment to dial down the pulse charge. “This planet eats legends. Let’s see how you fare.”

The clicking more than the trash talk gave him away. Toro's head jerked up.


Before he could embarrass himself, Din gave him a disabling poke that dropped him where he stood. And he gave the dewback a very motivating prod on the rump.

It was hard to say whether Toro or the dewback bleated more, as the lumbering reptile became almost graceful in its flight out towards the dark and endless dunes.

The bay manager wasn’t asleep on the job this time. She was pacing in the belly of his ship like a spooked mynock, a pair of green ears clutched to her chest. “Well? Did you off him?”

“I don’t think he’ll be coming back,” he replied.

He traded her the credit pouch from Toro’s pants for the kid, who woke up in the handover and cooed a cheerful little coo, forehead wrinkling with recognition.

One thing was certain: if the Tatooine desert didn’t kill Toro, and he ever came within a parsec of a Mandalorian with a green child ever again, he would very much wish it had.