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Saga Saga - PT The Briar and the Rose | OTP Challenge | Family of Scoundrels

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Kit', May 17, 2022.

  1. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 1999
    Title: The Briar and the Rose

    Author: Kit'

    Timeframe: Prequel Saga about 28BBY

    Characters: Bryer Ducat (Bryerntan-la'darius Montrain Ducat) Nicco D'ladame, Estra D'ladame, F'kisi Plum

    Genre: Action, Romance, Awkward Romance, First kisses,

    Summary:

    Bryer, or Bryerntan-la'darius Montrain Ducat as his family calls him, was used to a life of luxury as heir to the Dukedom of Trecarn. He was certainly not expecting for this aunt, the Duchess Sybilla, to demand that he take a ride back home on a broken down old starship called the Ducissa to teach him some sort of lesson. Neither was he expecting that the ship's captain to be his own age and as devilishly good looking as he was shy. Now it's up to Bryer to get the young man to open up and see that, despite their differences in class and background, they can still find true love.

    *

    Nicco D'ladame was not expecting that his latest job to involve ferrying a rather snobbish and flippant young man home to the other side of the galaxy. He'd only take on the job at the insistence of his parents. Now with the ship falling apart around his ears, he must contend with his sister Estra's teasing, his own shyness and the fact that he's never even kissed someone, let alone fallen in love.

    Challenge: Part of the OTP - Challenge of Challenges for which I got the Town Mouse/Country Mouse Challenge.

    Notes:
    The fic is part of the follow up to Knights in Rusted Armor Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3 which all stems from dis-dress but you don't need to read them to get what's happening here.

    Lastly, this fic is titled after one of my favourite songs, which you can listen to being sung by two of my favourite singers and good friends
     
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  2. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 1999
    The Rose - Part 1

    Bryer stared around the spaceport, trying not to breathe in the smell of a thousand unwashed bodies, and wondered what he'd done this time to make his aunt hate him. For some reason, his Aunt Sybilla had decided that he wasn’t allowed to use her private flyer to get home, with its luxury suites, delicious catering and wait staff. Instead she insisted that he used her ‘friend’. Bryer had, long ago, learnt this was code for ‘grifters who had attached themselves to his aunt’.

    He breathed deeply as he grasped his luggage a little tighter, and instantly regretted it as the smell of wet wookie and the contents of a nearby overflowing rubbish bin assaulted his nose. He sighed and reached for a pocket handkerchief that his friend Boxter had suggested he take with him to cover the stench of the spaceport.

    The grifter, whoever they are, were supposed to be here ten minutes ago. Bryer sighed again and then headed towards the only unshuttered bar in the spaceport. Perhaps, he thought, a drink or two would help get rid of this impending feeling of doom he’d developed.

    Bryer tried to smile at the serving droid as he quickly scanned the possible drink options. He was just about to order when there was a polite but firm noise from behind him. He turned to see a young woman staring at him, half a grin on her face. Slightly behind her stood a young man, his dark hair glinting a rich burgundy in the harsh lights. He looked enough like the young lady to be her brother. The young man was also staring at him, his mouth slightly ajar. Bryer felt his face flush with heat and, unconsciously, he reached up to adjust his collar. There was a silent couple of seconds in which the young man continued to stare, until his sister reached up and gently closed his mouth.

    “You’re so embarrassing,” she said with a sigh. The young man’s face blushed almost as red as his hair and he ducked his head slightly and mumbled something.

    “May I help you?” Bryer asked, finding himself getting more and more uncomfortable and wishing whoever was picking him up would arrive soon and retrieve him from this rather brash girl and her very attractive but obviously idiotic brother. Their clothes were clean, comfortable but plain, not the outfits of the grifters that normally gravitated towards his Aunt.

    Bryer looked over the girl’s shoulder to see another young man, taller and broader shoulders than the blushing red-head standing on the other side of the walkway. He did not look like the rest of them, although he seemed to be watching both them and the surrounding crowd, his hand resting gently on the butt of a blaster. Bryer’s face heated at the realisation of how foolish he’d been, standing in the middle of a run-down spaceport wearing expensive clothing as if that alone would protect him. His stomach twisted slightly and Bryer went to take a deep breath, remembered the smell and settled for a shallow one. Maybe some flippancy would give him a few seconds to formulate a plan.

    “Look, if you want my valuables I’m happy to part with them as long as you leave me alive,” he paused, thinking quickly, and then gave what he hoped was his best smile, “and in one piece.”

    Even as the words left his mouth, Bryer knew it was the wrong thing to say. In the upper echelons it would have gotten a laugh, but down here… Maybe this was why his Aunt had decided that he should take . If he kept this up he’d never manage a business let alone take over the Dukedom.

    The girl laughed. “If we were going to rob you I wouldn’t be doing it in daylight in the middle of a spaceport. Are you Bryer?”

    Bryer nodded, reluctantly, even as the more rational part of his head told him that it was unlikely muggers would know you by name.

    Kidnappers then .

    The girl waited a couple more seconds, sending her partner exasperated looks while he made a show of studying the spaceport tiles and occasionally shooting a glance at Bryer from under his long, dark eyelashes. Bryer decided that even if they were kidnappers, at least he could say he got kidnapped by the cute one.

    The girl stuck out her hand. “I’m Estra. The doofus here is my brother Nicco. We’ve been sent by our parents to pick you up, apparently your aunt organised us to give you a lift home.” She paused again and this time her look was far more appraising, “I’m not sure our little craft is going to be what you’re used to.”

    Bryer forced a smile on his face which he didn’t feel. “Uh, I’m sure it’ll be okay.”

    The girl gave him a bemused grin. “Not a lot you can do if it isn’t, although I suppose with all that fancy luggage you could probably just buy your way back home.”

    There was a whistle from behind them and Bryer looked up to see the other young man watching something further down the spaceport. It turned out to be a rather unsavoury looking group of Togruta milling around and watching their group with open interest.

    Estra followed Bryer’s glance and sighed. “Looks like that fancy luggage and clothes of yours have got more than our attention.” She glanced at her brother and then shouldered him. “Come on, we need to get out of here.”

    She turned and walked away and then glanced back as Bryer made no move to follow her. Nicco, the redhead, was also standing watching him. Bryer watched the group of Togruta split and begin making their way through the crowd towards them.

    “You coming?” Estra asked. “‘Cos if you are then you’d better get a move on. I think the Togruta will want more of you than just your worldly possessions.”

    Bryer took another look at the group of Togruta, their scarred faces and montrails suddenly seeming a far less enticing alternative to the rather brash girl and her overly shy brother. He nodded quickly.

    “I’d be delighted,” he said quickly, “I’m sure your ship is wonderful.”

    Bryer reached down to pick up his luggage, but the young man’s hand was already around the handle. There seemed to be a strange spark as their fingers brushed against each other and Bryer glanced up to find himself looking into the deepest blue eyes he’d ever seen. Nicco’s face blushed again, the red showing through the golden tan of his skin and he ducked his head slightly, although his grip never left the case. With a start Bryer realised they were the same age, even though he’d thought, at least by the young man’s demeanour, that Nicco was far younger than he was.

    “I’ll hold you…I mean your luggage...I’ll hold your luggage,” Nicco said, stumbling through the words. Bryer found his own face heating and his stomach flipped with a strange swirl of emotions.

    “Thanks,” Bryer mumbled, suddenly and inexplicably unsure of himself. “It’s heavy though.”

    The young man grinned shyly, and heaved the bag up and onto his back as if it was nothing. Bryer found the deeper parts of his brain wondering how much muscle was hiding under that rather old, but clean tunic top.

    Ahead of them Estra snorted. “Come on you two,” she called, “we need to get back to the ship before the Togruta decide that F’kisi and his blaster are not quite enough of a deterrent. I’m not explaining to Rin or to Da that we lost the Baroness’ nephew because of luggage.”
     
  3. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    I like to see where this goes. Nice characters
     
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  4. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 1999
    The Rose - Part 2


    Bryer tossed and turned in his tiny bunk, listening to the ship creak and groan around him. The Ducissa was obviously a much beloved ship, he couldn’t fault how clean she was on the inside, nor the tidy, albeit tiny room he’d been assigned. He could, however, definitely do without the constant creaks in the durasteel that made him worry that she would fall apart at any moment.

    The thought crossed Bryer’s mind again as he looked up to the durasteel wall above his bed, a large number one painted neatly into the metal surface that spoke of the Ducissa’s former life as a cargo vessel . Around the faded number, someone had posted butterfly stickers and images of a pod racing team. Bryer squinted, trying to make out the team name, but the poster was too far away to see in the half-darkness. Bryer sighed quietly as he lay back down in his bunk once more, trying desperately not to think about what he would be doing if he was on his Aunt’s flyer surrounded by luxury and without the quiet threat of the space-ship breaking up at any moment.

    An alarm started beeping in the distance and Bryer rolled over, dragging the blankets over his head; they did nothing to shut out the sound. He heard the quiet thump of footsteps as someone walked by the room. Sighing, Bryer rolled out of the bed, pulling a shirt on as he made his way towards the door.

    Bryer opened the door, still struggling with his shirt and saw Nicco standing in the gloom; a small hatch opened as he clicked steadily through the data screen. The young man glanced at him and then hurriedly glanced away as if Bryer’s half naked torso had done something to offend him and Bryer felt a ripple of annoyance. He’d been on the ship two days now and although he’d gotten to know Estra and F’kisi quite well, Nicco had kept to himself barely speaking and seemingly avoiding Bryer at every turn.

    It had become so bad that if they did come across each other, Nicco would seize up, his face turning red, stumbling over his words as he hurried to get away. It seemed to delight Estra who ribbed her brother at every turn, until F’kisi would gently stop her with a quiet word, earning himself a glare in the process.

    Bryer had to admit that the blushing routine was almost as cute as it was annoying, and he’d found himself several times seeking Nicco out to see his reaction along with the way his muscles rippled beneath his shirt.

    It didn’t matter how much Bryer told himself that it would never work, or that they came from far too different backgrounds, the attraction only seemed to be growing. The way that Estra and F’kisi spoke of ‘jobs’ that Bryer knew were less than legal, and how often the conversations turned to money, or repairs had shown him how different their lives were. Still something kept drawing him to Nicco in the hopes that maybe this time they could actually have a conversation.

    “Sorry,” Nicco murmured interrupting Bryer’s thoughts and making his face flame. Luckily Nicco’s eyes never strayed from the datapad, “I didn’t mean to wake you.”

    That was the other thing. The only time Nicco seemed not to be a stumbling, blushing mess was when it was anything to do with the ship.

    Bryer shook his head and stepped forward.“No problem, I wasn’t asleep.” Nicco finally met his gaze briefly, and then hurriedly turned back to the screen. “Is there anything I should know about?" Bryer asked, desperate for the conversation to continue.

    Nicco hesitated for a second before replying. “Not unless you know the way around a D62 engine." He was frowning, his previous shyness seemingly gone in the face of whatever the problem was.

    "Don't you have a droid for that?" Bryer asked and then winced at how pretentious that sounded. Come to think of it, he hadn't seen any droids around the ship, the entire thing seemed to be operated by the three young adults. "Uh, sorry, I shouldn't have-"

    "No,” Nicco said frowning, “it’s okay, it’s just me.This is boring stuff though. You're probably better off trying to get some sleep."

    It took all of Bryer's restraint to keep from asking how likely it was that the Ducissa was going to kill them all. Nicco frowned, closed the hatch and then turned towards him.

    “I think the problem is in there,” Nicco said pointing past him. Bryer suddenly realised he would need to move out of the way to let Nicco pass. His face heated as he took a quick step to the side, feeling the soft buzz of electricity in the air that always happened when Nicco was near.

    Bryer paused. Part of him wanted to help but he did not know how to say so. He felt foolish for asking about the droids. Maybe that was why Nicco had been avoiding him, not because there was any attraction there but simply because in comparison Bryer was a pretentious **** with no real world experience.

    Another part of him wanted to point out that he had done engineering at Coruscant university, but he stopped himself; it wasn’t like he’d ever worked on a real ship and it would do nothing except highlight the disparity between them. Nicco’s knowledge had probably come from real life and experience while Bryer’s was textbooks and theory. He was again acutely aware of how much his clothes cost in comparison to the simple shirt and loose fitting pants Nicco wore. It was the same with the meals that F’kisi prepared, simple but wholesome fare so very different to the stuff he was normally treated to. Why must Nicco think of him to have gotten to this point in his life, with all the money in the universe and have so little to show for it. Maybe that was why his Aunt had sent him here…

    Bryer could feel his face flushing with embarrassment and self-consciousness . He'd just reached his door when there was a sudden clang against the deck. He turned to see a hatch on the floor and a hose twisting through the air, spraying stick drops of liquid.

    Alarms started shrieking as Nicco grabbed for the hose, dark pink liquid dripping from his hair. He missed, stumbling against the wall as his booted feet slid on the slippery metal. He went down with a clang, and hissed in pain as his wrist caught against the wall. Nicco’s body seemed to curl around his wrist and then he struggled upright, pain clearly written on his face and made a half-hearted attempt for the hose again.

    Without thinking Bryer leapt for the hose, feeling the sticky liquid hit his skin. A few seconds later he’d caught it, holding it triumphantly above his head.

    “Got it.” His words were breathless as adrenaline coursed through him. He glanced down at Nicco as the hose continued to spray liquid. “Hold this.”

    Nicco reached up to grab it and Bryer frowned as he saw the blood streaming down Nicco’s arm. He felt a strange spurt of protectiveness and then pushed it away. Anyone would feel that way, he told himself, when they’d seen someone hurt. It certainly wasn’t anything to do with how gorgeous Nicco looked or the way his stomach flipped when he’d seen him in trouble.

    “Where are F’kisi and Estra?” Bryer asked, suddenly concerned by the others' absence.

    Nicco shook his head. “This area would have locked down when the alarm went off. They’ll be able to get back in, in a moment.”

    Part of Bryer’s brain noticed that Nicco’s shyness and terseness had vanished in the panic - the same part hoped it wouldn’t return.

    He carefully stepped towards the hatch, feeling his bare feet slide slightly on the coolant. He glanced at the data panel and typed the code, hoping that he’d remembered it correctly. Obviously he had, as the alarms went silent and the hose stopped snaking through the air. Bryer took it gently from him, and plugged it back into the port, twisting it until it connected.

    The display on the console blinked twice before the lights changed. The image flickered and Nicco gave a soft sigh of relief as the computer hummed back to life.

    “Thanks.” Nicco smiled, his blue eyes warm as they met Bryer’s gaze. “I didn’t know you could do that.”

    “I didn’t know it would work,” Bryer replied with a nervous chuckle. He swallowed, feeling an odd sensation settle inside him.

    His face flushed with heat. Bryer slowly lowered his eyes to look back down at his feet, his cheeks still burning hot; his mind spinning, wondering whether the sensation was entirely caused by nerves or something else. He cleared his throat loudly, shifting slightly and trying desperately to focus on something other than the strange tension. He suddenly remembered that Nicco’s arm was bleeding and he flushed hotter with guilt.

    “You’re bleeding…” Bryer said quietly. Nicco glanced down at his arm as if he’d only just remembered it himself. The blood was still oozing out, wending its way between the thick drops of pink coolant.


    “I sliced it on the hatch.” When Nicco looked back up at Bryer, his face was pale underneath the goo.

    “Where’s your first aid kit?” Bryer asked, his panic rising. He had a horrible vision of leaving to find the first-aid kit and returning to find Nicco dead - even though the wound was not that serious. Nicco opened his mouth but Bryer shook his head. “Oh no, never mind.”

    Bryer pulled his shirt over his head and knelt down next to him, wrapping the cloth firmly around the wound, pressing the material against the injury, ignoring the rush of blood that followed. He was hyper aware of the fact he was now shirtless, the cold air of the ship caressing his skin. He could feel the heat of Nicco’s body and feel the slow steady path of the coolant across his bare skin.

    "Doesn't seem deep," he observed calmly, although he was almost trembling with emotion.

    Bryer quickly lifted his hand from where it had been resting on Nicco's shoulder, brushing it away lightly before he realised what he was doing, leaning back onto his heels.

    The awkward silence stretched between them for several long minutes while the two men stared at each other. Bryer couldn’t help but stare; Nicco was still beautiful despite the coolant, his lips slightly open and his eyes wide as he stared up at Bryer. The smell of Nicco's shampoo mingled in the air, and as their faces moved closer together, Bryer felt his heart leap into his throat.

    Before his brain could stop him, Bryer leaned forwards again and pressed his lips softly to Nicco's, cupping his cheek gently as he did so.

    A second later his mind screamed at him that this was wrong, he shouldn't be doing this! But before he could pull away, Nicco kissed him back. There was no hesitation; there wasn't even any thought. Just raw emotion, and a desperation that neither one of them seemed to care about. His hands found their way around the small of Nicco’s back, pulling him closer, letting the warmth of Nicco’s skin seep through to him. And all he could think was ‘ I have never wanted anything more than this’.

    At the end of the corridor the door hissed open. Bryer and Nicco broke apart, looking up guilty as Estra stood in the doorway, F’kisi right behind her.

    The young woman took one look at both of them and shook her head in annoyance. In the distance another alarm started up. “You get that,” she said to F’kisi who was grinning at both of them, “I’ll get the first aid kit.”
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2022
  5. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Great to see Bryer and Nicco working together and becoming friends
     
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  6. Kahara

    Kahara Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 3, 2001
    Here's to falling-apart old ships that just happen to break down at the right moments! ;) The Ducissa is a wonderful setting here and I like how it's very obviously a nuisance to live there for many reasons but it's just as obvious to Bryer and the reader that Nicco and company love their rusty ship.

    I really like that we get to see even more of the next generation of your Family of Scoundrels here. Estra is, of course, always kind of the lightning storm in the room. [face_laugh] So it's a treat to see Nicco get center stage and his own romantic plot here even though I also love her and F'kisi! Speaking of Nicco, it's very endearing that we see him from Bryer's (oblivious) perspective but to an outsider it's perfectly clear that their crush on each other is extremely shared. (Really, can't imagine why he's so flustered that you showed up half shirtless, Bryer. Just can't fathom it.) And I like how you've introduced Bryer here (at least, I don't think I've read about him before); he's definitely more than a bit of a rich kid in his perception of things but he also is aware of that (maybe a bit too much for his own ability to connect with other people). And he's basically a kind person, even if he is way out of his depth here.

    Also, like I mentioned before it's delightful to see Estra and F'kisi together here; they're so fun in the earlier stories and it's sweet (and silly, but that's so them) that they have whole conversations without a word. Of course they do, those old married people. :p
     
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  7. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 1999
    Sorry for taking so long to reply to the both of you or to post the next section!

    Yeah, they are very, very sweet together :D

    Ships only break when it's plot appropriate dontchaknow? I'm glad the Ducissa comes across so well. Eventually Nicco ends up with a better ship, but for now it's his first ship and I figured it should be like a first car - it'll get you places but not always reliably!

    I think Estra and F'kisi are quite a few people's favourites (certainly yours and @Findswoman's). Estra is the best for just moving everything along and she really doesn't care (or rather she gives the illusion of not caring) about what people think which is the perfect foil to her brother.

    Bryer can be a bit oblivious in his own way. He's just never had someone who has liked him for just being him, not for all the money and everything else he represents.

    You've got him in one. Kind but also incredibly naive and so used to just being able to use money and influence to get what he wants that he's not used to Nicco who does everything himself, or Estra who tells it like it is (or even F'kisi who doesn't fawn over anyone except Estra). As for reading him in the past, he's referenced in a throw away line, so I figured now was the best time to actually make him a character in his own right and I'm really enjoying it.

    Definitely old married people at this point even though they are quite some ways off actually tying the knot :)
     
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  8. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 1999
    The Briar - Part 1


    Nicco pulled the collar of his shirt, wishing that he was back on the Ducissa. Besides him stood Bryer, looking completely comfortable in the starched white uniform. They were standing at the back of a very long line of other equally richly dressed people. Nicco felt ridiculous, this wasn’t his place. Surely Bryer would find that soon enough and then– sweat prickled across his forehead – he wouldn’t want to see Nicco again.

    Nicco felt fingers brush the back of his free hand and glanced across to see Bryer looking at him with undisguised concern.

    “You’ll be fine,” Bryer murmured softly. He gave Nicco’s hand a small squeeze before turning his attention back to the queue.

    Nicco couldn’t help but feel a little comforted by his reassurance. Nicco had made sure to stay clear of most of the wealthy and powerful for years now. It was part of not drawing attention to yourself, a key survival skill when you were a part of Akira, the crime family that was semi-well known amongst the worlds of the outer-rim.

    He fidgeted with the button on his sleeve cuff. One of Bryer's servants had delivered the outfit to Nicco several weeks ago. The idea that Bryer had servants to do his bidding, or in fact enough of them to send one to a seedy spaceport to wait for Nicco to arrive was still somewhat unnerving.

    Estra had been delighted when Nicco had shown her and spent several minutes talking loudly about the quality of the cut and expensive cloth. Then she'd taken her scissors and thread to the outfit using Nicco as some sort of doll on which to try her creation. Several nips and tucks later and she’d declared it much better. The buttons had been a last minute addition, the splash of red matching that of his pocket square was the only sign of his allegiance to his family.

    He loved that his sister was happy, and Bryer seemed delighted that Nicco was wearing his present, but Nicco felt kind of ridiculous.

    "You look good," Bryer said glancing at him again, "more than good in fact. I don't remember any of Mon Black's creations fitting that well straight off the shelves."

    Nicco's face flushed. "Essie," he mumbled.

    Bryer's smile widened. "Your sister is very good with a needle and thread."

    Nicco raised an eyebrow and nodded his head. Bryer didn't need the explanation of the fact that Estra, Essie, was good because she spent so much of her time patching outfits or adding extra pockets so that things could be purloined more easily.

    In fact he'd had to go quite a long way to convince her not to add any extra pockets to his suit. A longer way to convince his parents that he was not going to use this night to gather intelligence about houses worth hitting, or possible jobs. He didn't need that extra stress when his stomach was already tying itself in knots.

    "They'll announce me first," Bryer said as the line moved forward, "and then you. It'll be my full name, so don't giggle."

    "Full name?" Nicco asked, realising how little he actually knew about Bryer.

    "Bryerntan-la'darius Montrain Ducat," Bryer said with a shake of his head. "Really rolls off the tongue."

    Nicco shrugged. "Better than D'ladame. I only got that because Zallie had to make something up on the fly to get a Jedi off our backs."

    "Did it work?” Bryer frowned as if finally catching on to the greater comment. “Wait, before that you didn't have a last name?"

    "No, didn't need one."

    "You know," Bryer said, his fingers curling around Nicco's hand, "I can't wait to meet your whole family."

    Nicco thought about his parents, Rin and Del and then all of his loud and rather precocious siblings. He thought about their Force abilities and trying to explain to Bryer how you could have the powers of a Jedi bb without being an actual Jedi. He wondered how fast Bryer would run.

    A lump formed in the back of his throat and he swallowed hard. He could not deny the way that Bryer made him feel, the crackle of electricity in the air whenever he was around. The way that he couldn't think straight when Bryer touched him.

    He cleared his throat. "Yeah?" he managed. "Well, uh… my folks are pretty much just normal people. Nothing special."

    "I doubt that," Bryer said. His eyes seemed to take in every inch of Nicco' s body, lingering on a particularly sensitive spot near his neck. "I mean, they raised you.”

    Nicco nodded, trying to ignore the mental image of Bryer with all of his airs and graces being subjected to one of the Family’s dinners. He’d barely coped with what he’d teasingly referred to as the ‘deprivations of the Ducissa ,” that Nicco didn’t want to know what he’d make of The Lady let alone her occupants. The lump in his throat felt like it was choking him. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea after all to have come here; maybe it would help if he simply left Bryer and went home. But the moment that the thoughts crossed his mind, another voice rang out across the room.

    "The Marquess of Trecan Bryerntan-la'darius Montrain Ducat, and Captain Nicco D’ladame.”

    Bryer grabbed his hand and took two swift steps forward as Nicco struggled to keep up. Then suddenly they were at the top of a staircase. Nicco glanced down to see people staring up at him. His face flushed with heat. The sensation trickled down and across his body as if someone had left him for too long in the oven.

    “Captain?” he whispered. “I’m not a captain.”

    “Captain of the Ducissa,” Bryer whispered in return giving a small bow to the assembled people below. Nicco followed suit, suddenly glad Rin had made him practice, and then Bryer was leading him down the stairs. As soon as the next person was announced Bryer paused and looked at Nicco.

    “The Ducissa is a two bit flying crate,” Nicco said, hating himself for disparaging his ship so much, but it was true. “If I’m captain of that then-”

    “Fine,” Bryer said with a sigh, “then you are Captain of my heart. Just remember that when you doubt yourself.”

    The words settled over Nicco like a thick blanket; he couldn’t move or breathe. The whole thing was too weird. It didn’t feel real. He should leave now and pretend that none of it ever happened. That everything was exactly the same as it had always been - except he couldn’t. His entire body was humming, pulsing, alive. Every nerve ending tingled with anticipation; he had spent most of his life preparing for this moment. Now he was finally here and he couldn’t stop thinking about what was coming.

    He’d never met anyone quite like Bryer and by the end of the night he might never see him again.


    *


    Nicco smiled awkwardly as he stood at the edge of the crowd, trying to blend in with the background. He could see Bryer standing a little way off, talking easily with the other guests.

    “I don’t think I’ve seen you at one of these shindigs before,” a voice drawled near his elbow.

    Nicco glanced across to find someone standing next to him, a young man a few inches taller than him with dark hair. His green eyes glittered curiously, and Nicco found himself staring back. It was the first time Nicco had talked to anyone, and he didn’t have a single clue about what he should say.

    The young man chuckled lightly and waved a hand in front of Nicco’s face. “Are you going to introduce yourself?”

    Nicco flushed slightly and nodded his head. “Nicco D'ladame, nice to meet ya…I mean you.”

    A grin lit up the man’s face, brightening the dimple on his right cheek. “Larken. It’s my honour to finally have the pleasure of meeting the famous Nicco. The one who is dragging our wild and giddy Bryer back down to earth.”

    Nicco didn’t know if the words were meant as an insult or flattery, which strangely made him blush even harder. “Um, thanks?”

    “Now now, no need to be shy,” Larken chuckled.

    They both looked towards where Bryer had just finished speaking to some other guests, but couldn't make out any more from where they were standing.

    "You're a special man if you managed to tame Bryer's heart," Larkin said with another grin. Another three young men drew near, dressed as extravagantly as Larkin was. One of them stopped a little way off, and gave Nicco a look that sent a shiver down his spine. Nicco suddenly knew what it was like to be a cornered nerf calf.

    "What do you mean?" Nicco asked, his hands clenching by his side. He didn't like the knowing smiles the three young men were passing between them.

    "I mean when Bryer stops to one of your kind-"

    "One of my kind?" Nicco said, quietly.

    "You know, he has a thing for the 'underworlders'," Larkin said, the grin still plastered on his face. Behind him the other two young men laughed. The third said nothing, just watched him carefully, eyes narrowed.

    "Underworlders?" Nicco repeated slowly, feeling heat rising in his cheeks. He didn’t know what the term meant, but somehow he knew it was an insult.

    "Yes underworlders," Larkin grinned, leaning closer so that only Nicco could hear.”You know, the things that live on the lower levels of Coruscant, amongst all the filth and trash.”

    Nicco scowled. “I have never lived on Coruscant. I am not what you think I am.”

    “Oh,” Larkin said with a laugh, “You don’t have to live there to be one, but you’d fit right in if you did.” He leant in so close that Nicco could smell the spices in his aftershave. "And don't worry, we won't tell him," Larkin whispered loudly. " I mean when he leaves you, then we'll all have a good laugh and then pretend this never happened."

    Nicco's hands clenched. Larkin’s words fed right into his fear of one day being nothing more than a story that Bryer would recount to his friends. The darkest reaches of his mind shouted that the idea of them staying together was ludicrous. That the discrepancy in their status, their background, their lives was too great.

    “Do I know you?” the third man asked, interrupting his thoughts as he approached.

    Nicco shook his head. “I don’t think so,” he said, reflexively bouncing onto the balls of his feet in case he had to run. “I don’t think we’ve met.”

    “I’m sure I’ve seen you before,” the young man said, taking another step closer.

    “Ha Veron, it’s probably those times you’ve been down the gambling halls,” Larkin said with a shark-like smile.

    “Or maybe one of those places you can hire a masseuse for a happy ending,” one of the other young men said, with a mirthless, lopsided grin.

    “I don’t know what you mean,” Nicco said, sharply. He took a step back and bumped into something that was soft and pillowy while at the same time containing little hard balls. A firm hand gripped his shoulder. He froze.

    “Why Larkin, I’m surprised your mama let you come to this party after your last escapade,” a warm, motherly voice said from over behind him. Nicco watched the colour drain out of Larkin’s face. “Especially,” the voice continued, “after she paid so much to make the little problem you created disappear.”

    There was a momentary silence in which Larkin bowed sharply, his face still grey, turned on his heel and left. His two friends looked confused for a second and then trotted after him. The final man watched for a second more, his eyes narrowed but an elegant plump hand waved a lace handkerchief and he too bowed and left.

    The grip loosened on his shoulder and Nicco turned to see an elderly woman beaming at him. She was even more elaborately dressed than most of the women in the room, the straining bodice of her dress covered with lace and gemstones. The effect was quite startling as, despite her age, she was so well endowed that it made it look as if a thousand tiny, shimmering insects had decided to call her dress home.

    She grinned over her large expanse of decolletage at Nicco. “You must be the charming young man my nephew cannot stop talking about.”

    Nicco blinked at her and gave a small smile. He wasn't entirely sure, but this would probably be Bryer's Aunt Sybilla who his father had once saved, back when he was a Jedi.

    “Oh, um...” was all Nicco managed.

    “Don’t try to speak, dearie! You're doing fine. Let me introduce myself,” she smiled sweetly and offered her hand. “I'm Sybilla. You are Nicco D’ladame. I knew the moment you came in, even before they announced you. You look just like your father," she paused, her eyes twinkling. Nicco frowned. He and Del looked barely alike, while he'd gotten some of his father's golden tan, he was lankier and taller than Del was.

    “Thank you?” he said, uncertainty edging every word.

    "I suppose you get your red hair from your mother, as I don't remember Taeyn’s hair ever being that colour,” Lady Sybilla went on. Nicco frowned slightly, it was strange to hear his father called by his Jedi name, and not just Del. “You’re skin colouring is more him though, and you have his nose although that’s not what gave you away.” She paused to take a sip of her drink. “It's the eyes. You can tell a lot about a person by their eyes and you see a lot more than just what’s on the surface - when you’re not this nervous of course. A trait I believe will suit my rather impulsive young nephew quite well."

    The corners of Nicco's lips quirked upwards at the unexpected praise. “He does seem rather...impulsive.”

    ‘Impulsive’, not ‘wild’, Nicco thought. He liked the word, though it was difficult to explain why.

    Lady Sybilla laughed loudly. "He is, and he doesn't appreciate being called out on his bad habits often. Not that he ever listens to me anyway..." she trailed off in thought before snapping her fingers. “Come with me darling!" She held her hand out and after a second Nicco took it, making Lady Sybilla giggle. Nicco blushed as she gently moved his hand so that she could take his arm. “You’re going to have to learn the ways of high society Nicco, even if you do not feel this is your place.”

    "What do you mean?" he asked, watching the way in which the richly dressed women around him turned to look at them as they walked through the crowd.

    "Well, dear, it is customary here in the city for young men like yourself to become a part of our social set. For most, joining the ranks of society without proper training, or connections, takes years and years of hard work."

    "But why me?" Nicco asked, trying desperately to ignore the fact that Lady Sybilla seems to be planning his future and it seemed to involve more uncomfortable parties like this one.

    “Because you are very handsome," Lady Sybilla said, taking a glass of bubbling blue liquid off a tray and handing it to Nicco. "And because while we love our Bryer dearly, he sometimes does not possess the solidness or the business sense that your family brings."

    Nicco's eyes narrowed. He wondered what lies Rin and Del had told Lady Sybilla when they had met again. He'd heard about it all, how Rin had worked out the connection between his father and Lady Sybilla and then exploited it for her own advantage over some Lady that was bailing up his Father. This had been the outcome of all that, that Rin and his father would conspire with Lady Sybilla to get the boys to meet. It had annoyed him when he'd found out, but as Del had pointed out to him, they'd just agreed for him to give Bryer a lift home, nothing had said they had to fall in love.

    The last word echoed through his head and made his face flame hot again. Love. That was the whole issue. He was falling in love with Bryer and apparently everyone in the world, given the way Lady Sybilla was talking, could see it.

    But was he really falling in love? Was it just lust? Maybe he just wanted Bryer because the man was attractive and made him laugh. Or maybe there was a deeper reason...and Nicco felt his heart skip several beats and felt a blush spread across his face and down his chest at the prospect of Bryer feeling anything close to affectionate towards him.

    "Are you listening, dear?" Lady Sybilla asked, turning to stare at him. “You’ve gone very red. Are you okay?”

    "Huh?" He looked up and realized he'd drifted off. "Sorry."

    "It's no matter my child, I'll forgive you this once." She took her own drink from a server and raised it. "To new beginnings and a safe beginning."

    “To a new beginning,” Nicco echoed, following her lead and knocked the clear liquid against hers, and trying to wrest control of his swirling emotions.

    She smiled wide. “Then it's settled! Now come sit with us. There are people who haven't seen you yet!”

    Nicco hesitated.

    "Don't let whatever it was Larken said get to you," Lady Sybilla said sternly. "The boy forgets his grandfather was a ship's mechanic who rose through our ranks. His family and Veron’s there,” Lady Sybilla pointed at the young man who had been staring at Nicco, “grew up with Bryer and they were a boys' club until you came along. Now they are Bryer’s competition in business and, it seems, in love. Unfortunately for Veron, he's got less breeding than you if you really want to know."

    Nicco gave the woman a perplexed look.

    "Your father was given a knighthood by Queen Katya," Lady Sybilla said with a wink. "Which means you are the son of gentry and Larkin is a rich bastard. And if Larken thinks for one moment that you aren't worthy of my Bryer, then I will have something to say."

    Nicco wondered if she’d still say that if she knew what his family really did for a living. There was no chivalry there, just the urgent desire for the next job to put food on the table and to keep The Lady and The Ducissa in the sky. If she knew, he told himself, then she too would think that Bryer deserved better.

    "Thank you..." he trailed off awkwardly.

    "Aunt Sybilla, my dear," she replied with a wink, "although one day that will simply become Aunty to you. Besides, it's not every day that I meet the person who has turned my Bryer's life around." A few of the people around them snorted softly, making Nicco flush again.

    Before long, Nicco and Lady Sybilla were sitting at the table alongside some of the wealthiest citizens.The talk of politics and business filled the air, mostly coming from the people at the table nearest to them. Nicco found himself lost between the discussions of various political factions or the latest machinations of the Senate. He found himself drinking more than he should, partially to ease his nerves and partially because everytime his cup emptied it would be filled again by Lady Sybilla or one of the many servants.

    "So what do you do, Captain D'ladame," an older gentleman asked.

    “He steals from people,” a voice from behind him replied. Nicco started upright, spilling his drink over his suit. The young man from earlier, Veron, was staring at him. Behind him Larkin and the other two were lounging against the walls just in ear shot.

    Nicco rose to his feet, his mind suddenly clear and sharp. His hands clenched reflexively.

    “What?” he asked quietly.

    “I said you steal from people,” Veron repeated. “I realised where I knew you from. You showed up just at the same time as that spate of robberies in Taneth.” Veron looked right at Lady Sybilla as if appealing for help. “My father, Lord Tovan, his estate was broken into the night of the ball. Do you remember?”

    Lady Sybilla was watching Veron with an eyebrow raised. “This is not the time and place, Veron. Captain D’ladame is our guest. His parents were guests at my ball.”

    “The captain, if that’s what he is, was spotted in the area,” Veron said, “I saw him myself. Then right after the ball they disappeared. I checked,” he waved a data pad through the air.

    Nicco flashed hot and cold, he could hear his heart pounding in his ears. His eyes couldn’t focus on anything but the data pad and the grainy footage of Zallie and him dashing across a lawn, following the shadowy slip of a spukamus.

    “That looks like two people chasing a cat,” Lady Sybilla said, Nicco half turned to see her smiling but no merriment reached her eyes. “I suggest we go somewhere else to discuss this.”

    Nicco’s stomach sank, he was aware of the sudden hush in the area as people strained to listen, the tingle in his fingers and the tiny trickle of sweat that was working its way down between his shoulder blades but he could do nothing to stop it. Lady Sybilla waved her handkerchief as if to dismiss them, but Veron was standing his ground, his eyes blazing.

    “They ransacked the house. They broke furniture, a mirror, they destroyed the place. Emptied the safe and took the family jewellery. I don’t care about the cat, although it was my mother's favourite spukamus and a gift from my father. They probably took the cat and killed it, that’s something an underworlder would do-”

    Nicco blinked. Suddenly Bryer was there, pushing Veron back, his hands wrapped in Veron’s clothes. They crashed through a table laden with food and then another, both young men grappling to get the upper hand. Nicco couldn’t breathe, his heart, already hammering, felt as if it would leave his chest. He vaguely wondered if he was going to be sick. Punches were thrown and then Bryer seemed to get the upper hand, his arm resting on Veron’s neck as he pushed him against the wall.

    “No,” Nicco didn’t realise he’d spoken aloud or taken half a step forward until a hand clamped on his shoulder. He half turned in shock but it was just Lady Sybilla, her face tight and unsmiling as she watched Bryer pin Veron against the wall. The room was silent now, except for the odd clink of glass Larkin and the other two young men were also advancing

    “Don’t,” Bryer said without looking at them, “I wouldn’t push it. We’ve been scrapping since we were boys, you know I’d win.”

    The other young men stopped and Bryer smiled again in a way Nicco had never seen before.

    “Now Veron,” Bryer said quietly, his voice soft and almost friendly, “Nicco is my guest. So for you to accuse him of something so petty and juvenile is ridiculous. For you to do it at my Aunt’s party is an insult. You will apologise.”

    “I will not,” Veron muttered and Nicco was momentarily impressed that he’d managed to do that with Bryer’s arm against his throat. Bryer smiled and leaned harder until Veron made a small choking noise.

    “You will, because that is the man,” Bryer turned to look at Nicco, “that I love most in the world and I will not hear you insult him or his family.”

    Nicco’s knees wobbled as his whole body flushed hot and cold again.

    Veron’s expression flickered, as his knee came up hard catching Bryer between the legs. Bryer’s face went pink, then white and grey. He toppled forward, one hand catching against the wall, the other over his groin as his body curled protectively into a foetal position.

    Something in Nicco snapped.

    He vaulted the couch in front of him. Nothing mattered except the red-grey rage that clouded his vision. Bryer had been hurt. His fist slammed into Veron’s cheek, and Nicco grinned manically. Veron staggered and then righted himself, bringing his fists up and struck out at Nicco. He jabbed towards Nicco’s stomach, and Nicco dodged bringing his fist up and into Veron’s mouth. He felt the sharp sear of pain across his knuckles and then arms encircled him, dragging him across the floor. He heard the button pop from his suit and knew that Estra would kill him for wrecking her creation. He could see other people grabbing for Veron who was still swinging wildly, blood streaming from his nose.

    “That’s enough.”

    Lady Sybilla’s voice had the same undertones of command as Rin’s did when she was angry, except this sounded like it could control a battlefield without the extra assistance of the Force.

    He shrugged the men off and pulled himself upright.Nicco massaged his knuckles, feeling the sharp pain that came with split skin and bruising.

    Across from him, Veron was also shrugging off the men holding him . Veron angrily grabbed an offered hanky and held it to his streaming nose. His suit was covered in blood and one eye was already turning black.

    “I demand satisfaction,” Veron hissed.

    “Sure,” Nicco said, frowning. There was a groan from various people and Veron’s scowl turned to a triumphant grin.

    “No,” it was a low moan from behind him and Nicco turned to see Bryer splayed out on the couch, one had still protectively between his legs, even as he struggled upright. “ No .”

    “He agreed,” Larkin put in, pushing himself up from the wall.

    “He has no idea what he’s agreeing to,” Bryer hissed. He went to stand, wobbled for a minute and then sat down again. Nicco took a step towards the couch, realised the two people who had grabbed him earlier were making moves to do it again and then stopped. “These laws are ancient and aren’t supposed to be used over stupid things like a stolen cat.”

    Nicco winced, wondering what Bryer would think when he found out that Nicco had, indeed, stolen the cat. Or rather, had stolen everything else and the cat had merely accompanied them home. He wondered what Bryer and Lady Sybilla would think of aligning themselves with a family of scoundrels and thieves.

    “It doesn’t matter,” Veron said interrupting Nicco’s thoughts, “you know the rules. He agreed and thus the deal is binding. Tomorrow, dawn.”

    He did his best to sweep from the room, although Nicco noted how he was limping slightly. Larkin and his friends trailed after him, toasting Veron loudly as they went. Nicco watched them carefully, he had no idea what had just transpired, but he was getting a very bad feeling about all of this. He hurried over to the couch and sat down next to Bryer, who was motioning towards one of the waitstaff. Around them the party was slowly coming to life again.

    “What was that all about?” Nicco asked quietly, his fingers tingling as they curled into Bryer’s.

    “You really don’t know, do you,” Bryer asked, his mouth twisting to one side. “He asked for satisfaction and you said yes. It means that the day after tomorrow, at dawn, you duel to the death.”
     
  9. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Nicco sure is in trouble with that Veron creep
     
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  10. Kahara

    Kahara Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 3, 2001
    Oh Nicco. :oops:There is no disaster that this guy cannot find a way to escalate. Though Veron and Larkin are, of course, officially The Actual Worst.:mad:Lady Sybilla seems like she might know more than Nicco thinks -- somehow, she just doesn't seem the oblivious type. And I'm glad that Nicco has Bryer on his side, though he's definitely having a minor heart attack and with good reason.
     
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  11. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 1999
    Definitely! Especially given that he and Veron don't know they are actually related (and they won't until it's plot convenient either).

    That's Nicco's superpower dontchaknow :p

    They are and they are only going to get worser (I don't care that's not a word, that's officially their title)

    Yes, Aunt Sybilla knows all. Like all good matriarchs she's far more knowledgeable and wields a great deal of power.

    I mean the walking disaster is definitely going to keep anyone on their toes. Poor Bryer falling in love (actually I can't say that, I adore Nicco).
     
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  12. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 1999
    The Briar - Part 2

    Nicco tossed and turned in the soft recesses of his oversized bed, listening to the silence that had enveloped him. After the last year on the Ducissa and a whole life aboard a ship full of family, the silence was unnerving. He rolled over on the bed and sunk again into its pillowy depth. Part of him worried that the bed was going to eat him. Maybe if he lay still long enough, he’d sink right through it and come out somewhere else or be smothered to death by the immense amount of frills, blankets, pillows and other accoutrements piled upon its surface.

    Even the room felt overstuffed. He’d been taken to it shortly after Veron had left. Lady Sybilla had waved her hand and conjured a portly twi’lek called A’fred who, after humming and harring for several seconds, had declared the fourth bedroom free and inquired as to whether ‘sir’ would need any of his family contacted.

    It’d taken Nicco more than a moment to realise that he was the ‘sir’ and longer still to find a way of contacting a rather indignant Estra who’d already had her licence to leave the planet revoked. Veron and his friends had worked fast to ensure that Nicco had no avenue of escape. He’d managed to calm Estra down, only to have to explain the situation he’d gotten himself into, which only set her off again.

    It had almost been a relief when A’fred had led him to the ‘fourth bedroom’ and switched on the light.

    Almost.

    The room turned out to be entirely pink and decorated with the most garish and gauzy material. A’fred had obviously seen his face and had matter-of-factly explained that this room was rarely used. It turned out it was originally decorated by Lady Sybilla's youngest niece during her 'pink period' and the only free bedroom. He’d gone on to say that ‘sir’ would be housed more suitably if he “survived tomorrow’s fracas”. A sentiment that Nicco hoped was meant to be more comforting than it had sounded.

    A’fred had pointed out where the ‘facilities’ were, turned on his immaculately polished shoes and left. Nicco quickly undressed and slid into bed, hoping that maybe he’d fall asleep quickly and wake up tomorrow to find out everything had been a nasty misunderstanding.

    He hadn’t slept. Instead he wondered what Estra would do if he didn’t make it through the duel.

    Nicco rolled over, grimacing at the way the sheets and quilts and what he had once heard described as a ‘comforter’ tangled vine-like around his legs.He hadn’t managed to get many details about what would happen during the duel. Bryer had disappeared into the house library with a bevy of ‘family friends’ who, Lady Sybilla assured him, were lawyers and business associates. Lady Sybilla said they’d find a way out of the situation before morning. She’d patted his shoulder comfortingly, told him to get a good night’s sleep and then summoned A’fred.

    Nicco sighed. The whole idea of a ‘good night’s sleep’ seemed as elusive as the idea of Bryer ever staying with him once he found out what Nicco and his family did for a living. He managed to get his arm out and switched on the light. Its lampshade was a mass of pink and cream frills.

    He slid out of the bed and took the least ridiculous looking quilt off the bed, wrapping it around himself to ward off the chill. On one wall there was a fireplace complete with the fake electric fire that Nicco had only ever seen in the holos. He managed to find the on switch and sat on the floor as the fire cracked into life.

    Nicco rolled himself in the duvet and lay down in front of it. He closed his eyes, feeling far more at home with the noise, heat and the hardness of the floor under his body. He was just beginning to relax when there was a creak from the hallway and a shaft of light split the darkness.

    At the soft sound of footfalls Nicco sat up. He blinked at the backlit figure, taking a second to work out that it was Bryer regarding him curiously from the doorway.

    “Why are you sleeping on the floor?” Bryer asked quietly. He closed the door as he came in before sitting down next to Nicco. He looked haggard, his hair was disheveled and his face pale.

    “The bed is too soft.”

    Bryer snorted. “I suppose anything would be too soft after The Ducissa . You haven’t got many creature comforts.” There was a pause as he ran his hand through his hair taking it from disheveled back to something Estra would call ‘rakish’. He grinned. “I’m sorry for appearing in your bedroom like this, I must look a mess.”

    “It’s fine,” Nicco replied and then raised an eyebrow. “Although shouldn’t I be the one who’s a mess?”

    Bryer snorted again and then sobered. “I’m sorry for abandoning you. We were trying to find an out. We went through the library. One of my Uncles even called in some favours but there was nothing. We can’t fix it. We can’t undo it.”

    Nicco nodded. Part of him wondered why he wasn’t more anxious at Bryer’s news, but in front of the fire, and despite the frills and strange pink knickknacks, a sense of peace had settled over him.

    Both Rin and Da had talked about it occasionally, normally late at night when they were half-tipsy; about the strange sense of rightness that would settle on them just before a battle. They had both described it in different ways - Del, his father, like the being filled with warmth and Rin as the orchestra that always played in her head coming together in one cohesive melody that would let her dance. Both had said that no matter what happened next, the Force would guide them. Then normally Rin would giggle and say something about it being a long time ago and both of them would go back to their drinks.

    Nicco shook his head to get the thought of Da and Rin out his head. He didn’t want to know what they would say when they found what he’d gotten himself into. If they found out, his brain corrected.

    Nicco looked across at where Bryer sat, facing the fire, his knees drawn up to his chest. Nicco let out a little snort and unwrapped the quilt to throw it around both of him. The cool night air reminded him he wasn’t wearing very much and his stomach flipped as Bryer’s face flushed. Nicco swallowed hard to cover the sudden spurt of nervousness as he reached out and took Bryer’s hand in his. He carefully interlocked their fingers, enjoying the way the flickering light of the fire played over their skin. Heat was rising slowly in his belly that had nothing to do with the fire as Bryer moved closer towards him.

    “You seem quite relaxed…” Bryer started and then faded away.

    “You mean more than I should be considering I’ll probably die in five hours?” Nicco asked. He shrugged. Something about the warmth from the fire and Bryer’s proximity seemed to be strengthening and tightening that feeling of calm.

    There was a long drawn out pause and Nicco could feel his palm sweating.

    “I have something to tell you.” His voice squeaked awkwardly on the last word. Bryer turned to look at him, frowning in consternation.

    “Can it not wait until tomorrow? We should both get some sleep.”

    Nicco shook his head. He didn’t know how Bryer would react, but the idea of continuing to lie to someone that he really liked - Loved - his brain corrected, Nicco’s face flamed at the thought, was something he could not llive with. He had to tell him, even though not being with Bryer or being thought ill of him made his stomach twist uncomfortably.

    He took a deep breath.

    “No. I need to tell you before tomorrow. It’s about the fight tonight. You see…ah…you see…” he stammered. “You see…I..uh…I really did do it.”

    “Did what?”

    “What Veron accused me of. I broke into the house. I stole the cat. Or rather Shadow stole me.”

    “I know.”

    Nicco frowned and jerked his fingers out of Bryer’s embrace. “You know?”

    “I know. I mean Shadow is a fairly recognisable spukamus. They’re an expensive breed and she didn’t exactly look like a ship’s cat. I’ve spent enough time at Veron’s house to know the cat.”
    “Oh.” It was all Nicco could think to say.

    Bryer shook his head as if castigating himself for something and then reached out to take Nicco’s hand again. “I’m not an idiot, Nicco. My Aunt Sybilla may declare me a wastrel and scoundrel but I’m not an idiot. The moment I got off The Ducissa, after that first trip, I went and did my research.”

    “You researched me?” Nicco wasn’t sure if he should be flattered or offended. He settled for anxious. If Bryer could figure out who he was then it wouldn’t take much for the authorities to eventually piece together who belonged to The Family and pick them off one-by-one. The blanket of calm unraveled slightly.

    Bryer smiled wryly as if reading his thoughts. “I had a head start. I knew that Shadow had been stolen and I knew about your parents thanks to my Aunt. If you are worried about Veron piecing it together don’t be. I have a secret weapon.”

    Nicco frowned. "Secret weapon?"

    “My Aunt,” Bryer said with a grin. “She isn’t the innocent old woman she presents herself to be. She’s run my family since before I was born. When I took her my information and concerns, it was she who reminded me that the only difference between you and I was that all the thieving, murder and stand-over tactics in my family had been done generations ago and that it is only the passage of time that’s rendered our wealth socially acceptable.”
    “My family doesn’t murder people,” Nicco said sharply, feeling somewhat offended.

    “Then they are better than my ancestors,” Bryer said with a snort. He reached out and brushed his fingers across Nicco’s cheek. Nicco closed his eyes, feeling his body relax into the touch. Eventually he opened his eyes to find himself staring into Bryer’s brown ones.

    “You really don’t care.”

    “I really don’t care,” Bryer said softly. “I’m more worried that I’ll lose you tomorrow and that you don’t seem to be worried about it.”

    Nicco shrugged. “I am worried about losing you, but…” He trailed away. He bit his bottom lip and then looked at Bryer. “I don’t want to waste any more time with you by stressing about it.”
    Bryer shook his head and grinned. “You are a strange one.”

    There was a long drawn out pause and Bryer shuffled closer to Nicco, eventually resting his head on Nicco’s shoulder. They both sat watching the flickering light gleam across the pink frilliness of the room.
    “You really don’t care?” Nicco asked after a minute.

    “That I’m giving my heart willing to someone who is a member of a crime family?” Bryer asked and Nicco could hear the mirth in his voice. “I’m a wastrel and scoundrel remember, I doubt anyone would expect any less of me.”
    Nicco smiled reached out to gently turn Bryer’s face towards him. He leaned forward and brushed his lips over Bryer’s softening them before drawing back to look into his eyes.

    “Do you believe in love?” Nicco asked after a moment.

    Bryer tilted his head slightly and stared at Nicco for a long minute, before he smirked and kissed Nicco again. This kiss was slower. Bryer moved so their noses were pressed together, their mouths barely separated and his arms circled around Nicco's bare waist. The kiss deepened and Nicco felt a tingle of deeper warmth in the pit of his stomach. He let out a sigh when Bryer finally pulled away from him.

    “Of course I do,” Bryer whispered, cupping Nicco’s face and kissing him again. Nicco felt the warmth in his stomach spread until it burned through him. Suddenly he wanted to live more than anything.

    “Good,” Nicco said, trying to keep his voice level. “Now can we please sleep? I want to be rested enough not to die tomorrow."
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2022 at 8:43 PM
  13. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Lovely moments between Bryer and Nicco
     
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  14. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 1999
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  15. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 1999
    The Briar - Part 3

    Nicco watched the country-side pass in a blur and wished desperately for the warm blanket of calm he’d experienced the night before, as icy-wind worked its fingers under his borrowed jacket. A’fred had woken them early in the morning, seemingly nonplussed to find them both asleep on the floor. They’d been bundled onto speeder bikes while it was still dark. They hadn’t spoken as they’d travelled through the city and then out into the countryside. Mist rolled off the ground, swirling into vortexes as they passed. Eventually they turned off onto a gravel lane. Nicco could see more speeder bikes parked ahead and a larger, more cumbersome vehicle he realised was the transporter from The Ducissa. He groaned. That meant Estra and F’kisi were here; somehow that made it worse.

    Before he’d even gotten off the bike Estra was stomping towards him, scowling.

    “Essie-” he started but she cut him off.

    “Don’t you Essie me,” she hissed angrily. “I’m not explaining to Da or Rin what you got yourself into. This is stupid. You’re throwing your life away over a boy-”

    Nicco felt Bryer’s hand slide into his. Estra glared momentarily at Bryer before turning back to her brother. “You’ve gone and mucked it up and good and proper. How will I explain this to Da? What’s he going to say.” Estra paused, her lip quivering as her frown deepened. “What am I going to say to Zallie and the twins? Zallie is going to kill you. I want to kill you. How could you do something or irreconsilabily dangerous and stupid. Throw your life away in a stupid duel.”

    “He may win,” Bryer said quietly and Nicco winced. Stopping Estra mid-flight was something the rest of the family had learnt not to do long ago. The young woman turned the full weight of her anger onto Bryer who took an involuntary step back in response to her glare.

    “And you! You were supposed to take care of him. You are supposed to be in love with him.”

    Nicco frowned, his face warming at Estra’s words. He glanced across at Bryer whose own cheeks were colouring although Nicco couldn’t quite tell if it was out embarrassment or just in response to the force of Estra’s anger.

    “I do love him,” Bryer said squeezing Nicco’s hand.

    Despite their talk that night, Bryer’s declaration in front of his sister made Nicco’s world spin. It also stopped Estra in his tracks. Her shoulders dropped and she looked away, tears shining in her eyes. Nicco reluctantly dropped Bryer’s hand and took a step forward to gather his sister into a hug. She pressed her face against his chest and for a few moments they stood in silence.

    “I don’t want to lose you,” Estra said, her voice muffled. Her fingers wound into his clothes pulling him closer. “You’re my big brother and I don’t know what I would do if you weren’t here.”

    Nicco hugged her close, his stomach clenching with anxiety. It had also seemed so clear and easy last night, but now in the face of his sister’s despair it just seemed so useless.

    “Where’s F’kisi?” he asked, wishing his sister’s boyfriend was here. F’kisi had always had a way of calming Estra when no-one else could.

    “Sitting in The Ducissa worrying his head off,” Estra said, taking her head of his chest. He noticed that one hand still clung to him tightly. She made a thumbing motion towards where Veron was standing with Larken and some other young men. “That lot decided that sending their mates to guard Ducc was a good idea right up until I started fiddling with the gun towers.”

    “Essie!”

    “What?” Estra said with a scowl. “I can’t help it if that was the right moment to check the system was up to code and it made them back off. Then F’kisi decided that I should come here. He said something about the likelihood of bloodshed being less.”

    Nicco grinned despite his anxiety and smoothing his fingers over Estra’s hair in an effort to calm her. He turned to Bryer. “I can come clean. I mean what they said was true. I can live with the consequences of my actions.”

    “I can’t,” Bryer murmured, looking worried. “Theft has some fairly nasty consequences, especially seeing as you stole from a noble family.” Bryer’s voice curled around the word ‘noble’ as if he didn’t really believe it.

    Estra pushed Nicco away and turned to Bryer. “So then what? The possibility of dying by the end of-” she paused. “What weapon is this duel supposed to use?”

    “I believe Veron has chosen sabres.”

    Estra frowned. “Lightsabers? That’s a Jedi weapon.”

    Bryer shook his head. “No, metal sabres. Old fashioned swords.”

    Estra rolled her eyes and threw her hands into the air. “That’s just amazing. Death by the end of a pointy metal stick - how civilised!”

    Bryer shrugged. “He asked for the duel and so he gets to pick the weapon. If it had been us, then it would have been blasters.”

    Estra stomped off for a couple of metres and then came back. “So this whole thing is better than Nicco just owning up to stealing Shadow how?”

    Bryer shrugged. “Trust me. It just is. This way Nicco has a way of staying alive and with both of his hands.”

    Estra bit her bottom lip and then looked at her brother. “When will you learn to think?”

    Nicco shrugged slightly and turned to Bryer. “So what happens now?”

    “You don’t even know that?” Estra hissed and stomped away muttering something about being cursed with a stupid brother.

    Bryer reached out and took Nicco’s hand again, making Nicco’s fingers tingle. “The Master of Fields will call the bout and it’ll start. If you can’t fight for some reason then I’m your second and I go in your stead. I’ve checked the weapons and they are both equal. He hasn’t tampered with them, so that’s something.” He looked at Nicco and his face dropped. “Veron’s chosen a weapon that he’s very good at. I can fight for you, you know - there is no shame in that.”

    “I think if anything were to happen to you then your Aunt would definitely dream up a worse punishment than either your law or Veron could think of.”

    Bryer chuckled and squeezed Nicco’s hand. “And Estra.”

    Nicco looked across at where Estra was leaning against a tree, her face pale and her hands clenched tight and sighed. “I think Estra will kill me regardless of which way this goes.”

    Bryer grinned and then looked across at the patch of empty grass in front of them. He squeezed Nicco’s hand again.

    “I think,” he said softly, “they are ready to begin.”

    **

    Nicco felt the weight of the sword in his hand. It was slightly heavier than the ‘training sabers’ that Del had once made after Kei and Tarro had argued that they needed them to be ‘proper Jedi’. The hilt sat awkwardly in his hand and part of him wished that Veron had simply chosen blasters; that way at least the fight would have been short and sweet and he’d have had some chance of winning.

    He hefted the sword again and took a few experimental swings. He could see Bryer grimacing as he watched. Another young man leant over to say something quietly to Estra, who shook her head and frowned.

    “Are you ready gentlemen?” A man, who Bryer had called the Master of the Field, asked and Nicco nodded his head, the bit of his stomach suddenly in knots. He groped after the feeling of warm calm he’d experienced last night but came up empty. Instead the chill of the breeze flickered past him, undercutting his confidence and filling him with clammy dread. Across from him Veron nodded and swished his sword down in one elegant movement that spoke of years of practice.

    “Does it have to be swords?” Estra asked from the sidelines, her voice cutting loudly across the morning chill. “I mean I thought we’d kinda got past that as a civilisation. Also kinda one-sided dontcha think? Thought you upper-class types prided yourselves on being fair - or does that only work if it’s fair for you and sucks for everyone else?”

    She earned herself a glare from Veron and a shush from Bryer.

    “The rules are simple,” The Twi’lek, whose job it seemed to be to organise the proceedings, announced. Nicco wondered if the twi’lek did other things, or if his only job was to guide idiotic young men to their deaths. “This is a fight to the death or incapacitation. Either side can withdraw after first blood.”

    Nicco nodded and took a step back. There was a few seconds of nothing and then Veron leapt forward, sword raised. Nicco was only just quick enough to block him with his own blade and parry. Veron stepped backwards again but still held on to his weapon. The two circled each other warily, eyes narrowed.

    “Is that all?” Veron taunted. He swung his blade at Nicco. Nicco said nothing, just gripped his blade tightly, the end bobbing in a way that he knew would earn him both Del and Rin's disapproval, and hoped this would be over soon. Nicco swung wildly.

    Veron ducked under the blow and lunged forward once again. He feinted left then right before attacking once more. He moved so fast Nicco had little time to react; every move Veron made had him anticipating something, waiting for another opportunity.

    The two moved apart from each other and circled again. “Will you yield? Or must I show Bryer how useless you really are?” Veron taunted

    "Choose," a small voice whispered in Nicco’s ear. He glanced around to see who had spoken, but everyone seemed to intent on the fight.

    In the moment of lost concentration, Veron attacked. Nicco blocked and countered swiftly but not quickly enough. Veron slashed out and missed by an inch. Nicco felt sweat prickle along his scalp. The adrenaline rush was beginning to fade and his arms were already getting tired.

    They locked blades. Veron pushed, forcing Nicco to take several steps back. Nicco grunted as a sharp pain shot up his arm from where Veron’s sword pressed against him.

    Veron grinned and lunged forward. The two went at each other in earnest now, trading blow after blow. Nicco felt like he could barely breathe, the cold air of the early morning searing his lungs with ice. His grip loosened and Veron easily slid past him, knocking his sword out of his grasp.

    Veron laughed loudly and spun around to look at him, still holding his sword loosely in hand. “I win!”

    “No you don’t,” someone growled, and Nicco realised it was Bryer. “First blood, remember."

    Veron gave a silly little bow as if to acquiesce and Nicco scrambled for his sword. As his hand grasped the worn leather of the hilt, he realised he had fallen for a trap. Veron's booted foot caught him in the side, sending him sprawling onto the grass. There was the sound of laughter from Veron’s friends and Nicco’s face flushed.

    Nicco rolled with the movement, thankful that years of scrapping and street fights had taught him how to fall. He looked up to see Veron looming above him, sword aimed at his throat. Nicco rolled and Veron’s sword stabbed into the grass. He glanced sideways to see Estra, her face pale, hand over his mouth, eyes wide in fear. His eyes flicked to where Bryer stood, holding himself stiff and upright.

    Choose. The same voice, soft and insistent. A vision flashed in front of his eyes, standing next to Bryer at the helm of a ship grander than the Ducissa; Estra and F’kisi and a passel of children; his younger siblings laughing at something; Rin hugging the waist of his Father, whose eyes shone with pride.

    Choose. The voice asked again. For a moment Nicco wondered if he was going mad or if it was merely his own brain struggling with the idea that he might die.

    The sword came down again and Nicco rolled away, struggling to find his feet in the soft, damp grass. Another vision. Blood on the grass. His blood. Estra screaming in angry defiance, Bryer holding her back looking broken and lost. His siblings; inconsolable. Rin whey-faced as she wept beside his Father. His Father. Del’s pain and anguish; so visceral that Nicco’s stomach lurched and his hand clenched around his sword hilt.

    Choose.

    Nicco chose.

    He lurched to his feet, clinging to the sword and the vision. He needed to survive. He needed Bryer. He needed Essie. He needed his whole strange family.

    Veron backed away for a second and Nicco wondered what he looked liked, rising from the wet, damp grass like a madman. He watched Veron warily.

    The voice was back, patient and kind. The sabre had felt far too heavy but if he just moved his hands slightly… He changed his grip on the hilt and suddenly it was comfortable, responding to his touch as if it was one of Del’s homemade weapons. He gave an experimental twirl and grinned to himself.

    The warm weight that had settled over him last night wrapped him again as the voice faded.

    He had chosen. He had chosen and he would survive because of Bryer and everything they would become. Nicco smiled. In pre-dawn light a gentle breeze picked up, ruffling his hair and filling him with warmth.

    This time when Veron leapt forward Nicco was ready for him. He parried and brought his blade up, setting Veron on the defensive. He slid smoothly into each move, his blade parrying each stroke. He moved easily, almost countering Veron’s attacks before they began.

    The breeze buffeted him gently, the warm eddies seemingly guiding his body to dance with the blade, moving with the rhythm of the wind. His breath caught in surprise as a rush of energy left his limbs tingling. This wasn’t like sparring with his siblings; there was something else about this that was far smoother as if he had been supposed to do this all his life.

    His blood thrummed in his veins, his heart beating faster, stronger. This was more intense, somehow exhilarating in its power. His mind drifted from Veron, focused solely on his movements as his arms took control of the situation. The air no longer burned in his lungs and, although his head spun, he did not falter.

    There was a gasp from someone standing at the side and momentarily Nicco was pulled from his reverie. Veron lunged forward, taking advantage of his distraction and forcing him back several steps. He spun around, countering each stroke as the air around him rippled, sending shivers down his spine.

    His arms were burning but somehow he wasn't tired. It seemed impossible, he knew he should be faltering under Veron's assault, but he didn’t feel fatigued at all, his movements fluid and light, as if he had practised this his whole life.

    The warmth filled him entirely now as the early morning sunlight flickered through the trees above them. Veron was panting, his face twisted in pain, his eyes wide.

    He’s afraid… Nicco thought and wondered how he knew.

    Nicco pushed forward, bringing his sword down towards Veron's flank. It was one of the moves they’d spent hours practising as Rin made the Family walk through the steps of Jedi training. He remembered that Rin had always told him that Form One was about disarming an opponent, and he wondered what she would make of this duel.

    Veron blocked his blow, the flat of their blades locking together with a resounding clang. Their bodies pressed against one another, Nicco feeling his own sweat slicking the hilt of his sword. His muscles tensing and flexing with every movement, it was as if his entire body were made of water instead of flesh. For a brief moment he lost himself again, forgetting everything but the fight. There was another flurry of blows as he pushed Veron back, his sword moving faster than he thought possible. Then their blades tangled, and the sound of the metal grating brought him back to the here and now.

    Nicco felt Veron's hand clench around his wrist and he momentarily let one hand off his own blade to grab Veron's arm before his own blade could be twisted from his grip.

    "Why are you still fighting me?" Veron growled, hard and harsh. Beads of sweat clung tightly to his skin; his hair plastered to his forehead. "No shiprat can win this fight. You will never fit in here."

    Nicco saw the barb for what it was. The loud anger of a frightened boy. Suddenly he didn’t want to fight anymore. All he wanted was to be with Bryer.

    "But I don't need to fit in with you," Nicco said quietly. “I just need to fit in with him."

    He grinned at Veron whose eyes widened in alarm as Nicco shoved as hard as he could. The wind whistled up behind him, buffeting him as Nicco’s blade came up, slicing across Veron’s cheek. One of Veron’s hands came up to his face as a crimson streak appeared and blood poured from the cut. Nicco pressed the attack, letting the warm wind guide his hands in a cross-body blow that tore Veron’s blade from his grasp and sent it skittering across the trodden grass.

    Veron staggered, catching himself against the base of a tree. Nicco glanced down and their gazes locked, both breathing heavily. Nicco dropped the tip of his sabre and extended his hand towards Veron whose gaze shifted from Nicco to his own blade that lay discarded nearby and then back to Nicco who smiled wanly. He risked a glance across at Bryer who was staring at him with an expression that Nicco couldn’t read.

    “What happens now?” Nicco asked quietly, turning his attention back to where Veron lay unmoving.

    “Concede,” it was Bryer’s voice stern and unyielding. For a second Nicco thought Bryer was talking to him, and then that Veron would refuse. Veron took a deep breath and his eyes narrowed. Finally he nodded.

    “I concede,” he said quietly. Nicco grinned, dropping the tip of his sword away from Veron’s neck, believing it was done.

    “And?” Bryer continued. His voice was flat and devoid of emotion. Nicco brought the sword up again, casting a bewildered glance at where Bryer stood, arms crossed.

    “And I will concede that I was mistaken about the incident at my parent’s house.”

    Nicco frowned. Veron looked like he was in far more physical pain than just the cut on his cheek.

    “And.”

    There was a pause which ended with a sigh from Bryer.

    “And I will not pursue the matter further,” Bryer declared. Another pause and then Veron repeated the phrase. Anger, misery and shame were pouring off Veron in waves so strong for a second Nicco thought he could see them. Nicco dropped his sword away from Veron’s neck before Bryer could add more.

    “The duel is concluded,” the Master of the Fields announced. Nicco held out his hand but Veron slapped it away, rising by himself on unstable legs.

    “This isn’t over,” he growled. Nicco felt strong arms encircle his waist.

    “It is over,” Bryer said quietly, “and before you think about making either of our lives miserable in any other way remember that as future Duke of Sentai I will have more money than sense very shortly. I would find yourself somewhere better to live and maybe buy your mother a new spukamus.”

    Nicco frowned as Veron retrieved his sword and stalked off towards his friends. He turned towards Bryer, the frown still etched firmly on his face. Behind Bryer Estra was talking excitedly into a comms unit.

    “Duke of Sentai?” he asked. “I thought your Aunt was the only one with a title. What even is that?”

    “I’m six months away from my majority,” Bryer said as if his piece of news was nothing. “And I figured it didn’t matter.”

    Nicco frowned. “It doesn’t. You could be penniless and it wouldn’t change how I feel.”

    “I could belong to a crime family,” Bryer said with a smile, his hand brushing Nicco’s face.

    Nicco blushed. “You could if you want.”

    Bryer opened his mouth but Estra interrupted, bouncing up to them in a way that was almost reminiscent of their younger sister Zallie.

    “F’kisi’s on his way. He found a place in town that does Panacakes.” She grinned at Nicco and then punched his arm. “Also when have you found time to do extra katas? You were doing stuff that Rin has only shown us for fun.”

    Nicco frowned and shook his head. “I wasn’t doing anything different to normal.”

    Estra’s mouth twitched and then grinned and shrugged. “Anyway, it doesn’t matter. It’s over now. You’re free. We’re free. Panacakes await.”

    She stood on tiptoe and kissed Nicco on the cheek. “I’m very glad you survived,” she whispered, and Nicco could see the tears in her eyes. He reached out and grabbed her and held her close. Unbidden, Estra's hand snaked out and pulled Bryer into the hug as well. Over their shoulders Nicco could see Veron glaring at him, hatred clearly on his face.

    A second later Estra had released both of them and was heading back towards where the transport was parked.

    “I’ve got to go get F’kisi,” she yelled as she sped away. “Meet you there.”

    Bryer looked at Nicco and made a face. “I’m glad you survived too. I was very worried there for a minute. I couldn’t think of what I would do without you.”

    Nicco nodded, suddenly feeling light headed. “What do you want to do now?” It was a silly question, but it was all he could think of. He didn’t want to ponder how close he had come to dying.

    “You heard Estra, we are to get pancakes,” Bryer said, reaching up and brushing some hair off Nicco's face. “Besides, your sister hugged me so I figure I'm now part of the family."

    He leaned forward and pressed a quick kiss against Nicco’s lips, which made Nicco’s breath catch.

    "You are," Nicco said softly, "although if you annoy Estra there won't be a duel. My sister is more likely to kill you in your sleep."

    Bryer laughed. "Then I will make sure I never annoy her."

    Nicco reached out and threaded his fingers through Bryer's hair. There was another rush of heat and the same strange, warm breeze picked up around them as he leaned forward, eyes closed as Bryer's lips met his, kissing him slow and easy.

    As they drew apart, Nicco smiled down at his boyfriend. “Panacakes, breakfast and then our future.”
     
  16. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    A great and happy ending for Nicco and Bryer