I had a hard time keeping my own eyes from rolling in their sockets. “We’re in the middle of a war, Corso. I’m not really thinking long-term right now.”
“I love you,” he said. “I want you to be my wife, like you would be back home.”
I sighed. His constant idealization of his backwater life sometimes made me want to fly back to Ord Mantell and drop him right back where I found him.
“Yeah, I love you, too, Corso, but this isn’t ‘back home’. It’s you and me flying around the galaxy with a wookie and mercenary princess, a fake Jedi and a price on our heads. It’s duking it out with psycho Empire guys more interested in torture and force lighting than in treaties. It’s impermanence and adrenaline and sometimes pointless errands. It’s not time to settle down and raise a family.”
He looked at me like I’d taken the sort of cheap shot I routinely used in fights to gain the upper hand. “I did notice there’s a war on, Captain. We don’t have to have kids right away. But getting married is what you do when you love each other.”
“No, the other stuff we do is what you do when you love each other. Getting married is for later, when you’re a retired smuggler with time to think about the rest of your life instead of calculating whether your payment will cover fuel and the repairs you’ll need after running the next blockade.”
“All of that’s behind you,” he said, looking pained. “We’re fighting for the Republic now, aboveboard and legal all the way.”
“Corso, when we met you were working for a mid-level crime boss. Your devotion to law and order was noticeably absent at the time.” A little pft of exasperation escaped me. “I signed on to be a privateer for practical reasons, not some idealistic love for the Republic. I’m a smuggler; I do illegal things for money and kicks. The Empire doesn’t seem like a real fun place to work.”
You’d have thought I’d kicked a baby, the way he looked at me. “Fun?! Those bastards were financing the separatists that killed my family.”
Shit. “I remember, Corso, but we’ve gotten revenge on them a hundred times over by now. Hell, we’re way out here in the heart of their territory fighting for Balmorran independence. Can there ever be enough for you?”
The conversation had spiraled off-course. I took a deep breath and tried to steer it back to the point. “Look, I’m not about to quit in the middle of a fight. We committed to kick the Empire’s ass and that’s what we’re going to do. How does getting married fit into that plan?”
He took my hand in his and gave me that ardent, innocent look with which he had lured me in back on Ord Mantell. “Don’t you want to be ‘Captain Riggs’?” he asked.
I leaned away from him. The cute act wasn’t going to cut it. “You want me to give up my name, too? And then what, you re-name my ship Spacey?” I pulled my hand out of his entirely. “If you want me to be someone else you’d better be prepared for a lot of disappointment, Corso.”
“I don’t want to change you,” he protested sullenly. “What’s wrong with wanting to keep you out of danger?” His head dropped as he continued hesitantly. “We’re not going to do this forever, right? I want to know that you’ll be with me when this war is over, too.”
He did know how to get right to my heart. Smugglers have well-deserved reputations for rakish charm and cavalier attitudes toward relationships. Skavek and his string of fascinated women had proven that to Corso over the months of our chase. My little farm boy had started his rather oblique approach by telling me he thought I was worth more than the sorts of flings he—rightly—assumed I’d had.
My own conquests had been more circumspect than Skavek’s and a whole lot less obsessive. I hadn’t flaunted them by any means but I did know an awful lot of men on an awful lot of planets. Attention and invitations from them and their contacts didn’t faze me a bit, whether I’d known them for years or it was our first meeting.
There hadn’t been much time for dalliances early on and I hadn’t wanted to shock the kid but he’d certainly seen enough propositions come my way. Flattery and banter came naturally to me. I could turn a guy down without souring the deal.
I should have just stayed on my damned ship until the Republic had taken out the AA guns themselves. Skavek would have had a tough time snatching it out from under me if I’d actually been inside it at the time. Once he stole it I was stuck working with whoever could help me track him down, and there Corso had been, a former military guy still looking at the galaxy through farm-tinted glasses.
I’d let him tag along because I hadn’t had the heart to throw him to the wolves. At first I’d flirted with him because he was cute and available. My ego needed the boost, after getting sucked into the stupid fight over Ord Mantell.
Corso’s chivalrous desire to protect my honor had been endearing, if unnecessary. His bashful responses to my teasing—and that first goofy, drunken pass—had kept me entertained between the frustrations of chasing that thieving skunk Skavek all over the galaxy. Then his naïve adoration had started to get to me.
After a while I started to want to believe. Maybe I did want more than a bit of fun in every spaceport. Maybe I wasn’t the only one I could count on. Eventually I did believe him.
I was willing to give this one-guy thing a shot but his marriage idea had to be nipped in the bud. I reached out and took his chin, tilting his miserable face up from staring at my feet. “Corso, I’m with you now…only you. Can you trust me or do you really need me to sign some piece of paper to prove it?”
He met my eyes, serious but tentative. “It’s not the paper, Captain,” he said softly, “it’s the promise.”
A single step brought me close enough to lay a kiss on the flattened bridge of his oft-broken nose. Someday I’d have to ask him how it had come to take that much abuse. For now it was enough that I pick something uniquely him.
“I promise,” I said.
Corso immediately showed my why you don’t grab people and spin them around on the bridge of a ship. By the time I got us out of hyperspace we were three light-years off-course and lucky not to have dropped out into the middle of an asteroid. I guess it was worth it, even if Risha did whine about the sudden “maneuvers” for a week. At least I’m not getting married.