Maybe Hera Syndulla and Cassian Andor are the last people you should send on a diplomatic mission from a galaxy far, far away boldly going where no Rebel has gone before, but life is weird, and now they're drinking kanar at Quark's. Somehow, that isn't the strangest part of Hera's life. This trophy goes to her partner, but he is also strangely endearing, so it's okay.
"So this is it, the Alpha Quadrant in the flesh," Cassian murmured as he set foot onto the space station Deep Space Nine, his bag casually slung over his shoulder and eyes going every which way as if he were just another overeager tourist.
"The Federation, even," Hera added. "Remember, the station is under Federation administration. One wrong move here and we cause a diplomatic incident with one of the big players."
Hera skillfully dodged a boy who looked human except for his nose ridges –a Bajoran, she recognized the species from the files. The boy tried to jostle into her; no doubt she would have found herself short the contents of her pockets if he'd made contact. "Pickpockets are the same everywhere," she remarked.
They let the flow of people guide them from the docking ring to the Promenade, hiding their observations behind a visitor's curiosity.
Three years ago this had still been a Cardassian ore refinery working its Bajoran laborers to death. Bajor had been an occupied world, its natural resources and the workforce of its people taken by force.
Bajor had freed itself.
There was a reason why Hera and Cassian were planning to reach out to small, insignificant Bajor first. Unlike the great powers of the quadrant, it was ruled by former rebels.
The Promenade was filled with people of more species than Hera could count, only a few of which she could name from the scouts' reports.
The thrill of exploring someplace altogether new and alien put a spring into her step, feeding a kind of exhilaration she mostly knew while braving a risky new route through hyperspace. Having spent all of her adult life at war, there had never been much time for the simple, innocent joy of exploring new worlds. Her gaze shifted to the human at her side, who looked as grim as ever – even his mustache was frowning.
"We are terribly exposed, and I haven't seen any species which resemble Twi'leks yet."
She rolled her eyes in fond exasperation. "Nobody is going to realize in this hustle that we don't belong, Cassian. If there'd been trouble it would have been when they realized our ship is of unknown configuration."
There had been a distinct lack of questions, even for people as skilled at slipping between the cracks as them. Deep Space Nine, located right by the wormhole providing a short-cut between two regions of space called Alpha and Delta Quadrant, was a hub of trade and tourism which fielded a swathe of strangers from all over the galaxy every day. It was why they had chosen to come here to gather more information about the Bajoran government, instead of going straight to their homeworld.
The furrows on his forehead only deepened. "It's too easy. I don't like it."
"You never do."
To be fair, Hera hadn't liked this mission at all; it took her away from her team for longer than she felt comfortable. However, the rebels didn't have many pilots skilled enough to make it into the Uncharted Regions and back again. This was where the rebellion needed her most right now, so this was where Hera had gone.
It had been a perk, but not her reason for accepting this mission that she finally got to spend more time with Cassian than the occasional single day into which they tried to cram an entire life together.
They were still following the crowd and let their attention he caught by groans and joyful shouts from a cantina. While others drank or ate, some patrons crowded around casino tables, hosted by scantily-clad women. Someone yelled, "Dabo!" and the level of cheers and groans increased.
Hera and Cassian exchanged a look and went inside. Space stations operated by the same rules all over the galaxy. If you wanted information, a cantina was the first place to go.
They found a table on the upper level, which gave them a good view on the cantina while they were out of a casual observer's view. A small alien with a truly impressive pair of ears served them their drinks.
Hera scooted a little closer to Cassian, nudging his taut shoulder with hers. "I think half the reason I like you is that you're the only person I can tell to relax."
He turned his frown on her, but a moment later his dour face cleared. There was even a small smile in his eyes, though it didn't show on his lips. He tucked his head a little closer, though his eyes quickly returned to watching the crowd. "I can try."
Hera's lekku brushed his shoulder. "Still. The first time you ask me on a vacation and it's because you need a pilot."
"First time you asked me on a date you needed a stand-in for your explosives expert."
"Don't tell me you would have rather gone for dinner and a holodrama."
He made a mere minimum of token grumbling noises. "I said yes, didn't I?"
"You do like infiltrating Imperial bases." She sipped on her drink. "And I like difficult flying."
They sipped on their drinks and Hera's thoughts returned to the mission. Gather more in-depth information. If the opportunity arose, make first contact, but remain discreet. Cassian had brought them rumors of the Empire having found safe paths into the Uncharted Regions, which meant they had to make contact first, but also had to be careful so as not to drive the Empire into an escalation.
It was a delicate situation. Hera wasn't much of a woman for delicate situations and Cassian solved his problems by shooting them, but they had to make do with what they had.
Cassian's fingers found the tip of her lekku, blaster-calloused fingertips caressing it ever so gently as his lips found her ear, nuzzling at her earlobe and finally whispering, "Security's watching us."
Hera gave a titter which under lighter circumstances would have made both of them laugh at how utterly ridiculous and unlike her it was. She curled a little more into Cassian, using the excuse of nuzzling the scruff at his jawline to look around until she had found their observer, a blond humanoid in a brown uniform.
So their ship had been noticed, and they wished them to know that they had been noticed. Hera guessed it had been too much to hope for that they could slip through the cracks.
It didn't have to be a bad thing, their hosts might be content to observe them as long as they didn't do anything which would get them pegged as hostile.
In other words, they'd be walking around on a ticking time bomb. Cozy, just like home.
She turned her attention back to Cassian. He was tense, but also looked a little less twitchy now that his fears had been proven true. She fought a little grin. He was an odd one, her man.
They had never had time to put into words what they were to another. Their time wasn't theirs to do with as they pleased, everything they had to give was put into fighting for the better future they dreamed of.
Of course, other people still found time to call it love, but Hera had always shied away from the word. Not from the commitment, she was the last person to shy away from responsibilities, but from the vulnerability that would come with it. Cassian, she knew, had his own demons he never spoke of, just like he didn't speak of the things he did for the Rebellion. He wouldn't try to tie her down and clip her wings to protect her, she knew that, she trusted him, she just…
It was easier not to call it love.
She pulled herself out of these thoughts. No time to have your head in the clouds, Hera, unless you're flying through them.
"What do you think one has to do around here to get another drink?"
Cassian extricated himself from her smoothly, raising to his feet in the same smooth movement. "I'll get you one."
Hera nodded and handed him her empty glass.
Split up. Mingle. It would be easier on their own, and the security guard could only eavesdrop on one of them at a time. If he had brought friends they'd have to show themselves.
Hera arched a brow at Cassian. "Don't get yourself arrested."
He gave her the kind of innocent look which worked only on extremely gullible informants. "But if we are arrested we will get to spend time together."
Hera rolled her eyes at Cassian's idea of a silver lining. Or a joke. It was probably supposed to be a joke. "We have spent the past weeks crammed together in a tiny shuttle. I feel like I have already gotten to know you better than I ever wanted to, Andor."
"And to think, we've only just arrived."
Hera's bright green eyes sparkled. "Get me my drink, Cassian."