Taryn let himself fall heavily onto his bed and stared at his boots, collecting his thoughts. His shoulders still clenched with lingering shame and embarrassment.
Shoulda taken them off at the door… No. Doesn’t matter.
He rubbed his face as he thought over what had happened, trying to process it all. Really, the fact a spy had managed to splice not only into their ships systems, but Veles City’s Defense systems as well, and had tried to kill them should be the main worry on his mind right now. Only it wasn’t.
Instead he was stuck on that stupid game, the one he’d initiated. They’d been stuck in a room, waiting for Sandra to lightsaber cut her way through a door, and on some impulse, the same kind that drives you to throw a rock at a hive, or poke a sleeping animal, just to see what would happen… he’d challenged Webber to Strip Poker.
Taryn had been expecting a no- that was the point. He’d wanted to get under the man’s skin, do something outlandish, a joke intended to mock as much as tease. Because… Webber was Mandolorian, armour clad. Taryn was Taryn. And Sandra was right there. Webber should have said no- gotten defensive because it was Taryn asking, because Sandra was there, because beskar’gam. Webber should have been riled, Taryn and Sandra amused… That was the point.
But Webber said yes, so Taryn stalled making rules (Boots, gloves, waist, shoulder- finally everything but your small clothes), until Sandra cut through the door, the metal crash deafening but a relief. Freedom should have interrupted it, giving them better things to do now. But no Webber was still game- it was his joke now.
Ashi picked that excellent time to holocom, so Taryn let her in on the joke, hoping she’d help to bring it back to what it was supposed to be- laugh at it with him, affirm it’s outlandishness and implausibility. Tease Webber with him. But no, Webber simply invited her along and she agreed.
So now the game was still taking place- but now it was in Webber’s house , Ashi joining in, Sandra watching. The others laughed as the cards were dealt and flipped, teasing each other and having fun. Ashi lost first, then Taryn. Webber won, but ‘for fairness’ stripped to his underwear too.
And it was…
It was wrong.
Ashi had spoken to him after, gotten some truths out of him, but even then he couldn’t explain it all. Didn’t even understand it, to begin to explain it.
Taryn had grown ever more embarrassed and ashamed during it, that they’d actually grown concerned about him. The embarrassment created a vicious cycle, because now the joke that was supposed to be at Webber’s expense was now at Taryn’s. Taryn was the one growing defensive, uncomfortable and confused. Taryn hadn’t won anything, hadn’t proved anything. He’d just lost, in more ways than one.
They were worried it was because Taryn was insecure in his own partial nudity. That their playful jests about him being skinny, or teasing flirts had gotten to him. The former hadn’t even registered, and the latter… drew attention to an issue Taryn only now was picking apart. He had felt vulnerable, yes- being down to his boxers, in Webber’s home, the other’s looking on was…a vulnerability he wasn’t expecting, but really it was the intimacy of it all that got to him. Not intimacy in a sexual, or even really sensual sense (Taryn refused to dwell on the image of Webber and Ashi undressed- he wasn’t going to examine those feelings yet, probably ever)- the entire atmosphere had been kept playful. But it was a friendly, playful intimacy nonetheless.
And it had felt wrong to share that sense of relaxed intimacy, considering Taryn’s motivations and how the situation had come about, leaving a bitter taste in his mouth.
It had felt wrong to share that with Webber.
Seeing Webber out of armour wasn’t the victory it was supposed to be. It was a confusing mess. It’d felt like Taryn had somehow committed a wrong by playing part in ‘tricking’ a Mandolorian out of his armour, of seeing something he shouldn’t be seeing. And at the same time, it felt wrong to even care about that- to give a damn about Webber being in armour or not. And Webber had been happy, happy sharing in that intimacy, happy pointing out his battle scars, happy teasing the others…
Ashi had said after, that what the game had meant for Webber, was different than what it meant to Taryn and she was right. Taryn didn’t know if Webber had secretly felt that it was a victory over Taryn, of if he considered it friendship or didn’t even care about Taryn’s part in it at all. Taryn knew for certain at least, Webber didn’t know his full motivations were, couldn’t fully understand what this meant to him- and Taryn could admit it felt wrong and frustrating too that Taryn even cared this much about the Mandolorian at all, cared about what he thought.
The game had been a bad idea that had somehow been enjoyable for the others, leaving Taryn to feel like an intruder, spoiling it for them.
Taryn sighed. Tired and still confused. He stared at his boots a moment longer, before pulling off his jacket first instead, readying for bed. He hoped come morning they could get some leads on mutants or spies, because stars knew that was easier to deal with.