You zone out again in the early morning, but that happens a lot. Din always keeps you up so late, all the time, and without any caf here, the rising sun just makes your eyes droop instead of flutter brighter and wider. You helped a bunch of younglings find their way into their robes when it was still dark out, tying sashes and fitting masks while holding back your yawns. The walk into Nariss is close to three hours, probably more with all these tiny little legs, and you almost forget to change into your new digs before everyone grabs breakfast.
Even though your ragtag entourage leaves for Nariss just as soon as everyone finishes eating, you don’t reach the city until nearly lunchtime. Mostly because the kids walk about as fast as the elderly holy women chaperoning the trip. You and Naydee lag behind the group, forcing yourself to meander slow as fuck when you nearly sprinted this same exact path just a few days ago. On the way there, you listen to children of all sorts sing happily as they walk, chatter about their excitement for the parade, complain about wearing the fabric mask they made themselves, and more than once, somebody takes a tumble onto the ground and is left in teary sniffles and dirt stained clothes. Likely for this reason, the robes are designed to be two pieces—a long tunic with a hood and a separate pants portion to prevent tripping instead of a draping skirt, but the smallest ones are clumsy and find a way to fall anyways.
It’s a colorful bunch—a chaotic rainbow of babies running around, and you share easy conversation with your new friend about the plans for the day until she asks something that makes you nearly trip and join the dirty robe club.
“Sister Drya said your family is meeting you in the city,” she tells you, ignoring your immediate subtle toe stub and the awkward shuffle you have to do to make up for it. “There’s going to be lots of people downtown, I’m worried it might be hard for them to find you.”
Your heart thuds in your chest and you feel a bit short of breath at being abruptly confronted with the need to lie, but at the same time, you kind of love it. Having a secret, hiding the truth from others, and just the reminder that you’re almost guaranteed to see Din and the baby before midnight pours warmth and tingles through your tummy. Everything together is a hit of spice, filling you with a kind of excitement that used to be foreign to you. Having fun, experiencing new things isn’t quite over yet, but home is calling and you miss it with every fiber of your being.
“I don’t think so,” you eventually respond, hoping she can see your kind smile and the sentiment it carries even as light, shimmery fabric wraps right around your mouth. “If I disappear, you’ll know why.”
Naydee’s eyes crinkle in the corners to match yours. “Hopefully you’ll be able to see the fireworks first,” she nudges you, her skin glowing against the pale cream fabric she has wrapped around her own mouth and the hood laying delicately over her braids. “They start at eight.”
The fireworks , you almost forgot. You know what? Today is a good day. You hear yourself think the full sentence multiple times, and the words put a spring in your step after every single one. The road gradually becomes wider and filled with more travelers, and you feel safe in the back. Like some kind of sheepdog bringing up the rear of this migrating cluster of children, making sure none of them drift off by themselves and start eating grass or something.
Surprisingly, the kids manage to be relatively patient and well-behaved once they’re in line at the gates. The Sisters shuffle them along one by one as everyone moves up slowly, taking even longer to get into the city than it did a few days ago. The entrance is packed already—so many people visiting for the festival, and they’re all dressed in costumes or robes of sorts, or at least a mask. Most are beautifully crafted, but some manage to look slightly scary even with the soft springtime color schemes. It’s a completely different world, a different life for each person as you pass them by. Your stomach is starting to growl by the time you finally make it to the front, and luckily the guards just let the kids through without any ceremony. Just you and the rest of the caretakers in light robes need to hold still for the retinal scan, matching each other perfectly except for differing shades of fabric, skin, and eye color. Once the gates open for you and you step through, though… it’s… Maker.
Extravagant, magnificent are both words. Floral is another.
It’s like they hung up bouquets wherever they could think to fit them, and this is just the edge of the city. As the group moves through the streets and closer to downtown, it becomes more and more overwhelming. The air itself is a warm fragrance wafting all around you, sunshiney and breezy and perfect, flowers of all kinds lining the modern buildings and archways like they were planted there from the very beginning and it just took this long to bloom between the cracks in the concrete. You wish you had names for all of them so you could list them—the only thing you can offer is the color and vague descriptions of the ones that stick out to you. Tiny yellow ones that are so small, they need to be bunched all together in massive quantities to even resemble normal flowers. Up overhead, elaborate arrangements of enormous blue and purple and pink ones, wrapping around each other and hanging down from rooftops. Some don’t even have petals, it’s like they’re big green cups that are big enough to hold things inside them. You’re fascinated by every single one, wanting to stop and smell them all individually but needing to keep up with the large group and not allow any stragglers to be left behind, including yourself.
About an hour later, when you’re almost in the middle of the city and there are people everywhere , it’s time to eat lunch. There isn’t much to it because of how expensive it is, and you’d normally feel bad for accepting the small meal each one of the children gets, but you donated all of your credits to the Keja and left absolutely zero for yourself. Good intentions, terrible idea. Still, you pull your mask down and snack on some deliciously fried food, trying not to eye anyone else’s platter after you finish yours. It’s so good and it’s gone in an instant; you couldn’t even say what exactly it was besides which stall you got it at. Whether it’s just the brilliant atmosphere or if the food on this moon is really just that good, you’re not really sure, but you’re still slightly hungry afterwards with no extra money to sneak a snack.
Soon after, the kids all line up to get their faces painted, or whatever portion of their face is visible behind the cloth masks and hoods they’ve got on, and music blares from at least four different directions and none of the songs are even in the same language. Depending on the part of town, it seems like the celebrations are all different. It makes sense, considering most if not all of these individuals were victims of the Empire’s wrath, spread far and wide across the galaxy. Here, they’re free, and they want everyone to know it. Spring festivals of some sort are likely common for most cultures, at least those from planets with seasons, not like Arvala-7 where it was arid and hot year-round, and you’re assuming there are multiple things being celebrated today depending on which street you live on. There’s chanting in different tongues, dancing and drums, outfits and masks from different cultures every single time you look.
At some point, the children spot a crowded street with flowery rails set up all along them, and you stand behind the tiny heads while everyone waits for the parade to begin. You think your heart has just been beating slightly faster than normal all day today, but when you finally hear the sound of sirens blaring in the distance and cheers begin to pour out from the gathered crowd, it kicks up and you feel like you’re just as wide eyed at the spectacle as the waist-high babies all huddled together up against the railing.
A flurry of people and things pass in slow succession. First, New Republic officers with their blaring holobikes, bright orange as always. Then come large groups of people walking behind banners in languages you can’t read, some of them waving, some of them making different sounds and songs. Bands marching in formation, dancers in dresses and masks and gorgeous flowers in their hair like crowns, and then brilliant hovering vehicles decorated in bright colors and festive depictions. The craftsmanship and cultural significance is stunning to witness, it’s so insanely loud , there’s so much going on, and yet…
Through it all, you think of Din. No matter the faces, the sights you see. There’s someone juggling. There’s either a very tall man and woman walking together or they’re both on stilts. There are enormous balloons being led through the air, people are riding atop an assortment of animals you’ve never seen before, there are traditional costumes and spectacular stunts being performed. Stalls with games and prizes line the stretches of concrete on the cross streets, people are laughing and celebrating and drinking in equal parts, everything is so lively and festive and fun, and yet, though it all, you think of Din. Him and the baby, they’re always in the forefront of your mind, occupying your thoughts and making your tummy stir more and more as the time passes like the parade in front of you. You don’t think this environment would ever be his favorite, and in some far away galaxy, perhaps if you lived other lives together and called a beautiful moon exactly like this home, then you might have to drag him out to see all the with you and the kid every year. You’d have to bat your eyelashes and kiss his cheek and snuggle up to him all nice and pretty like, and he’d probably grumble and complain about it while wrapping his arms around you—all the people and the noise , sweet girl—but he’d go. For you, he’d go.
Your thoughts suddenly stop short and you blink for a second. Why… Why was that scene so vivid? So wistful? You used to preoccupy yourself with fantasies about Din all the time, back before you even knew him as Din. But in every single one, it was sexual and likely came from a place of boredom, a lack of external stimulation. Here you are amidst bustling surroundings, and you’re daydreaming about domesticity with him. Why? You want to travel the galaxy, right? You want to see things you’ve never seen before, right?
For some reason, you think of the floor, and you miss it.
Day 5 — 5:04pm:
It’s late afternoon at this point and nobody can find the teens.
More people have made their way into the city and it’s starting to get extremely fucking crowded, especially where you are downtown, and the handful of them must’ve slipped away with all the excitement happening and how difficult it is to keep the young ones together now that the parade is over. You don’t know how long they’ve been gone—one second they were walking around just slightly detached from the rest of you, you assumed because the boisterous younglings fucked with their cool vibe, and then the next Naydee is gasping out to you that they’re gone.
“Sister Drya is going to kill me,” she hisses, her dark eyebrows furrowed in self-admonishment and stress. So many fucking people here, you know her pain. “I was supposed to be chaperoning them, they were just here—”
She shakes her head under the loose, cream-colored hood, groaning and then speeding up her gait to catch up with the woman in charge, but you decide to grab her wrist before she can relay the bad news.
“I can go find them,” you offer, speaking as low as you can with the blaring noise surrounding you. “Before anyone knows they’re missing. Is there a way to convince everybody to stay in one spot for a little while? You won’t get in trouble, but I need to know how to find you again.”
Naydee’s eyes widen in surprise, and even though it’s likely a bit out of character for you, you have a feeling it’ll be a deceptively easy task. Even with the masses right now and how atrociously big this city is, you already have a general idea of where they’re likely to be. Besides, you’re not even sure your absence will be noticed if Naydee is the only one who figured out the teens were gone—the other Sisters can thrive without you while missing anyone else would be noticeable, and you owe your new friend a thousand favors for helping you out these past few days. The least you can do is save her from the scolding of one of the scariest old ladies you've ever met.
“Be as quick as you can,” she finally agrees. It’s a lot of trust to put into you, but you’ve had experience in reading the most unreadable man in the entire galaxy, some teenagers shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. “If you’re not back in thirty minutes or somebody notices, I’ll have to say something.”
You nod, silently breaking away from the group without another word. You think you can hear her announce to everyone that it might be best to eat dinner now to skip any long lines later— smart— but you’re out of their hearing range and line of sight almost immediately.
“Really?” You raise an eyebrow since they won’t be able to see the way your mouth is twisted up underneath your mask, crossing your arms and tapping your foot against the ground to further illustrate just how not fucking impressed you are.
Seven teenagers freeze, and slowly—depending on how much bravery they can individually muster—they turn around on their stools to face you. The atmosphere in the tavern is bustling and cheery, booze being passed around a large crowd that laughs and mingles, but your vibe is stone cold and quiet. The contrast doesn’t feel wrong on you like it normally would; the negative and disapproving energy you’re emitting makes you feel powerful, untouchable, armored and strong.
“How did you find us so fast?” One of the twin boys squeaks out behind a light blue robe, sounding worried.
“Had a hunch,” you grumble, glaring sternly at each of them in turn. Your tone is dry, your voice sits lower in your throat when you’re pissed off. All you had to do was look for the closest bar that doesn’t have any orange jumpsuits poking around waiting to card underage younglings, it wasn’t that difficult. “You’re not exactly unpredictable.”
“Are you gonna rat us out?” The other twin asks you, in a voice that’s oddly deep compared to his brother.
“I should,” you snap, quickly reaching out to push their drinks away. “I should let Sister Drya rain down her holy fury on your asses, got good people all twisted up over you for nothing and I’m missing dinn—”
You don’t know why, but you suddenly cut yourself off and jerk upright, spinning around.
The sounds of glasses clinking and boisterous voices fill the bar, but they seem to fade out for a second. Your eyes fly around the crowded space, your heart lodged in your throat and looking for anything reflective. Every flash you see is a false alarm—belt buckle, wristwatch, cocktail shaker—
He’s here… isn’t he?
Only, there’s nothing. Nothing is out of place, nothing jumps out at you the way you’re assuming it will. You’re braced taut and ready to bolt at the first sign of a chase, but it never comes.
It’s so… unexpected, this feeling. It’s not like you’re being hunted anymore, but instead, you’re the hunter. You’re feeling the weight of him from this far away and it’s like he’s calling for you to come find him, teasing the wild adrenaline rush you get from just feeling his presence, as if he absolutely knows it happens. Whispering soft in your ear and then vanishing the second you’re able to turn around, like he’s here but he’s not. Playing with you from so far away.
This… this is a taunt.
The whole thing at the inn was leagues below this, that was rudimentary. Teasing, getting even, having fun with each other, whatever you want to call that, that’s what it was. This is scarily sophisticated. Fluid and practiced and the best kind of frightening, stark and dangerous compared to the carefree and upbeat setting surrounding you. You’re not making it up, it’s not just you being paranoid. You know him with your eyes closed. You know he’s here somewhere watching you, just like you know the starlight that streaks across the pitch black horizon of hyperspace. Not because you can see it, not really, not directly. But because by it, even in the vastest and darkest and emptiest of voids, you’re suddenly able to see everything else.
“You okay, Nerida?”
The volume gradually comes back up and you blink, suddenly remembering where you are, who else is with you. The chatter becomes slightly louder than it seemed before.
“Yeah,” you eventually say, slightly airy while continuing to stare emptily at the crowded room. He’s not here, you don’t think, not anymore at least. But you’re not stupid, you know what this means. You’re already caught, there’s nothing you can conceivably do that will delay the reunion for the next—you look down and pull the loose sleeve up to check your communicator—seven fucking hours, there’s no way. He’ll pull back and follow you, keep up with you from a distance and then snatch you away right when you let your guard down. You at least need to get the kids back to their guardians before that can happen, though.
“Let’s go,” you quietly tell the group of foundlings, grabbing elbows and hauling them out of their stools. “Naydee was the only one who knew that you were gone when I left. Here’s to hoping she managed to keep it that way.”
Against all odds, you’re able to rally the wayward teens and successfully lead them through shoulders that are beginning to move closer together as the crowd grows and grows. You stay towards the back and don’t look behind you once—not only do you not want to give the younglings an unnecessary reason to become paranoid or to question your actions, but you can still feel Din lingering. Moving like a shadow, probably fitting in perfectly with the masked festival-goers, nothing drawing any attention to him with all the spectacular sights and noise occurring.
Soon you return to the same spot from before, and you and the teenagers seamlessly integrate yourselves back into the rest of the group without anyone noticing a thing is out of place. When you move to stand beside her, Naydee’s bone-deep sigh of relief is palpable even behind the concealing fabric; she squeezes your hand incredibly tight in a silent gesture of thanks, and then pulls something from the deep pockets of her robe and passes it to you sneakily. A purple fruit. She must’ve saved it for you.
Maker, fuck yes. It’s not much but it’s more dinner than any of the seven troublemakers get, but Naydee quietly assures you they’ll be able to eat something once they return to the Keja around midnight, just not the tasty expensive treats they’re selling at the vendors. As the sun goes down, you try not to stain your pretty fabric a deep maroon as you chomp and feel your lips start to curl upwards. It sounds so fucking stupid when you put it like this, but you keep going back to Din and revelling in knowing that he’s so close, like you’re just mentally checking in on him. You don’t get the sensation by thinking, though—more like you just focus really hard on your heart and feel him there just a second afterwards.
Is that how pure, stupid, shameless love feels when you’re completely entrenched in it? It’s not like it’s surrounding you, it’s not suffocating you or making you float. It’s just a thing. Like… a thing inside your chest, a physical thing you can search for and find, something you can point to on your body and say it’s right here, this is where my love for him lives. Right at the bottom of your heart, right where it curves and beats strong when other hearts meet flat at sharp angles. You do it over and over again, reconfirming its existence every single time. You don’t know what else you’d call it. Love is the only word. To love, to know. To hold in the heart.
Soon, you start to notice that people are slowly moving around your stationary group. You look up and watch the crowd begin to walk, some of them giving soft smiles to the cute children as they pass by, but all of them following the same unspoken direction.
“Where is everyone going?” You ask Naydee, standing on your tiptoes to watch the crowd migrate like a giant system, an organism or mechanism of thousands (or tens of thousands?) of smaller moving parts all traveling in tandem. It’s fascinating—you’ve been to crowded places, you know what it looks like when a lot of people are packed into one area, but you’ve never seen what it looks like when they all move together. They would normally be bumping into each other, slipping in between, fighting and never really getting anywhere, interacting individually and thinking separately. Now they’re progressing in one single direction, so many with the same mindset and understanding of what comes next. A second parade, almost, with New Republic officers directing the flow of pedestrians as they pass.
“The eastern part of the city!” Naydee yells over the noise and points, and beyond her extended finger, you can barely see the light of a dusky body of water in the distance beyond the buildings. “The fireworks are going to go off over the bay, but it takes awhile to get there!”
“Is…” You blink for a second, suddenly caught off guard, trying to think back to the holomap the concierge pulled up at the front desk of the inn. Surely you would’ve noticed it, but your sudden childlike hope makes you ask anyway. “Is it part of an ocean?”
Naydee shakes her head. “A really big lake!”
Your shoulders drop just the slightest bit in disappointment but still, you ache to see it. You can’t even imagine—the fireworks are likely going to reflect across the water, giving everyone double the view. And luckily, after all the children and caretakers are individually accounted for, you start to behind the slow-moving crowd towards the docks you know lie beyond.
Naydee scurries ahead to keep the kids together, ushering them forward and preventing any drunk passer-bys from accidentally stepping on them, and you quietly bring up the very rear of the entourage. You take the time to observe more than anything, walk in the back and experience instead of trailblaze. So many people, so many stories to be told, so many differences and diversity around you. Your face is partially concealed and you don’t move your head too much, just your eyes. They flick around to take in everything, the crowd thinning little by little as you make it out of the confined space downtown. You’re able to make out full bodies and outfits again instead of just heads and shoulders, allowing you to breathe just a bit easier under your mask.
And then at one point—and it’s almost a little startling because it happens all at once—the organizers must decide that the sun has officially gone down, because the lights come on. All of a sudden, paper lanterns and bulbs flicker into existence all around you and the world decides it wants to glow, glint and twinkle from the inside out. They’re everywhere, draping across rooftops and tangled around street signs and stuffed into the flower bouquets overhead, raining soft colors down on everything. You’re in complete awe, trying to keep walking but also needing to look at as much as fucking possible in the suddenly luminescent city. It’s so colorful, so vernal and warm and you feel like you’re… Like when you took a shower on the Crest for the first time and spent a few happy moments just playing with the water and soap for your own enjoyment, it’s as if all the brilliant rainbow of colors the bubbles would make under the fluorescent light decided to surround you at the same time. You’re inside stained glass, blinking at the flowers and wondering if Din can even smell the air or if it’s filtered, processed and reduced to nothing under the helmet.
And that’s when you see him.
But with the way your chest rapidly constricts and you can count your heart beats as they pound, blaring white noise through your ears and adrenaline through your veins, it’s like he's just allowing it to happen. You immediately understand that you don’t have fucking anything the second your eyes land on him; this isn’t a heads up that you caught wind of early, it’s not a gift or an advantage you’ve incidentally gained over him that you should be thankful for. Being able to see him directly like this, being able to make out all these fucking details from this far away… This just feels like you’re being informed of the endgame right before it comes. If you were anyone else, if you were a real bounty and this was a real hunt, his armor glinting and reflecting the lanterns overhead would feel like a knife you're about to be on the wrong side of.
You have a decision to make, very quickly. Either keep in this same direction, head straight towards him and just pretend like you are who you’re dressed as, a random caretaker for a bunch of rowdy foundlings during a spring festival on Nariss, or disappear. Drop back, move through the crowd and use the distance you have between you right now as your only hope of getting away in time. Neither one gives you a particular advantage—your chances of being caught have already skyrocketed exponentially just being able to see the reflection in his armor, the hovering shield at his side with big black eyes… staring directly at you.
You almost trip over your pantlegs, gasping. Baby. He beams at you and you think he calls out through the passing crowd, his tiny arms extending out, and your chest feels like you’re pulling organs as if they were muscles, cramping up and seizing with emotion. You want to run to them even though you’re meant to be running from them, call out over the noise and wave even though you’re not supposed to. You want to hold the kid again, squish his little forehead with kisses, walk around with Din’s hand pressed against your lower back and see the fireworks with him.
Your hands clutch at the draping fabric covering your chest, pulling and twisting it uncertainly. What do you do, what do you do?
No matter what, you know it’s over. Keep your head down and try to move past him, or break away from your group and try to escape—both are different paths that lead to the same result. What’s the point of running when he’s the one chasing you? The heart-pounding thrill is the only reason you’re even considering it, but his body stands so tall amongst the crowd, not moving while people ebb and flow like a river passing around him.
Except then you can hear his voice repeat the last thing he said to you in person as if he says it directly into the comm in your ear. When you do see me… try to outrun.
You should run— run, it’s better than just hoping he doesn’t see you when you already know he does.
Out of a trillion different possibilities, you soon realize that there is exactly one situation in which this could turn out in your favor. You can immediately picture the scenario in your mind, but there’s just too many variables to conceivably rely on getting them all right. This maybe has a… two percent chance of working? Maybe? Everything would have to go perfectly, just fucking flawlessly, but what other choice do you have? Two percent is better than whatever odds you’re dealing with now.
You walk silently behind the group of foundlings as you approach closer and closer, keeping your head purposefully down as they skip and giggle and dance ahead. He knows you’re here—he has to know, you’re counting on him knowing. Walk right in front of him, pretend like you don’t see, make sure you keep left. Keep left, keep left, keep your head down, keep your head down—
A leather glove suddenly catches hold of your wrist hard enough to tug you backwards.
Your gasp is audible over the sound of the crowd and you spin around, jerking your head up to look at him in fear. Your heart slams as the beskar reflects your mask and hood back at you—you’re terrified and it shows, you can see it in your eyes.
You quickly try to yank your hand away, even as your index finger stretches up towards the communicator around his wrist.
“Miss Nerida?” A child’s voice cries, and then small hands grab at you from behind as you bury the urge to actually fight him. Your instincts are demanding you attack when his grip is this strong, but you just whine and struggle, slapping weakly at him with your free hand and feeling more of the younglings begin to pull at you, their high pitched voices calling more and more attention to the scene.
Your gaze flicks to the side, suddenly landing on a pair of New Republic officers helping direct the thousands of moving bodies from the closest street corner. They’re looking at you, pointing and beginning to speak into their own comm units. Din’s helmet snaps sideways to follow your gaze, and then he’s immediately dropping your wrist and stepping back, retreating as quickly as he caught you. Though you don’t want to—though you don’t want to give yourself away even more, you want to pretend fully that he was a complete stranger and the children were right to try to help you get away—your eyes fall to your son in the hovering crib by his side and you feel yourself crumble just a bit.
Just a few more hours, kid. A few more hours.
Children pull you away while your pursuers both disappear into the crowd, and you quickly turn to soothe the tiny babies instead of chasing after the one you miss so terribly.
“I’m alright,” you tell them, scooting them up and encouraging them to continue walking. Blend in, blend in, don’t let anybody think anything is wrong. “Come on, we’re fine, come on, we have to catch up.”
They take your lead as soon as one of the caretakers turns around and sees the small group crowding around you. You think she asks what happened, but you just tell her a man mistook you for someone else and nothing more comes of it. She’s able to settle the chaos better than you are, and by the time you’re continuing to travel forwards once more like nothing happened, the communicator suddenly flicks on in your ear.
“What did you do?” He breathes out, his footsteps moving fast through his voice. He’s traveling much quicker than you expected—is he still being followed? The officers are gone from your sight, they might be going after him right now, weaving between bodies and calling out to the perpetually vanishing glint of armor as he navigates his way out of danger.
You look down at the comm on your wrist and your heart nearly soars with victory. It worked. It worked. You just have to outlast a bit longer, don’t draw any extra attention to it—he’s preoccupied and he certainly doesn’t sound happy, but you hope that’ll be enough to make him slip. Use his frustration to your advantage, let him think the only thing you were successful at was momentarily escaping him.
“The cops weren’t part of the plan,” you admit quietly, keeping your head down as your loose hood billows in the twilight breeze. “Don’t get caught.”
There’s a few moments of just his breathing, his footsteps, and the noise floor humming through the comm, before he finally responds. “You look beautiful.”
You stare unseeingly down at the concrete under your feet, still feeling your hand tingle from where he caught you. The line abruptly mutes on his end and you just keep moving forward, onward, wanting to look back but knowing he’s already long gone.
Din is fucking furious.
He had you. You were right there, right in front of him, and even if he hadn’t been subtly trailing you all day, seeing the red footsteps get covered and flicker out of existence just a few moments after you make them, he would’ve recognized you anywhere. In black and white, in the fading light, with your face covered, children calling you by a different name and attaching themselves to you like they’ve known you forever—doesn’t matter, he would’ve known you. Your eyes have always given you away, always so expressive and starry and soft, but able to see right through solid steel whenever you look at him.
But then you slipped from his grasp, and then more guards pushed him further and further away from you. They must all be in constant communication, because every single jumpsuit he sees immediately spots him and starts following. It’s fucking exhausting, and he thinks of you the whole time.
He waits in a dark alley with the kid and taps the side of the helmet a few times to bring up the time on his comm, but then relaxes just slightly when he sees the hour. It’s earlier than he thought it was, he’ll be able to find you again.
Though, something tugs at him while he’s looking at the clock ticking away in front of his eyes, counting down each second that passes. There was… a moment. Back in the square, when he was holding onto you again, when you were looking directly into his once more—everything in his helmet—
No, he shakes his head while the kid looks up at him curiously, it can’t be. It was just a split second, it was gone so fast.
But he can’t get rid of it. Though there’s no explanation, he thinks the display screen flickered. The sky behind you looked different for a single frame, your footsteps weren’t bright red and visible anymore, your eyes weren’t grey and he stopped wondering what shade of fabric you and your friend decided to choose for you to wear. It was silvery, he’s almost certain. Like his armor, it only reflected the color of everything around it.
Color. Everywhere. Bursting for a blink of an eye, and then gone just as quick, before he could actually figure out what it really meant.
This water is quiet here, but it sparkles.
It doesn’t ever really get truly dark thanks to the enormous hanging moon and ringed gas giant dancing with Sanctuary II, constantly reflecting light back onto the surface and reacting with some of the trace chemicals up above the atmosphere, and you think the sky just might be the prettiest you’ve ever seen it. Must have something to do with the equinox, the glimmering angles of light being played with by celestial bodies in this stunning system, but it’s a dream. The Maker apparently couldn’t decide which colors he wanted tonight so he just splashed all of them together all at once, let them run and blend like ink in the gentle water below, like the various people who call this moon home.
That view in front of you, coupled with all the flowers and lanterns lining the streets behind you, and you’ve lost track of time the exact same way you hoped Din would. You think you’ve stood for about an hour or so in this one spot, half-listening to excited chatter from the babies, mostly just gazing across the stretch of water and being able to just barely spot the docks in the distance, but it feels like it’s only been minutes.
You check your watch—the fireworks should be starting any second now. You don’t know what to expect, just that in your experience, explosions tend to be loud. You've decided you’re not going to plug your ears, though. Tummy twisting with nerves and another inexplicable feeling you can’t quite put your finger on, you resolve to experience the unknown exactly the way it’s meant to be. Fully, without worry or fear.
Then, lacking any warning or ceremony whatsoever, a single flare launches silent and high from one of the small boats skimming the bay, and the crowd seems to hold its collective breath as the dim light disappears into thin air for a split second, before—
It’s… quite possibly the most dazzling thing you think you’ve ever seen. So shamelessly decorative just for the sake of it, not serving any other practical purpose besides celebration and visual spectacle, and you’ll probably never know another extravagance like it. You grew up with dust pelting against tired eyes, you never thought they’d get to reflect such gorgeous bursts of color back up at the sky, glassy and childlike amongst a group of equally wide-eyed children.
As expected, a deafening boom follows closely behind the singular display, but just witnessing it is incredible enough to make you forget to brace yourself for the sound and you jump almost violently in response. There comes a loud cheer from the people standing around you, a few delighted gasps and children who decide now is the best time to start crying, but then more flares begin to launch from the boats and the subsequent show will sear itself into your memory to replay over and over again.
Still, you think the endless sky and dark water below would have to light on fire to stop him from coming to mind.
You click the comm on, continuing to stare in stunned awe but wanting nothing more than to hear his voice right now, feel his hand rest on your lower back and the kid’s three fingers squeezing one of yours while the stars rain down from above. You’re only continuing to run from him because it’s expected of you, that’s the reason you’re here, but it’s becoming harder and harder to argue with yourself. “Do you always see in black and white?”
It takes him just a few seconds to respond, but he always does. “Only when I’m tracking someone.”
The loud booms can be heard over the earpiece, happening maybe a second after they crack and sparkle above you. You can’t tell if the latency is due to the electronics or if he’s just that far away from the source of the sound itself, but… you don’t think he is. He feels close again, like he could just walk up right next to you any second, or maybe that’s just how he always feels now.
“Does that mean you haven’t seen the sky here?” You ask after a moment. This whole time, everything has been grey for him?
“I saw it,” Din murmurs, and even though it’s quiet and explosions are thundering loud enough to deafen more sensitive ears, his quiet voice somehow breaks through it all. “When you left the Crest, I saw it behind you.”
For some reason, you suddenly feel like crying. Whether it’s the way he phrases it or the sentiment in the words, you’re close to tears without even knowing why, looking up at the sky illuminating spectacularly. He says it like he wasn’t the one who parked on this moon and told you to go on without him. “Can you… turn it off for just a second?”
He takes a second, before clarifying for you. “I turn it off and I lose your footprints.”
So that was the ultimatum. He doesn’t want to turn it off until you’re back with him again. Does he not understand? Does he not know what you know? Maybe you just happened to feel it first, this overwhelming physical sensation inside you whenever you think about him. It’s like the exact opposite of a hole in your chest. And it’s so odd, so counterintuitive. Being comforted in his absence, feeling him with you when he isn’t. Falling in love in the dark, knowing him without ever seeing him.
“You never needed them,” you say, reaching up to pull your mask down under your jaw and chin for a moment, wanting to freely breathe the freshwater and flowers while stars explode and fracture across the sky. It’s a truth you’re acknowledging, something you’ll carry with you, something you fundamentally own at this point. “You’d find me without the helmet. And I’d find you.”
The fireworks continue to bleed into the water beneath them, multicolor splashes rippling into existence and disappearing just as quick. You could’ve never imagined a more colorful, magnificent landscape—besides your waterfall on Naboo, of course. That was a pure product of nature though, a place hidden away and untouched by people, completely sacred. Light refracting against mist, natural glass that would shatter under your weight. This is a celebration of life and family. Loud in a different way, affecting you in a different way, but just as wonderful and touching. A cultivated paradise, designed to be beautiful and safe only because they wanted it to be.
“Think so?” He asks softly. He sounds so deep and warm, but… a little distant. You’re able to hear it in his words. You don’t know why, though. Doesn’t he believe you? Perhaps… perhaps this isn’t The Way. Perhaps this is part of a completely different oath, one where knowing and loving somebody isn’t the same thing as looking at their face, not at all. Where you can have them exist entirely separate from each other, because this is love. This is real, enduring, bone-deep love, and you haven’t ever seen his face, so how would he explain that? How would the Mandalorians reconcile that? You bear the mark of the mudhorn, you’ve moved through time and space with him, you’re a mother to his son, and you’ve never seen his face. It defies both the Mandalorian oath and traditional understandings of love, or it meets them right in the middle, depending on how you look at it.
“I know so.” For the first time, you think you might sound more confident and certain than he does. Maybe he doesn’t fully get it yet, but then you suppose he’ll just have to trust you. “Will you look at the sky?”
“I see it,” Din tells you, but you know he doesn’t. Not the way you want him to. And stars, you just want so many things for him, don’t you? The sky, fresh air, water, light, food, rest. You want him to see the galaxy the way you do—have a new appreciation for the gifts that are given just because you’re alive to experience them. All the physics and mathematics aligned perfectly for it to happen—all the chemistry, the systems, the dynamics that dictate the universe, they all got together and crafted a world where you, him, and the kid all exist together at the same time. You want him to know the significance of that.
“With color?” You ask, knowing his answer before he seems to.
“I…” Din wants to argue, or at least say it again. He can’t or he’ll lose you, he already told you he doesn’t want to turn the setting off. It’s such an unnecessary conflict, but you want to respect it so much that you’re willing to give up things of your own to make it happen.
“How do I fix it then?” You whisper, so desperately wanting this one thing for him, this one grandeur to behold. How do you fix this problem? How do you convince him to look with you? You’d offer to just go and find him instead of continuing to run away for the next few hours, but you know the show will be over soon and you don’t have much time left. “Do you want me to come look for you? It’ll be too late by then, you’re too far away. Look at the sky.”
It’s silent for a moment—truly silent, even though colorful bombs are going off above the bay. You don’t know why you’ve attached yourself to this so strongly, but it’s almost devastating when you don’t get a response. You look away from the spectacle for the first time in an eternity, gazing unseeingly into the crowd of onlookers with a sudden sadness taking hold of you. He won’t look, he’s too stubborn, he holds onto things too tightly.
But then, a flurry of flares start launching in rapid succession from the distant boats, screaming and crying on their way up and then igniting into showers of light, and the abrupt increase in activity manages to catch your attention once again. This must be the end, they saved the best for last. Every corner of the horizon flashes and sparks, and you’re mesmerized at how bright it is, how many colors they’ve managed to fit into one single frame.
“It’s beautiful,” comes his voice, and the smile that you break into feels just right for the brilliance of the view above you. Maker, it is, isn’t it? Now you can hear it—he sounds like he’s looking at it too, with color, in all its breathtaking glory, and you feel like you’re flying. Like he picked you up and let you watch up close, like you can feel his armor under your fingers right now as he carries you through the sky.
It swells up inside you, a rising wave similar to the ones you can see in the distance, and you know you probably shouldn’t say it because it’s not in your best interest to say it right now, but you have to say it anyways. It’s an unknowable compulsion, a need to connect and communicate directly with him but for your sake, not presently, not at this exact moment in time.
Luckily, you mute your comm just in time and simply give the words to him from very far away.
“Hurry up,” you say, sending the sentiment into the sky with all your love, and the conflicting hope that he won’t take the advice until a bit later on. “Come and find me.”
After the fireworks are over, people start to drift off in separate directions, clearing the traffic and congestion from the streets around you. Someone puts their hand on your shoulder and you blink a few times, spinning around and almost stepping on a bunch of tiny little feet by accident.
Stars, that’s a lot of children. They’re all crowded around Naydee, who pats a few heads and almost buckles under the younglings clinging to her leg.
“Figured you would be long gone by now,” she grins at you from behind her mask, and you’re reminded to pull yours up over your face just from looking at her. “It’s late—we’re going back to the Keja.”
“Oh, shit,” you breathe in surprise, but the noise of the gradually dispersing crowd manages to cover it up. At least from younger, more easily distracted ears, but you think Naydee hears you. Her dark eyes roll good-naturedly, looking happy but exhausted from the long day. You’re going to have to say goodbye now.
“What happened to your family?” She asks after a moment, and you think she’s being careful with the way she says it, likely because family is a difficult topic to navigate in general around some of the children hanging on her and begging for her attention. “Have you been in touch with them? If not, I’m sure you can come back with us. It’ll be late by the time we get there, but at least you’ll be safe.”
You open your mouth to automatically decline her offer, knowing Din is still in the crowded city looking for you and wanting to stay where there’s lots of people.
But then… well, he would expect you to do that, wouldn’t he?
There’s more people here. More danger, but better places to hide. It’s the obvious choice, it’s the one that makes the most logical sense. But you’d also be completely alone and you’re assuming the only reason he hasn’t snatched you up yet—which you know he could’ve done multiple times by now, is likely because you’re with a group of innocent foundlings, moody teenagers, and very stern older women. He probably doesn’t realize you’ve told them about him and the kid, though you were slightly vague on the details.
It’s also a little over three hours to get back, but you’re banking on it being closer to four with how whiney and tired some of the small voices sound, others sounding like they’re an enormous sugar rush contained into a tiny little capsule. Would he have the gall to try and get you right from under their noses? Will he even know you left the city, or will he assume you made the smartest decision possible and simply account for it ahead of time? No, you're overthinking it, just make a decision and stick with it.
“There’s also free food,” Naydee shrugs while you’re still considering, but… well, that settles that. Almost three days of friendship and she already knows exactly how to win you over in the end. Sustenance for your empty tummy, an escort the entire way there, and heavily guarded walls beyond. Din will have to get creative in response—you flaunted your imagination for days, coming up with dozens of evasion tactics to outlast him, but this one just seems… incredibly practical. Exploiting a weakness of his—isolating it, having it be reinforced by precedent, and then taking advantage of it. You bet he’ll catch on, but still, it’ll make it more difficult for him, and you’re grasping at straws to hang on just a little longer.
“I…” Quick, come up with something. You clear your throat. “The city is too crowded, I haven’t been able to find them. I could just… tell them where I’m headed and see if they can find me along the way?”
Naydee smiles and nods. “Sounds perfect.”
Yet, the entire walk back… you keep thinking you’re going to feel Din trailing behind you, waiting to feel the nerves twist in your tummy and your palms to sweat, but you don’t. You keep glancing over your shoulder and then down at your wrist, needing to talk yourself out of addressing him through the comm to let him know exactly what the plan is. You like maintaining a sense of secrecy from the new characters you’ve met on your adventures—Naydee, Karga, Peli—almost everyone you’ve been introduced to, you found a way to find a subtle enjoyment in hiding certain things from them. But with Din, you don’t have any walls. They crumbled nearly a full year ago when he silently pushed a cauterizer in your hand and took his armor off for you, and you’ve felt the inexplicable need to bare yourself to him in return ever since. It would be to your extreme detriment to do it now, but you still have to fight the urge.
Even if you don’t feel him following, you still find yourself acting like he is. Constantly turning back to double check the road behind you, drifting off in the middle of shallow, distant conversations with tiny foundlings who can’t tell the difference, keeping towards the middle of the pack this time to avoid being picked off towards the back. The belltower at the orphanage is loud and will ring for quite a distance, so your timing has to be utterly pristine for this to all work out. You eye your comm the entire way there, trying to stall just the right amount to avoid any realizations or fall into any traps he may be setting for you.
You eventually leave the city walls far behind you, and now you have no clue where he is. You lost him, and maybe that’s why you feel your heart beat insanely fast the whole time. He could be anywhere now. Behind you, adjacent, parallel—you can’t decide where to look, but it keeps you wide awake and focused while the group tiredly travels back to the temple.
You can see it in the distance, the brick buildings slowly coming into view. One might think your stress would have worked itself out by now, been brought back to a manageable level after four hours of walking, but you’ve been on red alert for the past hour or so. Any movement or rustle that doesn’t come from the sleepy children or exhausted caretakers, you’re on top of it, snapping your attention to the offending tree or animal and not being able to relax even after affirming it’s just nature, it’s not shiny metal bounding after you in the darkness, ready to take you down.
The infants are all likely snoozing away in the nursery, and the Sister who volunteered to stay behind and look after them comes to greet the group at the gate as you approach. Like always, two Brothers open the iron bars to allow you inside, and you feel the anxiety dig its claws into your tummy. If Din is going to get you, this is the very last moment to do it. These walls are guarded and you’re nervous for him, you’re nervous for yourself—you’re just fucking nervous . Jumpy and worried, not being able to pinpoint him anymore and feeling all the more anxious because of it.
It doesn’t feel right. Nothing feels right about this, but you can’t figure out specifically what’s wrong. This was the exact plan, this was a way for you to just survive these last few hours and yet, it doesn’t feel right that you actually succeeded in doing so. It doesn’t make sense that he’d allow you to return all the way here, especially when he was close enough to touch you earlier. Din has had so much time to snatch you up, so many opportunities to lure you away, confront you—anything to catch you, and he hasn’t done it yet. Why? Either you truly did escape and he has no idea where you are, which doesn’t feel right, or he’s choosing not to get you for whatever reason, which also doesn’t feel right. What’s he waiting for? You can’t have won. It was all too fucking easy, you’re expecting to see him around every single corner because he should be there, he shouldn’t have allowed this to happen.
When someone gently touches your elbow, you’re so on edge that you nearly whip around in surprise.
“Sorry!” Naydee immediately apologizes, taking her hand back to lift her hood and remove the mask covering her face. “Didn’t mean to scare you! I was just going to say that the commissary is still open,” she offers, and you watch the small group of hungry teenagers break off from the group to make their way there. “It’s going to take awhile to get the children ready for bed, so we’ll be in the dormitories if you need to sleep. Otherwise, I’m not sure I’ll see you again.”
You stare at her and blink a few times, trying to readjust your focus. She’s your new friend, she just said this was likely the last time you’ll see each other, but you can’t stop thinking about Din. Imagine he’s hours away in the city right now, still looking for you. You’re trying to evaluate your priorities here, but you truthfully never expected to get this far. Inside the gates, surrounded by brick buildings and silent guards. You know your way around here, you know hiding spots, you know how to outlast—it’s incredibly advantageous for you to be inside these walls. What is he doing?
Shaking your head to clear your thoughts, you give Naydee a quick hug and she happily accepts it. “I’m sure we’ll meet again at some point.”
She smiles and nods, pulling back and letting a couple grumpy foundlings catch her robes and yank on them impatiently. The loud group eventually disappears into the dorms, and the door shutting behind them cuts off the tired crying and chatty voices determined to stay awake, leaving you in silence that feels slightly unfamiliar after going without it for so long.
Fuck, you just need to breathe. As soon as the dead quiet grips the air around you, you realize you need to relax. You’re way too fucking wound up; you want to bolt at the smallest thing and the sudden silence of being alone multiplies it to the point where you have to remind yourself of its importance. Breathe. Focus. There’s about fifteen minutes before the bells ring, fifteen more minutes and the chase will be all over.
Can you eat? You thought you’d want to, but you think you’re too fucking antsy. You can’t stay here alone, that’s for sure, but you also don’t want to be around all the children right now. The commissary will have a handful of people wandering around, teens snacking and maybe a Brother or two standing guard. It’s the best place to wait the clock out, so you make your way there. The gentle breeze billows around your loose robes, your pantlegs swishing as you walk.
A few minutes later, you’ve got a plate of food in front of you but your mask is still up, and you’re just sitting there. Towards the back of the large room, sitting by yourself at one of the tables and staring down at your communicator. Five minutes. You have five fucking minutes left before he finds you. Can you feel him? Is he closing in?
You sit up a bit straighter, taking a deep breath. Focus on that feeling from earlier. The presence in your chest, the weight that didn’t used to be there months ago—focus on that feeling and branch it outwards. Can you feel him?
Something catches your eye.
Or no… it doesn’t, does it? Nothing is out of place here, nothing is visibly wrong or amiss. The only thing that’s changed from all the times before is how dark it is through the windows, and how there are only a few kids in here grabbing a midnight snack instead of being packed like usual. Nothing else.
But there’s… there’s an acolyte in the far corner, standing guard with his back to the wall. It’s not his presence that gives you pause—you expected him to be here, there’s always been at least one present whenever you’ve sat down to eat. He doesn’t look any different from the rest of the Brothers you’ve passed by this evening or the days before—tall, silent, dark brown robes, hooded and mysterious—so why do you suddenly feel yourself break out into a cold sweat as soon as your eyes land on him?
Bubbling laughter and chatter echoes through the large room from one of the tables near the entrance—seven teenagers stuffing their faces with food and sharing animated conversation with each other now that it’s late and they’re alone—but your stomach twists and your fingers start to tremble as you slowly rise from your seat in the back. You want to keep your head down and be casual but it’s impossible, you desperately need to keep looking at that silent guard in particular and your heart kicks up in your chest—
—and then it wrenches sideways when you’re carefully backing away from the table and the offending acolyte takes a single step forwards.
Run. Everything in you screams for you to run , and it’s rarely done that before, but you can’t. Not yet, you don’t want to draw attention, and the logical part of your mind rages against your gut instinct to haul ass. He’s here—of course he is, the thought screams through your veins as you try to weave quickly in between tables, feeling light on your toes and readying yourself to run as soon as you can. The dark figure seems to find a careful pace behind you, staying just far enough behind and walking in perfect silence, and you have so many fucking questions but you can’t even think a single thing beyond run away, run away. Where’s the kid? How did he get those robes? Did he actually take his helmet off just to get to you in a room where anyone could confront him?
Your feet propel you forward as soon as you make it out of the door, you break out into a sprint—just flat out bolting because you know how fucking fast he is and you need as big a headstart as you can get.
You race down the stairs and through the courtyard, the beautiful surroundings contrasting drastically with the way you’re running for your fucking life through them. It’s not beautiful to you right now; you feel clumsy and physically unable to move fast enough no matter how quick you go, your eyes are wide and every nerve is on fire and you can’t even tell if he’s behind you anymore with how silently he moves, but you just trust that he is and keep barreling forward. Your breath puffs against the clinging fabric of your mask as you keep sprinting, willing your legs to pump faster. Get to the belltower at least, get to where you have the smallest chance of being caught by the people who guard this place.
As soon as you allow yourself to even conceive the possibility, two Brothers in dark hooded robes suddenly turn the corner a little ways in front of you and your reaction time is perfect—you jerk to a halt and take a single step forward as soon as they spot you. Since your momentum already committed you to it, you just have to walk, keep your head down, move directly past them and hope Din disappeared from behind you in time.
Step, step, step—keep going, control your breathing, you’re okay, you’re allowed to be up late tonight and they shouldn’t stop you. Walk right by… Stars, you feel their silent stares as you casually pass, and it just feels so cold and analytical compared to the kind of danger Din is gives off when dressed in the exact same clothing. He’s hard and tangible and an unrelenting force, where they just feel like ghosts that haunt this place. The threat they present is impersonal and detached, but the terror currently chasing after you is so real that he can read your mind.
You wipe the sweat from your brow as soon as you turn the corner, and your feet are already starting to speed up on their own knowing you’re out of their sight. Run, get to the belltower before Din does, you can see it standing tall about a hundred feet away. The stairs leading to the door come closer and closer, but you hear something behind you and it propels you faster. It’s like you can feel him right at your heels even though you haven’t seen him, snapping at your ankles even though your footsteps are the only ones you can hear anymore.
You scramble up the stairs and close the door behind you, spinning around and facing it even as you slowly retreat backwards into the moonlit tower, trying to stay quiet. Breathing through your nose, eyes shifting around the enclosed space, continuing to back up and away from the door. Where is he? There are so many windows that allow you to look outside, but why can’t you spot his movement through them? Wasn’t he right behind you?
There’s no reason or logic at all to it; you just react. Spinning around and throwing a mean punch.
Din jerks back just in time to miss it, twisting and dodging at the very last second to avoid your next few hits—but… things seem to slow down, even if they’re happening so fast. The moonlight cascades through the dozens of windows lining the circular walls and it shines just enough to reveal small glimpses of him. With every aggressive strike from you, you see something else—you see a flash of his chin when you try to uppercut, you aim for his chest and you see a bit of his jaw. When you go for his jaw, he steps sideways and catches your wrist, and you see the bend of his nose catch the light this time.
But then it’s like he finally figures out that you’re actually fighting him, and now he’s coming for you. Trained and ruthless, not weighed down by any armor and lightning quick, launching perfectly aimed attacks that you’re only able to avoid from reaction and muscle memory alone. You block or move whenever he strikes, you attack whenever you see an opening, you sidestep at the same time he does—
Until you land a spin kick directly to the center of his chest and snap your leg to shove him back , your heel smashing into that soft spot right above his stomach with dead precision and brute force. He exhales sharply and takes a few more steps back to steady himself while you pause to catch your breath.
Din abruptly comes back and you fall into it with him again, keeping a sharp rhythm with each other that’s faster, harder, and way more real than any sparring match you’ve ever shared. The hours and days in hyperspace you spent practicing with him are but a fraction of what he’s throwing at you right now, the combinations so rapid and blurred that you just have to trust your knowledge of him and his movement through the dark.
But then, your downfall. Bells begin ringing an earsplittingly familiar melody above you, and it shatters your concentration—you falter just as he grabs you and sweeps your feet out, and though you know how to get out of that, you’re not quick enough on the jump nor counterswing to prevent it. He takes you to the ground, hard , and then your wrists are being pinned together above your head and your mask is being tugged down.
Din’s mouth on yours makes you want to cry.
The whole thing is like coming home. You spent a week surrounded by strangers and having them call you by a name not given to you, fending for yourself, and now here he is. Someone who knows who you really are, someone that wants to care for you. Tears come to your eyes even as they're pressed tightly shut, and Din kisses you like he’s never known anything else. His mouth fits to yours as if the Maker made your lips before ever considering the rest of you, his bare hand clutching your jaw and forcing you to open for him, letting him lick deep inside after going so many days without it. It might feel dominant and overwhelming if it happened to any other person, but through it, you can also taste his desperation and weakness, how soft he is even when he’s squeezing your jaw and squishing your wrists together too tightly.
Rigid steel that bends only for your touch.
He pulls back and your heart throbs at how moonlight continues to bathe just the smallest glimpses of him under the hood—never the full thing, never the whole face, but enough. The quiet light that brushes the arch of his nose, how it bathes the hard line of his jaw so that you can barely see his scruff when he turns his head the right way. His eyes are hidden in near darkness but there’s the faintest glimmer where they should be, and it’s the closest you’ve ever been to looking at him without the helmet. You can see him, you can see shadows of his chin, his neck—dear stars, his fucking neck . You’re pinned and paralyzed under him and the ringing bells, yet you feel like you just might float if he wasn’t holding you so tight to the floor.
“Where’s the baby?” You finally lift your chin and ask, needing to raise your voice over the melody clanging loud throughout the tower.
“Making friends,” Din pants back down at you, and… stars, then you just start giggling. Adrenaline turning into pure joy, imagining the kid wreaking havoc with all the other babies in the nursery right now. It feels more light and airy than anything your body should know.
“What are you so happy about?” He asks, swallowing and then continuing on with the same quick gasps. “You lost, I caught you in time.”
“Did you?” You drop your head to the brick floor and ask, biting your lip as he stares back down at you. Suddenly—
Din holds utterly still over you while you take a quick breath and wait for the next eleven bells…
…but then break into a slow grin up at him when nothing but utter silence follows.
There’s a moment. Just a single moment where the cogs turn rapidly under that shadowy hood, one where the faint reflection of light in his eyes flickers down to the communicator on your wrist that says midnight and back to you, one that solidifies the longer it takes for another bell to ring. It’s not going to.
You think he puts it together. The one moment he was never able to figure you out—when you tried reprogramming the comms just a few days ago. The one trick up your sleeve that you resigned to throw away and almost forget about because the circumstances for pulling it off were never realistic. Fuck with the electronics and set the clock back just one hour—all you’d need to do is reset his communicator, the timecode is synced together. He told you before that it’s connected to his helmet, but all the buttons still work. Rapid, panicky thinking and a wild surge of bravery in the face of certain downfall is the only reason you were able to pull it off, and you’re perfectly willing to admit you just got lucky… especially when he’s still holding dead still over you.
But then Din moves so suddenly. You can’t account for it because there’s no build-up whatsoever—it’s so fast, you yelp while he grabs your knees and throws them both to one side. You flop over sideways and large hands reach up under the draping length of your tunic to yank your pants down over the curve of your ass, before he’s fitting his palm up between your legs and pushing two thick fingers inside you.
Your head thunks back against brick with how unexpected and merciless it is, but his other hand is grabbing your jaw and twisting, forcing you to look up, stare right into the dark shadow under the loose cowl. The whole thing is too overwhelming—you’re trying to keep quiet but your breathing feels like thunder crashing inside this tall, echoing chamber. He’s touched you so many times, he knows exactly how to do it by now, but it feels like so much more than that. Probably because you can see the way Din’s mouth silently falls open as he feels you, stretching his fingers up and hooking them tight inside. You can tell when he closes his eyes, the smallest glint slowly disappearing into nothingness while the hand around your jaw blindly moves up. It catches your chin and lips, and then two fingers push over the bottom edge of your teeth to slip into your mouth.
Your entire leg twitches and jerks while you lay sideways on the ground and open up for him, your neck twisted at a sharp angle to keep your eyes on him and his fingers in your mouth, giving you something to bite to stop making noise. Din makes room for himself inside you two different ways, and you just choke on his fingers and try to stay quiet, praying he’ll go deeper.
But then you’re not expecting his whole fucking arm to start moving the way it does—oh fuck , what is that? First you just feel jostled and displaced, but then suddenly a wicked, deep, burning pleasure starts to roar through you, radiating outwards from the rapid motion of just two fingers inside you. It’s not in and out, it’s up and down so hard and quick against your g-spot that your eyes cross and your hands go numb.
You think you grab at him, clutch onto his arm or chest and open your mouth to moan at the new and overwhelming sensation, but his hand pushes up against your chin and closes it for you, the bend of his fingers caught hard between your teeth but you don’t think he cares.
“Quiet,” Din hisses the word down at you while his arm continues to work, your toes starting to curl as the feeling overwhelms you. Fuck, what is happening, what is happening? It’s like he’s just shoving unfamiliar sensation at you so forcefully that you can’t even think straight anymore, not even ten seconds in. You can only feel the pleasure, fire blurring hot and shapeless through your entire body as your eyes clamp shut, his fingers isolating that perfect spot and stimulating it directly, relentlessly.
Something dull and white hot presses up tight against all the muscles you have down there and you’re almost afraid of how strong it is. You gasp and choke and he has to take his fingers out of your mouth and just clamp down around your entire jaw, sealing the whole thing shut with his large hand. And then Din’s fingers leave your pussy too—and stars, you should be embarrassed by how desperately it clamps around nothing for as long as it does. He’s not even inside you anymore but your body is on such a delay from the hot, twisting pleasure, and he doesn’t put them back in until your muscles are finished spasming.
Everything comes back full force as soon as he starts moving again. Noise starts to come from your throat, humming in your vocal cords to deal with the arcing, swirling build, and so Din just moves his hand there instead. He finds where it’s vibrating from your neck and he pushes up against it, trapping the sound right at the source. He’s fucking perfect at it for some reason… how many times must he have done this to know how to cut noise out without stopping airflow? You clutch at his wrist and silently mouth his name, feeling his arm work between your legs—faster, faster, harder, pushing you higher, higher—
Din pulls his fingers out again and this time, one of your thighs suddenly feels warm and wet while you spasm and you hear him growl out a ragged, “Fuck yes .” Everything is sparks zapping through you long after his touch is gone, you cry out but it’s all trapped under Din’s expert grip. His fingers soon push back inside you and you dig your nails into his forearm, your sounds muffled and quiet enough to hear his raspy groan.
“Let me see it again,” Din breathes, his arm starting to work up and down once more, and you don’t even know what he’s talking about anymore. What does he want to see? You losing your mind again? Being reduced to an utter mess in front of his shadowy but unobstructed gaze just because you managed to pull one over on him?
Fucking… apparently. It’s what happens, after all. You’ve never seen him like this before; whenever he’s worked up and taking it out on you, there was always something in it for him, too. He’d hammer into you and rock your world until his eventually shattered, and then you’d both lay exhausted afterwards, equally affected and satisfied. This isn’t like that—this is just cruel, targeted retribution on his behalf, coaxing the molten pleasure out of you with his fingers and keeping his other hand locked around your throat. You blink helplessly up at him, your vision starting to blur by the time he leans down to whisper to you.
“I missed you, sweet girl. Did you miss me?” It’s so soft and quiet compared to the strength and relentlessness of his movements. You can’t speak even if you wanted to, but when he finally pulls away to yank his hand out and you feel all your muscles automatically flex outwards and push against the sudden emptiness inside you, his voice groans long and satisfied while your thighs get wet again “ Yeah you did,” he breathes, pushing your shaky legs to the brick with his hand and watching you struggle through the aftershocks.
Did you just cum? You don’t even know, that’s how fucked up you are right now. The whole thing felt like an orgasm from the very beginning, just a boiling hot tornado ripping through every single cell in your body, never really having a peak. If you didn’t cum, then why do you feel so weak? You feel heavy, your limbs don’t work properly, and you barely even register Din pulling at the fabric of his own robes until he fits himself up against your entrance.
When you do realize it, though… your body burns with it, wrecked already but wanting him to take what he wants from you.
“Oh, plea—” you gasp but you don’t even have enough time to get the full sentence out. He’s already pushing his hips forward, pressing you tight into the ground and opening you up after what feels like a fucking eternity without him. It’s the hottest, slickest welcome you could give him, you hear it in the whispered curse his lips brush up under your ear, the wet noises your body makes that get louder the longer you hold the moan in your throat and bury your head into his shoulder. He throbs thick and perfect inside your tight, spasming cunt, stretching you and smacking the rough ground near your head with how fucking good it is to be back, finally, finally—
Your hands grab uselessly at his chest while you try to acclimate, try to breathe while you’re blind with sensation. It’s so fitting for him, isn’t it? That your reunion should be just as physically debilitating as it is mentally. Din’s voice scrapes on a groan like he’s dragging it across the brick ground as quiet as he can, catching when you clamp down on him and shuddering when you clamp down harder. That’s just it—you don’t ever loosen, you just keep tightening and tightening around him, threatening to break and cum again.
This feels different from before, though. It’s deep , purposefully so. His hand reaches up to push the fabric of your hood back, lifting himself up over your body and wanting to start as deep as he can. You feel him in a place you’d never be able to reach and that’s just the beginning—that’s before he starts thrusting into you, hitting a dull sensation at the apex of each movement so hard that it becomes sharp. His hips don’t make practically any sound smacking into you because they don’t really smack, they just rock downwards and fuck you into the floor without needing to pull out really at all. You know he’s just trying to keep it as quiet as possible, but what he lacks in speed and agility he makes up in power.
You don’t even realize you’re making too much noise until a palm wraps tight around your mouth and the room gets a little emptier. Din keeps you all to himself on the floor, silencing as much as he’s working you up, smothering as much as he’s freeing you. There’s no easing up, no dragging it out, no gradual build or climb—it’s just there all of a sudden, pleasure and pain pummeling you all at once, engulfing you in flames.
You reach up to grab at the loose fabric of the hood over his face, catching a fistful of it before his hand suddenly snatches your shaky wrist and pins it back to the ground.
Maker, you forgot—oh, you completely forgot about how many people could find you right now if they ever decided to look in the right place. You’re not in hyperspace; your body is rocking against rough brick, you’re probably going to have a lump on the back of your head from how terrible you are at trying to map out heaven while holding still. He’s pinned down what he can with one hand; your fingers are the only things that can move besides how tight you can curl your toes, but you feel your moans turn into words against his palm. They garble indistinctly and you’re not really even sure what you’re saying, but Din decides it’s worth hearing.
“Shh,” he whispers, slowly lifting his hand from your mouth. “Shh, tell me—”
“W-wanna look,” you hear yourself whimper, trying your best to keep quiet but wanting to scream it while he fucks you hard and slow on the ground, “—I wanna see, I wanna look at you—”
“Fuck,” Din gasps, and though his grip tightens on your wrist and you know he can’t do it right this second, the words seem like they shatter something inside him, “Keep—oh fuck, please, k-keep saying…”
“I want to marry you,” you nearly whine for him, feeling his hips kick up rapidly and start hammering in and out, in and out, in and—“I want to see your face, I wanna be yours, I don’t want anyone else to know you the way I-I—”
You think he drops his head into your neck to muffle his own sounds. Though they start out rough and quiet and indiscernible, but they gradually become louder as he repeats himself over and over again, growling and fucking you rough. You only catch it on the peak, when he pulls his mouth away from your skin and gasps them raggedly one last time.
“—ve you—I l-love y—”
He kisses you to stop himself. But it’s not really a kiss, it’s more desperate than that. Though it’s beautiful, it’s beautiful in a different light. It’s not rejoicing at having you back with him once again; it’s a last prayer begging you to stay by his side forever. He loves you. He gives it everything—it feels even more concrete and simple than taking the hood off him and revealing his face would. You told you that you'd know him without ever seeing him, and you did. You picked him out and found him when absolutely nothing was giving him away, and this feels like a manifestation of that. Even if you’re not in a place where he can show you his face, his beautiful brown eyes, something still feels like it changes. He loves you. You gasp into his mouth and his tongue sinks deep into yours, tenacious and brave and unyielding.
When you finally cum, you almost bite him on accident.
Everything surges hot and molten while he pulls back and keeps fucking you through it, and you can’t tell where you’re touching him anymore, just that his skin is blazing hot under your hand and he feels like everything the armor isn’t. He loves you. You’re looking into his eyes right now. You can’t see any of the details, not really, but the moonlight flickers like silent stars moving through dark depths, staring right back at you and giving you an anchor for the euphoria rocketing through you. He loves you. Your nails dig in sharp and slowly drag downwards, scratching hard red lines into whatever thick muscle that is—
The back of his neck , making his hips stutter and when he cums for you, he does bite.
You lift your head just in time to feel his teeth catch your chin instead of your mouth, and his entire body shakes while you keep dragging your nails down the side of his neck and his throat. Din fucking lives for it, he releases you and arches into the pain and owns your marks like he wishes you made them deeper, stretching his neck and lifting his chin into the moonlight and—
Maker. You can see it, with direct light, you can see more of it than ever before. You can see his soft lips and white teeth gritting the sound of your name as quietly as he can, the dark facial hair dusting across the lower half of his face. A fucking gorgeous jawline and throat extended long over you, flexing hard with his cock pulsing inside you. You can just barely see the bottom of his nose from under the brown hood, the dark curls brushing up under his ears.
Stars, you still never see his eyes, the fabric of his hood acts like a blindfold draped over them, but you think you cum again. Even if it’s on accident, it’s mean— Din tries to keep from squishing you and his hand pushes down hard against your lower tummy while he shoves his hips deep one last time, and you cum while staring at half of his face in the moonlight. Completely lovestruck.
How can he be this beautiful when you’ve only seen fractions of him? You have everything but the eyes now, everything but the most mysterious thing about him, the reflection into his deepest self, but you feel like you’re hypnotized by every single feature you do see. His tongue coming out to wet his lips, the vein pulling under his sharp jaw—he’s gorgeous, he’s gorgeous, and your body agrees. It shakes and shudders under him and eventually, Din finishes and you keep looking as his chin slowly lowers, face disappearing into the shadow once more.
Stars. He’s so handsome and no one has ever told him, fucking dreamy and the biggest grump you’ve ever met. Without being able to see him, you already want to reach your hands out and touch him, drag your nails through his scruff and force him to extend outwards into the moonlight again for you. Whenever he does end up showing you his face, you know right fucking now that you’ll never be able to look away. For the rest of your life, you’ll be staring at him, apologizing blankly for your rudeness but not feeling sorry at all.
Din leans down and gives you a slow, gentle kiss, finally relaxing into a slouch and breathing hard with the effort it took to shatter you with pleasure.
“The kid is with the other foundlings,” he whispers against your lips. “You… you’ll have to go get him, I need to grab my armor.”
You squeeze around his cock, pulling at the fabric of his robes and ignoring him for just a second. He fucked you in robes belonging to one of the guards and nobody has mentioned it, you need to say something. “Where did you get this?”
“I found it,” he tells you after a moment, kissing up under your jaw. Oh fucking Maker, he feels so good and perfect inside you, shoulders so broad and crowding you on the floor, and his lips are plush and hot, brushing and fitting your skin like it’s just an extension of his own. “Some guy was wearing it.”
It takes you a second.
“Mando,” you suddenly gasp in quiet horror, pushing at his chest and trying your best to detach his mouth from your throat. It’s so much more difficult than it needs to be, but you eventually succeed. “What did you do to him? Where is he?”
He lifts his neck up just the tiniest bit, turning his face towards yours under the hood and holding still for way too fucking long. He’s too close to see the expression he’s making, but you know the tone of his silence. He’s in trouble and he knows it before you do.
“They’re in a closet,” he admits at the very same time, completely monotone.
You don’t know which word to emphasize. A fucking closet? They’re? Plural? Instead of stressing any particular word, you decide not to do it at all and it ends up just coming out in the same exact blank tone as him. “They're in a closet.”
“Inside the Temple,” Din continues on when you lay still as a statue underneath him. His head slowly dips down once more, pushing his hips against you just the slightest bit to make you remember the cock still inside you instead. Your eyelashes flutter with it—fuck, focus— “I didn’t know there’d be more than two.” He kisses your neck so gently. “It was an accident.”
You don’t say anything at all, your mouth pinching down at the corners because it should but your heartbeat galloping with how… fucking sexy he is. You shouldn’t encourage this, this horrible behavior just to get close enough to catch you, but your curiosity overtakes you and you ask a question you’ve asked yourself before. “Did they put up a fight?”
“Mm,” he whispers noncommittally, rocking his hips down once more. “You did.” Your nails dig into his chest, making him falter just slightly before slowly kissing your neck again. “Did so good. Fought hard, outsmarted me. Pretty fucking girl.”
And then your eyes pop open as you feel it. His cock suddenly beginning to harden once again inside you, twitching and gradually gaining a thicker shape, and for a moment, you actually fucking consider it. He’s the only one in this galaxy that could not only ruin you on these sacred grounds, but then coax you into doing it more than once—stars, are you actually considering it?
“We can’t,” you automatically tell him, but it’s fucking pitiful. Zero effort, absolutely no umph behind it, leaving it entirely up to him and how much he wants it. Your logic reminds you that the kid is probably wreaking havoc in the nursery and there are tied up guards in the fucking temple that could be discovered any second. You shouldn’t have even let him fuck you here in the first place, but… “Mando, we can’t—”
His mouth opens against the crook of your neck and his tongue brushes velvet hot on your skin, tasting the glistening sweat there and not moving his broad figure a single inch over you besides getting closer, deeper. Your nails dig into his collarbone, aiming for reason one last time. It’s apparent that you’d be better off rephrasing, knowing the challenging streak in him and how much telling him what to do doesn't help.
“It’s not a good idea,” you attempt instead, breathless and trying not to move under his mouth and lazy hips. “Not smart. Bad idea to fuck again.”
Din’s body stops moving, even though he keeps getting harder. His jaw opens and then his teeth scrape softly against your flesh, making you tilt your neck back and gasp.
“Later,” he lifts his head to state aloud, committing it to truth now that it’s been spoken and heard by another person. “Later, I’ll fuck you on the ship, in our bed, when I can get you naked and have your taste in my mouth.”
Tingles rock through your body and you squeeze around his cock just as he pulls it out and tucks it back into his pants. Your lungs quiver when you inhale—it’s shaky, but it reminds you of how long it’s been since you’ve been able to breathe correctly.
“Later,” you finally agree, combing your fingers through your hair and glad you have this hood to cover your freshly fucked dishevelment. He came inside you and you don’t want to be leaking and getting your nice pretty robes all wet and stained, but then of course, without any prompting, Din quickly scoots back on his knees and drops his head down to take care of it for you.
After Din helped you clean up the way he sometimes likes and then disappeared to change back into his armor, you put your mask and hood back on and tried to look as casual as possible walking to the nursery. Your knees wobbled slightly and you couldn’t stop smiling under the mask the entire walk there, but when you arrived, you just saw a dim room with sleeping infants—not what you were expecting. Soon, however, you hear it: down the hall, distant and coming from the dormitories, you hear a loud commotion.
Fuck, you’re nearly wincing with every step you take now, and not because you’re sore. Well, you… are, a little bit, but in a great way. No, you’re just dreading the ridiculous shinanigans you already know are well underway, wondering if Din actually dropped the kid off in the dorms from the beginning or if he somehow migrated his way there to cause trouble.
When you walk inside, the first thing you see is a handful of crying and shouting toddlers, and while you can’t immediately spot your favorite floppy-eared monster, you don’t have to see him to know he’s probably standing tiny directly in the middle of this tense showdown. Automatically, you’re taking a few steps forward to rescue him, but then you stop as soon as you see what the other babies are so mad about. A large piece of chocolate leftover from the festival levitating just beyond their pitiful little reaches.
Hm. Who could possibly be responsible for using demon powers to steal snacks and hold them hostage from a sizeable group of hostile children. A mystery that may never be solved.
It makes you take a second. The sheer… the… stars, you can’t even think straight—how fucking typical it is just hits you right in the chest, sends your heart into orbit. Of course. Of course this is what he’s gotten himself into without immediate supervision, of course this is the shipwreck you’d walk into, and you’re holding back a chuckle before making a single move to intervene. In the midst of everything, you can hear adults approaching distantly from behind you.
“—don’t know where it came from, I was helping the younglings into bed when I heard the ruckus and I—”
The voices gradually grow louder, and you snatch the floating piece of candy out of thin air and whip around right before Sister Drya and Naydee walk in. Their hushed, concerned conversation is cut to an abrupt end, and you clear your throat as they take you in, standing in front of chaos central continuing to go off behind you. Do you… look as freshly disheveled as you are? You’re not supposed to be here, you know, but hopefully the only strange thing is your presence itself and not anything concerning your appearance.
“Nerida,” the older lady suddenly announces, the name alone holding so much expectation, and the younglings missing their candy have now turned their ire towards you and the crinkly food wrapper hidden in your fist. “What is the meaning of this?”
“Ah, yeah,” you stand up a little straighter, letting the chocolate casually fall out of your grip behind you, and a stampede of feet suddenly kick up to recover it. It’s fine, nobody will know, it’s fine. “It’s just…” Your head tips behind you to the cause of the uproar, feeling a bit sheepish yet so incredibly fond. “My… kid.”
Sister Drya stares at you for a few seconds, before tipping sideways and staring at the culprit. “That is your child?”
You turn around just in time to see him, now abandoned by the angry mob of children, finally notice you. All of a sudden, his pitch black eyes light up something bright and sunshiney, and you just start beaming in return. What an adorable little creature, apple of your eye and pain of your ass.
“Yep,” you sigh, dropping into a squat and watching him barrel towards you, catching him right before he can trip over his brown potato sack and scooping him up into your arms. “Hiya, bug,” you murmur with a grin, lifting back up and plopping him in his favorite spot in the universe—your left hip. “You making friends?”
He giggles and it’s like sparkles and bubbles fill the room instead, wrapping tiny arms around the largest surface area he can get and clinging. He laughs with a tiny open mouth, bless him, clearly not understanding the sarcasm, and suddenly your eyes feel just the slightest bit wet. No, you’re not crying, don’t be fucking ridiculous, but you missed him like hell and he’s just the cutest fucking thing—why do you feel like crying?
“Sorry about that,” you apologize to the two women while slowly turning around, brushing your thumb over one of his cheeks and smiling as it squishes. “He’s… uh. Not great at sharing. We’ll work on it.”
Takes after his dad, you purposefully leave out, just a different kind of sharing. Din hasn’t shown you his full face yet and the kid performs magic tricks to taunt a roomful of children a fraction of his age for a single piece of chocolate, completely different kind of sharing.
Sister Drya says something in response, but when you look up to address her, all you see is Din standing silently behind her and Naydee, slowly dropping his hand from his helmet to his side. They don’t seem to notice he’s there and you automatically try your best to pay attention to the Sister speaking to you, but your eyes get caught on the silver reflecting in the dim light beyond. Fuck, he’s a presence. An immediate distraction, taking all your focus with a single glimpse. Seeing him fully armored again, staring at you from the silent shadows behind everything… you melt a little bit, knowing that you’ve seen more of what’s underneath than anyone. Your shoulders settle and your entire body burns warm, wobbly like the air around a fire, and one of the kid’s hands leaves you to reach out towards his dad.
You watch the metallic helmet tilt sideways after a moment, saying everything without saying anything. Come on, make up an excuse, let’s get out of here.
Looking at him in the quiet shadows, you’re reminded once again about how much you love him, how much softness you have inside you for a man so hard, so guarded. And, for the first time, a voice in your head finishes a poem you didn’t realize you were writing, adding its own verse and bringing everything back around to the beginning. He loves you, too. How much he lets his guard down for you, the way he’s revealed more of his face to you than not. You love each other. You’re family.
So, all at once, you decide to mess with him, because that’s what family does best.
“Don’t be shy, come say hello,” you suddenly urge his silent figure, taking a step forward and speaking directly to him. “Sister Drya, Naydee, I’d like to introduce you to my—”
It’s remarkable, you see it happen in front of you. Like he has powers of his own, Din just literally fucking disappears. Like magic, he’s nowhere to be found within a blink of an eye. You know he’s capable of it; he’s done it plenty of times during the chase just to fuck with your head, but you’re staring straight at him when it happens this time and it might just be the funniest fucking thing you’ve ever seen him do.
Sister Drya and Naydee both turn around to an empty hallway bathed in shadows and you laugh. A deep, shameless, loud belly laugh. Where the fuck did he go so quick? You were staring straight at him and you have no fucking clue. He’s just out , and you’re left alone with his child and the unspoken understanding that he’ll just catch up with you later.
You’re giggling even as you shake your head and give the women your genuine thanks for keeping you and feeding you these past few days, grabbing your backpack with all your belongings and eventually using three green fingers to wave goodbye to them. The very first thing Din says when he seamlessly joins you outside the Keja later is, “That wasn’t funny,” which just makes you laugh harder.
About a half hour has passed, and you’re walking along a dirt road, cradling a very happy baby in your arms and giving the grown man next to you an incredibly hard time.
“You’re unbelievable,” you mutter, your back twinging slightly at the way you’re leaning about as sideways as you can get without falling over. You think you’re basically just the hypotenuse between the ground and Din, who easily supports almost your entire weight with your backpack slung around his far shoulder and readily allows you to rest against him.
“They’re fine,” he grumbles in response, squeezing you tight to his side. You just have to focus on moving your feet; it’s like he’s practically carrying your upper-half anyways. “I gave them the night off.”
“You stuffed them in a closet ,” you hiss, feeling his shoulder shrug under your cheek.
“I gave them the robe back,” he says, not really defending himself and more just throwing it out there to see if it helps any. “I’m sure someone’s found them by now, they’re fine.”
Your eyes suddenly go wide, absolutely mortified at the thought. “Wait. What do you mean you gave the robe back?”
He shrugs once more, apparently not seeing the problem yet. “I borrowed it, so I gave it back after I put my armor back on.”
If you could plant your feet on the dirt road and screech to a halt, you would, but all your weight is already resting on him and you’re working solely off his forward movement. You just hope your tone holds the same amount of shocked disapproval your body language would’ve conveyed if you weren’t so completely attached to his hip like a parasite he adores.
“You fucked me wearing it, though.” Your voice is strangely flat, so fucking confused and horrified by the mental image of him just tossing the soiled garments haphazardly somewhere in the temple behind you, or even worse, leaving them somewhere respectful, and Din soon stops in the middle of the deserted road.
“Oh,” is all he says, emotionless and blank through the modulator. Did he not even consider this?
“I had to promise them I was a virgin just to sleep there, you know,” you admit, and you can tell that’s brand new information to him with how still he goes as you continue to lean against him. You’re getting the feeling that he probably knows a lot more about your experiences on this moon than you think he does, but can tell that this is brand new information to him. “And you locked three of their holy men in a closet, chased me across the temple grounds, fucked me in one of their robes, and then. You gave it. Back.”
Din stays perfectly silent for quite some time. You can never go back to that place, you know this for a fact. You’re banned forever now, it’s what you deserve.
Never one to be outdone but not actually having anything to say for himself, Din suddenly decides to just scoop you into his arms and boost up into the sky without a single word like an actual fucking maniac.
You squeal and damn near drop the baby because of it, but he cinches you tight to his chest and refuses to loosen with your struggle. Eventually, after you realize he’s completely locked you in and you won’t fall to your death with this poor innocent child in your arms, you glance over the shiny pauldron on his shoulder and watch the kid’s crib disappear by the abandoned road as Din takes you higher and higher.
The crib— he forgot the crib—
“D-Din,” you stammer out through the whistling air, stiff as a board. Stars, you have such a different sense of adventure than him; an explorer and a daredevil, one who gets a thrill from discovering the existence of the edge of a cliff and one who’ll take a running dive off of it without thinking twice. He’s hit with blaster fire some days, he faces down death completely fearless like it owes him one every single time, and you’re stiff as a fucking board while he carries you through the sky. It’s stunning up here, it’s exciting and wonderful, but you’re so scared that you can barely even look. He’s giving you the most fantastical view, everything your budding adventurous streak could ever ask for, and your terror is crushing. It would be different if you could hold on, but you’re responsible for not letting the baby slip through your arms and you just have to trust that he won’t let you slip through his.
You raise your voice. “Din?!”
“I won’t drop you,” he automatically reassures, and well you sure as fuck hope not, but there’s something else.
“What about the crib?” You call out over the wind whipping, tucking the baby tight to your chest and settling your hands over his ears to avoid them flapping and whacking you repeatedly in the chin.
“We’ll come back for it,” he responds, just as easily. Maker, you wish decision-making came that easy to you, that commitment and choice should be so simple as to just fly away from things on the ground and promise out loud to come back for them. You know he will, but still, his spontaneity shocks you after spending the past week thinking every decision through meticulously, and you’re taken aback by the casualness of it all while soaring through the sky, committing such spectacular feats without a single thought beyond it.
Soon— incredibly soon, which honestly kind of blows your mind—you spot Nariss glowing in the distance and then you’re flying overtop of the city, slowly dropping altitude in the middle of a quiet little side street.
Din carefully allows your feet to settle on the ground before letting go, but you still stumble a bit stupidly after flying so high without any sort of safety measure besides him, prioritizing the steadiness of the baby in your arms instead of your feet underneath you. His gloves catch at your clumsy body and pull you along with him without another word, leading you out of the quiet alley and into the middle of a beautiful, luminescent street.
What’s he doing? He seems slightly hurried, and you’re clueless but you go with it, clamoring along behind him to wherever he’s leading you.
Though, you suddenly remember one of the very last things you told him last night right before he steps up in front of a vendor.
“Caf,” Din grunts, sliding a few credits towards the man standing behind the counter. “The… biggest one you have.”
Okay, well. You could just about fucking cry.
“Y’sure?” The vendor asks skeptically, jerking his head at the large thermos behind him. He’s balding, wearing a white outfit with his eyes scrunched up and forehead sweaty, likely working all day. “It ain’t fresh. Closin’ up soon, was just about to trash it and go home.”
The helmet turns to gauge your response to the news, the sharp angles and contours looking so sleek and dangerous as they reflect the colorful lamplights, but just filling you with comfort beyond anything in the entire galaxy. He’ll take that armor off for you tonight and you’ll sleep next to him. He’ll call you by your given name, or the fond name he’s given you, and you’ll cuddle your baby on a metal floor in hyperspace with him, and all will be well. Even if he needs to leave again soon—even if you don’t get to go with him, you’ll always have these small eternities with each other, and that’s more enough for you now.
You’re completely zoned out while staring at him, and Din turns back to the vendor before you can even remember the conflict he was attempting to defer to you.
“Yeah, just empty the whole thing in there for her,” he mutters, and you want to marry him. It’s been a long week, and in your haze and delight of being with him in this gorgeous setting, your brain turns to cavewoman mush. Big man, makes me happy. Strong man, loves me, knows me. Provider, makes me feel good, protector, loves me.
Din hands you the large cup of steaming caffeine, clueless to your grunted inner monologue but knowing better than to reach out and grab the kid from your other arm. You’re just fine like this, hands full, the little frog snuggled up against your side and blinking up at your face instead of any of the shiny or glowing things around you. When you look down at him, you can see the world through his eyes—quite literally, they’re reflective and gigantic—and his father’s hand quickly finds its preferred spot on your lower back.
“Try to drink it quick,” Din advises you gruffly, pulling you snug into his side and sloshing the big cupful of piping hot liquid in your hand.
“It’s a thousand degrees,” you protest, trying to balance your three favorite things in the universe all begging for your direct attention at once. “It has to cool down.”
He gives a dismissive hm in response, and you frown even as your heart soars with how tightly he’s gripping you, how little leeway you have to even move without him. Part of you is so thrilled at being reunited with him that you consider snarking something back at him, excitement making you brave. He could probably chug boiling hot liquid in thirty seconds and doesn’t see the point in letting it sit any longer, and you could make some stupid joke about filtering it through his helmet or having a built in bendy straw but you decide to keep it to yourself.
So then you just stand there together, under stringed lights and flowers everywhere, and he waits. Holding you glued to his side, completely silent and clearly just waiting for your caf to stop steaming so threateningly in your hand so you can drink it. For some reason, the fact that he’s wanted by the New Republic doesn’t really register at this second—you’re not looking for cops, though he may be. You’re just lost in this beautiful, fancy city that’s on the edge of finally quieting down after a long day, and you’d like to see more of it with him next to you.
“Well, do you wanna just…” You ask, tilting your head around at all the vendors. “Shop around for a bit?”
“Shop… around,” Din repeats slowly, sounding the words out like they’re not common Basic. Admittedly, they do sit a bit awkward in his voice when put together like that, describing a phenomena he’s likely never even considered a thing before, but it’s so fucking pretty here and you’d like to show him something this time instead of the other way around.
“Yeah, like,” you shrug a shoulder, tipping your head in a random direction. Anywhere, you’ll go literally anywhere with him, the three of you can go explore. “Just wander around, and look at all the pretty things.”
From where you’re standing right now, you can already see glittering crystals and jewels being sold at the tent across the street, there’s a booth dedicated entirely to floral arrangements and crowns next to it, you can hear a distant quartet playing melodically in the distance and a couple is being painted by an artist on the corner. Bars are in full swing at this point, as if they weren’t all day, and even though the merchandise is all different, the multicolored tents look slightly similar when they’re underlit with multicolored lights. It’s less slightly lively than it was in the daytime, but also… more beautiful, in a sense. Muted, softer, more romantic.
“I don’t have any more credits,” Din admits casually, finally turning to look around at everything. You get the feeling that he’s just now seeing it, even after spending the entire day here. “That stale caf was the last of it.”
Money well fucking spent, you can assure him of that.
“It’s okay,” you tell him automatically, gently bumping your hip into his. “We don’t need credits, we can just look.”
So that’s what you do. Even though it’s completely not his fucking style, for the next hour or so, you just walk around downtown with him and sip your caf, looking at anything and everything new and experiencing it with him. At first, you think he’s just entertaining you, following you while you discover new streets and attractions, but then he points out different things and you know he's looking, too. There are large animals harnessed up and pulling carts for people to ride, there's an enormous spinning wheel set up in the distance, its colorful lights flickering out as soon as you ask what the fuck that is and why anyone would ever get inside one.
You eventually end up finishing your caf around the time he’s leading you back through a quiet, abandoned alleyway, and you hand him the empty cup to throw away in one of the trash cans on the corner. The conversation has faded to a comfortable quiet and you don’t really need to ask—you go willingly, not requiring anything beyond his hands on you and the baby dozing in your arms.
“Come on, sweet girl,” he murmurs, gently sweeping you up into his. You sigh, glad he’s giving you a moment to prepare yourself this time, holding the sleeping kid securely to your chest and resting your head on his shoulder. “Let’s go home.”
After you’re comfortable, Din rockets up from the ground and climbs high up into the canvas sky. He disappears with you and the baby into the pastel clouds above, making it back to the Razor Crest in probably about an hour, maybe less. You and the baby do nothing more than climb into the comfy floor blankets while Din starts up the engines, and you think you’re dozing off together by the time he makes the pit stop to collect the crib and the jump into hyperspace.
You think he might shower? You’re not sure—you just know he moves up behind you in bed at one point without any armor, burying his face in your hair while you cuddle the sleepy kid to your chest. It’s dark in the hull, Din’s palms are bare and warm as they slide around the front of your body and he breathes you in, and there isn’t a single place that can touch you here, not a single place you’d rather be.